Thursday, June 29, 2006

Barn of Thought - 10th Anniversary

It was ten years ago this week that I made my debut as a playwright. My first full length play, BARN OF THOUGHT, opened June 27, 1996 at the Catonsville Community College Barn Theatre produced by the Down South Independent Theatre Company. The show's main character Ed (played by me) was a twenty-something aged guy goofing off at junior college and hanging out with his friends at his favorite bar. Ed starts to reevaluate his life after he learns that his best friend is getting married and that "grown-up" changes are happening all around him. The show was based on a bi-weekly column that I wrote for the school newspaper, and many of the topics and jokes from the column found their way into the play.

The entire first act of the play takes place at Senior Pete's, Ed's favorite neighborhood watering hole. In addition to Ed we meet Cliff (Greg Aldape) a crazy mailman that hangs out at the bar all day; Sherry (Terri McHargue) the owner of Pete's; Jennifer (Amy Belschner) a slutty girl that frequents the bar; and Ernie (Keith Mack) another of the bar's regulars. We also meet Jeff Goldblum (Brendan Hines) one of Ed's best friends and we meet Scott Young (Nicholas Gough) an old friend of Ed's who announces he's getting married. See....his last name is Young and the show is all about getting older...Isn't that clever!???

The first act also has a dream sequence where the "dating scene" at the bar is imagined as a war movie. Later in act one, we meet Scott's fiance' Cindy (Corinne Chellis) and her friend Kelly (Diana Corley). Ed has a hard time dealing with the fact that his friend his exact same age is getting ready to settle down and raise a family. At the time I wrote the show, I really did have a good friend that was getting married, but the show is only loosely based on those events.

Act Two finds Ed, Scott and Jeff zipping through all sorts of pre-wedding preparations like renting a tux and the bachelor party. Ed also finds romance with a young girl by the name of Samantha Godwin (Heather Beck) who happens to be a little younger than Ed would like. On a date, Ed and Samantha meet Blane (Donald Canneti) a very enthusiastic (and gay) waiter who also pops up later at Scott's bachelor party. The guys also meet Clarence the Angel (Brian Kaiser) who shows them what girls talk about when guys aren't around.

Two zany characters also in the show are Don the Comic Guy and Gordon the Tux Guy both played by Kevin McCrum. The scene with Don the Comic Guy also involved my character and Jeff played by Brendan Hines. Kevin, Brendan and I were all very good friends at the time and it was very hard to get though that scene every night with a straight face. All three off us enjoy the occasional ad-lib and inside joke, and it all made for a very different scene each night.

The show ends shortly after the wedding of Scott and Cindy. Every character in the show gets a nice little happy ending of their own! There was even an original song written and performed by Terri McHargue at the wedding reception.

The whole production would not have been what it was without our fearless director Aaron M. Polun. Aaron took my idea of putting on a little show in the old theatre on campus and turned it into a big production that we were all VERY proud off...and still are to this day! Aaron had been involved with some other theatre companies in the area, and had even worked on a couple of shows in New York City prior to working on BARN OF THOUGHT. He had really nice programs (with advertising) printed up for us, he brought in people to be our crew, and he pulled together everything that we needed so that the rest of us could concentrate on being funny!

Also...this trip down memory lane would not be complete without mentioning the enormous talents of Jennifer Lyn Wadford. Jen served as Costumer and Props Coordinator on BARN. She custom made me two really cool shirts for the show. One had citrus fruits all over it, the other was sky blue with kites and hot air balloons. They were supposed to be tacky, and they were awesome! Jen went on to become stage manager for Down South's three other productions, none of which would have been possible without her!

BARN OF THOUGHT ran for two weeks and was a big success. Audiences enjoyed the humor and laid back style of the show. We received a good "word of mouth" as each performance was better attended than the last. The entire production was completely financed and created by my friends and I! All the box office receipts were blown on pizza and beer each night so I couldn't tell you how much we made, but we weren't in it for the money. We all worked together, had insane amounts of fun, and loads of good times.

NOTE: All names mentioned here are as billed at the time of production.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Who Wants To Be On TV


This past Tuesday I had an audition for WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE in New York City. It wasn't because I think I'm some kind of brainiac or something like that...I just wanted to be on TV! My audition was at 6:30pm, Jennifer and I arrived in NYC around 1:30pm so we had a little time to do some sightseeing.

First we ate lunch at some little Italian place where we paid sixty bucks for two sodas, a pizza and a small bowl of green pasta. After lunch, I discovered that I've never hailed a cab in my life! So once we figured out the fine art of getting a cab in New York we figured we would visit one of New York's greatest landmarks, World of Disney! It's basically a Walt Disney World gift shop right in the middle of New York. They had lots of great stuff that you can only get in Disney World and Disneyland and they have some exclusive NYC stuff. They also have characters there, Minnie and Cinderella were in town but had the day off!

After we dropped $100 at Disney, we walked a few blocks over to Times Square and saw some of the sights that you always see on TV like the ABC News Building, MTV's TRL Studio, and the huge Toys R Us store! From there we grabbed a cab back to where the audition was.

There were about 150 people there for the audition. We were all led to the commissary which was exactly like the fake ABC Commissary at the Disney/MGM Studios in Florida. We were all handed scantron sheets and a test and the next few minutes went pretty much like the moments leading up to the SAT. We had 10 minutes to complete 30 questions like in the show. My pencil broke after answering the first question, but I was supplied with a second pencil. The questions on the test were completely random: music, television, politics, fashion, the internet, science...there was a question about something that happened in MEN IN BLACK II and a question about the sun. There were questions about Viagara, the Pope, Gwen Stefani, daylight savings time...they were all over the place.

The tests were collected and quickly checked, and they read off the list of about 11 people that passed. The rest of us were thanked for coming and then dumped back onto the streets of New York City. My total auditioning time was about 18 minutes. I was just doing it for the experience so I wasn't that disappointed, but the guy sitting at my table that flew in from Tampa for the same 18 minutes I experienced was a bit let down!

So don't look for me on MILLIONAIRE anytime soon - Final Answer!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Pac-Man For President

Yesterday I was schooling Joey in some "real" classic video games (I'm talking before Nintendo) and we were playing the greatest video game of all time, Pac-Man. Hearing the sounds from Pac-Man (or Space Invaders) for the first time in a while, I'm always instantly taken back to Ocean City, MD - Summers of `81 & `82 and every single arcade in the town with it's rows of Pac-Man and Space Invaders machines. I remember the arcade at the Frontiertown Campground had nothing but Pac-Man and Spaced Invaders and you had to wait for a machine to free up. (Back in those days, your quarter placed on the cabinet of the game secured your right as the next player!) Anywho...I got to thinking about how Pac-Man was not just a video game but a way of life for so many of us back then. So, I dug up some Pac-Man memories and thought I'd share them with you.

This watch was awesome because you could actually play Pac-Man on the watch. You were able to take the awesomeness of Pac-Man with you everywhere you went. This is before Game Boy and all that nonsense. Pac-Man! On your watch! I was happy to toss aside my R2-D2 digital watch for this little gem. Sadly, I also remember this baby being my only company at a party in the 7th grade while everyone else was slow dancing in the dark.

One of my all-time favorites from the great legacy of Saturday Morning Cartoons! The Pac-Man Show was the bomb! Pac-Man was married to Mrs. Pac-Man (or Pepper as he called her) and they had Pac-Baby and their dog and cat, Chomp-Chomp and Sour Puss. They lived in a little house in Pac-Land where all the other Pac People lived. Pac-Man had a job at the local Power Pellet Farm where he had to protect the crops from the stupid...but evil Ghost Monsters! Man...that was a great show. You can still catch the Christmas episode on Cartoon Network every December.

Again, before Game Boy, Tomy Pocket Games were awesome! They were little hand held games that did not involve electronics of any kind, just good old fashioned moving parts! We had a horse racing one, and my brother had some sort of motorcycle one too. I got this Pac-Man one for my birthday one year. The little marbles bounce down the maze a'la Plinko while you maneuver Pac-Man and catch all the balls. Great fun! This could keep you busy on a car trip for hours!

When you're 8 years old in the early 80's...it simply just doesn't get any better than this. I'm quite sure the entire time this Pac-Man brand pasta was on the shelves at the grocery store, we had a cupboard full of every variety imaginable. Cheese, Meatballs, Chicken...we had `em all! This is good eatin' right here, my friend!

There were only a few trading cards that became popular in my neighborhood. Gremlins, Garbage Pail Kids, Dukes of Hazzard, and Pac-Man. (Oddly enough actual baseball cards were never really that popular with us!?!) The Pac-Man cards were also stickers, so you could actually put your doubles to good use. There was a Pac-Man sticker on pretty much every toy and plaything in our neighborhood. Each pack also came with a scratch-off game where you had to rub off the dots in a Pac-Man maze and you could win prizes. Nobody I knew ever came close to winning, but we hoarded those things like pick axes during the gold rush!

Since everyone didn't have a video game system in their house at this point, for some kids the only way to play Pac-Man at home was with this board game. This was another birthday gift I received and LOVED! Even though the game took well over an hour to set up the thousands of marbles involved in playing, it was alot of fun the one or two times we played. A big plastic Pac-Man went around the board gobbling up the dots/marbles. The player with the most marbles won! It was essentially a more complicated version of Hungry Hungry Hippos.

Nowadays, fads come and go quicker than you can organize your Pog collection. But for a few years in the early 1980's, Pac-Man ruled this country...and our hearts!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Who Doesn't Love a Good Carnival


One of the things I like most about living in a small town is the number of little carnivals that pop up all summer. There are two that are under a 5 minute drive away, and at least five more within a 15 minute drive. Growing up in Howard County, MD the only carnival like attraction that we had near us was The Columbia Fair which is now called The Howard County Festival of Wine and Arts and Interior Decorating...or something gay like that!? These rural "fireman's carnivals" are the real deal with home cooked foods, high-levels of white trash roaming the grounds, and carnival employees dripping with the latest in sexualy transmitted diseases!

So, last night we packed the kids in the car and visited the first of many carnivals that 2006 will offer. We played lots of games and won lots of crap! We had lots to eat (carnival pizza is some of the best pizza you'll ever eat!) And we went on some rides. Elias had a fit because he couldn't ride the giant swing ride (kind of like this one) but he did love the Fun House and all the other kiddie rides he rode.

Guess what!? I took a handful of pictures and they are all up over at Wonderful World of Pictures. Here's a little video for you to also enjoy...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Little Plastic Figures vol. 2


Today is the 100th post on "Mr. Ed's Wonderful World of Blog". I'd thought we'd celebrate by taking another visit to my little plastic figure collection and some of my favorite characters of all time!

The Smurfs probably started the whole "little plastic figure" craze. When the Smurfs made their U.S. debut in the early `80's there were more little Smurf figures than you could smurf a stick at! I probably had about 50 of these little guys...I'm sorry, did I say "HAD"...I mean "HAVE". I just can't seem to part with these little guys, even though besides this guy they are all in a brown paper bag in the storage room.

Gumby was very popular with my friends and I in the 6th grade. I'm not even sure where the whole thing came from except we used to call this one guy Gumby and then we discovered there was a cartoon of the same name. Gumby was the first character to make a "retro" comeback from obscurity. He hasn't been up to much lately, although they did do a Game Boy Advance game of Gumby not too long ago!

The Little Mermaid was one of the greatest movie going experiences of my life. I had loved all the Disney animated classics growing up, but they hadn't made any of the really good films during my lifetime. That all changed in 1989 when a couple buddies and I were laughed at for going to see a "girl cartoon movie." The Little Mermaid captured all that was magical and fantastic of the great Disney animated classics, and as a Disney fan, watching it for the first time was a jaw dropping experience. It was also the first Disney film in a long time to have a ton of merchandising!

ALF is simply one of my favorite shows of all time. It was a crazy concept back in 1986 to have a puppet as a character in a sit-com, and that's what drew me to the show. The show was consistently funny and a staple of my Monday nights for four years. Rewatching the shows season by season on DVD now, they have a wholesome timeless quality like The Flintstones and The Muppet Show that will keep them a favorite of mine for years to come!

When I was younger, I was always a fan of the cartoons that were harder to come by. The Pink Panther wasn't run as much as Bugs Bunny, Casper or Popeye, so he's always had a special place in my heart. I recently got a DVD set of all 130 some cartoons The Pink Panther made...having two kids, I've been able to watch about three of those cartoons.

Simply put, Mighty Mouse is the best superhero ever! He could kick Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and The X-Men all in the butt before lunchtime on any given day! We haven't heard anything from Mighty Mouse in a long time, with the exception of a Cheese commercial a few years back. I'd like to see a fully-animated big budget summer blockbuster Mighty Mouse movie! Of course I'd also love to see a big budget movie of the Snorks or Darkwing Duck....so who cares what I think, right!?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Simple Things

Sometimes it's just a silly little thing that can bring peace and happiness to your day. This morning we had breakfast at Roberts Family Restaurant, a little no-frills place where the food is good and the prices are low. They put on a good breakfast with tasty little sandwiches, malted waffles, and fantastic smoked sausage. We don't go there too often, even though we all really like it. One time, years ago, I had a chili-cheese omelet there that was out-of-this-world fantastic, it was the special that day and I haven't seen it there since. Well, today when we walked into Roberts I was filled with joy when I saw the chili-cheese omelet as the special of the day. I ordered it and it was a delight! As stupid as it sounds, I was so happy to have the goodness of the chili-cheese omelet on my breakfast plate!

Not to go on about omelets here, but as you may know I am a HUGE fan of the Pizza Omelet at Ocean City's Dough Roller. Yesterday I was informed of another place in O.C. called General's Kitchen that serves up a cream-chipped beef omelet. This also sounds delightful and I must seek it out and try it on our next visit to Ocean City in a few weeks!

In the meantime, the projects at home keep coming! Not as elaborate as the swing set (see previous post) but today I put together this new swing in the backyard to replace the old one that was getting pretty gross. It only took an hour.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

We Got A Swing Set


I just spent large chunks of the last two days building this gigantic swing set in our backyard. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present the
Durango Wooden Gym Play Center & Swing Set. There is no way this would be standing in my backyard right now without the awesome help of our good family friend Jimmy! Jimmy knows his way around a tool box a little better than I do. Let's just say Jimmy was Bob Vila and I was more like
some dorky kid in a Bob The Builder costume. The website said the playground would take 3 hours to build, the actual book that came with the kit said 12 hours, we did it in about 10 working hours!

To see lots of pictures of the finished project, and the kids enjoying the fruits of our labor, visit my Wonderful World of Photos site. Thanks Again, Jimmy!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Movie for Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to any dads (especially the stay-at-home variety) that happen to stroll on in today! I'd like to direct your attention to what I consider to be one of the greatest "overlooked" movies which happens to have a father-son theme. A GOOFY MOVIE is a little gem from the Disney studios that isn't regarded in the same league as the studio's other animated films. Released between THE LION KING and POCAHONTAS, A GOOFY MOVIE quietly debuted in the spring of 1995. The story of Goofy and his son Max on a cross-country road trip is full of originality, humor, and warmth.
Goofy decides to spend some quality time with his son by taking him on a fishing trip. The unannounced trip happens to be the same weekend Max has just scored a date with the prettiest girl in school. Like any good roadtrip, the teenage son doesn't want to go and is embarassed by his father's enthusiasm. Along the way, Goofy and Max stop at Lester's Possum Park, a spoof on Disney's own theme parks. They also have a run-in with Bigfoot that involves the Bee Gee's hit "Staying Alive." There's even some cameos by a few of Disney's other animated stars.

One of the standout features of the movie is the musical numbers. While not a "musical" like most other animated films, there are are a few stand out moments in the film set to music. "After Today" is a fantastic quick little song that pokes fun at the many different social groups in high school, and is on-par with anything from GREASE.



In the end, A GOOFY MOVIE is about a father's love for his son. It's a sweet, funny movie that most people have never seen. Everytime I watch it, I can't get over how well done it is, and whenever I share the movie with someone they are also blown away by how good it is. As my friend Aaron said after we saw it in the theatre 11 years ago, "That movie was way better than it had any right to be!"

Get your hands on a copy of A GOOFY MOVIE today...you can thank me later!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Cars

We made it to the theatre this morning to see CARS. If you've been keeping up with your Wonderful World of Blog posts you know that my two and a half year old son Elias and I have been anticipating this film for quite sometime now. I have to say, It didn't quite have that WOW factor that most of the other Pixar films had. It started off very fast and somewhat obnoxious and there were parts in the middle that were slow and seemed to drag on. Honestly, the movie probably would have benefited from another trip to the editing suite, but that's not to say the movie is bad. It's bright and colorful and funny and has a large cast of crazy characters. The theme, about not forgetting what's important in life and taking time to slow down and smell the roses, is relateable enough.

Maybe it's that Elias and I had read some of the books based on the movie, or that there are only so many ways you can make a "racing" movie and we just saw HERBIE FULLY LOADED last summer, but CARS didn't pop off the screen the way I had hoped it would. For whatever reason, Elias was more interested in the projection booth than the image on the giant screen infront of him, so I spent a considerable amount of time paying attention to him and getting him settled than paying attention to the movie. Once the movie left the race track, and Lightning McQueen visits the small town of Radiator Springs...all the different characters that Elias knew started to pop up. Elias proudly announced to the entire theatre the name of each Car as it made it's first appearance on screen. Whenever a car would rev it's engine, Elias would loudly supply his impression of a car revving it's engine. Elias also felt the need to get up on his seat and dance during musical montage scenes. No amount of "shhhh's" and "you have to be quite in the movie theatre" kept Elias under control. For years I've had movies ruined by people talking, cell phones, noisy popcorn eaters, and disruptive children...it was nice to give something back to the community!

Overall, it's a good movie. Comparing it to other Pixar films, I'd have to rank it below MONSTERS INC, TOY STORY, TOY STORY 2, and FINDING NEMO. Comparing it to other movies, I'd have to say it's way better than your average movie. I'm sure it's safe to say that CARS is much better than THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS TOKYO DRIFT or GARFIELD A TALE OF TWO KITTIES.

With that all said, we still need three more CARS toys to finish our collection, and I'm not resting `till I find them!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Little Plastic Figures


I used to have a ton of these little plastic figures that I'd pick up in toy stores, yard sales, Happy Meals or where ever I could get my hands on them. These little guys were all over my bedroom when I was younger. Now that I'm an "adult" and "all grown up," what remains of my collection is now regulated to a few shelves hanging in the playroom. From time to time when there's nothing better to talk about, I'll share a couple of these treasures with ya!


I wanted to start off with two of the cooler pieces of my collection. The man you see driving the police car is none other than Big Mac, the resident law enforcement officer of McDonaldland. This is a 1986 Happy Meal toy that I got in Canada. The striking gentleman standing in the background in the one and only Turnpike Man. Turnpike Man was the mascot of the New Jersey Turnpike! Why the Jersey Turnpike needed a mascot I do not know, but Turnpike Man was promenantly featured in various ads and posters hanging up in the turnpike rest areas. I was already familiar with Turnpike Man's work when in 1994, on the way home from Six Flag's Great Adventure, we stopped for some Roy Rogers' at one of the turnpike rest areas (at about two in the morning) and discovered that if you ordered a large drink it came in a souvenir Turnpike Man cup! Of course I screamed in delight, and the woman behind the counter was so surprised that I knew who Turnpike Man was (yet alone was a fan of his) that she went in the back and came out with a Turnpike Man little plastic figure for me to cherish! Twelve years later, TM still stands proudly in my collection.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Long and Sleepless Night

Last night we were out running errands and getting dinner and we didn't get home until much later than we had planned. Jennifer and I both had to get up very early in morning for various things so we had hoped to go to bed early. As it turned out Elias didn't get to bed until about 11:30, Jennifer and I 12:30. (Tanner was long ago fast asleep for the night!)

Cut to less an hour and fifteen minutes later, Elias comes strolling into our room at 1:45am. "Elias, it's still dark outside. It's nite-nite time. You have to go back to your Nemo-bed," we told him. "I want to sleep in Mommy & Daddy's bed," Elias protested. Elias has been waking up earlier and earlier lately, pushing his wake up time into the 5am hour! But 1:45am is too darn early. Jen got out of bed, and walked Elias back down to his room. She sat on the floor next to his bed for a little while as he drifted back to sleep. As soon as Jen got up to go back to her own bed, Elias starts screaming at the top of his lungs...beginning our THREE HOUR journey into Hell!

After hours of singing, telling US stories, and asking us if we could go to Chuck E. Cheese - Elias collapsed a little before 5am leaving Mommy and Daddy very little time to sleep.

It was a very LONG day!

Monday, June 12, 2006

My Dear Ol' Lunch Boxes

How awesome were lunch boxes!? They were an expression of yourself that you had to make in September and had to last you all the way through June. Your lunch box said something about YOU! I don't know the status of lunch boxes with today's kids. I know they don't have the real metal boxes that we had. Nowadays they are lame-o plastic or even lamer - the zippered tote style. Back in the day, we had metal and if we wanted to knock a friend upside his head with our lunch box and send him to the nurse's office, it was our prerogative! Now, strap yourself in for a riveting look at the lunch boxes that I carried to school everyday from 1978 to 1985.

My first lunch box I didn't have much of a say in. Probably because I was only 5 years old, but also because my mom bought it at a yard sale before I was born! I don't think at the time I was very fond of my "Disney on Parade" box. Since it was second hand, I didn't have the matching thermos. I had a glass American flag thermos. Why you would send a kindergartener to school with a glass thermos is beyond me. Looking back at it, it's a pretty cool lunch box and if I were selecting lunch boxes today it would probably be my selection. Isn't it funny how it all comes around!???

One of the drawbacks to having a birthday in August (like me) is that you often got school supplies as birthday gifts. Pencil boxes, notebooks, and backpacks are no substitute for games, Atari cartridges and action figures! So you can imagine how disappointed I was when I received this dumb lunch box for my 6th Birthday. Never a big fan of Cracker Jacks, I have no idea why my grandmother picked this up for me. But I was stuck with it! And to make matters worse, my mom instituted a "2-year" policy on lunch boxes! She didn't see the need to spend money on a new box every year, no matter what new lunch boxes were sitting on the shelves the next school year. No "The Black Hole" lunch box for me, I was sentenced to carry my Cracker Jack lunch box through 1st and 2nd grade.

So here I am in the 3rd grade, 8 years old, and I finally get to pick out a lunch box to call my own. Can you get any better than THE DUKES OF HAZZARD? Bob-howdy, my brother and I loved that show. In fact, my brother picked out the very same lunch box. There was more than one occasion when I would open up my lunch box at school to find his boring cheese sandwich inside instead of my Peanut Butter & Jelly. As much as I loved that box, I was still upset that I had to repeat it again for my 4th grade year. Still, you'd be hard pressed today to find a kids lunch box with the confederate flag on it. (Except maybe in the south!?!)

In 5th grade I took a chance and made the jump from metal to plastic with my Atari Lunch Box. It was a unique box that paid tribute to some of the greatest video games of all time. Most of the other boys that year had PAC-MAN lunch boxes, but I went the different route and I stand by my decision to this day! However, being an inferior plastic lunch box, it broke near the end of the school year. At last my opportunity to not have to repeat a lunch box for a second year!

Even though most of the other kids had abondoned lunch boxes by the 6th grade in favor of brown paper bags, I was proud to carry my lunch to school everyday in my brand spankin' new GREMLINS lunch box! As I've mentioned here before, I loved (love) GREMLINS. In 1984 I couldn't get my hands on enough GREMLINS stuff. After a summer of reading the GREMLINS novel, wearing my GREMLINS painters cap, and trading GREMLINS trading cards with the kids in the neighborhood...oh yeah, and seeing the movie too...I was so excited to get a GREMLINS lunch box, especially because it had my favorite scene from the movie depicted on the box: Gizmo driving the Barbie car. That is good stuff right there!

In summary, brown paper bags suck - lunch boxes rule!!!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Six Flag's Power Plant


Poor Baltimore...we've wanted a theme park to call our own for so many years. From time to time rumors have popped up that somebody, somewhere was building a huge new theme park near the Inner Harbor...but that's never happened. There were actual plans in the late 70's for a world class theme park to be build in nearby Jessup, but the people of Howard County fought hard to see that it never happened. Baltimore was even at one time a major consideration for Walt Disney's "Disneyland East" project...but we all know how that turned out!

At some point in the mid-80's the Six Flags company announced that they were constructing a major indoor theme park in Baltimore's Inner Harbor in an old abandoned power plant building that sat right on the water. The name of the new park...SIX FLAG'S POWER PLANT. Boy, oh boy were we excited...and boy, oh boy were we disappointed right from the get-go! Instead of anything resembling an attraction at a "real" amusement park, The Power Plant was filled with shows only slightly more compelling than a Showbiz Pizza Place.

There was THE DUNGEON OF THE MYSTERIOUS, where you took an elevator to the basement and a leprechaun took you on a tour of some silly haunted house scenes. Or you could visit THE LABORATORY OF SCIENTIFIC WONDERS where you took an elevator to the top floor and some robot voice took you on a tour of some silly inventions that made no sense what-so-ever! There was also a theatre with mysterious magical live action shows like THE FABULOUS 50'S REVUE and THE BUGS BUNNY STORY.

The prized attraction of The Power Plant was THE SENSORIUM, a 3-D movie that had no point to it...like all good theme park 3-D movies. What set this 3-D movie apart was the addition of "smell". Several times throughout the movie, the chair in front of you would loudly blast some sort of scent up your nose making you cough and gasp for air and drowning out the soundtrack to the movie. After a few months of blasting smelly air, the overpowering smell of pine and skunk hit you the moment you walked into the theatre, before the movie even started.

THE POWER PLANT didn't last very long. Six Flags continued to own the building and turned it into a night club called P.T. Flagg's. That didn't last very long either. The building is now the proud home of the first ESPN Zone, a Barnes & Knoble, and a Hard Rock Cafe. Now you can relive all the excitement or see what you missed courtesy of YouTube.com...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Yeah!...New "Weird Al" Song

There are few things in life better than a new "Weird Al" song. Am I right!? Check out a brand new song from Mr. Yankovic from an upcoming album that has not been announced yet! Pretty sweet! Also, for you "Weird Al" fans, the DVD of THE WEIRD AL SHOW - THE COMPLETE SERIES hits stores August 13. Double Sweet!

The song may take a few moments to load.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Yogi's Cave & Smurf Mountain

Since I've been on a kick about amusement parks, I thought I'd finally file this post about two of my favorite long-gone attractions from Kings Dominion.

Yogi's Cave was one of those simple attractions that a visit to Kings Dominion would not be complete without. This walk-thru experience was located in The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera section of the park. Guests were greeted by a large audio-animatronic Yogi standing outside his cave fishing. While singing the "Yogi's Cave Theme Song" he would eventually catch a boot on his fishing line. Boo-Boo made a cameo appearance hiding in the pic-a-nic basket.

From there, you'd cross a long boardwalk and enter the cave. Upon entering the cave, silly music and mysterious sound effects filled the air. The walls were covered in pastel and neon colored "gems" that glowed in the dark. There were several different paths to choose from, but they all led to the same spot in the next room. A waterfall and several singing bears and flowers awaited around the corner. Boo-Boo (seen here in a poor picture) conducted the creatures of the Jellystone park in a sing along. Following the chorus were several scenes of woodland creatures invading a cabin and making off with campers goodies. The finale of Yogi's Cave was the Ranger's Cabin. Yogi had helped the Ranger build the cabin and it was a little off-center. Basically, the whole last room of the cave was slanted and it took quite a bit of skill to walk through it without slamming your head against the wall. A great finale to a unique walk through attraction.

The cave still remains today, however Yogi has moved out and it's now known as "Treasure Cave". Why Yogi is gone is somewhat of a mystery!?! One would assume legal reasons, but the two rides that surround the cave are both still Yogi Bear themed!? Treasure Cave is an utterly pointless experience. Most of the fun of the Yogi Bear days have been replaced with left over props from The Haunted River ride that closed many years ago. I suppose there are now some more gold and skeletons from the recently closed Diamond Falls ride as well. It's still a popular place for teens on field trips to make-out in semi-private, and if you look closely on the walls you can see some Yogi hieroglyphics...but it just isn't all the same with out Yogi and Boo-Boo running the show!

Now don't even get me started on Smurf Mountain one of my all-time favorite amusement park rides! I loved the Smurfs back in their heyday so of course I was thrilled when I learned that MY local theme park was getting a Smurf ride. Smurf Mountain was visited via a very slow moving train that traveled 2 M.P.H. (tops!) The train entered the mountain and began a very steep incline. Once you reached the top of the chain-lift it was pure Smurf goodness for the next 12 minutes! The train slowly weaved through numerous slightly animated scenes of Smurfs at work, Smurfs at play, Smurfs at home, Smurfs doing what ever the Smurf they smurfwell pleased! All the while, the Smurfs chanting their "la-la-la-la-la-la!" anthem plays on and on as you progress through the ride.

Of all the useless crap on the internet, I can't find one picture of this great ride! All I could dig up was the promotional poster above, and this picture of a live stage show that debuted around the same time as the Smurf ride. I believe the theme of the ride was the four seasons, as I remember Summery scenes in the beginning of the ride and I vividly remember ice skating and Christmas scenes near the end of the ride. Between the ice skating and the Christmas scenes, the train traveled through Gargamel's castle...where you came face to face with the bad guy himself and his cat, Azriel. Such a great ride!

Smurf Mountain occupied one third of The Lost World mountain in the back of the park. The Smurfs moved out of the mountain a while after their popularity dried up. The mountain still stands, but it was completely gutted in the mid-90's and now a roller coaster winds it's way through the remains of Smurf Mountain, The Haunted River and The Time Shaft. Rumor has it that there are still a few Smurfs hiding in the mountain, but since the current ride zips along at 70 M.P.H, it's probably hard to spot them!

All the parks owned by the company that owned Kings Dominion in the 1980's had a Smurf attraction. Kings Island in Ohio had the Smurfs Enchanted Voyage which was a boat ride through similar scenes as the mountain's. Carowinds on the North/South Carolina border had Smurf Island which was a barren island with a few waterfalls, empty caves and outdoor Smurf scenes. And Canada's Wonderland in Toronto had Smurf Village which was a cross between Smurf Mountain and Yogi's Cave. Sadly, I made it a point in my younger years to visit all three of the other parks to sample their smurfy goods....Kings Dominion's Smurf Mountain was my favorite.

I'd also like to mention that they used to have a snack bar in the Hanna-Barbera area that served Smurf shaped french fries and Smurf-blue ice cream. Those were the greatest things EVER!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Kings Dominion TV Ads


Kings Dominion's TV ads in the 1980's often promoted a new ride long before the park was open for the season. These commercials were usually shot nowhere near Kings Dominion, and rarely featured any actual footage of the ride itself. In addition, the spots greatly exaggerated what you would actually find inside the park. I can remember specifically, being disappointed that the Haunted River ride was nothing like the creepy-cool commercial that they used to run ad-nausea during afternoon cartoons on WDCA TV-20 in Washington, D.C.

Diamond Falls was Kings Dominion's new ride for the 1985 season. This ride, now found at almost every park, is basically a log flume ride with a larger boat. The splash at the bottom of the hill is much greater than that of the standard flume ride. Once leaving the station, the boat went directly up the chain lift, made a U-turn and then plummeted right down the chute. After the splash, the boat entered a tunnel where the boat basically made the same sized U-turn back into the loading area. The tunnel had a few un-animated scenes of gold and skeletons (a Kings Dominion favorite!) The layout of the entire ride was visible from anywhere in the queue area, leaving no surprises as to what lie ahead.

So take a look at this commercial that I found on YouTube for the opening season of Diamond Falls. This TV spot is from 1985 and sure makes the ride look a heck of alot more thrilling than it really was. It does have actual footage of the ride itself, but the shots are so tight it could have easily been any flume ride at any park.


Chocolate Thief

Two years ago I spent the summer working in the Guest Services department at Hersheypark. One day a co-worker and I were having a conversation with one of the engineers who helped select and develop the attractions at the park. I mentioned a few ideas that I thought Hersheypark had really missed the mark on. I suggested that they needed to add a "dark ride"; that they should try and incorporate Hershey products into the names of the rides; and they needed to use the Hershey product characters more - like in a show.

New at Hersheypark for 2006 is Reese's Xtreme Cup challenge. Hey, that's a catchy name...isn't it?!? And in case you can't tell by the picture, it's a dark ride! Guests ride around in cars and shoot laser guns at targets for points. Along the way, the Reese's products are incorporated into six different extreme sports scenes. Riders are divided up into two teams: the Chocolate Lovers Team and the Peanut Butter Lovers team. Isn't that clever!? Also at Hersheypark this year is a new show called Hershey's Character Party.

Now, I'm not saying they stole my ideas! Besides, I probably signed one of those agreements that any thoughts or ideas I came up with on company time were the legal property of Hershey. However, if Hersheypark's new attraction for 2007 is a motion simulator ride called Alf's Mission to Melmack...I'm getting a lawyer!

Also...watch the odd TV Spot for the new ride, it's totally like something from Saturday morning cartoons circa 1984.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Tickle Me Lightning

These Disney/Pixar Cars toys are becoming the next Cabbage Patch Kids or Tickle Me Elmo! They are becoming impossible to find! Of the million or so toys that they've put out for the upcoming movie, the small "Matchbox" sized vehicles of all the main characters are selling like hot cakes! The stores can't keep them on the shelves! Our local Wal-Mart was all sold out of them a week or so ago, so I went to some stores near my mom's house to see if I could find the remaining cars that we didn't have yet!

At the Toys R Us, the shelves were bare! There were other parents there too looking for one or two of the remaining cars they needed. I started talking to some of the other parents and it turns out that these toys are in high demand! Suddenly, it was a quest to find the three remaining characters that we needed to complete the set. Does my 2 1/2 year old son care if he gets three more cars!? Does he even know that there are three more out there!? No!!! But it wasn't just about him anymore! It's the accomplishment of collecting all 12! The package says "Collect Them All" so by-golly we're going to collect them all! Even if it kills me!

Five stores later, I still didn't have the three characters that we needed to complete our set! Toys R Us, K-B, Target, Wal-Mart...all sold out. Even Giant grocery stores are getting in on the act, but they too did not have the ones we needed. A lady at Target told me that they had some "King" cars at a Giant in Burtonsville (about 20 minutes from where we were) but I didn't get that crazed!
At the end of the day, I did add to our collection of merchandising the carrying case (pictured here) to store all your Cars. It has spots inside labeled as to which Car goes where, and when you close the case you can use the top as a race track! That's pretty cool.

And we added "Mack" to our line-up! Mack is a Mack Truck that drive Lightning McQueen to all his races. The toy version - the back of the truck opens up into a "home-away-from-home" for McQueen. Elias has been playing with it pretty much non-stop since we got home with it last night!

And I've even got Tanner in on the fun as well! The Disney Store has all kinds of exclusive merchandise, including this little Pit Crew Shirt that I got him!
This picture doesn't do the shirt justice, but ain't he cute anywho!!!!

CARS hits theatres Friday June 9

Friday, June 02, 2006

Now That's Italian!


Guess what Elias had for diner tonight!?! This is what Elias looks like after eating a plate of "noodles with red sauce" when I wait `til he's all done to wipe him off. (This doesn't usually happen when Mommy is around.)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

McIce is Nice



Have you seen what's new on the McDonalds drive thru menu!? A 10lb. bag of ice!? What!? Where did that come from!?! I saw the sign for the ice while going through the drive-thru at the Mickey D's in Thurmont, MD the other day. I figured it must be some kind of "local" thing, but then I looked it up on the internet and it seems that many of the McDonald's stores are starting to offer this unusual item?!? Strange, ain't it!? I don't really even have a joke here...I just thought it was so strange I had to share it!

And while we're on the subject of fast food, here's some new food creations out on the market that we don't need:
  • Cheesesteak Thickburger @ Hardee's. It's all the goodness of a cheesesteak sub on top of a hamburger. Who needs this!? If you simultaneously want to eat a Cheesesteak sub and a hamburger then you're probably already fat. Just eat a Cheesesteak sub and then go hunt down a burger...why rush it all in your mouth at once!?
  • French Toast Sandwich @ Burger King. It's funny when one chain does something new and then the others poorly copy it. McDonald's came out with the McGriddle which is a breakfast sandwich made with two little syrupy hotcakes, so then BK copies with a breakfast sandwich between two little syrupy slices of French toast. Nice Try Burger King!
  • P'eat Zaa Sandwich @ 7-11. A deli sandwich inbetween two slices of pizza. Who the hell came up with this!? This was the most disgusting thing I ever heard of until I heard of...
  • Famous Bowls @ KFC. This is for real! A bowl of mashed potatoes, covered with corn, popcorn chicken, gravy and cheese. What? Why? Who? Not only does this win the prize for most disgusting food out there, it's also the prize winner for dumbest name for a product.

Charming Local Site of the Week: Man dropping his pants and urinating on own car in an empty parking lot on Memorial Day. Then, taking pants completely off and walking away from "scene of the crime."

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