Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Worst Thing About a Boo-Boo

Everyday when I take Elias to school he is very excited to see Ms. Carrie, the lady behind the front desk. "HI MS. CARRIE!" Elias yells very excitedly everytime we open the door. "Hi Elias," she replies, "How are you today?" Elias' reply is always "Great!" And then he runs off to his classroom. This exchange happens everyday, without fail.

This evening at home, Elias scraped his finger on a little nail that was starting to stick out of the wall. He got a little scratch mark and he started crying. The first thing out of his mouth (in between all the tears): "Next time I go to school I'll say 'Hi' to Ms. Carrie and she'll say 'Hi Elias, How are you today?' And instead of saying 'Great' I'll say 'Not so good...because I have a boo-boo!'" And then he sobbed uncontrollably for about 15 minutes.

Cupid's Arrow - 10th Anniversary

Following the success of our Summer `96 production of BARN OF THOUGHT,the Down South Independent Theatre Company returned to the stage the following winter to stage my second play, CUPID'S ARROW. This time with me in the director's chair as well. The cast included six members of the BARN OF THOUGHT cast as well as some new faces. CUPID'S ARROW doesn't tell much of a story, instead it's really a handful of skits supposedly all sharing the theme of love and romance. The skits are held together with a conversation between Cupid (Kevin McCrum) the god of love and Mars (Keith Mack) the god of war. It seems Cupid is quite the jokester, and illustrates for Mars the different ways he makes love fail. Along the way we meet Michael (Brian Kaiser) and Heather (Terri McHargue), a couple who's relationship has come to and end and then takes a very weird turn. We also meet a young cheerleader named Sally (Sara Nunally) who gets her heart broken by Jake (Brendan P. Hines) the coolest guy in school when he chooses the class flirt Slutty Bumpkins (Joy Watkins) over her. There's a ridiculous scene where Benjamin Franklin (played by me) accidentally kills his wife Deborah (Carey Dillon) during his famous kite experiment. We also had a scene that was a parody of the Michelle Pfeiffer movie DANGEROUS MINDS, where the teacher (Ariel Tucker) and one of her students (Gareth Kelly) just start getting it on on her desk after being struck by Cupid's Arrow.

The last two scenes in the play were a little more down to earth. One involved a guy (Brian Kaiser) having cyber-sex with a girl who ends up being his sister and the other was my lame attempt to be a little serious and romantic and end the show with a cute little skit about a nice guy (Gareth Kelly) winning the heart of a jock's girlfriend (Joy Watkins.) Then any actual sentiment I was able to work up was all tossed out the window for the final scene which was a musical number, just for the sake of having a musical number because I think all plays (and movies) should end with a good musical number.

The show was about an hour and 15 minutes long with no intermission. It was well received as people knew coming in that they weren't getting Shakespeare. Our scheduled short run of four shows was snipped to three when we cancelled the last show due to snow, but once again we all had a good time working on the show and pulling the whole thing off.

Those were great times, working with so many talented and fun people. It was alot of work directing my first play while also playing two roles in it but luckily in the second scene I was in one of my props was a magazine that I was holding. I ended up taping the script for the scene in the magazine and never really learning my lines, but with help I pulled it off.

One of the very talented people involved with the Down South Independent Theatre Company was Jen Wadford, who had worked on BARN OF THOUGHT and a sketch comedy show we had done years earlier called SUDS. Jen made costumes and props and kept everything together while the rest of us were trying to show off on stage. We also got alot of help and support from Catonsville Community College, where we produced the shows. Not only did they let us use the theatre for free, the drama department helped us out with lighting and other equipment for the theatre. Like I said, it was really a collaborative effort.

Here's a picture of all the females in the cast taken one night after a performance. The back row is: Terri McHargue, Carey Dillon in her musical number outfit, Julie DiPanfilo as the goddess Vesta, and Joy Watkins as Dawn. The bottom row is Ariel Tucker as Mrs. Johnson, Laura Keller as student #3 and Tammy Coffinberger as student #4.

The Down South Independent Theatre Company story continues this summer with the 10th Anniversary of our full-blown musical extravaganza SUNBURNED!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Some Movies I Saw This Week

My eight bucks was among the 19.2 million that EPIC MOVIE made at the box office this past weekend. I love these types of movies where it's just joke after joke after joke, and some of the jokes are good and even more of them are bad. Even though I had a good time at this movie, I was a bit disappointed that the filmmakers were more concerned about working in as many pop culture references as they could instead of actually parodying anything. Of the dozen or so movies that EPIC MOVIE comically recreate they really only manage to parody NARNIA and maybe SNAKES ON A PLANE. There is also a great impression of Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow by Saturday Night Live's Darrell Hammond. But after the Captain Jack character is introduced, they go into this musical number which is supposed to be a parody of SNL's "Lazy Sunday" video called "Lazy Pirate Day" and then it turns into some sort of Pussycat Dolls sendup (I think?) I'm not really sure what was going on except that it was one of the most stupid things I had seen on a movie theatre screen in quite some time. The whole flick though is really incredibly stupid and pointless. Needless to say, I loved it! If you like those kind of films, go check it out!

Accepted is a fantastic movie that I wanted to see in theatres, but just caught it on DVD. It's a high school/college comedy - another one of my favorite genres. A high school senior who's been rejected by every college he's applied to fakes a letter of acceptance from a fake school to keep his parents happy. That lie turns into another lie, followed by another lie and pretty soon the kid is running a fake school with 300 students. Very of the best films in this mold since 1994's P.C.U. I think it made like $32 bucks at the box office when it came out last year, but it's worth checking out. It's funny all the way through and never gets bogged down with unnecessary things like plot or story!

Usually after I profess my love for crap it's hard to convince people something else is really good. WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? is a fantastic documentary about the auto industry's lack of cooperation in producing zero-emission vehicles for the public. It's well told, in a fast breezy style. It's not pompous and artsy like so many other documentaries nor is it Michael Moore influenced like so many other docs. It's to the point and tells an interesting story with some surprising little side stories. If you wanna get all worked up about how government and big corporations are running this country into the ground you should take a look at this fine film.

Finally this week I got around to watching 2005's big screen adaptation of THE DUKES OF HAZZARD. And wow, what a steaming pile of garbage that is. I don't understand why they keep making movies based on TV shows, but they want to reinvent the show and give it a new twist. TV shows are loved for certain reasons, and when you make a movie that is obviously going to appeal to the shows original audience, but then you change the things the audience likes about're going to make a horrible movie! They didn't stick to the characters of the original show. They had the same names, and they dressed the same...but they weren't the same characters. Second of all, the TV show wasn't vulgar and wasn't sexual!? I hate to sound like a grandparent, but why they thought a new version had to be filled with cuss words and sex jokes, I don't know why.

Another HORRIBLE movie I saw this week was NATIONAL LAMPOON'S PLEDGE THIS! staring Paris Hilton, but I guess I was pretty much walking right into that one!

Friday, January 26, 2007

It's a Smokey and the Bandit Kind of Week

One of my favorite movies, which some friends and I are semi-fanatical about, is the 1977 car crash classic SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT staring Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed and the legendary Jackie Gleason. So imagine my surprise and delight while flipping through the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly and saw this brand new full page ad for M&M's. It's the Bandit himself Burt Reynolds as a little M&M dude, sporting his BANDIT attire and standing along side the famous 1977 Pontiac Trans Am (also from the film).
The ad is promoting M&M's new website Become an M&, which has something to do with making an M&M character of yourself. I went to the website and there was nothing about SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT there so I kind of lost interest...but the ad is cool! Next I'd like to see M&M's of The Golden Girls, the Police Academy recruits, and The Apple Dumpling Gang!

So then a couple of days later, I was strolling through the isles of my local Target and spotted a very cool Smokey and the Bandit T-shirt, with that trendy retro-vibe thing going on. Very Cool! Somebody out there that can fit into T-shirts such as this, please buy one and wear it for me! Seriously, if you wanna get one: Target doesn't have them on their website but I found this other place called 80's Tee' that has a selection of five different SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT t-shirts. What a great way to say "I Love You" to your valentine this year!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ed's Bookshelf: Ask Ernest

My collection of crap doesn't just end with my videos and old amusement park brochures, I have also accumulated quite a collection of non-best selling books that would make a librarian gag. So we're going to kick off a new feature here at WWoB called "Ed's Bookshelf". To kick things off we present this literary masterpiece ASK ERNEST by Ernest P. Worrell (1993, Rutledge Hill Press) I'm a big fan of Ernest on both the small and big screens but his downhome slapstick act doesn't translate too well to paper. This book is filled with odd graphics and lame jokes and somehow manages to miss the goofy charm that Jim Varney's character used to sell hundreds of different products in thousands of commercials during the 1980's. It's kind of on the level of CRACKED magazine, and reminds me of a joke book you would have got through the Schoolastic book club in the 6th grade. ASK ERNEST came out sometime between the fourth and fifth Ernest films. As you can see from the front cover featured here, I didn't even pick it up new...I got it at some clearance book store at an outlet mall several years later. Still, I'm a big fan of Ernest and this is a nice little piece of Ernest history.

Here's a sample of some of the high-brow comedy you'll find inside:

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More Disney Food That Is Good For You

Today we've got another look as some more Disney branded food items that are coming your way. Disney has been licencing their characters for use on food and beverage items since the 1930's. Mickey and Donald have been used to sell everything from baby food to coffee. During World War II you could find over 200 different Donald Duck products on grocery shelves across the country. (Of those 200, only Donald Duck brand Orange Juice still lives on today.) Recently Disney announced that they would start eliminating trans fats from the food they serve in their parks and the products which they licence their characters too. Yesterday we showed you some new breakfast offerings, here we have a look at some more goodies hitting the shelves. One way to look at it is more nutritional options for kids, I look at it as a way to buy more Mickey Mouse stuff!

Above you'll see some apples from Disney Farms. (You may remember an earlier post about Disney Farms Cars Grapes) I'm quite sure when I get my hands on a box of those, I won't be throwing away the box anytime soon. I guess Nemo is a good choice for Disney's drinking water, it just seems odd to have the words "Purified Drinking Water" next to a picture of two dirty tropical fish swimming in water!? However the Mickey ravioli's are a nice touch. They are shaped like Mickey's head and any food that you can shape into Mickey's head should be sold as such!

Below are more items you'll see on the shelves soon. Even a Disney character can't make oatmeal exciting in my book!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mouse in the Morning

Some Disney Breakfast Cereal News

My wife called me from the grocery store the other day. "Honey, they've got a new Mickey Mouse cereal out. Should I pick up a box?," she asked. My answer, "Yes...and YES!" After several years with Kellogg's, Disney has now partnered up with General Mills to bring us all new breakfast treats that meet Disney's new standards in healthier choices for kids. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Berry Crunch is not as sugary sweet as it looks from the picture on the box. It's actually a kind of neat cross between Trix and Rice Crispies but after taking one bite you can tell it's not loaded with sugar like other similar cereals. I guess they spent most of their time coming up with the healthier cereal itself than the overall concept of what these little Berry Crunchies have to do with the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse show, but who's complaining. As I've said before, you put Mickey Mouse on your box and it's in my shopping cart!

Along with the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cereal, General Mills has also introduced Little Einsteins Fruity Stars and Disney Princess Fairytale Flakes (which could be read as a put down on Snow White and Cinderella!) The Little Einsteins cereal are kind of like star shaped Fruit Loops but again not as sweet. We passed on picking up a box of the Fairytale Flakes, but next time we're at the grocery store I'll throw a box in the cart when my wife is not looking and then blame it on my kids when we get home! Speaking of the kids, they both really liked the cereals. The Little Einsteins Fruity Stars actually came out on top. Tanner (1) likes them mixed in with his Cheerios and Elias (3) gobbles them down as well. They also make great on-the-run snacks for your little ones...a la' Cheerios. The Mickey cereal is fun too! It's very colorful, but a little too small for baby fingers. It's best enjoyed in a bowl of milk! Surprisingly on the back of each box, instead of advertising the latest Disney DVD or theme park ride, there are Fun Games and nutritional information. A good "box back" is important to the over-all cereal experience! Here's a scan of the back of the Clubhouse Crunch box...

Also in Disney cereal happenings, Kellogg's just unveiled some new premiums in some of their most popular brands. Inside specially marked boxes you can get a Get Up & Go Step Counter featuring Chicken Little, Stitch, or the main mouse himself! Each step counter also has the new all-encompassing "Disney Parks" logo too!

I was happy to find a Mickey in my box! Now, on my next trip to Walt Disney World I can measure how many steps I take in a day at the parks or I can loose the little thing on the first ride I get on!

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Brady Brides

Let's just talk about one of the greatest TV shows to ever grace the small screen. I'm talking of course about THE BRADY BRIDES. A short lived series from 1981, this isn't something I discovered in my later years, I actually remember watching every episode of this delightful program when I was a wee-seven years old! It all started with a made-for-TV movie called THE BRADY GIRLS GET MARRIED. As it turns out, oldest daughter Marcia and middle daughter Jan both announce their engagements at the same time! So they decide to have a double wedding and of course have it on the astro-turf of the Brady's backyard. This movie is the ONLY time that all nine original cast members came back for a reunion story. (Jan passed on THE BRADY BUNCH VARIETY HOUR, Cindy was a no-show for A VERY BRADY CHRISTMAS, and Marcia sat out THE BRADY's)

Anyhow, back to the it also turns when it comes to house hunting for both the couples, Marcia and Jan both fall in love with the same house! But neither of them can't afford it. BUT if they pooled their money together they could buy the place and all four of them could live there! BUT here's the rub...Jan and her husband are real uptight "play by the rules" kind of people, Jan's husband Phillip is even a college professor! Marcia and her husband are kind of wild "eat ice cream out of the container" kind of people! And get a load of this, Marcia's husband is named Wally and he works at a toy factory. The friction that's going to happen when these two couples move in can't be contained in one two hour movie! So THE BRADY BRIDES continued their adventures as these two nutty couples trying to make a go of things in a crazy world they call 1981!

Sadly, THE BRADY BRIDES never lived to see 1982. After six episodes the show was cancelled and we wouldn't hear from the Brady's again until 1988's A VERY BRADY CHRISTMAS...which is also a fantastic little flick!

THE BRADY BRIDES is long overdue a deluxe DVD edition of it's own!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Power Rangers...Schmawer Rangers

My latest assignment from Ultimate was a review for the latest Power Rangers DVD. In case you were wondering, they are no longer "Mighty" or "Morphin" but they still suck! I haven't paid any attention to the Power Rangers universe since the last movie was in theatres ten years ago. Apparently the show undergoes a cast and setting change every season. The current season, known as POWER RANGERS MYSTIC FORCE, tries to take the Power Ranger concept and cash in on the popularity of films like LORD OF THE RINGS and NARNIA. The result is crap! Lucky for me, I didn't have to write a full length review, just a few brief paragraphs for a larger Winter `06 DVD review. Anywho...take a look at my sarcastic review of POWER RANGERS MYSTIC FORCE VOLUME 2 LEGENDARY CATASTROS when you get the chance!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

No One Told Me About the Spider...

...and other movie news!

Spoiler Alert! One of the best parts about being a daddy is that I've got some automatic movie going partners for the next 13 years or so. My older son is 3 years old right now, so that kind of limits the number of movies we can go see together but luckily I have the movie tastes of a 7 year old so that all works out well in the end! I hadn't been to the movies since early November and I had really been jonesing some theatre action so I took Elias to see CHARLOTTE'S WEB last night. Pretty good movie! It was Elias' first live-action movie (I think all he's seen are animated films) and he did really well following it and enjoying it. We had been reading a picture book version of the story at home so he was a little familiar with the characters. However our picture book only tells the story of how Wilbur the pig ends up at the farm he calls home. And I guess I saw the old 1972 animated CHARLOTTE'S WEB movie when I was a kid, but I don't remember anything about it (except that Paul Lynde played a rat).

So, we're sitting there watching the movie and it was entertaining and all, but I got starting to thinking, "Where is this going!?" And then they drop the bomb...Charlotte is not going to make it to the end of the picture! WHAT! Am I the only one who didn't know this going in? I think even Elias knew somehow! Fortunately there was no one else in the theatre last night, so I didn't have to do my usual "slumping down in my seat so I can wipe my eyes without anyone seeing that I'm teary eyed in a kids film" thing, like last year when we saw HERBIE: FULLY LOADED. (What!? Another story for another time!)

Anyhow, there's another movie coming out that I'm unexplainably excited for! There are about 4 or 5 old properties making their way back to movie theatres in the next couple of years. I'm really looking forward to the new POLICE ACADEMY movie this summer, and I can't wait to see what they do with next years SMURF movie, but this spring we'll get to feast our eyes on the brand spanking new TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES movie. Now it's CG, not live-action like the previous three films, but it looks shelltastic! Kevin Smith is even in it! There's been a teaser trailer out for a while, but they just released a full trailer with clips from the movie. Take a look:

Simply put: AWESOME!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

First New Ride of 2007

It's a little early in the year to start talking about new amusement park rides, but this one is so evil looking it's worth mentioning. In Williamsburg, VA there is a resort called Great Wolf Lodge, the place looks pretty cool with a giant indoor waterpark and an audio-animatronic show in their lobby. I haven't been there yet, but hope to take the family in the near future! Anywho, feast your eyes on the new ride they are debuting this year. It's name is the Howlin' Tornado and it appears to have been designed by Satan's own personal architect.

The ride starts off when you and three of your buddies climb into a four person raft. Then your raft plummets down a 6-story drop into the mouth of this hell-spawn contraption where you slide around and around before you drop straight through a tiny little hole into a pool. NO THANK YOU!

First of all, I'm not a big fan of water slides, as it is! Ever since a trip to Sesame Place years ago when I wiped out on several water slides, I've been a little weary of the whole experience. Second of all, you shouldn't ride anything that big that doesn't have a track! Tracks are good! Third, when the raft tips over you've got three other people in there with you to knock heads with, get concussions, pass out, sink to the bottom of the pool and drown! Good Times!

I'll stick with Disney World's new Finding Nemo ride!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hey Look, More Cereal!

Let's start the week off with some more obscure breakfast cereal treats!

I guess it makes sense, people like donuts for breakfast and people like cereal for breakfast so why not combine the two worlds!? They've tried this several times and it never seems to stick. Maybe it just wasn't meant to be, Cereal R&D people. Maybe it just wasn't meant to be!

I'm always intrigued by any cereal with vanilla flavoring in it. ICE CREAM CONES cereal was little vanilla crunch balls mixed in with chocolate flavored bugles. As tasty as that sounds, it didn't last too long either. It's a shame, I liked it! But I guess nothing says "unhealthy" like having a big bowl of Ice Cream Cones to start off your day!

Remember before the first Batman movie came out, T-shirts with the Batman logo were like the hottest things on the planet? Batman Cereal rode the coat tails of that frenzy. Probably one of the slickest box designs in cereal movie tie-in history. Again, they were just little Capt'n Crunches shaped like the little Bat logo but they were tasty little buggers!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Bill & Ted's Excellent Cereal! It even features a little cartoon George Carlin on the box! Wow! Remember there was a Bill & Ted live action series as well an animated one!? What a shining moment for the human race!

I know I've gone on and on about Gremlins Cereal before but now I've got an image of the box art so I just gotta share it with ya again. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Gremlins - BEST CEREAL EVER!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

You Can Major in "American Idol"

How funny is this? This is an actual class listing from the Harrisburg Area Community College Winter/Spring 2007 catalog. Listed right between Romanticism in France and Spain and Guitar Cord Lab 1 is AMERICAN IDOL STRATEGIES/PREP! Now you too can study the great works of Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest and really dive into what makes AMERICAN IDOL tick. This is for real! Of course, this is also the same school that had a course on GODZILLA a few years ago. Can you imagine telling your friends on a Friday night that you've got to go home early because you've got to get up for your American Idol class in the morning!? Unless this class was taught by Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson, is it really worth it!? But seriously, who can forget the powerful vocals of Instructor Travis J. Grimes!?! Oh, it's so funny!
Next semester at HACC they are also offering Wife Swapping 101 and How to Make Flavor Flav Fall in Love With You.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

"The What Tron What?"

I got an e-mail request for a bit on an old song from back in the Skateland/Middle School Dance days. The song requested was "The New Tron Dance". I can't say that I'm familiar with such a song. My guess would be that that was a lesser known follow up ditty by Buckner and Garcia trying to cash in on the 1982 video game movie TRON staring Jeff Bridges.

However, I think what we are looking for here is The Pointer Sisters' smash-hit song "Neutron Dance" which shot all the way up to #6 on the charts back in 1984. The song was one of a string of hits for The Pointer Sisters. Some of their other biggies included "Jump (For My Love)" and "I'm So Excited." But it was "Neutron Dance" that captured the hearts of movie goers in 1984 when it was featured in the hit motion picture BEVERLY HILLS COP.

For some, the song brings back memories of disco ball filled afternoons at Skateland, or perhaps dancing uncomfortably with one of your friends at a middle school dance. For me, I'll always remember that song from a play I was in when I was 12 years old. The play: THE ELECTRIC SUNSHINE MAN, a musical adaptation of Thomas Edison's life. I played Telegraph Worker #2, thank you very much! For some bizarre reason, the director decided to throw "Neutron Dance" into the show. I don't remember how it fit in to Mr. Edison's life, but I'm sure he would have been proud!

So, sit back...grab an Elio's Pizza Square and enjoy a little Pointer Sisters with us...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Pac-Man Vitamins

Here's another beautiful relic from the 1980's. For a while, the Flintstones had to take a backseat to our good friend Pac-Man as he came out with his own brand of Children's Chewable Vitamins. As you may recall, the game of Pac-Man consisted mainly of Pac-Man running around a maze eating dots or pills and an occasional power pellet or vitamin. So, of course what a great tie-in! However, in the game Pac-Man eats hundreds...if not thousands of dots/pills in the course of a few minutes of gameplay. Consuming that many real Pac-Man brand vitamins in a few minutes might not leave you feeling too well, but I'm sure some lame-o kid somewhere overdosed on them for attention. All that happened to him was he was able to walk out the front door of his house and simultaneously walk back in through the back door.

Pac-Man closed down his vitamin operation sometime ago. The Flintstones are still in the business as they have been since the original Flinstones show went on the air in 1960. (They were one of the show's original sponsors.) Other animated friends you'd find in the vitamin section of your local Walgreen's today: Spongebob, Dora, Winnie the Pooh, Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine, Curious George, Disney Princesses, Spider Man, Scooby-Doo, and even old-timer Bugs Bunny!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Ahhh, B*Witched

I'll be the first one to admit that I listen to some of the crappiest music every made! The completely producer-created, mass-marketed bubblegum pop that is made for the sole reason of making money - I love! Expose, Sweet Sensation, Samantha Fox, Kylie Minogue, The Party, PYT, the list goes on...I can't get enough of it! Yesterday, I pulled out one of the CD's that had made it's way to the bottom of my CD rack, the 1998 self-titled debut disc from Irish Spice Girl wannabes B*WITCHED. I popped the orange disc in my car CD player and cranked it up. I forgot how GREAT they were! They were just four young ladies from Ireland; Sinead, Edele, Lindsay, and Keavy with a song in their heart and a special blend of Irish folk music and British tenny bopper pop. Their closest thing to a hit in the U.S. was the uber-catchy "C'est La Vie", but they also rocked it out on "Rev it Up", "Rollercoaster", "Blame it On the Weatherman" and "We Four Girls". All good stuff!

This was the one group I liked that I dragged other people into liking! (CM, MM, BK...what up!?) Sadly, B*Witched went the way of so many other musical geniuses like S Club 7 and Stacie Q...nobody knows what the heck happened to them!

But we'll always have our memories, the fantastic CD they put out, and this music video...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Maryland's Amusement Parks

I was introduced to the Images of America series of books last summer when I picked up a copy of their book about my hometown of Columbia, MD. The books in this series are great because they are heavy on pictures and light on words - spoken like a true American, eh!? MARYLAND'S AMUSEMENT PARKS by Jason Rhodes (Arcadia Publishing, 128 pages) gathers together images from the dozens of amusement parks that once called Maryland home. There was Kiddieland in Montgomery County, Gwynn Oak in Woodlawn, Carr's Beach in Anne Arundel County, Tolchester Beach on the Eastern Shore, and Electric Park near Reisterstown. You've probably never heard of any of these parks, but most of them were major centers of amusement with big thrill rides and all the other types of rides you'd see in today's theme park.

The book dedicates a chapter each to two of Maryland's most famous parks. Glen Echo Park was a big deal back in the day. It is located in Montgomery County and even though the rides are gone, the park is still open and used as an Arts Center. Glen Echo was one of those parks that was the first in the area to get all the new rides. Check out this ride called "The Tub." Other parks called it "The Human Roulette Wheel" which is a good name for it because it looks like you're gambling with your life if you step foot on the thing. Have you ever seen something more dangerous!? They could have called this ride "The Inevitable Lawsuit". If this ride were around today, not only would you be strapped into the thing with a 12-point harness, it would be themed to Shrek and have a giant Donkey vomiting on you during the ride.

Maryland's other cherished amusement park was The Enchanted Forest. An entire chapter in this book is filled with photos of this great park that I loved visiting as a child. There's tons of great pictures of this Howard County classic. Here we see Little Toot passing through Mt. Vesuvius. Mt. Vesuvius was a giant mountain that sat in the back of the park. The only way to get to the mountain was to take a raft over to Robinson Crusoe Island, avoid being eaten by goats on the island, and take the bridge across the water to the Mount. Once there, you got to ride the awesome-est sliding board ever built. That thing went all over that mountain and it was just about the coolest thing ever built inside an amusement park. I can remember running back up the ramp on the side of the mountain over and over again to ride the slide.
Not surprisingly, there is a housing complex where most of the park was. If you know where to look, you can still see Mt. Vesuvius rotting away behind a chain-link fence in the distance between two houses. And yes, I do go look at it every once in a while!

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Roman Holidays

Another great Hanna-Barbera cartoon for ya today. Only those of you with nothing better to fill your brain with will remember THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS, a Saturday morning gem from the 1973 season. Hanna-Barbera had already enjoyed heaps of success with the prehistoric family sitcom THE FLINTSTONES and it's futuristic counterpart THE JETSONS so they figured why not find more time periods to plop a family and make tons of anachronistic jokes. THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS followed the daily lives of the Holiday family. There was dad, Gus who worked for the Forum Construction Company lifting marble all day long. After a hard day at work, he'd come home to his wife Laurie and their kids (are you ready for this?) Groovia, Happius (as in Happy Holiday) and Precocia. Oh yes, and they had a pet lion too, named Brutus (who is just about the most generic looking Hanna-Barbera character ever drawn!)

The jokes went pretty much the same way as on THE FLINTSTONES. Instead of everything having a "stone" or "rock" in their name, the supporting players all had names like Mr. Evictus the landlord, or Gus's boss Mr. Tycoonus. There were plenty of jokes involving roman numerals. And, remember how Fred Flintstone used to wear a little sundial as a watch? Guy Holiday had a little hour glass as a watch...although I seem to remember Fred having one of those too! Anywho....great show that is so obscure even the most remote parts of the Kings Dominion parking lot were never named after characters from this show! It ran on NBC for one season in 1973 and that was it. I discovered it in my formative years on the classic USA CARTOON EXPRESS programing block on the USA Cable Network.

If this beauty ever makes it way to DVD, I'll make myself a great big Cesar salad and sit down and watch the whole thing...all 13 episodes!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch

Before Pixar put eyeballs on car windshields, Hanna-Barbera made eyes out of headlights with WHEELIE AND THE CHOPPER BUNCH, one of the greatest cartoon shows of all time! My brother and I would never miss WHEELIE on Sunday mornings on Channel 20 WDCA. Much like CARS, Wheelie lived in a world inhabited only by vehicles and just like in CARS, they spent most of their time racing. Wheelie was just a little car looking for a race and some alone time with his gal pal Rhoda. But Chopper and the Chopper Bunch were always trying to ruin poor Wheelie's fun. The Chopper Bunch consisted of stuttering Chopper, G-rated stoner Hi-Riser, former Nazi Revs, and the little runt Scrambles. Each episode the Chopper Bunch would try to foil Wheelie's innocent plans, and in each episode their plan backfired (no pun intended!) At the end of every story (and there were three in each episode) Chopper usually found himself on the end of a tow truck while Scrambles would remind Chopper, "I told ya, I told ya!" And Chopper would reply, "I know, I know!". They would go back and forth several times with this before fading to commercial. Good Stuff!

As every cartoon in the 70's and 80's was cashing in on one craze or another, I guess Wheelie came to be because of the success of another VW Bug, Herbie. Herbie and the original THE LOVE BUG became the number one grossing movie of 1969, so I guess kids were ready to eat up another similar car when WHEELIE AND THE CHOPPER BUNCH hit the air a few years later. Wheelie had one power that Herbie didn't have! Even though Wheelie couldn't talk, he could display messages on his windshield! (It was usually a heart to show his love for Rhonda.) Wheelie also had a bugle under his hood that he could extend out to play his battle cry of "CHARGE!"

When I discovered WHEELIE, he was already in reruns but that didn't matter. We loved that show to death! We never had any Wheelie toys or merchandise...I think my brother had a book and that was about it! Nowadays, no only would there be a toy for every car that ever drove a half mile on the show, there would be 17 different playsets for you to play with them on. The kids today think they've got it so great, but they'll never know what it's like to love Wheelie and that mean ol' Chopper Bunch

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Fox and the Hound 2

When it comes to these Disney direct to video sequels - no, they are not as good as the originals but since they've got the Disney name attached to them and they are follow-ups to some of my all-time favorite movies, I gotta see `em! For the most part, the DTV sequels haven't been all that bad. At the bottom of the list would be ATLANTIS: MILO'S RETURN and CINDERELLA 2: WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE. Both of these releases turned out to be nothing more than thinly vailed collections of TV show episodes from abondoned series strung together to make a feature presentation. On the other hand, a film like BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS manages to capture most of the charm of the original but suffers from it's limited animation. Belive it or not, I found MULAN II and LEROY AND STITCH (the fourth in that series) to be just as good as the originals. Now Disney drops THE FOX AND THE HOUND 2 on us 25 years after the original hit theatres.

For me, this movie falls into a special category when it comes to the DTV sequels. It's beautifuly animated, the story was enganging, and it was an all around well done picture BUT it has absolutley nothing to do with the original movie! The original 1981 movie was about little puppy Copper befriending Tod a little...what do you call a baby fox...? Anyhow, the two become best friends until Copper is taken away and trained to be hunting dog. Then when he returns, both Tod and Copper have to deal with their new roles as hunter and the huntee. It's a very moody and touching film.

It's 2006 sequel...? Copper runs away from home and joins a professional all-dog singing act at the county fair. What!? Sorry, did you say he runs away and joins a band!? Yes, I did! It's a fairly decent movie and all, but they missed the theme of the original picture completely! It's kind of like the early 90's Disney cartoon series TALESPIN where the characters from THE JUNGLE BOOK were now airplane pilots!? Strange...but it worked, and so does this movie. Like I said, it was a pretty decent watch! It's even got Reba McEntire and my neighbor Patrick Swayze in it!

Next up from the Disney Toon Studios sequel factory: next months Cinderella III: A Twist in Time.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Eleven Movies I Saw at the Theatre Last Year

1) Curious George
2) Scary Movie 4
3) Hoot
4) Cars
5) An Inconvenient Truth
6) Superman Returns
7) Talladega Nights
8) Monster House
9) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
10) Open Season
11) Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year 2007

A new year, a new look for the Wonderful World of Blog! Hope you had a great New Year's Eve, ringing in the New Year with lots of food and beverages and tons of your friends close by. As for me, I sat on the couch and watched THE FOX AND THE HOUND 2 with my son. Good times!

However, it's not all happy times this New Year's Day. My current streak of making it to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida every year has officially come to an end after a seven year run! We had plans to go in December but when we called to book our trip, the entire resort was booked solid the week we had chosen. (It turns out they were filming the Christmas parade special that week.) We decided to stay away all together since it was obviously packed.

I was actually less than two hours away from WDW in May when we went to a wedding in Tampa. Believe me, the thought crossed my mind to take a quick ride over to Orlando and get a little Downtown Disney under my belt, but I didn't! I did make it to the World of Disney store in New York in June - which is owned by Disney Parks so that should count for something!

Anywho, hope you had a great holiday season and as always thanks for visiting!
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