Video Game Daze: Coleco Tabletop Pac-Man

Video Game Daze: Coleco Tabletop Pac-Man

Advertising, Games & Toys, Retrotisements
Growing up, I was never very much into arcades. When it came to whiling away the precious days and weeks of my youth, I preferred to play video games at home. And in the early '80s there were plenty of platforms to choose from. One of the most interesting was the series of tabletop arcade games produced by Coleco. Coleco's strategy for miniaturizing video games apparently involved three crucial elements - A satin jacket, oversized navigator-style sunglasses and some jiggly hands. Being only 7 years old in 1982, I lacked the jacket and sunglasses. Therefore I had to wait until my birthday to receive my own tabletop arcade game. I ended up with Pac-Man, the undisputed king of video games in the 1980s (until he was dethroned in a bloodless coup by a seemingly harmless Italian plumber)....
Two Guys, We Hardly Knew Ye

Two Guys, We Hardly Knew Ye

Ephemera
I never pass up an opportunity to purchase a reminder of my childhood. Toys, books, music, you name it. I got just such an opportunity a few years ago at a flea market in Dover, New Jersey. I was just about to leave this one particularly interesting booth empty-handed when I spotted a bag of these beauties: I don't smoke, so purchasing a bag of matchbooks probably seems like a silly idea. But you see, that's how nostalgia works. And besides, it was like a dollar for the whole bunch. Back in the day (up until the early '80s), the name Two Guys was synonymous in the Northeast with discount stores. It was sort of the Wal-Mart of its day, minus the shady business practices. A typical family outing to Two Guys could yield everything to new records (the vinyl kind) to a window ...
A Loving Tribute to “Slave to the Metal”

A Loving Tribute to “Slave to the Metal”

Music
In the days before CD players, iPods and file sharing services became a part of everyday life (aka The Dark Ages), the mix tape was an essential part of a music lover's life. There were two varieties of mix tapes - homemade (for yourself or some girlfriend/boyfriend whose name you can't even remember anymore) and store-bought. Store-bought mix tapes (known in the industry as "compilations") were superior in two ways - they exposed you to bands you might have never heard before, and they didn't take five hours to put together on your crappy home stereo. During a road trip from New Jersey to Florida in the mid-'80s, I purchased my first mix tape at a Stuckey's in South Carolina. Or maybe it was North Carolina. No, it was South Carolina. Maybe Georgia. Anyway, being a proud metal he...
In Concert: Steve Hackett Acoustic Trio

In Concert: Steve Hackett Acoustic Trio

Music
There are concerts, and then there are live music experiences. Last night I witnessed the latter, as Steve Hackett and his acoustic trio performed at the Keswick Theatre (just north of Philadelphia). For two hours I witnessed a true artist perform his craft. Admittedly, I never really got into Hackett's solo career. Not because it's not good, but mostly because I just never got around to it. I've been a big fan of Genesis for years, but most fans would probably acknowledge that Hackett was criminally underused in that band. But enough about that. I and the missus made the trek down to Keswick Village last night to catch the show. We didn't get to spend any time in the town, but it seems like a nice area. It has a very quaint, small-town feel without seeming too rural or small-town. I...
“Boys Beware,” or The Courtship of Jimmy Barnes

“Boys Beware,” or The Courtship of Jimmy Barnes

Movies
Before the salad days when children and teenagers could look to trusted role models like MTV and professional athletes for guidance on how to behave, there were educational films. School kids were treated to lectures in the popular "talkie" format that showed them how to conduct themselves in all facets of life. So after reading, writing and 'rithmetic, Little Johnny got to learn the do's and don'ts of important areas such as dating, hygiene, good study habits, avoiding the pervasive influence of filthy Communists and, of course, our pal the atom! In retrospect, most of these films appear rather quaint and benign, if not a bit creepy. And then there's 1961's "Boys Beware." In just ten minutes, this Sid Davis Production managed to simultaneously entertain, confuse, and frighten a
Goodbye to CDs (maybe)

Goodbye to CDs (maybe)

Music, Rants
Sales of digital music boomed in the first half of 2005, compared to the same period in 2004. Meanwhile, sales of physical product (CDs, DVDs, etc.) slipped. Many are already hailing this as a sign of things to come. I wouldn't go as far as that, considering that even with the surge, digital music still only accounts for 6% of all music sold legally. Hybrid cars have gained a lot too in the last year, but I wouldn't bet the farm on people giving up their dino-mobiles anytime soon. Still, this does point out two trends in music - one good, one bad. (more…)
007-Q = ???

007-Q = ???

Movies
It was announced the other day that the next James Bond flick will be a reinvention of sorts for the franchise. Not only will we see a younger Bond (around 28 years young), but there will be no Q and no funky gadgets. While I applaud the effort, I have to wonder what prompted all this. I'm sure that the producers of the series were weighing Pierce Brosnan's age when they made the decision. I'm sure none of us is eager to witness another flabby, gray-haired Bond lurch his way across the screen, a la View to a Kill or Never Say Never Again. But at a young-looking 52, Brosnan isn't quite pushing the edge of the credibility envelope like Sean Connery and Roger Moore were at the end of their runs. (more…)
Whole Lotta Landon!

Whole Lotta Landon!

TV & Radio
It's really easy to be cynical about the world these days. Believe me, I am all the time. And this cynicism is found in abundance in popular entertainment. Everything from music to movies to TV is super-slick and EXTREME! Hell, even most commercials are a lot more cynical than they used to be. Sometimes this bothers me, but I must admit that most of my favorite TV shows are very cynical - Seinfeld, The Simpsons, and Family Guy to name a few. These shows are not only not wholesome, they are Anti-Wholesome. To me, wholesome was always associated with boring. Wonder Bread is wholesome (and nasty). Leave It To Beaver is wholesome. Few shows in television history are more wholesome than Little House on the Prairie. I mean, c'mon, it's Michael Landon. I was a bit young to have seen the...