Thursday, June 25, 2015

SUPERMARKET SHELF OF THE LOST

HAVING LIVED FOR SEVERAL HUNDRED YEARS HAS IT'S DRAWBACKS.  That is, I found that over the years the yummiest of yummy foods have managed to go extinct.  Foods like I grew up eating and took for granted suddenly disappeared from supermarket shelves -- never to return.  The number one lost tummy treasure has got to be Nabisco's Doo Dads Snack Mix.  
From the 1960s until the (probably) early 1990s, Doo Dads reigned supreme until the inferior upstart Chex Mix seemed to bully it off the shelves and into gastronomic oblivion.  The cult of Doo Dads exists all over the internet with people trying to replicate home-made versions as well as endlessly petitioning Nabisco to bring back this delectable snack.

Once thought to be lost was my childhood favourite Black Jack gum:  chewing gum that tasted like black licorice. 
However, this is still being made (albeit only at certain times of the year) and I've grabbed it in the Cracker Barrel restaurant store.  Black Jack gum was originally made by a company called Adams who also made Clove gum and Teaberry gum (which I think are also still available at certain times of the year).  I also remember Adams made a Chocolate gum and a Strawberry gum.  Adams had it going on! 

I decided to post a little gallery of lost food favourites below this post.  Sadly, there doesn't appear to be any commercials for Doo Dads but there are for other lost favourites including my first job:  Rustler Steak House! 
 
There was delicious, crisp Aspen Soda:  an apple-flavored soda which was delicious. 
There was Marathon candy bar:  a long, long, long candy bar of caramel covered with chocolate that was twisted like an infinity symbol.  You know it occurs to me that actor Patrick Wayne (John Wayne's son) seems to be the curse of death to my favourite old food items; he appeared in TV commercials and print ads for both Aspen Soda AND Marathon candy bars (as you'll see in the videos posted below). 
There was Soup Starter:  a canister of flavourings and pasta which you could add your own fresh meat and vegetables to in order to make a quick pot of soup.  It actually tasted really good. 
And there was Tuna Twist: another box of flavourings and such that you added to your tuna fish and mayo when making a tuna fish sandwich; it jazzed up the taste of the tuna sandwich and also stretched it further. 
Then there was Koogle:  a spread very like today's Nutella which came in flavours like chocolate, banana and yes, peanut butter as well.  


So enjoy the retro-commercials gallery I've provided below this post for these lost but never forgotten food favourites from my childhood.     

Koogle peanut butter spread - 1970's?


Rustler (Commercial, 1979)


Soup Starter 1978 TV commercial


VINTAGE 1974 MARATHON CANDY BAR WITH ROGER C. CARMEL & PATRICK WAYNE (JO...


Tuna Twist ad, 1976


Aspen Apple-Flavored Soft Drink Commercial 2 ~ 1980


Sunday, June 14, 2015

97 YEARS

She was born during the First World War when Woodrow Wilson was the President.  In the time since then, she has seen most of the 20th century and ventured into the 21st.  And during those 97 years, she experienced more than her fair share of setbacks and infirmities.  But today, my grandmother's time on earth came to an end.  She was tough and resilient.  For the last couple decades, she battles with macular degeneration which left her practically blind and in the last several years her hearing went so she could hardly hear as well.  Some days she suffered from such pain that she couldn't walk down the stairs.  However, other days she would get around just fine.  In fact, it was only at the end of last year that she finally decided that she could no longer make it to Senior Care which, until then, she had gone to three days a week.  She was a fighter.

My grandmother has been a major part of my life every since I've had a life.  I've talked many times about my childhood visits most weekends when I'd stay at my grandparent's huge old house in Pennsauken.  There I would sit at the kitchen table with the old Bakelite radio on it while my grandmother cooked dinner or did the dishes.  We'd always take the long walk up Westfield Avenue past the Walt Whitman Theater (which my great-grandfather built) all the way to Thor's Drug Store where I would get my comic books, Black Jack Gum and other sundry items a kid lived for back in the 70s.  When my great-grandfather died in 1978, my grandparents had to give up the house in Pennsauken and move to an apartment which was only a couple blocks from our house.  I would still go over there many weekends as well as being able to hop on my bike and ride over anytime I wanted since they were so close.  We would often take walks around the neighborhood and up to the Wawa convenience store.  By January 1981, my grandfather died and my grandmother came to live with us; and that's where she's been ever since.  She moved in the same year that MTV started up and she loved watching the music videos -- particularly Journey because she really liked Steve Perry.  In the 80s and early 90's, she and I would watch Britcoms on the local PBS station; GOOD NEIGHBORS (aka THE GOOD LIFE) was a particular favourite and, later, ARE YOU BEING SERVED?  And oh boy, did she love her chocolate!  In the last couple decades, she's been able to do less and less due to her age and her ailments; all of which she took in stride with good humour.  Not able to do much for herself, my parents and I have taken care of her in recent years.  When my parents went away, I would be in charge of looking after her and cooking her meals (which she loved).  She lived long enough to see all of her friends pass away but she still loved meeting new people and being the center of attention.  She would get down from time to time but she never gave up or gave in.  It was only her heart which gave out on her a couple weeks ago but she still hung on.  Until today when she couldn't fight any more.  I hope that wherever you are you are at peace and free of pain.  I love you so much and I will miss you all the days of my life.     

Friday, June 12, 2015

Every fan of classic horror, as well as every fan of cinema in general, has reason to mourn this week as we learned of the death of Sir Christopher Lee. 
I specifically, while at the moment going through the terrible trial of having a grandmother who is dying, felt the loss particularly hard.  I’ve told the story many times of how I’d stay at my grandmother and grandfather’s huge old house in Pennsauken during my 70’s childhood and often would watch the weekend horror movies there.  Down in the basement with my grandfather, I first saw the original DRACULA with Bela Lugosi on the old B&W television down there in the area which used to be a licensed taproom.  My grandfather has been gone since January of 1981 and ever since then my grandmother has lived with us.  About two weeks ago, she suffered a heart attack which has seen her go from intensive care to hospice with very little hope of recovery.  So, it was with my already raw nerve-endings in place that I learned last night of Christopher Lee’s death; also heart (and respiratory) related.  I suppose the shock was double because I’ve been waiting for my grandmother’s death and this other news came completely out of the blue to knock me further off-balance. 

Anyone who knows me or who has visited this blog knows full well my enduring love of the horror genre and Christopher Lee was particularly important to me as the last of the titans.  Lee was the last who could be mentioned in the same breath of the indelible icons of my “monster kid” youth:  Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Vincent Price and Peter Cushing.  This Mt. Rushmore of Classic Horror is only completed by Christopher Lee; and he has sadly now joined these and more horror greats who have awaited him in whatever filmic Valhalla they all reside.  But instead of Norse warriors and Valkyries, this classic horror film afterlife will hopefully find Christopher Lee awakening to the outstretched hands and back-slaps of Conrad Veidt and Michael Ripper, Peter Lorre and Michael Gough, Evelyn Ankers, John Carradine, George Zucco and Lionel Atwill, Ralph Bates, Edward Woodward, Hazel Court and Basil Rathbone, Michael Reeves, Val Lewton and Joyce Jameson, Colin Clive, Dwight Frye and Elsa Lanchester among many many more.  And before he takes his place seated with the immortals – the Chaneys, Lugosi, Karloff, Price – Christopher Lee will imitate the voice of Yosemite Sam or Sylvester the Cat as he gets a great big bear hug from his dear friend Peter Cushing who tells him, “Why, my dear boy, we’re all here to greet you!” 

Monday, June 08, 2015

HARDCORE HISTORY

ALWAYS A DAY LATE & A DOLLAR SHORT, I THOUGHT I'D LISTEN TO A MASSIVE PODCAST ON THE FIRST WORLD WAR A YEAR AFTER IT'S 100TH ANNIVERSARY.  So I'm not a follower!  Whatevs!  

Anyway, as I sit here suffering through a terrible cold during a particularly trying time in my personal life as well as an extremely difficult time at work (resulting in my being the only person now working on 3rd shift), I have found myself totally engrossed in this thing called DAN CARLIN'S HARDCORE HISTORY.  I'm sure many of you already know about this history podcast but, as I say, I'm not first out of the gate here.  Dan Carlin, former radio host, son of Academy Award-nominated actress Lynn Carlin and unabashed history nut, has been doing a history podcast for about a decade now called HARDCORE HISTORY which I must say makes for absorbing listening.  Carlin, not an official historian himself, is more of a storyteller and that's what makes his history podcast refreshing, interesting and entertaining.  He takes a particular topic of historical interest and speaks about it as if he's telling a story around a campfire; and that's exactly what hiSTORY is supposed to be.  Carlin has a B.A. in history as do I and I think we both became fascinated in history early on for the exact same reason:  it's full of incredible interesting stories!

Now, when he started HARDCORE HISTORY, Carlin's podcast would last about a half hour but nowadays he frequently takes a topic and spends 3-4 hours talking about it.  And that's not including his series in which he takes a particular subject and does a multi-part podcast on it with each part a few hours long.  Now, you'd think that would be an enormous trudge but instead listening seems to fly by.  This is because at no time does this sound like a "history lecture"; instead, Carlin sounds as if he's speaking to you one on one and not as if he's standing at a lectern at the front of a classroom.  For example, the First World War series Carlin has just finished last month is called BLUEPRINT FOR ARMAGEDDON; it's in six parts (each part about 4 hours long) and it's immensely compelling to hear.  Carlin does an enormous amount of research to prepare for these podcasts (which he releases about once every three months) and this current series on the First World War he began at the end of 2013.  I don't really know if he writes out a full script ahead of time but it sure doesn't sound like it; it sounds like he's speaking off the top of his head and the podcast is conversational and, as I said before, in the best tradition of the storyteller who can grab the listener's interest and never let go.  The First World War is certainly not unexplored territory for me but BLUEPRINT FOR ARMAGEDDON brings it to life more completely than any book or movie I've previously encountered. 
And for such a complicated and intertwined narrative, Carlin makes it all incredibly understandable as well.  I'm told he does a "current events" podcast called COMMON SENSE as well but I haven't heard that.  I have, though, heard quite a few HARDCORE HISTORY episodes and I've found them all just as absorbing.  On Dan Carlin's website, you can listen to the last year or so's episodes FOR FREE and get the older ones for a small price; the older episodes are available on iTunes for a slightly more expensive price tag.  I can particularly recommend the episodes STEPPE STORIES (about the nomadic warriors of the Steppes), JUDGMENT AT NINEVEH (about the downfall of the brutal Assyrian Empire) and THE AMERICAN PERIL (about the Spanish-American War) and PROPHETS OF DOOM (about the bizarre and freaky 16th century Anabaptist takeover of the town of Munster) which you can still listen to for free!  And after BLUEPRINT FOR ARMAGEDDON, I plan on listening to Carlin's previous multi-part epic tale of THE WRATH OF THE KHANS (also available for free).  If you're the slightest bit interested in history, you owe it to yourselt to give DAN CARLIN'S HARDCORE HISTORY a listen. 

Monday, June 01, 2015

JUMPIN' JUNE WITH THE SUPER-HEROES

ONCE AGAIN, AS PART OF OUR 10TH ANNIVERSARY, WE PRESENT THOSE WONDERFUL MARVEL & DC COMICS CALENDARS OF THE SEVENTIES! 

Firstly we have the Fantastic Four (with Medusa of the Inhumans standing in for the Invisible Girl . . . unless she's there too but just . . . you know . . . like . . . invisible . . . ) from Marvel's 1975 calendar with artwork by . . . could it be Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott???


Secondly we have Aquaman aswim in sea green by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano from DC's 1976 calendar


Thirdly we have Marvel's whack at the Bicentennial with the Amazing Spider-Man seemingly helping out John Paul Jones with artwork by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito.

Fourfally we have what seems to be a pattern of June being King of the Seven Seas month as DC's monumental 1977 calendar features Aquaman battling Black Manta as Aqualad and Mera float along with artwork by the immortal Jim Aparo.
Fivefully we have DC's "Disasters" calendar from 1978 with the Metal Men battling the Ocean Master with art by Walt Simonson and Joe Staton.


Saturday, May 02, 2015

MAY WITH THE SUPER-HEROES

CAN IT BE POSSIBLE THAT IT'S MAY ALREADY?  Seriously, wasn't it January a minute ago?  Well, here is our continuation of tasty artwork from those classic Marvel and DC calendars of the 1970s.  And this time, of course, we're going to look at May.

The first pic is this lovely Barry Windsor-Smith illo of Conan the Barbarian from Marvel's 1975 calendar.



Next we have DC's 1976 calendar featuring Green Lantern and Green Arrow by the award-winning team of Neal Adams and Dick Giordano.


Marvel got into the Bicentennial business with their 1976 calendar showing Thor giving Ben Franklin a helping hand featuring superb art by the immortal John Buscema and Frank Giacoia.

DC's month of May for 1977 brings us a classic battle between Superman and Lex Luthor at the Washington Monument with art by Curt Swan.


The year 1978 finds the team of Batgirl and Robin duking it out with Plant Master and Poison Ivy with artwork by JLA artist extraordinaire Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin.
 

Friday, April 10, 2015

THE FIVE SONGS: THIRTEENTH INSTANCE

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY BACK IN 2008, I BEGAN AN (INFREQUENTLY) REOCCURING FEATURE ON THIS BLOG CALLED "THE FIVE SONGS".  I sadly haven't done a new one since 2010.  But since this is the 10th anniversary of this here blog, I thought I'd revive it.  Now, I doubtless let it fall by the wayside after I created my audio blog "BATHED IN THE LIGHT FROM ANDROMEDA" where I could post all the songs I wanted.  However, the actual concept of "The Five Songs" wasn't about posting audio but conceptually choosing a block of five songs which somehow went together.  If you click on the label "The Five Songs" at the bottom of this post, you can see all the previous instances as well as a "Mission Statement" explaining the concept.  Basically, the idea was inspired by Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Five Mystical Songs", the songs must be carefully handpicked by me from only songs I actual own and any reader of this blog may suggest a "subject" for a future "Five Songs" post which I may choose to "accept" if I think I can choose five appropriate songs for said subject.  

Since this is the 10th anniversary of this blog, I thought songs about the past would be apropos.  Some of you reading will no doubt think "Does ever look in any OTHER direction?"  The simple answer would be:  Nope, not really.  And until the present gets less tedious and more interesting (and as long as this 10th anniversary is going on), I don't see that changing anytime soon.  With that, "The Five Songs" brings you a group of ditties which I really resonate with and capture that "reminiscing about bygone days" vibe I'm looking for.  And for this week, you'll be able to listen to "The Five Songs" over in that box on the right hand column over there.  Just click on the first sound file and listen away (you can also have them play one after the other by selecting that little sprocket-looking icon and clicking on the autoplay thang.

  1. REMEMBER (CHRISTMAS)  by Harry Nilsson  -  Ever since I was a child I've loved this song.  And it happens to be from one of my favourite albums of all time, too.  Me parentals bought this album new upon release and it spun quite often in the old wood-paneled living room on Linwood Avenue in Maple Surple.  The song, contrary to the parenthetical in the title, has nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas.  I suppose the word appearing in the parentheses is due to the use of "sleigh bells" in the song.  These are not meant to evoke the yuletide season per se but are instead, I think, meant to drum up feelings of nostalgia which are readily triggered by the sound of these sleigh bells and their associations with childhood Christmases.  But this is not a Christmas song, I swear!  It's also not about STAR WARS despite it's opening line:  "Long ago/Far away/Life was clear/Close your eyes".  These words hopefully cause the listener to immediately open themselves up to remembering as the dreamy instrumental piano brings us to the line:  "Remember/is a place from long ago/remember/filled with everything you know/remember/when you're sad and feeling down/remember/turn around".  This, to me, warns that in our seemingly endless surge towards this "future" that everyone's so concerned about, it's important to stop and turn around towards our past so that we don't forget what brought us to this point and what formed us as human beings.  I have to stop myself from simply printing ALL the lyrics to this magnificent song but here's the next important line:  "Remember/life is just a memory/remember/close your eyes so you can see".  There's something of the "stop and smell the roses" philosophy going on here which I think is very important.  This is such an exquisite jewel of a song that I'm still shocked to this day that it's not as famous as the Beatles' YESTERDAY.  And no, that overplayed song will not appear in this "Five Songs" list.  The endless, blind drive toward setting goal after goal after goal (which this current society seems to value above all else) does not leave room for what it means to be human; and what is the use of working yourself to death if you're not living an actual conscious life every day?  It's not getting to some end goal that's important; it's how you live your life on the way.  "Remember/life is never as it seems/Dream".
  2. LOOKING BACK by Nat King Cole  -  This 1958 song has Nat seemingly veering into a little country and western area.  If that might seem a little odd, it's also quite odd that this is the only song in these five "looking back" songs which is about regret and the mistakes we make throughout a lifetime.  "Looking back over my deeds/I can see signs a wise man heeds/and if I just had the chance/I'd never make that same mistake again".  Songs about looking back might seem the opportune time to think about where we went wrong or what we'd do differently but that's not what I wanted this "five songs" group to be primarily about.  There may be a small aspect of that to it but overall these songs to me are more importantly about memories and what make us who we are. 
     
  3. NIGHT MOVES by Bob Seger  -  This is exactly what I'm talking about.  Probably the ultimate "coming of age" song, Seger raps rhapsodic about his teenage years.  That time when we're somewhere between being a kid and being an adult.  This theme will be revisited in the very next song, funnily enough!  But right here, Bob Seger really takes us on a trip in the wayback machine to the high summer of life.  In fact, the frequent repetition of the lines:  "in the summertime/in the sweet summertime" drives this point home quite vividly.  This is an intensely summery song; however, Bob Seger is looking back into his past so he doesn't leave it all rosy-coloured glasses on bright sunny summer days. At the song's three minute mark, he seems to break from his reverie: "I woke last night to the sound of thunder/how far off I sat and wondered/started humming a song from 1962/ain't it funny how the night moves/just don't seem to have as much to lose/strange how the night moves/with autumn closing in".  And at that moment in the song, where he's brought it down to an almost hushed quiet with no accompaniment but a softly strummed acoustic guitar, Bob Seger brings the song to an complete stop for a few seconds.  One of the most arresting moments in pop music.  Before once again restarting the song.  This particular song goes out to my friend and co-worker Angel who likes to torment his girlfriend by randomly breaking out into a chorus of this song at the most unexpected moments!
  4. 1979 by Smashing Pumpkins  -  Once again, we're back to that "coming of age" thing and vivid flashes of memory this time from Billy Corgan's adolescence.  Corgan too has said that this song arose from a vivid memory of him sitting in his car in the rain at a traffic light during his teenage years (between being a kid and being an adult once again) with the strong feeling of waiting for something to happen but nothing's quite happening yet.  "The street heats the urgency of now" really captures that odd moment at the end of high school when we seems to be idling (like Corgan's car in the rain) in a momentary holding pattern before we burst forth into the "real world" of forming a grown-up life for oneself.  The future stretches out before us at that age and we have that feeling of immortality:  "With the headlights pointed at the dawn/we were sure we'd never see an end to it all". 
  5. IN MY LIFE by the Beatles  -  And I'd like to end the five songs with this perhaps obvious but I think vital choice of perhaps the finest song about looking back at one's life.  "There are places I remember/all my life/though some have change/some forever not for better/some have gone and some remain".  We all know the song.  There's really no need to quote the whole thing; which I could very easily do.  The crux of the song, to me, is sort of a conquering of death through memory.  There's that old clich√© that those we've lost live on through our memories of them and, to me, that's something of the truth.  It's the closest we can get to still having them with us.  That's why our memories are so vitally important.  To me, the song loses its way when John Lennon veers off into the rather typical "love song" territory that Bob Dylan criticized the Beatles about; that is, how he suddenly starts singing to a girlfriend that, above "lovers and friends I still can recall/some are dead and some are living" he loves her more than any of them.  I think he'd find, after the passage of time and the probability that whomever he was singing too probably didn't stay in a relationship with him for very long (at that young age) and that those "people and things that went before" are still just as important memories as they ever were.  A momentary infatuation which hasn't lasted the test of time can't really compare with those past important people and events which remain with us in our memory throughout a lifetime.  If this momentary woman Lennon is singing to, in fact, lasts to become that important, she will still not supercede those others but will join their ranks as equally important.  There's more than enough love in the human heart to go around!
So there you have it:  The Five Songs look back into the past.  As I've said, it is our memories that make us who we are.  Our memories also keep alive those who are dead and past places and events which don't exist anymore.  Please consider making a donation to the fight against Alzheimer's Disease.  This terrible disease not only robs a person of the very memories that make them who they are but it also robs those of us who love them of that very person we love long before they leave us.  Please make a donation today.