Saturday, July 30, 2022

Top 5 at the National Videogame Museum

I don't like video games.  It's not that I dislike them, I just lost interest in them at some point as a teenager.  Outside of of a couple of apps on my phone (do those count as video games?) I haven't given them much thought.  But a recent trip to Frisco led to a stop at the National Videogame Museum and memories of joy sticking and button pushing came flooding back.  So here's my Top 5 Picks of Things on Display at the National Videogame Museum:

5.  Oregon Trail

There are plenty of older systems set up and ready to be played by museum visitors.  The one that caught my eye was perennial Middle School time killer, "Oregon Trail."  It took my right back to the days of tapping Y or N, buying dry goods and tack, and dying of dysentery.  Good Times.

4.  1981 Journey at Reunion Arena Ticket Stub

This one might be a little bit of a cheat.  There's a room in the museum that's made up like a kids bedroom in the 80s.  There's lots of attention to detail including this ticket stub for a Journey concert on Nov 8, 1981 at Reunion Stadium.  There's a lot of nostalgia in this tiny paper square.  There's also some Rangers and Cowboys stuff on the wall.

3.  Video Game Cereal

I remember a couple of these from childhood but some are more recent.  Pac-Man Cereal and Nintendo Cereal are the ones that ended up in my bowl on Saturday mornings.  I'm surprised that there's only been about half a dozen video game-based cereals so far, but sometimes it's the obvious tie-ins that are never quite so obvious.  

2.  Super Mario Movie Props

Nothing adds gravitas to a museum exhibit like a Certificate of Authenticity.  And it turns these seemingly mundane plumber's tools into a museum-worthy exhibit.  The 1993 movie was a critical and commercial failure and it's a little surprising to some of its props under glass but I guess this is definitely the right place to display them.

1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre Atari Game

If you think that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie might not be the most appropriate concept to base a kids' video game on, you're not alone.  This was released in 1983 and since the player plays the part of Leatherface (with the goal of murdering as many tourists as possible), it was very controversial and sales reflected that.  It has a cult following online but it's since it sold so poorly, it's an incredibly rare find.  Loved seeing it on display.

There's a lot more to see at the museum, including an arcade stuffed with games (including the original Star Wars game that I used to play every year at the Fort Worth Livestock Show) so when you get the itch to pump some tokens into some retro consoles, head to Frisco.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Never Bean Better


Crunch Time  - -  Chicken & Somethin'

Since it was invented at the Old Corner Drugstore in Waco, Dr Pepper has been a big part of Texas culture.  It's everywhere you look.  Check out the score at a little league game and you'll probably see the DP logo on the scoreboard.  Go to the downtown area of any small Texas town and you'll probably see a faded, hand-painted Dr Pepper mural on an old brick wall.  The most misunderstood soft drink has also become one of the most popular and its unique flavor can't be contained to the soda aisle of the grocery store an more.  

These days you can get lots of your favorite foods in Dr Pepper flavor.  Licorice, cotton candy, barbecue sauce, pound cake and even lip balm.  I've tried one or two of these but today I tried something new:  Dr Pepper Baked Beans:

Dubbed "Sweet & a Bit Sassy," these are made by Serious Bean Co., a company known for their unique take on the canned classic as well as their little Bean Guy mascots, a different one for each of their flavors.  You can see that the little guy for the Dr Pepper variety has a #23 on it, representing 23 flavors said to be in the recipe for the legendary beverage.  But were they actually able to incorporate all of them into their beans?

I gotta say the taste is...interesting.  While there was nothing I enjoyed more on a hot summer day than a cold Dr Pepper as a kid, I actually haven't drank soda regularly in decades.  So my palate my be a little unrefined.  But I do eat beans on a semi-regular basis so I usually know what to expect.  But I didn't expect this.  The best I can say is that they are very "soda-esque."  I'd almost say they're "zesty"...which is not a term I typically use to describe beans.  

The Dr Pepper flavor is definitely noticeable, impossible to ignore, even.  These are not a subtle side dish.  In fact if you served them without announcing that they're Dr Pepper flavored you'd definitely get a "What's up with these beans?' type of reaction from your dinner guests.  But knowing what flavor they're shooting for would definitely lessen the surprise.  

These would be great for a festive picnic but maybe not for a simple side during a quick lunch.  These guys want to be noticed, not just relegated to the side of the plate.  With that being said, I'm not sure when I'll serve them again.  I'm thinking I'll keep the soda in my memories of hot summers cold drinks.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

The End of the Beginning

Quite awhile back I tracked down some locations of the first episode of Walker, Texas Ranger in Dallas.  I thought we could have a look at some Fort Worth locations of that episode and end with a bang (ha! Get it?  Because there's an explos...oh never mind).

But I found myself stymied but the ever changing nature of downtown Fort Worth.  For example, in the climax of the first episode, the bank robbery scene took place at what was the offices of the Fort Worth Star Telegram which they made up to look like this:

A few years back, when I was taking pictures, it looked like this:

The newspaper moved their offices a block over and we are left with a location that just doesn't match up with a screen grab from a 20 year old TV show episode.  There's just no justice in the real world.

However, in TV world there's plenty of justice delivered from the gun barrel and boot heel of Mr. Chuck Norris.  In the episode he starts of across the street from the "bank."  That side of the road was also completely unrecognizable from the episode but if you look behind Chuck there's a definitive "marker" that can still be seen today:

The Texas Historical Marker commemorates the Neil P. Anderson Building which has an interesting history, the highlights of which include being a cotton exchange and being featured in the background of an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger.

My problems with documenting the shooting locations of this episode continued with the attempt to capture the parking garage behind the exploding truck:

This was the best I could do but I'm assuming this building has been through some changes as well since the windows don't seem to quite match up with the shot from the episode:

So the bad guys then try to make their getaway along Taylor St. but I'm confident the Rangers got 'em.

You can see that there has been some cosmetic changes to the buildings in the background but the same basic architecture is still in place:

Change eventually comes to every man and every street corner but thankfully freeze framing old movies and TV shows will never go out of style. 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

The Unfortunate Roles of Kris Kristofferson

Brownsville, Texas native Kris Kristofferson is a multi-talented superstar of stage and screen.  Singing, songwriting, acting...he's a definite triple threat.  That being said, he's not going to hit a home run every time.  He's got some real head scratchers on his IMDb page.  So with all due respect to the legendary highwayman, I thought I'd take a look at some of his more unfortunate roles.  

The Donny & Marie Show

In the late 70s two of the most popular things in showbiz were variety shows and Star Wars.  It didn't take long for the two of them to be combined.  One of the most popular shows, "Donny & Marie" dipped their toe into the Star Wars pool with singing, dancing and the corniest jokes ever heard in a galaxy far, far away.  Kristofferson appeared as Han Solo in a sketch and sang a song along with his pal Chewbacca.  It remains one of the stranger scifi/country music combos in history.

Blade 3 (a.k.a. "Blade Trinity")

Don't get me wrong, I love the Blade movies but they make questionable choices with Kristofferson's character.  He plays "Whistler," who is the mentor/tech support for Wesley Snipe's Blade, the Vampire Hunter.  In the first movie, Whistler is killed off to give extra motivation to Blade.  The first part of the second movie is spent bringing Whistler back to life.  Then, once again, Whistler is killed off at the beginning of the third movie to give extra motivation to Blade.  What a ride, huh?  So Kristofferson was kind of wasted in the third film by having his character play a role that had already been done (and undone).

Big Top Pee-Wee

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure is one of the best movies of all time but the follow-up was...not.  Instead of being an actual sequel, it essentially just took Pee-Wee, and put him in a different scenario with no real connection to the previous movie.  In "Big Top" he lives on a farm, longs to join the circus and leaves his fiance for someone he just met.  It's not great.  Kristofferson does just fine as the circus' ringmaster but the movie itself just can't compare to the original. 

Planet of the Apes (2001)

Well after the original series of Planet of the Apes but before the most recent set of films, there was the 2001 "Planet of the Apes" remake/remix/whatever.  While it was kind of fun to see Kristofferson running around in a loincloth fighting gorillas, it was also kind of sad seeing him do that.  The movie was a failure because it was such a mess and it's now just a footnote in the franchise's history.

Luckily, the overwhelming majority of Kristofferson's work is fantastic and definitely worth a watch (or a listen).  But the next time you want to kick back with a movie night, consider watching one of his misfires instead of "A Star is Born."  Maybe you'll like them more than I did.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Post Man

 Post Cereals has been one of the giants in the breakfast game for quite awhile now.  From Grape Nuts to Fruity Pebbles, everybody has a favorite.  But cereal dynasties aren't born, they're made.  And this one was made by a guy named C.W. Post.  If you look into his life you'll find out that he wasn't always such a great guy but but that milk of negativity wasn't enough make his legacy soggy enough to deny him a statue...and I just happened to visit it recently.

 And there he sits, perched high upon his throne, welcoming visitors to the Garza County Courthouse in Post, TX.  Yes, he has a town named after him.  And, yes, he named it after himself after he founded it.  Of course, it was originally called "Post City" and it was meant to be a paradise based on his utopian vision which involved prohibiting alcohol and recreational fornication.  But currently, it's not that different from any other small Texas town.

Right behind the statue is a Texas Historical marker.  It reads:

     "Internationally known creator of Post Cereals, advertising genius, inventor and innovator, founder of Post City in 1906. Through the purchase of the Curry Comb Ranch and adjacent land approximating 225,000 acres he began his dream of building self-contained model community of towns and farms. Mr. Post financed, supervised and built town without profit to himself. Settlers were offered ownership of business or farm sites far below cost. Mr. Post planned community of debt-free private ownership in every field of endeavor, and sought to make his vision true to its purpose."

I'm sure this isn't the only monument to a cereal magnate but my travels have yet to take me to Battle Creek, MI to investigate further.  If you want to visit Post's town (and his statue) you can find it in the in the vicinity of the middle of nowhere in the southern end of the Texas panhandle.  Don't forget the milk!

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Monday, July 26, 2021

Risky River


 Jobe to the Future  - -  Pee-Wee Visits the Alamo

The streets of San Antonio are no stranger to the presence of Hollywood camera crews.  From Pee-Wee's Big Adventure to Miss Congeniality, the historic city has been a backdrop for several cinematic soirees.  One classic 80s film that took advantage of the city's scenery was 1984's Cloak & Dagger.  Not only does it take place in San Antonio but it stars Texas natives Henry Thomas and Dabney Coleman.

But it's not just iconic scenery like the Alamo and the business district that serves as the setting for the spy thriller, there's an elaborate chase scene between Henry Thomas, the movie's young star, and the goons of the film on the famous San Antonio Riverwalk.  Movies like these are a great time capsule that preserve the way certain places or attractions looked like in the past...

 ...not that it really changed that least, not the architecture.  But there's always one thing that changes over time: price.  There's a quick shot in the movie were you can see posted prices.  They go by so fast in the shot that I can't imagine they were put there by the filmmakers so I assume these were the legit mid-80s prices:

 $1.25 for adults and 50 cents for kids.  Not too shabby, right?  By comparison here are some ticket stubs from my grandparents' trip out there about 2-3 years later:

 50 cents inflation isn't too bad but these days tickets will cost you about (as of this writing $13.30 for an adult and $7.50 for kids.  Still not too bad for a tourist town.  Plus, you most likely won't be chased by assassins like young Henry Thomas was.  

Keep in mind, that's not the approved way of exiting the boat.  But it's a great way to end a low-speed chase through a world famous tourist attraction.  The next time you you feel like checking out retro San Antonio, just pop Cloak & Dagger into the ol' movie playing machine (or however people watch movies these days) and take in the sights in all their 1980s glory.