Retro

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The Dark KnightBatman this, Batman that…

Where’d all of this hype come from? Who’s responsible? And how many times can they make the same movie over again and still generate this much hype?

I don’t understand it.

I can’t claim to have seen the latest movie or even the previous 3 Batman movies.

That one with Danny DeVito as the Penguin sealed it for me — Batman movies from there on out would a complete waste of time.

(Perhaps I should have more accurately said that Tim Burton movies are a waste of time… Waste of money too…)

The original Batman television series from the 1960’s was easily the best. Even the 1966 full length movie ranks right up there, even though it just felt like a really long episode.

Adam West was the best Batman ever. No doubt in my mind. He made the character fun.

Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.

To this day, while watching Family Guy, I can’t help but think of Batman every time Mayor West speaks. Adam West didn’t just play Batman four decades ago. Adam West *is* Batman.

I remember when the first (but actually the second) Batman movie came out in 1989. You know, the one with Kim Basinger?

I was pretty excited (there was HUGE hype then too!), but then disappointed to see the, well, new and supposedly improved Batman. First off, his Batmobile sucked.

And since when did Batman wear all black?

Where did those washboard abs come from?

Why wasn’t anything labeled in the Batcave?

And really, who decided that Batman should now where more eyeliner than a crack whore? Tim Burton?

And, lastly, was it just me or was it hard not to just keep seeing Mr. Mom or Beetlejuice in that movie?

In the end, I thought Michael Keaton was an alright Batman. A terrible Bruce Wayne though. Jack Nicholson was also a decent Joker. Not as great as Cesar Romero, but still, pretty good.

I watched the 1989 movie this past weekend on ABC Family. At the same time, TNT was showing “Batman and Robin”. See what I mean about the hype? You couldn’t escape it this past weekend.

Remember when movie hype actually lasted for almost and entire summer? I’m thinking about movies like Independence Day, Terminator 2, and even Ghostbusters…

Every fast food restaurant had some sort of collectible glass available, I mean, the movie was a big deal. There were arcade games that were actually good — not just commercials for the movie. They even made action figures that people actually wanted. I don’t know — it was like they actually put some effort into marketing the movie.

Now though, as much as they’ve been making of this Dark Knight movie lately, in another week, it’ll be old news. No one will care.

Some Martin Lawrence in drag movie will come along and knock it off the top and the poor Dark Knight will be forgotten, the action figures will be in dollar stores across the country, the related video game will be in the bargain bin at BestBuy, and Heath Ledger will go back to just being that guy from the gay cowboy movie that OD’ed or something.

Anyone remember that Indiana Jones movie that came out earlier this summer with much fanfare?

Yeah, I didn’t think so…

Of course, this is all just my opinion.

I could be wrong.

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Green Vial of BloodYesterday morning my wife and I went on date.

We got all spiffed up — okay, I was still wearing shorts and a hat — and headed for our closest phlebotomist’s office. It was 7:30 am. Romantic so far, huh?

So we got there, signed in, and waited in the waiting room. It was nothing like the autoshop waiting room last week.

They had some James Taylor tune jamming. I was rocking out — he’s seen fire and he’s seen rain. It also looked like they had a nice magazine selection too but our names were called just as we were getting comfy.

We’re herded into this little office that has what looks like a torture device in the corner. My palms were sweaty. I mean, if you say phlebotomist really fast, doesn’t it sound like someone who performs lobotomies? Well, it does to me, and that scary chair in the corner looks like the perfect place for that sort of thing to happen.

I guess this is the part where I should let people know what a phlebotomist really is…

Phlebotomist – an individual trained to draw blood, either for laboratory tests or for blood donations.

My wife went first. She gives blood all the time and her husband wears the free t-shirts to prove it.

She hopped up on that chair and filled like 15 of those little vials all with different colored caps. Apparently the color of the cap means something to someone. Not me.

As I was waiting and trying not to look, I was sorta flexing to get some veins to pop out. Shuffling my feet a bit. Taking deep breaths. And remembering the last time I had blood drawn…

It would have been around 14 years ago, maybe even 15. I know I was still in high school at the time.

I had just had a physical with a regular physician where they ask all of those awkward questions that, quite frankly, are none of their business.

One of the final questions, and one that I was a little taken aback by because it was from left field was, “Have you ever fainted or blacked out?”Nope.

When my 45 seconds of “real doctor time” were up (it was an HMO facility), they sent me down to have blood drawn.

Remember when the actual doctor did that? Now you have to go to another office, sign in, sit and wait. Sure it saves the doctor or his nurse time, but it sure wastes a lot more of my own time. Pretty obnoxious of them to think they’re time is more important than mine… Anyway…

 I finally get in there feeling pretty good since the worst of it (the physical) is over. I sit in the chair, the woman pricks me with the needle and I fill two of those little vials. I’m done. Woo-hoo!

I get up, go out to the waiting room where my mom is waiting and we head out the front door. I’m blacking out… Done.

Now I’m sure the doctor is going to think I lied on all of my answers and the “fainting” one is the only one I was truly being honest on because it was such an odd question that caught me off guard.

After that day, I passed out a few more times. The first time was while watching a UConn basketball game with my dad on television. I got up for a second, made my way into the kitchen and THUD!

Next thing I knew, the dog was barking and my mom was freaking out wondering what was wrong with me. I havta say, the neat part about passing out is that you can take a Nestea plunge head first right into the floor and not feel a thing. Absolutely nothing.

We blew it off as I remember because, like I said, when I awoke, probably 5 seconds after it happened, I felt fine and went back to watching the basketball game.

A few weeks later it happened again. Back to the doctor.

E.T. Phone HomeThis time, I’d estimate that I got around 90 seconds worth of quality time with an honest-to-goodness real live doctor. They took all kinds of tests — I even got to wear all of those little suction cups on my chest and forehead like E.T. did when the feds captured him. I thought that was pretty cool.

I had low blood pressure, so they did most of the tests on my heart and my lungs. Didn’t make a whole lot of sense as if I were having heart issues, I probably wouldn’t have been able to run 10 miles the day before in track practice, but I had without any trouble.

In the end, there wasn’t a real solid conclusion. They prescribed me some “chill” pills to take when I was feeling stressed out (college basketball games on television were never stressful) that I pretty much never took. I wasn’t stressed.

They also told me not to get up quickly after having been seating for a length of time — a stupid request for a high school student who sits for 45 minutes and then runs to another room to sit for another 45 minutes. Repeat 3 more times.

And the last thing they told me was to avoid giving blood.

That last request was the one that I had obeyed all these years.

Until yesterday morning.

All-Star SnorkIt was my turn. I was only having one test done on my blood — a karaoke test. No, that’s not it… I just looked it up — a karyotype test. I guess it’s something to see if I’m 100 percent Smurf or if I’ve got a few Snork genes mixed in as well.

The phlebotomist lined up 4 green capped vials on the tray. FOUR?! I mean, at least it wasn’t 15, but still, I was only having one test done?! I was nervous.

Dr. Greg HouseMy wife and I agreed not to say anything in advance to the doctor — I mean, I watch House, everyone lies to their doctor, right?

And really, was this even a *real* doctor? She seemed too nice to be an actual doctor.

I was going to tough it out. And besides, I’ve eaten a lot of fast food in the past 15 years — my blood pressure should probably be considered high at this point.

She stuck me with the needle as I looked away. I asked if she was done yet? Not yet.

My wife, in the meantime, was looking at her computer screen. My karaoke test was going to cost at least $388. Ouch. I can only imagine what all of her tests are going to cost — my bad for not looking while she was in the hot seat.

I hope insurance covers most of it. Please? Is that too much to ask?

When it was over, I never even did look at my vials. I got the feeling that the phlebotomist knew I was a little touch-and-go afterwards asking if I was alright. “Yeah, I can dig it.” Okay, I didn’t actually say that, I’m not that cool, but let’s pretend I did.

We headed out to the parking lot and my wife asked if I was okay.

“I just want to sit down,” was my response. I was a little loopy.

Perhaps it was all in my head, but if I were ever made to fill one of those bags at a blood drive, there is no way I’d be able to get off of the table. No way. I was, for lack of a better term, drained.

Yes, four little vials sucked the life out of me. But a strawberry fruit-lata thing from Dunkin Donuts shortly thereafter put it all right back.

When I get the results (and the bill), I’ll keep you posted.

Anyone else do anything that exciting all before 8:00 am on Saturday?

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The Smurfs are coming!On a personal note, I just stumbled across this encouraging bit of news this afternoon on Variety‘s website:

Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation are bringing a live-action/animated “Smurfs” project to the bigscreen.
Sony obtained film rights to the blue-colored characters from Lafig Belgium via Jordan Kerner (“Charlotte’s Web”), who is producing. David Stem and David Weiss, who wrote the second and third installments in the “Shrek” franchise, are in negotiations to pen the screenplay.

Kerner secured film rights to the Smurfs property in 2002 and had been developing a 3-D CGI feature at Paramount/Nickelodeon, which has an option to co-finance the Columbia/SPA incarnation and distribute internationally. The Melrose studio has yet to make a decision on its role in the film.

Best known in the United States for the long-running Hanna-Barbera cartoon, the Smurfs were created in 1958 by Belgian cartoonist Pierre Culliford, known throughout the world as Peyo. The Smurfs, originally called “Les Schtroumpfs” in French, were created for a Belgian series of comic books, first as minor characters. The villagers, known for their blue skin and small statures, spawned a line of statuettes, games, toys, theme parks and a hit TV series, which ran as part of NBC’s Saturday-morning lineup from 1981-90.

Kerner said the genesis of the current project began during a holiday conversation with Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman-CEO Michael Lynton, who grew up with “Les Schtroumpfs” in the Netherlands. “He relished them as I do and suggested that it should be a live-action/CG film,” he said. “(Studio topper) Amy (Pascal) felt equally that there was potentially a series of films in the making.”

Kerner has been working closely on the project with Lafig CEO Hendrik Coysman and Veronique Culliford, the daughter of Peyo.

“Smurfs” marks SPA’s first hybrid film — a subgenre that proved popular given the success of 20th Century Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks” — and is the first project to go into development since Hannah Minghella was named prexy of production for the division in April. SPE digital production prexy Bob Osher said the studio plans to rely on Imageworks — which was recently taken off the sale block — for the film’s character animation and visual effects.

“The Smurfs are one of the best-known franchises, and among the most beloved collection of characters in the world,” Columbia co-president Doug Belgrad said. “We’re very excited to introduce a new generation to Papa Smurf, Smurfette and the other smurftastic Smurfs in all of their ‘three-apple-tall’ glory.”

Sony will launch a licensing effort around the classic Smurfs characters at this year’s Licensing Show beginning today in New York.

Ben Haber will oversee the development of the script for Kerner Entertainment. Haber and Paul Neesan are exec producing the film.

Stem and Weiss’ credits also include “The Rugrats Movie” and “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.”

Sadly, no mention of Brainy Smurf. Perhaps he’s too busy working on a PF Blog to be in the film… Perhaps…

On a slight tangent, in the late 1990’s I received a cease and desist order from the Peyo folks in Belgium. They meant business — the shipping charge on the envelope was over $80.

They weren’t very friendly either — they smurfed me up and down. The threat was, as I’d grown accustomed to at that time, trademark infringement.

Unlike my first run-in of this type, I didn’t stand my ground and sold my soul to Gargamel.

They’ve left me alone ever since. I semi-regret it now.

Anyway, I wonder if they’ll tone down the socialist tone for the movie? I should hope not, but I can’t imagine it staying true to form.

They’ll smurf it up somehow… And, yes, the verb form of “smurf” in that connotation means exactly what you’re thinking…

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School BusAll of the local schools dismissed early today. Yeah, it was weather related… but this was no snow day.

Nope, tornado sirens aren’t wailing either…

They sent the kids home early because, if you can believe it, it’s too hot outside.

Boo-hoo…

I’m not that old and it wasn’t really that long ago that I would have been sitting in a classroom at this precise moment. My senior year of high school, it would have been Physics at this hour.

I can’t even begin to imagine getting to go home early because it’s a little hot outside.

In fact, looking all the way back to elementary school, they never even kept us inside for an “indoor” recess unless it was raining outside. It’s hardly raining outside today. Not a cloud in the sky.

It’s ridiculous.

Making matters worse, it’s supposed to be even warmer tomorrow. Does that mean they’ll get the whole day off?

And (gasp!) last time I checked, school buses didn’t come with air conditioning as standard equipment. How will the kids cope?

Hey, at least the buses drop them all off individually at their front stoop now. Can’t expect them to walk more than 10 meters in this heat, you know…

I’ve come to the conclusion that those born after 1990 are growing up to be a bunch of sissies. Perhaps they’re not *all* sissies, but they’ve certainly been conditioned to think that being a sissy is perfectly acceptable.

If you’re not comfortable, it’s okay, you don’t need to perform.

Give me a break…

I mean, really, if it’s not a climate controlled 68 degrees at all times, they just throw in the towel and get to go home? Is that how it is?

Well, apparently nowadays in America, it is.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — I used to love these guys…I’m over a week late with this latest PF blogging trend that has been making the rounds…

I think it started with J.D. on Get Rich Slowly, but I could be mistaken…

My entire living situation in 1998 is almost impossible to compare to the situation I find myself in now. Really, 1998 was the starting line for me.

At the time, having dropped out of university in February of 1997, I was back living with my parents in my old bedroom. I was just getting comfortable at the job I still hold today and was recently made a salaried employee after an entire year of making just $6/hour.

It was an exciting time. Back then, only those on salary were offered health insurance so now I could boast that my job had more than just long hours, it had benefits too. The company had also just implemented a 401k plan and I was invited to participate. Most excellent.

My only monthly bills at the time were my car payment — $223/month for my VW Jetta loan (which my dad co-signed on) — and my auto insurance. I didn’t have the need for a cell phone, and at that time, I’m not sure our neck of the woods even had service anyway.

It was also in the Spring of 1998 that I received my first paying job for the online company I started in my bedroom late one night. It was through a consultant that had worked with my dad.

Basically, all I did was set up a website for their Oracle consulting firm — earning $100 for the task. In hindsight, they got a great deal. Sadly, they also went out of business around a year later. Can’t say I was surprised, though…

I mean, I understand that Oracle is still around to this day, but technically, so is Atari. They’re both teetering on irrelevancy. To me, the writing was on the wall back then for Oracle developers — middleware had a short shelf life and their targeted industry wasn’t large enough to sustain the initial popularity.

But that experience really boosted my confidence in what I was doing and what I was capable of — hey, if this legit company was going to use me to be their presence on the internet, I’m sure others would be willing to use me, and pay me, as well. Before long, I had another client — and another website under my control. The portfolio was growing.

I then started hosting the sites of my clients to generate a monthly income rather than couting on sporadic checks to roll in as projects came about and then used my profits to purchase numerous domain names — many of which I still hold today.

My company was a real “dot com” now. I even incorporated. I even licensed my software. Yes, I actually bought Adobe Photoshop 3.0 for the full price. Even my copy of WinZip is registered. I’m not sure I know another person who actually paid for that wonderful piece of software.

Then, proving that my company really was the real deal, my company was threatened with legal action by a Fortune 500 company for trademark infringement.

Wow, if they only knew that the company was just a 22-year old kid hogging his parents’ phone line with a 56k modem in a room with bunk beds and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle posters still hanging on the wall. It scared the crap out of me.

I stood my ground though, and eventually met up with them. I remember looking through the phone book looking for something like an internet law expert with no luck. They just didn’t exist at the time — at least not this far away from Silicon Valley.

When the time came, I walked into the fancy office of my oppressor completely unprepared, and walked out with, get this, a new client. Wow.

No longer was I pulling in maybe $25/month from this side business of mine, now I was pulling in a few hundred dollars each month and gaining traction. It was crazy. Some months I’d make more on my own that I did from my regular paycheck.

With the extra money, I wisely opened an account with Fidelity. I honestly can’t remember why I did it. Or why I even chose Fidelity. I initially put $2500 in towards a tech mutual fund (Fidelity Select Computers was the name, I think) and set up my first ever auto-payment for Fidelity to pull $150 each month from my checking account and put it towards the fund.

This move made me a lot of easy money and would eventually become the down payment on my first house in 2002 — even though its value plummeted after the dot com bubble burst. At one point, I’d say I quadrupled my money. In the end, when I cashed out after things came back to reality, I had still doubled it.

My day job was on the up-and-up, my own fledgling company was starting to take flight, and my expenses were minimal. Basically, things were pretty good.

I’d estimate that, at the time, my net worth was still positive (no student loans, thankfully). My checking account routinely held less that $1000 from month to month and with the mutual fund thrown in too, best case scenario, my net worth would have been maybe $2000. (I’m certain that I owed more on the Jetta than it was worth in 1998.)

Shortly thereafter though, it would dip sharply negative as I started abusing the credit cards (as they all started to increase my limits), going on $10k vacations, and purchasing BMW’s and, well, all of those mistakes have been well documented here already…

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Kellogg’s Product 19 — Worst. Cereal. Ever.Monday night my wife and I went to the grocery store.

The past few weeks we’ve been going to a different grocery store each week, you know, to add a little excitement to the routine of, well, grocery shopping. So far, it’s been a pretty good experience.

This week, though, we weren’t able to go grocery shopping on the weekend as we were out of town. It’s thrown the whole week off to a certain degree, but to get it out of the way quickly (on a week night), we went back to our usual grocery store that’s just a stones throw from our house.

I’m not much help at the grocery store. I don’t even push the cart.

My job is generally to look at people (I enjoy this) and scan the items at the automated check out — unless of course someone is in line behind me cause then I get all stressed out and move even slower than I already do.

But this time, when my wife set me free in the cereal aisle to pick my cereal for the week, something caught my eye.

Product 19.

I couldn’t place it. Where had I seen that red box before? Hmmmm… something from my past…

Then it hit me.

Remember those single serving variety packs of cereal Kellogg’s used to sell in the 1980’s? They were essentially just a bunch of little cardboard boxes — miniature versions of the real box — shrink wrapped together. I think there were 8 boxes in each “bundle”.

(These days, I know they still have single serving sizes of cereal available but they come in their own little plastic bowl now. Totally different experience. Back then, you still needed to supply a bowl.)

Anyway, our family summer vacation each year would involve camping for a few weeks and my Mom would buy us these variety packs for breakfast during the trips.

Obviously, Frosted Flakes was the top prize. Froot Loops were right up there too. Apple Jacks were an excellent choice (though they tend to tear up the roof of your mouth). Corn Pops weren’t exactly a favorite, but a nice treat now and then. Rice Krispies and Raisin Bran, with tons of sugar added manually, were both still edible.

But when it came down to the fourth day of the trip, my sister and I would have to make a decision.

Which was worse?  Special K or Product 19.

We’d fight over this.  It was important — I mean, breakfast IS the most important meal of the day.

More often than not, Product 19 ended up being the worst of the two evils.

Product 19 was like a lump of coal.

It was like eating poisoned Frosted Flakes.

No amount of sugar could, well, sugar coat it.  We tried.  Really, we tried.

I’m not sure my parents would even eat Product 19 — and my dad is a fan of liver.

Yeah, it truly was *that* bad.

Worse, even, than Grape Nuts. (Who’d have thought that was even possible?)

I’d venture to say that the last time I saw Product 19 was in 1985 while on vacation.  It blew my mind this week to see that it was still on the market.

But I certainly wasn’t about to give it another try.  No way.

In the end, I chose Frosted Cheerios to be my cereal of the week. Sadly, they’re tearing up the roof of my mouth as well.

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Converse All-Star Chuck TaylorI got my first pair of Chuck Taylors in 1985.

At the time they were just coming back into style, and if I didn’t walk in on the first day of school with a sweet new pair of high-tops, well, I’d be destined to be an outcast for the rest of the school year.

My mom probably paid nearly 40 dollars for those in preparation for my big day entering the 4th grade.

I remember thinking I was *so* cool because mine were yellow. A rare colour at the time — those aqua blue ones were the “hot” color back then.

They were also the first pair of canvas shoes I’d ever worn, having followed a long line of leather Nike, Reebok, Pony, Puma, and Kangaroos. Remember Roos? (Seriously, you can never have enough zippered pockets on your shoes.)

But you know what? The All-Stars held up better than any of those leather shoes. I wore those yellow hi-tops right up until 5th grade, when I replaced them with a pair of off-white ones.

Anyway, they quickly fell out of style, as they generally do every 10 years or so, and their prices plummeted. I kept on wearing them and as the years went by, I generally opted for the low-top (or “oxford”) instead of the high top.

In high school, I worked in the shoe department of a clothing store. At the time, the low-top version of the Chuck Taylor was $14.99/pair. Needless to say, I had nearly every colour our store offered.

I even started wearing mismatched colours. Kinda stupid in hindsight, but I was always careful to rotate them evenly just in case, say, I ever wanted to wear two purple ones. They’d both look equally beaten up.

By the time I was in university the price on low-tops had jumped to $24.99. Still very reasonable considering I could get a good solid year out of one pair. At the time I also dabbled a bit with other brands, usually canvas versions of Vans. They just weren’t the same and I always found myself going back to Converse.

After 20 years, it’s not just a shoe, it’s a life style. (Okay, that was over the top.)

Lately though, Chuck Taylors have come back in style.

While that’s good for me — I look mildly trendy again for the first time in over 20 years — it’s really bad for my wallet. Chucks aren’t $14.99/pair anymore. Even $24.99 would be a bargain.

Nope, they top out at over $40 nearly everywhere.

That’s too much for a flap of rubber, some canvas, and a few grommets. Too much for me anyway.

I’ve been on the cheap when it comes to shoes for decades now. So now what?

Enter the knock-off…

Both Walmart and Target carry a low top version of the All-Star. Unfortunately their colour selection is seriously lacking, but the black low top is a classic and with a price tag of $12.99, well, it’s a done deal for me.

I’ve been rotating two pairs of black knock-offs for the past two years. The Target version is identical to the real thing, right down to the brown sole. The Walmart version is a tiny bit different, but unless you’re looking at the bottom, you really can’t tell. They wear just like the latest overpriced Converse.

(Converse used to last longer before Nike took over and changed the “formula” for this classic shoe.)

I’ll go out on a limb and say that the Target knock-offs are manufactured under the same roof as the real thing. They’re that similar, right down to the laces. My new casual everyday shoe of choice.

So, with that, and all the years of savings, I think I’m due for an overpriced pair of sneakers to conquer my most recent goal.

Here’s to hoping I keep it under $100!

Can You Dig It?

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