Monday, August 18, 2014

#EverySimpsonsEver Marathon (The First Half)

People always talk about how The Simpsons isn't as good as it used to be. What they are basically saying is, "I don't watch The Simpsons anymore. It's been on for too long. I've lost interest. Hey, let's watch videos of people dumping buckets of ice water on their head!" The Simpsons has been consistently one of the most funniest, and at times THE funniest, show on television for the past 25 years. Sure, they have had some off episodes that weren't as funny as others. But nowhere else on the tube will you find the rich, biting satire on American culture that the folks in Springfield have been providing season after season.

The Simpsons became a series in 1990. I was a junior in high school at the time. I have been watching The Simpsons for more than half my life! It's unimaginable to have a world without The Simpsons. Hopefully the show will be around for a long time.

Speaking of long times, cable network FXX (yes, that's a real station) is running every episode of The Simpsons starting Thursday, August 21 (my birthday) and running for 12 days until they run every single one of the 564 episodes and the feature film...in order, non-stop. That's pure television joy right there. I'm not in the position in life to lay around on the sofa for a day and watch non-stop, but here's some of the highlights from the schedule - so set your DVRs accordingly!

The #EverySimpsonsEver marathon kicks off this Thursday at 10:00am with the 1989 Christmas special "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" and continues to run all of season one until 4:30pm EST.

Season 2:
8/21 5:30pm - Treehouse of Terror
8/21 7:30pm - Bart Vs. Thanksgiving
8/21 8:00pm - Bart The Daredevil
8/21 9:00pm - Bart Gets Hit By A Car

Season 3:
8/22 8:00am - Flaming Moe's

Season 4:
8/22 3:30pm - Kamp Krusty
8/22 6:00pm - Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie"
8/22 9:00pm - Marge Vs. The Monorail
8/23 12:00am - So It's Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show

Season 5:
8/23 2:30am - Homer's Barbershop Quartet
8/23 4:30am - Treehouse of Horror IV
8/23 9:00am - Lisa Vs. Malibu Stacy

Season 6:
8/23 3:00pm - Itchy & Scratchy Land
8/23 9:00pm - Bart vs. Australia
8/23 11:00pm - Two Dozen and One Grayhounds
8/24 1:30am - Who Shot Mr. Burns? Pt. 1

Season 7:
8/24 2:00am - Who Shot Mr. Burns? Pt. 2
8/24 3:30am - Bart Sells His Soul
8/24 6:30am - The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular
8/24 12:00pm - 22 Short Films About Spingfield

Season 8:
8/24 8:30pm - Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious"
8/24 9:00pm - The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show
8/25 2:00am - The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase (perhaps my favorite episode)

Season 9:
8/25 3:00am - The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson
8/25 7:30am - Miracle on Evergreen Terrace

Season 10:
8/25 5:30pm - When You Dish Upon A Star

Season 12:
8/26 7:00pm - The Worst Episode Ever
8/27 12:00am - Simpsons Tall Tales

Ok, it goes on for days. You get it...this should be a good start!

Monday, August 11, 2014

My 10 Favorite Hersheypark Attractions


The WWoB Staff
A few weeks ago I took my boys to Hersheypark in nearby Hershey, PA. We spent the whole day there, arriving just as the gates opened at 10:00am and returning to the parking lot after the park closed at 10:30pm. There's a lot of great stuff at Hersheypark, even though the majority of the rides are typical carnival style rides you can find at dozens of other parks - Hersheypark does have plenty of charms that are all their own. I'm a fan of old school and more traditional theme park attractions as well as goofy things in parks too. Here's my list of 10 favorite attractions at The Sweetest Place on Earth!


Capital BlueCross Monorail First of all, the fact that Hersheypark has sold the naming rights to a handful of their rides is just a delight. Second, I love monorails. From Disney's world class transportation system down to ever the shuttle at an airport - monorails are good times in my book. Hershey's monorail serves strictly as entertainment purposes, with open air cars that travel not just around the treetops of the amusement park but also beyond the park fence and into the city of Hershey itself. The monorail makes a loop outside the park, offering riders a view of the town's famed Hershey Kiss street lights and the former Hershey Chocolate factory that Milton Hershey built over 100 years ago. Another highlight for an amusement park nerd (such as myself) is the ride past the mysterious unused Monorail station that sits outside of Hersheypark about half way through the ride. The station is almost a carbon copy of the one used inside the park - I assume at one time the monorail was used as a preview of Hersheypark for those not yet inside the park. Who knows!? (Nearby Dutch Wonderland once employed the same method with their monorail.) The monorail also glides over ZooAmerica, Hersheypark's separate but connected North American Zoo. The entire trip is accompanied by a delightful recording that not only tells the history of Hersheypark and the surrounding area, but also extols the virtues of Capital BlueCross health insurance.




Carrousel Hersheypark's carrousel is the real deal - a beautiful antique merry machine made up of all wooden hand carved horses and chariots. The ride was installed in 1944, it was bought used and actually dates back to 1919! The music is provided by a 1926 Wurlitzer Band Organ, which is a real treat. As someone who pays attention to such things - most parks not use prerecorded carrousel music, but there is nothing like the sound of one of these actual machines in action. The carrousel is not only beautiful but large and fast. It's a great ride, and the first one you'll encounter when entering Hersheypark!

Chevrolet Music Box Theatre  Hersheypark puts on some top notch live entertainment in their huge indoor theater. This season they offer two different shows; during the day is a rock oriented song and dance revue and in the evening hours three pianist duel it out. In addition to seeing a good show, it's also a nice opportunity to take a load off your feet in the air conditioning.
 

Comet  The Comet is Hersheypark's oldest roller coaster. Commissioned by Mr. Hershey himself, the classic out-and-back style coaster was built in 1946. It's amazing that a ride built that long ago can still hold up against any ride built today, but it does! The first drop and it's subsequent climbs and dips provide just as many thrills as any of the parks other coasters. This old timer won't make you sick or leave you hanging on for dear life, but it will make you scream and it will put a smile on your face. The layout of the track provides a nice long ride. This is a great coaster!

Dry Gulch Railroad  Bob Howdy, I do enjoy me some amusement park trains. Hershey's is a cute little miniature railroad which doesn't circle the park, like most theme park trains, but instead travels over it's own terrain. There's a miniature recreation of a classic train bridge and a little western town which you travel through. The town even has a few gags and animations that are still performing after all these years. You also get to ride past the engine yard where the train is stored and cared for. This is an above average amusement park train experience.

Hershey's Great American Chocolate Tour  Perhaps the most unique ride at Hersheypark, isn't actually inside Hersheypark. This elaborate and massive ride through of a simulated Hershey Chocolate factory is technically inside Chocolate World, just outside of Hersheypark's admission gates. Chocolate World is the largest corporate welcome center in the county, consisting of shops, eateries, shows and this great ride. The ride takes you on an Omni-mover tour of the chocolate making process from cocoa bean to the wrapped and ready to eat delicious final product. After the tour, everyone gets a free piece of chocolate! Any ride that gives you free candy is just begging to be put on a Top 10 List. Chocolate World is an attraction unto itself and is open year 'round, but you'll also pass it on your way in and out of Hersheypark. (It's usually open an hour later than the theme park so you can visit on your way out.)

Kissing Tower   Named for it's windows in the shape of the famous Hershey candy, and not for randy teenagers making out high above the park - this observation tower/ride takes visitors to the top of the 250 ft. tower for a rotating panoramic view of Hersheypark, ZooAmerica and downtown Hershey, PA. The view is spectacular and the height is just enough to be considered a mild thrill ride. There used to be a recording that played during the trip that featured the classic "Hersheypark Happy" theme song but sadly it was not in use on our recent visit.


Lightning Racer  Here's a fantastic roller coaster, built in 2000 that features two identical tracks with trains racing to a finish line. What stands between the station and the finish line is a 90 ft. drop and over 3,000 ft of twisting and turning roller coaster track. The ride seems like it's never going to end as the track cross over itself and back and forth several times before speeding through a tunnel and lining right up with the opposing train before crossing the finish line. This fantastic wooden roller coaster is a blast and has been ranked in or near the top 10 wooden coasters in the country every year since it's opening.


Reeses' Xtreme Cup Challenge Currently the only dark ride inside Hersheypark, Xtreme Cup Challenge has riders using backwards laser guns to zap various targets as you ride through scenes of extreme sports.  What's great about this ride is that it makes very little sense. Sure, you're just ridding through a shooting gallery but why are we shooting at defenseless, innocent extreme athletes? And why are there so many different types of Reeses' Peanut Butter Cups all over the sporting arenas? Most of the characters in the ride are flat two dimensional drawings except for two creepy sports anchors who are complete audio animatronics. They look like department store dummies who were brought to life by an evil curse. I don't know, this ride is a mess of things going on but in the end it's fun and completely different than anything else offered in the park.


Twin Turnpike - Sunoco Classic Cars - Twin Turnpike gives you the option of driving a classic Model T style car or a fancy little sports car. Whenever given the option, I always go for the classic car mostly because the sports car always means tiny and uncomfortable. The Twin Turnpike tracks follow the same pattern around a cute little area landscaped and decorated with faux highway signs. Fake highway signs make or break an amusement park drive-your-own car ride.
 
If you've been the Hersheypark, comment with your favorite ride, show or attraction...

Friday, August 08, 2014

My Family's Favorite Ocean City Dining Spots - Updated!

Elias will never forget the ONE TIME
 I ordered the large fries!
This blog post originally appeared prior to the Summer of 2013. We often refer to it or share it with people who ask us for dining recommendations in Ocean City, MD. While some Ocean City traditions go back to our grandparent's days, other things can change real fast in OCMD.  Last year's list already needs some updating, so I'm rerunning the article again with some revisions, additions and corrections. The new material is be highlighted in red. Enjoy and Happy Eating!


With the Summer season quickly approaching, my family's thoughts turn to the beach - one of our favorite places to be in the dog days of Summer. We have been very fortunate over the past 7 years to have access to a beach house courtesy of my wife's aunt who is gracious enough to let us use the condo several times a year. Taking the cost of lodging out of the equation has made it possible for us to make frequent and lengthy trips to Ocean City, MD a tradition in our family.



If you've never experienced Ocean City, MD - it's basically Maryland's only resort destination. There is a beautiful beach that stretches for miles and miles accompanied by a world-class 3 1/2 mile Boardwalk lined with shops, arcades, rides, food and games. The rest of the town is pretty much made up of hotels, restaurants and mini-golf. In other words: It's a blast!



For this WWoB list, I brought my wife and kids into the mix and we all sat down and came up with a list of all our favorite places to grab a bite to eat in Ocean City. Most of these places have become traditions within our family...and even though we never hit all 20 of these places in a single trip, we probably enjoy most of them over the course of an entire calendar year.  (Each establishment's name is a link to their website)



The Abbey Burger Bistro 12601 Coastal Hwy, Bayside  A new discovery of ours and we LOVE it. Let's talk about the appetizer first. Crabby Tots! Delicious crab dip covering crispy little tatter tots, the same kind of tots you had growing up, is a marvelous idea worthy of a Nobel Prize! Outstanding. Next, move on to the burgers - they are simply put, some of the best burgers I have ever had in my life. The whole table agreed with that statement. They have tons of different things you can put on your burger, different rolls, different types of meats. It was all good and all fantastic. I had a burger with peanut butter and bacon that was to die for. Possibly the first time that during a week long trip to Ocean City, we revisited a place a second time - it was that good. On the second trip I had a burger with jalapenos and bree on thick cut toast - it was equally amazing.  This joint in in it's second year in Ocean City. They are kind of hard to locate, not visible from the highway although they have a big sign on the road. They are directly behind the Blue Ox Bar and Grill and right in front of Northside Park. Also, don't let the exterior fool you, it's a little dated outside but the food inside is oh so good!

Big Pecker's Bar &  Grill 7301 Coastal Hwy - While the food here is excellent, the main attraction (for my family) is their giant gliders on the front patio that seat up to 6 people. There, you can enjoy your meal in the warmth of the Ocean City sun while dining on fantastic sandwiches. Everything we've all ever had here has been very, very good. For breakfast, you'll find the biggest biscuits man has ever created!

The Bonfire 71st St. and Coastal Hwy - Huge buffet with something for everyone: big selection for the kids and an even bigger selection for the grown-ups. Excellent carving stations, fresh seafood, huge salad bar, awesome soups and how can you go wrong with one of the only places where you'll find all-you-can-eat Crab Dip? Yum!? Look into their Early Bird Special while you're in town, you can save a considerable amount of money dining early...plus you'll beat the wait in line. Tanner adds: "They have cool fish in their tanks (in the waiting area.)" and Elias says: "The chicken tenders are exquisite!"

Countryside Cafe  37242 Lighthouse Rd Fenwick Island, DE - This is a recent discovery of ours and we love it! We try not to do breakfast out when we're at the beach (simply because we spend a fortune the rest of the day eating) but when we do grab some AM eats this little unassuming spot has become a new favorite. We've only been for breakfast (they do lunch too) but everything on their simple menu of omelets and sandwiches and other breakfast staples is delicious! It seems to be a favorite with locals, but even what appears to be a long wait has never proven to be too much time. Heads up: They dont' take credit cards.

Crabcake Factory USA 12000 Coastal Hwy - This unassuming spot appears to be the lobby of a hotel, but it's actually home to some of the finest crabcakes in town. They specialize in Jumbo Lump Crabcakes - which are fantastic. Our very favorite item on the menu is the Jumbo Lump Crab Seafood Nachos, which is the highlight of the day when we have them! They are also known for their Bloody Mary's. Best fries off the boardwalk! They've added two more locations; one on 25th st. the other in Fenwick Island.

De Lazy Lizard 1st St. and  Bay - Really fun atmosphere, with seating on a beach like setting right along the bay. May we suggest the Godzilla Nachos!?  Well, the Godzilla Nachos are gone and the new nacho offering isn't bad but it's not spectacular either. They've expanded the outdoor area here to include a large playground for the kiddies. Good drinks, nice location have kept this place on our list!

Fat Daddy's 82nd St. and  Coastal Hwy - Really creative menu with all sorts of unusual sandwiches and pizzas. I recommend the Buffalo Shrimp Pizza. Tanner says their pizza is "mouthwatering!" The kids still ask to go here but honestly, Jen and I are kind of over it. There are more amazing places to try in town.

Fish Tales 22nd St Bayside - Here's a hot spot in OC that offers a little something special for everybody. I've heard people have waited up to three hours to get a table here...don't go at high dinner time and you'll be fine. The main attraction is a huge pirate ship that the kids can play on while you sit and enjoy a few moments of peace and quite with one of Fish Tale's many delicious drink specials. The seating is located on a sandy spot over looking the bay, so it's ok to take your shoes off before you even enter the place. Wide selection from their menu including burgers and seafood. The kids meal comes on a souvenir Frisbee which is also a nice touch. Fish Tales is an amazing way to spend a hot summer afternoon!

Frog Bar Inlet Village - Nobody will dispute that the best aspect of this little hole in the wall is the view. There is a tiny deck overlooking the waves crashing up against the shore of the inlet that just can't be beat. They offer tasty food and good Happy Hour specials and kids are more than welcome in this little watering hole. When we discovered this spot a few years ago, it quickly became a must-do on every trip. The kids love their Shirley Temples.

Grotto Pizza 12407 Coastal Hwy - Simply put, my vote for the best pizza in the world! It's all about the sauce! This Delaware tradition just recently opened their first Maryland location, and we couldn't be happier about it! Elias says: "The cheese and sauce combination is amazeballs. It brings out the flavor!"

Guidos Burritos   1st St. on the Boardwalk - I had a blackened shrimp burrito here that was simply one of the best meals I've had in my entire life! Washed it down with a Swedish Fish Margarita...need I say more? Brand new spot on the boardwalk is home to one hell of a tasty good meal! We went back a second time and the experience was kinda awful. They were out of numerous items on the menu...including the previously mentioned shrimp but also, no joke, my next two choices off their menu. The music was so loud it was unpleasant as was the cramped seating in the back of the restaurant. Reading review on Trip Advisor, you'll discover that many other people have had the same experience of out of stock menu items. Guido's is building a new location, a stand alone restaurant out on Coastal Highway, so perhaps that will change the experience in the future.

Hammerheads  10th St. Boardwalk - One of my wife's new favorites, the location and the ambiance are the big draw here. Seating right on the boardwalk makes this a great spot for people watching not to mention delicious huge drinks, some of them served in souvenir fish bowls. They have real tasty appetizers too and huge Steampots filled with all sorts of fresh seafood. We also love the Boom Boom Tacos. On the way out, there is a treasure chest for kids to pick out a prize.

Harpoon Hanna's Rt. 54  Fenwick Island, DE - This might be the only fine dining location on our list but it's a yummy favorite that my whole family likes. There are Bread Girls that come around with baskets full of fresh breads before and during your meal. We all love the Coconut Muffins, although my older son enjoys their raisin bread and ketchup. Steaks and seafood make up the bulk of the menu, my wife and I both rave over their scallops. On a recent visit with a party of 11 at 6:30pm on a Friday, we were seated promptly. Well played, Hanna!

Horizions 10100 Coastal Hwy (inside the Clarion Resort) This has become a new must-do breakfast spot for our family. We even have nearby family that comes into Ocean City to join us each visit. Every Sunday morning a wonderful breakfast buffet is laid out against the backdrop of a huge set of windows overlooking sand dunes and the beach. The view is great and the food is even better. The eggs are made to order, there is a fine selection of breakfast meats and the cheese blintz' are out of this world! This is also a great spot for a large gathering. We've visited multiple times with a party of 10 and have always been immediately seated!


Ice Cream Castle Justine's 12207 Coastal Hwy. - The Castle hasn't caught on like some other OC staples such as Dumsers, but this place has got to have the biggest selection of flavors and sundae combos in town. While other ice cream joints are mobbed, Ice Cream Castle usually only has a short wait. Last year we finally tried their Sandcastle Sundae which comes in a sand pail with shovels full of toppings. We all shared it and it was a really fun memory. Indoor and outdoor seating too! The name and management have changed but the place seems to be pretty much the same. Can't say we weren't disappointed though to see the change.

King Kone 143rd St. and Coastal Hwy. - A simple strip mall ice cream parlour makes our list probably for two reasons: first, it's in the same complex as one of our favorite pizza places on this list and second, when we discovered it our son, Elias, was obsessed with King Kong and there's a giant gorilla greeting guests outside the doors. But beyond the convenience and gimmick, there's some right-tasty hand dipped ice cream served up in a variety of combinations. We're all fans of a mint Grasshopper sundae they have as well as some crazy good shakes. They even have one of those food challenges where if you eat some giant 8 scoop sundae with 90 pounds of toppings, you get your name on the Wall of Fame. Good Times!

Little House of Pancakes, Ribs and Pizza 74th St. and  Coastal Hwy. - This is our favorite spot for breakfast. I had Snickers Pancakes here once! Snickers...in the pancakes! They obviously have really good breakfast dishes with a whole bunch of different types of pancakes and omelets. Good eggs! Seating is limited and it can get kind of crowded in the early morning, but worth a bit of a wait.

Phillips Seafood House 14101 Coastal Hwy. - The most outrageous seafood buffet you'll ever lay your eyes on! Crabs a half dozen ways including steamed, shrimp another half dozen ways, fish, clams, all kinds of other BBQ goodies, soup, pasta...the list goes on and on! The kids even get their own bar with kid-friendly options. The hamburgers on the kids bar are outrageous, but we always hate to fill up on burgers when there is so much seafood to be had! Best buffet in town, and you'll also want to arrive early at this one to avoid long lines and take advantage of an early bird special. Also, don't eat anything all day before you go! They've made a few changes to the lineup recently, a little more emphasis on non-seafood items but the whole experience still is fantastic!

Pizza Tugos 116th St. - This is THE go-to for pizza delivery in Ocean City. During the summer season, they deliver until 4am! We like this place not only for their late delivery hours but also for their dine in location at 116th St. You can find plenty of coupons for great deals on big feasts for the family and their dine in spot is fun and super casual. They have a full bar and big huge drinks that you refill yourself, the kids love it. Plus, they have the little umbrellas for the kids drinks and that scores high points with any kid.

Ponzetti's Pizza 144th St and Coastal Hwy. - There's never a wait at this classic pizza spot. This is our second favorite pizza in town, very similar to Grotto's. They also offer a nice selection of pasta and sandwiches plus a nice wine selection. There is a small arcade to keep the kids busy while you wait for your food.

Shenanigan's Irish Pub and  Grille  4th and Boardwalk - An Irish Pub right on the boardwalk might seem like an odd idea, but this joint has a top notch kitchen serving up a menu of Irish inspired dishes. I've had some really cool dishes here including Bangers & Mash...as well as some incredible burgers too. My older son won't stop talking about a Pizza Burger he had once which was the special of the day. Relaxing outdoor dining overlooking the boardwalk and they have a dining room as well with a huge bar and nightly Irish music.

Tequila Mockingbird 130th St. and Coastal Hwy. - Our favorite spot in town for Mexican food, this family friendly watering hole/restaurant offers up some interesting seafood infused Mexican dishes. They also have an outstanding Margarita menu with some very colorful (and powerful) drinks! Since this one is so far up Coastal Highway, you can often find a no-wait time during busy dinner hours.  Kids menu with non-ethnic dishes is also available.

Thrasher's French Fries At the Pier, 2nd and 8th St. on the Boardwalk - For our family and millions of others, it just simply isn't a trip to Ocean City...or perhaps it isn't even summer...until we've had a bucket of delicious Thrasher's Fries. Anyone who has every had a french fry from this 80+ year old stand will tell you that they are simply the best fries on Earth...hands down! They sell three things at Thrasher's...Fries, Pepsi and Diet Pepsi (maybe bottled water too?) and there is no ketchup. Just salt, a little Old Bay and pour on the Apple Cider Vinegar. My mouth is literally watering just typing this!  Elias would like to add: "the warmth of the fries warms you up like a cozy cabin!"




Drop us a line in the comments section and tell us some of you and your families favorite beach side eats, maybe we'll include them in our next visit!


Monday, August 04, 2014

Dueling "Weird Al" Lists


 As you know by now, "Weird Al" Yankovic released his 14th studio album, Mandatory Fun, a few weeks ago and for the first time in Al's 30 year career, he has the #1 album in the country. I thought it would be a good time to finally make a "Weird Al" list here on WWoB and I asked my good friend Brian From CA to come up with a list of his own. Brian is the only other true Al aficionado that I have ever met. Funny side story, both Brian and I had the same first concert experience when our dads took us to see Weird Al and The Monkeys at Meriwether Post Pavilion in 1987...10 years before Brian and I ever met! Good times!

So here's a list from me and then from Brian of our Top 10 Favorite Weird Al Songs! Brian is a professional writer in the video game industry and his list is written better than mine, so I'll dump mine on you first!

Ed's List:
10.  “Eat It”
As with most people, this is where it all started for me! I was in the 5th grade when “Eat It” became the hit that it was. I had always loved the little parody songs that would play on the wacky morning shows on the radio, but here was somebody doing a whole album of crazy songs. I got the record album and just about wore the grooves out in the thing listening to it over and over again!  Every time I hear this song, it takes me right back to the center of my childhood and the beginning of my life-long love of Weird Al.
9.  “Amish Paradise”
I think “Amish Paradise” (a parody of Coolio’s Gangster’s Paradise) is Al’s most well crafted parody. Contrasting the original song’s lyrics about growing up on the city streets with the trails and tribulations of raising a barn and making butter in the Amish community is nothing short of brilliant. The song also packs a joke into just about every line of the lyrics.
8. “Mr. Frump In The Iron Lung”
Going all the back to the closing track of Al’s very first album, there’s just something in the simplicity of this little ditty that has always amused me. An ode to a dying friend lying in a iron lung, the sound of the iron lung played by the air release valve on Al’s accordion. Any use of the accordion in any song gets points in my book, perhaps this is the most ingenious use of the instrument – ever! 
7. “This Is The Life”
From Weird Al’s third album, Dare to be Stupid, is this ode to greed, success and self-worship all set to the tune of a 1930’s speakeasy piano. It also helps that the song served as the theme song to the 1984 film “Johnny Dangerously” – a hilarious & forgotten gangster comedy.

 
6. “Albuquerque”
I get the feeling that if Al were to just put out an album of music that he wanted to make, and didn’t worry about parodying popular songs or hitting on certain trends, this is the kind of music we would get – a rollicking, all-over-the-place, high energy music extravaganza that just pushes on for way longer than the average song.

5. “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota”
One of the few songs in the world that really speaks to me, this rambling ballad is a tribute to all the tacky road side attractions that I begged my parents to stop at on family vacations. 
4. “Good Old Days”
Instead of packing in as many jokes as possible into a song, it also pays off the have a slow build. There’s only maybe three or four jokes in this song but the way it’s structured and layed out has always left me in stitches. I actually have always wished I could play guitar just so I could go to a coffee house and perform this song.
 3. “Your Horoscope For The Day”

A series of tragic events awaits each and everyone of us, no matter what month you were born in. Another example of Al just letting loose and doing what he wants to do.
2. “Happy Birthday”
What separates a true Weird Al fan from the casual listener is having all the lyrics to a punk rock parody, like this classic,  firmly cemented into your brain since you were 10 years old.
1. “Bedrock Anthem”
I’m a huge Flintstones fan!  When Al’s 1993 album Alapalooza came out, my friend that worked at a record store was so excited to break the news to me that Al did a song about the Flintstones.  The tune is actually a duel parody of Red Hot Chili Peppers hits starting with a few seconds of Under The Bridge and then quickly moving into Give It Away. Gotta be honest with ya, never heard the original Give It Away but I sure love what Al has done with it. With audio clips from the original television series and cringe worthy puns, this a perfect song in my universe. The song is also featured on the soundtrack to the 1994 live action Flintstones film, however it is not actually heard in the movie.
 
 
Brian’s Top Ten Al Hits

 
10. “You’re Pitiful”

This song was only released online back when that was still a pretty novel thing to do. According to the internet, James Blunt gave his blessing for Al to use the parody on his Straight Outta Lynwood album but then Blunt’s record label refused. The intro to this song makes me laugh every single time I hear it, but I mainly chose it because I knew Ed was going to throw at least one “non-album” song on his list.


9. “Word Crimes”

I’m doing my best not to weight this list too heavily toward Mandatory Fun, which only released a few days ago. However, as a writer I have to admire a song about common grammar blunders, and it is an excellent example of Al taking a song that is basically unlistenable and turning it into something that I play regularly.
 

8. “Yoda”

As a kid I didn’t even realize this was a parody. I guess at age 8 I just wasn’t that into The Kinks?? I had to include a Star Wars song on my list, and since “The Saga Begins” is all about Episode I and “Yoda” is primarily about Empire, it wins. Also, props to Weird Al for suggesting that Luke will still be making these movies when he’s “old and grey.” Those lyrics were kind of sad through the 90’s and 00’s, but now have turned out to be completely accurate!
 

7. “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota”

Every now and then Al includes a 7 to 9-minute-long, random, rambling, epic song on his album, and they’re usually pretty great. This one, “Albuquerque,” and the new “Jackson Park Express” are a few examples. When my daughter was a baby and I was searching my brain for songs I actually knew the words to so I could sing her to sleep, I was surprised to discover “Biggest Ball of Twine” was on the list. Especially since the whole list was only like four songs. So it gets the nod.
 

6. “I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead”

Al has always kept his material pretty clean and family-friendly, while maybe inching into PG-13 territory here and there. Occasionally, though, he is capable of razor-sharp satire, and this song is the best example. This is young, angry Al eviscerating California hippie and yuppie culture. I reached all the way back to Al’s first album for this one, in 1983. And to this day I’d still rather have a Big Mac or a Jumbo Jack than all the bean sprouts in Japan.

 
5. “My Own Eyes”

In case you’re someone who has far more of a life than me or Ed, which is entirely possible, let me explain the many sub-genres of Al’s music. There’s the Parody (obviously), the Polkas, which mash up several songs with (mostly) their original lyrics, Al’s own Original Songs… and then there’s the Style Tribute. That’s where Al writes all the music and lyrics, but the entire song is presented as if it was written by an established band. I had to include at least one on the list, and this tribute to the Foo Fighters is my absolute favorite. As a Foo Fighters fan, I can hear their DNA all up in this song. Great driving music!
 

4. “UHF”

Possibly the best “end-credits” song ever written, “UHF” was the theme for Weird Al’s movie of the same name. As kids, my brother and I were delirious with excitement to see Weird Al on the big screen. Pretty sure my mom wanted to claw her eyes out the whole time. Luckily the running time was only 97 minutes! I can’t wait to play this rocking tribute to the UHF dial for my daughter someday, so I can then try to explain to her what “UHF” is. …Also what a “dial” is.


3. “NOW That’s What I Call Polka”

Had to include a polka on the list, and while there are many excellent choices, ultimately I had to go with his latest effort. Even though it’s a little on the short side, this was the first time in three decades of dedicated Al listening that I knew 100% of the songs in the polka. Seriously! I recognized every single song!

 
2. “White and Nerdy”

I was already a big fan of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’,” and Al’s take on the hip-hop instant classic did not disappoint. Not only did he squeeze every ounce of comedy potential out of the white and nerdy concept, but Al also released an amazing video with even more jokes in it! It also proved once and for all, and I say this without an ounce of irony, that “Weird Al” Yankovic can spit mad fire on the mic.
 

1. “Dare to be Stupid”

Even though this always felt like an original to me, it’s actually a Style Tribute to Devo. In fact, Al recreates Devo’s style so well I think he actually surpasses the original artists! Even Mark Mothersbaugh admitted that Al’s song was so beautifully executed that “I hate him for it, basically.” While it has its roots in the 80’s, it always sounded timeless to me and it sort of feels more like Al’s official theme song than any of his other work. And, of course, and I know Ed’s been waiting for this, “Dare to be Stupid” gets the number one spot on my list because of its inclusion in the 1986 animated masterpiece “The Transformers: The Movie.”

Monday, July 14, 2014

My (Son's) 20 Favorite Video Game Characters


This list was written by my 10 year old son Elias
I'm not really into video games that much anymore. Back in the day, I could throw down some Atari 2600 for hours, but modern games, for the most part, just don't do it for me anymore. Now my kids, on the other hand, eat - breathe - sleep video games! I encouraged my older son to do some writing and come up with a video game post for the blog. He worked on this last fall and we're just getting around to posting it...but here is 10 year old Elias' list of his favorite video game characters:



20.Fox  McCloud (Star Fox Series) So far, we don’t  know that much about Fox, but we do know that he is a great pilot and will not stop at anything (no matter how many times he does) to save his planet from devastation, whether it be Anderos (Star Fox 64),or Wolf (Star Fox). However, in the Super Smash Bros. series, we get to figure out more about him, and now we know that he isn’t just a pilot, but a worthy fighter as well.

19. Meta Knight (Kirby Series) Meta Knight may not be a main character, but that doesn’t mean he is any less awesome. Meta Knight is a little more mysterious than your average video game character, being Kirby’s friend in the TV show, “Kirby Right Back at Ya!” and his enemy in many games like Kirby Super Star. In Kirby’s Epic Yarn, he was being controlled by Yin Yarn, an evil sorcerer. One thing about Meta Knight is his name. Whenever I say Meta Knight in front of someone they think I mean Mennonite!” Apparently, a Mennonite is an Amish person. Anyway, Meta Knight definitely has some powerful tricks up his sleeve, and is certainly strong for his size.

18. Samus (Metroid Series) I will say that Samus is definitely the toughest girl around. Her robotic suit makes her a little similar to Mega Man. In terms of power, Samus is full of it. In the first Metroid game, it doesn’t give us a lot of information about why in the heck she’s going through a ship shooting Astro bugs, but we get some knowledge on that later on. Her graphics have been great in certain time periods.

17. Captain Olimar (Pikmin Series) Captain Olimar leads a life of danger, no doubt. But imagine: you’re a refugee from another planet, who will die by poisonous gas within 30 days, and the only way he can get home to your wife is by using tiny little sprouts to get your ship parts back and kill giant monsters. Sound easy? I don’t think so. That’s what I like about him. He is one of the bravest video game characters, and he uses his resources to his advantage.

16. Princess Zelda (Legend of Zelda Series) What makes Zelda so special? Her powers. And the thing is that she can teleport. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, one of her attacks is teleporting. And I really wonder: why doesn’t she just teleport out of her cage when Gannon decides to capture her. I cannot say that I know why. But that isn’t her only power. She can also shoot fireballs and control where they go. So it is pretty obvious who would win in a battle between Princess Peach and Princess Zelda.

15. Prince Fluff (Kirby’s Epic Yarn) Prince Fluff seems a little weird, being that his name is Fluff yet he was turned INTO yarn. Prince Fluff is a likable character because he and Kirby get along and they also get into mischief. They have little scenes between levels, and it’s really cute. Kirby could summon helpers in previous games, but now he has made his first official friend.

14. Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic the Hedgehog Series) Sonic is a definite classic, but he used to be a jerk, as the Sega commercials clearly stated: “Sega does what Nintendon’t”. The company was desperate for buyers, but eventually joined Nintendo. Sonic and Mario at the Olympic Games were the first published Sega/Nintendo series. Sonic games are now released for Nintendo systems, and Sonic was a special character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl along with Solid Snake. Sonic is a character you will like if you play the original Sonic the Hedgehog games, but you shouldn’t play newer versions until you get used to Sonic.

13. Wolf (Star Fox Series) I’m probably or absolutely the  biggest Wolf fan, because he isn’t very popular, but he is plain AWSOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t resist him and neither will you once you be him in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. He is the last unlockable character, and is Fox’s enemy. It is honestly not common for someone to take a good look at him and not like him. His appearance is just appealing, and the gear and weaponry makes him heavier than expected. Wolf is definitely the most awesome looking video game character.

12. Maxwell (ScribbleNauts Series) You can’t really know Maxwell that well because he doesn’t talk at all. But he is likable in the fact that whatever you want, he will make it, and Maxwell is the purpose of all of the possibilities in every ScribbleNauts game.

11. Starfy (The Legendary Starfy) Starfy is a lesser known video game character, but is adorable, nonetheless. He had two sequels in Japan, The Legendary Starfy 2 and 3. Starfy is not playable in any of the Super Smash Bros. games, but he is an Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

10. Mega Man (Mega Man Series) Overall, Mega Man is a pretty basic character. He is kind of similar to Samus (see:18). He doesn’t have many attacks in previous games, just the Megabuster, a simple gun that shoots out of his robotic hand. However, in the new Super Smash Bros. (to be released in 2014), Mega Man will be a special character, and will have a various weapon system based off all of the bosses in the Mega Man series.

9. Pikachu (Pokémon Series) Pikachu is one of the most iconic video game characters ever. He is Ash Ketchum’s best Pokémon, and has helped him win most Pokémon battles. However, in the Pokémon games, Pikachu isn’t much of a help to anyone’s party. Many Pokémon fans wanted a Pikachu on their team, but they soon realized that there was much more powerful Pokémon, like Alakazam. But Pikachu is surely a classic, and extremely adorable, and he definitely deserves the ninth spot on the list.

8. Sora (Kingdom Hearts Series) Sora is one of the easiest video game characters to get used to. A lot of talking and videos are in the Kingdom Hearts series, which helps gamers get to know him. The Kingdom Hearts series consists of an odd mixture of characters: Final Fantasy and Disney. However, Sora is not a Final Fantasy character, but he is considered a Disney character. Kingdom Hearts plays of Disney a bit more than Final Fantasy, using Disney worlds and characters (and Donald Duck and Goofy at your side) while Final Fantasy adds a different drawing style and minor characters. Sora’s weapon is one of the most memorable weapons in video game history: the Key Blade. When I first played Kingdom Hearts, I loved the Key Blade so much that I looked all over the internet to buy one. The Key Blade changes into different forms for most worlds that you complete. The Key Blade may be what makes Sora such a likable character.

7. Captain Falcon (F-Zero Series) In the F-Zero series, we don’t get to know much about Captain Falcon because he is really just a car driver of the future. We don’t even get to see anywhere lower than his face. However, in Super Smash Bros. Melee/Brawl, Captain Falcon is a playable character and even has a couple of stages based of his game, such as Big Blue (Melee) and Port Town Aero Drive (Brawl) . F-Zero fans used this character a lot in battle and people soon found out how awesome Captain Falcon is.

6. Rayman (Rayman Series) What makes Rayman a likable character is the adventures he takes you on. Rayman Origins was the first Rayman game that I ever played, and it is the best. The Rayman series is very creative, which I think is really missing in newer games like Mass Effect and Call of Duty. Rayman may just save the imaginative games, because it is a well known series that still produces games.

5. Link (Legend of Zelda Series) Link is very popular indeed, made in 1986 along with Metroid, Kid Icarus, and Super Mario Bros. What makes Link so cool is that he will just fight every evil thing that gets in the way of saving Zelda. I liked Link so much, I tried to get a Link costume, and I wanted an exact replica of the shield. Sadly, I couldn’t find any, so I was Dipper Pines from Disney Gravity Falls. The thing with Link is, you don’t even have to play the games to like him. I only played Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and I’m not even close to finishing Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. And he’s on the fifth spot!!!

4. Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid Series) Snake is BY FAR the coolest old guy EVER! He is really brave, uses high-tech weaponry, and was the start of good graphics. In 1998 people were like: “Have you SEEN Crash Bandicoot? It has great graphics!” Well, people ate there words when they saw Solid Snake. Even though he is, like, 63 or something, he can take down a bunch of giant robots with his hands, feet, and pistol. I found out about Snake when I played Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Then I started playing the series, and the games are remarkable. With many games that are a bit realistic, there is just something that makes Metal Gear Solid special.

3. Sly Cooper (Sly Cooper Series) Sly is just undeniable, and he is just too good to miss. He is an Italian raccoon thief who pick-pockets and is in love with a fox who is a cop. He is definitely unique, and what I like about characters sometimes is based off their weapon, and Sly passes all inspections. Memorable weapon, the Cooper Cane, great reflex and climbing skills, and uses smooth talking and Smart Alec language.

2. Mario (Mario Bros. Series) Mario isn’t really one of my favorite characters, but without him, none of these other characters would have ever existed. In the 80’s, video games reduced exercising, and grown-ups weren’t on board with that. But when Mario came around, GROWN-UPS were playing it! So video games went back in business, and eventually produced the games that some of these characters are from.
 

1. Kirby (Kirby Series) He’s cute. He’s powerful. He has the ability to inhale enemies and copy their powers. HE IS BY FAR THE BEST VIDEO GAME CHARACTER EVER! If you play the Kirby series, or even look at the box of “Kirby: Superstar Ultra”, you will find that it is physically impossible not to fall in love with him. His bright, pink, puffy appearance tells you in an instant that Kirby is near. Seriously, go to GameStop and look at the “Kirby: Superstar Ultra” box. You’ll see what I mean.   

Monday, June 30, 2014

The UTZ Potato Chip Factory Tour

The closest thing we have to a tourist attraction in our sleeply little town is the Chip Trip or UTZ Factory Tour as it is most commonly refered to. If you're not familiar with UTZ chips, then you aren't from this region of the country. They are some tasty snacks only distributed to Pennsylvania and the neighboring states. They are a common missed item of home sick people who have moved out of the area. My personal favorite is their crab chip, covered in Chesapeake Bay seasoning. My brother, who moved west is a big fan of their BBQ flavor and always makes it a point to pick up a couple bags when visiting home. 

 It's somewhat of a tradition for the kids and I to hit up the tour near the beginning of summer. Sometimes the tour can be packed with a bus full of people but most of the time you get the whole place to yourself.



On this late June day, we were just about the only people at the tour. The tour gallery is located at the UTZ High Street production plant, the largest of their four facilities in Hanover, Pa. You're visiting a real working factory, not a visitor center like some other tours so you need to be careful in the parking lot for trucks coming and going.

The tour gallery is made up of two areas:
The first area consists of displays and memorabilia relating to the UTZ company. 

Here is also a small room....er, theatre that runs a 15 minute video about everything UTZ. On the day we visited, the movie was not running.

The main attraction in the first area is this giant display of everything UTZ makes. I'm not sure if this is what the company makes right now, or if it's all their products over the years. The display is very up-to-date so I'm guessing it represents what is currently/recently in production. 

The next part of the tour is the actual factory itself. Photography is not permitted of the factory floor. I tried not to snap a pic of any of the proprietory elements of the tour. The tour is self guided and one big long hallway with windows looking down on the actual working production lines making potato chips. Although the plant also makes pretzels and cheese curls, only the Chip manufacturing is visible from the tour.


Each stop on the tour is narrated by pushing a red button to activate a recording. The recordings walk you through the entire process from raw potato to bagged and boxed product.



Each of the stops along the tour also feature a little ramp for the little chip fans in your party to get a better view of the factory floor. 


The tour ends in the giant warehouse that stores all the chips waiting to be delivered the next day. From there you return to the main room where a free bag of fresh UTZ chips is on the house! There is seating and a soda machine also available to compliment your snack.


We've been to the factory several times, but this past trip we were able to see a huge shipment of potatoes being delivered in a pretty cool custom designed truck. The kids were particularly enthralled in this. 

Two blocks away from the High Street facility is the UTZ Factory Outlet Store filled with incredible deals on a wide variety of snack items as well as UTZ merchandise and plenty of free samples.

The tour is free and open Monday - Thursday, the store is open 7 days a week. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Disneyland Guests "Sing Let It Go"

Disney put out this video where they had guests at their California park sing the (now) Oscar Winning song from Frozen. I love this video because, not only is it a great song, it shows what Disney Parks do best and that's allowing people to let their guard down and just be a big kid!
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