Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Load “FrigginAwesome”,8,1

I can’t imagine there are ’80s nostalgia geeks out there who don’t know about The Retroist already, but if you’ve never spent time on the site or listening to the podcast, you’re missing a daily dose of Good Stuff, Maynard. Stuff you will wonder how you ever lived without, like the pointer to C64 Yourself, where you can just drag-and-drop a photo and get it rendered almost instantly into a gorgeous Commodore 64-ized version like this:

Commodore 64 Yourself

Me, circa 1984, converted by C64 Yourself.

What makes this photo great? Not because that’s me, but because that’s me sitting at my typically clutter-covered desk playing Burgertime on my Commodore 64.

Large light gray box at the right? A black-and-white TV with rabbit ears serving as my monitor. The darker gray blob just to the left is the C64 itself, with the still-darker area being the keys. In my hands? A beat-to-hell joystick from our original Atari. (You can see the second joystick sitting on the desk almost dead-center: That short white vertical line – that’s right, we had played the covers off the things. Also, my brother Nick had a habit of chewing on them.)

Unfortunately, the C-64’s limited graphics capability falls short of capturing in detail my Gumby sweatshirt and oh-so-80s parted-down-the-middle haircut. Some things are best left pixelated.

June 14, 2011 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Games, geek, Ohio, photos, Web/Tech | , , , , | 1 Comment

A sound road ahead

I have extremely fond memories of family drives to Florida when I was a kid, sitting in the back of our van with a friend, each of us wearing Princess Leia hair bun-sized headphones which we plugged into boom boxes, in and out of which we shuffled tape after tape after tape which we’d bought at the local Camelot or Quonset Hut or blanks that we’d filled with songs recorded from the radio or MTV.

And while I do loves me some driving around and singing horrifically off-key, for the long road trips, I have spent most of the last 20 years preferring non-musical audio accompaniment for the journey. Not surprisingly, I can easily trace this back to the early 1990s, when the Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back radio dramas were released on cassette and I fell in love with them immediately.

Then I started checking out old horror, mystery and science fiction radio broadcasts like Dimension X and Suspense! and The Shadow.

Not long after Jenn and Kelsey and I moved to Ohio and I took a job an hour from home which required a drive through East Rural NoRadioLand, I got hooked on audiobooks. And I mean really hooked: I had a library request in for the cassette edition of Green Mars well before the book’s release date, and as I listened to these,  I even started checking out titles based almost as much on the performer – George Guidall in particular – as the author.

Today, I’m packing up the mp3 files for the drive to PAX East.

The Star Wars dramas are still a favorite, and they’re great for the longest trips, lasting close to 15 hours if you include the much later Return of the Jedi addition to the series. But I can only listen to them once, maybe twice a year, really, and since Star Wars Celebration V is coming up in August, I’m holding off on them for now.

Wil Wheaton’s The Happiest Days of Our Lives audiobook would seem an obvious pre-convention psyche-up, and it’s a favorite, too, but my daughter and I just finished listening to it together within the last couple weeks, so I’m not ready to enjoy it again quite yet. Instead, I’ve grabbed a few Radio Free Burritos.

Being a fan of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War universe, I’ve also downloaded The Sagan Diary, which I’ve never read, and which comes with the bonus of being performed by some remarkably talented women, including Mary Robinette Kowal, whose own short story Evil Robot Monkey will also be making the road trip with me. Other pieces include an old podcast and a reading of Jay Lake’s Metatropolis chapter, both of which I downloaded awhile back and never got around to listening to.

Finally, I’ve piled on some podcasts from The Retroist – I’ve already listened to the shows on E.T., New Coke, Asteroids, Vectrex and Tales of the Gold Monkey and as a former 1980s kid, every single one of them has been a blast.

Among those I selected for this trip is the episode about Thundarr the Barbarian, which means I can appropriately close this entry with: “Ariel! Ookla! We ride!”

March 24, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Fiction, geek, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Retronerd powers: Activate!

Late last week, Adam pointed me to this quick but nice review of Collect All 21! over at Trusty Plinko Stick, which turns out to be a very cool blog – I refer you to Exhibit A, this 1986 commercial for Manitoba Curling (“Get swept up in the fun!”) and, as a closing argument, slam-dunk the case with DIY Doctor Who Toys, which includes the near-impossible feat of finding actual 1980s-era play value in an old FX-7 figure.

In addition to calling Collect All 21! “a pleasant helping of nostalgia chow,” TPS (Hey – if I provide updates on Bill D.’s blog, I can call it “The TPS Report!”) asks the question “…what about the Saturday morning cartoons, or the Ewok TV-movies?”

True: I don’t mention these in the book, because they really didn’t have a role in my Star Wars childhood.

I do remember the Ewoks/Droids Adventure Hour being on Saturday television, but by the time the show came out, I was going on 15 years old. While I wasn’t outgrowing Star Wars itself, the cartoons just didn’t grab me – my younger brothers watched them, I think, because they had the Ewok Fire Cart and the Wicket the Ewok board game. (I will admit that in the years since, the Droids cartoon artwork and the packaging from the associated Kenner toy line has really grown on me.)

The Ewok television movies Caravan of Courage and The Battle for Endor fall into that same time period, although I admit that I did watch both of these when they were on, maybe because being live action, they felt a little closer to “real” Star Wars, or maybe because of my little brothers again.

I’m also extremely grateful to The Retroist for a recent Collect All 21! recommendation and can’t emphasize enough how much fun I’m having going through Retroist’s podcast archives – the enthusiasm and research and detail and long lost audio clips that go into all these episodes on everything from Vectrex to Tales of the Gold Monkey (I thought I was the only person in the world who remembered loving that show!) make them utterly fantastic listens that keep sparking my own memories and also pack in tons of stuff I never knew.

Go fill your audio player of choice, and imagine this in that ubiquitious 1980s pitchman voiceover: “There are 47 episodes so far, and YOU can collect them ALL!”

March 2, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, Games, geek, science fiction, Television, video games, Web/Tech, Weblogs | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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