Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Birthday Present from Google!




Well, what a nice surprise that was! Today is my birthday and I just finished writing a post about my continued battles with Time (Monster Dad vs. Time 2: Time and Tide Wait for No Man). As the number of one's birthday increases, the excitement level of the approach of that birthday tends to go down in a proportional way (at least that's been the case for me). But there can certainly be positive things about birthdays, even when one is as old and decrepit as Monster Dad. While doing a little research for other blog and video projects I found myself visiting that faithful old online research tool Google. To my surprise I was greeted with a new Google Doodle that featured the letters of the word "GOOGLE" as candles. And the flames on the "candles" were animated. Also, some of the letters had eyes that moved and/or blinked and one of them was tapping its little foot. It was all pretty cute. I figured that Google must be celebrating some sort of birthday or anniversary and didn't think too much more of it.

But when I put my cursor over the Doodle I saw a highlighted message that read "Happy Birthday, Glen!" OMG, the Doodle was for ME! Google was using my name and birthday to send me a personalized greeting of sorts. How neat! But then again, in a way...how creepy! We put so much information online nowadays, and sometimes we have no idea how our personal information will be used and whether some unscrupulous person/website might collect/buy/steal that information for nefarious purposes. But, hey, it's my birthday. Let's keep this positive and worry about the possibility of identity theft another day. Thanks a lot Google for "thinking" of me on my special day (or, at least thank you for having a special algorithm that simulates the fact that someone over there was thinking about me today). I appreciate it! Or, at least for the most part I appreciate it. I think...




Monster Dad vs. Time 2: Time and Tide Wait for No Man



Well, it looks like it's time (time, get it?) to revisit an old topic. Time* has always been one of my (least) favorite subjects. I wrote about it back in the early days of this blog (Monster Dad vs. Time) in order to kind of introduce the idea of my battles with Time and how much of an influence (positive or, more likely, negative) it has had on my life. It was part of a sort of "get to know Monster Dad" thing I was doing early on in those first posts.

Today is my forty-ninth birthday. A birthday is frequently a time that we (or at least I anyway) find ourselves looking back on our life, and looking forward to think about what remains of that life. I've actually been meaning to write more about Time ever since that initial blog entry way back in 2010. I've also been meaning to write more here at the blog in general. About two-and-a-half months ago I made a bit of a promise to myself (and any readers who might care) to write more than I have been in the past few years. And then...it took me about two-and-a-half months to write again! I can blame some of that on Time and not having enough of it but, to be honest, for the most part it was my own fault.

But anyway, as I mentioned, I wrote about Time and my issues with it eight years ago. Those issues have never gone away, and have in fact become even more complicated as Time has continued to march on. While the idea of writing about Time again has been on my mind for a while, the approach of yet another birthday has finally spurred me on to get some words down on paper (or the screen, as it were). I decided to revisit that old post myself to see what I had written way back when Monster Dad was still a new thing in my life. As it turned out, it was written EXACTLY eight years ago...on my birthday! Back then I was turning forty-one. The blog post actually did a pretty good job of explaining my issues with Time and what life is like for someone in my situation. There's no doubt that I've placed too much emphasis on complaining about and worrying about Time (wasting much precious Time in the process), but it still seemed like a good idea to share my experiences for anyone who might happen to feel the same or similar in some ways. And I suppose it also serves as a bit of some sort of "therapy" for me to share it and "get it out there". Who knows. But whatever the reason, I'm here to talk and complain about Time once again!

Time is a constant. Time is a concept that was invented by man as a way to explain, well, I suppose the only word to describe it is...Time. For whatever reason I have always been acutely aware of the passage of Time, even as a small kid. Despite what I just mentioned about Time being a constant, there have been times where I've definitely felt that Time was moving very slowly. This has generally been while I was sitting in a class in school desperately waiting for it to be over or some similar situation (a watched pot will never boil, a watched clock will never ring to tell you class is FINALLY done). But much more frequently I've felt that Time has moved a lot FASTER than it should be moving. This feeling has only increased as I've grown older. I think that this is generally a pretty common thing for most people. There's a paradox where children feel Time is moving too slowly and adults feel it is moving too quickly (despite the cold, hard facts that tell us it is moving at the same pace ALL THE TIME). I feel that people (like myself) have an inner understanding or sensation of Time that is constant in its own way, but separate from the scientific constant of Time. When we're young we feel Time is moving very slowly. We don't suddenly shift to feeling the opposite when we reach adulthood. Instead, our concept of Time is constantly evolving as we're aging. It slowly increases (at a constant pace) so that it feels a bit "less slow" each year. At some point we actually reach a balance where our sensation of the passage of Time matches up with the actual pace of Time. I don't know when this balance is achieved (Teen years? Early adulthood? Maybe it's different for everyone?), but we don't keep it for long. Just like Time, our sensation of the passage of Time continues to speed up (remember I mentioned it was a constant?). Suddenly we find ourselves wondering "where did the Time go?". That feeling only continues to increase as we continue to age. What causes this to happen? Well, it could be that our young, immature minds are only equipped to deal with Time that way. As we age and our minds develop we are set on an unfortunate course toward not only a better understanding of the world, but also toward a continually faster-paced world. On the other hand...this might all just be something I'm imagining. Either way, I guess that's my theory. It's the best that my mind has been able to come up with to try to explain something so simple yet so complicated as the passage of Time.

Now, let's get back to a more personal level. It's hard to believe that the original Monster Dad vs. Time blog was posted eight years ago today. It's hard to believe that it's taken me this long to revisit the subject. It's also hard to believe--or maybe it shouldn't be based on what I just said above about my crackpot theory on the passage of Time--that it does indeed feel like Time's moving even faster than it was in 2010! At the time I was complaining about the fact that, in addition to being forty-one myself, the Little Monster was five years old. And, the Tiny Beast was already almost one-and-a-half. They seemed to be growing up so fast (too fast)! Jump forward to now and the Little Monster isn't so little anymore. She's less than two months away from being a teenager! And the Beast is nine! A lot has happened in the eight years between these two blog posts, but it really does feel like it has gone by in the blink of an eye.

The lesson to be learned here is probably one that involves me "slowing down" to enjoy things and to stop worrying about Time and how much it seems to be against me. That all sounds well and fine, but it's hard to teach an old dog (or Monster Dad) new tricks. And this whole issue with Time is something that's been with me for close to half a century now. I don't see it going away any time soon.

Here's a final thought that touches on the ravages of Time on a personal level. In the original Monster Dad vs. Time blog I mentioned that I had recently entered my forties. I tried to take comfort in the fact that it was at least the "early-forties". But then a couple years later I found myself in the undeniable land of the "mid-forties". I tried to hold onto that as long as I could before finally admitting I was in my "late-forties". Now I have to jokingly tell everyone (including myself) that this forty-ninth year means that I am indeed STILL in my forties. Even if it's as late as you can get in your "late forties", at least I'm still not FIFTY yet! It's mainly a matter of semantics, but it's still true. But give it another 364 days or so and we'll see where we are...


"Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future"
                                                                         Fly Like an Eagle, by the Steve Miller Band


*As in the original blog post I decided to capitalize the word "Time" when it appears as the subject of this post as if it were a proper name. I figure that Time really is kind of the lead "character" of sorts in this post, and capitalizing it just seems appropriate--even if it's not 100% grammatically correct.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today!


It Was Twenty Years Ago Today!

No, I'm not talking about when Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play (though that was an important day too of course). In this case I'm referring to July 5, 1998. Twenty years ago. And what exactly happened on that date? Well, The Wife (not The Wife at the time of course) and I first met! I generally write about three things here at Monster Dad: stuff from my past when I was a Monster Kid, stuff from today about my own Little Monsters and stuff in general that interests me. But other than occasionally mentioning The Wife in passing I really haven't written about her or our relationship much in my 100+ posts.

Well, this anniversary seemed like a good time to do a little writing about that subject. The day we met wasn't the day we got married (our "real" anniversary), but indeed, if we hadn't MET on July 5, 1998 we wouldn't have ever gotten married! And, possibly more importantly for this blog's existence, we wouldn't have had our two Little Monsters who have been the subject of many posts here as well as the main inspiration for starting Monster Dad in the first place!

I will write more about this day later, but for now I just want to take this opportunity to say Happy 20th Anniversary to The Wife! Without you there wouldn't be an "us", there wouldn't be a Monster Dad and there certainly wouldn't be two very special Little Monsters making our lives so interesting!


HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!


The Mahoning Drive-In Theater (Lehighton, PA)



The Mahoning Drive-In Theater in Lehighton, PA (visit their website and Facebook page for more information) is celebrating its 69th anniversary this year (2018). It was built 70 years ago in 1948 and began operating in 1949. That's a pretty amazing feat. And what's been going on at the Mahoning for the past few seasons has been an even more amazing story. Let's talk about both of those things...

The Mahoning certainly wasn't the first drive-in theater by any means. We just recently celebrated the 85th anniversary of opening of the first true drive-in back on June 6th. That one opened in 1933. But to be able to say that the Mahoning has been in operation since 1949 is indeed quite impressive. At 120 feet wide, it features the largest CinemaScope screen in Pennsylvania. For the first 65 or so years of its existence the Mahoning operated pretty much like most of the other drive-ins around the country. But then something happened that changed the course of the Mahoning and made it something even more special than "just another drive-in" (and I pretty much believe that EVERY drive-in that has managed to simply survive these days is something special).

The golden age of drive-ins in was in the 1950s and '60s. A their peak there were some 4,000 drive-ins across the country. Drive-ins started to decline in the 1970s and '80s (around the time that I first started attending local drive-ins during my youth in Massachusetts). The numbers eventually dwindled from around 4,000 to less than 400. Many factors went into this decline, but drive-ins really became an endangered species. As if things weren't bleak enough, the digital revolution of the past decade ended up putting many drive-ins that had somehow managed to survive out of business. Hollywood had decided to make a full switchover from film prints to digital projection. While a major change for the industry, and an expensive investment for theaters, this didn't really pose too much of a problem for the big multi-screen megaplexes that feature multiple blockbusters on a weekly basis. But single-screen and two-screen drive-ins were already finding it difficult to survive, and to suddenly have to invest about $70,000 per screen to convert their projection booth(s) for the new digital format was the final nail in the coffin for many drive-ins. That's why I believe that ALL the remaining drive-ins are pretty special and it also brings us to the Mahoning's own amazing story.


The Mahoning was one of many drive-ins that struggled with the digital conversion dilemma. They basically had two choices: somehow find a way to raise the money to go digital or shut down. So which choice did the Mahoning make? Neither! Instead they made the bold move of refusing the industry's digital demand and decided to make the switch to (or actually remain) an all-film based business model. This was previously the standard and now it would be the exception. Since the new films from Hollywood would only be available in a digital format the Mahoning went all-retro, showing 35MM prints of older films. Starting with the 2015 season the Mahoning began featuring great themed shows and weekends built around some great, fun and rare 35MM film prints. The idea was kind of slow to catch on at first, and pretty much all the money raised by those early weekends was put directly back into the theater to continue improving all aspects of the business. The dedication, commitment and hard work of the small Mahoning staff has paid off and it has now become a true destination for fans of movies, drive-ins and all sorts of different genres that the Mahoning has spotlighted over the past few seasons. The crowds have steadily grown over the years and it now has a great group of regulars, as well as new people who continue to find it based on an interest in drive-ins as well as all the varied shows they put on. There really is something for everyone!

They even have started a new tradition (2018 marks the fourth year) of starting the season off with a family-friendly double feature of "The Wizard of Oz" and "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory". Those are two great films (and personal favorites), but not really what many of the new followers of the Mahoning might expect from the theater (they're both classics, but a little on the mainstream side). Still, it's a great way to celebrate the start of a new and hopefully successful season (and don't forget, they're not DVDs projected onto the huge screen, they're actual 35MM prints)! There are other family-friendly shows that allow parents to bring their kids to the drive-in and share some of the magic they remember from when they were kids themselves. And there are also shows that are decidedly NOT so family friendly. But there's always a lot of thought and preparation put into all the shows and there is a lot of variety as well. It's not like they only show old 1970s horror films that would have been seen at the drive-ins of those days. They're likely to have a weekend or two like that, but they will also have weekends dedicated to directors like Martin Scorsese and John Carpenter. And other weekends will be filled with films from franchises like "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or featuring the works of Bill Murray. In this 2018 season they have already had some of those shows and others like "Home Run Weekend" (with "A League of Their Own" and the original "Bad News Bears"), "Vampyrty 2018", "Zombiefest IV" (yes, the FOURTH edition!) and a weekend celebrating the works of Italian horror director Umberto Lenzi.

April-June 2018 schedule

A great example of how varied the shows are is this weekend's offering (July 6-7). It's the second installment of the "Drive-In VHS-Fest". Not only will they be featuring six rare horror movies over the two nights, but they will be movies that were mainly released on the defunct technology of VHS videotapes. Remember how I said that the Mahoning was dedicated to screening all kinds of great, fun, old and schlocky movies in 35MM? Well, for this weekend they'll let their classic 35MM projectors take a break and will fill that 120 foot screen with...projections of VHS tapes from an old VCR! In addition there will be an onsite VHS and cult cinema flea market with vendors set up on the drive-in's grounds!



I'm particularly excited about this show because it will be the first time this season I've been able to get to the Mahoning (I live in Massachusetts). In fact it will only be my third visit there and first since October of 2016. The two previous shows I attended were an Indiana Jones double feature in August of 2015 and an awesome six-film "Bigfoot Weekend" in October 2016 (see this post for more information about that show).



I have a friend who lives even further away from the Mahoning than I do (New Hampshire) who's so dedicated to it that he not only takes the drive down to Lehighton most weekends, but he also mans the ticket booth and snack bar while he's there! He has graciously offered to take me along once again for this weekend's show and I can't wait!


Finally, it's very much worth mentioning that the Mahoning's story is so amazing that it has actually been the subject of an award-winning documentary called "At the Drive-In"! I have not had the opportunity to see it yet, but I hope to soon!



SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL DRIVE-IN THEATER!


*Photos used in this post are borrowed from the Mahoning's website and Facebook page and the "At the Drive-In" Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Sparklers on the Fourth of July: The Next Generation


This is actually the third time I've written a blog post about "Sparklers on the Fourth of July". The first two times were in 2011 in Sparklers on the Fourth of July! and Sparklers on the Fourth: Upon Further Review. The goal of the first one was to discuss...well...the topic of...sparklers on the Fourth of July. My intention was pretty simple--to talk about one of my favorite memories of Fourth of July celebrations when I was a kid, namely...running around with sparklers! However, the original blog ended up delving deeper than expected into my memories (or semi-false memories as it turned out) of the big Bicentennial celebration around the Fourth of July in 1976 and I didn't even really discuss the topic of sparklers until the end. And then in the second installment I don't think sparklers were even mentioned! That one was all about the detective work involved in unraveling the mysteries of the mind that were brought up in the first part. So here we are seven years later(!!!), and I think it's finally time to touch on this subject once again...

In July of 2011 The Little Monsters were indeed little. The elder (The Little Monster) was only five years old and the younger (The Beast) had just recently turned two. Seven years later finds them at twelve and nine, respectively. My how time flies. And what a reminder of just how long ago it was when I was a kid myself.

The Little Monster around Memorial Day 2011
The Beast at her first fireworks show July 2011

The Little Monsters celebrating Star Wars Day back in May

In the original Sparklers on the Fourth of July post I talked about how much fun it was as a kid to be given lighted sparklers to run around with. Sometimes we would go to large organized firework displays near our hometown. Other times we'd simply stay home for a barbeque. If we did the latter someone invariably would have a supply of fireworks that would be set off after the sun set and as the mosquitoes were coming out. These fireworks were obviously not of the same caliber as the "professional" displays, but you got to witness them MUCH closer--so they generally seemed every bit as impressive (and even MORE dangerous!). Those pyrotechnics were generally handled by adults (or at least teenaged relatives who SEEMED like adults to my seven-year-old self). But that's not to say there wasn't ANYTHING dangerous for the kids to handle! We had sparklers--little metal wands with a silver/grey coating that would let off a shower of relatively safe sparks when lit. Of course you DID need to handle matches or a lighter to ignite those sparks, but that's beside the point. It doesn't take much to entertain a little kid (or at least it didn't take much back in the '70s before we had all these handheld devices that put the world at your fingertips). I can still recall the feeling of magic and power I felt when those sparks started flying. The visual experience wasn't much different from what it looked like watching a welder at work--except that you wouldn't wear goggles to protect your eyes and thick leather gloves to protect your hands. Nope, there was apparently no need to protect anything. You'd run around shirtless and shoeless, wearing cut-off jean shorts while those sparks glittered all around you. You certainly didn't want to touch that hot metal stick during or after the show, but otherwise there were few concerns. Not only could a kid try to write his/her name in the dark or pretend to be some sort of magician or wizard, but you got to feel like you really were part of the celebration and participate in it.

Indicative of what I (in the middle) might have worn while playing with sparklers

But a funny thing happened not long after those great old days. The Fourth of July would still roll around every year of course, but for some strange reason I kept getting older as each one arrived. Before you knew it I was an adult I became one of the ones who would be responsible (or irresponsible) for setting off the family firework display; The one who would drive to the place where we'd watch the big-time firework displays; The one who would comfort a Little Monster who was afraid of the noise made by those firework displays... Eventually I noticed how that gradual change over time had completely altered how I experienced the Fourth of July. I began to miss the innocent magic and wonder I felt as a kid. I missed being the one who took it all in as a new experience. ...I missed the sparklers!

Fireworks have always been a bit of a fringe thing, legal-wise. They seem like a family-friendly, fun and exciting product geared toward enhancing a Fourth of July celebration and other occasions. But on the other hand...they also contain gunpowder! Fireworks are currently illegal in Massachusetts (where we live) as well as in many other states. You're not SUPPOSED to buy, own or set off fireworks in our state. But... They're legal in nearby New Hampshire and other places. There's really nothing stopping you from driving to one of those areas where they are legal, purchasing them and bringing them stealthily back to your home to set off in your back yard. The first few years that the Little Monster experienced the Fourth of July she was pretty frightened by big firework displays (mainly because of the noise). That's not uncommon of course. But I remember thinking about how much fun I had always had using sparklers and was lamenting the fact that kids didn't get to use them any more. Despite how minor a threat they posed they were still under the umbrella of "fireworks"--and thus illegal. I felt bad that the Little Monsters were growing up in a world where they couldn't experience the thrill of running around with a lit sparkler in their hands, with the constant knowledge that in addition to being fun and exciting they were also kinda-sorta dangerous!

The good news is that The Monsters WERE finally able to get the sparkler experience a number of years back when my sister and brother-in-law supplied them with some during one of their Fourth of July celebrations. My brother-in-law was a big fan of taking the trip to New Hampshire and loading up on tons of fun and dangerous fireworks to shoot off. Suddenly it was like the old days again--the adults throwing caution to the wind and setting off all sorts of loud and colorful pyrotechnics, while a new generation of kids started running around with lit sparklers in their hands. I suppose one could almost see sparklers as a sort of "gateway drug" to the world of fireworks.

And now we find ourselves in 2018. A couple months ago The Wife and I went on an overnight hiking adventure in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. New Hampshire? What did I say earlier about New Hampshire? Something about fireworks being legal there? Well, we didn't go to a firework store, but we DID stop at a highway rest stop/service area to relieve ourselves. And while perusing the souvenirs at a convenience store there I spotted this "All-American Fireworks Assortment"!



Now, calling these items "Fireworks" is going a bit far, but it DID have a number of old-school kid favorites that I remember loving back in my old Monster Kid days of yore. Not only are there a few boxes of the coveted sparklers, but it also includes some of those champagne bottle "party poppers" (better than being a "party pooper", eh?), a box of Bang Snaps that you throw on the ground and three boxes of those little black cylinders you place on the ground, ignite and watch smoky black "snakes" "grow" out of! I loved ALL of those things as a kid! And now I would be able to share them all with the Little Monsters!

Well, now it's the Fourth of July, and it's finally time to pull out that "All-American Fireworks Assortment". We're staying at The Wife's parents' house over the holiday (which just happens to be near the New Hampshire border by the way...). As tame as my "Firework Assortment" already seemed before, it's now even more of a lightweight. That's because The Wife's brother took the short trek up to New Hampshire a couple days ago and bought a few REAL fireworks--as well as LOTS of additional sparklers in different colors and styles. Looks like we're going to have a real, honest-to-goodness Fourth of July celebration like the ones I remember from my youth!



Here are The (not so) Little Monsters enjoying some pre-Fourth sparkler fun a couple days ago. I was a bit nervous about them running around the campfire with lit sparklers while wearing nothing but their bathing suits. But then I remembered what I mentioned earlier about how I'd do the exact same thing shirtless and shoeless in cut-off jean shorts. I guess it really IS time to pass this fun and slightly-dangerous tradition on to a new generation!


The remnants the next morning

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!


Sunday, June 17, 2018

The 2018 State of the Blog Address



Alright, so what will this blog be all about? Well, to be honest, I'm not exactly sure myself. It will cover a lot of ground and go on for quite some time. It's more than likely going to be pretty boring for most readers. While this might not be the best angle for a blog writer to take, I suppose that this entry will mostly be for myself. I'd love for others to read it, but I'm kind of looking at it as an exercise in reflection, and maybe even a bit of self-directed therapy. Please allow me to explain before I go totally off the rails and start REALLY rambling! And, now that I think of it, this post really IS going to ramble quite a bit. So, why don't I try to give it at least a little bit of a sense of structure. Let's split it up into three easy segments (which I probably won't completely stick to): The Past, The Present and The Future:


THE PAST

I started writing Monster Dad way back in 2010 when I left my job to stay at home with our two young daughters. I had never done anything like a blog before (and hadn't really even WRITTEN anything in general outside of school assignments) and it was kind of exciting to find a "creative" outlet that I could use to help me put my thoughts down on "paper" and kind of share the new experience of being a stay-at-home dad. Well, a stay-at-home dad who also really likes old monster movies and related stuff. I ended up writing a lot about myself as well as about the kids. It really did become a great place for me to express (even if mostly for myself) a lot of the nostalgic feelings I had about my childhood and how I wanted to share some of the magic of being a kid with my own kids.

Having never written much of anything or even being a "writer" per se, I found it exciting to give this new enterprise a shot and was kind of surprised to find that the ideas for blogs generally came to me pretty easily and I was able to turn many of the ideas in my head into actual blog posts. The first post on Monster Dad (Who is Monster Dad?) was published just over eight years ago on June 2, 2010 (EIGHT YEARS!). This State of the Blog Address was supposed to coincide with the anniversary of that post, but like usual, I'm late in getting around to it.

Once I got rolling I found that the writing part of the blog came relatively easily to me. Now, that's not so say that I'm a great (or even good) writer by any means, but I WAS able to write some stuff and publish it here on the blog. For me that was an accomplishment--even if nobody else would see it. Slowly I was able to kind of establish a style and managed to figure out a way to do a little SEO (search engine optimization) work to get the blog seen by a few people here any there beyond my little circle of friends and relatives. A couple posts even managed to find an audience. I wouldn't go so far as to say any of them went viral or anything, but some did manage to achieve hundreds--and in some cases even thousands--of hits per day at one point.

I was able to write on a pretty regular basis. From June 2010 through the end of the year I managed to get 23 posts published. 2011 was the first full year of Monster dad and remains my most productive year ever with 62 posts (that's more than one per week for the entire year!). In 2012 we moved from the small town where The Little Monsters were born to the big city (or at least just outside of a big city--Boston). I managed to write 35 posts that year, but that really was the "beginning of the end" as it were. Over the next five years (2013-2017) I only managed to publish a grand total of eleven posts. That's only about an average of two per year (and remember, I just mentioned that in 2011 I was writing an average of more than one post per WEEK). And that includes the fact that I wrote exactly ZERO posts in 2014. So what happened?


THE PRESENT

My definition of "The Present" here is probably a bit generous. I'm going to look at just what happened between 2013 and now that caused my not-so-recent lack of production and then try to look with a hopeful eye toward the future. Our move in September of 2012 was indeed a bit of a life-changing event. But to be honest, I should have actually had MORE time to continue writing Monster Dad than less. The Little Monster (elder daughter) was going into first grade and the following year The Beast (younger daughter) started preschool. I actually wound up with more time on my hands while still remaining a stay-at-home parent. So why DID the posts come to a sudden and almost complete stop? Did the novelty of writing the blog wear off? Did I find myself with a case of writer's block or burnout or some such thing? Did I simply lose interest and move on to other things, as seems to frequently be the case with some part-time bloggers? Well, no. The strange thing is that I am STILL to this day interested in writing these blog posts. I've had ideas in my head from 2010 that I've never managed to write down (type out) but which still bubble up from time to time just begging to be written about. And new ideas still pop into my head on a regular basis. Some stick in my head and some end up being forgotten about (hopefully only temporarily). To this day I still find myself taking a photo with my camera or phone with the idea that it will be part of a future post. And my mind still works in the same way when an idea pops into my head. I generally don't take any notes or sketch the framework of a post out (I suppose I'd probably be a better writer all around if I DID, but that's another story). I simply take the idea and basically "write" nearly the whole thing in my head before sitting down to type it out in the Blogger New Post window. Some changes are obviously made during the actual writing phase, but most of the ideas are fully fleshed out in my head before writing (typing) anything down. And that process has indeed continued over these past few (or more than a few) years. I simply haven't managed to get to the sitting down at the computer part that makes it all real. So I guess the good news is that the desire is still there. And that begs the question, just WHY am I NOT writing down and publishing all these brilliant ideas? Good question. And I'm happy to say that I actually have a pretty valid reason for most of that lack of output. And that reason has a name: YouTube.

Back when I first left my full-time job to stay at home with the Monsters full time I not only started writing Monster Dad (and later The TV Guide Time Machine--my even more neglected second blog), but also started throwing a few random videos up on YouTube to see if I would become the next viral video star (or at least have a video show up on America's Funniest Home Videos). Well, that didn't happen. But, at one point I decided to make a video about the military ration MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat). Strangely enough, some people watched it...and asked for more. I discovered there were people out there besides myself that had an interest in military rations. An audience grew and I found myself making more videos for the slowly but surely growing number of viewers. Eventually producing videos took precedence over writing blogs. That trend continues to this day (the channel currently has over 62.000 subscribers and 11 million total video views--numbers that dwarf anything at Monster Dad). The funny thing is that when I started making the videos I was still trying to concentrate on the blog. I reviewed one MRE on one of those days when the end of the world was predicted ("Judgment Day" or the "Rapture" of May 21, 2011). While it was a review of an MRE, I actually used it mainly to illustrate a blog post about the day called It's the End of the World as We Know it and I Feel Full. In fact, now that I think about it, there were a few of those early videos that were actually meant to be part of a blog post rather than being standalone videos on their own. These include one of my most watched videos (Using a Vintage Rotary Dial Telephone), which can be seen in the blog post Resurrecting the Past: Rotary Dial Telephone, and the video of the Monroeville Mall that appears in the post A Visit to the Monroeville Mall (Dawn of the Dead).

But it didn't take long for the MRE reviews to take on a life of their own. Suddenly all of my "free time" was spent filming, editing, posting and monitoring the stats of the YouTube videos. It was a rather sudden shift that I never consciously intended to happen. Filming ration review videos was a very different realm for me after all the writing I did about my kids and my own childhood. But I do have to say that (odd as it might sound) military rations have also been a lifelong interest for me. Once I got approved for Google AdSense (ads that appear before videos which generate revenue for both the advertiser AND the content creator) my switch to concentrating almost exclusively on the YouTube videomaking was complete. I should actually say that I was "re-approved" for AdSense after having my account disabled for a number of years. While I put the ads on both the YouTube videos and the blogs, the only real money generated was coming from the video side. And that more or less gets us up to date with "the present". There's a LOT more I could say here, but I can see this post growing and growing and I do kind of want to wrap things up before any readers find themselves falling asleep or cursing me for taking up such a huge chunk of their day. So, now we find ourselves looking into...


THE FUTURE

As with The Present, this section is kind of elastic. We'll definitely be touching on stuff from the past here as well as looking ahead. But I think the starting point for the future is indeed the present. And the state of the blog in this present time of June 2018 probably doesn't look very healthy (recall that 11 posts over five years stat?). Last month I posted a short blog that commemorated the fact that it had been a whole year since the last post! Why am I so energetically touting my lack of production? Well, it's because I honestly and truly WANT to be more productive. I'm sitting here writing a super-long blog post about how I never write any blog posts anymore. Let's wallow  in the sad facts a little longer before (hopefully) wrapping things up on a good note.

The first State of the Blog post was written in all the way back in June of 2012. I commemorated the first anniversary of the blog with a Happy Anniversary post to it in 2011. In 2012 I decided to borrow the idea of a State of the Blog Address from the U.S. government. The idea was that I'd write one each year around the blog's anniversary to kind of hash out whatever was going on and update anything that seemed worth updating. But...that first address in 2012 (six years ago) was until now the ONLY State of the Blog Address I ever wrote. It's always one of those blogs that I mentioned are pretty much constantly in my head waiting to be typed into existence. I also remember writing Getting Around To It... back in August 2012. It was centered around the wood "Round Tuit" that my mom sent me when I was in the Army in the 80s to remind me to write home more often. I decided to use that bit of my history to inspire me to write more blog posts. That worked out well, eh?


One final thing to think about as I once again try to kickstart my writing is the fact that the Little Monsters were about six and three years old when I basically stopped writing. Six years later they're TWELVE and NINE! The main stated purpose of Monster Dad was to write about my experience raising the Monsters and relating stories about their childhood. Suddenly they're not such little monsters anymore. That's one of the things that I regret most about my unplanned hiatus. There are tons of stories about my own past that I want to write, and those can be written anytime. But childhood is a fleeting thing, and I can't believe how fast The Little Monsters are growing up and growing out of childhood. I covered my issues with the passage of time in one of my first posts all the way back in 2010 (Monster Dad vs. Time). I still have many issues with time and IF I can manage to get back into writing that will probably be a topic that will be revisited.

There have been a number of times when I genuinely wanted to restart the blog and make it a regular part of my life again. But it was just too easy to put it off with the intention to get to it "later". I have to say that "later" has to be now. The funny thing is that I'm actually in a transition phase in my life now where I'm looking toward the end of my time as a stay-at-home dad. Changes in employment status in our family and the fact that the Monsters are getting older have led to the point where I really need to get back into the working world on a full-time basis. So, as I'm stating my desire to write more I'm actually in the midst of a job search which, if successful, will leave me with LESS time to write than I've ever had since the inception of Monster Dad! But it's still something I want to do. Last month I found myself feeling incredibly helpless when I discovered that the subject of a blog I've been intending to write for at least five years had died. Jerry Maren was the last surviving Munchkin from the Wizard of Oz" (or at least the last of the "little people" that had portrayed Munchkins). I wrote about the Munchkins (in a way) in another of my early blogs (Unemployed Munchkins) in August 2010. When I found out that Ruth Duccini had passed away in January of 2014 I knew that it was time to finally write a blog about Jerry Maren which had been floating around in my head for a while. The significance was that when Ruth died, Jerry became the last of the Munchkins. I had a brush with him in 2006 that I always intended to write about. For four years he was the last of the Munchkins and I always intended to write about him while he was still alive. Every once in a while I'd Google him just to ensure that he was still with us. The blog I wanted to write was, once again, pretty much written in my head. But I never managed to get it written (typed) down. And now Jerry is gone. Sound familiar?

So here I am in June 2018, writing a post that I intended to write back in January when Donald Trump gave his State of the Union address. I've been wanting to write more for some time now. And I guess that I'm hoping writing this pitiful account of why I haven't been writing will help me to finally get "around to it". Will this attempt be successful? Only time will tell. The State of the Blog is...hopeful?

Stay Tuned


Friday, May 25, 2018

Happy Birthday to "Star Wars Plus 40 Years"!

 



Well, it WAS a long time ago (relatively speaking), but certainly in this galaxy. Okay, so this is admittedly a rather odd blog post, with a rather odd reason for posting it (and it really has nothing to do with Star Wars). Please allow me to explain. I have been VERY lax about writing blog posts for the past five years or so. Every once in a great while something will happen (the 40th anniversary of the release of "Star Wars", the death of Leonard Nimoy, the 30th anniversary of the release of "Back to the Future", just to give a few examples) that cause me to waken me from my deep blog slumber and post something new. But the rare posts I've managed to put up don't change the fact that I've only written eleven posts (not counting this one) since the beginning of 2013. A loyal reader would reasonably assume that I've simply given up, stopped writing altogether, moved on... died? Well, Monster Dad is still very much alive--at least for the moment.

The strange thing is that I really HAVEN'T simply "moved on" or anything like that. The blog has always remained on my mind. I still have many ideas running through my head that I honestly intend to put down on paper (by which I mean typing on the laptop of course). New blog ideas continue to pop into my head on a regular basis. I simply never seem to find (or make) the time to get them up on the site. Which brings us to this particular odd post. I've been planning on getting back to the writing thing for quite some time. In fact I actually NEVER intended to STOP writing--it just kind of happened. Hopefully there will be another post coming up soon that will go over this topic in even more detail and (with any luck) serve as an official return of Monster Dad. I knew that it had been a long time since the last post I made. I also remembered that it was the "Star Wars Plus 40 Years" post from last year. But I decided to see just how long it had been and was kind of shocked to see that it was exactly one year ago today that it went up (May 25, 2017)!

Well, after recovering from finding out that sad bit of information about my lack of productivity, I figured that the thing to take out of that was the fact that the "Star Wars Plus 40 Years" post was a year old. So, Happy First Birthday to that old story! Let me see if I can do something about keeping something like this happening again. Finding out that your "latest" blog post is a year old isn't exactly something to celebrate, is it?

MORE TO COME(?)

Stay Tuned...

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Star Wars Plus 40 Years



A Long Time Ago indeed!

Today marks forty (40!) years since "Star Wars" (also known as "Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope", but it'll always be "Star Wars" to me) was released.  Forty years...  That might not be that much time in relation to how long ago the events in that Galaxy Far, Far Away took place, but to me it's a long time.  I was seven years old when "Star Wars" came out, and to be honest I had no real idea about it for some time afterward.  I remember going to see it well after the release date.  It was a small local theater (which is now a parking lot for a bank) and the line for tickets stretched out the door and around the block (obviously Star Wars mania had really sunk in!).  I also remember it being very cold outside.  It may not have been the winter of 1977-78, but was probably close (maybe November?).  For years (decades even) I thought I had seen "Star Wars" at our little town's drive-in during the summer of 1977.  But years later, while I was researching the topic for another blog entry, I realized that it never even played at our drive-in in 1977.  It turns out that I didn't see it there until it was re-released for the summer of 1978!  I remember sitting in the back of my dad's truck and playing with my little R2-D2 and C3PO action figures while watching the film.

Local drive-in's newspaper ad from July 1978

It's kind of hard to fathom in this era of mega-blockbusters constantly churning out of Hollywood (like the continuous flow of superhero films of the past decade or so), but there was a time when the idea of a summer blockbuster was a new idea.  When "Star Wars" came out it had only been two years since "Jaws" pretty much invented the idea of a summer blockbuster upon its release in 1975.  Nowadays we breathlessly await new teaser trailers and "leaked" information for months (even years it seems) before hotly anticipated movies are released.  But I don't think anyone really knew back in May of 1977 just what "Star Wars" would ultimately mean to the world.  It didn't take too long for it to catch fire, but in the beginning it really was kind of an unknown film by a relatively little-known director.  The film was pretty different for its time, and of course, for many years afterward we were treated to all kinds of movies that were either direct rip-offs of "Star Wars", or at least borrowed liberally from it or were obviously inspired by it.  I am extremely happy to have been a little kid at that time, and to have experienced everything that "Star Wars" was and everything that it would become right from the beginning.

Could anyone have guessed that forty years later we would be about six months away from the release of the eighth film in the nine-part series?  And that there would have been another film outside of the "official" line released in 2016 ("Rogue One") that bridged the time between the third and fourth parts ("Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" and "Episode IV -- A New Hope")?  And how about the fact that Star Wars had become such a "force" in the world that it would end up being owned by Disney?  Probably not, but it didn't take the world (and this seven-year-old) too long to realize it had something special on its hands.

I didn't really know a ton about science-fiction at that time.  I liked it, but wouldn't say I was a real "fan" of it yet.  I had grown up (well, actually, I was STILL growing up) watching all kinds of monster/horror/science fiction films on a Saturday afternoon show broadcast from Boston's WLVI Channel 56 called Creature Double Feature.  Syndicated episodes of the original "Star Trek" series was also a staple of my childhood TV viewing.  I was certainly primed for what "Star Wars" would show me.  But I wasn't really anticipating it.  It just happened.  And I just happened to be the perfect age to soak it all in.  It certainly didn't hurt that "Star Wars" really redefined the idea of movie merchandising not long after its release.  By the time "The Empire Strikes Back" came out in 1980 I was a full-on Star Wars fan!  I had a number (but certainly not ALL) of the action figures and toys, and was a regular collector of all those different colored series of "Star Wars" trading cards.  Actually, I remember a shocking moment from my youth that was caused by those trading cards.  I was collecting the "Empire Strikes Back" cards before ever getting a chance ot see the film, and I didn't really know much about the story line at the time.  When I saw the card of Han Solo frozen in carbonite I was convinced that he was actually dead!  I couldn't believe it.  Strange that some 35+ years later we would have to deal with the death of Han Solo for real...  Oh well, I digress.  We're here to talk about what happened in 1977.

Empire Strikes Back card no.97

To be honest, I don't think I can really add a lot to what has already been written about the Star Wars universe in the past forty years (can you imagine just how much HAS been written--including scripts, film reviews, interviews, comic book adaptations, book adaptations, new series of books taking the characters to all sorts of new adventures, magazine articles, blog posts...  It boggles the mind!), but I really couldn't let this milestone pass without recognizing it.  I'm not really sure what the world at large thinks of this anniversary.  It doesn't seem to be as big of a deal as I was expecting it to be.  And I've been waiting for a few weeks for it too--ever since I mistakenly thought that May 4th (better known as Star Wars Day) was the date of the anniversary instead of today.  I was shocked and dismayed to not see ANY promotion of the fact that Star Wars was turning 40.  Once I realized my mistake (and written about it) I started preparing for today.  I was expecting to see a wonderful and imaginative Google doodle, but was disappointed to see this instead:



Now, I'm certainly not saying that there isn't ANYTHING out there about the 40th anniversary.  Obviously old people like me want to remember the world of 1977 and their introduction to "Star Wars", and many websites and companies want to take advantage of the opportunity to commemorate the event.  Of course StarWars.com had a ton of coverage, and I'm sure all the fan forums and blogs have been busy with anniversary stuff.  But it just doesn't feel like as big of a celebration as I had expected.  Maybe, just maybe (not to start a conspiracy theory or anything), could Disney itself actually want to downplay the fact that its prized franchise has hit middle age so as to not allow it to seem "old" or "dated" in some way?  Star Wars will always appeal to young people (I would imagine) and there's no reason to make kids of today aware of the fact that their parents (maybe even grandparents) were going to see the original "Star Wars" FORTY YEARS AGO!  Okay, I'm sure that has nothing to do with anything, but it's an interesting idea.  I can't deny the fact that saying "Star Wars" premiered forty years ago not only makes me feel nostalgic, but it also makes me feel a bit old.

From starwars.com

Either way, it DID indeed happen forty years ago.  A lot has changed in the world over that time, and Star Wars has managed to remain a vital and relevant part of pop culture.  Despite the fact that there was a long dry spell in the Star Wars film universe between the release of "Return of the Jedi" and "The Phantom Menace" (1983-1999) and then another long wait between "Revenge of the Sith" and "The Force Awakens" (2005-2015), Star Wars has managed to stay in the public's eye all these years.   Once "The Last Jedi" is released in December there will have been eight films released over these forty years.  I know they haven't been released on a regular schedule, but still, that's an average of one movie every five years!  And that's not even including "Rogue One"!  Not a bad output at all.  Of course I'm only talking about the official movies from the nine-part saga that George Lucas supposedly envisioned from the beginning.  That leaves out not only "Rogue One", but also myriad other stuff in the media like the re-releases, special editions of the films, multiple home video releases (first on VHS, then DVD, Blu-ray and digital formats), all the novels and other books, the comics and graphic novels, waves upon waves of toys and other official merchandise, animated series like "Droids" and "The Clone Wars", and even..."The Star Wars Holiday Special"!  It would seem that Star Wars has been with us constantly in one form or another for the past forty years.  And it all started with that one little unknown space movie that was released on May 25, 1977.


Let's finish up with a few relevant images related to this auspicious day...


Here's a story from today at io9.gizmodo.com



Here's one of the MANY articles at starwars.com today

My old Stormtrooper from when I was a kid...

...Which accompanied me to "Rogue One" last December

Facebook reminded me today that I posted this on this day back in 2011




 The above image was taken at Star Wars Day at the Higgins Armory in Worcester, MA on May 25, 2011.  We were able to meet and greet a bunch of Star Wars characters there.  Here's the post I wrote back then about that special day:



MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU


Thursday, May 4, 2017

May the 4th be With You (2017)


Image from StarWars.com


May the 4th be With You!

Or... May the Fourth be With You! (your choice)


So, why have I decided to write a post on May 4th?  Well, obviously it's Star Wars Day!  But beyond that there's another reason for the ever more reclusive Monster Dad to crawl out of the abyss to write something new.  Despite being what I think would be considered by most to be a pretty dedicated Star Wars fan, I have to admit to a little bit of a lapse on my part.  "Star Wars" (or what I suppose should be termed "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope"--even though it will always be "Star Wars" to me) was released back in May of 1977.  That means that this month marks the 40th (FORTIETH!) anniversary of the Star Wars universe!  That's a pretty big milestone.  So, what was the lapse on my part that caused me to write this post?

Well, I had forgotten that "Star Wars Day", which occurs every May 4th, is a fan-generated holiday that has nothing to do with Star Wars (in an official sense).  It has become a big enough event that many official Star Wars entities (Lucasfilm, Disney...) have been more than happy to cash in on the phenomenon, but it really doesn't have anything to do with Star Wars in any real way beyond the fact that saying "May the 4th be with you" sounds a heck of a lot like saying "May the Force be with you".  But since Star Wars Day has become such a notable day and it happens to fall in May I had kinda-sorta started thinking that May 4th was the day that "A New Hope" was released in 1977.  No need to bombard me with comments about how stupid I am to think such an erroneous thing, or how can I consider myself a Star Wars fan with thinking like that.  I am here humbly admitting my mistake.  Yes, the original "Star Wars" was released on May 25th, 1977.

But...  Since I woke up this morning and put on my Star wars t-shirt thinking that today was the 40th anniversary, I was pretty dumbfounded by the lack of media overkill on the subject.  Last September Star Trek celebrated its 50th anniversary with much media coverage.  Obviously a fiftieth anniversary is a bigger deal than a fortieth anniversary.  But I'd also argue that, despite the J.J. Abrams-ization of Star Trek, Star Wars is a bit more of a media darling in general (especially with the new Disney ownership, the current annual release schedule of new Star Wars films, the build-up to this year's "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" and, well okay, the J.J. Abrams-ization of the franchise).  So I was shocked to discover that there really wasn't much being said about this big milestone.  Google is always a good sport about noting big anniversaries and events (and the searches that are bound to be big on those days) with special Google Doodles (some of which are even animated) and which will bring you directly to search results of whatever subject they're commemorating.  I've used examples of these Google Doodles in previous posts on subjects like the 46th anniversary of Star Trek and Amelia Earhart's 115th birthday.  I was very confused when I went to Google only to find the most generic Google homepage one could imagine:

Today's Google homepage


I was also stunned to go to the Yahoo! homepage after checking out of my email, only to find NO stories trending about Star Wars!  Luckily StarWars.com was able to set me straight on the subject.  I actually realized my mistake when I went to IMDb and found the correct release date, but StarWars.com was able to give me more information on the origins of Star Wars Day (May 4th).

IMDb had a special section for Star Wars Day


Today's banner at StarWars.com

StarWars.com's history of Star Wars Day


And when all was said (and written) and done, the day wasn't a total wash.  I WAS able to publish a new blog post--which is saying something these days.  And I was also able to snag a great Star Wars-related deal!  If there's one thing I like even better than Star Wars, it's getting a great deal.  And, if that deal is Star Wars-related in some way it's even better.  One of the few references I saw to Star Wars Day before realizing my mistake was an email from 80sTees.com about their one-day-only May The "One Fourth" Be With You sale.

Images from 80sTees.com's sale


I've been a fan of the retro offerings from 80sTees.com for some time now and get regular emails from them about current sales.  But I rarely purchase anything from them--both because the sale prices are usually still more than this cheapskate is willing to spend, and also because I rarely feel that I'm hip enough to be able to pull off actually wearing some of the great designs they offer.  But this "One-Fourth" sale wasn't one-fourth (25%) off of over 100 Star Wars products.  No, in this sale all the merchandise for sale was going for only one-fourth of the regular price (75% off!).  Add in the free shipping once you hit the $25.00 threshold and I simply couldn't resist.  I decided to celebrate Star Wars Day (and arm myself for the upcoming 40th anniversary of Star Wars) with two cool Star Wars t-shirts and a VERY cool-looking Boba Fett bomber jacket.  The list price on these items was $112.68, but I was able to get them all for just $28.16--and that put me over the free shipping threshold too.  Bonus!  Check out my loot:

A New Hope shirt
Rebel Alliance shirt


Boba Fett Bomber Jacket - Front
Boba Fett Bomber Jacket - Back