Archive for March, 2010

The 10 Strangest and Most AWESOME Choose Your Own Adventure books

Posted in books, pop culture with tags , , on March 31, 2010 by Paxton

At the end of last week I talked about the genesis of the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Doing that research I stumbled across a bunch of my old books as well as a bunch of other books from Demian’s Gamebook Website that were, to say the least, wacky. I had forgotten some of the books even existed. It is amazing all of the different zany and offbeat stories and book covers you can find in all of these books.

Today, let’s take a look at 10 of the strangest and most awesome Choose Your Own Adventure books.

Mystery of the Secret Room (via Demian’s Gamebooks)
#63 Mystery of the Secret Room (1986) – Could they have come up with a more boring or generic name? How about Secret of the Mystery Room?  Room of the Mystery Secret?  And is it just me or does this cover look familiar?  Maybe JK Rowling borrowed this title for her second Potter book and the artwork for her third Potter book.  Generic mystery/secret + noun titles abound in this series.  Check out #141 The Secret of Mystery Hill.

Ninja Cyborg
#155 Ninja Cyborg (1995) – Yes, AWESOME! I don’t see how the story could live up to the bad ass title and cover but I give Jay Leibold credit for totally going there. A cyborg that is also a ninja.  This exists and it is bad ass.  Question: Am I the ninja cyborg or am I fighting the ninja cyborg? Points taken away if I’m fighting the ninja cyborg, but points given back if I’m also a bad ass ninja master.  Who’s the dude in the blue tights in the background?

Search for Mountain Gorillas (via Demian’s Gamebooks)
#41 Search for Mountain Gorillas (1985) – When I’m grabbing a book for a choose your own adventure, the last thing I want to read about is the majestic mountain gorilla. Unless, of course, said gorilla is a super strong mutant gorilla that has gone insane and started murdering a bunch of campers and/or scientists. THAT is a gorilla I want to read about.  Unfortunately, this is not the case here. This is, essentially, the novelization to the movie Gorillas in the Mist starring Sigourney Weaver.  And I cannot fathom ever wanting to read that.  EVER.

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The Origin of the Choose Your Own Adventure books

Posted in books, nostalgia, pop culture with tags , , , , on March 25, 2010 by Paxton

You're Going to Die CYOA
(via Something Awful)

I grew up loving Choose Your Own Adventure books. All of the different series were fun; Find Your Fate, Time Machine, Which Way. They all had interesting stories, some of them completely insane, and were fun to read. Shawn over at Branded in the ’80s has been reviewing a bunch of his off the wall, zany Find Your Fate books and it got me excited to finish this article I started over a year ago.  Let’s take a look at how the whole “Choose Your Own Adventure” genre started.  And, surprisingly, it started with one man, Edward Packard.

While telling stories to his kids, author Edward Packard came up with the idea of writing a book that the reader chooses how the story progresses.  In 1969 he would take this idea and write Sugarcane Island. Packard, at first, could not find a publisher who would print the book. However, in 1976, Vermont Crossroads Press bought it and printed the book which is now considered one of the first gamebooks ever published.

Sugarcane Island adv of you Sugarcane island which way Sugarcane Island cyoa
(via Demian’s Gamebook Page)

For the first printing, Sugarcane Island was released under the banner, The Adventures of You (on left). Its plot has you, the reader, aboard a ship that is wrecked by a huge wave and you must survive on an isolated and very dangerous island.  After being published in the Adventures of You series, Sugarcane Island was published under the Which Way banner (middle) in 1982.  Then, in 1986, it would finally come under the popular Choose Your Own Adventure banner (right), which was created by Packard.

After Sugarcane Island, Packard published two more stand-alone gamebooks called Third Planet From Altair and Deadwood City.  The first was a Sci-Fi adventure giving the reader the task of determining the origin of extraterrestrial messages.  The second was a western casting the reader as a drifter into the town of Deadwood City looking for a job and finding adventure.  Neither of these stand alone gamebooks were as popular as Sugarcane Island.  Even though these two books were stand-alone, they both contain the phrase “choose your own adventure” on their covers and are considered the “unofficial” beginning of Packard’s Choose Your Own Adventure series.  Both Deadwood City and Third Planet from Altair would be reprinted under the Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) banner years later.

Deadwood City Third Planet from Altair
(via Demian’s Gamebook Page)

A separate writer, RA Montgomery, wrote a second book in the Adventures of You series called A Journey Under the Sea in 1977. Subsequently, this was to be the last book in the series, however it would also be reprinted under the CYOA banner.

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“Who’s tha Masta?!”: Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon is 25 years old today

Posted in 80s, movies, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , on March 22, 2010 by Paxton

The Last Dragon poster

On March 22, 1985, Columbia/Tri-Star released Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon in theaters. It was a critical failure, but a financial success. Even today, the film is considered a cult classic. The story of “Bruce” Leroy and his arch enemy “Sho Nuff” have captivated audiences for 25 years.  Man, a lot of my favorite movies (Empire Strikes Back, Back to the Future, Young Guns) are celebrating their 25-30 year anniversaries this year and it’s really starting to make me feel old.

Sho Nuff(via Brass Knuckle B)
Bruce Leroy(via The Synopsis)

I saw it in the theater when it was released in 1985 and I loved it. I watched it again the other night to celebrate this 25th anniversary and I still love the movie. Obviously Julius Carry nearly steals the entire movie as Sho Nuff, but Taimak plays Bruce Leroy Green brilliantly and it’s great to see Ernie Reyes Jr in a small role as one of Leroy’s students.

The action is fun and characters are over the top, but it’s your typical tongue-in-cheek ’80s action comedy.  Vanity, who plays Laura Charles, could have been any semi-famous pop star of the time and Leroy’s brother is your typical annoying little brother.  What makes the movie for me is the final showdown between Leroy and Sho Nuff.  It’s a great battle and one I could enjoy over and over.  I mean, Sho-Nuff’s pimpin’ red tiger karate outfit might be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.  EVER.

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9 Reasons why playgrounds back in the day were more AWESOME than today’s playgrounds

Posted in Americana, nostalgia, pop culture with tags , , , on March 19, 2010 by Paxton

Playland USA

Public playgrounds today are a bastion of nauseating safeness. Everything’s bolted to the ground and made of plastic. Slides are never higher than about 5-6 feet. Swings are engineered in a way that they can’t be swung scarily 10 feet into the air (how do they do that?). It’s all just so safe and boring.

When I was growing up, and even before that in the ’60s and ’70s, the playground was not only unsafe, it might possibly kill you. Everything was made of steel held together by sharp metal rivets and slides towered over 20 feet high oftentimes curly cue-ing around 3 or 4 times. It was awesome and it was insane at the same time.  It was awe-sane!!

I was looking at pictures on Flickr and I came across a group that had pictures of vintage playground equipment.  People had even posted scans of old catalogs featuring enormous metal constructs that were sold to be put on public playgrounds.  So, taking pictures from that vintage playground Flickr site, let’s take a look at how playgrounds from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s are much more unbelievably bad ass than playgrounds are today.

Tire Mountain Tire Wall
Tire Swing buried tire
1. Stuff made from tires – Back in the ’70s, half of the playground consisted of stuff made with discarded tires. All you needed was some wood, metal chains, giant friggin’ nails and a few tires.  Chain a tire to a wood frame, you got a tire swing. Nail like 10 tires together and fasten them to another wood frame, you have a climbing wall. Hell, just take a giant tractor tire and bury half of it in the Earth.  What could be easier?  And safer?

Scary swing set 1 Scary swing 2
Scary swing 3 demon swing
2. Horrifying skinny clown swing sets – Check out these giant, skinny clown swings sets. These towering clown totems were TERRIFYING. They actually look less like swing sets and more like something a demonic clown cult would sacrifice small animals around.  Or maybe something Barnum & Bailey would tie you to if you snuck around their tents unsupervised.  And what’s that last swing set on the bottom right?  A lion?  Some circus demon?  Horrible.

merry go round 1 merry go round 2
3. Multi-colored metal carousels – Large metal merry go rounds that spun freely in either direction. More like “puke and go round”. Invariably, multiple kids would jump on it and then start spinning it faster than is totally necessary.  Next thing you know, kids are thrown 10 feet into the air,  getting dragged along the side in the dirt while holding on and others vomiting up their bologna sandwiches. It’s a wonder more kids didn’t die at the playground. Which made it all the more awesome.

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Happy St Patrick’s Day from the Cavalcade of Awesome!

Posted in holiday, St. Patrick's Day with tags , on March 17, 2010 by Paxton

Hope everyone has a great St Patrick’s Day. I’m supposed to go over to a friend’s for corned beef and cabbage.  Should be fun.

To celebrate St Patty’s Day, here are a bunch of random pictures that have only a passing connection to Ireland and/or being Irish.

Shamrock Shakes Lucky Charms Guiness Ireland flag Boston Celtics Kiss Me I'm Irish Kathy Ireland Maguire's Irish pub Colin Farrell Green Michigan river Green Beer