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

The Grocery Aisle of long forgotten breakfast cereals Part III

Posted in Batman, breakfast cereal, movies, nostalgia, pop culture, Star Trek with tags , , , , , on March 16, 2010 by Paxton

Last year I wrote a two part article talking about long defunct breakfast cereals. They were both a very big hit. Dark Roasted Blend and The National Review Online picked them up and it exploded onto a bunch of other blogs after that. If you missed the first two parts of this article:

Read Part I here.
Read Part II here.

A big thanks to my friends Jackie and Steve for actually suggesting this topic to begin with.  Now, let’s take another stroll down Grocery Aisle 7c and examine a bunch more extinct breakfast cereals.

Freakies Fruity Freakies Cocoa Freakies
Freakies cereal was created in 1971 by Ralston-Purina and lasted until about 1977. However, despite most of the general public not really remembering it, the sloppy man-love for this cereal among cereal box enthusiasts is insane. These boxes are traded heavily amongst collectors with the Cocoa Freakies box going for around $800. I honestly don’t remember it, but there are a lot of people who do and would shell out truckloads of dough for certain boxes.  Here’s a commercial for Freakies.

Quisp and Quake Quangaroos
Quisp and Quake were introduced back in 1965 by the Quaker Oats company.  They were usually marketed together as rivals in much the same way as Baron Von Redberry and Sir Grapefellow.  The characters and animation for the cereals and commercials were done by Jay Ward who also created Rocky & Bullwinkle.  The commercial even uses some of the same voice talent as Rocky & Bullwinkle.  Check out a Quisp commercial here (you see Quake at the very end).  In 1970, Quaker ran a contest promotion to see which cereal was more popular.  Quisp won and Quake quietly left the shelves. However Quake would resurface later in the even more queerly named Quake’s Orange Quangaroos.  Quaker was totally committed to the whole ‘Q’ thing. See a Quangaroos commercial here. Retro boxes of both Quisp and Quake have been released to certain markets in the past few years.

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My Blogiversary: 4 Years of being AWESOME…

Posted in blogging with tags , , , on March 10, 2010 by Paxton

I started what became this blog back on March 10, 2006, four years ago today.  It all started with a nondescript article about Windows Vista.  Actually, I posted like four articles that day.  I don’t know what the hell got into me there.  And two of them were about Microsoft Vista.

As you can see from the picture above, my blog originally started out on Google’s Blogger platform.  I was still finding my feet over there as my articles were all over the map and even less focused than they are now (if you can believe that).  I made the move over to WordPress on Jan 18, 2007 with an article about the return of Jack Bauer on Season 6 of 24; Jack Is Back.  The very first name of this blog over on Blogger was Pax’s Technotainment Blog as I was going to talk about movies, books and technology.  It eventually evolved into What I’m Thinking for a few years and then, in May 2008, I changed the blog’s title to the now infamous, Cavalcade of Awesome.  Along with the move to WordPress and the name change, I also registered my own URL,  I still need to nail down

It’s been a fun four years.  I still enjoy writing and posting articles.  I’m not doing four articles a day like that first day, but I think the quality has increased.  I’ve also met several bloggers along the way that I’ve come to know and enjoy.  People like Shawn Robare over at Branded in the 80s, Jen at The Movieholic & Bibliophile’s Blog, Trish at Trish’s Book Reading Nook and Naida at the bookworm.  These people are not only entertaining bloggers themselves, they have enough badassery (totally made that up) to keep coming back to my blog and subject themselves to my particular brand of awesome.  Got to love them for that.

Anyway, I hope everyone here has enjoyed the last four years as I plan on continuing this little ride for the time being.  Stay tuned for my continuing Cavalcade of Awesome.