Top 10 Seasons of Power Rangers

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The Pop Culture League Challenge this week is a simple one: Top 10! I immediately started thinking of what I could rank. Transformers? Maybe, but I couldn’t narrow it to ten, in all likelihood. Godzilla movies? An intriguing thought, but I already have another post brewing regarding the King of Monsters. Maybe something about comic book superheroes? Again, same problem as Transformers: where do I start?

And then it occurred to me, why not discuss a franchise that blends my love for robots, actors in suits destroying model cities, and super heroes? Power Rangers is one of my favorite television shows of all time. I loved it from the first time I saw it way back in 1993, and have watched it ever since. I haven’t seen every single episode of every season, but I’ve seen the lion Zord’s share of them, for sure. I love the toys as well; at one point, we (me and my boys) had all but five American release Megazords. My Power Rangers toy buying has slowed since my kids are nearly fully grown now, but I still try to stay current. Someday, I hope to have grandkids, and they will need all of these toys, you see…

So, without further delay, here are my choices for the Top 10 seasons of Power Rangers!

 

4068896#10 – Mystic Force

When I first saw the suits for this season, I thought wow, capes! It’s like superheroes! Next, I saw the Megazord with the wizard hat, and thought nope, that won’t work. Then I actually watched the show, and it turned out fine. The magic themes were a total Harry Potter ripoff, but I like Harry Potter, so it was cool. Mashing spells and magic formulas up with PR elements was a good fit. This show also had one of the best bad guys ever: Koragg, the Knight Wolf, who turned into a centaur Megazord!

 

lost-galaxy-magna-defender#9 – Lost Galaxy

The first totally new set of Power Rangers, and also the biggest budget for any season ever. The big draw here, for us, was the Magna Defender. His costume was awesome, his anti-hero attitude was unique, and he could grow to huge size and drive his bull-shaped Megazord. My son dressed up as Magna Defender for Halloween, and later wore the suit out from playing in it. Another fun memory was the long series of new episodes that aired on weekdays during the fall. Coming home after school and watching new episodes of Power Rangers together with my kindergartner curled up next to me was wonderful.

 

all_10_dino_super_charge_rangers#8 – Dino (Super) Charge

Power Rangers had been in a long term slump before this came out. The two series preceding it, Samurai and Mega Force, were both two years long, and also terrible. Then this season, based on the classic dinosaur theme, appeared and made up for six years of bad shows. The acting is much better than the norm, and it’s a large Ranger team which I always enjoy. The only negative is the Megazords, which have a sort of superdeformed look I don’t particularly care for. However, there are tons of them, and they are all prehistoric creatures, so it’s hard to complain!

 

photo-sep-28-10-05-26-am#7 – Lightspeed Rescue

Many fans will disagree with me, but I really liked this season. The Megazords are among the best toys the line has ever seen, with tons of interactivity and play value. The Supertrain Megazord, especially, looked fantastic, and it was gigantic, too. The sixth ranger for this season, Ryan, the Titanium Ranger, was the first American-only Ranger ever, and his story arc was interesting. The demonic villains were quite creepy, almost too scary for my kiddos at certain points in their development. I loved the season-long interplay between Green Ranger Joel and his crush, Miss Fairweather.

 

hqdefault#6 – Jungle Fury

Too many Zords? Maybe, but who cares when each one is totally cool? We enjoyed this show so much I ended up importing all the major toys from Japan just to have them in the proper scale. That may seem silly to some, but when daddy loves giant robots and the kids show those puppy dog eyes, well… I’m a sucker. The characters were fun, especially the mentor and eventual Purple Ranger, RJ. The best part, though, was the set of three new Rangers created just for the American market: Shark, Elephant, and Bat Rangers! Amazing villains, too. Not much to complain about with this one!

 

tumblr_lvoq62dxhm1r5mk62o1_1280#5 – MMPR Season 2

In college, I worked at an after-school program. When Power Rangers began airing, it immediately became a “drop everything and watch” activity. I enjoyed the show with 30 or so kids every day and thought “wow, it’s like real life Voltron, but with dinosaurs!” I was hooked. The formula had gotten a bit stale towards the end of season 1, but then the new season came out and changed everything. New Zords! New villains! Tommy lost his powers, then regained them, becoming a new Ranger color in the process! The Thunder Megazord is one of my favorites, to this day. This season set the bar high for the rest of the series to follow.

 

Image result for shadow ranger spd#4 – SPD

My sons were 4 and 11 when this came out, so both of them were totally into it, and as a dad, that meant I was totally into it too! This may be the best cast, top to bottom, of any season. We particularly loved the hilarious Green Ranger, Bridge. There was a uniformity to the design of the Megazords that looked great and was quite appropriate for the tech police theme. This season also has my favorite Ranger of all time, the Shadow Ranger. His costume was totally sweet, all steel blue and black. He had the best fight scene in PR history, where he took out 100 minions in one minute. Topping it all off, he was a dog-headed alien. What more needs to be said?

 

147fe8602b24e3f124e5f8aae999836b#3 – In Space

This series was the one airing when I started dating my wife-to-be and her 3 year old son. Introducing him to the show is one of my fondest memories. This was the end of the continuity heavy Zordon era, and it went out in style. The “evil Ranger” theme is one that is oft repeated, but it was never handled as well as with the Psycho Rangers. The spaceship themed Megazords were slick, and truly stood out compared to their predecessors, which were mostly animal based. One of the best PR villains, Astronema, tops it all off, making this season stand up well against the best the series has to offer.

 

mezodon-megazord#2 – Dino Thunder

The series makes a triumphant return to its prehistoric roots, and it was wonderful. Fan favorite former Ranger Tommy came back as the series mentor. When he finally suited up again as the Black Ranger… it was goosebumps all over. The Zords were fantastic, probably the best animal-based forms across the whole series. Zeltrax, Elsa, and Mesogog were menacing villains, very fun to watch. Additionally, the two lead male Rangers were named Connor and Ethan; these are my youngest son’s first and middle names. The episode “Fighting Spirit”, where Tommy has a vision in which he fights his previous alter egos, is a delight. I also enjoyed the episode where the Rangers watch a “Japanese ripoff” of their own exploits. Deliciously meta!

 

power-rangers-time-force-167081#1 – Time Force

This one stands head and shoulders above the rest. A team of police from the future travel back in time to hunt down an escaped mutant terrorist. The best Pink Ranger ever, Jen, is the team leader, and she is awesome. There’s an intriguing season long romantic subplot between Jen and Wes, the modern-times Red Ranger, who looks suspiciously like her dead boyfriend from the future. Time travel wasn’t emphasized as much as I would like, but there are still some “fix the timeline” shenanigans. The Quantum Ranger (who is also Red! Two Red Rangers? Sweet!) was a particularly interesting sixth ranger, far more mercenary than you’d expect from a kids’ show. He also piloted a giant silver and red Tyrannosaurus, which is one of the best Zords ever. The Time Force Megazord was a quadruple-changer, extremely unusual, having two different humanoid robot forms and a giant jet mode as well as the individual ships. This series is more what I would now call “CW style”, but this totally worked. Time Force remains unsurpassed among Power Rangers seasons.

 

Here are some highlights from the other Top 10 Lists, check them all out at Cool & Collected:

A Box Chock Full of Vintage Awesome

As a follow up to the Pop Culture League blind box challenge from several weeks ago, Cool & Collected offered up mystery boxes to those of us who participated. For the low price of $20, I jumped at the chance of opening a box full of unknown but surely totally cool stuff. Lo and behold, last weekend, a rather heavy box was dropped off at my front door.

I was totally shocked with how much stuff was packed in the box! It just happened that my nephew, who is 4 years old, was at our house. He joined me, my wife, and our fifteen year old son as we gleefully went through it all. Check the pictures below for the full record, but here are some highlights!

  • As a Transformers fan, I was tickled to see Air Raid, a robot who transforms into a black jet. It’s my first vintage Aerialbot, oddly enough. Also: my first Happy Meal transformer, a hamburger! Always wanted to get these.
  • My wife is a Snoopy fan, and I love outer space… Astronaut Snoopy is perfect!
  • The 45 record of “Buy the World a Coke” makes me want to buy a record player.
  • An A-Team stamp? MOSC? Yes please!
  • You can never have enough Jawas.
  • I now own action figures from Hook and Water World. I never thought I’d be able to say that.
  • Even the comics were great choices: Iron Man, Indiana Jones, and NFL SuperPro!
  • I need to get a poster up in the game room for all the cool vintage stickers I’ve now amassed…

Major props to Brian at Cool & Collected. We had such a great time opening this stuff!

Thank You for Your Compliance

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Here’s the Pop Culture League Challenge for this week.

Aliens Among Us

“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.” –Stephen Hawking

What a fun quote! I decided to treat it as a full on writing prompt. Here’s what I came up with, around 2000 words or so. I’d love to hear what you think! Comment here, or contact me @marcallie on Twitter.

 

Thank You for Your Compliance

A Short Story by Marc Allie

Alex rolled left, barely dodging a deadly phazon missile. His alien opponent, piloting a saucer-shaped spacecraft, dove past Alex’s tri-rocket warship before breaking away for another attack. Brow furrowed in concentration, Alex jammed his control stick left, then right, before firing off a volley of three laser bursts. The first two projectiles went wide left, but the third hit true. The enemy saucer exploded into a blinding flash of white light. Alex smiled and checked his score at the top of the TV screen. He had almost surpassed his previous record, and still had two lives remaining.

Just as the next wave of aliens began their attack, a knock sounded at the front door. Alex’s mother yelled from the kitchen. “Honey, can you answer that? My hands are all sudsy.” Alex sighed in disappointment, dropping the black and orange joystick on the thick shag carpet before walking over to open the door.

Three people stood on the welcome mat, the bright porch light shining down upon them. Two of them were men, both in black suits and ties. The third figure was a woman with brown hair pulled back into a tight bun. She wore a frilly white blouse with large shoulder pads, and a knee length black skirt. A clipboard was in her hand, while the two men held walkie talkies. The man in the middle, the tallest of the trio, grinned at Alex.

“Alex Guest, I presume?” The man’s smile never wavered as he spoke. Alex nodded, then yelled back into the house for his mother. The four of them stood in uncomfortable silence as Alex’s mother came to the door, wiping her hands on a kitchen towel.

The tall man spoke again. “Ah, you must be Mrs. Guest! It’s so good to meet you both. My name is Agent Johnson. These are my associates: Agent King,” he gestured to the man on his left, who nodded solemnly, “and Agent Lewis.” He smiled widely at the woman, on his right. She smiled back at him, showing almost impossibly white teeth, before they both turned back towards Alex and his mother.  “We’re with the CIA.” Agent Johnson reached into his jacket pocket and produced a laminated white card.

At first Alex couldn’t quite make out the words on the card; they seemed fuzzy, indistinct. He blinked, then the badge came in focus. There was a head shot, name, and a fancy logo. Everything seemed to be in order. It looked exactly like government I.D. badges he had seen in the movies.

“Listen, Mrs. Guest. We are here today to talk to you about a very exciting opportunity for Alex. May we come in?” His mother looked at Alex with a hint of indecision on her face. Then she cleared her throat and invited them inside.

Mrs. Guest quickly ushered the visitors to the overstuffed brown leather couch. She dashed off to the kitchen for refreshments while Alex took a seat in a recliner across from the couch. The wide grins on the tall man and woman never wavered. The shorter man wore no expression at all. All three were staring right at Alex.

Alex took a closer look at the odd trio as they waited for his mother to return. He hadn’t noticed it outside, but all three had waxy, shiny skin. Their eyebrows were very thin, and groomed so smoothly that he couldn’t see any individual hairs. The one called Agent Johnson moved his head left and right, surveying the room without blinking. His eyes came to rest on the wood-grain video computer system in front of the TV.

Johnson spoke as Alex’s mother entered the room bearing a tray of four glasses. “Alex, I see you have been playing computer video games! That one is Stellar Warlords, am I correct?” Alex nodded as his mother gave each guest a glass and a straw. None of the agents even spared her a glance. Agent Johnson continued, eyes still centered on Alex. “Thank you for the refreshment. You are very good at Stellar Warlords, aren’t you, Alex?”

Alex shifted in his seat. “Yeah, I’m not bad. I actually sent my high score in to Computer Games Magazine a few months ago.” Alex reached into a pocket on the recliner and produced a copy of the magazine. He flipped to a well-worn page and pointed. “See, here? I’m one of the top ten players in the United States!”

Agent Johnson didn’t even glance at the magazine before replying. “We are quite aware of your abilities, Alex. In fact, that is why we have come. We are here today to talk to you about a very exciting opportunity. We are offering scholarships to an elite military academy for the best and brightest young video game players across the entire American States.” The tall man was still smiling. Alex wondered if his cheeks were beginning to hurt.

Agent Johnson continued talking to Alex’s mother, giving her details about the scholarship, explaining that skill in video games was an indicator of future potential in military service. Alex listened for a while, but then his attention shifted to Agent King. The short man leaned forward, head turned, watching Agent Lewis take a sip from her straw. Then he grabbed his own glass, and began to take a drink himself. He moved the glass to his mouth before wrapping his lips awkwardly around the straw. His cheeks twitched slightly, but the level of lemonade in the glass never changed.

Alex refocused his attention on Agent Johnson’s conversation with his mother. “Yes, Mrs. Guest, this is a very exciting opportunity. Only the best and brightest have been selected. Alex is in an elite group. And of course there is no expense for you whatsoever. It’s all taken care of by the federal government. All we require is your consent.” As soon as the agent stopped talking, he grinned immediately, his teeth as stunningly bright as those of Agent Lewis. Agent King didn’t share the same odd smile, instead sitting as expressionless as ever.

Agent Lewis moved her hand to her ear and produced a pencil. Alex hadn’t even noticed the pencil before; it must have been stuck in her hair. She placed the pencil on her clipboard, smile never wavering, and spoke for the first time. “We have just a few questions for you before we go. You don’t mind to answer a few questions, do you?” Her voice was saccharine sweet, like a teacher talking to a class of preschoolers.

“No, no, we don’t mind at all,” Alex’s mother said. Alex felt a bit differently. The whole situation struck him as strange. It seemed far-fetched that the CIA was recruiting kids who were good at video games. What was with these weird agents? They seemed like strangers from another country. They reminded Alex of the foreign exchange student that had been in his fourth grade class. He didn’t understand things that everyone else knew, like playing kickball.  These agents didn’t seem to understand how people acted, either. They made Alex nervous.

Agent Lewis spoke in her sing-song voice. “Tell us about the rest of your family. Where is Mr. Guest? Are there any other children?”

His mother didn’t respond immediately, her eyes swelling with tears. Alex spoke up instead. “Dad was a Navy pilot. He, uh, died. In a training accident, two years ago. I’m the only kid, no brothers or sisters.” The entire time Alex spoke, Johnson and Lewis never stopped grinning. Agent King swiveled his entire head to look at his colleagues, then opened and closed his mouth repeatedly. He reminded Alex of a goldfish.

“Very good, very good,” Agent Lewis sang. She scribbled a few notes on her clipboard without looking at it, eyes fixed on Alex. “You probably play Stellar Warlords with your friends, Alex, don’t you? Are any of them as good as you are?” She never blinked. “We’d like to talk to your friends about a very exciting opportunity, also.”

Alex responded as his mother wiped a tear from her cheek. “I take turns playing with my buddy Lou sometimes, sure. Lou beat me a couple times, but never got a score high enough to send in to the magazine.” The female agent scrawled halfheartedly on the clipboard.

“Lou is your friend’s name? Is Lou a male or a female? And where does he/she live?” Alex was taken aback at the odd question. He glanced at his mother, and saw a flicker of unease cross her face. There was something wrong with these people, with this whole situation.

Smiles and silence filled the room. Agent Johnson, still grinning, crossed his legs. One black pant leg came up. Alex could see part of the agent’s leg above his black sock. The leg was pale gray and hairless. A thin green tube ran out from under the sock. Alex watched as the green tube pulsed and quivered. The throbbing green tube made him feel sick to his stomach.

Mrs. Guest stood and spoke, her voice stern and forceful. “Lou is a boy, and he lives next door. Why do you need to know that?” She put her hands on her hips. “What’s with you people? You ask about my poor husband and don’t show a hint of remorse or compassion at his death?” Her eyes got shiny again. She pointed a finger at Agent Johnson. “I’m beginning to think you aren’t really with the CIA at all.” She raised her voice. “Russians, maybe, is that it?” She looked over at her son. “Call the police, Alex, something’s not right here.”

Agent Johnson stood as Alex jumped out of the recliner and ran across the living room. “Mrs. Guest, I think we have everything we need. Thank you for your compliance. We appreciate it very much.” He smiled again, this one bigger than ever. “Let’s thank them for their compliance, agents, shall we?”

Alex rounded the corner, standing next to the phone, as Agent Lewis sang “Thank you for your compliance!” He turned and saw the female agent rise to her feet, the clipboard dropping off her lap. The clipboard wavered like a mirage for a split second, vanishing before it hit the floor.

Agent King and opened his mouth in a round “O” shape. The noise that came forth wasn’t a voice at all. An unearthly warble filled the room, as if a flock of birds had crash landed on a xylophone. The two men stood up as Alex grabbed the phone, jamming 9-1-1. There was no dial tone. The buttons made no noise. Heart pounding in his chest, Alex let go of the phone. It flopped back and forth on the cord.

Mrs. Guest cried out as she turned and ran towards her son. Agent Johnson rotated his head, a bit too far for a human, looking at the shorter agent. “No, no, Agent King, that won’t do. THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMPLIANCE! Try it again.” Alex’s mother wrapped her arms around him. He was shaking with fear. He buried his face in his mother’s neck. They held each to each other tightly.

Agent King’s mouth opened again. “Angku oryerk ahmylizz. Angku oyer kahmpliamnzzz. Kahmpliiiaants.”

“Close enough.” Agent Johnson raised his walkie talkie. The air crackled slightly, and the walkie talkie seemed to melt in his hand. It reformed into a metallic spider-like apparatus. Johnson pulled one of the chrome leg-things on the device and a thin beam of green light shot out. The beam touched Mrs. Guest and she was gone. In her place was a cloud of hot, pinkish steam that smelled like burnt bacon. Alex didn’t even have time to cry before another green beam shot out. He, too, disappeared in a burst of steam. In seconds, both clouds dissipated, leaving three things standing alone in the shag-carpeted silence of the living room.

One of the things stuck an appendage down its throat. It coughed a wet, barking cough, then withdrew what now once again appeared to be a human hand. “Thank — you — foryour– com-pli-ant-s,” it said. The tall thing adjusted its teeth and smiled. The three of them walked out, heading to the house next door.

 

 

 

 

Flea Market Find: Vintage Trading Card Edition

PopCultureLeague-Logo-BigThe Pop Culture League challenge this week:

Buying Blind

Who doesn’t love gambling on a blind box or mystery package?

Well, I sure don’t, and judging by the responses of other League members, I’m not alone. As a toy collector, nothing is worse than spending some hard-earned cash for just the chance to get a toy you want. I feel the same about Magic: the Gathering cards, Dice Masters packs, and the like. I’d rather look online for exactly what I want.

That said, I certainly enjoyed one particular type of blind buy item when I was younger: trading cards! Busting open a pack and looking at a checklist to see if you got them all was a good way to spend a few dimes, back in the day. On Labor Day weekend, we did a little flea market shopping, and I found three items that struck my fancy. Coincidentally, they were all trading card related, so why not talk about them for the challenge this week?

I was surprised that the alien card packs were all the same. But the two bucks I wasted on the two extra packs means my loss is your gain! I’m giving away the extras. Just post a comment here if you are interested, and I will randomly choose two commenters and send them the cards. The date of the alien encounter from card #8 is September 19, 1961, so I will end the giveaway commenting period on September 19, 2016. Good luck! These cards are out of this world! (Groan.)

Here are a few other interesting Blind Buy posts:

  • Green Plastic Squirt Gun has two really nifty Tron figures that would look great next to my new trading card box!
  • 2 Minute Toy Break shares my disdain for blind buy toys, but reminds us all of the coolness of toys found in cereal boxes.
  • Calvin’s Canadian Cave of Cool has a deep loathing for blind buy stuff, as well as Build a Figure toys, which have been a thorn in my side for years now.

The rest of the Pop Culture League posts can be found here. Don’t forget to comment below if you want a groovy set of holographic alien trading cards!

Help! My House is Being Invaded by Wax Saucer Men!

PopCultureLeague-Logo-BigThis week’s Pop Culture League Challenge is a fun one! Here’s the question:

House of Wax: The local Wax Museum is having a fire sale and you have the opportunity to add a life-size, life-like action figure to your collection. Who do you choose?

First of all, if I were to be put into such a situation, I would probably pass on having ANY life-size wax figure. I am terrified of my own shadow once the sun goes down, and there is no way I’d want a realistic figure of any sort looming around and scaring me half to death when I momentarily forget that it’s just a sculpture. For Pete’s sake, I just about peed myself when a buddy put our life-size cardboard Princess Leia in my bed when I was out late on a date. It just wouldn’t be good for my blood pressure.

93463652_3ef5479914Having said that, I’m going to go off the wall, and reach way back into the memory bank. When I was a tiny tot, back in the late 70s, McDonald’s gave out space themed rubber erasers in various colors in Happy Meals. I had several, including a cool flying saucer and a rocket ship, but my favorite was a strange alien. I recall it being blue or green, but may be misremembering. I dearly loved that little alien but he was eventually lost or thrown out to wherever cool old toys disappeared to.

Fast forward to the mid 90s. I was a big monster movie buff, and picked up a copy of the Encyclopedia of Monsters at a local bookstore. It was full of pictures and information on hundreds of old horror and sci-fi movie monsters. Lo and behold, I turn the page and there was an alien that looked almost exactly like my old rubber eraser. It was from a movie called “Invasion of the Saucer Men”.

A few years later, when Ebay became a big thing, I looked there for a copy of “Invasion of the Saucer Men” for sale. There weren’t any legit copies available, but there was a nice bootleg VHS tape that I gleefully overpaid for. My expectations weren’t really high for the movie, and it absolutely met them. It’s one of those that’s so bad it’s good. Frank Gorshin as an obnoxious drunk is particularly fun, and at one point a severed alien hand grows an eyeball and attacks on its own. The fingers are sort of like needles, and inject alien blood that affects humans like alcohol. Seems weird, yeah, but Aliens have acid for blood and that makes about as much sense, right?

invasion-of-the-saucermen

So, without a doubt, if I were forced to get a wax figure for my collection, it would be one of the oddball alien Saucer Men. The look of them is iconic, in my opinion, and when you add in the C-movie cheesiness as well as the callback to a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy, you really can’t go wrong. BONUS: Invasion of the Saucer Men is on YouTube in its entirety. What a glorious time we live in!

Honorable mentions: a wax version of Godzilla or Optimus Prime.

Here are a few other entries that really stood out for me this week:

Collector’s Universe goes way back in time for a prehistoric amphibian.

Pop Rewind shared my trepidation for selecting a wax figure, because they are straight up creepy, really, seriously, they are.

And Cool and Collected chose my favorite actor that never wore a Godzilla suit.

You can read the rest of the Pop Culture League entries for this week here.

First Quarter: My Earliest Video Game Memory

PopCultureLeague-Logo-BigIt’s time for another Pop Culture League challenge. This week, the question is: what is your earliest arcade or video game related memory? This is a tough one. Early memories are the most unclear. I’m often able to date a memory based on a comic book I was reading, or a TV show episode I was watching. But for my earliest memories, these little signposts for dating are missing. Still, I’m pretty sure what my earliest video game experience was.

I had a buddy who lived pretty close to me, close enough that I could walk to his house even when I was 6 or 7 years old. (Times sure have changed, I probably wouldn’t have let my sons walk that far when they were that age!) My buddy had some cool toys, your requisite Star Wars stuff, mainly, and a lot of it, since his father worked at Sears. Gotta love that employee discount! One of the neatest entertainment options at my friend’s house was his Sears Telegames Video Arcade. This was almost exactly identical to the more well-known Atari system, but my pal’s dad was a company man through and through and so the Sears branded version was what he got.

CombatatarigamepackThe two of us spent hours and hours playing two games in particular. The first was my favorite: Combat. Most all Atari cartridges claimed to contain lots of games inside, but they were really just variations on a theme in most cases. Not so with Combat! You had tanks, AND Red Baron-style biplanes, AND jets, too! It was the best thing ever.

The second game was Air-Sea Battle, and there was lots of variety in that cartridge as well. You shot airplanes, boats, even clowns and ducks in a shooting gallery style variant. My buddy always liked to play outside, but I would have skipped the great outdoors and all of its adventures for a bit more time playing invisible tank wars.

Eventually I convinced my parents that we needed an Atari ourselves. Having Combat available in my own home was incredible, but you needed two players it, which was less than ideal. My little brother was… little, and my parents would play from time to time, but not for hours-long marathons, which is what I was looking for. Eventually, we got other carts that allowed me to rely only on my own availability: Centipede, Phoenix, and Pac-Man, among many more. I was dazzled by Centipede; it looked and played almost exactly like the arcade version. (At least, I thought so at the time.) I wasn’t familiar with Phoenix in the arcades, but I read and reread the manual detailing the story and looking at the awesome art for hours, in addition to zapping bird invaders. Pac-Man isn’t a good port, but it didn’t matter to me, nor to my dad, who took a liking to the game as well. I remember him coming home after work, taking off his dress shirt and shoes, flopping down on the couch, and taking turns playing Pac-Man with me in his undershirt and socks. It almost sounds like a scene from The Goldberg’s except my father kept his pants on!

6305851a5649a6a59c9321839d99b33f

Here are a few other entries in this week’s Pop Culture League challenge that I found cool and/or interesting.

The Last Hometown shares his memories of one of the greatest ealry arcade hits, a “monolith of beauty”, Space Invaders.

The Nerd Nook went the photo route, recalling a Pac-Man cocktail cabinet at a Pizza Hut. Makes me wish I had a slice of ham in one hand, and a cherry red joystick in the other.

20 Years Before 2000 went with the Simpsons arcade game. I played plenty of arcade games before that one, but very few that were as fun with a group of friends as the Simpsons!

The rest of the entries can be found over at Cool and Collected. I’m looking forward to next week’s challenge!

If Useless Trivia Was an Olympic Sport…

PopCultureLeague-Logo-BigIt’s time for another Pop Culture League challenge. Last week was a simple one, but this time the prompt took a little more thought. Everyone has Olympics on the brain (except me, I watched maybe half an hour here and there) and thus, the question is this: if ________ was an Olympic sport, I’d have a gold medal. What am I really, really good at? It’s tough to analyze yourself. I consider myself to be pretty good at lots of different things, but nothing sprang to mind as being world class, which an Olympic medal certainly would require. I’m a good Dungeon Master, but far from the best. I am a good problem solver, and creative, but not in comparison to the best and brightest of the world. I talked it over with my wife, and she said to quit overthinking it, and told me exactly what my greatest strength was.

I can remember useless trivia with the best of them. Without a doubt, if that was an Olympic sport, there would be multiple gold medals hanging on our fridge.

Detective_Comics_601What sort of useless trivia? Well, I have an uncanny knack for remembering exact situations and moments based on things that seem totally random. For example, I remember exactly what flavor snowcone (blueberry cream) I was reading on a hot summer day when I accidentally spilled it on my aunt’s copy of X-Men #137. I can recall what issue of Batman I was reading when I took a trip with my grandparents to a a family cemetery on Memorial Day in 1989. (It was Detective Comics #601 with art by the amazing Norm Breyfogle). I remember exactly what my parents got me for my 15th birthday (a Sony Walkman, with cool earbuds in a wind-up case), because of the book I was reading at the time, Orson Scott Card’s novelization of the movie The Abyss.

There’s more to it than that, though. It goes beyond just personal memories. I am very good at remembering things I read, and since I read all the time when I was younger (not nearly as much as I’d like to these days, I’m afraid), my brain is full of both interesting, useful facts and also near-useless factoids. FASERIP, the mnemonic for remembering all of the different statistical categories in TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes RPG is a good example. I remember that the special effects team in Return of the Jedi had trouble getting the AT-ST Scout Walker crushed by Ewok logs to look right, using several different types of metal before settling on nickel. Oh, and I know that the Hardy Boys always keep $50 stashed in the steering wheel of their car. So if you ever see them, and need a loan, don’t believe them if they say they’re broke.

Probably the best example, and the one that surely spawned my wife’s declaration of my perfect gold medal event, comes from when we were first dating. She understood my love for Star Wars, as evidenced by my mania for collecting Power of the Force figures as well as the lifesize Princess Leia standup in the apartment I shared with two other geeks. For my birthday, she got me Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, the classic original trilogy version. I was quite excited, and looked forward to the next game night when we could play. I got all my Star Wars fan friends together (the cross section of my friends and Star Wars fans is quite sizeable) and we played a game. My team went second. The other team answered about a dozen questions correctly before missing one, like “Who was the actor who played Lobot?” or some such.

b1500af8206f97b9f14771f946ab5c96Following this, my team went, and we actually managed to win the game without missing a question. One friend bellyached at one of our answers after the win. “How could you possibly know the number of the docking bay that the Millennium Falcon was pulled into?” Incensed at these accusations of cheating, I replied that I remembered it from playing the Star Wars Collectible Card Game, which featured Docking Bay 327 as a location. I don’t think I was the only one who began questioning my life decisions and priorities after that evening. I still have the game, though we haven’t played it since. It’s a great reminder of a fun memory, and I am so glad my wife decided to go ahead and marry me anyway, despite the Star Wars weirdness.

So there you go, the only Olympic event I could earn a gold medal in: knowledge of useless trivia.

 

Here are some other fun entries for this week’s Pop Culture League Challenge:

Jathniel is also a big fan of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. I didn’t read this before I wrote mine, I promise! We’d get along well, I am sure.

Rediscover the 80s is a world class Contra player. As a fan of co-op and the NES, as well as the Konami code, I approve.

The Toy Box takes the gold medal for cataloging toys. My Transformers wish list spreadsheet might give him a run for his money.

The other awesome contributions to the challenge can be found at Cool and Collected.