Friday, September 30, 2005

Space Slurps

What the hell are Space Slurps?  I don’t know.  But, I can fondly recall getting gummy candies in similar packaging as a youth.  I vividly remember throwing comparatively major fits in drug stores, trying to persuade my Mom that eating artificially flavored dinosaurs in wacky color schemes was a good idea.

Here’s the packaging and official logo.  Fans of video games will notice the character on the left looks very similar to Samus Aran from the popular Meteroid series.

Here’s our first gooey gladiator from space.  A menacing robotic creature emblazoned in the colors of Hulkamania.  He was kind of tasty.

Here we see two gummy satellites, or are these spaceships?  Either way they blow.

This thing was so sticky that it actually stood upright like shown.  I was briefly entertained.

And here’s a final look at some of the other gummy goliaths.  These things are actually kind of fun to eat, albeit this particular batch was pretty stale.  So, spread the word about Space Slurps and begin your own individual search for them.  Or don’t.

Overall Grade: C+ 

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Ballad of Breakfast Brains

RTW Short Stories presents
The Ballad of Breakfast Brains

I wrote this short story while bored in Psychology class the other day.  Following the story, I’ve written a bit more about it; influences, its purpose, etc.  I wanted to also point out, however, that it features some mature content.  There’s a lot of explicit language, and some graphic scenes, too.  So, if you’re not comfortable for that type of subject material, I suggest you hit up the archives and read one of my book reviews or something… without further adieu, enjoy!

The Ballad of Breakfast Brains 

The cowbell on the front door rang.  A tall man, wearing a leather jacket, black jeans, and in serious need of a shave walked in.  He walked directly to the front counter, climbed up on it, revealed a gun from its hiding spot on his waist and shouted, “I’m taking over!”  The workers dropped to their chests and covered their heads.  “Eat a dick!” a young teenage girl shouted, she was a regular named Sue.  Her boyfriend of two years, Jack, put his hands on her shoulders, trying to keep her kneeling down near their table.  It was a hot summer Arizona day, and this little diner was in chaos.  The armed man hopped off the counter, tossed his gun up catching it by the barrel, and slapped the right side of Sue’s jaw with the handle of the gun.  “Eat that shit, filthy bitch” he spat.  Jack tried to get to his feet, but the man flipped his fun back into firing position and pointed it at his face.  “What, college boy?  Do you have a set, you sorry coward?”  The man unflinchingly starred into Jack’s eyes.  “Can I get some eggs and hot sauce in this motherfucker or what?  What’s the matter everyone?  This is a party!”  A teenage girl, wearing her Catholic schoolgirl outfit sitting at the counter was the man’s next target.  He put his gun in-between her legs, under her skirt against the soft skin.  “How’s that for a stimulus?” he laughed.  “Hey asshole, why don’t you eat some shit with your eggs?”  It was Sue again.  “Hey cunt, how about you suck on my gun while I ram a finger up your ass?” he retorted.

A loud buzzing sound came from outside, vibrating the windows of the diner.  The waitress on duty, in her 50s, dropped the plate of eggs she was carrying out to their captor.  “Oh!  Grandma, no!  Get on your knees and eat those eggs with a side of carpet.”  Three figures walked through the front door; they were alien beings from another planet, with shiny silvery skin and no clothes on.  The leader of the pack spoke in his native language, sounding like insane noise to the diner patrons.  The armed man pointed his pistol at the aliens.  One of the beings skipped forth, waved his hand towards the criminal, and the criminal instantly left the ground, being tossed above the counter, hitting the wall and landing on top of the ice tea and lemonade dispensers, soda fountains, dishes, and other objects with a brutal crash.  One of the aliens did a headstand, walked on his hands over to the eggs on the floor, and began eating them while upside down.  The other two aliens, talking loudly in their bizarre language, began walking around the diner pointing at people’s heads.  Upon this act, the human who was pointed at would have their skull instantly explode.  The aliens danced around the diner, which was now covered in bits of skull, brain matter, and tons of blood.  The lead alien began breakdancing in the middle of the floor as the other two aliens splashed and kicked blood on him as he spun.


Anyway, allow me a few words to part with.  Almost every single one of my short stories is about teenage romance, or lack thereof.  This is one of the first actual fiction pieces I’ve penned in quite some years.  My friend Eddie, who is constantly working on stylized sci-fi stories served as a bit of an inspiration.  Looking over the story subjectively now, I can see where some subconscious tributes took place:

  • “I’m taking over!” – Big Stevie Cool (leader of the bWo) in E.C.W. and his infamous “We’re taking over!” line.
  • “How’s that for a stimulus?” – I was in Psychology class and we were discussing stimuli, so that’s why that line was birthed.
  • Misc. – The armed guy is very mouthy, that’s to show that not only his he cocky, but missing some of his mental capacities.  When he gets thrown over the counter, I think subconsciously that was my homage to a scene in the brilliant film The Toxic Avenger Part 2.  Lastly, the use of language and violence isn’t really my cup of tea, perhaps reading a couple of Frank Miller’s Sin City graphic novels recently effected me adversely.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Sour Flush - Candy Plunger

I’ve had this thing sitting around my basement forever.  It’s from a company called KIDSMANIA, and essentially it’s a candy toilet.  The official name is “Sour Flush – Candy Plunger with Sour Powder Dip” and I selected the raspberry variety.

Here’s a look at the rather ridiculous packaging.  In it, the kid’s going absolutely nuts on an actual toilet as he’s plunging it while licking it’s interior.  Hell, upon closer inspection you can see the contents of the toilet splashing out, as water soaks the poor bastard who merely had a peculiar craving.

Here’s a look at the suckers, or plungers, that you get with this atrocity.  I kept one in the package.  The color was a light brown, which signified a few things, none of which I’m able to currently discuss.

Regardless, I wasn’t finding the irony in sticking a brown object into a novelty toilet and eating it very funny.

Here’s the final result, a sticky brown morsel covered in a sour sugary coating.  I gave an earnest attempt at eating this, but after one or two licks decided it’d be better suited in the trash instead of my poor stomach.  I’d recommend this to about absolutely nobody.

Overall Grade: D 

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Old Spaghetti Factory (Forest Park, OH)

Old Spaghetti Factory is a respectable Italian eatery with locations spanning across the USA.  There was once a popular one in Cincinnati, but it shut its doors and moved to Forest Park, into a new building and community full of curiously hungry patrons.  In terms of pricing and atmosphere, it balances nicely between upscale dining and casual fare.  You can bring a date and both dine for under $20 total, and for the complete meal you’ll receive, that’s a generous price in my opinion.

Usually, I always take a picture of the restaurant itself when reviewing one.  I made this dinner date with friends a week prior amidst a conversation at a local dinner, and just decided upon a whim to grab the camera and use it as an article opportunity.  During the ensuing excitement, I forgot the building picture, so just imagine some relativity boring modern architecture; or imagine ninja penguins playing ice hockey on Jupiter or something more interesting.

In the first picture you’ll see my buddies Darrel and Eddie.  Eddie’s an avant-garde musician/writer, and Darrel’s into serial killers… as Zach Braff said in Garden State “So there's that. I guess I have that.”  In the second picture are Amanda and I enjoying a rare night away from our apartment studying.  Also of note, the area we sat in was designed like a hollowed-out trolley car from yesteryear; I asked Eddie if he had his conductor hat present, he emptied out his pockets revealing an ancient condom wrapper and the manual for perennial NES favorite Bionic Commando.

The first course of the meal is always a pleasant one at Old Spaghetti Factory.  You receive a complimentary loaf of bread; or in our case two loafs.  It comes with traditional and garlic butter.  Secondly, is the minestrone soup that is quite delectable; I especially find in the wintertime that hot soup is particularly heavenly.  If you’re not into soup, you can do like I did, and opt for a salad.  The salads aren’t two awfully big, though, but are always fresh.  I’d recommend their blue cheese dressing, it’s mild, but easily my favorite of their selections.

Now time for everybody’s favorite part… the entrees!  I had three-cheese spinach tortellini due to Darrel’s impassioned recommendation, and he was absolutely right, I wasn’t disappointed.  The sauce was very light and smooth tasting, complimenting and accentuating the more bold flavors perfectly.  The tortellini was filled with three cheeses (mizithra, parmesan, and romano), all very strong, hearty, and potent.  This was certainly a flavorful excursion and a very filling choice.  Pictured on the left is Amanda’s eggplant parmigiana, which albeit delicious wasn’t a very large serving.  Next, on the right, is Eddie’s spaghetti with (extra) meat sauce; which, as pictured, was whipped into a frenzy and quickly consumed.

Lastly, for those of you with a sweet tooth… dessert!  Amanda and I played the role of the broke college students, so we went with the complimentary ice cream.  We both got Spumoni, which has chocolate, pistachio, and strawberry mixed together.  Darrel got a massive Turtle ice cream cake, which looked incredible, and was pleased with his decision.  Eddie got a plain piece of cheesecake, then asked for a side of caramel that he proceeded to drench it in.  He couldn’t finish it off, and I had a couple bites, which were extremely rich but sweetly satisfying.

Overall, I’d recommend Old Spaghetti Factory to everyone, especially those of you who enjoy quality Italian food.  It’s ideal for dates, but also suitable for business or personal meeting, or simply a solo or family night out.  The prices aren’t outrageous, and the overall quality of the food is usually exceptional, coupled with a nice setting and relaxing ambiance.

Overall Grade: A- 

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Top 5 Cheap Rap Tapes from My Youth

Back in the early 1990’s I listened to nothing but rap music.  I didn’t have much money, though, but occasionally I’d save up a couple dollars and make my way to purchase another cassette for my collection.  Over the years I amassed a rather extensive repertoire of tapes.  Below are five of my personal favorites, they have a lot of nostalgic value, and I thought it’d be nice to reminisce:

Tape #5: "Rap Wit' Cha" - Various Artists

This tape’s artwork is classic… the rapper donning gaudy jewelry, a nice wristwatch, and a scandalous mustache.  The tape’s title was always questionable, as I could never particularly discern what it was implying.  Perhaps, it was offering the idea that upon purchasing and listening to this stunning new record I’d always have rap with me; in some way, perhaps in my heart, or soul, or more accurately in this case, in my bowels.

The second picture, taken from the insert, shows some of the usual suspects: Nice & Smooth, Chill Rob G, Young MC, etc.  This collection contains a rather stellar line-up of talent, has the brilliant track “Me Myself and I” by De La Soul, and a song titled “Funky Dividends” by Three Times Dope that surely has to not only rule, but have a deep message about the plight of human existence somewhere in it.

Tape #4: "East VS. West" - Various Artists

Anyone even slightly in the know of rap music is familiar with the ever-controversial east coast versus west coast war that’s raged for some twenty years.  And, although that’d make a good concept for an album, book, or film… this tape took the title and left it at that.  The front artwork has text stating “Rap Battle Royale” (spelled incorrectly) and “You Decide Who Wins”.

Representing the east coast are such rap luminaries as Heavy D & The Boyz, Public Enemy (who put on an amazing live show in Cincinnati a couple years back), and L.L. Cool J to name a few.  On the wild west coast, such hip-hop heavy hitters as Too Short, Kid Frost, and Mellow Man Ace make the cut.  Overall, this cassette always disappointed me, but it deserves its recognition.  I didn’t have any thing else to add, so I substituted a picture of Chinese takeout mustard from Amanda and my fridge, because it’s about the only thing in there…

Tape #3: "Brother Arab" - Arabian Prince

I remember getting this cassette from a dollar store on Route 4 in Hamilton, Ohio in the early to mid 90’s.  Nowadays, with an album title like “Brother Arab”, this guy would probably be getting his ass kicked in airports nationwide.  But, Arabian Prince was fearless, in his shades and Raiders hat.  Even as a relatively young kid, I still found this tape a bit puzzling.

Let’s take a look at some of the track titles from this powerhouse of a recording: “She’s Got A Big Posse” which I have no idea what that means, “It’s A Dope Thang” which I suppose is pretty self-explanatory, “Let the Good Times Roll (Nickel Bag)” which says that he was selling his socks at the swap shop to get illegal drugs, and “It’s Time To Bone” which could arguably be the most offense track title in the history of cheaply produced rap music.

Tape #2: "Rap Rap Rap" - Various Artists

Now we’re talking!  One of my first ever music purchases, I listened to this album on repeat for at least four months solid.  I can’t remember precisely, but I think I got this either at Hills (RIP) on Hamilton’s west side, or the east side’s K-Mart (still in the same location today, but it’s now a “Super K-Mart”, which simply means more sweatshop workers have been exploited).  It features such rap legends as Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, EPMD, Jungle Brothers, Salt-N-Pepa, and Beastie Boys to name a handful.

Some curious findings: the gold sticker on the back of the case, stating emphatically “Yes! Yes!” in a royal purple font, and a little note on the insert depicting my mom’s signature handwriting stating the day I received this awesome piece of awesomeness.  My mom’s handwriting!  Now, that makes me nostalgic, wow… and for that reason, I dedicate a track from Side 2 titled “You’re Gonna Get Yours” to her right now.

Tape #5: "Rappin' Down Beat St." - (Unknown / Terrible "T"?)

This is your #1 cassette, my friends!  I got this little gem at the Big Lots in Oxford, OH at a young age.  It’s arguably one of the most bizarre and hauntingly brilliant recordings of this century.  In terms of facts, I sadly don’t have much information, outside of the title, and Golden Circle, Inc. from Stamford, CT copyrighted the material in 1985.

The rapper who uses the handle, or name Terrible “T” has a very distinctive voice… he sounds like a Dungeons & Dragons geek gone ghetto.  He raps over some of the most simplistic Casio keyboard style beats I’ve ever heard.  I love it.

Side 1 features three tracks, all very memorable in their own unique ways: “He’s Terrible”, “It’s Wack”, and “Hip Hop Rock”.  “Hip Hop Rock” is an anthem, of sorts, and the strongest song on the album.  The chorus goes as follows: “we are the masters of the rock… hip-hop!” repeat add nausea.  Side 2 is more adventurous and seriously toned, with the tremendous tracks “Life In the Ghetto”, “T’s Freestyle”, and “Girls (All Over the World)”.

If anyone has ever heard this cassette, or knows anything about the ever-elusive Terrible “T”, please forward me the information ASAP.  Thanks for taking this stroll down memory lane with me!

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Timmy's Wok (Hamilton, OH)

In almost every shopping center I’ve ever seen there’s one of these… a discreet little Chinese restaurant nestled among the flower boutiques and used CD stores.  I’m not sure how this trend got started, but I’d like to take a moment to thank the responsible parties.  That aside, what makes these places so revered, if anything?  Is the food really that good?  Is the ambiance inside so otherworldly it’ll make you think twice about boring ordinary hamburger hangouts?  I’ll attempt to answer these questions and more.

Most of these places have one of the following words in them: “dragon”, “garden”, “golden”, “happy”, “China”, etc.  Today, we’ll be taking a gander at Timmy’s Wok.  Rumor on the streets is Timmy’s Wok rocks.  As you can gauge from these interior pictures, this is not suitable for a first date scenario, unless you’re taking out Usagi Yojimbo.  Granted, these aren’t the best quality shots, but this place was tiny and I didn’t want to offend any of the cooks and get assaulted with Hunan Beef.

We had our eyes on their prized lunch special, where, for $4.99 you receive one entrĂ©e, rice (pork fried or steamed), and your choice of an egg roll or soup.  In terms of pure economical purposes, that’s a damn fine lunch in my eyes.  The woman taking our order wasn’t very talkative, which baffled me; I mean, come on, who wouldn’t be absolutely thrilled to serve Moo Goo Gai Pan all day?  After a short wait, she brought us out our Wonton Soup.  I liked it.  The soup itself, a relatively bland broth, was made marvelous by the inclusion of several scrumptious beef wontons.  Although my heart was leaning towards ordering an egg roll, in the end, I was satisfied with my choice.

Now, the big moment was upon us, the delivery to our table of our entrees!  Amanda wisely chose Sesame Chicken, with her prior sage like knowledge of Chinese dining, accompanied with steamed rice. I opted, for what I imagined to be, the safe option of Chicken Lo Mein with pork fried rice.  Before I discuss the quality of the food, allow me a minute to digress about our beverages.  Timmy doesn’t do soda fountains, apparently, and we had to opt for bottled beverages that were slightly overpriced.  I went with Dr. Pepper, surely an inspired decision, while Amanda kept it safe with generic bottled water.

Anyway, on to the main course!  To an extent, I was correct, the Chicken Lo Mein wasn’t bad, although via playing it safe I wasn’t too overly excited about the meal.  I usually love dousing my Chinese in soy, but this particular dish was plenty salty as was, and the pork fried rice was pretty dry, too.  Amanda’s Sesame Chicken was the real winner, though, scoring high in the flavor department.  The taste and texture of the chicken was, in my humble opinion, near perfection… especially when you keep in mind the low price.

Overall, I think Timmy and his wok isn’t a bad idea, for those both veterans and newcomers to Chinese food.  The lunch special is a deal worthy of praise and admiration, and something I’ll certainly be taking advantage of a lot these coming months.  Now, don’t feel like you’re left out if you’re nowhere near Ohio… there’s little eateries similar to this nationwide.  Good luck in your searches, and, for Timmy’s sake, try the Kung Pao Shrimp.

Overall Grade: B+