Art, Your House Is On Fire!

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It’s a sad thing when a pop culture icon dies but it’s especially sad to us mid-thirty year olds who quoted their lines in everyday life for laughs and even just a common bond. Such is the case of the Canadian-born actor Rick Ducommun who we lost in early June of this year. If you are not familiar with the name you might be familiar with his character Art Weinberg in the dark comedy/cult classic, The ‘Burbs. I have to be honest, this hit me right in the feels even though we really haven’t seen much of him since the late nineties. I will explain.

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I first saw The ‘Burbs back in 1990, while home sick from school. On the way home from the doctor (who always gave me a damn shot no matter what I was in for) we stopped at the video rental store to pick up a couple of movies for the mandatory bedrest. The two picks for that day were Bedknobs and Broomsticks and of course, The Burbs. BedKnobs because of the obvious ghost armies but I am not sure why I chose The ‘Burbs? Usually my sick movies are the old standbys like Return Of The Jedi or Iron Eagle.

I was adventurous and boy that was a mistake because I hated that movie. The dark themes and bizarre characters where just too much to take for a fever-laden kid. The Exorcist cameo didn’t help, either. No, it wasn’t until a few years later that I gave it another try when it was the CBS Friday Night Feature. Perhaps it was my age or maybe just the mood, but I loved it. Even my Dad, with the one-liners and musical score, became a fan of Joe Dante’s film. Since then on, it was the most quoted movie between the two of us and just about all of those lines came from Rick’s character, Art Weingartner.

The line “Listen to your wife? Who listens to their wife?!?” has gotten my Dad in more trouble with Mom than the time we stained the deck during a ten-mile an hour crosswind only to later notice we also stained her herb garden. We have many common bonds but the movie The ‘Burbs really is a language all our own. Even today I can say, “”Hey Ray, what are ya’ll eating in there?’ and he knows that means “what’s for dinner?”.

So now, fast forward to 2001. I was in a LRS unit, deployed to a little stinkhole of a town in somewhere-Bosnia. I really lucked out in this unit because we were pretty much left to our own accord without much oversight. Our missions were both clandestine and conventional which meant sometimes we were in civilian clothes roaming the urban areas gathering intelligence and sometimes we were doing target acquisition and reconnoissance for Special Operators who did spook operations. It was dangerous, exciting and beat the Hell out of a Korea deployment or large base operations. Still to this day, I take a break to think from the dull daily drudge of my current career and it is hard to believe that was my life at one time.

Sometimes, however, the downtime could get so boring it would drive a person to insanity. With a fire base smaller than my backyard, keeping ones self entertained was almost as challenging as the operations. We couldn’t carry many personal items but we did have a couple of laptops to watch DVDs so when it was snowing sideways or the smell of goat was too much to take we would hunker down and watch one of the ten movies we had to escape.

Our medic was one of my best friends on the planet and we shared a love for my contributing DVD, The ‘Burbs. I swear we watched it at least sixty times that deployment and trust me, that love was infectious. Before we knew it our whole team was dropping quotes like “If I find one more, I’m going to catch him and staple his ass shut!” to “It’s not us, Art! It’s them!”. The locals would look at us and nervously smile when our ‘Burbs talk would start to become more of a theatrical rendition. It helped make everything a bit more tolerable.

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We even took our ‘Burbs obsession a step further by actually incorporating it into a real code for an operation and believe it or not, I have proof. Many times we would use closer range radios when ops would require each team member to be in contact with each other and not have to use Army radio tact. That meant other people could possibly be listening since the personal radios didn’t have the code protection the bigger ones did so our intentions, locations and who we are had to protected. Enter The ‘Burbs quotes which were broken out in every possible communicative need you would need for a mission. And it worked so well, it was almost like pig latin. Once you got used to it, it flowed.

Here’s an example:

The crows are too big for the bird feeder“: Suspicious people or movement

Pop ’em“: Engage

I’d rather chew broken glass“: Do not engage

We broke down specific scenes for scenarios that would or could be experienced outside the wire. Not that we talked in 100% ‘Burbs talk but if an enemy or someone who is a bit nosey were to listen in they would definitely be wondering what the hell we were talking about. And it worked unbelievably well.

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My Grandmother kept all my old military items. From uniforms to awards to paperwork, she has bins and bins of it. Slowly, now that I am settled, I have been transferring them down to the house and when I am feeling a bit nostalgic, I peak inside to remember some great times and some down right terrifying times. That’s when I came upon a few field pads I “forgot” to  destroy when we left country. Usually, you had to burn anything that had sensitive material before you reticulated back to the States but I managed to forget these notes because somehow I knew I would be sitting in my living room showing people that The ‘Burbs actually did play a part of something besides cult film history.

Going back through the history of what this film has meant to me might be silly to most and that is understandable. Maybe that is why Rick’s passing has been a tear-jerker to me?

What am I talking about, of course it is! He was one heck of an actor and we are so lucky he shared his talent with us. I always love the actors who never had any serious roles but somehow managed to be more memorable than the Sean Penn’s and Al Pacino’s of our time. Actually Sean Penn is a bag of dicks but still. I love the ones like Rick Ducommun who made us laugh, and ad-libbed his way into our hearts with lines that you could mumble in an elevator and if someone responded, they were your friend for life.

Goodnight, Rick. Good show.

What’s In The Box?!

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I think we are going on seven months of nostalgia-rich Fun Packs from the amazing site, DinosaurDracula.com. If you are unaware of what Fun Packs are, let me explain. Imagine little trinkets from the obscure depths of the 80’s and 90’s which, if unprepared, can magically transport you back to the sixth grade. But that’s only if your old like me. That’s how math works!

This month we are in for a treat! Every Fun Pack has something special but this month really hit a home run. I’ll tease you with words like, “Turtle Pies” and “Boglins”to intrigue you. Did it work? If so, for only $25 a month you too can be a recipient of these Fun Packs and have smiling memories of your awkward youth.

So, if you have time (which if you’re in North Carolina you do thanks to three inches of ice) check out my nine minute video unboxing the great Dinosaur Dracula Fun Pack for this depressing month of February.

Chester’s Collectibles

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Oh lawdy lawd, you guys, I have recently found a gem. A diamond in the rough. A gold nugget in the land of pyrite. Some rock that is deemed more valuable than all the other rocks. I have found Chester’s Collectables and this is a huge win for VeggieMacabre for so many reasons.

A few weeks ago I was driving back from a meeting at Wake Forest University and spotted a little shop in a dying strip mall. It wasn’t the flashing open sign that caught my attention or even the word “collectables” out front but it was a mask from one of the most iconic horror characters of all time; Pinhead. No shit, Pinhead’s mask was in the storefront window and right then I knew magic happened. It happened all over the place.

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You see, I live in an area of the country that makes life for a nostalgic weirdo, like myself, very difficult. If it wasn’t for eBay, I would probably be a spending money on responsible things and no one wants that. I mean, even Target drags its ass when putting out it’s annual Halloween loot around here. I swear by the God of Thundar, if I see backpacks the last week of September I will cut someone. So, having a collectible shop like this is a real treat.

Another bonus is the owner, Chester, who is a real standup fellow. Maybe it is because he sees dollar signs when I pull up but I like to think he enjoys the conversation and our mutual love for old toys. Or maybe it’s because I’m a buyer and not a seller. Who  knows? But regardless, Chester does give me an all-access pass into the back room full of everything he hasn’t priced out yet or horror movie finds that could scare little kids who could potentially piss the floor. I don’t know Chester too well but I suspect he doesn’t like cleaning pee.

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Sometimes looking a gift horse in the mouth is a bad idea. Brian, from Review the World, had a great idea of starting another segment for this wacky site called, “Chester’s Finds”. Okay, I am still working on the title but essentially its random stuff that I buy to feed random posts and then put together “give away” packs to lucky winners via Twitter every month. I think this might be a fun little way to involve the reader. Also, there’s no way I have room for the random stuff I am about to acquire.

So, a little later on the first post will be popping up and I am excited to show you my haul from this month.

 

McBoo Pails…Sort Of.

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As a kid nothing signified that Halloween was truly here like the launch of the McDonald’s Boo Pales. I am guessing the first ones came out around 1986 which carried strong all the way through the 90’s and then something happened. Maybe kids got fat and Burger University did a study and came to the conclusion that tradition and awesomeness was to blame? Whatever the reason, the Boo Pails disappeared for a few years leaving me sad and broken with nowhere to put candy that it can marinate in french fry smell. But luckily for us nostalgia nuts, they brought them back in the mid-2000’s. Happy days were had by all until now, 2013.

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What the Hell is this? What does this have to do with Halloween? WHO SOLD THEIR SOUL TO DISNEY AND….GIRL TOY MAKER? You can actually hear the boardroom conversation where McDonald executives laugh evilly as they award contracts to Monster High, Star Wars, Lucas Film Ltd and Angry Birds. This sucks and I hate it.

And that is when I need to remind myself I am in my mid-30’s and what is neat to a six-year-old is probably total dog shit to me. I just hate when companies like these ride on the Halloween wave with no intention of giving a nod to the holiday. Or the people who made them a success.

Well, since I bought two of them I might as well see what they are all about.

Let us start with the girl bucket. (Or boy bucket if they so choose. I wouldn’t but that’s me.) From the Monster High toy line we see Frankie Stein and her diva face performing a hip 1960’s dance with a severed arm. Okay, I guess that is a little Halloween but it’s also clearly a year-round toy line so, I am sorry, it does not count.

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Inside the bucket we have the same old Happy Meal that you can get in April; a tiny french fry, burger or chicken nugget, apples and small drink. McDonald’s cuts a corner with the toy but does provide stickers which I am sure all parents will be chiseling off the TV and a link to a phone app where kids can play a game. This will make parents even happier. RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE SARCASM RABBLE RABBLE.

The Angry Bird Star Wars  bucket is exactly the same; stickers to be stuck somewhere and phone apps to smudge apple-sticky fingers on mom and dad’s iPhone screen. I don’t feel I need to give a side by side comparison.

 

The app is the only real Halloween themed part of the pails this year. I guess I am okay with this but McDonald’s really doesn’t hide the fact it’s all about low overhead. It’s as if the entire American society blamed little Fat Fatty Kevin’s obesity on puppet McNuggets dressed in Halloween costumes and demanded McDonald’s be lame and provide fruit.

Oh…wait. They actually did.

Let’s take a look at the app. Maybe there is some soul preserving qualities here.

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“Hey kids, this is advertising!”

Noooo shit, McDonald’s. I guess it’s just a little funny to see them state that in such a way. It’s even funnier that they are addressing kids when clearly it’s meant for adults (with no life) who care.

Okay, I feel the spooky vibe they are giving here. It’s very much like an Angry Bird skill where you pull the ball back and try to land it in the cauldron using trajectory and a bit of gentle skill. The hilarity begins when you have to collect vegetables, protein and fruit. Notice how the protein is a fish?

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Who does McDonalds think they are? I bought two buckets to write this review and Lord knows I don’t have any self-control so I ate two tiny fries, a hamburger, four chicken nuggets, two sprites and half an apple that I am sure is 40% preserves. Absolutely nothing in this meal is good for me or for my diet (yes, I am on a diet) so to have a game where you need to collect a carrot, a fish and a pear gives me the giggles. Sorry McD’s, you ain’t health no matter what you shove at kids. Sure, deep-fried meat pellets have protein but they also have fat-butt.

In conclusion I will say, I looked forward to what McDonalds was going to bring to the season since August. Not that I feel good about buying kids meals at 11pm and getting the weird eye from the McDonalds employee who HAS ONLY ONE EYE but I feel that a bit of my childhood is alive in Boo Pales and kids of today should experience them without having shit they already enjoy everyday plastered all over it. LET IT BE HALLOWEEN AND UNHEALTHY! IT WON’T KILL ANYONE!

D Minus. Try again next year.

 

 

 

Ode To My Favorite Halloween Painting…From A Calendar

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I am about to share with you a very special memory from 1985. It’s no secret many of my nostalgic roots are grounded in the autumn season, Halloween in particular. As a kid I looked forward to the month of October sometime around July so I would always flip the kitchen calendar ahead to see what it had in store for the upcoming season. The year 1985 won hands down.

Mom always had Charles Wysocki calendars and I am sure if you grew up in the 80’s, you are familiar. I loved the detailed artwork especially in the Halloween and Christmas scenes. They had so much going on it was like Where’s Waldo chaos but with nothing specific to find. It was just busy and to a seven-year old in with ten TV channels, no VCR and definitely without video games, this was pure entertainment to me. I spent hours staring at this odd world and daydreaming what a horror hotel would be like. This is responsible for my love of Halloween.

A few months ago I was thinking about this calendar, in particular October of 1985. With a few Google searches and some wild guesses like “spooky scene 1980’s calendar”, to my amazement, not only did I find it but I could buy the original. And I did. It’s currently hanging in my office but I took it down to scan and share it with you.

Here are some closer images to take a gander at.

Good grief, the top corner has some pretty crazy things going on. From a lynched scarecrow to a an executioner walking his spiked pig and cow-cat, it’s hard to wrap you mind around the scene if you didn’t have the whole picture. I’ve been debating whether to send this cropped portion as a Halloween card but all my friends don’t need any further excuse to question my sanity.

I am a big fan of the wispy ghosts through the cemetery. I remember thinking of these before bedtime at seven years old. Oh my innocence lost.

Holy cats, look at all of this! It’s hard to know where to start but my eyes always go to the Amish Jedediah guy in the broken window. Know idea why because you have a number of crazy creatures carrying hammers and axes, looking menacingly at you. I would make fun of the guy with the ax for the way he is sitting but, you know, he has an ax. I’ll let that one slide.

Notice the chipmunk-bear riding a bird? Yeah, I barely did too. And a naked dog…thing.

Here we have two gents having a nap, one with a horned dog on his lap. I think they are asleep but judging by the theme, they may well be dead. I’ll leave that up to your imagination but we clearly see a blue hand sticking out of the bag so death isn’t exactly a gamble.

Pithia’s Bloodlust Wrinkledeath is by far one of the greatest names to be named a name. Can you imagine your last name being Wrinkledeath? There could only be one profession for you! If you weren’t a body remover you had to at least be a pro wrestler.

This is funny because back in the day the girls in my second grade class wore these pants which had straps for their feet. I believe they called them stirrups. I always thought the guy with bare feet was wearing girl pants. That dates me as an old man.

So there is my little piece of my history which explains what made Halloween so special to me. There are thousands of these types of memories but it’s rare to own one and get to relieve it, if only for a few minutes.