Ring Pops

If it's going to be the last one for the year, it may as well be about Ring Pops. Why Ring Pops? First of all, they were far more beautiful than any jewelry I ever saw, particularly the red ones, and they were sweet! You have to admit, these things even make actual gemstones look sumptuous, and way underdone. Don't even bother showing up with anything less, I mean, just look at the size of those stones! To borrow from Titanic, you'd go straight to the bottom!

On the flip side, the cheap plastic rings supporting those bulbous half-carat jewels (at best) were never made to fit anything bigger than a pinky, and that's if you had a small pinky. If you were ever masochistic enough to get it on your ring finger, chances are it's still there or you still have the scars, especially if you got it past the knuckle. Am I right? I know I'm right.

Secondly, this is the only jewelry a guy can wear without being a grunge-rocker or a goth, and therefore, the only jewelry I'll ever come close to wearing without feeling wrong. Actually, I think I've been accidentally married to a girl for the last 20 years because of one of these things. I think I threw it out 20 years ago... how insensitive of me.

With this ring, I be tooth-decay. See you in 2012!

Home Alone 2

I have never seen the original Home Alone in one sitting. I have seen the whole movie, but not from start to finish. The one I saw a whole lot more often (because we had it taped, and it was of...*ahem* lesser quality than the original, and so got played more)--was the sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. As far as sequels go, Home Alone 2 actually isn't all that bad. I mean, as a kid, what's better than having the whole house to yourself? How about having your dad's credit card, identity, no spending limit, and the city of New York at your disposal? Hell yeah! Think Florida sucks on Christmas? Why not crash at the "world renowned" Plaza Hotel in instead?... on said credit card! Why not indeed.

We dug Kevin's remarkable ingenuity at outwitting the bad guys the first time around, and now find him pulling the same tricks to get himself ensconced in a king-sized bed with his big cozy bath robe, surrounded by treats and bloody gangster films, and eating two scoops of every flavor ice cream there is. He's dive-bombing into sweet hotel swimming pools (with, and then without, his shorts), paying his personal bag slave in gum, and doing just about everything every kid has ever dreamed of doing! At least...it was everything I ever dreamed of doing, but then again, I never dreamed about the "stolen" credit card getting suddenly declined, and that's precisely where this paradise starts to unravel. Even still, it was enough to make me want to board the wrong flight with my dad's credit card. Throw in some (shoehorned in) retread jokes with the same bumbling robbers, and it was still wall-to-wall stitches from my side of the room. That's not say much though. I love anything slapstick.  

Chances are, if you're like me, you can't hear many Christmas tunes on the radio without thinking about this or the first Home Alone, like the Johnny Mathis "It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas" or "Jingle Bell Rock." But especially this one, which was done for the movie and now you hear it every year  (update: the original was taken down, but here's a good cover):

Just as well, you probably wanted a Talkboy tape recorder because of this movie, like I did.

Merry Chex-Mix! 

In-Line Roller-blades

Rad (adj.): see above.
Don't call 'em roller-skates, these bad boys are "blades". Since the first couple spins I took around the block in my old blades, back in the mid-90s, I don't think I've ever been able to sit quite right. Wearing these things was like learning how to walk all over again, only this time with eight wheels under your feet and a break at your heel. Come across any slope, or even just a gradual downturn or pebble, and you'll quickly find yourself careening out of control... but I guess that's what your butt is for (...nature's impact absorber).
After your first 200-something falls, you do get the hang of it, and then you'll be damned if you can go without them. The steady ground below your feet and the presence of "friction,"... it just no longer felt right. "If the good lord had intended us to walk, he wouldn't have invented roller-skates..." said the great candy man, and I got to agree... except for the "roller-skates" part... (these things are too X-TREME!! to be "skates"). In any case, I think I went through a period in my life around the age of 9-10 where these were just the natural extension of my feet. I lived on wheels. My blades sat by the side door, so if I was going anywhere... "I--was--rolling!"

At one point I could do everything in blades, like climb up and down stairs, use the bathroom (yes!), ride around on a trampoline (kids, don't try that at home), or fly down even the steepest sloping cul-de-sacs... (coming back up was a whole different story though). I even got up the guts to trick out a bit on the local half-pipe at the park, but only the kiddy one and only to the best ability a little dork like me could do... which meant a lot of back and forth on the bottom of the bevel and a lot of time on my butt. But isn't that why it's there?

The world would be a better place if people skated everywhere, I think. Save for a bike, these were the quickest way to get around as a kid. After all, a car only has four wheels... these guys have a rockin' eight! Cool blades were definitely on my Christmas wishlist at some point, and I got to admit, I'm struggling to remember why I ever gave up my first real set of wheels.

....unless I want to count these babies.

< Here's a cool design I found on Zazzle, get it on a t-shirt! 

Lost Sonic 2 Levels

"Dust Hill Zone" concept art.
Many have searched for the legendary "lost Sonic 2 levels", spurred on by dreams of what could've been, what they could've looked like, and why they were cut from the final game. In our minds they are mythic, complete, and full of new surprises, enemies, and everything we came to expect from the original Sega Genesis Sonic games, but what is the truth? You have to admit that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was an explosion of creativity with all its levels and enemies. I remember my cousin even joking once that it had "like, a hundred levels." The only disappointment for me was that it didn't, but what if it did?

"More Sonic" is always a good thing, and certainly something I would've wanted as a kid, so let's take a look at some of the real "lost levels" (not the fan-made false ones). We're all familiar with Emerald Hill Zone, Chemical Plant Zone, Casino Night, Hill Top, Oil Ocean...etc... but what about Wood Zone? Dust Hill Zone? Hidden Palace Zone? Neo-Green Hill Zone? ... Genocide City Zone??

It turns out that all of them were actual lost levels in one way or another, but the truth isn't all that awesome. There are two genuine lost zones... Wood Zone and Hidden Palace, but they are incomplete. Wood Zone takes place in the treetops, has few enemies, is missing some floors, has conveyor belts that don't present any obstacle, and doesn't particularly lead you anywhere, but it is interesting nonetheless. Hidden Palace has a more polished Act 1 featuring caves and crystals (vaguely similar to Lava Reef Zone from Sonic & Knuckles), but it's also only half done--the Act 2 for it just has Sonic standing around behind a pile of rocks until he dies.

So here's Hidden Palace Zone... with it's own music and everything.

And here's Wood Zone... Wood Zone actually had a slower version of what became the Chemical Plant music, this was just placeholder music from Emerald Hill two-player mode.

That's the cool part. The truth about the other three "lost levels" is more disappointing. It turns out the equally-legendary "Dust Hill Zone" was just an early working title for what became Mystic Cave Zone (pictures of Sonic in a desert level were sent out to magazines to advertise the game, under the name "Dust Hill Zone," but no such zone was ever made). The same is true for Neo-Green Hill Zone (the original was the first level of Sonic 1). It's nothing but an early working title for Aquatic Ruin Zone. Then there's the legendary Genocide City Zone, which is just Sonic falling into a blue/green abyss and dying (and thus the name?). It's not just unfinished, it's not even started. Supposedly, the Act 3 of Metropolis Zone was going to be the one-act "Genocide City", but they designed it with the Metropolis setup instead and made it the oddball "Act 3" that is is. I always did think it was strange that Sonic would go straight from the machine-world of Metropolis to the airplane in Sky Chase Zone.

Having said that, there are a lot of cool fan-made imaginings of what the lost Sonic 2 levels "might" have looked like, including interesting and detailed Genocide City ones, but that's all they are, fan-made imaginings. They also made Dust Hill into an awesome desert level, as well as a level that looks like a precursor to the (f-ing awesome!!) Ice Cap Zone from Sonic 3. But don't be fooled by imitations. These are the authentic ones (as far as we know).

Lego Islanders Ad

Part one in my month-long "things I wanted for Christmas" quadrilogy, filed under...

How Cool Was that Catamaran?