Battle of the Batteries

Duracell claims that kids don't care about what batteries power their toys, and I have never been more insulted. See, I was a dork, and yes, I did have my battery preferences. Sure I trusted the "copper top"...they worked better than Rayovac, and definitely better than Chap Stick, and yeah, they came with that cool strip you could press down on to see how charged it was, but now I'm not so sure. Now I may just have to go back to my kid-hood allegiance was with the bunny.

Depending on which mythology you believe, the Energizer Bunny started out as a man who found a genie, wished for money, girls, and "long life," and got exactly what he wished for. In my 8-year-old opinion, that didn't sound like such a bad deal (so long as the other two wishes were part of the package). If not, then it was just some toy that escaped from the Energizer labs and is reportedly "still going" to this day on the same batteries... either way, "long-lasting" is basically the theme here.

Duracell is obviously better, but nothing says 90s like a pink bunny in flip flops. And because attempts to stop him have been thwarted, he's probably still out there (somewhere) incongruously banging that drum and interrupting random commercials for Alarm Soap and Not Bacon. No one messes with a dude in cool shades.

The Oregon Trail

Let me start out by saying that The Oregon Trail was arguably the greatest computer game of all time, and that's putting it lightly. I mean, who even really knows what the real Oregon Trail was? All I know is that it had something to do with the western pioneers, but ask any kid from the early 90s, and the Oregon Trail was just one of the coolest computer games ever made fer sure (no offense to the pioneers).

This game was more about survival than a history lesson, which is why it was so darn cool. I remember playing at least two versions of it: the original and the deluxe. The original had that pixelated, white covered wagon on a simple black screen, and the deluxe had 32bit renderings with the blue skies and banjo-like computer music. You could choose from several occupations like "Banker," (which meant you had more money ), "Doctor" (which meant you'd have better health), or "Merchant" (which meant you'd have more stuff)...etc. Basically, each came with their own pros and cons, and none really had everything you'd need for the trip by themselves.

So you'd pick your poison, you'd buy some supplies at the ole' timey "General Store" (pro-tip: BUY BULLETS... don't waste time buying food, it spoils!), and you'd decide when to leave (pro-tip: if you leave too late, you'll hit the dead of winter, but if you leave too early, your animals will die from the lack of grass). So you'd pick your poison once again, and finally set your little oxen off doing their two-step shuffle along the Oregon Trail with your cozy covered wagon in tow. The adventure was on, damn it. 

Along the way, you'd run into all sorts of dialog boxes... sometimes you'd have to decide whether to "caulk your wagon" and float across a river (where you'd always seem to drown an ox), or you'd all get sick and start dying off from old diseases (forget dysentery, try cholera!), or you'd have to stop to hunt, or cross another river, or you'd run into some town and decide to BUY MORE BULLETS. (I swear, if you ran out of bullets, you could not eat. It was that simple.)

Speaking of bullets, hunting was funny on the Oregon Trail. Not only were the bison the easiest things to shoot, but they also brought back the most meat, so what was the point of the rabbits and squirrels (besides points?)? Just a waste of bullets if you ask me. Another funny thing was how you could be out there dropping bison and deer dead left and right, strewing carcasses all over the place, but you could only carry, like, maybe one of them back. The real Oregon Trail must have been littered with dead bison that couldn't be "carried back"...if this game is any guide. No wonder they're endangered. 

In the deluxe version, the seasons would change rapidly... the oxen would be trudging through snow, and then through green grass... the sky would alternate between gray and blue, and the little mountains would scurry along as you came across such places as Fort Kearney and Chimney Rock. Sometimes an ox would die and you'd wish you were a merchant, or sometimes a person would die and you'd wish you were a doctor, or sometimes you'd break a wagon wheel and wish you were a carpenter, and sometimes you'd die in the snow and wish you weren't a loser, but if you made it to Oregon, it was something special indeed. 

The Oregon Trail was just another one of those games that made those clunky, slow, computers of our early memory so darn cool.

Until you died of dysentery... 

The Glory of VHS

Hazy glory.
As far as picture quality, sound quality, and quality in general goes, who could argue VHS is better than DVD, or Blu-ray? Tapes (as we called them) really weren't all we crack them up to be (literally)... they easily tore and crinkled, VCRs thought they were snacks, and every time you played them they lost focus until they became muted, fuzzy, 90's glory. And yet, these black plastic bricks with tape loops in them were still downright cool.

Remember the problems? Bits of static might show up on the top and bottom of the screen, or the picture might double-up, or change weird colors, or flip like a cartoon book. Sometimes there'd be total stoppages of film or jams which would cause the television to go into black-out "damage control" and run its white or green letters across the top, reading "STOP.... PLAY..." in a desperate struggle to get the tape spinning again. Chance are, the sound of a tape getting stretched around the loops and "cranking" is burned into your memory forever.

You hit "Stop" and the thing would literally jam to a halt, and you'd hear it. You hit "Fast Forward" and you'd see the world like a caffeine addict. You hit "Rewind" and you'd see people speedily ripping off Michael Jackson. "Rewind" actually meant that the tape was being "rewound" then... something that gets lost on modern DVDs... (I think they're using the term "fast-backwards" now). But if it's still okay to say "You sound like a broken record," maybe "rewind" is here to stay too. I hope so. "Fast Backwards" is stupid.

But besides the technical glitches that we used to hate and now suddenly love... what we always loved about VHS was taping things. In this age where anything on TV can be Tivo'ed, paused, reserved, bought, Netflixed, On-Demand'ed...etc., there really is no reason to tape anything anymore. Back in the day though, if a movie was playing on TV, and you wanted to see it again, you had to stick in a VHS and "record" what you were watching, commercials and all (or you'd sit there hitting "stop" on all the commercials). If you weren't around to catch a program you wanted to see, you had to set the timer and pray it might record what you wanted. It never did, but there was always a chance. Half the movies we "owned" were taped off the TV...always in SLP mode (or Super Long Play)... because, any other mode just wasn't super enough.

But most of all, the reason we love VHS is because, if you're a 90s kid, all your big milestones and events from your childhood are probably still recorded on them-- birthdays, Christmases...etc. That has something to do with it fer sure. We will soon no doubt think back fondly on "that old rainbow-effect" of the DVD, but for now, I salute you, VHS and VCR... may your green 12:00am display forever blink in our memory.

The BK Crown

One size fit all.
It looks like the Burger King crown is making a comeback. I can't say I ever felt like a king wearing one (at any age), but I sure felt something, so I'm glad to see it back in full swing. I remember the local BK used to have them out on the tables and in between booths, so then just as today, any kid could just wander in and get one... particularly if your parents just went through the drive-thru and they forgot to include the damn crown! The nerve of those drive-thru people.

I did have a few complaints. These paper crowns just never, ever, fit your head, no matter what "size" you made them, and they dug into your ears something fierce. But I don't know, perhaps I did feel like I was having it my way when I got my (two) hands around my condiment-free, pickle-free, lettuce-free, burger slab on two buns. And perhaps I really was king and everyone else's crown was just a flimsy paper imitation. I'd like to think so now.

Speaking of which, while I may have been king of scarfing down fast food, I sure wasn't king of holding on to those so-called "crown jewels." I probably had about 100 meals at BK in my early life, and probably about 50 of them I was "king" of... so where the heck did all those crowns go, and why did I have to keep getting coronated every time I had a hankering for fries? Wasn't I already king, or did my kingdom just stop at the boundary of the paper wrapper?

In any case, did the crown really ever go away? That would've been as depressing as the demise of the Burger King Kids Club cult... (world domination was in our grasp and the grups go take it away?) ...the nerve of those grups!

The Treasure Shell!

Here's a story I wrote for school in the 3rd grade, for which I received a well-deserved check+ and a star sticker. Because no one but me can read my chickenscratch, I'll reproduce it here for you in all its awesomeness. And just in case there's any question, please note that I copyrighted it. ;p

The Treasure Shell!
By mark  (c) October 23, 1995

Once there was a Boy, who went to the ocean. While there he explored the shore, looking for shells. He found rocks, shells, seaweed, broken glass and pennies! The pennies were old looking and leading some where. He followed the path. The pennies ended at a cave. It was very dark inside the cave. He entered slowly. It was creepy, damp, cold, and smelly. In the distance was a flicker of light!

The Boy went closer to the light. Once there, he, saw that it was from a crack in a Box. The Box was old and dusty. It had letters on the cover. Spelling "T.S." He opened the cover nervously. A blue light spurted out! So bright that it lit up the cave.

The light went down into a shape of a shell. It was standing Backwards. He picked it up. All at once he actually felt a power in the shell. The shell was the size of his hand, it had ridges on one side and smooth on the other. The color was tan and pink. It had electric power. A note said "If the magic shell did not like who touched it, the shell would zzzZAP the person". It also said "The light can blind a person." It seemed to like the Boy. So As Time whent on, he keped the shell to show others. A week later he went to the ocean. again he explored the cave.

"What a nice shell."

"I wonder what the T.S stands for in this Box?" He thought?