Category Archives: General

Doing Disney World with a Genie and a little Lightning

This isn’t the kind of genie that grants wishes.

I don’t post a lot about Disney, at least aside from stuff released by Disney. It’s become impossible to avoid The House of Mouse considering the Disney company owns Marvel, Star Wars, Hulu, 20th Century Television, and so on. I have made frequent additions to The Christmas Spot featuring a Disney special of some kind, but when it comes to the theme parks I have largely stayed quiet. That’s because there’s tons of that out there in the wild. There are plenty of Disney fanatics in the world that have an opinion on the company’s decision to remove Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in favor of an expanded Fantasyland in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. There are certainly a ton of Epcot enthusiasts who pine for the days of no character representation at the park featuring the big golf ball and absolutely hate the encroachment of traditional Disney IP into their fake world showcase. There’s just a lot of strong opinions and it all becomes an echo chamber.

My experience with Disney World goes back to the 80s. My parents actually honeymooned at Disney World in the early part of the decade when it was just The Magic Kingdom. They didn’t select that as their destination because they were big time Disney fans, it was just a pretty new experience and it was something they had never done. Plus, there were other things to do in and around Orlando, Florida and they probably didn’t have the money to go someplace more exotic. My parents always knew they wanted to have kids someday, so when they were at Disney World and they saw how kids responded to the characters and attractions they basically made a vow to return with their kids in the future. And they stuck to that, bringing my sister and I in 1988 when I was a mere 4 years old. I obviously can’t remember much from that trip given my age. I remember picking out my own set of Mickey ears and Minnie Mouse playing with my sister’s pig tails at a character breakfast aboard a ship. My parents had such a good time with us that my grandmother felt left out and wanted to experience it too so we got to go back to Disney World a year later. We wouldn’t return again until 1998 when my family wanted to do a big vacation. We stayed onsite, and it was the first trip to Disney we went on where we didn’t go see other, non-Disney, theme parks, we just enjoyed Disney for what it was.

Since meeting my wife over ten years ago now, we’ve been to Disney World six times: three as a couple and three with our own children. We’ve also been to Disneyland once. My wife is a bigger Disney fan than I am when it comes to Disney as a brand and as an attraction. I love the classic shorts and films and appreciate the theme parks. I enjoy how you’re able to feel like you’ve exited reality, to some degree, when setting foot in Disney World. They whisk you away from the airport and take you to your hotel with part of the experience being the music on the bus even changing when you hit the front gate. And unless you rent a car, you don’t ever have to leave. There’s so much to see and experience that it’s really impossible to get it all in during a single visit, which for us has always been a week. We do a five day ticket with park hopper and leave one day open to just enjoy the resort, do some shopping, and get some rest since a Disney vacation is not exactly a relaxing one.

Since I started going with my wife, we’ve seen a lot of changes at the parks. Our first trip coincided with the Fantasyland expansion and the main attraction there, The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, wasn’t even open yet. We stayed at their newest resort, The Art of Animation, because my wife is a big fan of Finding Nemo. When we returned with our children for the first time, the year was 2019. It was a big, family, trip with my parents and sister’s family and we stayed at the Polynesian resort. My family is comfortably middle class, and to afford the trip my aunt came along who is a retired Disney cast member who worked for years at the Disney Store and receives discounts on hotels. Without her, I can’t see staying at the Polynesian, but it was my dad who fell in love with the idea of being on the Monorail. When we brought our kids for the second time, it was just my family of four plus my parents and we stayed at the Pop Century resort. The year was 2021 so COVID protocols were in place. It was also after the construction of the Sky Liner which could take us directly from the hotel to either the Hollywood Studios or Epcot theme parks. With my kids a little bit older for this trip (5 and 6), it made sense to have that kind of access as they were more into the rides at Hollywood Studios and Epcot was just a great park to return to night after night for food and beverages. This most recent trip we took was in January of 2023. It was another big family trip as my sister had her daughter between our trip in 2019 and now so my parents wanted to do one more. We returned to the Polynesian and stayed for a week once more. It was by far the coldest week I’ve ever spent in Florida with the idea of a pool day being laughable as a result, but it was still nicer than the weather in the northeast.

A benefit of going to Disney World in January is that you still get to see the park decorated for Christmas without the Christmas crowds.

This most recent trip was easily the least enjoyable one so far. Part of that is my kids are even older now so the magic has started to fade a bit. My daughter was still excited to give out hugs to Mickey, Donald, and all of the rest, but my son and nephew were less enthused. My niece, who is 2 and into Frozen and Minnie Mouse, had a nice time, but she didn’t have that BIG reaction the other kids had when they were around her age. She was still a ton of fun to observe, but maybe not what was expected. We also had our travel down to Florida interrupted when the FAA grounded all flights the day we were traveling. We left the house at 4:30 in the morning expecting to be in Orlando before noon that day. What ended up happening is our connecting flight was cancelled and we had to get rerouted to Chicago. We ended up taking three flights that day and didn’t get to our hotel room until 3:00 AM. As a result, it felt like we were playing catch-up on our sleep for much of the week and that first day in Disney World was rather short since our kids just couldn’t do a full day after going through that.

That certainly wasn’t the start we envisioned, but we made do. The weather wasn’t perfect, but it’s manageable. What compounded things though were the changes we experienced. The first big one was the discontinuation of Disney’s Magical Express. That was the complimentary bus service that took guests from the airport to Disney property. Interestingly, it was one of the things my kids loved the most about our past trips because they would show Disney shorts on the monitors and there was the aforementioned big deal about hitting Disney property. What a nice perk for guests staying at a Disney hotel just taken away. Now, you have to arrange transportation yourself and wouldn’t you know, the company we hired bailed on us when our flights got all screwed up. We were left scrambling to find a cab that could get 11 people from the airport to the hotel, with luggage, at 2:30 in the morning on a Thursday. It was a nice bit of stress to add to the start of a vacation.

At least this new addition was a good one.

When I went in 1998, there was no such thing as Fast Pass. My family and I endured some incredible lines to get on the most popular rides. We were teens though and my parents were still shy of 40 so we could handle it. When I went with my wife for the first time, we got to benefit from the Fast Pass system. We would go to a ride, get a pass, and return when we were supposed to. It was easy enough to manage and there was plenty to do in between. When we returned in 2019 with our kids, the Fast Pass system had been moved to the app. It required more planning, but my wife is the type that likes to plan out her Disney experiences so it wasn’t much of an adjustment for us. We were able to get our kids onto all of the rides we wanted to experience and overall it worked really well. In 2021, the Fast Pass system was gone. The parks weren’t operating at full capacity due to COVID so it was back to the old line system, and funny enough, it was fine. I don’t think we waited in a line longer than 40 minutes for anything. The longest line was probably Rise of the Resistance, which was brand new at the time, though it also could have been Peter Pan that we waited the longest for. I’ll never understand why that ride always has a crazy line, but it is what it is.

If you’re a Disney fan then you can probably guess where this is going now. For 2023, we got to experience the Genie+ system. Prior to this thing being invented, the Fast Pass system was always part of the experience and included with every park admission. Genie is not. Now, if you want to make sure you get onto a certain ride you have to pay extra. It’s a per ticket fee, and it just gives you the right to book a Fast Pass on Disney’s app. I’d tell you the fee, but it changes from day-to-day depending on how popular a day Disney thinks it’s going to be. I think some days it was 7 bucks per ticket and others it was 12 or 15. Mind you, a ticket to any Disney park these days is well over 100 bucks whether you’re a kid, adult, or senior citizen. Adding to that expense is just asinine. Never mind that you’re going to pay plenty of money to either stay at a resort hotel, park your car, pay for food, and whatever else comes along. Disney is really good at extracting money from its guests, but this is their most naked attempt at doing so. Oh, and if you want to ride the most popular rides you have to pay per ride. Rise of the Resistance and The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train are on the Lightning Pass system, or whatever it’s called, so you get to pay extra. Your Genie+ for the day is only good for some rides. How senior citizens figure this stuff all out must be interesting.

The Polynesian is a remarkably convenient resort to stay at and quite lovely to look at, but not really worth the money.

A lot of these changes occurred under the recently ousted Disney CEO, Bob Chapek. He has been replaced with a returning Bob Iger who has started to undo some of the changes his failed successor made. He has not undone the Genie+ system and I don’t expect him to. And why? Because people use it and pay for it. Let’s face it, for a lot of people Disney World is a once-in-a-decade trip. Maybe even once-in-a-lifetime for some. It sure feels like they’re moving to that with how expensive it’s all become, and if you want to experience as much as you can you’re going to have to bite the bullet and pay for this thing. I try to tell my kids how lucky they are to have been three times already in their short lives, but they’re kids so they can’t even wrap their heads around that. I also told them to make sure they see everything they wanted to see during this trip because I don’t see us returning anytime soon. And we had to skip on some stuff, because you just do. Disney has successfully sapped a lot of my enthusiasm for the parks with these changes. In addition to the added expense is the added time sink. You better get up before 7 AM on your vacation to purchase your Genie+ add-on and start making reservations as soon as possible if you want to get the most bang for your buck. And you probably won’t if you have small kids. I think we only used 2 to 3 Fast Pass selections each day. Our kids can’t go from morning until night at the parks and we didn’t want to run them into the ground since we were there primarily for them.

I don’t know if I would classify myself as a Disney Die-hard. My wife is, and I’m something approaching that. I really enjoyed the parks each time I went, and when the subject of a vacation comes up it was always my default selection because where else am I going to have that much fun with my kids? Leaving at the end of a vacation was always a sad event, but this time I felt none of that. And now I think I’m kind of done. I’m sure I’ll go back someday, but right now I couldn’t even make a guess. If my kids become fans of the brand and its past then maybe we’ll do a trip to Anaheim if they would appreciate seeing where it all began. For now though I feel worn down by Mickey. If I had any advice to share with Bob Iger it would be to keep Disney in reach for those with modest incomes. Stop trying to court the wealthy, which is what it feels like Disney is out to do with crazy additions like the Star Wars hotel experience. And get rid of that stupid Genie! Making people pay extra to skip lines is just creating a multi-class environment. If you must, make aspects of the Fast Pass system exclusive to those who are staying on Disney property like a longer window to book reservations. The system they had in place when they first moved it to the app was pretty great and it didn’t need to be changed. And also get rid of the stupid Lightning Lane. About the only change I thought was a good one was the new virtual queue system for extremely popular rides. That’s where you get into the queue in the morning if you have a reservation for the park the ride is located at, and in this case it was the new ride based on Guardians of the Galaxy. In reality, very little about the queue is virtual since it works like a Fast Pass in that you have a time to show up, but unlike a Fast Pass you’re just getting in line to wait for the ride. I think we waited for close to an hour. Was it worth it? To a point, since it was a new experience and the ride was fun. Would I do it a second time? No. Which is the same answer I’d give to someone who said to me “Hey, you want to go to Disney World in 2024?” And that surprises the hell out of me.

Looking for more Disney content? Here’s just a small sample:

The World and The Land: A Disney Comparison

It has been a long time between posts for me. Never since I started this blog have I only made one post for an entire month, but my personal life left little time for leisure throughout the month of June. Without getting into too much detail, I spent the end of June and the start…

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24 Hours of Disney+

It’s a bit funny to me what we get excited for in our modern era. If you had told me when I was a kid that people would be geeking out over new phones, subscriptions, and chicken sandwiches I probably would have wanted time to slow down even more than I already did. That’s where…

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Disney’s Best Five Film Run

The Walt Disney Company has been producing animated features for 80 years now. In that time, the company has released 55 films with a 56th on the way later this year and others in development. I’m only talking about the animated ones, because if you add in live-action and all of the films released by…

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Sunshine Blogger Post


sunshineYou may have heard of or seen this Sunshine Blogger thing going around. It’s essentially a chain post, not unlike a chain letter or those chain posts that used to (still do?) circulate through social media. I was tagged by Jay Friz over at RJ Writing Ink for such a post in which most of the participants appear to be anime-centered blogs. While The Nostalgia Spot is not an anime blog, it has certainly touched upon the subject from time to time mostly via several posts on the Dragon Ball franchise. I am a lover of animation though, so naturally I do enjoy anime and this presents an opportunity to touch upon it, so thank you for such, Jay.

All chains have rules, and these are the rules for this particular chain:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you in your post and link it back to them.

2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.

3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write 11 new questions for them.

4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your first post.

Once again, thanks go out to Jay for the acknowledgement. If you have not visited his blog, he does a lot of animation-related posts of old and new properties and is currently doing a daily Halloween post (and if you read this regularly you know about my affinity for that format) and it is certainly worth checking out.

What got you into blogging?

My journey into blogging began nearly 9 years ago. I had always wanted to write and pursued a writing degree while in college. It eventually struck me as something impractical, and rather than reach for a dream I went with a different major. It has financially worked out, but I missed writing. After being out of school for many years and finding myself with a lot of spare time, I decided to start a blog for my own benefit. The theme of nostalgia came naturally, and it’s something I’ve had fun writing about. I do it for the enjoyment of writing, not for publicity. If people read and enjoy it then that’s great, but if no one read it I’d still consider it a worthwhile endeavor.

scrooge triumphant

I love me some Christmas, and here’s a little teaser for a future Christmas Spot post. Recognize it?

What’s been your favorite thing to blog about?

Nostalgia seems like too broad a topic for the purpose of answering this question. I have greatly enjoyed revisiting Batman: The Animated Series. Not only does it provide me with something to write about, but I also re-watched every episode along the way. It spanned more than two years of my blogging life, and I’m actually a little sad it’s over (final post scheduled for the end of November). I have also enjoyed doing the same for the much smaller Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars. Bucky O’Hare being a smaller, often forgotten, subject makes it rewarding for different reasons, even though the quality of that series is not on par with the likes of Batman. Without question though, my favorite posts are the Christmas ones. After dabbling with Christmas for years, I finaly went all-in on doing an advent calendar of posts a few years ago. When you blog for sheer enjoyment it can be hard to find time to make posts. Plus my own tend to total 3000 words no matter what I do, so doing 25 days of posts is hard. That’s why I spread them out and make use of the scheduler function to make sure they post when I need them to. It gives me a reason to stay tapped into Christmas all year round.

If you could date one fictional character, who’d it be?

Let’s go with Sara Valestein from the Trails of Cold Steel video games. She can kick ass and loves a good brew – what’s not to like?


Sara (left) was likely created with the whole “Hot for Teacher” vibe in mind.

What’s your all time favorite show? Or video game?

My favorite show is probably either Futurama or The Venture Bros. Those are the two I’ve revisited the most. From a more nostalgic perspective, my favorite as a kid was X-Men. As for video game, it’s a lot harder since I play a lot of RPGs, but rarely revisit them. I’ll just stick with the same answer I usually give and go with Xenogears. It has its problems, but I love the aesthetic of it and the battle system is unique enough to separate it form other JRPGs.

What’s your favorite show from the 2010s?

It’s hardly much fun to say this is my favorite show from the past decade, but it’s Game of Thrones. The showrunners may not have stuck the landing, but it was a fun ride while it lasted.

What are you looking forward to the most in 2020?

Whatever NECA releases in its line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures, and the same for Boss Fight Studio and its Bucky O’Hare line. Looking forward to new toys is supremely exciting for me, likely because it allows me to feel like a kid again. That and I rarely have time for video games so looking forward to them feels like a waste of energy.

bfs bruiser and bucky

Bruiser will hopefully arrive in 2019, but could slip to 2020. Either way, I look forward to whatever is next in this toyline.

If you could have any fictional power, what would you want?

Let’s keep it simple and just go with flight. I live in Boston and traffic is brutal, flying would solve so many problems.

What’s been your favorite anime recently? For non-anime fans, you can say cartoon

Recently it’s been Dragon Ball Super, which just wrapped up a week ago for the English dub. I never really wanted a proper sequel to Dragon Ball Z, so I’ve been surprised at how much I enjoyed the new series. I’ve also really enjoyed My Hero Academia and Devil Man Crybaby, as the Devil Man OVA was one of the first DVDs I ever purchased.

If you could travel to a fictional universe, which one would you want to go to?

Duckberg. I’d stand out, but it would be fun trying to break into Scrooge’s Money Bin.

What was your favorite cartoon/anime growing up?

My favorite cartoon was X-Men, my favorite anime was Dragon Ball Z.

X-Men (FOX) [1992-1997]Shown from left: Wolverine, Morph, Beast

I lived for Saturday morning as a kid.

Beef or chicken?

Chicken, always chicken.


Thanks again to Jay for the chance to do something different. He made his questions fairly broad and not applicable to anime, which probably worked better for me since most of my anime related responses would just refer to Dragon Ball or Cowboy Bebop, fine shows certainly, but also shows that have been talked about a lot. My insulated nature means I have no blogs to tag for future responses as the few I follow have already done this post. I don’t normally spread chains too, but I wanted to play along with this one especially since I’ve been buried in Batman and Christmas-related writings lately. If this is something you want to do, feel free to consider yourself “tagged” and answer the same set of questions I already have, and as always, thanks for reading.

TROGDOR!! The Board Game



You must scream it when reading aloud.

Today marks a first for The Nostalgia Spot – a board game post. Like probably everyone my age, I grew up playing board games. Most of them were terrible. They were either overly simple, but long to finish, like Candy Land and Shoots & Ladders or they were gimmicky and over in five seconds like Shark Attack and Crossfire. Board games felt like the at-home equivalent of busy work: give one to your kids and forget about them for a half hour or so. Good vacation fodder for when you have nothing to do and also a rainy day activity. Video games largely replaced them for me as I got older, but they were always around.

Not all board games were terrible. It’s tried and true, but Monopoly is fine and my family even experimented with a Monopoly night that might have lasted a few weeks. There were also more aggressive games that asked more of its players. I had an X-Men game that was pretty neat and required you to enter rooms inside the mansion and clear them of bad guys. I don’t remember exactly how it worked, but it was something I enjoyed when I could find someone to play with. Hero Quest was a popular one that was basically Dungeons & Dragons light and took a long time to play. I actually don’t know if I ever finished a game of Hero Quest. The one kid who had it always wanted to be that game’s equivalent of The Dungeon Master, and he was a brutal liar. I think we always lost and couldn’t trust he was playing by the rules so every game just ended with an argument.

Board games seem to be enjoying a quiet renaissance these days. From time to time I notice friends and acquaintances having a game night on social media. I had one such night with some cousins though it was mostly silly games eventually just leading to a Cards Against Humanity setting. I have not tried to get into a more complex board game, and maybe that’s just because I was waiting for the right one.


Check out all these contents!

Enter Trogdor:  The Burninater. In the early 2000s, was a thing. I first encountered it in 2002 when a friend basically camped out in my dorm room at my computer watching the flash animation over and over. The first one that caught my eye was the Strong Bad email that gave rise to Trogdor. It was ludicrous and quite funny, and after that I started keeping up with it as well. It didn’t take long for me to start hearing about it in class or booming from the speakers of another dorm. The site was popular for much of the early part of that decade and Trogdor would even be included in Guitar Hero and Strong Bad also had his own game for the Wii.

The creators of that website, The Brothers Chaps (Mike and Matt), sort of quietly retired the website. They had their fun and moved on, though on occasion a new video will pop-up. The website is still active and the archives can be plundered and merchandize can still be purchased. You can also find most of the videos on YouTube now as well. Last year, the property returned via a Kickstarter campaign. It was for a board game centered around Trogdor, Strong Bad’s dragon invention. Kaizer from CA wrote in asking Strong Bad to draw a dragon, and a legend was born. After first coming up with something that admittedly sucked, Strong Bad stumbled onto Trogdor utilizing techniques such as consummate Vs and the inclusion of a beefy arm. The video then pivoted to a scene of other characters doing their own interpretation of the character. After Strong Bad burns up Strong Sad’s version that may have been superior, the video then unexpectedly goes into a song all about Trogdor burninating the countryside and all of the peasants, which serves as the basis for the new board game.

trogdor instructions


When I saw the Kickstarter last summer, I had to back it. Almost exactly a year to the day, it arrived. The game was super popular and it took almost no time to fulfill the parameters of the Kickstarter campaign. It’s a collaboration between the Brothers Chaps and James Ernest. It’s a cooperative game that can support 1 to 6 players. The players are to aid Trogdor and his mission is to help him burninate the countryside including all of the peasants and their thatched-roof cottages. The game contains lots of fan service, due in part to the Kickstarter goals being exceeded, and if you’re a fan of the characters you’ll probably like what you see here.


The layout for a hypothetical game scenario.

The game is fairly complicated, but not overwhelming. It’s the type of game where your first play through will be done with the instructions at hand. Your second will go better, and after a few games are under your belt you’ll be off and running. Since it’s cooperative, you’re not competing with fellow players which is a unique approach. I thought maybe there would be folks controlling the peasants or adversaries of Trogdor, but that’s not the case. And it’s in spirit with the original cartoon in which Trogdor and his atrocities are celebrated. We don’t want to oppose Trogdor, but celebrate him!


Trogdor strikes again!

The game is a board game, but it doesn’t actually have a board. Instead, it contains 25 terrain tiles that are laid out in a 5×5 grid. Each card has an image on one side, and a burninated version on the reverse. Some tiles have special properties, and by going this route it accomplishes two things:  Trogdor can burninate the setting and it can be tracked by flipping the tile, and each game can be slightly different depending on the layout of the tiles. One of the tiles contains a mountain, which Trogdor can hide behind. Two contain a cave that are connected so Trogdor can “warp” across the playing field quickly if desired. Cottages that require burninating are placed on specified tiles, and there are some other special ones. Trogdor always starts in the center.


The Trog-Meter represents Trogdor’s health at any given time expressed in peasants. That guy in the corner is bad news, he’s The Troghammer.

The game largely occurs with cards. There are no dice. Before the game begins, each player receives a Keeper card which may or may not give them a special ability to exploit on their turn. There are also item cards and action cards. The action cards dictate the movement of the NPCs and provide Trogdor with the action points he has on that turn. Action points can be used to do things like move and burninate. If Trogdor burns a peasant, the action card provides a movement path for the burning peasant. Any tile he touches he burns before he dies, unless he winds up in the lake in which he’s spared. After the turn is done, the NPCs move. There are knights on the board that harm Trogdor if they at any point share a tile with him. There’s also an archer piece that fires in horizontal directions. And once Trogdor is harmed, a super knight called The Troghammer is unleashed to provide additional chaos. The unused peasants are essentially Trogdor’s health. He starts each game with 4 and if he chomps a peasant he gains health. When a peasant dies, it goes to The Void and is removed from play preventing Trogdor from acquiring more health, but also preventing more peasants from entering the game.


These guys are your enemies. Avoid them at all cost.

When all 25 tiles are burninated, all three cottages set ablaze, and no peasants are on the board the game is over and Trogdor wins. If Trogdor loses all of his health, he gets to rage-quit by going on a rampage with a reasonably high probability of being successful. The game can also end if the players run out of action cards, though I haven’t come close to that scenario in my games. It’s an involved game that’s pretty fun. There’s strategy to employ as one needs to prevent Trogdor from getting hurt, but the limited cards means there’s a de-facto timer on the game too so you can’t play skittish. I haven’t encountered any arguments with fellow players, but I suppose it could get heated in certain settings if some people take things too seriously.


These are your optional Trogdor pieces. Some possess more majesty than others.

Beyond the game itself, there’s a lot here for people who are fans of Homestar Runner to enjoy. The pieces are either made of plastic or wood, depending on the version of the game you backed. I went for the Wingaling level which was the cheaper one and contains painted wood pieces. In addition to the main pieces needed for the game, there are also bonus Trogdor pieces depicting his other forms. There’s the original “S is for Sucks” Trogdor, Coach Z’s interpretation, and even a piece that just says “DAGRON” with the reverse being Homsar’s Toaster’s Choice. This means that before each game you get to select your preferred version of the now timeless character.


Hey! I know these guys!

In addition to the game pieces, there are bonus meeples! The meeples are wooden depictions of the Homestar Runner cast so there’s Homestar Runner himself, Strong Bad, The Cheat, Strong Mad, and so on. I think I had to pay extra to get these, though I don’t remember since everything happened so long ago. These have no necessary purpose for the game, I suppose you could substitute knights and such with them if you want, but they’re a fun inclusion and a logical stretch goal for the Kickstarter. They even included a little baggy for the meeples and a suggested game that could be played with them. Given that they’re little painted pieces, I’m reluctant to do much with them as I don’t want the paint to chip, but there’s entertainment value here if you want it.

If you did not back the Kickstarter, then right now your only option appears to be eBay. Some folks are selling their sets there with gross mark-ups. Given the presence of a “Buy It Soon” option on the website it looks like a regular retail version is to come. It probably won’t have the meeples by default, but maybe they’ll be available for purchase as well. You can even sign-up to be alerted when they go on sale. Once they sell out, I don’t know if there’s any plan to make more so you may want to act fast. Should you choose to take the plunge you’ll end up with a fun game that has a great theme. If you’re a fan of the property then you pretty much owe it to yourself to seek this thing out. And if you have a group of friends that still remember this, then all the better as your game crew is ready to go. Now get burninating – Trogdor demands it!


90’s Nostalgia is Taking Over

959_The_Nineties(2)It was only a matter of time before the 1990’s received the same treatment as the decades that preceded it. Even when living in the moment I knew it would happen some day. My dad’s favorite radio station when I was a kid was Oldies 103.3 playing mostly hits from the 60’s and 70’s, at the time. Sometimes I would think to myself that this could be me one day, only the radio would be playing the hits of the 80’s and 90’s. Of course, this didn’t quite happen as FM radio is practically irrelevant in the year 2016, but the 90’s are striking pop culture today in numerous ways.

It’s come along gradually, with novelty products showing up in specialty stores with a bit of a 90’s theme. I’m thinking mostly of t-shirts featuring bands and cartoons from that decade, or those oppressive POP vinyl toys of seemingly every licensed property invented from the 80’s and 90’s. It just seems like in the past couple of years we’ve been hit with a wave of nostalgia from that era, pointing to it being here to stay for the foreseeable future until it’s pushed aside by something else.


Missed Doug? Clarissa? Tommy? Well they’re on TV once again. Rocko? Not so much.

We’re near the two year anniversary of The Simpsons marathon that launched the FXX network. For this first time in well over a decade, those classic Simpsons episodes from the earliest seasons were back on television. The Simpsons has been a hit for FXX, and it’s not surprising that other networks have followed suit with similar packages. Last year, The Nickelodeon Network debuted The Splat on its Teen Nick channel. This brought back the shows from the 90’s every night starting at 10 EST. I’m not sure how The Splat has faired when it comes to ratings, but it’s mostly delivered what it promised even resurrecting old TV spots from back in the day. It’s second year hasn’t been as good though, with the network relying way too much on Hey Arnold! and later seasons of Rugrats. The grosser, more “90’s” styled shows like Ren & Stimpy and Rocko’s Modern Life seem to only pop up around holidays. And while it’s a bit of a trip to watch Double Dare, the show is so outdated and just not engrossing at all for an adult as the trivia questions are usually absurdly easy or absurdly hard (when they needed to force a physical challenge).


Give us the Beavis and Butt-Head we want, MTV!

Just in the past couple of weeks, MTV (a sister network to Nickelodeon) has launched its own classic channel called MTV Hits. It promises to feature programming from the 80’s and 90’s, though the promos they ran seemed to emphasize the 90’s more than anything. It’s been kind of hit and miss for me since it launched. While it’s neat to see Unplugged again featuring the classic performances of Nirvana and Alice and Chains, why the network chooses to only feature Beavis & Butt-Head episodes from the 2011 revival makes little sense. I can only assume it’s a licensing issue (perhaps regarding the videos featured in the old episodes) that keep the classics off-air, or maybe they’re saving them for a future marathon or some other feature. The package shows of music videos have also been really spotty. I watched an episode of Rock Hits and found most of the videos to be post 2000, and who gets a nostalgia boner for Creed?

Perhaps more surprising is the rise in 90’s soft drinks of late. Food and beverages isn’t the first category I think about when I ponder nostalgia, but it does make sense as a lot of people will associate certain consumable items (like candy, soda, or even beer) from a particular era. It was still kind of surprising though when Coca-Cola partnered with Amazon a couple of years ago to resurrect Surge. Surge is perhaps the most identifiable 90’s beverage thanks in part to a silly marketing campaign as the extreme soda (though anyone alive at the time knows Jolt is the real extreme soda) and its recognizable can. It’s apparently been successful enough for it to hang around on Amazon, though apparently not successful enough for a full re-release to stores. I’ve had the re-launched Surge, as I did like it as a teen, and found it tasted more or less how I remembered. It seemed to be just a bit sweeter than I remembered with less bite to it, but that’s probably more to do with me drinking far less soda today than I did back then.


Surprising many, is the return of Crystal Pepsi in 2016.

Coca-Cola didn’t stop with Surge though, as this summer they re-introduced Ecto-Cooler, their green, orange flavored drink that was a tie-in with The Real Ghostbusters. For whatever reason, the flavor stayed on store shelves well past the expiration date on that cartoon and you could even find it in the 2000’s. With a new Ghostbusters film hitting theaters this summer, Coke felt it was an appropriate time to resurrect the brand. I have not had the new Ecto-Cooler, because I didn’t care for the original. Hi-C is basically soda without carbonation. It’s gross, but if it’s your thing be my guest. I hear it basically tastes the same.

While Surge may be the most 90’s of beverages, the undisputed king of 90’s soda that isn’t around today has got to be Crystal Pepsi. Launched with a massive marketing campaign in 1992, Crystal Pepsi only lasted a year, but it made an impression. Marketed as a cleaner alternative to regular Pepsi, Crystal Pepsi was essentially caffeine free Pepsi without any coloring. It was sort of an odd experience when consuming it out of a glass or bottle where you could see the liquid, but it tasted almost exactly like traditional Pepsi. I think it was that sort of weird factor, and the fact that Crystal Pepsi had virtually no health benefits over regular Pepsi, that doomed it. It also had to likely make up a huge deficit to start off with thanks to that ad campaign which featured “Van Hagar’s” “Right Now” heavily.

After an online campaign that attracted some mainstream attention, Pepsi brought back Crystal Pepsi as a reward for a promotional tie-in with their cell phone app last December. Just this past week, Pepsi brought the beverage back to retail in 20oz form only. Time will tell how successful this is, but for now, Pepsi is saying it’s only here for six weeks or so. I’ve been surprised at how quiet the company has been about it as I’ve see no advertisements for it whatsoever, just a clever website mocked-up to look like an early 90’s website (it also features a playable 90’s themed version of Oregon Trail). When I’ve mentioned the subject to friends and co-workers, the reaction has been the same “They brought it back?”

As for the product itself, it tastes pretty much how I remember. Of course, we’re talking almost 25 years here so my memory cannot be relied upon, but Crystal Pepsi still tastes like regular Pepsi with maybe a slight difference that’s too small to even really describe. I’m pretty excited to have it back, as the point of my life that I’m easily the most nostalgic for is probably that period from 1992-1994. It was just a good time to be alive and be a kid and I loved Crystal Pepsi when it first came out so it’s pretty cool to have it back. I just wish the label was a little more interesting and incorporated that light shade of blue the original had. I hope it does well enough to score a 12-pack release in cans. If Pepsi wants to make it a seasonal, summer beverage I’ll even accept that. I just hope it’s not gone for good come October.

So what’s next for the 1990’s? I didn’t even touch on the movies, like the revival of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or the upcoming Power Rangers film. There appears to be no end in sight. Hopefully these nostalgia-themed television channels up their game and companies continue to resurrect the great brands of yesterday. I’m looking at you Nestle, as I want my Alpine White back, damnit!


The World and The Land: A Disney Comparison

orl-disneyland-vs-disney-world-castles-pictureIt has been a long time between posts for me. Never since I started this blog have I only made one post for an entire month, but my personal life left little time for leisure throughout the month of June. Without getting into too much detail, I spent the end of June and the start of July honeymooning in Disneyland: The Happiest Place on Earth.  As a dweller of the east coast, I have been fortunate enough to vacation in Disney World several times as both a kid and adult (it’s actually where I “popped the question” to my now wife) but I had never left the east coast for the west and visited the original park, Disneyland.

Growing up, Disneyland was sold to me as the lesser Disney World. As such, I never had any desire to really see Disneyland if Disney World was better. When vacationing at Disney World, the cast members there love sharing the fact that the entire Disneyland park (and the new park, California Adventure) could fit inside the parking lot of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The common thing I heard from people who had been to both was that Disneyland was something to do on a weekend, while Disney World was a destination worthy of a week’s investment. Recently though I became interested in the historical aspect of Disneyland. As many know, Disneyland was the original park and its construction was orchestrated by Walt Disney himself, while Disney World was in the early planning stages when Disney passed away in 1966. And while many attractions are shared between the two resorts, Disneyland does have a few unique rides and also still has some of the older rides that have vanished from Disney World over the years. When it came time to settle on a honeymoon, going back to Disney World was certainly an option for my wife and I but we both had a desire to do something at least a little different. It seemed like the right time to hop on a plane bound for California and check out the original and see for ourselves which was best. In the end, we came to find the two were comparable, but also different enough to possess their own charm. It didn’t seem right to necessarily pit the two against each other, which is why this post is merely a comparison and not a contest. After a week (with a five day park hopper pass) at the Disneyland Resort, this is the impression it left upon me:


A map of Disney World, Disneyland is said to be able to fit in the Magic Kingdom's parking lot.

A map of Disney World, Disneyland is said to be able to fit in the Magic Kingdom’s parking lot.

The first thing that comes to mind when comparing the two resorts is size. Disneyland started off as one theme park with Sleeping Beauty’s castle serving as the central hub for park goers looking to experience the wonder of Fantasyland, the thrill of Adventureland, and the mystique of Tomorrowland. Since 2001, California Adventure has existed opposite Disneyland on the site of the original Disneyland parking lot. Loosely inspired by Disney World’s Hollywood Studios park, California Adventure is home to Pixar and the unique Paradise Pier and Cars Land attractions. Disneyland covers approximately 160 acres with California Adventure an additional 67 acres. By comparison, Disney World’s four parks and several hotels occupy 40 square miles, with the Magic Kingdom totaling 107 acres, Hollywood Studios 135, Epcot 300, and Animal Kingdom a whopping 500 acres. There are also two water parks at Disney World and both have a Downtown Disney area but it should be clear that it’s an apples and oranges comparison when it comes to size.

The size of Disney World was the main draw for Disney as he wanted an area with limitless potential. As a result, Disney World still has tremendous room for expansion should the need or desire arrive while Disneyland is basically locked in. The added size means more room for guests and more variety, but it also means a heavier reliance on transportation. Get used to waiting in lines for a bus at Disney World, while Disneyland’s compact size means everything, including most hotels, is within walking distance. The size of each resort is both a pro and a con, and Disney World at least gives patrons multiple options for park hopping via the shuttle lines, monorail, or ferry boats (the only exception being Animal Kingdom, which is basically isolated from the other three parks). I love the variety of Disney World, but I also really loved going back and forth between Disneyland and California Adventure throughout the day, gaming the fast pass system or just trying to avoid whichever park was more crowded.

Rides and Attractions

Disneyland's current biggest attraction:  Radiator Springs Racers.

Disneyland’s current biggest attraction: Radiator Springs Racers.

The size of both resorts is obviously of no consequence if there’s nothing worth seeing and experiencing at the parks. To make comparing the two easy, many rides are duplicated across the parks while some of the seemingly unique rides share the same technology or format as a ride at the other park.

Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom are the easiest to compare as The Magic Kingdom is essentially the sister park to Disneyland. They have the same layout and general design with a castle serving as the central hub of everything. In Disneyland, it’s Sleeping Beauty Castle while The Magic Kingdom is home to the colossal Cinderella’s Castle. Cinderella’s Castle is the representation of the size difference between the two resorts as it dwarfs Sleeping Beauty Castle. When it comes to the surrounding lands, the only major difference is the northern most land at each. In Disneyland there’s Mickey’s Toon Town while Disney World boasts a larger version of Fantasyland (and at one point in time, had its own Toon Town). Originally, many of the classic Disneyland dark rides existed at Disney World, such as Snow White’s Scary Adventure and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. These have been replaced at Disney World in favor of an additional Dumbo ride, a small Goofy coaster, and the new Seven Dwarves Mine Train, a ride unique to Disney World.

And here's Disney World's newest ride:  The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

And here’s Disney World’s newest ride: The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

The dark rides are mostly for kids. As an adult, I find myself only riding them to escape the heat. Between the two parks, the only one to really leave an impression on me is the Disneyland version of Peter Pan’s Flight which seemed faster and appeared to be kept in better shape than its Disney World counterpart. Disneyland has some unique dark rides such as the Monsters Inc. ride and Alice in Wonderland, but none are difference makers. As for the rides the two parks share, I prefer Splash Mountain at Disney World to the one at Disneyland. Disney World’s version has a bigger car and a bigger drop at the end. Disney World’s Space Mountain is a bit better, though I’m personally not a fan of the ride. A lot of people prefer Disneyland’s version of Pirates of the Caribbean, but I don’t find either ride compelling. Disneyland has a newly refurbished Big Thunder Mountain that’s noticeably smoother than Disney World’s, and therefore better. The original Tower of Terror at Disney World is a more immersive ride experience, but I actually preferred the shorter and quick to the point version at California Adventure. Disneyland also has the superior version of Buzz Lightyear thanks to the non-mounted gun, though both versions of Buzz pale in comparison to Toy Story Mania, which is the same experience at each park.

The unique rides offer the best way for the two parks to stand out. I haven’t been on the newest ride at Disney World, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, but it does look pretty rad. A unique ride at Disneyland that I wasn’t able to experience is the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage due to an expansive refurbishment going on right now. The ride is a rebranding of the old submarine ride that also existed at Disney World and was pretty hokey, so I can’t say with any certainty that it’s a worthwhile experience. Seemingly unique rides like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, exist at Disney World but under a different theme, in this case the DINOSAUR ride at Animal Kingdom. Of the two, I prefer Indy but the experience is pretty comparable. Another one is Epcot’s Test Track, which basically exists at Cars Land as Radiator Springs Racers. Again, if given the choice between the two, I’ll take the Disneyland version because of the fun theme though Test Track offers a bit more thrills than its counterpart and both are awesome. The two resorts also each sport their own roller coaster: California Screamin’ at California Adventure and Rock n’ Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios. Both start off with a bang and contain sharp turns and an inverted loop. The Rock n’ Roller Coaster is indoors and features an Aerosmith theme while Screamin’ is outdoors, is longer, and overlooks the Paradise Pier area. Of the two, again I side with Disneyland as California Screamin’ offers the overall better experience. And for some reason it’s not very popular and boasts consistently short wait times. Animal Kingdom has the safari ride which is obviously an experience unique to that park. It also has the Expedition Everest ride which also does not have a Disneyland counterpart and is a pretty thrilling experience.

Both parks feature shows and fireworks displays to entertain guests when they’re not eating or enjoying the rides. Every night at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, there’s “Wishes” the fireworks show. It’s a love letter to the Disney films of old (and some new) that will stir the emotions of anyone with fond memories for such films. The outdoor spectacular “Fantasmic” at Hollywood Studios is something to be seen if you’re a kid or adult. One part water show, one part broadway, and one part fireworks, it’s probably the best thing going at either resort. Not to be outdone, Disneyland has the Magical Fireworks each night which are entertaining but not quite on the same level as “Wishes.” Disneyland also has its own version of “Fantasmic,” but without a dedicated amphitheater setting, it’s not as grand, but gets the job done. California Adventure boasts “The Wonderful World of Color” which is basically a laser water show out in front of Mickey’s Fun Wheel. It’s unique and pretty neat to experience, and the special Glow With the Show edition of the famous Mickey Ear Hat is a fun, albeit pricey, addition to the experience. It’s not quite on the same level as “Fantasmic,” but is something visitors to Disneyland should go out of their way to experience at least once.

Making its debut in 2013, Disney World's Magic Band is the new fast pass.

Making its debut in 2013, Disney World’s Magic Band is the new fast pass.

One huge difference between the two resorts is the Fast Pass system. At Disneyland, patrons are able to visit kiosks throughout the parks and essentially reserve time in the future to experience a certain ride or attraction. For most rides, it means avoiding a line and returning to the attraction in an hour or so (for the mega-popular Radiator Springs Racers, it may mean returning to the ride in several hours) at no additional cost. The downside to this is that only certain rides are equipped for Fast Pass with some popular rides like The Matterhorn or Toy Story left off. The system was in place at Disney World for years until recently when Disney introduced the Magic Band and Fast Pass Plus. Basically, now park goers decide before they even enter the park what rides they want to fast pass and for when. The downside is that each person gets only three fast passes per day so if you want to experience an entire park in a day you’re going to have to wait in some uncomfortable lines. Especially if you have kids that want to go on Peter Pan, Dumbo, It’s a Small World, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, etc. On one hand, it’s convenient to be able to decide ahead of time what rides you want to go on (you can also make changes at the locations in the park or via a smart phone app), but only having three and being limited to one park per day kind of sucks. It would be nice if they added one or two more, or at least let you spread the three across parks, but I don’t know if Disney really has any incentive to do so (aside from the potential to sell more park hoppers).

Dining and Accommodations

Epcot; otherwise known as my home away from home.

Epcot; otherwise known as my home away from home.

Disney World, being true to its name, is expansive and boasts numerous Disney brand hotels. It’s one of the main advantages the resort has over Disneyland for The Walt Disney Company was able to control all of the land surrounding the parks. By contrast, Disneyland is literally surrounded by tons of hotels, all but three are independently owned by non-Disney corporations. For the consumer, this means some very reasonably priced rooms, but a lack of Disney flair.

Even though Disney owns nearly all of the hotels in Disney World, it is possible to stay onsite without breaking the bank. The “value” hotels are fairly priced and offer free transportation to the park via shuttle. The moderate and premium resorts will make a dent on your wallet, but offer better locations and grounds. Conversely, if you want to stay at a Disney hotel at Disneyland expect to pay, at minimum, $300 a night for a bland room. I did stay at the Disneyland Hotel, and even though I can freely admit it’s overpriced, it is a really great hotel for Disney fans. Nearly everything in the hotel room is adorned with a Mickey Mouse head and the swimming pool boasts a monorail themed water slide. Ultimately, a room usually just ends up being a place to sleep but if you want to go nuts both resorts have plenty to offer, but Disneyland on the cheap pretty much can’t be done at a Disney hotel.

While I feel both resorts compare quite favorably with one another in most areas, one they do not on is dining. As far as dining and food go, Disney World is hands-down the better experience and that’s almost entirely due to Epcot. Both resorts offer the same old stuff in the parks and at the hotels, but Epcot’s World Showcase is the only place where you can sample all kinds of different cuisine and get a stiff drink too. California Adventure offers beer, wine, and frozen margaritas, but both the wife and I found the margaritas and mixed drinks to be a little on the weak side. By contrast, even hint at Epcot’s La Hacienda that you want a little kick to your margarita and you’ll be going home in a wheelbarrow. My wife and I very much enjoyed Disneyland, but on more than one occasion we both voiced our disappointment at the lack of an Epcot.

Final Words

fantasmicIn the end, Disney is Disney and if you like the Disney experience you’ll love Disney World and Disneyland. It’s charming and familiar and both feature a lot of the same rides, attractions, merchandise, and so on. If you just want to go and enjoy the rides, you’ll have a blast but if you only have a day to spend there then Disneyland will let you see more. If you’re interested in the history of Disney, both parks offer very well done tours including Disneyland’s Walk in Walt’s Footsteps which takes you inside Walt Disney’s private apartment atop the Main Street firehouse. Disneyland will also provide the more casual experience, with cast members heading to and from work a common site outside the park. Disney World will go the extra mile to make you feel as if you’ve left the country and entered another world. The workers seem more devoted to maintaining the illusion at Disney World and it definitely attracts a more diverse workforce. My wife and I will never forget the dinner and waitress who served us at Be Our Guest following our engagement at Disney World. She was superb!

Because I live in the northeast, Disney World will likely be my preferred destination for a Disney vacation for as long as I live here. It’s more of a destination and it’s designed to be seen and experienced in a week as opposed to a weekend. That’s a not a slight against Disneyland, they just serve different purposes. I loved my Disneyland experience and I recommend anyone who loves Disney and has never been there to make the trip out to California. See and experience where it all started, just know you’ll probably only need a three day pass (with park hopper) as opposed to a five day one. And if you’ve never been to either resort, well then I just feel sorry for you.

2012 and Beyond!

Last night 2011 went and 2012 began.  2011 was the first year for The Nostalgia Spot, and in looking it over, I think it was fairly productive.  I never set any goals for myself when I started blogging my thoughts on all things dorky, but I feel like if I had I would have met most of them.  I made over 80 posts, and since I do not know how to make a short, quick, entry that’s quite a few.  In glancing over the topics I can see that I hit on most of the things I enjoy most:  Danzig, video games, comics, Danzig, movies, collecting, Danzig…

There were also things I wanted to post more on, but never did.  If one were to peruse my entries they may even find some of those things.  I know I really wanted to hit on the Sega CD a few more times.  I made just one entry about my purchase of a Sega CDX and Sonic CD but stopped there.  That had a lot to do with timing.  Around that period my personal life got a little more busy, and then Skyrimcame out and I’ve touched hardly any other video games since.  There’s more coming though.  I scoured the

In 2012, there will be Neo Geo!

net for the best, but also obscure, Sega CD titles and settled on Popful Mail.  I already bought a copy off of ebay, I just haven’t played it much yet, but I’ll eventually make an entry surrounding that.  The same day I got a Sega CDX, I also purchased a consolized SNK Multi Video System (MVS).  In short, someone took the motherboard out of an SNK arcade cabinet and turned it into a console.  It’s basically a Neo Geo system but takes the MVS cartridges instead of the Neo Geo ones.  Why get one of these instead of an actual Neo Geo?  Cost.  While getting a custom system like that costs more than getting the Neo Geo home console, the games are usually much cheaper.  I had good intentions of getting a bunch of titles and making a series of entries on them, but I only ended up with two games and just haven’t invested the time (and additional money) into acquiring more.  At any rate, there will be some Neo Geo in 2012, I promise!

Other things I plan on blogging about:

Greatest Games – I started this late in 2011 and it’s been slow going.  I’m purposefully spreading these entries out as I go.  I feel like if I make too many successive entries on a similar topic I get bored which leads to lower quality posts.  If you’ve kept track, you know I’ve only made 3 entries on the subject and profiled 2 of the eventual 10 I plan to hit on.  Expect my posts on the subject to pick up a little as I do intend to finish it.  I already have all 10 games selected and some of them are being saved for a topical occasion.

Kind of like Jell-O, there's always room for more Danzig!

More Danzig! – What more could really be said at this point, you ask?  Actually, not a whole Hell of a lot.  2011 will go down as The Year of Danzig for me, mostly because of all the records I collected and the Legacy show last October.  This site mostly focuses on the nostalgic, and while Danzig holds some nostalgia for me it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when that word is brought up.  As a side bar, of sorts, to this site though I wanted to amass a series of entries hitting on every major Danzig release.  I’m almost there.  There’s just a couple more studio albums for me to hit on and some loose ends to tie up.  There will be Danzig in 2012, but not as much as there was in 2011.

Dragon Ball – In 2011 I spent a lot of time talking about one of my favorite childhood shows; X-Men.  I’ll probably never do something quite that extensive again, going episode by episode, but season by season seems like a reasonable expectation for other shows.  My next subject has already been revealed as Dragon Ball.  No, Dragon Ball is not a show I watched and enjoyed as a kid, mostly because it wasn’t on American TV when I was a kid.  It is a show that I think is somewhat overlooked though and I want to give it some attention.  Yes, Dragon Ball Z is huge in America and other parts of the world, so there’s been no lack of exposure for Goku, Piccolo, and the rest of the gang, but the original Dragon Ball is way overshadowed by that program even though it’s far superior.  I’ve only made one entry so far, and there are 5 seasons total, so you can figure out from here the math on that one.

He's back!

Those are just the topics left over from 2011 that will continue into the new year.  Expect a whole bunch of other stuff relating to video games and other junk that amuses me.  2012 figures to be a big year for Batman, so expect more Batman stuff.  The Venture Bros should also make their return to TV and I have not talked enough about the brothers Venture, so I may have to work them into some more posts in 2012.  Some other things you can expect in the near future:  more 3DS chatter (while Skyrim may dominate my home playing right now, I have to commute to get to work so there’s always time for portable gaming), Game of Thrones, more Zelda (once I’ve conquered Skyrim, Skyward Sword awaits plus more thoughts on The Minish Cap), Twsited Metal, Epica, Beavis & Butt-Head, TMNT, toys and more!  I’ll never run out of things to talk about.

A Dance With Dragons

George R.R. Martin's fantasy epic continues!

Last week I finished reading the latest book in George R.R. Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dance With Dragons.  Long time fans (and even short time fans, like myself) know it took a long time for Martin to release the fifth book is his planned seven book series so there was great anticipation for it.  I personally stayed away from forums and online reviews until I read it myself not wanting to have anything spoiled for me (and for those wondering, there are now spoilers in this review*) so that I could experience everything myself.  It seems to me the general reaction has been underwhelming.  The book, being a companion piece to the previous A Feast For Crows, was set up for such emotions as the majority of the book occurs at the same time so those cliff-hangers from that book are largely left still dangling.

*I have a pet peeve when it comes to reviews that contain the words “Spoilers Ahead.”  What is the point in reading a review that ruins the experience of reading/watching the piece it’s reviewing? is notorious for this with their Game of Thrones television reviews.  The way they’re set up it’s as if they want you to watch the program, then read their review to find out if you liked it or not.

The previous book covered what went on in and around King’s Landing and Dorne.  This latest book focuses on The Wall and the East where Daenerys sits as a queen without a king in Mereen, Tyrion is fleeing Westeros with the aid of the great orchestrator of schemes Illyrio, and Davos sets off a an envoy for his king, Stannis.  Those are they key players, though Davos ends up taking up a very, very, small piece of the book, but several others are also featured as point of view characters, and some for the first time.

I found a lot of the goings on with Daenerys quite a bit slow.  Her conflict is trying to bring peace to the city she has chosen to reign over for an unspecified time before eventually making for Westeros and the Iron Throne.  Her city is plagued constantly by crime from a group called the Sons of the Harpy, who are angered that she took rule over their city and abolished slavery.  She has to deal with the political maneuvers needed to quiet the fear in the streets and find a king her city will embrace, even if she won’t.  While I found the politics in King’s Landing entertaining these ones are drab.  The problems faced by Daenerys are not all that complicated and she mostly faces problems that try her honor.  In that, she is meant to serve as a foil to queen Cersei.

Tyrion, my favorite character in the series and favorite of many others, also doesn’t live up to the billing.  As a man on the run, he’s forced from positions of powers for most of the book where his cleverness is always fun to watch.  His story doesn’t really go anywhere though and his chapters are no longer the best in the book.

Jon Snow’s were probably the most interesting as he deals with the weight of being Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.  On The Wall, he has to suffer the presence of King Stannis and his queen while managing the conflict within his own ranks between the Brothers of the Night’s Watch and the Free Folk.  It’s a constant juggle for Lord Snow as he tries to sell his methods to his men.  He has some moments of triumph, and some of failure, as he tries to establish himself as a worthy Lord Commander.  Making things more complicated, he has to constantly endure the priestess Melisandre and her prophecies, not really knowing what to make of them.

Some characters return from A Feast For Crows, notably Jamie, Cersei, and Arya.  Their appearances are brief and relegated to just a chapter or two for each.  We learn nothing of Sam or Sansa though we do get to find out just what happened to Theon Greyjoy after the ransacking of Winterfell.

Martin throughout this series has developed a penchant for killing off main characters.  It seems to me the books average about one major death a piece, and in this A Dance With Dragons is no exception.  One character whom I’d consider a fan favorite does indeed bite the dust during the course of the book but Martin makes it exceedingly obvious that it’s going to happen, if the reader is willing to believe that Martin would actually go through with it.  Putting emotions aside, I found the death unsatisfying as I’m not sure what the logic was for the characters involved.  I can’t go into any further detail without spoiling it but Martin will have to do some work within the pages of the narrative to convince me why this move made sense.  I should add, the death occurs at the close of a chapter and there’s still some ambiguity.  Even though Martin has become famous for killing off characters, he’s also begun to develop a trend of bringing them back from the dead (literally in the case of Catelyn Stark), so feel free to take this “death” with a grain of salt if it pleases you.

A Dance With Dragons is a decent read, it’s just a transition piece like the second and fourth books in the series.  It lacks the big moments and twists that A Storm Of Swords possessed.  At times, I did wonder why Martin was giving time to certain characters or felt he was taking up too many words writing about the mundane, but that’s something I’ve come to expect as well.  His writing has become bloated and maybe an editor lacks the conviction to force him to trim some this stuff down.  He spends far too much time reminding us that Dany is a young girl, or that Tyrion misses Tysha, for example.  This books lacks a giant cliffhanger like many of the others, and I wonder how Martin will consolidate the cast of the last two books into one sixth volume, but hopefully I don’t have to wait five years to find out.

A Game of Thrones



The cover of the book, A Game of Thrones.

I recognize this post doesn’t necessarily fit my nostalgia theme, but I could probably say that about nearly half of my entries.  In truth, I’ve always had a love for epic fantasy set in a medieval setting since I was young.  I’m not sure when I was first introduced to the setting, if it as a movie, video game, or book, but it seems only natural that I have found enjoyment in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of books.

I will shamelessly admit that I had no knowledge of the series until HBO began airing its show, Game of Thrones, this past winter.  And even then, it was thru word of mouth and encouragement from friends and co-workers that I check it out for I’m too cheap to spring for HBO as part of my cable package.

It turns out it was with good reason I was encouraged to partake of the series for I’ve enjoyed my time in the fictitious Westeros and parts beyond thus far.  I decided I’d rather experience the book before viewing the show and purchased the four volume set off of with due haste.  I plowed through the first book, A Game of Thrones, in a weekend and have since completed reading A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords.  To say I’m hooked would be an understatement.  I have also viewed most of the first season for GOT with the exception of the final two episodes.  I’m in no hurry to see them, since I know what happens, and I have enjoyed reading the reactions viewers had to a certain even that took place in episode 9.

Veterans of the series no doubt know exactly what scene I speak of.  That would be the be-heading of the likable Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark, the perceived main character of the first book and television show.  Those caught unaware have reacted with a range of emotions, mostly shock and disbelief, with a vocal minority expressing outrage and refusing to watch another minute (an empty threat, as it turns out, for the following episode was the most watched episode of the season).

I admit, I was pretty shocked when I read that fateful chapter myself.  The book strongly hinted at it early on when the characters encountered a dead dire wolf, the sigil of House Stark, slain when the antlers of a stag caught it in the throat.  The stag is the sigil of House Baratheon, the house of King Robert, who summons Ned to court  to take on the responsibilities as hand of the king.  Ned helped Robert win the crown and as an act of friendship accepts the offer, for he fears the king’s life is in danger.  This would prove true when Robert would end up skewered by a boar on a hunting expedition.  It looked like an accident, but the devious House Lannister was behind a plot to get the king so drunk he’d never stand a chance against a wild boar.

Sean Bean as Eddard Stark.

No matter, the issue of Stark’s death is the one I want to focus on.  I noted the obvious piece of foreshadowing, one even the characters note for the reader, and still the act of Ned’s death is a shock.  Before Ned is executed he is lead to believe he will be spared if he begs the newly crowned King Joffrey for mercy and admits his crime (of which he committed no crime when speaking out against Joffrey, for Joffrey was not the true heir to the throne).  Before that though, we were shown how cruel and merciless Joffrey is, a truly wretched child with no redeeming qualities.  There was no way he would spare poor old Ned, and predictably, after Ned confessed to false crimes Joffrey ordered the be-heading take place.

There’s more though!  Shortly before Ned is arrested a conversation takes place between Ned and the queen Cersei in which the fateful line is spoken by the queen, “When you play the game of thrones you win or you die.”  By now we have seen what is needed to win:  treachery, deceit, dishonor, cunning – all traits not possessed by Ned Stark.  In fact, all of the things he stands against.  When Robert’s youngest brother Renly approaches him shortly after the king’s death about supporting his claim to the throne, Ned refuses instead telling him that the next in line is Renly’s older brother, Stannis, thus losing a valuable ally.  Stannis had long since fled King’s Landing and was of no use to Ned at that moment.  Had he accepted Renly’s offer much would have been averted.  Had he the stomach to tell Robert while he was on his death-bed that Joffrey was not his true son (all of Robert’s children were the product of incest between his queen and her twin brother Jaime, a fact which Ned had recently uncovered) Cersei and her children would have been executed or banished.  Ned would not dishonor his friend on his deathbed, instead choosing to record the king’s last will and testament and putting in the phrase “rightful heir” in place of Joffrey’s name.

In an environment such as King’s Landing, a piece of paper is only useful to wipe one’s ass with.  It did Ned little good and he found himself arrested for treason when he proclaimed Joffrey was not the rightful heir.  So why then, are we as readers and viewers shocked when Ned dies?

It’s strictly a case of blind faith.  Martin, up to this point, has portrayed Ned as the central figure of the story even though several other characters are granted their own chapters.  Ned doesn’t even get the first chapter of the book to himself, but his presence soon dominated the story.  HBO also used the likeness of Ned’s actor Sean Bean, in virtually all of its promotion for the series.  No author would kill off the story’s main character, especially not in the first book.

It’s this devotion that kept me wondering how Ned was going to get out of it even as his head separated from his body.  It’s a harsh lesson for all as we quickly realize honor and decency will get you no where in this fictitious world and that no man (or woman) is safe.

The following books remind us of that again and again.  Though nothing is quite as impactful as the death of Ned, there are moments that come close.  I won’t spoil them, but I will say there are also moments of triumph to follow as well.  Martin successfully puts doubt into the mind of the reader that their favorite character will make it out alive making each turn of the page both exciting and dreadful.  Ned’s death was necessary to set the tone for the series and those hooked before his death should not abandon the series (and as I mentioned earlier, it appears few have).  Digest what happened, take some time to cool off if need be, and return when ready.  There are many months before season 2 begins where a great many characters will experience victory and death.  Such is the way of the world.

“I hope they make it dark”

That line is bound to surface anytime a new spin-off of a comic book is announced for television and film.  I don’t know where it started, perhaps following the success of Tim Burton’s Batman, but it’s one line that drives me crazy.

First of all, what does it really mean when fans say they hope an upcoming project is “dark”?  Do they want a visually dull image?  A bleak, depressing atmosphere?  Hardcore violence?  Or all of the above?

Spider-Man is a teenager who goes through lots of ups and downs, but to call the tone of the book dark is inaccurate.

I think the word has become interchangeable for a lot of people with the word mature.  And in some ways, it makes sense.  Typically, when a comic is translated over to the world of television it is done so as a cartoon and marketed towards children.  When that happens some elements are understandably lost.  Most mainstream comics trend towards an audience a little older than the target demographic of a cartoon series.  That and a cartoon costs a lot more to create than a book and television producers are forced to hit as a broad of an audience as possible.  So while Marvel or DC may think it’s okay to show death in a book catered more towards teenagers, Disney television probably wants to avoid the subject in order to please the parents of six-year olds.

I’ve always found it odd how kid’s shows handle death, which is to say, few ever die.  The idea for this post sprung up as a result of seeing a user comment posted on a story about the upcoming Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon.  The word “dark” and the user hoping the cartoon is that way was beyond stupid, since the comic is pretty light-hearted and colorful (or at least it was when I read it in the mid 2000’s), though it did get me to think about a certain character.  In the comic, the character Gwen Stacy is killed by the villain Carnage (in the Ultimate version, I’m aware it’s traditionally Green Goblin that gets her) off screen, but Peter is shown stumbling upon her corpse.  Carnage kills by sucking out the life force from its victims in the Ultimate-verse, and Gwen’s corpse looks almost mummified when Peter finds it and the artist gives us a full-page shocking view of her grim visage and contorted limbs.  I don’t know what network is looking to air the cartoon, but I suspect this won’t be included.  That is understandable, but what I’m curious about is if the networks will even go as far as to even kill the character?


That was sort of a tangent, but to get back to the post’s initial premise, I most often see this particular subject line associated with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Whenever a new television series or film is either announced or speculated upon, there’s always a vocal group of fans wishing the new iteration would be dark like the comic books.  The turtles began as a black and white comic book where most of the characters spoke little and actually used their weapons.  It was a modest success for creators Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman but turtle-mania didn’t kick off until it was adapted for television and a younger audience.  The original TMNT was kind of a spoof comic, one need only read the ridiculous title, so the fact that it became this big hit is rather amazing.  The creators behind it were able to get kids to take it serious, and as a result made boat-loads of cash.

The television version of the turtles from the series that started in 1987.

The TMNT cartoon was noticeably lighter in tone.  Raphael, a mean-spirited bad ass in the comic, was made sarcastic and jokey while Michelangelo was more of a goof ball.  Donatello, smart in the books, was made into some kind of super scientist while Leonardo mostly maintained his persona from the books, though with less overall intensity.  The cartoon would have never worked in black and white, so it was made appropriately bright but the streets and sewers of New York were given a little grime.  The turtles were also given individual colored bandanas and pads instead of all sporting red bandanas with brown pads.  Shredder was chosen as the main antagonist and he was pared with a personified alien brain-like creature named Krang, who was loosely based off a race of aliens from the comic called Utroms.  Shredder was given an army of robotic foot soldiers (so that the turtles could freely hack them up) as well as a pair of mutants of his own, Bebop and Rocksteady, who served as comedic relief.

The show started off as a five-episode mini series adapted from the plot from the books about how reporter April O’Neil (now sporting a yellow jumpsuit and a more fashionable hairstyle) is introduced to the TMNT.  Shredder is shown as a legitimate threat and his origins are revealed as Hamato Yoshi’s rival.  Yoshi would be banished from Japan as a result of Shredder’s, where he would mutate into Splinter (in the books, Splinter was Yoshi’s pet and Yoshi ends up getting murdered by Shredder, the networks understandably didn’t want murder in their cartoon).  The mini series proved a success, and a series was launched but changes were made.  Michelangelo’s nunchaku were deemed too violent (but Leonardo’a katanas apparently were not) so the character was rarely seen with them.  Eventually they would be removed and the character sported the “Turtle Hook” instead.  This weapon was just a grappling hook and was as lame as it sounds.  Shredder was also dumbed-down and made a comedic villain.  He was of little threat and the main theme for the program was four turtles having a good time, kicking butt, and eating pizza.

The designs for the 2003 cartoon series struck a nice balance between the original looks of the comic book and the 1987 approach of the original cartoon series.

I don’t necessarily find the mass-market turtles more appealing than the grim and gritty originals, but this was the iteration of the turtles that morphed them into media giants as opposed to indie heroes.  Any network or film house looking to do something with the TMNT is not interested in making an R-rated, or even PG-13, product to satisfy a vocal minority.  The best fans can hope for is something more in-line with the first film based off the TMNT, which returned the old personalities of the turtles while keeping the colored masks.  Most of the film took place at night and all of the sci-fi elements of the cartoon were removed.  The following films were more hokey and kid-friendly, but that first one was actually pretty spot-on.  That said, I think most want to appeal to families and hoping for that much may be out of the question.  The last film released, simply titled TMNT, definitely went for the kids though there was some edge kept to the characters.  The movie was mostly undone by a terribly boring plot and slightly off-putting character designs (the turtles looked more like frogs than turtles).

I suppose the statement I am trying to make is that darker isn’t always better.  It’s also terribly overdone when every superhero has to be some sort of fly-by-night bad ass in every film.  Dark is a terrible direction for a character like Spider-Man or Superman, and the term shouldn’t be interchangeable with mature.  Yes, there are a few story-lines within the Spider-Man canon that are darker than others, but the overall mood of the franchise has always been kind of happy.  Spidey wears a colorful costume and cracks jokes while knocking bad guys around.  Sam Raimi turned him into a moody cry-baby for Spider-Man 3 and we all saw how well that worked.


For me, collecting things is as much a hobby as it is a compulsion.  For those that are considered hoarders, I suppose it most certainly is a compulsion and one without logic as hoarders tend to keep everything and anything.  My collections have at least always been relatively specific.

An extremely small portion of my Marvel action figure collection: Moon Knight, Bobby Drake, Deadpool, Iceman, Venom.

Like most boys, my earliest collection was baseball cards.  For many kids in the 80’s this was a big hobby.  As we gathered and amassed cards of our favorite athletes we would often speculate how much they would be worth one day, certainly more than what we paid to acquire them.  The card market ended up collapsing though and most of those cards are worthless.  I was never real big into it so I never amassed a large assortment, just a tin canister’s worth and a binder.

My next collection would be one that would last a long, long time for me:  action figures.  As a kid, they were toys first, and a collection second.  I played with them and got lots of milage out of various Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, and X-Men for much of my youth.  I don’t know at what age it became more of a hobby than a toy, I’d speculate when I was around 10 or so, but for a little while longer I continued to buy new ones even though I didn’t actually play with them.

My most recent (and final?) action figure purchase; The Monarch and Dean Venture. And yes, that is a Glenn Danzig doll in the background.

Eventually I became more interested in other things, music and video games mostly, and spent my limited income there.  Around the time I started working part time jobs I got the itch to pick up where I left off.  I’m not sure why, though I think it mostly had to do with the quality of action figures released in the late 90’s and early 2000’s compared with what I had growing up.  In the mid 90’s, Todd McFarlane’s company got into the action figure market and revolutionized it.  The company’s philosophy was that a better looking figure could be created without radically increasing costs.  They spent just a little more time than the other companies creating better and more detailed molds and the results blew the competition away.  Marvel’s parent company Toy Biz would eventually catch up and start producing their Spider-Man Classics, and eventually Marvel Legends, line with a similar philosophy.  The figures were now a bit bigger and more detailed and while McFarlane was willing to sacrifice articulation for visuals, Toy Biz crammed as many movable parts into their toys as they could reasonably accommodate.

Leo and Raph from Neca's incredible TMNT line. If that line was re-launched there's a good chance I'd jump right back in.

That explains why I got into collecting Marvel toys again, but just before that I had started amassing a collection of Dragonball Z action figures put out by Irwin.  My thought process here is that I got into DBZ as a teenager and before that any cartoon I watched religiously was always accompanied by a consumption of the toy lines put out.  For some reason I really wanted a physical representation of the characters from that show to adorn my shelf space.  Irwin’s toys were pretty basic too, relatively cheap, and not the most visually stunning but I bought them anyways.  They would improve as the line continued until the company went bankrupt and the license was sold to Jakks Pacific, who all but ruined it.

The Marvel Legends line would meet a similar fate.  I collected these ones for a good 4 years or so before the line succumbed to poor quality at the hands of Hasbro.  At

Hot Toys take on The Dark Knight, along with Don and Mike.

first I bought sparingly, only grabbing the characters I really liked and that looked good.  The first one I bought was Magneto from series 3, and the next one may have been Gambit.  I passed on a lot of them though because I either didn’t care about the character (such as The Hulk and Toad) or thought the figure looked crummy (like Wolverine from series 3).  I removed all of them from the package, as I wanted to pose them on a desk or shelf, and wasn’t doing it because I thought it was some smart investment.  I just did it for enjoyment.

As a result, I have cases full of action figures in my basement.  As I got more and more into it, I eventually started buying everything.  Also, Toy Biz would start packaging each figure in a series with a piece of a larger figure to assemble (marketing genius) so I ended up buying entire series to assemble a sentinel, Apocalypse, Giant Man, and a few others until plastic became too expensive for the trend to continue.  I also sparingly bought from other series, such as the Mini Mates and Spider-Man lines.  And when Toynami unveiled its Futurama line I bought those as well, but I eventually stopped due to a combination of rising costs and lack of space to display all of these things.

Now my action figure lust is all but gone.  I made one action figure purchase in 2010, buying The Monarch and Dean Venture together from the show The Venture Bros.   The rest of the figures in that line are just too expensive to justify purchasing (20 bucks a figure) and I would have no place to put them anyways.  Before that I think my last action figure purchase was a Batman put out by Hot Toys in 2008.

Even though my thirst for action figures has seemingly been quenched, I have found another hobby to focus my attention (and money) on:  Danzig.  I am a huge Danzig fan, one step into my home and you’ll find an image of Glenn Danzig on my wall.  From there, his presence is everywhere.

Most of my Danzig LP's, along with the Lucifuge pendant.

My focus when it comes to Danzig resides mostly with LP’s.  It started with a purchase of The Misfits’ 3 Hits From Hell years ago.  I had just gotten my first real job and wanted to acquire a rare piece of vinyl, just to have.  The hobby was reignited when I purchased my first home last year and suddenly found myself with lots of

The Misfits "3 Hits From Hell" on white autographed by Glenn Danzig (obtained by me). One of 400. This was my first Misfits record purchase.

wall space to cover with records.  I quickly purchased two more records, Halloween and the Glenn Danzig solo release Who Killed Marilyn?, and was able to get both signed by Mr. Danzig before he played in Boston last summer.  I also picked up copies of the new record, Deth Red Sabaoth, on vinyl and CD as well as the 7″ for the single On A Wicked Night.  In 2011, I have so far added a copy of Horror Business on yellow, The Lost Tracks of Danzig on blue, and original releases of Danzig, Danzig II, and Danzig 4p, with a copy of Danzig 7 on its way.  To finish off the Danzig LP’s, I need to acquire copies of Danzig III, Danzig 6, and Circle of Snakes.  Unfortunately, Danzig 5: Blackacidevil has never been released on vinyl, and I’m not sure if I want to add a copy of the EP Thrall: Demonsweatlive to my collection as well.  Whether or not I do will largely depend on the going rate on ebay, though I have yet to see one surface.  Danzig 6:66 Satan’s Child looks like it will be the hardest to come by.  It had a very limited, European only, release on vinyl picture disc.  It’s one of the least popular Danzig records so that may depress its value, but considering the rarity, who knows?  Danzig III: How the Gods Kill has proven to be a bit of a rarity on ebay as well, though I just barely missed out on one a few weeks ago.  I’ll be able to get one eventually, I just have to be patient.

Glenn Danzig's "Who Killed Marilyn?" on purple vinyl, autograph obtained by me. One of 500.

I’m pretty well set on the Misfits stuff.  I am mostly interested in the colored versions of the 7″ singles and EP’s put out by the band.  The only one I don’t have that I really want is a copy of the Bullet single on red.  It’s going to be an expensive acquisition so I’m sort of just biding my time.  The thing that will help me out there is that the 1st pressing of the record on black is actually harder to find, so the red edition isn’t quite as in demand as others.  I’m also looking into the Samhain stuff.  There are numerous editions of the first LP, Initium, and a couple editions of the subsequent releases Unholy Passion and November-Coming Fire.   With Samhain, like the Misfits, I’ll target the colored editions.  The first two releases are available on red, and NCF on orange.

The Misfits' single "Halloween" with insert. Autograph obtained by me.

There’s a white version of Initium but it may be out of my desired price range.  I still need to check out more auctions to see what I’m in for, though with NCF the orange ones are fairly common on ebay and I already have an established price range.

Aside from the records, I have targeted other Danzig related items.  Last summer I purchased the special edition of Deth Red Sabaoth that came with a Danzig urn.  Kind of stupid but undeniably unique.  I also recently acquired an original Lucifuge cross-necklace like the one that appears on the cover of Danzig II: Lucifuge.  It’s totally impractical as a piece of jewelry but completely awesome.

My most recent Misfits purchase, a copy of "Horror Business" on yellow. I love that the original price sticker of $1.99 is still on it.

I haven’t decided what exactly I am going to do with all of these records.  I have framed and hung on my wall the Misfits ones and also have Black Aria on my wall because I love the cover art.  I also love displaying the colored records but for the 12″ ones it’s not as practical.  The blue Lost Tracks and red Deth Red Sabaoth would look great displaying them the way I display the 7″ records but will consume a lot of wall space.  I’m thinking of just getting the standard LP frames and arranging a Danzig wall with the records in a 3X3 grid in order of continuity.  I don’t have enough records to do so, yet, but it’s an idea.  I currently do not even own a record player so I don’t buy these to listen to them (I have CD for that) so I’m not concerned with having access to them at all times.  Even so, If I choose to hang them I’ll probably get some generic record sleeves and keep the vinyl someplace else to avoid placing stress on the LP sleeves.  Some of the older pieces have enough ware on them as it is.

My budding record collection is my current hobby, but what will follow is anyone’s guess.  There’s a finite amount of material out there, though I could always expand my criteria and own every edition of every Glenn Danzig related item out there, but currently have no plans to do so.  I am also totally screwed when the day comes I welcome a woman into my home on a permanent basis.  There’s good chance she won’t tolerate skulls and inverted crosses on the wall of her bedroom.


UPDATE – The Danzig vinyl collection is basically complete:

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