Do You Believe?

Conspiracy theories used to be fun. Remember that?

Remember when people would read the articles in rags, er, magazines like The National Enquirer and Weekly World News while standing in line at the supermarket, and laugh about them? Used to be you’d know maybe a few people that read those things regularly, like maybe your Grandma that didn’t get out much, or your weird Uncle Fred, but that would be about it. Maybe you worked with a guy who was all in on one particular theory, but he seemed harmless enough, just a little out there, so you didn’t worry about it.

Now seems like every third or fourth person you meet is spouting some new nonsense like it’s universal, indisputable truth. Not in a fun, silly way either, these people are serious about it all. So serious in fact that they are willing to lose friends and sometimes even family members over their new dark web gospel. It’s insane.

But it wasn’t always thus. I remember a time when you could talk about the conspiracy of the day (aliens among us, Elvis is alive, they saved Kennedy’s brain, what have you) with other people, whether they believed in it or not, and still be friends the next day. You could have a drink and laugh it off if things got heated.

I miss those days. We were being able to chuckle at somebody’s crazy theories and respectfully disagree with no harm done. Now it’s a shouting match and possibly fisticuffs, or worse. What’s a fun loving guy or gal who likes a silly conversation and a bit of a wind-up to do? Can we still have fun with conspiracy theories? Can we find a few that won’t get half the populace all riled up? Can we pause to appreciate the fact that I just used the word “fisticuffs”?

I think there are a few that would still fit the bill. Let’s talk about them here. Some have been around for a while, some are new. I’ll let you decide which side you come down on with each. Just remember, this is all in fun.

  1. William Shakespeare didn’t write all his plays.

    This one has been around forever. It’s a fun one because apart from a few literary/theater geeks and maybe Shakespeare’s remaining relatives, nobody’s going to get mad about this one. Besides, everyone involved has been dead for a really long time, so who are you going to offend?

    Theory #1 states that many of ol’ Wil’s plays were written, or co-written, by a guy named Frances Bacon. Which of course makes them the ever popular duo of Shake and Bake. This theory is a popular one, so much so that it inspired the name of a food product in the late 20th century. Pretty sure.

    Theory #2 is a little more recent. This theory speculates that Shakespeare was even more of a thief than previously imagined. Apparently other playwrights would present Shake with their scripts asking for constructive criticism or approval. Shakespeare would read the plays and invariably tell the ambitious author that the play “sucked hard” which I believe was a popular expression at the time. The other playwright would destroy the play and go back to square one while William would take their idea and rearrange it so he could pass it off as his own.

    Either way you go, this is an interesting thought exercise and some good, mostly harmless, literary fun. This is also a good theory to bust out at a party where there are smart people around and you want to look like you belong in the room.
  2. Bigfoot exists.

    People are really into this one y’all, and have been as long as I can remember. Bigfoot hunters are no joke. Even some scientists have weighed in on this one. This is a fun theory, because it actually does have a small amount of believability to it. Forests are big, and it isn’t completely out of touch to think that maybe there are some species we haven’t discovered yet. Turning that species into a man-monster hybrid just lends a cool, cheesy sci-fi/horror movie vibe to it that is irresistible to some folks.

    While I’m not about to sign on for this one, I am all for the Bigfoot truthers out there keeping on with their search. It gives them something to do with their free time. I just hope they never find him. Not because it wouldn’t be cool, but because then they’d have nothing to do. Then what? They may start turning to more dangerous ideas. Better to keep ’em busy with Bigfoot.

    By the way, you can replace the forests with the cosmos and Bigfoot with aliens, and this whole section still works.
  3. The Moon landing was faked.

    I love this one.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I really don’t care if the Moon landing was real or not. I just enjoy watching people get so worked up over an idea that is so patently ridiculous. The fun part though, is that the people who get so dramatically upset are the people trying to disprove the theory that the landing was faked. It’s a classic role reversal and it fascinates me.

    You can see this in person pretty easily. Next time someone mentions the moon landing (which happens more often than you’d think) just roll your eyes and say “yeah, allegedly” and watch ’em go. That’s what I do. I never make any real arguments, I just kind of shrug and say “ehh, maybe” or “well I mean, we went to the moon eventually…just not that first time” and then I see if I can count how many veins pop out of their forehead. Then they get upset by the fact that I am so nonchalant about the whole thing and that I am not as wound up as they are!

    Okay, so it’s probably not very nice to purposefully wind people up like that, but it is funny.
  4. Birds aren’t real.

    This is the newest conspiracy theory I’ll be looking at here. It is also by far the weirdest, and possibly my favorite. I stumbled upon this one a few years ago and was just completely enraptured by it. I have no idea if the people behind this are serious or not, but it’s gold either way.

    Okay, so the long and short of it is that birds are not what we think they are, hence the idea that they are not real. Well, they used to be real, many years ago. However (there’s always a however) over time the government got involved because of course they did, and replaced all the birds with drones so they could spy on citizens.

    Real talk. This is clearly a joke, but it’s a good one. The “birds aren’t real” folks sell merchandise and have literature you can spread around to be in on the joke as well. Thousands of people are.

    It was started as a satire of modern conspiracy theories and how nuts it’s all gotten. Yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t a handful of people out there spouting off about the “Deep State” and God knows what else, who are falling for this one hook, line, and sinker. Let’s not tell ’em.

All right, everybody, that’s about as far down the rabbit hole I’m willing to go with this topic. Hope you had some fun with this one, and nobody got upset. It’s just me being a little uppity and having a laugh. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

Walking Down Nostalgia Blvd. (Which is just a block or so north of Memory Lane if that helps)

I’ve been feeling a wee bit nostalgic as of late. Despite my best efforts to mature as little as possible, I am definitely getting older, and missing a few things from the good old days. My social media accounts are often peppered with videos and posts about products, entertainment, places and people from days gone by (there are lots of Gen Xers on YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter producing these things), and I admittedly seek out You Tube compilations of old commercials sometimes as a relaxer before bed time.

All this combined with doing an amazing amount of running around store to store this weekend got me thinking about stores that have closed down which I miss. Sure, I do a lot of my shopping online but sometimes you need to go to a store physically to see what you are buying, and other times you just want to.

So here’s a list of some shut down stores that I miss and would love to see come back.

Payless ShoeSource

One odd thing about me is that I hate spending a ton of money on shoes. I’m not sure why footwear is where my line is drawn about spending money, but here we are. Just today I was in a store looking at the clearance section and everything was still about twenty dollars more than I wanted to pay for it. As a result I walked away with no new purchases.

This made me realize how much I miss Payless. Even without their BOGO offers (which probably helped lead to their decline now that I think of it) I was always sure to find a decent mix of styles for a price I could afford, and the shoes tended to be good quality for the price as well. The loss of Payless has been felt by pocketbooks around the country.

Good news though, they do still exist in an online form. This doesn’t really help me as much as I would like since one of my feet is slightly bigger than the other and I pretty much have to try on every pair of shoes I buy since I am a different size in different brands. Rumor has it that they may be bringing back their brick and mortar stores too, so there is a little bit of hope here.

Borders Books And Music

Wow do I miss Borders. Don’t get me wrong, Barnes & Noble is a decent replacement, but it can’t hold a candle to the old Borders stores. Borders always had a great selection for actual book, movie, and music enthusiasts. Each store had a slightly different inventory beyond the best sellers, but they always had really cool stuff. These stores were stocked by people who really cared about the product they were selling and the staff were always willing to go the extra mile to make sure you found something awesome. I can’t tell you how many oddball DVDs, small press books, and even indie CDs I bought at Borders. They were a store for collectors and geeks run by collectors and geeks, which made them superior to any other large chain or mall based stores out there. The combination of Amazon’s rise, and B&N’s Nook device (which I still despise-give me an old fashioned book with paper and a cover any day) led to their quick demise, and the loss of Borders is a sad one I still feel to this day.

K-B Toys (or Kay Bee Toy and Hobby if you’re old school enough)

Okay, yeah, the big stand alone stores like Toys R Us and Children’s Palace technically were bigger, had more toys and aisles to wander through, and were probably better both on paper and in person.

But.

Being a kid and being dragged to the shopping mall by your mother (years before you went there to hang out and be obnoxious with your friends) was only made bearable by a visit to K-B. You’d spend what felt like hours going store to store while Mom combed through every conceivable rack of clothes, often leaving you sitting outside the fitting room in that chair that was always inexplicably sticky, and then she’d make you try on all kinds of stuff too. Then there’d be the stores full of knick-knacks, accessories, home goods and whatever else was on the agenda that afternoon. If you were lucky, maybe you got a hot pretzel out of the deal. If you were really lucky however, you got to go to K-B.

What a thrill it was to roam the aisles of the only store in the mall that was all for you. You got to see all the latest and greatest stuff. Immediately upon entering you’d start making out your birthday/Christmas list in your head. There were toys you knew your parents could never afford (but you asked for anyway), and there were smaller toys you could buy with your own money if you saved your allowance for a few weeks. There were toys for toddlers, school age kids, some model kits and packaged cards for hobbyists, and even a few bikes, scooters, and skateboards. Digital games too! It was a shining reward of a store for all us long suffering kids.

Then there were those times when you actually went home with a toy. This was the ultimate score in kid-dom. It didn’t matter if it was the newest, coolest doll or action figure, a pack of Garbage Pail Kid cards, or a set of Colorforms (remember those?), leaving the mall with anything from K-B was an absolute win. I kind of feel sorry that kids today don’t get to experience that.

Radio Shack

Radio Shack was THE store for electronics. Back in the day, you had multiple components to all of your electronics in the house. Your VCR, TV, video games, stereo equipment, and pretty much anything else that plugged into the wall all had multiple cords and plugs needed to make them work. Nowadays a lot of this stuff is self contained, or requires one lousy USB cable. Back then you often had three cables just for your VCR. Not to mention the cable/television antenna and adapter for your Atari system. Anyway, back in those days, pretty much everybody had to know a little bit about what plugs and adapters got hooked into where. So when one of those cords went bad, or you needed a new one for your most recent electronic purchase, you went to Radio Shack and took care of business.

It wasn’t just cords though. Radio Shack were among the first electronics stores to sell home computing systems. They also sold phones, both landline and cellular. They had radios (duh) and other portable audio. Radio Shack also carried remote control toys and handheld electronic games, ham radio equipment, cameras, microphones, head phones, you name it, and all at prices your average Joe could afford. Was it all high end stuff? No. But it worked, and it was decent quality nonetheless. Everybody went to Radio Shack and used their stuff, and you could always bet that come Christmas morning, something under the tree would be from the Shack.

It feels like we are not as much of a DIY society as we used to be, which is kind of sad. However, it seems that Radio Shack does still have an online presence, and a few stores kind of willy-nilly throughout the country. I think they mostly do supplies now as opposed to selling electronic products, but it’s nice to know that you can still use them if you look hard enough and have the need.

Fotomat

Ah, yes, the old Fotomat. Those goofy looking kiosks in random parking lots that have all seemed to turn into snow cone places or drive through coffee joints.

In case you forgot (or somehow never knew), we didn’t always carry hundreds of pictures around in our pockets. They weren’t stored on our phones, or on digital cameras and in computers. Used to be that cameras had actual film in them. Once the film was used up, you’d drive the canister over to the Fotomat to be developed, drop it off, wait a few days and then pick up your pictures and see how they turned out. You’d never know exactly how they’d look. Would they be too light or too dark? Would the people in the photos have no heads because your viewing window on your camera was too far away from the actual lens? Would you get just a close up of finger? You never knew-and that made the waiting and the reveal exciting!

I mean, it’s actually better now, since you can instantly see if your picture sucks or not, and you can edit on the spot or just take another one. It’s infinitely more efficient, but maybe there’s a bit of charm lacking, and the whole enterprise is maybe not as much fun.

Show Biz Pizza Place

All right so it’s not a store exactly, but a part of me is still annoyed that these got shut down. Plus, it’s my list and I can do what I want.

Show Biz was a kid’s paradise, it had everything you could possibly want for a birthday party or just a way to spend a rainy day with a friend or two. Pizza? Check. Video games? Check. Skee Ball? Yup. Ball Pit? Some locations!

They also had an animatronic house band called the Rock-A-Fire Explosion. These characters would not only “perform” songs, but they would perform skits as well. They had fleshed out characters who interacted on stage, called out the birthday boy or girl by name, and presented a quality product. I loved Billy Bob, Beach Bear. Mitzi Mozzarella, and my favorite, Fats the gorilla. This was great stuff, and there are still fans of Show Biz out there on the internet preserving the memories of this wonderful restaurant. Some have even recovered/restored the old animatronic characters and there are numerous You Tube videos of the band rocking out to modern songs.

As a side note, I’m pretty sure that Show Biz pretty specifically was the template for the restaurant in the Five Nights At Freddy’s horror video game series. Cool idea, that game, but the actual, real place was awesome, innocent, and fun. I swear!!

Anyway, there were other establishments that used a similar idea (even one pizza place/arcade I remember that featured magicians and had a castle theme for some reason called AbraKDabra), but none came close to the level of fun or quality to be found at Show Biz Pizza Place.

Which is all to say that Show Biz did, and still does, kick Chuck E Cheese’s sorry butt.

Okay, well, that was fun. I hope you enjoyed my little nostalgia trip. Maybe it brought back some good memories for you too. Perhaps we’ll revisit this topic another time. Come back next week and see what lies in store on the next edition of MonDAVES! Bye, y’all.

Somebody Get Me An Agent, I’ve Got Some Ideas

I had a fairly bad cold last week. Not flu level (or COVID) thank goodness, but bad enough to knock me down for a few days. During my two day sick fest my viewing habits went straight back to my old school sick day routine, which meant the morning news shows, a little PBS, and a whole lot of game shows. Pluto TV has tons of game shows from classic The Price Is Right episodes to America Says, Deal Or No Deal, Jeopardy, Wheel Of Fortune and many more on both designated channels and on demand. Oh, and before you regular readers comment, I know I was just complaining about there being too many streaming services a few weeks ago, but I didn’t say it was all bad. Besides, a little small hypocrisy never hurt anybody.

Anyway.

I have continued watching some game shows here and there since I got better. I always forget how much I love game shows until I get on a kick like this. While I doubt I’ll ever make it on a game Show I have had a few ideas for some new Game Shows that I think would be fun. See what you think about these ideas:

1. Chewy/Not Chewy

Here’s one for Food Network. In this game contestants are presented with both familiar and obscure foods, treats, and delicacies from around the world and based upon their smell and appearance the contestants must decide if the foods are chewy or not chewy. It would be a great way to introduce people to new foods. It would also be fun to hear an entire studio audience yell out “Not Chewy!” in unison.

2. Grammar Police

This is a game for all of us grammar freaks. The contestants are read samples of other people’s writing and have to spot the grammar mistakes. As the game goes on the mistakes get trickier. Points are scored for every mistake found. The person with the fewest points at the end of round two is placed in “Grammar Jail” while the winner plays a bonus round for prizes, and an official badge, making them an officer with the Grammar Police.

3. Ex Or Next

Here we have an updated twist on the old Dating Game/Newlywed Game format. The contestants are all people who are recently engaged. Before the show begins, both the contestant’s fiancée and an ex-significant other have answered a series of questions. The contestant hears both the questions and the answers and has to try to work out who said what by matching the response to the appropriate person. A tally is kept showing how many correct matches the contestant has. At the end of the show a prize is given based on how many matches the contestant got right. This consists of an all expense paid date at a swanky restaurant or other romantic location. Here’s the catch: Whoever the contestant matched most answers with is the person they have to take on the date.

4. Name That Odor

This one’s pretty self explanatory. Kind of a gross idea, sure, but you’d tune in. You know you would. At least once. Plus, the celebrity edition would be epic.

5. What’s That Supposed To Be?

In this fun for the whole family game, contestants are shown drawings by toddlers and preschoolers and have to figure out what in the world they are looking at. Sometimes there are hints, sometimes not. Whoever comes nearest the actual intent of the drawing gets the points, and the person with the most semi-correct guesses wins. This show is the perfect blend of adorableness and parental nightmare. It’s bound to be a hit.

So, what do you think? Am I a game show genius? Should I try to get in touch with Hollywood, or would I just be pressing my luck? Either way, I’ll see you back here next week for more MonDAVEs!


Enough With The Streaming Already

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I was totally in on the whole streaming idea as a replacement for cable television which, let’s face it, has had an extremely broken business model for years now. I don’t regret my decision to cut the cable chord, nor do I plan to return. I do enjoy my streaming services, and I use them daily.

But we’re now at the point of over saturation.

It all started innocently enough, since there were only a few streaming channels available in the beginning and the big dogs, Netflix and Hulu, are still standing. Remember when those two were basically all you needed? Maybe a specialty streamer was a good idea, say for a favorite sport or particular movie or TV genre, but if you had those two you were good. Once the success of these services was proven you started getting a few others on the scene, most notably Amazon Prime, which really upped the ante as far as what was available to stream.

Then it seemed like everybody wanted to get into the act. Can’t blame them, of course, from a business standpoint. First, the cable and broadcast networks began to enter into exclusive contracts with one service or another for rights to air their hit shows. No longer content with that little piece of the pie, before you knew it many of these networks had their own streaming channels available. Major film studios soon followed suit. Which of course left the main streamers free to develop more and more original programming that, depending upon what was hot at the moment, meant you had to subscribe to multiple streamers so as not to miss out.

Then there’s the battle of the providers, Roku vs. Apple TV. Each have pros and cons, and exclusives that one must consider when deciding who to stream with. Not to be outdone, cable got into the act by requiring a cable subscription to stream many sporting events, since those contracts already existed. Even the new MLS soccer league has a deal with Apple TV where not only do you need to subscribe to Apple, but also to a specific service to see the games. Kinda like the NFL did years back with their “Sunday Ticket” and “Redzone” cable and Satellite TV offers.

Oh yeah, Satellite TV is a thing too. Basically cable you can’t watch when it rains. But I digress.

Now, all of this is fine and well on paper. The multiple streaming channels idea makes sense in our modern world. Give the people choice, and they only need pay for the streaming channels they want, thus eliminating the nonsense of cable. With cable you’d pay for about fifty channels that you don’t care about and you will never watch. That, along with the absolutely ridiculous price, was why we got rid of cable in the first place. All right, so far so good, but there are issues.

Firstly, most of these streaming channels, the really good ones anyway, require subscriptions. Especially if you’d like to watch with no commercials, or you want access to the really primo stuff. Oh, hey, tiered subscriptions. Another reason why we all got rid of cable. Interesting.

The problem though, is that this streaming thing was supposed to save us money, and now most people are finding their monthly streaming bills going up and up. Many are beginning to reject paying for new services when they are only interested in one or two programs provided. Yet you are still paying for hundreds of new choices within the streaming app.

Which brings me to point number two.

There’s just too much choice. Sure, it’s nice to have a seemingly unending choice of viewing material at your fingertips. The problem is that you have a seemingly unending choice of viewing at your fingertips.

Unless a person is going to watch something very specific, picking something out is a Herculean task. First, you must browse the new releases and the “recommended for you” sections. Then it’s a quick look at the “because you watched” section. Then you start to think about a specific genre of show you want to watch and begin scrolling through that category. If you still can’t find anything that seems a good fit for that evening’s entertainment, don’t worry. There are at least five more streaming channels that you subscribe to. Pick one and start the process all over again. Each streamer has hundreds of choices, so you’re sure to find something, right?

Wrong. I don’t know about you all, but I have actually spent the better part of an hour scrolling through choices just trying to find something to watch. There’s only so much you can take of the scrolling, reading descriptions and watching meticulously picked scenes for previews. The frustrating thing is that I want to watch all of it, but don’t feel like watching any of it. After a while it just hurts the brain, and it’s easier to just go to bed.

I’d actually like to see data on how many people just scroll and never find anything, or how long the average person scrolls before choosing. I bet those numbers are way bigger than you’d think. Or maybe they’re smaller. Maybe I’m just a weirdo. Definitely possible.

What I’m interested to see, however, is how this will all play out in the long run. I’m sure we will be stuck with things the way they are for the foreseeable future. Still, I can’t help but wonder how this is all going to shake out. Streaming in and of itself is not very old in the grand scheme of things, and it got really popular really quickly. Sometimes that’s a recipe for success, sometimes disaster. Will the over saturation continue or will people finally have enough and trim the fat back down to only a few channels? Will some new thing come along and make all of this streaming stuff obsolete in another ten years? Time will tell.

Selfishly, I’d kind of like to see this all lead to a rediscovery of and an uptick in sales of physical media. I know, people are all about minimalism now, but hear me out. How many times have you been in the middle of a series only to find it removed from the service you were watching it on? Then it moves to another one you don’t have, but can’t really afford to subscribe to. Or you discover a new favorite movie that disappears entirely and you never do find it again. What about old classics that you used to love but no service seems to have?

Well, that’s where physical media comes in. If you own a copy and have a player to watch it on this will never be an issue. You can always go back to the comfort food that is your favorite shows or films. Let’s face it, even with the hundreds of choices available, Netflix, Hulu et al have limited space available. Sooner or later, something’s going to have to go. Maybe it will rotate back into the system. Maybe not. Wouldn’t it be nice to know you have your own copy whenever you want it? This applies to music and books as well.

Sure, streaming is “now”, but there are signs that physical will never truly go away. Some people are just born with the collector gene, and if you’re into the arts, you’re going to collect the pieces you love. There are more than a few labels out there, for both movies and music, that specialize in niche offerings such as specific genres and classics, as well as the latest popular thing. Many of these companies have seen steady numbers, and some growth in the past few years. Maybe a return to physical media is imminent. Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part.

Okay, rant over. Sorry if it wasn’t as humorous as you’d expect from this blog. Try going back and reading it in Grandpa Simpson’s voice, maybe that will help.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch a little TV before bed. I’m in the middle of four different shows. If I can only pick the perfect one to watch…

See you next week.