thinglets: The Five Grooviest Schoolhouse Rock Songs

From the quick pace of Rufus to the infectious chorus of Conjunction Junction. From the kickass funky deep groove of Verb and I Got Six to the slow bluesy jam of Naughty Number Nine. Let the grooviness do the talkin'. If you think I missed one, please share in the comments:

1. Rufus Xavier Sarsapirilla

2. Conjunction Junction

3. Verb

4. I Got Six

5. Naughty Number Nine

thinglets: Remembering the Stubby

As a child, my family would go camping 5 or 6 times each summer for weekends. We'd haul the camper behind the Oldsmobile for hours until we found a spot that that had an arcade and vending machines... after all, there's gotta be something for the kids to do that didn't involve "nature" stuff.

One of the things I started to do was collect beer bottles. I was nowhere near old enough to drink yet, but I would raid campsites all over Ontario and try to focus on license plates that were from out of province. Sometimes I'd trade so as not to rip someone off of ten cents. Other times I'd just sneak onto their campsite late and abscond with a forgotten empty laying on the grass around the fire.

In yet another walk down memory lane, I offer up pictures of many of the stubbies in my collection. I wish I could take the credit for the pictures, but they come from a site I heartily recommend you visit -  Go there for a few hundred pictures of timeless bottles from all over Canada. Seriously, go there now!

Even if you're from nowhere near the Great White North, perhaps you can find something in the design aspects of some genuine works of art that were the beer labels of the 70s and 80s.

BTW, I'm not even start on my collection of some of the US stubbies I have... after all, when I lifted them from cross-border travelers I may have run the risk of causing an international incident and I don't know what the statute of limitations is on Stubby Theft.

thinglets: Five Existential Musical Sesame Street Moments

1. Kermit the Frog - "It's Not Easy Being Green"

Kermit's existence ranged from being a frog, to a news reporter, to an uncle. He lived a pretty well-rounded existence for a frog. That said, in this one defining musical moment from Kermit's first season existence in 1970, he expressed the concerns of a generation embroiled in midst of civil rights and racial struggles.

2. Cookie Monster - "C is for Cookie"

Cookie Monster sums up his entire life in two simple sentences: "C is for cookie. That's good enough for me." You can chase down all the self-help books and 12 step programs you want. You can watch Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, or Dr. Who, but you'll be hard-pressed to come up with a simpler, fresher approach to celebrating the small things in life that are positive.

3. Ernie - "Rubber Duckie"

A tragic tale of a man who, even though he lives among plenty of other muppets, including a suspected relationship with roommate Bert, who privately admits that his only friend is a rubber duck. Though this song often sounds like it's an upbeat number, Ernie exhibits perhaps one of the most tortured souls on Sesame Street. At least Oscar didn't even try to have friends. Ernie was living a hidden life as a depressed toy fetishist enveloped in the forced "happy" structure of Sesame Street.

4. Snuffleupagus - "Snuffy's Cloud Song"

Snuffleupagus cannot overcome his tragic dependency on the infantile Big Bird. Much like Vladimir and Estragon they wander Sesame Street waiting for something to happen that never comes. Snuffy spent 15 years as a figment of Big Bird's imagination only to become realized as a bit player who has to depend on Big Bird for screen time. Sure, maybe if was Kermit or Grover, you'd actually get some good lines and character development to work with, but being opposite Big Bird all the time must feel like Sandra Bullock felt having to act with Keanu Reeves in Speed, or how Jason Patric felt having to act with Sandra Bullock in Speed 2. Would that Snuffy could just fly away, but how can you fly away from a bird?

5. Yip Yips - "Discover Radio"

Sure, I know Snuffy and Ernie were downers, but the Yip Yips had it going on. They found sheer joy and amazement in basic exploration. Sure, you may think they were stupid, but they did manage to get here from another planet. They couldn't have been THAT dumb. They had a unique ability to find something positive, negative, scary and joyous in everything they discovered. The Yip Yips were the total package. They had to be aliens; they were far too cool to be native to Sesame Street.

thinglets: Other Musical Thoughts About A Sesame Street Anniversary

Take a moment to think about the love that people had for Jim Henson and remember some of the characters he brought into the world while enjoying the next couple of video clips. It's been 19 years since Jim Henson died and I remember his characters more affectionately than almost any character from a film or novel. These voices were laced with innocence and inspired fantasies and awestruck countenances.

thinglets: The Perfectly Preposterous Peter Puck

When Canadian broadcasters had to try to explain hockey to American audiences in the mid-70s, Brain McFarlane, former CBC sportscaster, conceptualized Peter Puck to introduce the basics of the game.

Iconic - yes.

Cool for kids - yes.

Insulting to Canadians who already knew the game - probably.

As insulting as the glowing FOX puck in the 90s - not even close.

Go retro and dig Peter Puck - a great part of my childhood.

lovehate: 10 Memories of a Childhood Candyland

Every kid likes candy. If you didn't like candy, it's because you lost your taste buds in a horrible smelting accident. I remember growing up with candy type that I just can't find anymore, or, if they are around, they don't seem as cool as they used to be. Now I'm not talking chocolate bars here; that's its own special category. I'm talking compressed, molded sugar of various artificial flavors.

Gold Rush Gum

The packaging is what made this gum desirable. If memory serves, the gum was crap. But what kid wouldn't love a cool little candy bag with a drawstring to keep when the were done. P erhaps this same design ploy was attached to Crown Royal as I got older.

Koo Koo

This Neopolitan Choco-Vanilla-Strawberry striped taffy was all the rage for a short time and was visually appealing because for the same price as a package of smaller candy, the surface area alone would draw you in. The taffy was about what you'd expect in a mashed down strip wherein the "flavors" really didn't taste to different from each other. I, in fact, once rolled up the taffy into a ball to prove to a friend there really wasn't a tremendous value in this landing strip confection. Now that was a helluva taffy ball chew to get through.

Bottle Caps

Bottle Caps were absolutely awesome! Here was a candy, shaped like bottle caps, that actually had a lingering taste of the pop they were supposed to represent. I can imagine the marketing wizards sitting around a table coming up with these: "Here's an idea! Let's pack some solid sugar together to taste like liquid sugar!" If parents tell their kids not to drink too much pop, they can enjoy Bottle Caps instead.

Sweet Tarts

Not much deception in the name here. They were sweet. They were tart. They were different colors, but the colors seemed inconsequential. You would inevitably be enjoying the sweet flavor with mild amount of sour along the way until you got down to where you bit the candy. Then it was all over. You could rarely stop from making the "sour" face as the powdered explosion hit your taste buds. Happy times!

Pop Rocks

Still legendary. The source of many a mythological horror story about the kid who put 8 packs of Pop Rocks in his mouth and drank a can of Coke. It was kin d of like the candy version of Bloody Mary. In fact, the myth went so far as to claim it cost the life of Life Cereal spokeskid Mikey: "His head blew up! Hey Mikey!" The taste was meaningless. Pop Rocks were the Mexican Jumping Beans of your mouth. How much cooler could it get?

Popeye Candy Cigarettes

Screw health and political correct candy. If I was too scared to get caught smoking, I certainly wasn't too scared to pretend I was with candy cigarettes. The sad thing is they forced a name change to "candy sticks". Really? Did they honestly that candy sticks shilled by the ugliest sailor on the high seas was going to be a "gateway" snack to a nicotine fix. I mean, it's not like the character had ever been used before to shill something equally distasteful like vegetables or something... wait... never mind. Forget about smoking. The candy itself probably had more damaging substances than the average cigarette. Check out the ingredients on that package: corn starch, sugar, corn syrup, palm oil, gelatine, artificial flavors and colors... REALLY? ARTIFICIAL? Who would've guessed this wouldn't have the all natural tastes of tar and tobacco?

Hubba Bubba

Yeah, Bubblicious was cool as well, but Hubba Bubba had a name that rhymed, and for a single-digit aged kid, that's all it took. The bubble were no-stick as well. In as much as I loved Double Bubble and the enclosed comic strips growing up, Hubba Bubba was that next-gen late 70's breakthrough of square gum that burst on the scene with a bunch of groovy commercials.

Starburst Fruit Chews

Alright, I know that any candy that has fruit in the name should never pass a kid's lips, but that was the ploy of the name. By putting the word "fruit" in it, not only could you tell your parents you ate fruit with lunch, but you could also live under the illusion that your logic in convincing them that the "real" fruit in the flavoring MUST be healthy for you.

"Capsule" Candy

This is more of a category wrap up than an individual candy. The pill-like confections in boxes like Mike and Ike's, Goodies, Good & Plenty, and Hot Tamales were much more of a threat than Popeye cigarettes. These "pills" allowed you to "be like mom" in popping your candy valium or Contact C for the day. Lookie like every "diet pill" that was ever made, in many of the same colors, it's a small wonder these were allowed to live on. Maybe if they called them Betty Boop's Secret Pill Stash Candy, they would've been outlawed.

Life Savers

We had a Life Saver factory in my hometown of Hamilton, Ontario. The Life Saver Christmas Book, containing ten rolls, was the most popular gift during the in-class gift exchange growing up... although 8 year-olds have a hard time getting past Butter Rum. Life Savers crossed over in pop culture in a huge way when the inspirational "Have a Life Saver, maybe it'll make you feel better" was used as one of the greatest punchlines on Happy Days. Wayda go Mr. C!

thinglets: The Panasonic Toot-a-Loop

Sorry folks, but I've been in a nostalgic mood recently and, whilst browsing around for some of the toys of childhood a few days back, I happened upon this ad. I owned one of these as a kid. I loved this thing. There was a simplicity and elegance of design that would not be out of place today. Sure, a simple radio wouldn't need to be this size any more, but if you think it looks horribly out of place in the 21st century, how different does it look from a plethora of iPod docks at your local Best Buy? I bet you can envision a dock in the middle.

lovehate: 5 Retro Games I'd Rather Play Than Video Games

I have some friends who love console gaming, and I have to admit there was a period in time where I thought such pursuits were cool. I first owned the Hanimex system which morphed into Leisurevision; both were essentially cheap rip-offs of the Intellivision system which outdistanced the Atari 2600 for playability at the time. The PacMan clone on the Leisurevision system was lightyears ahead of the 2600. I eventually evolved to Colecovision and the cutting edge graphics carried me well into my Commodore 64 days. All this said, I don't think any of the games had the replay value of some of the board games I grew up with. I wish I had some of these around the house right now... of course then I wouldn't be writing.

Rebound kicked the llama's ass! How cool was it that with a plastic disc, some ball bearings, a piece of molded plastic and two elastics, one could have hours of fun. Kind of like the mini version of shuffleboard or crokinole, Rebound provided awesome replay value even in single player mode. I can't speak much to the fight mechanic except for the time I punched my friend in the nads for knocking out three of my pieces with his last shot. He didn't even try to fight back; must've been a "special" attack.

Here's the thing about Mousetrap. I owned this for years growing up and remember having a blast with it. The thing is, I don't know I ever actually played the game. The Rube Goldberg aspect alone was enough to keep me fascinated. I mean c'mon - it's a bowling ball in a bathtub! I don't know about polygons and refresh rates, but I do know how to build the coolest mousetrap in the world - if a mouse ever gets into the house, I'll need to visit the lumber yard.

Okay, I'll accept that the single player mode of Rock'em Sock'em Robots was pretty lame, but here's a game where the aforementioned fight mechanic shone. Who could resist fighting robots in glorious plastic opulence? We used to have to tape the ring down to the table due to our abuse of the light plastic form. This was an experience not be missed. It was also one of those games whereby 2 out of 3s rapidly became 4 out of 7s and eventually we lost count. We even created modifications whereby you got extra points for winner while throwing the fewest punches. At age 8 we were precision training to strike death blows on future Terminators after Skynet took control.

Again, a game where single-player mode was just as cool as head-to-head. Kerplunk required foresight, precision, planning and benefited the experienced player. It's a game where one could start to actually see patterns in the stack of marbles as they teetered on the point of collapse. Kerplunk became a metaphor for the tenuous nature of young boy's childhood during post-war Vietnam and the impending evolution of disco... but seriously - Kerplunk was also cool because you could always find replacements for any lost pieces. Marbles were never hard to find and you could always use kebab sticks if the fancy-colored plastic ones disappeared under the couch.

Alright! I'm Canadian. Deal with it! Some called it "rod hockey". Some called it "table hockey". No matter what you called it, I called it one of the greatest games ever. The magnetic seizure-inspiring vibrating football was pretty useless. The table baseball games were uninspired at best. I do have to give it up for Foosball which is great in its own right, but spinning a plastic Bobby Orr, dropping a plastic puck through a fake scoreboard for a faceoff, or slamming down on the goal light in frustration to pop the puck back out of the net are memories I'll never forget. If there's one thing I often consider buying a couple of decades later, it's one of the full-size arcade versions of this classic. I dropped many a quarter later in life on high school lunch hours at the local mall arcade. I'll take this over any video game at any time.

So there it is. I have not bought a video game console much less a board game in years, but there's something to be said in replayability, boss battles that involved going up against friends' skills instead of jacked up animated freaks, powerups that involved running to the kitchen for a couple Oreos and a glass of chocolate milk, and cut scenes that involved everyone getting called home for dinner.