General Mills Monster Cereals Reviews

With the spirit of Halloween already in the air, it’s certainly not too early to start enjoying all the cool food treats that come along this time of year.  One of the best, and my personal favorites, are the classic monster cereals from General Mills.  Starting all the way back in 1971, Count Chockula, Frankenberry, Boo Berry, and others have thrilled the taste buds of the young and the young at heart.  Even though they are no longer available all year long, the monster cereals are still highly regarded in the cereal world, and have managed to maintain their great taste for multiple generations.

In celebration of the yearly release of these flavors, and to commemorate the start of the Halloween season, me and the kids sat down with bowls of each cereal to do a taste test and review over on our food review YouTube channel, Our Table.  You can check out all three below, and if you have a minute, chime in with your thoughts and memories on these delectable morsels of spooky goodness.  And if you dig all the cool food and treats this time of year, consider subscribing to the channel as we have Halloween Treat videos going up all month long!

 

 

If you’ve been unable to find these wonderful cereals in your area this year, you can pick up a 3-pack featuring Count Chokula, Frankenberry, and Boo Berry at Amazon with this link.

Yo!  Features like this take considerable time and money to produce.  If you dig Retro Ramblings and features like this, and would like to make a small one-time donation, you can do so via my Ko-Fi link:

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Do You Remember Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Are You Afraid of the Dark

The age-old tradition of the campfire ghost story got a 1990’s update in Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark? Debuting as part of the Friday night SNICK block in 1992, the show featured a group of teen and preteen storytellers, each telling tales of the spooky and the macabre.

Horror fan Gary was the founder of the Midnight Society, a club of kids who each week retired deep into the woods, lit a campfire and took turns scaring the living daylights out of one another. In addition to Gary, the original Midnight Society lineup included Betty Ann, Kiki, Frank, Kristen, David and Eric.

As each episode began, one of the Midnight Society members would begin spinning his or her web of gloom, and the show would segue into a dramatization of the story. The familiar vampires, werewolves, haunted houses, mad scientists, etc., were all present in the kids’ tales, but the stories also delved into Twilight Zone territory. Kids were given twisted morality lessons about prank phone call police, magic mirrors that showed inner ugliness, the problems with having your wishes all come true, and so on. And for the hard core scare fans, the Midnight Society also had its share of voodoo, cannibals, scary clowns and raising the dead.

The Midnight Society was the show’s only regular cast, as other actors took over during the stories themselves. That left plenty of room for guest stars, and Are You Afraid of the Dark? filled the bill with appearances by Bobcat Goldthwaite, Melissa Joan Hart, Neve Campbell, Boy Meets World’s Will Friedle and TV’s original Riddler, Frank Gorshin.

Midnight Society members came and went during the show’s first run, with Sam, Stig and Gary’s kid brother Tucker joining up to replace the exiting spookmeisters. With the start of the sixth season—which came after a three years of no new episodes—an entire new Midnight Society was formed, with only Tucker hanging on as the group’s new leader. Excitable tomboy Vange, upscale Megan, burly farm boy Andy and streetwise Quinn were now the ones sharing their chilling yarns.

Somewhere out there, the Midnight Society continue to hold their macabre meetings in the woods, and as long as kids love good ghost stories, the tradition will surely stay alive.

If you remember and want to relive the spooky fun of Are You Afraid of the Dark, or you’ve never indulged, then join us tonight at midnight in our Retro Rambling’s Midnight Drive-In for a curated selection of episodes.  That is, if you’re not afraid of the dark.

Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins

Ghosts 'n' Goblins

 

Ghosts ‘n Goblins took the baddie-battling, princess-rescuing formula and went Medieval, casting Knight Arthur in the hero’s role and pitting him against the combined forces of Hades. Strapping into his suit of armor, Arthur ran to the rescue, braving six levels of ghosts, goblins ‘n much more.

Designed as a scrolling action game, Ghosts ‘n Goblins only required three skills: running, jumping and firing. If it moved, it had to be killed. Arthur began the game armed with throwing lances, but new weapons—fire, axe, dagger and cross—were available by killing certain enemies (those carrying clay pots).

With those implements of demonic destruction, Arthur wended his way through a graveyard, a dark forest, a run-down town, a series of caves, across a bridge and on to the castle where the Princess was held. Each stage was filled with scary beasts of every kind—zombies, ghosts, giants, demons, skeletons, etc.—each capped off by a particularly hideous boss. And just to save you several hours’ worth of frustration, you can only kill that devil boss at the end with the shield weapon. Try anything else, and you’ll find yourself flying back to level one with a teardrop in your eye, bucko.

Arthur began the game with the customary three lives, but that was where the suit of armor came in handy. The first hit on Arthur’s mortal body smashed the armor off, leaving Arthur alive but wearing nothing but his Medieval skivvies. Another hit cost one life, but extra suits of armor were conveniently stashed at certain points in the game if Arthur survived that long.

A hit both in the arcades and on the then-new Nintendo Entertainment System, Ghosts ‘n Goblins won players over with its fundamental action gameplay and its cartoony, yet somehow still creepy graphics. A sequel, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, was released in 1988, adding flashier graphics and new power-ups (including the power-enhancing golden armor) to a brand-new storyline. And yes, it did involve rescuing that perpetually-victimized princess from the devil again (when will these royals ever learn?).

Music Monday – Week of October 1

 

Music Monday

US Top 40 Singles for the Week Ending October 1, 1983

  • Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of The Heart” moves into the #1 spot. A song penned by Jim Steinman, it was originally SEVEN MINUTES long and titled “Vampires In Love”. He wrote it while working on the musical version of Nosferatu.
  • Another Jim Steinman song, Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing At All”, moves into the top 5. It’s a song that was originally presented to Meat Loaf for his Midnight at the Lost and Found album. Meat Loaf claims both of these songs were presented to him for said album but Steinman refutes this claim saying he wront “Eclipse” specifically with Bonnie Tyler in mind.

 

Welcome to Spooktober 2018!

Retro Halloween

 

With the exception of that traditional eve when jolly St. Nick visits the chimneys of the world, there is perhaps no holiday quite as beloved, or more anticipated by kids than Halloween, the last day in October that we have long set aside as an evening to congregate in costume and perhaps even scare ourselves silly. It is a time of ghouls and goblins, of witches and black cats, of costume parties and grinning pumpkins. And, if that wasn’t enough, every kid knows that it is the one night when it is perfectly acceptable to beg door-to-door for candy. Now, that’s a holiday!

The origins of Halloween trace back centuries, a mixture of Roman and Celtic customs that celebrated the transition from fall into winter. Trick or treating may be traced as far back as the Middle Ages, when it was called “souling”. Poor folks went from door to door, saying prayers for the dead and, in return, received a few scraps of food. In Scotland, they called it “guising” where participants would hollow out turnips, turn them into lanterns and carry them from door to door. For their efforts, they might receive money, cakes or perhaps some fruit. That sounds nice, but it took some American ingenuity to create the confection-heavy version we’ve come to know and love.

The trick or treating we are now accustomed to started in the 30s, then was brought to a grinding halt when sugar rations became necessary during WWII. Shortly after the war ended, however, children’s magazines like Jack and Jill began promoting the practice again, as did the Peanuts comic strip, and even Walt Disney, who released the classic cartoon, “Trick or Treat,” in 1952.

 

 

Kids have been banging on doors ever since, begging for treats, and if denied, perfectly willing to exact revenge via mischievous pranks. Hell hath no scorn like a kid deprived of candy. Most pranks involved such household items as eggs, toilet paper, shaving cream and soap. You can use your imagination, but let’s just say that they were often used in ways in which they weren’t intended. And, of course, the granddaddy of pranks was the smashing of some poor soul’s pumpkin (there’s a band name in there somewhere) on the pavement.

 

Ben Cooper Costumes

 

Perhaps the most important decision to make prior to the arrival of Halloween was the choice of costume. Whether trick or treating or going to a party, a costume was a must. Perhaps as a small child, you picked out a Ben Cooper costume at the store, complete with vinyl smock and sharp plastic mask. Or, maybe you made your own (hobo, anyone?). Two holes poked into a sheet and you had an instant (and inexpensive) ghost. More enterprising youngsters even employed the two-costume technique, where you canvased the entire area for candy, then switched costumes and hit it again.

 

Halloween Sunset

 

When the sun finally set on Halloween, most of us began walking the streets, trusty plastic jack o’ lantern or pillowcase in hand, ready to collect Smarties, candy corn, Dum Dum Pops and an assortment of miniature candy bars. We took our hard earned bounty home and dumped it on the counter so our parents could inspect it closely. Thanks to some pesky (and mostly unfounded rumors) many of us (or at least our parents) believed that there just might be a razor blade, needle or poison lurking in that inviting pile of confections. We waited not-so-patiently for mom or dad to give their candy clearance, and then it was ours to do with as we pleased (in most cases, at least). Some kids would eat only a few pieces each day, while others polished off all the good stuff within the first 24 hours. You also might have had to guard your candy from the likes of larcenous siblings, or a even a sneaky parent with a sweet tooth.

Once kids began to outgrow trick or treating, of course, parties began to take precedence. Still costume clad, kids gathered to dance to The Monster Mash, eat creepy looking food, watch scary movies, and thrust their faces into metal tins of water, in the hopes of grasping a bobbing apple in their teeth. And if you didn’t have a party to go to, you could always go out and try to scare the crap out of the younger trick or treaters. There was always something for a kid to do on Halloween.

But why let the fun and memories be confined to just one night?  Well, you don’t have to.  We’re here to help you get your spooky retro groove on all month long!  Each and every day from now until Halloween, stop back by here at Retro Ramblings for a different “Halloween treat” to bring back those old memories.  Let Retro Rambling’s Spooktober 2018 begin!

 

 

 

 

 

Retro Rerun Review: Webster

The Show: Webster

Ran for:  6 seasons. 150 episodes aired from 1983 to 1989.

What it’s about: Webster was one of 23 sitcoms from the 1980s about a young black child (being played by a grown black man) who for one reason or another is adopted by an old white person or couple.

My relationship with it:  My first inclination is to say, “are you kidding? I’ve seen every episode of Webster! Come on.” But really, I know that’s not true. I’m guessing I’ve seen like, 20 episodes. But I haven’t seen one in a long time.

This Episode: Season 1, Episode 17— “Secrets of the Night”

We open with Webster in Karate class. Boy, is he one cute sonofabitch. No wonder everyone loved this show and Michael Jackson tried to adopt him! Anyway, class gets dismissed, and another boy says, “Web,” which is SUPES caj, by the way, “Web, we really need to practice our moves. It’s a good thing I’m staying the night,” to which “Web” says, “actually, I’ve gotta study for a spelling test.” But um, tomorrow is Saturday, so I feel like Web is being deceptive. The other boy says, “look, Wanda Bibbick could beat you up,” and then Wanda, who is two Websters long, threatens him.

 

 

Back at the Webster’s parents’ pad, George is telling Katherine that karate is NOT dangerous, but then she reads the definition from the dictionary for some reason and everyone in the audience laughs. According to the dictionary, it sounds like karate IS dangerous.

George asks Katherine where “Web” is (apparently nobody used his full name), and she says that he’s still asleep. George goes upstairs and knocks on his door instead of, you know, going into his 7-year-old son’s room like a normal parent might. Webster jumps out of bed and takes his pants off. I’m guessing he peed in them, and that’s probably the plot of this episode. The next few minutes consist of George trying to guess the password to get in, and Webster hiding his soiled clothing and bed linen. Everyone is laughing, but peeing the bed isn’t all that funny.

At the breakfast table, Katherine announces that she is going to gather clothes for laundry pickup (?) and wonders if Webster has anything he needs washed. He runs to his room saying “I said don’t go in my room!” which is suspicious. He brings back his karate uniform and then they coax him into taking a bath (a morning bath, the weirdest kind) which is all a front so they can search his room. (Well, Katherine wants to; George thinks it is being invasive, but again, Webster is in grade school. How much privacy does a 2nd grader need?)

In his room, they play with a viewfinder thing and Katherine finds a dead moth under his bed and finally she realizes that his sheets are AWOL. She looks around and then finds where he hid his pee sheets and very solemnly says, “Webster’s wetting his bed.” Webster is in the doorway, but they don’t know it. He looks betrayed, but also like he ate bad seafood.

After the commercial break, Webby is on the couch reading a newspaper but it’s upside down so that’s funny. George and Katherine are trying to talk to him, but he’s wearing giant headphones. Where’d he get those? Anyway, he’s mad because they found the sheets. He hollers “leave me alone!” and flees to his urine-soaked sanctuary. Once there, he barricades the door with toys. Totally normal behavior. Then his karate friend, Curtis, shows up. He’s having a sleepover and he wants Webster to attend, but for reasons known to us, Webster does not want to. He blames his inability to attend on George and “Ma’am.” Curtis says, “man, you’ve been acting WEIRD!” and Webster says “I am weird, wanna make something of it?” and Curtis is like, “I’m out, you crazy mf’er,” and he leaves.

Now Webster has no friends and a bed-wetting problem. What a mess.

Later, Katherine and George have a solid 5-minute conversation about the problem— how it’s normal, who in history may or may not have wet their bed(s), what may be causing Webster’s problem— and it is seriously a bizarrely long and unnecessary scene. Katherine proposes a gold star reward system and the whole thing sounds like it was written as a “how to be a parent” guide of some sort.

Curtis shows up and asks Webster to be friends again. Then he sees the calendar and stickers and here’s where things get incredibly strange. Curtis says, “oh, look, a puppy calendar and stickers. That’s neat! My little brother got the same thing, except his calendar had bunnies. But Webster, aren’t you an only child?” Webster says, “yep, no brothers or sisters,” to which Curtis says, “then I guess YOU’RE the bed-wetter.” (!?!?!?)

So, just to clarify: for some unbelievably peculiar reason, owning a regular wall calendar and a pack of stickers in Webster’s universe automatically means that someone in that household is pissing the bed.

Okay, sure.

Anyway, Webster gets mad at Ma’am and accuses her of telling Curtis. He runs off to the park.

Now Webster is in the sandbox sucking his thumb and George jogs up and climbs in. Then Katherine shows up. They start talking about what’s going on in his life. He mentions a math test, a spelling test, his karate tournament. You know, an average amount of things. Katherine says, “you know, Webster, I used to be like you,” and he says “you were BLACK?” and, 18-minutes in, we have our first legitimately kind-of funny line. Anyway, she explains that sometimes life makes you nervous. They explain that they will still love him even if he gets beat by a girl in karate, fails his test, and continues to wet his bed with reckless abandon. Everyone gets happy and they toss sand on one another.

After the commercial, we’re back where we started— karate class. George and Katherine are there, wearing karate robes. I’m not sure what is happening. Webster makes George pretend to be a mugger, and Katherine is supposed to be a lady bent over, tying her shoes. Then Katherine throws George to the mat and Webster does a weird giggle and it’s over. What a strange, unsatisfying ending.

Would I Watch Another Episode? Not on purpose. Webster was not a good show. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t smart. I’m honestly not sure who the target audience was. Orphans? Maybe orphans love Webster.   

Grade: 2/10 

Music Monday – Week of September 24

 

Music Monday

US Top 40 Singles for the Week Ending September 24, 1983

  • After two weeks at #1, Michael Sembello is knocked out of the top spot by Billy Joel.
  • “Islands In The Stream” is quickly moving up the charts. It’s a song written by the Bee Gees and sung by American country music artists Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Named after the Ernest Hemingway novel, it was originally written for Marvin Gaye in an R&B style, only later to be changed for the Kenny Rogers album.