Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Second Chance to Scare

Old costumes get new life
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents

When I lived in Indiana more than a decade ago, there was a group that collected gently used Halloween costumes and distributed them to needs in need.  I always liked the idea and even donated a few of our old costumes to the cause.  It's something I always wanted to see done in my community.  Now, 11 years later, I'm doing something about it.

Even scary costumes are accepted
But I need your help.  It's obviously too late to make it happen for this Halloween, but as you pack away the costumes after this year's trick or treating, consider donating it to this cause.   Better yet, when costumes go on clearance on November 1, pick up a couple new ones to donate.

It may not sound like much, but I know there are kids out there who do not have the opportunity to dress up for Halloween because their parents or guardians don't have the money.  Halloween was one of the most memorable times of the year when I was growing up, and even now for my kids.  I'd hate to think there are children in my community not enjoying it just because they can't afford to have fun.

Princess Skeleton
I am talking with a group to partner up with for this project.  Once the deal is done, I will most more details.  But in the meantime, you can contact me and I'll make arrangements to get the items you want to donate.  Let's make Halloween 2015 a memorable one for everyone.  Thanks for your support.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Hell of a Show

Bray Wyatt is back
Photo courtesy: My 1-2-3 Cents
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

Sunday night, I attended WWE’s Hell in a Cell show. Going in to the show, I didn’t have high expectations. Talking before the show with a friend who works for WWE, we both commented that the repetitious matches kills fan interested. During the preshow match of Mark Henry vs. Bo Dallas.... I mean, Bo Washington, I accidentally texted my friend instead of Kevin to BOlieve. His 
response: I BOlieve we’ve seen all of these matches enough times already. 

Ambrose vs. Rollins
Photo courtesy: My 1-2-3 Cents
Even with lack of freshness to the show, overall I felt the show surpassed my expectations and was an overall decent show. Sure there are things I would have changed but there wasn’t anything I downright hated or was bored by on the show. Yet once again, I found myself the apparent Armond White of the Internet Wrestling Community. After I got back to my hotel, I went online and read people’s comments about the show. I was surprised at all the negative comments. 

Rusev wins!
Photo courtesy: My 1-2-3 Cents 
I do agree that having John Cena win his match to earn another shot at Brock Lesnar wasn’t needed. WWE really needs to find other workhorses instead of riding their current one until he’s broken down and then figure out who should take his place. I’ll contend that the I-C Title match, the US title match, the Tag Team title match and Big Show/Rusev didn’t move any stories along but they were still all entertaining and good matches. Personally, my biggest complaint was the Ambrose/Rollins match played out like a greatest hits version of previous HIAC matches and the ending was straight out of the WCW/TNA playbook. That doesn’t mean that match was necessarily bad though. 

Cena vs. Orton
Photo courtesy: My 1-2-3 Cents
Maybe it’s because for once I just sat back and let myself be entertained without over thinking what has happened as to why it was happening. I was surprised Mark Henry didn’t turn on Big Show. I was mildly surprised at John Cena winning. Yes, I know Cena always wins but there was a part of me that figured Randy Orton would get a shot against Brock in Randy’s hometown of St. Louis next month at Survivor Series. I was surprised at Bray Wyatt interfering in the HIAC match and I’m curious as to his motives. 

The Three Stooges (as Chad calls them)
Photo courtesy: My 1-2-3 Cents 
One aspect that I think really helped me enjoy the show more than people watching at home was the lack of commentary. When you don’t have to endure the three stooges on commentary arguing, joking and not paying attention to what’s going on in the ring, it’s easier to keep focus on the action and enjoy it without getting annoyed. In fact, I’d recommend in the future to always keeping the mute button on during a WWE show. 

Miz TV
Photo courtesy: My 1-2-3 Cents
Almost forgot to mention the best part of the show. Since I don’t watch RAW on a regular basis anymore, I had not fully seen Damien Mizdow do his shtick. Mizdow is awesome, as the crowd pointed out during the match between Miz and Sheamus. I hope WWE higher ups don’t see Mizdow as simply a replacement for wacky Santino Marella. Mizdow has the talent and skill to be a major player if given the chance. 

Kissing his way to a new feud
Photo courtesy: My 1-2-3 Cents
Even with enjoying the show, a lot of my complaints from the HIAC preview blog still stand. Tonight on RAW I hope they shake things up and move things forward. Bring in wrestlers who have gone MIA over the past few months. Shake up the title contender picture and freshen up the overall product. I won’t hold my breath but I’ll keep on BOlieving.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Booking Hell: No Cell Reception

@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

Tonight, I’ll watch my third live Hell In a Cell match, having seen Triple H and the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 28 and the inaugural match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker 17 years ago at In Your House: Bad Blood. At that event, the WWE Universe (then known simply as fans) saw the debut of The Undertaker’s presumed dead baby brother, Kane. Yes, Kane has been on the active roster for 17 years. My math may be a bit off, but I believe Kane has been on the roster a year or two shorter than Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin were active WW(F)E wrestlers combined. 

This year’s Hell In A Cell show features two HIAC matches. The first, Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose actually makes sense to be inside the demonic structure as Dean is seeking revenge for Seth destroying their stable, The Shield, and for putting Dean’s head through a cinderblock.  The second HIAC match, I would personally classify as personal hell taking place in a cell. John Cena battles Randy Orton in match where the winner gets a title shot against Brock Lesnar. If there is any match in WWE that I never care to see in any manner it’s Cena/Orton. They have fought too many times for the match to have any interest. Not only is the match up stale, the number one contender stipulation seems like a tacked on afterthought to put some meaning to the match. Given the way the story has played out over the last month this would be like the Oakland A’s playing the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2014 World Series.

Outside of the two HIAC matches, the show also features the Usos vs. the DustBrothers, a rematch from last month’s Night of Champions as well as Paige vs. AJ Lee who have fought each other on the last two pay per views. Last month Dolph Ziggler faced The Miz for the Intercontinental title and Sheamus fought Cesaro for the United States title. At HIAC, I-C champion Ziggler will square off with Cesaro while Sheamus will defend his title against The Miz. If these four matches don’t show the lack of creative direction in WWE at the moment, I don’t know what does.

The other two matches announced for the show include the Bulgarian Brute, Rusev looking to add the Big Show to his list of conquered Americans and The Bella twins continue their "gone on too long feud" with the stipulation of whoever loses has to be the other’s personal assistant. Hell In A Cell as a whole looks like the poster child for The WWE Universe’s fear that once shows became available on the WWE Network for just $9.99 a month there would be little effort to separate the shows from Raw or Smackdown.

Having no inner workings of how WWE creative operates, I don’t know what’s going on with the booking plans for shows. I do know that I’ve watched maybe one episode of RAW from start to finish in the last three months. I don’t feel I’ve missed anything. Every week the same people interact with each other to the point where no match at HIAC seems exciting or new.

Where are Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, Big E, Fandango and the Wyatt Family? The WWE roster is pretty stacked at the moment yet the creative team seems to only be able to focus on a group of about 15 wrestlers at a time. With RAW being three hours long, along with Smackdown, Main Event and Superstars, there are no reasons why every show needs to feature all the pay per view (or are they monthly specials now) story lines.  If Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins had only interacted twice on the build to HIAC would it have diminished the anticipation of their match?

I am of the opinion that having guys interact and fight on every show leading up to the pay per view reduces the excitement of the match. Maybe it’s the old school fan in me who misses the day of squash matches and short, to the point promos where one wrestler vowed to get revenge/prove superiority/accept a challenge of their opponent. Whatever the case, today’s shows all seem to blend together with no real importance attached to any match.


Will the show exceed my expectations? Hopefully. Will I sit there unimpressed while fans less cynical surround me and go crazy when John Cena’s theme music hits or when The Usos says "Ooh"? Most likely.  I’m sure the show will be decent. It’s just not the show I would have booked if I were in charge. As Owen Hart used to say, “enough is enough. It’s time for a change.” 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Finding Mickey

A Hidden Mickey you have to create
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

One of the other genius ideas by the folks at Walt Disney World is the concept of the "Hidden Mickeys" around the theme parks, resorts, and other Disney owned areas.  I don't know the whole back story behind the Mickeys, but in the book (written by Steven M. Barrett) there are more than 1,200 icons of the famous mouse around the properties.  I also have to credit my friend Devin Kidd for giving me the book.  He is the biggest Disney fan I've ever met and probably reading this from a Disney park right now.  

Do you see him?
The idea behind the Hidden Mickeys (at least I think) is to help pass the time while waiting in line at the parks.  I'll be honest, I forgot to bring the book to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, but I had it in hand at Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  I also cruised around the Art of Animation Resort with it too.  Another confession, I had no luck finding the Hidden Mickeys by just reading the Scavenger Hunt portion of the book, so I skipped ahead to the "hints" chapters of each park.

How about this one?
It became quite an adventure and my kids helped in the search. When park cast members saw me with the book, they'd keep the secrets alive.  Only one helped me out and I needed it on The Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios.  When I searched around the restaurant at our resort, other patrons asked me to let them know when I found the Mickey because they couldn't.  Neither could I.

Not always a picture
Each Mickey has a point value assigned, and you can tally up your score at each park, resort, or restaurant.  We didn't keep score though.  Also, they're not all just the iconic Mickey ears.  Sometimes it's the word "Mickey Mouse", a body shot of him, or a Mickey you have to create yourself.  Like I said, it's fun and it really kills the time when you're in the Standby Line waiting for a ride.

This one was pretty easy


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Magic of the Band

Magic Bands when they arrive
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

I wrote in a previous blog about my recent family vacation to Walt Disney World.  The experience was magical, and part of that comes in the form of the Magic Band.  Again, I know it all comes at a cost, but there's something to be said about the packaging and hospitality that Disney delivers.

Getting into the park
The Magic Band replaces your room key, credit card, and park tickets.  When planning our trip, each member of my family got to pick the color bracelet they wanted.  I chose yellow.  More personalized options are available for a fee, but ours were included in our package deal. Each band is coded with your information.   You can add your credit card details and charge things at the parks and resorts that way.  You chose your own pin so there's no need to worry about being hacked (at least not at this point)

Green means go!
The band has a Mickey Mouse icon on it, and you touch your Mouse to the Mouse at the park or store and when the green light comes on, you're good to go.  We used them to make various purchases and track our FastPasses.  You have to scan it before getting in the FastPass line and then again before getting on the ride.  The bands are water proof, so you can shower in them or hit the pool or water parks.  

The concept is really convenient as you don't ever have to worry about bringing your wallet and losing it on a ride or dropping your room key or park passes.  If you do the Memory Maker photo package, the pictures are wirelessly transmitted to your band and available online for downloading.  I would suspect that eventually theme parks around the country will pick up and develop this concept in some form.

Band bling
I know there will be cynical thoughts about the company tracking your every move, but honestly, I'm fine with that.  For I have tasted the Disney Koolaid, and I do enjoy it.  There were a couple of small quirks, but they were quickly resolved and the company even credited us for the inconvenience.  Oh, and there are different things you can add to the bands to personalize them as well, although we did not go that route.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ten Lessons Learned at Disney & Universal Studios

We found Nemo

 By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

My family recently wrapped up an amazing eight day adventure to Disney World and Universal Studios.  My mom, who is currently in remission after a battle with bladder cancer, wanted to take all five of her grand kids to Disney World, so luckily, my brother and his family, my wife and kids, and my parents were able to make it happen.  We've been before, but this is the first time all 11 of us were together for the trip.  As you might imagine, I've learned some lessons along the way...


Memory Maker in action 
10.  Splurge on the Memory Maker PhotoPass.  It costs $149, but this option gives you access to all the pictures that are taken of your party at any given Disney Park.   We have nearly 50 photos and two videos.  Anytime you're on a ride, the pic "magically" connects with your Magic Band and you don't have to wait in line to purchase individual photos.  We have plenty of great, professional shots to share now as a result.

My nephew
9. When a four year old tells you he has to poop, he means it.  A couple of times my nephew got caught up in the excitement of the Disney Magic and didn't make it to the bathroom on time.  In one case, we were about to board the Toy Story Midway Mania ride.  But like the professionals they are, the folks at Disney's Hollywood Studios gave my dad and nephew new FastPasses so they could enjoy the ride too.

8.  Read the instructions thoroughly when the information comes in the mail.  I screwed up and didn't make sure that my brother received his luggage tags when they were mailed to us. You put the "Disney" tag on your suitcase and the folks there get it from the airport and deliver it straight to your room.  You can get off the plane and head straight to the Magical Express Bus and not worry about your baggage.

Seven Dwarfs, it was fun!
7.  Roller coasters hurt more after you hit 40.  We rode everything from the Rock n Roller Coaster, to Space Mountain, to Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.  The kids rode some of these more than once.  I didn't venture onto the Hulk this year because after the Dragon Challenge, Expedition Everest, and the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster, my body had enough.  Don't get me wrong, they're all enjoyable rides, but the older I get the more things like Winnie The Pooh, Peter Pan, and Dumbo appeal to me.

My parents and the kids
6.  People tend to not pay attention to folks in wheelchairs.  My mom, as I mentioned, is in remission from cancer.  She's also dealing with other health issues, including a severe case of asthma.  Our first full day we spent at Magic Kingdom and all the walking wore her out, so we rented a wheelchair the rest of our stay at the parks.  In general, people are respectful, and the Disney cast members go out of their way to accommodate on rides and in restaurants.  But there were a lot of people who cut in front of the chair, make snide comments, or completely ignore it.  It made me more aware of others in similar situations.


Casting spells at Universal Studios
5.  Take time to cast a spell at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  Harry Potter fans can end up at Hogwarts and visit Diagon Alley.  You need tickets to both parks to do this though.  There are interactive wands to purchase and you're able to do different tricks at the various store fronts.  I'll share more on that in a future post.

Flaming Moe & a Krusty Burger
4.  When visiting Universal Studios, you have to eat at Krusty Burger, get a beer a Moe's Tavern, and have a donut at LardLad Donuts.  As a Simpsons geek, I was in heaven in the newly updated Simpsons area of the park.  I drank a Flaming Moe, Buzz Cola, and Duff Lite while there.  I'll go into greater details later this week.

Our resort 
3.  Don't leave the Magic behind.  We stayed at the Art of Animation Resort for six nights.  We left and took a cab over to the Holiday Inn next to Universal Studios for a couple of days of Harry Potter, Simpsons, and Marvel fun.  In hindsight, I think we should have stayed on the Disney property (as they will arrange transportation to get you over to Universal and back).  To be fair to the folks at Universal, we did not stay in one of their resorts, so I don't know if things would have been better on their property then a regular hotel.

Magic Kingdom after midnight
2.  Take a day to rest.  We arrived on a Saturday afternoon.  After getting checked in at the resort, the eleven of us hopped on a bus and hit Downtown Disney.  Every day after that we opened and closed the parks, including Universal Studios across town.  Magic Kingdom was open until 2 am on one of our nights there, so my niece, son, and daughter, went back with me for some late night fun.  We always talk about taking a day to relax and enjoy the pool at the resort.  One day we will.

Loving the Magic!
1.  Disney Magic, although paid for, is real.  I can't properly express in words how much more enjoyable the Disney experience is compared to any other vacation I've ever been on before.  From the way the resorts are decorated, to the buses to get you to and from parks, to the Magical Express to and from the airport or even other theme parks, to the overall hospitality. It was a great trip, made even more special by the way we were treated while at Disney World.  Walt Disney's legacy is alive and well and I can not wait to return to his Kingdom.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rest in Peace: Saturday Morning Cartoons

Some of the classics
Courtesy: Bluebuddies.com
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

As a kid growing up in St. Louis, we had five TV channels.  ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and an independent station; KPLR.  Eventually Fox was thrown into the mix, but before the days of cable, that was all we had.  And we had to get up and walk to the TV to change the channel.  Barbaric I know.

One of my fondest memories as a kid was waking up early on Saturday mornings (something that seemed so easy compared to getting up for school), pouring a big bowl of sugar coated cereal, and zoning out in front of the boob tube.  My brother and I would watch hours of cartoons in the early morning hours each week.


The Smurfs were always my favorite.  I remember very well when the tiny blue creatures debuted on NBC back in 1981.  I was in the third grade and embraced the characters like I'd never done before.  More than 30 years later,  I still love them.  

The competitors
There were countless other classic cartoons that we grew up watching.  Hanna-Barbera cartoons never failed to entertain.  I was hooked on Scooby Doo, so much so, that I told people I wanted to be him when I grew up.  The actual dog, not the guy who voiced him or the one who drew him, but the real Scooby Doo.  I was seven though, so give me a break.  Yogi Bear, Hong Kong Phooey, and the Laff-a-Lympics were just a few of the other memorable programming produced by this dynamic duo.  I would get lost in the talking bears, dogs, and even sharks that appeared on my screen every week.  Eventually my love of wrestling got animated with Hulk Hogan's Rock N Wrestling Cartoon too.  I was in heaven.

Other than a few syndicated Warner Brothers cartoons and Fat Albert in the afternoons, I don't remember there being a whole lot of other animated choices during the week.  That's what made Saturday mornings so special.  Then as cable and satellite got popular, all kids networks popped up and new cartoons were produced.  Cartoon Network was born, showing those classics from the 60's, 70's, and 80's.  Eventually new (less cool) shows came about, and those vintage shows ended up on another new network, Boomerang. 


The point is, no one has to wait for cartoons anymore.  You can watch Spongebob Square Pants, Adventure Time, or Phineas and Ferb anytime you want.  It seems at any given hour of the day or night you can flip through the hundreds of channels and find something animated on the TV.  The novelty wore off, and then the networks started replacing cartoons with news programming and live action content. 


I recently read that NBC and CBS stopped airing cartoons in the 90's.  ABC dropped the animation in 2004.  Most recently, the last broadcast network to air cartoons was the CW.  On October 4, 2014, they pulled the plug too.  Now for the first time in decades, none of the "regular" TV channels air cartoons on Saturday mornings.  It's the end of an era, one that I truly do miss.