Holiday specials renew Christmas spirit

Duane and I wrote this story for the Dec. 22 edition of the Charleston Daily Mail and decided to repost here for our fellow geeks. Enjoy!

The rush of the holiday season is more hectic every year. Most people are left wondering where the time went. The memories people had hoped to create with their families slip by before the eggnog can be poured or the carol sung.

To avoid saying “I can’t get in the Christmas spirit” again this year, here’s a tradition my husband and I started a few years ago. We’re a bit nostalgic. Our generation grew up on Christmas specials on television. Because of that, we now set aside an hour or two every night in December to relax and watch a little bit of our collection of holiday favorites.

We begin looking forward to this festivity around July every year. It’s a tradition that most couples don’t have, admittedly, but reminds us of memories of Christmases past.

We’ve amassed quite a collection, not just “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “White Christmas.” Oddly, although these both are probably the most well-known Christmas specials, I only watched them for the first time a couple of years ago.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” in particular is now a favorite in the Maddy household and the season wouldn’t be the same without seeing Clarence help George Bailey realize the impact his life has made on everyone around him.

We have a full three hours of Christmas commercials from the 1970s and 1980s. There was nothing better than seeing Ronald McDonald skate alongside a little boy who everyone else had forgotten or seeing Toys’R’Us commercials advertising the toys we still wish we had.

Some of our favorite shows of all are the “Touched By an Angel,” “Little House on the Prairie” and “Highway to Heaven” holiday episodes. They were always tearjerkers.

The “Happy Days” episode where Fonzie spends Christmas at the Cunningham home for the first time, the “Laverne & Shirley” where the gang goes to a hospital to sing for the patients, or the episode of “The Wonder Years” where Kevin spots his gym teacher working as a mall Santa always start December off on a high note.

We have “The Waltons,” “Family Matters,” “Silver Spoons,” “Saved By the Bell” and dozens of cartoon specials ranging from Yogi Bear to Charlie Brown.

There was never a shortage of holiday cheer on television in the 1980s. We know many people will find this campy, but it’s our outlet for reliving childhood memories and remembering what it was like to look forward to something magical.

Television is a tool of escape, but it’s also a way to remember. Sometimes, you’ve got to do both.

Your favorite female superheroes in an…interesting ad campaign

Hat-tip to blogger copyranter for this one: A new ad campaign from the Associação da Luta Contra o Cancer (ALCC) in Mozambique features Wonder Woman, She-Hulk, Cat Woman and Storm performing self breast exams.

You can see the images here. They’re safe for work, as long as you have an pretty laid-back boss.

Apparently the images are not licensed by Marvel or DC. The ad’s don’t show the characters’ faces, but c’mon. It’s freakin’ Wonder Woman. Who else wears a gold-plated bustier?

Let’s just hope Mozambique doesn’t have an association for certain…male…cancers.



Morning mashups

This morning I’ve been suffering from that age-old nag, a song stuck in my head.

Except in my case it hasn’t been just one song. It’s been two  — a mashup of my own making.

The thing is, it’s super annoying but not really a bad mashup.

Song No. 1 is “Heaven’s Just a Sin Away,” a 1977 country classic by the Kendalls. The other is “Bare Necessities” from Disney’s “The Jungle Book.”

Musically, I think they could go together — and possibly lyrically too, although you’d need a whole lot of double entendre for “Bare Necessities” (“Now when you pick a pawpaw or a prickly pear and you prick a raw paw next time beware.”) — and you’d certainly have to look at the laidback sloth bear Baloo in a whole different light.

That mashup still hadn’t stopped rattling in my brain when another one entered. This one was Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” and Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.”

(“If you could read my mind love … fire all of your guns at once and explode into space.”)

I really don’t know how those fit together. I think I ate something funny for breakfast.

Anyhow, it all reminded me of the most horrifyingly wonderful mashup ever produced in the history of the world ever. Yes, I know I used the word “ever” twice in that sentence. My hyperbole demanded it.

So, here is Mighty Mike’s “Imagine a Jump,” pairing John Lennon and David Lee Roth. Enjoy!

Last minute geek ideas for the holidays

You have a geek in your life and you are stuck on what to give them for Christmas.  The last gift you bought them was a sweater and they gave you a look like Dark Phoenix gave Cyclops when Jean Grey was completely inhabited. Your problem is, you don’t even know what that last sentence means.

No need to fret.  Your friendly neighborhood geeks are here to perform a little mutant magic this holiday season.  Ashlee and I are going to give you some training that Master Yoda would’ve been jealous of.  If you use the force…of shopping….you will survive the holidays and avoid the dark side.

iCade: Okay, so no one really NEEDS an iPad, but this ThinkGeek exclusive gives you another reason to justify the purchase. Using an old-school video arcade cabinet, this retro beauty comes with a fully functional joystick and arcade buttons. With more than 100 classic games available from the App store, that special geek in your life will be rockin’ Asteroids like it’s 1984.  This time, without the mullet.

Han Solo ice cube tray: Another ThinkGeek gem lets you bring home every Star Wars fan’s favorite rebel smuggler in convenient 3-inch blocks. Freeze him, make him chocolately, just don’t call him scruffy.  Jaba has several in his freezer, I’ve heard.

Holiday Yoda: Sideshow Collectibles offers the Jedi Master dressed in his holiday finest. Based on a 1981 greeting card, Holiday Yoda comes complete with an articulated body and over flowing sack of presents.  You can find him at

Star Wars cooking essentials: Williams-Sonoma offers several options for making Star Wars-themed goodies including Heroes and Villains cookie cutters, Darth Vader pancake molds Millennium Falcon sandwich cutters and an apron to keep your geek’s Stormtrooper uniform flour free!

The Big Bang Theory Seasons 1-4: Geeks appreciate a shout-out.  The Big Bang Theory works very hard to keep geeks happy.  This show is on every geek’s wishlist, if they don’t already have it, and can be found on

Subscription to comic books: It’s not hard to find out what a geek’s favorite character is.  What is hard is for them to keep up with that character all year long.  You can get a gift subscription to their favorite comic book at or generally, they may have an independent company as a favorite as well.

Comic book original art: Looking for something a little more upscale in price? Something that you know they don’t have because there’s only one of it in the world?  Something that will garner a single tear rolling down the face of that geek?  Here’s your answer:  Get them original comic book or comic strip artwork.  There’s several affordable ways to do that, but almost all of them can be found at

True Blood Busts: HBO has a certified hit on their hands with True Blood.  DC Direct knows this, and has released individual, realistic busts of the characters who made blood sucking sexy.   You can find the vampires your geek is craving for less than you’d think at

Autographed movie poster or 8 x 10: Every geek is a geek because of a movie, a television series, or a book that turned them onto a universe they hadn’t been aware of before.  With a certificate of authenticity and a signature, you can make your geek’s holiday special with a photo or poster of their favorite movie or television stars guaranteed to be just what the Doctor Who ordered.  Don’t fall for knock-offs or copies, you can get originals at

Lego sets: Trust me, Legos are not just for kids.  There are Star Wars and Harry Potter Lego sets right now that would scare most children.  There are Pirates of the Caribbean sets, Heroica sets, and DC Universe sets that will take an adult days to assemble.  Prices vary, as do the level of difficulty, but the geek happiness never changes.  You can check it out at

Doctor Who Lenticular Animated Chess Set: You don’t need to know what it is, as long as they know you care.  If they like the good Doctor and British Science Fiction, then they need this more than a sweater.  You can find it at

There you have it.  Something for every price range and every style of geek. You don’t have much time left for shopping, you slacker, but you can do express delivery on most items in time for the holidays.  Hope this helps bring some joy to those most deserving, the geeks.


Say it ain't so, Miyamoto

Last week, Wired magazine published a teaser interview with Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, announcing the legendary game designer’s “retirement.” From that interview:

“Inside our office, I’ve been recently declaring, ‘I’m going to retire, I’m going to retire,’” Miyamoto said through his interpreter. “I’m not saying that I’m going to retire from game development altogether. What I mean by retiring is, retiring from my current position.”

Miyamoto, head of game development for the video game company, tells the magazine he’s going to leave development of big games (like the Zelda and Mario games that made Nintendo and Miyamoto famous) to younger game designers while he focuses on smaller projects.

Wired will publish the rest of its interview this week.

Miyamoto, 59, got his first big break at Nintendo in the early 1980s with the “Donkey Kong” arcade game. Though the man had no actual programming ability, he quickly made a name for himself by designing fun, engaging games that kept players pumping quarters into arcade machines.

Cover of "Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America," by Jeff Ryan

His “Super Mario Brothers” for the Nintendo Entertainment System is, by some accounts, the best-selling video game of all time.

For more about Miyamoto and Nintendo, check out “Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America” by Jeff Ryan. Ryan chronicles the company’s missteps (anybody remember the Virtual Boy?) and its victories (“Donkey Kong,” the Game Boy, the NES, the SNES, the Wii). It’s a fun read, especially if you grew up with Nintendo like I did.

The Kanawha Public Library has a copy in its stacks, by the way.


Bat Boy gifts you are welcome to buy me this holiday season


Oh, yes, and merry Christmas too.

You know what says happy holidays? A sweet little mutant with radar ears. Fortunately, there are plenty of gifts that have “Bat Boy” written all over them.

First, the Bat Boy bobblehead. Who wouldn’t want this staring at you from your dresser or desk? Comforting. Add to cart!









Next, Bat Boy messenger bags. “Emblazoned with Bat Boy’s trademark grin, now you can carry all of your belonging in style.” I would use mine to carry wine from Kroger or fresh produce from Capitol Market.







Dressing for a holiday party or to be described over our police scanner? The Bat Boy hoodie should be in your wardrobe.









Then there’s Bat Boy’s book, “Going Mutant: The Bat Boy Exposed.” It’s not exactly a memoir. It’s more of an expose, filled with clippings from The Weekly World News. “See how Bat Boy went from unknown to becoming America’s favorite freedom fighter.”









Here’s my favorite, the Bat Boy plushie backpack. Getting bullied at school? Just turn around. Scree! Your tormentors will scream — and run.







And finally, here’s a gift certain to land you on Santa’s naughty list. A framed picture of Bat Boy biting the previously jolly old elf.









Scree to all, and to all, scree!


From the days of yore to @charleywest

This was my column in the print newspaper (Is that redundant? I think it might be) this week, but here it is here too. It seemed to get a decent amount of reaction, especially on the Twitters.

HELLO! Have a seat and let Uncle Brad tell you a story about technology.

Back in the days of yore, about 1996, we had one computer with Internet capability in our office. When the occupant of that desk vacated it to go gather kindling or kill pterodactyls, we would rush over to check our Yahoo! email. Sometimes we got as many as five emails in a day!

As you might have observed on your own, there are now more ways to communicate than ever before. (Someone please put this column in a time capsule and use your hologram technology to remind me of it in 15 years.)

Here in newspaperland, we’re trying to use many of those tools to get the news out and to encourage you, citizens and readers, to tell us what’s important to you.

How are we doing?

Well, I can tell you on our end, it’s a bit dizzying. But also a lot of fun.

We’re still putting out a daily newspaper, of course. It’s always been gratifying to pass a box and see someone pulling out a paper, or to sit in a restaurant and watch a reader flip the pages. It’s confirmation that what you’ve done didn’t just jettison into nowhere.

But now there are even more ways to engage with readers, and many are immediate.

We’re trying to make our Facebook page as active as possible. We try to post stories that we think readers will respond to, and we try to respond when you comment. (We’re on Google Plus, too, although it seems not many of you are yet.)

We’re also on Twitter. If you haven’t already, check out We post our headlines and links and also try to post breaking news there as quickly as possible. When people ask us questions or make comments there, we try to respond when appropriate – although we’re not perfect at it.

Many of our reporters are on Twitter as well. We recently encouraged those who tweet to put their Twitter names at the end of their stories along with their phone numbers and email addresses. It’s another way to reach them if you have an idea or a comment.

You might see additional thoughts about the stories they’re working on. You also might see their comments about other offbeat stuff like sports teams they follow, their pets or a movie they’ve just seen. It’s a reminder that reporters are people.

I’m on Twitter, too, although I’m still getting used to it. I read what other people are saying, and I comment too, sometimes about nonsense. If you follow me at, you might notice I am sporting a fake beard in protest of the possible cancellation of the TV sitcom “Community.” (#sixseasonsandamovie)

Even our editor, Nanya Friend, is trying to find her way through Twitter. She’s a good writer and a good communicator — but face-to-face is more her style. Give her some encouragement at

In some instances, members of the community are contributing to what we’re doing. A couple of our blogs, The Mommyhood and Cap West’s Pet City, include regular West Virginians with something to say.

Sometimes they do some good, too. This week, Charleston resident Brad White used the pet blog to find a home for an abandoned boxer who was about to be put down. The day it happened was Brad’s birthday. What a great gift.

The blogs are fun to read, but sometimes the back-and-forth in the comments section is even better. Last week, some of the mommy bloggers and I did a live chat on the website. It was kind of an experiment but it worked out pretty well.

A couple of readers offered up their own comments, and other readers just seemed to quietly observe. It was fun, and I think we might do it again sometime. Please come join us.

West Virginia University and Marshall University fans probably already know that our beat writers Mike Casazza and Chuck McGill have regular live chats on their blogs. They seem to have loyal followings, and it’s a great way for them to interact with inquisitive fans.

So, how are we doing? There are a lot of ways to tell us.

If you’d like to tell me, you can tweet me at or send me an email at Oh, by the way, I’m the managing editor at the Daily Mail.

Wetzel Sanders, the most interesting man in Lincoln County

I talked to World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor Wetzel Sanders for a story in today’s Charleston Daily Mail, commemorating the Pearl Harbor attacks’ 70th anniversary.

Wetzel is one impressive dude. The 88 year old is still sharp as a tack — he just retired in May after 11 years as a bus driver — and was cooking up some Mexican cornbread when I talked to him Tuesday. I asked him if he makes his cornbread really spicy.

“It’s not too hot, but enough to know it’s Mexican,” Wetzel told me. I threatened to come over and have dinner with him and he welcomed me on. Lincoln County’s a little far to drive but I have a feeling his invitation was sincere.

Throughout our interview, Wetzel kept referring to himself as “Sundown” when telling war stories. It’s an impossibly cool nickname (reminded me of “Sundance“) and I asked Wetzel how he got it. This is what he told me:

When he was growing up, he had a friend whose dad raised chickens. Wetzel and his buddy would occasionally sneak into the chicken pen and grab one of birds, then sneak off to the woods where they would butcher their ill-gotten fowl and have a chicken fry.

Wetzel told that story to his army buddies once. A sergeant asked him, “When’s the best time to steal a chicken?” He replied, “Well, anytime after sundown.” The name stuck.

Just like a couple of little Fonzies

The Maddys have returned from our first comic convention of the season: Steel City Con. The Monroeville-based event is held three times a year, usually in the spring, summer and winter in the hometown of zombies: Monroeville, PA.

Billed as a ‘childhood toy and comic show’, you’ll find everything from CGC-graded comics (which Duane bought) to Pteri from “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” (which is where I drew the line).  It doesn’t offer panels or supplementary programming, like many conventions we attend, but it’s fun to spend a few hours trying to snag a good deal on a wind-up E.T. figure and bartering with fellow toy collectors for their stash of goodies that we know will look much better on our shelves than theirs.

Since it is a modest 3 hours away from Charleston, WV, we usually attend when there are notable celebrity guests. So far, at the Steel City Con, we’ve met Adam West, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and David Faustino.  Other lineups have included various wrestling retirees and notable independent comic book artists.

This time, we made the journey up I-79 to meet the eptiome of cool: Henry Winkler–who of course starred as Arthur Fonzarelli, aka “The Fonz” on “Happy Days.” Duane and I also fondly remember him as Barry Zuckerkorn, George Bluth’s lawyer on “Arrested Development.”

My husband and I with "The Fonz". Aaaay!

Mr. Winkler has been promoting his latest book: “I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the River.” We followed his updates via Twitter, and saw that his plane was delayed Friday night, so he was a little later than expected. We went back to our hotel and returned to the convention center when we saw he had begun tweeting again. Social media really does have its advantages.

Then we saw him. Replacing his trademark leather jacket with a salmon colored sweater and lavender button down, apologizing for his tardiness.  He pretended to be amused when people would yell out random misquoted quotes from the Fonze, like “Sit on it, Mr. Belvedere!”

When it was our turn to go up, he very warmly greeted us. We asked him about his possible involvement in the upcoming “Arrested Development” movie and mini-series. AND he confirmed that, yes, Barry Zuckerkorn will make a much-anticipated return. The whole experience was pretty much what you would expect from the Fonz: cool.

Us with Linda Blair, aka Regan from "The Exorcist"

Our other big reason for attending was to meet Linda Blair of “The Exorcist.” We had specially purchased an original, unfolded “Roller Boogie” poster for the occasion. Through the magic of Netflix, we recently watched this cult film originally meant to be another “Saturday Night Fever.” It featured Ms. Blair (in her not-so-scariest roll) cast alongside a real-life roller skate champion. Though the film was not a box office success and was panned by critics, it’s a fun light-hearted movie that’s campy fun.  It had all the late 70s/early 80s cliche’ characters you would expect, including the valley guys with the sweaters wrapped around their neck as they prepare for a game of tennis with Buffy…there’s always a Buffy.

Linda told us that she’s seeing more “Roller Boogie” merchandise pop up, and she gladly signed our poster “Keep On Rolling.” Hopefully, she got a kick out of it since I’m sure the majority of other items being signed were Exorcist-related.  We felt a little like pop stars at a goth concert.

We also stopped to say hello to Doug Jones (Silver Surfer from “Fantastic Four, Abe Sapien from “Hellboy” and many other roles.) Doug rarely appears as ‘himself’ in films and has a background in mime. He was incredibly friendly and pleasant.  He hugged us like he was going to miss us when we left.  For the record, he has a coffee table book coming out this winter that looks really interesting.  It’s all about his work as a mime in various situations.  “You can pick up a copy from Amazon”, says Doug, “for much less than you can find it in stores.”

We rounded out the day by speaking with Margot Kidder (Lois Lane) who is always a friendly and fun lady.  She will always be Lois Lane, and she accepts that without hesitation.  “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan came in a few minutes late.  The reason I know that is because he made his presence known to the entire convention center.  He let out a “Hooooooo” as soon as he hit the door.  He began shaking hands, like he was running for public office, while giving thumbs up and smiling like he was happy to be anywhere.  Things would begin to get a little quiet and “Hacksaw” would yell, “Where’s Hogan?!  I want Hogan in the ring!”

We met Erika Eleniak, who was on Baywatch.  We, however, knew her from E.T. and aren’t ashamed to admit it.  There were a couple of people there from the newer Star Wars movies and another WWE wrestling Diva named Maria Kanellis.  Duane and I don’t watch WWE, so we only know that she is apparently going to be in the revamped “Manos: The Hands of Fate” movie due out in about a year.

All in all, it was a great mini-convention trip and a great kick-off to what will surely be a fun-filled convention year of 2012. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a first convention to attend. They usually post the guests and information well in advance, so you won’t be disappointed or surprised with the guests.

Now, if we can just secure our San Diego Comic-Con passes, we will be happier than Jim Duggan at a lumberyard.