Friday, June 23, 2017

Needless Things Podcast 166 – Memory Lane Comics

Recorded on location at Memory Lane Comics in Wilmington, North Carolina!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

There Will Be No WWE Women’s Revolution until the Old Guard is Gone

By Jerry Chandler

I hated writing that headline, but I’m certainly starting to feel that it’s true. The WWE has been making a lot of noise about their women’s division of late, and, to a large degree, it’s deserved. On a purely technical level, the division has some of the best workers in it that it’s seen in a long time. On a purely entertainment level, you’ve got a larger number of workers who show a stronger and better foundation for being able to engage an audience than they’ve had on their roster in a long while. But, in the end, none of that may matter in the here and now because of who currently makes the ultimate creative decisions for WWE programming.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Toy Review – DC Multiverse Batgirl from Mattel

By Phantom Troublemaker

Mattel has been making some interesting character decisions with their Multiverse line lately. A mix of modern comic book looks and TV and movie characters has revitalized the style once called DC Universe Classics and made something old seem new again.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Guest Post - Are We Living in the Golden Age of Geekdom?

By Jeffrey Francis

Not too long ago, I was chatting online with some fellow geeks when one of them said that they were bored because there was nothing good on to watch. This was followed by the usual nerd battle over which particular fandom was the best and how all others pale in comparison. (For the record, classic Doctor Who is the best fandom.) It amazed me how so many fans of geek culture and shows put on blinders and tune out almost everything except one or two franchises that check all their beloved boxes. I pointed out that they should be thanking their lucky stars for what's going on in geek, and by extension, popular culture. Allow me to step out of my old man cave, yell at young nerds standing on my lawn, and explain why we might be living in a golden age of geekdom.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Needless Things Podcast 165 – Orgazmo Needless Commentary

Part of an ongoing series – the Needless Things Irregulars gather in the Phantom Zone to provide their own unique commentary on classic genre films!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Building a Dark Shared Monsterverse

By Jerry Chandler

The newest iteration of the Mummy has come to the big screen, and all signs point to it leaving the big screen in fairly short order. I don’t write that with any sense of joy. I’m a horror guy. I like horror, and I actually like the Mummy as an iconic horror monster. I’d love to see more of the attempts at modern horror using the classic monsters succeed. I’d love to see a shared universe where the Universal Studios classic monsters all walk the same Earth. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems that we either won’t be getting that or that we’ll get it and it won’t be worth the time to watch it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Devlin's Domain - I Will Walk Like A Crazy Horse

Most people in this country today have never had to live in an environment where they weren't dependent on some sort of technology. Nearly everything that is not yet facilitated by machinery is going to be facilitated in some way. Even something as simple as typing this review can be done by speaking into a microphone and a computer will manifest my speech in text form. As convenient as things are now, one must wonder if humanity may be losing some sort of connection to it's primordial beginnings. As we have evolved suspiciously beyond every other life form on this planet, we've left them far behind and mutated the Earth into something barely recognizable. Interesting things this week in Devlin's Domain.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Movie Review - The Girl with all the Gifts

by Beth

I had been keeping an I on this movie since I first heard about it last year. I had no idea it was a book until I googled it tonight. I consider this quite a lapse on my part since I'm usually up on my zombie books. I didn't even realize it had been released since I'm not into "art house" theaters. If it ever came to the big screen in Atlanta I sure never heard about it. But when I saw it pop up on-demand I watched it immediately. I've made no apologies for my zombie exhaustion. I blame The Walking Dead for becoming so popular that it spawned countless terrible zombie movies. This looked like it would be something different though so I went for it despite the $6 price tag for an on-demand movie. It was certainly a different zombie movie, and very interesting, but I don't know that it was enough to revive a failing genre. This is a spoiler filled review though so consider this fair warning.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Toy Review – One:12 Collective DC Comics Joker from Mezco Toys

By Phantom Troublemaker

Personally, I find the Joker to be a tough project as an action figure.

In my head, when I think of the Clown Prince of Crime, I think of Jim Aparo’s Joker from A Death in the Family. For obvious reasons that story stuck with me and had a huge impact on my overall view of the Joker. I’d almost say it haunted me. For someone that grew up with Cesar Romero’s whooping, pink-clad hooligan, the murderous character depicted in that story was quite a departure. Even Jack Nicholson’s wonderful, maniacal performance didn’t have the same impact as Aparo’s depiction of Joker’s face as he was clubbing Jason Todd with a crowbar:

That’s a nightmare.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Needless Things Podcast 164 – Wonder Woman

The Needless Commentary team convenes live in the Phantom Zone to discuss DC's newest blockbuster – Wonder Woman!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Recent Reminder that Fan is Short for Fanatic

By Jerry Chandler

Over my decades as a member of fandom, I’ve seen any number of bad fan stories told by both professionals and my fellow fans. Some accounts by pros of bad fan stories, such as Harlan Ellison’s Xenogenesis, have included the extreme end of bad interactions between fans and pros. Other bad fan interactions have been merely the trifling actions of the obnoxious members of fandom such as one fanwho felt he “had to” demand that Rob Liefeld apologize for his comic work and later gave him a copy of the original How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way (bought new at the con they were both at) at an autograph table while being filmed by a friend and request that Liefeld learn from it. Some people might include the recent Phoenix Comicon incident in these lists, but I’d chalk that one far more up to a subject with severe mental issues.

As bad as some of the physical encounters outlined in essays like Xenogenesis unquestionably are, the worlds of widespread internet access and social media have given every “bad fan” and troll in the world the ability to harass and harangue creators in ways they never could have before, and with a frequency unlike anything seen in earlier eras. Not only do professional creators who are more accessible to fans online occasionally face a storm of hateful comments for days or weeks on end, but they also have t0 worry about those few special individuals who view their “outrage” as justification for doxxing a creator and his or her family. This can arguably be said to be in ways far worse than the occasional rude fan or the once in a blue moon extremely distasteful or physical actions by fans at public appearances.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Comic Book Wednesday – Previews June 2017: “Talking Shirt”

By Phantom Troublemaker

If you don’t know, Previews is the catalog that Diamond Comic Distributors use to offer the products they distribute to comic book stores around the country. This is where you can view and order (through your favorite Local Comic Book Shop) comic books, trade paperback collections, t-shirts, books, media, and toys and other collectibles from hundreds of different vendors that deal in geek-oriented merchandise. The genius part is that you actually have to pay for your copy of Previews for the privilege of ordering other things to pay for.

It’s like the Ren Fest except without the horse poo smell.

So every month a new edition of Previews is sent out to comic book stores. Contained in the pages within are products that might be currently available or could be released anytime in the next year; but are typically about two months away. Most of this month’s offerings are scheduled to ship in August.

Now it’s time to discuss a few of the weird and/or wonderful items offered in this month’s edition!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Guest Post - A Look Back at Sci-Fi Shows That Didn't Get a Chance

By Jeffrey Francis

Sci-fi shows are once again proving popular on cable TV. While I grew up with only Star Trek: The Original Series in syndication and Doctor Who on PBS (and their constant pledge drives), today's geek can watch a bevy of shows that are currently being made. We have the new Doctor Who on BBC America, and SyFy has Killjoys, The Expanse, Dark Matter, and a few more on the way. There's even a new Star Trek series coming, although it's only streaming. That being said, the TV gods are often cruel and capricious when it comes to sci-fi shows. Many of them have suffered a quick dismissal after a single season, and the graveyard of TV shows is littered with series that only had a handful of episodes. I figure it's time to pay some respects and take a look back at some sci-fi shows that didn't get a chance.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Needless Things Podcast 163 – Sir Roger Moore

In the newest episode of the Needless Things Podcast Phantom Troublemaker and Mike Gordon discuss the life and career of the recently deceased Sir Roger Moore.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The (Mostly) Folly of Man - The Giant Insect Invasion

By Jerry Chandler

The first detonation of a nuclear weapon was conducted by the United States Army at 5:29 am on July 16, 1945. They used the code name of Trinity for the detonation. The name was inspired by the works of John Donne, a poet whose work often touched on the metaphysical and the religious. It was an interesting name as chosen by scientists for such an event; touching on concepts of the big bang and the creation of all things. For Hollywood, it inspired a bit of a different Biblical twist, the time of giant beasts.

The idea of splitting the atom and unleashing the terror of radioactive doom on mankind wasn’t quite scary enough for Hollywood. Writers decided that the true terror in the dawning of an atomic world was the effects of mutation on man and beast and insect. By mutation, I mean growing (or, in one case, shrinking) various subjects to quite unnatural proportions. While the human monster created by the power of the atom was popularized in films like 1957’s The Amazing Colossal Man, my true love of the atomic aged terrors unleashed by Hollywood, although not all of them were directly linked to the atomic tests, were the giant bug movies.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Toy Review – DC Multiverse Jim Gordon Batman from Mattel

By Phantom Troublemaker

And here I thought that I was done with Mattel’s DC Comics toys.

When Mattel resumed production on 6” scale DC action figures at the end of 2015 I wasn’t too interested. I bought a couple of the Dawn of Justice figures just because there was a new Batman and I thought the Wonder Woman looked cool, but they weren’t good enough for me to want to start collecting. The Suicide Squad line didn’t change my mind on that, though I was impressed with the assortment they offered. Just not the quality.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Alien: Covenant - A Rebuttal

by Beth

As I seem to be the only person around here who liked Alien: Covenant I feel like I need to retort. The recent Needless Things Podcast on the subject was decidedly against it, and I'm as shocked as you are to find myself on this side of the argument. I'm usually the one tearing things apart rather than building them up, but never fear, I'm sure I'll be back to my normal snarkiness soon enough. Those who can't do criticize, and I'm pretty sure I've proven that I'm not able to do much of anything.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Needless Things Podcast 162 – Alien: Covenant

In the newest episode of the Needless Things Podcast Phantom Troublemaker, Mike Gordon, and Ryan Cadaver talk LIVE in the Phantom Zone about Ridley Scott’s newest outer space epic!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Defending the “Indefensible” – David Arquette Becoming the WCW Champion

By Jerry Chandler

To the victor go the spoils; not to mention the eventual writing of the histories. One of the things this leads to is everyone and their brother pointing to things that were “the beginning of the end” for the loser that weren’t seen as anything of the kind at the time and, frankly, may not have actually been anything of the kind. When it comes to WCW, the eventual postmortems on the company began to create narratives about many people and events; some of which have already easily been proven to be not wholly accurate.

Some of these are harder to definitively prove or disprove as there are no truly factual ways to do it. It’s all merely opinion claiming to be proof of cause and effect. But some of it might not quite be what the eventual post-WCW narratives and conventional wisdom has made them out to be. One such event is David Arquette becoming the WCW Champion.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Making Good Scenes Great - Pop Music in Movies

By Phantom Troublemaker

Seeing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 got me thinking about the phenomenal effectiveness of Baby Groot dancing to The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” at the end of the prior movie.

I’ve said it many times in many places, but that single instance of film created a universal moment the likes of which our world rarely sees – everyone around the world that saw that scene experienced joy akin to the Grinch’s heart growing three sizes. I have no empirical evidence to support this claim, but I have yet to meet anyone that doesn’t smile when you mention it and even critics of the film agreed that that was a bright, shining moment.

I feel like it was a landmark in pop culture history where everyone put aside their snark and their vitriol and just smiled at Baby Groot.

While Vol. 2 didn’t feature anything quite as viscerally pleasing – though it had many powerful musical moments – there are plenty of films from my lifetime that have used pop music brilliantly. Some so well that songs I would not otherwise have enjoyed are now a part of the playlist of my life. Today I wanted to sit down and think about some of the best uses of pop music in film.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Toy Review – Walmart Exclusive Ravager Outfit Groot from Hasbro

By Phantom Troublemaker

There are way too many Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 toys right now for me to keep track of. The only ones I’m following are the Marvel Legends, which are frustrating me to no end.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Chris Cornell

By Phantom Troublemaker

Chris Cornell died by his own hand on May 18, 2017 at the age of 52.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Needless Things Podcast 161 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

In the newest episode of the Needless Things Podcast Phantom Troublemaker, Beth V, Head of Research Ryan, and the Rad Ranger break down the newest Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Defending the “Indefensible” – The Fingerpoke of Doom

By Jerry Chandler

To the victor go the spoils; not to mention the eventual writing of the histories. One of the things this leads to is everyone and their brother pointing to things that were “the beginning of the end” for the loser that weren’t seen as anything of the kind at the time and, frankly, may not have actually been anything of the kind. When it comes to WCW, the eventual postmortems on the company began to create narratives about many people and events; some of which have already easily been proven to be not wholly accurate.

Some of these are harder to definitively prove or disprove as there are no truly factual ways to do it. It’s all merely opinion claiming to be proof of cause and effect. But some of it might not quite be what the eventual post-WCW narratives and conventional wisdom has made them out to be. One such event is what has become known as The Fingerpoke of Doom.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 by Christina

By Christina Sizemore

Once in a lifetime that one movie comes along that is thought-provoking.  It tackles the social issues, changes the way the world looks at humanity and even politics, and leaves you questioning everything you ever thought you knew on a deep philosophical level.

Yeah...this is not that movie.  It has flying arrows and explosions and big guns and jet packs and big freaking talking planets.  It's just insane, mind-numbing fun.  You'll walk out of the theatre soaking wet from peeing your pants with laughter and from crying your freaking eyes out.  You want social commentary, go watch a documentary.  Spoilers for the so far non-initiated, so I am Groot.  Er, I  mean, youve been warned.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The New MST3K

by Beth

Back in December of 2015 Phantom, Chad J. Shonk, and I recorded a podcast about the revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or, as I'm going to abbreviate it from here on out MST3K). We discussed our hopes and fears, as well as what made us love the original show so much. So now that the new episodes are finally here I'm back to let you know what I think.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Toy Review – DC Designer Series Bombshells Harley Quinn by Ant Lucia from DC Collectibles

By Phantom Troublemaker

I wasn’t too sure what to expect from this particular Harley Quinn action figure.

Preview images made it look like it would have the articulation of DC Collectibles’ Icons line, but weren’t clear about the scale. I’m pretty sure this first series was solicited prior to the handy scaling chart that DCC uses in Previews now.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Needless Things Podcast 160 – Aliens Needless Commentary

Cover Art by Vance Kelly
Part of an ongoing series – the Needless Things Irregulars gather in the Phantom Zone to provide their own unique commentary on classic genre films!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

It Came from After School Television – Tranzor Z

By Jerry Chandler
“From the minds of mortal men, the mightiest of machines- TRANZOR Z!”

It was 1985, and a handful of former Sunbow Productions employees who were involved with the very successful Star Blazers television series unleashed the first production from their own brand new company, 3-B Productions. This was an adaptation of Mazinger Z- not even the first one –for American television that would go by the name Tranzor Z.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Devlin's Domain - Nekromantik

It's hard to believe it's taken this long for me to get around to smashing this uncomfortable, taboo topic, but here we are finally. There's a lot about human sexuality that we don't fully understand. In this case it's because there's not a lot of research on it, because it's just downright too weird for most people to dwell on. It's a seemingly uncommon affliction, yet high profile people throughout history like Herod the Great and Charlemagne are allegedly guilty of these debauched acts. In case you haven't figured it out by now kids, I'm talking about necrophilia.

Phantom’s Birthday – Favorite Things

Today is my birthday, so I’m taking it easy with yet another…


I wasn’t going to post anything today, but I knew Tuesday night at work was going to be slow so I went ahead and started this. In no particular order, here are forty-one of my favorite things at the moment:

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Queen of Antar: Roswell Character Study on Tess Harding

By Christina

Tess: You don't have to spare my feelings. Nasedo taught me not to get wrapped up in... this. It's not really who I am. I'm not human. Neither are you.
Max: It's the only life I've ever known.
Tess: That's not true. You lived another life, Max... a life completely different from this one... a life when you loved me.
Max: I don't remember that.
Tess: I do.

I suppose that it is hard enough knowing that you were murdered in a previous life.  To realize that in your new one that your past incarnation’s husband is now waking around with another woman can be a bit…annoying.  As much as I wanted to write off this piece I had to round up my four-part character study of the Royal Four from TV’s Roswell by diving in to the story of the Queen of Antar and the alien everyone loves to hate, Tess Harding.

I cannot avoid massive spoilers in Tess’ piece for those that haven’t watched this show, so be warned.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Phantom on Chris Jericho - The Greatest of All Time: WCW

Note: I just finished reading Jericho’s second book, Undisputed, and immediately grabbed his third book, Best in the World. As with most things here on Needless Things, I am writing about my memories. I’ll try to keep Jericho’s personal reminiscences from shading my own too much, but it’s bound to happen a bit.

As you may know if you’re a longtime reader, I don’t have a tremendous capability for recall. I am not the guy that’s going to say things like, “On March 27th, 1998, Chris Jericho defeated El Dandy to become the WCW Mexamerican Champion”. I mean, I might say that, but it’s a complete lie. There is no Meximerican Championship and El Dandy never held a title in WCW. But who am I to doubt El Dandy?

This post will consist of my favorite memories of Jericho in World Championship Wrestling and the reasons why I think he’s great, not a list of matches and accomplishments. In the future there should be two more posts in this series explaining why Jericho is truly the Greatest Of All Time.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Needless Things Podcast 159 – News Blitz w/ Ryan & Jay

Phantom Troublemaker, Head of Research Ryan Schweck, and the Belligerent Monkey take a look at the latest in pop culture goings-on!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

It Came from After School Television – The Space Giants

By Jerry Chandler
“From the far reaches of outer space comes a threat to planet Earth. Mankind faces its most powerful enemy, the mastermind Rodak.”

It was the 1970s, and for a while a staple of the Superstation WTBS after school television block was a Japanese import from the 1960s. It was 52 episodes of men in rubber suits playing the roles of robots and monsters beating the snot out of each other every Monday through Friday afternoon to the delight of many a young child. The series was based on a manga called Ambassador Magma, which was also the TV show’s name in Japan. Beating Ultraman to TV screens in Japan by a handful of days, it was the first show of its kind broadcast in full color on their TV stations. The Ambassador Magma TV show also featured one of the earliest examples of the Japanese transforming robot. In America, it was known as The Space Giants.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Comic Book Wednesday – Previews May 2017: “Oh, Look – It’s EVERYTHING From Toy Fair”

By Phantom Troublemaker

If you don’t know, Previews is the catalog that Diamond Comic Distributors use to offer the products they distribute to comic book stores around the country. This is where you can view and order (through your favorite Local Comic Book Shop) comic books, trade paperback collections, t-shirts, books, media, and toys and other collectibles from hundreds of different vendors that deal in geek-oriented merchandise. The genius part is that you actually have to pay for your copy of Previews for the privilege of ordering other things to pay for.

It’s like the Ren Fest except without the horse poo smell.

So every month a new edition of Previews is sent out to comic book stores. Contained in the pages within are products that might be currently available or could be released anytime in the next year; but are typically about two months away. Most of this month’s offerings are scheduled to ship in July.

Now it’s time to discuss a few of the weird and/or wonderful items offered in this month’s edition!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Movie Review - Assassin's Creed

by Beth
Why am I just now watching (and bothering to review) a movie that came out more than four months ago? The obvious answer is that I only just watched it last weekend. It came out at a bad time. Right before Christmas I have a lot going on so time is an issue, and I only have so much money left after buying everything in the world for everyone else. I had to pick my holiday blockbuster, and do not regret choosing Rogue One. Twice. I regret that decision even less after finally seeing this movie.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Alien Day –26 Awesome Alien Toys

By Phantom Troublemaker

This article was supposed to post on 4-26 - Alien Day. Unfortunately I left my flash drive at work and was unable to post it then. Lucky for you, because now you get an extra Alien Day! It's like a second Christmas, except you don't get any of these toys.

Oh, look – it’s Wednesday and I’m writing another list. Clearly this represents the entropy that is corrupting and will eventually result in the ruin of Needless Things.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Weekend Edition - WWE Payback Pre-Show Needless Thoughts

By Phantom Troublemaker

Folks, it looks like we might – against all odds – have a pretty darn exciting card tonight. So much so that I'm putting together a rare - almost unheard-of - Sunday post. Enjoy.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Needless Things Podcast 158 - Alien

Phantom Troublemaker, Mike Gordon, and Ryan Cadaver discuss Alien and special bonus footage from Alien: Covenant after a Regal RPX screening on Alien Day, 4/26!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

It Came from Saturday Mornings - Dungeons & Dragons

By Jerry Chandler

“Fear not: Ranger, Barbarian, Magician, Thief, Cavalier, and Acrobat. That was Venger, the force of evil. I am Dungeon Master, your guide in the realm of Dungeons and Dragons!”

Back in the bygone and ancient days of the 1980s, ABC, CBS, and NBC still had entire blocks of programming, both animated and live action, aimed at children. These blocks were commonly referred to as “The Saturday Morning Cartoons” by adults and kids alike, and over the years they provided kids with a wide variety of colorful programs as weekly entertainment. One of the fun ones (and perhaps given the social climate of the time, the most surprising one) was Dungeons & Dragons.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Alien Day 2017

By Phantom Troublemaker

I spent all day yesterday writing a post about Alien toys. And then I left my flash drive at work.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Things To Do in Helen

By Phantom Troublemaker

WARNING: This is a travel column with a humorous slant. There is information here, but it is swaddled in semi-off-color humor. If you just want regular old information about Helen, you should go to their website.

Although they aren’t going to warn you about the lousy music.

This past weekend I took the family to scenic Helen, Georgia for what I expected to be a couple of days of Bavarian/German/Swedish/Whatever fun and now you get to read all about it!

I have always had fond memories of Helen from a trip that my family went on when I was a kid. The specifics escape me because I don’t have that weird thing where you can actually remember your childhood, but I’ve always treasured what I do recall of panning for gold, browsing candy stores, and wandering through all different kinds of places filled with exotic arts and crafts reminiscent of the old country.

Not my old country, but someone’s. I mean, Germany has been around for a long time. And even before it was known for industrial music, overpriced automobiles, and poop videos it was where they trained mercenaries. We learned all about them in elementary school. It seems that America couldn’t have a war without boatloads of Hessians showing up wanting to stick their swords into people for money.

Fortunately America can provide her own mercenaries now, but we can still visit a small town nestled in the North Georgia mountains to experience the best in Old World Hessian charm.

And terrible, terrible music.

I know that this post could use more pictures, but as I mention a few times, I did not realize I would be doing a write-up.

The Heidi Motel

We stayed in the adorable Heidi motel, which is within a mile of pretty much everything. It has a windmill on top of it, so you can pretend you’re in Beauty and the Beast, minus the plague. Probably minus the plague.

The exterior shares the charming timber-frame design that dominates Helen. If you want to stay in a cutesy place that you’ll want pictures of, this is it. Our room was clean. This is very important, as much of Helen was not clean. Some of the furniture was a style that I’d call “Sort of Medieval or Something” and some of it was “Sort of Big Lots”. An HDTV was awkwardly bolted into the wall, but rather than being centered and dominating the room with its technological convenience, it was way off to the right of a huge unnecessary mirror. The room had a sizeable mini-fridge and a microwave, which was nice.

The fixtures in the bathroom were aged and the toilet seat was the kind where if you don’t pay attention to how you sit on it there’s a good chance it’s going to slide right off of the toilet and take you with it. The shower head had a crack in it where water shot out of the top and directly into the ceiling, but I just pretended it was our own little celebratory fountain. Hooray for Helen!

Seriously, though – I can’t emphasize enough how clean the room was. The carpet felt clean. I was okay walking around with my socks off.

The lady at the desk was very nice, but possibly not a native. I say this because she didn’t seem to actually know anything about Helen. My idea had been to check in and ask the almost certainly knowledgeable Motel staff where to eat, but all she could tell us was that she thought people liked the place down the street that she couldn’t remember the name of.
The bottom line is that we liked the Heidi motel. It was overpriced for what it was, but a fine place to stay for an evening.

Old Heidelberg

Because I have food issues, the thing I was most looking forward to was a huge German meal with a huge German beer. Sure – I sort of vaguely outlined other stuff we might do like panning for gold or looking at some nature, but the one concrete plan in my head was gorging on sausage and potato-based cuisine.

Since the hotel staff had been less than helpful with recommendations, we struck out on our own towards town to find the most German-looking place we could. While most of Helen is very German, Old Heidelberg was the Germanist. It also had the advantage of being one of the first places we found. This was important because there had been some miscommunication amongst the family as to when, exactly, we would be eating and my wife has a very specific schedule.

If we do  not adhere to the schedule, her response goes something like this:

Stage 1 - Physical signs of hunger – fidgeting, frowning, complaining about DC movies (approximately ten minutes to stage 2)

Stage 2 – Verbal notification of hunger (approximately three minutes to stage three)

Stage 3 – Psychological torture – starts to list household chores that need to be done, reminders of past infractions, threats of violence (approximately eight minutes to stage 4)

Stage 4 – Genocide

We were seven minutes and fifty-four seconds into Stage 3. I do not ever want to get to Stage 4. We would have eaten at Old Heidelberg if it had been Arby’s.

Fortunately Old Heidelberg was not Arby’s. The staff was pleasant and attentive, with the waiter going so far as to recommend a different kind of sausage from what I initially ordered (he was right). They were also quite knowledgeable about the menu, something that I unfortunately don’t see enough of these days.

Old Heidelberg is, well, old. There are places where it shows more than others and if you can’t deal with a little character in your restaurants, it might not be for you. But I loved it.
The food was phenomenal. I had this:

The Baurnwurstplatte with mashed potatoes and German (of course) potato salad. The mashed potatoes were the highlight. The baurnwurst was great on its own, but I am a big fan of mustard and there was some kind of super thick mustard on the table. The sort of mustard that is hard to spread and that has big, brown specks in it. Mustard so hearty it’s almost a meal unto itself. I’d say I had a 50/50 mustard to baurnwurst ratio going on and it was incredible.

This sausage was the kind that was so good that if someone ran up to you while you were eating it and said, “THAT SAUSAGE IS PEOPLE”, you’d just finish it anyway.

The German potato salad was also good, but I always forget that German potato salad is just seasoned potato slices.

I also had the first beer on their beer list. I can’t remember the name because it was something like “Geborsthalleschlasse”, but the description started with “Some find the initial taste reminiscent of bananas” and also included references to mangos and other fruits. If you know me, you know that I mostly don’t like beer, so this was right up my alley. It was delightful and was the kind of beer that I would gladly drink on a daily basis.

Mrs. Troublemaker had a distinctly non-German burger that she said was great, accompanied by an Oktoberfest beer that she also liked. I’m sure it tasted like an old shoe, because that’s the kind of beer she likes.

My son had chicken fingers because he is nine and most nine-year-olds do not appreciate the magic of baurnwurst and mustard so thick you could pave the strasse with it.


We wandered around the downtown area a bit after dinner.

Visually, the downtown area is wonderful to look at thanks to the Bavarian architecture and quaint, old-world charm.

Olfactorily, the downtown area was somewhat unpleasant because there were a lot of people standing around smoking. As far as I know there wasn’t a tractor pull scheduled in Helen that weekend, but you’d never know it from looking around at the pedestrians.

Aurally, the downtown area is downright appalling thanks to upwards of ten outdoors musicians within fifteen feet of one another playing covers of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Confederate Railroad. Not to mention all of the restaurants and bars trying to drown each other out with their own prerecorded Top 40 White College Male Hits of the Aughts.

I was experiencing some pretty severe cognitive dissonance thanks to the combination of charming old world surroundings and vomitus modern Southern Rock and the yard of  Geborsthalleschlasse I had imbibed at Old Heidelberg wasn’t helping me cope. I wanted streets with the pleasant strains of Händel and Schubert playing in the background, with the occasional rowdy polka tune thrown in. Instead I was getting a redneck cacophony.
Remind me to write a strongly worded letter to the Helen Chamber of Commerce.

Side Note: Everyone that worked in Helen was tremendous. We had nothing but wonderful interactions with every clerk, waiter, and staff person in town.

The people visiting Helen were not tremendous. It was a bizarre mix of boisterous college-age kids, massive families that seemed to be there just to obstruct sidewalks and doorways, and old, loud drunks.

Jolly’s Toys

If you know me, then you know mine is a family that likes a toy store. And yet another perk of staying at the Heidi motel is the presence of Jolly’s Toys right next door!

Jolly’s Toys has been in Helen for thrity-eight years. I know this because I asked. I asked because as soon as I set foot in the store I was overwhelmed by memories. The setup, the smells, even some of the toys – I had been here. The feeling of nostalgia was like an ocean wave hitting me full-on. Whenever that childhood visit to Helen had occurred, we had gone to Jolly’s Toys.

As a matter of fact, I do believe this was the store where I acquired a coonskin cap and a boomerang. I was much better at wearing the cap than I was at throwing the boomerang, but neither made me as cool as I was hoping they would.

The lady I spoke to this time was absolutely wonderful, filling me in on some of the shop’s history as she made sure the kids in the store had a never ending supply of toys to play with. My son shot a toy crossbow and flew a small drone, and we completely failed to escape from a rope puzzle.

Jolly’s Toys was jam-packed with all manner of vintage fun. We enjoyed our time there and I’d say it’s a can’t-miss feature of Helen.

Other Shoppes of Note

Lindenhaus Imports – A great little store with lots of imported crafts, knick-knacks, and cuckoo clocks.

Tim’s Wooden Toys – A charming place where everything appears to be handmade. A gentleman was sitting at a work bench making things while we browsed. There were all kinds of neat items for sale, including swords, rubber band guns, wooden cars, and the best tops I have ever seen in my life.

Alpine Candy Mine – A candy shop themed to look like a mine. It’s cute, has a fine selection of candy, and the staff was super nice.

Underground Helen – If you need dreamcatchers, statues of bears, rock candy, or a neon Schaefer Beer sign, this is the place for you.

DJ’s Magic Dragon – Helen’s finest knife and airbrushed t-shirt emporium! It escapes being included with the next listing purely by virtue of its weirdness.

Crappy Tourist Shops – Unfortunately, many of the shops in Helen are of the same variety you find at the beach – loaded with ugly t-shirts with things like Confederate flags and dogs drinking beer, miniature plastic outhouses, and flip flops. For every delightful store like Lindenhaus Imports, there are three shit shops with garbage merchandise.

Remind me to complain about these lousy shops in my letter.

Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen – This was definitely a big draw, as we saw more people come through this store than anywhere else. It’s a fairly large space full of homemade candy, fudge, and other desserts. I couldn’t believe how many verities of sugary confection they had available, including what must have been fifty different kinds of truffles. They had fresh samples on the back counter and my son and I tried some carrot cake fudge that was just ridiculous. I left with a bag of pecan pralines. They were delightful.

The Meeting Place Family Restaurant

Located across the street from the Heidi Motel, The Meeting Place had indoor and outdoor seating and both were pleasant environments. The staff was great and we enjoyed our breakfast. I will throw this warning out – there’s a big Christian presence, so if you’re a jerk that can’t handle that kind of stuff or can’t control your language in public, you might want to find another place to eat.

I’d recommend the Wendy’s down the street. That red haired devil has zero standards.

From the website. I didn't take a picture because I didn't realize I'd be writing this up.
Outpost Gold & Gem Mining

My son’s only goal for the trip was to pan for gold. I totally understood this.

I very clearly recall that on my family’s trip to the Helen/Dahlonega area when I was a kid, that was my primary interest as well. We found an operation set up somewhere that let you take a pan and sift through sand in a little artificial creek for as long as you wanted. After a couple of hours of what was probably my parents working a whole lot harder than I did, we brought our finds to the people in charge so they could be preserved in a tiny jar of water. I still have the treasures that we labored so hard for that day – three flecks of what probably isn’t gold, a green gem the size of an ant, and a red gem that is slightly smaller.

Imagine my surprise when, roughly two minutes into our experience my son had culled this:

Clearly things are a little different in the world of gold and gem mining these days.

Outpost is set up where you buy a bucket of sand – gold, gems, or fossils – and take it to one of their troughs full of water. There, you use a provided trowel to put the sand in a sieve to dunk in the water and slosh around, revealing gems and teeth or whatever. We had a blast here and I highly recommend this place for visiting families, artificial though the experience may be. We bought a gem bucket and a fossil bucket and between the fun we had and the stuff we took home I feel like we got more than our money’s worth.

Scoop de Scoop Ice Cream Parlour

This place is right across the street from Outpost and adjacent to the Alpine miniature golf course, which we did not visit. The service was great and so was the ice cream.

Anna Ruby Falls

Anna Ruby Falls is a nature-oriented attraction located in the Chattahoochee National Forest. It’s close enough to Helen that it can be your whole day or just part of your day, depending on how much you like nature and trees and stuff.

If I were the sort of person that valued trees and streams and bugs over large amounts of delicious food, I’d say this was the highlight of our trip. I’d also weigh thirty pounds less.
The drive to get there took us through some forests and hills, with the reveal of actual, for-real mountains as you approach. As hilly as Metro Atlanta is, it’s exciting to see true mountains in person. For me, anyway. We found it a little strange that the speed limit on these winding, hilly roads was 55 and I have no problem telling you that I didn’t get within 10 MPH of that most of the time. Careening off the side of an elevated highway is not part of my vacation plan.

The whole area dedicated to the falls is beautiful. There’s a walking path that’s about half a mile long and I took more pictures on it than I did of the whole rest of Helen (partially because I didn’t realize I’d be writing this). The creek that flows down the mountain from the falls has plenty of serene pools and tumbling miniature falls and the forest is lush and gorgeous. Despite my normal anti-outdoors attitude, I found myself truly enjoying the serene environment.

At least, I was until I got to the top and one of those huge families was blocking the walkway. This time with the added element of wine that smelled like a hobo’s butthole. It was bizarre. Right at the top of the path there were six or seven people standing there with paper cups full of the foulest-smelling drek I’ve ever had the displeasure of inhaling. It was like the California Raisins got hung over and threw up in a bucket. And then peed in the bucket.

But we quickly made or way past the Mad Dog convention and onto the observation decks.
There are two waterfalls there because it’s where Curtis Creek and York Creek intersect. It’s not powerful like other waterfalls I’ve seen, but it’s pretty and nice and worth the already pleasant trip up the mountain to see.

Troll Tavern

After walking, driving, and panning for gold and teeth all day we had worked up quite the appetites. Unfortunately, we chose the Troll Tavern for lunch.

The ambiance is that of a jocko sports bar with random paintings of trolls here and there. The food was okay at best, but it might have been better if our anger at waiting forty minutes for it hadn’t been the predominate taste.

Eh, no need to belabor it – we didn’t like this place at all and would never go back. End of story.

And that, my friends, is actually the end of the story. At that point we were all tired and ready to head home. We hadn’t booked a room for a second night because we weren’t too sure what Helen had to offer, so I wanted to get on the road before it got too late.

Helen is a beautiful little town with plenty to do. The people that work there are friendly and courteous and very conscious of making sure you have a good time. The people visiting there are probably the worst thig about it. There’s no way around the fact that Helen is a tourist town and you’re going to have to deal with tourists. Now that I’ve experienced that, I might be able to filter it a little bit and have more fun next time.

And that’s not to say that we didn’t have fun. Between the food, the shops, and the attractions, we ended up having a great time and I definitely recommend a family trip to Helen for anyone that’s considering it. It isn’t overly pricey and there’s plenty in a five minute walking distance or twenty minute driving distance to keep you occupied for a weekend. If I could make one wish come true, it would be to get rid of all of the shitty music that was playing and replace it with something more appropriate.

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