When polled, most people especially within developed nations would say that December is the most festive Month of the Year (Because it’s fucking Christmas, duh!) but me being the contrarian bastid I’m known and loved for, cites mid-November as the favorite Month of the Year ever since-say, 1991; where I landed a seasonal nightshift job at Toys R Us near Herald Square, NYC at the time.
I often have fond memories of me chopping it up with both coworkers and a few cool customers while
running the action figure Isles that were stacked with Transformers, Marvel’s Toybiz line, GIJoe (Can’t leave those fuckers out of the equation, now can I?) who now grew from 3 inches to 12! (Saw what i just did there?) The Hall of Fame collection paid homage to the classic GIJoe lineup that originally comprised of the 12′ scale figures that most GenXers had grew up with. Not only were they articulate and fully posable, but even had authentic clothing and mind you, this collection came out way before Sideshow and maybe in some ways, inspired the popular figurine company/outlet.
And last but not least, Masters of the Universe and those damn Teenage Mutant Turtles who dominated the toy sales and were the store’s highest revenue! I had a blast chatting it up with Marvel employee and now Director of Merchandising at Marvel Entertainment. Jesse Falcon (Look him up!) about comics, action figures and his thoughts of the lame Captain America movie. Jesse was one of the coolest customers to stop by and it’s good to know that’s he’s still holding it down at Marvel.
For a moment, my crew and I, were a close-knit unit. Right after work, we used to hit the nearest diner or dive, to eat, drink and play a few rounds of pool.Sure there were a few scandals between my coworkers (Even one situation involving a conveyer belt!) but at the end of the day, we were just having fun while making the most out of a grueling 8:00 PM to 4:00 AM schedule and then there were the irate holiday season customers of course.
However, one of the highlights during that time, was making enough money to buy the Sega Genesis! After a year of “playing with power”, as
in the Nintendo Entertainment System, it was time for an upgrade as in from 8 to 16-bit graphics and Genesis proved that it does what Nintendon’t cant.
Packaged with some unknown game called “Sonic the Hedgehog“ as part of the bundle, the Genesis had an awesome array of titles that I managed to get my hands on for dirt cheap from a Korean Gaming outlet.
Sure, the carts were used but with some alcohol and a few Q-tips, they worked as good as new and the day before Thanksgiving, I was up all night playing exclusive titles like Sonic, Revenge of Shinobi, Forgotten Worlds, Thunderforce 3 an incredible side scrolling shooter with a kickass Techno synth soundtrack, Strider; another amazing game with a memorable score and gameplay and one of my all-time favorites, Dynamite Duke!
Despite being a very obscure 3rd person title, Dynamite’s concept had instantly garnered my interest; A soldier enhanced with a bionic arm that can not only throw a mean right hook, but when he’s all charged up, Duke can deliver a punch of devastating proportions! This game is a hybrid of GIjoe meets Deathlok so now you know why I grabbed this title the minute I got my Genesis and to me, that day felt more like Christmas than Christmas (December 25th) itself!
Usually, I dislike Platformers especially when it involves cutesy characters as the protagonist (Mega Man being the noted exception.) but Sonic was a more enjoyable experience than the overrated Super Mario Bros series.
What makes the titular character so appealing is his no nonsense attitude especially when it came to that infamous toe tapping animation. Sonic instantly became a household name and served as Sega’s official Mascot that would give a certain Italian Plumber a “run” for his money.
And from that moment on, as part of an ongoing ritual, November was often known as the month that I would get my hands on a brand-new gaming console as long as both money and scarcity weren’t a problem.
But prior to getting a “Genny” November 1991 served as another landmark and by that, I’m referring to the debut of one of the greatest Metal albums ever! Corrosion of Conformity’s “Blind” is the title of a once Hardcore Punk band, now evolved into the genre of Metal with a pinch of psychedelic rock.
This was the same album that brought the Raleigh, North Carolina band onto the mainstream thanks in part to MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball and mostly due to powerful songs that dealt with socio political topics. It seems that the band despite acquiring a different sound, has not abandoned their Punk roots.
In “Mine are the eyes God”, Frontman Karl Agell belts out striking verse throughout the song that while not necessarily attacking religion, it closes with you being the most defining, you who could make a difference not the “stars or the cross or the moon”.
“Painted Smiling Face” from what I interpreted, unapologetically dealt with the massacre and mistreatment of Native Americans. This track had an impressive Guitar Funk solo that further embellished the psychedelic aspect during the latter half and it’s of no surprise why this was among my top favorites from the album.
“Burning tree, blackened sky – this land God forsaken
A thousand men prepare to die – their spirit long been broken
In misery, hear their cry – mouths hang wide open
Flashing steel, hot lead – the white man has spoken
Painted smiling face
Pockets filled, lust fulfilled – the butchered know no mercy
Painted smiling face”
“Voting with a Bullet“ had driven home the importance of politics while discouraging apathy.The clever idea of adding an electronic tone to Pepper Keenan’s vocals during the verse, was ahead of its time and no doubt preceded autotunes.
“White Noise” is the standout of the entire album for obvious reasons; this song is an unapologetic attack on White supremacy backed by a striking aggressive format.
“Blind – product of pride
Fuck, you don’t speak for me
Proud is what I am
But I never condemn a man
One race – no way
Nightmares come true these days
We all know this fight is for real
Howling like a jackal, begging to be heard
Growing like a cancer, beliefs that fight the word
This song has more meaning than ever especially due to today’s racial divide instigated by a certain Reality TV celeb turned President-Elect.
While Metallica’s venerable Black Album, also released during that year, had sold more copies, Blind had more artistic merits and didn’t have a need for uninspired ballads such as “Nothing else matters”. I found myself listening to COC’s breakthrough album much, much more and it was due to both this album and Prong’s Beg to Differ that my interest for metal had gained more momentum. And if the songs from the album wasn’t enough, the CD insert had impressive artwork courtesy of Comic artist Bill Sienkiewicz along with a political PSA.
Although a quarter century ago, I can still enjoy those fond memories of what may be simpler times.