The 15-Year Reconciliation

Do you remember way, way back in the “early” days of this website, when I used to get really excited about finding and reviewing surprise bags? Honestly, the only reason I don’t still do it is because I haven’t seen a good surprise bag in ages. But that’s besides the point.

One of the most memorable things I’ve written (at least to me), was a review of a nondescript surprise bag that I found in a local dollar store in a nearby city. The variety of items contained in that bag was wild and shocking. Well-aged Spanish Tic-Tac knockoffs. Dubious “Dubu” gum. Some trading cards and stickers from a movie called Baby that I’d never heard of.

Continue reading The 15-Year Reconciliation

Easter 2018: The Quest for Peeps!

The month of April is coming to a close, and that means that Easter is already a month ago. Easter happened to land on April 1st this year. Kind of falls in a weird place this year, doubling up with April Fool’s Day. It’s a little weird to think about which one may be bigger at this point. IRL, Easter is the clear winner, but if you go online, you’ll find many more April Fool’s pranksters than pastel bunnies and eggs. And since more and more people basically live online all the time…

Anyway, Easter really gets me thinking. Thinking about nostalgia. Because it always brings me back to that time I wrote an article about Easter goodies. Reading that article, in turn, makes me nostalgic for and want to play Pokémon Colosseum. Or, at least moreso than usual. You can safely assume that at any given moment, I am probably thinking about Pokémon Colosseum.

But those things are mostly irrelevant. There’s one other thing that Easter always gets me all riled up about, and that thing is Peeps. Yep, good ol’ Marshmallow Peeps. The chick-shaped marshmallows that you will gleefully stuff into your mouth even as they wordlessly plead with their little sugar eyes for you to spare them. Truth is, in my advanced age, I don’t even really like Peeps all that much anymore. Used to love ’em. Used to hold the record for most Peeps eaten in a sitting (among certain circles). Actually I still like Party Cake Peeps, but I’ll eat anything with that fake birthday cake flavouring. Like, I can’t stand most seafood, but if you somehow masked the flavor with fake birthday cake, I’d be gobblin’ up all dem fishies like nobody’s bidness.

The point I’m trying to make, is that even though I’m not crazy about Peeps anymore, they are still an integral part of Easter for me. Significantly moreso than any other Easter-themed candy. Maybe not quite as important to me as getting together with the extended family for brunch or dinner or whatever, but an Easter is not an Easter without Peeps. And so, as a grown man with no romantic prospects to buy me sweets, each year I must set off on my own personal journey in search of Marshmallow Peeps.

Little did I know the trials and tribulations that 2018 had in store for me.

My quest technically began all the way back in late February, when you could begin to see the reds and pinks of the Valentine’s day goods transition to the pastel blues and yellows of Easter. I could hear the siren song of the sugary sweets. On many of my weekly grocery trips to Wal-Mart, I was tempted by those attractively soothing colours to peruse the holiday candy, but declined the call because it was just a little too early still. On the first weekend of March, I finally broke and dove headfirst into the Easter section. I came out empty-handed, as there wasn’t anything weird or new enough to grab my attention. I did note, however, that they had not yet put out any Peeps. How unusual…

Week after week I looked, shocked ever more at the concerning lack of Peeps on the shelves. What was happening? Did Wal-Mart and Just Born have a falling-out? No, that can’t be it; they still sell Mike & Ike’s. A Peeps conspiracy? Had the Canadian Junk Food Police finally cracked down on the cutest confection? Perhaps I was looking in the wrong place. While the seasonal corner seemed like the best spot, I began to check islands, end caps, and the candy section, but it was all to no avail. Wal-Mart had failed me. [Insert shocked gasp]

Much to my chagrin, I was going to have to… shop around. I am an old man in heart and soul, and as such I value tradition and routine more than anything. So I hate having to look at other places for things I should be able to get in the place I normally go to. But Easter was quickly approaching and desperation was setting in. I had to find Peeps, and it had to be soon.

My next destination was Dollarama. There was no way they could fail me, right? It’s my go-to for cheap holiday decorations and such, it would surely come though for my Easter candy needs. Alas, even Dollarama lacked the Peeps that I needed. Notably, Dollarama did have something that no other store had: fake Peeps. Or, I mean, close enough, right? Marshmallow bunnies sprinkled with (more) sugar an lined up neatly in racks. I haven’t seen a Peep in the shape of a bunny for years, but I know they’re a thing. So I cut my losses here and went home with Fake Peeps Bunnies in hand, two dollars and fifty cents poorer. They may have been fakes, but at least they would (ostensibly) sate my hunger for Peeps and save me the trouble of shopping around to other stores looking for the real deal.

Let me tell you, friends, don’t ever buy Dollarama’s Fake Peeps Bunnies. These are, by a wide margin, the most terrible marshmallow candies that I have ever had the displeasure of ingesting. And it’s not really so much that they taste bad, because they’re really bland but True Peeps are pretty bland as well. What puts these over the edge is that they are solid. It’s like trying to chew through a really thick taffy, more than a marshmallow. ‘Mallows should be soft and fluffy. These are decidedly not. I could feel my teeth and jaw straining while trying to masticate these awful, awful bunnies. And they just wad up into one big, solid mess, too. It’s a candy disaster.

You know what? Yeah, I’ve changed my mind and decided that they do taste especially bad, too. Just out of spite. Because I’m not a real writer or journalist or whatever and I can do that. At first it’s not too bad, but then you really get in there and suddenly the taste of dust overpowers anything else that might have been. It’s all bleccch up in there. Do not want. Do. Not. Want.

In retrospect, it may also be that these Fake Peeps Bunnies were just a decade old and nobody cared enough to notice (myself included). I don’t know. There’s no way to know. It’s a mystery that will persist until the end of time. Or until I go back to Dollarama and see if there’s any sort of expiry/best before date printed on the box. But we all know that’s not happening.

The other really big mystery here is that if they were so bad, why in the heck did I eat them all?

Moving past the insult and injury to my mouthparts in general, this story does have a happy ending! And incredibly happy ending! The weekend before Easter, my parents went on an impromptu day trip down to the good ol’ US of A. Also known as the Junk Food Capital of the World. Of course I didn’t think to put in a request at the time, but surely they would have been able to find scores of Peeps down there. And Peeps they did find! Not only Peeps, but Weird Peeps! And Cookie Peeps!

Possibly my favourite thing of all, is the package of Peeps Oreos that has been immortalized above. Just look at its splendor as you revel in the fact that there are Oreo cookies out there that are filled with the melted and mashed-up bodies of marshmallow chicks. Looking back, I probably should have done a more thorough examination of this package, but it was late and I was much too interested in shoving as many of these Oreos into my face as possible. I am obviously a sucker for junk foods, and even regular Oreos will drive me into a frenzy. When you present me with some kind of wacky gimmick Oreos? I lose even that last shred of control.

Peeps-themed Oreos are… I want to say terrific, because that’s what they should be. But they aren’t really terrific. In reality, they taste almost exactly like plain ol’ Oreos, but with just a smattering of marshmallowy flavour. I’m sure if you ate them blind, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. But you’re (probably) not blind! So you can see that beautiful purple goo in the middle, and that’s what makes these really special to me. I know it’s shallow, but I am shallow, and I really just love that look. If you could swap out the standard brown Oreo cookie bits with Golden Oreo cookie, these would be the ultimate snack. Not only would the visual appeal be increased beyond the threshold of comprehension, but Golden Oreos already taste a million times better than the regular ones. You throw in that little wisp or marshmallow flavour? Fuggetaboutit.

Joining the Peeps Oreos are not one, but three boxes of Mystery Peeps. I am only hyperbolizing slightly when I say that I was bouncing off the walls from excitement when I laid my eyes on these sweet babies. OH, the packaging, SO LOUD. OH, the Peeps, SO WHITE. Traditionally I roll my eyes and scoff at junk food with this stupid “guess the flavour” gimmick, but… Wait, no. That’s someone else. I always jump in headfirst when I see junk food with this stupid “guess the flavour” gimmick. Usually the flavour ends up sucking, but there are three different kinds here! One of them was bound to be good! Law of averages!

I quickly tore into the first box and gave it a big ol’ whiff, instantly recognizing the sweet smell of root beer. But I passed the box to my brother and dad, and my dad immediately disagreed with my assessment and said they smelled of toothpaste. I cocked my head to the said and took the box for another sniff. Weirdly enough, I could absolutely get the smell of minty toothpaste coming off of them. But I could still smell the root beer as well. What’s the deal? Do these two things have similar scents and I just never noticed? How could this be? I could have pondered this mystery longer, but instead I mashed a Peep in my face. Weirdly enough, the toothpaste/root beer Peeps had no flavour. Other than “regular marshmallow” I mean. Not even a bit. I want to say it was a big let-down, but I honestly didn’t really even care.

We had a quick consensus on the second package: Lemon. Though my dad went the extra mile and said they smelled like floor cleaner. So, artificial lemon. Yeah, that’s a fair assessment. These Peeps actually did have flavour, which should have been disappointing again because I’m not big on lemon. But it was a very light taste, and was really just the perfect amount of lemony to make it tasty, while not so strong as to turn me off.

The final box was by a wide margin the strongest in both scent and flavour. We waffled a bit between strawberry, raspberry, and wildberry, but eventually agreed that the best descriptor would be blue raspberry. That said… there’s not much else to say about them. These were the most delicious by far. But, obviously. I’m a big sucker for most berry flavours. It’s worth noting that since this is the Social Media era, the packaging of these Mystery Peeps encourages folks to go on Twitter and make guesses as to what the flavours are. We checked it out briefly, and it’s exactly what you’d expect; a fine mélange of guesses the same as ours, guesses that are astoundingly off, and responses that are obviously people just trollin’.

I wish I had some way to end this on a bit of a stronger note. It sort of just fizzled out there. I mean, obviously, I would say that the Berry Peeps and Peeps Oreos are absolutely worth buying if you were to stumble across them. If nothing else, buy them to give to me as a gift. A “Happy Monday” gift, because I really don’t want to have to wait for next Easter.

The Amazing Spider-Man Mega Egg

I’m going to start on a tangent and hope that it decreases how many more crop up later on in this article. Holy crap, it has been forever since I did any actual work in MS Paint. That banner up there? No Photoshop involved. Not that it’s hard to tell. I think it turned out pretty nice though, in an ironic lo-fi sort of way. It took me like half an hour to put that border around the blue text. I miss my “stroke” layer style.

There. Now that that’s out of my system, let’s move on the actual intro.

You may remember that in the spring of last year, I wrote an article about a Star Wars Mega Egg. If you don’t, maybe go check that one out first, and then come back and read this one. We’ll wait for you. I don’t know if it’s really compulsory reading, but I’m considering this article a sequel to it, so you might as well bone up on the TE canon. Or something. I totally forgot what I was trying to get at with this paragraph.

Oh, right. I was initialy trying to lead into something about how the SWME (I pronounce it “swum-ee”) brang about an article renaissance here on TE. How it heralded a new age of me sometimes writing articles about things that are not video games. But that’s boring and not really relevant, so maybe I’ll just start trying to get to the point.

Back in July, when I was in Lac du Bonnet for the annual Canada Day celebrations, I made the yearly pit stop into The Bargain Shop to check out their wares, procure a buttload of candy to eat while waiting for the fireworks to start, and maybe find something interesting enough to write about. Of course, this might sound like a somewhat familiar story to you. If you’ve been reading TE for a while, it really should. I do this every year, and I write about it almost every year, whether or not I actually find anything.

Continue reading The Amazing Spider-Man Mega Egg

2013 Surprise Bag Article

You may not know this, but it is a real challenge to find a surprise bag interesting enough to warrant review. I’ve long considered the surprise bag review to be one of TE’s Things, but lately it seems all my efforts to find a half-decent one are coming up dry. Did you know that I haven’t posted a surprise bag article since 2006? Yeah, seems like I probably should have staggered them out a little better. But how was I to know I’d still be doing this seven years later?

I have picked up a few surprise bags over the last few years, even made special trips out of the city just to hunt for the things. But alas, I haven’t found one that’s even been worth a blog post, nevermind a full-fledged article. It’s killing me too, because for the last year or so I’ve really wanted to do one up proper. It just seems like all the surprise bags out there are filled with garbage so bland that I can’t make up reasons to make fun of, or they’re licensed and actually a pretty decent way to spend a dollar. I suppose that in hard times I could write up something about a good surprise bag, but what’s the fun in that? I don’t think anything will ever live up to that one that was like 20 years old. I’m beginning to worry that I’ll never see Dubu gum or Baby trading cards again.

My search endures, however, because I refuse to give up on the idea that surprise bags can be truly surprising and contain more than a couple generic suckers and maybe a Dubble Bubble. Also, nostalgia. The thought of a certain nearby city is inexorably linked with a certain notorious surprise bag in my mind, and I cannot think about one without the other crossing my mind. The memories of the fun I had opening and reviewing those other surprise bags lingers as well, even though I know that it likely won’t ever be as exciting as it was back when I was truly devoted to this craft.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is… wait… what?… What is that?

Continue reading 2013 Surprise Bag Article

The trouble with oceans

Yesterday I spent a short amount of time picking around the internet in search of somewhere I could buy me a Dick Turtle suprise bag. You know, because I updated that one article and it got me excited about the prospect of finding another one. Unfortunately, my usual sources came up dry, and even a rather thorough Googling session left me with no avenues through which to get my hands on one. But! I did track down the company that produces them. I spent a little while exploring the Mr Sweets website, and still came up with no real answers to the many, many Dick Turtle questions that I have. My hopes were a bit dashed that it was a UK-based company, and that their online store barely makes mention of surprise bags at all, Dick Turtle or otherwise.

So I did the only thing that was left to do: I sent an e-mail to Mr Sweets to see what the deal was with Dick Turtle. Imagine my surprise when I checked my inbox this morning and there was a reply! I don’t know much about the Mr Sweets company, but I can tell you that their customer service is fast and personal. No auto-replies here, no sir. And for that, I salute you, Mr Sweets.

The bad news is that Dick Turtle is as good as dead to me. He does live on, but here’s the bulk of the response I got to my “do you still make Dick Turtle surprise bags?” e-mail:

Yes we do, its changed a bit as we had a Lucky bag Comic here in the Uk and Dick Turtle gained many friends. We don’t do anything now in Canada, the original Mr Lucky Bags company became a victim of the recession, our largest customer Woolworth went bust (along with many others) owing us over 1 million, we couldn’t survive that and ceased trading in 2009.  So we are much smaller and now are Mr Sweets.

Welp, that’s about it then. A more assertive man would follow up with a request for them to ship me some of these newfangled Dick Turtle lucky bags, but even if they accepted the request, it would probably be prohibitively expensive. I just can’t afford to drop more than like $1.75 on a surprise bag, you know? Not even for Dick Turtle. Maybe I’ll make a Kickstarter to fund getting me a Dick Turtle surprise bag. I don’t know what I could possibly offer as backer incentives though.

‘Tis truly a sad day. I don’t want to say that this is the end for me and Dick Turtle, but I feel like there’s not much hope left for us. I know that I said some nasty things about his surprise bag, but I can assure you that I only said them out of love. The Dick Turtle surprise bags were quite possibly the best ones I’ve ever reviewed, though that could just be the nostalgia talking. I hope that some day, many years from now (or sooner, whatevs), Dick Turtle and I will meet again. But for now all I can do is take solace in the knowledge that he’s alive and well, and that he has a whole bunch of new friends.

So long, Dick Turtle. We’ll always have Lac du Bonnet.

The Star Wars Mega Egg

I love Star Wars.

Let’s pause for a moment to let that sink in. I feel like after the prequel trilogy, a lot of the love for Star Wars has waned. Not without good reason, but still! Me, I still love Star Wars. I make sure to watch A New Hope at least once a year. Ideally I’d make time to watch the original trilogy once a month (and the prequels once a year), but I have tons of other stuff on my plate, be they things I am required to do or just other frivolous time-wasters. So I generally don’t watch the Star Wars movies more than once a year.

It should be noted that this fanboy love is directed almost entirely at the original trilogy and works that spin off from those three movies. I have played very few Star Wars games that don’t star Luke Skywalker and friends, and I’ve only read a handful of Star Wars novels, in most of which the main character is Han Solo. This one time I thought about playing Knights of the Old Republic, but I didn’t own an Xbox and my PC was not equipped to run it. I only own the prequel trilogy because they came packed-in with my blu-ray copies of the first three films.

All that said, I’ve never seen the Clone Wars movie, nor have I watched the equally fugly Star Wars: Clone Wars television series. I own the DVDs of the (comparatively beautiful) 2D animated Clone Wars series, but that’s about all I’ve ever had to do with whatever happened between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. So if I hadn’t been actively seeking a curiosity to write this article about, I wouldn’t have given this Star Wars Mega Egg a second glance. Heck, I might not have even noticed the durned thing at all.

So Star Wars Mega Egg. Thar she blows. It’s a big, blue egg with a hideous, computer-generated likeness of Hayden Christensen on it. More importantly, it’s exactly the kind of thing we love around these parts! It’s been a while since we’ve seen any surprise bag action around here, and this Mega Egg is just what the doctor ordered. Check out that label, it says “surprise inside” and also “candy gift with surprise.” I don’t see how I could possibly lose when it’s promising a surprise two times in such close proximity.

The rest of the label is curiously devoid of any more mentions of a possible surprise, but it does go to great lengths to scientifically describe exactly what the candy gift will be. Of course, I’m no scienceist, so I have no idea what any of that jargon means aside from the fact that it’s all just chunks of sugar. That’s pretty much all I expect from candy gifts though, so I’m sure it’ll be great! Acceptable, at the very least.

I won’t lie, I’m pretty darned excited about the jelly candy that’s rumoured to be inside. You have no idea the jellified wonders I’ve got parading around in my mind.

Apparently the Mega Egg wants me to join the Official Star Wars Fan Club. I’m not certain, but I have a feeling that the Star Wars website that the provided web address is pointing me to is of a very different demographic than I would expect. My idea of a Star Wars fan club is a bunch of fanboys (and maybe a girl) poring over their favourite series of movies, trading various cards and/or comics, showing each other their fan art and home-made costumes, and other such nerdly activites. You know, somewhere I’d really feel at home. The Mega Egg is likely just to attract eight-year-olds who think the Clone Wars TV show is the bomb (or whatever the kids say these days) and have no idea that the original movies exist.

Upon actually typing that link into my browser, I have discovered that the Official Star Wars Fan Club no longer exists. Well, visiting the site just proved that the site was gone, the actual discovery came from a cunning Google search and the skimming of a brief FAQ.

Either way, the OSWFC is gone and I now understand why the Force has felt so sorrowful for some time now.

Back to the matter at hand, the Mega Egg has a trio of holes in the top. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t candy generally sealed in airtight packages? Do sugar chunks need to breathe? Is my candy gift more than I’d bargained for, or is that surprise going to be even more surprising than I’d expected? Man, I’m getting way to into this Mega Egg.

Guys, it’s opening. It’s opening!!

I suppose that this would be a good point at which to give you a little better feel for the Mega Egg you see before you. To keep you on the edge of your seat, you see.

The Mega Egg, as far as surprise-bearing eggs go, is pretty big. It’s roughly three to four times the size of a regular Kinder Surprise egg. I had originally intended to take a picture of the Mega Egg next to another object -ideally a Kinder Surprise egg- to better illustrate its Meganess, but alas, I didn’t feel like combing Zellers’ candy aisle for a Kinder Surprise egg, and I forgot to take a comparison shot whilst taking all these other pictures.

The large size of the egg is also why I feel so compelled to capitalize the words “Mega Egg” every time I type them. It would be wrong not to give the Mega Egg the distinction of being a proper noun. I feel almost like I should be capitalizing every letter, to further glorify the Mega Egg, but it seems like the kind of thing that’s only funny for a paragraph or two. Besides, if I’d done that, I’d be out this great filler paragraph.

I’m a little worried about this, guys. It… it kind of looks like the Star Wars Mega Egg is just full of a bunch of the same packets of candy. That can’t be right. Surprise bags aren’t full of a bunch of the same thing, they’re full of different things! A surprise egg should be held to the same standard!

Speaking of surprises… I don’t see one here. Just packets of samey-lookin’ candy. Guys, I’m scared. The surprise… It’s gotta be under the candy, right? That’s what’s going on here. Yeah, that’s it.

Well, colour me disappointed. I’m not sure what colour that would be, exactly. Possibly a shade of blue? Not out-and-out sad blue, but maybe a faded blue, to show that I’m sad and also my joy has faded and been replaced with cold, gray disappointment. Yep, a faded blue would definitely be the right colour for disappointed.

This is not what I look for in any type of surprise package, be it a bag, cone, egg, or crate. Not since the Peter Puck surprise bag have I been so disappointed. What’s that? Why don’t I have a link to the Peter Puck surprise bag article? Because there isn’t one! The Peter Puck surprise bag was just several packets of puck-shaped candy and a plastic puck in which to place the candy. And every single one is the same! The Star Wars Mega Egg just barely avoids being so disappointing by containing three different kinds of candy, but I’m betting all the Star Wars Mega Eggs are the same. This is almost as big a let-down as The Phantom Menace.

You’ll have to excuse me if typos start getting really bad from here on out. I just spent three minutes banging my head against the wall in a mix of frustrations, disappointment, and just a little bit of my natural insanity.

Why? Because my twice-touted “surprise” is a stupid little sheet of stupid little Star Wars stickers. I suppose that when whatever candy company Lucasfilm contracted to make this thing was deciding on a demographic, they probably opted to shoot for a younger crowd. A crowd that would piss their pants in excitement when they saw that they got a buttload of candy AND more Star Wars stickers than they can count. I’m not part of that demographic.

My negative emotions are somewhat swayed by that cool C-3PO sticker though. His knee joints are monstrously oversized, but still, how could I be mad at Threepio?

Being an adult, I have absolutely no need for a copious amount of tiny Star Wars stickers, so I just mashed them all over the Mega Egg. It was looking a little naked and ashamed after being stripped of its flashy packaging.

I don’t really have a need for a huge plastic egg covered in tiny Star wars stickers either, but let’s not go splitting hairs here.

The Threepio sticker, being the biggest and bestestist sticker in the bunch, was given the honour of gracing the name tag on my lunch bag. I think it’s a pretty great spot to wear my love for Star Wars, and there really isn’t any other surface in the immediate vicinity of my computer desk where I felt like placing a sticker wouldn’t be a waste. I guess that since I’ll be moving out soon I could have pasted them all over my walls to cause my parents a minor annoyance, but I feel like they’d probably make me pull them all off. I’m not in the business of finding ways to annoy myself.

So that’s about it, I guess. No, wait. I didn’t try the candy. Let’s go have a taste, shall we? I mean, you won’t because you’re on the wrong side of the internet, but I’mma go enjoy some sugar lumps now.

I was let down immediately by the jelly candies. Mostly because they were the ones I was looking forward to the most and there ended up being only two packets of them. Also because they came exclusively in lemon flavour. They weren’t that bad, but I feel like the confectioners missed a huge opportunity by not making them all delicious red and green. Possibly blue.

The hard candy, shaped like stars, was pretty boring all around. They were all red and yellow, but both colours tasted pretty much the same. That taste, BTW, could be best described as “bland, with a hint of nothing.” Lastly, the minty-looking candies, which I assumed would taste minty as well, were not minty. I have no idea what the flavour is called, but they were pretty yummy! They weren’t overly tasty, but they certainly beat the stars. Another plus is that the stars and the mint-looking things were quite a bit softer than I’d imagined. They were still technically hard candies, but they put up just enough resistance so that chewing them didn’t hurt my feeble little girl teeth.

Overall, the Star Wars Mega Egg was a pretty big bust. That’s what I get for buying a surprise dealie from a big chain instead of a dollar store that never left 1983. I have a burning curiosity to see if there are any other possible “surprises” in the Star Wars Mega Eggs, but I don’t feel like risking another $3 for what will most likely be the exact same contents. I might luck into better-flavoured jellies, but at that point it might just be better to buy a $1 bag of jellies. They don’t come with the thrill of the surprise, but there’s also that lack of crushing disappointment, which some might consider a perk. I’ll have to think long and hard about this one…

As a little side-note, Kinder Surprises generally aren’t especially surprising, but there was a pretty neat little line of hippos dressed as Star Wars characters in them at one point. As far as I can tell, the line never reached Canada, but by that point in time I was already too old to care about Kinder Surprise toys, even if they were hippos cosplaying Star Wars characters. My point here is that this is how you whore out your brand, not with boring junk like the Mega Egg.

Love me like you’re gonna die

So things are getting better around here. I think I’ve finally got Torrential Equilibrium back to where it was pre-crash. Not that I’d been adding much lately, but the archive of old stuff is still all there for you to browse. I’ll take this opportunity to point out some of my personal favourite articles for you, in case you’re newish and need somewhere to start. Me, I just like going back to some of the better ones and appreciating how much love I used to put into this site. Maybe they’re not the most eloquent or best written articles, but they all hold a special place in my heart for one reason or another.

Nintendo Surprise – Unbeknownst to us at the time, this would start a long-running chain of surprise bag articles. Also, it’s summertime and I’m getting all nostalgic about that particular summer, like I always do.

Animal Crossing – It’s not really new games journalism, per se, but it is an article about a game that isn’t a true review. More of a short story written with the help of a video game. Oh fuck, I wrote a fanfic and didn’t even realize it.

World’s biggest McDonald’s – Maybe this is outdated now, but it was the biggest in 2004. And it had both an F-Zero arcade machine and a Bill Cosby standee. I hope it hasn’t changed a bit.

Dick Turtle surprise bag – Dick turtle is kind of a celebrity here at TE. I know I scour every dollar store I see in hopes of one day meeting him again. The day I do will be commemorated with a parade and fireworks. And cheerleaders.

Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge – I honestly believe this is one of the best articles on the site. It’s not often that I’m proud of my work, but I think this one is really great.

Makin’ pancakes with Shadowman – Another one I really love. There are lots of food-related articles on the site, and this is the standout one for me. Mostly because it was something I could just have fun and be creative with, as opposed to the others which were mostly reviews with lots of fluff.

Chat Radio – Of all my featurettes, Chat Radio is my favourite. It’s too bad that it can sometimes be boring and hard to understand. It’s the format’s fault. I really hope to do another one soon. That or get with the times and make a podcast.

So actually, looking back through the archives, there’s a lot of stuff in there that I really like. Almost wish I had more drive to create more crazy stuff like this. It’s just a shame I don’t do anything out of the ordinary anymore. I can only justify so many game reviews in a row. Anyway, back to my point, consider this “Ryan’s favourite articles Part 1” because I’m definitely gonna have to point out more, but all in one blog post seems excessive. Maybe next week or something. Oh! And now I have an even better idea! But I’ll keep it a secret for now…

TE’s Bargain Shop Adventure!

So I was in Lac du Bonnet the other weekend. Not something that’s going to be happening all that often in years to come, even though it used to be a trip the family made many times a year. Me and the girlfriend went to see the Canada Day fireworks display (which had been rained out in July and postponed to August 1st), and it just so happened that her uncle runs the Subway down there, so her whole family was there too.

Before hitting Lac du Bonnet itself, I decided to take her around the surrounding area and show her some places I used to frequent, like the cottage that used to belong to my grandparents, and the legendary Pinawa Burger Boat. It was a long morning/afternoon of adventuring, and we finally headed to Lac du Bonnet and made camp at the Subway. There were still many hours to kill before the fireworks began, so we had to busy ourselves in town. Reading her Cosmo and playing CrossworDS (guess who was doing which) only lasted so long, and we were forced to explore the small town to eat up the rest of our day.

Fortunately, that meant doing my absolute favourite Lac du Bonnet activity: scouring The Bargain Shop for interesting goodies. There’s also a dollar store that’s so generic that I can’t even remember what it’s called, but ever since my brothers and I were tots, I’ve loved prowling that The Bargain Shop. It even moved across the street into a bigger building a few years ago, making room for even more crazy crap. I bought a whole bag full of stuff that day, and all for less than $15! Let’s take a look-see, shall we?

Probably the last thing in the store to catch my eye (the first being shitty Transformers clones with absolutely horrid grammar on the box, sorry for the lack of pictures), but easily the best thing I bought were the Butterfinger Buzzes. They were three for two bucks, and my curiosity was piqued by the allegations that it contained as much caffeine as the leading energy drink, so I dove right in. It bears mentioning that the woman is currently addicted to/dependent on energy drinks, so it was easy to convince her to take one. I like Butterfingers, but I’m not a glutton.

Now, a Butterfinger is pretty good on its own, and the promise that it’s brimming with caffeine is even more enticing, but I was a little turned off by what I found when I opened the wrapper. For whatever reason, “loaded with caffeine” is apparently synonymous with “dyed an unnervingly bright red”. I guess it’s just that I was used to the golden Butterfinger, but the insides of these bars were bright, bright red. Possibly dyed with the blood of a thousand neon children.

In the end though, it was just a Butterfinger. Flamboyant colouring aside, it tasted perfectly normal, and despite promises of giving me the caffeine rush of a lifetime (I ate two!), I felt no more energetic after consuming them. Overall, I’m not disappointed though, because they were cheap and as I’ve stated at least twice by now, I like Butterfingers.

What I’ve never cared for, however, are Hot Tamales. Not sure why, but they just never caught on with me. I love cinnamon hearts, so it’s not the flavour or anything like that. Maybe the chewiness doesn’t mesh with the cinnamon in my head for some reason. Maybe I just don’t see the point of getting a box of Hot Tamales when you could get the far superior Mike and Ikes that are always right beside them. I may never know.

What I did know, however, is that I absolutely had to get the box of Hot Tamales Ice. It makes no sense! It’s so wonderful!

So as you can see from that box shot up there, these are minty flavoured instead of cinnamon, and as far as I’m concerned, are much more enticing. They give off that same cool aura as spearmint leaves, but have the smooth, pill-like texture of Hot Tamales. I don’t know if it was just an old box or that Icy Tamales are naturally hard, but these ones in particular were a bit tougher than your garden variety Hot Tamales/Mike and Ikes. This problem was circumvented when I left the box in my hot car one day and they became soft and more like their forebears.

On the note of this possibly being an old box, I could find no mention of the Ice Tamales on the official website, however it did show me that they’re producing a product that opposes the Ice Tamales even more than the original: Hot Tamales Fire. It is now my lifelong quest to find the Fire version. And then procure another box of the Ice, so that I may put Fire and Ice on display together as my most prized possessions. Sadly, this requires at the very least, a three-hour trip back to Lac du Bonnet. I guess I can just hope that they’re still there next year.

As an end note, I’m still a firm believer that Tropical Typhoon Mike and Ikes are the best of this candy family.

And speaking of tropical things, look at what we’ve got here! It should be known that I’m also a huge fan of Dots, even moreso since I’ve learned that Wal-Mart carries big ol’ boxes of ’em and I don’t have to wait for Halloween for my Dots fix. Even then it was a gamble. Dots always topped my Halloween candy wishlist, even though they’re not even close to being the best candy. You were always guaranteed to get a king’s ransom in Reese peanut butter cups and Tootsie Pops, but Dots, Dots were the rare candy that always made my Halloween.

The Tropical Dots, however, are not my friend anymore. I gave them the benefit of the doubt at first, as they come from good stock, but then I ate one. They come in five flavours, all listed in the image above, and none of them are any good. They all taste vaguely similar, and kinda waxy. The Wild Mango and Paradise Punch stand the best chance of being deemed “acceptable at best”, but I really couldn’t give a rat’s ass about what happens to the rest of them. Very, very disappointed here. I’m talking last-episode-of-Seinfeld disappointed.

Also, there’s a math puzzle of some kind on the back of the box. Boo, Tropical Dots! Not only do you taste bland, but you also use your box activity to attack my weak point! Massive damage! I hate Tropical Dots.

To add an extra level of woe to my already melancholy situation, I purchased two boxes of these chewy little abortions in my excitement of seeing a new brand of Dots. Eating two boxes of Tropical Dots does not make one a happy camper. I really hate Tropical Dots.

These suckers are less interesting than most of the other stuff I picked up, and in fact you can easily find them at most dollar shops or Zellers. Usually as a feature item, because they’re two for a buck. These really only made their way into the bag of swag because the girlfriend is totally nuts over suckers. And why shouldn’t she get a good tongue workout? Oh yeah. I went there.

The nice thing about them is that there are a ton of flavours, and most of them are awesome. Root Beer and Banana Split, which I have pictured here, are my favourites. Cherry Cheesecake and -strangely enough- Grape are also worthy competitors. There’s even some kind of margarita flavour, so there’s really something for everyone. I should also mention that they are incredibly tasty and much bigger than the average sucker, so you’re getting a great value with these little guys. If you see a stand next time you’re picking up cheap greeting cards, don’t hesitate to buy a couple.

This big ol’ lolly is both more and less interesting than the previously showcased suckers. It’s more interesting because look at all the colours! Whoo! they swirl so brightly! Also it’s much bigger. But the real amazement lies on the backside of this lollipop…

BAM! It came with a toy! For a dollar!

Yeah, I know it’s the cheapest-ass toy ever made, but still! Little motorcycle dude will reside in my room for possibly weeks or months to come, until I finally get too annoyed with his poor construction. It’s too bad, because despite his small stature and cheap build and training wheels, I really like Moto Dude.

The real tragedy here is actually that big lollipop itself. I’ve had many lollies like this one, in different shapes and sizes, with different colour patterns, and different characters emblazoned on them, but I’ve never had one like this. Not even close. This was hands-down the worst lolly I’ve ever had the displeasure of having in my mouth. Initially it had no taste at all, so I figured it was some kind of shitty coating that caused the lack of flavour, so I sucked some more, and eventually it just started to taste like plastic. The colours weren’t running at all despite the mass amounts of saliva being slathered upon it. I couldn’t even bite the damn thing. I’m beginning to think it was just a prop lollipop packed in as an easy way for whoever made this to sell their shitty little Moto Dudes.

Sadly, I’ve got to be one of the very few suckers ever to fall for it. Pardon the half-pun.

Okay, now this can’t possibly disappoint me, right? A sucker version of a Kinder Surprise? This has gotta be awesome.

But just one thing bothers me; how exactly did they get the toy and giant chup in that egg? Certainly the toy must be held in an egg within the chup, just like a fruity version of a Kinder Surprise. Yeah, that’s gotta be it.

What!? It’s just a regular sized chupa with the stupid toy taking up the rest of the space inside that humongous egg? I’m outraged! Mostly.

On the upside, the Chupa Chup is a sucker that you know you can depend on. They will always be good, as they always have, even if they aren’t bloated to an unbelievable size, as the packaging had led me to believe. Seriously, I only bought this because I thought I was getting a ginormous chupa with a toy encased within. If I had known it was a regular chup, I probably wouldn’t have been nearly as excited about it.

To dishearten me even further, the toy included inside was not at all the pencil topper that the various images on the package had promised. I mean, it’s a robot cat, which is cool and all, but Robo-Cat does not top pencils. He doesn’t even try. He just rolls back and forth whilst bobbing his head. Despite the fact that my fat sausage fingers weren’t nearly dexterous enough to assemble Robo-Cat without an hour-long fight, I’ve become quite attached to the little guy. He now sits atop my Wii with Moto Dude. I give them about a week before my dog eats one of them, having caught the scent of facetious suckers on them. I do not relish the thought of having to hold a tiny funeral for the tiny, unfortunate soul.

And that’s what I got. It may seem like I got taken to the cleaners for spending just under $15 on this mostly disappointing junk, but you’ve gotta remember that that comes out to over 130 words per dollar, so it more than evens out on a penny-to-word ratio. If I hadn’t written this completely pointless article, then the only thing I’d have had to walk away with was the enjoyment I got from the few candies that were good. Also a Robo-Cat. And that’s more than enough to satisfy me. Case closed.

The Supermassive Surprise Cone

Okay. I’m a little hesitant to do this one right now because frankly, I think the surprise bags are losing their luster. I mean, realistically you can only review so many surprise bags before the formula wears thin and the readers see through your guise, work themselves into a rage and hunt you down, behead you and plant your head on a stake out in your front yard as a warning for anyone else trying to pull a similar scam.

But alas! We here at Torrential Equilibrium are devoted to upholding our code of laziness and half-hearted reviews. We also hate that fact that we are such poor typers and have to fix like every second word. It literally doubles article production time to stamp out all those lieks and smoethigns.

But alas again! I’ve gotten off track. Story time, young ones.

A long, long time ago – June 30th of 2006, to be precise – I was in the town of Lac Du Bonnet to attend one “Canada Day Parade and Festival.” The parade was lackluster, to say the least. The average age of the participating people was “deceased” and the various “Miss Whatever” girls were all fat. It wasn’t cool. The festival part was much better, with rides, food, and those horribly addictive carnival games that promise great prizes, but rarely leave you with anything more than an armful of shitty little stuffed animals.

It was only on the way out that I realized that my beloved The Bargain Shop had closed down. It was there that I had acquired many great things, such as Nintendo Surprises and the Dick Turtle surprise bags. I was shocked and hurt. My soul was crushed. I tuned around slowly and dramatically, as if out of a movie. Then I looked up and saw it. It was The Bargain Shop! Only it had been freed of its strip-mall confines and moved into its very own at-least-10x-as-big building! The Gods God was smiling on me that day, and I happily entered the haven that was the huge new The Bargain Shop.

Long story short, I figured I was going to find a new surprise bag of some sort. I bet you figured that too. And if you did, you’d be wrong. Wrong like a guy who thinks metal sucks. ‘Cause metal is awesome.

Yeah. Cone. The Bargain Shop has gotten serious about baiting me with unknown goodies, I think. I mean, not only does it totally blow away the surprise bag in terms of basic visual appeal, but it’s got a lot of other little bells and whistles going for it. For one, it’s gihumongenormous. Comparing it to something everyone can identify with, like a DVD case, might help to show just how big this monster is. I suppose a regular surprise bag would have been the best comparison, but I didn’t have one at the time of taking the pictures.

The other thing that really compelled me to pick up a surprise cone was the price. Five bucks for the thing. Five bucks. It sounds like a total rip-off, and most of me assumed it would be, but a small part of me was completely reassured that the high price tag meant either good stuff inside or at least a shit-ton of crappy stuff. I was clearly more than ready to take my chances. After all, I’ve won several trophies for unnecessary/compulsive spending.

So that’s that, and here we are. I cracked this baby open the day I got home, and the pictures have been sitting on my hard drive collecting cyberdust up until now. It just seemed like such a monumental task, and like I said earlier, me lazy. But now I’ve sat down and begun to write, so I might as well get it all done. Then again, even if I stopped here and came back to it three months later, you’d never know, now would you?

I’m not going to lie. That clown is pretty much freaking me out right now. That indecent look in his eye, the enthusiastic smile, the grabby grabby hands. We all know that this guy is the clown that children have nightmares about. I intended to go down the “this guy’s a pedophile fo shizzle” path, but I really think that those kind of things would best be left to your own sick imaginations. But seriously, I’m pretty sure he wants to kill me and wear my skin like one of those animal scarves you see on rich cartoon women all the time. And then he’d comically set up and play my bones like a xylophone because he saw it on Itchy and Scratchy that one time.

I just noticed that the cone seems to be mostly in French. I mean, yeah, “surprise cone” is English, but it’s only got “bonbon et jouets” all over it. nowhere do we see a satisfying English “candy and toys” exclamation. What if an Anglophone has never seen a surprise bag before and wonders just what the surprise is supposed to be? He’ll probably think there’s a hooker in there or something and the surprise is which STDs she has.

I guess the top that signifies whether its for boys or girls ages three to ten would be kind of a tip-off. Hookers totally aren’t for kids between three and ten. Kids that young just can’t appreciate the wonders that are paying for sex and the trip to the free clinic the next day.

The picture is unacceptably blurry, but you can make out a small football, a styrofoam airplane toy, various stickers and junk. And wonders of wonders! What is that which I spy with my little eye? Could it be… a coozy? I didn’t even notice that one there until I went to open the thing. For various reasons, having a coozy intended for a small child would be like a dream come true. Well, perhaps less magical than that, but it would still be neat. I still have yet to acquire a coozy of any description, and I was certainly hoping the surprise cone could remedy that problem.

Wow. Oh wow. Just… holy freakin’ God. The surprise cone’s gone chocolate starfish. That’s just not appropriate. It’s all a normal cone until you open it and then BAM rusty sheriff’s badge. Seriously. Does anybody see anything other than a paper stink star? Because all I see is a big mudcutter. It’s kinda funny how you see things that unintentionally look like button spiders all over the place. I mean, do you think someone really designed this so that when you open it, it resembles a whale’s eye? Probably not, but it’s both gross and funny at the same time. I’m sure someone has a website devoted to this kind of thing.

…Oh man, I just got the awesomest idea. Heh heh heh. Awesome. Damn, this article just keeps getting more and more inappropriate.

Quite a haul, I might say. Certainly more impressive-looking than the bits of candy and Happy Meal rejects you get in surprise bags. At least, this stuff looks alright at a glance. I’m sure that you’ll agree with me once you’re done that it’s mostly crap. Hell, just look a little closer and you’ll see that it’s mostly crap.

Well then. Caillou, you say? That’s, uh… Well, it’s kind of a toddler thing. I don’t think any self-respecting kid over four years old would really appreciate Caillou. By that time they’ve moved onto whatever shitty battling anime is popular at the time and/or SpongeBob. Seriously. Have you ever watched Caillou? I struggle to imagine that even newborns could find any enjoyment in the show. And they pretty much can’t even think. I suppose that if you’re gonna break balls, it is just a colouring book, and anyone can enjoy a colouring book regardless of associated franchise/theme.

You know what’s the worst part of it all? Now I’ve got a colouring book, but I haven’t got a crayon to colour in it with! Whatever shall I do?

I’ll be damned! It’s Barney, and he’s come to save me from my horrible crayon-free existence! He’s even going to throw a party while he’s at it! Though based on Barney’s audience, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to keep a lookout for that clown from the cone. It’ll be heaven for that freak.

Seriously though, this is crap. Four crayons? What the snap am I going to be able to colour with four crayons? Unless they can change colour at a moment’s notice, I just don’t think they’re going to be cutting any kind of mustard. And of course it’s just the primary colours and green to boot. So if I were to colour Caillou, I’d have to make him either yellow or red, and that wouldn’t be ethnically correct. You can’t imagine the anger I felt when they made The Honeymooners black. Not that I’m racist, but you can’t arbitrarily change an established character’s race. Jackie Gleason was probably rolling over in his grave when they announced that. So the point I’m trying to make is that there’s no way in Hell that I’m going to be turning Caillou into a rice picker or a feather head.

I’ve always hated sour soothers. Not only do I disprove of anything more than noticeably sour, but the product name is a huge oxymoron. Maybe they were shooting for the irony angle, but nothing as sour as these bastards can possibly be soothing. It fills me with unbridled rage. So much so that I don’t even want to talk about them anymore.

On the upside, it’s a foam dart. On the downside, it doesn’t do its job too well. At least, I don’t think so.

The way I see this thing, you put the elastic band on your finger, pull the dart back, and then let ‘er fly. But it usually just crashes into my finger and then dangles there while onlookers laugh and point. But It could very well just be me. I have a bad track record of using hand-powered projectiles such as rubber bands, darts, and boomerangs. The foam dart is clearly no exception.

I’d like to take a little stop here to mention that we’re about halfway through the article. At least as far as pictures go. I don’t know what lies in store for us where a word count is concerned, but unless I think up another relevant story to tell, it’s probably going to wrap up quicker than it started. Of course, I could go all Something Awful and talk about things that are only vaguely related, but I don’t really have the imagination required for that kind of thing. I mean, I guess surprise bags are kind of like Final Fantasy games in that they’ve always got different stuff in them but in essence they’re all the same, and even though they all kinda suck I keep playing them. But I don’t think I could draw that out for three and a half paragraphs.

So now that I’ve buffed up my word count quite nicely, it’s back to reviewing this surprise cone. Which is not at all like Street Fighter, because Street Fighter is always awesome.

They weren’t old like most surprise bag candy (at least, not as old, the date says 2004), but the Juicy Drop chews were pretty bad. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that all candy starts to taste like dust after so long, because that’s what always seems to happen, at least in my experience. The juicy centers were tasty, but the chewy outside was about as delicious as licking a shelf you haven’t dusted in a decade. Not cool. Not quite as new as the package would have liked me to believe, I guess.

Oh look! It’s a semi-clear plastic cup! And it’s got the word “GLO” on the side, so logic would denote that it must glow in the dark. Not bothering to read the rest of the label for specifics, I let it sit under the light for a while and then turned said light off. The cup did not glow. I was angered and threw the cup at the wall to spite it. It bounced and hit me in the head. I probably should have kept that bit to myself.

While I was “charging” the GLO cup, I rummaged through what was left of the surprise cone’s innards. It was then that I found the number one coolest thing ever found in a surprise bag (bar anything from the Nintendo Surprises): the styrofoam airplane. I could regale you with stories of how many of these things I bought as a kid, but that would take up a lot more time than you want to spend listening to my jibba-jabba. Foo.

So anyhow, I had a farkload of these planes back in my day. Not all at once, of course. The things are made of styrofoam, after all. This is their weakpoint, and will often lead to massive damage incurred by little boys playing a bit too rough. sometimes they don’t even make it past the building stage, when said little boys get frustrated that the wings won’t go in as easily as they assumed and end up crushing the thing in a fit of rage. Sometimes I still cry at night, thinking about my poor styrofoam planes and how they never really had a chance at life, being thoroughly crushed by pudgy, cotton candy-stained fingers. I am slightly comforted by the fact that these planes haven’t changed at all since my childhood. Even the packaging is designed the exact same way. In a world that is so unstable and constantly changing, it’s nice to know that some things will always stay the same.

I’m not currently sure where this particular plane ended up. A quick scan of my surroundings confirms that maybe I should turn the lights on, but the light switch is like halfway across the room, and I’ll be damned if I’m getting up.

I was perplexed by the strange object. I turned to myself and asked

“What the Snuckey is this?”

“I couldn’t tell you, buddy” I replied nonchalantly.

“Do you think it has anything to do with that dumb cup?”

“Probably, but I really don’t care.”

So guess what. I was a little off about the whole glowing cup deal. Turns out the cup itself isn’t s’posed to glow, but you’ve gotta pop these dumb glowsticks into the rim on the bottom. Yeah, dumb. And they’re those lame snappy ones that all the losers bring to their lame rave parties. Ugh. Just having these things in my possession makes me feel so inferior.

Yep. It worked. Whoo. Fascinating, isn’t it. Can we move on yet?

Aww, it’s a cute widdle penguin weeble! But what an odd pose for a weeble. Facing upward… that makes no sense. But wait! What is this?

Ye gads! It’s not a weeble, it’s a marker! A marker concealed ingeniously within a weeble! Airport security would never see it coming! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Well I don’t know what else to say about the penguin marker/weeble. it’s yellow, which makes it undesirable and impractical. I guess you could use it as a highlighter, but if you’re going to be toting it around, the penguin shape doesn’t lend itself very well to the task. I like it as a decoration, but beyond that it’s pretty useless. The second best thing in the cone by far, but only because it’s too adorable to dispose of. Even that’s cut really close too, just look at the sloppy-ass paint job. It’s a little disheartening, to say the least.

Thankfully, that’s the end of that little endeavor. Not that I don’t appreciate the styrofoam plane and the penguin weeble/marker, but having to slog through the rest of that crap to get to them wasn’t easy. Or enjoyable. Particularly the candy. At least the candy in some surprise bags is so terrible that it warrants discussion on its own. The crap in this one was just plain boring. And shitty. I mean seriously, who the snap like sour stuff? It’s all about spicy, my friends. If it’s not pastry or it doesn’t cause a ring of fire, it’s not worth eating, I say.

I would also like to mention that my youngest brother also bought a surprise cone. The only actual surprise came from the fact that we both got the exact same junk. Okay, to be fair we got planes with different designs, but that just barely counts. So, you know, if you see a surprise cone that looks the same as this one out there somewhere, don’t even bother looking twice. I bet they’re all the same, and the only difference is that the girl cone has a toy pony or something instead of a plane. The dart is probably still in the girl cone too. While it may be intended to be a toy weapon, I’m sure girls could find some way to appreciate it. Please excuse me for that, it slipped my mind for a moment that these things are meant for three-to-ten year olds, and as such, that innuendo there is totally inappropriate. It’s totally awesome if you imagine Marisa Miller buying it though.

In conclusion, the surprise cone was totally not worth five bucks. I normally don’t mind spending a dollar on a surprise bag for a cheap thrill, but five for this load of junk? I don’t think so. The plane alone would have only run me like 50 cents, and I could have lived my life without the penguin markeeble. It’s a sham and a half, that’s what it is.

As a thrilling epilogue to my story, I should note that there was a lot of other great stuff in the new The Bargain Shop like boxes of salt water taffy for 50 cents and all-day suckers. There’s awful computer games and movies just itching to be reviewed too, but my The Bargain Shop budget was pretty much shot by the surprise cone. It’s a mistake I will be sure never to make again. Until they redesign the cone and I’m fooled into thinking it’s a new cone, allured by the possibility that this new one might contain a coozy, and then when I get home and open it and see that it’s all the same junk at which point my eyes fill with liquid rage and I snap and take down as many people with me as I can. That’ll be the day…