REO Top Ten: Church Potluck Items (Part 2)

There are few things that are more emblematic of Southern Evangelical culture than the church potluck. Many jokes (some funny) have been made at the expense of faithful churchgoers enjoying a smorgasbord-type feast after service. Deal with it, we like to eat and we like to eat with our friends and fellow believers. Of course, when you open up the menu to any item that any person wants to bring, things can get a little tricky. It takes wisdom and quick decision-making to ensure that your plate is filled with only the best foods available. That’s where REO comes in. We’ve spent the last few months meticulously sifting through every potluck food imaginable to create our top ten. These are the ten items that consistently rise to the top – the cream of the crop, if you will. Unless something in the preparation process goes horribly wrong, these are the ten items that will not fail you. Today, we bring you the best of the best. We crown our victor and celebrate with all our fans.

Recap: 10-6:

10. Meatballs
9. Velveeta Rotel Dip and Chips
8. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
7. Mexican Cornbread
6. Pigs-in-a-blanket

5. Ham N Cheese Hawaiian Rolls

Hawaiian Rolls were created by the King’s Hawaiian Company in the late 1950s. By 1960, California man Joe Cooper had taken an entire bag of these delicious rolls, cut through the middle, and melted ham and cheese inside them. They were a huge hit with Joe’s family and friends, but Joe was an atheist so his creation never made it to a church potluck. It wasn’t until 1983 when Edna Clarkson took Ham and Cheese Hawaiian rolls to an event at First United Methodist Church in Starkville, Mississippi that the phenomenon was truly born. Lives were changed that day and the church tripled in attendance. The rest, they say, is history. (Mike Lytle)

4. Chili

Picture this…you’re standing at the front of the food line and you’ve just grabbed a styrofoam plate and your plasticware. You scan down the tables of glorious food spread out before you, but something catches your eye…wait…is that??? No…it can’t be! But it is! Someone has haphazardly thrown a bunch of meat, beans and peppers together into a crockpot, added a bunch of spicy chili powder to it, and proudly set it out for all to enjoy. (Rarely have I had a chili that I didn’t like. And when I did eat a chili that wasn’t great, a little extra Tabasco sauce or cheese is all it took to kick it up to a normative level again.) You reach down and pick up a styrofoam bowl as well. Time to feast. (D.A. Speer)

For something so delicious the recipe for chili is actually quite simple (look at me pretending I know how to cook!). Despite its basic ingredients, a pot of chili can taste very different from one potluck to another. Yet nearly every kind of chili is delicious. Unless it’s canned chili which is an affront to nature! I’ve read that many churches have amended their bylaws to include the following, “Thou shalt not bring canned chili to church potlucks”*. I digress. Plain chili is wonderful. But when cheese and crackers/corn chips are added it transforms into something divine!

REO pro tip: Chili holds heat better than most foods. So, at potlucks where the food is prepped well before the designated meal time always go for the chili as it will still be hot. (Mark Sass)

*I read this on the internet so it must be completely factual.

3. Fried Chicken

I could be wrong, but I suspect that if potluck chicken was as consistently good and hot as freshly made fried chicken, this would be higher on this list. Maybe this would be the case. However, Number 3 is still very respectable and is well earned. I do know that it is my close second favorite behind deviled eggs. It is so close that it is pretty much a tie. Yeah, sure, potluck chicken is often a mite on the coldish side—maybe lukewarm—but I still love it. It and deviled eggs are always my go-to potluck foods. (Ben Plunkett)

I have deeply fond memories of Homecoming Sunday every October at Horse Branch Free Will Baptist as a child in the 80s and 90s. It meant I got to see the late NFL games since there was no Sunday night service. But it also meant this extravagant, bountiful smorgasbord of a buffet right after church. And every year I made a beeline for the chicken. It was often cold but it was still so good. Other than Uncle Remu’s at Walmart, I’ve never had a bad piece of fried chicken. And those Church potluck dinners in my childhood were no exception. (Gordy Cannon)

2. Sausage Balls

A well-made sausage ball is hard to beat. Unfortunately, I have developed a weird pork allergy/intolerance so I am now deprived of all the wonderful pork related foods, including sausage balls. Still, even with my new-found ailment, I cannot deny the glory and the wonder of the classic sausage ball. You can eat these things hot, cold, warm, or lukewarm. You can dip them in a sauce or you can eat them just as they are. While they do vary in taste depending on the spice level of the sausage used, they are pretty great in any form.

REO pro tip: The spicier sausage used the better. Also, do not use too much breading. You want these to have a nice balance of meat, cheese, and breading. We don’t call them bread balls, after all. (Phill Lytle)

1. Deviled Eggs

Many ill-advised haters of deviled eggs love to point out that it has “devil” in the name and that therefore it is obviously a thing of great evil. However, back in the 1700’s when deviled eggs first became a thing, “deviled” meant “spiced.” That’s not a joke. Look it up. Anyway, that makes deviled eggs a thing of great good. And indeed, it is, my friends, this soft and supple culinary masterpiece deserves to be in here in the upper reaches of the potluck top ten. Its haters be boggled. They’re the ones of great evil, so there. (Ben Plunkett)

There is nothing devilish about these delightful creations. Look. I get it. If you don’t like eggs, or mayo, or deliciousness, you might find these little bite-sized beauties a bit repulsive. That is entirely your loss and entirely okay with me as that will leave more eggs for me to eat. At any church potluck, one of the first items to be completely eaten are the deviled eggs. Mark it down. That is why they finished number one in our bracket. They might be polarizing but for those of us that love them, they are the go-to item at any potluck dinner. A church potluck without deviled eggs is a truly horrific thing. We want no part of that. (Phill Lytle)

To me the beauty of the deviled egg is the balance of the two main ingredients. I used to watch my mom make the yolk mixture and then eat the leftovers and it was so good, but not nearly as good as when it was with the white of the egg. The two together are just sublime and hence, #1 for this group. (Gordy Cannon)

That’s our list. We’re sure everyone will completely agree with all of our choices. Be sure to post your kind and encouraging reactions in the comment section below. We look forward to reading them and celebrating all these great potluck foods together.

REO Top Ten: Church Potluck Items (Part 1)

There are few things that are more emblematic of Southern Evangelical culture than the church potluck. Many jokes (some funny) have been made at the expense of faithful churchgoers enjoying a smorgasbord-type feast after service. Deal with it, we like to eat and we like to eat with our friends and fellow believers. Of course, when you open up the menu to any item that any person wants to bring, things can get a little tricky. It takes wisdom and quick decision-making to ensure that your plate is filled with only the best foods available. That’s where REO comes in. We’ve spent the last few months meticulously sifting through every potluck food imaginable to create our top ten. These are the ten items that consistently rise to the top – the cream of the crop, if you will. Unless something in the preparation process goes horribly wrong, these are the ten items that will not fail you. Today, we give you one item that just barely missed the cut as well as numbers 10 through 6. Come back for seconds tomorrow to fill up on the top five.

Honorable Mention


I’m a picky eater. This is not news to anyone who knows me. So, for those kindred souls potlucks can be slim pickins. As I wander down the aisles I often find myself lost amidst a sea of food. Fear and dread build as I press onward into the unknown waters. Will I find something… anything to eat? Or will I collapse from hunger and exhaustion at the row’s end? But the moment when all hope seems lost my eyes discern a twinkle. A pan of golden goodness–lasagna! Shining and radiant like a lighthouse of hope in the darkest of night! Picky eaters gather near and find sanctuary inside the walls of its glass or aluminum pan. (Mark Sass)

10. Meatballs

Is there anything that sounds more appetizing than meatballs? Who is dumb enough to pass up eating balls made out of meat? Not this guy. At any church potluck I have attended, I am sure to look around as quickly as possible to find this most savory dish. Just find the crockpots. Sometimes, the crockpots will have lesser culinary items in them like roast beef or some sort of soggy vegetable, but if you are fortunate, you will find glorious meatballs swimming in a delicious BBQ sauce. I pile my plate high with the balls of meat with no concern for my fellow potluckers. It is their loss if they didn’t go for the meatballs first. (Phill Lytle)

9. Velveeta Rotel Dip and Chips

There are a few foods that I know are truly horrific for my health, but I can’t stop eating them. This is one of those. If you have ever looked at the Velveeta Rotel dip after it has cooled, you will know this is a substance you should never introduce into your gastrointestinal system. We all know it. Yet that doesn’t seem to matter to any of us because it tastes so good! Does this make us bad people? Yes, yes it does. Oh well. Pass the chips… (Phill Lytle)

8. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

There’s nothing to home-cooked food to me quite like a perfectly prepared piece of meat and a perfect side right next to it. Often in my mom’s kitchen, and at countless church potlucks around the USA, mashed potatoes and gravy fits that bill. I’ve loaded my plate with them a couple of times in my life to the point of drawing stares from the other people in line. (Gowdy Cannon)

7. Mexican Cornbread

I enjoy almost any type of cornbread, but this variety takes it up several levels. Mixing cheese and chili peppers into a traditional sweet cornbread recipe is simply genius. The best version of Mexican cornbread is made in a mini muffin pan. I am pretty confident that I could eat my weight in those muffins. Even though Mexican cornbread muffins are not as well known across the country as some items on our list, for me they are a clear number 1. One of the 10 worst moments of my life occurred in April of 2012. I was so far back in line at a church potluck that I missed out on the Mexican cornbread. The wounds from that day have healed, but I still bear the scars. #NeverForget (Mike Lytle)

6. Pigs-in-a-blanket

Somehow I missed out on these as a small child and first tasted them as a teenager outside of my hometown. And I was totally impressed. It wasn’t just a miniature hotdog. It was a miniature hot dog in a pastry where both are packed with flavor. I have probably been to a few potlucks where 80% of what I ate was just these things, especially when it’s mostly finger foods and not a lot of meat is present. God bless the genius who invented them. (Gowdy Cannon)

So there’s the first half of this list. Feedback about it is strongly welcomed below. But don’t judge us too harshly yet! We have the top half coming tomorrow.

The Top Ten Nintendo Games of All Time (Part 2)

The wait is over! We proudly present the top four NES games of all time. Last week, we unveiled numbers ten through five – you can read that here. As is typical with any top ten we have done, there was some controversy. (See: Tecmo Super Bowl landing at number 5.) Nevertheless, we are satisfied with our results and the top four games are all deserving of any accolades that come their way.

For our money, the classic Nintendo Entertainment System is the high-water mark in the video game industry. It captured the imaginations of millions during its run and continues to make new fans every time a child is introduced to it in all its 8-bit glory. Enjoy reading our final four and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section below.

4. Contra

We played this thing for hours prior to owning it – we had borrowed it from a friend. We were blissfully unaware of the legendary cheat code at that time so we slogged our way through as much of it as possible. Then, on the day my little brother bought the game from a neighbor, we brought it home with the cheat code in hand, and we proceeded to beat it our first time through. I’ve always felt bad for my little brother that we finished this game the first day he owned it. I think he spent $30 on the thing.

Show of hands: How many of you could beat this game without the cheat code? Be honest.

Bonus question: How many of you remember the cheat code? (Phill Lytle)


To answer Phill’s question. I could (and still can) beat Contra without the cheat code (which, of course, I still have memorized to this day). I, unfortunately, never owned Contra during my childhood, but it is probably the video game I rented the most (probably enough to buy it several times over). (Nathan Patton)

3. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out

I have never been more than a casual observer of actual boxing. Likewise, I have never had a strong desire to play a boxing video game. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out (or just Punch-Out as the franchise was branded at a later date) is the exception. This masterpiece of a video game appealed to everyone whether they enjoyed boxing or couldn’t care less about it (that one’s for you, Phill!).  Punch-Out took a big risk by making the player’s character stationery. Your character, Lil Mac, couldn’t move around the ring. Instead, you were limited to dodging and ducking. This brilliant decision made every fight a test of pattern recognition and reflexes. There was little more satisfying on the NES than landing a counter punch at the perfect time in the perfect location which sent your opponent crumbling to the mat. Punch-Out was as much a puzzle game as a boxing game.  Success depended on trial and error and finding each opponent’s specific weaknesses. And every opponent was vastly different presenting a different puzzle to solve. Completing the game by beating Tyson remains to this day a source of bragging rights among gamers. (Mark Sass)


Before Mike Tyson got so weird that Bill Simmons coined the highest level of weirdness “The Tyson Zone,” he was the baddest of men in the sports world. He was so intimidating he beat the undefeated heavyweight champion Michael Spinks in like 90 seconds one fight. So putting his name and likeness on an already popular boxing game called “Punch Out” was a brilliant advertising move.

We loved Glass Joe for how easy he was to beat. We loved King Hippo for how his pants dropped when you hit him in the belly. We loved Soda Popinski for how he talked trash. We loved Great Tiger for his unorthodox teleport move. We even loved Doc Lewis and referee Mario! But as Little Mac, beating Tyson was the golden grail. I never could do it, but those who did in my small farming community in rural SC were legends. (Gowdy Cannon)


The first time I played this game was at a J.C. Penny or similar establishment. (They had a Nintendo system displayed and you could give it a test run.) I had never seen Punch Out before and had no idea what I was doing. Spoiler alert: I thought I was Glass Joe and “won” that fight convincingly.

Flash forward a few years when we finally owned the game and I realized only losers lose to Glass Joe. I redeemed myself by finally beating the game though, so I have that going for me.

Quick question, and be honest here: you peed yourself a little the first time you reached Mike Tyson, didn’t you? We all did. And that’s okay. (Phill Lytle)

2. The Legend of Zelda

Everything from the golden cartridge to the open-world, passive storytelling of this game was larger than life for me as a kid. I loved all of the secret passages and having to rely on strategy guides (Jeff Rovin’s “How to Win at Nintendo Games” and the Nintendo Power fold-out overworld map) to try and discover what you needed to do next in the game. Getting the raft, bombing holes in the walls, hands that could grab you and take you back to the beginning of the dungeon, playing the flute, the graveyard ghosts, all of it was magical. And there was a huge sense of accomplishment for me when I finally defeated Ganon, only then to discover an entirely new take on the world awaited. (D.A. Speer)


With the exception of playing it a few, brief times at a friend’s house, I came to this game relatively late in life. Amazingly, that did not diminish my love for it. I did not have to discover every secret for myself since they were all documented online by that point, yet still, I have loved every minute of playing this game. This simply was just not the type of game I enjoyed playing as a child. If it had been, it would probably be up there with Super Mario Bros. 3, but it is very much the type of game I enjoy playing as an adult. (Nathan Patton)

1. Super Mario Bros. 3

Best game ever? We think so. Personally, I would take Tecmo Super Bowl over Mario 3, but it would be by the slimmest margin. Mario 3 was revolutionary. The original Mario was a fun game. It was the first NES game that most people played, and it was great. Mario 2 was wacky and weird and strange and felt so different from the first one that a lot of us had a hard time really getting into it. But Mario 3 was the perfect blend of all the great new ideas from Mario 2 combined with all the stuff we loved about Mario 1, but somehow better in every way. The game felt HUGE! Massive worlds. Plenty of secrets. Great gameplay. Honestly, I can’t think of a single negative thing to say about it. It’s a flawless game. (Phill Lytle)


The three games I’ve played the most as far as actual time spent in the game are, in no particular order, World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, and Super Mario Bros. 3. Two of those are very open online RPGs that one can easily spend hours in doing pretty much nothing. The other is a classic side-scroller that I can beat in about 12 minutes. I lived on the west coast for a year but don’t remember hardly any of it because I spent almost all of that time discovering every nook and cranny of this game.

The gameplay of Super Mario Bros. 3 is perfect (no, that’s not an overstatement). The world design and level design were absolutely mind-blowing at the time, and have held up well over the years. This is, without a doubt, the best NES game… and the best video game of any system of all time. (Nathan Patton)


I remember when I first got this game. It came out in February 1990, and in December of the same year, my parents surprised us with an NES for Christmas. For my 6th birthday in January of ’91, Mario 3 was my big gift from mom and dad. I remember opening up the gift and seeing the yellow box, then opening it and pouring over the manual. It would come to redefine my ideas of how much fun gaming could be. I played it all afternoon and night after my birthday party, and I remember that my parents fixed Tony’s pizza that night and I ate 9 pieces while playing the game. The game just never got old. It was the perfect side-scrolling game. Lots of fun and as challenging as you wanted it to be. Giant world, the desert sun that comes down and attacks you, hopping around in a boot, the cryptic tanooki suit, the extremely hard to get hammer brothers suit, P-wings, the warship end bosses, the warp whistles, the dark and hellish last world where wrenches and bombs come flying at you a mile a minute… The team behind this game absolutely nailed it and pushed the NES to its limits. Koji Kondo wrote the music too, which was, and still is, great. As a recent podcast put it, “This was Nintendo’s farewell love letter to the NES.” (D.A. Speer)

So there you have it. Agree? Disagree? Let us know below! And once you finish telling us how awesome (or dumb) we are in the comments section, you can check out these other articles on REO.


The Top Ten Nintendo Games of All Time (Part 1) is a team of adult male writers, editors and IT guys, all around the ages of 35-45. Which means we were the perfect age when Nintendo exploded onto the national video game scene and dominated for a few years. Yes, Atari, Sega and Playstation at various times and in various ways have had their turns in the sun, but is anything in this arena as classic as the original Nintendo? We don’t think so, which is why we voted on the best game of that system. These are the games we binged on for years in our youth.

Since we had so much to say about them, we have divided it into two parts. Today we blow into the cartridge, line this up just right, and proudly present games 10 through 5. Come back next week for the Top Four.

10. Duck Hunt

One summer my sister and I spent a couple weeks at my grandparents house in Ohio. I, of course, being the social butterfly that I was, brought along my NES and launched into a Duck Hunt marathon. I finally beat all 99 levels gaining access to the secret level 0, then pretty much never played again. (Nathan Patton)

9. Ninja Gaiden Franchise

Based on our voting, a good number of us liked these games, though based on how many people volunteered to write about it, it does not seem that anyone loved these games. Even though I only played the 2nd installment, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a fluid gaming experience. I always felt like I had good control over the character. One of my childhood dreams was to become a ninja, so all the jumping, sword stabbing, and star throwing were as close as I would ever get to fulfilling that dream. (Phill Lytle)

8. TMNT II The Arcade Game

At arcades across the country, TMNT was responsible for taking more allowance money than the local school bully. When the game was released on the NES it was like Christmas and your birthday every day. This was an era when beat ’em ups dominated the arcade scene and TMNT was one of the best. The game faithfully recreated the world of the Turtles in a way that both looked and felt like the popular cartoon. As a result, it was extremely entertaining and satisfying to chose your favorite Turtle and issue a beat down on the Foot Clan. (Mark Sass)


B, A, B, A, Up, Down, B, A, Left, Right, (hold down in sequence: B, A, start). No, this isn’t the Konami code, but this is really the only code I needed as a kid anyway. It’s the code to get nine lives in TMNT 2: The Arcade Game for NES, the game that I undoubtedly played more than any other one in my collection. I remember the actual arcade game sitting in the lobby of the old Dickson, TN Walmart. I never remember seeing it without at least one person playing. Donatello was unquestionably the best because of his reach, and I eventually leveled up my skills enough to beat it from start to finish with no cheats and no continues. This game is “the” picture of my childhood, and I’m so glad to see it make the list of top 10. (D.A. Speer)

7. Battletoads

I played Battletoads approximately a billion times and beat it once. The gameplay of Battletoads was so great, though, that the knowledge of certain failure was no real deterrent in continuing to play and enjoy the game. Co-op play was especially fun though inevitable always devolved into fighting due to the friendly fire (and may have devolved into fighting in real life a time or two). (Nathan Patton)

6. Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros. was my introduction to NES gaming and the first video game I’d ever personally owned. For Christmas of 1989, my parents gave me an NES bundle with Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt (with zapper), and World Class Track Meet (with power pad). I was shocked and delighted. I eventually got around to playing the other two games, but Super Mario Bros. was first, well after I got my father to stop playing, that is. (Nathan Patton)

5. Tecmo Super Bowl

The first three stages of evolution of video game football in my house growing up were 1) Block Men on the Atari that were facing the wrong way and that you had to manually turn around with the joystick before every play 2) Ten Yard Fight on NES 3) John Elway’s Quarterback on NES.

Then came the future in the late 80s: Tecmo Bowl. Boy, was it the coolest thing since Elvis. And then a couple of years later they totally outdid themselves with an upgraded version called Tecmo Super Bowl. All 28 NFL teams with real logos. Eleven players on the field instead of nine. Real world weather like snow. Detailed stats just like in the real NFL. Eight – 8! – plays to choose from. You could reverse it to Sterling Sharpe or fake reverse it. You could air it out 80 yards to Jerry Rice. Or you could do what everyone longed to do and pick the Raiders so you could run Bo Jackson like a deer in the open field. He was stupidly unstoppable as seen here.

My brothers and I played this game for so many hours they add up to weeks. Even with further evolutions on other systems, notably the John Madden series, this is still my favorite sports video game of all time. (Gowdy Cannon)


I am still disappointed (furious) that this game didn’t make it higher on our list. It’s the best sports’ game ever. It was fun to play in the season mode, trying to rack up stats and wins, and it was fun to play against other players, in our very own round robin tournaments. It’s still fun to play, all these years later. It holds up just fine. Graphics have improved, and games have become more “realistic”, but no game has ever captured my imagination like TSB did.

Did anyone else run out of bounds to keep the stats more realistic or was that just the Lytle boys that did that sort of thing? (Phill Lytle)


The original Tecmo Bowl was unlike anything we had seen before. Then Tecmo Super Bowl came along and improved upon it in every way. More plays, season stats tracking, Barry Sanders!, QB Eagles (aka Randall Cunningham), Houston’s run and shoot offensive plays, the list goes on and on. For my money, it is the best NES game ever and maybe the best video game ever. The only reason it did not finish higher on our list is that a few members of our esteemed panel do not have the proper appreciation for sports games. I can neither confirm nor deny that my brothers and I threw our controllers at the TV when the game decided that we were going to lose no matter what. (Mike Lytle)

Opinions? Let us know below. And please check back next week for the rest of this list! While you wait, check out these other articles that might interest you.

Part Two is out now! Check out the Final Four by clicking here.

REO Top Ten: Pies

Thanksgiving may primarily be about a heart attitude, but is there any image we associate more with the day than food?  And is there any food other than turkey that we think about more than dessert? And is there any dessert we love more at Thanksgiving than pie?

With that in mind, REO had another round of voting with abrasive arguments, snide comments and manhood questioning. All over pie. Here are the ten that came out on top, in reverse order:

 10. Apple Pie

Gowdy and I had a hard fought battle over who would write a tribute to the goodly apple pie. In the end, I slew him with my gleaming scimitar and then ate some apple pie. Kidding. I didn’t slay him and I haven’t had apple pie in some time.

I have never made an apple pie, but I have had the honor and privilege of being on the receiving end of masters of the art of apple pie cookery. In my mind, there are few pies as American as apple pie. Maybe pumpkin, pecan, or cherry. For my money, though, apple pie beats out these worthy opponents as far as U.S. citizenship. The apple pie can be served in a variety of different and very delicious ways. I have personally had so many superb types and styles that it is difficult to say an apple pie absolutely has to be in such and such a way to be a work of art. Two things, however, I do consider crucial in all varieties of apple pie: 1) A good, substantial crust and 2) a side helping of vanilla ice cream. This second is an extremely important issue. There is no adequate substitute. Anything else is uncivilized and un-American. (Ben Plunkett)

9. Key Lime Pie

I will be the first to admit that Key Lime pie is not for everyone. Unfortunately, all great people and even great foods have their detractors. After all, many are called, but few are chosen. If you like a bit of sour with all that sweet then this is the dessert for you. That delicious graham cracker crust puts it over the top. If Key Lime pie is wrong then I don’t want to be right. (Mike Lytle)

8. Cherry Pie

Maybe apple pie is more “all American” but cherry pie tastes so much better that it should be the pie that represents our great nation in all international pie competitions. Nothing says THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA better than a homemade cherry pie with lattice crust cooling on the window sill of a little house out in the country. Topped with vanilla ice cream or even whipped cream cherry pie never disappoints. The awful 80s rock band Warrant named a terrible song (and album) after this great dessert but even that travesty could not ruin it for me. My only regret is that I did not fight harder to move this higher up on our list.  (Mike Lytle)

7. Snickers Pie

Snickers won our best candy bracket so the built-in taste of Snickers in anything is going to be gold. I didn’t grow up with it in pie form so for the last few years I have had to make up for decades of no Snickers pie. I often look for Snickers flavored anything when going to a place that offers deserts and I am often rewarded. So putting the best candy with one of the best forms of a dessert is a can’t miss. And it didn’t miss, landing in our Top Ten. (Gowdy Cannon)

6. Cheesecake

Back in 2016 I did a March Madness bracket on best dessert and cheesecake won. By a landslide. It dominated the field like the ’98 Yankees. The final score of the championship was 74-43. It was like watching Reagan vs. Mondale.

I heartily concurred with the result. Candy excluded, I don’t know that there is anything I enjoy more for the old sweet tooth than a well-done cheesecake. Having Eli’s and the Cheesecake Factory close to my Chicago address is sublime. Heck, I’ll even take the $8.99 version from Aldi. Cheesecake is that good.

True story: one of my friends that used to live in Chicago wept the first time she saw a cheesecake at Eli’s. Literally cried. I mean real tears, streaming down the face as if watching the Friends episode where Ross and Rachel break up. What more can you say for this dessert?  (Gowdy Cannon)

5. Peanut Butter Pie

I’ve always enjoyed Peanut Butter pie. I’m a big fan of pie and of peanut butter, so the combination of the two is right in my wheelhouse. That said, a few years ago, I was at my mother’s house and she had baked a pie earlier that day from a new recipe. It was a peanut butter pie with around half the sugar as the typical peanut butter pie. My mom is a great cook but I doubted that a pie with half the sugar would be something I would enjoy. I also was pretty confident it was another of my mother’s attempts to help me to do something about some of my baby fat that had proven dreadfully difficult to get rid of. [1. Side note: When baby fat hangs around for nearly 40 years, can we honestly still call it baby fat? I contend that’s a bit of a gray area.] My love of pie overruled my suspicion of my mother’s true motives and I ate the pie. After two pieces, I pushed away from the table with complete confidence that it was the best peanut butter pie I had ever tasted. (Phill Lytle)

4. Fudge


We were unable to find a volunteer to write the blurb for Fudge Pie, even though it finished in our top five. So, in place of another well-written, witty, and intelligent blurb, we are going to peel back the curtain and let you see how the sausage is made at REO. Here is a sampling of our discussion about who should write the blurb:


Mike Lytle: I like fudge pie alright but not enough to write a blurb for it. Who was pushing it during the bracket?

Ben Plunkett: Good question. I don’t even remember ever eating it.

Phill Lytle: Fudge beat out:

Banana Cream (1st round)
Strawberry (2nd round)
Peanut Butter (3rd round)

It lost to Pecan in the Final Four.

I’m pretty sure I voted for it in the first two rounds as I don’t like those other pies. I know I voted for Peanut Butter over it. (I was the only one evidently as PB lost 1-5 against Fudge in the elite 8.)

Ben Plunkett: What in the world was I thinking? Not only haven’t I tried Fudge Pie, I love Peanut Butter Pie.

after a few minutes of doing a bit more research on how the vote went down…

Phill Lytle: I was wrong. I voted for Fudge. I know why. At that time, I hadn’t tasted my mom’s Peanut Butter pie – which is far superior to any Fudge pie I have ever had. Ben, you voted for PB over fudge. You were the lone PB supporter.

Nathan Patton: FWIW (I don’t know if it’s already been mentioned, but I’m too lazy to check) today is National Peanut Butter Fudge Day… also National Absurdity Day, though that’s not as relevant… though maybe it is…


And there’s your blurb for Fudge Pie.

3. Chess Pie

Chess pie is above all the tired and mealy-mouthed protestations made by foodies, elitists, and health conscious. They decry its simplicity. They denounce its unashamed reliance on ingredients we have been told are no longer acceptable to a refined and mature palate. Chess pie hears their high-pitched, meddlesome squawking and rises above the fray. Chess pie hears the noise and responds with silence. Chess pie is itself the answer. Before its face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?

Check mate. (Phill Lytle)

2. Pumpkin Pie

This remains by far my favorite kind of pie. My love affair with this slice of lusciousness began with my mom’s masterpieces. These have yet to be beat in mine eyes. However, (and this an incredibly strong “however.”) there is something about any pumpkin pie when capably done that earns it this elite place on our list. That flawless blend of pumpkin and spices. That sweet, sweet ooze in the mouth. That harnessing in pie form of the fall and Thanksgiving spirit. Perfection. (Ben Plunkett)

1. Pecan Pie

A great pecan pie can be difficult to make.  Actually, I don’t know this to be true from first-hand experience.  I’ve learned it’s best to only be involved in the of eating of pies and not the process of making pies.  Which is fortunate for me because I get to reap the delicious rewards from excellent bakers like my wife and mother.  It’s also fortunate for the world because they are not subjected to my pitiful culinary creations.  Some of my baking attempts ended up as twisted monstrosities.  I’ve yet to see masses brandishing pitchforks and torches gathered outside my house, though the sight wouldn’t surprise me.  But I digress!  My taste buds tell me that not all pies are created equal.  Some varieties are better than others.  And even among a specific variety like pecan, some turn out superior to others.  They also inform me that when a pecan pie has just the right balance of taste, consistency, and sweetness then it’s the pie which all others look up to in envy!  Like so many things in life balance is the key.  “I am one with the Pie and the Pie is with me.”  “May the Pie be with you… always.” (Mark Sass)

The Top Ten Cereals of All Time

We love cereal. When you read the blurbs below you will come upon descriptions that compare eating a bowl of cereal to heaven or angels singing. We stand by those descriptions completely and feel no shame in how absurd they might seem to others. To us, cereal is one of the great inventions of mankind. It is efficient, cheap, flexible, and above all else, ridiculously tasty. This Top Ten was a labor of love, with intense debate, robust disagreement, and a shared sense of profound duty. We did not take our charge lightly. We never do. We spent countless hours crafting and forming this list for you, our dear readers. We hope that perhaps, one day, when you are part of a conversation that turns to the world of cereal, this Top Ten list will be a light and boon to bolster your position in the debate. So, read on friends and enjoy a bowl of your favorite cereal in honor of this momentous occasion. We proudly present to the world The Top Ten Cereals of All Time!

original-crunch10. Cap’n Crunch

O Captain! my Captain! our tasty trip is done,
Your crunch has weather’d every bite, the prize I sought is won,
The end is near, the slurp I hear, the taste buds all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady spoon, the final bite is nearing;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the sweetened drops of dairy,
Where in the bowl my Captain lies,
Extraordinary.[1. Inspired by the classic Walt Whitman poem “Oh Captain! My Captain!”]

– Phill Lytle

honey_smacks9. Honey Smacks

Puffed wheat covered in sugar. What could possibly be wrong with that? Honey Smacks has so much sugar per serving that Consumer Reports recommended that parents find an alternative cereal for their children. Look, I get trying to be healthy and all that, but cereal is not a health food. And cereals that are really healthy taste like dirt. Or worse. Parents just need to step up and actually parent: Don’t let your kid eat ONLY Honey Smacks. After doing some research for this blurb, my respect for Honey Smacks has increased tenfold. They haven’t succumbed to the “healthification” movement that has plagued our great nation. No, they still have way too much sugar in each serving. They still feature a weird frog as their spokesperson. The only thing that could improve their standing in my eyes is to change their name back to Sugar Smacks and just embrace the fact that one serving of their glorious sugar covered wheat puffs contain as much sugar as a glazed donut. – Phill Lytle

trix8. Trix

You know that silly rabbit, the one whose always trying to get a bowl of Trix only to be foiled by pesky kids? My heart aches for him. Do they think Trix are just for kids? I think not. Me and the silly rabbit, we’re bros, we’re pals. Trix, the object of our great desire, first popped onto the scene in 1955 and have since popped their lasting iconic stamp on the breakfast cereal world. While not my personal veeeery favorite of the many outstanding cold cereals out there, it is a very worthy addition to our apex of cereal greatness. I don’t know about y’all, but these fruity balls of deliciousness have an open invitation to my breakfast bowl today and forevermore! Don’t you worry none, silly rabbit, you’ll foil them pesky kids one day. – Benjamin Plunkett


post-cocoa-pebbles-cereal-11-ounce-boxes-pack-of-4-0-07. Cocoa Pebbles

The voters who were most passionate about Cocoa Pebbles were too lazy to write a blurb for it. We gave it a really small picture as well because…laziness. –


screen-shot-2015-07-31-at-11_29_35-am6. Lucky Charms

This cereal has captivated me since the 80s. And like many classic cereals, it had some rad commercials back in the day. I mean, that Lucky the Leprachaun was such a rascal, trying to keep his delicious blend of toasted oats and marshmallows away from those kids. What a selfish jerk!  And who could forget those epic moments when Lucky Charms shocked the Saturday morning cartoon crowd with new marshmallows?!?!?  I remember being totally blown away when they added the red balloon. Like, “Let’s miss the rest of Thundercats and run to the Turbeville IGA right now and get some” excited. And then, they added the yellow star inside the red balloon!  A MARSHMALLOW INSIDE A MARSHMALLOW.  HAVE WE DIED AND GONE TO CEREAL HEAVEN?  For real, who were these wizard level magic marketing geniuses? Thirty years later they still have me hooked, and thanks to YouTube, I’m just a click away from hearing those nostalgic words that deeply altered my childhood: Frosted Lucky Charms, They’re Magically Delicious! – Gowdy Cannon

81gmr7fqgol__sy679_5. Peanut Butter Crunch

I did no research for this blurb (see my previous blurb on Honey Smacks for a blurb chock full of research). I wanted to write this one from the heart. When I take a bite of PBC, my soul smiles. The crunchy, peanut buttery goodness explodes in my mouth like the singing of a thousand angels. It is one of the few cereals that retains its crunch throughout the entire bowl. No soggy nonsense for PBC! In a world of chocolaty and fruity flavors, PBC blazes its own trail with its own unique peanut butter flavor. There are some that don’t like peanut butter flavor very much and therefore reject PBC. It would be wise to question their judgment and sanity. PBC is sweet enough for kids to enjoy and tasty enough for grown men to savor. PBC is a joy to eat each and every time. Down with the haters of all things peanut butter and up with Peanut Butter Crunch! – Phill Lytle



4. Froot Loops

It is usually the case that the most iconic cereals have the most memorable commercials. That is why old Toucan Sam (“Follow my nose! It always knows!”) is always synonymous to Fruit Loops to me. And I’ll tell you something else, he’s trustworthy that old bird. The nose surely does know in this case. Thank you, John Kellogg for giving us many years of doughnut-shaped fruit-flavored joy. Thank you for these crunchy rings of truth…yes, they ring true. You have earned a place on the Christmas card list of our hearts and a spot on this here Rambling Ever On Top Ten list. And Sam, may your nose ever know..and grow and glow…and stuff. – Benjamin Plunkett



3. Frosted Flakes

Dr. John H. Kellogg invented Corn Flakes in 1894. They had a terrible taste, but a lot of things were terrible in 1894 so people did not seem to mind. It took another 58 years and two world wars for the fine folks at Kellogg’s to realize that by coating their corn flakes with sugar the taste would be greatly improved. Sugar Frosted Flakes were born in 1952 and the world has never been the same. They removed the word sugar from the name in 1983 so now they are simply known as Frosted Flakes. Thankfully they did not remove any actual sugar from the product so they are still delicious. It also doesn’t hurt having the greatest product spokesman in the history of cereal. Tony the Tiger has convinced generations of children that Frosted Flakes are indeed Gr–r–reat! – Michael Lytle


2. Apple Jacks

There are plenty of cereals that are shaped like the letter “O”. None of them are as delicious as Apple Jacks though. This cereal was invented by an MIT professor and he put his vast brainpower into creating something unforgettable. What sets Apple Jacks apart from all its “O” shaped cereal brethren? Many have speculated that it is the slightly darker flecks of flavor in each Jack. Are those flecks bits of real apple? Maybe. Others have theorized that the flecks might be angel tears or perhaps even the shavings off of the horn of a unicorn. Whatever they are we are thankful for them this holiday season. – Michael Lytle



1. Cinnamon Toast Crunch

CTC is the Elvis of breakfast cereals.  It’s the 1972 Dolphins.  I have never seen it beaten in a tournament.  I’m sure it has happened but I have participated in or observed at least 10 cereal tournaments and it is undefeated.  A friend in Virginia says the same thing.  It’s the undisputed champion of this category to me.  There’s not much you can about it that isn’t obvious; that’s part of the beauty of the draw to it.  They took sugar and cinnamon and made it into a cereal.  No Toucan Sam or Dig Em or Silly Rabbits or Snap or Crackle or Pop.  No timeless commercials.  No convoluted jingle.  Just two main ingredient that cause many people to describe this cereal as you would a drug.  More than any other cereal, I can put down half a box without thinking by eating it out of the box with no bowl or no milk.  And I am definitely a bowl and milk guy.  But CTC is special.  And I can’t see it being anywhere on this list other than #1.  Long live the King. – Gowdy Cannon




The Top Ten Movie Franchises of All Time (Part One)

Cue movie trailer voiceover guy: In a world where reboots know no boundaries and the level of movie mediocrity knows no limits they said it couldn’t be done. They said all (or most) films were unoriginal and only this year’s movies mattered. They…were…wrooooooong. Presenting the greatest movie franchises to ever face off in ultimate battle in parts one and two…And in the end there can be only one victorrrrr. Witness the greatest franchise war ever known to mankind since the dawning of the world. Or anything like that. Together they will change life as we know it…and nothing will ever be the same.

Honorable Mention: The Marvel Cinematic Universe There is no logical reason this series of films should have worked, let alone be the financial and critical success that it is. Back in 2008, no one could have predicted what was going to happen in the next eight years. Since the release of Iron Man in 2008, there have been 13 films, seven unique franchises, and four BILLION dollars earned in the series.[1. That is in the North American box office alone. You can add billions more in international sales.] The MCU has given us iconic heroes in Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, Ant Man, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. It has resurrected acting careers – Robert Downey Jr. It has catapulted others to instant stardom – Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, and Chris Pratt.[2. What’s the deal with all the Chris’s?] It has changed the way every studio views franchise building. Marvel studio chief Kevin Feige has built the most successful and unprecedented film series of all time. And it shows virtually no signs of slowing.  There are another nine films planned for the next three years. Earth’s mightiest heroes indeed. – Phill Lytle


10. Oceans Series We don’t want to love a movie series about thieves, but we can’t help it. From a videography and editing standpoint these are three of the best movies ever made. While other movie franchises may have stronger stories and more endearing characters, Oceans 11, 12, and 13 are just plain cooler. The quick and clever dialogue, the soundtrack that takes you back to Elvis’ Las Vegas, Linus’ (Matt Damon) naiveté, and Rusty’s (Brad Pitt) unquenchable appetite, are only a few of the qualities that make this series so compelling. My favorites are director Steven Soderbergh’s willingness to blur the line between actor and character (he doesn’t just do it in the second movie!) and the constant bickering between the Malloy brothers. There is so much brilliant about this movie, but I’ll close with a bit of dialogue from Oceans 11.

Tess: “You’re a liar and a thief.”

Danny: “I only lied about being a thief.”                                                                                                                                                

– Dave Lytle


9. X-Men This is a flawed franchise. The continuity is, for the lack of a better word, non-existent. There have been incredibly strong installments in the franchise and there have been less-than-stellar episodes. One thing is likely though; without the first X-Men film, released in 2000, the modern superhero movie craze would look very different. Prior to that film, superhero films had become a joke. [1. The Burton/Schumaker Batman films had taken care of that.] There is really no reason X-Men should have worked. But it did. Director Bryan Singer made X-Men relatable. He made it about the outsider. The outcast. The confused and the lonely trying to find acceptance and their place in the world. The X-Men franchise introduced viewers to iconic characters like Professor Charles Xavier. Magneto. Jean Grey. And most notably, Wolverine and the unknown actor that portrayed him, Hugh Jackman, who has since become a Hollywood megastar. Singer and company grounded the films with a sense of realism that had been lost in the superhero film world. These films felt like they were part of our world. Real people dealing with real problems. It was revolutionary and set the standard well before Spider Man or Iron Man came to the big screen years later. Not all of the X-Men films have worked, and some have hurt the overall impact of the franchise, but taken as a whole, the X-Men film world is in an elite class. It has had a lasting power that would be an envy to most. (Eight films in sixteen years.) It has earned millions of dollars. And it has built a worldwide fan-base. Though the franchise has been hugely successful, it has been relegated to the outside somewhat, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe getting most of the attention. For a film series about mutants and outcasts, this all seems rather fitting.  – Phill Lytle


8. Harry Potter Turning a 7-book, 4000-page fantasy epic into eight movies was bound to have limitations. Yet, in this series the limitations were offset by two things in the movies that were even better than my imagination while reading and now enhance the reading experience in my mind when I reread. The first is most of the characters. With the exception of Dumbledore, the version of who in my head cannot be replicated it seems, the casting choices were so good across the board I now have a perfect image of them while reading. Alan Rickman really was Snape. Maggie Smith is McGonagall in my mind’s eye now. Radcliffe, Watson, Grint…the list goes on and on for how well the actors brought the personalities to life. Their contributions to the movies make the movies enjoyable and the books better to me. Secondly, in a magical world filled with things that do not actually exist, the movies enabled us to see them with advanced technology. I loved actually getting to see Quidditch in a realistic looking way. I loved the movie’s interpretation of apparition. I even loved the ride on the Knight Bus. For all the things I wish the movies would have brought to life from the books but simply could not, they did extremely well with what they could. Like the books, the movies get better as the series progresses and I am glad they made them.  – Gowdy Cannon


7. Toy Story Come in, Star Command. Star Command, come in. Do you read me? Oh, there you are. When I heard they were making sequel to Toy Story (1995), I was skeptical and actually very concerned. Toy Story is about as good as computer animation gets with its simple, honed, and incredibly heartfelt story. While Randy Newman’s musical scoring of the first Toy Story remains my favorite music in the franchise, what resulted were two more movies (1999 and 2010) that were just as good as the first—and better in some respects. The three movies churned out some unforgettable recurring main characters like Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Mr. Potato Head, Rex, Hamm, Slinky Dog, Andy, among many others. There were also very memorable recurring side characters like The Evil Emperor Zurg, The Pizza Planet Truck, and the aliens (“I have been chosen!). And characters specific to one or two movies like Sid, Jessie, Bullseye, Lotso, and Ken. In the end, I had absolutely nothing to worry about. All three movies are in my opinion better than almost every other CGI film ever made, all three packing a wallop of authentic heart and a vast library of keen emotional moments. Another movie in the franchise is coming out next year, but I have lost my original skepticism of Toy Story sequels. They have well proven that the story is in very good hands and that we can enjoy the ride with Woody, Buzz, and the vast host of other amazing characters to infinity and beyond or wherever they want to take us.  – Ben Plunkett


6. The Godfather The Godfather films are widely recognized as some of the best in the history of cinema. The three films were nominated for 29 Academy Awards, winning 9. The Godfather (1972) is ranked #2 in the American Film Institute’s Top 100 movies of all time. The Godfather Part II (1974) is also part of that prestigious list, as well as having the distinction of being possibly the best sequel AND best prequel ever. Even the much maligned (in some circles) Godfather Part III (1990) won the Academy Award for best picture the year it was eligible. The careers of several legendary actors were launched by these films. Beyond all of that these movies have given us multiple quotes that have become a part of pop culture and for better or for worse many people’s view of organized crime and even Italian Americans come from the Godfather. The story that is told and the way it is told is what truly make these films special. The events depicted in the Godfather trilogy span nearly a century as we witness the rise and fall of the Corleone family. Themes of loyalty, greed, and a desire for power are on full display. Most of all we see through the life of Michael Corleone how even a seemingly “good” person can make terrible choices, and once the descent into sin and evil begins, it is impossible to climb out on our own.  – Mike Lytle


Read Part 2 here.

The Top Ten Movie Franchises of All Time (Part Two)

Cue movie trailer voiceover guy: In a world where reboots know no boundaries and the level of movie mediocrity knows no limits they said it couldn’t be done. They said all (or most) films were unoriginal and only this year’s movies mattered. They…were…wrooooooong. Presenting the greatest movie franchises to ever face off in ultimate battle in parts one and two…And in the end there can be only one victorrrrr. Witness the greatest franchise war ever known to mankind since the dawning of the world. Or anything like that. Together they will change life as we know it…and nothing will ever be the same.

the-dark-knight-trilogy15. The Dark Knight Trilogy

Christopher Nolan is a miracle worker. He redeemed a character that had nearly been destroyed by Joel Schumacher. Cinematically speaking, Batman was a joke. Batman Begins, the first film in the Nolan trilogy, changed all of that for good. Suddenly, Batman mattered again. Not only that, but Nolan made it clear that superhero films were not just for kids. They were not just campy, happy, cheesy, family affairs. Super hero films could be real cinema. They could deal with real themes. If Batman Begins forced people to sit up and take notice, then The Dark Knight made it impossible to look away. As it stands, The Dark Knight is arguably the greatest superhero film of all time. It gave us one of the all-time great movie villains in The Joker, some terrific comic book iconography, and a musical score that is propulsive and game changing. While The Dark Knight Rises did not live up the otherworldly expectations placed on it, my guess is, time will be kind to it when people see all that it accomplished in completing the trilogy’s thematic storyline. Without Christopher Nolan’s contributions to the world of comic book films, we would still be talking about George Clooney and his nipple suit. – Phill Lytle


4. Back to the Future

I think the original Back to the Future is about as good a movie there is from a purely entertainment standpoint. Marty and Doc are an impeccably executed protagonist duo (no matter how weird their relationship is in hindsight). Biff is an all time antagonist on the “I hate that guy” scale and for quotability. Time travel is one of the absolute most fascinating fantasy plot elements. And the story…well that just ties all the elements into a perfect summer popcorn flick bow. I can think of few movies that had me on the edge of my seat for as long a period of time as from the moment when Biff shows up at the car instead of George until Marty hits the cable and the bolt of lightning to make it back. Few plot twists have ever brought me the emotional satisfaction as George punching Biff. Everything in the climatic scene, which is super long, is superbly done. Perfect writing. Perfect effects. Perfect music. And best of all, multiple viewings barely diminished all of this and made some of it better. The final two installments added twists and surprises galore, but fell off a step.  But we still had Doc. We still had Marty. We still had Biff. And we still had time travel and tension-packed climaxes. So we still had timeless cinema. A worthy trilogy and hence highly ranked on our list. – Gowdy Cannon


3. Indiana Jones

I was either 13 or 14 when the bullwhip cracking archeologist Indiana Jones strode into my life. He came out of the mists of a strange jungle dodging a slew of booby traps, evading a giant boulder, fleeing from poison dart-blowing natives, and complaining about snakes. And that was only the beginning of his wild globe-trotting adventures. After his quest to discover and recover the lost ark, we would tag along with him on two other amazing films. I say two others because I would like to forget about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. While not a horrible film, it fails to live up to the Indy magic captured in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade. In my view, the fourth movie brought down the franchise somewhat, but not nearly enough to remove the Indiana Jones franchise from this exalted position on our list. It was largely Harrison Ford, Stephen Spielberg, and John Williams who united to make a masterpiece adventure trilogy. There is little doubt in my mind that the seemingly indestructible, nazi-fighting, snake-hating, history buff/adventurer is one of the greatest icons of our youth.- Ben Plunkett


2. Star Wars

The Star Wars franchise[1. The Force Awakens had yet to be released when this list was originally compiled.], specifically A New Hope, is without a doubt one of the most influential movies in the history of film. The reach and impact of Star Wars extends far beyond the boundaries of cinema spilling into culture and nearly every medium of entertainment. In 1977, audiences were initially attracted to Star Wars by its groundbreaking special FX which revolutionized film so dramatically that the FX have stood the test of time better than many movies released decades later. However, Star Wars proved to be much more than mere special FX. The film was truly special because of its rich world packed with detail and history. Very few films have captured and inspired the imaginations of so many like Star Wars. Though teeming with a life of it’s own the world of Star Wars never got “lost” or collapsed upon itself because it was made personal by the leading characters. The grand, epic saga of the films was often distilled into smaller, personal moments that were just as exciting and impacting as any action/adventure sequence. Superb portrayals by Mark Hammil, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher brought their characters off the screen and into the hearts of moviegoers. As endearing as the heroes of Star Wars were, they were balanced by the villain of the story, Darth Vader, who was equally engaging. Firmly cemented as one of the greatest villains in cinema, Vader was also among the first villains who were so cool that fans loved them despite their dastardly deeds. The characters of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa, Darth Vader, etc. and their character arcs managed to somehow be familiar and original at the same time. This was true of movie’s plot as well. Star Wars had a near universal appeal with its timeless tale of good versus evil. Yet the story was filled with new twists on classics formulas. John Williams soundtrack was a masterpiece which perfectly complimented the sense of wonder that Star Wars delivered. Followed up by arguably the best installment, The Empire Strikes Back, the franchise soared to even greater heights. Empire is still the standard for middle stories in a trilogy. And the movie featured a surprise twist so stunning that even the actors couldn’t believe it themselves! Return of the Jedi went as big and bold as film could at the time of it’s release. Jedi was a satisfying conclusion to the original trilogy. If not for the flaws of the prequels then Star Wars may have very well emerged as the champion in this debate. – Mark Sass


1. The Lord of the Rings

Let’s get the accolades out of the way: The trilogy won 17 Academy Awards. The final film in the trilogy, The Return of the King, won all 11 Oscars it was nominated for, including Best Picture. The films earned a collective 2.9 billion dollars. It is one of the most critically and financially successful films series of all time. Peter Jackson and company took a story that is long and epically complex, and lovingly and faithfully retained the spirit that made the book so powerful.

Now to the more personal: The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book of all time. When I heard that Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema were going to be making a film trilogy based on the book, I was beyond excited. I was also scared they would ruin it. I followed the production of the trilogy as closely as I could. I read every report. Watched every video. I nervously walked into the theater on that cold December night in 2001, hoping for the best but bracing myself for the worst. I walked out knowing I had seen something special. I went back 12 more times to see The Fellowship of the Ring in the theater. Nothing in the world of film has ever moved me like The Lord of the Rings. This story of Hobbits and men, Elves and Dwarves, wizards and orcs, good and evil is something that has become a part of me; indelibly etched on my heart and mind. – Phill Lytle

So there you have it. You can read Part One here. Let us know what you think in the comments below. We will never shy away from a spirited discussion.



The Top Ten Television Theme Songs of All Time

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. There is much wisdom in that. Songs can be worth a thousand words as well. A simple melody can tell a story. A tune can paint a beautiful and powerful picture in our minds. And if the song has words, then it’s worth like a thousand words multiplied by the number of words in the song, then divided by how long the song is….carry the one…complete the square…Yep. Lots of words. So many words…

Here are some great TV theme songs that tell us stories, set the scene for the show, or simply make us want to smile. We present to you the Rambling Ever On Top Ten Television Theme Songs of All Time. Enjoy!

10. Miami Vice

miamiviceThe synthesizers. The drums. The pastels. It can only mean one thing: Miami Vice. There was a time when the sights, sounds, and world created by this TV show defined what was cool in America. Everything the show was about was epitomized in the music. It was flashy, loud, and lacked all subtlety. I remember seeing Miami Vice when I was a kid. I wanted to be Detective Sonny Crockett. I wanted to look and be that cool. I wanted to be able to wear those clothes and drive that car. And by “when I was a kid” I actually mean right now. Today. The dream will never die. (Phill Lytle)

9. Magnum P.I.

magnum-pi-selleck-3Magnum P.I. had a lot of things going for it:

1. The beautiful scenery of Hawaii
2. Tom Selleck’s mustache
3. T.C.’s helicopter
4. Pretty much everything about Higgins
5. Tom Selleck’s mustache (it is so glorious it had to be mentioned twice)

The amazing theme song is what tied it all together, though. It is fast, but with a nice change of pace in the middle. It is cool, but inviting. It is the perfect background music for helicopter and/or Ferrari chase scenes. And let’s face it, Magnum gave us plenty of those. Mike Post and Pete Carpenter blessed us with several classic TV themes and this may be their best. (Michael Lytle)

8. Hawaii Five-0

hawaii5oAfter being gone for about 30 years, Hawaii Five-0 came back to TV. And a lot was different. It was more modern. It was flashier, brighter. There is a stark contrast between 70s TV and TV from the current decade. Yet a couple of things didn’t change at all: the gorgeous views from the island and that music. That melodic, unforgettable bass drum, trumpet-led music. This list is filled with music and (some) lyrics that put people back into the worlds of the TV they represent. But perhaps more than any other on this list, I can recognize the song after two notes. And my mind always immediately sees the giant “Hawaii Five-0” on the screen with its images of perfect beaches and pristine ocean waves. And I’m certain that when they decided to bring the show back to TV a few years ago, the theme was absolutely going to be the same. It’s that good. (Gowdy Cannon)

7. Friday Night Lights

FNL2I don’t think I can put into words what this theme song means to me. I know that sounds completely absurd, but it’s true. I hear the guitar, and I am immediately transported back to Dillon, Texas. I see the town. The people. The football team. Mostly though, I see coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami. I see a TV show that championed the underdog, celebrated small town America, and glorified a stable, loving marriage. I hear the theme song, and I’m back cheering on the Panthers as they try to win State. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose indeed. (Phill Lytle)

6. Mission Impossible

miI love the theme song for Mission Impossible. It’s not complicated. It starts with that high pitched sound (you know what I’m talking about, not sure what instrument) and then that awesome bass line followed by a flute. Who knew mixing those sounds would be so cool? It’s only a few notes but instantly recognizable. This song is the quintessence of action themes. Once you hear this song you will immediately recognize that something awesome (and most likely unrealistic) is about to happen. (Brandon Atwood)

5. The Jeffersons

the-jeffersonsIt was a mild September day. I had my second floor apartment window open, but apparently had forgotten. I had just finished my laundry and was folding it in my tiny living room. As I often do, I started singing.  The Jeffersons theme song. And I really got into it.  I was singing with great passion, all the lyrics, inventing lyrics, using socks for drums, eyes closed, wailing at the top of my lungs. As I got the end, I really nailed the last “Finally got a piece of the pie” and held out that last glorious long I in ‘pie’ over several syllables. Like the actual song but ten times longer. I opened my eyes and looked out the open apartment window and there stood a family of four on the sidewalk staring at me. I stood there, stunned. They stood there, stunned. I couldn’t move. They didn’t move. There was no way I could play off what happened and I was too embarrassed to keep going. We were entranced in a face-off of awkwardness for the ages. It could have lasted 10 seconds or 10 hours. I have no idea. Eventually they moved on and I closed my window. And took inventory of my life. But one thing I do know: a theme song that is the centerpiece for THAT kind of story has to be among the greatest theme songs of all time. (Gowdy Cannon)



4. The Andy Griffith Show

120703024628-andy-griffith-tv-show-story-topOld Andy, he said to hiself, he says, “Hark!” he says, “What beauteous whistlin’ diddy is this that cometh to my ears?” This whistlin’ diddy, it was a tune that was originally written with lyrics. Although the lyrics are just fine, it is fortunate that these lyrics were replaced with the now iconic whistling. This simple, whistling tune makes you want to haul off down that dirt road and join Andy and Opey down at the fishin’ hole—and Barney and Floyd it if they have a notion to. This old theme song, it brings back a time of simplicity and wholesomeness and laughin’ and gigglin’ for the rest of your born days. (Benjamin Plunkett)

3. Band of Brothers

Band-of-Brothers-TV-SeriesIt’s pure orchestral goodness. No lyrics. No snappy tune. Just two of the most beautiful minutes of music ever recorded. When I first watched this epic mini-series about the second World War, I knew I was in good hands as soon as the theme music started playing. It told me that this was going to be a respectful and honoring look at the brave men who fought to protect our country. Do yourself a favor. Even if you won’t watch the mini-series because you have a hard time with war violence on the screen, just watch the opening credits and listen to the music. That’s the essence of the show distilled to two minutes and 26 seconds of sound and imagery. Perfection. (Phill Lytle)

 2. Cheers

CHEERSThe simple but beautiful piano jingle of this theme song is accompanied by equally iconic lyrics that introduces a place where A) everyone knows your name, B) they’re always glad you came, and C) our troubles are all the same. I don’t think all three of these points were always consistent throughout the show because I remember watching episodes where at least one of these wasn’t true. Still the spirit of the song remained steadfast in every single season. By the end, you truly felt as if this song truly spoke into your life and was definitely the “Norm!” The show makers could scarcely have chosen a better song to go with their show about camaraderie and the love of friendship. Want to see what I mean? Just turn on the tube to a rerun. Boom! Piano jingle. Iconic lyrics. Everybody knows your name. Cheers. (Benjamin Plunkett)

1. The A-Team

ateamIn a matter of seconds, A-TEAM’s theme gave you a significant background story and then put you right in the battle with explosions and fighting music and four of the greatest, most distinct character in 80s TV lore. Don’t mess with B.A. Baracus.  You just don’t. The intro tells you that. I’m pretty sure I watched A-TEAM as much for the opening music as for the show itself.  After hearing the history of the four men, and hearing their song, I always wanted to go out and fight. But not just fight anyone. I wanted to fight bad guys. A-TEAM’s theme made me a better man of justice. And a better American. So to vote it #1 was an honor. (Gowdy Cannon)


The Rambling Ever On Top Ten: Candy

We at Rambling Ever On are not immune to chocolaty decadence, nor are we safe from the siren call of fruity goodness. When candy of any form calls, weeeeeeeell, we hearken and obey. I tell you, son, we gots to have something for that old sweet tooth whenever it beckons. But we do have our favorites. And you know how it is with us, we’re obsessed with making rankings of our favorite stuff. So what we have here for you, my friends, is a list of not one, not two, not three or four, not even 11 or 12, but 10—10!—of our favorite delicacies in the candy kingdom. We hope that this pays adequate homage to what we consider the greatest sweet things of all time! (Ben Plunkett)


10. Reese’s Nutrageous

Reese's-NutRageous-SmallWhile they are certainly not as well-known as the other choices on our list, Nutrageous is a worthy addition and definitely belongs on any list of the best candies. Nutrageous combines the best elements of Payday, Twix, and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups into one delicious candy experience. If you have never tried one please stop reading this and head to your nearest candy retailer immediately! (Michael Lytle)


9. Almond Joy

Almond-Joy-Wrapper-SmallThe name says it all. It has almonds. And joy. What more could you want? Oh, you want more? Ok. Fine. Well, it has chocolate. That’s pretty awesome by itself, but combined with almonds and we’re talking about a taste explosion. But that’s not it. Not even close. It also has coconut. Stop it, Almond Joy! It’s too much goodness. Almond Joy sees and hears our pleas, so it comes in two smaller sized bars in each package. You eat one, pass out in some sort of happiness-induced coma, wake up a few hours later–and then eat the other one.  (Phill Lytle)


8.  Zero

Yeah, Zero is a wonderful thing.
In fact, Zero is my hero!”

Zero-Wrapper-SmallThe ZERO candy bar is the oldest candy in our list (introduced in 1920) and remains, to this day, one of the most unique candy bars available. The name is derived from “cool as zero degrees.” It was marketed as a refreshing summer treat because its white fudge coating has a much higher melting point than the milk chocolate of most other candy bars. Underneath the delicious white fudge is a layer of caramel over a mixture of almond nougat and peanuts. The white fudge obviously makes the ZERO bar visually distinctive, but the almond flavor (a favorite secret ingredient in many of my grandmother’s dessert recipes) in the nougat is, in my opinion, what makes the ZERO bar the best tasting candy bar available.

“Et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad astra, forever and ever,
With zero, my hero, how wonderful you are.”[1. My Hero, Zero by Bob Dorough, performed by Schoolhouse Rock, appears on the album Multiplication Rock (1973)]

(Nathan Patton)


7. Skittles.
Skittles-Wrapper-SmallLook, the commercials are insane and actually seem like they are trying to get people to NOT buy the product. Yet somehow, those little rainbow colored candies overcome that marketing stupidity and remain relevant and awesome. Chocolate wins the day in most of the Best Candy tournaments, and the market is flooded with more and more chocolate bars, candies and whatnot. But Skittles is brave enough to change the game. No chocolate. No nougat. No peanut butter. Only fruit flavors and copious amounts of sugar. Taste the rainbow indeed. (Skittles would like to remind everyone that one serving of Skittle contains 64% of your daily Vitamin C. Can you say “Health food”? No. No you can’t. Nice try though Skittles.) (Phill Lytle)


6. Kit Kat:

KitKat_MilkChocolate1My wife working out six days a week, eating ‘clean’ and not nagging me has really improved the way I eat. However, I will never forget the look of horror on her face the first time I bought an eight pack of Kit Kats. It wasn’t that I purchased them so much as that I planned to eat all of them in one sitting. To paraphrase Brian Regan, I can eat Kit Kats by the sleeve. So when I feel the need to be given a break, I don’t reach for the football cream or the Fancy Feast. I reach for chocolate plus wafers plus Van Damme plus immaculate deliciousness. And most of my cohorts agree, making it one of our Top Ten candies of all time.  (Gowdy Cannon)


5. Plain M&M’s

im-mmsMaybe it is their small size, but these wonderful candies are often overlooked in favor of Peanut M&M’s. Let’s be honest, though, do we really want to promote a candy that contains an ingredient that can kill millions of Americans? From the extensive research we have done, nobody is allergic to Plain M&M’s. The simplicity of chocolate covered in a colorful candy coating is hard to top. If these are good enough for Tattoo on Fantasy Island, they are good enough for me. (Michael Lytle)



4. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Reese's-PB-Cups-Wrapper-SmallIt is no coincidence that three of the top five candy bars in this list involve the beauteous fusion of chocolate and peanuts in some way. Peanuts and chocolate is the world’s best combo. Josh wrote his blurbs before me and stole the perfect analogy of marriage. He stole it from us, my precious. Blast! Marriage is a really great way to describe the holy union of chocolate and peanut. But it isn’t the only way. I shall liken it to the unity of body and soul with the subtle chocolate exterior being the body and the delicious peanut buttery innards being the soul. And also it is truly my soul mate. With RPBC by my side, my heart will go on. I absolutely love several other treats on this list, but I gotta be honest about that. (Ben Plunkett)


3. Twix:

240px-Twix-Wrapper-Small“They were all Twix!! It was a set up!!”  And with those 9 words, George Costanza involved one of the greatest candies ever in one of the funniest TV moments ever. But make no mistake, Twix gets props on its own for its milk chocolate and caramel and being the only candy bar with the cookie crunch.  My pastor regularly buys me Twix and leaves them in my mailbox at church, not just so he can quote Seinfeld, but because he knows I love them things. I love them so much he bought me three feet worth of them for Christmas! And I’m telling you, if I saw one dangling in the machine and I got myself a freebie, I’d totally take it. If it’s good enough for Kip, Ned, or Mo (short name), it’s good enough for me.   (Gowdy Cannon)


2. Peanut M&M

220px-Candy-Peanut-MMs-Wrapper-SmallDeep in the heartland of Georgia a farmer plucks a shell covered legume from a plant. The peanut; not a pea, nor a nut, it’s nature’s utility food. Far, far away in the Amazon basin a tree grows that bears a fruit full of seducing power. The cocoa bean; nature’s crack rock. These two are combined in many forms of matrimony, but none, none I say, are as pure and refined as that of the peanut being covered by a thin shell of chocolate. By the handful or by the bag, these snacks are so much more than just junk food. They’re the convergence of two great individual ingredients into one perfect marriage.  (Josh Crowe)


1. Snickers

Snickers_wrappedI have already expressed my undying love for RPBC. However, there is no doubt in my mind that this is the classic of classics. It truly deserves this spot. And there is a reason this classic is at the apex of candy bar greatness. It is the royalty of chocolates, the king of candies, the duke of delicious, the knight of nougat. So graceful and refined is it that Mr. Pitt deigned to eat it with a knife and a fork. Yet it is so potent that it is reputed to possess eagle powers. One thing is undeniable: It truly satisfies. Plus it gives us an excuse to say nougat, itself one of the greatest words ever. Nougat. (Ben Plunkett)