Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas with Daniel

Christmas is where you find it. This Christmas story has nothing to do with the actual holiday – and everything. The story is from episode 1550 of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, the classic PBS series.

Since Fred Rogers' death, I have collected several episodes of the show (anybody have any really early episodes? Contact me for a trade!). This episode aired earlier this year and hopefully will be rerun for many years to come. That's assuming MRN will stick around. Sadly, many stations have dropped it from their schedule.

Anyway, the story opens with Daniel S. Tiger attending a bass violin festival (long story, folks). During the festival, two of the characters decide to put on a puppet show using bass violin puppets. The play begins with the two bass violin puppets talking to each other – the tall one is the older brother, the short one the younger brother. The older brother decides he doesn't want his younger brother playing second fiddle to him anymore, so he tells him that he is going away to play with his older friends.

“But I want to play with you!” the younger brother cries. “Sorry,” the older replies as he walks (slides?) away from the younger brother. Alone on stage, the younger brother begins to cry. “Boo-hoo! Boo-hoo-hoo!” After a few moments, forgetting that it's only a play, the shy Daniel Tiger walks up to the crying bass violin. “I'll play with you,” he says.

If all we ever do this holiday season is make someone feel that they are not alone, and that we care for them, then we probably will have fulfilled more of the work of Christ than we could ever imagine. But heed a word of warning: it will only work if you meet THEIR needs, not just your own. Don't kid yourself: True love involves bravery. I wish we could always be guaranteed that we would be loved in return. That would certainly make the job easier.

If I were in charge of Heaven, the first rule I would make is, “All right, from now on, nobody will ever be without love again. Everybody will always have someone special to hold them and help them when they need it. Everybody will always be loved.”

This holiday season, I wish for you – and for me – the love of someone very special to fill your heart, whether that someone be a family member, a friend, the Lord, yourself, a fantasy, or even a certain striped tiger.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Farewell, Tower Records

Let me begin by thanking Time Magazine for making me person of the year. I appreciate it, guys. But I wish you could have used a better picture of me for the cover. :)

Speaking of me, it seems that “I” (or somewhat tech-savvy people like me) have been blamed for the demise of Tower Records, one of the largest independent music stores. The week of December 17 should be their last week of business. Responding to a local ad last week touting their huge sale, I visited two regional Tower Records stores. Sure enough, by this time most of the “big name” music stars had left the building. But being the scrounging expert that I am, during my 2-store Tower shopping spree I was able to find (but not always buy) material from Kelly Clarkson, Enrique Iglesias, Heart, the Roches, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Pete Seeger, John Denver, Raffi, Enya and the soundtracks to both “Superman” and “Follow that Bird.” That's not too bad for stores that were probably nearly 75% empty.

With any luck, soon I will make my last visit to a Tower Records near my family's home. And if I'm not too hurried by crazed shoppers, I'll take a moment to be thankful.

Why am I bothering to make the trip when the stores are practically empty now? Ah, that's the glory of music stores. There's always that tiny chance that you'll find a real treasure. And that was the power of Tower. Music fans shopped Tower Records because of the great potential of finding something special. Most of the places you buy music today (including many Internet sites) don't have that kind of draw. They may have a large selection, but they don't have a UNIQUE selection, or even a GOOD selection. There is a difference.

Tower's demise has been blamed on the rapid rise in Internet music downloads. I don't have an iTunes account (yet), and I don't download much music from the Internet. Yet I haven't been doing much music CD buying either. Why not? Two main reasons:

1. The high cost of music CDs
2. The lack of music I want to buy

I'm not too old yet, but I already feel that I'm out of the loop as far as modern popular music is concerned. Although there are certainly some fine artists out there, most of the acts hold no special appeal to me. And I don't think I'm alone. Do you know what the number one single in the nation is right now? Do you CARE? Hey, how long has it been since you even bought a single? How long has it been since ANYONE has?! I'm only partly kidding. The demise of Tower is visible evidence of a general “who cares” attitude toward collecting popular music that is permeating our culture. It's sad. Music is usually a good thing, and diversity in music is appealing. With Tower gone, some of our choices are also gone. It's like we're being punished for not spending more money on music.

The music CD craze was a great opportunity to get good-quality copies of some of our favorite albums. But now, we've already got most of those albums on CD. While I may like a band, if I've already got all the songs by them that I want, I probably won't make the effort to buy a lesser-known album by them. So with us old guys completing our collections and the young guys moving over to the Internet, Tower Records was in a bad position which it ultimately couldn't recover from.

But there are plenty of albums out there that STILL haven't made it to CD. And I would definitely have purchased music from Tower Records if they had carried classic albums by the Centurymen, the Gamble Folk, Lorin Whitney, Marj Snyder and of course – THE UNRELEASED 1970-1985 SESAME STREET RECORDS! (You knew that was coming, didn't you?) But sadly, because these are such “niche” markets, I have to rely on my analog stuff.

On a somewhat related note: The success or failure of the new HD radio will rest on how important it is to the average listener. But if consumers think that paying too much for music is bad, it's doubtful that they will be willing to pay too much for more music – or more talk shows. Hence the initial weakness of HD radio. Frankly, I haven't heard of much material on it to justify getting it. There we have the two reasons again: Too costly, and not enough good material.

What's the future for pop music consumers? Internet downloads bring the price down. But at the cost of album aesthetics and the enjoyment of browsing the record bins. Will future generations miss the fun of picking out who is who on the Sgt. Pepper cover?

As a longtime music collector, I regret the passing of Tower. The store had a lot of potential. That's what brought us in. Let's hope that some other stores will be able to at least try to carry the tradition by providing a good selection of the music we can't find anywhere else.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

One year anniversary; Meredith Vieira

Has it really been a year? Wow. One year ago, these Santas crossed this “Abbey Road”-style street to herald the beginning of my blog site. That means it’s been about 365 days. I’m sure there haven’t been 365 postings. I don’t think there have even been 65 postings. Blogging is fun, but it sure isn’t easy. Real life always takes precedence for me over my Internet musings, so I focus on that first and blog when I have the time. But one reward is certainly the fun I get from sharing my thoughts and information with others. Thank you for reading, and for your patience.

Speaking of Abbey Road, blogging friend and Beatles fan Fred Hembeck has written a review of the new Beatles “Love” album. Short version: He loved it. :) You can read his review at this site:


Now I know that some of you out there may not believe in Santa Claus. One common argument is, “How is it possible for one man to fly all around the world in one night and deliver all those presents? One person can’t do that much!” Well, allow me to introduce you to Meredith Vieira. You may already know her from her work on “The View,” “The Today Show”, “60 Minutes” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” Meredith is also a mother of three and - get ready - she’s got a blog! A BLOG! Folks, if a woman as busy as Meredith can find the time to BLOG, then as far as I’m concerned, Santa can deliver all those presents! Dang, is there anything Meredith CAN’T do? We’ve seen her sing, tap dance and- hey, that’s right, she sings! Hmmm. She’d make a fine Christine from “Phantom.” Matt Louer could be the Phantom, and Willard Scott & Gene Shalit could be Andre and Fermin! Hello, NBC?

Meredith even answers some questions from readers at her site. Here’s one:

How do you like your new job compared to The View?

Posted by on November 18 at 07:41pm

It’s kind of like apples and oranges. I loved doing The View but it was time for a change and this a perfect fit for me right now because it combines much of the free spirited nature of The View with serious journalism—something I did for 20 years. The biggest change is working with a man, after being surrounded by four vaginas for nine years.

Now comes my request - if anybody out there has episodes of “The View” from late 2000, please e-mail me for a possible video trade. I’m looking for a few episodes from just after Meredith lost the World Series bet with Barbara Walters. I have a few clips of Meredith to trade with as well. You can reach me at my new e-mail address (please take out the “nosp” from the e-mail or it won‘t get through):

Here’s the link to Meredith’s blog:


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sarah Brightman; Justine; blogging from prison

My recent obsession with “Phantom of the Opera” has reintroduced me to Sarah Brightman, who played Christine in the original production. Sarah has a new DVD and TV special airing on PBS this month. I’m not much of a classical music fan, so admittedly, I’m biased toward her “Phantom” work more than anything else. But the “Diva” special (that’s what it’s called, don’t be mad!) showcases her other work as well, and her vocal talents really shine. I enjoyed the beautiful “Pie Jesu” at the beginning of the special.

The video for “Phantom” was fun, albeit cheesy. But that’s the way I like it. Ask anyone who’s seen my home movies. :) Also included was the lovely “Wishing you were somehow here again.”

The one weakness of the special is that there was more “talk” than “action.” Sarah gives in-depth information about each of her videos, and in most cases these segments take just about as long as the video itself! Like the “Electric Company” special I wrote about last month, there’s a lot more material we could have seen, but didn‘t. As the PBS hosts will tell you (several times), there are more of her videos on the DVD than in the special.

You can check and see if the “Diva” special is airing in your area by following the link at Sarah’s web site:

Speaking of sadism, (or masochism, depending on your point of view), the “tv shows on dvd” web site announced on Dec. 1 that the U.S. version of “Men behaving badly” is coming to DVD. I rarely watched the show, but as a Justine Bateman fan, I am obligated to let the world know. Sigh. I do miss “Family Ties” sometimes. :) Actually, I would enjoy seeing Justine again. She’s still acting & most recently appeared in a movie on the Lifetime network.

Justine ranks up there along with Courteney Cox, Lea Thompson, Carrie Fisher and Sabrina LeBeauf as one of the “hot chicks of my teen years.” That’s not to say that they aren’t hot now. That just means that when I was a teen, these were some of the girls on TV that I - well, you know where I‘m going with this.

The DVD set is scheduled to be released in February. Keep checking for updates.

Last month I rambled about Dr. Kent Hovind getting arrested for tax fraud. At the time I complained about Mr. Hovind’s attitude and his questionable priorities. Well, Kent is in prison and contributing to his blog at (how he‘s doing this I'm not sure. Carrier pigeon, maybe?) It sounds as if he has made lemonade out of a very bad situation. Here‘s a quote from his site:

I have also been teaching math and science to some of the others. It is great to see convicted drug dealers get excited when they learn fourth grade level math for the first time. I have spent quite a bit of time with one 29-year-old man who cannot read at all. I have been teaching him phonics and we are reading Genesis 1, 2, 3 and John 1, 2, and 3. His face lights up when he sees that he can do it. I offer commissary items like soup or coffee to men who memorize Bible verses. There is no way to describe the joy that they show when they get it right. Many have never memorized scriptures in their life, and maybe that is why they are in jail. Scripture helps us to “cleanse our ways” Psalm 119:9-11.

I don’t support Mr. Hovind, but I do support people who help others. If Kent wants to help people learn mathematics and how to read, then I won’t razz him for doing that. Keep up the great work, Kent.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Review: Electric Company's greatest hits and bits

If you enjoyed the classic PBS show “The Electric Company,“ and you can brace yourself to sit through a PBS pledge drive, you should enjoy “The Electric Company’s Greatest Hits and Bits.” It’s a 90-minute (counting pledge drive time) special airing on many PBS stations in the next few weeks. It aired in my neck of the woods recently.

The show was obviously produced for us grown-ups who watched Electric Company in our youth. A few classic clips are shown -- most notably classic Tom Lehrer songs “L-Y” and “Silent E” -- but these tend to take a back seat to the documentary style of the show, which features interviews with cast members, most of whom I have not seen since the show went off the air. I’m thankful they’re still with us! And watching the clips gives you a great appreciation for their incredible talent. Even the “lesser-known” actors hold their own very well with the more established stars. This cast was truly -- sorry folks, I can’t help it -- an “electric” company.

The interviews are entertaining and give a good indication of the fun that must have been a part of being on the show. I especially liked the story of Skip Hinnant’s reaction to finally “getting the joke” about Fargo North. I have to admit, I didn’t get the joke myself for a few years!

Morgan Freeman fans in particular should enjoy this one. Although Morgan isn’t interviewed, the cast has fond memories of him and his comedic talent really shines. And he sings well, too! According to Rita Moreno, it was Morgan’s idea to add the “uhh, uhh, uhh” into the Easy Reader theme song. Hey, that’s genius! That song wouldn’t be the same without the “uhh, uhh, uhh!”

Only complaint: show more clips! We saw some great clips from the show, but many of them were edited slightly. And there were quite a few characters barely (if at all) mentioned (Jennifer of the Jungle, Short Circus, Pedro, etc.) Seeing favorite clips like “L-Y” and “t-i-o-n” was great, but there’s a lot more material we could have seen.

(Side note: There are plenty of good songs from the Electric Company -- including many sung by Morgan Freeman -- that have never been released commercially. It would probably be worth it for Sesame Workshop to delve into its archives and create a good collection of these. I‘m hoping that I’m not the only person in the world who remembers “Sweet Sue at the Sweet Shop!”)

So all in all, this is a real treasure for fans of the show & it gives the non-informed a general idea of what the show was like. Check your local listings and be sure to watch it if you can. And if it's not airing where you are, you can pick up "Best of Electric Company" DVD sets now, which is, of course, very cool! This is the first time that this material has been released commercially, so it's good to know that there are a lot of other fans out there. "Uhh, uhh, uhh!"

Monday, November 06, 2006

Spitting out the bones

Okay folks, this is one of those “long stories” that can never fit into one complete blog posting because it is so complicated. But I will try to give you as much info as I can without going too crazy.

According to the Pensacola News Journal, On July 13, 2006, evangelist Kent Hovind and his wife were arrested “on 58 federal charges, including failing to pay $473,818 in employee-related taxes and making threats against investigators. Of the 58 charges, 44 were filed against Kent Hovind and his wife, Jo, for evading bank reporting requirements as they withdrew $430,500 from AmSouth Bank between July 20, 2001, and Aug. 9, 2002.”

I had the chance to attend one of Kent Hovind’s lectures at a church service near my home. I had first heard him as a speaker on Sky angel’s “Creation” program and had listened to some of the material on his web site. He’s a fine speaker, and despite a few disagreements I had with his views, I felt he had some good things to say as well. As he said, “You have to learn early in life to eat the meat (the good things) and spit out the bones (the bad things).”

Outside the main sanctuary, there was a table set up with several of Kent’s videos for sale. I didn’t buy any -- and I didn’t fault Kent’s ministry for trying to sell them. There are plenty of other ministries offering materials for sale.

But then came the offering. The plate came around, it was said, for Kent’s ministry, and I put in a small gift. Then, a few minutes later, another offering came around. This time for the church itself. Hmmm. I don’t think it’s wrong to have more than one offering for more than one need. But I had already given as much as I had planned to give! Although I support the church, I felt like I was being cheated. Perhaps it wasn’t right for me to feel that way, but I did. Now, I learn that I may have good justification for feeling cheated.

Mr. Hovind was found guilty last week of tax fraud. He's in prison right now awaiting sentencing.

A very wise teacher I once had gave a good explaination of why good ministries go bad. He was referring specifically to TV evangelists, but I think the same rules apply to many situations. People begin with very good intentions. They honestly want to serve the Lord. But because they're ultimately following only their own hearts, they begin to do stupid things that ultimately destroy their ministry.

At the very end of his “Questions and Answers” seminar (part 3), Kent Hovind gives himself away. The reason his ministry (and so many others) is so popular is that he has found his audience. He speaks to the people who want to hear him.

Friends, please understand that I am not trying to badmouth a believer, or anyone’s beliefs. But Kent Hovind’s problems are familiar. They represent a mindset that is all too common among people- not just evangelical Christians, but people in general. The attitude is, “I am correct, and I am going to do whatever I want to do, no matter what anyone else says.” Although they may try to justify their actions from the Bible, their underlying selfishness is so obvious that it’s almost painful. It’s not just Kent -- I’m sorry to say that I could give you a list of people who seem to display the same attitude.

It is not so much a question of who is wrong or right. It is a case of “actions speak louder than words.” Kent seems to be saying, “I don’t have to pay taxes. I’m a special case.” Well, even if he is, what does that mean for me? Nothing, because Kent’s stand is for himself and his ministry, but not anyone else.

Hey- aren’t all Christians “owned” by God? Doesn’t all the money that we make ultimately belong to God? Then why should I have to pay taxes on God’s money? If Kent doesn’t have to pay taxes, neither should I. Well, you can bet the IRS isn’t going to let that excuse fly, can’t you? At least, not with me.

Remember “Eat the meat and spit out the bones?” Well, if the charges are correct, Kent refuses to spit out the bones of income taxes. He won’t “turn the other cheek.” Whether you agree or disagree with him, his arrogance is a real thorn in his side - whether the attitude is justified or not.

I don’t know . . . Maybe this is what is required of someone to be a spiritual leader. (Remember Jesus throwing out those who sold goods in the temple?) Maybe this arrogance is what is required for us lowly people to take notice and say, “Hey, if he can stand up for what he believes in, why can’t I?”

But of course, our zeal is no match for our leaders’ zeal, and if we can’t get it from them, we are forced to go within ourselves to find it, where we realize that it was there all along, and that we don’t need to become arrogant to show it off to the world.

You can read more about Kent’s ministry and download some of his talks at If you like the Loch Ness Monster, don’t miss Kent’s seminar part 3, where he dives into the issue of dinosaurs . . . that may still be living?
You can read Kent’s comments about his arrest at

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Star Wars toys

Here we see two extremely rare toys, and no, I never had either of them! Blue Snaggletooth and Yak Face are arguably the two rarest "Star Wars" figures from the original Kenner line of figures. Yes, my friends and I used to collect them. And they were great. Actually, like the Sesame St. playset, the little details tended to make them more fun.

I still remember the day my Dad pulled out a C-3PO figure from a bag. He told us that if we were good & got good grades, etc., we would be able to get it. Which is bad parenting, but it worked. We were good. And we eventually collected many of the figures and original toys. The toy room seemed to become the Star Wars toy room for a time.

The figures played a role in what I consider one of the funniest home movies we ever did. We tried to re-create scenes from the film using the figures and the playsets. You should see it. Strings are everywhere. Hands and arms are everywhere. It's classic. I guess I shouldn't laugh, because even in my recent home movies you can still see hands and arms everywhere. Oh, well.

If you were to ask me when the Star Wars toy boom began to die down, I would have to say it really began with the "Micro collection." The Star Wars micro collection was a limited series of toys and figures that began a little bit after "Empire" came out and just prior to "Jedi." It was made up of small metal figures rather than the plastic action figures, and it included several scenes/sets from the films, including the Wampa ice cave & the Millenium Falcon.

The micro collection was essentially too much for a collector to take! I mean, how would you like to collect hundreds of figures and toys, only to learn that now, you need to collect a totally NEW Millenium Falcon, Wampa ice cave, etc. ? We (and by we, I mean our parents) can only afford so much!

So we had to accept the fact that we couldn't afford everything. And accepting that fact made us reason, "You know, maybe I don't need to get EVERY single figure that comes out. . ."

So economics forced us to grow up and look at collecting differently. That, coupled with puberty (someday I will do a lengthy blog about that one!) made us understand that collecting every single figure wasn't the major goal of our lives. So we stopped collecting, and some of us (gasp!) actually gave up our collections. But that's okay, the toys did their part (See the Elvis teddy bear post in August 2006 for an explaination of this).

Now the original Kenner line is considered classic, and even an old beat-up Darth Vader figure with its head chopped off could probably sell for at least $1.00. It's great to look back on the toys and sometimes even play with them again, but I don't feel the need to go out and complete the collection.

I'm just thankful for what I've got.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fisher-Price Sesame Street

Along the lines of the Elvis teddy bear incident, I thought I could take a look back at some of the toys I used to enjoy as a kid that hopefully many of you remember as well. Many of these toys are no longer in my posession, forcing me to look to eBay to find suitable photographs. :)

The original Fisher-Price Sesame Street play set was great. Unlike many toys of today, the "action figures" (actually Fisher-Price little people, I know) were included with the toy! No batteries, no electronics of any kind. Yes, just a doll house, I know, but a Sesame dollhouse! Looking back, what made this thing so unique was how accurate it was. The stickers on the toy were a great representation of the actual set. For example, to the left of Hooper's Store was the door leading up to Bob's apartment. (It was just a sticker, it didn't open). That's a detail that might get missed by most non-Sesame fan people.

One big mistake- they put Ernie and Bert's apartment on top of Susan and Gordon's apartment. Actually, they live in the basement right below Susan & Gordon. But oh well. When you peek inside E&B's place, you get to see more of those great details. Bert's bottle cap collection is on the wall, along with the portrait of E&B. And when you peek into the bathroom door, you see in the bathtub- yep, you guessed it, Ernie's rubber duckie.

The original set included, IIRC, Gordon, Susan, Mr. Hooper, Big Bird, Oscar (who looked just like a trash can until you lifted the lid), Cookie Monster, Ernie and Bert. Later on, they created other little people not included in the original set. They were: Sherlock Hemlock, Roosevelt Franklin, Herry Monster, Grover Monster, The Count, Prarie Dawn and Snuffy. Somehow we lost the Gordon figure for many years until one day Dad found him in the bottom of our toy chest. I remember that moment well. At last the lost figure was found!

In Susan and Gordon's apartment, we see a portrait of the Count on the wall. And the set includes a TV set with only one channel. It shows Grover counting to three- twenty-four hours a day. :) You'd think Sesame Street would have more original programming.

The apartment above Hooper's store is Mr. Hooper's apartment. There's a painting on the wall of Big Bird which is signed something like, "To my good friend, Mr. Blooper." Now the problem with having all those extra figures was that they didn't have a place to live on the Street. That meant that EVERYBODY had to live in Mr. Hooper's apartment! It must not have been a very comfortable time for those guys. Thankfully, I guess they all have places of their own now.

So the attention to detail - even if the details were'nt always 100% accurate - was definitely a highlight of this toy. I'm glad I can remember those little things all these years later.

If you're interested in muppet/Sesame toys, you may want to visit the Muppet Central forum in the links section & talk with other zany collectors. :)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Phantom of the Opera

I first heard the music from "Phantom of the Opera" on, of all places, the Jerry Lewis labor day telethon. They showed a video clip of "Music Of the Night." The beautiful song stuck with me, and I eventually got ahold of Michael Crawford's "Andrew Lloyd Webber" album, another real treat. But I never actually got to see the play, and I didn't get to see the Phantom movie when it was in the theaters. But I enjoyed the music that I had heard, and so one evening recently I decided to rent the movie.

Let's see. . .I think I cried about three times. Something like that. And it's been a long time since a movie has brought me to tears.

The story is about a young woman named Christine who becomes a popular singer at the Paris opera house. She even has her old boyfriend, Raoul, come to visit her and share his feelings of love for her. Sounds like a charmed life, right? But all is not well. You see, lurking beneath the opera house is part of the reason that Christine is such a great singer. She has been taking lessons from an "Angel of Music" -- an angel that was promised by her father before he died. Could this "Phantom of the Opera" be a true messenger from beyond?

Some of the most moving moments in the film come in places you wouldn't expect. At one point, Christine pays a visit to a cemetery. The song "Wishing you were somehow here again" shows us the heart of Christine and demonstrates her struggle to let go of the past. So we get a peek into the hearts of both Christine and the Phantom (and even a bit into Raoul's heart - his love for Christine is true. At the climax, he urges Christine not to "throw her life away" for his sake!)

At the end (I'm trying hard not to give anything away, folks, but it's not easy), the Phantom is brought to see the error of his ways, but the way this is brought about is completely unexpected. It has to do, I think, with the sharing of one's heart with someone else. It was a way of showing the Phantom, "You are not alone."

This film is awesome. An all-around great movie. Incredibly moving and beautifully filmed and acted and sung. I'm now a fan and have been keeping my eye out for Phantom-related information. I bought the soundtrack album and a cassette of the Broadway version (also awesome!). The movie was all I had hoped it would be - a beautiful, tragic story set to some beautiful music. Sadly, it seems a lot of "Phantom" fans don't like it for various reasons (It's not Michael Crawford, I hate her dress, etc.). Friends, let's not throw away something that's good just because it isn't perfect.

I've been humming the music to myself for days. I'd love to be in this show, but the problem is I want to play too many people. I want to be the Phantom, Christine, Raoul, Carlotta, those two opera owners, the cast of "Masquerade," etc. Hey, maybe I could do a "one-man" Phantom concert! Hmmm. . .

Here are some comments from two old friends of mine:

ERNIE: Hey Bert, what does he EAT? How does the Phantom eat?
BERT: I don't know. Maybe he catches fish in his little moat down there.
ERNIE: Oh, there are no fish in that water, Bert.
BERT: How do you know?
ERNIE: Well, he lives under the city, right?
BERT: UGH! The Phantom of the toilet!

Anyway, if you're looking for a great musical, I'd definitely recommend this one. Just watch out for that chandelier. . .


Here's the official movie site:

Yes, it really is still playing! Here's the web site of the play:

You can commune with other Phantom fans here:

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Mel carrying (sigh) Jodie

Can anything good come out of the recent Mel Gibson incident? Well, this picture of Mel carrying (sigh) Jodie Foster is the best thing I can think of so far.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Elvis' teddy bear and yours, too

The headline writers are going to have a field day with this one. Here are just a few I've seen so far: "Teddy bear all shook up by hound dog" "Elvis' teddy bear bites the big one" "Too much to bear."

Did you ever wonder what happened to the teddy bear you once owned as a child? Well, keep it in mind as you consider this tragic teddy tale: Mabel, a teddy bear once owned by Elvis Presley was unfortunately torn apart by a guard dog who was supposed to protect it. That dog is out of a job. Would YOU hire that dog to guard something of yours? I've noticed one site already considering publishing info. about how to kill a dog. Here's a quote from an article:

"Barney has been a model guard dog for more than six years. I still can't believe what happened," security guard Greg West was quoted as saying after the attack on Tuesday night. "Either there was a rogue scent of some kind on Mabel, which switched on Barney's deepest instincts, or it could have been jealousy. I was just stroking Mabel and saying what a nice bear she was."

Sad? Yes, but consider something. That teddy bear did its job. Its job was to make Elvis happy, and it has done that. It also made other people happy, including (I hope) Somerset aristocrat Sir Benjamin Slade, who bought the bear at an auction. I'd like to think that he got some kind of satisfaction by owning the bear, even if it was only for a short time. (He may have lost some money in the -forgive me- bear market, but aren't teddy bears supposed to be worth more than money?)

It's the same with your old teddy and mine. It's the same with all the wonderful things from childhood. They did their jobs. We love them and in many cases we miss them, but whether we have them or not, we're thankful they were there, and we still have the good feelings that we had when they were there. That's part of what's good about being a grown-up. We have a greater capacity to make ourselves feel good all by ourselves.

Who would have known a teddy could force me into such profound musings. . .:) As Huey Lewis said, "that's the power of love. . ."

Since this is a news item, it's possible these links will be obsolete quickly, but for now, here's a link to the story. If it doesn't work, try searching for it using Google News in the links section to the right.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Don't join that club

One of my favorite bloggers out there is Mr. Fred Hembeck. Fred is a familiar name to die-hard comic book fans, having provided commentary on several books and TV series. His comments are always fun and can be found at his Web page: You can also learn about some of his eBay auctions of his artwork.

Fred is also a dad. Recently, on his blog site, Fred made a post that I just have to steal- I mean, share with you all. This is one of the best examples I've ever seen of why it's not a good idea to follow the crowd.

May 11th, 2006

Daughter Julie, the tenth grade high school student, told me earlier today about a new club that's all the sensation in the middle school portion of her school, something called the Pen 15 club.

Seems as if this is THE club for all the cool people--or at least, that's the way it's being represented to those poor social outcasts who are overly eager to join the (as they used to say in my day) in-crowd. Now, I'm not entirely certain exactly what all the requirements to join this coveted organization are, but there IS one particular one that makes or breaks one's chance at membership: each potential enlistee must take out a ballpoint pen and, on the back of his or her hand, scrawl the name of this cabal, "Pen 15".

It's as simple as that! Apparently, that's all it takes nowadays to be considered cool, and I'm sure the sense of belonging that accompanies acceptance into the ranks of Pen 15 does wonders for these lucky students’ self-confidence...

Until, of course, they go home after their induction, sit down for dinner with their families, and reach across the table for the mashed potatoes. That's when stunned mother's everywhere recoil in shock..

"Sally"--or Bobby, Joanne, Tom, Katie, or even Alphonse--"WHY did you write "penis" on the back of your hand???"

Why, indeed?

Careful what sorta clubs you join, folks.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Big Bird and the Space Shuttle Challenger

In the mid 1980s, space shuttle flights had become relatively commonplace - at least in the view of some people at NASA. Somehow, the idea began to grow that it was time to have a "regular person" fly on the shuttle along with the astronauts. One of the people who tried to get on was none other than singer John Denver. John probably would have been a good choice - reasonably healthy and a pilot himself. But someone at NASA wanted to get young children more interested in the shuttle flights. (Which sounds kind of silly when you think about it. Shouldn't young children already be interested in something so exciting?)

Anyway, if you've ever suspected that the people at PBS are in cahoots with the government higher-ups, this is material to add to your conspiracy theories. Someone at NASA contacted Carroll Spinney, the puppeteer of Big Bird and Oscar on "Sesame Street." Big Bird was being offered the chance to fly higher than most of us will ever go in this lifetime! Big Bird on the space shuttle! Needless to say, that would have been a very memorable episode of Sesame Street. It likely would have gone on for weeks, the way the New Mexico and Hawaii episodes did, as well as the later "Slimey on the moon" series.

But it was not meant to be- the Big Bird puppet was, well, too big. It's quite a large costume, and not exactly the kind of thing that can be easily packed away. (Although it's fun to imagine what Big Bird would have looked like floating around in zero gravity. "Woaaaah!!!")

But there was another alternative- the idea arose of sending Big Bird's teddy bear, Radar, into space instead. Radar would have been easier to pack. And it still would have allowed for a "Sesame Street" connection to the flight. But again, somebody (probably the same guy who said John Denver couldn't go) said no, no teddy bear. So both Radar and Spinney were out, and eventually they decided to pick an even more "normal" person - a teacher. The teacher they eventually chose was Christa McAuliffe. Today, we remember her and her crewmates as the heroes who died in the tragic accident on the Challenger.

Had Spinney died on the space shuttle Challenger, the history of Sesame Street would have been quite different. How would they have handled this death? Thankfully, we'll never know the answer to that. Both Spinney and Denver lived on to do some great work. John Denver's great song "Flying for Me" was written in tribute to the Challenger crew.

Of course, Sesame Street did eventually go into space, if only on the TV show. Oscar's pet worm Slimey has the distinction of being first worm on the moon. He along with his crewmates flew to the moon in what must be the longest flight to the moon in history. (The Apollo guys got there in about 3 days; Slimey and crew took a couple of months!) That series, in a way, was the end of an era for Sesame Street. For after it was over, and the next season began, a new part of the show had been added called "Elmo's world." Nothing would be the same after that. :)

Here's a clip from an article from the Variety website mentioning the Spinney/Challenger issue:

Little-known fact: Spinney was approached by NASA to fly on the space shuttle. "They wanted the children of America to be more interested in NASA," he says. "They thought Big Bird could go up in it and we would do an actual production. I said yes ... but then they found out there was absolutely no place to store (the) Big Bird (costume), so I couldn't go. They selected Christa McAuliffe to go instead, and now you know the rest of the story. What a tragedy."

Spinney mentioned the tragedy during some of his personal appearances. You can read about them here:

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Congratulations, Mr. Spinney!

You may not recognize the gentleman with the white hair and beard standing behind Oscar the Grouch, but if you're a die-hard Sesame Street fan, you already know that it's Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who has performed Oscar and Big Bird on the show for over 30 years. You probably already know that he recently won the lifetime achievement emmy award. I can only assume that this photo was taken at one of those Hollywood parties I never get invited to. Could it be proof that girls really do go for the bad boys? :) Well, probably not, as Elmo is there as well. The nearly bald gentleman behind Elmo is puppeteer Kevin Clash, who also got an emmy. I'm not sure if any of the girls got emmys or not.

Spinney has written a book about performing on Sesame Street that I'd definitely recommend to fans of the show. He also did a book tour a few years ago that included cameo appearances by Oscar. Spinney is also a fine artist, and some of his sketches appear in the book. And if you happen to be a fan of Bob Hope, you may want to pick this book up as well. Big Bird and Bob made a few appearances together, and Spinney has thanks for the memories.

One of my favorite stories about Spinney is not included in the book, though. It involves a connection to - of all things- the space shuttle Challenger tragedy. I'm going to have to do some homework on that one to be sure I get my facts straight. I'll blog about it soon!

In the meantime, here is Spinney's Web site, which has a link where you can buy the book:

And here's a review of the book from a fellow devoted muppet fan, Danny at Toughpigs:

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Classic Peanuts strips

Classic Peanuts comic strips by Charles M. Schulz, Copyright United Features Syndicate.
Visit for more strips and information.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Lea Thompson

Hello, and welcome to "hot chicks of my teen years". . .

This is a picture of Lea Thompson from one of her "Jane Doe" TV movies from the Hallmark channel. I post it because she's going to be starring in another Jane Doe film this month on the channel (January 14, 2006), and also because it gives me the chance to wax philosophical about a pretty actress.

We need to go "Back to the future" for this one. That's the hit film from 1985 that really put Lea in the spotlight. (Sigh) Sometimes it's frustrating to "fall in love" with a girl and then never see her again for another few years! She did other films, of course, but I somehow never got to see these in the theater and still haven't seen most of them. I can't imagine going to my parents and saying "I want to see a film called 'Casual Sex!'" Don't think that would have worked. But she always does a fine job as an actress. She nearly saved "Howard the Duck!" She even got tied up in it. One very interesting film she was in was "The Right to Remain Silent." You may enjoy that one if you prefer a more "psychological" drama. And of course, she starred in "Caroline in the City" on TV.

So if I can, I'll try to tune in and catch Lea in the new film. Who knows? She might get tied up again. . . :)

Here's a nice fan site with more info. about Lea:

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Charlie Chaplin clothing line

Remeber the old commercials about "you got your chocolate in my peanut butter?" Sometimes you find two things going together that don't always seem to belong together. Well, this is an example of one of those things. Take a look at the following press release from CNW Group:

KRYPTON IMAGINATION Inc is proud to announce that a license agreement for the creation of a ready-to-wear clothing line inspired on the life and work of CHARLIE CHAPLIN, has been signed between DONALDSON & PARTNERS SA and BUBBLES INCORPORATED SA. This license is a world première and regulates the future creation and development of collections of women's, men's and children's clothing and accessories, but also household articles. This exclusive agreement gives birth to the brand CHAPLIN and concerns initially the European countries, Russia, North Africa and Taiwan.

Now Chaplin was a great artist in many ways. But when I think of him, I don't think of high fashion! The photo above is how most of us think of Chaplin.

Now before you say it's an impossible mix, let's consider something. You may not think that Chaplin and computers would go together either, right? But they did. IBM used the Little Tramp character in some of it's advertisements for home computers back in the early 1980s. Don't believe me? There's a tiny image of it in the article below: 0-1006-201-6831982-0.html

Perhaps it's because Charlie often represented the "everyman" that advertisers look to his image. If Charlie likes a product, then it must be something that "everyman" would want.

Of course, I'm guessing that the clothing will be fine, with Chaplin being used as a sort of "logo" like those izod shirts do with the alligators. Same idea, I would guess. The clothing line is planned for later this year, so time will tell what we will get. In the meantime, to stay ahead of the trends, you may want to buy a pair of pants twice your size and a shirt that's about half your size. And the cane, don't forget the cane. :)

You can read the full press release at the link. It includes comments from Chaplin's family members:

Monday, January 02, 2006

Roses and rain; Steve Sansweet

Happy new year from soggy Southern California! If you saw the Rose Parade this morning, you know what I'm talking about. A beautiful parade, as usual, but I'm glad I happened to be indoors watching it.

You know, sometimes I remember my small collection of Star Wars memorabilia and feel proud. And then, of course, I read this story about Steve Sansweet's ultimate collection and want to run and hide! I'm not kidding, folks, his collection is huge. If you've been a die-hard Star Wars collector for a while, you've probably already heard of Steve. Now we finally get a peek at how he takes care of such a massive collection. You can read all about it at . Special thanks to the folks at and for sharing this article!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

My aim was true

Hi all, and welcome to 2006.

Last year, I invited several of my friends from work to join me for lunch at a local restaurant. This was just meant to be a time when we could "hang out" and talk with each other about things that we might not have the time or desire to talk about at work. Thanks to my computer, I printed out small maps of how to get to the restaurant (about 3 miles from work) and told them to arrive at noon. I tried to invite as many people as possible, with the theory that the more I invite, the more likely I'd get a good crowd to actually show up. (If I invite five, I should get at least 3, right?)

In the end, I invited at least ten people out to lunch. Two of them said they would try to bring their families. I reserved a table at the restaurant for at least 12 people. The day of the lunch, I dusted off my tiny digital camera and arrived about 10 minutes early. I took my seat at the center of a long table in a small room just off of the main dining area. After relaxing for a minute, I got up to peek out the window and see if I could spot them driving into the parking lot.

Lunchtime came. I kept peeking out the window. Then I sat down at the center of the table again. Five minutes went by. I reasoned that most people would likely be late if they had never been to this restaurant before. Then another five minutes went by. I got up to look out the window again. I didn't recognize anyone driving into the lot.

By 12:16, I said to myself, "Okay, I am going to buy lunch for the first person in my group who walks through that door!"

But nobody ever did. Nobody showed up.

"I don't know where they are," I told the waiter. "They knew this was the right time. I'll go ahead and order now." I ate my meal alone at a table that was big enough to serve 12 people.

As I sat there, I realized that I hadn't done anything wrong. I made the invitation. Nobody accepted it. It wasn't my fault. My aim was true. I had tried something good, and it didn't work. That's okay. My aim was true. I'd prefer it if they were here, but they're not, so I'm going to enjoy my meal by myself.

It reminds me a little of "The Wise Little Hen." I'd like to have help with the things I do, but if I don't get any help, that's just fine. I'm still going to do them. Just understand that you're cheating yourself from whatever good may come out of it.

And so, speaking of things that I have to do by myself, may I present this blog, my present to the world for 2006. May its words help you as much as they will help me.