Sunday, December 16, 2007

Carolyne Heldman

Well folks, I’ve finally made it to the big time - thanks to help from former MTV VJ Carolyne Heldman. Remember her? She used to host music videos back in the days when MTV seemed to care about music. Okay, I need to save that rant for another time. Anyway, I used to watch Carolyne on MTV back in the late 1980s. There were quite a few times when I preferred watching her more than any of the bands.

Every once in a while, I like to do a Google search for some of my favorite lesser-known subjects/celebrities just to see how things are going with them. A few days ago, I typed Carolyne’s name into the Google search engine. Can you guess whose Web site came up first in the comprehensive search of millions of Web sites? No, it wasn’t MTV, or even a classic TV Web site.

It was this site.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I would like to see Carolyne again. Well, the Google search engine caught on to Carolyne’s name, and at least for the moment that post is the “most relevant” Carolyne Heldman site on the Web according to Google!

In the world of the Web, getting to be the first site on a Google search is a pretty big deal. There are a lot of advertisers out there who would love to be the first site on a Google search. If you sold umbrellas, you would want your site to be first when somebody did a Google search for “umbrellas.” It’s the same for almost any well-known product or person. First in Google (they hope) means that the site is the most relevant to your search. It obviously doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s the goal.

My site is the top Carolyne web site? This is an honor! I think Carolyne is one of those talented people who unfortunately is not as well-remembered as they should be. She was seen by literally millions of people for a few years in the late 1980s, but today, if you asked 100 people, you’d probably be lucky to find two or three who recognized the name. There are quite a few celebrities like that. They’re not “superstars,” they’re just people who happen to be celebrities!

I just wish I could tell you more about Carolyne. I know that since MTV she has worked on local TV in Colorado and that she is living there with her husband & family. I only know this because in the late 1990s she appeared in the MTV Ultra Sound episode, “I was an MTV VJ, too” along with other classic Vjs like Adam Curry and Kevin Seal.

Carolyne is attractive, smart and quite down-to-earth. On the “Ultra Sound” episode, she lamented the fact that she didn’t seem to be “cool enough” for MTV. But she didn’t have to be. She was fine just as herself. She didn’t have to do silly things or act like someone who she wasn’t, like some other Vjs seemed to be doing. She was more or less her honest self, and that was admirable. Carolyne, if you happen to read this, I wish you and yours all the best. And could you please contact me? I’d love to let everybody know how you’ve been doing. And I’d like to have your autograph. :)

If you happen to have any footage of Carolyne from her MTV days, I’d enjoy doing a video trade with you. You can contact me via my Youtube channel (see links) or you can leave a message for Sesameguy on the Muppet Central forums.


MY FAIR CHAUVINIST: Two friends of mine have been lucky enough to have their work published in a magazine. If you’re a fan of “My Fair Lady,” you might enjoy their views of this musical, and why Eliza may not have gotten the best deal in the world. Plus, they get bonus points for making reference to both the Muppets and Star Wars in the same column.


MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Way back in ye olden days of the early 1970s, the first Sesame Street calendars contained birthdays for many of the major characters. Well, since a new year is on the way, this might be a good time to take note of whose birthday you’d like to celebrate in 2008! Here, courtesy of MuppetCentral, is the list of Sesame birthdays:

Jan 13: Rubber Duckie
Jan 28: Ernie
Feb 3: Elmo
Feb 23: Gordon
Feb 29: Kermit
March 20: Big Bird
April 17: Sherlock Hemlock
May 3: Susan
May 23: Sam the Robot
June 1: Oscar
June 7: The Amazing Mumford
June 25: Maria
July 1: Guy Smiley
July 26: Bert
Aug 3: Prairie Dawn
Aug 19: Snuffleupagus
Aug 20: Bob
Aug 31: Herry
Sept 19: Slimey
Sept 29: Telly
Sept 30: Zoe
Oct 4: David
Oct 9: Grover
Oct 14: The Count
Oct 29: Betty Lou
Nov 2: Cookie Monster
Nov 14: Luis
Dec 17: Little Bird

I hope that the omission of characters such as Roosevelt Franklin and Don Music will be corrected in future Sesame St. calendars. :)


I’d like to direct you to a Christmas wish from my friend Daniel S. Tiger. Like he, I wish you all a wonderful holiday and a great new year ahead.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

They're baaaack!

Uh-oh. It’s those Santas again! It’s December already? Dang it. . . It’s time to utter a few four-letter words.

December 10 is the two-year anniversary of this blog. Whether I like it or not. I’m sorry to say that a certain four-letter word comes immediately to mind, and that word is: TIME. Or the lack of it.

I enjoy writing and I enjoy posting on this blog. But there’s this thing called LIFE (another four-letter word, you will notice) that keeps getting in the way. I enjoy having a little space here on the world wide whatever where I can share my views and keep in contact with others. But there are other things happening besides this site, and they’re just about all more important than this site! So this poor site gets pushed aside rather easily.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. In my blogging dreams, I planned of posting at least three or four times a week, with photos and extensive data. Alas, it was not to be. Time isn’t on my side in this one. I had to remove the words “updated weekly” from the mast head when it became clear that I would be lucky if I could update monthly!

The writers in Hollywood went on strike a few weeks ago. That’s because writing is work. Even those who enjoy it must confess that it takes time to do well. It’s not something that can be taken for granted, as some people are disposed to do. Good writing takes time. If I’m having trouble putting together a simple blog, imagine how much work it must be for good writers to put together a TV show every week - or even every day, in the case of soap operas! Thankfully, they are given some time (and cash) to write. But I don’t have that luxury. That puts this blog on the same level as cleaning out the attic or buying the latest gadget. It’s something that should be done, but that doesn’t have to be done immediately.

What’s the next step? Well, just as those Santas are moving one step at a time, I will do the same. I definitely will keep posting once in a while, and hopefully you can find something here that you will enjoy. You’ve probably figured out that you don’t have to check in every week. But hey, there’s always every other week. As I’ve said before, thank you for your patience. Your prayers and good wishes for me are very much appreciated.

Also, please keep checking my YouTube page every few weeks. I have been posting new videos there (Most recently Ernie and Bert‘s "what happened here" and "The King‘s Nose"). You just might find something fun over yonder.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go clean the attic. . .


DUSTY, BUT THERE: We have an update to the November posting about “In search of: Retired Puppets”. As mentioned before, a fellow named Benjamin Wagner is working on a documentary about Fred Rogers. He recently visited the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, and in a blog posting he confirms that the Mister Rogers puppets are on display there. He writes:
The Museum has been home to "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" exhibit since 1998. Developed in partnership with FCI, it replicates the show's set -- it's all there: King Friday's castle, X the Owl's tree -- but in a hands-on way. Kids can be on or behind the camera, drive trolley, put on their own puppet show, or play Mister Rogers' piano.
Picture Picture's there too. We watched a video on the making of the exhibit narrated by David Newell. There was Mister Rogers wearing an overcoat and glasses, standing next to Bill Isler and smiling.
Mister Rogers' spirit was everywhere. And smiling.
Still -- and I've felt this way numerous times throughout the making of this film -- his absence was palpable too.
Puppets from The Land of Make Believe stood in glass cases in the hallway next to the exhibit. And while it was exciting and even moving to see the real Daniel Striped Tiger and King Friday, it made me sad to see them staring back at me all glassy-eyed, lifeless and dusty.
I miss Mister Rogers, and often wish he was here to help Chris and me.
You can read the complete blog posting here:
You can read about Ben's meeting with Mister Rogers here:
Now we need somebody in Chicago to visit the historical society and see if the Kukla and Ollie puppets are on display!


FELIZ NAVIDAD FROM BOB: In the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade this year, we saw an appearance of the legendary Bob McGrath. Yes, Bob is still on the street! You may have seen him singing “See you tomorrow” to Big Bird in a more recent clip. I like to promote the “old school” stars whenever I can. Bob also has a new Christmas album, but don’t click on the link below if you’re in a library. It plays a clip of Bob singing. You’ll bother all the non-believers sitting around you. I guess Bob took a lesson from Maria (Sonia Manzano), whose site also has a song clip.

I wonder if Bob’s Christmas sing-along is a tribute to his days singing with the Mitch Miller singers. Remember Mitch? They did a few sing-along Christmas albums as well. I’m not sure if Mitch Miller ever went on tour, but Bob did! Bob performed some of his songs at a few Barnes & Noble bookstores in the last few weeks.


AND, OH YEAH, BY THE WAY. . . I would assume that all my web-savvy muppet friends have discovered the Beta version of the Sesame Street video site! I haven’t been having much luck with it so far, but that’s probably more due to my connection than anything else. I can’t wait to test-drive it on a fast modem. I shall report back when I have more luck. In the meantime, enjoy some superb classic Sesame St. clips from yesteryear on this site.

And hats off to Sesame Workshop. With the “Old School” releases plus this Web site, they demonstrate that they have a desire to share the classic material. They are definitely on the right track.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

In search of: Retired puppets

Somewhere in my parents’ attic, there’s a trunk with several of my old toys in it, including an old Winnie-the-Pooh. I’ve been fortunate enough to still have some of my old toys. (You can read about some of them for yourself by clicking on August 2006 in my archives section to the right). But have you ever wondered whatever happened to the REAL puppets or dolls that inspired some of our favorite toys? Where is the FIRST Winnie-the-Pooh, the one owned by Christopher Robin Milne?

The question was asked by Fozzie Bear (no, not Fozzie Bear from the muppets, that’s just his Internet name!) on the Muppet Central Forums. Here is his original post from October 2007: (follow his links to find out where Winnie the Pooh is today!):

I figured something like this would be interesting to discuss. We all know that the tales of Winnie the Pooh were based on actual dolls owned by the real-life Christopher Robin.

Now on permanent display at the New York Public Library

There is also an actual 100 Aker Wood:

One of the Howdy Doody puppets is on display at the Smithsonian.

But:Where are the puppets from the Neighborhood of Make Believe? Where is Kukkla Fran and Ollie (at least the puppets)? Beanie and Cecil (?) - Wasn't that a TV show? Where is the puppet? I'm 100% sure I'm forgetting missing puppets--who or what, and where? Obviously, this isn't discussion about Muppet Characters that have disappeared over the years, but the other puppets in the entertainment industry that have gone the way of mystery. If you know information or have links, please share. Any others missing from here, likewise: Post away!

Poster Winslow Leach added:

I got to see Howdy (and Kermit) at the Smithsonian.

As for Kukla, Fran and Ollie, Fran Allison died in 1989, and Burr Tillstrom, the only puppeteer on the show, passed away in 1985. In his will, Tillstrom prohibited anyone else from performing Kukla, Ollie and the other characters from the show. I assume the puppets still exist, as in the years since Tillstrom's death, people have expressed interest in reviving the characters. His estate must have them in storage...just a guess.

But Kukla and Ollie remained in the public eye long after their series ended in the 1950s. They appeared on numerous TV shows and specials throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Tillstrom even made live appearances with Kukla and Ollie, including a run on Broadway in Side by Side by Sondheim (1978). In 1979, Kukla and Ollie were panelists on Match Game.

It’s cool to know that puppets were on Broadway long before “Avenue Q” came along. It would have been great to see Kukla and Ollie live.

Fozzie's question inspired me so much that I decided to do a little Internet searching of my own. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

Let’s start with the muppets. The Jim Henson company is alive and well, and (I assume) the home for all the muppets. As mentioned earlier, The Jim Henson company is donating several puppets – along with sketches and artwork – to Atlanta's Center for Puppetry Arts. The exhibit will be housed in a wing of the museum that won't be ready until 2012, but when it is, it promises to be a Muppet fan's paradise, featuring puppet characters from several Henson productions. A definite thing to look forward to in 2012. Read about it here, along with some links:

According to the site below, many of the Mr. Rogers “Neighborhood of Make Believe” puppets are “on permanent loan” to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

However, when I visit the Web site for the museum, I’m unable to find specifically where the puppets are on display. I suppose it’s possible that they are currently in storage, as many museums keep some of their treasures under wraps for much of the time. Here’s the museum link, but note that “The chicken dance” music plays in the background. Try to remain seated.

Moving on to Kukla and Ollie, the site below says that Burr Tillstrom’s puppet collection was willed to the Chicago Historical Society.

But once again, I can’t find specifically where the puppets are on exhibit when I visit their Web page:

This Web page below is easily the best “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” fan page I’ve found so far:

No luck yet on finding Beany and Cecil, but you can see what the puppets looked like at the site below:

Remember Paul Winchell? I couldn’t find anything specifically on his puppets, but I did locate an interesting Web site about him and his career:

On the subject of famous teddy bears, you may recall that Elvis Presley’s teddy was destroyed by a distraught dog. I posted about that on my blog:

Even Mr. Potato head appeared in puppet form on a T.V. show. Couldn’t find anything on where the Mr. Potato Head puppet is, but here is a great site for Potato Head data that has a small picture:

For Eureka’s Castle, a search revealed that the topic has been covered before on a certain Web site:

On the Eureka’s Castle puppets, Buck-Beaver writes:

“The puppets were built by 3-Design Studio Inc, the same folks who created puppets for "Wimzie's House", "Groundling Marsh", "The Puzzle Place" and most of the non-Muppet shows coming out of NYC. I've been trying to dig up info on 3-Design for years with little success, but I think a lot of the builders come from the Muppets. They also design toys and do costumes I believe.”

I couldn’t find a specific site for 3-Design either, but I did locate a page with a photo of Jim Kroupa, one of the designers:

Remember Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop? Shari Lewis has passed away, but her daughter Mally Lewis is currently performing with Lamb Chop! You can read about it at her site:

But what happened to Shari’s lamb chop puppet? According to the site below, Shari’s grandson Jamie Hood . . . is sleeping with it. Cute.

So I would guess that all of Shari’s original puppets are still with the Lewis family. I’m not sure if anyone is sleeping with the other puppets, though.

So basically, it seems like many of the puppets are (I hope) in storage waiting to be displayed in a “special exhibit” someday. I guess I’m just glad that they still exist!


SPIDEY IN "STAR JAWS": It’s always fun when some of your favorite characters from one show/movie/book team up with characters from another show/movie/book. Here’s a fun example of Spider-Man teaming up with Sam the Robot from Sesame Street. And as if that weren’t enough, they’re doing a parody of “Star Wars!” Man, what’s not to like?

BTW, although Doctor Doom may look like a rip-off of Darth Vader, Dr. Doom actually came first. He first appeared in the Fantastic Four comic book in the 1960s. As a matter of fact, Sam the Robot actually came just a little bit before C-3PO and R2-D2. Hmm. I wonder who’s doing a parody of whom.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The War of the Worlds

Forget “Carrie.” Forget “The Exorcist.” Forget “Silence of the Lambs.” The scariest movie of all time is the 1953 version of “The War of the Worlds!” Well, at least that’s the case if you’re a little kid growing up in the 1970s. This film scared the you-know-what out of me as a child, and since Halloween is here again, I thought this would be a good time to revisit the Martian invasion. Again, I’ll try not to give away the complete story. I’ll just give you enough to get you interested and let you know why I love this film.

The movie begins menacingly, with a look at the other planets in our solar system (this was back in the days when Pluto was officially a planet and Uranus had the embarrassing pronunciation). The Martians determine that Earth would be the best world to colonize, and so begins their complicated invasion. You see, rather than just arrive and start shooting people immediately, their spaceships arrive disguised as meteors. Since everyone generally knows what a meteor is, nobody suspects anything too unusual. . .until the spaceships come creeping out of the meteors.

And when the machines creep out, they kind of look like a street light. . .they kind of look like the street lights next to my house! AAAAA!!! For a while, I was creeped out by those street lights, since they reminded me of the Martian spacecraft. All I had to do was look at them and imagine the hissing noise of the spaceships, and I was gone.

Anyway, the Martians come crawling out, and the first people to see them try to be friends with them. But it doesn’t quite work. The Martians blast them to dust with the now familiar sound of their ray. (Incidentally, the sound effects from this movie are ingrained into my memory forever!) Then they (somehow) cut off all electricity and communication lines as their spacecraft begin flying across the countryside destroying everything that might be a threat. More meteors land, and the true war begins. The special effects are still pretty special, even in this age of computer graphics.

But not everyone is quick to fight. Someone asks, “Shouldn’t you try to communicate with them first, then shoot later if you have to?” What sounds like a reasonable idea is swiftly ignored, and so this person has to take matters into his own hands - in one of the most dramatic and touching moments of the movie.

Conventional weapons seem to have no effect on the Martian spacecraft. Ah, but what about atomic weapons? Surely they will save us! Everybody knows that nothing can withstand atomic weapons! Right? Right? As we shall see, mankind doesn’t know everything. Incidentally, the footage that you see of the “Flying Wing” in this movie is some of the only footage of that particular aircraft that is known to exist. And that voice. . .yes, it’s Paul Frees! The vocal artist who helped make the Disneyland attractions so memorable has a brief role in the movie. (Frees narrated the original “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” and the “Adventure through Inner Space” rides. He also voiced a few pirates in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride).

As in the Star Wars films, the romance factor is actually an important part of the story. As they flee the Martians, Dr. Forrester and Sylvia fall in love. But they never kiss each other in the film. Their love is demonstrated in other ways through the plot. The scene where they meet up together near the end is very moving. It’s a great example of romance without being “mushy”. Although I like the Tom Cruise version as well, the romance factor is missing from that version. (In that version, a different kind of love is promoted - family love).

Anyway, Dr. Forrester and Sylvia hide in this abandoned house, see, and the aliens land right outside the house, and . . .AAAAA!!! Creepy, snake-like Martian machines come crawling in, followed by creepy Martians! It’s hard to convey just how scary this is to a little kid. But just imagine if you were in a house at night and you happened to peek out the window and see a Martian running across your lawn! And then, to feel a hand reach up and touch you on the shoulder. . . After this movie, nearly all of the evil things that go bump in the night that I could imagine looked something like the Martians.

Then the black car comes driving slowly down the street. “Everyone, please listen. The Martians are coming this way! Take food and water with you.” The evacuation of the cities adds to the feeling of helplessness. And the fear that it could actually happen.

Some have said that the movie’s (and book’s) ending is a “cop-out.” But it isn’t really. If you watch the movie carefully, you begin to see that one of the points of the film was to say that little things that seem unimportant and not powerful are actually very important and powerful. Trying to communicate before going to war. Picking up a ball that a little girl has dropped. A square dance. Fried eggs. Horses. Flocks of birds. All these little things appear briefly in the movie, and they’re all important in their own way. It may seem like prayer is a last resort for dealing with such a menacing foe. But it was the little things that destroyed the Martians.

The film is a rare and wonderful example of a scary film with a good message. The modern horror films don’t seem to have any point other than to scare and/or disgust. This movie has a point about hope. Corny as it sounds, it has a very real meaning for mankind. It conveys that we shall overcome, even if we don’t seem to be overcoming. It conveys that when our cause is just, we will succeed. Good message, moving story, great production. . .hey, this is a wonderful movie. Whether you get scared or not.

“War of the Worlds” is available on DVD and VHS. It also occasionally shows up on television. Please “watch the skies” and keep your eyes open for it. The Wikipedia article below contains some more information:


Now let’s talk about some REAL scary things, like the wildfires here in Southern California. I was delighted to hear from a few people asking if my family was okay during the recent wildfires. Thankfully, everything is OK in my world. Thanks to the special folk who took time to ask! I definitely appreciate you & I hope all of this comes to an end quickly.

While driving home with a friend one evening recently (we don’t often get to carpool, but hey, we do what we can), a person ran across the street right in front of us. It made me realize the “true horrors” of Halloween. Martians? No. A vampire? No. Stupid people crossing the street right in front of a moving car? Yep. Please be careful out there, folks. And not just on Halloween.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hey, let's rent out a theater!

A while back, Todd Franklin shared a blog posting and some pictures from a fun event. He was able to rent out a small theater and show “Star Wars” to his friends! You can read about it at the link below. (Yes, this is the same guy who found the original “Death Star” prop. Some guys have all the luck!)

Todd’s post reminded me of a time when another group rented out a theater for a “Muppet Movie” sing-along. Danny at Tough Pigs wrote about the experience, and his story is required reading for all Muppet Movie fans. You can read about it here:

All this got me to thinking. If I could rent out a theater for one night, and invite all my family & friends, which movie would I choose? I realized quickly that I probably wouldn’t choose a movie- I’d probably try to make one. Hey, what better time to take pictures of the people you care about? I’d definitely try to bring along a camera.

What else could we do? Maybe we could all play “Simon Says.” Or if I can find a big enough mat, perhaps we could play “Twister.”

Now here’s another fun thing to think about. If you were to give a speech to a theater full of your family and friends, what would you talk about? I’d certainly try to fit in there somewhere how thankful I am for all of them. And I’d probably do a few corny jokes and maybe share a few minutes from some of my cheesy home movies. If I’m feeling really brave, I might sing for them. (Not too much, though. I don’t want to overwhelm them with my vocal abilities.) Hmmm. . .Maybe I could finally play the Phantom! Now that would be a dream come true. . . Well, for me, anyway. :) I suppose I could pass out earplugs just in case.

It’s fun to imagine things like this - especially when you think about everybody in the audience. They’re the ones that help make the “show” worth watching.


THE (NEARLY) COMPLEAT FRED: If you’re a fan of comic books (particularly from the silver age to about the late 1980s or so), then you may know about Fred Hembeck. Fred was providing comic book commentary long before the Internet was invented (well, actually, it had been invented, but it just hadn’t been discovered by advertisers yet.) Fred’s comics are insightful and funny, and he’s shamelessly plugging a retrospective collection of his work due to come out next year. You can read all about it at the link (and be sure to visit Fred’s site to keep up to date on what’s going on in his world - it‘s in my links sections):


FACE ON THE COVER: Speaking of Fred, on a recent post to his blog, he casually mentioned the grand comic book database. This web site offers something that the great Overstreet comic book price guide doesn’t - cover images of over 300,000 comic books. This is significant for those collectors who have been saying for years, “Gee, I wish I could get a copy of that issue of ‘Wonder Woman,’ but all I can remember about it is what the cover looked like. . .”

Okay, so maybe there aren’t many people out there like that. But hey, if you happen to be one of them - or if you just enjoy classic comic book cover art, then this is the site for you. Check it out.


THEY’RE HERE AGAIN: The series “Happy Days” is airing again on station WGN. Why should you care? Well, now’s your chance to enjoy the series with the original music still in there! The recent DVD sets have changed many of the music tracks due to copyright issues. You can read about that problem in the post below:

Happy Days airs VERY early in the mornings on WGN. You’ll probably have to record them so you can watch them later. But aaaaay, I mean, hey, it’s worth it. It’s a fun show.


OLD SCHOOL SESAME VOLUME TWO: Ah yes, it’s on the horizon, and it looks like it may include the first early “test” episode that I mentioned in an earlier post. You’ll get to see the prototype Ernie and the “Man from Alphabet” in all his glory. Most important, you’ll get about five classic episodes that no 1970’s Sesame Street fan should be without, and it sounds like a lot of great extra clips. Oh, yeah! The DVD set is scheduled for release later this year. Read all about it below:

Since we’re talking about Sesame Street clips, I thought it might be cute to list some of my favorite “lost” Sesame Street clips that I’d like to see again. Some of you may have read this list of mine before, but here it is again. I’m thankful to say that this list is getting shorter all the time. So many classic clips have been brought back (by collectors, mostly) in the last several years that it’s much easier to find that rare clip you recall from way back. Just take a look at YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. But here are a few classic clips that haven’t been seen in years that we need to bring back:

1. Bert and Maria flying the imaginary helicopter. Bert is sitting outside the playground area of Sesame Street. He is wearing goggles. Maria sits next to him and asks what he’s doing. Bert says he’s pretending to be a helicopter pilot. Together, Bert and Maria imagine that they’re flying a helicopter. As they do, the background changes from the street to a grassy field, where the helicopter takes off from. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy flight, with Bert narrowly missing several trees and getting lost in a cloud among other things. When they finally “land,” Maria says, “Next time, I’ll fly the helicopter!”

2. The Fonz and Richie count to ten. Henry Winkler and Ron Howard made some cameos on Sesame Street in the late 1970s and early 1980s as the Fonz and Richie Cunningham from “Happy Days.” If you love Happy Days, you’ll love those clips, and this clip is probably the funniest. It features the Fonz teaching Richie the “cool” way to count. Watching these two work together gives you a great idea of their talent and chemistry together.

3. Krazy Kat “love” cartoon. The characters from the classic comic strip made an appearance in a Sesame Street cartoon. Since learning more about comic strips, I’ve come to appreciate the artistry of “Krazy Kat” and this cartoon captured much of that. I’d "love" to see it again.

4. Grover sings “Still we like each other.” This song appears on the Sesame Street “Concert-on stage live!” album. But this is not that version. This version features Grover singing to a girl anything muppet in a park setting. It is slow and beautiful. A very nice clip.

Like the Energizer Bunny, we could keep going and going, with clips of Grover flying in his airplane, of Ernie and Bert imagining what life would be like without each other, and with great music clips from Judy Collins, Paul Simon, Jose Feliciano, etc. Let’s hope a few of these classic moments make it to the new DVD set. And as usual, if anyone HAS any of these clips, please let me know!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Yogi Berra quote collection

One of the mentors in my career was a gentleman by the name of Tim A. Tim was often stern, but never without a sense of humor. He made a very challenging job a lot of fun. Although my friend & co-worker Eric and I were (relatively) much younger than he, he seemed just as much a member of the gang as anyone. He was definitely a great help to me.

Tim's favorite ball team was the New York Yankees. I know because he would sometimes harass other co-workers by wearing Yankee jerseys to work.

I was saddened to learn a few years after I left that position that Tim had passed away from cancer. It was both sad and surprising. He was a very strong man. I miss him quite a bit.

Next to my desk at work, I have the following list of quotes from one of Tim's Yankees - the great Yogi Berra. These quotes are legendary, as is Yogi. What's amazing about all these quotes is the fact that we can all understand them, even though they make no sense at all. So in honor of two legends - Tim and Yogi - here are some of Yogi's most memorable quotes - so far.

"A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore."

"Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical."

"He hits from both sides of the plate. He's amphibious."

"I always thought that record would stand until it was broken."

"I'm not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did."

"I never said most of the things I said."

"It gets late early out there."

"I think Little League is wonderful. It keeps the kids out of the house."

"It's like deja vu all over again."

"Nobody goes there anymore because it's too crowded."

"So I'm ugly. I never saw anyone hit with his face."

"Take it with a grin of salt."

"The game isn't over until it's over."

"The towels were so thick there, I could hardly close my suitcase."

"You can observe a lot just by watching."

"You should always go to other people's funerals, otherwise, they won't come to yours."

"You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there."

"We made too many wrong mistakes."

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

My relatives recently moved up from a dial-up Internet connection to a high-speed connection. I got to test drive it myself a few days ago. The YouTube videos that used to take hours to upload now upload within minutes and play almost immediately. NIIIIICE! I mention this because this morning, as I tried to hook up with my dial-up connection, I kept getting the error message that my username & password were invalid. It’s not just the speed issue that makes high-speed Internet so inviting. It’s the (relatively) hassle-free sign on. No more password blues.

ON YOUTUBE: PETER PIPER “P” PRODUCTS. The fast-talking guy from old commercials made a few memorable appearances on “Sesame Street,” and this is one of the best. Also a great example of the writers doing everything they can to get a “P” word in the script! It’s in my favorites folder on my YouTube page. You can get there by clicking on the link in my “links” section at the right.

Monday, August 27, 2007

25 years of CDs

A somewhat significant anniversary took place on August 17, 2007. It was the 25th anniversary of the compact disk. Those little plastic circles that changed the way we buy music have reached the quarter-century mark. Not a bad record! (Just FYI, according to my local paper, the first mass-produced CD featured Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony).

For me, the CD craze actually began circa 1989. Prior to that, everything my family had was on vinyl or on cassette tape (or on reel-to-reel, but that's another long story!). Why didn't we jump on the CD bandwagon right away? Yep -how'd you guess?- it was money. But it was also the fact that most of the music we bought came from thrift stores, not “real” music stores. I, like so many teens before me, had to beg my folks for my music. Maybe “beg” is too strong a word, but when you don't have a job, you really aren't in a position to demand everything you want.

So it began with my parents' old collection. I listened to what they listened to, and I liked it. And not because I had to! It was good music. John Denver, the Seekers, Peter, Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, etc. And of course, there were those Sesame Street albums. And the Bill Cosby comedy LPs. Ah yes, a golden age. I had a beautiful blue Lionel record player. That's right, the same folks who made toy trains made some record players as well. And they could do things that record players of today can't do – such as play records at 16 rpm!

My teen music years began with buying hit singles. “Business as Usual” by Men At Work is regarded as the first “teen rock album” I managed to talk my parents into buying. After that came such classics as “Toto IV,” “Sgt. Pepper,” “Rio”, etc. The first CD I managed to obtain? Probably “Bridge over troubled water” by Simon & Garfunkel. I think when Peter, Paul & Mary's “10 Years together” album debuted, that was when I realized that I needed to take this CD stuff seriously. Prior to that, most of the albums that I wanted to get on CD were just not available. There was no “Best of Seekers” CD. No “Best of Ed Ames.” Without the artists that I wanted to hear, there seemed little reason to delve into this new technology. But as time went on, favorite artists/albums began to “convert” to CD, and I (and everyone else) decided to start collecting them all over again. And so began the golden age of the CD.

There's a chance that that golden age is behind us. With the advent of iPods and the demise of Tower Records, much of the music-minded masses today get their music from online downloads and not from CDs. CDs are certainly still popular, though, and their demise – if it is coming – is probably still several years away. In the meantime, I relish in the fact that I can now pick up a CD at Goodwill for $2.00. That's almost the price of an LP there. How times have changed.
For more about the fall Tower Records (and why it fell), read this post:


As noted by Nantoreturns, Helen Reddy's “Wonder Child” - a song she performed on Sesame Street (and originally available on the “Stars come out on Sesame Street” LP) - is finally available on compact disc. It's on a 2006 collection titled “The Rest of Helen Reddy.”
Why is this important? It is a rare example of an artist's track from “Sesame Street” appearing on the artist's official album. It's a good sign – if this keeps up, we may get to hear more rare tracks from Sesame, including songs by Paul Simon, Judy Collins, Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, Jose Feliciano, etc. that haven't been released commercially. Let's hope! In the meantime, you can watch Helen sing “Wonder Child” on the clip in the favorites folder of my YouTube page.


THE BUZZ FROM TODD: You can blog about anything. And I do mean anything. The slightest, tiniest little bit of news can become a blog posting. You want a perfect example? Fly on over to “Neato Coolville” by clicking on the link below and see what I mean. But bring along a can of Raid. Maybe this blogging stuff is easier than I thought.


DOUBLE YOUR. . .PLEASURE? Have you ever walked down the street and run into somebody who looked exactly like yourself? It happened to Fred Hembeck. He writes about it on his blog – scroll down to August 21, 2007 to read all about it:


MISTER, WE SHRUNK OUR MOM. The problem with having an overactive imagination is that sometimes it makes you see things that don't exist. . .Or do they? For example, I came upon this description in the newsgroup of a video that someone is looking for:

I was writing this in the hopes that someone could help me find a video I have been wanting to find for a long time. The video was called "Mister, We Shrunk Our Mom," and it was a promotional video distributed for Kirby Brand Vacuume (sic) Cleaners in the early 90's. The Kirby Company has since stopped distributing the video, and I have been unable to locate it. If anybody out there has this video or knows where I can find it, I would GREATLY appreciate it if they would please give me a reply.

Now I have never seen this video. But given only this tiny bit of information, I think I can describe pretty much exactly what this video is like!

A vacuum cleaner salesman walks up to a house & knocks on the door. Two kids answer the door.

SALESMAN: Hi there, kids! Is your mother home?

KIDS: (In unison) Mister, we shrunk our Mom!


KIDS: We shrunk her so small that we can't find her!

SALESMAN: Well, that's no problem, kids! I just happen to have the new Kirby Brand Vacuume cleaner with me! This handy, economical machine will find your mom with no trouble at all!

KIDS: You mean we have to do our homework after all? That sucks!

SALESMAN: Exactly! Just look at how well this Kirby Brand Vacuume cleaner sucks up all the grungy, grimy things within your carpet! Including your mom!

KIDS: Be careful!

SALESMAN: Don't worry, kids. The Kirby Brand Vacuume cleaner won't harm your carpet or your hard-floor surfaces.

KIDS: We're talking about our Mom, you dufus!

Cut to a scene of the Mom standing next to a strand of carpet that is twice her size.

MOM: Gee, it's a good thing my clothing shrunk with me. . .Wait, what's that?




KIDS: Gee, did it work, mister?

SALESMAN: We'll find out soon, kids. But first, let's talk about payment options. . .

If anyone really does have this video, which sounds like a future cult classic for MST3K, please let me know. And let me know how accurate I was! (Just contact "sesameguy" at the Muppet Central forums.)


Friday, August 10, 2007

YouTube: Is change good?

MORE MARION. A production photo from the next “Indiana Jones” movie shows the cast standing next to director Steven Spielberg. Among the cast are (of course) Harrison Ford and – a drumroll please - Karen Allen! Marion will return! YAY! For Marion fans like me, this is great news. I suggest the film be titled, “Indiana Jones and the cute girl.” I realize that “cute girl” doesn't have the same feel as “temple of doom”, but girls can get Indy in trouble too, can't they?

Check out the pictures on the official site.


NEW HOME FOR MUPPETS. Those of us waiting impatiently for the coming Jim Henson exhibit to arrive at a nearby museum soon will have another option. The Jim Henson company is donating several puppets – along with sketches and artwork – to Atlanta's Center for Puppetry Arts. The exhibit will be housed in a wing of the museum that won't be ready until 2012, but when it is, it promises to be a Muppet fan's paradise, featuring puppet characters from several Henson productions. This is great – a wonderful way to allow fans the chance to see the classic puppets up close. A definite thing to look forward to in 2012. Read about it here, along with some links:


BART AND ART: I do not regularly visit the Christianity Today web page, but a recent web search led me there, and I couldn't help but see that they had a link to a review of the new “Simpsons” movie. “Oh great,” I thought. “They're probably going to have a cow.” Knowing the humor of the Simpsons, I felt that a Christian organization would probably not shower the movie with praise. But I was wrong! The movie actually got a pretty good review. I guess it's because they realize that it's all in fun. That's the kind of attitude that is necessary to enjoy a lot of things. You need to be willing to accept that it is “ridiculous” in order to relax and enjoy it. Homer Simpson, for example, is so absurd as a character that he couldn't exist in the real world. His character is just that - a caricature. You laugh at him because you know that no normal human being would do what he does. The antics of the Simpsons mock just about everybody, and if you're ready to accept that, you'll probably survive the movie.

Blogging pal Fred Hembeck enjoyed the Simpsons movie, but he seems a lot more excited about what he saw in the previews. Bean! Read about it on his “Fred Sez” blog site. You can get there from the “Fred Hembeck's page” link in my links section.


YOULOSE? For the five of you who visit my YouTube page - (sorry, I couldn't resist)- you may have noticed that some of the favorite videos are missing. Many YouTube users are switching their videos to “private” in an effort to avoid what may be the demise of “copyrighted” material on the site. One user has actually moved some videos onto a different video site. The loss of such videos may mean big changes for YouTube – changes which I'm afraid may not help the site's popularity.

A few weeks ago, I found a rare clip of Ed Ames (who I will have to do a blog about someday!) on YouTube that I considered putting in my favorites folder. The video was originally posted on a Sunday, and by Wednesday YouTube had removed it. That's not too bad a turnaround when you consider the hundreds (thousands?) of videos uploaded to YouTube every day. They're cracking down, folks, and unfortunately, it may mean the end of the site as we know it. I have to admit that what first drew me to YouTube was the chance to see material from broadcast TV or film that wasn't available anywhere else. I really didn't come there to watch home movies, or parodies. But that's what YouTube will have to become if they eliminate all copyrighted material.

Is there a silver lining? Well, you can still upload your (G-rated) home movies to YouTube, which could double as a place to store your valuable memories. Perhaps this is the chance for us home-movie makers to really shine and present material that can compete with some of the best cartoons/short films out there. YouTube's crackdown may force more innovative videos, but only from those of us who are blessed with the time and desire to do it. That's not too many people. It's just easier to put on an “Electric Company” clip than it is to think of something that's just as good, and then beg your friends to help you film it. If YouTube succeeds in keeping copyrighted stuff out, it will only be a boon to those who are patient enough to create good home movies – and those who are patient enough to watch them.

The other big winners are “web bloggers” and musicians who are able to produce a lot of material that can be uploaded quickly. If the “big names” of music don't want to be on YouTube, it means the little guys may rise to the occasion. It's like what happened at the “Old Fashioned Christian Radio” site. The “big guys” go away, but the small guys take their place. It may become easier for independent artists to make a name for themselves online. It may also create more of a challenge to TV & other media to compete for our attention.

Just this morning, I was going to look at some clips of classic TV material, only to find that those clips (and the poster) were gone from YouTube. If this keeps up, I'm not going to want to visit the site anymore. Why should I when there's nothing there I want to see?


This blog is quickly turning into the “Mister Rogers story,” but I can't resist letting you folks know about a new production in the works. A fellow named Benjamin Wagner was lucky enough to visit with Fred Rogers at his summer home on Nantucket Island. Their friendship – and a certain conversation in particular - has inspired a documentary that is scheduled for next year titled “Mr. Rogers and me.” (Apparently no relation to “Roger and me.”) Judging from the preview, this film should be something very enjoyable and a fine tribute to Fred. You can learn about the show at the site below, which has a link to a blog about the making of the production.

Friday, July 27, 2007

You've got to do it

There are many complaints about children’s television. Some of these complaints are valid, and others are ridiculous. We’re going to look at a recent ridiculous claim made about “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

It seems that a professor was trying to figure out why so many students were coming to him begging to get an “A” when they were only getting Cs. What could be causing this phenomena? Why, Mister Rogers, of course! These guys are saying that Mister Rogers is not doing our kids any favors by telling them that they are special.

The argument goes like this: Mister Rogers has spent so many years telling kids that they’re special that most kids feel like they deserve special treatment and are unwilling to “try harder” and work for the things they want and need. Well, that’s wrong, and that’s not at all what Fred Rogers meant. “You are special” does not mean “the world owes you a living!” If the fools who made this study had watched Mister Rogers a little bit longer, they would have heard Fred sing this song:

You can make-believe it happens, or pretend that something’s true;
You can wish or hope or contemplate a thing you’d like to do;
But until you start to DO IT, you will never see it through.
‘Cause the make-believe pretending just won’t do it for you.

Every little bit- you’ve got to do it, do it, do it, do it!
And when you’re through, you can know who did it,
For you did it, you did it, you did it.

If you want to ride a bicycle, and ride it straight and tall,
You can’t simply sit and look at it, ‘cause it won’t move at all.
But it’s you who have to try it, and it’s you who have to fall (sometimes)
If you want to ride a bicycle, and ride it straight and tall.

Every little bit- you’ve got to do it, do it, do it, do it!
And when you’re through, you can know who did it,
For you did it, you did it, you did it.

It’s not easy to keep trying, but it’s one good way to grow
It’s not easy to keep learning, but I know that this is so-
When you’ve tried and learned, you’re bigger than you were a day ago.
It’s not easy to keep trying, but it’s one way to grow.

Every little bit- you’ve got to do it, do it, do it, do it!
And when you’re through, you can know who did it,
For you did it, you did it, you did it!

Okay folks. Does that sound like Mister Rogers is telling our kids that they don’t have to try? That they should just sit on their butts feeling special and watch his show? HELL, NO! Just watch his show. Almost every episode shows people working in some way! Fred knew the value of hard work. (Think of all the years he spent behind the scenes in TV before the “neighborhood” came along)

You see, being “special” has nothing to do with what the “world” says. We’re talking about who you are personally. If someone rejects me, it doesn’t mean I’m not special. By the same token, if I reject someone else, or if I refuse to live up to their standards somehow, it doesn’t mean that they’re not special in their own way.

Let’s suppose you work hard to get into a job. And every day, you work hard at your job. Then, one day, the company goes bankrupt. Are you no longer a hard worker? Of course not! You’re still the hard worker you always were. Now, you just have to work hard for someone else. The stuff that makes you “special” is not dependant on the world. That means that if you want to be treated “special”, you’d better not expect it to come to you on a silver platter. Because my uniqueness is my own. It doesn’t belong to you. Some people will see and appreciate that uniqueness, but many won’t. And that’s life.

Hey, this is what we’ve been talking about all year, isn’t it? In March, we talked about the fact that you’re special whether you have a family or not. Later, we talked about the fact that Underdog is special, even though he’s only an “Underdog.” Later, we drove the point home even more by pointing out that you don’t need a damsel in distress to be a true hero. The stuff that makes you “special” is not something physical. Remember what Yoda said? “Luminous beings are we!”

The idiots behind this idea seem to forget many things. Mister Rogers has been on the air for almost 40 years. Why “just now” are people beginning to believe that he was damaging our kids? If he were really damaging our kids, wouldn’t we have figured it out by now? And why is it that the folks who didn’t watch Mister Rogers sometimes think the world owes them a living? Hmm? Could it be that this is a human problem, not just a Mister Rogers problem? Selfishness and greed were around long before Fred Rogers.

Don’t blame Mister Rogers for the selfish kid who thinks he deserves an “A” no matter what he does. Blame that on simple stupidity. Blame that on a different kind of selfishness. A selfishness that does not understand that the school is special, too.


Read what Family Communications has to say about all this:

The Fred Rogers/ Courteney Cox connection. Bet you never thought those two would have anything in common, did you? But they do. Read about it here:

And catch a clip from a very, very early episode of Mister Rogers in the favorites folder of my YouTube page. (It's in the links section. It’s in black and white! Fred’s hair isn’t gray yet!)


Recently the creator of the “Old fashioned Christian Radio” web page came up with an interesting idea to solve the possible crisis over paying music royalty fees. Just don’t play the music anymore!

No, he didn’t quit the Web site. He’s just not playing the artists that are represented by the “big wigs” in the music royalty world. This is possible since many of the Christian artists he plays are not signed to big recording companies. Anyone who collects Christian music knows that some artists are quite literally “Mom and Pop” operations! The garage (or the church basement) doubles as a recording studio. When these artists tour (if they tour at all), it’s not a huge move, or a huge production. Think “The Partridge Family” and you begin to get the idea.

That doesn’t mean the recording quality of religious albums is poor. It’s usually quite good. But because there is no huge marketing plan going on, and because (in most cases) the songs aren’t being played on the radio, and because these albums can be incredibly difficult to find, these artists remain relative unknowns. And that’s just fine. Really! The point of any Christian artist should not be to become rich and famous. If it happens, fine, but that’s not the goal. The goal should be to glorify Jesus. You can’t measure that kind of glory by album sales. In a sense, these Christian artists are closer to true artists than anyone who is in it just to make a living. For they are probably in it for the love.

Having said that, here’s the comment Michael posted on his site:

In light of the recent Copyright Royalty issues...
As of June 1, 2007, Old Christian Radio (OCR) has LIMITED its airplay ONLY to artists, musicians, labels who have granted airplay permission to OCR to play their music. Doing this is the only way around this mess.

I don't see the sense in paying those wicked heathens at Sound Exchange (another extension of RIAA or "big record") a pile to money for the right to broadcast "major label" music which makes up only 10% of OCR's play schedule anyway. [Major Label as in: 16 Singing Men, Don Marsh, Melody Four, Hale and Wilder, Tom Fettke, London Philharmonic Choir And Orchestra, Brentwood Music, and etc.]

It was a lot better for me to quit "air playing" the 10%, cancel my Sound Exchange License, and license directly with the "small guys" who are doing (it) for the Lord instead of the money.

OCR's music store will continue to sell the aforementioned items in its online music store, even though they will NOT be played on the air anymore.

However, Old Christian Radio will continue to pay the "songwriter fees" that are owed to BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC through Live365.

Mr. Michael M McFadden

While I certainly admire Michael for making the best of a bad situation, I'm not sure about calling the Sound Exchange folks “wicked heathens.” Isn’t it theoretically possible that they’re only wicked? :) I’m all for supporting the “small” Christian artists, but I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that all the “big” ones work for wicked heathens.

Enjoy the beautiful music at Old Fashioned Christian Radio. It’s in the links section to the right.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Comic Con and other neato things

CON GAME: I’ve been lucky enough to attend the San Diego Comic Con three times. But my first visit was certainly memorable. It was 1985. The Comic Con has obviously always been “commercial”, but back in those days, it was not nearly as huge a “media event” as it is today. It focused on - believe it or not - comic books! The only celebrity that I met that day was Robert Shayne, who played Inspector Henderson on the “Adventures of Superman” show. "Can I give you some fatherly advice, young man?" he asked. "Stay away from drugs." My father, standing nearby, agreed. And I do too - that was very good advice.

Comic Con is coming back this month, and the list of special events is impressive. Read all about it here:


FRIEND OR FOE? His name is Alan. He's the guy who runs Hooper's Store on “Sesame Street.” He seems like a nice guy. Yet his coming on the show signifies the “point of no return” for me. Alan first appeared on the first episode to feature “Elmo's World.” After Elmo's World, I couldn't help the show anymore. It had gone to the dark side completely. It's like the moment when Anakin became Vader. My Sesame watching had already been dying for years, but Elmo's World was like the final nail in the coffin. Sesame Street turned into the same kind of corny kids' show that it had once tried to rise above. Could it be more than a mere coincidence that Alan first appeared on that very same show?

Can we truly blame Alan? He simply wanted to work on Sesame Street. Yet his coming brought about the end of the world (well, for classic Sesame fans, anyway.) Forget Barney or Elmo - Is Alan a sign of the apocalypse?

Seriously, Alan is played by actor Alan Muraoka, and there's an interesting interview with him on the “Muppet Newsflash” web page. Enjoy it below:


THE WAY IT WAS: Todd does it again! If you remember the way Disneyland looked in the 1960s, and wish you could see it that way again, take a look at his collection of Disneyland images from that era. He found them in a collection of slides. The moral of the story: If you ever give away your slides, don’t give away anything too embarrassing! But there’s nothing embarrassing about these classic images (with the possible exception of the tour guide‘s uniform, but she couldn’t help that!). Enjoy the images in these three blog postings from Neato Coolville:


DREAMGIRLS: Gina, Maria and Gabby to parody the Supremes. True “dreamgirls” unite to sing. Wearing opera gloves & everything... oh yeah... I can't wait to see that. . . It's coming (supposedly) later this year in Sesame Street's new season. It's also a throwback to the days when Sesame cast members would perform as “music groups” on the show. You can watch one of these classic moments in my favorites folder on my YouTube web page. Just click on “Gimmie Five” and enjoy a very cool blast from the 1970s past. The first link will take you to the press release about the next Sesame Street season. The link on the bottom will take you to my YouTube page:

ON YOUTUBE: CLIPS FROM SESAME STREET TEST SHOW: Before the first episode, there was the “bomb.” The bomb that almost destroyed Sesame Street! There was a preview episode of Sesame Street that was presented to selected families before the show officially went on the air. The preview show didn’t do very well! One of the reasons, according to Joan Ganz Cooney, was the separation of the “muppet world” from the “real world” on the street. This separation was eliminated, and the show we all know and love began in earnest. Hey, speaking of “Ernest,” check out the “D” film clip. It includes the “prototype” Ernie and his “prototype” voice! This guy reminds me of the Orange Oscar and the Green Grover! Plus, you’ve got to love the classic Sesame dialogue. “Do we have any choice?” “No.” And on the other clip, enjoy Bob McGrath singing the complete theme to the show with some slightly different lyrics (“every door is open wide.”) Also, note one of the kids walking past in the first shot on “Sesame Street” at the end of the clip. What is that he’s carrying? A fishing pole? A makeshift baseball bat? Hmmmm.
Enjoy both of these clips in my favorites folder on our YouTube page:

These clips come courtesy Boobergorg and ISNorden. You can enjoy more classic Sesame Street clips at ISNorden’s blog site:

You can read a detailed description of the test show at the site below. It features scenes from the ultra-rare “Man from Alphabet” skit.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Indy and me

If you live in New Haven, Connecticut, then you might have seen this guy hanging around some of the restaurants at lunchtime. After several years of waiting, the “stars” are in alignment: Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are filming the next Indiana Jones movie, set for release next year. There’s not a whole lot of information available yet, but the best place for data comes from the official site, which is also where this photo (taken by Steven Spielberg) comes from:

Even though we have almost a year to go before the movie comes out, this might be a good time to look back on Indiana Jones and the highlights (and lowlights) of his adventures - from the point of view of a fan who lived through the first Indy trilogy.

EVER GO TO SUNDAY SCHOOL? When I first heard of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, I thought they were talking about Noah’s ark. That’s the only “lost ark” I knew of at the time. It’s kind of sad that I first began to really learn about the ark of the covenant from a movie instead of from church. (The ark is briefly mentioned in “The Ten Commandments” as well, and makes a “cameo” as a cave painting in “Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade.” )

TOO SCARY, PART ONE: Like “Star Wars” before it, “Raiders” was deemed too scary for kids by many of the grown-ups I knew. Indeed, it did look frightening from the images in the Marvel comic book of the story. As my family watched the movie, my Dad told us that whenever he would watch a scary movie as a boy, he used to duck his head behind the two seats in front of him to “peek” at whatever was on the screen. We followed suit when we watched “Raiders.” Admittedly, the film is very scary for very young kids, and for anybody who doesn‘t like snakes.

GOSH, SHE’S CUTE: Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen. Sigh! One of the many brief crushes from my youth who still can set my heart aflutter. I sometimes still like to imagine myself rushing into the tent and finding Marion tied up. . .maybe I’d better stop right here. I like all the Indy girls, but Marion is my favorite. She’s rumored to be in the next film. I hope so!

MISSING SCENES, PART ONE: Speaking of Marion tied up, there was apparently a brief extra scene planned with Marion tied just before she was thrown into the Well of Souls. The scene appears in the Marvel comics version, but it’s not in the movie & I’ve never seen it in any “bonus clips” from Raiders. Anybody know anything else about this missing scene?

REALLY BRIEF REVIEW: RAIDERS: The first Indiana Jones movie is still the best. It’s incredibly entertaining and quite memorable. See “Raiders,” if nothing else.

THE POSTER: Somehow, my brother was able to get an “Indiana Jones” poster from a school book fair. The poster hung in our room for quite a while (nope, don’t have it anymore, sorry!) What makes this interesting is that this was before “Temple of Doom,” so the name of “Indiana Jones” was beginning to be presented on its own, separate from “Raiders.”

THE OSCARS: Raiders won several Oscars, but not Best Picture. That one went to “Chariots of Fire.” When it won, my Dad and brother said in unison, “Chariots of Fire?!”

MY HIGH SCHOOL FRIEND: A friend in High School once casually said to me something like “Raiders of the Lost Ark is the best movie ever made.” This was in 1984, and it is a testament to how much this movie effected the youth of that time. I’m not sure if my friend still feels this way, but the quote is something I will remember.

MOVIE OF THE YEAR: “Temple of Doom” came out in 1984. As far as my family’s movie going habits were concerned, it was meant to carry on a tradition that started with “Empire Strikes Back.” We were not a family that went to the movies very often. We usually would only go once or twice a year, and so each year we would plan to see the “one” big movie of that year. In 1980, it was “Empire,” “Raiders” and “Superman II” in 81, “E.T.” in 82, “Jedi” in 83. “Temple of Doom” was the obvious choice for the 84 movie.

LOUDER, PLEASE: My family first saw “Temple of Doom” in a drive-in theater! It was fun, but at the beginning of the movie, the sound wasn’t playing on the speakers. Car horns began to honk all over the place for the first few minutes of the film! We missed most of “Anything goes.”

TOO SCARY, PART TWO: This film was so scary that they created a new rating for it. The PG-13 rating came to light due in part to this movie (and “Gremlins”, which came out a bit later). Just as “Empire” had a darker tone than the original “Star Wars,” “Temple of Doom” was darker in tone than “Raiders.” And that is its flaw. Although there are certainly light-hearted moments in the film, they are too little, too late. It’s hard to chuckle at cute jokes after you’ve seen graphic scenes of torture and sacrifice. It’s hard to watch “Temple of Doom” and feel good afterward. So Temple of Doom was, I’m sorry to say, a bit of a disappointment for me. Thankfully, another film came out that year that also satisfied the fantasy-lovers for a time: “Ghostbusters.”

MISSING SCENES, PART TWO: A scene was planned with Kate Capshaw and a very large snake. According to the Marvel Comics version, the large snake was to attack Kate as she was bathing in the river, and wrap around her - gasp - nude body. Indy, notoriously afraid of snakes, finds himself unable to rescue her. The snake apparently decides it would rather go to sleep, and falls off of Kate. Nothing nasty is shown. At least, I THINK nothing nasty was meant to be shown. The scene was never filmed - Kate was very frightened by the snake (no computer effects yet, they were going to use a real one!) and Spielberg decided not to torture her, and the scene was cut. (Hey, they got married, too!) But I’m curious - does anybody have a draft of the script for this missing scene? Did it go exactly as presented in the comics version, or was it totally different?

THE HAT: Yep. I had an Indy hat. I had the jacket, too. (No whip. That came later.)

So let’s see, the films for 1984 would be “Temple of Doom” and “Ghostbusters.” Then Back to the Future” and “Return to Oz” in 1985, “Top Gun” in 1986, and then my memory fails me. I do remember seeing “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (re-release) in late 1987. Obviously, things had changed by this time. Home video recording & watching movies at home had become a way of life for us. But I DO know what we wanted to see in 1989!

LAST CRUSADE: “Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade” made up for any mistakes made in “Temple of Doom.” The movie is not perfect, but it is Indiana Jones the way we like to see him. He’s fighting the bad guys without turning into one. The movie is humorous - some might even say corny in parts. But it’s certainly no more corny than any of the other unbelievable adventures Indy has had. It’s a movie with a message. Both Indy and his father begin to realize that there’s more to life than hunting for buried treasure. A worthy conclusion to the series. . .for now! (Other family favorites for 89 included “Field of Dreams” and “Dead Poets Society.” 1990 had the re-release of "Fantasia")

TOO SCARY, PART THREE? For all the complaints about scariness from the first two movies, we heard really nothing like that for “Last Crusade.” That’s kind of surprising, since the movie obviously has a few scary scenes in it. But obviously things had changed since 1981. We were growing up, and such scary scenes were not nearly as “scary” as they would be for younger kids. We didn’t peek behind the seats to watch this movie. It was actually much more fun that frightening for us. It was great to see actors from the original “Raiders.”

THE FAN FILM: I love this story. A young fan of the original “Raiders” movie got his friends together and made a scene-by-scene remake of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The movie was so well-received that it got its own theatrical showing in the fan’s hometown, and Steven Spielberg wrote a letter to the fan sharing his admiration of the movie! During a TV interview, the fan showed clips from his film. When it came to the scene where Indy and Marion kiss, the fan turned around and said something like. “That’s my first kiss. I have my first kiss on videotape.” I would love to actually see this whole movie. Does anybody have a copy? I will trade for it!

THE TV SERIES: Hey, did you know that Indiana Jones had a TV series? And it was actually a pretty good show. But it wasn’t like the movies, and that created kind of an issue. The fans who enjoyed the fast pace of the movies may have been disappointed at the (often) more thoughtful pace of “Young Indiana Jones.” Like many shows, it was very well done, but kind of under-appreciated.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: It’s too early to pass judgment on a film that hasn’t been made yet! But if they can keep it fun, it should be worth the wait. I’m guessing that we’ll get to see Indy and his son going through some of the same trials that Indy went through with his dad. I plan to be in line in 08 waiting for this movie. Until then, I share the mantra, “please bring Marion back, please bring Marion back. . .”

EPILOGUE: BELT FACTORY INCIDENT: One evening, a friend and I were making fun of the “Oscar Mayer” theme song by making up new words to the lyrics. We were quite young at the time, so there was nothing nasty. It was just good corny kid fun. I only remember one of the songs that I made up. It goes (sort of) to the tune of “My bologna has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R,” etc. It made my friend laugh, so I made note of it, and I still enjoy this little ditty to this day. Here it goes:

Once I went to the belt factory
To look at all the belts
And then somebody came along
And hit me with one of the belts!

Well it really hurt, hurt down to my toes,
It really hurt, it went up my nose.
I said, “Who’s the man who broke my bones?”
And it was Indiana Jones!

Well, you kind of had to be there, I guess. . .

Friday, June 29, 2007

You can't go home again

PICTURE THIS: You’re casually reading the newspaper, when you suddenly see an advertisement with the name of a favorite music group in it. (For the sake of this example, let’s say it’s the Carpenters.) The ad reads something like this:

GARAGE SALE: The house that used to belong to the Carpenters is having a garage sale. We will be selling items that used to belong to the Carpenters. Come one, come all.

Wow! What an opportunity! Would you try to be there? Well, guess what. It really happened. Carpenter fan Rod Reynolds actually went to such an estate sale recently. His post was republished on the A&M Records forum, and it demonstrates how important it is to not get too sentimental sometimes. Here are some excerpts from a very well-documented estate sale experience:

A few days ago, we got notice that the owners of the home that Karen and Richard Carpenter lived in in Downey were having a yard sale, advertising several Carpenters items. I picked Jeff up in Long Beach early this morning, and having no idea what to expect, we arrived at 9828 Newville Ave at around 9am. There were seven people there. As I said, having no idea what to expect, we were still shocked that there were only seven people there. We quickly sorted them into Carpenters fans (three) and yard sale people (four). One of the Carpenters fans was Joe from San Diego, who I have "known" for many years online in various Carpenters fan forums, but never met.

Since we were there so early, and there basically was no line up, we wandered into the back yard, which was gated but unlocked. It was truly sad. Jeff and Joe had been to the house a few times over the years, and they were appalled at the condition of the yard. I took several pictures, which I will show you in a minute. Complete disarray, what was once a meticulously maintained Japanese garden is now barren. The bridges are decayed, the foliage is all dead.

We were let into the house at 10am by a young latina woman, early twenties, with orange curly hair balanced precariously atop her head, and clearly overwhelmed by even the very small group of us. She initially wanted to let only five people in at once, but we protested quite loudly, and, while clearly exasperated, let us all in.

The seller led us through the house (only the recreation side, though, not the living side) and pointed out the few, over priced Carpenters related items. There was the Japanese bridge, disassembled from the back yard, in a pile on the floor in the garage, for $500. A nice piece perhaps, but rotted and unwieldy. There was an array of records, laid out on a table, which she said belonged to Karen and Richard, for which she was asking an outrageous 10 a piece. (I noticed when we were leaving, much later, that the sign had been changed to $5 each. Still, no one had bought a single one.)

There were a few lamps, four stained glass, one lamp from Karen's bedroom (missing the shade), and metallic pot lamps from the music room. She was asking $200 for the lamps, which I though was about 400% more than they are worth, even if they are from a pop star's home.

She was selling the Carpenters' pool table, which was in a room of it's own, and has a small gold face plate with an inscription, something like "built for the Carpenters." Not worth the $5000 asking price (or was it $3000, but still too much).

They also had a huge wall-sized storage of wine, and were asking $100-500 per bottle. One of the yard sale people was a wine collector and had come specifically for the wine. However, a quick inspection revealed that most if not all the wine had spoiled due to incorrect storage, and he deemed it worthless. Although, curiously, he did buy several bottles at $1 each. The fans then took his cue and picked up a couple bottles each at the same price, purely for sentimental value.

You can read more about this interesting (and sad) day in the A&M records forums under the “Estate sale at 9828 Newville Ave.” thread. And check out Rod’s great collection of photos from the sale in the bottom link.


On June 26, two of the sites in my links section went “silent.” Both Muppet Central and Old-Fashioned Christian Radio were “off the wire” for one day in protest of proposed legislation that would dramatically increase the price these stations pay to play their music. Here's how Muppet Central's Phillip Chapman described the issue:

On June 26, from 3 a.m. Pacific to midnight, all 10,000 Live365 stations launched from the website, and Internet radio broadcasts nationwide, will go silent. Free listeners who tune into stations will be redirected to a Day of Silence stream that offers an explanation, broadcaster testimonials and a call to action. VIP listeners will receive a Day of Silence PSA before being connected to the station's regular programming.

We understand the possible disruptions this can cause, but feel drastic measures are necessary. Joining together with all other Internet radio stations we will show what listeners can look forward to if things don't change quickly. . . Silence.

Internet radio needs your help. Take time today to contact your congressman through the link below.

This issue affects all web surfers to some small degree. It also demonstrates how desperate the music industry is. Not content with current fees that they are being paid, they're going to raise them again, for seemingly no good reason other than that they can. Even if you don't listen to Internet radio, you use the Internet. Don't try to deny it. I KNOW you use the Internet. And if we lose free Internet radio, we lose one of the great benefits of the Internet. Let's hope we don't.
For more about the perils of music royalties, check out the bottom section of this post about the “Happy Days: Season 2” DVD set:

I don’t know. . . This is a tough one. Who is my favorite female lead from the Muppet movies? I definitely like both Joan Cusack from “Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie” and Diana Rigg from “Great Muppet Caper.” Actually, I like Diana Rigg from her days in that tight leather suit from “The Avengers”. . . No not the comic book series, this is the British detective series where Diana and that guy were secret agents. Yeh. Great suit.

But I would probably have to go with Joan. She is certainly. . . wait a minute. What about Carla? Carla was one of the girls who tried to steal the Baseball Diamond in “Great Muppet Caper.” Dang, she was fine! Yeah! Carla! Hey, hang on . . . Brooke Shields had a cameo in “Muppets Take Manhattan.” BROOKE SHIELDS! How can we forget Brooke Shields! Rowr! Wow, how can we ever choose?

For more about this pressing issue, visit the post at the ToughPigs website:

Friday, June 22, 2007

Who you callin' Yoda?

OF ALL THE MEAN names that kids called me during High School, my favorite is “Yoda.” I don’t think they knew what they were saying. Calling someone “Yoda” isn’t an insult. Yoda is cool. Yoda is so cool, in fact, that Star Wars fans voted to make him the star of his own individual stamp sheet. That means he beat out Han & Chewbacca, Luke, Darth Vader and even Boba Fett! In the G4 special where fans voted for their favorite Star Wars character, Yoda came out as number one again. Yes, Yoda is awesome, and I don’t mind being compared to him.

But why is he cool? Well, it’s partly because of his wisdom. He’s a smart dude. He’s also very cunning. He can fight with the best of them, and he can hide when he has to. Frank Oz once noted that he’s been told often by fans, “Yoda changed my life.” Some of Yoda’s statements have become legendary. “Try not - do, or do not. There is no try.” While I don’t always agree with Yoda, I always listen. When my brother wore the Yoda mask for Halloween, he was the hit of the holiday.

When you first see Yoda, you don’t realize his power. He looks like a little elf-like creature who lives in the forest. Luke, of course, was fooled as well. He didn’t think the little guy was anything other than a nuisance. But of course, we later learned that this little fellow was - in a way - the most powerful being in the galaxy. It’s an incredible thing, when you think about it. “Size matters not. Look at me! Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not! For my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is! Life creates it - makes it grow. It’s energy surrounds us, and binds us. Luminous beings are we - not this crude (flesh) matter! You must feel the force around you. Here- between you and me, the tree, the rock, everywhere.”

Movie-wise, Yoda is one of the greatest special-effects triumphs of all time. He proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that a PUPPET - albeit a very complicated puppet - could pull off a performance that was every bit as moving as that of a flesh and blood actor. I recall reading somewhere that some of the people who first saw “Empire” believed that Yoda was actually a midget in a costume.

Although Yoda wasn’t a “muppet” in the strictest sense of the word, you could say that Yoda was the greatest triumph of the muppets. Yoda demonstrated what the muppets had been demonstrating for years - that puppetry isn’t just child’s play. Puppetry is an art that can be used to move and inspire people. It’s interesting to note that many of Jim Henson’s “post-Yoda” projects like “Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth” featured much more “realistic” puppet creatures - creatures similar to Yoda in the sense that they were attempting to convey realism.

Looking back, I also think that the success of E.T. had a little bit to do with Yoda. The original E.T. was, after all, just a complicated puppet in many scenes. E.T. further demonstrated how puppetry can be used to touch people - and he even did a little “tribute” to Yoda at one point in the movie!

Since the advent of computer technology, the Yoda we see in “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith” is actually a computer-generated image. And that’s fine, since movies are illusions to begin with. But I fear that most modern filmmakers have turned their backs on puppetry again. As a puppet fan myself, that’s kind of a shame. I’d like to think that future filmmakers will at least peek into the possibility of using a puppet-like creature as a character in their films. Plus, in some ways, it’s probably a lot cheaper. Regardless, the power of Yoda will live on. As some jerk wrote in my yearbook, “Yoda will always be with me.”


SESAME BLOG: Hey, wouldn't it be cool if some old-school Sesame Street fan could begin a blog about the “good-old” days (which for me is just about anything before “Elmo's World”)? Well, our dreams have come true. The new classic Sesame Street blog is up and running. It includes video clips as well as links where you can (gasp!) download several classic episodes! Those of you with a whole lot of memories – and a whole lot of computer memory! - should take advantage of the chance to watch these classic episodes again. Enjoy the blog here:

And if you scroll down, you'll find the list of episodes to download:

And keep your eye out for the next “Sesame Street old school” DVD set. And keep your eye out for “The Muppet Show” season 2 set. Dang, it isn't even Christmas yet.


RIDE A WILD HORSE: Did you ever want to do something unusual? Something that you don't usually find yourself doing? Well, according to the Associated Press, Woody Allen is going to direct an opera.

LOS ANGELES - Woody Allen, directing an opera?
It will happen in September 2008, according to Placido Domingo, general director of the Los Angeles Opera.
The New York-based filmmaker will make his operatic directorial debut by opening up the LA Opera’s 2008-09 season.
“I have no idea what I am doing,” Allen said in a statement Thursday. “But incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm.”
Allen is scheduled to direct “Gianni Schicchi,” one part of Puccini’s “Il Trittico,” a trio of one-act operas.
The two other operas, “Il Tabarro” and “Suor Angelica,” will be directed by movie director William Friedkin (“The Exorcist,” “The French Connection”).
Domingo stated that he had often pursued movie directors to try their hand at opera.
He added that his longest pursuit was Allen, who took four years to say yes.

Perhaps most interesting, I'm assuming that Woody will be directing the opera in one of his least favorite places on earth – Southern California! (Hey, you remember the classic line from “Annie Hall” as he was driving through L.A. : “They don't throw out their garbage, here. They use it to make movies.”) But you've got to love that quote. “Incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm.” Let's talk about that a minute.

I've found that sometimes, making mistakes is not necessarily bad. Sometimes you need to make mistakes in order to find out what you can and can not do. Making mistakes teaches you how to do something right. So I'm all in favor of trying new things and possibly failing – then finding peace in the knowledge that you did your best, and might be able to do better later on. I don't think we need to feel too ashamed of most of the “stupid” things we did as kids. Many of those so-called “stupid” things led us to become the people we are today. There's a very cool song called “Ride a wild horse” that sums up these feelings for me. The lyrics go, in part:

You can try, you can try
Before your life goes by
Just once, before you die
Ride a wild horse, ride a wild horse
Across your sky


MRS. C ON YOUR PC: Aaaaay, Richie! The latest update at “” has a cool interview with Marion Ross of “Happy Days” fame, along with Dan Lauria of “The Wonder Years.” You can listen to it at the link below, dig?