Saturday, January 27, 2007

Anne Frank: The first blogger?

Hello, Kitty!

No, I’m not talking about Hello Kitty, I’m talking about the way Anne Frank used to begin each entry in her famous diary. (She actually wrote “Dear Kitty”) The diary is deservedly a classic as well as an important historical document. As I heard the news the other day that some letters from Anne’s father were going to be released, I thought about Anne and the horrible book report I gave in Jr. High School. But I also realized that in some ways, years before the Internet, Anne was the first blogger.

Think about it. Why did Anne write the diary? I don’t think she ever showed it to her family. I don’t think she planned on releasing it to the world after the war. Basically, I think she wrote it for two people - herself and Kitty. Who is Kitty? I can’t answer that question for Anne, but as far as you and I are concerned, Kitty is you and I. Kitty is the “secret reader” of the diary. Kitty is the person who wasn’t there in the flesh, but in the spirit. Kitty was any person who might read the diary.

Anne Frank was a girl who had many dreams. Kitty was the dream that someone would read the diary someday. And boy, did we ever. A worldwide best-seller, the diary has been made into a play and a few movies. (FYI: Natalie Portman played Anne in a production of the play!)

Just as an aside, while there are many fine films about Anne, many of them focus more on the horrors of the war than on Anne herself. It’s sometimes so easy to forget that she was a relatively normal girl going through many of the same problems growing up that we all do. She just happened to be in a horrible situation. Considering the way she was forced to live, it’s inspiring that her feelings were as normal as they seemed to be.

At the very beginning of the diary, Anne Frank writes a message to her new friend Kitty. It is a moving message for you and I as we begin to look at life in the eyes of a young woman in hiding:

I hope I shall be able to confide in you completely, as I never have been able to anyone before, and I that you will be a great support and comfort to me.

Okay, stay with me here. . .

Why do we blog? Let’s face it, I don’t have millions of people reading this stuff. I’m not getting paid. So why do I do it? I think I do it for two people - myself and Kitty. Although this blog is not written like a diary, it contains things that I think about and that are small parts of my life.

When you read my blog, you get a tiny glimpse into what I’m thinking about, even if it’s not my “main focus” all the time. I am sharing things with you just like Anne did, in the secret hope that as you read, you might be able to learn about who I am.

One of the reasons that I put off creating a web page for so long was that I could never find one complete subject that satisfied me. For example, I like the muppets, but I didn’t want to do a web page with only the muppets. I don’t think about the muppets 24 hours a day! It’s the same thing with all those other subjects in the links section. None of them are completely “me.” The blog allows me to touch on many different things I enjoy, not just one subject all the time. That keeps it fresh and fun (for me, anyway).

No work of art can ever completely capture the life of another person. Art doesn’t work that way. When we read Anne’s diary, we get a peek into her heart, but that’s it. It’s the same with any writer or artist. Likewise, our blogs provide a peek into our hearts, and that’s all. But what a sight.

I seriously doubt that anything written in this blog will ever be as good as Anne’s diary, or made into a play or a movie. (I follow the advice of my friend Forrest Gump: “Don’t ever let them make a movie of your life!”) But what is here is some fun, and hopefully some stuff that will help you. I know it helps me. Thanks again for reading.


ANOTHER BOOK BY ANNE FRANK: Did you know that Anne Frank wrote another book, and that in some ways it’s better than her diary? No, I’m not kidding! It is a collection of stories she wrote called “Tales from the Secret Annex,” and it is a fabulous collection of her fiction and fantasy. It gives a peek into Anne’s heart that the diary doesn’t always do. Some of her stories remind me of the style of “The Little Prince.” It’s short and sweet and worth a read!

FLYING FOR ME: It was about this time in 1986 that the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in a terrible accident. We lost seven crew members, and we almost lost two celebrities who came close to being on that flight! Read all about it in my archives at this link:


Saturday, January 20, 2007

A year (more or less) of YouTube

It’s been about a year since the “YouTube” web site began to catch on with the web surfing public. And it’s been quite a trip, with many people blogging by video rather than by text. I’m not on Youtube yet, but being a video collector, I can see its appeal.

Most Youtube videos are required to be ten minutes long or less. While that’s not enough time for a “real” movie, that’s more than enough time for a casual web surfer to enjoy a short clip. And there’s a lot of programming that lends itself to short clips - commercials, Sesame Street, cartoons . . . Wait, did someone say “Sesame Street?” Yes, folks, some kind Sesame collectors have put up some great clips from their collections on Youtube, and it’s been fun to watch them again. One gentleman has been posting a few Sesame clips that were originally from my collection, and I’m glad to have had a (very) small part in sharing them with others (He does all the hard work, I just gave him the clips).

The files download to your computer rather easily as long as you have three main things: The “flash” program installed (you can download it for free), a reasonably fast processor (my five-year-old computer had some issues with Youtube) and a super-fast Internet connection. YouTube on dial-up still works, but as you can imagine, it is very slow. I wouldn’t want to wait around to download a ten-minute Youtube video with dial-up unless I had an afternoon to spare, which most of us usually don’t.

Unfortunately, the system can be (and is being) abused. There’s a lot of crap on Youtube that young people (or any people, for that matter) probably shouldn’t see. They make an effort to keep things relatively clean, but as it is written, “seek and ye shall find.” Youtube is a site that most careful parents would probably want to block from their kids. That’s a shame, because a system like this has the potential to bring a lot of kid-friendly material as well.

Here’s a list of just some of what I’ve seen posted in the past year:

The long-lost Sesame Street “trash in the park” music short (a favorite)
Green Grover & monsters play “first & last” (Circa 1969)
Ernie writes a story (the clip from “Forest Gump”)
Michael Crawford’s farewell at his last “Phantom of the Opera” performance
Clips from “Return of the Ewok”
Bob, Gordon, David & Luis sing “Gimmie Five!”
Partridge Family Rice Krispies ad
The “Friends” underwear promos
Cookie Monster PSA from late 1970s
Jack-in-the-Box clown blows up (from early 1980s)
John Denver raisin bran commercial
Sylvania TV ad with Will Lee (Mr. Hooper)
Carpenters - “Thank you for the music”
Arcadia - “Goodbye is Forever”
Star Wars drunk driving PSA
Some idiots dressed as Pac-Man characters running through a library

Note that some of these clips are no longer available. There’s another fault of Youtube. If someone takes it down, it’s gone. You have to download the clips to your computer, and while there apparently is a way to do it, Youtube is not publicizing it, and it may not be worth it for the casual web surfer.

So why not just trade ALL video over the web now? Well, if you compare the video quality of your average YouTube video to the DVDs and tapes in your home video collection, I think you’ll find that the DVDs and tapes come out on top. Even the very clear Youtube clips wouldn’t look so great if you blew them up big enough to show on your wide screen TV at home.

The method I use to save the videos I like is definitely not perfect, but it “works for me,” as they say. I set up a video camera in front of the computer screen and turn up the volume on the speakers. Primitive, huh? (It reminds me of the days when I would put my tape recorder next to the speaker on my beautiful blue monophonic Lionel record player.) But if you want to watch a Youtube clip on your regular TV, I think for right now, this is one of the easiest ways to do it. I end up with a “video-friendly” copy rather than a computer file.

So YouTube is a lot of fun, and a step forward in video sharing. Still, I’m hoping for a day in the future when good quality video will be able to be downloaded from the web without much hassle. We’re already practically there when it comes to music, so can good video sharing be that far away?


Just a slight update for die-hard Carpenters fans - that gathering in Downey has been rescheduled for 2008. That gives you another year to save up for the $100-plus ticket. :) Also, some museums have scheduled that “Jim Henson” exhibit for 2008. If they move the Princess Diana celebration to 2008, I may have to delete that January 1 post.

Check out the “Classic Sesame Street” section at the Muppet Central forum (in the links section) for an ongoing list of Sesame St. clips on Youtube.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Chicken: In praise of poultry

Longtime San Diego Padre Tony Gwynn is getting a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s a great player who built a reputation for reliability. Speaking of reliable, let’s talk about somebody who, according to his web page, performed at more than 5000 games before missing one. (And somebody who at one point was on Tony Gwynn’s bad side, but more about that later) - ladies and gentlemen: THE CHICKEN!

Don’t laugh. Well, on second thought, go right ahead. Neither the chicken nor I would mind.

As a baseball fan in San Diego in the 1970s, you had to learn to put up with a lot of things that weren’t so great. The Padres were relatively new, and relatively inexperienced. There is a sadly true story about Padre team owner Ray Kroc getting on the loudspeaker after the game to complain about the terrible playing by the team. The team needed help, and help came from a rather unexpected source. No, not Ronald McDonald - a chicken. The costumed character from KGB radio began to make appearances at Jack Murphy (now Qualcomm) Stadium during major sports events.

Perhaps it’s hard for die-hard sports fans to understand why the Chicken is so important to the history of the Padres. Perhaps you had to be a kid as I was, enjoying the funny guy in the costume much more than I could understand the game. Perhaps you had to be there to hear the low roar of laughter that seemed to be almost constantly coming from the stands.

All he did was make the fans happy - which was just what the Padres needed at that time.

The Chicken was proof that it was okay to do silly things as an adult. When you think about it, there aren’t too many celebrities whose humor appeals directly to children. I’m thinking of the many stars “Saturday Night Live” has helped develop. All great, but not always funny for kids. The Chicken is pure slapstick fun in an era when the classic silent slapstick greats seem to have vanished.

At one point, the Chicken received a job offer from another individual who was offering more cash. Folks, this was on the news! All of San Diego held its breath for a few days, until finally the Chicken chose to stay with KGB and the Padres, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. He was really every bit as much a sports celebrity as Randy Jones & Rollie Fingers were at the time. He was certainly as well-known.

Sadly, it was not long after that when KGB and the chicken parted ways. Now my memory is sketchy on this, but I seem to recall a news clip on “Real People” about KGB hiring somebody else to play the chicken, and this new guy GETTING BOOED RIGHT OUT OF THE STADIUM! That’s how loyal San Diego was to the original chicken!

Not long after this was the “Grand Hatching.” The Chicken would return, this time on his own terms, and in a new costume. The stadium was sold out, and everyone who wasn’t there was watching it on TV. What on earth would he look like? My brother and I still remember seeing that giant egg being lifted off a truck and onto the field at the stadium. Suddenly, it bursts open, and out comes the Chicken we know today, and the crowd roars! If you didn’t love sports in San Diego, you might not understand what a big deal this was. But we did. And we still do.

A little later was kind of a historic night in my life - the birthday celebration of Ray Kroc. It was held at the stadium and - well folks, it was great. I don’t remember anything about the game. But man, what a show. Skydivers landing in the middle of the stadium! A giant birthday cake with the Chicken and Ronald McDonald inside! Confetti! Grimace! Hamburglar! A phone call from Ronald Reagan! A free cap! Kroc riding into the stadium in his white limo and the chicken bowing down to worship him! This cheesy fun really was a great night for a young kid.

As I grew up, so did sports in San Diego. The Padres were certainly becoming a force to reckon with, thanks to some great players like Tony Gwynn mentioned above. And who could ever forget 1984 - the year we won the pennant! It was a great moment in San Diego sports history. And as sports became more serious, people began to actually watch the game more than the mascot.

Sadly, for some, the chicken’s antics began to be more annoying than fun. This quote from Barry M. Bloom sums it up well:

The guy in the Famous Chicken outfit hatched his act here when the team on the field was just a supporting cast. There was the night in 1984 when he played Indiana Chicken and rode a horse across the field during a no-hit effort by the Cardinals' Ricky Horton. The horse came to a halt and decided to fertilize left field. Horton didn't get the no-hitter and the Chicken was banished, forced to buy tickets and perform in the stands.

09/22/2003 9:00 AM ET Good times at the QBy Barry M. Bloom /

So many Padres began to turn against the Chicken, as did many sports fans. As longtime San Diego sports commentator Ted Leitner is fond of saying, “It’s only a game!” But when you dedicate your life to the game, as Tony Gwynn did, then perhaps you can understand why everyone got upset.

Perhaps the lowest blow of all was when the Chicken was actually kicked out of Jack Murphy stadium during the Super Bowl in San Diego! He didn’t go to work, he was just there as a fan to enjoy the game, but he was a fan in a chicken suit, and apparently the guys in the real suits didn’t approve of the attention he was getting, so they chucked the chicken. Perhaps understandable, but sad. We’d come a long way.

Thankfully, the Chicken and sports fans have pretty much made peace with each other. He has since taken his show on the road. He’s been making fans happy across the nation just as he used to do in San Diego. He still drops by to visit once in a while - this time as an honored guest - and is always welcomed back with cheers and laughter. The laughter continues, and hopefully will for a long time.

And as Jerry Coleman said, you can hang a star on that baby.

Yay! The Chicken has a web page full of pictures (like the one above) and more cool things. Check it out!

Say, does ANYBODY out there have any episodes of “The Baseball Bunch” with Johnny Bench & the Chicken? The show was on the air in the early 1980s and ranks as a lost childhood classic show (along with “That’s Cat” and “The Froozles!”) If you’ve got them, please e-mail me at for a video trade. But take the "nospam" out of my email address before you do.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Fred and Courteney

This post is all about two people I like a lot - but in different ways. Believe it or not, there is a connection between Fred Rogers and Courteney Cox Arquette, and if you read on, you’ll learn what it is.

Let’s begin with Courteney. It all began in 1985 when I first saw “Misfits of Science.” The show featured Courteney as “Glo,” the girl with the telekinetic powers. Well, let’s just say she moved me as well. Dang, she was beautiful. Remember, this is before the Internet, so I couldn’t go online and look at pictures of her. So I watched that show as much as I possibly could, but that wasn’t long, because the show went off the air very quickly. RATS! The love of my life was gone!

Thankfully, “Misfits” wasn’t the end for Courteney. She stuck it out and eventually landed another role on “Family Ties,“ a show I was already watching anyway! She appeared on the show as Alex P. Keaton’s rebound girlfriend. Boy, what a rebound. Of course, they kiss only a few minutes after they meet, which is the way relationships work in TV land. She provided some unintentional competition to the equally lovely Justine Bateman, who played Alex’s sister Mallory. Courteney and Justine on the same show! Rowr!

A bit later “Family Ties” had gone off the air as well. (Not again!) But Courteney being the strong person she is stuck it out, and landed a role on another show called “The Trouble with Larry.” In the first episode, the lead character walks up to Courteney and, believing she is somebody else, gives her a passionate kiss.

What did I tell you about relationships in TV land?

Anyway, that show went off the air quickly as well. The “Courteney curse” strikes again. I suppose that could have been the end of some people’s careers, but she got by with a little help from her “Friends,” and starred on one of the most popular shows of the past few years. What do I think of “Friends?” Well, like so many shows, Friends has a few funny moments surrounded by a bunch of unfunny ones. “Friends” can be fun, but that’s about it. It’s not a show I watched regularly, even though I liked Courteney and the cast. There just wasn’t enough on it to keep me interested. Real life friendships don’t work out the way they do on "Friends." Plus, my main TV-watching years were beginning to fade as college arrived and kept me busy - and thinking about the future.

I definitely still like Courteney. Attractive and smart, it’s no surprise she took her time picking out a husband. Courteney is married to David Arquette whom she met while filming the “Scream” series. (And is it just a coincidence that the two of them were tied up together in the third movie? Hmmm.) But before she met David, Courteney had a relationship with actor Michael Keaton, who played “Batman” in the 1989 film. But Keaton was not always working on-screen. Early in his career, he worked behind the scenes in Pittsburgh on a children’s show called - MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD!

If you’ve seen the documentary “Fred Rogers: America’s favorite neighbor,” you already know all this. Michael Keaton hosts the documentary and even shows a brief clip of when he appeared on the show. Fred Rogers also tells a funny story about Michael Keaton when he was working “Picture Picture”. Man, what a cool thing to put on your resume! “And I worked ‘Picture Picture’ on ‘Mister Rogers!’” I think this documentary is out on DVD, so try to pick up a copy if you can. It’s great fun for fans of the show & brings back a lot of memories. Remember the “Purple People?” Too much, man.

Fred Rogers’ impact on my life is huge. Like many others, I learned from him, made fun of him, and then revered him when I realized what he had done, and is still doing. Fred Rogers cared about the heart of children so much that he dedicated his life to helping them deal with their inner feelings. And he’s still helping me deal with some of mine today. There are times when we all need to hear that people can like us exactly as we are.

I don’t always write to celebrities, but when I heard that Mister Rogers was retiring, I wrote him a letter. He wrote back a short letter in return. It’s one of my treasures, as are my memories of the show.

But what about the future? I mentioned in December that many PBS stations no longer carry Mister Rogers at all. Well, it looks like even the folks at Family Communications (Mister Rogers’ production company) understand that the show won’t be around forever. Here’s a clip from an article about a new show that Family is working on:

Mr. (Kevin) Morrison acknowledged that individual PBS stations make decisions about what shows to carry and FCI continues to support "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," but he also understands the reality of the television business.

"We're on PBS and will be into the foreseeable future, but I think no one has any doubt about the fact that one day it won't be on," he said.

"I still think there's so much good about the 'Neighborhood' that I would want it to go on as long as it can, because I think it's ageless," Mrs. Rogers said. "But there are some dated things about it."

(From the article, 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood' firm plans new TV series; Thursday, December 28, 2006; By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

And so it goes. This is why preserving video is so important. I want others to know about Mister Rogers’ and I want other kids to enjoy his show. My dream is that someday virtually all of the episodes will be available for download or something like that, and we’ll be able to enjoy them for all time to come. Until then, we have our memories, which is really almost as good.


If you have some older episodes of Mister Rogers on videotape, I would be interested in trading with you. I have several, but I am looking for early (pre-1977) episodes that I don’t already have. Send me an e-mail at and let me know what you’ve got.
You can find out which episodes of Mister Rogers will be airing on PBS by checking out the link at the Family Communications web site:

Monday, January 01, 2007

New year links

Surprise! It’s 2007, and it should be the beginning of several fun things.

Like what? Well, if you’re a Carpenters fan, a fan gathering is being planned in Downey during the summer. You can get more information by following the link at

You prefer religious music? Jim Strathdee will be making some Southern California appearances in March. Jim is the co-author of "I am the Light of the World," a favorite religious song. You can find out more by checking the schedule on this web page:

You prefer a big, big show? Well, if you have a big, big budget, you can try to buy a scalped ticket for the Princess Diana celebration in Britain. Yeah, I know, I won’t be going either. But I sure hope somebody tapes it. This is, to my knowledge, the first time that Andrew Lloyd Webber has teamed up with Duran Duran. :) This is the concert that was sold out by the time everyone heard about it. They’d better put it on TV for us in the states. It should be a fun time.

You prefer fantasy? It’s the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, and there will be a fan celebration in Los Angeles this summer. Find out more at

You prefer to stay at home and watch a video? Well, we have more video rumors than real news at this point. But according to, 2007 could bring new DVD releases of favorite shows like Happy Days, Odd Couple, Mork & Mindy, Davey & Goliath, and Men Behaving Badly (U.S. version). Want more info? Check out

You prefer to stay at home and watch something sexy? Hmmm. Well, how about the new Courteney Cox series, “Dirt?” It airs on the FX network and although I haven’t seen any episodes yet, it should be pretty good because hey- it’s Courteney. Look, the woman is practically the only reason I was interested in the show “Friends” at all. Love that catsuit. I will have to do a longer blog about Courteney soon. As far as my fantasies go, there’s a lot of “dirt” to dig up.

You prefer museums? Well, if you like dinosaurs, you may like the new creation museum planned to open this summer. The museum’s focus is on world history from a biblical perspective & answering arguments about the bible and science. I’m familiar with some of the people who are working on the museum and they are certainly dedicated to teaching people about these things from both a scientific and biblical perspective. You can find out more by visiting

Not your museum “cup of tea?” Well, at this point this is only a hope, but the great Muppet Newsflash blog reports that the Jim Henson society is putting together a museum exhibit on his life which may feature some of the muppets on display. This would be great - although the muppets have been on display in museums before, this would be the first time we would get to see some of them since the original “Art of the Muppets” exhibit from the early 1980s. That was well over 20 years ago. I’d love to see them again if given the chance. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for this to become a reality later this year. Learn more about it here:

You prefer comics? Well, after you get back from the San Diego Comic-Con this summer, you can pick up the latest copies of “The Complete Peanuts,” set to be printed later this year. You can pick up the years 1959-1962 right now, and if you’re a Charlie Brown fan I would advise you to do so. The sixties were a kind of “golden age” of the strip, and this is a chance to own good hardbound copies of them. They are replacing my old Fawcet Crest pocket books that are doodled over with my own drawings of Snoopy and friends from when I was six or so. (I can’t throw them out, because they’re my early art! They might be worth a lot of money someday! Really!) Find out more about the books by following the link at

What about me? Well, I hope to keep working and hopefully finding new ways to share my talents with the world as well as new ways of reaching out to others. Sounds corny, I know, but that doesn’t make it wrong, folks. I would love to finally work on that home movie I have dreamed of making with some friends. I’ve been dreaming about it for years, and putting it off, knowing how difficult it would be just to get everybody working together on it. God grant me the strength to get started. And God bless my patient friends, and if you read this blog, that probably includes you.