Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What needs to be on DVD

Slightly early post this week due to work constraints. Lucky you. Also slightly shorter than ususal. Again, lucky you. :)

The TV shows on DVD web page (see links) lists several shows that are coming out on DVD in the future, and allows you to "vote" for the shows you'd like to see on DVD. I'd like to share with you my list of what shows I'd love to see in a home video release.

For the sake of brevity, series that already have at least one season (or several episodes) on DVD will not be listed. For example, even though season five of “The Muppet Show” isn’t on DVD yet, there is at least one season of the show that is on DVD. Because there is something available for “Muppet Show” fans, we won’t worry about season five. We will assume (for the sake of this list) that it will be on DVD one day.


SPIDER-MAN (1970s live action series): Friends, there is no good reason not to release this series on to DVD. Spidey is a popular character, especially with all the movies coming out. The series is also very short. It could easily fit into a “complete series” DVD set. The complaints that it’s “too cheesy” don’t matter. Just because something is cheesy doesn’t mean people won’t buy it! Die-hard Spidey fans demand that this series be released! It’s fun and historic, and it has a devoted fan following. Get this one out there, please.

MISFITS OF SCIENCE: Another good example of a relatively short series with a devoted fan following. Plus Courteney Cox! Need I say more? This was a fun show and could easily be released as a “complete series” set. Please release this one.

BATMAN (1960s live action): As much as I’d like to see a Spidey release, fans of this show are even more numerous. I think you’d have people waiting in line outside the store the day this series is put on DVD. It’s also a fun, historic show. It really should be released. Again, complaints about “cheesiness” won’t work, as the release of the series is practically guaranteed to make a profit. Please work out the copyright issues! There’s got to be a way that both Warner and Fox can make money off of this. Please guys, take some advice from Sesame Street and cooperate. “Co-operation, makes it happen. . .”

GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE: There’s a chance that this one is going to be released soon, and that’s a good sign. I’m hoping that they put out the whole series in one DVD set. It’s hard to believe, but there were less than 20 episodes of this series! With so few, it should be easy to do a complete set. And George deserves it. He’s had two live-action movies made about him, but his series isn’t out on DVD yet! Let’s fix that soon.

CHANDLER & CO.: Who? Chandler and Co. are a detective team from a short series that aired on PBS as part of the “Mystery” show. There were only two seasons. And there’s this girl in it, see, named Catherine Russell, and . . . Well, you know where I’m going with this.

MICKEY MOUSE CLUB: 1970s VERSION: In between the classic 1950s version with Annette Funicello and the 1990s version with Britney Spears was this 1970s version with Lisa Whelchel. It hasn’t been seen in years, and us kids from the 1970s need to do something about it! It had some fun moments, as well as some fun music. “Climb on board to a dream. . .” Anybody remember “Allison wonderland?” Or how about the “Sleuth” story? It includes classic Disney cartoons & a color version of the famous theme animation.

MTV: CLASSIC AIRCHECKS: Do you remember the days when MTV was cool? Hey, I’m not kidding. It’s just not cool any more to watch MTV. There’s nothing on it but material that is obviously aimed at very stupid kids. Kind of reminds me of Elmo. . .Okay, hang on, back to the subject. . .

While collecting all the classic MTV videos together would probably be a copyright person’s nightmare, it may be possible to collect some of the VJ material and put it all together into something. True, it probably wouldn’t be something that great. . .but hey, wouldn’t you like to see Martha Quinn again? I know I’d enjoy seeing Carolyne Heldman again. Sigh. A collection of classic VJ moments could be a lot of fun. This is something I think the folks at MTV should think about. By the way, I hope to do a post about Carolyne one of these days.

REAL PEOPLE: Of all the shows we’ve talked about so far, this is the series that is perhaps the least likely to be put on DVD. If you think “Batman” is corny, you probably won’t be able to stomach “Real People.” And that’s too bad, because it had some good moments. It was, in many ways, a precursor to the reality TV programming that is so popular today. It was like “That’s Incredible,” only with a humorous angle instead of a “thrill” angle. As the title says, it basically was a collection of interviews and footage of “real people” living their everyday lives - except that these real people were exceptional in some way. Like the guy who could play music on his false teeth. Or the San Diego Chicken. Or the human drum. Or Spaceship Ruthie. Or Wrong-way Willie. Or Booger Ray. Or the garbology expert who stole Nixon’s trash and got arrested for it. Or the rich man who built a “city of the future” out in the desert. Or the Laurel and Hardy fan club.

Have I piqued your interest? People are often interesting, and this show highlights some interesting folks. It’s worth seeing again, I think.

So that’s my list. I’ve left out a few local SoCal shows from the past that I’d love to see again (“That’s Cat,” etc. ) But that’s the gist of what I’d like to see. And it’s not too far-fetched to say that I could live to see them released on DVD. If you had told me ten years ago that someone would release classic Sesame Street episodes, I would have found it hard to believe. And if you had told me that one day I’d be watching clips from “The Froozles” and “Big Blue Marble” on the Internet, I’d have been amazed. I suggest you write your own list of what you want to see on DVD and then keep an eye out. You might be surprised. As Paul Simon said, “these are the days of miracle and wonder.”


For those of us still waiting to see those iTunes "Electric Company" episodes, Apple has created something that will hopefully make it easier to watch them on TV. It's a bit expensive, but if iTunes can keep up its popularity, then it may be worth looking into:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Underdogs, then and now

In my early years, I wanted to be a movie star. And not just any movie star, but a star who was loved for who they were. In other words, if I made a movie about my life, it would be a box office hit! In fact, that’s what my movie debut was going to be. A movie about my life. And it would, of course, be a blockbuster. My second film was going to be a sequel to “Oliver!” the classic musical. I had recently seen it at school, and enjoyed it a lot. Plus, everyone said I looked like Mark Lester, the kid who played Oliver. Hey, why not? I practiced for hours saying, “please sir, I want some more. . .” (No, not really. But it just sounds funny) :)

My third film was going to be about Underdog. You know him. He’s the dog in the red underwear who flies around saying, “There’s no need to fear! Underdog is here!” Voiced by Wally Cox of “Mr. Peepers” fame, the character stood for truth, justice and the American way. Sound familiar?

Why did I choose Underdog? That’s a good question! His show had been off the air in my area for at least a few years (and has been off the air there for decades now, except for a brief “revival” in the early 1990s). But another popular movie at the time was “Superman”, the Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder version. I suppose that in an effort to maintain my superstardom, it made sense that I would want to do a film about a superhero. But who could I be? I’m only in fourth grade. Which superhero could I play? How about Underdog? He’s kind of short. That’s it! I’ll put on red underwear and a dog suit! I could play Underdog!

When I think about how I imagined the Underdog movie, the similarities to “Superman” are very evident. There’s even a scene where they get mugged! Yes, the Underdog movie would have been essentially a “Superman” rip-off. But Underdog himself was borrowing from other famous heroes, wasn’t he? His episodes ended in cliffhangers, just like Batman. He flew around like Superman. He had an energy pill just like Popeye had spinach. Underdog took a little from many other heroes to become a hero in his own right.

But there is one scene from my imaginary “Underdog” movie that I would like to share with you. It involves an incident between Shoeshine Boy (Underdog’s alter ego) and Sweet Polly, Underdog’s love interest. This is before Shoeshine becomes Underdog. During an argument, the angry Polly calls Shoeshine an “underdog.” Having never heard the word before, Shoeshine goes home and looks up the word in the dictionary. He reads the definition: “An unimportant, or weak person or thing. The one less likely to win in a battle.” And Shoeshine begins to cry.

That is what the word means, after all. And yet I didn’t think of Underdog this way, but as a hero. Well, at least he’s a bit more successful than Super-Grover! At least he does indeed rescue the girl and triumph over the bad guys. If that doesn’t make him a hero, then what else could? “Underdog” is no underdog! And yet that seems to be the way we treat him. We don’t name Underdog when we name our favorite superheroes. It’s like his appearance in the Super Bowl ad. It’s like, “oh yeah, and there’s Underdog, too.”

I think it’s because Underdog is in many ways, an “average” superhero. If we were grading him, we’d probably give him a “C.” He does his job reasonably well, and that’s it. What’s missing with Underdog is any kind of depth of character, or any kind of deep relationship with others. Although he loves Polly, we never see them “dating” the way Superman and Lois do in “Superman.” He doesn’t suffer the kind of angst that makes Spider-Man famous. He doesn’t have ego problems, like so many characters do. When I remember that imaginary scene where Underdog learns the true meaning of his name, I realize how significant it would be for the character. He calls himself “Underdog” because he wants to show that even an underdog can be something spectacular. Even an underdog can win. And that’s something very important. I didn’t become a movie star. I became a relatively normal, boring guy. And that’s okay. Because even an underdog can do great things.

This summer, there’s going to be a movie about a famous super-hero. No, not Spider-Man, UNDERDOG! My dream is coming true. There really is an Underdog movie on the way. It’s live-action, and will feature a real dog in the role that could have been mine. It should be fun, but I wonder if it’s going to have a scene where Underdog realizes the irony of his name. I wonder if there’s going to be a moment of drama like that. I fear there may not be. The Underdog movie may not make Underdog any less of an underdog. But that’s okay. Remember, there wasn’t much like that on the show, either. All we may get from this is a good time, and that’s fine too, because that’s just as much as the Underdog show can offer us.


Here’s the slow-loading web page about the movie. At this point, there's not much there but promotional art of our hero. Later on, I would assume we will get to see more. Please do not load this page if you’re in a library, as the theme music will annoy everybody. Including yourself.

You prefer the animated version? Well, there are some more Underdog DVD releases in the works:


If you’re a fan of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, then you remember Underdog as one of the classic balloons from the late 70s early 80s that graced the skies above New York City. You can see a drawing of the balloon on the cover of a new book about underdog. You can read about it (& more about the Underdog show) at this site:

And if you want to see the balloon itself again, check out the Woody Allen movie “Broadway Danny Rose.” The balloon makes a cameo, as does Big Bird!

By the way, my fourth film was going to be “Superman vs. Underdog.” Now don’t ask me why they were fighting, but obviously there must have been a good reason. And really, there was. It was to glean even more love from my imaginary audience.

Thanks for reading, imaginary audience. :)


MEREDITH IN DISTRESS: Imagine this. You are awoken by a telephone call at 4:30 a.m. You answer the phone. On the other end is Meredith Vieira, who says in a muffled voice, “Thelp me, pthleaze, thelp me.”

March definitely went out like a lion for Meredith. In the last week of March she bumped her head while ice skating, her daughter became ill, she cracked her front teeth and part of her wallpaper caught on fire.

(All this reminds me of a cool quote. Meredith is obviously someone with a real “damn-the-torpedoes” spirit. But as someone once said, with a “damn-the-torpedoes” attitude, you occasionally get hit by one of the torpedoes! But that comes with the territory. We all get hit by the torpedoes sometimes. Thankfully, Meredith is strong enough to keep sailing.)

Excerpts from Meredith’s blog after cracking her teeth:

So at 4:30am, I called my assistant Amanda and said, through my lisp-like-lips. “Thelp me, pthleaze, thelp me.” Amanda called my dentist, Marc Lowenberg who wasn’t there, but his partner Dr. Brian Kantor, was on call. I’d never met Dr. Kantor but I sure was happy to hear that he would meet me at the crack of dawn, with my cracked teeth.

My makeup artist Eve met me at Dr. Kantor’s office so she could start putting on my fake eyelashes while he was putting my mouth back together. My teeth may have been flawed, but my eyesight was 20/20—that doctor Kantor is a real cutie (sorry, ladies, he’s married. And I guess so am I…) He’s also a terrific dentist and had me out of there with perfect pearly whites within 40 minutes.

Eve and I raced over to the studio where she and my hair stylist Deirdre played tag team getting me ready for air. And I made it.

One more day to go before vacation. If I can just keep my mouth shut and my feet firmly planted on the ground, I might live to enjoy it.

What terrible fate awaits her next? Is she to be kidnapped by a crazed fan who writes a blog and thinks he can play Underdog? Tune in next time, or better yet, read her blog at the site below:


ON YOUTUBE: ALL THE GREAT OPERAS IN TEN MINUTES. By request from my Mom. Here’s a very funny film by Kim Thompson that many of us got to see in school or on the Bravo network. If you like opera (and you have a sense of humor), you’ll like this clip. If you DON’T like opera (and you have a sense of humor), you’ll like this clip. WARNING: By YouTube standards, it’s a long one. If you have a slow web connection, like yours truly, I suggest that you download three minutes one day, then three minutes the next day, et cetra. You’ll find it in my favorites folder on the front page of my YouTube page:


Thursday, April 12, 2007


Two legends in one photograph. The man on the right is Tom Hatten. We’ll talk more about him later, but first let’s discuss that guy on the left. You may think you know him, but do you know it all? If you only know him through his cartoons on TV, then you probably have just scratched the surface. Popeye has quite a history.

The wonderful book “Popeye: the first 50 years” by Bud Sagendorf gave me a renewed appreciation of the character and the comic strip. In the history of the American newspaper comic strip, Popeye is legendary. The original strip by E.C. Segar is considered one of the greatest of them all. Why? Well, I’m sure part of the secret lies in the character himself. Popeye is unique. He’s not just a guy in a sailor suit. He’s a guy with limited intelligence but seemingly endless power. He’s a guy with morals. He’s a guy who isn’t afraid to beat the crap out of people if he has to.

The strip began as “Thimble Theater”, and featured the adventures of the Oyl family. (That’s right, before there was Popeye, there was Olive Oyl!) It was a fun strip, but in many ways not too unusual for its time. Then came Popeye, who quickly took over the strip. Kind of reminds me of Elmo. :) The point is that Popeye’s character alone was enough to bring out the best in the comic strip. Although many other great characters found life there, Popeye became the “stabilizing force” that kept everything flowing.

A few years ago, Fantagraphics books republished all the Segar Popeye strips, giving us a great view into Segar‘s genius. There is an extremely funny sequence in which Popeye finds an error in the dictionary. When trying to explain to someone that “I yam what I yam,” he opens up the dictionary to get a proper definition of the word “yam.” The dictionary explains that a yam is a kind of a sweet potato. Popeye realizes that this must be an error. “You wouldn’t expect me to say, ‘I sweet potato what I sweet potato, and that’s all that I sweet potato‘, would you?”

Then came the legendary animated cartoons, starting with the Fleisher black and whites, continuing on with the Famous Studios & Paramount colors, then the King Features TV series, then the Saturday morning series. When you add it all up, guess who has made more cartoons, Bugs Bunny or Popeye? POPEYE!

If you came to visit me in the afternoon when I was six years old, and I wasn’t watching PBS, I was probably watching a Popeye or Bugs Bunny cartoon. That was the fun stuff for kids in those days. Incidentally, I’ve always believed that a Popeye/Bugs Bunny team up would be one of the best cartoons of all time. Both characters are similar and could play well off of each other- after they get over their ego problems. “Now see here, rabbit! This is me ship, so you’d better do as I say.” “Oh, brudder.”

Popeye, like Batman, is the subject of one of the most popular folk songs of all time. You know the one. “I live in a garbage can. . .” are among the lyrics. I call it a folk song because it has been passed on through the oral tradition from one third-grader to another for the last several decades!

But perhaps Popeye’s most important contribution to comics was his role in the inspiration for Superman. Listen to this quote from Fred Grandinetti’s “Popeye: An illustrated history” :

Jerry Siegel, one of Superman’s creators (along with Joe Shuster), readily admits that the animated Popeye cartoons were a primary influence. He envisioned similar fast-paced action turning on the hero’s superhuman strength, but played straight instead of for laughs. With the addition of a few other influential types - notably Tarzan, very popular at the time - Superman was the inevitable result.

Like so many other legends (including Bugs), the character of Popeye was not created solely for children. He was created to entertain. But he has been thrust into the category of “children’s entertainment.” That’s why you don’t see him cursing today like he did in the comics (with the little squiggle balloons, of course). And his pipe? “I keeps it to toot,” he tells his nephews in one of the TV cartoons. One time I even saw a metal poster of Popeye (sans pipe) saying “No smoking!”

Popeye isn’t even in the Navy! Check out this site from the official Popeye fan club:

Well, we shouldn’t be surprised at this. Perhaps the time has come for the world to know the truth. There is something about Popeye that I first joked about in one of my silly audio tape stories (they were the precursor to my silly home movies). It is, of course, just a joke, but it’s so much fun to think about that I thought I’d share it with you all. Ladies and gentlemen, Popeye is faking it.

He doesn’t like spinach.

Think about it. Have you ever heard him say that he likes spinach? No, of course not. Why is he always eating it? Because he’s always in trouble! If spinach gave you colossal super-strength, wouldn’t you eat it if you had to? If you had to rescue your favorite sweetie from the clutches of an evil villain, wouldn’t you be willing to eat virtually ANYTHING to do it?

Watch the cartoons. When does he eat the spinach? Not when he first gets hurt or insulted. It’s when he absolutely has to! When he has no other choice! What does he say before he eats it? “THAT’S ALL I CAN STANDS, I CAN’T STANDS NO MORE!” Does that sound like someone who likes to eat spinach? In the comic strip, he virtually never ate spinach! And again, when he did, it was only when he had no other choice.

In the movie, Popeye makes it clear that he does not like spinach. The only time he eats it is when Brutus forces him to. Could it be that this is how Popeye first learned of the power of Spinach? Remember folks, the song doesn’t go “I’m strong to the finich because I like spinach!”
This silly theory somehow makes Popeye an even more engaging character. The fact that he would pretend to be something that he really isn’t makes him somehow even more powerful. And more human.

I’m sure that the National Enquirer is going to use this information to the detriment of Popeye someday. Until then, please keep this a secret. If Popeye finds out about this, he’s going to blarst me into the next dimension. The next thing you know, we’ll all find out that he really has two eyes. . .


Now you know about Popeye, but what about Tom Hatten? Well, Tom Hatten and Popeye are old friends, and if you grew up in the Los Angeles/San Diego area, you probably think they are the same person! Tom hosted the Popeye cartoon show on KTLA in Los Angeles for many years. I remember watching the show in the late 1970s early 1980s, when it included both the black & white and color Popeye cartoons, along with Super chicken, Tom Slick and George of the Jungle! What more could a kid want?

Tom has a great history as well. You can read all about it on this great tribute page:

Mickey Mouse and Popeye are approximately the same age. Both arrived on the scene in 1929. When Mickey Mouse turned 50, he got a prime-time special featuring several stars. Popeye turned 50, KTLA had a show featuring Tom interviewing Shelly Duvall (from the Popeye movie) and a bunch of kids singing “happy birthday!” Sorry, Mr. Eye, that’s the best you can get. But don’t feel too bad. We heard virtually NOTHING when Mickey or Popeye turned 75! Hey, age discrimination is bad enough when it’s among people! We shouldn’t be ashamed to let our fictional characters grow old.

If you have any video tapes of Tom Hatten’s Popeye show, please contact me for a possible trade! I’d love to see it again. You can reach me through my e-mail, or by messaging “Sesameguy” at Muppet Central forum, or the Square One TV forums.


What brought about this Popeye post? Simply the news that the Fleisher cartoons are coming to DVD! There are already some fine Popeye collections out there, but this one sounds like it will be more geared toward the Fleisher fans. Here’s the link from

And speaking of George of the Jungle, it looks like George may be swinging into DVD himself, soon. (I’d qualify this only as a possible future release, since we don’t have anything definite other than one person who said it is on the way. A good journalist relies on more than one source! ) Here’s the post:


If you REALLY want to get into Popeye, there’s one book that will just about cover it all. Fred Grandinetti’s “Popeye: An illustrated history” has a terrific overview of the character and a guide to all his cartoons. Whew! It is a few years old now, but if you’re a die-hard Popeye fan, it’s worth finding a copy.

Popeye has a fan club! It’s full of people who love the character and love collecting memorabilia about him. They meet in Chester, Illinois every year to share their appreciation of the sailor. (Chester is the hometown of E.C. Segar.) Here’s their web page:

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Modern Times

“Modern Times” airs on Turner Classic Movies this month. I first saw it when it was on the Disney channel in 1982. It was one of the first silent films I had ever seen, and has become one of my favorite films of all time. I’ll try to explain why.

Modern Times is incredibly unique. It’s a movie that in many ways defies description. The film opens - well, dang, I can’t even tell you how the film opens without giving a joke away! The movie touches on many subjects, but its central theme is society and the workplace. And I don’t just mean the 1930s workplace. The problems expressed in this film are alive and well today. It’s a silent film version of “Dilbert!” It points out problems in society by making fun of them.

It begins with Charlie Chaplin working in a factory. His job is “bolt-tightener.” He tightens the bolts as they race past on the assembly line. The job doesn’t allow much time to rest - and therein lies the problem. Charlie is a human, but he’s trying to survive in a system that won’t let him be human. This is emphasized when his bosses pick him out of the crowd to test out a new invention that will feed him as he works, so that he won’t have to take a lunch break! The machine doesn’t go over too well, and it creates a great comedic scene. And it sadly points out the real reason why we don’t have such machines today. “It isn’t practical.”

Also in the cast is -sigh- the Gamin, a young woman living in poverty played by Paulette Goddard. She’s certainly part of the reason I love this movie. Like Chaplin, she’s struggling to survive in a world that sometimes seems to be against humanity. Oh, how I wish I could enter this movie and ask her out! She’s beautiful, and we’re treated to several scenes with her.

One day, as the Gamin is running away after stealing a loaf of bread, she bumps into Chaplin. Chaplin, desiring to go to prison, decides to take the blame for the crime. Now why would he want to go to prison? Well, maybe he’s decided that it can’t be any worse than his life would normally be. . .But is he doomed to spend the rest of his days alone?

The movie is “episodic” in that it is broken up into different short skits or funny scenes. You may find yourself having to endure a few lesser-funny scenes. But when you put it all together, you get something grand. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s a romantic story, and yet it isn’t. It’s romantic in the sense of two people joining forces to find a better life for themselves. The emphasis is less on their romance and more on their efforts to find a “normal” life. We see them dreaming “the American dream” of a home where everything is peaceful and efficient. It’s the kind of home life that nobody ever really has or ever had. Yet they struggle to gain it, just as we all do. Later on, they do get a home. But things don’t go quite as expected. . .

Like all great films, repeated viewings of Modern Times reveal nuggets of gold. Here are some of them:

*A Mickey Mouse cameo! Watch very carefully when Charlie & the Gamin enter the toy department. (Chaplin was apparently a core inspiration for Walt Disney, and the character of Mickey Mouse is said to be at least partially based on Chaplin.)

*Read their lips. Although most of the silent dialogue is displayed with text on the screen, much of it is not! Read their lips and watch their actions, and you will come out with a renewed appreciation for the art of silent films. Watch for the scene where Charlie asks the Gamin where she got the food.

*Going to jail/the nuthouse. I’ve lost track of how many times Chaplin gets arrested in this film!

*“I’ll do it! I’ll find a home even if I have to work for it!”

*Is it just me, or is Paulette more attractive as the Gamin than she is as the dancing girl?

*Drug abuse! Chaplin gets high on drugs! No, I’m not kidding!

*Watch as the Gamin tries on the mink coat. For a moment, she sees her old rags that she is really dressed in, then covers them up with the coat again. You have to see this to appreciate the subtle acting.

*”Smile” - The lovely song written by Chaplin has been covered by a few artists, including the Lettermen. Here it is in its original form.

*Chaplin sings! His nonsense song makes more sense the more times I hear and watch it. Maybe I really am losing it.

“Modern Times” is my personal favorite of Chaplin’s films. If you never saw any other Chaplin film, you would still get a good idea of his creative genius from this one. But again, this film isn’t just about one person. Ultimately, it is about you and I and the struggles we face.

Modern Times may not be the “ultimate classic” when compared to other movies, but what it does, it does very well. Modern Times is about the struggle to survive. In many ways, the struggle is easier today. In some ways, it has not changed since the dawn of time. If we are lucky, we will find someone else who will walk with us through the struggle, and together we can be stronger than we were before. It’s also about realizing that everything, ultimately, is going to be all right. We’re going to get by, even if we don’t know exactly what will happen next. At least we are together. And we can smile.

“Modern Times” airs on Turner Classic Movies on April 15, very early in the morning. If you can, try to watch it. You just may enjoy it - hopefully as much as I do.


Some of the Modern Times images used above are courtesy of Charles Flatt and are from his fun “Flattland” blog. He’s been writing some fine articles & his posting about Modern Times features a great quote from Paulette Goddard. You can read it here:


FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD COUCH POTATO: One of the great things about going insane is the interesting people you get to hang out with. Cartoonist Fred Hembeck recently shared some memories of an afternoon watching a ball game on TV with Spider-Man. It’s great fun, especially if you remember the “Gwen Stacy” or “Black Cat” days. Grab a cold one (better make it a soft drink, you‘re driving) and enjoy Fred and Spidey’s day off:

Incidentally, Spidey himself is a baseball fan. Do you remember the Electric Company skit where he battles “the Wall?” It begins with him watching a Mets game! Interestingly, he watches the game in his Spider-Man costume (with a Mets cap and a hot dog). When police officers go off duty, they usually don’t wear their uniforms. This just goes to show you how dedicated Spidey is! Always on duty! You can find this classic skit on the “Best of Electric Company volume one” DVD set.


PHANTOM OF THE ELEPHANTS: You need to be careful when you surf the web. Sometimes not everything is what it appears to be. If you had checked out the Phantom of the Opera message board in the past few days, you may have been surprised to see it turn into a message board for elephant fans. All elephants, all the time. Even a pink background. What happened? Did the site go down? No, it was just a late April Fool’s Day joke.

At least, I THINK it’s a joke. It’s kind of hard to tell. It is now a few days after April Fool’s Day, and the elephant site is still up. Dismayed phantom fans are leaving messages on the board like, “Can we have the old board back now please?” and “Reasons why this joke is not fun.”

What if I had been in a hurry, and not bothered to read the site a little more carefully? I might have deleted it from my favorites, muttering “another one bites the dust!” When jokes have the potential to confuse, we need to be careful. The joke could wind up hurting us. With this joke, the message board runs the risk of losing a few readers. People could come back years later and say, “but I thought that site went down. I checked it out one day, and it was all about elephants.”

Bottom line for webmasters: As Hawthorne said, be true, be true, be true.