Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Museums, Maria and messy frogs

MUSEUM MUSINGS: It’s quite a feeling to be casually surfing the web and suddenly see the picture of someone you know! That happened to me last week when I came across a photo of Ken Ham on the “Yahoo” home page. Ken is the head of “Answers in Genesis” ministries and one of the driving forces behind the new Creation Museum that opened this week in Kentucky. Ken holds to a “young-earth” theory, saying that the Earth is not millions of years old - and he says that science can confirm his views.

This is a controversial issue, even among Christians. But whatever you believe, the museum itself is quite an accomplishment. From the glimpses inside that I’ve seen from photographs, the museum is very professionally done - at least as well done as some of the best natural history museums. The subject is quite interesting as well. You can learn more about the museum by following the links at the site below:


MARIA TO MEET MEREDITH: Wow, two girls I like on one show! Actress Sonia Manzano (Sesame Street’s “Maria”) is scheduled to appear on the “Today” show on June 7. I’m not sure if Meredith Vieira will get to interview her or not, but we can always hope. Obviously, things can change between now and then, but hopefully “Maria” won’t be rescheduled due to some big news event.

Sonia’s web page mentions that she is also working on a memoir, so that should be something us Sesame fans can look forward to. A word of warning. Do not attempt to visit Sonia Manzano’s web site with your computer speakers turned on. The home page of the site includes a short song by Sonia. It’s a cute little ditty, but THE DAMN THING PLAYS OVER AND OVER! Please don’t test our patience, Sonia. It’s hard enough putting up with Elmo's World. :)


FUN FILMS: I’ve recently contacted filmmaker Kim Thompson. Kim is the creator of the classic “All the great operas in ten minutes.” I found out that she’s got her own web page which includes information about her other films and a brief biography. You can also contact her at the site. Check it out!

If you haven’t already, check out Kim’s film in the “favorites” section of my YouTube page. You can get there by following the link in my “links” section.


ON YOUTUBE: KERMIT’S LECTURE ON FROGS. Another classic from the day. This sketch has become notorious because of something that happened during its taping. According to a quote from Bob McGrath in “Sesame Street Unpaved,” the real frog apparently had a bit of an accident - on top of Jim Henson’s head! But you’d never guess it from the skit itself. It seems to run pretty much without a hitch. It’s a fun example of comparing Kermit to a real frog. Enjoy it for yourself in the “favorites” section of my YouTube page - again, it’s in the links section.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Quick tour of blog world

TOO BIG TO BE A SPACE STATION: If I ever go thrift store shopping again, I want to go with Todd Franklin. Todd writes the great “Neato Coolville” blog, and he seems to have this incredible knack for finding neato things. But recently he has been writing about what must be one of the greatest finds of all. This is the type of discovery you only dream about as a child! It honestly is hard to believe, but he has photos and a testimony from Star Wars collector Gus Lopez. Todd and some friends actually found the Death Star model used in the first Star Wars movie! He writes:

It’s hard to believe that a major part of film and pop culture history wound up in the Missouri Ozarks!
My connection with the Death Star started in 1988, the summer after my high school graduation. I was working for a local TV station as a cameraman on an ongoing TV series about the Lake of the Ozarks, a popular Missouri tourist area and the place that I’ve called home most of my life.

We were working on a feature about antique stores in the area and we ended up visiting the Mexican Hillbilly. Outside of the store were scads of statuary, old pottery, some giant oranges (used in commercials) and a big gray ball that oddly enough looked like the Death Star. I had a hard time concentrating on my work that day and as a Star Wars fan, I was giddy with excitement.

The story they told me was that they owned a warehouse in California and the film makers stored the Death Star there. When they decided to close the warehouse and move to Missouri, they repeatedly contacted the film makers asking them to pick it up or it would be discarded. When the time came for the move, they told the movers to trash the Death Star. Luckily, the movers didn’t listen and the Death Star was moved along with everything else to the Missouri Ozarks. Also, they told me they’d never seen Star Wars.

It’s an incredible tale that takes three posts to read, and you can find them here:


If you ever doubted how personal the medium of TV is, you may want to look at what happened to Meredith Vieira not long after the shooting tragedy at Virginia Tech. Here’s what she wrote in her blog:

Matt and I had arrived in Blacksburg, Virginia Monday evening. I was so consumed with trying to get the facts straight and prepare for Tuesday morning’s show that I don’t think I realized I was in a state of shock like everyone else.

But as Tuesday wore on, the magnitude of this tragedy began to take over. That evening, I walked over to the vigil. The students had erected ‘writing boards’ on the field, and people were asked to leave a message—whatever was in their heart. I noticed one student standing there, with the marker frozen in her hand. She told me she was at a loss for words, and didn’t want to write the ‘wrong’ thing. I told her I didn’t believe there was a wrong thing to say, that any words would probably be appreciated. Finally, she knelt down and wrote “We will miss you.” Before long the board was covered with messages: “Hokies Forever,” “We will survive,” “I’ll never forget you.”

I was staring at the boards for so long I didn’t realize how many people had gathered for the vigil, but when I looked up, there were literally thousands of faces and candles. And as I was standing among them, one of the co-eds handed me a candle, and then she asked if I would give her a hug. As I put my arms around her, she broke down. That scene was repeated several times with other students—each time they would come up to me, needing to be held.

I finally figured out why they may have sought me out: these were kids who were away from home, most of their parents weren’t there, they knew me from television and they needed an adult, someone safe to tell them it would be okay. That’s when I broke down, because I realized they are my kids, they’re everybody’s kids. And they are deeply saddened. And they are scared.

Check out Meredith’s latest blog postings at


ON YOUTUBE: YOU ARE LOVED. Just the song I need right now. Probably just the song you need right now. Josh Groban sings a beautiful song. Even if you’ve heard it on the radio a thousand times, you may enjoy actually seeing the video. You can find it in the favorites section on my YouTube page in the links.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Damsels: Optional or not?

In order to get the full effect of this, you need to scroll down and read my April 19 “Underdog” posting, or click on the link below:

Got it? Okay, now back to the present. . .With Spider-Man 3’s release last week came also an interesting article from the Associated Press. It’s a great article about how important damsels in distress are to the average superhero. Though they may be a bother, they keep us watching. Here are some quotes from the article, along with a link to it below:

They may be eye candy for the audience, but these women in peril certainly make for a harder day at the office for superheroes. Their jobs would be easier without such emotional ties, Howard said. “It’s true, it’s true,” Howard said. “It’s heartbreaking for that reason. He’s always having to go and save the girl, then everybody’s always kidnapping the girl. When my husband saw the movie with me a few days ago, he turned to me and said, ‘Mary Jane’s been through a lot’.”

While Harry and new villains the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) and Venom (Topher Grace) exploit Spider-Man’s feelings for Mary Jane, Maguire said the hero still is better off with her in his life. “I just think they know they can get him that way. The villains would find him one way or the other. We’d have to create something for the villains to get to him. It’s kind of the most obvious way in, I guess,” Maguire said. “And it’s nice, it adds dimension to his character. I mean, I guess, if he disconnected [from] his emotions or his feelings or his sense of duty, then he would be better off, because he’d just go, ‘Oh well, people will survive this, it’s not my responsibility’.”

If Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and their superhero brethren were just invincible loners, without friends or other connections to the real world as they went about the business of rounding up bad guys, who would care about them?

Do you remember what I said in my Underdog post about Underdog not being romantically involved with Sweet Polly? I was talking about how Underdog wasn’t quite as popular as other heroes. If this “damsel” thing is true, then it shows that the romance factor is vitally important to the popularity of a superhero today. It also helps demonstrate why Underdog remains an underdog among heroes.

When I was a kid, we did not think much about the personal lives of superheroes. It really was incidental that these guys weren’t married. Hey, so what? We weren’t married, either! And there were no rumors about some hero or other being a homosexual. First of all, what is a homosexual? Second of all, even if they were, so what? What would that matter? I’m not interested in Batman’s/Superman’s/Spider-Man’s sex life. I want to see how he’s going to escape from Doc Oc!

Do you remember the old Superman TV show from the 1950s? Superman may have liked Lois, but he certainly would never (ugh) kiss her! And what’s all this crap about Batman being gay? No way! He & Robin are way too busy to worry about stuff like that! And look at the Hulk! Hulk no want sex! Hulk want to smash! So a character like Underdog fit in well with the superhero crowd of the day. He wasn’t interested in romance either.

Sadly, since "Superman II", those times have dramatically changed. It seems that it’s not enough to rescue the girl. You have to get romantic with her. And it may create some exciting drama, but it seems to put some of us at a disadvantage. What about the heroes like Underdog, who aren’t really interested in romance?

It‘s actually a little bit insulting. Are you saying that even if I could change the course of mighty rivers and bend steel in my bare hands, it wouldn’t be enough? I would have to have a wife or girlfriend in order to get people to care about me? That stinks.

But I have to admit there is something to it. As a single guy, I often find myself doing great things that nobody else cares about. Like this blog. . . Okay, back to the subject. :) Look, a few weeks ago I wrote about how important it is for us to find strength within ourselves, whether or not we have someone there to love us. (Check out the March 2007 archives for that one). But if no one likes a superhero without a romantic partner, then what does that say for us mild-mannered folks without a romantic partner? Are we less popular for that reason?

Surely no kid would say so! I can’t imagine a seven-year-old throwing away a comic book because there’s no romance in it! I think we can take a lesson from these kids. Romance is important and good, but so is saving the world. So is doing the things that we need to do every day. So is being faithful to our cause.

Sadly, I think we live in a society that does not see chastity as heroic. We see it as strange or unnatural, or the choice of extremely devoted people. And that is sad. Because at least at the beginning of their careers, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spidey and friends were chaste. They weren’t without sexual desire, they just never had sex. And no one ever had a problem with that. Until we grew up, and began to expect everyone to want sex. Kids are right, grown-ups are stupid.

Hey, how about all this Da Vinci code crap? It’s gotten everybody talking about how Jesus might have been married to Mary. Are people having trouble believing that Jesus was chaste? Why would they want to believe that Jesus was secretly married? Could it be because so many single people in the world -- and tragically, in the church as well -- are seen as outcasts? Could it be because we don’t want to look at the idea that Jesus was an outcast, too?

Anyone who would reject Jesus because he was single is someone who obviously doesn’t really love Jesus. Anyone who would reject Superman because he is (or at least was) chaste is someone who doesn’t really like Superman. And anyone who would reject me or you because we are not romantically involved with anybody. . . You get the point.

But sadly, I think society at large is missing the point. It is not a tragedy to be alone, and there is no good reason to withhold affection from someone who is alone. But that’s what we’re doing. And I deeply regret to say that the Christian church is as guilty of this as the world. We have focused so much on love of family that we have forgotten to reach out to those who have no families.

When we see a homeless man, we cruelly cry, “get a job!” When we see a man without a wife, we cruelly think, “What‘s wrong with him?” We can’t look beyond these things and realize that they don’t make up what is most important for an individual person.

There’s so much to say here, and not enough time to say it. Let’s just say that kids are smart enough to understand that you can be a hero without having a significant other. We need to be as smart as they are.


I LOST MY THRILL? Do you remember how in the show “Happy Days,” Richie always used to sing “I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill?” Well, you may want to hold that memory very dearly. Let me explain why.

The second season of “Happy Days” has been released on DVD. It contains many classic episodes & I look forward to seeing many of them again. But it is missing something rather important: Some of the music. Most of the classic 1950s songs have been edited out of the show, replaced with other music.

Why? Well, this is the curse of DVDs. Apparently the music rights create an issue for many movies and shows that are being released on DVDs. Many of the songs were never officially cleared for DVD release, so getting permission can be quite an expensive undertaking which many distributors don’t seem interested in paying. Thus, the music gets changed or in some sad cases, the scene with the music in it is cut out completely. It’s already happened on both the “Muppet Show” and “Sesame Street” DVD releases, and now the curse has hit “Happy Days.”

The Happy Days online site has a review of the new DVD set, and someone has actually listed most of the songs that have been cut out of each episode. You’ll enjoy the review, but I warn you to brace yourself if you love 1950’s rock & roll. You may want to cry when you see how many great songs have been cut!

Be sure to read Todd Fuller’s full review at the link. It’s got much more detail:

Here are some highlights from Todd’s review:

I love Happy Days. It is my all-time favorite show. I was very excited when I heard back in December that the second season was going to be released at last. After reviewing it in detail, I'm very disappointed with the final product for a number of reasons. It just seems that CBS DVD/Paramount tried to cut the corners at every turn here. Season 1 had such a promising release. I was expecting more of the same. What are the benefits to the consumer when this set has approximately 90% of the original music (including the opening theme) replaced, the episodes look to have much poorer video quality than season 1, the packaging is cheaper, there is no disc art and no special features included? If they were going to make all these music substitutions, why wait 2 1/2 years to do them? Where are all the great artists like Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, Connie Francis, The Platters, Bill Haley & His Comets, Doris Day and many more? These episodes are not the Happy Days I grew up watching and loving. The music was an integral part of giving the show a 1950's feel. I'm a purist. I want to hear every last note of original music as they aired on ABC over 30 years ago.

2) Do not edit any of the episodes. Music substition is bad enough. Cutting out entire scenes is much worse in my opinion. Clearing the songs that Potsie and the band performed are a must. There were a number of them that they covered in season three. Are they going to edit out a scene every time Richie sings "I found my thrill... on Blueberry Hill..."? I sure hope not.

Folks, if they dare to cut out every time Richie sings “Blueberry Hill,” it will be the worst event in the history of edited TV shows on DVD. Would you cut out every time the Fonz said “Aaaayy?” Or how about every time Arnold Horshack went “Ooo! Ooo Ooo!” Or every time Freddy Washington went “Hi, there!” Or every time that one guy went “Dy-no-miiite!” Or every time someone in Star Wars says “I have a bad feeling about this.” Or every time Mork said “Na-no, Na-no?” Or every time George Peppard said “I love it when a plan comes together?”

Catch-phrases. They’re what cheesy TV is made for. I’m all in favor of putting Happy Days on DVD, but please, let’s do it right. Don’t chop out something that everyone will notice is missing. May Richie forever find his thrill on Blueberry Hill!


This month marks the 30th anniversary of the original “Star Wars” movie, and Todd Franklin over at the Neato Coolville blog has been paying tribute to the movie all month with some great postings. Here’s one that I wanted to share with you all. Aunt Beru lives!


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Take me out of this ball game

Did you know there was such a thing as a “14th inning stretch” in a baseball game? Neither did I. My friend and I found out the hard way last Sunday.

It was a true SoCal game, with the San Diego Padres taking on the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park in San Diego. My friend and I sat on a high level overlooking left field. It was a nearly packed house, with about 44,000 people enjoying the game. And it went quickly through until finally, at the bottom of the ninth, the score was tied four to four. Yay! We're going into overtime! Then came the tenth inning. No score. Then the eleventh. No score. . .

The stadium began to empty out. As my friend said, “They have to leave!” The next day was Monday, a work day, and particularly if you had to make the 2-hour drive back up to L.A after the game, you really couldn't afford to stay for much overtime. The family next to us left behind their free kids' glove, so I got a souvenir.

On and on it went, until we hit – the fourteenth inning stretch. It's the same as the seventh inning stretch, basically. Everybody gets up to sing “Take me out to the ball game.” The only difference is that the line, “I don't care if I never get back” begins to lose its meaning. :) Yes, friends, this game was turning into a challenge – for the fans, that is. I began to root for ANYBODY to get a point.

My friend and I began to play a trivia game. Name all the movies that were named after famous songs that actually have the song included in them. (“Valley Girl” wouldn't count.) “Can't buy me love” is one. So is “Who'll stop the rain.” Yes, we were hurting.

They showed clips from several popular movies during the innings in an effort to keep everybody rallied up. We enjoyed clips from “Animal House,” “Wayne's World,” and most significantly, “Star Wars!” They showed clips from the end of the movie, when the rebels are attempting to blow up the Death Star. The twist was that they put the Dodgers logo over the Death Star. Cute. The Padre crowd roared its approval after the Death Star was destroyed!

The highlight of this endurance test came when a pigeon stepped out onto the edge of a long row of seats to my left. He looked down at the playing field far below, and I could tell that he was as despondent about the situation as I was. “Don't do it!” I yelled. “You have so much to live for!”

“Think of the new nachos!” my friend added.

“That's right!” I said. “And you don't even have to pay for them!”

But our pleas were to no avail. The pigeon stepped off the edge and began to head downward until it remembered that it could fly.

The game finally ended after 17 full innings and about five hours. In real life the “rebellion” didn't destroy the “Death Star.” The Dodgers won 5- 4. This event now holds the record for the longest game I've ever had the . . . okay, the pleasure of going to. As my friend said, we certainly got our money's worth. It was almost two games for the price of one.


Baseball history in San Diego would be incomplete if we didn't talk about the chicken, right? Enjoy my post about the historic mascot here:

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HISTORIC HOST: It was a little over a year ago, on May 2, 2006, that “George Washington” died. No, not the father of our country, but the father of “Wall Street Week” on PBS. Louis Rukeyser hosted the popular show for many years, and for us kids who didn't understand much of anything about Wall Street, Rukeyser was simply known as “George Washington.” Hey, the hairdo resemblance was striking! You can check out a picture of him at these sites, and also learn more about his legacy:


ON OUR KNEES: Today (Thursday) is the national day of prayer. Most of us are guilty of only praying when we absolutely need to. But there are plenty of good opportunities each day for prayer. Here are some you probably haven't thought of:


When “Elmo's World” comes on.

When the ball game you're watching goes longer than fourteen innings.

When you're driving home after the game.

When you invite all your friends to lunch and nobody shows up. :)

When you get bit by a dog in Downey, California. (Long story, folks)
When gas prices go up at the same time your drive to work gets longer.
As you're waiting for your YouTube videos to load with a dial-up connection.
When you realize that you haven't actually cleaned the bathroom in over a month.
When your parents ask for your help with some sort of computer issue.
And the number one. . .
When you have no idea what to blog about!

Seriously, I've got a lot to be thankful for, and an awful lot that I need to pray for. I'm glad there's someone wonderful who is listening. Thanks, Lord, for all you do.

ON YOUTUBE: SPIDEY VS. THE WALL. I mentioned this one in an earlier post, so now you can watch it for yourself in all its glory. Your friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man enjoys a baseball game, but not for long. It's a terrific example of the humorous “Spidey” shorts that made “The Electric Company” such a fun show. Watch for Morgan Freeman as the umpire. Check it out in my favorites folder on my YouTube page in the links section. WARNING: YouTube has been very slow in updating my favorites. If you can't find Spidey in there, please try again later, or do a search in YouTube for "Spidey" and "wall." That is all.

NEXT TIME: Aaaay, Richie, if you want a preview of a future blog posting, check out the review of "Happy Days, season 2" in the "Happy Days Online" web site. You can find it in the links, dig?