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?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fixing a hole: The Beatles and I

I once mentioned to someone that I didn’t get to hear the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” album until I was 16 years old. He was amazed! For him, Sgt. Pepper was like a children’s record - something you listen to in grade school. But I came upon the Beatles in a more roundabout way.

For many years, all I knew about the Beatles was that they once existed. I was born the year they split up. I had no albums. When I finally listened to a beat-up copy of Sgt. Pepper that I had found at Value Village, I finally began to understand what all the fuss was about. This was a very well-done album. A lot of thought went into it. It was similar in some ways to the old Sesame Street albums! It was a presentation of something. And although it could be argued that it’s not their best, or that “it doesn’t hold together” as John Lennon once commented, the fact is that it is something. It has form even if the form is not always clearly defined. Plus, in many ways, it was better than most of the modern music I was listening to at the time.

Although I missed “Beatlemania” and all that, I still learned to appreciate the Fab Four through their musical talent. I knew their songs through other sources. The Seekers' version of “Yesterday” is still my favorite. One of my favorite school memories involves singing “Here comes the sun” with my class. And I knew the opening riff of “Day Tripper” long before I ever heard Day Tripper. Their impact was evident long before I ever heard “Sgt. Pepper.” But Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road kind of proved once and for all that these guys were brilliant, and I became a fan. I don't even have all of their albums. But it's quality over quantity. I have what I really like.

Sgt. Pepper partially inspired me to return to the world of making cassette tapes. Only instead of just putting one song I liked after another, I began to think about the tape as an “album” - a collection of songs that worked together somehow. I began to imagine what kinds of songs would sound well together, and also what kinds of songs meant the most to me. It would be as if I were doing the singing myself. It would be my own personal album.

The ultimate result of this was a cassette from circa 1990 that contained the following:
“The Snowman” intro. (“Walking in the air”)
“He” - Al Hibbler
“Cryin’ in the rain” - Everly Brothers
“Yesterday” - The Seekers
“Dreamin’” - Johnny Burnette
“It’s a Sin” - Pet Shop Boys
“Goodbye is Forever” (single remix) - Arcadia
“For Emily, wherever I may find her” (live) - Simon & Garfunkel
“The Boxer” - Simon & Garfunkel
“Sing” - The Carpenters
“Blowin’ in the Wind” - Peter, Paul & Mary
“When I’m 64” - The Beatles
“Walking in the Air” - From “The Snowman” soundtrack
“Bright Eyes” - Art Garfunkel
“A Day in the Life” - The Beatles

Now how’s that for eclectic? It’s almost like a diary for me. When I listen to the songs, I remember that particular time & how I felt. I learn more about myself. I’m a pretty weird guy, obviously. I praise the goodness of God while at the same time lamenting my own sins. I find myself fighting the world yet trying to find beauty in it. I’m wondering about death. I’m turning to the world of dreams in order to turn away from the loss of love.

Anyway, I continued making tapes for many years, although being a perfectionist, I often would get angry at tape dropout issues and such. The world of CD recording has helped eliminate much of that issue, yet I find that as I transfer those tapes to CD, I keep in many of the imperfections. Hey, they’ve been in there so long, it’s like they’re part of the album.

Obviously, I’m not the only guy who does this. I think making your own compilation album is one of the great joys of youth - or any age, for that matter. It’s a chance to gather together the things you like and enjoy them. It’s like “scrapbooking” for your ears. And as mentioned, you learn about yourself.

If you’ve never done this, I encourage you to try this exercise. You have an hour-long tape that needs to be filled. It’s your one chance to make a real album. But if you can’t sing or play an instrument, you’ll just have to put someone else’s music on there. Which songs will you choose? What kind of an album would you like? The answers will teach you about who you are.

FAVORITE BEATLE ALBUMS: Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road, 1963-1966, 1967-1970, Please Please Me

FAVORITE BEATLE SONGS: Please Please Me, Yesterday, She Loves You, A Day in the Life, When I'm 64, Lovely Rita, Here Comes the Sun, Octopus' Garden, Something, While my guitar gently weeps, Twist and Shout, A Taste of Honey, Do you want to know a secret, Help!, A Hard Day's Night, We can work it out, You've got to hide your love away, With a little help from my friends, Yellow Submarine, I am the Walrus, Hello Goodbye, Norwegian Wood, and I'd better stop now or we'll be here all day.

FAVORITE BEATLE WIFE: Linda McCartney. (Sigh)


Hello, Mom? Uh, listen, Mom, would you mind not reading this next paragraph here? It’s got something kind of secret in it. Is that okay, Mom? It’s nothing bad, I promise. Just don’t read it. Okay? Thank you.

If you enjoyed Kim Thompson’s “All the great operas in ten minutes,” you can buy a copy of your own from Kim! Just contact her at her website:
http:// And if you haven’t seen the film yet, it’s in my favorites folder on my YouTube page:
It makes a great gift for your mom’s upcoming birthday!

Okay, Mom, you can come back now. Mom? Mom it’s okay to come back now!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Spidey to sing, but beware the cat!

Here's the short review of “Spider-Man 3”: It's great, see it.

But if you prefer theater, there's some interesting news: They're planning a musical about Spider-Man! I guess we shouldn't be surprised. There is a “Superman” musical which can still be seen on campuses once in a while. (and it was once made into a TV special!) Spidey is another fine choice for the musical theater, although I fear it may be hard to hear someone singing underneath that mask!

And to give the music a little “edge,” the music for the Spidey musical could be written by the Edge and Bono from rock band U2! You can read about that at the links below, as well as get an idea of what the finished product might be. Here's a preview from the first post- click on it for more lyrics:

I have climbed tallest buildings

I have swung through the streets

Only to fight with you … only to fight with you …

I have run, I have crawled

I have scaled these city walls … these city walls …

Only to fight with you …

But I still haven't found

Uncle Ben's killer

But I still haven't found

Uncle Ben's killer

And speaking of Bono, it's time to repeat my favorite Bono joke. (It's clean, don't worry.) It's dedicated to my pals over at Amy and Greg's house:

It seems that this man died and went to Heaven. He was being led around Heaven by an angel, who was introducing him to many of the famous singing stars of yesteryear who have since passed on – Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, etc. Then, as they go along, the man thinks he sees Bono walking by. The man is surprised. He asks the angel, “Has Bono died, too?” The angel replies, “No, that's God. He likes to dress up like Bono once in a while.”

I need to tell this joke now, because after Bono passes away, it won't be funny anymore. :) Here's to you, oh frontman of U2.


KITTEN ON THE KEYS: I like cats. Cats are cool animals. Very cute, relatively low-maintenance, reasonably quiet. But cats can cause problems, sometimes. One of my favorite memories of our cat “Moony” was the day she walked right across the side of our house - just after we put the wet cement in! We kept a few of the footprints in there as a reminder of that classic moment. “We’re going to have roast cat tonight!” my uncle said. (Note: We didn’t.)

Some of you are familiar with the book titled, “The Cat Ate My Gymsuit.” But this has got to be the king of all “the cat screwed everything up” stories. It seems that a cute little kitten named Otto climbed up on the piano one day - and destroyed the score to a future Andrew Lloyd Webber musical! Read about it here:

Andrew Lloyd Webber is working on the sequel to The Phantom Of The Opera, but theatre-lovers will have to wait a bit longer to see it, as Lloyd Webber’s kitten has proved the score’s most dramatic critic.

According to reports in The Daily Mail, Lloyd Webber, 59, was working on the score at his computerised grand piano when his six-month-old kitten Otto climbed inside it and deleted everything he had written so far.

The digital Clavinova piano has an inbuilt computer and the ability to play back thousands of songs from its memory. Somehow Otto pressed all the wrong buttons and Lloyd Webber was unable to recover his work from after the kitten had been removed.

Otto is a rare-breed Turkish Van, a breed also known as the swimming cats, which cost up to £400. Lloyd Webber had wanted to own one for some time, so was delighted when Otto joined the family in January.

Says the composer, “I was trying to write some new music; Otto got into the grand piano, jumped onto the computer and destroyed the entire score for the new Phantom in one fell swoop.”

“I’ve got to write another show soon or I’ll go mad. The most important thing is the plot, so I’ve been writing it with Freddie,” he said, referring to Fredrick Forsyth, author of the novel Day Of The Jackal, on which the new musical is partly based.

Now it isn’t too hard to figure out the motives of this kitten. Some may say he’s just another harsh music critic. Au contraire! Some may say he’s a “Phantom Phan” upset at the idea of a new musical about the Phantom. Not at all! He is, in fact, jealous that Lloyd Webber chose to do a sequel to “Phantom” before he did a sequel to “Cats!”


AND SPEAKING OF ‘SPOILING’ THE PHANTOM, a few weeks ago I gave in to the “thrift store shopping bug” again, and lo and behold what did I find but the audiotape version of Fredrick Forsyth’s “Phantom of Manhattan.” This is the novel that Lloyd Webber’s musical will be based upon. I can’t tell you much about it because I haven’t listened to it yet! This is an incredible test of will-power! But I’m going to hold off on it until later just because I can, and also because there are plenty of other things to do around here.

BUT - I did read the synopsis on the back cover. You may enjoy reading this yourself as a possible preview of what the musical will be like. So SPOILER ALERT! Do not read this if you want to be 100% surprised at the new play. But if you’re content with just being 90% surprised, here you go:

It is 1906. Erik, the creature with the hideous face but poetic heart, has escaped to America, to a life that begins in misery, but in time makes him incredibly wealthy and brutally powerful. But he never forgot the obsessional love of his life, Christine, the understudy who became a mega-star due to his coaching. Then a mysterious, life-changing letter arrives from Paris and he determines he must see her again. . .a decision that leads to a vortex of passion, love, sin, death, and redemption.

Passion, love, sin, death and redemption. Sounds like a hit to me! :) We’ll find out for sure later (much later, now that Andrew has to start from scratch! I’m hoping his “memory” is strong!). There are plenty of rumors about “Phantom 2” going around right now, involving the possible return of Sarah Brightman as Christine! Keep up with the latest on the Phantom at the link below. And keep the cat away from your computer.

And for more about Sarah Brightman, here’s some info about her PBS special:


SOUNDS OF SUMMER: Do your baseball memories go back to those golden days of watching “The Baseball Bunch?” Well, mine don’t really, either, but I do remember the show. Featuring big-league players along with the famous chicken, the show has been gone & mostly forgotten for many years. But earlier this week, I got an e-mail from Eric at Thanks to the world of podcasting, you can listen to an interview with some of the kids on the show, as well as the chicken himself, “in the feathers!”

If you enjoy this one, be sure to check out the other fine shows Eric has to offer, including a “Great Space Coaster” reunion show! And for more about the chicken, enjoy my posting in the January 2007 archives:


OPENING COMMENTS: You mean you didn’t go to the opening of the Creation Museum last month? Shame! Neither did I. But if you want to listen to the opening ceremony, you can do so at the site below. At the very end, there‘s a nice song by Buddy Davis called “He makes dreams out of nothing” :