Sunday, December 28, 2008

Looking above

The other night, my Dad walked up next to me as I was working on the computer. He asked me, “Do you realize that the computer you’re working on now is better than the one they used when they first went to the moon?”

That sounds incredible, but do you realize that the first space visits to the moon took place nearly 40 years ago? 40!!! It’s amazing how much technology has changed since then. Space travel is, of course, still quite risky. But those risks have gone down considerably, to the point where certain rich people are paying for the right to go into outer space for a day.

With all this in mind, I’d like to share with you an article by Joe Blackstock of the Daily Bulletin newspaper. Joe has some memories of that time 40 years ago, and shares them in this column:

Let's face it, these are pretty hard times, but it's important sometimes to recall we've been in tough straits before and eventually rebounded from them all.
With that in mind, I thought I'd send along a type of Christmas card with an encouraging message from the past.

If you're looking for a depressing time in our history, it's hard to beat 40 years ago in 1968.
America was still reeling from the assassinations earlier in the year of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and riots at the Democratic Convention that summer. Newspaper headlines talked about the violence and uproar over the civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam protests.

Consider some of the events of the last week of that forgettable year:
- The worst freeze in nearly two decades over three days ruined a quarter of the Inland Valley's citrus crop. On Dec. 21, the temperature held at 23 degrees for nine hours.
- The uneasy holiday truce declared in Vietnam exploded on Christmas eve with several bombings and small battles breaking the peace.
- The crew of the Pueblo, a Navy ship that had been captured when it allegedly strayed into North Korean waters, was released but the men had many ugly stories of abuse during their captivity.
And not surprisingly, a wire service story reported that due to a large number of American tourists in the Holy Land on Christmas eve, innkeepers in Bethlehem were again turning away pilgrims seeking lodging.

With these sobering events as a backdrop, three men on a long trip provided a little hope 40 years ago Wednesday.

They were at the apex of the flight of Apollo 8 which brought men into orbit around the moon for the first time. They never actually got to the surface, the trip serving as a stepping stone for the first successful moon landing by Apollo 11 the following July.

On that Christmas Eve, astronauts Frank Borman, James A. Lovell and William A. Anders made 10 trips around the moon, looking at sights never before viewed by people of Earth.
Their trip to the moon certainly got people starting to look up, literally and figuratively.
NASA in Houston was inundated by calls from people asking if the white spot near the moon was Apollo 8, the Ontario Daily Report noted Dec. 24.

Officials had to patiently explain that dot was actually the planet Venus.

One of my own most vivid recollections was the photo they took of man's first "earthrise" from lunar obit, as the Earth majestically rose above the moon's surface. And the picture didn't show even a hint of the troubles going on 230,000 miles away back home.
Before being assigned to the mission, Borman was originally scheduled to read a Christmas Eve prayer at his church in League City, Texas. Instead he read the prayer from orbit that was recorded for his church and offered "actually to people everywhere."

It read:
"Give us, o God, the vision which can see thy love in the world, in spite of human failure. Give us the faith to trust the goodness in spite of our ignorance and weakness. Give us the knowledge that we may continue to pray with understanding hearts, and show us what each one of us can do to set forth the coming of the day of universal peace."

That evening, the three astronauts put on one of the most remarkable television programs ever attempted, showing live close-up photos of the moon's mottled surface as they flew 70 miles above.

The crew members described the view in wonder and then each read excerpts from the book of Genesis.

Making everyone forget for a few faint moments all the sorrow and despair and pain that 1968 had brought the world was Borman's poignant farewell words that Christmas eve:
"And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you all of you on the good Earth."

Joe Blackstock writes on Inland Empire history. He can be reached at or by calling (909) 483-9382.

A Merry days after Christmas to all of you as well. Here’s to a fine 2009!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Alfie, the Christmas tree


by John Denver and Lee Holdridge

Did you ever hear the story of the Christmas tree

Who just didn't want to change the show?

He liked living in the woods and playing with squirrels

He liked icycles and snow

He liked wolves and eagles and grizzly bears

And critters and creatures that crawl

Why, bugs were some of his very best friends,

Spiders and ants and all

Now that's not to say that he ever looked down

On a vision of twinkling lights

Or on mirrored bubbles and peppermint canes

And a thousand other delights

And he often had dreams of tiny reindeer

And a jolly old man in a sleigh

Full of toys and presents and wonderful things

And the story of Christmas day

Oh, Alfie believed in Christmas all right

He was full of Christmas cheer

All through each and every day

And all throughout the year

To him it was more than a special time

Much more than a special day

It was more than a beautiful story,

It was a special kind of way

You see, some folks have never heard a jingle bell ring

And they've never heard of Santa Claus

They've never heard the story of the son of God

And that made Alfie pause

Did that mean that they'd never know of peace on earth

Or the brotherhood of man

Or know how to love, or know how to give?

If they can't - no one can

You see, life is a very special kind of thing

Not just for a chosen few

But for each and every living, breathing thing

Not just me and you

So in your Christmas prayers this year

Alfie asked me if I'd ask you

Say a prayer for the wind and the water and the wood

And those who live there, too

Monday, December 15, 2008

Gonna paint a legend

Ah, the power of the Internet. I never would have imagined that someday I would find out the name of the actor who played the “mad painter” on Sesame Street. His name was Paul Benedict, and he sadly recently passed away. The short films he appeared in on the show were shown for decades, and always brought a smile. Here's a list of them:

GONNA PAINT A TWO: He paints a “2” on the sail of a small boat, only to be chased away by the bald guy

GONNA PAINT A THREE: He tries to paint a 3 on some bread using mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup.

GONNA PAINT A FOUR: He paints it on a woman's umbrella, only to be drenched when she puts the umbrella down.

GONNA PAINT A FIVE: He crawls into a cage at the zoo (how the heck he could do that I don't know) and is confronted by a gorilla, who fortunately, also knows how to paint. (It's possible. Remember Koko?) Together, they paint a 5 on a large yellow ball.

GONNA PAINT A SIX: He uses cake icing to paint a 6 on a small white cake. The bald guy arrives, and unfortunately the cake was probably not meant for a 6-year-old, because he pushes the cake into the mad painter's face.

GONNA PAINT A SEVEN: He tries to paint it on the door of an elevator, but the 7 keeps disappearing as the door opens and he paints it on the people riding the elevator. It's hard to appreciate this one if you've never seen it!

GONNA PAINT AN EIGHT: My favorite. He puts on scuba gear to swim in a large pool to paint a large 8 onto the bald guy's head. The chase at the end is classic.

GONNA PAINT A NINE: He paints it right in the middle of a street, just before the bald guy drives up with the street cleaner.

GONNA PAINT A TEN: He paints it on the seat of a stool, right before the bald guy sits on it.

GONNA PAINT AN ELEVEN: He's in a waiting room, trying to paint an 11 on the small window of a door. He succeeds, but the bald guy shows up and washes the 11 away.

For images from each of these films, check out the Muppet Wiki page dedicated to the mad painter:

Special thanks to those who first downloaded these pictures and video clips. I appreciate the ability to present them here to other fans.

BEST FOOT FORWARD: Okay, look. Just because you don't like somebody, that doesn't give you the right to try and hurt them. You don't throw shoes at people. You might hurt them. You don't hurt people just because you disagree with them.

Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, a reporter in Iraq was unable to grasp this concept, and threw some shoes at George W. on Sunday. Look, I don't approve of Bush either, but let the man be! To throw shoes at the president demonstrates that you have truly lost your sole.

Hang on, I need to sneeze. . .ah. . .ah. . .A-SHOE!!!

Here's how the BBC reported the event:
In the middle of the news conference with Mr Maliki, Iraqi television journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi stood up and shouted "this is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog," before hurling a shoe at Mr Bush which narrowly missed him. Showing the soles of shoes to someone is a sign of contempt in Arab culture.
With his second shoe, which the president also managed to dodge, Mr Zaidi said: "This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq." Mr Zaidi, a correspondent for Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya TV, was then wrestled to the ground by security personnel and hauled away. "If you want the facts, it's a size 10 shoe that he threw," Mr Bush joked afterwards.
Al-Baghdadiya's bureau chief told the Associated Press that he had no idea what prompted Mr Zaidi to attack President Bush, although reports say he was once kidnapped by a militia and beaten up. "I am trying to reach Muntadar since the incident, but in vain," said Fityan Mohammed. "His phone is switched off." Correspondents said the attack was symbolic. Iraqis threw shoes and used them to beat Saddam Hussein's statue after his overthrow.

Needless to say, this journalist was not trying to be fair and unbiased. Bush's policy is certainly not popular with many, and while perhaps we can't blame the reporter for being upset, we also have to realize that we must tame our inner demons before we can unleash them on somebody else.

Inner demons? Sure - you've probably heard of anger and sorrow. And depression. And vengeance. And lust for the flesh. And covetousness. (I'm good friends with some of these guys). And greed. How do we gain control of them? Well, a long life helps. But for the short run, we simply have to look beyond ourselves – not forever, just for a little bit – and understand how foolish our actions would ultimately be. Admittedly, this often isn't easy. But it's probably the only way we can live in the world without killing everybody.

I am not sure if the journalist will be fired for this. But he probably deserves to be.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A brief pause with Mr. Claus

SANTA: Steven? Steven, wake up. It's me, Santa Claus.

STEVE: Huh? Oh. Good morning Santa.

SANTA: I just wanted to compliment you on your blog. I read it often.

STEVE: Really? Wow, thank you! I didn't think too many people cared about it. I've wanted to update it more regularly, but things get in the way. Real life takes time.

SANTA: Indeed. It will be three years old this year, right?

STEVE: Right, on Wednesday, December 10.

SANTA: A little bird told me that you want to have a bigger presence on the Web. He said you wanted to download your art, stories and poems- and even some of your audio and video work!

STEVE: That's right- How on earth do you know these things?

SANTA: I have friends in low places. Of course, living on top of the world, most of my friends are in low places.

STEVE: Say, has global warming affected your work at the North Pole?

SANTA: Just a little bit. The reindeer have to be more careful in their reindeer games. And more and more of my volunteers are polar bears and penguins. Apparently they prefer living with me than trying to brave the sinking ice of their homes. My fear is that someday, they'll ALL have to live with me, and they won't have homes of their own anymore.

STEVE: That would be terrible indeed. They would change from animals into mythology. Just like the elves who help you out.

SANTA: It's very difficult for those elves to find work elsewhere. It's an age thing, I think. Some of them are 200 years old. No one wants to insure a 200-year-old elf.

STEVE: Santa, what do YOU want for Christmas?

SANTA: I ask for the same thing every year. I want the children of the world to share their love with others, just as I share my love with them.

STEVE: By giving presents.

SANTA: And by listening to them. And by letting them know that they are loved.

STEVE: You might enjoy my holiday blog posting about Daniel Striped Tiger. It's about sharing love as well:

SANTA: Yes, I love that post.

STEVE: It's turning into a Christmas tradition for me to link to it.

SANTA: Enough about me. What do YOU want for Christmas, Steven?

STEVE: Well. . . the problem is. . .most of the things I really want are spiritual. They can't be wrapped up in a box. They can't be bought at the store.

SANTA: You'd be surprised how often I get such requests. I certainly can't always make someone's dreams come true. But I can do one thing. I can offer who I am. I can let people know that I love them.

STEVE: Santa, that may be the most important work you do. When people see you, they should think of love. Like an old friend or relative, they should feel at ease with you, and willing to share in your dreams.

SANTA: I've got to hurry and make more deliveries. But I always enjoy talking with you, Steven.
STEVE: Thanks, Santa. It means a lot for me to spend time with you. Good luck!

SANTA: Goodbye until next year! Ho, ho, ho!

STEVE: Adios, amigo. Buenas noches! Feliz Navidad! Oingo Boingo! Duran Duran! Na-No, Na-No! Arivaderche! See yaaa!

SANTA: Quiet, you'll wake everybody up!

STEVE: Oh, sorry. To all, a good night!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Obama, Ebay and where's the music?

Long time, no blog. A lot to catch up on! Here we go. . .

POOR FEEDBACK FOR EBAY: I'm not a very active buyer or seller on eBay, but the auction site has always been fun to visit, even if I don't buy anything. It also gives one a good example of what kinds of rare items are out there and how much they usually cost. But I don't think I'll be buying anything listed on eBay anytime soon, and I want to explain why.

Years ago, eBay began the “Paypal” system, where prospective buyers and sellers could send out funds through their credit cards (using Paypal as a middleman between accounts). I never signed up for it, preferring to buy items with a check or money order. Well, guess what? From now on, Paypal will be the only way to buy anything on eBay. And that sucks. This new policy will actually prevent some people from bidding. By making eBay a Paypal-only site, the people who can't (or don't want to) use their credit cards will be shut out. That's potentially a huge loss of bidders! Why are they doing this?

I wish I could send eBay an e-mail about my concerns. But when you click on the “contact us” tab, you are presented with a series of statements which they think you want to ask them. (“How do I bid? Can I take back a bid?”, etc.) Unfortunately, none of these statements is what I want to say. But I can't do anything about it. There's no direct e-mail address for eBay! ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR SITES ON THE INTERNET DOESN'T HAVE A DIRECT E-MAIL ADDRESS! I actually tried to type in something like, “There isn't an option for what I want to say, s***heads.”

So they take away my ability to bid, and there's no way I can talk to them about it, which is evidence that they really don't care about the hundreds, if not thousands, who will be shut out. Thanks a lot, s***heads. This is sad. I'm watching a good site get a little bit worse. This change just isn't good. It's based on pure greed. It only benefits Paypal, not us. Ebay, if you read this- please rethink your strategy.

OVER AT LAST: There's not much to say about the recent election that hasn't already been said. (Except perhaps, “whew!”) We made history, and now Barack Obama will inherit all the glory and pain of being a U.S. President. I wish him well & hope we can help him change our country for the better.

I think the best judge of a president’s character will be if he or she is willing to give a press conference. Remember press conferences? They were a quaint little tradition begun by John F. Kennedy. The president would meet with the press. Reporters would ask him questions, and he would try to answer them. Yes, that was a pretty cool thing, but I don’t blame you if you can’t remember. We haven’t had a real press conference since George W. Bush, the worst president in our nation’s history, came into office. He was so terrible that even the Republican candidate for president in 2008 called for big changes.

If we can just do a little bit better in the next four years, everything should work out OK. Something tells me that that won’t be too difficult. The bar is already so low that things can only get better.

If you like political commentary, You might enjoy reading some comments from the blog of my friend John Bruno:

In his concession speech, McCain said the fault was his. Yep. His first major decision as a presidential candidate was choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate. With all her faults, this isn't one you can blame on her. McCain's decision was impulsive -- and he continued to be just that throughout the campaign. Up front was how he dealt with the financial crisis. Whereas Obama was calm and insightful, McCain was erratic -- foreshadowing how he might govern. Voters picked up on the different styles of the candidates and eventually became comfortable with Obama as a potential president. When McCain called a press conference to say he was suspending his campaign and maybe skipping the first presidential debate to work on the financial crisis, Obama responded by saying a president needs to multi-task. A lot of us can identify with multi-tasking -- and a potential president should be aware of that.

WEEKENDS WITH FRED: Unfortunately, my cable company has given in. “Mr. Rogers” is now only being shown on weekends. Sigh. I'm just glad they're showing it at all. While we may not get a week's worth of Fred, we can at least enjoy his classic episodes once in a while. That's more than can be said about many other fine kids' shows. Remember “Captain Kangaroo?” Where is he now? (Yes, I know he's in heaven, but I'm talking about his show!) If we can only get our fix of Fred on the weekends, at least it's better than nothing. Let's hope his show continues to be rerun until the end of time. You can peek at the Mister Rogers schedule for 2008-2009 at the Family Communications Web page (but keep in mind that only one of the five episodes will be shown if your station only has the weekend version of MRN):

PEEKING AT HD: One of my video recorders is equipped with a cable box that can pick up some of the HDTV channels offered by my cable company. I've been recording and watching them a bit. The picture does indeed look good, even on my tiny 10-inch screen. The picture switches easily from widescreen to small screen, depending on how the original material was taped. I recorded something on PBS that wasn't originally taped for the widescreen HDTV format, yet it still looked quite good. So far, so good. The big switch begins in February.

THAT JOKE ISN’T FUNNY ANYMORE: At the beginning of this year, I jokingly said that 2008 would be the year that the music stores closed forever. I was kidding. But now the Virgin Megastore nearest to me is going to close up shop sometime in January. Yes, they’re having sales, but again, the prices usually aren’t too much lower than usual. So as another one bites the dust, let’s count up how many other music stores are near me. Well, there’s Best Buy - but Best Buy doesn’t always have the best selection. There’s Circuit City, but they have the same problem. So aside from those two stores, that makes. . .uh. . .zero stores nearby.

ZERO!! My gosh, all the good music stores near me are now gone! There are some good ones further away, but man, what a drive! This really is bad news. I think every town ought to have at least one good music store. Now, I need to leave town to browse the record aisles. For more on this subject, read about the closing of Tower Records in this 2007 post:

ON YOUTUBE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM KERMIT: The YouTube page continues to be sporadically updated with various gems from Sesame Street and. . .well, from Sesame Street. :) I’m afraid you folks will have to wait for me to branch out and post some other gems over there. You will note that some of the clips come to us courtesy of Sesame At last Sesame Workshop is officially sharing clips from its vast library. (Just in case you didn’t know, you folks with fast Web connections should take a peek at Sesame and enjoy highlights from the past 40 years of the show. Us folks here with slow connections will just have to load up our DVD copies of “Old School” Sesame Street.) Check out the "Youtube page" link on the left to see some of the clips.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Save Mister Rogers

Yep, I’m still around, folks. Just incredibly busy, and a bit “shaken up“ by the recent earthquake. It sort of puts things in perspective. Remember, you can reach me by leaving a message for me on my YouTube channel, or leaving a message for “sesameguy” on the Muppet Central forums.

Okay everybody, I want you to get out your local TV listings and check and see if “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” is on the air in your area. It is? Okay, now listen very carefully. Set up your video recorder to record every single episode you can over the next few weeks in August. Why should you do this? Because there’s a chance you will never be able to do this again. Take a look at this message from Family Communications, the producers of "Mr. Rogers":

The Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood broadcast schedule will change beginning in September. Rather than being part of PBS national schedule, each local PBS station will choose when to air the Neighborhood series. They might choose to make room in their schedule to air the program daily as they have in the past -- or they may choose a weekend broadcast of one specially selected episode.
“Weekends with Mister Rogers” offers PBS stations one featured episode from each week of Neighborhood programs, for stations to air as part of their Saturday or Sunday children’s lineup.

I don’t know yet if I will lose the Mr. Rogers show in my area, but I am hoping that I don’t. I’ll know for sure near the end of this month, when the September schedules begin to appear. While the “Weekend” show sounds like a good idea, we would miss out on the usual format we’ve grown accustomed to.

Or will we? A concerned parent has started a campaign to keep the daily episodes of “Mr. Rogers” on the air. He’s not alone- others have voiced their concerns and are currently contacting their local stations to keep the daily version of the show running. Read all about it here:

While most grown-ups like me enjoy the show for its nostalgia value, according to the Web site, that’s not what this movement is about:

I’ve just read a blog piece linking to our site that cites nostalgia as the driving force behind our campaign. While we appreciate the link, make no mistake about it… This isn’t about nostalgia. It is not about the fact that Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is a timeless children’s television classic. And it is not even about the fact that the man himself is considered a national treasure. What our campaign is most certainly about is the enduring ability of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to have a unique nurturing influence on the lives of today’s (and tomorrow’s) children. This is needed today as much as ever.
- Brian

I’m all for saving the daily show, but I hope Family Communications is as well. For if the stations decide to keep airing it, they will (I assume) need Family Communications to keep sending it out to them. Will the producers of the show be willing to change their plans on short notice? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I will hope for the best, not only for my sake, but for the sake of all the kids out there who need a gentle neighbor.


FRED ON FILM: There are a few (and I do mean few) episodes of Mister Rogers that have been made available on DVD or VHS. A quick search on Amazon or eBay would reveal some of them, including a good series of them from CBS/Fox Video that was made available back in the 1980s-1990s. There are also video traders who offer a few of the older (pre-1979) episodes for trading. I suggest visiting the Square one forum, N. Aczel’s trade page or the Misterrogers trade page. You’ll find them listed in the links section to your right.


SPEEDY DOCUMENTARY: While Ben Wagner puts the finishing touches on his Mister Rogers documentary, he has been beaten to the finish line by none other than the “Speedy Delivery” man himself, Mr. McFeeley! A documentary has been made about David Newell and the ups and downs of playing Mr. McFeeley through the years. (Please note that if your Internet browser is as old as mine- which isn’t really that old- you may have some troubles opening up the page. Be patient.)

The site offers some stills from the production, but notably does not seem to offer the video for sale. We have to wait and see it at a few selected film festivals. Shucks. Let’s hope this is someday seen on PBS. Although with Mr. Rogers leaving the air, some kids are going to be asking “Who is this Speedy Delivery guy? Does he work for UPS? Why is he dressed that way? Is he from the Civil War or something?”


IN TROLLEY WE TRUST: Ben Wagner recently pointed out on his blog something that I had never noticed before.


INDY 4: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls” has come and gone from the movie theaters, destined (I hope) to be available on home video soon. The short review: It’s great, see it! It keeps the spirit of the other films alive and well. A worthy sequel. If you’d like to read more about the Indiana Jones films, enjoy my blog posting from a while back:


ONE-LINE WILLIE: Kermit Love, the puppet builder who also played Willie the hot dog vendor on “Sesame Street,” recently passed away. By the late 1970s or so, the character of Willie was very rarely seen on the street. But then one day, there was an episode where Oscar the Grouch announced that he was going to run for mayor. When Willie walked by, Oscar showed him his usual courtesy:

OSCAR: Hey Willie! Santa Claus! Whisker Face! I’m running for mayor and you’d better vote for me! Understand?

WILLIE: (With anger) WELL!!!!

That line, “Well,” was, well, it was the only line that Willie had in the several years of Sesame Street that I had been watching! Seriously! His character was just seldom used on the show (as a speaking role), and this one line became practically the only word he had spoken on camera within at least the seven or eight years that I had been watching the show. Pretty amazing. I decided to call him “One-line Willie” after that! I honestly don’t recall him having another line on the show after that. That was his last word to us. But thankfully, he was a small part of a greater good. I’m hoping the old-school fans never forget him. Willie can be seen briefly in the “Old School” DVD collection. There are some cool pictures of him in this post at the Sesame Street Block Party site:


I LOVE TO TELL THE STORY: Besides my Sesame Street and Star Wars obsessions, I’m also interested in older Christian music. That’s the type of music that was pretty common in my home while growing up, and it still rings in my heart. You can hear some of it by visiting the “Old-fashioned Christian radio” site in my links. I’ve picked up info on a singer named Jerome Hines, whose low voice almost rivals that of Darth Vader. But Hines is definitely a good guy, who it seems also sang in several operas besides his religious albums. While searching for data on Hines, I came upon the following Web page from singer Joseph Shore. It features an obituary for Hines, and - well, a link to mp3 files of practically every recording of Hines!

For a Hines collector, that’s quite an awesome find. There are other artists who I wish would have a large collection of their work available for free download. Mr. Hines is no longer with us, but his voice will live on thanks to these recordings. Check out the rest of Mr. Shore’s site for some recordings from other fine singers:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Attack of the new Star Wars movie

"Hey Rocky, watch me pull a new Star Wars movie out of my hat!”

This is a bit of news that I definitely wasn’t expecting. Most die-hard Star Wars fans are aware that a new animated TV series featuring “Star Wars” characters was in the works. But to find out that another MOVIE is coming out later this year?! The same year that a new Indiana Jones movie is due to arrive? Amazing.

The movie, like the future TV series, will feature computer animation rather than real people in the roles. It takes place during the “Clone Wars,” after “Attack of the Clones” and before “Revenge of the Sith.” Apparently, while working on the series, George Lucas decided that it was possible to make a theatrical film out of it, and so he has done. I assume that the film will be able to stand on its own, and not be called “Episode 2 and a half.”

I have sort of mixed feelings at this point. Animation is great, but it’s not the same as “reality.” We may miss some of the dramatic tension that only a live actor or actress can give. But we shall see. It certainly sounds like a good time. Back when “Phantom Menace” came out, some radio Djs joked that the film would have made twice as much money if everyone who saw it hadn’t only bought one ticket. Ouch. Well, this “Clone Wars” film, along with “Indy 4”, changes all that. It means I’ll have to buy two movie tickets this year instead of one.


TAKE A BITE OUT OF CRIME: The latest installment of “Just My Show” has an interview with Jack Keil, the voice of McGruff, the crime dog. Here’s where you can listen - and be sure to check out some of their past shows in the reruns section!


DINKY:1, POPEYE 1: It looks like some episodes of “The All-New Popeye Hour” will be making it to DVD after all. Read all about it here:

And speaking of strong people, future seasons of “The Incredible Hulk” are coming your way:


NOT MARY ANN! Sigh. Dawn Wells, the actress who played Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island,” has been arrested on drug charges. Sigh. Ginger, I could understand, but not Mary Ann! The Skipper, maybe. But not Mary Ann. Sigh.
Read more about Gilligan’s Island at my post:

And attention K-Mart shoppers: You may have noticed that a “Complete Series” set of Gilligan’s Island is now available for purchase. It’s what we have to rely on until Gilligan returns to a TV set near you.

CAROLYNE, YOGA AND YOU: As the unofficial leader of the “Carolyne Heldman fan club” (yes, I know there wasn’t any such thing until I made it up just now), I’m proud to announce that you can now watch clips of Carolyne online! No, not from her MTV days. This is the new Carolyne, the yoga instructor. She’s teaching yoga classes, and you can see her demonstrate some yoga moves on Her series is on how to avoid common yoga injuries. The site has a brief biography of Carolyne since her post-MTV days:

In 2001, Carolyne Heldman discovered the healing and transformative powers of yoga. She soon became hooked and began studying with some of the preeminent teachers of our time: John Friend, Sean Corn, Ana Forrest and Rodney Yee. However, Heldman derives special inspiration from the teachings of Shiva Rea, director of yoga at Sacred Movement in Los Angeles. Carolyne teaches in three Denver-area yoga studios and has been teaching for two years.

I practice what I call “poor man’s yoga”. It’s basically just some simple stretching exercises. When it starts to hurt, I stop. I’m thinking that watching Carolyne’s videos will ensure that it never starts to hurt!

For more about Carolyne, click on “December 2007” in my archives.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The suite life at Disneyland

Most visitors to Disneyland are completely unaware of the fact that they are, for all intents and purposes, peons. They are the lower class. They are the adoring masses who slave for the benefit of the power elite. Hey think about it. All the “important people” there are either big movie stars (Mickey, Donald, etc.) or royalty (Snow White, Cinderella, etc.) or both! This blatant inequality is evident regardless of the fictional characters. First there was “Club 33,” an exclusive dinner club for the upper crust right above the Pirate ride in New Orleans Square. No one is exactly sure how you can join this club. Honestly! Nobody seems to know! Or at least, nobody is telling. Talk about sinister! What do I have to do, bring back Snow White's heart in a box?

Now, we have word of the Disneyland “Dream Suite”. It's actually a beautiful suite that was apparently once intended to be Walt Disney's apartment in the park. (I thought that Walt's apartment was over the Main Street fire house. Two apartments in the park? Hmmm. One for Walt's wife, the other for Julie Andrews. . .I'M KIDDING, I'M KIDDING!!) Take a look at these awesome pictures of the suite, courtesy of

But how exactly does one get the chance to spend the night in this lavish suite? How much does it cost? Well, for the time being it's FREE- assuming you are very, very lucky and win a night there in their current promotion. Beyond that? Not even the folks at Mouseplanet are sure what this room will be used for. It makes me wonder if this room could be used as a dealmaker. For example:

DISNEY: We want to build another theme park over the freeway.
ANAHEIM: Well, I don’t know. . .
DISNEY: We’ll pay the city a gazillion dollars!
ANAHEIM: Well, I don’t know. . .
DISNEY: We’ll give the entire City Council admission to Club 33!
ANAHEIM: Well, I don’t know. . .
DISNEY: And we’ll throw in a weekend stay at the dream suite!
ANAHEIM: Well. . .okay.

Walt Disney once said “Disneyland is a show.” It certainly is. There are so many things to see and do that you could spend days there and not take it all in. But how would you feel if someone told you that you weren’t allowed to go on a particular ride? And when you asked why not, they said “because only special guests can do that.” By allowing Club 33 and this dream suite, Disney is (perhaps unintentionally) creating an “upper class” in the “happiest place on Earth.” I’m not sure how happy I would be knowing that I wasn’t allowed to enter a certain fine restaurant or check into a certain suite. Disney people, please don’t treat us like trash. That’s not what Walt would have wanted.

CAN YOU PICTURE THAT? : My family rarely if ever used Polaroid cameras. But when they first came out, they created quite a stir. For it was no longer necessary to drop off your film at the store and wait a week (!) or more to get your prints. Amazingly, a print would appear within a few minutes after you took the picture. It would come right out of the camera! True, you couldn’t make copies of it, but there it was! Your own picture within minutes! Amazing!
While checking out Todd Franklin’s “Neato Coolville” blog, I found out that Polaroid camera film is about to “fade away.” No more instant photos! Perhaps in this digital age, “instant” photos have become old-fashioned. But they’re not going away without a last look. Enjoy Todd’s Polaroid photos below:

YOUTUBE, YEAR TWO: Yep, I'm getting older. It's hard to believe that my YouTube page will be a year old this week. Even sadder when you consider that I still don't have any videos posted! But thankfully, other posters have continued to put up their treasures for us to enjoy. I've only put a few of them in my favorites folder. There are many more, and I would encourage you to do your own search. Here are just a few of the things I've enjoyed in the past year on YouTube:

The "Jedi training academy" at Disneyland
John Denver and "The Lord's prayer"
Seekers concert footage ("Georgy Girl" and "Morningtown ride")
Ed Ames: They call the wind Mariah
Commercial: Sparkletts Water ("Me and Sparkletts water makin' friends!")
Commercial: McDonald's shamrock shakes (remember the Green Grimace?)
Also, it seems that YouTube and Viacom have come to terms with each other. At least there hasn't been much talk lately about shutting down the site due to copyright restrictions. Let's hope we've reached the end of all that. Or perhaps by this time next year, it may not matter, as the "world" makes the transition to digital broadcasting. Ugh! Will we have to convert everything to a new format again? I still haven't copied all my VHS stuff to DVD! Please, oh leaders of the video world, take pity on us. Don't change formats on us every decade! We can only handle so much.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Thief who stole Valentine's Day

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Where is that special Valentine’s Day post that he was talking about?” Unfortunately, this post isn’t going to be as colorful as I had hoped. I found out the hard way that scanning comics onto my blog makes them come out in “teeny-tiny” mode, making them next to impossible to read. So I’ll just have to tell you the story with WORDS! What will they think of next?

Several years ago, “The Electric Company” magazine would publish a short Spider-Man comic called “Spidey Super Stories”. Like the comic book of the same name, these stories would include characters from the Marvel Comics universe along with characters from “The Electric Company.” They would run for five pages in each issue, including a “cover page.” Despite the short length of each story, these stories were actually quite fun! They are excellent examples of short storytelling. They were often more “in-depth” than the actual Spidey segments from “The Electric Company” TV show. On the show, just about every villain could be defeated just by trapping them in a web! It was usually kind of easy to defeat the villains in the "Electric Company" world. But in the magazine, Spidey often had to rely as much on his wits as his webs. (This isn’t to take away from the awesome clips from “Electric Company!” I’m just pointing out that the Electric Company magazine stories were different.)

The story I want to tell is “The Thief who stole Valentine’s Day.” Written by Steven Grant, it can be found in the February 1980 issue of “Electric Company” magazine.

On one recent Valentine’s Day, as Peter Parker was going through his mail, he realized that he didn’t receive any valentines - not even from his beloved Aunt May. A few minutes later, an angry Mary Jane Watson comes to his apartment. “I used to think you were nice, Peter!” she screams. “I don’t mind that I didn’t get a valentine from you, but you should have given one to your Aunt May!” Mary Jane walks out in a huff, as Peter thinks, “But I did send a valentine to Aunt May, and Mary Jane, too!” What could be going on?

As Peter looks out the window to ponder this dilemma, he sees a woman walking into the street right in front of a fast-moving truck! A quick change of clothing, and Spider-Man jumps to the rescue! He stops the speeding truck with his bare hands, and asks the woman why she wasn‘t watching where she was going. “I was upset. My husband promised me candy for Valentine’s Day, and he didn’t send any!” The driver of the truck says that he is upset as well. He was going to deliver several tons of valentines and candies today, but they were all stolen from him!

Then, in an incredible stroke of luck, another large truck goes by with several tons of valentines and candies in the back! Spidey stops the truck by shooting a web over the truck’s windshield, forcing the driver to stop. Spidey runs up to the truck and pulls the mask off of the driver. Incredibly, the Valentine’s Day bandit is none other than TV heartthrob Curt Fellows! But why did he do it? “I’m not the man everyone thinks I am,” he explains. “I’m very shy. My co-star Jeanne Hornet, is really nice. If I give her all of these gifts, maybe she’ll go out with me.”

“You can’t buy friendship, handsome,” Spidey says. “Why don’t you just ask her to go out with you?”

“You mean-TALK to her?” Curt asks. “I can’t! I just can’t!”

“Sure you can,” says Spidey, who picks up Curt with one arm and swings on a web with the other. They arrive at Jeanne Hornet’s apartment. With sweat dripping off his brow, Curt asks Jeanne, “Would you like to go out with me?” Jeanne rushes into Curt’s arms. “Of course I would!” she says. “I never thought you’d ask!” Spidey bids adieu to the two lovebirds, knowing that he’s got a lot of valentines to deliver.

Not a bad story. Nice job, Curt. Hope you’ve learned that you can’t buy me love. Congrats, Jeanne. You’ve found a guy who was willing to rob thousands of people just to go out with you. Hey- you may want to keep that in mind if your relationship starts to get more serious. Psychiatry can be expensive. And hats off to Spider-Man! You’ve saved Valentine’s Day for millions of lovebirds around the city. And dear reader, just in case you don’t receive a valentine this year, don’t think that means nobody cares. It’s just another thief stealing Valentine’s Day. It happens all the time around here. Spidey will be arriving soon. And just in case he can't make it for some reason. . .it means your heart is stronger than usual. Regardless- have a happy Valentine's Day!
If you have some old issues of "Electric Company" magazine with the Spidey stories intact, please contact me. I'd enjoy posting more of Spidey's adventures. You can send a message to "sesameguy" on the Muppet Central forums, or you can leave me a message on my YouTube page. Just be sure to include your return address so I can write you back.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Larry and Dinky

Back in October, during the Southern California wildfires, I wrote that nobody I knew had lost their home. Unfortunately, I learned months later that I was wrong. Larry Himmel lost his home in the fires.

I've never met Larry, but like so many people growing up near San Diego, I feel as though I know him. Officially, Larry is a reporter for channel 8, the CBS affiliate in San Diego. But that's not exactly all of what Larry does. Think of Larry as a humor columnist for a television station. His fun commentary has been a part of San Diego newscasts since before my high school days.

Larry was the host and I think the head writer for “San Diego At Large,” a fun show that included comedy and parodies and featured many local celebrities and stories. Imagine a public access comedy show with a slightly higher-than-usual budget, and you've got “San Diego at Large.” The show ran for a few years in the 1980s and may (unfortunately) go down in history as one of the last locally produced entertainment shows in San Diego. Like just about every TV station in the nation, the local programming in San Diego is pretty much limited to news and PBS pledge breaks. That's it! Everything else on the air that isn't a commercial comes from Hollywood or from reruns. Larry is one of the few local celebrities to change the trend. That's pretty impressive, when you think about it. Even though the show is long-gone, the fact that it survived for as long as it did was impressive.

If you have a good memory, you may recall Larry being featured on a prime-time “bloopers” show hosted by Steve Allen. (It wasn’t officially a bloopers show, but essentially that’s what it was!) Larry is shown doing his best trying to get through one of his commentaries, but it being “one of those days,” he keeps making mistakes. At one point, about half way through, he asks, “Can we just end it there?”

If you have a really good memory, you may recall that Larry's co-stars on “San Diego at Large” included Rick Rockwell. Rick would later go on to infamy as the multi-millionaire in “Who wants to marry a Multi-millionaire?” Actually, the perfect title would be “Who wants to get married just so they can get TV exposure?”

If you have a REALLY REALLY good memory (and a good imagination), you may remember my appearance on “San Diego At Large.” Larry visited my high school back in 1985 for a show about the school's homecoming. I wasn't really visible, but the camera did pan over to the crowd of students where I was sitting. I can still point to where I “sort of” was. They actually got a better shot of one of my friends dancing the night away at the homecoming dance. And they interviewed old pal Darren from grade school! Way to go, Darren! That particular show is a real treasure for me, since it contains scenes of people and places from my high school days.

But Larry's reporting isn't always funny- like when he actually stood in front of his burning house while the cameras were rolling. It's not always good for a reporter to get “too involved” in a story. But in this case, can you blame him for wanting to be there? As the structure was overcome with flames, he turned to the camera and said, “Ordinarily I would say, 'Welcome to my home...'”

Thankfully Larry and his family were OK. After the fires were gone, they returned to their home site to look at what little had been left behind. There wasn't a lot to see. It's a scary situation that most of us hope never happens to us. But now it has happened to “someone I know,” and that brings it home. By this time, I assume Larry's life is slowly getting back to normal. But it definitely makes you realize that you can't take it with you. My best to you and yours, Larry. I'm glad the important things were saved (namely you and yours). Thanks for many years of fun times, and here's to many more.

Keep up with this story by reading Larry's blog:


DINKY'S REVENGE: This portion of our post is dedicated to my Grandmother, who loved Dinky. Let's take a pop quiz. Which of these two characters would you expect more people to recognize?

Popeye the sailor
Dinky the dog.

I'm guessing most would pick number one. For the uninitiated, Dinky the dog started out as a tiny puppy who grew to gigantic proportions (not quite Clifford-size, but more like Barkley. And maybe just a step above Marmaduke). Dinky the dog was actually a “fill-in” during the “All new Popeye hour” on Saturday mornings. You know, kind of like the “Go-go gophers” or “Klondike Kat.” It was one of those shows that really was a “co-star” to the main event. So why, WHY is Dinky getting his OWN DVD RELEASE WITHOUT ANY POPEYE CARTOONS? Well, blow me down! According to the article at tvshowsondvd dot com, there was a "Dinky" series, but again, why Dinky and not Popeye?

Don't get me wrong- I'm not against this release at all. But Dinky seems so obscure compared to “Mr. P.” It's as if someone took all the veggies out of your dinner and just gave you the meat. Well, meat is fine, but without veggies, you can't get a healthy diet! Watching these Dinky cartoons won't be the same without Popeye!

The long answer I think has to do with copyright issues, but the short answer? Probably “because it's there.” Since they have access to these cartoons, why not release them? Sounds fine to me. I'm just wondering how successful this release will be without Popeye. It’s going to be an interesting experiment. Good luck, Dinky. Hope your sales don't match up to your name.

Read more about the Dinky issue below.

You prefer Popeye? Enjoy my post about him:


ON YOUTUBE: THROUGH, THROUGH, THROUGH. A few days ago, I had never heard of Robert Cunniff. Now, thanks to a poster on the Muppet Central site, I know that he had much to do with the early "golden age" of Sesame Street. Sadly, he recently passed away. He also worked on many other classic TV shows. Apparently he had much to do with "The Ballad of Casey McPhee," which featured Cookie Monster trying to get the train through the dangerous mountain pass. For a limited time, that clip can be seen by clicking on it in my "favorites" folder on my YouTube page.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Spaghetti - To eat, not worship

One of my favorite foods is spaghetti. One of my favorite places to take a date is “The Old Spaghetti Factory” (No, they don’t serve old spaghetti, it’s . . .well, that’s just its name, that’s all). Yes, spaghetti - particularly my Mom’s spaghetti - has always held a special place in my heart. (Love you, Mom!) But I had no idea that I was unwittingly worshipping a deity. Yes, friends, according to certain people, spaghetti created the heaven and the earth.

It all began with a student’s concern about “intelligent design” being taught in his college. Intelligent design is the idea that the universe came into existence by intentional creation rather than by completely natural processes. But as it is being taught in many schools, intelligent design doesn’t say specifically that “God” did it. So why couldn’t it have been a spaghetti monster? Bobby Henderson sent a letter to his school board regarding this issue. Here are some quotes from the letter:

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I’m sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.

Here’s the short version of the argument: Since there’s no way to prove how the universe came to be, we might just as well believe that everything was created by a flying spaghetti monster, or FSM for short. If you’re going to be fair to all religions, you would need to include the spaghetti monster belief along with all the others. Sadly, some people can’t take a joke- but in this case, that includes the people who made up the joke in the first place! Here’s what Bobby says about the spaghetti monster theory that he made up himself:

Some claim that the church is purely a thought experiment, satire, illustrating that Intelligent Design is not science, but rather a pseudoscience manufactured by Christians to push Creationism into public schools. These people are mistaken. The Church of FSM is real, totally legit, and backed by hard science. Anything that comes across as humor or satire is purely coincidental.

He has to say that, or his threats of “legal action” would have no basis. As ridiculous as the idea sounds, there is some validity to the idea that this faith can be- and should be- considered valid. In the history of the Christian church, there are examples of denominations that have seemingly “cropped up” from the soil and become a part of the culture. These faiths are all “legit” in the sense that they are things that people believe. Whether you or I believe them is not the issue. SOMEBODY believes them. So if we deny the FSM, then shouldn’t we also deny EVERY other faith that isn’t exactly like ours? Spaghetti can be messy, can’t it?

But I wouldn’t look for too many spaghetti monster churches soon (unless of course you count the Old Spaghetti Factories). Here’s a quote from an “Answers in Genesis” article about the FSM:
We are not worried that Flying Spaghetti Monsterism is going to lure away Christians; rather, the religion’s obvious primary purpose is sardonic humor. Nevertheless, it reflects a growing attitude of mockery toward not just organized religion, but also toward any suggestion that there is something—or Someone—“out there,” beyond ourselves and our fallen notions.

One of my favorite comments from Bobby about the FSM comes from a recently-written article that was quoted on the FSM site:
Religion doesn’t have to make sense. You have to have faith. There’s all sorts of things that don’t make any sense in FSM. It’s fine. I contradict myself all the time. You can get away with anything in the religion business.

“The religion business.” I’m afraid many of us are guilty of thinking of religion that way. It’s not a business, folks. Your heart is more precious than that. And the words “I contradict myself. . . you can get away with anything” seem to validate the point. When all is said and done, he’s not serious. In order to really believe and support something, you have to take it seriously. You can’t be intellectually honest if you knowingly contradict yourself. You can’t lie to yourself - at least not forever. This too shall pass. The people who “worship” the spaghetti monster do so for the reason that he truly is a joke. Take him seriously and the humor is gone, as is any reason to “worship” him. Andy Kaufman would have loved the spaghetti monster. Indeed, we don’t have much to fear, except perhaps heartburn. (I would like to suggest that the FSM is actually the “Smog Monster” from the classic motion picture “Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster.” Note the stunning similarity! You disagree with me? Prove I‘m wrong. Hence, the point.)


A REAL RACE: A favorite movie of mine growing up was “The Great Race” starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood. It's my favorite Blake Edwards film and it's a lot of fun. But I never thought it was anything other than a make-believe story. It just seemed to fanciful to be true. You can imagine my surprise when I recently learned it was based on an actual race!

Okay, so there probably wasn't a pie fight, and I don't think they stopped in some country where the king looked exactly like one of the drivers! But there really was a “Great Race” from New York to Paris that took place 100 years ago this month. It certainly doesn't sound as “funny” as the movie, as it includes a few tragedies as well as triumphs. Columnist Joe Blackstock writes about it at the site below:

It was part of a spectacle later dubbed "The Great Race," made famous by the 1965 Blake Edwards comedy of the same name starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Natalie Wood. Some scenes were filmed in the San Bernardino Mountains.
An Italian-made Zust automobile and five other cars left New York on Feb. 12, 1908, and headed west into the dirt trails that served as "highways" then.
Carrying two drivers and a mechanic, the Zust overcame snow, subzero temperatures and plenty of mud, crossing the Cajon Pass more than six weeks after leaving New York. The Zust's arrival in the Inland Valley was little consolation for residents upset over missing the American entry and race leader, the Thomas Flyer, 10 days earlier.

There's more. They're going to do it again! 100 years after the original race, drivers are preparing for another New York to Paris trek. You can read more about it below:

The next thing you know, we'll find out that “Pete's Dragon” is based on a real story!


SALE AWAY: Just a quick FYE update as promised: The sales never got any better than the 20% off every CD or DVD. You have to remember that FYE probably wasn't under any great stress to sell everything in the two closing stores. They've got plenty of other locations where they can store their stuff. I bought a few more goodies, including some extra empty CD cases (probably the best buy in the store) and said farewell FYE – at least in my area. Let's hope it's not farewell forever.

Stay tuned to this station for a Valentine's Day treat!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Christa McAuliffe

Everything I write in this posting is written with very sincere admiration and respect for Christa McAuliffe, her family, friends and admirers. As always, no offense is intended to anybody.

On January 28, 1986, I had just come home from high school after taking a final exam. As I walked in the door, my mother told me that the Space Shuttle Challenger had exploded. I was surprised on a few levels - I wasn’t aware that the shuttle was taking off that day. I knew there was going to be a launch soon with some teacher on board, but that’s about it. I remember tuning in to watch a replay of the launch. As Challenger took off, I remember thinking, “I’m not sure if I want to see this!” But I did, and the images of the disaster are stuck in my memory forever, as they are in everyone who lived through that day. Those who died in the disaster were F. “Dick” Scobee, Mike Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnick, Ron McNair, Greg Jarvis and S. Christa McAuliffe.

Other notable memories from that day include Dan Rather with a model of the space shuttle on his desk, trying to explain what might have gone wrong. Later on, I got to endure a few sick Challenger jokes from my high school “friends.” It’s better to be alone, man. It really is. Okay, I need to save that rant for later. Ahem. Later that year, my family took a trip to Florida and we got to see Cape Canaveral and the launching pad for Challenger. I bought a Challenger patch and some buttons with the crew on them. I made sure to buy the one with Christa alone on the button as well.

Now why do you suppose they did a button with just Christa on it and none of the other crew members? Well, obviously Christa was the “celebrity” on the flight, being the first civilian set to go up in space. But there’s another reason. A secret reason. A reason nobody has ever dared to mention - until now. Christa makes a pretty picture. Because Christa McAuliffe was pretty. In fact, she was gorgeous! You hear me, world? CHRISTA MCAULIFFE WAS CUTE!

Dang, it feels so good to get that off my chest.

I don’t think that “attractiveness” was the criteria that NASA was using to choose who would be the first civilian in space. However, I don’t think it hurt that Christa was attractive. NASA obviously wanted someone who wasn’t particularly camera-shy, who would be able to present herself to the world with some degree of poise. They couldn’t pick just ANY teacher.

Sadly, there’s some degree of truth to the idea that the “teacher in space” plan was a big PR stunt by NASA. Remember that at first, they were considering taking up a celebrity. John Denver was considered, as was “Big Bird” puppeteer Carroll Spinney! (See the links below for more about that) And while they thankfully chose to focus on sending a “non-celebrity” up there, you can’t help but consider that they would want that “non-celebrity” to be someone who had the potential to be a celebrity. Think of it- the same skills that are used to hold the attention of a class can be used to hold the public’s attention on a grand scale. A teacher who can present her views clearly to a class can also present those views to the American public.

There’s not one particular thing that made Christa attractive. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Look, if I were going out on a blind date, and Christa McAuliffe showed up, I would not be disappointed! She was pretty, smart, seemed to have a good personality - dang, what more could you want?! Of course, Christa was a wonderful person no matter how she looked. Note the word “personality”. When I think about girls that I like, I realize that attractiveness alone isn’t enough. All the beauty in the world won’t work if the person isn’t right for me. I never met Christa, so I can only pretend what she might have been like to know. It seems like at the very least, she would have been a wonderful friend.

I refuse to believe that I’m the only guy (besides her husband) who thinks Christa was attractive. Come on, guys, I KNOW you’re out there! I guess out of respect for Christa and for what she did, we guys don’t want to “take away” from her legacy by adding her to our list of “hot chicks.” It’s commendable to remember Christa for her bravery instead of her beauty. But in the teeny tiny footnotes of history (where this blog probably will eventually go), someone needs to note, “and she was pretty, too!”

Christa was obviously a strong woman in many ways. She was a teacher, first and foremost, and wanted to use those skills on the Challenger. Her intent was to write a diary of the trip. How I wish we could have read that diary. But someday, I believe I’m going to get to actually meet Christa (along with several other people I never got to meet in this lifetime). When I do, I hope to tell her that I cared for her and that she was an inspiration to me. I’d like to think that Christa would forgive me for this blog. :)

Here are some more sites with information about Christa:

The documentary “Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars” is probably the best one about Christa herself. You can learn more about it at the site below:

For more about the celebrities who almost got to ride on the Challenger, enjoy my previous post.


THEY SAID IT: While researching this post, I came upon an interesting page of quotes about space and space travel that I hope you will enjoy. It features quotes from Christa and many others, and asks a notable question about Neil Armstrong’s famous “one small step” quote. Could it be he got it wrong? Check it out.

Space is for everybody. It's not just for a few people in science or math, or for a select group of astronauts. That's our new frontier out there, and it's everybody's business to know about space.

— Christa McAuliffe, December 6, 1985.


PHANTOM DISAPPEARS, THEN REAPPEARS: Once upon a time, there was a Web page dedicated to the “Phantom of the Opera.” Although it was obviously inspired by the Andrew Lloyd Webber production, it welcomed comments about all of the various phantom-related items over the years. From the original novel to the Lon Chaney film to the recent high school productions, this site was a valuable resource for Phantom fans. And it even had an easy address to remember: phantomoftheopera dot com.

But as 2008 began, the Phantom site disappeared. There was nothing there but a message saying “this account has been suspended.” And the fact that it was there for a few weeks seemed to verify that the site wasn’t coming back. It was quite a popular site, with several new comments from readers coming in every day, and updates on “Phantom”-related news. (Think “Muppet Central”, only about the Phantom) It makes you realize that not every site is going to be around forever. We all have those sites that we really enjoy visiting - our little “neighborhood” on the Web where we can keep up with certain people or things. So let’s take a moment to be thankful for those who keep our favorite sites going. And uh, by the way. . .thanks for stopping by here every once in a while as well.

But by mid-January, the Phantom site had returned in all its glory, much to the relief of Phantom fans, teenage girls and theatre critics worldwide. There seems at this point to be no official explanation of what exactly happened. Obviously, there was some kind of billing issue at stake, but how that issue appeared in the first place is another mystery only the Phantom can answer.

Have you noticed how many Web sites are only managed by a handful of people? Whereas a movie or TV show can have thousands of people working together to make it happen, a Web site doesn’t really need all that many. Even a regularly updated site only needs a handful of people to make it work. In some ways, that’s a big plus for Web sites. “One man” can make a difference. You don’t need a crowd to shout out loud. But then there’s the down side: If that one person goes away. . .

Check out the 2004 movie to find out why “Phantom” is so popular. You can read about it in my post here, which also has a link to the Phantom site mentioned above:


MEREDITH IN TRAINING: You didn’t think I could just let THIS one go by, do you? Meredith Vieira mentioned Sesame Street in her blog!
Sharp-eyed fans will note that Meredith appeared in an episode of Sesame Street this season. You can read about that here:


BROCKETT’S BATHING SUIT: Who could have known that mild-mannered Don Brockett, who played Chef Brockett on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”, had a wild side? Well, at least I think he did. You’ve got to be a teeny tiny bit wild to run around in a tiger-skin swimsuit, right? Just think about Ginger from “Gilligan‘s Island.” I do it all the time. Uh, think about Ginger, that is. And Courteney and Meredith and . . .Well, anyway, you can see a photo of Don in his swimsuit in this entry from the “Making Mister Rogers and Me” blog. And be sure to read that great quote from Linda Elerbee on why TV is “often so shallow.”

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Hi and welcome to 2008, the year the music stores closed forever!!!!

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. They’re still around and will likely be around in SOME form for a long time. But with the announcement that two FYE stores in my area will be closing their doors, I can’t help but remember the closing of Tower Records last year. (Note that FYE itself is not going out of business- yet). Oh, by the way, do you know what FYE is? It’s the former Wherehouse Music stores. You say you’ve never been to one? Hmmmm.

When I visited the Tower Records stores prior to their closing, I found them relatively exhausted of all the "good stuff." (There were a few gems to be found, but “few” was the operative word.) So when I heard about the FYE closings, I decided to go and visit one of the stores that weekend to see if I could find anything special. I kind of expected a small crowd of some kind. Wrong! It was a relatively normal day, except for the signs indicating that a sale was going on. It was an OK sale, I suppose. . . Buy two used Cds, get one free. 10% off every new CD. Not bad, I guess. But they certainly weren’t being attacked by rabid music fans. That, I suspect, will come later, as the stores try to release more and more of their inventory. Now I begin to see the economic impact of cell phones. “Hey Louie! Get over here, they’re finally selling the stuff for half off!” So those folks will get the good stuff, and us normal guys will have to pick up the leftovers.

In the tower records posting, I talked about how high costs and lack of good material were keeping me from buying many Cds. Well, the same rules still apply. Even at lower-than-usual prices, there wasn’t much there that spoke to me. Nothing that made me go, “I’ve gotta get this!” I’ve been blessed in many ways. I can afford to say “no” to what may be a good album, because I’ve got other good albums already.

I’ve begun to buy some Cds for one of my “home-made” albums. During my music store shopping, I was only able to find one out of four that I was looking for. But when I look for those albums online at, there they are. Good news for, but this is a textbook example of why music stores are in trouble. I came in as a customer ready to buy something, but couldn’t find it in your store. So I had to go to another “store.” All the sales in the world aren’t going to make me buy a bunch of things I don’t want or need.

But to be fair, I did decide to check out the other closing FYE store, one I had not visited before. While there, I did give in and bought some things. By this time, the DVDs were 20% off. Man, if I could just time it right, I could really splurge. But again, they didn’t have much in the way of specific things that I was looking for.

I’ll try to report back when the prices get lower. If the prices don’t get lower, then I’m sorry to say that FYE will have to make some room in their warehouse. In the meantime, here’s my look back at the last days of Tower Records:


STILL WE LIKE THIS SHOW: On to happier things. As Grover has recently announced, the beta version of the Sesame Street video player is now online and serving the whims of die-hard classic Sesame Street fans! One of my favorite "missing clips" has been found there: Grover singing "Still We Like Each Other." It’s great to see it again. If you’d like to enjoy it too, visit the site and type in “still we like each other” in the search field. Or you can take Grover’s advice and click on his loveable, furry image at the top of the site. Nice song - and no, Mike, the girl is not Farley in a wig!

This new site really is a dream come true in many ways. We’ve gone from despairing of ever seeing this stuff again to watching it at our leisure whenever we have a free moment at the computer. You can actually type in keywords to find a specific clip. It really is amazing how far we’ve come. It’s also important to note that this video player is evidence that Sesame Workshop is aware of the numerous adult fans of the show (well, at least of the early show) and wants to try and help them out. Way to go, SW! The video player is a success. Keep up the great work!

From a technical note, the Sesame Street video player is not quite the same as the YouTube video player. Whereas a YouTube video will download temporarily to your computer memory (and thus can be played again without having to reload every time), the Sesame Street video player doesn‘t seem to work exactly that way. To make a long story short, you really need a high-speed connection to appreciate the video player. While it’s sometimes possible to watch the videos on a slower connection, they usually don’t look very good and are often “choppy”. That’s good news for fast connections, but bad news for the handful of us who use slow connections sometimes. All I can say is that if you’ve been putting off getting a fast connection, this site may be what changes your mind. Time to bite the bullet - or at least find a friend with a fast connection! (As an aside, Sesame Workshop should consider that not all inner-city kids have high-speed connections, either.)

Speaking of friends, have you considered what a good opportunity this is for us to show others why we like this show? Now you can direct somebody to the exact clip you like and say, “You want to know why I liked this show? Here’s why.” We have a chance to show them the clips we haven’t been able to before. With any luck, people will slowly begin to understand why the show was so much fun. Maybe they’ll even get “hooked” and watch some clips on their own without telling anybody.


BIRD'S WORD ON ELMO: Big Bird muppeteer Carroll Spinney was interviewed last year, and we’re just now finding out about it! Here are some quotes from this short but sweet interview.

Q: When did his worm Slimey first appear on the show?
A: As many as 15 years --- the last few years, he’s been much more prominent because each show ends with Oscar reading him trash stories. It’s the only time you see him being very understanding and never negative, like he is to the humans.

Q: Why is Elmo’s World given so much importance?
A: What a good question. I never got a “Bird World.” I guess they just felt that it was a good idea. The thing that made Elmo a big success was the Tickle-Me-Elmo doll. Of course, we do need the money to keep on the air. They thought, ‘OK, Elmo is where we should go to keep the show popular.’

Q: How much longer do you think you’ll be on Sesame Street?
A: I have a new three-year contract, so I’m doing it until the 41st year of the show, and I would love to go on beyond that.

Mr. Spinney seems to understand the true nature of the rise of Elmo. "Follow the money. . ." Well, that’s not the WHOLE story, but it’s certainly part of it. Here’s the site where you can read more. Thanks to SSLFan from MuppetCentral for directing our attention to this!

Later this month will mark the anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy. There’s a Big Bird/Carroll Spinney connection to that as well! You can read about it here:


STAYING STRONG: Again, I’m thankful for all of your good thoughts as I endure an illness. Along those lines, Meredith Vieira’s husband Richard Cohen has written a book chronicling five people who live with chronic illness. Meredith blogs about it below:

Keep an eye on Meredith’s blog for answers to some viewer questions, including this one about hats:

I like hats, actually. The problem with wearing a hat on the show is that every time you go back inside, you have to have your hair fixed all over again. And there’s never enough time. I like berets, and I also like those Irish caps, and the British bollers--those rounded ‘top hats. But I look particularly fetching in a dunce cap…

And in a bikini, and . . .sorry. :)