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!