Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Sesame scandals

By the time I get around to blogging, things that happen “now” actually took place a few weeks ago. The real Internet is about five times faster than this wee little blog. I hope you'll be patient with me as I comment on an old story- namely the one about Katy Perry not being allowed on Sesame Street for showing a little too much "skin." It's nice to know that those overprotective parents are still on the job. Just a few comments on that situation.

If you knew that something illegal was going on in the city hall of your hometown, you'd be upset and demand the illegal action stop. It is, after all, your city, and you want it to be run the right way. Well, Sesame Street has become an institution that everyone thinks they “own.” The show finds itself in the unfortunate position of trying to please everybody. This is particularly important for Sesame Street, since the show relies very much on input from the children who watch it. While it's true that this can be a great benefit in some ways, “too many cooks spoil the broth,” as they say. With so many people keeping an eye on the show, something like this is going to happen from time to time. It's happened before – songs and skits have been edited or dropped altogether due to complaints and concerns. Here are the two most notable:

1. The “I want a monster to be my friend” song - the original version was dropped due to worries that it promoted child abuse. Ugh.
2. The divorce episode. In an effort to deal with the issue of divorce, an episode was created dealing with Snuffy’s parents getting divorced. Because the test audience of kids did not fully grasp what was going on, the show and the subject were dropped. That decision marked an important turning point in the history of the show. Up until then, Sesame Street had tackled some somewhat complex subjects for kids - death, marriage and having babies being the big three. But when they chose not to press the issue of divorce, they sort of decided not to press any more similar issues. Sesame Street certainly doesn’t push the envelope anymore. Now they are part of the “establishment,” if you will, which is actually not necessarily bad. But it was a radical show for its time. I fear we won’t be seeing anything too radical from them in the future.

As an aside, do you recall the worries about Cookie Monster “not liking Cookies anymore?” I wasn’t too worried about it, because I knew that it was already established that Cookie didn’t only eat Cookies. (Cookie actually eats just about anything). And indeed, today he still eats Cookies. If they really were concerned about Cookie, they would just drop the character, as they have done with so many other characters on the show. But sadly, I think that the “A cookie is a sometimes food” deal was more of a PR thing than anything else. It was meant to get people worried, to make some money, then to let things get back to normal. Kind of like Superman’s death. Kind of like Spider-Man’s new costume. Kind of like. . .well, hopefully you see where this is going.

Perhaps the Internet has been a great blessing to the show because it has prevented this skit from “corrupting our youth.” Maybe this is the new way that questionable material can be eliminated from the show. Just pull it when Internet viewers complain. It's a reasonable idea – how much worse would it have been if this “horrid” material had aired in front of billions of kids? Better to “nip it in the bud” and stop it before it even airs on TV. Consider how quickly the uproar arrived over the skit. If there are enough people peeking into the Sesame Street website, maybe they can be the de facto guards and give the final “yea” or nay” as to what airs. That seems to be what they're doing now, anyway.

VIVA VARIETY: Let’s go back in time to. . .well, to just about any time between the 1950s and the 2000s. You’re in a record store, or if it’s post 1990, you’re in a CD store. You find an album that has a song that you like. You find another album that has another song that you like. The problem is you only have enough money to buy one album. You have to make a decision which song you’d prefer. “Wouldn’t it be nice,” you say to yourself, “if I could somehow put both of these songs on the same album?”

Fast forward to today, when such a thing is possible. I don’t work for Mix & Burn, but the technology is finally here to walk into a store and essentially create your own album mix without having to buy ten separate albums. Mankind has waited for this day for far too long. I thought I would share with you the play list from my latest CD to give you an idea of the wide selection of tunes available. All these tracks are available at the stores that have the mix & burn technology. Here’s “Popcorn”:

1. Reminiscing -Little River Band
2. Take up your cross- John Michael Talbot
3. Popcorn - The Muppets (specifically, the Swedish Chef)
4. Bulletproof - La Roux
5. Waiting on the world to change - John Mayer
6. Eagle - ABBA
7. 17 Again - Eurythmics
8. It’s just a matter of time - Randy Travis
9. Genie in a bottle - Christina Aguilera
10. Saturday in the Park - Chicago
11. Morning has broken - Art Garfunkel
12. We See - Thelonious Monk
13. It’s a Heartache - Bonnie Tyler
14. Angel - Sarah McLachlan
15. Adios, Au Revoir, Aufwiedersehn - Lawrence Welk
16. Viva La Vida - Coldplay

Pretty cool variety. Of course, they don’t have everything, and I have found myself making a list of all the songs I like that they don’t have. But despite its limitations, this is very cool. I get the music I like and I save money. See, life isn’t so bad.


FOUR TIMES FOUR: Just a few quick additions to the last post about the Melody Four, based on some recently found album notes. How did they get their name? Rather quickly, it turns out. Just before they were about to make their debut on the radio, someone asked what their name was. They didn’t have one, so the someone told the announcer, “Call them the Melody Four.” The moral: Don’t waste too much time thinking of a name for your band. Also, it turns out that Bill Pearce wasn’t just a member of the 16 Singing Men - all four of the Melody Four were as well. That is in fact, how the 16 Singing Men were formed - They took each member of the band and added three other people who could sing their same parts. Hence 16 singing men. The moral: Mathematics and music go together. And consider this revelation: The 16 singing men weren’t all men! Well, the men were, but the women weren’t. It turns out that some ladies helped them out on some of their albums. This is somewhat misleading, of course. I realize that “16 singing men and a few singing women thrown in for good measure” is kind of a long name, but it would have been more accurate. The moral: Even Christian bands can lie if there’s not enough room to fit their name on the album cover.


FRIENDS NO MORE? Courteney Cox and David are breaking up? Boy, talk about mixed feelings. :) Actually, they’re not so mixed. When you like someone, you want them to be happy, regardless of who - or if - they choose to marry. I’m hoping against hope that it’s not too late and they’ll try again to make it work. It’s like the advice I once gave to a friend whose marriage was breaking up. Do everything in your power to make it work. That way, even if it doesn’t work, you’ll be able to walk away saying, “I did everything I could.” I hope Courteney and David do everything they can.


POST, ALREADY: Here’s a philosophical question for you: If I spend all my time blogging, tweeting and texting, does that mean I don’t have a life, or if I DON’T spend all my time blogging, tweeting and texting, does that mean I don’t have a life? An argument could be made either way, if you think about it. And if you think about it, does that mean you don’t have a life?

In the long list of suspects that keep this blog from being updated, the usual culprits abound: family, friends, home movies, computer troubles (sorry about all that spam I’ve been sending you), work, homework, work on my home, work at my home, etc. It’s frustrating for me, because ideas for posts arise, but time keeps me away. Most recently, a new writing project is eating away all my free computer time. I’m having fun writing, but blog posting is getting pushed aside again. Hopefully you’ve figured out that an abundance of words doesn’t necessarily mean anything. And with that in mind. . .

Monday, August 23, 2010

The constant disclaimer

It all began when I was going to focus on someone for my latest blog post. I was going to put up a link to their site, when suddenly I realized that I didn’t always agree with everything that this person said or did. In fact, there were a few things this person said that I didn’t like at all. So I considered putting up a “disclaimer”- basically something explaining that I didn’t endorse everything that the person said or did. Simple idea, right? You’ve seen disclaimers before. They are basically there to keep people from being sued.

But then I realized that if I really wanted to be complete, I would need to put a disclaimer on just about every link and post in this blog. Because there’s not ANY one thing here that completely expresses my views. Even if I totally agree with a post, there’s almost always more to tell. I think that may be one reason it can be so difficult to share your political or religious views with someone. There are “too many howevers”, as Charles Schulz once said. And it’s easy to be misunderstood by those who aren’t very imaginative, and think that every cowboy has to ride a horse. Even to say something simple like “I am a man” can carry with it a bad connotation for those who seek to find faults with someone. “You’re a man? That must mean you’re brutish and uncaring.” “No, that’s not true at all!” “Then why point out that you’re a man? Why not just keep your mouth shut so I can continue to believe my prejudices?”

The following story is true, but the names have been changed to protect the stupid: I once listened in on two people talking with each other about another person who is (reportedly) gay. Friend number one said, in complete seriousness, “I knew he had to be gay because he liked Barbara Streisand.” Friend number two nodded in agreement. I felt like throwing up. That’s called prejudice. To state what must be obvious (to everyone but my friends), not every Barbara Streisand fan is gay! What do you suppose statements like that do to all the straight guys who like Barbara Streisand? They’re going to keep it a secret because they don’t want to be misunderstood.

Let’s suppose that you know two people who have been hanging out together quite a bit. Does that mean they’re sexually intimate? Folks, we don’t have enough information, so we just can’t say that for sure. They might be intimate, but we just don’t know. I’m not going to say that they are intimate if I don’t know the answer. I’m not going to jump to conclusions. That’s kind of the point- prejudice is assuming that everyone falls into a neat little cubbyhole, and that every Republican believes the same thing as every other Republican. That’s not true. That’s as foolish as saying that every Barbara Streisand fan is gay. That’s as foolish as saying that everyone who hangs out together must be intimate. Wouldn't it be foolish to let your prejudices keep you from enjoying or learning from someone else?

I’m not against trying to be polite, or politically correct. But if I REALLY wanted to not offend anyone. . .then I probably shouldn’t have been born, and neither should you have been born. Because all it takes is two people. I’ll never be you, and you’ll never be me. Be patient with me and I will try to be patient with you. Understand that I will make mistakes and you will, too. Please don’t jump to conclusions about me based on anything here you don't like. I'm definitely not trying to offend, but sometimes it just happens. Don't let prejudice keep you from enjoying or learning from others.


A JOYFUL NOISE: Sometimes as you listen to & collect music, you learn about artists that you had never heard of before, and you begin to appreciate their work. This post is about a case of that. I’ve never considered the trumpet and trombone to be the best-suited instruments for “easy listening,” but I was forgetting about the soft tones that can be produced by an expert in the field like Bill Pearce was. I had never heard of him either. But sometimes a person’s influence is greater than you realize, and that seems to be the case with Bill.

Bill, who passed away earlier this year, was a member of the “Melody Four” and “16 Singing Men.” If you are interested in Christian music from the 1950s on up, you have hopefully heard of those groups. For some reason, the “16 Singing Men” are among the hottest-selling (and hardest to find) Christian artists whose work is out of print. One of their out-of-print CDs routinely sells for over $100. That’s out of my league, and it’s unfortunate that it’s so hard to find work by those guys that the average guy can afford to buy.

Bill also hosted his own radio show (“Nightsounds”) heard nationally, and was arguably the most important trombone player in Christian music. At least he was well-known enough that a popular trombone website featured an in-depth interview with him. The interview reveals a man who deeply loves the Lord and wanted to serve him. He certainly succeeded as far as I can see - two popular Christian groups AND your own radio show, offering comfort to listeners? Sounds like success to me. Again, I hadn’t heard of Bill before, but I’m sure the Lord knew him. I look forward to meeting him one day.


ON YOUTUBE: YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW. One of my favorite "lost skits" from Sesame Street is available on YouTube (and on the Sesame Street website) for our viewing pleasure. The song was available on the old "Stars come out on Sesame Street" album, but now the video has resurfaced, and I'm glad to see it again. You can find it in the favorites folder on my YouTube page, the link to which is in the links section.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

To be continued? Not again. . .

One of my silly home movies features a coloring book with a story that basically ends right in the middle. The hero gets captured, then the coloring book ends. Pretty stupid, huh? It just doesn’t seem right to end a story at such a point. And yet this is nothing new. Back in the day, buying or reading comic books was somewhat of a problem for me, since we never subscribed to them, and we weren’t always going down the street to buy them. So if a comic book ended with a cliffhanger (as most of them did), I hardly ever got to find out exactly what happened next. It was not until years later when comic collecting became more intense that I finally began to find out what happened to those characters.

But sometimes, we never found out. Fans of the old “Jack and Jill” magazine may recall the character of “Perky Puppet.” Perky and friends went on an adventure one day and were never heard from again. Another character (Rufus Crustbuster, somebody else you‘ve probably never heard of) took over the storyline, and Perky sort of disappeared into the ether. Sad. And very lazy writing. You may never have heard of Perky Puppet, but now a similar thing has happened to a character you probably have heard of.

The comic strip “Annie” came to an end on Sunday, June 13, 2010. But worse than the fact that Annie is ending is the fact that Annie ended on a CLIFFHANGER! We aren’t going to find out (right away) how Annie gets out of her latest predicament! The last panel in the last strip says “And this is where we leave our Annie. For now-” Great. Just great. Exactly WHEN and HOW we find out what happens to Annie is a complete mystery which I don’t think even Annie’s creators know for sure. Folks, this is not only lazy writing, it’s bad policy. It makes the readers angry. If you only got half of your hamburger when you paid for a whole one, you’d be upset. (Yes, I know we didn’t have to pay much to read Annie, but work with me here).

I’m thinking of some other major shows that have come to an end without everything being completely resolved- namely "Lois and Clark", “Lost” and “The Sopranos.” Is this the latest trend? End with MOST of the questions answered, but not all of them? Or end with some answered and some unanswered? Or, like Annie and so many other comics, end with nothing at all answered? There’s another great comic strip about a one-eyed sailor that has run for many years now. If Annie can end, why not Popeye? With Popeye it will probably be less painful, as the strip (to my knowledge) doesn’t use a storyline as much as it used to. So it likely won’t “end in the middle of the story,” because there isn’t a story.

But meanwhile, we still await word on both Perky Puppet and Annie. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a creative guy myself that I don’t like the characters (or the audience) being treated this way. But Kermit’s advice of “write your own ending” is sometimes very wise. And it could be that if you really want to know how Annie gets out of her latest predicament, you’ll have to discover it for yourself. Good luck, and let me know how it all turns out.

TV OR NOT TV: I’m in the middle of a grand experiment here at my place. It’s something I’ve thought about doing for a while now, and now I actually am doing it. For the past 2 months or so, I’ve dropped my cable company, and I haven’t been watching live TV. This actually isn’t the first time I’ve done it, but this is the first time I’ve done it where I wasn’t able/willing to have somebody else tape something for me. :) The good news is that I really don’t miss it that much. I’m not against TV at all, but it was getting foolish to spend money on something that was hardly ever used. As vital as we sometimes think it is, TV is a luxury. We sadly haven’t been using it as a luxury, but as a necessity. It’s time we changed that. We don’t have to watch something just because someone else says we should.

You’ve probably heard of Bruce Springsteen’s “57 channels and nothing on.” Actually, aside from the loads of junk, there’s a lot of fine stuff on TV. But for me, there’s not a lot on TV that makes me want to watch it- and a lot less that makes me want to pay the bills to watch it. I’ve actually “done the math” on this. If you’re paying $60 or more per month for television, and there are only three things on per month that you want to see, that’s like paying $20 to watch something on TV! Indeed, why not just buy the DVD if you can? It honestly is a good question to ask yourself as you’re lounging around complaining about the stupid show you’re watching. . .and then not changing the channel. You just sit there complaining about what’s going on. But you don’t do anything about it, even though you have the power to change things. You remind me of several people I know. Get up. Turn off tube. Do something better. Heck, you might even want to give up surfing the Internet if you really want to.
Wait, where are you going?

NO MORE HOT PANTS? A lot of comic book fans are feeling pretty patriotic these days. They're upset that Wonder Woman is losing her star-spangled blue shorts! I'm only a bit upset, as it has been pointed out that at least you can still see the outline of her legs. I suppose we haven't lost too much. Although I should point out that both WW and Captain America have seen some changes recently- and that both characters traditionally wear patriotic clothing. Are comic book writers turning against patriotism? Is this a plot to reduce the value of the red, white & blue? Well, actually, Wonder Woman changed her outfit for the same reason that Captain America died, and Superman died. To sell comics. I think we'll be seeing the hot pants again. Superman died, and we saw him again. Captain America will be starring in a movie, even though he died. Spider-Man changed his costume. Then he went back to the old one. Pardon my cynicism, but when you've seen it all before. . .It's just like Lady Gaga. I look at her and see Madonna. Some people look at Madonna and see Peggy Lee. Some people look at Peggy Lee and see whoever played the “provocative blonde solo singer” role before she did. I'm not sure who that was. I'm not quite that old. Close, though.

AT LAST WE KNOW: Oh, you lucky reader. I know you thought you were just wasting your time reading my blog, but I am going to reward you handsomely for your efforts. I am going to tell you THE MEANING OF LIFE! It isn't going to be as deep and profound as you'd hope, but it's going to be quite meaningful. I figured it out last week as I went to attend a meeting that I thought was taking place at a local library. I went to the library, but there was no meeting. Kind of reminded me of another event (check out the January 2006 archives for that one). So I decided to use my free time to do some shopping. Went to a store I wanted to go to for a while. It was closed. Went to another store nearby. It was closed. Went to Goodwill to shop and drop off a donation. They were closed - but the lady who was there was glad to take my donation. At this point I was getting mad. Why is nothing going right today? I thought about another nearby store, and immediately thought to myself, “Why bother? They're closed.” Which they were!

Now I realize that this seems like a petty thing to complain about in the big scheme of things. So what if I went out shopping and the stores were closed? Well, it's easy to say that now, because it's over. But it wasn't fun at the time. In the midst of my anger, I decided to stop in at Rite Aid and have a chocolate chip ice cream cone. It was good. Yum. I was reasonably happy again. As I walked along the parking lot eating the ice cream, the secret of life occurred to me. No, it's not ice cream. Life is making the best out of a bad situation. Think about all the people you know or have ever heard of. No matter how much they were blessed or cursed, no matter what they had to go through, they had to make the best they could out of a bad situation - life. Life has always been a challenge. It always will be. We meet the challenge every day and - even to a very small degree - we overcome the challenge. We don't overcome everything, but I think we should be proud of what we do overcome. Life gives us lemons, and we make lemonade. But we MAKE the lemonade. It doesn't appear naturally. The good that we find in this life comes only if we look for it. Most of us are only looking at the lemons and saying, “This sucks,” and going home. It never occurs to us that we have to do something. In a day filled with bad things, I did one thing to make me happy. I overcame. I made it a good day. I'll try to keep doing that, and hopefully next time I won't even need the ice cream.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Star Tours closing- for a while

Since its debut in 1987, Star Tours has been one of my favorite rides in the Disneyland park. But the ride will be closing in a few weeks to re-debut in 2011 with a new version. The usual mixed feelings arise- although I should know by now that whatever they do, it's going to be fun. I think that for the most part, the Disney & Star Wars team-up has been a great success. They've been able to create things that are both fun for Star Wars fans and for Disney. I had great fun watching the YouTube clips of the Star Wars fan days at Walt Disney World. You haven't lived until you've seen Darth Vader dance to Michael Jackson's "Thriller!" Silly? Of course. But fun. I sometimes think we need to be careful not to make fun of Jar-Jar Binks. Who is to say that Star Wars fans aren't just as silly as he is?

I had hoped to visit Disneyland earlier this year, but the usual real-world issues crept in, and it's likely that my last visit to the old "Star Tours" was just that. But I look forward to next year's new ride.


EVERYONE ELSE IS BORED: This is my 100th post. But you don't care. :) That's fine! I understand. The Web is full of a lot of stuff and our lives don't allow much time for unimportant things, like a blog that's only updated every few weeks.

A few weeks ago at work, we listened to a presentation from somebody in the Web department. No, not Spider-Man. It was an Internet person who wanted to tell us about how we can attract more people to our websites. It was certainly a good presentation for anyone who wanted to attract a lot of readers to their sites. But what the speaker may not have understood is that not every website has the same goal. The “goal” of this blog is not necessarily to attract thousands of readers.

A real goal of blogging was made clear recently in a post by Lee from the “Music you (possibly) won't hear anywhere else” blog. In his comments section, someone had snidely posted something like, “Jesus loves you, everyone else is bored.” After some consideration, Lee put the comment up in its own posting. Why? Because he realized that it was true. And it is (no offense, Lee!). And it's true for me as well. The Lord and I have been through a lot of happy, sad and angry times together. The fact that He cares for me after all the crap I've given Him means the world to me. With Him, it doesn't matter to me that everyone else is bored.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sesame Street political dreams

By request from the Muppet Central forums, here's a picture of Big Bird when he ran for president in a 1970s episode of Sesame Street. I don't own the original picture, so thanks go out to whoever first took the time to scan this in. I'm guessing that it was part of a press kit or press release.

Years after Big Bird's run for president, Oscar showed Cookie Monster a crumpled-up copy of Big Bird's presidential poster. This inspired Cookie to run himself, and sing the immortal "If me were president Cookie." It was a good song that might never be heard again. :) Oscar accompanied Cookie Monster to various speeches in front of an anything muppet audience. The one quote from Cookie I recall: "Give me liberty, or give me cookie." In the end, both Cookie and Big Bird dropped out of the race for the same reason: It's really hard to run for president.

Years later, Oscar would run for mayor of New York City. His campaign ad began with a voice-over from Telly Monster:

TELLY: Oscar, do you think this city is a mess?

OSCAR: Yes. This city is a mess. But it's not enough of a mess. Vote for me and the Big Apple will become the rotten apple!

Again, Oscar dropped out of the race within one episode, I think mostly because of all the good things he realized he would have to do.

Some other notable fictional folk who have run for president: Snoopy (In a promotion with Dolly Madison, I think), Winnie the Pooh (in a promotion with Sears, I think) , Olive Oyl (in a dream sequence from a cartoon) .

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

When it isn't on itunes

Record Store Day is this week, on Saturday. Why does it matter? Well, let me tell you. . .

Two favorite albums from my youth were released on CD in March- the “Sesame Street Old School CD set volume 1” is a must-have for “Sesame Seeds” like myself. It includes the first Sesame Street album, as well as “Bert and Ernie sing along,” which I believe is the funniest children’s album ever made. It is certainly one of the most creative. (The set also includes “Big Bird Sings,” which while not a specific favorite, deserves mentioning.) So this was a set I wanted- but I decided to buy it locally rather than online. I’m not against ordering online, but when you buy things locally, you get them into your greedy little hands faster. Yes, you do. But this created an issue- exactly where should I get it? This isn’t an easy question to answer. Here’s what happened on my escapade:

1. My first attempt was at Their store is easily the largest in my area, and while they don’t have everything, they’ve got a lot. It’s easy for a music browser to waste an hour or two looking around. I felt that this was a reasonable first choice. But no dice. The album wasn’t there.

2. While I didn’t really expect to find it at Wal-Mart, I felt it was at least worth a peek. Wal-Mart is the 21st-century answer to the “general store.” You can generally find everything you will generally need. Need a shirt? Need a book? Need a movie? You can find them all at Wal-Mart. The problem is, you may not find THE shirt, THE book or THE movie that you were looking for. The more specific you get, the less likely you are to find it at Wal-Mart, or Target or any of the similar stores. This case was no exception, I couldn’t find the CD set there.

3. At last, success. The “Old School” set was found in. . .a local independent music store. Not a children’s store. A store for music fans. This store isn’t the biggest music store in town. But biggest isn’t always best. I don’t think the store was making a specific effort to bring Sesame Street to the masses (in fact, there was only one copy in the store). But I do think the store was trying to have as good a selection of music as it possibly could. If that means offering a Sesame Street CD set, so be it. And in this case, they found someone eager to buy. I’m glad I was able to buy it at an independent store. I wish that other stores would see the importance of trying to offer as much as they could in store. It works.

The saga of music stores over the past few years has been interesting. Incidentally, Hollywood Video has been having some issues as well, closing several stores in an effort to bounce back from bankruptcy. Their struggles demonstrate how even the movie rental industry has changed. Check my archives for more about music stores.


BEYOND THE POINT OF NO RETURN: Longtime comic book fans will remember the “What if” series of comics. They featured stories that tried to answer what would happen to a particular character if things were slightly different. For example, the first issue was titled, “What if Spider Man had joined the Fantastic Four?“ Another was titled, “What if Wolverine had killed the Hulk?“ It was a fun series, but composer Andrew Lloyd Webber may have just created the most elaborate and expensive “What if” of all.

In the movie “Phantom of the Opera,” based on Lloyd Webber’s hit musical, there is a point where the Phantom has the opportunity to make love to Christine. (It isn’t the best opportunity, as Christine has just fainted). But he doesn’t do it. He draws the curtain down and lets her sleep. Well, in the new musical play “Love Never Dies,” we are given a “what if” scenario. What if the Phantom and Christine had been intimate? Or perhaps a better title would be, “What if everyone strongly suspected that the Phantom and Christine had been intimate?” It’s an interesting idea, and it has many longtime “Phantom Phans” in a bit of an uproar. Admittedly, it doesn’t seem to fit with the original story very well. I can just see the Phantom drawing the curtain down, then saying, "Oh, what the heck?" and pulling it up again.

But to be fair, it isn’t the first time someone has had the idea for this plot twist. It appears notably in Susan Kay’s novel “Phantom,” although in that case the story was changed slightly to allow a time and place for the intimacy. I’ve read Kay’s novel & enjoyed it- it certainly should also be viewed as a “What if” when compared to the musical, as it contains events and characters that weren’t included in that production. If the phans can accept phantom phiction like “Phantom”, perhaps they can phind it in their hearts to phorgive this latest production. Phew!
If you check out the forums at, you can see some pictures from the “Love Never Dies” production. One of these pictures features Christine and the Phantom standing in front of what one poster says looks like. . .a part of the female anatomy. As the poster says, “I can’t make this up.” The play has debuted in England to mixed reviews. At least the music seems to be quite beautiful (you can hear one song in my Favorites folder on my Youtube page). I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing this play, but whether it will affect me the way “Phantom” did remains to be seen. But if it’s an enjoyable show, Mr. Lloyd Webber, that’s all I can ask of you.

ON YOUTUBE: ERNIE AND BERT GO THEIR SEPARATE WAYS. It’s about time I featured this one. The audio comes from my own recording, posted to YouTube by jonnytbirdzback. It’s one of many fun lost Sesame St. skits that as of now hasn’t been added to the clips on Sesame Workshop’s site. But it’s still early. . .You can check it out in my favorites folder on my YouTube page, and if you want to see more of the same you can check out Sesame Workshop’s site for cool classic clips.


Monday, March 22, 2010

March musings part 2

A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS: I first visited Hollywood on a very brief trip back in 2006 or so. I basically walked down Hollywood Boulevard taking pictures of the stars in the street. I made it all the way to the classic Mann’s Chinese Theater, but time prevented me from looking at the legendary hand and footprints in cement. I basically had to leave right then and there. A few weeks ago, I got another chance to go to Hollywood, and this time the cement prints were a must see. It was fun- I got to compare my handprints to Humphrey Bogart, Robin Williams and Deanna Durbin. and it also led me to a bit of a mystery. It seems that a penny was put into the block with Deanna Durbin’s cement prints. Why? It took a little bit of searching, but it seems that Deanna played a character named “Penny” in a film around that time. Here’s a quote from an article that someone was kind enough to post:

"They're organizing an expedition to dig up the penny at the Chinese Theater," explained Deanna (Durbin). When they took my footprints for the theater someone exclaimed, 'Oh, we should have a penny to put in the cement with her footprints!' Because my name is 'Penny" in the picture, you know. And some elderly lady brought one up and they used it. I tried to find her afterward, thinking I'd like to know more about her-she was so sweet to us. But she had gone home."
- HOW KIDS GROW UP IN HOLLYWOOD, Oakland Tribune, February 26, 1939, By Alice L. Tildesley

This is a fun example of change that has been laying on the ground for the past half-century or so. My friend Bert, obsessed with finding pennies (long story, folks), urged me to try and pick it out of the cement. No such luck; it was wedged in there pretty deep. He then suggested I take out the entire block of cement and bring it home. I responded, "Who do you think I am, Lucille Ball?"

I’m not sure about this, but I’d bet that the Star Wars characters have the shortest amount of time between their first movie and getting their feet in cement at the theater. The date on their cement block is August 3, 1977- which is LESS THAN THREE MONTHS after Star Wars debuted! How would you like to get your footprints in cement at the theater less than three months after you debuted as a movie star? Not too shabby, boys. It’s quite a testament to how popular the film was at that time.

It was a fun visit - I’d recommend you to go early, and be aware that you’ll be ambushed by several people who want to give you a tour of the town. You can view a few of the classic prints in cement on my Flickr page:


THE MORE THINGS CHANGE: I picked up a copy of Fantastic Four 400 at a flea market recently, and got a real kick out of it. It was a fun read, and it immediately brought me up to speed (well, at least more up to speed) on what has been going on in the comic. Reed is dead. Reed’s dad has taken his place. Ben has a weird face deformity going on. I‘m sure he doesn‘t sweat it too much. Dr. Doom’s son Kristoff has taken Doom’s place. Johnny is apparently getting over a bad relationship. Susan is trying to get over Reed’s death. The Watcher has been demoted to the laughingstock watcher. In spite of these significant changes, things are pretty much the same for the FF. The comic broke ground in that it was one of the first to present the characters as “real people” with personal issues that affected their work. Those personal issues remain an important part of the comic, and hopefully always will.

More about my thoughts on comic books here:


LET’S ROB SAN DIEGO: Now look, folks. I’ve got nothing (major) against Los Angeles. It’s a fine town. But coming from San Diego, I have a few concerns. First there are rumors that the San Diego Chargers will move up to the L.A. area. That would leave San Diego without a football team and the possible demise of Qualcomm Stadium into housing tracts. NOW there’s a rumor that the Comic-Con will be moving to Los Angeles! Please folks, one crime at a time. Give San Diego a bone, here. I know L.A. is trying to be the big “hub” of entertainment, but it’s not fair to say that ALL entertainment has to take place in L.A. Keeping the Comic-Con in San Diego is no big loss to L.A., and based on the Comic-Con’s past success, keeping it in San Diego won’t prevent the fans from coming to visit. My only fear is that somehow, the Comic-Con suits will smell more money by moving to L.A. Their gain will be San Diego’s loss. That could be what the folks in charge of the Chargers are going through as well. But when talking about L.A., anyone who lives in San Diego will tell you- bigger isn’t always better. If they do move to L.A., it will be for the money.

Come to think of it, that’s why I moved to L.A. . .

Friday, March 12, 2010

March musings, part one (I hope)

MEET BARBARA SIPPLE: My music collecting hobby has introduced me to another great artist that I enjoy a lot. Barbie Sipple produced a pair of Christian folk albums from back in the day that make for some beautiful listening. She sings some great songs, and anybody who likes Bert is a friend of mine. You can enjoy a few of her songs here:


WHILE NO ONE WAS WATCHING: On March 6, 2010 at 8 p.m., Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” made its broadcast television debut on ABC Family Channel. You missed it? Don’t feel bad, I almost did, too. If I hadn’t seen it while glancing through the newspaper TV listings, I’m sure I would have missed it. It wasn’t on the news. I didn’t see any ads for it in the paper or on TV (I must qualify this by saying that these days, I seldom spend much time watching TV). In order to understand why this is significant, consider the following:

* When Walt Disney’s “Dumbo” made its broadcast TV premiere, it was preceded by an hour-long special about Walt Disney productions.
* When “Star Wars” made its broadcast TV premiere, it was preceded by a special about the making of the film (this despite the fact that Star Wars had already debuted on home video and on pay cable TV).
* For decades, the annual TV broadcast of “The Wizard of Oz” was a rite of passage for kids & fans, sometimes preceded by specials about the making of the film.
* When “Pinocchio” and “Mary Poppins” made their debuts on the Disney Channel (in the days when it was a “premium” or extra cost cable channel), they each made the front cover of the Disney Channel magazine.
*"Gone With The Wind" was, for several years, almost as big a TV event as “Wizard of Oz.” The film was usually split into two parts over two nights. I recall it being on the front page of the local TV guide.

I bring these things up to try to demonstrate how much TV has changed. This super movie makes its broadcast debut, and everybody says, “Ho-hum! Oh, well. I’ll just rent it on Netflix.” It’s a far cry from the days when there were only three networks, and only two of them had a clear signal. Back then, the TV debut of a special film was something to celebrate. Today, the product is so cheap that we not only surround it by commercials, but we interrupt it with a little note at the bottom of the screen promoting another TV show.

Remember when we found out “Who shot J.R.?” My family and I never watched “Dallas,” but the hype around the event was so huge that you couldn’t help but be interested to find out who did it. I recall watching the show for about ten minutes before shutting off the set and going to bed (no muppets, you see). Of course there are plenty of shows today that still carry that “must-see” feeling along, notably “Lost,” “24” and “American Idol.” The difference today is a lot more choices. More shows means more to watch - even if it’s not what you really want to watch. It’s like food. There are thankfully many options for getting food today, even if it isn’t really what you want to eat. And because of this, we tend to take food for granted- even after we’ve had a wonderful meal. It’s hard to appreciate something that’s so readily available, almost like the air we breathe. Sometimes, it takes skill to be thankful.

I’m thankful when something cool comes on TV that I’d like to watch. The problem is that these days, with so many choices, and with the product being treated so cheaply by the stations, that doesn’t happen too often. I was thankful to see “Snow White” make its broadcast debut, but as I zipped through the teeny-bopper commercials and endured all the little “bugs” on the screen, I began to wonder how thankful ABC Family was to be running it, and how thankful everybody else was to be seeing it.

More about this fabulous film here:


WHY HAS THE MUSIC STOPPED?: This partial post from Dartman sums up perfectly everything I could say about the subject:

In case you haven't heard, MTV took the "Music Television" out of their name last week. It makes what most of the world has known for years official: MTV is no longer a music channel. It's sad and very depressing. When MTV first hit the airwaves, it was a revolution and a phenomenon. It was very similar to the first wave of Rock and Roll back in the 50s. Kids loved it and parents hated it. It gave rise to a new form of musician and started a whole new era of music. Then, somewhere along the way, it became home to a bunch of really sophomoric programs that had nothing to do with music. . .Today's youth and all future generations have no clue just how great MTV once was. MTV has become the rebel that became part of the establishment when the sound of money clinked in their ear.

Just one P.S.: There are an awful lot of talented musicians that I never would have heard of if they had not been on MTV. Today, I don’t know of another venue that could present those artists to such a wide audience. The music industry is, sadly, very fragmented. Everyone seems to “already know” who they like, and while people might be willing to listen to new artists that aren't on the radio. . .there’s really no good way for them to actually do it. Not anymore.

NO HAIR? DON'T CARE: Here's a recent column from friend Steve Lambert. I am not, as he is, one of those who has been given the gift of a bald head, but after you read his words, I'm not going to be too worried about going bald. Here are some excerpts:

"When it comes to aging's effect on men's hair, there is no hiding. We've all known guys who thought they'd be the exception - that they'd fool Mother Nature with their bad dye jobs, plugs, creepy-looking hairpieces or comb-overs.

"Some joke about it, as Art Garfunkel did (yes, those curly locks are fake) during his recent concert in San Bernardino. Which may be stranger still - "I'm bald, I'm going to cover it up with a bad wig, then tell you all I'm covering it up with a bad wig." Why not just stay bald?

"Telly Savalas did. Michael Jordan did. And if you ask women which version of Sean
Connery they find sexier - the buzzed, confident street cop in "The Untouchables" or the badly-touped submarine captain "The Hunt for Red October," it's not even close."

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Valentine for Wonder Woman

Yes, I’m a blogger. Just because I haven’t done it for a month or two, people give up on me. Sad. But at least let me explain what Wonder Woman is doing here.

If you check out the Cinema Cervello blog on a semi regular basis (and please do if you enjoy fun film reviews, along with links to other cool sites), you’ve noticed the “character assassination” game going on. Basically, the idea is to list several popular fictional characters and eliminate the “lesser” ones until “there can be only one.” Readers are invited to cast votes for the character they like the best. So far in the competition, Benjamin Linus from “Lost” has won, managing to win out over the king from “Lord of the Rings,” Han Solo, Commander Adama from “Battlestar Galactica,” Willow from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,“ and Treebeard. (That Treebeard loss really gets to me, man.)

What would happen if we were to do such a thing on this blog? I can see the competition now: Underdog vs. Carolyne Heldman vs. Mister Rogers vs. Meredith Vieira vs. George the Lobster. (Thankfully for both of us, there won’t be such a competition. To paraphrase one of the Wayans brothers, “This is a dictatorship, and I’m Dick.”) But I couldn’t help but thinking, who WOULD be the person/creature best suited to lead all the ragtag fictional characters I love? As I see it, the goal is not necessarily to vote for your favorite person, but for the one you feel would be best able to lead. The one with the most well-rounded set of skills and personality. That’s a lot to ask for when you consider the myriad of different characters to choose from. Not an easy task. Everyone has strengths in many different areas. Nobody’s perfect, even in the “fantasy world.” That may be because in the largest sense, perfection itself is a fantasy. Hang on, I’m getting profound. I need to get back to the pointless point.

My first choice was Superman, knowing that he had the physical, emotional and intellectual strength to conquer just about anybody. (The Hulk may theoretically be stronger, but would you trust him to rule?) But as I thought about the Cinema Cervello competition, and specifically how Willow initially won out over Commander Adama, I had to admit that looks count for something. I had to admit that there was someone who I would rather watch in action than Superman. Someone also physically strong, smart and emotionally strong. And gorgeous. Yep, WW. Not as strong as Superman, but if you’re looking for a well-rounded heroine who is physically strong enough to whip just about any bad guy, it’s hard to top her.

Picture this. You’re a German general in World War 2. You are fighting the enemy on the battlefield. You have plenty of ammunition and grenades at your disposal. An American soldier charges at you. You raise your rifle. BANG! He’s dead. A group of soldiers come at you. Again, your rifle comes to your aid. BANG BANG BANG! Down they fall. Suddenly, you see a tank headed your way. You throw a grenade at it. BOOM! It’s enough to disorient it at least. You keep fighting. Then a half-naked woman wrapped in an American flag runs toward you. “What the. . ?” You drop your rifle and grenade. Even if you’re not overcome with lust, you’re wondering how this is possible. You just don’t expect to see something like this. Not on the battlefield, or anywhere else. You’re stunned just as much as if you had been hit in the face. And before too long, you literally ARE hit in the face by the beautiful woman that you were too shocked by to attack. You fall to the ground, defeated by a weapon that was the last thing in the world you were expecting. If you had never heard of Wonder Woman before, you could not possibly have been prepared for this.

For a time, in the comic books, Wonder Woman was taken out of her traditional costume and put into - well, basically regular clothes. They were nice enough clothes, but it was clearly a bad move! They were trying to make it a more realistic situation, but in this case it didn’t really work and the traditional costume finally won out. I mention this to demonstrate how important the costume is. Without it, you don’t really have the heroine. You know WW immediately by her costume. That German soldier probably wouldn’t have been too impressed by WW had she attacked him while wearing regular army fatigues.

As usual, so much more to write and so little time. Let’s just say that WW is a heroine for everyone, man or woman. And guys, if you’re only interested in her beauty, you’re not looking at her hard enough.


THE SEARCH FOR ‘THE SEARCH FOR SOLUTIONS’: For me, music collecting is not limited to record collecting, or CD collecting, or mp3 collecting. It includes music that in some cases has never been released commercially. That’s part of the challenge and the fun, of course. Here’s a good example of how something like that can eventually be found.

Back in my grade school days, there was a film series (dang, remember when schools used movie projectors to show movies?) called “The Search for Solutions.” I’m sure we didn’t see the complete series, but we saw some of it, and it included a short music piece that has stuck with me to this day. I filed it away under “you’ll never find that one” for many years. When the Internet came along, I was pleased to find that it at least knew what “Search for Solutions” was. That’s a big plus. Often, the Internet will be pretty much clueless as to a particular short movie that you saw in school. While the series was still in school circulation, I don’t own a projector, and I probably wouldn’t be able to rent them anyway. I can hear the librarian now. “You’re not a teacher, or a student, but you want to rent this film? How do I know you’re not a movie destroyer intent on cutting up this precious masterpiece?”

But in my spare time one day (and incidentally, that’s something that the die-hard music collector is going to need), I did a “Search for Solutions” search again and found out that the music had actually been composed by Lyle Mays and. . .Pat Metheny! It was neat to realize that someone I had heard of composed the music. On Pat’s site, it not only includes a video clip from the series featuring a cute balloonist (there’s something about me and brunettes, I know), but at the end of the clip, we get to hear the music that I heard way back in school. It has taken nearly 30 years for me to hear this music again. That’s how much spare time you’re going to need. And that’s why music collecting - or any hobby - must only be a hobby, and not your whole life. Enjoy the clip.


CONAN’S LAST REQUEST: I’m not much of a fan of late night TV. But when I had the chance to catch the last few minutes of Conan O’Brien’s final “Tonight Show”, I had to tune in. I’m not much of a fan of Conan either, but I really like what he said before signing off:

"To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: Please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism - it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."

For the past few weeks, NBC has reminded us of the fact that it (and life) is not fair. It has put the quest for ratings on a higher level than a man’s career. Nothing new there, of course - TV is notorious for dropping shows and people that don’t make the “cut.” Which is probably why so many people have grown cynical about it. What’s the use of doing your very best on a TV show only to have it yanked off the air whenever someone decides they don’t like you? A lot of talented people probably look at the entertainment industry and realize it isn’t for them - because their talents will not be truly appreciated by the people who pay them. Who knows what kind of talent we’re missing out on?

But as he exited the show, Conan asked us not to be cynical. That means a lot. Conan is smart. He realizes that he has been very blessed and chooses to focus on that rather than on his exiting the show. That’s the way it ought to be for all of us when something good has to end. And perhaps most important point of all: When Conan encouraged us to not be cynical and to be kind, it was an indirect way of saying, “Don’t be like NBC,” which is an indirect way of saying, “Don’t be like the world.”

I can’t help but like that.

A few more seconds of Carolyne Heldman from late 1980s MTV has made it to YouTube. This will have to suffice until the long-awaited “Best of Carolyne” DVD is available sometime in my wildest dreams. Enjoy the clip from MTV of old on my YouTube page in my favorites folder.