Thursday, September 17, 2015


Okay, I lied. 

I have to comment because I kind of love this video and I watch it at least once a month. It has a strange hold over me. 

Maybe it's because I've attended and/or run booths at countless New Age festivals, art fairs, psychic fairs, yoga festivals, and various organized gatherings centered around one or more of the following: Eastern philosophy, massage, Reiki, healing, Tarot, crystals, African dancing, drum know. All that feel good hippie stuff. Maybe it's because I spent a large part of my childhood surrounded by my mom and stepdad's friends; hanging at our house, coming in and out of town for their Hakomi classes and new-thought-type therapy workshops that they were all either teaching or attending. 

Like it or not, these are my people. They must be, because I feel comfortable and at home around them. The weirder the better. 

That said, this video is fucking hilarious. I don't know what it is. But I know I've seen this stuff up close many, many, many times. Hell, I've participated in it. I've walked among these people. 

And it doesn't make it any less funny.

I don't get it, but at the same time I totally get it. It's sort of in my DNA at this point. But that doesn't mean I understand it. 

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Graham Parker and the Shot
"Wake Up (Next To You)"

Recently I watched the Judd Apatow flick This Is 40, his middle-aged crisis comedy from a few years back. It wasn't very good. I didn't have high expectations going in, as Apatow films are pretty hit or miss. He's partly responsible for Freaks and Geeks, a show that I absolutely adored (though I suspect the real brains behind that one was writer/director Paul Feig, who truly is awesome). But I also enjoyed Forgetting Sara Marshall and Pineapple Express, which I seem to recall were Apatow productions. And of course I love Girls, another show he's partly responsible for. But the rest of his cannon....meh. 

The main problem with This Is 40 are the film's central characters; an unlikable yuppie couple and their annoying kids. And I'm usually willing to give unlikable characters a shot, because they are often--if handled right--among the most compelling. But there's unlikable and then there's unwatchable, and the central family of This Is 40 straddles a dangerous line between the two. I had a similar problem with Friends With Kids, which boasted a stellar cast (Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph, Jennifer Westfeldt, Chris O'Dowd, and Kristen Wiig, among others) but the characters were so grating I literally only got through the first ten minutes of that one before pulling the plug.

Anyhoo, is all leading up to the only positive thing about This Is 40 that stuck with me, and that is Graham Parker, who is the focus of one of the movie's subplots. You see, Paul Rudd's character runs a struggling record label and he's busting his balls trying to promote Parker's latest effort, with little success. It jogged my memory; I hadn't thought about Graham Parker in years, perhaps not since around 1985, when the one song I'm familiar with was a very minor hit. The song is called "Wake Up (Next To You)," and it's a charming, bittersweet tune with a strong Elvis Costello-y vibe, and enough of an earworm that it's stayed with me after thirty years (which is really saying something). 

The video is pretty cool, too. And like I said, the song is something of an earworm. Good luck getting it out of your head--although it's a great song, so as earworms go that's not a bad thing.  

Friday, July 31, 2015


Kill Walter Palmer, that is. With extreme prejudice. And while we're at it, let's rid the planet of Kristen Lindsey* and Kendall Jones because fuck them too.

Earlier this month a sunken-eyed, dried-out corpse purportedly known as Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer killed a lion because he's an evil little pindick who's fond of illegally slaughtering any creature he can get within 100 feet of; a diseased turd of a man with hideous fake choppers and a penchant for sexually harassing his female employees.

Picture this abomination of nature forcing you to engage in "unwanted physical contact" involving your
"breasts, buttocks, and genitalia." Makes you want to scream and run under a shower, right?

I've been hyperventilating about this along with the rest of the world, signing online petitions to have his lily-white Romney-supporting ass extradited to Zimbabwe and joining Facebook groups to talk about what a psychopath he is and how anyone who hunts is a cousin-banging, cross-eyed redneck scumbag, and I have nearly hit outrage-fatigue. So I thought it would be cleansing and cathartic to write a brief post pointing out what a putrid, festering hunk of undead flesh this asshole is, insult his penis size, and call him a murderer. 

And guess what? I do feel kind of better now. 

Oh yeah, there's also this:

And this....

 And I'd be remiss if I didn't include....


Okay, I feel much better now. 

*Speaking of that other vile slab of meat, go here for information on filing a complaint to revoke Lindsey's vet license. (Online petitions are great, but this one needs an extra push with official paperwork.)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Well isn't that special?

Since the dawn of the family sitcom, television writers have had a weird hard-on for sneaking in important moral lessons and cautionary tales along with the requisite wisecracking kid characters and canned laugh tracks. This phenomenon is widely known as the Very Special Episode (or VSE) and the 1980's were rife with them. 

Some Reagan-era sitcoms were more "special" than others. I remember learning about leukemia, epilepsy, racism, child molestation, drug addiction, bed-wetting, rabies, teenage gangs, gambling, hitchhiking, kidnapping, runaways, gun violence, and grand theft (and that was just on Different Strokes!). 

While sitcoms of the eighties seemed particularly obsessed with teaching us impressionable latchkey kids about how fucking dangerous and evil the outside world was, the VSE trend seemed to continue into the 1990's. Although I had long outgrown family-friendly sitcoms by that point, I understand there was a Full House episode where one of the daughters decided she was too pudgy and put herself on a crash diet, prompting her parental figures to take her aside and say something like "But honey, it's what's on the inside that counts!" (like that's ever worked on any teenager, anywhere) and the infamous Saved By the Bell ep where future Showgirl Liz Berkeley took too many "caffeine pills" and had her sad little meltdown. Oh, please. These coddled Gen-Y/Millennials wouldn't know a Very Special Episode if it got them hooked on crack. In the touchy-feely nineties, no one in TV Land was being pummeled by alcoholic relatives, or getting "special hugs" from scary uncles, or offing themselves with pills, or being groomed by fat pedophiles. They didn't pull any punches with us in the eighties. That's why we're all hardcore, and these youngsters are so damn soft. 

Check out the shit we grew up with.   


This is the heartwarming episode where Uncle Ned (Tom Hanks!) comes for a visit. Turns out that Uncle Ned Donnelly has a wee problem with the drink (oh those Irish stereotypes). After Drunkle Ned runs out of whisky and beer, he chugs a bottle of vanilla extract and says "It's not Miller Time, it's vanilla time!"then smacks Michael J. Fox's stunt double across the room like he's auditioning for Laurence Fishburne's role in What's Love Got To Do With It. Yeah, it's pretty awesome.

"I learned it from watching YOU, Uncle Ned!"
Careless Memories: This is where I got confused, because I remember that Family Ties had quite a few guest stars who went on to have big careers--River Phoenix, Christina Applegate, Courtney Cox, Geena Davis, Crispin Glover, and Hank Azaria, among others--but I could have sworn that in this particular Very Special Episode the visiting alcoholic relative was played by Michael Keaton. A reasonable mistake, I guess, since the family of Family Ties were--duh, the Keatons--but I think it was also because Michael Keaton and Tom Hanks played a lot of the same type of characters during the eighties; hyperactive funny guys whose cheerful personas concealed a darker side.

Funnily enough, there are actually two Family Ties episode involving a weird uncle. The other one is family fuck-up Uncle Arthur, who makes a pass at Mallory. (Alex: "But Uncle Arthur's known you all your life. He used to bathe you when you were a baby." Mallory: "Yeah, well, I think he wants his old job back." )

The episode is titled "Give Uncle Arthur a Kiss." Yeah, they went there.
I don't remember seeing the Uncle Arthur ep at the time of airing, because it's from season 1 of Family Ties and I wasn't watching the early seasons at the time because they were really lame; it wasn't until season 2 or 3 (around the time of Meredith Baxter-Birney's pregnancy) that the show got a lot better. I'm thinking that Michael J. Fox's growing popularity gave them more freedom (and a bigger budget maybe) to fire the hacky writers and hire good ones. I tried to find internet articles supporting this claim, but no dice. I do remember a write-up in People magazine calling Family Ties "The most improved show on television," so it seems that at the time the general consensus was that the show started out bad and then surprised everyone by getting funny after it had been on a few years.  

*kids, get an old person to explain that joke to you.


I wasn't that into Facts of Life in its heyday. I guess the travails of a group of teenage girls at a private boarding school were a bit beyond me at the age of eight. Ironically, of course, I would end up going to a private boarding school when I was fifteen. But that's another story. As a young 'un, sitcoms like Different Strokes and Silver Spoons were more my speed. I do, however, recall watching The Facts of Life at my friend Heather's house, because her older sister Shannon (the most sophisticated middle schooler I'd ever known) was a big fan of the show. 

This VSE--which I see after Googling "The Facts of Life + suicide episode"--is called "Breaking Point." In it, a girl named Cynthia who we've not seen before and won't be seeing again, is the new golden child of Eastland. She even looks set to defeat class princess Blair Warner in the student council elections. Oh, the humanity! So there's a big build-up to Mrs. Garrett tabulating the election results while Blair divas around, kvetching about having to settle for Vice President if Cynthia wins the coveted title. Meanwhile, this Cynthia chick modestly proclaims how winning isn't important and how she's happy just to be nominated President and blah-dee-blah. She seems vaguely distracted by a bunch of phone calls from her rich parents, and keeps retreating to her room for privacy. Then it turns out that Cynthia is the big winner after all, and Blair is shattered and Cynthia is sort of blase about the whole thing. No one can figure out why she isn't more psyched. 

So in the next scene everyone is sitting around the kitchen and Tootie runs in and screams that she just found Cynthia unconscious in her room next to an empty bottle of pills. Chaos ensues, an ambulance is called, and the girls subsequently hunker down to wait for news. Later, Mrs. Garrett answers the phone and it's the hospital, calling to report that Cynthia is dead as a doornail. Everyone is like, "Why did she do it? She was pretty and popular and smart and she just won the student election!" 

The girls and Mrs. Garrett start packing up Cynthia's room and discover that they're to send her belongings to her mother's new address in Nevada. But why Nevada? Blair wonders. "The only person who lives in Nevada is Wayne Newton!" Heh. Y'know, that's funny, because as you might know, I happen to live in Nevada now. Anyway, they deduce that Cynthia's mom has set up residence in Nevada because she and Cynthia's dad are divorcing. Everyone's like, "Oh! That's why Cynthia seemed all weird and distant!" And this is when I call bullshit, because it was the 1980s, not the 1950s and the days of people going off to Nevada for divorces was ancient history by that point. But okay, whatever. 

Mrs. Garrett then gives all the girls a pep talk, saying "If you find yourself at the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on!" One of the girls suggests setting up a suicide hotline at Eastland. And everyone hugs and all that crap and thus the Melancholy Ballad of Cynthia comes to an end. 

Careless Memories: Not many, although I do remember thinking, "Wow, divorce sucks. I'm glad my parents are never going to break up." Ha. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. We'll see how long that delusion lasted. 

(a.k.a. "The One With the Pervert," "The One Where Dudley Gets Molested" 
"That One Fucked Up Different Strokes Episode," etc.)

Bicycle Man pours the kids a little vino.
And yes, Dudley is shirtless.

This one is the mother of all VSE's. If you were a child in the eighties, this episode is seared into your retinas like footage of the Challenger disaster. You can't forget it, no matter how hard you try. Years of therapy couldn't erase this one. In retrospect, it's no wonder we Gen Xers are known for being cynical and disenfranchised. Dude, we've seen things. Things you don't even know about. Things you couldn't handle. You think that stupid Saved By the Bell episode with the weak caffeine pill story arc was intense? Whatever, man. You don't even know.

First of all, this was a two-parter, so you knew shit was gonna get real. Part 1 of "The Bicycle Man," introduces Mr. Horton (Christ, they gave him such a molest-y name, too. Why not just call him "Chester"?) He's a funny, friendly bicycle shop owner that the Drummonds are suddenly really tight with. The episode opens with the fam (Mr. Drummond, Kimberly, Willis and Arnold) returning their rented bicycles to Mr. Horton's shop after a ride through Central Park. Mr. Horton--who juggles oranges and jokes around with Arnold because he's just a fun guy!--tells Mr. Drummond he hates to see him throw away his money on bike rentals when it's more economical to just buy some for the kids. Drummond is hesitant (like the Park Avenue millionaire can't spring for a damn kid's bike? What a cheapskate!). After some browbeating, Mr. Drummond agrees to buy Arnold a bike. Mr. Horton offers to toss in a free radio if Arnold passes out flyers for his bike shop to the kids at his school. "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours," he tells Arnold, who replies, "You keep coming up with these presents, you can scratch me all over!" 

Uh oh.

So Arnold gets his best friend Dudley to help him promote the shop, and the next thing you know Arnold is popping by the bike shop to pick up more flyers. As he comes in, Mr. Horton is seen escorting a little tow-headed boy out the door, saying, "Don't tell your parents I gave you all that candy. Let's make it our little secret," painting Horton's pre-vert status with a pretty broad brush (the show wasn't known for its subtly). Arnold gets there, exchanges some jokey banter with Mr. Creepypants, who invites him to his apartment in the back of the shop (WARNING! DANGER WILL ROBINSON!) to eat some ice cream and check out all his cool toys and video games. "Gee Mr. Horton, you sure understand kids!"

The clue phone was ringing. No one answered.

The next time we see ol' Horny Horton, Arnold has brought Dudley by the shop to see about a free radio for his pal. Mr. Bike Man is, of course, delighted to meet Dudley and immediately brings them to his sketchy backroom apartment to have some pizza and look at comic books. But--oops--Horton has "accidentally" left one of his porno mags out with all the comics. Yup. So Horton comes back from the kitchen with the pizza and the kids are all bug-eyed over the nudie book. But Bike Man's not mad! No, he explains to the kids that there's nothing wrong with the human body and that "you can have a lot of fun with your clothes off." (Oh God. Hold me.) To illustrate this, Horton brings out a bunch of photos of himself skinny-dipping with some young boys and holy shit I'm not even kidding about any of this. Then he gives the kids some red wine, produces a camera and suggests that Arnold and Dudley play "Tarzan" with him. This involves Dudley taking off his shirt and posing with Arnold in front of a house plant, then the words TO BE CONTINUED flash ominously across the screen.


Careless Memories: A little backstory. I was nine years old when this episode aired and my parents had just split up (told ya!). I remember that little detail because I watched Part 1 of "The Bicycle Man" at my mom's new apartment (it was a weekend visit; Different Strokes aired on Saturday nights). Needless to say, my mom was a bit freaked out by this episode and made a point to have a Serious Talk with me afterwards, saying something along the lines of "Um, you know it's not okay for a grown man to invite children over to his place for wine and dirty magazines and 'Tarzan' games, right?" Despite being a rather naive and sheltered kid at the time, I confirmed that, yeah, I got it. I mean, the show was pretty obvious in setting up a "That boy ain't rahhht" vibe about Mr. Horton. Helen Keller would have sensed something rotten in the state of Denmark with that guy. So the next weekend I was back at home with my dad, who was warned by my mom in advance that I was going to want to see Part 2 of the Creepy Bike Man Different Strokes episode. I know my Dad was like, "Oh, great. This will be awkward." (My dad didn't handle awkward very well.)

Anyhoo, back to the nightmare.

Part 2 of "The Bicycle Man" opens with a solemn-voiced narrator describing scenes from last week's Very Special Episode, complete with creepy freeze-frames of Arnold and Dudley drinking wine, Mr. Horton showing the boys his "skinny-dipping pictures" and convincing Dudley to get shirtless to play "Tarzan" with Arnold while he snaps photos. I really cannot convey in words how much more disturbing the narrator recapping the previous week's scenes makes this already disturbing episode. Check it out if you want to see for yourself, but I wouldn't advise it.

Trust me, it's not for the faint of heart.
We dive right in, back with Mr. Horton and the boys and the Tarzan game, and the show wastes no time in ramping up the creepiness, taking it to a whole new level now with Horton getting the bright idea of handing the camera to Arnold so Horton can get down on all fours to allow shirtless Dudley to hop on his back (in case it's unclear, Horton's pretending to be the lion that Tarzan Dudley "wrestles." Oh my God.) So that happens, and then Mr. H decides it's time for another round of libations to really get the party started. He pours Arnold and Dudley some more wine, prompting Arnold to make the "L'chaim!" toast (I love when writers throw in some random Hebrew). Then the door to the shop out front rings and Mr. Horton is like "Oh, it's a customer. I'll get rid of them." Right. Be sure to get rid of any potential customers in case they want to give you money in exchange for goods and services in order to keep your goddamn piddly-ass bike shop open, Genius. It just shows what a dedicated pervert this Mr. Horton is. Don't interrupt him with store business when he's in the back cavorting with prepubescent boys!    

Horton goes out front to discover that the customer is--Duh duh DUH--Mr. Drummond, dropping by to pay for Arnold's bike. Shit! Drummond gives him the money and Horton tries to hustle him out of the store, but Mr. Drummond seems to want to hang around and reminisce about the time his old man bought him his first bike and Horton is like sweating bullets and keeps trying to blow him off, but Drummond won't take the hint and leave. Arnold peeks out into the store, sees his dad, and panics. He and Dudley flee out the back door (oh, of course there's a back door).

A while later (a few days? A few months? It's not clear) Arnie and Duds are back at the bike shop again, because it's a Very Special Episode and the script requires them to be a bit dense when it comes to middle-aged dudes who want to be their super-special-secret friend. Mr. Horton's like, "Hey guys! I got some Boston creme pie and cartoons! Come on back!" But the cartoons he shows them are the X-rated variety in the vein of Fritz the Cat. At long last, Arnold realizes there's Something Not Quite Right about all this and gets the hell out of there, leaving Dudley to watch dirty cartoons with Mr. Horton, who tells him that after the video is over they can play "Neptune, king of the sea" in the bathtub. Oh dear.

Yeah, okay. Let's cut to the chase because I seriously need a Silkwood shower after revisiting all this shit. Arnold gets home, spills the beans about Horton, then Drummond, Dudley's dad and the police all converge on Horton's bike shop to find Dudley in back, coming out of the bathroom all dazed. Duds tells the cops that Horton gave him a pill that made him feel kinda funny (translation: he slipped him a quaalude) and then "he tried to touch me." Thank Godfully, that's as Special as things get in this Very Special Episode. Dudley's dad hugs him and tells him it's not his fault and he's not going to punish him. Later, back at Casa Drummond, Arnold tells his dad he's disappointed and feels like he can't trust anyone now. This leads his father to assure him that most people are okay, but (basically) any adult who plies him with gifts and sweets and wants to get overly familiar is Stranger Danger! and to tell an authority figure ASAP. Then Arnold concludes that "some hugs and kisses are okay" and hugs his dad and everything is peachy and normal again.

Wow. As I alluded to, this is all so much worse as an adult, reading between the lines and seeing all the plot machinations and subtext. I now need to binge-watch some Seinfeld to recover my snarky, detached Gen-X sensibility.

Deliver me from this evil, O Mighty Kramer.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015


Although I've written a few of my own bad reviews on this very blog, I've never gone to a site like Yelp and ripped a business or its employees for sucking. Not that I've never experienced poor customer service, because--duh--of course I have. Everyone has. But I've never been sufficiently pissed off (or impressed) enough to actually go and set up a profile on a business review site just to voice my opinions about a restaurant or a shop or a library or whatever. 

That said, I've come across some online reviews that are pretty damn funny. The best ones, naturally, are the ones that aren't meant to be funny, written by people who are all puffed up with self-righteous indignation because the Applebee's waitress screwed up their order and there was fucking cheese on their chili cheese fries when they specifically told her NO CHEESE ("and I'm lactose intolerant, goddammit! I was on the toilet for five hours!") and they've included a lot of !!!1! and typos and misspelled words to help illustrate their point. You know. Those kind of reviews. They're a hoot. 

I was searching online, trying to remember the location of a post office that's close-ish to our house, when I ran across some amusing Google reviews. 

Yes, Google reviews. For a post office. 


There were eight reviews listed, all of them dismal, and the star of these reviews was a mysterious, cranky postal worker named David.* Here's what some of the reviewers had to say (typos and misspellings left in for comic effect. My thoughts are in blue):
Truly the worse experience at any post office ever. David was rude, arrogant, unkind and unwilling to fix the situation. He would not even give me my mail back until I had to demand it back. Absolutely terrible customer service skills.
Wow. How bad to you have to be to provide the "worse experience at any post office ever"? I'm not even being facetious. I mean, that's bad. And are we to believe that this David dude got pissy and snatched her mail away from her, holding it hostage like a giant toddler? Did he also threaten to hold his breath until his face turned blue? That's....pretty funny. And entertaining for the other customers, I would think. 

"There is a USPS employee that is unbearable. His name is David. I've personally called customer service to leave a few complaints about his services. I'm European, and I don't know if he has something against my country but he doesn't treat me well. He won't accept my packages, or he'll try to charge me double to send them. I've to leave the office and go to the one in downtown, where I don't have any problem sending the packages regular rate. And last time he lied to me and told me that the rules had changed and prices were different. I called to confirm and USPS told me, after being on the line 56 minutes that prices haven't changed at all and I was in my right to send flat rate my package without any problems. Share your comments, maybe this man needs to change jobs." 
Well, I've encountered some annoying Europeans in my day. Americans don't have the monopoly on obnoxious public behavior. It just seems like we do. Maybe she was giving David some European-y attitude and he wasn't having it. Still though, sounds like old Dave might have some issues. 

Then it gets weirder. This reviewer seems to have studied writing at the James Frey school of Random capitalization. He also apparently composed the following while in the midst of a stroke. Either that, or he types with his feet:
The Business I own, with the hard work of our employees is all about provided the finest products and services via utilizing and implementing the best products we can find. GIGO, as the phrase goes. Here at Trik Production Company we Adobe Mater Suite design tools, Google for our Search engine AdWare and analytics, and old Microsoft for enterprise Organization. We make great e-Brand solutions because we pay good dollars for Top Tier Vendors, and most of all for tier 1 talent. This is the Point. You have bad USPS here with some looser named David that apparently didn't get a Pony when he was six. Now, do the right thing; Set David free to wander the landscape and find his Pony for Christ Sake. We have work to do. FYI, we are going to UPS down the...
And then he just trails off! Dude, don't leave us hanging! What the hell happened? Did David follow this guy home, sneak up behind him while he was writing this review, and pop a cap in his ass, Tupac style? If so, I'm sure David took umbrage with the notion that he was disgruntled because he never got his "Pony" when he was six. I have to say though, the image of a pissed off postal worker wandering the Nevada desert "landscape" in his little cap and postal worker shorts is sorta funny. Dumb, but funny.
I've saved my favorite review for last. This one proves that the best statements are often simple, short, and concise. No need for a gratuitous plug of your Trik Production Company. No call to show off your fancy European book-learnin.' Waste of time.

This review is from a person named Xisadz (?) who uses an anime character for an avatar. It sums up everyone's feelings in just five words:
I hate that bastard David.
Brilliant, Xisadz. You win. 

* "David? That's a Biblical name. What does he call you, Bathsheba?" (I never get tired of that line. It's from Annie Hall, my favorite movie ever.)

Aw, an old boyfriend of mine had this t-shirt back in the 90's.
Ironically, he had the patience of a saint.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Killers + Dave
Two great tastes that taste great together. 
Plus this song is SO AWESOME performed live it will blow off the back of your head. 

Monday, June 01, 2015

Dad's second grade class photo.
Centralia, Illinois
Happy Birthday Dad

My father would have been 84 years old today. I thought I'd post a few of my favorite photos of him throughout the month. 

Dad's 40th birthday.
I was born two years later. :-)

Mom and Dad's wedding, June 1st, 1971 (on his 40th bday, see above)
They got married at a park at midnight--my Mom's idea--in Tulsa.
A friend officiated. 
Me and Dad. He's making sure I don't eat the dandelion.

Dad's birthday, a few years later (me in the background--maybe about 8 years old?)
I love this photo. And I miss our yellow 1970s kitchen.

Dad and me, crashed out in his favorite armchair.
Hanging out on the banks of Lake Michigan.
Shortly after Dad moved to Sheboygan, WI (post-divorce) to work for Kohler.

More photos to come this month. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mad Men tribute: 
"The Times of Your Life" 

Oh my God, that video. The "Nostalgia" teaser trailer was wrenching enough, but this? With the shot of Betty standing in the hospital window, holding baby Gene and waving down at Don, Sally and Bobby? And the shot of Burt Cooper standing in his office, bidding Don goodbye as the door symbolically closes on him? Christ, break out the Kleenex. 

Anyhoo, in less than an hour, the Mad Men series finale premieres (Reno is in PDT time zone, which I still can't get used to). I'm being a huge nerd about this, but I can't help it. I am obsessed with Mad Men and I don't even want to think about tomorrow, when it will be all over. Seriously, how will I deal? Will I resort to desperate measures, like combing the interwebs for for Mad Men fanfic in an attempt to fill the gaping void? 

I could try to find another show that captures my interest, but I already know it's going to be like jumping back into the dating pool when you're still agonizing over your last relationship. There's no other show I can see myself committing to. I have no interest in Turn, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, True Detective, and every other sort of complex "edgy" drama series that's out right now. I am somewhat intrigued by Halt and Catch Fire, but I feel like the commercials are trying way too hard to court the Mad Men audience, with the quick-cut clips of power drunk computer geeks behaving badly. 

I wish I had a bottle of Jameson--shout-out to my Dad, retired Irish adman--so I could "pour one out" as a tribute. 


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rescued From Obscurity:
"Can't Wait One Minute More" by CIV

Trashy talk shows were sort of the reality shows of the 1990's, in that they were ubiquitous and everyone and their mother bitched about how awful and staged they were and how stupid the whole phenomenon was, and yet...they were inexplicably popular.

The low point came sometime mid-decade, when some asshole TV producer--undoubtedly in the middle of a serious drug bender--dropped his crack pipe, slapped his forehead, and said "Hey, I know! Let's give EVERYONE a talk show!" Then he looked down at the intern he was riding and said, "Hey you, get me the phone numbers of every C-list actor who ever cut a fart on primetime TV. Start with Vanessa from Cosby, that red-headed sex offender from The Partridge Family, the chick who played the 40-year-old teenager on 90210, and just keep going from there. Damn, this is genius!"

Anyhoo, in 1995 (around the height of the talk show boom) NYC hardcore punk band CIV had a very minor hit with "Can't Wait One Minute More." It's a fun song, and the video is a great satire of the talk show format, with lead singer Anthony Civarelli playing the snarky "host," hopping through the audience members as they jeer at the parade of talk show guest staples: the requisite teen gang bangers, the gay love triangle, the trailer park couple, the male strippers, and even some Elvis impersonators.

Besides the CIV video, there was one other good thing that came out of the '90s crap talk show zeitgeist, and that was Night Stand with Dick Dietrick, a little-known talk show parody that aired at some absurd time like 2:00 am on Monday mornings and is probably only remembered by insomniacs like me. Dick Dietrick (played by comedian Timothy Stack) was a clueless Alan Partridge-type host who was forever shit-talking his "rival," Jerry Springer. Night Stand nailed every one of the sleazy talk show stereotypes: the faux-sympathetic host, the homophobic audience members, the delusional guests, the hilariously lurid topics (I remember one episode titled "Homicide in a Double Wide"). It was awesome.

Thank God for YouTube, ya know?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Definitely SFW

My new favorite site is This Is Not Porn. True to the name, it's not porn; it's a huge collection of candid snapshots of stars on movie sets, at parties, backstage at concerts, hanging out at home, etc. Even cooler, TINP is searchable and covers a wide range of people and eras. You can see stuff like Rita Hayworth goofing off with Orson Welles in the '40s, River Phoenix eating a soy omelet with his brother in the '80s, shots of Freddie Mercury cuddling with his many cats in the '70s and much much more. A sampling of the awesomeness available:

Skatetown, USA!
A candid shot from the set of Skatetown USA, a 1979 roller disco flick that I can't believe I've never seen, given my obsession with cheesy cinema. I mean seriously, look at that cast! I spy Johnny Castle, Chachi, Marcia Brady, Arnold Horshack and crap teen movie hunk Greg Bradford. With all due respect to Patrick Swayze, that is an absolute B-movie dream team if I've ever seen one.

Unsurprisingly, there was a fair bit of good old fashioned '70s debauchery going on behind the scenes of this flick. Years later, Maureen McCormick confirmed in an interview that she was driving that train, high on cocaine during the entire shoot (as was pretty much everyone else involved). That little bit of trivia makes me grateful that cell phone cameras, internets and TMZ weren't around back then, because photos of Marcia Brady bent over a table doing rails of coke would have killed my entire childhood.  

Harrison on Hanover

Speaking of B-movies, here is a shot of Harrison Ford on the set of Hanover Street, a little known screen gem that I unashamedly adore. Set in England during WWII, Harrison plays an American pilot who has a torrid affair with a married English nurse played by Lesley Anne Down. Basically, it's a movie-length Harlequin romance novel complete with cringe-worthy dialogue and modest, PG-rated love scenes. I first came across this flick on cable when I was in middle school, and of course I thought it was the most romantic story in the history of ever. I should mention that my discovery of Hanover Street coincided with a massive pre-pubescent crush on Harrison Ford, along with the realization that I kinda dug men in uniform. Seriously, I need to hunt down this movie again. 

Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr. 

These two! You gotta admit, they made a seriously adorable couple. I am loving SJP's bracelets and curls and RDJ's fly threads and Elvis Costello specs. If the 1980's were a prom, I'd crown them King and Queen. And then they could have their slow dance to "Save A Prayer," because it isn't the '80s without Duran Duran. 

Matthew Broderick and Jon Cryer

Speaking of cute, here's Ferris Bueller and Duckie Dale in 1986, looking straight out of the pages of Teen Beat magazine. It's really too bad that the younger generation only knows Jon Cryer as the nebbish-y dork from Two and a Half Men, especially considering how dreamy he used to be. Yes kids, once upon a time, the Duckman had it goin' on. 

The Outsiders set, Tulsa, 1982

Because of my ties to Tulsa and S.E. Hinton and the novel, I have a deep love for The Outsiders. The southside socs, the northside greasers, Robert Frost, "Stay Gold," this amazing cast, just everything. Trivia: two of my Tulsa relatives were background extras in the drive-in scene.  

Seriously, check out This is not porn. It is pure awesome. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Wow, they really know how to milk it, don't they? First they halve season 7--the usual 14 episodes--just to stretch the last season over two years. And then these trailers. Using "Love Hangover" by Diana Ross is a stroke of genius. Was that Don's idea?

I will officially go into mourning after the series finale. This show has meant so much to me over the years. That said, this last-last season better be EPIC, because part 1 of season 7 was sort of a let-down.

I admit, I got choked up over these clips....

Premieres Sunday, April 5th. Not that I'm counting the days or anything.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"As far as I can tell, a massive electric shock. 
He died instantly." 

For explanation of post title, see 1:59 of the second YouTube clip

On the night of November 22, 1987, two Chicago television stations--WGN and local PBS affiliate WTTW--were hacked by an unknown party who managed to override the TV signals and break in with two separate pre-recorded segments that became officially known as "The Max Headroom Broadcast Signal Intrusion."

Here's a synopsis of the WGN hack (from wikipedia):

The first occurrence of the signal intrusion took place during then-independent station WGN-TV (channel 9)'s live telecast of its primetime newscast, The Nine O'Clock News (now known as WGN News at Nine). During Chicago Bears highlights in the sports report, the screen went black for 15 seconds, then returned with a person wearing a Max Headroom mask,[1] moving around and jumping. His head was in front of a sheet of moving corrugated metal, which imitated the background effect used in the Max Headroom TV and movie appearances. There was no audio other than a buzzing noise. The hijack was stopped after engineers at WGN switched the frequency of their studio link to the John Hancock Center transmitter.[2]

The incident left sports anchor Dan Roan bemused, saying, "Well, if you're wondering what's happened, so am I."

Pt. 1 -- The brief interruption on WGN during the evening news

And then later that same night, during a showing of Doctor Who on the Chicago PBS station....
Doctor Who was interrupted by television static, to which an unidentified man appeared, mentioning about WTTW pundit, Chuck Swirsky, saying he is better than him. The man started to moan, scream and laugh. He continued to laugh and utter various random and unrelated phrases, including New Coke's advertising slogan "Catch the Wave" while holding a Pepsi can (Max Headroom was a Coca-Cola spokesperson at the time), then tossing the can down, leaning towards the camera and giving the finger wearing a rubber extension over his middle finger, although it was hard to see the gesture. He then retrieved the Pepsi can, and saying "Your love is fading", before removing the rubber extension, then began humming the theme song to Clutch Cargo* saying "I still see the X", which referred to the final episode of the series, before resuming humming again. He then began to moan painfully, exclaiming about his piles (a reference to a Preparation H commercial), to which an indistinguishable flatulence sound is heard. He then stated that he had "made a giant masterpiece for all the greatest world newspaper nerds" (the WGN call letters used by the Chicago television station as well as its sister radio station are an abbreviation for "World's Greatest Newspaper", in reference to the flagship newspaper of their corporate parent, the Tribune Company's Chicago Tribune). He then held up a glove and said, "My brother is wearing the other one," and he put the glove on, commenting that it was "dirty" and that "it's like you got blood stains on it!" He then threw the glove down in disgust.
The picture suddenly cut over to a shot of the man's lower torso. His buttocks were partly exposed, and he was holding the now-removed mask up to the camera (with the rubber extension now placed in the mouth of the mask), howling, "They're coming to get me!" He then said, "Come get me, bitch!" An unidentified accomplice wearing a French maid outfit** then started to spank the man with a flyswatter as he screamed loudly. The transmission then blacked out for a few seconds before resuming to Doctor Who in progress; the hijack lasted for about 90 seconds.[3]
a weird 1960's cartoon, popular with stoners
** actually it was a cowgirl/Annie Oakley costume

Pt. 2 -- The more famous one, a longer clip (the one with audio), 
aired in the middle of a Doctor Who episode

ALSO, some of the subtitles are inaccurate: "Max" didn't say "I stole CBS," 
he said "I still see the X" (Clutch Cargo reference) and at one point 
he says "My piles!" not "My files!"

As it happened, I remember the incident well. I was actually in Chicago at the time, visiting my Dad for Thanksgiving week. Although I grew up in Indianapolis full time, I spent most holidays and about a dozen weekends a year in the Windy City. My Dad worked for an advertising agency on Wacker Dr. (heh heh, "wacker"), from 1985 - 1991 and he lived in a high rise on Diversey Pkwy, across the street from Lincoln Park.

Dad's old digs. I love that neighborhood and make a point
to pay my respects whenever I pass through the city. 
I didn't see the clip when it originally aired that Sunday night, but I saw the aftermath. My Dad always had the news on during the evenings, so in the following days we got to experience all the brouhaha and the media reports over "the television piracy." 

Here's a compilation of clips covering the incident:

My favorite part of the above video comes in at the 4:00 mark, with the incensed Doctor Who fan moaning in a thick Chicago accent, "We're gonna have to tape ooooh-ver it." It's funny, you'd think of all people, Whovians would appreciate being the first to see something bizarre and unexpected coming over the airwaves, but I also see why they would have been pissed off. In 1987, you didn't have instant access to any television clip you wanted to watch. You weren't spoiled by things like On Demand and YouTube. Doctor Who was more of a cult thing back then--definitely not as mainstream as it is today--so if you wanted to see The Doctor you really were at the mercy of the local PBS affiliate (and your VCR, apparently). In fact, the main reason why the Max Headroom pirating was able to gain legendary status in the pre-internet days was most likely because of the fans who were taping the episode, inadvertently preserving an infamous bit of broadcast television trollery in the process.

It's not hard to see why the FCC was nervous; obviously the persons responsible for carrying out the signal intrusion knew what they were doing and had access to fairly sophisticated broadcast equipment. These weren't your garden variety pranksters; if they were able to shanghai a newscast and an episode of Dr. Who with footage of some guy dicking around with a rubber mask, a flyswatter and little PG-13 bare-assed S + M, who knows what else they were capable of? What if they broke into an episode of This Old House and subjected innocent DIY enthusiasts to full-on penetration porn? Or what if--God forbid--the bastards used their evil to sabotage Moonlighting?

Bur aside from the FCC and television news, I don't remember much panic among the general public. There was a lot of head-shaking and a general attitude of "those darn hooligans better watch out!" but there was none of the "Oh my God, they're terrorists!" reaction you might get if it occurred today.

There have been countless online articles and blog posts written about the incident, and the video clips have racked up millions of views on YouTube. Over twenty-five years later, the prevailing attitude reflected in the YouTube comments (and some of the internet think-pieces) seems to be one of "OMG this is so fucking creepy!" I don't disagree with that sentiment, but IMHO the first WGN clip featuring the random Max Headroom head bobbing around the screen with the background buzzing noise is 100% creepier than the second interruption. If the hackers had stuck with the first intrusion and then faded into the ether, I think I'd have been sufficiently freaked out for the rest of my life. But coming back two hours later and goofing off with a Pepsi can, complaining of hemorrhoids and getting spanked by a fly swatter sort of negates the creepy momentum they had going with that first appearance.

The other thing that strikes me about the news coverage of the signal intrusion is how sure everyone was that the "pirates" would be caught. The fact is, the hackers were never caught or identified, and that makes it even more intriguing. 

Amazingly, in 2010 a guy on reddit claimed to know the duo behind the hacking. He has no real proof, but he's got some amazing insights. If he is telling the truth about being peripherally involved in the hacking/phreaking community in Chicago at the time, I'm inclined to believe that the two brothers he talks about are the culprits, The most telling clue is his revelation that the brother with autism (the one in front of the camera) had a habit of saying "Oooooh," (instead of "um," for instance) during pauses in conversation, something that rubber mask Max Headroom does frequently throughout the broadcast.

I hope that they never fully uncover the real story behind the Headroom hack. In this day and age of internet hoaxes and blatantly scripted "reality" TV and beloved icons being outed as cheaters and sexual predators, it's kind of comforting to have this bit of mystery that's managed to survive the internet age. The MHBSI stands out as a whimsical, bizarre little puzzle that can be endlessly debated and analyzed, but never understood.

And I kinda dig that.


Wednesday, March 04, 2015


So then there's this little bit of 1960's weirdness, a religious cartoon that they used to toss in among secular cartoons when I was a kid. The five-minute animated shorts centered around the adventures of a little white blob called "Jot." He'd do something evil like break a toy or not wash his hands before Sunday school and then some off-screen authority figure would make him answer for his sins and wrap it all up with a Bible verse at the end. There was also--weirdly enough--some very flower child psychedelia thrown in with his escapades, like in this short where he lies to his mother about stealing a cupcake and then has some sort of trippy freakout when his conscience gets the best of him. 

Due to his meltdown, Jot never gets around to eating the cupcake. Personally, I think it would have awesome if they had the little guy eat the cupcake and then start tripping balls. That would send a fun message: "Kids, don't steal sweets from authority figures because they'll put hallucinogens in the ingredients to catch you out, you thieving little bastards."

I'm pretty sure I hated Jot, probably because I resented having preachy morality lessons crammed in between secular weekday cartoons. It would have been one thing if they'd confined it to the Christian channel, but having to endure creepy religious crap when you just wanted to watch Caspar the Friendly Ghost really sucked.   

My most significant Jot-related memory was playing ping-pong with my friend Heather, age 8 or 9, in the basement of my neighbor's house (our elderly neighbors across the street regularly invited us kids in for snacks and games; if I remember correctly their grandchildren lived out of town, so us neighborhood urchins were sort of their grandkid surrogates). Heather and I would take turns slamming the ping pong ball across the table as hard as we could, pretending it was Jot the Biblical dot-goblin.

Well, what do you want? We didn't have violent video games back then. We had to use our imaginations. 

I'd still probably wear this t-shirt, though. For kitsch value.

Thursday, February 05, 2015


From (Everything Is Terrible vlogger) ohmy70s because they are the awesomest....

Remember when Charlie Sheen's brain broke and he was all over 20/20 and Piers Morgan and whatnot babbling about his "goddesses" and "tiger blood DNA" and--of course--"WINNING"? I mean, he was/is clearly bonkers, but now that I've seen this I wonder if the "WINNING" thing came from a late night infomercial hallucination fever dream Chuck fell into after a 48-hour hooker/porn star/freebasing bender and was visited by an apparition of this Win Paris dude. 

Makes sense to me. 

Everything about this clip is so 1970's insane. The skin-tight jeans hiked up to the nipples. The orange tracksuit. That nightmare leisure suit. The fact that Win looks like a creepier version of Hugh Hefner with a bad bowl haircut. (Not to mention the Midday Movie "Son of Kong." WTF?)

I have vague memories of these '70s fitness/motivational gurus. There seemed to be a lot of them back then. They used to pop up on afternoon talk shows my mom would watch (Merv Griffin, Dinah, etc.). These odd little guys confused me, the way they bounced around the set, screaming at the camera and the studio audience. I'd be like, "What is that man so mad about?" And the king of them all was Richard Simmons, crying and shrieking and hugging all over the fat women.

I couldn't find an illustrative Richard Simmons clip from the '70s but I did find this gem. If you ever wanted see Richard Simmons molest a PM Magazine reporter and drop the f-bomb, well, you're welcome.