Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Greatest Day Of The Week

From the time I was a little kid until my teen years Saturday was the greatest day of the week. As a kid there were Saturday morning cartoons to start the day and Chiller theater to close it out. Later on Saturday evenings gave way to Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Saturday Night Live. There were other fun things sandwiched between the cartoons and late night tv, but the shows were the items that sat the tone for my day.

If I got up early enough on Saturday the stations had old episodes of Lassie, Skippy, and Daktari. If I got up too early there was the farm report or a test pattern. Neither of those interested me, but I loved the old Ivan Tors animal shows and Lassie was okay as well. A little later in the day the Saturday morning cartoons would start. Most of these were just that; cartoons. Live action Saturday morning fare was much less common. The big and possibly only exception to this rule was Sid and Marty Krofft… oh and the Hudson Brothers.

Recently I picked up season one and three of Land of the Lost on eBay for about $3 each. I already had the second season, so this completed the original series from my childhood. There was a reboot of the series in 1991 which my son watched, although he swears he only remembers watching the show on Nickelodeon. I never really warmed up to the reboot, and the theme song was nowhere near as catchy, but I loved the original 1974 version. It was one of the shows I hated to miss. The show I practically refused to miss was Return to the Planet of the Apes. I remember Mom had made a doctor’s appointment for me one week during the time Return to the Planet of the Apes was airing and I was extremely vocal about my disappointment in missing it. To Mom’s credit she didn’t smack my ass and tell me deal with it, she tried to reassure me that I could catch it on a repeat. Sadly it was cancelled and that episode never was repeated. I now have the whole series on DVD, but after 37 years I’ve forgotten what the storyline even was in the episode I missed. One day I just need to sit down and watch the whole series from start to finish. It only ran for 13 episodes, so that should be about 6 hours or less.

There were a plethora of fun shows on Saturday mornings during those years, but Chiller theater became more important to me toward the end of grade school. I was a huge fan and regular reader of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Castle of Frankenstein and The Monster Times. My fondest wish was to try and see all the classic monster movies. Every once in a while I would get lucky and find one of the Mummy movies or the Wolf Man, but usually it was B grade fare like Monster on Campus, The Monolith Monsters or The Indestructible Man. I still watched them, but I yearned for Frankenstein, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, or Godzilla.

As I entered fourth grade, I discovered Monty Python and British comedies. I would stay up until 11 PM waiting for the new Python episode. Python had a completely different sense of humor and I loved it. It also had occasional nudity which was another plus. The first episode I remember watching featured the skit Blackmail, where a game show host played video footage, showed pictures, or read partial lists of information about an illicit tryst in order to blackmail the guilty parties into paying him money.

Saturdays changed forever once our local NBC affiliate finally picked up Saturday Night Live. They didn’t carry it during the first season or two, opting instead for episodes of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. My nephews had been watching it from the first episode and I got to see one episode when we were visiting them (for the record it was the one hosted by Hugh Hefner). I watched SNL up until the early part of the sixth season. I caught a few sporadic episodes over the next five years, but didn’t really start watching again until the 11th season which was probably one of the worst seasons in the show’s history. I gave up on it again until season 14 and then watched it religiously for several years.

These days Saturday mornings don’t even play that many cartoons. Most of the ones they do play are not exclusive to Saturday mornings either. And of course unlike in those days of yore, Saturday morning is not the only place you can find cartoons on tv. There is Cartoon Network, Toon Disney, Boomerang, and many other channels carrying nothing but animated programming. Chiller theater is long gone, but the classic monster movies are almost all available on Blu-ray or DVD. The only thing missing is a DVD of our syndicated horror host, Seymour. The entire series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus is available as are the first five seasons of SNL. I still wish the other seasons of SNL were available, and I would also love a region 1 release of The Goodies which I also watched on PBS during that same time period.

The other big change is that now I don’t get up early enough to watch whatever the stations are showing, and I’m at work usually when SNL is on. I set my DVR for it if for no other reason than to catch Weekend Updates or the occasional on air flub (thank you, Jenny Slate).

DVD review: Tosh.0 Deep V’s

Tosh.0 Deep V’s is a 2 disc Blu-ray containing 16 episodes from season two of Tosh.0. I have trouble finding time to watch a lot of tv and when I do have time, my legs usually end up cramping on me and I have to give up. That’s why I split watching this Blu-ray into 4 sessions. I watched the first six episodes one night. Several days later I picked up and watched the next four episodes, finishing out the first disc. A few nights later I popped in disc 2 and watched the last 6 episodes. Finally I sat down and polished off the bonus features.

Tosh.0 is a series that airs on Comedy Central and stars stand up comic Daniel Tosh. Daniel shows videos from the Internet and makes jokes about them. The format is usually to open with about six different clips. One of them he usually has a filmed skit to go along with (usually a “re-enactment” of one of the videos. One clip he will have them put 20 seconds on the clock and see how many funny comments he can make. The last clip will usually be given the “video breakdown” where he analyzes it, pausing it several times along the way. Then it’s time for a commercial break so he gives us a teaser and then shows one more quick clip. After the break, he shows another video. This one he will bring the “star” of the clip out to Hollywood for a “Web Redemption”. In the early episodes, the clips were usually of someone screwing something up, so he would recreate the event and give them the chance to get it right. Later ones may only consist of him interviewing the person and doing some sort of skit around the premise of the video. This disc had several of both. After the redemption it’s time for another commercial break which he prefaces by saying, “We’ll be right back with more…” and then naming a cancelled Comedy Central series. Coming back from the break he will usually do something related to his audience, a previous show, a challenge, or something that he has discovered on the web. One episode had him doing “Things you should never run into a room and yell”. A few episodes later he showed videos his viewers had made using the same idea. Another segment is the viewer video of the week. This is supposed to be a video uploaded to his blog by his fans. Some of them are funny. Some of them are cute. Some of them are pure crap. Usually he will have a few comments which will often make the crappy videos tolerable. A prime example of this is a video of an older asian lady doing what looks like martial arts warm up exercises.

Deep V’s contains the last 16 episodes of season two. This is where the show really started to find its voice. I have watched all three of the DVD sets and there is definitely a more relaxed feeling in the season two episodes. The early episodes had a more rigid feel to them and they also had the usually horrible celebrity videos. The one with Dave Attell was amusing but still a little too long, but the one with Fred Willard was just a bad joke stretched past the point where any humor could be milked out of it. Side note; when is someone going to release full season sets of Insomniac? I have the two “Best Of” collections, but I want them all! Comedy Central could make this happen, but if they won’t Shout Factory needs to jump in for us.

The bonus features are all just extended bits from usually the Web Redemption segments. I find these to be interesting, and the expanded panel with the “world’s worst stand up comic” managed to be both funny and informative. An additional bonus feature was the Spoiler Alert segment on Human Centipede. Spoiler Alert has only appeared twice in these episodes. It is not a regular feature. This particular spoiler alert was the full 23 minute retelling of The Human Centipede. If you haven’t seen The Human Centipede, let me just say that it is not as disgusting as I expected it to be, a feeling Daniel seems to share. If you have seen it and enjoyed it even a smidgen, then you have to go online and watch Human Centipede The Musical. A comedy troupe took the Centipede story and performed on stage a musical comedy version of it. It is wonderful.

Tosh.0 Deep V’s is definitely entertaining if you like the show. I wish they had released the episodes in order, but unfortunately the 16 episodes between Hoodies and Deep V’s are on volume 3 Cardigans Plus Casual Jackets which is a Wal-Mart exclusive available only on DVD. I would also loved to have had some more behind the scenes bonus footage and a commentary track or two would have been nice. I’d also like it if they offered non-pixelated versions of the clips. The language has been uncensored for the DVD release, but nudity is still blurred out. Give us the uncensored nudity as a bonus feature.

You Leave Me Breathless

I am an asthmatic. I have been my whole life. While other kids were learning to ride bicycles, I was learning to live without breathing. As a small child I spent many a night in the hospital inside an oxygen tent. It never really scared me, and even the severe asthma attacks themselves never truly scared me. I guess for all I knew this was just something everyone went through.

For those of you that have never had an asthma attack before, let me try to give you a bit of perspective on it. Take a deep breath and hold it. When it becomes uncomfortable check how long you’ve held your breath and then let it out. Now exhale completely and prepare to take another deep breath only this time don’t actually take that deep breath, or a shallow one even. Now hold that little bit of air that you didn’t manage to exhale out of your body for the same length of time you held the deep breath. When it’s time, take a quick short gasp of air and hold that. That is about the closest way I know to describe what it feels like when you cannot get your lungs to accept enough oxygen. You can go back to breathing normally now.

The feeling of not breathing is usually accompanied by a pain in the chest as well. The lungs fight and gasp for air which hurts, but it also causes the heart to start beating faster which can then add to the chest discomfort. As I said, I’ve dealt with it for so many years that I hardly give it a second thought. When I notice that I am having breathing difficulty, I will usually use my rescue inhaler. If it gets really bad, I have a nebulizer with albuterol that I can inhale to open my breathing passages. If that fails, then it’s get me to the hospital… fast.

Over the years I have wondered how much damage to my memories the lack of sufficient oxygen might have caused. I used to have an amazing memory for facts and figures and trivia (other than dates, I was never good with dates). These days I live most of my life by rote actions. I place things back where they are supposed to be and I follow a repetitive routine. If I diverge from my routine, I will forget something every time.

How Much Is Your Childhood Worth?

Yesterday I was discussing several toys from my childhood about which I wished I had more information. Shortly after posting the article I was able to find out what two of the four items were called. Elated to know what these critters were actually called, I quickly hopped on eBay where I found out that those little pieces of plastic and rubber were worth quite a little bit. My little ghost, a Kooky Spooky called Baby Spook Em, was part of a group of four figures that were currently selling for over $120. A new Grandma McCreak still in the box was sitting at $500.

Let me try and make this as clear as I can. All this toy consists of is a little glow in the dark plastic finger puppet of a ghost with a painted on face. They each initially came with a little sign or other accessory, but the set of four, like my own Baby Spook Em, were all missing their signs or whatever. This means that a little finger puppet that vaguely resembles a floating sheet with eyes and a mouth painted on it is selling by itself for about $30. I might pay that for one of these ghosts still in their haunted house display box, but loose and without the sign, I would be hard pressed to go above $5.

The little rubber dungeon men were equally surprising. By the way, quick side note, do not put rubber dungeon men in your Google image search and hope to find these toys. I learned very quickly to use the term prisoners instead. Once I found the little rubber toys, I learned that they were called jigglers and that they also sold for a premium on eBay.

This morning I told my wife about what I had found out and her response was, “Great. Let’s sell yours.” Here’s the problem. I’ve had these toys packed away in the attic untouched for several years. They haven’t been played with or displayed since I was in grade school back in the early seventies. For all intents and purposes if they turned up missing, I wouldn’t even realize it unless I decided to do a search through the boxes of toys to try and locate them. Never the less, the thought of selling them is completely anathema to me. I may not want to spend $127 trying to give Baby Spook Em a family to hang around with, but I’d still rather have my old finger puppet ghost than the $30+ it might bring me on eBay.

So what is your childhood worth? How much would you take for the old treasures of your youth? How much would you pay to get them back? I have replaced several toys that I used to have with ones I found on eBay, and I have replaced some with modern reproductions where the original is extremely pricey and usually missing key accessories. I would love to have some better Major Matt Mason toys, but I know I would never pay the prices that they fetch on eBay. At the same time I would never think about selling my beat up old Major and his buddies even if I was offered $100 each for them as is.

To my mind there is an intangible part of my childhood still trapped inside of these little pieces of plastic. As long as I have them in my possession, my childhood will never completely slip away. The replacements and add-ons that I might pick up are just that. They have none of the magic of my childhood trapped inside of them. They are just pieces of plastic representing something I played with. The exception seems to be when I find a deal at a flea market or yard sale. About 20 years ago I stumbled across a couple of boxes of old model kits at a church yard sale. Some one had cleaned out their son’s old room and donated all of these old built up kits to the church. I bought every one of them, even the duplicates. There was Batman, Frankenstein, some sports kits, a space ship. They had all been assembled. Some had been painted. Many were missing pieces. The thing is you could still feel the love that the previous owner had for these toys. It was infused in the very plastic of these kits. They sold me the whole lot for about $5. I would have paid much much more for them. The kits are all collectible and I could easily make my money back just by selling any one of them, but I won’t. They aren’t just models. They are childhood memories, even if they aren’t mine, and childhood memories are priceless.

What Was That Thing Called?

One of the biggest obstacles that I run across in my nostalgia fueled searches is trying to remember what certain toys were called. I had this problem with the Ding-A-Lings and the Fighting Furies. I still have this problem for the… whatever the hell these four lines of toys were called.

The first toy is a finger puppet ghost. There were several of these and they were all cutesy and carried little plastic signs. They were molded in glow in the dark plastic and had little faces and details painted on as well. I seem to recall them being packed in a box shaped like a haunted house. I have one of these ghosts somewhere in my toy collection. I keep thinking it was called Baby Boo or something like this.

The second toy is a flashlight. Actually it’s a rubber like character with a squeeze activated flashlight inside of it. When you squeeze the monster, his eyes and other things light up. I have a green monster and I believe he had a tooth that lit up in addition to his eyes. There were several other designs. I’m not sure that they were all even monsters.

A third line consisted of plastic men with exaggerated comical faces. There were all sorts of different figures. I recall a judge and a cook. I think there was also a prisoner and several more. The play factor was that the heads were interchangeable as were the hats/hair. Other parts may have snapped on and off as well, but I definitely remember taking the powdered wig off of the judge. I think these figures were released in a package with two to six figures included. My nephews and I all got sets one of the times when we got to go to Whiz. Whiz was the best toy store in the whole world as far as we knew, and it wasn’t just a toy store. That was just the only part we cared about. Whiz was in Huntington, so we only went about once or twice a year (or at least it seemed that way).

The final group of toys were almost more carnival prizes rather than true toys, but we bought them out of a bin at a couple of different toy departments. They were little rubber figures of cartoonish men hung up by chains to an imaginary dungeon wall. They all had a little gold cloth thread like a Christmas ornament would hang from so that they could be hung from a rear-view mirror or some such location. I remember one in a green outfit that looked like something the jolly green giant would wear. One of the guys had a brown shirt and a bald head. Some of them had their tongues hanging out or their faces contorted. There was also a skeleton that hung there with them.

None of these toys were very expensive as I recall. The little rubber figures were particularly cheap and I had a full set of them at one time. I would love to have more information on all of these lines, but it’s nearly impossible to look them up on eBay without knowing what they are called.

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Guess I should have tried again on finding out these names. Turns out the ghost puppets were from Hasbro and were called Spooky Kooky. The rubber prisoners were Jigglers from I believe Jiggler Imperial. The flashlight and interchangeable head toys are still a mystery however.

Time And Related Distractions In Sleep

When I was a teenager I could stay up all night playing D&D and still be awake and alert the next morning. In my twenties if work called or the kids got sick in the middle of the night, I was wide awake and ready to go. In my thirties I could still stay out late, wake up quick, and function like nothing out of the ordinary. But now that I am in my forties and rapidly closing in on the big five oh, my body seems to have decided to give me a big F.U.

I began to notice that I couldn’t stay up like I used to unless I was actively involved in something like work. Watching tv or reading would cause the body to shut down quicker than an anesthetic. And getting up? Forget that. My legs take five good minutes just to decide to support my fat ass and allow it to wander down the hall to the bathroom. And if I fail to get my full 8 hours of sleep? Well, good luck getting a coherent functional human being for the rest of the day. As Adam Sandler once asked on one of his CDs, What the hell happened to me?

What switch got thrown in my body that caused it to go from 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds to “let me hook up these jumper cables and try not to flood the engine”? More importantly, how do I switch it back? I have very little free time any more and I would really love to be able to read some comics or watch a movie or two. The other day I laid down to read the first 6 issues of All New X-Men and halfway through the fourth issue, I dropped like a stone. The night before I had only gotten six hours of sleep and my body was like a loan shark. It wanted those other two hours back and some interest on top of it.

Tonight I was sitting watching Tosh.0 on Blu-ray. I was in the middle of the bonus features watching the extended web redemption for the double rainbow guy. The next thing I know my brain has completely shut down. I am not hearing or processing anything that is being said. My eyes close and for a few seconds I am gone. I probably would have stayed just like that if the wife hadn’t yelled in to tell me that she was going to bed. That woke me up enough that I managed to realize the segment was ending and I sat there and stared at the menu for several minutes before deciding to try and move on.

Now I’m sitting here typing this and knowing that I have to stay up another twenty or so minutes so that I don’t throw off my body too bad when I go to work tomorrow. My mind is clicking off activities to keep me cognizant. Write this post. Write a post reviewing the Blu-ray I just finished. Check out the new shirts at RiptApparel and The Yetee in ten minutes. My twenty year old self would be sitting in the living room watching another DVD. My teen age body would be laying in the floor with his DM’s guide and PH book and Monster Manual and some graph paper designing a cool new dungeon for the weekend. But I’m no longer a teenager, a twenty-something, or even a thirty-something. I’m a forty-eight year old that wants his nap. Dear God, I’m not getting older, I’m becoming a toddler again.

Losing My Mind

People say it all the time, “I’m losing my mind.” Usually they only mean they have done something slightly silly. Usually it’s related to forgetfulness. The problem is, how do you get someone to believe you when you really do start losing your mind?

I’ve noticed myself forgetting stuff much more frequently lately. This is another reason for this blog. It forces me to remember, and it puts it down where I can refer back to it if I need to. So let’s examine the memory loss.

The most obvious signs for me are forgetting people’s names and my diminishing vocabulary. Everybody forgets someone’s name at one point or another, but with me it has now gotten to where I will blank out on the name of people who I work with. I work with them on a daily basis and have known them for seven years in many cases. Yet last night I totally lost this one lady’s name into the recesses of my mind. After a few moments, I was able to pull up her last name, but had only a vague idea about what the first letter of her first name might be. It was a couple of hours later before it finally came back to me. I recently found an old phone list and couldn’t remember half the people on it. If there was only a first or last name listed, I couldn’t supply the missing name to save my life. Keep in mind that these were people I knew well enough to have gotten their phone numbers and that I was likely enough to have a need to call that I would have taken the time to write their name and number down on a list that I carried with me.

The diminishing vocabulary is something that also bothers me, especially when I am trying to write. I used to write quite a bit. I have a complete script I wrote shortly after high school as well as numerous novels I began and never completed. I also have a script I worked on with a couple of friends and a half-dozen or so additional pieces that I worked on solo up until about the early 2000s. I had a large enough vocabulary that I had little trouble writing these pieces and making each character’s voice sound unique to them. I had the ability to always pick just the exact right word. These days I often have trouble remembering the name for that small furry creature that goes meow and likes to climb the drapes.

So the question is, am I actually losing my mind and did so many people jokingly use that phrase to the point that I now sound like the boy who cried wolf?