Archive for May 2008

Great Moments in Bad Retro-TV

May 31, 2008

Marlin Perkins Doing Sweet Dick-All

Years before the Crocodile Hunter, we had Jim Fowler on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  This dude was one tough bastard.   He did all the dirty work on the show, like wrestling crocodiles or counting canine teeth on enraged lions.  

Meanwhile, Marlin (who was old enough to have traveled with Lewis and Clark) would narrate the show from the safe comfort of his wood-paneled TV-studio office.  

The only wildlife he ever came in contact with was the baby chimp he’d sometimes hold while telling the story.

Thanks for coming out, Marlin. )

 

The Wonder Twins’ Ridiculous Transformations.

Anyone between the ages of 35-45 has probably watched the Superfriends cartoon on Saturday mornings at least once.  

Remember the Wonder Twins Zan and Jayna?  (With the identical bad Spock haircuts and Spock ears?)  

Whenever there was trouble, they’d  touch knuckles and yell out “Wonder Twin Powers ACTIVATE!“.  Then one would transform into water and the other, into an animal, and they’d try to save the day.

The lamest episode I saw involved Jayna taking the form of (I shit you not ) a  giant lobster while  Jan took the shape of in “Ice Reflector”.  

This was so the 50-foot lobster could use icy satellite-dish to deflect the evil alien rock music that was coming from coming from a guitar-shaped spaceship that was terrorizing the city.  

If you think I’m making this up, I’m not.   This was an actual episode.  

Excellent cartoon storyboard writing, there, Hanna-Barbera.   Just what were you smokin’ at the time?  )

 

Dated Sit-coms that make you Cringe.

Take Welcome Back Cotter, for example.   I had almost completely forgotten about this show until I caught a re-run flipping through channels.   And only now do I realize how much this show SUCKED.       

Every episode was just so God-Damned predictable.    Cotter told a lame joke (and you just wanted to pummel him!)   Horshack laughed.  Washington said “Hi There“.  Vinnie Barbarino said  “What….where….who?“.   Epstein had a note from home.   Cotter ended the show with another joke.   The studio audience would break up into hysterical laughter.  Yok! yok!  yok!

This same tired schtick took most of the show, leaving maybe 2 minutes for original plot and character development.

I could understand liking this show back in 1975.   But that’s because I was only 10 years old at the time.   

But Cotter was also popular with adults…GROWN ADULTS!  

…what was THEIR excuse?

(Or back in the 70’s, were people just stupid?)

 

Cheesy Production of Pre-MTV Music Videos

Remember when the Monkees sang “Valerie”?   And there was a really complicated guitar riff in the middle of the song?  

Notice this is when the camera conveniently panned  to a close-up of just the fingers playing on the guitar neck. 

But that was really Mike Nesmith playing…wasn’t it?…WASN’T IT?  

(Yes.  Of course it was.)    

I also laughed at the Partridge Family.  Nothing like seeing a 12-year-old Danny Bonnaduce and the two other maggot-children lip-synch and sound like they’re 25.  

One of the worst examples was an episode on Petticoat Junction.   “Guest singer”  Jack (I’m just a Bill) Sheldon sat at the piano and sang “Talk to the Animals”  (Why, in Gods name, we’ll never know).  Meanwhile, Chesty Jo and Boobie Jo sat next to him and made goo-goo eyes at him while he played.

Never mind that his hand movement didn’t even remotely match the keyboard sounds. 

Come on…we all know you’re lip synching and not playing…but can you at least TRY TO PRETEND that you’re not?

 

The Evil Twin Plot Twist…ad Nauseum

Seems in the 1960’s, you couldn’t shake a stick without bumping into an identical twin.  Sit-coms had ’em everywhere.  Bewitched had Elizabeth Montgomery play two different roles:  Samantha, and Serana.   But at least these were two different characters.

But on Gilligan’s Island, a “guest castaway” was in identical double for Ginger.   I Dream of Jeanie had an evil twin.   Captain Kirk had a doppelganger on Star Trek…twice. 

Get Smart gets the prize.   Maxwell Smart, Ninety-Nine, and The Chief each had an identical twin, on three separate episodes.  

Oboy, a hat trick. 

I guess the show’s producers were really keen to show off their new “split-screen technology”.  

Either that, or the fall-out from the atom-bomb tests of the 1950’s created all these mutant-twins. 

 

Cheesy Rock’n Roll Stock Music

Take any TV show or teenage movie, circa 1961-1965, you’re bound to see the following scene:

Somewhere there is a live band playing “rock and roll” music.   Groovy teenagers dance, while the parents/chaperones look on, puzzled. 

For added cuteness, maybe an adult “square” will attempt to clumsily dance to this “crazy new music”,  while the kids encourage them.  And everybody is happy.

(Gagggg…I’m feeling nauseous here). 

I’ve always been puzzled by the music, though.   Notice none it includes any actual top 40 hits you’d have heard on the radio at the time.   There is never any mention of the Beatles or the Stones or any other contemporary groups.  

It’s just this cheesy generic plinky electric guitar and drums (and optional horn accompaniment, regardless of whether the band had horns or not).    And the only place you ever hear this music played was on 1960’s sitcoms or movies. 

I’m just curious…did any such records albums actually exist back then?  Or is this another Great Conspiracy Theory?

 

Thoughtful Applause

This was a major phenomenon of the 70’s, when many shows were taped in front of a “Live Studio Audience”.

How many times have you seen this?:

A main character (Mrs. Garrison,  Mr. Drummond, Maude, etc.) might say something poignant about racism, or child abuse, or woman’s rights…whatever.  

This would be followed by a dramatic pause, after which the studio audience would approvingly burst into thunderous applause.  Then pause, and fade out to commercial as the applause continues.

Once again (gaggg!) my gorge rises whenever  I see this self-righteous preaching.  I hated it back then, and I hate it today.  Even when I saw these shows as a kid,  I recognized this as sensationalist manipulative tripe.

Look, if want to learn about values and ethics,  I’ll take a philosophy course, or talk to a parent, clergyman or any other role model/mentor…

…but I refuse to take moral guidance from the same IDIOT BOX that gave us “B.J. and the Bear” and “What-choo talkin’ about Willis?”.   

 

Guest Celebrities you’re Supposed to worship 

Another big phenomenon in the 60’s and 70s’ was that guest celebrities would play themselves on the show.   And the plot typically involved the main characters getting star-struck and acting like blabbering idiots when the celebrity showed up.   Apparently we’re supposed to think this is funny. 

For example, in one episode of Chico and the Man,  Freddy Prinze giggles and pretty much wets his pants like a little school girl when Sammy Davis Jr. walks into Ed’s garage.    

Oh, yeah..RIGHT.   A big tough Latino dude from East L.A. is going to act like this when he sees a Vegas lounge singer.      

Man, it was embarrassing to watch (even though you knew Freddie was just following a script).

It’s also downright insulting (because TV is telling us that THIS is how WE would act if we met a movie star…!). 

Sorry, I don’t think so.

 

Questionable Deputies’ Names on the Dukes of Hazard

Remember Sheriff Roscoe’s deputy, Enos?   WTF kind of name is that?  

I mean, aside from the Old Testament, name ONE OTHER PERSON you know called Enos!

And do you remember when Enos left the show, what his replacement was called?

….Cletus!

Enos and Cletus.  (Snicker).     Seriously.

Come on…(be honest!).  Don’t those two names resemble other words that describe…um…certain parts of the human anatomy? 

As a kid, I thought those names were hilarious and I constantly made fun of them in the schoolyard.  Even my Mom caught onto the joke.

 Tell me the writers didn’t do that on purpose!  )

Friar’s Artist Tips: If you find a good teacher, latch onto them and whatever you do, don’t let go!

May 31, 2008

Case in point.  I started semi-serious painting in 1997.   I signed up for art lessons at the local community center with the other artist-wannabees.   The teacher was this 80-year-old eccentric German guy.  He was an excellent painter, but a mediocre teacher.

This was the level of my painting circa October 1997.   It’s based on a photo I took atop of Mt. Mansfield, Vermont.

Eventually, I got fed up with Herr Gunther’s lessons.  I wasn’t learning anything.  I stopped lessons in 1998, and was almost ready to quit painting.   

Luckily, by random chance, I found another teacher who was a cashier at the local art store.  She was a retired painter/graphic artist, who gave lessons from  her basement to small groups of 3-4 people.

I started with her in September 1999, and she was fantastic!  I couldn’t believe how much she taught me.

This was my level of painting as of February, 2000.  It’s a good comparison to the first painting, because the scene is similar (atop Mt. Marcy in the Adirondacks).

 

(Quite a difference from the first one,  huh? )

The point I’m trying to make here is NOT to brag about how quickly I progressed.  But rather to demonstrate the value of a good teacher.  

This was how far she took me in just six months.  (And it wasnt’ a huge time commitment, either).   Just one art class a week.

I bet a lot of you are much better artists than you think.   But maybe you just haven’t found that right teacher/mentor yet.    Someone who can take your raw talent, show you a few tricks, and help unleash your hidden potential.

I was lucky enough to have found my mentor.  I hope you find yours, too.  

And when you do..STAY WITH THEM and absorb everything they can teach you!

P.S. 10 years later, I still keep in touch with my art teacher, even though she lives 4 hours away.  She’s not only a mentor, but she’s become a good friend.  

 

 

 

 

A Break from the Cube Farm…

May 30, 2008

Very rare situation at work today…My two other office mates are gone.   I have the room to myself.

(Sob!)  Pardon me, I’m getting emotional here.  

It’s just been so long…so, so long.  I’ve forgotten what this is like.  

I’m not crammed in like a sardine.  I don’t have to listen to five different conversations at once.   I can actually hear myself think. 

And (gasp!) I’m ACTUALLY GETTING MORE WORK DONE!

All this, from being alone in quiet room.   Who’da thunk it?   

WOW….what a concept!

Someone should suggest this as a radical new way to increase productivitiy.  

 

Five Flats in Eighteen Days

May 29, 2008

This is what happens when you take a Honda Civic along the Dempster Highway.  

 Flat #1 (Near the Yukon-NWT border)    

At least it’s pouring rain.

 

Flat #2.  Just south of Fort McPherson

I had to cross the river by ferryboat three times that day.   Once, to cross.  The second time, to back-track to the nearest garage to fix my flat. The third time, to cross yet again,  to return where I started from. 

The third time on the boat, the ferry operator, a typically stoic native, just looked at me and cracked up and started laughing. 

 

Flat #3 (Near Engineer Creek)  

Second flat in one day (see Flat #2).  

Godammit.

 

Flat #4 (Approaching Dawson City)

Almost on pavement again, but that one sharp stone had to find my tire. 

Of course it did.

 

Flat #5 (Bonus Round:  Paxson, Alaska)

I had just finished 120 miles of white-knuckle driving on sharp gravel along the Denali Highway, and thankfully reached pavement again. 

Only to have the front tire go flat…in the freaking parking lot.

For @#$& sakes.    

Next time, I use a truck!  

 

Watercolors: Oregon Dunes

May 28, 2008

At Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area…

 

 

Friar’s Top Ten Assholes of the Animal Kingdom (*)

May 27, 2008

(*) Excluding humans

 

 

1.Trigger-fish

Years ago, when snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, I felt a few small taps on my leg.  I turned around to see this little 4-inch fish nipping at me.  It didn’t hurt, but it was downright annoying. 

And he kept coming at me, the little bastard.

I had just finished swimming with Moray eels, sharks, barracudas and giant stingrays.  All these big predator fish didn’t seem to have a problem with me.   Yet here was this nippy little runt having a hissy-fit whenever I entered his 5-foot tidal pool.     

I just wanted to swat the little bugger, but he conveniently kept out of range.   Only to bite me on my butt as soon as my back was turned.

Most obnoxious.   Fish.    Ever.    

 

2.  Crows

As much as I like wildlife,  I detest it when these squawk-boxes decide to scream outside my window at 5:30 AM.   

CAWWW!  CAWWW!  CAWWW! 

Years ago, a couple of really obnoxious crows terrorized my parent’s neighborhood and wouldn’t leave.   They drove everyone nuts, and people weren’t getting any sleep. 

I have memories of my Mom screaming at frustration at one of these birds, who perched on top of a streetlight, looking down at her, making cheeky squawking noises.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear he was laughing at her.  

…Asshole!

Then one day the crows were gone.   One was found in the pool next door, the exact cause of death unknown.

Although no one admitted it, I suspect a sleep-deprived neighbor with a pellet gun might have had something to do with it.

Look, I don’t’ condone animal cruelty.   I’d never shoot a critter like that in a million years.   But (to be perfectly honest)…just this once…I was not totally devastated that someone else did. 

 

3. Squirrels.

If there is anything more obnoxious on the planet than being told off by a small squeaking rodent, please tell me.   

The grey squirrels, I have no problems with.  They’re harmless…they keep to themselves and the only noise they make is when they mate.  That’s when they perch on top of a telephone pole and go  “F**CK MEEEEEE!   ….F**CK MEEEEEE!”

But the little red squirrels.  Don’t even get me started.  They chew and destroy outdoor furniture, garden sheds and backyard decks.  They try to make nests inside your house and ruin the electrical wiring.  Plus they’re bullies….they push the nice grey squirrels out of the neighborhood.

And if you happen annoy the little red varmints (which is almost ALWAYS) they go into perpetual shit-fit mode.  Be prepared to be scolded for the next two hours:

“Ttttttttttt….ttttt…tttttttttttt…tttttttttt…ttttttttttttt…ttttttttttttttttt…ttttt”.

(Oh, get OVER IT and shut UP already!)

This is when I wish dogs could climb trees.

 

4.  Cats. 

Cats are assholes. 

There, I’ve said it. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I love animals, including cats.  My friends’ kitties are always coming to me (probably because they know I’m allergic).  And despite asthma attacks, I’m always a sucker and I pet them.  

But c’mon, lets be honest here.  Compared to dogs, cats do have latent asshole tendencies.  That’s probably why we love them so much.  

For example, look at how a they’ll tease and torment a half-dead baby bird.  There’s something inherently evil about that.

What also bugs me is how they’ll suddenly turn on you.   You could be sitting on the couch, petting Kitty who’s on your lap, purring contentedly.  It’s a calm Zen-like moment and you’re both bonding. 

But suddenly, without warning, Kitty goes psycho and digs her claws into you and bites.  She’s pissed off now, tail a-twitching,  and you’re not allowed to touch her.  But she won’t get up and leave, either.    No matter what you do, you’re gonna get scratched.

Look..DUMB-ASS!…Who’s putting a gun to your head and making you stay?  If you don’t like it…LEAVE! 

Cat people will always apologize this malevolent behavior.  They’ll tell you  “Well, when cats get over-stimulated, this is what they do.  This is how cats act…”

My point exactly!

They act like assholes!     

 

 5.  Canada Geese

Yes, I realize these birds are one of our beloved icons up here in the Great White North.     But  (as my friend Ellen refers to them), Canada Geese are also nasty little hissy bitches. 

I spent two entire summers feeding Wonder Bread to dozens of geese that hung around my front yard.   I got to know them intimately, and believe me,  these critters are NOT nice.   The adults bully small goslings, they attack each other, and hiss at you in aggression while you feed them.  

There is no mistaking their nasty body language.   We’re lucky they only have feathers and beaks…if they had teeth and claws, they’d be trying to kill us.   

 

6.  Snapping Turtles

Two words.  Mean and nasty.   These are the grumpy old men of the Animal Kingdom (except they’re grumpy old men that can take your finger off).

They do eat baby geese, though.  

(Before I get scolded for saying that last part, hey, don’t blame me!…blame Mother Nature!)

 

 7.  Mosquitoes

You haven’t experienced true misery until you’ve been up in the Arctic in high summer.   The bugs are so voracious up there, they bite through your socks and track pants, and you have to wear surgical gloves on your hands.  

There are so many you inhale them when you talk, and if you go outside unprotected, you’ll run screaming back into your cabin or your car.     

In the summer time, nobody wants to go outside in the land of the midnight sun.   You’ll notice that everyone is indoors, in the tents or cabins, hiding from the buzzing hordes of the sting-bastards.

I know mosquitoes are vital to the ecosystem and fish and birds feed on them.    But why do they have make our life so miserable!?    Can’t they just bite us without the sting?  

Thanks again, Mother Nature.

 

8.  Killer Whales

I always thought these were gentle giants, until I saw a nature show where two wild Orcas were terrorizing a half-mangled seal pup who was still alive.  It’s one thing for animals to hunt and kill to survive.  But these two whales were torturing the poor seal, tossing it between themselves like a basketball.  Playing with their food, so to speak.

I’m sorry, that is just pure, unadulterated ASSHOLE behaviour.   

(Can you Imagine the conniption fit Greenpeace would have if humans were caught doing that!?)  

Frankly, I expected better from our fellow sea-mammal friends. 

Shamu, I am very, VERY disappointed in you. 

 

9. Seagulls 

If left to their own devices, these graceful marine birds would keep to themselves and would survive by hunting fish, as nature intended.   But as soon as they catch on that we humans are around, they turn into Shit-Hawks.

They’ll flock around us in droves and fight over any scraps of food we might throw out.   These flying Garborators only live for one thing…to cram as much food down their gullet as they can. 

They tolerate us because we’re their meal ticket.  But they hate everything else (including themselves).   Their body posture eloquently displays their bad temperament …head hunched down, back arched…flipping their beak up, squawking and chasing away competitors.   

For every 100 garbage calories they eat, they’ll expend 90 calories screaming at each other.  I’ve even seen them intimidate Canada Geese.

Seagulls.  Ugh.  I put them in the same category as carp, pigeons and rats.   

 

10. Chimps

Awww…chimps, you say?   …not those adorable little monkeys on TV!?    

Yes, chimps.   They’re assholes.

The ones on TV are cute and docile, because they’re BABY chimps.  A full-grown chimp is a whole other story.   Picture something with the patience and social skills of a two-year old, but weighing 180 pounds, with sharp canine teeth who can rip your arm off in a second.

If you don’t’ believe me, look at one of Jane Goodall’s documentaries (or check out Escape to Chimp Eden on Animal Planet).  Then you’ll get to see what these critters are really like. 

Chimps bully each other, form little cliques and pick on the weak.  They constantly have temper tantrums, scream and fight…and worse.  (It ain’t pretty!).  It’s like looking in the mirror and seeing our dark side.

I think Charleton Heston had it right, when he said “Get your hands off me, you damned dirty ape”.

The chimps’ only their saving grace is they haven’t’ figured out how to make complex weapons yet.  (Give them a few more million years, though, and see what they come up with.)

Next time one Bobo asks for a banana pellet, though, maybe you better give it to him…!

 

 

If these aren’t names of garden flowers, they should be…

May 24, 2008

 

 

 

– Dick Weed

– Chlamydia

– Fiery Crustaceans

– Wild Foonies

– Blue Simians

– Labia

– Fox Trot

– Emphysema

– Horn  Scrape

– Pink Chowder Heads

– Ornices