Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Are you daring enough to take the '80s TV Show Haiku Challenge?

The gauntlet has been thrown!

I dare you, small band of readers, to comment and take place in

The '80s TV Show Haiku Challenge

which combines two of my favorite things--short, syllable-counting Japanese poetry and Reagan-era Boob Toob classics. Just title your haiku after any show from the decade of excess, and follow the simple guidelines of Haiku (a reminder, for those of you who haven't written one since grade school: 5, 7, and 5 syllables per line, also known as "morae"). Here are a few I've composed myself...

Mr. Belvedere:
Fat British Butler
So at odds with Bob Uecker
Oh please say Wesley

The Wonder Years:
Poor Kevin Arnold
So in love with Winnie C
Daniel Stern says so

Jem and the Holograms:
Truly outrageous
But can the Holograms beat
The Evil Misfits?

Married...With Children:
Why must Al always
Have his hand way down his pants
When watching TV?

Kids Incorporated:
It is clear to see
that Fergie was still shitty
while only a child

Perfect Strangers:
Balki does mean well
Cultural Differences
Larry is flustered

Today's Special:
Look! Jodie and Jeff
After hours department store
So Canadian

Double Dare:
Physical challenge
Grab the flag kid grab the flag
Win BMX bike

Growing Pains:
Little Mike Seaver
No one would have thought that you
Would get so Christ-y

Have fun everyone, and be sure to post your Haikus as comments!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Legends of the Hidden Temple (a.k.a. THE most complicated bonus round for kids, ever)

It's not everyday you get to hear the sentence, "Olmec--Lecretia and Sean have proven themselves worthy and now have earned the right to enter your temple." But thanks to Nickelodeon's priceless kids adventure game show from the 80's and 90's, Legends of the Hidden Temple, it's more commonplace than you would think. Embedded here is one of the "temple runs," (basically your bonus round) for the winners of this particular episode, concerning the Legend of The Trojan Horseshoe. Only thing is, it's possibly the hardest and most complicated bonus round in the history of game shows (watch, and yee shall see). Here is how I would have drawn it up, if I was them...

You could start by running to the room of the 3 Gargoyles. Locate the Gargoyle with an original Betamax copy of La Bamba and rotate his head counterclockwise six times, until one of three doors opens. Choose wisely, as two of the doors lead to a long, drawn out intervention with your alcoholic Uncle Gary.

Or maybe you could make your way to the Observatory, where you must correctly assemble a Dobsonion Telescope, sans instructions. Be wary! In addition to primary and secondary mirrors, Spider and Diagonal Holders, Helical Focuser, Finder Scope and Eyepiece, we've mixed in several hundred stray parts from the engine of a '57 Chevy Mustang and covered everything in Smucker's Boysenberry Jam.

Brave adventurers may find themselves in the Jam Arena, a cavernous outdoor amphitheatre, where they must join the Dave Matthews Band onstage and correctly mimic every drum fill by Carter Beauford on the song "Two Step," only backwards, while trying to answer online security questions about their old AOL accounts.

Don't give up! Next, shimmy down the Treacherous Wall of Shattered Glass into the Rapid Ravine, where you must battle a 35 mph current while teaching Hebrew to an anti-Semitic turtle. As soon as he's mastered 40 simple-ish phrases and worked through his personal issues causing his abhorrent racism, it's on to the Vat of Shrimp, where you must play a game of "Global Thermonuclear War" against Timothy Busfield. Once you've won two out of three, help him program a simple DOS-based text adventure with thirteen endings, type in "GOTO 10" and wait for the door to the next room to open.

You're almost there! Just run through the Acid Waterfall into Daniel Day-Lewis' Method Cobbler Shop, where you'll help the Oscar-winning actor make a pair of Alligator Loafers. If the shoes get the approval of the Shoemaster General, return them to DDL and try to tell him with a straight face that you thought "There Will Be Blood was hilarious." If he believes you, blow his mind my telling him you were "acting," and he will present you with a jet pack to take you to the top of the temple. Grab the box of old comics your parents really want to you to try to sell or throw out, and race back seven miles to the start.

Do all this in less then three minutes, and you'll receive these great prizes!
--A Sony Walkman. Choose from three great colors! Yellow, Fuschia or Original!
--An assortment of shirts from Hypercolor. Hypercolor--sweat out some fashion!
--A lifetime supply of BubbleTape. Yum!
--Old Rollerblades. Skate it out!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cinematic Gems #4: State of Grace

Fresh of his U2 docu-concert film Rattle and Hum, director Phil Joanou took the reins of this Irish NYC mob tale that got buried by the phenomenon that was Goodfellas. Equally as good at Scorsese's epic, State of Grace follows Terry Noonan (Sean Penn, in a multi-faceted performance), who returns to his old stomping grounds in Hell's Kitchen after disappearing for over a decade. He's greeted by his childhood best friend Jackie Flannery (Gary Oldman, chewing any and all scenery), a hot-headed impulsive alcoholic with his heart in the right place despite his violent tendencies. Jackie's brother, Frankie (Ed Harris, cool-eyed evil), heads up the Irish mafia, and welcomes Noonan back into the fold, with some suspicions. Indeed, Terry falls into a lot of old habits--including a romance with his first love, and sister to the Flannerys, Kathleen (Robin Wright, pre-Penn status, and the chemistry is undeniable here). But one thing is different this time around--Terry is an undercover cop, working to take down the very people he grew up with.

Dirtier, grittier and more-character driven than Goodfellas, State of Grace moves a leisurely pace, putting character before narrative. But as tensions mount and Terry gets in deeper and deeper, the film becomes hypnotic, culminating in a bravura shoot-out during a St. Patrick's Day parade. In addition to the excellent trio of stars, the supporting players are top-notch, and include John C. Reilly, John Turturro, Burgess Meredith and Joe Viterelli (with this caliber of serious actors, I can only imagine what an intense set this must have been). Plus, it's scored by the great Ennio Morricone (known for his collaborations with Sergio Leone on films such as Once Upon a Time in the West, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and A Fistful of Dollars.) A stirring meditation of betrayal and redemption, State of Grace is an excellent film that didn't deserve the ambivalence it received when it graced screens in 1990.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Milky the Marvelous Milking Cow! Huzzah!

It makes me so happy that this toy even exists--who green lit this thing? Seems like an easy way to get kids to drink their pretend-milk. The commercial jingle has lyrics Bob Dylan himself could have penned:

It's fun to milk her gonna do it right now
She drinks the water when we pump her tail
She's raising her head it's milkin' time now
Her pretend milk is a fillin' the pail

Is that little blonde kid east coast or what? It's waaaa-tah. Pay close attention to the stars in his eyes as he lovingly flicks the bell around her neck...it's disturbing on many levels. Anyhoo, enjoy this spot--it's new, from Kenner.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Albums you should know #2: King Creosote's KC Rules OK

Fife, Scotland's King Creosote (a.k.a. Kenny Anderson) is a prolific writer of quaint, lovely folk rock. Prolific is almost an understatement--Anderson has self-released over 40 albums in the last decade, usually passed out at live shows or sold on his personal indie label's website, the Fence Collective. Most were recorded in his living room with simple, yet eclectic arrangements and instrumentation. Anderson assembled some of the band The Earlies and headed into a studio proper, and the results were KC Rules OK, a stunning collection of sixteen tunes given a musical spa treatment. 

The album begins with the strum of an acoustic guitar and the low rumblings of a tuba on the hook-laden "Not One Bit Ashamed," a song Neil Finn of Crowded House would be proud of. In it, Anderson laments: "I gave up half my heart and you gave a half-hearted shrug/it's not good enough, it's not good enough" (a perfect lyric--second place only to a line from Odds' "Someone Who is Cool" which goes "Close but kind of meatless/like actors who play Jesus/in movies of the week." Nothing beats that.) The song adds thick, lovely layers of instrumentation and harmonies and builds to a satisfying crescendo. And then Anderson wipes the canvas completely clean for "You Are Could I?," a foot-stompin' barn-burner with a bit of a goofy sheen. He changes gears a lot on this album, creating a seriously unique listening experience.

Fifth track "*678" is a triumph, with swelling organs and a sing-along chorus we can all relate to: "In the back of my mind/I was always hoping/I might just get by." This high is followed by the sweet shuffle of "Locked Together," a gorgeous confessional in which Anderson begs in his Scottish lilt "Don't talk to me/over secrets hard to keep." And then the Willie Nelson-esque "Jump At The Cats" arrives, with bluegrass piano melodies that bring a smile to even the most hardened listener--a smile that will turn somber when they hear the simple, yet striking ballad "My Favourite Girl" (yep, spelled my "favourite" way). An ode to his daughter Beth, it's sung from the perspective of a dying father: "Better listen closely/I guess that I have not got long/Promise you'll tell her/She's my favourite girl/In all the world." 

The mood shifts dramatically again with "So forlorn," with its driving percussion and Al Green-ish wah-wah peddle guitar, followed a song later by album-closer "Marguerita Red," an old live Creosote favourite that truly benefits from the full-on studio treatment, and will leave a lot of listeners in a serene, reflective mood.

A beguiling, gem of a record, it showcases just how effective a melody can be--Anderson is one of our best kept secret songwriters working today, on par with the likes of The Frames' Glen Hansard, The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon, and the equally prolific Ryan Adams.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Things that shouldn't exist: Porky's--The Atari 2600 Game

The Atari 2600 was one helluva video game system--I still love hooking mine up, grabbing the barely-working joystick and playing my way through some River Raid, Pitfall, Ghostbusters and The Empire Strikes Back. But there's a handful of games that the mere existence of is head-scratching--I could talk about the M*A*S*H* cartridge, or Kool-Aid Man. But let's concentrate on the bizarre adventure Porky's, a game as ill-advised at Nicolas Cage's hair plugs, and one deserving to buried with those millions of E.T. cartridges in the Arizona desert. 

Based on the popular 1981 raunchy sexcapade comedy from Bob Clark (yes, the same Bob Clark who brought us A Christmas Story), a film this chock full of T&A seems an odd choice for the Atari platform. And what on earth would you DO in the game? Well, I was lucky to find the original instructions online to the game, posted below (with snarky comments, in brackets and italics, care of yours truly):


Game Instructions
Fox Video Games


Revenge is sweet - and the objective of this game is to "get it." Your task is to help Pee Wee blow up Porky's bar and obtain as many points as possible. ("Get it?" Get what? Pray tell! Don't be coy with us, Atari instruction booklet! I must assume, since this is a video game made for you know, kids, "it" must be a cold lemonade, a paddle ball, or a Scholastic biography on Frederick Douglas.)


Turn the power ON. Use the Difficulty Switch and Color/Black & White Switch to select a level of play.

Left Difficulty Switch A: Shower Scene most difficult (I'd hate to tackle the shower scene at it's highest difficulty--it's so hard to find the peep hole and locate Kim Cattrall's 40 pixel boobs)
Left Difficulty Switch B: Shower Scene less difficult
Right Difficulty Switch A: Swamp Scene most difficult
Right Difficulty Switch B: Swamp Scene less difficult
Black & White Switch: Balbricker most aggressive
Color Switch: Balbricker less aggressive
A, A, Black & White Setting: Expert play level
B, B, Color Setting: Normal play level
Press the Game Reset lever and go for it! It's a blast. (Sure. Throw caution to the proverbial wind.)

THE ADVENTURE (I don't really think you can call it that.)

As the play begins, you find yourself at the county line ready to enter Porky's territory. But, before the action begins, some introductions are in order. (Thank God! I need as much back story as possible before I can guide a low-res faceless man-blob through an incoherent side scrolling mess.)

Meet Edward "Pee Wee" Morris. He has a few problems. But personal problems aside, Pee Wee (with a little help from you) has a formidable task ahead of him. (Sure does--he has to draw you into the game enough so sales with warrant the green lighting of a Porky's II: The Next Day cartridge.)

It seems this real nasty guy named Porky, owner of a shady little night club with the same name, has messed with Pee Wee and his friends. So, you and Pee Wee are out to even the score. (Don't drag me into this. Seriously.)

Another person to look out for is Ms. Balbricker. She's out to grab onto anything she can, so don't let her latch on to you. If she does, it's the pits. (The pits? Oh no! You have to restart the game and you can't quit til you've passed it?)

Objective: Run the highway gauntlet and blow up Porky's bar. Sound easy? Try it... you'll see. (Um...doesn't really sound that easy. Blowing up a bar takes lots of planning--you have to get a real solid crew together. Like, you need an explosives expert, and a getaway driver, a security guy on the inside, the list goes on and on. I think this whole thing could go really wrong, Pee Wee--maybe you should reconsider?)

Controls: Pee Wee moves to the right or left only as long as you hold the joystick in that direction. In the up and down directions, Pee Wee will attempt to move all the way into the next band unless you reverse the direction to stop it. (Ohhhh...so that's how a joystick works!)

Scoring: Points are accumulated by successfully dodging the obstacles and distractions in the highway bands.
Motor Boat, 1 point; The Police, 100 points; (Bonus for lulling Sting to sleep with own adult contemporary solo music) Porky's Girls, 200 points; Attack Pigs, 400 points; Porky's Bouncers, 800 points, Pig Mobil, 1600 points; Last Band, 3200 points. (The Last Band? I hope it's not Creed or Smashmouth.)

Warning: The action's hot and heavy. If Pee Wee gets hit... it's in the drink. (Thanks for the disclaimer. I always need to be prepared for any hot and heavy Atari action.)

Objective: Get out of the swamp! And that's easier said than done. To escape you must pole vault over the swamp, collect and place four bricks to form an escape ladder. (A four brick escape ladder? That's pretty standard. I mean, it would be nice to have the luxury of a 6-8 brick escape ladder, but I get that timing and graphics capabilities make that an impossibility.)

Controls: Vaulting is accomplished by running toward the vaulting pole and pressing the joystick button while Pee Wee is within the allowable range. Watch your thumb pressure if you want to make it to the other side. (Nurse, how's my thumb pressure?) To place bricks, move against the ladder and press the button on the joystick.

Brick placed +100 points
Exiting Scene +100 points (Bonus 500 for destroying game cartridge.)
Each pole vault jump -25 points
Falling into swamp -100 points
Caught by Porky -random number of points (That seems lazy. Couldn't agree on a number, programmers?)

Warning: If you find yourself back in the swamp, you won't have to rebuild the ladder. But... you will have to look out for Porky, and is he ever mad. (That's a chance I'm willing to take if I can forgo the whole "4 brick escape ladder" monstrosity.)

Objective: To keep your mind off of Wendy (a.k.a Operation Disappearing Boner) and on the task at hand - pushing the brightly colored object at the top of the screen (again, you couldn't even decide WHAT the object is, programmers? I mean, I would have hated to be assigned the Porky's job, too, but at least give it the ol' college try) into the pit without falling in or being caught by Ms. Balbricker. Each object pushed into the pit stops and/or slows a band on the highway screen. (Anything to slow down Dogstar is a good thing, I guess...)

Controls: To maneuver around the gymnasium, move Pee Wee right/left and up/down the ladders with the joystick. When you need to jump, press the button. (Might as well jump. Go ahead, jump.)

Pushing object into pit +100 points
Loitering in locker room -10 each 10 seconds (Aww...but that's the fun part. Hangin' out with the guys, snappin' towels at each other...*wistful sigh* Is that at least in the Atari adaptation of Top Gun?)
Falling into the pit -200 points
Caught by Balbricker -200 points

Warning: Once you climb out of the Shower Scene, you will re-enter the county line scene and one of the bands will be stopped. (Level 1 = Chumbawumba, Level 2 = Deep Blue Something, Level 3 = Sugar Ray...) Each trip through the shower stops an additional band, slowing the action until you are successful in reaching Porky's bar. Don't dawdle too long. It's costing you points. (And did you take the garbage out yet? And what about your home work? Algebra won't do itself, son.)

Objective: Blow the blasted bar away! (Amazing alliteration, Atari!) To do so you must follow the correct path to the top of the scaffolding, planting dynamite charges as you go. If you reach the top, a detonator will appear, and it's bye-bye Porky's. (But not the game, sadly.)

Controls: To climb the scaffolding, position Pee Wee next to the post and push the joystick up. Only one path will work and it must be approached from the bottom. (Crap...you mean I can't start from the end and go backwards? Guess I'll have to play the ColecoVision's Memento game for that.) If you're on the right path, the arrow on the left of the screen will turn green. If you're wrong, the arrow will turn red and you must return to the bottom level and start again.

Exiting scaffolding variable score based on difficulty
+100-3200 points
Caught by Porky -200 points (Guess that's better than "Caught porking.")

Warning: The only thing left between you and destruction of Porky's bar is Porky himself. He smells trouble and he's on to you. (Studies have shown that trouble smells like a mixture of cedar and microwave popcorn.) He's tracking your progress and if he catches you - it's curtains. (Does that mean there's a stage production of Porky's? Where are you on that one, Broadway?)

How sweet it is. But, before you start bragging to your friends (you know, about how you, um, bought the game for "kitsch value," yeaaah...that's the ticket), check your score. You can blow up the bar and end up with a high or low score. An expert can have a score as high as 8000. (8000? A number so ridiculous it's unfathomable.) So try again. (No thank you.) The action never stops at Porky's! (Could it? Please?)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Life's little lessons: How to beat a photo enforced intersection

Yeah, those photo enforced intersections sure are tricky. Sure, it helps cut down on people knowingly running red lights, but sometimes you just get caught at the last second, and it's a ticket in the neighborhood of $300. Here's a few pointers that can help you beat the rap, should you incur a photographic violation:

--Pretend you are sneezing. If you find yourself about to get caught, fake a sneezing fit. There's no possible way you can be fully in control of your faculties when that happens, and the judge will have to throw it out.

--Put a mannequin dressed as a masked kidnapper in the front seat. If you are ordered by an unknown assailant to keep going, how could you possibly refuse the request when you're life is on the line? Be sure to make up a good back story as to why you never called the police--"He said he'd be watching," "He knows how to curve bullets!," etc.

--Keep a werewolf mask in the car. When you are about to get your photo snapped, throw that bad boy over your face. When the photos show up, just tell the judge that "that's clearly not me, it's a werewolf." Then insist, "Even if it is me, I can't remember it, due to the full on wolf-out." If your court date corresponds with a full moon, be sure to overdramatically insist "LOCK ME UP! LOCK ME UP!" for one night. 

--Grow a goatee. Shave it before you go before the judge, and insist that it's not you behind the wheel, but "my evil doppelganger." If he's not buying it, thrown on a pair of specs and coyly ask "You wouldn't fine a guy in glasses, would ya?"

--Attach a giant fake T-Rex head coming in from your sun roof. Tell the judge you wanted to stop for the red light, but couldn't, knowing the T-Rex's vision is based on movement and the tiniest move of your right foot to apply pressure to the brake would be enough to make you a dino snack. 

--Completely change your identity. Sell everything you own to free up travel money. Burn all of your old identification (although this can be taxing, be reminded of Arnold Swarzenegger's stirring speech to Vanessa Williams in the film Eraser about that stuff just being "credit cards and pictures" and not the real you). See this guy I know down on Pico known as "The Engraver" to forge you new documents. Buy a ticket to South America and start a new life working in a Coca-Cola bottling factory. Keep a low profile and never return to the United States, but sleep soundly with the knowledge that you'll never have to pay for that photo ticket.

Next little life lesson: How to beat an employment drug test while remaining higher than Gary Busey.  

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cinematic Gems #3: The Professionals

A rip-roarin' western with a wealth of action and humor, 1966's The Professionals is star-studded, pure entertainment. Written and Directed by Richard Brooks (one of the great filmmakers--he's responsible for Elmer Gantry, In Cold Blood, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), who also received Oscar noms for his screenplay and direction, the film follows a band of soldiers of fortune hired by a slimy oil baron (Ralph Bellamy of Trading Places) to rescue Maria, his kidnapped wife (the lovely Claudia Cardinale) from the clutches of Mexican mercenary Jesus Raza (Jack Palance, Oscar winner for City Slickers and one-armed push-up-er). The crew consists of explosives master Bill Dolworth (the great Burt Lancaster, in another charismatic performance); expert tracker Jake Sharp (western veteran and Sergeant Rutledge star Woody Strode); horse handler Hans Ehrengard (The Dirty Dozen's Robert Ryan); and weapons guy Henry "Rico" Fardan (Lee Marvin, never better). But does Maria really need rescuing? 

The film received a third Oscar nom for the breathtaking cinematography from Conrad Hall (the master who shot Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke, and American Beauty), which melded well with an incredible score from Maurice Jarre (Doctor Zhivago, The Train, Ghost). The film plays great even with those who don't love oaters--it's chock full of plot twists, romance, action, adventure, you name it--and it moves at a brisk pace. Who needs the Magnificent Seven when you've got the Magnificent Four?

Be sure to watch it in widescreen, as the sweeping vistas lensed by Hall will be lost in pan and scan. The film was recently released on Blu Ray, and is a must for any true cinephile. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Whatever happened to the AHS High Senior class of 1971? I've got the scoop!

Using Advanced CBT*, I've been able to find out just what those rascals from AHS Senior High have been up to since they graduated in 1971. So, in a nutshell:

Gwen Bryan is a freelance writer of soup labels currently living in upstate New York. You may have read her work on such labels as Campbell's Cooking Healthy Italian Wedding Soup or Progresso's Aztec Meatball and Seasonal Vegetable Stew.

Mike Burton sells various Groundhog Day paraphernalia in Punxsutawney, Penn.

Jack Caldwell was Kurt Russell's photo double and stand in on Disney Live Action films, starting with The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and ending with The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.

Lynn Calhoun and her brother, Troy Calhoun, started their own discount clown supplies superstore, Calhoun & Calhoun's Clown Emporium. It is the scariest place on earth.

Marie Carmichael is a rhinestone cowboy.

David Carter died tragically in a scrapbooking accident. He donated his giant ears to science.

Debbie Cave is a commercial jingle writer, living in Sacramento, CA. Her jingle hits include "By Menon," "Na-bis-co" and "Merry Christmas, From Payless."

John Chaney couldn't live in the shadow of his famous grandfather, Lon Chaney. He's currently cowering in a bell tower.

Millie Combs writes a series of best-selling children's books about a magical tugboat with rickets.

Mark Cooper drank from the fountain of youth and looks exactly the same now as in his picture. He is the hipster asshole currently thumbing through vinyl in front of you at Amoeba Music.

Debra Corley used to date the Zodiac Killer, or so she says.

Celester Cox has been trying to find her parents her entire life, mostly to ask them how they decided on the name "Celester."

Debbie Crawford is a professional drag queen hair model.

Cindy Davis moved to Anaheim, CA shortly after high school and became the highest paid "Disney Cast Member" ever at Disneyland. Her "Goofy" is the model to which all suitwearers since aspire.

Doris Davis is a certified Scuba instructor in Maui. She has three giant Samoan kids, who take turns programming her DVR for her, because she just doesn't get it.

and Mark Davis became lead keys player in seminal punk jazz folk fusion band "Big Ol' Fats and the Chunky Five." He left the band in '81 when his rapid weight loss caused creative tension in the group. 

Go class of AHS!

*Complete Bullshit Technology

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pack up your shamrocks, we've got a big day ahead of us...

Top of the mornin' to ya!
We've got quite a bit planned on this saintiest of St. Paddy's Days, so let's stick to the schedule, shall we? Here goes:

7:00 am: Rise. Add green food coloring to morning Boost energy shake. Drink it, while enjoying "Put on Your Shit Kickers" from House of Pain's "Shamrocks and Shenanigans." Don't listen to "Jump Around." That's too easy.

7:12 am: Shower. Repeat "You'll never get me pot o' gold!" over and over while you wait for your conditioner to take effect. Change into green crushed velvet suit. Add plastic green derby. Attach pin that says, "Ask me about kissing my Blarney Stone."

7:43 am: First Guinness of the day.

7:47 am: Annual screening of Disney's bizarre classic Darby O' Gill and the Little People. Sing along with Sean Connery on "Pretty Irish Girl." Be legitimately scared by the film's banshee.

9:22 am: Second Guinness of the day.

9:29 am: Go for a morning jog, but in your festive attire. Greet onlookers with "Fitness first! Fitness first!"

10:15 am: Wander into TJ O'Shaunessey's Bar and Saloon, just in time to hear The Pogues' "Lullaby of New York." Weep openly, over your third Guinness of the day. Revel in camaraderie.

11:35 am: Enter Patrick Malone's Bar and Restaurant for some corned beef, cabbage and boil potatoes. Affect a terrible Irish accent for entire meal, and talk often about potato famine.

1:05 pm: Visit James Joyce Middle School and enter annual St. Patrick's Day Spelling Bee. Lose badly when asked to spell "Shillelagh." Knock over the podium while muttering about "bourgeoisie bullshit."

3:10 pm: Fourth Guinness of the day.

3:20 pm: Find your closest PetCo or PetSmart, and banish all of the snakes from it. Return the snakes to the wild while tearfully shouting "Go on, boy! We don't want you here! Just...go on!"

4:53 pm: Fifth and sixth Guinnesses of the day.

5:10 pm: Swear you see a Banshee, lurking around the park. Accept the old lady's wrapped hard candy and let her continue walking her tiny dog.

5:30 pm: Return home for a bit of a pit stop. Watch John Wayne's Irish classic The Quiet Man, and start a random fist fight that lasts a couple of miles on your way to your next bar, Thomas Murphy's Bottomless Pint.

8:05 pm: Drink first Harp of the day to show your versatility.

8:15 pm: Begin drunken sing along of "Danny Boy." Bar gets momentarily somber. 

8:20 pm: Seventh Guinness of the day. Allow for ten minute bout of dry heaving and/or vomiting.

8:43 pm: Impress everyone at the bar with your impression of Brad Pitt's terrible Irish accent from the trailer of The Devil's Own. Repeat the lines "Are ye from Belfast? Aye!" and "I need that money, Thom!" over and over. 

9:03 pm: Wander out on the avenue in search of a quick bite to eat. When you find none, decide that Guinness is "basically a grain" and drink your eighth and ninth. Find yourself near the harbor.

9:17 pm: Impulsively steal a small dingy boat and start paddling out to sea. Read aloud from your pocket paperback by John O'Keefe, but abandon it and start orating dirty limericks instead.

10:03 pm: Cower in terror at the banshee floating above you. Throw full Guinness at the spectre, who then disappears. Mourn the loss of your tenth Guinness.

10:46 pm: Wake up when a glass of water is thrown over you in the stock room of Thomas Murphy's Bottomless Pint. Swear the barmaid is "an angel sent from the heavens" when she drags you out to a cab. Be puzzled when she takes offense that you think "she kind of looks like Judge Reinhold."

11:03 pm: Arrive home. Plop down on the couch and put on Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks." Remark over and over how good it sounds on vinyl. 

11:43 pm: Final Guinness of the night, though you are slightly bummed you didn't make your baker's dozen. 

11:59 pm: Change into U2 pajamas (discounted variety as they only have Larry Mullen Jr. on them). Fall asleep at the computer while looking at dudes on the Internet.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Take one part beloved children's puzzle toy. Add creepy gremlin face and feet and Spanish children. Make GOLD.

One of the GREATEST cartoons of all time, Rubik the Amazing Cube delighted maybe a handful of people in 1983, it's solo year on the air. Only 13 episodes exist--but in that time Rubik and company visit Wonderland, journey to the future in a time machine to thwart a plan to steal the Statue of Liberty, win a dance contest, recover a lucky bike helmet, go trick-or-treating, rough it in the great outdoors, foil some pooch-nappers, recover buried treasure, enter a science fair, vacay in Hawaii, and free themselves from slavery. Yep, not at all an ambitious thirteen eps. 

The adventure begins when a crate tumbles out of the back of a gypsy wagon, smashing open and spilling it's cargo, an unsolved Rubik's Cube, onto the street. Enter siblings Carlos, Reynaldo and Lisa Rodriguez, who happen upon the lost cube while riding their BMX bikes. Carlos solves the Cube (magically in about 2 seconds), and the Cube springs to life--sprouting legs and a grey Yoda-ish mug. Much like a genie in a bottle scenario, Rubik stays around to help out and protect the Rodriguez kids, be it from youthful bullies, hardened criminals, or mad hatters. He has several super powers, that seem to change every episode. One catch--if Rubik becomes at all scrambled, he falls to the floor, lifeless, until someone solves him again. And it happens A LOT. Why Carlos didn't duct tape him solved is beyond me.

Below is a clip from the show--and one of my favorite things ever. Nothing says Christmas like a tropical climate and old Aztec ruins!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Albums you should know #1: Cherry Ghost's Thirst for Romance

My favorite album of 2007 (by a wide margin), the debut album from Bolton's Cherry Ghost (a.k.a. Simon Aldred, who named his band after a line from a Wilco song) is full of haunting melodies, sharply poetic lyrics and killer imagery. Entitled Thirst for Romance (fitting, actually, as I picked it up at Rough Trade in London while on my amazing honeymoon with my wife Jenny), the album moves beautifully from track to track, kicking things off with the toe-tapping title track. Follow up songs "4 am" and "Mountain Bird" are prime alt-country mid tempo sing-alongs, but the album hits its first incredible high with "People Help the People," a sweeping melancholic ballad that set up camp in my head the second I heard it and never left. This starts the heart of the album--follow up song "Roses" is a seductive slow-burner that culminates in some crashing percussion, leading into Aldred's crowning moment, "Dead Man's Suit." Layers upon layers of guitar, viola and cello mash together with stirring sung images like "Sister quick, pull the chord/There's a horse on the ward/With a mouthful of diamonds for teeth/In a dusty old cape stands a man in its wake/Singing I got a woman that loves like an ocean." The well-placed "False Alarm" comes after, with wistful sing-song harmonies, soon making way for a few more up-tempo numbers, such as "Here Come The Romans." Aldred closes the set with "Mathematics," a catchy indie rocker that shuffles along brilliantly.

Described by Aldred himself as "Willie Nelson meets Walt Disney," Thirst for Romance is a wonderful mesh of Americana, alt-country and indie rock, with shades of Wilco, Josh Ritter, Joe Henry, Peter Gabriel and Crowded House. I can't recommend this more--I don't believe it has been officially released in the U.S. as of yet (wha?), but seek it out at Amoeba or on the Internet. After a few listens, I guarantee you'll be hooked.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The following takes place between 5:00pm and 6:00pm

I'm a bit of a TV junkie, and one of the ol' standbys is FOX's real time thriller 24. Ridiculous, often implausible, but always exciting, the show rests on the shoulders of tried and true American Jack Bauer (played like a mad dog by tried and true Canadian Kiefer Sutherland), whose methods are controversial but often necessary to protect this great country of ours. We've seen Jack torture and maim to get information, diffuse bombs, sacrifice friends and family and cut off a colleague's hand, all to get the job done. Sure, he's extraordinary, but there's lots of other things I'd like to see Jack Bauer do, and I'm afraid I'll never get to. So, in the hopes that Joel Surnow or others pulling the strings at FOX happen upon this page, here's my suggestions:

--Let Jack stop off for some Pinkberry. You can't tell me that Jack doesn't eat (though I don't think I've ever seen it). Fro yo and counter terrorism = ratings sensation. Seriously, does he ever chow down? If he can get from Burbank to Santa Monica in 10 minutes (and in the past seasons, he has), surely he can grab some In n' Out in under 15 seconds and scarf down a double double. He's gotta be famished.

--Let a song get stuck in Jack's head. It's bad enough having to deal with moles at CTU or at the White House, but can you imagine Jack trying to take down a vicious dictator while the Pussycat Dolls' version of Jai Ho rattles around in his noggin? Or how much more irritable he'd be if he can't stop humming Flo Rida while he defends his methods to Kurtwood Smith?

--Put Jack undercover in an improv class. This would be riveting TV. Sure, we know Jack can pull off pretending to be arms dealer or a user in a drug cartel, but could he handle the pressure of yes and-ing a guy pretending he has snakes for arms for six minutes at The Groundlings? The smart money is on "no."

--Give Jack a cool new catch phrase. It's the perfect opportunity. Everyone loves Jack, he's on screen for nearly every minute of the season. We need something to put on a T-shirt, other than an American Flag or Jack Bauer for President. I was a fan of "Who are you working for!!" in Season 1. Just spitballin', here's a few that could work: "I've got the kill shot, holmes." "Torture schmorture." "With all due respect Madame President, I make this look good." (That last one has a little Will Smith in it).

--Assign Jack new partners every couple of episodes. Yes, he usually gets a new one every season, but that's not frequent enough. We need 'em hourly. But here's the kicker--make them all of his old Young Guns co-stars. Start off with Lou Diamond Phillips (I know he was on Season 1 briefly, but bring him back and this time give him an array of knives, a la Chavez y Chavez). Have a stray bullet get him. Then bring in Casey Siemaszko, who can get caught in a cougar trap. Then it's time for Dermot Mulroney, etc. And as they die, they can shout "Regulators! Mount up!" Or maybe this is just my sad, sad attempt to drum up interest for Young Guns III ("You took our farm, Mr. Chisum!...Yet Again!")

There's so much more to Jack than we ever get to see. What kind of milk does the guy buy? Does he enjoy carnival rides? What's on his iPod--is it all Rocco Deluca and the Burden? Hopefully, some of these things will be answered in Season 7...or the terrorists have already won.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cinematic Gems #2: 36 Hours

A terrific yet mostly forgotten spy thriller, 1965's 36 Hours follows Major Jefferson Pike (James Garner, in a stoic yet nuanced performance), an American soldier with valuable intel kidnapped and drugged by the Nazis just days before the Allied invasion. He awakens an amnesiac in an Allied military hospital, and is put in the care of doctor (The Time Machine's Rod Taylor, who will soon be seen as Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds) who informs him five years have passed and the Americans have won the war. He attempts to stir Pike's memory by asking him details of D-Day...only it's really still 1944, the hospital is fake and under Nazi control, and the whole thing has been set up to pull the invasion location from him before it happens. Fabricated newspapers, a staff of undercover soldiers, and artificial physical aging of Pike himself are all part of this elaborate Nazi ruse. Will it work, or will Pike catch on before it's too late? 

Director George Seaton (The Big Lift, The Counterfeit Traitor) beautifully handles this tense game of cat and mouse, based on a short story from Roald Dahl (yep, the guy behind Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach). Eva Marie Saint (North by Northwest, On the Waterfront) is also on hand as a duplicitous love interest. The film is totally absorbing from start to finish--thanks largely to its star, James Garner, who always makes it look so easy (and, consequently, has always been a bit underrated as an actor, when he's one of the best we've got). 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We hate you, Chuck-O: Super Team Manateam Episode 1!

Here is the first (and possibly only) episode of Super Team Manateam, the animated adventures of four manatees endowed with crappy super powers, who do more harm than good as they try to right the wrongs around them. It was written and created by myself and my buddy Chad Meserve, who also did all of the kick-ass animation. With the voice work of...

Gabriel Diani as Thorndike
Cole Stratton as Chuck-O
Chad Meserve as Barnaby and Starfish
Chris Hardwick as Ron

If you find it at all entertaining, please go to you tube and give it a view and a good review. We had it up there a while ago, but the audio was disabled due to an old 60's song we used in a montage segment (now replaced with a crappy song by yours truly). Special thanks to Hard 'n Phirm for the amazing Manateam theme song!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

She's got lots-a lots-a lots-a legs. She knows how to use them.

For most people, there's that one album that changed everything. You know, the one that influenced everything else you listened to for the rest of your life. Maybe it's Nevermind by Nirvana. Or Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder. Or even Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet. But for most of us, myself included, it had to be the one and only album by Faterpiller.
All words that describe this fascinating and multi-faceted performer, who, sadly, couldn't resist all the temptation that comes with stardom. Wife and longtime band mate Rain Bowlegged caught him backstage with a couple of rolly polly bugs in Ohio, an event that splintered the band and dissolved their marriage. A slave to all of his vices, be they drugs, alcohol, or having to tie dozens upon dozens of shoes daily, Faterpiller's weight spiralled out of control and his little piller heart gave out after a benefit show for Millipedes with MS in Kalamazoo, MI. The only one present at his funeral was stage hog yet loyal friend Toetunes, who is raising Faterpiller's only daughter, Punky Legggggster, pictured above.
My friends, unearthed from the archives is one of Faterpiller's final and finest performances, live from Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit, shown below. Take a moment, soak it in, then go dust off your vinyl copy of Faterpiller's As Chunky As I Wanna Be. TO BE PLAYED AT MAXIMUM VOLUME.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Beloved items from childhood #1: The Etch-A-Sketch Animator

Draw it.
Save it.

Draw it save it.

The Etch-A-Sketch Animator!

One of my favorite toys when I was a kid, the uber-pricey and incredibly stupid Etch-A-Sketch animator was basically an electronic flipbook--you'd draw up to twelve frames (WOW! TWELVE FRAMES!) and watch them slowly move. The original commercial had a breakdancing skeleton, and that sold me. I mean, who doesn't love a bag of bones with pop'n and lock'n skills? I'd sit in my room for hours working on these simple animations, mostly making various things, well, breakdance. To throw caution to the proverbial wind, you could make your animations run backwards using the risky "Reverse" button. Imagine a skeleton magically flying out of a backspin ONTO his feet, all thanks to a single finger push. The manual had a handful of things laid out for you to animate (a horse, a tiger, a baseball player and said skeleton), but they were seriously time consuming. Still, the device was pretty mind blowing at the time, when it truth it really did just blow.

Check out one of the tv commercials for the animator. I love the John Wayne-esque voice over declaring "Batteries not included!" And who could forget all the times we'd turn to a camera in our white sweaters and give a seriously pained thumbs up in front of a tacky wall hanging? Here's the spot, courtesy of retrojunk.com

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Let's start a web sensation over German potato salad!

Q: What ties a picnic together perfectly?
A: German potato salad!

I don't believe the above statement at all, but I do believe German potato salad needs more of a definitive web presence. So let's make it happen, people! I'll kick it off with late night Saturday blog post, topped with a scrumptious google-image stock photo of said German potato salad. Then it's in your hands, fellow bloggers of the world wide web--take this opportunity to write a sentence or two about German potato salad, grab a photo and post away--and watch German potato salad light up the internet faster than a California wildfire. It's exciting to think we live in a world where technology has reached a point where those with an unfairly low profile (e.g. German potato salad, Jasmine Guy, or the gal who played Jennifer in the original Back to the Future film) can have it boosted exponentially overnight, thanks to a couple clicks of a mouse. For those of you with camera access, put a little German potato salad on tape, post it on the ol' Youtube and start a viral side dish sensation! So please... let's give German potato salad a much needed shot in the arm.

Friday, March 6, 2009

What an alien!

This November 2004 edition of the Weekly World News is a staple on my coffee table. Alien does it again! I love the fact that the story is NOT that there is proof of an alien living among us, but that he has managed to win the battle with 50/50 seven consecutive times. What impressive psychic powers! My favorite thing on this cover has to be the pic of the alien whispering something (my money is on "I've done it again!") into Bush Sr.'s ear, and the fact that all of the pics are of the alien mingling with the politicians in what seem to be very public places. "You read it here first!" Heaven forbid the WWNews get scooped. And what about the 76 election? Did the alien not go with his gut and picked Gerald Ford? 

I feel kind of sorry for the human-bearing chimp. That's truly miraculous and was downgraded to the B cover story in favor of a heavenly being that probably fares well in the march madness office pool. 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cinematic Gems #1: The Hot Rock

Once a week or so, I plan to post info on great films that you may not be familiar with. I'm kicking it off with 1972's The Hot Rock, a comic crime caper from the novel by Donald Westlake. Recently paroled thief John Dortmunder (Robert Redford, in a marvelously understated performance) assembles a team of "pros" to lift a huge diamond known as "The Sahara Stone," in Manhattan. His team consists of locksmith/brother-in-law Kelp (George Segal, brilliantly neurotic), bomb maker Greenberg (Paul Sand), and driver Murch (Ron Leibman). The plan seems perfect--but where would be the fun in that? Complications, double crosses and lots of plain bad luck plague Dortmunder and his crew, keeping the diamond out of reach. Leisurely paced by director Peter Yates (the man who brought us Bullitt, Krull, Breaking Away and Mother, Jugs & Speed) and scribe William Goldman (the guy who wrote Magic, The Princess Bride, Marathan Man, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, and the supposed actual writer of Good Will Hunting), the engrossing and darkly funny flick is scored in that sweet 70's crime pic style by Quincy Jones. Don't miss a cameo by Christopher Guest as a policeman, and a riotous turn by Zero Mostel as a shady lawyer, who's entrance is on par with that of Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in The Third Man

It's amazing to me with the pedigree of the cast, director and writer this film isn't better known. For those of you in the Los Angeles area, don't miss your chance to see it on the big screen at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica on Thursday, March 12th, playing alongside Cops & Robbers in their tribute to Westlake, who passed away late last year.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Kids write the darndest things...to Kenny Rogers

At the age of seven, yours truly wrote a letter to country music star Kenny Rogers (thanks home scanner for the breathtaking image on the left). It reads:

Dear Kenny Roger,
I like your songs and movies. My favorate song is "The Gambler." And my favorate movie is "Six Pack." I enjoy listening to your songs and I've watched many of your concerts. I'm glad you became an star singer. I like to buy your albums and I hope you continue to wright write many more songs. You are my favorate star. cole. p.s. I hope you answer my letter. <--From Your Friend, Cole Stratton

Many things jump out at me when I read this, especially since I've read it hundreds of times as it lives above the toilet in my bathroom. It's hard to believe there ever was a time when Six Pack was my favorite (or shall I say "favorate") film. It does combine several amazing things into one movie: Kenny Rogers, race cars, and lovable orphans (played by the likes of Anthony Michael Hall and Diane Lane). To this day, I still find myself humming Rogers' theme song from the film, "Love With Turn You Around." It's easy to see why that flick, in combination with everyone's choice instructional poker song, "The Gambler," would drive a seven year old towards a letter writing campaign (no joke--I also wrote Campbell's Soup to praise their Split Pea n' Ham concoction). 

This letter is chock full of lies. I haven't seen a single Kenny Rogers concert, let alone "several." I grew up in Michigan suburbia--not exactly KR country. Favorite star? I know for a fact that he took a backseat to one particular performer who influenced me greatly throughout the years: Fozzie Bear. What delivery! What material! What a catch phrase! Wocka Wocka Wocka!

One other thing of note--I like how I wrote that I enjoy "buying" his albums, not the albums themselves. This would explain my tendency to purchase cds and records and stockpile them, many of which I still haven't given a full listen to. So let me take this opportunity to apologize to the latest albums by Stereophonics, Broken Social Scene's Brendan Canning and The Walkmen. I swear I'll do better by you guys.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

And so it begins!

World Wide Web rejoice!

I've decided to try my hand (well, hands, both needed for typing) at a blog. Hopefully the growing pains will be short-lived and the ramblings will be amusing. 

The title of the blog refers to the greatest bear/snake/lizard/weasel/fish band ever to rock a Christmas talent competition--the Riverbottom Nightmare Band. A staple growing up, Jim Henson's fall classic Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas holds up amazingly well after all of these years. The music is top notch--and, with my recent dabblings into Garageband, I've recorded an a cappella version of said talent show song, which I'll post a link to here when I am satisfied with it. Ah, the things you have time for when you are part of California's now 10.1% unemployment rate!