Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Here in New England there is an old tradition in which five kernels of corn are placed at each setting on the Thanksgiving table in remembrance of those less fortunate and as a wish for prosperity in the coming year. This tradition has its source in the struggles of the Pilgrims to survive those first long winters in the New World; at times they were forced to subsist on a daily ration of five kernels of corn. By placing the kernels at a table overflowing with abundance, we remind ourselves of those things for which we are most grateful, and that we should share our good fortune with others.

Today is the start of the month-long orgy of conspicuous consumption and over-indulgence known as The Holidays. As we rush about, shopping and eating and drinking and decorating, we should try to take a few minutes to remember what's really important - the people in our lives who are our source of strength and happiness and yes, at times aggravation (or agita as my Mom used to say).

I love a parade
Back when I was trapped in retail hell, one of the department stores I worked for was R.H. Macy's, who's annual parade is as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and cranberry sauce. Many of the balloon handlers, clowns and assorted costumed float characters are drawn from the ranks of Macy's employees. I'd like to say that I participated in at least one parade, but alas I didn't. Still, watching the parade has been a family tradition since I was a wee lad (and continues with my own family; as I write this Connor and Kim are watching it). Writing this it occurrs to me that I've never actually sat down and watched an entire parade from start to finish. Still it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the background noise of this holiday event. Below is an ad from the November 27, 1924 New York Herald Tribune announcing the very first Macy's Thanksgiving Parade held almost exactly 85 years ago today.

Thank you, Squanto (and you too, Samoset)
History tells us that the first Thanksgiving, held during the autumn of 1621, was made possible in part through the beneficence of Tisqantum aka Squanto, the surviving member of the Pawtuxet Indians. For the Pilgrims he acted as wilderness guide, teacher and interpreter. He mediated a peace treaty with the Wampanoag Indians and his assistance helped the Pilgrims survive. Yet it was another Native American, an Abenaki Indian named Samoset, who was the first to encounter the Mayflower's passengers. Samoset spoke limited English, and it was he who introduced the Pilgrims to Squanto, who had spent several years in England and was much more fluent in their language.

Holiday for Drumsticks
Daffy Duck and Thomas Turkey starring in the 1949 Warner Brothers cartoon, Holiday for Drumsticks. Directed by Arthur Davis with voice characterizations by the great Mel Blanc (of course), here's a small Thanksgiving present from me to you. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Things that go bump in the night...

Flesh-eating zombies, blood-sucking vampires, chainsaw-wielding cannibals and psycho killers. These are the stuff of modern horror, but for this writer they are nothing compared to the real nightmares of 21st Century life. In honor of Halloween, I present some things that really scare me.

The Tax Man- the Internal Revenue Service has the power to seize bank accounts and property, levy fines and in general make your life a living hell. No agency should have so much power.

The Department of Motor Vehicles - staffed with bureaucrats imported from the fifth ring of Hell, waiting on line at the DMV is akin to an eternity amid the fire and brimstone of Damnation.

It's a Small World - Devised by the most deranged minds at Disney, this is truly one of the horrors of the modern world. I was once trapped on this ride for 10 minutes and was afforded a brief yet vivid glimpse of Hell (imagine the unrelenting horror of children singing that song ("Its a world of laughter, a world of tears...") over and over and over.)

Opening up my 401K Statement - These days few horrors compare to the utter gut-wrenching feeling of opening the mail box and finding my latest 401k Statement. Opening the envelope should definitely be accompanied by shrieking violins a la the shower scene in Psycho.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Happy 50th Anniversary Great Pumpkin!

October 26, 1959: The Great Pumpkin is mentioned for the first time in Peanuts.

Poor Linus is probably still waiting him

Friday, October 23, 2009

Soupy Sales, R.I.P.

In his memory, throw a pie in the face of someone you love.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

So Much For Astrology...

The following people were born on October 20...

Bela Lugosi (1882)
Margaret DuMont (1889)
Jelly Roll Morton (1890)
Grandpa Jones (1913)
Art Buchwald (1925)
Dr. Joyce Brothers (1927)
Mickey Mantle (1931)
Jerry Orbach (1935)
Tom Petty (1950)
Keith Hernandez (1953)
Snoop Dogg (1971)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Martha Stewart poisoned my dog and other adventures in veterinary medicine

Disclaimer: (for the benefit of Martha Stewart and her attorneys) Ms. Stewart did not knowingly poison my dog; it was just a hook to grab your attention (but she is peripherally involved).

Now that he's on the mend, I can relate the tale of my two-year-old golden retriever Casey's recent illness. As anyone who's ever owned a golden will tell you, they love to eat things. Especially things they shouldn't eat. Over the past two years, Casey's dietary intake has included several remotes; one cell phone; countless books; a bag of fresh-baked apple cider donuts (that hurt a lot); the pedal of my wife's Kurzweil Piano; assorted toys; numerous CDs, DVDs and video tapes; the legs of our dining room table; and a pile of shoes (Casey doesn't discriminate; his taste in footwear ranges from 11-year-old Connor's flip flops, to Kim's leather boots, to my loafers). He also loves to eat houseplants, which is where Martha enters the picture.

My wife's best friend's sister (herein after known as BFS) works for Martha in some type of botanical function; she's a gardener or landscaper or something along those lines. Anyway, this past summer BFS allowed Kim to take some cuttings of assorted plants to transplant at home. One of these plants was a shrub from Africa known by various names including Pencil Tree, Sticks on Fire, and Milk Brush. Unbeknownst to us, the sap is extremely toxic. Unfortunately for Casey, he decided to devour most of the plant this past weekend.

He experienced a burning sensation which he tried to alleviate by eating anything within reach; before we knew what was happening he devoured a good sized section of an old queen-sized sheet. Since bed linens are not part of a dog's normal diet (Egyptian cotton or not), he proceeded to get a tummy ache which he attempted to relieve by eating grass. Over the next 18 hours or so he proceeded to vomit pieces of half eaten sheet. What he didn't vomit he pooped out (which made for interesting and rather festive bowel movements).

We took him to the animal hospital and they gave him a thorough exam during which the vet literally reached into Casey and pulled out a piece of sheet (sort of like a magician performing an x-rated handkerchief trick; I half-expected her to say "TA DA!" after extracting it from Casey's ass). Meds were prescribed and we were instructed to make sure he doesn't eat anymore grass; vomiting will cause more irritation to his already sore throat. Best of all, I am under instructions to check his poop to make sure he's excreting any stray pieces of linen that may still be inside him.

Our twice daily walks have turned into a battle of wills; Casey trying his best to eat grass while I try to keep his head up high while speaking soothing, encouraging words to help him to poop. Last night he was in a particularly playful mood and ran thorough our dark, wet field following the scent of some long-gone bunny rabbit, dragging me behind with my trusty flashlight in hand ready to illuminate his poop for inspection. As we made our way through the damp brush, I kept looking for the telltale signs indicating he was about to poop - what I like to call his "Poop March" (whenever he's about to go, Casey walks briskly back and forth - it's like he's marching a few paces, then does an about face and marches in the opposite direction before finally settling down).

The good news: he finally went. The bad news: my flashlight went out and I lost track of the poop. The good news: it came back on and I found the poop. The bad news: I was standing in it. I just realized I've used the word "poop" far too many times in this post. Anyway, the important thing is Casey is feeling much better and we've relegating what remains of the offending plant to the burn pile.

Not to be outdone, last week our Italian Greyhound Bella (who is no where close to being house broken) suffered several days of projectile diarrhea. I was thinking about giving this it's own blog under the title "The Number One Reason Why Bare Floors Are Better Than Carpeting", but really, the least said about it the better.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

File this under "H" for How Times Have Changed...

On October 10, 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned after pleading No Contest to charges that he failed to report $29,500 of income received in 1967. Now-a-days, failing to report taxable income gets you a Committee Chairmanship or Cabinet Position.

Also on October 10, but in 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower apologized to the Finance Minister of Ghana, Komla Agbeli Gbdemah, who had been refused service in a Howard Johnson's Restaurant in Dover DE. I wonder if Minister Gbdemah (pronunciation anyone?) popped in for the all-you-can-eat clam dinner? Remember those? The waitresses would walk around the restaurant with trays piled high with fried clams and french frieds and laddle them out as soon as your plate was getting low (is it any wonder why I have to fight hard to keep my cholesterol in check these days?)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Play Misty for Me...

Misty was written as an instrumental piece in 1954 by Jazz pianist Erroll Gardner. The following year lyricist Jimmy Burke added lyrics and Lounge Lizards everywhere rejoiced. Today we take a look at a few of the countless interpretations of this jazz standard.

Ella Fitzgerald

Sarah Vaughn

Here's an intersting interpretation by Liberace - what's with the seagulls?

Johnny Mathis made Misty his signature song

Here's the ever-sultry Julie London

In closing, here's Erroll Garner performing his classic...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Things I've Learned This Summer

First in a series...

Lesson 1: A dead frozen dog placed in a freshly dug grave filled with rainwater will float unless large rocks are placed on top of it.

Last month the Chirichella Pet Cemetery had a new addition; Jackson, our long-frozen dog was finally interred. He died in January 2008 and was kept in storage at the vet's until they ran out of room in the freezer (as well as running out of patience; originally we'd promised to pick him up as soon as the ground thawed in the Spring (that was Spring of 2008) well one thing led to another and before you know it, here it is 18 months later).

The day before Jackson was scheduled to be picked up, I dug a grave for him. Overnight it rained (we've had a particularly wet summer here in the Northeast). The rain combined with our naturally high water table led to a miniature swimming pool. The following occurred while I was at work. My mother-in-law picked up Jackson (now a giant dog-shaped Popsicle wrapped in a green plastic body bag) from the vet and brought him home. Neither my wife nor my mother-in-law wanted to touch him, so they turned to Art for assistance. Art is our neighbor and go-to guy for everything from plumbing and electric work to taking care of the horses and euthanizing dying rabbits (I'll spare you the details but they involve a hammer). Jackson was placed in the watery grave (in my head, I'm speaking that phrase in a pirate voice), wherein he sunk and then bobbed to the surface. Eventually, some well placed large stones secured him in place long enough for dirt to be shoveled on top of him.

I've never really thought about the buoyancy of dead, frozen dogs before but it occurs to me that it wasn't the paucity of life boats that doomed so many of the passengers aboard the Titanic; it was the lack of dead, frozen dogs. Imagine how many lives would have been saved had there been a few dead, frozen Great Danes or Saint Bernards on board when the ship hit that iceberg!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The King of Pop and Rose the Stripper

A Michael Jackson memory...

In case you missed it, Michael Jackson died in June. Now that the orgy of media coverage has died down somewhat, I've decided to share a memory of MJ that begins almost 30 years ago in, of all places, a strip club on Long Island. Sometime during my freshman year at college, some friends and I, having the urge to see naked women (not as readily available back in the pre-internet/cable age) decided to see some strippers (that's what we called them back then; they weren't erotic dancers or adult entertainers yet). At that time there were laws on Long Island prohibiting totally nude dancing in establishments serving alcohol. To get around this, some clever entrepreneur came up with the idea of opening a private social club. The idea was you became a member by paying a cover charge (and were issued a nifty paper membership card). Then you could purchase alcohol and enjoy naked women to your heart's (or any other organ's) content.

Our destination was The Salem Social Club in Port Washington, on the north shore of Long Island. I don't remember too many details about the place, but I clearly remember one of the strippers; Rose was an attractive blonde with wholesome looks (the kind of girl you'd call All-American). She had a small rose tattoo on her calf (and as I write this, it occurs to me that Rose probably wasn't her real name). One of the songs she danced to (it might have been her first one but details are lost in the mists of time) was Rock with You, one of the hits from Michael Jackson's Off the Wall album. I'm sure she danced to other songs and I know there were other dancers, but for some reason, Rose dancing to Rock with You is the only thing I remember. I won't pretend to understand the workings of the human mind (least of all my own), but it is a fact that to this day, almost 30 years later, whenever I hear Rock with You, I think of Rose. My brain is now wired so that Rock with You and Rose are forever intertwined; a Pavlovian meeting of King of Pop and 1980's Stripper.

My best friend Richard was at the strip club in the winter of 1980 and he also remembers Rose. I called him recently to ask him to clarify some of the details of that long-ago night (his memory is even better than mine). He corrected me on the name and location of the club for example. He also associates Rose with Rock with You but I think it's just conditioning from me talking about it over the years. Anyway, here is Michael Jackson before his coronation as King of Pop performing what has long been (and probably will remain) my favorite of all his songs.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I Miss My MTV!

Back in the dark ages, before the Internet and iPhones and YouTube and Hulu (well you get the picture) if you wanted to see your favorite band or artist performing, your options were limited. You could hope they'd come to a venue near you so you could see them live; you could watch them lip-synching on weekly music shows like American Bandstand or Soul Train; you could see them perform on one of the assorted concert shows such as Don Kirschner's Rock Concert or The Midnight Special. Or you could hope they'd make an appearance as the musical guest on one of the late night programs (SNL, Tonight Show etc).

That all changed on August 1st, 1981. MTV was on the air with the then innovative concept of 24 music television (yes kids, there was a time when the "M" in MTV actually stood for "Music" - as opposed to Mediocre, Moronic, Mind-numbingly bad, etc). There was something exciting about those early days - maybe it was the chance to see what your favorite performers looked like; or maybe it was watching a channel aimed at my age group; or maybe it was the unsophisticated (some might say "cheesy") videos from bands I'd never heard of. I suspect it was a combination of factors. Whatever it was, I'd never seen anything like it before. We didn't have cable in my house at the time, so for the first year or so I had to watch it at the homes of friends who were more fortunate. When my parents finally relented and we got cable (sometime in late 1982) MTV was always on; often as background noise providing a soundtrack to my daily life.

Guiding us through the videos were the five original VJ's: J.J. Jackson - the hip one with real music creds as a former DJ; Cute-as-a-button Martha Quinn (who had attended NYU around the same time I did -although I don't recall ever seeing her on campus); sexy, husky-voiced Nina Blackwood; funny Alan Hunter, and cool Mark Goodman. It is either a tribute to my long term memory or a sign of my pathetic inability to let the past go, that I can remember each one so distinctly.

During the early years, the channel ran a series of "I want my MTV" ads featuring pop stars enticing viewers to call their local cable stations and demand that they carry MTV. This one features Cyndi Lauper, Billy Idol, David Bowie and Boy George:

28 years later it must be hard for someone who only knows MTV as it is today - a wasteland of reality shows - to imagine the impact the channel had back in the 1980's. It created stars out of unknown performers, and influenced what people listened to, how they talked, and what they wore. I'd like to close with this short clip of the first 30 seconds of MTV programming (to this day I can't watch scenes of the moon landing without hearing the MTV guitar riff)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Separated at birth? (Harry Potter Edition)

Dobby the House Elf and Isabella, my Italian Greyhound

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Superhero Catch Phrases

Avengers Assemble!

By Odin's Beard!

Spider Sense Tingling!

Hulk Smash!

Flame On !

This looks like a job for Superman!

By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Saturday Cartoons - 4th of July Edition

In honor of America's birthday, we present some patriotic-themed cartoons.

First, from 1957 we have Patriotic Popeye

From 1943 here are Tom and Jerry starring in Yankee Doodle Mouse

A pair of School House Rock episodes from 1976; first The Shot Heard Round the World - a three minute recap of the Revolutionary War

Fireworks - everything you need to know about Independence Day

Sunday, June 21, 2009

TV Dads

Happy Father's Day

As a child, television provided me with countless and diverse images of fatherhood; stern but loving family men, widowers, bachelor uncles, hapless but lovable dads etc. So many role models to chose from, and all as far removed from real life as my little house in the suburbs of Long Island was to the Hollywood sound stages where these shows were filmed. My father wasn't quite like any of these men; quiet by nature, he wasn't an overflowing font of fatherly advice and I don't recall having many heart to heart talks with him. This is not to say he wasn't a good and loving father; he definitely was. He just wasn't particularly good at expressing emotions. Also, unlike most TV dads, who seemed to lounge around the house in a tie (except on weekends when cardigan sweaters were the norm), my Dad was a blue collar worker and the only time he wore a suit was to attend a wedding or funeral.

Still, unrealistic representations of fatherhood aside, these two-dimensional (in more ways than one) men present us with iconic images that are hard to forget. Today is Father's Day and in celebration thereof, I present some of my favorite TV Dads...

Being a dad is the single greatest joy in my life. It is also the most nerve-wracking, stress inducing and ulcer-forming part of my life (and I wouldn't trade it for anything). Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

More Cartoon Theme Songs

It's Saturday! That means more great old kids' shows here at the Museum...

Have no fear, Underdog is here!

Hong Kong Phooey -How can you not love a cartoon voiced by the great Scatman Crothers?

The Banana Splits - Hanna-Barbera's mixture of live action and animation had an undeniably catchy theme song.

H.R. Pufnstuf - brought to you by the psychedelic (or is that psychotic?) minds of Sid and Marty Krofft.

Felix the Cat - another theme song that's stuck with my all these years...

Casper the Friendly Ghost -a cartoon about a dead little boy who just wants to be loved (sounds like the plot of a Japanese horror movie).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Today's Birthdays (and How to Celebrate Them)

M.C. Escher
Dutch graphic artist (1898 -1972)

Walk sideways down a flight of stairs.

Barry Manilow

Ultimate 1970's singer/songwriter (born 1943)

Sing along to this video of Barry performing his 1978 hit Copacabana (bonus points if you wear a white sequined jump suit while doing so).