Monday, December 5, 2011

Chasing the Christmas Dragon...

I've got to be honest with you all...I've been chasing the dragon for well over 30 years now. Since the day that I finally understood that Santa Claus totally flew against my newly developing understanding of how the world worked, I've been chasing that peppermint flavored, red and white striped, carol singing, tinsel hanging dragon. 

Let me reminisce and maybe I'll be able to explain it better....

I got some great gifts as a kid.  I remember the Kenner Death Star playset that was assembled under the tree.  I remember the box of said playset had "CRAFTS" stenciled on the side of it and my mother was quick to say that Santa had to deliver a bunch of these things and he marked them all to know where to bring it.  I remember getting a pack of special arms that were interchangeable with the Six Million Dollar Man Doll.  At that point, I didn't have the doll.  After opening the pack of arms, 4 to 5 year old me wondered out loud just what was Santa thinking? I can't use these! Of course, the next gift I opened was the brand new Steve Austin doll that Santa had left me.  I remember getting the Space 1999 Eagle One spaceship in 1976.  I vaguely remember seeing the show as a kid, but I wanted that toy so bad because my cousin Mike had one and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.  I remember being happy.

However, that is not why I'm chasing the dragon.  There were some very early Christmas mornings in my house.  One year, I woke up at one in the morning and asked my parents if we could see if Santa had showed up.  My father told me we could in one hour.  I hopped back into my bed and watched my little clock with the illuminated face and glow in the dark hands tick it's way from one to two o'clock in the morning.  At two on the nose, I jumped out of bed and asked my parents the same question.  Their answer was the more hour.  This went on until I finally broke their spirits at 4 in the morning.  They gave the green light and I sprinted downstairs.

And this is my most vivid memory of the Christmases of my youth:

I entered our living room.  The lights were off.  Our real Christmas tree was placed in front of a large picture window.  The streetlight down the road from our house just gave off enough light to make out the silhouette of the tree.  The tinsel didn't glitter, but it caught enough light from the outside source to make it distinguished.  In the semi-darkness of that Christmas morning, I could make out the shapes that were under the tree - Shapes that weren't there before.  I couldn't see sizes or colors of wrapping paper or ribbons....just shapes.  The landscape of our Christmas tree had changed and it was amazing.  It was magical.

That is what I'm chasing - pure wonder and amazement.

That feeling you have as a child, when everything is so huge to young eyes and innocence prevents any jaded, cynical views of your world, that can only be found on Christmas Day. 

I know I'll never catch the dragon, but I'll keep trying.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'm Thankful For...

....The Marx Brothers, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Coffee, The Star Wars Franchise, Godzilla, Lindsey Buckingham, T.V. Trays, The Ability to Walk, Snoopy, Blu-Rays, Pierogis, The Minnesota Vikings from 1973 to 1978, Comic Books, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Moonsault, Hal Needham, Pinnacle Whipped Vodka, Toilet Paper, MP3's, Charlton Heston as Moses, Smoked Meats, WKRP In Cincinnati, Alan Moore, The Notion That Jim Morrison Is Alive, Lawn Darts and Unbroken High E Strings On My Guitar.

I'm thankful for my friends and family, my amazing wife, and the fact that this might be read by a couple of people.  Thanks and good night...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What The World Needs Now Is....

Gene Gene The Dancing Machine.

It Was A Very Good Year....

My friend Tyson and I saw the Pixies this week...and it was good.

However, as we made our way into the venue, it hit me in the face like a bucket of cold mop water - I'm old.

There were too many differences between where I was, and where I used to be.  Granted, part of it is growing up and having maturity creeping in on my actions (some would say that it's nowhere to be seen in my actions, but trust's there), however my being old factored greatly into what I saw as a closing of a chapter of my life.  Let's compare and contrast the evidence...

On the one hand - The Pixies.  One of the few bands still in existence that I really wanted to see.  November 1st, 2011.  I am 38 years old.

On the other? The Monsters of Rock.  Oxford Plains Speedway. June 25th 1988.  I went to see Metallica who were sandwiched between several crap metal bands.  Van Halen headlined the show.  I am 15 years old.


THEN - Something was drank and smoked.

NOW - A chicken sandwich was consumed and a really good banana milkshake was downed.


THEN - Outdoor venue.  Rained all day.  I walked around, soaked to the bone, wearing both of my recently bought Metallica t-shirts.  When it got really bad, I sought shelter in the men's room or under the bleachers.  At one point, my friends and I started a fire under the bleachers using a discarded pizza box, just to get warm.

NOW - Inside show.  I brought my coat just in case it got chilly.


THEN - Kingdom Come.  They sucked.  We threw rocks at them while they tried to get through their 30 minute set.

NOW - Surfer Blood.  They sucked.  We sat in the back of the hall, discussing their weak points and how they could be better.


THEN - I was down front for all the bands.  People were dancing, moshing, puking and punching.  About 9 hours on my feet.

NOW - Sat down for Surfer Blood...was talked into going down front for The Pixies.  Three songs in, my back started to hurt and my feet started to cramp.  Someone accidentally dumped a small amount of beer down my back.  Eww....


THEN - The louder the better.  If I could have crawled into the PA and watched the show from there, I would have.

NOW - "Hey Ty? Is the bass too much? It's really making my sternum rumble..."


THEN - Still feeling the rock n' roll.  Don't want to go home but can't stay there.  Would give anything for one more encore.

NOW - During The Pixies second encore, thought that now would be a good time to leave so we could beat the rush and hit the road before all of the concert traffic started.

It's so say yesterday.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Comic Book Wedding Invitation...

I'm getting married in less than two months.  When the thought of a wedding invitation started bouncing around my bride-to-be's head and mine, we both gravitated towards the idea of a comic book.  We've seen other comic invites floating around the web and decided that it could be done.  I hammered out a script and I was introduced to the amazingly talented Eunjoo Bae who did all of the artwork.  Below is the final product.  And, by the way, if you are in need of an artist, please contact her at eunb AT won't be disappointed...

In The Name Of The Meathead, The Dingbat And The Little Girl...Amen.

This is the account of Lear and his family.

In the beginning, TILL DEATH US DO PART, a British sitcom, unknowingly begot ALL IN THE FAMILY.  And it was good.  From Archie and Edith did spring a child GLORIA, who became wife to Michael Stivic.  And from this family, great tidings of laughter did come.  From the tribe of Edith did come MAUDE, who displeased Archie greatly.  And from MAUDE did come Florida Evans who traveled to the land of Chicago to find GOOD TIMES.  And from the tribe neighboring the Bunkers, THE JEFFERSONS did mark and chide Archie, until Queens they did leave for a deluxe apartment in the sky.  THE JEFFERSONS begot CHECKING IN with their servant Florence.  And the Lord did smote them, raining low ratings upon the house of CBS.  And Lo, ARCHIE BUNKER'S PLACE was a continuation, and lo, 704 HAUSER was a abomination, the purpose was served and the lineage maintained. In Lear's name, Amen.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

PBS Is Buried Deep Within Your Psyche...Part I

No words today...just some flashbacks from PBS.  Remember any of these?  I had forgot about Vegetable Soup until I stumbled across it this afternoon...It had puppets riding around in what looked like a wooden rocket...Anyone?

Nothing like remembering something that was lost for so many years, huh?  And for the record, the Villa Alegre theme rocked...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Next Comic Book You Read Just Might Be Your Own....

I just spent twenty minutes in the parking lot of a local college with a colleague, looking over one of his students comic book collection that was for sale.

This was a new one for me. 

He called me yesterday, saying that one of his science students had a massive collection that she was looking to get rid of and if I would be able to swing down to the college and play Antique Roadshow, since he was rather new to the whole comic book game.  I looked over the boxes, told him what I thought a fair price was, and let the magic happen.  He eventually settled on a box of CAPTAIN AMERICA comics for sixty bucks that he said he was going to give his son to get him started with his own comic book collection.

Thank god for people like my friend.  Comic books are the greatest things in the world.

Now, all of you that are currently brewing arguments about how they are childish or not real literature, let me stop you right there and pop that smug little bubble...

Comic Books are literature.  Period.  THE SANDMAN, PREACHER, FROM HELL...I'll put those up against Moby Dick anytime as far as style, content and story go.  Hell...Time Magazine put out their top 100 novels of all time and Alan Moore's and Dave Gibbon's WATCHMEN made the list, right beside The Great Gatsby and To Kill A Mockingbird.  If you say comics are not literature you haven't read one since you had trouble processing the storyline of that RICHIE RICH book that took you four days to read back when you were seven. 

Comic books are modern American folklore.  They have provided us with the modern day, spandex coated versions of John Henry, Paul Bunyan, Casey Jones and Johnny Appleseed.  Much like these legends, comic book characters grow, evolve and change every time the story is told - keeping just a nugget of what made them unique in the first place but adopting tones which make them relevant for the era - the heroes are alive and reborn with every new issue.  They transform and face the challanges of the it the above mentioned CAPTAIN AMERICA knocking out Nazis in the 1940's or SPIDERMAN standing in shock at ground zero on September 11th, 2001.

Reading a comic book is no different than watching Christopher Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT, reading Stevenson's Treasure Island, or seeing what Dilbert will say next in the morning paper.  Comics are for children and adults.  It is escapism.  It is a ghost story told around a campfire.  It is as American as Rock n' Roll, baseball and apple pie.  It is fun.

Go buy a comic book.  Now.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Adventure - or - How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Red Dragon

All hail the king of the fantasy games...ADVENTURE! Published in 1978, Adventure had it all and did it better than most modern games.  It was one of the first games that had a multi-screen world to explore, allowed the player to establish a inventory and then move those items from one place to another, and it gave the world the first known easter egg in a video game.  It also provided 9 year old me one of my earliest uses  of the words "shit", "fucker", "fucking red dragon" and the timeless "fucking red dragon bitch". 

Adventure was a mean mistress for the first time player.

The goal was to get the magical chalice back to the castle.  You controlled a square.  I'm not going to mince words were a fucking square.  There is no amount of persuasion that will convince me that you were a knight, or the village hero, or even some kind of blockheaded were a square.  Of course, you had to go over Hell's half acre to find the chalice, using keys to unlock different castles, a magnet to attract items that were hard to reach, and a sword to kill dragons who would, at the drop of a hat, do their damndest to swallow you with one bite.  If you managed to avoid the troubles and grab the chalice, you had to be on your toes for the bat.  The bat would fly by with an item in it's possession and swap it for the one you had.  So, if you had the chalice and were ready to win the game, the bat could take it from you and leave you with something else...starting the whole quest over again.

Of course, the big thing with Adventure was the easter egg.  Back in the day, Atari didn't give their programmers credit for the games they created.  Eventually, they revolted, told Atari to piss off, and many of them formed the gaming juggernaut known as Activison.  Before that, Adventure creator Warren Robinett had a different idea on how to stick it to the pixelated man.  He planted the world's first easter egg in Adventure.  If the player did the steps in the correct order, they saw this....

After all is said and done, all of you WOW players should get down on your knees and thank whatever elven god you believe in for the creation of Adventure.  Go ahead and give it a shot...afterwards you can tell me about that fucking red dragon bitch.

R.I.P. Christopher Mayer

Christopher Mayer Died.

For those who don't know, Christopher Mayer was one half of the unluckiest duo in the history of television.  Along with Byron Cherry, they made up the team that replaced Tom Wopat and John Schneider for the 1982-1983 season of The Dukes of Hazzard....

Christopher Mayer (left) and Byron Cherry (right) as Vance and Coy Duke.
 They were unlucky in the sense that they were flat out rejected by the viewing audience as the "new" Duke boys.  After a contract dispute with the powers that be, Wopat and Schneider were sidelined and their characters were written out of the show with the excuse that they were now NASCAR racers.  Enter cousins Coy and Vance...

Now, who wouldn't have jumped at the chance to be in one of the hottest T.V. shows of the time?  Unfortunately, their time in Hazzard was limited as the "real" Dukes showed up after Wopat and Schneider's  contracts were settled.  Mayer and Cherry were swept under the pop culture rug and both lived in a realm of obscurity.

He was 57 years old. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Stick your Grape Nuts up your...

Where the Hell did my monster cereals go?

A few days ago, while sporting my Count Chocula T-shirt, a teenager told me, "Ya know, they don't make that anymore". 

"Really?" I snorted.  What did this punk one would have the balls to pull the plug on the monsters.

Later that evening I learned the ugly truth. 

General Mills decided to release Frankenberry, Count Chocula, and Boo Berry ONLY during the Halloween season.  For some reason, this made sense to them.

The pleasure and pure joy of knocking back a big bowl of Frankenberry and then sucking down the chemically altered pink milk, will now only be bestowed upon me one month out of the year?  Bullshit.

If Fruit Brute was still in the monsters clique, General Mills wouldn't have touched 'em...because nobody messes with the Brute.

Which brings me to my next problem with the cereal industry at large...where did our prizes go?  I say "our" prizes because that is exactly what they are...OUR.  Don't assume that the prizes were just for children - I'd knock little Billy out of the way for some cool Batman swag at the bottom of a box of Cap'n Crunch.  Some parents got their knickers in a twist because little Johnny wants the box of Sugar Covered Crack Balls with the fluorescent Arthur Ashe figurine inside, and now we all have to suffer?  The complaint is very similar to the one leveled against McDonalds and their Happy Meals - How the toys unfairly lure the children into their restaurants.  The prizes in the cereal were a unfair advertising ploy to get kids to pressure their parents into purchasing the cereal.

You're damn right it was. 

My mother made healthy meals every night.  Sometimes I would rather have eaten what the dog was having, but I powered it down just the same.  When I did get a box of Coco Puffs or Fruit Loops, it was a fucking miracle.  Oh yeah...I pressured her to get it....especially if there was a Star Wars prize inside...that played a huge part in my pressuring process. 

However, my mother was (and still is) a damn good parent.  She had (and has) the ability to say "No".  Which is what all of these whining parents and watchdog groups lack.  If you are a parent and can't handle your kid whining about what cereal they want or how bad they need that really cool Power Ranger with the Kung Fu grip, they please call DHS so they can take them away...don't call Snap, Crackle and Pop and ask if they can remove the My Little Pony stickers from their box of Rice Crispies.

Ok...I'm going to get out the big Tupperware bowl, pour me a 50/50 mix of Honeycomb and Sugar Smacks, douse it with some chocolate milk and watch some Superfriends...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Confession Time...

Hi.  My Name is Travis and I love bad variety shows from the 1970's.  Now let us be clear here - The Carol Burnett Show? Fantastic television.  The Donnie and Marie Show? Avocado colored, shag carpeted crap.  I love them both, but the monumentally BAD variety show has always struck a chord with me.  It's hard enough to tell jokes, put on skits, and do a little song and dance for the audience.   However, when it's a train wreck, that makes it even more special.  This is the basis of our case study for this evening...

The year is 1980. The television landscape is changing. The era of the variety show has past.

Nobody told this to the President of NBC Fred Silverman though.

Due to Pink Lady's huge success in Japan (no, really...they were HUGE in Japan), the evening news in the states ran a bit about them. Silverman saw it and instantly saw a chance to have a hit on his hands. So, he brought the girls over (translator in tow since neither one of them spoke a lick of English), teamed them up with unfunny funny man Jeff Altman (I guess he is best known for his ground breaking work on THE DUKES OF HAZZARD as misunderstood renaissance man Hughie Hogg), and cashed in every favor he had accumulated in Hollywood in order to get A-list celebrities such as Greg Evigan, Sherman Hemsley, and Florence Henderson to appear. The result? A cringe worthy display that ran for 5 whole weeks. It usually started like this...

The girls would sing a couple of songs and appear in a few skits over the course of the show.  Any acting they did had to be scripted to the letter and then set in stone.  Knowing very little English, the girls learned their lines and when to say them.  Anything else from their end just wasn't going to happen. 
Five weeks in and Silverman discovered what America already knew: Pink Lady and Jeff sucked.  There is no other way to say it.  Sucked, sucked sucked.  Jeff Altman went back to his bad comedy (if you look hard enough, you can get him to perform at your corporate gig) and Pink Lady preformed off and on until 2005, when they gave their farewell tour.  No tears though.  Last year they announced their plans for a comeback.
The retro gods at Rhino have released the whole series on DVD.  I dare you to Netflix it...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ok...Time to get back on the blogging horse...

Very shortly.  Until then, here is a picture of the Fisher-Price Little People Hospital.