Archive for May, 2008

Channeling

May 28, 2008

A wise man once said, “I was born at a very early age.”  I came into existence in 1952, which makes me a part, albeit an early part, of the TV generation.  All my life I have lived in the glow of the “boob tube,” which in the 50s did not refer to the Playboy channel.  We had exactly 4 stations: NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS.  That was it.  And I NEVER was at a loss for something good to watch!  I remember waking up Saturday morning so early I would lay on the couch and watch the test patterntest pattern which preceded the first show of the morning.  I know this is foreign to almost everyone who blogs or reads blogs, so here it is.  Notice the Indian head near the top, a most politically incorrect symbol if ever there was one.  We didn’t care, Indians were cool.  In fact, once the shows started, we would see several of them shot off of horses as they circled the wagons of the all-white, good guy cowboys.  History now tells us that about 30 percent of cowboys were black.  Hollywood was apparently unaware of history, much less political correctness. Robin Hood

Gene AutryProgramming would start at 6 am with Robin Hood, followed by Gene Autry, then Roy Rogers.  Gene and Roy were pretty good about not shooting Indians, that would come with the afternoon movie classics.  After Roy was Sky King, the story of a modern cowboy/pilot who would chase bad guys with hisRoy Rogers twin engine plane.  Even at that early age I was not sure why, when he would fly low over the speeding car of the bad guys, they would duck and cover their heads.  He’s not going to hit you, you idiot.  That would make him crash.  Early TV shows were not strong on logic, much like current TV shows. 

Sky King

Rin Tin TinAfter Sky King came Fury, the story of a boy and his horse.  Then came Rin-Tin-Tin, the story of a boy and his dog.  Much later would come Lassie, the sappy story of a boy and his dog.  Lassie was not bad in its early years, when Tommy was the kid.  But somehow he disappeared and was replaced by Timmy who was just plain wimpy.  And what was the deal with Lassie whimpering all the time.  I have a dog who is not a hero or a TV star.  She is just a dog, but she doesn’t whimper.

Today I have a satellite dish which, even with the cheap guy package, gets over 170 channels.  It takes longer to go through the line-up of shows than it used to take to watch shows.  And on any given day there is absolutely nothing worth watching.  Unless you are my wife and live and breathe shows about home repair, home sale, home change everything while the owner is in Vegas, then comes home to have a heart attack because they have ripped out his ceiling fan.  I am not sure what decorators have against ceiling fans, but they never leave them in.  Anyway, the guy comes home and has a heart attack and the next time you see him is on a reality show set in an emergency room.

A lot of people I know love the History Channel.  I find this perplexing because none of them liked history in school.  Apparently seeing the Goths behead men and violate women is much more interesting than reading about it.  I wonder if the same phenomena would work for math?  Maybe the Algebra Channel is the next great entertainment venue waiting in the wings?  “Stay tuned as Johnny solves for the variable x.”  Lord, I hope Nick at Night is showing Rin-Tin-Tin tonight.

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

May 26, 2008

I think this show frustrates me more than any game show I have ever watched.  Why, you ask?  Because I AM smarter than a fifth grader.  I watch idiot after idiot parade through the show while I scream at the TV screen, “Bulgaria, you moron…Bulgaria!”  Now I will admit, some people give it a good shot.  The biggest mistake most people make, in my estimation, is going for the first grade questions first.  You have three cheats, why not go after the 4th and 5th grade questions while you can get some help?  But no, “I’ll take 1st grade spelling.”  “Okay, spell cat.”  “Darn, I’m going to have to use a cheat, Jeff.  I’d like to phone a friend.”  Jeff rolls his eyes and says, “Sorry, you can only do that on ‘Millionaire’ you freak.”

Over the years I have watched a lot of Jeopardy, the most adult and challenging game show that has ever been on TV.  And I occasionally play Trivial Pursuit, but only the original Genus edition, which is based largely on things you should have learned in school.  Over the years I have won 95% of the Trivial Pursuit games I have played, which really frustrates the kids I play against.  Seriously, I do well at Pursuit.  I think it has to do with the way I approached learning when I was younger.  When I was in school, I actually learned a lot of what we were studying.  I very seldom crammed for tests and almost never did an all-nighter study session.  As boring as this may seem, I paid attention in class.  This apparently leads to storing facts in long term memory rather than short term memory.  In a recent game of Trivial Pursuit with our good friends, J and B and family, their daughter remarked, “You know too much.”  Needless to say, I kicked her 10 year old butt.

I remember watching American Idol finalist Kelly Pickler on 5th Grader when she had a question having to do with 3rd grade geography.  “Let me see, I’m pretty sure France is a continent,” she said as I beat the arms of my recliner and screamed.  It sure is a good thing she can sing, because she’ll never make it as a tour guide.  But my frustration has less to do with how little the contestants seem to know, or how much I think I know.  I’m frustrated because there isn’t a chance in this world of ever getting on the show.

I attempted an online try-out for Jeopardy once.  I went to their website to register, but got an error message.  I went through various hoops to resolve the situation only to return to the site to find out the time for registration had passed.  Maybe that is just as well since my knowledge of Shakespeare and 16th century poetry is not as good as it might be.  Let’s face it, Jeopardy is a hard game.  But 5th grader, come on!  “Kelly, pick your next subject.”  “I’ll take 2nd grade math, Jeff.”  “Okay, in the equation 1/2, what is the value of the denominator?”  “Wait, a demon ate her?  Why did he stop at half, Jeff?  Why didn’t he eat the whole thing?”  Arghhhhhh!

Beyond Wii

May 22, 2008

You know the commercial.  Two Asian gentlemen come to the door with small electronic devices in their hands.  They bow politely and proclaim, “Wii would like to play.”  And so the world discovered Wii, the electronic game simulator that actually translates body motion into on-screen action.  You can almost play baseball, tennis, even kill your adversary if you lose at tennis.  I have more than one friend that has Wii and, I must admit, I have played myself.  My biggest surprise was when I heard my dad say his physical therapist suggested he and mom get a Wii.  Apparently the game is very engaging for senior adults, plus the required motion stimulates muscles which then inflame and hurt, necessitating additional visits from the therapist at $130/hour.  Add to that the commission the therapist gets from Wii sales and it’s a pretty nice racket.

I was playing Wii baseball with my young friend Dustin and holding my own very nicely, thank you, when the power went out, just as I had thrown a 97 mph curve ball that broke 2′ just in front of the plate.  Now, facing a dark screen, I had to consider what will be the next generation of gaming?  Could I be the creator of a game craze that could make me millions of dollars?  What great gimmick could catapult me beyond my hard working peers?  And then it hit me.  I will create a series of games that are so real you will actually sweat.  And I will need a catchy name.  I will call it Doo.stick and orb controllers

My commercial will have two rednecks come to your door with the game controllers; a metal stick, a leather orb and a leather orb grabber.  They will spit and ask, “Doo you want to play?”  They will then take you out back into a field and throw the orb at you, no, near you.  And you will have to swing the stick and hit the orb before it gets past you.  And talk about reality!  When you hit the orb you can run around a bit, no, you can run to a base!  Maybe even have three or four of them scattered around the field.  Imagine being able to feel the earth under your feet as you run.  Imagine the feel of the stick in your hand.  Imagine the sharp pain in your head when the orb is thrown too close and bounces off your melon.  “That felt real!” you say, as you fall to the ground.\

Imagine what else you can Doo.  A smaller orb with two paddles, and a table with a net.  Toss the orb into the air and hit it with the paddle.  See it fly over the net and lodge in the forehead of your opponent.  (Note to self, take the spikes off the orb and make it smooth).  Now, that’s better.  Your opponent hits it back as you begin a series of hitting motions sending the orb back and forth over the net until someone hits the orb off the table and it gets lost behind some crap your wife piled up in the orb hitting arena.  Ooh, ooh, new game idea for women.  Doo extreme home makeover game called, “Clean the crap out of the orb arena.”

The possibilities are virtually endless.  Doo you want to go fishing?  Doo you want to drive a car?  Doo you want to get sued because your 5 year old is driving your car?  (Note to self: list a suggested player age on the box).  Doo you want to be a part of the Doo generation?  Be bold, take a chance.  Unplug the TV, get out of the house and Doo something while you still can.

I Am Aunt Bea

May 20, 2008

When I was growing up, back in the dark ages of the ‘60s, I used to love to watch the Andy Griffith Show. I’m not talking about the color show where Warren was the deputy and Gomer was in the Marines. I mean the old black and white show with Deputy Barney Fife. Barney would come over to Andy’s house and there was good old Aunt Bea who, along with her friend Clara Edwards, always had some health problem. “How’s your sciatica, Aunt Bea?” Barney would inquire. “Okay,” she would respond, “But my diverticulitis has been acting up.”

That was not particularly funny at the time, mostly because I had no idea what either sciatica or diverticulitis was. It still isn’t funny but, sadly, for a whole different reason.  I know all too well what they both are now because…I am Aunt Bea.

I herniated my L4-L5 disc in 1995, which resulted in my first back surgery. Prior to the procedure, I would get this pain. I’m not talking about, “Oh my, that was uncomfortable.” I’m talking about, “Oh my God, I’ve been stabbed!” From my hip all the way down to my little toe, it was as sharp a pain as I have ever personally experienced. I went to the doctor and he said, “Well, you have sciatica.” All of a sudden I developed a compassion for Aunt Bea I never had before. That was only reinforced in 1999 when I ruptured my L5-S1 and had my second surgery. Poor Aunt Bea.

By 2007 I was doing well, having recovered nicely from two back surgeries and resuming as normal a life as an overweight, middle aged white man can expect, when I started noticing a pain in my abdomen that for the world made me think I was developing appendicitis, but it was on the wrong side. The next day I was in agony, so I went to the doctor. He poked me and said, “Does that hurt?” I kinda figured the ensuing scream answered him quite adequately. Says he, “You have diverticulitis.” Poor, poor Aunt Bea.

Fortunately this condition has not required surgery, yet. I dodged a bullet earlier this year when, after enjoying fresh blackberries at the home of my daughter, I came home to develop the pain that is now so familiar I called the doctor and told HIM what I had, no poking required. Over the next 12 weeks I had four attacks followed by four rounds of antibiotics. Finally I got over it, one round short of surgery. I can guarantee you I have not touched a blackberry, peanut or popcorn since then. There is so much more I could say but I must stop for now. Clara is coming over later and we are baking pies.

Life On the Red Carpet

May 18, 2008

Everywhere I turn these days people are talking about being on “the red carpet.” Whether it’s the Oscars, the SAG Awards, even the Miss America Pageant; none of which I watch. Okay, I must admit I watched part of the Miss America re-make thing, but only because my wife made it into a “spend some time with me” occasion. But frankly I hate the entire celebrity watch, red carpet thing. No one I know will ever walk the red carpet. Why don’t they show us where real people walk, on the blue denim carpet?

Now that would be something normal people can relate to. Instead of self-absorbed, neurotic celebrities there would be people like me; brick layers, department store clerks, the old guy at the Wal-Mart. Instead of hundreds of paparazi with $1,000 cameras, there would be a kid from the photography club at the high school or the local police sketch artist. And the celebrity interview would sure be different. “Here comes Bubba Johnson, carpenter from Pearl River in a lovely Dickies one-piece cover-all. And on his arm is that skanky blonde from the Re-Max office, Selma House. Selma, who are you wearing tonight?” “That would be Jim Beam, darling.”

On the blue denim carpet, Vera Wang is why Bubba’s cover-alls don’t fit quite right. A double on the rocks is a large trailer that didn’t quite make the turn off the interstate. A celebrity head shot is a picture of the ex-bank president holding a white board just under his face that says, “Duval County Jail-29875.” The blue carpet is located in front of the Sonic on Classic Car night, when cheeseburgers are 5 for $5.

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but that’s what I want to see on TV. And, before you sit down to watch with me, grab me another RC Cola and get one for yourself.