That’s how I (sushi) roll

Wow, free sushi! At a downtown magazine box, no less!

What will they think of next? A pizza ATM? Whoops, that already exists (at my alma mater, no less).

Visitors stand beside a Pizza ATM machine at Xavier University, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, in Cincinnati. The university partnered with French company Paline to install the first Pizza ATM in North America. The machine holds 70 pizzas at once as customers will be able to use a touch screen to pick one of the $10 pizzas, which will be heated for several minutes, placed in a cardboard box and ejected through a slot. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

 

How about a vending machine that dispenses fishing bait? Wait, that exists too.

Guess the only thing left to invent is a soft-serve machine that dispenses Cheez-Whiz instead of ice cream.

 

My patent is already pending.

 

 

Dog days

You know that:

A. You’re of a certain age AND

B. you watched too much Saturday morning TV

If every time you see a German Shepherd dog, you think of Run, Joe, Run.

RJR (as we true fans call it), was a live-action Saturday morning show that ran from ’74 until ’76. The premise was… interesting…

[opening narration] WANTED: Male German Shepherd, Black And Tan. Answers to the name of Joe. Accused of attacking his trainer, Sgt. Will Corey. A crime he did not commit. Only Corey can prove him innocent, but he must find Joe before his pursuers track him down.

So basically the show was The Fugitive as played by a dog. (Fun fact: the narrator was Paul Frees, a voice actor who also played Boris Badenov, Burgermeister Meisterburger and The Pillsbury Doughboy.)

Thank goodness the description told us the German Shepherd’s colors, “black and tan” or else we would’ve wasted a lot of time tracking down all those purple German Shepherds.

Poor Joe was misunderstood, and always got in trouble when he was just trying to help. Like in this episode with Kristy McNichol. He gives a toddler  her milk bottle and chases a fox out of the chicken cage, and gets nothing but grief for it. (Also worth noting that Sgt. Will Corey had a car phone waaay before anyone else did.)

You’d think a single dog was OJ Simpson in a White Bronco the way he was chased by so many authorities. Guess that $200 bounty went a lot further in the 70s.

Read more about RJR here.

 

Where’s the funny?

I recently watched the new Amy Schumer stand-up comedy special on Netflix.

I was completely underwhelmed. A lot of empty calories, and very few laughs, or even giggles or smiles. Netflix really should change the summary to “Amy Schumer riffs on sex and bodily functions” because that was 99% of her routine. I’m sure some folks will find that amusing, but it certainly isn’t very creative.

I loved Richard Pryor, and he could be filthy, but a lot of his bits were both profane AND profound. Listen to this less-than-two-minute clip of Pryor’s bit on black males and cops… it’s from 1974 but it could have been written yesterday (sadly). There are more laughs in that bit than in the entire hour-long Schumer special.

Guess I should’ve watched the Mystery Science Theater 3000 reboot instead. Or perhaps not.

Going, going… Gong!

Chuck Barris, the creator and host of one of my favorite childhood shows, The Gong Show, passed away a couple of weeks ago. The Gong Show was unlike anything else on TV back then, and I loved the complete wackiness of the entire thing. It was like a sideshow version of America’s Got Talent. Amateurs would perform all sorts of weird vaudeville-style acts (or “stuff” as Chuck would call it), and three celebrity judges (a roster that included Jaye P. Morgan, Rex Reed, Rip Taylor, Jamie Farr, Arte Johnson and David Letterman) could either hit a giant gong to end the awfulness, or give the acts a score if they liked them.

  

Chuck didn’t fit the mold of a classic game show host – he wore wacky hats, cracked up instead of staying in character, brought out stagehands to dance… he was in on the joke and brought us along for the ride.

Barris’ original idea had been to create a show that featured fine performers, but in his search for talent, he frequently encountered awful acts. “I came back and said, ‘Let’s change the show, have all bad acts and one or two good ones, and people can make a judgment,’ ” he said in a 2010 interview with The Archive of American Television.

“Everybody could relate to somebody wearing a lampshade and dancing around,” Barris said. “Bad acts are inherent in everyone.”

[from this obit in The Hollywood Reporter – well worth a read]

Chuck also boosted the careers of folks like composer Danny Elfman (as part of Oingo Boingo), Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens and The Unknown Comic.

 

Chuck seemed a bit crazy, and he probably was (later he wrote a book Confessions of a Dangerous Mind where he claimed to be a CIA assassin). But he was crazy like a fox. He wrote a hit song in 1962, “Palisades Park” (a now-defunct amusement park that was close to my birthplace of Jersey City, NJ).

He was the creator of two other classic game shows, The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game. He wrote two bestselling books, and was a pioneer of first-run syndication, selling The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game to TV stations after ABC cancelled them. In 1986 he sold his shares in Chuck Barris Productions for a cool $86 million. So he was dancing all the way to the bank.

So long, Chuck, and thanks for all the great stuff!

 

 

 

 

I don’t know why they call it “March Madness”

Taking two days off work and setting up 4 TVs (and a laptop) in your living room to binge watch college basketball games for 12 hours straight each day sounds perfectly sane to me.

Just remember to root for the team favored by award-winning actors everywhere:

So far, so good…

 

 

Mad at Bad Dad

My 13-year-0ld daughter Leah is not what I’d call a “morning person.” I suppose very few teenagers are, but she’s the poster child for pre-dawn sluggishness. And guess who gets to wake her up every school day, at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m.? That’s right, her dear old dad. It’s somewhat akin to poking your bare hands into a rattlesnake den, or opening a hornet’s nest with a head-butt. If there’s a right side of the bed for her, we haven’t found it yet.

I try to wake her as gently as possibly, because I know that according to research, teens naturally need a later wake-up schedule. But we’re under the gun if she and her brother are going to catch the school bus at the end of our street at 6:32 (not 6:33… we’ve learned the hard way). Here’s how it usually goes:

6:00 a.m. “Leah, honey, it’s time to wake up…”

6:10 a.m. “Leah, it’s 6:10… I’m going to turn your light on now.”

6:15 a.m. “C’mon Leah, we have to get going.”

6:18 a.m. I stomp up the stairs from the kitchen, and that’s usually her signal to get up and shut her door in my face. I don’t care, because at least she’s up.

But now I have a secret weapon, a brand new musical alarm. It was inspired by my college buddy Vinnie, who used to wake up his teenage daughter Alana by playing the first 12 seconds of Carole King’s “Beautiful” on repeat until she got out of bed.

So I’ve put together my own little morning mashup medley for my precious only daughter, as a reminder that we need to catch the bus:

Yeah, it’s not as sweet and harmonious as a Carole King song, but it gets the job done. Better yet, it combines classic indie rock tunes from the fantastic Royal Crescent Mob and The Replacements (one of my all-time favorite bands) with a snippet from a new song called “Old Friends” from an up-and-coming band out of New Jersey called Pinegrove. (Check out their debut album here.)

Sure, Leah might be psychologically scarred for life, but at least she could turn out to be an indie rock fan!

 

 

All I ever needed to know I learned from the funny pages

I’m part of a dying breed: I still get a Sunday newspaper. And the first section I read is always the comics. Probably because my brain is so feeble. But you can find some profound wisdom in the funny pages too. Here’s a Pearls Before Swine strip from last year that I found very enlightening.

It puts the rat race in perspective, doesn’t it?

If you don’t get a newspaper but still want to keep up with the comics (an underappreciated art form, sez me), you can check out some decent ones at GoComics.com. A list of popular strips is here. They just re-ran the great week of Calvin & Hobbes daily strips where Calvin finds a hurt baby raccoon. Start here and read six days’ worth and you’ll see how Bill Watterson could convey more about the human experience in three black-and-white panels than most folks could do in a thousand-page novel.

 

What’s in a name? My childhood memories, that’s what.

First things first: I believe the Islamic State terrorist group is a rotten bunch of evil-doers.

Secondly, because of Point #1 above, I prefer that they be referred to as ISIL, not ISIS. Because I grew up watching Saturday morning TV in the 70s, so when I hear the name “Isis” I think of a cheesy show from back in the day:

 

Please don’t sully my childhood memories of Andrea and her ancient amulet by associating her alter ego with a terrorist organization. Not only was Isis Captain Marvel’s best friend, she was also a “dedicated foe of evil, defender of the weak, champion of truth and justice!” Oh, and a darn fine rhymer.

O zephyr winds which blow on high, lift me now so I can fly.

The real Isis also brought a message of peace:

BTW, Secrets of Isis was the first weekly American live-action television series with a female superhero as the lead character (predating the weekly debuts of both Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman). And, the Isis character was created because the producers didn’t want to have to pay a comic book company for rights to an existing female superhero. In an interesting turnabout, DC Comics wound up acquiring the rights to publish an Isis comic book.

In interviews, series star JoAnna Cameron has stated that she hated working with the black raven on the series and asked the producers several times if they could write him out of the script.

 

If you have 20 minutes to kill, check out this heaping helping of cheese… the bear costume is so bad it’s good!

 

Signs o’ the times


Three of my four kids have a weekly paper route, and the routes aren’t close enough to our house to be walkable. So my wife and I get to play (uncompensated) Uber drivers every Wednesday. My daughter has one newspaper delivery on a street that obviously has been forgotten by the City of Cincinnati road repair crews. It’s so bumpy, pothole-riddled and eroded that it practically qualifies as a gravel road:

What the name of this crumbling street?

Yep, Sturdy Avenue. Not because the street is sturdy, but because your car’s suspension needs to be to drive it.

 

There’s a cafe downtown that closed several months ago, allegedly “temporarily”, due to “renovation.”

Someone took a Sharpie and called B.S. on their signage:

 

There’s a FastSigns location downtown.

Here’s their corporate tagline in the window:

A. If they are “more than fast” and “more than signs” then maybe it’s time to consider a company name change.

B. Also, you’d think a sign company would be able to print a sign that could fit into a single window pane.

 

Looks like the Convent of The Good Shepherd isn’t accepting any visitors at this time. Maybe it’s temporarily closed due to renovation.

Intimate dinner conversation

Today is Valentine’s Day, but it’s also Taco Tuesday. So light some candles, turn on some Barry White and serve this for your sweetie:

I call ’em VD tacos. But perhaps another name might be more appealing.