Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wadda ya gonna call the new year?

Just to let you know about how my mind works (maybe the word "operates" is a better term), I have been pondering for the past few months about what to call the new year. Is it going to be "two-thousand-ten"? "Twenty-ten"? Or some new combination I haven't thought of?

I know, I know, get a life, you say. But this is interesting...well, at least to me...and at least at the moment.

For most of my life - which now exceeds a half-century - we were satisfied with saying something like "nineteen hundred and ninety-nine" or more simply, "nineteen-ninety-nine." There was virtually no one saying "one-thousand, nine-hundred and ninety nine," right? So, then along comes the new millennium and everything changes. Did anyone refer to the new year as "twenty-zero-zero"? or "twenty-ought-zero"? or "twenty-hundred?" No, from the very beginning it was simply "two thousand" and occasionally, we seemed to feel the need to qualify it by saying, "the year two-thousand."

Then for ten years we simply used the same convention, "two thousand-one," two thousand-two," right up to "two thousand nine." So, logic would dictate that the New Year starting tomorrow will be called "two thousand ten," right?


Everyone around here is referring to it as "twenty-ten," including me. And, God-willing, in ten years I will be calling the New Year "twenty-twenty" and those people on ABC News will be happy (even though their "news-entertainment" program is probably supposed to be referencing the notion of 20-20 vision. Indeed their program is actually listed as "20/20.")

Part of me wants to call this new year "two-thousand-ten," but perhaps because this almost past-decade sucked for so many folks, most people seem almost happy to change the vernacular. But maybe it's just because I am basically lazy and "twenty-ten" is easier to say.

So, what will it be, folks? Wadda ya gonna call the new year?

As my father was fond of saying to these rhetorical questions, "we'll see."

Happy New Year! Whatever you call it.

image licensed through Creative Commons by photonbomb

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Has blogging "jumped the shark?"

Confession: I have stopped reading blogs.

Well, not exactly. I've stopped reading the blogs that I used to read on almost a daily basis eighteen months ago. I actually only read them now when someone has put a link to one in a tweet.

I'm not sure why, but it seems that I'm not the only one. And, it seems, people may be blogging less.

I just went through my lists of blogs using Bloglines, my blog aggregator, and noticed about two-thirds of the blogs I have followed in the past have not had a new blog entry for several months. Some have stopped blogging altogether. Many of these blogs used to post at least once per day. If you look at their datelines, their prolificacy - at least in terms of blogging - seems to have waned dramatically in the past year.

Blame Twitter and Facebook with their zillions of members "tweeting" and "facebooking" (I don't care if this is a word or not) as the cause, perhaps. When you think about it, blogging requires a thoughtful concentration of time and energy. And whose got time and energy when you're busily tweeting away. Have we all become airheads?

For the purpose of full disclosure, I find myself posting to Facebook and Twitter a fair amount also these days, and a simply look at the datelines here in this blog and you can see my pattern of posts has declined in the past year or so. But what is perhaps more remarkable is that apparently others are doing the same thing.

I guess we could also blame this on the economy, or maybe blogging has really jumped the shark.

What do you think?

Image from Wikipedia. Caption says: Fonzie in a scene from the Happy Days episode "Hollywood, Part Three of Three," preparing to jump over a shark on water skis.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Christmas Blog 2009

When I wrote this missive a year ago, I was in the last stages of planning a trip out West to visit friends and family for the holidays. In fact, I was away almost the entire month of December and the trip was a real odyssey. While I was there, the folks from California to Washington were experiencing some of the toughest winter weather in many years and the cities of Portland and Seattle were basically closed. After spending a delightful 2½ weeks visiting friends in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area, my path led me north up I-5 through snow-packed mountain passes and into the fog-shrouded and ice-covered roads of northern Oregon. Apparently, the locals don't know much about snow plows and road salt and even less about winter driving. The last leg of my trip from Redding, CA to Portland, OR, which should have only taken 6½ hours, took nearly 12 hours. Thankfully, Mr. Hertz who rented me my transportation, knew better and put me into a Ford Escape instead of the tiny, economy car I had ordered. Driving the last 30 miles into Portland at 15 mph on 3-inches of ice made me thankful for that decision.

Having the Christmas holidays in completely different surroundings was rewarding and delightful. Sister Mary, who was my reason for traveling to Portland, was a wonderful host and we had a great week of visiting and sightseeing. Although the weather could have been better, we did enjoy having a White Christmas, although many Oregonians told me I should take my snow and...leave immediately.

I returned to a very cold and snowy Northeast, but spring eventually arrived on time. Summer on the East Coast was almost non-existent this year and we had enough rain for five summers. Needless to say, there was not much outdoor summer activity until the mid August when the weather changed. Gratefully, we've had one of the best falls of recent memory. I was playing golf up until the middle of November, and although we've had more rain, the temperature the other day, December 3rd broke a record of 65º here in Augusta.

It is snowing as I post this on Saturday night. Ah, New England!

This was a tough year for a lot of folks. Between economic failings, job losses and that H1N1 thing, there has certainly been enough suffering. Fortunately, everyone in my circle of friends and family have remained healthy and getting by. I hope it has been the same for you and yours.

As we approach this special season - the Season of Light - and look into the new year, I am hoping that things improve for everyone and that we have left the darkest days behind us.

I pray that your Christmas season is blessed and equally hopeful. May you find peace and happiness in the New Year.

John Eric Brandt

Image licensed through Creative Commons - Tochis/Flickr

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday

I braved the cold rainy weather to head out to a couple of the local stores this afternoon to observe the Black Friday activities and to pick up a few things. I headed to the newest shopping center in the city which just happens to be around the corner from my house. The "mall" has a Target as the flagship and also sports a Lowes (home center), Best Buy, Staples, PetSmart and a Moores craft and art supply store. This shopping center opened a little more than two years ago, just months before the economy tanked. Needless to say, it has been a pretty sad place most times.

Fortunately, things looked pretty good today. The parking lots were about half-full; the most I've ever seen in the place. Target and Best Buy seemed to be doing the most business. Staples had the least number of customers, but still not bad...usually I am the only one in the place and all of the sales people descend on me like sea gulls on fresh catch when I walk in the place.

But what struck me the most as I darted from car to store to car, in the driving November rain, was that the stores looked essentially the way they had a week ago, or a month ago. Except for Target, which had some snowflakes pasted on their windows and a few hanging from the ceiling throughout the store, nearly all of the stores were devoid of any Christmas decorations.

I started to think about Christmas shopping in Brooklyn in my youth. Many neighborhood shopping areas would not only decorate the store windows, and throughout the store, they would decorate the street with decorations hanging from the street lights or, in a few instances, with special strings of lights that would be hung across the streets from tall temporary wooden posts, all affixed to guide wires anchored to hooks in the sides of the buildings. For the 4-5 weeks before Christmas, it was like carne-vale.

Then there were the large department stores with their amazing window decorations and lifelike displays. People would come downtown just to see the window displays. If you have seen the movie A Christmas Story - and who hasn't - you'll remember the opening scene in the movie when the family goes downtown to see the parade and window displays. Brooklyn in the 1950s and 60s was just like that.

But Augusta, Maine of the 2000s is far from it. Just a couple of lousy snowflakes.

Not sure how well Black Friday was monetarily, but the stores were apparently saving money on decorations this year.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gobble Gobble

Here's wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving... or to the people in the rest of the world, Happy Thursday.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Form letters

question mark
I received this "form letter" from Network Solutions several days after contacting their customer service center on an issue related to one of my accounts. Fortunately, it is a minor issue and one that can stay unresolved. Good thing, because I am not sure WHAT this says...
Dear John Brandt,

Thank you for contacting Network Solutions Customer Service Department. We are committed to creating the best Customer experience possible. One of the first ways we can demonstrate our commitment to this goal is to quickly and efficiently handle your recent request.
We have received your recent request regarding a Hosting Package. The package was added on , and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

In regards to your question involving ,

We hope this information has been helpful. As a Network Solutions Customer, you are entitled to unlimited access, day or night, to technically skilled Customer service representatives who are dedicated to delivering any level of support you may need. To reach us, call 1-888-642-9675.

If you are calling from outside the U.S. or Canada, please call 570-708-8788.

If you do need to contact us to discuss this issue further, please refer to Service Request # (deleted by me)


Network Solutions Specialist
Network Solutions , LLC

Image used under Creative Commons license - Xurble

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Just finished watching almost three complete, one-hour episodes of a new series on the History Channel called WWII in HD. It follows the stories of 12 Americans during the Second World War. All appear to be ordinary citizens who did extraordinary things during the War and lived to tell about it.

Unlike most historic films of that time period, almost all of the film in this series is shot in color. I never knew there was that much color photography from WWII and nearly all of this is film I have never seen before. Much of it is pretty gruesome which accounts for part of the reason it has not been seen.

If you get a chance, check out WWII in HD. Stupid title, but great television.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Facebook is the new AOL, revisited

I recently reconnected with some long lost friends via Facebook…I know, who hasn’t. In my case it is with people whom I have not had contact with for 30 years, so it is kinda “big.” This kind of happening was very reinforcing and soon I found myself searching for more old friends and acquaintances. But throughout the process there was something very familiar about the sensation I was feeling, it was a déjà vu feeling, a sense that I had done this all before. But I simply could not get my brain around it.

So, today I was reading a blog article about the changing trends in peoples' use of various web technologies. They note how the landscape has changed dramatically in the last few years and speculate on where we are heading (I will blog about this separately as I am very interested in the topic). So, I was reading the article and then it hit me. AOL…Facebook FEELS like AOL.

A short time later I Googled the words “Facebook” and “AOL” and lo and behold, I was not having an original idea - Yeah, so what else is new? Not only have others noted this, but some of them saw the similarities over TWO years ago, around the time Facebook first “hit the streets.”

Scott Heiferman on his blog in June of 2007 entitled “Facebook is the new AOL” notes the similarity of the two systems separated by thirteen years of time (1994-2007) and how they both appeal to people who “live in their walled gardens.” He writes:
Fast forward to Facebook 2007 and see similarities: If you want access to their big base of users, develop something in their proprietary language for their people who live in their walled garden. Strangely, many young facebookizens aren't very net savvy (facebook *is* their internet) & they have little desire to go beyond the walled garden -- just like the old AOL users. There's even a proprietary Facebook messaging system (kids don't use much open internet email).
Heiferman’s comments were echoed by Jason Kotte who adds:
Eventually, someone will come along and turn Facebook inside-out, so that instead of custom applications running on a platform in a walled garden, applications run on the internet, out in the open, and people can tie their social network into it if they want, with privacy controls, access levels, and alter-egos galore.
I think Kotte was partially wrong in his appraisal. If any thing, the walled garden has gotten larger and many folks - even me - seem to gravitate to the safety of “being among friends.”

Another blogger in August of 2007 laments the phenomena. Danny Sullivan in “Grokking Facebook: AOL 2.0” writes:
So as I go through the applications, a light bulb (compact fluorescent) finally kicks in about Facebook. It’s AOL. Shit — it’s AOL. How on earth did all these people wind up back in AOL only a year after AOL gave up on the walled garden? Maybe they’re too young. Maybe they don’t remember. I remember some Diggers once heckling me to go back to AOL. Made me laugh because they’d probably never been on it…
BTW, Danny made up the cute mashup image you seen on this blog. Delightful.

Danny too incorrectly predicts Facebook will be short lived. So what exactly is this phenomenon? Why is Facebook popular and growing in popularity? Or is it?

My own assessment is based exclusively on a very small sample – the 47 people who have the pleasure of being “my friends” on Facebook. They seem to fall into a predictable pattern. Of the nearly fifty folks, and this does not include the 3-4 organizations that I “follow,” less than half are what I would call “active” on Facebook. The vast majority chime-in very infrequently and some, not all, are completely mum. Because it is Facebook, I have no way of knowing if any of these “infrequent friends” even login and read my occasional rants. But, I suspect that although Facebook may be lauding over their claims to have had the largest growth of all of the social networking sites in the past two years, the vast majority of the members of Facebook rarely ever login to the service and even fewer write comments, updates and engage others. BTW, I recently went through my “follows” list in Twitter and discovered a very large number of people on my list had not tweeted in over 100 days. Yet, I suspect Twitter is still counting them as “members.” Perhaps someone can do that research.

What has been perhaps most interesting in this activity is reading all of the scathing predictions of the demise of Facebook and the whining as to why anyone would want to live inside the "walled garden of Facebook." It should be noted that all of these commentaries (the ones above and more listed below) are written by what appears to be professional writers on their own blogs. Only one respectfully made the disclosure that he too was “on Facebook” and could not deny the power of that very large audience.

I am curious about where it is all going and if ultimately the predictions made by these folks two years ago will come to fruition. Will Facebook end up in the digital discard pile along with AOL, Prodigy and CompuServe?

Time will tell.

Nods to:

Scott Rosenberg’s Wordyard

Jeff Jarvis

Jeff Pulver

Dave McClure

Roger Kondrat

Adam Singer

Alan Wolk

Joel at Socialized

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My personal encounter with Soupy Sales

Just in case you hadn’t heard, Soupy died the other day at the age of 83. Not bad for a old pie-thrower.

If you read any of the obits or career history of Mr. Sales (nee Milton Supman), you know that he had a brief, two-year run (1964-1966) as the host of a daily children's after-school show on WNEW – Channel 5 in New York. According to Wikipedia, The Soupy Sales Show was nationally syndicated in the second year making Soupy a household name.

Sales’ shows implemented several memorable shticks including the frequent throwing of cream pies into the faces of famous people, and bizarre characters - many of whom were puppets - that he conversed with throughout the 30 minute show. To the 11-13 year old audience of which I was part, he was simply nuts. Adding to his “kid appeal” was the fact that he had become rather controversial and the watching of his show had to be a covert behavior for many kid fans. The “hey-kids-send-the- green-pieces-of-paper-with-the-pictures-of-guys-with-beards-to-Soupy” episode is perhaps most famous.

I'm guessing it was in about 1965 that we (my sisters, dad and I) had our ever so brief, but completely memorably run in with Mr. Sales.

My dad worked in an office located on the corner of E 69th St and Third Ave, in Manhattan. It was a Saturday, and Dad had to make a stop at the office for something. We had parked, visited the office and were on our return to the car as we walked along Third Ave. It was a bright, sunny, winter day around noon and the streets were crowded with pedestrians burdened with shopping paraphernalia heading to Gristedes, or to lunch at Mahews, or perhaps a trip down to Bloomingdales.

I was 12 in 1965 and definitely into “people watching,” when I suddenly spotted the very familiar face coming at us as we walked south on Third. It was Soupy Sales walking along wearing a black, full-length coat, his hands buried deep in his coat pockets. WNEW was located on E67th St, just off of Third, so it was Soupy's stomping ground.

I can’t remember if we made eye-contact, but there was that momentary-delay that always happens when you see a celebrity in the flesh. It caused me to stop dead in my tracks. Now, mind you, at 12, I was not very experienced meeting celebrities then, but I’ve had my fair share over the years. And each time it happens, I experience that stop-in-your-tracks feeling.

Anyway, Soupy passed us and I alerted my sisters, “That was Soupy Sales, that was Soupy Sales!”

I think the girls had both noticed him as well and now turned to face north, my eyes following Soupy as he almost disappeared into the New York backdrop. Spontaneously, I shouted, “Hey Soupy!” as loud as I could. My pronouncement did nothing to upset the hardened NY crowd, nary an eye moved from the throng.

My sisters and dad had now also stopped and turned to look back when Soupy suddenly broke step, spun around and with his hand still in his coat pockets spread his arms out, slightly squatted his knees, and shouted back in that characteristically silly voice some gibberish exaltation like “Be-lah” – his face grinning from ear to ear, his tongue sticking out.

Before we could react, and without missing a step, he suddenly spun back around, pulled his arms back and solemnly disappears into the din.

That was it. No pie in the face, no autograph. Just a “Be-lah” from Soupy Sales.

Rest in Peace, Soupy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Everybody's so smart

Maybe it started with the repackaging of the customer service department by Apple. The "Genius Bar" in the back of each Apple retail store is where you pay for, pick up, or order your desired Apple product. It is also the place where consumers can ask questions and get their Apple computer fixed. Yeah, but you know that happens very rarely with Apple Computers....right.

Does buying an Apple Computer make you a genius? Or is my niece correct when she states that smart people tend to buy Macs?

I just received an e-mail advertisement from Adobe entitled: "Your Shortcut to Brilliant." Do I really need Adobe's overpriced software to make me brilliant? Or is this assuming that because I am so brilliant, I would only purchase a product from Adobe.

What is going on? What's this obsession all of a sudden with "smartness?"

We have the "smart phone" and the "Smart Board," the "Smart Car" and "Smart Money." And, let's not forget "SMART Goals." This really doesn't have anything to do with "smartness" it is actually just a mnemonic for "Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely." But you already knew that, didn't you.

It's because you're smart.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gluey the glue-worker's working!

Digital photo taken by User:Postdlf Licensed through Creative Commons

When I was a child in the 50s and 60s, we would often travel along Greenpoint Ave on our way from Clinton Hill to my grandmother's home in Sunnyside, Queens. This necessitated a trip over the Greenpoint Ave. Bridge which crosses Newtown Creek. There was a glue factory on the east side of the shore that appeared to be the primary source of the "fragrance" that was everpresent in that location. From the back seat of the car we kids would announce in unison, "Gluey the glue-worker's working!"

Now, I see someone has finally started to do something about "the stench.". According to the Gotham Gazette, Newtown Creek has been nominated to be listed on the controversial federal Superfund funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. According to the GG, "Newtown Creek is the site of the country’s largest coastal oil spill, dating back to the 1950s when the site was the home of a refinery operation by Standard Oil — Exxon Mobil’s predecessor."

No mention of Gluey...I think that if they go ahead with this plan they will find that there was a lot more than one oil spill and they will find a few dead horses at the bottom of that creek.

I also predict it will be another 50 years before the smell goes away.

See also NY Times article on the same topic - including a photo from the bridge by: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times


Friday, September 11, 2009

Psychotic America

On this, the anniversary of one of the saddest days in American history, I am reflecting on the almost psychotic extremism being portrayed in the American political experience. I am basically frightened by some of the rhetoric that I am hearing from both sides, but particularly the extreme Right.

Here is an example that I just read in a "readers' comments" section on the Bangor Daily News website. See if it makes any sense to you:
Lori, the "socialist agenda" in Obama's speech, as proposed is not held within the speech itself. The concentrated concern of the problem issues came from the outside. The very fact of Obama's background, oratory style of saying nothing in a long speech, the frustrating manner in which he twists words and theories, and his everlasting manner of street-speaking, frustrates a lot of people. What a concern of these people who were adamant against having their child sit and be forced to listen to Obama the other day was simply just that! Because parents know how Obama is, Obama has proven himself to be something he once said he was, and is not, and they (parent's) were afraid of something being said in-topic which could have been detrimental; not known by young minds what Obama's intent or words would actually be, absorbed into their minds!
BTW, this is in response to a teacher who wrote a guest column about the lack of student responsibility. I chose these comments because I simply can make no sense out of what the person is saying. But it is clear they don't trust Mr. Obama and apparently fear he has some unique powers of persuasion that will somehow corrupt the minds of children. Wow.

The next reader's comment came from a woman who described herself as someone "recently retired from school teaching in Maine, after 25 frustrating years..."
In terms of Obama's speech, I was against it for several reasons: schools are suppose to be apolitical; early addresses by past Presidents were not beamed out to every student, due to lack of technology ,and teachers could decide whether they wanted to attend, but most schools did not have the TV's available; Obama has embedded messages in most of his speeches which might encourage indoctrination of students; Obama is everywhere pushing his message; Parents should be the people deciding whether students listen to him at a young age, perhaps high school students, but not K-6; some schools mandated viewing, which is truly socialist in nature.

Both of my grandchildren did not watch the Obama speech. They are Kindergarten students, and too young to understand. One child stayed home, as the speech was mandated in Broward County, Florida, and the other child did go to school, as the school "archived" the speech, stating it was not in their primary curriculum.
Excuse me, did you just say, "...Obama has embedded messages in most of his speeches which might encourage indoctrination of students..."

God help us.


Image from Creative Commons

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Perry's Nut House

A local news story this evening brought me back in time; a time of youth and innocence.

Well, maybe not a time of innocence...

It was in the summer of 1970 that I discovered one of the most unique establishments on the coast of Maine. According to their website, “Perry's Nut House has been referred to as a Maine Institution since 1927 when I.L. Perry first opened his doors to sell pecans and other assorted nuts.”

I was part of a motley crew of campers and counselors from a small boys’ camp in Friendship, Maine off for a day trip to Fort Knox where we had searched – in vain – for hidden treasures. Although I, and presumably the rest of my crew, knew full well that the massive edifice built at the mouth of the Penobscot River to protect the City of Bangor from British attack after the War of 1812 was not the place with all the gold, my fellow staff and I attempted to confuse the young lads by insisting that we search every inch of the fort including a trip down into the bowels of the site in search of the precious mineral.

In those days I was learning the art form of how to keep little boys busy, content and tired. Busy boys stay out of trouble and content boys would not write unflattering letters to parents. The "tired" part paid off for the staff when we could call lights out at 9:00 pm and have a few hours of rest and recovery from the “little darlings” before crashing ourselves.

There was only so much Fort Knox to go around that day and by 2:30 we had pretty much seen everything there was to see. The boat back to camp would not be ready until five o’clock so several hours still had to be occupied.

Leading the excursion was Old Man John, the feisty and coarse former camp director who recently had turned over the reigns of the camp to his 28 year old son and taken the role as chief sage and bus driver. But the Old Man still had quite few tricks up his sleeve for killing time; he could write a book. Wherever I traveled with that man in the years that followed he never ceased to amaze me by finding the most unique and “off the beaten track” places that would make any all American boy drool.

That year we were introduced to Perry’s Nut House. Located along busy US Route 1 just north of the port city of Belfast, Perry’s complex of brightly painted yellow building surrounded by a menagerie of strange and exotic “curiosities” can’t be missed. Seemingly from a time long ago, the Perry’s of 1970 sported a larger-than-life bear, elephant, and wooden Indian. And that was just on the outside of the building. Once inside, Perry’s was the kind a place every kid would love and contained the kind of stuff every camp counselor dreaded. That was probably why Old Man John made a lengthy speech warning campers and staff that no one was to buy any contraband. Before we exited the camp bus, the Old Man pulled me aside and told me to keep my eyes on a few of the seniors who would no doubt defy the warning and try to fill their pockets with itchy powder, rubber turds and black soap.

I watched the more recalcitrant members of the brood with extra-sharp, hawk-eyes but Perry’s was a very distracting venue. Apart from the racks and racks of every Maine-related souvenir one could imagine, stacks of candy and goodies that would make a dentist smile, Perry’s was filled with a collection of odd and amazing collectibles including a 10 foot long snake skin, stuffed animals of all shapes and sizes, including alligators and giraffes, a large, menacing gorilla, and yes, even a “man-eating clam!”. Add to this an unlimited supply of comic books and games, fun house stuff like mirrors that made you look two feet tall and quickly all time was lost.

An hour later, and many dollars lighter, the camp boys and staff were back on the bus heading down US 1 satiated and content. Filled with candy and ice cream, more than a few youngsters didn’t finish their supper that night.

And despite the staff’s best efforts, the next morning we all recoiled in disgust when a realistic-looking puddle of rubber vomit was discovered on one of the dining room tables.

The camp director never did find out who put it there, but it would be a couple of years before we would visit Perry’s Nut House again.

See the news story about Perry's Nut House

Perry's Nut House website


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Old TV Shows

A friend circulated an e-mail chain letter asking people to add their name and the name of their favorite TV show from their youth. Kinda of an interesting list actually. While I was doing the laundry today I decided to use IMDB to find out info about the ones on the list. I know, this definitely qualifies as something done by "somebody who has too much time on his hands."

What can I say... other than I am not responsible for spelling...

OWEN--.The Rifleman

Martha--Dinah Shore Show

Billy--.Six Million Dollar Man

Kay--Friday night fights!! (Sorry not a TV series per se, no record found)


Carol--Streets of San Francisco

Cheryl--St. Elsewhere

Lisa--Here Comes the Brides

Sheila--China Beach

Twyla--I Remember Mama Note: there was a movie of this same name - 1949 TV show was called "Mama"

Ruth--.The Red Skelton Show

Chriss-- Lassie - aka - "Timmy and Lassie," "Jeff's Collie"


Barb--That Girl

Barb--The Walton's

Beth--Burns and Allen aka - "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show"

Lynda-- What's My Line Note: multiple versions - first 1950

Marg--The Lone Ranger

Lynn -- The Ed Sullivan Show aka "The Toast of the Town"

Betty -- You Are There (1953)

Deborah -- Marcus Welby,M.D.

Becky -- WKRP in Cincinnati

Beth -- The Flying Nun

Kristy -- Welcome Back Kotter

Thaise -- The Facts of Life

Tam -- HR Pufnstuf Note: Not to be confused with H.R. Pufnstuff which is a new movie

Jill -- Emergency aka "Emergency One"

Valerie-- Wonder Woman

Debbie-- Knots Landing

Lynn --Soap

Bonnie -- 30 Something aka "Thirtysomething"

Toney -- Surf Side Six

Carolyn -- Name that Tune Note multiple versions - first 1953

Gena -- Dallas

Doris -- Falcon Crest

Michelle -- Romper Room aka "Romper Room and Friends" - Mulitple versions, first 1953

Kathy -- Ray Rayner Note: wow, rare, could you mean "Ray Rayner and His Friends?"

Candy -- Benji FAIL: not a TV show

Dana -- Laugh In aka "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In"

Ann -- I Dream of Jeanie - This was a movie, the TV show was "I Dream of Jeannie"

Lisa -- Sanford and Son

Jill --Brisco County Jr. - Wow, Jill, you must be a kid still! This show from 1993

Lois -- Bewitched

Gayle -- M.A.S.H.

Juanita -- Flipper Note: multiple versions and movies

Donna -- Rin Tin Tin aka "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin"

Janet D -- Fury Note: mulitple movies of the same name

Chris -- Howdy Doody Note: also a predecesor - "Puppet Playhouse" plus multiple sequels: It's Howdy Doody Time (1987) (TV); The New Howdy Doody Show" (1976) (TV series); Howdy Doody and His Magic Hat (1954)

Carl -- Bat Masterson

Gloria -- The Addams Family Note: multiple versions and movies of the same name - first 1964

Rich -- Hill Street Blues

Fannie -- Cagney and Lacey Note: multiple sequels

Katie -- The Jeffersons

Cathy R -- The Andy Griffith Show Note: multiple sequels plus reunions

Kim F -- The Monsters ( did you mean The Munsters?) - a British TV show from 1962

Yvonne -- The Carol Burnette Show Note: multiple versions - first 1967

Michele -- The Lawrence Welk Show (wanerful, wanerful!)

Sharon -- The Rookies

Angela -- The Courtship of Eddie's Father Note: Based on a movie and also sequels

Julie P -- MOD Squad Note: sequel and movies - first 1964

Michelle C -- Get Christy Love (I never heard of this before)

Gaynell D -- Leave It To Beaver

Norman -- Amos & Andy

Sherry -- Little House on the Prairie

Barbara -- Wagon Train

Madeline -- Perry Mason

Patsy -- The Golden Girls

Gina -- The Brady Bunch

Fay -- Nash Bridges - another babe!

Alice -- .Charlie's Angels

Donna -- The Wonderful World of Disney aka "Disneyland"

Bonnie -- The Sonny and Cher Show . (Note: I didn't know Steve Martin was the writer, did you?)

Victor -- Maude

Valerie -- 77 Sunset Strip Kookie, Kookie, lend me your comb!

Phyllis -- American Bandstand aka "Bandstand"

Stephanie -- Fantasy Island De Plane, de plane!

Beth -- The Midnight Special (Another one I had never heard of)

Jude -- Queen For A Day Many sequels - first 1951

Sylvia -- Zorro Many sequels, many movies, - first TV 1957

Denise -- Miami Vice

Richard -- The Cisco Kid several sequels - first 1950

John -- The Man from UNCLE

TY -- The Untouchables several sequels and movies - first 1959

Henry -- Star Trek several sequels and movies - first 1966

Vera -- Mickey Mouse Club several sequels - first 1955

Linda -- The Monkeys - presume you mean "The Monkees"

Dawn -- Family Affair - one sequel and multiple movies of the same name - first TV 1966

Kip -- Car 54 Where Are You?

George -- Maverick

Michael -- Sugarfoot

Thomas L -- Captain Video - there were two "Captain Video and His Video Rangers" (1949) and "Captain Video and His Cartoon Rangers" (1956)

MaryAnn -- Ozzie and Harriet aka "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet" (1952)

Sue -- 90210 again there were at least two series "Beverly Hills, 90210" (1990) and "90210" (2008), in any case you are also a babe.

Mary -- Father Knows Best

Jill -- Gidget

Rhonda -- McCloud

Tammy -- Twilight Zone

Judy -- ZOOM - first 1972, many sequels


Leigh -- Ultra Man could you mean Ultraman (Japanese) 1972?

Sandi -- My Three Sons

Jason -- All in the Family

Randi -- Dark Shadows

Tanya -- Dawson's Creek

Ahlai -- Good Times

Theresa -- Mr. ED first 1961

Dana -- The Partridge Family

Millie -- Password first 1961

Zenna -- Mary Tyler Moore

Bob -- Superman aka "Adventures of Superman" (1952)

Floyd -- Kukla Fran and Ollie

Sherry -- Laverne and Shirley

Janet -- Studio One aka "Westinghouse Studio One"

Wendy-- I love Lucy

Lee-- Flash Gorden many sequels and movies

Delores-- Night Gallery

Tonja-- PettiCoat Junction

Shari -- The Dean Martin Show

Marjory-- MAGNUM PI

Jackie -- The Cosby’s - do you mean "The Cosby Show" (1984)?

Stef ---.Full House

Julia -- Boy Meets World

Kate -- Pee Wee Herman aka Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)

Brittni -- Fraggle Rock!

Kara -- 7th Heaven

Katherine -- Saved by the Bell

Brianne -- Pound Puppies

Emily -- Sesame Street (Dah!)

JOSH-- the fall guy

Clark -- Combat

Wayne -- Adam 12

Elouise -- Gilligan’s Island



Ted -- Lost in Space

Diana P -- Green Acres

Sherri J -- Beverly Hillbillies

Gail -- Fury!

Betty Lu -- McMillan & Wife (Rock Hudson)

Sharron -- Mannix

Lori -- Quantum Leap

Mary-- Sky King (my favorite: "From out of the clear blue of the western sky comes Sky King" )

Barbara -- Dick Van Dyke Show

Val -- Silver Spoons

Fran -- Three’s Company

Sann-- Land of the Lost Note: mulitple sequels - first 1974

Cordero -- Mork & Mindy - "naanu naanu!"

Renetta -- What's Happening..

Corrine -- Hawaii 50 - - - Aloha (actually Hawaii Five-O)

Janelle -- The LOVE boat!

Mary -- Get Smart

Matilda -- Hart to Hart

Leslie -- Webster

Regina -- Mr. Belvedere

Prexie --The Lorretta Young Show aka "The New Loretta Young Show" (1962) (Note there was an earlier show (1953) called "Letter to Loretta"

Hilda -- The Dating Game multiple sequels - first 1965

Susan S -- My Little Margie

John (Me)-- Fireball XL-5 (only cause the good ones were all taken

My Life is Unappealing

screen capture from My Life e-mail
I have received the same e-mail about two dozen times over the past two years. It is always the same message. Can anyone guess why I have not responded positively to the request to join My Life...apart from the fact that you have to pay for it and Facebook is free?


Follow me on Twitter

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What is Twitter?

It seems every time I go to a social gathering these days someone makes a point of asking me to explain Twitter. Granted, I am of that certain age when nearly all of my family and colleagues are, well, more mature. Most seem amazed that I use Twitter and even more amazed when I tell them I can explain it.

So this is what I tell them...

Remember when you were in junior high school or freshman/sophomore year in high school? Remember the school cafeteria at lunchtime? This is Twitter.

Then I explain: So you are sitting at a long table with you immediate friends. Maybe your best friend is sitting opposite you, and around you are your general circle of friends. And at the end of the table are other classmates, but kids you don't socialize with all that much, except maybe in class, or the locker room or here in the caf.

Now at the tables around you are other classmates, kids in your same grade, but with whom you rarely socialize. And as you span out in increasingly larger circles from your table you eventually cover all of the kids in your school, well maybe a big chunk of them, sitting in the cafeteria.

Now, if your school was like my school, there are teachers in the room and there will be the occasional announcement over the very scratchy PA system. Most of these announcements are of no interest to you, but occasionally everyone shuts up and listens.

Got the picture? The scene is rather animated and there is a LOT of talking going on. So much so that it is almost impossible to hear your best friend right in front of you; so everyone talks a little louder. To an outside observer, it is utter din, nonsense. But to those engaged in conversation, it is intense, sometimes personal, and very addictive.

Because you are 12, 13, 14 or 15 years old, you still have great hearing and even better powers of concentration. You follow the conversation with your best friend, but you also monitor the conversations of the kids around you; sometimes engaging in several conversations at once. Every once and a while, there will be an outburst from someone at the end of the table, or the neighboring table and you'll shout down, "Wad-i-dy say? Wad-i-she say?" And the comment is repeated and this is followed by uproarious laughter all along table. Occasionally that will result in kids from other tables, further away from the source leaning in to find out what was said.

This is Twitter. The conversations are ofter between or among a pair or a small circle of friends, but occasionally the conversation is expanded to the surrounding tables.

And then you have a day like we had when Michael Jackson died, or better yet, the day that jetliner landed in the Hudson River. I say that because I was on Twitter that afternoon and remember seeing the innocent tweet, "...a jet has just landed in the Hudson River."

Sometimes these events comes through one of the many news feeds that are broadcast on Twitter similar to the teacher announcement on the PA. But most times these conversations start as something one person says to another and then gets repeated and repeated (retweeted) until literally everyone in the cafeteria is talking about it. They may talk about it for minutes or hours, or even days.

So, what is the content of these conversations on Twitter? Just the same as you would hear in any group of people: he-said-she-said, the latest gossip, what did you watch on TV, what movies did you/do you want to see, the latest ball scores...and on and on. Occasionally, there are serious conversations, "what ya get on your social studies test?" "You going to the dance?" And often times they are rhetorical and frivolous, "Harry Potter rocks!" "55 ways to make a million dollars..."

This is Twitter.

Just like in the cafeteria there are the people who say very little and closely monitor what others are saying. Then there are the motor-mouths who never shut up; the kids who have clever and witty things to say, and those you repeat the same story or joke over and over again and again.

And you find yourself listening more to some, and less to others. And some folks are so obnoxious, you just stop listening to altogether.

This is Twitter.

About then my audience says, why the hell would anyone want to participate in that?

Good question....

The answer? You'll have to try Twitter to find out.

And be sure to follow me!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Meeting Walter Cronkite

As we mourn the loss of the venerable newscaster, Walter Cronkite, ironically just days before the 40th anniversary of one of his most famous broadcasts, the web has been full of remembrances and tributes. Mine is far from unique or noteworthy, but I thought I would share it just the same.

For the last four years I lived in New York City, I had a part time job driving a taxicab. It was the real thing; a licensed medallion cab driven through the five boroughs. And, I lived to tell about it. Well, it wasn’t all that scary, but it was a heady time in the NYC cab industry, just before the fleets disappeared and at a time you could still make a living wage ferrying around New York’s elite.

At that time, many college students drove cabs in NY. We mostly worked on weekends when the regular drivers took some time off. And in the last few years on that job I was making more per hour than I would make in my real first job working for a mental health agency in northern Maine. Go figure.

It was a bright Sunday afternoon in early fall with the sun just setting. I was cruising in the upper East Side looking for a fare to take me out to the airport (the NYC airports could be gold mines on Sundays) or a long fare back downtown. I was on York Ave heading south and I think it was around 84th St when I spotted a young man on the corner. Instincts kicked in and I almost willed the kid to raise his hand to flag me down. As we made eye-contact he signaled me to make the turn east on to 84th. This was a good sign because it meant we were going to pick up someone on the block and they might have luggage, and they might be going to Kennedy, and…anyway, you get the point.

The handsome young man, maybe in his early 20s, jumped in and directed me to the middle of the block of handsome townhouses and brownstones. He explained that I would be picking up their housekeeper and taking her home to her apartment on 96th and East End.

My enthusiasm faded instantaneously as I recognized that this was not a long haul. This was a short hop and one that would take me further way from my desired goal. I groaned to myself and was contemplating my next move when I saw him. He was instantly recognizable and I was immediately drawn to his bright eyes and silver hair attenuated by the piercing late afternoon sun gracing him like a long follow-spot. I want to say he had blue eyes, but I can’t be sure, the golden light washed out any actual color. But the silver hair and the trademark mustache were unmistakable…this was Walter Cronkite.

As directed by the young man in the back, I pulled the cab as far to the left side of the one-way 84th as I could right in front of the man who I had been watching on TV since I was in diapers. The most trusted man in television. The man who had interviewed presidents and kings, who was there on the night men walked on the moon and who told us over and over again on countless replays “…President Kennedy died at 1:00 pm Central Standard Time, 2:00 o’clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago…”

This was a lighter moment. Walter reached for the cab’s door handle just as the young man opened the door from the inside. There were others in the small entourage that surrounded a small Asian woman, obviously my fare, who was being escorted into my cab. But I didn’t really see any of them; Walter held my fascination and my attention his eyes squinting in the sun.

The meeting was but an instant. The only words exchanged were between Walter and the woman now in my cab. He closed the door and through the opened window thanked her in that trademark mid-western speech style. She thanked him back and I knew that my brief moment with stardom was over. I pulled the cab back into traffic and picked up my trip sheet, instinctively entering the address, time and destination. The Asian lady in the back explained that that was “Mr. Walter Cronkite” and that she was his housekeeper. And yes, she said this with a thick Asian accent that include a mispronunciation of his last name. “That was, Mr. Chip…” she added. “He’s very nice, he’s Mr. Cronkite’s son, he’s very nice.”

The trip was indeed a short one, nary ten blocks, but during the fare she explained that Mr. Cronkite had been away on vacation and had just returned. She had been staying at this house for the duration, watching over things. It seemed she had been in his household staff for some time and that she really enjoyed her job.

I made an asterisk on my trip sheet with the abbreviation "WC" so I would be able to find the address again if need be. And after dropping off the lady on 96th St, I turned my cab back south into obscurity.

“And that’s the way it was….”


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Farewell to Shifty

Shifty Powers
I think every boy growing up in the US in the 50's and 60's was a big fan of World War II. For most of us, our fathers and uncles fought in that war and it was always described as a noble event, the so-called "moral war."

Of course all that changed in the late 60's when the Vietnam war took away our taste for killing and dying. But for those years of my boyhood I loved to "play war," shooting invisible Nazis and Japs, falling and rolling on the ground and then getting back up to do it all again. If you saw the movie Born on the 4th of July, you'll understand.

As I have gotten older, and patriotism has come back in vogue, I admit that I am still a bit of a WWII nut. I have my own private collection of WWII movies and even gave a donation to the WWII Memorial in Washington a few years back. I think the whole experience made me feel closer to my father who died before the memorial was built. He would have loved it.

So when the movie Saving Private Ryan (SPR) was made I jumped at the opportunity to purchase it immediately when it came out on DVD. I've watched this movie over a dozen times and still find there are parts I can't look at or cringe when I view them. It gives me a visceral reaction.

Perhaps because the movie was a big hit and because interest in WWII was clearly increasing at that time, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, the talents behind SPR, produced and directed a 705 minute TV miniseries on HBO called Band of Brothers. This incredible re-enactment of the lives of a few handfuls of young GIs during WWII has brought me to tears many, many time as I've watched episode after episode over and over again.

When you first watch it, you can be easily confused because the cast of characters are monumental. There are so many names, some you meet only once, and others who stay with you the entire story. Then the producers slowly introduce us to some of the actual vets - now all old men - who tell the back story. And it is then that you really realize, really understand, what war is all about.

As you start to link the young actors to the old gentlemen, you see and feel the experience of World War II and the men of Easy Company. In some magical way, the casting directors found young actors who often looked like the real men. Eventually you find yourself simply astonished how any of these guys made it through those hellish experiences.

And yet the evidence is right there...they were still alive and talking about.

Talking about it is perhaps not an accurate description, for it was clear that for each of these great and noble men, the experiences of battle had left painful, lasting scars. It was in the remembrance of their fallen comrades that they talked; each man played down the role they had taken in the war.

Each time I watch the film I am so impressed that these were all just everyday, average guys. Most of them volunteered to be in the service and chose paratroopers because it paid a few more bucks per month.

At the very end of the film, the narrator tells about what happens to many of the members of Easy Company in the years that followed the War. Some died in accidents, others from poor choices, and others would go on to live on long full, relatively uneventful lives - not as war heroes - but as everyday Americans. Just like my Dad and uncles.

Well last night on the evening news there was a short and sweet tribute to one of those men from Easy Company. Shifty Powers who was known as a marksman and and all-around nice guy passed from us last month to join his band of brothers in the great beyond. It brought a tear to my eye again and a feeling of loss that is usually associated with the death of a close friend or family member. I think after watching Band of Brothers an innumerable amount of times, each of these men have become, in some ways, like family members and close friends.

I salute you Shifty and all of the others who went before you and who are waiting their time to join you.

In closing, perhaps Maj. Dick Winters, Shifty's CO said it best:
During the interview segment of the miniseries Band of Brothers, Winters quoted a passage from a letter he received from Sergeant Mike Ranney, "'I cherish the memories of a question my grandson asked me the other day when he said, Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?' Grandpa said 'No… but I served in a company of heroes…'"
Here are some background links on Shifty and Band of Brothers

Shifty Powers of ‘Band of Brothers’ fame dies

Band Of Brothers Hero, Darrell ‘Shifty’ Powers Dies

War Hero E-mail Goes Worldwide -- But Who Really Wrote It?

Wikipedia on Darrell "Shifty" Powers

D-Day Normandy site - in his own words (Note: you may have to use the search to find this link)

Band of Brothers - IMDB and about Shifty's character played by Peter Youngblood Hills


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

More Wyeth Lore

I’ve already posted My Andrew Wyeth Story in this blog twice; once two summers ago and again last winter when Andy died. And since this Sunday, July 12 is Andy's birthday, and proclaimed A Day for Andrew Wyeth by Governor Baldacci, I thought it was appropriate to share this latest yarn.

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to drive to New York for the wedding of one of my nieces. I stayed at my sister’s house in north Jersey for the whole weekend. As Saturday turned into another one of our all too common rainy days, she suggested we drive down to Montclair, NJ and visit the Montclair Museum of American and Native Art. The sister explained that they were currently exhibiting The Wyeths: Three Generations and that she had been there a few weeks earlier with her kindergarten class. She was knowledgeable about My Wyeth Story although I reminded her of some of the highlights and the post script involving Andy’s granddaughter Vic. The sister howled.

We arrived at the Montclair in the early afternoon and learned that there would be a gallery walk and talk starting in a few minutes. It turned out that the docent that was giving the walk was one of my sister’s colleagues and I was introduced as being the brother from Maine who had had some personal experience with the Wyeth family.

As we had viewed the collection shortly before the gallery walk began, I told the sister a few more recent Wyeth stories that I had heard Jamie tell on the local TV station a few weeks earlier. But I made her relieved/proud when I indicated that I would be keeping my mouth shut once the gallery walk began.

The young woman giving the presentation did a beautiful job and clearly had done her homework. Although I know a lot about the family and the history of many of the paintings, this woman had a few tales that even I had not heard before and it was all very interesting.

A crowd of about 30 people following the walk as we strolled through the large gallery and there were only a few questions asked, all of which the docent securely and authoritatively answered. The exhibit sponsored by the Bank of America is traveling around the country and would be in NJ until mid July.

We were almost through the end of the walk and coming to the last few painting by Jamie Wyeth when the docent stopped in front of one of larger pieces. Called (I believe*) “Harbor, Monhegan,” this is a very colorful painting of a young boy, standing in front of a large oil tank that has been converted into a furnace riding on spoke wheels and spewing large orange flames and thick black smoke. I remembered seeing the painting on the television and hearing Jamie telling a little about the background of the painting. It seems that because of the limited ability to landfill trash on Monhegan Island, that summer, the locals hired this young boy, Cat Bates, to burn the trash in this makeshift furnace which he dragged up and down the beach each day. As the smell of garbage attracted the sea birds, the air and ground in the image, and in the real scene, was full of sea gulls flying and clamoring around the boy.

As the docent was finishing her presentation one woman in the crowd asked about the meaning behind the image of the boy and the fire. I think she may have half expected to hear some wild tale evoking images of Satan and Hell. The docent looked furtively through her notes and then admitted the she didn’t know the origin of the painting. I looked over at my sister who gave me a knowing glance and non-verbal permission to finally open my mouth. So, never being a shy individual, I piped up and detailed the story about Cat and the reason for the conflagration.

I immediately noticed that the flock started to gather around me as I detail more of the specifics. There was soon a dialog. “Is the boy still there? What happened to him? Is his name really Cat?”

I answered to the best of my knowledge that Cat was all grown up now and that Jamie had included him in several other paintings. And, no, I don’t know why his mother named him Cat, but that was indeed his name. (More info about Cat on this website)

We talked for some time about the Maine ecology, sanitation and the independent thinking individuals who inhabit Monhegan Island, Maine.

I was on a roll; I had a captive audience.

Next, I moved to another series of two paintings of sea gulls and told story that I recalled from the television interview with Jamie Wyeth. In this, I explained that Jamie indicated that while painting the gulls one day one bird came very close to his canvas. “I always wondered how much a sea gull weighs,” the junior Wyeth explained. “So, I just reached out and grabbed the bird.”

It seems sea gulls, like most wild creatures, don’t take too kindly to being handled by humans and put up quite a fuss. “The bird started pecking at me and took a nip out of my eyelid,” the artist pointing to some wrinkles above his eyelid to show the scar made by the bird. “They don’t weigh very much at all,” he added.

The small, thinning crowd went wild with enthusiasm.

I decided that I had probably said too much and deferred back to our leader to continue with the tour. But I could see that I had impressed even her.

Soon the walk was over and sister and I joined to thank the docent for her presentation and apologize for perhaps speaking out of turn. She warmly indicated that my contribution has clearly added to the presentation and that she would be using this new-found material in her future gallery walks.

We talked for several more minutes about my experiences and where in Maine I lived. Several others from the tour gathered around and wanted to know if I was a relative. Demurely, I explained I was a mere mortal and that I had was just a big fan of Andrew Wyeth and had seen a number of their exhibits in Maine. I didn’t waste any time and put in a good plug for our wonderful state and invited them to all come and visit us this summer. The Maine Tourism Bureau would be proud.

But before we ended our little Wyeth Love-fest, my sister encouraged me to tell The Story. Coyly, I set the mood and told a much abbreviated version of the tale. My new fan club glowed in approval and absolutely loved the story. They of course wanted to know if I ever took Vic up on the offer for coffee. I told them no, but that may be some day I would.

Perhaps I’ll head down to the Farnsworth this weekend and look for Andy’s granddaughter.


* In listening to the WCSH6 interview with Jamie Wyeth, I learned that there are five paintings of this same theme. Not sure which one is in the Montclair exhibit

Saturday, May 30, 2009


You know you're an old geezer when you hear news about something called Bing and you think of this guy.


Image licensed from Creative Commons

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Spock, I need you…

For old Trekies like me, there has been an evolution of interest and discernment about what we might affectionately call "The Franchise."

As a kid, I loved Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock. I was mesmerized by the then-high-tech nature of the TV show, wanting to believe that the balsa wood cut out USS Enterprise was real despite the fact that it looked nothing like the real space ships NASA was shooting off from Cape Kennedy. Star Trek was like nothing else on television and made shows like Lost in Space look like child's play.

The plots of those original shows, scurrilously described by the TV critics of the time as "cowboys in space" and “swashbuckling astronauts,” were perfect for my 13 year old boy sensibilities. There on the backlot of some Paramount studio, the bold and brash young Kirk persevered in a to-the-death, hand-to-hand battle with some slimy, scaly Styrofoam-laden creature from the Black Lagoon. It was comic book drama at its best.

And as quickly as it started, it disappeared. Well, not exactly. Through the miracle of television reruns, you could continue to relive the Star Trek phenomena in syndication.

By the time the Star Trek story moved to the silver screen in the late 70's, I had matured, as had the characters. The plots in this next iteration of The Franchise were slightly more involved, perhaps overly melodramatic, but the special effects were all the more realistic and believable. With some super movie hocus pocus, the shots of the Enterprise traveling at Warp Factor 5 started to look – real.

We had all aged along with Spock and Kirk and grown comfortable with their enduring relationship. We enjoyed their fraternity which now allowed Spock to call his captain by his first name – something unheard of in the original series. And we reveled in the fact that the once romantic and sexy young Kirk had been replaced with a self-deprecating scoundrel whose libido – and ego - had somehow managed to be diluted with age.

Then, in the 90s ST: The Next Generation brought a whole new dimension - and a whole new “generation” of followers to The Franchise. The swashbuckling antics of old were gone, replaced by intelligence and craftiness. Battles were won with brilliance and cunning, not brawn and fisticuffs. The basic formula remained the same and to us old Trekies, who had grown wise with age, the refocus on the morality play side of Star Trek had a fresh new appeal. New favorite characters emerged and new 23rd century technologies provided more opportunities for more complicated plot twists and turns.

Though through this period, the memories of Kirk and Spock were not lost. Reaching perhaps a new zenith, The Franchise exploited both the large screen and small as more movies rolled out and the TV series broke new ground with a nine season run.

But eventually the two casts seemed to cross into a time warp that left almost all of them stranded beyond the Neutral Zone. Whether it was poor writing or a lack of imagination, the old friends were getting a bit long in the tooth and more and more unbelievable. Attempts at moving TNG to the big screen never really produced the excitement that was expected and Kirk and Spock had simply become old men.

The Franchise experienced a few more furtive twists and turns in the years that followed. ST: Voyager which started off slow and stiff eventually won me over. But perhaps because of the mere nature of the plot, Voyager had to have an ending that would be anticlimactic. Deep Space Nine and Enterprise never really resonating with me and apparently neither did it with mainstream audiences. Both of these later iterations did not last very long and it was beginning to look like The Franchise was relegated to thrusters only.

And then there was The Void.

With Gene Roddenberry long gone and several of the actors from the original series having returned to Sto-Vo-Kor, some of us thought that perhaps our fantastic romp in outer space had gone out of phase permanently. Perhaps too, many of the high tech gizmos that had fascinated us in1965 had simply become pedestrian. As we communicate with our smart phones and track our locations on our handheld GPS units, we are now living out the Star Trek fantasies in our daily life.

So what could possibly make this new installment of The Franchise a success?

I admit I was pretty skeptical. It would take a lot to get me interested and excited about a new cast and crew.

So I must admit I have been surprised and pleased with Star Trek – the new movie.

Kudos to the director, writers and production staff who have managed to reach back into that box of magic and pull out a winner.

By returning to the original formula – cowboys in space – and adding a troupe of good young actors along with some of the best computer graphics money can buy, The Franchise appears to have brought itself back to life.

While I cannot give it a full five stars, I will confirm that the new movie is a nice entertaining experience that Trekies old and young have to go see.

In closing, you know what Spock would say…

Saturday, May 02, 2009


spring growth
We seem to be about a week early in the growing cycle. That's alright by me.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Free range kids

Just got finished reading an article in Edutopia called "A Conversation with Lenore Skenazy on Free-Range Kids." You may have heard about Skenazy. She's the mother who became an unwitting international celebrity when she allowed her nine-year-old son to take the New York City Subway home from Bloomingdales in an effort to allow him to experience some independence. As I recalled the story that took place some time ago, I found myself remembering my own childhood growing up in Brooklyn and the freedom we had then.

Growing up in Clinton Hill in the late 50s and early 60s was an ideal experience. Kids at that time were allowed to travel away from the womb in increasing expanding concentric circles until the umbilicus was snapped from stretching. This was quite a feat for me considering my mother was not one to let her little darling steer too far too fast. Still, by the time I was 10, I was regularly hopping onto the Vanderbilt Ave. bus and traveling with my (slightly) older sister up to the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza.

By my mid-teen age years I had free reign of the "City that Never Sleeps" and eventually could be found taking the subways in the wee hours of the night.

My greatest feat of early-adolescent independence took place when I was about 12 or 13. At the time, my concentric circle of freedom and independence had expanded to about 3-4 blocks in all directions. Whether on foot, bicycle or roller skate, the opportunities and adventures continued to expand.

That summer, like most boys growing up in NYC, I was transfixed with everything baseball. The daily activity from March until September involved copious amounts of stickball played on Waverly Avenue, in traffic, with a stickball bat made out of an old broom handle an either a Pensy Pinky or the, quite-preferred Spalding (correctly pronounced Spaul-deen) ball. And yes, a homer was usually the result of a shot hit two sewers (aka, soo-ahs) distance; a feat that I was known to frequently accomplish. I was good.

That summer - it must have been 1965 or 66 - we had tired of stickball and longed for the real thing. You know, grass, a hardball, real bat. But alas, our little neighborhood had no such location for this kind of activity. The nearest bonafide baseball field was located at the Parade Grounds, a newly developed park just south of Prospect Park. The Parade Grounds contained a number of regulation baseball diamonds and was where the local little league teams (or school leagues like CYO) played. The distance from our neighborhood was a good three miles and required traversing through some "interesting" neighborhoods.

One day, quite spontaneously, my fellow scallywags and I decided that we should walk the distance armed with our bats, ball and gloves. I'm not sure why we chose not to take the bus which would have been a lot faster, safer and a lot less strenuous, but the likely reason was that we were all a little low on dough, and walking was free.

So off we went without a care. None of us had even bothered to tell our mothers where we were going. We just went. Ah, youth!

I seem to recall that I chose to be the the navigator and directed our posse up Vanderbilt to Grand Army Plaza. This was the way the bus would have taken us, and it was the route my father took when he drove us to The Park. Much like the scene in the movie Stand By Me, my troops and I talked up a storm and didn't seem to mind the long walk which was mostly uphill.

When we got to Grand Army Plaza we headed right into Prospect Park. I figured this was the most direct way to the Parade Grounds and I think secretly I was thinking we might find a suitable place to play much closer than the Parade Grounds which were still quite a distance away.

And indeed we did. Soon out into the middle of the meadow we caught up with another group of boys who were already playing a pick-up game of ball. Within minutes we had the Clinton Hill boys in hot pursuit of the Park Slope boys and a grand time was had by all.

I don't remember much of the game but mostly I remember walking home and how tired we all were. Despite the fact that it was all down hill, I think the extent of our exertion had taken its toll.

We got back to Clinton Hill just before supper time and most of us just peeled off and when into our respective apartment buildings.

I don't recall much of what happened after that except that I knew better than to tell my mother where I had been that day. She heard about it some time later and yelled a bit, but it was all part of the game.

I can't say that I would let my nine-year-old solo the NYC subways these days, but Ms Skenazy does have some good points to make. And perhaps the kids of today would be just a little better off if they had a chance to get out and about more often.