Saturday, November 17, 2012


Whenever possible, you're usually better off buying name brands, at least when it comes to, say, things you actually put in your body.  Other times. it's okay to go with the dollar store special.  Dish soap, for instance.  Does it foam up in water?  Yes?  Fine, I'll take it.

So I had less than a third of my Dollar Tree dish soap left before I even bothered looking at its label, and more to the point, its randomly-chosen brand name: First Force.  Huh, I thought.  Sounds less like a brand of soap than a cheapo eighties action movie.

Fair enough, but I can't just let it go.  I start to imagine a First Force movie in my head.  David Carradine would star--that seems obvious enough--but who else?  Steve James as Generic Black Guy, whose main job is to get kidnapped by the bad guys at some point so he can be rescued by our hero, because they were buddies in 'Nam.  Don "The Dragon" Wilson would be Martial Arts Guy, who does the action stuff Carradine's stunt double doesn't.  And the group's lone female?  My first thought was Cynthia Rothrock, but since we already have two actors associated with martial arts movies, maybe it should be a onetime mainstream actress who everyone thought would be a second-tier star, or at least have a healthy career.  Lisa Blount or Lisa Eichhorn, whichever one would be most likely to do a topless scene, since that's the only reason she's even along.  Then there's the Gary Busey question: Does he play a member of the titular Force--The Guy Who Gets Killed Early To Drum Up Sympathy--or is he Generic Bad Guy?  Probably Generic Bad Guy, because he could be someone else Carradine knew in 'Nam, but who went bad.

About the time I start speculating about who would've directed such a movie (Joseph Zito, no question), it suddenly occurs to me that I'm spending way too much time thinking about a bottle of dish detergent.  Maybe I should just stop shopping at Dollar Tree.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


As much time as I sometimes spend here prattling on about all things Muppet related, you might expect me to have something to say about the sort-of-or-maybe-not sex scandal involving Elmo Muppeteer Kevin Clash.

The thing is, it's really too depressing to consider, especially since we don't know what actually happened, and probably never will.  Clash was initially accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor, although the minor in question was 16, not, say, 10, and the unnamed accuser even admitted the relationship was consensual.  As a result, Clash lost his regular gig on Sesame Street, but only one day after the story broke, the accuser recanted his story, claiming he was of legal age when the whole thing started, but he'd apparently accepted a financial settlement from Clash, and neither side is talking, so who knows?

Still, it seems likely Clash's Muppet days are over, since an accusation is all that is needed to taint a reputation.  If online chatter is any indication, most people are creeped out not so much because Clash might have been getting it on with a minor as the age difference in general.  Even assuming the accuser was eighteen when the relationship started, Clash was in his mid-forties.

But as to that age difference, I say what about Bobby Goldsboro's touching relationship with an older woman, as explored in his profoundly not-good song Summer (The First Time)?  Society was okay with this sort of thing back in the early seventies, or so I must assume, because the song was a hit, and it sure as hell can't be because people thought it was any good.

If you find yourself wondering whether starting this post by referencing the whole Kevin Clash thing was basically just an excuse for me to post this song, hey, you may be right.  But seriously--what a horrible song.  "I told Billy Ray/In his red Chevrolet" may be the worst lyric of all time, or at least until Billy Joel came up with "Talking to Davy/Who's still in the Navy" a couple years later.

But aside from its basic awfulness (did I mention rhyming "julep" with "two lips"?), the worst thing about this song is that it forces me to imagine Bobby Goldsboro having sex.  We'll never know for sure what Kevin Clash actually did.  But the very notion of Bobby Goldsboro banging hot older chicks?  That is a crime.

Friday, November 02, 2012


I not only watched Space:1999, I proudly carried the luchbox to school every day, subscribed to the comic book, had both the Eagle 1 model kit and the much larger and more awesome Eagle playset.  My devotion to all things Planet Of The Apes-related led me to own numerous posters, action figures, comic books, the novelization of Beneath The Planet of The Apes (the first quote-unquote adult novel I ever read), a board game and so much more.

Upon starting fifth grade, I was thrilled to discover the middle school library was well-stocked with juvenile-skewing science fiction novels by the likes of Andre Norton and E.E. "Doc" Smith.  More importantly, book-wise, late in 1976 I bought a copy of Jeff Rovin's A Pictorial History Of Science Fiction Films, which was, as its title suggests, full of glorious images from classics like Forbidden Planet and This Island Earth, as well as glimpses of obscurities like the Soviet-made Ikarie XB and forgotten cheapies like Monster from Green Hell.  All these movies had one thing in common: I'd never seen any of them, and aside from the occasional lucky TV broadcast, I never would, not in that pre-cable, pre-VCR world.  I could imagine, but I could never experience.

So I was primed.  Before just happening to spot a full-page ad in the Sunday paper, I'd never even heard of Star Wars.  But that ad, running two weeks before the movie even opened, became the only thing that mattered in my world.  It was kind of hard to make out in the crappy newsprint, but it showed robots, and a girl in a gown holding a weapon, and a guy with some kind of crazy laser sword, or something.  I had to see this!

After relentless pestering of pretty much everyone in my family--I literally couldn't talk about anything else--my sister became the one to drive me all the way to Des Moines, to the cavernous River Hills auditorium, the only theater in the whole state--one of the few in the entire midwest--playing the movie.  The place was packed even two hours before showtime.  The lights went down, the curtains parted, the 20th Century Fox fanfare sounded, there was a written prologue, and then...well, once the Imperial cruiser glided implacably from the top of the screen, I felt a rush such as I'd never known.

This was it!  This was the movie--the experience!--I'd waited for my entire life.  Whatever I'd imagined, hoped, dreamed this movie would be, it was better, so much better than...well, better than anything ever.  There was nothing wrong with it, no boring parts, nothing where you had to pretend it was better than it was.  I bounced up and down in my seat the entire time, fully alive.  Surely this was the defining moment of my life.

Maybe it was.  But, you know, I had just turned twelve.  My life had very little definition to begin with.  Living on a farm in the middle of nowhere--just like Luke Skywalker!--I hated school, had very few friends and just generally felt lost.  These aren't exactly unusual circumstances, and my love of science fiction clearly indicated a desire to be taken away, to leave this farm and this life and this world, to be swept up into a galactic uprising, to destroy the Death Star and learn the ways of The Force.  Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Given all this, I was surprised to discover how indifferent I was to the announcement that George Lucas sold his company to Disney, which promptly announced plans for a new Star Wars movie.  Fandom seems divided between those who dread the Disneyfication of their beloved galaxy far far away and those who hate the prequels so much they are eager to see what Star Wars is like without the direct involvement of Lucas' increasingly heavy hand.

There's no way to minimize what Star Wars meant to me, but it was just one part of my life.  I remember a lot of things about that summer: I moved into a new room in the house, and it had an AM radio so I started listening to the local Top 40 station.  I finally read Fahrenheit 451.  Also, for whatever reason, I suddenly became obsessed with the idea of mortality, and spent a terrifying amount of time obsessing over the inevitable death of everyone I knew and loved.

I remember these things, all the profound feelings of joy and despair, but what I can't quite conjure is the person who actually experienced these emotions.  Twelve year old me is gone forever.  Sure, I'll always love Star Wars, but mostly for what it was, not what it still is.  It's just a movie, and honestly, it's not even all that good.  It's no longer vital, it doesn't matter, not in the life I lead now.  If someone wants to make a new one, good, bad, mediocre, I don't really care.

But maybe there'll be some kid out there, lost and lonely and unsure of his place in the world, and he'll see it, and it will be the most important thing in the world.