Happy Al-O-Ween!

Halloween is a conflicting time of year for me.  I love keeping the spirit of the holiday alive as much as possible, but there’s only so much I can do.  I’m single with no children.  If I did have kids, you’d better believe I’d be escorting them from door-to-door demanding bite-sized treats with a zero per cent chance of tricks (unless one of them goes as a magician, then I’d permit them).

As a reluctant basement apartment dweller saving for a house, there’s little I can do to decorate my own place, so I often visit my parents after I’m done work every October 31st.  Having raised four children, they know what to expect that evening, and do their best to make the neighbourhood children welcome.  Sadly, it gets more discouraging by the year.  Last year, my parents’ exhaustively decorate their place for Halloween for the great reward of having a grand total of two children visit them.  If I can express my feelings using out-of-date slang, that’s lamesauce.  I’m referring to the lack of kids, not my family, who are definitely honey mustard on popcorn chicken.

If the kids aren’t showing up, what’s to stop a man four times their age from dressing up, swooping in, and taking that candy?

iamal

No, I’m not Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. character, but I can understand how my overt ruggedness led you to that conclusion.  I settled on spending my Halloween as “Weird Al” Yankovic on the 13th of September.  I’m not sure if that qualifies as a personal record for me or not.  It seems as I gave about as little a shit as one can give when choosing my costume when I was a kid.  I remember going out as a devil, a pirate, a clown, and a ghost.  I think I wore each costume at least twice, but when you factor in the winter clothes my mom made sure I wore underneath, I essentially had the same costume every year.

My moustache was one out of six from a package I bought at Dollarama.  I actually bought a more realistic prop moustache for around eight bucks before, but I couldn’t find an appropriate way to attach it to my face.  I could have used spirit gum, but I feared it may be too strong and immovable. I want the option of taking a break from the moustache, enjoying it’s benefits while avoiding all the soup-straining nuisances.  I worry too much about minor costume details that nobody would notice or care about.  I could have grown a decent moustache myself, but I went to a concert the night before Halloween.  I didn’t want to make a rush job of shaving a beard down to a moustache the following morning, and I didn’t want to my fellow Meshuggah fans to spot my upper lip hair and think that I’m stuck in the 80s.  It’s a metal show, so there’s enough of that going around already.

The last few Halloweens, something seems to have snapped in me to go the extra step, going the way of Robert De Niro or Daniel Day-Lewis with my level of method when it comes to my chosen costume.  Last year, when I dressed as Beetlejuice, I lived in a stranger’s attic, didn’t bathe for weeks, and tried to pick up chicks at wakes and seances.  When I dressed as Spock two years ago, it started with a bad hair cut and it escalated quickly from there.  The next thing you know, I was injecting copper into my bloodstream and desensitizing myself to Monty Python through electro-shock therapy.  All that considered, I kind of lucked out this year.

Silly songs can spring out of anywhere.  It often starts over misheard lyrics, like interpreting Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”  as “excuse me while I kiss this guy.”  Once I chose the whole Weird Al getup, I couldn’t stop myself.  I guess you can say that I Dared to be Stupid.  I tried desperately to turn the words in any song I can think of into something completely different.  Eventually, it lead to spending some of my down time to invest in a bit of a Weird Al experiment.

For your enjoyment, here’s a small collection of parodies of Weird Al parodies.  Don’t be so harsh on the quality of my work.  Keep in mind that I’ve only been Weird Al for six weeks.

(Note: Forgive my formatting. I can’t figure out how to fix the spacing in the lyrics.)

Laramie

(to the tune of “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam)

At home

Blowin’ smoke out my window

Trying not to set off the alarm

Leaning back in my seat

Thinking I’m as cool as James Dean

If only I had read the labels

To notice the impact on my health

That picture on it looks sickening

It spoiled my dinner

Laramie smokin’

A pack a day!

Laramie smokin’

A pack a day!

Clearly I remember

Picking up a butt

Seemed like a harmless bit of fun

Remember the native crying?

It is litter

But it’s so much more than that

Chronic bad breath

Morning cough as I clutch my chest

Symptoms alerting

Me that smoking

Has led me astray

Deep down the ashtray

Daddy made me learn my lesson

He made me smoke carton after carton

I’ve had enough for a lifetime

Or maybe longer

Laramie smokin’

A pack a day!

Laramie smokin’

A pack a day!

Laramie smokin’

A pack a day!

Oh it’s contagious (Oh’s it’s contagious)

Quitting’s courageous (Quitting’s courageous)

Health’s the reward

Laramie smokin’ smokin’

Laramie smokin’ smokin’

Laramie smokin’

A pack a day!

(smokin’)(smokin’) etc. etc.

Weird Al dabbled in plenty of alt rock and so-called grunge music of the early-90s, but never took on a Pearl Jam song to the best of my knowledge.  Yeah, that’s right.  I don’t know every single song in his back catalog.  You can like something without knowing every single detail about it, you know!

This may seem like a tasteless choice for parody, considering the original deals with a boy’s suicide.  But I tried not to make this one too goofy, and instead made it a bit of a light-hearted PSA.  Pearl Jam’s music is nothing more than the medium through which the message is delivered.  A bit of levity on something so potentially destructive could bring this topic to a new audience.  Is there anything funny about someone trying to give up a tobacco addiction?  I never had that problem, so maybe this isn’t even funny at all.  Does that make me 0 for 1?

Of all brands of cigarettes, why did I go with Laramie?  They haven’t made those since the fifties unless you live in the Simpsons universe, which we all desperately want if we’re completely honest.  I could have picked a more popular or contemporary cigarette brand , but I’m limited to what happens to rhyme.  I can’t even think of names rhyming with brands such as Camel or Marlboro, so it certainly wouldn’t be a common name (at least in North America).  To make it work, Pearl Jam would’ve instead had to write a tale about a man who sells counterfeit handbags at the flea market, but then they’d be doing Al’s work for him.

Pout!

(to the tune of “Shout” by Tears For Fears)

Pout! Pout!

Cry it all out!

There’s plenty of things I shed tears about

Oh yeah

Boy, I’ve got the blues

Oh yeah

In trying times

Throw tantrums in department stores

Don’t dry your eyes

The sympathy will net you more

Victim-less crime

I see it as a harmless ploy

What’s twenty bucks

To keep you from an awesome toy

To keep you from an awesome toy

Pout! Pout!

Cry it all out!

There’s plenty of things I shed tears about

Oh yeah

It’s sad but it’s true

Oh yeah

You nag your wife

And even though you mean her well

You would be nice

If she could bid her folks farewell

If only she could…

Pout! Pout!

Cry it all out!

There’s plenty of things I shed tears about

Oh yeah

Pessimistic view

Oh yeah

And when your ego has been scarred

You’ll want to show that punk

The business end of your crowbar

The business end of your crowbar

Pout! Pout!

Cry it all out!

There’s plenty of things I shed tears about

Oh yeah

A boo and a hoo

Oh yeah

Yet again, this is probably at best a middle-of-the-road affair in terms of laughs, but I had the music video completely in mind when I thought of this one.  It lends itself so well to a shot-for-shot parody.  It contains plenty of tight close-ups in the beginning of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith. They naturally will be crying about something.  They walk along a beach, so the tide coming in to destroy their sandcastle may not be a bad place to start.

The outro of the video can easily have the clapping motion of the band replaced with animated wiping away of tears, with fists directly beneath their tear ducts and elbows swinging in the comical manner which nobody actually cries like in real life.  Of course, the gleeful children surrounding the band are swapped out for a bunch of crybabies.  Some will have dropped ice cream cones, others with spilled milk, and I’m sure the rest of them can find ways of showing unhappiness without any further involvement of dairy products.

Enter Santa

(to the tune of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica)

Snow will fall from above

Sign that winter has come

It’s getting slippery – don’t run

Decks the halls, trim the trees

Whatever that even means

If you’re good, I will come

Sliding down your chimney

Stuffing your stockings tight

Reindeer flight!

Christmas night!

Spreading mad

Christmas cheer across the land!

Mistletoe, at great height

Yule log’s burning bright

No creatures stirring tonight

Fresh cookies, not expired

I’ll get enough milk tonight

So instead, leave me Sprite, yeah

Ran out of Nintendos

Make due with the Lite Brite

Reindeer flight!

Christmas night!

Spreading mad

Christmas cheer across the land!

Jingle bells, Batman smells (Jingle bells, Batman smells)

Robin laid an egg (Robin laid an egg)

The Batmobile lost a wheel (The Batmobile lost a wheel)

And The Joker got away (And The Joker got away)

Rudolph with your nose so bright

Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?

The sleigh’s headlights have gone dead

So I need your freakish head

Reindeer flight!

Christmas night!

My route’s all planned

Reindeer flight!

Christmas night!

Spreading mad

Christmas cheer across the land

Christmas cheer across the land

Spreading mad

Christmas cheer across the land

Spreading mad

Christmas cheer across the land

Christmas cheer across the land

(fade out)

I think I’m getting warmed up now.  Weird Al has done a few Christmas songs in his career, so why not add another into the mix?   I love impersonating James Hetfield’s distinct growling delivery, and so will my version of Weird Al.   With this being Metallica’s most popular radio hit, this is really the only song I gave serious consideration from Metallica’s discography.  I will admit that “Disposable Batteries” did have some potential (yes, that’s a voltage pun).

Battery power fades

Emptying the cell

24-hour charge

Drains as fast as hell…

And, no, none of the lines in the song were intended to be euphemisms for sex acts. Though sliding down a chimney is rather smutty no matter what your interpretation.

Love The Police!

(to the tune of “Fuck Tha Police” by N.W.A.)

(Teacher)

May I have your attention! Welcome to Career Day!

Miss Crabtree, and I’ll be your teacher as always (annoying giggle)

Why don’t we shake things up a little here.

Alfred Yankovic, you’re last in alphabetical order.

Do you want to go first today?

(Alfred)

You’re goddamn right! Errr.. I mean.. no problemo!

(Teacher)

Why don’t you tell the class what you have to say!

(Alfred)

I love the police, and I’ll yell it from the mountaintop

There’s no doubt that I wanna be a cop

Right from the cradle, my mom can attest

My first words were “You’re under arrest!”

I’ll be a quick study, play by the rule book

I look up to Serpico, not a cop that’s crookt (crooked)

Oh the pride that I’d feel when I pin on my badge

The colour blue suits me, and so does my moustache

A man in uniform makes the ladies go nuts

And I’d get free coffee and donuts

But it aint all about the perks of the job

Gotta get up early to take down the mob

Driving downtown with a felon in the back seat

I took him in for impersonating parakeets

Now that may sound like an obscure crime

But in Wyoming, it happens all the time

Sometimes it’s kinda hard to chase down a villain

It pays to do cardio, it’s literally a livin’

Hard work pays off – it makes a lot of sense

Workin’ on my vertical so I can vault a tall fence

Some prefer the gun, but I like the baton

When I fly coach I can bring it as carry-on

Always have one on me while I stroll down the street

Use a pair for air-drums while I’m on the beat

All the good citizens will smile at my sight

Knowing that I’ll keep the city safe at night

And if you put that safety into question

Guess who’s patience you’ll be testin’

When I’m in pursuit, I can switch on my siren

What a cool sound it makes – it’s inspirin’

To make sure that the kids can all play safely

Gonna roll with the P-O-L-I-C-E

I don’t know how rappers do it.

Were Donald Trump to chime in on my hip-hop skills, he would rightly note that I don’t have the stamina.  I barely got through Ice Cube’s verses, and there’s still M.C. Ren and Easy-E to go.  That’s the exact reason why I went against doing Wu Tang Clan’s “Protect Ya Neck”, plus I’d need to name them all (WZAD? LZAD? Ol’ Dirty Booger?)

I know that all the issues surrounding cops and Black Lives Matter movement make this parody seem slightly distasteful, but this seemed like a natural place to go.  This song is written through the character of a young child around six to ten years old talking about what he wants to be when he grows up.  He’s too young to have an informed opinion to take either side of that debate.  He has a hard enough time deciding what cereal he’ll eat for breakfast.

The lyrics have no root in reality.  I can’t speak for what young Alfred Yankovic wanted to do when he grew up. I don’t think I wanted to be a cop either.  I do recall telling my kindergarten teacher that I wanted to learn the saxophone, but that was only because it was a big word to me at the time, and I wanted to impress her.  I never followed through on trying to become the next Coltrane, and that aspiration quickly lost steam.  Much like my efforts to complete this song.  How appropriate.

I Think I’ve Ate Enough

(to the tune of “Just Can’t Get Enough” by Depeche Mode)

When I’m out for dinner

I overextend

I think I’ve ate enough

I think I’ve ate enough

All the pasta you can eat

But I fill up on bread

I think I’ve ate enough

I think I’ve ate enough

That cake looks like it was baked with love

But now I just can’t stand the smell of food

We eat together

I sneak bites from your plate

And I think I’ve ate enough

And I think I’ve ate enough

This risky behaviour

Might cost me a second date

And I think I’ve ate enough

I think I’ve ate enough

I brought this on myself

Digestion is rough

As I realize I’ve had enough food

My stomach aches

For the love of God, help me!

Oh I think I’ve ate enough

Oh I think I’ve ate enough

Just one more mouthful

To please the maitre d’

But I think I’ve ate enough

But I think I’ve ate enough

My pants unbutton

I’m unpleasantly stuffed

And now I know I can’t fit in more food

I got pretty heavy into Depeche Mode a few years ago, particularly their Violator album, which I’d now say is one of my favourite albums of all-time.  I’m embarrassed a little to admit that it took me over a year until I realized that “Just Can’t Get Enough” was one of their songs.  I’d known of that song since I was a little kid, and it’s as innocent sounding as a lullaby.  It was as if I learned “Mary Had a Little Lamb” was written by Ronnie James Dio (it’s not).  I’m used to the band having a much darker sound.

By this point, you may be wondering why I’ve been choosing nothing but older songs.  First off, I don’t expose myself to enough current pop music.  Secondly, did you not see the photo I posted earlier?  I dressed as what is affectionately referred to as “Classic Weird Al”, which ended once he got eye surgery to eliminate the need of eyeglasses.  He ditched his third and fourth eye when he no longer required them.  He’s not one of those hipsters or NBA basketball players who’ll wear them for fashion despite having 20/20 vision.  I can appreciate that, almost to the extent that I considered matching his prescription to put my own eyesight into jeopardy in pursuit of the ultimate costume.

Food is probably the easiest place to go when coming up with a Weird Al parody.  It’s his penchant for doing PG-level humour that keeps his subject matter rooted (for the most part) in things we all experience.  From the top to the bottom of the age spectrum, everybody can relate to food.  You can relate to loving it, relate to hating it, relate to tasting it, relate to wasting it.  But before I go too Seuss on you, let’s proceed to the next track, which also happens to be food-based in nature.

Sledge-O-Matic

(to the tune of “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel)

You can hit some apples

But it doesn’t make much sauce

Or a sack of oranges

But the citrus burns the eyes

Right now I’m just looking

For the proper grocery

You could stomp some grapes up

But we’re making laughs, not wine to drink

You could grab banana bunches, peel them

But monkeys might protest

Oh have you seen

My Sledge-O-Matic

I’m squashing things all day

Oh yes indeed

My Sledge-O-Matic

I can’t find the right fruit – guide me

Watermelons have a cool shape

With a size that can’t be beat

Not as if size matters, right?

But it gets you off your seat

And now you see

My Sledge-O-Matic

A mallet of great fame

Oh you will see

My Sledge-O-Matic

It’s sure to impress

It can’t be beat

My Sledge-O-Matic

It’s not a gimmick nor is it phony

It’s my Sledge-O-Matic

I never leave my home without it

Sledge! Sledge! Sledge-O-Matic!

Don’t need a baller

Let the mess begin

This is the new mush

I go smashing things, we go smashing things

If you don’t mind the seeds

They will shower you

Mind the rind, it could hit you too

Yea, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, but don’t sue

Never sue

Read the disclaimer through

The show lasts an hour

A shame it’s just an hour

I could feed a village

With my produce spillage

I said it lasts an hour, never two

Encore? Encore? Don’t mind if I do!

(fade out)

Here’s a bit of a tribute to an oddball thing that I really have no connection with.  I know of comedian Gallagher for two things: his watermelon smashing routine in his act, and his awkward appearance on Opie and Anthony with the late, great comedian Patrice O’Neal.  I can’t even tell you a single bit he ever performed on stage.  This incarnation of Weird Al doesn’t do his homework.

Can you pay proper homage to a celebrity that you’re only vaguely familiar with?  It’s one thing to send a respectful tweet when Abe Vigoda passes, but this?  Probably a bit over-the-top.  That being said, I still won’t cancel my Gary Busey rock opera for the world.

Sleeping Mask All Day

(to the tune of “Sunglasses At Night” by Corey Hart)

I wore my sleeping mask all day

I could not

Could not see

My friend who glued it across my eyes

Yes I wore my sleeping mask all day

I could not, could not see

My Spongebob sheets when I woke at sunrise

Why’s he deceiving me?

I did eat his mac and cheese

But he angers easily

I turned to him – which way?

I’t’s not for debate – need a new roommate, oh yeah

Better yet, why don’t you move upstate, oh yeah

(Though I admit it)

Your joke today gets a passing grade, oh yeah

I wore my sleeping mask all day

What’s a man, what’s a man

To do if he’s caught up in twisted games?

I wore my sleeping mask all day

How’s a man, how’s a man

To dodge a waste-filled bag that’s set in flames?

Why is he leaving me?

It’s impossible to see

What if I need to pee?

Who leaves a pal this way?

There goes my day, this is getting lame, oh no!

What of our plans to go cruise for babes, oh no

(What would I do then?)

There goes my chance for naked charades, oh no

Finally victory

He gave me the remedy

Brought the light back to me

I didn’t think he’d cave

Maybe some day, I’ll buy thicker shades, oh yeah

Investing in better sleeping aids, oh yeah

(I won’t regret it)

Made him pledge – no more pranks come my way, oh yeah

(That includes voodoo)

Or three month’s rent I’ll make him pay, hell yeah

I said

I wore my sleeping mask all day

I wore my sleeping mask all day (etc. etc.)

I based this song off a similar premise to one of my favourite Weird Al tunes, “I Remember Larry”, which tells a tale of a practical joker who ends up getting his just desserts in the end.  In my song, there is no revenge to speak of, and they end on relatively good terms.  In spite of this, my mind keeps tracing back to the old proverb “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” meaning they probably laughed this whole incident off over a hearty bowl of gazpacho.

I feel that I’m taking a risk on this choice.  I think that Corey Hart is slightly too obscure for Weird Al to feature in as a selection. In that case, don’t think of me as Weird Al.  Think of me as his Canadian cousin, “Strange Dan” Spankovic, which can instantly explain away any perceived flaws in my costume.

To those not up to speed with the Canadian sensation known as Corey Hart, I tend to think of him as a poor man’s Bryan Adams.  A Bryan Adams with a face permanently stuck in the shape of a child’s who has been told to kiss an elderly relative against his will.  I can’t tell if he’s looking all pouty in a baffling attempt to drive up his sex appeal, or if he really can’t help it.  Personally, I think it was put there after his rejected application for Hart Foundation membership.

Never Tell It’s My Fart

(to the tune of “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS)

We’re stuck here

In this crowded room

Nostrils are overwhelmed

It’s about time we depart

Gas

Gas was passing

Through the air

Bad scents colliding

But you can never tell it’s my fart

If you knew the truth

It would draw your tears

That potent gust was mine

The deepest of your fears

I’ could tell you

Everything is fine

There’s not another on deck

Don’t give me that look – it’s no lie

Coarse

Screams commanding

“Give me air!”

The guests divided

But they could never ever tell it’s my fart

This may be new terrain for Weird Al.  Has he ever tackled socially-taboo bodily functions of any sort?

This song was like me taking a breather as there were so few lines of lyrics to be concerned with.  I know, that doesn’t seem like something Weird Al would do.  I’m not fit to carry his accordion, thus why mine is a computer print-off, glued to foam boarding, and attached to a dollar-store lanyard that reads “I’m unique, just like everyone else.”  Ideally, I was looking for one saying “My other accordion’s a Borsini”, but what can you do?

As a special treat, I’d get Eric Nagler to do a Sewerphone solo.  If I’m going to do toilet humor, I may as well get the man with the rightly-named tool for the job.  He seems like an approachable man, but highly doubt a childhood icon would reduce himself to being the exclamation mark on a fart joke.

Pumpkin Crush

(to the tune of “Orange Crush” by R.E.M.)

Halloween, Oh Halloween)

I’ve got my bag

I’ve got my costume on

(Trick or treat, Oh trick or treat)

It took some time to put my makeup on

(Give us something good to eat)

I’m at your door and now you’ll need to

(Anything but shredded wheat)

Hand your candy over please

Make it fast, my arms are getting tired (tiiii-errrrrd!!!)

(Halloween, Oh Halloween)

I’ve got my bag

I’ve got my costume on

(Trick or treat, oh trick or treat)

You can’t ignore me much longer than this

(I don’t need your O’ Henry)

Tomorrow they’ll be half-off, but if

(Or your homemade wrapped taffy)

You think you can out-wait me

I’ll be back and you’ll regret it

OOOO! OOOOOO! (ghost howls and haunted house sound effects in the background)

(Spoken through megaphone)

Let’s go through this list one more time. Three dozen expired eggs, not pickled eggs like last year, Mark. A 36-roll family pack of toilet paper. Don’t forget the stink bombs, Steve. We spent all Sunday making those things. And grab your favourite instrument of destruction. Hockey stick, baseball bat, whatever. Those pumpkins don’t smash themselves. Am I missing anything? No? Okay, let’s go make this a Halloween to truly remember!

(Halloween, Oh Halloween)

I’ve got my bag

I’ve got my costume on

(Trick or treat, oh trick or treat)

My perspiration wiped my makeup off

(You made a monkey out of me)

We gave up, now it’s time to protest your

(Throw that T.P. up a tree!)

No-candy policy

Pumpkin crush, time to flee

OOOO! OOOOOO! (ghost howls and haunted house sound effects in the background)

(Megaphone:)

Caught read handed

Jimmy bailed

Never liked him

Too old for this crap

Next year a new plan

Better time management

R-rated horror flicks

And raid my parent’s liquor cabinet

It’s only fair that I end this entry with a seasonally-appropriate song, and bookend my little experiment by making light of another song about a serious topic (Vietnam). “Orange Crush” just sounds so bouncy and happy musically (that bass line!) that I felt it appropriate to take the lyrics to some kids trying to have a fun on what is one of the most fun holidays of the year. Such uncertainties over using the song are the exact reason why Weird Al seeks permission from the original songwriters before proceeding with his work.

R.E.M. could be okay with it. Contrary to popular belief, Michael Stipe has been known to crack a smile or two.  Look no further than their video for “Stand” from the very same album as he struggles to hold back laughter near the very end.  I don’t think they’d mind the song being used in a different context, considering the fact that I’ve heard it used as bumper music during NFL broadcasts.

Or they may just not think I’m funny.  No biggie!  It’s not the end of the world, at least as I know it.  I feel fine 🙂


That seems close enough to an album’s worth of Weird Al songs, so I’ll leave it at that.  He did throw a polka styled medley of popular songs in as one of his tracks, so I’d need to figure out how I’d replace that.  Maybe a heavy metal-mashup of his songs? Polka versions of some underground Canadian bands?  A dubstep tribute to the unrelated Frankie Yankovic?  I’m not going to record any of this anyway, so there’s no point in fretting over it.

I’ll admit that, for whatever the quality of my work, it was a struggle.  It was so easy for me to get the chorus of a song, and dust off my hands thinking I’d be good for the rest of it.  My difficulty in completing the above lyrical exercise only gave me a deeper appreciation for what Weird Al has accomplished with his music.  His career has spanned four decades, and he still finds ways to reach new generations of fans.  I’ve come to accept it.  I’ll never be Weird Al.  I should put aside these lofty aspirations of making these Halloween metamorphoses once and for all.

After next year.  Something tells me I’d like to be Leonardo Di Caprio, and I’d do anything to try.

Let’s Watch A Music Video : Winger – Headed for a Heartbreak

winger

Those who know me know that I’m a bit of a metal head.  Not in a Destro sense, mind you.  I’m referring to the music genre.  I probably didn’t even need to say the Destro thing.  You won’t see him in the moshpit at a Dillinger Escape Plan concert, though I’m sure he appreciates a good shout out as much as the next man.

My musical tastes span pretty far these days, but when I was first really getting into music on my own, metal seemed to be the one that called out to me (fittingly) the loudest.  Before I had a big enough allowance that allowed me to routinely buy albums at the mall, the only albums I remember owning were cassettes of Oasis’ What’s The Story (Morning Glory)?, Weird Al Yankovic’s Bad Hair Day, and the second Presidents of The United States of America album.  My brother owned Silverchair’s Frogstomp and Freakshow, the first Presidents album, a few compilation tapes, and Ozzy Osbourne’s No More Tears.  That was pretty much the bulk of our music exposure for the few years prior to high school plus some compilation albums and other tapes from my parent’s collection that we rotated throughout our family summer road trips.  I still like all of that music I listed, but my nostalgia meter goes off the charts the most for the Ozzy, though I only recall listening to it aloud once as a child.

My brother and I were riding in the back bench of our family’s 1986 Chevy Van during an evening trip, and we stared out the rear window as we drove through an epic thunderstorm. The combination of sights and sounds (particularly during the title track) blew my young mind, evoking the headbanging spirit of Wayne Campbell that, to date, had yet to awaken within me.  If we drove past a wolf howling at the moon, a viking graveyard, or a pitchfork-wielding mob cornering an alleged witch, that would have completed the metal trifecta.  Nothing could have stopped me at that point from growing out a mullet in time for my yearbook photo in the fall.  Unfortunately, the tape was never played aloud again for some reason.  I’m guessing it either triggered my mother’s migraines, or my little sister just couldn’t get into anything heavier than Sharon, Lois & Bram.

It was a struggle to make my way through a genre of music that, though relatively young, is rather diverse.  In the near future, I began to dabble with the likes of Limp Bizkit and Disturbed before finding longer-lasting tastes in the metal underground in Opeth, Enslaved, and Carcass.  It was actually a long process, and I pretty much gave every sub-genre of metal a chance.  Some artists took a bit longer for me to acquire the taste, and others were like poison to my ears (Poison?) under any circumstances.  Looking back, and taking into account all the exploration I did within the metal genre, I’m a little surprised I never went through a brief Winger phase.

Why Winger? They are a bit before my time, but I was a comic book reader before I was big music fan. In fact, one of my earlier cassette tapes came with a Superman comic.  Most of my first comic books were random titles from D.C., Marvel, and Valiant Comics that you’d get in a “value pack” consisting of three comics at a low price.  Do you remember back when bands actually advertised their albums in comic books?  That was my introduction to Winger, since my comic collection mostly spanned the late-80s and early 90s.  I remember an ad promoting their album In The Heart Of The Young. Their logo and cover art had a bit of a science fiction vibe to it, which appealed to the Star Trek lover in me, but I never really inquired much further about them. How was I to ever hear them? In the mid-to late-90s, there was no Youtube, and I didn’t even have internet access on my personal computer.  Like them if you want, but Winger aren’t what I’d call a word-of-mouth band.  If you came across a music store with their poster in the window, you could rightly assume the shop had long been abandoned.

My other early exposure to them was that their name was on Stewart’s t-shirt in Beavis and Butthead.  Band front man Kip Winger apparently took exception to this fact, with many pointing to this and Lars Ulrich famously throwing darts at his picture as contributing to the downfall of the band.  In reality, I’d say it’s debatable if Stewart was actually a bigger loser than Beavis and Butthead.  In spite of these two being labelled as the poster boys for juvenile delinquency, the bands on their respective shirts (Metallica and AC/DC) continued to thrive. However, if given a choice, which of the following would you rather have represent your band:

A) A slightly dorky, chubby, friendly-to-a-fault blonde kid

B) A lazy, abusive teen who’d think nothing of letting his best friend get deported

C) A twitchy, hyperactive teen so dumb he confuses constipation cramps for pregnancy

Is that better?

Is that better?

Their album may have been successful, but I find their promotional choice to be slightly puzzling.  As a group often lumped into the hair metal category, I’d think their target demographic would be teen-aged girls, not the predominantly young boys who were into comics.  Know your audience!  You wouldn’t see Cryptopsy promoting an album in Cosmopolitan, or the Dayglo Abortions listing their tour itinerary in Parents magazine (although…). Woman already flocked in droves to see hair metal acts, so why needlessly dilute the girl-to-guy ratio?  I don’t know.  I may have been reading a Betty and Veronica instead of The Punisher, so perhaps they picked their spots correctly after all.

If you ask me, the only band that should be rightfully marketed in a comic book is Kiss.  Kiss didn’t really look or sound much different from Winger in the late-80s to early 90s, but if I saw an ad for their Hot In The Shade album in a back issue of Justice League, I wouldn’t bat an eye.  Why should I?  They’ve spilled their blood for comics, man!  I once read Gene Simmons’ book Sex Money Kiss, and learned that a young Chaim Witz (Gene’s birth name) was a big comic collector and even tried his hand at drawing his own.  That was pretty much the goal of the stage image for Kiss: to bring superhero-type characters to life.  Naturally, he’d later used his other life passions to help spread the brand of the group.  Which reminds me: I wonder if anyone has ever pointed out the irony of the Kiss Kondoms to him, as they snuff out potential Kiss Army recruits if they’re to do a proper job.  Besides, between this and the Kiss Kasket, they’ve got more than enough out there for die-hards to put long, stiff objects into, but enough about them!

I promised a music video, didn’t I?  If you insist on watching from the band’s official Youtube channel, here’s a rather low resolution version you can watch out of the goodness of your heart.  If you’re a heartless bastard, watch the “corporate” version below.

Before I get into the video, I don’t want to be accused of simply bashing the band.  They may not have clicked with me, but I’ll say I definitely think they have some good chops as musicians.  Lead guitarist Reb Beach could likely play circles around most of his hair metal contemporaries, and drummer Rod Morgenstein proved himself as a worthy musician’s musician work with the Dixie Dregs.  Furthermore, vocalist/bassist Kip Winger and keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Paul Taylor also had a stint in Alice Cooper’s band, and that’s A-OK with me.

One strange thing I always found with this band was their name.  It falls in this ambiguous area of whether or not the band is named after the singer or it’s a stage name.  I’ve heard Winger as a surname before, but there’s just something about the name Kip Winger that leads me to believe it’s a pseudonym because the whole stage name thing seems big in rock bands.  Winger is passable.  The Ramones did it perfectly. Wayne Static reached further than his hairdo.

bedroomeyes

I was afraid he was going to do this.  Right as he sings the opening lines of the song, there he goes flashing those damned bedroom eyes of his.  What mortal can resist?  No wonder Playgirl came calling.  I wonder if he’s at all like Pete Steele of Type O Negative or WWE wrestling legend Shawn Michaels and regretted posing for it almost immediately afterwards. On the other hand, it’s not as if appearing in that magazine ever did much harm or good for anybody’s career.  Did you know that they still make Playgirl?  I sure didn’t.  I bet Justin Trudeau could go full-frontal in it, and it would still fly under the radar.

In a way, I think Kip Winger was ahead of the times. While never sporting a full-blown beard, he has that unshaven look that many women dig nowadays. It goes against the grain (Ha!  Ha!  Shaving!!) of what other bands of the time were doing.  But it didn’t stop at the neck.  He’s flaunting that chest hair with the pride of an expecting mother.  Sporting a few undone buttons to reveal a hint of pectoral mane surely works on some women.  Used correctly, it can be the masculine equivalent of cleavage.  Maybe Kip was trying to make his chest hair work for him like how Robert Plant let his jeans do the talking.  Am I wrong?

It seems like the 80s was a prime time for chest hair acceptance. I’m curious to know what the ladies think of this. I may give the chest hairs a trim every now and then, but I feel I have to maintain something on my skin. If I waxed or fully shaved, I’d have the body of a twelve year old boy. Do you need to be greatly muscled or have six-pack abs to pull of the hairless look? Would the fairer sex be so eager to snuggle up close with Channing Tatum if he rocked Mother Nature’s sweater?

Where is your God now?

Where is your God now?

Full disclosure: I wanted to close the preceding paragraph/photo with pun playing off a Channing Tatum film name.  I aborted the effort, and I’ll tell you why.  I was going to say something along the lines of “More like Itch Perfect, AM I RIGHT??”.  The film I was trying to think of was Magic Mike and not Pitch Perfect, which he probably is not in.  Also, I think it would be more itchy if you got intimate with a man who shaves his chest regularly instead of a man who resembles a barber shop floor.  Not that I’ve thought to deeply about the subject.  That’s just what I hear from my female friends… when… I… ask them for descriptive anecdotes about making love to hairy men???  Fuck it! I’m bailing on this paragraph.  So much for honesty!

Anyway, in spite of all his hair, Kip was not afraid to show his feminine side either. While he didn’t raid his girlfriend’s makeup drawer like other bands of the era, he could pull of some dance moves that would make Patrick Swayze green with envy. This video is a bad example of that, but this is the only Winger video I’ve seen where he doesn’t pirouette.  I’m convinced this song was chosen as the next single solely to buy some foot recovery time following “Madalaine” and “Seventeen”.

In case you couldn’t tell from my constant need to side-track, there isn’t really that much to discuss with this music video.  It is mostly shots of a band rehearsing a song in a studio.  Then I noticed all the wardrobe changes that take place throughout the video.  I often hear people say that they hate watching performance videos, so maybe this was their weak attempt at trying to keep our attention.  Music videos are far too short to contain continuity errors otherwise.

Videos like this one come across as more of a fashion show than anything else. With not much of a plot in place, the director figures that they may as well dress up in the latest overpriced fashions. Wardrobe changes like this can be downright distracting. I’ve seen this theme in countless rock and metal videos of the late 80s and early 90s. Oddly enough, one of the first times I remember seeing this was in Dream Theater’s “Take The Time” video.  It goes without saying that this was well before they learned that their heroes in Yes and Rush didn’t build their cult followings by playing to a bunch of salivating sorority sisters.  It would take more than a flashy shirt or two to get young women to wrap their heads around Tales from Topographic Oceans.

Aside from this, we are also treated to quite a fetching blonde women woven throughout the video as the sole actress.  She appears faded too far in the background for my liking.  I’m not saying she has to go all “Girls, Girls, Girls” on us.  I appreciate her classy sense of fashion.  I literally mean she gets lost in a few of these shots.  I had to watch the video at least five time before I saw her leaning against an amplifier.  It gave off a bit of a Three Men and a Baby ghost vibe.

ghostwoman

A ghost theory could actually make sense in the context of this video.  I’m no English major, but this song definitely has the makings of a breakup song to me.  What reason would this broad have to hang around on a multi-day video shoot to listen to some guy bash her?  And are those papers that are blowing across the set his failed attempts at writing this song?  So that would mean she’s even sitting in on the composition phase of this project.  She’d either have to be a ghost checking in on her former lover, or she’s as thick as a brick.  This video could be weeks in the making for all we know, considering that Kip has gone through more image changes here than Madonna.  She’s been wearing the same dress, mind you, but I don’t think ghosts need to change clothes like the living do.  They either keep the outfit that they die in, or choose their favourite clothes to wear to leave the best impression they can on those they are haunting.  They never modernize their look or wardrobe.  They’re pretty much only capable of moving furniture around or looking sad.

On that note, there’s plenty of crying being done by this woman.  I hope that these are actually genuine tears, and she was hired for her ability to tear up on command.  I’d hate to think they passed up the next Meryl Streep just to hastily slap together a promo video.  This closeup of her crying was pretty much the only mandatory thing required in terms of performance, yet I’m not quite buying it from this woman.  The ladies in Robert Palmer’s videos showed more compelling emotional range than this.

crymeariver

Still beats anything in my acting reel

The video just kind of fizzles out at the end, as we see this woman overlooking a pool while Kip struggles to swim. This leads me to believe that she didn’t do enough crying to fill this pool with her own tears. Tears are salty, so I’d think the resulting salt water would potentially make it easier for him to swim. I’m no scientist though, and the fine folks at MythBusters told me that they wouldn’t indulge in theories derived from hair metal videos.

I’ll safely assume that the final act of the video is to give us insight on the couple’s breakup, but the details are a bit sketchy.  All I can conclude for certain is that she finally got sick of being with the type of guy that jumps into pools at parties while fully clothed.

Cartridge Creativity 2 – Atari Boogaloo

I’ve entered an almost obsessive video game purchasing phase.  It all started with Syndicate for the Sega Genesis, but it came on pretty strong once the Toronto Raptors began their playoff run.  It was sort of a security net in a strange way to look forward to something in the event that they lost.  Things were looking grim versus Indiana, so I grabbed a good sampling of NES games.  Miami looked pretty threatening, so Ghostbusters: The Video Game for the PS3 was next to be shipped.  Cleveland were flat out destroying us, so I went a bit crazy.  My most recent purchase? An Atari 2600.

Technically, I shouldn’t have nostalgia at all for this system.  By the time I was born, Nintendo was starting to make all things Atari seem like a distant memory.  Nonetheless, my first ever video game system was a Coleco Gemini (an Atari 2600 clone) that my brother, older sister, and I bought at a rummage sale out of some guy’s Quonset hut.  It cost somewhere between 8 and 20 dollars, but considering we only had a dollar-a-week allowance, it was still a significant investment even for three kids to be making. The console had been as good as dead for about a decade, but we naively thought that playing Joust or California Games would make us forget how our friends were one Christmas away from a Sony Playstation.

What makes the Atari so special for me? I like the ability to pick up a game, and put it down without worrying about where I left off, what the controls are, or having to wait through load screen after load screen before you start playing. The last point goes without saying in this case. Nobody in their right mind would sit through a load screen if Space War awaited them on the other side.

Since I now have about 60 games waiting to be played (they’re pretty darn cheap!), it’s time to stop the buying and get down to playing them.  However, I want to enjoy them in another way first.  I did something like this before, so I’m giving it another go. Going by the cartridge art alone, I’ll do my best to determine what the following Atari 2600 games are all about.

I’ll use my newfound love for Forrest MacNeil’s hit TV show as inspiration, and give each game a rating out of five stars.

(photo source: Atari Age)

Yars’ Revenge

Yar

This is likely the most popular game I’m going to cover, but it’s obscure enough to know jack about without ever having played it.  It’s not like I don’t know my Atari basics.  I don’t think that Super Breakout is about misplacing your acne medication, or that Space Invaders is about going on vacation with your in-laws. This game is one that would take a little more research to figure out what the plot is.  Unless you’re me.

What Trekkie can’t help but think of Tasha Yar from Star Trek: The Next Generation when hearing this game’s title?  I can remember her tragic death all too well, being swallowed whole by a living tar pit in the epsidoe “Skin of Evil”. It was traumatizing watching this transpire as a child.

Actually, I misremembered.  That wasn’t her.  It was Riker.  He got the cool death, and he didn’t even die.  I wonder if this brush with death is what caused him to grow the beard.  Either that or he was convinced it was all that was missing from being able to pull off this cute little number, but I digress.

Yar did not seek revenge from the entity that killed her.  Yar (well, Denise Crosby) sought revenge against the show. Initially, she begged to get back on show so she could undo the embarrassment of being defeated so easily by an aggravated oil spill.  While they couldn’t bring her back full-time, a compromise was reached where she’d get a few guest appearances, and her very own Atari game.  The downside, on top of the game being released on an obsolete platform, was that she could not use her likeness in the game.

Her character was not directly replaced by a new cast member, but she was secretly hoping it would be a giant insect.  Seeing as that never came to fruition, she took her concept to Atari headquarters and they went above and beyond the call of duty to put this creature (also named Yar) into a game.

The game itself is nothing to write home about.  Denise Crosby’s idea of revenge was for Yar to be reincarnated as a housefly and circle around the heads of show producers to keep them from enjoying their martinis from the back patios of their mansions.  Taking the creative liberties that video games allow to it’s full potential, she boldly goes where no bug has gone before as she’s blessed with the power to blow soap bubbles through her mouth (or whatever the insect equivalent is) to bring the level of annoyance up a peg.

Good luck lasting more than five minutes in this game because it doesn’t take long to learn that the rich don’t skimp out when it comes to fly paper, sugar-water traps, and an army of overworked yet underpaid swatter butlers.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.  Decent, but best left to die-hard Yar fans.

Word Zapper

wordzapper

I once had a Speak & Read, as many youngsters did.  However, I’m certain that I’m in the vast minority in the belief that the voice coming out of it was that of my father. Since he was an electronics hobbyist, it was only natural to think that he could design such a device and sell it to hundreds of thousands of children worldwide, all while putting in a 40-plus hour work week at General Motors and helping raise children.

The title of this game is an obvious play off one of the game modes within the Speak & Read: Word Zap.  I have to zap a ton of words on the way to tracking down my missing father: “sad”, “cry”, “woe”, “hurt”, “pain”, etc.  Level bosses include “neglect”, “cruelty”, and “abandonment”, surprising since I thought Speak & Reads was limited to four-letter words.

In a twist not dissimilar from Metroid, I find out that it is not my father, but my mother who is trapped inside my beloved childhood toy.  Tricked me good!  Digitized speech could be a bitch to make out.

Rating: 4 out of 5.  Highly recommended for Family Game Night.

See Saw

seesaw

You’d think that this game is about trying to get a nice see-saw rally going, but if this cart photo is any indication, this is not to be the friendliest of circus spectacles.  Typically, a well-executed see-saw consists of one person down on their end at ground level, and the other person is up in the air (either seated or airborne, depending on the applied force).  Here we see both participants airborne, so one of them is trying to bail on the other.

The object of the game must be to see which participant can be the bigger dick to the other.  Your choice is between two characters: a clown and an acrobat.  Seeing as I detest clowns and deeply regret ever having dressed as one for Halloween, I’d choose to play as the acrobat.  I have no particular attachment to the acrobat, and find men in tights oddly intimidating, but he’s the lesser of two evils.

The beauty about bailing on the clown is that if he wipes out from a thirty foot drop, two round balloons quickly inflate and burst from his groin region.  The acrobat’s crashes, on the other hand, are flat-out devastating.  If he falls victim to too many of the clown’s pranks, he’s off to a six-month physical rehab stint, which the player must guide him through in real-time.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.  Even the accompanying vouchers for free lifetime joystick replacements couldn’t rescue it from the bargain bins.

A Team

ateam

Note that this is a prototype game, so I assume this never went into production. You can’t get much more 80s than The A-Team and Atari, and this sounds like a match made in heaven. While it’s a natural assumption that this game was delayed because the resolution made it difficult to fine-tune Hannibal’s patented cigar chomp, that was not the case. This game would have nothing to do with the hit TV show.

The problem the staff had was that they could never decide which team would be the star of this game. Some wanted to make an Avengers-based game, others wanted a dominant sports dynasty like the New York Islanders, and a few votes went to The Get-Along Gang for some reason.  My mom must have got to them.

As this is apparently straight from the lab, I’m not ruling out typos on the label. This could have easily been about A Meat, an honest mistake for a quick typist.  Maybe it was intended to star Officer Big Mac, maybe it was the working title for BurgerTime, or maybe it was part of an inside joke at Atari.  I’m sure coding the software department’s lunch orders onto an extra Defender cartridge would never grow tired on the local Arby’s staff.

Rating: N/A.  Please message me if you own this game and are willing to donate it to me.  If not, I’ll forgive you if you can hook me up with Seasons 1 and 5 of The A-Team on DVD, both of which I’m also missing.

Basic Programming

basic

No matter what data is cased within this cartridge, the name alone triggers a painful memory.  I had a class in my first attempt at university that was my introduction to computer programming.  Appropriately enough, the class was called Introduction to Programming.  To play this game is to re-live that nightmare of a course.

The class seemed enjoyable enough, but just as I’m getting the grasp of if-else statements, I’m thrown to the wolves and asked to design a simulation of a functioning bicycle factory.  The ultimate goal was to re-design an existing factory so the floor layout allowed for the most efficiency in the production process.  Even though it was a group project, my confidence was shaky, and I felt like I let my team down.  Introduction to Programming my ass!

Those men on the cover also look like fish out of water.  Leaving a helpless Formula One pit crew to man Mission Control on an Apollo mission with little more than a “Good luck with that!” to guide them.  That’s exactly how I felt as a nervous 18-year old that never faced a project more complex than a 1000 page book report about Death of a Salesman.

When we finally finished (well, when my partners finished and I recovered from a panic attack), we had a factory layout that we were satisfied with.  Our professor ripped it to shreds.  Our layout saved the company around twenty minutes to produce the same level of output in a day.  Other groups presented plans that they claimed increased efficiency by over 150%, some going above 200%.

THAT’S NOT TRUE! THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE!!

The only parameter that was in our control was the floor on which the forklifts moved to transfer parts from one production zone to the next.  Doubling production output wasn’t going to happen.  At best, one department could be beside the next to reduce travel time, but all assembly times (for frames, brakes, wheels, etc.) were fixed variables, whose values far outweighed the best-case-scenario forklift travel times.  It’s not as if the factory was the size of a small town.  We’re talking 100 by 100 meters maximum.  This ain’t Schwinn we’re dealing with here.  Whoever convinced the plant owner that more than two forklifts were needed should be forced to stand in front of a moving one.

Our professor was the head of the School of Business at the university, thus he couldn’t give his students the time of day for any guidance.  Why hand such an important course for aspiring engineers over to this guy?  The rest of the computer science professors must have been too busy teaching Forensic Psychology classes.

Rating: 1 out of 5. Learning curve far too high.

Billard

billard

The title is no typo.  Billard is most definitely a proper sport. Look all day for it, and you won’t find it.  Aside from the above photo, any description or direct reference to it was scrubbed from the internet.  I’m putting my butt on the line by even telling you this.  I’m just trying to protect a man who wants the world to forget a regrettable incident.

My neighbour told me all about the game when I went over to apologize for mistaking his pet hedgehog for crabgrass while mowing the lawn.  I guess he figured I kill a beloved animal, he gets to tell me his life story.  Fair trade, I suppose.

The cart depicts the rich history of this game of champions, which was only played on one occasion.  He concocted the basic rules when he was high on coke (the straw in the bottom right corner), and listening to Traffic’s The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys album (the sleeve on which he lined said cocaine).  The original rules were scrapped when he received the sobering news that he had custody of his young daughter on the eve of Easter.  No time to invent the next Ultimate Frisbee, for he had but a few hours to prepare.

Being pressed for time, he hid Easter eggs in the most obvious places.  He hardly had any furniture to hide eggs, so he did as best as he could while coming off his high.  He clumsily disguised the eggs as billiard balls, getting the colors entirely wrong in the process.

Having somewhat of an estranged relationship with his daughter, he neglected to realize she was too old to believe in the Easter Bunny.  There was little for the two of them to do once she arrived other than shoot some pool.  This is how Billard began (and just as quickly ended).

She overlooked the fact the balls were oblong, knowing that her dad had little money, and that this was all he could afford.  He had her fooled until she took the opening brake.  He forgot to hard-boil the eight-ball, and erupted in anger at his daughter for staining his pool table.  Never mind the fact he used the same pool table to sleep, eat, and fornicate on, so a bit of yoke was the least of his worries.

Regretting blowing that occasion to bond with his daughter, he put the memory in game form as some weird therapeutic practice, and managed to chuck the lone copy in a New Mexico-based landfill.  Years later, a simple apology did more to help him than the thousands of hours it took him to develop the game, and he and his daughter are now closer than ever.

If the story didn’t have such a good ending, I’d feel bad for betraying his trust.

Rating: 2 out of 5. Inventive, but no market appeal.

Bobby Is Going Home

bobbyisgoinghome

These third-party titles never seemed to have artwork that was very inspiring.  I can only assume that the same carries over to the game itself.  When they limit their art to what they can salvage from the garbage bin of a high school art class, they get what they pay for.

It’s awful hard for Bobby to go home when he’s too big to fit into his house.  At least the perspective of this painting leads me to believe this is the case.  Either that or he’s hovering in the air.  It’s as if they took a perfectly ordinary nature scene and slipped a boy and house in as an afterthought.  Why else would someone bury a house into a hillside?  This isn’t Bag End.

Like virtually any Atari game, Bobby Is Going Home was super minimal from a graphics standpoint.  You’d often need a story as a guide or you’d be left to your imagination. The manual would usually list the plot of the game as well as the controls, but you’d be lucky to get an entire paragraph of set-up.  Games not produced within Atari headquarters were often given as little description as possible (if any at all), so I’ll opt with no description at all.  The title already states the objective, so why do we need to know any further details?  You don’t always feel like telling your taxi driver how your day went, do you?  Just help the guy get home, and leave the taxicab confessions for Taxicab Confessions.

Bobby is represented by a blue dot.  His home is represented by a red dot.  You start at one side of the screen, and the house is on the other side.  Attempt to use the joystick to walk Bobby in a straight line from one end of the screen to the other, and that’s all.

I don’t blame the hardcore gamer if this one isn’t on their radar. It’s rather obscure. The game was demoed in police headquarters as a sobriety test to use at the drunk tank, and for repairmen to calibrate television sets.

Rating:  0.5 out of 5.  Utter crap.

Catch Time

catchtime

People cannot remember any classic character that is uniquely an Atari product, and perhaps this is the reason why.  Marty Atari was the company’s idea for a spokes-character to boost the brand worldwide.  Catch Time was to be the first of several planned family-friendly adventure titles that would feature Marty.  Unfortunately, thrilling follow-ups such as Dry The Dishes, Study Buddy, and Grandma Visit never hit the shelves.

Marty sure is a fussy eater, but try telling that to his mother!  The daft woman wants the boy to get three square meals a day, which include not so desirable items like steamed cauliflower and brussel sprouts.  Marty would take a week’s worth of detention over a glass full of prune juice.  Help him consume dishes fresh from his preferred menu: doughnuts, tacos, pizza, and hot dogs while avoiding as much nutrition as possible.  Locate his Holy Grail of cuisine, a peanut butter Manwich, for a 10,000 point bonus.

Why would they call it Catch Time?  Wouldn’t a title like Food Frenzy be more fitting?  Probably, but they wanted kids to see the consequences of their actions.  Catch Time acts as both title and Surgeon General warning: Treat your body like a garbage compactor, and who knows what you’ll catch.  Gout, salmonella, diabetes, the list goes on.  Your best-case scenario is getting a bad stomach ache, and spending your day-off school parked in front of the TV.  Granted, you’ll be stuck watching Coronation Street while your mom is in your ear updating you on each character’s lengthy backstory, imitating their respective accents while doing so.

Rating:  3 out of 5.  It has it’s share of bright spots.  The game play lends itself to an interesting challenge if you follow your mother’s dietary guidelines, but that’s about as fun as a night at the strip club while blindfolded.

Communist Mutants From Space

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I’m sure Chekov was called much worse than that by Scotty after downing too much Romulan ale, but I’ve already covered Star Trek (plus they already have this cool Atari game).  No, this game really breaks down some barriers.

It wasn’t until Rocky IV came out when the public’s hearts opened up to those behind the Iron Curtain.  All it took was an actor pretending to be Mikael Gorbachev giving Rocky a heart-warming standing ovation to make us all forget about an unnecessary death in a meaningless exhibition match.  If this game got the publicity that Super Mario Bros. received, Rocky IV would be reduced to a footnote of pop culture, and Dolph Lundgren would go back to being the most physically-intimidating chemical engineer in Sweden.

Make no mistake.  These are meant to be Soviet aliens.  The details are staring us in the face.  The Hammer and Sickle on the bomb, the Molotov cocktail, and premature baldness are all dead giveaways.  Why isn’t the one mutant wearing a Red Army-issued uniform?  He’s standing front-center, so he must be the lead character.

This is propaganda is it’s purest form. Have you ever seen the Disney cartoon where Donald Duck is a Nazi soldier? This is the gaming equivalent.  Vladimir wishes desperately to be part of a capitalist nation, so he begins to rebel.  His obsession over a bootlegged Purple Rain cassette tape inspires his turtleneck colour of choice.  It may look subtle, but it expands from there.  Carefully guide Vladimir through various missions to help spread his infectious attitude towards the western way of living.  If successful, he’ll have his comrades dressing like The Cure in no time!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5. Gets unfairly compared to Tetris due to the Russian connection, but nobody would waste their time porting borderline-average games onto graphing calculators, would they?

I Want My Mommy

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Don’t let the rainbow banner fool you.  Without a doubt, this is the darkest game on the Atari 2600.

As you can guess from the title, mommy is not home.  Janie is left in the hands of high school junior Stacy Grimm, the babysitter from hell.  Keep in mind that this game came out in the early 80s.  She wouldn’t lock Janie in her room so she could raid the liquor closet in private and make out with her 34-year old boyfriend who was her first follower on Instagram.  She locked Janie in her room so she could raid the liquor closet in private and make out with her 34-year old boyfriend who literally just followed her around the mall one day.  Different era entirely.

Knowing that, you may not find the KidStuff brand label to be appropriate.  This is in reference to the ridiculously easy difficulty level.  You don’t play as Janie.  You witness the game from the point of view of her stuffed animal.  Note that I said witness, and not play as.  Even the most rudimentary of examinations will tell you that dolls do not have the sense of sight (Teddy Ruxpin‘s eyes only looked as if they’re following you around the room).  You have button eyes, therefore you’ll see nothing but a black screen.

What part of “darkest game on the Atari 2600” don’t you understand?

Rating: N/A. I think my copy is defective, but I can’t be certain.

Secret Quest

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This is the only game I’ve seen that has the picture of the game designer right on the cartridge.  The picture is close to actual size (if not larger), and you still can’t read the text box.  This is obviously his first game as that’s a total n00b mistake.

Is the character’s helmet necessary?  I don’t think it’s for protection.  Is for anonymity, to protect himself from being sued over the unauthorized use of a lightsaber?  Is he embarrassed because his disturbingly dark nipples show through his suit?  No need to be ashamed.  George Clooney overcame a similar nipple no-no, so it isn’t a career breaker.

Is this a super-hero tale?  No.  I don’t believe the Supermen of the world could take a leak without making front page news, so no quest can truly be secret.  In fact, the quest doesn’t even belong to the cosplayer on the dollar-store budget.  The beast that stands before him is the game’s protagonist, Dragona.  He teleported to Earth from a distant galaxy to help squash a rapidly developing problem.

You see, much like Gamera, Dragona is a friend of all children.  When he caught wind of a growing number of adults transporting toys from the playroom to the man cave, he wouldn’t stand for it.  Toys are meant to be enjoyed by the young, dammit!  Not only will he disarm this foe of his Nerf fencing sword, but rid the remaining henchmen of their Hulk Hands, Super Soakers, and red-hot Creepy Crawlers moulds (an excellent projectile if you lack the only Frisbee man enough for the job).

The final, most-difficult enemy you’ll face is Hector Billingsley, the world’s most eccentric and passionate toy collector.  The man never came across a Slinky he couldn’t untangle, or a Cabbage Patch Kid he wouldn’t adopt.  If you can get past his top body guards (Fisher and Price), be prepared for a tantrum the likes of which Toys R Us has never hosted.   How will Dragona stack up against a maniacal man who insists on driving to work in his Power Wheels Jeep?

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.  I’m not afraid to say how much I empathize with the antagonists.

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Not included on shelf: an age restriction or evidence of a woman being within 30 feet of it

I intend on this Atari phase to be the end of my game purchasing journey for several months.  However, the Raptors are struggling to improve their roster through free agency.  They’d better make some moves soon because I really don’t think I need a Virtual Boy.

#FitMom

They walk among us.  They appear without warning.  They may not resonate with all of us, but to those with whom they do, it is perhaps the rarest form of beauty that the eye can see.  Unicorns launch themselves head-first into lava pits over regret of their comparative lack of majesty.  You’ve already read the title, so you know I’m talking fit moms.

What is a fit mom?  Depending on your viewpoint, it is either a mother who has done a magnificent job raising her offspring, or a mother who is physically stunning.  A mom can be both these things, and I’ll address each of them, but my focus skews towards the latter.

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Sarah Connor #FitSingleMom

My brother and I get pleasure from finding new or interesting ways of describing things that we observe.  Call them inside jokes or extensions of our secret twin language developed in the womb.  Sometimes it comes from inventing new pronunciations of words, and sometimes it comes from reverting back to grade school maturity.

One phrase we’ve been known to bounce around is “She’s fit!” as a way to describe a woman who catches our attention.  I’m not claiming that we coined the term (we didn’t), and admit it is a rather vague proclamation.  It could mean she’s an overall great gal or is relationship material.  It could also mean that you think her curves are so out-of-this-world that Richard Dreyfuss sculpts them in his mashed potatoes.  It’s not necessarily rooted in lewdness.  It’s just a fun way of stating to each other an interest in a woman while keeping it brief.

I don’t know what it is exactly, but I find it particularly pleasing when I see a mother in this context, a “fit mom”.  It brings a smile to my face seeing a woman out in the wild being active with her children when, perhaps for physical and possibly sexist reasons, I wouldn’t expect her to be a mother just by looking at her.  I don’t think it’s any deeper than that.  It has nothing to do with breastfeeding envy, I’ll tell you that much. Aggressively gnawed nipples don’t do a thing for this guy.  I don’t know why I felt the need to share that, but it’s out there now.

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Jane Jetson #FitCartoonMom

Part of the attention surely comes out of the respect that I have for moms in general.  There is lots of heavy lifting involved when it comes to being half of a parenting team.  I was apparently a pretty good kid, but I still did my share of putting my mom through her paces.  I think of all the times she had to drag me crying my way out of the toy aisles at Zellers because she didn’t want to spoil me, or the fuss I’d make about some home-cooked meal because it wasn’t marketed by the one clown that (for some reason) didn’t creep me out.  To deal routinely with these illogical, pint-sized annoyances, and somehow find a way to raise them to become respectable and moral adults, is highly commendable.  Anyway, as unfitting as it may or may not seem, I want to keep my mother out of this.  I’ll honour her properly on Mother’s Day when I’m not busy lusting after what are most likely unattainable women.

That brings me to the following point.  I can see meeting a single mom in the online dating community, but if you see one out in the real world, it brings up uncertainty.  The primary reason that meeting a mom for the purposes of dating would be difficult is what is (most likely) the higher probability that she isn’t single.  Even if you factor in divorce rates, I’m guessing it would be at least twice as likely that the woman has a boyfriend if not a husband.  If there was legitimate interest, what is a poor boy (me, not her theoretical son) to do?

I saw a prime example of one when grocery shopping a few weeks ago.  She was pretty, which was notable off the bat.  Seeing that she had a kid with her didn’t really phase me, but seeing he was well behaved may have helped.  I’ve never actually seen bratty children making a big scene at my local store, but I conveniently forgot this fact when assessing the situation.  I’ve read places that grocery stores are a good place to meet women.  I’m not sure if there is such thing as a good place to meet women, actually.  I’m pretty sure I’m just remembering that from a Seinfeld episode, which is not the best source for dating advice.

In another circumstance, I’d want to approach a woman like her.  Out of my league possibly, if you believe in that sort of thing, but I had the urge nonetheless.  Then my self doubt kicked in.  How would I expect the conversation to go?  I’m no fan of stock pickup lines, yet nervousness may bring out the worst in me.

Me: “It’s real nice of you to take your younger brother shopping with you.”

Her: (uncomfortable giggle) “No, he’s my son.”

Me: “Yeah, I had a feeling, but even though we aren’t in the frozen food aisle, I felt like I needed an icebreaker.”

Her: (slightly more uncomfortable giggle)

Me: “Because sometimes you need to literally break through the ice to grab that last bag of peas.”

Her: “Yeah, I got it.”

Me: “.. and if that’s the case, someone really ought to tell the store manager to run a defrost!”

Her: “Well, look at the time! Better beat the rush to the checkout line.” (quickly paces away)

Me: “But your cart’s empty….” (lowers head in disappointment, then walks to the snack aisle for some comfort Zesty Cheese – flavoured Doritos)

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Sarah Shahi #FitFlirtyMom

I’m not a religious man, but those among you may feel my fascination would violate the biblical commandment “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s spouse”, whatever the number or exact phrasing may be.  How the heck am I supposed to control my own thoughts?  My actions I can control, but not my thoughts.  There are plenty of worse thoughts you can have besides how sexy some dude’s wife is.  “When does the next Adam Sandler movie come out?” springs to mind.

I’m not an active guy on social media.  If I’m completely honest, I mainly use Facebook to keep track of what bands are coming to town.  If I had more of an online presence, I’d love to champion some sort of #FitMom movement.  Sure, it might be because I’m a drooling pig, but I find this label more respectful than the widely used MILF acronym.  MILF is far too awkward to explain to someone not familiar with the expression, and a danger to throw around to those who are.  One man’s intended compliment could be one woman’s grounds for a restraining order (or a fit dad’s excuse for testing out his fit fists).

I envision an ongoing Twitter or Instagram feed based around a fit mom theme.  I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be super creepy, but I’m sure I’m not the only one that would be interested by these stately creatures.  I’m used to doing the blog thing by now even though my rate of output is a bit on the slow side.  I could always start a new site to track and inform the world on my findings.  This would counter some of the more off-putting images one can find on places like that Walmart blog, as I’ll make this as classy and tasteful as possible.  Submissions will be welcome with open arms, but the important thing is that we all need to be smart mom watchers (yeah, that does sound creepy).

The Bride #FitMomWithHighBodyCount

The Bride #FitMomWithHighBodyCount

How are we to know if a woman is a #FitMom?  Would seeing a woman jogging with a stroller be enough to qualify?  Seemingly, but there are several factors at play.  She could be a nanny trying to multitask, running with a child as she completes some errands.  Should that qualify?  Keep in mind that the kid might have more attachment to the nanny than her own biological parents.

You could also be witnessing a baby-napper on the run.  There may not be that much malicious intent involved.  This is just a desperate woman who’ll do anything to win #FitMom status if only for a few brief minutes while the decidedly less-fit parents pursue her in a vehicle that the caregiver, with a wage below living standards, had no prayer of ever affording.  Still, this act should be unforgiveable.  Nobody should be deceitfully earning #FitMom props, even if they were born to wear yoga pants.

Did we even take a look in the stroller?  She could be pushing a honey dew melon with a Sharpie face, for all we know.  #FitMom labels cannot be bought.  Well, I guess money has to change hands when it comes to adopting, so that’s an obvious exception.  It has to be a human child that is being adopted.  I’m not going to leave a loophole where you can adopt a highway and be in the running.  Besides, if the best chance for quality time with him is during rush hour, it’s safe to say you’d be in no mood for that game of catch.

Jane Seymour #FitGrandMom

Jane Seymour #FitGrandMom

As the stroller example shows, there is no way to verify you are a #FitMom beyond a shadow of a doubt.  We’ll have to settle on you being seen doing something motherly with your child.  Remember: You can’t spell “mother” without “other”.  The kid has to enjoy it, too.  No crybabies aloud!  I’ll let that rule slide if the photo is of you feeding your kid his or her vegetables.  It’s that type of activity that is only acceptable by a parent.  In some countries, forcing veggies onto strange children is grounds for execution.

I know what you’re thinking, but don’t you dare bring Mr. T into this!  While his trademark hair may resemble sprouts to some, his thing was milk, which apparently does a body good (#FutureFitMom??).  He also told us to “Treat Your Mother Right”, so his heart is in the right place.  If ma says no milk for her lactose intolerant girl, T will step aside to champion another cause.  Threatening the same little fools to say no to drugs, perhaps.

I don’t think I could really go through with this.  Based on my track record, this project will get shelved alongside my aspiring rap career and corresponding lyrics / pseudonyms / beats / dream entourage diary.  I have to be flexible about the whole thing. I’d have to let this hashtag expand further beyond my grotesque eye-humping of well-meaning ladies.  Once these hashtags are introduced, their applications tend to grow exponentially.  For that reason, I’ll have to add some honest-to-goodness mothers on my #FitMom Executive Committee.  They will assist in painstakingly analyzing any potential #FitMom honoree to help point out any flaws that I cannot spot.  While I’m too distracted looking at their genetic assets, they will ask the hard questions that I dare not bring up.

Isn’t that Rockstar Energy Drink in her sippy cup?

Weren’t those cribs discontinued since they caused babies to dream about Freddy Krueger?

Isn’t giving a baby an “I Love Mommy” shirt a bit presumptuous considering she’s giving her son a near-chokeslam with one arm while taking a selfie with the other?

Who takes their kids to Medieval Times anymore? That’s so 90’s!

Clair Huxtable #FirmButFairButFitMom

Clair Huxtable #FirmButFairButFitMom

Their viewpoint needs consideration because I know it isn’t my place to judge a woman solely on physical appearance, especially all those women who’ve undergone the nine month body-distorting process necessary to repopulate the planet at record rates in order to cope with the oncoming Venusian invasion of 2158 (and you thought it would be the Martians, you bloody speciest!). What could a young man such as I know about such labours?  What’s the most I’ve been able to nurture for a nine month period?  I don’t think the batteries even lasted that long on a Tamagotchi.

Could I stand the pain of child birth?  I’ll let you gals have that one, considering the possibilities explored in the movie Junior freaked me the hell out when I first saw the trailer.  To this day, I still haven’t watched that movie.  This is from a man who loves his awesomely bad movies, which I’m only assuming “Junior” would be classified as.  I’d sooner go the John Hurt condensed route of “pregnancy” ending with my bloody demise after a few days of discomfort.  Surprisingly, the term “dead-beat dad” pre-dates Alien, but more than a few men must have got that impression.  Who couldn’t picture an expecting father scream “I’m not raising that little monster” in the theater the second that alien busts out of him?

Mind you that this is, in no shape or form, an endorsement of the lifestyle of the dead-beat dad.  But a woman did have to kill that little bugger in the end, so you tell me who’s right.

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Michael Keaton #FitMrMom

Writer? We’re Talking About a Sitcom!

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News of a re-launch of Full House seemed to be lighting up social media over the past few months.  It makes complete sense as to why this is causing waves.  Full House, which spanned from 1987 to 1995, captured a young audience that grew up alongside the Tanner girls.  People in this age group became the first generation to grow up with the internet as a major aspect of their daily lives.  Nostalgia always seems to rule the roost on the internet, with several popular Youtube channels dedicated to recalling significant pop culture that surrounded them in the first decade or so of their existence.  This makes the timing for a reboot perfect.  Naturally, you’d expect someone around my age (born in 1985) to be excited about catching a glimpse of the new series. I’m not among them.

Looking back in retrospect, I never really liked Full House.  Sure, I thought of Uncle Jesse as the man I’d want to be (much like he was the man young girls wanted to be with), but the rest of the cast always seemed like total squares to me.  If Danny Tanner taught me anything, it was not to act awkwardly around women, and to stake your claim on a good one when you see her before your more charming brother-in-law gets a chance to seduce her with his half-assed Elvis impressions.  Joey Gladstone’s comedic stylings annoyed me even as a child.  It still brings a smile to my face remembering the episode when he lost on Star Search.  I appreciate that he’s a clean, family-friendly comic, but his material and delivery almost feels as if it is dumbed-down to reach that wider audience.  That’s not necessary at all.  Give the kids a little bit of credit.  Keep in mind that your audience has grown up with you, so perhaps you’ll be ready to unleash on the world how a Popeye/Bullwinkle/Scooby Doo orgy would play out.  If you don’t have the stomach, let Saget write it for you.

There was nothing particularly off-putting about D.J. and Stephanie.  Maybe I just couldn’t relate to young girls at the time.  God knows I tried!  Playing Barbies with my older sister didn’t help matters any (as previously discussed).  It was just a lackluster attempt at filling the void caused by the GI Joe, Masters of the Universe, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles household ban.  However, I thank my parents about the He-Man one to this day.

Michelle I definitely remember pissing me off.  I could detect bad acting at a young age, and maybe it’s the whole girl thing with me, but I could only buy those too-wise-for-your-age quips when delivered by Macaulay Culkin.  There has to be a message board argument somewhere debating over whether Mary Kate or Ashely Olsen was the better Michelle.  I know I have my favourite Olsen sister, but it ain’t one of the twins (The phrase “Have Mercy!” seems fitting enough here).

There isn’t much there that has me looking back at Full House with fondness.  The coolest thing I now know about the show was that Gil and Rani Sharone, who played teenage versions of Katsopolis twins Nicky and Alex in a dream sequence of Jesse’s, grew up to form the band Stolen Babies (with Gil playing drums briefly with The Dillinger Escape Plan).  Pretty much the whole Miller-Boyett family-friendly block of programming falls into the “it’s so bad that it’s good” category.  There might be the equivalent type of shows today on The Disney Channel or something, but it’s off my radar now.  With a greater variety of shows available to choose from on both television and online, I see these types of sitcoms as virtually unwatchable in the year 2016.  That being said, I’d book time off work if I learned of an upcoming Family Matters marathon.

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One good thing that arose from the ashes of these shows is that they gave a young boy (as opposed to an old boy) hope that one day he could become a writer himself.  That boy did not become a professional writer, but he did start a blog to try his hand at it every now and then.  In case I lost some of you there, that boy grew up to be me, so here’s my stab at putting together a little sitcom that I can call my own.

Any show or movie is only as strong as the cast.  I can’t just lump any group of actors together and expect magic to happen.  There are a few factors that should be considered.

1. Chemistry – It’s of the utmost importance.  Put Sasha Mitchell and David Faustino in the same room together, and one of them is coming out in a body bag. I’ll give you a hint as to which one: One is 6’3” with a Tae Kwon Do black belt. The other is 5’3”, and once rocked the finest mullet in the business, which to my knowledge didn’t do him any favours in a fight.

2. Over-Exposure – While casting someone like Charlie Sheen seems like a fine way to guarantee at least one full season out of a show, I’d rather put the spotlight on others.  Does the world want to see another in a long list of Charlie Sheen vehicles, or do they want something fresh?  I know the answer, but I’m not casting Charlie Sheen.

3. Like-Ability – Who’s going to watch a show with nothing but hateable characters? Let me re-phrase that: Who’s going to watch a show with nothing but hateable characters that doesn’t feature a Kardashian or vomit-inducing stereotypes?

With that all squared away, let me introduce the cast.

Joey Lawrence as Blake Preston

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Joey Lawrence (of Blossom fame) will be the focal point of the series.  He plays a former child actor who’s not willing to give up on his dream of becoming a stand-up comedian.  You can draw all the parallels you want to Dave Coulier’s Full House character, but there is no debate as to where Blake’s showbiz prospects lie.

He is horrible.  Painfully so.  Undeniably so.  Like a “Material I Wrote When I Was 19”-level of horrible.  Don’t believe me?  Have a taste:

I’ll be the first to admit it.  I never got laid during my high school years.  One guy even had the nerve to yell at me “You couldn’t even lay an egg!”  Excuse me?  Lay an egg?  I’m a human male!  What does he think that our species is capable of?  People this dumb shouldn’t be roaming the streets. Give his brain to science!!”

If you even chuckled in the slightest at that, I have a notebook full of the stuff somewhere under my bed that you’d die reading.  But really, that would be the man’s strongest material in his never-changing set, much of which would often consist of improvised crowd work.  Did I mention he was blind?  Considering that his boyish good looks have faded slightly over the years, he’s got an uphill battle to deal with when it comes to winning over a crowd.  And with this handicap I’ve just randomly bestowed upon him, he can’t even get sympathy laughs.

No, making him blind would lead to far too many potential plot obstacles.  I need to save myself from writing some sort of highly unlikely origin story with regards to his loss of vision.  I’m going to have to give him odd jobs to help make ends meet, and I’ve got to make his work somewhat believable.  I’m not going try to chalk up his landing a lifeguard position at the community pool based off an acute sense of smell.  He could have the nose of a police dog, but if he can smell someone through all the chlorine, he’d probably be too late.

Like many child stars, Blake also pushes to re-establish himself in the acting scene.  Unlike many actors, Blake never gets stopped by fans on the streets out of recognition even though he wears the production jacket from his most famous film, Teenage Cyborg 199X, on a regular basis.  He was out of the business by the time the sequels were out, and Matthew Lawrence took over the role.  It may be a bit confusing, but Matthew is the oldest Lawrence brother in this timeline, and (sadly) Brotherly Love never happened.

This show is all about piecing together a cast that has seemingly little to do.  Kirk Cameron briefly came to mind for a second character, but he seems to have a healthy career in produce.  Then it struck me: Bronson Pinchot!

Bronson Pinchot as Luc Dubois

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From what I’ve seen him in from Perfect Strangers and in Beverly Hills Cop, Bronson can pull off some interesting character voices.  I’ll probably make him to be a foreigner to America, but not from Europe.  Luc Dubois hails from Val-d’Or, Quebec, which allows him to give the character the best/worst of both French and Canadian accents.  I can hide behind my own Canadian-ness and give him as cliché a background as I want.  Most Canadians tend to embrace things that make our country and citizens unique, but tend to take offense more than they are willing to admit.  As long as he doesn’t wear maple syrup-stained hockey jerseys 24/7 or wasn’t raised in an igloo by a pack of huskies, then I’m probably safe.

Luc and Blake met one afternoon when Blake was making his weekly trip to the local video rental store to keep tabs on his latest straight-to-DVD masterwork.  Hearing a rustling sound around the side of the mini-mall, he caught Luc in the midst of a highly fruitful dumpster diving excursion.  Impressed by Luc’s resourcefulness and a lack of shame that rivalled his own, Blake knew this francophone would be worth hanging around.  Luc’s been a fixture on Blake’s pull-out couch from that point on, and brought the crème de la crème of the neighbourhood trash with him.

Of all characters, this one is going to be the catchphrase machine.  Anything said with a strange accent is guaranteed to get laughs, especially when I’m the one with my finger on the laugh track button.  “Are You Poutine Me On?” would look great on a t-shirt.  My writing team will often construct a scene by working backwards from one of his applause avalanche-inducing quips when they have writer’s block.

I suppose he needs a job, doesn’t he?  Dog walker?  Bicycle repairman?  Volunteer restroom attendant?  What do I care?

Reginald VelJohnson as Horace “Slim” Bannister

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We have to get Reginald VelJohnson involved.  No, I won’t make him play a cop.  He’s been thrown that occupation too many times.  It’s about time to give the typecasting a rest.

He’ll be a retired cop.  His fat pension supplements the lack of income coming from the other two, with whom he shares an apartment.  Slim lived alone during his years on the force in fear of being killed on duty and leaving a loving family behind.  He’s now 65 years old, still single, and finally ready to mingle.

He’ll also be the supplier of the most dirty and perverted jokes on the show, which may or may not be why he was single for all those years.  It’s all the more charming when it comes from the mouth of a senior citizen, and a good way to get people to tune in.

I’m a tad concerned about whether or not he is old enough to be playing the old guy.  I’d be hesitant to hire a cast member entering their 80s in the event he or she croaks just as the show picks up steam.  Besides, Betty White gets harder to book with age, and so many others seem content doing hot sauce commercials and playing cadavers in crime dramas, so let me pull an aging man out of obscurity to give him a second chance.

You want to know how he met up with the guys?  He was once called in to a bar to investigate a public disturbance, but it turns out it was just Blake bombing hard at an open mic.  Slim laughed at his jokes when nobody else would, leading Blake to believe he was being heckled.  Blake stormed off stage on the verge of tears, Slim consoled him, and they’ve been tight ever since.

Patricia Richardson as Helen McCreary

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I wanted to work a Home Improvement cast member into the mix, and needed to find a way to keep this from being a sausage party.  I’ve drafted Patricia Richardson into the mix to kill two birds with one stone.  Home Improvement was definitely one of my favorite family-oriented sitcoms of the 90s.  The parents had a great dynamic, their children’s wise-cracking and roughhousing was legitimately believable, and Tool Time was truly the foundation of the Detroit entertainment industry.

In my opinion, she played one of the more believable mothers on television. Jill Taylor’s reactions to other characters on the show seemed to come from an honest place.  I can see her proudly hanging my latest math test on the fridge or organizing bake sales to fund-raise for my grade eight class trip.  On the other hand, I can picture her erupting in anger and delivering just punishment for scribbling crayon on a lampshade or stabbing my brother in the back with a pencil (both of which are on my actual rap-sheet).

Helen McCreary will act as the owner/superintendent of the apartment complex in which the show is centered around.  Her primary role in the show is to act as the voice of reason for the men.  Most of her reasoning happens to be based around the fact she needs to collect their rent every month, and that she cheaped out when it came to insuring the building, so it’s in everyone’s best interest that any indoor campfires get snuffed out.

One women in the main cast won’t cut it.  How about someone that isn’t so long in the tooth?  These guys need a neighbour who gets tied up in their lives much like Penny from The Big Bang Theory.  I’ll do you one better.  In fact, I’ll do you five times better.  Meet Nickel, the woman from across the hall.

Nicole “Nickel” Jeffries

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You may be confused by the above image.  Casting is undetermined on this one. The idea for this spot is to bring in a relative unknown.  This role will serve like Pamela Anderson’s role as the Tool Time girl Lisa on Home Improvement, a launch pad for hotness. The danger with this is that you can either catch lightning in a bottle or get struck by the very lightning bolt you were trying to catch, which (I’m guessing) would cause you to drop the bottle (the show), leaving you to pick up the broken pieces when you are much better off seeking medical attention (showbiz is a cruel mistress).

In lieu of making a hasty casting decision, as Hollywood is littered with beautiful women looking for work, she will be portrayed by a different actress in each episode.  It’s my shallow way of being an equal opportunity employer.  The series will wrap once we find the sexiest woman alive.  Each actress will be more attractive than the last so that not a single complaint will be registered.  In the off-chance that we have a few angry letters, they will be read aloud at the end of each episode to get publicly called out for hot-shaming.

Obviously, I won’t actually attach the name Nickel to this role.  I’m really not a big fan of outside-the-box names.  Her name will be the much less goofy-sounding Nicole, but I will insist that it be pronounced like a five cent piece to plant the subliminal message in viewers that this show will have The Big Bang Theory levels of success from Day One.  When an actor or even a crew member fails to make this pronunciation, they will have to put five cents into what I’ll publicly call the swear jar, but privately call my vacation fund.  Greedy?  Perhaps, but guilt would eventually consume me. I buy the crew dinner as an apology, mostly self-financed as the jar contained just $1.65 after mid-season.  It turns out they’re fast learners.

I’ll make one thing perfectly clear: There will not be any “Will they? / Won’t they?” thing between her and Blake or one of the other two guys. If my show is to have any semblance of reality, all the lust will have to be uni-directional. This is a twenty-something women in her physical prime who will be getting courted by much-more successful men, all of whom will be A-list celebrities begging to make a guest appearance.

Why would she be hanging with this group of misfits then?  It started out of curiousity before a genuine friendship blossomed.  Wouldn’t you be curious to see what would bring such a seemingly odd pairing of men together under one roof? Of course, you would! That’s why viewer demand will help this show reach syndication on the pre-pilot buzz alone.  From the men’s viewpoint, all it takes is a little eye candy every once in a while to break the monotony of their lives. Naturally, greasy ol’ Slim will find any excuse he can to get her over for a visit.  Watch out for an episode where Slim has a heart attack after somehow tricking her into giving him a sponge bath while dressed as a candy striper.  Nobody said she had to be bright.

Nickel/Nicole will serve nicely as an exaggerated version of Darrin from Bewitched or Vivian Banks from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but this show needs a Chuck Cunningham. There is bound to be casting tweaks after a few episodes or the first season, so I’ve thought up a character that, based on his success, can be jettisoned without much thought. That’s why I want to give John Ratzenberg another shot at television.

John Ratzenberg as Fred Grimsby

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He, of course, did a fantastic job as mailman Cliff Clavin on Cheers.  He also does highly enjoyable voice-acting work on several Pixar films, so he has other work to fall back on after his role on this show is complete.  That’s why John’s place on the show might not be a permanent one.

What could his role be?  I don’t want to follow the precedent set where a family member can vanish without any reference made to them later on.  I thought about a fourth roommate, but as they are only sharing a two bedroom apartment, it would be a bit cruel forcing one of them to sleep in the bathtub.  A janitor would make all the sense in the world.  They can exist in the first eight or so episodes, enough time for familiarity but possibly not long enough to be established as a core member of the cast.  The landlord character can always take on more custodial duties later on should a plot call for it.

Perhaps giving the character an unexplained exit, in spite of the entertaining but outlandish conspiracy theories that would develop, wouldn’t be serving him justice.  Fred’s been janitor at this apartment complex for forty years, so his disappearance would surely raise questions.  We might just have to give him a going away story after all.  Does he retire?  Die in a tragic plumbing accident?  Take his talents to a new building that won’t make him re-bristle his push broom on his own dime?  Give a good enough suggestion in the comments below, and maybe it will make it to the script.

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, he will be included in any casting promotional cast photo-shoots even though his stay may be temporary.  In fact, I’ll have him playfully embraced by Blake in a headlock as a demonstration of endearment.  It may cause problems when it comes to editing his image out should he leave the show mid-season.  I’m not going to spring for new photos until the second season, but I can always swap his head out for a football in a pinch, though the body can’t be as easily explained away.  The ever-changing Nicole would be another story altogether.  I’ll pull a similar stunt to what Time magazine did in 2006.  I’ll have a mirror-like image over where she stands, leading the observer to have true beauty (themselves!!) reflecting right back at them.  The illusion best works if you have a life-size version of the promotional photo, and are actually photogenic.

I remember an interesting quote by Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi.  When he was a young cartoonist in the 1980s, he was told that there are only six possible story structures to be used in cartoons.  I think there is some basic truth to that, even when applied to sitcoms. It’s a bit like how George Carlin was able to reduce the Ten Commandments down to three.  While the variety of plots can seem limiting, we’ll try to make quality entertainment regardless.

Let me get the inevitable one out of the way first: The Clip Show

Every North American TV series needs a clip show to help meet the required episode count, so I’ll account for that my own way. On The Cost of Living (the name I just now spontaneously gave this show), we do things a little differently around here. We’ll do ours without the clips. We might be forced into doing so if the show switches networks mid-season, and we’d need to purchase the rights to use some of the relevant footage. I’m not going to be held hostage by a former boss, and I’ll be damned if we are re-shooting old scenes. That money is probably better spent on those life-sized cast photos I hinted at earlier, but I’m no accountant.

My plan essentially involves twenty minutes of really bad storytelling. The main cast will be gathered together in some setting, be it the living room of the main apartment, stuck in an elevator, or being caught in a snowstorm, and they’ll try to recall previous episodes from memory. I anticipate dreadful results, so much so that even the behind-the-scenes crew can’t keep awake. Don’t be surprised if you hear audible snoring from off-screen or spot boom mics falling into the shot. We may institute a three drink minimum to make sure emotions run high while accuracy drops as low as possible.

As for the rest of them, I can write plots for days for these things. Let’s see what I can whip up over the course of my lunch break. I’ll leave the descriptions in relatively brief TV Guide form, but elaborate below when necessary.

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They don’t make jean shorts like they used to.

A local convenience store is held up, leading Slim to come out of retirement for one last mission.

(This is partially ripped right out of Die Hard, with Slim making a late-night Twinkies run for his “wife”.  He gets permission to use the store’s washroom, which is when the robbers come in.  He is counselled by Blake, Luc, and Nicole over his cell phone while he is on the toilet.  Initially struggling in his attempt at stalling the criminals, Blake enters the store acting as another robber in an attempt to add more confusion to the situation until the real professionals apprehend the two thugs.  When asked why they didn’t call 911 earlier, Blake’s response is “Let’s just say the chances of that happening were Slim to none!” to an uproar of undeserved audience cheers.)

The ghost of Helen’s husband (Tim Allen) comes to haunt the gang’s apartment building.

(Re-establishing chemistry from older TV series gives extra incentive for viewers to tune in. We will see a glimpse of the old Tim/Jill Taylor double-act, with Tim Allen’s character often being outsmarted and the butt of most jokes.  The ghost makes an appearances at the building to keep tabs on his wife.  He fears that she re-married, and thinks Fred is her new husband.

This creates the perfect opportunity for the gang to do a little Ghostbusting.  I’d love to get an original Ghostbuster to make a guest spot, but we all know it would end up being Ernie Hudson.  Bringing Bill Murray in could possibly eat most of the acting budget for the entire first season, but don’t let that discourage you from watching.)

Blake comes to a crossroads, forced to make a tough choice when offered a lucrative office job by an old school buddy (Rider Strong).

(I want to call this a reunion, but I don’t think Joey Lawrence or Rider Strong ever worked together.  Do their matching Tiger Beat “Hunkiest Dreamboats of ’95” nominations count? This job offer will be something that seems almost too good to be true to give Blake a legitimate struggle: Chief of Product Development at WayFun Toys.  No matter what, we all know he’d end up turning down the job at the end of the episode, but why?  It all comes down to morals.  He learns that the company is planning to shift their focus towards educational toys, and thought that shit was for nerds.)

Investors try to buy the apartment building, causing the gang to be inventive on how to get rid of them.

(I’ll make them foreign investors from Japan even though it seems rather cliche.  It can result in leading to some hilarious mistranslations between an inexperienced Japanese/English translator and both parties, but having to speak through a middle-man might eat up too much air time.  I’ll have the Japanese actors voices dubbed over in English like they do in old monster movies, and they can be perfectly understood by the main cast.  Conversely, all English actors will have their voices dubbed in Japanese for the version that airs in Japan.  That will be for this episode only.  God forbid they have to read subtitles for the rest of them.

The only way that they can get these investors away is to convince the city the apartment is a historic landmark.  It isn’t, of course, but they’ll get clever and craft up a few lies.  It was Travis Bickle’s apartment in Taxi Driver, President Obama rented here for a month he’s not so proud of, it was the birthplace of the selfie, etc.  Each of their dozens of claims were proved incorrect, but the dragged-out process sapped the investors of their will to live.  Victory!)

Nicole agrees to go on a double date with Luc and his visiting cousin (Sasha Baron Cohen).

(When I first thought of this premise, I imagined Sasha would dust off his old Borat character.  I had yet to decide on Bronson’s character’s country of origin, so it would look foolish now if I tried to pass of a French Canadian with a cousin from Kazakhstan, right?  Wrong.  Sitcoms have a way of making the implausible plausible.  If Fonzie can jump a shark, and George Costanza can date Marisa Tomei, let’s not dispute Luc’s family tree, okay?)

While shopping at the mall, Blake is ripped off by a con-man (Scott Baio), leading to the gang to help give the crook a taste of his own medicine.

(Shopping is pretty generic.  He has to be at the mall for a specific purchase because he’s too old to just be hanging out yet too young to be doing the early morning mall walks.  He’s taking his mom out on a Mother’s Day brunch to the food court destination of her choosing.

Chachi (Who knows what his real name is, he’s a CON MAN!) convinces Blake to donate to a fraudulent charity for illiterate kindergartners.  Blake, Luc, and Slim later pose as Hell’s Angels, and proceed to kick the crap out of him.  Haven’t thought of how to get from A to B yet, but I’m sure it stems from an over-exaggeration on Blake’s behalf.  Did you need those three dollars back that badly?)

Helen reluctantly goes on a date with Slim, but their evening has an unexpected twist that brings them closer together.

(Yet another date episode, I know, but sitcoms thrive on this sort of thing.  Even in a show with a PG rating, all viewers are curious about the sex lives of the characters on screen.  Even if it involves people well into their sixties bumping uglies.  Unfortunately, the night doesn’t proceed that far, and they learn they really have nothing in common.

Not quite what you were expecting, but I think the guide got the plot description mixed up with an episode of Two Broke Girls.  It still makes for thrilling television if small talk about the appetizer menu does anything for you.)

The gang helps Blake overcome his fear of spiders to help him get through his horror film audition.

(The movie in question is a remake of the William Shatner classic Kingdom of the Spiders.  Since he’s gunning for the lead role, this will be a made-for-tv movie (he knows where he stands in the business).  The good news is that he gets the part.  The bad news is it only ever airs on public access.  Once.  At three in the morning.  And he forgets to tape it.)

Nicole takes the boys to the hottest nightclub in town, but a difficult bouncer (Stone Cold Steve Austin) stands in their way.

(Nicole will have no problem getting in because I’ll cast a leggy blonde for this episode.  Anyone I put in that role would be attractive enough without question, but I’d just like to give a heads up to let the applications of those fitting that description pile up.

I want them to succeed, and end the evening having had a good time, but not initially.  We’ll have a montage of failed ways of getting in sped up and accompanied by that Benny Hill music.  Then, they whip up some better plans.

This would be a good excuse to have someone appear in drag as an attempt at seducing the guard.  I’ll leave that to Blake since he’s the lead.  This act would clearly best any performance listed on his IMDB page.  Slim can claim pseudo-celebrity status as a former b-movie/Blaxploitation actor/stuntman.  A promise of Fred Williamson‘s autograph gets him on through.  That leaves Luc.

Do they all have to get in to the club?  He’ll make due getting drunk and harassing the waitstaff at the nearby IHOP.)

Good news, everyone!  We’ll be accepting non-solicited scripts for the show.  We can’t let any potentially genius plot slip through our fingers.  The credit will fully be yours, plus we’ll even let you appear in the episode.  If you’re camera shy, feel free to replace yourself with the stage hand who most resembles you.  Heck, if you’re a babe, we may even let you play Nicole/Nickel.  It might be in an episode where she only pokes her head in for a few seconds to borrow some Tupperware, but thanks for coming out nonetheless.

If any of the above actor’s agents happen to be reading this, don’t be afraid to reach out to me.  I’m also open to exploring recasting possibilities for those with other clients.  Unless that client is Tony Danza, then keep walking.

I Break You Because I Love You: Christmas Toys That Couldn’t Survive Me

Since the Christmas season is upon us, I’ve been looking through some photos from my childhood of my family celebrating Christmas and opening presents.  I can’t help but look at these pictures all squinty-eyed to try and figure out what gift each person is holding up.  I find myself yelling at my four-year old self for not holding a present up at an appropriate angle or at my mother for not compensating for the glare off the plastic packaging in certain photos.

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And I still didn’t learn through my awkward long hair phase

If we are all honest with ourselves, our childhoods were nothing special.  Very few of us were prodigies making a significant impression on the world.  Heck, many of us struggled to master tying our shoes and putting the lid back on the glue bottle once we’re done tasting it our arts & crafts.  For the most part, I identify my childhood by the games I played and the toys I played with.  When did I get most of these items?  Christmas, of course!

Not every present I ever received has a nice story attached to it, but when I get to one that does, that story often ends with that toy becoming virtually unusable.  Unfortunately, there was no plastic surgeon at my disposal to reverse the signs of aging on my toy collection.  Try as he might, my dad was often helpless in restoring broken toys to their former glory.  Once, he glued a Geordi La Forge action figure’s visor on upside down after it snapped off of him.  How could you not see the indent where the nose was intended to rest?  Could you imagine La Forge’s embarrassment if he went out on an away mission looking like that?  He could try blaming it on a transporter malfunction, but I think that as Chief Engineer, that falls under his jurisdiction.

I’d blame dad for further ruining the figure, but it was entirely my fault. The visor was intended to be detachable. Nonetheless, I still bemoan my lack of inventiveness, and should have made the most out of what I thought was damaged goods by drawing pupils on Geordi’s eyes and claim he was cured.

I don’t think that I was very rough on my toys growing up.  Sure, if I was lucky enough to have received a Wrestling Buddy, I would have given him a few pile-drivers, but that’s what a twin brother is for.  For the most part, there was no stretching of Armstrongs, and there was hardly ever any crash-testing of my Incredible Crash Dummies.  Still, there were some gifts that, while not exactly asking to be broken, couldn’t hold up for one reason or another.  The following are among them.

Note:  All the items I mention below were actual gifts I received as a child.  However, not all of them were given to me on Christmas.  I felt my blog was lacking a Christmas-themed entry, so if that doesn’t sit well with you, to quote George Bailey, you must be a warped, frustrated old man.

Larry Bird Basketball Net

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I believe it’s very important to teach children how to live a physically active lifestyle.  It should take more effort than supplying them with a sugar high just to get them out of the house and running around the backyard, especially when your children inevitably upchuck those empty calories on your prize-winning magnolias.  Toy manufacturers Lil’ Tyke knew the grief this caused, and launched a brand called Lil’ Sport.

Having seen our appreciation of Lil’ Tyke toys like the slide (used for our favorite summer activity of splashing into our ankle-shattering kiddie pool) and see-saw (used as a human catapult long after outgrowing it), ma and pa found it fitting to slide head first into their sporting goods line.  That is why I received the Lil’ Sport Larry Bird Basketball net.  My brother received their tee-ball set, but is not worth focusing on because of their failure to lock down an endorsement deal with one of those leading tee-ball professionals that we read so much about.

A quick Google search revealed that an alternate version of this toy featuring the likeness of Julius “Dr. J” Erving.  I want to say that the company wanted to give parents two options depending on your preference of player, but they don’t seem to do that type of thing any more.  If this toy was released today, they most likely would just take their pick of Lebron James or Steph Curry and be done with it.  No one might want to admit it, but a part of me thinks they wanted to market one to black kids and one to white kids.  Why wouldn’t it be?  Companies, to this day, want to cast as wide a net as possible to tap into the wallets of everyone.  Larry Legend (basketball skills aside) was included along side Dr. J to include the rare consumer with backwards attitudes towards players that weren’t from the mid-west and didn’t look like one of their father’s drinking buddies.  Similarly, Grandmama (again, basketball skills aside) was later featured in Converse ads to include the rare elderly woman consumer way into bodybuilding and upper-lip hair pride.

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That curly straw tho

Here’s that exception to the rule that I warned about.  This was a birthday present, and not a Christmas gift.  I know that there is no way of you knowing when the above photo of me was taken, but I take pride in my honesty.  My brother and I have a June birthday, so our mom should have known better than to dress us in long sleeves and thick corduroy pants (I’ll let the white bowtie slide for now).  You’d also probably expect to see a plethora of Christmas decorations in this photo, but what my grandmother does with her living room in December is none of your business.

Notice that the pole shows a variety of athletes and balls used in different sports.  It could be a method of reminding us that the company sell a variety of sporting goods for children, but I think I’m a little jaded over the invasive nature of internet advertising these days that I’ll seek out product placement in just about anything.

How did this net come crashing down?  In spite of the fact that Larry Bird was more known for his shooting and fundamentals, my brother and I no doubt had ourselves a bit of a dunk contest.  Our natural sibling rivalry led to us busting out all the classics as we pushed each other to greater heights (literally!!).  We’d dunk from the free-throw line (a.k.a. the edge of our toy car playmat), slam it tomahawk style (standard dunk performed wearing a culturally insensitive headdress), and the no-look dunk (telling the spectator to close his eyes, then enthusiastically brag about how epic our jam was) among other feats of glory that would make Dominique Wilkins look like a stark amateur.

The exact dunk that broke this toy I cannot recall, but there’s a strong chance it was with my patented kiss-the-rim dunk. Since I had grown to the point where the net was on an even plane with my lips while standing, executing it should have been a “slam dunk” (I kill me!).  I must have been overly anxious to pucker up with that round piece of plastic because the next thing I know, I’m flat on my ass, and surrounded by a cardboard pole that had split and unravelled.  I can only wonder if the Dr. J version was built to withstand a two-handed throwdown, or something else more of Doc’s style.  I’d rather not have to hit up eBay to put this to the test.

I also remember a Michael Jordan variant, but it must have been made years later since he was not in the NBA at the time the other two were initially released (1983).  I saw it in an episode of Saved By The Bell where Zack Morris was principal of Bayside for some reason.  I’m too lazy to read the plot, so I’m guessing he took a “time out” to run off to the printing shop and forge the proper credentials while the store employees were too busy being frozen to notice.  He had the net in the corner of what used to be Mr. Belding’s office.  I can’t remember the other contents of the revamped room, but it surely included other essential 90s mementos like a Pearl Jam poster, a desk drawer filled with nothing but Koosh balls and slap bracelets, and the obligatory wall mural of a scantily-clad Kelly Kapowski riding bareback on a dragon.

The Real Ghostbusters action figures

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Boy, did I love all things Ghostbusters as a child!  Everyone loves the movies (My first lasting memory of the franchise? Catching a glimpse Siguorney Weaver in her bra in the sequel.), but some of the younger people out there might not realize that there was a cartoon show based off the movies.  It was titled The Real Ghostbusters because there was already another cartoon show titled Ghostbusters.  I will simply refer to the show hereon out as Ghostbusters without further explanation since a) I don’t know a single person who’s ever watched the other show, and b) I don’t want to be accused of needlessly padding my word count when a concise Wikipedia entry exists.

Naturally, a toy line was launched by Kenner to cash in on the cartoon’s popularity, and the collection seemed virtually endless to me.  We wouldn’t get their Fire House Headquarters, but we had a large enough share of the vehicles to keep us happy.  Kenner was certainly inventive when it came to including ghost figures to antagonize the Ghostbusters.  There were figures based off classic monsters such as Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolfman.  There were figures of seemingly ordinary citizens, such as an old lady and a garbage man, who could transform into their true ghost identities.  I remember one of us had a scary toilet (possibly acquired from a giveaway at Taco Bell), and there were also these creatures called Mini Traps that would clamp down hard when you placed a figure on their tongues.  I can’t recall getting those traps to work without having to sacrifice a finger.

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Real good gift or Real disappointment?

It seemed that it was the Ghostbusters themselves that were more prone to destruction than any other character.  I had a “Fright Feature” Winston Zedmore figure whose head spun around 360-degrees while his jaw gradually opened if you lowered his arm.  The arm eventually broke off, meaning I would have to spin his head by pinching it between my fingers.  It would still work as a plausible fright feature if Winston was caught in a giant, haunted cewtrwetw game.  My brother’s Egon Spengler figure also had fragile parts, with the necktie snapping of relatively quickly.  The logos applied to the shoulders of each ghostbuster wore of with relatively little effort, as did some of other paint.  A couple years later, our sister had to deal with a similar problem with the face on one of her Polly Pocket figurines in what may have been the most traumatizing toy mishap any of us had ever experienced.

For the most part, the remainder of the toys held up fairly well.  One of the most robust figures I received was arguably the most marketable character, Slimer.  I made certain to get him one year by writing directly to the big fella, and demanding it be the one toy he’d schlep across the world to place under my tree.  Little did I know that by 1991, there was a good chance my parents grabbed this toy out of a clearance bin.  It just goes to show you that it sometimes pays to cheap out on your children when they are too young to know better.  I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say Santa placed it in there as a Christmas miracle.

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Believe me, ignorance was bliss!

Even though that toy was the one sure-thing I’d receive get that year, I was excited enough to bring him along with me to Christmas mass.  For some reason, when we were younger, my siblings and I were allowed to each bring one toy to church.  Apparently, the idea of God watching over us wasn’t enough to captivate our imaginations and scare us out of gloating about how, in our minds, we got better presents than Jesus on his own birthday.

Larvell Jones (from Police Academy) action figure

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Here we have another toy designed around a cartoon that was based off a movie. I’ve always been curious about watching old cartoons I grew up watching to see if they hold up with me to this day.  Rocko’s Modern Life certainly does.  TaleSpin doesn’t.  The jury’s still out on the Police Academy animated series because I can’t seem to remember a damned thing about.  I watched it, and my brother and I had quite a few of the toys.  That’s all that’s important for the sake of this story.

The first figure I received from this series was Larvell Jones, a character known for his ability to mimic an assortment of sounds with his mouth in the movie series.  I also received a second figure that day, Zed, whose action feature was that his pants dropped around his ankles.  I find this a bizarre feature for a toy series aimed at children, but the adorable heart-patterned boxers that hid his shame made it fun for the whole family.  Furthermore, he had an annoying, spring-loaded bobble-head, legs that didn’t bend, and a pair of comedic handcuffs that were unusable since they were attached to his chest.  He sported a goofy, tongue-wagging facial expression as if to further torment me for the lack of practicality in his design or to dare me to lock him in the toy chest (which I did).

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A stripper pole on a skateboard? Now the pants thing makes sense.

Jones was the figure that I was excited about.  As you can see from the packaging, he came with two accessories.  The bullhorn functioned as a working kazoo, so I could save the comb and wax paper for my personal hygiene and sack lunches, respectively.  If kazoo noises are considered to be “crazy sounds” (as listed on the packaging), then that radio must have been a real hoot.  I’ll hazard a guess and say it either produced static or it was stuck on an obscure 24-hour yodelling station.  It looks familiar, but I have no recollection of using that accessory.  It was probably confiscated by one of the less zany police officer toys in my collection.

Sadly, this figure didn’t last very long.  His left arm, the one that activated the opening and closing of his jaw, eventually broke off.  The “action” limb seemed to be the most common breaking point on a variety of figures I owned.  I can’t recount an origin story of this break because I’m certain it was just from using the toy as it was intended.

If only there was more protection for consumers from faulty manufacturing with toys.  I know that toy companies would lose their shirts if they offered warranties on action figures, but it would make some sense in a modern world where adults seem to be the primary purchasers.  Many keep theirs MOC (Mint On Card, for non-collectors), but I like to pose mine on a book shelf.  If I want to impress a visiting lady-friend by showing her a Stone Protectors figure, I should at least have the piece of mind that I won’t have to send him to the scrap bin if he should bald prematurely after a couple loving strokes.  Of the doll’s hair, I should clarify.  I know my evening would end before I get halfway through my original Star Wars figures.

This toy is unique to this list because I eventually received a second toy.  We visited our grandparents, and I remember my grandma handing me a fresh one soon after our arrival.  How she learned of my misfortune I never learned. It was probably the subtle hints I was giving my mother.  Temper tantrums, hunger strikes, insisting on bringing broken toys to Show and Tell to hint at my family’s lower class status to my impressionable classmates, etc.

This is not a just world, so Larvell Jones II met a similar fate to that of his predecessor.  Coincidentally, the scene of this accident took place when trying to place him in the back of the ECTO car from the Ghostbuster line of toys I previously mentioned.  I don’t know why we were trying to do this, but that’s the power that imagination has in a child’s playtime.

Crossover was huge with our toy collection, and I’m sure that was common for lots of children.  Jones, being the master of sound effects, was surely along for the ride due to a malfunctioning siren that needed to be substituted in the least practical way.  An off-duty police officer must have better ways to spend his time than riding around with men mere weeks away from tin-foil helmet territory, but that’s what it was.

The good news is that his arm was still intact.  Jones could flap his gums in the amusing manner we are accustomed to, but don’t blame him for not laughing along with us.  Jones’ groin / buttocks region split right down the middle, causing both legs to be separated from the body.  Playtime abruptly ended after this unfortunate injury, but I’m upset I didn’t play on a little longer to allow the Ghostbusters to make an effort to help him out.  Taking him to all the way to the hospital may have been a lost cause, but at least he can fit more compactly in the back now.  In fact, there was probably room to spare, so if they ran over Zed somewhere along the journey, they can dispose of all my bad Police Academy memories in one single trip to the fireplace.

Exploding Beetlejuice action figure

Yet again, a toy based off a movie with a corresponding cartoon show.  Unlike my Ghostbusters and Police Academy toys, the Beetlejuice line was actually modelled after the film.  The majority of the action figures were of the titular character, and the rest of the choices were questionable.  I owned the Adam Maitland figure (Alec Baldwin’s character), and there was also one based off Otho, the interior designer with the ghost fascination.  To some people’s surprise, there were no figures for Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder) or Barbara Maitland (Geena Davis). If you are familiar enough with action figures that were released before the mid-90s like I am, this may be sort of a blessing. Toy manufacturers seemed to be particularly lazy when it came to constructing moulds for bodies.  Anybody who has ever owned a Masters of the Universe figure (or their generic dollar store wrestler equivalent) can attest to this.  Whenever they’d create toys of the female characters, they’d more than likely look like your high school gym teacher or, at best, her slightly-more feminine life partner.

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For some reason, I still remember this action figure being called Break-Dancing Beetlejuice.  I may have derived that name as a precocious six-year old, acutely noting that his hands at his waist made him look like he’s dancing a jig and that he… you know… breaks.  More likely, though, I lifted the phrase from a commercial.  My brother suggested this recently when talking about this toy, and it would make a lot of sense.  We each got a Mighty Max playset one year, and though it would be clever to write our own Mighty Max adventures on an old typewriter.  Dialog (and plots, for that matter) was straight out of commercials and off the packaging, leading nobody to believe this pair had a future in any creative endeavour whatsoever.

Being big into the Beetlejuice movie and cartoon series, you’d expect me be delighted when I received the Phantom Flyer accessory from my uncle one Christmas.  Take this as a note to expect less from me.  I was an emotional wreck, but there is a perfectly good explanation as to why that was the case.

My brother and I had a natural understanding when it came to toys.  We’d hover over fliers and catalogs, archiving each item in our brains as if we were cramming for exams.  We’d each pick which ones we wanted in civil fashion, delighted in the fact that we would get all that we wished for and be mutually satisfied.  When it came to this particular series of figures, I staked my claim on the Exploding Beetlejuice, and with Alex settled on a different one, world peace was within grasp as long as nobody messed with our agreement.

If you’re looking for a photo from when we received these presents, you won’t find one.  I ran off to my grandparent’s guest bedroom and sulked like a teenager who was stood up at prom.  Either way, my take-off velocity would have been so great that:

a) you’d only see streaks/blurs in the photograph

b) the camera would’ve been forced out of my mother’s hand from the resulting gust of wind, or

c) I would’ve smashed face-first into the dark turn in the adjacent hallway, making for an even less-flattering picture.

My uncle was alerted of my lapse in composure, and was able to help negotiate a trade between us.  I never asked my brother what his true feelings were on this transaction, and I quite frankly didn’t care.  Balance was restored.  That’s all that mattered.  My envy over Alex’s receiving my rightful present didn’t leave easily, yet I grew to feel bad about any ugliness that transpired on my behalf, so the two of us soon drafted up a“Bros Before (G.I.) Joes” pact.  Given that this particular toy line was outlawed from the house, it showed that our sense of irony was already in full bloom.

All this was for nothing, as this toy lasted little more than a couple of months.  Some part of his exploding body was damaged, meaning I could never put Beetlejuice back together again.  I was stuck with the head on the beetle’s body, and a pile of worthless body parts.  I never once asked Alex if he’d re-consider the trade.

Years have passed, and the scars have healed, so this year I decided to embrace all things Beetlejuice.  On Halloween, I dressed up as “The Ghost With The Most”.   Like I always do, I wore the costume to work.  I didn’t dare mention this Christmas-related fiasco to any of my co-workers.

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A healthy man

I also purchased a Hallmark Beetlejuice ornament, and grabbed the movie on Blu-Ray all in the same week.  I’m totally over this.  What else do I need to buy to convince you?

Fisher-Price Space Tops

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I won’t waste precious space explaining every detail about Space Tops, but here’s a video tutorial showing one in action.  I don’t even have that great a story about this toy.  I’m mainly surprised that they were able to successfully market a toy as old-fashioned as a top.  It reminds me of when my grandfather tried to get us all interested in yo-yos.  I wouldn’t so much as crack a smile unless he let me get the one with a picture of Batman on it.  If he told me that yo-yos were commonly used as weapons at one time, that would have helped too.  Walking the dog and rocking the cradle were okay, but I would’ve gave anything to see a man beg for mercy at the hands of my grandpa after threatening to use the sleeper on him.  Then he’d take a nap himself, because that’s how he rolled.

Smartly, they threw the word space into the title, and appealed to those kids optimistic enough to believe that intergalactic travel is well within our grasp.  We rightly believed these tops would have the ability to take off in flight even though our universe would be bound by the basement ceiling.  These tops didn’t exactly lift off. In fact, there was no upward trajectory at all.  The tops simply behaved like tops.  Fisher-Price, you duped me again!  First you sell me non-functioning telephones and vacuum cleaners, and now this?  Not to mention that because of you, I’ve ruined three perfectly good lawnmowers by filling them with bubble blow.

It’s kind of cool that the launcher is shaped like a rocket ship, but what would a rocket ship be doing carrying three flying saucers?  Was NASA behind the whole U.F.O. conspiracy or were they jettisoning giant clay discs for when the Death Ray wanted some target practice?  It doesn’t make much sense.  They may as well have called this Farm Tops and had it launch spinning milk bottles out of a cow’s utters.  There was no need for them to geek up an already niche product, so they could have taken it in any direction.

I can’t find photos of myself or any of my siblings playing with this toy even though it was a playroom staple for years after I received it. I read somewhere that the recommended age for Space Tops was between 3 and 7, and I remember being nearer the max age than I was the minimum.  However, that didn’t stop me from having some fun with it, though I took my use of it with the utmost level of seriousness.  I’d cringe whenever someone jammed the launcher, sending as intimidating a stare as a kid can make towards the guilty party.

With the nature of how this toy worked, it was inevitably going to break sooner or later. I know the tops themselves were always in working condition.  They seemed pretty sturdy to me as a kid.  My often eagle-eyed parental supervision had a few advantages, one of which was having no access to power tools.  This contributed significantly to increasing the lifespans of even the most fragile plaything.  So we couldn’t shoot them towards the table saw or drill through them in hopes of finding a sweet chocolate center, but I guess letting us dance them around our little sister when she was in her rolling baby walker made for a decent consolation prize (sigh..).

It was all about the speed for this toy, and, yes, I had the need (for speed).  I don’t have the exact numbers on what velocity it takes for a space shuttle to break through the earth’s atmosphere, but I’m pretty sure it’s faster than my arm could push against the resistance of the launcher.  Like the legendary Icarus, I flew too close to the sun, or the moon, or whatever space thing could cause the most destruction to my toys.  An asteroid belt, perhaps, but that’s irrelevant.  One overzealous push led to the teeth that gripped the tops onto the launch track breaking off, meaning any further space missions were grounded indefinitely. This was a good thing, as it allowed more time for some toys I had been neglecting, such as….

My First Guitar!

As a hobbyist musician, I get a bizarre kick out of turning to the musical instruments page in the Sears Wish Book catalog.  This isn’t out of looking for the next instrument to add to my collection, but only to see what low-end brand of guitars are being offered.  Even before I actively listened to music, guitars always appealed to me aesthetically, almost as if the person holding one had some sort of magical power.  Whenever a person would bust out an acoustic at social gathering, all eyes would turn towards the player.  Admittedly, I was too young to spot the rolling of eyes as the audience suffers through the same fifteen minute rendition of “If I Had A Hammer”, complete with their own ad-libbed verses, that they’d always play at parties.

The strange thing is that I’m not sure how I went about asking for the guitar.  Being a man without children, I forget how a toddler who could barely speak would ask their parents for anything.  Did I have to use my older sister as a translator?  Could my brother and I use the combined power of our twin minds to get the message across to our parents?  I’m guessing my parents would buy us anything, and hoped that we’d take a shining to it.  If we didn’t, I know my dad always had his eye on my Tonka trucks.

Anyway, my first “guitar”(quotes to be explained later) came to me on my third Christmas. I don’t remember the exact manufacturer of it, and I don’t think there were any markings on the exterior of the body or on the head stock. The only photo I can find of me playing it is below, in what is no doubt the first jam session between my brother and I.

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Which Sharon, Lois & Bram song should we butcher this time?

The Christmas in which I received this guitar, I wasn’t so into the opening up my presents aspect.  I really wasn’t into the receiving gifts aspect either.  No, I wasn’t one of those kids who’d just play with the box either.  I was a catalog kid.  Turning through the pages of Christmas catalogs may be one of my first memories.  Two and a half may seem a bit old for a first memory, but I don’t go in for those “I remember when I was in the womb” stories. Yeah, it was wet in there.  I would never have guessed.  If you can remember back that far, I’d think your circumcision would have made the more lasting impression, but that’s just me.

I’d have a pile of gifts appear all around me, and maybe it was all so overwhelming to me that I had to mentally escape and collect my thoughts.  I look at old Christmas photos from that year (1987), and I have distinct memories of playing with most of these toys for several years in my early childhood, so it was a great haul.  From that perspective, it seems like I would have a great Christmas, but I can only find one photo of myself from that day with a smile on my face.  I don’t know, but does it look a bit forced to you (I’m on the right)?

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I soon reverted back to a pout that would make Kanye West proud

By the time I got to my grandparent’s house that afternoon, I looked absolutely fed up. My head was buried so deep in that catalog that I must have thought it was the gateway to Narnia or something equally feeble.  Was I trying to crack some secret code that Sears placed within to be read only by the most gifted of children?  Was I using it as an instruction manual, looking at the kids modeling the toys as a form of guidance in order to maximize my future enjoyment? Who knows!

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I know this is last year’s edition, but I’ll make due.

I remember having my prized guitar sitting next to me, but I couldn’t help but keep staring at the photo in the catalog. With a little luck, I was able to track down the original ad for the guitar from the 1987 Sears Wish Book.

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A couple things shock me from seeing this clipping.  First, I want to thank my parents for providing me with a present that was recommended for someone double my age.  I tend to tease them both on occasion, but they knew I could handle the challenge.  I delayed that challenge by about fourteen years when I got my first proper musical instrument, but it’s the thought that counts.

Second, the guitar was only $11.99.  Even when you account for inflation, you cannot buy a suitable starter guitar with that little money.  Over the years of strumming it half-heartedly in between Lego sessions, I’d learn why it doesn’t pay to cheap out on a musical instrument.

One of the first things you do when you pick up a guitar is to make sure that it is in tune.  I never concerned myself with what the tuning pegs were even for.  I assumed their only purpose was to keep the strings from falling off.  I thought the guitar came tuned, and that was that.  I don’t think I moved a tuning peg until around five years later, and the darned thing snapped right off.

That wasn’t the only problem with this guitar.  I had misplaced the wooden saddle that kept the strings in proper position, which had a habit of sliding out of position when it mattered most (always).  Also, the glue which held the neck to the top of the body gradually weakened and pulled apart.  Not much of a loss really, considering the guitar never really did function as a guitar in the first place.  I had little to do with it now but using it as a percussion instrument by dropping found objects in the sound hole and rattling it around, or as a tool of violence on my siblings when I’d catch them cheating during a game of Ready! Set! Spaghetti!

Whenever I have doubts about my abilities as a musician, I think back and wonder if my playing would be further along if they splurged on the $31.99 guitar with proper machine-head tuning capability.  Probably not.  A $20 price differential on a gift I received twenty eight years ago isn’t a valid excuse for not practicing enough.

The Chipmunks tour van / David Seville doll

The main reason I was excited about this gift is that I never even knew it existed.  Alvin and The Chipmunks was one of my favourite cartoons at the time, so receiving such a sizeable present based around these characters made me feel like celebrating.  My screams of joy hit those platinum selling/ear-bleeding frequencies of my beloved trio without all the studio trickery.  I was only five years old, mind you, so I could strike that tone for as little as being served chocolate milk with dinner.

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Not shown: Shame for wearing the same pajamas two Christmases in a row

The van came with a record with a Chipmunks song or two on it.  My parents put it up in a high shelf that I could not reach along with any action figure accessories my mother deemed too violent for use.  Hidden messages in music was making front-page news at the time, and my parents heard a rumour that if you played this record backwards, you’d hear them ritually sacrificing Josie and the Pussycats to appease their dark overlord.  It didn’t come with any of the Chipmunk figurines, but Kentucky Fried Chicken already solved this dilemma for me with their promotion around that time.  Those little Chipmunks couldn’t move their arms or legs, but you know who could?  David Seville.

The Seville doll that was packaged with the van was constructed with a number of degrees of freedom.  They even went as far as give him ankles that rotated up and down on a hinge.  Why this was the case I’m not sure.  It must have been for him to operate the gas pedal, which was either non-existent or a non-functioning detail on the interior framework of the van.  He shouldn’t be driving the van anyway.  He has three chipmunks capable of singing and playing their own instruments.  I think the guy could give up a few of his duties (bus driver, tour manager, choreographer, songwriter, father) as he should be able to afford some hired help to schlep the band across the country.

Actually, it would make lots of sense that the Chipmunks would have a one-man crew. PETA would be all over his ass for profiting of these virtuoso rodents.  The media would be hard-hitting, explaining the need for the collapse-able stage built into the van since this would lead to several venues refusing to book them. That leaves them making impromptu gigs at trailer parks for gas money, with the lion’s share of their shows being at retirement communities since the audience is too busy struggling with cataracts to notice the oddities that stand before them.

Anyway, this is about broken toys, so what happened?  The tour van held up pretty well. I truly did enjoy that toy.  I liked the Dave Seville doll, too, but I found a way to break him.  It happened when I was trying to take his clothes off.  Sue me for being curious.  Looking at the guy, can you blame me?

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Drink him in. DRINK HIM!!

This pose is exactly how I remember him.  His arms were permanently away from his body like Randy in A Christmas Story.  Don’t think of me as some young little pervert.  I probably wanted to see what would make his arms bend so unnaturally.  He also looks like a man whose mother dresses him, so I’d technically be doing him a real solid if I changed him.

As I recall it, the clothing removal was pretty standard fare.  This is from a guy who had undressed many a Barbie in his day in hopes of applying this skill on a real, live woman one day.  If only women’s wear came standard issue with a Velcro stripe going halfway down the back, and plastic bras that are a quick latch away from accessing the nipple-less goods beneath.  When the shirt and pants came off him, I got what I expected, which is also what I feared.

From the moment I saw him, I was hoping David Seville would be able to hang with the Barbies.  Unfortunately, I had learned earlier that he was much shorter than those dolls. Barbie stand at 11.5 inches tall, whereas Mr. Seville stood around 8 inches in height.  Though the height ratio is a bit off, it let me adjust to the idea that I will encounter many women in my adult life that are taller than me.  With David as my plastic avatar, I could gain confidence to approach these gorgeous giantesses without feeling somehow inferior.  It was actually easier than I thought it would be.  Controlling what the Barbies said and thought may have helped a little.

If the height difference wasn’t giving me enough body image issues, staring at his naked form certainly did.  He was a mess of ugly, visible joints, and large gaps existed between each limb.  It in no way represented my body then or what it would become, but how was I to know?  The much-taller Ken didn’t have to worry about this.  Plus, his underwear came printed on, so Barbie could at least imagine he’s impressively packaged.  Seville had no such secret.  He was packing as much as Barbie.

Remember those ankles I mentioned?  Needless to say, I found a way to break them.  I couldn’t just leave the man with all but his shoes on.  That’s plain weird!  Not only did David have his eye on Ken’s girl, Barbie, but he also had his eye on his footwear.  In spite of the notable difference in height, David Seville could squeeze his way into many of Barbie’s outfits with little trouble.  Still, there was a snowball’s chance in hell that he’d be able to pull off her stilettos (not that he looked all that special in anything else of her’s).  He saw Ken’s impressive sneaker collection, and had to give a pair a test run.

To accomplish this, I first needed to take Dave’s shoes off.  I attempted to do this like how I’d take off my own shoes, I’d pull my heel out through the back.  I hated undoing my shoes, and Dave’s laces weren’t real anyway.  When I was first learning to tie laces, I always left them tied up.  I think the prospect of memorizing the lyrics to whatever shoe-tying song I learned (the rabbit pokes his head up and ties his ears together??) was too daunting a task.  To date, I only vaguely memorize lyrics and give more attention to the musical content of a song.  I’ll place blame on the writer of that song for not giving it a distinct melody.

Before I can see if they gave Dave an acceptable number of toes, off came his foot.  I must have pushed too hard on the joint that held his foot to the ankle.  This only accounts for one of the ankles, but I most likely finished the job for symmetry purposes.  I’m almost 100 percent certain that I did do that.  He was already thinking about buying a ramp to help load gear onto the stage, so this “accident” would just about clinch such a purchase.

If my David Seville doll had a Toy Story level of sentience, he’d hate me with a passion.  I don’t even want to get into how the Barbies would feel.

Let’s Watch A Music Video: Tears for Fears – Head Over Heels

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Look at these two lads. The me of ten years ago would be shaking his head if he ever learned I could even stomach ten straight seconds of their music.  I couldn’t stand pop music in most of its forms when I was younger.  Back in my teens and early 20s, my tastes were about as narrow as Hank Hill’s urethra.  I shook off several good bands for the sake of being metal to the bone.  In my case, that involved wearing nothing but black T-shirts, sitting in the back row of class despite being an honour roll student, and avoiding women at all costs in fear that they’d trick me into admitting that I’ve sung an NSYNC song in the shower.

Still, it’s not as if Tears For Fears were tearing up the charts at that point in my life, so I can be excused for not digging back a few years before my time to discover interesting music. However, I once owned a Manowar album, so that should nullify just about any excuse I can come up with.

“Head Over Heels” was the fourth single taken off Tears For Fears’ second album Songs From The Big Chair.  The single was released on June 10, 1985.  In my own mind, they did so as a tribute to my birth, which took place the day before.  I know it is highly unlikely that this is the case, but I was born with jaundice, and was naturally a bit down about it.  I really needed a summer song to boost my spirits as my bilirubin levels lowered.

The music video was filmed at the Emmanuel College library in Toronto, Ontario, so I’m a close drive away from creating my very own shot-for-shot remake at the proper location.  All I’m lacking is directorial skills, a crew to assist me, and the finances necessary to bring this excursion to life.

How much would they charge to rent it out?  I’d imagine it would be similar to use of a recording studio, and I can get a much better rate if I film during the graveyard shift.  Did they get a special deal due to their fame?  Did a generous donation on their behalf lead to a Tears For Fears wing on the library?  Does the library get thousands of gawking visitors like the Goonies house does?

Enough of my curiosities!  Let’s get down to business.  Click here to watch the video, or if you’d prefer to watch an oddly angular version uploaded to Youtube to circumvent copyright violation, then click here.

I wish that the angled version was the official video.  Maybe there is some further depth to the concept, like a representation of the uphill battle this diminutive man has to go through to win over this woman.  It could have been part of a diabolical plot to give the MTV generation chronic neck pain by having to tilt their heads 30 degrees (don’t bust your protractors out, it’s only a quick guess).  I’m giving the director far too much credit already.  I’m sure label figured the band was due for a silly video, and gave the director free reign.  After the first five ideas were no doubt rejected and painstakingly ridiculed, this is what we were left with.  Let’s watch!

CarryingBooks

I’m very glad to see that this library is trench coat friendly given the nasty reputations projected onto the men that wear them. That being said, I’d still like to believe that mountain of books in his arms contains select copies of National Geographic, “How To Draw The Female Body”, and whatever other pseudo-smut he can dig up in this conservative institution.  Perhaps a copy of the best-selling “Balancing Books I Happened To Grab Off The Shelf At Random” finds it’s way into the pile to ward off suspicion.

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Seconds into the video, we see a Hasidic Jew and a chimp dressed like a human.  All that’s missing is a horny school girl or two and Milton Berle in drag for all the 80’s music video tropes to be represented under one roof.  I wonder how many of them went through a flannel shirt phase once they started to lose relevance as the decade ended.

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A cute chick in glasses, just as any good fantasy should start.  Her outfit tells you that she is strictly business, wanting nothing to do with you or your advances.  But those eyes say what your lips dare not speak.  They say that there’s a secret whore waiting to be unleashed to the man who checks out the right book.  Our leading man knows this, but he clearly doesn’t frequent libraries very often.

What does he do first?  Not only is he failing to keep his speech to hushed tones, but he figures the acoustics in here make it great for singing.  Not a good first impression.  Little does he know that this would be the perfect way to get the wrong kind of attention in a library.  Is he trying to play the bad boy card and receive a ban?

I bet that this woman is deaf.  Not once do we see her tap at a “Please Be Quiet” sign.  This clumsy charade could have been avoided altogether had she pointed out the massive “SILENCE” banner that can briefly be seen at the beginning of the video.  Becoming a librarian would be an ideal profession for a deaf woman because, aside from the occasional lip reading, you are surrounded by books, which are as much of a friend to the deaf as publicity is to a Kardashian.  It would certainly excuse you from having to answer ignorant questions from this man or any other library visitors.

“Excuse me, but have you read this book?”  Of course I have! I’ve read each one of our collection of over 30,000 books.  Someone has to approve them before they are filed and placed on our shelves.  I’m a book-a-day woman, and since I started reading at around age five, that makes me far too old for the likes of you, Junior.  In fact, I hit the century mark next week.  Would you like me to save you a piece of cake for when you come back to renew “Everyone Poops”?

I’m not sure if our mulleted lead would be able to handle that much sarcasm in his fragile emotional state.

Some of her annoyed expression might be as a result of that huge stack he flopped onto her desk.  She knows he won’t be able to finish reading all those books within the lending period, so he’s going to be coming in to renew most of these for months until he is finished every last book.

Most likely, he grabbed all these books as an excuse to talk to her longer while she processes each one.  That was my initial instinct, but just as she starts to check them out, he walks away from the desk.  He couldn’t possibly be chickening out, can he?  That might be part of it, because he shows some rather odd behaviour as he turns his back to her.

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His feet seem heavy as if he had cement in his shoes. I figure that since he is in Toronto, he’s taken it upon himself to workshop a new character for Dave Foley.  He may be using this slow pacing in the event that she has something to say to him before he completely walks away.  He’ll turn around, realize he confused the hum of the ceiling fan for her voice, then head off to find another place to shoot the video with a librarian more receptive to his clueless seduction habits.

This trench coat is pouring his heart out to this woman to his own embarrassment and failure.  He loses control of his once well-mannered telekinetic powers, and starts pulling random papers from the drawers.  Avoiding adding injury to insult, he walks away without a single paper cut.  Not as if that cruel temptress would even show him a First Aid kit anyway.  She wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire, which is surprising since he has the charm of a toilet seat.

RebelKeyboardist

It looks as if Juliet has found her Romeo.  Why else would she have this keyboard out so quickly for him?  You can’t tell me that this library rents out musical instruments.  If I wandered in there looking for a Zon fretless bass, I’ll be stared at as if I had two heads.  No, there must be something special she sees in this rebellious young keyboard player.  The 80s was a time where either everyone in a band played keyboards or the one keyboardist was reduced to playing behind a curtain like a freakish sideshow oddity that, if unleashed, would prevent the rest of the band from getting laid.  Our girl has found the exception to the rule, so we can hardly blame her for getting a little anxious for his arrival.

Whenever I see a tough-looking man in a leather jacket entering a building, part of me expects him to be asking where Sarah Connor is.  That being said, I applaud any keyboardist that tries to separate himself from the pack.  A well-worn leather jacket can more than make up for whatever fruity sound that instrument can produce.  I’m guessing he could hit the demo button on that thing, and she’d swoon as if he wrote it just for her.  I further applaud him for not busting the door down with a keytar slung across his back.  That would override the effects of the jacket.  Save the gimmicky instruments for someone more desperate for attention.

He only uses the right hand to play the melody/solo, sliding to reach the desired notes knowing full well he isn’t amped up and they’ll add the studio mix in during post.  I’d say he was resting his other hand after writing down so many girl’s phone numbers, but that’s preposterous!  How can he write with his left hand?  He may, in fact, be left handed, but let’s be realists.  He’s obviously using that hand to brandish some sort of pussy magnet.

embarrasedchimp

Oops!!  Something’s not to that chimp’s liking.  It could be a reaction to that sour note, but he may not have heard it during filming.  What else could they have done to get that reaction out of him?  We were still a year away from Bill Bucker’s famous error, so he wasn’t watching an important enough game that would excuse him from his normal, chimpanzee acting duties.  Which brings us to a seemingly minor detail: Why the Red Sox jersey?  Remember that this is filmed in Toronto, so why not the Blue Jays?  Not only would this be a nod to the city, but to what ended up being the superior team of 1985.

Were they trying to mislead us into thinking this is a Boston-based library?  Good luck trying to pull the wool over the eyes of all the avid library aficionados that catch this video on the hit list.  It’s like whenever a movie is filmed in Toronto and they try to convince us it’s set in the United States despite the clear shots of the CN Tower, Tim Horton’s coffee shops on every other corner, and the puzzling casting choice of Don Cherry as mayor.

Early on, it’s looking very much like the nice guy finishes last, and the woman falls yet again for the bad boy. I’d gladly bow out in pursuit of a woman if a Chick Corea-type was inventive enough to flex some faux masculinity with a five o clock shadow and dress like an extra from Grease. It’s not an unattainable level of cool though. If I were the protagonist, I’d run back home, rip the sleeves off the coat, apply rub-on tattoos liberally to each bicep, kick down the door in a souped-up bicycle (racing stripe, skull and cross bone pennant on the back, baseball card in the spoke, water bottle filled with Sunny Delight), and watch her melt like butter.  Should that fail, you always have your interpretive dance skills to fall back on.

bang

Oh, I get it!  “Bang?”  There’s no end to this man’s brilliance.  I forgot to mention that one of the books in his massive pile was “A Prop Comic’s Guide to Innuendo”.  Out of all previous plays for her attention, this childish gag is the thing that gets her to crack a smile?  I’ll never fully understand women, but it helps prove another theory of mine.  Deep down, all librarians are perverts.

surprisedrummer

It turns out that the Jewish fellow was the drummer in costume all along.  Truly a blindsiding, Shyamalan-influencing twist if there ever was one.  Seconds after this stunner is unleashed on an unsuspecting public, we see that this skin basher (aka The Human Metronome, The Bringer of Thunder, or Sticks McGillicuddy) felt that dress-up time was over.  Good on Arthur Fonzarelli and the intellectual custodian for sticking to character.

When your drumming contemporaries can solo while upside down, I think negotiating an itchy prop beard isn’t too much to ask for.  I’ve yet to see the guys in ZZ Top get caught up in the strings of their guitars, so why can’t you take a chance?  Perhaps there was a reason that Frank Beard was the only guy in that band who was clean shaven.  It could be hard to keep time when your facial hair obstructs the view of your wristwatch.  I dunno.  I can’t be bothered to come up with a better drummer joke than that.  Maybe you can beat it.

BlooperReel

I wish the blooper reel was more in line with those found in the closing credits of Jackie Chan movies. People drop things every day, but that doesn’t mean it would make for an entertaining compilation. Get a papercut, an encyclopedia to the face, have his library card get revoked. Anything would be more worthwhile that watching the same “stunt” fail over and over. You’ve got a chimp on set, and you’re telling me he doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary. You want some real out-takes, hand him a copy of The Origin Of Species, sit back, and literally watch the shit hit the fan.

isthisthefuture

The ending is where I really need help deciphering.  The Wikipedia page for the video mentions that they are supposed to be married, yet neither of them look any happier.  Coupled with the sad, drawn fade out of the song leads me to further believe that this prospective couple will be doomed to a loveless marriage.  On the other hand, it’s unfair to judge the health and legitimacy of a relationship based on such a small sample size.  Besides, who among us didn’t get at least a bit excited for Luke Skywalker when Leia planted that kiss on him in The Empire Strikes Back?

Perhaps my Terminator instincts felt earlier wasn’t too far off, and the character portrayed by Roland Orzabal is some sort of time traveller trying to prevent something from occurring much like Kyle Reese or even Marty McFly of Back to The Future.  Obviously a man with no appropriate social skills when it comes to courting the opposite sex, he was due to live out his life alone and (probably) smelly.  His final days were to be spent collecting stamps from his affordable basement apartment.  And who do you think his landlords were?  The librarian and the wannabe James Dean.

Having rented from them for years, he could see (or at least hear through the floor) that their relationship was falling apart.  Having long abandoned the whole biker imagery, her husband was jumping from trend to trend quicker than a teenage girl.  His lifestyle seemed harmless at first, but once he began sporting “The Rachel”, their relationship began spiralling downward exponentially.  In spite of it all, she stood by the man, but another man couldn’t stand idle on the sidelines any longer.  If anybody was going to be in a dismal marriage with a women who could do much better, it was him.

Thankfully, the money saved in his low-rent lifestyle afforded him the ability to go back in time, as well as the surgery to flawlessly blend back into the 1980s.  In addition to desperately trying to wedge himself between the future lovebirds, he could also return all the library books he’d accumulated over several decades in order to avoid paying thousands of dollars in late fees.  As evident from the video, his mission proved successful with a Hail Mary throw rivaling Doug Flutie‘s, yet somehow with the style points of Carlton Banks.

After examining this video much too closely, I decided to make up for lost time.  I finally caved in and purchased their album Songs From The Big Chair at a local flea market.  Here’s proof that I am now man enough to handle being in the same room as such a poppy album.  I’ve made certain that I maintain my metal credibility by wearing a Gigan shirt and refusing to smile.

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