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  If I can express my feelings using out-of-date slang, that’s lamesauce.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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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30 Years, 30 Regrets

I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel as I turned thirty.  Some will say that thirty is the new twenty, and others will act like they are over-the-hill already.  The former are known as optimists, and the latter as women.  I didn’t feel any different on June 9th than I did on June 8th.  I didn’t blow out any candles on a cake until a few days later, so part of me thought this would be the Zoltar Speaks moment of transformation I was waiting for.  It was not.

While this didn’t feel much different than any other recent birthday, hitting a milestone age gave me a reason to reflect back on my accomplishments and experiences in life.  I’m not a man who regrets much in his life as all my experiences add up and shape who I am, and I like who I am.  Nonetheless, I’ve though up some things that I could potentially alter if possible, as well as a discussion of things I thought would have happened for me by now, but have not.

 A standard list of ten won’t do.  To match my age, I’ve opted for an exhausting thirty.  As this tips the scale with 10,000-plus words, I won’t blame you if you skim through it.

1) Going to the Prom

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Strangely enough, this was the first thing I thought up when this list, though I wouldn’t say it’s affected me much in the long term.  “What’s wrong with the prom?”, you might be thinking.  I went alone.  I was too awkward with women at the time, so I never asked anyone to be my date.  It’s as simple as that.

It actually sounds much worse than it was.  Overall, I’m neutral about my whole experience.  I think I had a pretty nice time, had a nice meal, and looked as nice as I could given my budget, all-purpose suit to be used at future weddings and funerals.  I don’t think I was sad watching couples dance or anything as I was probably too busy goofing around with some friends.  Heck, I even got a pity dance or two.  Yay!

My main beef was in the end-of-the-semester yearbook.  For some reason, I posed for a professional photo at prom (usually reserved for couples) because I was a sheep following the flock, and just about everybody got in the photo line.  This picture of me and my lonesome was published smack dab in the middle of the prom layout of the yearbook along with dozens of photos of smiling couples.  It stands out like a sore thumb, and I can imagine those that have a copy of the yearbook pausing on this photo and wondering what ever became of this dateless loner.  Did he ever find love, or did he settle for that pleasure bot he doodled on a napkin that one day in homeroom?

I’ve wondered what I’d do if a girlfriend of mine would find this yearbook and the offending photo.  Do I destroy the evidence, hoping that she’ll never learn of this?  Nah!!!  I’ll leave it next to my bed in hopes of elevating things a few notches above pity dance. I’m not a proud man.

2) Why All The Video Games?

This problem would be a lot easier to fix if I didn’t keep running into $5 game sales.

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I can probably count on my fingers the number of video games that I have defeated.  Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (The Video Game), Altered Beast, Crash Bandicoot: Warped, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2…..  There has to be others, but you can probably get the total counting with Homer Simpson’s fingers.

The point is that video games eat up a serious amount of time. It’s not as if the ones that I listed are the only ones that I’ve played.  I’m sure that total exceeds well over 200.  I’ll assume that it is 200, and I’ll put another conservative estimate that I’ve spent on average 4 hours playing each of them.  Couldn’t I do more with that 800-plus hours?  To add more to this under-estimated figure, what if I factored in back-seat gaming, watching friends accumulate blisters on their thumbs while I demand they stop moving their arms so excessively when making Mario jump?

If there is an afterlife, I’d hope that I can get a statistical printout from St. Peter (or, preferably, some Moneyball-type guy that dies before me) breaking down various aspects of my life.  The above figure is surely undercutting my reality substantially.  I can assure you that, seeing the final time tally, hours wasted playing video games would eclipse a depressing amount of activities.  Partying, studying (this coming from a pretty good student), sex (excluding thinking about it), charity work, etc.

It’s not too late for me.  I can call it quits right this second, but like much of my formal education, I am convinced that there must be some real life application to this.  You all can thank me when I settle a hostage situation by disarming the terrorists with an impressive display of NBA Jam wizardry.

3) Travel/Self-Discovery

I only bring this up because these two things seem to go hand in hand.  It is a prerequisite for lists of this nature.  I do this with reluctance because suggesting you haven’t discovered yourself unless you travel is like saying you can’t be smart unless you have a university degree or you haven’t truly heard music unless you’ve heard insert-album-here.  It’s not entirely accurate, and comes off a bit pretentious.

I have nothing against travelling. I have a few destinations in mind that I wouldn’t mind jumping on a plane to go see. The idea that you haven’t really lived unless you travel abroad is what bothers me. My family didn’t have too much money coming in, so we would only go on the odd road trip within our home province of Ontario. I do not feel that I was robbed of anything.

That being said, maybe I shouldn’t have let my finances keep me grounded, and exercised a little creativity. When the money isn’t there, why not have a look in my own backyard? If I could harness the same level of imagination that I had as a child, I could at least make my stay-cations more lively. If it were socially acceptable, I’d hang out with kids on a regular basis. I need to pick their brains about this.

Do you remember building forts as a kid out of big cardboard appliance boxes? I imagine that we will arrive on something similar by constructing some sort of cardboard airplane. Since I’m an adult and will need room for myself and passengers, we’d need to bank on a few of their parents buying refrigerators (mine works just fine, and I’m cautious with credit card expenditures).

Each yard is like a whole new country waiting to be explored.  I can view it as not only a learning experience, but a teaching experience by encouraging kids do proper research so they can strive for accuracy.  However, as kid’s decorating skills leave something to be desired, I might need to be intoxicated to buy into believing that Billy’s backyard is Japan.  It’s at the moment I drunkenly berate him for trying to pass off a broken hula hoop as a sumo wrestling ring that I’ll probably realize I’m the very reason that playing with strange children is considered socially unacceptable.

4) Study Something “Fun” at college

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For the record, I have no regrets about my post-secondary education.  Sure, I cringe when I see my bank account shrink by a few hundred dollars a month from student loan deductions, but I don’t regret my schooling.  I spent parts of six years centering my academic pursuits around various electronics courses and other courses of an engineering/technical nature.  Useful stuff, but where’s the fun?

I think I had fun at school. I didn’t have time to party as much as I wanted, but I enjoyed the community among my classmates in spite of the lack of female classmates.  I don’t think that co-ed education would have done anything to improve my grades, but it would be a way to add a touch of party atmosphere to the classroom that Electromagnetic Theory was severely lacking.

I don’t think just one course would cut it. I could have taken an elective course in university to expand my horizons in an irrelevant manner. Pretty much anything can become a class provided there are enough people willing to pay for it.  Sleep Appreciation.  Automotive Design By Hanna-Barbara.  Forestry: A Feminist Perspective.  And then there’s ones I didn’t make up.  But that’s just a few hours of my time a week over the course of a semester.

I’m thinking a one year program or at least something substantial enough so I get a piece of paper to hang on my wall to let everybody know how I wasted my money.  If you accumulate all my wasted time, I’m sure it could add up to about a year that I wouldn’t mind reusing.

5) Be More Assertive When Job Networking

Ever attend a job fair? I can’t be the only person who can smell the desperation in the air.  There’s a reason for that.  Job seekers have a distinct odour about them.  It comes from a combination of the hastily-consumed pizza breakfast that lingers on their breath, nervous perspiration, and moth balls in the breast of their suit jacket.  Given their undesirable position on the unemployment line, it’s easy to forgive them for forgetting to at least mask it all under some Old Spice.

Here’s the main thing that turns me off about networking: It’s the publicly acceptable way of kissing ass.  You don’t approach people of importance at companies just to find out a company is “cool” and then leave it at that.  You want a job, you want a paycheck, and you’ll pretend whoever you are talking to is the most interesting person in the world assuming they will provide you with both those things.  I realize I probably hurt my career prospects by avoiding certain networking practices, but a part of me feels dirty whenever I attempt them.

From all I’ve read, networking basically amounts to stalking entire companies. The advice below lists common tactics often suggested to job hunters. Take note of the use of the word company. It can easily be switched out for the word girl. Stop me once it starts getting creepy.

  • Check the internet. The initial groundwork spent doing research online is important for establishing a relationship with the company of your choice.
  • Get in contact with the people who are most important to the company.  Know them, know the company.  Ask about anything from big picture items like mission statements and growth potential to the finer details like insurance benefits and what she smells like.
  • Run an overnight stakeout with hi-res binoculars in hopes that the company sleeps naked.

6) Invent Something

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The one sure way to achieve immortality is to create something that leaves a lasting impact on the earth.  There’s something romantic about designating yourself as an inventor.  I can see myself right now wearing old-timey duds, Bunsen burners ablaze for no particular reason, going crazy with sketches on drafting paper, and furiously writing and erasing math formulas on a chalkboard.  Any combination of Greek letters with exponents and division signs would be enough to make me look genius enough (heck, throw in an emoticon or two in to see who’s paying attention), but I want a product I can hold in my hands, not a theorem that I’d be schooled mercilessly by academic types for daring to challenge them.

It has also got to move units.  I want Ron Popeil to become so discouraged he stops dying his hair, Vince Offer to go into hiding to never Schticky another soul, and the ghost of Billy Mays to haunt my family for generations out of pure envy.  The retail price is not important.  If I’ve learned anything from infomercials, the payments have to be easy.  Ease of payment is all relative, so I’ll put any prospective buyer in touch with a financial adviser or an employment agency.  The product doesn’t even have to make life simpler.  You just need to show enough footage of people not being able to perform regular, mundane tasks until your average Joe believes that no knife in their house is fit to spread butter.

How do I get in on the ground floor of such a lucrative industry?  I’ll start by thinking of ways to improve a typical day at home, and start by fixing those problems.  Just this past Sunday, I forgot to set my alarm clock, and slept in later than I planned.  Solution?  An alarm to remind me to set my alarm – The PreReminder 3000.  I had to get ready for my workout routine that afternoon, but I was lacking a bit of motivation.  Solution?  Shame-Away, a pre-workout DVD customized to poke fun at your pudginess until your ready to prove the doubters wrong.  I then had to finally go to bed to rest for the following day’s work, but I wasn’t tired.  Solution?  Drugs.  I should just deal drugs.

7) Start a Youtube channel

As if there aren’t enough of them, I’ve thought about (but never got around to) starting my own Youtube channel.  I mostly use Youtube as a way of discovering musicians or comedians, so I mostly check out channels that violate copyrights by hosting unauthorized content.  I do not wish to run that type of channel.

I also do not want to run a channel dedicated to video game “Let’s Play” content, unboxings, or reaction videos.  I’d treat it like my blog.  I’ll have no regular pattern of releasing content, and share what interests me without concerning myself with what other people want.

What exactly it is that I decide to upload is not immediately important now.  I will keep promotion to a minimum to make my channel the hidden gem of viral video production.  I’ll only share it on Facebook so that my pathetically low modest 73 friends get the inside scoop.  If the viewership stats are anything like this blog, the Youtube channel will be so underground that Doozers wouldn’t notice it when building their little structures.  Not even if they had proper fitting helmets.

Does the fact I make a Fraggle Rock reference show my lack of imagination?  I need more references for things that operate underground.  I thought about saying that it would be the reason Bugs Bunny couldn’t make that left turn at Albuquerque, but that goes against what I’m trying to say.  It would be insignificant.  Nobody would watch it.

I’m not bitter at all.

8) Be President of Something

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I’ll settle for vice-president.  The only pseudo-organized club I’ve been part of was the student council of my elementary school when I was in grade eight.  My title was Public Relations.  I remember this because I got a plaque at the end of the year with this printed on it, but it was a completely meaningless title.  Was the student council president too busy stuffing her bra to handle talking to the constant stream of press that swarmed the school halls on a daily basis?

Why couldn’t I achieve this before turning thirty?  I’ve battled with self-esteem issues for a large portion of my life.  This would not make the ability to handle criticism in a high-power position very easy and it would make public speaking difficult, throwing Freudian slips into every third sentence.  I’ve become much better at it as I’ve aged because, simply, I’ve stopped caring.  Not in a “I Don’t Want to Live” kind of way, more in the egotistical “Shut Up! I’m Right, You’re Wrong! That’s Why I’m Up Here, And You’re Down There.” way.  Any good leader has to resent everyone beneath them to a certain degree.

Telling people I’m the President of Keeping It Real only results in annoyed chuckles, so I need something of substance to reign over.  President doesn’t even have to be part of the title.  I just want to be in a position to accept bribes.  There have got to be positions in municipal government that I can run for with little to no competition.  I could challenge a senior in such a position who has had their role for 50 years with little threat of losing their title.  Not ready to take on a young upstart, they lose the vote in a landslide, losing the very thing that gave them a purpose.

Being the last name someone curses as they breathe their last breath?  That’s power.

9) Become an Uncle

No news on this one to report.  You can’t blame me for lack of trying.  I did nothing to discredit my brother or sisters to potential partners or prevent any of them from pursuing a long-term relationship with the person of their choosing.  With my non-interference, I am without fault as I see it.

Way to drop the ball on this one, siblings!  You had a free babysitter at the ready, and spoiled my chance at getting practice dad reps out of the way early on.  Now I will have to resort to other means of preparation like giving needless advice on Facebook photos of friends’ babies.  I don’t have direct contact with a child, so I count on them to pass along my pearls of wisdom.

Being in some sort of mentoring program like Big Brothers could fulfill that role, but time could be a problem for me.  I’d have to start off as a substitute Big Brother.  If Brother scored a hot date at the last second, I’ll be right there to take care of it.  As long as a Leafs or Raptors game isn’t on that night.  Or the Blue Jays.  Or the Argos.  And I hope Netflix doesn’t shut down.

Can I be in, like, a Big Cousin program or something?  I’ll see you during the holidays, but since we don’t have the rapport brought about through frequent visiting, I don’t need to put much thought into a present.  Remembering your name and guessing your age within two years is really all you should expect.

10) Attempt a Crazy Stunt

Another sure way to immortality is, ironically, to risk your mortality by defying it in a needlessly stupid fashion. Several people technically do this through chain smoking or by finding a way to put bacon into their mouth every time it opens, but those habits can get too comfortable. To be a stuntman, you can’t afford to be comfortable. I think Evel Knievel was quoted as saying that right after paying a medical bill.

It’s technically not too late to be a daredevil, but I doubt that I will have the bounce-back ability body-wise that I would as a younger man.  I feel that this is something that one should be aching to do from a young age. You have to be the type of kid that isn’t afraid to get dirty and to play without fear. That isn’t even close to describing the Dan of two decades past.  I think I still cried over scraped knees when I was thirteen.  I’d dread to splash about in puddles in fear of the laundry my mother would be stuck with. She told me that nothing gets mud out, and I believed her.

This is not an obsession that one starts in their thirties.  If I’m up on a ledge, I should be talked off it.  If I hop aboard a motorcycle, direct me to the nearest DriveTest center for proper instruction and licensing.  And if I crash through a glass window while lit on fire and blindfolded, then my attempt at Daredevil cosplay has horribly backfired.

I was recently very close to achieving this goal. Early this year, I almost settled for a stint in a no-holds-barred backyard wrestling match. I pulled out at the last minute because I kept second-guessing my stage name.

11) Lacking a Nickname That Sticks

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I fear that if it hasn’t happened yet, it never will. Fortunately, not all hope is lost. My father picked up the unique nickname “The Poison Dwarf” as a middle-aged man by his coworkers. Realizing that this may be a shot at both his height and a potential flatulence problem, I’ll try to stay patient while being fortunate that a bad one doesn’t linger.

My alliterative first and last names have led to some rather generic ones, among them “D-Squared” (still wondering what D times D equals) and “Double-D” (a damning epithet for chubbier times). My first name has led to “Dan The Man”, “Danimal”, and “Dan-an-an-an-an-an-an-an-an-an-an-an-an… Batman!!!”. These types often come too easy. Except for the Batman one, which I just made up.

As much as I’d love an ironic nickname like Stan “The Boy” Taylor or Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson, I think a nickname should need to be earned like those of athletes Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Pete Rose’s “Charlie Hustle”, or Allen “Practice Makes Perfect” Iverson.

Nicknames should also not be something that one anoints upon themselves, but I’ve got a few suggestions nonetheless.

“Spear” – Short for spearmint, my preferred post-lunch breath freshener. It’s not the only gum I’ll chew. Hubba Bubba is alright, but I don’t have the curves to pull that one off.

“The Machine” – It’s not for my favourite character in WMAC Masters, but for my lack of consumption of coffee during the work day.  Coffee has always been a beverage I’ve enjoyed with a large breakfast or a casual stop at a coffee shop. I enjoy the taste, but do not rely on it for energy.  My co-workers sometimes rag me on it as if I think I’m better than them and their precious coffee, yet on their sixth cup of the day, they still complain about how tired they are. I’d like this nickname because it’s very open-ended. It’s rare to find one that insinuates that you are both great in the sack and yet also boring and predictable in the sack.

“Red” – No, this isn’t an ironic nickname. This one is usually reserved for redheads or gingers, the latter of which I pray to deities I don’t even believe in to express some gratitude for my avoidance of such a curse. You see, I suffer from nosebleeds. They may only occur a few times a year, but from eyewitness accounts, they are quite the sight to behold. If that doesn’t cut it for you, perhaps my fondness of red licorice and communist facial hair will.

It’s all up to you, though. You may not know me, but throw me a nickname, and I won’t hesitate to structure my lifestyle in order to live up to it.

12) Learn to Cook Sooner

I’ve been doing lots of cooking ever since moving into my apartment over three years ago, but I wish I was further ahead in my abilities by starting at a young age.

For anybody that has yet to give cooking an honest chance, don’t resign yourself to a lifetime of Swanson’s TV dinners just yet.  Cooking is ridiculously easy.  Creating dishes by yourself, not so much, but cooking in general can be done by just about anyone.

Have you ever even looked at a recipe book?  Most recipes are one page in length or shorter.  If that’s a bit overwhelming for you, use a straight-edged ruler to guide your eyes so you don’t skip one of the eight steps.  If it’s still too much to handle, and I don’t want to come across as insensitive, but learn how to read.

Don’t let your manly pride get in the way and start guesstimating the recipe like in many a Three Stooges short.  Don’t take a haphazard approach to cooking by throwing away the instructions like you would when building a child’s toy.  Be wary of the choking hazard, which is at a much higher risk when preparing something actually intended to put in our mouths.  Over-spicing a dish can kill more than just your breath.

I’m doing fine now, but where do I think I would be if I started cooking, say, ten years earlier?  What’s the best I could have honestly hoped for?  To be driven to tears by Gordon Ramsay in front of millions of viewers for slightly under-cooking the linguine?  If I wanted needless abuse that badly, I’d hire a dominatrix to judge my cooking.  She may not have too refined a palette, but it would make for a good after-dinner story.

13) Get A Tattoo

The main thing that has kept from getting a tattoo is my indecisiveness.  Lots of people get their first one as a teenager, but if I made that choice, you’d might see Fred Durst staring at you from my right shoulder blade.  I do not want my future grave to become a time capsule for my regrettable obsessions.  I’m sure I have an old Myspace profile floating around that will do that job well enough.

Those in the pro-tattoo camp might say, “Don’t worry, Dan, it’s just your body!”.  That same line of thinking has driven once proud, active bodies to riding around in scooters, and leads some men to think a dozen hairs makes for an acceptable moustache.  Why dismiss such a big decision so easily?  These same people would spaz out if I shaved their hair into a mohawk as they slept.  At least hair (usually) grows back.  Let me take pride in my paleness.  Not in a white power way, but at least I’m willing to admit that immersing my skin in tribal art isn’t going to magically make me ethnic.

One common defense of tattoos is that it is they’re a medium for artistic expression.  Sure, I get that.  So, did you do it yourself?  Well, I designed it.  No, did you do it yourself?  Don’t bother answering.  I saw your preliminary sketch in the waste-bin.  That ain’t your handiwork.  Contortion is a key part of the game here.  If you can reach it, you can ink it, and then all credit goes to you, a true artist.  Take all the credit when the tattoo turns out great, but when it isn’t quite to your liking, you write a 5000 word criticism of the establishment on Google, demanding they be shut down and that the appropriate staff member be charged for bodily assault.  You can’t have it both ways.

Once I get it in my head to be tattooed, I foresee a problem.  I leave the tattoo parlour, my back still aching from a fresh tramp-stamp of Wilson from Home Improvement, and who else but Mark Messier is standing outside.  Lay’s potato chip bag in hand, and his arms covered in sleeves of ink.  “Bet you can’t get just one.”  He’s got me there!  I can’t turn that challenge down.  Not with that stare of his.  I go overboard, come back out looking ready for my Ripley’s Believe It Or Not photo opp, and Messier’s laughing his ass off.

tattooedman

Nice, Mess.  That’s nice.  You’ve turned me off two of my greatest loves in life, hockey and potatoes.  Not only that, now I can never trust a bald man ever again.  So, dad, if I stop returning your calls, know that it is only due to intimidation caused by a highly implausible scenario.

14) Get To Know My Liquor

I don’t mean that in a Jim Lahey sense.  I’m not a guy who drinks a whole lot.  I never really was that guy.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll drink heavy at a party if I’m long overdue for a public embarrassment, but I never viewed drinking as an Olympic event.  When I drink, it’s usually just one beer at the pub or a splash of rum at home.  I don’t buy into building up a tolerance, though a few stiff drinks can make me more tolerant of unwanted party guests.

Lately, whenever I go to the LCBO, I look at the scotch or the whiskey and try to buy a bottle that I’ve never tried before.  The problem right now is that I don’t think I’ve developed a strong preference for a particular brand.  I think I’m a little better when it comes to beers, but that beverage doesn’t sit as well in my stomach as liquor.

There are all sorts of ways to describe the taste of various alcohols, and it seems rather interesting to me.  I can agree with their descriptions and terms because they come from a real place.  This isn’t like going to an art gallery and trying to upstage a fellow admirer by trying to get into the artist’s head, questioning whether that brushstroke comes from a deeper pain or did they try painting with their opposite hand for a few minutes.

I don’t want a wine cellar, and I don’t need my own personal bar.  I just want to have more to say about a drink than “Mmmmm!” or “I should stick with this one. It doesn’t give me a hangover.”

obamawithbeer

15) Crash A High School Party

This wouldn’t be such a big deal coming from a fellow high schooler.  I should have crashed a high school party as a 29-year old.  I would not do this with any bad intentions.  It would not be to try to score with young girls with loose morals (which, by being the creeper at the party myself, would be saying a lot), and I would not be supplying the party with booze or drugs.  I’d just want to attempt to blend in naturally like 21 Jump Street.

I doubt it would work despite the fact I think I look young for my age.  I needed to do this to have my bubble burst earlier on.  I’d like to overhear kids whisper “Whose dad is that?” or “Who invited the old guy?”.  I would have liked to face ageing acceptance before the calendar tells it to me, being singled out in alarming fashion mirroring the ending of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

What would I do once I get in there?  Drink?  No.  This party needs a responsible adult.  Maybe I could DJ.  However, I have a few no-nos for the playlist.  No dubstep, no country, and no heavily auto-tuned pop music.  It’ll also have to be a BYOM(usic) party because my music collection lacks much of what the young folk are into these days.  That would also involve me having to tell this to the kids in advanced, so it wouldn’t be so much of a crash.  It also all but assures the cool ones won’t turn up.

That’s a risk I don’t want to take.  I hope the kids still like Savage Garden.

16) Hustle a Guy

I’m not sure what my approach would be, but I’m very good at faking weakness and I have an honest face.

Where are the typical places to hustle? A pool hall or a bowling alley.  I can get the first part right by leading a prospective opponent into believing I suck.  It’s the second part that gets me. The winning.  I think asking to put the gutter guards up and for a 100 point head start would be overdoing it.

Is it possible to hustle a guy in trivia?  Bomb easy questions intentionally (I thought you said what isn’t the capital of Ontario), then proceed to show him in how much time I waste reading Wikipedia pages about albums that were certified platinum in Denmark.

I’ll strive to be a rough around the edges Ken Jennings.  I’ll dress like I’ve never read a book in my life.  In other words, I’ll stick with my jeans and graphic t-shirts.  Or I can dress exactly like Ken Jennings.  In other words, dress as if the only book I’ve read in my life was The Holy Bible.

I’ve intentionally flubbed trivia questions around people just so they don’t pass judgement on my social life.  Yes, I do lack an active social life, but what’s it to you?  And yes, I’ve bailed out of social engagements claiming I’m a stand-in contestant for Blockbusters even though the show was cancelled two years after my birth.  When it finally gets a reboot, I can always buy those friends back.

In all seriousness, I want this skill to finally pay off.  I invested good time in not just collecting, but actually reading the backs of my sports cards.  What did you do with all your 1991-92 Score Hockey cards?  Put them in a safe?  That’s a shame!  Time may have rendered them worthless for you, but I expect my knowledge of the 1991 Expansion Draft will yield a small fortune.

17) Balance Two Dates at Once

Rather over-ambitious of me to wish to get this one accomplished.  It involves not just having one woman agree to go out with me, but two women, and on the very same night.  If you hired a statistician to crunch the likelihood of these events lining up, their head would explode Scanners style. I am not a frequent dater, so to improve my odds, I’d have to pick random women that I have zero interest in seeing after this evening.  The positive is that it would take the pressure off getting caught, but I need that pressure.  It makes for better entertainment for the studio audience that exists in my imagination.

It might not be a difficult task at a movie theatre with the cover of darkness to assist me, but where’s the sport in that?  That’s for cowards.  I’ll make two dinner dates at the same restaurant.  The tables won’t be adjacent, but I will position myself so that I can see the other table at all times.  It will let me know if one of my dates bails, picks at the food on my plate, or stockpiles the silverware into her purse.  This is my night, honey!  I won’t let you ruin it by having the two of us banned for life.

I will eat two meals that night.  Don’t dare think that I won’t do it.  It would only be ludicrous to do so if I ordered the exact same meal twice.  There is a high probability that the evening wouldn’t end well anyway, so to spend the rest of the evening hovering over the bowl in agony wouldn’t be much trouble.  In fact, depending on the severity of my suffering, it might help me forget that I publicly embarrassed two women that would be much sweeter human beings than I am.

My last ditch attempt to save face if I’m caught?  A lie!  I’ll play it off as an homage to Robin Williams and the brilliant climax in Mrs. Doubtfire.  The second one of them asked why I didn’t dress up as an old lady or try to give one of them the Heimlich maneuver, I’d smartly reply that we needed to save a little something for the rest of the evening, then obnoxiously wink at whichever one of them seemed the least creeped out.

18) Wear a Pair of Leather Pants

yngwieLeather

Cut me some slack!  It’s a long list, so I was bound to pad it up somewhere.  This has always been a clothing decision, for men in particular, that has always boggled my mind.

There is just so much about it that leaves me curious.  Is it a similar sensation to sitting on a leather seat in shorts on a hot day?  Is there a layer of material on the inside that prevents the leather from sticking you your skin, or is that a part of the thrill I’m missing out on?

Thankfully, this seems to be more fashionable on an ageing rock star than it would a young man, so time is on my side for this one.  First, I need to finally get that garage band onto the stage, gain a few years of relevance, fade into obscurity for twenty years, then reunite only to find out that our fan base aged worse than we did.

On second thought, I’ve yet to wear tights either.  That could work, as it is also equally disturbing for both the wearer and the spectator.  I’d like to ask Steve Harris where he bought his. Oh, and I forgot about jean shorts!  I should have separated these into different points.

19) Audition For a Professional Sports Team

It starts looking pathetic to cling to professional athlete ambitions when you hit the north side of thirty.  I’ll let it slide if your name is Will Ferrell.

Locally, I would have pegged my most realistic shots of making a team out of training camp with one of two franchises: the Toronto Argonauts (Canadian Football League) or the Toronto Rock (National Lacrosse League).  This is not a shot at either team or their respective league.  I just think the chances of an open audition process would be greater within these leagues than they would the NHL, NBA, or MLB.

To be honest, I know I’d have a zero percent shot at playing on either team things being the way they are now.  I don’t consider my height as much of a hindrance to play either sport (I’m 5’5”), but at 140-ish pounds, I lack at least 30 lbs of muscle to prevent me from being crumpled like a discarded beer can when an opponent does as little as breathe on me.  That being said, I’m a red-blooded heterosexual male, so a part of me would want to try out just for the attention of the cheerleaders that wouldn’t give me the time of day in high school (all tying back to the prom thing now).

My newly crippled body lying motionless on the playing surface, I’m sent home as I don’t clear the first round of cuts.  Looking sad and helpless in my bloodied, over-sized sports gear, one of the cheerleaders finds it in her heart to give me her number.

911?  How adorable!  So nervous to meet me she forgot the rest of it.

20) Give Someone A Makeover

fashionmakeovers

Who’s to say that this isn’t something a straight man can strive for? Who among us with an older sister hasn’t once gone through the humiliation of being dressed up as the sister they desperately wanted (you could have stopped once actually did get one)? It’s only natural to want to give back, but, dammit, I want to do it for the right reason.

I’d approach it from two angles. I want to both “cool-up” a guy, and “nerd-down” a girl. I think this would be appropriate for both sides to get attention from the opposite sex.

The recipe is so simple in both cases. With the guy, I’d lob off his long locks he thinks makes him look like Jared Leto when he looks more like Lemmy From Motorhead, get him on some kind of fitness program, and then take him to chivalry school. She’ll be eating off his hairless six-pack in no time, and he’ll politely thank her for not leaving a mess.

For the girl, force-feed her a healthy diet of comic books and action movies, spice up the wardrobe with t-shirts containing obscure pop-culture references, and get her some thick rimmed glasses even if she doesn’t need them.  If she wants a man with personality, this is the right way to get his attention.  It’s sort of like the opposite of that Rachael Leigh Cook movie, but if you look like Rachael Fucking Leigh Cook why would you need my help?

Afterwards, I’d attempt to set both of them up on dates, but things start to get a bit weird.  I end up doing so good a job, creating such perfect beings, that I fall deeply in love with both of them.

Did somebody say Polygamous Bi-sexual?  Little did I know I’d be the one who gets the makeover!  Sweet Lady Irony’s got her hooks in me yet again.

21) Get Into Doctor Who

dandoctorwho

Anyone who lists missing out on a cult sci-fi TV show as one of his life regrets is clearly a man with his priorities straight.  I’m just one man.  World peace is out of my grasp.  I’ll do my part to set the world right, but let me catch up on some cult classics in the meanwhile.

I’ve only caught it in glimpses, and the decades that the series has spanned has made it overwhelming just to figure out where to begin.  I like to write in my spare time, so I’ll use it as inspiration for my fan fiction where I play the Thirteenth Doctor.  I love writing fan-fic involving shows where I’ve seen little of the source material.  That’s how innovation takes place in the entertainment industry.  I’m having a bit of writer’s block on my Charles In Charge movie idea, so this project would give me something else to focus on for the time being.

All I know know is that he often dresses like a hipster, hangs around cute girls, and still manages to find a use for a phone booth after they’ve long gone irrelevant.  All of the above could just as easily been obtained without even watching a proper episode.  I should expand on this deep well of knowledge by doing a balanced, proper crash course in the Who (not The Who, with whom I’m very familiar with already).  I’ll watch one episode starring each Doctor.  Considering that there are have been twelve different Doctors during the run of the show, I’d say that’s marginally better than the bare minimum.  I’ve never been one to colour within the lines (except for in kindergarten, where my crayon discipline earned me a scratch-and-sniff cotton candy sticker), so I’ll probably just J.J. Abrams the shit out of it and pretty much start from scratch.

Seriously though, if anybody can recommend the best Doctor Who era to start watching, I’m all ears.

22) Write a Book

Note that I didn’t say novel.  Not everyone has a novel in them.  It could be a how-to manual, a Coles Notes to a book you lack the skill to write yourself, portions of an encyclopaedia, propaganda literature.  Pretty much wherever your keyboard takes you.  Novels sets the bar too high, even though I’ve heard the phrase “everyone has a novel in them” thrown around.

Would writing a children’s book be considered writing a proper book, or is that kind of cheating?  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Dr. Seuss and Robert Munsch as much as the next developmentally-delayed adult, but what’s in a children’s book?  500 words?  They cram more words into the fine print of a Cialis commercial.  I’d say it’s fair if you also doubled as the illustrator.  That’s where I’d fall short.  My mom holds on to lots of my childhood mementos.  My artwork, not as much.  The only potential she saw in my art was in it’s potential to waste paper.  She’d write my name on each individual marker and pencil crayon not so my classmates could return them to me.  By lending them out, it was the only way she thought my name could be associated with good art.  I kid, of course.  She’d hang my work on the fridge, but since we only had one magnet, it would be off the moment she found Dairy Queen coupons in the mail.

While a novel is highly ambitious, I’ll be willing to sell my life story for the right price if there are and interested biographers out there. I’m not a greedy man, so I’ll warn you off the bat that I didn’t have much going on in my life between the ages of 25 and 27. We might have to flesh out that section by borrowing from other biographies I’ve read. I know that Hulk Hogan is also a bass player, so I’m sure that’s enough grounds to pass some of his life off as mine no problem. We’ll just throw in a pic of me leg dropping The Ultimate Warrior to fend off the doubters.

23) Have a Rival / Arch-Nemesis

Excluding the natural sibling rivalries that occurred during childhood, I was never wrapped up in any sort of long lasting feuds.  I’d like to think it’s because I’m a pretty good guy, but if certain people heard how I talked about them behind their backs, that could all change in a heartbeat.

Being perpetually angry at individuals who have wronged me in relatively minor ways seems like a waste of energy.  Still, this is a void that I’d want filled.  I should post an online classified ad.

WANTED: ADVERSARY

Have you ever watched a Roadrunner / Wile E. Coyote cartoon or read a Spy vs Spy comic and thought “Why do they get to have all the fun”? You’re not alone.

To state it simply, I’m in a rut.  My days seem so routine.  Wake up, shower, nine to five job, get home, sleep, repeat.  Slip a bit of food in there, the occasional social function, and catching up on Coronation Street, and that’s me in a nutshell.  I need an obstacle.  I need an enemy.  I need a worthy opponent.  I need you.  Be my bad guy, and I’ll be yours.

Sorry, ladies, but I’m looking for a man.  There will always loom the possibility that our actions will result in fisticuffs.  The last, and only, time I raised my hand in violence to a female was when I got between a mother grizzly and her cub.  Needless to say, it was a lesson well learned.

I realize you may not be up for the job because you do not know who I am.  How can you possibly despise a man who has caused you no harm to date?  Okay, then, you’ve twisted my arm.  Need some motivation to hate me?  I have it on good word that your birth was unplanned.  Your parents only kept you for the potential tax benefits and they thought it unfair to unload the burden of their shattered dreams and aspirations onto the cat.  Making your blood boil yet?  I’ve got more harsh revelations than that, but I’ll leave the paternal lineage of your first-born out of this for now.

I’d make a reasonable foe.  None of my schemes will result in direct harm to your genitals.  I’m classy like that.  I offer no guarantees about collateral damage, so have any visitors wear appropriate lower body protection.  I’ll leave it to you to find a way to explain it to them.

Submitting a photo is not a prerequisite, but I would prefer it if you are more handsome than me.  It makes it that much easier to despise you.  How will you know if that’s the case?  Believe in yourself.  I admire confidence in a man.  If your confidence is often misconstrued as brashness or pretentiousness, which I LOATHE, win-win for me.

Note: This is NOT a paid position.  With my resources being invested in developing more pungent stink-bombs and more transparent plastic wrap, there is no additional room in the budget.  Besides, having the knowledge that your very existence will be a discomfort within me, much like a pebble in my shoe that I can never shake out, is payment enough.

Interested applicants can reach me at… not so fast!  You’d like my contact information, wouldn’t you?  Crank calling me at all hours of the night, setting flaming bags of poop on my doorstep, replacing my shaving cream with spray cheese.  I almost fell for your little trap.  I will not do your homework for you, nor will I continue to list obvious ideas on how to prank me. Besides, I’ve grown used to shaving with unconventional moisturizers, so do your worst.

I will find you.

24) Experiment with Sleep Deprivation

Depriving myself of sleep seems like a young man’s game.  I routinely take 30 minute naps when I come home from work.  Not once did I pull an all-nighter to cram for big test in university.  I have, and will always, appreciate getting proper rest.  If I’m going to fail an exam, I’d at least like to have the energy to stare blankly at my page or brainstorm possible majors to switch to.

When would the best time have been for me to have a 48+ hour vacation from slumber?  Most likely, it would by during my summer breaks during my university days.  Still, just because I can afford to do something doesn’t mean that I should.  Heck, I’d love to have a Roomba to do all my cleaning for me, but it would lower my leverage in the pursuit of a career as a stay-at-home husband.

I’m already getting exhausted trying to think of something else to say about sleep deprivation.  I’ll grab a few winks, and leave you to enjoy a slightly related Peanuts panel.

tiredcharliebrown

Done already?  Unless those 1.4 seconds were all I needed, I’m probably still napping.  Scroll back up, put your face close to the comic, let your eyes go out of focus, and watch as Charlie Brown transforms into a sailboat.  If that happens, you need more sleep than I do.  But those magic eye illusions never worked for me, so what do I know?

25) Quit a Job in an Epic Fashion

In the age of social media, this has become almost impossible to do without someone filming it and showing the world.  I often see links to videos about such events.  I never click to watch them, mind you.  They are often preceded with a click-bait of a title that sounds straight from a Mad Libs fill-in.  “Disgruntled employee blankety-blank-blank! You won’t believe duh-duh-duh with his boss’ do-do-do!”  No, thanks.  I’ve had enough of these.  It seems like I can’t pop onto the internet for more than five minutes without seeing “11 Daring Ways To Paint Eggs This Easter. No. 6 Changed My Life!!!!” or “This Single-Mom Spent An Entire Week Ignoring Her Children. How Children’s Aid Responds Will Have You Rolling On The Floor!!”

I resist click-bait in the same way I resist commercials with humour in them.  I know that a commercial is trying to sell me something, and the critic within me doesn’t want to give them the satisfaction of laughter even though they cannot see me.  In the rare case I give a commercial as much as a chuckle, I take corrective action and never laugh at it again. I then bow my head in shame until whatever show I was watching comes back on.  Leave the comedy to the comedians, and leave the selling to the humourless.

I missed the boat on being a diva while quitting a job.  This would be best left for a completely dead end position or for a job I hate.  In any case, is that the way I’d want to go out?  Job security and establishing myself as a trustworthy employee are at the forefront in my vision of career success.  At this point, the best way to quit a job is to have a better job to go to.  There’s no need to play the wild-card if I have an ace up my sleeve.  Failing that, I’ve got a backup plan involving a paintball gun, a tutu, and an insult-laced parody of R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”.  I ask in advance for any co-workers or passers-by promise to shut off all recording devices when that point arrives.  Let’s keep this one an eye-witness exclusive.

26) Get Into Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons and Doctor Who?  All I’d need is World Of Warcraft to complete a nerd hat trick, after which everyone throws their retainers onto the ice in celebration.

This task I actually made an attempt to complete.  Sometime last year, I purchased an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Starter Kit with visions of being the envy of my friends.  I got as far as creating a character, but never even made time to complete the initial solo mission to gain familiarity with game strategy.  Let me tell you, though, I had the pride of an expecting mother when I created my character.

His name is Lendai, an anagram of Daniel.  I’d pronounce it Len-Die, but wouldn’t shed a tear if a fellow adventurer called me Len-Day.  I’d assume the mispronunciation was out of respect, thinking the name over an saying “Fuck it, they both sound awesome” before making their guess of it.  He is a halfling, an homage to my love of Spock, a human/vulcan hybrid.  Yes, I need to factor Star Trek into most activities to make them enjoyable.  Pretending the church band were space hippies on their way to Eden was the only way I could make it through mass as a child without falling asleep.  It helped that they wore disgustingly outdated clothing.

Then reality hit: I have no friends who’d want to play this with me.  I’d have to make new friends.  That’s not my fear.  The fear is joining up with an established group of D&Ders and being the guy that slows the game down.  I fear they’d always see me as a rookie no matter how many battles we fight alongside one another.  That first time would be the roughest.  A constant stream of bad Monopoly flashbacks dance through my head as every move I make is met with harsh criticism.  A broken man, defeated and down on myself, I arrive home, stare deep into the mirror while I shave my head, put on crooked lipstick, then go cry in the shower in the fetal position.

Hopefully, I’d get more confident as time moves on.  When I get comfortable in a group settling, I like to be the ball-buster.  The joker.  Riding the fine line between prankster and prick.  Call me childish if you must, but there’s no more appropriate a venue for unleashing one’s inner child than the back room of a comic book store or in someone’s parent’s basement.

27) Star in a Commercial

I already laid blame at the feet of my sisters and brother, so the time has come to turn on mom and dad.  WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!!!???  You had a pair of cute, chubby twin baby boys, and you didn’t even think once about exploiting it for financial gain?  We had a year’s head start on those damned Olsen twins.  Think about all the Pampers the pair of us would move!

babyphoto

We’ll move ’em after our nap

I know, I know, you were looking out for our best interests.  You didn’t want to get us in the game too early.  As a unit, we were bound to be typecast into roles where we speak in unison, dress the same, or talk in a secret language.  If I wanted to get on TV, I’d have to do it solo.  There was nothing stopping me from going to commercial auditions other than my crippling fear of rejection.  Once I shed that, I’ll be golden.  With that accomplished, I’ll have a whole new typecasting problem to deal with.  I’ll have to compete with a bunch of other thirty-somethings over the role of the spineless/idiot boyfriend/husband/father.

I have no clue how to actually break into commercials.  It seems that I see the same ten actors in every commercial on TV.  They say that familiarity breeds contempt, so I’d say that companies may be doing themselves a huge disservice by constantly pulling from the same talent pool.  I don’t want to be part of this problem.

I’ll be a one product wonder.  As long as it’s a good one, I’m cool with it.  I’m not going to waste my only ad on a bitter energy drink I wouldn’t drink if I was dying of thirst or in an alcohol commercial surrounded by nothing but tens.  Give me something believable, but give me a catchphrase.  Scratch that, I’ll give you one.

“PUT OUT THIS FIYAAAAA!!!”

To clarify, that’s street talk for fire. It can be celebratory in nature or a plea for help. It’s best delivered shouted skyward like a call out to the heavens or to whichever or Captain Planet‘s Planeteers harnessed the power of water.

It’ll be good for just about anything.  Tums or Pepto-Bismol would be chomping at the bit for this type of marketability.  It could work for a gambling website, exclaimed by a high-roller on a particularly hot streak.  A POG revival is long overdue, and what better way to celebrate after a winning slam?

Cast me, and let me share this with the world.

28) Never Having a Nice Suit

Aside from the previously mentioned all-purpose suit from prom, I only acquired one other suit since.  It was yet another relatively cheap ensemble I hastily purchased to wear at my Engineering Ring Ceremony and graduation from university.  I’ve yet to rock a really kick-ass suit.  Maybe one of the James Bond variety is too much to hope for, but James Bond Junior would do.

What’s filling most of my closet space?  Band T-shirts.  I go to several concerts a year, and will often raid the merch table.  Why all the band shirts, though?  Personal expression?  They essentially function as my cowardly version of a tattoo since I can easily throw one away once the band is bumped out of my rotation.

My work has a fairly casual dress code, so sometimes I throw on a band shirt.  What’s the endgame here?  Do I think I can turn a co-worker on to Gorguts so easily?  That would be nothing short of miraculous.  Most of the people I work with think Def Leppard is too heavy.

The only place you can impress with one of these shirts is at another concert, yet I still buy them like they are essential to my identity.  Besides, you wouldn’t dare catch me wearing my Faith No More tee to two concerts in a row, would you?  The looks I’d get if someone noticed!

I’m viewing hitting thirty as as good a milestone as any to finally fix this error. I’m sick of looking like David Byrne from the Stop Making Sense concert video.

29) Neglecting My Local Library

givingfingertolibrary

I like reading, but I hate clutter.  That’s the beauty of the public library.  I can borrow books from them, and save my bookshelf space for displaying action figures I should have thrown away years ago.  I read for both entertainment and for knowledge.  I can spend all day reading Wikipedia, and Netflix/Youtube is always loaded with good documentaries, so resources like these often take the place of going to my local library branch.

I usually have a good time at the library.  The problem is I seem to wander the aisles for much longer than I anticipated, similar to when I go to a store to buy music.  Even though the library is free, I’m super indecisive about what I want to leave with.  I’m far from a speed reader, and have several hobbies, so I can never figure out what I’ll be able to read in the allotted time.

The prospect of renewing a book insults me.  A book is done when it’s done.  Who are they to judge me for not getting around to finish it?  It’s not as if I spent every second of the three weeks you gave me reading the thing, dictionary and thesaurus right next to me as every other three-plus syllable word stops me dead in my tracks.  Worry less about me and more about the man who’s renewed the same paperback over a stretch of five years.  Apparently, this is a more worthwhile use of time than grabbing the same copy of The Da Vinci Code for fifty cents at literally any flea market ever.

I have to start ignoring the negative, and focus on the positive.  At least the library lets me be social.  I may not be able to talk much, but I’m free to give all the situation-appropriate glances I want.  An optimistic smile as a parent guides their child towards their first book.  Expressions of disbelief towards the librarian as I spot a landscape design book filed under natural landscapes (It’s not called the Dewey Round-To-The-Nearest-Whole-Number System), and disgusted looks at the man ogling lingerie models on Google Images after being locked out of no less than 18 of his preferred adult sites.

30) Never Owing A Pet

It took me forever to think up this last point, but it seems like a no-brainer.  Like most of this list, there has been nothing major that is preventing me from checking this point off the list.  The troubling, most-intimidating barrier for me is my lack of pet experience.

I exaggerate slightly here.  I grew up with many friends and family members who have shared their joy of pet ownership with me as a curious visitor.  Also, I had my goldfish.  If you laugh at that point, I’m right there with you.  The only positive I can see in retrospective is that you don’t have to worry about them licking their privates when company is over.

I’ve flip-flopped over whether I would want a cat or a dog.  I’ve finally decided that I’d be a dog man, and I’ve only had a few sweaty, stinky mutts who temporarily threw me off that scent.  It also has to be a real dog, and not one of those teeny, fashion accessory, bats without wings.  I don’t want to be kept up at night wondering whether or not my dog is ever going to grow up.

The concerning thing is that dogs can allegedly take on the personalities of their owners.  I already share my apartment with my twin brother, so do we really need a third one of us in such cramped quarters?  My brother and I already go at each other’s throat enough as it is.  Do I need another potential opponent, one that won’t hesitate to hump my leg as a finishing move?

I’ll need dog guidance.  Be it a girlfriend or a good pal, someone to steer me in the right direction to help me keep a canine alive and kicking.  There are too many concerns I’d have to adjust to that were absent with my pet fish.

For example:

Food – I never once had to worry about feeding my fish.  As far as we were concerned, once the automatic fish feeder emptied, it was time to buy a new fish.

Habitat – I want my dog to be both an inside and an outside dog.  This option did not exist for the goldfish.  In fact, by filling the aquarium with a myriad of trinkets (rocks, passageways, scuba divers, treasure chests, severed Barbie heads on spikes), we used what little space our pet had as an extension of our hoarding.

Exercise – I hear that’s important for dogs.  My only experience exercising my goldfish was chasing them with the magnetic glass cleaner.  I don’t think they appreciated it much because they’d always expel their waste before they’d even break a sweat.  I’d kid myself into believing that I was curing them of digestion problems in order to save my soul from eternal damnation.

———–

That’s all I’ve got to say.  If you think there are other things I should be regretting, please contribute to the pessimism by letting me know.

Bed Rock

I rarely remember any of my dreams.  When I do, they are usually just believable, ordinary occurrences.  I buy an out-of-print Ornette Coleman record that I’ve been trying to track down for years, visit my parents for one reason or another, or I go to a strange flea market with my brother and find video games or sports collectibles I’ve never heard of, so I pretty much dream about my typical weekend.  I’ve had several dreams about skipping a class in university I forgot that I was registered to all semester, forgetting my gym clothes at home even though high school is over a decade in the rear-view mirror, and living in a strange hybrid of a house combining elements of places I used to live plus a few hidden bonus rooms thrown in.  That type of thing.

I’m a pretty simple guy when it comes down to it.  That’s why my dreams really don’t reach grand places nowadays.  They are more reminiscent of one of Billy Dreamer’s daydreams from the Kids In The Hall sketch than something more surreal or fantasy-based.  My nights of being tormented by unmanned cars dead set on running me over are long gone, as are the sleepless nights I’ve had to avoid being stalked by a disturbing and determined Mr. Bean, though I may share such recurring dreams of my past in a future blog.

Every once in a while, I will have a dream that actually makes me wake up and want to remember it.  I’ve grouped a few of them together since they all have a common root in music.  They may only have relevance to me, but most dreams are personal since they are built around our own experiences and things we’ve observed.  If I could have your dreams, I would take them in a heartbeat because one more pointless dream about getting ripped off when buying Blue Jays tickets is one too many.  To this day I won’t buy from a scalper in fear I’m led to prime seats in the furnace room.

There are some bloggers who have done great work capturing their dreams and effectively presenting them visually through images and words.  Mine are going to be filled with tons of holes and minimal dialogue, but due to their lack of frequency, certain elements of them remain locked into my memory.  I’ll do my best to stay as faithful to the original dreams as I can, but I’ll most likely drift a bit off tangent.

The Great Eno Machine

I was over at my parent’s house with my brother and sisters helping our parents clean junk out of what used to be my old bedroom.  Nothing out of the ordinary there because once a kid grows up and leaves the nest, their room is instantly taken over by one of mom or dad’s hobbies, be it antique radios, sewing accessories, or some interests long abandoned.  We stumbled across an old pile of computer hobbyist magazines from the seventies and eighties.  I thumbed through an issue, and landed on an ad for a very interesting computer.

I can’t remember the name of it, but the ad had the header “Sound Like Brian Eno!”.  For those lacking in their rock history, Brian Eno is a musician known for his work with artists including Roxy Music, David Bowie, Robert Fripp, and David Byrne, as well as having an extensive solo catalog.  He is also well known as a producer known for having his hand in such seminal albums as U2’s The Joshua Tree, Talking Heads’ Remain In Light, and Slowdive’s Souvlaki.  This machine promised to act like some sort of home recording studio that you can use to make any song you record sound as if Mr. Eno had been twiddling the knobs himself.  I guess it would be a bit like a primitive version of recording software Pro Tools or Cubase or one of those songwriting tools that have been released lately, such as Ghostwriter or Songsmith.  I’m doubting that this could yield worse results than the latter.

The magazines belonged to my father, so I showed him the ad to see if he’d heard of the computer.  Of course he happened to have one in the shop out behind the house.  Growing up, it seemed like he had an infinite supply of electronics stored in back, some of which he purchased and some of which he built.  He’d bring his homemade Jacob’s Ladder to our elementary school and give presentations to the kids.  Many of my classmates thought my dad was a scientist when in reality, he worked at General Motors with many of their parents.

We brought it into the house, and were completely underwhelmed by what we saw.  Here’s what I remember it looking like.

EnoComputer

The first thing that came to mind when I awoke was that it was like a prehistoric Bop-It prototype.  The machine had tons of peripherals, resulting in something Rube Goldberg would call needlessly complex.  It was a complete eye-sore, yes, but at least it came out years before the whole Sega CD/32X mess, so I cut it some slack.  The important part to me was whether or not it actually worked.  Well it did, but not how I imagined it (but it’s my dream, so I sort of did).  The ad should have read “Do you like the Talking Heads? Why not rip them off entirely?”.  All it seemed to have were a couple of stock percussion samples and a few guitar loops.  It basically sounded like “I Zimbra”, but you could add a bunch of bells, whistles, and fart noises over top of it.  I should expect less from early 80’s technology, even in my dreams.

DLR Can Sure Throw A Party!

This is a portion of a much longer dream that I cannot remember.  Being an unoriginal dreamer, this scene also takes place in the city I grew up in, Oshawa.  More specifically, it was on the corner of Olive Avenue and Wilson Road, which at the time had two gas stations on the southern corners of the intersection.  The gas stations have no relevance, unless he put out-of-work models from his music videos on car-washing duty.  The streets had been blocked off because it was host to a special event starring David Lee Roth.

DLRInOshawa

Diamond Dave had no backing band of any sort.  It was just a man and his megaphone.  I’m not sure what his purpose was.  He may have been promoting a book, doing a martial arts demonstration, hosting a seminar about band conflict resolution.  Anything really.  I would guess that it was some sort of spoken word engagement like fellow rockers Henry Rollins or Jello Biafra have been known to perform.  I think he has the personality to pull of such a thing, but not in this dream.  All I mostly remember is a bunch of strutting around making a ton of Ric Flair “Woooo!” sounds and other nonsensical things to rile up the crowd.

I don’t remember exactly what he was wearing, but I’m sure it wasn’t age-appropriate, weather-appropriate, era-appropriate, or gender-appropriate.  Not as if he ever did in the first place.

The only coherent words I can remember him saying was this:

“Hey remember when we all played here back in the day?”

The crowd went absolutely nuts!!  Quite the reaction, I thought, but it didn’t sit right with me.  A drunk rock crowd will cheer at just about anything.

I woke up wanting to know if David Lee Roth or Van Halen had ever played in Oshawa.  A quick Google search brought up nothing of relevance, so I assume I’m right.

The Nuge vs Wall Street

This dream occurred around five years ago, so the exact location in Dream Land I cannot quite remember. I was either in the main living space in the old family trailer (Trophy-brand trailer, for all you mobile home enthusiasts) or in the old family van. I’m leaning towards the van because I can recall my vantage point being from the front passenger seat.

My brother and I were messing around in the front seat of the car, filing through the middle compartment where the cassette tapes were stored.  We came across one by Ted Nugent.  In reality, there was one Ted Nugent tape in the family collection, his If You Can’t Lick’em… Lick’em album.  To date, I still haven’t heard the album.  It couldn’t make it’s way into the road trip rotation with Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell, Genesis’ We Can’t Dance, and The Rolling Stones’ Voodoo Lounge.  I wonder if it’s better than Love Grenade.

NugeInVan

I’m pretty sure that we were listening to this on the radio or tape deck, but I swear I could see him.  It might have been viewing some form of holographic projection or virtual reality, sort of like that of Diahann Carroll from the Star Wars Holiday Special.  The Nuge can sure entertain, but believe me that I wasn’t nearly as excited as Itchy was for his viewing.

It sounded like a live album as we jumped into it as ol’ Teddy was introducing a song to the crowd.

“You guys know about all those fat cats on Wall Street, right?  Well this song’s called JEEEEEEEEEW STREEEET!!!”

Jew Street.

I’m not sure what possessed me to think up Ted Nugent writing such an anti-semetic song.  His forte, like many 70’s rockers, is using heavily sexualized lyrics which may or may not involve girls south of 18.  He is also an avid hunting enthusiast, and his political preferences lean towards the right.  However, none of these factors would make me draw the conclusion that he is an anti-semite.

You know what?  I’m not going to apologize for this one, nor would I apologize for any dream I have.  I’ve had people recall dreams to me involving some sort of war/survival premise where I am the first to be killed.  I’d take umbrage over this and argue how the situation would really play out until I was red in the face and needlessly embarrassed, so I could understand why someone could get offended by a dream I would have.  I’m too lazy to due the research to back this up, but I think we have little control over what we dream.  If I could control what I dream, do you think I’d want to waste another one on a non-eventful trip to grandma’s house?  I love you grandma, but if I can’t even taste your home-made mint squares, what’s the point?

Mysterious Traveler

This dream I’ve had within the past month unlike the others, so this one is fresh in my mind.

I’m at my parent’s place hanging out around the front yard, and I see a man riding his bike down their street.  I guess I was supposed to still be living with my parents in this dream.  Anyway, to my surprise, he pulls up their driveway.

BikeDream

He knocks on their door, and my mother answers. I can hear him request me by name. I am puzzled because I had never seen him before. He’s around my age, fairly overweight, and at around 5’8” or 5’9”, a couple inches taller than me. He had really short buzzed hair, glasses, and maybe a week’s worth of facial hair growth.

“I have this metal band, (name not remembered, but it was a pretty generic death metal name like Obliteration, Impalement or something lifted from a Carcass lyric), and we are from Ajax. We want you to mix our album for us.”

I was thrown off by this request for a few reasons.  He had a really notable eastern European accent, possibly Russian, but it sounded like he was faking it.  I also wondered why in the hell he wanted me to mix his album.  I have little to no experience with music recording.  I bought some recording software when I was 19, but I could never dive in and figure it out well enough to do anything decent.  I also was in a garage band for about a year.  We only recorded a few songs, and I wasn’t the one who did the mixing.  I was just the lowly bass player.

I addressed some of my concerns to the man, but he insisted. “It won’t take much of your time. Only twenty minutes.”

20 minutes? Plenty of hardcore punk bands have albums around that length, but many of them keep it raw and do little post-production.  In any case, a twenty minute mix job is going well below half-assing it.  I don’t even think there’s a term for it because, if you ask me, any level of assing it has a one cheek minimum.

I didn’t have my car with me, so I would have to ride with him on his bikes.  Naturally, the complex logistics regarding transportation made me rule out the possibility for good.  This man seemed like he wanted my ears on his project immediately.  Days from now, his band could lose relevancy, costing them all eight of their fans in the process.

I really felt bad for the guy on many levels.  I should have joined him.  It’s a dream, so I could have figured something out.  I could ask my neighbour Marty McFly if I could borrow his hoverboard and tagged behind, or just catch the next bus driven by Ray Charles.  Or I could have just mixed the album no questions asked.  I probably had nothing better to do.  If I was still living at home with my parents, I was most likely unemployed anyway.  Dipping your feet into the underground metal community can do wonders for padding a resume.

Now To Plug Something Cool (or Plug Your Ears??)

In a slightly related note, I’d like to promote something else that I’m looking forward to.  No, it isn’t my planned dream involving me, Christian Serratos, and a well-secured zombie apocalypse bunker.  It is a dream of sorts, which will soon become a reality.  A filmmaker from Toronto is preparing a documentary chronicling a story about a subgenre of heavy metal called grindcore, which to simplify is like if hardcore punk and heavy metal had a rebellious child.  As you can hear from some of the leading bands of the genre, this is not a form of music designed for mainstream consumption, which is why this documentary needs some support.  Exceeding their initial fundraising goals would mean more interviews can be set up with musicians that were key to the development of the genre, making for a more in-depth documentary.

Anyone interested can make a pledge on Kickstarter, and follow their progress on Facebook or the official website grindcorefilm.com.

To Boldly Gulp: Drinking with the TNG Seven

I’m not good at this blog thing.  Even once a month seems to be too much to ask from me.  It’s been a while.  Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year greetings are in order.  I could have submitted some holiday themed entries, but would anybody want to read an extensive breakdown of how Home Alone would differ if Fuller was the one left behind? What if I told you the McCallisters just stocked the fridges with Pepsi, and a reminder that he has his pick of the beds? (Spoiler alert: He wets them all!!!)

Where did I leave off? Oh, yeah. I dressed up as Spock on Halloween.

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Even on Halloween this costume is considered lame.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved portraying the coolest man to never exist, but just look at me!  I hadn’t seen my chin since I was 16.  I always had some form of facial hair since, so I barely even recognized myself in the mirror.  Needless to say, I grew out a full beard right away to over-compensate for my bald face insecurity.

Then there’s the hairdo.  I had not worn straight bangs like that since I was 14, when I finally decided to choose my own haircut.  It makes me wonder if all Vulcans (and Romulans, for that matter) still let their mother pick their hairstyle.  This is a bit puzzling to me since several Trekkie ladies seem to be very attracted by Spock.  Doing that in spite of rocking a DIY head of hair just goes to show you how awesome the man is.

I’m surprised I’d never cosplayed as a Star Trek character in my entire life up until that point.  The series has been strung fairly consistently throughout my entire life.  While I no doubt love the original series, my earliest memories of the franchise came from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

When you’ve seen episodes as often as I have, you grow to regret how you don’t get a bigger glimpse of the off-duty lifestyles of the crew members.  I’d love to see just what exactly goes on in a match of Parisses Squares, how many people complained when the captain would jump the queue for the Holodeck, or witness nagging family members go on about how they don’t bother separating the saucer section of the Enterprise before battle any more. What’s the old saying?  If you can’t stand the heat, the shuttle bay’s that-away?

There is a mess of crew members on the Enterprise that I could include, but I’m going to stick to the core seven characters of the series.  Besides, Wesley Crusher was too young to drink, Chief O’Brien is Irish and thus never 100 percent sober in the first place (Sorry, Mr. Roddenberry, but not all stereotypes will fade so easily), and Tasha Yar would take off so early that the Jello shots would still be settling.

As I do the roll call, I’m leaving rank out of this.  Once alcoholism rears it’s ugly head, the top dog is the last man standing.  Or whomever leaves the party with their reputation the least tarnished.

Geordi La Forge

geordifunnyshirt

Might as well get this one out of the way as he could be the most gruelling to deal with.  La Forge share so many similar shortcomings with me that I’m not sure if I’d get on with him like a house on fire or be left praying for the Borg assimilation to strike just to make things interesting.  It could get very depressing very quickly if we dwell on certain subjects as we drink.  I’d fear that he’s a drown your sorrows type of drinker.

Where to start?  We are both shorter-than-average men, so that may come up in conversation.  I try to convince him how I don’t let it define who I am, but he’s not having any of it.  He uses it as an excuse for the fact that despite his important role on the Enterprise, he isn’t pulling in the big bucks.  I tell him that I heard in the 24th century that humans had eliminated the need for accumulating wealth.  I sense this bothers him as he swiftly pounds back his Romulan ale.

I soon learn that he’s developed an intense fascination with the Ferengi. It pains him to see this race of vertically-challenged entrepreneurs demonized for chasing the almighty dollar (or gold-pressed latinum). We’ve both invested a good deal of time into getting a solid university education in engineering. And I thought the economy was bad to enter the workforce today! He’s chief of engineering on a galaxy class space vessel, and he’s about as well to do financially as the guy who slides open the “automatic” doors.

He, as I am guilty of thinking on occasion, connects his lack of money and height as reasons why he has trouble meeting women.  But then I learn he does have a girlfriend.  He starts to get into the specifics of his relationship, leaving out such vital information that she’s really just a holographic projection and when he finally met her true form she gave him the cold shoulder only to be, yet again, friend-zoned, thus returning back to ignorant bliss with the replica in a sort of Oldboy level of weirdness.

On the other hand, I could see Geordi as a man looking to make up for lost time.  He didn’t jump from lieutenant junior grade to chief engineer in the span of one season by anchoring a flip cup team.  He had his head buried in books, and seldom had time for hanging with the boys or chasing skirt (or whatever female cadets wore/wear in his day).  He’s isolated himself a little, and now wants to La Forge himself a hip new identity.

We already see some evidence of this on the show.  Geordi tries too hard to be liked by the young with his constant shouting of “Yo, Wes!” to the young acting ensign, all the while flashing some gang sign that’s hundreds of years from being recognizable.  I could just have a blast watching a man relive the college experience he deprived from himself, having the pressures of his job being lifted off him for a night full of beer pong or, a La Forge favourite, doing shots whenever someone yells “warp core breach” (it turns out he really treasures his sobriety).

Here an obvious thought I’d have:  I’d like to know how alcohol consumption affected his vision.  Does his visor make corrections to compensate for any shakiness he might experience?  Maybe he won’t see the ladies with beer goggles like the rest of us, so he could theoretically get his pick of the women wherever we go. But there are still six other crew members I’d like to get to know, so with that…

Worf

worfshots

Uh oh!!  Could my encounters start off 0 for 2?  I’m doubting how fun it would be to hang with this guy for a night on the town. He seems like he could be a bit of a wet blanket.  Not a merry man, to use his own words.  Is he always as uptight and grumpy as episodes portray him? I can’t learn without trying.

What I don’t want to see is Worf living the cliché of the single father.  It would pain me to no end seeing his child support payments being sent straight to Quark‘s bar time and time again.  I don’t this this fits Worf’s character at all.  As bad-ass as Klingons seem, Worf would require to be dragged to the bar kicking and screaming.

The man doesn’t want anybody to pass negative judgement on Klingon for his behaviour on or off duty.  He already had to bear the shame for actions his father may or may not have taken, so I don’t think summoning enough liquid courage to take on “Summer Of 69” in a karaoke bar would help his image any.

One undeniable quality Worf has is his loyalty.  He tried many times to avoid such potential embarrassment by offering to do other things for the sake of unity.  Aside from offering his services as a go-to designated transporter operator, Worf would let the children on the Enterprise make cast moulds of his forehead for arts & crafts, and hook up Orion slave girls with the most lonely of his crew mates.  Now that’s a team player!

I imagine there could be reason for him to be tempted if he did join some of the crew on a trip to Bar Dassian.  He follows to provide a bit of security, but even a fine officer like Worf can grow tired of giving ocular pat-downs to a club full of cougars.  Suppose he does break down and finally decide to order some of the devil’s nectar.  What would he fancy?  You know, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Worf was a girl drink drunk.

It’s hard to exactly define what mixed drinks qualify as girly drinks. It mainly depends on who’s drinking them, and frankly, Worf’s a pretty intimidating fellow, so he can make his own choices. He didn’t see anything like this in the after-parties of Klingon right of passage ceremonies. The drinks he’s used to were named after noble Klingon warriors. Now they’re naming beverages off childhood urban legends, adolescent horror subject matter, and adult arrest-able offences? Colour Worf fascinated!!! After witnessing all these inventive and colorful mixed drinks, he makes mental notes to devise one called Sto’Vo’Kranberry.

There are several reasons he is drawn to the flash of those types of drinks. Maybe he’d do it as a way of rebelling from his Russian upbringing, wanting desperately to shed the vodka stereotypes. Maybe it’s the drabness of Klingon decor, from the colourless uniforms to the battleships lit by a single 40 watt bulb.  I really don’t mind what it is, but if it can provide him with the type of joy he gets from the mint frosting on a cellular peptide cake, I hope he’ll find his hangover is a fair price to pay.

William T. Riker

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I’d never have any qualms about heading out to pound a few back with good ol’ Willy Frakes (thanks to a friend of mine for that wonderful Frankensteining of names).  Adventure is bound to be had wherever he leads the lads!

Whenever someone has to go get his attention in Ten Forward, we often catch him flirting with a beautiful, young coworker, or we catch him in the middle of a saucy anecdote before some buzz-kill comes by to tell him he had a ship to command (the nerve!).  Head out for a night with him and watch those hot tales materialize before you like a cup of Earl Grey tea from the replicator.

If the dude can hang with Klingons, he can hang with anyone.   If he reminds you of that creepy older guy that crashes college house parties, relax!  He’s no narc.  He’s the kind of guy who’d help get under-agers a two-four of beer.  Law enforcement naturally look the other way since they’d hate for Riker to think of them as uncool.  Heck, they’d lend him a gun and invite him for target practice at the range.

I’m not sure what type of drunk he is, but I hope he’s a confrontational one.  I want to see him go all “Future Imperfect” on everyone’s ass.

“That’s a girl’s drink, Mr. Data!”

“Interesting observation.  Though my anatomy and personality were constructed with male characteristics, Dr. Soong could have just as easily created me to be female.”

“And do you have to flair your nostrils every time you take a sip?  I hate that!!”

“Dr. Soong programmed me with character traits that are similar to those of his own, much like a child would pick up things from their parents.  This is only one of 126 distinct mannerisms that the two of us share.”

“You know, I wish Dr. Soong was with us right now.”

“I often share the same wish.”

“I’d tell him he should have taken up a more productive hobby like fly fishing.”

“Sir, if I was capable of emotions, I believe the words you are using would cause anger or sadness.  Perhaps continued reminders of any perceived shortcomings would even cause me to cry.”

“I’m sorry. I’ll try to bring up better times. Do you remember when we first met how I called you Pinnochio?”

“I remember it fondly, sir.”

“It was in reference to your wooden personality. Just to clarify.”

“I have changed a lot since then.”

“For the worse.”

Be prepared for such aggressive behavior by being armed with a quick tongue of your own.  He knows better than to get into fist fights since his job is so important, so talking trash is all he has.  Tell him that the trombone is the least cool jazz instrument or imply that you know Minuet intimately.

It’s hard to predict how the evening might end up.  I just hope he doesn’t do something he might really regret like shave his beard off again.

Jean-Luc Picard

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Picard often plays it straight and has been known to prefer quiet evenings at home with a good book, but he just needs the right amount of nudging to bring back the Picard of his youth. The brash young rebel that took a knife to the heart in a bar brawl. We’d need to get Vash involved. Otherwise he’ll be spending yet another weekend trying to drink Boothby under the picnic table. We can do better than that, Jean-Luc.

Vash would bring out the dormant sense of adventure buried deep beneath that futuristic hockey jersey of his. It’s always best when she shows up unannounced just to see Picard struggle in the conflict between his brain and his balls.  She strikes me as the kind of woman who would have all sorts of connections to the hottest night clubs in town.  With this freedom of choice and charm to spare, she easily walks past the rope as the bouncer lets her into the hottest nightspot in the galaxy.  Picard would be a different story.  Some bouncers are born pricks, and this one’s treating the captain as if he was merely acting ensign.  Looks like this club will be a tough entrance.

I remind him about the time he went all John McClane on the terrorists aboard the Enterprise when it was docked for a routine baryon sweep.  If he went through that kind of trouble just to find his saddle, getting past the bouncer should be child’s play.  This, in combination with his attraction to Vash, gives him a stroke of genius.

“Do you know who I am?”

Oh brother! He’s one of those men.  Time to play the celebrity card.  He can’t be denied entrance.  His ego’s as big as a Dyson sphere.  Why did I blow off a spa retreat with Guinan for this?

“Dixon Hill!” he exclaims, followed by a swift kick towards the bouncer’s genitals.  He misses wide right in Scott Norwood fashion, then falls flat on his ass.  Did he get pre-drunk and not let me in on it?  It turns out that the bouncer did recognize Picard and was just messing with him.  Picard seemingly takes it in stride as he is granted passage, but orders me to find out where he lives once we are out of earshot.

Once inside, I’m not really certain what would come next.  It’s often said that actors try to put a bit of themselves into a character. If there’s even the slightest hint of Patrick Stewart in Jean-Luc Picard, we’re in for some good times.

Deanna Troi

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No deep thinking required for this one.  She may have been my earliest TV crush if I exclude nanny’s legs from Muppet Babies, so I can revert back into a dream like state when creating this scenario.

The scene starts at Ten Forward. An off-duty, man-hungry counselor awaits at the bar in a scene not dissimilar from the opening scene in “Hollow Pursuits”. She eyes me down as I enter the room, so I calmly pull up a stool next to her. She whispers into my ear “I sense arousal.” as she gently rubs my leg with her foot. Who am I kidding? Fantasy over! In reality (though still fiction), I’d think Troi would keep it a little more classy than that.

That’s not to say that we can’t have any fun. Forgetting her doctor-patient confidentiality in her inebriated state, she may get a little loose-tongued and let us in on some of her counseling.  Last time we went out, I learned all about Picard’s reoccurring dreams where he goes into different business ventures with Q. Wineries, delicatessens, hardware stores.  He can’t even step foot in a bakery anymore without seeing Q’s face in a danish!  Even when she isn’t dealing with patients, she does sense emotion and deception in others, so there’s still plenty she could tell with a clean conscience.  I find most of her stories fascinating, but would appreciate if she would stop telling me to “keep it under my cap” and tap the side of her nose after each one.

Watch out for her mother.  She’s been known to frequent the club scene ever since Deanna’s father passed.  If not for this outlet, Lwaxana Troi would be at home driving her servant Homn up the wall, constantly asking him to do his Charlie Chaplin impression or finding new ways of using his own thoughts against him.  Make sure to keep clear of her on a night out to avoid an epic mother-daughter cat fight.  Actually, us non-Betazeds may not be able to appreciate their level of battle.  As reluctant as Troi is to talk with her mother telepathically, she doesn’t want to make a scene with her mother.  All us outsiders would get is an awkward-looking exchange of furrowed brows and piercing stares.

Data

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I’ll go on the assumption that alcohol will not affect an android the same way it would affect humans, emotion chip activated or not.

One obvious reason to have a night out drinking with Data is that you’ve got your designated driver taken care of.  Even if he had a few too many in him, the guy has it in him to cheat a breathalyser.  I’ve never really thought about androids as having breath anyway.  As much as I love Star Trek, I’ve never checked to see if androids would have lungs or anything.  He might not have breath to be able to develop bad breath, but he’d have to brush his teeth like anyone else if only to keep up appearances. Could he get a cavity?  I’m thinking too much about his body.  I’ll just assume his insides match those of a T-800, and call it a day.  There are some things I really don’t need to know.

Some bars have special nights throughout the week that might attract Data’s wish to co-opt human culture.  I don’t mean Wet T-shirt Wednesdays or 80’s night (where he technically wouldn’t need a costume).  I’m thinking Trivia Night.  With Data as a teammate, and with a trivia team named The Fully Functionals, we’d easily wipe the floor with the competition.  He’s a walking Wikipedia, with the ability to easily update his database without those annoying hacks.  He can store factoids ranging from the fifth president of France to the name of Taylor Swift’s prom date without bumping out the useful things like remembering to reactivate Lore once a year on his birthday.

If bringing such an advanced android along with you doesn’t end up impressing your friends, take along a backup plan. Everyone loves Robbie, father or son! Even Data would get a kick out of meeting a primitive ancestor. That would be like us meeting… I was going to say Fred Flintstone, but meeting fictional characters is an absurd notion.

At the rate technology evolves in science fiction, maybe it’s not out of the question to see Data or other androids become so close to human.  That being said, what if alcohol did affect Data like it would other lifeforms?  Would using contractions be his way of slurring his speech?  Would bars post up “Do Not Serve” signs with his photo attached following a series of disembowlings in defense of the honor of his beloved cat, Spot?

Beverly Crusher

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At last, we come to the doctor.  No, not The Doctor.  And not substitute doctor either, who in my mind will always be remembered looking like this and never like that.

She, without a doubt, is my first experience as a child as witnessing a MILF.  I don’t even know if the term was popular at the time.  Since I was not even nine by the time the final TNG episode aired, I’d yet to even know what the ILF part meant. but not knowing what words mean hasn’t phased me in the past. In fact, back then I would probably just nod sheepishly in agreement if someone called my own mother a MILF (In my defense, she is a Mother I‘ll Love Forever).

The first part of the evening she’d have trouble trying to not micro-manage every aspect of her son Wesley’s life.  She’d begin by checking in on him to make sure he’s doing his homework, then to make sure he knows which laughable outfit he’ll wear to work the next day, and yet again to see that he’s not mortgaging his future to hang around some drifter.  “Enough of the smothering!!”, I yell at her.  I despise Wesley as much as the next Trekkie, but give the man a fighting chance.  I apologize, gain my composure, and try to change the subject.  “Could you recommend any good Vulcan comedies?”

You’ve all heard of blackout drunks, right?  Well I can see Crusher as the opposite, a blackout sober.  When she drinks, she forgets completely about her misfortunes (Wesley) and doesn’t dwell on them.  I mean completely forgets about them. This is why she secretly loves putting down her tricorder for a night out.  Don’t ask me how she’d ever look forward to this since there’s no way she could be aware of that mindset when she’s sober.  This is science fiction.  The harder it is to understand, the better.

We’d get a glimpse of the Beverley Howard that Jack Crusher fell in love with before they burdened themselves with, as time and countless Trekkies can attest to, a mistake.  The Beverley that would go to wine tasting parties without spitting it out.  The Beverley that would take in random lectures with Jack at Starfleet Academy to deliberately misconstrue each phrase out of the professor’s mouth as sexual innuendo.  The Beverley that dreamed of having a daughter follow her path in medicine instead of a son who followed anyone who wouldn’t rush to an escape pod upon meeting him.

I honestly tried to get through Crusher’s section by taking minimal swipes at Wesley, but I couldn’t do it.  Am I that weak a man, or is Wesley all that insufferable?  Most of you don’t know me well, so assume the latter.  It’s like the outbreak of a pimple.  Try as you might to ignore it or let it heal naturally, but the damage is already done.  Wesley’s mere presence aboard the Enterprise was why approaching ships use their cloaking device and why alcohol was permitted on board in the first place.

The irony of all this is that I don’t consider myself to be a big drinker. However, if I could put myself in these impossible social situations, then I’d probably start drinking on weekdays too. But if I try this again, maybe I’d feel more comfortable meeting fictional characters in other contexts. Antiquing with The A-Team (Trek overlap!!!)? Board game night with the Breaking Bad guys? A road trip with the Golden Girls?  I need a life.