Author Archives: Jim "Dr. Dim" Fitzsimons

Like Father, Like Daughter

Guest blogger Michael Noble returns with a tale of father and daughter bonding. And since this past Sunday was Father’s Day, I thought I’d post this week’s blog a day early.

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“Honey, seeing that sunset reminds me that you gotta keep ’em laughing…”

All of us – every single one – have memories of school. Good, bad, indifferent. I have many. Some, interesting even. *snort*

 

That time in science class during high school when I sublimated too much iodine, causing a purple cloud to erupt within the room followed immediately by an evacuation. Being threatened weekly to watch my back by juniors and seniors just because I was one of the tallest freshman on campus. Spending half my wrestling practices with my face buried in the armpit of a much larger opponent. (I exited wrestling pretty quickly realizing it wasn’t the sport for me.)

So many more memories.

Good times, all. Well … many of them were, looking back. At the time? In the midst of them? Maybe not so much.

So fast forward to parenting, my kids and their schooling. I have been fortunate enough to be part of many memory making moments for them. One in particular.

Since her early, formative years, my youngest daughter has always been a bit hesitant and wary of things. “Cautious” might be a better word. School did nothing but ramp that attitude up; in fact school seemed to exacerbate her condition. It led to a greater degree of introverted behavior. She kept to herself a lot.

That’s not to say she didn’t participate when asked. She simply had to be coaxed. And often.

I was the one doing much of the coaxing, letting her know she’d enjoy something if she’d just try it. Counseling her, I would say things such as “What’s the worst that could happen? You don’t like it? That’s okay … at least you tried.” At least she saw the logic in that.

When she was in the 1st grade, I remember her coming home from school one day, downtrodden.

“I don’t have a talent” she told me, full of exasperation.

“What do you mean you don’t have a talent?” I asked.

“We’re supposed to do something for show and tell during open house in two weeks. Sing or dance or tell a story or something. I can’t do any of those things.”

“Sure you can!” I cajoled her. “Do you know what some of the other kids doing?”

“One of them is playing the piano,” she stated. “Another girl is doing something from a ballet class she’s in. I can’t do anything …”

“How about making them all laugh?” I offered.

“How?”

“You tell a joke,” I explained. “You can do that. I’ve heard you do it lots of times.”

She frowned. “That’s not a talent.”

“Sure it is. Do you know how hard it is to tell a joke, a really good joke, and make everybody laugh?”

She thought about it a moment. “Well … okay. Do you have any jokes I can tell, Dad? Some really good ones?”

Of course I did. I had a million of them.

“As a matter of fact, I do. You remember the talking sausage joke, don’t you?”

“I think so,” she said, visible concern on her face revealing she was doing her best to recall said joke. “Wait … you mean the one with the talking sausage?” Her face lit up. I didn’t quite understand her rationale in hearing from me what the joke was then her asking virtually the same, but it got her excited … and that’s all that counted.

“That’s the one! Look … here’s what we’ll do: Your open house isn’t for a couple weeks, right? We have that long to practice. I’ll help you all along the way and you’ll be a perfect when it comes time to do it.”

“Okay!” she said excitedly.

We got down to business. We practiced right up until the time of the open house. I taught her all the hand gestures, all the inflections, the right timing, everything. She was still a bit hesitant when it came right down to it but familiarity was the key to her nailing the thing. I taught her the importance of being big and bold and loud in the telling and convinced her it would work spectacularly. I was putting my reputation – and her fragile constitution – on the line.

And then? When the time came? It was off to the open house we went.

Several kids were ahead of her. The piano playing girl was there and did her thing. Everyone was impressed. A few other kids did stuff I can’t remember. Then, suddenly, it was my daughter’s turn.

Her teacher called her and she went up to the front of the class. She turned and looked right at me. I smiled and gave her a big thumbs up and charade-reminded at her to be big and loud.

She announced rather awkwardly “My talent is going to be a joke that will make all of you laugh,” to everyone in the room, kids and adults alike. I saw her teacher smile.

She steeled herself and began: “There were these two sausages in a frying pan on the stove. One sausage turned over and said to the other (she wiped her brow with the back of one hand animatedly as she turned to the imaginary sausage and spoke) ‘Whew! It sure is hot in here!'”

She looked at me again and I gave her another thumbs up.

“Then then other said (and she jumped back and screamed as she delivered the punchline) ‘AAAAAH! TALKING SAUSAGE … !!!‘”

Now, here’s the deal: I still tell this joke to this very day. I find it freaking hilarious. I’ve used it over and over and over again. I even opened a seminar with it, much to the chagrin of my boss who begged me not to do it. But I convinced him it would break the ice and win the crowd over. (It did.) So, how did this terrific and wonderful joke go over as my daughter relayed it?

Well, good news and bad news, bad news first.

The Bad News: Not a single kid laughed. Not a one. They just stared at her, not moving, not getting the joke in the least. Complete silence.

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“…Talking sausage. It’s a talking… Is this mic on?”

The Good News: Every single adult in the room got the joke, startled from my daughter’s screaming punchline. And then? They clapped, they applauded her.

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“Hot crowd, tonight! Hot crowd!”

My daughter was beaming. She walked from the front of the room right up to me and high fived me with a big fat smile on her face.

It was a proud father/daughter moment, a passing of the torch so to speak.

Thanks, Michael! You can read more by Michael Noble at Hotchka.com.

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Pods Looking Back 3: One More List Of My Favorite Nostalgic Podcasts

Time once again for me to recommend a few podcasts that look back nostalgically. Well, they look back at past events, anyway. And I’m going to throw in a shameless self-promotion. (Hint: I do a podcast.)

Some of these suggested podcasts might get a little explicit in their language, so keep that in mind. However, this list is mostly swear-free. (Hint: Mine isn’t.)

Click on the titles to link to the podcasts.

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Stuck In The 80s For the better part of the last thirteen years, Steve Spears has been the host of this podcast that fondly recalls the 1980s decade. Music, movies, trends, books, even television get talked about on this fun and relaxed and friendly show. The listener feels completely welcome in expressing their love of all things ’80s.

There have been a number of co-hosts over the years, including yours truly for a guest co-host appearance or two or three, but Spearsy (as his friends call him) has been the one constant. For the past five years, Spearsy’s co-host has been Brad Williams. Brad started out as just a fan, but eventually became co-host replacing the very boisterous Sean Daly. Brad brought a different vibe to the show that meshed very well with the original host. Plus there’s a certain Jen with one N who brings a woman’s perspective to the show as she guest co-hosts more and more frequently.

They love the ’80s. If you love the ’80s, check out this podcast.

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Hit Parade It was Jen with one N who mentioned this podcast on SIT80s. It sounded interesting so I checked it out.

It’s a music podcast that comes out once a month. Each month, host Chris Molanphy does a deep dive on a topic from pop music history. The show is very well produced and researched and it is fascinating. In fact, the show is so good and the host is so engaging he made Bon Jovi interesting.

I hate Bon Jovi! So does the host, which is a testament to how good this podcast is.

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The Dana Gould Hour Dana Gould is damn funny and his monthly podcast, never less than two and a half hours, is funny, informative, and so very entertaining. He and his guests will talk politics, the entertainment industry, and comedy in general. There’s a semi-regular segment called Political Talk with Two Guys from Boston in which Gould and actor John Ennis improvise as two Bostonian working class dudes talking about whatever, not necessarily politics though.

The middle section of each show has Gould giving a talk on the history of something usually related to entertainment. Those stories include Roy Orbison’s triumphant and tragic life, the awesome schlocky genius of Robert Corman, and just how the hell that crazy film Beneath the Planets of the Apes got green-lit. Gould has the gift of telling these stories in such an engaging way. I love how he does it. Hell, I even listen to his ad reads, instead of fast forwarding the way I do with all the other podcasts to which I listen.

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The Assault of the 2-Headed Space Mules It’s a mouthful title, ain’t it? This podcast is hosted by my friend Douglas Arthur. It’s an easy, relatively quiet podcast that explores various aspects of pop culture. He’s discussed the film Mad Monster Party, Saturday morning cartoon theme songs, Jonny Quest, novelty songs, Devo, and much more. He’ll even read a short story or two by H. P. Lovecraft on the show.

And he’ll bring in members of the G.O.O.C.H. (Gang of Occasional Co-Hosts, of which I am a member) Squad to have some fun blathering on about whatever strikes his fancy. We just gathered to do a show on… No, I don’t want to spoil it.

The show comes out irregularly. Douglas is a busy man, so it adheres to his schedule.

Dimland Radio

Dimland Radio Finally, my shameless self-promotion. I do a weekly podcast/internet radio show. I talk about sports, politics, science, skepticism, atheism/religion, and anything else that I find of interest. I’ll give movie recommendations and gripe about pop culture, just not necessarily at the same time.

I have segments that include the Dimland Radio Science Hero or Science Zero, It’s Not True (usually internet memes and urban legends people tend to believe, but aren’t true), Dimland Radio ARGH! (that’s something that really bugs me), Three Cool Things, and my most popular segment the Dimland Radio Pedantic Moment. People love those. I think.

And I’ll talk about The Who. I talk about them a lot. It’s kind of an obsession. I’m trying not to do it too much. Really. I am trying.

All of these podcasts are available on iTunes. So, check ’em out. (Please! Please! Please! Subscribe to Dimland Radio. You don’t even have to listen if you don’t want. You can just download and delete. Please?)

Packing Peanuts!

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This Month’s Great Cover Ended An Era And Started Another

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In the mid-1950s, the US Government seemed to believe that comic books were turning America’s youth into juvenile delinquents. Rep. Estes Kefauver (D-Tenn) led the charge in Congress to stop the evil influence of comic books on America’s future. Funny. I thought the 1950s was when America was great. Huh.

Well, anyway.

There was one company in particular that really drew the attention of America’s decency standards keepers: EC Comics. In those days, EC was the comic book publisher that was most consistent in publishing quality comic books. The stories were intriguing and challenging and the artwork was some of the best in the industry, as this month’s cover by Johnny Craig demonstrates.

The cover is from issue number 22 of Crime Suspenstories (May, 1954) and it became the centerpiece of the US House Committee hearings on comic books, led by the worried Rep. Kefauver. The Congressman grilled then owner of EC, William “Bill” Gaines, on whether or not he considered a cover depicting a murdered woman with a man holding her severed head to be in good taste. Gaines thought it was for a horror comic book not necessarily meant for kids.

Gaines pointed out that the cover didn’t show the viscera of the severed neck nor of the body laying on the floor. However, I’ve read somewhere that Craig had originally drawn the cover depicting where the neck had been cut. It was redrawn to tone it down.

Well, the hearings led to the industry forming the Comics Code Authority in 1954. This body was to set down rules as to what could and could not be depicted in comic books. The Comics Code Authority remained active until the early 2000s, but their power had been eroding for years before then.

Soon after the Comics Code came into being, Bill Gaines shut down all of his comic book titles. Ending an era. He turned his attention to a magazine that had started as a comic book. Magazines weren’t subject to the Code, so he could do what he liked with them. And he liked satire. The magazine was Mad. And so began another era.

Phew, so much for the history. Now let’s look at that controversial cover…

First there is the general layout of an EC cover. There’s the banner title with a solid color for the background. The art is framed in a square taking up about two thirds of the cover. Marvel Comics would adopt this layout for a time in the 1970s.

The artwork itself is very well drawn by Craig. Craig’s execution is terrific. Without having it detailed for us, the positioning of the body on the floor, the look on the victim’s face, and the blood-spattered (done in black) axe tells the viewer that a man has just loped off a woman’s head. The under lighting on the severed head and the murderer’s arm add to the drama.

But, Craig has also done two things that are quite subtle. First is the positioning of the axe. I may be reading something into this that isn’t there, having a dirty mind as I do, but there’s a certain phallicness to it, don’t you think? Of course it might just be, that given the design and layout constraints, that was the best way for Johnny Craig to show the man had a blood-soaked axe.

The second subtle touch is the murderer’s posture. The man is not drawn hunched forward in a position that would indicate shame. No, this man is standing upright. His shoulders held back, his chest pumped out. This pose looks to me as though he’s happy – proud! – of what he’s done.

These subtle touches along with the fabulous execution make this a great cover. It may have ended EC Comics, but it gave us Mad Magazine. Not a terrible trade-off.

Packing Peanuts!

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Great Album Retro Review: Abacab by Genesis

41sSESitKELI read an article reporting on the psychology behind why people tend to favor the first album they’ve heard by a musical artist over the rest of that artist’s output. It has to do with familiarity. Since it’s the first album you picked up, it’s probably the one you’ve listened to the most and so it’s your favorite. Makes sense.

I can think of a some albums that weren’t the first I’d owned by a particular band, but are my favorites (XTC’s Skylarking, for instance). However, when I give it some thought, there are plenty of favorite albums in my collection that fit in the “first heard” category. This month’s album is one of those.

It’s Abacab by the prog (becoming more pop) rock band Genesis. Released in 1981, it wasn’t my first exposure the UK band. I knew and liked the song Misunderstanding from their 1980 release Duke. That song had gotten a good deal more radio play than anything from the band’s previous nine albums. But I didn’t buy Duke.

When Abacab’s title single hit the radio, I was impressed enough to buy the album. So, my first Genesis album was the band’s eleventh! Abacab was more pop than their previous albums. The songs were simpler and more direct, which was intentional so as to stay fresh in their sound. Not being much of a prog rock fan, the poppier aspect was more attractive to me.

The tracks:

Abacab – Named for the sections (A, B, & C) that make up the song, when creating the song the band would move the sections around until they found the one configuration they liked, Abacab was one of those section configurations, but not the final one. Still they liked the way the letters made a “word” and used it for the album title. This song (and album) also had that big Phil Collins’ drum sound, a sound that would influence much of pop music through the 80s. As I said, I was really impressed with the song. Still am.

No Reply At All – Oh, boy! This song just jumped off the record for me. I loved the horns, provided by the horn section of the R&B giants Earth, Wind & Fire. There’s just something about a good jaunty horn section to boost a song. And the lyrics of a lonely guy pining for love struck a chord with my high school self.

Me And Sarah Jane – When I got to learn more about the history of this band and of Peter Gabriel, their original lead singer, I could hear more of their prog roots here and I can also hear why the band picked Collins as their new leader singer. There’s quite a lot of Gabriel’s sound in this song. A quieter song that builds and gets quiet and builds and gets quiet.

Keep It Dark – My favorite track on the album. I love the guitar riff and the lyrics of a man who had been abducted by a gang of thieves. Or were they aliens? The protagonist decides not let on exactly what happened to him. He decides to keep it dark. Great song.

Dodo/Lurker – This one is probably the most prog of any of the songs of the album. I enjoy the flow of the song as it makes time changes and discusses the plights of dodos and minxes.

Who Dunnit? – I don’t know about this one. I do like it. However, it feels a little like a throwaway song. On the other hand, the song also seems a bit tongue-in-cheek and shows the band to have a sense of humor. It’s also just plain weird. I don’t know about this one… But, I like it.

Man On The Corner – This one is a start out quiet and build until it’s hitting the ceiling song. It is a tried and true (and sometimes overdone – see Whitney Houston and Michael Bolton) style of song delivery. Genesis makes it work here. I think because the whole build up is so slow and the ceiling isn’t too high.

Like It Or Not – Another quiet song that builds well, but it still holds back just enough. I like that. Sometimes that holding back makes a song more powerful (don’t see Whitney Houston and Michael Bolton).

Another Record – The album started with a big drum sound and it ends with big drums. Yeah, I know, there were big drums pretty much the whole album, but this track sounds as though the drums are the lead instrument. The song is a little of an anticlimax – good, but not quite as powerful an ending as the album’s beginning.

Packing Peanuts!

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My Introduction To The Uncanny X-Men

It has been said that timing is everything and, when it came to my becoming a serious comic book collector, my timing couldn’t have been better. As I wrote in my blog about The Korvac Saga in The Avengers series, a friend had encouraged me to become a serious collector and I started collecting The Avengers and The Uncanny X-men in the summer of 1978. So, when I started collecting The Avengers, the artist was George Perez. Perez was pretty early in his career with Marvel and he was really hitting his stride when I started collecting Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. My timing was also good, because they were battling one of their greatest foes: Ultron.

The first issue I bought of The Uncanny X-Men was #113 (September, 1977). My timing was a little off in that I joined a story already in progress, but that story featured the group’s greatest adversary: Magneto. And Magneto was at the height of his power. He had just defeated the new X-Men in issue #112. Pretty handily to boot.

At the time I thought Perez was a great artist, but the guy drawing The X-Men was a revelation to me. When I opened that first issue of seriously collected X-Men, I saw this…

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I was completely wowed! An it was just a character shot of Magneto approaching the “camera” with power crackling from his hand, but it was drawn so well. I loved the style. And page after page, book after book my jaw kept dropping lower than I thought was humanly possible.

The artist was John Byrne and he was working with inker Terry Austin. I will say this right here – Byrne and Austin were one to the best pairings of penciller and inker ever! The art produced by that team on this X-Men run is, in my opinion, unparalleled. Those guys were amazing. So, my timing was good to start buying when such a great team of artists was producing at such a high level.

It wasn’t just great timing for the art, there was a great writer making waves, too. The writer was Chris Claremont who, with plot assist from Byrne, set the reader on a long and winding road of powerful bad guys bringing this new group of mutants to the brink of death again and again. In fact, for a time, Professor X, the group’s founder and mentor, believed that Jean Grey (Marvel Girl/Phoenix) was the only X-Man left alive after their battle with Magneto. Phoenix and Beast (former X-Man, but an Avenger at the time) were able to escape an erupting volcano that destroyed Magneto’s sub-Antarctica super complex.

Despite their inexperience, the new team was able to defeat Magneto, but in doing so, as it appeared to Phoenix and Beast, the rest of the team were killed in the volcanic eruption. But, Cyclops, Wolverine, Banshee, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Storm had survived. And they believed it was they who were the ones who got out alive.

They had dug their way out of the underground mega-station to surface in the Savage Land, a land that time forgot in the center of Antarctica. It’s a primitive jungle-covered land filled with all sorts of dangerous creatures dating back to the age of dinosaurs. There they stayed with people native to that land and eventually met up with Ka-Zar, Marvel’s answer to Tarzan.

They got a chance to rest for a while. And I got a chance to see just how well Byrne could draw the female form.

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Even Banshee was impressed.

Well, to not go on too very long, the X-Men’s rest was short-lived due to having to battle Sauron, which led to a greater battle to save the Savage Land and the world from the evil ambitions of Garokk, the Sun-God. Then they ended up in Japan and hooked up with Sunfire to fight Mandroids and to stop Moses Magnum from sinking that island nation. A battle in which Banshee lost his voice from the strain of destroying a mountain.

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All this while making their way back to their school in Westchester, NY and to Professor X. However, the Professor had decided, since he believed his X-Men were dead, to shut down the school and leave planet earth to live with his love Lilandra, Majestrix of the Shi’ar Empire.

Yeesh! You need a damn program to keep track!

But at 13, I loved it. Claremont, Byrne, and Austin weaved a complex tale of super-powered mutants going from battle to battle, developing these new and exciting characters along the way. They were even sewing in hints at troubled times ahead. Jean Grey as Phoenix had become extremely powerful and she was enjoying it a little too much. They were moving her character toward the destructive evil of Dark Phoenix, which would open a universe-spanning saga of its own.

You see how it was? I could keep going, because that creative team was just so good at putting together such a sprawling tale of this heroic group of mutants sworn to protect a world that feared and hated them. It was marvelous and it’s why the X-Men went from an also-ran, nearly cancelled, series to Marvel Comic’s marquee title.

And it’s why the Claremont/Byrne/Austin run of The Uncanny X-Men is one of the greatest of all time.

Packing Peanuts!

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My Three Favorite Episodes Of The Original Jonny Quest

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It has long been my favorite Saturday morning kids’ cartoon show, except it didn’t start life on Saturday mornings. Jonny Quest actually started life as a prime time animated series for a general audience. I didn’t see it when it originally aired. I was a little too young then. In fact, I wasn’t even born until the series was halfway through its original run, so I first saw it when it made its way to Saturday mornings.

This is going to a bit on the morbid side, but the main difference between the original series (which is the only version I’ll talk about, because I hated all of the other incarnations of the show) and other kids’ cartoon shows was that people died in Jonny Quest’s world. That just isn’t allowed in cartoons for kids. In fact, I recall an episode of Thundarr the Barbarian in which the “barbarian” and his team were battling several knights in shining armor. One of the enemies was punched hard enough to fall apart revealing it to be a robot. Realizing they weren’t living beings, Thundarr let his team know it was OK to stop pulling their punches. Man! I thought barbarians were always set to kill.

So, in Jonny Quest, if a jet plane blew up, we wouldn’t see the pilot parachuting to safety. If there was a gun fight, people got shot and died. There was even one episode in which Race Bannon used the plow of a bulldozer to ricochet his shot around a corner to kill a bad guy. And we know Race got him, because the fellow fell into sight having been the recipient of an incredible shot. That Race Bannon. What couldn’t he do?

Jonny Quest was also the first prime time animated series in which the characters were rendered to look like actual people. Not stylized the way the characters in its predecessor The Flintstones were depicted. The Quest characters were simplified, sure, but they had hands with five digits instead of the typical cartoon four. And they looked like people. The overall design was terrifically done by illustrator Doug Wildey. Wildey gave the series a comic book illustration style, using lots of black and varying line weight. Most animated series use a thin unvarying line, which isn’t as interesting to this viewer.

It was produced by the giants of television animation Hanna-Barbera, who had pioneered a style of animation that limited the amount of drawing that needed to be done, making a weekly animated series economically possible. And Hanna-Barbera had several series, some in prime time, others on Saturday mornings. Even with that process there would still be time crunches and at times the animation suffered.

What never suffered in the original series was the score. It was excellent. Hoyt Curtin was the composer and his musical score is among the best ever for any adventure series. It enhanced the action and set the tone so perfectly for each scene. And the opening theme is perfect.

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Watch your mouth, Race!

The series was not without its flaws. It was produced in the 1960s and wasn’t terribly sensitive in its portrayals of people who weren’t of the Western world or white. When depicting more primitive societies or Asians or Egyptians, etc. the languages spoken would just be gibberish. When issuing the series on DVD at least one line of dialogue was removed from the episode titled Pursuit of the Po-Ho. Bannon had painted himself purple in order to impersonate a god of the primitive Po-Ho people. He was attempting to instill the natives with fear. In doing so, Race called them “heathen monkeys.” That line was removed.

As an adventure series, Jonny Quest really captured my interest. The design and music were great. I loved the characters, although their dog Bandit would get rather tiring at times. All that barking. Which, incidentally, was provided by Don Messick, who was also the voice of Dr. Benton Quest for most of the series.

So, here are my Top Three Favorite Episodes:

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3) The Robot Spy (Originally aired November 6, 1964) This episode wasn’t a favorite when I was a kid, but as I got older I grew to appreciate it. It features Dr. Quest’s arch-nemesis the mysterious Dr. Zin. Zin really has it in for Quest and he wants to steal the secret of a powerful ray gun Quest is developing, so he sends in an unusual spy. It’s a robot designed so simply, it’s essentially just a large black metallic ball, that it is treated as a curiosity, which Quest brings into the secret military compound. It turns out the black ball has an eye and legs and tentacles that, when they strike the guards, can render them unconscious.

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Dr. Zin was a recurring villain. This episode was his second of three appearances and I’m certain that, had there been a second season, there would have been more Zin. My research tells me that later versions of the series featured Dr. Zin very prominently, but I don’t care about those shows. Those were made for kids.

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2) The Curse Of Anubis (Originally aired October 2, 1964) Jonny and his crew have been invited to Egypt by archeologist Ahmed Kareem, an old friend of Dr. Quest’s. Unknown to Quest, Kareem had become a radical Arab nationalist and he plans to frame Quest for the theft of ancient Egyptian treasures, which Kareem had in fact stolen. The radical believes this deception will unite the Arab nations against the Western world. However, in stealing a sculpture of the god Anubis, Kareem unknowingly causes a mummy to return from the beyond to punish those who had violated an ancient tomb.

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What I really like about this episode is the ever encroaching threat of the mummy. However, no one is aware that the mummy has been reanimated and is on their trail. In the end, when things seem most desperate for our heroes, the mummy arrives to exact justice.

This one uses Curtin’s score particularly well when building the tension of the stalking undead avenger.

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1) The Invisible Monster (Originally aired January 28, 1965) This is a popular favorite and it’s easy to understand why. Dr. Quest gets an urgent call from a scientist friend whose experiment had gone terribly wrong. Somehow he had created an invisible creature that feeds of electrical energy.

The Quest team head to the remote tropical island where Dr. Quest’s colleague had been running his experiment. But they are too late. The scientist’s lab has been destroyed and he has disappeared and is feared dead. Something has left footprints and a path of destruction in its wake. Part of that destruction is a local village of island natives.

There is so much that is cool about this episode. The invisible menace, the sounds it makes, and, when Jonny gets an idea how to make the creature visible, it looks great. A giant hump of a creature with one eye and a gaping mouth. Such a good episode.

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That first season had plenty to like: Admirable heroes, interesting villains and monsters, great futuristic gadgets, exotic locations, and plenty of adventure. All with fantastic music, great sound effects, terrific design, and people who would actually die.

If you would like to hear me and a couple friends go on about how great this series is, you can download my friend’s podcast The Assault of the Two-Headed Space Mules episode #29.

Packing Peanuts!

Update 5/25/18: It occurred to me I ought to link to the source of much of the information I related  here. It’s from a fan produced YouTube documentary about the original series. It’s in three parts and filled with lots of interesting insights. Click here to see part one.

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A Pedant Watches An Old Episode Of Hawaii Five-O

maxresdefaultTwelve seasons! Wow! The cop drama series Hawaii Five-O was on the air from 1968 to 1980. That’s twelve seasons. I knew it was a long running series, but I didn’t remember it went that long. Impressive.

And it’s been living on in syndication ever since. Today the classic cop show that gave us the immortal phrase “Book ’em, Danno” can be seen on the MeTV or AntennaTV oldies channels. And it’s… of its time. Looking back on some of those old TV dramas, during this new Golden Age of Television, makes them seem rather naive and hokey.

Jack Lord, the star of the series, played Detective Captain Steve McGarrett. And he could be very over-dramatic at times. McGarrett would really work up a head of steam, when he wasn’t otherwise trying to be very, very intense. Steve wasn’t a lot of laughs.

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Jack Lord: Just a little like Karloff, don’t you think?

Lord was one of those “chin actors.” I don’t know if I just made up that phrase or not, but what I mean is his acting style led him to point his chin at the person he would be talking to. And, is it me? Or did Jack Lord look like Boris Karloff? A better looking version, but there is a resemblance.

He did have great hair, though. When I was a kid, I used to think his big hair swoop was intentionally meant to mirror the big wave of the Hawaiian surf we saw in the opening titles of every show.

Also, let’s not forget the show’s excellent theme song as played by The Ventures. It’s a great instrumental track that is still a thrilling listen.

There is one episode, in particular, about which I will get a bit pedantic. The episode is called The Bell Tolls At Noon (originally aired January 6, 1977) and it features Rich Little in the part of a revenge killer. That’s right – Rich Little! The Vegas entertainer from the days of yore (1970s mainly) who made his living doing impressions of famous celebrities. He did Pres. Nixon, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Jimmy Stewart, and many others. His biggest breakthrough impression was his Johnny Carson. When he figured how to do Johnny, it made his career.

In The Bell Tolls At Noon, Little plays a recovering drug addict, Johnny Kling, who is obsessed with old movies. He has put himself on a mission of revenge against a group of drug dealers, who he blames for the drug overdose death of a young woman who was very special to him.

Kling’s first kill is a sniper shot of one of McGarrett’s informants. This greatly upsets McGarrett, because the informant had just set up a meet at which he was going to give the very serious cop everything he could to bring down a major dealer. This puts McGarrett on the trail.

The trail leads to a drug rehab center where we find Kling entertaining fellow recovering addicts by doing, can you guess? Yep! Impressions of old time Hollywood actors. What? Rich Little’s character does impressions? Little was born to play Johnny Kling! (Well, I suppose Frank Gorshin could have played the roll.)

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“Oh, man! I’m killin’!”

Anyway, McGarrett stops to watch the act, which seems dated even in 1977, and the intense detective does manage to crack a smile at the stale material. He then actually meets and talks to Kling (once the ovation for the routine finally dies down, that is). The two talked to each other with at most a couple feet separating them. McGarrett looks Kling right in the face. This is important to remember. Ok?

At that time, there is no reason to suspect Kling, so off he goes to kill his next victim. This time he calls McGarrett after the kill and sends the detective to a motel, where Kling says the books have been closed on a particularly bad bad guy.  The killer had set up one of the motel rooms so that, when McGarrett finds the victim, the scene mimics an old Cagney gangster film. Kling is really into Cagney and that plays into the finale of the episode, which I won’t spoil.

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“Oh, man! I’m killin’!”

The scene that gets to this pedant comes when the Five-O squad investigates that motel room. Danno brings the motel manager to be questioned by his boss. She isn’t much help when it comes to describing the strange man who rented the room. She’s very vague. She can’t even remember if he was taller or shorter than her. She did recall that the man wore sunglasses and she remembered the kind of clothes he was wearing.

McGarrett instructs Danno to have her work with the police sketch artist, who just happens to be at the scene. He was just sitting off camera. The Five-O squad must have quite the budget if they can bring a sketch artist to every crime scene. Usually witnesses are brought down to the station to work with sketch artists, but not on Steve McGarret’s Five-O squad!

So, off she goes to start working with what must be the world’s greatest police sketch artist. He must have been some kind of a witness whisperer, because he was able to pull out details from a witness who had already been so vague.

Soon the artist finishes two sketches. One with the suspect wearing sunglasses, one without. We only see the one without the shades. Before we see the sketch, the witness takes a look and says, “Well, it’s not a spitting image, but it’s OK.”

Danno brings the sketches over to McGarrett, who was seething in the corner. He tells his boss that he can’t vouch for the accuracy, because the witness kept changing her mind. She must have changed it a hundred times. She just about drove the artist crazy. That’s when we get to see the sketch…

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Not a spitting image?! Lady, this is the definition of a spitting image!

The audience gets to see a police sketch like no other. This is not a sketch drawn from a witness’s vague recollections. This is a portrait of Rich Little! The man himself either sat down to be drawn by a portrait artist or gave the artist a headshot photo from which to draw this “sketch.”

And McGarrett, who had met the man earlier that day, looks at it and shrugs. He tells Danno to show it around, but thinks it’s probably a dead end.

Steve! Look at it! It’s Rich Little!

He did eventually make the connection and stop the bad guy.

Packing Peanuts!

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