Category Archives: The Good Ol’ Days

Songs And Moments

There are many things that can trigger a memory. Photographs, certain scents, or someone telling a related story can all jog a memory and take you back to a specific moment from your past. They can be big moments or small, whichever it is, that trigger just brings you back. And a song can be a trigger for me.

This week, I thought I’d list five songs that bring five moments from my past to mind every time I hear them. None of the moments are particularly big. Most are small, everyday sorts of occurrences that just add texture to life. Two of the songs are by Paul McCartney. I’m not sure why, it just worked out that way.

Writer’s note: Click on the headers to be linked to the songs.

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My Love by Paul McCartney and Wings (1973).

This may be the smallest moment I’ll discuss. As I recall, it took place during the summer of 1973 or 1974. In those days, when my siblings and I would suggest our parents buy a dishwasher, Dad would say, “Why? I already have four of them.”

He, of course, was referring to us kids. There were four of us and we were tasked with the chore of washing the dishes. Each kid would get the washing up duties for a week. The moment that comes back to me happened during one of my weeks. And it is so mundane, you may find it underwhelming, but I’m sharing anyway.

One of our perks when doing the dishes was to be allowed to listen to music on the radio. Not too loud!

My Love was a new song at the time. What I think of now whenever I hear that song is me standing at the sink, washing dishes, looking out the kitchen window at the neighbor’s house, listening to Paul singing, “Whoa whoa-whoa whoooa.”

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Band On The Run by Paul McCartney and Wings (1974).

Probably during that same summer as the My Love moment, this excellent song brings me back to playing in a sand pile behind a strip mall near where my parents still live today. Right across the street from the house was an empty lot, in which we kids spent much of our spare time, on the other side of the lot was that strip mall.

I don’t recall why there was a pile of sand there, but what kid could resist making use of it? A group of us kids were digging through it for hours. Someone must have a transistor radio with them, because Band On The Run was playing.

To this day, that fantastic opening guitar riff brings me right back to that sand pile.

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Heat Of The Moment by Asia (1982).

This moment is the summer of 1982. My best friend Greg and I were enjoying our summer between junior and senior year. Greg had his driver’s license and he had pretty much taken over his mother’s Chevy Laguna as his car. And, since it was his car, he needed to make certain the stereo was capable of producing the proper volume level any respectable 16 or 17 year old would require.

He rigged up that Laguna so that the back seat and window space were crammed with speakers. He had seven speakers back there. Some weren’t even car speakers, at least two of them were from his home stereo. He also got his hands, I don’t know how, on an old football stadium style PA speaker. He ran everything through a powerful equalizer and the volume he achieved was impressive. My left ear is still ringing.

The song that became our theme for that summer was that hit by the 80s super-group Asia. Which we played again and again, so very loudly.

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Pilgrimage by REM (1983).

This moment is difficult to nail down to a specific time. It happened when I was in art school. I attended the School of Associated Arts (it was renamed College of Visual Arts in 1989 and closed its doors in June, 2013) starting in the fall of 1983 and graduating in spring 1986. The school was located on the historic Summit Avenue, an avenue in St. Paul, MN filled with old mansions from the days when Minnesota’s wealthiest citizens took up residence in the capital city. Railroad tycoon James J Hill’s mansion is just down the block from the school.

The picturesque Summit Avenue is located on a hill that overlooks downtown St. Paul, where the hoi polloi lived and worked and where the bus would drop me off and pick me up. On the days when I didn’t get a ride, I would bus it in and back. And I would have to walk up and down that hill. There was a long set of stairs, running right alongside the James J Hill House, that meandered its way to and from Summit Avenue. I’m not sure if it’s still there.

That was quite a beautiful yet tiring climb in the morning. I was so thankful for the few stretches in which the path leveled out for a time. I was also thankful for my Sony Walkman (remember those?), which set the mood for the climb. Pilgrimage has somehow become the song that reminds me of that walk on those stairs.

A nice song for a nice, if exhausting, walk.

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Unknown Legend by Neil Young (1993).

In the mid-90s I worked, very briefly, as a staff artist for a little start-up multi-media publishing company. The friends I made there really liked Neil Young’s 1992 album Harvest Moon. Now, it’s not that I wasn’t a fan of Young’s music. I liked and appreciated much of his art. I just enjoyed poking fun at the way he sings. I would take to imitating the yowl of a cat as I “sang” along with the 60’s radical.

Well, the company wasn’t taking off as the investors had hoped and they stopped funding it and we all lost our jobs.

Some weeks or months later, while throwing back a few brews with some other friends, the jukebox played Unknown Legend. I took immediate notice and was transported back to that workplace. My reaction must have been awfully obvious, because my friends asked if I was OK.

I hadn’t started blubbering or anything like that. I had just gotten very quiet. I told them I was remembering some friends I hadn’t seen in a while.

Surely, you have a song or two (or a thousand) that take you back to moments in time. Share some in the comments if you like.

Packing Peanuts!

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Toy Soldiers Treated Strangely

Marx Toys was a pretty damn good toymaker. They produced two of my favorite toys when I was a kid: The Johnny West action figure line (a subject for a future blog perhaps) and plastic toy soldiers. Lots of toy companies offered toy soldiers, but I think Marx’s were the best.

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The amount of detail Marx put in them was very impressive. There were facial expressions. There were German soldiers and Japanese soldiers wearing what appeared to be fairly accurate uniforms. There were also officers. And Marx produced soldiers being shot, suffering from a wound, and ones that were dead. The dead ones were always the enemy, though.

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“Aaah! They got me!”

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“Well, we got him! Got him good and dead!”

I had their Guns of Navarone playset in the early 1970s. The playset had more than 200 pieces, which included military vehicles, canons, and, of course, the mountain stronghold. As a youthful pedant, I noticed the scale of the vehicles didn’t quite match that of the soldiers, but I realized that it would be difficult to make everything at a matching scale. Either the soldiers would have to be much smaller or the vehicles much larger. I would just have to use my imagination.

So, that’s what I did.

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Marx even made “goose-stepping” German soldiers.

At some point, I devised a battle that pitted my toy soldiers against my Shogun Warriors. I would spend hours deploying my troops into position. They were set on precariously balanced boxes and encyclopedias, awaiting the attack from those towering robots. The Warriors would attack and utterly laid waste to those valiant men.

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I’ll admit that pitting toy soldiers against toy robots isn’t all that strange of a way to treat toy soldiers (or toy robots, for that matter), but I’m not done.

In the mid-70s, my family would go on vacation each summer, which usually meant a drive to a cabin resort in the lake area of northwestern Wisconsin. On one occasion, there was a road trip from St. Paul, MN to sunny San Jose, CA. For most of those vacations, the family vehicle was an old station wagon, I forget which brand. And, because my younger brother and I were the youngest (and the smallest) of the four siblings, we got to sit in the “way back.”

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Something like this, but without the “wood” siding.

The “way back” was meant for cargo. There was no seat let alone seat belts. The two of us had a space way back in the “way back” between the luggage and coolers and against the gate or whatever you call it. We had a great view of the road behind us.

When it was warm enough and it wasn’t raining, Dad would lower the “way back” window and my brother and I could get the thrill of the wind in our hair and being a gate malfunction away from tumbling onto to the highway and to our deaths. Luckily, the gate never malfunctioned.

Having the window down, my brother and I hatched a brilliant idea. “Let’s take some kite string and tie a toy soldier to a length of it and drag the soldier behind us as Dad drives!” Well, we both agreed it was a brilliant idea, even if we don’t remember which of us came up with it.

So, that’s what we did.

The soldier would bounce off the road every which way. And whenever a car began to gain on us, we’d just reel in the string. When it was clear again, out would go the hapless soldier to gain even more nasty road rash. It was hours of fun.

Torturing toy soldiers might not seem that much more strange than having them slaughtered by giant robots, but I’m not done.

In about 1974 or so, the city of St. Paul decided the old Hayden Heights neighborhood library needed to be replaced and built a new, larger branch kitty-corner to the old one. The old one became a clock store, while the new one began to take shape.

Much the same way my parents weren’t all that concerned with my brother’s and my safety as we traveled in the “way back,” it seemed the city of St. Paul wasn’t all that concerned with keeping us kids out of the construction area of the new branch. As I recall, we seemed to have access to the dug out area for the foundation. We could get to the foundation walls, which were made of basic cinder block. And as such, those cinder block walls had large gaps at the top. A gap in which something could be placed…

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My ten year-old brain hit upon an interesting idea. Why not put a toy soldier in the cinder block of that foundation wall?

Yeah! Why not?!

So, that’s what I did.

In went a brave infantryman to stand guard inside that wall. To this day, when I drive by that library I think of that toy soldier and his sentry duty that’s lasted more than four decades. That part of the foundation wall, however small, has a soldier ready to protect it.

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Somewhere in the foundation wall of this building is a toy soldier that has been pulling sentry duty for more than 40 years.

That action done as a ten year-old didn’t stop with the library. Through the years, I have placed toy soldiers in secret places to be hidden for all time or until the building is razed or the sidewalk dug up. Throughout my house there are hidden toy soldiers. They are in the insulation in the space between the walls and the replacement windows. There’s a soldier inside the corner of the porch wall, put there when the old, rotted wood needed replacing. Out in the backyard, there’s one inside the retaining wall I helped my dad put in by the driveway.

And, just this past Sunday, I took a table out of the garage to put on the porch. I had to take apart the base in order to get it in the house (the tabletop had already been removed). That’s when I noticed the center column of the table was hollow.

A light went on above my head. I went upstairs and asked my son where his old toy soldiers were. We found them in his rather stuffed closet (not as stuffed as Fibber McGee’s*, however) and I selected one for this important mission. I taped him in place so that he’ll stay standing and I put the table back together.

As long as that table is intact, he’ll be standing guard.

Now, that is a little strange, isn’t it?

Packing Peanuts!

*10 points if you get this reference.

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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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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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The Tale Of An Old Favorite Toy And A Criminal Act.

This week’s blog has been pulled from the archives of my personal blog, from way back in April, 2009, at dimland.com. Actually, this is the second pulling, because it was reused on the Two Different Girls blog (with an update) in April, 2013. So, now I’m re-reusing it in April, 2018 (with a slight amount of re-writing). I’ll see if I can avoid re-re-reusing it in April, 2024. No promises, though!

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I collect old toys. Well, I should say I used to collect old toys. I no longer have the disposable income I once did. To tell the truth, I never really had that much disposable income and yet I would still collect old toys.

Not just any old toys. I collected the toys that I or a friend or relative had when I was a child. I used to say that I was buying back my childhood. One toy at a time.

There was one toy, however, foolishly given up in my youth, that had eluded my ability to buy back for many years. (Did I ever buy it back? Read on.) It’s an action figure that was put out by Matchbox Toys in the mid 1970s. It was part of their Fighting Furies pirate series and he was called the Ghost of Captain Kidd. He was sold only at Sears.

When I originally wrote this piece I had thought the year was 1973, but, with the assistance of the excellent website – WishBookWeb.com, I have found it was actually 1975. I was ten years old and I was looking through the Sears Wish Book catalog, something every kid must have done in those days, when I spotted him. There he was, the Ghost of Captain Kidd. He was pictured with two other pirate figures, but I didn’t care about them. I wanted the ghost.

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Image from WishBookWeb.com

I saved up my allowance money and, when I had enough, my mom ordered it for me. I don’t remember how long I waited, but I’m sure it felt like weeks and weeks.

When the fairly plain and unassuming package arrived, I was beside myself with excitement. It was worth the wait, because it was such a great toy. The Captain had a button on his side that you could push to move his right arm and simulate sword fighting. And though he was quite a bit smaller than my Johnny West and GI Joe, he had a feature that they didn’t: The Captain could glow in the dark!

To this day, kids dig just about anything if it glows in the dark. But the Captain didn’t just glow, Matchbox also had the brilliant idea of painting, in pale white, a skull and skeleton on the figure. So, when he glowed you could see his ghostly skeletal structure. It was a very cool and eerie effect.

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So cool!!

The Captain quickly became one of my favorite toys. I would frequently bring him over to my friend Todd’s house, along with my other action figures, and Todd and I would play with his GI Joe playset and his actions figures for hours.

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This was a pretty awesome playset.

And, now, that criminal act alluded to in the headline.

At the end of one of our adventures, I left the Captain at Todd’s house, so he could play with him some more. Todd was very good to his toys, so I wasn’t too worried about him having one of mine for a while longer. The only problem was his family then went on vacation before I could get him back. My Captain was trapped in Todd’s house! They would be gone for at least a week and I’d be damned if I would be without such a favored toy for so long.

I hatched a plan.

Todd’s house had an attached garage which led to their basement. I knew that his family never locked the overhead garage door (those were the days). My plan was simple: I would head over to his house, open the garage door just enough for me to crawl under, go in, and get my toy.

I’m certain the statute of limitations has long since passed, so I can tell you now – my plan worked like a charm. I retrieved my toy and no one was the wiser. I don’t think Todd ever knew I’d broken into his house.

And I was single-minded. There was no taking of any of his toys or comic books. No stealing money, no going through his older sister’s underwear drawer. (Come on! I was only ten!) I was there for the Captain. And he was all I took. I swear.

In time, as with so many of the other toys of my youth, the Ghost of Captain Kidd went away. No doubt sold at a garage sale. I grew to regret giving him up.

For years I was unable to get him back. I had seen him on eBay a couple of times and once came close to getting him, but, at the last moment, someone outbid me and swiped him away. Which is probably a good thing as money was (and still is) needed for more mundane things. You know, food, clothing, mortgage. Nothing so exciting as the Ghost of Captain Kidd.

I even went as far as to call Mattel, the toy company that now produces the Matchbox toy line, to ask if they’d consider reissuing the Fighting Furies, especially the Captain. Toy companies have been known to reissue toys from time to time. As far as I know, my call didn’t accomplish anything.

ghost of capt. kidd face

The Shroud of Turin?

Then in 2013, with some of the tax refund left unspent, I was chatting with a Facebook friend of mine. We got talking about old toys and the Captain came up in the conversation. Naturally, she was curious if I had tried to find the Captain recently. I hadn’t, so I took a look on eBay.

There he was! And only $75.00 at the buy it now option! I had previously seen him priced at $200 to $300. I had to buy it! I went through the necessary steps, but before pulling the trigger, I had to take the most important necessary step: I had to ask my wife if I could buy it.

“Honey? Do you remember me telling you about the Ghost of Captain Kidd toy I had when I was a boy. And that I have been wanting to get it back for a long time?”

“You mean the doll that glows in the dark?”

“Action figure! And, yes, that’s the one. It’s on eBay and I can buy it now for a mere $75.00 plus shipping. Can I buy it? Can I? Please! Please! Please!”

“Of course, darling.”

So, I bought him. When he arrived he was smaller than I remembered, but still oh so cool. That’s one more piece of my childhood back in the fold.

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And there he is.

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

 

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Here’s A Few Things About Comic Books

This is going to be one of those round-up blogs, in which I comment on a number of comic book related topics. I have a few things to comment on, but not enough on each topic for a full write up, so…

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It’s real. It’s an actual comic book cover. The February 1966 issue of Lois Lane would finally address the issue of Clark Kent’s flimsy disguise. A nice suit and Buddy Holly glasses? Really? If I removed my glasses and donned a Superman costume, people would still know it was me. So, how did this disguise work in the comic books, TV shows, and movies?

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That’s me, holding the comic book in question. Geez! My toupee needs adjusting.

I read this issue (which you can buy at NostalgiaZone.com – $10 cheap!) and I’m going to spoil it for you. DC Comics doesn’t really explain how Superman keeps fooling the world.

The story in a nutshell: Editor Perry White has to leave the Daily Planet while he serves, temporarily, in the US Senate. His replacement is awfully handsome, a “dreamboat” according to Lois, but he also acts suspiciously. Lois goes on a date with him that first day after work and thinks there’s something up with the guy.

She learns he is the leader of S.K.U.L. (Superman Killers’ Underground League) and she gets roped into a plot to kill Supes. She gets Lana Lang to help her decode the instructions she had been given by this secret underground league. When the message is decoded, Superman bursts in on Lois and Lana and makes that declaration we see on the cover. Lana does admit they’ve had their suspicions.

Superman then removes his mask and he turns out to be the leader of the kill Superman club. But, he’s really an FBI agent trying to smoke out that League and he enlists Lois and Lana to help him. Continued next issue.

They don’t exactly explain how Superman/Clark Kent can fool the world with a suit and glasses.

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The sexism just oozes from the narration paragraph at the top. “The Daily Planet’s pretty reporter,” “cute nose.” Yuck!

While reading this comic book from 52 years ago, I was struck by how blatantly sexist it is in its treatment of women and Lois Lane in particular. Lane is an investigative reporter, yet she’s described as stumbling onto stories. Her immediate reaction upon meeting the new editor is to think of him as a dreamboat. And neither Lane nor Lang bring up the topic of marriage, yet that’s what “Superman” deems the best way to berate these women for their stupidity. Marriage must have been a major theme in the Lois Lane series, after all it was a “girl’s” comic.

Switching gears, a couple months back, on a Facebook comic book fan group page, there was a discussion of whether the cover of Marvel’s Fantastic Four #1 was an homage to or a rip-off of the cover illustration of DC’s The Brave and The Bold #28 (the first appearance of the Justice League Of America). Look below for a comparison.

BB+28++FF+1

 

Compostionally the two cover are very much alike. I prefer the Fantastic Four cover, because I prefer Jack Kirby’s drawing to Mike Sekowsky’s. Although, Sekowsky’s anatomy drawing is better and FF #1 isn’t Kirby’s best cover. It’s good, just not his best.

(OK, I’m a Marvel kid. I’m required by the MMMS to always prefer Marvel covers. Even if drawn by Rob Liefe… NO! There’s no way I can do that! I must draw the line somewhere!)

At first, I thought it was coincidence. Then I learned that the Fantastic Four was the result of a mandate from Atlas Comics publisher, Martin Goodman, to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to create a superhero group to compete with the Justice League of America, DC’s super team that debuted just about a year earlier. Learning that bit of history has me leaning toward rip-off.

What do you think?

Finally, as part of that JLA/FF discussion, someone brought up the practice of artists copying other artists in the creation of comic books. They provided an image (see below) that certainly is evidence of copying.

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Top frame: Jack Kirby • Middle frame: Gil Kane • Bottom frame: Rich Buckler

There’s no denying the second two frames were copied from work done by Kirby in the first frame, assuming that image is the original use of that punch. You will note that Gil Kane (second frame) made a couple changes to the pose: Captain America’s left arm is held differently and his hips are turned to the right. Kane’s variation, in my opinion, makes the pose a little on the awkward side, especially the lower part of his left leg.

Gil! If you’re going to copy the master, copy the master.

Someone in the group discussion claimed that Stan Lee, himself, would hand artists frames of comic art, usually drawn by Kirby, and instruct them to copy that frame. This revelation was offered without any source citation, so it may be untrue. And it may be a case of artists just copying other artists, in this case Kirby, because the other artists may have solved a difficult problem. When you consider how quickly artists had to get the work done with looming deadlines and the need to do as many pages as possible in a day to get decent pay, copying is understandable.

Artists were paid lousy. If you could only manage one page a day, you’d starve.

Packing Peanuts!

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