Category Archives: The Good Ol’ Days

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.

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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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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.

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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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The Good Ol’ Days Of Stupid

Guest blogger Michael Noble returns with his thoughts on kids being stupid, inspired by this whole eating Tide detergent pods silliness.

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Of course we did stupid things as kids.

We were kids for Pete’s sake. Being a kid comes with certain entitlements. In many cases doing stupid things was expected of us.

Still, in hindsight, it seems we were a more intelligent sort of stupid than the youth of today. (If that makes any sort of sense.)

Example: We didn’t go around eating Tide pods, things we know for certain aren’t to be ingested. In some deluded, misplaced reality, chomping down on laundry detergent capsules is a rite of passage currently. When I was a kid having our mouths washed out with soap was a punishment, not a dare. We may have been dumb but we didn’t knowingly self-inflict such blatant imbecility on ourselves. I mean, we did stupid things … but we weren’t stupid.

See the photo above? We did stuff like that. For the thrill of it, in pursuit of the challenge of it all. It was good, clean fun. Getting run over by a bicycle? No big deal. Yeah, so you got a welt the size of a basketball that migrated from your chest, around your side and all the way around to the middle of your back. But, eventually, it would heal. And probably before your mom got wind of it. So really… where was the harm? We could still walk. There were no open wounds. Some mussed up hair and a few tire marks on your clothes, nothing a run through the wash couldn’t cure.

The point is: We had fun. We knew how to have fun without killing each other or ourselves. Each weekend, with school behind us, was an adventure, the dawning of a new day that saw us with our favorite cereal in front of an hour of morning cartoons followed by undertakings with friends on a full day hunt for pure, unadulterated, unsupervised enjoyment without a care in the world.

And, oh… the memories some of those undertakings yielded.

I remember one particular Saturday. My father had to go into work for some important project (his company built engine components for NASA and Boeing) and mom spent the day in the house cleaning and cooking. I was left by my lonesome to play with neighbors or build models or what have you. This Saturday saw a friend and I tinkering about in the garage. We found a five gallon bucket and decided to experiment with Ajax and gasoline and some sort of flower food for my mother’s outdoor plants. All went into the bucket along with things such as turpentine and laundry detergent and whatever was in that glass jar on the top shelf above the washing machine forever beckoning me every time I took out the trash. If it sounded cool into the mix it went. My buddy even found an old fencing slat perfect for stirring it all together.

But whatever the last ingredient was that got added to the mix made the concoction foam. And rather violently, almost to the point of bubbling over the rim of the container. And the chemical stench of it all! It burned the hairs in our noses and left a tang that wouldn’t soon be forgotten. That’s when I knew it was time to call it quits. I grabbed the bucket by the handle, schlepped it out the back garage door and out the side yard, opened the gate leading to the street and awkwardly dragged it across the front yard lawn to pour it into the gutter. I told my friend to grab the garden hose so we could wash it down the street. That done, I rinsed out the bucket, left it to dry and we put away all our doings strewn around the garage. When I went back to close the gate, that’s when I noticed the line in the lawn.

There was a definitive burn seared into the grass, a burn line leading from the backyard all the way out to the street … and it was still smoking. I didn’t remember spilling anything when I dragged the bucket across the lawn but there was the evidence in front of me, plain as day. The line was in the last throes of bubbling, grass curling up into itself, gasping its last, never to convert carbon dioxide into breathable air ever again. The trail was discernible, telltale and accusatory. I grabbed the hose and washed the scar with water as best I could, hoping against hope it would help … or at least stop the grass from smoldering. “Michael! Come here!” my friend called to me. I ran over to him. He pointed at the bucket we’d used. There, drying in the sun where I’d left it, was a gaping hole in the bottom of it, clear indication whatever witch’s brew we’d mixed up was toxic enough to melt an opening in the container. That’s where the liquid leaked. That’s where the searing line in the grass came from.

My mind raced. Maybe my father wouldn’t notice. Maybe, because that gout was on the far side of the front yard, it wouldn’t be readily obvious from such a distance. If the subject came up, I would deny, deny, deny, as would my buddy if asked. “Burn in the lawn? No, I don’t know about any burn in the lawn…” would be my response when my father asked me if I knew anything.

There was no proof of our culpability, no accusatory evidence I had anything to do with the channel of now dead grass running across the lawn. We had the perfect alibi: Ignorance. And the two of us made a pact – we would never speak of this again.

Later in the week, when my father took the trash out, he mentioned the blight on the lawn. “Michael, do you know anything about the front lawn? I took the trash out and it looks like something spilled across the grass all the way out to the street…”

“In the lawn? You mean… our lawn? The lawn in our front yard? That lawn? Nope.” I replied.

In retrospect, mixing those chemicals was a dumb thing to do. But good times nevertheless.

Now here’s the thing: When I was a kid, there was no such thing as Tide pods, desolvable laundry detergent in convenient little packets you tossed into the wash. No such product to stupidly dare one another to chomp down on to see what reaction came of such foolishness.

We may have been dumb kids who mixed together all sorts of chemicals that probably could have blown the garage to smithereens, but we weren’t stupid enough to challenge one another to swallow it.

Thanks, Michael. I’m glad you survived childhood. You can read more by Michael at hotchka.com.

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When You Absolutely, Positively Have to Have Salisbury Steak

Guest blogger Michael Noble returns once again, this time to regale us with a tale of Salisbury steak. This ought to be interesting…

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Funny thing about me and food: I get a craving for something and, of course, it won’t be readily available right then and there. What to do?

Well, over the last 15 years or so, I bite the bullet, look up whatever it is I’m craving, and figure out how to make it from scratch.

Some of my previous attempts?

Off the top of my head: Eggnog. Macaroni and cheese. Shepherd’s pie. Almond roca. Mushroom soup. Custard pie. Fresh whipped cream. (No, not all were successes the first time around. I’ve since tweaked a couple of them during later attempts and made them work to my satisfaction. The really interesting one was my custard pie; it came out perfectly the first time I made it. The second time it didn’t work so well for whatever reason. As the saying goes: They can’t all be gems.)

Now… I’m well aware every single one of those items mentioned is easily procured if you simply jump into the car and head over to the local grocery store. But I’m not the sort of person who takes the easy road in such situations. I’d much rather go a’huntin’, get some hands-on learning in and gain the experience and satisfaction of doing it myself.

Last week one of those “situations” raised its head and its name was Salisbury steak. For whatever reason, the dish cropped up somehow, somewhere (I believe I saw a picture in a magazine) and I started salivating at the very thought of it. A little strange, I know… but a craving is a craving.

So, I went looking for a recipe. My intention was to make Salisbury steak to enjoy with The Golden Globes awards broadcast Sunday evening.

“Sunday night? I’m making Salisbury steak for dinner. I’m craving it for some reason,” I announced. “That work?”

“Knock yourself out,” I was told.

I found a recipe that fit my needs – it just so happened to be a slow cooker recipe – and, to my delight, I discovered I had all the ingredients at hand necessary to make the dish. Well… almost.

There was one item I lacked: A particular gravy mix. But I knew there were a few extra containers of brown gravy languishing in the pantry from the holidays. I figured I could doctor some to the point of edibility. (Despite the fact it was a name brand product, rarely does something that comes from a jar “work” in a recipe from scratch. Whipping it up fresh is usually preferable.)

Now… Let’s talk about my experience with Salisbury steak for a moment. Honestly, it had been a long, long time since I last had it. Truth be told, the memory of it was probably a lot more delectable in my mind than in reality. I did remember someone making it in the past and it being a taste delight at the time. Other than that? My Salisbury steak memories consisted of my mother tossing frozen TV dinners in the oven for us kids. Hey… We liked those TV dinners. They came with interesting potatoes and strangely attractive vegetables. The fried chicken was pretty damned good. And the desserts were always a surprise treat, too. (What did we know? We were young, culinarily-inexperienced, impressionable kids.) But I remember… I remember the Salisbury steak dinners were one of my favorites.

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It was meat (and, as a kid, I loved meat) but a different kind of meat. It was weird meat is what it was… but kids dig “weird.” Of course, what I liked as a kid didn’t always translate over to adulthood. I foggily recall having one of those dinners with about 20 years nestled between the last experience and it wasn’t what I remembered. In fact, it was pretty much inedible. Adulthood will do that to your taste buds, you know. Thankfully.

So, why I was all hot and bothered to reacquaint myself with Salisbury steak was a bit of a mystery. But I figured I could make it from scratch head and shoulders above what could be peeled back and exposed from beneath a thin layer of aluminum foil straight out of the oven, all hot and bubbly and oozing over into the other segments of that hot metal tray.

Sunday came and I got to work. I seasoned and formed the hamburger meat with CBS Sunday Morning speaking to me in the background. And then I browned the patties and drained the grease, wrapped them up and tucked them snugly away in the fridge for later disposition. Later, as the afternoon got on, I added the remainder of the ingredients into the crock pot, placed the patties at its bottom, covered all, and switched the pot to its lowest setting. In four hours, there would be Salisbury delight wafting in the air.

As the time got nearer, I made mashed potatoes and fried up Delicata squash to compliment the meal. With those condiments complete, I switched off the crock pot and lifted the lid.

The aroma that arose from the pot was appealing, comforting, beefy. I could hardly wait to dig in.

The table set, the food served, I began. That first taste was Salisbury steak, all right. But nothing I’d ever quite tasted previously. Yes… the hot, smothered flavors were there from my youth but there was a distinctive taste I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It wasn’t off-putting by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t anything I readily recalled, either.

I struck up a conversation after a few bites, “Remember Clifton’s Cafeteria in the mall when we were kids? How it had those long lines of cafeteria offerings, all the senior citizens milling about trying to decide what to put on their plates? I’m getting that sort of vibe from this. Not in a bad way, more in a comforting way. It brings back those memories…”

“No… it’s not bad at all. And it does bring back memories, all right,” came the response. “And, since you opened the door and started critiquing, I’ll throw in my two cents: It kind of reminds me of those TV dinners I had as a kid. There weren’t any I remember ever really liking. Sorry.”

Huh. Guess me and my nostalgia and my memories will be revisiting Salisbury steak all by our lonesomes next time around…

Thanks, Michael. I’m feeling an odd craving for a TV dinner right now. You can read more by Michael at hotchka.com.

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