Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tales of Misery & Innocence potentially lost

The title of this post was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery & Imagination, which was later the title of an album by the Alan Parsons Project.

The innocence potentially lost takes us to Alabama, where a 65 year old paranoid retiree, Jimmy Lee Dykes, is holding a kindergartener hostage. For what reason, we don't know at the moment, but what we do know is that Dykes snatched the 5 year old off a bus Tuesday afternoon, and killed the bus driver who tried to stop him. Seems to me that Dykes doesn't want anyone on his property for any reason, even if they're just passing through. Well, if that was the case, where are the "Private Property" signs?

Yahoo! reports that Dykes has had a history of legal troubles, including a bust for drug possession in 2000, and an arrest in Florida 5 years earlier on a charge of improper exhibition of a weapon, which was dismissed. It seems as though Dykes hasn't learned a thing, and may be on the bong, even though he has sense enough to allow whatever medication the child seems to need to be brought into his underground bunker. We can only pray that this comes to a safe conclusion, and Dykes finally is brought before a court of law, though I'd think at this point, with his advanced age, Dykes may be a candidate for an insanity defense.

In New Orleans, Super Bowl hype is, naturally, in overdrive, but the media is dredging up old news on Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

First, there's the double murder he was linked to in 2000, but charges against Lewis were dismissed. Now, some fly-by-night jabroni clinician named Mitch Ross, head of something called SWATS (Sports With Alternatives To Steroids), claims he supplied Lewis with----get this----deer antler spray to speed up the recovery from a torn bicep injury suffered during the regular season. The spray formula supposedly has a growth hormone banned by the NFL. All I see is Ross looking for his 15 minutes of fame, leeching off the Lewis Retirement Tour. What a dweeb.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre last month in Connecticut, school officials are over-reacting to kids being kids, especially in kindergarten. I have read over the last few days of one child who was suspended for a day just for using "finger guns". Like, didn't we all do that when we were children? Of course we did. But now, you can't create a gun with your thumb & forefinger without attracting undue attention. Another little girl was needlessly disciplined for telling a classmate she'd shoot the child with a bubble gun. Uh, hello? She means to shoot water or soap bubbles at her playmate! While the NRA keeps its collective head in the sand, school administrators are running the risk of being diagnosed as being excessively paranoid if this keeps up.

Finally, we have the sordid tale of Notre Dame's Manti Te'o and the phony "girlfriend", Lennay Kekua, who was the creation of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Tuiasosopo appears on Dr. Phil today & tomorrow to tell his side of the story, and an excerpt was previewed on NBC's Today on Wednesday. Now, it comes out that Tuiasosopo had a serious crush on Te'o, leading Dr. Phil McGraw to ask Tuiasosopo, as Katie Couric had asked Te'o a week earlier, if he was gay. Tuiasosopo initially said yes, then backed up a bit and claimed he was confused about his sexual identity.

When news first broke of this tale two weeks ago, it was reported that Tuiasosopo was also in a Christian rock group. That being said, my only advice for this young man is to consult the Bible to get the answers he really needs. Once that's done, he should seek out Te'o, and offer a public apology, man to man, for nearly damaging Te'o's reputation, not to mention his status in April's NFL draft.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Musical Interlude: Written on the Subway Wall (1989)

It had been about 20 years, give or take a few, since Dion DiMucci had released the historically & socially relevant "Abraham, Martin, & John", and I wouldn't blame you if you thought the former teen idol had retired from recording.

However, Dion returned in 1989 with "Yo, Frankie!", which was filled with memories of growing up in the Big Apple, through the eyes of the artist. "Written on the Subway Wall" got a ton of airplay on MTV & VH1, back when those channels actually cared about music. Dion gets a little help from a couple of his friends here, as Paul Simon contributes a few lines from the Elegants' "Little Star", and Lou Reed pops up throughout the video, uploaded by bronxnroll:

Sports this 'n' that

While the Super Bowl will be the final game for Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, the Pro Bowl, which took place on Sunday night in Honolulu, was the last for Jeff Saturday.

After spending most of his career in Indianapolis, Saturday left the Colts as part of the team's offseason fire sale in 2011, following a putrid 2-14 campaign. Saturday signed with Green Bay, but right before the Pro Bowl, the veteran center announced that the all-star classic would be his last game.

To comemmorate the occasion, Saturday was granted the opportunity to line up with the AFC offense for one play, to snap the ball to former teammate Peyton Manning, now with Denver. Later, Saturday was back with the NFC offense, snapping to Peyton's younger brother Eli, the Giants' QB. The NFC won in a romp, 62-35, and this was over by halftime. Isn't it that way most of the time?

Comes word now that there may be more trouble ahead for injured Yankees 3B/tabloid magnet Alex Rodriguez. An article on Yahoo! says that A-Rod may still have been involved with PED's (Performance Enhancing Drugs) as recently as last year, according to information supplied by a former employee of a Florida clinic, which apparently was also where ex-Yankee Melky Cabrera got his PED's, and led to his season being flushed after he was suspended for 50 games. San Francisco decided not to include Cabrera on their post-season roster, and he has since signed elsewhere. You'd think A-Rod and others would've figured out by now that this stuff is toxic to their careers, but they just don't get it........

You can't say I didn't warn you about the Royal Rumble PPV on Sunday. The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) won his 8th WWE title, and first since 2002, defeating CM Punk in a match marred by predictable controversy. The mercenary pseudo-vigilante group, the Shield (Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, & Dean Ambrose) attacked Rock during the match, their 2nd such ambush of Johnson in a week, this after Punk had told the trio on Friday Night Smackdown two days earlier he didn't want or need their help, wanting to prove to a skeptic audience that he could beat Rock on his own. However, it was clear that wasn't what WWE Chairman-CEO Vince McMahon had in mind, as he had dealt himself into the storyline a week ago, threatening to strip Punk of the title if the Shield attacked Rock again.

Instead, Rock asked for and got a restart, and promptly got off the mat---literally---and defeated Punk. The two will meet again at Elimination Chamber on February 17 in a rematch, with the roles reversed, but with Punk now a delusional former champion whining and complaining about how he had been screwed.

Last night, Monday Night Raw wrapped with McMahon confronting Paul Heyman, the advisor to Punk, with a tape of Shield attacking rookie Brad Maddox, presented as a kid desperate to make his break in the business, after Heyman had decided Maddox was expendable. Heyman's other client, Brock Lesnar, showed up and F-5'd the 67 year old chairman to end the broadcast, which guarantees Triple H will return on next week's show. Internet message boards have lit up with complaints about how the PPV was so predictable (John Cena won his 2nd Rumble, having previously won in 2008, setting up Cena-Rock II at Wrestlemania in April), and, as usual, McMahon and his staff of idiots couldn't think outside the box. Well, what else is new? McMahon is more concerned about raising the profile of the title, and since Johnson has movies coming out the next two months ("Snitch" next month & "GI Joe: Retaliation" in March), what better way than to have the champ walk the red carpet? That hasn't happened since '02, when "Scorpion King" came out. Problem is, McMahon continues to alienate potential new fans with his lack of common sense. He doesn't get it, doesn't want to, and never will, and that's the bottom line.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Classic TV: The Flying Nun (1967)

A relatively unknown book by Tere Rios, The Fifteenth Pelican, published in 1965, was adapted for television two years later by Screen Gems comedy honcho Harry Ackerman, creating a camp classic for all ages.

The Flying Nun was the 2nd series for star Sally Field, coming two years after Gidget, also for Screen Gems & ABC. The show told the story of a Chicago-born lass, Elsie Ethrington, who steps away from the family business, if you will (she came from a family of doctors), opting instead to become a nun and enter a convent. Rechristened Sister Bertrille, she arrives in Puerto Rico, and discovers that the combination of her tiny frame, coupled with a heavily starched cornet (the headpiece of her nun's habit), and a passing breeze, enables her to fly. Rather awkwardly, of course, but she really wasn't meant for heroism. Her power of flight was instead the source of gags and a lot of plotlines. Nun lasted three seasons, and enjoyed a healthy run in syndication during the 70's. Today, the series airs on Antenna TV (check local listings---not yet available on Time Warner Cable in upstate NY), and the first two seasons are available on DVD from Sony.

Markieo blesses us with this rare open from the first season, when the series was sponsored by the folks at Colgate-Palmolive.

What some of you might not be aware of is the existence of a soundtrack album of music from the show, recorded by Sally Field. Whodathunk! Of course, as you know, co-star Shelley Morrison enjoyed a brief career revival when she was cast on Will & Grace a few years ago.

Rating: B+.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

And they will be called.....champions

In the course of a seven day period, starting tomorrow, two old college teammates will sally forth in two different venues, separated a few hundred miles, give or take a few dozen, but bonded by the simple fact that they are linked in history by their lone college championship, nearly 20 years ago.

As we all know, Ray Lewis is retiring, win or lose, after next week's Super Bowl, having played his entire career for the Baltimore Ravens. There are those unenlightened souls, such as a wire service article that found its way into Friday's Record, who think that Lewis, just because he was acquitted on murder charges more than a decade ago, shouldn't be celebrated as a hero. Anna Welker, the wife of New England's Wes Welker, sounded the alarm with an ill-advised tweet after last Sunday's AFC title game, but what she and others prefer to forget is that Lewis eventually has made his peace. I read an article on Yahoo! where Lewis has become the Ravens' spiritual leader----literally, making good use of the Bible to motivate his team. Proof positive that you don't need Tim Tebow to find a good Christian athlete at the Super Bowl.

Lewis has one ring already, won 12 years ago when Baltimore beat the Giants. Now, he wants to go out a winner, just as the Giants' Michael Strahan did 5 years ago, and Denver's John Elway a few years prior to that. Destiny, then, is on Lewis' side. Sports Illustrated certainly thinks so, as Peter King, also a contributor to NBC's Football Night In America, picked the Ravens to beat Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers. Trust me, Lewis will have plenty of motivation if a certain VIP joins him on the sidelines in 8 days time..........

The last time Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was WWE champion was prior to Summerslam in 2002, when he dropped the title to Brock Lesnar. A zillion movies later, Johnson has returned to his former vocation for one more shot at the gold. Standing in his way tomorrow night in Phoenix is CM Punk, whose 14 month reign as champion is in serious jeopardy. In storyline, Punk, who turned heel by attacking Rock on Monday Night Raw six months ago, has been dogged by the fact that he couldn't beat the organizational flavor of the month, Ryback, cleanly, in two tries, getting illegal help from a trio of self-appointed vigilantes known as The Shield. WWE Chairman-CEO Vince McMahon warned Punk that if the Shield, who attacked Rock on Monday, did it again, it would cost Punk the championship. On Friday Night Smackdown, Punk took it upon himself to call out the thugs, and tell them straight up that he never wanted their help in the first place, considering that it's cost him credibility points, and doesn't want them getting involved when it really means the most to him.

That to me means the Shield could turn on Punk and lay him out, leaving it up to Rock to finish off a surreal night. Some fans think the WWE wants a sequel to last year's Wrestlemania, with Rock---and not Punk---defending vs. John Cena, who has lost his last two Mania matches. I honestly think that Rock could put Punk over cleanly, but let's also remember that McMahon is about as sharp as a dull razor these days from a creative standpoint, and will overbook the match needlessly. He doesn't realize that such follies are what has dragged the ratings down the last six months.

The way I see it, Johnson will be on the Ravens' sideline in New Orleans next Sunday, championship in hand, cheering on Lewis and the Ravens, wanting to be there for his friend and former teammate. And, then, sometime before 10 (ET), they'll walk off into the sunset together. And if I'm right about the People's Movie Star, Lewis will be at the Meadowlands on April 7, to return the favor. It just seems right.

Of course, I could be wrong........

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Musical Interlude: You Wreck Me (1998)

Tom Petty recorded "You Wreck Me" for his 2nd solo CD, "Wildflowers", but it also found its way onto the soundtrack to the remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair", starring Pierce Brosnan.

Weasels of the Week: New England Patriots & their fans

This was too easy to pass up.

I told you on Monday how the media conglomerate Clear Channel had their billboards used as countdown clocks in anticipation of the New England Patriots ending the career of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis by eliminating the Ravens. Of course you know it didn't turn out that way, and it's the Ravens, not the Patriots, going to the Super Bowl.

Well, it turns out the Patsies and their fans get a truckload of Weasel ears this week. Bill Belichick already has a couple of pairs, so why not another, after his latest show of disrespect post-game, when he blew off a CBS interview that was actually mandatory? While Tom Brady has apologized, according to reports, with apologies accepted by the Ravens' Ed Reed, for channeling baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb with a slide, spikes up, that nearly injured Reed, such brash, crass play didn't draw a flag, a testament to the NFL's double standard policies when it comes to Madison Avenue darlings like Brady (whose only commercial endorsement this season was a cameo in a Dodge commercial), but it does give Brady a set of ears as well for lowering himself, image-wise, even for a moment, to the level equivalent of a hockey goon.

Luckily for fans in Boston, the Bruins are now playing, but I digress.

And, then, there were the usual classless, likely drunken, turds who sent Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith some nasty tweets after the game, reminding him of his brother's tragic passing some months back. These idiots forgot that Smith played in the Ravens' home game vs. New England in September, a game the Ravens  won, oh by the way. This bunch of John Does pays for their sloshed, brain-dead tweeting with Weasel ears as well.

The point? As goes Belichick, so go the Patriot fans, it seems. Whatever happened to good old fashioned sportsmanship? Belichick is on record saying he'll be back for another season. If I'm Patriot owner Bob Kraft, I have to think long and hard about rehabilitating the image not only of the coach, but the team and its legion of supporters as well.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Irwin Allen's Last Frontier: Land of the Giants (1968)

In 1968, Irwin Allen was suddenly finding himself on the outside looking in.

Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea had been cancelled by ABC after 4 seasons. CBS drydocked Lost In Space after 3. The Time Tunnel had been cancelled after 1 year, as we previously chronicled. A pilot intended for NBC went unsold. There was one, sold to ABC, that was finally reaching fruition, but after a year's delay.

Land of the Giants had actually been conceived in 1967, but over the course of a year, a couple of the characters were changed before the series hit the air. When Giants finally debuted in 1968, it essentially replaced Voyage on the ABC schedule, even though conceptually it was a spiritual successor to Lost In Space.

Consider for a moment the lone juvenile in the storyline, 11 year old Barry (Stefan Arngrim). He was Land's analogue for Space's Will Robinson (Bill Mumy). Then, there is Alexander Fitzhugh (named in the promo as Peter Dinglehoffer), played by Kurt Kasznar. As Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris) had bonded with Will, so did Fitzhugh with Barry. The babe quotient remains the same---2, but adults this time (Deanna Lund & Heather Young), instead of teenagers.

What did Voyage & Space in, of course, was falling into the trap of campier storylines to cater to the same audience as 20th Century Fox stablemate Batman, which also was gone by the time Giants made it to air. Giants was less about camp and more about the cast surviving from week to week. 

The only "name" in the cast was top-billed Gary Conway (ex-Burke's Law). Don Matheson had appeared on Lost In Space, while Don Marshall had made a guest appearance on Star Trek. Sorry to say, but they were hardly heard from again after Land of the Giants was cancelled in 1970.

jlovebirch uploaded the aforementioned promo video, which is narrated by the late Dick Tufeld, voice of the Robot on Space, and has a cameo appearance by Matheson at the end of the clip. As you'll see, there are noticeable differences......

Post-Giants, Kurt Kasznar would land one more series gig, also for ABC, turning up on The Young Rebels, which I believe replaced Giants on the schedule in 1970. Currently, the series is not airing on any cabler in the US, but is available on DVD.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Polish Power: The Bobby Vinton Show (1975)

Bobby Vinton was known for soft pop hits like "Blue on Blue", "Mr. Lonely", and "There! I've Said It Again" during the 60's. In the mid-70's, Vinton tried his luck hosting a syndicated, weekly variety show. One advantage he had was that he had veteran producer Chris Bearde as a show-runner. Bearde had worked with Andy Williams, Sonny & Cher, and the Hudson Brothers on their shows, and in the case of the Hudsons, theirs was a Saturday morning show. Bearde also packaged a daily kids' show, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, featuring Vincent Price, before hooking up with Chuck Barris for The Gong Show, as well as this series, as Chuckie needed someone who knew about variety shows.........!

Unfortunately for Vinton, his show met the same fate as the Hudsons, although it was cancelled after 3 seasons instead of one. Bear in mind that back in those days, stations were checker-boarding their "fringe" schedules, shows that aired ahead of network primetime fare. By checker-boarding, I mean a station would air a different show each night in the same slot, say, 7:30 pm, which is where Vinton wound up in my market, and if memory serves, The Bobby Vinton Show aired on Thursday nights. Vinton had some silly supporting "characters", like Andy Williams did, but all they did was drag the show down.

Tony Hiller uploaded a clip of Vinton & Anne Murray dueting on "United We Stand", which Hiller wrote for the 1-hit wonder Brotherhood of Man in the early 70's.

Rating: C.

Rockin' Funnies: Purple People Eater (1958)

Sheb Wooley had only one major hit under his own name, and it was a novelty classic from 1958, "Purple People Eater". Wooley would continue to record, both as himself and as a country alter-ego, Ben Colder, who specialized in parodies of popular country standards of the period. Most baby boomers, however, will remember Wooley as an actor, as part of an ensemble cast on Rawhide that also included a young Clint Eastwood.

Here's "Purple People Eater":

Monday, January 21, 2013

Super Bowl 47 is a family affair

The NFL Conference championships on Sunday had plenty of drama, and at the end of the night, well, the media can start with some choice Family Feud jokes.

That's because it will in fact be the "HarBowl", or, Harbaugh Bowl, as the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens advanced to Super Bowl 47, to take place on February 3 in New Orleans. It will be the 2nd meeting on the field for coaches---and brothers---Jim & John Harbaugh, and this one's for all the marbles.

The last time the Niners & Ravens met, Baltimore won a regular season meeting in 2011, which was a temporary bump in the road for the 49ers en route to the NFC Championship game.

For San Francisco & Baltimore, it was about redemption. The Niners were denied by the eventual champion  Giants last year, embarassed at home. Now, however, with ex-Giant Mario Manningham on the roster, a victory in the Super Bowl would certify the rebirth of the 49ers as an elite team in the NFC. All they needed, really, was the perfect combination of coach & quarterback. In the 80's, there was Bill Walsh & Joe Montana. In the 90's, it was George Seifert & Steve Young, the latter now with ESPN. Today, it's Jim Harbaugh, the former QB out of Michigan who bounced around as a journeyman during his playing days, and Colin Kaepernick, the 2nd year boy wonder, who has been a choice blend of both Hall of Fame QB's before him.

As has been documented here previously, the Ravens were screwed by the Patriots last year, so this time, it was about karmic justice. Never mind that Baltimore had gained a measure of revenge during the regular season, even though that game did seem to play in the collective psyche of the NFL's "evil empire". The Ravens defense did the near-impossible, shutting down Tom Brady and the New England offense in the second half, holding the Pats scoreless. Oh, New England had their chances, but this time, there would be no last second rally. No miracles.

The Ravens have a lot more to play for. The Super Bowl will be Ray Lewis' last game after 17 seasons, and he'd love to go out a winner, just like the Giants' Michael Strahan and Denver's John Elway, who retired as champions. It will also be dedicated to the memory of owner Art Modell, who passed away a few weeks back. Destiny, then, seems to be on the side of the purple & black. Between the two franchises, the Ravens & Niners are undefeated in Super Bowl play, a combined 6-0, so something has to give.

I spoke before about karmic justice. That certainly was true, and if the Pats want someone to scapegoat for the loss, it can be the San Antonio-based media giant, Clear Channel, which on Saturday started a countdown clock on some of the billboards they own in the Boston area for Lewis. If that doesn't define arrogance on the part of the Patriots and their supporters, I don't know what does. The Yankees don't do stunts like that. They're smarter and more sophisticated than that, you see. And, then, I read about the latest example of Bill Belichick's poor sportsmanship after the game, blowing off a mandatory CBS interview, and delegating that duty to defensive back Devin McCourty, who demonstrated more class and humility than Belichick has in the last 6 seasons combined.

Personal note: I bowl in a mixed league filled with Giants fans. The Dolphins, Eagles, Steelers, Bears, Cowboys, 49ers, and, yes, the Patriots have fans in the league, and the Patriots fan was blowing hot air Saturday night, perhaps celebrating a wee bit too soon. He was so sure it would be 49ers-Patriots, he was blowing that hot air at the Niners fan, who was on my team. This coming Saturday, someone's getting some crow. Just sayin'.

On DVD: Whispering Smith (1959) & other stuff

Time to catch up on recent DVD screenings..........

Most of you are familiar with Stacy Keach's 2 Mike Hammer series in the mid-80's. What you might not know is that Keach returned for a 3rd go-round as Mickey Spillane's famed private eye in a 1997 syndicated series that, like the two CBS series before it, lasted just one season. Mike Hammer, Private Eye, however, has seen the two part episode, "Songbird", and some others, repackaged in DVD format. I happened to pick up a copy of "Songbird" at a Save-a-Lot a couple of years back, and sat on it until a couple of weeks ago when I finally popped it into the player.

"Songbird" is about Hammer's efforts to clear a jazz chanteuse of a murder charge. I wish there was a video available on YouTube, but there isn't. The supporting cast includes real-life jazzman Jack Sheldon (ex-Run Buddy Run) as a club musician, and David Coburn as a stammering son of a mobster trying to earn his bones, if you will. The kids will recognize Coburn's name from earlier in the decade as the voice of ecological hero Captain Planet. Decent stuff.

Last year, WWE reissued an earlier DVD compilation set to mark the return of former champion Brock Lesnar to the fold. "Brock Lesnar: Here Comes The Pain" was originally released in 2004, shortly after Lesnar left WWE for an aborted run at the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, followed by a successful stint in UFC. The only new stuff added was an interview, in several excerpts, and his re-entry to WWE on Monday Night Raw around this time last year. Lesnar claims he's not playing a character. I could buy that, but he's never been too convincing in his interviews, even during his first run (2002-4). Lesnar is due back in WWE for a push toward Wrestlemania sometime next month, if not sooner. Many of the matches on this 3-disc set I've seen the first time around on TV, so I didn't need to spend 7 hours reviewing the whole thing......

World War II hero Audie Murphy made a successful transition to Hollywood, starring in a good number of movies, including the autobiographical "To Hell & Back", in the 50's. Universal's Revue division decided Murphy was good enough to headline a TV series, and so, he was cast in the Western, Whispering Smith, which lasted just one season (1959-60) on NBC. Singer Guy Mitchell ("Singing The Blues") co-stars, but really isn't given a whole lot to do, to be honest with you. I don't think Mitchell landed another TV gig after Smith was cancelled as a result.

Timeless Media released not only the complete series on DVD, but also an 8-episode bargain "sampler" for those who can't afford the full set. Timeless' YouTube channel presents the episode, "The Interpreter":

The DVD set also includes a short, "Medal of Honor", which chronicles in capsule Murphy's WWII exploits, and doubles as a PSA for US Savings Bonds. Barbara Rush & John McIntire (Wagon Train) also appear in the 8 1/2 minute piece.


Whispering Smith: C.

"Songbird": A.

"Medal of Honor": A.

"Brock Lesnar: Here Comes The Pain": C+.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Classic TV: Diff'rent Strokes (1978)

Norman Lear & Bud Yorkin needed something new to replace Sanford & Son on NBC. The end result would outlast Sanford, even if it did finish its run on another network.

Diff'rent Strokes spent 8 seasons in total, debuting in 1978 on NBC, and finishing in 1986 on ABC, which was sort of ironic in that a few years earlier, NBC had been home for the final season of another iconic series from the same period, Taxi.

The basic plotline was rather simple. New York City millionaire Phil Drummond (Conrad Bain, ex-Maude) adopted a pair of African-American brothers, Willis & Arnold Jackson (Todd Bridges, ex-Fish, & Gary Coleman), to go along with his own daughter, Kimberly (Dana Plato). Lear & Yorkin were keenly aware of the growing trend of mixed families in American society, and, to an extent, copied the "movin' on up" aspect of CBS' The Jeffersons, with Willis & Arnold moving into the big city.

Gary Coleman, of course, was the breakout star, and, with Strokes still on the air, landed his own self-titled animated series, also on NBC, based on a TV-movie he made for the network, "The Kid With The Broken Halo". Unfortunately, The Gary Coleman Show was a bust, as viewers perhaps were hoping against hope that Coleman's character in the series and movie was more like Arnold, but wasn't.

For a time, Strokes was also home to pop music royalty. Future pop superstar Janet Jackson moved over from Good Times to play Willis' girlfriend, Charlene, and released her debut album while on the show. Over the course of 8 seasons, Drummond ended up employing three housekeepers. The first, Edna Garrett (Charlotte Rae, ex-The Rich Little Show), was spun off into her own series, the equally successful Facts Of Life. Subsequently, Nedra Volz (ex-The Dukes of Hazzard) & Mary Jo Catlett tried to fill the void. Toward the end of the series, widower Drummond remarried, as Dixie Carter, later of Designing Women, joined the show.

Tragedy, however, has befallen the series since its cancellation. Earlier this week, Conrad Bain had passed away, and was pre-deceased by Coleman & Plato. Todd Bridges was last seen trying his luck as, of all things, a wrestler, under the tutelage of Hulk Hogan on a CMT series a few years ago.

Following is a video spolighting Ms. Jackson as Charlene.

During the course of the series, boxing icon Muhammad Ali, First Lady Nancy Reagan, and Mr. T were among the guest stars making special appearances. Stuff like that just doesn't happen anymore.

Rating: A-.

Baseball says goodbye to two legends: Stan Musial & Earl Weaver

I was apprised earlier today of the passing of former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver at 82. Weaver had collapsed while on a cruise on Friday.

Weaver took the Birds to three consecutive World Series to start his career, losing of course to the Mets in 1969. In all Weaver led Baltimore to 5 Series appearances, winning the last one in 1983, after losing a heartbreaking Series to Pittsburgh in 1979. Better known, however, for his frequent rhubarbs with umpires, Weaver was perhaps one of the first managers of the modern era, along with Billy Martin, to make a show of his arguments.

And, then, there is The Man.

Stan Musial passed away at 92. Today's fans might know the St. Louis legend more for his harmonica playing than his brilliant career on the field. It had become customary during Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown to find Musial somewhere, harmonica in hand. With his passing, baseball has lost one of its true heroes.

Rest in peace, gentlemen. Heaven is opening their division of the Hall of Fame for you.

Friday, January 18, 2013

And, then, there were four

Now, it gets down to the nitty gritty.

Sunday is conference championship day in the NFL, where the winners have two weeks to prepare for Super Bowl 47, and players from the winning teams get a get out of jail free card, also known as withdrawing from the Pro Bowl.

NFC: San Francisco vs. Atlanta. The 49ers have asserted themselves at the right time, and dismissed Green Bay, while Atlanta ended Seattle's Super Bowl aspirations. Now, it's San Francisco that has to go cross-country, since Atlanta is the #1 seed. The one remaining storyline that would make the Super Bowl watchable is a meeting between the Harbaugh brothers. Jim, the former Michigan QB, coaches San Francisco, while brother John has taken Baltimore to the title game for the 2nd straight year in the AFC. Don't you think San Francisco is overdue to return to the big dance? Of course. 2nd year QB Colin Kaepernick is the last of the young gun QB's still in (Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Baltimore's Joe Flacco both are finishing their 5th seasons, and can't be considered "young guns" anymore). He's also on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week. Uh-oh. Don't even think about a cover jinx with this kid. Niners, 38-35.

AFC: Baltimore vs. New England. Last year, the Patriots stole one when DB Sterling Moore wasn't called for either defensive holding or pass interference, take your pick. Had he gotten flagged, maybe the game changes, and the Giants would've collected a Super Bowl receipt from the Ravens instead of giving the Patriots another well deserved defeat. Baltimore collected their own receipt at home earlier this season, which ended with Patriot coach Bill Belichick confronting one of the replacement refs, actually making physical contact, and only getting a slap on the wrist from the NFL suits. I'm sorry, but the Pats are not favored nation in the league anymore, and Baltimore already has ruined one dream matchup in this post-season by eliminating Denver last week. They've beaten New England in Foxborough once before in a playoff, so why not again? It's time to teach the power brokers a very important lesson. The best storylines in the post-season play out just fine by themselves, instead of force feeding the same, tired old routine, which does get stale. Ravens, 28-27.

Come to think of it, with everything that has gone down the last few days, the Patriots would be the perfect team to draft Notre Dame's Manti T'eo, in light of the internet hoax about a fictional gal pal who supposedly died back in September. Belichick conducts business as if he works for the CIA........

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Classic TV: Maude (1972)

Ever wonder how Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton) was able to tolerate husband Archie (Carroll O'Connor) for so long on All In The Family? Seems she had some kinfolk that were just as opinionated.........

Maude was the first spinoff from Family, bowing on CBS in 1972, and lasting for 6 seasons. Beatrice Arthur toplined as Maude Findlay, Edith's cousin, who was living in Tuckahoe, on Long Island, if I'm not mistaken, with husband Walter (Bill Macy, not to be confused with William H. Macy), daughter Carol (Adrienne Barbeau), and a maid, Florida (Esther Rolle), who would later be spun off into her own series, Good Times, a couple of years later.

Whereas Archie was an unapologetic bigot, Maude was a little more open-minded, and her show dealt with the same kind of political hot-button issues as Family. Sure, she had her arguments with Walter & Carol, seemingly every week, but at the end of the day, the Findlays remained one happy family.

After Rolle left for Good Times, Maude hired on a British maid, Mrs. Naugatuck (Hermoine Baddeley), which might be considered a Jump The Shark moment, since Mrs. Naugatuck fit in like a square peg in a round hole. One huge advantage that Maude----and, for that matter, Good Times & The Jeffersons---had on All In The Family was its theme song. "And Then There's Maude" was a high energy, up tempo number sung by R & B star Donny Hathaway. Retrorebirth provides us with the open from Season 1.

It's just too bad it's not on cable right about now.......

Rating: B.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Conrad Bain (1923-2013)

News has just come over the wires of the passing of character actor Conrad Bain, best known for roles in two 1970's sitcoms, just three weeks shy of his 90th birthday.

The Canadian-born Bain first emerged in the role of Dr. Arthur Harmon on Maude (1972-8), and when that series ended, producers Norman Lear & Bud Yorkin wasted little time finding a new project for Bain, casting him as New York millionaire Philip Drummond on Diff'rent Strokes. Bain, though, was quickly overshadowed by his younger co-stars, Todd Bridges, Gary Coleman, & Dana Plato.

Bain still landed the occasional gig as much as two years ago, according to Wikipedia.

Following is a choice bit from Maude, a musical number performed by Bain, but figure on the audience being distracted by Carol Findlay (Adrienne Barbeau) dancing in the background........

Rest in peace, Conrad.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Weasels of the Week: James Dolan & Wayne LaPierre

It doesn't take long, does it, for repeat offenders to wind up back in this space.

Wayne LaPierre, head honcho of the National Rifle Association, gets Weasel status for his latest stunt, and, oh, it's a doozy.

The New York Daily News reports in today's editions that the NRA has released a phone app for a video game meant for players ages 4 and up. Let me repeat that. AGES 4 AND UP!!!!


According to the article, kids can access this game and learn how to shoot high-tech guns like AK-47's at targets such as----prepare to cringe---coffins. The NRA has rightfully been blasted for its insensitivity, just a month after the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. Even ardent NRA supporters are against this. LaPierre and his dittoheaded followers have no shame.

The same thing applies to Knicks/Rangers/Madison Square Garden/Cablevision honcho James Dolan, who, according to reports, hired two tech geeks to record conversations involving the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony. This came after Anthony had an off-court, post-game incident with Boston's Kevin Garnett a week ago, and the Daily News, along with other outlets, claimed it had something to do with Garnett talking smack on-court about Anthony's wife, former MTV personality LaLa Anthony, purportedly claiming she tasted like a certain brand of breakfast cereal. According to news accounts, the tech geeks were stationed somewhere behind the Knick bench for subsequent games, including a loss to Chicago. Apparently, Dolan is feeling a little oversensitive about Anthony, the former Syracuse star whom Dolan traded for a couple of years ago, but trash talking is part of the game. It always has been, but there are certain lines you don't cross, such as making remarks about a player's family, especially his wife.

In contrast, the picture being painted here is that Dolan, who won't talk to the media, and has long been one of the worst owners in sports, period, is going out of his way to pamper Anthony, who may or may not have been aware of the surveillance placed on him during games. Apparently, Dolan never played the game, even on the playground, else he'd know that trash talking is normal, standard operating procedure, psychologically speaking. If Dolan's looking to fill a void in the NY sports landscape, specifically one created by the passing of George Steinbrenner, that's one thing, but while Steinbrenner did some shady things, he was also accessible to the media. Dolan makes him look like a saint by comparison.

And ya wonder why superstars like LeBron James have spurned the Knicks? They don't want this wackjob signing their paychecks. Chalk up the fourth pair of Weasel ears for Dolan.

Monday, January 14, 2013

What Might've Been: The Time Tunnel (1966)

Perhaps it's safe to say that The Time Tunnel was ahead of its time.

Irwin Allen's 3rd series, this one for ABC, lasted just one season, but the man-out-of-time concept has been revised and repeated time and again in other series in years since, including the animated Happy Days spinoff, Fonz & The Happy Days Gang and the live-action Voyagers!, both in the early 80's.

Two scientists (Robert Colbert & James Darren, to reverse the billing) are involved in a time travel experiment that goes wrong, sending them into historical events and places. Voyagers! would use this same concept more than 15 years later, and 20 years after that, the animated Time Squad crossed Voyagers! with Peabody's Improbable History, but with minimal success. The common thread is that except for Fonz, none of these shows lasted more than a season, really, though back in the 60's, the standard primetime order was in the vicinity of 30+ episodes, which has since been trimmed in intervening years to 22-24.

James Darren was already well known as both an actor and a pop singer, with his most notable hit being "Goodbye Cruel World", and had guest-starred on The Flintstones, as well as working on another Hanna-Barbera project, the feature film Hey There, It's Yogi Bear! (and, yeah, he sang in that one, too). Robert Colbert was the lesser known star, and drifted back into obscurity after Tunnel ended. Worth noting, too, is that the cast also included Lee Meriweather, who subbed for Julie Newmar as Catwoman in the Batman movie spinoff earlier that summer, and would later land a more successful gig in Barnaby Jones, opposite Buddy Ebsen.

Future Oscar winner John Williams composed the score. 

Edit, 7/14/22: Had to change the video. Here's the intro everyone knows:

Clearly, Allen's magic was running out, as the series that replaced Tunnel, Land of the Giants, was to arrive the  next year, but was delayed a year. We'll take a look at that another time.

Rating: B-.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Musical Interlude: Lonesome Loser (1979)

Australia's Little River Band opened the door for other bands from Down Under to crack the American charts during the 70's, usually with peppy, uptempo pop-rock like "Lonesome Loser". In fact, this was the track that introduced me to the band......

There's a new brand of wrestling in town: 787 Pro Wrestling at the Troy Boys & Girls Club, 1/13/13

In my home district, there is an independent wrestling promotion, In Your Face Wrestling, based in Ballston Spa, which has hosted shows outside of its base area---albeit in Amsterdam & Whitehall, and not on the other side of the Hudson River. Fans in Troy, Watervliet, Albany, etc., can rest easy. We've got our own promotion now.

787 Pro Wrestling presented its debut card earlier today at the Troy Boys & Girls Club, drawing close to 300 raucous fans, thanks in large part to word of mouth and some media promotion. A talk host from the local ESPN Radio affiliate was the ring announcer, and 787PW bought ad time during Ring of Honor's Saturday broadcast on the CW affiliate here. It happened, appropriately, that Albany native Bobby Fish, who now calls Saratoga Springs home, was booked to appear, and the ad just happened to air the night before the show.

Fish didn't disappoint his constituents. He had his own vendor's table during the first half of the show, selling t-shirts, then worked the co-feature as a heel, beating Watervliet's Foxx Vinyer. If you haven't seen Fish in person or on TV, he's a near-dead ringer for WWE champion CM Punk, and has the charisma and heel attitude to match. He's also far more chatty, yakking at the ringsiders throughout the match. Fish made his TV debut a couple of months back, and I was stunned to learn he was from my area. He timed his entrance into Ring of Honor pretty good, though, arriving there shortly after another New York product, Buffalo's Beth Phoenix, had left the WWE after a 6 year-plus run.

The rest of the card:

"The Real" Rob Coleman won a battle royal to determine who would be in the main event to crown the first 787PW champ. Vik Dalishus, who would be his opponent, chose to attack Coleman after the match, clipping him in the knee with---of all things--a broom. Dalishus didn't participate in the battle royal, saving himself for the title match. Apparently, there was a method to his madness.........

Chris Envy, billed as hailing from Albany, defeated Chad Evans in the next match. Envy has plenty of energy and promise, and used Petey Williams' Canadian Destroyer (a flip piledriver) to end the match.

"Triple X" Ron Falco resorted to blatant cheating to get past Kyle Badger. The ref was actually in position to see Falco use a low blow, and he even hooked the tights to get the pin. Worst match on the show.

"Redneck" Randy Walker, riding to the ring in a wheelbarrow pushed by wife Brandi, teamed with Sgt. Fury & Corporal Saint in a 6-man vs. Viper the Ninja and Dos Locos Luchas. The last time there was an indy show in town, Viper beat Walker in a singles match, so now he's 2-0 here, as he picked up the win for his side with a top rope splash.

Wynantskill's Bert Williams was billed as "Bombshell" the last time he was here (June 2011), but this time, he's "Buttery", even carrying a bottle of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter to the ring for his match vs.William King, who cut a promo to get himself over as a heel, claiming he was taking over NY like he did New England. Nope, not gonna happen. Score one more for the home team, as Williams knocked off King in what amounted to an upset.

In the last match before intermission, CJ Scott defeated Kyle Brad. Scott screened the ref from seeing a low blow, then finished Brad with the package piledriver, the favored finisher of Ring of Honor champ Kevin Steen. Decent stuff, and Scott got plenty of heat.

After the break, Coconut Jones, billed as "Mr. Slippery When Wet" , and hailing from Jamaica, defeated Adam Badger. Because he had a Jamaican gimmick, some of the kids at ringside tried encouraging Jones to emulate WWE star Kofi Kingston. He finished the match, however, with a sloppy Paydirt (Shelton Benjamin's finisher) in a very competitive match.

Indy star Cloudy headlined a fatal 4-way lucha rules match that also featured "Your Captain" Nick Ando (who came out to Eric Clapton's classic "Cocaine"), Jordan Lennox, and local DJ Dalton Castle. Cloudy got chants of "Justin Bieber" tossed his way, if only because he could pass for "The Biebs"' older brother. To be honest with you, I felt sorry for the guy. Castle won, but then again, shouldn't that have been a surprise?

J. P. Black was up next, now billed as "The Dark Pony", and he made quick work of Rick King. Fish beat Vinyer in the semi-final as noted earlier, but the way Fish was shouting at some of the kids at ringside, it seems to me he might be a parent, too.

Yeah, he was definitely doing something Punk would've done in the same circumstance........

Vik Dalishus vs. Rob Coleman was our main event, and it was kept short, as Coleman was still selling the knee after the earlier attack. Dalishus locked on a single leg Boston Crab. Coleman wouldn't tap, so J. P. Black came back out and threw in the towel, giving Dalishus the 787PW title.

After the match, Black cut a promo and said he had trained most of the talent at the show, including Dalishus & Coleman. Dalishus, he said, was his first student, who went on to work with others, and has become dangerous, and Black kept telling Coleman that "you can't beat him". If that sounds familiar, think back to 2002 WWE, and Big Show challenging Brock Lesnar for the WWE title. Paul Heyman, Lesnar's manager (and currently in the same capacity for CM Punk), told Lesnar the same thing. Heyman would then turn on Lesnar and cost him the title. I see the same thing happening, except Dalishus already has the title, and Coleman's the one doing the chasing........

The business model for 787PW is to have house shows every 5 weeks at the Troy Boys & Girls Club. They're titling their individual events, just like In Your Face does. Doing some quick math, the schedule sets up thus: (all dates are Sunday afternoons)

February 17
March 24
April 28
June 2
July 7
August 11
September 15
October 13
November 10
December 15
January 19, 2014

The crowd was full of energy, and were into every match. The only things 787PW needs to improve, really, are the sound system, and a lack of a program, which would make it easier to identify the wrestlers in each match without straining the ears trying to hear the names.

Will Bobby Fish, Cloudy, and some of the other indies return? Probably, especially Fish with his roots being in the area. Would this lead to Ring of Honor inevitably coming into the market for a live event, like a TV taping? I would think so. It's not that Fish was there as a talent scout, since he'd just signed with the company, but he knows the area, and ROH does have some people under contract, including Rhino, Shel Benjamin, Charlie Haas, and announcer Kevin Kelly, who are familiar with the market from their WWE days. Jay Lethal has been here, I think, while with TNA. Matt Hardy is not under contract with ROH--yet--but is another one area fans will know. Add it all up, and factor in the prospect of a border war with In Your Face, and, well, do we really need the stale, tired WWE and/or TNA anymore? Judge for yourselves, kids. The future of the wrestling business has to start somewhere, and as the old saying goes, there's no place like home.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

On DVD: The Mystery of Mr. Wong (1939)

Boris Karloff is back as Oxford-educated Oriental sleuth James Lee Wong in the 2nd film based on Hugh Wiley's series in Collier's. "The Mystery of Mr. Wong" has the detective on the hunt for a killer, this time over an ancient Chinese bauble that isn't supposed to leave its native land.

Wong quietly dissects the clues and makes the stunning reveal at the end. I stress quietly, because it doesn't have the sturm und drang of his contemporaries, such as Charlie Chan or even Sherlock Holmes.

Wong is vastly underrated, and if Hollywood can successfully revive Sherlock Holmes as a movie franchise, why not Wong?

Rating: A.

NFL Divisional Playoff Preview

By the end of business tomorrow, we will be down to four teams left in the race for the Super Bowl. Let's take a look at this week's matchups.


Baltimore at Denver: The media is selling the idea that the AFC title game will have Denver playing New England. Personally, I'd rather not see that happen, and there are better storylines in play. However, television & Madison Avenue have an undue influence on the league. That having been said, the last ride of Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis ends in Denver today. The beancounters at the league office are already counting the money from Papa John's in anticipation of newly minted franchisee Peyton Manning advancing to the big game. The Ravens will keep it close, and that's about it. Broncos, 27-24.

Houston at New England: The Texans were rudely dissed as the Patriots ran up the score---and likely broke a few rules along the way, as they seem to do almost every time at home---last month on ESPN. However, expect Houston to make some adjustments to deal with the Patriot defense. Bill Belichick and company have been talking like they think Arian Foster will hurt them this time. He'll get his points, true, but I also expect Tom Brady to take his lumps from JJ Watt before the day is done. Patriots, 31-28.


Green Bay at San Francisco: The 49ers upended the Packers the first week of the season. While San Francisco has the home field advantage, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are hungry for some payback. The 49ers, after signing ex-Giant Brandon Jacobs as a free agent last year, cut him before the playoffs. They barely used him at all, feeling that he wasn't enough of a complement for Frank Gore and 2011 draft pick Kendall Hunter. I'd not be surprised if Jacobs returns to the Giants for next season. The Pack are entirely healthy, and just in time. Game, set, & match, Green Bay. Packers, 34-31.

Seattle at Atlanta: The Falcons are 0-3 in the playoffs in the Mike Smith-Matt Ryan era. Seattle rookie Russell Wilson is making a case that they should include playoff stats in the voting for Rookie of the Year, not that it would help his cause any, but he is the last rookie QB still in the tournament as of now. That doesn't figure to change any time soon. Marshawn Lynch is enjoying a revival in Seattle, which must make Buffalo fans wonder why he left in the first place. Pete Carroll should consider making travel plans again, this time to the midwest. Seahawks, 31-30.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Musical Interlude: Owner of a Lonely Heart (1983)

The British art-rock band Yes plunged headlong into the MTV era with one of the most unusual and provocative videos of the early 80's with "Owner of a Lonely Heart".

Edit, 6/2/21: Had to change the video again. This clip runs about 6+ minutes and explains the shape-changing the band performs. Hmmm. This could've worked as an animated video......!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What Might've Been: Run, Buddy, Run (1966)

The Fugitive was nearing the end of his run. Leonard Stern and his staff decided to have a little fun with it by creating a sitcom that would send another innocent man on the run, but this time, from the Mob.

Run, Buddy, Run was created as a vehicle for actor-musician Jack Sheldon, better known as a jazz artist and frequent guest on The Merv Griffin Show, but to a couple of generations of kids, starting in the 70's, Sheldon was also heard as one of the rotating vocalists on ABC's Schoolhouse Rock series of shorts.

Buddy Overstreet (Sheldon) is minding his own business in a sauna when he overhears a conversation among some wiseguys, including the code words, "Chicken Little". Once the national leader, a Mr. Devere (Bruce Gordon, ex-The Untouchables), determines that Overstreet had overheard, he of course orders a hit. And, so, Buddy begins his journey, which unfortunately, lasted just one season.

Run, Buddy, Run last aired on TV Land---back when they actually aired older shows and didn't compress the credits---as part of a promotion where viewers were given the opportunity to pick their own shows. That lasted only a couple of years, a wasted opportunity if there ever was one.

Future Emmy winner Ted Knight is the narrator in the intro, uploaded by (like, DUH!) Runbuddyrunnow.

To think that this came from the same studio that gave us Get Smart......

Rating: None. Never saw the show.

On DVD: The Green Hornet (1940)

I can honestly say that I now know where Seth Rogen got his inspiration for his loose interpretation of "The Green Hornet" 2 years ago.

In 1940, Universal released "Hornet" as a serial, the first of two with Gordon Jones, better known to baby boomers as Mike The Cop from The Abbott & Costello show in the 50's, in the dual role of newspaper publisher Britt Reid and the Green Hornet, and Keye Luke, formerly Charlie Chan's #1 son, as Kato, who, in the serials, was Korean instead of Japanese. On radio, Kato's nationality was changed again, such that he was hailing from the Philippines, all the more to ensure he was on our side, especially after the attack on Pearl Harbor that launched the US into World War II.

VCI Video released a remastered version, which I have, where they recreated the opening & closing titles and some bumpers themselves, but they also have the "original feature cut" of the movie version of the serial. The feature film edition trims the running time by 15 minutes, making the action seem choppy and rushed, which it shouldn't have been.

Anyway, the Hornet goes into action after a protection racket. Subsequently, said racketeers want The Sentinel (later changed to Daily Sentinel for the 1966 TV series and, most likely, Rogen's version) shut down when they headline the breaking of smaller operations. Britt Reid is presented as a playboy----nothing new in the Golden Age, actually----and when Jones speaks as the Hornet, his voice starts to resemble future TV Lone Ranger Clayton Moore. Hmmmmm. Kato, as always, drives the Black Beauty and his only offense in fights is to drop thugs with karate chops. Bruce Lee would change all that 26 years later. Naturally, the police and the thugs are led to believe Hornet wants in on the action, which was the whole gimmick in the first place, but Hornet has a fan in Reid's secretary, Lenore Case. Oh, if only she knew (and would in the 1966 series).

Baron American uploaded the original opening:

Rogen's "Hornet" wasn't exactly a world beater at the box office, but if the role had been given to someone the viewers could trust, it'd have been a different story. Jones & Lee would return in "The Green Hornet Strikes Again", but that would be it for the Hornet on the big screen until 2011.

Rating: B-.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Weasel of the Week: James Tracy

"How do I know you're not sick?/You could be some deranged lunatic!"
                                                                                        ---line from "Parents Just Don't Understand", by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, 1987

I have a problem with conspiracy theorists and their dittohead followers. They detach themselves from all semblance of reality and live in a delusional fantasy world where they're right and everyone else is wrong.

One such case is this week's Weasel, James Tracy, a professor at Florida Atlantic University, who has the gall to suggest that the Sandy Hook Elementary attack last month was----are you sitting down?----faked.


According to an article posted on, and excerpted from the Sun Sentinel, Tracy claims that the Obama administration hired "crisis actors" as part of an effort to sway public opinion on gun control. Naturally, the administration at Florida Atlantic is distancing itself from Tracy, and with good reason. He has no basis for his claims, even though the Global Research website published a timeline authored by Tracy claiming to show how authorities, aided supposedly by the media, conspired to create a scenario that would lead to the shooter, Adam Lanza, as the sole gunman, when there could've been others.

Sorry, bunky, but there's already been evidence, reported the same night, that Lanza acted alone.

But, wait, it gets worse.

Tracy reportedly also has doubts about the Aurora, Colorado movie massacre, for which James Holmes is awaiting trial, as well. He claims he is "interested in going more deeply into controversial public events", but what he's really looking for is 15 minutes of fame to promote his own brain-dead ideas. Instead, he gets a set of Weasel ears.

And, while we're at it, let's hand out a pair to another conspiracy nut, Alex Jones. The Texas-based radio yakker is also the brains (?) behind the Prison Planet website, and launched a petition to have CNN talk host Piers Morgan deported back to England because of his views on gun control. Jones went on Piers Morgan Tonight and engaged in a scream-fest with Morgan. The whole point of the exercise was, again, calling attention to himself, and not his latest cause. Don't you think it's a coincidence, pilgrims, that Jones & Tracy were both in the news at the same time?

It's bad enough there's a yahoo in my home district who keeps posting the same tired, rambling fliers all over the city either promoting Jones' website, or his own theories on mental health and what not. It's just so sad that people like them are close minded when it comes to the real world around them.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sports this 'n' that

Aside from 2 all-star games in the second half of the month, the college football season is for all intents & purposes over after Alabama won its 2nd straight BCS National title, and 3rd in 4 years, routing Notre Dame 42-14 on Monday. This game was over by halftime, really, as the Irish never got going until it was too late.

There are some who will say they're tired of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) dominating the landscape, having won the last several BCS championships, and there's no guarantee that the playoff format to be instituted after the 2014 regular season will change that, but it's worth a try to keep the college game from getting boring. It's bad enough the games are longer than their pro counterparts.......

Meanwhile, the New York tabloids, starved for some scandal, found one, courtesy of Jets coach Rex Ryan, who had a tattoo made of wife Michelle wearing nothing but a replica Mark Sanchez jersey. The Ryans were photographed while on vacation, and the trip itself got Rex in hot water because he was supposed to be available to the media for one last press conference after the season ended on December 30. The Jets have since canned GM Mike Tannenbaum and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, the latter's dismissal almost certainly ensuring that Tim Tebow will be an ex-Jet by the April draft, if not sooner.

The first round of the NFL playoffs wasn't without drama. Washington coach Mike Shanahan and noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews are taking heat over presumptive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III playing Sunday vs. Seattle despite the fact that his injured knee wasn't 100%. Griffin twisted his knee trying to retrieve a fumbled snap, and didn't return. Seattle and their prize rookie, Russell Wilson, ousted the Redskins, earning a date with Atlanta in the next round.

If you believe all the media hype, it seems the NFL & their media partners still think the best possible matchup in the AFC title game would be New England at Denver. The Patriots beat up on the Broncos at Foxborough in the regular season, but this time, assuming they run it up on Houston again, they have to go to Mile High country. It's way past time the NFL stopped putting media interest ahead of the integrity of the game! For the sake of the game, New England cannot represent the AFC in the Super Bowl again.

Thankfully, in 11 days, we can start watching NHL hockey. NHLPA hired honcho Donald "Show No" Fehr and Commissioner Gary Bettman finally reached a deal over the weekend. Now, all the league needs to do is show Bettman the door. This is, what, 3 work stoppages under Bettman? Can we at least go more than a year without a sports league going on strike?

Closer to home, the once-mighty Siena College men's basketball team has fallen on hard times, and they've suddenly become the #2 team in Albany. The University at Albany play at an on-campus arena, as opposed to Siena playing their home games at the Times Union Center in downtown Albany, and thus will draw fewer fans per game, but they are winning. Siena has lost 11 in a row, which hasn't happened since the mid-90's. I'd say they could beat the NBA's dregs, like Charlotte & Washington, but now, that's more like a pipe dream.

Right now, a high school team would have their way with Siena. That's just how it is.

Speaking of high schools, there's been no follow up on last week's Weasel, Will Francis, and why he opted to go to Watervliet instead of Shaker, which is closer to his family's home in Loudonville (the hub, ironically enough, of Siena Country), as of today. Something doesn't smell right, and there was something that frequent correspondent Magicdog said in response to Francis being bestowed the Weasel ears. Perhaps someone got in the kid's ear and sold him a bill of goods, thinking he'd have an easier path to a Division 1 college if he went to 'Vliet. Uh, hello? Watervliet is a Class B school. Shaker is Class AA, two flights up the ladder. Shaker also has a famous alumni you might've heard of. Fella named Sam Perkins played there at the start of the 80's, then went to North Carolina and the NBA, and, well, the rest is history.

You'd think the local press would've smelled a scandal a mile away here, but there's probably more of a stench in the nearest alley suffocating the radar..........

Read in the Albany Times Union today that there's an all-star bowling league being formed, with matches to air on ESPN. NBA star Chris Paul, tennis legend Billie Jean King, who also co-founded World Team Tennis back in the day, and football/reality TV star Terrell Owens are among those involved. This may be the closest we're going to get to a full-on revival of the 70's series, Celebrity Bowling, but it may be worth it.

Classic TV: Lost in Space (1965)

Flush with the success generated by Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea a year earlier, Irwin Allen had sold another series, this time to CBS. Lost In Space was set in the far future, where it was believed entire families would be exploring space, searching for new worlds.

One such family was the Robinsons. Husband & wife scientists John & Maureen Robinson (Guy Williams, ex-Zorro, & June Lockhart, ex-Lassie) and their three children, son Will (Bill Mumy), and daughters Judy (Marta Kristen) & Penny (Angela Cartwright, ex-Make Room For Daddy), accompanied by Major Don West (Mark Goddard), set off in the Jupiter 2. Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris) was a stowaway, bent on sabotaging the mission on behalf of a foreign power, but by the time the series ended, Smith was reduced to comic relief, his evil origins long forgotten.

Suffice it to say, the Robinsons and company would explore worlds that were actually stranger than what Star Trek would uncover a year later. Unfortunately, by year three, Lost In Space had succumbed to the growing popularity of camp adventure, as the monsters became even more bizarre. Allen's initial vision had been tossed aside, and the series was cancelled after 3 seasons.

More than 2 decades later, Bill Mumy co-wrote a Lost In Space comic book series for Innovation that posited the prospect of Judy falling in love with Major West. Bear in mind that the comic book was meant to be a followup to the series, set sometime after season 3. In between, 20th Century Fox contracted with Hanna-Barbera to produce an animated version that aired on the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie, with only Harris, who did some voice work for H-B during this period, returning. The 1998 feature film version isn't worth talking about, it seems.

Oziricus uploaded this promo video CBS produced to introduce viewers and advertisers to Lost In Space in 1965.

Rating: B.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Classic Reborn: Mayberry, RFD (1968)

Over at the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, Ivan Shreve has been doing a regular feature, reviewing every episode of Mayberry, RFD in total detail. He's near the end of the series now, so now would be a good time for ye humble blogologist to chime in.

After 8 seasons, Andy Griffith decided to end his self-titled sitcom, but CBS wasn't willing to say goodbye to the modest little town of Mayberry, North Carolina, and, so, in a way, the series continued under a new title, Mayberry, RFD (for those of you who don't know, RFD stands for Rural Free Delivery). Sheriff Andy Taylor (Griffith) and his longtime girlfriend, school teacher Helen Crump (Aneta Corsault) were married in the series opener, and, save for spot appearances here and there, the Taylors, other than Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) were written out of the show.

Aunt Bee wasn't about to be thrust deep into the background, however, and so she became a housekeeper to another widower, Sam Jones (Ken Berry, ex-F-Troop), and his son, Mike (Buddy Foster), whom Ivan regards as being well down the sitcom kid evolutionary scale, far, far below Opie (Ron Howard), and somewhere closer to Dennis the Menace, if you catch my drift. However, I can't for the life of me justify Ivan's reference to Mike as "Idiot Boy", when at the same time, he dismisses Goober Pyle (George Lindsey) as the "village idiot". Ol' Goob just isn't that well learned, period, and I guess Ivan was afraid Mike would grow up to be another Goober. Sorry, buddy, but when they created Goober, they broke the mold.

Aside from ol' Goob & Aunt Bee, there are very few holdovers from the Griffith series, including resident nebbish Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) and handyman-for-hire Emmett Clark (Paul Hartman), who came along when the series shifted to color around season 5 or 6. Like Andy before him, Sam has his own sweetheart, in this case, bakery princess Millie Swanson (Arlene Golonka), who's as cute as a button. Really.

With Andy & Helen having moved away, Mayberry doesn't seem to have a sheriff anymore, but rather, it's left to Sam, head of the City Council, to be the moral center. Well, it's a step up from being a bumbling, accident prone Civil War officer. The vacant sheriff's office, it seems, was never addressed in the course of the series' 3 seasons. Bavier was gone after 2, with Alice Ghostley (a recurring player on Bewitched) stepping in to take her place. As for the rest........

Ken Berry tried his hand at hosting his own variety show, this after frequent appearances on The Carol Burnett Show and elsewhere, but The Ken Berry WOW! Show lasted one season, if that, on ABC. From there, Berry would resurface on the belated Burnett spinoff, Mama's Family, which to date was his last series gig.

Jack Dodson would make frequent guest appearances here & there, including Emergency! and a recurring gig as dentist Mickey Malph on Happy Days. If you ever wondered why Mickey's son, Ralph, was a buffoon, well.......! As we've documented, George Lindsey took his act to Kornfield Kounty, USA, joining the cast of Hee Haw, which, like RFD, was a victim of CBS' "Rural Purge" of 1971. Arlene Golonka's only other notable series gig was........a cartoon. She's known to the cereal & pajama set of a certain age as the voice of Debbie from Speed Buggy.

Now, let's offer up a sample open & close, which includes a sponsor tag for General Foods, and a couple of items no longer available. Heck, the classic GF logo is now a thing of the past, after the company was bought out by Kraft a few years back.....

In recent times, the series has aired on TV Land & TNT, but I'm sure Ivan can fill you in on where's it been since its run on those channels ended. Since TV Land, in particular, can't be bothered to balance its schedule the right way these days, you have to hope either INSP or Me-TV picks it up.....

Rating: B-.

Musical Interlude: Buddy Holly (1994)

The band members of Weezer and/or video director Spike Jonze must be fans of Happy Days. That having been said, they paid tribute to the series, and, in effect, marking Days' 20th anniversary, by using a mashup of footage from various episodes to form the body of the video for "Buddy Holly", in turn a left-handed tribute to the late 50's star, whose life was tragically cut short in a plane crash.

The problem that is more obvious now, is that the pastiche of clips don't have any continuity at all, with various characters in different wardrobe all throughout the video. The only cast member who actually appears is Al Molinaro, reprising his role as Al DelVecchio, the 2nd owner of Arnold's Drive-In on the show. 19 years later, looking back, it's more of a mess, and, as such, it doesn't hold up as well as it once did.

Uploaded by InterscopeGeffenAM:

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Weasel of the Week: Will Francis

In college sports, a student-athlete is declared ineligible either if his grades aren't up to par, or, as we all know, he accepts benefits from an overzealous booster going out of his way to make the lad "feel right at home".

In high schools, more often than not, poor grades will determine eligibility. However, in the case of this week's Weasel, it's a residency issue, and the devastating effect it has on a pristine program, suddenly tainted by a mild (by comparison) scandal.

A year ago, Will Francis was playing for Catholic Central High School in Troy. The Crusaders weren't as good as they are now, occupying the lower tier of the Big 10 standings in NY's Section II. They've improved without Francis, who transferred in the offseason. It's where he transferred to, in contrast to where he actually lives, that is at issue. Francis & his family live in Loudonville. While Catholic Central has an open enrollment, allowing students from throughout the Capital Region to enroll (and Troy, in Rensselaer County, borders both Albany & Saratoga counties). Logically, Francis, upon leaving Catholic Central, would've gone to either Shaker or Colonie High, in relation to his hometown of Loudonville.

However, for some as yet undetermined reason, Francis opted to enroll at Watervliet High. Everything seemed to be okay when the season started last month, but during the holiday break, school officials discovered that they'd been deceived. Francis provided them with a Watervliet address when he filled out papers to enroll at the school, but, as revealed in The Record today, the apartment he claimed to occupy was vacant, and has been all along! As a result, Watervliet officials reported their findings to the appropriate parties, including Section II officials, who did the only thing they could, and vacate all five wins the Cannoneers basketball team had accumulated prior to play on Friday. In a flash, Watervliet's record went from 5-2 to 0-7, though it's now 1-7 after winning on Friday, their first game without Francis, who, according to The Record, has been asked to leave the Watervliet district. In effect, Francis has been expelled for his deception.

The only thing left is to determine a motive. With two other elite schools within shouting distance of home, why did Francis choose Watervliet? Did he or his parents realize that this wasn't an open enrollment school, as opposed to Catholic Central? Right now, we don't know, though by this time tomorrow, we might have some answers. As Yogi Bear once said, "ignorance of the law is no excuse". That means, then, that Will Francis doesn't get a Dunce Cap, though his next school might give him one, but he does get the Weasel ears.

For Watervliet's boys basketball team, they now have to run the table just to have a respectable record headed into sectional play, which begins next month. An oversight that slipped through the cracks over the summer, only to bubble up to the surface just two weeks ago, won't harm them in the long term, but it will make the school pay closer attention to transfers in the future.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Musical Interlude: These Boots Are Made For Walkin' (1966)

If someone had thought of MTV in 1966, this would've been in extra heavy rotation.

Nancy Sinatra's signature hit was "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'", released in February 1966. More than 45 years later, it still holds up, compared to Jessica Simpson's lame remake made for the "Dukes of Hazzard" soundtrack a few years ago.

Now, the video began popping up on MTV & VH1 in the 80's, and I'd not be surprised if someone found a way to use this on a workout video soundtrack.......

Enough said.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Time Warner Cable unplugs a Current

If you were channel surfing Wednesday night, and you're a Time Warner Cable subscriber, chances are you ran across a sudden black hole in your digital tier.

Current, the network launched by former Vice President Al Gore in 2005, has been sold to, of all things, Al Jazeera, which plans to relaunch the channel as Al Jazeera America later this year. However, because of alleged ties to Al Qaida, among others, Time Warner isn't taking any chances. According to a report on Yahoo! News, TWC closed off the channel space previously occupied by Current on Wednesday, as the network, barely over 7 years old, signed off for good.

Was this move political? It certainly seems that way. While Al Jazeera reps have said that they have the same goals, there is some skepticism, considering that the core Al Jazeera network in the Middle East has been used by the late Osama bin Laden and his followers for propaganda purposes, leading many to think that Al Jazeera America would serve a similar purpose here, despite claims to the contrary. The downside, though, is that, according to cable consultant Cathy Rosenberger in an interview with the New York Times, and excerpted by Yahoo!, "there is a limited amount of interest in international news in the United States".

Despite that, TWC recently added BBC World News as a channel, slotted right alongside sister network BBC America. This, obviously, was the result of the network having a half hour newscast airing on PBS for a long time, and getting enough of a response, such that TWC was willing to take a chance on it.

Hmmmmm, ya wonder if there's a double standard at work, kids?

Patti Page (1927-2013)

It has come to my attention that one of the most beloved singers of the pre-rock era has passed away.

Patti Page, best known for songs like "Allegheny Moon" & "The Tennessee Waltz", passed away less than 2 months after marking her 85th birthday. You've seen a clip of a video for "Waltz" on the Time-Life informercial hawking their Golden Age of Country CD set. In memory of Ms. Page, burlable449 uploaded the complete video of "Waltz" to YouTube:

Rest in peace, Patti.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Musical Interlude: New Year's Day (1981)

To appropriately celebrate New Year's Day, why not include U2's song of the same name?

Bruni93 posted to YouTube this concert clip from 1983 in Germany. The original music video we all know is also available, but the only copy I could find was posted backward to avoid copyright infringement issues. Oh, well, ya can't have everything.

Happy New Year!

The Day of the Scapegoats: NFL's Black Monday sees 7 coaches fired

Five days before the start of the playoffs, the NFL saw the coaching carousel spin out 7 men from their jobs, dismissed mostly because of poor performance.

The media had been beating the drums in advance of the dismissals of at least two. Philadelphia sacked Andy Reid after 14 seasons, during which he won 6 NFC East titles, and took the Eagles to 5 NFC title games and a Super Bowl, losing to New England. Philadelphia, however, isn't the class of the division anymore, and had not been the last couple of seasons. Reid lost his son, Garrett, before the start of training camp, and perhaps, that emotional distraction took its toll over the course of 5 months.

In San Diego, beleagured Norv Turner was shown the door, finishing light years behind Denver in the AFC West. I don't think we've seen the last of him, though. I've a feeling he'll be back, with all the openings.

Kansas City dumped Romeo Crennel after a dismal 2-14 campaign, made even worse by the suicide last month of Jovan Belcher. Suffice it to say, Crennel fared worse than he did in Cleveland. The Browns, oh, by the way, let coach Pat Shurmur go after 2 seasons, and Buffalo sent Chan Gailey packing after 3. Apparently, Gailey's next gig will be back in the college ranks, where he seemed to fare better while at Georgia Tech.

Back in the NFC, Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt, 4 seasons removed from taking the Cardinals to the Super Bowl, where they lost to Pittsburgh, was dumped after the Cards went 1-11 in their last 12 games after a 4-0 start. The collapse was inexplicable and unexplainable, and now Arizona needs to find someone new. I think I have an idea........!

The biggest shocker was Chicago cutting loose Lovie Smith after 9 seasons, despite a 10-6 record. The only coach with a winning record who was fired, Smith was cut when the Bears were eliminated from the playoffs following Minnesota's last-second win over North division champ Green Bay.

Almost immediately, speculation began running about certain college coaches, such as Chip Kelly, being courted for pro jobs. ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, who was a winner in Oakland & Tampa Bay, was rumored a few weeks ago to be considering a return to the sidelines, but it would be a stunner if he actually left the booth.

So how do you fill the empty spaces, with nearly 4 months before the draft? I honestly don't know. If I could venture a guess, I'd say Turner & Reid will spend the next year or two doing TV. Smith, I think, will head to the AFC (Kansas City or Buffalo would be a good spot), as would Whisenhunt (Cleveland). Outside of that, I don't know, and I'll leave it at that.