Apr 28

A Vast Wasteland

I find few things more irritating than the arguments of traditionalist scolds, especially the tired old tropes of “what about the children?” and “the good old days.” Generally speaking, with a bit of guidance children are quite capable of making their own decisions. Also, “the good old days” is often code for “nostalgia for an imagined past.”

I’ve been told Beachy sometimes watches television too mature for her. While I agree at her age she certainly shouldn’t be exposed to such things as graphic sex and violence, I assure you what she watches is much, much better than what I grew up with.

Seriously, would any children’s channel today air programming depicting this? (Click the image caps for video)


This isn’t Porky Pig! Shocking!

Or this?


No Curly? Outrageous!

Or this?


No Sgt. Slaughter? Disgu … nah, this is still pretty hot.

Guess what? I watched all of the above and more during my formative years. Repeatedly. I didn’t even have to sneak in any Cinemax to do it.

Growing up in the 2T in the early 80s, where locally-produced kids’ programming was little more than a foreign legend, on a typical weekday morning you essentially had two options: soap operas or game shows. Guess which one I took? Yeah, there’s nothing like beginning an unexpected day off than with an hour with Bob Barker.


“Cutting school again, eh Lane? Well, don’t forget to have your pets spayed or neutered.”

And that’s the high water mark. I was born in 1973, so for the sake of argument let’s say my prime years for children’s programming were between 1980 and 1985. Fine. Here’s what the world was like back then:

Children’s programming was limited to certain hours (usually school hours) on weekdays. You had Saturday morning cartoons which ended by 1 pm, and on Sunday you were flat out SOL. The golden age of animation was dead and buried by the mid-70s. There was no Cartoon Network or DreamWorks Studios. In short, no one was catering to kids very well. Even the pre-Pixar Disney spent about a decade dropping turds on theaters every couple years before they finally realized they should stick with fairy tales.


And Martha Raye’s Polident ads were more entertaining than the early Disney Channel.

With few exceptions, children’s programming of the day fell into one of three categories:

-Prime time reruns and old short films not necessarily intended for children in the first place, including I Love Lucy, The Addams Family, The Munsters, The Flintstones, The Little Rascals (or Our Gang, whatever), The Three Stooges and Looney Tunes. Throw in Leave it to Beaver and The Beverly Hillbillies too. What the hell.

-Reboots of old cartoons and TV shows, including The All-New Popeye Hour, The Flintstone Comedy Show, The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show, Laverne & Shirley in the Army, The Real Ghostbusters, the (apparently fake) Ghostbusters and various incarnations of the Scooby-Doo franchise.

-Shows which amounted to little more than hard-sell commercials, including G.I. Joe, The Smurfs, Saturday Supercade, M.A.S.K., Challenge of the GoBots, and anything involving Care Bears, Shirt Tales, Teddy Ruxpin, Cabbage Patch Kids, Popples, He-Man, She-Ra, the ThunderCats or Lazer Tag. It’s a wonder some nitwit TV executive didn’t greenlight a show about a fad puzzle game.


Oh wait, they totally did.

So in addition to the torture, alcohol abuse and risque content noted above, what else did these shows depict to kids of the day? How about misogyny, gender and racial stereotypes, juvenile delinquency, frequent armed conflict, gratuitous violence, dangerous stunts, glorification of war, animal cruelty, terrorism, elder abuse, unrealistic life expectations, attempted genocide, reward for misbehavior and/or incompetence, borderline plagiarism, and commercialism so crass and over the top it would make even Vince Offer wince?


Yeah, plagiarism. The Flintstones blatantly ripped off The Honeymooners.

I and millions of others suffered through long years of this drivel. Watching this stuff again just makes it worse, as one notices the shoddy production values one disregarded as a kid. Bright spots were few and far between. Off the top of my head I can only think of one animated series from the era that was contemporary, genuinely funny and not a 30-minute commercial for a piece of plastic.


Even if he did drive on the wrong side of the road.

So there you have it. Programming on today’s children’s cable networks isn’t anywhere near as bad as it was 30 years ago. What’s more, I turned out just fine, and today’s world isn’t an amoral, dystopian void after all.

Indeed, I’m glad I wasn’t sheltered and allowed to watch only “wholesome” crap like Superbook and The Flying House. I probably would have shot up a Taco Bell by now.


“More like, ‘Live No Más’ bitches! HA HA HA!”
Image credit: Coolcaesar

Apr 19

Friday Crap Roundup X

Woo hoo! We’ve made it to the 10th Friday Crap Roundup! What’s the anniversary gift for that? Ah yes … iPads.


Just be glad it’s not spyware behind Door #3 … this time.

Quite Simple, Really

SB is not a soapbox for me or anyone else, so I try to keep the political comments to a minimum. However, this graphic I came across on Facebook earlier this week is too good not to share.


No caption necessary.

Hey, What About …

Longtime readers have no doubt noticed I haven’t said much about Cracked or the gym recently. The reason is quite simple. I haven’t done anything with either. Doing something about that is on my agenda for the next few days. No, really. Trust me.

A Word on Phnom Penh Nightlife

Since I started this blog around 10 weeks ago I’ve deleted nearly 550 spam comments … and kept four which were legitimate. It’s obvious these people don’t read the posts. Case in point: one guy told me, “I like Your Post about Khmer Karaoke Celebrities.” Um, WTF?

SB has covered some 1,250 topics since its inception, but I’m pretty sure “Khmer karaoke celebrities” isn’t among them.


Yup … pretty sure.
Image credit: dalbera

I would have kept the comment, but I don’t want to encourage the bastards. Let them hawk their fake Nikes and Dutch porn sites elsewhere.

Track of the Week

Rush was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this week, an egregious slight finally rectified. Let the lobbying for Mojo Nixon commence.

About damn time.

Apr 11

It Begins …

Ha, ha! I warned you! Now I’ve gone and done it.


Oh, snap.

Yes, that’s right! I have “discovered” a long-lost recording of my 31 February 1982 concert at the id-famous Owyhee County Pork Sausage Distillery in Dickshooter, Idaho. My performance of John Gage’s classic 4′33″ brought down the house. Have a listen:

Damn, I’m good.

This was put up on YouTube only yesterday, yet the reviews are already remarkable! B. T. from London, Ontario, Canada, an accomplished musician and regular SB reader, said:

Enthralling performance! Although I must say that the opening was a bit disturbing…. And I can thank you for now knowing that there is a Dickshooter, ID. Always learning from you….

Beachy had this to say:

Dad, that is just wrong and weird! Weird and wrong! Wait … did you do it for people who like plaid? Who like plaid and beige? Beige, plaid people?

The rest of Taxil and the White Noise is currently in production. 4’33” will be available soon in MP3 format from Amazon and iTunes. Look for it!

Apr 01

Unexpecting the Expected

Hot damn tamale Mephistopheles! It’s April Fool’s Day! I suppose this means y’all are expecting me to base today’s post on some absurd, blatantly false declaration then cry, “APRIL FOOL’S!” Well, I did consider it.

Claim to have an epiphany and pledge to channel the spirit of the undead Jerry Falwell? Nah ….

Become the world’s most annoying Buddhist monk? Nah ….

Announce the end of SB to write at RedState instead? Nah ….

Tout a diet consisting exclusively of carrots, celery and Pabst Blue Ribbon? Nah ….


Oh, hell no.
Image credit: Chasqui

Then it occurred to me. Last night on Facebook I announced my intention to record an EP for download. I’m very seriously considering this. I mean, seriously ….

Friends, I’m happy to announce I’m going into the studio to record my first EP, Taxil and the White Noise. It’ll feature a cover of Allais’ Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man, La Double Vie de Théophraste Longuet as inspired by Leroux, the eponymous original composition, and Cage’s masterpiece 4’33”, which was voted one of the most important American musical works of the 20th Century. Look for it soon!

The key to a lasting presence on the Internet is going multimedia as soon as you can. SB regularly gets 50 hits a day now. That may not sound like much, but given that this blog was started less than two months ago with an advertising budget of absolute zero, I happen to think it’s pretty damn good. Hell, those guys from Smosh recently put out an album. If two kids from northern California can make it big by using pink sprinkled donuts and churros as props, then I can become famous too, dammit!

As you may recall, a few days ago I mentioned John Cage’s 4’33”. A groundbreaking work like that is exactly what I need to give this EP some serious gravitas. No less than Frank freakin’ Zappa covered 4’33”, man. I understand it’s pretty easy to play, and that it can be recorded on a shoestring budget. This is a good thing given my limited musical skills and financial resources. Just gotta get the timing down, or something ….


The concept doesn’t need cheesy production, or Auto-Tune, or anything. I’m golden.
Image credit: Kenal

Last night I composed the title track, Taxil and the White Noise, on a state-of-the-art Walgreens Model 890-WGN cool moisture humidifier. The 890-WGN is a frequently overlooked instrument, which I think really makes the piece pop. You’re gonna love it.

So no, I’m not yelling, “APRIL FOOL’S!” I want to make this happen. More details are sure to follow.

Mar 21

Riding the Thunder Broom

I recently bought a bass guitar. I figured at this point in my life it would be a good idea for me to take up a new hobby or two. Beachy also wants me to be a “rock star” when I grow up. She approves of this purchase.

Music is not an entirely new thing to me. Dad was a guitarist in a few local bands in the 60s. I took piano lessons when I was in elementary school, although my passion for that was halfhearted at best. Most of my friends in high school were band geeks.

Strongly influenced by said band geeks, I acquainted myself with the works of Mike Watt, Geddy Lee, Les Claypool and others as a teenager. I’ve been interested in taking up bass for a good 20 years. Bass should be a good instrument for me. I fancy myself loud and low, and I think in terms of single notes rather than chords.

There were two main obstacles to that though. First, I’m left-handed. VERY left-handed. Dad tried to teach me guitar on a standard right-handed model, but I just wasn’t picking it up. Everything seemed upside down to me. What’s more, locating an affordable left-handed instrument in the pre-World Wide Web days was about as easy as picking up a bottle of Bacardi 151 in Riyadh. It just wasn’t happening.

The second obstacle – and probably the more important one – was my strong tendency to set the bar unrealistically high for myself when undertaking any new endeavor. If I wasn’t able to be a virtuoso in a relatively short period of time, it wasn’t worth it to me.


And when I say “set the bar high,” I’m not dicking around here.

I’m a perfectionist by nature. It wasn’t until quite recently that I became somewhat comfortable with the concept of not having to be a world-beater in absolutely everything I did. Having your ass handed to you by bipolar type II will do that to you. That and the miracle of e-commerce finally convinced me to take the next step.

So despite being 39, well past the age many people take up these sorts of things, over Christmas I found a left-handed bass online and had it shipped to the local Guitar Center. Of course, not wanting to drop a ton of money on something I wasn’t entirely sure I’d take up in the long term, I went for – shall we say – a low-end model. It’s made by an outfit called Main Street Guitar Company.


The Chinese call it quality!

Over the next couple months I picked up other necessary items, such as an amp, a cord, a shoulder strap and a gig bag. I’m ready to RAWK!

Well, I would be if I had anything resembling dedication. Everyone tells me, “Man, you need to practice every day or you lose your touch.” I have no reason to disagree with that. However, I play maybe twice a week at the moment. Never mind CORRECT notes. At this point I’m happy with CLEAN notes which don’t sound like hitting a metal coil with a sledgehammer.

I can play the bass line from “Once in a Lifetime” fairly well, but that’s about it right now.

A couple days ago I compared learning the bass to learning to type. Honestly I don’t know how valid that comparison is, but as a writer it seems logical to me. Music theory as traditionally presented has never been one of my strengths. I get the basic concept of such things as notation and time signatures, but I’ve always found anything but the simplest sheet music absolutely confounding.


Yeah, this does nothing for me.
Image credit: Hyacinth

It seems to me it would be easier to think of notes as “letters” and bass lines as “words.” One needs to learn where the various notes are on the bass. After that it’s a relatively simple matter of constructing the line in much the same way one types a word on a keyboard. I understand this theory doesn’t take into account important things like tempo. I tend to view that as something one picks up innately.

Perhaps I’m over-thinking this and trying to unnecessarily re-invent the wheel. That’s another thing I’m notorious for.

Mar 18

Just Under the Wire

Yup, another one of those completely non-productive days here at the Command Center. It’s just over an hour until midnight and no blog entry. I thought about skipping it entirely today, but I have a good streak going which I don’t want to break. What the hell, I’ll just half-ass it today.

Besides, I never promised literary genius here.


“So put that in your pipe and smoke it.”

Last night during a sometimes heated discussion with an old friend on art, writing, criticism and, um, Debby Boone, I was introduced to Phantahex, a relatively new local band. My aforementioned old friend is half of Phantahex. According to the site they play “improvised ambient psychedelic electronic music.” I happen to think it’s pretty damn good. Y’all should check it out.

Dammit, there was something else I wanted to write about tonight …. “You Light Up My Life” is a horrible, wretched song? Well, yes, but that wasn’t it. Ah, whatever. I may remember and write about it another time. I leave you with this gem I found researching yesterday’s entry. This is quite possibly the best live commercial in the history of Western civilization (NSFW):

“Ya can’t get even!”

Mar 17

More Embarrassing 80s Videos

A little over a month ago I wrote about a couple video relics from the 80s which stuck with me over the years. As a writer I find this is a pretty good well to go back to. If my site stats are any indication, you agree. So here we are again.

If you know what the image below is, this will all be review. As for the rest of you, prepare for an education.


No fair Googling or using Tineye.

You Can’t Beat Our Meat

I had the “honor” of working at the Wendy’s in the 2T in 1991. Before I say anything else, let me assure from personal experience that this is 100 percent REAL.

As those of you who have worked fast food know – which I assume is damn near all of you – the job sucks. It’s sweaty. It’s greasy. You don’t get enough hours to qualify for benefits, and you have to wear the same goddamn shirt every day. You’re also controlled by corporate shills who just don’t understand the “younger scene.”


“But, but, everybody loves Justin Bieber!”

And no, I didn’t live in the “good old days.” Consider this 1989 training video on “grill skills,” which I was instructed with in those dark days. It’s a bit slow at times. I’m posting only the second half, but stick with it and bathe in its innate cheesiness. The first half features a lot of the late Dave Thomas blathering about your “important job” in a curious accent. If you really want to watch that, it’s here.

Who’s up for chili?

Check out the rap and country rock excellence here. It’s somewhere between Biz Markie and, um, Billy Ray Cyrus or something. Incidentally, they had me wearing the exact same teal shirt featured, unfortunately without the glitter.

I was so glad when I got to leave and go to Idaho State later that year. You have no idea.

Canoe, Canoe?

Oh man, every time this spot appeared on MTV I cringed. Just cringed. Even though at the time I had no chance whatsoever of dating a hot chick – and if I somehow managed to succeed I would have blown a gasket – I knew this was just … wrong. If you kids think the marketing for Axe is over the top (and you’d be correct), you should have seen what it was like a generation ago.

So from the same pheromone experts who brought you such venerable female magnets as English Leather and British Sterling, Canoe allows you to talk to hotties familiar with international maritime signal flags, and smell like you raided a 10-year-old’s Christmas stocking in the process.

“We now return to Julius Caesar on an Aldis Lamp.”

I don’t know about you, but to this day I’m pretty sure if the first words out of my mouth in any singles setting were, “Oh! Canoe canoe?” a restraining order wouldn’t be too far behind. Afterwards, every once in a great while MTV would redeem itself by giving me a glimpse of the mystery girl in the Smiths’ “How Soon is Now?” video, but usually this crap was followed by more crap like Night Ranger.

The Proto-King of Cars

OK, this never aired nationally per se, but the basic concept plagued several media markets throughout the country in the 80s. The 2T was one of them. As a matter of fact, this guy like the 2T so much he actually moved there from somewhere back east later in his career. I want to say he was originally based in upstate New York, but I’m not 100 percent certain about that.

Anyway, meet Dave Campo, the undisputed master of local used car ads. In the 2T he worked for an outfit called Latham Motors, which was at the time the local Chrysler dealership. Sadly I was unable to find any Campo-era Latham Motors ads, but in his heyday his modus operandi was the same for all his clients. Take a look:

“With all the candy!”

Campo made what the industry calls a “shitload” of ads during his career, easily over 1,000. To this day anyone who lived in the 2T while he was active can recite the basic ad structure word for word, myself included. Campo died a few years ago. His favorite client Latham Motors went under at around the same time. Yet his legacy lives on in loudmouth used car TV spots to this day.

Is the US a lucky nation or what?

Feb 11

80s Commercials Worth Remembering (Maybe)

While researching pitches for Cracked articles I occasionally come across items I want to write about but which don’t lend themselves to Cracked’s desired format. That’s what today’s entry is about. It’s a theme I’ll undoubtedly follow in posts to come. Lucky you.

Today we’re going to take a look at two 80s ads which have perplexed me for almost a quarter century. Yes, yes, I’m showing my age. Nevertheless, the absurdity is timeless.

B-Boy Fails at Math

Like many of you, I remember MTV in the 80s back when they actually played music videos. But it wasn’t a more genteel age with urbane VJs spending their days playing Sonic Youth, New Order and the Pixies. Then, like now, it was mostly crap. Seriously, one could only take so much Mr. Mister and The Dream Academy before the clock tower scenario started sounding like a good idea.

So circa 1985, while jonesing for all-too infrequent episodes of Al TV, I and my like-minded comrades were bombarded with something called breakdancing. You may know it as B-boying, but breakdancing was how it was marketed to an eagerly consumptive mid-80s public. Now while my stiff, Caucasian ass had no interest in participating in any sort of electric boogaloo, I couldn’t help but notice the trend.

One particularly notable pitch came courtesy of a certain Alfonso Ribeiro, who at that time was just barely in his teens. I’ve never been much of a sitcom aficionado, so until just a couple days ago I was unaware Ribeiro was later a regular on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I just remember him from this spot, hawking a breakdancing instruction book, some posters, a piece of cardboard and some proto-Kidz Bop albums, on vinyl no less.

Vinyl was an important commodity in primitive societies.

Apart from the obvious lack of a web site, the ad’s most memorable moment comes at the very end:

Alfonso: … all for under 20 bucks!
VO: Alfonso’s right! Only $19.99!
12-year-old me: WTF?


Pictured: Cognitive dissonance

It was this sort of thing which prevented me from placing tiny classified ads later.

Buy Batteries! Oy!

Before they bored America with two decades of a pink drumming bunny, the Energizer battery folks – then part of Ralston Purina of all companies – thought it would be a good idea to let a recently-retired Australian rules football player market their stuff. This was the result:

This was years before the energy drink craze, mind you.

This ad campaign starred Mark “Jacko” Jackson, a guy noted for being a bit off in the already-insane Australian Football League. Energizer was apparently looking to cash in on a fad for things Australian in America. Indeed INXS and Midnight Oil were at the peak of their commercial popularity in the U.S. at the time, as was Paul Hogan and his alter ego, Mick “Crocodile” Dundee. Jacko, coming off a minor hit record in Australia, was their man.

In addition to providing some of the most obnoxious ads of this geologic eon, if you were around at the time you know Jacko burned himself into our collective consciousness whether we wanted it or not. I clearly remember Jacko posters offered as booby prizes by carnies at the Twin Falls County Fair. Being around 14 or so my friends and I were much more interested in other kinds of boobies. Hairspray, mousse and fear created a lot of collateral damage in those days.

In any event, I thought with a minor rewrite this would have made a truly epic condom ad. I still do.