Archive for January, 2007

Vox Hunt: Signed, Sealed, Delivered.

January 30, 2007

Photo: Show us a postage stamp.

Hawkstamp

I’m quite fond of Hawman, in spite of how ridiculous he may seem at times. While Superman has incredible power, or Batman his training and gadgets, all Hawkman fights crime with is a pair of wings and a mace. This is not to say he isn’t intimidating, though — if you break the law he is going to hit you with a mace! I know if I were a criminal I’d be scared…

Some Toys Scare Me: Roboreptile

January 24, 2007

About a month ago a group of friends and I went to see a taping if ‘The Ellen Show.’ While my friends were big fans of the talk show, and Ellen Degeneres in general, I had never bothered to watch it before. Regardless, I enjoy going to tapings of television shows, especially daytime talk shows. You see, going to a taping of a talk show isn’t just about seeing celebrities in person or spending the day in Burbank — it’s about all of the free stuff you can get.

I’m not sure when it became standard practice for daytime talk shows to give the studio audience prizes. Game shows, sitcoms and late night talk shows give you nothing, and usually take much longer to tape. Still, I’m not complaining, try to attend as many tapings as we can. Oprah is still the queen of giveaways, but The Ellen Show, which doesn’t require a five-year waiting list to get tickets for, runs a close second. Last year my Mom received a digital camera and luggage set from the show, and all she had to do was feign interest in a set of B-list celebrities for about an hour.

With the holidays approaching I was very eager what kinds of prizes the audience would receive. I had heard that around Christmas it wasn’t uncommon to receive fabulous vacation getaways, shopping sprees, or iPods. Needless to say, my expectations were very high…

…and then I got the Roboreptile.

Wow Wee Entertainment has done it again. Or, to be more accurate, they’ve done it for the first time. Much like The Plague and Racism that came before it, Roboreptile cannot be stopped. It is a growling, biting, destructive beast that only rests to feed (or to get its’ batteries changed.)

We were very unhappy with our gift from the show, but I figured that I could pass it on to ‘Toys For Tots,’ or some like-minded organization. Unfortunately, I soon found out that tots don’t want battery operated toys for Christmas, and I would have to find some other way to get despose of it. Time passed, and before I knew it the holidays were over. Now I was officially stuck with one of the most useless and overhyped toys of the holiday season. Worse yet, Aaron loved it.

Perhaps indicative of how much abuse he tolerates from me, my beau thinks that it’s great to have a small thunder lizard parading around the house, screaming loudly and knocking things over. He’s even started to think of it as a pet, and says it will be great to ‘keep me company’ while he’s away on his long business trips.

So, for now, I’m stuck with this unnamed robotic death machine, and anxiously await the day it waddles out of my life for good. In the meantime, I’m keeping my bedroom door closed. Nothing is more frightening than waking up to discover that the Roboreptile has been watching you sleep all night.

Batman Fights the Anti-Christ!

January 23, 2007

Grant Morrison is the current writer of ‘Batman,’ and is best known for his work on mind-bending titles like ‘Animal Man,’ ‘All-Star Superman,’ ‘Seven Soldiers’ and ‘New X-Men.’ If you’ve read any of these comics, you all too well that Morrison is nuts.

Grant

See? Nuts. Despite this fact (or perhaps because of it) I’m a huge fan of his work. In a recent interview, he gave fans a teaser of Batman #666…

“Issue #666,” he [Morrison] laughs, “is Damian [Batman's son] grown up as Batman of the future fighting the Anti-Christ.”

Delightful! I’m a little embarrassed to say it, but this is the most excited I’ve been about a comic book in a while.

Yvonne De Carlo

January 19, 2007

Every so often I take a celebrity’s death very personally. This is obviously strange behavior, since I’ve been no less than ambivalent towards any real loss in my own life. What is even more bizarre are the people who I find myself attached to: one week it’s Frank Gorshin and in another it’s a 1930’s jazz singer who I only learned about by reading their obituary. This week it’s Yvonne De Carlo.

Most people remember Yvonne De Carlo as ‘Lily’ from the cult TV series, ‘The Munsters.’ In this case, I have no shame in admitting that I am ‘most people.’ ‘The Munsters’ is one of those quirky shows that manage to win over the viewer with a combination of humor, sincerity and charm. Just watching a few episodes recently have made me appreciatre how timeless the series really was. Yvonne’s portrayal of Lily as a normal, loving housewife stands out as one of the things that made the show work. Without her providing a sense of normalcy against the wacky situations the family got into each week, things would have gotten very old, very fast.

Yvonne

About a year or so ago I was spending a day at Disneyland with my good friend, Andrea, and her good friend, Joe. Although I didn’t know it when I met him, Joe created and operates Munsterland, one of the most comprehensive Munsters fansites on the internet. While it may not seem like it, Fred, Lily and the gang have an enormous online presence, and fans the world over have been mourning her passing.

Unlike the recent death of Al ‘Grampa Munster’ Lewis, who got extremely weird and political in his later years, Yvonne De Carlo was widely respected both inside the industry and out. Before taking the role of Lily, she had once been a popular Hollywood starlet, originally gaining fame for playing Moses’ wife in ‘The Ten Commandments.’

Even though she was afraid the make-up and costume would ‘turn her ugly,’ Yvonne took the part of Lily Munster to provide for her family. Her husband, a movie stuntman, had been seriously injured while filming a movie and was unable to work. Thankfully for both of them, The Munsters became a hit. The series filmed a total of 70 episodes and had two movies, giving De Carlo plenty of work over the next few years.

While I’ll be Netflixing some of her film work over the next few weeks to honor her (‘Frontier Gal,’ hear I come!) take a moment from your incredibly busy and exciting life to remember a great actress and a classy lady.

Vox Hunt: It Better Be Good

January 18, 2007

What’s the first image that comes up when you Google your name?

Joshua

Mm… hmn. This was part of some kind of online newspaper from Singapore, I believe. I figured it would be something like this.

Flashbeagle

January 16, 2007

It seems like Snoopy can do anything. I grew up only a few miles away from Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park. For those of you unfamiliar, Knott’s is an amusement park (as opposed to a theme park) known not only for their roller coasters and attractions, but for their fried chicken and jams as well. At some point during my youth Knott’s somehow managed to snag the rights to the ‘Peanuts’ characters and have featured them prominently in the park ever since.

Although I am freakishly tall now, I was not always tall enough to ride some of the more intimidating rides at Knott’s. Still, I visited the place regularly and as a result ended up spending most of my time at Camp Snoopy. Camp Snoopy is a kid-friendly area of the park themed to Charlie Brown, Lucy and the gang. In addition to standards like a Ferris Wheel and a ball pit, it also had a petting zoo and an expansive outdoors play area.

One of my favorite attractions there, ‘The Red Baron,’ puts children behind the seat of World War I era fighter planes they can ‘pilot’ as they spin round and round for several minutes. This ain’t Disneyland, people, but it doesn’t really have to be. Snoopy has long been one of my favorites, so I’ve always cut the character a little slack for not having merchandising or theme parks as well-made as The Mouse does.

One thing Snoopy can do that Mickey cannot is dance. Dear lord, can that beagle dance!

‘It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown…’ is one of the most ridiculous and dated pieces of animation you’ll ever come across. Presumably as an attempt to cash in on the success of 80’s dance films like ‘Footloose’ or ‘Flashdance,’ ‘Flashbeagle’ features Snoopy breakdancing to disco music. That, and the fact that it hasn’t been released in 20 years are pretty much everything you need to know about the project.

In addition to being really damn weird, there are many positive things about this TV special. Underused characters like Franklin and Peppermint Patty take center stage in a storyline involving dance competitions and the whole gang preparing for a big party. Sadly Franklin proves just how much of a token black character he is when he becomes Snoopy’s confidant in the world of dance. Peppermint Patty doesn’t do much better, only reinforcing the stereotypes of athletic lesbians with her ‘Stay in Shape’ musical number.

Despite how much crap is manufactured with the ‘Peanuts’ name, it’s a surprise that ‘Flashbeagle’ has been ignored by the home video market. There are definitely much worse pieces of ‘Peanuts’ animation out there; if nothing else the novelty of the thing makes it worth checking out.

365: 75 Mickeys

January 10, 2007

This is an old photo of some friends and myself at Disney’s California Adventure theme park. On this very memorable day we had decided to get a small group of co-workers together and have our photos taken next to all of the hideous MIckey Mouse statues that were decorating the place at the time.

Mickey statues

These 75 statues, each designed by D-list celebrities, were created to help celebrate Mickey’s 75th birthday. Southern California was only one stop along the statues’ US tour, where they eventually reached New York City to be auctioned off for charity.

I’m not exactly sure where this idea came from, but at one point American cities across America starting using a variation of it for themselves. In Los Angeles they used angels while in Santa Rosa dozens and dozens of Snoopy and Woodstock statues were auctioned off to celebrate their own insignificant anniversary.

It is very important to note that although we had a lot of fun that day, DCA is a terrible theme park, and an embarrassment to the Disney name. Things seemed so innocent and perfect back then, we probably would have had a great time at the morgue.

Batman Legos

January 9, 2007

What’s something you bought, knowing it was a total waste of money?

This is a QOTD very near and dear to my heart. As anyone who has been shopping with me knows, almost all of my purchases are a complete waste of money. Just today I bought two different brands of dish soap, just because I couldn’t figure out which one I liked more. It’s not that I have a large amount of cash to spend on stupid things like this, I’m just terribly indecisive. This, combined with my nerdiness, often results in purchases I end up regretting.

A good example of this is the LEGO: Batman Arkham Asylum Playset. For a mere 80 dollars Aaron and I could spend countless hours putting together 860 pieces of fun. The age range specified ’12 or older,’ so I figured that between the two of us we wouldn’t have difficulty with it. In my youth I spent many hours playing with Legos, so this would be a fun way to reconnect with that. If you’ve ever read a blog post by me, or understand three-act structure, you know all too well that things didn’t turn out as I had planned.

Joshhateslegos

The first problem arose when I realized that there was no organization to the 860 pieces presented in the box. While I don’t expect LEGO to make the assembling proccess easy, this was ridiculous. For example, if I were looking to find all of the pieces of the Arkham Asylum ambulance, I would have to look through every one of the 15 bags of crap they provided.

Several hours were spent simply trying to put the different legos into different piles, and by then we were exhausted and angry at one another. Starting this new hobby off with the most difficult Lego set may not have been a good idea. Admitting defeat we finally placed everything back into the box, and shoved it as deep into the closet as we could.

RiddleMeThis

I’m not really disappointed with the purchase, but acknowledge that the money could have gone to a much better cause. At the very least, I got some cool Batman-themed Lego men out of it.

Fake MySpace Boyfriend

January 8, 2007

I, like everyone else in the Western world, once visited mySpace.com. While this certainly isn’t noteworthy, it might be interesting to know that much of my time there wasn’t spent updating my own personal account, but that of someone else’s.

Whose account was it? Josh’s fictional mySpace boyfriend, Bradley Gaines’, of course!

Cool New Person

Aside from reconnecting with old friends and looking at attractive people I’ll never meet, mySpace never proved to be very interesting to me. For some reason or another, though, I spent an awful lot of time on it — it was almost hypnotic. Before I knew it entire afternoons would pass by just from viewing profiles and leaving comments.

I decided that if I were going to spend so much time on a phony community site, the least I could do is produce a phony person to participate in it. Bradley and I had a wonderful fake courtship before finally settling into our fake relationship. He was created to be the perfect fake man. He loved indie rock, history, surfing, video games and Jimmy Stewart films. If he were real, he no doubt would have been too good for me.

The name was selected because it sounded like that of a soap opera character. As for the images, a good friend of mine was kind enough to volunteer his likeness for the sake of my social experiment. If Bradley weren’t so attractive, it’s likely that the idea of a fake mySpace boyfriend would have died there. However, it turns out that people were fascinated by Bradley; so much so that he received the honor of being featured as a ‘Cool New Person’ on mySpace.com’s main page,

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this was the moment when Bradley’s days became numbered. You see, despite how proud I was of my own creation, I was never selected as a ‘Cool New Person.’ What about Bradley could be cooler or newer than me?

Bradley Gaines

Worse yet, Bradley was receiving solicitations for friends (and more!) while my own inbox collected dust. His profile mentioned countless times that he was a fictional creation in a very real relationship, yet his popularity only seemed to increase each time I logged in. Without sending out a single request or comment Bradley had hundreds of friends. I knew people in real life who still refused to ‘friend me’ even after discussing it with them at length. There was something very wrong here.

It became increasingly obvious that I was jealous of my own creation. For the sake of my online self-esteem, Bradley Gaines had to be put down. He died surrounded by his creator, his fake family, and many, many, many friends.

The Unreliable Narrator

January 6, 2007

I took a creative writing class for a couple of my first semesters in college. While I disagree with the idea of having someone teach you to be creative, I couldn’t argue with the results. During this time I completed a 40+ page short story titled ‘Ice Cream World,’ and any number of smaller writing assignments. This particular assignment, titled ‘The Unreliable Narrator,’ was supposed to help us convey information and truth through exposition and writing (as opposed to dialogue.) At the time I had fun with it, and felt it would be worth reposting here.

Of my four grandkids Joey is, and always has been my favorite — just don’t tell that to the others. A lot of grandparents always tell me that they can’t choose a favorite, they love each one equally and in a different way than the next. That is true, but you love a woman in a much different way than you would love a dog and forced to choose between the two it’s not a tough decision. My girls are beautiful, wonderful and the sweetest angels on God’s green Earth; and Joey’s little brother, Thomas… my daughter tells me he’s getting his degree in June.

But Joey, he’s like me at that age the way that he doesn’t have a lot going for him. He isn’t the smartest kid in the class, and he’s still a few years away from growing into that nose of his… he makes mistakes, and every day I’m thankful for him. The others are resentful of a helping hand from their Grandpa; I stop by the house every few days to check in on them and they treat me like a second-hand citizen. That’s just the way they act these days; everyone is in such a hurry to grow up and be mature, Joey was the only kid in the whole bunch.

He was getting a little too old for me to spend time with him the way we used to; fishing or watching a baseball game or taking him to the park. He didn’t care for those things anymore, it wouldn’t be too long before he had kids of his own to do those things with. Still, with the way their father had treated them I felt more like a parent than a grandparent on occasion, and the four of them loved me for that. Almost a century of living, and I was still taking care of my family. It’s what I love to do, and for an old man like me it felt good to have a part to play in their lives. I see far too many of my friends getting left behind their children who are always in too much of a hurry to take care of family. What I had was a blessing.

I asked the cleaning lady for help in getting the place in order. It wasn’t often that I had company, and even more uncommon when I had a party. With my wife out of town, the place had come to be a mess, and I didn’t want to embarrass my grandchildren when they came over; if the misses was around right now there wouldn’t be a single piece of trash in the whole complex.

Today was my birthday, “87 years young”, as they keep reminding me in those damn cards. Joey, Thomas and the girls came over to visit me today in the apartment; my wife Lucy was away visiting her ailing sister in Sioux City this was the first birthday in a long time that I can remember being without her. We were sitting around my table, enjoying some of the cake that they had brought for me and catching up on everyone when Joey noticed that my car keys were sitting on the table in front of him.

“Ready to finally hand over the Cadillac, Grandpa?” Joey asked in an antagonizing tone of voice, slowly pulling my silver bass key chain closer and closer.

“Not just yet, Joey.” I joked, “I haven’t even started taking that beauty around town.”

One of the girls stepped in, “You shouldn’t be driving around so much at your age, who’s going to take care of the house?”

“Your Grandmother’s a tough woman,” I replied, “Lord knows she never had a problem housekeeping while I was working for 45 years.”

There was a brief silence, the girls looked upset at what I had said. It was just like them; lately it seems like whenever I try to say anything they get frustrated.

“I’m sorry, darlins’. You know I don’t mean to raise my voice like that in front of the both of you.”

“…” Thomas always spoke softly, I had to ask him to repeat himself whenever he opened his mouth, “I want you to move in with me, Grandpa. Let me take care of you in my house.”

“Your new house isn’t even ready yet, Thomas,” I answered coldly, “And your wife isn’t gonna want your Grandmother and me parading around that small house all the time. We’re happy where we are.”

Joey stared me in the eyes, as if he were shocked, “Don’t you remember Grandpa?”

I shrugged it off at first, “If you are just going to insult an old man on his birthday you can leave. Don’t worry about the plates, I’ll get the cleaning lady to take care of it in the afternoon.”

“Are you talking about the Nurse?” Thomas asked loudly, for the first time I could recall he didn’t have to repeat himself.

“Oh my God,” The girls looked at the other nervously. Seeing them like that made even a veteran like me nervous.

“This isn’t your apartment in Laguna Hills.” Joey sighed, “This is an assisted living home. We moved you out of your apartment after Grandma died.”

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