Thursday, November 8, 2012

Two 4-Year-Olds Discuss Batman and Robin

Ben and Joe have taken a liking to Batman and all things Batman related.

This fascination came about in the last 4 months or so after they watched the Batman movie.

In their mind, this is the (only) Batman movie:

Batman: The Movie; copyright 1966.

Reminds me of my youthful days enjoying Batman. Reruns used to show on "The Family Channel" growing up. Somewhere in the 4th-6th grade range, my good friend John Juvan and I used to play Batman & Robin. We would hide in a small room or closet (some "secret" place) and pretend it was the Batcave. I made a Batcomputer out of cardboard.

I was usually Robin.

Fun to see the enjoyment being passed down to the next generation.

See how much you can interpret!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Walkerdale Tree

I'm not home every evening when the boys go to bed, but when I am, we have a little bit of a routine. After jammies and brushing teeth, Mommy steps out for a few minutes while I read a story to the boys. As soon as the story ends, we take just a couple minutes to have "Talk about one naughty or good thing" before Debbi comes back to sing their nighttime song.

This has been going for about a year now. It started really simple, like, I would ask them to say one thing that would be naughty, or one thing that would be good. An example early on may be, "If we don't push our brother, that would be a good thing!" Or, "If we dump out all the Legos, that would be naughty!"

Over the last 12 months, the stories they come up with for this time have become more and more complex. Usually they start with, "Talk about, if mommy says...." and then some story about mommy telling Ben and Joe (and often Titus and Joshua) that they need to go somewhere, and do something, and usually someone disobeys (the "naughty" part) or, occasionally, everyone obeys (a "good" thing). Then my job is to try my best to figure out what they just said and repeat it. Often, it's kind of convoluted and hard to understand. Then they say, "now YOU make one up, Daddy!" -- Mine are usually of the more simple variety.

So with that background, here is what came up tonight. It was Joe's turn to go first. This is my best effort transcription of what was said:


"Talk about if mommy said, "we need to go pick walkerdales." A walkerdale is a type of food that grows on trees. So mommy says, "we have to go in the big pit. And in the big pit is a tube that leads to The Famous Garden of Trees." When we get to The Famous Garden of Trees, we have to look for the Walkerdale tree - there is only one. And then Ben and me and Mommy go pick the Walkerdales off it. Then we put them in a bowl, and take them home and mash them up and eat them. That would be good, because everyone obeyed."


"Talk about if mommy said, "we all have to go to the big pit. And in the pit there are three tubes. And we're supposed to go in the second tube, which goes to a good place." And Ben and Joe obey, but Titus goes to the THIRD tube, and jumps in - that would be NAUGHTY. This is before Joshua was born. Talk about that, Daddy."

Joe: (follow-up question) "Is that tube the one that has fire?"
Ben - "Yep, it is."

By far the most elaborate "Talk about one naughty or good thing" yet.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Buddy

Sometimes (often right before I go to work, as I put my shoes on) I will sit at the bottom of the stairs, and I'll say, "do I have any buddies?" Joe & Ben know that's my cue that I'd like them to come sit with me for just a few brief moments before I head out. This has been a little tradition for about a year now.

Then I'll say in a silly voice (envision "Mater") - "You're my buddy!"

I did that today and had an epifany/flashback:

This was probably my subconscious inspiration all along. Note that although I never owned a "My Buddy," songs & jingles do stick with me for a very long time. It was probably lodged in the back of my brain for about 26 years. It's also weird to think that the kids in this commercial are probably about the same age as me.

Ben & Joe watched it and found it pretty entertaining.

(I also thought it would be funny to do a parody of "Kid Sister" with "Kit Fisto.")

Monday, September 3, 2012

G.I. Joe Walkie Talkies

Found these guys in my parent's basement last week --

I know I had these at least by 3rd grade (maybe before) because there was another student at Horace Mann that had the same ones. I think he only went to school there for a couple years. I want to say his name was Charlie, but I'm not sure on that.

Notice the very convenient (and safe for kids!) pull-out antenna. If I remember, they were functional, but only had a range of about 50 yards, so not all that practical for any of the secret missions that 3rd grade boys would need to have.

At some point the "Dole for President" sticker was added to the back of one unit. This must have been much later, as he ran in the 1996 election.

My wife has encouraged me many times to take a picture of something and then throw it away if it's "moderately sentimental . . ." and that's what I did here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"The Talk"

A few weeks ago, I decided that it was time to have "the talk" with my boys. They were starting to ask a lot of questions, and I felt like I was just trying to beat around the bush when answering them. After all, who wants to be dishonest with their children? I know, you're probably thinking, "aren't your kids a little young for that?" But even their church friends were starting to talk about it -- and I'd rather have them hear it from their own dad than from someone else.

I even bought a special book to make it easier to explain. So, Saturday before last, I sat them down and decided to tell them.

Yes, I decided to tell them that Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader are the same person.

Ben & Joe took it very well. We read through the book "The Story of Darth Vader." It's written on a very young level, and doesn't have any of the really scary pictures. They were very excited to learn what really happened to Anakin on the "volcano island" (this is what they call the planet Mustafar; not sure why).

I offered to let them watch the part of Episode III where Padme delivers the twins and the subsequent part where Luke & Leia are sent off to their new homes (By the way -- is it just me, or do Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru age horribly between the trilogies? I mean, they are probably mid-twenties at this point, and when we next see them 18 or so years later, they look in the late 60's to early 70's? I guess raising Luke was an ordeal). Don't worry, Grandmas, there is nothing graphic in there. Obviously, I skipped the part where he falls on a bed of hot lava rocks and ... you know.

Ben was really excited, but Joe had one of those moments where he thought something would be scary, even though it wasn't. So he hid upstairs and asked me to call him when the credits came on -- he really likes credits!

Ben: "Daddy, why does Padme die?"
Dad: "Um . . . because she's sad???"

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wedding Day Laundry

5-25-'01 ... our Wedding Day! [Insert Standard Mushy Comment Here]

Our wedding was in the evening, so I had no need to wake up particularly early that day. I had already moved into the Faith Apartment that Debbi & I would eventually be living in at 226 College Ave. in Ankeny.

I woke up that morning around 7:00 but was still kind of tired from hanging out with "the guys" the night before. I decided to start a load of laundry, and went down to the laundry room/utility closet and threw a load in the washer, and went back to my room and went back to sleep (there was only 1 washer and 1 dryer for the whole 8-unit apartment).

I was startled out of sleep about an hour-and-a-half later by a knock on the door, followed a few moments later by a more urgent sounding knock. When I answered the door, I recognized the girl at the door as another tenant in the building, but I didn't know her (she was about 2-3 years older than me, and not affiliated with FBBC in any way, just a "non college" couple renting).

She said, "Can you come downstairs and move your laundry over to the dryer? I need to get my wash started because I have a really busy day today."

I stood there for a couple moments thinking of all the things I could say to "zing" her . . . something like, "Oh, I'm so sorry... don't worry about me, my wedding isn't for a few hours . . ." Those of you who know me, however, know that when I first wake up I'm not really awake for about another half hour. So I just went downstairs (undoubtedly in a zombie-like manner) and switched the laundry without saying anything at all, and was just-enough awake to not be able to go back to bed. In hindsight, I wish I had said something, because this story isn't as interesting as I thought it would be when I began typing it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reminisce Your Age

A few days ago I was surfing YouTube, reminiscing as I occasionally do about cartoons, etc. (see prior article, here). By chance, I came across a video about Crystal Pepsi (if you're not sure what that is, see a summary here ).

The guy in the video was describing Crystal Pepsi from both a marketing point of view, and an experiential point of view. The thing that struck me as odd, however, is that the guy in the video seemed to be no more than 25 years old -- if I am estimating to the high end, and I think the video is no more than 1 year old.

If you're one of my high school friends, you may remember that odd/eventful day that a Pepsi truck parked in front of OHS, and every student got a free bottle of Crystal Pepsi. I emphasize "bottle" because that's all it was -- a bottle. A sealed, empty bottle (somewhere in my parent's house I think I still have it). I'm not sure what the thought there was -- maybe they weren't allowed to give out free pop at school? Maybe it was cheaper? Or maybe just a marketing ploy?

So, according to my research, there was only one year that I was both in High School and Crystal Pepsi was still being made, and that would have been Fall of 1993 -- my freshman year. That also means that the poster in the video was at most age 7 in 1993 -- 2nd grade. How much could a 2nd grader remember about a soft drink? That it existed, yes, certainly. Buying it at a gas station -- that is possible. But the marketing of it? The over-hypedness of it? Come on, there's no way you remember that. You may have read about it, researched it, heard about it, but that's probably all.

For some reason, that bothered me. I can't really explain it, but it obviously bothered other readers, too, as the most popular comment was one suggesting that the author was too young to have really experientially understood it.

We've all heard the saying "act your age;" I think there is also an unwritten rule that could be called "reminisce your age." Meaning this -- you need to be careful to distinguish between things you have experienced, and things you have just researched and have some degree of expertise in.

For example, I really like learning about the presidents. I was born in March of 1979, so I was alive during the Carter administration for about 1.75 years; but it would be a bit presumptive to say, "yeah, remember the Carter years? Man, "we" sure went through a rough patch there." Frankly, I didn't really understand much about politics during the Reagan or Bush 41 years either. I can write about those things from a point of view based on research, but not "memory," more than a few glimpses.

So I was thinking of things I genuinely do remember enough to understand -- or at least partially understand. And based on that, here are some things I would like to see if you remember along with me.

January 28, 1986 -- Challenger Disaster

At 10:38 AM (central) on this date, I was in Miss Kosman's 1st grade class at Horace Mann Elementary School. The small, grainy TV had been turned on only perhaps 5 minutes earlier so that we could watch teacher-turned-astronaut Christa McAuliffe teach a lesson as part of NASA's new "Teacher In Space" project. This is probably my earliest memory of a national event.

Now, of course I didn't remember the exact date and time, and I didn't remember the name of the teacher or the NASA mission. I didn't know or understand the cause and consequences until I read about it years later. But I do vividly remember that for several days beforehand, we were told that we would be watching a teacher teach a lesson of some kind from outer-space. Of course that would be memorable! I remember that when the shuttle exploded, we were all stunned and not exactly sure what had happened. Miss Kosman turned off the TV almost right away - probably trying to shield us from seeing something we shouldn't see - but it was clear from her reaction that something had gone terribly wrong. Several students were outwardly emotional/weepy. Oddly, I don't remember what happened next. I don't know if she gave us a "heart-to-heart" talk, or if she just ignored it and moved on to the next subject. Either way, can you imagine being a lower-elementary teacher in that situation?

1989-1990 - One-Hit-Wonders

During 4th grade, (the '88-'89 school year) my neighbor and friend Abe moved away. Roughly one year later, he came back to Ottumwa for a visit. I don't know why, but I distinctly recall being on the playground at Horace Mann, just the two of us (it must have either been summer or a Saturday), when he asked me, "Hey, have you heard about these two cool new music groups: M.C. Hammer and Vanilla Ice?" Of course, my parents never would have allowed me to own that kind of tape . . . nor did I really care to. (Abe also came back to visit for my kickin' 11th (or 12th?) birthday pool party at the "new" Super 8 in town. Our birthdays were both in March, I think.)

1991-1994 - Channel One

The '91-'92 school year was the first year that Channel One came to Ottumwa, at least to Evans Jr. High. Channel One was a 10-15 minute "news program" that students in grades 7-12 were forced to watch each morning during 1st period, in exchange for free TV's in each classroom (it was supported by commercial advertising during the program). Lisa Ling & Anderson Cooper were on during this era. I remember a lot of Pepsi commercials and Michael Jackson singing "Black or White." Also, in 7th grade I still remember doing the pledge of allegiance each morning in Mrs. Beisch's reading class (which was 1st period for me) right before (or after?) Channel One. I don't recall that in any subsequent years. [Note: even though I didn't graduate until '97, starting in 10th grade I had band 1st period, and we were exempted from watching it. That is why I listed the end year as '94.]

April 19, 1995 - Oklahoma City Bombing

It occurred around 9:00 AM, and Mr. Hansen, my 1oth grade History teacher, turned on the TV and we watched the news coverage of the happenings for the whole of 2nd period.

October 3, 1995 - O.J. Simpson Verdict

Early in 11th grade this time . . . the verdict was read at lunch time, and I had just walked into the basement cafeteria (I looked it up online, it was at 10:00 Pacific Time, which would have been noon our time). Someone - probably a school employee - had set up a TV along the south wall. Everyone I spoke with was shocked.

1996-97 (approx.) - SURGE

This time it was a Coca-Cola truck that parked in front of the High School one day, and we all got a free can of SURGE (full, this time). Yuck!

Obviously, I could go on with more, but now we're closing in on college, so that seems like a good stopping point. Please share your own memories with me in the comments below!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Julie Bigler (clap, clap, clap clap clap.)

OK, admit it -- 7 or 8 of you are singing it in your head right now.

For the rest of you: think of the popular chant at basketball games, "Let's go Falcons! (clap, clap, clap clap clap)" ["Falcons" could be replaced with any other two-syllable team name.]

I don't know very much about Julie Bigler. I do know that she is about the same age as me, give or take 2 years, and she played basketball for some high school team in Southeast Iowa -- perhaps Fairfield, Keokuk, or etc. She was fairly good at girls' basketball, as I recall.

So, in high school, basketball pep band was a lot of fun. Really - a lot lot lot of fun. You'll have to take my word for it. In one attempt to "get in the heads" of the opponents - or, maybe just be goofy - we started chanting "JULIE BIGLER!" during a game.

Well, Ottumwa tended to play the same teams fairly often. Probably a year or so after the chant was invented, another game with Julie's team came up. The girls' game ended and all the members of said team came out and sat behind the boys' team during the boys' game (girl-boy double headers were common). Someone dared me me go say something to Miss Bigler. One fellow band member dared me to go kiss her (I think) -- of course, I wasn't that bold, so I negotiated down to a high-five if they would give me some money. (One of those, "I'll give you $x if you can convince Julie Bigler to give you a high-five!" things.)

So, during a break of some kind, I mustered up my courage and did it. I walked up to the girls' team from the visiting school, and asked Julie if she would give me a high-five. She briefly hesitated, but then I just told her it was for a dare. She gave in, we had the high-five and I went back to the pep band balcony [where my peers were viewing my every move] and collected my $22.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Most Memorable TV Theme Songs (From Childhood)

Remember theme songs?

You know, back in the day when a song played at the beginning of each episode? Some had words, others were just melodic, but they seem to be disappearing. Now you mostly just have a 3-second splash of the logo perhaps with a guitar riff, etc.

Below I have listed my top 10 most memorable TV theme songs from Childhood. Now, you should note that when I say "most memorable" I don't mean "best show." Far from it, actually, these are just songs that stuck in my head and I liked.

[Disclaimer: To sample each song, it links to a website I found called "Television Tunes," that plays the song but it looks like the purpose is to sell you cell-phone ring tones of the songs. I know nothing about this site other than that -- use at your own risk.]

(The best way to hear each song is probably to right-click on the link and then open in a new window or tab. Just my suggestion.)

10. The Adventures of David the Gnome

I know, I know, this probably seems like a very weird show to put on any top-whatever list; it was a hoky show that was (at best) mediocre animation. However, for whatever reason I easily remembered the theme even to this day, and I kind of liked it. Perhaps it was just the complete and utter fantasty nature of it -- pure escapism: "Trolls, and witches, and fairy kings (??), birds that talk and fish that sing."

9. Magnum, P.I.

I really don't have all that many memories of the show itself, but the theme is an undeniable classic. As a kid, who wouldn't want to go on the kind of adventures that Tom Selleck  experienced once per week? He had access to fast cars, boats, helicopters, cool sunglasses, etc. Not to mention an awesome moustache. Of course the fact that this was a pep-band song in high school helped, too.

8. G.I. Joe

If you were born between roughly 1974 and 1986, this should require no explanation. G.I. Joe was the classic male cartoon: Guns, lasers, jets, tanks, good guys vs. bad guys, and the complete toy line to go along with it. I liked shows with "lots of named characters," and this one was one of my favorites. The theme was not as good as the show itself, but still "good enough." (Of the two different themes, I remember the "Cobra the Enemy" version more than the "Cobra and Destro" version.)

7. Airwolf

Like Magnum, P.I., here is a show where I have very few memories of the show itself, but enough to know that I thought it was awesome. As I recall, it was basically about a rogue seudo-government agent with a helicopter who went around doing good in a general sense. The awesome airborne helicopter combat sequences made it for me at the age of 5-7 or so. I have gone back and watched some clips of the show on YouTube, and in retrospect it was pure 80's hokum. The theme, however, with it's synthesized flugelhorn goodness, stands the test of time.

6. Matlock

Although Andy Griffith holds heroic status in the mind of many "mature citizens" in his Matlock role, I didn't really care for the show itself. The theme song, however, was pure genius. I often remember watching the theme song and then changing the channel. If I ever became a lawyer, I would want them to play this song every time I entered the courtroom.

5. Heathcliff

Heathcliff: the generic equivalent of Garfield. The show was about a feisty housecat and his misadventures in his neighborhood. Also featured were the alleycats - a rag tag band of 5 (?) cats led by a cat named Riff-Raff who lived in a junkyard. The show was OK, but the theme was very memorable: partly for the tune, but even more so for the words.

It was one of those songs, as a kid, that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make sense of the words. Here is MY version of what I thought the lyrics were in the middle part, flowed by a link that demonstrates the dilemma:

"There's a race to be on top,
The competition doesn't stop
Mixing with the ladies there,
Me and Johnny never dare."

"The gang will race a bridge,
And no one can deny-y-y-y,
To make the mystery,
And always have an alibi."

4. Ducktales

If push came to shove, I would say that Ducktales was my favorite cartoon of all time. The theme was very memorable too.

3. Knight Rider

When I was quite young, I had a Knight Rider Big Wheel. It was the bomb, needless to say. For this reason and others, I thought the show was cool. Also, at some point we (my family) saw the Knight Rider car, KITT. (Whether of not it was the "actual" car, I don't know, but it looked the part, and had the unique red running light across the front bumper. I also remember it had a cord - plugged into an outlet. I think this was at the State Fair or something.) I think most of us can easily get the song stuck in our heads. It was a very memorable song, and deserves third place status.

2. The Mysterious Cities of Gold

Not only are the cities mysterious, for a long time in my mind the show itself was mysterious. I always had a memory that as a child I saw a show about cities of gold. In my mind, I was 7, 8, or 9 roughly. I remember there was an anime type show (before any of us knew what anime was) about three children whom ran around South America looking for lost cities while being constantly chased by dumb villains. Along the way, they used a giant solar-powered flying bird and a solar-powered ship. It was only on for one season. It was one of very few shows I remembered that had an actual "end" to it -- eventually they find one of the cities.

Until the rise of YouTube, Wikipedia, etc., I wasn't even sure that my memory was true. Did this show really exist? The only reassurance I had was that one time my friend Brian Jackson told me that he remembered the same thing on Nickelodeon.

Then I saw this:

Memories flooded back in a bizarre and slightly emotional "It's real!" type way. That theme is both haunting and epic. I dare you to find anything that good in the last 15 years. I'm very anxious to get the set on DVD, once it becomes halfway affordable. 1st vs. 2nd place was a VERY close call. But . . .

1. M.A.S.K

M.A.S.K. - which stands for Mobile Armored Strike Kommand (yes, "Kommand" with a "K" - I suppose M.A.S.C. wouldn't hold the same ring) - was a T.V. show created for the sole purpose of selling toys. It was basically a show that took good elements from other shows like G.I. Joe and Transformers. Remember above how I mentioned that I tended to like shows that had a lot of named characters? Well, this one not only had a lot of named characters but also had a lot of named vehicles: vehicles that transformed into ... [wait for it...] a different vehicle. A jeep turns into a boat, a motorcycle turns into a helicopter, a helicopter turns into an airplane, a car turns into a flying car, a truck turns into a more awesome truck with guns, etc.

The theme song itself was a combination of both epic storytelling and electronic coolness. Undoubtedly it was the "wah wah wah wah" sound effect that pushed this over the edge. Another thing that sells it is that the song perfectly explains the concept of the show. There is very little ambiguity. Here are those nifty words:

Masked Crusaders!
Working overtime; fighting crime - fighting crime!
Secret Raiders!
Who will neutralize as soon as they arrive (at the site).

Tracker's gonna' lead the mission,
And Spectrum's got the supervision!

Is the mighty power that can save the day,
No one knows what lies behind the masquerade,
Always riding hot on Venom's trail.
Come see the lazerade,
Fire Away!

Tracker = Matt Tracker, the leader of the good guys
Spectrum = the technology that allows their masks to work
Venom = the bad guys
Lazerade = an impressive show of lasers (I guess...)]

Honorable Mention: Look these up on your own.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Gummi Bears
The Super Mario Bro.'s Super Show
The Real Ghostbusters
Bionic Six
Get Along Gang

Please share your memories along with me!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Joe's Tongue Whistle Video

Here is another video of the boys from 11 months ago (Feb. 2011) that didn't make the cut for Debbi's blog. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My First Election - Not Really

The presidential election of 1996 ended up pitting Bob Dole vs. Bill Clinton. The Republican primary/caucus season that year featured some very colorful characters along with just a few specific memories:

Steve Forbes (AKA: Teeve Torbes)

Phil Gramm (I had his t-shirt)

Bob Dornan (who said, "We've never had a president named 'Bob'")

Arlen Specter (who later became a democrat)

Lamar Alexander (who played the piano and had his catchy "ABC - Alexander beats Clinton" phrase; flannel shirts)

Dick Lugar (who ran one TV add that seemed to imply that he would personally beat up terrorists)

Morry Taylor (I ride a motorcycle!)

And also Pat Buchanan -- the focus of this story.

Somehow I got on the mailing list for the Buchanan campaign. I got several postcards, letters and answering machine messages from them that season, encouraging me to vote for Pat.

The problem?

I was still in high school. The election was in November of '96 and I didn't turn 18 until March of 1997.

I finally got up the courage to answer the phone on one of the calls they made. I even remember which phone, it was the mauve colored phone in the basement (you know, back when phones had cords and stuff). I explained this to the volunteer who answered, and I remember she was kind of speechless. She ended up just saying, "Oh." and politely ending the call.