29 April 2007

Idyll's swansong: 1971

I might be on to something here. My "top 10" list of memorable songs from 1970 has led, naturally, to compiling such a list from the following year. I didn't know it as of yet, but 1971 would be a notable year also for reasons less pleasant than it being just another carefree romp-through-the-calendar for little Talmadge Gleck, age 6. I didn't see the curve in the road ahead, and what the next turn would bring me.

But for now, let's enjoy 1971 and everything she brought with her on "Big 10" WVOV and "1550, Way Radio" (WAAY) in Huntsville, et pluribus amplitudus modulatibus topfourtyus al:

NEVER CAN SAY GOODBYE / The Jackson Five
It might not have been Michael Jackson's shining moment (I cast my vote toward "Just look over your shoulder, honey!!! OOOOOOH!!!!!!!!" from "I'll Be There"), however the song brings to mind the sandpile I had in the backyard of our house on 142 Meadow Drive. Dad had recently put up a chainlink fence for the yard (it's still there, too!).

I don't think you even have to guess for very long just what I built in sandpiles ... just ask if you're curious how I made the road signs. ;-)

RIDERS ON THE STORM / The Doors
LOVE HER MADLY / The Doors
One of the earliest memories I have in my life is of my grandfather, Big John, taking me to Kmart every time we made visits to Birmingham. This was at the dawn of big-box discount retailing ... Sam Walton had begun something he called "Wal-Mart", but it was far from expanding outside of his home base of Arkansas. Discount stores in my neck of the woods included Kmart, Gaylord's, Woolco, Kress, G. C. Murphy, and W. T. Grant. Imagine that -- half a dozen options in most given places for discount shopping. Half a dozen.

Kmart to my eyes trumped any present-day Supercenter. They were that magnificent to my kindergarten-scholar self. And the toy section ... [swoon] ....

In any event, Huntsville lacked a Kmart. And I wondered out loud more than once just what was keeping our nearby city from getting one. (You know, kinda like I bitch and moan today about there not being a freakin' IHOP up where we live....) And in the Summer of '71, I could wonder no more. Kmart was coming to town. A big store was being built on South Memorial Parkway.

So what does this have to do with The Doors, you ask? Well, you know I begged, pestered, pleaded, cajoled and otherwise gently suggested Mom to take me there when it opened up. One of the first places I ended up was -- surprise, surprise! -- in the record department.

A track off the current Doors album, L.A. Woman, was playing. It was "Riders on the Storm." I stood there, positively entranced. What I also didn't know was, another song which I'd heard from the radio was also on that same LP: "Love Her Madly." LHM is one of those brings-back-the-carefree-times kind of songs. But "Riders" grabbed me. Despite having been burned to a crisp on "classic rock" stations, I still love the song. Especially the end.

The visual image I had of the song makes me grin even today: I remember seeing the name "RYDER" on a truck. So, the mental image this 6-year-old conjured up was of a couple of those rental trucks driving down the interstate in a pouring rain.

THE STORY IN YOUR EYES / The Moody Blues
For much of 1971, Dad was moved to what was called a "satellite store" which Sears operated in the south part of Huntsville, in a strip called Haysland Square. Visiting Dad at work meant a trip south on Memorial Parkway, complete with its busy commerce, neon signs, and joyous roadside sprawl, clutter and mesmerizing wonder.

One lasting memory I have is hearing "Story" playing on WVOV as we're going south on the parkway. I have to say it again: songs like these sounded better on AM. Especially hearing it on a station like WVOV. You had to have been there. AM radios today aren't very well made. The tuners sound like crap. AM stations aren't as well-maintained as they used to be (can you say "catch 22"?). Trust me when I say AM has far higher fidelity and a fuller sound than it seems with today's tuners.

And bass - when properly engineered, processed and equalized - shines on AM. Not FM.

Case in point:

ONE FINE MORNING / Lighthouse
The opening bass notes you have to hear on a well-preserved aircheck recording of an AM station in order to appreciate. Bass and brass at their finest. This Canadian band did not get the respect they should've down here ... a couple of other Lighthouse follow-ups are nearly as good: "Pretty Lady" and especially the trippy "Sunny Days."

OFM gives me warm thoughts of starting first grade. I was home-schooled when it wasn't cool -- a woman ran a small school out of a converted garage. Dyer was her name, I recall. She even had a playground in her backyard. Most of my kindergarten classmates were here, too. The house was a block away from ours, so I walked to and from school.

SMILING FACES SOMETIMES / Undisputed Truth
One more song with a great bass line. Latter-day Motown soul at its heaviest. When the song was a hit single and being played on WVOV, WAAY, et al, the mental snapshot I call up is yet another joyride with Gran Lera. Neither of us paid the lyrics any attention, it seemed, but she smiled real big when that line came up.

IT DON'T COME EASY / Ringo Starr
Our vacations were spent in Sarasota, staying at the marvelous '50s-era Coquina on the Beach motel. It's still there, too. A two-diamond AAA dinosaur proudly clinging to its historical roots on Lido Beach. The trip was always accompanied by Gran Lera and my other grandparents in Birmingham. This was a family affair, and I have nothing but wonderful memories from these trips.

1971 was especially notable because we made a detour: to visit Silver Springs ... home of the glass bottom boats. I picked up a brochure while there, and I still have it too. At the time it was owned by ABC - yes, the network - and there's a big ABC logo in the corner, complete with late '60s era red/blue/green letters.

And on this trip I heard Ringo's latest smash several times. And today, I think of Sarasota '71 when it comes up. More fun times.

BLUE MONEY / Van Morrison
"Domino" was memorable in itself, however its (lesser-charting) follow-up is what got seared onto my brain in 1971. It peaked in the 20s on Billboard, but who cares?? It was catchy as hell, with all those "doo-doos" ... and the short trumpet notes, too.

Long before my peers were discovering music, I was already beginning a long and fruitful musical love for Van the Man. I'd even buy an album of him covering old country tunes.

Never mind, I already did.

I JUST WANT TO CELEBRATE / Rare Earth
Another song calling to mind the busy Memorial Parkway ... hot time, Summer in the city!
I loved the beginning of it ... but for me I lived for the middle bridge, and its wall-of-sound percussion crescendo. It has to be heard on the original MOTOWN 45 ... not the longer version one tends to hear most nowadays. And, one more time with feeling: AM = yay! FM = boo!

INNER CITY BLUES (MAKE ME WANNA HOLLER) / Marvin Gaye
And I again close with a dark memory. Not a bad one so much as, just ... dark. After my grandfather died in 1970, newly-widowed Gran Lera was faced with a large house, a large EMPTY house. She made the (I'm sure painful) decision to sell it and move to something smaller. Gran Lera was still working for NASA in Huntsville, and otherwise had a fulfilling life in Madison. I remember the moving van (it was a Mayflower) emptying my beloved grandmother's house and Dad's childhood home. We called it "The Big House" (its 'official' name today is Pride Bashore, and it sits at the end of Martin Street).

Gran Lera was moving to a smaller house on Morningside Drive. This song seemed to be going through my head at the time she was moving. I still felt her love and the many weekends I spent with her were still wonderful. But something seemed missing.

But "missing" was only the beginning. For Dad, who'd maxed out in his climb with Sears in Huntsville, got his sought-after promotion from Division Manager to Merchandise Manager. Elsewhere.

On December 19, 1971 - fittingly enough, it was Gran Lera's 52nd birthday - we left Madison as a moving van (Red Ball, not Mayflower) followed us to Tupelo, Mississippi.

Unfortunately, the moving van forgot to load something: my happy childhood.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "From a PAMS Life to Pepper" Gleck

26 April 2007

610, 690, 1000, 1080, 1400, 1550 ... 1970!

How often do you have those times when you get "into" a song, to the point where it runs through your head half the time, you think about it in the shower, you pull it up on the MP3 player a little more often than usual?

Sometimes I think my life is just made of those times. Like a couple of radio stations I remember back in the day, which pulled a certain section of their "gold" (oldies) library and rotated only those titles, and the next week shelved those and put another batch into the control room. I have visions of beat-up old AP teletype boxes with the gold titles arranged within reach of the jock. Those long boxes of continuous paper for the old clack-clack-clack teletype machines were perfectly tall and wide enough to hold 45-RPM singles when their supply of paper was exhausted.

But I digress.

Lately I've had two (2) songs in the teletype paper box of my mind's control room. And they're both from the same time period, 1970. Thinking further about that year brings to mind some other truly marvelous hit singles. 1970 was a magical year for music all around. And it was the year when I really came of age musically. Most people don't become active consumers of music, i.e. buying singles, albums, etc., until well into grade school, if not middle school; however I was paying close attention to what came out of the radio at a very young age. My earliest musical memories came in 1969 - "Aquarius" by The Fifth Dimension, and the wonderful "Venus" by Shocking Blue are two of the first songs I remember hearing.

However, 1970 was the benchmark year. I was just old enough to recall The Beatles' last two singles on the radio: "Let It Be" and "Long and Winding Road." 1970 was the year I 'came of age.' I turned five, and started kindergarten that fall, as a member of the "first Sesame Street class." We were supposedly the guinea pigs of how effective that new ETV show was on kids entering school for the first time.

1970 was a good year. And Huntsville, Alabama circa 1970 was an awesome place to listen to the radio. Two native top-40 stations: WAAY 1550 and WVOV 1000 "Big 10" .... WVOV was my favorite of the two. It was, perhaps, the best-engineered station in Alabama. The audio was fantastic, and even my five-year-old self noticed how different it sounded.

But wait, there was more. From our paradise of nearby Madison, one could get a plethora of top-40: WKAC 1080/Athens ... WMSL 1400/Decatur ... and the two Birmingham rockers made their presence known in Madison County, Alabama, as well: WVOK "The Mighty 690" and some other station at 610 on the dial. The call letters escape me. ;-)

Six -- count 'em -- SIX succulent radio stations playing the hit songs of the day. I was most partial to WVOV and WSGN. World-class radio in a place like Alabama. Who'd have thunk?

But what about the songs??!!, I can hear you asking. Get to the point. Stop that annoying DJ chatter, shut your cakehole and play some friggin' records!!!

Yeah, 1970 was a bountiful year for music. Here are 10 larger-than-life pop hits which formed the first real 'soundtrack' for little five-year-old Talmadge Gleck. I remember them all, and the moods they each created.

FM doesn't do them justice, and I'm afraid stereo diminishes their mythical qualities. These puppies were best consumed on AM radio:

RIDE CAPTAIN RIDE / Blues Image
LOVE OR LET ME BE LONELY / Friends of Distinction
These are the aforementioned two songs I've been "into." The opening keyboard sounds of "Ride" are like foreplay to a 3-1/2 minute orgasm. It was a textbook "one hit wonder"; whatever happened to Blues Image, anyway?

And every time I hear the soulful gradeur of "Love or Let Me Be Lonely", my mind goes back to an idyllic time, whether in Gran Lera's car going to Shoney's Big Boy Drive-In, across from The Mall, or riding with Mom over to Sears in Heart of Huntsville Mall, to visit Dad at work.

TIGHTER, TIGHTER / Alive and Kicking
The trumpet climax in the song's hook catapults me to a trip down University Drive as it looked in 1970 ... complete with Roy Rogers Roast Beef, the 72 Drive-In, the Sheraton Motor Inn, and out toward The Monrovian Restaurant. Are we going to see Dad at work?? Going up to Monte Sano?? Or where would we be eating tonight??

O-O-H CHILD / The Five Stairsteps
The Five Stairsteps, incidentally, were the Jackson Five before The Jackson Five were The Jackson Five. Both were sets of five brothers guided by their fathers. Stairsteps came from Chicago, where of course we know nearby Gary, Indiana produced Tito, Randy, etc., etc., Michael, LaToya and that other rat, Ben. "O-o-h Child" speaks for itself. It's magic. It's fantastic musicianship. It's the very essence of s-o-u-l.

VEHICLE / Ides of March
This one I associate more with trips down to Birmingham to see my other grandparents. The interstates weren't yet open in the 'Ham, so all north-south traffic had to fight 20th Street and 21st Street through downtown. Crossing either street's viaducts over the railroad tracks bisecting the city center, and their respective views, is the "music video" which accompanies this Blood, Sweat, & Tears Ides of March hit. Frankly, I'm surprised BS&T didn't sue for outright plagiarism! (Ides lead singer Jim Peterik would later go on to be part of Survivor. This group was his vehicle to stardom and a striped cat's optic nerves).

SPIRIT IN THE SKY / Norman Greenbaum
Maybe the first "contemporary Christian" song ever recorded. For related reasons, I suppose, this song brings to mind sweet Sundays in the little railroad town of Madison, with its quirky street names: Short St., Shorter St., Pension Row and Buttermilk Alley.

Just try to resist that guitar hook. I dare ya.

DIDN'T I (BLOW YOUR MIND) / The Delfonics
There was something profoundly entrancing about soul music in 1970. Case in point. Another song I can hear on the WVOV of my mind as I drink a Double Cola with a bag of Tom's Peanuts while on a nice joyride. I look over at Gran Lera as she flashes one of her trademark big smiles, crooked teeth and all. I miss that.

MA BELLE AMIE / Tee Set
My Beautiful Amy, I'm in love with you??? I think that's how "Ma Belle Amie" translates (or am I completely off? Help, anyone??). Tee Set was part of a curious mini-Dutch invasion of pop music in the 1969-70 time frame. "Venus" by Shocking Blue was another, as was "Little Green Bag" by George Baker Selection. The first time I heard this, we were in the parking lot of what was then the Huntsville Public Library. My eyes were focused on the terrace to the right of the building.

It's funny what a five-year-old mind can recall.

REFLECTIONS OF MY LIFE / Marmalade
But not all memories from 1970 are happy ones. As Marmalade (another one-hit-wonder) was heard all over the Tennessee Valley radio dial, we were making increasingly frequent trips to nearby Decatur. Granddaddy Ray was in the hospital, dying. It seems fitting for a song of this mood to be associated with those short drives down Highway 20 through Mooresville and over the Helen Keller Memorial Bridge into Decatur.

And trips to Decatur meant going back to Madison, of course. "Reflections" focuses my mind's eye on a giant billboard which used to be a landmark on Hwy. 20 for years, for the Alabama Cattlemen's Association. It had the words "BEEF" in giant red letters, with a cutout of a big-ass slab of sirloin steak, garnished on a plate on the billboard's corner. Mmmmm, steeeeeeeak.....

Then there was the water tower at Greenbrier Road. Seeing it meant Madison was next. Home was near.

1970 meant a big loss for both my father and grandmother. Yet for me, a sheltered little boy oblivious to the bad, they were enchanting times.

The enchantment would last just one more year, before Sears offered Dad a promotion, a bump in salary, and a new location: Tupelo.

"And so dear friends, you'll just have to carry on.
The dream is over." --John Lennon

All too often I've wondered what life would've been like had we stayed in Madison and not moved to Mississippi.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "142 Meadow Drive" Gleck

21 April 2007

Vanity puzzler

Can you make heads or tails of this?

PSYNS

I was a bit stumped myself .... but I (finally) figured it out. How about you?

Ciao for niao

--Talmadge "Puzzlemaster" Gleck

20 April 2007

One more reaction for the woodpile

I'm only now able to make some sense out of my own reactions to the Virginia Tech massacre earlier this week. As with anyone else with shards of decency, I mourn the loss of students, of professors, but most of all I mourn what has now become of these kids' college life. I remember back to my own college years ... after a freshman year "at home" attending a community college in Hot Springs, Ark., I hit the ground running for my sophomore year by going off to Arkansas State in Jonesboro. It was, and is, well-known for its Radio-TV program, so that's where I went.

It was one of the best things I ever did. I met some great people along the way, and was privileged to attend a university that truly was not a cliquish, stuck-up, greek-driven culture. No matter who you were in life, how much of a pathological loser you thought yourself to be, there was a group of people at A-State to take you in, as glad to have you as you are to have them. I dare say one had to go out of their way to be an outcast at Arkansas State University.

1984-1987 were among the best years of my life. My college years. Full of fun, full of frolic, full of worries (exams), full of stress (grades) -- full of everything which comes with an idyllic college existence, set to a soundtrack of noisy, crackling Mantovani LPs (KASU).

I can't help but imagine what it would've been like had such a mass-murder taken place in Twin Towers ... or Kays Hall ... Delta Hall ... Arkansas Hall ... or University Hall. What if some punk burst into a classroom in Wilson Hall or the Communications/Education building to plug a professor he, she or it (yeah, IT) hated.

Those poor students. This will stay with them, I'm sure. How could it not? This time last week, it was just another day at VT. Another building block for the edifice of memories. 'Fraid not; a terrorist (call a spade a spade) took care of any of those silly notions.

Ahhhh, but not before he hit the post office between outbursts to mail his package to NBC.

Inside every terrorist is a fool wishing to cut into the line for American Idol. Same ego type. Wants their 15 minutes of fame 15 minutes ago.

And our mass media -- yes, even Pox News -- ate it up like fried chicken on a buffet. More on that shortly.

Other thoughts?
  • Unlike nearly a decade ago with Columbine, this took place on a university campus. This means the most dreaded of creatures rears its head: UNIVERSITY POLITICS. My wife works at a college. My previous job was at a college. College administrators, I'm here to tell you, are down there with crabgrass, cockroaches and Clear Channel. Always ready to second-guess, to find somewhere else to point the blame so it doesn't go anywhere near the administration building. The abbreviation CYA, I'm convinced, originated on a university campus.

  • Said administrators are going to start scapegoating, to stave off the inevitable mobs of worried parents. "What are YOU doing to protect MY child?" To the outside, any kind of 'feel-good', 'warm and fuzzy' approach to keep parents from sending their kids to other universities. On the inside, hell for university employees micromanaged to death in carrying out these (often unfunded) mandates.

  • I have to wonder how Troy Not-State University is handing this. I fear this will revive a dormant idea its chancellor had in the mid '90s: blocking off all entrances to the campus except for two (both ends of University Drive). Never mind that VT's killer was a resident student; facts tend to get in the way of irrational thought.

  • Meanwhile, I'll bet Troy is puffing itself out, boasting about how such a thing would never happen on their campus. Earth to Troy State: That could happen anywhere -- especially at a place like TSU, where a deeply-rooted greek 'caste' system defines college life. If you're not in a fraternity or sorority, you are a lost outsider. For over 10 years I saw it.

  • People are pointing fingers at Virginia Tech, accusing them of delays in warning other students. I say this is a pile of thoroughbred feces. E-mail might be the most efficient way of communicating with the university community short of Paul Revere-esque running through hallways ... however not everybody checks their e-mail first thing in the morning. Some people (ahem)me(ahem) used to sleep in as close to class time as possible. Five minutes to cop a quick shower, seven minutes to run - yes, run - over to the Communications building, meant being able to sleep as late as 740 AM to catch an 8:00 class.

  • Some students were asleep at the time the shootings occurred. Y'see, it is possible to have your first class at, say, 10:00 or even (dream on) 11.

  • Did it occur to these armchair-quarterbacks that 20 years -- hell, TEN in many places -- there was no such thing as student e-mail accounts??!! So lay off VT. The ugly truth is, sometimes people have to fend for themselves.

  • And, just as I feared, a new debate on gun control has been ignited. I've always been anti-gun control (what part of "second amendment" don't people understand?). The redneck phrase "If guns were outlawed, only outlaws would own guns." is dead-on true. What if some of those students had guns of their own, thus the ability to defend themselves? Some of 'em might've been able to plug that bastard. Result: a death toll of fewer than 32. This isn't the gun's fault. It's the person pulling the trigger.

  • Back to NBC for a moment. They sent the package to the FBI (after, of course, making copies for themselves). Good for them. As for disseminating this info, it was not an easy call for the network to make. To have not broadcast any of it would've opened NBC up to charges of censorship. They opted to air portions. But in doing so, they clearly overdid it. Ergo, this terrorist was built up into a supreme martyr, giving him everything he wanted.

    "Do you want to see Mr. Kia's manifesto again? LET'S TAKE A LOOK! Blood On the Quad: The Virginia Tech Tragedy ... brought to you by Texxon. Life goes on, and Texxon is there. Because 31 people would have wanted it that way."

  • Why the need for "local angles"? Why did a Memphis TV station send crews to Virginia?? C'mon, people, that's overkill. Mention the fact that however many students were from the area, and leave it at that.

  • Why the need for voyeur journalism? I hate how TV networks rush grieving family members before the camera, where they'll be asked trite questions and we'll get to see them all cry before a national audience. I get very uncomfortable when such personal feelings are aired out before the entire country -- world, even. As I see it, crying and grieving are private emotions. Obviously, the networks and the people who watch them don't think so. God help this country. "If it bleeds, it leads. Does she grieve? Don't let her leave!"

  • Don Henley summed it up well in his 1982 hit song "Dirty Laundry."

  • This is why I do not get my news from the television.

  • Talmadge to media: Go home. Let these people grieve among themselves. God knows they've been through more in a week than most during their entire lives.

  • Here's a doozy of a what-if: had Don Imus made his infamous comment a week later, it would've probably gone unnoticed. Rutgers' basketball team would be just another bunch of girls playing roundball. Imus would still have a job. It sucks to shoot off ones' mouth on a slow news week.
And that's it for now ... I have another disturbing fear about this, something bigger than all of us, but it deserves a separate post.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Nobody deserves that kind of hell" Gleck

17 April 2007

Technicolor travel, remembered

"Everything looks worse in black and white" --Paul Simon, "Kodachrome"

Danger, Will Robinson: Talmadge is fixin' to have a road geek eruption!! ("fixin'" -- there's that 35% Dixie talk for ya)

I'll preface my treatise with a simple question: If given the choice, which would you rather have guiding you on our highways.......

This, your basic regulation U.S. highway shield?
Or THIS?
Seraphim's probably thinking, "Oh no. There he goes, bitching and moaning about those damned colors again!"

The 'colors' of which I speak are the late, lamented Florida U.S. highway shields. Other states experimented with colors in the 1950s -- Arizona tried it for a short while with directions (northbound routes = red; south = green; west = blue; east = ???), Connecticut used colored
shields for a time, U.S. routes within the District of Columbia were said to have been color-coded prior to the 1960s, and even Mississippi experimented with color. Roadways within many cities had colored shields. Tupelo did. And it shouldn't surprise you that I remember 'em: US 45 = green. US 78 = red. US 278 = blue. Miss. 6 = yellow.


















ROTTING RELIC IN MISSISSIPPI ...
Downtown Greenwood [
credit]

It's been said that the arrival of the urban interstate made the whole color business obsolete. Other states gave up and went monochrome. However, FLORIDA took the ball and ran with it, making an institution out of paint-by-numbers navigation. The Sunshine State began putting up colored shields in 1956, and used their system for more than 30 years. Florida's highway department even mentioned this fact on their official road maps: "For your convenience, U.S. highways are marked with distinctive colors designating each route."

And roadgeeks like myself ate it up, hue by glorious hue. It meant something special. Seeing the colored route signs - above all else, even the billboards for tourist traps - meant one thing: YOU'RE IN FLORIDA! When we made Summer trips to Florida during my growing up years (Sarasota, mostly), seeing the green US-27 shield and especially the beautiful blue US-90 marker were all my eyes needed to see. And my heart would race when I-75 ran out at Tampa (back in the stone age, ya know), and we picked up the Tamiami Trail. US-41 was the highway, and her color was orange. Sarasota and paradise at the Coquina On The Beach were near!!!

Dorothy followed yellow brick roads. Florida went her one better: travelers could follow the yellow shields. Or blue. Or green. Red. Orange. Intersections in Florida had more color than Joseph and his amazing dream coat.

So ... what happened? It was simple as our federal gumment. There's the small matter of a publication called the MUTCD. I'm sure Oprah will recommend it someday. Kate/Susan might even consider it for her "Lit Chicks" group -- just in case they need an insomnia remedy.

It's the (M)anual of (U)niform (T)raffic (C)ontrol (D)evices, and it spells out -- right down to size, color and shape -- regulations for those unassuming sheets of metal bolted to posts. In 1956, states were given far more leeway in designing road signage. By the '80s, as with other facets of government, Uncle Sam became a road sign micromanager.

Florida's colors were now in violation of federal law. Roadside contraband. The state could continue to post them, but such flagrantly colorful insubordination would cause the Feds to take away their allowance. Lose the colors, or elsein' we'll take away your highway money.

"Talk back to me young man, and I'll ground you."

Florida had little choice but to sell their stock in Sherwin-Williams. Black and white shields started going up in the early '90s. Today, there aren't many colored markers left. They're mostly on isolated urban stretches or in forgotten crevices of rural areas.

Finding a rare surviving specimen of shieldus pigmentibus today is quite thrilling for persons of my ilk. Back in 2004, when Seraphim and I were attending a family reunion of hers south of Bainbridge, Ga., I took a short trip down to Chattahoochee, Fla. to procure some Lotto tickets (the reunion venue was just miles from the Florida line). As I drove into the Sunshine State and approached Highway 90, I saw a blue shield. I felt like Marlin Perkins. Hell, if Jim Fowler were with me, I'd have given him my ratchet set and had him take it down as a souvenir -- while, of course, I told my friends about the latest Mutual of Omaha insurance policy.

I returned to the reunion, and evidently I had a smile on my face or some happy expression. My wife said, "Either you won big on a scratch-off, or you saw a colored sign."

Seraphim knows me too well.

If the colors pique any curiosity, here's somewhere to go and kill some time.

Otherwise, in the words of Marvin Gaye, we've come to the end of our road.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Primordial Polychromasia" Gleck

16 April 2007

Bet y'all'd like th'way I tawk....

Your Linguistic Profile:
60% General American English
35% Dixie
0% Midwestern
0% Upper Midwestern
0% Yankee

Oleomargarine

(in the words of my late friend Steve F.)

1) GOOD BUSINESSFOLK: More tales of wonderful Rincon customer service ... the rental place where we "hired" (as they say in Australia) the tiller for Seraphim's garden -- initially for half a day, but then called 'em back when we realized that Seraphim's Garden Rome was not about to be tilled in a day -- did NOT charge us extra for the time through this morning. We had Sunday as a 'free' day to begin with, since they were closed, however we paid only the half-day rate. Can you say "guarantee future business"? Yup, when we need any more equipment to rent, they'll be our choice.

It's so nice to know there are still businesses around who want to build long-term relationships and goodwill. It's not all about the short-term, people.

2) DIPPING INTO SERAPHIM'S TILL: I'm sore. I'm sure my wife is, too. Seraphim's grand plan is to start a backyard garden. We tilled out about 100-ish square feet of our lawn toward this end. I learned that garden tillers are nowhere near as easy to operate as they look. But we got it done, and I'm looking at the bright side: that's less lawn for me to mow!! Yippee!! I'm now going to shave, ohhhhh, a full minute - if that much - off the time it takes to lower our yard's ears. Woo hoo.

3) KROGER KASHEWS, KLEAN OUT: The Kroger store nearby where I work has been out of dry-roasted cashews for more than two weeks now. There's space on the shelf, and an item tag, but no cashews. My friend Bolivar, a Kroger manager, wouldn't tolerate such dereliction ... would you, Bol?

4) HELLO, IMUS BE GOING: Don Imus is nothing but a crusty old disc jockey. A crusty old jock who said something outrageously distasteful and should've had several new ones ripped by his CBS bosses in the carpeted office, made to apologize personally to the Rutgers team, and then the matter dropped. Maybe a suspension on top of it.

But come on - did he really deserve to be fired?? IMUS?? Good gawd, he's harmless. Certainly not the clear and present danger to the advancement of African-Americans that bigots like Jesse "I Love Hymies" Jackson and Al "Kiss My Ring, Cracka!" Sharpton claim.

Okay, "Reverends" Jesse and Alvin, you've got Imus' head mounted on your wall. Happy now? And how are race relations better off for the fact?

The fact is, your average 50 Cent rap song contains far more insults of the same variety than crusty old Imus did. 50c = many songs. Imus = one sentence.

Kate/Susan's "drive-by" post sums it up very well with three questions her FIL asked.

5) FROM ONE HO TO ANOTHER: Don Ho is headed for an eternal nappy.

6) TAKE MY JOKE, PLEASE: I know. That was bad. Deal with it.

7) PARTING GIFT: Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Tiny Bubbles in my brain" Gleck

Finger Lickin' Faux Pas

In my last post, I referred to the Colonel Sanders Tijuana Picnic as being a repackaged, uncredited Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass compilation.

It struck me as a little strange, even though it was on Mark 56 Records. I thought, "Why is Alpert licensing their music - uncredited - to those guys?" Mark 56 was one of those on-the-cheap "regurgitate" labels which made K-TEL and RONCO look like boutique audiophile outfits. You remember those, don't you? Pickwick ... now there's a name to send any record collector into cringing spasms.

The music, at first listen, sounds like Herb & the TJB. But after closer review this morning, I realized it ISN'T. We're talking session players here. Uncredited musicians emulating that great Alpert sound. They do a great job, I'll hand it to 'em; still, I know what this music sounds like, and it ain't the real deal. (But ... they just might BE members of the Tijuana Brass, making a few dollars and buckets on the side. Was Alpert not paying 'em enough??)

Good thing this record came out in 1966, instead of a couple years later. I shudder just thinking about session hacks tackling "This Guy's In Love With You." Col. Sanders on vocals. Yeah. You'll need two of those moist towelettes they used to include with the box meals just to jam into your ears. Oh well.

Stick a plastic spork in me, I'm done.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "North America's Hospitality Blogger" Gleck

15 April 2007

Fried chicken and other delights

I just found the coolest blog: checkthecoolwax.blogspot.com .... if you're as musically warped as I am (read: Nettie, you'll love it), go have a look. It's a delicious tribute to music's dark and lunatic side. Some of the albums he features on the blog have links to where you can download them (except, wisely, those which are available on CD).

This album, for instance. On the way back from our trip to West Virginia, Seraphim and I made a detour to Corbin, Kentucky ... where it all began. There's a KFC museum located in a recreation of the original Sanders Cafe. I must've overlooked it, as this was the first I'd heard of such a recording.

It's nothing but a 'special products' LP, a compilation of Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass hits from the '60s - "A Taste of Honey", "The Lonely Bull", "Spanish Flea" ("Bachelor number 3, if I were a three-piece dinner, would you pour your gravy on my mashed potatoes?"), and others.

The liner notes are priceless, and include notes from His Kentuckiness about each track.

COLONEL SANDERS' FAMOUS PICNIC MENU

Buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken

Potato Salad - Baked Beans - Cole Slaw - Bean Salad (who farted?) - Rolls* - Potatoes**


* = Yes, rolls. I'm old enough to remember when the KFC box meals came with rolls. The biscuits didn't come along until late in the '70s, around the time "extra crispy" skin was rolled out. When I was little, Kentucky Fried Chicken was one kind. It's called "original recipe" for a reason.

** = But where's the @#$%ing GRAVY?? Or, as it was call
ed back in the day, "The Colonel's cracklin' gravy." The mashed potatoes without the gravy is, like, a crime against decent society.

A TASTE OF HONEY: I like this number. The title reminds me of a salesman who used to stop in at least once a week at my restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky, where I first served my Kentucky Fried Chicken. That man couldn't eat a biscuit without honey ... said the only thing that tasted better than biscuits and honey was my Kentucky Fried Chicken itself.

LONELY BULL:
I remember a friend of mine being chased by a bull, when I was a boy back on the farm. He was taking a short cut through his pasture, don't you see, when suddenly he heard him snorting up behind him. He broke the record for the 50-yard dash that day! Be sure to pick a field without a bull when you picnic with Kentucky Fried Chicken.

CHILI VERDE: Real Mexican Chili Verde's made from hot green peppers, and the first time I tried it I thought I'd taken a mouthful of fire. (Where I come from tastes lean more to foods like Kentucky Fried Chicken).

SPANISH FLEA:
I understand there used to be a flea circus in Taxco where the fleas had been trained to dance the Varsuviana. At least, the man said they were dancing the Varsuviana. To some, it looked more like the Turkey Trot. Speaking of turkey, the Mexicans serve with chocolate sauce and call it a Mule. But they also like Kentucky Fried Chicken.

OUR DAY WILL COME: I like the tone of optimism in this one. My own philosophy has always been to look ahead. Never look back except to learn from your mistakes.

TIJUANA TAXI:
Riding in a taxi in Tijuana, or just about anywhere else in Mexico, is one of the world's scariest experiences. Every drive seems to think he's a matador, and that all the other vehicles are bulls! The only other place I know where drivers are so aggressive is Tokyo, which, incidentally, is another city where you can enjoy Kentucky Fried Chicken.

GREEN PEPPERS:
Americanos who are used to sweet, mild green peppers are invariably taken by surprise by the South-of-the-border variety. Don't eat them the way you eat Kentucky Fried Chicken. Take them in moderation. Very small bites ... and don't eat the seeds. They'll set you on fire!

EL GARBANZO:
The Garbanzo is a Mexican bean, or chick pea, and very good, indeed. Also, it happens to be one of the beans that is used in my delicious mixed bean salad.

EL TORO: El Toro, the Brave Bull, is highly respected in Mexico. Mexicans like cockfights, too, and will pay big money for a fighting chicken. Most of 'em agree, however, that the chicken that gives the most for the money is my Kentucky Fried Chicken. Ole!

THIRD MAN THEME: This isn't really a Mexican tune, but then, Kentucky Fried Chicken wasn't a Mexican dish 'til we took it down there. Good things like "The Third Man Theme" and Kentucky Fried Chicken belong wherever you find them, don't you see?

*********
Well. Talk about the power of suggestion. How many times are the words "Kentucky Fried Chicken" mentioned above? Are you now as hungry as I am? Yeah, next time I feel like having a picnic with KFC, I'll pick a pasture full of charging bulls. I'll let them have the mashed potatoes, since the 'menu' doesn't call for any cracklin' gravy.

(By the way, somebody with way too much time on his hands created an entire font based on the original KFC logo. I pulled down a copy and it looks pretty spiffy.)

Did you know Kentucky Fried Chicken did not start out as a chain all its own? For years, it was just a franchised menu item which individual restaurants used to serve, usually alongside regular menu items. Col. Harland Sanders used to drive all around the Southeast, pitching the idea of his pressure-cooked fried chicken with "11 secret herbs and spices." The Colonel would get a set amount for each piece of chicken the restaurant sold.

One such place was The Gamecock Restaurant (and Motel) in Santee, South Carolina. Yes, the trademark bucket sign has been around a long time. (Trivia: it was none other than DAVE THOMAS who created the wobbling/rotating bucket. He worked for Col. Sanders before breaking off and founding Wendy's)

It wasn't until the late '60s before the candy-striped KFC restaurants began popping up, and I'd say it was 1975 when all the local contracts ran their courses and Kentucky Fried Chicken became a full-tilt chain.

If you're ever on I-75 in east Kentucky, I recommend a slight detour to Corbin to take in the museum. You can't miss it. There's a 200+ foot tall bucket sign overlooking the whole town. There's even a fully-functioning KFC restaurant inside, too.

But sorry, you won't find the secret ingredients. But you will see a bench where you can have your very own photo-op with a life-sized porcelain-like Colonel. "He's" even putting his arm around you, as if you're his bestest friend. And you ARE, too ... provided you're eating his chicken.

As Col. Sanders might've said, "Make Kentucky Fried Chicken your religion. The last damn thing we need around here are a bunch of CHURCH'S!"

Corbin has a radio station, too. WCTT. Does that stand for (C)olonel's (T)op (T)unes? "We only play 29 records -- the other 11 are secret."

Put that in your pressure cooker and fry it.

--Talmadge "Make Mine Original" Gleck

05 April 2007

Tupelo Toxic Waste #4,432: The Mulligan Stew incident


4! 4! 3! 2!

A) ...is the PIN number for the ATM card I carry from The Bank of Hell.
B) ...was the amount, to the left of the decimal point, of my last gasoline fill-up.
C) ...was a mantra which haunts my jalopified brain today.

Any poor soul who was exposed to the old Mulligan Stew program back in middle school probably remembers the whole "4-4-3-2" schtick. It was a short series promoting good nutrition, produced in 1972 by 4-H (Hogs, Hens, Horses and Heifers?). It was catchy, although a bit dated, even by 1977. It consisted Maggie, Mike, Mickey, Manny and Mulligan, who together formed rock band The Stews (they played Woodstock, you might remember. The group bombed, amidst warnings to 'avoid the brown broth'). Along with requisite "adult advisor" Wilbur, they embarked on adventures designed to .... everybody with me, now ..... PROMOTE GOOD NUTRITION!

The requisite foil was a neo-hippie named "Flim-Flam Man", who did subversive things like slipping fast food to these kids. Oh, the shame.

So, what was the whole "4-4-3-2" thing all about? Well, back in those pre-pyramid days, we had something called "the four basic food groups." 4-H promoted it as such:

FOUR (4) daily servings from the "Fruits & Vegetables" group.
FOUR (4) daily servings from "Bread & Cereals"
THREE (3) daily of "Milk & Cheese", and
TWO (2) daily from the "Meats/Fish/Fowl" group.

Hence, 4-4-3-2. That's the formula for me and you. 4-4-3-2, That's the only thing that'll do.

And as proof one can find damn near anything on You Tube, a case in point:



Did I mention the drummer for The Stews died ... of food poisoning?

Just kidding.

Or am I?

Update 03/25/2008: The "4-4-3-2" song has been deleted from YouTube, but I subbed the above clip. It doesn't include that damned song, but this comes awfully close.

*********
We had a unit in 6th grade science class where we were force-fed all six episodes of Mulligan Stew. I thought it lame ... warmed-over Electric Company was more like it. (For years The Stews held a grudge against rival band The Short Circus ... jealous The Circus was more successful, and produced Irene Cara. Dammit, dammit, DAMMIT!!)

Well, the climax came during one of the handful of "P.E. free days" when both X and Y chromosomes got an hour of freeplay, instead of the standard gender rotation in place at Green Street. We were going to make ... MULLIGAN STEW. Wowsie. My skin is breaking out in goosebumps at the whole idea of staying inside a hot classroom, made even hotter by whatever cooking apparatus we'd be using to prepare this concoction (air conditioning in Tupelo was a luxury reserved only for the principal's office and - of course! - the hallowed teachers' lounge).

In any case, I didn't hear the words "mandatory" or "everybody has to participate." I thought it was going to be an optional exercise, so I went about my bidness. Meaning, I wanted to see just how much progress the Mississippi Highway Department was making on the new alignment of US-45 (not much, it seems; the highway didn't open until 1983!).

The "Mulligan Stew Incident" happened after "The Broken Beer Bottle Board-Beating-Butt Blues", and by then I kept waaaay to myself. I was down to counting days 'till the end of school. When I'd sit at my usual fringe spot, I always made sure not to get too lost in my daydreaming. My ear was always peeled toward the ballfield, as when the noise abated, that meant the kids were beginning to head back inside. Break time's over, back on your heads.

Well, I looked behind me, only to find two (2) of my teachers - both wearing sunglasses, I clearly remember (so ... was Miss Hopkins "Jake" and Mrs. Worthen "Elwood" ... or was it the other way around .... Ummmm, can I have dry white toast with my stew?). ANYway, my English teacher (Miss Hopkins) and Mulligan-exhibitin' science teacher (Mrs. Worthen) were coming toward me. I got up to approach them, and found out that I was ....

.... much as you'll find this hard to believe ....

.... not being "part of the team" (or words to that effect). My lack of attendance in the making of Mulligan Stew was, clearly, the worst offense this side of breaking yet another empty Schlitz Malt Liquor bottle.

And Miss Hopkins said she was going to call my mother.

Yes, terror gripped me the rest of the afternoon. The phone rang twice, I remember, but Mom never came back to my room to inflict any mental and/or physical torture. I did my best to eavesdrop on Mom's side of the convo, but I guessed that Miss Hopkins didn't follow up on her threat.

But the message was clear. I was being anti-social.

Now, who would ever accuse Talmadge Gleck of doing something so heinous as "not being part of the crowd"? Verily, I ask you.

Look, if I wanted the nutritional 4-4-3-2 value of beef stew, I'd sooner opt for "Brown 25."

Well, as Mr. Woolery might've said, "I'll be back in 4-4-3-2-and-2."

And as Mr. Gleck always says, "Ciao for niao."

--Talmadge "The Original Flim-Flam Man" Gleck

04 April 2007

They're called WHAT?

"Memes", apparently. Well, Kate/Susan tagged me, so I - as trusty "friend" and/or "seagull" (don't stand under me, or else your head will live to regret it) - am responding in kind. Better late than never, so heeeeeeeere we goooooooooo...............

Three Movies Everyone Loved and You Hated:


1) Star Wars. (1977)
THX: Totally Humdrum eXperience. The Talmadge is no longer listening.

In the words of Queen: "Jaws was never my scene and I don't like Star Wars" I respect it for the classic it is, but the original - and its sequels, prequels and nyquils - is of no interest to me. Of course the others didn't interest, 'cuz I didn't see 'em!

In 1977, my mother dropped off my brother and I at the brand new theater which had just opened on Tupelo's south side - The Tupelo Twin Cinema. Two screens! Wowsie! What'll they think of next??

Star Wars was showing on screen #2. Younger sibling and Talmadge walked in. And, walking out, you couldn't have found a more diametrically opposed reaction. I didn't like it. Star Wars bored me. As for my brother ... a Star Wars freak was born. To this day, he's a devout fan.

(Today, the glorious Tupelo Twin sits empty and decaying, its parking lot a breeding ground for weeds. It made me old, if you wanna know the truth - I remember when that puppy first opened to much fanfare. Gawd, I'm such a fossil.)

2) E.T. (1982)
E.T.: "Phone home, phone home"
PAY PHONE OPERATOR: "Please deposit three million dollars...."
God bless Abrahams/Zucker/Abrahams and their sense of parody. This movie did nothing for me. Nothing at all. A wrinkled alien ends up in suburbia and wants to go home. I felt the same way during my last several years in Troy, Alabama.

The marvelously irreverent show Robot Chicken recently did a great jab at E.T., finally getting back home, only to find his classmates making fun of him. E.T., it turns out, was the class 'retard.'

3) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
a: What's the fifth word in this title?
b: What substance is Talmadge Gleck heavily allergic toward?
c: Draw your own conclusions.

Watching people float down rivers of chocolate can induce a gag reflex in short order. Seraphim can like it for me.


Three Movies That Lived Up to the Hype:

1) The Blues Brothers (1980)
Best movie ever made. My #1-with-a-bullet favorite. A true classic of cinema. John Landis' finest directorial moment. Five favorite pieces of dialogue:
  • "It's 106 miles to Chicago. We have a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses." "Hit it!"
  • (after Elwood nearly runs a red light, and a cop comes out to pull them over. Six lines of dialogue exchanged, all one word each) "Shit!" "What?" "Rollers." "No." "Yup." "Shit."
  • The gnomish-looking owner of the transient hotel where Elwood is staying. Elwood tells the owner that his brother Jake will be staying with him for awhile. His response: "DAAAAHhhhhhoooo-kay."
  • Several moments later, one of the fellow residents, seated at a poker table, yells out to Elwood: "Did you bring me my 'Cheez-Whiz', BOY???" Elwood pulls it out of his pocket and throws it toward him.
  • "Don't you go changin'!"
Add to that the best police chase scene in all of cinema, and you have a thing of beauty. Now I must go watch it again. That would make, what?, 2,304 times I've seen it?

PS - another reason I love the movie (as if I needed any more) is the scene as Jake & Elwood pull into the motel where some of the former bandmates are playing. It's a Holiday Inn, and for several beautiful, precious, heartwarming seconds, one sees an image of the original-style neon Holiday Inn "Great Sign" all lit up and pulsating at night.

2) Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
I love dark humor. Not depressing movies (e.g. the most recent Harry Potter flick), but those which have a definite darkness about them I just eat up. A VW bus with a bad transmission (the way they dealt with it just made me howl), a silent inward-raging teenager who ends his "voice strike" ... in nearly 27 years of having watched "R"-rated movies, his silence is broken with what I believe is the bar-none best ever utterance of the F-word. Steve Carell's character was a good portrayal of a post-suicidal man. The Patriarch's eternal optimism is put in its place. Grandfather, above all, is the wisest of the bunch, and I was moved by his interaction with the granddaughter. Funniest line: "Go get yourself a fag rag."

And the ending. Gawd, the ending. Awesome movie. Yeah.

3) About Schmidt (2002)
For starters, who would've ever thought Jack Nicholson could pull off such a role?? I stumbled upon this movie one weekend on Encore, right in the middle of the hot tub scene, where Roberta (Schmidt's daughter's soon-to-be MIL) says "We're a creative family. We make our own gifts." The remote stopped right there. The sense of deja vu struck me with a disturbing blow. My former MIL actually said that before the Christmas prior to my wedding to whatzername. Roberta is what I'm afraid my ex-wife is gonna be like in another decade to 20 years. Kathy Bates played her beautifully.

I watched the movie in full when it ran again. Ever since then, I've become a devoted fan of anything Alexander Payne produces. Schmidt was sad, it was dark, it was lonely, it was about regrets, about roads not taken in the past. It's a wonderful movie, provided one is old enough to understand it. I soon bought it at our local "Movie Gallery" when they were having one of their 'previously-viewed' sales. The girl behind the counter looked at me funny when she was scanning it. "I HATE that movie", she said, with a look on her face saying, "Why the hell are you wasting your money on that bomb??" My response: "How old are you? You don't look like you could be a day older than 25." (She was 23, I think) "You're not old enough to appreciate this movie yet. Trust me. Watch it again in another 20 years and you'll get it."

There are funny moments in there, and they carry the same darkness as Little Miss Sunshine, and then some.

Three Books You Hated that Everyone Else Loved:
[My strange tastes in books - when I have the time to read 'em at all - cannot apply here. But, to be a good sport I'll play along.]

1) The Way Things Ought to Be - Rush Limbaugh
Talent on loan from God. Defaulted on payment. God repossessed his cochlear parts and gave him a prescription drug addiction.

2) Any book purporting to deal with autism.
ONLY PEOPLE WITH AUTISM UNDERSTAND WHAT AUTISM REALLY IS. Fair warning: I feel very strongly about this. I'll explain one of these days in a post.

3) Anything ANN COULTER has ever had in print.
Ann Coulter's words are most right-wing Republicans' thoughts. She says out loud what most of that ilk are thinking, that way they can publicly rebuke her, thus making themselves appear both 'tolerant' and 'willing to condemn their own when they stray.' Make no mistake; Republicans are the most sheep-like political party. Just look at the now-thankfully-ousted 'rubber-stamp' GOP Congress and their blank checks thrown at Dubya for this fraudulent war.

Her recent comment about John Edwards deserves no response.

If Republicans really thought Coulter was such an embarrassment, they would've long since muzzled that rhymes-with-swat. Yet somehow, she's still around. Hmmmmm....

Three Books that Lived Up to the Hype:
[My "good sport" spirit cannot match this one. I don't keep up with reviews and other hype, so I am in no power to provide good responses. I'll pass, Richard.]

Three TV Shows You Hated That Everyone Else Loved:
[where do I start?]

1) Wheel! Of! Fortune!
Judging by the ratings, everyone else loves it. However, I cannot find anyone who admits watching it. How this program has been the #1 syndicated game show for the last 24 years boggles the mind. Are we that full of dumbf(BLEEP)k mouth-breathing trailer-trash??!! No, wait. Don't answer that. George W. Bush won the '04 election.

It's a stupid game of "hangman." That's all. And the contestants, aforementioned dumbf(BLEEP)k mouth-breathing trailer-trash, all do the same thing. Spin, guess letter, *ding*, spin again, guess letter, *ding* - and right there, as if directed by a Karl Rove remote controlled box mounted to their back, they .... say it with me ... BUY A VOWEL. When the show began in the '70s on NBC daytime, ironically replacing the original daytime run of Jeopardy!, folks didn't buy too many vowels. What was the point -- it was a waste of $250.00, money that could be better used to save up toward buying that g(BLEEP)damned ceramic dalmatian.

And, lest any self-martyr'ing Republicans say they're edged out of TV by the eeeeeeevil "liberal, left-wing conspiracy", know this: Host Pat Sajak is firmly in the right-wing column. Yet, day in and day out he's hosting the stupidest game show in America.

Just 10 minutes in front of WOF can give me irritable vowel syndrome.

Okay, okay, I know. That joke sucked. Shut up already and just keep reading.....

2) Survivor
The one which started it all. The one which made networks realize, "Hey! We don't have to pay real salaries to actors, actresses and producers -- we can do 'reality' shows and shill out token pittance checks to these morons. But we'll still control 'em, lest anybody get bright ideas and notice that the root word of 'reality' is REAL."

What really irritated me at the onset were a couple of game show-related websites which chronicled this program. Earth to inbreds: Survivor is NOT A GAME SHOW! It might be a "game", in the academic sense of the word, however it is not what one would call a "game show." Using this argument, why isn't Monday Night Football on GSN instead of ESPN??

3) Seinfeld
Five words: What was the f(BLEEP)king point??!!??!!

Three TV Shows That Lived Up to the Hype:

1) Twilight Zone
One of my answers to the age-old "dinner party guest" question would be Rod Serling. I like how he thought. I like how he wrote. And I completely understand his wistful side, manifesting itself through episodes he created, such as "Walking Distance", "A Stop in Willoughby", and one of his last masterpieces, the episode "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar" from the early '70s series Night Gallery. I sense a kindredness of soul in Mr. Serling.

While there were a number of weak TZ scripts scattered throughout, the strength of the franchise and the better-written episodes carried the day. I cannot get enough of Twilight Zone, and will always stop to watch it if I ever catch it during channel-surfing.

2) Police Squad!
Six of the most delightful half-hours of television ever aired. Coming off the success of Airplane!, in 1982 the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker comedy team parlayed that into an ABC series (and the inspiration for the Naked Gun film cycle). From the brilliant parody of the old "Quinn Martin Production" crime dramas (speaking of QM, #4 - were it to exist - would've been The Fugitive) ... to the mismatched video/voiceover episode titles .... to Lt. Frank Drebin running into garbage cans with his car (Episode #1, he hit one can. Episode #2 was two cans, and so on) ... to the classic ZAZ sight gags throughout ... right down to the tweak of cliche'd freeze-frame credit rolls.

Six was enough. Enough to leave us wanting more, but not to have us burned out on the show.

3) Family Guy
My only gripe about the show is, ISN'T IT ABOUT BLOODY TIME FOR A NEW OPENING SEQUENCE?? I was introduced to this show in 2003 by, of all people, my son Tiger. He was staying with us for a few days after Christmas, and I happened to be in the living room as he was watching "Adult Swim" ... I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw a gag based on The Dukes of Hazzard. O...kay! My son wanted me to watch it with him. So I did. And I began howling at the '70s/'80s pop culture gags which came at me left and right (one from that episode was a poke at Hee Haw). There's enough for my son to find hilarious in the program, but a time or two he looked at me funny, wondering what it was I found so gut-busting.

Funniest episode I've seen thus far? "Petarded" from last year.

But is Peter Griffin the original stupid father? Of course not. Are you familiar with the '50s TV sitcom (and OTR show before that) Life of Riley? If you have, then you know what I mean. I put in a single episode of LoR which I have on DVD, and had my son watch it, saying "I dare you to tell me, after watching this, that this isn't the original Peter Griffin!"

I know Kate/Susan doesn't like this, but as I've said countless times: I'll gladly like it for you. Family Guy has become, simply enough, father/son bonding time. I burn to DVD every new episode as it airs, and when we're together we "catch up."

*********
Now, who to tag? Who to tag? My wifely one, of course ... Nettiemac ... and Bolivar.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "YouYou" Gleck