1. Attention News Media!

    Get Off My Lawn!

    Let me help you out here! Some free advice!

    First:

    When you’re filing a story (industry term) about some sort of supposedly newsworthy event, include a little something called details.

    For instance!

    Here’s a piece titled “The Onion Apologizes for Tweet About Quvenzhané Wallis” over on our sister site newyorktimes.com where they note that “an obscene reference” was made about the young actress. And over at our other sister site usatoday.com, they noted that the Onion issued an apology for a tasteless Twitter remark (which I understand is called a “Tweet”) with the headline news that “‘The Onion issues apology for tasteless Twitter remark.”

    Neither story mentioned exactly what was so offensive (though to be fair, USA Today eventually added a link to another story filed a few minutes earlier that spelled it out, or at least gave us the first letter:

    cword

    If your news organization is touting something as news, have the editorial courage of your convictions to print the actual details of the story rather than make oblique references to it. The entire story here begins and ends with the dreaded c-word, and to paraphrase the Onion itself, everyone seems afraid to use it. (And yes, I realize the irony of me not including it here, but I’m brilliantly and insightfully commenting on the story, not reporting the news. Also, my grandmother reads this blog.)

    Furthermore, if readers have to leave your site to do their own research elsewhere and find out what the goddamn story is, your news organization has failed at the one thing it’s supposed to do.

    Second:

    Nothing that happens on Twitter is ever news.

    Posted by on February 25, 2013, 1:00 PM.

  2. Exclusive Look at the 2013 Oscar Nominees’ $45,000 Gift Baskets!

    FRIDAY morning, I got a call from my employment agency, the Temp Bag, with an assignment: head over to the Kodak Dolby Theater in Hollywood and sit in the audience for their run-through of Sunday’s show. They needed people to stand in for the stars for lighting, camera blocking, etc. I spent the day with a sign reading “Anne Hathaway” hanging from my neck. (I was hoping to be Joaquin Phoenix, but everyone agreed I’m more of an Anne Hathaway.)

    Anyway, when we broke for lunch (industry term), I managed to sneak backstage (Not allowed! Shh!) where I snapped this picture of those legendary Oscar gift baskets they give to the nominees.

    giftbasket2

    Man, I tell you, those celebrities have it all!

    Posted by on February 23, 2013, 4:06 AM.

  3. To Bolt-ly Go Where Most Men Have Never Gone Before!

    AS YOU KNOW, Friday nights are a special time for the Parsnips clan. We drive two hours away to the closest Long John Silver’s, have ourselves a good healthy meal and then the real fun starts: We backtrack another two-and-a-half hours to Jo-Ann’s at Porter Ranch to check out the new fabric patterns! It’s a weekly tradition!

    Yes, yes, I know – the truck comes on Thursdays, but sometimes they don’t get all the new bolts of fabric out until the next day, so it just makes sense to make it a Friday thing. (Oh believe me, I filled out a complaint card. Useless. Absolutely useless!)

    Anyway: as you also know, I’ve been a lifelong “Star Trek” fan all my life – why, for as long as I can remember. I’ve been in the fan club since I was knee-high to a Wookiee (Star Trek reference), and I’m proud to call myself a serious, devoted Trekeroo, as we true fans refer to ourselves. (Please, please don’t call us “Treksters.” It sickens us.)

    So today I came across something fascinating at Jo-Ann’s:

    stfabr1

    See, even Dr. Spock agrees, with characteristic enthusiasm!

    It was a whole bolt of Star Trek fleece!

    stfabr2

    Although apparently there was a little bit of a mix-up at the fabric factory, as they included an image of Lee Majors as the “$6 Million Man” on it as well.  No…no, wait, upon closer examination, it is fact in Kirk, but it’s from that episode where he contracts Space Palsy and half of his face is temporarily paralyzed. (As you recall, they cured Kirk by sending him back and forth through the, whaddayacall, the zapper.)

    Here, look at it some more! Look at it some more while I try to come up with some sort of Starfleet / Starfleece pun.

    stfabr3

    Aaah, it’s just not coming. I got nothing here. But the fleece is pretty neat, right?

    And look, there’s more! Not fleece, but regular, cotton print fabric!

    stfabr4

    There’s their ship, the beloved Jupiter! Will they ever get back home?

    And here’s even more fabric!

    stfabr5

    This particular print in noteworthy because the ship seems to have gone through a pop culture warp and somehow ended up in the same science fiction universe as the space station in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Which makes even less sense than me intentionally getting basic Star Trek details wrong yet being able to correctly identify the space station in “2001.”

    There’s more yet!

    And, brother, I saved the best for last!

    stfabr6

    By Grabthar’s hammer, that’s not just Star Trek fabric, it’s Star Trek fabric with the print made of vintage 1960s Gold Key comic book covers!  You know how much I love vintage 1960s Gold Key comic book covers!

    Here’s a slightly closer-up closeup!

    stfabr7

    Here’s where I appeal to you, my vast readership of, what, six people: Look, one of you must know how to make curtains. I think we’re all in agreement that it’s time for me to grow up, take down Huckleberry Hound from the bedroom windows and put something up a little less juvenile. Whaddayasay?  I send you the fabric and the dimensions, you sew ’em up for me.

    Or, if that’s too complicated, maybe you could design a nice, roomy muu-muu. I don’t mind telling you, those hush puppies are just like Tribbles  – for every one you eat, you want eight more.

    Posted by on February 9, 2013, 3:46 PM.

  4. Continuing On That Post Pebbles Cereals Theme…

    …If you’re like me, and you are, you love that early look of “The Flintstones.” Like the first couple seasons. Also, if you’re like me, you’ve probably hated the last thirty-five years or so of Post Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles commercials, even though you’ve probably never really spent much time thinking about it. But trust me, you hated them.

    However, I don’t include in that these amazing stop-motion commercials that aired a few years ago. Some scenes really  look like first season episodes come to life. Here’s a compilation of five of them on YouTube.

    Or check out these screen caps, if you don’t want to watch the actual commercials though why the hell wouldn’t you?

    peb1

    Look at that!  They nailed that early look of Bedrock and you know what the key is, in addition to the rounded houses and the nearly sparse, uncomplicated layout? The color of the sky! Watch pretty much any episode of the original series, even into its later seasons, and the sky was almost never blue, but rather this light yellowish ochre color.

    peb2

    Sure, this version of Fred’s boss wasn’t really in those early seasons, but here Slate looks great, you’ll agree!

    peb3

    Okay, here we have a blue sky, but that can be forgiven because of everything else in the shot. The dino-crane on the right is as much as a tribute to the one Fred worked in the show as it is to that early Marx battery-operated toy that I’m hoping you’ll find on eBay and buy me for my birthday. I’ve wanted it ever since I was at an age when it would have been normal to want a child’s toy and and not sad and disturbing as it is at my age now.

    peb4

    Ha!  They even got the Bedrock cityscape exactly right. And the paddy wagon looked like it scurried right out of “The Swimming Pool” with a xylophone accompaniment  for each of its ten feet.

    peb5

    Alas, Fred and Barney are, eh, the least interesting elements of the commercials and Fred seems to be based on the design they used for the mid-90s productions. I guess Post didn’t want to push the envelope too far and have the characters match the rest of the elements in the commercials.

    Interesting, also – it’s a regular sausage-saurus party in these spots. There’s not a single female character in any of them! While Wilma and Betty have rarely appeared in the Post Pebbles commercials (due to licensing?) that wouldn’t have prevented some generic Bedrock ladies in the backgrounds of the new ads.

    Don’t get me wrong! These commercials are Yabba Dabba Delightful! And remember, you read about them here first, almost three years after they debuted and probably long after they’ve stopped airing. Unless they covered ’em over on Cartoon Brew and if they did, let me guess, it was framed as one of the editors’ trademark cranky complaints.  Kiddin’!  I love them guys!

    Posted by on January 29, 2013, 6:00 AM.

  5. A Fascinating Find on Salvation Army’s Kitchenware Shelf!

    ONE of the neat things about living in Los Angeles is that often, entertainment-related memorabilia will find its way into thrift stores, where an enterprising, ambitious fellow like me, always on the lookout to make a quick buck, will pick up such items and resell them on eBay for thousands upon thousands of dollars.

    I’ve found, among other unique items, a prop t-shirt featuring Daphne and Niles worn by David Hyde Pierce in a Valentine’s Day episode of “Frasier,” a framed photo of Tom Poston gesturing behind him to two cows in flagrante delicto used as set dressing in the film “Mickey Blue Eyes,” and a handmade doll of Squiggy as an elf, that according to David Lander himself was given to him by Penny Marshall as a Christmas gift during the run of “Laverne and Shirley.”

    None of those, however, compare to this:

    Keyop!

    What you see above is the personalized mug used by that kid with the speech impediment when he was filming the animated cartoon “Battle of the Planets.”

    keyop1

    I tracked down Keyop – he was appearing at one of those depressing Hollywood Collector’s Shows at the Mabel Albertson Holiday Inn in North Hollywood – and he confirmed it had been his:

    “Reedeep!  My old coffee cup! Brrrrrrrrrip! Where did you find it? Rrrrtoo-toot!”

    He posed for a picture with me and the mug, and I must have made some impression on him because then he invited me back to his hotel room after the show closed for something involving bath salts and one of the gals from “The Waltons” table. That or he was trying to sell me an autographed 8×10. He’s kind of difficult to understand.

    These esoteric posts…? They help to keep this blog from becoming too accessible. Heaven knows we wouldn’t want that.

    Posted by on January 14, 2013, 2:59 AM.

  6. Huell Howser 1945-2013: We Had A Wonderful Time!

    Huell Howser by Flickr User Joits - http://www.flickr.com/people/45349448@N00

    SO VERY SAD to learn that Huell Howser has died.

    It was pretty clear when he retired abruptly at the end of November that something was wrong.

    He was interviewed a few years ago in a local free weekly where he said something like he’d hoped his last show would be him dropping dead on camera and viewers watching matter-of-factly saying, “Well, I guess that’s the end of Huell.”

    Reading that was surprising at first. These seemed like the words of a man who didn’t realize just how beloved he was by his viewers. But if you watched Huell regularly and with a careful eye, you saw a man who valued his privacy: His remarks suggest a guarded man who, despite being in practically every shot of every episode of every program he produced, still wasn’t comfortable with the fact that even on public TV, he’d garnered quite a following.

    Huellnog. Photo by Amy Lam, via Wikipedia.

    On his shows, where he oohed and ahhed over everything from eggnog to calligraphy to quilts to lawn sprinklers to avocado-eatin’ dogs, he rarely if ever offered any details of his own life. (Another article interviewed a seemingly reluctant Huell at a desert home of his waaay out in Twentynine Palms, located behind a large gate of steel plates.)

    Often when he’d be taping a show there’d be those – usually old ladies! – who, upon recognizing him, would stymie his interview style with interjections of “Oh, I love your show” or “We’ve been watching you for years.” Somehow he’d manage to – politely! – deflect and all but disregard any eruptions of unbridled fandom with a quick “thank you” before immediately redirecting the focus back on the fan herself – usually by doing what he’d started to do anyway, which in a restaurant meant grabbing their plate, holding it up to the camera and asking what they were eating.

    He was lampooned magnificently on The Simpsons in the 2005 episode “There’s Something About Marrying” as “Howell Huser,” where he literally falls off a turnip truck, and later declares Springfield as “The Worst Town Ever” – a perfect parody of his über-positive road-tripping “California’s Gold” series.

    Howell Huser © FOX, I guess.

    Apparently he was taken by surprise by the episode and seemed almost mildly annoyed by the depiction, wondering to an interviewer why they hadn’t contacted him to provide his own voice. Matt Groening, himself a big fan of Huell, attempted to rectify this by bringing him in for a (frankly much less funny) cameo as himself in a later episode.

    KCET intends to continue broadcasting his shows, though they have been careful to not say for how long. I have a feeling by this time next year they’ll be gone from the airwaves. Huell donated much of his work to Chapman University in Orange – everything but the “Visiting…with Huell Howser” episodes which are owned by KCET – so at least some of it will have a permanent home, and will be available online.

    Rest in peace, Huell.

    Posted by on January 7, 2013, 3:57 PM.

  7. The Password Is “Caveat Emptor!”

    LIKE YOU, I’m a huge fan of the classic television series (and subsequent Milton Bradley home version of) “Password.”

    That’s why it was particularly difficult when I happened upon this on eBay last week…

    …and had to contain myself from telling you – all of you – about it. Because, frankly, I really wanted it. And I didn’t want anyone else bidding on it.

    But even if you, what, six regulars didn’t bid on it, surely one of Password’s other many fans (or Allen Ludden’s countless admirers) would have, and then where would I be? I’ll tell you where I’d be: In a ridiculous online pissing contes– …eh, bidding war trying to prove to some jackass I’m the bigger Password fan.

    And what would be the point of that? So there was only one thing to do: Forgo bidding on it and just take the plunge and click the Buy It Now button for $650.00.

    I didn’t do this lightly: I gathered the ol’ gang around the Christmas tree and had a Parsnips Family Meeting. I wanted everyone to know that by purchasing this, there’d be no money for any other presents and also the gas company would probably turn the gas off for a month or two. (But we live in Southern California! It doesn’t get that cold here!)

    The important thing, I told them, is that I’d already done it, so there was no point in arguing. (Or in the case of Jessica, screaming and crying. Those LeapPads are overpriced and overrated anyway – and why should she be learning at home what my taxes pay her stupid unionized teachers to teach her at school, right?)

    The fact is, I was making an investment in all of our futures. This was a piece of television history!

    Or at least it was supposed to be. You see, yesterday it arrived. (Express shipping in time for Christmas?  Another $45!)

    The thing is enormous – like 20″ wide by 30″ tall. And honestly, at first, it looked good to me. According to the auction description from eBay seller “kewlstuff4Uwow“, it’s a special board they made up for a week’s worth of Christmas episodes in 1972.

    I mean, look at that – this is something you’d expect to see on a 1972 episode of Password, during the week around Christmas, right?  Exactly – but then things started unraveling.

    Because part of the draw of this auction – what really made me plunk down that $650 with no hesitation – was that it came with five puzzles actually used on the show. Mm. 

    The first one? Well, here are the clues, or technically, “passwords”:

    Delicious. Marshmallow. Christmas. Dinner. Tradition.

    Any ideas? “Candied Yams?” Not quite. We’re looking for something a bit more specific:

    Aunt Helen’s Candied Yams.

    Okay, it’s a little troublesome that the puzzles are written by hand. I don’t remember it being that way on the show.  And “Aunt Helen”…? Well, I thought maybe it was a name brand popular at the time – maybe the sponsor.

    But then I took a look at the next puzzle.

    Passwords? McGovern. Hater. Missing. Two. Fingers.

    Lost? Don’t worry, I was too. Let’s reveal the answer.

    Besides presumably Aunt Helen’s husband, who in hell is Uncle Morty?! Also, how did he lose those fingers?

    It was becoming increasingly clear what was going on, especially when I finally realized what you figured out right away:

    That duuuh, Password never had themed puzzles. That started with its revival, Password Plus, in 1979 – a full seven years later than this puzzle board was represented as being from!

    Puzzle number three: Bills. Former. Wife. Drunk. Mishap.

    Contestant: “Is it That Time Lois Chipped Gram’s Wedgwood Gravy Boat?”

    Allen: “I don’t know, let’s see. For the game, is it That Time Lois Chipped Gram’s Wedgwood Gravy Boat?”

    Ding ding ding ding ding!

    Heavens to Dr. Reason A. Goodman, what have I spent my money on?!

    I would have been better off bidding on antique fishing lures!

    Great: almost seven hundred bucks with shipping for a completely misrepresented, worthless, amateurish, homemade, foamcore monstrosity created by some dipwad with an X-acto knife and a hot glue gun for  game time at some family gathering.

    Oh well, at least I have a fun story to tell.

    You know, much like Myrtle did after she saw local meteorologist Skip Patrick at Sambo’s.

    Some might say I was foolish to pay – based on a shady description and a few out-of-focus photos – over six bills for something from an eBay user that’d only been a seller for a week and a half, had eleven transactions, and a feedback rating of 68%.

    To those negative folks, I say “Screw you, all of you. You can all go to hell!” You see, I happen to believe in the basic good nature of people, especially at this time of year. That’s my trouble – sometimes I’m blinded by my own humble naiveté – and my love for Christmas, and all that it means.

    And don’t worry about Jessica – she’ll get her damn LeapPad. There’s a free toy giveaway at the church down the street for homeless kids this afternoon, so I sent her outside to play in the mud an hour ago so she at least looks the part.

    Posted by on December 25, 2012, 12:24 PM.

  8. #632 – Huell Howser’s Retirement!

    Terrible news: Huell Howser is retiring!

    Could I offer any better tribute to the man who has celebrated Los Angeles (and all of California) for over a quarter century –  covering places and people and events that often make me think (however fleetingly) “Maybe this city isn’t such a bad place after all” – than to label his retirement as #632 in a non-sequential list of reasons to get the hell out of  LA?

    If Huell ain’t doing new shows, brother, that’s one less reason to stick around.

    For those of you outside of California, for more than twenty-five years, a friendly fellow name of Huell Howser hosted a series of informal travelogue-y shows on public television in California. They’re nearly each and every one a delight. Earlier this week came the sad and very unexpected news that he has retired from making new shows.

    Every so often, there’d be a story in the paper about Huell and his enduring appeal. After reading a number of them over the years, I realized that when writing about Huell Howser, nearly all California newspaper style guides (or editors) apparently require the reporter to specifically point out the following things:

    • He says “Amazing!” a lot. Yes, well, I suppose he does.

    • Many people do an impression of him and/or make fun of him. And most of those impressions begin and end at the word “amazing” delivered in a poor approximation of a Tennesseean drawl, the same way when back in the mid-80s it seems all impressions of Billy Crystal’s impression of Fernando Lamas were limited to a cringe-inducing “You look mahvelous.”

    • He has a folksy, unpolished, unsophisticated, unpretentious charm. The man is guilty as charged. As such, all articles must describe him or his style as at least “folksy,” but most articles manage to cram in all four adjectives.

    • He brings an unbridled “gee-whiz” enthusiasm to his shows. It’s absolutely mandatory to employ the phrase “gee-whiz” as an adjective when penning articles about Huell. Close second and third: “my-gosh” and “aw-shucks.” Though of the three, Huell only actually says “Oh my gosh!” with any regularity.

    • The author genuinely – not ironically! – likes watching his shows. It’s unfortunate that we live in an age where one feels the need to point out that one’s enjoyment of Huell Howser’s programs is sincere. Why the hell else would you tune in? You can chuckle at his occasional overt goofiness – and yes, you’re laughing at him, not with him – but his approach is honest and straightforward. It’s doubtful anyone’s watching because  they appreciate him on some, eugh, “meta” level inaccessible to the rest of us.

    That said, it’s quite a different thing to take Huell’s stuff out of context and edit it or whittle it down for comic effect. Two of my, and now your, favorites:

    For me, there’s no such thing as a single favorite episode because there are too many gems, especially when you include the old “Videolog” segments (with their glorious 80s intro).

    But among the contenders, in my book: The lint lady. Vincent Price and his art collection. A visit to the Ackermansion. Musso & Frank Grill (where Vic “Theme Song” Mizzy wanders into the shot and introduces himself as a chief surgeon). Rubel Castle in Glendora. Swimming in the Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle. The Salton Sea. The batty woman in Ventura with all the crap in her front yard overflowing onto the street that she considered art. (A particularly delightful rarity because Huell actually glances sidelong at the camera at one point with raised eyebrows.)  The trip to Cuba. The amphicar. And a few dozen others at least.

    Is there anyone who saw the episodes about the teardrop trailers and the peanut butter donuts in Westwood and didn’t immediately want to buy one of the former and fill them up with the latter? Answer: No.

    Huell would often re-introduce specific old segments as “Classics.” Why bother? They’re all classics. Well, except for the one about the guy and his jalapeño pepper plants. I always fall asleep during that one.

    A 1997 episode saw Huell visiting with the cameraman of “The Happy Wanderers” – a California road-tripping program with a good-natured and slightly goofy host – which Huell seemed to realize was very much a 60s and 70s precursor to his own shows. All but forgotten today with very little about it online, not a single clip of the show even exists on YouTube – all the more sad because the “Happy Wanderers” cameraman mentioned he had 16mm prints of the episodes in his garage and was hoping to transfer them to a more modern format and make them available. Who knows what happened?

    With clips galore on YouTube, Huell’s own website, and KCET announcing they’ll continue to air his shows (for a while, anyway), we should all of us be thankful, is what, that Huell Howser’s body of work won’t suffer a similar fate.

    Enjoy your retirement, Huell! I’ll raise a forkful of turkey sandwich at the Tallyrand in your honor.

    Posted by on December 1, 2012, 3:56 AM.

  9. Another Example Of Society’s Mounting Stupidity!

    I  REALIZE  I run the risk of alienating the, what, six of you who occasionally wander on here to kill some time when there’s no new interesting cat videos on YouTube if I start complaining about the irritating minutia of my day-to-day life too much, but, aaah, the hell with it, right?

    Here is a photo I took of the TV screen in the living room.  Yes, yes, yes,  let’s all make fun of me for “Teen Wolf.” Look, Kaitlyn loves that show, sure. But beside that, do you see anything, hmm, out of the ordinary, say?

    Let me spell it out for you: The titles are not alphabetized correctly.

    When arranging a list of items in alphabetical order, you disregard the word “the” at the beginning of a title.

    Like you, I learned this in second grade.

    So when I’m scrolling through the things I’ve recorded, I get about half of them in the right order and then I hit the Ts with some (but not all!) titles which are alphabetized starting with “The.”

    That is, some shows with “The” in the title are alphabetized beginning with the first main word; others, such as “The Amazing Race” and “The Men Who Stare At Goats” are alphabetized starting with “The.” There’s absolutely no consistency!

    I realize that in the grand scheme of things, this is not a life-altering issue. But on the other hand, it’s presumably someone’s specific job at Dish Network to input the titles alphabetically for viewing on menu screens like this. So he (or she) is doing it completely wrong!

    And who suffers?

    Me, who has to spend another 0.7 seconds scrolling down to “The Price Is Right.”

    Posted by on November 26, 2012, 4:15 AM.

  10. Birdwatching!

    HERE’S something I don’t quite understand.

    This guy here:

    As you can see, he’s the mascot for Penguin Brand Dry Ice.

    How’d they do that? It’s clearly this guy here:

    Only they’ve taken the pom-pom off the hat and given him a bow tie.

    Maybe the dry ice industry – Big Dry Ice – made the argument that there’s only so many ways to draw a cartoon penguin.

    But Universal Studios, who owns and licenses the entire Walter Lantz stable of characters, is notoriously litigious and protective of its properties.

    So how does Penguin Dry Ice get away with that but my latest business venture gets shut down on opening night?

    Posted by on November 9, 2012, 9:03 AM.

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