Category Archives: TV as literature

I’m a Kangaroo Kid

Bob Keeshan, better known as Captain Kangaroo, would not like my title.  He wanted them to be referred to as “children” not “kids”.  The reasons were obvious.  “Kid” refers to a baby goat.  It’s all about the words.  It’s all about respect and propriety.

4e087cfa232cf.image But Bob Keeshan, though a TV personality, was much more of a teacher than anything else.  His show went on air before I was born, and I don’t remember a moment in my childhood that he wasn’t a part of it.  He was like Mr. Rogers, but came into our lives even before Fred Rogers appeared on the scene.  I watched the show in the mornings before school started, at a time when I walked all the way across our little Iowa farm town to get to school.  He taught me important early lessons in life that were just as impactful as the math and language and social skills I was getting later in the day.  Of course, I had to leave home for school before the show ended at 8:00 a,m. But just like school, watching and participating in any part of it was capable of teaching you something good.

Captain-Kangaroo-banner

A lot of what I was able to do successfully as a teacher is a result of how Captain Kangaroo taught me.  He taught me to deliver information in small bites that a young learner with a short attention span could fully digest.  He taught me how to capture attention.  He did it with puppets, a moose, a bunny, and a dancing bear all thanks to Cosmo Allegretti, a versatile and multi-talented performer.  He could focus attention by letting Mr. Moose drop ping pong balls on his head.  Whatever came next after the moment of mirth was something I paid attention to.

He also helped us learn science.  Mr. Greenjeans in his low-key, deadpan way would teach us about eating vegetables, how farmers cultivate plants, and how to handle various small animals like kittens, rabbits, and even ferrets.  Mr. Greenjeans got seriously bitten by a lion cub on camera.  He simply stuck his bleeding finger in his pocket and went on with the show.  Yes, the man was a veteran in more ways than one.  (He was a Marine in WWII.)

CaptainKangaroo

And Captain Kangaroo taught me how to share a book.  I became very good at reading aloud to students because Bob Keeshan and the crew that worked for him showed me how to read with expression, separate dialogue from narration, and build the excitement with pace and voice modulation.  They were experts at reading aloud.

r385captainkangaroo-e1483716353412

So, I say this with no disrespect, only veneration.  “I am a Kangaroo kid.”  I watched the show and internalized it.  I developed deep pockets like the ones in Bob Keeshan’s jacket that gave him the name Captain Kangaroo, and I stored many treasures from the Treasure House there that I would later share with my students.

 

1 Comment

Filed under art criticism, artists I admire, autobiography, clowns, education, heroes, humor, reading, review of television, TV as literature

My Precious Things

david-cassidy

The dawn tomorrow is a hoped-for event, not a promise, not a guarantee.  For some it will not come again.  But that is what life is for, to be lived.   You must find the value in living and wallow in it while it is yours, and you must measure it not by the world’s measuring stick, but your own.

bus_leroy

pt1047

Looking at it mathematically with only the cold hard facts, my life has come to very little.  After teaching for parts of four decades, I was forced by ill health to retire from the job I loved.  As it will in this country where profits for corporations are more important than people’s lives, my personal fortune, that horde of wealth that is allotted for public servants like teachers, was absorbed by the health care and pharmaceutical industry, and health insurers managed to get away with paying out less than I put in through premiums for a lifetime.  After having to pay for the removal of the pool, and after having to go into bankruptcy because Bank of America decided to sue me instead of help in my debt resolution, I really have nothing left.  And if we can’t pay the property taxes that keep going up because the State is continually reducing funds to public schools, we may eventually lose the house.  Broke and homeless.  But they cannot take away my precious things.  It simply isn’t possible.

6a0120a6abf659970b01348734d01c970c-800wi   I saw a woman and her two kids getting breakfast at QT this morning.  The kids, a boy and a girl, were both wearing jackets and pajama pants.  They were both cute, and happy, and speaking Korean to each other.  And I realized after smiling at them with my goofy old coot grin, that I am not prejudiced in any way when it comes to other people.  They were Asian.  I notice details.  But that was an afterthought.  It really wouldn’t have mattered if they were black, white, purple, brown, or yellow.  (Though I have to admit I might’ve been slightly more fascinated by purple.)  Not being prejudiced is a precious thing.  It comes from a lifetime of working with kids of all kinds, and learning to love them while you’re trying to teach them to also have no prejudices.

And, of course, I still have my family.  I was a professional when it came to talking to kids, so I applied those professional skills to my own family as well.  I actually talk to my kids, and know them pretty well.  They have learned to draw and paint and tell stories from me, and may one day be better at it than I am.  They are musical and play instruments… and, hey!  Maybe we could form a family band!  All of those are also precious things.  Let’s see Bank of America try to take those things away from me.

91r2daaWw+L._RI_

And it may have occurred to you by this point why I am thinking about precious things and using pictures of my sister’s favorite TV show from the 70’s.  We just lost a singer and actor from that show whose music meant a lot to my family once, and always will.

And he was not a lot older than me.  And his life was not easy either.  But he lived with music in his heart and artistry in his soul.  David, you will be missed.  But your precious things still benefit us.  And some of us will probably be seeing you again soon to thank you yet again.

Leave a comment

Filed under artists I admire, autobiography, strange and wonderful ideas about life, TV as literature

Sequel + Mania = Sequelania

I hate to spring another portmanteau word on you so soon after the atrocity that was “Hypocrasisyphus”, but I have been seriously putting things together that do not belong together.  For example, I have been binge-watching two Netflix series; Stranger Things 2 and The Punisher.   Stranger Things 2 is the sequel to the Duffer Brothers’ hit last year, Stranger Things, and The Punisher is the return of a surprise breakout role for Jon Bernthal as the violent vigilante anti-hero, Punisher, from Daredevil, Season 2.   ST2-Final_poster

I love the 80’s monster movie thing that is called Stranger Things mostly because of the kids.  I mean, the most important protagonists in the story are the gang of Dragon’s Lair-playing kids that are so like the gang of kids I taught and played games with in the 80’s.  They have the same cohesion and feel as the kids gangs in Steven Spielberg movies like the Goonies and E.T.   They are the real heroes of the story who actually do the most to defeat the monsters they face from a looming evil dimension on the verge of taking over our world after taking over the body and soul of my relative, Will Byers, one of the gang.

 

I won’t spend much more effort describing that one, since I wrote about Stranger Things 2 in a previous post.  Instead, I want to connect it to my most recent binge, The Punisher.  As I said before, these two series have absolutely no relationship to each other beyond one nutty retired school teacher bingeing on and loving them both.

thepunishercomicsjpg

The Punisher is about war, violence, the trauma that those things create, and putting the shattered pieces of lives, families, and psyches back together again in a way that resembles making scrambled eggs from Humpty Dumpty.

The main character, Frank Castle, has been a special forces soldier with a talent for violence and a reasonable code of honor developed to combat unreasonable malevolence.

punisher-netflix-1

He has come home from war after having been a part of a covert, CIA assassination squad that has done terrible things, in fact, things more terrible than even the soldiers themselves realize.

The result being, somewhere along the way, a toxic secret has gotten out.  Castle’s wife and two children are targeted and killed while Castle himself survives.  He seeks to put himself back together like the King’s men attempt to do with Humpty Dumpty, through revenge, and killing the people who killed his family, and the people who were part of the plot behind it.  Through two series he murders, assassinates, and otherwise exterminates bad guys, drug dealers, rogue agents, and others who have betrayed him in multiple ways.

But as mind-numbing and stomach-turning as the violence is, the story is about family.  The family that Castle lost.  And the family of the Edward Snowden-like character, Micro, who are still alive, but only because the NSA spook Micro is thought to be dead when he actually is alive and working against the same villains who killed Castle’s family.

And there are just enough scenes with family and guitar-playing moments of insight to convince us that Castle would’ve been a pretty great dad, if only he had been given the chance, thus amplifying the tragedy a hundred fold.  Aha!  There’s the unlikely link.  The two things are both about the struggle to raise kids in a dark and dangerous world.  I knew if I just twisted the puzzle pieces hard enough, I could make them fit together.

Leave a comment

Filed under family, insight, movie review, review of television, strange and wonderful ideas about life, TV as literature, TV review

What I Want to Know

Wings of Imagination

This colored-pencil picture is called “The Wings of Imagination”.

What I would like to know is…  how do you think outside the box if you don’t understand what the box is… and where it is?   Do you have a box inside your head that you normally think with?  Is it a cardboard box?  Mine is probably iron.  I do a lot of rather thick thinking.  Like now.  Trying to come up with a clever and new idea for what to write about after I have been squeezing my idea-maker with both hands while doing all the necessary bankruptcy paper work that proves I don’t have enough money to even be considered poor.  And how do I do that paperwork if I am already using both hands for squeezing?  Did I magically grow a third arm?  Or did I learn to write with my feet?

I waste a lot of time watching YouTube videos from the BBC with David Mitchell the comedian.  He doesn’t waste any time with a cardboard box in his brain.  He is a thinker after my own heart.

What I would also like to know is… what words should I use for talking to city pool inspectors so that I can properly express my thanks for causing me to have marital troubles and bankruptcy paperwork to do all because removing a defective pool is more expensive now than putting pool in was twenty years ago?  I mean, of course, words to properly express it without getting arrested.

20376205_752878581587309_7007050185459351791_n

Tim Hawkins’ Handbook would appear at first to be useful here, but telling him to “Shut your pie hole!” might still result in further tickets that I can’t afford to pay and possible jail time in prison cells with other inmates who had to talk with city pool inspectors.

I kinda like the epithet, “You son of a motherless goat!”  That’s a Steve Martin line from the movie The Three Amigos, probably my favorite western movie of all time.

But I have to do something about my increasing use of foul language, dag nabbit!  I swear and use profanity too bleeping much.  Unlike Mark Twain, I don’t particularly care for the taste of it in my mouth.

But what I would really like to know is… the ultimate answer to the age-old question, “Mary Ann or Ginger?”

20160809_202852

After all, the biggest burning unanswered questions in my life are questions I have had since boyhood, and they don’t burn any bigger than that one.   I fell in love and married one that turned out to be more Ginger than I thought at first.  And I am not sure I ever really got to know or date a Mary Ann.

And another burning question I have had since childhood is, “How the great googly moogly does a question catch on fire?”  I would really like to know the answer to that one.  But I keep those kind of questions in the iron box in my head.  That should be safer than cardboard, because cardboard is flammable, and besides, I have to do my thinking outside the box where there is no danger of catching on fire from burning questions.

10 Comments

Filed under angry rant, humor, imagination, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, TV as literature, word games, wordplay

Happy Belated Birthday, Lucille Ball

Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri speaks to journalists as he arrives at the Imam Khomini Airport in Tehran

On Lucy’s birthday the “Scary Lucy” statue of her in her hometown of Celeron, New York was finally replaced with one that actually looks like her.

Carolyn Palmer

In this Wednesday, July 20, 2016 photo, artist Carolyn Palmer prepares to apply a cold patina to her bronze statue of Lucille Ball in Saddle River, N.J. The sculptor was chosen to create a replacement statue for one dubbed “Scary Lucy,” in the late actress Ball’s hometown. The much-maligned statue of Ball will be replaced after it drew worldwide attention as “Scary Lucy,” according to the mayor of the western New York village where the 1950s sitcom actress and comedian grew up and her life-size bronze has stood since 2009. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

On Saturday, August 6th, Lucille Ball turned 105.  While it is true that she has also been dead since 1989, we never-the-less must acknowledge the fact that this comedienne and her singular body of work have been influencing life on Earth for over a century.  Perhaps we could even use more like her.

i-love-lucy-tshirt-115b

She has been subtly guiding my own life since the days of black-and-white television and the genre-establishing sitcom, “I Love Lucy”, where she has been advocating for a woman’s right to work and have a career of her own by making us laugh at the situation over and over until it becomes a mirth-filled, easy-to-swallow fact-of-life.  She was the first female film producer to run her own production company, Desilu Productions.  She is the producer behind such television milestones as Star Trek and Mission: Impossible.  Being a child of the 60’s, raised by television almost as much as by my parents, she is a big part of who I am as a person.  To this day she still influences how I feel about things.  She is one of the primary reasons I can laugh at life’s troubles and, by laughing, overcome them.

So, I want to wish Lucy a happy 105th birthday.  And I find it amusing and ironic that “Scary Lucy”, the bronze golem of Celeron, New York, has finally been replaced on her birthday with a statue that pictures her more accurately.  We all need to see Lucy more accurately.  We all need to laugh more and love more and live better lives.  It was the “Golden Age” of television not because of the technology and the craft, but because of the essential goodness we can still get from it, that has stood the test of time for a century.

And I don’t think that I am merely looking at the whole thing through the colored lenses of my own affection for things in the past.  I think more modern and definitely younger people than I can benefit from getting to know Lucy too.  Lasting  105 years is a pretty big thing, even if you are dead when you do it.

love_lucy

7 Comments

Filed under artists I admire, clowns, comedians, goofy thoughts, humor, review of television, sharing from YouTube, TV as literature, TV review

Binge-Watching Two

9be1fc0f98063cf0b8199ee8a6d23f45

Having successfully binged on the current first season of the television series Quantico, I was determined to try something different on the second try.  I turned to the HBO series Band of Brothers.  Now, I admit, being a war buff of the worst kind in every way, I have seen the entire thing before when it was broadcast on TBS back in 2003.  The thing is, I did not have all the tools at that time necessary to fully appreciate and understand the dramatic arc of the story.  I found it practically impossible to keep up with all the many characters who come and go so quickly.  Some are introduced for the first time in the same episode in which they are killed.  Some are wounded, leave for an episode or two… or four, and then return as if we are supposed to remember them in their entirety.  So the secret magical spell I employed this time around for better and more intimate understanding is…  I read the damn book.

Yes, the uncritical critic took on Stephen Ambrose’s masterpiece, Band of Brothers.

42389

Having read the book, I now had all the background information I needed on each of the characters.  I could begin to match names and faces from the cast list of each episode with the real people I read about in the book, and the real people who matched those characters in the movie from the brief interview segments at the start of several episodes.  I began to understand why so much of the film was devoted to the stories of Major Dick Winters, C. Carwood Lipton, and Sergeant Don Malarky… these being men who led Easy Company of the 101st Airborne through the most terrible parts of the war and lived to tell the stories that got made into the book and then the series.  I really began to appreciate the heroics of people like Sergeant “Wild Bill” Guarnere who found out his brother had died in combat in Italy the night before the big D-Day parachute jump, and ended up losing his leg in the Battle of the Bulge, at the defensive stand in Bastogne.  I learned more about the key leadership role of Bull Randleman who was separated from Easy Company in Einhoven and spent a night hiding from the German troops during the failed Operation Market Garden.  I felt the deep hurt felt by people like Eugene “Doc” Roe the combat medic as he tried and repeatedly failed to treat horrible war wounds.  They are not just characters in a war movie any more.  I feel like I know them as people.

band_of_brothers_freres_armes_fond_ecran_2_m

Things about war and good war movies leave me in tears constantly.  They grind up my soul and leave me sick at heart that people could be guilty of such things.  I almost had to look away at times during the concentration camp episode.

Band of Brothers (2001) - Why we fight

Winters quietly orders his soldiers to open the prison gates

But ultimately it feels like a series like this is good for the soul.  You can’t truly know how good and heroic people can actually be until you see how they live through and conquer these terrible experiences.  And it is good to see an excellent book brought faithfully to life like this.  It helps me lie to myself that writers can have a worthy effect upon life, the universe, and everything.

 

2 Comments

Filed under movie review, TV as literature, TV review

Binge-Watching

Being confined to home and bed by illness and my car getting in an accident without me in it, I didn’t have many other choices this weekend than to try binge-watching a TV show.  I had been meaning to check out the ABC show Quantico since I first saw ads for it this last summer.  But I didn’t get around to it until now.  So, I watched eleven episodes this weekend and am now basically caught up to the present.   And also, basically, hooked for life.

quantico-priyanka-chopra-main2

I started this, of course, by telling myself that if the show was no good, I would know that after the first episode, and I wouldn’t have to continue.  But I had already learned the hard way that the uncritical critic in me can get caught up in really bad TV shows and learn to enjoy them.  My son in the Marines gifted me with a subscription to Netflix on the promise that I would watch the show he was addicted to on Netflix called Supernatural.

Honestly, I had to suffer through four or five episodes of monster-of-the-week with that show before I got seriously hooked.  It was a klunky-dumb show with a macho-dumb-guy main character, until it began weaving stories together into a main story arc and then dipping into the well of self-referential humor.  You could see them getting better and better with each episode, and by now I have watched ten seasons worth of episodes… and the thing is somehow still running.  I have to write a future post about that show too.

1346811_Wallpaper2

But this post is about a show that I actually watched eleven episodes of in two day’s time.  Quantico is an FBI mystery series where they are running two parallel plots at the same time, the training of the main characters before the big attack, and the manhunt for the main character played by beautiful Priyanka Chopra after the big attack.  It is a fascinating exercise in story-telling where no character on the screen is one hundred percent guilt-free, and the story seems to focus on a different perpetrator each episode.  After eleven episodes and the deaths of two characters, I still don’t know who is guilty.  At one point I even thought the main character herself was guilty and pulling the wool over our eyes the whole time.  It has the pull and intensity of a really good Sherlock Holmes’ story with twists and turns and double-backs galore.  I may have to re-watch all eleven episodes to get it straight.

0daada1f8e3aa1c4d8e18fd95af812ff

And it just keeps me going with a need to know more about each and every one of these intricate and well-developed characters.  I am astonished that a plot-driven entertainment like this is capable of developing different over-all themes in each of the episodes.  And I am thoroughly impressed by the level of intelligent creativity exhibited by program creators on a consistent basis.  It is almost too smart to be popular with the viewing public.  It is the same thing my son encountered with the Supernatural TV show.  There isn’t anywhere to turn to find people who have watched it and understood it well enough to discuss it with me.  Most of the people I know don’t want to actually discuss themes and ideas from TV shows with me anyway… but especially not brain-intensive shows.

quantico-abc

So feel free to tell me in the comments how awful you think the show is and why I am so terribly terminally wrong about it.  Or not.  I am an uncritical TV critic and you can’t spoil something like this for me no matter how many syllables are in the bad words you use.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under humor, TV as literature, TV review