CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE STUMBLED INTO "THE SHALLOW ZONE." WATCH OUT FOR THE ROCKS. SOME OF THEM ARE SHARP.
If you're looking for a blog with meaningful content on the important issues of the day, you've come to the wrong place. This is the shallows, my friend. Nothing but shallowness as far as the eye can see. Let someone else make sense of things. I like it here.

About Me

My photo

I love my grown children, miss all the dogs I ever had, and I cry at the drop of a hat, I believe in true love, destiny, fairness, and compassion. If I could be anywhere right now, it would be the ocean. My favorite city is New York, but I am always longing for London and craving more time in Copenhagen. I'm drawn to desolate places, deserted buildings, and unknown byways. I don't care how society perceives me as long as my gut tells me that what I'm doing is right. I am interested in paranormal things, spiritual things, historical things, and things that glow at night. I like to drink, I smoke when I write, I can't stand small talk, and despite my quick temper, I would rather kiss than fight. I'm selfish with my writing time, a spendthrift with my love. My heart has been broken so many times that it's held together with super glue and duct tape. The upside is that, next time, I won't be tempted to give away what I no longer have to give. But I will let you buy me a Pink Squirrel.
MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT

MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT

MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT
Not that there's any weight to it...
IN A WORLD FILLED WITH COMPLEX POLITICAL ISSUES, SOCIAL INEQUALITY, AND FINANCIAL UNCERTAINTY, I CONSIDER IT MY GIFT TO YOU, MY READER, TO OFFER THIS SHALLOW LITTLE HAVEN, WHERE NOTHING IS TOO SHALLOW, TOO INSIGNIFICANT, OR TOO RIDICULOUS TO JUSTIFY OUR ATTENTION. IN OTHER WORDS, IF IT'S NOT IMPORTANT....SO WHAT? NEITHER WAS MARILYN MONROE'S BRA SIZE. AND THAT STILL SELLS MAGAZINES, DOESN'T IT?
VIDEO OF THE MONTH

Thursday, March 21, 2013

DON'T EAT ANOTHER PEEP UNTIL YOU READ THIS POST (SERIOUSLY. YOU'LL THANK ME LATER.)



Marshmallow Peeps. You know 'em, and if you have any sense at all, you loathe them with every fiber of your being. What am I talking about, you ask? Why do I feel such enormous hatred for a marshmallow candy shaped like a chick or a bunny and dyed artificial shades of yellow, pink, blue, and green? Okay, I'll tell you. It's the eyes, damn it. As much as I hate marshmallow, as much as I detest the annoying cuteness that compels people to buy them in the first place, it's the eyes that send me over the Easter candy aisle edge. You see...those eyes...those round, black eyes embedded inside the marshmallow faces of the Peeps sitting in boxes on your local grocery store shelf right this very minute....are insoluble.


There. I said it. Now you know...and you can never, ever go back to not knowing. All you can do is let me explain exactly what it all means...for the Peeps, and for you. No matter what you do to Peeps...immerse them in boiling water, drench them in phenol (yes, phenol), or dunk them in sulfuric acid (yes, sulfuric acid), their eyes will not dissolve. It takes the Peep a long time to dissolve on its own, but if you keep working at it, you can eventually make the Peep go away. But even though the Peep is gone, its eyes will remain.


Of course, all of this begs one singular question: what the hell are Peeps eyes made of anyway? The answer is carnauba wax. Also known as Brazil Wax and palm wax, carnauba wax comes from a palm plant called Copernica prunifera which grows only in northeastern Brazil. Sounds innocent enough, doesn't it? Even somewhat exotic. Sure, it does...until you find out that carnauba wax is used for a lot more than Peep eyes. It's a main component of car waxes, furniture polishes, shoe polishes, dental floss, and many cosmetics. Carnauba wax is what gives those products the ability to make things shine. That's all well and good since most people don't eat furniture polish or lipstick. But they do eat Peeps. And I've never seen anyone spit out those glossy black eyes. Do you see what I'm saying here? Or do the words "Soylent Green" mean nothing to you?


Maybe you think I'm making this whole thing up because I want everyone in the world to hate Peeps as much as I do. I only wish that I were. But the insolubility of Peep eyes is a cold, hard fact, brought to light in 1999 by two scientists at Emory University, who performed a battery of tests on countless Peeps before reaching their disturbing conclusion. What's even more disturbing is that, here we are, thirteen years later, and no one seems to care. People are still eating Peeps and taking pictures of them doing stupid things. Like this...


And this...


They don't realize, or maybe they just don't care that the Peeps they find so precious and adorable are harboring insoluble eyes. And if Peep eyes can stand up to sulfuric acid, think about what happens when they hit your stomach. Nothing. They just sit there. Every tiny black eye from every yellow, pink, green, or blue Peep you have ever eaten is still down there in your stomach. It floors me. It should floor you, too. But for some reason it probably won't. We have the facts, we know the score, and yet....no one cares.


I don't know why Peeps and their insoluble eyes have such a hold on our society, but they apparently do. And I'm just one person, and there's only so much one person can do to beat back the sugar-coated scourge that we know by the innocuous name of "Peeps." Sure, I'll keep telling people about the eyes. I'll stick to my vow to never buy Peeps, either for myself (that's an easy one) or for anyone else. And I'll send links to Peeps eyes insolubility websites to everyone I know every Easter. But what it comes down to is...what are you going to do about it now that you know the truth? Shrug your shoulders and eat another Peep? Or take a stand? The choice is yours. Make the right one. Say "No...a thousand times...No!" to Peeps and their insoluble eyes. And always remember: Marshmallow chicks might go down easy, but once they're in, it's a hell of a lot harder to get a Peep out of you.


Skol!

EATING EASTER



If you celebrate Easter, you've probably already made tentative plans for the holiday, such as whether you'll be attending church (you should), what you intend to do afterwards (toasting the new pope comes to mind), and, most important, what you'll be serving for dinner. Because, let's face it, when it comes to celebrating Easter Sunday, religious observance is only one half of the equation. The other half is all about food. There's the candy, of course: chocolate bunnies, creme-filled eggs, and those godawful Peeps. (Who in God's name actually likes those things?)


And then there's Easter dinner: ham, asparagus, and that quivering Jell-O mound with whipped cream on top. There are variations, naturally. Some people opt for roast lamb or pork instead of ham. Some prefer to bite the head off a chocolate chick instead of a chocolate bunny. But the basic theme is pretty much the same from household to household. If you happen to live in North America, that is. That's right. Surprise! There are actually places in the world where people celebrate Easter sans ham and Jell-O and...shudder...Peeps. And I'm here to tell you about some of them. So, let's start off with a gooey little concoction known as the "butter lamb"...


Isn't it cute? And it's made entirely of butter, which also makes it dangerous. But cholesterol concerns aside, the butter lamb is an essential part of Easter dinner in the homes of Polish Catholics, as well as in some Russian and Slovenian households as well. And there's a definite protocol involved when it comes to eating it. According to tradition, the tail has to be consumed first, then the body, and, finally, the head. If you happen to be the one eating the head, you might want to watch out for the peppercorns that represent the eyes. They can be pretty crunchy. And if the thought of sculpting your own butter lamb leaves you feeling a little daunted...don't worry. You can always buy a ready-made one at your local deli and pretend that you did it yourself. Who's going to rat you out? The Easter Bunny? Speaking of which...


While chocolate bunnies might be an Easter mainstay in most western cultures, in Australia, basket-toting rabbits made of chocolate aren't quite as popular. Seems that real rabbits have wreaked so much havoc on the Australian environment that a little marsupial known as a bilby has become the preferred image when it comes to Easter chocolate. The Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia first introduced the bilby as an alternative to the traditional Easter bunny in 1991, and the concept has been steadily gaining ground ever since. There are even Easter Bilby books and stories to go with it. None of which makes any difference to real bilbies, who, unlike real rabbits, are on the endangered species list. But if you're not into chocolate bilbies or rabbits, you can always try your luck with duck...


Baby ducks, that is. Embryos, to be even more precise...and disgusting. But, hey, I don't make these things up, I just blog about them. And the fact is that, in the Philippines, the idea of boiling fertilized duck embryos in their shells and eating them is considered absolutely normal. Not to mention yummy. Known as balut to those who love it, this macabre little delicacy can be served plain or with seasoning (garlic and vinegar is highly recommended) and is usually accompanied by a beer (I'd need an entire six-pack and a blindfold). The creepiest part of balut consumption (to me, anyway) is that no balut afficienado worth his or her salt would even think of eating one until the duck embryo was at least 17 days old, at which point the feathers, beak, and claws have started to form, but the bones are still soft, making it easier to chew them. But if the thought of eating duck embryos makes you sad (and not just sick), you'd probably be better off eating your Easter meal in a country where ducklings (ugly ones anyway) are allowed to turn into swans instead of balut. Yes, I'm talking about Denmark, whose inhabitants celebrate Easter with a traditional lunch instead of dinner, the most important component of which is...


No, not mermaids. Don't be silly. Mermaids aren't real, and even if they were, they're half-human, which brings up all sorts of ethical issues when it comes to eating them. But the Danes have no such problem eating fish, especially herring, as part of their Easter lunch. Slathered on dark bread and washed down with a good beer, herring is as popular at Easter time in Denmark as it is at Christmas time and on any other major or minor holiday. True, the traditional Danish Easter lunch includes other dishes as well, such as roast lamb and eggs, but herring...pickled,fermented, or otherwise...is the one dish that Danes would miss if it wasn't there. But what else would you expect in a country that is basically an island in the North Sea? For those of us who aren't especially enamored of fish, it's fortunate that the Danes are equally committed to brewing excellent beer.

Well, I could go on, obviously. But sometimes less is more, and in this case, I've decided that it's true. I hope you enjoyed this brief peek at what some other people in the world will be eating on Easter. And I hope you enjoy whatever you choose to include on your menu. (I just hope it's not those damned Peeps.)


Skol!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

CREEPY MANNEQUIN WEDNESDAY PHOTO


It almost got past me, but with only a few minutes left to go in this Creepy Mannequin Wednesday, I'm here to post not one...but two...creepy mannequin photos. Yes, friends, it's a double feature this time round. Just my way of saying "the show goes on".....because it does. And so, with no further ado, feast your eyes on two examples of what can happen when mannequins become the focus of someone's idea of "art". Calling it "creepy" doesn't even begin to cover it.



Until next time...skol!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

FELIX VERSUS THE KIT CAT CLOCK



I don't know if you've ever had your uterus removed, either for fun or medical reasons, but let me tell you one thing about it: it's not something that you just "get over" quickly. From the moment I was diagnosed with my illness and told that I needed to undergo surgery. people began telling me that it would be all right because hysterectomies are "routine" and women have them all the time. To me, that's like saying that death is routine, so what's the big deal? Just because something is routine doesn't mean that it's easy or not painful for the person dealing with it. So, what does all this have to do with shallowness? Well, this: The other night, after I wrote my first post-surgery practice post, I was so drained, I went back to bed and slept for seven hours...a record for an insomniac like me. But this recuperating insomniac just happens to be a positive thinker as well. Even if, in this particular case, my positive thinking requires baby steps in order to put it into action. So I'm gonna take yet another baby step and post an addendum to my last post. For some reason, the Kit Kat Clock theme is working for me. And because it is, I offer you my second post-surgery practice post on....wait for it...the story behind the clocks. Ready? Let the cat strutting begin...


Ever wondered which came first...Felix, the cartoon cat, or Kit Cat Clocks? Well, wonder no more. Felix came first, exploding into animated fame during the silent film era. Drawn in angular, art deco lines, with a classic black and white demeanor and a cool cat attitude, he quickly became the most popular cartoon character of the time. Over the years, Felix the Cat's likeness has become a pop culture mainstay, adorning mugs, lunch boxes, T-shirts, and even the tails of U.S. Navy bombers (the insignia showed Felix smiling as he carried a bomb with a burning fuse). Felix's popularity has remained high even though most of his cartoon contemporaries from the early Hollywood era have long been forgotten, except for, perhaps, Betty Boop, who still enjoys a strong following. Although a "Felix" movie released in the 80's failed to draw crowds at movie theaters, video sales were strong, and a "Felix" TV show (in which his old friend Betty Boop also appeared) performed well enough to generate interest in the production of a new show which is reportedly still in the works.


"Felix Dopes It Out" was one of the cartoon cat's extrmeley popular early films

So, of course, you're probably wondering what all of that has to do with Kit Kat Clocks. Well, not surprisingly, it all comes down to money and jealousy. (Doesn't it always?) But here's where it all gets a little...uh...furry. Felix the Cat first began cavorting across silent film screens in 1919, winning the hearts of audiences and making money for the people who produced the films throughout the 20's and into the 30's. But then something catastrophic happened...i.e. the Great Depression. And although Felix's fans still adored him, a lot of people began adoring a new cat who had just strutted onto the scene, namely the Kit Cat Clock, which first hit store shelves in 1932.


Manufactured by the California Clock Company, the Kit Cat Clock was an immediate success with consumers who loved its rolling eyes and wagging tail, presumably because they were too poor to go out at night and needed to find cheap ways of entertaining themselves at home. The first Kit Cat Clocks were fashioned from black plastic and required electricity in order to work. It wasn't until the 1980's that the clocks were altered to make them battery-operated as a means of reducing production costs. Cosmetically, the Kit Cat Clock looks almost the same as it did in the 1930s, although the clocks can now be purchased in a variety of colors or even with jeweled eyes and rhinestone trim. But whatever the color or degree of glitz, Kit Cat Clocks have, like Felix the Cat, remained a popular part of pop culture, transcending their original role as mere time-telling devices to become objects of art, the inspiration for clothes and jewelry, and an undisputed icon of kitsch.


And therein lies Felix's beef with the clockwork kitties. In 2007, Don Oriolo, who owns the rights to the animated feline, sued the California Clock Company, claiming that the clocks were "blatant knock-offs" of Felix. Oriole took particular issue with the fact that the California Clock Company sometimes referred to the clocks as "Felix Clocks." The company responded to the charge with the explanation that the "Felix" reference had nothing to do with the cartoon character, but was, in fact, a reference to the Latin word "felicitas", which means "happiness." In a rebuttal to Oriolo's charges, an attorney for the California Clock Company dismissed the accusations of name-stealing and, instead, questioned the reason that Oriolo had waited so long to yowl "foul!" over the alleged trademark infringment. Manhattan Federal Judge Deborah Batts decided that a jury should hear the case.


So, what did the jury decide? Well, seems that the cat fight didn't get that far. The case was settled "amicably" in 2008, although neither side has been willing divulge the exact terms of the settlement. And now that all of the hissing and yowling is over, the two feline icons have resumed the peaceful co-exsistance that they had enjoyed before the lawsuit. The Kit Cat Clock has a fan club with over 10,000 dues-paying members, and there are numerous websites and fan pages devoted to Felix the Cat. And now that the fur has settled, the rest of us can take comfort in knowing that, when it comes to high-profile pussy cats, there's room for more than one bowl of milk at the pop culture table.


Skol!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

POST SURGERY PRACTICE POST


It's been four days now since the doctors removed a part of my insides and sent me home with pain medication, a swollen stomach, bruises everywhere, and a list of do's and don'ts. Am I up to writing a post? Nope. But I can't seem to fall asleep either. So I have decided to compromise...with pictures of Kit Kat clocks. Why? Because they rock! So feast your eyes on these clockwork felines with my blessing. And just for the record, if anyone out there ever feels the need to buy me a present just for the thrill of it (hey, it could happen), feel free to make it a Kit Kat clock. (Hint: I like the jeweled ones.)


CLASSIC KIT KAT CLOCK


VINTAGE KIT KATNESS, CIRCA 1930'S


OUTRAGEOUS ORANGE WITH JEWELS


PASTEL PURR-FECTION


COOL WHITE DELIGHT


GREEN HAS AN ELEGANT SHEEN


A LITTLE TOO REALISTIC


NICE TRY, BUT I CAN TELL THE DIFFERENCE


CUTE EARRINGS, BUT CAN THEY TELL TIME?


I COULD TOTALLY SEE THIS AS THE COOLEST T-SHIRT EVER


I EVEN LOVE THE BOX


A CAT'S EYE VIEW

Well, that's it for this post-surgery practice post. Time for me to go to bed and get catatonic. Thanks for indulging me. Skol!

Monday, March 11, 2013

TIME OUT



This will be my last post for at least a week. I'm heading to hospital on Wednesday to have surgery and will need a little while to recuperate. But never fear. I will be back as soon as I can with more shallow subject matter. Until then....skol!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

CREEPY MANNEQUIN WEDNESDAY PHOTO


A little late, but not by much...here it is, your Creepy Mannequin Wednesday Photo. This time around, it's not just the mannequins that are creepy...it's their information gathering abilites. If you want to know what I mean, go to Paper Blog and read "Busted By A Mannequin." But for now, just feast your eyes on this week's creepiness...if you can stand it. (She said, pointedly.)


Skol!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

REMEMBERING PATSY CLINE



Oh, my God. So embarrassed. Why? Because I didn't realize that today was the 50th anniversary of Patsy Cline's tragic demise-by-private-jet in the hills outside Camden, Tennessee on March 5, 1963. But of course now that I know, I'm hard-pressed to think of anything really original or even marginally unique to say about the woman whose throaty voice and tough girl style made her a country/pop icon despite the fact that, at the age of 30, her recording career had spanned less than a decade when she died. But when has that ever stopped me before? So, here goes. (Takes a deep breath.) Patsy Cline was one of those artists who transcend genre and defy categorization because there has never been anyone like them before and never will be anyone like them again. People who knew Patsy Cline personally have said that she was every bit as tough as she seemed to be, but that, behind the toughness, there was a kind heart, especially where other female singers were concerned. (Her friendship with Loretta Lynn, an up and coming novice at the time, allegedly inspired the coal miner's daughter to write the ball-busting songs "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin'" and "The Pill.")


Patsy Cline drank beer like a man, swore like a sailor, and addressed men as "Hoss", but she looked sexy as hell doing it, and when she sang, it was with a voice that even an angel would envy. She was the first singer to record "Crazy" by Willie Nelson, and although the song has been recorded countless times since by some amazingly gifted singers, no one ever has...or I dare say ever will...improve on Patsy's version, including Willie Nelson. And on the foggy night she died in that plane crash, after performing at a charity event in Kansas City with her friend, Dottie West, she turned down West's offer of a car ride back to Nashville with the retort, "When it's my time to go, it's my time to go." Coming from a woman who had already survived two car wrecks, the second one nearly killing her and leaving her forehesd scarred, that might seem like a pretty flippant attitude. But from what I've read about Patsy Cline, it was probably just the no-nonsense way that she saw the situation. And so she got on the plane and that was it. But of course it wasn't. Not really. Not as long as there are still recordings with Patsy Cline's voice on them. Because, as we all know, artists like Patsy Cline never die. They just catch the wind with their angel wings and continue to spread the magic of their gift across the endless skies.


Skol!

MY TOP FIVE ST. PADDY'S DAY SONGS


Happy St. Patrick's Day! I know...St. Patrick's Day isn't until March 17, but at it turns out, I'll be undergoing surgery on the 13th, and so I will probably be taking a break from posting for at least a week afterwards. But being a quarter Irish, I can't bear the thought of missing out on the chance to celebrate the most beloved of all Irish holidays with a post on...what else?...my top five songs by artists of Irish descent. Ready? Of course you are. And so, with no further ado, let's roll...


As a rule, I'm not big on "women's music." You know...the kind of songs that sound as though they were written backstage at Lileth Fair in a dressing room that smells of potpurri and patchouli and the only thing to drink is white wine and bottled water. But there are exceptions. There are always exceptions. And for me, one of those exceptions is "Orinoco Flow" by Enya. Maybe that's because Enya was born Eithne Ni Bhaonain (if you think that was hard to write, try actually pronouncing it) in County Donegal, Ireland. Which, of course, makes her Irish. And although a lot of other singers, male and female, are Irish as well, Enya just seems slightly more Irish than most of them. One of eight children who grew up in an Irish-speaking family, Enya was born with music in her genes, with parents who were both musicians and who encouraged their offspring to follow the same muse. After a brief, early stint with the band Clanad, which consisted of Enya, three of her siblings, and her twin uncles, the songstress ventured out on her own in the early 1980's, achieving her first chart success with the album Watermark, which included her biggest hit "Orinoco Flow" (although it's sometimes called "Sail Away" by people who find it difficult to say "Orinoco".) Whatever you call it, the song is just one of those tunes that hit you like a blast of sunshine in the first days of spring. I won't even pretend to know what the lyrics are about, but I can never listen to this song without wanting to move my body and tap my foot just a tiny bit. And it just goes to show you that, when it's good, music is truly a universal language that bypasses the need for a dictionary.


Okay, this one is something of a stretch because Mike Scott, the lead singer and song writer for The Waterboys is Scottish, not Irish. But as it so happens, I actually know someone who is a good friend of Scott's (they hung out together in Findhorn, Scotland for a few years), and he told me that the musician once confessed that he felt that he had been born in the wrong country because in his soul he felt like an Irishman. So take that as you will. But I adore this song, which was probably the biggest hit this non-commercial band had following their early success with "The Whole of The Moon" back in the early 1980's. Released in 1993 off their Dream Harder album, "The Return of Pan" is about as rock and roll as the Waterboys ever got, but the folky sensibility is still there, giving the song a sort of kickass mystical feel. And not only that, but, damn it, I think Mike Scott is cute. I don't care if he's short and has an ego the size of Bono's tinted sunglasses (Scott refused to perform on The Old Grey Whistle Test back in the early 80's because he thought that lip-synching was beneath him). He's just cool, and so is the song, and I could listen to it a million times without liking it even one bit less. And that woman banging on the drums in the video? That's his wife.


It's hard to believe, but there was a time in U2's career when lead singer and songsmith Bono was not one of the most annoying people on the planet. A time before the sunglasses and the political proclamations, when he was just a singer who wrote and sang some really good songs that you could listen to without being distracted by how much you can't stand the person singing them. And for me, this is one of them. From the soundtrack for Wim Wender's 1993 film So Close, So Farway (a great film by the way, even if you will spend most of your time reading the subtitles), "Stay" does what the good, early songs of U2 always did best. In a word, it touches something deep inside of you, something that you can't quite articulate, that has been lying dormant and just waiting to be felt. Is it nostalgia? Pain? Beats me. But if this is a sad song, its sadness is the kind that rock and roll is supposed to make you feel. I mean, hell, if want happy music, you can always listen to The Irish Rovers.


When my younger son was around fourteen, he was obsessed with The Pogues to the point where I got so sick of hearing them that I started to think that I hated them even more than Bono. But of all the Pogue songs I got sick of hearing, I never got quite as sick of hearing this one, and now, after a break of six years, I've realized that I still really like it. And how can you not like the Pogues? Formed in London in the early 80's, their full name, Pogue Mahon, is an Anglicisation of the Irish phrase "pog mo thoin", which means "kiss my arse." And that's pretty much been the band's attitude ever since. Although original frontman Shane McGowan left the line-up in the early 90's (drinking problems were the reason, so I've heard), the band is still going strong, even though their website claims that they have no plans to record new music. But they're still playing, and that's something in my book. And "I Love You Til The End", from their last studio album Pogue Mahon is the band at their best: no frills, just words and music and feeling...a lot of feeling. The song was never released as a single, but it's on the soundtracks of at least two films (Mystery, Alaska and P.S. I Love You), and, of course, in the hearts of everyone who ever loved the Pogues and wanted to tell someone to "pog mo thoin."


I don't care if "My Lovely Horse" isn't a real song. That it's just part of a dream sequence in the Father Ted episode of the same name. I still love it. The song was written by Father Ted co-creator Graham Linnehan with members of The Divine Comedy, the Irish band that performs the show's theme song as well as "My Lovely Horse" in the episode's dream sequence. Of course the song would be nothing without the accompanying video which is a shameless satire of the cheesy videos that are characteristic of the Eurovision song contest, for which Father Ted Crilly (the late Dermot Morgan) and Father Dougal McGuire (Ardal O'Hanlon) "wrote" the song in the episode. And as funny as it is, it's catchy, too, so much so that more than one real band actually recorded it back in the late 1990's (the episode first aired on April 4, 1996), including...wait for it...The Pogues. So, say what you will, but one thing is for certain...this lovely horse has legs.

Well, there you have it. My top five list of ditties by artists of Irish descent. Hope you liked it. If not...pog mo thoin. See you on the other end of the rainbow.


Erin go bragh!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

RETRO TV AND AGING SENSIBILITIES



So, my friend Belinda Blindsider (yes, that's the name she wants me to use) and I were talking about old TV shows the other day. Like me, Belinda's big on pop culture and her recent discovery of the Retro TV channel on her cable package was akin to an archeologist stumbling across not only The Holy Grail, but the thirteen place settings used by Jesus and his disciples at The Last Supper. "Oh, my God, it's Route 66!" "I can't believe it...Robin Hood!" And while I share Belinda's enthusiasm for retro TV viewing, for me, it's a strangely bittersweet occupation. Route 66? Hell, yeah, loved it in black and white on my grandparents' portable Zenith television set back in the 60's. And it's a real kick watching it now, especially when the episode features an aging, post-shoulder pads, but still eyebrow-heavy Joan Crawford. There's just one thing. How come it's nothing like I remember?


Buz Murdock (George Maharis) and Todd Stiles (Martin Milner) with their gleaming Corvette

From 1960 until 1964, Route 66 hit American TV screens every Friday night, giving all the people sitting in their living rooms watching it a chance to see two hip young men, Martin Milner as "Todd Stiles" and George Maharis as "Buz Murdock" (who was replaced in the third season by Glenn Corbett as "Lincoln Case") driving around the country in their Chevrolet Corvette and having the kinds of exciting adventures that only hip young men in Chevrolet Corvettes can have while driving around the country. And even though the show was called Route 66 after the famous and now defunct U.S. highway, Todd and Buz (and later Lincoln) took their special brand of adventurous fun all over the lower 48 states and even ventured once or twice into Canada. And the guest stars! Joan Crawford was only one name on a long list that was a veritable who's who of Hollywood has-beens, 1960's TV A-listers, and future legends: Robert Duvall, Tina Louise, Lon Chaney, Peter Lorre, Ed Asner, Lee Marvin, William Shatner, Rod Steiger, Robert Redford, and (my favorite) a pre-Catwoman Julie Newmar, to name but a few. Each week, Todd and Buz (and later Lincoln) would drive into a town or city in their gleaming Corvette, encounter one of the aforementioned stars, and somehow end up involved in their personal problems, which, by the time the credits rolled at the end of the episode, they had managed to either solve or somehow make less annoying by the sheer excitement of their presence. And each week, I would watch raptly as it all took place before my eyes, all the while nursing a secret crush on Buz (but not on Lincoln) who, even at my tender age, I knew to be the "hot" member of the duo (although I wouldn't have minded having Todd as a big brother).


George Maharis and Julie Newmar bond over a mutual love of fast cars and motorcycles

But now, some 50-odd years later, even though I still have fond memories of the show, the thrill is decidedly gone. Watching it the other night was like flipping through the pages of my high school yearbook. Sure, I remember what it was like to wear cowl neck sweaters and painters pants, but the memory lacks the fizz of pleasure I felt when actually wearing those things. Hell, considering how ridiculous those pictures of myself in cowl neck sweaters and painters pants look to me now, I'm not even sure how I dared to walk around wearing them at all. It's the same thing with Route 66. The Corvette's still gleaming, Todd and Buz are still the same two fun-loving, hip guys, and the show still has one of the greatest theme songs of all time, but what happened to the fizz?

I had a similar problem watching episodes of Alfred Hithcock Presents.


The famous sillhouette that sent shivers down my spine

Alfred Hitchcock Presents (the name was changed to The Alfred Hitchcock Hour for the last year of the series) ran from 1955 until 1965, and was, during its tenure on the airwaves, one of the most critically acclaimed shows on television. Like Route 66, it had a top notch theme song, Funeral March Of An Marionette by Charles Gounod, with played at the beginning of each episode underscoring a close-up of Alfred Hitchcock's sillhouette which was soon eclipsed by the shadowed sideways figure of the director himself. It was a brilliant, extremely striking introduction to the show, but although I appreciate it now, back then, I found it absolutely terrifying. Too young to really understand the complexities of the individual episodes, my response to the show was tied to the music, which I found eerie, and the image of Hitchcock, which made me think of evil, dark beings from "below." Hitchcock's droll, idiosyncratic introduction to the evening's episode only added to the unsettling atmosphere that seemed to hang over the show. Because it came on after I was already in bed, I never watched it directly during it's original run, but I could hear it from my bedroom, and if I twisted my body just the right way in bed, I could see Hitchcock on the TV screen. I'd shout "Don't watch that show!"and then bury my head under the covers so that I wouldn't hear that sardonic, English-accented voice anymore. Years after the show went off the air, I still believed that it had been completely deserving of the fear that enveloped me as I lay there cowering in the dark.


Alfred Hitchcock as a gravedigger was just an exercise in drollness, but how was I to know?

But of course now I know the truth. Watching episodes of the classic anthology series, I'm hard-pressed to dredge up even a modicum of terror in response to what I see on the TV screen. How can I be frightened when I'm so busy trying to figure out the clever twist that always comes at the end? And frightened of Alfred Hitchcock? What was I thinking? The man's a frustrated comedian in a three-piece suit and skinny tie, working as hard as he can to make the TV audience laugh with him so that they won't laugh at him. If anything, I want to go back in time and tell him not to look so sad because he will go down in history as one of the most influential directors of all time. For all of the feelings of terror I once associated with Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the only one to which I can still connect is the shiver that came over me whenever I heard that theme song. All these years later, I'm still frightened of marionettes, those spooky, string-manipulated cousins of my all-time greatest horror: mannequins. But the theme song? Don't be silly. It's just a song.


So, what have I learned from my new friendship with retro TV viewing? Well, for one, that nothing stays the same...whether it's feelings, attitudes, or memories. It's all malleable and subject to change. And that Thomas Wolfe had it only partially right. You can go home again. At least if they'll still let you in. You just won't be the same person when you walk through the door.

Skol!