Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Con photos!
Vernon Wells…classic screen heavy
Gunnar Hansen… the original Leatherface and a very talented writer
Rudy Ray Moore… Dolomite himself
Zacherle…the cool ghoul from 1950s and 60s television
Michelle Bauer…sigh…the prettiest and most talented “scream queen of them all.

I spend a good chunk of the 1990s writing, editing and publishing two animation magazines, Animato and Animation Planet.

I just finished scanning the illustrations for my animation book (more on that in a post later this week) when I came across a number of photos taken at the time in which I would promote the magazine at Chiller Con in New Jersey.

Initially, my business partner and I would man a booth, but eventually it would be Steve Bissette and I splitting a table.

I found that I could get far more attention for the magazine from the Chiller horror crowd than from a comic book audience.

One appearance at a local comic shop proved to be quite frustrating with comic fans wanting to know what the investment potential was for their purchase of our magazine! Go to eBay and you’ll see that in some cases, there has been a return!

This was at the height of the insane “comics are like bonds” period with the various publishers fueling this crazy concept with multiple covers and other gimmicks.

Anyway, manning a booth meant frequently rubbing shoulders with the various celebs that were there at their own booths selling their wares. Many of them I encountered were just decent working class folks who understood the nature of their fame.

The beauty of a show such as Chiller was the ability of fans to actually meet someone whose work they admired. Some celebs were so driven to get that $20 for an autographed photo that they drove fans away.

I saw Fred Williamson at one show and started to ask him about working with director Larry Cohen on “Original Gangstas.” At first Williamson seem interested, but when he realized that I wasn’t reaching into my wallet he shot me a look that clearly told me the conversation was over.

I didn’t take any of it to heart, as these folks have to put up with as many wing nuts as sensible fans. It’s not the easiest way to earn some side money. Often times, I would walk through a dealer’s room and seen bored and slightly frustrated celebrities sitting at their tables. It’s tough to put yourself out there and find out the fans aren’t clamoring to see you.

One thing I did learn is to always try to get a table near a good looking actress as it really didn’t matter if she was a star or not – her looks always attracted interest and that interest could trickle down to what I was selling.

Crass? Perhaps, but working a convention is a crash course in real world marketing.

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The word "hero" is perhaps one of the most over-used words in our language. It's used so much that it has been stripped of the depth of its meaning.

I don't use it too often, but I must apply it to Greg Mortenson, the activist whom I interviewed recently. This guy has done something remarkable: without government aid or intervention, he has built over 50 schools in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan to educate primarily girls.

Educated women in these cultures make a huge positive difference in them.

Pick up his book or log onto his web site to see if he's coming to your area.

For most Americans, the remote sections of northern Afghanistan and Pakistan have been described in the shorthand of the national press as little more than the breeding ground of the Taliban and the hiding place of Osama Bin Laden.

For Greg Mortenson, though, these areas are filled with the promise of lasting change through his effort to build schools in remote villages.

Mortenson's story is told in the book "Three Cups of Tea," a "New York Times" bestseller in hardcover in 2005 that has just been released in paperback. Mortenson will be speaking at the Alumnae Library Theater at Elms College on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. The event is free.

Mortenson spoke to Reminder Publications from his home in Montana last week. He is embarking on a national book tour which he hopes which raise money and consciousness for his effort.

In 1993, Mortenson attempted to climb K2, the world's second largest mountain. He wasn't successful and was saved by the residents of a remote northern Pakistani village. In exchange for their kindness, he promised to build the village a school.

With the financial assistance of the late semi-conductor developer Jean Hoerni, Mortenson was able to build his first school in 1996. Mortenson's Central Asia Institute then set out to build more schools.

Today, over 24,000 children with an emphasis on girls attend the schools his organization have built

While encouraging literacy in the broadest sense could be easily as a noble effort, Mortenson explained how education could help prevent the growth of a new generation of terrorists and encourage the growth of democracy.

Mortenson said, that to a large degree, the people of these regions are no different that American.

"They dream the same thing we dream here," he said. "They have a fierce desire for education and a dire lack of education."

He has seen children walk three hours to reach a school, attend classes and then walk back three hours to their home. The literacy rate is only about five percent in these remote areas.

Attending school is not without risk. Thousands of girls have stopped attending school because of threats from the Taliban.

To a great extent, educating women is the key to substantial change in the region, he said. A number of international studies have shown that educating girls to a fifth grade level brings down the infant mortality rate, reduces population expansion and improves basic health.

The effects are not immediate. These changes take one to two generations to happen, he added.

Mortenson has other reasons why education, in his opinion, is a strong deterrent against terrorism.

In Islam a "jihad" is a quest. Western journalists have linked the word with terrorist activities, but Mortenson said that traditionally a jihad does not have to include those kinds of activities.

An observant Muslim man seeking to undertake a jihad must receive the permission of his mother, and Mortenson said educated mothers are far less likely to approve terrorism.

Education also means diminishing the roles of mullahs or Islamic clergy in rural areas, Mortenson explained. They are often the only literate people in a village and hold great sway over the residents.

Mortenson said that Americans have not learned too much about the region from recent history.

When Afghan freedom fighters pushed the former Soviet Union out of Afghanistan in 1989, the United States had been funding their efforts with $1 billion. After the departure of the Soviets, the U.S. aid shrank to $147 million and Mortenson said the country "went into chaos" with conflicts between rival warlords and the rise of the Taliban.

When Osama Bin Laden came to Afghanistan in 1992, he funded road and infrastructure improvements.

"He went in on a good note to win the people over," he said.

On Oct. 8, 2005, a massive earthquake devastated parts of Pakistan resulting in 74,000 deaths, 18,000 of those being children. Initially he said the Unites States had a good relief effort, but now that aid has dropped 80 percent and terrorist groups are providing humanitarian aid and recruiting young men into terrorism through "madrassas," schools run by Islamic extremists. Mortenson said the madrassas are often next to the relief tents.

Madrassas are "virtual incubators for terrorism," he said.

"We [Americans] really don't understand it," he said. "We're dealing with a well-oiled machine."

The goal of the madrassa system, he explained, is to recruit the most promising students, send them to a madrassa in Saudi Arabia where they are indoctrinated for ten years and then bring them back to the village where terrorist organizations set them up as the wealthiest person in the village, and a leader.

"This is war of ideology," Mortenson emphasized. "We are trying to counter it with education."

He said that American military personnel, especially those with two or three tours in Afghanistan, give his analysis a warm reception, but State Department officials have denied the refugee camps with the madrassas are as widespread as Mortenson says.

Mortenson notes that he has not seen another American working in these camps. Since starting his effort Mortenson has made 31 trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan and has spent 64 months there. His organization receives no federal funding and relies on private donations.

"If we really want to bring peace and stability, we have to invest in education," he said.

For more information, log onto www.ikat.org.

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Saturday, January 20, 2007

For once I would like to write that my job has slow cycles, but due to the fact we're down one reporter and I have to take up the slack, I never have any "slow" times.

And the job spills into my off-time quite frequently. Iy has affected my outside writing and these three blogs. I'm trying to figure out how to best serve my employers, my readers, and myself. It's an on-going process!

Yes, you now put away the violins...I know, as my father used to say where to find sympathy...it's between sh....well I can't write more. It wouldn't be prudent.

So let's do something fun...more stills from my "archives." Here are two classic shots. The first is from a relatively obscure B-movie entitled "Unknown Island" from 1948 . What I love about this shot is the fact it's a little inept. The two leads, Richard Denning and Virginia Grey are seen in tense movment before a fuzzy read projection screen watching a guy in a dino suit fight a guy in an ape suit.

The film itself is a wonderful cheesy confection and unlike other jungle/dino/lost world movies, it was shot on color. Seek it out! Amazon has it for $10.

Ah, "Hell it Came," a 1957 low-budget horror film that is also damn near cheese perfection. Fake South Sea island setting, a walking tree monster...the only movie monster slower than a mummy...a really improbable lead in Tod Andrews, a once pretty boy actor who had seen better days...this film has it all.

Unfortunately, "From Hell it Came" is not available legally at this time. I'm sure there are bootlegs floating about, though, at cons and on the web.

Why do I like these? Many years ago I came up with a book idea to explore just why we celebrate "bad" movies. it was called "Trash Chic." it was one of two projects that Steve Bissette and I tackled. We almost reached a publisher, St. Martin's, with "Animation Outlaws," a book that would examine the rise of adult animation from the silent screen to the prsent. We actually had a great meeting at the publisher with an editor, but when that editor left, the book was doomed.

The "Trash Chic" book never got that far, but I still think there is a market for an examination on how the whole "bad is good" concept came about.

What do you think?

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Here's another comic, Tracy Morgan, who I recently interviewed. He was responsive and down-to-earth and thanked me at the end for being a "gentleman." I don't get that too often!

Tracy Morgan has done it all movies, television and stand-up but he doesn't have a favorite.

"I love it, " he told Reminder Publications. "It's all show business."

Morgan is a busy performer. He currently co-stars in the NBC sitcom "30 Rock" and was recently seen in the films "Little Man" and "Totally Awesome." He also has provided voices for the up-coming film "Farce of the Penguins" and for the MTV series "Where My Dogs At."

He will be coming to the Comedy Connection at the Hu Ke Lau in Chicopee at 7 p.m. on Jan. 20.

He appeared on "Saturday Night Live" (SNL) from 1996 to 2003 when he left to star in his own sit-com.

During his long stint on SNL, Morgan became well known for character that included "Brian Fellow, the host of "Safari Planet," and space adventurer "Astronaut Jones" as well as impersonating people such as Mike Tyson, Busta Rhymes, Maya Angelou and Samuel L. Jackson.

Acting on "30 Rock" is a change for Morgan after years of appearing before a live audience. He explained the show is filmed with a single camera, like a movie, and that a person has to have confidence in what they are doing since there is no audience to affirm whether or not they are being funny.

The new assignment has meant a shift in his schedule: no more late nights.

Unlike many stand-up comedians who have a love-hate relationship with television, Morgan said he loves it.

"It's a personal medium," he explained. "You can reach out and touch people."

He was an active writer on SNL, and still has a hand in what happens to his character on "30 Rock."

"I helped develop the character," he said. "I let the writers know what he's thinking and who he is."

"30 Rock" is about the back-stage happenings at a SNL-like television show. His character, also named "Tracy," is a star on the fictional show.

"The guy's unstable," Morgan said. "He's an international superstar and a sweetheart, but when he's off his meds he's 'coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs.'"

Morgan said he has known some people like his character, but didn't base him on anyone specific.

Morgan said that comedy was part of his childhood.

"My uncle, father and all of my mother's family were funny," he said.

Growing up his comic heroes included Jackie Gleason, Redd Foxx, Lucile Ball and Carol Burnett. Martin Lawrence was also an influence on him as well as Chris Rock and Adam Sadler.

What's it like working with the people one admires?

"One word explains it: heaven," Morgan replied.

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hey there's a new post at That's Thirty...it's about time...and this week's DVD reviews.

An action classic, a new science fiction film and another serial set in a jungle are in the mix for this week's DVD column.

Night Skies

On March 13, 1997, thousands of people in Arizona watched a group of UFOs in the sky over Phoenix. The incident received national attention and to this date no explanation about these lights, which appeared to be flying in formation, has been offered.

Needless to say, this mass sighting is suitable material for a movie and "Night Skies" uses the event to present a story about a group of people who witnessed the UFOs in a decidedly personal way.

A group of young people is traveling to Las Vegas on back roads spot the lights and subsequently crashes their RV. They meet another driver, whose truck has stopped mysteriously, and then begin a torturous encounter with aliens.

The film is based on the recovered memories of Richard (played by Jason Connery), the truck driver. While the UFO sighting themselves and Richard's story should provide the fodder for a good story, director Roy Kynrim and writer Eric Miller waste too much time on setting up the relationships between the victims.

The focus of the story should have been on Richard: what happened to him on board the UFO, how he was found and what his life was like later. A documentary probably would have been more interesting a film.

The creepiest moment doesn't happen until the end of the film when actual footage of the lights is shown.

Competently shot and with a solid performance from Connery (yes, he's Sean's son), "Night Skies" crashes due to a poor script.

For more information, log onto www.night


Lost City of the Jungle

In my last DVD column, I recounted the experience of watching the over-the-top 1936 serial "The Lost City." Well, being a serial fan (or a glutton for punishment) I next tackled the other new release from VCI Entertainment, the 1946 Universal Studios release of "Lost City of the Jungle."

Among serial fans, the chapter plays from Republic Pictures were always praised as being the best made with those from Universal as being too talky and the ones from Columbia as being simply goofy.

This serial is a talkfest. The characters are always talking about what has happened or going to happen and there is very little action. As usual logic doesn't play much of a role in the serial universe and this production is no exception.

I can't really describe the plot other to say the good guy (Russell Hayden) has chased a warmonger (Lionel Atwill) to an Asian nation that sits in the middle of the snow-covered Himalayas in a state of perpetual summer. The bad guy is after a rare element that will be used to perfect a defense to the atomic bomb, thus threatening the balance of power and creating more war.

This was Atwill's last screen role. The veteran movie villain died during the production and in some scenes his character is played by a double with his back to the camera. It was a rather sad ending for someone who had once co-starred with the likes of Marlene Dietrich.

For more information, log onto www.vcient.com

Police Story

Jackie Chan fans should be very happy with the release on DVD of one of Chan's best films, which for many years was only available on an out-of-print VHS tape or in a hard-to-find boxed set.

The 1985 film was not Chan's first hit, but it was a film that helped form his reputation for the blending of comedy with amazing stunt work.

Chan's eager to please young cop has the task of protecting a witness needed to testify against a mobster and the film centers on the criminals' efforts trying to kill Chan.

This was the first Chan picture I saw back around 1990 and it instantly made my wife and I Chan fans and hungry to watch more films from Hong Kong.

It's a shame that Chan's reputation has been affected by a strong of lackluster Hollywood films and I hope a new generation of fans can discover his one- of-a- kind brand of film making through this movie and other classic Chan films.

The DVD features a commentary by Hong Kong expert Bey Logan and director Brett Ratner as well as a very insightful documentary on Chan's stunt team and an interview with Chan on the making of the film. It also features an alternative beginning and ending to the film.

If you're an action fan, you've got to see this movie.

© 2007 Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

We've have a new governor in Massachusetts and one I will hope will actually do something positive unlike the former gov, Da Mittster. Mitt Romney proved to be a shallow shill with one thing on his mind: getting the hell out of Boston and into Washington. I can't believe there are people who actually will give money – Mitt just raised $6.5 million in a single day – to support his effort to be president.

Well there are also still people who think we're doing the right thing in Iraq and that Bush is a competent president.

Anyway this is what I wrote in my newpaper column this week.

Let's step into the Way Back Machine and I'll ask Mr. Peabody to set the dial for Jan. 2, 2003 and Boston as the place. We'll make sure to get there early in the morning so we can get a good spot to listen to W. Mitt Romney's inaugural address.

The Mittster's speech ran some 20 minutes and here's an interesting segment of it:

"Surely, historians will look back to Sept. 11, 2001 as a pivotal inflection point. Like us, they will be moved by the human tragedy of that day and by the redefinition of heroism. They may also see Sept. 11th as a symbol marking the emergence of a fundamental change in human endeavors. Perhaps the most obvious of these changes is the reassessment of military strategy. Massive battle groups and warheads capable of destroying the entire planet were frustrated by a handful of murderous fanatics with box cutters. The large, slow, impregnable force gave way to the nimble, stealthy and inventive.

"This realignment toward the nimble and inventive is also being experienced in other dimensions of our lives. In commerce, the seemingly impregnable corporate behemoths are increasingly outmaneuvered by nimble, fast moving upstarts. As United Airlines files for bankruptcy, Southwest and Jet Blue thrive. One sees the same dynamics in industries like software, pharmaceuticals, publishing, broadcasting, retailing, steel and textiles. To survive, the largest corporations adopt the qualities that characterize their most nimble and inventive attackers. It's not terminal to be large. It is only terminal to be slow, unresponsive, arrogant, isolated, bureaucratic, or unwilling to change.

"These same dynamics also confront what we do in the public sector. Slow, bureaucratic, and disconnected are becoming untenable."

Seth Gitell, writing on the web site for the "Boston Phoenix," noted that Romney implied the citizens of the Commonwealth should have qualities exhibited by Al Quadea terrorists a statement that might bite Romney on the backside on the campaign trail.

What interests me is not the obvious goofy metaphor Romney or his speechwriters made, but instead thinking about what Romney has done in his four years as governor and whether or not he has helped the Commonwealth to be more nimble and intuitive.

The answer is that he didn't play any such role or have that kind of success.

The Commonwealth elected him because he was a businessman and outsider. His supporters believed Romney would use his election mandate to make positive changes and to beat and tease the Legislature into making decisions that would benefit the state as a whole.

Instead, once Romney discovered the state could not be run like a corporation, he seemed to lose interest in his job and started prepping for a new one.

Looking at the last four years, the role of the executive branch of our state government has been squandered. With people leaving Massachusetts because of high living costs and shrinking opportunities we can not waste another minute.

As I admitted in this column I voted for Mitt Romney and he failed us all. I will also tell you I voted for Deval Patrick and he can not be allowed to fail. The stakes for all of us are too high.

Here's an excerpt from his inaugural address:

"Quick fixes, gimmicks and sound bites are not enough. That's not in the spirit of what built this country. That is not what cleared the forest and planted New England's earliest farms. It's not what inspired our great universities and museums. It's not what created the boom in textile manufacturing in its time or a flourishing biotech industry today. It's not what freed the colonies from oppression or the slaves from bondage or women from second class citizenship.

"What has distinguished us at every signature moment of our history is the willingness to look a challenge right in the eye, the instinct to measure it against our ideals, and the sustained dedication to close the gap between the two. That is who we are.

"We will need different tools and different approaches, ones for our times. As your governor, I have broad responsibility for what goes right and what goes wrong, but far less authority than I need to influence the course of either. For that reason, I will reorganize the executive branch, to simplify our systems, to make it more modern and accessible and accountable, to enable our public employees to concentrate on the public service at the core of their assignments, and to enable your governor to advance the agenda you elected me to do.

"I will ask municipalities to enter into a new partnership with state government, so that we can work together to reduce their operating costs, to better plan across regions, and to rebuild city and town centers into stronger economic cores.

"And I will be calling on you, each one of you, to stay engaged, to bring forward your solutions, not just your problems, to suggest a better way, to keep your eye on the higher ground we seek, and to act like this State House is your House. You stood up, and you reached out, from every corner of the Commonwealth, working together in the best example in recent memory of a bedrock democratic principle: that to make any difference in our common realities, we must see our stake in each others' dreams and struggles as well as our own, and act on that.

"My point is that we will be doing some things differently. Moving today's rituals within reach of you is symbolic of that. Change is not always comfortable or convenient or welcome. But it is what we hoped for, what we have worked for, what you voted for, and what you shall have."

Patrick has asked for our interest and participation and we owe it to him and ourselves to give him just that.

And let's make sure he lives up to the promises of his speech.

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I was watching Turner Classic Movies last night ands they had a promo about an evening of films programmed by a guest, in this case Chevy Chase.

Chevy Chase?! Why not allow some of TCM's non-famous viewers come up with a slate of films? Although Chase's selections wwere nice standard must-sees ("Lawrence of Arabia," "The Gold Rush," and "Rashomon"), I think that there could be more interesting slections out of the TCM huge MGM, Warner Bros. Paramount and RKO holdings.

So what would be your programs?

Here's a couple of mine:

First, an evening of black and white Fleischer Popeye films. They have the broadcast rights for them and have done relatively little with them.

Second program, a journalist's night with "Five Star Final," "Picture Grabber," and "While the City Sleeps."

Third program: Pre-code favorites sich as "Wild Boys of the Road," "Baby Face," and "Heroes for Sale."

What would be your choices?

©2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Friday, January 05, 2007

How could I have missed this? I've had the privilege of interviewing David Ossman once and Phil Proctor twice and seeing the whole group perform during their 25th anniversary tour now 15 freakin' years ago. I have a short list of patron comic saints: Buster Keaton, The Marx Brothers, Ernie Kovacs, Monty Python and the Firesign Theatre. God bless them all.

LOS ANGELES, CA (November 13, 2006): Legendary comic foursome The Firesign Theatre, creators of over thirty LPs and CDs including such classics as Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers, a 2005 inductee into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, celebrates their 40th anniversary on November 17, 2006.

Founding members Philip Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman, and Philip Proctor were a group of aspiring actors/writers when they met at the studios of Pacifica Network station KPFK-FM in Los Angeles in 1966. In the decade that followed, they wrote and performed thirteen albums for Columbia Records, full of dialogue that has become part of the national lexicon, with titles such as How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All, Everything You Know Is Wrong, and I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus.

Firesign celebrates its Ruby anniversary on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of their first performance, as guests on Peter Bergman’s pioneering talk show “Radio Free Oz” on KPFK.

On nights when he had no guest, Bergman would invite some of his more subversive colleagues to come on the air and pretend to be a variety of interesting guests. On the night of November 17, 1966, Bergman invited three friends – Philip Austin, the show’s producer; David Ossman, the station’s former dramatic director; and Philip Proctor, an actor – to join him as the four of them pretended to be the panel of an imaginary “Oz Film Festival”.

Bergman played film critic Peter Volta, who was writing a history of world cinema one frame at a time. Ossman played Raul Saez, maker of short but exciting “thrown camera” films, who had just won a grant to shoot a movie by rolling a 70mm camera down the Andes. Austin played Jack Love, son of a leatherworker, who was making movies for the Living Room Theatre like The Nun and Blondie Pays the Rent. And Phil Proctor played Jean-Claude Jean-Claude, creator of the Nouvelle Nouvelle Vague Vague movement and director of the documentary Two Weeks With Fred, which took two weeks to watch.

Following that night’s improvisation, in which the four men realized they had an almost telepathic rapport, Bergman christened the group “The Oz Firesign Theatre” (since the four of them were all “fire” signs of the zodiac). There is no known recording of their debut performance.

“That Oz broadcast was a life-changing improvisation,” says David Ossman. “After that we set out to stone the system, if you see what I mean.” Phil Proctor concurs: “We knew we were on to something. No matter how absurd we were, the audience bought it!”

Soon after, Firesign Theatre landed a contract with Columbia Records, and over the following decade they revolutionized the idea of what comedy albums could be, mashing up James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and William Shakespeare in a head-tripping mix of puns, satire, surrealism, and unforgettable characters – and selling well over a million LPs in meantime.

Between 1966 and 1972, Firesign Theatre also had a series of regular weekly shows on various Los Angeles radio stations. Radio Free Oz ran from June 1966 to February 1969, first on KPFK-FM, then on KRLA-AM, and finally on KMET-FM. The Firesign Theatre Radio Hour Hour aired for two hours on Sunday nights on KPPC-FM in 1970; Dear Friends aired on KPFK in 1970-1; and Let’s Eat followed on KPFK in 1971-2.

Hard-boiled detective Nick Danger, Third Eye, is one character who has been ruthlessly, doggedly following Firesign ever since their Radio Free Oz days, and he will soon have his own box set. In 2007 Shout! Factory will release a multi-disc collection chronicling all of Nick’s exploits. The box will assemble for the first time the many radio adventures of Nick Danger, Rocky Rococo, Lieutenant Bradshaw and announcer Dwight Yeast, including “Cut ‘Em Off at the Past”, “The Case of the Missing Shoe,” ”The Three Faces of Al,” and many other rare and unreleased items from Nick’s tattered casebook.

Unfortunately many of Firesign’s radio broadcasts remain lost, but the group invites its fans to dust off their collections and offer up any home recordings, either from Firesign’s radio broadcasts or their even rarer television appearances, that might help fill the gaps in Firesign’s archive. Fans who believe they have vintage unreleased material that the group can’t live without can contact Firesign via their Website, www.firesigntheatre.com.

All four members of Firesign Theatre remain active in the entertainment industry. Philip Austin is the author of “Tales of the Old Detective” from Audio Partners, and writes short and long fiction, most recently for the HarperCollins series “Mirth of a Nation” and “Phil Austin’s Blog of the Unknown”. Peter Bergman is Director of the Los Angeles arts enrichment program Radio Club Afterschool, is on the writing staff of CBS news station KFWB, and has recently produced two seminars on new media in Beijing and Shanghai. David Ossman, now a resident of Whidbey Island, Washington, is a producer of drama and comedy for radio and stage, with a book forthcoming in November from Bear Manor Press called The Ronald Reagan Murder Case. And Philip Proctor continues to act for the stage, screen, and TV while pursuing a celebrated career as a voice-over artist in cartoons, commercials, movies, radio plays and interactive games.

All of Firesign Theatre’s albums for Columbia, as well as their many later recordings, are available on CD from www.laugh.com and www.lodestonecatalog.com.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Random thoughts are running through my head for the New Year and no it wasn't the drink that caused them.


Most years some pundits or elected officials decide what year it's going to be. You know what I mean: "The Year of the Child," "The Year of the Woman," "The Education Year."

Supposedly these designations are to indicate some sort of common agenda or trend and the people who declare them have enough power or influence to make them happen.

Of course we know that it's all just puffery. Usually these titles are so general that the agenda could never be accomplished.

The titles make easy copy and afford editors the opportunities to assemble big think pieces with lots of quotes from experts and academics. It makes everyone involved feel ever so important.

Well, I'd like to follow the trend, but I'm going to be a bit more prosaic. So here are some suggestions to make 2007.

"The Year of Nationally Franchised Doughnut Shop Employees Actually Getting My Order Correct;"

"The Year of Big Oil Not Making Record Profits Off the Backs of Americans;"

"The Year of Not Spilling Something on my Shirt Every Time I Eat;"

"The Year of Boston Politicians Actually Understanding Where Western Massachusetts is Located;"

"The Year of a Local Radio Station Daring to Put on Local Programming after 10 A.M.;"

"The Year of Overweight People Deciding a Bare Bulging Midrift is Not Attractive;"

"The Year of People Actually Understanding that I Don't Like Their Music and I Don't Want to Hear It When I'm Sitting in my House;"

"The Year of Sanitation Trucks not Leaking a Trail of Slime Down the Side of my Street;"

"The Year of my Neighbors Not Throwing their Snow onto my Cleared Sidewalk and Driveway;"

"The Year Of Lucky the Wonder Bichon not Waking me at Dawn with a Passionate Kiss;"

You know I have as much chance of these things happening as the agenda of "the Year of the Child" becoming reality.


My real wish for 2007 is to find a safe place to smoke a cigar without gagging my wife or stinking up the house or car. I suppose I could sit in my garage in a lawn chair listening to the radio. Perhaps I'll build a smoking shed. Now, that could be the beginning of a national trend!


My wife forwarded some interesting words that were apparently coined during 2006. If you're reading a newspaper, you probably are a bit of a word buff, so here they are. Drop me a line if you've heard of any of them.

Blamestorming: A group process where participants analyze a failed project and look for scapegoats other than themselves.

Death by Tweakage: When a product or project fails due to unnecessary tinkering or too many last-minute revisions.

Clockroaches: Employees who spend most of their day watching the clock - instead of doing their jobs.

Plutoed: To be unceremoniously dumped or relegated to a lower position without an adequate reason or explanation.

Prairie dogging: A modern office phenomenon. Occurs when workers simultaneously pop their heads up out of their cubicles to see what's going on.

Carbon-based error: Error caused by a human, not a computer (which we assume would be a silicon-based error).

Menoporsche: Male menopause. Symptoms include a sudden lack of energy, crankiness and the overpowering urge to buy a Porsche.

Adminisphere: The upper levels of management where big, impractical, and counterproductive decisions are made.

Bobbleheading: The mass nod of agreement by participants in a meeting to comments made by the boss even though most have no idea what he/she just said.

Ringtone rage: The violent response by cube mates after hearing your annoying cell phone ringtone for the 15th time.

Muffin top: The unsightly roll of flesh that spills over the waist of a pair of too-tight jeans.

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs