Daily Barks 07.06 cataroo.com
The Daily Bark: July 2006

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July 31, 2006
In THE BAND WAGON, Fred Astaire's character laments "What's happened to 42nd Street?" when he sees the once famed theater street has turned into a series of arcades and bars. I felt the same during a recent walk up Hollywood Boulevard. My first trips to Hollywood were in the 1970s when I would go almost every month to stalk the collectors shops. In fact, one of the first and famed comic collector shops was just off the Boulevard. Of course, even then, Hollywood was no great shakes. It had the walk of fame, a few old theaters, some recognizable sites, and that was about it. The person one was apt to bump into was either a tourist or homeless. Over the last 10 years, there has been a big effort to "revitalize" the Hollywood area. And around the corner of Hollywood and Highland, there is a lot of new stuff. The Kodak Theater for the Emmies and the El Capitan for Disney are both there and looking grand. But step a few feet either direction and it looks like the old Hollywood, only worse. The dusty collector shops are almost all gone. (I did find one.) Many of the storefronts are now boarded up. Most of the ones that are still open are either tattoo parlors or lame souvenir shops. Ironically, the star for Thomas Edison, credited with the motion picture, is in front of a tattoo shop! The souvenir shops all sell about the same merchandise, and none seem to have air conditioning. Still there from my 70s, was The Supply Sergeant (surplus military and such), Two Guys from Italy (great pizza by the slice), Hollywood Toys & Costumes (their sign bragging "since 1950"), Hollywood Magic (which had a "real straight jacket" and a Charlie McCarthy ventriliquest doll) and the Musso & Frank grill (which opened in 1919, and in 1926 offered a Filet Mignon for $1). Even the side streets were a mixed bag. Cherokee, which housed the famed "Cherokee Book Shop" (a key stop for any comic collector in the 70s), was nothing but a few small restaurants and parking lots. Las Palmas still had the famed newstand, still one of the most diverse in Southern California, but the Las Palmas Theatre, which had a number of great shows in the 70s, was long closed. As I mentioned, Hollywood was not a glamour spot in the 70s. I wonder if it ever was. I know most of the images I have are from films, of which most were probably movie sets and not the real street. Yet, even a dirty, broken down Hollywood is still Hollywood. One cannot walk down the streets and be reminded that Hollywood is still an icon known around the world. I recall while attending California State University Long Beach, how many students and teachers were astounded that I went to Hollywood so often. Several admited that they had never been because it was "so far". It was my turn to be astounded. I would tell them that Hollywood was around 30 minutes away. Considering that people around the world travel to see the walk of fame, the footprints at Graumann's, famed restaurants and such, how could anyone justify NOT going to Hollywood. As Bette Davis might say, in reality, Hollywood is "a dump". But as dumps go, few are as famous, fascinating and full of history as Hollywood.
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"I came out here with one suit and everybody said I looked like a bum. Twenty years later Marlon Brando came out with only a sweatshirt and the town drooled over him. That shows how much Hollywood has progressed. "
Humphrey Bogart, actor & icon

July 30, 2006
Last week had lunch in Burbank. It was at The Smokehouse, an eatery across the street from the Warner Bros studio. It has been a popular spot for animators to grab a bite since the golden age of Warners animation. Even through the 80s and 90s it was frequented by the likes of Chuck Jones, Phil Roman and Joe Barbera. Lunch was a lot of fun. I got to hang with some former workmates, Karl Toerge and Gary Conrad (both now at Nickelodeon). With them was fellow Nickelodeoner, Jim Wyatt. Also got to meet some new folks, Dana Booten and Don Cameron (both working with Karl on a project). The whipped cream on the fun was animation legend June Foray, voice of more animated characters than one could name, but one will suffice - Rocky the Flying Squirrel. June and I go back to the 70s, when we met at an early San Diego Comic Con. And due to our both being part of ASIFA-Hollywood in the 70s and 80s we had many mutual friends such as Daws Butler (another voice legend that includes Yogi Bear), Bill Scott (animation writer and voice of Bullwinkle), Bill Littlejohn (animator) and more. As we ate, we exchanged bits of gossip between hearing some of June's stories and characters. One of the great things about this business is finding how the different generations can speak the same language. And it is almost always a language of respect. Though the art styles may have varied, the countries may have differed and the studios may have battled, the talent always respected and often enjoyed each others abilities. For the record, the folks in the picture are (back row) Dana Booten, Don Cameron, Gary Conrad, Karl Toerge, Jim Wyatt, me and (front row) June Foray. What more can I say than, "Hokey Smoke!"
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"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit."
Albert Schweitzer, humanitarian

July 29, 2006
I have talked on occasion on the fickleness of fame. I was reminded of it last week when I spent some time on Hollywood Boulevard waiting for a dinner party. As I walked several blocks, there was much that had changed on the Boulevard, but one constant was the "walk of fame" where stars of film, TV, radio and theater are found. Having been a film fan and historian since my college days, I noted the number of stars who were not "big names". Folks from silent comic Charley Chase to Neil Hamilton (a film star now best known as Bruce Wayne's butler on the TV series), and Roy O. Disney (Walt's brother, not Roy E.). I know many folks who would not make any of these connections. Yet my knowledge proved not enough to recognize a growing number of names. Gilda Gray. Laraine Day. Esther Ralston. Alice Terry. Ford Sterling. Burton Holmes. Even with my years of watching, talking and writing about classic films, all drew a complete blank. Yet these folks were big enough stars to break into the Hollywood elite of having a star. Even more interesting is that stars only began getting placed in 1960. So even at this time, these names were important to Hollywood. So I checked a few via the internet. Gilda Gray was a silent film star of Polish ancestry. One of her major films was THE DEVIL DANCER, a 1927 feature that was nominated for an Academy Award. She died in 1959. Ford Sterling was one of the original Keystone Kops. He died in 1939. Esther Ralston was a popular blonde actress in silent films and portrayed Mrs. Darling in the first film version of PETER PAN. She died in 1994. Though immediate fame has left these celebrities, their inclusion on the walk of fame will keep their names alive... and possibly others will look them up and be re-amazed at the breadth of Hollywood stars.
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"History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon."
Napoleon Bonaparte

July 28, 2006
Nikoma, "Niko", our Akita, left us today. However, I know he is keeping an eye on us. I know it because he loved to watch people from high above. When he would visit me at the Fox/Marvel animation studio, he would stop in the lobby which was on the second floor. It featured a huge window that looked down on the main lobby of the building. Nikoma would always stand at the window, watching the people below. When visiting Santa's Village, a local amusement park that closed years ago, his favorite ride was the Bumble Bee. It was a monorail type attraction that traveled over the entire park. Nikoma would grin widely as he viewed the park guests below. Born November 30, 1994, I was with Rachel the day she picked him up in February of 1995. When she moved up to the house that summer, Nikoma came with her. On the first day here, he lifted his leg for the first time. We always said this indicated he was "home". Speaking with a slightly 'surfer dude' voice, he was a grand companion. Even though Rachel originally thought Akitas would be her breed of showing, and though Nikoma got favorable comments, his Akita aloofness made him not the snuggler needed. So we got a Great Dane puppy, and then another. But Niko always had the claim that he "was here first." Niko was with us through several generations/groups of our Danes and he became the "nanny", gently supervising each new puppy or litter. Folks were often shocked to hear that an Akita could work so well with other breeds, especially puppies. But Nikoma was unique among Akitas. His smiling, fluffy face was a constant joy. With over ten years of memories, it is hard to list them all. He loved to play, eat yellowjackets, run around, and even "fix" squeaky toys (by breaking the squeaker). He loved performing his tricks, though he frequently did all of them at once. He loved travelling. He loved going to dog beach in San Diego. He loved the convention in Arizona, where he got his own con badge. But most of all he loved Santa's Village. It was a unique park that allowed pets and Niko loved to ride the rides there. It was sad when it closed... but we made sure that Niko was there that final day. (Image is Niko riding a flying elephant on a snowy day.) Over the past few years, Niko began to grey, as pups do. But last year a major change occured. He cracked a tooth and had to have it removed. Apparantly during the surgery he had his first stroke. Afterwards, he had problems regulating his heat, keeping balance and remembering "where" he was. He also began to become incontinent, and his once beautiful howl became gargling. But still he continued to work hard at his duties. He nanny-ed the 2005 litter of Eagle and Luca. He continued to be the official watchdog, keeping an eye on the house when we were gone, and an eye on the girls when they were in heat. For some time now, he had become more lump than pup. He tended to want to just stay put than move, as moving had become more difficult. But a few days back, we had to leave the house for a short errand. Since he was asleep in the kitchen, we decided to let him stay in. As we began to climb the stairs we spotted him staring out the window. We went back and let him out. He was telling us that, even though he was on the decline, he wanted to be on the job. He was that dedicated. For the last few days he had become a bit reclusive. He would want to be outside and as far away from everyone as possible. His eyes were more frequently the foggy, glassy gaze of "nobody home" instead of the sparkle of his youth. In fact, when the time came, it almost appeared as if he left his body on his own. Now he is free of the pain and confusion. He is up with his original pack buddies - Bronx, Hoss and Jordi, where they are all able to once again sleep together upstairs. He is also keeping an eye on Keitaro, one of his younger charges that was sent away too soon. Due to the short lifespan of Danes, we used to say Niko saw them come and go. Now he can re-see the ones who left, and greet the next ones who must make that journey. Knowing his dedication, I know all of our kids will be in good paws. I often joked that Niko thought I was a "hero" for sneaking him a snack out of the refridgerator or bringing home treats. In the end, Niko was the hero. Brave, dedicated and devoted to family to the end.
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"Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see."
Helen Keller

July 27, 2006
No official bark. Day in Burbank. Out late at dinner in Hollywood. More on both these events later.

July 26, 2006
Was watching CATDOG on Nicktoon Network and suddenly realized how much "cooler" and "hip" Nicktoons has become. Yes, it still has too many Nickelodeon 'misfires' and cheesy (aka cheap) foreign series, but the network just exudes hipness. It made me think how far Cartoon Network has drifted. When Cartoon Network began in the early 90s, it was a bunch of old Hanna-Barbera series. But the folks running the network had learned from the early days of Nick. (And some CN execs had come from those days.) As the first successful head of Nick once stated, they had almost no money for programming, so instead spent all their budget on wild interstertials - the little bits between shows. Nick developed a fresh kid-friendly style that promoted it as the place for kids. Cartoon Network's early funny interstertials were odd animated music videos, jokes about the series, and live-action animated skits (the best being when Yogi forgot his name badge). But the network has since stagnated. And now their attempts (adding live action, putting music acts on Friday nights) come across like a guy desperate to find a girl. What started this thinking was seeing a new series of Nicktoons interstitials. They are mixing live action folks (who allegedly are "too" into cartoons), costume characters and cut-outs. Just like the old Cartoon Network ones. However, Nick was actually using their Nicktoons animation studio! The old CN ones were shot in Atlanta. Maybe if Cartoon Network got more in touch with their animation studio, and out of Atlanta, they would find the hipness they have lost. The annoying yellow thing on the red background that says he "pooted" is not hip.
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"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."
Bill Cosby, humorist

July 25, 2006
Found a bit of computer time today so listed a few more things on eBay. Have even added a new button, above, that will take the reader (you) to one of the items currently on eBay. From there, simply click "View seller's other items" to see what else I have. Also added some items to the garage sale page, as well as removed some.
In the news... I was amused to see in the news another oil exec (this time British Petroleum) will be retiring from the business with millions. It is dissapointing, but not surprising, that while many industries are struggling to work within the current limits of the oil pricing (airlines, grocerery stores, delivery services), the oil industry is simply accepting the profit as a 'gift'. One would think they might try doing some "cutbacks" on employee benifits, equipment or such to help keep the cost of gas down. Oh. They have done one thing. A recent report indicated that despite record profits for nearly a decade, the major oil companies have not built a single new gas refinery in the United States in over 20 years. So we are still at risk of astronomical jumps in pricing anytime there is a fire, hurricane or other such event that slows one refinery down. I am sure it is something the retiring millionaires will not be losing sleep over.
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"I buy when other people are selling."
J. Paul Getty, millionaire... maybe billionaire

July 24, 2006
Decided to beat the heat and take in a second viewing of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN II. Enjoyed it a bit more the second time. Mostly due to my expectations having been better adjusted. Also saw lots of little things (clues) about future events. Will share one, without giving anything away. (I hope) When Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) visits the Shaman, there is a locket on her table. Even with a reduced crowd, the audience responded well with laughs and gasps. No wonder the film has held on to the #1 spot for three weeks. It easily holds up to a second viewing... and no doubt more views will reveal even more hidden plot/character points. At various times in the film Rachel, I or both would suddenly let out a small "ah-ha" type noise upon seeing or hearing something. Those are the little things that can make films fun for a long time. Savy?
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"I don't take the movies seriously, and anyone who does is in for a headache."
Bette Davis, actress

July 23, 2006
Has the computer become the modern equivalent of the phone? I wonder this as I hear more and more ads on radio and the TV stating for "more info" or "for help" to "go online to" whatever dot com. Not even a mention of a phone number. What of the millions of people without computers? After the invention of the phone, it was decades before they became a staple to our lives. TV shows in the 1950s discuss the "big deal" about getting a phone, and how it is important so one can contact work, friends, etc. By the 1970s, I think about everyone had a phone in their home... and even "party lines" were pretty much obsolete. As cel phones came into prominence the wired phone looked to be going the way of the black and white TV. Yet with all the emphasis on phones, it appears that they are on their way out as a key communication device... unless it is a cel phone with web access! It really hit home during a recent power outage. I called the local power company to get an idea of when the power might come back on. (And that's another story for another day!) One of the first things I heard on the recorded message was that I could find a lot of the information I needed online and to try their webpage. I laughed at the irony of the power company telling me to use my computer during a power outage. Course if I had a laptop and standard phone connection, I actually could have used their website. So perhaps I need to switch from a standard phone to a laptop with wifi. Then I can put my old phones upstairs with the vhs player and laserdisc machine. I think there is room next to the record player.
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"I'd love to trade caller I.D. for "Caller I.Q."
bumper sticker

July 22, 2006
Rachel's away at a show this weekend. Being on my own I can do anything I want. So far I have wanted to do the dishes, do laundry, clean the deck, put away our monthly food order, be the doorman to the kids still here. Makes me think of one of the sites I visit. It is populated by a lot of folks in their teens. (Seems that kids are getting into hobbies and fandoms much younger these days.) One mentioned how his "mom" was making him go to bed by midnight. He stated he would be glad when he was an adult and could "anything I want". I responded that such a time in life is like tomorrow... always coming but never arriving. Unless one is part of the upper 10% of millionaires, there will always be things keeping yyou from doing "whatever" you want. Jobs, family, time, finances, and emergencies are just a few. I told site sometimes you just have to enjoy the things you can do. Course the constant distractions here kept me from getting any major work done... but I managed to give a few of the sale pages facelifts. Think they read a bit easier. And you know what... I enjoyed doing it.
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"You gotta convince me that you know what this is all about, that you aren't just fiddling around hoping it'll all... come out right in the end!"
Sam Spade

July 21, 2006
I remember a time when employees were the backbone of a company. When businesses saw their employees as solid corporate assets. Commercials often promoted the employees as smart, clever and neat. The employee was the window of the business. Texaco gas had their singers. A major bank had Sandy Duncan as a teller. Westinghouse had the loneliest guy in town. However today, it seems as most businesses see their employees as liabilities. They are things to cut when the bottom line looks shakey or there is a need to impress stockholders. It seems everyday some company is sending work overseas to save a buck. Those that have to keep using labor over here are finding ways to reduce the amount of time needed for work... and not in a good way. Even at the recent school lunch show, where I performed as Tony, a major selling point for many items was how it "reduced" the need for staff. Lunches in a box meant no need for cooks or dishwashers. They could be picked up by the students as they got off the bus, or handed to them by the teacher. It seems we are constantly be reminded of the widening gap between those with money and those without. There is talk about the vanishing middle class. Companies are more concerned about locating cheap labor than maintaining a real staff of employees who handle all the work tasks, no matter what the price/salary. At one animation studio, when several artists comlained about conditions, the head stated that the artists were free to go. His rationale was that the schools were full of people who would take the job at any price. It is sad that as we continue to move into the age of disposable items, good workers are on the list of things that are disposable.
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"As a rule, the more bizarre a thing is, the less mysterious it proves to be"
Sherlock Holmes

July 20, 2006
Went to bed last night with plans to hit the comic con today. But when I got up... things changed. True, it can be a fun place to be. True, I get to meet lots of folks in the biz. True, I can find some interesting things. However, based on last year the following is also true. True, it will take 6 hours to drive there and back. True, it will take around an hour of shuttle time due to parking issues. True, it will take around two hours to pick up your badge. Nine hours of 'travel time' for around six hours of crowded aisles, shouting conversations, and having to wait for (or shout down) fans who want to talk to my friends while I am talking to them. I remembered how after last year I stated I would not go again. I might consider it if I could go down and spend several nights in a hotel. It would cut the travel time to value time ratio to something more acceptable. But for this year, I have skipped it. I am having major "missing it remorse". I am also suffering some depression from the "I may have missed something important" thoughts. No doubt Comic Con International is a mega event. But I really miss the days when going for a day was not a big deal. Even with a 6-hour round trip on the road. Time at the con was much more valued. Remember when one could sit on a couch in the hotel and talk with Bob Clampett, or stand for an hour in the dealers room chatting with Osamu Tezuka, or even bump into Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson at a restaurant and be able to share some un-rushed moments. A cliche movie plot (seen in such films as DOC HOLLYWOOD and CARS) has a main character from a big city discover a more pleasant, slower lifestyle in a small town. Guess I am looking for the slower con in some fictional small town.
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"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."
Warren Buffet, billionaire

July 19, 2006
No real bark, but a catch up. Final day of performing as Tony. Kellogg's folks were really nice. Am still thinking about the show and its exhibits. It was a show about food for schools... and all were talking about "healthy" food for kids. Yest most of the booths were full of fatty, fried, breaded foods. Or they offered various types of fruit drinks loaded with either sugar or artificual sweetners. I loved the comments. One person stated that the cookies were "bread". The equivalent of two slices, in fact. Another talked of how schools could make more money selling their product due to the famous name which would increase sales over no-name brands. Wheat bread made everthing from pizza to french toast "healthy." Oddest food seen was packets of pickles with dipping sauce. Runner up was probably the breaded beef.

July 18, 2006
Another Tony day. And a real ego-boost. Midway through the day, I had to run to a photoshoot in the exhibit area. Seems a major player in the children's nutrition world was coming. They wanted a photo of her amongst all the costume characters for an industry magazine. I got there last, but she had not arrived yet. The mascots were already planted in their spots, making two rows. Seeing no immediate space, I leapt to the floor and took a laying down position, one leg up. The camera folks began clicking quickly. I slid around to a yoga position, then on my back and kicking. Several stated that Tony "really knew how to pose," "knew his stuff" and had "star power". Meanwhile the other mascots stood their ground, waving occasionally. I began doing some push-ups and the media went nuts exclaiming that Tony shows his frosted flakes "really gives you energy!" The guest finally arrived and the main photog placed her dead center, standing between two soup mascots. Several photos later, the subject began to step away. The camera person asked for a few for "safety". I instantly got up on one knee, took the subject's hand and led her to sit on my knee. The crowd went wild and flashes followed. Afterward, the other mascots waddled back to their booths while I was being asked over and over again for a photo with one exec after another. Later in the day, the main photographer dropped by the booth to discuss a future show with one of the booth execs. When the camera person saw me, they showed their digital image of the photo planned for a magazine cover. The camera person stated, "Tony, you were wonderful. Putting her on your knee really makes the photo. It makes it look like she is interacting with the mascots and not just standing next to them!" I nodded my pleasure. The camera person then stated I was quite a performer. The Kellogg's rep smiled and said, "Well, he has extensive Disneyland experience." After all the problems of late... it was a nice egoboost.
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"Work's been kinda slow since cartoons went to color. But I've still got it. Boop-boop-be-doop."
Betty Boop

July 17, 2006
No real bark, but a catch up. Did a gig as Tony the Tiger at a School Nutrition convention. Was a lot of fun. Marring it slightly was meeting a mascot-who-shall-not-be-named (a famed chocolate rabbit). Met the performer while taking a restroom run. He stated how the job was so much "fun" because you could "touch women anyplace you want and they never complain". He showed how he might grab breasts or ass. I mentioned that it probably would not fit the character he was performing. He hesitated, then said he wouldn't really do that. But if he did... the ladies wouldn't complain. Performers like that really set back the art of mascot performance.

July 16, 2006
No real bark, but a catch up. Went to the Hollywood's Collectible Show in Burbank. Have not been to one in probably a decade. Was surprised to see how the show had changed. In the 80s and 90s, the shows were mostly collectible shows of movie posters, stills and video. At most shows a few stars of yesteryear would be at tables signing autographs or hawking books. The shows now are mostly stars of varying stature/fame selling autographs, stills and books. The selection of celebrities ran the gamut from stars of the 1930s up. Folks from STAR WARS and STAR TREKs mingled with the likes of Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney and Alan Young. Talked with Young (and MR. ED co-star) Connie Hines. Both were charming and the essence of "just folks". Spoke with Debbie Reynolds, but her responses seemed more programmed. Heard Mickey Rooney answer a few questions, with answers that showed definite distraction. Also had a moment to chat with June Foray who was charming as always. Sad to say, most of the "stars" had little meaning to me, as I really did not recognize them. Even sadder were the stars unrecognized by the main crowd. Saw many sitting at their tables, staring, waiting for someone, anyone to come up to talk with. As for the merchandise? It fell into mostly two categories - Low and High. Next to bins of $2 stills were $3500 movie posters. The middle ground seems to have disappeared. Still, it was fun seeing some of the stuff. Especially the dealer who had several hundred animation stills from a wide range of eras - CHIP AND DALE'S RESCUE RANGERS, SHINBONE ALLEY, PHILBERT, SECRET OF NIMH, Yogi Bear and THE BLACK CAULDRON. That was fun. In fact, it and Young & Hines made it a fun day.

July 15, 2006
So many thoughts today. Met a friend at Disneyland. Rachel stayed home for a variety of reasons, including arm pain, grogginess, worry about the heat for the kids, and concern about the fire. While driving to Disneyland, heard a Beatles song and suddenly "remembered" how in the 70s kids in school were always re-writing the lyrics to make them dirty. Wonder if kids, today, creat bawdy lyrics for their songs. Course, many a rock song today already has bawdy lyrics. Found the parks to have pretty average crowds. Surprising for a Saturday. Perhaps the heat had something to do with it. In fact, with only 30-minutes before the parade, the curbs of Main Street were still empty, except for the few shaded areas. And we attempted to hit the revised Pirates, but it was 101 (Park code for broken, not working, etc.). Stopped at Walmart on the way home to get some more art supplies for Rachel. Found the first season of the SUPERMAN TV series (from the 50s) on sale for only $14! Had to get it. That is the 'darker', more adult season. Even has the SUPERMAN MEETS THE MOLEMAN feature. A great film as Superman not only fights men from the center of the Earth, but also angry mobs. Temperature at the bottom of the mountain around 5pm... 105 degrees! Ouch. Got home to find that the fires are slowing and the mood is that they will not be hitting our area. Not a bad day.
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"A matter of internal security: the age-old cry of the oppressor."
Captain Jean-Luc Picard

July 14, 2006
The heat continues. As one local blogger wrote, it is "ugly hot". Cannot recall a summer so hot in the mountains. The news claims the heat "index" will be around 110 on Saturday. The index is created by a formula combining the actual temperature and level of humidty. It seems the more humid the weather is, the less able one is successfully sweat, and thus cool off. Hence, it seems even hotter. Guess it is the reverse of a "chill factor". Whether it actually works, the point is it is HOT. Luckily, it is only hot... not hot and windy. This is helping the firefighters in doing thier standard heroic task. The local fires are growing... but at the moment we are being told not to be overly concerned. Which is nicer than on Thursday when the general mode was panic. The weather folks are saying we will "extreme heat conditions" all day Saturday... and that plain heat will continue for several days more. The scary part is, August and September are supposed to be the hot months!
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"In intense heat I can feel quite claustrophobic."
Julie Andrews, performer

July 13, 2006
Well, it starts anew. Another fire and another worry. We've lived in the mountains for over 10 years. Almost every year we saw various fires in the mountains. The only effect we dealt with was the occasional blackened ground as we drove up and down the mountain. That all changed with the Old Fire of 2003. Suddenly the fire was winning. We were evacuated and spent several weeks wondering if there would be a home when we came back. Though the fire came within blocks of our street, we were spared. Since then, everytime brush ignites, I worry. This time there are two fires. Both started by lightning and both good sized. They are on the 'far' side of the mountain. The fires would have to come up the mountain, through Big Bear and back down to us. Again, a few years ago, I would have thought little of it. But with fires able to move a mile every hour, and the fire being around 15 miles from Big Bear, and us being around 15 miles from Big Bear... that's a little over a day to get from "there" to "here". At the moment, though the fire is still growing, it is growing the other direction, away from Big Bear and us. But, it only takes a change of wind. Or a similar fire could just as easily start in Lake Arrowhead. That could be on us within an hour or two. But as anyone knows, a fire could start in anyone's home or neighborhood. So what can one do? Well, you can be a bit prepared. This time we have begun asking friends in advance if they might have room. During the Old Fire, we were told to leave immediately and simply loaded the cars and drove down the mountain. It was only then that we had to figure out where to go. I also made sure both vehicles have full tanks. During the Old Fire, we needed to stop and get gas in Big Bear. Luckily we were able to. Currently, several stations in Big Bear have run out of gas. So life will continue... and we'll just hope that the firefighters are able to get a handle... and that the weather helps. At the moment, we really don't need more drama.
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"Nature does nothing uselessly."
Aristotle, philosopher

July 12, 2006
Got another blast from the past today thanks to Netflix. Watched some of the first season from DANGERMOUSE. Like the earlier ROCKY & BULLWINKLE, DM got most of its humor through the writing and voice acting and utilized almost minimal animation. The show is still cute, but must admit the bite is gone. I was reminded of how the series helped put Nickelodeon on the map. At the time, the new network was filled with a variety of live action series and game shows. Some were fun, most were flat. However, DANGERMOUSE's fresh, irrelevant humor was novel back then. The series quickly caught on with the college crowd and was soon a major phenomenon. Nick was running the show all over their schedule. All the publicity certainly helped bring attention to Nickelodeon... and may have been the impetus for them to begin thinking about doing their own cartoons. Sadly, the success was the downfall of the series. The distributors, excited by the buzz on the series felt it was being "held back" by being on a small cable network. They knew that if the series could get on national TV via syndication, it would mean more money via merchandise and other avenues. But by this time, the syndicated boom was in full swing. All the choice time slots were gone. In Los Angeles, it aired on a local station around 5am! Within a year, the popular series (now saddled with the least viewable timeslots) had all but been forgotten. A classic case of killing a goose for its golden eggs. Still the series has retained a cult status. The audience today only sees a poorly animated show with occasional adult humor. One can find similar humor, with much better art, all over the TV landscape. It is nice to see the episodes coming out on DVD. It is just a shame it could not have happened when the series, and its audience was fresh. DANGERMOUSE deserved better.
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"Well, if crime fighters fight crime and fire fighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight? They never mention that part to us, do they? "
George Carlin, humorist

July 11, 2006
More on PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN II. We saw it at the El Capitan (Disney) Theater in Hollywood. One thing about Disney films at the El Capitan... they always do a great show. When we saw THE WILD, they had a great bird show. This time, along with organist in flashy pirate gear (similar to Captain Hook), the theater was decorated in pirate motiff. Before the movie there was quite a nifty stage show (sorry, can say no more lest I call a 'spoiler' alert). Also got to see Jack Sparrow in person, via a character. He was quite good... better than the one we saw at Disneyland last week. He was open to play with the crowd and sized up Rachel for his crew. A surprise occured before the film when it was announced there would be a drawing for a pair of free tickets to Disneyland! A 'celebration' for the film doing so well opening weekend. The theater lobby had lots of props and costumes from the film to look at. And, of course, a number of the staff all were in pirate gear. For fun, Rachel wore her pirate vest and shirt. She got asked almost a dozen times for information from folks thinking she worked there! One fellow ogled her, claiming "I need your vest!" If one wonders why folks don't go to movies more often, one need only compare this experience with the typical theater of rushing you in, showing the film and rushing you out. Like classic Hollywood, it is more than just a movie... it is a real experience. The only down side of the show were the trailers. Another one for the cgi MEET THE ROBINSONS, which still does not look fun. One for a dramatic film about sea rescues, which seemed to tell the entire story in the trailer. Finally was a trailer for THE SANTA CLAUS III. It left me cold (ho-ho), but Rachel was intrigued by Martin Short as Jack Frost. Oh, the only real glitch was when the digital presentation 'froze' a few times at the beginning. But even that can be forgiven when the entire afternoon is so much fun.
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"The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can't do. "
Captain Jack Sparrow

July 10, 2006
Did get out to see PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 2. As predicted, it was not the surprisingly fresh discovery the first one was... but it was still fun. A bit darker and grimmer. And that's all I want to say to avoid spoilers. Key to the film is the performance of Depp as Jack Sparrow. More than simply repeating his personality ticks, he manages to keep it fresh and gets laughs from lines that would lie flat with others. In fact, his take on the character is so unique, it is hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Similar to Harrison Ford's interp of Indiana Jones, Depp has created an icon that is bound to be copied and parodied for years to come. Oh, and Rachel came up with an intriguing link between THE FLINTSTONES and Disney's HERCULES. She commented that Bamm-Bamm could be Hercules. Super strong with unknown parents (Zeus?). One can make more comparisons if desired. Just one of those ideas that come out of nowhere... and lead to some unique thinking.
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Captain Jack Sparrow

July 9, 2006
The other night got to view the Weird Al Yankovic dvd with a selection of his music videos. It was fun. And it reminded me of a fact about modern satire. The videos I found the funniest were the ones that I either knew the original song or had seen the original video. Ones of which I was unfamiliar with either source were less entertaining, and often caused a punch to the 'skip chapter' button. As I said, it reminded me the difference of modern satire. In days of yore, satirists used general images to make light of the world. The material could be enjoyed whether you knew the original or not. In fact, it could be enjoyed if you did NOT know the original. Spike Jones and Alan Sherman were famous for their musical mischief. Both satirized classical pieces and pop tunes. Yet, one can laugh at Jone's manic "Chloe" and Sherman's cloying "Camp Grenada" with little or no knowledge that they came from another source. Since variety shows became a staple of radio in the 30s, comics have successfully parodied thousands of books, movies and tv shows. And most of the time, it was not necessary to be an expert on the subject. When Carol Burnett did her "Went with the wind" sketch, she made a new dress out of drapes (just like in GONE WITH THE WIND). But Carol walking down the stairs in the gown, with curtain rod still attached, is funny... and made funnier by her reply to a compliment on the dress - "I just saw it in a window and had to have it." Again, whether you can connect it to the seen in GTWT does not matter. Today's comics replace impersonation with parody and satire. Classic comics would rework dialogue, visuals or simply repeat cliches. Modern laugh makers simply repeat the material with their vocal spin - like someone singing Beatle songs as Elmer Fudd. In fact, it the switch can be seen in a single comedian - Mel Brooks. His early satires THE PRODUCERS, BLAZING SADDLES, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN and SILENT MOVIE are funny movies without needing to understand how Broadway shows are put on, b-westerns, classic horror films or silent cinema. Most of the jokes can be enjoyed by anyone. Those who may know more will just get a bigger laugh. However a later film, HIGH ANXIETY, is simply a recreation of key Hitchcock scenes. If you do not know Hitchcock... you do not get the jokes. And worse, if you DO know Hitchcock, you know where each scene is going. Simply duplicating a film or sequence using your characters (a common "joke" used on THE SIMPSONS) is not really humor. I mean, seeing Homer Simpson replacing Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones is amusing... but is really no more than a cheap visual gag. Real humor comes from funny characters and funny situations. And great parody shows both of those can occur with a knowing wink to another source.
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"No joke is old if you haven't heard it before."
Milton Berle, comic

July 8, 2006
Word is that PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN II grossed well over $50 million its first day, breaking the record set a while back with STAR WARS III. Not bad, considering before PIRATES I, conventional wisdom in Hollywood was that pirate movies were 'old hat' and would not draw a young audience. Once again it shows how quickly the tastes of the public can shift, and thus be miscalculated. Of course, one reason the first film succeeded was that it was so much fun. A classic swashbuckler with plenty of swash. And Johnny Depp's original take on Captain Jack Sparrow certainly made the film as unique and modern as any effect they might have used. Rachel is watching the original a few times so she is prepared for seeing the sequel. I am amazed at how the film is one of those that does get better and better. More nuances. More clever dialogue. More great characters. In fact, the film is a perfect example of the Disney magic of creating great characters and interesting stories. From SNOW WHITE to MARY POPPINS to EMPERORS NEW GROOVE. Fun characters and stories. When folks comment on my frequent complaints about new movies, it is nice to have films like PIRATES and MONSTERS INC to show it can still be done. Can PIRATES II continue it? Well, I am sure the film will be energetic and fun. But it will miss the surprise factor. The surprise of Depp's wacky caricature. The surprise of sharp dialogue from pirates. The surprise of a coherent story. If PIRATES II is not as good as the first film, it could be as simple as that the sequel has so much to live up to.
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"Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn't mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar."
Edward R. Murrow, journalist

July 7, 2006
No bark...

July 6, 2006
Snuck away from life's issues to hit Disneyland for a few hours. Was even able to squeak unto the "new" Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It now has Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from the films. And I am not quite sure what all the fuss is about. Initial reports claimed that the soundtrack had been goosed so the cannon shots and gunfire were more intense. Well, they were a bit louder... but still sounded more like 'popping' than shooting. There was talk that the 'pc' changes made in the 90s were reversed... but the women being chased are still holding things (treasure, food, etc.) so that it appears the pirates are not after the ladies alone. And then there is Jack. Thanks to lighting and coloring, he is certainly easy to spot. Of course this was done to please the crowd. After all, anyone going through and not seeing Jack would no doubt be quite angry. Anyway, the good news is that the ride is still good fun... and the changes will not diminish that in years to come. Even if a decade from now everyone has forgotten Captain Jack Sparrow, the audience will still enjoy their journey to the land of Walt's pirates.
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"Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment."
Robert Benchley, humorist and movie personality

July 5, 2006
Long night of working. No barking. Not much sleeping either. Kids are restless. Wonder if an earthquake is due.

July 4, 2006
The fourth of July. And a quiet one here. Rachel is on pain meds. I am very tired. Did some stuff, and found snippets of time to spend with each kid. Hopefully will be more awake tomorrow.
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"I believe there is something out there watching us. Unfortunately, it's the government. "
Woody Allen, director

July 3, 2006
Went to our local fireworks show tonight. Admittedly, I am not much of a fan of fireworks "shows". I still recall the fun of doing it yourself in front of your home. Loved sparklers, snakes, roman candles and fire crackers the best. To me fireworks is more of a participation sport than a spectator sport. However I was surprised at some of the fireworks I saw. Most beautiful was one that opened up and then dripped down, like a weeping willow tree. Most humorous was one that opened up into a smiley face! Most amazing was one that opened up into a cube design! But I still miss fire crackers and snakes.
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"A fool and his money are soon elected."
Will Rogers, humorist
July 2, 2006
At times it seems as if the GOP (gas or petroleum party) is at war with the US. The MPAA gives a movie a PG rating due to it discussing issues like teen sex, pregnancy and rape. The GOP wants to investigate if it received the rating due to the film having christian slant! I am glad to hear the GOP led congress has nothing more important to do than worry about the ratings of movies. Iraq? Afghanistan? Drugs? Poverty? Oil prices? Security? Nothing compared to the danger of an out of control movie rating system! Maybe they could wonder why it is okay to show youngsters extreme violence and foul language... but a topless woman will destroy a soul. The Supreme Court states the US must obey international law when dealing with prisoners. The GOP says the Supreme Court may be going "too far". The GOP led congress had no problems when the Supreme Court picked Bush for President... or said it was okay to search a home without a warrant... or that the party in power could redraw district lines at anytime to assure staying in power. It is sometimes argued at election time that you should cast your vote so that the president and the majority of congress are two different parties. As arbitrary a reason for voting as that is, with the current situation of diminishing checks and balances, perhaps we should re-examine that issue. Unless the current congress worries that an "out of control" electorate might vote for the wrong party. The GOP may just decide to do away with elections completely.
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"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
John F. Kennedy, President

July 1, 2006
July 1st? Half the year is over. And the next half is starting with what promises to be a pretty wild four day weekend. Though I said I wouldn't go out today, I needed to pick a few things up. Roads, parking areas, shops were all mobbed! However, I did take time to stop in at the new book store and support them with a small purchase. It wasn't easy. Even locally, there are lots of folks visiting so we have more street traffic. Just not used to so many folks up here. Makes the kids more "alert". But, live in a resort area and it is one of the factors you have to accept. Biggest laugh I got today came while I was turning in a few winning lotto scratchers. The big prize this weekend is around $100 million. the lady behind the counter stated a regular had just come in and stated if they win the $100 million, they are going to put a gate up at the bottom of the mountain.
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"Of the 23,547 complaints filed with the FCC in July, 23,542 came from the Parents Television Council, which provides handy online complaint forms for members who aren't comfortable thinking for themselves."
Richard Roeper, media critic

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