My aunt in Idaho loves to send out emails with interesting pictures, say, the outdoor toilet seat for the truck hitch in case you really need to take a dump on the road. I’m just enough of a redneck to appreciate the humor despite growing up in California and visiting Idaho only twice in my life for a family reunion (1978) and burying my mother’s ashes with her parents (2004). Most of these emails I glance at and delete immediately, as I can tolerate only so much redneck humor.
My aunt recently sent me this YouTube video of a car chase in Southern California that someone set to The Benny Hill Show theme music (a.k.a., “Yaktey Sax”). A woman driver puts a Toyota Scion and the police through a high-speed chase that went all over a toll road. She even stops at one point to get out of car, as if she was going to speak to the police officers chasing her, and then ran after the car as it drove off without her. California Americana at its finest.
Most Americans know The Benny Hill Show as a half-hour late night comedy show with only the naughty skits, which I watched as a wee lad in the early 1980’s after my parents went to bed. Like most foreign TV shows re-packaged for America, something got lost in the translation. The hour-long variety show in Great Britain featured singers, dances and non-naughty skits. I read somewhere that Benny Hill’s comedy was based on three types of village idiots that were disappearing from modern British society.
A Channel 4 KRON TV news report from 1981 details how the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner newspapers were adopting news articles for online delivery. You have to stop and think about what that meant back then. The Apple II home computer ruled the classrooms. The IBM PC was still several years off. Hobbyist computer systems that connected electronic keyboards to black-and-white TV’s were available to anyone with a soldering iron. CompuServe and America Online (AOL) were emerging online services. What would become the modern Internet was accessible only through military and university computer networks.
The first commercial Hayes modem came out that year to set the communication standard for a computer to connect to another computer over the plain old telephone at a lighting fast speed of 300-bits-per-second. (Today’s 30-megabits-per-second cable modem is 100,000 times faster in comparison.) As the anchorwoman pointed out in the YouTube video, it would take over two hours to download the daily $0.20 USD newspaper and the phone company charging $5.00 USD per hour.
Newspapers back then weren’t worry about losing money to an online news service. Flash forward 30 years into the future, the dead tree edition of the daily newspaper is declining as readers read mostly free news from the Internet over their cellphones and tablets. Like many industries that embraced computer technology, newspaper publisher never looked far enough down the road to see how their existing business model must change from the physical to the virtual. I stopped subscribing to the dead tree edition years ago, mostly because the neighbors kept stealing the newspapers off my apartment doorstep before I left for work in the morning.
One of the stranger stories to come out of Big Wow Comicfest 2014 (May 16-17, 2014) was the true story of a South Korean movie director, Shin Sang-ok, being kidnapped by the North Korean government to produce a 1985 monster movie called “Pulgasari” (available on Youtube with English subtitles), reportedly because the son of Kim Il-sung was a huge Godzilla fan, and later escaped from the regime. From what I read elsewhere on the Internet, the movie was so awful that it’s pretty good.
A Godzilla cosplayer dances to the Rock Band video game rendition of “Godzilla” by Blue Oyster Cult at Big Wow Comicfest 2014 (May 16-17, 2014). The first time I used my new iPhone 5C for recording a video. The most obvious mistake was recording in the vertical position, which required downloading a plugin for iMovie to flip the video and add black bars to either side. I won’t be making that mistake again.
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When my friend and I went to the Las Vegas for the Star Trek Convention last summer, we met Houston Huddleston, founder and CEO of New Starship, who saved the Enterprise-D bridge from the dustbin of history and took it on tour to various science fiction conventions. He just started a Kickstarter project to raise the initial seed money to build the Hollywood Science Fiction Museum in 2018. A permanent home for the Star Trek bridge that will also feature ships, robots, cars, and memorabilia from many other science fiction movies and TV shows. The contribution goodies range from an official museum certificate ($1 USD) to hosting a wedding on the bridge ($2,000 USD) to an exclusive five-day video shoot on the bridge ($10,000 USD).
Updated 15 June 2014: With a shout out by George Takei on Twitter, the Kickstarter project is now fully funded.
I was browsing through a business magazine when I noticed a Kia K900 car ad that featured Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) from “The Matrix” movie that came out 15 years ago. I did a double take. Bad enough that Samuel Jackson wears a T-shirt that says, “I’m not Laurence Fishburne,” because, well, they both look like an aging Morpheus. There are even rumors of a new “Matrix” trilogy in the works. Now we got the return of Morpheus as a car salesman in this Kia Super Bowl commercial that I didn’t hear about. Doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m already missing the Kia hamsters.
On “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” this week, Jimmy Fallon and Bruce Springsteen sung about the traffic jam scandal from last September that gotten New Jersey Governor Chris Christie into a bit of hot water. So far no smoking traffic cone has turned up that the governor orchestrated a four-day closure of two lanes on the three-lane George Washington Bridge to snarl traffic as political payback against a Democratic mayor in Fort Lee who decline to endorse the governor in the recent election.
Unlike the endless parade of manufactured scandals against President Barack Obama, this is real scandal that will send people to prison. If a smoking traffic cone does implicates Governor Christie, his impeachment and removal from office will also remove him as the leading Republican presidential candidate for 2016. That would be a shame.
With the Tea Party extremists chasing moderate conservatives out of office, the Republican Party doesn’t have an experienced heir apparent for the presidential nomination. Governor Christie came close to filling that role. The Tea Party, however, hates him because he hugged President Obama rather than give him the middle finger and for accepting federal aid—the handling of which is also being investigated—in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. As one commentator wrote in response to a political article about the song, you don’t see liberals denouncing Bruce Springsteen for shaking hands with the governor for the Hurricane Sandy telethon event.
What the Republican Party has left are third-rate candidates who will implode from saying something stupid while pandering to old angry white people who no longer represents America in the primary elections, and the eventual nominee who does emerge can’t pivot to the center that does represent America to win the general election. As we saw in the 2012 presidential election, Governor Mitt Romney got tied up and delivered like a pretzel when he went against President Obama. I expect more of the same in 2016.
It doesn’t help Governor Christie that the scandal happened in the backyard of the New York City media market and New Jersey’s most prominent citizen sung about the scandal on national TV. But that’s the East Coast. On the West Coast, we have to settle for renaming the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as a possible bridge scandal.
During the eighth grade in 1984, I had a junior engineering class to draw blueprints and build models. The big projects we did were a cut-away section of a house, a racing car propelled by a carbon-monoxide cylinder, and a tissue paper hot air balloon.
My favorite project was the hot air balloon. I glued alternating sheets of green and white tissue paper into eight panels, cut each panel into a balloon-shape pattern from a template based on a mathematical formula, and glued the panels together to form a 48″ balloon with a narrow neck.
Because I assembled my balloon at home, the cats got to it with their sharp claws. I had to glue on 234 patches inside the classroom while everyone else flew their balloons. The best-case scenario for my balloon was for it to fill up and fall over due to the extra weight. The worst-case scenario was for it to catch fire from an ember (which did happen to some balloons, including one in flight).
The teacher held the flue over the wood-burning trashcan to direct the hot air. I held the balloon neck over the flue opening to fill it up. After I tied off the neck with a rubber band and let it go, the balloon floated 20 feet into the air and out of the courtyard to everyone’s astonishment. A group of us chased after the balloon two blocks down the street from the school. That’s the furthest any balloon went that day.
The teacher announced at the end of class that my balloon was a kludge—something that worked when it wasn’t expected to work. That was the happiest day for me in the eighth grade.
Kids today don’t know how good they have it when doing engineering projects. A weather balloon filled with hydrogen can carry a mounted camera to transmit video of a test object going into space. Like the video of this inflatable sex doll that went up 102,000 feet, exposed to extreme gamma radiation and the low surface pressure of Mars, and crashed somewhere in the Nevada desert.
Gives new meaning to the old Star Trek engineering motto: “She’s gonna blow, captain!”
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As a child growing up in the 1970’s, I heard evangelical Christians on the religious TV channels complain about the commercialization of Christmas as mass-market retailers emphasized the importance of giving—and receiving—gifts to the extent that God was often forgotten during the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Unlike the Puritans who actually cancelled Christmas for two decades in the 17th century, these Christians wanted people to slow down, consider the birth of Christ and their relationship with God.
Never mind that Christmas was a Roman pagan festival called Saturnalia that celebrated a weeklong period of lawless, as the courts weren’t open and no crime committed during that time was punishable. Some communities even designated an unfortunate soul to become the “Lord of Misrule,” encouraging that person to indulge in all kinds of pleasure, and then brutally killing that person at the end of the holiday. Which, ironically, is what Black Friday has become these days with all the mayhem over getting the best holiday deal.
Fast forward a generation, evangelical Christians on Fox News are complaining the mass-market retailers are removing Christmas from the holidays by changing “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” in their greetings. There’s a “war on Christmas” to prevent evangelical Christians from shoving the spirit of Christmas down everyone else’s throat.
Did that make your head spin like the little girl’s in “The Exorcist” movie? Mine did too.
Now it didn’t help that Fox News host, Megyn Kelly, proclaimed that both Santa and Jesus were white and tough luck for anyone who wanted to believe otherwise. Saturday Night Live has a great skit about Santa Claus being black as hell. I wrote a tanka poem about Santa Claus being black from climbing down so many chimneys that his old lady called the cops because he forgot his keys.
Of course, this nonsense had to spill over into the real world. A white teacher told a black student that he couldn’t play Santa. A black Santa was shot in the back with a pellet gun at a toy drive. The famed Macy’s of “Miracle on 34th Street” has a white Santa in front for everyone to see, and a black Santa hidden away in the back, where you need to ask an elf inside the Santaland maze for to find his secret location. Seriously. I even wrote a tanka poem about that.
Did anyone noticed that the controversy of a white Jesus was quietly dropped by the news media? No one wanted to open that particular can of worms. Most evangelical Christians haven’t read the whole bible and memorized only certain scriptures on sin to hurl into someone’s face. That Jesus was a Jewish carpenter might unsettle some folks. Fox News published an article that the race of Jesus is unknown.
As a white Christian who read the bible from cover-to-cover six times, I’m going to have a very Jewish Christmas by seeing “47 Ronin” at the movie theater and eating orange chicken from Panda Express. On that note, happy holidays!
One of the highlight of the 2013 Las Vegas Star Trek convention was the display of the Enterprise-D bridge that Houston Huddleston, founder and CEO of New Starship, has touring around the country before the bridge eventually goes into a permanent museum. My friend already had a “Captain, I saved the bridge!” t-shirt before we arrived at the convention. We met Houston, sat down in the chairs and had our pictures taken. The latest episode of the reality TV series, “Shipping Wars,” shows how the bridge got shipped to the convention.
If you’re not familiar with the show, a motley group of transporters bid on moving a shipment from Point A to Point B without loosing money. Chris and Robbie won the bid to deliver the bridge to Las Vegas and deliver the Doctor Who TARDIS console to California from the same science fiction convention in Texas with a four-day deadline. Jarrett won the bid to deliver five giant pumpkins from Ohio to Kentucky in one day. Meanwhile, the other transporters deliver their colorful commentary as events unfold on the show.
Chris and Robbie are perhaps the most clueless people ever to walk into a science fiction convention without knowing anything about Doctor Who and Star Trek TV series. The bridge arrived in Las Vegas without incident. The lid for the disassembled crate to ship the TARDIS console in got tossed en route because it kept falling on top of the bridge. Worst, they demanded full payment even though they failed to deliver the entire shipment to the customer. The stopped by the convention in Las Vegas on their way back home from California.
Jarrett was no better. Being the less experienced transporter out of the group, he finds himself in trouble when he comes around a corner too fast and a 1,000+ pound giant pumpkin goes flying off the trailer into a ditch to make pumpkin. He abandons the destroyed pumpkin, buys a similar giant pumpkin and almost gets away with not telling the owner what happen. Of course, the owner does figure out that this particular giant pumpkin wasn’t his. But Jarrett insisted and got full payment because the owner was in a bind, surprising himself that he can actually make money doing this.
While my friend and I were at the convention, we noticed quite a few camera crews running around the place. The end credits for the episode shows Chris in a Federation shirt and Robbie in a Federation skirt uniform and Vulcan ears, walking through the dealer room and sitting on the bridge with Houston. We may or may not have seen them being filmed.
You can always trust the French to come up with something truly tasteless about American culture, say, a new TV ad for a gambling company with the JFK assassination as a backdrop. Two Dallas cops are standing along the parade route when one bets the other that he can spin his gun like a cowboy, accidentally discharges the gun, and the bullet ricochet all over the place until hitting someone inside a passing open-air limousine, where a Jackie-O look-alike scrambles over the backseat as a Secret Service agent jumps the back of the limousine, and the bumbling cops points to a nearby building.
An interesting reinterpretation of an iconic moment from American history that still prompts raw emotion in people, as the 50th anniversary of the assassination is on November 22, 2013. I wouldn’t be born for another six years, but the assassination deeply impacted my parents as their first wedding anniversary took place time. Like many significant events witnessed on TV, they remembered where they were when it happened. For my father in particular, and many older white Americans in general, this was the moment when the American dream got flushed down the toilet and the country went straight to hell.
Here are my favorite pop culture reinterpretations of the JFK assassination.
This British science fiction comedy TV series, “Red Dwarf,” has the intrepid crew going back into time to accidentally prevent the JFK assassination from happening. Most Americans remember JFK as being a great president because he got assassinated. If he had survived to complete his term, people might have remembered his administration as being no better or worse than the Jimmy Carter administration. The Red Dwarf crew takes an older, washed-up and jaded JFK back in time for him to pull the trigger to assassinate himself from behind the fence to restore his place in history.
I was at WonderCon 2009 when the opening montage for “The Watchmen” movie, based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore, got revealed for the first time, where a series of reinterpreted American scenes from the 1940’s to the 1980’s included the superheroes with Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changing” playing in the background. The JFK assassination takes place with The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) pulling the trigger from behind the fence. The visual effects and the music made for a stunning montage.
From “The X-Files” TV series came the episode, “Musings of A Cigarette Smoking Man,” which explains how the Smoking Man as a young man became a key player in so many conspiracy theories about aliens and UFOs. His role in the JFK assassination was setting up Lee Harvey Oswald to take the fall by being in the wrong place at the wrong time and firing the fateful shot from a storm drain. As the older Smoking Man once told Agent Fox Mulder, he had watched presidents die.
For some strange reason, CNBC has made the fifth episode of “The Profit” unavailable on their website unless you have a cable TV subscription. That’s frustrating since I only watch TV online. Fortunately, Hulu had the episode, “LA Dogworks,” available for viewing. Marcus Lemonis tries to turn around a dog daycare center but walks away when the verbally abusive owner refuses to change. One of the reasons why I love watching this show is that Lemonis isn’t afraid of walking away from a bad deal.
Hulu followed that episode with the episode of “Nightmare Kitchen” that featured Gordon Ramsey walking away from the verbally abusive owners of Amy’s Baking Company. I’ve heard about this episode when I read news articles about the owners that are still having a social media meltdown, facing legal issues and retaliating against the critics months after the show aired. As I watched the episode, I couldn’t believe the number of F-bombs that the owners tossed at everyone who disagreed with them. I’m surprised that a “South Park”-styled counter wasn’t keeping track of how many times the F-bomb got mentioned.
If you watch enough episodes of “Restaurant Impossible,” where celebrity chef Robert Irvine spends $10,000 USD to turn around a failing restaurant, most owners are people who never worked in the restaurant business, paid too much money for their restaurant and have no clue on what to do next. There’s more to running a restaurant than opening a new store front, hiring staff and cooking food. Many of these people would have been better off investing their money into a stamp collection.
No surprise that Amy’s Baking Company falls into this all too familiar pattern.
The husband, Samy, a former house builder who gets out of the business long before the housing bubble popped in 2007, asks his wife, Amy, what they should do next. Her dream was to open a restaurant. He sunk a million dollar into the new business. She ran the kitchen, he ran the front desk. Somehow they managed to keep the business going for many years until a blogger writes a bad review that accused them of serving frozen pizza and business falls off dramatically.
Expecting Ramsey to use his reputation to fix their reputation from the “online bullies” boggles the mind. The frequent F-bombs at customers, stealing tips from the staff and serving undercooked frozen foods aren’t something that a celebrity chef’s reputation can paper over. As the cameras revealed on “Nightmare Kitchen” and other reality TV shows, the problems that business owners face are not always external. If they can’t look in the mirror to see the true source of their problems, they and their business will never change for the better.