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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I STILL Blame Yoko...

I read an article today saying that said that Paul McCartney doesn't blame Yoko Ono for the breakup of the Beatles and neither should I. Well, balderdash, I say. This is one of the basic tenets on which I have based my rather shaky belief system. Sure, my anger and heartbreak over the breakup and the seemingly innate instinct to foist all that anger and heartbreak on her slender Japanese shoulders was stronger when I was an impressionable lad than now that I have become a raging cynic. But the fact remains, if something (anything, really) goes wrong, I could always fall back on "I blame Yoko". It is a sad time indeed, friends, when a man can't simply blame Yoko Ono.
That said, I have to wonder what kind of shrewd political maneuvering Sir Paul is plotting by lobbing such a "Give Peace A Chance"-style poli-grenade out there for all to read. In the panic and confusion of the patchouli smoke and flower petal fallout, I would almost expect that McCartney will make some sort of drastic Beatle power-move that will blindside not only the music followers, Beatlemaniacs and critics alike, but also the vicious shrew and obvious breaker-upper of the Beatles, Yoko Ono. That's right, so smitten will the widow of the late John Lennon be over these comments (made about 40 years too late, I might point out), that she will be completely unprepared and totally defenseless when Sir Macca makes his move.
"I'd like to retire soon, and the way things are going I might be able to." McCartney stated in the same interview. Perhaps not quite yet, he might have added. Perhaps just not quite yet... Is this a hint that there is something up his Edwardian-throwback jacketed sleeve? You be the judge.
All the political posturing and "All You Need Is Love" camouflage aside, let's take a look at the facts.
"Reasons why Yoko didn't break up the Beatles", by Paul McCartney:
 "She certainly didn't break the group up; the group was breaking up." Ah, well stated, Paul. It is true that George and Ringo had already left the group by the time Yoko had had finagled her way into the ultimate backstage pass. They subsequently figured out that nobody cared and came back to the band shortly thereafter. The fact is, lots of bands break up, have members leave, or have their manager die and ultimately get back together. I believe that The Beatles would have been no different, had Yoko not been around to plant the seeds of subversion on everything her dainty little fingers touched.
Yoko Ono and her Electric Subversion Hammer
"Part of her attraction was her avant-garde side, her view of things, so she showed him (Lennon) another way to be, which was very attractive to him."  But perhaps not so attractive to the other 3/4 of the world's most famous music group. Like posing naked for an album cover. On a shitty album of gibberish, no less. Or bringing a bed into a Beatles recording session when she was under the weather - AND, requesting a microphone, should she have any input to the recording process... Excellent ideas, all - anyone for a break-up???
Still, I suppose you can't blame Paul McCartney for mending whatever imaginary fences there are left to mend on this front, given that he and Yoko are both well into their seventh decade and Lennon has been dead for over thirty years. After all, one would like a clean Beatle slate when one shuffles off to Beatle Heaven. But I can't help but think...
Maybe he is going to make the ultimate power move to secure the Beatles' songwriting catalog, which has been in the hands of either Michael Jackson or SONY Music Entertainment/Michael Jackson since the 80's when Jackson swooped in and bought the rights out from under McCartney and Ono's noses while the two hemmed and hawed, waiting for a better deal. This has always been a sore spot for Macca, who wrote many of the songs that are still paying for Jackson's legal expenses.
Or, perhaps he will play the more subtle move, now that Yoko is softened up, pliable and old enough to get medication delivered to her penthouse for free through any number of infomercials on the Hallmark Channel. My prediction is that he will go into enemy territory and successfully negotiate the songwriting credits on all the Beatles songs that currently bear the "Lennon-McCartney" standard. From this day forward and forever more, the songs shall  read "Written by McCartney-Lennon".
That's just my hunch, but I think that's how rich Beatles with nothing else to worry about clean their basement. I could be wrong, time will tell. Either way, I blame Yoko.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Soccer... Bah.

Let it be noted that today I wandered and drove the streets of Uruapan, Mexico - in the beautiful state of Michoacan - in search of a place to watch the second game of the 2012 World Series between the Detroit Lions and the San Francisco Giants. I have no affinity for either team; only the bullheaded, ingrained, non-negotiable desire to watch some October baseball.

My wife and I ended up in a little place that sported two high-def flat-screen televisions and tables with overhead lamps that had shades with MLB team names and logos - a good start. The place also boasted serviceable wings and cold beer - things were looking better by the moment. And as my Spanish is halting and profane at best, I had my wife inquire about the Series on television tonight.

There was a five-minute dialogue back and forth, during which I marveled at the coldness of my beverage and planned my attack strategy on ordering another, gleaning the proper grammar from the halting and profane which I had on-hand. The waiter and my wife finally finished their rapid-fire conversation and he walked away, most likely sweating from the effort, with an order for two more beverages. I was pleased about the fact that new beverages would shortly be en-route, not so pleased about the conversation. I gathered from the body language and inflection that the prognosis for baseball was no bueno.

"That meant no, right?" I asked. "All of that..."
"Yes," she answered, sipping from her own bottle, the contents of which were no-doubt much warmer than the one I had finished five minutes earlier. "He was explaining why..."
"I don't care why," I said. "That part doesn't matter. The answer is no - the rest is just hot air..." She shrugged and nodded.

I looked around and pouted a bit. There was a flyer on the wall promoting a local soccer match for charity. "I'll bet they'd have soccer on the television if there was a championship," I said.
"Of course," my wife answered. She was looking anxious for her second beer as well - after all, she had worked hard trying to find out about the World Series; she deserved a little something.

"Soccer isn't even a real sport," I challenged.
"What do you mean - it's very hard. They run up and down the field for mucho tiempo..." She liked to do that - mix her English with a little Spanish. Sexy.
"Because it can end in 'zero'," I said. "Sports do not end it ties - it's not sportsmanlike."

The wings came with the second round of beverages and I continued. "Ending in a tie is like giving up. 'Ohhh, it's okay - we'll just stop here...' Fuck no! You play until there is a winner!" We took a breather to eat - the wings were good. "Who quits before the game is over?"
"What if the time is up?" she asked.
"Then you add more time until somebody fucking wins," I said, dipping a wing into the watery bleu cheese dip. I shrugged. "What does anybody get out of a sport if nobody wins? What is learned there?"
She shrugged back. "I don't know... Sometimes nobody wins - then everybody feels good..."
"NO!" I yelled, waving the little drum and spraying dip on the table. "Nobody feels good - it's no more than a Goddamn participation trophy!"
"What do you mean?"

It was cold beer #3 before I could finish my profanity-laced definition of the participation trophy. In summary: One team wins, one team loses; both teams take home a trophy or ribbon simply for having shown up. The result: The winners feel no passion for the win; the losers feel no incentive to go out and do better next game - they still get a prize. "We need to teach our children to lose," I said. "That is probably more important than teaching them to win. Winning is easy!" The fries were as good as the wings.

"What if your little molleycoddled, participant son goes for a job interview and doesn't get the job?" I asked. "Do you think he'll get a trophy for his effort when asks for one?" I waited... Nothing. "NO," I answered myself. "He'll get a 'no, what you get is the fuck out of my office, that's what you get...'"

We enjoyed the rest of our wings and may have had an additional cold beer. I don't know if I ever made my point about soccer, and I certainly don't know if I ever made any sense with my disdain of the "No One Is A Loser" philosophy in the world of sport. What I did know, however, is that the search for a place to watch the World Series would either muddle on, or I would be forced to follow the game on the faulty Yahoo Sports Play-By-Play feed, which was the sports-watching equivalent to the participant trophy. But it was a beautiful day, and one thing was certain - if I didn't find a place today, there would always be game three.

There's always game three...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Handshakes - Don't Be A Puss.

I was reading an article today that said the handshake was becoming more and more rare as pusscakes become more and more frightened of germs and more and more attached to their ever-present bottles of Purell. Let me first say that I hate this panicky, over-reactive, skittish attitude our society has taken when it comes to germs. Sure, wash your hands after you wipe your dingleberries, brush your teeth when you can and don't eat poison - other than that, we should be good to go when it comes to battling the great unseen microbes that are determined to undermine our health, well-being and self-confidence.

I remember when I was a kid, if I dropped a piece of candy or something equally delectable on the ground, I picked it up, brushed it off and ate it, thoroughly enjoying its delectible-icity. It didn't matter if it landed in a parade of marching fire ants or on a pile of used kitty-litter; it was brushed off and briskly devoured. No harm, as far as I can tell. I have defective eyesight, but I prefer to think it was given me thus by Jesus.

But I am not writing today to talk about germs, tainted candy or the Messiah.

I am writing to talk about the lost art of the handshake. I was taught as a youngster (when I was not busy picking up, brushing off and devouring filthy Jolly Ranchers) that the handshake was the proper manner with which to greet others and not to "shake like a girl", as my dad would mutter when the handshake was not firm, deliberate or of enough duration. I was taught to clasp the other man's hand confidently, with the web between my thumb and forefinger notched into that of the shakee. A couple of subtle up-and-downs were plenty, the release quickly executed and the greeting was complete.

Artist's rendering of a firm, well-executed Perfect Handshake.
I came to realize, as my handshake made its way into adulthood, that there were many ways to shake another person's hands, most of which were not nearly as firm, confident and effective as the one I had in my holster. The first time a guy pulled the power-move of grabbing me by the fingers instead of locking the thumb-web, I was caught off guard and may have yipped when he applied the painful pressure to my vulnerable knuckles. He shook without comment, as if this is the way it was meant to be done. I eventually recovered, but I couldn't hold a pencil for two weeks and eventually learned to write equally well with me left hand, a talent which has served me well.
Another handshake which flummoxed me was the delicate, fingers-only handshake preferred by fancy women and dandies. Instead of locking the thumb-webs, as is necessary in the Perfect Handshake, or even grabbing the fingers of the shakee in a crushing vice-grip, the Delicate Finger Shake is initialized by each party daintily grasping the fingers of the other for an often-dramatic and tender greeting between two persons of equally delicate disposition. I have been bushwhacked by this maneuver in the past and never quite felt fulfilled upon completion. I liken the Delicate Finger Shake to a liqueur cordial - nothing really to it.
An artist's rendering of the foppish Delicate Finger Shake
A variation of the Delicate Finger Shake is the Limp Fish. I do not even write "Shake" after "Limp Fish" because by all accounts, this should not be counted as a genuine handshake of any sort. This is no more than a ruse by those who refuse or are unable to execute even the DFS. I have been ambushed by these posers before as well and have never been impressed with them as human beings or executors of proper greetings etiquette. Nefarious at best, I always keep my hands near my wallet after meeting these spineless ne'er-do-wells.
There are other offshoots of the handshake-as-greeting. Somewhere along the line, back in the 40's or 50's, hip jazz musicians took to "slipping some skin", which was a smooth sliding of horizontal palms, which eventually mutated into the slapping of palms, or "giving five". There were "high-fives", or the slapping of palms overhead and convoluted, synchronized, choreographed rigmarole that has insinuated itself into baseball dugouts. The culmination of all this nonsense is the "fist-bump", which is awkward at best, though not as awkward as a poorly-executed high-five, which can leave participants feeling embarrassed, uncoordinated and invariably, white. The fist bump, which is the soft nudging of two fists, has come from society's fear of the Dreaded Germ. What better way to avoid germ-spreading than clenching our vulnerable germic palms into fists and barely touching the outer part of the hand, which will likely not come into contact with our food, drink or good sense? When offered a proffered fist as a greeting, I will often grab it like an outstretched hand and shake it. This usually throws the fister for a loop and they often wander away, staring at their hand, having not uttered a single word. Which is what I prefer.
So, when I say, "don't be a puss" when it comes to the handshake, I mean forget about germs - 96% of the time you will be juuuuust fine. And if you are one of the unlucky 4%, just know that you will be missed. By someone. Not me - I will consider it a justifiable thinning of the herd. By "don't be a puss", I also mean, "don't shake like a girl". Meet thumbwebs, shake firm and be done with it. And teach your children, for Chrissakes. They'll thank you for it in the end.
You're welcome.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Performance Enhancing Drugs: Let Them Ponies Run!

I read today in the news that Lance Armstrong was being stripped of all seven of his Tour De France titles, because people have come forward to say he took performance enhancing drugs. Please note that Armstrong never tested positive for doping - not once. As it turns out, he was apparently some sort of doping wizard, outsmarting the testing agencies at every step of the process again and again, for years. Armstrong drank magical potions that would mask all the performance enhancers, staying just ahead of the scientific testing curve and maintaining the squeaky-clean facade that hid the Steroid Monster that lurked just beneath the surface. Sometimes, subterfuge and pee-test sleight of hand was necessary and I am nearly certain there were chants, prayers, talismans and live chickens involved as well. It was like a high-tech Harry Potter story on wheels.

Forget about Armstrong's charitable work; he formed the Lance Armstrong Foundation to benefit people affected by cancer and has raised over $350 million dollars from the sale of his stylish yellow "Live Strong" bracelets - and did I mention that Armstrong won all of his Tour De France races after battling testicular cancer?

But I am not writing today to express my indignation at having Armstrong stripped of his French titles in the sport most notorious in all of the sporting kingdom for the doping of its participants.

It is my opinion that performance enhancing drugs are a natural progression of nature in general and sports specifically. Steroids and human growth hormones have insinuated themselves into nearly every sport in the world, even golf, which is little more than a frustrating walk through a well-groomed meadow. When Tiger Woods was eating fellow golfers like a red-shirted woodchipper, there were rumblings that he might have been plying the aid of PED's. After all, when one is used to watching Craig Stadler and his generation of golfers, a buffed-out Tiger Woods must look like Superman.

 Hey, no fair.
I think that it's fair to say that probably every athlete in every sport on the planet is looking for a competitive edge and always has, be it through bending the rules, using an improved diet, exercise, or voodoo. One can only guess at how many desperate ballplayers took up drinking, carousing and eating hot dogs before and during games after reading of Babe Ruth's exploits.

Baseball has long been a hot bed for rumors of rule-bending, be it handfuls of bennies distributed before the game, sign stealing by confederates planted in the outfield stands with binoculars or turning a tacit eye to various and sundry misbehaviors of team members, such as curfews, non-drinking polices and catting around. For a sport so steeped in tradition and indignance over statistical transgressions, it sometimes appears that baseball talks out of both sides of its hot-dog devouring, beer-drinking, pill-popping mouth.
Baseball didn't even seem to take steroids seriously until Jose Conseco wrote about the rampant clubhouse abuse of the drugs in a tell-all book. The Selig administration certainly didn't seem to mind the fact that every record in the book was being systematically destroyed when the Sosa/McGuire homerun race was going on back in 1998. The two men blasted balls out of every park in the nation at a pace not seen since the Iron-City Beer-fueled days of 1961, when Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris chased and Maris broke the Bambino's single-season record. All the commissioner knew was that his sport had been saved after many fans had waved a disgusted hand at baseball after a strike-shortened season in 1994. The fans were back by the millions, because after all, who doesn't dig the long ball?
536 Home Runs, courtesy Iron City Beer
My point is this: Forget about trying to control doping. I say let everyone take steroids, human growth hormone or flax-seed Wheaties for all I care - have black beauties out in a candy dish in the clubhouse - the players are going to use them anyhow. Some will get caught, others will escape detection. If they are available to everyone, then the playing field is once again level. And let the fun begin. I want to see angry, roided-up monsters with huge heads and teeny little testicles demolishing all records in all sports. I want anarchy on the field - I want the refs to be roided up as well and armed with clubs, whips and tasers to help control the vicious beasts. I want to see fights on the field where a juiced-up out of control lineman literally tears the head off a quarterback with his bare hands, just as the QB launches an 85 yard pass with the velocity of a Civil War cannonball to a gazelle of a receiver streaking down the field so fast his shoes catch fire.
Baseball bats will need to be made out of iron and the pitching mound will be raised by two additional feet to accommodate fireballers with arms the size of matured hams. Basketball rims will be raised to 15 feet. Golf courses will double in length and clubs will be built by NASA. Full-contact will be encouraged in all sports, including golf and swimming. Checkers, too - let them juice and kill themselves off in fits of uncontollable checker-pique. Fuck checkers, anyhow.
If this seems a bit radical, so be it. I am tired of over-paid athletes celebrating every hit, catch, tackle, basket and bunt. Let's see how the celebration goes when a 432 pound defensive back takes umbrage to your delicate, pre-choreographed catch-dance and tears you apart at the groin, like a giant, Spandex-covered wishbone. Let's bring some humility back into sports, shall we? And what better way to do so than to let the steroid-fountain flourish - let them steroid ponies run, I say!
Vote Jerry Ford King in the upcoming elections. It'll do your steroid-swollen heart good.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ants, Mosquitos and Moths, oh my...

Anyone who even knows me in passing is probably aware of my many phobias and misgivings when it comes to nature and the dastardly creatures which inhabit it. I have already written at length on a variety of subjects pertaining to our eventual demise at the hands of apes, sharks, ants, bears, lions, or the vicious teeth of the wolverine, if not to flood, hurricane, black-plague, lava or fire.
It is mosquito season and I am covered in bites from these bloodthirsty little bastards and have scratched myself nearly to the bone attempting to rid my flesh of their evil itch. Then last night, I found myself under attack by not one, but two kamikaze moths. I had been reading in the chair by the bed under the "big" light and had thought I'd seen something flitter by in the room out of the corner of my eye. When I moved to the bed to continue my reading, I switched off the big light and turned on the gentle yellow glow of the bedside lamp.

And that was my fatal mistake.

The giant moth wasted no time in carpet-bombing me as I tucked in. I squealed like a four year-old girl and swatted ineffectually at the air as the moth disappeared into the surrounding darkness. I eventually swatted the fiend with a heavy envelope and picked up the remains with a tissue for disposal. I saw, with no little disgust, that the moth had left a smear of dust-like goo on the dresser where he had crashed, like a little, disgusting evil crop-duster. I cleaned up the mess and returned to my bed, feeling very much like the Great White Hunter, only to be attacked by a smaller swashbuckling relative, which I dispatched in short order.

The Devil's Little Crop-Duster
This led me to start thinking: What good are moths, anyhow. And mosquitoes and ants, for that matter. These devilish little minions of Satan surely serve some purpose, other than to leave unsightly blemishes on my tender skin and to spray me with devil-dust. So, off to the World Wide Web I went.
And this is what I found...
Regarding Moths:
"The most notable moth is the silkworm, the larva of the domesticated moth Bombyx mori. It is farmed for the silk with which it builds its cocoon.
Butterflies and moths are indicators of a healthy environment and healthy ecosystems and are an important element of the food chain as they are prey for birds, bats and other insectivorous animals."
So, in summary, some moths create silk. The rest are simply dowdy butterflies without the elegant clothing who serve as chum for other flying creatures, which are most-likely equally worthless.
Let the Great Extermination begin, I say. Who needs ugly little cropdusting versions of the butterfly when we have the real thing?
Regarding Mosquitoes:
"Mosquito larvae are aquatic insects, and as such, play an important role in the aquatic food chain. According to Dr. Gilbert Waldbauer in The Handy Bug Answer Book, 'mosquito larvae are filter feeders that strain tiny organic particles such as unicellular algae from the water and convert them to the tissues of their own bodies, which are, in turn, eaten by fish.' Mosquito larvae are, in essence, nutrient-packed snacks for fish and other aquatic animals.
 Their role on the bottom of the food chain doesn't end at the larval stage, of course. As adults, mosquitoes serve as equally nutritious meals for birds, bats, and spiders.
 As much as we loathe them, mosquitoes represent a considerable biomass of food for wildlife on the lower rungs of the food chain. Their extinction, were it even achievable, would have an enormous adverse affect on the entire ecosystem."
Oh, how I wish it were achievable. And promptly so, the entire ecosystem be damned. Apparently, the larvae of the mosquito is somewhat useful for feeding fish. So  be it, I am all for their consumption. But there should be a manner in which the skeeter is efficiently dealt with after their hatching, perhaps by establishing huge flocks of predatory fowl who actually enjoy the taste of the bloodthirsty little bastards near the hatching ground. And keep the flocks hungry, like fighting dogs or cocks. This would make them all the more voracious and less likely to let any hatchlings through their snapping beaks. This would take some work, of course, but no good has ever come from anything conceived through sloth.
Regarding Ants:
"Ants are scavengers, cleaning up dead plants and animals. You'll often see ants swarming around dead insects or even carrying them back to the anthill. Ants also provide food for birds, other insects, and mammals. Some large animals live entirely on ants and other insects, and even chimpanzees sometimes eat ants!
Ants are also studied by scientists because they work together so well. Ants and bees are very interesting because of this cooperation. We still don't understand all the things that make them work together, but they are capable of some amazing feats."

So ants are organized. If I want to study examples of exemplary organization, I will watch documentaries on the Nazis on The History Channel. Otherwise, ants are good at cleaning up carcasses. If I need a carcass cleared away, I will call dead-animal pick up. When all is said and done, the ant is just another food group for birds, other insects and mammals, all of whom could easily change their eating habits should the ant disappear. Especially the chimps - fuck those guys. They eat what they can get. Take away their ants and maybe they'll think twice before they start eating our faces off.
In closing: These three insects serve no real purpose and should be eliminated altogether from our ecosystems. When I am King, I will immediately put our most intelligent scientists to work on means to make this happen. And I will make certain the scientists are hungry, it will only serve to make them work harder, faster and with more diligence.
Remember, vote Jerry Ford for King in the upcoming election and rid yourself of those unsightly blemishes.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

WANTED: Mystery Monkey - May be dangerous...

I know, Dear Readers, that you are probably sick and tired of hearing my paranoid, uber-phobic ravings about the many perils that surround us in the form of nature and the beasts and monsters who assist nature in its attempts to run mankind off the road of survival. And that's fine.

Let's talk about monkeys.

I have written ad-nauseum about the dangers of these little human-like critters and it seems that every couple of months, a new monkey-terror crops up to make me look like some kind of magnificent seer of primate conspiracy against man.

Planet of the Apes - Coming soon, for reals!

There was the lady who had her face eaten off by an angry chimp bent on escape and the recent snatching and subsequent brutalization of a nature-park tour guide by a gang of rogue punk-monkeys, who pulled the unfortunate guide under a safety fence and dragged him around the Ape-Fields of Terror by his feet for awhile until he was rescued by other park personnel. He was hauled to safety before the marauding chimps could get around to eating his face off.

As much as we like to think that monkeys are the adorable creatures like Cheetah from the Tarzan movies, or little miniature people that we can dress up in precise, teeny human clothing to the delight of all in attendance, I say these fuckers are dangerous. "Lancelot Link - Secret Chimp" set us back decades in our natural fear and wariness of the creatures and I can only shudder to think how many organ grinders have met their makers via a face-eating little prancer dressed as a tiny ponce.

Lance Link - Secret Chimp

Perhaps my song "Monkey Fire" was written in a subconscious fugue state of wishful thinking.

"Monkey Fire", by Jerry Ford

The latest perpetration of Monkey-Atrocity On Man is the case of Tampa Bay, Florida's "Mystery Monkey" an adorable rhesus macaque who has apparently been on the loose in the town for a few years now and has "become a popular figure among locals in the Tampa Bay area...The monkey has been spotted hopping around and making itself at home in several Pasco and Pinellas County neighborhoods." - this according to the Yahoo News article I skimmed.

  "Officials are not sure where the monkey came from, but a popular theory is that it became separated from a troop of wild monkeys in a state park around 118 miles north of its current stalking ground," the monkey's website states. "The troop descended from animals originally imported to star in early Tarzan films."

First off, I believe that the term "troop", while cute, is far too regimented for use in describing a group of monkeys, who (if I am to believe what I see on television and in the movies) are anything but disciplined. More like a bunch of furry little Marx Brothers. Secondly, why was the little critter still on the loose in the first place? From the Yahoo article: "The creature, native to southern Asia, has been shot several times by tranquilizer darts and has proved equally elusive in urban areas as in dense woodland. Seemingly unfazed by humans, it has been spotted several times relaxing beside people’s swimming pools."

Also from Yahoo News: "Until Monday, the monkey remained a harmless, fun-to-follow animal for Floridians. But that all changed when it bit a St. Petersburg woman several times as she sat outside her home."

That's right, then everything changed. Now, There is a dragnet around the area and residents are being told to stay indoors and For The Love Of Christ, don't leave your pet-food outside. Apparently, feeding the little bastard only makes him want to come back and eat your face off.

Mystery Monkey - Wanted For Biting and Terrorizing Humans
Searchers are armed with tranquilizer guns and hopefully this situation will end peacefully with the Mystery Monkey reunited with his troop with nothing more than a Diazepan hangover, but you can bet it won't be long before the locals take to the streets with torches, pitchforks and handfuls of peanuts to lure the little beast out of hiding and take care of the situation on their own terms, probably burning him alive in a windmill - that's how old-school vigilante posses roll.
In the meantime, be wary, Floridians. You never know when the Mystery Monkey, once beloved by thousands, may drop from the trees and eat your face off.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Jumping the Shark - An Investigation

I can remember being a young lad and watching "Happy Days" on television and thinking, "I hope this show never ends..." It made for wonderful viewing for a twelve year-old boy, and its storylines hearkened back to a simpler time (in 1972, we considered the fifties and early sixties as a "simpler, much cooler" time, what with Elvis Presley and The Beatles and all). We were familiar with Ron Howard from his days as Opie on "The Andy Griffith Show" and the character of Richie Cunningham gave us an idea what Opie would have been like had we seen him continue to age. I always thought that he had traded down when he gave up Andy Griffith as a father and picked up Tom Bosley, but I blame that on his agent. We got to know Richie's goofy, hormonal friends Potsie and Ralph Malph, whose only thoughts were of making out and hanging out with buds, much like the twelve year-old boy sitting Indian-legged on the living room floor in front of the television.

Then there was Fonzie. Uber-cool, Arthur Fonzarelli was the good-hearted, motorcycle-riding hoodlum who watched over the Land of Happy Days, dispensing advise on love, life and the art of cool. Fonzie was viewed by the kids at Arnold's Drive-In hamburger shop as a rebel - although he began the series wearing a white windbreaker, as per ABC's strict control over chicanery. Soon enough, his trademark leather jacket and feathered ducktail were in full rebellious display. Fonzie could turn on the jukebox with a well-placed cuff to the side of the machine. Fonzie never sweated the ladies - he snapped his fingers and they came a-running. Yep, Fonzie was cool - Richie, Potsie and Ralph knew it and so did we. So did the Cunninghams and there was always an undercurrent of sexual tension between the Fonz and Richie's mom, Marion. Kind of twisted if you think about it, but if you were married to Tom Bosley instead of Andy Griffith and had to listen to that little freckled harpy Joannie, you'd jump at the chance to jump on the Fonz-Arelli, too.

Yep, I never wanted the show to end.

Somewhere along the line, something changed. Perhaps the change was so subtle that we viewers could not register it. Suddenly, several seasons into the show's run, I found that I cared little whether I was home to watch or not. Maybe girls and music and life and shenanigans got in the way - I was simply getting older. Or perhaps it was something more base than my gentle slide into adolescence - it was possible that the show began to suck.

Fonzie and boys began to wear hairstyles more appropriate for the mid-seventies than the early sixties. Potsie began to sing on the show. Richie left. The show was taped before an audience rather than filmed by a single camera. The studio audience began to shriek every time the now nearly-superhuman Fonzie entered the scene. Fonzie's cousin Chachi, with his full head of seventies-feathered-blown-dry hair came aboard. Everyone knows what happens when TV shows introduce new characters - see the obnoxious little cousins brought aboard "The Brady Bunch", "The Cosby Show" and "The Partridge Family" - and apparently Chachi was created to romance little Joanie Cunningham, which was disgusting enough. What made matters worse is that they were bequeathed a spin off of the show called "Joannie Loves Chachi". Ugggghhhhh...

At the beginning of season five, in some ridiculous storyline that would strain even the most hearty of the "Suspension of Disbelief-ers", it was finagled that Fonzie would water-ski jump (wearing his leather jacket) over a contained man-eating shark. What??? Decades later, this was pinpointed as the moment when the show had nothing compelling left to offer. Henceforth, the term "jumping the shark" has been used to convey the episode that a television show went into its death-march to cancellation.

Hearken the Death-Knell
Some tell-tale signs that a show has jumped the shark:
  • "A Very Special..." - just turn the set off. When Blossom, the Keatons or Ingalls find the opportunity to have a very special anything, it is time to pull the plug. Seriously, if I want to have a family moment examining teen-pregnancy, drug-abuse or the menses, I will watch the Kardashians.
  • The re-casting of a main character. The only reason that the Partridge Family survived the replacement of the bug-eyed, dark haired drumming munchkin Chris Partridge with the tow-headed, squinty, Michael J. Pollard-looking drumming munchkin Chris Partridge is that everyone had their head up their ass in David Cassidy-envy and didn't notice - otherwise the show wouldn't have lasted the season. Check Becky Connor on "Rosanne" or Darren Stevens on "Bewitched"... Jump the Shark moment - you make the call.
  • Adding Ted McGinley to your cast. Know as the Patron Saint of Shark-Jumping, McGinley take the demise of the already-jumped "Happy Days", "Married With Children" and "The Love Boat" to his shark-jumping grave with him. He is a bane and when he shows up on the set for his first day of shooting, young cast members have been known to burst into tears.
"Good luck" is right... Sayonara.
I suppose strong cases could be made for "Replacing Characters" ("M*A*S*H", "Two And A Half Men", "Cheers", etc.), "Special Guest Star Episodes" and "Introducing a young munchkin cousin who looks like John Denver" (See Cousin Oliver on "The Brady Bunch") as being strong indicators as well. All I know is that television producers, much like aging athletes, often do not know when to call it quits. I say there should be a committee (I would be delighted and honored to be a member) that keeps an eye on this. When I am King, this committee shall be formed and maintained rigorously. It will be well-paid and beyond reproach and their say will be final. No more Ted McGinley Mishaps and no more icons water skiing in leather jackets. And any scripts submitted introducing a new, precocious mop-topped cousin (with round, wire-framed glasses or not), will be incinerated, along with its writer. We need to get back to a purer, entertaining television and this would be a good start.
I submit that television itself jumped the shark the day a camera was allowed in the back seat of a police car for the pilot episode of "COPS". When the lid came off the reality TV bottle, there was simply no turning back. Cheaper to film and extremely popular with the ridiculously huge audience of  retarded lemmings who watch, reality television has beckoned the medium itself to begin its walk down the green-screen mile.  Television will survive without a doubt, but it will never be the same. Some are of the mind that this is okay. A plague on their houses, I say.
Vote Jerry Ford for King in the upcoming election. Take two pencils.