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Spooky Silver Screen Fun for the Family — September 30, 2011

Spooky Silver Screen Fun for the Family

Halloween is right around the corner of your hallway.  At this time of year, the TV networks show the All Hallow’s specials and video rental stores display more horror movies.  So which ones do we watch with the kids?  Here’s a list of some of my suggestions.  Feel free to add your own!

Scary Godmother.  Little Hannah is sometimes frightened by her tormenting older cousin, Jimmy.  Along comes a snazzy dressed, eerily fun fairy godmother who lives with her pet ghost cat in Fright Side.  The Scary Godmother helps Hannah find the self confidence and support to face her cousin.  This popping computer animated tale has a couple of films that premiered on Cartoon Network.  But before Scary Godmother fluttered onto the small screen, her creator Jill Thompson wonderfully drew her to life in a comic book series. 

The Little Vampire.  Before the Twilight saga ruined the vampire genre, the relationship between humans and vampires was explored when young Tony and his family moved from California toScotland.  The lonely Tony (portrayed by Johnathan Lipnicki the cutest kid in Hollywood at that time) befriends Rudolph, a child vampire.  Tony and his family help Rudolph’s undead family conquer evil and reach their dreams.  I did not know this when the movie came out, but it’s also based on a book series. 

Casper the Friendly Ghost.  Casper films have joyfully haunted us since the 1940’s. He’s just a kid trying to break through the stereotypes of being a ghost; he does not mean to scare people.  In the film, Casper A Spirited Beginning, he doesn’t realize he’s a ghost at first.  Throughout the decades, he’s befriended many characters, including Wendy the Good Witch, humans, other ghosts, and more.  

The Nightmare Before Christmas.  This spectacular claymation/stop action film is Tim Burton’s best.  Jack the Pumpkin King is unhappy inHalloweenTown.  He stumbles acrossChristmasTown and decides he wants the joyous holiday for his own.  He enlists the citizens ofHalloweenTown (a kaleidoscope of ghouls and lake monsters) to build maniacal toys and sends three hellion trick-or-treaters to kidnap Santa Claus.  In the end, Jack realizes happiness was right in front of his skull the whole time.  Wonderful music is arranged by the legendary Danny Elfman, who also voices Jack’s lamenting and haunting songs. 

Addams Family.  Creepy.  Cooky.  And all together, ooky.  The 1960’s television show depicting the macabre family is available on DVD to rent, borrow from your local library, or maybe download from Netflix.  This family truthfully has it all:  a beautiful mother in a tight dress, a crazed grandmother who is a great cook, a sporty father, a fun uncle with quirky magic tricks, two polite children (who blew up garages and poisoned each other), and a tall, silent butler.  And we haven’t even mentioned the pets! (octopus, vulture, lion, man-eating Venus fly trap).  Wednesday and Pugsly romped in a back yard made of a cemetery and a swamp.  In 1991, The Addams graced the silver screen in one of the best cast movies ever (Angelica Huston as Morticia, Raul Julia as Gomez, Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester and Christina Ricci as Wednesday).  Weird is definitely relative in either the syndicated show or the smash hit movie. 

The Munsters.  Possibly exploring racial issues in the 1960’s, a voluptuous vampire marries Frankenstein’s monster of a re-animated corpse and somehow bares him a werewolf youngling.  Enter Hermann and Lily Munster and their rocking son, Eddie.  Lily’s snappy dressed vampire father and a human cousin, Marilyn, also reside with the family in their giant, spooky and fun house.  Many adventures befall the family as they try to fit into the suburbs and Eddie goes to a regular school.  Little Eddie may have been one of my first childhood crushes.  And the show boasted the grooviest theme song ever (it was my ringtone last Halloween). 

Amazing Stories.  From 1985 to 1987, my family gathered around to watch this Steven Spielberg produced series, featuring many big name actors and actresses.  Some of the Stories were truly inspiring, others funny, and many were odd.  A leprechaun guided a man through his life to find riches.  A ghost train plowed through a family’s home to pick up its last passenger.  A voodoo spell went horribly wrong for two students plotting revenge on a strict teacher.  An actor playing a mummy is mistaken for the real mummy who comes to life and roams a movie set.  These spooky and fun tales unfurl along with my personal favorite episode, Emmy award winning Family Dog (though not spooky).    

Invader Zim.  Let’s not forget the aliens among us!  You might be able to catch Nickelodeon’s Invader Zim on either Nick Toons or Nick Two channel, if you have one of those super-duper, no joke, cable packages.  The rest of us will have to watch him on DVD.  This wacky animated show is a favorite among some middle-school aged children now, although it premiered about ten years ago.  Zim is the bumbling laughing stock of his alien race, sent to Earth on a mission just to get him out of their hair.  Yet Zim takes his mission quite seriously and reports his adventures as a human school boy back to the mother ship.  Accompanied by a malfunctioning, taquito-loving robot, Gir, Zim faces his arch nemesis, Dib, the only human who knows Zim’s true identity.  Join the extra-terrestrial duo as they build robot parents, fight off yuppie mall zombies, and face piggies during their conquest of Earth. 

Teen Wolf.  Guys, you think your puberty experience was hard?  How about sprouting fangs, tons of hair everywhere, and pointed ears?  Or throwing bouts of uncontrollable rage?  In 1985, teen-ager Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) turned into a werewolf.  First ashamed and frightened of the change, he then grows extremely popular amongst classmates when “wolfing out” during a basketball game and winning.  Last season, MTV picked up the idea and ran a TV series with characters of the same names, Scott and his loyal friend Stiles.  Yet this modern wolfman plays lacrosse and wins the heart of the pretty new girl in town.  The MTV series is a bit predictable and definitely more gory than the 80’s film, but worth the watch for adolescents.   

I Sell the Dead.  Older children or families who like much quirkiness may enjoy this independent film.  On the eve of his execution somewhere in the 1800’s, Arthur Blake (colorfully performed by Dominic Monaghan) tells of his life as a “body snatcher” to Father Duffer (Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman).  His grave robbing misadventures include working for a sadistic doctor, falling in love, racing the rival body snatchers, and dealing with strange creatures that don’t stay dead.  And ultimately facing the guillotine.  A few giggles and chortles spice this movie about a young man just trying to make a living. 

Scooby Doo.  A spooktacular list would be incomplete without those “meddling kids” that have been icons for over forty years.  So iconic are they, that Shaggy and Scooby have not changed, nor have they needed to.  Like Casper, families and kiddies can choose which series to enjoy.  I prefer the series that ran in the 1960’s, Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, which the gang usually solved a creepy mystery by pulling a mask off some robber or scoundrel. And the older movies where the Mystery Inc Gang met up with Batman and Robin or Sonny and Cher.  In the 1980’s A Pup Named Scooby Doo greeted us on Saturday mornings.  It was okay.  In the 1990’s, new Scooby movies with supposedly real witches and zombies splashed across Cartoon Network and VHS.  Now in the new millennium, the Mystery Machine and its riders hit the big screen in two full length live action movies.  I prefer Monster Unleashed to the first film starring Freddie Prince Jr (as Fred) and Matthew Lillard (Shaggy).  Cartoon Network recently premiered a couple of live action movies, with actors actually in their teens or early twenties.  These TV films portrayed the beginning of the gang’s friendships.  And after forty years, Shaggy finally professed his love for the one and only Velma. 

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!  I could not write a blog about Halloween specials and leave out the Mother of all Halloween specials.  The Charlie Brown holiday shows are an American tradition.  Decades later, we still applaud Linus’ undying faith that the Great Pumpkin will rise from the pumpkin patch and snicker when Charlie only gets rocks when he goes trick-or-treating.  

Of course, this is just a short list, and you can definitely add any of your favorites.  But I hope your little treaters and tricksters enjoy a few Halloween specials this season.

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Ahoy, Mate! Talk Like a Pirate Day. — September 17, 2011

Ahoy, Mate! Talk Like a Pirate Day.

September 19th is Talk Like a Pirate Day.  Here’s a few words and phrases you can use around the office with your fellow landlubbers this Monday to start an interesting work day.  We’ll start with some of the vocabulary. 

 Ahoy!  Hello.  Good Morning. 

 Arrrr!  Or Arrrgh!  An exclamation in response to a negative event.  Perhaps you can use these instead of certain four letter words while at the office. 

 Avast!  Listen up!  Attention, please!  Pay attention!  (You may hear this from your boss if you’re caught sleeping at your desk, you scallywag.)

 Aye!  Yes, sir!  Right away, Captain!  I agree! 

 Belay!  To belay meant to tie something down or secure it.  It was also meant to ignore something…”Belay that last command!”  You probably belay annoying co-workers. 

 Boatswain.  (Pronounced ‘bosun’ ?)   One in charge of a certain deck, whether it was the crew, equipment, or activities.  This would be your immediate supervisor today, but not the CEO. 

 Booty.  It meant treasure to the pirates.  Today, it can mean a pay check or a bonus.  Or it can mean whatever you stole from your shipmate’s desk. 

 Bow.  Front of the ship.  Presently the front of your car, cab, subway, or office.

 Davy Jones’ Locker.  A legendary place at the bottom of the sea that housed dead sailors/pirates.  It may have been a general reference to death also.  This is where you will now find yourself if you do not get your paperwork done on time.

 Dead Man’s Chest.  Coffin.  To me, a tiny work cubicle feels like the dead man’s chest.

 Deck.  Flat areas on top and outside of the ship.  The poop deck was the highest and furthest most deck of the ship, usually above the captain’s quarters.  A deck in our place of employment is a main work area or conference room. 

 Duffle.  A pirate’s personal belongings.  The duffle also referred to the bag he kept his stuff in.  (My duffle was stolen from my work quarters…ARRGH!!)

 Dungbie.  Rear end.  Buttocks.  What you sit on all day. 

 Grog.  A rum drink mixed with water.  Today, some of your colleagues may feel they need a grog shortly after 5 pm. 

 Hands.  Crew members aboard a ship.  You and your fellow colleagues are the hands of your company. 

 Hardtack.  Crackers made of flour, water, and salt.  They did not keep well on a ship.  Hardtacks can now be considered the bagels left over after a meeting or training. 

 Head. A toilet.  It could have been as simple as a hole cut in the front of back of a ship to allow wastes to fall into the sea.  Us office dwellers call the head a bathroom.

 Hearty.  As a noun, it was referred to fellow sailors, usually in a cheerful manner. 

 Hornswaggle.  To cheat or fraud, usually pertaining to money or belongings.  You know, that guy who always skips out on paying for lunch. 

 Jacob’s Ladder.  The main rope used to climb aboard a ship.  Nowadays, it is the staircase, escalator, or elevator. 

 Jolly Roger.  A pirate’s flag, often with a skull and crossbones and announced to nearby ships that you were a pirate.  Many held the colors red and black.  Modern day Jolly Rogers are business cards.

 Landlubber.  A ‘lubber’ was a term for a slow or clumsy person.  A landlubber may have been used to point out a crew member who was not that great of a sailor.  It has also come to mean someone that loves the land instead of the sea. 

 Marooned.  Left behind on an island as a punishment or for not hauling ye dungbie to the ship in time.  You get marooned if you don’t make it to the bus station, subway, or the car pool in time. 

 Mate or Matey.  Shipmates.  Someone a pirate sails with or has previously sailed with.  Not quite sure if it means a ‘friend’ or not.  Today, it can be a somewhat trusted co-worker. 

 Monkey Jacket.  A waist-length jacket worn on the ship.  Business men and women now don monkey jackets in the office.  ‘Monkey suits’ anyone?

 Parley.  A verbal treaty between opposing pirates to stop a fight or reach an agreement.  We now call it ‘conflict management.’

 Port. Left side of the ship.  Now the left side of your car, cab, subway, bus, or office building. 

 Starboard.  Right side of the side.  Ride side of car, office building, etc.

 Stern.  Back of the ship.  Back of the car, subway, office, etc. 

 Allrighty then.  How about we try out some slang, mateys?

 Abandon ship!  Fire drill, people.  Let’s get out of the building. 

 All hands on deck!  Mandatory staff meeting. 

 Belay that last order!  Oops.  I did not mean to send that email to everyone…

Get ye hands off me booty!  Don’t touch my stuff!!  Don’t take my good pen!  Those are MY sticky notes!  I better not catch you sneaking in to my chocolate stash. 

 I’ll be sent to Davy Jones’ Locker before giving up me main quarters, scallywag!  You’ll get my large, corner office with a window over my dead body, you loser.    

 I’ve got the Davies. Or:  I’ve got the Joneseys.  It’s late and dark.  I’m still here doing paperwork, and I’ve got the creeps in this old and creaky building. Or:  I’ve been Jonesed!  I’ve hit some bad luck.  I’ve been screwed! 

 Jacob’s ladder be yonder to the starboard.  The elevator is located down that hall to the right.  (Although ye should haul ye large, lubber dungbie up the stairs there, matey.)

 No quarter given.  Sorry, we are not hiring at this time. 

 Shiver me timbers!  Pirates exclaimed this when they were surprised or caught of guard.  It’s origins may have been born by the sound of a ship running aground or being hit by cannon fire.  Today we can exclaim this when we are drowning in paperwork.

 Take a caulk.  To take a quick nap during lunchtime, a long meeting, or when you think no one is looking. 

 The head be to the port stern.  Bathroom is down the back hallway to the left. 

 Weigh anchor.  In pirate lingo, it meant to set sail or leave port.  Today it can mean: Let’s go!  Let’s get out of here!  To leave your home or place of work.  To set off on your morning commute. 

Here’s the official website to learn more about Talk Like a Pirate Day!  http://www.talklikeapirate.com/piratehome.html

Um, excuse me, Mother Nature, but can we have a moment? — September 7, 2011

Um, excuse me, Mother Nature, but can we have a moment?

Nature, ma’am, I understand that I am only human and work with other humans, and do not study meteorology.  So I know I am not a weather or environmental expert nor am I of any divine heritage.  I understand the workings of the Earth a bit.  I know that we need rain to give the plants and animals water, for water is the life line of the universe and such. 

But I do not believe that New England needs all the rain. 

Now Nature, ma’am, I grew up in Louisiana…so I’ve seen my fair share of rain.  It’s why we build our houses well above the ground down there and why the Cajuns can’t bury their dead, but have to stack them in tombs.  I have also resided in the West, where monsoons swept over the mountains every day in the summer.  Yet in the South and West, the rain came, it saw, gave us wet t-shirts, and then moved on. 

Rain does not appear to do that here in New England.  It lingers like an unwanted, annoying guest.  For days.  Why is this? 

Mother Nature, I should not have to remind you that we were drenched with rains from Hurricane Irene just last weekend.  Many places in Vermont have been washed away by rising rain waters.  So don’t you think it’s time the rain moved on for a spell?  How about sending it to Texas, where they are on fire?  I am sure the plants and animals here in the Northeast have plenty of water for the next few days. 

Just something to consider, ma’am……

Please?

How I Spent My Summer…. — September 6, 2011

How I Spent My Summer….

So back in May, some ex-con and ex-cop/FBI agent friends of mine called me about a huge heist job in Brazil.  We modified some muscle cars, and two of the cars reinforced their bumpers and stole a one ton safe full of money.  A couple of us drove decoy cop cars to throw off the authorities while my buff and bald friend and ex-cop dragged the safe through the streets of Rio, destroying everything in its wake.  I then headed to Tokyo with a hottie named Han. 

On my way back to the U.S., an old shipmate of mine tracked me down.   He’s missing a leg and blackmailed me into helping him find the Fountain of Youth.  He eventually told me a horrific story of how his ship was raided and destroyed by a dude with a black beard, which is how he lost his leg (now a wooden stump filled with rum).  Once finding the fountain, we engaged in a battle with the English and Spanish, where I was rescued by my new best friend, a mermaid. 

So then, I finally made it back to U.S., and tried to relax in a college town bar/grille.  A brainiac professor hit on me with some weird hypothesis about genetic mutations.  Before I know it a bunch of teen-agers banned together at some secret government base.  The smartest one changed into a hairy blue beast, another one screamed out sonic blasts, but they all used their powers to save us from a missile crisis. 

For the heck of it, my friends and I decide to shoot a zombie film with an eight-mm camera we found in someone’s attic.  While recording a touching scene at a railroad station, our old biology teacher parks his truck on the tracks on the oncoming train.  The train crashed into the truck and freight cars flew in a wickedly spectacular derailment.  My buds and I flipped out and ran from the scene and eventually resumed filming of our zombie movie.  Meanwhile, engines disappeared from cars and the military showed up, looking for something.  When watching the first take of our zombie movie, we saw that a giant ant like alien escaped from the train wreck and is now burrowing under our town.  The alien nabbed our hot chic friend, so me and the pyromaniac tracked down the alien in his hideout, and help him rebuild his space ship to return home.  That’s all he wanted, people.  Geesh. 

Upon arriving back at home, a teen-aged neighbor tells me that I missed a vampire hunting party with an eccentric Scottish vampire slayer.  Doh!  I would have loved to see that!

Okay, so maybe my summer didn’t go quite like that.  Maybe it was riddled with rain delays and an economic scare.