Wednesday, February 22, 2006

someone get the lights

Mr. Miller here is gonna take you back for a spell, to a time long past. Hop in the Long Gone Machine and set the dials for the 3rd Grade.

“Someone get the lights,” the Teacher says. The classroom goes dark. You flick the chrome toggle switch and the fan whooshes on. Then the powerful light beams across the room onto the large white screen pulled down over the chalkboard by the Teacher. The heat from the lamp sends a rush of warm air on your face, cutting some of the chill in the winter air.

The screen lights up with satin whiteness, awaiting what is to come next. Then you hear it. Like a siren call it beckons you…


… start the filmstrip!

Yeah, remember filmstrips? I don’t know about you, but for Mr. Miller, here, these junior still frame not-quite-movies were the highlight of his Grammar School years. Other than Battle Ball (that’s what we called Dodgeball in my nape of the woods) those hours spent in the dark, listening to the hum of the projector and taking in the audio and visual delights were simply a beloved slice of adolescent heaven. Actual movies – moving pictures – were great mind you, but something about the frame by frame viewing of a filmstrip, the narrator's deep-voiced recounting of a chapter in History or his whimsical telling of a storybook tale seemed to spark Mr. Miller’s kid-sized imagination.

But let me add that, though I love the filmstrip (worship it on certain days) you simply need the audio part of the whole shebang to have a truly complete filmstrip experience. Mr. Miller hated it when the filmstrip only came with a little booklet from which the teacher had to read aloud from. He felt, well… cheated. It was like it was same old daily drag, listening to Teacher prattle on with her lesson of the day in front of the classroom.

Most importante! Filmstrips must always have an accompanying record or tape!!

check out my filmstrip find of the story of Georgie

If you want some more filmstrip fun, check out Get LoFi

And if anyone out there is a fan of filmstrips, let Mr. Miller know who you are. I'd sure like to see what you've got.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

it's a mad house

I lost my Planet of the Apes cherry when I was just 7 years-old, to a 75 foot wide movie screen down at the local Central Drive-In. It was the summer of ’68 and I had seen enough trailers and TV ads, magazine covers, comic book spreads, and an endless supply of Apes cameos on TV to set my imagination spinning into overdrive. My little brain was on fire with the thought of a planet full of monkeys who acted and spoke just like humans did. I had to see this movie! And there’s no better place to watch Planet of the Apes than at a drive-in. At that same drive-in was the place I saw all the subsequent Apes flicks, as well (all except for Battle for the Planet of the Apes, which I saw at the matinee in East Aurora, NY while visiting cousins).

After seeing the flick, I was hooked for life. I tried to get a hold of as many POTA knick knacks as I could. I never had the chance of owning or listening to the Power Records audio versions of the hit movies, but a couple years back at the WFMU Record Fair in NYC I had the great luck of coming across an LP that contained four tracks of Apes plays that were previously used as Little Power Record 45s.

Sure, they're not the masterpieces that the films were, but for fans who go apeshit over Apes, they're well worth a listen... oh yeah, I guess they're supposed to be fun for kids, too, on account 'a that they're made for them.

If you're really into POTA, check out this site.

download the Power Record LP that you've been eyeballin' up there (along with the cool cover art) here:

Thursday, February 09, 2006

if saturday morning was the buffet, then friday night was the appetizer

For yours truly Mr. Miller, here, there were three events throughout the year that would absolutely flip his can when he was a kid:
1.) Christmastime
2.) Halloween Night
3.) The new Fall Season of cartoons

scan from DCs Ghosts issue #44 (December, 1975)

For kids growing up in the 60s and 70s (and even into the 80s) Saturday mornings were king. It wasn’t even that you got a break from the slavery of school and homework. Man, it was the cartoons! Yeah, remember when Saturday mornings meant cartoons? None of this Good Morning America leftover stuff, or 30 minute infomercials (hell, the Popeil Pocket Fisherman only needed 30 seconds to get your can to the local Big N). Back then, Saturday mornings belonged to kids!

The first taste of Fall Season on TV would come in the last couple of weeks of summer, when the latest comic books would hit the stands. There in the center spread would be a two page ad that listed the Network’s new Fall cartoon lineup.

scan from DCs Ghosts issue #32 (November 1974)

A kid couldn’t wait until September rolled around after reading these ads. Sure, the ninth month inevitably meant that school was back in session, but those are the lumps you had to take in order to get to the new cartoons on Saturdays. And if Saturday was the buffet, then Friday night was the appetizer.

The Networks knew that cartoons meant millions of cereal loving, toy building, candy munching kiddies were at the disposal of their advertisers, so they did all they could to make sure they were watching. So when the new Fall Season was set to roll, the kiddies were treated to a sneak peek look at the coming Saturday schedule on a special Friday night show. These Friday night previews were plain mint! Imagine watching cartoons at night time. Man!!

These shows would have catchy names like ABC Funshine Saturday Sneak Peek or maybe just something plain like the CBS Saturday Preview Special. Most likely, they’d be jam packed with the Primetime stars of the moment, from shows with high kid-recognition – like Lee Majors from The Six Million Dollar Man, or Dukes of Hazard’s baddie Boss Hog. Sometimes they’d go for the pretty boy hearth throbs like Scott Baio, or old stand-bys like the perennial teenager Dick Clark.

ABC Saturday pix from X-entertainment

Yeah, nothing said kids more than Saturday mornings. Now, with cartoons on the tube nonstop for 24 hours a day with their own blessed channels, who needs Saturday mornings? And for that matter, who needs the Friday night Saturday Sneak Peeks? These folks seem to think that Saturday’s need to be returned to the kids.

If you want a sneak peek at a Sneak Peek, check out this article. Or if you want a good look at a bunch of comic book cartoon ads, check these out at toyadz.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

i am silly

Like Bit-O-Honey to teeth, there are some things in your childhood bag of goodies that stick to the pop culture capsule of your mind. Whether it’s a song, a show, the taste of a certain pizzeria pizza that you can’t get anymore… there are just some things that are destined to remain only in the back recesses of your brain. For yours truly, Mr. Miller, that bit o’ popcereal* stickiness was The Silly Record.

I’m not quite sure who it was in my family that first brought home that side tickling disc of 331/3 vinyl silliness; all I know is that from then on we had it on near permanent loan-out from the local library. The head librarian only allowed one renewal per loan, so we’d have to wait for her to put in back in the record bin before we’d be able to snag it for the third go-around. Don’t know why we never bothered to try and find a copy at the Big N around the bend. Mr. Miller was just a wee one at that time, so I didn’t know consumerism from the Apollo 11. I was just in it for the ride.

In case you’ve never had the pleasure, The Silly Record was the vinyl companion to The Silly Book, written by comedy writer and performer Stuart “Stoo” Hample. Now, Mr. Miller never heard of this The Silly Book until he started researching The Silly Record a few years back. And then, coincidences of all coincidence, he found a copy sitting on a dusty shelf at an antique store in Cold Spring just a couple summers ago. Man, was Mr. Miller one happy cat!

In case you’ve never had the pleasure, The Silly Book was published in 1961. As the Candlewick Press recounts its history: “first-time writer Stuart Hample worked on a manuscript with legendary children's book editor Ursula Nordstrom. Legend has it that at their initial meeting, Stuart Hample said to the editor, ‘You wouldn't be silly enough to publish anything I'd write.’ Ursula Nordstrom returned with the dare, ‘You couldn't write anything silly enough that I'd publish.’ Never one to balk at a challenge, Stuart ("Stoo") Hample surpassed all expectations with THE SILLY BOOK, and the rest is history.”

Following the success of his best selling book (and a best selling Boodleheimer doll – check out the LP cover to see what a Boodleheimer is) Hample teamed up with veteran composer George Kleinsinger and rookie voice-over artist and TV writer Frank Buxton (voice of the Batfink cartoon) to put together an audio version of his silly stories and songs. The rest is popcereal legend.

Mr. Miller, along with his brothers and sister and Mom and Pop, would sit around and listen to this wonderful record, reciting every line with great enthusiasm. It wasn’t long before catch phrases from the LP began creeping into our daily dialogue. “Cheese please, Louise,” “Me too. Me three. Me four. You four what? I four-got,” and of course “You are silly, we are silly, all of us are silly willy. All of us but cousin Milly.”

Ever since I got on the Internet some ten years ago, yours truly Mr. Miller has been searching for a copy of this much admired LP. Copies are very rare, and I’ve only heard of people finding one here and there for sale. I’ve never seen one myself, but I’m still looking. Luckily, though, I was able to score a recording of the LP. On the Kididdles website there used to be a message board where fans of kid’s music would discuss their favs from long past and present. One member (I’d love to give him credit, but have since forgotten his name) owned the LP when he was a kid, and made a cassette recording of it when he went off to college. Since then his mother had – as mothers do when their kids leave the nest – tossed out all the junk in his room. All he had left of his prized memory was a muffled recording of his scratchy record album. And he kindly offered a CD copy of it, free of charge, to anyone who wanted to hear the beloved album once again. Naturally, Mr. Miller here jumped at the chance like a gapped-tooth boy at a candy apple on a stick.

Take a listen and tell me you don’t let out a giggle… “not even a little bittle?”

Scratch that last link, kiddies. It's a dead one. Try the lovely folks over at Forbidden Ctypts Music:

* popcereal is defined by this website and its curator to be that certain bit of socially transmitted trivial behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought beloved by the generation of the Saturday morning cartoon

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