Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Remembering Christmas 1970

I found the Superbowl IV version of the Tudor electric vibrating football game under the tree in our Roeland Park home that year. It featured scale model footballers, each a bit smaller than a 25 cent piece, mounted individually on green plastic bases. The bottom of each base had small teeth that made the players move and groove without falling over when the metal field vibrated. Vibration was supplied by a small motor and controlled by the players with an on off switch. I couldn't wait to try it.

The mechanics of the game were somewhat ridiculous, because it was impossible to create and sustain a lasting simulation. I lined up the opposing teams and turned on the motor. They crashed into each other and occasionally a player vibrated in a straight line somewhere. I repeated until boredom set in. The game contained a felt football and a working kicker to attempt field goals and extra points. Note: The felt football did not travel far, even in ideal wind conditions. Despite these shortcomings it was a cool gift and I don't remember any thing else I received that year.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Last Friday Night

Last Friday night we took the scout pack to the nursing home to sing Christmas carols. I wasn't enthusiastic at first but I was glad we went. We toured the facility and sang songs through the corridors. I got to see lots of people. Quite a few came out to watch us sing. I was impressed with some of the kids who said hello, introduced themselves, you know, took a moment for some personal contact.
One of the other dads in our group told me that one of the residents, a woman in her eighties, sprightly but confined to a wheelchair, told him that she used to fly fight planes for the marine corps during World War II. She didn't do combat flights of course, but flew Corsairs from the factory to airbases closer to the action. That's not a bad gig - and she was a gem.
I think people groan whenever you mention the true meaning or the spirit of Christmas. I know I do. So forget about it - and go visit a nursing home this holiday season. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Keep Searching for the Words

My ideas don't materialize on demand. I want words and sentences to appear in a row, from start to finish, on ticker tape. I'm still waiting.

I get ideas when I'm far from the keyboard. I discovered a buried gun while motoring down the interstate once, triggered by Elmer Bernstein and a memory fragment.

Frank Mouris had too many ideas and found a way to show us. Hannah Weiner saw words everywhere and wrote them down in a series of journals.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sonic Youth at The Outhouse

I missed more shows than I made during the 80's. Here's one I'm glad I saw: Sonic Youth at The Outhouse on November 5th, 1986. fIREHOSE opened the show. I think I've mentioned it on this web log before, but now there's a setlist and pictures posted!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Check the Cool Wax

I'm giving you your Christmas presents early this year. Why wait until December 25th when you can have Marcia Brady, Liberace, Colonel Sanders, The Superfriends, and Telly Savalas (originally on vinyl) available for evaluation today? No thank you note is necessary. Only bandwidth is necessary.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Listen to Hyperopia

Lori Wray's current project, Hyperopia, has music posted at their MySpace site.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Aimee's Coffee House, December 2nd

Come to the Kansas City Voices poetry and prose reading at 7pm Saturday, December 2nd at Aimee's coffee house, 1025 Massachusetts street, Lawrence. Here's someone I heard (and saw) at last year's gig. She was good.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Kenny and Company Revisited

Kenny and Company is a gem of a film, directed by Don Coscarelli, made and set in the 1970s (1976). It's a suburban romp through four days in an eleven year-old's life. I saw it on HBO in the late 70s and have always remembered it.

It's fairly episodic as it tracks Kenny and his pals Doug and Sherman as they skateboard, flirt with girls, pull pranks, and avoid the town bully. I related to the characters, I even had the same hairstyle as Doug did when I was a kid. I liked this movie a lot and then it disappeared. It vaporized after HBO ran it. Gone.

A couple years later I flipped through the dial late one night when I spied Doug on the screen again. Only this time Doug wasn't running from the town bully, he was running from the Tall Man. It was Phantasm. I knew of Phantasm from its iconic silver sphere, but I was blown away. I didn't know there was a connection between the two films. And yet, there was young Michael Baldwin, riding his bike down the street, as he and Dan McCann did in Kenny and Company. There were other actors from Kenny that showed up in Phantasm, most notably the incomparable Reggie Bannister.

Phantasm developed a following immediately and spawned three sequels but Kenny and Company was hard to find. There was no VHS release. I posted a comment about the film on IMDB in 2001 and for several years, I got the same query from strangers: Do you have a copy of this movie? I did not.

They finally released Kenny and Company on DVD in 2005 and I watched it last night. It held up well. Watch this movie if you like:
  • films about the 1970s
  • independent, small budget movies
  • Phantasm and want to see some of its cast in different roles

This film has "emotional glue". Emotional Glue is a Don Coscarelli term. It's what makes you care more about the characters, allows you connect with them, with thematic elements that transcend the plot. The scene in Phantasm that provides the glue is when Mike Baldwin follows his older brother everywhere on his bike because he doesn't want to lose him, even if his bro is just driving to the grocery store, he'd pedal like mad to keep tabs on him. Phantasm had a heart.

There's a sub-plot in Kenny that provides glue. Coscarelli did a masterful job of dealing with a common childhood situation: the death of the family pet. He pulled it off without shedding a tear. He allowed me to connect the emotional dots without hitting me over the head with it. The emotional glue scene in Kenny and Company is the 360 panoramic shot of the vet's office waiting room while Bob the dog goes to a happier place.

Am I raving? Heck yeah. Go rent Kenny and Company. One more thing - I loved the music too. Put it in your Netflix queue. Do it!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Report from Sunday

25 people attended the reading last Sunday at the Kansas City Writer's Place. My palms were clammy but I managed to get through my story without too much trouble. Nobody fell asleep and they applauded when I finished. I think that meant they liked it (or maybe they were glad I was done). I read prose. The other six readers were poets. I enjoyed meeting Amy Fleury, Brian Daldorph, and Will Leathem. It was great to have my wife, parents, and grandma there too. There's another reading with a slightly different roster of contributors on Saturday, December 2nd, at Amy's Coffee House in Lawrence. My mom keeps calling it a coffee shop. Maybe Flo and Alice will be there to make tuna fish sandwiches. I'll be there, not reading, just listening. I like Lawrence, coffee, and the Kansas City Voices Magazine, now on sale at local K.C. booksellers.

Friday, November 10, 2006

R.I.P. - Sid Davis

Mental Hygiene film giant Sid Davis died. His films were more histrionic than Centron's brooding social fare. Check out the LA Times obituary.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Come See Me

I'll be part of a prose and poetry event at 3pm Sunday, November 12th at the Writer's Place, Kansas City, Missouri, reading my short story What Cotton Money Can't Buy. It appears in the annual Kansas City Voices periodical, available now in book stores around the KC area. Look for it by the register or in the magazine section.
Other contributors on the bill include: Amy Fleury, Kathleen Johnson, Alarie Tennille, Mary-Lane Kamberg, Brian Daldorph, Tim Todd and Will Leathem. Music by Nate Rogers.
Admission is a suggested five dollars (support the arts!).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Impossible Post Before Breakfast

I mentioned The Higgins Boys and Gruber (THBAG) in a previous post and to show you how obscure they remain; there are no video clips featuring them available on YouTube (yet).

Rich Hall was the early marquee name in the Comedy Channel lineup that featured THBAG, Rachel Sweet, Allan Havey, and Tommy Sledge, (the stand-up detective). Hall hosted Onion World, a weekly omnibus of various comedic elements and occasionally, live music. It wasn't a terrific series by any stretch. Hall wasn't very funny. I remember he took the show to Ireland for some segments. Why must one go to Ireland to find the funny? Seemed like he was milking his budget for a free trip. The program lasted a season or two and was unremarkable except for the appearance of one of my favorite bands.

Here's Big Dipper doing Impossible Thingson Onion World, from 1990.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Love Song of J. Frederick Flintstone

The Higgins Boys and Gruber performed this Eliot parody on their HBO comedy special circa 1991. The setup involved a beatnik poetry happening and Steve Higgins' reptilian cool interpretation was punctuated by bongo riffs. This transcript (from the font of unofficial knowledge, the Internet) may not be verbatim, but there's precious little information about THBAG so I'm running with it.

The Love Song of J. Frederick Flintstone
Let us go then, Barney and I
As the Bedrock sun is spread out against the sky
Like a Brontoburger laid out upon a table
And in the cave the women come on through
Speaking of the Great Gazoo
I am not Joe Rockhead nor was I meant to be
A stone quarry worker willing to bowl a frame or two
I grow old, I grow old
Shall I wear my saber-toothed tiger suit rolled?
Shall I prepare bronto ribs to eat? Power a car with my feet?
I hear Pebbles and Bam-Bam singing each to each
And in the cave the women came on through saying

Email Mashup: King Henry V vs. Anyone in the office for Thai food today?

This day is called the feast of Thai food:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Thai.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors,
And say 'To-morrow is Thai food day:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Thai food day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our dishes.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Llad Now Gapow, Pad Thai Noodle,
Yum Talay Salad, or Tabasco is no Sweet,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Beaux Arts Coffee House, Pinellas Park, FL

This is 7711 60th street North, former site of the Beaux Arts coffee house in Pinellas Park, Florida. I took this picture a couple days ago during my annual visit to the in-laws' house. I didn't know it until recently, but they live close by, a couple of miles northeast of this location. It sits near ball fields and railroad tracks, half a block north of Park Blvd, the main east-west drag through Pinellas Park. It's a shame they couldn't preserve the spot where Jim Morrison read poetry and Jack Kerouac hung out during his days in the St. Petersburg area. Thanks to Mari Eliza for providing the exact address. Much to my surprise, my father in-law, Tom Wise, remembered the three story wood frame house and guided me here. He moved to the area in the early 90s, a few years before the city condemned the property. He said it was in pretty bad shape near the end (it was gutted by fire some years before), which may explain why local politicos didn't save it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Recommending The Fog of War

I watched The Fog of War, the academy award-winning documentary from Errol Morris. The film is sub-titled 11 lessons from the life of Robert S. McNamara. Its a riveting account from one of America's main players of the Cold War. McNamara is very candid about Vietnam, although the film does not go in depth to the extent that McNamara's memoir In retrospect : the tragedy and lessons of Vietnam did.

The film uses a technique invented by Morris called the Interrotron. The Interrotron uses two cameras and teleprompters during the "talking-head" interview segments. If you've ever seen a regular teleprompter, it allows a person to read a script while looking directly into a camera. Morris' Interrotron substitutes an image of another person into the teleprompter screen. This allows the interview subject, McNamara, to look directly into the camera while talking to Morris. The net effect is that McNamara appears to be talking directly to the viewer, and this provides extra punch during some of his most stirring commentary.

Philip Glass scored the film and that's a another bonus. His score is haunting and surreal, just as you'd expect from Glass.

Documenting the Scene

If you were in a band in the Lawrence/K.C. area in the 80's, then chances are your roster appears on Don Thompson's Local Bands page from

248 Episodes and 10 recurring themes

A few years ago one of our local Kansas City stations re-ran Hawaii Five-O episodes at a time when I found myself in front of the TV. I remember the show from childhood of course, but it was a slightly different viewing experience seeing the show again after so many years. It was highly entertaining for a number of reasons, not the least of which was Jack Lord's uber-earnest McGarrett. If you liked to marvel and laugh at Five-O and McGarrett, then seal off the island and read Mark Evanier's reflections on Five-O.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Rogue Poetry Review

My Mom has three poems in the first edition of the online Rogue Poetry Review.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Price is Right Theme Music

I love the price is right theme song. It captures an aspect of the seventies that I like. When I hear it, I see a Wonder bread wrapper landscape of colorful circles, beautiful ladies, and merchandise.

Screw Watergate, I won a brand new Vega.

Check out the extended version here (mp3) and you'll want to "come on down" to the showcase row with your breasts falling out of your tube top, which is sad if you're like me, because I'm a dude.

Here's a poem I wrote about the Price is Right. It was for a radio bit we did about game show poetry on KFKF in 1996.

That Bob Barker's got it made
on TV's Price is Right.
Showcase models everyday
and cocktails every night.

Janice, Holly, and babes galore.
You won a brand new car!
I have my plane fare nearly saved
in a Hellman's mayonnaise jar.

But I wish they'd take it on the road
and come to my home town.
So I could hear Johnny Olson say-
Fowler, come on down!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

How to Be More Popular

The untrue story of a junior-high school prank gone terribly right, with gratuitous references to Star Wars and cheap gin, by Eric Filipkowski.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Buck O'Neil - R.I.P.

Buck O'Neil died at age 94. Here's a good obit from the NY Times (reg. sometimes req). I didn't know Buck personally. Like a lot of baseball fans, I heard him recall tales of Negro League baseball in Ken Burns' Baseball documentary on PBS in 1994. O'Neil lived in the Kansas City area and I saw him once.

My friends and I went to the Royals game about six or seven years ago and were approached by a businessman outside the gate. He had four tickets and he offered to give us three of them for free, the catch being that he kept the fourth so we sat next to him. We accepted the offer and much to our surprise and delight, found ourselves about three rows behind the opponents dugout on the third base side.

It was a perfect summer evening and we settled into our prime location. I looked to my right and there was Buck O'Neil in the next section. He sat alone with a clipboard or folder. He was working. He must have been 86 or 87 years old. There he was, very unassuming, watching the game. I don't remember if the Royals won, but I felt fortunate to be close to a living legend like Buck O'Neil. I wanted to say hello, but I generally don't bum rush celebrities. It was kind of cool to sit back and observe.

The old saying "A library burns down when an old man dies" certainly applies to Buck's passing. Thank goodness Ken Burns and subsequent scribes documented his story.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Before Spinal Tap...

I woke up early this morn and watched The Rutles - All You Need is Cash, the 1978 mockumentary of the Beatles, written by Eric Idle and Neil Innes. Brilliant!

Monday, September 25, 2006

It Stinks

We had an underwhelming experience yesterday at the Louisburg (KS) Cider Mill where their annual ciderfest was underway.

A terrible stench hit the Jones family the moment we emerged from our car in the parking lot. A fellow apple lover guessed it was a cider sewage pond, bobbing and bubbling somewhere near the parking lot. How bad was the stink? It smelled like Bigfoot took a dump, fell over dead in mid road-apple and nobody buried him.

There were other minor annoyances like pricey rides and activities (10 dollars for face painting), and no hand gel in the porta-johns, but the big stink, that was too much. I actually hung out in the potpourri booth on country craft row to catch my breath.

Don't go to the Louisburg Cider Mill Ciderfest. It stinks.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Baum vs. Capote: The Pickard Mashup

My mother and other writers read and lectured at UMKC's Pierson Auditorium last night. Mom read in support of her new book Delta Pearls, a collection of short stories. Nancy Pickard headlined and talked about the legacy of Kansas literature. She summed it up by comparing two seminal titles set in Kansas, The Wizard of Oz and In Cold Blood. She pointed out both books were about ordinary people, who lived ordinary lives, until a violent, unexpected event changed everything.

Pickard noticed that out-of-state visitors in particular expressed a measure of uneasiness during visits to her Flint Hills property. What was it about Kansas, and as the author pointed out, the Kansas landscape in particular, that made this theme reappear?

There's no place to hide when the unexpected happens: the act of God, the act of violence. Safety seems far away, even in the Flint Hills of Kansas. It's extra unexpected and then you're extra screwed when it does happen.

I'm glad I stayed for Pickard's speech. I thought I might skip out early when I arrived. It was my first time at Pierson Auditorium and I imagined a theatre style venue with rows of seats and a stage with podium. It turned out to be flat, empty space with banquet style seating, not conducive to late arrivals and early departures. I stayed to be polite and I learned something about Kansas literature that I never considered. One doesn't have to travel to Twin Peaks to sense dread and evil lurking outside the window, and for a writer working in Kansas, that's good.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Mates of State - Profile

Lawrence has no room for special pop melodies as implied in this Boston Globe profile of Mates of State.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Embo Moment Update

Here's a link to Joel Orff's archives with the aforementioned comic strip moment featuring The Embarrassment, The Micronotz, and Kill Creek.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Back to Rockville: the Embos (again)

Joel Orff created another in his series of Great Moments in Rock N Roll comic strips that featured the K.C. Star review of The Embarrassment show and my comments. Get the details at Tim Finn's Back To Rockville weblog.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

KJHK - a photoset on Flickr

I stopped by KJHK when I was in Lawrence for the Embarrassment show and took some pictures. The vinyl collection is slowly fading into history and not only are the albums showing their age, but so are some of the unique bits of musical commentary; AKA the liner notes or album review. The notes from KJHK music staffers guided disc jockeys who didn't have the luxury of previewing the whole record before they took to the airwaves and were often written in long hand and taped on the cover. See KJHK - a photoset on Flickr for some of my random cover shots. You may have to enlarge the image to read the review.

Attention Capote Fans

The former Clutter home in Holcomb, Kansas is for sale.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bowling Tonight

I bowl in a league in Mission, KS. It's my 14th year with the same guys and I like it a lot. It's a handicapped league; if I bowl my average or better I'm helping the team win. Tonight was a different story. We started with no average, so it's to one's advantage to sandbag and bowl low on this, our first week of the league. So what did I do? I managed my best series in at least two years - a 514. That included a 209 - my first 200+ game since 2004 or earlier. So I've screwed my average for the rest of the year, but that's okay. I got five strikes in a row in the second game. Maybe this will be my season. The same guys who turned me on to KJHK when I was in high school recruited me for bowling too - The Westhoff brothers, Craig and Kurt.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Choose This Video

Check out this rare footage of the Embarrassment. It's the 1981 video for "Don't Choose the Wrong Song". From Doug Hitchcock via YouTube.

Arpeggio Style

Bill Goffrier plays lead and rhythm guitar simultaneously.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

17 Years Later, They Still Rock

From left: John, Bill, and Ron on stage last Sunday in Lawrence, KS. Drummer Woody is just out of range. The Embarrassment are my favorite band of all time for many reasons; they've got heart and a sense of humor, unique qualities for rock stars. My favorite song from the show was "Two Week Vacation".

More Micronotz

Here's another picture of the Micronotz in action. From left: Steve Eddy on drums, original lead singer Dean Lubensky, and guitarist John Harper. The Micronotz surprised everyone by playing three songs for the crowd who awaited the arrival of the Embarrassment. Matt Kesler and Jay Hauptli are not pictured but also appeared with the group. This is perhaps the least blurry of the snapshots I took of the group.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Before the Show

That's Embarrassment guitarist Bill Goffrier on the left with KJHK alum Tom Hoyt at the Free State Brewery before the concert Sunday night in Lawrence. I heard Bill and fellow band mate John Nichols were in the building but I was surprised when Bill actually appeared at Tom's table of KJHK alumni. I rounded the corner in time to take this photo and shake Bill's hand. Last Sunday was the 4th time I saw the band, and the first time since 1989. I was lucky enough to see them twice in one day on December 31, 1986 when they played Cogburns/The Bottleneck. The Micronotz opened for them and Dean Lubensky came back for that one as well.

Surprise: Micronotz in Lawrence

My digital camera didn't work fast enough to capture the Micronotz as they wailed through three songs in a surprise addition to the Embarrassment reunion show last night in Lawrence. From Left: Jay Hauptli, guest bassist Matt Kesler, Dean Lubensky, and Steve Eddy. Not Pictured: John Harper.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sunset tonight

You can't quite see it from here, but there's a huge fusion reactor over the hill from my house.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Check out Hyperopia

Ex-Von Bulow singer Lori Wray and ex-Micronotz drummer Steve Eddy have a new band.

The Embarrassment |

What are you doing August 20th? Why not see The Embarrassment and while you're checking the link, download a MP3 of Drive Me to the Park.

Flickr link

Concert photos from CBGB's and other NYC venues here.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hungry in San Diego

I went to San Diego for a weekend last month and didn't do a lot of cooking. In fact, I ate out for every meal. Here's a list of the restaurants where I ate, in order:

I got off the plane and went straight to this place for lunch. It was excellent and I also liked the view of the bay or harbor or whatever they call it there.

My high school chum Patrick and I scheduled a big night for Saturday, so we did a low-key excursion to a Thai restaurant on Friday night. It was good. The place looked like it used to be a Sizzler many years ago. This restaurant is in a neighborhood north of downtown where Asian establishments line the streets for blocks.

I grabbed a bagel and coffee to go on Saturday morning, so I'm not going to try to find the California Bagel place where we went.

No complaints about this place either. Big portions, the retro-deli atmosphere, and a hip clientele.

Down to Pacific Beach where we squeezed in at the bar in an otherwise packed restaurant on the sea. I had the fish tacos. Wonderful.

It was father's day on that Sunday, so I didn't see the regular menu, but this place was fun. Upscale breakfast with mondo portions.

I only scratched the surface here. San Diego has no shortage of good restaurants. In case you wondered if all I did was eat, I did not. I also went here, here, and here, and I stayed in the shadow of this place.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I Didn't Dream it

The in-laws are in town and I'm sleeping on a futon in the basement this week. My daughter woke me up at 2:30am to tell me that she was awake. Thanks! I was in that super-deep state of sleep, beyond REM sleep, and her cry at the top of the stairs woke me from the dead. It took me a long time to realize what was going on, what time it was, why she was upset, and where I was. It turned out that my wife was asleep and declined her request for a hug and a kiss. I offered a hug and she ran back to her room. Must have been my breath.

I couldn't get back to sleep so I turned on the television and PBS ran a special about sharks. A shark expert from South Africa put some attractor (chum?) in the water on a string and bent down on a platform at Ocean level. When a Great White shark came calling, he reached out and put his hand on the underside of the shark's nose. The shark had some kind of instinctive reaction where it opened its mouth and fell over backward into the water. The website described it as momentary paralysis. Here's a picture from the special. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it, sleep-deprived as I was.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Barrett Obit

Here's one Syd Barrett obit - from

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

R.I.P. - Syd Barrett

The Associated Press reported that original Pink Floyd member Syd Barrett has died at age 60. I'll link to a full obit when one is posted. In the meantime, read his biography from Wikipedia.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

X-Ray Shoes

Thank goodness I'm too young to remember the shoe store X-ray machine.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Rembering the Glassblowing Barn

The Chamney House glassblowing barn was a unique feature of the K.U. campus. It was situated in a remote section of the western reaches, by the motor pool, out past Iowa street near the par-three golf course on 15th street (AKA Bob Billings Parkway). My friends Steve O'Holleran and Dierk Van Keppel spent many hours there creating original works of art. The old studio is no longer used for glassblowing; it's part of the center for design research studio, but Dierk continues to work with glass. Read Edie Hall's story in the Kansas City Star.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Best Billy Ray Cyrus Movie Ever

David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. Look for him as Gene the pool guy. Although the best cameo appearance of an actor in a pool guy roll (in a non-porno film) has to go to K.U. alumnus Mandy Patinkin in The Big Fix.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Rondo, the Thirst Crusher

When's the last time you worked up a Rondo thirst?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Paul Gleason, R.I.P.

Actor Paul Gleason died May 27th of asbestos-related lung cancer. You may remember Gleason as Principal Richard Vernon in The Breakfast Club. He played a tough guy in Trading Places, and had a prominent role in Die Hard. I read a number of obits over the last couple of weeks and none mentioned perhaps the most important moment of his life. Author Bob Kealing knew Paul Gleason and recalled that moment:

I just saw Paul two months ago and he didn't say a word about the Cancer. I had the fortunate chance to get to know him and write about him through his association and friendship with Jack Kerouac...Paul sent me a copy of his book he released in the 70s called Uleta Blues and Haikus. Far from his persona of playing the heavy in movies, Paul was a most humble, artistic and unassuming man the times I spoke with him. He was just in Orlando visiting the home where Kerouac lived, and remeniscing about hanging out with the great Beat writer while Paul was still playing minor league baseball. Gleason claimed that it was while seeing Splendor in the Grass with Kerouac at an Orlando movie house, that he was inspired to make acting his next career. What a great move it was. I'll miss Paul and feel glad I got to know him the last few years of his life. (Comments originally posted at, reprinted with permission of the author.)

Kealing is a K.U. graduate and author of Kerouac in Florida, Where the Road Ends.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Remembering SM North Drama

Two of my favorite high school teachers, Frank Robertson and Margaret McClatchey, are retiring on tuesday night at 7pm in the Auditorium. They taught Drama, Speech, and English at Shawnee Mission North.

Mrs. McClatchey taught drama to me during my senior year (1982-83). She told me about an audition for a role in a video. The county outreach department was looking to cast a family in a short drama called the "The Pain Games" and Clancy Hathaway directed it. I got the role of the son caught in the crossfire of his parents' divorce. We filmed it over Christmas break, in part at McClatchey's house. I slammed a bag of groceries down on the kitchen floor in my big scene. I was green and it showed, but it was a great experience.

I didn't think much about it until a couple of years later I ran into the sound man and I was shocked to learn that it was still being shown. Apparently in Johnson County when you file for divorce, they make you watch this show. We made it in 1982 and they're still screening it today. Once in a while, I'll run into a friend who says, "I got a divorce recently and they made me watch this video..."

I theorize that it's so bad that people come out of there going, "what a crappy show - my divorce, not so crappy afterall!" I like that.

I don't think I'll ever win an Academy Award, but if I do, I'll be thanking Mrs. McClatchey and Mr. Robertson. Hey, maybe that's the speech I'll make on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hugh Williams update

"Huge" Hugh Williams worked as a cameraman for Cable News Network after graduation from KU in the mid 80's; first in Atlanta and eventually in Australia where he still works as a videographer and producer for CNN. You never forgot Hugh Williams whether you heard him on KJHK or knew him in person. He's the kind of guy that left an impression - 6'7", smiling, Australian accent.

Hugh and I were students in a video production class at KU's Jolliffe Hall back in 1986 and he impressed me with his flair for shooting and editing. He did a piece where he shot footage of downtown Lawrence street scenery and edited it with music by Kraftwerk. It flowed from shot to shot, something that didn't come easily for most beginners, but it did for Hugh. Our university equipment was ancient but that didn't phase him. There were no camcorders. We carried a large VCR with shoulder strap for location shooting and we had to "white balance" the camera everytime we used it to get the proper spectrum of colors. Hugh's the kind of guy who shouldered a big load and he's seen some big events too.

He witnessed the Mir space station's fall to earth. He got a kiss from Elle MacPherson, a childhood friend. And most recently, Hugh the hero, though I'm sure he wouldn't be comfortable with that moniker - tried to save the life of Richard Carleton after the reporter for the Australian version of 60 Minutes collapsed during a press conference last Sunday, May 7th.

Thanks to Tim Savage for the update.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

R.I.P. - Grant McLennan

Grant McLennan of the Australian band The Go-Betweens, died Saturday of a heart attack at the age of 48. Here's a link to where you can read more about McLennan, The Go-Betweens, and hear Cattle and Cane, voted one of the 10 best songs in the history of Australian songwriting.

Cattle and Cane is a song that I forgot about for many years until I rediscovered it on a scratchy cassette tape I found at my house in 1990. I had lots of cassettes and a jambox at my apartment in Lawrence in the mid 80s. Sometimes I'd pop in a blank cassette and record KJHK, knowing that I'd listen later, perhaps in my car outside of the broadcast range of the station, and find something worthwhile. This is what happened with Cattle and Cane. I went walking for exercise one summer day in 1990 and popped in an unlabelled tape. It was KJHK mainstay Vicky (now Victoria) Sloan from an airshift done three or four years previously and Ms. Sloan always did a good job. She knew music and her knowledge was my reward that day as evidenced by her inclusion of that song by the The Go-Betweens providing the soundtrack for me.

Later in the tape she played Snowman, by XTC, another indie pop gem. Let's hope Andy Partridge remains in good health.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Remembering the Tan Man

During my Oread odyssey (1984-1985), my college roommates and I threw wild parties at our mansion on Tennessee street. We hired bands like The Dancing Bears and bought kegs of beer for our thirsty friends and their thirsty friends. It was open house and the pinnacle of our Oread party experience was the moment one Saturday night when a shirtless middle-aged man in a leather jacket stopped in for brew. He was the Tan Man, a Lawrence legend if there ever was one. We had arrived.

"How was the party?" someone asked me at class the following Monday. "Pretty good," I replied, "the Tan Man was there." That's all one had to say. There was no need to gauge a party barometer beyond that statement. The appearance of the Tan Man said it all and here's why.

The Tan Man was not a social creature. Oh sure, he spent part of each school day at Wescoe Beach catching rays, and he wasn't the grumpy sort. But the Tan Man didn't make the scene after dark. He loved the sun and he worked nights. Another famous Lawrence personality, The Olde-Hipeye, also put your party into high status with his patronage, but Matthew was a night owl, a frequent visitor to evening functions. His attendance said less about the magnitude of your gathering than the sight of this gentle man, who rode a bike donated by the K.U. class of 1981.

John Schneider, AKA The Tan Man, disappeared from his concrete sun perch in the late 1980s. I wondered what happened. His back was beyond tan, it was the color and consistency of a well basted turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Did he die of cancer or perhaps leave town for warmer climes? Praise the Lord and pass the sun screen. The Tan Man Lives!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

ICEE vs. Slurpee

The 7-11 store in Mission, KS carried ICEE frozen fountain drinks, not Slurpees. ICEE was the brand we drank in various flavors like Cola and Cherry. When I was about nine years old, I found an old 45 single at a garage sale called Dance The Slurp. The flip side had humorous anecdotes from voice-over actors about the strange things that happened to people who drank ICEEs from 7-11. It was a hoot.

I lost that 45 and didn't think much of it until I got to talking with an avid record collector years later. He traded me a copy for something else I had and much to my surprise, when I played it in the production room at the radio station where I worked at the time, all the voice overs mentioned Slurpee, not ICEE.

Yes, it's true. ICEE and Slurpee are one and the same. The original concoction was invented by Omar Knedlik of Coffeyville, Kansas. That sounds like a name out of Mad Magazine. Omar marketed ICEE and ICEE machines in Kansas and a few other Midwestern states and eventually sold the rights to 7-11 in 1965. They rebranded it the Slurpee and sold it coast to coast. There must have been a wrinkle in the contract that kept the ICEE brand (complete with polar bear mascot) in Omar's legacy outlets here in the Midwest. ICEE may be dead, but I saw the logo on an office building at Johnson Drive and I-35 in Merriam, KS the other day. Perhaps the spirit of Omar Knedlik lives on.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Remembering The Purple Crackle

The Purple Crackle was a famous Illinois supper club across the Mississippi River from Cape Girardeau, MO. Here's a great story about the history of the night club scene in Southern Illinois and the Crackle in particular, by TJ Greaney of the Southeast Missourian.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Remembering Wacky Packages

Wacky Packages, for those of you who missed them, were stickers featuring product parodies. They were the same size as baseball cards and each pack included five (or was it ten?) stickers, one cardboard checklist, and a stick of gum. An example of a Wacky Package parody was "Crust", the toothpaste that gave you cavities. The cartoonish artwork of Wacky Packages, always captured the true packaging and branding elements. I bought my first pack of Wacky cards at TG&Y on Johnson Drive in 1973.

I wasn't a serious collector of Wacky stickers at first. I peeled them and stuck them on my bedroom door. I soon realized they were more fun to collect than to actually stick on stuff. I have a distinct memory of being home from school one day in the 3rd grade. It was one of those elementary holidays for teacher in-service or something. I was bored with daytime television so I rode my bike up to the Quik-Trip in Roeland Park and dropped 30 cents on some Wacky Packages. What a thrill to open a pack of stickers and see what parodies were inside. The Topps folks issued a new round of stickers four times a year and you always knew when the new series was in stores. They changed the color of the wax wrapper to let you know.

I developed this Wacky Package lust that day in 3rd grade. The problem was that I didn't have any money. I looked under couch cushions and in desk drawers at the house. I scrounged up a dime and a nickel and rode up to the store for three more packs. I think I did this two or three times that day. It wasn't good financial planning but it was good exercise.

I began purchasing my stickers by the box. They shipped the cards in little cardboard cases for easy display. Each box contained about 40 packs of stickers. The hidden whammy was that some stickers were more prevalent than others. A typical series had 30 different stickers. Some of those were rare. I found out why. Topps produced each series on a giant contact sheet. During the design phase, they'd occasionally drop an idea. This created a hole in the sheet and they'd fill it with a duplicate. That's why some stickers appeared in the packs more often than others.

I out grew Wacky Packages about the time they stopped producing the original stickers in 1977. I'm not sure why I got tired of them. I think it was a combination of other interests and the fact that the designers had already parodied most of the best known consumers products.

I don't remember what happened to my wacky sticker collection. I may have sold it at a garage sale. I wish I'd kept them.

Check out the stickers at Tom's Wacky Package page.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Remembering Joe Delassus

Today The Kansas City Star published an essay I wrote about baseball: He bats right, just like Grandpa. Registration may be required over at their website, but it's free.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Recommending Patty Heffley

Some nice photos of punk rock icons from Patty Heffley. Thanks to Bill Goffrier for the tip about this one.

Friday, March 31, 2006

While Visiting MPLS

Pick up a copy of The Pulse of the Twin Cities where Joel Orff's comic strip Great Moments in Rock 'N' Roll features a collection of anecdotes I submitted including stories about the Minutemen, Camper Van Beethoven, and The Balancing Act. You can visit The Pulse website, but it doesn't carry this particular comic in the online edition. See Joel's archive here.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Byrd Blogging

Roger McGuinn has a blog and in this entry he does a nice job relating the story of King Radio, an Olathe, KS company that makes communications gear for small planes, among other things.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The interior of the restroom at the KJHK studios, Lawrence, KS, from August 2004.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Snell Speaks

From the "I knew him way back when" department, a nice interview with former KU drama student, and fellow audio-reader voice David Snell, now appearing on "The Shield".

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Embo Reunion

Sweet news from the Embarrassment Appreciation Society forum: 3 gigs this summer in Kansas! Thanks to Lori Wray for the tip.

Monday, March 20, 2006

KJHK Antenna is history

KU's radio tower behind Marvin Hall, home of KJHK's antenna, will be torn down due to storm damage, from Kansas City Info Zine.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Recommending Summer Camp

My parents sent me to summer camp for two weeks when I was ten years old. It was the best thing they ever did (that they weren't required to do by law). Today's Kansas City Star features a special summer camp guide. They'll probably make you register to read it on line.

When you finish with Lori Cossey's star article, click on over to Camp Zoe Memories, my shrine to the Missouri summer camp where spent my summers from 1975 to 1980. There were girls, visions, everything.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Prediction: One and Done

I've enjoyed watching the University of Kansas men's basketball team improve this season but I don't think they'll do very well in the NCAA tournament. Unless they catch a break in their bracket, I predict they'll win one game and that's it. Somebody will throw out a zone defense or force a slow tempo game, much as Temple did today against George Washington, and it will nullify our athleticism.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Recommending Great Moments in Rock 'n' Roll

A comic strip by Joel Orff. Look for the strip featuring KJHK alumni Todd Newman & Lori Wray.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Recommending Kellie Wells

KJHK alumna Kellie Wells has a novel coming out soon.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Rare Firesign

Rare to me at any rate. Here's a page where you can download lots of cool Firesign Theatre audio bits in .mp3 format (AKA podcast).

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Recommending Moon Marble

I went with my son's cub scout den to Moon Marble company in Bonner Springs, KS a couple days ago. They have a very unique store there and they sell lots of cool toys besides the marbles. Check it out the next time you're stumped for a gift.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Minutemen - Live

Here are the Minutemen in concert on 5/3/85, two days before they played the Kansas Union Ballroom at the "Day on the Green Tile Floor" concert.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Psychic Dick

Philip K. Dick invented the homeopape (AKA myYahoo) in 1964, from

Monday, January 23, 2006

January is an ass kicker

This January has been the worst January in the 40 or so Januaries that I've been a part of. It's not like anything bad has happened to me personally. But as far as the blog is concerned, a little voice has stopped me from posting.

"Don't post that, it's stupid", it would say, and so I'd refrain, and I don't know, it seems like everything is kind of permeated by that voice, that attitude, for me right now. I'm waiting for some sunshine. In the meantime, I still have to pay the rent.

So I don't know if this is stupid or not, but I have a friend in the music business and he sends me music. Here's what I've been listening to today: NADA SURF - the weight is a gift
Thanks, Michael.