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Posts from the ‘Kids’ TV’ Category

My Year in Blogging: Wiggles and Wiggins!

Who are we? How did we get here? These are the ancient, universal questions that all bloggers must seek to answer. If they want more hits on their blogs. Why does my blog exist? I know my parents read it, but who are those so wholly unconnected with me that visit? WordPress was kind enough help me develop a creation myth for Five Uninterrupted Minutes. 

I love the statistics WordPress provides on the people who read this blog (aka my new best friends). And the most fun thing to do when I want to feel like I am blogging, but don’t want to write anything, is to look at the country map on the Stats page, and see where in the world people are clicking on these pages. I like to imagine glowing screens in places like Uruguay, Estonia, Mongolia, and the Maldives, where web-savvy readers gather round to chuckle heartily at my musings on parenthood and things I watch on TV.

Or, more likely: “I searched for X and have no idea how I got here.” Here are some of the actual search terms that have brought people here:

Colorful rugs for preschool in india Can’t help you there, good luck though

Jonathan Crombie is creepy NO HE’S NOT YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY GOT THE WRONG BLOG

What happened to Bob Costas’ face? Too much Botox, I reckon

I have a crush on Gil from Bubble Guppies AGAIN, MOVE ALONG

Is Norman Fireman Sam’s son YES

Aside from a surprising number of queries as to “why do divers use such tiny towels?” – a question I posed during the Olympics (here’s the answer, in case you are one of those people who seeks this information), the number-one topic that people came to Five Uninterrupted Minutes to read about is, according to WordPress Stats: What is up with Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins’ sideburns? Yeah, that. Hilarious/poignant observations on family life? No. Facial hair on some bloke. Who won a bike race.

Bradley Wiggins

Guess those sideburns don’t slow him down: it’s Bradley Wiggins (Photo: Brendan A Ryan)

Bradley Wiggins has quit Twitter, probably because of twits like me that ask these inane questions [But is it really so dumb?]. So I am afraid this one will remain unanswered. Far be it from me to question a knight of the realm. The best answer I can give is to direct you to this interesting documentary about the UK Sports Personality of the Year - Bradley Wiggins: A Year in Yellow from Sky Atlantic.

So to sum up: the top country for blog readership: the USA [where I know the most people], followed by the UK [Wiggo], and right up there at number three is Australia, because apparently there are a lot of people down under who are mystified, hurt, and confused about the Wiggles breaking up. And then they end up here, to read Oh no, I accidentally broke up the Wiggles, my most-viewed blog post of the year. I never set out to write about Australian preschool music, but there you go. Come for the Wiggles information, stay for the essay I wrote about “show-shaming.” Why not?

Most people from Oz got here because of some variation on the search terms “Sam Moran fired” and “Wiggles break up.” So many that, when you Google “Wiggles break up” my essay is the fourth item that comes up. Which is good, I guess? One even came here by typing “Captain Feathersword does not look happy.” Too right.

But sorry to disappoint you, I am not the Yoko Ono of the Wiggles. I did not break them up, by accident or otherwise. But in the spirit of giving the people what they want, I will endeavor to answer some of the burning questions posed to the Google gods.

English: The Wiggles performing at the MCI Cen...

Toot toot, chugga chugga. Later, Sam.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why do the Wiggles sing in Greek sometimes? I have wondered that myself. Anthony Field, the last man standing of the original Wiggles line-up, has a wife of Greek descent. Opa.

Does Murray Cook have children? Many people seem to be curious about this. Yes.

Lately, I have had many people seeking news of “anthony field affair.” So maybe there is a Yoko Ono of The Wiggles after all. I can’t speak to the matter, even as a Wiggles Expert (at least according to Google search algorithms). But I can link to stuff, so you need not seek further. Click here for an article. Also, for those who can’t get enough Anthony Field: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Wiggle (via The Australian).

That last article gets extra points for having a good title. And that brings me to an important lesson I’ve learned about blogging from obsessing over WordPress stats: A good title will get you far. Oh no, I accidentally broke up the Wiggles? Lots of hits. An Ode to the Dreamcrusher, my next biggest blog post, which was also Freshly Pressed? Solid title, sweet hits. But Missing Teeth? I like to think it’s a good essay (who wouldn’t want to read about my family’s strange teeth? I mean really!), but the hits there are not quite as sweet. If anyone can think of a better title, I’d be obliged.

The other thing I’ve learned is that writing about topical, newsworthy stuff is obviously better in terms of generating an audience. I wrote a few posts about the Olympics, to good effect. August was my best month of the year for viewers. But the Olympics won’t be back for another year (Sochi 2014!). Dash it all to hell!

So I’ve got a Google news alert going on to let me know when the Wiggles drop some major news bombs. And when they do, oh, I will be there.

I’m still waiting. In the meantime, maybe I can just pepper my essays about children’s books and my strange Italian relatives with words like Super Bowl! and Justin Bieber! and see how that works.

Justin Bieber

Belieb it! (Photo credit: cukuskumir)

This blog is only nine months old. I haven’t been at it even a full year, but blogging has made writing central to my life again. And I am grateful for that. In this time, every connection I’ve made with a reader has been gratifying (My favorite comment of the year? From someone called Johnnyboy: “I’m stoned and I have no idea how I ended up here, but I like your review of Moonrise Kingdom.” Success!). Every time I hit the “Publish” button I feel good. It’s one more thing I wrote that I couldn’t write a year ago, or two years ago, when I felt so blocked. Being here has helped me start writing again after having kids, and I am proud of what I’ve accomplished so far, and excited to keep going.

Thank you WordPress! And thank you for reading! I am looking forward to Super Bowl! another year of writing Oscar Buzz! and connecting with other writers Kate Middleton! and readers Gangnam Style!

It’s the great Halloween anxiety, Charlie Brown

This is real-time anxiety happening here, as I write at the coffee shop while C is at kindergarten. This morning I sent him to his school Halloween celebration as half a vampire.

Weeks ago, C decided he wanted to be a vampire for Halloween. His Dad bought him some rubber teeth and face paint, so he’s set there. So what else does the costume entail? I struggled to think.

I’m not that creative when it comes to sewing or Halloween costumes. And I’ve never really enjoyed trick-or-treating that much. For me, as a nervous kid, it was just another avenue for rejection – who would invite you to their party? Would you have to go out alone? What if your costume wasn’t any good? So you see what my start-point for Halloween is.

The cape was crucial to C’s transformation to vampire. “I’m going to wear my superhero cape,” he declared. It’s royal blue with a big yellow thunderbolt on it.

“But a vampire wears a black cape,” I told him. No. He doesn’t want to wear a black cape. OK.

I looked online to see what a kids’ vampire costume looks like in the marketplace.

No. That’s ridiculous. I just can’t. And come on, I thought, trying to cajole the Halloween spirit out, I can make a costume myself! Isn’t that what Halloween is all about? That should win points. With whom, I should have asked.

I scoured the local craft shops (O look at me! Aren’t I great for avoiding the big-box stores!) for more vampire accoutrement. Since grown-up, sexy lady vampire was out of the question, I didn’t find much. Just an adult-sized wig that I thought I could trim and gel, but it just ended up looking like a shedding black cat. So I bought a white dress shirt, by “Joey Couture,” which felt like tissue paper. I added some navy sweatpants, for comfort. I found a medal he’d won as a party prize. With the teeth, the pallid face, black-rimmed eyes, and blood-red lips (I am confident in make-up, at least), C should be good to go.

Then the notice came home from school. No fake blood. No face paint. Nothing violent. The teeth would definitely be confiscated, ala A Christmas Story. Rats. Maybe I can turn him into a True Blood-style vampire, ala Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgaard). He’s already got the hair and the J.Crew sweaters. No cape and Dracula gear required…no, probably not.

This morning, C gamely put on his sweatpants, his shirt, his cape. “These are the most important parts of a vampire costume anyway,” he said.

We opened our front door and headed to school. Heading down the steps, I noticed someone stole our pumpkin. No jack-o-lantern tonight. Keep going. A group of C’s classmates was walking up the street. A witch, a tiger, a princess. “Are you a superhero?” the witch asked.

“I’m a vampire,” C said quietly.

“He’s a baby vampire,” I said, to the parents, I suppose. “His teeth haven’t come in yet.” I felt the need to make excuses, not for him, but for myself, as I started to get the feeling I let him down, with his dressy-yet ready for gym class-superhero get-up.

When we got to the playground, the place was swirling with store-bought costumes of every variety. More tigers. More princesses. Superheroes of every stripe. A ninja. And C, with his halo of blond hair, his blue eyes and long, drooping eyelashes, hardly looking like a creature of the night. “Are you Superman, C?” asked one of his friends, dressed as a superhero whose name I didn’t catch, resplendent with fake muscles.

“No!” T spoke up, marching up to this macho man, in his Snoopy Halloween t-shirt. “Vam-pah!”

The bell rang, and C got in line. He was quiet, but he always is when he heads into school. Yet my sinking feeling was growing. What if I’ve failed him? I worried. What if my poor attempt at making a genuine Halloween costume, with my lack of skills and vision, is going ruin his first schoolboy Halloween? What have I done? Good grief.

My face was a mask of cheer as I said goodbye. “You look so great!” The parade of costumes started moving. “Good-bye, Vampire!”

Even T was in on it. “Bye!” He jumped and waved. “Arrgghh!” He did his best scary monster sound.

We trudged home through the hurricane-tossed leaves. It’s my job, I thought, to fill C with confidence, so he’d be dashing around the schoolyard, cape flying. And just because I didn’t press click on a costume because I thought it was tacky, maybe he feels less-than. And the fears started gathering strength and speed as they swirled through my mind. What if he, because of this botched first attempt, never likes Halloween again? He was so excited about it this year. He drew a jack-o-lantern in the October 31 box on the kitchen calendar. He decorated our house with orange streamers and webs and fake spiders. He told everyone he was going to be a vampire. And now, as they are probably at this moment marching through the school hallways showing off their costumes, is he?

My mother made incredible Halloween costumes for me as a kid: a parrot with crepe-paper wings, the Statue of Liberty, with green face paint and a dyed sheet. I was Halley’s Comet the year it appeared, as a giant painted sandwich board affair. One year I was Where’s Waldo, that was pretty good. And, despite all my worry, when I think back, I did go to parties, and trick-or-treating; I roamed streets with silly string and shaving cream. I did have fun. So this anxiety comes from me, not my experiences – and it’s still in me. As I write, I am making a vow to not dump all that in C’s trick-or-treat bag, as it were.

Maybe Halloween is never going to be like it was in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I’m not going to be able to cut holes in a sheet, throw it over the boys, and send them out into the night, all innocence and sincerity. There are going to be store-bought costumes, and stickers instead of candy, and rules to follow to make Halloween palatable for the modern school day. But it will always be there, and C loves it. So it’s time for me to put aside my inner Charlie Brown, so that C doesn’t become the same: all good intentions sidelined by worry and fear. Better to be like Linus, willing to look a fool in a pumpkin patch, because, pure in spirit, he believes in the Great Pumpkin.

As as for T? I think he’s a Lucy-type, so we better all beware.

Top five reasons why a new blog post is so very long overdue

It’s been well over a week since I have posted on my blog, and I tell you, it eats at me. I just haven’t found [see blog title]. But really, I have some legitimate excuses, uh, reasons, for not posting in a while. Here are the few of things that have eaten up all of my [see blog title].

Hurricane Sandy (2012): 60 km Wind Area Forecast

Hurricane Sandy (2012): 60 km Wind Area Forecast (Photo credit: Canadian Pacific)

1) Worrying about Hurricane Sandy. I type this faster and more anxiously as the wind whips up outside, and even though here in Boston we are well away from the center of the storm, school has been cancelled and the T has been shut down, so we are all four at home today. Read: no me time. Just lots and lots of we time. Which is great, great, great, of course. So instead of finishing my next post, which has been sitting in my draft folder for some time now half-finished, I have been drawing Bubble Guppies for T:

And I didn’t win the Art Award in sixth grade because why? No, I’m not bitter.

Daddy is taking charge of C’s homework (brought to you by the letters S and U, cut from magazines), so I have a few minutes on the computer. I’m typing fast. And when the time for the heaviest winds arrives, I’ll close the laptop and start pacing back and forth in front of the TV as Pete Bouchard tries to conceal his excitement about storm surges and gust MPHs and astronomical high tides. These meteorologist guys live for this, don’t they? They rub their hands in glee while we worriers wear pasta pots on our head waiting for the trees to come crashing down upon us.

English: The 2003 Tour de France on Alpe d'Hue...

The 2003 Tour de France on Alpe d’Huez, with Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton, Ivan Basso, Haimar Zubeldia, Roberto Laiseka and Joseba Beloki. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2) Everyone else is blaming Lance Armstrong, so why can’t I? As a cycling fan, I have been completely consumed by the stunning revelations about Armstrong’s alleged doping. Of course, when T was asleep and C was at school, I dropped all important chores and tasks to read the 200-page “reasoned decision” published by USADA, as well as the Tyler Hamilton book. I have had Cyclingnews constantly open in my browser. And like many others, I have been dismayed at charges too hard to ignore, and at watching elder statemen of the sport fall one by one. Another day brings another admission of guilt, another tarnished record, another achievement that was too good to be true. I’m not an expert, so I don’t feel qualified to say much about it. So I will leave it to known Mod and Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins to say it best:

“It’s a sport I love and have always loved. It’s a shame that cycling is being dragged through this again. It’s not a shame he’s been caught. As you get older, you start to realise that Father Christmas doesn’t exist. And that was always the case with Lance.”

Bradley Wiggins racing to Gold in London 2012 ...

Wiggins wins the gold in the time trial, London 2012. (Photo credit: EEPaul)

You have to love this guy. I choose to believe Wiggins has never doped, because that’s what he says, but who’s to know for sure? Who can we trust? Ever? It’s sad that I wish Cyclingnews would publish a list of definitively clean riders, so we could have something to hold onto while the sport goes through this wrenching, scorched earth period that it must endure to restore its integrity.

3) Oh yeah, there’s that election. And Halloween.

C’s “master plan” for Halloween. Or the election???

4) We took a trip to NYC to visit my family and take C to see the Space Shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid. Out on the flight deck of the old aircraft carrier, we passed rows of fighter planes with teeth painted on them and helicopters just wide enough for one person; I imagined them flying like whirring envelopes. And there’s the Captain’s bridge where you climb narrow stairs to talk to WWII veterans who were stationed on the Intrepid, and see an officer’s cabin where there’s a calendar from the year the ship was decommissioned (1974) still on the wall.

Beyond all of that, a temporary bubble houses the shuttle. Inside, the Enterprise floats above our heads in a cloud of blue, like that model of a huge, blue whale at the American Museum of Natural History. Just as hushed, just as commanding of respect. I wonder how the Enterprise will fare during the storm? It’s been through much more, I suppose.

The glowing ship.

5) Sorry, I had to watch Downton Abbey again. It just had to be done.

Obviously.

There are a million things to do, and there always will be, and they are calling me now. But it still makes me glad to know the blog is there, and I will get back to it in the next few days. But as I write this, the house is shaking; there is a big gust. My heart is beating faster. T will wake up soon. I’ve drawn the shades but I know the branches are bending and leaves are streaking by. I’ll need to start pacing soon, and pottering around, putting Legos back in bins, making meatballs, reading stories, vacuuming up crumbs, doing all the things I do to put the fear and worry at the back of my mind.

I hope everyone stays safe!

Some slapdash notes on cycling sideburns and ferry menaces while I have five…you know

“There are 104 days to summer vacation,” Gawd help us, and it’s been harder than usual to fit in time to write, what with all the no school for C and having to take the kids outside to do stuff, rather than just have them watch Phineas and Ferb dream up fun summer activities on TV. Never mind the fact that I’ve been spending any free time I have watching the Tour de France (Allez Jens! Allez Chava!). Hold on, I just need to go and examine some Droids fashioned from Duplo. [...] I’m back. They were nice.

T is sleeping, and C is busy playing “Cowboy Lasso,” a game he “downloaded to his brain” (AKA, is playing using actual, not electronic, toys while running around screaming). Actually, I stand corrected: he tells me it’s actually “Cowboy and Cowgirl Lasso.” Very good. That media training I bought him for his fourth birthday was totally worth it.

I just finished watching Stage 11 of the Tour on my phone whilst tidying up the kitchen, so here are a few notes on that and other things to keep my blog going while I am trying to find time to devise some more thoughtful posts. Which I’m afraid won’t come until camp starts again, and the cycling ends, and before the Olympics begin. So basically never. Priorities.

Tour Coiffures. I am no expert on professional cycling, and while there is a lot to say about this incredible Tour, I hardly feel qualified to say much at all online. But I am qualified to make smart-a*s remarks. So. Bradley Wiggins. Much respect. Allez Wiggo and all that. Every time I’ve seen him mount a bike this season my first thought is, “this guy is not kidding around, is he?” I really admire his intense determination to win; you can see all of the hard graft and careful preparation in his riding, and in Team Sky’s riding. Which brings me to my point. I know Wiggins makes every effort to be as aerodynamic as possible. The right gear, the right bike – every move he makes is calculated to the last detail to ensure he doesn’t lose a millisecond to his rivals. He, I assume, like all of the other riders, shaves his legs, just to get that last extra push through the breeze.

Bradley Wiggins leads the Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins leads the Tour de France, sideburns intact. (Photo credit: robkingcameraman)

So why, Bradley, pray tell, don’t you shave those enormous sideburns you have been rocking. I kid, but not really. If you’re planning to duke it out with Vince Noir for the title of King of the Mods, I respect that. But those things on your face must, somehow, cost you a soupcon of time. Right now you’re doing all right, but as you head up the Pyrenees and into the last Time Trial you might want to rethink those face wings. They don’t help you fly. There, I’m done.

Candy Omaha. Here’s another bone I have to pick. We spent last week on vacation down in the Hamptons, on Long Island, and to get there we take a car ferry from New London, CT, to Orient Point, NY. Where, as we drive off the boat onto my native island, it is my prerogative to play a Billy Joel song as we celebrate my summer homecoming. Usually “The Downeaster Alexa.” That is, if the Spotify works, and it usually doesn’t. There ain’t no Island left for Islanders like me, indeed.

The Cross Sound Ferry runs a tight ship, as it were, and it is always fun to spend part of our journey on a ferry rather than in a car. And our favorite boat in their fleet is the Cape Henlopen. Mainly because it has an arcade where C and T can pretend that they are really awesome at Pac Man and some driving games.

The other reason that I like the Cape Henlopen is that it was built as a World War II landing craft, and participated in the D-Day invasion at Normandy, ferrying GIs to Omaha Beach. And now, in its dotage, it schlepps folks to more peaceful beaches, and Mohegan Sun. It was built for battle, not for the level of comfort of a pleasure cruise. There is some seating inside, and just a limited number of banquettes that seat at least six around a table. They’re big.

So why, lady traveling alone, and there are people like this on every passage, do you need an entire booth to yourself? So you can prop your Reeboked foot on the seat while you listen to your off-brand MP3 player (probably to Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits, I’m just guessing)? So you can stare smugly out the window, avoiding the glares of groups of four (or more) who are trying to eat lunch on chairs opposite you? You didn’t even eat! You weren’t even using the table to prop up your copy of Fifty Shades of Gray! You just looked over my head as I picked PB&J (and T) repeatedly up off the floor.

I know what you might say, lady (or gentleman, similarly accused). You’d say you got there first, so tough luck to me. That you deserve to sit there just as much as anyone else. That there is no rule against taking up seating for six for yourself. And this is the only complaint I have against an otherwise excellently-run ferry service. There should be a rule. Even two people in a booth, I can understand. But one? There were lots of comfortable single seats that could have accomodated her; it was just selfishness. And the downfall of Western Civilization.

And “Piano Man” was probably playing too loudly in her ear to hear my remark, accompanied by a gesture in her general direction, “I hope you’re enjoying your giant booth.” But the lady in the booth behind her did hear me, and she looked up from her little game of Uno she was playing with her husband and grown son. Which seems a perfectly reasonable use for a booth. Sorry, I didn’t mean you. Hope you didn’t fall victim to any Draw Fours.

Toward the end of the trip, the booth next to this woman freed up, and I slid T in so he could stand up against the window and eat this enormous lollipop, the long, twisting, rainbow kind stuck on a wooden dowel. I had saved that pop for this long, last leg of the journey. T had already won every video game, said hello to every human and dog on this ship, and said “bye” to every boat that passed. So I can call it only karma that while this woman was on her phone worrying about her lunch plans at the top of her lungs, T whipped that pop straight at her so hard that it rained down in shards all around her, and her special booth (it didn’t actually hit her, thankfully). It was as if the ghosts of GIs lost to Normandy long ago arose from deep within the ship to let the Cape Henlopen see battle once again, reenacting Omaha Beach in rainbow sugar.

To her credit, she wasn’t mad when I came over to apologize, but when I tried to go into her booth to clean up the wreckage she waved me away, saying, “Leave it, the crew will get it.” Well, la-di-da to you, lady. T just fired a warning shot across your bow; hopefully next time you’ll heed his warning. Draw four.

I can hear T stirring so it’s time to call a cease fire in the war against cyclists’ sideburns and single seat snobs. We’re headed out to the swimming hole. There are still six hours to fill with summer fun before bedtime, a glass of wine, and the Tour recap show.

A beginner’s guide to Anglophilia

The first bite of pasta and tomato sauce for an Italian-American baby is a momentous event. This is what they’ve been building toward since birth: getting past the milk and mush to a plate of macaroni. My Italian-American baby, C, had his first bite of the stuff at a wedding in a country house in England. And this was exactly how I wanted it to be: a perfect marriage of his inevitable upbringing, with a little bit of balm on the raging case of Anglophilia I’ve had since I was a teenager. Can we blame Morrissey? Maybe, I don’t remember when it started. But it remains.

So when our good friends were getting married in Devon, we popped onto a plane to Heathrow with a nine-month-old C. Along with a car seat, and case; stroller, and case; diapers, clothes, a bear and an extra bear. He squirmed and cried in a strange baby hammock given to us by Virgin Atlantic, which was hooked onto the bulkhead wall. People walked by and grimaced. But we made it. And it was all worth it when I pushed him out into his first bit of British air: the sandwich aisle inside the airport Marks and Spencer where I immediately ate a well-deserved egg and bacon sandwich. I swear I love England for those triangle sandwiches alone. They know exactly their worth; they’re not trying to be heroes.

On the way to Devon we stopped at Stonehenge so C could commune with representatives of his ancestry: German tourists. We had come dressed for our idea of English spring: cozy tea behind rain-fogged pub windows. But the sky in the Salisbury Plain was perfect blue, stretching on cloudlessly without end. C covered his eyes with his blanket, and I listened to the audiofuhrer, as the Germans call it.

Cheap sunglasses at bright Stonehenge.

In Devon before the wedding we stayed at a thatched cottage with friends. I mean, really. It was awesome. In the early morning, before everyone else was awake, I fed C Tesco-bought baby fruit from those little squeeze packs that we didn’t have in the US then. It was a wonder. I squeezed and looked past him at the sun coming up over sloping fields, and far-off forests that probably held fairy cottages and cairns. Or not – I couldn’t hike that far with a baby on my back. But even in more reachable places like the patio, the pub, the village church, or Tesco…oh please let me put in this Wordsworth quote – even though if you read the whole thing it doesn’t really fit: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,/But to be young was very heaven!”

For the wedding, we dressed C in a seersucker suit and took pictures of him with a fascinator on his head. I wanted to wear one myself, but I knew I couldn’t; people from Long Island can’t wear feathers or insects on their heads and not look like they made far too much of an effort. Look here’s Kate Middleton laughing: ah heh heh ha! ha! ha! Oh, it’s all just too grand being you.

The England that I love, that I imagine, and that I see (or choose to see) when I get to go there, is something I can only peer at from outside a window. In fact, as someone said to me at breakfast the day after the wedding, as I tried to open a leaded window in the dining room of the impossibly beautiful Elizabethan estate that we were so lucky to stay in: “Careful, that window is older than America.” Duly noted.

Windows older than America.

I think that remark sums up what I find so beguiling about Englishness or what I, as an American, perceive as Englishness. First off, that was a quick, funny remark; it’s why I love British comedy television so much I’ll admit membership to New Hampshire Public Television’s Britwit Club. But it’s also emblematic of how the English, unlike we here, live in the shadow of a long history – a history that gives England a rich culture and community life: quaint Medieval villages around a green, gnarled hedgerows, listed homes, Iron Age remains by the layby, the local pub, a rich language for Americans to destroy…Ordnance Survey maps. Anthony Trollope. Only Fools and Horses. But with the legacy comes the stewardship of it: living up to its glories, facing up to its wrongs, keeping the best of it alive while trying to move forward. I don’t mean to dissect the entire English psyche here, and I don’t think that the person who made that joke to me was getting at some huge meaning, I am just saying that perhaps part of being English means sacrificing a little bit of yourself to maintain that history. Stiff upper lip and all that. Choosing to schvitz, say, rather than risk breaking the lovely old window. Unless you’re Kate Middleton. Then you can do whatever you want and people call you a duchess. No, I’m not jealous.

I think this is why in a lot of great English TV comedies (which is where I get many of my ideas about England, for better or for worse), there is such a strong sense of irony – the people in these shows aspire to better lives, higher things, more money or status, but those attempts are foolish, to be mocked. Look at Basil Fawlty trying to put on a “gourmet night” at his sad little seaside hotel. Look at Del Boy Trotter, who says, poignantly, “This time, next year, we’ll be millionaires!” but he never (quite) makes it out of Peckham. There’s the ridiculous Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet), Blackadder, David Brent, Edina Monsoon…on and on.

Meanwhile, in America, it’s all meritocracy, the sky’s the limit! The road stretches on forever! You can be anything you want to be, darn it! President? Astronaut? Go for it! It’s what we tell our kids, and look at the TV shows that are produced here for children. So few of the kids on them are typical; most of them are extraordinary. Look at Big Time Rush, Hannah Montana, iCarly, even Dora the Explorer: everyone’s a rock star of some kind or another (this is why I prefer Caillou). It’s an impossibly positive message, it’s the vastness of land and mind that this country is built on, which is great…but it’s annoying, isn’t it? Because, and I think the English know this, one in a million of us will make it to some higher eschelon, fame, fortune, whatever we determine to be outsized success, but most of us? Won’t. Which is fine. And in the face of that, you need to take comfort, more than comfort, pleasure, in everyday things: a cup of tea, a good joke, a well-done day of work in whatever it is that you do. We all have dreams, of course, we all want to be as good as we can be, and we should always try. The British themselves have achieved a bit of success over the years. And I’m not saying in London jigs of glee are being danced every day at elevenses. But look how happy they look on TV when someone brings them a cuppa! That’s nice.

Anyway, there’s got to be a halfway between the UK and USA in this way of thinking. That you can dream but not let the dreams overtake you. What’s halfway? The middle of the ocean? No, look at the Titanic. Canada? Have they got it figured out? I don’t know, ask Caillou.

So back to the kid. When C’s off being president of the United States of the Moon, how will be remember his dear old mother and her fondness for the English way of life? How will he build on those first experiences of British sun and pasta coursing through his little body in those tender years? After the wedding dinner (in England, do you call it a “wedding breakfast” even if it takes place at dinnertime?), he went up to his crib while we danced to Parklife in the old hall, the baby monitor straining to transmit through ancient stone. And then it was time to go home.

On the flight back to Boston, desperate to stop him crying so that we (and everyone aboard) could have a peaceful flight, we jettisoned the baby hammock, propped him up in his car seat, and turned on the seatback television. We discovered Pocoyo, and he watched a string of episodes whilst shoveling Virgin America pasta and tomato sauce into his face. Now that’s his first AND second bowls of pasta outside driving distance of Flatbush Avenue. But it worked. And he discovered a show that he loved, narrated by Stephen Fry.

Stephen Fry (left) as Jeeves and Hugh Laurie a...

Stephen Fry (left) as Jeeves and Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster in the TV series Jeeves and Wooster. (Wikipedia)

Like the Italian language, I think it can only do him good to get the tones of Stephen Fry in his young ears. Pocoyo is a Spanish children’s show, narrated in translation by Fry. Against a white backdrop, Pocoyo and his animal friends (including Pato, the fussy duck) have a series of silly adventures. It’s sweet – a sort of whimsical Caillou, that Fry enhances with a gentle wit. It’s just fun, none of the characters have Grammys or their own talk shows. And when he is a little older (but not much), together we’ll read my favorite English author, P.G. Wodehouse, and watch Fry and the incredible Hugh Laurie portray Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster. Why? That deserves its own blog post. To come. In the meantime, I know Fry’s voice can pull C out of a cranky mood, which I understand. It’s what I do to stop myself from crying sometimes. I turn to Fry, Laurie, to Wodehouse, and to the comforts of an imaginary England.

I like to think, maybe even in England, there is someone that might find some romance in the place that we live. I hope so. That would make me feel less like running away to run a post office in a small village in the Cotswolds. Maybe someone there wants to come see Mass. Ave., that looks so straight and dreary to me, full of nail salons, pizza parlors and CVS stores – and find some beauty in it. The streak of Paul Revere as he rode to Lexington, say, or the start of a western trail that blazes across a country, full of hope, without limits. I don’t know, maybe I can squint and see that myself. I’ll keep admiring those worn old colonial route markers that pop up along the way. I’ll drive out of my way to pass them, and pretend they’re Stonehenge.

The Thunder-and-Lightning Brothers and the battle of good over evil

We live in the Boston area, so seeing guys standing around in full colonial garb is no uncommon sight. We’ve seen them waiting for the bus, hanging out eating ice cream, what have you. But as the boys and I were driving through Lexington the other day, I performed an awesome Boston driving maneuver and flew to the side of the road, to the closest available bad parking spot.

“Get out! Come on!”

We dashed down the sidewalk to a guy in modern dress with headphones who showed us where to stand. And we stood, transfixed, as a full Revolutionary War battle reenactment played out before us. Now, that you don’t see every day. Well, you do see it on Patriots’ Day, but none of us feel like waking up at 4:30 to go the Battle Green. Maybe someday.

In the park below us a formation of Redcoats, their drum steadily thumping, flag flitting the in breeze, beat a measured path to a group of Minutemen, confused, rag-tag, but determined. And then the (pretend) guns went off. I had my arms around each of the boys; I could feel C’s heart leap in his chest. The baby? Not a blink. He’s that stone cold.

Unprepared for the gunfight, the Minutemen fled to the nearby woods. Then they ambled back, and started the scene again. “What is this?” I turned to a spare British colonel on a Dunkin’ Donuts break. “It’s for the Discovery Channel,” he said haughtily. So I asked the headphones guy. “Did you like it?” he said to C. Nod. “It’s for a show called How Booze Built America.” Sounds awesome, but I guess we won’t be watching that one en famille. And by the way, Colonel Crueller? Just chill. You’re not Clint Eastwood.

We watched the battle unfold a few more times. C had lots of questions. “This isn’t a real battle, right?” No, I assured him. They are showing us what happened right here, more than two hundred years ago, so we can learn about how America was founded. And how Fish-House Punch was so integral to said founding. “So which are the good guys and which are the bad guys?”

Good guys and bad guys. It seems like C’s whole four-year-old world can be boiled down to that dichotomy. I first started noticing C parse the world this way while watching Star Wars. “Are those guys good guys? Are they bad guys?” he asks. Then I realized most of his play revolves around good guys and bad guys, whether it’s pretending at Star Wars, his favorite superhero, Spider-Man, or turning me into a villain who makes him get dressed and eat vegetables. Heroes and villains and their epic battles have such a hold on preschoolers. Even when they turn off the TV, or shut the book, the battle rages on. It’s how C approaches Legos, playgrounds, dinner, everything. Bath night is Waterloo every time. What is it about the battle of good versus evil that appeals to C and his ilk so much?

As a so-so literature student, I often gravitated to a book of criticism by Northrup Frye, called Anatomy of Criticism. It’s quaint to even think of Frye as quaint now, I think. But C’s superhero aspirations reminded me of the archetypes of literature Frye lays out in that book that I enjoyed bungling so long ago.

Here, let me oversimplify it for you. It’s fun. In the book, Frye lays out four seasons of literary archetypes. There is comedy (Spring), romance (Summer), tragedy (Fall), and winter (Irony). (Can you see why this book made for an easy, last-minute essay?) These superhero stories that appeal to C so much belong to Summer, romance. Not kissy-kissy romance, but tales of quest, of good battling evil. The hero who embarks on this quest embodies the ideals of a particular society; they are threatened by villains who don’t share their ideals, and try to stop them, thereby saving the world. It’s starting to sound an awful lot like every episode of Spectacular Spider-Man I’ve ever watched. And it’s Star Wars. Beowulf. It’s cowboys riding off into the sunset. If you think about it, many children’s TV shows take this form: Dora the Explorer besting Swiper (in her lame way); Phineas and Ferb against Doofenschmirtz; Super Why against, uh, illiteracy, maybe? You see what I mean. Through these kindergarten romances, children get their first introductions to literary tropes that they will revisit through their entire lives.

C has devised his own superhero identity. “Please call me Mr. C. Lightning,” he said (it’s funnier with his full name). “And this is my sidekick,” pointing at the baby, who he’s slapped an extra cape on. “T. Thunder. Together, we are the THUNDER AND LIGHTNING BROTHERS!” The Thunder and Lightning Brothers find that the most efficacious way of saving the world is running up and down the hall multiple times yelling until T. Thunder bumps into the wall and falls down. Evil (and my patience) vanquished.

Mr C. Lightning and T. Thunder.

In their own minds, preschoolers are romantic heroes, living in the center of a black-and-white world. Frye describes romance as having a “perennially childlike quality.” Their plots are rooted in adventure; they are linear, and “at its most naive, [romance] is an endless form in which a central character who never develops or ages goes through one adventure after another until the author himself collapses.” Sounds like a typical day. Though, unlike a superhero, who never ages, our preschoolers will take what they learn now and move on to the other seasons: comedy, tragedy, and teenaged irony. Oh, that’s going to be fun. Then after that, life is just one long Seinfeld episode.

But until they grow into a sarcastic world, full of stasis and reluctant compromise, the Thunder and Lightning Brothers are my boys of Summer, all dreams of perfection that they tirelessly try to achieve until they collapse into Spider-Man sheets at the end of the day. And I guess, as their mother, I’ll have to put up with being the villain, the force they rail against as they try to figure out their places in the world. Eat this, get down, come here, stop that, no! No! No! But it won’t be this way forever. Someday they’ll realize life is not all stark opposites, that things change. Right now, I’m Mother England, and they’re young America, tossing dinner on the floor like tea into the harbor. But someday, we’ll be friends. Right, British people?

Thwip.

Updated: You heard it here first, or maybe second: How Booze Built America will be on the Discovery Channel on September 19.

Oh no, I accidentally broke up the Wiggles

So, do you think Sam Moran is in the Outback somewhere, in a dressing room of a traveling production of South Pacific, laughing like this: “Mwah-ha-ha-ha. Ha.” That’s right, the Wiggles broke up.

English: The Wiggles performing at the MCI Cen...

Drive on, Big Red Car. Photo by Anthony Arambula  (Wikipedia)

According to Australia’s Daily Telegraph, just a few short months after announcing Sam’s sh*tcanning and Greg Page’s triumphant return to the band, Murray, Jeff, and Greg are leaving the Wiggles. For good. The word down under is that the negative reaction to the last yellow-skivvy transfer was too much for them to bear, and they felt it was time to retire. An “insider” said, according to the Daily Telegraph: “Murray and Jeff are getting older and they’ve been thinking about this (retirement) for ages. And Greg is still a very sick man. The ill feeling towards them after Sam left really pushed them to do it. They felt ‘What’s the point in going on after all this?’, they’re all millionaires anyway so why would they? They don’t exactly need to.”

After 30 Rock sent up the Wiggles a few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the group and their machinations of late. I compared them to Oasis. And well, look now.

That “ill feeling”? That’s me! I don’t mean to take credit for the downfall of a international kiddie phenomenon, but literally dozens of readers in Australia (thank you Word Press blog stats page) read my post, and look at the result!  Didn’t think I had that much of an impact on Australian preschool band affairs. Wow. I even tweeted my post to @sammoran and he never responded. Which I take, considering my little joke about not buying his album, to mean “F*ck you,” or the Australian equivalent. Fair dinkum? Fair dinkum, indeed.

And fair dinkum to the Wiggles. Greg and Jeff have some illnesses that they clearly need to recover from. And they are all going to “spend some time with their families,” which I know is true, of course, but it’s also what you say when you’re a politician and you don’t want to say why you are really quitting your post. I wonder if we’ll ever know just how it all went down, beneath the hood of the Big Red Car.

And may I further say DID I NOT CALL IT when I said the Wiggles were all about Anthony Field? Because guess who’s the last man standing? I told you he was running the show! He’s going to continue on in the band, the undisputed leader, at the helm of three newbies in his grasp, with a back-up chorus probably made up entirely of his nieces, nephews, dentist’s roommate’s cousin, etc. And the others are going to remain at Wiggles HQ. Translation: stopping in to collect royalty checks. Maybe an occasional, impromptu jam session of “Move Your Arms Like Henry,” if the ill-will level is low. Who knows.

It is nice to see, though, that they chose a woman to wear yellow. For one, it helps disassociate the yellow skivvy from the nastiness of the recent hand-off, and for two, how refreshing to see a woman take center stage with the Wiggles while not being trapped inside a giant dinosaur suit. Though she doesn’t need that crazy hair bow they’ve given her; we know she’s a lady. Can I also add another of my own opinions, while wholesale changes are being made, Wiggles Pty Ltd.? In your future television programming, can you drop all the green-screen and CGI and go back to filming your videos in random locations all around Sydney? Like some weird little beach or the side of the road? I kind of liked that. Fair dinkum.

But OH NO this isn’t actually what I wanted! No! This isn’t how I intended to use my great blogging power! To be the Yoko Ono of the Wiggles? No no no! No more Fruit Salad! No more Wags the Dog! What about Sprout’s Wiggly Waffle (though they were pretty much phoning it in there)? Murray’s guitar?  Who’s going to wake up Jeff if he falls asleep behind the wheel of a car again? I’m sorry, children! I’m sorry, Australia! I’m sorry, children of Australia!

And what about the collateral damage? Has anyone thought of Captain Feathersword? Is he going to be OK? What’s going to happen to him? I’m sorry, Captain Feathersword! And somebody keep an eye on that overexcited Wiggly dancer from so many of the videos! Those who know, know of whom I speak. A lot of big dance moves, and (even for the Wiggles) a lot of mugging for the camera. I commend his enthusiasm, but he appeared like he was angling pretty hard for the top job when Greg left. And now that the new Wiggles have been announced, and he’s not one of them? Well, you’ve been warned, A. Field.

Paul Paddick who plays as Captain Feathersword...

Are you OK, Captain Feathersword? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As for Sam, the Daily Telegraph says, “Moran hasn’t spoken to any of his former bandmates since he was axed. He is negotiating a deal to do his own kids TV show and is expected to announce his plans any day.” Go get ‘em, Sam! Stick it to those rainbow-colored Gallagher brothers.

So good-bye, Wiggles. I don’t know if we’ll be on board for their next incarnation – the family member currently in their demographic has got it pretty bad for the Bubble Guppies (blast them!) and that’s about it. But still, I have to thank them. My older son really loved them, and I was fond of them, too. The Wiggles gave my older son a nice introduction to music, and me a few peaceful moments, when he was younger. And they’ll live forever in our DVD player; C cannot ride in a car to New York without watching Wiggle Bay at some point. I don’t know why that DVD in particular. With the barbie on the beach and the lady in the mermaid suit.

I’ll leave you with my top three Wiggles songs to remember the good ol’ days. One of them will now be stuck in your head all day. Mwah. Ha. Ha.

“Can You (Point Your Fingers and Do the Twist?)”

“Rock-a-Bye Your Bear”

“Bow Wow Wow”

Mad Men: Caillou for grown-ups

Don Draper of Mad Men works on Madison Avenue

Don Draper. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He’s just a guy who’s 40. Each day, it’s debatable whether or not he grows (emotionally) some more. He used to like whoring, he’s Don Draper.

I love Mad Men, but I know that a lot of people don’t. The main reason being, according to my very unscientific research, is that the pace is too slow. You know which other show people hate for being to slow? Caillou. See my earlier post on the vitriol that Caillou inspires in parents. Or don’t; to sum up, many parents think the show is boring because very little happens. It’s a four-year-old boy going about his day. My response: the show is not for you, parents. It’s for the child, who gets taken in seeing his or her own experiences reflected on TV. They are engrossed so we can go off and do something else for 20 minutes. Like read a recap of Mad Men on EW.com.

True, the pace of Mad Men seems slow. It’s not 24, nor is it meant to be. The show isn’t littered with car chases, hostage crises, or melodrama (although that was some good action last week, when Lane…you know what, I’m not going to spoil it. I know it can sit on a DVR for the better part of a week. But it was pretty exciting!). It’s like Caillou for grown-ups; its languid pace allows adults to see themselves in the events of the lives of these intricately developed characters. I can lose myself in the show, and sometimes laugh, and sometimes feel uncomfortable, because I can relate on some level to many of the struggles of  Joan, Peggy, Betty, or even Pete Campbell (though probably not Bert Cooper or Roger Sterling), trying to figure out their roles and lives, just as Caillou does when he struggles at school or gets pissed off at those twins who live next door. There may not be a lot of fireworks on either show, but this inner turmoil shining through is what keeps you riveted – in a preschooler way or in an adult way. Are you telling me Caillou didn’t have major inner t . when he got freaked out by his creepy neighbor? Who turned out to be just a doll after all?

Mad Men works this way on a macro level as well; I am not old enough to match the age of any of the characters on the show (Don Draper is about the same age as my grandfather, who pounded the streets of New York at roughly the same time), but it is fascinating to watch the events of a decade that formed such an important part of our national consciousness today. Let’s see, can I draw a parallel about Caillou? Is Caillou macro in any way? A Canadian way maybe? Nah, better not push the analogy too hard.

30 Rock and a Wiggly war: in which I find out inadvertently that Sam was fired from the Wiggles

The wiggles during a visit to NASA.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night’s 30 Rock skewered the Wiggles. What th–? Who th–? I say! How dare…! I feel I must defend the Wiggles as I had to defend poor Caillou. Another show that is deeply unpopular among adults, but loved by the little ones.

I have to say, as pro-Wiggle as I am, isn’t it kind of random that a popular primetime network TV show would devote an episode (or storyline in an episode) to ragging on the Wiggles? Within the kid world, they are huge, sure, both here in the U.S., and in their native Australia where they are permanent national heroes. Either Tina Fey promised her young daughter that she would work her favorite band into the show somehow, or she is so sick of hearing her daughter’s favorite band (I imagine) she decided to stick it to poor Murray, Anthony, Jeff, and Sam. Either way, I must admit it was a funny parody – making sociopaths of a sweet, pure-hearted group of children’s entertainers that personally wished my son a happy birthday at a concert at the Nassau Coliseum (except Jeff. To quote Stephen Colbert, you’re on notice, Jeff).

WAIT A SECOND!!! WAIT!!!

I just went on Wikipedia, as is my wont, to get a refresher on my Wiggles trivia to impart to all six of you, dear readers. Like verifying that they were one of the first bands to perform a live concert in New York City after the September 11 attacks, I recalled. Like banning all alcohol from their tours (booze is fine in the audience, kiddos, but not on the tour bus). What a bunch of sweethearts, right?

Then I read they sh*tcanned Sam and let Greg back in the yellow jersey! Oh, Wiggles. It’s all about the watermelons, as they say in Australia when referring to one-hundred-dollar notes.

In case you have been living under a rock for the past few years (by “under a rock,” I mean in the adult world, what with your fancy restaurants and movie-going and all), Greg Page, the original yellow-shirt-wearing lead singer of the Wiggles, left the group in 2006 due to illness. He was replaced by Sam Moran, a back-up singer for the group. It was all smiles and ceremonially turning over the yellow jersey. That’s great, but I need not remind you that Lance Armstrong, you ain’t.

Now, it’s 2012. Sam Moran is abruptly dumped (on his daughter’s second birthday, according to this article from Australia’s Daily Telegraph). Greg Page is reinstated. Allegations ensue. Here’s a couple: perhaps he had some financial difficulties (according to the Daily Telegraph: “He [Page] hit a financial setback when he lost a large part of his Wiggles fortune in a bad property development deal, and decided to return to the group.” Or maybe, there was a failed attempt at a solo career (just a guess – there was a grown-up music solo album). In 2011, the Wiggles earned $28.2 million Australian (or about $29 million American) dollars. You do the math.

Sam Moran - SInger/Entertainer

Sam Moran (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Greg’s health condition, orthostatic intolerance, the cause of his leaving the group in 2006, is still present, and according to Greg in this incredibly uncomfortable television interview, “the condition is managed.”

And Anthony? Oh, Anthony. The blue Wiggle. He always appeared the most affable of the bunch. And he says, in the uncomfortable interview: “What Sam does now is Sam’s thing. His contract has come to an end,” Field said. “Sam was just doing a job. He was a hired hand … I haven’t spoken to him.” And according to this article, Anthony was the cause of a “toxic” atmosphere; he didn’t speak to Sam offstage unless he absolutely had to. Blurgh, as Liz Lemon would say. Poor Sam.

And, says the Daily Telegraph, “While it is estimated Page received a $20 million-plus payout when he left (including royalties for music rights), Moran was locked into a contract rumoured at just $200,000 a year.” And he only received $60,000 as a severance fee earlier this year. That is not that many Australian dollars. Why don’t they call them Joeys? That’s not so many Joeys.

But you could tell, even just watching the performances and the videos, that for Anthony, the Wiggles are all about Anthony (J’accuse!). It is a bit of a Field family business. His brother, Paul, is the Wiggles manager. I have seen the mug of pretty much every member of his family grinning like maniacs back at me from the screen. His wife is Greek, for example, which is great, but when they do songs in foreign languages, which is also great great great, Greek is way overrepresented. Like when they did “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” with Leo Sayer, they did half of it in Greek with Greek costumes. Random. We get your wife is Greek, Anthony. Give some of the other languages a chance. My kids have Greek ancestry but even I am looking to mix it up a bit. Or I was – we don’t watch the Wiggles so much anymore. My son has moved on, and I do feel a little maudlin sometimes when I hear “Rock-a-Bye Your Bear.”

Look, I know that the Wiggles are not running a charity, blithely recording music to entertain my toddler so that he’s happy when we’re in traffic on the Hutch. Of course it’s a business, a big one. And never mind the merchandising: they know jerks like me will write to Oz to get a Wiggles tablecloth for my son’s birthday party. But just like I naively extra-admire celebrities that stay out of the gossip magazines, I wanted to believe in the Wiggles. That they were among the good guys. That they were doing it out of love for children and music, and all of the fame and money was just a bonus. Well, that’s just dumb. (But do you notice that Murray Cook, the red Wiggle, is absent from these interviews and articles, at least the ones I’ve read? I like to think he has it a bit more together than the others — maybe that’s because he gave C the biggest happy birthday wish. C probably didn’t care too much, but I was psyched, and impressed.)

I can understand wanting the original yellow Wiggle back in the band, and Greg is great as a performer, but why be so hard on Sam Moran? When Greg retired, the Wiggles decided to keep the band going — presumably for the incredible amount of money — so they took on a “hired hand.” He did his job well; to the fans, Sam was a true Wiggle. Why treat him with so little respect?

I am fond of the Wiggles – I think so many of their songs are good; I appreciate their simplicity, and the warmth with which they address their young audience. I like how they keep old nursery rhymes and children’s songs alive, and it was fun to get a little glimpse of Australia through their show (did you know Australians call bell peppers capsicum?) But it’s not a good feeling to watch their discord and greed laid bare like they were Oasis or something. They seem to have been taken back by the attention this has generated, but they shouldn’t be. It’s pretty hard to hide that level of acrimoniousness. So good luck, Sam! Maybe I’ll buy your album. No, probably not – I’ve already thought way too much about this. Oh, now I feel bad. Maybe I will.

 

 

Watching TV uphill in the snow both ways

Family watching television, c. 1958

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I watched my child try to swipe a TV screen with his finger because he didn’t like what was on, I realized that kids’ television viewing habits have changed so much since I was a kid. Well, I realized it before that, but I realized I wanted to write a blog post about it then.

When was I a kid? Well, I’m in my late thirties now – NO – I’m in my mid-thirties. What’s a few years diff to you? Who are you, the KGB or something? The fact that I even know to fear them should tell you I am talking about late Cold War kids TV viewing. You know, like that episode of Head of the Class where they go to the U.S.S.R. and argue with Soviet teens about capitalism. Did you know that the “Mission to Moscow” episode in 1988 was the first American sitcom to be filmed in the Soviet Union? Yeah, I did. I wonder how?

So here are a few viewing habits, then and now:

THEN: The first TV I remember in our household had no remote (not even a clicky two-button clicker like my grandparents had), but a keypad. So I became a human remote: my father made me sit in front of the set and channel-surf for him. Fortunately there were only a few channels. The Yankees were on Channel 11. This repetition so engrained the TV station numbers in my head that though I have lived in the Boston area for 11 years, I still put on New York’s channel 2 when I look for CBS, instead of channel 4. 4 is always going to be NBC to me. Etc.

NOW: My little one is real proud of himself when he gets the remote in his hands (even though he doesn’t know what to do with it), such is the power of this device.

THEN: If you missed a show – sorry! That was it. The Sound of Music came on at Easter. If you didn’t tape it on your VCR (bonus points for pausing to skip the commercials), well, thanks, Easter Bunny. See you next year. Until VHS rentals – this allowed repeat movie viewing, but that episode of Square Pegs? Once missed, lost forever. Also: if you wanted to know who was that guy in that show, and is he the same guy from the other show? Sorry. Can’t help you. No internet. And that was OK.

NOW: My son doesn’t understand that even with a DVR, Netflix streaming, Apple TV, Hulu, etc. I cannot conjure up any show at any time. Which is why, when the new Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon premiered a few weeks ago on a Sunday morning, I made a little thing out of it and let him watch it live, giving him the sense that TV could be an event, with other people in their homes watching with the same sense of anticipation as yourself. But that meant he had to watch the commercials, and I have to say: this practice of FF-ing the F-ing commercials I have been doing – that’s some good parenting! Because every commercial was for a toy that it is scientifically proven that he would want. No wonder my mother was so stone-cold – THEN: I watched commercial after unskippable commercial as a child. Did I get a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine? NO. Did I get Hungry-Hungry Hippos? NO. Easy-Bake Oven? HELL NO. But I did convince her to get Shake n Bake – once.

THEN: At my elementary school, we watched cartoons in the auditorium instead of playing outside on rainy days. The cartoons we watched were relics from the dawn of the television age. I was telling my Dad this the other day, saying I remember a clown coming out on an ink bottle, for one. “Koko the Clown!” He knew it right away. We also watched Betty Boop. These cartoons weren’t even from my Dad’s generation – they were from the twenties and thirties: HIS father’s generation! They were short films, they weren’t even TV shows! Can you imagine elementary schoolers today sitting in a damp, dark auditorium, watching Howdy Doody, or Roy Rogers? Or watching cartoons at school at all? Or knowing what an inkwell is? What do they do with kids on rainy days now anyway? I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

It seems things – media, technology – are so much more ephemeral now. The connection to a generation before, even with the wealth of information available to us online, seems much more tenuous. THEN: I used cassette tapes to listen to and record music for pretty much all of my childhood and teenage years. I still knew how to operate a record player, and even owned one. NOW: when my older son wants to listen to music (he loves the Beatles, so there’s proof that some things can last. The little one? Ted Nugent. 4eva.), he asks me to turn on the MUSIC XBOX. I have no further comment.

Anyone have any TV memories from childhood they’d like to share? HEAVEN FORBID a few of my dear friends and relations comment on this blog!

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