The Legacy and Questionable Power of My Father’s Puns

My dad had three puns that were so bad, they were only permitted on his birthday–and one was pretty challenging to employ on June 28th. Jim Walsh would have been 76 years old today.  He came from a long line of punsters and its with mixed emotions that his grandchildren also subject unsuspecting audiences to his legacy. At his funeral, 19 years ago, we passed around two leather-bound green books for folks to jot down their favorite memories of my dad, a precurser to the amazing testimonial strings found on Facebook at the passing of a loved one. My college buddy Dan added two of his favorite groaners from my dad’s visit to campus on his tri-state route, often in the South Bend area selling windshields to RV companies.  (“I’m like Lenin–I’m in glass.”).  He’d not only take me out for pizza, but invited me to bring along some pals–nothing like a… Read More…

“If a Tweet Falls in the Forest…” Life without Applause-Signs, Laugh-Tracks & Likes

It’s often not so much what happens in our lives—as what we figure ought to happen.  If no one likes this post, did it fail? I started noticing  camera-angles and how they manipulated the audience far too early in my life–especially for the poor bystanders who were stuck in a living room, basement or movie theater with me. The Cosby Show, for all of its garish sweaters and too-good-to-be-true charm of a doctor/lawyer upper-middle class family, was a breakthrough on many levels—it revitalized the sit-com and finally placed a TV African-American family out of the ghetto—if you bypass George Jefferson moving on up. But what I noticed immediately, from my hero of a dozen scratched LP comedy albums, was the cutaway to Clair—Cliff Huxtable’s long-suffering wife who managed to smile through the monologues.  You’ll see it in every episode, the need for the reaction shot—generally Phylicia Rashad or one of the kids letting… Read More…

Superhero Halftime: What “Guardians” Says About Our Galaxy

We live in an absolutely ridiculous time for geeks. If you were to create an historic timeline of superhero films, you could try and pinpoint the turning point with X-Men or Spider-Man. Around the turn of the century, when those films were released, the blockbuster world slowly began to turn on its head. In the 90s, the basis for most action movies was one of the following: (1) CIA agent, (2) rogue cop, (3) two unlikely cop partners teaming up for an action-comedy. After Sam Raimi’s success with Spider-Man, everyone and their uncle had to get their hands on some hot superhero action. But it wasn’t always pretty. For whatever reason, the studios knew that there was a market out there for all and everything superheroes, but they just couldn’t seem to nail it. Because where Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer found a formula that worked, other films like Fantastic Four, Daredevil and The Hulk failed to do… Read More…

Making People Feel Like Dummies: Swimming the Treacherous Waters of Sheldons

I’ve had some pretty memorable conversations at the checkout counter at Radio Shack: “So you need a male-to-male connector…” (I was fourteen, buying some cables for my stereo–a bit startled by this apparent pickup line.) “Can I please have your address?” (Perhaps another line, but I was just paying cash.) And my favorite, when I was buying a 25-foot audio cable… “May I ask what you’ll be using this for?” The guy was implying that purchasing an audio cable to run video through a non-gold-plated triple-insulated cable may not only ruin the quality of my picture but perhaps offset the precarious balance of the Middle East peace talks. “Thank you for shopping with us…dummy.” Radio Shack has survived, somehow, by cornering the market of oddball technical needs at crazily marked up prices.  And, with the development of any specialty, there comes the inevitable feeling of invincibility and irreplaceablilty.  I’ve seen… Read More…

Mad Magazine’s 1976 Christmas Issue: Still Relevant, Still Memorized–Years Later

*Per a few requests, another omitted ditty was added below.  –Kevin 12/24/14 It was a Christmas party when my wife first called me “The King of Useless Information.” I fell into the trap and correctly answered the question, probably too quickly, “Who played Gopher on Love Boat?” Fred Grandy. Who didn’t know that?? But the title really had its roots in 1976, the year I began collecting Mad magazines as a fifth grader while waiting for my mom in the checkout at the A&P. Like my son’s favorite episodes of South Park, Family Guy and The Simpsons, each issue is a time capsule of current events and a cross-section of American culture and attitudes. Just skimming the cover of the January 1977 issue that came out in late November of 1976, the clever artwork depicting Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers exchanging D-cells was worth it enough. But then to glance… Read More…

Killing Kids’ Questions: Critical Thinking OR Critical of Thinking?

Bad parent!  I could read it in the old woman’s eyes as my eight year-old son let the door shut in front of her.  “Why do I have to hold the door open for her?” he pleaded to my embarrassed scolding. “She wasn’t carrying anything.” “Because it’s polite.” “Why?” “Why what?” “Why is it polite?” “Because that way she won’t have to open the door.” “But why can’t she do it herself?” It was bad enough to get the old lady’s glare, now I got the pitiful head-shake as she huffed past us. “Dad!”  He demanded, “Why?” I snapped, “Just do it, okay?” That was probably the moment, as I retro-grade my parenting ten years later.  Maybe that was when I had cut my son’s natural curiosity right in half.  Nature or nurture?  Do we, by default, stop asking questions as we get older?  Or are those questions driven from… Read More…

An Absolutely Unbiased Review of Iron Man 3

I think, sometimes, people who review movies review them right after one viewing so they can get their opinion out there as quickly as possible; either to help people decide if they want to go see it, or to be the first one to publish their idea(s) about a new piece of media. That’s cool, I guess. But to formulate a review with depth and criticism, ya gotta let the film sink in a bit. Let it marinate. Think about it for a while. It’s been over a month since “Iron Man 3” was released in theaters, so I’ve had time (and three viewings) to figure out what I thought about the flick. Here it is. BEWARE: “Iron Man 3” MASSIVE SPOILERS HEREIN (it’s been a month. If you haven’t seen it, what are you doing with your life?) I feel like two mammoth Hollywood genres are completely dead: the… Read More…

Fan Wars: Healthy Competition or Justice League Ex-Communication?

So it’s almost here. After over thirty years of cinematic irrelevance, the original superhero is less than a week away from climbing back to the top of the cinematic comic world. It’s no doubt that Richard Donner’s 1978 “Superman” is the DNA blueprint to all other superhero movies to come after it. What a great film. I remember watching it as a kid and just loving every minute of it; especially since it was my dad and Jerry Seinfeld’s favorite. The film is seriously great. John Williams’ score, Gene Hackman’s Lex. Christopher Reeve’s was just born to play Superman. Margot Kidder is so late-70’s hot, it’s beyond charming. And you can’t help but tear up every time Pa Kent kicks the bucket. It gets me every time. The film started DC’s long tenure on top of the film universe. From “Superman” to Tim Burton’s “Batman” and some over-saturated sequels, DC… Read More…

Comic Con Rookie: Stan Lee, The Walking Dead, Lois Lane and “The Last Train to Clarksville”

Somewhere between good dad and voyeur-geek you’ll find me.  The 24th Motor City Comic Con was this weekend at the local expo center and my son was interested.  No big surprise.  The popularity of the new generation The Avengers, The Dark Knight coupled with my generation’s Star Wars fan-base and going back another generation to Star Trek and Dr. Who, there was something for everyone there.  I’d never gone, not really liking crowds or costumed folks sneaking up on me.  But I agreed. The bigger surprise was that my daughter and her friend wanted to go.   Two guests were the reason that the attendance jumped from 18,000 last year to 30,000 this year.  90 year-old Stan Lee and 44 year-old, but relatively unknown until he started bow-hunting zombies, Norman Reedus.  The father of Marvel Comics was only there on Saturday and we were going on Sunday due to various… Read More…