Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Life seen through a View-Master

So I'm back in the freelance-writing game after being laid off from NBC earlier in the year. My first story is. of course, something related to retro toys. I review the biography of William Gruber, who invented the View-Master, as written by his daughter, Gretchen. It's in the Seattle Review of Books.

 As I note numerous times in the review, don't expect a lot about the toy--it's a book about the inventor, not the invention. Still, he led an interesting life--and once belonged to the Nazi party, and was later investigated by the FBI for that and other pro-German leanings.

The book is "View Master: The Biography of William B. Gruber," and you can get the Kindle version for less than $5.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The most Seventies scene of the 1970s

I lived through every day of the 1970s and relived many of them when co-authoring "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops?" Therefore I think I am uniquely qualified to offer up this as THE most '70s scene ever.

Bionic Bigfoot (Andre the Giant!) fights the Six Million Dollar Man. Spoiler: STEVE RIPS HIS ARM OFF!

Who was bringing up three very creepy girls...

I love this so much. The young stars of "The Brady Bunch" did a heckuva lot of cheesy movies and TV when they weren't hanging around Westdale High.

Bobby Brady got kind of the best deal--he was on "Isis." Peter got to be a werewolf on "Bigfoot and Wildboy," which I only vaguely remember. Greg did "MegaPiranha," but that doesn't really count, it was supposed to be campy. And sweet Marcia did a 1979 TV movie called "A Vacation in Hell" that looks like exactly that.

Be sure to watch the video clips provided (sadly, the Peter as a werewolf one was yanked, leaving just the still photo below) for an extra dose of '70s lunacy.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015


This headline is misleading, I thought maybe they were going to install Scary Lucy in a haunted house and people would turn the corner, see her and freak out.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Mall memories.

Ha, I so remember Contempo Casuals as a mall fixture from the 1980s-90s. I thought it was an oddly named store even then, and was wondering what the heck happened to all those stores.

According to this, the stores were converted to Wet Seal and Arden B stores (I don't remember seeing either of those chains around lately either, but I really haven't been looking).

It's funny, we take photos and videos of the big moments in life, but really, what I want more than anything is just photos/video of the standard things we've lost, like the inside of a 1967 grocery store, or a 1974 school. Which is why this big-haired mall-memory photo essay is such a treat. (Warning: The link goes to a BuzzFeed roundup of the photos, don't click on the link in the BuzzFeed lead, it warns of malware.)

Once not that long ago a friend and I started naming THE ULTIMATE 1980s mall stores. I can't remember the full list, but here's part of it. Not the boring everyday stores, but the ones whose very name shouts '80s. What did we miss?

--Orange Julius
--Cookie Factory
--Contempo Casuals
--Chess King
--Gantos (Minnesota)
--B Dalton (formed in Minnesota--originally the B stood for Books, and the Dalton was a tweak of Dayton's)
--Spencer Gifts
--Sharper Image
--Egghead Software
--Suncoast Pictures
--Shirt Shack

Monday, September 21, 2015

Rest in peace, Pete

Rob's dad Pete Cooper, passed away Saturday at 81. 

My favorite memory of him is from our 1993 wedding. It was time for the bride to dance with her father, and my dad was nowhere to be found (we later discovered he was paying the vendors!). So Pete, my new father-in-law of approximately one hour, gallantly took my hands and said, "I know I'm not your dad, but will I do?" And we danced until my dad finished writing checks and came to cut in. 

Rest in peace, Michigan man and lifetime Detroit sports fan, Dodgers-hater and Angels-rooter, pioneer computer engineer, loving grandpa, devoted reader. In the 1950s, he drove a tiny MG from Pontiac to California to start his adult life in the Golden State and never looked back. You lived life on your terms, no question about it

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Park it!

These one-star reviews of national parks are cracking me up! You've seen ONE breathtaking blue lake surrounded by mountains, YOU'VE SEEN 'EM ALL! Also, parking and bees!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Rave review for 'The True Meaning of Smekday'

So Kelly and I saw the newish kids' movie "Home" twice, and it's hilarious and sweet, with Jim Parsons' dorky Sheldon voice just perfect as the oddball alien, and Rihanna and J.Lo surprisingly good in their parts as well.

Turns out it's based on a children's chapter book called, "The True Meaning of Smekday" by Adam Rex, which is awesome and worth a purchase and read in its own right. Kelly and I were reading it aloud last night and Rob kept overhearing lines and laughing out loud.

Don't think if you've seen "Home," you've read the book. It's very different from the movie--same general plot, but the book goes off in so many wonderful different directions and has so many hilarious jokes. The character voiced by Parsons is called Oh in the movie, ("I have been given this name by my many, many friends," he brags, as they cut to a montage of other Boov moaning "oh...." in disgust as he shows up.) But in the book, he announces that his Boov name cannot be pronounced by humans who don't have two heads, so he selects the name "J.Lo." Which makes the fact that J.Lo ends up playing Tip's mother ("My-mom!") all the funnier.

The main character, Tip, writes it as a series of essays telling future humans about the Boov invasion ("Smekday" is what they rename Christmas, after their leader, Smek.), and that format helps make it so delightfully quotable.

Examples: "At the time, I lived in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania was on the eastern side of the United States. The United States was this big country where everybody wore funny T-shirts and ate too much."

"I had learned to drive our car short distances by nailing cans of corn to my church shoes so I could reach the pedals. I made a lot of mistakes at first, and if anyone was walking on the sidewalk at 49th and Pine after dark on March 3rd, 2013, I owe you an apology."

If your kid is anywhere in the 6-11 age bracket, read this to them or with them, whether or not you see "Home." You will want to come into the out now.

Dog gone it

Got to have a special sunny afternoon dog at Chicago's Superdawg with good friends a few years back. The founder died this weekend. There are a lot of regional treasures in America, and Superdawg is certainly one. Sorry, New York, but I think Chicago has the best hot dogs in the world.