Saturday, February 13, 2010

Blog # 127:Of first loves and Superbowls

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Shirley Temple at 3. According to her website the cheesecake photo of her above was taken by her father.

Little Eddy - Your Atypical Split Personality

I was born at 6:10 am on March 20, 1926, and grew up and became aware of people and things outside myself in the early 1930’s. I was a shy kid, very quiet and reserved in a public or school situation. So much so that once, when my 3rd grade teacher visited my home (teachers used to do that back when I was a kid) she was shocked to see me running around and playing in a loud, outgoing manner, a complete opposite of my persona in school. She was shocked to say the least, pointing out the difference between me in school and my at home persona, over and over again to my aunt Offie, who took care of me in those days while my mother worked.

A couple of days after that incident a ventriloquist came to Woodrow Wilson Elementary school and put on a program for the entire school. He was a typical ventriloquist of the time, in the image that Edgar Bergen would later project over the radio airways so successfully, the bumbling, straight-faced, reasonable, quiet talking ventriloquist with the big mouthed, wise-cracking, smart-ass kid for a dummy.

After the show when we were back in our classroom the kids all wanted to know how the ventriloquist did it. The teacher began explaining that the ventriloquist actually had two different personalities, his own very sober and straight forward one and the other one, that of a wise cracking kid. She had me stand up, and then used me as an example. She said, “just like little Eddy,” she said. “Here in class he is quiet and nondescript, you wouldn’t expect anything else out of him. But I was at his house the other day and he was a veritable wildcat. You would not believe how loud and forceful he became at home, playing with his neighborhood buddies. So in Eddy here, just like in the ventriloquist, you have a real life, true split personality.” Not that her assessment changed things for me in any way. My classmates just looked at me in a strange new way.

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My Very First Girl Friend

Who was your very first girl friend? Was she real? Or a figment of your imagination? As you just read, when I was a kid to the world away from my neighborhood I was this quiet, inwardly turned guy, a true introvert was the term society has assessed me. Only in my neighborhood playing with my buddies did my Mr. Hyde nature burst forth.

The shy, quiet to the world side of me mostly ruled, and so as I became aware of others besides me, the first little girl I fell in love with was an elongated, flickering black and white image projected onto the silver screen. She just a little younger than me, and went by the name Shirley Temple. She was pretty, cute, talented in song and dance, and extremely popular. She virtually eclipsed the other child actors of the time. I was a full fledged fan, and have warmed to girls who looked like her ever since.

So now you know the extent of my pathetic secret. My first girlfriend was 20 feet tall and existed only in flickering black and white. Shirley was cute, talented, and was attractive to both grown men and little boys of the day. And her image satisfied my personal need for a girlfriend until 1937 or so, when was 11 and was beginning to dream in color.

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Snow White holding her Magic Apple.

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With the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, Walt Disney created a passel of dreams for lots of kids. Certainly it was the most ground breaking cartoon of its time, taking animation to an entirely new level. As you can tell by the above illustration, Snow White was projected on the screen in color, a real object of beauty, with a personality and also with a talent for singing and dancing. And the seven dwarfs were as engaging a collection of clowns that you could wish for. Even today, some seventy two years after its inception, Snow White is still capable of calling up dreams.§

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Super Bowl Sunday

Last Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday. Everything else on television comes to a early end on Super Bowl Day. Golf and tennis take the day off, and the NBA rushes to get its one Sunday network game over with well before coverage of the Big Game begins. And along with football fans the most interested group in the goings on of the coverage of Super Bowl are the members of the Advertising industry, for along with football fanatics the country over, it is THE big day for the nation’s Advertising Industry as well.

Beginning with Apple Computer’s iconic 1984 commercial which debuted in 1984, for many years technology companies have debuted their ads on the Super Bowl broadcast. This year a brand new technology company debuted an ad for the first time last Sunday. It was Google, and the ad was very much in it’s own unique style.

How was that? Subtle enough for you? It certainly must rank as the only story-commercial ever put to together as a series of Google searches. Notice how fast everything moved. Google is making a religion out of internet speed. Pretty telling ending, there, googling for directions to assemble a baby crib. A one of a kind tv commercial for damn sure.§

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Of course this brings to mind what many feel was the most influential Super Bowl commercial of all time, the one that created the genre so to speak. It was directed by film director Ridley Scott, and was intended to free computers from conforming to the tyranny of the dominating computer company of the time, IBM. It was so controversial that at first the Apple board of directors considered not running it. Steve Wozniac, co-founder of Apple along with Steve Jobs, was reported to have suggested to Jobs that should Apple refuse to run it the two of them pay to have it run. The board eventually capitulated, however, and it ran one time only, on January 22, 1984 during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. And Super Bowl commercials have never been the same since. Here is what Wikipedia says about the commercial:

"1984" is an American television commercial which introduced the Apple Macintosh personal computer for the first time. It is now considered a watershed event and a masterpiece in advertising. It was conceived by Steve Hayden, Brent Thomas and Lee Clow at Chiat/Day, Venice, produced by New York production company Fairbanks Films, and directed by Ridley Scott. Anya Major performed as the unnamed heroine and David Graham as Big Brother.

Its only daytime televised broadcast was on January 22, 1984 during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. Chiat/Day also ran the ad one other time on television, in December 1983 in Twin Falls, Idaho, so that the advertisement could be submitted to award ceremonies for that year. In addition, starting on January 17, 1984 it was screened prior to previews in movie theaters for a few weeks. It has since been seen on television commercial compilation specials, as well as in "Retro-mercials" on TV Land.

"1984" used the unnamed heroine to represent the coming of the Macintosh (indicated by her white tank top with a cubist picture of Apple’s Macintosh computer on it) as a means of saving humanity from "conformity" (Big Brother).

These images were an allusion to George Orwell's noted novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which described a dystopian future ruled by a televised "Big Brother." The rows of marching minions have direct cinematic parallels with the rows of marching minions in the opening scenes of the classic dystopian film Metropolis.§

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Oh yes, and back to this year there’s that brilliant 15 second promo for Late Night with David Letterman, with Dave, Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno glumly holding down the sofa.

Tom Shales in his Washington Post column reported that the spot was conceived by Letterman, and recorded in his studio, and both Leno and Oprah were smuggled in there in disguise to fortify secrecy. It took 30 minutes to film, after which they were through. In spite of its short length, because of the rancor that had existed lately between Letterman, Leno, and Conan O’Brien in the months before, it will undoubtedly live long in the lore of the Super Bowl commercials. The shock value of seeing a completely down Letterman, followed by Leno laying the blame on himself, while in the tradition of feminine hood throughout the ages, Oprah vainly attempts to get them back on a positive plane.§

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Borowitz Reports New Toyota Slogans

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve brought you a Borowitz Report, although Andy keeps churning out at least two winners a week. His latest one takes on Toyota’s public relations department, and skewers them.

TOKYO (The Borowitz Report) – Hoping to reverse a series of public relations setbacks, Toyota today unveiled a new slogan, “Drive a Toyota. You’ll Never Stop.”

Company spokesman Hiroshi Kyosuke said that the slogan was chosen after the company considered several others, including “Toyota Puts the Pedal to the Metal. And Keeps it There.”

Mr. Kyosuke said that the company considered, but then abandoned, the slogan, “Toyota. The Last Car You’ll Ever Drive.”

(To sign up to have the Borowitz Report delivered to your very own email box, go here!)§

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Summer Camps as Laboratories of Creativity

Children’s summer camps are great laboratories in which to develop the adults of the future. They don’t have the mission that the school’s embrace, that of educating the coming generations. But they do educate, in a way that in some ways exceeds that of the schools. This is because although children’s camps do not have a mandate for education as do the schools, they put their campers in a situation in which campers have a maximized environment in which to develop their very own individual skills.

One factor determining eventual success is the size of the group, as well as the number of counselors available to supervise the groups. Camps with relatively large groups (12 to 15) of course will not be as flexible as camps with groups ranging in size from 4 to 6. Particularly if there is enough staff available in the latter to do a little experimentation when it seems to be called for.

What to do with Swearing 7 year olds

I remember when I left the rather traditionally disciplining University Settlement Camp over a disagreement in what I considered their over use of discipline in an attempt to use fear to establish their control, I thought some of the punishments were rather arbitrary for a camp designed to give campers an opportunity for a couple of weeks of summer fun. At the end of that summer I was in the market for a camp with a more progressive outlook and found myself attracted to, and applied to Camp Killooleet, run by two Dalton Teachers, John and Eleanor Seeger.

In my first year there I was assigned to a cabin of 14 seven year old boys. One thing that little boys usually discover at that age is the delight of using swear words. This is indeed swimming in unfamiliar territory, and it is behavior sure to get the approval of peers and a rise out of parents and other adults. And of course, that brings fresh attention to the kid doing the swearing.

It also brings up a slew of philosophical questions. Does our American constitution’s famous guarantee of the right to free speech apply to 7 year olds? Or does it only apply to those who have attained their majority? Interesting questions, right?

Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing malicious about the swearing these 7 year olds were practicing. It was in a purely experimental vein, as in seeing what one could get away with. But it was having an effect on campers outside our group, as well as bothering other adults.

What to do? Should we ban swear words altogether? Now that didn’t sound like a very adventurous path for a creative summer camp like Killooleet to take.

I had a long talk with John and Ellie about what the camp policy on swearing should be, and together we came up with what turned out to be the ideal solution. We wouldn’t outlaw cussing altogether, as that would be needlessly limiting every American’s, adult or child’s, inborn right to free speech. But on the other hand, nobody should possess the rudeness inflicted on them by those who would exercise their rights. As a result it was decided that my group would incorporate itself as a “swearing club,” with all of the time honored rights and privileges of cursers throughout the ages, but we would show our consideration of the non-swearing population by exercising our freedom of speech out in the woods away from all others.

Needless to say that worked like a charm. The novelty of being able to use language without impediment ran rampart for a couple of days before the boys realized that swearing by yourself wasn’t near as much fun as doing it before others. It was being able to do it in front of the others that had really made it worth doing. So soon my 7 year olds were back integrated into the rest of camp, the intensity of their speech exorcised from the general public, and only cropping up on occasions when the group was by itself.

I’ll follow that up with one further anecdote about the use of swearing. In case you might have noticed, 7 year olds aren’t the only ones that get a kick out of swearing. Boys of all ages have been known to covet the desire to shock their fellow human beings by way of their choice of words. I had a group of 14 year olds a couple of years later. One boy named Charley was really into swearing, and exercised his right of free speech as often as possible. He was discrete about it, and wise enough to keep it in our group, and so no one put any restrictions on him. But particularly around the cabin late in the evenings, as we were trying to get the group settled down for the night, Charley would find reasons to exercise his constitutional rights. Charley was also extremely adept in making himself obnoxious. In that group he was without peer.

On this one evening he was being particularly obnoxious. You could tell he was in a bad mood himself and was trying like hell to share it with the entire group. I went along with him for awhile, wondering if he was given enough rope, just how far he would take it.

Finally, at one point when he was in the midst of giving another camper a taste of hell, I decided I could take it no longer. “Charley,” I bellowed, “just what in hell do you think you’re doing? You’re being a major, high grade PissAnt, and that’s for damn sure.” Silence reigned as a stunned Charley instantly stopped what he was doing. He looked puzzled for a second, then his face lit up in the widest of smiles. “Piss-Ant,” he said, “That’s a new one. I never heard that before.”

That’s a Texas swear word,” I explained. “Means whatever you want it to mean.”

Thanks, Ed,” he said, his eyes lighting up. And for the remainder of that summer Charley made a certified attempt to behave himself, and when he found himself slipping back into his former mode he would stop, turn to me, and say, “I’m being a PissAnt again, ain’t I?” And I would agree with him and we’d move on from there.§

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Turning Around 8 year old girls

I remember one 8 year old girls’ group at Blueberry Cove which several counselors having had them for bed duty reported as being very disruptive, particularly at bedtime. It didn’t seem logical, for three out of the four were as mild mannered as female Clark Kents might be. It seems that the trouble was coming from Damni (not her real name), a Thai born girl who had been adopted by a C.I.A. employee father, a man who came from a noted family of New England nutcracker manufacturers.

I talked with our director, Ann G., about the situation, and she went along with my plan, which was to give the girls the same special treatment I was fond of giving my boy groups, a special overnight sleep out down by the shore.

It was a clear, crisp night, with not a sign of rain in the offing, and so we didn’t bother bringing down a tarp, only our sleeping bags. We went down before dinner, built a campfire on the beach, and had our meal of hotdogs. Kids do love hotdogs, and they will improve their morale without fail.

After eating it was dusk and we went in for a frosty ocean skinny dip, and afterwards, having had the frigid ocean to stimulate our blood flow, we gathered around what was left of the campfire to dry off, and sing songs and tell stories. We didn’t sleep on the beach, however, for the tide comes in pretty high at this time of year. Instead, after putting out our fire we trooped along the shore until we came to a stretch of woods, where we laid out our sleeping bags and settled down for the night. By then it was well after bedtime, so after a brief period of chatting, quiet crept over our little group.

The next thing I knew it was morning, and after quietly getting up to drain my tank, I crawled back into my bag. But others had been quietly awake, and soon one by one each girl had crept away to likewise take care of their overflow.

A moment later Damni had crawled into another girl’s sleeping bag, and since we had all been sleeping in our skin, there began a brief period of tickles and squeals and hysterical laughter. I pondered whether I should go break it up, but before I could leave my bag, it seemed to tone down of its own accord. After that we all got another coveted half hour of sleep.

After awhile I slipped on my swimsuit and checked out the shore. It was low tide. I roused the girls and suggested a morning muddle. (A muddle is where we all don bathing suits and decorate our countenances with mud, seaweed, and other artifacts of an ocean gone awol. Though it may sound icky to the average non muddler, the fact is that plenty of women pay through the nose to have mud applied to their bodies, citing its healing and medicinal properties.) The girls checked out the situation, and quickly agreed and they quickly put on their bathing suits and a’muddling we went.

For the next 45 minutes we were all creatively engaged in seeing how well we could disguise ourselves in mud and seaweed. And should they have been there to take in a view of their child, probably not a single parent would have been able to recognize his or her child in their present decorative state.

The morning ended in the shower, of course, with the morning’s creativity being somewhat reluctantly washed away. Afterwards since the group had missed the morning’s counsel, we had about an hour’s worth of free time before lunchtime. Fortunately BBC campers know how to enjoy, not fear, their free time.

Later their group’s regular counselor commented to me that no longer were their bedtime counselors complaining of their misbehavior, and so I figured that the activity had seemed to have turned the group around. And especially Danni’s sleeping bag hopping seemed to have calmed her down. Which goes to illustrate that sometimes, when situations get into the wrong kind of rut, maybe changing the routine and doing something special just might help set things on the right path again.§

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This week’s technical disaster consisted of my Comcast cable modem going out on Tuesday. No internet all day on one of the longest days ever. Picked up a new modem Wednesday morning, but though I spent much of the day wrestling with Comcast’s setup Wizard, we had no telephone until a technician came to plug in our phones. Things are now running smoothly once again, except for the fact that for some strange reason I lost all of my Safari bookmarks. I blame the Comcast Wizard, though what do I know? Strange, but at least I’m back on the internet. Funny how attached we can get to these services we couldn’t have dreamed of twenty years ago.

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And as we prepare to upload our weekly musings to Google’s Blogspot, we note that the Houston Chronicle is endorsing an initiative to place a Historical Marker to honor the fact that Lightnin’ Hopkins lived and worked here. From the editorial:

The recent news that Sam “Lightnin' ” Hopkins might finally get a historical marker in Houston surprised us. Could it really be true that our insecure city — usually so puppy-dog eager to proclaim its world-classness — has neglected one of our most legitimate claims to greatness?

And in his music, you can hear why. Those songs still speak directly to our deepest selves, to our bad-behaving inner whiners, to the no-account ids that good striving Houstonians do their best to repress. And, of course, we can't keep that stuff down forever.

So thank you, Eric Davis, for being the kind of blues fan who fills out Texas Historical Commission paperwork. Lightnin' deserves more than a plaque, but that plaque will at least be a start. By giving the bluesman his due, our city makes itself a little more balanced, a little more whole, a little more real.

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And so once again our blog runs out of space and time. We would like to remind you of our desire to open up the camp memories to any and all who have them and would like to share. Just write down your memory and email it to me at: I really am looking forward to reading your memories.

We will come back next week, Lord Google willing. Until then, have fun, think good thoughts, and don’t forget what the Republicans did to us for eight long years. How can our group memory be so short as to even think of voting Republican once again? It’s a depressing enough thought to make us not want to get out of bed in the morning. Well, bye now. See you soon.

The Real Little Eddy §

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