Return of the Super Meganerd Fun Pack

The Super Mega Nerd Fun Pack 2
The Super Mega Nerd Fun Pack 2, by Toby Marks on Flickr
Could this be the start of a grand birthday tradition? Watch me unbox the second giant care package gifted to me by my cousin, friend, and frequent collaborator — Carl!

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I think I just found my Halloween costume for this year.

How did I ever miss this? It debuted just last year for the 40th anniversary celebration of Frank Zappa’s legendary Halloween concert series at The Palladium in New York. Zappa did Halloween concerts throughout the entirety of his career, but the one in 1977 is generally considered to be the apogee of that grand tradition.

To commemorate that series of shows (which ran from October 28-31), the family released a massive box set that includes all six concerts on a USB stick, in 24-bit WAV audio for a flawless sound experience, PLUS a jaw-dropping adult size Frank Zappa costume in vintage 70s plastic style. Worth every penny, and still available from Walmart for around 80 bucks.

The Andy Griffith Show is one of those rare cultural phenomena

…that have spanned generations and left an indelible mark on American pop culture. Deputy Barney Fife consistently ranks among the top tier of American television characters on all polls, placing at number five in The Chicago Tribune’s list of the top 25 of all time. (I would enthusiastically dispute that either Eddie Haskell or Ed Norton belong on that list above him.) Not only are the characters still beloved and recognizable more than fifty years on from their debut on the small screen, but the whole fictional world of Mayberry has transcended that medium to become a part of the national mythology — a kind of idyllic (and idealized) portrait of the last days of small town life in post-war America.

In the history of sitcoms, there have been three great formative epochs, possibly four, defined by shows that broke new ground comedically and developed formulas that inspired and informed not only other TV shows of their time, but also the national consciousness.

Norman Lear wrote in his autobiography that the social and political consciousness of All in the Family was a direct reaction against the implied conservatism of programs like The Andy Griffith Show, a view which fans familiar with the entire run of the series could find some reason to dispute. He would succeed over the next 15 years to change the face and nature of television comedy as a result.

The influence of The Andy Griffith Show on Seinfeld is indisputable. Larry David confessed himself to be a great fan of the show, and although never acknowledged it can be seen that a large number of Seinfeld episodes drew major story and plot details from episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. A direct show by show analysis is in order. I have not been able to find such a thing on the internet. I may take the time to do that someday for this blog.

Anyway, when I ran across this bit of clickbait today, I had to read the article. And sure enough, The Andy Griffith Show has permeated the national consciousness to such a strong degree that generations later Andy, Barney, Opie, and even Otis have all found their way into the world of rap and hip-hop music, all the way through recent years. It’s a credit the to the enduring and universal appeal, and even the love that people have, of a truly exceptional program.

The Halloween & Hauntfest Convention

Halloween and Hauntfest 2017
Halloween and Hauntfest 2017, by Toby Marks on Flickr
Normally scheduled in late August, the Halloween & Hauntfest show is appropriately billed as “a gateway event to the Halloween season.” To those of us who kick off our official celebrations with the start of Dinosaur Dracula’s Halloween Countdown on September 1, the timing hits that perfect sweet spot. The anticipation, that period of time I like to call “the run-up to the countdown”, starts to build throughout August, so that by the time this event rolls around Kassi and the kids and I are practically bursting with Halloween excitement.

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Today I mowed the back yard for the first time this spring. I am behind. The weather and other duties had kept me off task. The grass was high, and each square foot I tread into submission was like a territory reclaimed for civilization.

I asked myself when people started doing this whole thing. Exactly how old is the time honored American activity of mowing the lawn? And why is this mundane chore, as therapeutic and contemplative as it is, not shown more love by those in the Big Nostalgia set, so connected as it is to real childhood and adolescent memory? Where does it all come from?