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Time Out: From the Archives of Early Children’s Television

This  article appeared yesterday under a different title as my monthly guest post on The Blog of Funny Names.

Buffalo Bob: “What time is it?”

Peanut Gallery: “It’s Howdy Doody Time!”

Buffalo Bob Smith and Howdy Doody, c. 1955

Buffalo Bob Smith and Howdy Doody, c. 1955

My age is showing, but what the %#@.  If you’re an American baby boomer the name Howdy Doody (1947-1960) is synonymous with seminal children’s television–perhaps the most recognized name of 1950’s kiddie fare.    If you happen to be be a boomer of a certain age–over sixty too many years old–you might just recall another oddball TV name from that era:  Winky Dink (1953-1957).

For you uninitiated, uncultured whippersnappers, I’ll elaborate.

Howdy Doody–In the 1940’s,  a Buffalo New York native, Bob Smith, created the character Howdy Doody for a WNBC radio program.  The popularity of the program led him to make the move to television in 1947.  the program featured both human and puppet characters, which included:

Flub-A-Dub. What happens wnen puppeteers get high.

Flub-A-Dub. What happens when puppeteers get high.

  • Heidi Doody–Howdy Doody’s sister
  • Phineus T. Bluster–The local mayor
  • Flub-a-Dub–an odd creature composed of body parts of 8 different animals
  • Inspector John J. Fadoozle, private eye
  • Dilly Dally–A circus performer
  • Clarabell Hornblower–a mute clown originally played by one Bob Keeshan of Capatain Kangaroo fame.

.

.

 

Phineas T. Bluster.  Politics hasn't changed.

Phineas T. Bluster. Politics hasn’t changed.

Perhaps the most interesting sidebar to the entire Howdy Doody run on NBC, was an ongoing battle between Smith and puppet-maker Frank Paris.   Paris made the original Howdy Doody puppet and complained constantly of being cheated out of royalties.  Howdy Doody dolls were all the rage, and Bob Smity owned the property rights to the character.  You’ve heard the phrase”I’ll take my football and go home?”  Well on more than one occasion, the irate Smith took his Howdy Doody puppet from the studio and went home.  Problem.  The show was aired live in those pre-video tape days, forcing a last minute plot and script change making excuses for why Howdy wasn’t around.

By the way, the term Peanut Gallery, actually dates to Vaudeville.  It referred to the cheapest seats where the cheapest snack–peanuts–were sold.  But most of us today know the term from The Howdy Doody Show, which resurrected it for the live studio audience of kids.

Winky Dink–The name Jack Barry will forever live in TV infamy, for his roll in rigging the game show Twenty-One. It lead to congressional hearings, national disgrace, and ultimately the book and movie Quiz Show.  What only a few of us who were watching kiddie TV in the mid-1950’s will remember, though, was that he was the host of a quirky live and animated program Winky Dink and You.

Long before twitter and other social media, Winky Dink was probably the first interactive TV show, though in the most lo-tech of manners.  The show featured Barry interacting with the cartoons projected beside him.  The interaction with audience was by means of a coded message or connect the dots puzzle, that could only be read by writing directly on the TV, or rather on a clear plastic film covering the TV.  Problem.  You had to send in to the network to get the clear plastic film, or Magic Window, as they called it.   I didn’t have one and I couldn’t bear the suspense of not knowing what that image or message was, so I finally took a crayon and wrote, sans clear film, directly on our ancient TV screen.   My mother was not pleased.  Let’s just say, Howdy Doody, I got my Winky Dinked!

 

 

 

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Cosmic Quote #45

“It’s pointless to have a nice clean desk, because it means you’re not doing anything.”–Michio Kaku

 

Moi?

Moi?

Whew.  If a guy that smart says it, it has to be true!

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In Memorium: Life, Death and Leaves (October Re-run)

It’s  October again.  Sadly, I have nothing to add to the tribute of a month that is simultaneously my most favorite and most un-favorite of seasons.  I present, therefore, a rerun form two years ago while I contemplate creating some new content.

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”–Albert Camus

Lest the general levity of this blog give you a false impression of my worldview, let me state that sometimes life sucks.  For the most part, I use humor and satire as a defense and an escape, a diversion if you will.   This has been an incredibly bittersweet week; I have never experienced anything remotely like it.   My last post was Freshly Pressed–perhaps the ultimate honor for a WordPress blogger.  Yet while this was going on, three people I know died.  They were an 82-year-old uncle whose death had been anticipated, a 58-year-old work colleague whose demise was an unexpected shock, and most tragically, the 29-year-old son of one of my poker buddies whose death from illness had been feared for some time.

If you will permit me then, a tribute to these lost souls with the only piece of poetry I ever wrote which I would deem publishable.  It’s well over 35-years old–the sort of thing one could only write in one’s youth.

The Leaves

Words ©1976, 2012  Mark Sackler

Sit and look at the leaves,

Amber arms descending from October’s trees.

Covering delicate grasses,

sweeping the highway,

bedding the rain,

Solemn songs to life departed,

Sit and look at the leaves.

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Google This! Search Term Haiku #5

“If it isn’t on Google, it doesn’t exist.”–Jimmy Wales

 Not that it has anything to do with this post, but I have to start with something:  reading the above quote, it also occurs to me that if something is ON Google, it exists whether it wants to or not.  

OK, now down to business with another rousing rendition of Search Term Haiku, the game that asks the question, does anybody have a life?  Me? My readers? The anonymous boobs who type this drivel into search engines?

To review how this works:

  1. Every phrase must come from actual search terms that yield this blog in the results, per my WordPress stats page or Google Webmaster Tools page.
  2. The poems must follow the accepted Anglicized format of the traditional Japanese art form: three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively.
  3. Each line must be comprised of actual search term phrases, verbatim.  The only changes allowed are punctuation and truncation and capitalization.
  4. Words may not be changed or rearranged. Typos and misspellings must not be corrected.
  5. Phrases may be combined or extended to multiple lines, as long as the previous four conditions are met.

I should point out that the use of terms from Google Webmaster tools is a new feature for episode #5,  made necessary by the fact that Google just doesn’t report many search terms to WordPress anymore.  Or to anybody else for that matter.  But webmaster tools reports oodles (meaning hundreds) of search terms in which a page turns up in, even if not clicked on, so I get to use those.  Whatever.  I don’t explain Google, I just make fun of the boobs who type dumb things into it.

So here goes nothing.

.

Cyber-stealth

On the internet

nobody knows you’re a horse

a goat and a pig.

.

Allez France

Blague sur le tennis

Pepe Le Pew girl cat name

Cest nes pas un pipe

.

Ewww

Wank definition:

Osi Umeniora poop

guy has sex with snake.

.

Voice Recognition

Letrate** sentences

paraprosdokian quotes

Siri for dummies

.

Brainiac

Explain like I’m 5.

Please register or login

Tyson I.Q. score

**Sic

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Cosmic Quote #44

“Creationists make it sound as if ‘theory’ is something you dreamed up after being drunk all night.”–Isaac Asimov

 “A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method, and repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation.”–Wikipedia.

Period.

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Ova, Ova, Ova: Funny names in the 2014 U.S. Open

As luck would have it, my second annual sojourn to the U.S. Open Tennis Championships just happens to fall on the same day as my monthly guest post on The Blog of Funny Names.  This post appears there simultaneously; don’t say I didn’t warn you.

“It’s true I always try to be as seductive as possible, but I wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t play tennis.”–Anna Kournikova

Kournakova.  Yes, she also plays tennis.

Kournakova. Yes, she also plays tennis.

Rybarikova…Rodionova…Cepelova…Strycova…Pronkova…to the uninitiated these names may sound like they came straight from the roster of the Moscow Ballet.   In fact, they are just a handful of the 21 players whose last names end in “ova” in the Women’s singles main draw at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships now into the second week of play.   It seems that eastern European women would rather play tennis than dance–and why not? There is certainly more money in hitting those little yellow balls around.

So what about the men?  C’mon, now, you know better.  Men don’t have ova.   No, really.  There is not a single “ova” name in the men’s singles draw.    So where are all the Eastern European men whose surnames end in “ova?”  Hmm.  Maybe we should check the roster of the Moscow Ballet.

On the subject of the above quoted Anna Kournikova, it should be noted that the reigning USTA junior girls champion,  15-year-old American CiCi Bellis became the youngest woman to win a main draw singles match at the US Open since Kournakova in 1996.     And whom did Bellis beat?  Why Dominka Cibulkova, of course.

As for those of the “Y” chromosome persuasion, it seems the Eastern Europeans also contribute, with notable names including Czechs Blaz Kavil and Jiri Vesely and Slavakian Luckas Lacko.  All three were all somewhat lacko, though, and got knocked out in the early rounds, as did  Fecundo Bagnis, who just might be Bilbo Baggins’s Argentinian cousin.

Batten down the hatches, there's a Tornado coming.

Batten down the hatches, there’s a Tornado coming.

In the juniors,  the best name is a holdover from last year’s girl’s finals.  That would be Tornado Black.  What makes her name even more awesome is that her younger sister, Hurricane Black,  should be along to join her in a couple of years.  Who could ever hope to beat a doubles team named Tornado and Hurricane?

We can’t leave out the boy’s junior draw, where promising up and coming names winning first round matches included Korean Duckhee Lee and Americans Usue Maitane Arconada and Taylor Harry Fritz.  That last one is worthy of some discussion.  We’ve at times made comments about people who have two first names (like the eponymous Tommy John) and two last names (think Harrison Ford).  But in this case, we are looking at last name first and first name last.  Or for that matter,  maybe it’s inside out.  Taylor Harry Fritz?   Harry Fritz Taylor?  Fritz Taylor Harry?   No matter, as long as he wins.

I’ll actually be at the Open today…I’ll report in through the comments if I see any other newsworthy names anywhere else.   Anywhere.   Chair umpires, beer vendors, washroom attendants.  Don’t ever assume that I have a life.

Cheers :)

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Time Out: Moniker Madness 2014

Note: This post runs concurrently under a different name on The Blog of Funny Names

“Every time I sign a ball I thank my lucky stars I wasn’t born Covelski or Wambgnass or Peckingpaugh”–Mel Ott

Mel Ott,  looking as if he just tried to sign his name "Wambgnass."

Mel Ott, looking as if he just tried to sign his name “Wambgnass.”

Ol’ Mr. Ott may be happy for not being any of the names above,  but he never would have won the annual minor league baseball Moniker Madness competition with his name.  He may be a 500-home run Hall-of-Famer, but we at The Blog of Funny Names march to a different drummer.  We’d sooner idolize the likes of past Moniker Madness winners, like Rock Shoulders, Will Startup and Sicnarf Loospstok, the latter of whom was aided by some late ballot-stuffing by the BOFN staff to win last year’s contest.  This year, another 75 amazing and ridiculous names are in the running–you can cast your official vote on the office Minor League Baseball Moniker Madness site through Thursday.

But the poll that really counts is the one we run, where we let our readers select their favorites.   Five of the current top 10 in the standings are profiled below–you can vote for your choice at the bottom of the page.

But first, something completely different.  I can’t help but mention that some of this year’s names seem to fall into some distinct categories–divisions, if you will.  These divisions are:

The “Have Baseballs, Will Travel” division,  including Tommy Toledo, Montana DuRapau and Montreal Robertson;  The “What’s on the Menu” division, starring Mark Hamburger, Joey Pankake and Renzo Martini;  the “I’m Masquerading as a Celebrity” division, with Burt Reynolds and Joan Baez;  and the “With a Name Like This, I Should Have Been a Porn Star,” division comprised of  Steel Russell,  Brock Dyxhoorn and Kieran Lovegrove.

OK, that’s out of my system.  Now, here are the five BOFN nominees you can vote for on this page–all of them are in the top 10 in the Moniker Madness standings as of this writing.  As per last year, I’ll play my favorite name game,  which is speculating what these names sound like their owners should have been if they weren’t baseball players.

Brooks Pounders–Who he is: a journeyman minor league pitcher in the KC Royals organization.  With a name like that, you’d figure he’d be pounding the strike zone, and he has averaged slightly less than 3 walks per nine innings in his 6 year career.  Unfortunately, he’s still in A ball, three levels below MLB.  Who I think his name sounds like?  The IBO Cruiserweight boxing champion of the world.

Venn Biter–Who his is: a 2013 outfield draft choice by the Phillies, currently laboring in the Gulf Coast Rookie League.  Who I think his name sounds like? Count Dracula’s nephew.

Tommy Toledo–Who he is:  a pitcher in The Milwaukee Brewers organization.  Who I think his name sounds like?  President of the Longshoremen,  local #4127.

Damien Magnifico–Who he is:  another Brewers pitcher–an embarrassment of funny names for the Brew Crew.  Who I think his name sounds like?  The Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

No, this is not Joey Pankake

No, this is not Joey Pankake

Joey Pankake–Who he is: a 2014 7th round draft choice of the Detroit Tigers,  playing right here in Connecticut in the NY-Penn League.  Who I think his name sounds like?  A less than successful mafia hit man from Brooklyn,  played by Joe Pesci.

This is.

This is.

 

With 75 names to chose from, we’ll allow write in votes.  Heck, vote for your own kid in little league if his–or her–name is funny.

 

 

 

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Cosmic Quote #43

Now this is cosmic.

Now this is cosmic.

“I hate making cosmic comments like this.”–Danny Elfman

You nailed it, Danny boy; bloody waste of time.

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Cosmic Quote(s) #41

“You’re on earth.  There’s no cure for that.”–Samuel Beckett

“We’ve got to reinvest in space travel.  We should have never left the moon.”–Ray Bradbury

“To the moon, Alice!”–Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden on “The Honeymooners”

attribution unknown

Samuel Beckett  clearly never spoke to the cow.  Ray Bradbury should have.  Jackie Gleason obviously did.

(illustration attribution unknown)

 

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Time Out: Harry Baals and Wankard Pooser

This post appears today, under a different title, as my monthly guest post on The Blog of Funny Names.

“I saw a snake having sex with a vulture and, I thought, it’s just business as usual in Washington, DC.”–Jarod Kintz

There may be plenty of snakes and vultures in Washington, DC,  but when it comes to flat out, upfront political lewdness, give me the good old American heartland.  Because the best political names–funny and lewd–are out there in the hinterland.  Consider these two, if you will.

Harry William Baals–(b. Nov. 16., 1886, d. May 9, 1954), was the Republican mayor of Ft. Wayne, Indiana from 1934-1947 and from 1951 until his death in 1954.

Harry Baals.  Somebody in Ft. Wayne has a sense of humor.

Harry Baals. Somebody in Ft. Wayne has a sense of humor.

The obvious double entendre on  Baals name has been a source of much consternation in his home town.   In the more innocent Ozzie and Harriet climate of the 1950’s, Harry Baals Drive was named after him.  It has since been renamed H.W. Baals drive.   That’s a shame, but it’s still funnier than George H.W. Bush drive.  (There has to be a Bush and Baals joke in there someplace, but you figure it out.)

More recently,  in 2011,  the city of Fort Wayne held an online vote to name its new government center, and the public overwhelmingly voted for The Harry Baals Government Center–in fact, more then ten times as many votes as any other name.   The horrified city fathers reneged on the contest and simply named the building Citizen’s Square.  But perhaps the worst slight to the memory of this great man–or at least to his great name–is that his ancestors have taken to pronouncing Baals as Bales.  That’s downright un-American.  They will all be blacklisted immediately on The Blog of Funny Names.

At any rate,  Baals died from a kidney infection during his final term in office.  You can only surmise if it might have been brought on by scratching–well, you know.

Wankard Pooser–(b. Sept. 27, 1893, d. Feb. 22, 1978), was a firebrand in the Florida state legislature in the 1940’s.  Pooser was elected to the first of his two terms in 1945, apparently on the merits of his sole campaign promise, which was to vote against every single bill put before the legislature while in office.   He lived up to that promise in his first term, though that did not stop him from introducing a bill, which was a proposal for an amendment to the state constitution to abolish the legislature.   He suggested that by transferring all of the legislature’s powers to the governor, much time and money would be saved.  You’ve got to love a politician who proposed to outlaw politicians!  Unfortunately for Pooser, the amendment went nowhere, as did his subsequent political path.  In his second term he broke his “all no votes” promise–just one single time–and promptly lost his seat when he ran for a third term.  Undeterred, he attempted a comeback in 1952.  He lost.  One can only conclude that his given name appropriately described his career.  (If you don’t get it,  look up the definition of the British slang term “wank.”)

It seems that the national Republican party of that era missed out on one of the greatest photo ops of all time.  If these two had been at the top of their 1948 presidential ticket, that famous newspaper headline might have read Wankard and Baals defeat Truman!

dewey truman

 

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