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Two Minutes in Canada

25 Jul

July 25, 2014

tribute2014

Americans have always looked towards Canada with fear and mistrust. But all that worry really just hides our own national insecurity. If Canada is America’s funny hat, what does it say about us? Why would we, as a nation, wear such a hat? Is America hiding a bald spot? Is it a hipster?

Fear not, Americans, the good ol’ US of A still has a full head of hair. It turns out that Canada is more than just a geographic chapeau; it has a rich history all its own, one that many of us who live under the Canadian brim are not aware of.

Being so far north, Canada has more than its share of hardships: Ice, snow, even many people who speak French. And worst of all, despite being so far north, Santa Claus shows it no special treatment and usually delivers Canadian presents last, on his way back to the North Pole.

But what do we learn about Canada in school? Fur trading. Canada has a lot of fur traders. At least it did back when the text books took place.

First, Americans traded with the Native American Indian* trappers.
Then, they traded with French fur traders.
December 10, 1984: New York Mets traded Hubie Brooks to the Montreal Expos for Gary Carter.

*Notice they don’t call them “Native Canadian Indians.”

Why was there so much trapping in Canada? Beavers. There were so many beaver dams in Canada that in 1833, official records show that a full 63% of Canada was underwater.

FUN FACT: The Montreal Expos were named after the expo, a small burrowing mammal hunted to extinction by French fur traders.

 

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Lying Awake with John Newly

24 Jul

July 24, 2014

Good morning everyone, it’s 3:05 in the am and you’re listening to Lying Awake with John Newly on 463 AM WKAT The Kat. I’m John Newly and coming up this hour, I’ll be talking to Dr. Roger Steadman about his new book, The Undersea Reptoid Kingdom, all about the intelligent inhabitants of the world’s hidden ocean cities, this ought to be good. But first I’ll be taking your phone calls at 1-800-467-WKAT right after these messages.

Commercial airs for a conspiracy theory DVD- Did Kennedy Kill the Dinosaurs?

Promo airs for WKAT morning show, Wake Up With Julia.

And we’re back! I’m John Newly and Mickey from Atlanta Georgia, you’re up first on Lying Awake.

-Hello?

Hello Mickey, what’s on your mind?

-Um yeah, I want to talk to John Newly?

I’m John, go ahead.

-Oh, uh, wow, yeah, hi. My name is Mickey and I’m calling from Atlanta, in the South.

What do you want to talk about Mickey?

-Uh, I’m kind of nervous, (nervous laughter). I’ve never been on the radio before.

That’s OK Mickey, but you’re running out of time.

-Oh, sorry, well, last week, me and my friend Neil and me, we saw a UFO over my house. It was like, really big.

What did it look like?

-It was really big and had lights on it, and we both watched it and I said to Neil that maybe he should call his sister, she’s a cop, but Neil said that he didn’t have his phone. I didn’t have mine either I left it inside by the pizza or I would have gotten pictures.

Wow, so how long did you watch this UFO? What did it do?

-We watched it for awhile, then it just flew over the house and I didn’t see where it was going because it was behind the house.

That’s amazing. Thanks Mickey. Let’s go to our next caller, Dan, on our international line. Dan, where are you calling from?

-I’m calling from an island, that’s all I want to say, I don’t like to reveal too much.

Fair enough Dan. These days you can’t be too careful.

-Yeah, this guest you have on later, about the reptoids? Make sure you ask him if Obama is a reptoid, he’s kinda got those reptoid features, you know?

I’ve heard those rumors too Dan. That sure would be something. It’s 3:16 in the am on 463 AM WKAT The Kat and we’ll be back with more of your calls after this.

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My Review of Fibber McGee and Molly

17 Jul

July 17, 2014

Fibber McGee and Molly is an Old Time Radio show, meaning that no one under the age of 50 has heard of it. Well, that’s not entirely true. OTR has a thriving sub-culture of radio show collectors, each hoarding old and rare copies of shows that originally aired from about 1935 to 1963. You and I don’t get to listen to these. Old records (called “transcription discs”) are treated like gold, only rarer, and are only played once every epoch when wizened old men pay homage to The Great and Terrible Victrola and play these discs while taking their communal liver pills.

Aside from that, there is a ton of old radio shows available out there for free and they aren’t hard to find. Are they in the public domain? Trust me; you are better off not asking. Move along.

I’ve got some favorites and even though they date back decades, you are very familiar with at least one of them, a guy you may have heard of called Superman. And another favorite isn’t quite as big but he is currently being published and can be found pretty close to ol’ Supes, The Shadow. I also enjoy The Jack Benny Show and Abbott and Costello, just to name a few.

There are also some shows I really don’t care for, and I recently came into possession of a free collection of one of those shows, Fibber McGee and Molly. Now, I do tend to be a discriminating snob, but on the other hand, free is free, and who am I to look a $40 value in the mouth? I decided to give it a listen because my favorite comedy, The Great Gildersleeve, was a spin-off of this show and I was eager to hear his early appearances.

Gildersleeve does not appear in these shows.

I am nothing if not a fair man and I have to admit that, in all honestly, while I have not come to love Fibber McGee and Molly, I have come to hate them.

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Fibber McGee is- wait for it- a fibber. He lies. He exaggerates, He makes himself out to be a big man and he is not. (But if he has no influence, why does the Mayor always drop by his house? I have no idea, the Mayor hates him.) Molly is his wife who affectionately calls her husband “McGee.” She’ll also lovingly refer to him as “Fibber” or “Himself,” as in “Himself has been thinking of flying an airplane.” She has a habit of laughing hysterically whenever an actor flubs a line, which seems to happen quite a lot on this show.

Most of the humor of the show comes from the broad characterizations of the supporting characters and Fibber’s (Jim Jordan) less-than-subtle wordplay. While the audience laughs at even the least funny pun, very often some of the jokes come and go without a whisper of a laugh, a point even Fibber will sometimes remark on. Marian Jordan, who played Molly, battled alcoholism most of her life. And while that isn’t a laughing matter, it is amusing to try to guess how far in the bag she is during any given performance. Sometimes she laughs so hard at some of the jokes (especially the flubs) that you wonder what show she’s listening to that only she can hear.

One of the conceits of this show is that everyone in town stops by their house, for no reason, at any time. This includes The Mayor, Mrs. Carstairs, who is the local rich woman and sounds like Margaret Dumont from the old Marx Brothers movies, Doctor Gamble who is not and is never funny, and other assorted neighbors with funny voices. There’s the wimpy guy who sounds like Droopy Dog, the old guy who sounds old, and the little girl who messes up the English language and is obviously voiced by a middle-aged man. (Actually, Molly provides her voice, and what does that tell you about Molly?)

And don’t get me started on Harlow Wilcox, the Johnson Wax salesman who is so annoying even Fibber seems to dislike him- and that’s the sponsor’s product!

Everyone takes a shot at insulting Fibber and out of all of them, the doctor is the least funny. He’ll walk in and say “Hello, trombone,” or “Hello Molly, hello tennis shoe.” Is that funny? No, it is not. There is no context for any of that. Why is he calling him “trombone?” There is no set up for it, no rhyme or reason. If Fibber was playing in a band, ok, maybe.

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Although the show is generally not funny, and gets less funny the more Molly opens her mouth, the more I listen the more annoying it gets. Like I said, people just drop by all the time and that’s how Fibber gets to interact with them. Fred Allen used to walk down Allen’s Alley and knock on doors. This is the same thing except Fibber stays home and everyone comes to him.  But there is almost never any reason for them to drop by. There will be a knock on the door, Mrs. Carstairs will walk in and immediately get caught up in the McGee shenanigans, then say she has to get going and leave. Why did she stop by to begin with? We never find out. Then The Old Timer will stop over, Fibber will badger him about something and he’ll leave, and we’ll never know why he came by. Then Wallace Wimple would come and go, and why we’ll never know. (BTW, he calls his wife “Sweetie Face,” which just sounds ridiculous.) OK, maybe I’m being picky. After all, this is a silly sitcom and all the coming and going is just to set up McGee for jokes anyway. But on at least one occasion it was glaringly stupid.

In one particular episode, it was ten degrees below freezing and Fibber, with his usual false bravado, was threatening to go out for a brisk walk by the lake. Of course, he had no intention of going. Did I mention it was also snowing and hailing outside, with a wind strong enough to knock over tress? Then there is a knock on the door and Doctor Gamble comes in. After a few “jokes” Fibber tells him he’s going for a walk, and the doctor tells him that it isn’t fit for man nor beast outside, that he saw a snow drift as big as a house, that Fibber would freeze before he got three feet. The doctor then said goodbye and left. So what was he doing out? What did he want at the McGee’s? Where was he going? No clue. Seemed like he just went out to tell Fibber not to go out. I would have just used the phone. Then Mrs. Carstairs stopped by, said it was so cold her butler froze and left, as mysteriously as she arrived. Then everyone else did the same thing. If it was so nasty out, what were any of them doing outside? We’ll never know.

You know, if the jokes were funny, if the show made me laugh, none of this would have bothered me.

Overall, and seriously, Fibber McGee and Molly really isn’t bad. I have gotten one or two chuckles out of it, but in the long run, I’ve gotten more laughs from watching some baby ducks on the side of the road.

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