Betty's Blog

Vintage Vinyl

October 16, 2014

People are buying records again. Remember records? Those long-playing vinyl discs encased in paper sleeves and lightweight cardboard? For a long time it seemed the advent of digital music would overtake and replace our old friend, vinyl, but the opposite has proven to be the case. Vinyl is selling at a hot clip right now and sales are picking up, not dropping off.

Why do people love vinyl records when they are so easily damaged, they take up tons of space and you can't even play them in the car? Audiophiles say you can't get the same depth and richness of sound from digital recordings. Fans say they've missed the liner notes on the backs of LPs that helped them get to know the artists. Collectors claim digital music will never be worth as much as vinyl.

Perhaps not surprisingly, for me it's the nostalgia. It's the feel of the record in my hand, the smell of the aging sleeve and the sound of the pop and hiss of a needle traveling across the grooves in the vinyl disc. I still love my MP3 player, but when I want to listen to something that takes me back to the old days, vinyl is the only thing that will do!

Star Trek's Continuing Mission...

October 09, 2014

I am (arguably) a die-hard Trekkie. Arguably because I collect everything Star Trek, but I'm not inclined to trek long distances, don my Spock ears (of course I own a pair!) and spend hours combing a convention hall for autograph opportunities. But I was one of the first people I know to own a Star Trek phaser and I'm probably the only person in Florida crazy enough to dress up in a homemade tribble costume on an 80-degree Halloween day.

Star Trek turns 48 this week and it's more popular than ever with new actors cast in new movies with new stories and new high-tech gadgets to admire and desire. So, of course, I have to watch my favorite episodes from the original series in honor of the franchise's special day. "The Trouble with Tribbles" is on the list and so is the pilot episode, featuring the now-iconic Captain Pike.

I love the new movies, too. The special effects are out-of-this world and the new cast is almost as good as the first. But there's nothing like watching the original Captain Kirk and his crew go where no one has gone before to remind you of the days when you used to rush home from to school to watch the intrepid Enterprise and crew on an old console-style TV.


Macabre Movie Marathon

October 02, 2014

Halloween has always been one of my favorite nights of the year and (lucky for me) as I grew up, Halloween became an adult holiday. So I never had to outgrow it!

Besides the staple rituals of dressing up and handing out candy to the neighborhood ghouls, goblins and zombies, there are lots of adult things to do on the year's spookiest night. If you're not up for a costume party, you could transform your house and yard into a haunted haven and invite unsuspecting revelers into to your domain of doom. Too much work? Go to a hosted haunted house and let someone scare the beejeebers out of you.

I'm hosting a Haunted Horror Night this year. Of course, mine will be a little different, a little retro. I'll be screening the movies that made me scream when I was a kid, including Roger Corman's The Terror, starring the terribly terrifying Boris Karloff. We'll be rewatching the scariest episodes of The Twilight Zone and Karloff's Thriller series, too. Finally, we'll finish the macabre marathon with Bella Lugosi's most fiendish films, which will, I hope, leave everyone screaming. Just like the old days.


Comic Book Day

September 25, 2014

Today is Comic Book Day. Not to be confused with Free Comic Book Day, which is celebrated on the first Saturday in May each year. Today is just a day to celebrate comic books by reading, trading, buying and selling or even dressing up as comic book characters.

I don't need a national holiday to celebrate comics. My childhood collection still survives, though not in "collectible" condition. I've read them so much that a lot of the covers are falling off and some of the pages show markings from the various foods and beverages I enjoyed while reading over the years. The only one who would want my collection is me. And that's just fine because I have no intention of parting with my beloved vintage comics.

How many rainy days did I spend fighting crime with Batman and Superman? How many bowls of cereal did I share with Archie and the gang? How many times did I take to the skies in Wonder Woman's invisible plane? Countless memories live in the pages of my old comic book collection. The covers may be torn, the pages may be yellowed and a little grimy, but to me those musty old books are priceless.



77 Years of Tolkien

September 18, 2014

I was in high school when I read "The Hobbit" for the first time. Since then, I've read the first in the series and its sequel, "The Lord of the Rings" so many times that I've lost count. Of course, I've also seen the movies. All of them. More than once.

I loved the pretend-world of Tolkien's novels. The novels, still considered classics of children's literature, were imaginative beyond anything I'd ever read. Entering Tolkien's Middle Earth was like leaving the planet for a while. Instead of homework and chores to do, you were swept along on epic quests, traversing strange lands and encountering all manner of beings from trolls to elves to the dreaded Gollum.

"The Hobbit" was first published on September 21, 1937 and was immediately nominated for a Carnegie Medal. 77 years later, the stories haven't lost their appeal. The movies and video games are wildly popular among kids and adults, but thousands still travel to Middle Earth the "old school" way -- reading the books. I think there's good reason for that -- no amount of special effects and computer generated imagery can compare to the world your own imagination draws when you turn the first page of one of Tolkien's masterpieces.


My Favorite Teddy Bear

September 11, 2014

Elvis & Priscilla Presley's "Honeymoon Cadillac" went up on the auction block this week. They were frequently seen riding around Memphis in the 1967 Coupe De Ville, a point of history that the seller hopes will help him fetch more than the $30,000 appraisal.

Not many of us can afford to pick up those pricey pieces of The King's history, but we can still listen and recall the days when you bought singles on 45rpm vinyl disks. (We called them "records.") Of course, I've long since transferred my own Elvis collection to my MP3 library, but there's nothing like listening to the scratch and hiss of an old 45 once in a while.

So many memories live in those scratchy old records. One from the day my girlfriends and I were dancing so wildly we knocked my portable turntable off the bed. Another from when my mom came in and dragged the needle across the record yelling, "Turn it down!" But my fondest memories are from sneaking off to see his movies despite the fact that our parents had explicitly forbidden us to see The King on the big screen.

Millions of fans worldwide remember his music, his movies and his banned-from-television moves that made all the girls shiver and scream. For me, Elvis was, and will always be, my favorite teddy bear.


Hello "Kitty"?

September 04, 2014

I just found out that Hello Kitty isn't a kitty at all. According to her makers, she's a little girl. That's a hard pill to swallow for someone like me, who fell in love with a cartoon cat some forty years ago.

But Sanrio, the cartoon's creator, insists that she was never introduced as a cat. Anthropologist Christine Yano, who is preparing an exhibit in honor of the not-cat's 40th anniversary, was chastised by Sanrio for calling the creature a cat, "Hello Kitty is not a cat. She's a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She's never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature." Wow. There goes my world view.

According to her back story, Hello Kitty is a little British girl named Kitty White. She's a scorpio who loves her mom's apple pie, origami, playing piano and collecting cute little things. She has a whole family of cat-like humans, including a twin sister, Mimmy. She even has her own cat, Charmmy Kitty, who "acts more like a cat than a person." I guess that part of the story makes sense -- when have you ever seen a cat keep another cat as a pet?

In the end, it doesn't really matter. Hello Kitty is still the same BFF who is happy when you're happy, sad when you're sad and always ready to make new friends.

Happy Birthday Scooby Doo!

August 28, 2014

Can you believe Scooby Doo, will turn 45 on September 13? That's 315 in dog years! But even at his ripe old age, this dog doesn't show any signs of slowing down. The first episode of "Scooby Doo, Where Are You?" aired in 1969 and the series ran for two years. In the decades that followed, ten more Scooby series aired on various networks. Now Scooby has his own web site, his own video game and Comedy Central plans to pick up the pooch with their new series, "Be Cool, Scooby Doo," scheduled to air in 2015.

Scooby and his beatnik buddy, Shaggy made up one of the silliest cartoon duos on TV with their goofy jokes, which only they laughed at, and the crazy faces they made when they unexpectedly ran into -- and from -- a "supernatural" enemy. Scooby, whose fear of ghosts or anything else was promptly cured with a Scooby Snack, always had a way of helping the kids of Mystery Inc. solve cases by bungling his way through -- with a little help from Shaggy.

With Scooby's big day coming up, I just had to go back and watch a few episodes, beginning, of course, at the beginning with Scooby's "birthday" episode, "What a Night for A Knight." I think I laughed even more than I did when I watched the crazy canine and his pals for the first time. Those old cartoons are still hilarious and Shaggy's beat-speak, the flower-power van and the kids' retro fashions transported me right back to the sixties. All the more reason to wish our favorite Great Dane Detective a happy birthday filled with Scooby Snacks and cases to crack!


The Evilest of Evils

August 21, 2014

Everyone loves to hate the bad guys. And some of the most lovable villains of all have been brought to life by Disney. Who didn't love to hate Cruella de Vil? Or Aladdin's Jafar? Or The Big Bad Wolf? But the queen of all evil queens was the "Mistress of All Evil" in Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent.

I remember watching Sleeping Beauty as a kid and breathlessly crying, "No! No! No!" as the evil queen persuaded her to touch the spinning wheel that would put her to sleep and cheering as the Handsome Prince escaped Maleficent's clutches and woke the sleeping kingdom. I think Maleficent was one of Disney's scariest animated villains ever. She was so scary that during screenings of the original film in 1959, many parents had to leave the theaters -- with their crying, frightened children!

The new evil queen, played by Angelina Jolie in Disney's remix of the old tale, is just as scary as the first. Jolie admits that when she was in costume or acting, she "scared little girls" so much that the filmmakers hired Jolie's daughter to play the role of young Princess Aurora -- because she wouldn't be afraid of her own mother during shooting! Jolie relished the role, though, saying that the character was one of her favorites as a child. It's no wonder she plays the part so well.

Though Maleficent isn't an animated film and the story's point-of-view changed for this remake, one thing hasn't changed: Disney's Maleficent is today as she was then: magnificent.

A Fond Farewell to Robin Williams

August 14, 2014

We were all shocked and saddened this week by the news of Robin Williams' death. It seemed unbelievable, untenable. Memorials sprung up online and in the real world as the nation grieved the loss of one of its favorite, funniest sons. Among the most touching tributes were those that asked us to remember Williams not for his sad end, but for the laughter he brought to the world.

In an emotional remembrance, Conan O'Brien called Robin Williams "the best talk show guest in the world." I must agree. While I loved him as Mork, Garp, Popeye, Aladdin, Peter Pan, John Keating and Adrian Cronauer and I watched his stand-up shows over and over again, I always enjoyed his talk show appearances the most. Especially on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, where Williams made his first appearance in 1981, stunning the host into helpless laughter with his speed-of-light comedic mind and intentionally driving the camera operators mad by refusing to sit still.

Though he was an accomplished dramatic actor, his particular genius was for making people laugh. His comedy was an unpredictable, high-energy, maniacal thrill ride that left you breathless, your sides splitting like you just ran a marathon, your cheeks aching with laughter. He made the mundane hilarious. He made the hilarious surreal. He made the surreal absurd. And he made the world a little better just by being in it. Rest easy, Robin Williams. We will always remember the laughter.