The Most Important Things...

The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them--words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to where your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller, but for want of an understanding ear.

~Stephen King~

The Decline of Saturday Mornings

Saturday mornings just aren't what they used to be.

These days, I like to sleep in on Saturday, but I don't always get to. There are chores to be done, errands to run, other activities which need my attention that prevents me from pulling the covers over my head to block out the rising sun, and just going back to sleep.

It wasn't always that way for Saturday mornings though.

Things used to be different.

I remember vividly waking up on Saturday mornings, (the only morning, as it happens, that I didn't need a cattle prod to separate myself from my bed once I started going to school), and sneaking into the kitchen pantry for my Saturday morning meal of Oreo's, and tuning in my favorite cartoons of Bugs Bunny and the gang, The Road Runner, and my all-time favorite of Heckle & Jeckle.

Remember those cartoons from our childhoods? What happened to them? I mean, I can't find Bugs or Daffy or Elmer or Yosemite Sam anywhere anymore. The few generations that have passed since I was a kid seem to have erased them permanently from the airwaves.

From, we learn: 1962 was the first year all three network's began programming Saturday mornings, with a line-up that consisted mostly of reruns of former live-action, prime-time shows like 'The Lone Ranger', 'Circus Boy', 'Roy Rogers', 'Dennis the Menace' and 'Space Patrol' along with original filmed programs like 'Fury' and 'Sky King'. Theatrical cartoons like 'Bugs Bunny', 'Casper', and 'Heckle & Jeckle' were also popular.

I was only 1 year old in 1962 so my interest in Saturday morning cartoons wasn't as developed as it would later become a few years later.

In 1966, when I was 5, (or five and a half if one were to ask me at the time), our family moved into our "Sierra Madre" house. It was there that I truly began to appreciate this wonderful art form. Truth be known, I was always looking for something to make me laugh. The only cartoon I recall before we moved was The Flintstones, and they were on during prime-time, the first animated series to fare well in this time.

I remember Captain Kangaroo, but I wasn't all that into the real people. It was the cartoons that really made me take notice. And they had to be the funny ones too. Johnny Quest wasn't funny, at least it wasn't to me, so I paid it no attention.

In 1966, 95% of American homes had at least one television set . Ours was black and white, but that was ok for two reasons. One, I didn't know any better, and two, most programming was in b&w also. I remember our first remote control too. When you mashed the change channel button, the knob on the front of the set would rotate. That, my friends, was magic!

My father had built shelves on one whole wall of our living room, and our set was right there in the middle. My favorite place on Saturday mornings was in what could best be described as a reclining chair, except it didn't recline. It rocked, and it swiveled, and it was plush (at least it was to my little 5 year old butt), and it was most comfy. On a side note: They say that if one were to stack all of the Oreo's ever sold flat on top of one another, the stack would reach to the moon. I'm sure if one were to ever clean all of the Oreo crumbs I dropped out of the cushions of that chair and stacked them, this stack would reach at least to Cleveland.

So on Saturday mornings I would settle myself into that chair and submerge myself into TV Land and I can't think of a single morning when I was disappointed, by the cookies or the programming.

Heckle and Jeckle was my favorite. Remember those guys?

Although it was on the earliest, that didn't matter... it could have come on at 3:00 in the morning and I would have found a way to be in front of the tube at that time. I wasn't ABOUT to miss their antics. I never really knew at the time, or even cared, which was which, but I've come to learn that Heckle was the magpie with the Brooklyn accent, and Jeckle spoke with an English flair.

Heckle is slightly more cynical than Jeckle. Both of them treat their mutual enemies with threats and rudeness, but Heckle will usually make his intentions clear from the outset, while Jeckle will (at first) treat enemies politely in order to lull them into a false sense of security before unleashing magpie mayhem.

The duo have made recent appearances which seems to have cemented their place in pop culture. They made an unexplained appearance in Homer's vision of his funeral in "The Simpsons" episode of "The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace" and in the very first episode of "Monk", Monk and Sharona have the code names of "Heckle" and "Jeckle" while on a stakeout.

I just think that's as cool as cool can be.

Bugs Bunny was another favorite. Remember when he took over the symphony as "Leopold"? He made that poor tenor hold that note forever. What about the time he had the argument with Daffy Duck about whether it was duck season or rabbit season, and Elmer couldn't figure out who to shoot? My favorite of his antagonists though was Yosemite Sam. Sam had a way of cursing and swearing that was just downright hilarious. One time, Sam was trying to get Bugs to dive off a sky-high diving board into a glass of water, but kept falling himself due to the genius of Bugs. That one still makes me cry laughing.

These cartoons, along with The Road Runner, Tom and Jerry, and others of the time, were full of fun violence, if there is such a thing. Explosions, falling rocks, bombs, brick throwing were the norm for these programs, and I loved every minute of them. I've heard it said that all this violence is not such a good thing for kids to watch on television. Maybe so, but I was always able to differentiate cartoon violence from real violence, animated action from live action, and just because the talking magpies blew up their enemies with the ever ready bomb, I instinctively knew that this was make believe and real people (or real magpies) don't use bombs to get what they want. OK, maybe some terrorist groups do, but are we really about to blame that on the cartoons that I love so much? I hope not.

Another favorite was Scooby Doo. Looking back now, it's truly amazing how those meddling kids were always finding themselves in such predicaments week after week. It was cool though, that they were always the ones to figure out the mystery when no one else could. They became heroes of sort to me.

In 1968, CBS started running The Bugs Bunny / Road Runner Show on Saturday mornings.

Oh man, was I happy. I still remember the opening of the show with all of the Looney Tunes characters marching out on the stage. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Sylvester, Tweety, Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Speedy Gonzales, Marvin the Martian, Tasmanian Devil, and Pepé Le Pew, just to name a few.

Sometimes my dad would wake up early, (or was it that I woke him up with my frantic search for Oreos?) and watch cartoons with me. He always enjoyed watching the Road Runner outwit Wile E. Coyote, and he seemed to get as big a kick out of Heckle and Jeckle as I did. As a kid who was often intimidated around my dad, it was always a welcomed pleasure to see him laughing, especially if what he was laughing at was humorous to me as well. Weird, huh?

Following the Bugs Bunny / Road Runner show was The Wacky Races with characters like the Slag brothers in the Boulder-Mobile; the Gruesome Twosome in the Creepy Coupe, with a dragon in its belfry; Prof. Pat Pending (ha ha) in the Convert-a-Car; Red Max in the Crimson Haybailer biplane; Sergeant Blast and Private Meekly in the tank-like Army Surplus Special; the Ant Hill Mob in the Bullitt-Proof Bomb; Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear in the Arkansas Chugga-Bug; Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth the beaver in the Buzz Wagon; the Belle of the Brickyard, Penelope Pitstop, in the Compact Pussycat; Peter Perfect in the Turbo Terrific; and our hissable villains, Dick Dastardly and his snickering muttering dog, Muttley ("Sassa frassin'...") in the Mean Machine. More uncontrolled laughter by yours truly.

Many of these cartoons were laced with humor that I didn't understand at the time. Remember the coyote and the sheepdog punching the time clock at the beginning and end of their "shift"? That's really funny, but the humor was lost on me back then, having never really had a job up to that point in my short life. It didn't matter though, I still enjoyed watching the sheepdog get the better of that coyote.

Did these cartoons of my youth have the life lessons that are ever present in the cartoons of my children's time like The Smurfs, or of the cartoons of today like Sponge-Bob Square Pants? Maybe Scooby Doo, but other than that, probably not. They were animated slapstick at it's all time finest.

And anything was possible.

Take The Road Runner cartoons for example.

As in other cartoons, the Road Runner and the coyote follow the laws of cartoon physics. For example, the Road Runner has the ability to enter the painted image of a cave, while the coyote cannot (unless there is an opening through which he can fall). Sometimes, however, this is reversed, and the Road Runner can bust through a painting while the coyote goes through it. Sometimes the coyote is allowed to hang in midair until he realizes that he is about to plummet into a chasm (a process occasionally referred to elsewhere as Road-Runnering). The coyote can overtake rocks (or cannons) which fall before he does, and end up being squashed by them.

In "Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times Of An Animated Cartoonist", it is claimed that Chuck Jones and the artists behind the Road Runner and Wile E. cartoons adhered to some simple but strict rules:

1. Road Runner (Hot-roddicus supersonicus) cannot harm the Coyote (eatibus anythingus) except by going "meep, meep".
2. No outside force can harm the Coyote -- only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products.
3. The Coyote could stop anytime -- IF he was not a fanatic. (Repeat: "A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim." —George Santayana).
4. No dialogue ever, except "meep, meep".
5. Road Runner must stay on the road -- for no other reason than that he's a roadrunner.
6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters -- the southwest American desert.
7. All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.
8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote's greatest enemy.
9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.
10.The audience's sympathy must remain with the Coyote.

See? All harmless fun, and no one gets hurt. Well… not REALLY hurt anyway. And a lot of thought went into entertaining me apparently.

Casper, The Banana Splits (not a cartoon per se') and Underdog we also perennial favorites of the times.

Later came The Pink Panther.

This one was a lot of fun, and the fact that no dialogue was ever used (or needed) was pure genius. Watching Pink get around from place to place with that half walk / half skip while that jazzy theme music was funny by itself, but watching him silently get the best of the little man with the white mustache was another example of pure cartoon gold. Other short cartoons that went along with the Pink Panther were the Ant and the Aardvark, and the Texas (or Tijuana) Toads.

These days, Pink is enjoying full time employment as the mascot for Owens Corning's pink fiberglass thermal insulation, as well as for Sweet-N-Low artificial sweetener. Nice work if you can get it, but I miss him on Saturday mornings.

There are many others that came and went over the years, some that I'm sure entertained me at the time, but that I cannot recall just now. I never enjoyed Sesame Street or Mr. Roger's Neighborhood as much as I did my Saturday morning friends. I probably learned more from those shows, but they just weren't as much fun for me, you know?

Cartoons today just aren't the same. Not enough explosions. Not enough animated violence. Not enough falling into deep canyons. Today's cartoons are tame by comparison, probably better for the well being of our children, but I still miss the ones I grew up with. I'm sure I could find them all here on the information super-highway, but I don't think it would be the same.

I know it's just a fantasy, but I would really like to wake up next weekend on Saturday morning about 7:00am, turn on my television, and see several hours of Heckle and Jeckle, The Road Runner and Coyote, Bugs Bunny, The Pink Panther, and all the rest of my favorites, and I'll have a whole box of Oreos next to my chair.

And after all of my cartoons are over, I'll treat myself with a huge bowl of my favorite childhood cereal… either Quisp or Quake, but I'm not sure which just yet.

Until that fantasy happens, I'd sure like to know some of your favorite cartoons from the past. Maybe your favorites will spark a memory for the rest of us and we can all reflect back and give ourselves a smile or two.

Not such a bad thing.

Until next time...

Happy New Year

Well… it's a new year. Out with the old and in with the new, right? It's a good time to reflect on the past year, and then make plans for the new one ahead.

A few things of note about 2008.

First and foremost on my list of new things for the year is this blog. Ben McEvoy got me started when I called him out of the blue one day and we talked for a while. He told me about his blog, and after visiting it (and a few others) I decided that I couldn't sleep one more single night without having one for myself. It started like gangbusters, I wrote nearly every single day. Then life started catching up with me and I discovered that other things around me were being neglected, so I backed off a bit. I don't think I could write every day like I did at first, but the old boy certainly has a few good ones left in him still, so I have resolved to write something here at least once a week. Let that be called resolution #1.

My father and I went on two hunts in 2008, one last February, and one this last month. Both times we went to South Texas, Benevides to be exact, where we hunted quail. Both times weren't exactly what one could call successful if the gauge were solely based on the number of birds we brought home, but we got to spend some really quality time together, and that's the really important thing for me. His health is faltering somewhat and I don't know if we'll have too many more hunts together. I must never pass up a good chance to spend some quality time with Dad (or Mom for that matter) will be resolution #2.

We also went fishing in early March on the Sabine River. My brother-in-law Sam went with us and we only came home with two fish, but it was also some good quality time. You can read about it here if you wish. Go fishing more is always worth a mention in a well thought out list of resolutions, so this is #3.

I started a new business in 2008. It's really the same business, except I'm carrying on without Dad and Sam. Dad wanted to go on and retire, and Sam decided that he wasn't really cut out for the building business. So I'm going on without them. I formed my own company called L & S Custom Homes, LLC and my company has partnered with two other individuals to build a house just outside Springfield. I find myself facing the same old problems with partners that I had to endure with my previous partners, and so I'm not sure if we will continue this partnership after this house. I am not an easy person to be partners with as I expect much from myself and from others. I want to build the way I want to build anyway, so resolution # 4 is to break out and go forward on my own.

I feel that my health has improved this past year, though I still have some weight to lose. My energy level is up again and I can put in the long days that are needed to accomplish the things I want to do. I am still taking meds for my diabetes, but if I can lose about 40 pounds (and I certainly have it to lose), I might be able to stop taking those pills. Weight loss… there's a unique resolution, eh? # 5.

I read an article in the Ensign about caffeine possibly contributing to restless leg syndrome, a condition that aggravates me to the point where I take medicine for that too. I have been away from home and forgotten my RLS meds a few times and those were totally sleepless nights. Sometimes the meds don't even work, especially if I don't time the taking of them with my bedtime just right. Anyway, caffeine is thought to add to the problem so I have resolved to stop drinking my Diet Mt. Dews. This one is going to be tough, tougher even than when I quit smoking. I can easily go through 2 or 3 six packs of the 24 ounce bottles in a single week. I actually started this one a couple of weeks ago right after I read that article. The first few days were really rough because of the caffeine withdrawal headaches. So lots of water and lemonade and juice is resolution # 6.

Resolution # 7 has to do with church. I have been teaching the Elder's Quorum for a little over two years now, 3 Sundays a month, and I've gotten a little lazy about it. I find myself losing interest in the lessons and dreading class. I shouldn't be feeling this way, because I know that when I am eventually released, I will miss it. So I'm going to start missing it now and start applying myself and preparing that way I did when I was first called and start enjoying that time again... for me and for the brethren.

Our annual July 4th BBQ was bigger this year. My daughter Jessica and her husband Brandon flew in for the event, but Rebecca and Justin couldn't make it. Still, it was a wonderful day and we hope that it will grow bigger and bigger every year, to include more family and friends from all over. All of my children in attendance for the 2009 BBQ will be resolution # 8.

Someone (a friend of Sheri's) suggested that I print all of my blog stories and entries and put them in a binder to give to my parents for Christmas. I resisted the idea thinking that no one would really be interested and it seemed a little self-promoting and presumptuous to think anyone would really want such a gift. I just felt a little uneasy about it. Sheri talked me into it though, and it turned out to be a great hit with Mom and Dad. Well, Dad at least. He's still reading it and won't let Mom have it until he's done. I think those kinds of gifts are cool, even though I balked at this particular idea in the beginning. I hope that I will be able to give them (and everyone else, for that matter) something meaningful that I created myself and put myself into. Not really a resolution I guess, but still something I want to do.

Sheri's father had a pretty massive stroke back in the Spring of 2008. Sheri went to see him right away, but I had to wait until late Summer. We both went during the Olympics and stayed at their lakeside condo and got to spend some quality time with her side of the family. It was a most enjoyable week. My nieces Taylor and Megan and my nephew Jake are a joy to be around and we had lots of fun with them, and with their parents (Sheri's brother B.J. and his wife Jackie). We also had dinner at Sheri's mom's house, visited her Dad in the recovery center, did our share of sightseeing, and still had time for lots of rest and relaxation.

While we were there, we ate a couple of times at a sandwich shop called "Mancino's". One wall in the hallway leading back to the restrooms was all chalk board and there was a bucket of chalk on the floor at the entry to that hallway. I took a piece of chalk and wrote about my first date with Sheri after she picked me up from the airport for our first face to face visit. It was at another Mancino's closer to where Sheri was living at the time, but it was our first date. I want to go back and see if my note is still on that chalk board. I doubt it, but wouldn't that be a hoot?

Anyway, I promised Sheri's Dad that I would make sure she got back there several times a year to visit him. Not a "New Year's Resolution", but a resolution just the same. Besides, I can't wait to go back there myself.

We finished the nightmare of a remodel job in 2008. Well, almost. There are a few odds and ends that remain, and I'm sure there always will be with that project. But it's done for the most part and we survived it. That's the good news. The financial outcome wasn't nearly a rosy. We took a big hit on that one, and none of us could really afford a big hit. So... do I really need to tell you what the next resolution is? I didn't think so.

There are other resolutions of course, books to be read, people to treat better, and so on, but those are of a more personal nature and I'll keep them to myself, at least for the time being. I'm normally not a "New Year's Resolutions" kind of guy, but a few tweaks and adjustments are needed every now and again. I'll start with these and see where the last day of 2009 finds me.

In the meantime, I'll be in touch. At least once a week, right?

Until next time...