Monday, June 21, 2010

Explanation of the Unexplained...

Before we go any further I would like to explain the origins of some of my kids' nicknames that may be seen in these blogs--especially for anyone who doesn't know me. I've always been a giver of nicknames. Generally something will pop into my head when I meet someone for the first time, or possibly something someone does or says will come to define them by the nickname that certain "something" causes me to bestow upon them. The nicknames frequently evolve over time (just ask The Wife, aka Schmoopie, Schnoodle, Strudel, Poodle, Noodles...), but sometimes they become fixed. There's no hard and fast rule or anything.

My first daughter has had a plethora of nicknames over her four-and-a-half years on this planet, but the one that seems to come up the most often (and which will be seen most in these blogs) is "Monster". Variations include, but are not limited to: "Little Monster", "My Little Monster" and "The Monster". This probably sounds like something with a negative connotation, but I assure you it's actually a term of endearment. When she was very little I was always amazed by how cute and small she was. I figured that monsters are generally called monsters because there's something "monstrous" about them. They are usually either monstrously large, monstrously ugly, monstrously scary or monstrously strong (or some combination of those traits). Whatever it is, some quality or qualities of the monster tend to be monstrous in some way. I figured that if something could be considered a monster because it was so monstrously huge and ugly, why couldn't something else be considered a monster because it was so monstrously small and cute?

The name stuck. then it became even more appropriate as the Little Monster started showing an interest in some of the things I liked to watch--namely monster and science fiction movies and shows. As I inadvertently (or maybe not-so-inadvertently) started shaping my poor daughter into a Monster Kid in the mold of her dear old Dad, the name "Monster" started seeming even more fitting! For proof that her nickname doesn't have a negative connotation, check out these other variations that she is called from time to time: "Cuteness Monster", "Precious Monster", "Baby Monster", "Mini-Monster" and "Micro-Monster". How could those be interpreted as negative?

My second daughter is a bit of a different story. She gets called "Monster", "The Monster", "The Little Monster" (and even her own variation--"The Littlest Monster") too, but she has also earned her own distinct moniker. As soon as she started crawling she always seemed to be getting into trouble. The only things that she was interested in were things she shouldn't be playing with or messing with (sharp objects, messy objects, fragile objects...). Of course this is a natural trait of babies, and we already saw it with the first Monster, but Number Two seemed to take the concept to an extreme. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that Monster Number One couldn't grasp the idea that her "dangerous" (i.e. small, swallowable, breakable and/or pointy) toys had to be kept out of the reach of her little sister. It was also worsened when the baby transformed into a toddler and started to walk (and seemingly be able to reach a little higher and further every day as she grew). For all of these reasons she became known as the "Insane Beast". I'm not exactly sure why those two words came together, but they did. As I'd run to try to stop her from breaking something (or herself) I'd exclaim "You insane beast!", or something similar. Like with Monster Number One, the name just seemed to stick. "Destructive Creature" has also been used, but it just doesn't have the same ring as "Insane Beast" for whatever reason.

So, when you see my daughters being referred to as Monsters or Insane Beasts, rest assured that there is no ill intent meant toward them. They are simply personal nicknames that may sound a bit outlandish to someone not familiar with me or my ways, but which are generally the same as someone else calling their kids "Sweetheart" or "Honey". Hope this information was helpful to you.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Monster Dad's Father's Day 2010

Father's Day started out very nice today. I slept in a bit (which is a luxury when you have a one- and a four-year-old). The Wife and my Little Monster then brought in the sports section from the newspaper, the card the Monster had made for me and...Breakfast in Bed! Now, I had made breakfast in bed for the The Wife back on Mother's Day, but it was admittedly a pretty lame excuse for a breakfast. We didn't have a lot around the house at the time, so it consisted of tea, cereal with milk, toast with butter and jelly and a banana. I suppose it's the thought that counts. Anyway, MY breakfast in bed consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and watermelon!

Next, my Little Monster accompanied me on a trip to the flea market. She was being very cute and charming everyone. I picked up a few old TV Guides from the 1970s + 80s that have some very cool ads for Creature Double Feature and other stuff. The Monster got a new (old) Barbie, a couple stuffed animals and a "Bolt" comic book (given to her by one of the people she charmed along the way).

Here she is hugging the Jolly Green Giant to prove she's not afraid of him (despite the fact that "He doesn't look like The Hulk, but he does a little bit."):

Here she is soon after declaring "Look Daddy, it's Tom Servo! Just kidding!":

And here she is with her new bear after the ride home (it was an exhausting shopping trip apparently):

Later in the day we all went to visit my parents to wish my Dad a Happy Father's Day. This was followed by a drop-in at the home of some friends. We only planned on stopping by to say "hi", but were invited to join their big Father's Day dinner of steak, chicken, bratwursts, baked mac & cheese, pasta salad and all the fixins! What a treat! Nothing like good company and good food.

There's still an hour left of Father's Day. Maybe I'll watch a little "Daddy" stuff. Perhaps an episode of "In Search of..." or "The Twilight Zone"? Perhaps a monster movie? Let's see what looks good...


Thursday, June 10, 2010


Just a quick post. Yesterday the Bug-Guy stopped by to give our house its annual treatment. It was just in time too--as we were starting to see little columns of tiny brown ants that were coming in through our side entrance and marching right into the kitchen and up onto our counters. These little guys were nothing like the giant beasts in the movie "Them" (1954), but a bothersome nuisance just the same.

The little ants we tend to see occasionally don't bother me as much as another of our persistent guests--the dreaded House Centipede. These buggers are disgusting, and they tend to show up when and where you least expect to see them. Not only are they too gross to want to squash, but they're a lot faster than it seems like they could be--which also makes squashing difficult.

Anyway, those nasty buggers are a topic for another time. What I wanted to mention here was something interesting that appeared in the bill from the exterminator (and I'm not talking about the price charged for services rendered). I don't know much about the chemicals pest eliminators use, but it isn't surprising that there's a wide variety of them available. The bill had a list of chemicals so the exterminator could check off which ones he used. Some of these have pretty scary names. Some might even make good titles for horror movies! Check these out:











And my favorites... (exclamation points added for effect)




"You thought that 'The Terminator' was bad-ass? You thought 'Godzilla' was a terror? You thought Hannibal Lecter was sick? Well, you haven't seen anything yet. Brace yourselves for the most fearsome creature the earth has ever seen. Prepare for the arrival of...TERMIDOR!"

"In a world where good and evil are a confused jumble of violence...where the phantoms of the night come out in broad daylight...where your worst fears are realized on a daily'll discover that even death won't protect you from the horrifying new reality. It's not enough to die ONCE. It's not enough to die TWICE. No, in this world you'll discover that three times is the charm. This is the world of...TRI-DIE!"

"Coming soon to a theater near you! He was left for dead--but he rose from the abyss to become a one-man force of vengeance. The evil-doers won't know what hit them. They will rue the day that they decided to mess with...MAXFORCE!"

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Seatopia Sucks!

This isn't a review of the film "Godzilla vs. Megalon" (1973), but rather a diatribe against the subterranean race in the film that threatens to destroy the people of the surface world (us) because they're pissed that we have been testing atomic bombs, and they have gotten tired of dealing with all the bad vibrations caused by the detonations.

"Godzilla vs. Megalon" is one of the late-era Godzilla movies where the former Japan-squashing terror has been transformed into a kid-loving, cuddly, funny good guy. I won't bash this aspect of the series because I grew up loving these movies (and, being the demographic target of them, didn't realize that they were specifically geared to appeal to me). The main problem I have with them is their heavy-handed attempt to thrust upon unsuspecting kids various ecological and other concerns. In this case it is the danger of man messing with nature and the atom. In the case of "Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster" (1971) it was pollution. This was the early 1970s after all, and I suppose the filmmakers wanted to convey a message that hippies, conservationists and the Earth Day movement were promoting.

Anyway, Seatopia became the vehicle for the promotion of the ecological message in "Godzilla vs. Megalon". The bad guy of the movie is supposedly the monster Megalon--but the people of Seatopia are the ones who unleash him to destroy the surface world, so they are the real protagonists.

Seatopians are apparently a bunch of hippies who dance around and (for some mysterious reason) have a middle-aged, hairy American dude in a toga, wearing an Isis tiara as their leader. His name is Emperor Antonio (huh?). I guess he must have added a bit of an "exotic" feeling for Japanese audiences, but for an American audience he is just plain-old lame. The disco-dude leader isn't the only thing lame about Seatopia though. Their coolest claim to fame is that they are somehow connected to those mysterious statues on Easter Island. I'll concede that's pretty cool, but how long can you coast on that one fact?

Emperor Antonio

Easter Island Statues

You could say "Yeah, but they control a huge kaiju monster who does battle with Godzilla." Yes, but, for a giant monster, Megalon is pretty lame himself. He's a giant beetle with strange drill bits for hands. That sounds cool, but they don't seem to have much use. He doesn't really use them as drills. He just kind of bangs them together to indicate he's ready to fight. I'm more inclined to believe that he was supposed to have really neat claws, but suffered some sort of birth defect or something like that (possibly caused by the surface dwellers' poisonous radioactive bomb activities?) and he ended up with what we see in the movie.

I'm not done ragging on Megalon. He also seems to be barely able to rouse himself when he's summoned to the surface by Seatopia's fearless leader. One of the quotes that has always stayed with me from this movie has the leader saying something to the effect of: "Oh Megalon, great and powerful one, protector of the people of Seatopia, rise up and defeat our enemies on the surface world. Megalon...Wake Up!" Once he finally does get to the surface, he has to be guided to his target by a robot that was made by a surface-dwelling toymaker. More on that robot later.

If all this isn't bad enough, even the Seatopians seem to realize that their monster-savior is somewhat lame. While the battle is getting underway we discover that they had to request another monster (from another universe no less!) to aid Megalon. This monster is Gigan--another strange creature who is sent, upon request, from the Star Hunter M Universe! Gigan has a pretty cool-looking sunglasses-type visor-thing for eyes, and a table saw mounted in his chest--but he's also saddled with awkward hooks for his hands and feet. He's very pointy, but not really a very effective monster.

Finally, the "great" civilization of Seatopia can't even create their own robot to guide Megalon to his target (kind of like a 1970s version of a GPS unit). They send a couple of agents (two Japanese-looking guys who each have a trait that makes them seem more "exotic" so they can pass for inner-earth dwellers: one has a chunky black beard and the other one has a Michael Penn-esque hairdo) to hijack the robot Jet Jaguar. Jet Jaguar may be the coolest character of the movie, but it's interesting that he's the creation of a bachelor toymaker who has his little brother (nephew, step-son, foster child, youthful ward?) living with him in his workshop.

Michael Penn

The Seatopian agents tell the good guys that their race is working on an army of robots but supposedly don't have the time or resources to do it on their own (yeah, right). Instead they plan on stealing Jet Jaguar and using his technology to create their army. Lame, lame, lame! Needless to say, the Seatopians' plans all fall apart. Jet Jaguar is returned to the good side (and inexplicably programs himself to grow to the size of the other monsters). He joins forces with Godzilla and they take down Megalon and Gigan in a tag team match for the ages! Seatopia is destroyed and the surface dwellers (us) are able to return to their atomic testing in peace.

In closing, Seatopia is like many of the fangless dictatorships we've seen over the past few decades, who bluster and threaten with great sound and fury, but can't back up their words with actions: Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, North Korea's Kim Jung Il... The list goes on and on. Seatopia's toga-wearing disco leader fits right in with these losers. He should have left well enough alone--claiming that eventually he'd unleash Megalon to start the mother of all battles while reminding everyone how cool their Easter Island connection was (hell, there was even an "in Search of..." episode dedicated to the mysterious statues).

R.I.P. Seatopia ...That bunch of posers!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Who is Monster Dad?

Who is Monster Dad, and why does he want us to read his thoughts? Good questions, and I hope to answer them with my first blog here.

"Monster Kid" is a term for kids who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s watching and enjoying horror and science-fiction movies. This was an era filled with these kinds of films--many of them tending to be of less than high quality (B-movies). While these films were being cranked out at an alarming rate to be screened at local theaters and drive-ins, there was also another phenomenon taking place that further influenced these children. Kids were being exposed to older monster movies--like the classic Universal films "Dracula" (1931), "Frankenstein" (1931), and "The Wolf Man" (1941), as well as their many sequels--on TV through late-night shows like Chiller Theatre. The combination of watching new movies at the theater and seeing older ones on late-night TV left a strong impression on many of these impressionable children. Sure, not all kids watched this kind of stuff, and not all of those that did were greatly affected by them--but many were. Before you simply dismiss these kids as future geeks, consider that writers like Steven King and directors like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were Monster Kids back then. They may be geeks, but they're very successful geeks!

Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s was a different experience. The relative innocence of horror movies like "Attack of the Crab Monsters" (1957) and "Invasion of the Saucer Men" (1957) was replaced by the blood and gore of slasher movies like "Friday the 13th" (1980) and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984). I suppose that the counter-culture of the late 1960s/early 1970s may have had something to do with this change in the idea of what horror was, but saying that to explain it would be too simple. There are many factors involved with the evolution of horror/Sci-Fi cinema that I don't even know, and trying to list and consider them all would easily fill up a blog of their own. So let's keep with the subject at hand.

I have frequently found myself wishing that I had grown up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and being somewhat jealous of those Monster Kids who did. I love many of the movies of the period and it would have been so cool to have been able to see and experience them when they were brand new. Even as a kid it always seemed like I was missing out on something while growing up two decades too late. It wasn't until later that I realized how lucky I actually was to have grown up when and where I did. As it turns out, there were a lot of horror/sci-fi shows on TV at the time that featured those very same (though now old) monster movies from the 1950s and 1960s.

I grew up in the small town of Uxbridge, Massachusetts. The 1970s/early 1980s was a time before cable came to town, and our television could barely pick up the signals from the Boston TV stations. Among these stations were great independent UHF channels like WSBK TV38 and WLVI Channel 56. Starting in the mid-1970s Channel 56 began regularly running a show called Creature Double Feature on Saturday afternoons. [Look for a blog on Creature Double Feature in the future.] Two horror/Sci-Fi movies would be shown at 1:00 and 2:30 PM every week. Through this great show (as well as the programming of many other Boston-area channels) I was able to experience many of the great (bad) movies that I felt I had missed out on by not being able to watch them at a theater when they were new. Without even realizing it I had become a Monster Kid myself! I suppose you could call people like me "Monster Kids: The Next Generation". Most likely a lot of the people responsible for what was put on the independent TV channels back then were folks who had grown up watching these same movies when they were kids. Throwing a couple public domain horror movies on was a cheap and effective way to fill up a few hours of programming. Nowadays it's much more cost effective to fill that time with paid programming (informercials). If the kids of today only knew what they were missing out on! Of course, many of the movies shown on Creature Double Feature weren't really that old at the time. I mean, a classic movie made in the 1950s, like "Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954), would have been barely twenty years old in the 1970s and a more recent film like the Bigfoot-themed movie "Creature from Black Lake" (1976) would have only been a few years old when aired in the early 1980s. A show similar to Creature Double Feature today would most likely be showing stuff from the 1990s and early 2000s.

Of course kids today also have many more entertainment options than we had in the 1970s. Not only is cable television pretty much standard now, but we also have DVD and BluRay players (having already seen the era of the VCR come and go), DVRs, TiVo and video game systems that are light years better than the primitive Pong games of the 1970s and the Atari, Coleco and Nintendo systems of the 1980s. Add to this the virtually unlimited entertainment power of the internet and the fact that cell phones are ubiquitous and can do pretty much everything but make phone calls (oh yeah, they still do that--though it seems like it's the least popular feature on them in this age of texting, taking photos, downloading music and surfing the web on phones).

I'm beginning to digress here. Some of this stuff may become the basis of future blogs. But getting back to this one... Let's flash forward to the 2000s. I never really realized the lasting impact that Creature Double Feature had on me until a friend and I discovered a web site and message board dedicated to the show back in September 2006. It seems that a lot of other people who grew up in the Boston area had fond memories of watching the show too. I suddenly had a great feeling of nostalgia for those old days of black & white TVs, rabbit-ear antennas and snowy reception while watching crappy movies that nevertheless scared the crap out of me. Suddenly, memories of many of these movies returned to me and I had to see them again. It was a strange experience to see just how bad (and not very scary at all) many of these movies actually were. They were thrown together quickly and cheaply to turn a quick buck. The vast majority of them had miniscule budgets--and the terrible monster costumes and special effects reflected that fact. The funny thing was that, regardless of this lack of "quality", I still loved watching these movies even after all those years.
Another thing happened in the mid-2000s that has a lot to do with the Monster Dad moniker of this blog: I became a father for the first time in November of 2005. My poor (or lucky, depending on your point of view) daughter would have to grow up with a former Monster Kid as a dad. By now the reason for "Monster Dad" should be clear: 1.) I was a Monster Kid. 2.) If I have any say in the matter my daughter will also be a Monster Kid (at least to some extent). And 3.) For better or worse, I am now a Monster Dad!

It's a strange, and surprisingly complex, thing to be trying to instill a love of old monster movies into your kid--while making sure you don't turn her into a freak or scar her for life by showing her something that's too scary for her to see at her age. I want my daughter to grow up liking what she likes. I don't want to force any of my favorite movies and shows on her just because I liked them as a kid. At the same time, she's been very receptive to watching stuff that I think is cool. Perhaps she only feels sorry for me and is just humoring me, but I don't think that's the case.

I feel that, for a four-and-a-half year old girl, my daughter's interests are pretty well-rounded. My wife didn't want her to grow up in a world where she was only allowed to be interested in Disney Princesses, Barbies, dolls, ponies and the color pink. She does like all those things, but at the same time she also loves toy cars and trucks, fire engines, "Star Wars", Spiderman and bugs. She doesn't really see the differences between traditionally "boy" or "girl" stuff--she just likes what she likes.

Obviously I'm having some influence on her by exposing her to the stuff that I liked as a kid (and still like). I get excited about the thought of showing her something "new" that I grew up loving when I was young, but have to think about whether she's old enough for it. Like I said, many of those old 1950s and 1960s horror movies are really bad and not particularly scary, but to an imaginative child who's watching them with an open mind they can still be very effective! [My thoughts on the imagination of a child will most definitely be the subject of a future blog.] She is fine with some movies and shows, and others will just be too frightening for her. Trying to find the right balance without inducing nightmares isn't as easy as it seems like it might be.

Well, now you've got an idea of who Monster dad is. You can decide for yourself whether you want to read his thoughts or not. There will most likely be more than a few blogs here about the adventures and mis-adventures of being a Monster Dad, but that's not all you'll find.

I've never been too sure how I feel about blogs in general. As you can tell by my frame of reference I'm a bit older than many hip, young bloggers out there. When blogs first appeared, and were the hot internet thing for a while, I thought they were kind of dumb--just another example of how self-centered the world was becoming (future blog material here?). It seemed so egotistical to think that millions of people would want to read what you were thinking, just because you were thinking it. Obviously some people were better at blogging than others, and some people chose to write (or should I say "blog") about things that others found interesting. Whatever the case, blogging really took off (and I'm sure I don't need to be giving a history of blogs to someone reading a blog).

Political blogs seem to be very popular--though I have to admit that I don't really understand why. Part of the problem I have with blogs is the whole idea of how we, as humans, tend to believe what we read. Everyone has a right to their opinions, but the idea of getting your political news from a blogger (who has no need to be unbiased) seems a bit odd to me (the old codger that I am).

Of course there are blogs about all kinds of subjects--sports, movies, TV shows, parenting, fishing, golfing, celebrities... Pretty much anything that anyone is interested in can be blog fodder. I probably won't be doing much political blogging (though you never know...), but I do hope to write about a variety of topics. You can expect more about my parenting experiences, more about my love of old horror/Sci-Fi movies (probably some random movie reviews too), as well as my other interests (yes, I do have other interests), sports stuff, the horrors of home ownership, random thoughts on life... I guess this won't be a blog with a real focus. Whatever seems worth writing about will be what I write about. Hopefully that's a good enough reason to write a blog. We'll see.

Okay, let's get going...

By the way, I chose the url (referencing the year I was born) because was already taken (by someone who has never even posted a blog on it in the two-plus years it's been up by the way!).