A Bit About Me

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Along with my daily duties as founder and head writer of HumorMeOnline.com, in 2003, I took the Grand Prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (also known as the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" competition). I've also been a contributor to "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and the web's "The Late Show with David Letterman". I also occupy my time writing three blogs, "Blogged Down at the Moment", "Brit Word of the Day" and "Production Numbers"...and my off-time is spent contemplating in an "on again/off again" fashion...my feable attempts at writing any one of a dozen books. I would love to write professionally one day...and by that I mean "actually get a paycheck".

24 January 2010

History - It Is What You Make It: Blogger Idol - Round 4

Damn you, Philip Marder!

Mr. Marder was my eighth grade History teacher...and while I am cursing him right now...he is no way to blame. Let me elucidate...

I loved Mr. Marder. He was this dark-haired guy who always wore a burgundy suit on Friday, and sported mutton-chop sideburns...sideburns invented (or at least made famous) by Ambrose Burnside (don't believe me, look it up)...and thanks to Mr. Marder I remember silly historical trivial tidbits like those. (I'll be doing a lot of "thanking" later on, by the way.)

He'd come up with all sorts of gimmicks which we thought were just plain stupid to get us to remember facts and figures. We'd roll our eyes at such "beauties" as this one...

"Where are we going?"
"Bearing straight."
"Get it 'Bering Strait'?"

Silly perhaps, but I still remember those idiotic mnemonic devices after all these years. And I still remember he had a friend who worked in the Archives and History Department in Washington, DC, who would smuggle out all kinds of films to him in 1974 that any school system nowadays would get sued over watching. They were...in a word...fascinating. Shocking, in your face realism...but it was history and you couldn't deny it...there it was...in black and white archival format...and I sat there mesmerized.

With a flick of the lights and a flip of a film projector switch, he did something no other teacher before him...or after...could manage to do...until The History Channel came along: he made history interesting.

In fact, thanks to him I owe a debt of gratitude...I love documentaries. I eat them up. Give me anything on Egypt, mummies (peat bog or regular), Kennedy conspiracy theories, Tunguska, UFOs, icebergs melting, global warming, the history of distilling (hey, I'm still fond of all things distilled), the Romanovs, Newton, Einstein, Euclid, and Copernicus. The list literally goes on and on.

I am like a deer in headlights. I love them. And for a long time I went without.

Then came things like NOVA and Carl Sagan's Cosmos Series. Oh, how I loved Carl when I was young. Then there was nothing...there was a void...and then came A&E's "Biography"...and I was again hooked. Discovery Channel had pyramids and The History Channel had bi-planes and Hitler. Well, those last two I could do without -- but the first couple years, that's all The History Channel had to offer. Then it graduated to Civil War...which wasn't very civil, by the way...but it somehow it piqued my interest again.

History, I found, could indeed be interesting again.

Mr. Marder you have now met your match!

For years, between episodes of Seinfeld and Frasier, I was enraptured. I could always tune into A&E for a show like "Cold Case Files" (years before CSI, there was Cold Case Files) - and I could watch...until the wee hours of the night...all sorts of things. Jack the Ripper theories abounded. So did Tutankhamen ones. Who killed Kennedy? Who killed Rasputin? Who killed Marilyn?

The field was wide open...and so were my eyes.

Then, just when it started to get really good...

...it ended.

A&E's "Biography" ran out of people it seemed. They started doing biographies about...people I didn't care about. They went from the guy who invented Ford's assembly line...to the guy who invented the straws they put on juice drink packages. What the??

Then it was the Discovery Channel. My channel about diseases and medical things and scientific paraphernalia...was tanking. Slowly I was discovering it was turning into the reality show channel.

"Engineering an Empire"...went more to engineering a gang...when "Gangland" started up...and I still haven't a clue what "The Dog Whisperer" does...nor do I care. And I have no idea how many "Dirty Jobs" they can do...I think they exhausted their supply and are now down to "the guy who picks the straws up off the floor on the juice box assembly line".

"Ice Road Truckers"? Let me guess. Truckers who drive on ice? How many different variations on this theme can we get? Okay...there's a lot of ice...there's a big truck. Episode One: Battery doesn't start. Episode Two: Truck slides off road. Episode Three: Truck falls through ice. Episode Four: Um...truck slides off road AND his battery doesn't start...ad infinitum...ad nauseum.

"Monster Quest"? About as entertaining as when I saw it all before...IN 1979! "Nothing new ever happens here...move along people."

But I had hope. "Mythbusters" still survived...until it went from being the "Jamie and Adam" show to the "Three Other People No One Cares About" show. All I can remember is that one year they went from interesting topics like "Can you really get your tongue stuck on a pole like in "A Christmas Story"? and "Can you get your butt stuck on a toilet at 30,000 feet?" to totally far-fetched, cockamamie ideas like "Can you actually eat just one Lays potato chip?" and "Can thunking a watermelon predict doneness?" Oh yeah...myth busted! I'm sooooo glad I watched Cary Grant and Tory this time around. (Yes, I know it's "Kari, Grant and Tory" - I just always think of Cary Grant when they say that and how livid he would be if he saw one of these episodes.) I'd like to see more episodes where logical myth things are blown up, and less other stupid stuff...oh, wait, I've got something really stupid for them to blow up: Kari, Grant and Tory! Now that's a show I'd watch for sure.

And I don't know if any of you have noticed...but The History Channel now makes up their own history. It's true. That show "Life After People" isn't even ABOUT history. It's just a play-by-play "as we see it" pre-historical fabrication we're hoping no one will be around in 2013 to dispute. Yes...they are obsessed with the 21 December 2012 Mayan Calendar and everyone's eventual death on that day; and you thought Conan had high ratings...tune in on 20 December 2012 for this "final" episode.

You know - it's bad enough I read Nostradamus' quatrains when I was 14 (thank you, Al Stewart)...and (thanks to a library book on paranormal activity) worried unduly about my premature demise by Spontaneous Human Combustion...but to have to be reminded that I'm going to turn into some Pompeiian-ish cinder right before Christmas two years from now...every single day??? That's a bit much...so thank you, Mayan Calendar Apocalyptical shows...I can't wait until the next 24-hour marathon you've got planned. I'll be there with my remote in one hand and a noose in the other.

Sigh...whatever happened to the good old days where the most you'd have to worry about from watching some documentary is some crop circle in your yard and a sore butt from an alien probing the night before?

So, thank you, interesting history and science documentary channels for morphing your line-ups into some asinine reality show pabulum, and, in essence, giving us "Human Death Race 2012".

And thank you, Mr. Marder for getting me interested in all of this in the first place. While most of these channels stink right now...at least they're not extinct; and there's always hope that "History" (and A&E, and Discovery) will repeat itself.

Seriously, I promised when I first started blogging that I would dedicate one to Mr. Philip Marder. This is it. I don't know if he's still around...but he was the 7th/8th grade History teacher at Laurel Hill School in Browns Mills, New Jersey. If you know him...or ARE him...I'd love to thank you personally. You've instilled a love of history in me that I am forever indebted to you for.

If you liked this blog...please vote for it at Knucklehead's Blog site (link in the image above). Please read all the other contenders as well. If you still like mine, great! Thank you for your vote and your time to read it. I hope my blog was, at the very least, entertaining for everyone. Thank you!


  1. LMAO! at the Monsterquest! I watched about 3 episodes and it was always such a let down. "Maybe one day in the future we will have the technology to explore.....yada yada yada!" lol

  2. Great job! I loved the bit about the juice box straw guy.

    Good luck!

  3. It seems like any and all channels suck nowadays. Channels that used to have good shows play nothing but reality TV. Now you have to have channels like HBO to get the good stuff. No channels play music anymore, even the ones about music. Hell, even the food network just has a bunch of shows about people going to restaurants; what happened to actually making food?!

    I'm sorry your channels bit the dust, too.

  4. Otin - Monsterquest is a let down. It's like that ghost hunter show. They used to have interesting ghost (haunted history) shows on...and now it's a bunch of kids with a camera going "Did you see that??!" C'mon...what CHANNEL is this?

    Thanks, Chris! :)

    ScrewDestiny - There's a couple shows I watch on the Food Channel - mainly Alton Brown and Chopped. Those are pretty fun. I don't bother with the rest really...but it used to be late at nite you could find something on...good luck nowadays!

  5. OK, I admit it. I was hooked to "MonsterQuest." I love anything about Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster or giant birds or whatever. And that was without Mr. Marder's help.

    This is a very nice tribute to an influential teacher, Mariann. I hope he's still around to read this, and that he's still making dumb jokes to help kids remember historical facts.

  6. Thank you, Mike. I coulda sworn I posted to this - but I had wine - heaven knows - I might have posted this elsewhere.

    I, too, love all the Bigfoot and Loch Ness things...but I like it better in documentary format. The MonsterQuest show makes it seem like they are going to show something new...and then they never do. But, it's probably geared to a lot of people who aren't as old as me - who have never seen the 27 documentaries already...so it's probably all good in the end.