Being A Dad

 
 
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If you're of a certain vintage like I am (I'm 42) you probably have a certain fondness for the Saturday morning cartoons of yesteryear.  And if you're like me, that fondness included planning each Saturday morning around watching 4 or 5 hours of those programs while you inhaled bowl after bowl of sugary cereal.  

The good news is you can get your nostalgic fix thanks to the cable network Boomerang.  Boomerang is the sister channel to the Cartoon Network and it's where they seem to send all of their older shows.  Lately they're starting to add too many non-classics for my taste but on any given day you can still find The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby Doo, Tom & Jerry, The Pink Panther, Wacky Races, Yogi Bear, Jonny Quest and many others populating their schedule.  Other old-time greats like Hong Kong Fooey, the Funky Phantom and Wheelie & the Chopper Bunch seem to rotate in and out of their schedule.  Plus they randomly schedule Looney Tunes marathons, perfect for maxing out the ol' DVR.  

Of course not every show holds up after all these years - you'll notice a certain amount of repetition among some of the lesser known Hanna Barbera titles and it's amazing how many different shows featured a group of groovy teenagers solving mysteries. But if you're starting to glaze over after endless viewings of Dora, Diego and the Wonder Pets, you can't go wrong with revisiting your old addictions courtesy of Boomerang.  

 
 
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There's a scene in the classic film Diner where Eddie (Steve Guttenberg) and Billy (Tim Daly) are in a movie theater watching The Seventh Seal.  With a dumbfounded expression, Eddie exclaims, "What am I watching? It just started, and I don't know what's happening."   

I'm reminded of this whenever I experience something wildly popular for the first time that I just don't get.  Like Yo Gabba Gabba!

Atonal singing, creepy characters, LSD induced imagery and what appears to be Jimmie "Dyn-O-Mite!" Walker in a shag carpet bathing cap.  These are just a few of the things you'll find during any given episode.  Not to mention appearances by folks whose hipster quotient is through the roof (people who would never use the word folks, for instance) like Jack Black, Andy Samberg and The Roots.  

I recently read the program was not developed by TV executives but rather by two young dads who were disappointed with children's television choices.  Which reminds me of another movie quote, this one from the family classic, Die Hard:

John McClane: Now, you listen to me, jerk-off, if you're not part of the solution, you're a part of the problem.  Quit being a part of the f-ing problem and put the other guy back on!

Welcome to the party, parents.  

 
 
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I don't get it.  

You'd think I would - I like cartoons... I like sponges... I like nautical stuff... I love Clancy Brown... what's missing?  

For starters, I can't seem to watch an episode without feeling nauseated - it may be a highly detailed illustration of toe nail fungus or eyeball veins, but there always seems to be something that makes me want to wretch.  

And I can appreciate programs that offer something for both adults and kids - Looney Tunes being the Grand Poobah of this genre - but while it works for my kids, it does nothing for me.  

Now unless you've been living in a pineapple under the sea, you know how much I'm in the minority here.  Everyone loves Spongebob - he's like Raymond, only yellow and more porous.  

So I guess I'll have to make my peace with the videos, the games, the clothes, the backpacks and all the assorted merchandise.  But it doesn't mean I have to like it.  

 
 
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Never in a million years did I ever imagine I'd be watching monster truck shows, let alone attending one (more on that later). Here's how it happened...

When Jackson was about 2, he was heavily into cars and trucks - he could name any make and model, he would choose to page through car magazines over children's books and he had amassed the largest collection of Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars I had ever seen.  

One day, while flipping through the channels looking for something to watch, I came upon a program on Speed Channel called Monster Jam.  After one viewing, he was hooked.  Simply put, Monster Jam is a 60 minute program where a colorful variety of trucks with names like Grave Digger, Maximum Destruction and Bounty Hunter race against each other (Racing) or smash and crash their way through a semi-obstacle course (Freestyle).  

Racing is pretty boring, to be honest with you.  What you really want to tune in for is Freestyle.  The episodes are set either inside an arena or football stadium, equipped with a roaring crowd and over the top announcers - think pro wrestling, but much more family friendly.  

Each of the trucks and drivers have a loyal fan base - people like Tom Meents, Jim Koehler, Jimmy Creten, Chad Fortune, Adam Anderson and his dad, probably the most famous of them all, Dennis Anderson (you'll be amazed at how quickly you'll pick this stuff up).  

There's also some pretty clever marketing involved here too - there are trucks based on popular characters like Batman and Superman as well as the Tazmanian Devil and Donkey Kong.  And Hot Wheels makes a line of toy versions of practically all the trucks, selling for about $4 a piece.  

As I alluded to earlier, Jackson and I attended a Monster Jam event a couple of years ago - this was a different experience entirely.  First of all, it's the loudest thing you've ever heard.  Even with earplugs, Jackson was traumatized by the volume.  And there's a lot of waiting around for the next event to start.  As for the crowd?  Let's just say it's not filled with Obama supporters and leave it at that.  

My suggestion?  Stick to the TV show and the toys.  

 
 
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I'm a big old dork and I love Batman. Comics, movies, TV shows, toys - you name it. The problem is, he's not the most kid-friendly character around. Probably has something to do with his parents being murdered in cold blood in front of him when he was a kid, but maybe I'm wrong.  There have been some great Batman cartoon series, starting in the early 90s but the one that strikes the best balance between the dark and the light is Cartoon Network's Batman: The Brave and the Bold.  

Purists, and those without kids, probably don't like it but they're not reading this anyway, so who cares?  

The Brave and the Bold was a long running comic book that was best known for teaming up Batman with a different superhero each issue.  And that's the premise of the cartoon series.  Rather than depict Batman as a grim avenger of the night, he's drawn more like he was in the 50s - square jaw, barrel chest, with just a hint of humor thanks to Diedrich Bader who provides his voice (you may remember him as Lawrence, the stoner neighbor in Office Space).  

The show does a great job of featuring A, B, C and sometimes D-level co-stars including Green Arrow, Aquaman (portrayed here as a lovable blowhard), Plastic Man, the Metal Men, Wildcat, Kamandi, Metamorpho and many others.  

Like the best cartoons, there's plenty here for the kids and just enough for the grown-ups.  If you're looking for a safe, entertaining way to introduce the kiddos to grown-ups who fight crime in long underwear, this is a pretty good place to start.  

 
 
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Max & Ruby aka Griffin's Current Obsession.  Here's what happened... each night our bedtime routine is more or less the same - the boys head upstairs for a bath, pajamas, a little TV, a book and then bed.  About a month ago, Griffin was locked into the unholy viewing quartet of Dora, Diego, Backyardigans and Wonder Pets.  Fearing for my sanity, I recommended Max & Ruby, which we found On Demand.  Somewhere between then and now, our house has become Max & Ruby central.  I recorded a bunch of episodes, just so Griffin can get his daily dose.  And by daily dose, I mean roughly 8-10 hours of it. Every so often, he might take a break to eat.  Being 2, he doesn't even have to stop watching to go to the bathroom - pretty much how I've been watching March Madness.  

For those of you who are unaware, Max & Ruby chronicles the misadventures of brother (Max) and sister (Ruby) bunnies. Each episode contains three stories, the premise of each is roughly this - Ruby wants to do something, Max wants to do something else.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  It's actually a very charming show and for some reason is quite soothing - I'm betting it has something to do with the retro furnishings, but I could be wrong.  Max & Ruby's parents are nowhere to be found (the author of the books the series is based on says she based Max & Ruby on her own kids and she was more interested in the way children resolve issues without adult interference.  She's either one progressive chick or she just couldn't be bothered to get involved - not sure which) but their grandmother lives right next door.  

To sum up, Max & Ruby gets this Dad's seal of approval - but, as always, everything in moderation.