Art, Your House Is On Fire!

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It’s a sad thing when a pop culture icon dies but it’s especially sad to us mid-thirty year olds who quoted their lines in everyday life for laughs and even just a common bond. Such is the case of the Canadian-born actor Rick Ducommun who we lost in early June of this year. If you are not familiar with the name you might be familiar with his character Art Weinberg in the dark comedy/cult classic, The ‘Burbs. I have to be honest, this hit me right in the feels even though we really haven’t seen much of him since the late nineties. I will explain.

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I first saw The ‘Burbs back in 1990, while home sick from school. On the way home from the doctor (who always gave me a damn shot no matter what I was in for) we stopped at the video rental store to pick up a couple of movies for the mandatory bedrest. The two picks for that day were Bedknobs and Broomsticks and of course, The Burbs. BedKnobs because of the obvious ghost armies but I am not sure why I chose The ‘Burbs? Usually my sick movies are the old standbys like Return Of The Jedi or Iron Eagle.

I was adventurous and boy that was a mistake because I hated that movie. The dark themes and bizarre characters where just too much to take for a fever-laden kid. The Exorcist cameo didn’t help, either. No, it wasn’t until a few years later that I gave it another try when it was the CBS Friday Night Feature. Perhaps it was my age or maybe just the mood, but I loved it. Even my Dad, with the one-liners and musical score, became a fan of Joe Dante’s film. Since then on, it was the most quoted movie between the two of us and just about all of those lines came from Rick’s character, Art Weingartner.

The line “Listen to your wife? Who listens to their wife?!?” has gotten my Dad in more trouble with Mom than the time we stained the deck during a ten-mile an hour crosswind only to later notice we also stained her herb garden. We have many common bonds but the movie The ‘Burbs really is a language all our own. Even today I can say, “”Hey Ray, what are ya’ll eating in there?’ and he knows that means “what’s for dinner?”.

So now, fast forward to 2001. I was in a LRS unit, deployed to a little stinkhole of a town in somewhere-Bosnia. I really lucked out in this unit because we were pretty much left to our own accord without much oversight. Our missions were both clandestine and conventional which meant sometimes we were in civilian clothes roaming the urban areas gathering intelligence and sometimes we were doing target acquisition and reconnoissance for Special Operators who did spook operations. It was dangerous, exciting and beat the Hell out of a Korea deployment or large base operations. Still to this day, I take a break to think from the dull daily drudge of my current career and it is hard to believe that was my life at one time.

Sometimes, however, the downtime could get so boring it would drive a person to insanity. With a fire base smaller than my backyard, keeping ones self entertained was almost as challenging as the operations. We couldn’t carry many personal items but we did have a couple of laptops to watch DVDs so when it was snowing sideways or the smell of goat was too much to take we would hunker down and watch one of the ten movies we had to escape.

Our medic was one of my best friends on the planet and we shared a love for my contributing DVD, The ‘Burbs. I swear we watched it at least sixty times that deployment and trust me, that love was infectious. Before we knew it our whole team was dropping quotes like “If I find one more, I’m going to catch him and staple his ass shut!” to “It’s not us, Art! It’s them!”. The locals would look at us and nervously smile when our ‘Burbs talk would start to become more of a theatrical rendition. It helped make everything a bit more tolerable.

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We even took our ‘Burbs obsession a step further by actually incorporating it into a real code for an operation and believe it or not, I have proof. Many times we would use closer range radios when ops would require each team member to be in contact with each other and not have to use Army radio tact. That meant other people could possibly be listening since the personal radios didn’t have the code protection the bigger ones did so our intentions, locations and who we are had to protected. Enter The ‘Burbs quotes which were broken out in every possible communicative need you would need for a mission. And it worked so well, it was almost like pig latin. Once you got used to it, it flowed.

Here’s an example:

The crows are too big for the bird feeder“: Suspicious people or movement

Pop ’em“: Engage

I’d rather chew broken glass“: Do not engage

We broke down specific scenes for scenarios that would or could be experienced outside the wire. Not that we talked in 100% ‘Burbs talk but if an enemy or someone who is a bit nosey were to listen in they would definitely be wondering what the hell we were talking about. And it worked unbelievably well.

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My Grandmother kept all my old military items. From uniforms to awards to paperwork, she has bins and bins of it. Slowly, now that I am settled, I have been transferring them down to the house and when I am feeling a bit nostalgic, I peak inside to remember some great times and some down right terrifying times. That’s when I came upon a few field pads I “forgot” to  destroy when we left country. Usually, you had to burn anything that had sensitive material before you reticulated back to the States but I managed to forget these notes because somehow I knew I would be sitting in my living room showing people that The ‘Burbs actually did play a part of something besides cult film history.

Going back through the history of what this film has meant to me might be silly to most and that is understandable. Maybe that is why Rick’s passing has been a tear-jerker to me?

What am I talking about, of course it is! He was one heck of an actor and we are so lucky he shared his talent with us. I always love the actors who never had any serious roles but somehow managed to be more memorable than the Sean Penn’s and Al Pacino’s of our time. Actually Sean Penn is a bag of dicks but still. I love the ones like Rick Ducommun who made us laugh, and ad-libbed his way into our hearts with lines that you could mumble in an elevator and if someone responded, they were your friend for life.

Goodnight, Rick. Good show.

Tribute to the Best GI Joe Toy: The Tomahawk

There I was, minding my own business on a Wednesday night, watching my new-found love of TV shows, The Toy Hunter, when I was suddenly transported back to December of 1987. No, I wasn’t really get sucked through a wormhole and landed 26 years in the past, forced to watch my 9 year-old-self wear pants that were too high. It was more of an existential experience back to when I had one of the best toys a boy could have. But over the years it slowly lost its pieces and parts in a pretend war campaign waged against Cobra. And the Empire. And Skeletor.

I was such a shit on toys. (I hope I remember to come back and think of a better phrase than that)

That particular episode of The Toy Hunter, the focus was on finding the GI Joe line from the early to late 1980’s and one of my all time favorites as a kid who was destined to one day join the real Army. I remember collecting so many of the vehicles that at one time I needed to rely on Star Wars creatures to operate them. The GI Joe guys seemed to have an issue with their legs coming off.

There was one vehicle, however, that ruled the rest of them. Of course this is up for debate because there are a million of nerds who will argue differently but this was the one that ruled my collection. It was the UH-6N Tomahawk helicopter made by Hasbro and it brought serious clout to the battlefield in the backyard.

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image from yojoe.com

This was more than just a toy. This was a toy that your other toys could interact with. Hours of fun could be had with this massive vehicle and I do mean massive. Keep in mind, I was 9 years old and probably 60 pounds soaking wet so playing with this helicopter would be the equivalent of “adult” me pretending to fly my ironing board around the room. Most of the time I was loading on legless joes in a hot LZ while medics applied tourniquets and the aircrew laid down a barrage of suppressive fire. I had a realistic imagination and was probably a real drag to play with.

This toy also had another special memory attached to it because like all kids who just can’t wait for Christmas Day, I found the awesome box under their bed in early December and had to crawl the walls for almost the entire month before opening it on Christmas Day. I hope kids still are that way.

So, I guess you are asking why I am writing about a Christmas gift in June? I can answer that. Bringing this tale back full circle to The Toy Hunter, this particular toy, in the unopened box went for $8,000. And that’s when I made this face:

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$8000 for an almost 30-year-old toy??? It’s hard to fathom six pounds of plastic parts to be monetarily equivalent to a 2003 Acura. I was in disbelief that not only was my favorite toy in a sealed box so expensive but that there are people who actually would pay that much! Why? I was a bit shocked but I also felt a bit validated because I consider it my favorite childhood toy.

Although the Tomahawk is probably a shell at the bottom of a box somewhere in the recesses of the parents’ basement, I took a piece of it with me through my evolving adulthood. It’s a rare thing for me to hold on to very much (both figuratively and literally) from one stage to the next but this bag is something I have not departed with almost thirty years.

Behold, the reminisce of the GI Joe Tomahawk chopper. Sadly, it all fits in a zip-lock bag.

Here we have the 18 point description of the helicopter and weaponry. You have to admit, this was a hell of a machine. It makes you wonder with crazy weapons like the “Laser-enhanced NVS (night vision system) 50 Cal Machine Gun” how they still couldn’t hit a Cobra trooper. Had they had some basic riflery range training, that show would have been a different cartoon.

Take a gander at all the cool tax-paid-parts that made this a formidable opponent on the battlefield. It looks heavy.

When you open the four page fold out we see the directions to put this behemoth together. I am sure this was the part that made Dad groan. And even with plenty of other toys on Christmas morning to keep my attention there was no way I would let Dad drink his eggnog in peace until every missile was on the winglets and every Joe was seated in the constructed ‘copter.

I believe that is how I was busted for peaking at the presents by whining to my father, “Come on Dad! I waited a whole three weeks for this! I mean…er…forever?”.

These toys were especially cool because each GI Joe had a back story. The pilot that came with the chopper was “Lift-Ticket” but his civilian name was Victor Sikorski, SSN# 675-51-5671, from Lawton, Oklahoma. I can see this was a little nudge to the makers of helicopters like the Tomahawk, Sikorsky.

I find it kind of neat that his story is pretty realistic from the way real Army pilots follow their profession. Opting out of Officer Candidate School and going to a Warrant Officer program was and is exactly how you become a pilot in the US Army. As a veteran, I get a little tickled how realistic the plot of Lift-Ticket’s life was. But that’s just the Army nerd in me. I won’t bore you with all that.

Stickers! Okay, decals. I never put decals on my toys. I did, however, decorate everything from my windows to books with them. I can’t tell you why but I am guessing that once Dad put the vehicles together, I wasn’t taking the time to stick warning signs next to the jet intake areas. My Joes knew not to stand there.

This is off topic but I was actually sent to the principal’s office for putting similar decals on the back of the bus’ windows. I had to scrub all the windows on the entire bus line that Friday. Looking back, I think that punishment was a bit  harsh. There is no way a kid today would be required to pay that price without the news being involved. What little pansies we raise today.

I forgot about these. Back in the 80’s we didn’t have this precious internet so we had to rely on good ol’ postal service. In every vehicle’s box had a card for mail-in points for impossible to find toys. Mostly, it was a Sgt. Slaughter campaign from his commercials and I was definitely a SGT. Slaughter B.A.T.T.L.E. Brigade member. All the way!

Seems a little weird that recently I met the Sergeant in the flesh. I am still a little put off by the smiley dick he drew for me. And his frill on his drill sergeant hat. All a bit strange. I am rethinking what his acronyms really meant now.

Lastly in the ziplock bag, we come to an actual part that I could never keep connected on the Tomahawk; the ramp. The little bastard kept opening mid-flight and in a fit of rage I tore it off and tossed it in the bind with all the miscellaneous guns and rockets from years of toy collecting. I told my platoon that seat belts were S.O.P (Standard Operating Procedure) from then on and I could calm my imagination and OCD.

These nostalgic posts always go from a scream to a whisper so I will leave you with this.

Eight fucking thousand dollars???

EDIT!!!

The Tomahawk was not $8000 but $1500. That gaint coffee table made to look like an aircraft carrier, The USS Flagg, was $8000. Still a lot of money, considering.

So…sorry about that.

Goodbye

Well, I guess this was coming. I mean, I post about as regular as Jamie Lee Curtis. (Activia joke) I need to get a different forum and narrow the topic to a specific direction. While Veggiemacabre has been great, I am a different person than 2007. Maybe better or maybe worse but not the same. I loved this place and the people I have met through it.

I know Matt ended X-E and started DinosaurDracula. This is sort of the same thing but going forward you will see more of a media side since I have invested so much into software. I have a vision and as soon as the know-how happens you’ll see. Thank you for a wonderful five years. Watch below to get the skinny.

By the way, Veggiemacabre.tv will still be here. Just leaving this blog.

Good Journey!

2009 And The Big Box Condo

I trust everyone made it to 2010 and the holidays were epic? Good. I want to wish everyone a very Happy New Year and over the past couple of years you guys have been sunshine in a box. I love everything about you guys. Now, onto the year in review how I saw it.

TV!

I think 2009 has led me down some unusual paths when it comes to my recreational TV viewing. To be honest, I really had an open mind and when old ALF episodes were not cutting the mustard I had no choice to cruise the open digital waves of Turner Cable. Here were/are my shows of choice.

Man vs Food has been a must see program every Wednesday and Friday night. I watch this with a sense of awe and amusement as Adam Richman tackles some of the most daunting eating challenges the restaurants of America have to offer. This guy eats wings so hot, they have to be handled with latex gloves and can devour a pizza the size of Oprah’s ass. (she muffin huffs) But the one thing I love is the witty commentary. I would totally help this guy eat the biggest burger or 30 sandwiches. Even if it means yarfing all over the sidewalk on national TV.

Ghost Adventures has taken the slot that I reserved for Ghost Hunters. Partly because this show is far more entertaining and over all creepy. It is that simple. The other part is Zak Bagans is a strange fellow and his seemingly bipolar disposition makes me laugh and there is no better combination than funny-scary. Well, maybe chocolate-peanutbutter. Any way, it is far better to watch than that vagima (spelled it right) Steve on Ghost Hunters. That guy makes me want to air punch until I connect with an innocent bystander.

Desperate Housewives? Yeah. So? I like the show. It is witty and keeps you guessing and I always root for Orson because I like the name. That is all I have to say about that. Are you going to take away man points now? At least I don’t like the show that follows; Brothers and Sisters. Now that is a fucking stool sample. It’s a good thing I don’t own a firearm because the TV would be shot any given Sunday night when Alley McBeall and Sally Fields shared a scene.

MOvies!

This past year has not been too bad for films. I live in a small world that believes just about any movie that comes from Hollywood has to suck because creativity went out the window years ago. There has been, however, a few that I will give a tip of the hat to.

A surprise to say the least. I like Quentin Tarantino movies but at times his “shock” value is a little too much for me. Seeing brains and blood for two hours gets old and pedantic. Especially if you have witnessed it in real life. Quentin doesn’t seem like the type to have ever seen anything real like that before. Where was I going? Ah yeah! So I liked this movie. Especially the “Hangman” Nazi. Not that I like Nazis but his character was chilling. I dig that. The “Bear Jew” played by Eli Roth, however, was a drag. I just think Eli sucks. His movies suck, his acting sucks and above all else, his voice makes me Pissy McPissface Meanbean. B minus.

What can I say? I know Paranormal Activity was from 2007 but it hit 2009 like Mike Tyson hit his wife. Knock Out. But that’s not funny. (heeeeheee)

I think this guy below does it the most justice. Actually, just watching his reviews makes me not want to review movies again because he covers all the bases to the T. Please watch.

AAAAAAND Scene!

I love anything Zombie. Wether it is a Romero political and cultural platform or just a blood and guts scare, nothing makes me more frightened than being eaten alive by a rotten corpse. Or maybe just bitten and knowing that soon I will be eating people. Whatever. So Zombieland added a touch of fun to my deep dark fears, and that is really appreciated. Now if they can only make a funny shark attack movie. Hrmmmm. Oh, and the famous cameo added so much to the movie.

I can’t believe I saw this. Really, I can’t believe I did. Maybe it was the little notion that Heigl was not like her Greys  Anatomy character in Knocked Up and I though she might be able to be good once again. I was wrong. And I should have seen that coming when her co-star is Gerard Butler. That guy makes my fists itch. Here is what I would rather do than ever be exposed to anything these two do again.

  • Have a dream that I am eating wild game only to wake with half my cat left.
  • Drop acid and have dinner with my aunt’s family that eat like they have no lips.
  • Be the egg on a trampoline with the Biggest Loser on week one.
  • Getting hammered and waking up spooning Nancy Grace.

I saw it and enjoyed it. Especially the new 3D technology which makes this movie more of an experience rather than just a movie. But really, this film was a Dances With Wolves, Aliens and some other movie plot. Soooo, I guess it is worth seeing once. And bring a butt pillow because this film is longer than a Catholic wedding.

I think I am passing on talking about Terminator Salvation and Transformers 2. I might make enemies of the die hard fans. Star Trek was pretty cool though. Those are the fans you need to be wary of.

NEWS!

We got a new president and I actually voted the guy. As a vet I think I may have been in the minority. The only reason I did was because I felt a change would bring a sense of calmness to the world. I didn’t think he would be clueless, though. Holy shit Paco, this guy is slowly figuring out he is not on a campaign anymore and he has to do what is right for our country, not what the magic eight ball tells him. I know many people who love him and he can do no wrong but come on. He has as much of a clue of what to do in the Oval Office as I do in a nuclear propulsion lab. But, I will still support him. Like I have a choice.

We are still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and we, as Americans, still only care about the Jersey Shore, The Hills, Kate Gosselin and American Idol. Just the other day we lost 4 soldier all to combat action in the Helm Providence and I over heard a girl state she didn’t realize we were still over there and how stupid it was that we were there. To that, I say she is right. Why are brave men and women dying for her dumbass?

This story marked a year that I will look back with a smile and say, “no shit”. The Heene’s faked there monkey-kid’s heart stopping castaway in a weather balloon. This national hoax was one I will not soon forget. And for that, I love them. Especially when the poor kid puked on the Today show. Why these people don’t have a reality show is beyond me. I say, forgive them and share the train + car + plane + boat + eighteen wheeler crash with the world.

We lost quiet a few celebrities this year too. Of course Micheal Jackson dying was tragic and both Patrick Swayze and Farrah had been circling the drain for years, it was  Billy Mays, however,  that made me pause in shock. He has been a staple on this blog and for that I still fly my OxyClean flag at half mast. And John Hughes! What the? You see, too many to list.

So, on to 2010! There has been so much this past year that my head is still spinning but the one thing for sure is, I am bloggin’ up a storm. So many ideas and so many awesome issues. I will leave you now with an artistic rendition of my thought process.

A Quick Pause For A Fallen Friend

I have been on the fence about posting this but I finally did on my other site, Macabre fitness. Recently a friend (really a brother) of mine was mortally wounded in Afghanistan. I wanted to write my last moments of peace I had with him but I feel that it is not in theme with Veggie. But I feel that his spirit needs to be shared. I love that guy and I am heart broken beyond words. It is amazing the company of heroes I served with. Stop over a see what an amazing person he was.

God Bless you B. Scouts Out!

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http://macabrefitness.wordpress.com/2009/09/11/he-ran-with-me/

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