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Random access memory

First thing:  I have the following dream two or three times a year without fail.  It is a Recurring Dream.

I am in a play.  But I have absolutely no idea what my lines are.  Not a clue, not a single line.  It is opening night, and I can’t understand how I got through rehearsals.  Were there any rehearsals?  I don’t remember any rehearsals.  All I remember is that I was given my copy of the script, and I meant to study it, but I kept putting it off and putting it off, and now here it is opening night.  I figure (and this happens every single time) that I can bluff my way through if I simply leave copies of the play lying around on the stage.  Since we’re usually talking about things like Hedda Gabler or The Importance of Being Earnest, it’s not inconceivable that there might be a table or a desk or something on which an open book will not look too terribly out of place, and if I can just manage to hover around one or two tables or desks for the duration of the play, I might be all right.

In the dream, I usually remember (since this is a Recurring Dream) that this has happened before and that I just have to hide the script on stage the way I did last time.

I think the implications of this dream are obvious enough.

Second thing: for a couple of years—oh, say 1997 to 2000 or so, Jamie would occasionally say in a singsong voice, apropos of nothing, “make a pie, make an eye.” Queries as to the origin of this phrase were fruitless; Jamie’s language skills weren’t yet good enough to allow him to explain.  Janet, Nick and I eventually settled for believing that it had something to do with a little routine Jamie had worked out with my mother during one of their visits.  My mother denied it, but we settled on this interpretation anyway, just for the hell of it.

A couple of years after we moved to Pennsylvania, Nick and I stumbled on the source.  For some reason (probably a bout of nostalgia for his younger days), Jamie was watching his videotape of Elmo Saves Christmas, a C-list Sesame Street project that none of us (save for Jamie) had ever managed to stomach for more than five or six minutes at a time.  The premise is awful enough: Elmo, whose voice causes irreparable hearing loss after more than ten minutes’ exposure, wishes that it could be Christmas every day.  He gets his wish, and the result is a horror: all the businesses on Sesame Street are closed, the carolers lose their voices, the Snuffleupagus is off in Cincinnati and does not return (OK, that’s a plus).  But if you stay with the narrative long enough, you will see something genuinely terrifying: the Easter Bunny, realizing that there is no more future in shelling for Easter, has renamed himself the Christmas Bunny. And the Christmas Bunny is played by Harvey Fierstein with maniacal glee. In a giant bunny suit, mind you. The Fierstein Bunny then launches into a song about all the things you can do with an Easter Christmas Egg, and at one point insists, against all available evidence, that “you can make a pie with it/ you can make an eye with it,” holding the egg up to one eye.

It is among the strangest things I have ever seen.

And, as Nick pointed out the other night during our New Year’s Eve dinner at one of State College’s two good restaurants, the strangeness of the spectacle, combined with Mr. Fierstein’s distinctively unmelodious singing voice, distracts one from the overwhelming fact that there is actually nothing you can do with an Easter egg, let alone make a pie or an eye of it.

For sheer WTF weirdness, it is many furlongs beyond the infamous crooner-meets-the-space-alien duet of Bing Crosby and David Bowie.  It may be the single weirdest thing ever done in connection with Christmas, not excluding the Elton John Band locking their arms and kicking up their heels Rockette-style at the end of the video for the incomprehensible “Step Into Christmas.” In fact, to find Sheer WTF Weird analogies we would have to go to Donnie Darko or Twin Peaks.  If you can imagine Harvey Fierstein in a giant bunny suit, standing in the dead of night on the green of a local golf course. . . .

Which reminds me, since today is random access memory day.  A friend and I were talking the other day about the Weirdest Things We Had Ever Seen on Television, and I said, without hesitation, the first appearance of the backwards-talking dwarf in the red room on Twin Peaks.  Seven minutes of Eraserhead-quality surrealism, right there in your living room. 

Not an unusual answer, I know.  On the contrary, a pretty obvious choice—and I watch so little TV that I’m not an ideal interlocutor on the subject.  But I’ll throw in this little observation anyway: I still have my old tapes of Twin Peaks from sixteen years ago, back when we figured out how to set the VCR for that deadly Saturday night time slot.  And while some of Twin Peaks holds up amazingly well (especially the inspired casting!  Peggy Lipton and Clarence Williams III from The Mod Squad! Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn from West Side Story!  Piper Laurie as Catherine!  Don Davis as Major Briggs!) and some of it looks cheesy and some of it looks just as campy as it did first time around, the thing that always got me, way back when, was the tonal and almost tactile difference between Twin Peaks and everything else on television.  Compared to Twin Peaks, ordinary television just seemed flat and tinny and insubstantial—in other words, kinda like television. Twin Peaks, even at its worst, seemed to have a visual depth that violated the representational protocols of TV.  And if you don’t believe me, get your hands on one of those old videocasettes; for obvious reasons, the DVDs won’t do it.  You have to see Twin Peaks with the commercial breaks for Cepacol and Tide and the new 1991 Civic. That, I thought, was what made the show so surreal—the twisted David Lynch version of Peyton Place next to television as usual.  I especially loved watching college football on Saturdays and seeing promos for Twin Peaks pop up here and there; on one especially memorable occasion, ABC’s Keith Jackson, who had been calling football games since the days when the Harvard-Yale matchup mattered, had to do the “stay tuned for Twin Peaks” bit, and when he was through, his color commentator asked, “Keith, have you ever seen that show?” After two long seconds of dead air, Keith replied, “nope.” Then there were four more seconds of dead air.  It was great.

Now if only I could remember my damn lines.

Posted by on 01/03 at 12:28 PM
  1. Those are wierd moments alright but (segue)it sounds like the Decider is going to call for his surge on Tues.Which seems wierd, because the people don’t want it. the generals don’t want it , the Iraqi’s don’t want it, Jerry Ford didn’t want it, James Brown..?

    Anyway ,we here in Montana are calling fro direct actions in response to this contemptuous spit in the face of democracy.I urge everyone to sieze this MOMENT and organize in protest, get on the blogoshere and pass the word. The line has been crossed.

    Posted by troutsky  on  01/03  at  02:01 PM
  2. I believe David Lynch directed Elmo Saves Christmas, which would account for a lot.  But not Elmo’s voice.  That belongs a 45 year black actor.

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  02:22 PM
  3. Yeah, I have that exact same dream about being in a play, too. Variation is that I’m in school and there’s a test, and I realize that I haven’t been to class all semester, just simply haven’t gone. Sometimes there’s not even a test, it just randomly occurs to me, with a faint sense of dread, that I’ve been blowing off class (usually math, for some reason) for the last several weeks.

    The oddest part about the dream for me is that in real life it would never happen: obviously I would know if I’d been playing hooky for an extended period of time, and surely there’d have been consequences already. As you say with the play, it’s not like you suddenly forgot your lines, it’s like you never memorized them in the first place—but if that was the case, what director would even let you go out on stage?

    Posted by jaymc  on  01/03  at  02:24 PM
  4. My recurring dream is once a month or so. I’ll be walking to school or work without a care, till I show up and realize I have no shows. And while I’m inwardly freaking out about it, no one else seems to mind.

    That can’t be symbolic of anything, surely.

    I never got to see the original Twin Peaks show, but the movie’s plenty trippy enough for me with or w/o Tide commercials. Just from the start, when Lynch cameos and explains the situation with weirdass body language, told me that maybe Lynch might break even for me after that horrible void that was his Dune.

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  02:34 PM
  5. The line merged with the horizon quite some time ago I’m afraid.

    Television is generally strange, but certainly the strangest thing I’ve ever seen on one was during a stop-over in Amsterdam. The usual CNN thing was playing on an ominously hanging airport television. Wolf was babbling about something, I think it was something about Colin Powel’s soon to be broadcast address to the UN making the case for Iraq. The table next to me was occupied by some fairly agitated and somewhat drunken Belgians. They murmured off and on, but basically we were all watching the report. This scene persisted for about three minutes, ending abruptly when one of the Belgians threw a pastry at the television. Sadly it missed the screen, landing instead on the edge between top and screen where it sat dripping over Wolf Blitzer’s face, and I realized I hadn’t ever seen a pastry on a television before. I bought them a round and we had a very pleasant afternoon/evening/whatever time of the day it was.

    Posted by Centrally Certified Content Publisher  on  01/03  at  02:41 PM
  6. You have a very brave boy there. I have a pic of my granddaughter crying with fear in the arms of a giant Easter Bunny.

    Posted by Hattie  on  01/03  at  02:46 PM
  7. Variation is that I’m in school and there’s a test, and I realize that I haven’t been to class all semester, just simply haven’t gone.

    Yeah, that’s the version I get all the time.

    Man, Twin Peaks.  Those were the days.  See, the problem with Lost is that it’s set up to be mysterious, so when the mysteries don’t pan out, we’re consumed with a raging desire to bludgeon the writers again and again and… Ahem.  Whereas Twin Peaks was weird just for the heck of it.  Carel Struycken intoning, “The owls are not what they seem.” The sarcastic voice of reason, Agent Rosenfield, suddenly launching into the monologue that ends with, “I love you, Sheriff Truman.” And though it still lost what narrative drive it had after the Palmer arc, at least Lynch blowed it up good (in part literally) when it went off the air.  What’s wrong with television series having a fixed-term storyline, anyhow?  ($$$) Oh, right.

    I hope you had a proper lunch today, Professor.  “No, no, I’ll be feeling faint by ten PM, and regretting gnawing on a diet rice cake at the crack of dawn.  Though the sound of my stomach rumbling might cover up my muffed lines!”

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  03:23 PM
  8. The actor’s nightmare, now that’s some toxic freakin’ Tagesrest to contend with--the furtive glances at scripts, the dropped cues.

    I had it again myself a few months ago, only a) I dreamt of an actual production (Three Sisters) I was in in college and b) I remembered the lines.  At least partway through the first act, anyway, and then it became something about assembling bleachers.

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  03:44 PM
  9. Michael, I completely agree with your assessment of *Twin Peaks*.  To this day, nothing I’ve seen on TV—cable included—can compare to the sheer oddness of Lynch’s vision.  What separates it from comparable programs, such as *Deadwood*, is the stunning visuals and palpable feeling of *evil* throughout *Twin Peaks*.  *Deadwood* is amazing, but the images never particularly struck me.  Like a David Mamet play-turned-film, *Deadwood* is all in the dialogue.  The atmosphere is carefully controlled, disturbing, chaotic, but not as affective as in *Twin Peaks*. 

    I recently watched *Fire Walk With Me*, *Mulholland Drive*, and *Dune*, and was struck by the nearly religious sense of evil Lynch creates in each.  This isn’t “the banality of evil,” its the mind-fucking hilarity of evil.  Baron Harkonnen, floating around, face full of reverse-Botox scabs; Bob creeping behind Laura Palmer’s bed; bitchy actresses—all combine the ridiculous with the terrible.  I can’t put my critical finger on it, but what I feel is “religious” is this mix of humor and terror.  Maybe it’s “the evil of banality”—that “Bob” is probably really only Laura’s father; that the evil man behind the glass in *Muholland Drive* is probably really only a bitter actress. 

    it’s funny because it’s evil.

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  04:01 PM
  10. At the height of Twin Peaks mania, I was living in San Francisco with my very good friend David. To the great annoyance of our husbands and friends, David and I were in the habit of repeating punchlines, catch phrases, song lyrics, etc. without explaining the context. One of us would just say “X” and then we’d both laugh hysterically while everyone else gave us the stinkeye. 

    For example: If we saw an older woman wearing very large primary-colored eyeglass rims, one of us would invariably utter, “Sally Jessy pussy spray.”

    David and I were Twin Peaks freaks. Never missed an episode. Fairly early on, when we figured out that the problem with the Palmer Family was incest and not something supernatural, David would say “same as it ever was” (in his best David Byrne) every time Mr. Palmer did something creepy.

    Years later, my husband and I happened upon an A&W in Toluca Lake --famous in filmerati circles for being an old haunt of David Lynch’s during his younger, struggling period. Each of us ordered a chocolate shake, which neither of us had enjoyed at an A&W since childhood. When my husband sucked down the last remaining chocolate bits in the bottom of his metal A&W shaker, he said, “same as it ever was.”

    Posted by Roxanne  on  01/03  at  04:30 PM
  11. I will fourth or fifth the Twin Peaks assessment. Having just this summer re-watched it with the kids on DVD - it does work in that medium and they appreciated it - but my wife and I both felt the need to emphasize that this had been on television for God’s sake. I really felt that TP was basically a sequel to the “terror beneath Mr. Rogers Neighborhood Lumberyard” sense of Blue Velvet and being on television reinforced that sense. [One of my all-time great cinema moments is the “It’s Frank! We’re dead! -> nevermind, just Laura Dern’s boyfriend & pals -> naked Isabella Rosselini on suburban lawn” terror to relief to what the ?? sequence. (With the background “Is that your mother?” wisecrack supplying the humor per Luther’s point.) Never have high-school bullies been rendered so benign. The scene would have also worked well in TP.]

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  05:06 PM
  12. I’m sure that none of you American folks will know this show, but “Hammy Hamster” was among the strangest programs I ever watched as a young Canadian child. It was on at the ungodly hour of 6am or something like that, maybe 7am.

    It’s protagonists were three rodents: Hammy Hamster (a small orange and white hamster), G.P. (a large black guinea pig otherwise known “Genius Person"), and a white rat whose name I cannot recall. I think it was Matt. He was very cranky; of the three of them, he was the most cynical and hard-boiled.

    Anyhow, what was weird about this show was that it was not animated: the rats and mice really did things like steered power-boats on the water and drove vehicles. They were small boats and cars, mind you, but can you imagine how hard it would be to film a mouse on top of a boat in a bathtub? And I don’t know if the ASPCA condoned this program, either, since it was in the late 1970s and who knows what was legal back then.

    But it totally kicked ass! I got up every morning to watch those rodents do whatever they did in their Chris Clarke nature world. And after that was “I’m The Bear Called Jeremy,” another weird kids’ program available to Canadian youths.

    My recurring dream (one of them, at least) is that I am eleven and trying to do my paper route naked because I have somehow lost the towel that I started out with… I have no idea what this means!

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  05:06 PM
  13. Twin Peaks certainly grabbed us out here in Middle America by the whatever. The kids were very young those years so keeping up required effort, planning, and dumb luck. We had company the night of the disco dwarf and it grew very very still in the room during that scene. So quiet, someone said later, you could hear America changing the channel.

    Imdb user rating is 9.6 on 2,600 votes. Compare Godfather 9.1 on 187,000 votes and Elmo Saves Christmas 5.6 on 54 votes.

    (second captcha: again)

    Posted by black dog barking  on  01/03  at  05:12 PM
  14. I will also say that Max Headroom (a few years before Twin Peaks on ABC - with an early “cyberpunk” feel, just 3 years after Neuromancer), had a different kind of not-what-you-would-expect-on-television quality. You just knew it wouldn’t last. 

    And speaking of not lasting. Nothing I have ever seen on the tube has creeped me out/fascinated me as much as the horror of the Chevy Chase Show trainwreck.


    Truly breathtaking - writhing in your seat, your kid bombing in the schoolplay stuff. Why did I not think to tape it? Some interesting comments here at Jump the Shark (fastest ever baby) for those not familiar with it. A tidbit I learned - the Aquarius Theater in LA was actually renamed Chevy Chase Theater for the show - named back two days after show was cancelled in 5th week.

    Clutch Cargo and CNN on the first night of Desert Storm provided their share of weirdness mojo as well.

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  05:53 PM
  15. I--and just about everybody I know--have what we call the math test dream:  math test scheduled but I haven’t been to class all semester; don’t know the first thing about what was covered in class; never did any homework, etc. Pretty much what jaymc describes in post 3. To this day, some mornings upon waking I have to stop and tell myself I’m not in school anymore; there couldn’t possibly be a test today.

    Fun fact: Blue Velvet was filmed in my home town; the bar with the neon “This Is It” sign is right next door to my office.

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  05:58 PM
  16. Carel Struycken intoning, “The owls are not what they seem.” The sarcastic voice of reason, Agent Rosenfield, suddenly launching into the monologue that ends with, “I love you, Sheriff Truman.”

    Oh, sheer delight.  And let’s not forget that before Struycken does the owls bit, he opens his series of gnomic utterances with “there is a man in a smiling bag.” And then Cooper spots the smiling bag the next day.  Shivers!

    And when it comes to evil, more shivers.  The living-room scene in which Bob enters the field of view from the right and slowly clambers over the couch has got to be one of the scariest effing things I have ever seen on TV.  Janet still shudders at it. 

    OK, I do too.  And yeah, the Blue Velvet connection is palpable, right down to the “what decade is this exactly?” headfakes and the high school bullies.  Here’s to Angelo Badalamenti for some great scores, and to whomever for using the truly eerie Roy Orbison tune “In Dreams.” A candy-colored clown they call the sandman, indeed.

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  05:58 PM
  17. Apropos of Xmas specials, I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)...truly awful and unintentionally surreal (the link is to a site that’s playing nice and posting very little video, but the whole thing is available on youtube if you look carefully enough).

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  06:02 PM
  18. I remember seeing Blue Velvet during its first run and just being blown away by it.  One of the things I liked about Twin Peaks from the start was that it had a similar vibe.

    Of course, it’s worth remembering that Lynch has also made films and TV shows that fail to hit these notes, despite trying very, very hard: e.g. the film Wild at Heart (with the exception of the brilliant Crispin Glover sandwich-making sequence) and the TV show On the Air (awful from start to finish).

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  06:08 PM
  19. ...which brings us to The River’s Edge.

    Posted by Roxanne  on  01/03  at  06:20 PM
  20. The River’s Edge:  Best.  House.  Casting.  Ever.  That house should have won an Oscar all by itself.

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  06:42 PM
  21. I’ve had that dream also, along with varieties of the test taking dream (on almost any subject) for 30 years now, even though I haven’t been in a play or taken a course for the same period. They never go away, it seems. School must have been far more stressful than I can consciously remember.

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  06:43 PM
  22. This is a long shot, but here goes.

    A long time ago, when Al Del Greco was a kicker for
    the Oilers, someone on ABC or Monday Night Football
    really liked to take digs at him.

    Once a game, there would be a segment that looked very
    much like a commercial and was called something like
    _The Top 5 Players of the Week_.  Then there would be
    4 quick shots of great catches, breakaway runs, etc.
    But the #1Player was always Al Del Greco, and he was
    shown sitting on the bench or getting up from the bench
    or wiping his hands on a towel.

    In at least one of these segments, the ending had a
    Big Toe football toy (the one where you hit the toy on
    the head and it kicked a small, plastic football) in an
    Oiler jersey falling over at the top of an escalator while
    the VO talked about how great Al was.

    Anyone want to make my life and tell me I didn’t dream

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  07:06 PM
  23. The synchronicities are killing me or is it the good times?? Anyway, channel surfing around the numerous timeouts in the football games, i stop on Dr. Phil because there is this giant Pink Bunny standing near this woman, who is freaking out.  Okay, that merits some attention.  I then find out that the woman was seriously traumatized at the age of six, during a home invasion in which three robbers, dressed as drag circus clowns wearing beehive wigs (she claims this is true), terrorize her.  She is now left with this gianormous fear of fuzzy animals (all manner and style) particularly humans dressed as them. 

    So they pack her off with some shrink to do bio-feedback and other therapies, and i change the channel.  Over to UWTV, the University of Washington cable productions, that were running their “best” lectures wrap up.  And who is up on the stage?? None other than David Lynch talking about Twin Peaks (disclaimer, i have watched the entire lecture a few times and thus didn’t stay there).  You can view the program through the University’s online download site. What makes this particular lecture (originally shown in early 2006) meaningful to this thread are the co-panelists: one of whom is a professor at the Maharishi University and another scientist type who is also a member, like Lynch, of the Transcendental Meditation movement.  Really way way too freaking weird.

    I was relieved to get back to football, because i didn’t know “which” (captcha) way to turn after that.

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  07:09 PM
  24. What I’m remembering, right now, is Zizek’s recuperation of the second season of Twin Peaks. I don’t remember his argument, and I don’t feel like looking it up right now, but I bought it, because it was so delightful(ly wrong). We do have the first season on DVD; second season, sorry to say, we have only on videotapes, and it’s likely to stay that way.

    Weirdest TV moment. Well, I would have said the Star Wars Xmas special, except I was too young--under 10, I think--to think it was that weird. Weirdest moment--and it was only a moment--for me was a newscast break during the Peanuts 40-year anniversary of D-Day special. One of the newscasters screwed up, the other started laughing, they were both laughing, and they couldn’t stop. Cut to a commercial. Commercial ends, we go back to the newscasters, and they’re still laughing. This goes on for about a minute. And then we cut back to Peanuts, where Snoopy’s storming Normandy, or suffering flashbacks, or something.

    My recurring dreams are all me, wandering through an amalgamation of the various punk houses I lived in back in the day. Seriously: in the dream, it’s one house, but it’s as big as all 4 or 5, and has features of each (different kinds of filth; tube amps broken in different ways), and I keep discovering I have more room-mates, and there’s always at least one pipe bursting.

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  07:42 PM
  25. Karl, the second season is supposedly coming out in April. I liked the second season better which was more over the top as someone mentionned. I finally had a cup of joe and cherry pie (a la mode) at the Double R Diner (Twede’s cafe) this Thanksgiving.

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  09:30 PM
  26. In the realm of weird TV, there is Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner from 1967.  Number 6, the white ball, the village and Leo McKern as the final number 2, all marvelously paranoid and Kafka-esque.  All of which reminds me also of the various Dennis Potter offerings, especially the Singing Detective and Cold Lazarus.  Strange bizarre and so intelligent.

    Captcha already

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  09:45 PM
  27. All of the “Reality TV” shows strike me as weird.

    I think the weirdest episode I ever saw was on a ‘blind date’ reality show. This young woman invited a young man over to her apartment before their dinner date. He brought flowers and complimented her on her “beautiful” apartment. She freaked and said, “That’s a *girl* word. You’re the boy; I’m the girl.”

    And they say academia is about indoctrination!

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  10:04 PM
  28. Donna: excellent. That makes shopping for a certain wife’s birthday a lot easier.

    ...and, I should say, MB, that the Harvey Fierstein bunny thing made me laugh, literally, out loud for 5 minutes.

    Ah, here we go:

    (first effort at an image in comments. If I’m screwing this up somehow, let me know)

    Thanks for mentioning The Prisoner, grackel. I also want to mention the NYC Public Access Satanic Mass that I’ve seen a few times. It’s on, I think, at midnight on Saturdays, and it’s the same show every time. Either they’re masters of precision in their ritual, or they’re lazy. Since laziness is a sin, probably the latter.

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  10:17 PM
  29. I too also as well have that dream of being on stage in a play with no idea what my lines are. Reckon I’m a swell ad libber during the part of the dream I can never remember—I don’t wake up covered in rotten fruit or anything.

    Weird TV: One afternoon a long time ago my dad was restlessly clicking channels. We’re in an LA suburb so we had nearly the entire bandwidth of 10-11 channels. At one of the non-network Cal Worthington-centric double-digit channels, there’s a lady dancing around on stage. Dad stops. She swirls about with a fan. She spins . . . she’s nekkid! Dad bolts for the dial but not before the lady performs a total presentation of self. Reckon there was some disgruntled worker at the station, or someone threw the wrong switch while enjoying the latest in 50s cheesecake.

    Also, on Comedy Central during the pre-Jon Stewart Indecision ‘92 live election coverage, Christopher Hitchens was among the talking heads. He was extremely drunk and bleeplessly expressed a few variations on “fuck” before vanishing.

    That on YouTube yet?

    Posted by David J Swift  on  01/03  at  10:19 PM
  30. For sheer WTF weirdness, it is many furlongs beyond the infamous crooner-meets-the-space-alien duet of Bing Crosby and David Bowie ... [and] the incomprehensible “Step Into Christmas.”

    Woah.  Deja vu.  You really hate those songs, Michael, don’t you?

    Thanks for return trip to the trippiness of Twin Peaks. Man, I loved that show.  I have the first season in a VHS boxed set in a case made to look like a log (albeit rectangular).  I also have the soundtrack—still love those creepy Badalamenti themes.  And I agree that season 2 is underrated—just thinking of that giant chessboard gives me nightmares.

    Most WTF weirdness on TV aside from TP:  four words—“The Red Green Show.” W. T. F. *is* that???  Foucault is right—all the weird stuff comes from Canada.

    And finally:  is it weird that I *don’t* have recurring dreams and that I’ve *never* had a test/performance/public speaking anxiety dream?  Talk about WTF—I think something’s wrong with me!

    Posted by Dr. Virago  on  01/03  at  10:52 PM
  31. Everyone has had that dream. The weirdest version of it, as presented to my unconscious, was one in which I had promised to cook a multiple-course dinner for 20-odd friends and family. The dinner was due in half an hour, and I hadn’t even started cooking. Also, the first course was (and here I quote directly from my dream) “black bean ramen.” While I was not in a play in this dream, I was supposed to write and direct one as after-dinner entertainment, and I hadn’t started that either.

    Most WTF TV moment: Bill Cosby dubbed in French. Hamid Karzai dubbing Amy Vowell into French would have actually been more convincing.

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  10:59 PM
  32. I have lived through two deeply disturbing television moments. One happened last year. I landed on some kind of mid-morning women’s therapy show (The View competition?) and there was a woman dressed as an infant. She was wearing a bonnet, a lolita type dress, had a pacifier around her neck, and she carried an oversize bottle. According to the brilliant producers or whoever, she had some thing where she wanted to be infantalized, so they thought the best way to cure her of that was to dress her like one. I had to leave for class before they showed her waltzing through the streets of LA. I was like, WTF?

    The other moment was watching my best friend win a woman on Elimidate. They dated for a month, and then he broke up with her because she was vapid.

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  11:01 PM
  33. And let’s not forget that before Struycken does the owls bit, he opens his series of gnomic utterances with “there is a man in a smiling bag.”

    And the finish: “Without chemicals, he points.” And lo and behold, the one-armed man, without his medication, can indeed point the finger.  Sorta.  This was a terrific show to have on the air during college, let me tell you.  You know all those late-night bull sessions, or whatever the kids are calling them nowadays?  Well, Mr. Lynch’s work certainly sprayed jet fuel on our little campfires.  Wait, is that dirty?

    And Mr. Steel, thank you for that image.  I was afraid I wouldn’t need to scrub my eyes with the Brillo pad this week.

    Captcha: zebra, as in “Why would a zebra need new shoes?”

    (Really, it was “zebra” the first time around, when submission failed (Do you really hate Tor that much?).  Now it’s face, as in “That’s Bob’s face in the mirror.” Brrr.)

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  11:09 PM
  34. Hey Dr. Virago,

    Don’t forget “Kids in the Hall!” And of course Leonard Cohen, who is my absolute hero of timeless weirdness.

    Also, after all these years, I finally figured out what those evil Canadians did to make Hammy the Hamster talk:

    “In order for the animals to give the appearance that they were talking, peanut butter was put on the roofs of their mouths. As the animals worked to remove the peanut butter, their mouths moved in a way that mimicked the motion of humans talking.”


    Now *that* is weird!

    Posted by  on  01/03  at  11:14 PM
  35. Everyone has had that dream.

    Except, apparently, for Dr. Virago, who has now outed herself as a space alien.

    And yes, I really hate those songs.  How do you step into Christmas, anyway?

    Karl, thank you for posting the image of the Fierstein Bunny.  I am glad my blog has lived long enough to see this day.

    Posted by Michael  on  01/03  at  11:37 PM
  36. How do you step into Christmas, anyway?


    Posted by  on  01/03  at  11:55 PM
  37. ”...the Snuffleupagus is off in Cincinnati and does not return (OK, that’s a plus).”

    WHAT?!?!?  Dr. Berube, are you a puppet woolly mammoth-ist?

    Posted by Bourgeois Nerd  on  01/04  at  12:23 AM
  38. Karl, it became available for pre-order a couple weeks ago on amazon! At long last!


    Posted by  on  01/04  at  12:24 AM
  39. Sorry about that link, Monsieur Berub.

    Posted by  on  01/04  at  12:26 AM
  40. OK, now my Internets are broken.  Donna, do you realize that hyperlink reaches all the way to Scott Kaufman’s blog?

    Posted by Michael  on  01/04  at  12:56 AM
  41. The weirdest moment in US TV history was the televised self-destructioin of Joe McCarthy after Joe Welch skinned him alive during the Army-McCarthy hearings.

    How quickly they forget.


    Posted by  on  01/04  at  01:12 AM
  42. Tres desolee, Monsieur Berub! Take it down. Your readers are bright and will find their way to amazon.

    Posted by  on  01/04  at  01:45 AM
  43. Weirdest moment on television: Let’s stop pussyfooting around, it was definitely the 9/11 Spectacle Live! David Lynch tends to be more intimate in his spectacle but he is also definitely about Evil!

    My backstage anxiety dream is about being asked to be in an opera as a supernumerary (something I actually do in real life on occasion) but not knowing quite where I’m supposed to go to put on a costume, and where I’m supposed to find stage left, and so on.

    Oddly enough, last year I got to live the nightmare in real life as an alternate for a Kabuki-style “Madama Butterfly” when one of the six scene-changers/prop-shifters decided to quit the show durring the middle of the run. I was called in with one hour’s notice, put into a black ninja outfit that included a black veil over my eyes, and was asked to jump into a show on a large operatic stage not knowing what the hell I was supposed to be doing. Coming out the other end was like a successful conclusion to a fairy tale. I felt like Agent Cooper, sorta.

    Posted by sfmike  on  01/04  at  02:28 AM
  44. I’ve had pretty much all those dreams, though it’s generally about playing an oboe rather than acting.

    But another favorite is probably not so widely shared: walking to San Francisco on the Bay Bridge. (Note for auslanders: you do not walk on the Bay Bridge.) Dunno why, but it has continued for years after I moved to a county with a bridge that you can actually walk on. (Have dreamed of that one just a couple of times. Less fun.)

    Never dreamed, though of being stopped by the Highway Patrol from walking the bridge because of my political associations.

    Posted by Porlock Junior  on  01/04  at  02:31 AM
  45. Can’t confirm the Al Del Greco/MNF story (it does seem vaguely familiar), but it did bring to mind one of the most sadly surreal moments on television; Howard Cosell’s reporting of John Lennon’s death during MNF, which he led into by saying: This, we have to say it, is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses.

    —“The Red Green Show.” W. T. F. *is* that???  Foucault is right—all the weird stuff comes from Canada.

    Take off! OK, beauty, eh? One man’s pruning saw is another man’s duct tape. I am so used to seeing Steve Smith in the Red Green character that what I found weird was watching a Cribs-type interview with him which showed him cruising around in a Porsche and at his winter home in Florida.

    Keep your stick on the ice.

    Posted by  on  01/04  at  02:39 AM
  46. Foucault --Leonard Cohen isn’t at all weird:  he’s just Canadian.

    Posted by  on  01/04  at  03:51 AM
  47. Michael,

    I’ve had that dream, except I’m starring in Hamlet, and I’ve been to no rehearsals.  I used to act, but I never did Shakespeare.  In another version, I agreed to play bongoes with a mariachi band (I’m a guitarist, not a percussionist) and show up to the gig and find a score with a big spot for BONGO SOLO.

    Weirdest TV moments:

    1.  Tigers TV announcers in the late ‘70s, Hall of Famers Al Kaline and George Kell, announcing the “David Bowie” concert at Comiskey after the game, only they pronounce it like Bowie Kuhn or Bowie knife, and laugh about how, “You bet, I’ll be there after the game, Al.”

    2. When Reagan was shot, and Frank Reynolds was getting conflicting reports about whether he had died, and he got mad and said into his earpiece, “Let’s get this thing nailed down!” Which made me think of coffins.  (My great-grandfather, grandfather, and uncle were morticians, and my cousin is.  Which also explains why the phrase “getting laid” always had a necrophiliac ring to me.)

    3.  The panel discussion after that nuke-apocalypse TV-drama starring Jason Robards called “The Day After.” On the panel:  Buckley, Sagan, Wiesel, Kissinger, Scowcroft, and a 6th who has faded from memory. 
    Sagan, “it’s like we’re standing in a room with gasoline over the floor and we’re playing with matches.”
    Wiesel, frizzy hair frizzing, worry worry worry on his face:  “It’s as though we all have become Jews.” (A Holocaust allusion, I think.)
    Kissinger, his enormous head filling the screen, his basso voice booming in a vaguely bored tone, saying over and over, “As I said before in my book . . . “
    And, best of all, Buckley, slumped horizontal in his chair, peering over his glasses, and mumbling, “What strikes me is that in the interest of world peace, nobody has suggested giving a lobotomy to everybody in the Kremlin.”

    Now that was weird!

    p.s.  I had hoped “last throes” was no more accurate than the original source for the phrase; still hoping.

    Posted by john  on  01/04  at  06:26 AM
  48. A moment that counts as my earliest memory of really weird television came during a “Muppet Show” pilot in 1975, “The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence.” (There wasn’t a laugh track in this one.)

    As the show progressed, it kept flashing back to a send-up of pro wrestling, featuring the San Francisco Earthquake ("He’s redesigning his opponent’s entire left leg! And the crowd loves it!"). At the end of the show, they go back to the match one last time. The crowd is gone and the arena is empty, save for a janitor sweeping the floor; and, in the middle of the mat, there’s a large lump of twisted arms and legs that are the SF Earthquake and his opponent. As the janitor turns out the lights, the lump lets out a sigh…

    Posted by  on  01/04  at  06:37 AM
  49. Sorry Josh, but I respectfully disagree. Leonard Cohen is “weird” in a good way. He’s out of the ordinary, unusual, and striking.

    Also, I recently saw a documentary about Leonard Cohen on Air Canada’s “Avant-Garde” channel. First, you do not end up on the “Avant-Garde” channel of a Canadian airline for nothing; he was there along with “Through a Scanner Darkly.”

    Secondly, this songwriter named Rufus Wainright told a story about how he first met Leonard Cohen. He was a friend of Cohen’s daughter, and she invited him over for breakfast one day. He accidentally walked in on Leonard Cohen, who was standing by the stove in his underwear, cooking sausage, biting off little bits of it, and feeding it to an injured bird that he was caring for. Now, is that weird or not weird?

    Cohen left the kitchen, and a little while later, Rufus Wainright bumped into him again as he and Cohen’s daughter were leaving the house. This time, he was wearing an Armani suit and looked like he had stepped out of an ad.  Wainright was shocked: “Oh my god!” he said, YOU’RE Leonard Cohen!”

    Posted by  on  01/04  at  09:42 AM
  50. Moments of Sheer WTF weirdness abound on Sesame Street , and they come as welcome gifts to those of us who are wending our way through the tunnels of childrearing, experiencing moments of doubt that the light of adult conversation will ever return. My favorite: Laura Bush comes to Sesame Street to read a book out loud to her monster friends. The book is entirely made up for the occasion, and consists mostly of a chorus of monsters shouting “WUBBA, WUBBA, WOO!” Over and over again.

    The writers and producers of Sesame Street are pretty damned smart, and I’m glad they’re still working it.

    Posted by  on  01/04  at  11:05 AM
  51. Now if only I could remember my damn lines.

    “One, two, three, KICK!”

    Damn. Read the cue cards, Michael.

    Oddest TV memory? How about an old Andy Griffith show.... a guitar-playing drifter comes through. Gets locked up, I forget why, maybe drinking.

    It was Jack Nicholson. Very young, pre-Easy Rider.

    I only saw it once. Not sure if I dreamed it, but I’d love to see it again.

    Posted by Kevin Hayden  on  01/04  at  11:27 AM
  52. Strangest thing I ever saw on TV was a British puppet show in my childhood, “Bill and Ben the flowerpot men” (that may not be the show’s title). Never mind your backward-talking dwarves (I loved Twin Peaks though). That was some weird shit.

    Posted by  on  01/04  at  12:38 PM
  53. a British puppet show in my childhood

    Well, if we’re going there, it’s too bad David Lynch never teamed up with Sid and Marty Krofft.  “H.R. Pufnstuf” was an excellent view inside the drug-addled mind.  It made me what I am today: drug-addled.

    Posted by  on  01/04  at  12:45 PM
  54. And then there’s “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.”

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  01/04  at  01:06 PM
  55. At least you consider the script.

    I’m ashamed to say that in my version of the terrifying theater dream, I plan to ad lib--and I, too, am in some very verbal, witty old chestnut heavy with plot.

    (A great reminiscence of Twin Peaks and its weird texture--that’s just it, I think. I watched for all the reasons you did AND for all the amazing Seattle references--my home town)

    Posted by Anne  on  01/04  at  01:57 PM
  56. And then there’s “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.”

    I’ll see your “Sigmund,” Benzon, and raise you “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.” And yes, I was singing that as I typed it.

    Posted by  on  01/04  at  02:22 PM
  57. It was Jack Nicholson. Very young, pre-Easy Rider.
    I only saw it once. Not sure if I dreamed it, but I’d love to see it again.

    Undoubtedly this episode per tvland:

    Air Date: 10-23-67.
    Aunt Bee causes controversy when she hangs a jury on the basis that the defendant (Jack Nicholson) does not look like a criminal.

    According to IMDB he had one other Griffith appearance.

    Posted by  on  01/04  at  03:05 PM
  58. The most surreal stuff on TV now is all on Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network.  Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Venture Brothers, Sealab 2021.  This last one is awesome, as it is a repurposing of a really boring and cheesy Hanna Barbera cartoon, Sealab 2020, but with truly surreal storylines.  Also Ren and Stimpy was awesome.

    I second the David Lynch, though, and because it’s live-action and not cartoon, it’s so much more surreal and sinister than any of the cartoons.

    Posted by  on  01/04  at  03:48 PM
  59. Weirdest TV moment - The day that Poopdeck Paul shows up on channel 4, and the Channel 4 guy shows up on channel 7.  Where Poopdeck Paul was supposed to be!  I kept changing channels back and forth.  They seemed confused.  I was confused.  I ended up turning off the TV before I got my morning dose of Popeye.  Under these conditions I’d rather not watch TV at all.

    Posted by  on  01/04  at  03:50 PM
  60. And there was that time that Mr. Rogers was starring at me.  He was getting into my head, man.  Really freaking me out.

    Course, Andy Kaufman on The Dick Van Dyke variety hour could be a bit off the charts.

    Posted by  on  01/04  at  03:54 PM
  61. Weird TV: On video, and intended for children. On broadcast TV: Rev. euGene Scott, seen at 4am at a motel in Saginaw Michigan.

    Anxiety dreams:  I sit at the control board of a radio station and the record or commercial or recorded program has just ended, and I have no idea what to do next.  This is common enough among people who worked in radio (even for a few months, as I did in the days of my long-lost yoot) that I’ve gotten nods of recognition at the mention of ‘dead-air nightmares’.

    Posted by  on  01/04  at  06:43 PM
  62. 58 - You’re right of course, but now it’s easy after a few decades of absurdity at all levels of government. Moral Orel I think would even scare the hell outta Michael. I believe that if Dick Cheney were ever to see that perfect 180 of the 50s, his pacemaker would short itself out in an act of mercy.

    Lots of Muppet memories here, love to see em. However, ever see Meet the Feebles? Way more pyschedelia, and, umm, Muppet rape.


    Posted by  on  01/04  at  11:44 PM
  63. the furtive glances at scripts, the dropped cues.

    Nick Danger: Are those my cues?

    Catherwood: Yes, and you’d better pick them up out of the cellophane before they scorch.

    And, just to show I can do more than find ways to shoehorn Firesign Theatre references into any thread, my favorite Sesame Street moment. The Count enters his castle, and wanders by a filthy, flyspecked piece of silvered glass. He stops, looks at it and says, “You know, you’re a pretty crummy mirror.” Half turn, pause, turn back. “No reflection on you.”

    Posted by  on  01/05  at  12:01 AM
  64. For a Christmas themed item, the 7 min. Rare Exports Inc., though it could give small children nightmares.

    Posted by  on  01/05  at  12:51 AM
  65. In my version of that dream I’m the only one who has rehearsed.

    I think you may be the only other person who recalls Jeremy the Bear. As a kid I used to obsess over the shows that did not have tie-in toys, and spent long hours trying to make the characters out of papier-maché or styrofoam and toothpicks. I don’t think Jeremy was actually a Canadian show, but Canadians are weird. Look up Guy Madden sometime. We (well, a small tv station in Hamilton, Ontario) also gave the world The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, (if you’ve never seen it, imagine if Roger Corman had produced Sesame Street). My current fave in weird Canadian shows is the delightful animated series based on Jacob Two-Two and the Hooded Fang, with an cartoon version of the late Mordecai Richler as Jacob’s dad (makes sense); and set in English-speaking Montreal, which is apparently a lost colony of Gormenghast.

    However, the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen on tv was a re-run of an episode from some 1970s educational show called Letter People, sort of a sub-Kroft production with talking letter puppets. In the episode Mr. K (as in “kicking") rescued an abducted kazoo-playing shiek, with some assistance from Mr T and his Tall Teeth. The images of day-glo felt and fake fur are still burnt into my retinas.

    Posted by  on  01/05  at  01:39 PM
  66. Oh my gosh, *of course* I remember the Hilarious House of Frankenstein. “When next we meet in Frankenstein… *don’t* come alone!” And remember that crazy helter-skelter theme music, and the spiralling kaleidescope thing that looked like a gasoline spill?

    Jacob Two-Two was one of my first childhood encounters with the uncanny. I saw the unanimated version of the program on television, and it haunted me until I could find and order the book through that Scholastic Book Club. Did you ever subscribe to that as a kid? It was the book club that you could join but never quit? Sort of the Classmates.com of the modern era? Anyhow, Jacob Two-Two totally turned me onto Mordechai Richler as a great Canadian writer. I am sorry he recently passed away. Funny that we should meet to share in our memories of Creepy Canada on this blog. smile

    Posted by  on  01/05  at  02:53 PM
  67. Not to go all Cartesian on you but are you sure you’re not dreaming now?  The claim that State College has two good restaurants raises my suspicion.  What’s the other one?

    Posted by  on  01/05  at  04:36 PM
  68. It’s okay that you dream, its better than not having one.

    Posted by vhs tape to dvd  on  10/25  at  11:49 AM
  69. Pretty cool content. Love it and comeback soon. wink
    Redlands janitorial

    Posted by Relaxillclean  on  09/07  at  06:28 AM





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