Dear Holly: You Don’t Need a Nap as Long as You’re Playing with Your Cousins

2 years, 8 months.

Dear Holly,

During the Christmas holidays, we spent one whole day at your Aunt Dana and Uncle Andrew’s house. I enjoyed it very much.

That’s because I basically got the whole day off, just to sit back and enjoy old home videos that Uncle Andrew had transferred from VHS to our family’s own private YouTube channel that we were able to watch up on the flat screen TV.

There were so many classics, like the video I made Aunt Dana shoot exactly 23 years ago day, right before I got my haircut:

Meanwhile, you and your two cousins completely entertained yourselves the entire day, with all the toys they had in their playroom. For you, it was like getting to try out all the new toys in the toy store with your friends. And with it being a one story house, I never had to be watching to make sure you made it up or down the stairs okay.

You never even acted tired, so I didn’t have to put you down for a nap. And when you don’t have to take a nap, it’s one less thing for me to have to do.

You got to play. I got to rest. A good time was had by all.



Dear Jack: Your 1st Introduction to a VHS Tape- Disney’s Benji the Hunted (from 1987)

5 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack: Your1st Introduction to a VHS Tape- Disney’s Benji the Hunted (from 1987)

Dear Jack,

This past weekend, I taught you how to use the VHS side of our DVD player. You now understand the concept of watching a movie on a tape; something I’m not sure most of your friends can say they’ve done before. So they might look at you funny if you mention it to them at school.

On Friday, a coworker brought in a huge Rubbermaid tub full of VHS movies to give away. I instantly grabbed Benji the Hunted, which I was very familiar with; as it was part of my school’s library when I was a kid, meaning I saw it many times as a child in the late 1980s and early 1990s- especially when a teacher came in to work sick but wasn’t willing to admit it and therefore lose a sick day or vacation day.

Dear Jack: Your1st Introduction to a VHS Tape- Disney’s Benji the Hunted (from 1987)

I suppose there’s a decent amount of irony involved in the fact that our family has been driving a fancy 2016 Lexus IS 200t this week. I dropped the VHS tape in your baby sister Holly’s car seat and safely delivered the tape home to you for us to enjoy over the weekend.

Dear Jack: Your1st Introduction to a VHS Tape- Disney’s Benji the Hunted (from 1987)

In this 1987 Disney movie, Benji the dog must help save some mountain lion cubs from predatory animals of the Oregon forest and eventually be rescued by his owner who is searching for him in a helicopter. There’s hardly any dialogue in this movie; mainly just animals chasing each other around in the woods.

It was right up your alley. You love animals.

And you were impressed by the fact they were real animals, unlike what you’re used to seeing on all those talking animal movies you see on Netflix.

Once the movie was over, I explained the concept of having to rewind the movie. You were slightly fascinated by the fact that the movie just turned black and stopped once it was over.

You are a cultured boy. In the same weekend you got to see the new Captain America movie in the theater, you also saw a 29 year-old movie on an old VHS tape.

I suppose it’s been a weekend of entertainment… and education.



Dear Jack: Your1st Introduction to a VHS Tape- Disney’s Benji the Hunted (from 1987)

Classic Home Videos

Where were you on Labor Day of 1990?Before there were reality shows starring idiots for us to pity/make fun of every week, or a phenomenon called YouTube where any fool can upload their tomfoolery for the entire world to see, there were two decades (the ‘80’s and ‘90’s) where we filmed opportune moments of our own lives and kept them to ourselves to laugh at.  And they became classic VHS gold, forever saved in our memories; ready material for reminiscing with those involved, in an instant’s notice.

The most honored tape of cherished memories still at my parents’ house is labeled “Labor Day ‘90”.  It had just been a few months earlier that my parents finally sacrificed a thousand dollars for the behemoth black-and-white-view-finder-equipped video recorder.  On that lazy afternoon at my Italian grandfather’s house with the whole family there, our lazy vacation day became a personal collection of gems. 

So maybe those moments aren’t funny to the rest of the world (not YouTube material), but to our family, the tape is hilarious every time we throw it in the now antique VHS player.  These moments include, but are not limited to the following:

“Is this thing gonna be that thang?”- My sister holds up to the camera in one hand a dandelion in which the wind had blown off the seeds, and in the other hand, a dandelion still with all its seeds in tact.  Then in her (at the time) Southern-fried accent asked the camera operator (my mom), “Is this thing gonna be that thang?”

“Can you figure it out?”-Sitting sideways on a plastic ribbon braided lawn chair with my arms behind my back, I faced the camera while my dad hid behind me, putting his arms out as my own.  As my mom asked me basic questions, none of which I seemed to know the answer, my dad used his arms to make motions to indicate it (he used his arms to scratch my head like I was thinking, etc.). 

It was pretty obvious he was behind me, not only for the fact that his arms were much bigger and darker than mine, but also because his mullet was showing in the shot.  Finally my mom (as the cameraman) asks the viewers at home, “Can you figure it out?”

“Nick and Dana… back up now!”-  My grandfather lived on five acres which he was very proud of and which was prone to appearances of wildlife.  In the front yard that day, he found a baby bird in nest in a small tree (only about five feet tall).  My mom walked the camera over to the tree, attempting to zoom in on the bird.  In the meantime, my sister and I (respectively ages 6 and 9) ran over to see if we could get a closer look at the bird. 

For fear of us scaring the bird away (like a baby bird is going to fly way…), my mom warned us, through clenched teeth (to keeping from scaring the baby bird away) “Nick and Dana… back up now!”  The hilarious part is that the whole time the camera was on the tree, the bird was barely visible up in the top corner of the shot. 

“I’m a winner!”- My dad, who a year later won 2nd place in the Northeast Alabama karate sparring tournament, was “play fighting” me.  Doing my best to ward off his slow-motion kicks and punches, he finally got me in a headlock.  He growled to me, “Say ‘I’m a winner’!  Say it!  Say it!”  I struggled to escape as he took me to the ground.  I gave in, with a clever twist.  I declared, “I’m a winner!” in a wimpy, Southern, nine year-old voice that in no way indicated what I was saying was true. 

We were the original comedians of comedy in our own worlds.  And even if we never get around to converting those video clips from VHS to digital format and eventually to YouTube, those classic hilarious moments in our minds are still better than any reality TV shows we’ll ever know.

Why Eighties Movies are So Hard to Remake

And what happened to the genre of romantic comedies…

Back in October I was stuck at home for a few days with severe sinus and allergy problems, streaming Netflix instantly on my laptop all day. I decided to take a break with an ‘80’s movie that I had nothing but fond memories of since my family rented it on VHS when I was in the 3rd grade.  A movie that the general American population still only refers to with a smile and a goofy laugh: Weekend at Bernie’s.

I made it through 38 minutes before shutting it off.  That movie is so boring.  Not funny.  Too unbelievable.  It took them 33 minutes to kill Bernie, and by the time they finally did, I stopped caring.

As I thought more about it, ‘80’s movies aren’t easy to successfully remake because those cheesy, far-fetched, imagination-dependent ideas just don’t fly now that Aerosol hairspray isn’t clogging our brain anymore.  The Eighties were the only ten years that we would buy those concepts.

Like Tom Hanks in Splash (1984).  He falls in love with a mermaid.

Or Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf (1985).  He is a high school basketball star who happens to have inherited “the werewolf gene”.

Or Andrew McCarthy in Mannequin (1987).  He falls in love with a mannequin that comes to life at the mall he works at.

Or Tom Hanks in Big (1988).  He transforms from a boy to a man and falls in love with a grown woman. And just the record, it remains one of my all time favorite movies.

There was this reoccurring mix of fantasy and romance.  Often with drab dialogue.  But completely overshadowed by its towering gimmick of a plot.

These days, we’re too cool for silly ideas like that.  Since Terminator 2 impressed us with believable CGI (computer generated imagery) in 1991, then Jurassic Park in 1993, we’ve been straying from fantasy and romance, and focusing more on sci-fi with some romance.  Leading us to the days of Avatar and Transformers.  And most obviously, the soon-to-end TV series LOST.

And that’s why if today, if they Steven Spielberg remade Gremlins, it would be a hit.  Or Ghostbusters 3, if they ever actually end up making the movie.  Because that’s something the Eighties gave us that worked: horror and comedy along with sci-fi.  They are currently remaking Child’s Play.  And of course, the Nightmare on Elm Street remake comes out this Friday.

We adopted sci-fi horror comedies and sci-fi romance from the Eighties, but what haven’t translated over are romantic comedies and romantic dramas.  Yes, romantic comedies and dramas still exist.  A new one is released into theatres every week.

But overall, they’ve earned a lousy reputation.  Romantic comedies have become “chick flicks”, typically meaning they’re too predictable and cliché for a man to enjoy.  The “girl goes shopping and tries on ten different dresses for her girlfriends during a musical montage” scene.  Too familiar.

The Eighties pulled off romantic comedies.  They knew how to make them work for both men and women: Can’t Buy Me Love, The Princess Bride, Roxanne, When Harry Met Sally, Overboard.

But there’s only so much Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant a man can stand watching.  So what happened because of it?  Judd Apatow and his friends made the genre of bromantic comedies more popular than romantic comedies.  And not just films that feature Seth Rogan.  The Hangover and I Love You Man had nothing to do with Apatow.

I’m all for seeing a good romantic comedy.  Truly.  I like the good ones, unashamedly.  But it’s been a long time since one has been made.

It’s simply unnatural for the romantic genre to be catered towards women- because romance is about a man and a woman.  Because Katherine Heigl and a remote controlled dildo device don’t make a great team (reference to The Ugly Truth).  But Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan do.

After enough corny romantic comedies, we men got the point:  Romantic comedies are no longer for couples- they’re for single women.  So we avoid them and instead run to R-rated comedies featuring funny Jewish lead comedians like Paul Rudd and Jason Segal (Manspeak, Volume 7: Bromance).

The concept of romance in movies has become polarized.  Women watch chick flicks and men watch bromantic comedy.  Ironic.

As for romantic dramas these days, Nicholas Sparks pretty much has the monopoly on that: A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, The Last Song, Nights in Rodanthe.

Someone tragically dies.  A disapproving mother.  A Southern setting.  Got it.

So what can we say about remaking ‘80’s movies?  Some of them, many of them, most of them, need to stay where they belong- in the ‘80’s and in our fond memories.  But the ones that made us laugh, while freaking us out, while being drenched in sci-fi, well, we want more of those.  And the ones that were truly romantic, catering to both men and women, we want more of those.

We’ll always have a love/hate relationship with the Eighties.

Pickles Make for Good Reading Material- Episode 3

At some point in most people’s lives, they receive an unlabeled manila envelope in the mail.  They open the envelope only to find an unmarked VHS tape.  Then they struggle to find their VHS player underneath a bunch of stuff in the junk closet.  They play the tape.


A sophisticated man in a tweed jacket with a pipe tucked in the pocket introduces himself.  He explains to the viewer that also in the envelope is a check for $50,000.  The catch is that the money has to be spent within one month and it can’t be used for charity, vehicles, electronics, clothing, Internet investments, advertising for the intent of profit, food, home repairs or upgrades, education, medical bills, or gifts for other people.  The man in the video admits that he really liked the 1985 movie Brewster’s Millions which he is basically stealing the concept from, just on a smaller budget.


When that day comes in my own life, I have already decided how I will spend the $50,000.  Though the rules clearly stated I can’t use the money for advertising with the intent of profit, it didn’t mention advertising with no intentions of profit.  I would purchase “deep thinking” billboard signs.  The content of the sign would be designed to encourage deep thinking and healthy conversation for passers-by.


The first idea I have for a billboard would be one that said, “There are 3 words in the English language that end in ‘gry’.  ‘Hungry’ and ‘angry’ are the first 2.  What is the third one?”  This is a riddle someone got from an e-mail forward back in 1998 that they read to me.  After several years of trying to figure it out, I realized that there must be no 3rd word.  So that would probably make a pretty good billboard to keep people’s minds going.


I have mentioned before that I want to punch teenage boys in the face that wear those annoying, pointless, attention-grabbing t-shirts that can be found in the $9 section at Wal-Mart.  Smart Alec comments like “I’m out of my mind.  Be back tomorrow.”  Or the shirt that has a camouflage design but has neon orange letters that say “You can’t see me”.  However, there are some I made up that would work pretty well on a billboard.  To be driving down the interstate, and see a billboard that reads “What?”  Or “You tell me.”  That would be alright.


But my favorite billboard to try out would be one with a giant pickle where the middle had been hollowed out with a knife.  The caption would read:  “Welcome to Pickle Holler.”  This would cause people to engage in a healthy debate with others in the car.  Some would say it means that they are passing through a country neighborhood called Pickle Hollow but because of the cultural language difference the word “hollow” is pronounced “holler”.  Others would realize that the picture is a play on words because the pickle has been hollowed out.