Retroist Podcast – Episode 181 – The Bionic Woman

On today’s show I talk all about the seventies sci-fi action TV series, The Bionic Woman. I start off talking about how the Bionic Woman added extra facets to my childhood play with friends. Then I move onto the show and talk about the cast, the plot, the book that started the whole bionic craze, the music and much much more.

metagirl is back with the Retroist Top 5 (or is it 8) episodes of The Bionic Woman.

Music on the show was provided by Peachy (the Joe Harnell of Wales), if you have musical needs, why not “like” him on his Facebook Page.

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I Need Somebody – Like Bryan Adams’ Reckless

In an effort to make myself feel old and wallow in the glory of the days gone by, I am going to continue my look at albums that turn 30 this year.  A couple of weeks ago I took a look at Phil Collins’s No Jacket Required, now I turn my attention to 1985’s hit album by Bryan Adams – Reckless.

Reckless was released in November of 1984, but peaked at #1 on Billboard album charts in August of 1985 (so it counts).  To be honest, the first singles from this album did not really catch me.  It was not until the ballad Heaven topped the singles chart in June that I started to take notice.  It’s Only Love, a duet with Tina Turner was the song that caught me and forced me to go back and listen to the album more closely – and it quickly became one of my favorites.  There are only a few albums that I own that I can say have no bad tracks- there is not a song on Reckless that I feel a need to skip- even today.

Yes, there were hits from this album:

Run to You (#6)
Somebody (#11)
Heaven (#1)
Summer of ‘69 (#5)
One Night Love Affair (#13)
It’s Only Love with Tina Turner (#15)

The chart success of this album is clear, but, as with most music that sticks with the listener, the music is more than away to pass the time.  Reckless spoke to me as a sixteen year old.  I was able to find a way to make each track fit my life and desires.  I wish I could say that I had a slew of girlfriends and each song reminded me of them, but that would be a lie.  But I was looking! The song Somebody was exactly what I was saying to my friends – we all want somebody to be with so there has to be somebody out there for me, too.  Then Heaven comes along and captures the emotions of being with someone you are in love with.  This is not to be overshadowed by Run to You that asked the question: what do you do if you fall for a girl while being with someone else?  There is even a touch of that teenage rebellion with Kids Want To Rock.

Now, as an experienced, thoughtful adult (Ha!), I consider Summer of ‘69 as the album’s highlight and strongest track.  In a recent interview in Rolling Stone, Adams said, “Truth be told, Summer of ’69 just sounded right lyrically.  If I’m really coming clean, I should admit that my buddy Brodie bet me I couldn’t write a hit song with sixty-nine in the title.  Had to prove that hoser wrong, you know what I mean?” Ok, maybe, but I think this song goes deeper than that.  If you have not listened to this song recently- go listen carefully now.  The song speaks to our desire to recapture the past knowing at the same time that it is impossible to do so.

And now the times are changing
Look at everything that’s come and gone
Sometimes when I play that old six string
I think about you, wondering what went wrong

In November of 2014, Bryan Adams released a 30th anniversary edition of Reckless.  This box set includes the original album with tracks that were not released on the original and a live album.

When I review Billboard’s top albums and singles of 1985 I get a bit sad and the memories come rushing back.  Fortunately, most of the memories are good, so I am definitely going to keep this ‘series’ of posts going.  Why shouldn’t I?  I get to spend an entire week listening to some of my favorite music again, and again, and again.  Reckless is a great album that I am happy to experience as often as possible.


Jack Horkheimer: The Star Gazer

In my younger days during the 1990s while I channel surfed (we loved that term back then) late at night there were a few shows that I’d catch irregularly that are forever embedded on my brain. One of them was “The Star Gazer” (originally called The Star Hustler) staring an interesting man named Jack Horkheimer. Mr. Horkheimer wasn’t a traditional TV star. A portly dude wearing a windbreaker, sporting a mustache, and speaking in a soft voice wasn’t what one would think of as someone who would be the centerpiece of a national television series, but he was all over PBS stations across the nation.

If you’re not familiar with The Star Gazer, basically you’d be watching PBS at night and this very distinctive music would kick in, The Star Gazer himself would show up, tell you what you’d expect to see outside during a certain time frame while he stood in outer space, and then he’d sign off with his catchphrase, “Keep looking up.”

And it was awesome.

The Star Gazer was dedicated to “naked eye” astronomy, which is what you can see in the night sky without the aid of the telescope (if you were lucky enough to live in a place where you can see the stars, sorry big city folks). Each episode only lasted five minutes a piece. Again, something that isn’t normal in the world of 30 minute or an hour-long episode chunks.

Who was The Star Gazer? That was Jack Horkheimer who was a pretty interesting dude. He was born in 1938 in Randolph, Wisconsin and got a Science degree at Purdue University. He eventually he found his way to Miami where he volunteered at Miami Science Museum planetarium. He eventually became the director of the planetarium, which shows that volunteering can pay off. Jack managed to turn the planetarium into a money-maker by changing it from a straight up science lecture into something more entertaining by incorporating lights, narration, and music which would be replicated at many other planetariums. Fun fact: Famous talk show host Sally Jessy Raphael was a voice in his show at one point.

One notable fact about Jack Horkheimer was that he struggled with respiratory problems almost his whole life. You really couldn’t tell by watching Star Gazer though. His excitement for astronomy overcame any physical ailments.

Unfortunately Jack Horkheimer, the Star Gazer, is no longer with us. He passed away in 2010, but he leaves behind some fond memories. And hopefully he inspired many of us to take a look out at the night sky.

The show lives on as Star Gazers. Jack was such a powerful presence that it takes two
guys to fill his shoes on Star Gazers.

One thing I love about Star Gazer is that it’s an underground form of nostalgia. It’s not something you might think of, but if someone says to you, “Hey, remember that show on PBS about astronomy hosted by the guy with the mustache?” You immediately respond with an excited rush of memories and say, “Oh yeah! That guy!” In the case of my girlfriend her response was, “You mean the guy that had the woo woo woo music? That used to creep me out.” Okay, not all of us react the same way, but it’s fun when you find out someone used to watch The Stargazer too. Heck, even during 1997 when I was a senior in High School (with relatively no internet), I wasn’t sure that anyone else besides myself had seen the series. It wasn’t until I became semi-friends with this guy that we both geeked out over the series. It was like a nostalgic bond over a show that was still airing.

Speaking of the music from Star Gazer, here’s the full thing theme song. It’s by Isao Tomita and it’s called Arabesque No. 1. If you think the first part is unique, just wait until the 1 minute 20 second mark.

While Jack Horkheimer is gone he is not forgotten. Sometimes when I’m looking at a starry sky, I think of Jack floating around up there and telling the world to, “Keep Looking Up.”


LOOT CRATE goes retro for January 2015!

LOOT CRATE is a “Monthly Box of Geek & Gamer Gear” whose arrival is greatly anticipated by my household each month. Arriving in the mail, the now almost-iconic black shipping box of LOOT CRATE is stuffed with a multitude of miscellaneous geekery which is usually relevant to the current zeitgeist of Geekdom. A subscription service, LOOT CRATE reminds me of many of those childhood monthly mail-orders where you received a new Dr. Suess book, pack of wildlife cards, or even a record album on your doorstep every 30 days. Although with those monthly subscriptions you usually had an opportunity to choose what is sent to you, while with LOOT CRATE the only hint you have as to what will be coming is a posted theme on their website. Not knowing what to exactly expect in the black box each month makes receiving it that much more fun.
LOOTCRATE_BLACKBOXWell this month’s LOOT CRATE, January of 2015, was put together with the theme of “Rewind.” When I received it in the mail today, I was pleasantly surprised to see a box full of retro-minded items. Amongst the many items is an issue of the LOOT CRATE Magazine, an eighteen page booklet that not only tells you about all the included items in the box but also has a couple of relevant articles on these items and a brief article tied-in with the box’s theme. Here is an excerpt from the magazine about this month’s theme:
LootCrate_themeIn looking back at prior month’s LOOT CRATEs it seems there is at least one item that would be considered retro but this month’s box is all retro.

Finally, the LOOT CRATE black box itself is an item that is customized with each month’s theme. For this retro “Rewind!” January, the black box can be easily unassembled, folded over, and reassembled into this LOOT CRATE retro game console, complete with a punch-out-and-fold controller from the back cover of the LOOT CRATE Magazine.

LootCrate_box02Each month the contents of the LOOT CRATE are divvied up amongst my five children and myself (and sometimes my wife). If I’m lucky I might be able to walk off with the SPACE INVADERS tie but, as for my 12-year-old son, he has declared that he will be going to school in the Voltron shirt and 8Bit shades. Retro will be walking the halls of middle school thanks to LOOT CRATE.


Fight the Cold with this Space Invaders scarf

Winter has us in its icy grip and if you are looking for a way to stay warm, might I suggest you find a skilled knitter and ask them to make you an 8-bit style video game scarf like this one by Umulu.

Not only will you look great and stay warm, but you will make a statement about your choice in gaming style. Personally, I would rather have a frozen neck than wear anything non-8-bit.


JC Penney’s Denim-Testing Robot, Super Dennis?

Ever wonder how they test the durability of those jeans you wear? Well according this JC Penney’s commercial from the mid-seventies, it is all done by a humanoid robot named Super Dennis.

Super Dennis works 24/7 to punish their tough Super Denim and he does it with splits, jumps, turns, squats and scooting across the floor. The jeans were apparently robot proof and for 6 bucks that is quite a steal.

I know no one would get the reference, but I really want to go as Super Dennis for next Halloween.

Frank Frazetta - Fright Rags

Fright-Rags Presents The Frank Frazetta T-Shirt Collection

There is a very good reason that the late great Frank Frazetta’s work is legendary for fans of science fiction, fantasy, and comic books. Quite simply his artwork allowed us to visit lavish worlds of sword and sorcery, epic spacescapes and even sometimes witness brutal creatures of the night as they stalked their frightened prey and sometimes each other. Which might be why the folks at Fright-Rags have opened up pre-orders for their Frank Frazetta line of limited edition T-shirts!

There are three shirts offered with an exclusive fourth T-shirt design plus a 11X17 poster only if you pre-order the box set:

Death Dealer

All images courtesy of Frigh-Rags.

All images courtesy of Fright-Rags.

A Werewolf and his prey from the cover of a classic Creepy magazine.
Frank Frazetta - Creepy - Fright Rags

A Vampire and Werewolf locked in fierce battle, also from a cover of Creepy.
Frank Frazetta - Creepy 2 - Fright Rags

Remember that Fright-Rags prints their awesome shirts in limited quantities so they could sell out, better to jump on over and pre-order today. Of course while you are over there you might want to pick up some of their awesome shirts from a wide range of horror films (Return of the Living Dead to Critters) or even some of their limited edition posters (Check out the one for Exorcist III).