Crabwalk.com readers with radically different body clocks than mine should tune into KVIL 103.7 Sunday morning at 7 a.m. You’ll get to hear me talk about my story on Sunday’s front page. Actually, you’ll get to hear me yawn a lot and mumble a bit, all the while cursing my level of alcohol consumption the night before.
Mark my words: At some point in the next 10 years, a magazine writer will write about how early Van Halen is cool again. A critical reappraisal will uncover the layers of social commentary within “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” (“I heard the news baby / All about your disease”). The lyrics of “Panama” (particularly the spoken-word section) will be parsed for references to Jimmy Carter’s 1977 signing of the Panama Canal Treaty. Scholars will argue the place “Ice Cream Man” should hold, deontologically speaking, among the anchoring classics of outsider music. Drummers from Brooklyn all the way to Queens will ape Alex Van Halen’s thunderous attack. David Lee Roth will stand proudly alongside Woody Allen, Andy Kaufman, and Shel Silverstein as preeminent Jewish artists.
Related: The David Lee Roth Choose Your Own Adventure game.
Will the thievery never cease?
First some little-known writer named Gunter Grass — I hear he won a Nobel something or another — decides to call his new book Crabwalk.
Now comes Crabwalk The Movie. No, it’s not a harrowing documentary of me surfing for Jason Bateman factoids. It’s a 17-minute short that apparently showed at SXSW while I was there. “When a 26-year-old college-educated deadbeat takes his freeloading too far, he’s forced by his parents to spend the day in search of gainful employment. After stealing a moped, losing his under shorts and getting into a fistfight, he finds much more.”
“Highly satisfying!” — Filmthreat.com.
The Onion AV Club has an interview up with Jason Bateman. It includes this exchange:
O: To this day, there are people out there who are fans of It’s Your Move.
JB: I get a lot of really nice comments about that show. I guess there were a lot more people watching TV back then, and there were only three networks, and we were all 14 or 15 and doing nothing but watching TV and staring at girls. It was a good time to be on TV.
I confess: I am one of those people.
When I was a kid, I loooooved It’s Your Move. Bateman played Matthew Burton, a 14-year-old kid with a hot single mom. Matthew wants to protect his mom from the steady stream of loser suitors, so he becomes something of a con artist. He was constantly playing pranks and assembling Rube Goldberg-esque schemes to sabotage the men who pursued his mom.
At the series’ start, a journalist named Norman Lamb moves in across the hall from Matthew’s apartment. (Norman was played by David Garrison, later known as next-door neighbor Steve on Married…with Children. Actually, IYM shared a lot with MWC.) Norman’s cool, and he and Matthew’s mom dig each other. Of course, Matthew doesn’t approve and begins his usual sabotage campaign. But — and here’s the key — Norman is just as scheming and cunning as Matthew, and they spend the whole series trying to one-up each other with elaborate pranks and schemes.
It was awesome.
It’s Your Move gave hope to nine-year-olds like me that you could be a little awkward and a little dorky but still be cool — if you were smart and could think up cool pranks to play on people. (Remember, Jason Bateman had serious cool cred left over from Silver Spoons.) It was all about brains winning out over brawn. Hell, the cool adult was a journalist, for heaven’s sake.
Here are summaries of the show’s 18 episodes. At Episodes 12 and 13, you’ll notice the two-part “The Dregs of Humanity” epic, one of the seminal moments in my television childhood. The summary:
Matthew’s idiot buddy Eli (Adam Jay Sadowsky) loses the money to hire the band Morning Breath for a school dance. Out of cash and bandless, they resort to a brilliant piece of chicanery: they dress up some science class skeletons in rock finery and manipulate them marionette style as prerecorded heavy metal blares through the sound system and careful smoke machine fog and lighting obscure the truth. [The band’s name: The Dregs of Humanity.] Not only do they get away with it, but the band is an instant hit! Too big of a hit, actually. Matthew pays the price for overexercising his promotional skills as new fans demand to know more. Matthew, in WAY over his head, agrees to an interview — conducted by his mom’s reporter boyfriend, Norman Lamb…Matthew sets up his skeletons again, Norman gets suspicious, and as tension mounts, it’s all to be continued next week!
This was real drama! Would Norman figure out the charade? We’d find out in part two, to be broadcast the next week, January 9, 1985. But…
Reagan decided to hold an evening press conference on January 9! Part two was preempted! I remember being enraged that Soviet arms talks would come before the fate of The Dregs of Humanity!
Remember, these were the days before the Internet, before TiVo, before cable reruns. Thanks to Ronald Reagan, I’d never find out what happened!
(I think this incident may have had a formative impact on my political views.)
For the record, I evidently wasn’t the only kid thrown into a Reagan-fueled fury that night. Examples picked from the Internet:
– “I recall writing President Reagan a very angry letter when he addressed the nation and It’s Your Move was not shown that week”
– “preempted by a speech from then President Reagan (I knew there was a reason I didn’t like him)”
– “not even do I remember the Dregs of Humanity 2-parter, I remember that “It’s your Move” aired on Wednesday night, and that the week the second half of the two parter was scheduled to air, Reagan had some speech or press conference or something that pre-empted it. I was completely devestated, and it was years before I was able to see the second half of it when some loser friend of mine happened to have it on tape. And to think, until I thought about it today, I was under the impression that there was a time when I wasn’t a big loser. Guess not.”
We’re talking about a formative moment in my generation’s collective youth.
Anyway, the Internet has finally brought me closure, 19 years after the fact. Here’s what happens in part two:
The Dregs are no-shows at a sold-out concert, Norman gets wise, Matthew gets sued, and in a second stroke of brilliance, kills off The Dregs by having them drive off a cliff into the sea. And where did this teen con-man get a car? Well, Norman made enough money selling his interview to Rolling Stone to buy a used car. Presumably, he had something to lose if the band is revealed as a fraud, since he inadvertently perpetrated it with his interview. So he is convinced to donate his car to the cause. In a later episode, a newspaper shows the Dregs being posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
I’m glad that China has gotten around to killing off one of its damnable Maoist lies, that the Great Wall is the only manmade object visible from space. The wall’s maybe 10, 20 feet across. If it’s visible, then I-35 is visible.
I’m in Rayne for the weekend. When I got here last night, my grandmother mentioned that the local cable company had added a few channels to our lineup.
(I’m cableless back in Dallas, so my trips to Rayne are my only substantial doses of TV each year.)
So I’m punching through the remote and get to channel 50. And I just about have a heart attack.
Channel 50 is MTV.
You see, Rayne is not an MTV-friendly community. When cable came to town in the 1980s, the city’s government asked the (then locally owned) cable company not to carry MTV. 1980s-era MTV was, of course, the work of Satan, and young minds needed to be protected from its ways.
It wasn’t the art of music video that was sinful — we had two country-music video networks. But no MTV.
A few years back, the local operator sold out to Cox. And evidently they decided that MTV was a healthy part of any child’s media diet. Hence the revolution.
And maybe I’m getting old, but — geez, I wouldn’t want my kids to be watching MTV all day. At the moment, Usher and two people named La La and Lil Jon are hosting an instructional show on “how to be a playa” and have lots of anonymous sex at spring break. (Is it just me, or is MTV Spring Break among the more villainous forces in American popular culture?)
Readers of my Zambia adventures may remember my aborted story list: Zambia stories I just didn’t have time to fully report while I was there. No. 3 on that list: The migration of Zimbabwe’s white farmers to Zambia.
I’d like to think the New York Times read that entry on zambiastories.com and was inspired to write today’s story on that very topic.
Plans for the crabwalk.com West Coast Listening Tour 2004 are shaping up. I will be in:
* Seattle from April 2-5.
* San Francisco from April 13-20.
While my schedules are not exactly clear during those stretches (visiting Fiona in Seattle and attending a seminar in S.F.), I’d love to meet up with any interested crabwalk.com readers. San Franciscans in particular, since I should be roaming the city free of responsibility all day on the 14th, 18th, and 19th. (In addition, all offers for couches to crash on would be appreciated. I’ve got company-paid hotels for the 14th through 17th, but I’m currently abodeless for the other evenings.)
As always, the first drink is on me. Drinks two through 19 are on you. (Joke!)