44 Years of Stuff: "Life of Brian" Bumper Sticker

It was Friday, August 17, 1979, and one of the movie theaters in Westwood had thrown down the gauntlet; the first 100 people who came to see the first showing of "Monty Python's Life of Brian" on its opening day would receive a free T-shirt and bumper sticker. Heck, that alone was worth more than the inflated $5 we had to pay to go see a movie "over the hill."

A friend of mine and I were not about to let the fact that we were still a year away from driving age deter us from such a prize. So we got on our bicycles in the Valley and pedaled almost nine miles over Benedict Canyon in the hot August summer. I remember what a great relief it was to coast down the other side on the way to Westwood, and how some stiffness had already set into my muscles when the movie ended and we had to go back. I can't believe we took our bikes through such a dangerous pass, especially now that I know how aggressive things can get trying to drive a car through there as an adult. But I got my sticker, and the accompanying cheap tan T-shirt with a black-and-white "Life of Brian" poster shot ironed on to the front. I'm sure that's around here somewhere, too.


Stalking Kristen Schaal

I have to admit that I’ve kind of been on the fence about the sophomore season of “Flight of the Conchords,” in part because founders Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie seem to be taking quite a back seat to guest vocals by the rest of the cast this year.

But that changed in an instant when my 20-month-old daughter became enthralled with the song “Like in My Dreams” by Mel, the cute ’n’ creepy stalker on the show played by Kristen Schaal. We’ve watched it over 50 times in the last four days, sometimes five to 10 times in a row, and I’m still finding something new to laugh at every time. Its loopy surrealism has provided a welcome respite from our usual menu of Wiggles and “Peep.”

Schaal herself has a lot more funny going on. She was recently in “Mad Men” and “Ugly Betty,” graced “The Daily Show” as a contributing correspondent in 2008, and will appear on the big screen as Gertha Teeth in “Cirque du Freak” with Salma Hayek, John C. Reilly and Willem Dafoe later this year. She also has a great MySpace page where she harbors original videos (check out “Angry Erotic Sheep in the Woods” and the ongoing “Penelope Princess of Pets”) along with over 20,000 friends.

I wrote the actress on a whim to tell her how much my little girl was enjoying her FOTC song and was surprised and delighted to receive a personal response that included another recommendation. “That's really sweet,” she said. “If she gets bored of it I hear the kids are into this clip as well.”

The clip she sent was of a song by The Striking Viking Story Pirates called “Abbey is Sile” (sic) and features Schaal as a hyperactive six-year-old. I know my little girl is going to love it, but I’m keeping it in my back pocket until I need an ace. In the meantime, I hope Schaal’s star shines so brightly that we all need to wear protective goggles.


Roger McGuinn: Fanfare for the Creative Commons Man

It took the Byrds to make me realize there was more to 1960s rock than the Beatles, and their folk roots have continued to inform countless bands with each generation of new musicians. So I was happily surprised to learn that former lead Byrd Roger McGuinn, whom I was lucky enough to interview with the release of his vastly underrated (and only) solo album "Back to Rio" in 1991, has been keeping busy recording an ongoing selection of old folk songs now in the public domain and offering them up as free MP3s on his website McGuinn’s Folk Den every month since November of 1995. McGuinn also has a great 4-CD, 100-song box set of his favorites available, but the freebies have a wonderful lo-fi quality about them that harkens the era in which many of them were first recorded, like some previously undiscovered nuggets that fell out of Alan Lomax’s knapsack. This month's Great Depression-era offering of "Nobody Knows You" seems a particularly poignant mix of the timeless and the timely.

Other picks:
"Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad"
"Wild Mountain Thyme"


44 Years of Stuff: "Lancelot Link" View-Master Reels

Kicking off some entries on random things I've accumulated over the last 44 years, this is an original set of "Lancelot Link Secret Chimp" View-Master reels. Under the aegis of Commander Darwin, Lance and the agents of APE (Agency to Prevent Evil) battled the evil-doers of CHUMP (Criminal Headquarters for an Underworld Master Plan) from 1970 to 1972 from a building that looked suspiciously like the Cinerama Dome from the outside. Along the way they also rocked out as The Evolution Revolution (shades of the Guess Who!), which quickly followed the Banana Splits as my first exposure to rock music or psychedelia of any kind.

Though I was too young to know what the "secret code" on the front of the View-Master cover could be when I was six, as a pre-teen Cub Scout I finally realized it was Morse Code and solved it as follows: "Lancelot Link Secret Chimp makes you an APE agent."