When I was growing up, about once every 5 or 6 weeks during the school year, late on a weekday afternoon (hence the name), ABC would air an Afterschool Special. Oh, how I looked forward to those shows! They really were special. They made me feel like someone was actually thinking about me and wanting to tell me what I needed to know.
They could be about just about anything. Divorce, girls in sports, bullying, blended families, stuttering, alcoholism, reproduction, death, foster parents, weight, secrets, popularity, puberty, friendship, teen pregnancy, drugs, STDs, child abuse, suicide… you name it.
And in retrospect, an amazing cast of stars popped up in these little stories. Actors included Will Smith, Adam Sandler, William H. Macy, Wil Wheaton, Michael Jackson, Marisa Tomei, Michael York, Beau Bridges, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patty Duke, Rob Lowe, Kristy McNichol, and Jodie Foster. You just never knew who was going to show up in your living room. It was really kind of exciting.
Nowadays an ABC Afterschool Special wouldn’t work. Kids don’t watch live, network TV anymore. They aren’t bound by viewing schedules. They probably don’t even have to consult the TV Guide. They watch what they want, when they want.
It kind of makes me happy that I grew up when I did. I’d have hated to miss out on all those age-appropriate life lessons, courtesy of ABC.
Oooh, but I just discovered a bunch of them are on Youtube now! I may have to take a walk down memory lane!
(At the time I first wrote this post, I wasn’t aware that Billy Sue was a fictional character. Now, everyone knows that. But you know what? I still love Billy Sue, and I don’t regret at all having paid for the video below. I paid to be entertained. She entertained me. She earned it. It’s all good.)
In this internet age, it seems like we all can get more than our usual 15 minutes of fame. I mean, you’re reading this blog, right? And what makes me so special?
In that same vein, about a year ago I stumbled upon the YouTube channel of Jessie 31. She would video the antics of her crazy neighbor, Billy Sue. Billy Sue is a hillbilly with a hot temper and no filter whatsoever. I’d be afraid to live next door to her, if I’m honest. She shouts a lot. And throws things.
And you can tell if you watch these videos that they’re not staged in any way. Billy Sue is sincere in her fury and outrage. In that way, she kind of reminds me of my favorite cartoon character, Marvin Martian. He taught me as a child that it’s okay to be angry sometimes. And that made me love him.
And there’s something about Billy Sue, and the way Jessie manages to get along with her, that just makes me kind of love them both. They make me laugh. They make me happy. It’s hard to explain. It’s kind of like beer. Either you like it or you don’t.
Well, recently Jessie came up with an idea to let Billy Sue make a little money off their YouTube fame. They registered on Cameo.com, and now, for a small fee (which is apparently rising quickly), you can get a shout out from Billy Sue.
I couldn’t resist. So here’s the video Billy Sue made just for me. She even talks about this blog and wishes me luck. I can’t stop smiling every time I watch it. Worth it at twice the price. And I guess she’s figuring that out, because it now costs more than twice what I paid. Well, good for her, I say!
I love that delicious point where art and science intersect. I don’t encounter it nearly enough for my liking, so when I do, I savor it. It seems as though most minds go in one direction or the other. It’s a rare one that appreciates both. That why such minds, and their creations, are priceless. Leonardo da Vinci, with his art and inventions, springs to mind.
So imagine my delight when a friend (waving at Mor) turned me on to the A Capella Science guy on Youtube. Tim Blais just got his master’s degree in physics, and he also happens to have the voice of an angel, and from what I can tell, is a consummate videographer as well. Such creativity, such profound intelligence. All in one delightful package.
What I love most about Tim Blais is that I’m sure he’s getting people interested in science topics that they wouldn’t have previously explored. He’s making science cool. No. I take that back. Science was already cool. He’s just making a lot more of us realize it.
I think I can speak for all the creative nerds out there when I say, “Thanks, Tim!”
If you are on Facebook, and are even the slightest bit liberal, chances are you’ve seen videos by Randy Rainbow. He’s like the Weird Al Yankovic of our time. Not only does he sing much better than Al, but his messages are practically vital for one’s sanity in the Trump era. He shines a light on the insanity, and makes you laugh about it. He makes you feel a little less alone in our present-day Twilight Zone. Bless him!
So, when I discovered that he was touring, and that he’d be in Seattle, of course I had to go! And it was, as expected, hysterical, and delightful, and a much-needed political palate cleanser.
He performed many of his most popular parodies, including:
This is a comedian and performer who came at just the right time, to just the right place. If you get to see him live, I highly recommend it. At the very least, subscribe to his Youtube channel or his Facebook page and prepare to laugh!
Here are some blurry pictures I took of him in his many costumes at the concert. They’d no doubt horrify him, but hey, who said I was a photographer? Enjoy!
If you were told that someone had a talent that only a handful of people on the entire planet had, wouldn’t you be impressed? Wouldn’t you be even more impressed if you knew that person was also a free speech advocate, had been in a few films, organizes for street performers, is a storyteller and has a radio show?
Meet Abby the Spoon Lady. This woman is talented beyond measure. She’s also intelligent, well-traveled, and dedicated. That should be all anyone needs to know about her.
But that’s not how the world works. If you check out her Youtube channel or Facebook page, both of which show you dozens of amazing performances, you’ll be enchanted. Unless you start reading the comments. Then, if you’re like me, you’ll be infuriated. While many people recognize her talent, trolls abound. They criticize her looks. They criticize her clothes. They criticize her lack of teeth.
It seems to me that if Abby were a man, she wouldn’t get this type of feedback. But being a woman in the music world, you’re supposed to be glamorous and perfect in every way, or you can’t be taken seriously. I don’t find Willie Nelson particularly attractive, but you don’t hear people discussing that to the point where his talent gets forgotten, do you?
Give Abby a break. I think she’s beautiful. I think her talent is also beautiful. I think the world is a much more beautiful place because she’s in it. I hope I get to see her perform live someday. And if I do, I hope the trolls stay home.
I just love crunchy food. My latest thing is Trader Joe’s Giant Peruvian Inca Corn. It’s salty, it’s filling, and you can almost convince yourself that it’s a serving of vegetables. But it’s the crunch that does it for me. I feel like Godzilla destroying a metropolis when I eat it. It’s very satisfying.
I’ve also long been a fan of bubble wrap. A friend once gave me a whole roll of it for Christmas. I could pop that stuff all day long. There’s something to be said for sound effects that accompany harmless destruction. I’m convinced it lowers my blood pressure.
For those of you who are as far out on the lunatic fringe as I am, I’ve recently come across hundreds of videos on Youtube made by “Dr. Pimple Popper”. Dr. Sandra Lee is a dermatologist in California, and she’s been making videos of her various procedures for years now. If you have a weak stomach, this Youtube channel is not for you, but I have to confess it mesmerizes me. I can and have watched these videos for hours.
It is amazing, the weird things our bodies can produce. Cysts the size of goose eggs that Dr. Lee sometimes is able to remove intact, or sometimes has to burst first. Dialated Pores of Winer are fascinating. The stuff seems to come out for days. Sometimes the contents are hard as a rock, sometimes not.
And you get to know some of the patients, albeit anonymously. Dr. Lee really has changed some people’s lives. What a great job to have!
I am not the only person obsessed with these videos. Some of them have more than 8 million views. People say they find them relaxing. They say it helps them sleep. I get that. It’s like Dr. Lee is definitively solving a big, distressing, painful problem, and for a moment, all’s right with the world.
I used to have a boyfriend who didn’t mind me popping his pimples. I liked doing it. Not only because sometimes it looked like invasion of the body snatchers or something, but also because I felt like I was helping him feel and look better. Then I had a boyfriend who absolutely refused to let me touch his pimples, and it would drive me insane.
Is this something I should add to my internet dating profile? What do you think? They say there’s someone for everyone…
Every now and then I can’t sleep, and rather than toss and turn and get frustrated as the clock ticks past 4 a.m., I log on to Youtube and watch videos by Ze Frank. Not that they put me to sleep, mind you. Far from it. They make me laugh hysterically and forget whatever I had been mind-grinding about in the first place. If I’m going to lose sleep, I may as well do it with a smile on my face.
If you spend any time on Facebook, you probably have encountered the work of Mr. Frank without even realizing it. He’s the president of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, which produces hilarious viral videos.
The first Ze Frank video I ever saw was Sad Dog Diary. How can you not love a dog that says “Dear Diary, it’s not so much that I miss my testicles. I know it’s a rite of passage in our pack, and I’m sure that my dearest human has had his removed as well, but when that one bulldog comes to the dog park and parades his testicles around, I can’t help but notice how Ginger looks at them. I love Ginger. To be fair, I will admit he has a fine smelling butt hole.”
From there I moved on to his True Facts series. True facts about the Octopus. True Facts about the Armadillo, and so on. These are not only a laugh riot, but they actually teach you some really fascinating things about nature. I’ll never look at a duck again without remembering that the males have a long, corkscrew-shaped penis, for example, or that the cuttlefish is color blind despite the fact that it can change colors for camouflage, or that the mantis has five eyes. Ze, if you read this, I hope you’ll make True Facts about the Coelacanth some day. I think it would be epic.
He also has a website that I’ve only briefly explored, and can tell it will result in hours of smiles. In addition, he’s given some of the most entertaining TED talks I’ve ever seen. This is a man with talent and humor and a great deal of heart. And dimples. I’m a sucker for dimples.
And if you’re ever feeling sad, just listen to his song, Chillout, which he created with the help of total strangers from all over the world. I dare you not to feel comforted.
If I’m introducing you to Ze Frank for the first time, then I’ve given you quite a gift. Remember that, next time my birthday rolls around. You forgot it this time. I was crushed.