THE BOB AND RAY OVERSTOCKED SURPLUS WAREOUSE
by Graeme Cree
Jack Benny in the 1930's
Public Service Section
Historical Background: The Overstocked Surplus Warehouse concept was lifted from the Bob & Ray network in 1997 on the now-defunct AOL Hometown, at a time when screen names were only allowed 2 megabytes of web space. (I know, I know. I've got .mp3 files bigger than that now, too.)
As a result, material was rotated in and out constantly, depending on what somebody had asked me for. If I had it, I'd put it up long enough for them and anyone else who passed by to grab (photos, wave files, or whatever), and then take it down again to make room for something else. Nowadays, space isn't so much an issue, but the Overstocked Wareouse theme remains, as a constant reminder of the fact that I really need to do a full-blown Bob & Ray tribute page some day. Though things aren't rotated in and out so much any more, the page remains as the central hub of a sort of House of Potpourri of webpages I've done on several subjects, with no overall rhyme or reason. A list of categories appears to the left.
Note:The previous paragraph is labeled "Historical" Background, though truth be told, I had no idea in 1997 that I was back in history at all. At the time I was quite convinced that we were living in the modern era. It seems silly now.
SPECIALS OF THE "DAY"!
The problem with buying a Bob & Ray Overstocked Franchise store is finding room for your own stuff with all the junk they left behind. Nevertheless, we've managed to clear out a little space behind the Chocolate Wobblies, Impress-the-Boss Kits, cracked Forbush Dinnerware sets (Forbush: the plates a nation eats off... Of.), and stuffed owls to make a little room for today's specials.
|The part of the site that's gotten the most fan mail
over the years (most of it still unanswered. D'oh!) has been the Tom Lehrer
page. For those who don't know, Tom Lehrer is a retired satirical song writer
(as the page explains, sort of like a comedy version of Mark Russell). He's
the guy who more than anyone else kept
Dr. Demento in business
all those years.
I bought his 3 albums in the mid 90's, and found two main problems with them: 1) The liner notes didn't have the song lyrics. 2) Since the songs date from the 1950's and 60's, some of the references were a bit dated. (Manolete? Who is Manolete?) I decided that one could either kvetch about the problem, or try to do something about it. After kvetching for a while, I put together a page that listed the lyrics and verbal "patter" for each album track. (this was soon after I had first taught myself HTML, and was looking for something to do with it other than some silly Vanity Page). From this base, I started adding in footnotes and links to pages that explained some of the more obscure references, until I reached the point that you could read that page and know (as Ed McMahon might way) everything there is to know about Tom Lehrer's songs. (Except why 342 minus 173 is 147. Most people report coming away still a bit fuzzy on that question.)
A weekly ongoing Gothic comedy web serial!
Click the picture above to see this week's episodes.
Dark Shadows was a soap opera from the 60's. But unlike most soap operas, it was more about who's placing the curse of the undead on who, than who's sleeping with who. It was quite extraordinary in the way it combined good acting with bad, and good writing with schlocky, sometimes in the same scene. It was plotted like a bad (G-rated) horror movie, but it was also episodic television, which meant that it had a core cast of characters who couldn't be killed, and for whom life (or undeath) just seemed to go on, even when all hell was literally breaking loose.
One of my big projects over the last few years has been to write a series of caption novels around the series, to turn it from an unintentional comedy into an intentional one. The project began mainly to amuse my wife and myself. What is a caption novel? Essentially, it's a comic book, with photos instead of drawings, and captions instead of speech balloons. Photo caption games, in which users are invited to write funny captions for a pre-supplied photo, are popular on many websites. But where those revolve around one-off jokes written for a single photo, in this case, entire episodes are storyboarded, and captions written around them, which allow the reader to follow the plot when read in sequence. The end result is similar to Woody Allen's What's up, Tiger Lily? in book form. Attempts to turn it into an actual novel series have, so far, come to naught, but we never give up hoping.
In the meantime, here are a few sample episodes, to illustrate the concept.
Chapter 92: Victoria Winters, Gothic Governess and Jane Eyre wannabee extraordinaire, visits the Collins family lawyers in Bangor, to learn the secrets of her past, only to find them to be the Propaganda Wing of the Collins family.
Chapters 410-411: Barnabas Collins rises as a vampire for the first time.
Cast List #1: Dark Shadows Cast Lists is (are?) a tongue-in-cheek encyclopedic reference to the characters and storylines of the show. Together, all 15 of these might also make a good book someday, if we ever get the rights to do it. In the meantime, here's the list for the show's inaugural storyline.
The Dark Shadows Viewmaster Reel: From time to time, the Dark Shadows Captions novels contain sidebar items known as "specials". Here's one such Special, devoted to the Viewmaster reel of the show released in the 60's.
Episode 54, Where Are You?: Just as captions can be used to rewrite the show as a comedy, they can also be used to present it with its original dialogue. In the Sci-Fi Channel's three runs of the show in the 90's, they always managed to leave out Episode 54, while broadcasting episode 59 twice. For those two or three people out there desperate to see this... well, not "Lost", but at least mislaid episode, here it is in its original form. (A comedy caption version also exists, of course, but we've got to hold something back for the book).
The Dark Shadows Sim: Before there was capping, there was simming. In the late 90's, when we were younger and foolisher, a group of us ran an online play, in which participants were all handed a script outline, and had to perform the scenes with Improv dialogue under a time limit. Kind of like a Role-Playing Game, without the dice. Or the Orcs. (Oh well, it kept us off the streets...)
|Trek needs no introduction, of course. I haven't
got a lot on it in any form to put online. Photos, random observations, trivia,
and the like, but not really much in a coherent form. There are a few things,
The Star Trek Viewmaster Reel: What? Did you think Dark Shadows was the only show that ever made it to Viewmaster?
The Comprehensive Lt. Leslie Archives: A guide to the live and adventures of the best darn utility man that Starfleet ever knew.
Enterprise Attendance Logs: A bauble, really. A chart showing which characters appeared in which episodes. Written primarily to show just how ubiquitous Lt. Leslie really was.
Groucho Marx Meets Star Trek: My contribution to nerdy fanboyism (as if there wasn't enough evidence of that already). Two identical twin brothers who played non-speaking extras in I, Mudd had appeared as contestants on You Bet Your Life years earlier. So naturally, when I learned this, I had to transcribe the whole thing and put it on a webpage with photos and other nonsense. This one is nerdy even for me, so better read it fast before I delete it out of shame.
The Alt.TV.Star-Trek.Tos FAQ: Yes, some people still use the Usenet, that hotbed of deranged trolling. I took up and rewrote the FAQ for one such group, when the original author finally ran off screaming, and added a Q&A section to it. Worth reading, if only to find out why Spock's first name is Herman.
|Confession Time: One of my favorite characters in Star Trek was
always Mr. Leslie, a utility redshirt character played by
Eddie Paskey. He
only had a half dozen lines (that's not per-episode, that's EVER), but appeared
in more than half the episodes, sometimes in the oddest places. He drove
the truck that killed Edith Keeler, he fired the shot that blew both Lazarii
to an eternity of fighting in a smoke-filled negatively exposed corridor.
He was like the Where's Waldo of Star Trek. Trying to spot
him was almost as fun as watching the show itself (with some episodes, even
Sadly, a friend did a really good webpage on Leslie before I got around to it. (Now hosted here, see above) But fortunately, someone just as good still needed chronicling. The hit series Get Smart had the same kind of "Stealth" character in the form of Executive Producer Leonard Stern's Aunt Rose Michtom, a woman in her 60's, who didn't need the money, but still had enough of a sense of humor to get out and make dozens of blink-and-you'll-miss-em walk-on appearances on her nephew's show. This was cool enough to merit a webpage by itself. But when you add in the fact that this same nephew was a man legendary for his work on The Honeymooners and his creation of Mad Libs, the end result was two pages:
|Infocom was a 1980's game company that produced some of the greatest
computer games ever written. Unfortunately, since almost all of them were
text adventures, and you have to be able to read to play a text adventure,
they're largely forgotten today. Well, all right, that's not entirely fair.
Another reason text adventures went the way of the dodo may have been the
incredibly user-unfriendliness of some of them. Infocom ruled the roost back
in the day (a day which, incidentally, was also mistakenly believed to be
modern by people living at the time) because its parser allowed you to input
commands in complete sentences. You could type "Put the red ball in the
pink hat then stand on your head", and it would actually know what you
Another reason Infocom ruled in the day (and why their games still have a cult following today) was their innovative software, which might be described as "The Java Before Java". The same datafile could be played on ANY platform (and in those days there were a lot more than just PC and Macintosh) as long as you had a generic interpreter program for that platform.
Bug hunting has always been a popular pasttime among Infocommies, and I remember being thrown for a loop the first time someone asked me why. The best explanation is that in the days before designers deliberately put Easter Eggs into games, they sometimes put unintentional ones in, in the form of bugs. Bumping your head on a river as you try to enter it in Zork 1 (a text adventure) is at least as funny as a toe-tapping skeleton in Zork Grand Inquisitor (a graphic adventure). The only difference is that one is deliberate, the other isn't. Text games tended to have more bugs than graphic adventures, simply because in a game where the user might literally anything, it was harder for designers to anticipate everything a player might do than in a point and click game where choices are much more limited.
Click here to see the Infocom Bugs List.
Click here to see the Infonotes list, a collection of incredibly arcane, niggling, and possibly even anal-retentive observations about the Infocom line.
I haven't played any serious chess in several years now (internet chess on ICC or Playchess doesn't count), but the game is as interesting from the spectator's point of view as from the players. Unfortunately, the same wealth of stats, box scores and arcane numbers aren't as immediately available to the chess fan as they are to, say, the baseball fan. To remedy, at least in part, this deplorable situation, I've put together this collection of box scores. One for the world championship, because it's the championship of the whole friggin world. One for the Soviet Championship because it was, by far, the strongest national championship series ever held. And one for the United States Championship because... well, all right, that one is there strictly for jingoistic reasons.
JACK BENNY IN THE 1930's
I recently put together a kind of program guide to the Jack Benny radio shows of the 1930's. With over 150 episodes from that decade (and over 700 overall), finding something you vaguely remember hearing once can be difficult. So I wrote up a set of episode-by-episode notes to track plot synopses, character development, explanations of obscure references, miscellaneous notes, and lots of transcriptions of the best jokes. It got a bit out of hand, by the time I'd finished, the whole thing came out to almost 450 pages, single-spaced in MS-Word.
Rather than host all of it here, I contributed these notes to an existing Jack Benny site, owned by William Cairns. With perfect logic, the place that I contributed these 1930's notes to was a site called Jack Benny in the 1940's.
In addition, we have 12 gross of tee-shirts embossed with our slogan (see above); at ridiculously low prices, as our marketing department decided that the slogan didn't quite make sense. On any other form of advertising it probably would have, but on a tee-shirt, not quite.
PUBLIC SERVICE SECTION
We like to think that we have a heart here at the Bob & Ray Overstocked Surplus Warehouse. We'd rather make a friend than a profit, and so, even though we have big money tied up in computers, software, and broadcasting equipment, we've decided to set some of it aside for the benefit of you dear listeners. This section, contains a series of public service lectures designed to teach you valuable new skills for leading a fuller, happier life; all made available without charge or obligation. Just follow the links below, and stay tuned for more lectures in the future.
Learn how to use a ballpoint
Learn how to use paper clips
Kristen Lamb's Warrior Writer Blog: For those wishing to become Warriors, Writers or Warrior/Writers. [Insert "Pen is Mightier Than the Sword" joke here]
Well, that's about it for now, but we'll be back with more later.
Until then, this is Ray Goulding reminding you to write if you get work...
Bob Elliot reminding you to hang by your thumbs.
Site created 10-11-97; Last modified 3-25-11.
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