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REPOST: The Talkin’, Iiiiiii’m offended, If that IS your Real Name, End of an Era, Friiiiiitz Call Blues

(In honor of a reading of this story at the 2022 West Virginia Writers Conference this weekend, here’s a reposting of this Horribly True Tale.)

When I worked as a morning drive radio DJ, back in the `’`90s, frequently we would get calls from people who wished to complain about something they heard on the radio which had offended them.  Trouble was, with few exceptions, the thing they heard that had offended them had been said by an on-air personality on a completely different radio station than the one I was employed by.  Yep, whenever John Boy and Billy said something saucier than most decent folks cared for, the offended of Northeast Mississippi had no other recourse than to open the phone book, pick a radio station at random, and call me up to give me a lecture about something I had not even said.  We called these “Iiiiiii’m offended” calls.

For the past 15 years, my wife and I have experienced a different version of this sort of behavior in what we’ve come to refer to as the “Friiiiiitz” calls.  Somewhere around 2006, at approximately 3 a.m., our land line rang, waking us up.  Since 3 a.m. is outside the normal hours of telephone conversations, we naturally expected the call to be from a relative bearing tragic news.  I braced myself for the worst as I answered the phone.

ME—Hello?

(noise…  noise… labored breathing)

ME— Hello?

FEMALE CALLER— Friiiiitz?

ME— I’m sorry, what?

CALLER— Is this Friiiiitz?

ME— Um, this is Eric Fritzius.

(labored breathing)

CALLER— Is this Friiitz… from Fritz’s Pharmacy?

ME— No, I’m afraid it’s not.  My name is Eric Fritzius.

(noise… noise… labored breathing)

CALLER— You’re not Friiitz?

ME— No. 

(noise… noise… labored breathing)

CALLER— Do you have… Fritz’s number?

ME— No.  I’m sorry, I don’t.

(labored breathing)

CALLER— I need… to call Fritz.  I’m having…  an emergency.

ME— Um…   (Looks to wife, who, at the time, was a medical resident)  She says she’s having an emergency.

WIFE—Tell her to call 911 or go to the ER.

ME— Ma’am.  I’m sorry, but if you’re having a medical emergency, you need to call 911 or go to the emergency room.

(noise… noise… labored breathing)

CALLER— I caiiint dooo thaaaat.

(click)

That was the first of at least a dozen such hour-of-the-wolf “Friiiiitz” calls we have since received.  I’m pretty sure the same lady has called us many of those times, but other folks have as well.  Folks who are experiencing what they have deemed a medical emergency; folks who then decided to phone up not their doctor or otherwise an emergency medical professional, but instead their pharmacist, Fritz, because that makes a metric ton of sense; folks who then opened their white pages to F, at 3 a.m., located a last name that shares five letters with the name Fritz—which, it should be noted, is not actually Fritz’s last name to begin with, as “Fritz” is a nickname he uses in place of his first name—and then these folks blindly phone said number in the assumption that they’ll reach their target. Because all Fritzes know one another, I guess?  The “Friiiiiitz” calls pretty much all follow the same script as above.  And every time—every single time—no matter if it’s the original lady caller or someone new, when told we are not the Fritz they’re looking for, these folks ask if we know Fritz’s number. 

No, we most certainly do not have Fritz’s number.

We have gone out of our way not to have Fritz’s number and have never even checked to see if it’s actually listed. Our reason is because if we were to look it up then we would have Fritz’s number, and the fact that we would still not be willing to give out someone else’s home number, at 3 a.m., to people who should be calling 911 to begin with, would mean we were willingly withholding said information, implicating us in their death should they pass from the medical emergency they refuse to call the proper medical assistance to assist with.  Instead, we have always been polite when such calls come in, but we always advise the callers that in medical emergencies the only number they need to phone is, in point of fact, 911.  And, frequently, they have issued the declaration of “I caiiint dooo thaaaat,” but have so far never elaborated as to why. 

In 2008, we moved, relocating from Greenbrier County to Mercer County.  There are no Fritz’s Pharmacy locations in Mercer County, though, so our “Friiiiiitz” calls came to an end.

In 2012, we moved back to Greenbrier County, got a brand new land line phone number, listed it in the white pages, and within three months of our return, right on time at 3 a.m., the phone rang.

ME— Hello?

(noise…  noise… labored breathing)

FEMALE CALLER— Friiiiitz?

ME— No.  This is not Fritz.  This is the Fritzius residence.  We are not related to Fritz. 

(3… 2… 1…)

CALLER— Do you have Fritz’s number?

ME— No. We do not have Fritz’s number. Again, we are not related to Fritz. Our name only shares five letters with his name.

(Okay, we’re not ALWAYS polite.)

CALLER— I need to call Fritz.  I’m having an emergency.

ME— Then you need to call 911 or go to the emergency room.

(3… 2… 1…)

CALLER— I caaaiiint do thaaaat.

(click)

We’ve had a few more “Friiiiiitz” calls in the years since, some during actual daylight hours as well, most from folks other than the usual lady. However ,they’ve not been coming in at the same volume as our earlier stint in the county.

While writing this, and after 15 years of steadfastly avoiding the attempt, I finally looked up Fritz’s home number.  It’s been right there in the phone book the whole time, it seems, but the callers wouldn’t have been able to determine which number was his even if they had known his actual last name, because “Fritz”  was smart enough not to have his phone number listed under his nickname either.  Instead “Fritz” used his actual first name, which also starts with F but is also not Fritz.  In other words, the real Fritz doesn’t want these calls any more than us Fake Shemp Fritzes do. 

Alas/Huzzah, the days of the 3 a.m. Friiiiitz calls are probably at an end.  Fritz recently sold his chain of pharmacies to CVS and will no longer be dispensing meds under that name.  And I am astounded and just a little disappointed that we’ve not received even one “Friiiiitz” call due to this transition.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: the Half-Assed Disappointment Lootcrate Paper TARDIS model (Paper TARDIS series)

I like the idea of paper TARDISes–printed paper kits that can be cut out and assembled into a model of the TARDIS. In my time collecting TARDISes, I have purchased four such TARDIS model kits. I have, however, only attempted to assemble one of them thus far and it was such a disappointment that I have avoided the other three (two of which, truth be told, are really the exact same paper model that I accidentally purchased twice).

The half-assed disappointment Lootcrate model is kind of what it sounds like. It was a paper TARDIS included in a Lootcrate shipment which I purchased second hand off of eBay. It arrived as a single sheet with perforations allowing you to easily cut out the sections of the TARDIS model itself. The half-assed part is doubly so (which I think technically should make it full-assed, but I only used half my ass in constructing it and the Lootcrate folks only used half of theirs designing it, so, really, the separate half-assed applications can’t equal a whole).

Let me start with the good. It’s a simple enough TARDIS design, consisting of an elongated rectangular square for the body, a roof housing that tab/slot inserts, and a square tab/slot lamp. Shouldn’t be hard to put together, really. It is also designed to have doors that can be opened in the front, to reveal a cartoony Peter Capaldi scowling out from within. I thought that was pretty cool. However, I have kept my doors uncut simply because I’m not sure the structural integrity will hold if they were ever cut open.

The bad. While the simple print of the TARDIS has most of the standard TARDIS elements, including Police Public Call Box signage above each side, and the TARDIS door sign, there is some inattention to detail that can be found, leading me to suspect someone other than an actual fan of the show did the graphic design. For instance, if this is truly a Capaldi TARDIS, as the Capaldi inside would suggest, where is the St. John’s Ambulance badge on the right front door? Also, why are there door handles and door sign phone cabinet handles included on each and every side? It’s almost as if whoever did the graphic design only drew the one door, copied it three more times and slapped a door sign on one of them to establish which side is the front. And while we’re talking about which side is the front, why on earth would they have designed this so that the cut seam falls right beside the left of the front of the TARDIS rather than in the back corner where it wouldn’t be so apparent?

As to my own half-assedness, I admit that my assembly leaves something to be desired. I’m sure someone else could have put this thing together in a way that didn’t look quite so jankey. I mean, I could have taped down that front left cut seam and made that look at least a little better, if I’d wanted to. What I found, though, was that this was an assembly project that took a good bit longer to accomplish and with a greater level of difficulty than I had assumed it would, but I was only willing to put in the minimum amount to get it together, but not the amount it would take to make it look its best. That said, Lootcrate didn’t do anyone any favors in the design department, so I’m giving them the majority of the blame. If I hadn’t paid $10 for it, I would probably wad it up and pitch it at the recyle bin.

I give it a rare two TARDi rating. (Would have given it a one had I not thought the Capaldi behind the doors thing was kind of clever.)

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The Hobby Lobby Model

A few years back, round about March of 2015, I spotted a very sad attempt at tapping the Doctor Who fan market while browsing in Hobby Lobby.

What Hobby Lobby did, which you can see in the accompanying image, was to repurpose a tea candle holder modeled after a red British phone box, paint it blue and slap a Police Public Call Box sign above it’s single door. Oh, I get it. I can sympathize. Someone on their merchandize creation staff was clearly enough of a Doctor Who fan to put this together. But it’s clearly just a cash grab, banking on Doctor Who fans snatching up anything even tenuously related to their favorite show. I said, “Nice try, Hobby Lobby, but you’re gonna have to try harder if you want any of my cash money.”

Well… they did.

A year later, I was walking through the same Hobby Lobby when I spied, on the shelf of their metal decorations section, their next attempt. My suspicion that someone in research and development was a fan of the show felt even stronger, because this metal TARDIS bank thing gets way too many details right to be merely a repurposed telephone booth. It’s actually a pretty sweet approximation of a Tom Baker era “Shada” model TARDIS, complete with greenish blue paint, the dark door sign, and the blue dome light on top. Someone knew their stuff and I was willing to bet that someone was about my age and adored Tom Baker’s run as much as I do.

I would have bought this TARDIS regardless, but the fact that Hobby Lobby happened to be having a 50 percent off sale on metal decorations, making it a $10 purchase, meant the sale was a lock.

It’s a high quality item, solidly built. Is it an exact replica of an on-screen TARDIS, no, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s an interpretation that knows its source material.

While they’re not an item one can rely upon finding in your average Hobby Lobby, I have seen them on and off over the years. Keep your eye out, cause it’s a good’un. Four and a half TARDi.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The April Fool Model

(Unfortunately, in the process of attempting to photograph this on the landing of my stairwell, I managed to tip the platform my Bill & Ted Time Traveling Phone Booth was resting on, spilling the booth and its passengers down the stairs, resulting in the breaking of three of the antenna bars on the booth as well as breaking off Rick’s foot. So I guess the April Fools Day prank was on me.)

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The Funko POP! TARDIS (Full Size)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection. Find previous entries HERE.) 

As one of the final entries in this TARDIS Collector’s Corner series (prior to my multi-year sabbatical from writing them), I wrote about one of my shotglass TARDISes, the Funko POP! Vinyl Keychain TARDIS. I mentioned in the entry that this particular tiny TARDIS was based on a much larger Funko POP! TARDIS toy, about which I would one day write in the future.

This is that day.

Just as I did back in March of 2018, I shall again in March of 2022 declare that Funko’s POP! Vinyl figures are a plague upon this earth, as chronicled in the book of Revelation itself. (I was almost going to do a bit here where I added a 14th verse to Revelation 8, covering the unsealing and distribution of beady-eyed plastic demon idols, then I remembered that there’s another verse in Revelations (Rev 22:18), where the author explains the fate which will befall anyone who adds to or takes away from the prophecy. So, thanks, but I’m gonna pass on my dumb joke.) Four years on, Funko POP!s are even more ubiquitous and underfoot than they were in 2018. They’re found not only glutting the shelves of nerd stores, but are now spreading to retail outlets far and wide, whether it makes any damn sense for them to be sold there or not. I continue to weep for our landfills. (*COUGH*COUGH* saysthemanwhoowns16ofthem *COUGH*!)

Regardless of my feelings about Funko POP!s themselves, I absolutely had to own the Funko POP! TARDIS in all its boxy glory. The Funko’s POP! TARDIS is squatter and wider than the real thing, as in keeping with the stumpier dimensions of the figurines, but without the creepy black eyes. While this is supposedly based on the Smith/Capaldi era TARDIS, oddly, the supports between the panes of the windows are not white as theirs were, but blue–more in line with a Eccleston/Tennant box, or just about any of those from classic Doctor Who. Funko otherwise did a good job on the details, such as the hardware on the phone cabinet door and the hardware of the TARDIS door handle itself. They didn’t go for a wood grain detailing on the surface, but they captured the beveled edges of the base and nicely detailed roof cornices. A lot of skimping could have been done, but was not.

Did I mention it has a door? Oh, it’s got a door all right. A door. A single opening door, that is. Yep. Funko only included one working door on a two-door TARDIS. (Well, I say “working.” It does open, but requires a bit of effort to do so, and is somewhat difficult to close again afterward.) Of course, if you’re only going to have one working door, the right hand door is the one to choose, as it’s the only one that tends to be seen open on the show. However, when you take a look at the noggins on the Funko POP! figurines, one starts to do a bit of mental measurement estimation and one then immediately comes to the conclusion that the only Funko POP! that’s gonna fit through the doorway is one of the keychain sized figures. That’s when Funko reveals the twist in their story.

Funko knew none of their encephalitic figures would fit through that one door passage. However, they also realized that even if both doors were allowed to be open and a figure inserted within, a collector would then be hard-pressed to close either of the doors with such a gargantu-craniumed figure inside, or for that collector to ever have a chance at closing both doors again–figure or no. What good would that do? At the same time, a collector would clearly want to be able to show one of their Doctor figures peeking around the interior edge of the left door from within. What to do?

Funko’s elegant solution was to include a feature unlike any other TARDIS release I’ve encountered: this TARDIS features not only a false bottom, but an entirely missing bottom to boot. That way, you just stand your Funko Doctor wherever you want him (and/or her) and lower the TARDIS over them, door already in the open position.

As far as TARDISes go, it’s not a bad one. It may be in an exaggerated cartoonish geometrical configuration compared with your standard TARDIS shape, but it retains a good amount of detail. While very light in feel, it is also surprisingly solid in construction and not at all cheaply made. Do I wish both doors opened? Yes. But I’m totally cool with only the one as well. I mean, really, what kid would want to play with Funko POP!s anyway? They’re among the least functional toys ever made, clearly meant for adult man-children to set on a shelf and allow to collect dust. Accessory toys don’t really require much more functionality than that. All in all, I give this a solid 3.5 TARDi.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Underground Toys Diecast Collectable TARDIS

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection. Find previous entries HERE.) 

In one of my early Collector’s Corner entries, the one on the Matt Smith/Peter Capaldi Spin & Fly 3.75″ scale TARDIS, I made note that for a few hours one afternoon, I’d convinced myself that Character Options had released a David Tennant era Spin & Fly TARDIS to accompany their 3.75″ figure line and its David Tennant figure. This conviction was based solely on a photo I found online that featured the 3.75″ David Tennant Doctor figure standing outside of a to-scale TARDIS in the style of his tenure, alongside a 3.75″ Amy Pond figure. It looked fantastic, because even if it was just a re-paint of the Smith/Capaldi box, it was one done with an eye for the details of the Tennant box. Of course, fact that Karen Gillen and David Tennant only appeared in one story together and she was not playing Amy Pond at the time, and was therefore not his companion, made the photo a bit odd. Surely they could have cobbled together a Rose figure for him, or just not used a companion at all. However, the truly odd thing about the photo was that I could find no evidence online of Character Options releasing a 3.75″ scale TARDIS in the Tennant style. Was this some sort of prototype? Turns out, not so much–at least not officially. Character Options had not produced a 3.75″ Tennant TARDIS for their 3.75″ line because this TARDIS pre-dates that line of toys. There’s a chance that it even pre-dates David Tennant being hired to play the Doctor.

No, what I was seeing in the image was actually a TARDIS released by Underground Toys in the US, and Character Options in the UK, as part of a very early line of diecast Doctor Who toys. Exactly how early is still a little bit unclear, as I’ve been unable to find an actual release date on this line. However, the fact that this line also included a couple of Daleks and a Tennant-era Cyberman as well tells me that it was likely released during or maybe a little after Tennant’s 2006 first season, as the Cybermen made their debut then. The Cybermen were likely designed earlier than that, as artist Bryan Hitch, who came up with the updated Cybus Industries design, had been hired as a designer on the show in 2004, before the first season even aired. This is born out, possibly, by the 2004 copyright date on both the TARDIS itself and its box. Still, while I haven’t found an official release date, the toys in this particular line were probably not released until 2006, after the Cybermen’s first appearance in this particular form.

Even though this was not the TARDIS I had hoped to find, it was definitely one I was interested in acquiring. Off to eBay I scurried, searching high and low for one. And I found a few, but whoah were they pricey! After all, this item was one of the earliest Doctor Who toys made available and pre-dates even the Flight Control TARDIS. Of course it would go for a pretty pence.

I bided my time, waiting and watching until one came up that remained below the threshold of what I was willing to pay for one.

And now, sitting beside my 3.75″ scale Spin & Fly TARDIS, with its accompanying Capaldi figure is my 3.70″ scale diecast TARDIS, for which I also purchased a 3.75″ David Tennant. (They would be fun Doctors to meet someday, I think.) As far as TARDISes go, visually it’s a beauty. Admittedly, it’s not particularly detailed in terms of woodgrain, but it’s diecast metal–not particularly known for fine detail. Being metal, it actually weighs about the same as the solid resin Eaglemoss TARDIS, which sits on the shelf beside it–both far outweighing the Spin & Fly TARDIS next in line. The weight, however, lends it a feel of something that should have another purpose–like maybe as a piggy bank. Visually, the paintwork has a nice dingy quality to the blue exterior, much like Tennant’s TARDIS on the show. The windows even look a bit like they’ve been splashed with mud at some point, and there is pebbled glass detailing on the outer panes of each window, giving it that TARDIS T shape on the non-pebbled panes. (Oh, so now they can do detailing in diecast?) Someone clearly tried to capture the 10th Doctor’s TARDIS. The odd thing about this “toy” is, it’s not really a great toy, per se. It has absolutely no functionality, such as opening doors (a standard in the diecast toy world), lights or sound-effects. At the same time, I’m completely cool with that. It’s an anomaly. An object of beauty for those of us who find TARDISes beautiful. I give it 3.5 TARDi.

Coming Soon…

The third book in S.D. Smith’s Tales of Old Natalia, Prince Lander & The Dragon War, is not far from publication, as is its audiobook.

Having just wrapped the recording of my narration for this, I can say that it is an exciting, moving, and worthy story that continues, and in some ways concludes, the story begun in The Black Star of Kingston. While I’m certain more adventures are in store for these characters and the world of Old Natalia, this story fills in vital details in that world’s history, making the Green Ember main series all the stronger for them.

Hear a SAMPLE

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The TARDIS Kleenex Box Cozy

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection. Find previous entries HERE.) 

One of my best friends growing up, John Underwood, was known for three things:

  • A) his extreme ticklishness along the sides of his torso, giving everyone else in the world an automatic John-Shut-Off switch should it ever be required, a power we almost never abused, almost certainly never by first shouting “That’s it, drop him!” and then attacking his sides until he was no longer able to remain upright, never in the middle of the cafeteria, in high school, and also college;
  • B) his unflagging devotion to the 1989 Michael Keaton-starring/Tim Burton-directed film Batman, (as well as it’s far lesser sequel, Batman Returns, a.k.a. Batman Sucks), to the degree that he, at one point, had a Batman ’89 shrine of collectables in his room at summer camp, and also at home;
  • and C) having a mother who put a cozy on absolutely EFFing everything.

You may think that I am exaggerating, but I tell you that, in the Underwood home, there was not a single item smaller than, say, a coffee table, that did not have a specialized cozy to cover it. Some cozies were crocheted. Some were quilted. Some were macraméd. Many were themed to whatever holiday fell during that month. The toaster had a cozy. The tea kettle had a cozy. The bread box had a cozy. The VCR had a cozy. There were picture frames in which the picture itself, while still visible, peeked out from within a cozy. In the winter, we joked that John wasn’t really wearing sweaters so much as John cozies. (And if John’s mom could place a cozied item on top of a doily, I think she got extra points, or something, cause there were a lot of those too.) Ubiquitous among the cozy-covered items, however, were the Kleenex boxes, of which there were… I’m gonna say at least 78. In my memory, there was a box of Kleenex atop every level surface in the house, and each of those boxes was clad in its own cozy. They were ever-present.

As youths, those of us among John’s friends were never super clear if all of this cozy-cladding was done out of some sort of embarrassment that visitors might be exposed to naked items sitting out on tables, or if Mrs. U just feared they would catch a chill. But if it was warm and snuggly Kleenexes that you needed, they were guaranteed to be found at chez Underwood

(I should note that Mrs. Underwood is a fantastic lady in all other respects, played a huge role in helping set me on the path to becoming the playwright and actor I am today, and always treated me as part of the family. But I made no bones to her at the time that she was in need of a cozy intervention.)

Time travel ahead 30 years.

Imagine my horror, after decades of ridiculing the cozy-wrapping practices of my betters, when I happened to be browsing Etsy one night and spied a cozy that I knew I had to both own and display. Yessir, the TARDIS Kleenex Cozy caught my eye and I was unable to prevent my finger from pressing the purchase button for longer than a week.

It soon materialized in the mail. And, I am ashamed to say, it was delightful.

The design is your standard yarn-woven-through-plastic-grid tissue box cozy, mind you, but done up in TARDIS-colored yarns, and with a keen eye for detail in terms of capturing the essential elements of the TARDIS. You’ve got your Police box sign above each side (though leaving off the “public call” part for space considerations), plus the door sign (with implied text). Even the levels of the roof are taken into account through the use of varying shades of yarn. The cozy fits over the taller, squarish tissue box in the brand and style of your choice. I really dig it and it now resides on my desk, next to my TARDIS Bluetooth speaker lamp. Mrs. Underwood would be proud and encourage you to find your own at etsy, courtesy of IrishKitten.

Of course, having learned my cozy lesson somewhat… looking around my office, I note that the number of TARDISes I own could almost kinda constitute something of a… TARDIS shrine, of sorts? Really gives one pause to consider that maybe I should also not be so cavalier in lobbing stones at the Bat-shrines of friends. Sorry, John.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The 13th Doctor’s Electronic TARDIS

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

From the moment the BBC first released the initial promo images for Jodie Whitaker’s 13th Doctor, I took the bit of the idea of owning a 13th Doctor TARDIS toy and started chompin’. In fact, I gave it a Five TARDi rating here in advance just based on the picture of the prop. It just looked so cool, hearkening back to the classic series, with its darker color scheme, dark background door sign, yellowish windows and new lamp atop. I couldn’t wait to see it in toy form.

In 2020, the TARDIS toy was finally released. I’d already had a Jodie Whitaker Doctor figure standing among the other regenerations for weeks by then. One eBay purchase later, I had the new TARDIS on its way to me.

I knew in advance that the new toy was not going to be up to the same standards as the original Electronic Flight Control TARDIS, but none since has been, so that wasn’t a total shock. This new one would have no interior lights, but was still supposed to have takeoff and landing sounds, as well as a flashing roof lamp–standard features for most main series TARDIS releases these days. What I suspected from early pictures of the toy, though, was that Character Options had simply used the same sculpt that it had been using for their classic series TARDIS releases in the late oughts as well as the more recent B&M stores TARDIS releases (which have no sound or light functions). It would have a few few cosmetic additions to match the new prop, but this would be a classic style TARDIS. And while this further hearkened back to the classic series look her TARDIS shared, it also kind of annoyed me.

The classic series TARDIS is considerably smaller than those of the modern series in both prop and toy forms. And while I think there’s some visual evidence that Jodie’s 13th TARDIS prop is in fact slightly smaller than that of Eccleston through Capaldi, it doesn’t look that much smaller on screen as the size difference between the classic toy to modern toy would suggest.

Size RangeAnd here was the thought that bothered me: What does it say that your toy company is not willing to invest the resources to make the TARDIS replica of the first onscreen female Doctor just as large and functional as those of her predecessors? Not much good, I think. Sure, Character Options had been getting skimpier with their functionality, eliminating lights and sound in their B&M releases of the last few years, but this new TARDIS was allegedly part of the main line of toys. I would have preferred to see a modified version of the David Tennant TARDIS mold of the old Flight Control series than this modified smaller classic show TARDIS. (Check the size range in the above image, featuring 13th, 9th/10th, 7th, and 3rd variations.)

That said, nearly every TARDIS toy made by CO in the last 12 years has just been a lesser variant of the Electronic Flight Control TARDIS and the classic series TARDIS molds, so it’s not as if Jodie was being treated any shabbier than Peter Capaldi, other than her TARDIS toy was not in the same scale as Capaldi’s. Actually, there is another element of potential shabbiness I could complain about, but let’s save it for a moment.

Beyond the optics of it, though, there’s a lot to like about the 13th Doctor TARDIS toy. Character Options, while still re-using a previous mold, altered it enough to match the onscreen prop for the most part. The color scheme is great, recalling the kind of greenish blue of the Tom Baker era, as well as returning the dark background of the door sign over the phone compartment. That door sign, much like the TV counterpart, has had its hinges reversed, opening to the right instead of the left. (Or, at least, it would if the toy’s phone compartment door opened at all. No biggie. None of the classic TARDIS releases of the past five years have working phone doors anyway, nor did the last couple of models for Smith and Capaldi.) While the takeoff and landing sound effects are not as varied as those of my beloved 9th/10th Doctor TARDIS (which had two audio variations for both takeoff and landing), the sounds they chose are screen accurate and satisfying.

Where the 13th TARDIS toy falters for me is in its lack of an interior background card, which all of the previous modern series TARDISes have come with. Granted, none of the classic series style TARDISes (the mold of which this model uses) have interior background cards. For the most part, I’m okay with that, because it allows me to customize them to my liking (such as the wood-panel auxiliary control room interior I made to modify the flat-roofed 3rd Doctor TARDIS into a 4th Doctor TARDIS, as will be featured in a future entry). It just seemed wrong, though, that I had to go find and print a Jodie Whitaker TARDIS interior when CO could have just provided a higher quality one from the factory.

Again, is this the look you wanna go with for the first female Doctor, Character Options? Lookin’ at you. While I hate to do it, I have to revise my previous Five TARDi rating to a four…

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Corgi Tom Baker Die-Cast TARDIS & K-9 Set (the White Whale TARDISes)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection. Find previous entries HERE.) 

I cannot say for sure where I first saw the Corgi Tom Baker Die-Cast TARDIS & K-9 set. Likely, it was one of the products for sale on WHONA.com, in the early oughts. I expect they’ve stocked it several times over the years. It was among a number of Doctor Who toys that the Corgi Company produced round about 2004, with many Doctor Who villains and characters represented. Tom Baker, however, is the only Doctor they seem to have included in the line, appearing in three different versions, all clad in his burgundy outfit from his final two seasons. They produced a free-standing 4th Doctor figurine, clutching his hat to his head; a 4th Doctor driving his car Bessie (a bit odd, as the only story in which the 4th Doctor drives Bessie is his first story, Robot, and in which he is not clad in his burgundy outfit at all; and the piece I now own, the Tom Baker clad in burgundy outfit peeking out of that door of the TARDIS. The set I bought came with a die cast K-9, which is wildly not to scale with the Doctor or the TARDIS, but whatever.

As with the above anachronistic costuming on some of the figures chosen, there’s just a lot about this particular set that also leads me to believe the Corgi crew were not necessarily knowledgeable about the show, but were just in it for the cash. Their dedication to a quality product led them to produce a TARDIS of a satisfying likeness to the actual prop, really only cutting corners with the roof lamp, which is just a cylindrical chunk of silver reminiscent of a LEGO stud, with little hint that it is supposed to be a lamp at all. But the overall shape is great. Where Corgi’s inattention to details from the show fall short, though, is that they have the miniature Tom Baker peeking out of the left-hand door of the TARDIS. By and large, in the classic and current series, if only one of the doors of the TARDIS is open, it Can't... open doors... any further. Phone... too... big.is the right-hand door. Part of the reason for this, I suspect, is that the left hand door contains the telephone cabinet, which sits behind that door and collides with the interior wall of the TARDIS prop when opened. And I only think this because all of my toy TARDi with opening doors, and a phone installed behind the left door, have that issue. (Okay, I just checked and this is not entirely accurate. Of the three TARDISes I own that have working phone panel doors, only one of them really has this problem–the 7th Doctor TARDIS, which has an actual box behind the door in which a replica vintage phone sits (see photo). The box keeps the overall police box door from opening more than a little bit. The other two with working phone doors (the 9th/10th Flight Control TARDIS and the first 11th Flight Control TARDIS) have phones that hang from the backside of the door, instead of within a box, and take up less room, allowing for fully opening police box doors. (Incidentally, while we’re complaining about anachronistic and inaccurate toys, please note the mid-to-late period Tom Baker console I added to the 7th Doctor’s TARDIS.)

The Corgi K-9 diecast toy I have about as many complaints about. While Corgi got the general body shape right, there are some inaccuracies to be found. The most obvious one is that it has no ears. The head shape itself is very nice for such a small figure, but instead of the antenna ears of the actual K-9 prop, this one just has a blobby triangleish thing on top of its head, sort of like an ear unibrow. If viewed from the side, at just the right angle, it kind of implies the presence of ears and gives it the right silhouette. Looking at it from head-on, though, it looks like someone gave K-9 a pillbox hat. Other oddities include a raised section between its front “legs,” instead of a depression similar to that of its lower sides and back. There’s no hint of a tag, there is an implied collar painted the same metallic silver as the body. And the body has the name “K-9” written on both sides of the toy, instead of just the right side, with a TV screen on the left, as would have been more accurate to the prop. My guess, Corgi was given production stills to work from that only showed the prop from the K-9 side and they just assumed it was on both. (It’s a cynical view, I know, but it’s precisely what happened with many of the Dapol toys, which, as I’ve written about before, led to things like a five-sided TARDIS console, a Davros with two arms, a green K-9, and a Tom Baker with no scarf.)

Still, I’m not going to fault the Corgi TARDIS for the weaknesses of the Corgi K-9. It’s a great-looking piece, which I had wanted for years, so I grant it a full 3.5 TARDi.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Classic 1980 Tom Baker TARDIS Tin Bank (The White Whale TARDISes)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection. Find previous entries HERE.) 

As I’ve previously written, I came to my fandom of Doctor Who in the summer of 1980, in small town Mississippi, where I felt like I existed in something of a Doctor Who fandom vacuum. In the years before the internet, the ability to research a television show, let alone one from a foreign land, was kind of limited. At the time, having seen only a handful of Tom Baker stories, I had no idea how long the show had even been on the air. I had no idea that there had been other Doctors before Baker, or, indeed, a 5th Doctor impending. I had no idea that there were novelizations of episodes in the world, or that books about the show itself had also been published. I’d never even heard of a Dalek, cause I had missed “Genesis of the Daleks” during its initial PBS run. My first ever episode to see was mid-way through “Revenge of the Cybermen,” the story falling immediately after “Genesis of the Daleks”. I was a babe in the Whoniverse woods, trapped in the deep south, where we only got the show at all by the grace of the God of Public Television and a long-handled spoon. But I was definitely hungry for more.

Being in the 4th grade during my initial viewing, I longed for Doctor Who toys, yet, again, had no clue that such things already existed elsewhere in the world. It would be years yet before I learned of the Denys Fisher TARDIS of the 1970s and years yet before the Dapol TARDIS toy was produced. Yet I would have given anything at that age to have my own TARDIS toy. Which was why, a few years on, I was shocked the first time I caught sight of a Doctor Who Tom Baker Tardis Tin Bank. These were first produced by the Avon company in 1980 as fairly simple metal lidded boxes of a rectangular TARDIS-like shape, with a printed TARDIS exterior featuring an illustrated open door with Tom Baker himself standing in it. There was no three dimensional lamp on top, but just an embossed metal lid with a circular raised section painted as if light were pouring from beneath the rounded blue disc. (I expect it’s meant to be thought of as the TARDIS roof as seen from directly above.) By no means was this a toy TARDIS, but for a kid who was easily able to use his imagination to transform his Dad’s girlfriend’s cream-colored muffler into a full-length Doctor Who scarf in his head, it wasn’t a far stretch at all that I might yet be able to use such a tin as a toy, I thought.

Now, you’d think for such a powerful memory of wanting one of these, I’d be able to remember exactly where I first saw one. Not… as… such.

Part of me wonders if I first saw one at the house of some acquaintances of my dad’s, whose older son introduced me to the concept of the Doctor Who Target novelizations. That would have had to have been around 1982, or so, that I first saw the tin, and I think we visited those folks around then. However, if he’d owned such a tin, he certainly didn’t let me lay hands on it. Instead, I suspect that the tin might have been something I first spotted in a comic book store–possibly among the first two such stores I’d ever visited, both of which were within a block of one another, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and both of which are no more. The more likely shop I might have seen it in was called Injun John’s, which was a newsstand/comic shop/tobacconist/porno mag emporium. I can still remember the smell of the place, which was always a heady blend of tobacco and newsprint. Asgard Comics was more of a traditional comic book store. I bought my first two issues of Marvel’s run on Doctor Who there.

Or, perhaps I saw the TARDIS tin at Memphis Comics and Records, which was another shop I would frequently convince Dad to take me to, on the way to see my grandparents in Missouri. Or maybe at any of the handful of comic stores I visited while on summer time road trips. (Though not, I should add, at the very first comic shop I attempted to visit in New York City–a story for a future entry.)

Wherever it was that I spotted one, it was in person and was distant enough that I couldn’t get my mitts on it. (I can recall seeing the first issues of Watchmen there in 1986, so why can’t I pin down the tin? It’s maddening!)

Years later, while visiting my friend Matthew Jameson, who lived in Huntsville, AL, I spied another similar tin. This time it was owned by Matthew’s father, and was not a Tom Baker tin, but a Peter Davison 5th Doctor tin bank. This tin Mr. Jameson let me examine up close. It looked the same as the Baker tin, but with Peter painted in the doorway instead. (Fun fact: Peter Davison is the only Doctor Who actor I’ve met in person, so far, and whose hand I have shook. And the entire time I was doing so, all my brain would spit out was “That’s #&%!ing Doctor Who!”) I was not nearly as enchanted with the fact that Peter Davison was on the tin, but it was still a TARDIS. By that time I was in high school, so seeking a toy TARDIS was not yet back on my radar of things a boy my age should be doing. I’d have to wait until I was well into my 30s for that desire to kick back into gear. And soon after it did, I made the mental note that one day I wanted to own such a classic TARDIS tin like I’d wanted as a child, preferably with my boy Tom on it. However, I found in my ebay searching that such tins had become rare as the old ones rusted away and got recycled. As such, it became one of my White Whale TARDISes. I occasionally would still look for them on ebay, but they tended to go for dozens of dollars more than I really wanted to pay for a metal box. I bided my time.

Back in May of last year, I finally located one in an ebay auction. For some reason, it was only listed for $19.98, or, at least, that was the price I paid as the winning bidder. I worried that perhaps this was some sort of knock-off TARDIS tin, due to its cheapness. Perhaps there was something wrong with it. But I paid my money and took my chances.

When it arrived, it was somehow smaller than my memory of the ones I had seen previously. Of course, I was relatively smaller at the time I saw them, too. However, I’ve looked up several listings for similar tins and the measurements match those of the one I have. And if it is still somehow counterfeit, the counterfeiters did a fine job of aging it, for there was rust to be found around the edges of the inside. A little elbow grease cleaned it right up. It looks like a true 1980s-era item. I also don’t really care if it is of more recent manufacture. It’s awesome and now has a proud place on my office bookshelf. I give it four TARDi.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The TARDIS Bookends by Underground Toys

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection. Find previous entries HERE.) 

This particular set of TARDIS bookends is not necessarily a Christmas-themed one. However, I received mine as a gift for Christmas, a few years ago, so I tend to associate it there. No better time to talk about it. I have my niece Catherine (a.k.a. “K.T.”) to thank for this set. I loved it immediately, as I’d been eyeballing the set whenever I’d see it in a store, but I had never pulled the trigger on the purchase because the sets tended to be in the $50 + range. K.T. had been a fan of the show during the David Tennant era and she wound up re-watching many of those episodes and on into the Matt Smith era while she lived with us for a couple of years. So she knows of my love of TARDISes of old. (In fact, I think she still has one of my TARDISes–a fish tank ornament I offered for use in her fish tank but which she instead just put on her shelf, much as I’d been doing. If these bookends were a replacement for that one, though, I’ll take it!)

These bookends were released by Underground Toys, the manufacturer of any number of other fantastic Doctor Who products, so you know out of the gate you’re in safe hands with folks who know the topic. Unlike some bookends where you have two identical sculpts on each end, this set splits the TARDIS in twain, perhaps as it passes through the other-dimensional barrier posed by your books. In my case, it’s even better because I use the bookends to hold up my classic Doctor Who novelizations, and a few more modern ones as well.

The bookends are presented with the TARDIS door side up at an angle, against a starfield backdrop. The right half has the top of the TA`RDIS popping out with plenty of room below to add some other toy for display, such as K-9, as I’ve shown, or even another TARDIS. But the windows look great, framed in white with the distinctive dark panels of the Smith era.

The left half is mostly taken up with the lower half of the TARDIS, so there’s not much room to display anything there. (It’s also a dickens to dust.) It looks just like the plain side of the TARDIS until you look at it from above, where you can see the details of the door, including door sign and ambulance badge.

Now, it would certainly be a terrible thing if I’d been given a TARDIS for Christmas by a loved one and then spent a bunch of time talking shit about it here. But as this is a review, of a sort, so I feel like I have to talk a tiny bit of shit, but just a smidge (smudge?).

If I had a complaint about the craftsmanship of this piece, it’s that the lower half of the face of the TARDIS on my particular set (as seen in the above photo) seems to be a little warped in its molding. One might chalk this up to the warping of time and space which the TARDIS experiences in the show, but I’m pretty sure its just that someone at Underground removed it from the mold before it was fully set. Whatever the case, I don’t care. In fact, the first time I even noticed this flaw was in looking at the above photo while writing this. You certainly can’t see it looking straight on at the bookends, so what does it matter? I dig these a lot. I give them a solid 4 TARDi.

Merry ChristmaHanaKwanzika to all!

The Runaways Giveaway

The RunawaysMy friend Brenda Barnes Clark is currently running a free ebook promotion for her new middle-grade novel The Runaways: A Billie Rose Tackett Horse Adventure. It’s a historical adventure story set in West Virginia and starring a character of Melungeon descent. Brenda would love it if you’d give it a read and submit a review of it to Amazon.

Billie Rose Tackett, an 11-year-old girl in 1946 West Virginia, can speak to horses. It’s kind of a think-speak, but she can speak to them all the same. She knows this, because of a pony named Penny, who has run away from the local county fair, asks Billie for her help. How will Billie prove Penny did not belong to the fair, or to the terrible pony ride keeper?

How can she prove Penny told her this when no one in their right mind would believe that a horse can speak? She knows she can’t and they have no other choice but to run away.

In her quest to save Penny, Billie and Penny show amazing courage and tenacity to overcome seemingly impossible, life-threatening situations. In this fast-paced adventure story, Billie grows in confidence as she deals with prejudice, disability, bullying, family loss, compassion, and forgiveness while doing whatever it takes to save the runaway pony.

#westvirginia #horses #horsebooks #middlegrade #freeebook

Get your free copy today at… https://amzn.to/3GYeJEv

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: the String Light TARDISes

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection. Find previous entries HERE.) 

Continuing the holiday season for TARDIS collecting, I can finally detail 10 of the TARDISes in my collection in the form of a set of TARDIS string lights.

Manufactured by the Carlisle Company of Carson City NV, and licensed by the BBC, but purchased from the late and lamented ThinkGeek.com, these string lights are from the Matt Smith era of the program, complete with bright blue paint job and the return of the St. John’s Ambulance Company badge on the door. They are well-sculpted with a decent wood grain, though not one that’s especially to scale with how grain would look on a full-sized TARDIS. Better than most, though, I’d say.

When illuminated, the light from within does tend to bleed through the surface of the blue-plastic instead of just from the windows and roof lamp. In point of fact, the roof lamps don’t glow at all, as that’s where the wires connect.

Now some folks would say that, with this item being a single unit, it should only count as one TARDIS in my collection. I am not one of those people, though, and count it as 10, since there are 10 individual TARDISes present and accounted for. Yep. That’s how I roll. One purchase increased my already sizeable TARDIS collection by 10. That’s some festive holiday efficiency for your ass.

As far as string lights go, these are fine. There are only 10 of them, so you’re either going to have to string them on a very small tree (as I did using my grandmother’s antique artificial tree in the image above) or you’re going to need more lights. Like many string lights, these will connect to other sets, be they TARDISes or other types of lights. Maybe you could mix and match with Dalek string lights. However, if you just want some atmospheric TARDIS lights to hang from the end of a bookshelf (which is where mine usually live) then they’re great. I give ’em 3.5 TARDi.

More recently, another company, Rabbit Tanaka, has picked up the license to make TARDIS string lights. (Rabbit Tanaka also manufactured the TARDIS night light from a few years ago, which I also own but have not yet reviewed here, though I suspect it will be startlingly similar to the string lights review.) I do not yet own a set of the RT lights, but they look half-way decent, if a little bit plain. They look to be modeled after the Eccleston/Tennant TARDIS, though with a uniform blue color rather than their dingier paint-job. Gone is the ambulance badge, but the white door sign is retained. From the pictures I can see online, they also do not appear to have any wood grain elements. I might get a string of them eventually, just to help fill out my other 10. (And to add another 10 TARDISes to my collection number, natch.)

In the meantime, I present my Nerd Tree for 2021…

My Nerd Tree

In the Midst: A COVID-19 eBook Anthology

In The Midst: A COVID-19 AnthologyIn mid 2020, my friend Sandy Tritt put out a call for submissions to a Covid-19 anthology she was putting together. As the August deadline approached, I remember wishing that I had something to send her, before remembering that I had actually written something on the topic, way waaaay back, what seemed like years and years before, in April of 2020.

I’m sure there are writers who used their downtime during the 2020 pandemic and lockdown to get a lot of writing done. I am not one of them. Now, Lord knows I have enough stories in-progress that I could have tackled finishing a few of them or even started something new in 2020. But I just couldn’t summon much interest in creative output for pretty much the whole year. A lot of this can be chalked up to just not feeling any love for the craft due to Covid-19, but there were larger factors at play in my life that actually outweighed even a global pandemic for me. The pandemic definitely didn’t help, though.

While I live in West Virginia, I spent most of the first half of 2020 in Mississippi, helping my parents while my dad recovered from spinal surgery. I was supposed to be there for five weeks. It turned into five months. Most of my writing for those months came in the form of Facebook posts and texts updating family and friends on our situation there. I wasn’t entirely without creative output, though. I did manage to write, revise and complete a 10 minute theatrical monologue which was then workshopped, revised more times, workshopped again, and subsequently published in an anthology of Covid-19 writing. As per usual, I had to have a deadline to make me complete it.

The monologue–some might argue short play, due to its formatting–in question was written in response to a March 2020 challenge issued by Jason A.Young, of Clarksburg’s Vintage Theatre Company. Jason challenged a number of West Virginia playwright types to write monologues documenting the pandemic experience in West Virginia. As I explained to Jason at the time, I wasn’t having a WV pandemic experience because I was in Mississippi. While I couldn’t really comment on what was going on back in home, I could definitely shed some light on what was happening to me and my family in my home town of Starkville.

For me and my parents, Covid-19 was only the icing on the already difficult cake that started our year. While my father’s surgery in mid-February had been a success in terms of ridding him of the agony he’d been in for months, due to a pinched nerve, it had not entirely been the instant cure we’d hoped for. He came out of surgery barely able to walk due to months of using his legs incorrectly in order to avoid pain. He then wound up doing nine weeks of in-patient rehab at a nursing home facility while I split my time between hanging out with him in his room there and being at home to take care of my step-mother, Myra.

Part way into his rehab experience, Mississippi had its first case of Covid-19 and Dad’s facility went on full lockdown. This meant I couldn’t get inside to see him because they were trying like hell to keep Covid-19 out. We could then only communicate with Dad by phone, Facebook video, and by me standing outside of his ground-floor window and talking to him phone to phone.

By the time Jason issued the challenge to write a monologue, I had a few things to say about the pandemic experience. The monologue I wrote, entitled “Fish Bowl,” depicts one side of a cell phone conversation between a father and son looking at each other through the glass of a nursing home room window. It was inspired by the many such conversations I had with my dad through the window of his room during those weeks. And while much of the conversation is fictional, much of it is true. It also quite accurately depicts the way I came to learn that there had been an outbreak of Covid-19 in his facility during one such conversation.

I turned in the monologue to Jason in April 2020. He passed it along to a very talented local actor from his troop named Sean Marko, who made both audio and, later, video readings of it as a kind of online workshop. It helped the revision process immensely to hear how the words sounded and where my tendency toward super long sentences caused train wrecks in the execution. Being back in the collaborative process of theatre again felt great, especially after weeks of avoiding any such output, viewing it as a distraction to my many responsibilities at hand.

Months later, I did another couple of polishes on “Fish Bowl” and submitted it to Sandy for her anthology. She said it made her cry, which I guess is as good a review as a writer is likely to get. She accepted it and it was published as part of In the Midst: A COVID-19 Anthology in November, 2020.

I guess this is a long way to go to say, “Fish Bowl,” has just been published again in the brand new ebook edition of In the Midst: A Covid-19 Anthology. Unlike the print editions, where readers needed to chose between black and white and a pricier full-color version, though, the much cheaper ebook is in full color.

There’s a lot more tale to tell about my time in Mississippi, both comedic and tragic. I’m now considering the best format in which to tell it.

Website Repairs and Podcast Reduxes

A few long time friends and/or followers of this page might have noticed a couple of changes to this site over the years. I’m not just talking about the semi-once-a-decade sprucing up I do on the visuals (it is a nigh on 25 year old site, after all), or the shifting sands of content; no, I’m talking about the name of the site itself. Oh, it’s always been called Mister Herman’s Home Page–or, at least, phonetically it has–but the actual URL address has danced about when it comes to spelling.

For the first few years of its life, Mister Herman’s Home Page lived in the personal directory of whatever ISP would have me. The site initially served as a repository for funny Top Ten lists that I and my friends had written, in-joke-laced humor pieces, funny graphics I’d made, and more in-joke-laced recipes inspired by the things I used to cook and actually eat during college. Gradually, though, I began to add my writing to the mix, from early short stories, some of which made it into A Consternation of Monsters, to my signature non-fiction Horribly True Tales. The site began to fill out.

Trouble was, whenever I’d move to a new town and get a new internet provider, I’d have to move it all and the web address would change once again, as would my email address. After my 5th ISP change in so many years, though, I decided to bite the bullet and just get the site a permanent address. I bought the URL MisterHerman.com and pointed it to whatever ISP I was using at` the time. And I recall, at the time, debating whether to buy MrHerman.com as well, to avoid confusion, but decided to lean in to the full spelling that I preferred. And, not long after, I set up permanent hosting for the site via an official GoDaddy hosting account. Gone were the days of having to move the site with each new ISP.

Years passed and I decided owning MrHerman.com would be good after all. Alas, someone had beat me to it and set up their own web design service with that shingle. This was annoying, because I’d posted enough writing and told enough people the name of my site that I didn’t want folks to be waylaid on the way there by some Fake Shemp Mr. Herman. (And, let’s be clear, I’m fully aware that I’m the Fake Shemp Mister Herman and the site should really be owned by Pee Wee Herman himself. And if he’d ever like to have it, I’m quite open to discussing it and would cut him a fair price due to all the entertainment he’s given me over the years.) Instead, I just kept tabs on the Fake Shemp Herman. After a handful of years the name became available again and this time I didn’t dawdle in buying it.

More years passed, I wrote a book, and decided to spruce up my page to help market it and myself. I switched to WordPress, which I thought would be the uncomplicated, intuitive, and user-friendly solution to my web design needs. (Ahhh hah ha ha hah ha hah ha hah hah hah ha hah hah ha ha hah ha hah ha hah hah hah ha hah hah ha ha hah ha hah ha hah hah hah ha hah hah ha ha hah ha hah ha hah hah ha ha hah ha hah ha hah hah hah ha hah hah ha ha hah ha hah ha hah hah hah ha hah hahhhhh!) While setting up the new hot site, though, I pointed MrHerman.com to it, allowing MisterHerman.com to remain in its previous form until I was ready to go live. When I did, I just let MrHerman.com become the official new URL for the site, with MisterHerman as its redirecting shadow.

Part of my book promotion involved recording adaptations of a few of its stories as a podcast called the Consternation of Monsters Podcast. Still later, I did the whole thing as an audiobook, but I tend to prefer the podcast versions of the stories, which are not always straight-up word for word readings, but can branch out into stageplays, radioplays, and sound-effects-laden efforts. I spent a lot of time trying to get them right, as well as keeping up with the RSS feed for it so that people could listen to it from whatever podcast app they cared to use.

One day, a year or so ago, GoDaddy called to let me know they were going to be discontinuing the use of the server I was on and needed to migrate me to a new one. They suggested upgrading to CPanel hosting, which would offer me all the features I’d had before and more. Sure thing, I told them. Sign me up. They then said the would set up the new site for me and I could migrate my old site to it over the course of three months they were kind enough to give me, so the old site didn’t have to immediately go away. I told them to just use MisterHerman.com as the name of the new site, and I’d keep the old site as MrHerman until I could get it moved (just like last time, in reverse).

Now, I don’t know if you have ever tried to migrate one WP site to another location, but it’s devilishly tricky. And while there are a number of WordPress plugins that claim they do the migration for you, none of them actually work–or, at least, none of the half dozen I tried did. I really REALLY didn’t want to have to go through every page of code and change every listed addresses from Mr to Mister, though. Then GoDaddy told me that for a mere ten sawbucks–that’s a crisp $100, to you and me–they’d do the migration for me. Sounded like money well spent. I signed right up and within a couple of weeks the site had been moved. I checked a sampling of pages to make sure everything was still there and it seemed to be.

I should have checked more pages. The ones I checked were good, so I, sadly, trusted it all was.

That was months ago.

Recently, I happened to notice that my Consternation of Monsters Podcast was no longer working properly in my podcast aggregator app. I hadn’t looked at it for months–since the last new episode I’d done in 2018, really. But I saw a red triangle with an exclamation point on the show graphic and knew something was amiss. What do you suppose I discovered? Oh, just that while my site had been successfully moved and most of the MRs had been changed to MISTERs, a number–and not a small number–of them had not. In particular, the file of the podcast feed itself was choked with MRs. I can understand GoDaddy not checking such a file, which was not a part of WordPress to begin with, but quite a few links within the site itself, which was WordPress, referred back to the old MrHerman addresses. More horribly true still, I soon discovered that all of my Horribly True Tales stories were listed with the old addresses on their table of contents pages. It seems that while each individual page was switched from MR to MISTER, any page with in-house links to pages on the site did not have any alterations made to its code in this regard.

Super long story short, I’ve been doing some site work this to restore the podcast and its feed to their former glory, as well as all the other broken links on the site. (If you happen to one, how bout drop me a line about it at efritzius AT gmail DOT com).

After much code-work and testing, the podcast is back up and its episodes restored. You can find them all at the main Consternation of Monsters Podcast page, as well as links to blog entries about the stories adapted themselves.

And I can reveal there will soon be news about new episodes in the new year.

“The Talkin’, Ayyyym offended, If that IS your Real Name, End of an Era, Friiiiiitz Call Blues” (a.k.a. “Actual Telephone Calls Heard at My House over the Course of a 15 Year Period #332”)

When I worked as a morning drive radio DJ, back in the ’90s, frequently we would get calls from people who wished to complain about something they heard on the radio which had offended them.  Trouble was, with very few exceptions, the thing they heard that had offended them had been said by an on-air personality on a completely different radio station than the one I was employed by.  Yep, whenever John Boy and Billy said something saucier than most decent folks cared to hear, the O-ffended of Northeast Mississippi had no other recourse than to open the phone book, pick a radio station at random, and then call me or my morning show partner to lecture us about something we’d not even said.  We called these the “Ayyyym offended” calls, since they always began with that phrase.

For the past 15 years, my wife and I have experienced a different but still related telephonic behavior in what we’ve come to refer to as the “Friiiiiitz” calls. 

Way back, around 2006, our land line rang at 3 a.m., waking us up.  Since 3 a.m. is outside the normal hours of telephone conversations, we naturally expected the call to be from a relative bearing tragic news.  I braced myself for the worst as I answered the phone.

ME—Hello?

(noise…  noise… labored breathing)

ME— Hello?

(noise…  noise…)

FEMALE CALLER— Friiiiitz?

ME— I’m sorry, what?

CALLER— Is this Friiiiitz?

ME— Um, this is Eric Fritzius.

(labored breathing)

CALLER— Is this Friiitz… from Fritz’s Pharmacyyyyy?

ME— No, I’m afraid it’s not.  My name is Eric Fritzius.

(noise… noise… labored breathing)

CALLER— You’re not… Friiitz?

ME— No. 

(noise… noise… labored breathing)

CALLER— Do you have… Fritz’s number?

ME— Uh, no.  I’m sorry, I don’t.

(labored breathing)

CALLER— I need… to call… Friiiitz.  I’m having…  an emergency.

ME— Uhh…   (Looks to my wife, who, at the time, was a medical resident and who presumably might be of help)  She says she’s having an emergency?

WIFE—(firmly and distinctly) Tell. Her. To call. 9.1.1. Or go. To the E.R. 

ME— Ma’am.  I’m sorry, but if you’re having a medical emergency, you need to call 911 or go to the emergency room.

(noise… noise… labored breathing)

CALLER— I caiiint dooo thaaaat.

(*CLICK*)

That was the first of at least a dozen such hour-of-the-wolf “Friiiiitz” calls we have since received.  I’m pretty sure that same lady has been responsible for many of these calls, but a few other folks have called as well.  Folks who have experienced what they have deemed to be a medical emergency, at 3 a.m.; folks who then decided to phone up, not their doctor or otherwise a trained emergency medical professional, but instead their favorite pharmacist, Fritz, because that makes a metric ton of sense; folks who then opened their white pages to F, at 3 a.m., located a last name that shares five letters with the name Fritz—which, it should be noted, is not actually the real Fritz’s last name to begin with, as “Fritz” is a nickname the real Fritz uses in place of his real first name—and then these folks blindly phone said number in the assumption that they’ll reach the Fritz they want. And every time—every single time—no matter if it’s the original lady caller or some other rando, when told we are not the Fritz they’re looking for, these folks always ask if we have Fritz’s number.  Because all Fritzes know one another, I guess? 

No, we most certainly do not have Fritz’s number. We have gone to great lengths not to have Fritz’s number—and by “great lengths,” I mean we have never bothered to check if Fritz’s number is actually listed. And our reason for this willful ignorance is because if we were to look up Fritz’s number then we would have Fritz’s number, and the fact that we would still not be willing to give his home number out, at 3 a.m., to people who should be calling 911 in the first place, would mean we would feel extra guilty for willingly withholding said information should they die from the medical emergency they refused to call the proper medical assistance to assist with.  Instead, we have always been polite when such calls come in, but always advise the callers that in genuine medical emergencies the only number they need to phone is, in point of fact, 911. With great frequency, the reply to this suggestion is the declaration: “I caiiint dooo thaaaat.” So far none of the callers have elaborated as to why they can’t. 

In 2008, we relocated from Greenbrier County to Mercer County.  There are no Fritz’s Pharmacy locations in Mercer County, though, so our “Friiiiiitz” calls came to an end, and the only 3 a.m. calls we occasionally received were medical emergencies involving patients in the hospital for whom my doctor wife was genuinely responsible.

In 2012, we moved back to Greenbrier County, got a brand new land line phone number, listed it in the phone book, and waited in anticipation.  Sure enough within the first two months, right on time at 3 a.m., the phone rang.

ME— Hello?

(noise…  noise… labored breathing)

FEMALE CALLER— Friiiiitz?

ME— No.  No, this is not Fritz.  This is the Fritzius residence.  We are not related to Fritz from Fritz’s Pharmacy.

(noise…  noise…)

FEMALE CALLER— This is not Friiiitz?

ME— No, it is not. 

(3… 2… 1…)

CALLER— Do you have– ?

ME— No, we do not have Fritz’s number. Again, we are not related to Fritz. Our name only shares five letters with his name.

(Okay, we’re not ALWAYS polite.)

CALLER— I need… to call… Fritz.  I’m having… an emergency.

ME— Then you need to call 911 or go to the emergency room.

(3… 2… 1…)

CALLER— I caaaiiint do thaaaat.

(*CLICK*)

In the years since our return, these calls have continued, albeit not often.  Most have been from folks other than the usual lady.  Some have even occurred during actual daylight hours.  We still have not had Fritz’s number.

At least…

…until today.

While writing this, and after 15 years of steadfastly avoiding the task, I finally looked up Fritz’s home number.  Turns out, it’s been right there in the phone book the entire time, listed under Fritz’s very own name. However, the callers would still have been unable to determine which number was truly his even if they had known his actual last name, because “Fritz” was smart enough not to have his phone number listed under his nickname either.  Instead “Fritz” used his real first name, which also starts with F but is also not Fritz.  In other words, the real Fritz doesn’t want these calls any more than us Fake Shemp Fritzes do. 

And the reason why I finally looked up Fritz’s number? Only because the days of the 3 a.m. Friiiiitz calls are now probably at an end.  You see, the real Fritz recently sold his chain of pharmacies to CVS, and will no longer be dispensing meds under that name. I figured it was finally safe not only to have a look at his number but to tell this story. 

It’s the end of an era for sure, but I am astounded that with all the hullabaloo of Fritz transferring his customers’ pharmaceutical records to CVS, we’ve not received even one “Friiiiitz” call about it.

Might go so far as to say, “Ayyyyy’m offended.”

Whew!

Am I the only one who watched Steve’s Blue’s Clues 25th anniversary message with breath held, CTRL pressed, and my finger over the W, `cause at any moment I expected his sweet, leisurely-paced story to take a hard turn toward the tragic?

I was expecting something along the lines of…

“And then… one day… I was, like, `Oh, hey, big news, I’m leaving.’ And then I just kind of… got on a bus… and went to college. Of course, by ‘college’ I think we all know I really meant `rehab.’ See, back in the `90s, your ol’ buddy Steve had some… well, he had some real bad habits he’s none too proud of. Let me give you a few clues… Ol Steve had what we call a real `Molly’ problem. Yeah, he did a lot of rave beans and was riding the X-express on the regs. Yeah, yer Steve’s free time was brought to you by the letters M, D, M, and A. And that’s… you know… not good. Nor is losing your apartment, all of your savings, and your brain’s ability to regulate its chemical reward system. But I got help. And, at least, I no longer see blue dogs.”

So glad he didn’t say any of that.

The Talkin’ Bruised Coccyx Blues (NOW UPDATED WITH MORE COCCI!)

Back in April, I posted here about my then-recent Amazon purchase of a memory foam seat-cushion sold by a company called WAOAW.  Said butt-pillow, which had the unwieldly product name of “WAOAW Seat Cushion for Office Chair, Chair Cushion of Memory Foam for Car Seat Cushion,” arrived with an offer of a $10 Amazon gift card should I happen to give it a 5-star review on both their site and on Amazon.  While shilling for the man rubs my journalistic integrity the wrong way, I did actually like the cushion.  I was also enchanted by the idea of leaving a tongue-in-cheek review that worked the idea of the payola scheme into the narrative of the review, while also using both the word “coccyx” and the full title of the pillow in the review an unnecessary number of times.  That way I could leave an honest review while still stabbing an unscrupulous business in the back.  I wrote it up and posted it to WAOAW’s site.  Unfortunately, before I could post the review to Amazon itself, the Amazon listing for the cushion mysteriously vanished.  I assumed it was because Amazon got wise to WAOAW’s scheme, but who knew?  I posted it to Facebook instead.

A few days later, WAOAW wrote me to apologize that their Amazon listing had been pulled and assured me it was because “our link was maliciously attacked and there were some problems.” They said they would have it back up within a week and asked me to please leave my glowing review at that time. 

Instead of a week, three months passed before the listing was restored. However, the new listing had a slightly different title.  Again, the original was called the “WAOAW Seat Cushion for Office Chair, Chair Cushion of Memory Foam for Car Seat Cushion.” The new product name had become the “WAOAW Seat Cushion for Office Chair, Non-Slip Car Seat Cushion for Desk Chair, Memory Foam Coccyx Seat Cushion.”  Clearly my work had paid off if they’d added “coccyx” into their title.  Their inclusion of coccyx also meant that I would be able to fit a few more cocci into a revised version of my review.  I did another polish pass and produced the following: 

WAOAW, THAT’S A GOOD CUSHION!

My coccyx has been painin’ me for the last few years.  It all stems from the time I fell right on my coccyx and subsequently bruised it while tumbling down an escalator in Penn Station, NYC.  (That’s the big apple, to you and me!)  Since then, I can’t sit in a chair for more than 7 or 8 hours before my coccyx really starts singing!  Especially when I sit in these stinking hard wooden chairs we’ve got all around our dining room table.  I think they’re made of some kind of sorebutt wood, or something—pardon my French.   My family can tell you that after sitting on one of those for even an hour, when I stand up I have to scream “Ow, my coccyx!”  It feels like someone just hauled off and kicked you squar in the dumper, I assure you.  My coccyx needed help!  I went online to the Amazon to see if I could find me a good coccyx pillow and lo and behold what should I see there but the “WAOAW Seat Cushion for Office Chair, Non-Slip Car Seat Cushion for Desk Chair, Memory Foam Coccyx Seat Cushion.”  First of all, I love the company name, because it reminds me of home just to say it.  See I’m from Mississippi and “Waoaw” is how every person from Mississippi pronounce the word “wow.”  (Seriously.  No funning!  We can slip extra syllables into any given word.  Well, except for “Mississippi,” which we just call “Misipy.”  Don’t know why.  That’s just the rule we made.)  I liked all the five-star reviews for the WAOAW Seat Cushion for Office Chair, Non-Slip Car Seat Cushion for Desk Chair, Memory Foam Coccyx Seat Cushion.  There were so many of them!  Which made me feel like a lot of people have clearly tried this cushion and loved it!  Why else would so many people leave so many five-star reviews?  A few of them even said it was good for their coccyx pain, too!  I decided to order one and give it a whirl.  Let me just tell you, this cushion has been a lifesaver for my coccyx!  It’s real soft with a velvety cover on it that’s nice to the touch and a polkadotty grippy bottom side that really holds onto a slick wooden chair seat, I can attest.  And it’s got a handle on one end for easy carry, but it’s not too heavy if you just want to carry it in your hands like a normal person.  When I sat on it for the first time I said “Waoaw!” as my hinder sank into its memory foam layers.  Talk about super comfy!  It even has a little notch in the back part of it, right where my coccyx can rest without getting yarded on by the cushion itself!  And its symmetrical design keeps you level and even, so you never ever feel like you’re leanin’ toward Schronces.  My family can tell you that I haven’t screamed “Ow, my coccyx!” even once since I started using the WAOAW Seat Cushion for Office Chair, Non-Slip Car Seat Cushion for Desk Chair, Memory Foam Coccyx Seat Cushion.  If you have problems with your coccyx and if you have sorebutt wood chairs—pardon my French—around your dining table too, I recommend picking up the WAOAW Seat Cushion for Office Chair, Non-Slip Car Seat Cushion for Desk Chair, Memory Foam Coccyx Seat Cushion.  Your coccyx will thank you!

I fired this off to Amazon as my five-star review and sat back to see what happened. 

Within a few hours, I received an email from Amazon, reading in part: “Thank you for submitting a customer review on Amazon. After carefully reviewing your submission, your review could not be posted to the website. It appears your content did not comply with our guidelines.” 

I was furious!  How dare they reject my heartfelt review of this miraculous butt-pillow?!  On what possible basis could they do such a thing?  Everything I said was accur… Okay, ALMOST everything I said was mostly… kind of accurate.  Tongue-in-cheek, sure, but almost entirely sorta true.  And you can’t object to style, I say.

Naturally, they did not give specifics on how my review did not comply with their guidelines, but instead offered a link to their guidelines and a list of a few common issues to keep in mind, included below with my parenthetical commentary:

Your review should focus on specific features of the product and your experience with it.   (Oh, come on!  My review totally had specifics about the product and my experience!  I mean, I described the velvety covering, the grippy polka-dots, the useless handle, and everything—not to mention how great it makes my hinder feel!) 

Feedback on the seller or your shipment experience should be provided at www.amazon.com/hz/feedback.  (Wait…  so I’m not allowed to even mention the company is called “WAOAW” and how good that makes me feel due to my southern heritage?  That’s just geographical bigotry.)

We do not allow profane or obscene content. (What obscene content did I use?  Hinder?  Sorebutt?  Dumper?  Coccyx?  French?)

Advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively are considered spam.  (Now now…  including the word “coccyx” 16 times does not qualify as excessive repetition.  Seventeen, I’ll grant, but I didn’t go there.) 

Any attempt to manipulate Community content or features, including contributing false, misleading, or inauthentic content, is strictly prohibited.  (False?!  Misleading?!  INAUTHENTIC?  Eh… okay, they probably have me there, but not in the way that they think they do.  I maintain my review is entirely accurate, except for the fact that while I did fall and bruise my coccyx in Penn Station a few years ago, and it did pain me for the entire train trip back to West Virginia, and it did cause me to scream “Ow, my coccyx!” at every opportunity during that journey, which did cause my family and fellow passengers to become annoyed with me, the pain itself was completely gone after a week or so.  And while my coccyx doesn’t continue to pain me to this day, sitting in a wooden chair for hours does cause my overall wedgie-region to hurt, hence the need for a high-quality, five-star bum-cradle.  However, everything else in the review is still on the level.)

In the end, I decided that even though I was still offended by the rejection, and while my review was mostly accurate, Amazon had managed to intuit a general aroma of bull-feces in its tone and that was probably enough to warrant a rejection.  I’ll have to make do with just posting my review here.

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