Lego Pirates Ad

How cool was the original Lego Pirates? And how cool is this commercial? They just don't shoe-horn enough catchy, corny rap into kids media these days, and it's a damn shame. I mean, how can you not like these lyrics:

Word up! Zack's back! The Pirate Lego Maniac!
Yo-ho-ho and a barrel of fun,
the pirate adventure has begun!

Between me and my brother, we probably had every Lego Pirates set there was, except for the real expensive ones like the pirate ship... always begged for around every holiday and birthday and granted upon successful room cleaning throughout the year. The Lego Pirates weren't just pirates, they also had those Spanish galleons with "Commander Broadside" at the helm, which weren't as cool as the pirates but hell, it was great to have a whole "good guys" vs. "bad guys" thing going on. A ship was a ship, whether it had those blue and white striped sails or a big red skull and bones. I vividly remember just staring, eyes agape, with total bliss, into print ads for these Lego ships--the pirates and the armada--coming blow to blow in a cannon showdown on the still waters.

I loved every detail of these sets... the black captain hats, the curved "swashbuckler" swards, the palm trees, the little boats, the stiff flags, the little brown handguns and the wide-barrel muskets...even the little black mustaches! And ANY set that had a shark in it was a must-have! I remember the excitement of getting a fresh new box of Legos and ripping open the side. I remember the crinkle of the plastic bag with the small holes in it, the instruction book with the blue faded backgrounds, the different sized pieces in all their own bags. It was always a magical experience.

It was so awesome that it got me thinking, "Why should this Zack kid have all the fun?"

Home Improvement

After Rocko, Home Improvement was my favorite show. It was the show I listed in my 4th grade portfolio under "favorite show," so I guess that makes it official. Every few weeks I tuned in to ABC to see what crazy shenanigans Tim could put his house through again and again, and I don't know if it was all the unbridled guy-isms on display, but something about it just "spoke to me." From that intercom, to the exploding dishwasher, to the always-disastrous rooftop Christmas light displays, something had to break to keep that unbridled machismo in check.

Even the opening used to get me with the grunts, the fake video game with the kids getting chased by power tools (seemed like a pretty cool game!), and the fact that the house logo always turned into some flying contraption. I remember thinking about how cool it would be if they actually did make the house sprout propellers and take off! Speaking of which, what was with all those surreal logo guys running around between scenes? I kept waiting for one of the people to just look down and go "what the heck is that thing?" or even just acknowledge that a little Home Improvement logo guy just jumped off the counter, or swung on a light fixture, or painted the screen blue... but I don't know, I guess they were all blind to it.

In any case, Home Improvement taught me that being a man is all about blowing stuff up, trying to hide it, and saying something funny when people get mad about it. I blame Tim for all the bone-headed stuff I've tried to get away with or just barely escaped from in one piece over the years, like this cautionary tale. Unlike me though, his poor choices were always rectified by going out to the fence to seek the wisdom of their wacky neighbor without a lower face, stomping back only to fumble at an explanation, and setting it all right somehow just in time for the end of the episode. To say that this show was "formula" is just too formulaic at this point in the description.

More importantly though, to say that this show had me grunting along in total amusement is just too... absolutely correct, I'm afraid. People still say I grunt, but it's more like a lazy "uh...", which is just Manspeak for "uh-huh." Grunting is a language all its own that only guys really get, you see, because when a grunt is less belch and more nasal, it's a "yes". When it's more belch, it's a "what?". And when it's a deep throated "oh no!"... well, that's self explanatory. Besides that, I also thought the Tool Time "Man's Bedroom"/ "Man's Kitchen"/ and "Man's Bathroom" segments were pretty cool, and quite accurate. What man wouldn't want a bed that becomes a pool table, a dirty-laundry compactor to make room for ever-more dirty laundry waiting for a "10th of Never" wash, or a toilet you could recline on?

There were other characters besides Tim though, like the nagging wife who had this inability to cook like it was a genetic dysfunction and those hot toolgirls on Tool Time who just... handed Tim power tools. There was also that wacky neighbor Wilson Wilson who was smarter than everyone combined but had no lower jaw for all I knew. Then there was Tim's sensible and slightly effeminate sidekick mama's boy Al with his typical 90s flannel shirt, but all he seemed to do was wait for Tim to say something stupid, wait for the audience to pipe down, and then deliver the five words we ALL knew were coming: "I don't think so Tim."

I am not Mark...
oh wait, I am!
There's no question which of the brothers I related to: the dork, the punching bag... the one who is unfortunately also named Mark. Coincidence? Are Marks just doomed to be dorks? At least I wasn't like the oldest one, Brad, who got all the worst lines and then got dumber as the show went on... but Mark was no smartalec like Randy (who got all the best lines and then got whinier as the show went on). Mark only got creepier. JTT (Randy) was HUGE in the mid-90s, and I can't express this enough. Girls loved him. I even once heard a girl in my (4th grade!) class say she wanted to touch his butt! I was never able to figure out exactly why, but I had other reasons to want to be him. I remember in one episode Randy went to a monster truck show and, according to Tim, "let out a burp so big one of the drivers thought he blew a tire!" Now that I had no trouble getting behind.

Like I said, most of the show was either built around corny jokes-- the only ones I was capable of getting... ("what rhymes with matrimony? schmatrimony!")--  or blowing things up like a 21-nail-gun salute gone wrong, or a whole house-- or dropping a beam on a car, or driving a riding mower at highway speeds (cutting many lawns in the process), or dancing a washing machine across the garage, or launching a BBQ grill into orbit (all thanks to Tim's "improvements"). The other part of the show was built around pure Stooges-style slapstick, usually involving Tim gluing something to his forehead. And while there was always some kind of life lesson tacked on somewhere, some moral, and even a couple "Very Special Episodes," those parts were the "talky bits" as far as the 8yo me was concerned, and this little man's mind was eagerly awaiting the next random explosion or mechanical malfunction.

This is How I Rolled

I'm certain I remember these. I don't know when exactly, but something about the bright yellow plastic straps...

Berry Berry Kix

It has two "Berry"s in the title, and little berry shapes on the spoon, and I used to love it. Three things immediately come to mind when I recall Berry Berry Kix, the first of which being the tongue-twisting song in the old commercial: "I love those little very berry, those very berry Kix, a very very berry berry bunch!...etc." Secondly, I remember the commercials usually had these parent-whipped kids offering up fuzzy slippers and cleaning the garage just to get their parents to buy them some, and how that always seemed more geared toward the parents. I guess that's the way Kix was in general.

Just reading the Kix box as a kid could improve your vocabulary... from the slogan "Kid tested, Mother Approved" (which had a very adult-like "focus group" feel to it) to the "No Added Colors, No Added Flavors, No Artificial Preservatives." I could barely pronounce half those words, never mind understand what they meant. And it's not like that was the small print or something. That was practically their advertising slogan: "No Artificial Preservatives!" sprawled out in big letters on the front. Let's face it, the grups were feeding us starchy-sweet puff cereal by making our parents think we wanted it, which, I got to admit, worked for me. I liked Kix because they convinced me and my parents that "kids love it."

That said, at least Berry Berry Kix was more colorful and had these little berry-bunch-shaped pieces in there, so I guess they sort of had kids in mind when they came up with it. And just like I convinced myself to like it, I convinced myself that "reds" actually tasted like strawberries and the "purples" actually tasted like blueberries, but of course they were no different. I used to literally bite them off one by one. Sadly though, however fondly we may remember those berry-shaped pieces, they're most likely going to be confined to memory. The powers-that-be actually took the little things out in recent years. That's right. Pick up a box of Berry Berry Kix these days and all you'll find is Kix-shaped pieces colored red and purple! What sense does that make? How can it be Berry Berry Kix without the very berry bunches?