Issue # 39
January 26, 2001
"Is he strong? Listen, bud..."
By Rich Wilhelm

I think this week's installment will be short, because I'm exhausted.

First of all, I want to invite everyone to contribute to a followup to last week's 50 Songs Cooler Than Eminem Songs list. I had this idea after my mom signed the Dichotomy guestbook. She wondered if I had too much time on my hands, then she added a few songs of her own, which you can see at the end of this story. If you know of some songs that are cooler than Eminem, let me know and I'll add them to the ongoing list.

One of the reasons I'm so tired tonight is because I was up until about midnight last night "burning" a CD for Jimmy, which is what I want to tell you about now.

Jimmy has a serious fascination with superheroes at the moment. Batman seems to be a favorite, but he also likes Spiderman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. He has seen Batman in his campy '60s TV show incarnation and when Batman and Robin were "special guests" on a Scooby Doo episode. He knows Wonder Woman because there just happens to be a Wonder Woman ornament on the Christmas tree at my parents' house. Somehow that particular Wonder Woman wound up coming home with us on Christmas night, in a box of little construction guy figures (several of whom resemble various Village People) Jimmy received for Christmas. I'm not sure whether Wonder Woman was kidnapped by the construction workers or jumped in the box on her own, but suffice to say that she is currently back with her rightful owners and the construction guys are here, working on some new dance routines.

Anyway, I have a seven-disk collection of television theme songs and I began to play the superhero themes for Jimmy. Although he hasn't actually seen most of the corresponding shows, he really liked the theme songs and began making requests. Since I needed to go from disk to disk each time he asked for a certain song, and since each disk has 65 tracks, it seemed easier to use the relatively new computer technology at the Wilhelm home to make Jimmy a customized "Superhero Theme Song" disk.

I began working on the disk around 9:00 last night, going through each of the TV theme CDs one at a time to pick out the songs I thought Jimmy would like. Along the way, I'd listen to songs that I like but that weren't going on Jimmy's disk: silly '70s sitcom themes from shows like Maude and Alice; cheesy '60s swingin' detective shows like Hawaiian Eye and Surfside 6; and moody, atmospheric pieces like the noirish theme from Perry Mason.

I finished the CD about 11:30. You can fit 74 minutes of audio on a CD, but I stopped at around 35. I couldn't find enough songs that I thought Jimmy would like right now, and besides, he has the attention span of a three-year-old.

After stumbling off to bed around 11:45, I woke up this morning in a sad state. It's not even that 11:45 is all that late--I think my exhaustion was just the cumulative effect of everything that's going on in my life at the moment. Whatever the reason, I wasn't in the mood to be awake.

Jimmy had the same problem this morning, and was expressing it by being generally un-enthusiastic about anything we asked him to do. Brush his teeth. Get dressed. Use the potty. Nothing was making him happy, until I played him the theme from Spiderman(or, as Jimmy currently pronounces it, "Fiderman"), which had him dancing around the living room just before we left.

By the time we'd gotten Jimmy to school and I dropped Donna off at work, I was still in a bad mood, so I put Jimmy's Favorite Superhero Theme Songs on the CD player. Almost immediately, my mood changed from dark and gloomy to almost irrational happiness. This near-instant change has everything to do with the Peanuts theme, which is the music the Peanuts kids dance to when they're supposed to be rehearsing the for the play in Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. I defy anyone to be in a bad mood when Vince Guaraldi is playing that jazzy piano music.

It wasn't just Peanuts though. Have you heard the Spiderman theme recently? I kid you not, it's one of the most exciting, leap-out-of-the-CD-player songs I've heard in months. It's one intense tune, and the lyrics--"Is he strong? Listen, bud. He's got radioactive blood"--are hysterical. And have truer words than "Life is a great big hang-up" ever been spoken in a televison theme? Probably, but it's still a great line.

The superhero themes CD is fun and our whole family will enjoy it while on car trips to Grandma Fisher's house or Pap Pap and Grandma Wilhelm's place, or elsewhere. But more than just being fun, hearing Jimmy's Favorite Superhero Theme Songs this morning reminded me of something I'm surprised I didn't think of as I was compiling the CD:

When I was a kid, I would sit in front of our television with my blue Panasonic tape recorder, waiting to record the theme songs of various shows I liked. I also had albums with TV themes on them, but they were sung by the Peter Pan Singers or someone like that, so I always considered them to be bogus. However I loved the tape I made, which has long since been lost.

What really struck me about that memory was how full-circle I seem to have come: from a ten-year-old shushing everyone else in the room so I could capture a pristine version of the Laverne & Shirley theme song to a 35-year-old using digital and computer technology to collect some of the same songs for my son, who may someday use the tape recorder he received for Christmas to tape TV theme songs directly from the televsion, the way I did when I was a kid. To me, this is yet another interesting case of my life coming full-circle, as it seems to have done several times over the last few years. More importantly, though, this proves an important point: while people may age and technology may advance, the theme from Spiderman will never go out of style.

So much for keeping things short this week! So here's the setlist to Jimmy's Favorite Superhero Theme Songs. Following it is beginning of the 50 More Songs That Are Cooler Than Eminem list. 1. "Witch Doctor"-David Seville (no, it's not a TV theme...) Themes from: 2. Superman 3. Batman 4. Mighty Mouse 5. Road Runner 6. George of the Jungle 7. Spiderman 8. Underdog 9. Looney Tunes 10. Peanuts 11. It's About Time 12. Rawhide 13. Maverick 14. Speed Racer 15. Scooby Doo 16. Fat Albert 17. Josie and the Pussycats 18. Wonder Woman 19. The Gumby Show 20. Gigantor 21. Hong Kong Phooey 22. Sigmund and the Sea Monsters 23. Banana Splits 24. The Simpsons 25. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

50 More Songs That Are Cooler Than Eminem

1. It's Hard to Be Humble-Mac Davis (suggested by Ann Wilhelm).

2. Any song written by Kris Kristofferson (suggested by Ann Wilhelm).

3. Barracuda-Heart (Ann Wilhelm wondered why Rich didn't include this on his original list, as it is well known that Rich used to be raving fan of Seattle's Wilson sisters).

(Please feel free to email to others who may be interested or to print a hard copy for them but remember: The Dichotomy of the Dog is copyright 2001 by Rich Wilhelm. If you plan on making a bazillion dollars from this piece of writing, please let me know so I can sue you or something.)