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Day: April 5, 2007

Schoolhouse Rock

Schoolhouse Rock, the series of 41 cartoon shorts that used catchy tunes and repetition to teach kids watching Saturday morning cartoons about math, American history, grammar and science, began as a brainstorm of David McCall when, in 1971, he noticed that his son could sing popular song lyrics but couldn’t handle simple multiplication tables. His solution was simple: Create a catchy way to learn math by fusing it with contemporary music and, he reckoned, the kids would be able to memorize their math through songs.

McCall was chairman of the New York ad agency McCaffrey & McCall, and he put the problem to his underlings. They suggested he hire Bob Dorough, a Texas jazz musician known for creating catchy music to create the songs. Dorough was willing to give the idea a shot, and he plowed through his daughter’s math books, making up tunes on his piano until he’d created the trippy ballad “Three Is a Magic Number.”

McCall loved Dorough’s song, and the tune was eventually released as a record by Capitol Records under the title Multiplication Rock. A workbook deal fell through, but Tom Yohe, McCaffrey & McCall’s creative director, thought that the songs would go well with animation, so, after doodling some pictures, which McCall once again loved, they put together a 3 minute film to accompany “Three Is a Magic Number”, which they showed to ABC’s head of children’s programming, Michael Eisner. Eisner was receptive to the idea and gave McCaffrey & McCall the go ahead to create films for the rest of the multiplication tables. General Mills was brought on as the sole sponsor of Schoolhouse Rock.

Eisner also demanded that the big animation studios of Hollywood that made their Saturday morning cartoons cut 3 minutes from each show so that the animated shorts could be run. The studios were not too eager to comply, but after prodding by Eisner that it made good business sense, the relented.

Schoolhouse Rock premiered on the weekend of January 6-7, 1973, with the play list being “My Hero Zero,” “Elementary, My Dear,” “Three Is a Magic Number” and “The Four-Legged Zoo.” The shorts were aired for 12 years, ending in 1985. 1The information for this piece came from the omnipresent Wikipedia and the totally great School House Rock Site.

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Why Colonel Tigh is the Coolest

Saul Tigh, Executive Officer of the Battlestar Galactica, is one tough frakkin’ SOB. The man drinks, he swears, he beats up prisoners and crew members alike with a passion, he overthrows governments, he’s had one of his eyes ripped out of the socket and, to top it all off, he’s had to kill his own wife! How’s that for one tough guy?

Tigh has been my favorite character on BSG since the excellent miniseries launched the show, and it’s funny, since if the guy were real and we were to meet in real life I’d probably hate him, mainly from his demeanor. Upon first meeting he’d probably give one raised nostril in a sneer and snarl something degrading, But Michael Hogan makes him so real and flawed that his humanity (or lack of humanity, now that the season 3 finally has come and gone) pours out of him.

Now that supposedly Tigh is a Cylon, I have no idea how they will rectify his back story with what we now know he is. According to the excellent, Tigh served aboard a warship called the Brenik during the first Cylon war when he was just a teenager. He was released from service after the war, served aboard civilian ships and met Bill Adama during a bar fight. The two men grew old together while they served the colonies together. How they’re going to make him a Cylon that grew old is beyond me. I don’t know.

I guess what I like about him is his irascible character, his take-no-garbage attitude and his willingness to do anything that is necessary to survive. He only seems to have given up that fight twice in his life, once when he’d divorced Ellen and was drifting aimlessly, and then after he’d had to kill Ellen and return to the Galactica. Executing Cylon collaborators seemed to have helped quench some of his fury, but as a man he was drifting.

Now that he believes that he is a Cylon he has turned back to the one constant in his life; serving under Bill Adama as XO. He defiantly declared upon realization that he isn’t human, “My name is Saul Tigh. I’m an officer in the Colonial Fleet. Whatever else I am, whatever else it means, that’s the man I want to be. And if I die today, that’s the man I’ll be.”

God, I love this man. Godspeed, Tigh! May you make it to “Earth” so we may all know you in all your ornery glory!

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