Sparrow Spelunker

To: PBS Kids

From: Rampage Productions

Subject: Sparrow Spelunker

Let’s not beat around the bush.

You have a thing for avians.

big bird

I have one lodged in the exhaust pipe of my furnace.

house sparrow

You could do with some fresh IP.

IP intellectual property

I need $100 to extract the fresh IP from the exhaust pipe of my furnace.

100 dollar bill

You seek to excite and education your young audience.

the more you know star

I suspect the three or four nanoseconds of life that sparrow had when it encountered the exhaust blower, which to him must have seemed like a ten thousand RPM birdie buzzsaw, were both exciting and educational.

furnace blower

So without further ado, I give you your children’s television flagship property: Sparrow Spelunker.

Sparrow Spelunker

Sparrow Spelunker

It’s a show as unafraid as its protagonist(s) to grapple with the tough issues.  Issues like:

  • Why you really shouldn’t go in there

  • What will happen to you if you go in there

  • How much it will cost some innocent homeowner to scrape you out again after you do go in there

This said, I admit the title of the series is somewhat misleading in using the singular form of sparrow – it will probably require a new protagonist pretty much every episode.  While this might seem like a lot of work from a characterization standpoint, I feel the script leaves both adequate room for characterization as well as presents the opportunity to vary the racial, familial, and political history of the sparrow for a true multicultural experience.  In fact, based on the flying communist who entered my furnace in an ill-fated attempt to seize the means of heat production, I’ve put together a script outline for your consideration.

  1. Opening theme

  2. Recap of previous week

    1. “O’ Righ’ – On last week’s episode o’ Sparrow Spelunker, ol’ SS explored the exhaust on a 100,000 BTU Luxair.  Didn’t end so well for him, poor chap.  But that was then, so hang onto yer hats, kiddies, ’cause this week we’re going in the intake o’ that same 100,000 BTU Luxaire!”

  3. Spelunking

  4. Audience of British-sounding-children, in Spongebob Squarepants fashion, shouts the show’s catchphase: “Oh no, Sparrow Spelunker!  You mustn’t spelunk in there!”

  5. Furnace fires up

  6. Closing theme

I also have drafts for other possible episodes of Sparrow Spelunker.  These include such exotic, spelunk-worthy locations as a wood chipper, a fractionating tower, a muscle car air intake, and – my personal favorite – the depths of some pachyderm’s wazoo.  The last, of course, is where I sincerely wish the sparrow that inspired all of this would have flown.  You know, instead of my furnace exhaust pipe.  I could have done without meeting the furnace repair guy, who in his defense was a very nice man and more than willing to convert a bird oubliette back into an exhaust pipe in return for a picture of Benjamin Franklin.

This, of course, is where you come in, PBS.  Just send that check to Rampage Productions.

And maybe a Sparrow Spelunker t-shirt.


The Invisible Man

Has anyone ever written about the slimming powers of camouflage?


That’s good.  It has none.

The other Wal-Mart shoppers never see him coming.

The other Wal-Mart shoppers never see him coming.

It does, or so I’m told, have the ability to drastically reduce the chance one will be gored, trampled, or otherwise molested by a wide assortment of woodland creatures.  This is a definite plus for the weekend warrior crowd who are forever attempting to prove the superiority of the species while cowering in a tree stand.  But to speak of it – it being camouflage – as a fashion statement…  What it states, boldly, is that the beer-gutted wearer has pretty much given up all pretense of attracting a suitable mate.

In short, while the deer may lose the battle, they just might win the war.

While we’re discussing the future, or want of it, for our species, I’ve recently become aware of a locale where the above points on style need to be made – namely the local boat, gun, and RV show.  Making said points via Jumbo-tron, in addition to being ironically appropriate, would probably net the best ROI, but it isn’t my first choice.  Personally, I’d like to print the opening three lines of this piece and nail them to the front door of the convention center, but I’m not sure if either basic literacy or the ability to appreciate an allusion to Martin Luther can be expected in my target audience.  Based on my experiences, I’m thinking not.

If you think this is a history book…you might be a redneck.

If you think this is a history book…you might be a redneck.

Here the question arises as to what precisely I was doing in said environs, given that my first response upon encountering a squirrel, rabbit, or small dog is not, “I could shoot that and eat it,” accompanied by the sound of something ricocheting off a spittoon.  Well…correction – the dog sometimes sends the ol’ train of consciousness down those particular rails, but that’s usually because the dog is crapping in my azaleas and deserves to die.  No, my presence at the venue was tied up in the doings of some event organizer who had negotiated the temporary import of a couple dozen exotic animals.  Yes, you read that right.  Endangered species.  Readily available firearms.  Wisconsinites of dubious sobriety.  And last but not least, beer served right there at the event – serendipity or stupidity?  Only time and the local news would tell.

Yet before inebriation attempted to blend itself with a spontaneous exercise of second amendment rights, I had high hopes of using the fauna as a diversion for my daughter, who is approaching two and self-identifies as a guinea pig.  I saw the proceedings as an opportunity to either let her gape at strange and exotic creatures, hopefully prior to taxidermy, or as a chance to reunite her with her own kind – provided I could discretely pitch her into a pen without her mother noticing.

Hey – anyone else that has had any two-year-old in their care for any length of time has thought exactly the same thing.

Yet to return, after much meandering, to the subject of camouflage and what it will and will not do for its wearer: I’m convinced that if the RVs had been replaced with some sort of indoor forest, all the attendees still would have looked ridiculous – just fractionally less so.  Though camouflage was the unofficial dress code of the day, given the complete dearth of greenery, I found myself questioning if anyone actually understood how the fabric worked.  Or was the go-to assumption that it magically makes you invisible?  One oversized, camo-clad guy, manning some sort of hunting booth on a crowded exhibition floor, was blissfully sitting in a camouflage chair eating popcorn from a large tub.  He was shoving so much in his mouth at once that he had to hold the tub under his chin to catch what wouldn’t fit as it fell back into the tub.  It was hard not to stare – partially because he put off measureable units of gravity, but I’ll try to keep the fat jokes to a minimum…though such is difficult since the fat jokes practically write themselves.

My wife, whose knowledge of hunting starts and ends with Jane Austen novels where men with British accents and uncomfortably tight pants potter around for a couple hours before tea, expressed bemusement that it was a boat, gun, and RV show, as if the third was some sort of non-sequitur.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, she was laboring under the assumption that our woodlands were being depopulated by sinewy men with facial hair best described as “robust” and not those who could have served as stunt doubles for Rover in The Prisoner.

The Great White Hunter

The Great White Hunter

Needless to say, she knows better now.

The Little People Colosseum

For Christmas, my daughter was given a civilization; as such, my living room now aspires towards a dramatic reenactment of book one of Gulliver’s Travels.  It is, however, slightly more treacherous.  Lilliputians, I am told, go squish when one steps on them.  Fisher Price Little People, on the other hand, are somewhat akin to brightly colored caltrops.



Better still, the ones lacking sharp enough limbs to lodge themselves permanently in the soft part of your foot tend to be oblong to a point where they roll at a moment’s notice–most often in the nanoseconds immediately after one’s foot makes contact with them.  Have you ever wondered if, by the time you reached age thirty, you’d be able to perform a successful back flip on a moment’s notice?  I know I certainly didn’t.  I also know the answer is no.  Thank you, Fisher Price–I don’t suppose you happen to manufacture a Slightly Larger People wheelchair by chance?  No?  Well that’s OK; I’ll just lie here then.

You’d think that tail would stop it from rolling.  I know I did.  I thought about it for a long time while staring at the ceiling and occasionally wondering if I’d ever walk again.

You’d think that tail would stop it from rolling. I know I did. I thought about it for a long time while staring at the ceiling and occasionally wondering if I’d ever walk again.

And while I’m lying here, now seems a fine time to assess the exact makeup of my daughter’s Little People hoard–excluding, of course, the one or possibly two lodged, as a result of my fall, somewhere deep in my derrière.  Presently, we have less of a cohesive theme and more of a remake of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

…I’d mock it, but it’s actually a pretty decent flick.

…I’d mock it, but it’s actually a pretty decent flick.

From the Middle Ages, we have Little Person Robin Hood, Little Person Joe Dragon, Little Person King Henry, and Little Person King Henry’s Mistress; I say “mistress” because her expression suggests she is far too happy to be one of his wives.  Going back further, we have a raft (no pun intended) of Little People Christians, including but not limited to Little Person Noah, Little Person Mary and Joseph, Little Person Jesus, as well as an assortment of Little People livestock and an ark that looks about as seaworthy as a rhinoceros.

Of course, that isn’t all.  Going Back to the Future (to continue our backhanded allusions to the 80s), she also possesses the Little Person Industrial Farm Set complete with Little Person Corporate Farmer, another herd of Little People livestock, and an entity known as Afro sheep because we have two Little People Sheep, but only one of them has an Afro.

Afro Sheep is on the right.

Afro Sheep is on the right.

In true baby fashion, the lack of an overarching unified theme bothers the baby less than me.  In her world, Little Person Corporate Farmer lives in Little Person King Henry’s castle.  Little Person Baby Jesus spends a great deal of time in the Little Person Dragon’s cave (I don’t recall that verse, but I’m sure it’s somewhere in Revelation).  And Little Person Noah spends a great deal of time in the Little Person Industrial Farm silo.

Little People Woodstock

Little People Woodstock

Yet, as already implied, it does bother me–or it did until I realized that, taken together, a theme was staring me in the face.  We’ve a castle, a king, Christians, unwashed masses, Afro sheep, livestock, a couple lions, and an unseaworthy boat that vaguely resembles an arena when the top is removed.

Little People Colosseum, anyone?

His rule is ensured by bread and plastic circuses.

His rule is ensured by bread and plastic circuses.