Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I Make Fun of State Quarters: Arkansas

First off, I'm going to make fun of myself a little bit. I intended to go in alphabetical order rather than the order in which these quarters were issued, and for awhile it went swimmingly. There was Alabama, Alaska, and Arizona. And then I apparently decided to trust in my knowledge of the states and determine that Colorado was the next one. Yep, no way anything else could be between Arizona and Colorado. They even share that border at the corner. So I guess it's time to move on to Connecticut and--

Ohhhh, right. Sorry about that, California. I'll get started right away on finding out who the hell John Muir is and why you seem to be emulating a Wyoming park instead of bringing in some redwoods or the Golden Gate Bridge or something. So, John Muir was--


Oh come on, you too? Geez, is there any other state hiding out there? No? All right, good. Let's start to plug this gap.


Holy crowding the image, Batman. Do you really need to cram all of these state symbols onto your quarter? You're like those people who just can't go on vacation without eight suitcases because you need that extra set of slippers and your favorite mug. But all right, I guess Arkansas is adequately represented by a riverbank, rice, duck, and...a giant floating diamond?

Maybe Arkansas is trying to drum up tourism by suggesting that enormous diamonds are just floating around in the sky. Or that diamonds appearing at the same size as that on the quarter are there. After all, Arkansas is one of the rare places in North America where diamonds are found and apparently the only place where tourists can get in on the game by hunting through Crater of Diamonds State Park. No wait! That's the ship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, right? They must have gotten lost on their way to Devil's Rock and are asking the Arkansans for help.

"Devil's Rock? Yeah, it's back the way you came." (

The quarter was designed by Dortha Scott in a contest opened to all Arkansans in 2002 and the 65-year-old Mount Ida resident's idea was chosen from a field of 9,300 entries. She was also recognized in one of those droll resolutions someone in the state legislatures writes up to draw out a simple congratulations as long as possible and perhaps collect royalties on the word "whereas." This gushes about the use of a duck "soaring above the water with trees in the background [symbolizing] Arkansas' abundant natural resources," then goes on to say that it represents the state's popularity for hunting and fishing. Perhaps the Arkansas quarter has a tiny engraved hunter hiding in the side ridge, just waiting to blast the majestic mallard with buckshot.

Scott rejected this particular design (

To be fair, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee did favor symbolism in his choice of a winning design. The other finalists all sought to awkwardly cram the same things into an outline of the state, and specified that Arkansas was the "Natural State" to boot since a bunch of symbols of the natural world couldn't quite carry that out. Or there was the mockingbird perched above the Arkansas State Capitol, which seemed like less a celebration of nature and more a distress call of "Help! Giant birds are usurping our state government!"

It's an OK design overall, I suppose. And hey, at least the whole thing involved a submission by an independent artist and not by Arkansas's corporate overlord.

"Our headquarters are here, ergo we demand use of our logo on the head side of the state quarters! LOGIC." (

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney Holding Things

You can interpret this upcoming presidential election in a few different ways. It's a guy who's chock full of values and know-how trying to oust a socialist demon who was somehow simultaneously born in Kenya, Indonesia, and Hawaii back when Liliuokalani was still in power. Or it's Captain Awesome, midway through rebuilding a country smashed up by eight years of Bush, getting harassed by an out-of-touch plutocrat who thinks schoolteachers earn enough to own Lear jets. Or maybe you hate both of them and are supporting democracy by voting for someone whose odds are so bad that Vegas would go bankrupt if you put a penny down on them and they won.

But for all their differences, Obama and Romney have some things in common. Like the fact that as politicians, they've had their photo taken holding a lot of stuff. Stuff like...

Dino Flintstone


It suddenly dawns upon Romney that the "It's a living" catchphrase meant all those animals acting as appliances were actually working for a salary. "Hey, that means whenever you needed to replace your record player you got to fire that bird! I love it!"



Obama wishes Karolos Papoulias would wrap up all this talk about the Greek economy so he could hit the field with his pals. Biden wants to try a wildcat formation to get past Panetta and Geithner.



Romney tries to connect with the common man by spending some time as a pizza delivery man. Unfortunately, while he was easily inside the "30 minutes or less" deadline, the common man has thoughtlessly cluttered up his runway with parked cars and children playing street hockey.

Terrorist literature


Obama reads The Post-American World, a bestselling book by Indian-American Time editor Fareed Zakaria about the shifting state of major players in the global economy. As the author puts it, "This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else." Or, you know, it's a book with a suspicious title written by a brown man with a strange name and read by another brown man, ergo it must be "a Muslim's view of a defeated America." 

Olympic torch

Romney lollygags a bit on his way to blow a hole in the Helm's Deep defenses.

A marijuana cigarette, or a "joint" as the kids say today


So apparently Obama liked to toke every now and again while looking like he was destined to be the next big thing to hit the blues scene.

Yes, I'm aware that there's a little bias here, but how awesome is that picture? It's like a wave of cool suddenly shattered that picture of Romney with the torch up there. Let's see what he has as a counteroffer from his younger days.

Cash money (sans hoes)


Oh right. This whole thing. That's Romney in the middle and some principals of Bain Capital, blissfully unaware that the frat brothers in Omega Theta Pi were actually the bad guys in Animal House.

Hipster camera


Obama looks for the perfect angle on this photo of the White House press room, seeking to capture the full ironic impact of getting a picture of the people who usually take pictures of him. The official White House site actually includes this in a series of photos from Obama's first 100 days in office with humorous captions. Their take: "Unhappy with the recent set of official White House photos, the President decides to take matters into his own hands."

McDonald's food


Romney, you bastard! You already defunded Big Bird, you didn't have to turn him into a bunch of nuggets!

A hurling stick


Obama is ready to be more aggressive at the next debate. Either that or he's preparing for the zombie apocalypse and knows an Irish hurling stick is liable to be a pretty formidable weapon against the undead.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Weird Ways People Have Found This Site

I've seen this more on blogs that actually have a readership that extends beyond friends, a few people who like the site enough to subscribe, and a ton of random people just passing by. But the analytics are still a fun thing to take a look at every now and then. Of the visitors in the past month, about 6 percent are coming directly to the site while about 36 percent are being referred from other sites (mostly search engines, though Reddit gave "Summer Glau Holding Things" a nice boost). The remaining 58 percent is from search engines. And sometimes people are searching for some strange things, like:

"wasp wants to fuck your shit up"


I think the reason this search pulled up my site was that I dropped a few expletives at the fact that a creature such as the giant Asian hornet exists. Considering the reported pain of the sting and the decimation the beast can wreak upon a beehive, I'm guessing the person searching found what they were looking for.

"guy germaine and fulton reid are brothers?!?"

I know, right?!?
This person is probably a little more amazed than I was during my entry on where the Mighty Ducks actors wound up to discover that the actors who played these two Mighty Ducks actors, Garette Ratliff Henson and Elden Henson, are real-life siblings. Although I guess he may have been most surprised by the fact that Elden isn't related to the other half of the "Bash Brothers."

"long illness incidentally passed away"


What...what were you hoping to find? Just the phrase, or were you hoping that dear old Auntie Hurlburt's obituary was going to come up when you searched for this? And how the hell did my site wind up pinging on the radar? Apparently it's a result of the language at the top of the entry on the Top 10 Stupidest Final Destination Deaths, where I mention that Rube Goldberg died at the age of 87 after a long illness.

"tits in usa flag bikini"


Hmm, maybe I'm missing out on a lot of traffic by not doing more direct links between America's two greatest loves: breasts and U-S-A! U-S-A! I might start having to slip in more phrases like "The Unititted States of America" and "Oh boobiful for spacious skies."

This comes from my Fifth of July reflections on patriotism. It actually does make sense in context.

"which one means not lacking plenteous or rendzvous?"

Obviously the one that sounds like "plentiful," idiot. Now put the phone away and take the English test on your own. You fucking slacker.

Friday, August 31, 2012

YouTube Scavenger Hunt: Volume III

All right, maybe we'll get back to the theme YouTube lists next time around. For this one, random will do nicely. Let's see what's out there:

10. A dog eating birthday cake

It turns out there's a plethora of videos of dogs eating birthday cake. This one might seem a little cruel at first glance, as there's another golden retriever who is clearly upset that she's not getting her own piece and scrabbles to get out of her crate to join in the feast. But according to the description, she already had one and also stole the piece meant for this dog, Dempsey. The dogs are involved in the Helping Paws program, and user jeep2me has quite a few videos of their skills and other adorable golden retrievers.

Views: 149
Comments: 0

9. Fireworks going off inside a vehicle

Embedding is disabled, so enjoy this video here. Uploaded by the TV station WMTW in Maine, it shows security camera footage of someone in a vehicle tossing a Roman candle into a parked car and heading out, bumping the car for good measure along the way. The incident took place in Portland in July of 2012 and police are looking for the perps.

Views: 12,954
Comments: disabled

8. Someone climbing the CN Tower

This is one of those so close yet so far away type of things. The CN Tower in Toronto is one hell of a thing to take the stairs on, since it's 1,815 feet tall and has 1,776 steps. The tower uses this daunting staircase for an annual challenge to climb the stairs and raise money for the World Wildlife Federation. Unfortunately, as the sign warns, the tower has some weird stipulation that it has to be hands free. Climbers can't take cameras or even water bottles along, and security searches everyone to make sure they're not sneaking anything in. So most of the videos are people before and after the climb, including this guy - TOvlogs - who has various videos from around Toronto including swimming in snow and getting caught in traffic.

Views: 2,019
Comments: 0

7. A war reenactment done with snowballs

All right, so these kids aren't exactly recreating Pickett's Charge (well, I guess there's a brief charge around 5:15); it's more of a half-assed free for all. But this is the closest thing I could find. The kids and teachers in this fifth grade class have a bit of fun at the end of a field trip to the Civil War battleground. The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center is the building in the background. This is the only video uploaded by ibellahappy.

Views: 241
Comments: 0

6. A plane landing on a truck

I remember an incident or two where a small plane in an emergency situation has put down on the rear of a flatbed truck. I wasn't able to find any footage of those landings, but you can do the same thing with wheels down to avoid a belly landing and make a neat air show trick. This shows such a stunt from the Renio Air Race Exhibition in Nevada. Uploaded by hobbiesforever, who has numerous other videos of this event.

Views: 132,152
Comments: 21

5. A giant jellyfish washed up on a beach

Pretty much what it says in the title. A guy takes a look at a giant jellyfish washed up on a beach, and a toddler mistakes it for an elephant. Uploaded by canuckinrok, also known as "A Canuck in Kimchi-Land." The kid dominates the channel but there are a good deal of short sightseeing ones as well.

Views: 107,688
Comments: 190

4. Adolf Hitler dancing to dubstep

Go to 1:30 for the start of said dancing. Otherwise, this is a pretty good contribution to the meme involving angry Hitler from the German film Downfall. It's a good movie, and the scene in question has the dictator blowing up at his underlings after receiving news that his troops have failed to put a dent in the Soviet approach. Parodies have Hitler angrily reacting to a whole range of other topics via different subtitles. In this case, he's pissed that the rest of the bunker doesn't like his dubstep party. Uploaded by anaveragepro4, whose channel offers numerous Downfall parodies. Or, in the channel's own words, "a bunch of videos of Hitler failing at life because the Nazis suck balls."

Views: 2,241
Comments: 13

3. An asteroid grazing the atmosphere

Well I kind of cheated on this one, given that there as a time when I was deeply interested in asteroids and comets and knew this footage was out there. The video was originally shot by a woman named Linda Baker in Grand Teton National Park and captures the "Great Daylight 1972 Fireball" as it soars overhead. The object came close enough to nick the atmosphere and was visible in the western United States and Canada before heading off again. Uploaded by user Rnastershake, whose videos include a lot of music as well as that Donald Duck cartoon where he's a Nazi.

Views: 29,137
Comments: 14

2. Someone bungee jumping in Wisconsin

The website Thirst For Adrenaline bluntly says there aren't any places to do it in the state. It does mention that Extreme World in Wisconsin Dells once offered it, however, and there are plenty of videos showing individual leaps. Including this one of the video uploader, a fellow named Jim and user named rhlzxp, who gives a little plug for Samsung by saying he forgot to take his phone out of his pocket but that it survived getting tossed out of the net onto the pavement. A 12-year-old girl was less fortunate about a year later, suffering severe injuries on a terrifying-looking attraction that Jim also tried out; turns out getting dropped 100 feet into a big ol' net might be a little dangerous.

Views: 3,147
Comments: 0

1. Footage of the Martian moon Phobos

Given all the excitement over Mars after NASA jazzed up the rover missions by lowering the SUV-sized Curiosity onto the surface, I was wondering what was available for the Martian moon of Phobos. Not so much footage as a series of photos, but this one throws in the other moon, Deimos, for free. These images were taken by a variety of Mars probes, according to the video's description. The video itself was uploaded by 20Bond09, whose videos range from space probe images to nature shots to a documentary on the third season of 24.

Views: 13,036
Comments: 30

Friday, July 13, 2012

Greatest Thing Of Anything: The Book Barn

When I worked in Maine, I wound up renting an apartment right across the street from a bookstore. It was something of a catch-all place. There were plenty of new books on the first floor, along with local titles, magazines, locally baked doughnuts, stuffed animals, and children's toys. The basement was stuffed with used books, and the paperbacks there were yours for 50 cents each. I'd usually make it a point to stop in during the weekend and see what was available.

I've usually got a couple of books that I'm reading at any given time, and when I moved to Connecticut one of the first things I did was get a library card. When it comes to purchasing books, however, New London is lacking. A couple is trying to raise money to open one up, but that's a work in progress and it only started recently. When I arrived in 2010, it wasn't long before I missed living so close to a bookstore and I asked around to find another one.

The first recommendation I got, without hesitation, was The Book Barn.


I'm just realizing that this is the second entry I've done about a barn business in the past couple of months, but believe me, they're both awesome. It's always discouraging to hear about the challenges bookstores are going through as people start to rely more on electronic readers, but The Book Barn has bucked that trend. It opened in 1981, and since then it has expanded to acquire more real estate in the touristy coastal town of Niantic. Aside from the original location, located on the outskirts of downtown, there are two related shops right on the main drag. The stores are open 12 hours a day for every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The titular barn site has the majority of titles, but quite a few of the books are spread across the site in sheds. The cheaper paperbacks tend to be neatly packed into wagons parked outside these places. If you're in the mood for a game, there's also a giant chess set and a basketball hoop.

It's always good for bookstores to have a unique character, so here are some of the things that stand out the most about The Book Barn. There are a bunch of cats, mostly friendly, roaming the property and they have a guide to identify who's who. A couple of goats have their own enclosure as well. Most books go for four or five dollars, with some of the older or more plentiful paperbacks priced at a buck each. Visitors are welcome to free coffee, mini donuts, cookies, and cheese crackers, with the chiding caveat that they're for all guests so don't be greedy. The section on Napoleon is labeled "That pestiferous little Corsican." The impulse buy shelf includes things like Team of Rivals (and yes, I did snatch that up right away). When they purchase books, the volumes spend some time in a shed called "Ellis Island" where people can peruse them to get a first shot at purchase before they're organized in the correct sections.

Evinrude hangs out by the register (

The business describes itself as having a web presence (it has a detailed website, after all) but it doesn't have any aspects of e-commerce about it. You're not going to be able to make any e-reader purchases there, and you're not going to be able to search the collection of half a million titles and buy books online. But they assure you that if you're looking for a particular book, the staff will easily be able to help you.

And you can find some pretty excellent things just by browsing a collection as big as this one. I discovered one specific title I was looking for, on a group of World War I pilots from Yale University, perched atop a tall bookcase about military aviation. Stopping into Book Barn Downtown not long after seeing the biopic Chaplin, I couldn't resist buying a copy of a hefty biography on the actor. It was amid the room containing books on every sport imaginable that I found Bill McKibben's Long Distance, one of the few titles available on cross-country ski racing.

A few library sales and gifts have contributed to my bookshelf, with paperbacks stacked horizontally a couple of rows deep and others perched haphazardly on the vertical rows. But the welcoming atmosphere of The Book Barn, and the fact that I rarely leave without at least one purchase, probably goes a long way toward explaining its current state.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Summer Glau Holding Things

This idea popped into my head for some reason, perhaps because I haven't worked the Summer Glau theme into a post since January, and the one before that was the first reference in nearly a year. Also because it seemed like it could be a lot of fun, and I was right! You could probably start up a whole other blog based on this idea. And now I'm tempted, but may just settle for the occasional rundown of celebrities holding things. Thus the new category I've added.

All right, let's run down ten things the image search pulled up.

10. Broadsword


There can be only one Summer Glau. Which makes her immortal, I guess. No one is complaining.

A screenshot from the movie Knights of Badassdom, currently in post-production. And yes, the trailer unabashedly takes advantage of the fact that Summer Glau in a short skirt with a broadsword is hot enough to contribute to global warming. But she's joining Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Danny Pudi (Community), and Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) for a movie about LARP nerds accidentally summoning a demon. It looks awesome.

9. Up A Bank


Because Summer is sick of Fox canceling her shows and she needs to make some money somehow and everybody get on the ground RIGHT NOW.

A screenshot from the pilot of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicle in which Cameron and the Connors need to get to a time machine hidden in the bank vault or safe deposit boxes or something. Well maybe if you'd just asked nicely...

8. Serenity


Here Summer holds (and kisses) a model of the Firefly class starship Serenity. The ship comes from the cult series Firefly, where Summer played the mysterious character River Tam.

Wait, what's that? You think it looks like what?! Oh, you've got a filthy mind. And crooked anatomy. Go see a doctor.

7. Gum


Eh, gum. Never been a huge fan, just makes you hungry and loses its flavor, I mean, I love it! Especially that 5 sugar-free gum from Wrigley! I'm going to by some right now and "stimulate my senses," ha ha!

This is purportedly Summer at a Comic Con appearance in New York. The picture she's standing in front of includes something on the "Human Preservation Project," no doubt a Terminator franchise thing. Why it involves all the 5 gum promotion, I don't know. Maybe Wrigley has the launch codes.

6. The Wee Baby Seamus


Summer inspects a child for service in the robots' capacitor mines. Yes, good tiny hands on this one. They'll be able to have it crawling into tight spaces to unclog gears in no time.

No, of course this is just Summer holding a fan's baby during a FanExpo event.

5. Another Kid, In A Threatening Manner


Would someone get Summer on a TV show that lasts longer than two seasons? Seriously, she's shaking down little kids for lunch money now.

Another still from TSCC, in which Summer calms down a bratty kid destined to be part of the future human resistance by neutralizing his gravity a little bit.

4. An Apple


"Alas, poor apple! I knew it well, Horatio, a fruit of infinite zest, of most excellent juiciness..."

And I could probably try for more of the Hamlet speech, but as with most Shakespeare it goes on for awhile and it might take more time than I'm willing to spend to substitute apple words for skull words. Another TSCC image, this captures the moment in an episode when grocery shopping causes Cameron to go all Windows Vista on us.

3. A Tin Heart


I'd like to think this is from some promotion where Summer Glau appears in different parts of the world with various clues, leading us on some grand mystery tour to a greater truth. Or maybe she's just waiting for a maelstrom to arrive so she can get that thing to Oz.

This is apparently a Warner Brothers photo shoot. Or something for Valentine's Day. Or a symbolic TSCC shot illustrating the question of whether robots can feel. Or maybe she was just at the coast and needed a breadbox.

2. Puppet Bono


Summer contemplates all the terrible, horrible, no good very bad things she's going to make the lead singer of U2 go through now that she has a Bono voodoo doll.

Another shot from FanExpo, it looks like. The explanation given is that the Bono puppet was created by an Etsy designer who has it pose with celebrities and go on wacky adventures, which you can follow here.

1. Breast Cancer Bear


Summer is un-bear-ably cute. Urghh, ooh, I forgot about that ulcer that acts up whenever I make a bad pun. It's on my pun-creas. Owwww...

Here, Summer displays a bit of awesomeness by taking part in a fundraiser for breast cancer research. The bear she's holding was auctioned off for $2,007.64, with the winner getting the bear and this picture framed.

Friday, June 1, 2012

That's What I Miss About Maine: Celebration Barn

I've sometimes joked about Maine since I moved out of the state, but it's all in good fun. At one point I told someone about how most people think of the state as the coastline and all of its lovely tourism-heavy towns and cities, many of which shut down over the winter. They responded that they had heard it wasn't worth checking out Maine north of I-95, the highway that hugs the coast most of the way through the state.

It's true that there's a big cultural difference between the coast and northern regions of Maine, to the point that a state representative wasted everyone's time a few years ago with a whiny bill suggesting that maybe the coast should split off as its own state called Northern Massachusetts. It's true that there's a lot more wealth in the oceanfront communities, and more to see. I lived perhaps a half-hour drive from the coast, and made the occasional trips to Freeport, a hip little community built around the L.L. Bean headquarters, and Portland, the state's largest city and its nerve center of nightlife and other fun. Northern Maine has a few of these gems (a friend lived in Hallowell, a great little Main Street community just outside the state capital of Augusta), but in general the towns are settled into the Maine wilderness and are a lot smaller and more sedate. In other words, there's not much to do.

OK, so there's this.

You can still find a few things to do on the weekend, though. Where I lived in western Maine, there was a surprisingly vibrant theater scene. The tiny community of Brownfield has the Stone Mountain Arts Center, a beautiful lodge-like arena combining musical performances with dining. A little ways north, the Deertrees Theatre in Harrison is chock full of musical performances during the summer and has an art gallery for you to peruse while you wait. A stone's throw from where I used to live in Norway, the Grange Hall was host to a play or two each year put on by community troupes. And I was very much saddened to see that one of the best parts about the miniscule community of Buckfield, an Oddfellows hall converted into a theater known simply as the Oddfellow Theater, held its final performance last year.

And out in the woods in the middle of South Paris is this place, the Celebration Barn Theater. It's perched on the curve of a quiet rural road, surrounded by some meadows and even a chicken coop. From the outside, it looks an awful lot like the farm building it apparently once was. But the red and white siding has been spruced up, a subtle ramp at one entrance provides handicapped access, and of course the entrance sign lets you know that, chickens aside, the farm is long gone.

Inside, the space has been nicely renovated with a stage and seating space. Posters and photographs of past performances and actors hang around the foyer, which does triple duty for ticket sales (done from a table and chair), gift shop (a bookshelf with mugs, DVDs, and other assorted things), and concession stand (also from a table, as I remember). Hidden away among the upper floors are the rooms for for actors who live at the barn during summer programs, although some of their habitat extends to the main floor. A secondhand library, dominated by old National Geographic magazines, is tucked away in a nook. There's also a kitchen there with a prominent white board letting everyone know what their chore duties are.

The Celebration Barn was founded in 1972 by Tony Montanaro, a theater instructor and performer whose goal was to create a school for mime, storytelling, improv, and other theatrical shows. I remember the range of shows keeping true to this idea, with comedy performances, one-man shows, juggling, music, and more. Montanaro died in 2002, but his work was carried on for 18 years by Carol Brett, who took over as executive director of the Celebration Barn in 1989. Since Brett's death in 2009, the Celebration Barn has established a fund in her name for the theater's upkeep.

Brett's retirement in 2007 meant I arrived in Maine just as a young woman named Amanda Huotari was taking over the Celebration Barn. Amanda describes herself on her website as a seventh-generation Mainer who got her academic chops at Emerson College with further study in France and Italy. There are plenty of times when she takes to the stage herself, chiefly as the effervescent character Elizabeth in the show The Soirée. When I first started working in the Oxford Hills, I was worried that the only young people I was going to see would be names on the arrest log. It was certainly a breath of fresh air to meet Amanda, who has become well-known as a leader in both the community and among the young professionals in the area.

I could usually only catch a performance or two each year, but each time it was well worth it. I hope the Celebration Barn and Amanda are still doing well, and wish them the best.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Whatever Happened To: The Cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?

Look back at any popular sitcom from the 90s and more often than not you'll probably find that it hasn't aged well. They're overly wholesome, jokes fall flat, and the "very special" episodes are unbearably preachy. Of course, you've always got your Adventures of Pete and Pete, or the older episodes of The Simpsons, or The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air...

You still know all the words, I bet. Well, maybe not the extended version. But anyway, this show established a number of great characters and a lot of sharp, witty dialogue between them. The stories were sometimes taken from a sitcom plot generator, but they usually had a unique spin to them. And when they did do something in the "very special" vein, it actually wound up being really powerful.

I've seen a few jokes about the non-Will Smith characters since the show ended its run. An older Family Guy episode had Peter and Brian debating whether Alfonso Ribeiro had been in Silver Spoons and finally just asking him, since the episode portrayed Ribeiro working as a repo man. And an SNL "Weekend Update" joke noted Will Smith's musical success and compared it to the related news of DJ Jazzy Jeff, "who wonders if you're going to finish that."

Well, what actually did become of the actors involved in the show?

Will Smith (Will Smith)

I'm not sure how many shows outlined the series' premise in the theme song, but The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is probably the most triumphant example. You know, how Will got in one little fight in his hometown in Philadelphia and his mom got scared, so he sent him to live with his uncle and aunt in Bel-Air. Will was certainly a fish out of water, dropping into a fairly lavish environment after a difficult childhood where his father abandoned him at a young age. Will's activities and sensibilities frequently clashed with the Banks family, as he was generally carefree and irresponsible. Nevertheless, Will was also portrayed as good-natured, charming, and intelligent.

Like I even need to do this one. Even if the show helped propel Smith, now 43, to stardom, he was already well-known as a rapper. Starting out with childhood friend Jeffrey Townes (see below), he became fairly successful but nearly went bankrupt when the IRS determined that he owed the government quite a bit of money. The show not only helped keep him afloat, but launched a successful acting career. Smith's notable movie roles include the Men in Black and Bad Boys movies as well as Independence Day, Enemy of the State, Hitch, and I Am Legend. He was twice nominated for an Academy Award, for his roles in Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness. Smith's albums have also been successful, frequently reaching gold or platinum status, with 1997's Big Willie Style hitting an astounding nine-times platinum.

James Avery (Philip Banks)

Having not seen the show in ages, the only thing I really remember about "Uncle Phil" is that he was a judge, conservative, tried unsuccessfully on an occasion or two to lose weight, and was usually aggravated by Will's shenanigans but became a father figure for his nephew as well. The incredibly detailed Wikipedia entry mentions that he was heavily involved in the civil rights movement, is an adept pool player, and can occasionally be a bit greedy. Oh, and God help you if you don't follow due process.

James Avery, now 63, is a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War and first got into television as a scriptwriter for PBS. Before he started on Fresh Prince, Avery did the voice of Shredder on the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon and James Rhodes in the Iron Man cartoon that debuted in 1994 (midway through Fresh Prince's run). He has continued doing a mix of voice and acting work, mostly small parts. His most notable roles since Fresh Prince have included Alonzo Sparks on the show Sparks, Charles Haysbert on The Division, Officer Kennedy on That 70s Show, and Dr. Crippen on The Closer. He was also a host on the short-running PBS travel series Going Places.

UPDATE: Avery died on December 31, 2013, following complications from open-heart surgery. He was 68 years old. 

Janet Hubert (Vivian Banks, Version 1.0)

Vivian Banks was the intelligent, strong mother (or mother figure, to Will) in the family. Relying on Wikipedia to refresh my memory, it seems she worked her way through school to earn a Ph.D and is a retired doctor by the time the series starts. She's not above confronting Phil or defending the children, but there are certainly limits to her patience. And perhaps the most memorable scene from Janet Hubert's run is her attempt to return to dancing, succeeding in doing so and showing up some snobby younger dancers in the process.

Hubert, now 56, herself first came to Broadway as a dancer and landed a number of small television roles before The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She was on the show from 1990 to 1993 (70 episodes), at which point she was replaced with Daphne Reid with a few aside jokes to the audience ("Who's playing the mom this year?") However, Hubert said this departure was a result of the show offering her restrictive contract after her pregnancy, and had harsh words for Will Smith. She said the show's star was arrogant and abusive, and penned the 2009 book Perfection Is Not A Sitcom Mom about the experience. She has been largely absent from the screen since then, with the exception of bit roles and an 11-episode run as Lisa Williamson on One Life To Live, but continues to do live performances.

Daphne Reid (Vivian Banks, Version 2.0)

No, I'm not going to review Vivian's character again. See above.

Daphne Reid, now 63, graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in interior design and architecture. She started a modeling career, and her TV career began with a number of bit parts and recurring roles on Simon & Simon and Frank's Place before she took over the role of Vivian for the final 56 episodes of the show. Reid has continued to make appearances on a number of TV shows, most recently Let's Stay Together, but since 1997 she has focused on running the production company New Millennium Studios with her husband.

Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton Banks)

Carlton grew up looking to follow in his father's footsteps, meaning he shared Philip's conservatism, sense of responsibility, and smarts. Of course, he was also extraordinarily geeky and arrogant, sometimes acting condescending to people around him. He wasn't very good in crisis, panicking in difficult situations. Though the two came to respect each other, Carlton got into frequent spats with Will, who often levied jokes at Carlton about his height. And of course, there's Carlton's undying love for Tom Jones.

Ribeiro, now 40, got his start as a child actor and musician, releasing some singles at a young age and playing Alfonso Spears in the series Silver Spoons. He attended the University of California before joining the cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and since then has dabbled in minor roles, commercials, reality TV, directing, and production. His biggest acting role since the show has been voicing Roland Jackson in the show Extreme Ghostbusters. Ribeiro also did a bit of car racing, twice winning the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in 1994 and 1995.

Karyn Parsons (Hilary Banks)

Hilary was the oldest child of the Banks family, but by far the most dim-witted. Ditzy and self-centered, Hilary is obsessed with fashion and shopping. Hilary later became a weather reporter and started hosting her own talk show. She also started dating the station's lead anchor, Trevor, who in a twisted but hilarious scene was killed when he proposed to Hilary while doing a bungee jump that was broadcast live.

Even in the pre-Internet days of the show fans of the show knew that Karyn Parsons, now 45, was actually pretty smart. She pursued her acting career after graduating with honors from Santa Monica High School. After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Parsons had roles in a few movies but wasn't able to find much luck with television, starring in a couple of short-lived series such as Lush Life and The Job (her last role, in 2002). Since then, Parsons has moved on to non-profit work. In 2005 she founded Sweet Blackberry, which has the mission of bringing little-known stories of African-American achievement to children.

Tatyana Ali (Ashley Banks)

As the youngest child in the Banks family, there were plenty of times when Philip, Carlton, or Will were concerned for or downright overprotective of Ashley. Which, of course, sometimes meant she was a bit of a rebellious teenager and wouldn't miss a chance to be snarky to Carlton or Hilary. Of course, this is a 90s sitcom so you know she always had a wholesome core. At least one episode featured Ali's singing talent, having Ashley briefly achieve stardom (and a massively inflated head) with a popular single.

Now 32, Ali has appeared in a number of movies since the show ended. However, her main focus has been on her musical talents. It helped that Will Smith was a bestselling rapper at the time the show was going on, and the songs that appeared in various episodes also helped her gain a following. Her first album, "Kiss the Sky," debuted in 1998 and went gold soon after. This same year, she won a Grammy for Best Musical Album for Children with the song "Precious Wings" on Elmo in Grouchland. She's received a number of other awards besides, including the Young Artist Award, NAACP Image Award, and (most recently) the Caribbean Heritage Organization Living Legacy Award. Ali graduated from Harvard University in 2002, and since 2005 has owned and operated HazraH Entertainment. Parsons also lists Ali as one of the people involved in Sweet Blackberry.

Joseph Marcell (Geoffrey)

The English butler at the Banks mansion, Geoffrey was a bitingly sarcastic fellow ("I would prefer an assassin's bullet to this kind of living hell"). His specialty usually seemed to be passing by at the perfect moment to interject a pithy rejoinder in a conversation. Later in the season, he accepted a request by Philip to be Nicky's godfather. There was also that time he cheated at the Olympic marathon and the Queen personally stripped him of the gold medal.

Like his character, Joseph Marcell was born in St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Now 63, he resides in London and continues to have small parts in a number of movies and TV series. He graduated from the Central School of Speech and Dance and has done a good deal of theatrical work as well, serving on the Artistic Directorate and Council of the Globe Theatre in London since 1985.

Jeffrey A. Townes (Jazz)

Will's best friend in California, Jazz wasn't all that smart and was apparently never employed. He spent most of his time hanging around with Will or trying unsuccessfully to flirt with Hilary. Though not a bad person, he easily annoyed Philip and a running gag had him literally being thrown out of the Banks house. Later in the show, he was briefly married and had a child.

Jeffrey A. Townes, also known as DJ Jazzy Jeff, was Will Smith's music partner prior to the start of the show. The duo was successful enough that they released a number of gold and platinum albums and won the first Grammy Award for rap in 1989 for their album Parents Don't Understand. Now 47, Townes founded the production company A Touch of Jazz in Philadelphia after Smith branched out on his own. He has continued to do solo work and partner with other artists on songs. His last album (The Return of the Magnificent) was released five years ago, but was successful enough that it went gold.

Ross Bagley (Nicky Banks)

Ah, little kids on sitcoms. Is there any real point? According to Wikipedia, "Master Nicky" was mainly a plot device to "add motivation for other characters, comic relief, or an emotional punch to the show's storyline." Nicky was an infant for awhile after he showed up at the end of the third season before they did a time warp and advanced him to a young but speaking age for the remainder of the series.

Ross Bagley, now 23, also played Dylan Dubrow in Independence Day and Buckwheat Thomas in The Little Rascals. His roles are few and far between after the child actor phase, though he did win three Young Artist Awards for these roles. He was in an episode of Providence and did a voice in The Wild Thornberrys in 1996, and also appeared in an episode of Judging Amy in 2004. It seems he's taken a break from acting but is interested in pursuing it, going for a cinema and television arts degree at California State University Northridge and on track to graduate this year.