Remember The Toyota Guy?

Helaine and I were lying on the bed watching football (kicked out of the family room by Stef as she caught a Law and Order marathon), when the conversation turned to Toyotathon.

Really. Why would I kid about that?

Toyotathon has been a running joke in our family for years. It was the holiday that followed Thanksgiving.

For years Toyota took advantage of the commercial lull after Christmas to mount a huge TV campaign. Nowadays, the ads are running earlier.

They made one other large change. They stopped using Squire Fridell. I was crushed.

You might not recognize the name, but you’ve seen him tens of thousands of times. He was friendly and energetic. He was the ‘everyman’ who enticed you to Toyota. He was the face of Toyotathon for nearly 30 years!

So, there we were watching football and discussing Squire Fridell when I decided to see what ever happened to him. As is often the case, he wasn’t tough to find.

Squire Fridell is a vintner – proprietor, with his wife, of GlenLyon Vineyards and Winery in Glen Ellen, California. Judging by his picture on their website, he’s doing well and looking healthy.

I don’t know him, but I decided to drop him an email anyway and tell him we’d been talking about him. Who doesn’t like knowing they’re being thought of?

Hi Geoff:

Terrific that I actually REPLACED Christmas! That’s a first….

Life is good out here and the wine is even better!

Come out and visit Sonoma Valley where the weather is something to

enjoy (most of the time) rather than report on…. I’ll show you

around GlenLyon!


Squire, The Ghost of Christmas in The Fox Household

It was nice he wrote back and even better he wrote back cleverly!

I’ve come to the conclusion he really is that nice guy they wanted portrayed on TV… true life typecasting by Toyota. I’m glad I sent the email.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated

We just subscribed to Netflix. Helaine and I are not a huge DVD watching couple, but we thought this might be an interesting experiment. We’re on the plan where you get one movie at a time, with a new one as often as you send the old one back.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated was at the top of our queue and came yesterday. With me currently alone, the timing was right. This film is a documentary and Helaine’s not usually inclined to see docs.

I originally became aware of this film on my way home from October’s trip to Maine. While I drove, and Bob tried to sleep, I listened to director Kirby Dick being interviewed on NPR.

The premise of the movie is, the MPAA movie ratings (The G, PG, R and NC17) are arbitrarily assigned, in a system which benefits big studios and penalizes independents. Dick also concludes homosexual sex is much more harshly treated than similar heterosexual sex acts.

The movie was shot after Dick had already come to a conclusion. That’s not to say he was wrong. It just isn’t an evenhanded presentation. He’s looking to justify his conclusions, nothing more.

The board that assigns the ratings is secret. It’s rules are secret. Everything about the system is secret. And, this secrecy is portrayed as a smarmy kind of underhanded cabal.

The movie goes out of its way to unmask the people involved, using private detectives. I understand the point and method, but I felt these people had their privacy unfairly invaded. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive here, but I felt uncomfortable watching the detective work in progress.

After all, Kirby Dick’s problem is with the MPAA, not their employees.

A few quick notes before I end:

I found the interviews with directors, specifically John Waters&#185, Matt Stone and Kevin Smith, fascinating. Forget wanting to meet your favorite stars. The interesting people in Hollywood direct.

Also, in a Q&A session from the SXSW Film Festival that’s part of the “extras,” I felt there was gratuitous closeup B-roll of Harry Knowles, proprietor of Aint It Cool News, a movie fan site. Harry never asked a question, nor was he identified. Why shows him… and show him again?

Before the film was released, but after the Q&A, Harry wrote:

Kirby Dick’s film is genius. It completely reveals the hypocrisy of the system, and pulls back the curtain to reveal a sacred set of lies that the industry’s “wizard” had been operating behind.

Harry’s words would mean so much more if he were a totally dispassionate bystander. Did they really have to kiss up to him and cast doubt on his imparitality?

Netflix asks you to rate the movie you have just seen (so they can better recommend other films). I gave this doc 4 of 5 stars. If there was a 3.5, I would have given it that instead.

Glad I got it.

&#185 – Could he be any more weird… even if he tried?

The Coolest Weather

My friend Bob, down in Florida, might be the smartest guy I know. Certainly, as far as math is concerned he is.

Bob is a professor at Florida State with a PhD from Penn State. He is also the proprietor of In meteorological parlance, WX is weather.

Last night Bob hit me on IM to look at an addition to his site:

I’m not sure how, but four times an hour he parses every station in the world that’s delivering weather data and then picks out the most extreme of the lot. Where is it hottest or coldest or windiest – right now!

I have been surprised at how few stations actually do report extreme weather, like heavy rain or blizzard conditions. And, I’m sure over time, there will be repeat observations from sites located in inhospitable spots, like Mt. Washington.

The site is still in development, but worth taking a look.

Having a Blog – The Fringe Benefits

I like writing in my blog. Hopefully, that’s obvious. Whether anyone reads it or not, it’s an opportunity to vent and reflect. There are, unfortunately, far too few places to do either.

A side benefit of having a blog is the web presence it gives me. Do a Google search for Geoff Fox and you’ll find me first, even though there are other Geoff Foxes – most more accomplished than I am.

Once you’ve found the website, getting in touch with me by email is simple. From time-to-time I get a note from someone I knew a long time ago who stumbled across this site. One came in tonight.

Actually, I’m lucky I found the note from Dave Kulka, because it was in my spam box, snuggled between herbal Viagra and mortgage offers&#185.

David Kulka here. Geoff, how the hell are you? We haven’t spoken in a

long time. I was sifting through DX artifacts and other memorabilia

from the past and came across a batch of old letters from you. You

were certainly easy to find on Google.

Email seems insufficient for catching up after 30 years, why don’t you

give me a call. 818-xxx-xxxx.



He’s David now, but I first met Dave Kulka in person in August 1968. We had met through correspondence and a mutual hobby, broadcast band DX’ing&#178, months earlier.

I had just turned 18. Dave was a few years younger. We planned on meeting for the National Radio Club convention in Los Angeles, visiting another radio nerd in Riverside, CA and spending some time at Dave’s house in Marin County, just outside San Fransisco.

This was my first time away from home by myself. I was flying cross country to meet a stranger. Who knew what he’d be like?

At 18, I was naive. There was never a question of fear or worry. I remember getting some incredible 1/2 price youth fare on TWA and flying from Kennedy Airport to Los Angeles.

There’s not a lot I remember, though a few individual events stand out.

The convention was held in an older, somewhat worn, hotel in Hollywood. I believe it was the Roosevelt, but I might be wrong. Within an hour of being in LA and checking into the hotel, I got myself arrested for jaywalking at Hollywood and Cahuenga! I think Dave got pinched too.

When we went to the desert in Riverside, it was as foreign a place as I’d ever been. I remember how bare the ground was, and how we were fairly close to a bluff which overlooked Riverside Airport. I went there a few times to watch the Hughes Air West Fairchild F-27’s takeoff and land

One day while we were in the house in Riverside, everything began to shake. I could hear plates and glasses rattling. Earthquake! It scared the living daylights out of me… though Dave and the home’s owner, Don, made like it was nothing. To this day, it’s my one and only earthquake.

Spending time in Marin County was also an eye opening experience. Dave and his family lived in a beautiful home on the side of a hill. There was a deck which ran from the side to the back. His parents cars were parked on the narrow road in front of the house. Their auto registration was somehow affixed to the steering post. Having grown up in apartment 5E, this was all culture shock.

I remember Dave’s mom. I couldn’t pick her out of a crowd today, but I remember thinking she was pretty and young for the mom of a contemporary. Mostly I remember her during the days of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

This was the convention where Mayor Daley attempted to quash the dissent of the anti-war movement. There were riots in Chicago during the convention. It was all televised live.

Dave’s mom cried. It was a soft, emotional cry. Over 35 years later, that moment is strong in my mind. I remember her standing there, turned 3/4 away from the TV, in an emotional state because of something going on half a country away.

I didn’t understand the significance of what was going on at the time. Dave didn’t either. But her emotion from that night is still strong in my mind.

Dave’s uncle, Leo deGar Kulka, was the proprietor of a well known recording studio in San Fransisco. We spent a lot of time there, though I never met Uncle Leo.

Like I said, Dave could have been a weirdo – who knew? I was going out there on blind faith. But, he turned out to be a nice guy, and it was a trip which still stands out in my mind.

Tonight, on my way home from work, I called him and we spoke for a while. He has had an amazing life, traveling through much of Asia. These were not tourist jaunts to capitols, but trips through the countryside – places where Anglos are oddities. That kind of world traveling is one thing I’ve wanted to, but never will, do.

He sounds bright, self assured and content. On the phone I told him he sounded happy with his life, but I think content is a much more fitting word.

Dave’s in Burbank, in the San Fernando Valley, designing and installing recording studios. He is married with no children.

We get out there every once in a while. Next time, I’ll have to see him. How much could he have changed in 36 years?

&#185 – I always hope I find all the non-spam in my spam box, but, as good as popfile is, I am never sure. The downside to having a website like this is the amazing amount of spam I receive – hundreds of pieces every day.

&#178 – Broadcast band DXing is a hobby where you try and listen to distant, often foreign, broadcast stations on the regular AM dial. Using sophisticated, incredibly nerdy equipment, I was able to hear Europe, Hawaii, even Africa on an AM radio from the East Coast. I haven’t been involved in years, but still know the calls of most of the dominant clear channel stations and many of the strong regionals.

Another Pox On My Web-house

I look upon the Internet as Manhattan circa 1974. There are museums and cultural attractions. There are hookers, scams and slime. Everyone lives together, though grudgingly at times.

As with the Manhattan of 30 years ago, the underbelly businesses on the net are constantly trying to gain an advantage – often at the expense of the legitimate residents. One of the ways we all see this is in spam. As the proprietor of a website I have additional tsuris. Today, a new one.

I think I have complained before of what’s called ‘comment spam.’ Scummy websites, which could never achieve legitimate ‘weight’ on Google, plant comments on blogs like mine. The comment itself might be as innocuous as: “Ain;t it the truth” or “I couldn’t agree more.” The comment isn’t as important as the fact that it’s accompanied by their web address. That address, appearing on loads of blogs, will increase their Google rank – a very valuable commodity.

I scan all the comments I get, and these spurious ones are gone in a hurry. I hope all bloggers are as diligent – though I’d guess they aren’t. A few days ago I woke up to find a few dozen of these, all from an IP address in Russia.

Now another parasite rears it’s ugly head. Today I started getting bounced spam email – email sent to addresses that don’t exist or won’t accept the mail for other reasons. Why am I getting these bounces? Because the spammer put a return address (nothing more than a random jumble of letters) that ends “”

Already, because of this spam, at least one website has informaed me that mail from this site will be refused! It’s a site I don’t care about, but they surely aren’t alone.

What did I do to get this honor? Nothing. I’m sure I was just picked at random as the spammers tried to hide behind any scent of legitimacy they could find.

I continue to say, unless email is fixed so it can be trusted, the Internet will surely die or lose its incredible promise.