Monday, December 27, 2010

Tuesday Night Football - The Politics of Snow Removal

"Vince Lombardi would be spinning in his grave", said Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, in an on-air rant about the NFL's decision to postpone the Vikings/Eagles game, scheduled for Sunday night, to Tuesday. Rendell and Fox-29's John Bolaris even went at it about the actual number of inches of snow (paging Dr. Freud) that actually fell on and around Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Eagles.

Here in the Mid-Atlantic states, a major snowstorm is almost always a no-win situation for local government and their limited resources. Places like Buffalo experience storms like this on a regular basis and are able to justify ample snow-removal capabilities in their budgets. In places like the Philadelphia area, it is impossible to predict, on a winter-by-winter basis, what the snow removal needs will be, so they do their best when budgeting for snow emergencies.

On Sunday morning, after careful review of all the meteorology available to him, Mayor Michael Nutter urged the NFL to postpone the game. NFL diehards immediately cried "wimp!", but the Mayor's decision, in this writer's opinion, has merit. Imagine the outcry if the full force of Philly's snow removal efforts was focused on getting ready for a football game, while the neighborhoods were neglected, snowed in, and residents were unable to get out of their homes.

It would not only have been necessary to clear all the snow from the parking lots and surrounding roads, but every flake would have had to be removed from the inside of the stadium. Did we really need another spectacle of snowball-throwing Eagles fans on national TV?

Here in New Jersey, such a decision did not need to be made, as the Jets and Giants were both away on Sunday. NJ State Senate President and acting NJ Governor Stephen Sweeney, who is currently holding the position after the Governor and Lt Governor both got out of  Dodge for simultaneous vacations, called a state of emergency in NJ due to the blizzard.

Back to the Eagles - Interesting that they are scheduled to play the Vikings, a team from a city well-prepared to deal with snow emergencies, except when the roof collapses on their domed stadium. The Birds managed to clinch the NFC East title anyway, thanks to the Giants' horrific loss to Green Bay Sunday. 

And so, after more than a bit of griping, Eagles fans will head to the Linc or tune in to NBC-TV Tuesday night to enjoy the game, with visions of an NFC Conference title once again dancing in their heads. And life will go on.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Go Ahead, Senator Sweeney, Make My Day

Talk about "below the fold".

On Christmas Day, 1:00pm, when most people were not reading the Star Ledger or, came the news that Governor Chris Christie and Lt Governor Kim Guadagno are both taking vacation out of state, leaving Senate President Stephen Sweeney as acting governor while both are away. Maybe I missed something, but wasn't the position of Lt. Governor created to provide for continuity in the NJ Executive branch while the Governor was unavailable to discharge his duties? How do they get away with leaving the state at the same time?

While we know that the Governor will be in Disney World in Florida with his family, it has not been released (not to this writer, at least) where Lt Gov. Guadagno will be, other than that she will be out of state. Perhaps she will be in Disney World with the governor, standing behind him, gazing longingly, Nancy-Reagan-like, while Christie hob-nobs with Mickey and watches his kids enjoy the rides.

According to the Star Ledger:
"Theoretically, Sweeney could sign legislation Christie hasn’t acted on or even file nominations Christie would never dream of filing. Sweeney could even re-nominate former state Supreme Court Justice John Wallace Jr. to the bench, whose pass-over by Christie in favor of attorney Anne Patterson angered Sweeney. But he won’t."

Says Sweeney:
“I wouldn’t do that to him. The guy is going on vacation with his family, and I’m not going to ruin it by creating mischief. The governor’s office is something that people shouldn’t think is a toy. It’s a serious responsibility.”

It speaks volumes that the governor has left the State government in hands of Sweeney, with full confidence that there will be no "mischief", where "mischief" may be defined as reinstating Justice John Wallace, or signing the "Back To Work NJ" and the anti-bullying bills.

While we're on the subject of missed opportunities, since this is a time when teachers, and many others, have the week off, this would have been the ideal time for the governor to defer his vacation and hold some "Town Hall" meetings at a time when his audience would include members of his constituency who typically cannot attend such meetings on normal weekdays. After all, if his "Reform" is so urgent, why leave the state now? Certainly a Disney vacation can wait until the next school break in the spring.

So, how about it, Senator Sweeney? You're right, the governor's office is a serious responsibility. So how about some mischief? .

Saturday, December 25, 2010

One More Time From Mister White Christmas....

before we retire him until next year....

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"The Spirit of Christmas", featuring the Mabel Beaton Marionettes

CLICK HERE for an update on 2011 airing

This vintage Christmas special, featuring marionette performances of "A Visit From St Nicholas" and the story of the Nativity, has been shown in TV every year since 1950.

As a public service, Pick's Place is providing the show times for "The Spirit of Christmas":

The Mabel Beaton Marionettes perform " 'Twas The Night Before Christmas" and "The Christmas Story" 
Where: WHYY Channel 12
When: Friday, December 24  —  5:30am & 7:30pm
You can now see these vintage shows on YouTube, or DVR them, but there's no substitute for catching them in real time on regular TV (for me, at least).

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

From the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" Department....

Comes news that NJ Governor Chris Christie has compared the New Jersey Education Association to Alabama Governor George Wallace attempting to block the entrance to the University of Alabama to prevent integration of the school.

"Southern Strategy", anyone?

For my comment calling this "sending an obvious dog whistle to his potential Southern constituents for when he runs for President in 2012", I was called a simpleton and a dumbass. I guess I should wear these two labels as a badges of honor?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It's My Christmas, and I'll Cry If I Want To

So, the Republicans in the Senate are terrified that they may have to work up to and including Christmas, to settle some unresolved legislation, including ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), and the $1.1 trillion omnibus funding resolution, that the Democrats want to complete before the end of the lame duck session.

According to Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ):
“It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out without doing — frankly, without disrespecting the institution and without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate, not just the senators themselves but all of the staff.”

How many recesses and breaks does Congress get, including practically the entire month of August? Certainly more than people in these professions, many of whom must work, not only Christmas, but other holidays as well:

  • Members of the military, especially those stationed overseas
  • Police, firefighters, EMTs - yes, those same ones who came to the World Trade Center site to help and were told by our own Christie Whitman that the air was safe, and are now being denied health benefits for illnesses contracted from breathing the "safe" air.
  • Health workers: doctors, nurses, orderlies, maintenance crews. Hospitals have no days off.
  • Pilots, flights attendants, air traffic controllers, other airport crew members (how many are flying members of Congress home for Christmas?)
  • Food service workers, cooks, waitstaff, caterers (how many are working on Christmas to feed members of Congress who can afford paid help for their holiday meals?)
  • Workers at 24/7 convenience stores, who help us out when we forgot to pick up a container of egg nog or whipped cream for our desserts.
  • Workers at 24/7 gas stations, who, here in New Jersey, stand out in the cold because we don't pump our own gas.
Are there more? You bet. Let's not forget members of the press, who are charged with keeping these public servants honest.

If these pious Senators are so concerned about their holy holiday, especially one whose motto includes "Peace On Earth, Good Will Towards Men", why can't they take the time to work out a peace treaty before Christmas?

Stop whining and get to work.

Sunday Night: Are You Ready For Some Softball?

You would not know it from the 60 Minutes website, but thanks to my friends at Blue Jersey I learned that Governor Chris Christie will be featured tonight. When I went to the site to check for information, there was nothing there about an appearance by the Governor of NJ. The featured preview was a story called "The Gift of Endless Memory" (interesting juxtaposition).

The good news is, ever since the "Heidi Bowl" (for those of us old enough to remember), we do not have to worry about the Steelers/Jets game being cut-off in favor of 60 Minutes while the Jets are in the throes of yet another nail-biting comeback. However if you're not quick enough on the channel changer after the game you may catch an unwanted glimpse of the bloviations of the Great Reformer of NJ, repeating the same platitudes in response to whatever softballs are lobbed his way. (Who would be best to interview Christie: Anderson Cooper? Katie Couric? I wonder if he can answer a hard-hitting question like "What do you read"?).

As an apprentice contributor to Blue Jersey, I am on self-appointed Christie-watch, so I will be watching, and taking notes. CBS News is good at timely posting of transcripts so anyone who cannot watch (or bear to watch) can read all about it the next day.

So, what do you think? Will this be the usual hagiographic puff-piece that the Governor has become accustomed to, or will our interviewer hit him with some real questions, other than his fandom of Bruce Springsteen and his "YouTube moments"?

I am not optimistic but I hope 60 Minutes surprises me and proves me wrong. After all, I'm still going through Boardwalk Empire Withdrawal.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Who Are You Riding For?

Now, before the Grammar Police jumps all over me, the title of this post is the motto of the American Cancer Society Bikeathon, coming next year on Sunday, June 10, 2011. Once again, I've signed up to ride the 66 miles and will be hitting up my friends and family for donations sometime in the future.

As you know, from time to time I write for iReport, CNN's place for citizen journalists. As iReporters, we can write about anything we want. We can also respond to assignments posted by the CNN staff. Coincidentally, a new assignment called "Your questions about cancer" came up at the same time I was signing up for next year's ride. The assignment was to post a question to oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

My question was, "What does the American Cancer Society do with the money raised by such events as the bikeathon?".

Apparently, CNN liked my question, as evidenced by the little red "CNN iReport" badge the stamp on the upper left side of the photo, which in this case is a still from my video question. So much so, that, when you go to the "Assignment" page, there is my mug, on the main page. Unfortunately the screen grab and facial expression make me look like I'm suffering from severe intestinal distress, but there I am.

So, look for me soon on when the Dr. Mukherjee segment is aired, or posted. Of course I'll tip you off when I find out when.

As for the title question, "Who are you riding for?", the answer, sadly, is too many to name. Friends, relatives, coworkers, many lost to this disease, many who have fought and survived, and many who are still fighting. You know who you are, and this is for you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Chicken Or The Egg?

No, I'm not referring to that terrific restaurant in Beach Haven, but a recent study that reveals the startling revelation that Fox "News" viewers are alarmingly uninformed.

  • 91 percent believe the stimulus legislation lost jobs
  • 72 percent believe the health reform law will increase the deficit
  • 72 percent believe the economy is getting worse
  • 60 percent believe climate change is not occurring
  • 49 percent believe income taxes have gone up
  • 63 percent believe the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts
  • 56 percent believe Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout
  • 38 percent believe that most Republicans opposed TARP
  • 63 percent believe Obama was not born in the U.S. (or that it is unclear)
Of course none of this is news to most of the readers here. But I can't help but wonder, are Fox viewers blank slates, thirsting for knowledge, with no pre-conceived notions, or are they the already uninformed, looking for validation?

Which came first?  

From One Nation Rally 2-Oct

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Slacktivism: My New Favorite Word


Have you seen this:
"Most people have 1000 wishes for Christmas; a cancer patient only has one,to get better. I know 97% of you won't repost this to your status, but my friends will be the 3% that do. In honor of someone who has died, or is still fighting, or survived cancer, copy this to your status."

Or this:
"Change your facebook profile picture to cartoon from your childhood. The goal? To not see a human face on FB till Monday Dec 6. Join the fight against child abuse. Copy and paste to your status and invite your friends to do the same."

"Slacktivism": Defined in the Urban Dictionary as "The act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem, The search for the ultimate feel-good that derives from having come to society's rescue without having had to actually gets one's hands dirty or open one's wallet."

Now, I have nothing against fighting cancer or child abuse. In fact, I ride every year in the Philadelphia American Cancer Society Bike-a-thon, and contribute to others who participate in similar events. As for the cartoon character thing, I was taken to task by my otherwise sensible friends for not participating. My take: if you want to fight child abuse, do something about it, beginning with taking care of your own kids.

I am currently the administrator of a Facebook page called NJ against Chris Christie. How I became administrator was by accident. I came across the page in March, when I was angered by some of the items in the 2011 budget proposal, and wanted to engage in some slacktivism of my own. I contacted the creator of the page, exchanged some emails, and he made me the administrator. My duties consist of finding interesting news items and comments to post on the page, to spur some lively debate. Membership has grown to over 43,000, up from 60 in March.

This is all well and good, but not much gets accomplished except complaining and arguing. Very few members have actually attended any Christie Town Hall Meetings (I have). Very few have contacted the Governor or their State Legislators to air their grievances (I have).

I am ready to hand control of the NJACC page to someone else willing to preside over complaints and fat jokes. I am happy that my inaugural post to Blue Jersey was so well received and look forward to being a more regular contributor. I'm also teaming up with some friends on a special project which will be unveiled soon.

There is a great deal to be done in NJ politics in the near future: The next budget battle and State Legislature elections in 2011, keeping the White House and Senate Democratic in 2012, as well as gaining back the House majority, and of course, replacing the Current Occupant of Drumthwacket in 2013.

The next time someone asks you to join a Facebook group, "like" a page, join a cause, or sign an e-petition, ask them: "What are your DOING?"

Monday, December 13, 2010

An Open Letter to Governor Chris Christie

The Honorable Christopher J. Christie
Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625

Dear Governor Christie:

I am writing with respect to the "Town Hall" meetings you have been conducting across the state.

It is a common misperception that the attendees at these events are pre-screened and your supporters are given preferential treatment for admission. I know for a fact this is not true. I am a registered Democrat, and was not subjected to any political or ideological litmus test for admission to a recent event.

The reason, I believe, for this misperception, is that these events are always held in the daytime, making it difficult for anyone other than retired persons to attend. That these events are usually held in towns with a predominantly white population makes the demographic look very much like the Glen Beck rally at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 2010.

I recommend that you consider holding some of your Town Hall meetings in the evenings, and in places like Camden, Elizabeth, Jersey City, and elsewhere, where you can get your message to a far more diverse crowd.

I also recommend that you scrap the "YouTube Moment" meme when inviting citizens to ask questions, and engage them in civil discussion, rather than berating them for the benefit of the camera. Having your State Police bodyguard manhandle a questioner, bring him up to the stage, scold and rail at him, then have the officer remove the citizen from the stage, without giving him the opportunity to respond, may make for entertaining television, but it is no way to govern.

It is also in direct contradiction to your repeated admonitions that "there is nothing left unsaid between us".

If you wish to get your message out to anyone other than the usual amen chorus that predominate your Town Halls, I suggest that you expand the demographic scope of the audience and engage in real discussion of ideas. Otherwise, you cannot expect to win the hearts and minds of anyone in your opposition, not one.


Jeffrey R. Pickens

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Easy Pickens BBQ & More to Launch August 7

It’s a family affair: South Jersey dad, sons, to  turn passion for outdoor cooking into a barbecue team and catering service

Turnersville, NJ - August 2, 2010

A South Jersey backyard barbecue enthusiast has teamed up with his sons to make the leap from amateur to pro. Washington Township resident Jeff Pickens, along with his sons, has formed Easy Pickens BBQ & More, a barbecue team which will compete in Saturday’s annual Stephen Starr Garry Maddox BBQ Challenge in Philadelphia, PA. After that, the team plans to parlay their outdoor cooking skills into a catering service specializing in barbecue and other specialties.

“ I keep hearing, ‘you guys need to go into business’, anytime someone tries our ribs”, says Pickens, 53, who has competed in the Maddox Challenge twice before. On the urging of his son, Dan, 23, Pickens decided to form a real team for this year’s competition. Dan’s idea for the team name was “Easy Pickens BBQ”. Jeff decided to add “& More” to incorporate some other indoor specialties, such as chili and Italian dishes.

“Our passion for food stems from a rich family tradition, growing up watching my Dad from a young age and experiencing the “thrill of the grill”, and watching and learning from my Mom, Grandmother, and aunts, all of whom were consummate Italian cooks” Pickens recalls. “I remember my Dad and uncle cooking their traditional New Years Eve filet mignons outside every year, sometimes in the snow”.

The team, which consists of Jeff, Dan, along with sons Dennis, Frank, and Rob, and some of their friends, will be ready for the Maddox BBQ Challenge with entries in the ribs, chicken, chef’s choice, and Garry’s Rib Challenge, decked out in their newly minted Easy Pickens BBQ & More t shirts.

The team t shirt and logo will feature a smiling pig, surrounded by the team name. The pig’s face was drawn by Jeff’s cousin Susan Mauro, a prominent New Jersey designer. “I drew the pig, it’s Jeff’s job to make it taste good”, says Susan.

Anyone interested in learning more about Easy Pickens BBQ & More should pay a visit to the Stephen Starr Garry Maddox BBQ Challenge, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Saturday, August 7, 2010. If you can’t make it to the event, please visit the website:

About Easy Pickens BBQ & More:
Easy Pickens BBQ & More is a family-based barbecue team and catering service, serving South Jersey and the greater Delaware Valley. We specialize in ribs, chicken, and beef, smoked or grilled to perfection according to your tastes. "& More" means we are more than just barbecue; we offer a variety of Italian and Southern comfort foods, as well as desserts.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Top Ten Key Search Phrases Leading to the World's Greatest Website

For what it's worth - for the first time ever, since I have been tracking this, "jeff pickens" was not at the top of the list:

Search Keyphrases (Top 10)
151 different keyphrasesSearchPercent
recall chris christie8121 %
recall christie297.5 %
recall governor christie266.7 %
jeff pickens194.9 %
acs bike-a-thon 2010133.3 %
american cancer society bike-a-thon 2010123.1 %
chris christie petition82 %
recall governor chris christie51.2 %
petition against chris christie51.2 %
chris christie recall51.2 %
Other phrases18247.2 %

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Early TV Kids Show Pioneer’s Puppets To Be Brought Back To Life.


Sandy Becker’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ To Be Re-Imagined using his original puppets from the lost 1961 production.  

Almost 50 years after it’s original airing, and now lost to the ages (as were many early  TV productions from the 1950’s and 60’s), Flexitoon – one of the premiere puppet production companies in the country – has signed up to ‘re-imagine’ the original production of Sandy Becker’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ with production costs backed by members of the crowd-funding Web site   

Sandy Becker was a television announcer, actor, comedian and puppeteer who hosted several popular children's programs in New York City, the best known was The Sandy Becker Morning Show, which ran from 1955 to 1968 on Channel 5 WABD-TV and WNEW-TV. Becker believed that one of the highlights of his career was his December 23, 1961 interpretation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, performed by his resident troupe of puppets, with GEEBA GEEBA as Scrooge. Unearthing a copy of this lost classic remains the holy grail for many fans and collectors.

“To millions of Baby Boomers who grew up in the Metro NY area, the name SANDY BECKER is magic!” said Flexitoon Partner Craig Marin. Marin, who was profoundly influenced by Becker as a child later become his protege, and friend. When Sandy Becker passed away, he bequeathed his puppets to Marin, with the mandate to "re-imagine" the ‘Sandy Becker Christmas Carol’ as a gift to "his kids." Those plans which have been on hold since Becker’s death in 1996, have been reignited with the prospect of funding by a traditionally unlikely source - his fans.

Through the urging of Sandy Becker fan Jeff Pickens, who proudly lists himself as “one of Sandy’s kids” and came up with the idea of using Kickstarter as a funding source, Marin was convinced that a modest, but sufficient of budget of $30,000 could be raised by tapping into the hearts (and wallets), of other grown up “Sandy’s kids”.

The project is now live ( ) on and features an original Flexitoon video explaining the project with Flexitoon characters Harried Harry and Lucky Jack that’s designed to unabashedly pry pledges ranging from $10 to $500 from enthusiastic backers.

 About Flexitoon

FLEXITOON is a company that for thirty years has specialized in television, film and stage, creating and performing award-wining puppets, marionettes, and programming for Nickelodeon ("Pinwheel"), PBS ("Shining Time Station"), FOX ("DJ Kat Show") and Showtime ("KIDS-TV"). Their "Talking Stain" for TIDE was voted the # 1 Funniest Office Commercial in the World, and the #3 Super Bowl commercial of all time. For more information please visit:
Media Contact:

Craig Marin

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NYC Puppeteer Hopes to Recreate 1961 Christmas Classic

In today's digital age, where everything that is written, photographed, and otherwise recorded, is forever. If it's on the internet, you can find it. It's hard to believe that this was not always the case.

We are talking, in particular, about the kids' TV shows of the early 1960's, hosted by such giants and legends of broadcasting as Chuck McCann, Sonny Fox, Soupy Sales, and most of all, Sandy Becker.

Sandy Becker hosted a daily kids show, broadcast live on WNEW-TV, Channel 5. Any fifty-something Boomer who grew up in the greater NYC area in the 1960's watching TV, remembers being entertained by Sandy Becker, and his cohort of characters and puppets. These shows were broadcast live, recorded on kinescope (the pre-cursor to videotape), saved for a short time, then erased and taped over for the next show.

This includes Sandy Becker's 1961 rendition of "A Christmas Carol", starring his ensemble of puppets, including Geeba Geeba as Scrooge, and Sir Clive Clyde as Bob Cratchit. Anyone hoping to get their hands on a video of this original show is out of luck.

However, New York City based Craig Marin, of Flexitoon puppet studio, has a plan. Marin was a friend and protege of Sandy Becker and inherited Becker's puppets when he died in 1996. "Sandy was a mentor, and we often talked about and planned to remake his Christmas Carol," says Marin, who began his career as a puppeteer and ventriloquist as a teenager. "But sadly, when he passed away, plans were put on old. However, now is the chance to realize Sandy's dream for Boomers and beyond. Our vision is to produce a re-imagining of Sandy Becker’s Christmas Carol, using all the original puppets!"

This will be a 21st Century rendition of the classic show, using the original puppets, new sets, high-def cinematography, and state of the art special effects and editing. In order to finance this project, Craig and Flexitoon, with the assistance of Jeff Pickens (disclosure: the author is a collaborator on this project), have launched a project on Kickstarter, an all-or-nothing funding platform for artists who seek backing for their projects. Potential backers pledge a dollar amount, and with the pledges come premiums, the higher the pledge, the sweeter the premium. No money changes hands until the project is fully funded by pledges.

To learn more about this project, please go to the Kickstarter project page at Read the project description, and the updates, for everything you need to know about this exciting project.

For those of us who remember this program, this was tantamount to a kids' version of Woodstock. With the 50th anniversary approaching, this DVD would make a wonderful gift, an instant Holiday classic you can enjoy with your kids, grandkids, and generations to come!


You can help make this happen by becoming a Becker Backer and making a pledge on the Kickstarter site.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

And We're Off! Sandy Becker's Christmas Carol


OK, here's the deal folks, we need $30,000 by 5/1/10 to make this happen. We launched the project on Kickstarter and got off to a good start, 7 backers and $500 over the first two days. Not bad, but we need much more.

So, if we get 300 people to each kick in $100, or 600 people to each kick in $50, or some combination thereof, we're in. This will be a top-quality production by Flexitoon, one of the premier puppet studios in the country. A DVD the whole family can enjoy.

So, please help us out, here's the link:

And you can join the Facebook Fan Page

Geeba Geeba, Norton Nork, and the Big Professor thank you!


Thursday, February 25, 2010

UPDATE: Flexitoon Presents "Sandy Becker's Christmas Carol"

The Project:

On Saturday night, December 23, 1961, SANDY BECKER, the popular and unique host of the top-rated children’s program on WNEW-TV in the New York City/Tri-State area, presented his vision of Charles Dickens’ “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”.  The program starred Sandy's entire ensemble of puppets - - most memorably Geeba Geeba as Scrooge, Sir Clive as Bob Cratchit, and Marvin Mouse as Tiny Tim.  Millions of Baby Boomers who grew up with Sandy as a vital member of their "TV-family" were introduced to Dickens ghostly tale of redemption through this production, and harbor fond and tangible memories of it - - wishing they could view it once more.

Unfortunately, as was the case with many live programs of the time, the tapes - - to the best of our knowledge - - were destroyed or erased or taped-over, lost to the ether, never to be seen again.
However, the torch has been passed and we have the next best thing!
FLEXITOON, one of the premier puppet production companies in the USA on television, film and stage, was bequeathed the puppets, and mountains of memorabilia, by Sandy Becker himself.  Flexitoon partner Craig Marin - - who as a child was greatly influenced by Sandy - - also became his very good friend. "Sandy was a mentor, and we often talked about and planned to remake his Christmas Carol," says Craig.  "But sadly, when he passed away, plans were put on hold."  Now, through the Internet's power to connect everyone, the Holiday special is back on track.  "Our vision is to produce a re-imagining of Sandy Becker’s Christmas Carol, using all the original puppets!"  Flexitoon will make new costumes, sets, and music, and apply  21st Century production techniques, allowing us to "keep the spirit of the original intact, and simultaneously connect to a modern audience."  This one-of-a-kind take on A Christmas Classic will appeal not only to nostalgic Boomers, but to all ages as well.  "Also," Craig adds, "this will be a COMMEMORATIVE DVD in advance of the 50th Anniversary of the original presentation."

Once this project has been placed into the Kickstarter platform, collaborators Craig Marin and Jeff Pickens plan to seek backing by reaching out to our diverse professional and social networks, as well as family and friends. With Craig’s background in creating award-winning puppets and productions in all media, and Jeff’s background in finance and project management, we see this project as a winner, and expect to touch a nostalgic nerve with enough backers to make it happen. The program will be produced direct-to-DVD, for sale to the public via the Internet, nostalgia conventions, and direct marketing.  Theoretically if we can get 300 people to pledge $100 each we have our goal of $30k. Of course some will pledge more, and some less, but considering our network we can reach out to enough people to attract the backers.

The Collaborators:
Craig Marin
Craig Marin has a lifetime of experience in the field of puppetry. A native of New York City, Craig grew up enamored with the puppets he saw on television, eventually apprenticing for the great Chuck McCann on WPIX. Soon he was appearing on all the local children's programs - - including "The Sandy Becker Show" - -with his unique spin on puppets. After high school he formed the Marko Puppet Theatre and toured colleges throughout the United States with a highly original concept that was just right for the times -- a psychedelic puppet show. The show garnered such an underground reputation, that Marko was asked to perform for the Grateful Dead at Jerry Garcia's birthday party (!). Coming east to New England, Marin began a children's theater that for five years toured schools and theaters. Craig accepted a job with Bil Baird's Marionettes, and it was here that he met his partner and future wife, Olga Felgemacher. Together they created FLEXITOON, a company that for thirty years has specialized in television, film and stage, creating and performing award-wining puppets, marionettes, and programming for Nickelodeon ("Pinwheel"), PBS ("Shining Time Station"), FOX ("DJ Kat Show") and Showtime ("KIDS-TV").  Their "Talking Stain" for TIDE was voted the # 1 Funniest Office Commercial in the World, and the #3 Super Bowl commercial of all time.
Jeff is Manager of Internal Controls for a Fortune 100 company. He has over 30 years experience in accounting control, financial management, risk management, planning and budgeting, cost control and project management. As well as being a life-long TV, film, and theater enthusiast, Jeff’s hobbies include cooking, vegetable gardening, photography, videography, and blogging. His YouTube videos on a variety of subjects (travel, gardening, backyard barbecuing) have been enjoyed by thousands of viewers from all continents. His photos, videos, and writing have been frequently published on iReport.  A native of Jersey City, NJ, Jeff currently resides in Gloucester County, NJ.

A New Take On Sandy Becker's Christmas Carol

Are you a Baby Boomer who grew up watching TV in the Greater NYC area in the 1960's?

Do you remember the Sandy Becker Show? Do you remember Sandy's production of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", starring Geeba Geeba as Scrooge, and Sir Clive Clyde as Bob Cratchit?

Unfortunately, the kinescopes of this production, to the best of our knowledge, have been destroyed and are lost forever. It remains, according to puppeteer Craig Marin, "The Holy Grail" of puppet videos.

But we have good news. A project is in the works to produce a re-imagining of this classic show, using Sandy Becker's original puppets! FLEXITOON - - one of the country's premier puppet studios - - will create and perform the show keeping the spirit of the original, while adding a 21st Century flavor that will appeal to all ages. A DVD is planned for release this Halloween.

The project is in its embryonic stages at this time, and needs financial backing. We will be seeking backers through Kickstarter. If you might be interested in getting in on the ground floor of this exciting project, send an email to Jeff at, or Craig at, or leave a comment on this blog. And if you are on Facebook (and who isn't), join the Sandy Becker Fan Group.

Stay tuned for details!