My theme song, part 1

My life changed one day in the ’80s at a family gathering at Mom and Dad’s in Sunapee, New Hampshire. My nieces Liddy and Sarah Mary were still in single digits then and had brought along their latest VHS tape, the 1983 production of The Care Bears in the Land Without Feelings. They watched it avidly, while I sat bored with the icky lessons about making friends and sharing your feelings. But suddenly I was as enraptured as they:

The Care Bears are such a bunch of smarmy charms you naturally root for the villain, and theirs blows away other cartoon bad guys like Gargamel and Murky Dismal (okay, Skeletor comes close). It’s no wonder I’d found my anthem. Everyone goes gaga for those meteorological puppets the Heat Miser and Snow Miser, but they can’t hold a c – c – candle to Professor Coldheart.

My theme song, part 2

The minute I heard the lyric —

I’m on the case, can’t be fooled
Any objection is overruled
Oh, I’m the Arbiter and I know best

— then the backup singers —

He’s impartial, don’t push him, he’s unimpressed

— I knew I’d found my theme song.

“Chess,” by ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus and legendary lyricist Tim Rice, is a musical with a (groan) checkered history, arguably more successful as a 1984 concept album than it’s ever been on stage. (“One Night in Bangkok” was a #3 hit single for Murray Head in 1985 and the 1986 London production ran for almost three years, but the ham-handedly revised Broadway show lasted only two months in 1988.)

I’m part of its small but diehard group of fans because it’s smart, with themes intricately appearing and reappearing in different songs; it’s cynical, with a more bitter than sweet view of life and relationships; and it rocks. Ladies and gentlemen, from one of the cult-favorite “Chess in Concert” productions, the Arbiter’s song:

(Yes, I know YouTube also has the music video by the original album Arbiter Bjorn Skifs, but it’s so, so ’80s. And don’t get me started on some of the recent mangled stagings; “Pity the Child” is the American’s song exclusively and having Florence sing any part of it is abominably wrong.)

But why is this only number two in my countdown of personal anthems? Well, my nieces outvote me two to one, so their pick will appear presently.

My theme song, part 3

Everyone has a favorite piece of music, but only some of us have theme songs. A theme song embodies your image and epitomizes who you are, like Calvin’s in a 1990 “Calvin and Hobbes” strip:

He’s Ca-a-alvin!
Amazing, great Ca-a-alvin!
Oh, he’s the one that you’d like to meet!
He’s the one who just can’t be beat!
He’s Ca-a-alvin! La da ta da daaaaa!

Or my fave superhero, Marvel’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, who makes her Issue #1 debut joyfully singing a song with a suspiciously familiar melody:

Squirrel Girl, Squirrel Girl!
She’s a human and also squirrel!
Can she climb up a tree?
Yes, she can, easily.
That’s why her name is Squirrel Girl!
At the top of trees
Is where she spends her time
Like a human squirrel
She enjoys fighting crime!

Etc. As her squirrel pal Tippy-Toe says, “Now if we could just get anyone else to sing that song, we’d be set.”

As for me, many people — especially the women in my life — stereotype or associate me with a well-known pop culture character. Modesty forbids me to make the comparison, which frankly is only the third most accurate musical portrayal of your correspondent. But if you insist (and don’t mind clicking the X to spike the annoying YouTube pop-up ad), I’ll give you this golden oldie from Goldentusk, who provides lyrics to Monty Norman’s famed instrumental:

Coming up: the runner-up and winning theme songs for someone seeking to summarize the Stakerson experience.

The game’s afoot

One (perhaps the only) good thing about 2017: Three more episodes of “Sherlock” start on PBS tonight. I didn’t think anything could top Jeremy Brett’s period pieces, but the present-day BBC production is the only TV show that’s literally brought me to the edge of my seat, that’s made me want to buy the early seasons on Blu-ray when I already own them on DVD (I don’t own any “Elementary” discs). If the phone rings tonight I’m not answering.

Chips in space

I’ve forgotten thousands of facts, hundreds of faces, and two foreign languages, but I have an airtight memory for useless things from the ’60s through ’80s. The other day we were discussing whether Pringles are baked or fried (they’re fried, but processed from dough instead of sliced from potatoes) and all I could contribute was the jingle of the day, from the original TV commercial:

Every single Pringles potato chip is a perfect potato chip!
They’re not broken, fresh and crunchy too!
The canister keeps them that way for you!

More jingles to follow. You don’t believe I have such a prodigious memory? You dare to doubt I can sing the Star Trek original series theme song with the little-known lyrics from the Star Trek Lives! trade paperback? Just try and stop me:

Beyond
The rim of the starlight
My love
Is wandering in star flight
I know
He’ll find in strange starry reaches
Love,
Strange love a star-woman teaches.
I know
His journey ends never,
His star trek
Will go on forever.
But tell him
While he wanders his starry sea
Remember, remember me.

Yes, there are two extra syllables in the last line. Changing it to “Remember poor me” or “Remember, duh, me” does the trick, freeing you for shrieking the high notes at the end.