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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Friendship Connection



I've been doing a lot of thinking about connections.  How we make them.  How we break them.  How we do everything to keep them going, and how we're constantly trying to make new ones.  How sometimes the connections we make aren't as simple as we believe them to be, and how sometimes the most complex connections turn out to be the ones you need the most.



I think the idea of connecting with other people is a must for everybody on this planet.  I think as much as some of us try to deny it, we all need to have some form of interaction with other people because those interactions help keep us sane.

But what if you have a difficult time making such connections?  What do you do then?

Well, I can only speak for myself, but I consider myself to be one of those people who have a really difficult time getting close to people.  What that reason is, I'm not sure.  I have reason to suspect it is because I am considered to be an introvert in a small town filled with extroverted people, and I have always felt as if I don't quite know my place in this world.



Or it could be because I'm as ugly as Quasimodo and repulse everybody that I come into contact with.  But, somehow I don't think that's quite the reason.

I think going back to when I was a kid (and going back to a previous post I wrote about being the odd one out in my family born between generations), I seemed to form connections with some of the most interesting people from my community.  I couldn't tell you the first friend I made in elementary school, but I could tell you that the first adult friend I made was Margaret, the head librarian of our town library at the time - whom I lovingly referred to as "the lady with the bun in her head".

(You see, she always wore her hair in a bun style, hence the phrase.  Funny thing is, I think she got a kick out of it.)

And it was like that throughout my early childhood.  I would have rather chatted with the yard duty teacher than play with people my own age.  I'd rather have talked to the guy delivering bread to the Quickie store instead of the teenagers crowded around the pinball machine.  I formed connections with the most random people in the most unusual circumstances and I saw nothing wrong with it at all.  Of course, I had parental units who supervised every interaction to make sure that it was safe (which was appreciated), but that was how it was. 

I guess part of it comes from the fact that I am the kind of person who doesn't really like small talk.  In fact, I can't stand the whole "Hi, how's your day" garbage that most of us in the world take part in at some point of the day.  I prefer to engage in deeper conversations that provoke thought and encourage creativity.  I'm thinking that could be why I connected with adults more when I was a kid.  I was surrounded by adults in my childhood, and I liked talking to them.  I learned more from the bread delivery guy about life than any of the kids in my class could have taught me.  Again, it seems really strange to some, but that's the way I made connections with people.

I think it also explains why I have so few friends in my community, but have hundreds of connections outside of town.  I've tried figuring it out, and I believe I have friends from four provinces, twenty-nine states, and five different countries!  That's quite a smattering of people scattered all over the place, isn't it?

And yet, I've only ever really met one or two of them in person.

Whether it was because we shared a common interest on a pop culture website, or whether we befriended each other through mutual friends, or in once case bonded because we tag teamed a troll on Facebook and decided that we should be friends because of it, I find it easier to connect with people online than I do in the real world.

Why?



Because online I get the chance to think carefully about how I want to phrase an opinion and I can edit it if I feel it's not exactly how I want to come across.  It's kind of similar to what I do with this blog.  My online persona is definitely more of a social butterfly than the dried up cocoon that I present myself as in the real world.  And that's not me poking fun at myself.  That's a known truth! 

Of course, this leads to a bit of a problem.

You see...the friendships that I have made all over the world through a couple thousand dozen keystrokes the last fifteen years are completely real to me.  I hold them in very high regard, and I appreciate them.  But it is such a horrible feeling to know that they are so far away.  It's not as if I can go out to grab a burger with them, or catch a movie with them, or just wander through the nearest park and talk about life as we spin ourselves sick on the swing set.  Online friendships are real friendships...but I wish I lived closer to them.

And, I guess there's a small sliver of doubt in myself about just how real those friendships are.  I worry that one day I will come face to face with these people that I have been friends with for so many years and they will be so disappointed with the actual face to face encounter that they never speak to me again.  Or I do something to screw it up.  Or, they think I look like Quasimodo and run screeching towards Notre Dame University in a panic.

Okay, that last thing won't happen.  Notre Dame University is about 900 miles away from where I live and they'd probably pass out just before they reach the New York state border.

I'm probably worrying over nothing really.  I tell myself that I've known these people for fifteen years now, and that they won't be disappointed if we ever met face to face.  I have to trust that to be true, and I do. 

Because when it comes to real friendships and real connections...you never know exactly where you will find them.  They can come out of nowhere from the most unlikely sources.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Jem Reviewed: Episode 48 - Journey to Shangri-La

If you thought last week's episode of Jem Reviewed was weird enough with the whole retelling of Robin Hood, brace yourselves.  This week's episode multiplies the weirdness factor by a hundred.



This is what some would call one of the more infamous episodes of the series so far.  Episode 48: Journey to Shangri-La.



But, wait.  I know what you're saying.  Shangri-La does NOT exist.  Well, according to the Holograms' new friend Andrew - who I believe is introduced as a professor of music or something similar - Shangri-La DOES exist!  And it's the very place where the Holograms can go to improve their sound and to add new flair to their already popular music.  This I have to hear.

Andrew explains that while he has never seen Shangri-La up close in person (surprise, surprise), he does believe that it exists, and inside the gates of Shangri-La are the secrets of the finest music ever heard.  Secrets that date back thousands of years.  Kimber asks if the city has all of the old Monkees records, which gets a sarcastic comment from Aja, but Jerrica seems convinced that they should at least try to find it and they immediately book a flight to the area where they believe Shangri-La is.  Tibet.



It looks like Jem and the Holograms aren't the only ones who are ready to book a flight to Tibet.  Apparently, Techrat has his computer set to give him alerts on Jem's whereabouts at all times which upon retrospect is insanely creepy.  I bet he's the one who programmed all cell phones to monitor your location on Facebook too!



Of course, when Techrat tells Eric that the Holograms are going to Tibet, he doesn't exactly know the reason why they're going.  So when Eric informs the Misfits of the Holograms' plans, they look at him as if he has six heads.  But when Eric seems to suggest that there might be something musically related to the trip, Pizzazz jumps on board with thwarting their plans.  Wow, talk about blindly leaping to conclusions.  For all they know, the Holograms could be staging a benefit concert to promote the goodness of yak milk!



Some time later, the Holograms arrive in Tibet, all bundled up for the long hike through a series of mountains covered with snow.  Andrew is there too, along with their guide named Milkey.  Oh, lord, don't tell me they're actually going the yak milk route...



The Misfits have arrived in Tibet as well along with Eric and their own sherpa guide, Miyan.  And, apparently the Misfits have taken their entire wardrobe and all of their electric equipment with them.  Geez, you're only staying a few days.  You're not actually relocating to Tibet.  Though, it might be fun to watch Roxy and Jetta choke down yak milk.

Okay, okay...I'll shut up about yak milk.

At least the Holograms seem to be doing well in the hike.  They've even decided to sing a song about how beautiful and magical they believe Shangri-La to be.  And yes...you will be hearing this particular song played.  A lot.



"Shangri-La".  Definitely not one of my favourite Jem songs.  In fact, I've noticed that the music choices for these later episodes is not exactly Grammy Award winning.  In fact, I don't even think they'd win a Teen Choice Award surfboard.  But, I suppose that they had to incorporate one song that at least had the words Shangri-La.  What next, them singing a song about Dairy Queen?



Well, after that rousing Shangri-La singalong, the Holograms decide that they need to rest (and mainly because the sherpa guide that they hired has gotten them lost on their way to Hunza Village). Hunza Village is the destination that they have to reach first before trying to find Shangri-La.  Apparently an elderly woman who lives there is the only one who knows where it is.  And, there's our plot point.

Jem hears a noise in the background, and she wanders off to investigate.  And as soon as she walks a few steps she is surprised by a giant fur-covered beast who growls at her!



It's the BUMBLE!  Well, okay, it's just a yeti.  The fact that Yukon Cornelius and Rudolph are nowhere around is a sign.  But surprisingly, this yeti is of the friendly sort, and lets Jem in close enough to touch him.  Hell, if Kimber were around, the yeti would probably try to hit on her!  Too bad Andrew scares him off!  It's only after the yeti flees that Milkey drops the truth bomb that the yeti could actually lead the group to Hunza Village.  Nicely done, Andrew.  Looks like someone's not getting any yak milk tonight!



Up above, the Misfits and Eric are intimidated by the fact that to get to the village, they have to climb a giant ice wall.  Of course, Miyan has no problem with making the climb himself, but to take four women, a man, and 2,000 pounds of luggage with him?  Yeah, that's going to be a challenge.



And naturally it's Eric who ends up falling off the mountain first, followed by Pizzazz, Roxy, Jetta, and Stormer.  Fortunately, Stormer's rope snags just before she goes kersplut on the ground, but they are all trapped on the mountain with no way to go.



The yeti has seen this unfold, and not knowing how mean the Misfits are, he decides that he's going to go for help.  And since he already met Jem, he figures that Jem and her friends can help out.

Andrew makes a comment that he can't believe they are getting help from an abominable snowman, which prompts Kimber to make a comment that they can't believe that they're helping the Misfits get to safety.  Well, gee, Kimber.  It wouldn't be very Jem-like to let them turn into Otter Pops on the side of a mountain.  Then again, I could see Jem lecturing them on mountain climbing safety after they rescue them ending off with "climbing a mountain safely makes you a superstar!".



One by one, the Holograms help the Misfits climb up the mountain.  Highlights include Andrew catching Jetta as she loses her grip and slips, and Kimber telling Stormer to ease off the yak milkshakes and lose some weight!  Nice to see that Kimber and Stormer can still joke around with each other.

It comes as no surprise that once all the Misfits are safe, they go and abandon the Holograms before they get the chance to climb the mountain.  Aja wonders why the Misfits are there in the first place, but Jem understands that they're probably looking for the same thing that they are...and they now have a huge head start.  I think Jem's more upset that she didn't get to lecture the Misfits.



The Misfits arrive at Hunza Village - which sort of resembles a campground filled with lots of tents.  It's definitely not the most elegant place the Misfits have visited.  It's even more disappointing for the Misfits when they learn that none of the expensive electronic equipment they brought for the trip will work as there is no electricity in the village at all.  Yeah, I can see how a remote village surrounded by mountains might find it difficult to stay powered up.



But there are people.  Two people emerge from one of the tents - an elderly woman, and a young woman who appears to be around the same age as Stormer and Kimber.  The young woman introduces herself as Li San, and the elderly woman is her great-grandmother.  I couldn't quite catch her name when Li San said it, but this elderly woman is the person that they need to see to help show them the way to Shangri-La. 

It's just too bad the woman won't help them.  She takes one look at Pizzazz and deems the entire group to be UNWORTHY of the experience, and refuses to help them.  HA!  Bet Princess Pizzazz isn't too pleased right now!



But Li San does tell the Misfits that if they want, she will help them lead them as far as she can take them.  While her great-grandmother is the only one who knows the true way, she can help them go in the general area, which is good enough for them.



By the time that Jem and the Holograms arrive at Hunza Village, the Misfits have already departed with Li San.  Only the elderly woman is around to greet them.  She also points out that while the Misfits have already left, they don't know where Shangri-La is, and she expects them to return later that night.  Jem takes the opportunity to ask her to show them the way to Shangri-La, but the woman takes one look at Jem, calls her a fake, and walks away saying that she can't help them.  WHOA!  Can we keep this woman?  She is quite literally the best thing about this weird episode!

It appears as though Li San is doing her best to try and find the location of Shangri-La, but she finds herself at an impasse, and doesn't know where to proceed.  The Misfits decide to sing her a song along the way.



Ugh...ANOTHER repeat of a Misfits tune?  I mean, don't get me wrong, I like "You Oughta See The View From Here" which first appeared in Episode 14 - but it seems like forever since we had an original Misfits hit! 

After they finish singing, the Misfits and Li San slip and slide down an icy hill - which I admit looks like it would be a lot of fun!



Of course, that fun ends when the Misfits realize that Li San has got herself into a prickly pickle of a situation.  She's slid under a patch of snow briar plants which are very sharp.  Li San is uninjured, but she warns the Misfits to stay away from the patch.  Stormer is insistent that they try to rescue Li San, and Pizzazz and Roxy actually agree with her!



But in the process of trying to save Li San, Pizzazz and Roxy both get sliced by the snow briars.  In what seems to be a first for the show, we actually see Roxy bleed because of it!  Mind you, the horrible Korean animation that is present in this episode kind of makes it look strange, but still, the blood is shown!

After Li San is rescued, both Pizzazz and Roxy collapse on the ground.  Li San explains that the snow briars are poisonous, and that Pizzazz and Roxy need to get back to Hunza Village as soon as possible, or else they will die.  But Stormer and Jetta realize that they are hours away from Hanza Village, and they don't know how they will make it back in time.



Oh, look.  Here comes our friendly neighbourhood yeti to make another appearance.  Too bad Stormer and Jetta throw rocks and snowballs at him to make him run away.  Seriously, that's just rude.  Especially since the yeti genuinely wants to help.  He picks up Pizzazz and Roxy and urges the others to follow him back to the village.  He's simply trying to save them some time!  Besides, it's not as if they can just call an Uber to take them back.  One, Uber doesn't service Tibet.  And two, Uber wasn't around in the 1980s.



It doesn't take long for the yeti to bring back the sick women, and Stormer and Jetta are legitimately concerned for their friends.  Now, for Stormer, this is nothing new as she's always been soft-hearted, but seeing this side from Jetta is really something shocking.



Unfortunately, it's bad news for Pizzazz and Roxy.  The snow briar poison is not that easy to get rid of.  You can't get a vaccine or swallow a pill.  The only way to cure the illness is to play the music of Shangri-La.  Jem tries desperately to get the old woman to show her the way to Shangri-La, but the woman refuses, as she still deems Jem as false.



Jem is visibly frustrated and isn't sure what to do...until she really starts to think about what the woman is saying.  Of course Jem is false because Jem is NOT who she really is.  All it takes it for Jem to utter the words "Show's over, Synergy", and she transforms back into Jerrica Benton.  That makes another person who knows Jem's real identity. 

But it's funny that once Jem turns into Jerrica, the woman basically turns into a fangirl and compliments Jerrica on her magic skills!  And the best part is that now that Jerrica is in front of her, she has no problem giving her the map to Shangri-La!  Wow, Jerrica...great thinking!

Of course, she changes back to Jem before joining the others, telling them that they have the map to Shangri-La.  Eric, Jetta, Stormer, and Li San stay behind to watch over the feverish Roxy and Pizzazz while the others try to locate Shangri-La.

It takes a few minutes for the group to find the location, and once they do, they're disappointed to find nothing but a mountain peak.  But once Jem stands out in front, the heavens give way, and a magical village appears out of nowhere.



This is the mythical land known as Shangri-La.  It's a place where people never age a day, where people have lots of fun...



...where people look like this.  Seriously, this guy sounds a little TOO happy to be here.

Actually, he's the gatekeeper of Shangri-La, and he is there to welcome them all.  But he also states that once you enter Shangri-La, you may never leave.  Well, Pizzazz and Roxy...it was nice knowing you two!

Well, okay, there is ONE way that they can leave.  All Jem has to do is agree to learn the songs of Shangri-La by being given a special lesson from the High Lama of Shangri-La.  The rest of the Holograms decide that they're going to wait until Jem returns.  I just hope it doesn't take twenty years for Jem to learn the music!



I do have to admit, watching the music lesson between the High Lama and Jem is probably one of the better scenes of this incredibly weird episode.  It's really farfetched from beginning to end, but the High Lama is a patient teacher, and Jem is an eager student.  Before long, Jem is skilled in playing the music of Shangri-La, grateful for the experience and thankful for the opportunity. 



Of course, when Jem announces that it's time to leave, the rest of the Holograms consider staying in Shangri-La for the rest of their lives.  Yeah, great idea.  Let's let twelve girls under the age of fifteen take care of themselves.  Let Roxy and Pizzazz turn into corpses.  Who cares, right?  Well, apparently Jem cares.  And, it's Jem that convinces everyone else to go back to Tibet to save one-half of the Misfits from croaking.  At least someone has common sense!



Now, when Jem and the Holograms return with the musical instruments the High Lama gave them, they start to play a song for the sick girls...and I must warn you.  This next video is incredibly trippy, so if you're under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may want to skip this one.



This is definitely not the Shannon single of 1983.  "Let The Music Play" is definitely one of the strangest singles in the Jem discography.  It sounds like some new age music from the 1960s and the imagery sort of resembles a sketch from the Claymation Christmas Special.  And yes, the word Shangri-La is repeated about seventy-eight times.  As I said, it's very trippy.



But it seems as though this musical drug does the trick, as Pizzazz and Roxy immediately recover from the sickness they were suffering from.  And for a moment there, I almost think that both of them will show the Holograms a little ounce of gratitude.

Well, that is until Pizzazz and Roxy start yelling at Eric and their sherpa guide and storm off towards Shangri-La.  Sigh...well, it was a nice moment for a little bit.



At least Jem and the Holograms have really gotten a lot out of the experience, and thank everyone for their hospitality.

Oh yeah...about the Misfits quest to find Shangri-La?  They fail.  Miserably.  And Jem and the Holograms sing Shangri-La once more to rub it in their faces.

So, looking back on this episode...it's really not one of my favourites.  I think it's marginally better than "Aztec Enchantment" and "The Presidential Dilemma", but it's just a little too insane for me to really fall in love with it.  The reappearing yeti was on a little too much, and the poisonous brambles were just a plot point that seemed tacked on.  I appreciate the concept of the episode, but I feel it wasn't executed as well as it should have been.

Well, let's hope next week, we have a more believable plot.  Let's see...Jem and the Holograms get caught up in Techrat's time machine and end up visiting three historical places. 



Sigh...is there any way I can skip Episode 49 and go on with Episode 50?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

February 15, 1965

This week in the Wayback Wednesday post, I thought that I would choose a topic that is very close to my heart.  And the accent colour that I have chosen is your clue for this post.  And no, it's not Valentine's Day related.  That was yesterday.

I'll leave you to ponder that as we take a look at some of the other events that happened on February 15th.

1493 - Christopher Columbus pens an open letter describing his experiences in the New World

1764 - St. Louis, Missouri is established (then called Spanish Louisiana)

1804 - The Serbian Revolution begins

1862 - General Ulysses S. Grant attacks Fort Donelson, Tennessee during the American Civil War

1879 - President Rutherford B. Hayes signs a bill that would allow female attorneys to argue cases before the Supreme Court of the United States

1898 - The United States declares war on Spain following the explosion of the battleship USS Maine near Havana, Cuba

1907 - Actor Cesar Romero (d. 1994) is born in New York City

1909 - 250 perish in the Flores Theatre Fire in Acapulco, Mexico

1927 - Actor/comedian Harvey Korman (d. 2008) is born in Chicago, Illinois

1928 - Author of the Clifford the Big Red Dog series, Norman Bridwell (d. 2014) is born in Kokomo, Indiana

1933 - Giuseppe Zangara attempts to assassinate Franklin D. Roosevelt in Miami, but instead shoots Anton J. Cermak, then the mayor of Chicago

1942 - The Fall of Singapore takes place during World War II

1952 - King George VI is buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle

1964 - Actor/comedian Chris Farley (d. 1997) is born in Madison, Wisconsin

1965 - Singer Nat King Cole dies at the age of 45

1971 - Britain completes the decimalisation of its coinage

1972 - Sound recordings are granted U.S. federal copyright protection for the first time

1982 - Eighty-four workers lose their lives off the coast of Newfoundland when a severe storm sinks the "Oceam Ranger", a drilling rig

1984 - Actress/singer Ethel Merman passes away at age 76

1992 - Jeffrey Dahmer is sentenced to life in prison for the serial murders of seventeen men and boys between 1978 and 1991

1996 - Actor McLean Stevenson dies at the age of 68

2003 - At least eight million people in six hundred cities all over the world protest against the Iraq War

2007 - Voice actor Walter Edmiston dies at the age of 82

2013 - Russian citizens get a shock when a meteor explodes above them, injuring 1,500 people and shattering windows in buildings near the area

2016 - Canadian-American singer Vanity dies at the age of 57; Actor George Gaynes dies at the age of 98

And blowing out candles on their cake today are the following famous faces; Frank Dunlop, Claire Bloom, Brian Holland, John Helliwell, Marisa Berenson, Art Spiegelman, Melissa Manchester, Jane Seymour, Matt Groening, Janice Dickinson, Christopher McDonald, Ali Campbell, Martin Rowson, Jane Child, Craig Simpson, Birdman, Alex Borstein, Renee O'Connor, Miranda July, Conor Oberst, Ashley Cafagna-Tesoro, Amber Riley, and Zachary Gordon.

Okay, so you know that today's topic has to do with the colour red. 



And now you know the date that today's Wayback Machine is sent back to...February 15, 1965 - the same day that Nat King Cole died.  While Nat King Cole was a wonderful singer and entertainer, alas, he is not the subject for today's piece.

Though, you know the first clue is that it's partly red.  And your next clue is that it is entirely Canadian made.  Which definitely makes this Canadian born blogger stand on guard for thee in pride. 



And why shouldn't I feel proud of my country?  This July, Canada marks its 150th birthday!  One hundred and fifty years of endless winters, maple syrup, poutines, and hockey games. 

Of course, no Canadian celebration would be complete without the appearance of the banner that many Canadians look at with pride.

A banner that was first introduced on this date in history fifty-two years ago.

A banner that has a distinctive symbol smack dab in the middle of the flag that is quite unique to Canada.



Ladies and gentlemen...I present to you the Canadian flag.  Hard to believe that in a country that was born one hundred and fifty years ago, our flag is only a third of the age of the country.

But it's true.  Prior to 1965, the Canadian flag looked something like this.



The flag above is known as the Canadian Red Ensign.  First used in the 1890s, the Red Ensign was flown in places "wherever place or occasion may make it desirable to fly a Canadian flag". 



And of course, prior to 1965, the Union Jack was flown prominently, as Canada and Great Britain have such tight bonds with each other (which explains why we have so much delicious British chocolate here).



But, in 1964, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson was frustrated with the fact that Canada did not have its own independent flag even though it had been established as an independent nation back on July 1, 1867.  He formed a committee to create a new flag independent to Canadians, and thus the Great Flag Debate was born.  Pearson wanted the flag to be changed, while former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker did not.

Pearson recruited the help of lawyer John Ross Matheson to begin researching the steps needed for Canada to adopt a new flag design, and he knew that he had a challenge ahead of him.  While many English speaking Canadians loved the use of the Red Ensign flag, French speaking Canadians in Quebec and New Brunswick weren't enamored with the Red Ensign.  In 1964, Pearson brought forth his own design for the new flag, which some dubbed the "Pearson Pennant".



As you can see, there were some similarities to the current design, except there were blue stripes instead of red, and the maple leaf design was more of a cluster than a single red maple leaf.  Not a bad design, but certainly not one that I would have voted for.



Ultimately, put to a vote by an all-party committee (consisting of seven Liberals, five Conservatives, one NDP, one Social Crediter, and one Creditiste, the design chosen was created by George Stanley - who based his design on the flag of Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario (seen above).

Long story short, the new flag design was passed in early 1965, Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed the new flag in January 1965, and on February 15, 1965, the flag that Canadians have adopted as its own was inaugurated at a ceremony at Ottawa's Parliament Hill - just in time for Canada's centennial two years later.



And I am sure that the flag will be flown at every opportunity a few months from now when Canada celebrates its 150th birthday.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Being Your Own Valentine

Here it is.  Valentine's Day.  A day in which we are supposed to spend as much money as possible in order to make our special sweethearts fall in love with us all over again.  A day in which we're supposed to give enough chocolates to our loved ones so that they may develop diabetes one day.  A day in which we find out that if a man doesn't go to Jared to get a diamond pendant for his sweetheart, she'll dump him for some guy named Jared.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, Valentine's Day is not exactly my favourite holiday.  I don't think I ever really have tell you why.  I mean, yes, sucking on cinnamon hearts and giving out DuckTales cards to your second grade classmates might have been fun when we were kids.  But for anyone who is suffering from a broken heart, a frosty heart, or who can't seem to give their heart to anybody, Valentine's Day is just another reminder of that fact.

But I'm trying to understand why I have such a hard time with Valentine's Day in general.  I certainly don't feel this much passionate hatred over any other holiday.  I love Thanksgiving.  I love Canada Day.  I love Christmas even though the commercialism associated with it now is slightly manic-depressive.  Valentine's Day to me is just another day to me.



I think a large part of it is that I don't agree with the idea of devoting just ONE day out of the 365 per year to show someone how much you love them.  In most marriages that I know, if a person was only putting effort into the romance 1/365th of a year, I have my doubts that relationship would last a second year.  And while "The Simpsons" sort of spoofed that concept with the creation of the fictional holiday known as "Love Day", I still think that you don't need to buy red roses, chocolate covered strawberries, or heart-shaped balloons to demonstrate love towards a person.  It should be a daily thing.

Secondly, if you really stop and think about the day, St. Valentine was locked in a tower, stoned, and beheaded.  If anybody tried spending Valentine's Day the way that St. Valentine did, they'd probably end up in jail!  I'm not sure how that translated to buy your sweetheart a chocolate Cupid...but I guess if they bit off Cupid's head, it might be somewhat historically accurate.

And lastly...the reason I don't have much love for Valentine's Day is sort of a personal one.  And while I don't really like to dwell so much on the bad parts of life, I feel as though I want to do it here so that people who may be in the same boat as me can feel as though they aren't alone.

Valentine's Day is rough enough if you're single.  Trust me, I've been single for what seems like forever.  But if that was the only thing that was bothering me about February 14th, I'd consider that to be a bit of an overreaction.

The truth is - and it's only taken me until a few years ago to realize this about myself - is that the reason I don't have a significant other in my life is because I have a hard time accepting love for myself.

I mean, for people who have struggled with social anxiety and social depression (something that I've openly talked about here in this space), it's not that easy to get to meet new people.  It's even harder to try and present yourself as a confident and successful person when you don't feel that you're either of those things.

Everyone has gone through life wishing that they could change something about themselves.  Throughout my life, the only thing that I want to change about myself is the fact that I wish I could see myself the way that others see me.  And what I mean by that is seeing myself through the eyes of people who like me...not the idiots who didn't. 

I don't exactly consider myself to be much of a catch for a lot of people.  You know that website for single people called "Plenty of Fish"?  I was the guppy that people threw into the ocean.  I think I lasted a few months before I realized how ridiculous the site was.  I feel the same way about eHarmony, Match.com, Christian Mingle, OurTime, and Ashley Madison.

(Well, okay, if you're looking for love on Ashley Madison, you're clearly looking in the wrong place.)

But you know, my idea of what love is meant to be is admittedly kind of distorted.  I know that people who fall in love do so with all of their heart, but I don't know if I've ever felt that way on a romantic level.  And I think part of the reason why could be because I've had a hard time finding things about me that I consider attractive.

Believe me...Reggie Mantle I am NOT.

I guess somewhere along the way, I guess I just sort of accepted the fact that I don't really believe in the concept of soulmates, and that I don't believe that there really is somebody for everybody out there.  And, I think somewhere along the way, I sort of made the decision that love isn't meant for everyone.  At least not the romantic, lovey-dovey, kissyface love.

And I mean, I'm just a couple months away from my thirty-sixth birthday.  People always tell me that I'm still young and that it will happen.  But I'm of the frame that if it's meant to happen, it will.  And if it does happen and I am in the right frame of mind, I believe that it can be a beautiful thing.

But at this point in my life, I don't really need it or want it.  And I'm starting to realize that it's okay to feel that way sometimes, no matter what society seems to tell you.  It's perfectly fine to be single, and honestly, the way that I feel about love in general, I think it's probably the best thing for me.  I have to learn to accept who I am first before I can open my heart to anybody else.  And I think that society's version of love doesn't necessarily have to match the way that I see it.

Love is love.  Whether it's for a spouse, a family member, a friend, a pet, or even yourself, love is what matters on this day and every other day.




So you know what?  I'm going to be my own damn Valentine today.  Happy Valentine's Day to me!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Jem Reviewed: Episode 47 - Renaissance Woman

Previously on Jem Reviewed, the girls took a trip to Alaska to help Ba Nee's pen pal save the home of her pet seal...and despite that plot description, it turned out to be a pretty decent episode.



Let's hope the next one goes off without a hitch.  This is Episode 47: Renaissance Woman.



So, as predicted, this episode is set in jolly old England at a gigantic Renaissance Faire.  The Holograms have been invited to perform at the festival which coincides with a street vendor market and an archery tournament.  It's a nice idea, but considering that this is a Renaissance Faire, shouldn't the Holograms have lutes and harps?  I don't think they had electric synthesizers in the 1600s.  Danse and Rio are also in attendance, as Rio is helping with the concert set-up and Danse is going to be...well, dancing.



It appears as though the Renaissance Faire is the major event leading up to the historic event that is going to take place at the castle.  You see, the host of the event - Reginald Carfax - is turning twenty-one years old in a couple of days.  And in addition to getting sloshed, he'll become the Lord of Carfax County alongside his trusted advisor, Duncan Broadbent.  I'm sorry, but whenever I hear the name Carfax, I think of those commercials with the talking fox telling you how you can find your perfect used car.  And, well...I'm pretty sure they don't have cars at Renaissance Faires. 

Interestingly enough, the general public of Carfax County aren't too pleased with him taking over the title.  I wonder what that's about.  But, I suppose there's no choice in the matter.  His father died when he was a toddler, and the edict states that the heir can only become Lord when he turns 21.

Oh, well...it's time for Jem and the Holograms to perform a song.  And, pay close attention to Reginald in this video.



This video for "Love's Not Easy" is accompanied by Jem Trivia.  This song was actually supposed to be used in Episode 20, but was left on the cutting room floor.  It's finally heard in full here...which means that for the first time since Episode 26, we have three brand new songs.  Mind you, they're all by the Holograms as the Misfits are absent from this episode.  But still...three new songs!  This one's not too bad, though I'm distracted by the fact that Reginald seems to have fallen for Danse.  I swear, if Danse becomes the next Kimber, so help me...



After the performance is over, Jem and the Holograms take a break where they see two soldiers clad in orange get confronted by a guy who is dressed like...Robin Hood?  Weird.  Anyway, the Robin Hood lookalike manages to grab the money that the soldiers are holding and takes off into the distance, leaving Jem and the Holograms confused over what just happened.



Some time later, the Holograms change out of their Maid Marian costumes and into their Kylie Minogue outfits, and they're talking about what happened when in the distance they spot two vendors complaining about how little money they have collected during the Renaissance Faire.  I have a sneaking suspicion that our "Robin Hood" is going to be making an appearance right about...



...see, what did I tell you?  Oh, and his name is Robin Goodfellow.  Logic tells me that this is going to be the secondary protagonist of this episode.  I mean, the word good is written in his name!  It's a sign!  And, well...he does live up to his name by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.



Oh, and surprise, surprise.  He falls in love with Danse too.  Man, Kimber must be seriously dying on the inside that she's not the object of everyone's desire for Season 2.  I suppose that Robin has reason to fall for Danse...she seems to believe him when he tells her not to trust Reginald.  I get the feeling that there's a story behind this, but now is not the time to discuss it.



No, instead we're going to peek in on the archery competition where many have entered including Jem and the Holograms.  Before we go judging their athletic skill though, we're treated to a scene in which Reginald and Duncan are verbally bashing Robin Goodfellow.  I guess this tells me that they're onto the fact that he stole money from the guards the day before.

And to try and trap Robin, Reginald announces that the winner of the archery competition will win a bonus cash prize of five thousand pounds!  I have no idea what the conversion rate is between British money and North American money, but back in '87, I imagine it to be a nice chunk of change.  But Danse has figured out the plan and she rushes off to try and warn Robin to stay away.



As luck would have it, Danse happens to run into Robin in the middle of a dense forest, and when Danse reveals that she trusts him, he tells her part of the story.  Robin does NOT trust Reginald.  Aside from tales of him abusing his power to make himself richer (because really what politician hasn't done the same thing), he also throws out his belief that Reginald is NOT the true heir of Carfax County!  Which of course leads to the question...who is?  Danse tries to get Robin to stay away from the archery competition, but Robin insists on taking part anyway despite the danger.  You gotta hand it to Robin...he's certainly stands for his causes.



As predicted, most of the Holograms suck at archery.  Kimber and Aja don't even seem to understand how to shoot the bow and arrow, and Shana only manages to strike the ground.  Raya seems to be the only one who grasps the concept and scores a perfect bulls-eye!



Of course, that bulls-eye gets overshadowed by the three that Robin Goodfellow shoots in a row.  And Robin's talent as an archer all but seals his fate as Reginald spots him and orders his men to take him into custody.



Mind you, custody means he's locked up in the basement of the castle.  But still, Robin's pretty much out of commission, and Danse is very upset.



Danse is even more upset when a little boy arrives with a message from Reginald requesting her appearance at dinner the night before he becomes Lord of Carfax County.  She absolutely refuses to go have dinner, lunch, breakfast, or even order off the dollar menu at Wendy's with him!  Can't say I blame her, since he had her other love interest arrested.

And with Robin behind bars, it leaves the soldiers free to collect a 90% tariff on all the wages earned by the fair vendors!  90%?!?  Not even Canada's carbon tax is that steep!



It's here that Jem decides to contact Synergy and...wait for it...conjures up a Robin Hood outfit of her own.  Oh, great.  I suppose this makes Kimber Friar Tuck and Rio Maid Marian. 

And with Jem dressed as Robin Hood, I suppose it's time for another song.



I'm not liking "To The Rescue" as much.  Other than the fact that we see Raya's archery skills come in handy once again, and that the vendors get their money back from the thieving soldiers, the song itself is kind of dull.  Man, for an episode to have all original music, the music is quite bland.



Though the vendors - who are grateful to Robin...Jem, I guess - confirm what Robin was saying to Danse.  The future Lord is not a generous soul and takes practically all of the earnings of the working class people.  Considering that the Lord is in charge of all job creation in the county, they pretty much have no choice but to live in poverty when he assumes the throne.  Danse isn't too shocked, given that Robin told her his suspicions that Reginald had no claim to the throne, but Jem and the Holograms seem to think that this is reason enough to bust into the castle of the future Lord Carfax and rescue Robin Goodfellow.  This prompts Jem to tell Danse to reconsider Reginald's offer to have dinner with him.  Danse responds as if she'd rather decapitate herself with a rusty old sword, but Jem seems to have the idea that if Danse can distract Reginald long enough, it will allow them more time to explore the castle to see if they can locate Robin, or discover the truth behind Reginald's real identity.  Begrudgingly, Danse accepts.  Though, I get the feeling that she'll be armed with a can of pepper spray should he try anything smart.

While Danse is schmoozing with Reginald, the Holograms decide that to avoid getting all caught at the same time, they'll split up into two groups.  Jem, Raya, and Aja will search the upper levels of the castle, while Rio takes Kimber and Shana to the lower levels.



And of course, Jem's group happens to run into danger first as a group of soldiers spot them and give chase through the castle's many hallways.  But it's here that Jem remembers that she has a secret weapon called Synergy, and she asks her to conjure up a hologram of stampeding horses to scare the guards away, which works like a charm.



Of course, Jem is so distracted by the horses that she was proud of herself for creating that she didn't realize that a second group of soldiers snuck up behind them.  Now Jem, Raya, and Aja are locked up in a tower where Jem reveals that no hologram can help them escape now.  Way to state the facts, Captain Obvious.



Oblivious to the fact that half the Holograms are now locked up too, Danse and Reginald share what could be considered one of the most awkward dinner dates ever.  At least the food sort of looks good.  Of course, when the subject of Robin Goodfellow comes up, Reginald is disgusted that Danse seems to defend him at every opportunity.



Reginald's disgust grows even more when Duncan barges in and informs Reginald that the Holograms have infiltrated the castle and have pledged their allegiance to Robin.  Duncan tells Reginald that Danse can't be trusted, and sure enough, Danse has done a disappearing act.  She actually climbs up on a ledge in front of a portrait of who I am assuming is the previous Lord of Carfax.  It's enough for her to stay hidden long enough for Reginald and Duncan to leave. 



Danse tries to find a way out of the castle, but she is grabbed from behind!  Oh great, it seems as though she's trying to break Kimber's record for getting kidnapped too!  Fear not.  The man who has grabbed Danse is Robin's right hand man, Jolly Jack.  I think he must be the Friar Tuck of this tale. 



It appears as though Jolly Jack is useful though.  He and Danse successfully bust Jem, Raya, and Aja out of jail.  But my question is...what happened to Rio, Shana, and Kimber?

Well, it looks as if they have found Robin's cell and are now working to try and help him escape.  It seems as though they believe Robin's theory about the Lord being an imposter, and they want to find a way to prove it before the coronation begins at midnight.  Did I mention that midnight is only a few minutes away?



Oh look!  Kimber's found a crate filled with cassingles of Roxette's "Dangerous".  Too bad that song didn't get released until 1989!  Oh, no, wait.  They're just fireworks.  Because we really needed to have the word dangerous in big bold letters to let us know that fireworks can kill you.  Rio even has to tell Kimber that they can't use the fireworks to let Robin out of jail because he'll explode.  Gosh, how stupid does Rio think Kimber is?   I mean, yeah, Kimber's brain isn't as well developed as the others, but she's not a complete zombie here.



Luckily before anyone can blow anything up, Jem's group arrives in time and Jolly Jack rescues Robin.  But they still have to find a way to prove that Reginald is a big old fake.  



Well, I suppose if they happened to come across a scene where a bunch of Reginald's soldiers are putting up a brick wall where a prisoner is chained behind it, that would be the decisive evidence they need!  That prisoner looks very familiar though.  Have we seen him before?



The Holograms haven't discovered this yet...but they seem to have found the secret treasure hoard of Reginald in another cell.  It seems as though Reginald's been a very naughty and greedy boy.  Unfortunately, this only serves to prove that Reginald is a jerk.  They still have to find a way to prove that Reginald is NOT the true Lord.  Rio seems to think that he has an idea to stall for time and it appears as though the stolen money and the fireworks will play a part.

It's close to midnight and a large crowd has gathered in Times Square to watch the ball dro...oh, wait.  Wrong show.  Actually, the very miserable crowd has gathered at the castle square to watch Reginald become Lord Carfax.  They seem to be miserable because they know that once Reginald becomes Lord, they'll be destitute.  You can't help but feel bad for them.



But wait!  Just as Reginald is about to make his coronation speech, the fireworks light up the sky.  And these fireworks seem to hold a surprise for the townspeople.  Pound notes fall from the sky into the pockets of the poor subjects, and Reginald and Duncan are visibly gobsmacked!



Well, it's not rocket science to see that Rio and the others are tying satchels of money to each of the fireworks.  It's also not very safe!  None of them are wearing safety goggles or personal protective equipment!  One false move, and Shana's football hair will go up faster than a hydrogen filled balloon!



Naturally, Robin Goodfellow takes credit for the plan, telling the people of Carfax that the money is rightfully theirs and that his next step is to overthrow the Lord!  Cue the customary sword fight!  I'll say this...this episode is definitely action packed!



And it seems as though Jem has found the fake wall that holds the prisoner.  And the prisoner seems very intent on getting to the coronation as fast as possible for he has some shocking news!

Luckily, he manages to arrive in time before Reginald has a chance to harpoon Robin right through the heart with a pointed spear!  Such a barbarian that one!

Remember how I said the prisoner looked familiar?  Turns out, he's the Lord of Carfax!  The real Lord!  The one that presumably died years earlier!  Yes, Reginald is a fake!  Seems as though Duncan is Reginald's birth father, and they saw an opportunity to take control of Carfax County.  They kidnapped the REAL heir, cast him out as an orphan, and brought in Reginald as the heir apparent instead!  How evil.



And the identity of the real Lord incumbent?  No other than Robin Goodfellow!  Or, should I say...Robin Goodfellow Carfax!  You know, all this could have been avoided with one of Maury's paternity tests.  Just saying.  The good news is that father and son are reunited and Carfax County has a shot of really being prosperous once more.



At the real coronation ceremony where Robin is expected to become the new Lord of Carfax, he's sharing a dance with Danse, and asks her to stay.  Danse is flattered, but she lets him down by saying that she needs to stay in the United States.  At least Robin and Danse share one final dance with a song that sounds like it could have been written in San Francisco in the '60s.



There's nothing too remarkable about "Flowers in My Hair"...but I guess it works as the prerequisite happy ending music.  As far as this episode goes, some have said that it's one of the worst episodes of the show, but I disagree.  It's not the best episode.  It's kind of all over the place, and the reveal at the end was quite anticlimactic.  But overall, the storyline was fairly interesting, and I think despite some of the inconsistencies and jarring storytelling, it was fine.  It's definitely not my idea of the worst episode.



But next week, you'll see an episode that could be a contender for worst episode ever.  This screenshot offers just a clue of what to expect.