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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Relax, Chief Quimby - This Blog Will NOT Self-Destruct


Hey, guys!  Before I go ahead with today's cartoon discussion for this week, I really have something that I want to show you guys.  Don't worry.  It's nothing bad, and it's nothing R-rated or X-rated, or any other letter grade rated.  I want to keep this blog on the Internet, remember?

I'm sure that most of you have done at least one bit of online shopping (well, unless you're really paranoid about your information being stolen online with viruses and bugs like the "Heartbleed" virus that caused a whole lot of havoc on Canadian government websites).  I admit that I do a little bit on online shopping myself.  I do live in a town that could be considered small and there's only a limited amount of retail spaces in town that I even shop at.  In some cases, ordering online is the only way that I can get items that have been on my wish list for the longest time.

Not that my wish list is very long, mind you.  I am definitely not a materialistic person.  I buy my clothing at discount stores and outlet malls much like most of you out there do.  Of course, if an "Old Navy" store opened up here, I'd be there in a heartbeat.

Okay, so where was I going with this again?  Oh, right!  The something that I have to show you!  Have a look at what I got in the mail the other day!



Ta-dah!  It's the entire season one library of "Inspector Gadget" in three convenient volumes.  Sixty-five episodes of "Go-Go Gadget" fun!  And, believe it or not, I got the whole thing for a really low cost.  When I do online shopping, I do it the right way!

(The right way being finding the retailer who offers the lowest shipping costs so that I don't end up paying an arm and a leg.)

Now I hear what some of you are saying.  Why is a grown man like myself buying an entire cartoon series on DVD?  Aren't you a little too old to watch cartoons?

In a word.  NO.  And anyone who judges me based on my likes and dislikes can Go-Go Gadget screw themselves!



Truth be told, "Inspector Gadget" has always been one of my favourite cartoon series.  I used to watch it every day before school, and it was one of the first cartoon series that I wrote an entry about.  Of course, that entry was done in more of a generic sense that described the show.

In this entry, we're going to be taking a closer look at the program.  I think maybe a character sketch would be a fantastic way to go.

But which character could I go with?  Hmmm...

I know!  What if I take a look at the character who suffers the most abuse?  The character who experiences the most extreme examples of indignity?  A character whose plans almost always blow up in their face?



Of course, these clues could point to almost anybody.  I mean, Dr. Claw is the main antagonist of the whole series, and every single one of his plans have been foiled by Gadget Penny and Brain.  Certainly he's gone through the gauntlet in trying to rid the world of Gadget.  Of course, this is not the subject of today's blog because Dr. Claw and his entire M.A.D. organization are pure evil.



Perhaps Penny and Brain could be contenders.  Brain is almost always forced to dress up in silly costumes to prevent Gadget from killing himself or other people due to his woeful lack of common sense and bumbling investigative tendencies.  And, I think Penny has gotten kidnapped by M.A.D. agents in two-thirds of every single episode of "Inspector Gadget".  But since they always seem to solve the case for Gadget, we can't really make the claim that everything they do blows up in their faces.

As for Gadget himself?  That would be too easy.

No, just think about the clues for a second.  It's a character who suffers the most abuse in the whole series.  He experiences indignities each and every episode.  Every single plan he has "blows up in his face".

Hmmm...maybe I need a visual clue.



Poor Chief Quimby.  What a way to make a living!

I think that we should do something for him to make up for all of the injuries he sustained over the last thirty years as being Inspector Gadget's direct supervisor.  How about we dedicate this blog to him!



Now, I wish I could give you more of a character sketch on Chief Quimby, but there's very little information that was given in the actual cartoon.  The only thing that I know for sure is that Chief Quimby has served at the police chief of the fictional Metro City for years prior to Gadget joining the force, and that he apparently has stock in the exploding paper business.

Or, maybe it was the ink on the self-destructing messages that caused them to blow up.  Who knows, really?

The point is that Inspector Gadget was considered to be the best weapon that Chief Quimby had on his force (and if that really were the case, lord help Metro City), and on paper, I can see why this was the case.  Even if Gadget didn't have Penny and her computer book around to foil every single plot that M.A.D. had to rule the world, he always had his gadgets - which for the most part worked correctly.

(Truth be told, it's because of Gadget's gadgets that Gadget has managed to survive the thousands of life-threatening situations he finds himself involved in.)

And certainly some of the missions that Gadget has been involved in have certainly put him in danger.  Here are just a list of some of the things that Gadget had to do during the first year the show aired.

- protected Fang the Wonder Dog
- foiled M.A.D.'s monopoly on the dairy market
- prevented a device known as the "Sneez-ooka" from destroying Metro City
- foiled an underground pickpocket agency run by M.A.D.
- discovered the truth behind an alien invasion
- prevented a counterfeit money organization
- served as the personal bodyguard for rock singer Rick Rocker

(And, when I say that Gadget did all these things, I meant Penny and Brain really did.)



But of course, in order for Gadget to even embark on these secret investigations, someone has to give him the information.  That somebody was Chief Quimby.



And because these assignments were always done in secrecy (even though Penny was ALWAYS there whenever the assignments were doled out), the Chief had to put on some...well...interesting disguises.  Sometimes he hid in trash cans, dumpsters, department store displays and pieces of furniture.  And sometimes he would dress up as birds, animals, or even in drag to get the message to Gadget.  Seriously, some of the costumes that he came up with were so creative, I think that he really could have teamed up with Brain to win almost any costume judging contest.

Unfortunately, this is where the Chief's intelligence derails.  In the 65 episodes that were filmed during Inspector Gadget's first season run, the Chief has been the victim of his own self-destructing messages in 63 of them.  And in the other two, Gadget somehow manages to injure the chief accidentally.  Seriously, each time the Chief hands Gadget a message, Gadget absent-mindedly tosses the detonating paper in the general direction of Chief Quimby, leading to a big ka-boom moment!



I hope the Chief has insurance.

Of course, the fact that the Chief constantly sustained abuse from Gadget had me thinking of the crazy theory that I had when I was a kid.  

I always thought that it would be a really killer twist if it were revealed that Chief Quimby wasn't the upstanding citizen that we were lead to believe.  In fact, when I was younger, I actually believed that Chief Quimby and Dr. Claw were the SAME person!

For many years, I believed this to be the case.  After all, in most of the episodes that I remembered watching as a kid, you never saw Quimby and Claw in the same scene.  And certainly if you were blown up every day by Gadget, it could be enough to make even the most serene of men lose their marbles. 

But then I ended up seeing the episode in which Gadget had to protect M.A.D. traitor Nick Defecto and saw where Dr. Claw actually had Quimby kidnapped, and that blew my theory out of the water. 

And besides, when the Inspector Gadget toys were released, we actually got a chance to see the REAL Dr. Claw.



Yikes.  What a frightening looking dude.  No wonder all we saw of him on the cartoon series was his hand!

Still, I always wondered if maybe Chief Quimby would have turned against Gadget and become traitor himself if the situation presented itself.

Nah.  Truth be told, Chief Quimby's just too nice of a guy to let that happen. He's very cordial to Penny and Brain, believes in the power of justice being served, was incredibly angry that Dr. Claw kept getting away, and more importantly than that kept Gadget on the police force despite the fact that he inevitably did more harm than good!

Chief Quimby - we salute you.




Friday, April 18, 2014

Secrets of the Casting Couch

Okay, so I've been doing a lot of thinking since I wrote my last blog entry.  Admittedly when I wrote that piece, I was in one of those moods in which I was absolutely doubting myself and all the contributions that I've made over the past few months.  I was so busy focusing on all the things that I felt that I didn't have that I temporarily forgot about all of the things that I do have.  I guess it took a couple of people reminding me that maybe there are some things that I downplay that I shouldn't, and other things that I put too much importance on.

That's not to say that I'm completely cured of whatever it is that I feel whenever I get down.  I don't know if that will ever really go away.  It gets easier to deal with though, so I suppose that I could call that some sort of victory - however small it may be.

Of course, one good thing about getting all my feelings out from yesterday is the fact that I can now focus on more light hearted topics.  At least...for now, anyway.

Today's topic that I have chosen is a fun one.  And, rather than focus on one particular television show, I'll instead be talking about several shows with one common theme.

How many times have you watched a television program and wondered how certain people were cast?  Have you ever wondered what the original names of sitcom characters were supposed to be? 

Well, sit back on your sofa and pop open a nice cool beverage, because this is the blog for you.

In today's topic, we're going to be taking a look at the secrets from the casting couch.  And, before you get your minds in the gutter, I am talking about the casting couch in a professional sense...not in the horizontal mambo sense.

(Not that I actually want to explain what the horizontal mambo is.  Those of you who are old enough already know.  I hope.)

Truth be told, while I do enjoy a number of sitcoms, I tend to be a sucker for some of the backstage gossip and action.  I love finding out what makes production crews tick.  I love hearing never before heard tidbits about the stuff that goes on behind the scenes.

And, this includes how actors are cast on the show.

Here's just a few examples of what I mean.  We'll start with a show that ran for ten seasons and was considered to be one of the greatest modern day sitcoms of recent history.



FRIENDS (1994-2004)

It's been in the news lately with the speculation that the cast of "Friends" would be reuniting for a television special to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the show's debut.  Although the show's creators have reportedly put the kibosh on that plan, nothing's really set in stone.

And certainly when it came to casting for the show, apparently the main cast wasn't set in stone either.  You see, Courteney Cox was the actress who was supposed to play Rachel.  However, Courteney started reading the script for the pilot episode and was so drawn to the character of Monica that she asked to play Monica instead with the role of Rachel eventually going to Jennifer Aniston.

And another interesting fact.  Before Lisa Kudrow won the part of Phoebe, Ellen DeGeneres was offered the part!  But Ellen - who was about to embark on her own sitcom venture the same year that "Friends" debuted - turned the role down.



FULL HOUSE (1987-1995)

Now, here's a show that has a TON of casting couch secrets.  At least half the cast have their own stories to tell in regards to casting.

For instance, John Stamos was one of the first people to be cast on the show.  But his character was originally not Jesse Katsopolis.  Creator Jeff Franklin had initially planned on calling the character "Uncle Adam Cochran"!  It was John Stamos who got producers to change his character's name.  He changed the character's first name to Jesse from Adam just before the pilot was filmed, and the last name became longer as Jesse's hair became shorter at the beginning of season two - as John Stamos wanted to incorporate his Greek heritage into his character.

But at least Jesse only changed his name.  Danny Tanner changed actors completely.  Jeff Franklin wanted Bob Saget from the very beginning for the part of Danny, but he was already committed to a morning show, and John Posey was cast instead.  When the series was picked up, Bob became available again, and Franklin had the tough task of releasing Posey from his contract so that Bob could assume the role of the neurotic clean freak.

Did you know that Lori Loughlin who played Aunt Becky was only supposed to be on for a handful of episodes during season two?  I guess it's a good thing that she had chemistry with Uncle Jesse!

Oh, and the Olsen Twins?  They were the only twins who didn't cry at the audition.  That's how they became Michelle.



SAVED BY THE BELL (1989-1993)

Not too much to reveal about this show.  But I can say this.  When the role of Lisa Turtle was being cast, Peter Engel envisioned a Caucasian-Jewish tough gal from New Jersey.  Lark Voorhies - the actress who landed the role - was none of these things.  But Lark's audition impressed Peter so much that they changed the role just to suit her.

Oh, and the only other point I have to say is that Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Elizabeth Berkley, and Jennie Garth all auditioned for the role of Kelly Kapowski.  We all know that Tiffani got the part, but Elizabeth was given the role of Jessie Spano - a role that was created just for her.  And ironically enough, Jennie and Tiffani ended up working together on "Beverly Hills 90210" following Shannen Doherty's 1994 departure.



THE FACTS OF LIFE (1979-1988)

Mindy Cohn, who played Natalie on the series, had absolutely zero acting experience when she was given the role.  Believe it or not, when the production crew visited Mindy's school to search for potential actresses to cast, Mindy won the hearts of the crew over by being her happy, jovial self.  The producers actually created the role of Natalie based on Mindy's personality.  Of course, the producers couldn't make it TOO obvious.  Mindy did have to audition for the part like everyone else.

Felice Schachter played Nancy Olsen on the show's first season.  She was the first girl cast for "The Facts of Life".  Sadly, when the show went in a different direction for season two, Schachter was the first girl fired from the program!  But she did make guest appearances in 1981, 1982, and 1986.



THE BIG BANG THEORY (2007-present)

Okay, so it should come as no surprise to you all, but three former cast members from "Roseanne" have appeared on this show.  Johnny Galecki, of course, plays Leonard.  Sara Gilbert played the recurring role of Leslie, and Laurie Metcalfe plays the recurring role of Sheldon's mother.

And Kaley Cuoco was not in the show's original pilot.  And her character wasn't originally named Penny either!  In the pilot, the role of "Katie" was played by Amanda Walsh.



EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND (1996-2005)

One thing that you need to know about this show is that the show is based off of the real life of comedian Ray Romano.  At the time of the series, Ray Romano had three children.  A daughter named Alexandra, and two twin sons named Matthew and Gregory.  In fact, in the pilot episode, the children were named Ally, Matthew, and Gregory!  It was only after the pilot was aired that the twins names were changed to Michael and Geoffrey.

Oh, and Monica Horan didn't have to try all that hard to get cast as Robert's wife, Amy.  She is, after all, married to the producer/co-creator of the show!



THE SIMPSONS (1989-present)

Okay, so it comes as common knowledge that a lot of the characters on the show were named after streets in the town where show creator Matt Groening was raised.  But I bet you didn't know that the characters in the immediate Simpson family were named after members of Matt's own family.  Matt's father's name was Homer, his mother was named Marjorie, and he has two sisters named Lisa and Maggie.  As for Bart, Matt has no family member named Bart.  Bart just happened to be named because it is an anagram of the word "Brat".



THE GOLDEN GIRLS (1985-1992)

You may know that Betty White and Rue McClanahan played Rose and Blanche...but they were originally offered each other's roles instead.  Both turned them down because they didn't want to be typecast.

But here's the more interesting fact in regards to this program.  When the show debuted in 1985, the show actually had a flamboyant chef who lived in the house with Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche named Coco.  He was played by Charles Levin - the same guy who played Vera's husband in "Alice".  He was supposed to have been a regular character throughout season one and Estelle Getty's Sophia character was supposed to be recurring.  But when test audiences reacted incredibly well to Sophia, Sophia was upgraded to full-fledged cast member and Coco was sent packing.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Depression Hurts - Especially the Self-Inflicted Kind

April 17, 2014

Hey, everybody.  I know that this is the time of week that I am supposed to be filming a video blog, but for some reason, I just don't feel like doing one today. 

Truth be told...these past few days, I haven't really had the energy to do much of anything.  And, this in itself kind of makes me feel very disappointed in myself because it's been a really long time since I felt this way.

However, I suppose that every single one of us in the world is entitled to a rough spell every now and then.  I suppose today just happens to be mine.  And, well, I decided that for this week's diary entry, I would talk a little bit about what's been bothering me without going into a whole lot of detail.

Well, actually, scratch that.  I did say that this would be the most honest blog entry that I have ever written because of the title of it.  And sometimes, honesty can be brutal.  Trust me, I've been on the giving end as well as the receiving end of it all.  I know all about honesty.

And, because I know about honesty...I have to come clean about a couple of things.

You know, when I first started this blog, I started off talking about good things.  And for the most part I really do want to continue talking about good things.




I don't know whether it's the wacky weather we've had lately, or the migraine headaches that I have had off and on for the past few months, or the fact that I've been trying to do too much at one time, but whatever the reason, I've found it difficult to try and stay positive about things.

Whenever people meet me, and get to know me, they always say that they are impressed by my sharp memory.  I'll readily admit that I do remember most things that other people have forgotten, but that's more along the lines of long-term memory...not short-term.  I joke that I can remember what I did 20 years ago, but not 20 minutes ago. 

Now, in many ways, I can see how that memory can be a blessing.  It certainly helped me craft over 1,000 different entries in this very blog.  But having a good memory has also been a very big curse, because as one remembers the good, one can also remember the bad. 

For whatever reason, I can't seem to stop thinking about the bad...and how most of those bad memories come from the depression and social anxiety that I have faced practically my whole life and still face today. 

Undiagnosed depression and social anxiety, might I add.

Of course, if I've never been diagnosed as having either one, how is it that I can jump to the conclusion that I have either one?  Well, I always say that we know ourselves better than anyone else could.  And, trust me...when one feels that something isn't right, they know.

It's been a while since I have had feelings like this...but lately I've been feeling exactly that.  And, for the life of me, I don't know why.

I guess the reason why I'm feeling this way is because of a few things that have been happening lately...and how separately they mean no big deal, but together cause me to really reflect on who I really am as a person and make me wonder if I'm somehow doing something wrong.

Now, I have no idea if this event is even going to go on as planned (I haven't heard anything about it in recent weeks), but as it stands, there's supposedly some reunion of our elementary school classmates that is set to take place this summer.  And admittedly, I was of the mindset that it would be a lot of fun, and that I would have a good time at the reunion.  I've said before that I would NEVER want to attend a high school reunion (and I still maintain that point of view), but I would be willing to give my elementary school classmates a chance.

But as we get closer to the day, I'm beginning to have a change of heart. 

Not that it really has anything to do with likes or dislikes - at least not on my end.  So much time has passed since we graduated elementary school that I would hope most of us are willing to wipe the slate clean. 

But I don't know if it's insecurity or what have you, but I'm a little bit apprehensive about seeing some of these people feeling as though that I don't measure up to them, and that no matter how hard I try, I still won't.



It is absolutely ridiculous for me to feel this way about myself (and believe me, my brain has told me this many times).  Unfortunately, my heart seems to have full control over my whole body...and my heart kind of tells me to proceed with caution in everything I do.  I tell you, some days, I wish I could just tell my heart to shut up, but it's a double edged sword because if I do tell my heart to stop, well...I end up dead.  Oh the conundrum!

I mean, don't get me wrong.  I love the fact that my friends and classmates have mostly found love with someone else, have settled down in a place they love, have their dream jobs, and have little ones of their own.  I really am very happy for them, and I'm sure that if this reunion goes off without a hitch, I'm sure that I'll see lots of pictures and hear lots of stories about their lives.

I guess the only thing that bothers me is the fact that I feel as though I have nothing to share with them in return (though at the very least, I'll own up to the fact that this is largely my own doing).

I don't have a family of my own.  I haven't even really had much of a significant relationship with anybody for more than a few months at a time.  Any time things have gotten to the serious point, I was always the one to run away (one confession that I'm making for the first time ever).  I'm currently living with family members - and that's something else that I've never revealed on this blog until now because of the fact that I was (and am to some extent) ashamed of it.  Before you make judgments though, I am definitely not a freeloader.  I pay my way in a variety of different ways.  I just happen to live in a place where affordable rent is almost as hard to find as a leprechaun at the end of a rainbow.  That's no excuse either.  It's the way of the world these days.  I honestly don't know how some people do it.

(Seriously, any of you single people who are living alone...please, let me know how you do it!  I'm clueless!)

And, I mean, yeah...I guess I do have a full-time job (something that is also extremely hard to find but I somehow managed to get one), but is it something that I really get a whole lot of personal satisfaction in?  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.  It really all depends on when you ask me.

I can only speculate that the reason why I am feeling so down on myself when all arguments state that I really shouldn't is probably attributed to the one thing that I am about to reveal that is the most honest (much to my chagrin) statement about myself that I will ever make.

I tend to beat myself up.  A lot.  And while I hate doing it, I don't know how to stop.

I think it all stemmed back to those days in which I was in elementary school and how some of the more jerky kids (and that evil, crazy bully of a first grade teacher) in my class kept teasing me, making fun of me, humiliating me, and essentially squeezing out any positive thoughts still inside of me.  I guess somewhere along the line, I came to the conclusion that if I somehow managed to insult myself before the other kids could get a chance to, that it wouldn't hurt as much.  Whenever people tried to give me positive reinforcement, I would always reject it because I always doubted their sincerity.

Even now, I really have an extremely difficult time accepting compliments and kudos.  At best, I act humble about it.  At worst, I think they're being sarcastic and that they're actually poking fun at my achievement.

Again, not the most normal reaction...but for someone who knowingly went through symptoms of depression and social anxiety, it kind of makes sense.  At least those of you who may have had symptoms of those can understand what I am trying to say here.

I will say that when I was a child, this defense mechanism worked for a little while.  It got me through some of the worst moments that I experienced as a child.  Problem is that I never stopped.  Whenever I goof up at work, or whenever I say something I shouldn't, or do something that I wish I hadn't, I am always taking it out on myself way more than anyone else I know. 

I want to change that.  But again, when one is used to that type of reaction for so long, how does one deprogram a brain to take an entirely different set of commands whatsoever?  And, I honestly believe that this has been one of the big factors behind why I have struggled (and still struggle) with figuring out who I am, and more importantly, why I seem to be in some form of arrested development.  It also doesn't make it any easier when people who don't understand depression tell you things like "CHEER UP" in a misguided effort to make you feel better.

News flash.  It very seldom works - if ever.

But when so many things go through your mind at once, you sometimes lose your sense of who you really are.  For instance, if I'm sitting at a lunchroom table, and people actually grab chairs from your table to sit with their friends, the logical side of me says that it's nothing personal, but the illogical side wonders if I did anything to alienate these people.  It's a horrible feeling to have, and again, I wish I didn't have these feelings. 

I just haven't figured out how to turn them off.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Future Aspirations - In Life and on "A Pop Culture Addict's Guide To Life"

All right.  Today's entry is going to be a little bit on the short side.  And, it's going to be a bit of a departure from what you might expect on Wednesdays.  Truth be told, I'm seriously considering changing things up a bit as we approach the third anniversary of this blog next month.

SIDE NOTE:  Can you believe that I've been doing this blog for almost three whole years?  Definitely one of the longest writing projects that I have embarked on so far! 

Anyway, part of the reason why I am cutting this entry short is largely due to timing.  I just got off work at 5:30pm and back in for 6:00am.  This leaves me with very limited time to jot down a blog entry for today that will have a lot of substance to it.  So, I suppose that if there's a day in which an abbreviated blog entry is suitable, today is that day.

But I also wanted to use this opportunity to promote the other side project that I have embarked on over the last couple of weeks.



Since March 30, 2014, I, along with my friends Joshua and Carine have been hosting an Internet talk show entitled MOTIVE2CHANGE.  If you click HERE, you can access our show's YouTube channel.  Or, if you'd rather just listen to each episode that we've filmed so far, click on each of these individual links

Episode 001:  Public Speaking - Aired 3/30/2014
Episode 002:  Acceptance - Aired  4/6/2014

We just finished posting our third episode which originally aired on April 13, 2014.  The subject is all about the subject of FUTURE ASPIRATIONS, and if you click the link below, it will automatically take you to the link to the episode.  It's thirty-two minutes and then some in length, so I hope you have some time to kill.  Even if you break it up into two fifteen minute minisodes, at least give it a chance because the three of us have a great time doing the show, and I think you'll really like it.

Episode 003: Future Aspirations - Aired 4/13/2014

Now that you have given the program a listen, I just wanted to add that since that episode was taped, my aspirations still have not changed.  I do want to someday make writing my one and only career.  I would love nothing more than to leave my other career in retail behind once and for all and focus on doing something that I have dreamed of doing forever.  Mind you, my career goal was not originally to be a writer.  I think in my childhood, my career goals changed so often that had I succeeded in achieving all my career dreams, I'd have more jobs than Barbie. 

But as I state in the talk show episode, my interests have always been associated with the arts.  I've talked about how instead of playing with toys, I was much happier with reams of paper and a box of crayons to play with.  After all, a water gun or a remote control car could offer entertainment for a brief moment, but with paper and crayons, the creative possibilities were endless.  I could make and create anything I wanted.  And the paper choice didn't matter.  My personal favourite was lined paper, as it was the cheapest paper you could get.  But that's not to say that I didn't like using blank paper, graph paper, construction paper and coloured Bristol board.  I liked it all.  And, I'm sure that most people who knew me knew that some of my favourite classes were art and English classes.  Classes that caused me to get creative were much more fun than the more strict and structured mathematics and science classes.

I think that's why I always seemed destined to become a writer (or at the very least, I always wanted to have a career in which I could flex my writing muscles).  Unfortunately, I do very little writing in my own job that actually does pay the bills - mainly because my hometown does not have any sort of opportunities for writers whatsoever.

This is why I began this blog exactly six days after I turned thirty.  I was getting in a funk over not being able to have a job that really utilized my best talents (a.k.a writing and creativity), and I felt that if I started a blog, and kept it going every day, it would at least allow me to keep doing what I loved doing even though I was busy doing something else.

I'll probably expand on that a little bit more in tomorrow's diary entry.  I probably need more time than what I have to explain what I really mean.



So, just putting that on hold for now, I will state that part of the reason why I think "A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S GUIDE TO LIFE" has been growing is largely due to all of you reading and following along with this blog every day for nearly three years.  I do want to thank all of you for checking this spot out each day, and I promise all of you that I don't plan on stopping this blog anytime soon.  After all, this is the only thing I have going for me in regards to creative freedom, and it's the only thing that I have in my life right now that is truly mine and under my control.  Of course I'm going to keep this journey moving along as long as I am able to.

Of course, the other reason why this blog seems to be doing well is because of my willingness to try out different things.  I've done a lot of experimentation with this blog over the last three years, keeping things that have worked (such as the Sunday Jukebox and Tuesday Timeline), and changing what hasn't (which is pretty much every single idea that I've had for Wednesdays.)

And I'm warning you ahead of time before I do this...when the blog turns three on May 24, there's going to be some huge changes.  I won't go into what they are right now, but here are a few cryptic clues for you to ponder as I leave this space for another day.

Clue #1:  The Motive2Change talk show will soon get its own theme day on the blog.  I just haven't decided what that day will be.  But it WILL be in place before the third anniversary.

Clue #2:  My friend/co-host Joshua helped design the following logo below.





I can tell you that as of May 2014, this blog will be featuring the new logo...and I can also tell you that the layout of the blog will be completely different using the colour scheme (and if I can get it, font) of this logo.  It'll be the first major design change that I'll be using in almost two years.  I can't say what day the design change will happen, but it will happen sometime during the week of May 18-24, 2014.

Clue #3:  The only theme days that I KNOW will be staying for next year are the Sunday Jukebox and Tuesday Timelines.  I will likely keep the Monday Matinee feature as well, but the day could be moving.  As far as the others go...well...I've said too much.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15, 1947

We're halfway through the month of April and as we approach the third Tuesday Timeline of the month, I've come to realize that April 15 is a considerably dark day in modern day history.  There's a lot of events that took place that were absolute tragedies and some of these events caused much pain and devastation.

So, that's why I decided to choose a topic that was much happier - in contrast to all of the darkness associated with April 15.

Just a reminder to all of you reading this blog from the United States.  If you still have yet to file your tax papers, you might want to go and get those done now, because the due date is today.  Another reason to fear the fifteenth of April.

(Note to Canadians.  You have until the end of the month.  Our tax deadline is April 30 - which is actually the date that I was supposed to be born, but was eighteen days late.  My poor mother.)

Anyway, here's a list of all the events that took place on April 15.

1755 - Samuel Johnson's "A Dictionary of the English Language" is published in London

1802 - William Wordsworth is inspired to write the poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" after taking a walk with his sister and seeing a "long belt" of daffodills

1817 - The American School for the Deaf - the first school for deaf students - is opened in Hartford, Connecticut

1865 - President Abraham Lincoln succumbs to his injuries following being shot at Ford's Theatre by John Wilkes Booth the night before

1892 - General Electric is founded

1912 - The RMS Titanic sinks to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean just two hours and forty minutes after coming in contact with an iceberg; killing 1,517 of the 2,227 passengers and crew members aboard

1923 - Insulin becomes available to the general public for the first time as a method of controlling diabetes

1924 - Rand McNally publishes its very first road map

1927 - The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 commences

1933 - Bewitched actress Elizabeth Montgomery (d. 1995) is born in Los Angeles, California

1936 - The national airline of Ireland - Aer Lingus - is founded

1941 - The Belfast Blitz takes place - 200 bombers of the German Luftwaffe attack Belfast, Northern Ireland which results in the deaths of 1,000 people

1965 - The very first Ford Mustang rolls off the show room floor; will go on sale two days later

1982 - Singer/songwriter Billy Joel is seriously injured in a motorcycle accident in Long Island, New York

1984 - The first World Youth Day is celebrated in St. Peter's Square, Vatican City

1989 - 96 soccer fans lose their lives in the Hillsborough disaster after a large group of fans storm into the bleachers causing some people to become asphyxiated; that same day, the protests at Tianneman Square begin in the People's Republic of China

2001 - Joey Ramone - lead vocalist of the Ramones - dies of lymphoma at just 49 years of age

2013 - Two bombs detonate at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring 264

So, yeah...April 15 brought us a presidential assassination, a luxury ocean liner sinking, chaos at two sporting events, and the death of the lead singers of the Ramones.  What a really depressing day, wasn't it?

Maybe looking at the list of people celebrating birthdays today will shift the mood a little.  Happy birthday to
Roy Clark, Robert Walker Jr, Michael Tucci, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Lois Chiles, Amy Wright, Emma Thompson, Linda Perry, Samantha Fox, Melissa Dye, Dara Torres, Ed O'Brien, Flex Alexander, Kate Harbour, Katy Hill, Jason Sehorn, Lou Romano, Danny Pino, Susan Ward, Seth Rogan, Emma Watson, Madeleine Martin, and Maisie Williams.

So, I think that for today's date, I'll be going back in time to a year which showed great change.  A year that focused on a major event in the world of sports.



An event that took place on April 15, 1947.



Now, I have a question for all of you out there.  How many of you have heard of the recent movie with the title of "42"?  It just came out a little over a year ago and it starred Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford.  Well, that film was quite good (minor historical inaccuracies aside), and it is easily considered to be one of the better films of 2013.  And it was based on the story that I have to tell you that happens to be associated with the date of the Tuesday Timeline.

For you see...on April 15, 1947, the colour lines that divided major league baseball for several decades were shattered when one man joined the team then known as the Brooklyn Dodgers.  And that this man would face so much harassment and so much bullying from both teammates and fans.  Yet despite all this, he continued to follow his dream of playing baseball and had a major league baseball career that anyone would be proud of.



This is the story of Jackie Robinson.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia.  He was the youngest of Jerry and Mallie Robinson's five children, and he was given the middle name of Roosevelt after President Theodore Roosevelt, who had passed away just three and a half weeks before Robinson was born.

Unfortunately, due to the colour of his skin, Robinson was excluded from many of the neighbourhood activities which included organized sports, and because of the frustration of being singled out for something that he couldn't change, Robinson ended up joining a gang.  Fortunately, he was talked into walking away from the gang by a friend, and was talked into pursuing athletic opportunities at school by his brothers Frank and Mack - the latter of which won a silver medal at the 1936 Summer Olympics.  Robinson played many sports at the varsity level and actually became a four-letter man earning honours in football, basketball, track and field, and baseball.  He even won the junior boys tennis championship at the 1936 Pacific Coast Negro Tournament!  His athletic career continued after high school when he enrolled at Pasadena Junior College and played for the college's various teams - as one of the few black atheletes/students at the school!

But while he was a celebrated athlete at Pasadena Junior College, he was also developing a reputation of being difficult with authority figures who singled him out because he was black.  One such incident occurred in 1938, which saw Robinson receiving a two-year suspended sentence for vocally disputing the detention of a black friend by local police and getting arrested for intervening.  It certainly wasn't the first time Robinson would stand up against racism, and it certainly wouldn't be the last.

After the sudden death of his brother Frank, Jackie decided to attend school at UCLA to be closer to Frank's family, and while he didn't graduate from the school (he left school just shy of graduation), he did meet his future wife and continued to make athletic history by winning the NCAA Men's Track and Field Championship in the Long Jump in 1940.  He also attempted to play football on a semi-professional racially integrated team known as the Honolulu Bears, but when Pearl Harbor was attacked in December of that year, it put an end to his dream of playing professional football.



Well, that plus the fact that Robinson was drafted into service in 1942 and stayed for two years until the summer of 1944 - where something happened that caused Robinson to be discharged for good.  He had boarded an Army charter bus with the wife of a fellow officer and was ordered by the bus driver to move to the back of the bus (remember, before Rosa Parks sat down for racial equality, black people were forced to sit at the back of all buses).  Robinson refused to move, and at first, the bus driver backed down.  However, the driver summoned military police and when the bus reached the end of the line, Robinson was arrested and was set to be charged with several offences - some of which Robinson wasn't even guilty of.

In the end, Robinson was acquitted and obtained an honourable discharge from the Army in November 1944.  But the incident of the humiliating arrest never quite left Robinson's mind.  And it would be this event that would set forth the chain of events leading up to April 15, 1947.



In 1945, Robinson was given a written offer by the Kansas City Monarchs - a team within the Negro baseball league.  And Robinson accepted the offer which included a contract for $400 per month.  For that amount of money, how could he turn it down?

Problem was that his experience with the Monarchs was not as grand as he had hoped it would be.  He was frustrated by the team's penchant for gambling and he found the team extremely disorganized.  Nevertheless, he played 47 games for the team and honoured his contract.  Still, his real dream was to be signed to a Major League baseball team - a dream that many black baseball players had but never accomplished.  After all, during that time period, professional baseball was largely a white American sport.

That's not to say that Robinson didn't try.  When he got word that the Boston Red Sox were holding tryouts for black baseball players at Fenway Park, he jumped at the chance...only to find that the whole experience would not be pleasant.  When he was trying out for the team, he was peppered with racial slurs and epithets by people in the stands and by people on the field, and Robinson was so affected by it all that he left the tryouts feeling dejected and humiliated.

Still, although the Boston tryouts were considered to be a joke, there were other teams that took the idea of signing a black baseball player seriously. 

One of these teams were the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Then Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey scouted the Negro leagues in hopes of finding the right player to sign, and Robinson was his first pick from the very beginning...but before he made the commitment, he had to find out if Robinson could do something for him.  You see, racial tensions were still very high in the mid-1940s, and Rickey knew that if Robinson were signed, he would have to have a very thick skin to take the abuse, but not react to it.  Certainly, given Robinson's past history, this might have been seen as an impossibility...but Robinson agreed to the terms, and Rickey signed Robinson in late 1945.  Though the team he would join was the Montreal Royals.

In 1946, Robinson headed down to Daytona Beach, Florida to take part in Spring Training with the Montreal Royals, but given the fact that Florida was one of the most racially charged states at that time, the experience proved difficult for Robinson.  He wasn't allowed to stay at the same hotel as his team, events were turned down if they included Robinson or Johnny Wright - another black player that was signed to the Dodgers organization, games were cancelled, and stadiums were sealed shut.

Despite all this, Robinson made his debut at Daytona's Beach City Island Ballpark in March 1946 and became the first black Minor League player to play against a Major League team since the colour barrier was implemented in the 1880s.  And during the whole season, Robinson's performance improved with each game and he began earning a loyal fan base.  Sure, he was still subjected to racial abuse but he also ended up proving naysayers wrong.



This leads up to April 15, 1967 - when Robinson made his Major League debut at Ebbets Field at the age of 28.  There were over twenty-six thousand people in the stands - over half of them being of African-American origin!  At his first game, he didn't get any base hits, but walked and scored one run, with the Dodgers winning the game at a score of 5-3.  And, yes, the situation with Robinson being a part of the team did have some bad points.  The first year he played with the Dodgers, members of his own team had the opinion that they would rather sit out on games than play with Robinson, but the manager of the team made them see the error of their ways.  After all, Robinson was a hot commodity and he could see the financial benefits of having him on the team.  Once he reminded the other team members of that, they began to be more accepting of Robinson.

Of course, other baseball teams made their prejudices known - most notably the St. Louis Cardinals who threatened to strike if they had to face Robinson on the field.  But to the credit of the National League President Ford Frick and Baseball Commissioner Happy Chandler, they put an end to all of that, stating that any players who refused to play ball with Robinson would get an automatic suspension.  And when Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman used the "N" word to slander Robinson, Rickey later stated that Chapman's comment did more good for the Dodgers than anything, as the Dodgers all unified together to stand by their teammate.



And soon enough, many people on the baseball diamond supported Robinson on the field - one such notable moment occurred when Robinson's teammate Pee Wee Reese put his arm around Robinson as he faced racial slurs before a game in Cincinnati.  Reese also uttered the famous phrase "You can hate a man for many reasons.  Color is not one of them". 

Yes, the date of April 15, 1947 was a significant one for the world of Major League Baseball.  And Jackie Robinson was right in the center of it all.  From the time he began as a player in 1947 to his retirement from the sport in 1956 he maintained a .311 batting average, managed to get 1,518 hits, scored 137 home runs, stole 197 bases, and was named the 1947 Rookie of the Year and was a six-time All-Star player for six consecutive years from 1949-1954.



Before his death on October 24, 1972 from a heart attack, his number "42" was officially retired, and since 1972, that number has never been used for any other baseball player since.  How is that for an everlasting memory?


Monday, April 14, 2014

Hop

I know that this is going to sound incredibly insane, but I'm going to open up discussion of this Monday Matinee by talking about a television show that I used to watch on television all the time.

I know.  Talking TV on the movie day.  Trust me, it will all come together.  At least, in my mind it will.  Just bear with me.

Okay, so how many of you have heard of the television program "The Biggest Loser"?  It's aired on NBC since the mid-2000s, and is currently one of NBC's biggest ratings winners on the reality TV circuit.  The show is currently hosted by soap opera starlet Allison Sweeney and the trainers are Bob Harper, Jillian Michaels, and Dolvett Quince.  The show deals with the subject of weight loss, and pits overweight and obese contestants in a battle to shed the pounds by watching what they eat and working out for hours at a time.  And, over the last few years, the contestants have shed incredible amounts of weight.

I'll readily admit that in the show's earliest seasons, I was such a fan.  Back in those days, the contestants all had one goal on their minds - to become a healthier and slimmer person so that they could add years to their lives and improve their health overall.  Sure, there were temptation challenges and other challenges designed to give some contestants an edge, but for the most part, the prize was a happy and healthy lifestyle - and a cash prize of a quarter of a million dollars.  But again, on the earliest seasons, there wasn't any emphasis on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  The main motivation was getting fit.  The earliest shows of "The Biggest Loser" were peppered with food preparation ideas, low-impact aerobic techniques, and other fun facts that informed and inspired home viewers.

That's why I'm disappointed in the current direction that the show has taken over the last couple of years.  The healthy tips and tricks have been eliminated in favour of more temptation challenges designed to tear contestants apart instead of unifying them.  There's a lot more emphasis on drama and catfights instead of sweating and pushing your way to success.  And we won't even begin to talk about the lengths that contestants have gone to in order to win the game so that they can win the money at the end - not lose the weight to save their lives.

Perhaps the best example of how a once mighty show fell could be traced back to an episode which originally aired on April 17, 2012.  It was during the thirteenth season of the show which was ironically subtitled "No Excuses".  I say ironic because all of the contestants seemed to have lots of excuses for some of the behaviour they engaged in on the program which included bullying, throwing weight challenges, and in the April 17 episode, walking off the show when the contestants realized that producers would be bringing back someone from the show.  Of the five contestants that were left on the show, three returned.  The other two quit, bringing controversy and shame to a program that started off with the best of intentions.  And you really don't want to hear my opinions on the final three of Conda, Jeremy, and Kim because I always said that if I didn't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything! 

So I won't.

But really, that whole thirteenth season of "The Biggest Loser" was the biggest train wreck.  I mean, can you believe that on a show about weight loss and avoiding temptations like chocolate, marshmallows, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups that the show would have a reward challenge where the contestants go and watch a movie about chocolate, marshmallows, and peanut butter cups?  I mean, talk about defeating the whole purpose of the show right there!

And on top of all that, the movie wasn't rated as being all that great!

But this now leads into the real Monday Matinee topic that I've chosen for this week.  As it so happens, the movie is Easter themed, and since this is the Monday before Easter Sunday, I thought it appropriate for this week's discussion.



And that movie happens to be the 2011 film "Hop", which features Russell Brand, James Marsden, Kaley Cuoco, Hugh Laurie, Hank Azaria, Gary Cole, and Elizabeth Perkins.  So you would think that with all that star power that the Tim Hill directed film would be an automatic hit.

Well, it was.  For children. 



For everyone else, they weren't as thrilled with this movie.  Though it made a healthy $183 million at the box office, it was universally panned by critics for being unfunny, uninspired, and stereotypical to Mexican-Americans, if you can believe it!

Okay, so maybe "Hop" isn't going to be listed as one of my all-time favourite films.  If you can look past the bad reviews, it's really not that bad of a film.



You see, the story of "Hop" is all about a little bunny who goes by the name of "E.B." (Brand).  And, E.B. lives on Easter Island with his father, Mr. Bunny (Laurie).  



Mr. Bunny just happens to be the one who goes around to every house in the world and delivers wonderful presents like brightly coloured eggs, chocolate bunnies, and jellybeans (and after you learn where jellybeans come from in this movie, you may never want to eat one again).

Of course, Mr. Bunny cannot keep leaving behind Easter treats forever.  At some point he has to retire from his duties.  And Mr. Bunny expects that E.B. will naturally step in to take over.  But when E.B. starts to question the demands associated with being the Easter Bunny and decides that maybe being the Easter Bunny isn't his true calling (keep in mind that E.B. is a teenager), E.B. decides to flee Easter Island to set up a new life for himself in Hollywood.  

You see, E.B. is really into rock music, and his ultimate dream is to become a world famous drummer. 



Of course, once Mr. Bunny discovers that his son has essentially gone AWOL from Easter Island, he dispatches his army of Pink Berets out to locate his son so that he can fulfill his duties as being the next Easter Bunny.

However E.B. soon finds that the world of Hollywood is a scary place, especially after he nearly becomes roadkill after he gets struck by a car driven by professional slacker Fred O'Hare (Marsden).  And unbeknownst to E.B., Fred has a little bit of a connection to him.  When Fred was a little boy, he actually woke up from his bed during the early morning hours and caught E.B.'s dad in the act of leaving behind Easter candy.  This caused Fred to have a dream of his own - to become the very first human being to become the Easter Bunny.  



Of course, E.B. happens to tell a little white lie, and convinces Fred that the bunny he saw that Easter morning was actually him and not his father, and Fred decides to take in the little bunny - even though the bunny actually causes more trouble than he could have even dreamed of.



In addition to the Pink Berets heading out to California to bring E.B. home, E.B. and Mr. Bunny also have to worry about the pair of Easter chicks who decide that E.B. is better off staying away.  You see, while Easter Chick Phil (Azaria) is friends with E.B. and means to do him no harm, Easter Chick Carlos (also voiced by Azaria) is plotting an evil scheme to take over Easter Island so that he can have absolute rule over the area.  After all, Carlos is fed up with always having to play second fiddle to a bunny rabbit every Easter.

So, in addition to the Pink Berets searching for E.B., Carlos is plotting his revenge.  And if his revenge ends up in the form of silencing E.B. and his father permanently, all the better right?

Well, I can't really get into too much detail here.  After all, I really hate spoiling movie endings which is why I usually never do.  But all I can tell you is this.  The movie has so much candy in it, you'll likely go into a diabetic coma if you tried to consume it all at once.  The movie has some touching moments that really get you into the spirit of Easter.  And there's even a special appearance by David Hasselhoff.

What else could you want?