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Friday, February 12, 2016

Be My Pop Culture Valentine!

So Valentine's Day is set to arrive in just a couple of days from now, and honestly I don't care if it comes or not.  I've made no secret about Valentine's Day being my least favourite holiday.  If there's anything to look forward to around this time of year, it's stocking up on cheap heart shaped chocolate on the 15th of February.

But, when I was a child, I thought very differently about Valentine's Day.

Back in the days in which I was in school, I used to love going to school on Valentine's Day because it was one of the holidays that was celebrated in style.  We would have Valentine's Day parties where we would gorge on red, pink, and white coloured sweets.  We'd often watch a couple of movies centered around the themes of love, sharing, and togetherness - which aside from that one day we had to watch Strawberry Shortcake videos wasn't a bad thing.

But perhaps the best part about Valentine's Day at school was getting a lot of Valentine's Day cards from your peers.

(And yes, everyone got a card.  The teachers made sure of that.)

I used to love getting Valentine's Day cards from my classmates.  I didn't particularly like making the Valentine's Day boxes in art class for storing our Valentines (that Simpsons clip with Ms. Hoover making Lisa and Ralph Wiggum make the same boxes really did happen at my school!), but I loved to see all the different card designs out there.

And of course, part of the fun of Valentine's Day was going to the store to choose what cards I would give out.

So, for this edition of the blog, I went through my memory banks, and found a handful of Valentine's cards that I remember giving out to people, cards that I remember getting, and just for fun, cards that didn't exist back then but I would have loved to have given out if they were available when I was a kid.

I think this is going to be a fun topic!  I'll start with cards that I gave out first.



These DuckTales cards are the earliest cards I remember handing out.  It was in the second grade, when DuckTales was extremely popular.  I do remember saving all of the Webby cards (the little girl duck in the cartoon) for the girls in my class.  I gave Huey, Dewey, and Louie to my best friends.  I saved Launchpad for the teacher.  And to the rich kids who teased me, they got Scrooge McDuck!  It was easy!



The following year, I handed out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cards.  I can't remember if I handed them out to the girls too or if I just gave them to the guys in my class.  I don't quite remember.  Either way, these cards were totally radical, and I think it was the only time I ever saw the word "COWABUNGA" on a Valentine card.



I also remember giving out Super Mario Valentines, but can't remember if it was in the 4th or 5th grade.  I also remember having a very hard time finding them, as it seemed that they were selling out as fast as they could get them in stock.  I got very lucky that I got these when I did!



And, the very last year I gave out Valentine's Day cards, I think I was in the sixth grade.  By then I had pretty much discovered that I wasn't as much of a fan of the holiday as I thought I was.  So to celebrate my cynicism of Valentine's Day, I figured Garfield was a great mascot.  It would've been even more ironic if Valentine's Day had fallen on a Monday that year.  Sadly in 1993, it fell on a Sunday instead.  Close, but no cigar.

Okay, so those are some of the ones I remember sending.  What ones did I actually get?  Have a look.



I don't even know who I got these Valentine's from, but I loved them!  Whoever came up with the idea to release Beetlejuice cartoon Valentine's cards was an absolute genius.  In fact, the bottom one posted here was a card I actually remember getting!  I still wish I had it so I could remember who sent it to me, but that was easily one of the better ones I've gotten!



You can tell I attended school during the 1980s, right?  How else can you explain the fact that ALF Valentine's cards existed?  This was another card that I totally remember getting.  And at the time, I totally loved it!  But much like the television show, ALF has not aged well.  Neither has this card.



Also in the 1980s, I recall Michael Jordan's image being everywhere.  You saw him on basketball posters.  You saw him eating Ballpark franks.  You even saw him in his underpants on those Hanes commercials.  And in this case, you saw him on Valentine's Day cards.  At least I can say I got the generic "You're cool" card.  Interesting fact - I remember who did send me this one.  Ironically enough, it was from someone I hated!  Oh well...I guess I can be thankful I got one from them at all.



I admit it.  I loved watching Tiny Toon Adventures when I was younger.  And I seem to remember that a lot of other kids in my 5th grade class loved watching it too.  So much so that a quarter of my Valentine's that year were Tiny Toon themed.  Here's one example for you.



And, of course, Valentine's Day wouldn't be complete without a quintessential Peanuts card.  At least I can say that I scored more Valentines than Charlie Brown ever did.

And now for the fun part.  I found a lot of examples of fan-made Valentine's Day cards out on the Internet (mostly on Pinterest), and I think it is a crying shame that these cards were not produced back in the days in which I was handing cards out.



Like, how about these "Full House" Valentines?  With "Fuller House" coming out soon, this would be a great time to bring them out.  I posted this one of Stephanie here, but there's one of each cast member available.  The Danny Tanner one of "I'd fold your laundry" is especially creepy.



Or, how about a set of "Golden Girls" Valentines?  This one features Bea Arthur, but I'm sure the whole cast will have their own card.  Admit it.  You've thought of it before, haven't you?



I'm actually shocked they didn't come up with "Saved By The Bell" Valentines.  Why, think of the possibilities.  You could have Kelly doing a cheer proclaiming her love.  You could have Jessie shouting about how she's SO EXCITED to be yours!  And in the case of this example, you could just transcribe the text that Zack Morris spoke in that episode where he taped subliminal advertisements over those Beau Revere tapes so that Kelly would ask him to the dance.



"Family Matters" Valentines would have been all right...except that most of them would have probably featured Steve Urkel.  This was one of the only ones I could find that had a different character.



And finally, with the arrival of "Girl Meets World", why not release "Boy Meets World" Valentines?  By the time I reached seventh grade, everyone I knew watched it.  Make it happen, people!

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

February 9, 1964

Welcome to another edition of the Tuesday Timeline, and a very happy Mardi Gras to all of you out there!  Have fun and collect all sorts of beads - and hopefully you won't regret how you got them either!

For today's topic, I think you'll agree that there really was no other subject that was worthy of a discussion.  Today is just one of those days where I knew what topic I wanted to talk about from the moment it arrived.

It's not often I have this happen.  Most times, I struggle to come up with a topic!

Anyway, let's see what happened in the history books on February 9.

1555 - Bishop of Gloucester John Hooper is burned at the stake

1775 - The British Parliament declares Massachusetts in rebellion during the American Revolutionary War

1825 - John Quincy Adams is elected as President of the United States by the House of Representatives following the 1824 elections in which no candidate received the majority of electoral votes

1861 - Jefferson Davis is elected Provisional President of the Confederate States of America

1870 - The United States Weather Bureau is established

1895 - The sport of volleyball is created by William G. Morgan - originally called "Mintonette"

1900 - The Davis Cup competition is established

1909 - Brazilian singer/dancer/film star Carmen Miranda (d. 1955) is born

1914 - Country singer Ernest Tubb (d. 1984) is born in Crisp, Texas

1934 - The Balkan Entente is formed

1936 - Folk singer Stompin' Tom Connors (d. 2013) is born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

1942 - Year-round Daylight Savings Time is re-established in the United States as a way to conserve energy resources during World War II

1950 - Senator Joseph McCarthy accuses the United States Department of State as being filled with communists during the Second Red Scare

1951 - The Geochang Massacre takes place during the Korean War

1969 - The first test flight of the Boeing 747 takes place

1971 - An earthquake strikes the San Fernando Valley, killing 64 people - that same day, Satchel Paige becomes the first Negro League player to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame

1981 - Singer Bill Haley of Bill Haley & His Comets dies at the age of 55

1986 - Halley's Comet last appears in the inner Solar System - the next time this will occur will be in the year 2061

1996 - The Provisional Irish Republic Army declare an end to their 18-month long ceasefire by blowing up a large bomb in London's Canary Wharf

2009 - The first winter ascent of Makalu occurs by Simone Moro and Denis Urubko

And celebrating a birthday on February 9 are the following famous faces; Roger Mudd, Clive Swift, Barbara Young, Barry Mann, Carole King, Barbara Lewis, Joe Pesci, Alice Walker, Mia Farrow, Joe Ely, Judith Light, Charles Shaughnessy, Mookie Wilson, Holly Johnson, Anik Bissonnette, Travis Tritt, Darren Dalton, Stephin Merritt, Alejandra Guzman, Tom Scharpling, Sharon Case, Matt Gogel, Crispin Freeman, Jason Winston George, Colin Egglesfield, Amber Valletta, Charlie Day, A.J. Buckley, Irina Slutskaya, Zhang Ziyi, Tom Hiddleston, David Gallagher, Sam Coulson, Michael B. Jordan, and Jimmy Bennett.

So, what day are we revisiting this week?  Well, as mentioned before, it's a day that I knew right away what the subject was going to be all about.



That day is February 9, 1964.

Now, before I get into the discussion about the Tuesday Timeline subject, I want to tell you all about a gift that I got for Christmas that loosely ties into today's topic.

I received a desk calendar (you know, one of those calendars that you peel the dates off one by one) that is a "Blast From The Past" edition.  Every page features a trivia fact about one of three decades - the 1960s, the 1970s, and the 1980s.  Obviously, I only have memories of the 1980s, but it's a very cool calendar to have.  And, I've been posting photos of each page on my Facebook page in hopes of inspiring discussion.

Check out the page that has today's date on it.



Why, thank you "Blast From The Past" calendar for announcing the topic of today's Tuesday Timeline!



Yes, it was on this date fifty-two years ago that the group that kicked off the British Invasion first arrived on American television.  It was the date that The Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first of three nights!

It seems almost unbelievable to realize this, but it took the band nearly two years before they made it to North America.  I seem to recall that when the Spice Girls broke out onto the music scene back in 1996 that it didn't take nearly as long for them to spread their "Girl Power" to North America.

So, how did the deal go through to bring Beatlemania to the United States?

Well, as mentioned, The Beatles were already huge successes in their native UK.  The group released their first single in the fall of 1962 (a little ditty entitled "Love Me Do"), and released their first LP "Please Please Me" in March 1963.  By the end of 1963, the Beatles had already scored three #1 hits ("From Me To You", "She Loves You", and "I Want To Hold Your Hand").  Also by the end of 1963, the group was starting to break into the American market, with the latter two songs peaking at #1.

So, naturally, the group wanted to find a way to meet their American fans.

And that opportunity came one day at Heathrow Airport.

By chance, Ed Sullivan and his entourage happened to be at the airport around the same time that The Beatles were due to arrive back from Sweden.  He was blown away by just how huge the reception was for their homecoming and Sullivan compared it to the days in which Elvis Presley had gotten the same treatment.

(Mind you, this was only six or seven years after the fact, but still...The Beatles were that big!)

He approached Brian Epstein - manager of The Beatles - and made him an offer to have the group perform on his show for what was initially supposed to be one night only.  But Epstein, who knew a promotion idea when he saw it - upped the ante.  Instead of one night, he wanted the group to appear on three shows.  And while the band would work for bottom dollar, they would receive top billing in the show and be allowed to open and close each show they appeared on.

Sullivan - who also knew a good thing when he saw it - agreed.

And so, on February 9, 1964 - in front of hundreds of screaming teenage girls in the audience - The Beatles made their American debut. 

And to close this Tuesday Timeline off, let's watch part of that performance now!


Monday, February 08, 2016

Confidence



This is a post about confidence.

We all know what confidence is.  It's the belief in your abilities and strengths that allow you to perform well.  I'll even go one up and say that confidence and courage come hand in hand with each other, and that you can't have one without the other.



I mean, just pulling up an example from pop culture past, I remember long ago watching an episode of "Good Times".  You know, the show about a family surviving in the Chicago projects that aired between 1974 and 1979 and introduced us to the acting abilities of Janet Jackson?  There was an episode in which Florida Evans (yep, she was named after a state) was given a chance to star in a television commercial for a new product called Vitabrite, but she was nervous about doing a commercial that would air in millions of households. 

Luckily, her family helped her through it all, and by the time it came time for her to read the script, she was more than ready to knock it out of the park.

Unfortunately, the product was a health serum that contained no less that eighteen per cent alcohol content, and when Florida's youngest child, Michael, guzzled the stuff down...well...let's just say that it involved a lot of dancing and a lot of singing Tony Orlando and Dawn lyrics off-key.

Oh, how I wish I had a video clip of this to show you, but if you want the gist of it, the episode is called "The TV Commercial", and it can be found on the first season DVD set of "Good Times". 

Anyway, once Florida discovered that she was essentially being a spokesperson for booze, and how she was essentially forced to lie to the camera, she turned the commercial down.  Sure, the commercial could have helped her family out financially, but she felt so strongly in her ethics that she showed enough courage and confidence to walk away.  That's understandable.

Now, the fact of the matter is that most of us probably won't find ourselves in a situation where we win a role on a television commercial.  But we all have our moments in which we have to show confidence.  And sometimes we can have a difficult time in figuring out just how much confidence to show.

Let's talk about people who have overconfidence issues.  People who are so confident in their abilities that they feel that everyone else is unable to match them.  People like, oh, Kanye West or Donald Trump for example.  They are people who are very confident in their abilities and for what it's worth, I understand how both examples have a right to exude confidence in themselves.  But they exude so much confidence that it can be mistaken for arrogance. 

I'm not a fan of arrogance at all.  I don't feel it's right for people to use their confidence to demean or belittle other people.  It's completely unnecessary, and I don't understand how people can allow themselves to become so cocky.

And it's usually because I fall in line with the other extreme of confidence.

Having low self-confidence is just as bad as having too much self-confidence.  People who have low self-confidence often find themselves agreeing with people just to avoid confrontation.  They are afraid to put forth their best efforts because of fear of being judged, or feeling like they will fail, or feeling as though nobody understands them.

And I know this because I've had a lot of issues with confidence.  There have been times in which I have openly remarked that I am not good enough in a variety of different situations, and it almost felt like my self-doubt has become a prison that I was trapped it.  It was like I had given myself a life sentence of solitary confinement and I didn't really understand what crime I committed to justify the punishment.

It took me a long time to realize that there was no justifying it because there was no reason that I would willingly do that to myself.  If people were rude and crude towards me, that was their problem.  And if people didn't want to hang out with me, that was their loss.  And if people manipulated me into giving them something they wanted, only to have them throw me under the bus the next minute - well, that's more of a social commentary on them.

Even now, I struggle with the issue of confidence.  I've been at my newest job for a month, and I know I've been doing very well, but I still find myself wanting to know if I really am doing that well in the first place.  There always seems to be that nagging doubt in my head that prevents me from believing that what I am doing is the right thing, and as much as I want to beat that nagging doubt out of my head, I fear I'd end up with a concussion or brain damage if I tried.

But you know...I feel that by admitting my lack of self-confidence in public, I'm showing courage about it, and therefore, I'm improving my confidence by speaking out about it. 

So.  Maybe there's hope after all.

Friday, February 05, 2016

The Best Of Pop Culture Friends

Did you know that yesterday was Friends Day?

(Well, at least it was on Facebook, anyway.)

Beginning yesterday, people who logged onto Facebook could get a Friends video made of themselves based on the content that you have posted onto your wall, and content that your friends have posted to your content.  It's a really cool idea, and I have to admit that it was a really nice idea.  Some of the memories it picked I remember very fondly, and it's nice to know that I do have a support system in my life.  I never always felt that way, you know.

So, in celebration of Friends Day, I thought that I would dedicate this post to some of the famous friends that have graced our film, television, and video game screens over the years. 

It's not necessarily a Top 10 list or anything like that.  Instead, think of it as a template for what we all wish our friendships could be like.

Ready?  Here we go.  Let's start off with a pair of friends who are about to make a comeback on Netflix.



D.J. TANNER and KIMMY GIBBLER

These two have been friends since Kimmy's family moved next door to the Tanner household.  And from the moment they met, they've been inseparable.  I imagine that Kimmy was there for D.J. when her mother passed away, and over the eight seasons of "Full House" that aired, D.J. and Kimmy grew up having each other's back.  As we get prepared for "Fuller House" and Kimmy moving in with D.J. to help raise her children, I'm sure we'll see more of that friendship in action.



THE FRIENDS of "FRIENDS"

Chandler.  Rachel.  Ross.  Phoebe.  Joey.  Monica.  Six people all in their twenties living the good life in the heart of New York City.  And you know what?  I don't think that their experiences wouldn't have been nearly as much fun had they not experienced them together.  From spying on the ugly naked guy to testing the waters romantically, no matter what situation they faced or whoever cancelled their wedding, they would remain friends forever.  Really, I wish I had five people in my life like that during my twenties.



THE SAVED BY THE BELL CREW

Under normal circumstances, these six people probably would never hang out together.  You had the brainiac, the girl next door, the fashionista, the jock, the geek, and the schemer.  And somehow Jessie, Kelly, Lisa, Slater, Screech, and Zack found a way to stay...you know it's coming...FRIENDS FOREVER!!!  



Seriously, these six teens basically defined friendship for a generation of people, and I only wish my own experiences in high school were like this.  Alas, Bayside High is only a fictional place...and my high school principal wasn't nearly as cool as Mr. Belding was.  Take that statement as you like.



TEMPERANCE BRENNAN and ANGELA MONTENEGRO

There are quite a few friendships that have developed on the television series "Bones", but the one between Brennan and Angela definitely is the longest - even longer than Brennan and Angela's relationships with their husbands.  Sure, at first glance, they couldn't be any more different.  Temperance relies on logic and science, while Angela is a free spirit.  But sometimes when it comes to opposites, they tend to attract and I don't mean romantically either.  I have friends who are a complete 180 from who I am, and I have to say that they are the ones who I think would be there for me the most.



THE ARCHIES

You know, sometimes it felt as though you had several separate groups of friends in this fivesome.  Archie and Jughead were best friends.  Betty and Veronica were best frenemies.  Reggie was just Reggie.  But these five made beautiful music together as the Archies, and over time, these five did everything together.  Sure, they may not always get along (see Archie and Reggie for example), but there's definitely a connection there.



HARRY POTTER, RON WEASELY, and HERMIONE GRANGER

You thought that I'd leave these three students of Hogwarts out of this post?  Think again.  There is absolutely nothing that these three won't do for each other.  The first time they met aboard the Hogwarts Express, we knew that these three would become friends for life.  And certainly in between that first meeting and slaying Voldemort once and for all, they bonded over spell casting, Quidditch matches, and the Wizard's Cup tournament! 

I'm also certain that Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson feel that way about each other in the real world as well as the characters they played in the film series.



SPYRO and SPARX

Remember the Spyro the Dragon series of games before Spyro sold out and became a Skylander?  Remember how much fun they were?  Well, part of the reason why is because of the wonderful friendship that Spyro shared with dragonfly Sparx.  Seriously, everywhere that Spyro went, Sparx was there to protect him.  If Spyro got harmed, Sparx would take the hit for him.  That is one tough dragonfly!  And Spyro would reward Sparx for his hard work by feeding him butterflies to keep his golden aura shining brightly!



THE BIG HERO 6

Losing a loved one is never easy - in the case of Hiro, losing his brother Tadashi was a devastating blow.  He isolated himself from everybody in his life and wanted to be alone.  But a big inflatable robot named Baymax wouldn't let that happen, and you could say that he was the catalyst in reuniting Hiro with his friends Gogo, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, and Fred.  Together, they formed the greatest superhero alliance that San Fransokyo has ever seen - and one of the strongest friendships ever shown in a Disney film.



There you have it.  Some of my picks for strongest friends ever.  Have any more to add to the list?

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

February 2, 2014

Welcome to a brand new month!  February is here!

Okay, so it arrived yesterday.  I didn't have a blog entry prepared for the first.

But I do have a Tuesday Timeline entry on this Groundhog Day for you!  Today's the day we find out if we have more winter in store, and today's the day that Bill Murray will have a difficult time escaping.

So, what happened in the world on February 2?  Let's find out!

1536 - Buenos Aires, Argentina is founded by Pedro de Mendoza

1653 - The city of New Amsterdam is incorporated (later to be renamed New York)

1709 - Alexander Selkirk is rescued after being shipwrecked on a deserted island, loosely inspiring the plot of the novel "Robinson Crusoe"

1848 - During California's Gold Rush, the first ship filled with Chinese immigrants docks at San Francisco

1887 - The first Groundhog Day is observed in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania

1901 - The funeral for Queen Victoria is held

1905 - Author Ayn Rand (d. 1982) is born in St. Petersburg, Russia

1913 - New York City's Grand Central Terminal is opened to the public

1914 - "Making a Living" - the first film starring Charlie Chaplin - is released

1922 - The James Joyce novel "Ulysses" is published - on Joyce's 40th birthday

1933 - English actor Tony Jay (d. 2006) is born in London

1935 - The first polygraph machine is tested by Leonarde Keeler

1943 - The Battle of Stalingrad ends

1947 - Actress Farrah Fawcett (d. 2009) is born in Corpus Christi, Texas

1952 - Actress Carol Ann Susi (d. 2014) is born in Brooklyn, New York - you may remember her as the voice of Howard's mother on "The Big Bang Theory"

1959 - The Dyatlov Pass incident takes place

1972 - The British embassy in Dublin becomes a casualty of the Bloody Sunday protest

1979 - Punk musician Sid Vicious dies of a drug overdose, aged 21

1982 - The Syrian government siege the town of Hama, killing thousands

1988 - Pretzel chain Auntie Anne's is founded in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

1990 - F.W. de Klerk announces the unbanning of the African National Congress and makes a promise to release Nelson Mandela

1995 - Actor Donald Pleasance dies at the age of 75

1996 - Singer/actor Gene Kelly passes away at the age of 83

2004 - Roger Federer becomes the #1 ranked men's singles tennis player - for the first of 237 consecutive weeks

And celebrating a Groundhog Day birthday are the following celebrities - Red Schoendienst, Judith Viorst, Robert Mandan, Don Buford, Anthony Haden-Guest, Remak Ramsay, Tom Smothers, David Jason, Bo Hopkins, Graham Nash, Karen Foss, Greg Antonacci, Ina Garten, Al McKay, Brent Spiner, Duane "Dog The Bounty Hunter" Chapman, Christie Brinkley, Bob Schreck, Kim Zimmer, Lauren Lane, Steve Penney, Robert DeLeo, Jennifer Westfeldt, Rockwilder, Michelle Gayle, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Todd Bertuzzi, Donald Driver, Naomi Grossman, Shakira, Rich Sommer, Teddy Hart, Gemma Collins, Gemma Arterton, Martin SpanjersZosia Mamet and Danielle White.

So, what date in time are we going back to this week.  Let's see how far this journey takes us...



...wait.  We're going back to February 2, 2014?  That was only two years ago!  Something significant must have definitely happened on that date for me to choose it as today's Tuesday Timeline subject.

Let's see if I can remember.

Well, one thing that I do remember was that I was violently ill on that particular day.  The stomach flu was running rampant at my workplace and I was simply the latest in a long line of people who got cut down by it.  I don't remember a whole lot about what I did all that day because when I wasn't passed out sleeping I was throwing up constantly and trying my best to keep liquids down.  I know that's a lovely visual there.  But my being sick isn't worth devoting a whole article about.



If I remember correctly, February 2, 2014 was on a Sunday, which meant that the Super Bowl was broadcasting on that day.  Of course, my being sick and all, I missed the whole game.  But thanks to the power of Google, I can tell you that Super Bowl XLVIII was quite the game with the Seattle Seahawks completely trashing the Denver Broncos with the ridiculous score of 43-8!  It was also the year that Bruno Mars blew audiences away when he performed a killer half time show with special guests The Red Hot Chili Peppers!  Man, I would have forced myself to stay awake for that performance!

Again, it was a memorable game (one of the most watched in the Super Bowl franchise, I should add), but not worth devoting a whole blog to.

So, after recovering from the flu, I admit I was pretty out of it.  Because of that, I didn't find out about a celebrity passing that occurred on February 2, 2014.  And when I heard the news, I admit that I was completely shocked - not because he was one of my favourite actors, but because he was so young.



Philip Seymour Hoffman was a man who had a fantastic career in the film industry and he was praised in nearly every single role he had.  And he was rewarded for his accolades with several award nominations and wins - his most coveted being the Academy Award he won in 2006 for his flawless portrayal of Truman Capote in the film "Capote".  But while he was respected for his film acting, he also had his personal struggles - including a lifelong addiction to drugs and alcohol.  And while he sought treatment when he was in his early twenties and remained sober for a little over two decades, he relapsed just months before his death.

His body was found in his Manhattan apartment reportedly with a syringe still embedded in his arm.  He was just 46 years old.

To say that Philip Seymour Hoffman's death was shocking was an understatement.  Because he had undergone years of sobriety, many people weren't aware of how serious his dependency for drugs and alcohol were.  By all accounts, he was one of the most professional, yet humble actors that were on the scene.  At the time of his death, Hoffman was finishing up filming on the last installment of The Hunger Games trilogy, "Mockingjay", and had several other projects on the go.  By all accounts, Hoffman definitely didn't plan on dying when he did.

But that is what addiction does.  It can destroy a person inside and out, no matter how rich or talented or handsome they are.  Nobody is immune to it.  Certainly not Philip Seymour Hoffman, or River Phoenix, or Heath Ledger, or anyone else who died at the hands of drugs long before they were meant to go.



I still remember the first movie that I saw him in.  It was 1996's "Twister", and I went to the theatre to watch it for my 15th birthday.  He played one of Helen Hunt's assistants and I seem to recall him standing out in a good way.  I remember saying to myself that he would become a huge star one day, and as it turned out, I was right.



I also remember him having a huge role in the 1998 film "Patch Adams".  Now, granted, it was a movie that was panned by several critics (as well as Dr. Patch Adams himself), but I have to say that Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal of the cranky med school roommate of Robin Williams' Adams was another stand-out performance, and I think that despite the criticism of the film, he really showed his acting chops.

(It's so unreal to realize that both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams died in 2014.)

But when you stop and take a look back through Hoffman's resume, he never really made a film that was absolutely horrible.  You take a look at films such as "Boogie Nights", "Magnolia", "The Talented Mr. Ripley", "Punch-Drunk Love", "Cold Mountain", "Mission Impossible: III", and "Moneyball", and he shined in every single one.  Hoffman even went as far as changing his appearance in each film as needed, whether it be shaving off his hair, or losing or gaining weight.  He was focused on providing his best work no matter what the script called for, or how hard it was to achieve.

And yet, success didn't give him a swelled ego either.  He was known to downplay his success in television interviews, and was often times shocked that he would elicit such public attention for simply doing his job.



But that was the thing about Philip Seymour Hoffman.  He knew what his job was, and he always did it well.  Which makes the fact that he has been gone for two whole years harder to swallow.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

My Five Cents on Five Cent Plastic Bags



How many of you have stockpiled plastic bags from grocery stores and retail outlets?

I know it seems like a rather bizarre question to ask, but it does have something to do with this post.

I have to admit that I do have quite a few plastic bags at my disposal.  And, why wouldn't I?  Plastic grocery bags are the perfect size for my trash can upstairs, and I use them when I am packing my lunch for work (usually when I bring along a salad or something like that).

And at most stores that I shop at, the bags are absolutely free of charge.  It's because of that fact alone that I haven't bought any kitchen catcher garbage bags since 2003!

Well...at least that WAS the case.

The recent announcement that Walmart Canada was going to begin charging five cents per plastic bag in February 2016 certainly had everybody talking - and not necessarily in a good way either.

I don't know what the situation is like in the United States, but here in Canada, plastic bags have had a cost at several other chain stores for years.  Many grocery stores started charging a nickel a bag because of environmental concerns.  I can see where they're coming from too.  Plastic bags don't degrade naturally the way that paper bags can, and they can end up sitting in landfills for years.  That, plus plastic bags can choke certain animals who might mistake them for food.

And from a business standpoint, let's face it.  Plastic bags in bulk are very expensive to buy, and the charging of bags may help cut costs down for the operating businesses.

But you wouldn't believe the number of people who are up in arms over the company's decision to charge for plastic bags.  Some are upset and feel that it's another way for a business to nickel and dime all of us to the poor house (their words, not mine).  Some feel that it's going to be the first step in declining customer service.  And some have even stated that as long as we will be charging for bags, they will no longer be shopping at the store.

So, being born with a gift of gab and being argumentative to a fault, I will attempt to rip these arguments apart.

First of all, I want to state that the charging of plastic bags is not a new thing.  At least, not in Canada, anyway.  I seem to remember some businesses charging for bags as early as 2010, if not earlier.  That was six years ago!  And honestly, if people are complaining about the fact that they have to pay a whopping five cents more...big deal.  I suppose you might have an argument if this were, oh, 1916.  But five cents doesn't really seem to buy anything at all these days.  You can't even buy penny candy for five cents!  But, I suppose the same people who are complaining about paying for bags are also the ones who complained about the penny rounding that was implemented in 2013 following the Canadian government's decision to eliminate the penny.

In short, don't try to reason with them.  You can't.

Oh, and about the threat to not shop in a store because of the nickel a bag rule?  95% of the time, those people usually return to the store in a week's time.  Trust me.  I've worked retail for eleven years.  I know by now who is serious and who is just blowing off smoke.  And let's just say that in those eleven years, I've inhaled a lot of..."smoke".



Fortunately, there are a couple of solutions to make the transition smooth.  For one, you can purchase the reusable canvas bags that a lot of stores have for sale.  These bags can last for years, and can hold quite a number of objects.  And at least in the case of Walmart Canada, the price of some of these bags will be dropping to twenty-five cents a piece.  This might seem redundant, given how people are upset over five cents, but keep in mind that the 25 cent canvas bags can be used over and over and over again.

(Though, I will ask all of you to please WASH and CLEAN your bags after you're done with them.  There's nothing more annoying and inconsiderate than having a cashier open up a bag that reeks of cigarette smoke, alcohol, and cat urine.  And yes, I've heard things.)



You can also bring along a laundry basket or a plastic tote, and use those to place your newly bought groceries in.  Most stores won't mind, believe me.

Other than that, customers will simply just accept the five cent fee or take their groceries without bags.

But can I just ask one thing?  Can you please stop harassing cashiers, staff members, and managers about the bag charges.  None of us have anything to do with the change, and therefore it is not our fault.  We're just doing our jobs, and I don't think it's fair that we should have to take people yelling at us over something we can't change.

Shop with respect.  And that's my five cents on the subject.