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Sunday, August 02, 2015

A Celebration of '60s Motown!

Hey there, groovy dudes and Georgy girls!  Hope you're ready for some 1960s goodness, as this week is SIXTIES WEEK in A Pop Culture Addict's Guide To Life!

And, I have a confession to make.  I am so excited about doing this week's edition of the Sunday Jukebox entry because I absolutely love 1960s music.

From the rockabilly sounds of 1960 to the psychedelic guitar songs of 1969, and everything in between, there was just something special about the sounds of the 1960s.  Unlike other decades, the 1960s had a very special spark of originality and creativity.  Very few cover records were released during this period, and if any were, they usually sounded halfway decent enough that nobody really noticed.

(Seriously, 25%-35% of the songs that topped the charts in the 1980s and 1990s were cover versions of 1960s songs.)

And since I'm doing album spotlights in the Sunday Jukebox entries now, I thought that I would do a spotlight on a 1960s era compilation of songs.  Songs that not only are definitive for an entire generation of people, but songs that come from what could be one of my favourite eras of music.

In 2009, this compilation was released.  It's a collection of 40 songs intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Motown Records.  Founded on January 12, 1959 by Berry Gordy (under the original name of Tamla Records), it was definitely one of the powerhouses of the 1960s recording scene.  The roster of artists underneath the Motown label were small, but powerful.  And even though Motown started off as a very small label (it was based in Detroit, Michigan for the first thirteen years of its existence before relocating to Los Angeles in 1972), it packed a huge punch.  Between 1960 and 1970, the label boasted a whopping seventy-nine Top 10 Records on the Billboard Hot 100. 

These days, Motown is only a shadow of its former self, though it still exists in some format.  An independent company until the late 1980s (Gordy sold the company to MCA and Boston Ventures in '88), Motown was sold at least three more times before merging with Universal Records in 2005 and as of 2015, it now operates as a subsidiary to Capitol Records.

Anyway, the Motown sound is probably some of my favourite music to come out of the 1960s, and I have to admit that I have a lot of the old-school Motown music downloaded in my iPod.  There is just something special and whimsical about Motown music.  Most of it is happy, carefree, and thoughtful.  Even the songs about break-ups aren't nearly as depressing as some of the break-up songs sung by...oh...Taylor Swift, perhaps.

And Motown Records did more than just release great rhythm and blues music.  They shattered a lot of colour barriers in the United States as far as radio airplay went.  Prior to 1960, it was very difficult for artists of colour to get their music heard.  With the success of Motown Records, African-American artists thrived on the pop charts.  Motown basically helped these artists find their voice, and I think that the recording industry is all the better for it.

So, I thought that for today's edition, I'd pick out my favourite songs from this compilation, and provide a bit of trivia about the songs or the artists.

I think this could be a lot of fun!  So, sit back and listen to some of these Motown classics with me!

"SHOP AROUND" - The Miracles with Smokey Robinson
Disc One - Track 2
Released: September 27, 1960
Peak Position on the Billboard Charts: #2

All right, so this was an iconic single for the Motown label.  Not only was it the first major release for the label, but it was the first single that hit #1 on the R&B charts.  And, it was the first single for both Motown and the Miracles that sold one million copies.  It's a song with a great message as well, as the song is about a mother telling her grown son not to settle for any just girl.  He should "shop around" so that he can find the right woman to settle down with.  Great advice for any man, and a great debut record for a record company!

"DO YOU LOVE ME" - The Contours
Disc One - Track 4
Released:  June 29, 1962
Peak Position on the Billboard Charts:  #3

Here's a song that actually charted twice!  Once in 1962, and once more in 1988 (the reason being that it was a song that appeared in the successful film "Dirty Dancing").  And it's a song that has been covered by a slew of other artists such as The Dave Clark Five, Westlife, and even Alvin and the Chipmunks!

And here's an interesting fact about this single.  It was intended for The Temptations to sing!  The reason Berry Gordy wanted the song for the Temptations was because he felt that it would be the song that launched them onto the Top 40 charts.

But when the band could not be found as they had already committed to performing at a Detroit gospel festival, the song was offered to The Contours.

And although the song didn't quite reach the top of the charts, it did do one positive thing for The saved them from being dropped by the record label!

"MY GUY" - Mary Wells
Disc One - Track 9
Released:  March 13, 1964
Peak Position on the Billboard Charts:  #1

Okay, I have a confession here.  This is probably one of those songs that makes my Top 5 list of favourite Motown songs recorded.  Of course, having a song penned by Smokey Robinson himself probably helped keep this song on the top of the charts in the spring of '64.

Considered Motown's very first solo female star, Wells was barely 21 when she sang this hit.  But given the husk of her voice and the sensual way she sang it, you'd never know it!  Apparently, Wells started singing it the same way as if Mae West would sing it as a joke.  To her surprise though, they liked it!

Sadly, this would be Mary's last hit with Motown.  She left the company shortly after that.  But still, it's a great song!

"MY GIRL" - The Temptations
Disc Two - Track 1
Released:  December 21, 1964
Peak Position on the Billboard Charts: #1

I love this song for two reasons.  First, it was the title track for one of my favourite guilty pleasure movies, "My Girl".  The beehive scene still gets me right in the heart.  Every time.

But secondly, this was the signature song for The Temptations, and their first number one hit.  Not bad for a group who just three years earlier couldn't even get on the Top 40.  David Ruffin performed the lead vocals for this track - usually they were done by Paul Williams or Eddie Kendricks.  And another piece of trivia.  This song was originally supposed to be recorded by The Miracles, but only if Ruffin would sing the lead vocals.

It seemed to be a gamble, but it paid off in a big way!

"Uptight (Everything's Alright)" - STEVIE WONDER
Disc Two - Track 7
Released:  November 22, 1965
Peak Position on the Billboard Charts:  #3

This is probably one of my favourite Stevie Wonder songs...and would you believe that he was only fifteen when he sang this one?  If it weren't for the fact that he was blind, I'd remark that it was awesome that he had a Top 5 hit before he could legally drive!

And why do I like this song?  Well, it's upbeat, it's passionate, and it saved Stevie Wonder from being kicked out of Motown!

You see, Stevie's first hit was "Fingertips" in 1963.  Stevie was thirteen back then.  And during the period between thirteen and fifteen, puberty caught up with Stevie, and his voice deepened.  This posed a problem, as Berry Gordy believed that his voice had changed his sound too much, and he almost released Stevie out of his contract.

This song was Wonder's chance to prove himself, and although his voice had matured, it was at a high tenor, which proved easier for producers to work with.  And, well...let's just say that this was only the beginning for Stevie.  As of 2015, he's really the only artist from 60s era Motown that is still with the company in some manner.

"Reach Out I'll Be There" - THE FOUR TOPS
Disc Three - Track 2
Released:  August 18, 1966
Peak Position on the Billboard Charts:  #1

I'll save one of the best for the last.  I find it difficult to find a bad thing to say about the Four Tops.  They released some fantastic songs during their tenure at Motown Records.  But this song was particularly powerful because it conveyed a lot of different emotions all wrapped up in what could be considered a R&B classic.

You can think singer Levi Stubbs for that.  His delivery of the lines were so profound and so raw.  He was almost literally screaming his lines, that's how much he got into it.  It's a wonder he even had a voice left at the end of it all!

So, there you have it.  Six classic Motown hits from the 1960s!  Have any more to add?

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Let's Tie Dye, Everybody!

It's the beginning of August, and for some weird reason, I am in a sixties kind of mood.

Which is quite interesting, given that the 1960s were way before I was born!

But think about it for a second.  The 1960s were a decade of great change.  It was a decade in which we saw protests and hippies.  Psychedelic patterns and flower power.  A decade which saw the music of the Beatles, the Turtles, the Rolling Stones, and the Mamas and the Papas, concluding with the epic music festival known as "Woodstock".

Basically, it was a decade that I would have loved to have experienced.

Unfortunately, I was born about twelve years too late to even get a little taste of the 1960s.  But my parents - who are celebrating a huge milestone later this month - lived through the whole decade, and I have to say that they have a lot of fine moments of the 1960s.

So, since the 1960s were a groovy decade, why not declare the first week of August to be "SIXTIES WEEK"? 

Mind you, only six of the seven days will be devoted to the 1960s.  There's no way that I can make "The New Archies" sixties era.  So, Friday gets a pass.

But from now until the 6th, I will be devoting every blog topic to a subject from the sixties.  1960s music, 1960s film, 1960s toys and games, 1960s activities...even a 1960s Tuesday Timeline entry! 

So, what subject will I be talking about today?

Well, how about a particular craft that many people took part in during the 1960s.  If done correctly, you could have a beautiful looking piece of wearable art that would make even the most hardcore beatniks stop and stare!  If done incorrectly, you would have permanent stains all over your walls, carpets, hair, and even your hands.

Which might be great if you were a member of the Blue Man Group, but not good in everyday life.

Of course, I'm talking about the art of tie-dying, a way of turning ordinary shirts into fantastic looking original creations.

It was all a part of the whole psychedelic movement, where drab clothing was splattered with vibrant coloured fabric dyes in brilliant shades of red, yellow, blue, and green.  It was very difficult to blend into the crowd with a shirt like that - unless of course you happen to be in a crowd of people all wearing tie-dyed shirts.

And you know, it wasn't just shirts that people tie-dyed.  They tie-dyed their jeans, their jackets, their scarves.  Heck, some probably tie-dyed their underpants. 

Now, you might believe that tie-dying began in the mid-1960s, and there absolutely was a heightened interest in tie-dying beginning around 1965.  By the early 1970s, tie-dying had definitely reached its peak in popularity.

But you may be surprised to know that tie-dying has been around for thousands of years!  Some of the earliest examples of tie-dying come from the South American region of Peru as early as the 6th century!  The garments had lines and circles, and were dyed in brilliant shades of red, yellow, and blue.  It would actually be interesting to see how they managed to get dye that colour back in those days.

And in Thailand, this is just one of the examples of the tie-dying art known as mudmee.  As you can see, it's done a little bit differently than the standard tie-dye design, but the end result is something that is absolutely beautiful.

So, how does one make a tie-dye shirt?  Well, admittedly, I don't know myself.  And I'd really like to learn how to do one because I really want to make a few shirts for an upcoming event that I want to plan (think 1960s themed for this one), and I think it would be cool if the main guests all wore tie-dyed shirts.

Certainly, there has to be a few examples of how to make basic tie-dye outfits.  Really, all you need to have is a shirt made of 100% cotton, some fabric dye, and soda ash (the catalyst in making the perfect tie-dyed shirt).

Oh, and that 100% cotton shirt is CRUCIAL.  You could use a cotton-poly blend, but the colours won't be as vibrant.  And don't even think of using polyester to dye a tie-dye shirt.  Polyester will not keep any dye in at all, and you'd just be wasting your time.  You'd be best to just buy a 5-pack of Fruit of the Loom or Hanes T-shirts and use those.

Of course, I still don't know what techniques to use...I wonder if there are any do-it-yourself videos on how to tie-dye.

Oh, look!  Here's one right here!

Thanks, Tatjanna for the brilliant ideas!  On some weekend when I don't work, I will have to try this out!

Friday, July 31, 2015

New Archies Reviewed - Episode 2A: Last Laugh

It's time for another exciting adventure in THE NEW ARCHIES REVIEWED!  Can you believe that we have gotten through one episode already?  Well, only another twelve to go.

Or, twenty-four, if you count half-episodes.  Which in this case we will.

Before I go ahead with today's edition though, I do have a request.  It's not a big deal if I can't get it honoured, as I have quite a few episodes screenshotted anyway.

(Yeah, I know.  Screenshotted isn't a word.  Let's just ignore it for today.)

But I am lacking a few episodes in the mix.  And, if it's possible, I'd like to find the lost episodes so I can truly do this feature justice.  I can probably describe them at least, as I have seen all of them before, but screenshots would make them pop much better. 

I have the first five episodes, as well as eight and half of nine.  But I still need the following...

06 - Hamburger Helpers/Goodbye Ms. Grundy
07 - Red To The Rescue/Jughead The Jinx
09 - The Prince of Riverdale
10 - Loose Lips Stops Slips/A Change of Minds
11 - Incredible Shrinking Archie/Gunk For Gold
12 - Jughead's Millions/Making Of Mr. Righteous
13 - Take My Butler, Please/Horray For Hollywood

If anyone can send me links to any of these episodes, I will be your best friend forever!

Okay, so episode 1A was all about Archie.  1B was about Betty and Veronica.  Who will the featured Riverdale character be in 2A?

Hmmm...Episode 2A - Last Laugh.  Why do I get the feeling that this episode has Reggie Mantle written all over it?

Okay, so we're introduced to the exterior of Riverdale Junior High School, and it is here that we get our first glimpse of Mr. Weatherbee and...

...oh my good lord, what the hell is he wearing?  Geez, I know Miami Vice was huge back in the 1980s, but this look is wrong!  All wrong!  And anyone who has read the comic books know that Mr. Weatherbee's toupee is basically just three hairs on his head, so seeing him in a full head of hair is absolutely ridiculous.

Look!  Even Mr. Weatherbee's reflection is laughing at him!  Eh, it's a cartoon.  That's the only way it works in the world.

Ah, but there's a reason why Weatherbee is trying his best to look like Don Johnson.  He wants to go to the Sadie Hawkins Dance with Miss Grundy, and thinks that if he looks sexy in pastel, she'll swoon in his arms.  Wait?  When did Weatherbee and Grundy become an item?  I mean, yes, in the Life With Archie series, they got married before Grundy died of cancer, but still...up until now, we were lead to believe that Grundy and Weatherbee were just as asexual as Jughead!

And speaking of Jughead, there he is, sleeping in the gym, standing up...with balloons keeping him upright.  You know in real life, Jughead would fall, pop the balloons, and lose the hearing in his left ear from the gigantic bang.  Luckily, this is a cartoon and nobody gets hurt unless plot calls for it.

Anyway, Jughead is "helping" Archie, Reggie, and Eugene decorate the gym for the dance, which Reggie thinks is stupid because he hates having to do any physical work, especially for a dance where women ask the men out because he's a sexist pig in pink argyle.  Archie tells him to knock it off and sweep, but Reggie has other ideas when he spots a frog hopping in the gym.

No explanation as to why the frog is there in the first place, but hey.  Who needs feasible explanations in the Archie world?  Reggie decides that he will wrap up the frog in a box, and give it to Miss Grundy as a gift.  (Spoiler alert:  This is NOT the first time a frog, Reggie, and Miss Grundy are in a plotline).  The catch?  He's letting Eugene do his dirty work.

And Miss Grundy decides to open it on a ladder.  Nothing says living dangerously like opening up a present 20 feet in the air.  The frog jumps out, Miss Grundy falls to the ground, and the episode ends at her grave.

Just kidding.

Actually, Miss Grundy falls into Weatherbee's arms, and Weatherbee - who apparently can't carry more than six pounds, falls backwards onto the refreshment table, and sends the cake flying!  A quick thinking Archie manages to save the cake...

...only for cafeteria worker Miss Beazley to smash it right in his face.  But, hey!  Miss Beazley!  Don't tell me she followed the gang through school too!

Anyway, Miss Beazley has a bowl of her delicious, non-alcoholic fruit punch to serve at the dance, and she wants to know where to put it, since Grundy and Weatherbee destroyed the table.  But then the frog - who has decided to wear Weatherbee's toupee jumps into the bowl of fruit punch, and makes Beazley throw the punch all over Weatherbee and Grundy. 

And, Reggie just laughs like a hyena because he was the one who set this chain of events in motion.  Surprisingly enough though, he does not get punished.  Then again, Grundy and Weatherbee are covered in fruit punch.  I sure hope Weatherbee's new pastel suit can be dry cleaned.

Of course, we all know that Reggie is a master of practical jokes, and that he can be a real jerk about it.  And since the Sadie Hawkins Day dance is fast approaching, Reggie decides to have a little bit of fun.

For instance, he takes the old water gun in the bouquet of flowers gag one step further and sprays Betty with so much water that it destroys her fabulously expensive 1980s hairstyle that looks no different from how she usually looks.

Then he pours itching powder down Archie's back while he's trying to get Veronica to ask him to the Sadie Hawkins Dance, which prompts Archie to practice voguing long before Madonna made it hip.

Let your body move to the music, Arch.  Go with the flow.

And don't think that at the track and field meet that Reggie gives up his prankster ways.  He glues Moose's shoes to the track, causing him to fall flat on his face.

And since he still has half a tube of Krazy Glue in his possession, he thinks it would be a hoot if he glued the flying discuses so that Archie could humiliate himself even more.  Just too bad that someone else has decided to use the discus instead, and...

...OH MY GOD!  It's Fangs Freakin' Fogarty!  Wow! 

For those of you who don't know, Fangs was a recurring character in the Little Archie universe, and his purpose on the show was to beat up Archie, Jughead, Reggie...pretty much anyone who went after his girlfriend Penny.  And, I'm guessing that Penny transferred schools and got a restraining order against Fangs because she's nowhere in sight, and Fangs is now attacking Reggie the same way that Moose would attack Reggie for going after his "gurl named Midge".

Of course, Fangs won't break Reggie's face - IF he does one thing.  He has to get Veronica to ask Fangs to the Sadie Hawkins Dance.  An easy request.

NOT!  Turns out that our Riverdalian Princess with the Valley Girl accent finds Fangs totally bogus, and he makes her gag without the spoon!  And, like, Veronica totally wants to ask Archie because his red hair makes her feel truly outrageous like Jem.

So, Reggie decides to call Fangs and disguises his voice just like Veronica because Reggie is lucky that it's the 1980s, and Caller ID was just a fleeting dream in Riverdale.  But how will he get through this one?

Why, by dressing up exactly like Veronica, of course, right down to the frizzy looking mop atop her head.  It's a good thing that Reggie just happens to be wearing the same outfit that Veronica is.  Looks like something from the Olivia Newton-John exercise collection!  Very stylish!

Oh, but even though the dance is taking place at approximately four in the afternoon and it is still bright out, and the lights in the gym give off the same intensity as a Hollywood spotlight, Fangs and Archie can't tell the difference between real Veronica and fake Veronica.

Because Archie manages to grab Reggie to get down on the dance floor.

And Veronica ends up getting abducted by Fangs Fogarty.  Or, maybe that's Fangs' way of getting down with his bad self.  Who can say?

And, hey, look!  It's Big Ethel in the bleachers with Jughead and Betty - and once again, Jughead doesn't speak a word as he's too busy gorging on whatever food there is at the dance.  I don't even know how Jughead's voice artist actually made any money in this show at all.  I think he's spoken fewer words in the first three episodes than there was in Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham".  And one of those words was Feltzig.

(Oh, and the reason why they call her Big Ethel is because of her height.  And standing next to the other characters, Ethel is obviously eight feet tall.)

But, hey, at least Ethel managed to convince Jughead to go with her to the dance by bribing him with food.  Betty - who happens to be dressed like either a Bangle or a Bananarama member - decided to invite herself to the dance, which I find hard to believe.  I mean, Moose was single since he doesn't meet Midge until high school.  She could have gone with him.

But Betty had her heart set on Archie and is pissed that Veronica snatched him away - again.  And this prompts Ethel to look at the dance floor and become quite confused at the fact that Veronica has cloned herself.

Before Ethel can say anything though, Miss Grundy turns off the synthesizer music and tells everyone to shut up.  It's time to announce the Queen of the Sadie Hawkins Dance.

Wait.  When did a Sadie Hawkins Dance have a queen?  A homecoming dance or prom I can see...but a Sadie Hawkins Queen?  Wasn't Sadie Hawkins like a redneck woman and not a high-class broad? 

Then again.  It's a cartoon.  Nothing makes sense in a cartoon.

And here's where things get dicey.  The queen of the dance is Ethel Betty Miss Beazley Veronica Lodge!  But when you have two Veronicas approaching the stage at the same time without a stick of Doublemint gum in the shot, you know that a catfight is about to take place.

Sure enough, Veronica pulls off Reggie's wig, removes the toilet paper stuffed inside his shirt, and makes fun of his Olivia Knockoff John rags before chasing Reggie out of the gym wanting to scratch his eyes out.

Oh, and Fangs follows along too, as it wouldn't be a day if Fangs didn't try to kill someone.

But I'm guessing that Reggie must have gotten away, as he appears in the next episode.

But yeah...this episode was a mixed bag in many ways.  Sure, it was great to be introduced to some new characters like Mr. Weatherbee, Big Ethel, and surprisingly Fangs Fogarty.  And it was nice to see Reggie actually pay for his mischief and tricks.  But the whole "I'll be your doppelganger" storyline has been done to death.  Just ask current fans of "The Young and the Restless" for proof of that.  And honestly, the story was fairly blah.  So Reggie dresses up as a girl to fool the school bully so he won't beat him up.  The thing that makes me question is all is why nobody busted him sooner.  I know Fangs isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but Archie was unintentionally made to look like a complete idiot.  Sure, he's indecisive, klutzy, and a two-timing beast, but he at least had some smarts.

Then again, there are no rules in "The New Archies".  We just have to watch it.  Or rather, I have to watch it and review it.

Coming up in next week's show, we are introduced to another new character - as well as a mystery that would make the Hardy Boys wish they worked at Burger King.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cecil The Lionhearted

There has been a lot of talk about this recent news story coming out of the African nation of Zimbabwe, and of course, I have my own opinions on the subject.

I'd like to show you a photograph to kick off this blog.

I'd like to introduce you to Cecil the Lion.  He is - or rather, he was - one of the most gentlest lions to ever grace the earth.  At 13, he was nearing the end of his natural life span (most lions in the wild rarely see their sweet sixteen), and he had spent most of his life in Hwange National Park.  He was tracked with a GPS device embedded in a collar, and he was observed by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University.  It's a program that has been in place since the late 1990s, and the program was designed to measure the impact of sport hunting beyond the park on the lion population in Africa.

And Cecil was well loved and well respected.  He was a fan favourite of all of the tourists who visited the park, and he seemed to trust human beings very much and was gentle around them.  That's what makes Cecil's story even more tragic and senseless.

You see, Cecil the Lion is no longer with us.  He was killed a few days ago.  And the way in which he was killed is so barbaric and so inhumane that it has definitely got social media talking, and has vilified (and rightfully so) the man at the center of the controversy. 

I actually don't want to post a photo of this man because to see his face makes me nauseous.  But the man at the center of this is a dentist from Minnesota named Walter Palmer.

Now, Walter Palmer is no stranger to big game hunting.  He has gone on several hunting expeditions all over the world, and has proudly posed next to his "trophies", which include a rhino, a bear, and even another lion.  I suppose that one could compare him to Noah from Noah's Ark, only in that tale, Noah collected animals to save them from the flood.  In Palmer's case, he collected animals to display them in his home or to brag about killing them, even though in all likelihood the animals had done nothing to him.  He's even spent thousands of dollars to fuel his hobby. 

In the days leading up to Cecil's death, it is reported that Palmer paid a whopping $55,000 to shoot and kill the lion with a bow and arrow, and two men native to Zimbabwe assisted him.

Now, here's where things get sickening.  According to park rules, animals within the confines of the park can NOT be harmed in any way.  So, in order to continue his mission, Palmer and his guides lured the lion out of the park's confines with a dead animal attached to their car.  Once Cecil had ventured close enough, Palmer aimed his bow and shot an arrow into Cecil.

Here's the thing.  Cecil survived the impact.  Lions are huge animals, and one arrow typically wouldn't cause a whole lot of damage unless you knew exactly where to aim it.  Cecil quickly went into hiding, but thanks to the GPS device, Palmer and his crew knew exactly how to track him. 

FORTY hours later, they finished the doomed lion off with a gunshot, and immediately after that, the lion was decapitated and skinned, with its remains left abandoned just outside of the park.

Just picture this for a moment.  Someone PAID over fifty thousand dollars to kill this beautiful lion.  And the method of how they killed this lion and what they did to him is unspeakable horror. 

As far as I am concerned, I see no justification for this incident to have happened at all.

I am not completely against hunting in some cases.  If it is a matter of survival, that's one thing - but someone who obviously has that much money to dispose of obviously wasn't starving to death.  If the lion had been extremely wild and lunged at him, then I can justify a self-protection shooting, but this definitely wasn't the case.  And even if the killing was in self-defense, there is absolutely ZERO excuse for skinning and beheading the lion.

I still get horrified just reading the details.

Of course, with the way that the Internet is, it didn't take long for the dentist to be outed as the one who killed Cecil, and immediately people shamed him all over the world.  Many people were just as horrified that Cecil had to die in such a brutal fashion, and some were even calling for the dentist to suffer the same fate as the lion he killed.  I'll talk about that a little later.

For the record, Palmer issued an apology for what had transpired, and it read like this; (courtesy of Brian Reis' Twitter page.)

My thoughts?  Too little, too late.  The fact that Cecil the Lion was a well known attraction of the park is not really the real focus point.  The point is that he willingly broke the rules in order to kill this lion in the most brutal way possible.  Not only did he lure the lion out of its protective habitat, but they tried to destroy the GPS collar so that his body would not be found.  He is only sorry that he got caught and outed.  Now his name is completely trashed, and his dentist office is now closed - who knows how long that office will be shut down?

I definitely agree that Palmer should be held accountable for Cecil's death.  After all, what he did was reprehensible.  But I don't believe in an eye for an eye philosophy.  I don't think that would teach him anything, and it is very hypocritical to wish him the same fate that the lion suffered.

Besides, after all this is over, I think the damage done to his reputation is a just punishment. 

But it also bothers me.  Of course, we're making an example of Palmer in this case, and rightfully so.  But that's only because the Internet allowed us to identify him right away.  This probably wasn't the first time that an incident like this happened.  Who knows how many animals have died at the hands of poachers, hunters, and big game hunters who have yet to be identified?  It's a scary thought.

Cecil, you did not deserve this.  You deserved to live out the rest of your life in peace.  This was not how you were meant to go out, and I am so sorry that you had to die at the hands of a man who only saw dollar signs and bragging rights in front of his eyes, not compassion and tenderness. 

I think that to close this piece off, Jimmy Kimmel can say things a lot better than I can.

Rest in peace, Cecil the Lionhearted.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Slumming It - The Perks Of A Furniture Free Home (For Now)

I can't believe that in less than three days from now, I'll be at my permanent new address!

Although I technically have until the end of August for me to get all of my stuff out of the apartment - and believe me, with the amount of stuff that I have accumulated over the years, I am going to need every last day - I will be heading over there at the beginning of August to work on painting, scrubbing, ripping, tearing...basically fixing up the place. 

And, well...until all of the renovations are complete (or more than likely, until I run out of money), I will be living in a mostly empty house.

It makes no sense to move in my furniture right now before I get all of the renovations finished.  It is such a pain to throw plastic covers all over beds, couches, and wooden tables just so you don't drip any paint on them.  Believe me, I know from experience.

Now, living in a house completely devoid of furniture is a very strange experience.  The walls always echo, the space inside is too open and yet you feel strangely claustrophobic.  You know that at some point, the house will become more of a home, but until it does, you know that it's going to be at least a couple of weeks of roughing it.

Fortunately, I came prepared.

It helps immensely that I called ahead and asked the utility companies to hook a brother up, so at least I have lights, water, and gas heating - not that I really need the last one right now as we're in the middle of a heatwave, but it's nice to know that I have it, just in case we get an August snowstorm, or what have you.

I also bought my temporary bed to use just until I get my bed packed up and ready to go.

Bam.  Cost me about $50, but this way I can always use it as a spare in case I get any company over.  I just hope that it is comfortable. 

Then again, when I went to university, the beds that we got were so hard and uncomfortable that I had to use that eggshell foam to make it more slumber worthy.  Air mattresses aren't nearly that firm.

And what I mean by firm, I mean plywood like.

I'm also slowly, but surely, bringing in a few boxes of my belongings that I will either store in the garage or the upstairs.  Since most of the renovations will be done downstairs, I figure it's a good bet to store them there.  Besides, with having no TV and no Internet at the house (at least not until September), I'm going to have to bring a lot of books with me to pass the time.  Lucky for me, I have like five thousand of them. 

(What can I say?  I'm an avid reader.)

Perhaps the biggest challenge will come from the fact that while I have heating figured out...I do not have central air yet.  So, the next couple of weeks will be rough for sleeping.  I'll probably be bringing a fan or two or thirty-seven just to keep me cool.

Though, I suppose I could just sleep in the basement for now.  I haven't decided yet.

Either way, I know that the end date is coming very roughing it for a while will be so worth it.  Besides, I could use the quiet time to reflect on some things.  Real thought provoking things.

Things like...should I use baby blue for the walls, or a deeper shade?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28, 1958

It's time for another edition of the Tuesday Timeline, and it's also the last Tuesday Timeline for the month of July.  I'm not going to lie to you.  July's been a fantastic month for me, and I really am sorry to see it end.  The only thing I wish I could change about July is that I wish the temperature wasn't so blistering hot.  I've never liked heat or humidity much.  Give me a nice blustery fall afternoon any day of the year!

But yeah, July 2015 will go down in history as a very good month, and I think that in the world of sports, today's Tuesday Timeline date is one that should be celebrated.  After all, the subject is a famous Canadian hero.

We'll get to that a little bit later.  You know the drill by now.

1540 - Thomas Cromwell is executed for treason on the order of Henry VIII of England - who would go on to marry fifth wife Catherine Howard that same day

1821 - Jose de San Martin declares the independence of Peru from Spain

1866 - Vinnie Ream becomes the first (and youngest) female artist to receive a commission from the United States for a statue of a president (the late Abraham Lincoln)

1896 - The city of Miami, Florida is incorporated

1901 - Actor/singer Rudy Vallee (d. 1986) is born in Island Point, Vermont

1914 - Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, kicking off the first World War

1929 - Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (d. 1994) is born in Southampton, New York

1935 - The debut flight of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress takes place

1942 - Joseph Stalin issues Order No. 227 in response to alarming German advances into the Soviet Union

1943 - Operation Gomorrah takes place, killing 42,000 German civilians following the bombing of Hamburg by the Royal Air Force

1945 - Fourteen are killed and another 26 injured when a United States Army B-25 Bomber crashes into the Empire State Building

1957 - Nearly a thousand people are killed when heavy rains cause a mudslide in Kyushu, Japan

1965 - Lyndon B. Johnson announces an order to increase the number of soldiers in South Vietnam from 75,000-125,000

1973 - The Summer Jam at Watkins Glen takes place, attracting almost 600,000 concertgoers

1976 - The Tangshan Earthquake flattens Tangshan, the Republic of China, killing almost a quarter of a million people

1984 - The opening ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games takes place in Los Angeles

1996 - The remains of a prehistoric man are found near Kennewick, Wisconsin

2001 - Ian Thorpe becomes the first swimmer to win six gold medals at a single World Championships

2005 - The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceases its 30-year-long armed campaign in Northern Ireland

2013 - American actress Eileen Brennan passes away at the age of 80

And, celebrating a birthday on July 28 we have the following famous faces - Phil Proctor, Peter Cullen, Jim Davis, Jonathan Edwards, Linda Kelsey, Sally Struthers, Georgia Engel, Bruce Abbott, Steve Morse, Michael Hitchcock, Rachel Sweet, Lori Loughlin, Alexis Arquette, Isabelle Brasseur, Stephen Lynch, Annie Perreault, Elizabeth Berkley, Afroman, Jacoby Shaddix, Noel Sullivan, Dave Rosin, Cain Velasquez, Cody Hay, Dustin Milligan, Alexandra Chando, Soulja Boy, Spencer Boldman, Hannah Lochner, and Cher Lloyd.

So, what is the date that we're going to go back to this week?

Well, we're going back in time fifty-seven years.  July 28, 1958.

The date happens to be the birthdate of today's subject.  And although his life was cut prematurely short, in the years that he did live, he achieved quite a lot.  He was the top Canadian newsmaker of 1980 and 1981, he was named a Companion of the Order of Canada, and an annual charity run has been named in his honour which raises millions of dollars for cancer research all over Canada. 

He was the figure that breathed life into the "Marathon of Hope".  And while he never did fully accomplish his goal, he touched the hearts of every Canadian who followed his goal, cheering him on the entire way.

This is the story of Terry Fox, who would have been fifty-seven years old today.

And Terry's story started off quite normally.  Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he was the second born of four children to Betty and Rolland Fox.  When Terry was eight years old, the family relocated to Surrey, British Columbia, and by the time he was ten, the Fox family had settled in nearby Port Coquitlam.  Terry's childhood was fairly normal, but his parents had noted his competitive spirit at an early age.  Already showing signs of being a gifted athlete, Terry refused to admit defeat in anything.  He would put forth the effort and practice hard until he was proficient in a specific sport, then move on to the next challenge. 

By the time Terry entered high school, he was more than determined to make the various sports teams, but he had one major disadvantage.  He stood at just over five feet tall, and many people saw his short stature to be a detriment.  But leave it to Terry to prove everybody wrong.  He played a variety of sports such as soccer, rugby, and baseball.  His real passion was basketball, but he was too short to really make much of an impact on the team.  Instead, the coach advised him to take up distance running.  Fox - in an effort to please his coach - took part in cross country running, but ironically enough, it was not his passion at that time.

You'll learn why I say it was ironic a little later.

By 1976, Fox had graduated from high school, and had enrolled at Simon Fraser University to become a physical education teacher.  He majored in kinesiology, and joined the school's junior varsity basketball team.  Things were going great for the eighteen-year-old who had a list of dreams that seemed endless.

Things began to unravel in the fall of 1976.  In November of that year, Terry was involved in a motor accident in which he crashed into the back of a pickup truck.  Though Terry survived the accident, he was left with throbbing pain in his right knee.  The pain would come and go over the next few months, but Terry didn't believe that it was anything serious, and finished the basketball season.  By the spring of 1977, the pain was getting worse, and not knowing the reason why, Terry made an appointment with his doctor to find out what was going on.

Sadly, the news was not good.  He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma - cancer of the bone.  And the only way to remove the cancer was to amputate Fox's right leg.  It was certainly a devastating blow for the Fox family, but Terry took it all in stride for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, Terry was one of the most determined people to have ever lived.  Even though losing his leg was a setback for him, he refused to let it define him.  In fact, he made it a mission to get back on his feet as soon as possible.  And sure enough, less than a month after the amputation, Fox was back up on his feet - with help from a prosthetic leg.

But what perked Fox up even more was the fact that the cancer that he had was not only treatable, but had a 50% chance of not coming back again.  The previous year, that number was only 15%.  The reason why Fox's odds improved was because of the extensive cancer research in treatment methods.  And this likely planted the seed in Terry Fox's mind to bring awareness to cancer treatments.

And just because he lost a limb, it didn't deter him from continuing to enjoy the sports that he once loved.  His father turned him onto golf, and Fox was recruited by another Canadian born hero Rick Hansen to join his wheelchair basketball team.  With Fox's determination and skill, he helped guide his team to three national titles!

However, his mark on the world was still yet to come.  And Fox saved the best for last.

In the summer of 1979, Fox had competed in a marathon in Prince George, British Columbia, and while he was the last participant to cross the finish line, his sheer determination to finish the race prompted everyone watching the run to cheer him on.  That moment, combined with an article he had read right around the time of his surgery that focused on Dick Traum - the first amputee to compete in the New York City Marathon - inspired Fox to come up with his fundraising idea.

It would come to be known as "The Marathon of Hope".  And it would be an ambitious goal.  He would attempt to go coast to coast across Canada to raise awareness for cancer research, and he wrote a slew of letters to the Canadian Cancer Society as well as to various sponsors asking for donations to get the project off the ground.  The only stipulation was that in order for him to accept the donations, the companies had to promise that they would not force him to endorse their company.  He wanted the run to be a non-profit one.

The marathon began on April 12, 1980 in Newfoundland, with Fox dipping his prosthetic leg into the Atlantic Ocean.  He filled two jars with ocean water, with plans to dump one in the Pacific Ocean upon the completion of his journey.  Supported by his best friend Doug Alward - and later on by his brother Darrell - Fox endured a lot of complications during his run.  The weather was all over the place, with him running through snowstorms, thunderstorms, windy days, and scorching heat.  But through it all, he visited several communities on his journey.  Entire towns would gather around to present Fox with donations worth thousands of dollars, and when he reached Quebec, he found an angel in Isadore Sharp, who offered to pledge two dollars for every mile he ran (and encouraged thousands of other businesses to do the same).

He arrived in Ontario just in time for the July 1 holiday, and despite the sweltering summer heat, he continued to average 26 miles a day.  On July 1, 1980, he was the guest of honour at a Canadian Football League game, and kicked a football in front of 16,000 people, all of whom gave him a standing ovation.  It was the first time that Terry Fox realized just how huge the Marathon had gotten.

But not everything about the Marathon of Hope went smoothly.  He was getting annoyed at certain newspapers caring more about his personal life than the fundraising goals, and he had started to look at the media as being too intrusive.  Of course, it was a double edged sword, as if it weren't for the media reporting on Fox's progress, the Marathon of Hope wouldn't have gotten the reception that it did.

But more than that, the physical toll the marathon took on Terry Fox was brutal.  He never really took a break from running - not even on his 22nd birthday - and his body took a beating from suffering from inflamed knees to having stress fractures on his ankle. 

And then in September 1980, Fox received some tragic news.  The cancer had come back and had spread to his lungs.  This caused his Marathon of Hope to end prematurely, after running for 143 days, and traveling for over five thousand kilometres - his journey ending just outside of Thunder Bay.

But even though his marathon had to did what Fox had intended.  Almost two million dollars was raised during the event - every penny being donated to cancer research.  And while Fox had every intention of finishing the run, the cancer had spread too far, and it was already too late.

He succumbed to the disease on June 28, 1981 - just one month before his twenty-third birthday.  And his death saddened an entire nation.  Flags all over the country were lowered to half mast, and his funeral was televised in Canada.

It's been thirty-four years since Fox's physical journey ended.  But as we remember him on his 57th birthday, his contribution to the world continues even today.  The Terry Fox Run has been going on since September 1981, raising millions of dollars annually.  And because of the money that Fox donated (and the near $650 million raised since his death), the cancer that Fox was diagnosed with now has a 70-80% survival rate - and no longer is amputation considered the only method of removing the cancer.

He was a man with a mission.  And even though he could not make the finish line physically, I'd say he got the point across.

Happy birthday, Terry Fox...and thank you for your contribution to Canadian society.