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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Next Three Months...

Okay, so in this edition of WHO AM I WEDNESDAY, I really don't have much to say.

Mainly because I don't really have any pressing issue that's on my mind right at this moment.

So, I thought that I would use this post as a way to let you all know what you can expect to see over the next three months in this blog.

And why am I doing this?  Well, the next three months are months in which a lot is going on.  We have Thanksgiving, Halloween, Remembrance Day, and of course, Christmas.  So, because the three months are going to be jam-packed with events, I'll be coming up with ways to make the next three months a lot of fun here at A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S GUIDE TO LIFE!

So, here's what my plans are going to curtail, month by month. 



OCTOBER

Now, October is going to be one of those months in which we have a few things going on.  Now, because I'm in Canada, I'll be doing my Thanksgiving entries in October.  But of course, the major theme for October will be Halloween, spooky things, trick-or-treating, and other scary surprises.  Every Saturday movie entry will be some sort of scary film.  For Tube Talk Thursday, each entry will be a Halloween themed one (with the exception of one that I'll be writing for Thanksgiving), and if possible, I'll try to incorporate scary things for the Sunday Jukebox - though given that I'm doing #1 songs this year, I can't guarantee it.

Oh, and if possible, I'll try to make Tuesday Timeline entries really scary too - even if I have to spotlight the biography of a serial killer - which I really don't want to do, but at least I'll have a back-up plan.

Any future Wednesday entries in October will feature a funny story related to Halloween, and I think for Fridays, I'll feature some recipes and ideas for what to do with leftover candy.  It'll be fun!



NOVEMBER

Obviously, I'll be doing a special Remembrance Day entry for November 11.  This year, I believe November 11 falls on a Tuesday, and I have the perfect subject for that picked out! 

The rest of the month will be somewhat straightforward.  To honour the American Thanksgiving, I may do holiday dishes as the subject of each food day.  I think I'll also be featuring classic movies from the 1950's and 1960's on all of the movie discussions.  Really, November is one of those months that is just sort of a filler month.  At least it is in Canada.  But November runs into one of the busiest months of the whole year, and believe me, I've got a lot planned!



DECEMBER

This year marks the third annual edition of A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR, which means that the first twenty-five days of the month of December will feature a holiday themed entry. 

It will also be the one month of the year in which I WON'T be featuring any #1 singles.  Instead, I'll be consulting the holiday charts to choose a selection of Christmas classics that performed extremely well in sales and in airplay.  If you like Christmas music, December is the month for you.

I'll also be featuring holiday themed Tuesday Timelines, holiday themed Tube Talk Thursday, holiday stories on Who Am I Wednesday, holiday foods for Foodie Friday, and classic Christmas films for Saturday Night at the Movies.  I promise you 25 days of holiday goodness, and 25 days is what you'll get.

As for Funny Mondays...well, I do have something called the bastardization of Christmas past.  Don't be surprised if you see some song parodies in those spaces.

Now, of course, after Christmas, the rest of the blog will go back to normal...but that's all in preparation for...



JANUARY 2015

And, that month will feature some brand new changes for a brand new year.  But alas...I've said too much.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 30, 1955

This is the last entry for the month of September 2014 - and it also happens to be the last TUESDAY TIMELINE entry of the month.  So, for today's entry, I'm prepared to make it a really huge date in pop culture history. 

Perhaps it could be one of the most famous dates in the world of Hollywood.  So famous that there was even a film made with this date as the title.

Of course, before we go ahead with that, we should probably take a look at some of the other events that took place on September 30 throughout history.

1399 - Henry IV is proclaimed King of England

1791 - The first performance of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" is first held at Freihaus-Theater der Wieden in Vienna, Austria

1882 - Thomas Edison's first commercial hydroelectric power plant begins operation in Appleton, Wisconsin

1888 - Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes become the third and fourth victims of serial killer Jack the Ripper

1907 - The McKinley National Memorial is dedicated in Canton, Ohio

1917 - American drummer Buddy Rich (d. 1987) is born in Brooklyn, New York

1927 - Babe Ruth becomes the first baseball player to hit 60 home runs in a season

1935 - The Hoover Dam is dedicated

1939 - NBC becomes the first television network to broadcast a televised football game

1942 - Singer Frankie Lymon (d. 1968) is born in Harlem, New York

1947 - The World Series is first televised - the teams are the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees

1962 - African-American college student James Meredith defies segregation and enters the University of Mississippi

1967 - BBC Radio One is first launched in the UK

1968 - The Boeing 747 is first unveiled to the public

1972 - Baseball player Roberto Clemente records his 3,000th and final hit of his career - he would pass away just three months later

1982 - Pharmacies in Chicago take precaution after six people are killed following the ingestion of cyanide-laced Tylenol

1988 - American race car driver Al Holbert is killed in a plane crash, aged 41

1994 - Two London Underground rail stations - Aldwych Tube Station and Ongar Railway Station - cease operations

1996 - The United States Congress passes an Amendment that bars the possession of firearms by people previously convicted of domestic violence

2012 - Canadian figure skater Barbara-Ann Scott passes away at the age of 84

And, here is a list of celebrity birthdays for September 30.  Happy birthday to Angie Dickinson, Ben Cooper, Cissy Houston, Barbara Knox, Johnny Mathis, Len Cariou, Marilyn McCoo, Fran Brill, Basia Trzetrzelewska, Barry Williams, Fran Drescher, Marty Stuart, Susan Keith, Debrah Farentino, Crystal Bernard, Eric Stoltz, Monica Bellucci, Kathleen Madigan, Andrea Roth, Tony Hale, Jenna Elfman, Daniel Wu, Marion Cotillard, Stark Sands, Martina Hingis, Dominique Moceanu, Lacey Chabert, Kieran Culkin, Ryan Stout, and T-Pain.

So, what date will we be revisiting today?



Well, we're not quite going back six decades, but the date is an important one.  September 30, 1955.

Interestingly enough, that date - as I mentioned above - also happens to be the title of a film.



Released in 1977, the movie "September 30, 1955" depicts life in a small Arkansas town, and focused on the life of a young man named Jimmy J. 

(Jimmy J. was portrayed by "The Waltons" star Richard Thomas.)

Anyway, it's not so much the town that influences Jimmy J. and his incredibly rebellious behaviour that sees him holding up a liquor store, getting plastered, running around the streets in his underwear, and ultimately getting arrested and placed in jail.  Rather, it happens to be the date that all this takes place. 

You see, September 30, 1955 was a dark day in the world of Hollywood, as one of Hollywood's rising stars was cut down in a tragic automobile accident.  At the time of his death he was just twenty-four, and his passing resonated with a lot of people - particularly with teenagers and young adults.

It's no secret that the 1950s was sort of a conservative and conventional decade.  In fact, I sort of refer to the 1950's as the "Stepford Decade".  With everyone dressing and looking the same, the husbands going off to bring home the bacon, wives staying home to cook, clean, and nurture, and boys and girls simply expected to act like Wally and Beaver Cleaver or Annette Funicello, it certainly was a decade that celebrated perfect order, perfect families, and perfect everything.

And honestly, it seemed as though it was perfectly boring.

Well, back in 1955, this man laughed in the face of the cookie-cutter world of the 1950s and brought forth an aura of rebellion, mischief, and non-conformity.  And naturally, teenagers responded well.  After all, what teenager didn't rebel against authority once in a while?  I know I certainly did when I was fourteen, fifteen.

Certainly, this man was a rebel.  He didn't quite look like the stereotypical Hollywood heartthrob, but his confidence in front of the screen won him many fans.



Today, we'll be discussing the very short life of James Dean, and what kind of legacy he left behind.

He was born as James Byron Dean on February 8, 1931 in the community of Marion, Indiana - the son of Winton Dean and Mildred Wilson.  And James' early life was marked by an early tragedy.  After moving from Indiana to California, Dean's mother started to feel ill and rapidly lost a lot of weight from her illness.  It ended up being uterine cancer, and when James was just nine years old, his mother died of the disease.  This loss hit James especially hard as he had been really close with his mother, and often saw her as the only person in the world "who understood him".

After the death of his mother, his father sent him away to live with his sister, and during his childhood, it was allegedly reported that he endured sexual abuse from a pastor whom he had gotten close to, but nothing was ever confirmed.  And although he didn't do so well in the academic portion of high school, he was considered to be a gifted athlete and was one of the more popular kids in his school.  After graduation from high school in 1949, he enrolled in Santa Monica College to major in pre-law, but switched to UCLA to pursue a degree in dramatic arts, causing a falling out between him and his father.  Although Dean never did finish his college education, he knew that acting was the career he was meant to pursue, and in 1951 he made the decision to become a full-time actor.

Mind you, like most actors, he didn't become successful overnight.  One of his first gigs was a commercial for Pepsi, and he had walk-on roles in such movies as "Fixed Bayonets!" and "Sailor Beware".  To help support himself, Dean also worked as a parking lot attendant for CBS Studios where he met radio director Rogers Brackett, who became a mentor to him, as was actor James Whitmore, whom Dean had met while attending one of his acting workshops.

With their encouragement, James Dean made the decision to relocate to New York City to further his acting career.  Again, things were slow going.  He worked as a stunt tester for "Beat The Clock" and appeared in bit parts on random television series.  But it all paid off when Dean was admitted to the legendary Actors Studio - at that time one of the greatest theater schools in the United States.

Once Dean was admitted into the school, the opportunities for him grew exponentially.  He began to make more appearances on television, including one particular episode of the CBS series "Omnibus" where Dean played the role of a disaffected youth who refused to conform to standards and instead opted to march to the beat of his own drum.  Little did Dean know that this type of part would be one that he would play at least a couple of times.



Such as in the 1955 film "East of Eden", where Dean played the role of Cal Trask, a man who initially seemed aloof and emotionally disturbed on the surface, but proves to be savvy, knowledgeable, and crafty.  He also discovers the family secrets buried deep within his family and he has to deal with the fears of what he will find out once he does discover the truth. 

"East of Eden" was the first time he took on a major lead role, and Dean certainly did one fantastic job in the role.  Remind me to feature this film in a Saturday movie entry at some point.  It's really a good one!  It's also made even more impressive when you consider that many of Dean's scenes in the film were unscripted.  Watch closely in the scene where Dean hugs his father.  That whole scene was an ad-lib, but producers decided to keep it in the film because it looked so professional.  No wonder Dean earned himself an Academy Award nomination for the role.



Of course, who could also forget his role in "Rebel Without a Cause" (another movie I want to watch for this blog), a 1955 movie which essentially acted as a voice for teenage angst and rebellion.  The film certainly went against the idea of how teenagers were supposed to act back then, and certainly Dean's portrayal of Jim Stark seemed to bring that message out loud and clear.  His devil-may-care attitude towards life shook up the school in which he had just arrived at as a new student, and the mayhem that follows.  Again, I want to wait until a Saturday entry to talk more about this...but if you want a short summary of what you can expect to see in the film, you could watch Paula Abdul's video for "Rush Rush", which re-enacts scenes from that film.



James Dean also did a lot of preparation for what would become his third and final film, "Giant".  Playing a supporting role alongside Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson, Dean played the part of Jeff Rink, a man who made a fortune in Texas oil.  Because Dean had to play the part where Rink aged from young to old, Dean dyed his hair gray and shaved part of it off to make him appear as if he were losing his hair!  And once again, Dean was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.

Sadly, he didn't live long enough to savour the nominations.  Nor did he live long enough to see the premieres of two of the three films he made.

Prior to September 30, 1955, Dean had developed a love of auto racing - likely inspired by his role on "Rebel Without a Cause", in which his character did a lot of street racing.  He even entered the Palm Springs Road Racers competition in March 1955, and performed quite well (finishing first overall on day one, and second overall on day two).  However, knowing how dangerous a career that auto racing was, Warner Brothers (the studio that produced "Giant") banned him from doing any more auto racing until after production wrapped up.



Still, Dean could not resist driving fast cars.  Tragically, his love of fast cars prematurely and permanently ended his career.  Shortly before six o'clock on the evening of September 30, 1955, Dean's Porsche 550 Spyder collided head on with a 1950 Ford Tudor being driven by  23-year-old college student Donald Turnupseed.  At the time of the impact, Dean had been driving the Spyder with passenger Rolf Wutherich, a man who had helped Dean build his car for the Palm Springs racing event.

Turnupseed survived the impact, as did Wutherich.  Dean was not so fortunate.  Because Dean was traveling at approximately eighty-five miles per hour at the time of the accident, Dean's Spyder flipped completely up in the air before landing in a gully on its wheels.  Dean sustained a broken neck, a crushed left foot, and extreme internal and external injuries.  An ambulance was immediately called, but Dean died on arrival just a few minutes after the crash.

He was just 24.

His funeral was held eight days later with reportedly over 600 mourners in attendance with another 2,400 people gathered outside the building during the funeral procession.

Dean's star may have burned out long before it was really supposed to, but you could also argue that it shone brighter than anyone else's.  It's hard to say what would have happened had Dean not died.  If he were still alive, he would be 83 today.  I could easily imagine him continuing his acting career and making himself a true member of Hollywood royalty.   It's really hard to predict how he would have fared through the decades.  But one thing he did have was talent and a lust for life.

He lived fast...and died young.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Useless iPhone Apps That Actually Exist!

Hey, everyone!  Welcome to another edition of  FUNNY MONDAY, the day of the week which is designed to make all of you laugh.  But before I get started on this week's Funny Monday blog, I wanted to tell you a story that is linked to this entry.

How many of you out there own a smartphone?  I reckon that 95% of you in North America probably do.  Well, I just purchased my very first one yesterday.  And here it is below!



No, it's not the brand new iPhone 6.  I opted for the cheaper iPhone 5C.  And because I bought it on a contract plan rather than outright, it'll save me money in the long run.  It's really the first time I've made a commitment to get a smartphone because I kept on making excuses over why I didn't get one.  I said that they would be too expensive, or that I didn't have enough contacts to justify getting one, or that I would be too careless to have one because I would shatter the screen just hours after getting it.

(Just so you know, the phone is still intact nearly 24 hours after getting it, so it's nice to know that I'm not as much of a klutz as I think I am.)

Now certainly, smartphones have their positives and minuses.  I always saw them as being used as weapons of zombification, but I'm happy to report that I don't see myself being one of them.  I basically just got one because in the long run, it's cheaper than a landline, and it gives me a little extra freedom in the long run which is a bonus.

And of course, there's all of the apps that you can download on the iPhone.  I know I've downloaded several for my iPad device, and I may choose a couple to put on there (like maybe a pedometer or something similar), but for the most part I'm very picky when it comes to choosing apps.  I'll download a couple of games, or maybe a cool feature, but that's really it.  Truth be told, some of the apps available on the iTunes store aren't interesting to me.  And worse, some of them are absolutely useless.

And that's what this blog entry is all about.  Useless iPhone apps that actually exist.  And because I refuse to download them onto my own phone, I researched them instead.  And I give credit to PC Mag and Business Insider for the images displayed in this post.



1.  WHAT IS YOUR NICKNAME?

As if you need an app to tell you what your nickname should be.  I've had no more than 20 different ones over the years.  Granted, some are not fit to be typed out in this mostly PG-rated blog, but I'll own them.



2.  iBEER

Okay, I'll admit that the idea of transforming your iPhone screen into a nice, frosty mug of beer is an interesting idea.  And, I think it would look cool to simulate drinking a beer using your phone.  But considering that the app costs ninety-nine cents to install, you'd best better save your money and buy some real beer.

(Though, the only beer you could actually buy with 99 cents is non-alcoholic...if that.)



3.  PANTIES DETECTOR

Okay, so this is obviously an app that combines the future telling abilities of Miss Cleo with the perversion of a drunken fraternity brother.  It supposedly uses some technology to determine what colour panties a woman is wearing.  Could you just imagine some random guy coming up a random girl with an iPhone telling them that they can guess what colour their thong is?  I'm sure that they'd have to get their iPhones surgically removed.



4.  ZIPS

This is the ideal app to download if you like doing the same exact thing over and over and over again.  Basically this app ensures that your iPhone's jeans stay zipped.  Or, if you're feeling a little frisky, you can unzip them.  Apparently there's even an additional feature where you can choose what colour underwear you can see underneath.  Could you imagine what would happen if PANTIES DETECTOR and ZIP ever merged? 

No.  I can't either.



5.  SIMSTAPLER

Now, here's an interesting app.  You are given a stapler to press to your heart's content, and you simply just hit the stapler.  There's even a place where your score is displayed so that you can keep track of how many times you hit the stapler.

Or, you could just...I don't know...buy a stapler.



6.  PASSION

Of all the apps that appear on the iPhone, this one is probably the most perverse and the most disturbing.  Using the built-in microphone, the app basically judges how well one...ahem...how should I put this.  Maybe I'll use the Sheldon Cooper term. 

The app basically measures how well two people perform coitus on each other and basically gives you a score of ten!  On the positive side, it might seem satisfying to know that someone who thinks they're a ten in the bedroom is really only a 2.2.  On the negative side, HOW THE HECK IS A PHONE SUPPOSED TO MEASURE THAT?

And another negative point.  EWWWWWWWW!!!



7.  TAXI HOLD 'EM

It basically transforms your iPhone screen into a gigantic TAXI sign that you can hold up to let a taxi driver know that you're wanting to hail a cab to the mall.  Or, you could save yourself the trouble of downloading the app and just catch a bus.  Or walk. 



Or at the very least if you want to hail a cab, have the app play this theme song!



8.  HAIR CLINIC FOR MAN AND WOMAN

Like many men and women in the world, I'll admit that my hair isn't as thick as it used to be.  And, I'm sure that many people who are losing their hair have undergone hair transplants, purchased a wig, or bought several bottles of Rogaine.  But I bet you didn't know that there was an app that allegedly sent out frequencies that stopped future hair loss and could regrow lost hair. 

You want to know why you don't know?  Because the app cost FOUR BUCKS!  And if I'm gonna spend four bucks on an app, you better believe it'll be on something worthwhile.  This is the iPhone equivalent of a placebo.



9.  KISS ME

Sure...why would you want to kiss a beautiful woman or a handsome man when you can lock lips with the cold and hard glass screen of your iPhone.  This app will allow you to kiss your screen however many times you want, and it can even measure how passionate of a kisser you really are.  Because everyone really wants to brag about how much they love French kissing their mobile devices.



10.  HANGTIME

Or, if you just don't really care what happens to your six hundred dollar cell phone, you could throw it up in the air and measure just how far you throw it and how long you can keep it airborne.  It also measures how your bank account will deplete after you smash said phone into a million pieces.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Abracadabra

Hello, everyone!  I hope you're enjoying your Sunday, and I'm certainly hoping that you're enjoying this fall weather. 

Well, okay.  In my neck of the woods, we seem to be experiencing an extended summer - not that anyone is really complaining.  I like sunshine and clear skies.  I just wish that the humidity wasn't so high.  Humidity makes me sweat like Niagara Falls.

Anyway, welcome to another edition of the
SUNDAY JUKEBOX, and I promise you that this week's edition will be filled with a lot of magic.

Or, specifically, magic words, that is.

I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Have you ever gone to see a magician performing at a local street fair or shopping mall?  Or, perhaps you can remember some of your favourite fictional magicians uttering their own catchphrases on television and film.

I suppose the most common phrases used might be "Alacazam!" or "Presto Chango!", but in the world of pop culture, people have gotten a little more creative.

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch for example has an entire spellbook at her disposal filled with a couple thousand different rhymes and spells.  For instance, if she wanted to increase the portion size of her ice cream, she could say "Midgie, Moodgie, Madgie, Marger, Make My Ice Cream Ten Times Larger!".  Very creative, wouldn't you say?

Or, perhaps if you were a fan of "Today's Special", you would know that the words that transformed Jeff the Mannequin into Jeff the Human were "Hocus Pocus Alamagocus!"  Having been a fan of that show as a child, I knew the song by heart.

Perhaps you were a fan of "Sesame Street", and you might remember the Amazing Mumford, whose catchphrase was always "A LA PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHES!"

And of course, Harry Potter fans might remember the spell used to levitate objects.  It's "Wingardium Leviosa!"  Not Leviosar!



And then there's this magic word, uttered by The Steve Miller Band all the way back in 1982.  I know you know it, so sing along with the video!



ARTIST:  Steve Miller Band
SONG:  Abracadabra
ALBUM:  Abracadabra
DATE RELEASED:  May 29, 1982
PEAK POSITION ON THE BILLBOARD CHARTS:  #1 for 2 weeks

Doesn't that song just reach out and grab ya?  Abracadabra is the name of the song for today, and this song is associated with a couple of magical facts.



For one, while this song did spend two weeks at the top of the Billboard Charts, those two weeks were not sequential.  It's rare for a song to hit the top of the charts, get dethroned, and then retake the top spot.  I can only think of a few instances in which that happened.  I'd consider that to be a cool fact, wouldn't you?  Let me explain.

"Abracadabra" first hit the #1 spot on September 4, 1982.  It would be dethroned on September 11 by Chicago's "Hard To Say I'm Sorry", where that song remained on top for two weeks.  Then on September 25, 1982, "Abracadabra" magically found itself on top once more until October 2, where it was overthrown by "Jack and Diane" by John (Cougar) Mellencamp.

TRIVIA:  Interestingly enough, the same thing happened six years earlier in 1976, only the other way around.  For it was Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now" that knocked off "Rock'n Me" from the pole position.  How about that for evening up the score?

For another, this single was the band's third #1 single, following 1973's "The Joker" and 1976's "Rock'n Me".  And it topped the charts in a total of six different countries - The United States, Australia, Austria, Canada, Sweden, and Switzerland.  And it was also a Top 5 hit in the UK and Norway.  No wonder the single sold millions of copies worldwide!

Of course, a part of that could have been due to the really creative music video (well, as creative as music videos could have been back in 1982 anyway) that accompanied the song.  During the heyday of The Steve Miller Band, there was no MTV around for the band to have the opportunity to show a visual perspective for their songs.  All they had to go on were their records and their live concerts (which unfortunately I was not born to really experience, but I have been told that they were both excellent).  By the time MTV arrived in 1981, like many other established bands out there, The Steve Miller Band decided that they would use the world of music video to tell a story along with their video.

It certainly did work out very well.  As I said, the video itself was very creative for its day, and featured a variety of magicians performing tricks and illusions, as well as trained professionals who did everything from juggling scarves to eating fire!  Even the music video's graphics were very cutting edge with colour distortion and transposition to give the video even more of a magical feel.

Okay, so they technically don't hold up after thirty-two years, but still, you have to appreciate the idea behind it.

By the way, you might notice that in between shots of all of the illusionists and magicians featured in the video that there aren't really any shots of the band at all.  I don't know whether this was intentional or not, but I can probably hazard a guess that it was.  But if you look really closely at the very beginning of this video, you can make out a figure peering through a window pane.  That would be Steve Miller himself.

Now, as far as the inspiration behind this song?  Well, surprisingly enough it wasn't inspired by the activities of Harry Houdini, Harry Blackstone, or even David Copperfield.  Instead, it was inspired by a woman of "supreme" power.



No, seriously, it was inspired by Diana Ross. 

The story goes that while Steve Miller and his band were performing on NBC's "Hullabaloo" in the 1960s (the decade that The Steve Miller Band was formed in San Francisco, California), he met Diana there.  And I'm guessing that the meeting went very well if Miller was inspired to write a song about it!

Actually, given the lyrical content of the song, I have to wonder just how powerful of a first impression that Ross gave Miller!  Oh, to be a fly on the wall back in those days!

Anyway, long story short, the single became one of the biggest hits of 1982, and according to Billboard Magazine, it is apparently one of the greatest hits ever recorded - it's currently ranked at #70 on Billboard's Greatest Hits of All Time!



And, I'm sure that the song is still performed by the Steve Miller Band today.  After all, at the age of nearly 71, Steve Miller is showing no signs of slowing down yet!

That could be the greatest magic of all...how at 71, Steve Miller can still embody the spirit of a twentysomething.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Borrowers

All good things eventually come to an end, and in the case of this blog, this is going to be a very true statement.

But don't think that this is the end of "
A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S GUIDE TO LIFE".  This blog will still be going strong.

What I mean is that this is the final part of a ten-part series.



Yes, we've reached the end of the Family Favourites Fun Pack of movies that I bought this past summer.  And for the last nine weeks, I've reviewed one movie from this collection.  As you have probably read, some movies I loved, some movies I was indifferent to...and well, some movies I couldn't stand sitting through a second time.

The good part?  There were only two movies that I didn't like.  So, 8/10 isn't a bad track record.

So, this is it.  The final movie of the collection.  And for this edition of Saturday Night at the Movies, I decided to save one of my favourites for last.

Okay, so I have an introduction to get things started off in today's edition of the blog.  I imagine that many of you have lost things in your home that you probably thought that you would never see again, only for them to turn up weeks, months, or years later.

I can tell you that I've had this experience many times before.  One time, I lost my charging adaptor for my Nintendo 3DS.  It took me three weeks to find it.  I couldn't find my dress shoes, and ended up locating them some six weeks later.  And I think I've lost count of how many socks I've lost over the years. 

And you know, all the time that I have looked for lost items, I often wonder...where do they go?

Of course, the most logical answer is that they just happen to get shoved aside in a corner, or they get hidden in plain sight, or I simply just forget all about the item until the time that I need it, and when that time comes I can never remember where the item is.

But I'll be the first to admit that I was quite the imaginative little kid once upon a time, and I totally believed that the hidden items that went missing in my room were not simply missing.  I believed that someone was hiding them.

Seriously, I believed that when the Tooth Fairy came, somehow she hid items of mine as a game.  Maybe as payback for having to pry a blood-tipped dead baby tooth covered in spit and slobber under my pillow every time I lost a tooth, I don't know.  Or, maybe there were secret fairies that flew into my room and rearranged everything.  Or maybe the underpants gnomes from "South Park" came and stole everything out of my room when I wasn't looking.

(Okay, that last part was made up.)



Anyway, where I'm going with this entry is the basic summary of the plot.  What happens when you live in a house with a bunch of little people no bigger than a pencil crayon who come out and steal things from inside your living space without you even knowing that they are there?  Why you might have a film entitled "The Borrowers", which was released in both the United Kingdom and the United States on December 5, 1997.

Directed by Peter Hewitt, this film didn't exactly make that big of an impression at the box office.  Unfortunately, the film's profits didn't exactly break even with the movie's budget.  Yet, despite this, the film was critically acclaimed and holds a 73% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

And certainly it is a movie that has a lot of whimsy and imagination.

The film begins in the home of the Lender family where young Pete Lender (Bradley Pierce) is setting a series of traps all over the house.  But he isn't trying to catch a mouse, rat, spider, or any other pest.  Rather he's interested in trying to catch something much rarer.

Despite Pete's parents insisting that his imagination has run wild, Pete believes that someone is responsible for several items in the home going missing, and Pete is determined to catch the ones responsible in the act. 



As it so happens, Pete's beliefs are one hundred per cent correct.  Somewhere inside the family home lies another family.  A smaller family.  A family the size of a crayon.  They call themselves the Clocks, a family of "borrowers".  They are father Pod Clock (Jim Broadbent), mother Homily Clock (Celia Imrie), daughter Arietty (Flora Newbigin), and son Peagreen (Tom Felton).  And on a quest through the Lender family kitchen, the Clocks make an attempt to "borrow" a battery from a radio.

Unfortunately, Arietty's sweet tooth gets the better of her, and she accidentally gets trapped in the refrigerator while satisfying a craving for ice cream, and this sets the stage for the Clocks being discovered as when Pod tries to rescue Arietty, he leaves behind one of his gadgets behind, which is discovered by Mr. Lender.

If only this were the only problem the Lenders had.  At the time that this is going on, there is a problem with the will that Mrs. Lender's aunt left behind.  According to the will, the aunt left the house in the family, but the proof of that cannot be found as the will has gone missing.  And if the family doesn't find the missing will by the weekend, they will be forced out of the home by Ocious P. Potter (John Goodman), the family lawyer who has already made plans to demolish the family home to erect a series of condominiums.  So, as far as the devious Potter is concerned, the missing will is a blessing in disguise.

Now, here's where the two stories meet.  Pete somehow manages to trap Arietty, who introduces Pete to the rest of the "borrowers", and Pete promises to keep their existence a secret.  And when Pete informs the Clock family that the home will be torn down and they have to move, the Clock family reluctantly agree to it.  Unfortunately on the way to the new house, Peagreen and Arietty fall out of the moving truck, and not knowing where the new house is, they make their way back to the old house.

It is there that they discover that the will has been hidden in the house the entire time...and they also discover that Potter has discovered where the will is, planning to destroy it so that he can go through with his plan to build the condos and become rich.



So basically the film becomes a race against time.  Can the "Borrowers" stop the nasty lawyer from getting away with tearing down the only home they've ever known?  How do the Lenders assist the Borrowers in their quest.  And just how many mind games can the Borrowers and the Lenders play with Ocious P. Potter?

I'll tell you one thing...it's certainly a very interesting turn of events that will make the ending all that much more satisfying.

And, that wraps up this ten-part series of family favourites!  Stay tuned for the month of October, because I will have four very spooooooky entries on tap for the Saturday Night at the Movies feature.

But of course, before I truly close the chapter on another blog entry, we may as well have some trivia about this film.

1 - As many of you probably know, Tom Felton played Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series of films.  But did you know that Bradley Pierce also has ties to another children's movie?  He voiced Flounder in the 1989 film "The Little Mermaid"!

2 - Come to think of it, Jim Broadbent and Mark Williams (Exterminator Jeff) also appeared in the Harry Potter series as well.

3 - Seems a bit ironic that the bad guy in the film happens to be named Potter, huh?

4 - Hugh Laurie appears in the film as a police officer.

5 - I don't know if this is fact or not, but given that this film debuted in December 1997 - six months after the series "Roseanne" wrapped up - I'd hazard a guess that John was filming this movie right around this time, given the number of episodes he missed of the final season.


And, well...that's a wrap!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fear of New Food

Okay, everyone!  We're well on our way to finishing off yet another week, and to finish off the week right, we're going to be having a discussion worthy of FOODIE FRIDAY.

(Well, okay.  To be fair, every Friday since the blog was "repainted" has been known as Foodie Friday.)

Anyway, I thought about what sort of topic to write about.  After all, there are so many foods out there that are really delicious, and food is something that we all have in common.  After all, we all need to eat in order to stay alive, right?

Well, believe it or not, I was a really picky eater as a child.  I didn't really feel adventurous enough to try a whole bunch of new foods.  At that time, I knew what I liked and what I didn't like, and no matter what people tried to do, my stubbornness made me reject any foods that I deemed weird, or strange.  Consider it the Taurus in me.

As I grew older, I began to get more adventurous in trying new foods.  Some of the foods that I really had no desire in eating as a kid, I love now.  Coincidentally, some of the foods that I really had no desire in eating as a kid I STILL don't enjoy eating today. 

I'll give you a few examples of this in play.



When I was a child, I was totally afraid to try yogurt.  Everybody else in my family loved eating the stuff, but I was afraid to try it after a couple of classmates of mine in elementary school told me that eating yogurt was like drinking an entire carton of sour milk.  And believe me, I've tasted sour milk before.  That's one taste sensation that will NEVER gain in popularity.

I mean, looking at other people eating yogurt, I couldn't imagine why people would eat it.  It looked really good...kind of like pudding, only in pastel colours like pink, purple, and yellow.  But still, I couldn't bring myself to even try it because of the whole sour milk visual.  I mean, these people were eating sour milk and actually liked it!  How was this possible?

Would you believe that I was 27 years old before I mustered up the courage to try yogurt? 

Occasionally at the store I work at, they have this pair of ladies come in to do food demos on weekends.  And wouldn't you know it, one of the products that they were demonstrating was yogurt.  I think there were two flavours that they were demonstrating - strawberry and vanilla.  Since yogurt is mostly made with real fruit, strawberry is a no go (I'm allergic), but I hesitantly tried the vanilla one expecting a really nasty taste sensation. 

But to my surprise, I liked it.  It really tasted like vanilla.  I couldn't taste any sour milk at all.  It was really good!  I ended up buying an entire tub of vanilla yogurt that day!

When I look back on the time when my classmates told me that eating yogurt was like drinking sour milk...I wonder if maybe their only experience eating yogurt was from a package that had gone bad in the fridge.  Who can say?

Now I can say that I eat at least one yogurt every day.  And, now that they've come up with the wonderful invention known as Greek yogurt, I'm more willing to eat yogurt more than ever before! 

I should also say that vanilla is not the only flavour I like.  I also enjoy cherry, blueberry, key lime, and raspberry-pomegranate.



I also have to admit that another food that I was nervous to try for the longest time was the mushroom.  I never trusted anything that grew on the base of a tree.  And someone had told me (I think it was another classmate) that mushrooms were poisonous and that if I ate one, I would die.

Now, granted, that was true in some cases.  But something always bothered me about that.  If mushrooms were really that bad, why would it be listed as a topping choice for pizza?  Why would it be a common thing seen on vegetable and dip trays?



And why did Mario always seem to grow big and strong every time he ate a mushroom?  It just didn't make sense to me that mushrooms were all that bad.

So I bit the bullet.  At a holiday gathering that took place when I was, oh, fifteen or so, I pilfered a mushroom from a veggie tray and ate it.  And admittedly, I proceeded to eat a dozen more!  To this day, mushrooms are one of the favourite things to add into a stir-fry, and you can't have a Canadian pizza without the mushrooms.

Now, TOADSTOOLS, on the other hand.  Those things I wouldn't touch with a twenty foot pole.

Now, on the flipside, there are some foods that I was not willing to try because I was worried that I wouldn't like them...and I was right to do exactly that.  When I ate them, I hated them.



One classic example is cauliflower.  To me, cauliflower looked more like an overgrown flower blossom.  And, having accidentally tried a dandelion at the age of four only to find that dandelion petals tasted horrible, I knew I wanted nothing to do with cauliflower. 

I should also note that when I was a kid, I would often sneak into the fridge when nobody was looking and peel lettuce leaves off of the head of lettuce that was often found in the bottom compartment of the fridge.  I couldn't help it.  Lettuce leaves were crispy and cool and so irresistible.  I know, I was a weird kid.

Well, I'm sure you figured out how I ended up tasting cauliflower.  When you're a kid, and cauliflower is facing a certain way, it almost kind of resembles a head of lettuce.  So, I grabbed a leaf, pulling some bits of cauliflower off in the process, and immediately spit it out.  Yeah, cauliflower remains a food that I can't stand today.



Coincidentally, my love of lettuce also made me realize that I can't stand cabbage either.  Cabbage to me will always be known as imitation lettuce with a gross taste to it.  And unlike cauliflower, telling the difference between cabbage and lettuce was near impossible - well, through the eyes of a five year old it was at least.


Okay.  I've shared my stories.  Now, let's hear yours.  What foods did you end up loving after you tried them for the first time?  Which ones did you hate?