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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Twas The Night Before Black Friday

Hey, everyone!  I just want to let you know that this post is going to be on the short side.  I know that today is Thanksgiving in America, and I imagine that most of you in the United States will be super busy making last minute preparations for your meals, so I'll keep it brief.

Before I go ahead though, I'm going to post this poem that I happened to find online.  I have no idea who wrote this poem (I found it on Buzzfeed), but I just want to say, brilliant job, man!  Actually, if anyone knows who wrote this awesome poem, or if you wrote the poem yourself, feel free to drop me a line here on this blog.  It's very well done, and I am very impressed.  Take a look.

Now, the reason why I post this poem is simple.  I know that Black Friday is tomorrow, and I can already see your credit cards groaning in agony as you prepare to shop until you drop.  Black Friday is considered the kickoff of the busiest holiday shopping weekend of the year (aside from the weekend before Christmas Eve, anyway), and I imagine that some of the best deals that you could ever dream of will be available in retail outlets such as Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Victoria's Secret, and Macy's.  Hell, it wouldn't surprise me if McDonald's had a Black Friday sale going on tomorrow!

And, yes, Canada has jumped in on the Black Friday bandwagon.  I think we started hosting Black Friday events in Canada around five years ago, and it was suggested that Canada start hosting our own Black Friday sales to keep the money flowing in our own country instead of promoting cross-border shopping.  Nice idea in theory, but to be honest, I'd like to shoot the bastard that came up with the idea to even consider having Black Friday in Canada.

(Those of you who work retail like myself will understand my strong feelings towards this subject.)

But like it or not, Black Friday is here to stay, as well as the incentives to shop on Black Friday.  You see ads in mailboxes, you see them in your e-mail accounts.  You can even see them on YouTube!  I just took this screenshot a few minutes ago

(Ahem...yeah, just ignore all those Divorce Court clips.  I was watching them to get ideas for future blog topics...LOL)

I guess the only thing that I can say is that here in Canada, Black Friday is a regular business day.  Our Thanksgiving was back in October.  I guess I just don't understand why people would cut their Thanksgiving dinners short so they can wait in line for discounted apparel, housewares, or electronic devices.  Nor do I understand why retailers would decide that holidays weren't important enough to stay closed for holidays in the first place.

There is no need for stores to open their doors on Thanksgiving so people can practically kill each other trying to get their hands on a 50-inch RCA television for the low price of $199.99!  For starters, I can tell you that RCA televisions are NOT worth waiting in line to buy under any circumstance.  A Samsung or Sony, maybe, but never an RCA.

And while in Canada, Black Friday events are calm, cool, and collected, I can't imagine why anyone would want to experience THIS at all!

Let me stress it enough.  Electronic devices at discounted prices are NOT WORTH THIS AGGRAVATION!

It's just shameful that on the day after a holiday which encourages people to be thankful for what they have, they have what is considered to be the ultimate celebration of greed, disgust, and just plain meanness. 

Black Friday, like it or not, is here to stay.  But, I'm telling you - especially all of you living in America - DON'T SHOP ON THANKSGIVING!  Take back the holidays!  Sit around the table and actually have time to digest your turkey and enjoy the company of your family.  You have all day Friday to get your teeth knocked out by random people craving an XBOX One.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the holiday.  You've earned it.

Happy Thanksgiving, USA! 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bubbles of Innocence Bursting

The experience of childhood is such a whimsical experience.  Your entire life is filled with very few responsibilities except for doing homework, the occasional chore or two, or trying to decide whether you want to play indoors or outdoors.  Certainly as a child, you think that the world is a wonderful place to be in with so much natural beauty, friendly faces, and safe neighbourhoods.  But every child grows up into an adult at some point, and there is one pivotal moment in which a person can remember when they witnessed something that completely shattered their childhood bubble.

For me, that date was April 29, 1992.

Let's set the stage here.  I was just a few weeks shy of turning eleven.  I was in the fifth grade, my favourite activity to do was anything Nintendo related, my favourite subject was language arts, and my favourite television shows at the time included the entire TGIF line-up on ABC.

Prior to April 1992, I had this idea that nothing bad could ever happen in the world.  It wasn't because I lived in an underground bunker and tuned out the world.  It was because I still had that childlike innocence that the world was a happy place and that nothing could happen that would make it sad.  I was too young to really understand what war was and I didn't quite grasp the concept of what power a natural disaster had because at that time, we hadn't experienced one.

(Well, not until six years later when the great ice storm of 1998 hit.)

But it was on April 29, 1992 that the Rodney King trial concluded, and needless to say, the verdict that was reached seemed to deliver a shattering blow to my cocoon of innocence. 

For those of you who may be too young to know who Rodney King was, or what happened, the short version is this.  In 1991, the African-American Rodney King was arrested by a group of white police officers, who proceeded to beat up the man after they allegedly claimed that he resisted arrest.  Long story short, the police officers who were involved in the beatings were acquitted of all charges, which set forth nearly a week long series of racially motivated riots throughout Los Angeles.  By the time the smoke cleared, it was estimated that 11,000 people were arrested, 2,000 were injured, and at least 53 people lost their lives.  Not to mention the millions of dollars of property damage that was caused by looting and deliberately set fires.

And here was I, a soon to be eleven year old kid, watching the whole thing live on television.

I should probably mention that in my household, there weren't any major rules on what we could or couldn't watch on television.  We could basically make our own decisions on what we thought was entertainment.  Just in case anyone is questioning why two parents would let their ten year old child watch coverage of deadly rioting on CNN.

I just found the whole thing to be very sad and frightening, watching the coverage of the angry people, the fighting, and the fires.  I didn't quite understand everything that had happened with the trial, but I did know that the main argument was that the attack was racially motivated, and that a lot of people were very angry about the verdict as they saw it as a failure of justice.  What I didn't quite understand was why the people who were the most angry about the verdict felt the need to destroy the neighbourhoods that they grew up in.  To attack and beat up people who happened to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.  To disrupt society as much as possible.  What was it all for?  Was it to make a stand?  Was it to make their voices heard?  Or, was it them using the trial as an excuse to behave badly?  I would imagine that all of those questions played a factor in the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

And here we are, twenty-two years later, and it seems as though the world has learned nothing.

By now, I'm sure you know all about the riots that began in Ferguson, Missouri on November 24, 2014.  And you know the story behind the riots.  Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson on the afternoon of August 9, 2014.  There was some altercation between the teen and the police officer before Wilson shot Brown six times. 

Where the anger comes into play is in these known facts.  Brown was African-American, and Wilson was white.  And Brown was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

Does this sound like deja vu to any of you?

Once again, the jury delivered their verdict, and once more, the police officer was cleared of any wrongdoing, which caused hundreds in the area to respond by causing a series of riots.  Businesses were looted and torched, people were arrested, and a series of tear gas canisters were released on the streets, the haze of the gas illuminating the SEASON'S GREETINGS signs that decorated city streets.

Now, there is one major difference between the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, and the 2014 Ferguson Riots.  The size of the location.

I was absolutely shocked to find out that the city of Ferguson is practically the same size as my hometown.  I mean, we could practically be sister cities.  I could not even imagine anything like what happened in Ferguson happening here.  To me, it makes absolutely no sense to destroy your own town to prove a point about injustice.  What about those people who lost everything because of the looting?  Did they ask to become victims of injustice too?  Two wrongs don't make a right.

I get it.  You're angry, and you're pissed off, and you see nothing but injustice.  And, well, given the facts of the case, I can definitely understand why you would feel this way.  But to take it out on the community you live in to prove a point is not the way to go, whether it be in Ferguson, or Los Angeles, or anywhere else where racial tensions have boiled over.

Ferguson, Missouri is a community that is hurting right now.  There is so much anger and so much pain, and I don't think a lot of people in that area really know how to get that anger out in a positive manner.  With American Thanksgiving being tomorrow, I think that everyone should work on coming together and stopping the violence.  Being angry is one thing.  But using that anger as an excuse for bad behaviour won't change things. 

Here's the frustrating thing about it.  I honestly don't know what the solution is.  And, for the people of Ferguson, Missouri, I don't know if even they know what the solution is.  I guess all we can do is hope that maybe we have finally learned something from this. 

And, I can imagine that just like I was shocked as a nearly eleven-year-old boy at the Los Angeles Riots of 1992, many nearly eleven-year-old kids all over North America had their childhood bubbles popped just two days earlier.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 25, 1971

Welcome to the Tuesday Timeline portion of the blog!  Can you believe that we are just a few days away from December?  I tell you, where did this month go?

Anyway, today in the blog, we're taking a look at what happened on November 25 throughout history, and believe me, there was a lot that happened on this date.  In fact, I bet that a year from now, there will be a footnote on the Ferguson, Missouri riots of 2014.  I tell you, I am watching the events unfold live as I type this, and it is just so sad to watch.   

Anyways, I had a hard time picking a topic for this week.  So, I decided to just close my eyes, scroll down the list of topics with my mouse, and pointed to one at random.  Hopefully, you like celebrity birthdates, because that's your only clue for now.

We're also going to look at other celebrity birthdays in a minute, but first, why don't we look at other historical events that took place on this date?

1487 - Elizabeth of York is crowned Queen of England

1667 - At least 80,000 people are killed in a devastating earthquake in Shemakha in the Caucasus

1759 - Beirut and Damascus are destroyed as an earthquake strikes, killing at least 30,000 people

1833 - A massive undersea earthquake rocks Sumatra, causing a devastating tsunami along the Indonesian coast

(Sheesh...what is it with all these November 25 quakes?!?)

1863 - During the American Civil War, Union forces led by General Ulysses S. Grant break the Siege of Chattanooga by routing Confederate troops led by General Braxton Bragg

1864 - The Confederate Army of Manhattan unsuccessfully try to torch the entire city of New York by setting a series of smaller fires throughout the city

1874 - The United States Greenback Party is established

1914 - Baseball player Joe DiMaggio (d. 1999) is born in Martinez, California

1926 - A series of tornadoes strikes Midwestern America on Thanksgiving Day, killing 76 people and injuring over 400

1947 - The "Hollywood Ten" are blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios during the "Red Scare"

1952 - The Battle of Triangle Hill ends after 42 days of combat during the Korean War

1960 - John F. Kennedy Jr. (d. 1999) is born in Washington D.C.

1975 - Suriname gains independence from the Netherlands

1981 - Actor/singer Jack Albertson passes away at the age of 74

1984 - Bob Geldof and a group of thirty-six musicians gather in a British recording studio to record "Do They Know It's Christmas" as Band-Aid to raise awareness for famine in Ethiopia

1992 - The Federal Assembly of Czechoslovakia votes to split the country into two independent nations (Czech Republic and Slovakia), which came into effect on New Years Day, 1993

1996 - A severe ice storm strikes the central United States, killing 26

1998 - Comedian Flip Wilson passes away in Malibu, California at age 64

1999 - The United Nations establishes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

And, for celebrity birthdays, let us wish Noel Neill, Kathryn Crosby, Trisha Brown, Percy Sledge, Bev Bevan, Ben Stein, John Larroquette, Mark Frost, Bruno Tonioli, Amy Grant, Holly Cole, Cris Carter, Dougray Scott, Billy Burke, Jacqueline Hennessy, Jill Hennessy, Erick Sermon, Murray SawChuck, Donovan McNabb, Josh Mathews, Barbara Pierce Bush, Jenna Bush Hager, Joey Chestnut, Katie Cassidy, and Zack Shada a very happy birthday!

So, what date are we going to be taking a look at this week?

I think November 25, 1971 is a great date to go back to.  How about you?

So, as I already talked about earlier, this edition of the Tuesday Timeline will feature a woman who has basically been in front of the camera since she was a baby.  But don't let the child star stigma change your opinion on this lady...she is probably one of the most well adjusted child stars of her time.  Her biggest role lasted a total of eleven television seasons, and she portrayed what could be one of the stupidest characters to ever grace the small screen.  Well, okay, it was between her and Screech from "Saved By The Bell", but she was definitely up in the running.

But I can only imagine how much of a stretch it was playing that part, given that the actress who played her is anything but dumb.  In fact, she's done a lot more than play the role of ditzy blonde bombshell.  She's a wife, a mother, a breast cancer survivor and activist, and believe it or not, she was a founding member of The Pussycat Dolls! 

So, let's begin the story at the middle.  We'll begin at the part where she won her breakout role.

The year was 1987, and the FOX Network was practically brand new.  Now, those of you who watched FOX back in those days knew that it was the network that liked to push the censors buttons.  They attempted to do things that the other big three networks were afraid to touch.  So, when "Married...With Children" debuted in April of 1987, it certainly went against the traditional warm family sitcoms that were popular in the late 1980s.  With a miserable sexist shoe salesman, an Oprah Winfrey obsessed housewife who was sex-obsessed, a teenage boy who wanted to be a ladies man, but couldn't, and a ditzy blonde who thought she was smart, but really wasn't, it certainly didn't showcase traditional values very well.  And, yet, it lasted until mid-1997 and became one of FOX's most successful series. 

I think the reason why it was such a hit was because it was so unlike anything else that was on television.  And for those of us who weren't Tanners, Huxtables, Keatons, or Hogans, we could definitely relate to the realism and grit that this show featured in every episode.

Now, as far as favourite characters go on "Married...With Children", everyone had their favourite.  Mine was Kelly Bundy, the ditzy blonde.  I mean, sure, she was as dumb as a box of hair, but there was just something about the way that the actress played her that made her seem likeable.  You wanted to root for her.  You wanted her to succeed.  You wanted her to eventually get a clue.  And sometimes, she did get a clue and came up with some brilliant solutions to the Bundy family crises.  And that is to the credit of the actress who played her - just fifteen years old when she got the part.

That actress?  Christina Applegate, who turns 43 years old today!

Of course, "Married...With Children" made Applegate a huge star, and opened up a lot of doors for the actress in Hollywood.  But then again, she did have plenty of experience long before getting cast in the role of Kelly Bundy.  Would you believe that she had her first on-screen credit at the age of three months?  It's true!  She appeared on an episode of "Days of our Lives" with her mother Nancy Priddy, in February 1972!  From there, she filmed a couple of commercials and made a couple of appearances in two films - 1979's "Jaws of Satan" and 1981's "Beatlemania".  Two years later, she appeared in her first made-for-TV movie in 1983's "Grace Kelly", playing the role of the late Princess Grace as a child.  And before she landed the role of Kelly Bundy, she had guest appearances in "Family Ties", "Silver Spoons" and "Charles in Charge".

Interestingly enough, even though she was committed to "Married...With Children" for the entire eleven season run, she still had the greenlight to do other projects.  She made a guest appearance on the television series "21 Jump Street", and landed a major film role in the 1991 film "Don't Tell Mom, The Babysitter's Dead".  And after "Married...With Children" ended, she took on even more film roles.  "Mars Attacks!", "The Sweetest Thing", "Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel", "Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked", and "Anchorman" and "Anchorman 2".  She also starred in several other television series such as "Jesse", "Samantha Who", and "Up All Night", but none of those series were as successful as the one that made her a star.

And here's a fact that shocked even me.  Christina Applegate helped found "The Pussycat Dolls"!  

Mind you, this was back when they were just a burlesque group and long before Nicole Scherzinger became the lead singer and they loosened all your buttons, made you wish your girlfriends were hot like them, and how when they wanted to grow up, they wanted to be famous, a star, and be in movies.  In all seriousness, when the burlesque group debuted in 1995 at The Viper Room, Christina Applegate was one of the performers!  I tell you, the things you learn from the Tuesday Timeline entry.

But in 2008, Christina had a serious health scare when it was confirmed that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36.  Fortunately, the cancer had been detected early enough that it was not considered life-threatening, and Applegate had decided that she would undergo a double mastectomy as a precaution (even though the cancer had only been found in one breast).  By August of 2008, she was considered cancer-free, and she has since become an advocate for breast cancer awareness.  Her mother is also a breast cancer survivor.

And perhaps Christina Applegate's biggest success story?  Her role as a wife and mother.  After her first marriage ended in divorce, she married Martyn LeNoble, and she became the parent of a daughter in 2011.

Not a bad life for someone who played dumb on television, huh?

Monday, November 24, 2014

I Can Help

This is the last stretch of  YOU NEVER NOVEMBER WHAT YOU'RE GONNA GET month, and I hope that you have been enjoying it!  I think that the year 2015 is going to be one of experimentation with this blog.  Consider this to be a preview of what is to come.

Now, I know that I only did a music posting only a couple of days ago, but for whatever reason, I opted to do another one today.  Consider this a Monday Jukebox edition.  Or, consider it a Jukebox sandwich, if you like, since Sunday was the main day for music in this blog for a really long time.

And the reason why I wanted to do a music posting?  Well, it has to do with a certain song that always perplexed me as a kid.  It's a song that sort of had an identity crisis when it was first released four decades ago.  Some people found it to be adult contemporary.  Some considered it pop.  Some even considered it country music!  Whatever the case, it is a song that hit the top of the charts exactly 40 years ago this week.

Now, I can't remember what life was like back in 1974.  I bypassed the decade of pet rocks, disco music, and flared jeans by being a child of the eighties.  However, I do feel as though I can identify a lot with today's song choice. 

For one, I know that like this song, I've gone through a couple of identity crises in my day, wondering how people see me.  But more importantly, I can identify with the lyrics of this song because in a way, I feel that they probably describe my personality a lot (and it is also how I want others to see me as well - to a point). 

I'll explain what I mean a little later in this entry.  For now, let us hear the #1 song on the charts from four decades ago this week.

ARTIST:  Billy Swan
SONG:  I Can Help
ALBUM:  I Can Help

Now, before I go ahead with today's music entry, I do have an announcement to make.  All year long, you have enjoyed hearing #1 hits from the past.  Sadly, this will be coming to an end today.  The remainder of all music posts for the year will feature holiday favourites, and beginning in 2015, we'll be going back to random song choosings.  But, hey, it was fun while it lasted.  And I am ending it off with a positive song. 

It certainly was a positive song for Billy Swan.  This song was his very first single release, and it reached the top of the Billboard charts the week of November 23, 1974.  But did you know that it also topped the charts in Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, the Netherlands, and France?  That's not bad for a debut single.

And here's where the song's identity crisis comes into play.  Not only did it top the Billboard Hot 100, but it topped the country music charts in both the United States and Canada as well!  And, it peaked at #6 on the American Adult Contemporary charts as well!

Talk about a song that was a real triple threat!

Anyway, "I Can Help" ended up becoming Billy Swan's biggest hit.  And, sadly, it was also one of his only hits.  Though Swan never did match the huge success that he had with his debut, he still continued to work in the music industry as a songwriter for other musicians.  But the story of how this song came to be is a rather interesting one.

When he moved to Nashville in August 1963, he and his wife lived in a small duplex, and his wife actually helped him convert a small closet into a music room, and it was here where he wrote most of his music.  According to an interview that he did with Richard Buskin in late 2007, he revealed that he basically came up with the words and melody for the single out of thin air.  He had wrote the first three verses in a matter of hours, and from there, he had written the perfect bridge to link them all together.

"I Can Help" was written in March 1974, and Swan recorded the track with assistance from producer and engineer Chip Young. 

TRIVIA:  The keyboard that Swan used in the song actually belonged to musician Bobby Emerson.  And because Swan played the keyboard in his own recording, the person who was originally hired to play the keyboards on the song - Bobby Wood - ended up joining Bobby Emmons and Chip Young in the control booth.  It was also Emmons and Young who came up with the idea to insert the distinctive hand clapping in the song.

The final product was released as a single in July 1974 as there was no album recorded as of yet.  Over the next few months, Swan and his team of musicians recorded several other tracks, and an album was set to be released a few months later.  However, there was a lot of disagreement over what would be the single to kick off the whole album.  Monument Records had actually wanted the song "The Ways of a Woman in Love" to be the first single, but Young argued that "I Can Help" was the hit, and therefore should be the single that kicks off everything.  In the end, neither party got what they wanted.  Track number one of the album was "Lover Please".  But I suppose if you wanted to name a victor in the battle, that would go to Chip Young.  I can help was on the A-side of the album, while the choice that the record company wanted was the second to last track on the B-side!

Now, as for why I like this song?  Well, I mentioned before that this song has a lot to do with how I see myself on a personal level.

Well, maybe not in the EXACT context of the song.  Clearly Swan is singing to his significant other, and I'm still single.  Still, I consider myself to be one of those people who would do almost anything for anyone and expect little to nothing in return.  I suppose that I've been that way my whole life, really.  I think initially that the reason why I did this was to make friends.  But, having the attitude that you will let people copy your homework and they would automatically be your new best friend is definitely not a great suggestion, so don't do it.

Of course, before I wised up and let people do their own homework, I have to admit that it made me feel good knowing that I was providing what I thought was some useful service.  It certainly made me feel good taking part in charity events like the "Relay for Life" because I was having fun and the money went towards a good cause.  I enjoyed doing school fundraising because the items that I was selling brought happiness to my customers and I was helping the school out.  I even enjoy doing crafty things, or wrapping gifts for people, or doing something that helps make another person happy.  I think that's why there's something about the Christmas season that despite all the stress that can come with it, it can be one of the greatest times of the year.  It's not about what you get, but what you give.

After all, Billy Swan said it best.  "It would sure do me good to do you good, let me help!"   

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Looniest Laws Ever!

So, did you hear the one about Winnie-the-Pooh being banned from Poland?

Well, okay, he technically isn't being banned from the entire country of Poland.  Just one small town. 

Oh bother!

What prompted the residents of Tuszyn, Poland to come up with such a radical decision?  Did they not like honey?  Did they not like the book written by A.A. Milne?  Did they not approve of the friendships that the bear had with a grouchy rabbit, a hyperactive tiger, and a chronically depressed donkey?

No, it all has to do with Winnie's appearance.  Apparently they banned him from the town because he likes to walk around without the common decency to put on underwear.  Or, pants for that matter.

I can see how this would have merit, had Winnie-the-Pooh been a middle aged man.  But, get real.  He's a cartoon character.  One of many who don't feel a need to wear trousers.  And yet, the people who are instituting the ban feel that it is inappropriate for Winnie to be showcased anywhere in their town, saying that the bear is dressed inappropriately, and even resorting to calling the poor bear a hermaphrodite!

Oh bother, indeed.

I'm being absolutely serious about this too.  It is an actual law that this Polish town is actively pursuing.  Read the article HERE.  It's from NBC News, so I am certain that the source is valid.

But it got me thinking.  What other looney laws are there that exist in various places?  What sorts of laws could you be breaking right now and not even be aware that you are because of the laws being outdated, not making any sense, or being just plain stupid?

That's what this blog is all about.  We're going to take a look at some of the LOONIEST LAWS all over North America, at least.  If this entry is successful, I may do a part two down the road with a global twist.

Okay, so are we ready to take a look at some of these laws?  I'll get to them in a second right after I credit,, and for the information found in this blog.  And, I am only going under the assumption that these laws are one hundred per cent truthful.  If any of you out there can debunk any of these laws, please let me know in the comments!  Thanks!

1.  It is illegal to fall asleep inside of a restaurant in the state of Kentucky.  So, no KFC slumber parties, okay?

2.  In the District of Columbia, taxi cabs must be equipped with a broom and a shovel.  Okay, the shovel I understand, as D.C. does occasionally get snow.  But what's the broom for?  Street sweeping?

3.  In the community of Walden, New York, you may not give anybody a drink of water unless you have a legal permit.  So, I am assuming that the whole community is on lockdown now.

4.  You cannot leave a rain puddle in your front yard for more than twelve hours in Lake Charles, Louisiana.  Better get those straws ready.

5.  No dancing cheek to cheek in the city of Compton, California!  I guess it's a good thing that "Dancing With The Stars" doesn't shoot there!

6.  Comic books that depict illegal acts are reportedly banned in some parts of Canada.  Could I be a criminal and not know it?  Some of those Life With Archie comics were questionable...

7.  Also in Canada, it is illegal to kill a sick person by scaring them.  Don't ask how that is even possible.

8.  It is also prohibited to use dice for playing craps in some parts of Canada.  Which leads to the question...what do they use?  The spinner from Life?  Indian rubber balls from the old Lotto machines?

9.  If your cat gets stranded on a tree branch in Oshawa, Ontario, he's pretty much screwed.  There's an edict that makes it illegal to climb trees there.

10.  You may not give a moose any sort of alcoholic beverage in Alaska.  Which is common sense, really.

11.  Mind your P's and Q's if you're playing mini golf in Long Beach, California.  There's a law against swearing!

12.  Obedience schools are technically considered to be a taboo in Hartford, Connecticut.  Dogs are not allowed to be educated.

13.  If you plan on jumping out of a plane in Florida and you happen to be female, you better be exchanging vows with someone on the plane.  Single ladies do not have the freedom to wear parachutes...especially on Sundays.

14.  It is illegal to wear nothing but swim trunks in public in the state of Hawaii.  So, all those people on the beach need to put on some clothes and Hawaii Five-Oh must be the most scandalous show ever.

15.  The anti-smoking campaign is really hard core in South Bend, Indiana.  You can't even give a monkey a cigarette there!

16.  On again, off again relationships are frowned upon in Kentucky.  You can only marry and remarry the same man a total of four times.

17.  Randy Newman may love L.A., but he may not have much love for the state of Maryland.  His song "Short People" is allegedly banned from all Maryland radio stations!

18.  Michigan law states that a woman's hair legally belongs to her husband!  Apparently, she gets to keep the rest of her body.

19.  Nebraska must have seen its share of bad 1980s hair.  In that state, moms are not allowed to give their daughters a home perm without a permit!

20.  If you're sick in Asheville, North Carolina, don't go out in public.  Sneezing on city streets is illegal!

21.  Going to church in South Carolina?  Better bring your gun!  It's not only a constitutional's the law to have a gun in one hand and a Bible in the other!

22.  Because the Encyclopedia Britannica reportedly holds a formula for making beer, the series is banned in Texas.

23.  Utah is apparently the state where birds can roam free.  They have the right of way on all major highways!

24.  St. Croix, Wisconsin has an interesting law.  No woman is allowed to wear the colour red in public!

25.  Oh yeah.  Don't lip lock on a train car in Wisconsin.  It's illegal.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Human - Born To Make Mistakes

It takes a strong person to admit that they are human, and a stronger person to admit that they do make mistakes.  And, believe me, I have a lot of respect for people who own up to making mistakes and admitting that they aren't perfect. 

Truth is, nobody in this world is absolutely perfect.  The perfect person does not exist no matter who may tell you otherwise.  Trust me, I am nowhere near perfect!  I'll be the first one to tell you that!

But you know, that's what makes all of us human.  We are all people who have our own flaws, and that help shape what the world is.  We're only human, and we are born to make mistakes.

Wait a minute.  That phrase just now.  That sounds incredibly familiar.  I know it will come to me at some point. 

Anyway, while I try to think of where I have heard that line before, I think that this is a good time to reveal that YOU NEVER NOVEMBER WHAT YOU'RE GONNA GET month continues on with this week's look back at all things music.  Normally, I would make Sunday the day of music discussion, but in this case, I chose to make it a Saturday this week.  No real reason why.  I just thought that Saturday was one of those days in which music just sounded like a good idea.

In all seriousness, some of my favourite music memories involve weekends.  I would listen to Casey Kasem's Top 40 while I did my homework, or if Muchmusic was having one of their special weekends where they played 1980s videos all day long, I would tune in and watch some of those videos.  Yeah, those were good times, watching videos by ABC, Blondie, Glass Tiger, Human League...

Wait one minute.  Now I know why that line "human, born to make mistakes" sounds really familiar!  It's from a song by the British band "The Human League"!

Yeah, now I remember!  It was the #1 song back in '86!  Have a listen if you will.

ARTIST:  The Human League
SONG:  Human
ALBUM:  Crash
DATE RELEASED:  August 11, 1986

Yes, we're going to be talking about the British band whose music you've likely heard in 1980s clubs, 1980s proms, and commercials for Chips Ahoy cookies! 

Now, for those of you who were around in the late 1970s, you might know that this is approximately the time in which The Human League first formed.  And the original line-up of The Human League by the time the group had undergone a couple of name changes and added a couple of new members were Martyn Ware, Ian Craig Marsh, Philip Oakey, and Philip Adrian Wright.

During the band's first few years, the group initially released two albums, and strictly decided to play only electronic music.  The albums did sell well in their native UK, but because the singles from the album were not commercially successful, the band struggled to be heard.

The stress certainly got to the band members of The Human League.  While Martyn Ware and Philip Oakey never really did see eye to eye on a lot of things, the catalyst came after the band released their second album.  Ware and Marsh had wanted to go ahead and release another electronic music album for their third effort.  But Oakey, seeing how their previous efforts hadn't done so well, believed that they should infuse their next effort with more mainstream pop, so that radio stations would be more apt to play it.

Needless to say, the band came to a stalemate, and the result was that Ware and Marsh walked out of The Human League, leaving Oakey and Wright left to carry on the band as a duo.

To make matters even worse, with Ware and Marsh beginning their own band project, "Heaven 17", Oakey decided that he would continue using the original name of "The Human League", which meant that Oakey not only inherited the debt racked up by the band, but he also had to pay royalties to both Ware and Marsh.

Certainly a heavy price to pay for taking a stance against his now former bandmates.  But hey, he's only human.

Only in this case, the decision to keep the name ended up being a good one.

Another good decision that Oakey made was hiring a brand new line-up to join him and Wright to continue The Human League going.  Oakey hired teenage singers Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley after allegedly seeing both of them dancing at a club.  Jo Callis would become the fifth and final member of The Human League, with Ian Burden joining the band as a session keyboardist from time to time.  The line-up was confirmed by January 1981, when the band released their long awaited third album, "Dare".

And over the next five years, The Human League would have a lot of success in their native UK as well as the United States and Canada.  I'm sure almost everyone in the world knows of the band's 1981 smash "Don't You Want Me", which was really the single that put The Human League on the charts.  "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" and "Mirror Man" were also minor hits.

By the time "Human" was released in 1986, two-sixths of the band had left to do other projects - Callis left in 1985, and Wright left in 1986 just as the band's "Crash" album was being released.

This meant that only Oakey, Catherall, and Sulley were left to keep the band alive.

Now, "Human" didn't perform as well in the UK as it did in North America, but the song itself was very well done.  It was produced by the team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who had recently worked their magic on Janet Jackson's "Control" album, and the video itself was quite ethereal with images of Oakey, Catherall, and Sulley fading in and out of a blue background.  Sure, the song sounded a lot different from the band's earlier works, but it certainly did blend very well with other music that was coming out of that time period.

And can we talk lyrical content here?  "Human" depicts the tale of a young man with a huge burden on his shoulders.  The good news is that he has gotten back together with his girlfriend after some time apart.  I would probably hazard a guess that based on the lyrics that it was a trial separation because in the song, the man is very sorry that he had decided to have a liaison with another woman in between that time.

So, in short, he's admitting that he's only human, and that his dalliance with the two-bit floozy down the street was just a mistake he made.  He's deeply committed to her now, but that wasn't always the case.

Ah, but here's where the "dun-dun-dun" moment comes in.  Would you believe that she was "only human too"?  Yep, she cheated on him with a dirty dog from down the lane while he was with his floozy.  So, basically both of them were only human with each other.  But, hey, they found each other again, so it's all good.

Okay, maybe not the most positive end result here...but it is a great song to illustrate that all of us do have our flaws, and sometimes we just have to accept them.

And, well...some people tend to do that better than others.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Canadian PSA's That Were...Strange

I'll be the first one to admit it.  Having my formative years falling in the late 1980s and early 1990s was definitely an interesting experience.

For the most part, it was a good time (well, the time outside of school, that is).  The music was great, there was a great emphasis on environmental protection (something I wish the world would do more of), and the movies at the cinema were some of the best.  Seriously, if you were to take every film released between 1988 and 1996, I probably would like a good 75% of them.

But not all parts of pop culture were celebrated during that time period.  In particular when it comes to Canadian television.

Specifically public service announcements.

Now, I am sure that most of you know what a public service announcement is.  They are 30 second to one minute advertisements that usually air during blocks of children's or family programming that deal with a particular subject.  Subjects like drug use, alcohol use, safety precautions, cause awareness, and environmental awareness.  Here's an example of one of these PSA's that aired in both Canada and the United States, I believe.

Of course, not all of these PSA's were as cute as the one starring Tweety up above.  Some of them were strange, weird, or just plain scary.  Canadian ones in particular were all kinds of weirdness.  I think some of them might have been filmed by a director who was under the influence of the very things that they were trying to warn children and young adults about!

Anyway, we're going to take a look at some of these PSA's in a moment, but before we go ahead, I really want to give a shout out to one of the people who read this blog and gave me the idea to do this topic.

Viki A. from Pincourt, Quebec, this one's for you!

And, to begin, let's take a look at one of the very first PSA's that I remember from my early childhood years.  One that used to scare me when I was really young.

Okay, so as you probably have seen, this is a public service announcements for War Amps, an organization that helps people who have had amputated limbs cope, as well as providing financial services for children to receive artificial limbs.  It's a really great organization, and my family has used the War Amps key tag service for decades. 

It's just a shame that this commercial was so scary.  Here's a small child robot named Astar, who very well could be the love child between C-3PO and Big Brother's Zingbot, having fun the best way that robot children know how - swinging on moving gears, chains, and sawblades.  Of course, Astar ends up playing foolishly and accidentally severs his whole arm off in a sea of bright yellow sparks and ear-splitting noise.  Don't worry though, he can snap his arm back on in seconds.  But if a real child were to do what Astar did - well, frankly he'd probably be dead within the first ten seconds.  But at best, he would likely lose the same arm, and unlike Astar, there's no way of putting that arm back on.

It was meant to scare kids into not playing with dangerous toys, or doing dangerous things that could make you lose an eye, arm, or leg.  But really, all it did with me was make me want to avoid that creepy commercial at all costs.

Which wasn't easy, given that the commercial ran for FIFTEEN YEARS!!!

You know, let's go ahead with an ad campaign for smoking.  You know how nowadays, ad makers try to use grotesque imagery and sad stories to keep people from smoking, or to encourage smokers to quit?  Well, this was Canada's answer to anti-smoking ads circa '87.

Okay, so the lady singing is Canadian entertainer Luba, known for the singles "Let It Go", "How Many", and the uplifting single "Every Time I See Your Picture, I Cry".  And Luba's message is for all people to break free from the habit of cigarette smoking.

And by doing this, they have a whole bunch of teenagers dancing around dressed like extras from Degrassi Junior High.  If people want to join the party, they need to break free from the cigarette ads that pepper the alleyways, and change from black and white to their colourful 1980s bad selves.  Not exactly the most effective video to promote anti-smoking, but hey, it was the 1980s.  Most commercials didn't make sense then.

And speaking of commercials with loud, garish colours.

Hey, that's Gert!  And that's her brother Bert!  And these wascally wabbits are dressed like Screech from Saved By The Bell so that they can help YOU stay alert, stay safe, and look good doing it!

All right, so the ads themselves were a good idea, and provided a lot of great information for kids.  But, I don't know...using animated bunnies to promote personal safety...could there possibly be anything worse than that?

Well, okay, I forgot about the two fuzzy blue monsters who warn you not to "put it in your mouth, though it might look good to eat, like a muffin or a beet".  Yeah, my sister and I used to make fun of this commercial all the bloody time it came on, which back in 1993 or whatever year this came out was at least five times a day.  Before my voice changed, I could mimic the voices of the blue monsters quite well.  Now I look at this ad and I cringe at how horrible it is.  And they think that ads like this were supposed to help us AVOID drugs.  I wouldn't be surprised if this ad made some kids believe that they were already under the influence!

And, speaking of anti-drug ads, I can't even explain this one.

This one just has every single bad 1990s stereotype attached to it.  Ugly fonts, kids dancing, grown-ups acting like fools, and that one guy in particular looks like a "Movember" participant!

That's about all that I have to say about really weird PSA's from Canada when I was a child.  Do you have any from your own countries that you'd like to share?  Are there some that I left off this list.  Please leave all comments here.

In the meantime, I suppose you want to know what PSA's look like now.  Well, these aren't recent (I'd say they came out in at least 2006), but they certainly do make a good point about workplace safety.

As well as this ad that is really creative...but not what you might expect.