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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 31, 1907

Can you believe that it is the FINAL day of 2013? 24 hours from now, it will be a brand new year, filled with brand new possibilities!

And since a new year is ripe with new possibilities, I've decided to usher in a brand new look for the upcoming year. For almost three years, I've more or less kept the same logo with text floating over a gigantic scalene triangle.

This year, I've blown up the triangle. And what was left was an ethereal background filled with lots of purple, blue, and pink splotches. And, I also changed the colour and appearance of the font, which is now white and italicized. I wasn't sure how it would look until I posted it on the blog, but it actually turned out really well.

As of right now, that's the only change I plan on making for 2014, but I might tweak the background colours around a smidgen...just to make it match with the colour scheme of the logo. But I won't be worrying about that just yet. I still have a Tuesday Timeline entry to write, after all!

And, given that today is the last day of 2013, I really wanted to make this Tuesday Timeline very special. I even managed to find a way to make the Tuesday Timeline fit in with the theme of today!

Of course, before we begin this final Tuesday Timeline of 2013, we should probably take a look at how New Years' Eve went on other years of the calendar. So, let's have a look throughout history, shall we?

1600 – The British East India Company is founded

1695 Homeowners board and brick up every window in their houses in England, after a window tax is imposed

1759 – Arthur Guinness signs a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum, and begins brewing pints of Guinness

1775 – British forces repulse an attack by Continental Army General Richard Montgomery during the American Revolutionary War

1796 – Baltimore, Maryland is incorporated at a city

1831 – Gramercy Park is deeded to New York, New York

1857 – Ottawa, Ontario is selected by Queen Victoria herself as the city that would eventually become the capital of Canada

1862 – Abraham Lincoln signs the act that would bring the state of West Virginia into the Union

1878 – Karl Benz submits a patent for his two-stroke gas engine

1879 – Thomas Edison demonstrates incandescent lighting to a public display in Menlo Park, New Jersey

1909 – The Manhattan Bridge opens

1923 – The chimes of Big Ben are broadcast on radio for the first time by the BBC

1943 – Singer/songwriter John Denver (d. 1997) is born in Roswell, New Mexico

1944 – Hungary declares war on Nazi Germany during World War II

1946 – President Harry S. Truman officially proclaims the end of hostilities in World War II

1948 – Disco singer Donna Summer (d. 2012) is born in Boston, Massachusetts

1960 – The farthing coin ceases being legal tender in the United Kingdom

1967 – The Youth International Party is founded

1983 – The AT&T Bell System is broken up by the United States Government

1985 – Singer/songwriter Ricky Nelson is killed in a plane crash outside De Kalb, Texas at the age of 45

1988 – Mario Lemieux becomes the only NHL player to score a goal five different ways – even strength, shorthanded, power play, penalty shot, empty net

1993 – Transgendered teenager Brandon Teena is murdered by two men in a barn in Nebraska – the incident inspired the 1999 film, “Boys Don't Cry”

1999 – ABC launches a 24-hour long broadcast of New Years Eve celebrations all over the world in preparation for the arrival of the year 2000

2004 – The tallest skyscraper in the world – Taipei 101 – is opened (it would hold the record for nine years before the Freedom Tower in New York City broke that record in May 2013)

And, on the subject of celebrity birthdays, I certainly have a long list of them today! Happy New Years Eve birthday to Anthony Hopkins, Barry Hughes, Sarah Miles, Sir Ben Kingsley, Taylor Hackford, Neil Ross, Barbara Carrera, Diane von Furstenberg, Burton Cummings, Tim Matheson, Joe Dallesandro, Steve Rude, Bebe Neuwirth, Val Kilmer, Don Diamont, Lance Reddick, Scott Ian, Michael McDonald (the comedian, not the singer), Nicholas Sparks, Lisa Joyner, Gerry Dee, Joey McIntyre, Donald Trump Jr, Bronson Pelletier, and Gabby Douglas.

Wow. That's a lot of birthday cake to go along with the champagne corks popping at various places on New Years Eve, huh?

So, what day in history will we be looking back on today? Well, here it is, complete with the new logo scheme!

December 31, 1907!

So, we're going back exactly one hundred and six years in this edition! Quite a long time ago! And believe it or not, although this tradition began 106 years ago, it is still going on as of 2013!

Or, I guess I could say 2014 starting tomorrow!

And, it's a tradition that I believe that most of you have at least watched on television. Well, at least you have if you live in North America.

Now, how many of you remember watching the ball drop in the middle of Times Square in New York City? I imagine some of you probably took a flight to New York City to watch it in person, but for most of us, we've probably sat at home watching the ball drop in the comforts of our own living rooms while snacking on chips and dip and ginger ale, because it was the closest thing that looked like champagne that you could find.

(Oh, sorry...that's how I usually spend MY New Years Eve. Don't judge.)

The ball drop symbolizes the true moment in which everything changes. When the calendars switch from December to January, when the calendar year goes up one digit, and when we say goodbye (or good riddance for some people) to the old year, and hello to the brand new year. Throughout the whole event, the large crowd is entertained by musical artists, bands, and hosts who reflect on the year gone by.

And, as we well know, the most famous broadcast of the New Years Eve ball drop was Dick Clark for many, many years. After Dick Clark's stroke in 2004, Ryan Seacrest stepped in as the permanent host of the New Years' Eve special, although Dick Clark continued to appear as a special guest until his death in the spring of 2012.

I just know that as long as I've been alive, I always remembered the ball dropping down over Times Square as being a New Years Eve tradition. But, do you know exactly when that tradition began?

Although December 31, 1907 wasn't the first New Years' Eve celebration to be hosted in Times Square (the first ceremony actually took place four years prior, in 1903), it WAS the first celebration that implemented the famous “ball drop”, that so many of us looked forward to watching as kids (or adults, if you like). And the ball drop was implemented after the founder of the New Years' Eve celebration in New York City solely on the purpose of drawing a larger crowd to the area.

You see, prior to the inaugural ball drop in 1907, the owner of the New York Times – Adolph Ochs – wanted to do something special to celebrate the opening of the brand new offices of the newspaper on the last day of 1903, which at that time were located at One Times Square (the building in Times Square that has that larger-than-life Coca-Cola logo on it). And his idea to celebrate was with an elaborate fireworks display on the roof of the building as a way of ringing in 1904 in style. And, it seemed to work, as almost a quarter of a million people turned out to watch the display. This tradition went on for three years, but by the time 1907 rolled around, Ochs had made the decision that fireworks weren't enough. He needed something more... maybe a gigantic electric ball cascading down towards the roof of the building, perhaps?

The idea was actually suggested to Ochs by Walter F. Painer, whose occupation at the time was that of chief electrician of the New York Times building. His inspiration for his “time ball” idea came from seeing the Western Union Building using the same technology for an unrelated event. Immediately, Ochs sought assistance from Artkraft Strauss to create the ball to be used for the first ball drop.

And, just what ingredients were used for the very first ball? Well, a whole lot of wood, a whole lot of iron, and approximately one hundred incandescent light bulbs. The ball measured around five feet in diameter, and weighed close to seven hundred pounds! That's one gigantic ball!

Once the ball was completed, it was hoisted atop the flagpole by six men, attached by a rope. As well, the ball would be the necessary item needed to complete an electrical circuit that was attached to the roof of the building. Once the ball touched the roof, the connection would cause a giant five foot sign to light up, wishing everybody in New York a happy 1908!

As it so happened, the ball drop was a huge success, and in the end, it did get Ochs his wish. More and more people began to attend the ball drop every year, and long after the New York Times vacated their offices at One Times Square, the building still remained the site of the ball drop for years to come.

And, since we're on the subject of the ball drop, why not go over some trivia about the ball itself?

1 – The ball has been redesigned a total of four times since it was first brought out in 1907. In 1920, the ball was completely redone in an iron frame. In 1955, the third edition used aluminum. The fourth redesign took place in 1999 with halogen bulbs, Waterford Crystal, mirrors, and strobe lights. Currently, the ball is constructed with LED lights and crystal, and has been in use since 2008.

2 – Sometimes the ball has been redone specifically for a certain theme. In 1981, the ball was illuminated completely in red with green on top to resemble a big apple (for the city's “I Love New York” theme). In 1991, the ball was illuminated in red, white, and blue lights to salute the troops that participated in “Operation: Desert Shield”.

3 – In 2002, the crystals on the ball were engraved with the names of nations and organizations that were affected by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

4 – In 2012, Dick Clark's name was permanently engraved on the ball to honour his memory and to preserve his commitment to the Rockin' New Years Eve party that Clark had hosted for nearly four decades.

5 – The 1988 ball drop was a rather unique one. To accommodate the leap second (that comes with the arrival of a leap year every four years), the ball drop was the only one to last sixty-one seconds.

6 - The 1995/1996 New Years' Eve ball drop was almost a complete disaster, as the ball actually got stuck for a few moments while in mid-descent!

7 – The only two years in which the ball did not drop at all were 1942 and 1943, as wartime lighting restrictions were in effect during World War II. A moment of silence at midnight was substituted instead.

8 – As you well know, New York City gets very cold during the month of December. But, do you know what the coldest temperature ever recorded was during a ball drop? It took place during the ball drop of 1917, where the temperature plummeted to a frosty 1 degree Fahrenheit (that's -17 C for you Canadians out there).

9 – In contrast, the warmest ball drop ever recorded were in the years 1965 and 1972, where the temperatures were a balmy 58 degrees Fahrenheit (14 C).

10 – It has only ever snowed seven times during the Times Square ball drop. The earliest was in 1926, the latest was in 2009.

And, as we head into another New Years' Eve celebration, we look ahead at the future, wondering what joys and wonders the year 2014 will bring us.

Only time will tell.

And, that wraps up the final Tuesday Timeline of 2013. Tomorrow will be the first blog entry of 2014, and on that day, we'll take a look at some of the news events that impacted the world throughout 2013. You won't want to miss it!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Best and Worst of 2013 - Feature Presentations

With just two days to go in the year 2013, we're smack dab in the middle of a seven (well, six) day feature on the best and worst pop culture events that took place over the course of the year.

So far, we've examined the following pop culture topics...

12/27/2013 - Best and Worst of 2013:  Television
12/28/2013 - Best and Worst of 2013:  Video Games
12/29/2013 - Best and Worst of 2013:  Music

And today's plans?  How about dinner and a movie?
Or, at the very least, raiding your pantry of its supply of popcorn, jujubes, nachos, and cherry coke and having a movie night at home.

Believe it or not, there were a total of 281 films released in theatres (and that does NOT include the made for television movie "Sharknado" either).  And, naturally, I have not seen all 281 films that were released in 2013.  If anything, I've probably seen less than five per cent of the films.

However, I'm not going to let a minor fact like that prevent me from talking about the best and worst films.  I've also read reviews, seen the previews, and actually asked customers about their thoughts.  And, I've also kept close watch on the sales of both the DVD and Blu-Ray versions of all the New Releases (as of right now, movies from September 2013 are going to be released on video format within the next month).  I know exactly what movies are big sellers...and which movies were complete flops.

Are you ready for this retrospective?  Okay, let's start with a best...and worst.  A simultaneous and conflicting point, if you will.


The good news is that 2013 was a very profitable year in the film industry, with the top film making a total of $1.2 BILLION dollars worldwide!

The bad news is that it seemed as though the pool of creativity and imagination is in further danger of running dry.  Believe it or not, of the Top 10 highest grossing films of 2013, seven were sequels, and one was a total reboot of a classic film series.  Heck, I may as well say it...the Top 5 films of 2013 were all sequels.

But hey, at least a sequel is better than a total remake.  I'm looking at you specifically production crew of "Carrie".  My goodness, that film's already been remade like three or four times!  Why another version!  And, what is the deal with the "Evil Dead" remake?  I mean, yes, it was incredibly scary and gruesome, but as far as I'm concerned, you cannot have "Evil Dead" without Bruce Campbell.

But then again, maybe I'm just spoiled.

For what it's worth, here's the Top 10 of 2013.

1.  IRON MAN 3

Okay, so I will make the following statements.  I loved Despicable Me 2, Iron Man 3, Monsters University, and Gravity.  And, apparently others share my point of view.  The rest of the Top 10 I have not seen, and in a couple of cases, I have no desire to see.

Though, I will give credit where credit is due.  I have not seen the Hunger Games sequel, nor have I seen the original Hunger Games.  However, I do know hundreds of people who are obsessed with these films (based on a series of books), and they have actually told me to check them out.  I'm considering it, because I really haven't heard anything negative about the series at all.

And, while I'm not really a huge fan of "The Fast and The Furious" series of movies, I can safely say that I sell at least a dozen copies of any of the six films in the franchise at any given time, and that "The Fast and The Furious 6" was one of the top selling DVD's at the store I work at.  Though, admittedly a part of it could be because of the tragic death of star Paul Walker, who was ironically killed in an automobile accident in November.


You know, I get it.  3D is here to stay.  Even some modern television sets and Blu-Ray players have 3D capabilities.  But at the same time, I think that Hollywood is maybe pushing the 3D envelope just a little bit too much.  It was bad enough that every other film was released in 3D format in movie theatres, but then to release classic films like "Jurassic Park", "Top Gun", and "The Wizard of Oz" in 3D on top of that?  What next?  "Driving Miss Daisy" in 3D?

(Though I suppose that I can point out one good thing about the 3D obsession.  It did help the 1993 film "Jurassic Park" reach the one billion dollar mark overall!  And, I must admit, I think Jurassic Park would look cool in 3D.  The "Wizard of Oz", on the other hand...)


I'll have to admit, the success of "The Walking Dead" has certainly re-ignited Hollywood's obsession with zombie films.  One needs look no further than the Brad Pitt summer blockbuster "World War Z" to confirm that zombies are alive and well in Tinseltown!  That movie alone made a little over half a billion dollars in 2013!

But there are other zombie films that are worth mentioning.  One of my favourites is the 2013 film "Warm Bodies", which is sort of a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet in which the zombified "R" falls in love with the much alive "Julie".  There were also a couple of films made with a little bit of British flavour, including "Cockneys vs. Zombies" and "Stalled".

Let's face it.  2013 was never a better year to be a reanimated dead guy...or gal, as the case may be.


2013 was a stellar year for animated films.  Three of them (Despicable Me 2, Monsters University, and The Croods) were among the Top 10 films of 2013, and it appears as if the Disney film "Frozen" is well on its way to becoming a classic.  I wouldn't be surprised if "Frozen" ends up unseating "The Croods" at the rate it is going.  I have heard incredibly good reviews about "Frozen", and am debating on whether or not I should see it.  Maybe I'll wait until it comes out on video.

There's also the film "Epic", a beautiful breathtaking film that was based on William Joyce's "The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs".  For little girls (and little boys, if you like), there were brand new "My Little Pony" and "Monster High" movies released in 2013.    The Smurfs decided that they needed a sequel which was delivered in the form of "Smurfs 2".  The weather forecast once again called for "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2".  Ryan Reynolds brought a snail named "Turbo" to life in the movie of the same name.  And just when you thought "Cars" was great, Disney decided to go ahead with the next big movie sensation, "Planes".  Admittedly, I liked "Cars" better, but "Planes" wasn't too bad.

And Disney also re-released quite a few movies on DVD and Blu-Ray this year, including "Robin Hood", "The Sword and the Stone", "Oliver & Company", and "The Little Mermaid".  But, you better grab 'em while you can...they won't stay outside the vault for long.


Apparently 2013 is the year in which the White House seems to be the target of mass destruction.  While it was never completely obliterated as it was during the 1996 film "Independence Day", the films "Olympus Has Fallen" and "White House Down" certainly damaged the iconic structure enough for it to at least be considered for a makeover on "Trading Spaces".  Well, that is, if that show were still on, anyway.


Currently, we're seeing a biographical film at the box office with the release of "Saving Mr. Banks", a film which depicts the story of how Walt Disney ended up making the classic 1964 film "Mary Poppins".  And this is admittedly a movie that I am interested in seeing if for no other reason than the fact that "Mary Poppins" was one of the first films I remember enjoying in my early childhood.  But there were other biographical films that are worth mentioning.

First things first, you have to take time out to watch the film "42", starring Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford.  The film depicts the struggles and triumphs of baseball player Jackie Robinson, who broke through the colour lines to become the first African-American baseball player to play on a Major League Baseball team.  It is such a fantastic movie.  I highly recommend it.

Ashton Kutcher also starred in a biographical film, taking on the role of Steve Jobs in the film "Jobs" - which admittedly I didn't like that was the case for many film critics who slammed the film.  Though, I do have to admit.  Kutcher did actually kind of look like the young Steve Jobs, so at least he had that going for him.

As well, there were two separate films made about Nelson and Winnie Mandela - timely, given that Nelson Mandela passed away in early December at the age of 95.  For what it was worth, both films were released before Mandela's passing.


Until now, most of the movies I've mentioned have been given mostly positive comments.  And, for those that weren't, I did try to be nice about it.

That said, there's no hope for these stinkers.

BULLET TO THE HEAD:  Okay, Sly.  You were awesome in your eighty-six Rocky movies and twenty-seven Rambo movies.  And, at 67, I admit that you look better than other men your age.  But, this movie really shouldn't have been made.  I mean, this film was your worst opening weekend gross in over three decades!  I like you, Sly Stallone...but maybe you should consider putting action movies on your "Murtaugh List".  I don't care how popular "The Expendables" get.  Keep making more movies like this, and your career will become expendable!

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD:  Basically, I have the same exact message for Bruce Willis too.  Die Hard = awesome.  Die Hard 2 = just as awesome.  Die Hard 3 = losing steam.  Seriously, why even bother with this one?

THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE:  You'd think that a film that had both Jim Carrey and Steve Carell would do really well at the box office.  Unfortunately, the movie bombed, just coming short of breaking even at the box office.  The copies of Burt Wonderstone now collect dust on the DVD shelves at my workplace, but at least Carell rebounded with "Despicable Me 2".

THE HOST:  Once upon a time, an author by the name of Stephenie Meyer created a little book series known as "Twilight", which became a global phenomenon in the early 2010s.  So, naturally, once Twilight was over, Meyer hoped that her new project, "The Host" would also make a stellar film.  It didn't.  Though despite the critics panning the film, it did at least make eight million in profits.

SCARY MOVIE V:  Making a "Scary Movie" without Anna Faris is like making "Shrek" with Gilbert Gottfried as the voice of Princess Fiona.  Just plain awful.

THE BIG WEDDING:  Here's hoping that if a sequel is made, it's called "The Big Divorce".  None of the cast had any chemistry with each other - especially the people playing the bride and groom.

THE GREAT GATSBY:  Maybe I'm slightly jaded because I liked the original motion picture adaptation of this film one hundred per cent better, but I just wasn't feeling this one.  And, that's surprising to me, since I normally like Baz Luhrmann's work.  At least the film had financial success at the theatres...I certainly haven't sold many copies of the film at my workplace.


GROWN UPS 2:  WHY?!?!?!?!?!?

And, to close off this blog final sad note.


Roger Ebert's death on April 4 marked the end of an era.  As a kid, I relied on Siskel & Ebert's movie reviews to help me decide what movies I would drag my parents to.  The duo worked well together until Siskel's death in 1999, and Ebert also shared chemistry with his new partner, Richard Roeper.  Certainly the last few years of Ebert's life were filled with hardships, but despite all the pain and surgeries he endured, Ebert continued to do what he did best, which was offer up his opinions on various films.  Roger Ebert truly loved his job, and he truly loved the movie industry.  And, how can you not love someone who has the passion?

He'll be greatly missed.

So, that wraps up our look back on 2013 films.  Tomorrow, the Best and Worst list takes a breather as I present the final Tuesday Timeline of 2013!

Hey...I had to slip ONE minion reference in this piece somewhere!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best and Worst of 2013 - Spinnin' The Records

The special look back on the year known as 2013 continues with a musical interlude.  After all, this is Sunday - the day of the week that is typically reserved for the discussion of music.

And, let me tell you...2013 was one HUGE year for music.  As someone who has not really listened to Top 40 radio in approximately a decade, I must say that 2013 was actually not a bad year for music.  I even have a few songs from 2013 downloaded onto my iPod!

Before we continue with this look back on 2013 in music, I am going to be posting the previous two links so that you can keep up with this retrospective of the past year.

12/27/2013 - Best and Worst of 2013 - Television
12/28/2013 - Best and Worst of 2013 - Video Games

Feel free to peruse those lists at your leisure.  I even invite you to make comments about my choices or to come up with highlights of your own.

So, shall we get on with the look back at the year 2013 in music?  Yes?  

All right, let's get on with it, beginning with the biggest night in music history!


You know, I'm going to rank the 2013 Grammy Awards as being a mixed bag.  As far as the actual ceremony goes, I thought it sort of lacked something.  And this is coming from a guy who has watched the Grammy Awards nearly every year since the late 1980s (I missed the 2011 edition, as I was still in intensive care following a not-so-routine surgery).  But as far as the big winners of the night, well...I suppose it almost made up for it.

Record of the Year:  Somebody That I Used To Know/GOYTE f. KIMBRA
Album of the Year:  Babel/MUMFORD AND SONS
Song of the Year:  We Are Young
Best New Artist:  fun.
Best Pop Solo Performance:  Set Fire To The Rain/ADELE
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance:  Somebody That I Used To Know/GOYTE f. KIMBRA
Best Pop Vocal Album:  Stronger/KELLY CLARKSON
Best Traditional Pop Album:  Kisses on the Bottom/PAUL McCARTNEY
Best Country Album:  Uncaged/ZAC BROWN BAND
Best Country Solo Performance:  Blown Away/CARRIE UNDERWOOD
Best Country Duo/Group Performance:  Pontoon/LITTLE BIG TOWN

Okay, so maybe fun. isn't my favourite band ever, and I honestly got more annoyed by Mumford and Sons "I Will Wait"'s repetitiveness than anything.  But, I have to admit that I do like that Adele song.  And, to have two former American Idol winners taking home a Grammy Award?  Sort of gives a smidgen of credibility to an aging reality show, don't you think?  

In fact, let's listen to a song from Carrie's successful album.  The track is "Two Black Cadillacs", and it reached its peak on the country charts in early 2013.

And since I've posted the first song, let's post some more!

SELENA GOMEZ - Come and Get It
Released:  April 7, 2013

Selena Gomez had a really stellar 2013.  Her latest album "Stars Dance" was a big seller in both record stores and on iTunes (I know that I stocked a lot of copies of her CD when it was first released in the summer of 2013).  And, one way that I could tell that it was a huge hit was when I was working in the seasonal section and I heard this song playing in every radio of cars that drove by the outdoor soil compound!  The single eventually peaked at #6 on the Billboard charts, and #1 on the dance charts.

This album also marked a transition of sorts for Selena Gomez.  She turned 21 years old this past year, and her Disney Channel series "Wizards of Waverly Place" ended, so it's quite clear that she could have gone one of two ways - The Hilary Duff way or the Lindsay Lohan way.  Fortunately, aside from an incident in which she goofed up at a concert and swore in front of a bunch of kids, Selena seems to be heading down a good road.   Course, in 2014, I could end up eating those words, but hey, I actually like her.  Maybe it has to do with the song "Who Says" being an anthem for self-esteem and anti-bullying that has to do with it.  

This next person though?  Well...let's just post the video, keeping in mind that it might not really be suitable for preschoolers and young children.

MILEY CYRUS - Wrecking Ball
Released:  August 25, 2013

Oh, Miley, Miley, seem to have taken a wrecking ball to your Disney past this year, haven't you?  Surprisingly enough, your actions have probably made you more popular and relevant than ever before...even though your cavorting naked in your music video is hardly considered original.  Ever hear of someone called Madonna?  She managed to make it happen first with her "Express Yourself" video which came out three years before you were even born!

Now, here's the wacky part that I find hard to believe.  When listening to the song on the radio, I actually don't hate it.  Wrecking Ball is certainly a powerful song with good lyrics.  And, believe me, when it comes to Miley Cyrus, she certainly can perform a great ballad.  And, I suppose that in a way, she did have huge success with this single.  Despite the mixed reviews, the single did chart at #1.

But, everyone by now knows that Miley Cyrus seems to be well content on shooting Hannah Montana to death and burying her corpse in an oil drum to be buried in the Disney child star graveyard.  She says controversial things on Twitter, does controversial things in her video.  Uses controversial foam fingers in a controversial performance at the MTV Video Music Awards.

And, apparently she was on the shortlist for TIME Magazine's Person of the Year issue!  Go figure.  Although, I can show you what the supposed song of the year is.  And as it so happens, it is linked to Miley's controversial VMA appearance!

Released:  March 26, 2013

Ah, yes...the most requested, most played, most parodied song of the year.  No wonder I have a hard time listening to it for more than once a day!

Truthfully, I actually don't mind the song itself.  It was the music video that I wasn't overly a fan of.  I know a lot of people were saying that the video was extremely controversial given that the dancers in Robin's video were topless and scantily moving around in seductive poses.  But, honestly, I found it boring as heck.  I mean, the Twitter hashtags randomly appearing?  Lame.  The dancing girls?  Been done before a million times.  The song itself was fantastic, but the video was an absolutel snoozefest as far as I'm concerned.

And yet, it was the most requested song and video of the year.  Go figure.

To be honest with you, I can't really call myself Robin Thicke's biggest fan.  I mean, he's all right, I guess, but for some reason, I can't get past the fact that his dad played Jason Seaver on "Growing Pains".

(TRIVIA:  Robin's younger brother Brennan voiced the role of Dennis Mitchell in the 1980s cartoon series "Dennis The Menace".  Not really that interesting a fact, but it does go to show that show business definitely ran in the Thicke family tree.)

Though I will say this.  My own personal favourite song of 2013 happens to come from one of the guys whom Robin recorded "Blurred Lines" with.

Released:  November 21, 2013

I have to confess.  I loved this song from the moment I first heard it on "Despicable Me 2".  And, part of the reason why I love this song a lot is because it's one of the rare songs that got me feeling up and in a good mood amidst a sea of depressing songs and lukewarm pop music.  And, besides, the music video has minions in it!

But here's something quite interesting about this single.  It has done well in Europe and overseas.  It reached the top of the charts in The Netherlands and France, and hit the top ten in the UK, Australia, Denmark, and Ireland.  Yet, here in North America, the song remains unreleased. it any wonder why I tend to listen to music from the UK and Australia.  It appears that those nations still have musical taste!

Well...with one exception, I suppose...

ONE DIRECTION - Best Song Ever
Released:  July 22, 2013

Okay, I have a confession to make.  I've never really cared for boy bands.  To me, whenever I think of bands I like, I think of Stone Temple Pilots, U2, R.E.M., Collective Soul, and even classic bands like The Beatles, Badfinger, and The Rolling Stones.

And although I can probably find at least one song that I like from bands like the Backstreet Boys (Shape of My Heart) and 98 Degrees (Give Me Just One Night), I still wouldn't go out of my way to buy a whole album of songs, or concert tickets to see them live amidst a sea of screeching prepubescent girls in the audience.

One Direction seems to be the latest boy band who seems to be exploding in popularity.  The band seems to be part of a modern day British invasion (they started making music right around the same time that Adele, Ellie Goulding, and The Wanted did), and they have had successful album and DVD sales.  After all, their latest album "Midnight Memories" seems to be selling quite well at my store, and I can attest to seeing several 12-year-old girls getting their parents to buy them the new One Direction movie when it was released on DVD and Blu-Ray a few days ago.

That said, I have to admit that having a song entitled "Best Song Ever" is quite ballsy and cocky, even if the song really isn't about One Direction boasting that they have the best song ever.  Unfortunately, the song peaked at #2 on the Billboard Charts, making it rather ironic that a song entitled "Best Song Ever" could never really be that.

EMINEM - Berserk
Released:  August 27, 2013

I don't know if I could really consider this a "comeback" album of sorts, as Eminem never really left the music scene.  But when word got out that Eminem was releasing his seventh studio album in late 2013 - his first in three years - fans certainly salivated with delight until the album's release was made official in November 2013.  And, I can certainly attest to the popularity of the album - the first day it was released, we sold out completely.

(Thereby proving that the compact disc format isn't completely dead yet.)

And, I'll have to admit this to all of you right now.  I am an Eminem fan.  Certainly his songs do require some rather creative radio edits due to the language found in the songs...but at least Eminem has one thing that a lot of carbon copy, cookie-cutter, manufactured pop groups don't have.  And, that is the fact that all of his songs are written by Eminem himself, and are filled with so much emotion that built up from years of a tough childhood and adulthood.  And certainly, Eminem's trouble with the law and personal life have been well documented in the tabloids.  These days though, Eminem seems to be on the road back.  Even I've noticed that his songs aren't as angry and hate-filled as they used to be, which is a good sign.

Released:  December 16, 2013

Beyonce Knowles may just have very well had the best kept secret in the music industry - much to the chagrin of retailers who have launched a campaign to refuse to stock her album on store shelves (I'm looking at you, Target and Amazon).

It was pretty much given that Beyonce was overdue to release a new album.  It had been some time since her last project, and everyone believed that 2013 would be the year in which she would do exactly that.  After all, she would perform at the Super Bowl this past year and stage a reunion with her Destiny's Child bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams if she didn't have something up her sleeve.

What we didn't know was that Beyonce had planned to release the album on her terms.  In her own way.

So when people who have iTunes accounts logged on and saw that Beyonce's new album had apparently been released on December 13, it caused a major uproar.  There were no announcements by Beyonce, or any of the associates that Beyonce worked with.  Somehow, Beyonce managed to release an album digitally on iTunes without anyone else knowing about it!  Fourteen singles and seventeen music videos were released in secrecy on the thirteenth, and by December 14, the buzz had generated 1.2 MILLION tweets on Twitter and had several celebrities commenting about the secret release in complete shock and hysteria!

It was as if Beyonce had played the ultimate April Fools Day joke in December...and she caught everyone off guard.  It's unknown at this time how well the album will eventually do, but I have to say that it was a genius marketing strategy.  Well played, Beyonce.  Well played.

LADY GAGA - Applause
Released:  August 12, 2013

On the flipside, whereas Beyonce completely kept her latest project underneath her hat, Lady Gaga couldn't promote the album enough!  She did press tours, talk show interviews...pretty much everything that an artist would do in order to get people talking about the album.

And when her "Artpop" album finally did come out, it was released in several versions.  There was the standard CD, a Deluxe CD with added songs, and a special Lady Gaga package which had the Deluxe CD with added songs plus a T-shirt (that likely nobody over the age of nineteen could squeeze into).

But, Lady Gaga forgot one thing.  You could promote the hell out of the album all you wanted, but if the material wasn't good, it didn't really matter all that much.  I'm not saying that Lady Gaga's "Artpop" is horrible...I'm sure it's quite good.  But the lead single "Applause" certainly didn't measure up to her previous singles "Poker Face", "Bad Romance", and "Born This Way".  

CHER - Woman's World
Released:  June 18, 2013

I'm only adding this particular single in because of the fact that at my store, I cannot keep this particular album in stock!  We get copies in, and they automatically are sold out within a twenty-four hour period!  I get more questions about this Cher album than I do any other musical artist!  Of course, I do also happen to live in a town that is more or less considered a retirement community, and most of the people who live in town more or less grew up watching the Sonny and Cher show on television!

That said, while I can't call myself a major fan of Cher, I will say that I don't mind this single.  To be truthful, I thought Cher had a rather unique singing voice that definitely stood out in a sea of Madonna wannabes.  I don't see myself going out to buy her latest album (which is good since it's always sold out at my store), but if she happens to be playing on the radio, I'll leave it on.

And, besides all that - plastic surgery aside - Cher still looks fantastic at 67 years of age.

And, to conclude this look back on music in 2013 - a year which saw Michael Jackson's doctor released from prison and Justin Bieber announcing his retirement from the music scene at the ripe old age of 19 - here's one final song which was released in late 2012 by a teenage artist from New Zealand who is reportedly considered to be a frontrunner at the 2014 Grammy Awards.

LORDE - Royals
Released:  November 22, 2012

Coming up tomorrow, we'll pop some popcorn and buy some oversized Kit Kat bars to go over the Best and Worst in 2013 film.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best and Worst of 2013 - Video Games

Hello, everybody!  We are currently in the final week of 2013, and I decided to do things a little bit differently this time around.  For the last week of the year, I wanted to do a retrospective of the year gone by.  In the world of pop culture, 2013 was a year that was filled with ups and downs, and I thought that it would be good to have a look back on some of the highlights (and lowlights) of the year.

I will be doing this every day this week (except for the December 31 entry, which will be a Tuesday Timeline), and the event will conclude on Thursday, January 2, 2014.  For now, here's the list so far.

12/27/2013 - Best and Worst of 2013 - Television

Okay, I know that we only have one entry on the retrospective list for now, but I will be adding to this list over the next few days.

Like, for instance, today is Saturday, which is typically known as the day of the week known as the Saturday Smorgasbord - a day in which the subject changes from week to week.  Now, normally, on what is supposed to be the fourth Saturday of the month, we would be taking a look at a book or magazine to study.  But because it happens to be the final Saturday of the whole year, I thought I'd switch it up a little bit to present you with...


Now, I'll tell you this much.  In 2012, I would not have been able to even write this entry because I was still stocking milk.  And, somehow, I don't think that any of you would have been all that thrilled to read a list on what the fifteen biggest selling cheeses are.

Now that I'm in electronics , I think I have a really good understanding of what video games and video game consoles were the most requested gifts underneath the Christmas tree this year!  And, that's what this blog is all about.

Now, keep in mind that it's very hard for me to give objective reviews on most of these items, as I don't own any of the three major video game consoles (though I do have a Nintendo 3DS).  I'm just going by what I have seen in the months that I have been in my current department

So, shall we go ahead with the list?  I'll start off with video games and work my way down to the consoles themselves.


Remember when the biggest selling video game was Super Mario 3 back in 1990?  Those days are now over.  The new record holder is the extremely violent and graphic "Grand Theft Auto V".  And, as someone who was working electronics when it first came out, I can tell you that I must have sold at least twelve dozen copies of it in a time frame of 48 hours!  And I live in a small town!!!

Now, here's the deal.  I haven't played Grand Theft Auto V, and really don't have any desire to play it either as I'm not a huge fan of violent shoot-em-ups.  But, hey...the numbers don't lie.  The game is still wildly popular three months after its September 17 release date, and it was certainly one of the most anticipated video games of the year.  I suppose the only con about the game is that it forced people to buy external hard drives and flash drives because the older XBOX 360 and PS3 consoles did not have enough memory to load the game properly.  Of course, I suppose retailers were happy to do the extra business.

Other standout video games this year for the PS3 and XBOX 360 console were "Battlefield 4", "Call of Duty: Ghosts", and weirdly enough, "Farming Simulator"!  Imagine, a video game that teaches you how to farm without going outside!

POKEMON X/Y - Nintendo 2DS/3DS

Nintendo had a rather lacklustre year when it came to consoles.  The only one that Nintendo released was the Nintendo 2DS - a less expensive version of the 3DS that could play 3DS games without the 3D effect.  With me so far?

As far as games went, though, Nintendo made up for a lack of console ideas.  "Super Luigi U", "Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon", "Super Mario World 3D", and two new Zelda games for both the Nintendo Wii U and Nintendo 2DS/3DS were all big sellers over the course of the past six months.

But the biggest selling game for Nintendo had to be the much anticipated release of Pokemon X and Pokemon Y, which was released just months ago.  The popular video game series known for its slogan "Gotta catch 'em all" proved popular with gamers everywhere, as I recall many people pre-ordering this game at least two months before it was released!  In fact, both games sold in excess of four million copies just a few days after its October 12 release date!

As far as gameplay goes, both X and Y are very similar in gameplay (though when the game was first released, we sold more "Y" than "X" at a rate of 2:1.  But as far as the Pokemon you can catch in the series, some Pokemon are only available in X, while others are only available in Y.  So, this makes it necessary to swap games with friends so that they can get all of the Pokemon possible.  Nice little marketing strategy by Nintendo!

And, speaking of marketing strategies...

SKYLANDERS: SWAP FORCE - Nintendo Wii, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PS3, PS4, XBOX 360, XBOX One

I actually have a personal story to tell you in regards to this video game series.  And no, I haven't played it, but I probably know more about it than I really should because I was the one who set up the display for them when the game was released on August 18.

And what a disaster it was!

I quickly discovered just how popular Skylanders was when I had a crowd of people come in while I was setting it up and rummaging through the boxes of Skylanders figurines before I could set them up properly!  But, you know, I have to admit that if I were twenty years younger, I too would be all over those Skylanders too.

Anyone who has ever played the original Spyro trilogy on the PlayStation console might know a bit about Skylanders.  After all, Spyro is considered one of the main characters of the Skylanders world.  And, in the latest installment of Skylanders, you can play with a variety of characters - provided you bought the starter pack, which contained three figurines, a platform, and the game itself at a price of $75!

Told you that it was a marketing strategy.  Buy the starter pack, then buy the dozens of figurines that go with it to make your game more fun.

To add to the fun, some of the figurines could swap tops with other Skylanders.  And whenever you swapped them, your Skylanders could gain more abilities which could be very advantageous for getting through the actual game.

On a lesser scale, Disney came out with their own version of the game called "Infinity", which used characters from Disney movies such as "Cars", "Toy Story", "Tangled", "Monsters Inc.", "The Incredibles", and "The Nightmare Before Christmas".  It didn't do quite as well initially when it came out, but I do recall that I sold out of the figurines for the Infinity game a few days before Christmas this year, so I suppose that it's starting to pick up steam.


Now, I've made it known that I am a huge fan of this game series, produced by Capcom.  And, the last game that was released in North America was all the way back in 2009.  So, to say that a lot of fans of Phoenix Wright, Miles Edgeworth, and the other motley crew of characters introduced in the series were looking forward to this game would be like saying that Donkey Kong loves bananas.

But there was a twist.  Players who wanted to play the game could only play the game by downloading it from the Nintendo eShop onto their 2DS or 3DS machines, which made some fans cry out in protest.  They really wanted to have the cartridge to play whenever they wanted.  

However, I kind of like the fact that Capcom released it the way they did.  For one, it likely cost less downloading it than it did buying it from a video game merchant.  And for another, it had an additional case that you could download approximately a month after its October 24 release.  And, for fans of the series, I have to say that it's one of the best releases yet of an "Ace Attorney" game.  With Phoenix's magatama, Apollo Justice's perceive ability, and new character Athena Cykes' Mood Matrix, bad guys had better beware.

Seriously, it's worth downloading.  It's quite a challenging game, but well worth it in long run.


Okay, so out of all of the innovations released in the year 2013 for the world of video games, this one was certainly the most anticipated of all.  With the release of the PlayStation 4 on November 15, and the XBOX One released on November 22, I seem to remember a ton of people waiting in line for both consoles, eager to be one of the first ones to get their hands on them.  And, I can only speak for the store that I work at, but let me just say that in the supply vs. demand aspect of things, we had great difficulty keeping both in stock.  

With the PS4, we received about two large orders of them - one in November, one in December - and we sold out of PS4's within 24 hours of each delivery.  With the XBOX One, we would get several small orders of half a dozen a piece, which seemed to not sell as well as the PS4, but we still sold out of them over time.

Personally speaking, I think a September release date would have been better, as the companies could have had more time to perfect and release more consoles so that more people could purchase them without worrying about any glitches or bugs.  But, then again, I don't work for either Sony or Microsoft, so my opinion means nothing.

So, here's the million dollar question.  Which is better?  PS4 or XBOX One?

Well, according to sales, it seems to be the PS4.  It is a hundred dollars cheaper, and according to various reviews, it offers more special features at a lower price than the XBOX One.  However, as far as game selection goes, I would say that the XBOX One has far more titles available than the PS4.

And one major point of contention...neither console appears to be backwards compatible - yet.  So, if you're prepared to buy either console, you keep in mind that you won't be able to play your old PS2 games on them at all.

As for Nintendo Wii U, it's still selling relatively well.  The company seems to be doing more business by creating special Mario and Zelda bundles at a more affordable price.  If ever I get enough living space, I will likely buy a Wii U.  It has more interesting games that I would more than likely play!

So, that's a brief look at video games of 2013.  Most of them were given positive reviews, but there are some negatives to throw in as well.  Ultimately, most gamers will have a sense of loyalty to one company and one company alone.  For me, it would be Nintendo, though I don't mind Sony products (I had a PlayStation 2 way back when).  Never have played an XBOX product, so I have no opinion either way.

What do you think, gamers?  What gaming systems do you play?  And, what were some of your favourite games to come out of this past year?

Well, coming up on tomorrow's blog, we're going to be polishing off our CD's, firing up our mp3 players, and downloading some iTunes cards onto our iPods and iPads, because we're going to be looking at the musical sounds of 2013!  Enjoy!