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Monday, September 30, 2013

Kindergarten Cop

Before I go ahead with today's Monday Matinee, I want to inform you of a recent purchase that I made,  One that will definitely impact any future Monday Matinees in this particular blog.

When I first started this blog, the inspiration behind what movies I featured in this space came from a variety of sources.  In most cases, the films were among some of my favourite movies, and I absolutely wanted to talk about them because I loved them so much.  Sometimes, I'd do a feature on a Sunday Jukebox single which happened to be a part of a soundtrack from a film - which would set the stage for the following Monday Matinee.

But the common thread behind all of my Monday Matinee choices were that I had to have seen the movie at least once in my life.

Well, as it so happens, I was getting a bit nervous because I was beginning to run out of ideas for movies that I could talk about.  I wanted to keep the feature going, as everybody loves watching movies, but at the same time, I didn't want to do a feature on a movie that I haven't seen.  I didn't want to do the film a disservice by trying to engage a discussion on a movie that I haven't watched.

Fortunately, my solution was found at the one place that I never expected it to be.  The electronics department at my workplace!

Up until recently, my only DVD player was the one that was included in my Sony PlayStation 2.  And for nearly seven years, it did what it was supposed to some of my favourite video games and movies.

But over time, the mechanisms in the PS2 began to fade, and while it still plays video games okay, the DVD function quit working.  Sure, the machine would start to play discs, but after five minutes, it would shut off and restart, which made watching a standard 90 minute film impossible to watch.

I knew that I needed to get a brand new DVD player at some point.  Fortunately, as luck would have it, they had Sony DVD players on sale for $35, and I thought...why not?

CONFESSION:  I actually had my eye on the Sony Blu-Ray players which were on for $68, but they were out of stock when I had the money to buy one, so I settled for the DVD Player.  I can go Blu-Ray another time.

So, where am I going with this story?  Well, I'm getting to that.

You see, DVD Players aren't the only things that you can buy in my department.  There is an entire section devoted to multi-movie features.  You know, those ones that have two to four feature films inside one case?  Most of those are quite inexpensive.  As well, there's a five dollar movie bin that has hundreds of films available for purchase for...say it with me...five.  Five dollar.  Five dollar footlongs...ah, erm...movies.

So, let's see.  Inexpensive DVD see where this is leading?

I thought that what I would do is just select a random movie from the five dollar bin, buy it (it's only five bucks, so what am I going to lose other than two hours of my time and five bucks), and then talk about it in the Monday Matinee!  At best, I introduce myself to a movie that I end up enjoying enough to add to my movie collection.

I'm also contemplating having contests where I take a Monday Matinee movie, review it, and offer the movie as a contest prize.  If this is something you would be interested in, let me know!  I've been wanting to do something to increase viewership here, and if offering free DVD's (well, slightly used ones, that is) as a prize will do the trick, then I'll try anything once!

Besides, the holiday season is coming up...and holidays are all about giving, right?

So anyway, today's featured selection happens to be one of the movies that I dug out of the five dollar movie bin!  And, no, I won't be offering up this movie as a prize because I actually kind of dig it...but again, let me know if you want to see me offer free swag on this blog.  I'm good for it!  Really!

I have to say, I don't really have too many memories of kindergarten.  All I remember from that time period is doing connect the dots puzzles with crayons, playing the Statue game in class, and dumping all of the jigsaw puzzles into the sandbox.

(I'll admit it.  I was a bratty, bratty child back then.)

Though I will readily admit that if my teacher were a six foot tall undercover police officer with an Austrian accent...well, I probably would have thought twice about misbehaving in class.  I most certainly would not have tried to bury every single jigsaw puzzle in the sand!

I mean, think about it.  Would YOU want to get on the wrong side of Arnold Schwarzenegger?

As you probably have guessed, we're going to be doing a feature on the 1990 film "Kindergarten Cop", directed by Ivan Reitman.  The film also starred Pamela Reed, Linda Hunt, Richard Tyson, Carroll Baker, and Penelope Ann Miller.

Now, the film itself unfortunately was not as well-received as the producers and directors believed that it would be.  I mean, yes, financially, the film made over two hundred million at the box office.  But when you look at some of the reviews for the film, some critics didn't find it funny, while other people called the film contrived.

Whatever though.  Those are just what a few critics have said.  I myself found the film good.  Although, part of me also feels old knowing that all of the kids who played the kindergarten aged children are between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-two nowadays!

Anyway, "Kindergarten Cop" might seem like a bit of an oxymoron to you.  The closest thing that we had to a kindergarten cop in my classroom was the hall monitor who made sure that we all had our jackets, hats, and outdoor shoes on before we went outside to play.

But then again, Detective John Kimble (Schwarzenegger) never expected to be going undercover at an elementary school.

As the film opens up though, we understand how this unlikely scenario unfolded.  Prior to the events of the film, Kimble has been on the hunt for drug dealer Cullen Crisp (Tyson) for several years.  Kimble finally feels as though he has his break for finally taking Crisp down as he is wanted for first degree murder.  Crisp shot and killed an informant after he gave Crisp information on the whereabouts of his wife, Rachel and his son, Cullen Crisp Jr.  Although there was a witness present when the murder went down, she also happens to be the girlfriend of the informant who happens to also be battling an addiction to serious drugs.  In short, there's no way that she could possibly testify in court and be believed.  As far as Kimble was concerned, the only way to put Crisp behind bars was to find Rachel and get her to testify against her ex-husband.

With the help of his partner, Detective Phoebe O'Hara (Reed), they manage to track down Rachel to a small town in Oregon named Astoria.  They reason that Rachel and her son are in a lot of danger not only because of the murder investigation, but because they suspect that Rachel actually stole a small fortune from Crisp before fleeing Los Angeles, and that she used the money to change the names of herself and her son and set up a new life in Astoria.  And since there's only one elementary school in Astoria, it stood to reason that Rachel would have enrolled her son in the school.  The original plan was for Phoebe to go undercover as a teacher at the school while Kimble did some research on where Rachel could possibly be.

But when Phoebe ended up getting sick and therefore unable to go to the school, Kimble is forced to take on the undercover job himself...which is the last thing that he wanted to do.

And, well...needless to say, his first introduction to the classroom full of kindergarten students didn't exactly go as planned.

No wonder the school principal (Hunt) was very suspicious of Kimble when he walked through the doors of Astoria Elementary School!

Fortunately, as time passed, Kimble began to grow into his new role.  Although some of the lessons he taught were specifically designed so that Kimble could find out more about who Rachel's child really was (i.e., the what does your mommy or daddy do for a living question), he found that he had a lot of fun teaching the kids everything that he knew.  He played with them, he introduced the class to his pet ferret which happened to become the class mascot, and he learned a valuable lesson in biology from one of his students.

Wisdom from the mouths of babes, huh?

If anything, he even gets the seal of approval from the principal of the school when he personally takes care of the abusive parent of one of his students...Kimble style.

I'll bet it felt awesome to hit know.

Anyway, while Kimble eventually develops a strong bond with his students by participating in their gym classes, blowing his police whistle, and reading them stories, there's one kid who piques his interest from the get-go.  Dominic Palmieri (Christian and Joseph Cousins in a dual role) seems to have developed a close bond with Kimble, likely spawned by the fact that Dominic's mother Joyce (Miller) happens to also be developing a closeness with Kimble.

But Kimble suspects that not everything is as it appears.  For one, Kimble notices that Joyce also works at the school as a teacher, and that she is particularly protective of Dominic.  For another, Joyce absolutely refuses to talk about her ex-husband or her previous life prior to moving to Astoria.  And lastly, Joyce can manage to afford a huge house outside of town for her and Dominic to live in while only taking home a teacher's salary (which from what I've heard isn't a whole lot in the United least, that was the case in 1990 anyway).

Kimble starts to put two and two together, and comes up with the conclusion that Joyce and Dominic are really Rachel and Cullen Crisp Jr.  And although Joyce is resistant to tell Kimble anything, she gradually reveals the whole story.  She was in an abusive relationship with Cullen Crisp and she didn't want to expose Dominic to Cullen's crimes.  She fled from the relationship and settled in Astoria - the home she lives in belonged to an old friend who told her she could live there in exchange for taking care of the home in their absence.  The only thing that Kimble was wrong about was that she did not take a penny from Crisp.  It was a lie that he purposely told in order to get his minions in the underworld to locate both of them easily.  Once Kimble learns the truth about Joyce/Rachel, he vows to protect them.  And Phoebe (who by now has recovered from her illness) is filled in on the story and she too also decides to keep a lookout to protect both of them from Cullen.

But when Cullen's mother Eleanor (Baker) murders the only other witness in the murder case, the case is overturned, and Cullen is set free.  He and his mother immediately descend on the community of Astoria, determined to grab Dominic and take care of Joyce once and for all.  By sneaking into the school under the guise of a parent who wishes to enroll a child at Astoria Elementary, he sets a small fire in the school library to get the ball rolling.  And amidst the chaos of shattering lights and sprinklers going off, Cullen successfully grabs his son and disappears into a school bathroom.  While all this is going on, Phoebe - who is trying to get inside the school - is hit by a car driven by Eleanor which temporarily knocks her out cold.

Luckily, John Kimble is still inside the school and he searches the entire area looking for Dominic.  But what happens when Kimble and Crisp come face to face...I'm not telling!

That's the story of how a police officer became a kindergarten teacher...and as the principal said it best, she didn't know what kind of a police officer he was, but he makes a good teacher.  And, one thing I will say about the final scene is that Kimble's final choices will tie everything together again, and show that deep down inside, the most hardened and jaded of police officers can be wooed by a simple hug, or the sound of laughter from a child.

Anyway, I found some trivia bits about this movie - some of which actually surprised me!

1 - Arnold Schwarzenegger was not the first choice for the lead role in Kindergarten Cop.  Patrick Swayze was approached, but turned it down as he was filming "Ghost" at the time.  Bill Murray was also considered for the role as was...wait for it...Danny DeVito!  Somehow, I don't think DeVito would have worked, even though I do love his acting.

2 - You may recognize some of the kids in Kimble's class.  One of them is Miko Hughes, who later went on to play the recurring role of Aaron Bailey in "Full House", and the twins are played by Tiffany and Krystle Mataras, who also featured in "Problem Child 2".

3 - The scene in which Kimble is speaking German as he carries someone into a house is somewhat naughty - translating the words into English reveals a couple of swears!

4 - Ivan Reitman's son Jason has a cameo in the movie.  Look for him during the fire scenes.

5 - Reitman also inserted a reference from one of his previous films in one of the scenes from "Kindergarten Cop".  Dominic's bedspread are "Ghostbusters" themed.

6 - This was the film debut of actress Odette Annable, who was just five years old at the time this film was released.  She played the role of Rosa, one of Kimble's students.

7 - Did you know that owning a pet ferret in California is illegal?  So, when Kimble was still living in California before relocating to Oregon, he was actually breaking the law!  In a twist of irony, Schwarzenegger actually supported the ferret ban while he was still Governor of California!

8 - Most of the film was filmed at real places within Astoria, Oregon.

9 - This is the first of two movies that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pamela Reed would star in together.  Reed also featured in the 1994 film "Junior", but her role was a lot smaller.

10 - Angela Bassett has a cameo role as a flight attendant in the film.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Remember The Time

All right. I know that I promised you all that every Sunday in September would feature a one-hit-wonder. But, for the final Sunday in September, I am going to be changing the rules, because as it so happens, the story that I really want to tell is going to be linked to a song that is anything but a one-hit-wonder.

Don't worry though. When you read my story for today, I think you'll understand.

Over the years, I've had many people come and go in my life. Some of them were just passing through, while others are people who I wish I had never crossed paths with in the first place.

And sometimes there are people who have made a huge impression in your life, disappeared for at least a decade or two, and as fate would have it, a situation arose in which you were reconnected with each other and it's like no time passed at all.

Allow me to show you some visual proof that such an event can happen.

The date was September 27, 2013. The time was 11:30 in the evening. The place was a little pub and grill called “The Barley Mow”, where the live music was playing, the eats were delicious, and the conversation flowed seamlessly. And up above, you will see a photo of myself and two of my friends from grade school. From left to right is Sarah, Orijit, and myself. And right off the bat, I can say three things about this photograph.

Number one...I have one humongous noggin! Seriously, I now understand why people in class always wanted me to sit in the back row! But in my defense, I am built just like my maternal grandfather. I guess the body structure skips a generation.

Number might notice that I seem to be somewhat winking in the shot. It's a combination of a bright flash bulb from the mobile phone that snapped the photo (taken by Sarah's boyfriend James, who also joined us) and the fact that it was quite late when the picture was taken.

Number you can see, we all had a blast!

Now, because I have been told by my pals that I apparently have a great memory, I want to share with you how I met both of these fine people.

In regards to Orijit, we've been friends for a quarter of a century. He transferred to our elementary school midway through our first grade year from Montreal, but I don't think it was until maybe the fourth grade that we started to become friends. We would always go off by ourselves over by the bleachers in our school playground and just chat about anything and everything that came through our heads during recess. After eighth grade graduation, we went to different high schools, and midway through high school he moved to a town that was a considerable distance away. As if by fate, we reconnected in university and resumed our friendship for two more years before I was the one who moved away. But we've remained friends ever since, and we still talk twenty-five years later.

Sarah, I believe moved to our school during second grade. And, again, it probably took some time before we really got to know each other (all three of us were sort of shy back in those days). I think that by sixth grade, our friendship was cemented. In fact, I have a confession. Sarah taught me how to slow dance at one of the first sixth grade dances we attended! Now, Sarah and I also attended different high schools after graduation, but in recent years, I have reconnected with her as well. Given that she has a job working at the town shopping mall, I tend to bump into her quite a bit!

In fact, we're actually making plans for next year to get back together again. And this time we're going to see if we can get a lot more of our former classmates together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the beginning of our eighth grade year.

(Holy hell...has it been twenty years already? Yikes!)

Seriously though, I think that it would be a hoot to get together with my elementary school classmates. I've always said that I would never, ever go to a high school reunion, and I still stand by that opinion even now, even though I would love to pull a "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" rant on some of the people there and tell them that they had "ugly hearts and that I didn't give a flying CENSORED what they thought.

But an elementary school class reunion? I'm so there.

The truth is that at the time we were all in elementary school, we were all stupid kids back then. We were all still trying to feel out what was right and what was wrong. We all made academic and social mistakes and learned from them, and we all became better adults for it.

(Well...most of us did, anyway.)

I certainly hope that the mini Class of 1995 reunion is a go, because I think we've all grown and changed so much. And I also think that we are all at an age where we can let bygones be bygones and just talk about the good memories and the good times.

So for today's blog entry, I decided to do a song that focused on the joy of remembering the good times, but was recorded during a time in which we were still in elementary school.

And, well...while none of us really did fall in love in elementary school...the song does kind of fit. So, without further adieu, let's hear it for the late Michael Jackson.

ARTIST: Michael Jackson
SONG: Remember The Time
ALBUM: Dangerous
DATE RELEASED: January 14, 1992

And yes...I was a Michael Jackson fan when I was in grade school. Still am actually, four years after his death in June 2009.

Now, I know that back in the days in which Michael Jackson was in his prime, he would have some of the most elaborate music videos of all time. In the case of this song, it certainly rings true, as the music video clocks in at just over nine minutes in length. You try finding a music video released within the last five years that matches that amount of time! But if you really just want to hear the song, just skip ahead to the three and a half minute mark.

(Well, unless you really want to see Eddie Murphy and Iman act in the role of Egyptian pharoah and bride, that is.)

Anyway, just to give you an indication as to how well the song performed globally, you already know that it peaked at #3 on the Billboard charts, but it also went #1 on the R&B charts in 1992. The song also peaked at #1 in New Zealand, and charted within the Top 10 in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. And, it was the nineteeth most requested song in 1992. I'd say that classifies as a hit, wouldn't you?

The song certainly fits in a high school or grade school reunion setting. After all, the song's main theme is remembering the good times. Remembering your first love. Remembering the good times that were shared. Remembering everything that made you friends in the first place.

And as it turns out, there was a lot of speculation over whom (if anyone) Michael Jackson wrote the song about.

Many believed that the song was about Debbie Rowe. If that name doesn't sound familiar to you, I'll refresh your memory. She is the mother of Michael Jackson's two eldest children, Prince and Paris, and she was Jackson's second wife, the two tying the knot in 1996 and splitting up three years later. It was speculated that Michael Jackson kicked off his relationship with Rowe right around the time that Jackson was recording his “Dangerous” album. It certainly was an interesting theory, but it was disproven by song co-writer Teddy Reilly, who explained on Twitter in 2011 that Debbie Rowe was not who the song was written for.

Well, how about Michael Jackson's first wife, Lisa Marie Presley? The two shocked people everywhere when they not only announced that they were in love, but tied the knot on May 18, 1994. The marriage certainly didn't last very long, but Lisa Marie did make a memorable appearance in Jackson's “You Are Not Alone” video. Alas, the song is not about Lisa Marie either, as Jackson and Presley were not together during the filming of this video.

Interestingly enough, when “Remember The Time” was released in January 1992, Jackson dedicated the single “with love” to Diana Ross, the lead singer of “Diana Ross and The Supremes” and a longtime friend of Jackson. To confirm this as truth, Jackson's brother Jermaine explained in his book “You Are Not Alone: Michael: Through a Brother's Eyes” that Michael told him that the song was “written for Diana Ross in mind; the one great love that, as far as he was concerned, escaped him”.

So according to Jermaine Jackson, Michael had a thing for the lead Supreme. Now, whether or not it is exactly the truth, or whether Jermaine was flat out embellishing the truth, I can't say. However, I do admit that I have to take some stock in it, given how close he was to Ross.

Though, by that logic, the song could very well be about Brooke Shields, or Elizabeth Taylor, or even Bubbles the chimp.

We may never know the real truth about who Michael Jackson wrote the song for (if anybody), but one thing you cannot deny. It is a fantastic song that still holds up some two decades later.

TRIVIA: It also happens to be one of the few Michael Jackson songs to chart during two different time periods in the United Kingdom. It did very well in the UK when it first debuted in 1992, but when Jackson passed away in 2009, the song re-charted on the UK charts that summer, peaking at #81.

I suppose it makes sense. Michael Jackson's music was huge during my childhood, and he was a big part of my life soundtrack. I never really did learn how to Moonwalk, nor could I mimic the zombie dance in the “Thriller” video, but I did like him a lot. Even through the allegations of child abuse and his bizarre way of living (which I attribute to the fact that he never really did have a childhood growing up), I still respected him for what he was first and foremost...a gifted musical artist, a talented dancer, and extraordinary songwriter. As far as I'm concerned, he earned his “King of Pop” title.

And, I think that's why I'm so grateful that I did have the opportunity to have a childhood. Was everything Brady Bunch like? Absolutely not. There were some really dark times in my childhood history that I would rather not relive. But there were some very good memories about it as well.

And some of those memories were shared two nights ago with two childhood friends at a little place known as the Barley Mow.

Whether we choose to admit it or not, our childhood memories shaped us into the people we all became. As children some of us were more emotional than other children (this DEFINITELY held true for me), but as adults we learn to figure things out and adapt. As children, some of us are stronger than others, but as adults, we take our strengths and we use them to our advantage so that we can help other people find theirs. And as adults, sometimes holding on to the good memories that we had with each other as kids is all we have to hold onto when life decides to throw a curveball towards us.

Even if those memories involve riding on a Tilt-A-Whirl at the Great Balloon Rodeo in the pouring rain, calling a teacher by his first name and getting detention for it, getting kicked out of gym class for defending yourself to a less than understanding gym teacher, or working together on class projects to create something extraordinary...those are the memories that made

Do you remember the time?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

OWL Magazine and Dr. Zed Memories

This is the last Saturday in September, and I'm thinking to myself...where the heck did this month go? I mean, I know September only has thirty days to begin with, but it seems to me that this month went by quickly.

Then again, as I get older, every month seems to go very quickly. The joys of aging. Gotta love it.

Anyway, if you've been following along with this blog over the last couple of months, you know that the fourth Saturday in the month is devoted towards print publications and books.

And for today's subject, I thought that I would take a look at a magazine that I used to read in my youth.

I have a story to tell you though before I continue on with this topic.

I'll be honest with you. Science has never ever been my strong point. In high school alone, I never bothered taking biology, I had some difficulty with chemistry class, and physics gave me such a major headache that I ended up dropping the class after nineteen days. I mean, the good thing about it was that I never once received an “F” grade in high school, but the bad thing was that I graduated high school without ever having a keen understanding of science related subjects.

It wasn't the fact that I absolutely hated science. I thought that science was very interesting. And as someone who absolutely loved learning, I really did want to grasp the concepts, and I really did want to get more out of it. Instead I left science class feeling more confused than ever before, and I was thinking that I was a complete idiot because there was no way that I would ever understand scientific concepts. It's the reason why I never followed through to be an electrical engineer, a physicist, a surgeon, or even the guy who installs disco lights inside of music clubs.

Now, I know that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses in this world, and I know that there is always one thing that try as we might, we will never be good at. For me, it happens to be the maths and sciences. But was it really because I was stupid, or was it because I wasn't taught it the right way?

In all the years that I had science class, I only remember one or two teachers who actually made science class fun. My theory was that the more interesting the class was, the more I took out of it. My grade eleven chemistry teacher was one of those teachers who made learning fun. Even though I could not understand the mathematics behind balancing chemical equations (which lead to my lower than average mark in the subject), I was a master at doing lab reports. And I will say that the lab experiments that we performed in chemistry class were quite a lot of fun. I think I got more out of doing the experiments rather than reading about them in a textbook.

Similarly, when I was in elementary school, we had the team known as ScienceQuest come in and demonstrate lots of fun experiments. We even got to take part in some of the experiments ourselves, which included everything from building the perfect building to making our own slime, to watching homemade pyrotechnics right inside the classroom.

Really, the only thing I didn't like about the ScienceQuest days were the experiments involving popping balloons because of the loudness of the pop. Needless to say, hydrogen makes a bigger bang than oxygen. And, yes, the kids in my school cruelly taunted me about that little fear for years to come.

Here's a note to some of those lovely sixth graders who harassed me by trying to pop balloons in my face at recess. I still want an apology. I'm not likely to get it, but I'm just putting it out there.

Oh, and then there was that time in which I was chosen to attend a workshop for environmental protection and education for a couple of days while I was in the fourth grade. I believe that it was known as the “Catch-A-Star” program. I was only one of six students who were chosen to attend the program, so it was truly an honour to represent the school in that manner.

Basically the program took students between the ages of nine and twelve and enrolled them in a series of activities that helped us learn more about how we could protect and preserve our environment (for reference, I want to state that my fourth grade year was from September 1990 to June 1991, which is right around the time when Earth Day was experiencing a renaissance of sorts). In fact, I actually remember when I went to the program because I was just about to turn ten, putting the Catch-A-Star event taking place in May 1991.

We actually got to choose four activities from a list of what seemed like two dozen. And each program was run by an expert in the field. Even though it's been twenty-two years since fourth grade, I still remember the activities I took part in. I designed my own T-shirt using earth-friendly fabric paints. I played a bunch of outdoor games where we learned more about the environment and animal habitats. And, for some reason, I decided to sign up for the course where we made our own compost. It was fun, but I have to admit that I wished I had selected a cleaner option.

And then there was program number four. A meet and greet with a man by the name of Gordon Penrose. But most of us kids knew him best as Dr. Zed, the creator of Magic Mud and other science experiments. He was basically an older, Canadian version of Bill Nye, the Science Guy. He wrote dozens of science experiment books (some of which I remember performing as a kid), and at the age of nearly ten, he was the closest version of a celebrity that I recall meeting in my young life. He knew what he was talking about, he made learning about science fun, and I have to admit that I completely idolized him. I even remember that he did ask me if I wanted to go up and touch the Magic Mud he made while he was there, but I refused. Many of the kids looked at me as if I was crazy for giving up an opportunity like that, but the truth was that if I played with the Magic Mud, I would have to leave the room for a few minutes to wash up, and I did not want to miss a single minute of seeing Dr. Zed performing his science experiments.

And everyone who ever read the magazine in which Dr. Zed would have a monthly column knew exactly who he was. I certainly loved the magazine enough to have a subscription to the magazine for almost six years.

(Part of me kind of wishes that I had stayed subscribed to that magazine through high school though. It may have made me understand the science concepts more!)

That magazine is a magazine that is known as “OWL Magazine”, a magazine which has been in print for nearly thirty-eight years, and the subject of this blog.

Now, OWL Magazine back in the days when I first started reading it (I actually won a free subscription to the magazine in December 1989 as part of a Christmas giveaway and kept renewing my subscription every year until 1995), was printed ten times a year. But the very first issue of OWL Magazine was printed all the way back in January 1976! Here's the cover of the debut issue below.

The mascot of OWL Magazine is of course, an owl. But the magazine itself is not about just owls. In fact, I didn't know this until just recently, but the letters in the word “OWL” actually stand for “Outdoors” and Wild Life”. Get it? OWL!

That's because when the magazine first started, it focused solely on wildlife, animals, and outdoor science. The bulk of the magazine featured articles on exotic and endangered animals, areas of the world that had beautiful scenery, and lots of puzzles and games about the various subjects that were featured in that month's magazine. As time progressed, the magazine became more science based, incorporating biology, zoology, chemistry, physics, computer science, and geography into the pages of the magazine. There were also various jokes inserted into the magazine, as well as monthly features.

Among the monthly features were of course, Dr. Zed's wonderful science experiments. The formula for magic mud was inside one of the magazines, of course. But there were other experiments that I can remember. You could use a solution of soap to build your own bubble cities, or you could use an eyedropper filled with water to break down all of the different colours of ink that make up a black marker. In fact, there was an experiment in OWL Magazine where you could make your own organic ketchup! I never did get around to trying that recipe out, but it looked very intriguing!

Oh, for the record, if you want to try and make magic mud for yourselves, guess who found the recipe for magic mud! It's so simple to make. All you need is cornstarch, water, a couple of mixing bowls, spoons, and small measuring containers. All you have to do is mix the right ratio of cornstarch and water (two parts cornstarch to one part water), and maybe add in a little bit of food colouring for colour, and voila!

Of course, Dr. Zed's experiments weren't the only selling points for OWL Magazine.

The Mighty Mites were also a huge part of the magazine. The original series featured three kids named Mark, Nick, and Sophie who had the ability to shrink down in size to investigate things a lot closer. They got to ride around on bugs, they got to wade through jungles of green grass, and in one memorable story, the three kids actually shrunk down in size and swam through a plant stem to answer the question of how flowers stayed alive inside a vase of water. It was really cool to see the kids experience science in a way that most nobody else could.

But then I saw “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids”, and thought to myself that maybe shrinking down to experience the world wasn't such a great idea.

Another thing that I remember was the “End of Year” issues. Those issues would always have a cover date of January, and they would essentially be a recap of the past year, or it would be a special themed issue. Sometimes these issues would be devoted towards questions that were asked by OWL Magazine club members (known affectionately as the HOOT Club), and a team of scientists and experts would answer some of these questions within the pages of the magazine. Some of these issues would do an entire feature on a particular animal, and there would be a lot of activities based around this animal.

And, for some reason, I recall the January 1990 issue vividly. It was a retrospective of the decade known as the 1980s, as well as featuring predictions as to what life would be like in the 1990s. I actually still wish I had that issue, because it really was interesting to note what predictions people made back in 1990, and whether or not any of those predictions actually came true.

Some of them absolutely did. Many readers in 1990 believed that the world would become more technologically accessible. Certainly with the amounts of tablets, smart phones, laptops, and Skype, we're more connected (and in some cases, disconnected) to each other than ever before. I know that in 1990, I never expected that I would have a blog by 2013, but here we are!

Some predictions have not come true as of yet, but work is being done to make them come true as I type this out. In 1990, for instance, many people believed that AIDS would be a thing of the past by the time we reached the 21st century. While there's technically no cure for the virus right now, there have been cases of people who have lived full and productive lives since getting diagnosed as being HIV positive. Medical research and technology has improved the quality of life for people who have the virus, and I wouldn't be surprised if a full cure can be found within the next twenty-five or fifty years.

OWL Magazine celebrated their 35th anniversary in January 2011, and as of 2013 shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, two other spin-off magazines, “Chickadee” and “Chirp” were founded in 1979 and 1997 respectively following the success of OWL Magazine. Chickadee and Chirp are sort of like OWL Magazine except the target audience was directed towards a younger crowd (between the ages of three and nine).

And, the magazine was so successful that in 1985, a television series named “OWL-TV” was aired on both CBC and CTV, as well as a French-language version known as “Tele-HIBOU”. You can watch the intro below.

You know, it's been years since I read OWL Magazine, but if I am ever lucky enough to have children of my own, I would completely introduce them to this magazine. After nearly thirty-eight years in publication, it's outlasted other competing magazines for a reason. It's educational and fun! What better combo is there?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Mr. Feeny Meets World

Before I launch into today's blog entry, I am going to state that I am really astonished that I have never done an entry on this television show before. It surprises me because I remember watching this show as a pre-teen and teenager. It certainly was a show that could be considered part sitcom/part coming of age drama. The show certainly had its funny moments where you would be rolling around on the floor in hysterics...but it also had some real tragedy and drama mixed into it. It was a sitcom that dealt with topics that no other sitcom really ever tackled and for the main characters of the program, they ended up going through some really serious issues that helped them grow into better adults.

Certainly, that was the case with the star of the show. In the show we saw him mature from a bratty and sarcastic twelve year old boy into a mature and responsible married twentysomething year old man. We watched him survive sixth grade, high school, and the first few years of college along with his older brother, younger siblings, best friend, and girlfriend (who later became wife). The road to success was not always easy for this person, but he had a really good support system that really kept him on the straight and narrow.

But would you believe that his biggest influence was not from a peer or a parent, but from a person who was there for him every step of the way as an educator?

How many of you have actually had the same teacher twice? Think about it for a second. Most of us have had the same teacher for a semester or a year (depending on whether you're in grade school or secondary school), but as soon as that year was up, you probably said your goodbyes and never looked back. I know that in my years of school, having the same teacher was a rarity. In my elementary school, I never had the same teacher twice. In high school, having the same teacher was always a possibility (one that happened at least twice or thrice), but it wasn't always guaranteed.

Now, imagine having the same person for your sixth grade teacher, your high school principal, your college professor - and as revealed in one episode of this series, your kindergarten teacher! And to top it off, this person also happens to live right next door from your house! How would you feel about that?

Well, for Cory Matthews, Eric Matthews, Topanga Lawrence, and Shawn Hunter, the odds were definitely stacked in their favour, as all four of these people had this situation happen to them. And luckily enough, their experience with this man was one hundred per cent positive. By the end of the series, the bond that these four young people shared with this man was absolutely unbreakable. As far as I'm concerned, this man could very well be nominated as “Best Sitcom Teacher Ever”...and win!

The television show was the long-running ABC sitcom “Boy Meets World”, which ran for seven seasons between September 24, 1993 and May 5, 2000. And, the teacher in question is...well...let's let Eric Matthews introduce him to us.

Today's blog subject will focus on the fictional educator known as Mr. George Feeny, played memorably by the voice of “Knight Rider”'s KITT, William Daniels.

And let's put it out there. He was there every step of the way for Cory (Ben Savage), Topanga (Danielle Fishel), Shawn (Rider Strong), and Eric (Will Friedle)...even more so than their parents, if you can believe it!

Of course, at first glance, you might not have believed that Mr. Feeny would have become anyone's favourite teacher. If anything, when I first started watching this show as a twelve year old boy, I was one who initially didn't care for Mr. Feeny's teaching style. He piled on the homework, he was very strict when it came to how his students should behave in class, and he always called his students by their last name instead of their first. And if there was ANYTHING I hated more in school, it was when my teacher would call me by my last name.

Well, except for that one year where there were six Matthews in my class...then and only then did it become acceptable.

Of course, that's not to say that Mr. Feeny didn't try to make his students appreciate a love of learning. He tried his best to get through to Cory, Shawn, Topanga, and Stuart Minkus (Lee Norris). Of course, Cory and Shawn were never really interested in completing homework assignments and science projects. They were more interested in playing sports, video games, and generally goofing off. I can imagine that it must have been very frustrating for any teacher to have to deal with students who are self-admitted slackers.

The thing is that Mr. Feeny never really did lose his temper with his students. He never called them out in class, or kicked them out of the classroom, or threatened to throw a blackboard eraser or textbook at them.

(You laugh at that last part, but I actually had a teacher who made that threat to another student in my classroom.)

In fact, the only time that I ever really saw Mr. Feeny lose his temper on the show was when he was PROTECTING his students. To Mr. Feeny, education was his life, and he spent several decades teaching his many students reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Oh, but those were just the lessons needed to pass from grade to grade. As far as life lessons, he taught his students more...way more than what was expected of any teacher.

I mean, if you want a perfect example of what I mean, just take a look at the pilot episode of the series, which aired on September 24, 1993. As the episode begins, Mr. Feeny gives Cory a session of detention after he smuggled a portable radio into class to listen to a baseball game. But according to Cory, his defense was that Mr. Feeny was teaching the class about love and how important it is in their lives, and to Cory, he didn't see how love was all that wonderful. How could it be wonderful when his older brother decided to take his girlfriend to a baseball game instead of him? Of course, while serving detention, Mr. Feeny has a talk with Cory and convinces him not to treat Eric so harshly, and later on in the episode when Eric has a fight with his girlfriend, it is Cory who takes Feeny's words to heart and convinces Eric to give her another chance.

Of course, Mr. Feeny also happened to teach Cory lessons in responsibility. Mr. Feeny switched places with Cory during a teacher/student swap exercise where Cory learned that Mr. Feeny's job was not as easy as he initially thought. When Cory is depressed about making the school basketball team's B-squad, he initially feels as though his whole family is disappointed and skips out on the game. But after a talk with Mr. Feeny, not only is Cory's self-confidence restored, but he gets to play in the game after all! And later on in the series when Cory pushes a faculty member of the college who tried to hit on Topanga, and the faculty member threatens to kick him out of college, Mr. Feeny acts as Cory's lawyer in student court.

And I think that Mr. Feeny's approach with his students also helped them earn their respect as well. When Cory learned of a plan by some of the students in his high school that they were going to vandalize Mr. Feeny's house as retaliation for his tough exam schedule, Cory, Topanga, and Shawn all stood up to the crowd. They got there too late to prevent the crowd from making a mess out of the school's parking lot, but the three of them stayed behind to help Mr. Feeny clean it up.

I believe that Mr. Feeny was also quite touched at the level of compassion that Cory showed following the death of their beloved high school lunch lady. Cory came up with an idea for the whole school to pay their respects. After all, according to Cory, the lunch lady had nine hundred children who wanted nothing more than to pay their respects to her. And that's exactly what they did. I gotta admit, the last scene which showed all the students marching through the funeral parlor carrying lunch trays filled with roses that they were going to leave on top of the gets me every time.

Here's a list of some of the other things that Mr. Feeny did for Cory and his pals. When you tally everything up, you'll see why everyone thought that Mr. Feeny was a wonderful teacher and friend.

Let's see. Well, there was the time that Eric was rejected from getting into college and how his whole life spun out of control. He consistently tried everything possible to seek the easy way out, but Mr. Feeny knew that Eric had more in him than he even believed possible. With Mr. Feeny's guidance – in addition to Cory and Topanga's consistent badgering of him – Eric was convinced to take the PSAT's over again and give college another chance.

Shawn ended up getting involved in a cult while he was in high school as a result of him believing that he had a hard time fitting in anywhere. Despite Cory and Topanga trying to convince him not to join, Shawn finds the idea too tempting. But when one of his favourite teachers, Mr. Turner, gets critically injured in a motorcycle accident, and Shawn is left questioning everything he ever believed in, Mr. Feeny is among one of the first people who stands up for Shawn, and with his assistance, Shawn realizes that he has more people he can count on than ever before.

And, Mr. Feeny managed to find a way to reconcile the friendships and relationships of Cory and his pals by locking them in a classroom and tries to get them to write their feelings about each other on a sheet of paper. But when the friends spend more time bickering with each other leading to one of them storming out, Feeny is worried that he was too late. But amazingly, Mr. Feeny's plot to unite all of the friends works out, and Eric reads aloud his paper, which gets everyone else talking to each other again.

That sheet of paper read “Lose one friend, lose all friends, lose yourself”. Very wise words.

And, I think that of all the people who supported Cory's relationship with Topanga the most, it was Mr. Feeny. Mr. Feeny gave both of them some wonderful advice over the years. Whether it was advice to Cory about treating Topanga with respect, or whether it was advice to Topanga over not letting things end on a sour note, I do believe that Mr. Feeny was a key factor in making sure that Cory and Topanga's relationship stayed strong, which inevitably lead up to their wedding towards the end of the series.

Even Mr. Feeny ended up finding love and romance himself, falling in love with the Dean of the college that he began teaching at! And, naturally, none were more supportive of his marriage than Cory, Shawn, Topanga, and Eric.

So, naturally, when it came down to how the show was going to end, it was only fitting that the show would conclude in the same place where it all Cory's sixth grade classroom. You see, Cory, Topanga, Shawn, and Eric were all heading off in their own separate directions, and they wanted to say goodbye to their teacher, mentor, and friend in their own way. So, reuniting at their old elementary school, the four ask Mr. Feeny for one final lesson to send them off. Below is that lesson.

Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good.” I think I need to tattoo those words onto my person at some point in my life.

Of course, Mr. Feeny would never admit to his students that he had his favourites. And he would NEVER go against his own belief that the relationship between a student and teacher is a line that should never be crossed. So, his students could only express how they felt about him.

Topanga told Mr. Feeny that she would never forget him and that he was more of a father to her than her own father. Shawn told Mr. Feeny that he was the greatest man he ever knew and that he appreciated the fact that he never gave up on him. Although he would tell Mr. Feeny that he blamed him for it, Eric appreciated the fact that Mr. Feeny taught him how to be a good, caring person and that he would be that person forever.

And as for Cornelius “Cory” Matthews...well, the friendship between those two was the strongest of all. Cory told Mr. Feeny that regardless of where they were, or how old they got, that he would always be with them every step of the way.

And as the curtain closed on “Boy Meets World”, Mr. Feeny looks at the empty classroom, and silently admits the one thing that he refused to admit to his students.

I love you all. Class dismissed."

And so wraps up "Boy Meets World".  But what's really cool is that a sequel show entitled "Girl Meets World" is set to debut sometime in 2014, which sees Cory and Topanga's daughter entering the world of junior high school.  It's not confirmed whether Mr. Feeny will be a part of that television show...but wouldn't it be awesome if he was?

Here's hoping!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The "Fall" Guy

I had a hard time coming up with a topic for today's Thursday Diary, so I'm just going to wing it for today.  Hope you don't mind if my train of thoughts seem to take a detour around Albuquerque every now and again!

September 26, 2013

As I sit here typing this out, it is just past midnight on the morning of September 26, 2013.  The temperature is very fall like...I'd estimate it at being roughly four or five Celsius, which for late September is sadly around seasonal here in Canada.

(Apparently in Canada, half the year is winter, don't you know!)

To be completely honest with you, I have to admit that autumn is probably my all-time favourite season.  The air is crisp, the leaves change colours, and with Thanksgiving and Halloween just around the corner (remember, in Canada we celebrate both of those holidays in October).  Mind you, the fall also brings forth a lot of bittersweet memories as my wonderful grandmother passed away almost twenty-two years ago just before Halloween.  But on the other hand, my mom's birthday is in November, and my niece is turning seventeen tomorrow, so there are a lot of good fall memories in my family.

Seriously.  I am what you call a "fall guy".  The period between late September and early December is probably my favourite time of year.  Ever.  

Summer's okay, but it's actually my least favourite of the four seasons if for no other reason than the fact that I am NOT a fan of intense heat.  Seriously, I probably perspire enough on a summer day to fill up an empty bottle of water at least a quarter of the way up.  It's not a pretty sight.  In fact, it's probably one of the main reasons why I don't like summer as much as most other people probably do.  Sure, the sun is out, and there's lots of fun stuff to get done, but at the same time the humidity does not work well with me.  When I worked seasonal this past summer, it wasn't uncommon for my entire shirt to be soaked with sweat every single shift.  I do wish I was born with the genetics that prevented me from sweating so much, but alas, it was not meant to be.

I'm okay with Spring in some ways.  Spring temperatures are a lot like fall temperatures.  And, my birthday just happens to be during the Spring, so that's another plus.

The big minuses of Spring?  The rain.  Lots and lots of rain!  And pollen.  Lots and lots of pollen.  

Did I mention that I have a severe allergy to tree pollen?  This means that you can usually find me blowing my schnozz into an entire box of Kleenex between the months of March and June.  Yeah, I'm okay with Spring, but I am not in love with it.

Surprisingly enough, I don't mind Winter all that much.  I guess if I have but one complaint about Winter, it's that sometimes we get massive snowfalls which can cause massive headaches for both motorists and pedestrians.  I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've almost gotten run over in supermarket parking lots because a driver almost hit me while trying to drive in the snow.  But as far as temperatures go, they don't bother me at all.

After all, I DID work in a department for several years where the temperature hovered around the freezing mark every single day.

But I have to be the first one to admit that I have a soft spot for fall.  There's just so much about fall that I absolutely love.

For instance, some of my favourite holidays happen to be within the autumn season.  Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays because you reflect back on all that you have, and try to find some gratitude in everything in your life.  Granted, this can be somewhat of a challenge for some people, but if anything, it's a good opportunity to be thankful for eating roast turkey, baked ham, pumpkin pie (though I'm more of a cake person), and other seasonal favourites that you can only have once or twice a year.

I've also been a fan of Halloween as well, and I was definitely the kid who would start trick-or-treating at five in the afternoon and stay out until almost ten.  How often was it that the people in your neighbourhood would dole out free candy to any child who came around?  Not very.  I also have a love for scary (not to be confused with gory) movies.  I could literally watch any Stephen King movie adaptation, Alfred Hitchcock classic, or even It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown over and over again!

(In fact, stay tuned to this blog for the month of October, as I have an entire month filled with spooky scary topics!  You won't want to miss it!)

Fall is also a great time to kick back and watch television.  During the last two weeks of September and the first week of October, we would be able to watch all new episodes of all of our favourite shows.  September is typically when television series would debut their brand new seasons (well, with the exceptions of "Dexter" and "Breaking Bad", which saw (or will see) September series finales.  I remember being a kid looking through the TV Guide around this time of year, wondering how all of my favourite television shows would kick off their brand new seasons.

And the second Saturday in September was always reserved for television viewing.  There was no way that I was missing the brand new Saturday morning cartoon line-up for the world!  

What else is grand about fall?  Fall is the time of year in which farmer's markets and festivals are always seemingly at their height in popularity.  Fall brings forth lots of craft shows, pie-baking festivals, hay rides, and ghost walks.  I also hear that fall is a perfect time to host a murder mystery dinner theatre...and as you might know, one of the things on my bucket list is to attend one of these events.  

And what little kid didn't love running through piles of fallen leaves in the backyard?  Of course, the parents probably didn't appreciate their children throwing leaves all around after they spent the last two hours raking them all up...but again, to that I state that it is a rite of passage to throw leaves up in the air and make leaf angels.  I still remember countless art projects where we would grab the biggest leaf we could find, glue it onto a piece of construction paper, and turn the leaf into something else.  

I have to say that I made the best looking leaf ladybug that anyone had ever seen.  I was just lucky that my elementary school playground had a lot of trees nearby.

I guess if there was only one thing I didn't like about fall, it was the fact that I had to go back to school and face all of the people who used to make fun of me in the playground.  But that was many years ago, and I never have to see those people again if I choose not to!  Everything's gravy, baby!

So, that's my little essay on my favourite time of year.  I am a "fall guy", and make no apologies for it.

Now I turn the page over to let you have a turn.

What is your favourite season?