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Friday, February 28, 2014

Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty - Which One Am I?

Can you believe that February ends today?  Yes, I'm well aware of the fact that February has been and always will be the shortest month of the entire year (unless you do an April Fools Day Joke where April is only one day, and May is extended into a sixty day month), but to me it just seems to have flown by at an excruciatingly fast speed.

Or, maybe it's because I'm just getting older, and time only seems to be passing up by really quickly.  Who can say, really?

At any rate, welcome to February 28.  And, for today's blog topic, we're going to do things a little bit differently.  Although Fridays in general are normally about everything that has to do with television, this week is going to focus less on television and more on commentary.

I suppose the best way to describe this blog entry is a merging of a Thursday Diary blog and a Friday Night In TV Guide blog.

And to begin today's entry off, a confession.  And, this is a confession that is probably going to make some of you roll your eyes in disgust, stick your tongue out and blow me a raspberry, or simply click off the blog in disgust so that you can slave away for hours trying to master Level 107 in "Candy Crush Saga".

I am a fan of the reality television series "Survivor", and have watched every episode of every season since its debut on May 31, 2000.

Now, granted, I realize that the idea of reality television is quite contrived, because never does television really ever capture a true sense of what reality is.  Certainly, there are many instances in the game of "Survivor" that are extremely contrived.  Chances are that if you're truly stranded on a deserted island with nothing but the clothes on your back, you're not going to win the chance to eat gourmet dinners or other rewards just because you can solve a puzzle and throw gigantic coconuts in a makeshift basketball hoop.  And, let's face immunity idol won't prevent you from starving to death in the middle of a jungle where thousands of species of beast, insect, and reptile plot to make you their next delicious meal.

However, I don't watch "Survivor" for the whole survival aspect.  The first couple of seasons were fine for that, but as the show evolved through the years into what is now the show's twenty-eighth season, seeing the various human interactions became more interesting to me.  It was interesting to see just how some people grew stronger when placed in a setting that was completely unlike anything they were used to...and how others completely fell apart.  How some people tried to stay true to their morals, ethics, and values, while others would stab you in the back while simultaneously shaking your hand in a sweetheart deal.

I've also come to the conclusion that after watching the show for all this time that I would not make a very good contestant on the show.  Not because I couldn't handle being outside in inclement, unpredictable weather with hardly any food to eat for thirty-nine days (though I admit that I would have a hard time adapting), but because I couldn't deal with the social game.  If I weren't the first one voted off, I would probably be second or third.

But, that said, I'm only saying this because I've never been in a situation like the one faced by the contestants who play the game.  I imagine that my frame of mind might end up being completely different from how I am on a day-to-day basis.  We never really know how we'll act when placed in a situation that is outside of our comfort zone until it actually happens.

Why, we might go into the game identifying ourselves as one kind of person, only to find ourselves becoming someone else in hopes of getting through the game.

For instance, take the current season which just debuted on CBS two days ago.  "Survivor: Cagayan" takes eighteen Americans and divides them up into three distinct tribes based on the definition that they best feel describes them - from a societal viewpoint, of course.  Actually, with that description, it kind of makes for a wicked sociological experiment.

The three tribes are Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty.  Mind you, all of the tribes will likely be split up and divided and merged again during the run of the season, but in the early stages of the game, the season attempts to answer one question.  In a game of survival, which quality means the most?  Brawn, brains, or beauty?

And, it got me thinking...if I were cast in this year's edition of the game, which quality would I best identify myself with?  Some might suggest that they are one hundred per cent brawn, while others see themselves as a more well-rounded person with an equal thirty-three and a third percent of each quality.

Well, I'm going to do a little bit of speculation, based on what I think would likely happen had I been cast in this season.  Which tribe would I likely be put on...which tribe I should be put on...and hypothetically gauging what shot I have at winning based on which tribe I ended up on (keeping in mind that I would likely NEVER win the game).

First, let's talk about the beautiful people.  The beauty tribe (pic above) consists of the team of Brice, Jeremiah, LJ, Alexis, Jefra, and Morgan is made up of former models, cheerleaders, beauty contestants, and other occupations that only the truly beautiful need apply.

That's outer beauty.  Not inner beauty.  At this point in time, it's hard to say whether any of our castaways this time around have any sort of inner beauty at all, but we shall soon see.  But I'm sure that for some of the castaways who happen to be on the beautiful tribe, they think that they can use that beauty to charm the pants off of someone else and get them to do whatever they want.  They're like those Lamia enemies in "Final Fantasy IV", where they surround your allies with hearts and make them turn against you by poking you with arrows, axes, and swords.

Whatever the case, do I see myself joining the beautiful people on the beauty tribe?  Hell no!

I mean, I realize that beauty is subjective, and that every single person in the world has their own idea of what beauty is...but if we're solely talking about outer beauty, I would be a complete failure, and in all honesty would not last past the first round.  I might have a lot of inner beauty, but I lack the six-pack abs, perfect teeth, and perfectly coifed hair to meet society's definition of beauty.  Personally, I think that's a real shame, but again, this is society here...and well, in this case, I'm sort of happy to be anti-social. 

Ahem...moving on to the brainy people.

The brains of the Survivor operation (pic above) consist of J'Tia, Kass, Tasha, David, Garrett, and Spencer, and well, if you watched the premiere of the season on February 26, you know that these guys are not meshing well at all.  They might have an average IQ of 130, but they have a CSQ (my own personal abbreviation for Common Sense Quotient) of negative sixty-five!  Two of the tribe members were voted off (one who still held onto a hidden immunity idol), and to add insult to injury, they were voted off over the woman who destroyed most of the tribe's food supply!  Certainly not a great start to the game, eh, brainiacs?

I mean, perhaps the tribe might still have some fire left in them.  Perhaps if they can decide to let go of their past animosities and use those brains that they have been gifted with to actually win a challenge, they might be able to stay in the game.  But, I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.

Though, it does pose an interesting question.  Would I fit in with the slowly deteriorating Brains tribe?


I never did reveal this before on here because I always saw the measurement of IQ to be absolutely ridiculous, but just for the heck of it, I did take an IQ test a few years ago, and I can tell you that it is over 110, but less than 140.  So, by all accounts, this would make me fit well with the other members of the tribe.  And, I suppose if you look at it, I do remember lots of kids coming up to me and asking me if I could help them spell words (i.e., I would tell them how to spell it, and they would literally copy off of my paper).  Made them look smart, but made me kind of feel foolish in the process.  Thankfully, I've grown a little smarter and wiser over the years, and I think that I might have a shot with the brainy tribe.

Well, provided that I come up with enough common sense for the whole bunch.  Seriously, these guys have a LOT to prove.

But, if I had to choose a tribe that I think that I could fit in with flawlessly< I think that it would have to be the tribe pictured below.

The Brawn Tribe.  Consisting of Cliff, Tony, Woo, Lindsey, Sarah, and Trish.  I think that if I were to have the best shot of making it a long way in the game (at least to the jury stage because as I said before, I have no shot of winning this game), I would have to be on this tribe. 

Believe me, I never thought that I would have belonged on this tribe a few years ago.  I honestly would have assumed that I would have been on the brain tribe for sure.  But over the years, I've become a lot stronger person - both emotionally and physically.  Lifting heavy things in the garden centre and on store standards off and on for the past nine years will do that to you.  I think I have enough physical strength to handle some of the physical challenges (some, not all).  And, more importantly, I think I have the mental strength to keep fighting and going on.

You see, a lot of people don't seem to realize that brawn is not limited to physical strength.  To me, I feel that mental strength can also be brawny in a way.  If you have any sort of feeling that you are going to have an emotional breakdown, that could impact not just your game, but your whole life as well. 

Take it from someone who has had more than his fair share of emotional breakdowns over the years.

But just looking at all of the tribes that are featured this year on "Survivor", I honestly think that the best fit for me would be the "brawn" tribe anyway.  The beauty tribe I find to be very self-conscious, and it appears to me that they might seem a little more high-maintenance than I can really handle.  Believe me when I tell you that I am low-maintenance at best.

And, while I do consider myself to be on the intelligent side, I am one who doesn't really brag about it.  I certainly wouldn't make the claim that I can build a shelter because I am the smartest one because truth be told, I can't even disassemble a display model of a piece of furniture in the store I work at.  To me, the brains tribe seems too cocky - especially since they have been consistently losing each challenge.

But the brawn tribe...there's not really any of that.  I mean, sure, at some point, all teams are going to backstab each other, but at this point - with one notable exception - the team seems to be meshing very well, making decisions that will help make the tribe stronger to get through the first few challenges.  And, really, if you're going to get through the game's early stages, you're going to need a strong team.

I also think that I could be friends with nearly every single person on the Brawn tribe because they know what hard work really is.  They know the importance of using their strengths to their advantage.  And, honestly, they seem like really cool people who aren't obsessed over looks, or try to one up each other.  It's a formula that for now seems to be working for them, and I'm kind of hoping that they can make it to the end.

(Especially Cliff...since, you know, I have him in a pool that I've entered.)

So, what do I see myself as?  Brawn, Brains, or Beauty?  Well, I think I'm a combo of brawn and brains.  Beauty is debatable.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Finding Answers...One Way Or Another

Okay, here we go with another edition of the Thursday Video Blog Entry (or Vlog, as the cool kids call it), and well...this edition of the blog was completely unexpected.

Let's just say that it is my most candid blog entry to date.

But before I post today's video, I do want to make a couple of clarifications...beginning with a correction.

Firstly, I mistakenly stated that the video was filmed after midnight.  It really wasn't.  It was filmed at around eleven.  I know that technically, it's only an hour difference, but I guess that I am a little bit ahead of schedule when it comes to daylight savings time

(March 9, in case you were wondering.  It's the bad kind of time change where we lose an hour instead of gaining one, just so you know.)

And, secondly, I just wanted you to know that this whole blog entry was done at the spur of the moment as I had another topic completely lined up, and I was all set to go with recording a rebuttal against the recent controversy surrounding the state of Arizona and its ridiculous bill regarding having the right to reserve service to anybody based on religious beliefs.

But things change.  Mainly because Jan Brewer decided to veto that bill.  But also because I came across something on my Facebook news feed that really shifted all perspective.

But, enough babbling.  Let me show you.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What is a Hero?

February 26, 2014

Hello, diary!  I know that I usually only write in you on Thursdays, but since I drew the PROFESSOR PLUM card in the Whatever Wednesday portion of the week, I thought it might be nice to write a little something that is quite personal, and hopefully quite profound at the same time.

You see, this post is all about heroes...and how the definition of what a hero is can change based on how old we are, or how old we get.

I open this diary entry by making a confession.  And, admittedly, it's probably one of the silliest things that I have ever admitted in this blog since I began it nearly three years ago.  At the same time, it's a nice little lead in to the main point that I want to make in this entry.

Did you know that when I was a little kid, one of the first things that I wanted to be was a Ghostbuster?  I'm not kidding either.  I really wanted to be a real life Ghostbuster, who set up the ghost traps, and who sucked the ghosts into said traps.  I wanted to be the one who stopped the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from destroying New York City. 

(Of course, it did take a bit of time for me to achieve that dream.  When I first watched Ghostbusters at the age of four or five, I was so frightened by it that I couldn't sit through the movie.)

But after watching the animated series that followed the movie release, I decided to give the movie another shot, and I'm really happy that I did upon retrospect.  It remains one of my all-time favourite eighties movies, and I find myself watching it and the 1989 sequel occasionally.

And, it was from watching the movies and the cartoon series that I decided that when I was a kid, I wanted to be a Ghostbuster.  But, not just any Ghostbuster.  I mean, sure, Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson did a wonderful job as Ray Stantz, Peter Venkman, and Winston Zeddemore respectively.  But I was always an Egon Spengler fan.  Egon was definitely a guy who I definitely aspired to be, simply because he made intelligence a thing of beauty, and he certainly helped me and a lot of other people feel good about being the "brains of the operation".  He wasn't cocky about his smarts, but rather used them to help out the whole team.  An added bonus to his personality.

I guess that's why I was extremely saddened to hear about the death of the actor who played Egon Spengler in the movies.  Harold Ramis succumbed to a blood disease at just 69 years old.  And, his death certainly marked the loss of one of my childhood heroes growing up.

I think it was Ramis' portrayal of Egon Spengler that made me want to actually become a Ghostbuster as an adult.  Even though the odds of actually making a living becoming a Ghostbuster were probably higher than winning three consecutive Powerball jackpots, I would have to say that watching Ramis and all of the other actors portraying the Ghostbusters in the movie prompted my desire to be a Ghostbuster...

...well, that is until the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came along and I wanted to become one of them - which was an even more impossible dream than being a Ghostbuster!

But you know, that's what we were all like as children.  My heroes were pop culture figures like Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Some of you probably saw a sports star such as Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, or Mickey Mantle as your own personal hero.  Others might look at famous faces featured in the pages of People Magazine, Seventeen Magazine, or Sports Illustrated Magazine as heroes.

Heroes can be found everywhere in the world of popular culture.  They can be found in movies, television shows, cartoons, comic books, sporting events, and even in music.  But the truth is that behind the glitz and glamour that they represent on stage are regular, ordinary people just like you and I!  People who had heroes themselves.  I mean, yesterday I wrote a blog about George Harrison, who was inspired to play rock and roll music after listening to a song by one of his inspirations, Elvis Presley.  And, I'm sure that George Harrison wasn't the only celebrity to have someone that they looked up to as a hero or an inspiration.

But I also find that the older we get, the more that our definition of the word "hero" changes.  I think that as I matured from child to adult, I started to see people who were in my everyday life as regular, real-life heroes that we could all aspire to become.  The teacher who stayed after class to help their students pass tenth grade trigonometry could be considered a hero.  The person who hired you for a job, and took time out of their busy schedule to help you get more at ease with your job could be considered a hero.  The karate instructor who taught you the skills necessary to fend off that robber who tried to steal your handbag could be considered a hero.

And, of course, there are countless stories of human triumph and emotional tales of people sacrificing everything so that other people could live.  These include people who continue to fight for their lives, even when the cancer inside of them continues to eat away at them.  They include people who have lost a limb protecting their country from war.  They include people who ended up making the ultimate sacrifice in losing their lives so that other people can live whether it be by protecting them against danger, or donating their organs so that people can regain the ability to see, walk, or live.

Basically the point I'm trying to make is that the definition of what makes a hero is certainly subjective.  A kid who worships a football player or a caped crusader is no different than an adult looking up to a military man or a firefighter.  We all have our own definitions of what makes a hero, and I think that everyone is certainly entitled to having whatever hero you want.

In fact, I believe that in some manner, every single one of us can be a hero to somebody else, just as people can be heroes to us.  Maybe that song that was originally performed by David Bowie and covered by The Wallflowers for the 1998 film "Godzilla" said it best.

We can be heroes...just for one day.  

So, as I say goodbye to one of my childhood heroes, I think fondly of all the other heroes that I have had over the years, and I think to myself...somewhere along the way, those people have helped shape me and my personality.  How can I not be grateful to them?  And, although they may not ever know it, I am happy to have called them a hero at some point in my life.

Even though I never did become a Ghostbuster!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February 25, 1943

It's the final Tuesday Timeline of February, and I am hoping that all of you approve of the subject that I chose for this week's edition.  After looking at all of the possible topics that I had to choose from, only one really stood out to me as one that I had to do.  Maybe it was fate...or maybe it was because the twenty-fifth of February wasn't exactly the most exciting day on the calendar.

Nevertheless, here's today's look back on what happened throughout history.

1570 - Pope Pius V excommunicates Queen Elizabeth I of England

1797 - Colonel William Tate and his forces surrender following the Last Invasion of Britain

1836 - Samuel Colt is granted a patent for his invention - the Colt revolver

1870 - Hiram Rhodes Revels becomes the first African-American to sit in the United States Congress

1901 - J.P. Morgan incorporates the United States Steel Corporation

1913 - American actor Jim Backus (d. 1989) is born in Cleveland, Ohio

1916 - German forces capture Fort Douaumont during the Battle of Verdun

1919 - The state of Oregon becomes the first to levy a gasoline tax

1928 - Charles Jenkins Laboratories - located in Washington D.C. - becomes the first location to be granted a television license from the Federal Radio Corporation

1932 - Country music singer/songwriter Faron Young (d. 1996) is born in Shreveport, Louisiana

1951 - The first Pan American Games are hosted in Buenos Aires, Argentina

1971 - The first commercial nuclear power plant in Canada goes online in the community of Pickering, Ontario

1980 - The government of Suriname is overthrown by a military coup, beginning with the bombing of a police station by an army ship

1983 - American playwright Tennessee Williams passes away at the age of 71

1987 - The college football program of Southern Methodist University is given the "Death Penalty" by the NCAA's Committee of Infractions after it was discovered that the school was making illegal payments to the school's football players and that the administration of the school kept it quiet

1991 - Twenty-eight United States Army reservists are killed in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia after an Iraqi scud missile strikes their camp during the Gulf War

1994 - The Mosque of Abraham massacre - Baruch Goldstein opens fire and kills twenty-nine worshippers before a crowd of people subdue and kill him

And, the following people are celebrating a birthday today.  Happy birthday to Dick Jones, Sally Jessy Raphael, Tom Courtenay, Bob Schieffer, Karen Grassle, Elkie Brooks, James Brown (sportscaster), Doug Stahl, Brian Baker, Carrot Top, Veronica Webb, Alexis Denisof, Tea Leoni, Nancy O'Dell, Sam Phillips, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Sean Astin, Julio Iglesias Jr., Chelsea Handler, Rashida Jones, Kimberly Caldwell, Justin Berfield, James Phelps, and Oliver Phelps.

So, what date will we go back in time to this week?  Well, how about a little over seven decades ago?

Yes, today's date is February 25, 1943.  And if you happen to be a fan of the band known as The Beatles, then this date should be one that you might recognize.

No, it's not the date that the band formed.  If that were the case, then they would have been like Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm in that one episode of "The Flintstones" in which they released an album as toddlers and became Bedrock's newest musical superstars.  As talented as The Beatles were, they weren't that good as toddlers.

No, the February 25, 1943 date must be one in which one of the Fab Four was born.  So, which one was it?

Well, we can cross off Ringo Starr right off the bat.  He's the oldest of the four, and his birthdate is July 1940.  And, John Lennon was born just a few months after Ringo was, in October 1940, so it can't be him.

That just leaves Paul McCartney and George Harrison.  And, after doing a quick Google search, I know that Paul was born in June 1942.

So, I guess by process of elimination, we're going to be taking a look at the life and times of George Harrison, Member of the Most Excellent Order of The British Empire.  A man who had success as a solo artist, and as a member of several bands. 

Yes, this man was more than just a Beatle!

And, if he were still alive, he would be turning seventy-one years old today.

In this edition of the Tuesday Timeline, we'll be looking at how his career began, some of the journeys he took along the way, his near fatal stabbing by a crazed fan, and how he spent his final days on this earth.  Oh, and we'll be peppering this blog entry with a lot of George's music, so I hope you enjoy his work.

So, George Harrison was born in Liverpool, England to Harold Hargreaves Harrison and Louise Harrison.  He was the youngest of four children, and he spent the first few years of his life at 12 Arnold Grove, Wavertree, Liverpool.  And right off the bat, George Harrison developed a love for music, citing Cab Calloway, George Fornby, Django Reinhardt, and Hoagy Carmichael as early influences.

But perhaps no musical artist influence the young George more than American singer Elvis Presley.  It is said that George Harrison was riding his bicycle home, he heard the song "Heartbreak Hotel" playing from a nearby house, and that song piqued his interest in rock and roll.  He was even caught in class doodling in his school notebooks, drawing images of guitars all over the inside pages.  I wonder if he ever got in trouble with his teachers?

Whatever the case, in 1956, George's father bought him his very first guitar - a Dutch Egmond flat top acoustic - which he used to play songs such as "Whispering", "Sweet Sue", and "Dinah".  Little did George know that soon after he received his guitar, he would befriend another boy on the school bus by the name of Paul McCartney...and this would set the stage for George to join his very first band, known as the Quarrymen.  In 1958, George auditioned for a place in the band, but another member of the band...a man by the name of John Lennon (perhaps you've heard of him), believed that at age fourteen, George was too young.  It did take some time for George to convince John to give him a chance (Paul was sold on George joining the group from the very beginning), but by the next year, George was declared a full member of the band.

Shortly thereafter, Ringo Starr joined the group, and the band changed its name from The Quarrymen to The Beatles.  And, then in February 1964, The Beatles invaded North America, and became one of the most respected bands in modern day music history, and well...the rest is history.

Now comes the fun part.  Now we're going to have a series of music offerings that best show George Harrison's wonderful talents as a musician, both in a group, and solo.  I have a quartet of songs that I feel best showcase George's talents, as well as his ability to play just about any kind of music from rock to pop to even a tinge of country.

The first song that I want to spotlight is one that George Harrison penned and sang lead vocals for, right around the tail end of The Beatles' career.

ARTIST:  The Beatles
SONG:  Something
ALBUM:  Abbey Road
DATE RELEASED:  October 6, 1969

Now, most of you probably know that the majority of the songwriting duties in the Beatles were left up to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who arguably made a great team.  But, George was no slouch.  He wrote several songs during the final years of the group, and many fans (myself included) cite "Something" as one of his best works, if not THE best.  There was just something about "Something" that made it an instant Beatles classic, and apparently 150 other artists from Frank Sinatra to Tina Turner agreed.  "Something" is considered to be the second most covered Beatles song, just behind "Yesterday".  That's quite an achievement.

I mean, just listen really closely to the lyrics of the song.  I think they're close to perfection as you could get.  And, initially, part of the reason why George waited so long to craft his songwriting skills was because the other Beatles were allegedly too nervous to tell him that his songs weren't that great when he first began writing lyrics.  Of course, good writing takes a lot of time and effort (I know it did for me), and I think George really did grow with experience and age.  This song proves it.  Sadly, just six months after this song topped the charts in the United States, the band called it quits.  But by then, George had enough experience to go it alone.

During the 1970s, George Harrison was a key figure in organizing the Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971, as well as releasing several solo albums including "Living In The Material World", "Dark Horse", and "Thirty Three & 1/3".  Some of the albums did quite well, while others weren't positively received.  But admittedly, my first experience with George Harrison as a solo artist was with this #1 smash single from 1987.

ARTIST:  George Harrison
SONG:  Got My Mind Set on You
ALBUM:  Cloud Nine
DATE RELEASED:  October 12, 1987

Granted, it's probably not the best example of one of George's best songs (after all, it WAS a cover version of a song recorded by James Ray twenty-five years earlier).  But, for 1980s modern pop, it worked out well.  The repetitive lyrics meant that my six-year-old self could sing along to the words, and it did become a chart-topper in the middle of January 1988.

And, also in 1988, George Harrison became a part of another band made up of such music legends as Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, and Roy Orbison.  The group was called "The Traveling Wilburys", and the group released its first album, "Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1" towards the end of the year.  For the record, George Harrison used the pseudonym "Nelson Wilbury", but no matter what fake name he used, you couldn't disguise that talent.  Believe it or not, the song below was going to be used as a B-side, but thankfully, the record company saw value in the song, and decided to make it a lead single.

ARTIST:  The Traveling Wilburys
SONG:  Handle With Care
ALBUM:  Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1
DATE RELEASED:  October 17, 1988

Now, tragically, this music video would end up being the final appearance of Roy Orbison, as he would pass away just a month and a half after this song was released.  The Traveling Wilburys would continue as a foursome, releasing "Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3" (a move that Harrison loved as he felt that it would confuse people wondering why there was no volume two), but without Orbison, the group didn't match their previous success and the band called it quits in 1991.  But both Harrison and Ringo Starr would appear in Tom Petty's music video for "I Won't Back Down" in 1989.

In his later years, George Harrison reunited with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to record two brand new songs for the Beatles Anthology, which was released in late 1995 - the first brand new original songs by The Beatles since 1970.  He also battled throat cancer, for which he underwent treatment in 1997, and attended the memorial service of Linda McCartney, who passed away in April 1998.

In one bizarre incident in December 1999, a thirty-six year old man named Michael Abram broke into George's house and stabbed George with a kitchen knife, causing damage to his head and puncturing a lung!  Had George's wife Olivia not stumbled upon the scene and attacked the intruder in self-defense, George could have died.  George was hospitalized for his injuries (which included more than 40 separate stab wounds), and was released a few days later during the first week of January 2000.

But by 2001, George's health had taken a turn for the worse, as he was diagnosed with lung cancer in the middle of the year.  He had surgery to remove a growth from his lung in May 2001, and it was reported that he was being treated for a brain tumour in Switzerland in the summer of 2001.  Though Harrison had hoped to beat the cancer that had appeared in his lungs, by November 2001, it was revealed that the cancer had spread to his brain, and that he would likely not live to see the beginning of 2002.  The last time George Harrison saw his surviving Beatles bandmates was on November 12, 2001, when he met Starr and McCartney for lunch.

Just seventeen days later, on November 29, 2001, George Harrison passed away from metastatic non-small cell lung cancer at just 58 years of age.

But even though George Harrison has been gone for a little over a dozen years now, his talent, his gifts, and his music have been left behind for generations of people to come.  And, for that we can all be grateful.

Therefore, it's only fitting that I end this retrospective look on George Harrison by posting one of the songs that made him a respected solo artist...a song that best honours his memory.

ARTIST:  George Harrison
SONG:  My Sweet Lord
ALBUM:  All Things Must Pass
DATE RELEASED:  November 23, 1970


Thanks for the music memories, George.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Mighty Ducks

And so marks the day after the conclusion of the 2014 Winter Olympics, and I have to say that as someone who is Canadian, I have a lot of pride for all of our athletes.  Every single person who competed in the games, whether they won a medal or not earned their spot on the Olympic team this year.  And that goes for every single athlete representing all the countries that had Olympic teams this year.  Every single one of you deserve your chance to shine in the spotlight, and believe me when I say without a shadow of a doubt that all of you are much better athletes than I could ever hope to be.

(You see...myself and sports.  We go together like a bubble bath and a plugged in hair dryer.)

Now, of course all the athletes did their thing and if they were skilled enough and had a little bit of luck on their side, they were rewarded with a bronze, a silver, or a gold medal.  But I know that here in Canada - where the sport of hockey is as celebrated as soccer is in Latin and European countries - all eyes were on the men's and women's hockey teams as they fought hard and won the coveted gold medals in both events.  I'm telling you, the amount of pride and joy that Canadians felt in seeing their Olympic team bring home the's just absolutely wonderful.  And, all of the other athletes who took home a medal received just as much praise and attention for their wins as well.  One thing you can say about Canada is that we definitely show appreciation to everyone who represents us in a public forum.

(Well, okay...maybe not politicians, but you get the idea.)

So, I decided to do something with the Monday Matinee feature that pays tribute to Olympic athletes - but is sort of more focused on those athletes who played on both Canadian hockey teams, mainly because I can't find any movies about curling.  This Monday Matinee will be a film that has hockey as its main theme.

And, fair is a movie that is marketed towards kids.  I know.  I was a kid when it first aired in movie theatres.  But it's a movie that did very well at the box office, even though critics didn't seem to like it that much.  But then again, I always found most movie critics to be the stuffy sort anyway, and if there's anything I don't ever want to be described as, it's stuffy.

But, seriously, the reason why I opted to choose this film is because of the fact that all of the people who won the gold at the hockey finals in Sochi all likely had one thing in common.  They all loved to play the game, and I would imagine that almost all of them developed the love of the game as children, skating at public skating rinks, or sliding on frozen ice patches in the middle of a January frost.  Maybe some of them even played the game of hockey in the junior hockey leagues in their youth which allowed them to pursue the quest to become an Olympic athlete.  I know that my 15-year-old nephew has played hockey for several years now, and he has certainly developed his skills along the way, and that his team has had a brilliant season so far.

(If only he'd now be able to play without incurring penalties.  But I suppose nobody gets through a game of hockey without incurring at least one every now and then.)

Well, what happens when you have a team of self-delcared misfits who can't seem to get it together and win at least one hockey game in the PeeWee league?  And, what happens when their coach is only there because of an obligation he is forced to honour as a result of community service?  Could there be any common ground whenever the two shall meet?

That's the question that Gordon Bombay asks himself when he is assigned to be the coach of one of the worst teams in the whole league.  And in the process, he learns more about himself and begins to heal from his own shortcomings as a child.

The film is "The Mighty Ducks", which debuted in theatres on October 2, 1992.  And, the film stars Emilio Estevez as Gordon Bombay, a hot-shot lawyer who is literally all alone in the world.  Seeing him in action as an attorney, it's easy to see why this is the case, as his courtroom antics have alienated him from the rest of the people in the firm.  And as far as romance goes, well, we can automatically skip that.

Basically, Gordon Bombay is the kind of guy who feels as though the rules don't really apply to him.  So, when he is caught behind the wheel driving under the influence one fateful day, he feels as though he can find a way to get out of serving jail time...and surprisingly, Bombay manages to get his wish.  But there are conditions.  Instead of serving time behind bars, he is forced to serve time coaching the local PeeWee hockey team from District 5.

(Yep...the team that initially had no name.  What luck, huh?)

And just who are the kids that make up the team?  Well, there's Charlie Conway (Joshua Jackson), Dave Karp (Aaron Schwartz), Greg Goldberg (Shaun Weiss), Peter Mark (J.D. Daniels), Jesse Hall (Brandon Adams), Terry Hall (Jussie Smollett), and Les Averman (Matt Doherty).  And, initially, when Gordon tries to introduce himself to the team, they don't exactly give him the warmest of welcomes.  And, Gordon is not exactly in the greatest position to be a coach, as he has a deep-rooted hate for hockey.

As it turns out, there's a lot more to the story than anybody really knows.  The real reason why Gordon dislikes hockey is because when he was a young boy, he too played hockey as a child.  He was given the opportunity to make a penalty shot during a huge game, and if he made the shot, his team - The Hawks - would have won.  But because Gordon blew the shot, it cost his team the game, and it made his then-coach Jack Reilly (Lane Smith) so disappointed in him that he never let Gordon forget the fact that he lost the game, and because of that, Gordon never played hockey again even though before that moment he really liked the sport.

To complicate things, would you believe that the first game that the District 5 hockey players had to play in was against the very team that Gordon was once a part of two decades earlier?  And that the Hawks were still being coached by Reilly?  Talk about awkward!

But, after the team loses horribly to the cocky Hawks, Gordon decides that he will try a different approach to coaching the team after he quickly realizes that yelling at the team to do what he says is futile when they question everything that he says.  After running into his old mentor Hans (Joss Ackland), who runs a sporting goods store, we learn more about Gordon's past.  He actually quit the team after the championship game that he bombed - but that wasn't the only reason.  His father had died months before that game, and Gordon never really allowed himself the time to grieve his loss.  And, after Hans gives Gordon the encouragement to reignite his childhood passion - which never really went away - Gordon has a change of heart and starts taking his coaching duties more seriously.

He starts by arranging his boss to donate the funds needed to purchase all new equipment, and arranges for the team to have more practice time - allowing Bombay to beef up his coaching skills in the process.  He even decides to give the team a proper name - The Ducks.  The team even manages to recruit three new players to join the Ducks - figure skating siblings Tommy and Tammy Duncan (Danny Tambarelli and Jane Plank), and Fulton Reed (Elden Henson), and the team begins to win more games as a result of their growing teamwork, and Coach Bombay's coaching style.

But not everything goes as planned.  What happens when the team discovers that a key player on the Hawks should really be a Duck?  What happens when former player Bombay goes up against his former coach?  And when Bombay is forced to make one of the toughest decisions ever which could affect his career and his reputation, what choice does he make?

Well, you know what it's like...I can't reveal movie endings.  But given that there were two (not worth watching in my opinion) sequels to the movie, I think that it's a safe bet to say that the movie will have a happy ending.  After all, it is a film made by Disney.

Anyway, there's still a little bit of time left.  Let's talk trivia.  I have a dozen items for you to read about.

1 - Yes, that is the same Joshua Jackson that appeared in "Dawson's Creek" and "Fringe".  Clearly one of the few child actors to have success outside of "The Mighty Ducks".

2 - The year after this film debuted, a real-life hockey team was started up based on the name.  You might know them as the Anaheim Ducks.

3 - Eldon Henson's brother, Garrette played the role of Guy.

4 - Eldon Henson had to dye his hair blonde to secure the part of Fulton.

5 - Many of the boys who tried out for the film lied about their actual ice skating experience.  When the boys were cast and had no choice but to admit they lied, a trainer was brought in to get them ready for the ice.  I have to wonder which boys were the ones who told that little fib?

6 - Prior to winning the role on "The Mighty Ducks", J.D. Daniels had small roles in "Going Places" and "Full House".

7 - Bill Murray was once considered for the part of Gordon Bombay, but was turned down because of his age.

8 - Katie Wahlquist was Jane Plank's stunt double in the figure skating scenes, as Plank did not know how to skate.

9 - In the United Kingdom and Australia, this film was released under the title "Champions".

10 - Emilio Estevez had gotten married to Paula Abdul while he was filming this movie.  The marriage dissolved just two years later in 1994.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Story Behind "All The Man That I Need"

Okay, so just before I go ahead with today's scheduled blog entry, I just wanted to take the time to give a huge shout of support to all the athletes that competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia.  Certainly the Olympics weren't without their share of controversy (broken hotel rooms, the protests, etc), but one thing is for sure.  Those who did compete and won a medal should feel proud.  And, hey, those who walked away empty-handed this year should still feel proud.  As far as I'm concerned, anyone who makes it on the Olympic team deserves a pat on the back.

A special shout-out goes to my birth country of Canada for winning ten gold, ten silver, and five bronze medals in the games.  You all did our country proud, and I am sure that Canadians everywhere are saluting you today!

And, now...on with the show.

It's time for another edition of the Sunday Jukebox today...and this week will go much like all of the others for the year 2014 thus far in that each song that is featured in this and every Sunday was a song that topped the charts.

After all.  Every single artist loves to have a number one hit single, don't they?

Well, for today's look back through music history, we're going to go back to a palindrome of a year, as today's song flashback hit the top of the charts in February 1991.  The song topped the charts in both the United States and Canada that year, and interestingly enough, the singer who performed this song was not the one who wrote the song.  In fact, the song was actually written and recorded over a decade earlier in 1980 - which was five years before our featured singer recorded her debut album.

On a sad note, February ended up being the cruelest month for our featured singer, as it was a little over two years ago this month - February 11 to be exact - that she drew her last breath.

By now, I'm sure you have guessed that today's featured singer is the late Whitney Houston, and yes, I am in absolute agreement that her death was absolutely preventable and that had she sought help and really made it a mission to get clean, she might very well still be here with us.  Of course, none of us really knew what transpired the afternoon of February 11, 2012 that lead to Whitney's drug overdose in a hotel room...and perhaps we might never know.  The only thing that we're all certain of is that a woman with real, genuine talent is no longer here because drugs destroyed her life, and she let it happen.

It's such an ugly ending, no matter how you spin it.

I suppose that if there is one thing that is positive about this (and really, there's not a whole lot of positive feelings floating around when someone dies), it's that Whitney Houston managed to release dozens of singles and successful albums which showcase her at her prime.  I think that any of the songs that she released between 1985 and 1998 were among some of her best, and I readily admit that I have a few Whitney Houston songs downloaded onto my iPod. 

(Well, mostly the ones you can dance to such as "How Will I Know", "So Emotional", and "I'm Your Baby Tonight".)

But there happens to be a couple of ballads on my iPod as well - and, I suppose that in my opinion, Whitney Houston sang best when she slowed things down instead of sped things up.  If that at all makes any sense.  I'm not sure exactly.

But what I am sure of is that I really wanted to showcase Whitney in a ballad instead of a dance song because I think that she really showed just how talented she was when she sang love songs and powerful songs that had meaning, like "I Have Nothing", or the now eerily ironic song "Greatest Love Of All".

And, then there was this single...released at the tail end of 1990 and hit the top of the charts beginning the week of February 23, 1991.

ARTIST:  Whitney Houston
SONG:  All The Man That I Need
ALBUM:  I'm Your Baby Tonight
DATE RELEASED:  December 4, 1990

So, are you ready for the discussion of "All The Man That I Need"?  It's quite the powerful song, and we have a lot to talk about. 

Starting with the origin of the song.

As I mentioned before, the song was originally written in 1980 by Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore, and was meant to be a single for singer Linda Clifford's album, "I'll Keep On Loving You". 

And, just who exactly was Linda Clifford?  Well, she was a former Miss New York State who embarked on a career as a disco/rhythm and blues artist who had several chart-toppers on the dance charts between 1977 and 1981.

Well, Linda Clifford did record the single in 1981, and she did release it one year later.  However, the song failed to chart.  Sister Sledge tried to strike gold with their version of the song which was released months later, but it too never did that great.

It seemed as though "All The Man That I Need" was destined to become a song that would never have its day.  Despite the fact that a few people recorded the song in hopes of making it a huge success, nobody really knew how to take the song and make it their own.

At least not until Whitney Houston decided to take a turn at recording the single.

But do you know exactly how long it took for Whitney Houston to finally get the go-ahead to record "All The Man That I Need"?  Believe it or not, it took three whole years!

You see, at the time, Whitney Houston was signed exclusively to Arista Records, which was headed by record producer Clive Davis.  And Davis really was the man who supported Whitney's career from day one, and was the main force behind Whitney's rise to fame in the 1980s.  

Clive Davis was also really good friends with Dean Pitchford, one-half of the songwriting duo that penned the single "All The Man That I Need".

Both men met each other for dinner one night in 1987, and although it was unknown as to who initiated the conversation, the topic of "All The Man That I Need" came up, and Pitchford handed Davis a demo of the single, believing that if any one of Arista's singers could make the song a huge success, it was Whitney Houston.  Davis took the demo tape, listened to it, and agreed with Pitchford that Whitney could do wonders with the ballad.

The whole problem was timing.

You see, in 1987, Whitney Houston had just finished releasing her second album, "Whitney".  And, by the time that Clive Davis had received the demo tape, there was no time to squeeze in another single.  So, this meant that a painstakingly long three-year wait was in place.  The "Whitney" album came out in 1987.  Whitney spent all of 1988 filming music videos for the album, and embarking on a world tour to promote the album.  And, then in 1989, she began production on her third album, "I'm Your Baby Tonight", in which she finally received the go-ahead to record the single, which was produced by Narada Michael Walden.

And happily for Pitchford and Gore, the single finally became a hit, thanks to Whitney Houston.  And, the song was also rewarded with a nomination for "Best Female Pop Vocal Performance" at the 1992 Grammy Awards, but lost out to Bonnie Raitt's "Something To Talk About".

TRIVIA:  The black and white tinted music video was directed by Peter Israelson, and the saxophone solo performed in the song was courtesy of smooth jazz musician Kenny G.

But perhaps one of the best things about the song were all of the positive reviews from critics, who easily named the song as one of the best ones from Whitney's third album.  Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune said of the song that Whitney had provided "the soundtrack to a million love affairs", while New York Times' reviewer Stephen Holden described the song as a "hunk of gargantuan pop bombast swathed in echo and glitzy astral twinkles".

Not quite sure what that means, but I'm guessing it's pretty good.

But I mean, just looking at the song's lyrics, I can see why it became a hit.  I know that we're now living in an era in which women proudly proclaim their independence from being a part of a couple, and insist that they don't need a man to be happy.  And, that's good!  I absolutely applaud the attitude that you don't need to be coupled up to have a happy, productive life.

But you know, sometimes I think we all want to have that experience where we are with someone that we love more than anything in this world, and that's good enough.  I know I've been looking for that experience for longer than I care to admit, as I'm sure many others have.  And, those who have found it...well, I definitely salute you.

And, I think that's the whole idea of the song "All The Man That I Need".  As I said earlier, the song was written by Pitchford and Gore specifically for Linda Clifford.  The backstory of the song is that years before Clifford had even crossed paths with Pitchford and Gore, Clifford had gotten out of an emotionally destructive marriage, and she had since gotten remarried to a man who she loved with all her heart.  Pitchford and Gore claimed that the song "All The Man That I Need" was written in no time because after seeing how happy Clifford was, the song kind of wrote itself.

And although it took a decade for the song to become a huge hit, the message is made loud and clear.  It's a song all about the pure love, joy, and comfort in being with someone who treats you with honesty, kindness, and respect.  Here's hoping that we all have someone in our life come along and make us feel that way.

Oh, and one final note to point out.  A few years after Whitney's version topped the charts, the late Luther Vandross released his own version of the song...with obvious pronouns swapped.