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Sunday, November 30, 2014


You know, I have to say that I had a lot of fun with YOU NEVER NOVEMBER WHAT YOU'RE GONNA GET month!  It certainly was a great period of experimentation, and it allowed me to try and get a little more creative without the rigid structure of theme days.  I really appreciated it.

But today happens to be the last day of November, and with that comes the real big kick-off towards Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and any other special holiday that you and your families may celebrate. 

Of course, you know what this means.  This will be the time of the year in which I kick off another exciting edition of THE POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR!

Yes, for exactly twenty-five days in a row from December 1 until December 25, we'll be taking a look at all kinds of holiday surprises from Christmas carols to Christmas movies, to Christmas treats, and even a couple of Christmas tales or two to share.  After all, part of the fun of the holidays is the family gatherings and reminiscing about fond holiday memories.  Believe me, I have a few tales to tell.

But for now, in preparation for the advent calendar, I thought that I would use this space to talk about...well...calendars!

I have to say, one of the things that I used to love about the holidays is that I would almost always receive a gift of a calendar for Christmas.  After all, it is a rather practical gift of sorts given that the new year begins exactly one week after Christmas Day.

Funny thing is, I don't remember when I received my very first calendar as a Christmas gift...however, I do remember getting an advent calendar every Christmas for the first fourteen Christmases of my life.  At least, I think it was fourteen.

Anyway, you know the advent calendars I mean, right?  The ones that had some sort of Christmas scene with doors stamped on them numbered from 1-24?  I used to love those things.  Mainly because you were guaranteed to have a piece of chocolate every day for twenty-four days!  You see, when December 1 rolled around, you opened the door marked #1, and ate the chocolate inside.  Then on December 2, you open #2 and so on and so forth until you reach Christmas Eve when door #24 held the biggest piece of chocolate.  Yeah, good times.

I can tell you that all but one of the advent calendars that I had for Christmas were of the chocolate variety.  The other one used stickers.  Ironically enough, I liked the sticker advent calendar the best!

And now I hear that they have such a thing as a Lego Advent Calendar?  I must have it!  It looks so awesome!!!

But then again, I did get a Lego calendar for Christmas last year.  I guess I don't need to have the advent calendar too.

Of course, now that I have the Lego calendar, I really don't need to get another calendar for Christmas ever again, but who knows?  I may end up getting a paper calendar yet.

After all, I do remember getting quite a few calendars from some family members and friends.

For instance, my brother-in-law once went down to the United States and brought me back a calendar from...ahem...Hooters (keeping in mind that I was probably in my late teens, early twenties at the time).  I will say that it was definitely a calendar that I hung up in my room with pride.  I think he even had a couple of the waitresses autograph some of the pages!  It was a great calendar.  Still wish I had it...

...ahem, where was I?  Oh, yes!  Calendars!

Actually, the holidays are a great time to purchase calendars for charity purposes.  I know the Heart & Stroke foundation creates a limited amount of calendars that they charge a rather steep price for that I received for at least two or three years.  But every penny reportedly goes towards research, and there is also the chance that you could win huge money if they draw the serial number of the calendar that you own. 

Mind you, I never won a thing...but it was still a nice idea.

And, I still have a calendar from 2007 that doubled as a fridge magnet that I received in a Christmas card from a dear friend named Rosemary who passed away just three months later.  It's a nice little token to remember her years of friendship, and even though she has been gone for almost eight years now, I still think about her once in a while.

I think calendars are awesome gifts to receive for the holidays...and I think that calendars are a great gift to give as well.  In fact, I am giving out calendars to at least three people on my own Christmas list.  But, I've said too much.

In the meantime, say goodbye to November.  Day #1 of THE POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR begins tomorrow with a holiday twist on a funny Monday.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tomodachi Life

Hello, everyone!  What's happening in your world today?  Have you recovered from Black Friday yet?  I know that it was certainly an interesting experience working it.  I guess in some ways though, it wasn't as bad as I thought that it would be.  Part of it could have been because I worked the closing shift that day though.  People tend not to hang around the store much when you run out of sale items.

Anyway, I decided that I would spend the day doing absolutely nothing today.  In fact, I wanted to use this blog entry to talk about one of the latest obsessions that I have gotten swallowed up in.

And yes, I will take full credit for it.  It's my own fault for allowing a video game to sucker me in...again.

I guess I could consider myself to be somewhat of a video game addict...or at least I was one during the golden age of the Super Nintendo era.  At that time, all of my extra money went towards renting video games from the local convenience store, and playing until my fingers were numb, my neck was stiff, and I was seeing images of Mario, Yoshi, and Donkey Kong invading each and every one of my dreams.  It's a wonder I even managed a near straight A average in school, my obsession with games was that intense.

Over the last few years though, my love of video games definitely took a back seat.  Sure, I still love Mario games and have nearly every single one downloaded onto my Nintendo 3DS, but I just don't find that the majority of new games hold my interest as much as they used to. 

At least until now.

You see, a couple of weeks ago at my workplace, we had our annual Associate Appreciation Event, where we could get an additional discount on any three items in the store we wanted.  I had already spent two tickets on items that I needed to get, and I had one left over.  I headed down to the 3DS section of our store, deciding that I would pick a game for my third purchase.  I was torn between two games, and had to make a split second decision between "Yoshi's New Island" and "Tomodachi Life".

I should've picked Yoshi...

Of course, that is not saying that Tomodachi Life is a bad game.  Far from it.  It is probably one of the better games that I have played.  Problem is...I play it too much! 

I confess.  I love games that deal with simulations and sandbox style gameplay.  I played the simulation games on the old UNISYS ICON computers that we had in our elementary schools when I was a kid.  I was obsessed with Sim City.  And, well, if I had an XBOX 360 or PlayStation 3, I probably would have jumped on the "Minecraft" bandwagon by now.

But "Tomodachi Life" is so much more. 

In this game, you have control over a whole island.  You can decide whether to add people into your island by yourself, or you can decide whether you will import characters (known in the Nintendo world as "Mii"s) from other people who have implemented the StreetPass feature on their 3DS consoles. 

You start off by creating "you".  A lookalike of yourself.  Amusingly enough, the game will refer to you as "Insert Your Name Here"'s lookalike!  Then you create characters or import characters into the game so that your lookalike will have people to interact with.

(There are even codes that you can implement that will allow you to have celebrities move into your building.  You could literally have Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell move into your building and be next door neighbours - probably one of the only ways that would ever happen!)

You have to also take care of your "tenants", so to speak.  There is a food store where you can feed your characters (and you will also learn what foods your characters love and hate in the process).  There are clothing and hat shops where you can dress your characters.  There are interior shops where you can give your character's homes a new look.

And if you achieve a certain amount of goals, you can open up more places on your island.  For instance, if you have two Mii's falling in love, it will open up an amusement park and cafe.  Or if you teach your Mii a new song, you can open up the concert hall to have your Mii perform it to a crowd.

You just have to listen to what your Mii's want.  Usually if a Mii has a problem, they will have a black thought bubble over their apartment windows.  These problems can be simple such as feeding them, buying them a new outfit, or tickling their noses with a feather to help them sneeze.  I'm not kidding either.

Sometimes though, the problem may involve giving them cold medicine to clear up their sinuses, or giving them stomach medicine to soothe their upset stomachs, or giving them a fan to cool off.  And those items you can only get by helping Mii's with basic tasks.

Sometimes you will see an orange bubble.  This means that a Mii wants to be friends with another Mii in the building.  And sometimes you have to give them advice on what to talk to them about in order to help the friendship along.  If you are successful, they become friends.  If not, you can try again.

Pink hearts mean that a Mii has fallen in love with someone else in the building, and you may have to help them express their feelings towards their crush.  You may even have to plan dates for them, or plan a proposal for them.  If successful, they will start dating, and maybe even get married.  If not...well, be prepared to be forced to cheer them up.

(NOTE:  For some reason, the game code does not allow same sex couples to fall in love, which caused quite the controversy when Tomodachi Life was released.  To be honest, I wish that they would have considered it, just to make the game seem more true to life - though I hear game developers are working on another version to remedy that.  Time will tell.)

Anyway, this game is a fun one to play, and I like it a lot.  I like it too much!  I need Tomodachi Life rehab!

Friday, November 28, 2014

With This Ring, I Thee...Cheat? (A Flashback Edition)

Hello, everyone!  I know that everyone is probably busy with Black Friday events, and getting discounted televisions and then going to the emergency room immediately afterwards to get your broken arm set in a cast.  So, today, I decided that I wouldn't write a new blog today.

No, for today, I thought I would take a trip through the archives to see if there was anything that I wrote long before this blog existed that might garner some interest.  Turns out, I found an entry from three and a half years ago that upon reading it again was worth reposting.

Fair warning...this entry is from May 19, 2011 - five days before this blog began.  And the references might seem very dated.  But my opinions remain the same.  Hope you enjoy!

I'm wondering if anyone really believes in the idea of marriage these days. Lately in the news, it seems that more and more marriages are busting up amidst dozens of accusations of mishandling finances, irreconcilable differences, and adultery, adultery, adultery!

The recent scandal surrounding actor and former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger is just one of the many examples of this. Unless you've been hiding under a rock, or don't subscribe to cable television or newspapers, here's the story. Schwarzenegger has apparently been married to Maria Shriver for a quarter of a century. They have had four children together. Unfortunately, Mr. Schwarzenegger had publicly admitted to fathering a fifth child with a woman who served as the family housekeeper for two decades. Worse still, the housekeeper and Maria Shriver gave birth roughly one week apart to Arnold's sons, basically confirming the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger smashed his wedding vows the same way one would take a baseball bat to a collection of fine china.

Granted, Schwarzenegger is not an isolated case, especially in the world of the richest and most famous people. Donald Trump cheated on his wife Ivana, and ended up marrying his mistress, only for that marriage to collapse. Jesse James practically humiliated Sandra Bullock after his duplicitous ways were revealled. And, don't even get me started on Tiger 'she's attacking me with a golf club' Woods.

And, it's not just below the iconic, yet terribly tacky Hollywood sign that all this infidelity lurks. With the divorce rate for all new marriages being approximately half, it's pretty much a given that in a few of those break-ups, cheating was the main deal-breaker.

In case you haven't guessed, the tone I have been exhibiting throughout this note has been a bit prickly. Of course, that's mainly because I don't really have much of a high opinion of people who do exactly that in the first place.

I guess I can see some circumstances where some people may feel a need to cheat. People in abusive relationships...yeah, I could see why they would try to find someone who would treat them better. Might not be the way that I would go if I was in a situation like that, and I certainly wouldn't openly advocate it, but I suppose it would be understandable.

The way Schwarzenegger went about it? Uncool. The way Jesse James went about it? Uncool. The way Tiger Woods get the idea.

You know who I feel really terrible for in the Schwarzenegger case? Naturally, you'd expect some sympathy to go towards Maria Shriver. I mean, she found out in probably one of the most humiliating ways possible. Who wouldn't feel for her? My opinion is that she'll come out of this just fine. She's beautiful, intelligent, and epitomizes class in everything she does. She'll not only bounce back from this with her head held high, but I have a feeling that she'll be able to find happiness again very quickly.

What about the housekeeper in question? Should I feel any sort of sympathy for her? Sadly, I have to say no. She knew full well what pot to stir when she got involved with the Terminator and ended up popping out a Junior of her own. But, hey...the media is having a field day with this story, and whether she likes it or not, her face is splashed over every magazine, webpage, and television entertainment show in the continent. I hope she enjoys the ride of publicity, because she ain't getting off of it anytime soon.

We won't even get into how I feel about Arnold. His “Judgment Day” is here. Bet he wishes he had an eraser to wipe the slate clean now that his dirty knickers are all out for all to talk about.

No, the real victim in all of this is the child that he fathered with the housekeeper. He certainly didn't ask to be born into the biggest Hollywood scandal of 2011. He's just a kid. I wish the media would treat him as such and not let him be scrutinized over this because he's really the one who is going to be the most affected by this story.

All because the former Governor of California couldn't keep it in his pants.

Oh, sure...sometimes people forgive their spouses temptations of the forbidden fruit. Former American president William Jefferson Clinton (who you know better as Bill) was busted for his torrid love affair with blue frock obsessed Monica Lewinsky, and Hillary managed to stand by her man. Of course, Clinton never withdrew from his own personal sperm bank to make a deposit in a Lewinsky savings plan, so that may have had something to do with it.

I just wonder why people seem to treat marriage as nothing more than a convenience these days? It almost seems like many people don't seem to take their vows seriously in this day and age.

I understand that marriages for whatever reason can grow stale after a while, and sometimes couples just drift apart. It's not anyone's fault if the parties mutually agree to split. It happens. It's when one person decides to hurt the other person by embarking on a destructive path of affairs that the whole thing becomes a little more one-sided and a lot more shameful.

I don't know...maybe I'm just rambling here, but I guess I've always seen marriage as the ultimate show of commitment and love for someone else you want to be with for the rest of your life. This view might seem old-fashioned to some people, and maybe it is. I'm far from being a man who has a life that is incredibly traditional in nature. Heck, I'd be the first to admit that getting married in Reno or Vegas by some middle-aged man dressed like Wayne Newton is definitely a possible option for me should I choose to get married at all. To me, the physical location doesn't matter. Whether it be the Arc du Triomphe in Paris, the Plaza Hotel in New York City, or the McDonald's restaurant on around the corner, that means nothing to me.

Well, okay, I wouldn't choose the McDonald's as I don't want my wedding reception to be in a place that smells of fry grease and Big Macs.

I guess what I'm trying to say is...if ever I do get married, I'd like to hope that the only way that we'd ever break-up is if one of us dies. Hence the popular wedding vow “til death us do part”. At the very least, if the marriage wasn't meant to be, I'd like to think it would be because neither of us would cheat on each other.  Because, if I had a relationship break down because I was cheated on, I would feel incredibly betrayed.  I'm sure people who have been cheated on feel the same way.

I'll just put it out there right now. If someone finds me cool enough to want to marry me, I would NEVER break my vows.
Why? I would write my own vows. And, I always taught myself to be absolutely truthful in everything I write. When I write these notes here, I put everything into them. They're basically me on a pixelated web-page. When you read anything I've ever written, they come from the heart. The mind. Sometimes, they come from feelings of anger. Sometimes, pure happiness. But, that's who I am.

The reason I'd want to write my own vows to someone I would want to marry isn't to promote myself as a writer, nor is it a way to upstage the priest conducting the ceremony. It's one way I can tell my future spouse just how much I would be there for them through it all. It's probably one of the best things that one can do for their partner. By writing my own vows, I can make my own promises to the other person in my own words with what my heart is telling me.

Maybe if other people chose to write their own vows...quite possibly, they'd take them more seriously.

Maybe it's just me though.

MWT - 5/19/2011

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Twas The Night Before Black Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving, USA! 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bubbles of Innocence Bursting

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

For me, that date was April 29, 1992.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does this sound like deja vu to any of you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 25, 1971

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

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

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

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

1487 - Elizabeth of York is crowned Queen of England

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

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

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

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

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

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

1874 - The United States Greenback Party is established

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

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

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

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

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

1975 - Suriname gains independence from the Netherlands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 24, 2014

I Can Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk about a song that was a real triple threat!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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