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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fifteen Forgotten Crayola Crayon Colours

As far back as I can remember, I have always loved Crayola Crayons.

I love them so much, I still have my Crayola crayon carrying case that I received as a Christmas gift in the early 1990s - and most of the crayons that originally came with it!  Have a look!

When this case was brand new, it had 96 different crayons.  You had the standard 64 pack, plus 16 neon colours, plus 16 Silver Swirls crayons.  As you can see, I've used up at least six to their entirety.  Most were colours I absolutely loved at the time like Sea Green or Royal Purple.  And, obviously the eight original colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, black, and brown) are half used up.  But surprisingly most of them still remain intact. 

Now, in the 1990s, I thought having 96 colours was a big deal.  But did you know that as of 2015, there are a total of 135 different colours of Crayola Crayons available?  And some of the colours that have been created since the 1990s have some rather unique names such as Macaroni and Cheese, Razzmatazz, Beaver, and Purple Mountains' Majesty.

But in order for some of those colours to be created and added into Crayola's colour database, we had to say goodbye to some colours along the way. 

And this is what today's blog entry is all about.  Consider it a tribute to the Crayola crayons of the past.

Now, at first I thought that only eight colours were discontinued.  That would be back in 1990 when colours like Green Blue, Violet Blue, and Maize were replaced with Jungle Green, Cerulean, and Dandelion.

But in actuality, fifteen colours have been retired officially by Crayola.  And two of them happened before I was even born!

So, let's take a look at the fifteen colours that were taken out of rotation beginning with the earliest and ending at the most recent.  Do you remember any of these?  And which colours do you miss the most?  I'll give my own personal list of the three colours they should permanently reinstate, as well as three colours that I think they could easily replace at the end.

1.  Brilliant Rose

Did you know that there was a colour named Brilliant Rose?  Neither did I!  Apparently it was one of the colours that was introduced as one of colours in the then brand new 64 count box of crayons in 1958. 

It lasted exactly one year.

So, why was it discontinued after just one year?  My guess is that somehow the colour formula that was used to make the crayons was lost, or the materials needed to make the exact colour were no longer available.  It was swapped out with another similar colour - Magenta.

2.  Light Blue

Light Blue shares a similar story with Brilliant Rose.  It too made its debut in 1958 and was discontinued in 1959, for likely the same reason.  Turquoise Blue was its replacement.

3.  Blue Gray
4.  Green Blue
5.  Lemon Yellow
6.  Maize
7.  Navy Blue
8.  Orange Red
9.  Orange Yellow
10.  Raw Umber

I grouped all eight of these colours together because all eight of them were eliminated at the same time.  Prior to 1990, all eight of these colours were standard in a 64 count box of crayons.  And you could probably find at least half of these in a 24 count box. 

For some reason, I seem to believe that the colours that were retired were chosen by fans of the product, but I am not sure if this was the case.  I wasn't even ten when the colours were removed, so I can't remember.  But whatever the case, those eight colours were removed and their replacement colours were Cerulean, Dandelion, Fuchsia, Jungle Green, Royal Purple, Teal Blue, Vivid Tangerine, and Wild Strawberry.  In some cases, I can see why these colours were chosen, as they happen to be a lot more vibrant and bright.  Still, I do wish they had kept at least one colour.  They were available for sale briefly in 1991, but they are really hard to find now.

(Truth be told...I still have a box of the eight colours that were retired.  And, I use them sparingly.)

11.  Thistle

What a rather unusual colour Thistle was.  When you think thistle, you more than likely think of the colour green, or brown, or some colour that has to do with nature.  Or at least, I did anyway.  At my childhood home, I couldn't run around in my backyard with bare feet because our backyard was filled with thistle plants that had sharp needles.  For the life of me, I couldn't understand why the heck the colour thistle was represented by pink!

But after doing a quick Google search, I realize that our backyard had the useless weeds.  Apparently thistle flowers are pink. 

Didn't matter much in the end.  Thistle was one of my most hated colours.  I was glad to see it go in the year 2000.  The only thing that makes the departure of Thistle sad is that it was a regular colour since 1949.  It managed to last 51 years before being pulled.

12.  Blizzard Blue
13.  Magic Mint

Some of you might believe that neon colours were only big in the late 1980s and are experiencing a resurgence in 2015.  But Crayola proved that they were ahead of the times as they created their first neon colours all the way back in 1972!  Blizzard Blue used to be named Ultra Blue, and was one of the original neon colours that were added when Crayola began selling 72 count boxes.  Magic Mint was added eighteen years later in 1990. 

I don't know why both colours were discontinued to be honest, but they were two of four that were removed from the Crayola crayon line-up in 2003 - the last year that Crayola retired colours as of right now.

14.  Teal Blue

Boy, Teal Blue didn't last very long, did it?  Mind you, it did have more staying power than Light Blue and Brilliant Rose, but of the eight colours that were added in 1990, this one was taken out of rotation in 2003.  My guess why?  Probably because it was made redundant by all the similar shades of blue and green out there.  Besides, of the eight new crayon colours, teal blue was my least favourite.  Not a huge loss there.

15.  Mulberry

Mulberry was the last colour to be eliminated from the Crayola rotation, and I can't say I blame Crayola one bit.  It's a dull reddish-purple colour that could easily have been replaced by Red Violet.  Again, it was a colour since 1958, so after 45 years it is sad to say farewell...but again, it was a colour that I don't consider to be one of my personal favourites.  Truth be told, I like Red Violet better!

So, there you have it.  The fifteen Crayola colours that time forgot.

Now, I did promise that I would give my opinion on three colours that they need to bring back, and the three colours that I think can be axed to make way for the three returning crayons.

Crayola.  If you're reading this...take notes.

One colour that needs to be brought back is Maize.  When I was a little boy, Maize was the perfect colour for a lot of things.  I used Maize for drawing cornfields.  I used Maize for colouring houses.  I used Maize for kids who had blonde hair.  Basically, Maize was a colour that was simple, yet realistic.  You can't use Dandelion for a kid's hair.  It just doesn't look natural.  Some may not agree, but I say bring back the Maize!

I also think the decision to get rid of Blizzard Blue was a bit of a rash one as well.  I think Blizzard Blue was the ONLY shade of blue in the neon colour line, and it was unique enough that I think it still deserved another shot. 

And while we're on the subject of neon colours, I hate the fact that they discontinued Magic Mint - a colour that was bright, but you could still see it - and kept Electric Lime - a colour that is too bright and literally hurts my eyes.  Though, I could say the same for Laser Lemon too.

Anyway, I say bring back Maize, Blizzard Blue, and Magic Mint.

Now, as for colours that I would remove?

While there are nowhere near fifty shades of grey in a box of Crayola crayons, do we really need so much grey?  One colour I would eliminate is Timberwolf.  I'm sure we can eliminate one shade.

I know this next shade has been around since the dawn of time, but for the love of all things Crayola, please get rid of Spring Green.  The Spring Green crayon I have in my 1990s era crayon case is UNUSED.   Because nobody ever uses Spring Green!  EVER!  At least nobody I know uses it.

Finally, get rid of Salmon.  Really, the only thing you could colour with Salmon is...well...salmon.  I'm generally not a pink person by any means, but Lavendar, Magenta, and heck, even Razzle Dazzle Rose are more pleasant to look at than Salmon!

Okay.  I've shared my thoughts.  Now let's hear yours!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Mr. Nice Guy

I have to admit that I have had a whole lot of things on the go these past few days, and when it comes to coming up with topics for discussion this week, I haven't had a whole lot of time to think about it.

But that's not me making any excuses.  I've genuinely had a lot of good things happen to me this year.  And to think that we're only about to enter March in a couple of days.

So, I have to come up with a topic that is quick and easy.  Maybe I might even go through my archives to find something that I talked about some time ago...just to see if it's still relevant today.

I suppose you can call today a "WHO AM I" flashback.

Ah, yes.  Here's an entry I wrote just before I began this blog.  It was originally posted on my Facebook Notes section on March 7, 2011.  It still holds true today.

It seems to me that during my almost thirty years of living that my personality has somewhat evolved over the course of that time frame. You've heard of the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. I truly believe that the same applies to the vessel known as a human body and its inner workings and thoughts. I believe that we are all individual works of art and that we all have a thousand words that can be appropriately matched to every one of us.

There's some words that describe me that I am proud to have in my glossary. Smart. Funny. Great Writer. Embraces Colour.

Some words are kind of on the borderline, depending on how I may be feeling. Hardworking, for instance. I pride myself on my work ethic, but not when people take advantage of it.

There are even a few words that I suppose could describe me that I wish I could delete from the dictionary of Matthew W. Turcotte. Procrastination. Fear. Blame.

But, the wonderful thing about life is that one can have the power to add and subtract words from their own books of life depending on the actions they take. It may take me until my final epilogue before the white-out successfully erases any traces of negativity, but that is life. It constantly updates itself accordingly when the time comes. Heck, if you compare life to printings of a certain textbook, I'm about to enter my thirtieth edition, which is different from edition one, ten, fifteen, and even twenty-nine.

But, going back to the idea that we can all be described with a thousand words, there are some words that seem to describe us through several months, years, or even decades of our lives. Words that no matter how hard we try to erase them from our books, they seem to stick around like permanent marker. Words that will always seem to be associated with us no matter how hard we try to whitewash it. Rachael Ray will always be associated with food. Ellen DeGeneres will always be associated with dancing. Jeff Probst will always be associated with “The Tribe Has Spoken”.

As for me, there seems to be two words that a lot of people around me have used to describe me and my personality. Two words that I have heard almost my whole life. Two words that have inspired me to write a note all about it.

The two words that seem to always stick with me is...nice guy.

That's it. Nothing strong. Masculine. Out of the ordinary.

Just...nice guy.

And, honestly, there were some instances in which I wasn't sure if that was necessarily a good thing to be remembered for.

I'm sure everyone here has heard of the saying “nice guys finish last.” I recall when I first joined Facebook back in late 2007, there was a little bit of a copy/paste note flying around that had that very title. I managed to read the whole thing, and basically, it was saying that so-called “nice guys” were slowly turning into jerks because there aren't a whole lot of people who can truly appreciate nice guys.

At the time, I kind of scoffed at the article, thinking it was written by some prepubescent seventeen year old teeny-bopper who was just dumped by their significant other and was venting about it in a note that somehow managed to spread all over the Internet. But, as time went on, I kept thinking about the article, and asked myself the question “is this really the truth?”

Before all of you come to the conclusion that I may have completely lost my mind, think again.

In some cases, the people who are deemed the so called “nice guys” or “girls next door”, or something similar seem like people you could easily get along with. But, I know for a fact that my “nice guy” status in the past was more of a detriment than an asset.

Years ago, I remember being the kid who would freely help other people out with class assignments, art projects, helping people fix up their spelling mistakes. I even remember bringing yummy snacks for morning recesses and sharing them with other kids, in hopes that my generosity would pay off. Unfortunately, quite the opposite happened. Quite a few of the kids I would help with their homework ended up taking advantage of me. In some cases, I'd end up doing their whole assignment for them, or I'd purposely let them copy my answers, or I'd end up giving them my whole supply of Rainbow Chips Ahoy cookies. All because I thought that the more that I gave them, the more they would reciprocate.

Yeah, that never happened. Instead, I was left with other kids getting credit for the work I did. I was left being segregated to a corner in the back of the classroom so kids couldn't copy off of my paper. If I was lucky, I was left with a blue chocolate chip from the cookies I ended up giving away to kids who would bully me the very next day.

Would you not blame me for being left with a bitter taste in my mouth after having experiences like that? In that sense, especially during my formulative years, being the nice guy seemed to get me nowhere. In fact, it kind of made my school years more difficult.

Of course, this seems like such a minor example, and in a sense it is. But, sometimes, nice guy status doesn't have to involve store bought cookies to invoke feelings of angst and frustration.

There's nothing that pisses me off more than seeing people get bullied or harassed by others. Of course, by now, you all know this about me by now. What makes me especially see shades of crimson and scarlet through my vision is seeing people get abused and taken advantage of by other people just for being the type of person who doesn't like conflict or who can't fight back. It really is something that I have experienced before, and it isn't right at all.

I know this may not be the best example here, but whenever I watch any movie or television show where there seems to be a blatant conflict of good versus evil, I always cringe whenever the evil side seems to gain an advantage over the good. Seeing nice people shoved into lockers, or seeing nice people beat up in parking lots, or seeing nice people get tormented by mind games and abuse. It really makes me want to scream at the television set begging the nice people to stop being nice and do something to stand up to them.

Relationships are another sore spot with me. Not necessarily because of the fact that any of the ones I have had haven't really had a whole lot of significance out there, but because there are so many nice people out there in this world who are with partners who physically, emotionally, sexually, and psychologically abuse them on a day-to-day basis, and just hearing all the stories about people who have had to go through that makes me ill. I know that people everywhere would not stay in a relationship where there is a lot of toxic behaviour, but some of the best people in the world end up trapped because they are either too afraid to leave the relationship, or they've been conditioned by their abusive partner that nobody else would ever love them. For someone to even think that about themselves is heartbreaking. And, you know, I just wish that anyone who has been in an abusive relationship, or who is currently in a relationship with someone who is abusive to them know that there is something better out there if they allow themselves to tell themselves that they are worth it.

Now, as I said before, I've never been in a romantic relationship with someone who physically and emotionally abused me, and I certainly hope that I never am. But, when I was growing up, it almost seemed that being the nice guy meant that I would always be seen as the second best choice in comparison to the more popular, arrogant, classless people who could get whatever they wanted when they wanted it.

Basically, I thought that maybe if I wasn't so nice, I could actually succeed more in life. That maybe if I was a little more arrogant, and cared a little less about people and their feelings that miraculously enough, I would get more respect.

Turns out the only conclusion that I can draw up about my thoughts back then was that I was wrong. Very, very, wrong.

But, it wasn't until only recently that I started to realize how wrong I was.

Over the years, I managed to develop my personality more and more, but try as I might, I couldn't become the mean Simon Cowell-esque son of a bitch that I thought would get me respect. I reluctantly kept up my nice guy status. I mean, I had lived that way for so long, so I may as well have decided to continue to be the nice one, no matter how much I wished in certain situations that I wasn't.

But, then I got sick, and had to get emergency surgery. And, just days after the surgery, I realized just how being the “nice guy” can pay off. I mean, I had so many people call me asking me if I was okay, and there were lots of people who went out of their way to cheer me up with visits, and cards, and flowers. The card that was signed by at least a hundred of my co-workers actually made me choke up a little because I was touched that so many people actually wanted me to get better. And, those feelings were absolutely genuine and filled with love, and it just dawned on me that had I might not have gotten the same attention had I decided years ago that I would become not so nice.

The fact of the matter is that there were plenty of opportunities where I could have become bitter or jaded. I know in my life, I've had plenty of moments where I have felt that way, but I've never seemed to let that bitterness take over my whole life. Do I wish that things could be different? Sometimes. But, I also know that this incident cemented the idea that maybe being the “nice guy” can be a good thing. In fact, I think for me, it may be the two words that I'm actually proud to have describing me.

I mean, it takes so much effort to be angry, bitter, and cruel. But, if there's anything I learned from my risky surgery, sometimes being nice is enough. I know that when push came to shove, I had a core group of people who liked me for who I am, and who were genuinely concerned about me and my well-being, and it really opened up my eyes.

I no longer feel shame in being the “nice guy”. Really, the only thing I feel like I regret about it is the fact that in the past, I never really had the opportunity to put myself out there more, because in a way, I feel as though I cheated myself out of a few opportunities at true happiness, joy, and love even.

I'm more than willing to make up for that now.

And, maybe...just maybe...this nice guy will finish first for once.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Getting Back Up After The Fall

I'm going to make this entry a short one today - partly because I don't really have a topic chosen so I'm just going to wing it, but partly because I don't have a whole lot of time to write a lot anyway.

So, who here watched the Brit Awards?

Yeah, I know.  Probably all of my North American friends are saying, "what the hell are the Brit Awards?"

Well, think of the Grammy Awards from a British perspective.  The awards show celebrates the best of music as presented on the British music charts.  And, unsurprisingly, the majority of the winners happen to be...well, you know...British.

Now, like the Grammy Awards, many artists appear on the program to sing live performances, and one of the biggest highlights of the show was Madonna performing her latest single "Living For Love".  It was a big deal in the UK, as this was the first time that she had performed at the Brit Awards in two decades.  She had performed the single at the Grammy Awards on February 8 without incident, and she was set to do the same at the Brit Awards.

Needless to say, things didn't go so well.

Yes, that is Madonna's cape getting caught on a wire as she was removing it, and she ended up falling down a flight of stairs.  Luckily, she wasn't hurt, and she got right back up and sang her little heart out.

But, fall down on stage at an awards ceremony?  You know that got everyone's tongues wagging.  The #fallenMadonna hashtag was re-tweeted only half a million times, after all. 

But you know, Madonna is hardly the first entertainer to fall on stage.  Who could forget Beyonce tumbling down a set of stairs at one of her concerts a few years ago?

Iggy Azalea took a spill while performing at the MTV Video Music Awards this past year.

Heck, even Juan Gabriel can fall off a stage every now and again.

Ouch.  That one looked like it hurt!

Of course, the important thing to take in is that in all of these cases, these entertainers didn't let a thing like falling down on stage stop them from doing what they were supposed to do.  They picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and went right back to singing.

Well...all except Juan Gabriel, that is.  Seriously, how does one NOT get hurt?  I think I felt pain just watching that clip!

The point is that mistakes happen.  And believe me, I am one person who hates making mistakes.  But we can't let those mistakes define us as people.  We have to rise above them and look at the bright side in mistakes.

In the case of Madonna, well, her newest album is reportedly considered a "comeback album" even though she never really went anywhere.  Perhaps this fall will cause more people to notice her now.  Madonna after all is the queen of self-promotion.

And besides, you have to admit, ten years from now, people will be laughing about it and marking it down as a great moment in her career.  I mean, it's not like she was in a soap opera that was filming live and calling someone by the wrong name, right?

Oh.  Nevermind.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

You Sunk My Battleship!

So, I look outside my window, and surprise,'s snowed.  Again.

I think that most of my fellow North Americans will agree that this has been the winter that will not die.  School closures seem almost as frequent as burst pipes, and I think that this is one of the few winters in which the temperature has stayed in the negatives for more than seven days straight.

Which doesn't seem like it would be a big deal in Celsius.  But in Fahrenheit?  That's freaking cold!

In fact, I seem to remember back when I was in school that when the temperature got too cold outside, teachers kept us indoors at recess and lunch hours to keep us safe.  We were also kept inside when there was a thunderstorm, heavy rain, or a solar eclipse.

I'm not kidding about that last one either.  My elementary school really did keep us inside during an eclipse.  I guess they were worried that all of us kids would look up and be permanently blinded.

So, what did we do during indoor recesses?  Lots of things.

Truth be told, I was one of those kids who absolutely loved indoor recesses instead of outdoor recesses.  Oh sure, it was nice to go outside and play on the equipment, but I liked the idea of staying in the classroom, just so I didn't have to worry about the older kids threatening to beat me up in the football field at recess.

But whenever we had indoor recesses, we pretty much had free reign to do whatever we wanted inside the classroom for fifteen minutes.  This meant being able to read whatever books we wanted, or being able to play with all the toys in the classroom.

Personally, I liked to play board games.  Granted, in a fifteen minute period, there were only a few board games that were worth playing.  Let's face it.  By the time you got to Professor Plum's turn in Clue, the recess bell was ringing and the game was over.  In Monopoly, you were lucky if you got to pass Go and collect $200 before recess ended.

Ah, but the game of "Battleship"?  Now that was a game that could be played quickly and easily.  I reckon that I sunk about a hundred battleships by the time I was ten. 

The first time I played the game was in second grade, as my teacher had it in her classroom as one of the board games we could play.  And believe me, next to "Toss Across", it was one of the most sought after games in the classroom.  Would you believe that two kids actually fought over the game during one indoor recess and those two kids had to spend indoor recess out in the hallway?

Well...actually, I can believe it.  I was one of those kids.  Not my proudest moment.  But, come on!  It was freakin' "Battleship", man!

I think that part of the appeal of "Battleship" was that it was ridiculously easy to play.  As long as you could count to ten and knew the alphabet up to the letter J, you were golden.

The board game - originally released by Milton Bradley in 1967, and which began as a pen/paper game as early as the 1930s - pits two people against each other in a turn-based manner.  Each person has several different sized boats to hide somewhere on their 10x10 grid.  These boats can take up anywhere from 2 spaces to 5 spaces on the grid, and can only be positioned horizontally or vertically.

The boats used in the gameplay are...

Destroyers - 2 spaces
Cruisers - 3 spaces
Submarines - 3 spaces
Battleships - 4 spaces
Aircraft Carriers - 5 spaces

Now, each person would call out a number and a letter combo like A-3, or D-8, or J-9, or whatever number you pick, and the other person will tell you if you missed the target, or hit the target.  If you miss, the player marks it down on their board with a white peg.  If it is a hit, you mark it with a red peg.  And if you happen to find all the squares where a submarine is occupying, well, you have the right to scream "YOU SUNK MY SUBMARINE!" as loud as you want.

Well, except during indoor recess at school.  That'll get you sent out into the hall as well.  Do not ask me how I know this.

Now, obviously the main goal of the game is to sink all of your opponents boats, but I will give a lot of credit to my second grade classmates.  We found ways to shorten the game during indoor recess time.  Sometimes we would play the game as normal, but the first person to sink a boat would automatically win.  Or, we'd just play with one boat each and take turns to see who could sink the other person's battleship first. 

And part of the strategy of the game was placing your boats in a way that the opponent couldn't guess where they were.  Kind of like the example that I have provided below.

Okay, so I have my destroyer in A2, A3
My submarine is H8, I8, and J8
My cruiser is D5, E5, F5
Battleship located in A5, A6, A7, A8
And my aircraft carrier is E10, F10, G10, H10, and I10.

Now, why did I do this?  Simple.

I purposely avoided all four corners.  In my experience, most opponents try to aim for the corners of the board first.  But most people tend to avoid the spaces around the corners...which is why most of my boats are around the perimeter, but never touching a corner.  I've also got one random boat in the center of the board...just in case people seem to think that I have all my boats around the edge.  My hope?  It will throw them off.

Of course, this is just one plan.  Other people employ different strategies.  Some line their boats up so they all intersect a specific number.  Others build an island made of boats so that it will be impossible for the other person to tell what boats they have sunk (which I admit is also an excellent strategy).  And one cheater I know used to move their boats around as they were playing.  Needless to say, nobody wanted to play with HER very long.

All in all, Battleship still remains a great game to play.

Just avoid the 2012 movie.  AT ALL COSTS.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February 24, 2006

Welcome to this week's edition of the Tuesday Timeline.  This is a weekly feature where we take a look back at a particular event in pop culture history and talk about it.

Of course, if you've been following the blog since the early days, most of you probably already know this.

Anyway, it's the final Tuesday of February 2015, and in this edition, we'll be paying tribute to someone who I would easily consider a comedic genius.

You guys all know the drill by now.  Before we go ahead with the main topic of conversation, we are going to be entertained by other February 24 entries that didn't quite make the cut.

1582 - Pope Gregory XIII announces the arrival of the Gregorian calendar

1607 - Claudio Monteverdi's "L'Orfeo" has its premiere performance - one of the first works to be recognized as an opera

1809 - The Drury Lane Theatre in London burns down

1863 - Arizona is organized as a territory of the United States

1868 - Andrew Johnson becomes the first American President to be impeached; the Senate would later acquit him of all charges

1918 - A declaration of independence is made by the nation of Estonia

1938 - Actor James Farentino (d. 2012) is born in Brooklyn, New York

1942 - The Battle of Los Angeles - one of the largest documented UFO sightings in history - begins

1955 - Co-founder of Apple Inc. Steve Jobs (d. 2011) is born in San Francisco, California

1968 - Comedian Mitch Hedberg (d. 2005) is born in St. Paul, Minnesota

1980 - The U.S. Olympic Team defeats Finland 4-2 to win the gold medal in hockey, completing the "Miracle on Ice".

1981 - Athens, Greece is struck by a 6.7 magnitude earthquake, killing 16 and destroying several buildings

1983 - A special commission of the United States Congress releases a report condemning the practice of Japanese internment during World War II

1984 - A school shooting takes place at 49th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles, killing two children and injuring twelve others

1989 - Nine passengers are sucked out of an airplane when a hole rips open on United Airlines Flight 811

1994 - Singer/actress Dinah Shore passes away at the age of 77

2008 - After almost fifty years in power, Fidel Castro steps down as President of Cuba

2011 - The final launch of Space Shuttle Discovery takes place

2014 - Actor/director Harold Ramis dies at the age of 69

Let us also wish the following famous faces a happy birthday.  Happy birthday to Abe Vigoda, Dominic Chianese, Barry Bostwick, Rupert Holmes, Edward James Olmos, Dennis Waterman, George Thorogood, Debra Jo Rupp, Helen Shaver, Sid Meier, Paula Zahn, Sammy Kershaw, Mark Moses, Beth Broderick, Todd Field, Kristin Davis, Billy Zane, Bonnie Somerville, Ashley MacIsaac, Crista Flanagan, Jay Kenneth Johnson, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Claire Cooper, Lleyton Hewitt, and Trace Cyrus.

Now comes today's date.  And it's actually one that's not that far away in the past.  We aren't even going back ten years.

The date is February 24, 2006.  And this was the day that we said goodbye to a true film and television legend.

Sure, he may not have portrayed some of the most intelligent people to ever grace the silver screen and boob tube.  But watching him on film and television, you probably wouldn't have guessed that he earned a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University.  He also served during World War II, performing comedy routines and vaudeville style acts for the troops. 

And, what you probably didn't know was that behind all the laughter and the joy he brought to each and every one of his performances, he had a childhood that could best be described as a nightmare.

This is the story of Jesse Donald Knotts - better known to you and I as Don Knotts, who passed away nine years ago today at the age of 81.

Now, Don Knotts and I actually share one thing in common.  We were both children that were born later than all the others.  In my case, I was the youngest child born nearly a full decade after the last one was born.  Don Knotts was the last child born to William and Elsie Knotts on July 21, 1924, when Elsie was forty.  

And due to the stress of the birth, Don's father sustained a nervous breakdown because of it.  To make matters worse, Don would spend the first thirteen years of his life afraid of his father.  Due to his alcoholism and suffering symptoms of schizophrenia, Don's father would often terrorize him, even chasing after him with a knife.  Don's father died in 1937.  His older brother William would die four years later, in 1941.  Don's mother would pass away in 1969 at the age of 84.

After returning from the war and graduating from West Virginia University in 1948, Knotts had decided that he wanted to become an entertainer as a full-time career, and one of his first roles ever was on the television soap opera "Search for Tomorrow".  He stayed on the show for two years (1953-1955) before becoming a regular guest on Steve Allen's variety show beginning in 1956.  During this time, he also acted in a couple of Broadway performances and films including one stint in 1958 where he starred in the film version of "No Time for Sergeants" with a man by the name of Andy Griffith.

You know where I'm going with this, right?

Of course, you know that it would be because of Andy Griffith that Don Knotts would become a huge star, as Knotts was cast on "The Andy Griffith Show" playing the part of bumbling, yet kind-hearted deputy Barney Fife.  Knotts played Barney Fife for the first five seasons of the show alongside Griffith and child actor Ron Howard - hmm...whatever became of Ron Howard anyway?  That'll have to be looked at another day.

Anyway, back to Knotts.  During the five years he played Barney Fife, Knotts enjoyed the experience.  Initially, Griffith was supposed to be the comedic foil for Barney Fife, but audiences responded better when the situation was the other way around, so Barney Fife gradually became more comedic and funny as the show progressed.

But at the conclusion of the show's fifth season in 1965, Knotts had believed that the fifth season would be the show's last, and he had started to look for other work.  To Knotts' surprise, the show was renewed for another year (the show stayed on the air until 1968).  But at that time, Knotts had already booked several film projects and he was tied up.  Besides, when Knotts weighed the pros and the cons of it all, he figured that he would not get another opportunity to land a movie contract.  So, the decision was made for Knotts to leave in 1965 to embark on his film career.

And, what films did he appear in?

Well, there's "The Incredible Mr. Limpet", "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken", "The Reluctant Astronaut", "How To Frame a Figg", "The Apple Dumpling Gang", "Gus", and "Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo".  I'd say that was a good move on Knotts' part, wouldn't you?

(By the way, Disney has a collection of Don Knotts movies available in a special four film collection!  Definitely check it out!)

And beginning in 1979, Don Knotts proved that sitcom success could strike twice when he was cast as Ralph Furley in the sitcom "Three's Company".

Now, joining the cast of an already established show could signify the moment in which a show "jumps the shark", so to speak.  But I have to be honest, I thought Don Knotts joining the show brought new life to the program.  Sure, I liked the Ropers enough, but they always had the same gags and by season three, it was time for a change.  Well, not only did Don Knotts make audiences laugh with his portrayal of the swinging landlord Mr. Furley, but when Suzanne Somers left the show in 1981, Knotts was given material that was meant for Somers' character, Chrissy Snow, and well, he stayed on the show until its cancellation in September 1984.

And he reunited with his old friend Andy Griffith in the 1986 film "Return to Mayberry" and had a recurring role on Griffith's series "Matlock" until 1992.  After appearing on "Matlock", Knotts took on fewer acting projects, though he did make a small appearance on the 1998 film "Pleasantville", lent his voice talents to a couple of Scooby-Doo projects, voiced Turkey Lurkey in "Chicken Little", and appeared in a cameo on "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" alongside his former "Three's Company" cast mate John Ritter, who would die just months after taping the episode with Knotts.

In later years, Knotts began to lose vision in his eyes, due to macular degeneration, and he was considered totally blind by the time he died on February 24, 2006.  The cause of death was pneumonia related to lung cancer.  One of the last people to visit Knotts before his death was Andy Griffith.

It seems hard to believe that he's been gone for nine years, but in a way, Don Knotts still lives on.  In 1998, his hometown of Morgantown, West Virginia named a street after him.  And in 2000, Knotts received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

And, of course, there's his final resting place...with a plaque that shows just how rich and rewarding a career he had.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Being Your Own Worst Enemy - Highly Unrecommended

This is a rather embarrassing thing to be admitting in a public forum such as this blog, but I think I have to come clean here.

I am stuck on Candy Crush Soda.

For whatever reason, level 80 is kicking my ass, and I honestly am more disappointed in the fact that I have let a video game frustrate me.  I mean, it's been four weeks since I started playing level 80.  It's one of those stupid levels where you try to find all of the green gummi bears.  There are 20 small ones, and one gigantic one.  I can get the regular gummi bears, but I can't save the super huge one.

And, I've been trying to complete this level for four weeks.  So frustrating.

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, it is just a silly video game.  Sure, it's a bit of a bummer watching everyone else soar past you in the game, but it's not as if you're going to get fired, or grounded, or even murdered if you can't beat level 80 on Candy Crush Soda.  You just play, use up your five lives, and try again later without any sort of worry whatsoever.

If only real life failures worked like that.

You see, I am one of those people who have a really difficult time dealing with failure.  I always have been.  I wish I didn't feel this way at all and could easily bounce back from my mistakes, but for whatever reason I can't.

I mean, if I sold a television that was accidentally put on hold for another customer, I would tell myself how bloody foolish I was and I would have so much guilt that I would think about giving them my own television to make them happy.

(Like that would ever happen, but the guilt!  THE GUILT!)

Or, if I tried to colour match an exact colour on the paint machine and it comes out completely different from what they asked for (which has actually happened), I would get frustrated and convince myself that I need to re-enroll back in kindergarten to learn more about mixing colours together.

(Like that would ever happen, but the guilt!  THE GUILT!)

Or, if I promise to do something for someone only to completely bail on it because of a bad memory, lack of skills, or being unable to keep the promise, I would be so upset that I would convince myself that these people won't want to have anything else to do with me, and I would go back home to hide and become a hermit.

(Sadly, that has happened before because of the guilt!  THE GUILT!)

In a nutshell...I'm my own worst enemy.

Worse?  I've had people tell me this.  And I believe them.

I suppose that when you get used to having low self-esteem, it makes it extremely difficult to handle it when things start going well and when you actually begin to show signs of high self-esteem.

And certainly over the last few weeks, I've had a lot of great things happen to me.  I've started a new job which I absolutely love, and I've actually gotten an interview published in a magazine.  I've been on a high and things have been going awesome.

And all it took was screwing up someone's paint order to make my ecstasy crash into levels of depression.

Logically speaking, it could have happened to anyone.  Anyone could have screwed up the colour formula.  Logically, I've only been making paint for three weeks now.  Mistakes are bound to happen, especially for someone who has never really taken on this challenge before.

But seeing how everyone else who has mixed paint seems to do it flawlessly, it sort of makes me feel like I can't compare with them, and briefly, it made me wonder if I was once again in the wrong line of work.

But that can't be true because I've been enjoying it a lot.  Paint mixing is only one part of the job.  I may not have mastered it yet, but I can do lots of other things very well.  I should focus more on those so that I can build up the confidence needed to mix paint more perfectly, and from there I can hopefully stop beating myself up and feeling guilty for things that may or may not be my fault.

It's a lifelong struggle, but I think I can end it.  I will not let man, woman, or paint mixer defeat me.

Now, if you excuse me...level 80 calls...