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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Pop Culture Addict Advent Calendar 2016 Schedule!



Tomorrow I will be beginning the POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR.  This year I'll be doing it a little differently.  Don't worry though...I'll still have lots of Christmas fun.  It's just that with the lack of time I have and the fact that over five years, I've blogged about almost everything Christmas, I'm going to make this more personal.

Here's the tentative schedule for the next 25 days.

SUNDAYS - Christmas Carol Sunday
MONDAYS - Christmas at School
TUESDAYS - Tuesday Timeline
WEDNESDAYS - Wednesday Wishes
THURSDAYS - SCROOGED!
FRIDAYS - Jem Reviewed!
SATURDAYS - Holiday Programming


To explain a couple of them - Christmas at School deals with various art projects, Christmas activities, and all the stuff we did when we were kids.  Wednesday Wishes are about some of things that I wanted for Christmas, as well as traditions associated with the holidays.  Thursdays are going to be a fun day as I point out that not everything about the holidays is enjoyable, and I select some items that I would be happy if they got rid of permanently.  And Saturdays, I'll talk about Christmas specials and Christmas movies.

The Tuesday and Friday entries won't change much.  And I'm actually kind of relieved that I can attempt to put a Christmas spin on three of the Jem Reviewed entries.  When we get to December 23, I'm going to have a LOT of issues, but I'll try to figure something out. 

So, that's the schedule.  And then once Christmas is over, I'll be doing a week long review on the Good and the Bad of 2016...or, in this case...maybe just the bad...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November 29, 1972

This is the last Tuesday Timeline for November...and I realize that November hasn't been that busy of a month here in this blog.  I promise that I will rectify that when December arrives - and I'll give you a heads up on what to expect in tomorrow's blog entry.  I think it's something that a lot of you will like.  At least, I hope so.

For now, let's see what happened on November 29 through the history pages.

1612 - The Battle of Swally takes place

1776 - The Battle of Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia concludes

1777 - The city of San Jose, California is founded by Jose Joaquin Moraga

1781 - A disturbing crime takes place when the crew of the Zong - a British slave ship - murders 133 African slaves by dumping them into the sea in order to claim insurance

1830 - An armed rebellion against Russia's rule in Poland begins, setting forth the November Uprising

1832 - Poet/novelist Louisa May Alcott (d. 1888) is born in Germantown, Pennsylvania

1847 - The Whitman Massacre takes place, which serves as the catalyst for the Cayuse War

1877 - Thomas Edison demonstrates his newest invention - the phonograph

1929 - Richard E. Byrd - an American admiral - leads the expedition to fly over the South Pole for the first time

1940 - Singer/songwriter Denny Doherty (d. 2007) is born in Halifax, Nova Scotia

1944 - The first human surgery to correct blue baby syndrome is performed by Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas

1949 - Comedian/actor Garry Shandling (d. 2016) is born in Chicago, Illinois

1950 - The United Nations forces are left with no choice but to retreat from North Korea after being forced to leave by North Korean and Chinese soldiers during the Korean War

1961 - Enos, a chimpanzee - is launched into space

1963 - The Warren Commission is established by Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the assassination of John F. Kennedy one week earlier

1965 - Alouette 2 is launched by the Canadian Space Agency

1975 - The Silver Connection single "Fly, Robin, Fly" reaches #1 on the Billboard charts

1981 - Actress Natalie Wood drowns under mysterious circumstances at the age of 43

1986 - Actor Cary Grant passes away, aged 82

1991 - Actor Ralph Bellamy dies at the age of 87

2001 - George Harrison, singer, songwriter, musician, and Beatle, passes away at the age of 58

2004 - Actor John Drew Barrymore passes away at the age of 72

2005 - Actress Wendie Jo Sperber loses her battle with breast cancer, aged 47 years of age

2009 - Four police officers are gunned down inside of a coffee shop in Lakewood, Washington - the shooter was shot and killed two days later

And for celebrity birthdays, let me send out some birthday greetings to the following people; Vin Scully, Diane Ladd, Meco, Suzy Chaffee, Jeff Fahey, Joel Coen, Howie Mandel, Hinton Battle, Cathy Moriarty, Kim Delaney, Tom Sizemore, Andrew McCarthy, Don Cheadle, Cork Graham, Ellen Cleghorne, Jonathan Knight, Larry Joe Campbell, Brian Baumgartner, Sarah Jones, Anna Faris, Lauren German, Simon Amstell, The Game, Lucas Black, and Imogen Thomas.

So, quite a lot has happened on this date.  I definitely had no shortage of topics to choose from.  But since Christmas is coming soon, I thought that I would make today's Tuesday Timeline subject toy related.  Why not, right?



That's the reason behind why I chose the date of November 29, 1972 as today's destination.  Because it was on this date 44 years ago today that kicked off what could be considered a multimillion dollar industry.  And it forever changed the way you looked at a specific game.

The industry, of course, is video games.  Ever since 1972, video games have been through a lot.  We saw 8-bit graphics turn into 3D graphics.  We saw Mario change his look about a couple of dozen times.  And we even survived the video game crash of 1983 which very nearly crippled the industry beyond repair.

And I can imagine that quite a few of you that might be reading this entry have probably asked for at least one video game related item for Christmas this year.

Trust me.  I know.  This Christmas, I want the Classic Mini NES that has thirty games preloaded onto it.  I also know that I am NOT going to be getting it because you cannot find it in stores and people have the gall to charge up to fifteen hundred dollars for it on eBay.

Yeah, like I really want to pay $1,500 for a video game system that only costs $90 here in Canada.  Capitalism can be a good thing for economic stimulation, but I'd classify that to be electronic extortion!

Not even the video game system that featured today's Tuesday Timeline subject - The Magnavox Odyssey - cost that much!  Adjusting for inflation, it only cost $560 in 2016 bucks to buy it (It was worth $99 in 1972 - the year it was released).

And yes...believe it or not, they did have video games back in 1972.



Okay, so the video game "Pong" was extremely basic in presentation and gameplay.  It was more or less a crude way to play electronic tennis.  But would you believe that it was 44 years ago today that "Pong" made its appearance in video arcades all over the United States?  And that it is easily considered the video game that started the entire gaming industry?

Now, as I mentioned before, the game appeared as part of the Magnavox Odyssey console (though it wasn't called Pong).  But the actual arcade game was developed by Atari (which once served as the most successful company in gaming consoles before Nintendo dethroned them in the mid-1980s).  And, it was largely inspired by the table tennis game that was included with the Magnavox Odyssey - which would spark a lawsuit between Magnavox and Atari a few years later.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

We can thank Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell and Allan Alcorn for the creation of Pong.  Although Alcorn had zero experience with creating electronic simulation games, Bushnell believed in his abilities enough to assign him a special project of sorts - a project meant to be a warm-up exercise for the finished project.  What Alcorn ended up creating was the video game "Pong".  Though the story of how Pong came to be varies depending on who you talk with.  If you believe Bushnell's story, the game idea was based on a game he played on a PDP-1 computer all the way back in 1964.  However, Alcorn maintains that Bushnell only got the idea after playing the tennis game on the Magnavox Odyssey, and assigned the project to Alcorn in the hopes of creating a better looking product.

It wasn't long after Atari released "Pong" that Magnavox filed the lawsuit against them, citing infringement against the patents that Ralph Baer (the creator of the Magnavox Odyssey) had in his possession.  Bushnell ended up settling with Magnavox out of court - largely due to the fact that the legal fees to keep the court case going would have likely bankrupted Atari.  Magnavox offered Atari an agreement to become a licensee for the price tag of $700,000, and other companies that would produce Pong (Colecovision, Intellivision, etc) would have to pay royalties.  Magnavox would also obtain the rights to any and all products that Atari developed within a year after the case was settled - a clause that Atari successfully managed to avoid by postponing all major releases until after the year deadline expired.

All that trouble for what could be considered the simplest video game every played.

Seriously, it's tennis.  You move the white bars around to bounce a moving ball across the court.  If you end up missing the ball, your opponent scores a point.  It's really simple - and I'm fairly sure that if you allowed a millennial to play the game, they'd probably get bored after thirty seconds.


But back in '72, it was the game to own...and we wouldn't have modern day video games without Pong!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Jem Reviewed: Episode 36 - Music is Magic



All right...it's a new week of Jem Reviewed.  And considering that last week's edition was so bad that I sort of gave up at the end, I'm hoping that Episode 36: Music is Magic is a lot better.  After all, the show's title is named after one of the Jem songs I liked during season one.  And, I'm going to wager dollars to donuts that the song will be making a reappearance at some point.



For now, let's watch as The Great Kimberini makes a huge fool of herself in front of all the Starlight Girls.  Apparently, Kimber has a side hobby of practicing magic tricks, and she's decided to practice on the girls.  So, if you happen to see Deirdre, Krissie, and Lela dead on the floor, you'll know Kimber tried to saw them in half.  But I don't think Jerrica would even let Kimber do that.



Besides, it doesn't look like Kimber is even that skilled with trying basic tricks such as getting out of a locked chest.  Ba Nee has to rescue her with the skeleton key that Kimber had her hold.  Some magician you turned out to be!



Well, maybe Kimber can learn some things from the actual magicians that will be appearing at the place the band will be performing.  It's a place called Magic Island (how original), and they will be performing alongside real magicians and illusionists for a primetime "Music and Magic" television special.  Sounds like a really cool idea, and I'm sure it's going to be a big hit.



Well, okay...it looks like someone wants to sabotage the event because we see them tearing apart the poster.  My money's on Eric, but we'll see.

By the way...have you noticed that the animation for this episode isn't all that great?  It's very different from the 35 episodes that we previously watched.  Well, in this week's Jem Trivia, I can tell you why.  Of the 65 episodes that were made, 59 of them were animated in Japan.  The other six were animated in South Korea - whose animation budget clearly wasn't as high as Japan's.  But it did save them some money overall.  One way you can tell that it's a Korean production (aside from the bad animation) is the fact that in these episodes, Raya has been made Caucasian.  Whitewashing at its lamest.  For future reference, the episodes made in South Korea are 36, 43, 46, 48, 56, and 58.



It's time for the Holograms to meet up with the rest of the illusionists.  First, they are greeted by magician Devon Silverstone.  I'm guessing that they couldn't legally use the name David Copperfield because of the fact that he didn't give them permission - or they couldn't use it because of the character from the Charles Dickens novel.  Either way, Copperfield might have been too busy chasing Claudia Schiffer to really care.  Silverstone's eyes seem to be focused entirely on Jem, and he magically makes flowers appear.



But then we're introduced to Marla "Get Your Hands Off My Man, Bitch" Martell, who clearly is disgusted by the attraction between Devon and Jem - mainly because she makes it painfully obvious that she wants to be in control of his...magic wand, so to speak.



And to prove it, she makes a snake appear in the flowers that Devon just gave Jem.  My, Marla must be really fun at parties.



Fortunately, another pair of magicians come along to lend a hand by taking care of the snake.  Yeah, I suppose having Jem hospitalized for getting bit by a poisonous snake would be considered bad for ratings.  The man who made the snake disappear is named Frick, and his homely looking sidekick is Frack, his assistant.  But before you think that Jem has found an ally, think again.  Frick is not happy with Jem and the Holograms being there because he doesn't like sharing the stage with non-magicians.  Sorry, Kimber.  I guess you have to go home.  And Frick also complains about the other band that is set to perform alongside them.  Uh oh...do I even want to know who this other band is?



Oh look...when the moon hits your eye like a huge Misfit pie, that's anything BUT amore.



But you want to know what IS amore?  The song "Abracadabra".  This ain't the Steve Miller version either.  It's a brand new Misfits song, and it is absolutely phenomenal.  The visuals, the music, the lyrics.  I was worried that the Misfits had used up all their great song stylings, but this one is a keeper.  Easily a contender for favourite Misfits Season 2 song.

Oh, and of course, the Misfits are trying to make THEMSELVES the main performers so that they can force Jem and the Holograms out.  Of course they are.  That's their whole purpose of existing!



Fortunately, Devon interrupts the action to ask Jem to marry him.  No, wait.  He just wants her to be his guinea pig for a new magic trick.  Either way, Jem agrees to the trick, provided that it doesn't take too much time.  I'm guessing just based on the giant box on stage, it's one of those classic disappearing rock star tricks where Jem escapes from the box and reappears behind a curtain on stage.



At least, that's what is SUPPOSED to happen.  As soon as Jem enters the box and Devon starts doing his magic spiel, the box explodes in a gigantic fireball and Jem is nowhere to be found!



OH MY GOD!  DEVON KILLED JEM!  YOU BASTARD!

The strange thing is that there is no body present, so I'm thinking that the trick worked like a charm.  I'm also thinking that the trick was actually sabotaged on purpose and that the perpetrator has Jem locked up in a different location. 



The number of suspects is quite high, and my first instinct is that for someone to get away with it, they would have to know magic themselves.  So, Kimber's out as a suspect.  And I'm thinking Devon is out as well, since he genuinely looked shocked at Jem's disappearing act - unless he's a really great actor.  If I were the Holograms, I'd suspect Marla or the Frick/Frack combo, as both expressed dislike for her.



But no, the Holograms have suspected the Misfits because they seem to be all on stupid pills.  Though, it does lead in nicely to the Jem and the Holograms song "It Could Be You" - which again is a fantastic song.  Say what you will about the animation of this episode - the music is incredible this time around.

The Misfits, of course, deny the accusations, and it is decided that the three groups (magicians, Holograms, Misfits) split up so they can cover more ground in locating Jem.  Seems reasonable.



Group #1 contains Pizzazz, Marla, and Kimber, who seem to be on a side stage away from the main stage.  The stage is loaded with dozens of magic props as well as musical instruments.  And almost immediately, Kimber and Pizzazz are frightened by the suddenly appearing image of a frightening monster. 



Marla is quick to point out that the image is nothing more than a hologram being projected via a machine.  See, Kimber...you of all people should recognize a hologram when you see one!  See?  Stupid pills.  Of course, most Holograms don't shoot laser beams at random women, and poor Kimber gets locked in a giant sarcophagus as laser beams seemingly make Marla disintegrate!  



And to make matters worse, the creepy orange monster grabs a hold of a shrieking Pizzazz and both of them disappear in a cloud of smoke!  It's official.  Someone DEFINITELY doesn't want the show to go on.



Luckily for Kimber, Aja's group arrives in time to help her out of the sarcophagus.  But because Kimber didn't see the moment in which Pizzazz and Marla disappeared, she's unable to know where they could have gone.  The groups decide that splitting up is not the way to go, and they regroup.



They soon find themselves in a basement of the theatre, where thanks to some quick thinking by Devon, they have enough light to see.  And Raya thinks that she sees Jem locked up in a cage in the corner.  Oh, that's just too obvious.  You know there has to be a catch.



Sure enough, when Raya enters the cage, she finds that "Jem" is really a cardboard cutout.  And when Raya tries to leave the cage, it locks behind her and spins her around in a cloud of thick smoke.  It seems that Raya is our next person to pull a disappearing act...



...or she turns into a tiger that is set on making Stormer her next meal.  Funny...I would think that if the tiger really was Raya, she'd want to bite off Jetta's face before attacking Stormer.  Either way, more quick thinking from Devon blinds the tiger long enough for them to get away, and for Devon to lock the tiger back into the cage it came from.  So, I'm officially crossing Devon off the suspect list too, meaning that Frick and Frack are looking mighty guilty to me - well, unless Marla staged her own disappearing act.



But before the group can approach them, Frick decides to pull out a tarp to hold them off, loses his grip on the tarp, and somehow finds a way to make Devon, Roxy, and Aja disappear!  Oh, sure...that's a great way to prove your innocence!



For the remaining people left - Kimber, Stormer, Shana, and Jetta, it's all the proof that they need to suspect that Frick is the one who masterminded the whole plan and kidnapped all of their friends.  They immediately chase after them, and plan to make them reveal where their friends are.



But just as the girls have the magicians cornered, they're ambushed by a gigantic cannon that shoots balloons and confetti all over them!



It shoots them with such force that all of them end up sliding down a hidden trapdoor where they all land in individual cages that are sealed up tight!  



Kimber looks around and sees Jem, Aja, Raya, and the others have all suffered the same fate as them.  Well, okay, Pizzazz is locked in a coffin and Roxy is dangling upside down in a straitjacket.  But with everybody locked away in the catacombs of the theatre, it seems as though none of them could be guilty.



That is, until Frack opens up his door and announces his evil scheme.  It seems as though Frack was getting a little tired of being Frick's second banana, and he decided that he would use his own magic skills to take over the whole Music and Magic show!  Oh, and he locked up the Holograms and the Misfits as well, because he refuses to share the stage with anyone.  So this whole plot was to make him a star, was it?  Well, Jem is determined to stop him.  Of course, it's pretty hard for Jem to do anything locked up.



But as soon as Frack leaves to start the show, Kimber remembers that she still has her skeleton key on her.  You know, the key that can open up any lock?  Kimber tries the key on the lock of her cage and successfully gets out!  Thinking she's onto something, she runs over to Jem's cage and frees her!  Kimber saves the day yet again!



As Kimber runs around the area unlocking Holograms, Misfits, and magicians, Marla approaches Jem and apologizes for treating her so badly at the start, which Jem accepts.  I think Frick also apologizes for having a psycho assistant, but I can't remember that part.



Unfortunately for Pizzazz, she's the last one to be rescued, and Kimber's skeleton key breaks in the lock.  Since they have no time to waste, the Holograms and the magicians go on ahead to try and stop Frack from destroying the show...leaving Roxy and Stormer to try and get Pizzazz out with a handsaw!  Oh, why do I get the feeling that this isn't going to end well?  Though kudos to Paul Dini for including so many sight gags!



On stage, Frack is definitely enjoying the limelight of being the sole performer of the show, and he truly believes that he has gotten away with the perfect crime.  Well, that is until the curtain opens up behind him, and Jem and the Holograms are standing there along with Frick, Marla, and Devon.



Stunned, but surprisingly prepared, Frack uses his powers of magic to make the magicians fall on stage thanks to a game of 52 Pick-Up!  But what Frack doesn't know is that Jem has her own book of tricks - or rather, an earring of tricks.



With help from Synergy, Jem clones all the members of her band six or seven times to really confuse Frack.  Then when Frack uses his magic wand to attack one of the groups, he turns Jem into an ugly green monster that makes him retreat! 



He backs up so much that it allows the Misfits who are backstage to kidnap him and tie him up in a straitjacket!  You know, when the Holograms and the Misfits work together, they actually become stronger.  I just wish their silly feud didn't get in the way all the time.



With Frack now tied up, the show can go on.  But Devon approaches Jem and is blown away by how she made those illusions appear!  He tries to get her to reveal her secrets, but Jem doesn't take the bait.  Instead, she and the Holograms perform a song.



And that song is - of course - "Music is Magic".  It was originally performed in Episode 5, and I named it one of my favourite songs from Season 1.  I'm really glad they reused it for this show, and I'm really glad that it received a better music video than the one used in Episode 5.  All in all, this episode - in spite of its flawed animation - is one of the better ones of Season 2.  Actually, on the whole, the first part of season 2 (with a couple of exceptions) has started off really strong.  I like it!

But as the show ends and the Holograms prepare to go home, they wonder whatever happened to the Misfits.





Uh-oh...looks like Frack escaped and took his revenge by tying the Misfits up and making them miss the whole show!  But again, kudos to Paul Dini for creating great sight gags - as well as a fantastic episode!




The next episode of Jem Reviewed helps kick off our POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR!  And in that episode, Jem tries to perform a Christmas miracle by bringing the members of a 1940s jazz band back together for one more record!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November 22, 1963

Today on the Tuesday Timeline entry, we're going to visit an event that some of you might remember experiencing...and others probably have read in a 20th century history textbook.  But whether you were alive to hear about it or not, we're going to talk about it - as well as offer up some thoughts on some current events.

So sit back, help yourself to a cup of tea (with or without sugar), and let's have a look at the events of November 22 that did not make the cut for the main subject today.

1718 - Edward Teach (a.k.a. Blackbeard) is killed in battle off the coast of North Carolina

1812 - Seventeen Indiana Rangers are killed at the Battle of Wild Cat Creek during the War of 1812

1837 - William Lyon Mackenzie calls for a rebellion against the United Kingdom when his essay "To The People of Upper Canada" is published

1908 - The Albanian alphabet is established

1921 - Actor/comedian Rodney Dangerfield (d. 2004) is born in Deer Park, New York

1924 - Actress Geraldine Page (d. 1987) is born in Kirksville, Missouri

1928 - Ravel's "Bolero" hosts its premiere performance in Paris, France

1932 - Actor Robert Vaughn (d. 2016) is born in New York City

1941 - Country singer Terry Stafford (d. 1996) is born in Hollis, Oklahoma

1943 - The Cairo Conference is held

1954 - The Humane Society of the United States is established

1955 - "Three Stooges" star Shemp Howard dies at the age of 60

1963 - Novelist Aldous Huxley passes away at the age of 69

1968 - The Beatles release "The White Album"

1975 - Juan Carlos becomes the King of Spain

1977 - British Airways begin offering a flight between London and New York City aboard the semisonic Concorde Jet

1980 - Actress Mae West passes away at the age of 87

1986 - Mike Tyson becomes the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history winning the title at just twenty years of age

1987 - A pirate dressed up as Max Headroom hijacks two television stations in the Chicago area

1995 - "Toy Story" - the first animated feature to be made entirely in CGI - is released

1997 - INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence is found dead inside of a Sydney hotel room, aged 37

2001 - Mary Kay Cosmetics founder Mary Kay Ash dies at the age of 83

2002 - Over one hundred people lose their lives in an attack in Nigeria - the initial targets were people involved with the Miss World beauty pageant

2005 - Angela Merkel becomes the first woman to serve as Chancellor of Germany

And for celebrity birthdays, I want to wish the following famous faces a great day today; Terry Gilliam, Tom Conti, Billie Jean King, Steven Van Zandt, Tina Weymouth, Kent Nagano, Lawrence Gowan, Richard Kind, Donny Deutsch, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lenore Zann, Mariel Hemingway, Winsor Harmon, Brian Robbins, Kristin Minter, Mads Mikkelsen, Boris Becker, Mark Ruffalo, David Pelletier, Fiona Glascott, Tyler Hilton, Scarlett Johansson, Austin Brown, Candice Glover, Katherine McNamara, and Madison Davenport.

Okay, so today's Tuesday Timeline date is one that will live in infamy - in particular if you lived in the United States at the time - or more specifically, Dallas, Texas.



For it was on this date in Dallas - November 22, 1963 - that shocked the whole world.  By the conclusion, the entire way we looked at the world was forever changed.

In fact, I have some photographic evidence of the importance of this day.  Last Christmas, I received a gift of a pop culture desk calendar where each entry talks about something that happened in either the 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s.  It's been a lot of fun to reminisce about these things, and I've even posted each page on my Facebook page to get discussions going.

This was the entry for today.



Now, while I definitely was not around to witness the assassination of John F. Kennedy (come to think of it, I was still in the womb when the 1981 attempt on Ronald Reagan took place), my parents remember it vividly.  In fact, my mother was watching "As The World Turns" on television when the show was interrupted to report the news of Kennedy's death.



The story of Kennedy's death is one that almost everybody knows by now.  At the time of his death, Kennedy was visiting the city of Dallas, Texas with his wife, Jacqueline.  He was in town to try and smooth other tension that erupted within the Democratic Party.  And because Kennedy's arrival had already been broadcast to the people of Dallas-Fort Worth, at least 150,000 to 200,000 people lined the streets of the city, just to get a glimpse of him.  The President and First Lady boarded the Presidential limousine that would take them to their destination, and up until they reached Dealey Plaza, everything went according to plan.

But when the limousine turned onto Elm Street, that's when things took a dark turn.  Three shots were fired towards the limo, and within a matter of seconds, President Kennedy was dead - the cause of death being a gunshot wound to the head.  Also injured in the shooting was Texas Governor Jogn Connally and spectator James Tague.

The perpetrator of the assassination was Lee Harvey Oswald - a former U.S. Marine who had recently returned to the United States following a three year stint in Russia.  Though he was initially arrested for the unrelated murder of a police officer when he was apprehended, it didn't take long for the truth to come out, and Lee Harvey Oswald was formally charged in the sniper attack on President Kennedy.



Of course, we also know that no trial ever took place for the assassination on Kennedy.  Just two days after Kennedy was killed, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by nightclub owner Jack Ruby as he was being transferred to the county jail.  The shooting was broadcast on air, and a famous photograph taken by Robert H. Jackson was printed in nearly every newspaper in the country.  Oswald died just under two hours after being shot by Ruby.

With Kennedy dead, Lyndon B. Johnson stepped in as President, and at the funeral services of President Kennedy, I think nearly everyone's hearts broke when they saw John F. Kennedy Jr. give his father one final salute.

It seems hard to believe that fifty-three years has passed since that fateful day in Dallas.  As a result of the shooting, security on all future Presidents has been increased permanently, and aside from the 1981 attempt on Ronald Reagan, there has not been any attempts on the life of an American President - at least no attempt that has been widely reported, anyway.

I guess that's why I don't find it a laughing matter when people joke about wanting to kill a President, or a Prime Minister, or anybody within the government structure.  We don't have to like them or agree with what they say, but we do have to respect them enough to not want any harm to come to them.

I know that many people are very upset about Donald Trump becoming the 45th President of the United States - and to be honest with you, I'm right there with you.  You see, when I think about the qualities I equate with being a President - compassion, dignity, eloquence, leadership - I can't say that I would use those adjectives to describe Trump, a man who some might say wouldn't even know the meaning of the word diplomatic.  But, he was elected by the majority of the American people who voted, and barring some fluke, he is going to take control of the United States of America when he is formally inaugurated in January.

Now, while I definitely don't agree with him being President, I also don't agree with people who wish to see him assassinated, or even joke about it.  I'm sure that the last surviving member of the family - Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg - would be the first to tell you how devastating the effects of an assassination can have on a family.  And to be honest with you, while I still think he needs to take some lessons on being a decent human being and not being so much of a xenophobic, homophobic, racist and sexist - he may just surprise us all and make decisions that really might "make America great again".  I really don't believe this will happen, but at this point, there's nothing that can be done.  I definitely don't think it warrants threats against his life.  For that matter, I don't think Barack Obama should have had to deal with people wanting him dead, nor did George W. Bush before him, and so on and so on.

I think instead of threatening with weapons, we should use our words and keep the dialog open.  Like the actor from the Broadway show "Hamilton" did when Mike Pence was in the audience.  While I don't know if calling him out on stage was the way to go, I do applaud the actor for having the courage to keep the dialog going. 

Ultimately, I think all Americans need to do this.  Keep the dialog open and try to come up with solutions that unite - not do things that continue the divide.

Though, I do understand...easier said than done.  Still.  Isn't it worth trying?

Friday, November 18, 2016

Jem Reviewed: Episode 35 - Aztec Enchantment

On the last episode of Jem Reviewed, the Starlight Girls entered and won a contest that dealt with the importance of reading and literacy - and it was an episode that I thoroughly enjoyed a lot!  Let's see if the next episode will have that same enchantment.



Well, at least the word enchantment appears in the title.  This is Episode 35 - Aztec Enchantment!



And it opens with Rio pretending to scare Aja by pretending to be a banana-eating gorilla.  Sometimes with the way Rio acts, I have to wonder if he even needs to wear a costume to be considered a big, ugly ape.

Anyway, Rio is at some sort of store that seems to sell all sorts of those Tilley brand fashions.  You know, the ones with the funny looking hats and safari gear?  And, oh look, Video's in THIS one too!  Geez, they may just as well make her a Hologram!  But, since Video's in this one, I may as well make today's piece of Jem Trivia about her.  She's voiced by actress Noelle North - who also did the voice of Cubbi Gummi on "Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears".



Turns out that there is a legitimate reason for Video to be tagging along.  Video tells Lindsey Pearce that she is entering a prestigious contest for the International Rock Video festival - the only award that Video still has yet to win.  Video's entry will also serve as the Jem and the Holograms newest rock video, and Video seems to think that she will have an edge.  She's filming it in a secret location in the jungles of Mexico - so secret that nobody else knows about it until now.  So, it appears that the next episode will be mostly filmed in Mexico.



Unfortunately for Jem and the Holograms and Video, Clash and the Misfits are busy filming their own video.  Clash has a brand new camera that her father bought her, and Clash somehow has found out about the contest Video is entering and wants to upstage her - and since she knows the location where Video is filming thanks to her disguises, they can get there before Video even gets through Mexican customs.  The Misfits are reluctant to let Clash assist with anything to do with making a video as the last one she helped with turned out to be a disaster.  And, I'm trying to remember what video Clash filmed for the Misfits!  Oh, well...it looks like they're off to Mexico as well.



Initially, Mama Alonso is reluctant to send Raya to Mexico because Mama Alonso serves to crush her daughter's dreams at every opportunity.  Raya argues that this is her chance to see where she came from and she throws it in her face that they always talk about wanting her to embrace her Mexican heritage.  Papa Alonso extends his blessings and makes Jem promise not to let her become a Mexican hat dancer for extra money down there.

I'm just guessing that if the Alonso marriage breaks down, Papa Alonso will be the one filing the papers.

Amusingly, Rio points out that they have a guide to show them around Mexico, and he makes a point to say that he'll be there as well - but Jem says that they should be fine despite Rio!  Serious burn!  Got any ointment for that burn, Rio?



The band arrives in Mexico City, Mexico and are promptly introduced to their guide, Luis Geraldo.  The Holograms are pleased by his politeness, but Luis seems to only have eyes for Raya and vice versa.  I mean, never mind the fact that Luis looks almost EXACTLY LIKE PAPA ALONSO.  That's not creepy.  That's not creepy at all.  At least, it's not creepy for Aja and Shana, who poke fun at the attraction between Luis and Raya.



So the group arrive just outside of the secret location - it appears to be some sort of ancient Aztec temple that has been abandoned for several centuries.  Luis also goes over the legend of the temple, as well as Mexico City.  I won't bore you with too many details, but basically the people who founded the city were told to build the city on the very location where an eagle carrying a serpent in its mouth landed on a cactus.  It's quite a vivid block of imagery, granted...but the people needed homes to live in and places to shop at, so they needed to come up with something.



The real location is at a temple that is hidden in the jungle, and the only way to get there is by crossing a bridge.  But before they do that, they decide to have lunch at a village just outside of the temple.



Unfortunately, this village's McDonald's is all but destroyed.  In fact, the village itself looks as though a bomb went off in the center of town square.  Luis explains that there was a major earthquake in the area weeks earlier and that the area could still be prone to have another one in the near future.  There is also concern that the bridge that links the town with the secret temple is destroyed, and that they may not be able to get there.



Video decides to use the opportunity to take her video camera out and film a piece to raise awareness for the people of the village who have to rebuild everything.  However, as Video is trying to get everything ready, a young boy appears out of nowhere and grabs Video's camera and a bag of Granny Smith apples!  I guess our thief must really love pectin!



The thief doesn't get very far as he accidentally trips over his own feet, causing Luis to grab him and force him to return the things he stole.  The boy's name is Paco, and after talking with Raya, we learn that he has a desperate need to go to El Norte - also known as the United States of America.  Apparently, Paco seems to have this belief that if you go to live in America, you get rich.  Raya tells Paco that this isn't always the case.  Way to crush his dreams, Raya.  I bet you get that from your mama!

I think Raya's just trying to push the production along for the video being shot by Video.  Video says that if they don't make it to the temple before sundown, the rock music festival will be over before they finish filming.



Of course, what Jem, Rio, Video, and Luis aren't aware of until they get closer to the bridge is that Paco is a master at sneaking into cars without being noticed.  Paco stowed away because Paco wants them to take him to America.  I also notice that Paco talks about himself in the third person which makes Matthew want to slam his head against a steel door. 

Ahem...sorry about that.

It appears as though the bridge that links the village to the ancient temple is still intact from the earthquake, and the car carrying Jem, Rio, Video, Luis, and Paco start to cross it in their Jeep.



But just as they reach the middle of the bridge, the bridge starts to tremble and vibrate!  It seems as though the earthquake was so powerful that aftershocks are still happening, and the bridge that the Jeep in on starts to give in and buckle!  The bridge falls apart and Jem, Rio, Luis, Video, and Paco all fall into the bottomless pit below and die.  The End.

Okay, you know by now I'm kidding.  No, they manage to reverse their Jeep back to where they came from and watch as the bridge transforms itself into ten million toothpicks.  Although everyone is safe, they now have no way to get across to the other side.



A fact that the Misfits - who are flying over top of them in a rented plane make no hesitation in rubbing in their faces.  Amusingly, the Holograms try to get the Misfits to send for help, but the Misfits just laugh in their faces with Clash telling Video that she'll get to her secret location first!



Well, that is until Pizzazz gets too grabby with the controls and causes a plane crash.  We'll have to wait and see what happens in a few minutes.  For now, let's peek in on Jem and the Holograms as they arrive at the temple and sing a song about how much they love Mexico.



I know, sounds cliche, right?  But to be fair, I do like the song "Aztec Enchantment" a lot.  It does take the risk of bringing on too many Latino stereotypes, but in this case, I think there's just the right amount of balance.  And if you can't see the obvious spark between Luis and Raya, you're either blind, unable to process feelings, or just don't care.



No sooner do the Holograms finish their song than some cranky old man appears and tells them to get off his lawn!  Well, okay, he may just as well do that since that's how he comes across.  But he stops yelling at them enough to introduce himself as famous archaeologist "Dr. Balthazar".  Jem and Raya have heard of him and try to calm him down by telling him how great he is, and it seems to work because the good archaeologist allows them to stay - though he doesn't allow them inside the temple because they're doing some important work inside.  I guess that sounds fair.



Meanwhile, the Misfits - along with Eric Raymond - are aimlessly wandering the jungles of Mexico wearing the biggest high heeled shoes one could imagine.  I mean, seriously, you're filming a video at a temple that literally has ten thousands stairs on it.  But, I suppose the Misfits lack common sense in all areas.  After all, they allowed Clash to film their entry at a random structure that they think looks like the temple.



They don't even use an original song either.  They re-use a song from Episode 8 - "Welcome to the Jungle".  And basically everything that could go wrong does go wrong with Clash's camera malfunctioning, to the band getting attacked by snakes!  This is what you call laser-guided karma.  Oh, yeah...in between all that, they burn Jem and the Holograms on stakes.  At first I thought about how they even made that happen, but then I realize...oh...they're probably using the same actresses that they used to gaslight Jem a few episodes back.  I guess that's one way to get revenge.



Back at the real temple, Jem and the others notice that Dr. Balthazar's mood has improved, but Raya is suspicious that there's something about him that she doesn't trust.  Of course, she can't figure out what it is because Paco keeps bothering them about taking him to America.  Paco is quickly becoming the Scrappy-Doo of this episode.



Dr. Balthazar seems to pick up on Paco's whining though and tells Paco in private that he may have a way to get him to America after all.  Why do I get the feeling that this is not going to go well for anybody involved?



Sure enough, Paco is leading Jem towards an ancient well, which Paco claims Jem has to see.  Jem is wondering why she had to see it herself and why she couldn't bring any of the other Holograms with her, but Paco insists that it's something that she should see first.




The well is very deep and very dark.  And I imagine that if anyone ever fell down it, it would be very hard to get them back out again.  Which is exactly what Dr. Balthazar is counting on, as he picks Jem up and throws her inside!  Just what kind of archaeologist IS he?



Jem does survive the fall, as there is still water inside the bottom of the well.  But with the well being a good one hundred feet below the surface, Jem doesn't have any idea how to get out.



By this time, the Holograms are wondering where Jem disappeared to, and Shana remarks that it's not like Jem to run off.  Rio and Raya come to the same conclusion that Dr. Balthazar has something to do with it, and they go off to find him.



And where is the good doctor now?  Well, turns out the doctor isn't so good after all.  It appears as though he and his team of archaeologists are really a clever band of thieves who are taking the ancient artifacts inside the temple to make a huge profit!  And he also lied to Paco, using him to trap Jem so that the Holograms would leave the temple and they could continue their scheme.  And their plan would have worked too if it wasn't for that meddling Paco who was duped with the promise of a trip to America.  He manages to escape Dr. Balthazar's clutches and runs off to try and find either Jem or the Holograms.



While Paco is running around, Video, Luis, Rio, and the rest of the Holograms enter the temple to find it completely robbed of all its treasures.  If that isn't a sure sign that Balthazar is evil, I don't know what to tell you.  It's Kimber - who has her only line this whole episode - who spots Balthazar, and with quick thinking by Rio and Luis, get Balthazar's truck spinning out of control, crashing into a tree and stopping them from stealing the artifacts.  That's great that they saved the ancient Mexican treasures, but Jem's still missing.  And Rio is determined to find out where Balthazar has stashed her.



Fortunately for Jem, she is quickly rescued by Paco, who grabs a vine wrapped around a tree to pull her to safety.  After Jem is rescued, Paco explains that Balthazar tricked him into helping him, and Jem is very sympathetic towards Paco.  Though I'm sure she'd love to shove Balthazar down a well without any water in it!



You know, sometimes I have to wonder if the Holograms have as much common sense as the Misfits because they seem to trust that Dr. Balthazar will lead them to Jem's location.  We already know he's lying because he has them going down a deep part of the temple - where we know Jem ISN'T.  He unlocks a secret passage to a tomb inside and proclaims that the person inside is Jem!



Okay, either Jem has really let herself go, or this isn't Jem at all.  Even curiouser, the strange man introduces himself as Dr. Balthazar!  What?!?

Oh, I get it.  The man who called himself Balthazar imprisoned the REAL Balthazar in order to get his hands on the treasure.  His real name is
Ramon Chavez, and now he has locked them all up forever with no way out!  But I'm sure that Jem and Paco are on their way to find them.  I'm sure they'll find the way.



No, wait.  It's love.  "Love Will Show The Way".  What a stupid song to play during a rescue operation.  I mean, could you imagine the FBI playing this song when apprehending a suspect?  Yeah, you killed seventeen people, but we caught you because love showed us the way!  I suppose the song itself isn't bad...just used out of context.



Jem and Paco arrive at the spot where fake Balthazar is gloating that he'll get away with his plan, but Paco physically attacks him long enough for Jem to use Synergy to call forth a hologram that will scare fake Balthazar enough to let them go...

...you know what, this episode is getting too stupid for my tastes, so let's just end this now.  Fake Balthazar goes to jail, Real Balthazar assembles a new team of people to restore the temple, Paco decides to stay in Mexico to help rebuild the ruined village, Video wins the contest, and the Misfits gets rescued by Jem and the Holograms.  That's essentially it.  If last week's episode was one of my favourites, this episode is one of my least favourites.  I didn't like it so much that I didn't want to spend any more time on it than I had to.  I had high hopes for it too, especially since Raya is becoming a favourite character of mine and this would have allowed her to have a storyline.  And to be fair, Raya did have a good role to play.  But this episode was boring from start to finish.



Oh well...next week, the bands perform at a magic show.  What could possibly go wrong?