Search This Blog

Friday, April 28, 2017

Jem Reviewed: Episode 58 - Homeland, Heartland

Can you believe that there are just eight more episodes to go in the Jem Reviewed series?  This project just flew right by, didn't it?  Last week, we saw Jem try her hand at being Beauty in "Beauty and the Beast".  And this week, we're going to the country of Yugoslavia in this latest installment.

Well, okay, technically we're going to Croatia...but back in 1988, it was Yugoslavia.  In Jem Trivia, I can tell you that prior to 1991, Yugoslavia was one nation, but by April 1992, it had split up into five different countries.  Either way, the city we're visiting is Zagreb, and the episode we're looking at today is Episode 58: Homeland, Heartland.

It's also the last episode that was animated in Korea as opposed to Japan.

The star of today's show is Danse, and we quickly learn that Danse's origins are from Yugoslavia.  Both of her parents were born in the country, and Danse is excited to finally be able to visit the place where her family history originated.  Well, that, plus Jem and the Holograms, Video, and Rio are flying to Yugoslavia as well to film a music video for their latest single with the Zagreb ballet.  But Aja and Kimber have a conversation on the plane and we learn from that conversation that Danse's mother was one of the star ballerinas for the ballet.  She went missing years ago when Danse was a little girl, and although it seems unlikely for Danse's mother to be in Zagreb, it could serve as the starting point for solving the mystery.

Once they arrive in Zagreb, Jem is introduced to their guide and liaison, one Anton Nivich.  I believe Anton is an ambassador of sorts for the nation and agrees to be their tour guide as they arrive at the building where the Holograms will be filming the video.  Anton does offer a word of warning for the American tourists.  He tells them that the artistic director of the ballet - one Victor Krosach - is not a fan of the band, and dismisses their music as anything but art.  This statement makes Kimber see red, but Jem is determined to change Victor's attitude.

But it seems as though Jem is going to have her work cut out for her when we see Victor in action.  He is at a rehearsal along with his prima ballerina, Vera, male ballet dancer Stefan Horte, and three other ballerinas.  He basically calls the three extra ballerinas elephants, and he dismisses Jem and the Holograms as talentless Americans.  I wonder if he and Minx from the Stingers are related?

Of course, Stefan defends the Holograms by stating that he likes them a lot, and when Jem and the others arrive, Jem wastes no time in telling Victor where to stuff his opinions.  Victor and Vera are not impressed by Jem...however once Victor locks eyes with Danse, his attitude does a complete 180 and he changes from Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll almost instantly.  That's kind of creepy.  He agrees to let the Holograms stay, and he introduces himself to Danse, though he accidentally calls her Nadia.

Danse explains that her name is Giselle Dvorak, to which Victor reveals a portrait of legendary ballet dancer Nadia Dvorak - Danse's mother!  And I have to say that aside from the obvious hairstyle difference, Nadia and Danse are definitely mother and daughter.

But while Victor seems enchanted by Danse, Danse's attention seems to be more on Stefan.  It appears as though Danse's feelings are reciprocated as well, as Stefan can't stop staring at Danse either.

It's decided that Danse and Stefan will work on a dance together as Jem and the Holograms rehearse for the video.  I have to say that I've been kind of rough on the songs for Season 3 and haven't found them as creative as the previous seasons...however I do love "Music and Danse".  It's definitely a love song, but not overly loaded with too much sugar.  It works out very well in its context, and I think it's genuinely a great Season 3 song. 

Plus, Danse and Stefan obviously have heat and chemistry.  I mean, she's only known him for three minutes and already they're kissing.  It's official.  Danse is the new Kimber.

After all, she has not only Stefan in love with her, but Victor seems obsessed with her too.  Victor practically steamrolls over Stefan's dinner invitation and makes it a point to show Danse around the city.  Stefan leaves with his tail between his legs, and Danse is left very conflicted.

Shortly after that awkward moment, Danse is surprised with a note underneath the door.  While there is no indication as to who it is from, the note tells Danse that if she is looking for answers regarding the whereabouts of her family, she should go to the village of Bled where she reportedly has living relatives there.  Danse isn't sure what to make of it, so she asks Jem for advice.  Jem seems to suggest that Danse convince Victor to take her to Bled, but warns her to be cautious.  Even though Victor has been nice to Danse, there's something about him that seems off.

Well, I suppose the tacked on scene before the commercial bumper in which Victor blames Nadia for leaving him and making a vow to keep her daughter by his side forever followed by him shattering a champagne flute against the wall might be one indication that Victor might be a little bit cuckoo.

Apparently, Danse and Jem don't see Victor as being much of a threat - at least not yet.  They tell him of their plan to hop on the first train to Bled to locate Danse's family members in hopes that they will know where her mother is.  Victor decides that he will accompany them on the trip, and makes a comment about how the town is near the Julian Alps, which can be quite dangerous. 

Someone who isn't impressed by this turn of events is prima ballerina Vera, who tells Victor off...but Victor tells her to mind her own business where Danse is concerned and that he can crush her star power just as easily as he created it.  After all, she's just as guilty of making Danse's parents disappear as he is!  Whoa!  I expected there to be a cover up of some sort, but I never expected Vera to be involved as well.  This mystery has just gotten even more exciting, I have to admit.  This is shaping up to be a good episode!

Danse, Jem and the Holograms, Rio, and Stefan all board the train to Bled, and Raya is amazed at how close Stefan and Danse have gotten - especially since they only just met a few hours ago.  Truth be told, I think Kimber still holds the record for the fastest time that anyone has fallen in love with someone on this show, but it does set the stage for song #2.

The thing is..."Falling in Love With a Stranger" is a really bad song.  I mean, I get that there are only so many ways you could incorporate a rhyme with the word stranger, but the lyrics are so basic I could have sworn that it was written by a nine year old.  Definitely not Jem's finest work, even though the video part shows the budding romance between Stefan and Danse - as well as the green eyed monster known as Victor who is not happy that the two of them are together.

In fact, once Danse excuses herself so that Victor and Stefan can have a conversation with each other, Victor essentially issues a threat against Stefan to stay away from Danse or else.  Of course, Stefan isn't interested in any threats to his budding romance, and he basically tells Victor to go flock himself.  I'm sure that Victor has learned his lesson.  And if you believe that, I have a plot of land to sell you.

That plot of land happens to be in Bled.  It's got a nice little inn there and that is where the Holograms will be staying.  While they are settling in, Danse reveals to Stefan that her mother went missing when she was a child and doesn't know where she went - and that her father died before she was born.  In a way, I can see why Danse spends so much time with the runaways at Haven House - and why Danse seems like an honourary Starlight Girl.  She more or less was orphaned at an early age.  Makes Danse's story very heart crushing.

Unfortunately for Danse, the people at the inn seem to be very unfriendly.  Any time she asks them for any information about the Dvorak family, they pretend they don't know, or they clam up whenever they see Victor.  It's very...strange.

At least a little boy sitting nearby seems to be a lot more open.  I guess if you want to know the truth about someone or something, just ask a child.  Children can be quite honest, you know.  Thanks to the child, he lets Danse know that the Dvorak family has had farmland near the Julian Alps for hundreds of years, and chances are they are still there.  Danse thanks the boy profusely and sets out towards the Dvorak farm.

Once Jem, Danse, Rio, Stefan, and Victor arrive at the Dvorak farm, Danse sees a man working outside.  He's obviously much older than she is, but he immediately recognizes her and sheds a small tear of happiness.  She introduces herself as Giselle Dvorak, and the man responds by saying that he is her great-grandfather Johann Dvorak!  And while Danse is thrilled to have found the place where her family came from, that happiness quickly fades into frustration when Johann responds quite coldly to Victor being there.  I get the feeling that Victor has done something really horrible to the Dvorak family.  I hope he didn't kill Danse's mother.  And even so, would the show really go into a storyline that dark?

After a very uncomfortable dinner, Danse is crying outside and she is convinced that her own family doesn't even want her there.  Stefan and Jem try to console her, but Danse is really upset.  The poor girl.

Fortunately for Danse, Johann later explains that the family does love her very much and that she really does remind them of everything good about Nadia.  But they have less than flattering things to say about Victor.  They do not trust him, and they want Danse to stay away from him.  Danse questions why this is the case, given that he has been so nice to her, so Johann decides that rather than tell her why, he'd rather show her why.  Johann has a friend who lives in the mountains of the Julian Alps, and he can explain the situation better than anyone else can.  Danse agrees to go with him, and Stefan tags along as well to make sure that Danse is okay.

But shortly after the trio leave, Jem notices that Victor has gone missing, and Jem seems to think that if Victor was tipped off, he may do something to harm either Danse or Johann, so she gets Rio to follow along behind them in case something happens.  I never thought I'd say this, but Rio comes off pretty decent in this episode.  Mind you, it's only maybe three times that this has happened in fifty-eight episodes now, but still...when he's good, he's very very good.

And Victor is very very bad.  It seems as though his plan is to use a gigantic rock to kill either Johann or Danse.  I'm thinking that since his obsession is with Nadia and her daughter, his intended target is Johann and once he's out of the way, he can kidnap Danse and enslave her into his ballet troupe forever.  Ah, so he's going full on caveman here.

Victor planned for everything - except for Rio jumping him from behind.  I don't think Rio really planned for it either as he and Victor roll down the side of the mountain causing a major avalanche!

Fortunately, Rio and Victor manage to leap to safety before the snow buries them.  But Danse takes a direct hit from the cascading snow and is quickly buried underneath six feet of snow!  WHAT?  They killed Danse?!?  You BASTARDS!

Fear not!  A randomly placed mountain man appears from the distance and happens upon the scene.  Wow, it's a good thing he was there in the middle of nowhere near a deserted mountain path!  The man runs towards Johann and Stefan and the three of them try to dig Danse out before she suffocates.  Rio corners Victor and tries to get him to help, but Victor runs away like the yellow bellied coward that he is.  Rio tells him just that in not so many words too.

Once Rio joins the search and rescue efforts, it doesn't take too long for the four men to find Danse, although she is unconscious when they get her freed.  Our mountain man tells the men that he has a cabin nearby and that he can help Danse recover.  Eh, why not?  He seems more trustworthy than Victor anyway.

And here is where the bombshell of all bombshells is detonated.  When Danse wakes up and the man gazes upon her, he nearly dies of shock.  Johann explains that the man is Peter Dvorak - Danse's father!  Say WHAT?  I thought he died!  Even more confusing is the fact that once Peter figures out the truth, he denies Danse and tells her that she reminds him of how Nadia abandoned him!  This story gets more and more complex each second!

In a series of flashbacks, we learn that Nadia was once the prima ballerina of the Zagreb ballet, where some twenty-five years ago Victor was still the artistic director.  Victor developed a strong bond with Nadia and it is implied that Victor fell in love with her, but that those feelings were not reciprocated.

That's because Nadia fell in love with Dr. Peter Dvorak, and despite Victor's rage and jealousy getting in the way and threatening Peter with great harm if he pursued Nadia, the two got married and shortly after that, Nadia became pregnant with Danse.

At the same time this was going on, a flu outbreak was present in Yugoslavia, and there was a shortage of medicine.  Peter only had a limited supply of penicillin to dole out, and one day someone broke into his clinic and stole the medicine.  Can you guess who it was?  

To make things worse, whoever stole the medicine reported Peter for trying to sell it on the black market to make a profit and he was taken to jail for several years!  And he cursed Nadia ever since for abandoning him when he needed her the most.

To which Danse calls shenanigans and explains to her father that Victor tricked Nadia into thinking that Peter had died in hopes that she would stay with him.  But with Nadia being pregnant, she knew it was dangerous to stick around, so she fled to America where she gave birth to Danse and shortly after that, she disappeared.  She did send Peter letters, but Peter claimed to have not received any of them.  Peter turns away from Danse and tells her to leave, telling her that the very sight of her breaks her heart.  Wow, that's harsh...and sad.  Tearfully, Danse agrees to leave, but she promises that she will find a way to clear her father's name and to find out what Victor knows.  Whatever it takes.  Wow, so even though her own father told her that she was a painful reminder of his past, she still wants to help him.  Danse's heart is 100% pure.  Love this character.

One character I am hating is Victor, and he seems to have a plan that will buy him some time and get Danse on his side for good.  All he has to do is plant some stolen defense plans in Jem's possession and they will go to jail, and Danse will have to agree to marry him if she wants to see them freed.  This is really sadistic, and even Vera is concerned that this plan is beyond him.  But psycho Victor is determined to make it work on all counts.

Frustratingly, it seems to do the trick as the authorities immediately corner Rio and Video once they arrive back in Zagreb (Danse and Stefan have taken a cab to Victor's place so that Danse can confront them in person).  Jem, Kimber, Aja, Raya, and Shana manage to escape in the kerfuffle but the authorities are in fast pursuit of them.

Jem thinks quickly though, and the Holograms run towards a museum where they disguise themselves as statues.  The police run past them, and this gives them a window of escape.  They still have to find a way to foil Victor's plans and to clear their names, and Jem seems to think that only one person can fit the bill.  They rush towards the offices of Anton Nivich, thinking that he can help.  But that still won't help bring Victor to justice as he covered his tracks quite well.

Meanwhile, Danse confronts Victor about everything she learned about her father, and Victor makes no attempt to even hide the fact that he orchestrated the disappearance of her parents and framed Jem and the Holograms for espionage.  Stefan is ready to murder Victor, but Victor essentially promises to let them go.  He tells Danse that not only can she be his wife, but he will make her the new prima ballerina of the Zagreb ballet - RIGHT IN FRONT OF VERA!  Oh, if looks could kill...

Well, how about a mountain man?  Seems that Peter has had a change of heart and makes an appearance in Victor's office.  He and Victor get into a physical brawl and it ends with Peter throwing Victor on top of a desk which shatters it into several pieces. 

And with that, we have evidence of the fact that Victor purposely kept Peter away from Nadia.  Inside the desk is all of the letters that Nadia wrote Peter.  She never forgot about him...Victor kept them apart.  I imagine in those letters will also be proof that Victor caused the crime that got Peter framed in the first place.  This is what you call laser guided karma, Victor!

Of course, there's the issue of the stolen defense papers, and how Jem and the Holograms could be in serious trouble - at least until a scorned Vera tells the authorities the whole crooked plan implicating Victor for everything.  Vera also sadly confesses to her own role in the plan, but she is more than willing to accept her punishment.  After all, Victor's will be much more severe than anything she could face.  Did Zagreb have the death penalty in 1988?  If so, well...that's showbiz, Victor.

At least with the demons exorcised and the chains holding Peter down being finally broken, it allows for a tearful reunion between father and daughter.  And now that Peter and Danse are back together, it's time for the final song of the show which...

...wait...we're hearing Music and Danse AGAIN?!?  Seriously?  The music budget must have gotten seriously slashed during Season 3.  Oh well, it's still a nice song.

And some great news for Danse.  Peter has agreed to go back to the United States with Danse where hopefully he can rebuild his life.  But he also has one final thing that he must settle...finding Nadia.  Unfortunately the series ends before that mystery can ever be resolved, which is a shame.  But at least Danse has found a new love interest in Stefan, and she has her father back in her life.  All in all, a terrific episode!  Could be my favourite of Season 3 so far.

Coming up next week, the Stingers make their return.  Oh joy.  And hey, it looks like the Rio/Jem/Riot love triangle gets turned up a notch.  Oh double joy.  Why am I dreading this one?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

April 27, 1932

This week's Throwback Thursday is brought to you by the letters A, T, and by the number 40.  And, no, this blog is NOT Sesame Street related either.

I'll let you all stew on that one as we take a look at some of the events that took place on this date.

1565 - Cebu is established, becoming the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines

1667 - John Milton sells the copyright of "Paradise Lost" for a mere ten pounds - by this time, Milton is blind and living in poverty

1777 - The Battle of Ridgefield takes place during the American Revolutionary War

1813 - American troops capture the settlement of York during the War of 1812

1861 - Abraham Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus

1865 - Cornell University is established by the United States Senate

1882 - Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson dies at the age of 78

1899 - Woody Woodpecker creator Walter Lantz (d. 1994) is born in New Rochelle, New York

1922 - Actor Jack Klugman (d. 2012) is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1927 - Civil rights activist Coretta Scott King (d. 2006) is born in Heiberger, Alabama

1937 - Actress Sandy Dennis (d. 1992) is born in Hastings, Nebraska

1939 - Actress Judy Carne (d. 2015) is born in Northampton, England

1944 - Singer Cuba Gooding Sr. (d. 2017) is born in New York City

1945 - Benito Mussolini is arrested by Italian partisans in Dongo

1947 - Lead singer of Badfinger Pete Ham (d. 1975) is born in Swansea, Wales

1967 - Expo 67 opens in Montreal, Quebec with an opening ceremony broadcast on television all over the world

1974 - A march of approximately ten thousand people congregates in Washington D.C., demanding the resignation of President Richard Nixon

1981 - Xerox PARC introduces the computer mouse

1986 - The mass evacuation of Pripyat and its surrounding areas takes place due to the Chernobyl disaster

1989 - The April 27 demonstrations take place during the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989

1993 - Tragedy strikes when the entire Zambia national football team is killed in a plane crash enroute to a game

1994 - The first general election in South Africa in which black residents can vote for the first time is held

2006 - Construction begins on the new One World Trade Center in New York City

2011 - A whopping 205 tornadoes touch down in several states of the Southeastern United States, killing at least three hundred people

And for celebrity birthdays, we have the following famous faces turning one year older today; Anouk Aimee, Chuck Knox, Lee Roy Jordan, Ruth Glick, Helmut Marko, Kate Pierson, Ace Frehley, Larry Elder, Sheena Easton, Marco Pirroni, Anna Chancellor, Nigel Barker, Isobel Campbell, Sally Hawkins, and Patrick Stump.

So, what is going to be the date that we'll be revisiting today?

Looks like it's one that is way back in the past - April 27, 1932.  By my calculations, that would make it eighty-five years ago.

I thought that for today's post, I would talk about my personal memories of today's Throwback Thursday topic - which admittedly is going to be tough because he was born almost five decades before I was.  But he had such a presence in my childhood and early adulthood.  From Saturday Morning cartoons to the music heard on the radio, he was always there, and his distinctive voice brought happiness on the most dreary of days. 

Unfortunately, his passing was one of the weirdest to be reported on, and what happened to him in his final days sounds like something out of a soap opera or science fiction novel.  But we'll get to that a little bit later.

As I mentioned, this week's topic is brought to you by the letters A, T, and the number 40.  Put them together, and you have AT40.  Or American Top 40.  Now these days the radio show is hosted by "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest, and has been since 2004.  But when the show debuted on July 3, 1970, it was hosted by the man who essentially spent four decades teaching the world how to count backwards from 40 to 1.

A man who would have been 85 years old today. 

Let's have a look at what that very first broadcast intro was...from the mouth of Casey Kasem himself!

"Here we go with the Top 40 hits of the nation this week on American Top 40, the best-selling and most-played songs from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico.  This is Casey Kasem in Hollywood, and in the next three hours, we'll count down the 40 most popular hits in the United States this week, hot off the record charts from Billboard magazine for the week ending July 11, 1970.  In this hour at #32 in the countdown, a song that's been a hit four different times in the last nineteen years!  And we're just one tune away from the singer with the $10,000 gold hubcaps on his car!  And now, on with the countdown!"

Those iconic words kicked off one of the most iconic countdown shows ever to be broadcast on radio.  And Casey did the job beautifully.  He kept you guessing on what songs would be on the chart with his cryptic clues (the answers to the two questions were "It's All In The Game" by the Four Tops and Mark Lindsay's "Silver Bird").  He was filled with trivia and never known facts about the bands and artists featured on the countdown.  And of course, who could forget the long distance dedications in which listeners from all over the world would write letters to Casey asking him to play a song for a loved one?  Granted, there's a tale in which a long distance dedication caused Casey to lose it on the air...but I don't want to post it here because I am still unsure if it really happened or if it was an elaborate hoax.  It's still a funny tale.  Apparently it involved a listener writing a letter for Casey to play a song for his deceased pet right after he played an upbeat Pointer Sisters song. 

But yeah, that's a different topic for a different day.

I have to say that when it came down to it, I spent nearly every weekend listening to Casey's countdown.  MTV and MuchMusic may have had the video market covered, but Casey still managed to keep an audience together with his soothing voice which helped the countdown flow better.  I can safely say that Casey Kasem helped me get through seventeen history essays, eight geography projects, a slew of English assignments, and was the calm to my experience with algebraic hell.

And that's even during the period when he left AT40 and started his own countdown show called "Casey's Top 40".  While Casey hosted his own show, Shadoe Stevens took over AT40 for seven years before it went on hiatus in 1995.  Then when AT40 was revived in 1998, Casey came back as host and stayed there for another six years before leaving in 2004.  Of course, he stayed in the radio business for a few years after that, hosting American Top 20 and American Top 10 until he retired from the radio business in July 2009 - almost thirty-nine years to the day that he began his career.

Of course, his radio career wasn't the only thing that he did in his lengthy career.  He also dabbled in television as well.  In fact, I can remember when I was a kid and I used to watch his video countdown on NBC on Saturday mornings.  It was like the same format as the radio show only he featured ten songs instead of forty.  It was cool to see Casey hosting a video show, as back in the 1980s, video was starting to kill the radio star.  Of course, Casey's radio show lasted a lot longer than the television series.  That program only ran from 1982-1992 - and Casey only appeared in the finale during the show's final season.

And if you have ever watched any of the older episodes of the various incarnations of the Scooby-Doo cartoon series, you most certainly will recognize Casey Kasem as the voice of Shaggy.  From "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?" to "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo", Kasem voiced Shaggy from the show's debut in 1969 to 1997 (he left the role after refusing to voice Shaggy for a Burger King commercial because Kasem was vegan), and again from 2002-2009.

I can still totally remember watching Scooby-Doo as a kid when our CBS affiliate aired "The Danny Burgess Show" every afternoon, and wanting to be one of those kids drinking the McDonald's milkshakes in the audience watching Scooby-Doo cartoons.  Unfortunately, that show got cancelled because Oprah Winfrey decided she wanted that time slot to host her brand new talk show.  But Scooby-Doo is one of those shows that is on the air on some channel.  You just have to search for it.

I also remember Casey Kasem starring on a couple of episodes of "Saved By The Bell" - which makes sense, given that his television countdown aired on the same network that "Saved By The Bell" was on.  In one episode, he hosted the dance contest at the Max where Lisa and Screech won by performing the "Sprain", while in the other, Kasem chronicled the rise and fall of the fictional band Zack Attack.  You can guess who the lead singer of that band was.

Casey Kasem was certainly a man who had a huge voice, but he also had a huge heart as well - and up until his death, he supported Jerry Lewis and his MDA Telethon for many years.  I still remember him appearing on the telethon every Labour Day introducing acts that were performing on the show as well as accepting donations from various organizations and businesses all over the country.

He absolutely was a part of my childhood...and I suppose in the back of my mind, I always thought that he'd always be around.

Sadly, Casey passed away on June 15, 2014 after a battle with Lewy body dementia - a disease that mimics many of the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease, and that golden voice of his was one of the many casualties of the disease before he died.

But it was in his final months that made his death seem like a family feud.  There were battles between Casey's second wife, Jean, and the three children Casey had during his first marriage, over who would take care of Casey during his final months.  Casey's children claimed that Jean had kept Casey hidden and that she refused to let them see him.  Even after his death, the feud continued, with Jean reportedly moving his remains to a funeral home in Montreal to keep Casey's children from performing an autopsy on him.  Even stranger was the fact that Casey's final resting place ended up being in Oslo, Norway!  Again, the tale of the family feud between Casey Kasem's wife and children is a lengthy that I could talk about in length in a future blog.  But for now, let's just celebrate Casey's life with one final that he would say at the conclusion of every broadcast he ever did.

"Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars."

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Truth About Myself - Part 1 of 5

Truth is a very complex thing to understand.  There are factual truths that exist in the world.  Water is always wet.  Snow is always cold.  Fire is always hot.  These are all truths that we have all come to accept, and they are truths in which we live our lives by.

But what happens when you come across a truth that you feel is so hard to comprehend that you actually want it to be a lie?  Examples would include having your significant other cheating on you with someone else.  Or, having to face the fact that a friend or family member has a terminal illness.  Or finding out that you have had your identity stolen by someone you considered a friend.  Certainly these are truths that can potentially happen to anybody, and it can be a living nightmare to those who have to face that truth.

And then there is my story.  My story that is based around a truth that has been a part of me my whole life that I have only recently become aware of within the last couple of years.  A truth that I am still struggling to accept.

For those people who have been following along on my blog, you've probably figured out what this truth is.  But for those of you who are wondering what I am talking about, I'm going to share with you some truth.  I don't exactly know how receptive people are going to be to it, but I need to talk about it because I think it could help other people who might be struggling to deal with the same truth that I am trying to accept.  The truth is that my truth might cause me to lose some contacts, but that is a risk that I am willing to take - for it is my truth that has likely been the fault of why some of my relationships have fractured over the last 35 years of my life.

The frustrating part about this truth is that I'm not really sure if the truth that I believe is really the truth of what I have.  I know that statement probably doesn't make sense to some of you, but it's the best way that I can describe it.

And this truth is so complex that I am going to need more than one entry in this blog to talk about it.  Consider this to be a miniseries of sorts.  This is merely Part 1.  If I've planned this out thoroughly, this should conclude the same week this blog turns six years old!

So, what is this truth that I need to reveal?

My truth is that I believe I have many of the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome.  I have never been formally tested by any medical professionals, nor have I been officially diagnosed by any doctor who specializes in autism.  But I know that based on my childhood experiences, my inability to do tasks that most people seem to take for granted, and my stellar ability to make a fool out of myself in social situations, I've got most, if not all the signs.  Asperger's can also be considered a form of high-functioning autism, so it's a bit difficult to determine if a person has it without knowing some of the symptoms associated with it.

I'm convinced though.  And the truth is...I openly admit to having a hard time finding acceptance of it.  Because in order for me to admit it, that would be like admitting to the whole world that I have an abnormality.  For my entire life, I've wanted to prove to the world that I can fit in with everybody, and I feel that by coming out as somebody who potentially has Asperger's, I'm essentially waving the white flag of surrender in ever being declared normal.  

I mean, yes, the truth is that normal is overrated and in some cases even dangerous.  On that token, I think all of us feel as though we stick out like a sore thumb or are square pegs trying to squeeze into a round hole once in a while.  It's just that I feel this way EVERY DAY.

I suppose I should explain why I feel that I have Asperger's, and I suppose the best way to do this is to go over some of the symptoms that people who have it face.  And once I explain my own experiences, it is my hope that those who know me will understand me a little better.  And for those who made fun of me, or who picked on me, I hope it will make them understand why I couldn't always conform to their standards, or why I felt it was unfair for them to gang up on me.

The first symptom of Asperger's deals with vocabulary.  Many people with Asperger's usually have an extensive vocabulary, and often use big words - even when they are in the single-digit age range.  I guess it comes as no secret that I used to read the dictionary.  For fun.  Not exactly an activity that most children would admit to, but I always found it fascinating to learn new words every day.  The problem is that I would often use these words in conversations with classmates or co-workers and get the blank stare in response.  It's kind of similar to the effect one would get if you tried to speak to Siri in twice the speed that you would normally talk in and it comes out one garbled mess.

Even now, I find that I have to second guess how I phrase things, and as a result, I come across as if I stutter, or my speech sometimes gets garbled because I think I used the wrong word.  If I could communicate through writing exclusively, I'd be fine.  But let's face it...this world is one that sometimes doesn't shut up.

Another sign that one might have Asperger's is the super sensitivity to certain noises and that they might have a keen ear for the slightest sound.  Even as something as innocent as a balloon popping or a sudden blast from a police siren could trigger a panic attack.  I hope some of my elementary school classmates are reading this right now because those times in which you used to chase after me in the school playground threatening to pop a balloon in my ears just to see me cry...THAT'S THE REASON WHY.  I'm not holding my breath for any apology...just telling it like it is.  Besides, you couldn't have known.  And while I can handle it a lot better now, it still bugs me.

It also explains to why I sometimes mute the television set if I know a gunshot is about to go off - much to the annoyance of those who happen to be watching television with me.

Another symptom of Asperger's syndrome can be (but not always) possession of a photographic memory.  I know I have one.  I've been told by family members, family friends, neighbours, and even several teachers that I've had that I have one.  One person I know even compared my memory to that of the Dewey Decimal System.  That's not me trying to brag or anything like that.  Those who truly know me know that this is the case.  If anything, I'm too humble to shout anything out from the rooftops.  It's just a fact of life that I've accepted.

Be grateful.  This blog wouldn't nearly be as exciting or interesting if I didn't remember everything that happened to me.  Both the good parts and the not so good parts.

People who identify as having Asperger's have a difficult time (though not always) with physical contact, and have a difficult time (though not always) with maintaining eye contact with people.  I can definitely say with a resounding "Hell Yeah" that I find it hard to lock eye contact with people - which could explain why I have bombed many job interviews over my lifetime.  I sure wish job interviews were conducted over the phone or through e-mail.  I wouldn't nearly be so stressed out over them.  I think it has to do with the fact that I find it a little uncomfortable when I have to stare directly into the eyes of another person.  I don't quite know how to explain it.  It's just the way it is.  I don't expect people to understand, and I think that some might have the wrong impression that I am rude or ignorant or flippant about them.  It's really anything but.  I find it frustrating that I find it uncomfortable to make direct eye contact with people.  

As far as physical contact goes, I'm only comfortable with it if it's someone that I know extremely well.  Family members, I'll gladly hug it out with.  Friends, it depends on how well I know you.  Complete strangers...keep away.  I mean it.

And then there's the social aspect that is associated with people who have Asperger's syndrome...or lack thereof.  And it's one of the many things that can be considered a negative.  Well, at least it is for me, anyway.

But that's a tale that will wait until next week.  Now that you know what some of the symptoms of Asperger's's time to reveal some of the pitfalls that can come with it.