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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Redefining Success

I am the kind of guy who doesn't like making New Year's Resolutions.  Let's face it.  Nine times out of ten, we never keep them.  But I will say that one of the things that I wanted to do with 2017 was a lot of soul-searching.

I also don't like using the term midlife crisis, because none of us really know what our midlife point is going to be.  For some it's 40.  For others, 30.  For some, it might even be ten.  And let's hope that none of us have the latter happen to us!  But I will say that 36 has been a kind of transition year.  It's a year in which I am still young enough to remember past mistakes, but am old enough to have learned my lesson so that I don't continue to make the same mistakes.

Recently though, I've come to a distinct conclusion about myself that I initially believed was one of the biggest mistakes of my life - but instead ended up being one of the greatest things I could have done for myself.  Ultimately, this decision shaped the way that I look at success, and it showed me that I don't really need to listen to what society deems is best if I don't agree with it.

You see, fifteen years ago, I became a university dropout.  And up until recently, I saw it as a secret shame.

It wasn't exactly what I had planned on doing.  In fact, I already had my life planned out by the time I was thirty.  I was going to graduate high school and flee as far away from my hometown as I possibly could, go to school to become the next Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, or Peter Jennings (the main news anchors when I was at university), and be the best damn journalist I could be.  That was the plan.

Reality was that I came back to the town I tried to flee from with my tail between my legs, and have been working a full time job in retail ever since.  Not exactly my idea of having a dream come true, but let's face take what you are given in this world and you try to make the best of it.

Because looking back on it, if I had stayed, I'd probably be in the same situation anyway, only with a lot more debt and a degree that would have basically amounted to nothing.

The story begins in the winter of 2000.  That was right around the time in which the various colleges and universities were coming to our schools to have Q&A sessions about their schools, what they had to offer, what scholarships they had, the programs they had in their arsenal.  It was an exciting time, as I had long had enough of my high school, and was looking forward to going off to school.

Of course, our guidance counselors were there to try and help us figure out the right schools for us to go to.  And considering that it cost us quite a bit of money to even apply to schools, it was a decision that was not to be taken lightly.

I guess the first thing that I found odd was that my own guidance counselor only seemed to focus on the most prestigious universities in Canada.  I brought up the idea of possibly going to a community college or a trade school just to see what they had to say, and my guidance counselor informed me that if I really wanted to see success, I'd have to go to university.

See, my school was one that celebrated academics and the arts.  It was admittedly what attracted me to go to that high school in the first place.  That, plus I lived next door to the building.  But sometimes I got the impression that the school didn't really care about what information they gave their students.  It was more along the lines of them wanting to boast about having such and such a percentage of their students going off to university - or at least, that's the impression that I felt anyway.  The guidance counselor didn't even want to discuss the idea of going to a community college as she insisted my grades were good enough to get into university.  So, that was where my first mistake was made.  Only focusing on universities and not expanding my search to include colleges was not a good decision.

However, because I narrowed my search, I found what I thought was the perfect university.  I've probably mentioned the name of the university before in my blog, but I'll just state that it happens to be located in Ottawa.  They had an acclaimed journalism program that seemed like it would be the perfect fit for me, and I went to the open house during Spring Break to check it out.  I was convinced that this was the school for me, and was looking forward to applying.

Unfortunately when I received my final report card in June, my average just missed the cutoff point for acceptance into the program.  Instead, I opted to go into communications.  At least it was still under the media umbrella, and I figured that if I did well in that course, I would be able to get back into the journalism program the following year.

Needless to say, it didn't happen.

I'll say this about the university experience.  Socially, it was probably one of the highlights of my life.  I got along well with mostly everyone, and while I didn't really go out drinking or party that much, mostly everyone on my floor at rez respected that.  And I really appreciated the fact that there was always something to do at any given hour of the day when classes were not in session.  There were some days in which I would go down to the all-night cafe in the ground floor of the residence hall and just sit there and be chill.  It was my first taste of freedom and I really enjoyed that part of it.

But as I got settled into my classes, and as the months passed by, I found that I hated the classroom experience with a passion.  I couldn't figure out how a professor could really be able to connect with all 700 of his students inside of a classroom as large as a movie theatre.  It also didn't help that in my communications class, I had two different professors - one for semester one and one for semester two.  Both had such different styles of lecturing that I found it just impossible to keep up.  And it was like this in every single one of my classes.

The lone exception was my film studies class, where we got to at least watch a movie every week, and where my teaching assistant was incredible.  I think the film studies class was my favourite, and part of me was questioning whether I should have made that my major instead.  Questions that will remain unanswered, I suppose.

Despite the fact that I wasn't feeling the first year of school, I really busted my butt to stay in the program.  I did everything possible which included drinking several bottles of Jolt Cola to pull all-nighters for my exams

(NOTE:  Don't ever do that.  Jolt Cola is the most disgusting soda that I have ever drank.  Even more disgusting than Mountain Dew.)

In the end, I did what I thought was fairly well.  A 79% average.  Not bad in most places, right?  Well, unfortunately, I needed a solid 80% to stay in the program, and the school was not really willing to cut me a break.  They told me that in order to stay in the program, I'd have to redo my entire first year over again.

That was the very moment I suspected that I made the wrong choice.  But the stubborn Taurus in me was determined not to let this faze me.  So I couldn't continue with mass communications...I thought that there were other choices that I could do instead.  But with a 79% average, my selection was extremely limited.  Apparently I had decided to attend a university with impossibly high standards - as most universities in Canada and the United States seem to be.  The only option left was to go for a General Arts degree - which essentially would mean that I would get a degree, but that was all that I would have.  It just seemed like it was a waste of money and time to go for a degree that I really didn't want or have any interest in.

And during my second and final year of university, I found it to be one of the worst years ever.  My professors were dry and uninspiring, my rez friends split up in different directions and I rarely ever saw them...and I was realizing that I was very unhappy.  I was no longer thinking of the experience as being a good one.  I was thinking that the longer I stayed, the more unhappy I would be.

So at the end of the second year - after essentially flunking out of school - I made the decision to move on.  It wasn't an easy choice to make.  Truth be told, I really didn't want to leave like that.  And for years afterward, I kicked myself over and over again about how stupid I was and how I closed a lot of doors in my future, and how my life would be forever ruined because I didn't get that piece of paper.

It has been fifteen years since that day.  I'm not going to sugarcoat it.  My life's not exactly the most glamourous in the world.  My job isn't exactly making me independently wealthy.  And honestly, the closest I'll ever get to living the cosmopolitan life is the checkout counters at a grocery store where they sell Cosmo Magazine - a publication I despise with the heat of an active volcano.

Yet, I'm actually okay with this.  And do you want to know why?  Because I still managed to make a few of my dreams come true in spite of not getting a university degree.  After all, I am a homeowner.  Sure, it's no McMansion with a fancy white fence around it.  But I learned that I don't need to have an expensive home to feel like a success.

I also managed to get all of my student debt paid off.  Granted, it took me thirteen years to pay for it - and no degree to show for it.  But I could have ended up owing a lot more.  In a way, I thank myself for waving a white flag of surrender before I got in too deep.  At least with a mortgage, I have something to show for that debt!

But I think the most important thing I learned from all this is that university is NOT for everybody.  I know that it was a poor fit for me.  I couldn't handle the supersized classes, I fell asleep listening to professors babble on about stuff that was NOT ON THE FINAL EXAM MIGHT I ADD, and I just think that while it was a great thing for me socially, everything else was completely wrong.

I think if I get the chance to do it again, I would finance the whole experience myself, and take something that I know would be a useful skill.  I would definitely choose a college or a trade school.  I like small classes and instructors who are more available for you.  I learn best by doing things - not listening to someone drone on and on.  And, I know several college and trade school grads that make more money than those who have a university degree. 

I also think that the guidance counselors at my school were idiots.  But that's more of a personal opinion and not factual.  Unless you all want it to be.

Society has a funny way of defining success (as does Dannii Minogue, apparently).  They feel that success means that you have to have a house that is humongous and pristine, have a job that nets you over a hundred grand a year, you must have children to be successful, and you have to go to university.  I'm here to tell you that I am living proof that society is screwed up and that you all need to find your own path to happiness.  Maybe I don't have the degree.  Or the expensive house.  Or the kids.  So, what?  I'm not about to let society dictate to me that I am unsuccessful because of it. 

I am who I am.  And I'm in the driver's seat.  Ironic, since I don't know how to drive.  But hey, let's go with it.

Maybe back in 2002, it was my biggest regret.  In 2017, it became my biggest learning experience.  One I needed to have.  

Friday, May 26, 2017

Jem Reviewed: Episode 62 - Straight From The Heart

There's only four weeks left in the Jem Reviewed series.  I know, it went by quickly, didn't it?  And last week, we performed a little bit of magic with famous magician Astral.  What's going to happen this week?

Well, this is Episode 62: Straight From The Heart.  Hmm, I wonder if Bryan Adams will be making an appearance?  Somehow I have my doubts.

We start the show at a fireworks display.  4th of July, maybe?  No, wait.  It's actually a fashion show.  I don't know too many fashion shows that use fireworks except for maybe the Victoria's Secret lingerie show every December.  Whatever the case, the Holograms are there along with the Countess Danielle DuVoisin, and they are there to meet one of the hottest up and coming designers this side of France.

Her name is Regine Cesaire, and she admittedly is as cute as a button.  She is also the subject of today's Jem Trivia, and for this one I'll be talking about Astral as well.  You see, when Episodes 61 and 62 were being made, there were plans to make them much more prominent characters.  So prominent that both of them were supposed to have their own dolls, as well as the Stingers.  However, not long after these episodes were produced, Hasbro decided to pull the plug on Jem dolls, as they weren't selling.  So, as a result, the Astral and Regine dolls were scrapped.  It does make me wonder how long the show was slated to last for.  By the way they were talking, they might have been hoping to keep the Jem train going until at least 1990. 

The Countess explains that Regine is a superfan of the Holograms and has all of their albums and videos, and it would be a dream come true for Regine to design something for them.  In fact, when Regine finally meets the band, Shana and Regine click right away.  This makes me fairly happy for two reasons.  One, it's nice that Shana and Regine are bonding since they have a shared interest in fashion.  And two, it's nice to see Shana GET A STORYLINE!  I mean, Raya's had more lines than she has!

Regine is eager to please the Holograms by designing the dresses for their upcoming concert, but she is a little frustrated when the Holograms don't exactly know what look they want to go for.  To give Regine a bit of moral support, they sing her a song as they sketch.

That song is "It All Depends On The Mood I'm In", which also appeared in Episode 12 (another episode about fashion design).  Unlike the original video which shows Jem, Kimber, and Aja playing dress-up, this one is more sophisticated.  I like the idea of making Jem and the Holograms sketches against a pencil crayon background.  Very creative, and still a solid tune fifty episodes later!

That song seems to have sparked a creative flow in Regine, and she has come up with a brilliant idea - but she wants to keep the Holograms from knowing until her work is finished.

The next day, she drags the Countess to a fabric store and like a Project Runway contestant she goes crazy with selecting fabric.  I half expect Tim Gunn to pop out from a door and say "Thank You, Mood"!  The Countess is glad to see Regine so passionate, but she questions some of the choices she is making.  Having designed clothes for Jem and the Holograms since their "Only The Beginning" days, she knows what they like.  Regine is undaunted, and she believes that the Holograms will find the designs to be gorgeous.  She definitely believes in least for now.

But while Regine has grabbed a couple of bolts of fabric (without paying for them, might I add), she notices a giant red bolt of fabric rolling towards her feet.  Part of me thinks she's thinking of taking it so that she can make Kimber some culottes, but in actuality it leads to a horse drawn carriage.  What is this, the 1800s?

No, it's just the egotistical yellow and black clad rockers known as the Stingers.  And yes, Riot, Rapture, and Minx are still just as insufferable as they were the last few episodes. 

It seems as though Riot has heard of Regine's success story and has decided that he wants to capitalize on it.  He tells Regine that he wants her to design a new look for the Stingers - and proceeds to shower himself and his group with compliments.  Regine is honoured by Riot's request, but makes a note of pointing out that she is already committed to Jem and the Holograms - a confession that makes Rapture and Minx comment on how boring and mundane Jem is.  Yep, still bitchy.

Riot still won't give up, and he pops in a CD (wow, a horse drawn carriage with a CD Player - how modern) of the Stingers singing a song.

It's very rare that we get to see two songs before the first commercial break, but here we are.  Once again, the Stingers provide a great sound with "All In The Style" - even if the song is devoid of substance and is more of a fluff piece. 

When Regine still presses her commitment to Jem, Riot gets the driver to stop the carriage and throws her out!  Wow, how gentlemanly.  But of course, Riot can't help but try to shatter Regine's confidence by telling her that the Holograms won't like her stuff.  Because we all know that Riot doesn't like the word no.  Just look at how he's stooped to practically stalking Jem every minute he gets!

Still, Regine believes that she's made the right decision, and she arrives at Starlight Mansion with five boxes in her arms.  She seems surprised that Shana opens the door to greet her, as she believed that the Holograms had people to do it for them.  I...I don't know how to react to that statement.  She also seems shocked that Jem and the Holograms spend their nights taking care of twelve girls and doing chores instead of clubbing all night on the Sunset Strip.  Jem explains that they have a lot of responsibilities that come first - well, except for when they go from country to country without bringing any of the girls along.  Regine refers to it as mundane - exactly the same word the Stingers used to describe the Holograms.  Uh oh...I think they corrupted her.

Regine hands over the dresses for the band to try on, and when they come out, everyone in the room is amazed.  The looks that Jem and the Holograms are wearing is from Regine's "Martinique Collection", and I have to say that it's definitely not like any of the other outfits they've worn previously.  They're nice though - at least by 1988 standards.  But Jem and the Holograms aren't sure that the image that Regine has created works for them.  They like them, but they aren't in love with them.  To Jem's surprise, Regine appears to be hurt by the comments, and she remarks that she will make something else for them with her words freshly dipped in bitter sarcasm.  I'm guessing that one of Regine's issues is being able to handle constructive criticism.  That could come back to bite her.

Back at her studio (which is set up in the Countess DuVoisin's home), Regine is trying to come up with a new design for the Holograms, but she is not having much luck.  The Countess proves just how huge a heart she has by offering to help Regine design the looks, but Regine rudely tells her that she must do it herself.  Yeah, you know how I said Regine was as cute as a button?  She's not so much that now.

The tense atmosphere is broken when one of Countess DuVoisin's servants arrives with a letter - for Regine!  It turns out to be an invitation with a voice chip embedded in it.  Riot cordially invites her to a party at Stingers Sound where only the BEST people will be there.  Naturally, Regine loves pretty much anyone who showers her with compliments, so she abandons the Jem project telling the Countess that all work and no play makes Regine a dull girl.  To which the Countess sassily remarks that all play and no work makes Regine unemployed!  Man, I missed you Countess DuVoisin!  She's more blunt than Gail Vaz-Oxlade on the television show "Prince$$"!

And let me tell you...this is one party that I would NOT love to be a part of.  

Every time Regine tries to introduce herself to some of the partygoers, they completely ignore her, or they treat her as if she is garbage.  Even another up and coming designer named Yaki Tori treats her as if she has leprosy.  I'm more distracted that he looks like Mick Jagger.

Fortunately for Regine, Riot seems to bring attention to her and continues to shower her with compliments, and it is only then that the upper crust of Los Angeles decide that she's worth talking to.  Yaki even apologizes for how badly he treated her, but it's with the same amount of sincerity as one of Riot's pick-up lines, so take it what it's worth.  At least it seems to give Regine a boost of confidence, and she decides that she will make some new sketches right this second.  

However, the sketches are NOT for the Stingers.  They are an idea for Jem and the Holograms.  And naturally since Riot is not the center of attention, he once again turns off the charm and turns on the venom, predicting that Jem will not appreciate the designs at all.  Sometimes I wish someone would just throw him off the roof!

However frustrating Riot as a person is, I will at least admit that he does know how to read people.  And when Regine presents her "royalty themed" collection which is designed to make the Holograms be respected and noticed, Jem seems to hate the collection more than the last one.  Jem at least tries to soften the blow, but Regine won't hear it.  She goes off on a tantrum about how Riot was right and how they wouldn't know great fashion if they were strangled by a bolt of green taffeta.  Oooh, reign it back in there, Regine!

Once the Holograms hear Riot's name, they try to convince her that Riot and the Stingers are just using her.  Shana, in particular, tries really hard to make Regine listen to reason.  But this just makes Regine angrier and angrier, and she flat out accuses Shana of being jealous of her!  It's like she took the bridge of opportunity between herself and Jem, covered it with C4 explosives and pressed the detonator eighty-six times!  But then again, maybe Regine is a lot like Roxy - she has to learn the hard way.

Luckily for us there's another segment to go, so we get to watch Regine's fall from grace from front row seats!  Um...yay?

So, given that Jem rejected the royal line, the Stingers waste no time in claiming the look as their own.  Makes sense, given that Riot believes himself to be better than royalty.  Anyone kind of wishing Regine had put Riot in one of the Martinique dresses?  Though, Regine is getting the first taste of what designing for the Stingers is like when Riot completely twists the message of what Regine's clothing is supposed to portray into a completely self-centered spiel.  Regine tries to protest, but her new boy toy Yaki prevents her from doing that, pointing out that she's now a star and not to ruin it. 

Oh, and in case you were wondering, it does appear that Regine and Yaki are "dating".  She sort of confirms it on the Harriet Horn show, and you know how lovely Harriet is when it comes to scandals.  Speaking of scandals, did you notice that Harriet seems to have taken over Lindsey Pearce's studio?  I wonder if Harriet made her just...disappear?

At the Fashion Mall, Regine and Yaki are fabric shopping once again, and of course, Regine seems to be putting more into the relationship than Yaki is.  Frankly, I find Yaki kind of...well...yucky.  But he's a key player towards Regine getting a nice taste of humble pie so for that reason alone, we're going to have to deal with him.  Uh, yay

Before that, Shana arrives at the fabric store to make one last plea to Regine.  Unlike the Stingers (and Yucky), Shana and the other Holograms are genuinely concerned for Regine, and she warns her that choosing image over substance will not get her very far.  Shana reaches into her purse and gives Regine a ticket to their concert hoping that Regine will accept it and that when she's ready to value substance again, they'll be waiting.  Finally, Shana gets a storyline and she also is the voice of reason.  I really missed her.

Though part of me wishes that Rapture and Minx would disappear for good.  They overhear the conversation between Shana and Regine and decide to intervene.  Rapture gives Regine hell for conversing with the enemy.  Oh brother.  And when Shana gives both of them a piece of her mind, Rapture covers Shana's head with transparent fabric as Minx pours an entire cup of soda into Shana's purse! old are these Stingers?  Six and a half?  Not even Ashley acted this bratty in the first few episodes of the show!

Once Shana leaves, Regine is appalled that they treated Shana that way, and this sets the tone for Minx and Rapture turning on Regine.  I get the feeling that much like Pizzazz, Mrs. Farnsworth, and an entire section of Athens, Greece, Regine will be the next victim of the Stinger sting.

Sure enough, the plot for revenge against Regine begins with Rapture holding up a crystal.  She explains to Regine that Riot is very choosy when it comes to colour.  If she holds the crystal up to Riot's face and the crystal changes colour, that will be the colour of Riot's aura, and blah blah blah.  Basically, Regine is being tricked into embarrassing herself.

And that's exactly what happens when she yanks the crystal out during a board meeting at Stingers Sound.  Riot is confused, the staff (including Yucky Tori) laugh at her, and Regine runs out of the room in tears.  Man, I know Regine needed to learn a valuable lesson, but this was just cruel.

Regine's day gets much worse when she discovers that her lovely boyfriend has been cheating on her with Minx of all people.  Wow, first Techrat, now Yucky?  Minx really doesn't have high standards when it comes to men, does she?  I mean, her first crush was RIO of all people!  Seems as though Yucky hasn't been a very nice guy, and he was using Regine to get an in with the Stingers so that he could show his designs!  Wow, talk about cutthroat!  Honestly, if I were Regine, I'd club him over the head with a sewing machine...but poor Regine is so broken down, she just flees the room with Minx and Yucky laughing at her expense. 

Think that's the end of it?  Think again.

It's when she meets with Riot that the final straw is broken.  Riot flat out rejects Regine's new designs and fires her on the spot for being boring.  And, who should get her old job but Yucky!  How's that humble pie taste, Regine?  Bet it's quite sour isn't it?  But at least there's some good.  Regine reminds Yucky that the Stingers might see him as the flavour of the month now, but it'll be a matter of time before they see him as stale and toss him out on the curb.  Actually, that'd be poetic justice.

So after swallowing the last spoonful of humble pie, Regine looks at the ticket that Shana gave her, and thinking of her words goes to the concert to see the Holograms and tell them what happened.  At first, she is embarrassed to admit that the Stingers and Yucky drove her to tears, but Jem reveals that she always feels better after a good cry.  Well, I guess your sister wrote the book on that subject, eh Jem?

(CONFESSION:  I poke fun here, but I totally agree with Jem.  But let's keep that between us, okay?)

Regine also apologizes for how badly she behaved, and luckily the rest of the Holograms forgive her - Shana in particular seems pleased with seeing Regine decide on her own to do the right thing.  But Regine was so focused on the Stingers that she never had time to design new costumes for the Holograms.  But Jem reveals that she has a surprise for Regine - and that Regine should go into the crowd and see the concert to discover what it is.

Regine sits down in her seat and as the show begins, Regine is in for a shock.  Jem and the Holograms are wearing the Martinique dresses that Regine made the first time.  Jem even announces that the dresses were made by Regine and points her out in the crowd as they play the final song of the episode.

Now, if you had told me that Jem and the Holograms would do a song with a reggae flair, I'd call you crazy.  But "Straight From The Heart" is a brilliant tune, and Britta Phillips sings it with...well...heart!  It's a song that has typical Jem lyrics and a Jem theme...but with an island twist.  I love it myself.

And so does the crowd.  In particular, the people who have called to place orders with the Countess for the outfits that Jem wore!  Regine is pleased that her Martinique collection is a huge hit, and now it's Jem's turn for a slice of humble pie.  While she wasn't sure about the dresses at first, she's glad they gave them a chance because they ended up liking them a lot, and they were the very pieces that helped Regine become a success.  So, the moral of this episode is...don't let people influence your decisions.  If something feels right, go with your gut.

And NEVER date anyone named Yaki Tori. 

That's a wrap for Episode 62.  Next week, we're at the third last episode of Jem Reviewed.  In this one, one of the Stingers undergoes a personality change when they are caught up in a traumatic event.  But which one is it?  And how does this impact everyone else?  And the Misfits are back!!!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

May 25, 1977

I'm not even going to give you a hint for today's Throwback Thursday post.  If I did, I'd give it away even before I got to today's historical events and celebrity birthdays.  Heck, the date alone might be a giveaway.  So, I won't waste time.  Here's a list of some of the things that happened on May 25.

240 BC - First recorded perihelion passage of Halley's Comet

1738 - A treaty signed between Pennsylvania and Maryland ends the Conojocular War

1787 - The United States Constitutional Convention convenes in Philadelphia

1803 - Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (d. 1882) is born in Boston, Massachusetts

1837 - The Rebels of Lower Canada (present day Quebec) rebel against the British for governmental reforms

1865 - An ordnance depot explodes in Mobile, Alabama, killing 300 people

1878 - Gilbert and Sullivan's "H.M.S. Pinafore" opens in London

1895 - Oscar Wilde is convicted of "committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons" and is sentenced to two years in prison

1925 - John T. Snopes is indicted for teaching Darwin's Theory of Evolution in his Tennessee classroom

1935 - At the Big Ten Conference Track and Field Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jesse Owens manages to break three world records and equal a fourth

1939 - Actress Dixie Carter (d. 2010) is born in McLemoresville, Tennessee

1940 - The Battle of Boulogne ends with the capture of the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer by Germany

1955 - A devastating F5 tornado strikes Udall, Kansas, killing 80 and injuring 273

1961 - President John F. Kennedy announces his goal to "put a man on the Moon" before the end of the decade - that goal would be met in 1969

1963 - The Organisation of African Unity is established in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

1968 - The Gateway Arch is dedicated in St. Louis, Missouri

1977 - The government of China removes the ban on all works by William Shakespeare, ending the Cultural Revolution

1979 - American Airlines Flight 191 crashes at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, killing everyone on board and two on the ground

1983 - Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi is released in theatres

1986 - Hands Across America takes place

1990 - Actor Vic Tayback dies at the age of 60

2002 - China Airlines Flight 611 disintegrates mid-air, killing everybody on board

2007 - Actor/comedian Charles Nelson Reilly dies at the age of 76

2011 - The final episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" airs

2014 - Actor/singer Herb Jeffries passes away at the age of 100

And the list of celebrities turning one year older are as follows; Georgy Grechko, Irwin Winkler, Tom T. Hall, Ian McKellen, Jessi Colter, John Palmer, Leslie Uggams, Charlie Harper, Frank Oz, Karen Valentine, Klaus Meine, Robby Steinhardt, Bob Gale, Robert Picard, Rick Wamsley, Anthea Turner, Mike Myers, Anne Heche, Stacy London, Jamie Kennedy, Octavia Spencer, Daz Dillinger, Molly Sims, Cody Canada, Erinn Hayes, Cillian Murphy, Ethan Suplee, Joe King, Neon Hitch, Jillian Wheeler, and Aly Raisman.

And now for today's Throwback Thursday date.  

We're going back exactly forty years.  To May 25, 1977.

Now, that was the same day that China revoked its ban on all works of Shakespeare...but it's not the main subject of this blog.  No, this blog is going to take you to place not from this planet.  I could say that we're boldly going where no man has gone before...but I won't.  Because that has nothing to do with today's theme aside from the setting.

And, notice how on this date in 1983 that Return of the Jedi was released in theatres?  Certainly it was a great film, and just one of several that have been made within this franchise.  However, it was on this date 40 years ago that the movie that kicked off this franchise debuted.  A movie that introduced us to characters such as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, and of course, Chewbacca.

Can you believe that it's been four decades since Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope debuted?  Of course, back in 1977, it was just known as Star Wars.  After all, George Lucas at the time didn't realize how huge the franchise would become.  It was also one of the first movies to begin its story right in the middle, as the prequel trilogy wouldn't screen until 1999 and the sequel trilogy is currently being made (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was released in 2015).  But it remains one of the most successful science-fiction films ever, and forty years later, its impact on pop culture is still widely felt.  It also made household names of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and the late Carrie Fisher.

So, I thought that in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, I'd put my search engine on warp speed and do some research on the first film.  And then I thought I'd post one fact for every one of the 40 years that has passed since the film made its debut!  I know I learned a lot more about the film by writing this blog, and I've consulted the Internet Movie Database and several other references to find the most interesting trivia bits about Star Wars. 

Let's begin!

1 - Initially there wasn't a lot of high expectations for the film to do well.  George Lucas skipped out on the premiere to go on vacation with Steven Spielberg - though it was on this vacation that they came up with the idea for Indiana Jones.

2 - It became the first film to make over $300,000,000 at the box office.

3 - Harrison Ford admitted to being on his best behaviour when Alec Guinness was filming scenes with him.  Once he was gone, he and Mark Hamill would get into mischief!

4 - David Prowse was the man in the Darth Vader costume - however his voice was provided by James Earl Jones.

5 - Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill did their own stunt work for the scene where Luke and Leia swing to safety - it was filmed in one take!

6 - Ever wonder how the lightsaber sound effect was achieved?  It is a combination of the humming of a 35mm projector with the feedback generated by passing a stripped microphone cable by a television.

7 - Carrie Fisher's mother, Debbie Reynolds, was so appalled that George Lucas was making the cast fly coach that she called him to complain - though Carrie had the last word when she told her to f@#$ off and that she was flying coach!

8 - During the trash compactor scene, Mark Hamill held his breath so long that he popped a blood vessel in his face.

9 - Peter Mayhew wanted to play a good guy while David Prowse wanted to play a bad guy.  They were cast as Chewbacca and Darth Vader respectively.

10 - Kenny Baker, the man in the R2-D2 outfit, has said that when the crew broke for lunch, they would accidentally leave him behind.

11 - Carrie Fisher's breasts had to be taped down with gaffer's tape, as her costume didn't permit lingerie to be worn underneath.

12 - After the trash compactor scene, the Chewbacca costume was left with a permanent stench.

13 - An interesting connection between two Star Wars films.  Denis Lawson, who played Wedge in the original film is Ewan McGregor's uncle.  Ewan, of course, played Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars I, II, and III.

14 - Peter Cushing would wear fuzzy slippers in scenes in which his feet weren't shown - the boots that were part of his costume were too tight for him.

15 - Amazingly, Princess Leia and Obi-Wan Kenobi NEVER really share any screen time together - unless you count the lightsaber duel where she sees him from a significant distance.

16 - John Williams composed the iconic Star Wars theme, as well as all of the music heard within the film.

17 - Take a good look at the Stormtroopers.  Almost all of them are left-handed.

18 - According to the Internet Movie Database, the film has one of the highest body counts (if not the highest) ever, with a total of 2,002,795,192 losing their lives!

19 - Han Solo's character evolved a LOT from the planning stages.  He was initially to be a giant green alien, but then that was changed to an African-American human, and finally a Caucasian.

20 - George Lucas was considering having Orson Welles do the voice of Darth Vader, but decided against it, as Welles' voice would have been too recognizable.

21 - George Lucas would refer to the film as a "Disney movie" during the production.  I'll let you all figure out the irony behind that statement...

22 - Kenner Toys was so hit with demand for Star Wars toys that they actually didn't have enough supply for holiday shoppers during Christmas 1977.  The company issued rain check vouchers during this time, and the toys were delivered the following spring.

23 - The scenes on Tatooine were filmed in a Tunisian desert - one that received the first heavy rainfall in over fifty years while the crew filmed!

24 - Sandstorms would destroy some of the sets representing Tatooine.  Twenty-two years later while filming "The Phantom Menace", the same thing happened.

25 - Ralph McQuarrie designed the iconic Darth Vader suit.

26 - George Lucas based the character of Han Solo on his friend, Francis Ford Coppola

27 - Brian DePalma helped George Lucas write the opening text crawl.

28 - When Captain Wedge Antilles' neck is crushed by Darth Vader, the sound effect is made by walnuts being crushed

29 - Several Star Wars references can be found in the "Final Fantasy" series of games - most notably in Final Fantasy VII, where two of the members of AVALANCHE are named Biggs and Wedge.

30 - Ben Burtt is the man behind Chewbacca's voice, as well as several of the other sound effects heard in the film - he disclosed that alien gibberish spouted by Garindian/Long Snoot was John Wayne's voice - albeit heavily processed.

31 - Fans were upset that Chewbacca (SPOILER ALERT) didn't get a medal in the closing scene.  MTV decided to fix that by giving Chewbacca a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards.  Carrie Fisher was the one who made the presentation!

32 - This was the first movie to be dubbed in Navajo.

33 - The film runs for 121 minutes - making it the shortest of all the Star Wars movies.

34 - The film's stars had to get used to being mobbed by fans.  Harrison Ford had half of his shirt torn off at a record store one day when a group of fans mobbed him.

35 - According to some of the Stormtrooper actors, they were paid 8500 Tunisian Dinar for their work - which only worked out to $6.50 US back in 1977!

36 - Anthony Daniels, who played C-3PO, had a wardrobe malfunction the first day he wore the costume which proved painful.  The left leg shattered down into the plastic of the left foot which stabbed his foot each step he took.

37 - Mark Hamill almost didn't get to play Luke Skywalker.  He was already committed to the television show "Eight is Enough" and the producers wouldn't let him out of the contract.  Shortly after filming the pilot, Hamill was involved in a car accident that caused damage to his face.  Producers released him from the contract, leaving him free to do the movie.

38 - Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford thought that George Lucas was a lousy dialogue writer, and after a confrontation, Lucas granted them permission to improvise some of the script.

39 - The film's budget was supposed to be $8 million, but it ballooned by another $3 million by the time production was completed.

And finally...

40 - It was the first science-fiction film to be nominated for an Academy Award.