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Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 20, 1973

So, there's an obvious choice that I COULD make for today's Throwback Thursday posting.  But, I decided that I would choose another topic instead because it would challenge myself - and because thousands of other bloggers are probably reminiscing about the first time that a man walked on the surface of the moon.

Well, the ones who focus on historical events, anyway.

So, we know what topic I avoided...and yes, you'll see it on this list as well as other things that happened throughout history on July 20.

1738 - Canadian explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de la Verendrye (try saying THAT name five times fast) reaches the western shore of Lake Michigan

1848 - The first Women's Rights Convention concludes in Seneca Falls, New York

1864 - The Battle of Peachtree Creek takes place during the American Civil War

1871 - British Columbia officially becomes the sixth Canadian province

1917 - The Corfu Declaration is signed

1919 - Sir Edmund Hillary (d. 2008) - the first person to reach the summit of Mount Everest - is born in Auckland, New Zealand

1934 - During the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934, police open fire upon striking truck drivers, leaving two dead and sixty-seven wounded

1935 - Thirteen people lose their lives when a Royal Dutch Airlines flight enroute to Frankfurt, Germany crashes into the Swiss Alps

1938 - Actress Natalie Wood (d. 1981) is born in San Francisco, California

1940 - The first California freeway - The Arroyo Seco Parkway - is opened

1943 - British actress Wendy Richard (d. 2009) is born in Middlesbrough, England

1950 - Harry Gold pleads guilty to spying for the Soviet Union by passing secrets from Klaus Fuchs

1964 - Singer Chris Cornell (d. 2017) is born in Seattle, Washington

1968 - The first International Special Olympics Summer Games are held at Chicago's Soldier Field

1969 - Apollo 11's crew makes the first manned landing on the Moon in the Sea of Tranquility - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first men in the universe to walk on the surface

1977 - The CIA releases documents under the Freedom of Information Act that proves that it had engaged in mind-control experiments

1982 - The Provisional IRA detonates two bombs in Hyde Park and Regent Park in London, leaving eight soldiers and seven horses dead, and countless others injured

1991 - EMF's "Unbelievable" tops the Billboard Charts

1997 - The USS Constitution - a Navy frigate - celebrates its two hundredth birthday by setting sail for the first time in over one hundred years

2007 - Singer/television personality Tammy Faye Messner dies at the age of 65

2012 - Twelve people are killed and seventy others wounded when a man starts shooting inside of a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado

And for celebrity birthdays, the following people are turning one year older today; Heather Chasen, Mike Ilitch, Sally Ann Howes, Cormac McCarthy, Diana Rigg, Kim Carnes, Carlos Santana, Jeff Rawle, Marcia Hines, Moira Harris, Radney Foster, Frank Whaley, Terri Irwin, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Josh Holloway, Sandra Oh, Colleen "Vitamin C" Fitzpatrick, Omar Epps, Judy Greer, Erica Hill, Elliott Yamin, Charlotte Hatherley, Gisele Bundchen, John Francis Daley, and Julianne Hough!



I think it's great to see so many celebs celebrating a birthday.  Unfortunately, some people have also died on this date in history, and I plan on writing a tribute to him right here.  He passed away on this date in history forty-four years later.  July 20, 1973.

Before I get into that, I want to tell you a little bit of a story regarding my own personal memories.  And, no...it has very little to do with today's date.  I wasn't even born then. 

What I can tell you is that when I was younger, we had a little Chinese food place in town where my family frequented a lot.  It was run by a guy named Ming, and I have so many memories of going to that place as a kid.  The decor was dated, but very befitting for a Chinese place, there was a retro style jukebox that hadn't been updated since 1984 but still worked, and every time we paid a visit, he'd always give all of us kids a free package of Wrigley's gum. 

(I was always partial to Juicy Fruit.)

Now, most of the time we ordered out...but on the rare occasion we dined in, the television set inside the restaurant was always playing some kung fu type movie.  You know, the ones with lots of punches and kicks, and HI-YAH's?  Turns out that Ming loved movies like that, and often featured films that had one of the greatest actors and martial artists that ever lived.

And I'm not talking about Chuck Norris either.  He's still alive.



No, I'm talking about Bruce Lee.  The San Francisco born/Hong Kong raised actor was one of the biggest pop culture icons of the 20th century, and he is responsible for influencing many people all over the world to learn many forms of self-defense, whether it be judo, karate, tae kwon do, or Jeet Kune Do - the form of martial arts that he founded! 

Many of his movies became huge box office smashes.  "Enter the Dragon", "Fist of Fury", "The Big Boss", and "Way of the Dragon".  I suppose that the dragon would be a creature that would best be linked with Bruce Lee though.  He was born on November 27, 1940 - during not only the Year of the Dragon, but the hour of the Dragon as well.  In ancient Chinese customs, that signified a strong and fortuitous omen.  It meant that Bruce Lee was destined to achieve greatness in everything that he did.

Of course, it didn't quite start out that way.  When Lee's family settled in Hong Kong, it wasn't the easiest time for Lee.  Although he excelled in the studies of martial arts and became quite skilled in a variety of techniques, he often used it for the wrong reasons and was frequently getting into trouble at school for fighting.  The decision was made to send Lee back to America in hopes that he would build a better life for himself and so he would stay out of trouble.  He returned to San Francisco in 1958, and a few months later relocated to Seattle where he enrolled as a student at the University of Washington.  While there, he fell in love with another student, Linda Emery.  They married in 1964 and had two children together, Brandon and Shannon.

Everything seemed to be going his way...until 1973.

1973 was supposed to be a big year for Bruce Lee.  He had just completed the filming for the movie "Enter the Dragon", and was scheduled to begin the dubbing for that film on May 10, 1973.  But the session was interrupted when Lee suddenly collapsed at the dub studio.  He had been complaining of headaches, and was experiencing seizures, and he was immediately taken to hospital for examination.  The doctors at Hong Kong Baptist Hospital ruled that Lee was suffering from cerebral edema - a swelling of the brain.  Through the use of mannitol, the doctors were able to reduce the swelling of his brain, and he was discharged some time later.  However, this was merely a warning sign of what was to come, and by July, time was about to run out.

The afternoon of July 20, 1973, Lee was in Hong Kong for a dinner meeting with actor George Lazenby to discuss the possibility of working together on a future film project.  At two o'clock, Lee met with producer Raymond Chow to talk about the making of the film "Game of Death", and worked together until four.  At that time, Lee and Chow drove to the home of Lee's colleague Betty Ting Pei, who was a Taiwan-born actress.  They had a look at the script for a couple of hours before Chow had to depart for a dinner meeting.

Shortly after Chow left, Lee began complaining of a headache again, and Ting gave him a drug that contained both aspirin and a tranquilizer known as meprobamate.  At 7:30, he decided that he would try to sleep off the pain and took a nap in the bedroom.  But when Lee didn't show up for the dinner meeting, Raymond Chow went to check on him and found Lee unresponsive.  He was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in hopes that he could be revived, but by then it was too late.



Bruce Lee had died.  He was just thirty-two years old.

It would take a while to determine the cause of death, but when Lee's body went in for autopsy, it was discovered that his brain had swelled considerably and the weight of the brain increased by 13%.  It was later determined that the painkiller that Betty Ting Pei had given him was the likely reason that he died, as unbeknownst to everybody including Lee, he had a severe allergy to the meprobamate that was inside.  It was labeled a "death by misadventure", but really it was just a tragic accident.

Of course, this didn't stop some people from trying to speculate what really happened to Lee, and some of the theories that were thrown about ranged from slightly possible to completely off base.  These theories ranged from Lee dying from a cannabis overdose, to a curse being implement on his family, to a dangerous gang from Hong Kong orchestrating his demise.  But the sad truth is that Bruce Lee went out with a whimper...not a bang.  And perhaps the greatest tragedy is that he died when the entire world seemed to be aligning with him.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Video Rental Stores - The Best Way To Temporarily Expand Your Gaming Library

One of the highlights of the weekend as a kid was being able to do practically anything my heart desired.  Well, within reason anyway.  As much as I would have loved to have sprayed graffiti all over the town with a can of purple spray paint, I'm fairly sure the local police would frown upon that.

Of course, I had to make sure that all of my homework was done before I could have the freedom to do what I wanted (though admittedly, I would purposely wait until Sunday night to do some of it because I couldn't be bothered to work on it during the weekend.)

Kids: Don't be like me.  Do your homework as soon as possible.  You'll save yourself the stress of typing out an eight page history essay while pulling an all-nighter the day before the assignment is due - though, I did get a B+ on that paper, so what do I know?

Anyway, my favourite activity when I was a kid was to go down to the little convenience store around the corner from where I used to live as a kid.  I believe it was called Darling's Variety.  Aside from spending part of my allowance on Salt and Vinegar potato chips, I'd use the rest to rent a video game that they had in stock.

And yes, there was a time in which you could rent video games for the low cost of $2.25 per day!



To be fair, they also had movies as well, but I was never really into the box office scene as much as I was the video game scene.  Besides, the little store I went to had a limited selection of both.  Sadly, that store closed up when I was in the sixth grade, and after that I would rent games from some of the local video rental places and from major chains like Blockbuster or Jumbo Video.  I tended to prefer Blockbuster a bit more though, as they let you rent games for a whole week.  Which came in really handy given that you cannot beat "Final Fantasy VI" in one day.  At least, not without eating, sleeping, or peeing anyway.



Of course, nowadays you'd be hard pressed to find a store that still rents videos and video games.  These days, sites like Netflix have cornered the monopoly on movie renting and streaming.  As well, there are literally hundreds of sites that offer free emulators that you can use to download video games - not to mention purchasing games directly from the Internet for the XBOX, PlayStation, and Nintendo.

But back in the days in which I was a kid...the idea of renting video games was just absolutely magical.

For one, my family was not flush with money by any means.  They couldn't afford to buy a new video game every month - and I certainly didn't expect them to either.  I mean, this is coming from someone whose first video game system was ten years older (and you can read about that story by clicking
HERE - one of the first blog entries I wrote, matter of fact!).  I saved up to buy my Nintendo for several months when I was nine, and it was so worth the purchase!



Because once I had the Nintendo in my possession, it opened me up to a world of endless possibilities.  Or, at the very least it allowed me to rent video games.



I still recall the first video games I rented from Darling's after I bought my Nintendo.  As it turned out, I still had enough money to rent three games from there, so I settled on "Bubble Bobble", "Tetris", and "Rampage".  Yeah, quite the triad of games.  One game you shot at everyone with green and blue bubbles, one game you tried to make lines with coloured blocks, and one game you tried to destroy the entire United States one skyscraper at a time.  It was great!

Of course, I had to make sure that all the games were returned by 1:00 the following afternoon, because if I didn't I'd be billed for an extra day, which the nine-year-old me couldn't afford.

Well, at least until Super Mario 3 came out...then I rented it every other day until I received the game as a Christmas gift!


So, what are some of your favourite stories involving video rental stores and video game rental stores?  Feel free to share them here!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Commonwealth of Memories

As I look at the calendar, we are midway through the month of July.  The season of summer has officially kicked off, and for every student between the ages of 5-18, this means that the summer is theirs to do whatever they want to do.  They can go to summer camp, they can swim in the pool, they can eat so much ice cream they develop permanent brain freeze.

Or you could just waste time reading a book underneath the shade of a gigantic tree.  Or, I suppose nowadays, kids can take out their mobile phones and play "Candy Crush" underneath a tree.  Or, so I've heard, anyway.

Of course, summer vacation only lasts for a few precious weeks before the schools reopen and kids begin another year of reading, writing, and arithmetic.  It was a time of year that I simultaneously loved and hated.  I loved the idea of starting a new school year and buying school supplies...but I hated the idea of summer ending and having to spend the next nine and a half months with classmates I may or may not have liked. 

But what happens when your school decides not to reopen in the new school year?

Well, in the next couple of years, some students will be faced with that prospect...at least in my province anyway.  Several schools will be closing over the next three years because of low enrollment, and many schools will combine their student populations to form one school. 

And one of those schools that is on the chopping block happens to be my old elementary school.



Apparently, it will be closing along with two other elementary schools in the area and all of those students will be going to the remaining schools in the city.  There's talk of demolishing at least one of these school buildings and rebuilding a larger school to accommodate most of the displaced kids. 

Now, I have no idea what will happen to my old elementary school.  I don't know if it will remain open until the new school is supposed to be built, or if it will close at the end of the 2017/18 school year, of if it too will be knocked down.  There's a lot of questions flying around, and I'm not even sure if I have all the facts straight yet.  But I do know that the announcement made me think about my time at Commonwealth Public School, and how many memories I have associated with that place.

I guess I would like to use this piece to talk about my experiences, both good and bad, as a student at Commonwealth P.S.  That way, even if the school does close and ceases to exist, I'll have a digital memory of it here.

I attended Commonwealth as a student between the years 1987 and 1995, and for the most part I do have some good memories of the place.  There were some moments that I really would rather forget about though.  The bullies who picked on me every day.  The first grade teacher who tried to break me as a person.  The fact that I could never get a grade higher than a C minus in phys ed.  The blasted disciplinary chart that made all of us hate the letter "X" for ten years after the fact.  Yeah.  All memories that I want to forget.

But there are a lot of memories that stand out in my memory for all the good reasons.  Consider this a scrapbook of my time at Commonwealth P.S.  A real window into what elementary school in Canada was like in the 1980s and 1990s.

So, what do I remember most?



Well, our school colours for one.  I think we were one of the only schools in the entire province of Ontario whose school colours were royal blue and Orange Crush!  Not exactly the most beautiful of colour combinations, was it?  I suppose the orange made sense as our school mascot was the Commonwealth Cougar...but cougars had black spots...not blue.  At least it's something to remember.



I also remember earning these lovely blue and orange felt patches for my involvement in the school concert band.  The blue ones were for arts and science achievements while the orange ones were for athletics.  I played the baritone from sixth to eighth grades and took part in several school concerts.  I still remember the day when the eighth grade baritone player bailed and I had to play the solo as the only seventh grade baritone player.  I pulled it off brilliantly.



Mrs. Barclay was the school librarian during my entire tenure at the school, and I remember that our library at that time was in the basement.  It's a wonder none of us ended up with asbestos poisoning!  Though the crown jewel of the old school library was the red bathtub that was placed in the center of the reading area, and how all of us kids would fight to see which ones would spend library period in that bathtub.  Of course, the tub wasn't real.  It didn't have water hookups.  It was just a cool way to read books.  Oh, and I earned this nifty certificate for my research skills when I was just seven years old!  Not bad, huh?



I still have quite a few of my awards from when I attended Commonwealth as a student.  In sixth grade, our teacher would hand out Certificates of Achievement each week to those students who were mostly well behaved during that time.  I admit that I didn't get as many certificates as I would have liked, but that was because I was still a little bit rebellious against authority figures - stemming back to my grade one nightmare teacher.  My sixth grade teacher was a sweetheart though, and to this day, Mrs. Woodfine has always been my favourite elementary school teacher.  She helped me get into the idea of writing my feelings down, which helped me a great deal.  So if you want someone to blame for the last six years of this blog, blame her!  (Just kidding.)



Commonwealth P.S. was also one of the places where many of us learned how to use a computer for the first time, and I can recall dozens of instances where I'd play all sorts of games such as "Number Munchers", "Type Away", and my personal favourite, "Pick-A-Dilly Pair".

(Coincidentally, I was the champion of that game in second grade...and I NEVER LOST ONE MATCH.  EVER.)



For some reason, this song was also a key part of my second grade learning experience.  I have no idea why it has stuck in my brain for so long, but kudos to Carole King for making Chicken Soup with Rice so musically appealing.  For some reason, a lot of Commonwealth memories are associated with second grade.  The Mouse and the Motorcycle, McDonald's Day, giving Warm Fuzzies to our classmates...as well as being hospitalized for an asthma attack and missing my class photo that year...and speaking of which..



One part of school that I had a mixed reaction to was class picture day.  Above is the class picture that I took back when I was in grade five.  Let's just say that 1991 wasn't a kind year for me...or anybody else for that matter.



Then again, 1995 wasn't much better.  This was my grade eight graduation photo in which everything went wrong.  My hair was a mess, my face had broken out, and let's just say it's a good thing I was wearing that robe because I had accidentally squirted ketchup all over the white dress shirt I wore.  Why didn't they have our grad pics taken BEFORE lunch?

Of course, the good thing about graduation was getting that diploma which allowed us to pass into the world of high school - which admittedly I despised with the fire of a million suns, but the 14-year-old in me didn't see it as such.  And I had a great time at the grad dance.



Though, I should clarify...he wasn't my date.  This happens to be my best friend from those days, and twenty-two years later we're still very tight.  Probably one of the only people I can truly say that about.

Now there are some memories of Commonwealth P.S. that I have no photos of (or very few), so I can only describe them here using my words.  Any of my classmates that are reading this, I hope this list brings back some fond memories.  Here's a list of 40 that I can think of spur of the moment.



1.  WALKING TO THE CENOTAPH EVERY REMEMBRANCE DAY
2.  BEING THE "B" IN BRAVERY AT THE REMEMBRANCE DAY ASSEMBLY
3.  MY JUMP ROPE FOR HEART POSTER WHICH ENDED UP IN THE SCHOOL ART GALLERY
4.  THE COMMONWEALTH P.S. WINTER OLYMPICS FIELD DAY
5.  THE ANNUAL CRAZY HAT BARBECUE
6.  THE ANNUAL TEACHERS VS. GRADE 8 SOFTBALL GAME
7.  TRAIN SAFETY ASSEMBLIES
8.  USING "EAT OR CHEW" CARDS IN MADAME MORGAN'S FRENCH CLASS
9.  THE DIMOITOU PUPPET IN FRENCH CLASS



10.  THE DIMOITOU PUPPET SUSTAINING HEAD TRAUMA AFTER A CLASSMATE THREW IT AND THE WHOLE ACTIVITY CART DOWN A FLIGHT OF STAIRS
11.  GIVING "WARM FUZZIES" TO MY SECOND GRADE CLASSMATES
12.  SCHOOL FUNDRAISING



13.  SCHOLASTIC BOOK FAIRS
14.  PLAYING "SCRABBLE" IN 8TH GRADE LANGUAGE ARTS CLASS
15.  LEARNING HOW TO PLAY THE "STOCK MARKET" WITH DR. DIVIDEND
16.  GRADE 8 FIELD TRIP TO TORONTO TO VISIT CANADA'S WONDERLAND AND SEE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
17.  5th GRADE POOL PARTY AT MR. HASKIN'S PLACE
18.  LEARNING HOW TO SLOW DANCE AT MY FIRST SCHOOL DANCE
19.  HAVING MY FINGER BROKEN BY A BOWLING BALL IN 4TH GRADE GYM CLASS
20.  HAVING KIDS ASK ME HOW TO SPELL WORDS...AND REGRETTING NOT CHARGING THEM FIVE CENTS PER LETTER
21.  USING RACCOONS COLOUR CHANGING MARKERS EVERY DAY IN SECOND GRADE
22.  SCRATCH AND SNIFF STICKERS - WE ALL LOVED THESE!
23.  THE BATHROOM KEYS WE USED IN SECOND GRADE
24.  GETTING AN INDOOR SUSPENSION FOR DEFENDING MYSELF - HEY, THEY WEREN'T ALL GOOD MEMORIES!
25.  BUILDING A DIORAMA OF A MOUNTAIN RANGE IN SIXTH GRADE
26.  RUNNING FOR CLASS REP DURING SCHOOL ELECTIONS...AND COMING IN DEAD LAST!
27.  CONTRIBUTING TO THE 5TH GRADE ENVIRONMENT MAGAZINE OUR CLASS MADE - AND REALIZING THAT I LOVED WRITING
28.  GETTING THE HIGHEST MARK ON THE WATERLOO MATH CONTEST IN 7TH GRADE - A FLUKE, SINCE IT'S MY WORST SUBJECT!
29.  THE CURVED YELLOW SLIDE THAT I ONCE FELL OFF OF AND SKINNED MY KNEE ON
30.  READING BUDDIES!



31.  MAKING AN ELF IN FIRST GRADE THIRTY YEARS AGO...AND REALIZING THAT I STILL HAVE A BUTTERSCOTCH CANDY INSIDE SAID ELF THAT HAS REMAINED FOR THIRTY YEARS!



32.  THIRD GRADE BEING THE "WINNIE THE POOH" YEAR - EVERY ACTIVITY WE DID SEEMED TO INVOLVE WINNIE THE POOH!
33.  OUR FIRST GRADE TEACHER GETTING STUCK IN THE STORYTIME CHAIR - THE FIRST TIME I LEARNED THE DEFINITION OF LASER GUIDED KARMA.
34.  SECRET SANTA EXCHANGES - I STILL HAVE EVERY GIFT I EVER RECEIVED!
35.  KIDS WHO TRIED TO TEASE ME BY POPPING BALLOONS IN MY FACE KNOWING THAT IT REALLY BOTHERED ME.  REAL MATURE, GUYS.  FORTUNATELY, I AM IN TOUCH WITH NONE OF THOSE MORONS.
36.  THE SCHOOL JANITOR, MR. MCMILLAN.  HE WAS DEFINITELY ONE OF THE GREATEST LISTENERS/PIANO PLAYERS THE SCHOOL EVER HAD AND HE WAS MY FRIEND.  HE DIED THE YEAR AFTER I GRADUATED.
37.  TRYING TO BURY A KID IN THE KINDERGARTEN SANDBOX.  YEP.  THAT HAPPENED.
38.  DOING A FACEPLANT IN THE ICY PAVEMENT IN GRADE ONE AND NEARLY BREAKING MY NOSE.  I WAS NOT GRACEFUL.  AT ALL.
39.  SEEING MY THIRD GRADE TEACHER, MR. PORTER DRESSED IN A KILT AND PLAYING THE BAGPIPES ON REMEMBRANCE DAY, 1989.

And finally...

40.  TO THE FEW FRIENDSHIPS THAT I HAVE MAINTAINED SINCE THOSE YEARS...AND HOW MANY OF YOU WERE DECENT AND GOOD PEOPLE WHO DESERVE THE BEST.  AND HOW I WOULD RATHER HAVE A REUNION WITH YOU GUYS THAN THE STUCK-UP SNOTS I ATTENDED HIGH SCHOOL WITH!  THANKS FOR MAKING MY TIME AT COMMONWEALTH P.S. SEEM MORE BEARABLE!


Thursday, July 13, 2017

July 13, 1923

It's time for another Throwback Thursday posting, and this one is brought to you by what was initially thirteen letters...but is now nine.  I know...it's a very confusing clue, isn't it?  Don't worry.  We'll sift through the stars to find out the answer in no time. 

Until then, let's have a gander at the other happenings that took place on July 13th.

100 B.C. - Roman general and statesman Julius Caesar (d. 44 B.C.) is born

1249 - Alexander III is crowned King of Scots

1793 - French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat is assassinated in his own bathtub by Charlotte Corday

1863 - Opponents of conscription riot in the streets of New York City; the riots last a total of three days

1878 - The Treaty of Berlin is signed

1928 - Actor Bob Crane (d. 1978) is born in Waterbury, Connecticut

1934 - Canadian journalist/writer Peter Gzowski (d. 2002) is born in Toronto, Ontario

1954 - Mexican painter Frida Kahlo dies at the age of 47

1962 - British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan dismisses seven members of his own cabinet, marking an end of the National Liberals as a distinctive force within British government

1966 - Singer/actor Gerald Levert (d. 2006) is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1973 - Alexander Butterfield reveals the existence of the "Nixon Tapes" to the special Senate committee investigating the Watergate break-in

1974 - George McCrae's "Rock Your Baby" hits the top of the Billboard Charts

1977 - A blackout causes most of New York City to lose power for over twenty-four hours, sparking riots and looting throughout the area

1985 - The Live-Aid concert is held, being broadcast all over the world

2006 - Actor/comedian Red Buttons dies at the age of 87

2010 - New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner dies at the age of 80

2013 - Actor/singer Cory Monteith is found dead of a drug overdose, aged 31

2016 - British Prime Minister David Cameron resigns, and is succeeded by Theresa May

And for celebrity birthdays today, we will wish the following famous people a happy birthday!  Johnny Gilbert, Aleksei Yeliseyev, Patrick Stewart, Robert Forster, Harrison Ford, Roger McGuinn, Cheech Marin, Didi Conn, Louise Mandrell, Mark Mendoza, Cameron Crowe, Tom Kenny, Rhonda Vincent, Paul Thorn, Ken Jeong, Justin Edwards, and Deborah Cox.

I will also state that had my grandmother lived, she would have been 92 years old today.  Happy birthday, Grandma...wherever you may be.

So, what date will we be going back in time to this week?



I think we'll go back in time 94 years ago today - to July 13, 1923.

Now, remember the clue that I gave you earlier.  About how it was something that initially had thirteen letters, but now currently has nine.  It's in relation to a very famous tourist attraction in the state of California.

A tourist attraction that was initially only meant to be temporary!

This means that right off the bat we can eliminate the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, the Capitol Records building, the Walk of Fame, and Grauman's Chinese Theatre.  Besides, none of those places started off with thirteen letters in its name.

No, today's subject is about a landmark that most people equate with the motion picture industry.  It's a place where aspiring actors and actresses look up to, dreaming that one day they will be discovered.  It's a place that is one of the most photographed landmarks in the United States.  It's a landmark that was initially erected in 1923 to promote a real estate development and was only expected to last a few months!



However, thanks to the rise of the film industry, the donations of several well known celebrities to keep the landmark going, and the general love for the landmark by the public, the famous HOLLYWOOD sign has been a part of Los Angeles ever since.

Of course, back on July 13, 1923, the sign didn't just say "Hollywood".  The sign was designed by real estate developers Woodruff and Shoults, who wanted to advertise a segregated housing development in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles.  The sign was originally built out of wood and sheet metal, with each letter measuring thirty feet in width, and fifty feet in height.  Four thousand light bulbs were placed on each of the letters of the sign so that in the night, the sign would glow as bright as a Christmas tree.  Searchlights were also installed below the sign to make it stand out even more.



Interestingly, the original sign contained four extra letters, making it read out "HOLLYWOODLAND".  And believe it or not, the sign was originally only supposed to last until January 1925, and was only ever intended to be temporary.  Of course, 1925 was a year in which the motion picture industry really started to boom and unbeknownst to the people who erected the sign, they had done so during the "Golden Age of Hollywood Cinema", so as a tribute to the film industry, the decision was made to keep the sign up permanently.

At least, the original version was SUPPOSED to be permanent.

Over the years, the wood/sheet metal combo proved to be no match for the conditions of the weather, as well as natural disasters such as minor earthquakes, and slowly the once pristine letters began to decay.  During the early 1940's, the caretaker of the Hollywoodland sign - Albert Kothe - had a little too much to drink while driving on the hills surrounding the sign in his 1928 Ford Model A.  He wasn't watching where he was going and he crashed right into the "H" in the Hollywoodland sign, completely destroying it and his car!

Fortunately, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce signed a contract with the City of Los Angeles Parks Department to rebuild the H in the sign.  But it did come at a cost.  Since the Parks Department declared that illumination of the sign would come at the cost of the Chamber of Commerce, the decision was made to remove all the light bulbs from the sign and just stick with the spotlights.  As well, the last four letters of the Hollywoodland sign were completely removed, leaving the iconic "HOLLYWOOD" on display.  By 1949, the H had been fully restored - but the letters still remained unprotected from the deterioration.

By 1977, the sign looked like this.



Hard to believe, huh?  Half of the first "O" was gone, and the third "O" completely disintegrated.  Not much of a tourist destination, huh?  Looking back on it, it's actually kind of an outrage that it got to that condition in the first place!



Apparently Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner agreed, and launched a public campaign to get the Chamber of Commerce to replace the dilapidated letters of the old Hollywood sign with more permanent structures that could withstand the elements and last longer.  The cost to replace the sign was $250,000, and the new letters were going to be 45 feet high and made completely of steel supported by a concrete foundation.  And each letter was paid for by one of nine donors, who each put up a total of $27,777.77 to restore the sign.

The nine donors were Terrence Donnelly (H), Giovanni Mazza (1st O), Les Kelley (1st L), Gene Autry (2nd L), Hugh Hefner (Y), Andy Williams (W), Warner Bros. Records (2nd O), Alice Cooper - in memory of Groucho Marx (3rd O), and Dennis Lidtke - in memory of Matthew Williams (D).

The new sign was dedicated on November 11, 1978 and was televised live on CBS.  And aside from a touch up of the sign that took place in 2005, the sign has remained in its spot ever since in all of its glory.

By the way, you might be interested to know what happened to the original letters from the 1923 sign.  Initially thought to have been completely destroyed when the sign was replaced in 1978, parts of the sign were discovered to be for sale on eBay by producer Dan Bliss.  The remains of the 1923 sign were bought by artist Bill Mack, who used parts of the sheet metal to create some pieces of art, as well as restoring the letter "H" from the sign - remember, the original H was destroyed in that car accident.  In August 2012, the Los Angeles City Council recognized Mack's efforts and awarded him a certificate of recognition for his efforts to restore a piece of Hollywood history.

A piece of Hollywood history that turns ninety-four years old today.  Just think about this for a second...Betty White is older than the Hollywood sign. 



Or, should I say, HollyWEED?  

Monday, July 10, 2017

Adults Behaving Badly



It was a little over thirty years ago that the late Whitney Houston released a single entitled "The Greatest Love of All".  The single, which topped the Billboard Charts in the spring of 1986 was a song all about finding the best within yourself and how learning to love yourself truly is the greatest love of all.  It was a brilliant song with a lovely message, and one that still holds true in 2017.  Or, at least I would like to think so anyway.



I think right from the very first line of that song, it packs a powerful punch.  The song opens with the line "I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way".  Isn't that quite profound?  And keep in mind that Whitney was only 22 years old when that song was released.  Unfortunately, we all know how her life ended, but back in that time period she was filled with endless optimism and belief that the would can be a great place if we teach future generations well.

Alas, I don't think Ms. Houston was all that prepared for the brouhaha that has made up the year 2017 so far.



Is it just me, or does it seem like more and more adults are behaving badly these days?  It seems as though there are new stories popping up on the Internet and on local news broadcasts about how poorly adults have been acting.  People getting into road rage incidents because someone accidentally cut them off.  People lunging at fast food workers because someone accidentally forgot to put pickles on their Big Macs.  Customers reducing cashiers to tears because they tried to use a coupon that expired three years ago.  What's worse is that many of these people will be in the presence of impressionable young children who will grow up thinking that it is okay to treat people in that manner.

News flash.  It's not.  It never was.  It should never be.

Now, I think back to when I was a kid, and it seemed as though we had more positive role models to look up to.  I basically grew up in the land of the 1980s schmatzy sitcom.  We had idols like Henry Warnimont from "Punky Brewster", and Philip Drummond from "Diff'rent Strokes", and Heathcliff Huxtable from...

...yeah, you know what, scratch that last one off the list for very obvious reasons.

But aside from the fictional representations we had in my childhood years, our real life adults were supposed to be role models, and for the most part I think they succeeded.  (Well, aside from that evil teacher I had, but I've talked about her enough.)  I mean, most of my teachers taught me how to respect other people.  People were respectful to cashiers and service providers and very rarely had a cross word to say about them.  Even our politicians didn't seem to have that many scandals when I was a kid (well, aside from Clinton's dalliance with a White House intern and Dan Quayle not knowing how to spell the word potato). 

How times have changed.  And not in a good way.

I mean, how in the world can we teach our children to be decent people and be positive role models for them when you have a world leader who continues to make offensive tweets to anybody and everybody he chooses.



Yes, I'm talking about Donald Trump.  A man whose promises that he has made to his country seem to be taking a backseat to his sexist, derogatory, and immature tweets.  I don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican.  A world leader should NOT be poking the hornet's nest at a time in which his country has never been more divided.  And frankly, Donald Trump is at an age where he really should know better than to act like that in front of the public, and I have absolutely no problem telling him that he has all the emotional intelligence of a two-year-old.  At the rate he is going right now, even if he comes up with some brilliant ideas to fix the American economy, his tirades on Twitter will be all that people will remember him for. 

What I think is even more deplorable is that because Trump gets away with saying some of the most idiotic things on social media, it has allowed similar minded people to do exactly the same thing.  I can't believe the amount of racist comments, sexist comments, slurs against the LGBTQ community, and outright threats to people who identify as Muslim on various pages on social media.  It has gotten so bad that I've had to block all political posts on my Facebook page because I can't stand the nastiness coming out of people's mouths...or, I guess in this case, it would be the words that are typed out from people's fingers.

It also makes me realize that social media is one of those places where people are always showing who they really are.  Even before social media, the Internet itself is a place where even the most careful spy can't be completely anonymous.

Back in the old days of the Internet when many of us used screennames to post on message boards and chat rooms there was a little bit of a mystery as most of us didn't reveal our real names at the time.  But you could get a sense of who a person really was based on how they wrote on these boards.  Usually, people develop "keyboard courage" and write a whole bunch of things that they would NEVER say on the streets or in public, and when they do that, they show people a true sense of what kind of a person they are - whether it is good or bad.

I think of social media to be the same thing, only without the anonymity of a fake name (unless you are running a sockpuppet account).  I know for a fact that some people I've seen on Facebook act one way in reality, and a completely different way on social media.  And in many of those cases, the personality they assume on Facebook is the ugly side of them.  The one that feels justified to slag off of a woman in a bikini because they feel she doesn't have the body to wear one.  The one who purposely makes racist comments about celebrities and former U.S. President Barack Obama simply because they have the right to "free speech".  The one that posts memes that purposely try to humiliate someone else because they feel they have the right to.

People who are adults and who should know better.

What sort of message are we telling the generation after us when adults behave badly?  That it's justified to bully someone?  That it's okay to slag off of someone who isn't "perfect"?  That it's okay to deny rights and services to people based on their skin colour, sexual preference, or religious background?  In no universe should this ever take place.

We are NOT given the right to "free speech" to purposely harm other people.  We are given the right to "free speech" to make the world a better place.  To challenge ideas that are outdated and closed-minded.  To teach our children and grandchildren the difference between right and wrong.  That's what free speech is to me.  And it's amazing how many adults either don't understand what that right is, or abuse it to the point where it should be revoked.

Parents.  Teachers.  Public figures.  Politicians.  We all have a stake in how we want the generations after us to behave.  Don't you think we should do our best to make sure we present ourselves in the best way possible?

After all.  When adults behave badly...it just sets the tone for how the offspring of said adults will turn out.  And frankly we already have enough jerks in this world as it is.