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Monday, October 09, 2017

Remembering Tom Petty

I can still remember the first time I ever heard a Tom Petty song...and it traumatized me at first!

I think the year was 1988 or was right around the time that my parents got a brand new television for the living room.  Not only that, but it was the first time that our household had cable television!

(Okay, granted, my parents could only afford the basic cable package which meant that we couldn't see any channels past Channel 37, but still...two dozen more choices to choose from!  Yay!)

Anyway, one of the channels that we were blessed with was MuchMusic (Canada's version of MTV), and at least back in 1988, the channel was airing music videos approximately twenty-one hours of the day.  So, back then, you were guaranteed to see your favourite artists and their contributions to the music video world at some point in the day.

And that's where I came across the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers video for "Don't Come Around Here No More".

Now, keep in mind, I was probably around seven when I first watched this video, and keep in mind that my television viewing didn't include a lot of violent shows.  So the scene in which Tom Petty was slicing Alice from Alice in Wonderland with a cutting knife was really disturbing and I think I grabbed the remote with enough force to probably snap it in half in order to switch the channel.

(Though, keep in mind that the part of the music video for Phil Collins' "Don't Lose My Number" where the guy activates a capsule of fake blood traumatized me enough to swear off MuchMusic for six months!  Yeah, I was a weird child.  No apologies.  No regrets.)

But once I got over the initial shock of the video and really listened to the song, I dug it.  I mean, I really dug it.

And it wasn't too long after I saw that video for the first time that Tom Petty released the album "Full Moon Fever".  

It was a massive success all over the world and gave us hits like "Free Fallin'"

And, "I Won't Back Down".

And, "Runnin' Down a Dream".

From that moment on, I became a fan of Tom Petty's music.  I sought out that album and became acquainted with many more of his older releases.  Songs such as "Refugee", "You Got Lucky", "American Girl", and "Even The Losers" all earned a spot in my music collection, and as time passed, I grew to respect the man even more.

I loved him when he was a part of the supergroup "The Traveling Wilburys" - a group which also included Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison.  His 90s hits were just as polished and fresh as his stuff from the 1970s and 1980s (though I must say that the music video for "Mary Jane's Last Dance" creeped me out even more than "Don't Come Around Here No More" - the song is kick-ass, but the video is major disturbing).  And as time passed, we all believed that Tom Petty would continue to rock our worlds with his classic rock tunes, his incredible work ethic, and his down-to-earth personality for decades to come.

Sadly, as we all well know, Tom Petty passed away on October 2, 2017 - just days before his 67th birthday.  The cause of death was cardiac arrest - and for a while, it was unknown as to whether or not he actually passed on.  With the Las Vegas tragedy still fresh on everybody's minds at the time, I suppose it was easy to have a misunderstanding over what was really going on.

But once the news was confirmed, I have to say it really bummed me out.  I'll never get the chance to see him in concert.  All I really have are the songs that he sang - songs that defined many people's childhoods and songs that sent a message.  His death really hit a lot of people hard - myself included.  It was a similar feeling to how I felt when I heard that Michael Jackson died, or Robin Williams, or David Bowie.  Even though the only time you ever interacted with them was by watching them on television or listening to them on the radio, hearing that they had passed on is very much like losing an old friend.  They were always there with you when you were feeling happy or feeling sad.  And while the memories will remain via all of the work they released, there will still be that void in a sense.

But I have a feeling that if there is a heaven in this world, Tom Petty is probably giving one of the greatest performances ever.  

I'd like to think that he learned to fly...because he got his wings.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

October 5, 1970

This has certainly been a sad week in the world this week.  October 2017 hasn't been the most positive month so far with the mass shooting in Las Vegas and the death of Tom Petty (which I will be doing a special blog on once I get the time to do so).  I think that for this week's Throwback Thursday post, I wanted to feature a positive post.  I think we can all agree that there has been too much sadness this week.

Before we get to the topic that I have chosen for this week, let's see what other events took place on October 5.

1582 - As a direct result of the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, October 5 actually doesn't exist in Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain

1789 - Women of Paris march to Versailles to confront Louis XVI of France about his refusal to promulgate the decrees on the abolition of feudalism

1813 - Shawnee leader Tecumseh is killed during the Battle of the Thames in Canada

1857 - Anaheim, California is founded

1864 - A cyclone nearly destroys the city of Calcutta, killing over 60,000

1869 - The Bay of Fundy region in Maritime Canada is devastated by the Saxby Gale

1902 - McDonald's founder Ray Kroc (d. 1984) is born in Oak Park, Illinois

1905 - Wilbur Wright pilots Wright Flyer III in a flight of 24 miles in 39 minutes

1917 - Game show host Allen Ludden (d. 1981) is born in Mineral Point, Wisconsin

1921 - The 1921 World Series becomes the first to be broadcast on radio

1922 - "The Family Circus" cartoonist Bil Keane (d. 2011) is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1943 - Ninety-eight American POW's are executed by Japanese forces on Wake Island

1945 - A riot erupts at the gates of Warner Brothers studios in an event that would come to be known as "Hollywood Black Friday"

1947 - The first televised White House address is given by Harry S. Truman

1950 - Actor Jeff Conaway (d. 2011) is born in New York City

1955 - Disneyland Hotel opens to the public three months after the park officially opens

1957 - Comedian/actor Bernie Mac (d. 2008) is born in Chicago, Illinois

1962 - The first James Bond movie "Dr. No" premieres; also on this date the Beatles release their debut single "Love Me Do"

1968 - Police baton civil rights demonstrators in Derry, Northern Island - the incident that many believe sparked the beginning of The Troubles

1982 - Johnson and Johnson issues a mandatory recall of all Tylenol products after several people die after taking Tylenol laced with cyanide

1983 - Earl Tupper - the founder of Tupperware - dies at the age of 76

1984 - Marc Garneau becomes the first Canadian to go into space

1999 - Thirty-one people are killed in the Ladbroke Grove rail crash in West London

2001 - Barry Bonds breaks a record previously set by Mark McGwire by scoring his 71st and 72nd home runs within a single season

2004 - Comedian/actor Rodney Dangerfield dies at the age of 82

2011 - Apple co-founder Steve Jobs passes away from cancer at the age of 56; also on this date actor Charles Napier dies at the age of 75

And celebrating a birthday on October 5 are the following famous people; Dean Prentice, Roy Book Binder, Stephanie Cole, Steve Miller, Heather MacRae, Brian Johnson, "Fast" Eddie Clarke, Karen Allen, Bob Geldof, Clive Barker, Harold Faltermeyer, Lee Thompson, Kelly Joe PhelpsNeil DeGrasse Tyson,  Daniel Baldwin, David Bryson, Dave Dederer, Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy, Guy Pearce, Josie Bissett, Grant Hill, Parminder Nagra, Scott Weinger, Kate Winslet, Vinnie Paz, Jesse Palmer, James Valentine, Jesse Eisenberg, Naima Adedapo, Nicola Roberts, and Tim Ream.

All right, so what year will we be going back in time to this week?  I wonder... about October 5, 1970?  That sounds like a great date to flash back to.  Granted, I wasn't around then...but what happened on that date had a definite effect on not only my life, but the lives of millions of people.

When I think back to one lesson in life that I always hold true to my heart, it is the idea of being never too old or too young to learn new things.  I'm always wanting to figure out ways to become a better writer, or to learn about subjects that I may not have known a lot about, or discovering new skills that I never really knew I had.  Life is all about learning new skills, be it at the age of four, forty, or 104.

Therefore it may not seem all that surprising that some of my favourite television shows as a kid were shows that inspired all of us to learn more about the world, and were educational in nature.  I can recall my geography knowledge widening just by watching "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego".  I recall "Square One Television" getting me through math class with ease.  "Ghost Writer" helped me understand the complexities of writing and made me a better writer as a result.  "3-2-1 Contact" broke down the science of things as well as offered brand new perspectives on the world.  And of course if it wasn't for "Sesame Street", many of us probably wouldn't have known how to count to twenty or learned our ABC's.

Well, at least the "Sesame Street" that predated Elmo, that is.

Now, all of these television shows, in addition to being shows that celebrated education and learning, all had one other thing in common. 

Did you know that all of these shows aired on the Public Broadcasting Service?  Or PBS, as most of us know it as.  And it was on this date in 1970 that PBS made its official launch as a television network.  Neat, huh?

Now as most of us know by now, PBS differs quite substantially from other networks on your television dial such as ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and the CW.  Whereas the other networks compensate affiliate stations to carry their programs, PBS provides television content and related services to its member stations.  And nearly all of the programming that is aired on PBS is aired with the support of viewers like you.  Thank you!

Seriously!  Why do you think PBS has like eight different pledge drives every year?  It's not just so you can spend $300 and get a Downton Abbey baseball cap, an EastEnders tote bag, and a sew-on Mister Rogers Neighbourhood patch that you can put on your leather jacket!  All the money and memberships help keep certain programs on the air for you to enjoy without the hassle of commercial breaks.

As mentioned above, PBS was founded by Hartford N. Gunn Jr. in June of 1970, but it would not be until October 5 that the first programs would air on television.

And what an assortment of programs there were to choose from!

Now, I've already shared with you some of the shows that I remember watching on PBS when I was a kid.  And granted, most of these were shows for children.  But the programs that kept me entertained and informed back then were just a smidgen of the children's shows that were on the air.  I missed out on quite a few of the older shows that aired before I was born.  I grew up never watching the original series of "Zoom" or "The Electric Company".  Both shows no longer aired on my PBS affiliate by the time I came around.

(It sort of explains why I was kind of confused in that one episode of the rebooted "One Day at a Time" where Rita Moreno's character screams "Hey, you guys!" - I totally thought she was re-enacting that scene from "The Goonies".  Who knew she did that on "The Electric Company" too?)

And of course the children's programming that aired after I became too old for kids shows.  Shows like "Cyberchase", "Liberty's Kids", and "Clifford the Big Red Dog" were known kid pleasers and also taught kids how to do a lot of things and helped them learn about math and history.

Though not all PBS shows were winners.  I have a hard time trying to figure out the educational value of "Teletubbies" and "Caillou".  And I'm sure I'm not alone in that regard.

But don't think that PBS is just for the children to enjoy.  There's plenty of programming for adults to enjoy.  I mean, let's get this out of the way first.  All of those memes starring Bob Ross and his little trees of happiness wouldn't be possible if PBS didn't air any of his painting shows.  Truth be told, as dry and dull as Bob Ross shows could be, they were strangely captivating and informative at the same time. 

PBS also aired classic and modern British television.  It was the prime network where viewers could watch the hit series "Downton Abbey".  It was the network that first got me hooked on Rowan Atkinson and his delightful comedic talents in both "Mr. Bean" and "Blackadder".  It was the network that introduced me to British sitcoms such as "Keeping Up Appearances" and "Are You Being Served?".

Oh, and my parents wouldn't have anything to watch on Monday nights were it not for "The Antiques Road Show".  PBS has saved them from boredom!

And I have to admit that PBS was the main reason why I got so addicted to the British drama "EastEnders".  They used to air two episodes every Sunday night, and I watched faithfully and continue to do so online.  Of course, my niece and nephews refer to the show as the "angry British people show". 

Anyway, that's my love letter to PBS - a network that started airing 47 years ago today!

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

After Vegas: What Now?

It has been a couple of nights since the streets of Las Vegas were filled with panic and fear.  Two nights since fifty-nine people were gunned down and over five hundred more were wounded as they were celebrating the end of a three-day country music festival.  A couple of days since the worst mass shooting in modern American history.

And it's taken me a couple of days to actually try and compose some thoughts on the whole thing.

At this point, we may never know what possessed the perpetrator to check into the Mandalay Bay resort, smash some of the windows in his thirty-second floor suite and just randomly shoot at the crowd that was trying to enjoy the Jason Aldean concert.  And considering that this coward pulled the trigger on himself after the fact, we may never know.  At this point it is speculation as to what made him do such a despicable act.  But one thing you can't deny was that this attack was planned.  And yes, contrary to what people might argue otherwise, it is absolutely an act of terrorism.

Just as the case with the knife attack in Marseilles, France earlier this week.  Or the stabbing incident involving a police officer and four other people on the streets of Edmonton during a football game.  All acts of terrorism as far as I am concerned.

The shootings in Las Vegas was definitely a wake-up call.  The question is, will anyone do anything about it?

I'm being serious.  Back in 1999, two students entered a high school armed with guns and shot a teacher and twelve innocent students in Colorado.  There was a huge debate about gun control back then with lots of divide.  Many wanted stricter laws on the sale and distribution of guns and other weapons, but people also argued that it was within their rights to carry a gun as per the Second Amendment.  The Columbine school shootings were eighteen years ago.  Everyone knew that something had to be done so that this never happened again, but nothing really came of it.

Flash forward a few years, and you had a man shooting people inside of a movie theatre in the same state.  But, no, we didn't need to reopen the gun control debate.

Five months later, a man wreaked havoc on an elementary school, killing several students under the age of eight years old.  Again, the debate was opened up, but once again nobody seemed to want to do anything about it.

Or, how about the shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando?  Was anything done then to stop the violence?

And yet here we are.  Fifty-nine people are now dead, with the casualty list expected to climb.  Fifty-nine families forever broken and damaged.  Fifty-nine funerals planned over the course of the next few days.  All because of a man who stockpiled a bunch of weapons and ammunition for the sole purpose of inflicting as much damage as possible.

Still want to put this on the backburner, America?

Look, I get that there are some of you who will fight to the death to have the right to bear arms.  It's the right of the Second Amendment, you say.

Know what I say?  The Second Amendment needs to be amended.  It needed to be amended YEARS ago.

I have no problem with people who want to have a rifle for hunting purposes.  Granted, I don't think hunting is a sport I would enjoy (and I am definitely against hunting endangered species), but that's just my thought.  I also have no problem with people who want to keep a small pistol in their homes for protection.  Again, I probably wouldn't have one in my house because I don't like guns, but the Second Amendment does state that people have the right to bear arms.

That said, it is absolutely ridiculous for one man to want to have an entire arsenal of guns at his disposal.  On top of that, as far as assault rifles or bazookas or any high powered machine gun, I don't think that any civilian should even have the power to purchase one of these guns in the first place.  Unless you are a soldier in the military, or even a high-ranked police official, there is NO reason why anyone should even have this on their person.  As far as I am concerned, I don't have an issue with people having the right to bear arms...I do have an issue with people who stockpile weapons for the sole purpose of causing terrorist attacks, and I think that there needs to be better screening, better record keeping, and for sporting goods and weapon shops to have the right to refuse sales to people who are unfit to carry weapons via psychological issues or past criminal convictions.

Of course, the amendment of the Second Amendment has to be government approved - and frankly, I've got little confidence in #45 to make the necessary amendment happen.  Apparently he's too busy making a mockery of democracy one tweet at a time to even think about that right now.  And yes, I did go there.  No apologies.  No regrets. 

The time is now to say enough is enough.  The time has come to face the issue of gun control head on.  The time has come to realize that by putting it off, the bigger chance of more lives being lost senselessly.  Do the right thing and amend the second amendment.  The fact that in 2017, there's now an average of one mass shooting per day - that is way too high of a number.  This is officially a crisis. 

My heart breaks for the people of Las fact, it breaks for people all over the world.  In fact, a couple from the next town over from where I live got caught in the crossfire.  Though both of them managed to survive to tell the tale, not everybody was so fortunate.

However, to close this off, I do want to state that I've heard people say that they won't be going to another concert after this, or that they will be staying away from public gatherings.  While I can understand how in shock they are, I want to also state that this should not deter anybody from living their lives to the fullest.  If anything, this tragedy makes all of us realize just how fragile life is.  We shouldn't live our lives in fear just because of the chance that something bad could happen.

Yes, the lights of the strip have dulled a little and the Gulch may have temporarily lost its Glitter.  But the people of Las Vegas are tough and I am sure that one day they will bounce back louder and prouder than ever and show the world that they are not afraid.  In fact, we saw quite a lot of that present in the minutes after the shootings.  People using wire fences as makeshift stretchers to place wounded victims on.  The paramedics and police officers who worked all hours of the night to treat the wounded.  The concert goers who stayed together and protected each other in the darkest hours.  Everyday people who became heroes.  People who became the light along the neon streets of Las Vegas in the city's darkest hour.

Those are the people who will hopefully help the rest of the world see the way.  At least, the optimist in me says so.