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Friday, February 24, 2017

Jem Reviewed: Episode 49 - Journey Through Time

So, last week on Jem Reviewed, I had a difficult time recapping the episode as it was one that I wasn't a fan of.  Basically they go to a fictional place, they play weird music, and they get chased by the abominable snowman.

I have a feeling that this week's offering isn't going to get any better.  The reason?  This is Episode 49: Journey Through Time.  The more I think of it, the more that title sounds like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel I read in the fourth grade.  I've got a funny feeling I'm going to hate this episode too.

We begin with an announcement, courtesy of Lindsey Pearce.  Apparently there is a huge event that is going to be taking place called the World History of Music Concert, where bands from all over the world gather to celebrate music.  I suppose it's like the Eurovision Song Contest only with all nations participating. 

Naturally, Jem and the Holograms are taking part in the festivities.  And the Misfits are not.  But fear not.  Eric Raymond is on the case, and he has an idea that will keep Jem and the Holograms away from the stage so that the Misfits can go on.  Given Eric's track record, I'd say the Misfits are already doomed, but let's watch and see what happens.

Jem and the Holograms are in their studio rehearsing a song for their concert...a song that they originally sang back in Episode 21.

This time around, the song "Rock And Roll is Forever" is set to the clip of the girls standing on flags of their country of origin while playing a tune.  Good idea in theory...except that the storyboard artist seemed to forget that Aja is from CHINA, not JAPAN.  And, I'm not sure why Jem gets an American flag and Kimber gets Scotland - unless the Benton family is Scottish-American.  Does this mean that Emmett Benton sounds like Scrooge McDuck?

Jem's not overly pleased with the song that they're playing, and Kimber tries to encourage her by saying that their song sounds great.  Kimber, the song you're playing was written by Bobby Bailey!  Remember him?  The guy whose apartment you saved?  Sheesh, no wonder Bobby hated you throughout much of Episode 21!  Jem's determined to make their performance stand out though, and she takes the rest of the band to Synergy's room so they can ask her for advice.

Unaware of what is happening outside, there's a transport truck parked outside of the front gates of Starlight Mansion.  Inside is Eric, the Misfits, and Techrat, who apparently has built - get this - a time machine.  I'd be more impressed if it looked like a TARDIS or a DeLorean.  This looks like something a high school student in 2007 would build.

But despite the Misfits disbelief, Techrat sets the time traveling device to the year 1781, and as soon as he pushes the button, something happens inside the mansion and Jem and the Holograms fade away along with Synergy!  

To make this already illogical plot even more unbelievable, as soon as the Holograms disappear, a woman who appears to be dressed like Marie Antoinette appears inside Techrat's truck!  Apparently, she's confused and looking for her beloved "Wolfie".  The Misfits wonder what is going on, and Techrat explains that while his time machine works, there is one flaw.  In order to keep the balance in check, the Holograms are traded out for someone else who shares the same body mass.  Um...unless this woman from the past weighs close to 1,200 pounds, I call BS on that theory.

The Holograms arrive safely in Vienna, March 1781.  But they have three problems.  One, Synergy isn't with them.  Two, Jem has reverted back to Jerrica.  And three, they're so not following the hip new trends of the late eighteenth century.  Someone call the fashion police!

Fortunately for them, these problems magically go away in seconds.  Synergy has found herself trapped underneath a sewer system, but the good news is that she has battery back-up power.  How convenient.  With that power, she turns Jerrica back into Jem, and gives all the girls a makeover 1700s style.

Not too shabby, huh?

At this point, a young man with probably the most annoying laugh I have ever heard in my life comes barging in looking for his lady friend, Constanze.  Ah, I'm guessing this must be "Wolfie".

Actually, the group recognize him immediately as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!  Wow, they're actually meeting a celebrity that's already dead in the flesh.  This is...kinda weird.  Also weird is today's Jem Trivia.  Apparently, Mozart is voiced by voice actor Cam Clarke, who also is best known for playing Leonardo in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles".  Wow, so we've had Leonardo and the guy who plays Raphael make cameo appearances.  You think Michelangelo or Donatello will complete the set?  Well, I know for a fact that a third TMNT voice actor is coming up...and he plays a significant role in Season 3.  But that's all I can say.  This episode is after all about the past...not the future.

Anyway, it seems as though Mozart is in a bit of a pickle.  He's determined to play his latest composition, but he worries about being sabotaged by a rival of his - one Antonio Salieri.  The Holograms agree to help him get to the concert without fear of getting ambushed, and it appears as though Aja has developed a crush on him.  Well, at least it's not Kimber or Danse this time.

The plan?  While the real Mozart sneaks off to the concert venue where Salieri is waiting, the Holograms transform Shana into a Mozart hologram to fool the henchmen of Salieri.  Sure enough, the Holograms end up getting kidnapped by Salieri's goons and are taken to another area via horse drawn carriage.  Seems their plan is to make Mozart miss the concert so that Salieri can take over the whole show.

Needless to say, when Mozart arrives on stage a few minutes later, it thwarts Salieri's plans, and the concert goes ahead as planned.  It's also interesting to note that they actually incorporate classical music into the episode - one of the few positives I can note about it.

Jem and the Holograms escape their captors by having Synergy summon a hologram of a band of thieves ready to attack the carriage, causing their kidnappers to flee.  I'm not making this up.  And, Jem and the Holograms arrive at the concert hall in time to catch Mozart in action.  But those storm clouds in the sky don't look too promising.

Remember way back in Episode 12, when the plane the band was on passed through thunderclouds and it reverted Jem back to Jerrica?  Seems like the same thing is about to happen given Synergy's...shocking appearance.

Sure enough, Jem and company revert back to their 1980s counterparts - which doesn't make sense as Jem doesn't change back to Jerrica.  But whatever the case, the audience sees Jem and her friends as witches and they launch a full out assault on them by throwing rocks at them.  

Yep...apparently in the 1700s, stoning people to death was perfectly legal.

Luckily, Techrat manages to do some tweaking and Jem and the Holograms escape their fate.  Little Miss Constanze also gets teleported back.  But a new problem arises when two soldiers make an appearance in Techrat's truck, and they question whether they're still in London.

Wherever they came from, it's under attack as buildings are on fire and war sirens are going off.  What a perfect place for Jem and the Holograms to hide out at.  Much safer than getting pelted with rocks.  Jem and the others wonder where they are.

Shana notices a poster hanging on a wall advertising a special concert event starring the hottest band of 1944.  Apparently the show didn't get clearance rights to use the Glenn Miller Band name, so they've been renamed to the
Ben Tiller Band.  Oh, and Jem and the Holograms are in the middle of London during World War II!  Needless to say, they need to get off the streets before they get blown to bits!

Luckily, Synergy's battery power is still working, so Jem transforms her and the others into 1940s outfits - which immediately draws the attention of two soldiers who happen to be nearby.  They seem taken aback when Jem introduces themselves as a female band, mainly because these sexist blokes don't seem to think that girl bands can exist.

Jem and the Holograms are quite taken aback themselves, as these two guys happen to be members of the Ben Tiller Band.  Ben is also skeptical about the playing power of the Holograms, but Kimber issues them a challenge.  If they give them thirty minutes, they will show them that they know their stuff.  It's a challenge that Ben accepts and before we know it, we have what could be one of the most unusual songs in the Holograms discography.

Thing is, I kind of like "We're Making It Happen".  Sure, the Holograms singing style kind of resembles the Andrews Sisters, but that was the idea back in the 1940s.  And the combination of brass horns and piano certainly makes this single stand out.  It's a rare departure of style for them, but it really works.  Again, credit to Britta Phillips for making this song a brilliant one.  It's very reminiscent of another song that was performed earlier called "Jazz Has".  Simple, but effective.

Unfortunately, the Ben Tiller Band doesn't have time to congratulate them as a bomb detonates outside of the club they're performing at.  Well, that's one way to stop a show.  The Holograms are huddled in a corner as the club collapses all around them, and they think their time is up...and it is.  Well, in London 1944 anyway.  They fade out of the scene just as the ceiling falls down.  That was too close.  But where are the Holograms headed now?

Considering that the soldiers fade away in Techrat's truck and are replaced by a group of 1960s hippies, I'm guessing that the swingin' sixties are the next tour destination through time.  At this point though, the Misfits are getting pissed off with Techrat and they launch a barrage of insults towards him, causing Techrat to send the Misfits back in time as well!  I get the feeling that Techrat enjoyed that a little too much.  But as more hippies fill the truck, Eric is now upset because he has no idea where the Misfits went to.  I've a feeling that the Misfits and Holograms are going to meet up very soon.

The place?  The Woodstock Music Festival of August 1969!  A festival that I would gladly travel through time to experience!  Lucky ducks.

The Holograms arrive in time to accidentally make a man fall onto the ground.  Whoops.  But it's okay...the man just happens to be...wait for it...guitar legend Johnny Beldrix.  I'm guessing Jimi Hendrix had the flu.  Seriously, just take the fine and use their real names.  This ain't the Jem Jam you're at.

Fortunately, the Holograms are dressed crazy enough to blend into the scene - which is a good thing as Synergy is apparently trapped on a truck and is incapacitated at the moment.  But Johnny tells the Holograms that he is not very impressed with his concert promoter as he is making Johnny perform with a group called the Misfits.  It's only at THIS point that the Holograms clue in that the Misfits are responsible.  Because apparently time travel is perfectly normal for them.  As is getting trapped in an erupting volcano.  Or driving a car in the Indy 500.  Or having your very own Broadway musical.

The Holograms promise Johnny that they will find a way to release Johnny from the contract so he can perform by himself.

I should also mention that at this point, the Misfits are EXCITED to be performing at Woodstock.  Never mind the fact that if they perform at the concert, they'll be screwing up history and keeping the tabloids in business by having them speculate on how a band from the 1960s look so young.

And get a look at their promoter, who happens to be named Willy.  My theory is that Willy is a relative of Eric Raymond, as both of them act exactly the same way.  It would be awesome if the show eluded to that possibility, but they don't.  Instead, Willy is talking to an associate of his about some exciting light and sound box that they plan to unveil during Johnny's performance.  Why does that description sound familiar?

Ah, here it is.  The big confrontation between Jem and the Holograms and the Misfits, and of course, the Misfits can't wait to rub it in their faces about how they are going to play one of the biggest concerts in history.  But Jem seems to have an ace up her sleeve.  By now, Synergy's able to respond to Jem's requests and she summons up a hologram of Eric...

...who is dressed up like one of the members of Strawberry Alarm Clock!  Seriously, this is the funniest things I think I've seen on this episode.  And Strawberry Alarm Clock Eric informs the Misfits that they are still under contract to him which means no performing at Woodstock!  And Willy is furious that the Misfits lied to him and he tells them that they are finished...well, at least they are for the next sixteen years, anyway.

Willy convinces Johnny Beldrix to go back on stage, and he launches into a rousing solo performance of the Star-Spangled Banner using his guitar.  It's quite good.  I actually kind of wonder if they re-recorded it with different musicians or if they used Jimi's version...which seems much worse to use his music without permission over his name.  Whatever the case, it's great.

And true to his word, Willy unveils his magic light and sound box on the stage...which happens to be Synergy.  The thing is that Synergy is being lowered on the stage using standard ropes...and it's at that moment that the Misfits get into a shoving match with Willy which causes the ropes to break and Synergy to go plummeting towards the ground.  Uh-oh!  If Synergy hits the ground with that much force, it's bye-bye Jem and the Holograms.  Because we all know that Jerrica would never dye her hair pink and sing the songs herself.

But before the worst happens, everyone vanishes from the scene leaving a bunch of concert spectators to question what sorts of substances they were on to create such illusions.  Everybody returns back to the year 1987 safe and sound, and the Holograms are thrilled to have undergone the fantastic, yet impossible journey they went through.  Though, Aja reminds them not to say anything as they'll get institutionalized.  Ah, Aja...always the voice of reason.

The Misfits also return to the present where they immediately turn on Eric Raymond for destroying their chance to play Woodstock.  For once, Eric is innocent and he tries to defend himself by saying that he was in Techrat's truck the whole time.  But Pizzazz forcibly grabs Techrat's keyboard, eager to teach Eric a lesson.

She types in Eric's name on the computer and he's the one that is transported back in time.  And thanks to the baby dinosaur that makes a sudden appearance, I'm guessing that Pizzazz has sent Eric all the way back in time to the year 65,000,000 B.C.!  I'm amazed Pizzazz actually knows a number that's higher than fifty!

Of course, Eric comes face to face with the baby's mama who is none to pleased to see him.  Eric runs away in terror at the sight even though in all likelihood that dinosaur is not a carnivore.  Still, she could step on him.

Back in the present, it seems as though our baby dinosaur is a bit of a brat, and he instantly turns Techrat's time machine into a pile of metal junk.  But with the time machine inoperable, it does one final trade off, with the dinosaur going back to the prehistoric times...

...and a physically frightened Eric coming back to 1987.  Though in Eric's case, I'm not sure what would be a worse nightmare.  Getting chased by a giant dinosaur or having to face four angry Misfits and a Techrat?  It's too close to call, really.

And while Techrat cries over another lost invention and Eric gets drawn and quartered by Pizzazz, Roxy, Stormer, and Jetta, the Holograms are taking their rightful place as the head entertainers for the World History of Rock Concert.

The song they perform is "Rockin' Down Through Time", and it's easy to see that they used their own time travel experiences to inspire this song.  Though one GLARING inconsistency...they mention the Glenn Miller Band in the song lyrics!  So, it's okay to sing about real musicians, but not okay to depict them in cartoons?  You know, trying to understand broadcast standards and legal terms in the 1980s would be like trying to understand how this episode could be considered realistic, so I'm not even going to try.

Despite the impossibility of the plot, I ended up liking this episode more than I thought I would.  There's some genuinely funny moments in this episode, and I think some of the music was great.  I would have liked to have seen the Misfits perform once though.  They seem to be getting the shaft in the second part of the second season.

Maybe this will be remedied in the FIFTIETH edition of Jem Reviewed.  We go back to England for this one where we learn more about Jetta's family, are reintroduced to an old friend, and are treated to a royal mystery.  Sounds intriguing!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

February 22, 1878

Welcome to this week's Wayback Wednesday entry - the final one of the year.  But that's not to say that we're going to say farewell to the pop culture history lessons for good.  I'll get to more about this at the end of today's entry.

For now, grab yourselves a seat and enjoy today's specials, starting with a heaping appetizer of events that took place on February 22.

1632 - Galileo's "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems" is published.

1848 - The French Revolution of 1848 begins

1856 - The United States Republican Party hosts its first national convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

1862 - Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as the first President of the Confederate States of America

1872 - The Prohibition Party hosts its first national convention in Columbus, Ohio

1918 - Announcer Don Pardo (d. 2014) is born in Westfield, Massachusetts

1924 - Calvin Coolidge becomes the first American President to deliver a radio address from the White House

1932 - Politician Ted Kennedy (d. 2009) is born in Boston, Massachusetts

1943 - Christoph Probst and Hans and Sophie Scholl are executed in Nazi Germany for being members of the White Rose Resurgence during World War II

1944 - American aircraft make the mistake of bombing several Dutch communities resulting in loss of life in the cities of Arnhem, Deventer, Enschede, and Nijmegen

1959 - Lee Petty wins the first Daytona 500

1962 - Steve Irwin (d. 2006) - "The Crocodile Hunter" is born in Essendon, Australia

1976 - Former Supremes member Florence Ballard dies at the age of 32

1980 - The "Miracle on Ice" takes place during the 1980 Winter Olympics where the American hockey team defeats the Soviet Union team with a final score of 4-3

1983 - The Broadway play "Moose Hunters" makes history in the worst way possible - it becomes one of the first plays to open and close in the same night!

1986 - The People Power Revolution begins in the Philippines

1987 - Artist Andy Warhol passes away at the age of 58

1997 - Scottish scientists make the announcement that they have successfully cloned a sheep (named Dolly)

2002 - Animator Chuck Jones dies at the age of 89

2011 - At least 185 people are killed in Christchurch, New Zealand when an earthquake strikes - the second deadliest in the country's history

2014 - New Zealand born television personality Charlotte Dawson takes her own life at the age of 47 following a personal struggle dealing with cyberbullying

And celebrating the day with a slice of birthday cake are the following famous faces; Paul Dooley, Bruce Forsyth, James Hong, Sheila Hancock, Ishmael Reed, Judy Cornwell, Jonathan Demme, Julius Erving, Julie Walters, Ellen Greene, Kyle MacLachlan, Rachel Dratch, Thorsten Kaye, Jeri Ryan, Thomas Jane, Clinton Kelly, Lea Salonga, James Blunt, Chris Moyles, Drew Barrymore, Jenny Frost, and Shamari Fears.

All considering that today is the final Wayback Wednesday of the year, I thought I would make this date worth the trip.  How would you all like to go back in time to the 1800s?

The date?  February 22, 1878.  By my calculations, that date was exactly one hundred and thirty-nine years ago today.

Now, before I go into why this date is so important, I would love to share with you a personal story related to the subject of this date.

And no...I wasn't around in 1878.  Or, 1978 for that matter. 

But when I was a kid, I definitely had my favourite places that I liked to go to in my little town.  I loved going to the park to swing on the swing sets.  I loved throwing pennies into the town fountain in the middle of Court House Square to make a wish.  I loved going to the movie theatre whenever a movie that I really wanted to see was out.

And I loved our little
Woolworth's store that was located downtown.

Okay, so obviously this is a very old photo of the store.  I found it on the website for our town paper and the photo was taken by a local town historian, Doug Grant.  If I had to wager a guess, it was taken sometime in the 1950s or 1960s just based on the cars driving down the street.  But when I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, it was a place that I loved to go to.  I think I loved going to that store more than I did other big named department stores that existed back in those days.

I think one reason I loved Woolworth's so much was because of the lunch counter inside.  I remember once a month, Mom would take me to the lunch counter where I could order anything I wanted for a special lunch.  I always got the cheeseburger, and to this day, their burgers were among the best fast food burgers that I can recall eating.  And the food was relatively cheap as well.  At least, it was back in the 1980s anyway.

And I also had fond memories of perusing the toy department of Woolworth's, deciding on what toy I wanted.  Sometimes I'd spend tooth fairy money there, and other times I would spend allowance money there.  Back when I was a kid, there were endless choices.  I could have bought a gigantic balloon with a Wuzzle or a Sesame Street character on it for a dollar.  I could have bought a couple of storybooks to add to my growing book collection (had the store sold Archie comics, I'd have been in heaven), or I might have even bought a colouring book and a 64 count box of their store brand crayons (which I maintain were better quality than Crayola crayons and would happily pay four times their price for a box of them today). 

I can't recall a single time in which I left Woolworth's without a huge smile on my face.  It was such a great store that contributed to so many memories for me.  I actually cried when Woolworth's closed up shop in the early 1990s and was replaced by the substandard "Bargain Shop". 

So, I'm sure you've already guessed that Woolworth's is the subject of today's blog post.  And the date that I've chosen - February 22, 1878 - is an important one in the department store chain.  It was the date that the very first Woolworth's Five and Dime store opened its doors.

Now, five and dime stores are not exactly a new thing.  It was how Walmart got their start, and back in the 1870s, it was how a lot of businesses operated.  The idea for them was to charge consumers a fixed price on a variety of different kinds of merchandise - usually for nickels or dimes - as an effort to undercut other merchants who sold the same items for higher prices.  The F.W. Woolworth Company was actually one of the first retailers to display merchandise on the sales floor of their store locations WITHOUT the assistance of a sales clerk.  Prior to those days, people would often line up behind a counter with a list of the items they wished to purchase, and the person behind the counter would grab the items themselves.

I suppose looking back on it, the old way of selling merchandise is similar to putting stuff on layaway at Kmart or Walmart locations.

In 1878, Frank Winfield Woolworth obtained credit from a former boss and combined the money loaned to him with his previous savings to purchase the building and merchandise for the grand opening of Woolworth's Great Five Cent Store in Utica, New York on February 22, 1878.  Woolworth had high hopes for the new business, but it closed up shop just three months later in May 1878.  Despite the failure of the initial business, Woolworth refused to give up on the idea, and so the following year, he reopened the Great Five Cent Store in the community of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and unlike what happened in Utica, the store quickly became a success.  So much so that a second location was opened in nearby Harrisburg (this time his brother Charles Sumner Woolworth) would run it.  Unfortunately, the Harrisburg store was forced to close after a disagreement with the landlord, and a couple of other stores opened up without much success.  But in 1880, when the Woolworth brothers opened up a five and dime store location in Scranton, Pennsylvania, their fortunes improved.  By the turn of the twentieth century, a total of six chains of affiliated Woolworth's locations had opened up in the United States and Canada. 

By 1962, Woolworth's had expanded to include Woolco stores - single floor discount stores that specialized in fashion, electronics, toys, and some household merchandise (the store would later become famous for their $1.44 sales which were held every Monday for many years).  By the time of the company's 100th birthday in the late 1970s, it was considered to be the largest department chain in the world, with the company having expanded across North America, Europe, and Australia. 

Woolworth's was also the location of the first of the sit-in protests that took place in Greensboro, North Carolina (the event in which four black students from a nearby college sat down at the lunch counter that was reserved for white customers and refused to leave in protest of the segregation laws that existed back in the early 1960s.

Unfortunately, the company ran into some major financial trouble during the 1980s.  Having tough competition from other retailers who were offering similar products and employing similar business methods, stores began to close up throughout the 1980s.  Although Woolco was still doing quite well in Canada, in the United States, all stores bearing the Woolco name were closed up by 1983.  In addition, the store sustained some bad press following a devastating fire at one of the largest Woolworth's locations in the UK, and despite the store being rebuilt, it was closed for good in the mid-1980s.  Though the incident caused the UK chains of Woolworth's to break away from the parent company and as a direct result of this, the Woolworth's name remained in the UK until January 2009.

Here in North America, the 1990s signified the end of what was once a very powerful company.  Restructuring in 1993 meant the end of the Woolworth's name for a good many stores.  In the United States, almost all Woolworth stores were shut down by 1993, and the last of the stores bearing the name were closed for good in the summer of 1997.  In Canada, many Woolworth's locations had been transformed into "The Bargain Shop", and in 1994, the majority of Woolco stores were rebranded as Walmart locations (save for the few that turned into Zellers locations - a chain that became defunct in 2013 when Target Canada took it over for two years before it pulled out of the country in the spring of 2015). I've shared up above, I do miss the Woolworth's name.  I miss the lunch counter.  I miss the toy department.  I just miss having that childhood staple around.  I don't care what people say.  Ordering a Quarter Pounder at McDonald's is no comparison to sitting at a lunch counter stool and eating a burger that you see made right in front of you. 

But I suppose that like most things in this world, they never truly die if you keep the memories close to your heart. 

So, this marks the finale of Wayback Wednesday.  But fear not.  Next week, the day shifts again to Thursdays.  And the first "Throwback Thursday" post will be shared on Thursday, March 2.

Stay tuned.  There is more to come!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Friendship Connection

I've been doing a lot of thinking about connections.  How we make them.  How we break them.  How we do everything to keep them going, and how we're constantly trying to make new ones.  How sometimes the connections we make aren't as simple as we believe them to be, and how sometimes the most complex connections turn out to be the ones you need the most.

I think the idea of connecting with other people is a must for everybody on this planet.  I think as much as some of us try to deny it, we all need to have some form of interaction with other people because those interactions help keep us sane.

But what if you have a difficult time making such connections?  What do you do then?

Well, I can only speak for myself, but I consider myself to be one of those people who have a really difficult time getting close to people.  What that reason is, I'm not sure.  I have reason to suspect it is because I am considered to be an introvert in a small town filled with extroverted people, and I have always felt as if I don't quite know my place in this world.

Or it could be because I'm as ugly as Quasimodo and repulse everybody that I come into contact with.  But, somehow I don't think that's quite the reason.

I think going back to when I was a kid (and going back to a previous post I wrote about being the odd one out in my family born between generations), I seemed to form connections with some of the most interesting people from my community.  I couldn't tell you the first friend I made in elementary school, but I could tell you that the first adult friend I made was Margaret, the head librarian of our town library at the time - whom I lovingly referred to as "the lady with the bun in her head".

(You see, she always wore her hair in a bun style, hence the phrase.  Funny thing is, I think she got a kick out of it.)

And it was like that throughout my early childhood.  I would have rather chatted with the yard duty teacher than play with people my own age.  I'd rather have talked to the guy delivering bread to the Quickie store instead of the teenagers crowded around the pinball machine.  I formed connections with the most random people in the most unusual circumstances and I saw nothing wrong with it at all.  Of course, I had parental units who supervised every interaction to make sure that it was safe (which was appreciated), but that was how it was. 

I guess part of it comes from the fact that I am the kind of person who doesn't really like small talk.  In fact, I can't stand the whole "Hi, how's your day" garbage that most of us in the world take part in at some point of the day.  I prefer to engage in deeper conversations that provoke thought and encourage creativity.  I'm thinking that could be why I connected with adults more when I was a kid.  I was surrounded by adults in my childhood, and I liked talking to them.  I learned more from the bread delivery guy about life than any of the kids in my class could have taught me.  Again, it seems really strange to some, but that's the way I made connections with people.

I think it also explains why I have so few friends in my community, but have hundreds of connections outside of town.  I've tried figuring it out, and I believe I have friends from four provinces, twenty-nine states, and five different countries!  That's quite a smattering of people scattered all over the place, isn't it?

And yet, I've only ever really met one or two of them in person.

Whether it was because we shared a common interest on a pop culture website, or whether we befriended each other through mutual friends, or in once case bonded because we tag teamed a troll on Facebook and decided that we should be friends because of it, I find it easier to connect with people online than I do in the real world.


Because online I get the chance to think carefully about how I want to phrase an opinion and I can edit it if I feel it's not exactly how I want to come across.  It's kind of similar to what I do with this blog.  My online persona is definitely more of a social butterfly than the dried up cocoon that I present myself as in the real world.  And that's not me poking fun at myself.  That's a known truth! 

Of course, this leads to a bit of a problem.

You see...the friendships that I have made all over the world through a couple thousand dozen keystrokes the last fifteen years are completely real to me.  I hold them in very high regard, and I appreciate them.  But it is such a horrible feeling to know that they are so far away.  It's not as if I can go out to grab a burger with them, or catch a movie with them, or just wander through the nearest park and talk about life as we spin ourselves sick on the swing set.  Online friendships are real friendships...but I wish I lived closer to them.

And, I guess there's a small sliver of doubt in myself about just how real those friendships are.  I worry that one day I will come face to face with these people that I have been friends with for so many years and they will be so disappointed with the actual face to face encounter that they never speak to me again.  Or I do something to screw it up.  Or, they think I look like Quasimodo and run screeching towards Notre Dame University in a panic.

Okay, that last thing won't happen.  Notre Dame University is about 900 miles away from where I live and they'd probably pass out just before they reach the New York state border.

I'm probably worrying over nothing really.  I tell myself that I've known these people for fifteen years now, and that they won't be disappointed if we ever met face to face.  I have to trust that to be true, and I do. 

Because when it comes to real friendships and real never know exactly where you will find them.  They can come out of nowhere from the most unlikely sources.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Jem Reviewed: Episode 48 - Journey to Shangri-La

If you thought last week's episode of Jem Reviewed was weird enough with the whole retelling of Robin Hood, brace yourselves.  This week's episode multiplies the weirdness factor by a hundred.

This is what some would call one of the more infamous episodes of the series so far.  Episode 48: Journey to Shangri-La.

But, wait.  I know what you're saying.  Shangri-La does NOT exist.  Well, according to the Holograms' new friend Andrew - who I believe is introduced as a professor of music or something similar - Shangri-La DOES exist!  And it's the very place where the Holograms can go to improve their sound and to add new flair to their already popular music.  This I have to hear.

Andrew explains that while he has never seen Shangri-La up close in person (surprise, surprise), he does believe that it exists, and inside the gates of Shangri-La are the secrets of the finest music ever heard.  Secrets that date back thousands of years.  Kimber asks if the city has all of the old Monkees records, which gets a sarcastic comment from Aja, but Jerrica seems convinced that they should at least try to find it and they immediately book a flight to the area where they believe Shangri-La is.  Tibet.

It looks like Jem and the Holograms aren't the only ones who are ready to book a flight to Tibet.  Apparently, Techrat has his computer set to give him alerts on Jem's whereabouts at all times which upon retrospect is insanely creepy.  I bet he's the one who programmed all cell phones to monitor your location on Facebook too!

Of course, when Techrat tells Eric that the Holograms are going to Tibet, he doesn't exactly know the reason why they're going.  So when Eric informs the Misfits of the Holograms' plans, they look at him as if he has six heads.  But when Eric seems to suggest that there might be something musically related to the trip, Pizzazz jumps on board with thwarting their plans.  Wow, talk about blindly leaping to conclusions.  For all they know, the Holograms could be staging a benefit concert to promote the goodness of yak milk!

Some time later, the Holograms arrive in Tibet, all bundled up for the long hike through a series of mountains covered with snow.  Andrew is there too, along with their guide named Milkey.  Oh, lord, don't tell me they're actually going the yak milk route...

The Misfits have arrived in Tibet as well along with Eric and their own sherpa guide, Miyan.  And, apparently the Misfits have taken their entire wardrobe and all of their electric equipment with them.  Geez, you're only staying a few days.  You're not actually relocating to Tibet.  Though, it might be fun to watch Roxy and Jetta choke down yak milk.

Okay, okay...I'll shut up about yak milk.

At least the Holograms seem to be doing well in the hike.  They've even decided to sing a song about how beautiful and magical they believe Shangri-La to be.  And will be hearing this particular song played.  A lot.

"Shangri-La".  Definitely not one of my favourite Jem songs.  In fact, I've noticed that the music choices for these later episodes is not exactly Grammy Award winning.  In fact, I don't even think they'd win a Teen Choice Award surfboard.  But, I suppose that they had to incorporate one song that at least had the words Shangri-La.  What next, them singing a song about Dairy Queen?

Well, after that rousing Shangri-La singalong, the Holograms decide that they need to rest (and mainly because the sherpa guide that they hired has gotten them lost on their way to Hunza Village). Hunza Village is the destination that they have to reach first before trying to find Shangri-La.  Apparently an elderly woman who lives there is the only one who knows where it is.  And, there's our plot point.

Jem hears a noise in the background, and she wanders off to investigate.  And as soon as she walks a few steps she is surprised by a giant fur-covered beast who growls at her!

It's the BUMBLE!  Well, okay, it's just a yeti.  The fact that Yukon Cornelius and Rudolph are nowhere around is a sign.  But surprisingly, this yeti is of the friendly sort, and lets Jem in close enough to touch him.  Hell, if Kimber were around, the yeti would probably try to hit on her!  Too bad Andrew scares him off!  It's only after the yeti flees that Milkey drops the truth bomb that the yeti could actually lead the group to Hunza Village.  Nicely done, Andrew.  Looks like someone's not getting any yak milk tonight!

Up above, the Misfits and Eric are intimidated by the fact that to get to the village, they have to climb a giant ice wall.  Of course, Miyan has no problem with making the climb himself, but to take four women, a man, and 2,000 pounds of luggage with him?  Yeah, that's going to be a challenge.

And naturally it's Eric who ends up falling off the mountain first, followed by Pizzazz, Roxy, Jetta, and Stormer.  Fortunately, Stormer's rope snags just before she goes kersplut on the ground, but they are all trapped on the mountain with no way to go.

The yeti has seen this unfold, and not knowing how mean the Misfits are, he decides that he's going to go for help.  And since he already met Jem, he figures that Jem and her friends can help out.

Andrew makes a comment that he can't believe they are getting help from an abominable snowman, which prompts Kimber to make a comment that they can't believe that they're helping the Misfits get to safety.  Well, gee, Kimber.  It wouldn't be very Jem-like to let them turn into Otter Pops on the side of a mountain.  Then again, I could see Jem lecturing them on mountain climbing safety after they rescue them ending off with "climbing a mountain safely makes you a superstar!".

One by one, the Holograms help the Misfits climb up the mountain.  Highlights include Andrew catching Jetta as she loses her grip and slips, and Kimber telling Stormer to ease off the yak milkshakes and lose some weight!  Nice to see that Kimber and Stormer can still joke around with each other.

It comes as no surprise that once all the Misfits are safe, they go and abandon the Holograms before they get the chance to climb the mountain.  Aja wonders why the Misfits are there in the first place, but Jem understands that they're probably looking for the same thing that they are...and they now have a huge head start.  I think Jem's more upset that she didn't get to lecture the Misfits.

The Misfits arrive at Hunza Village - which sort of resembles a campground filled with lots of tents.  It's definitely not the most elegant place the Misfits have visited.  It's even more disappointing for the Misfits when they learn that none of the expensive electronic equipment they brought for the trip will work as there is no electricity in the village at all.  Yeah, I can see how a remote village surrounded by mountains might find it difficult to stay powered up.

But there are people.  Two people emerge from one of the tents - an elderly woman, and a young woman who appears to be around the same age as Stormer and Kimber.  The young woman introduces herself as Li San, and the elderly woman is her great-grandmother.  I couldn't quite catch her name when Li San said it, but this elderly woman is the person that they need to see to help show them the way to Shangri-La. 

It's just too bad the woman won't help them.  She takes one look at Pizzazz and deems the entire group to be UNWORTHY of the experience, and refuses to help them.  HA!  Bet Princess Pizzazz isn't too pleased right now!

But Li San does tell the Misfits that if they want, she will help them lead them as far as she can take them.  While her great-grandmother is the only one who knows the true way, she can help them go in the general area, which is good enough for them.

By the time that Jem and the Holograms arrive at Hunza Village, the Misfits have already departed with Li San.  Only the elderly woman is around to greet them.  She also points out that while the Misfits have already left, they don't know where Shangri-La is, and she expects them to return later that night.  Jem takes the opportunity to ask her to show them the way to Shangri-La, but the woman takes one look at Jem, calls her a fake, and walks away saying that she can't help them.  WHOA!  Can we keep this woman?  She is quite literally the best thing about this weird episode!

It appears as though Li San is doing her best to try and find the location of Shangri-La, but she finds herself at an impasse, and doesn't know where to proceed.  The Misfits decide to sing her a song along the way.

Ugh...ANOTHER repeat of a Misfits tune?  I mean, don't get me wrong, I like "You Oughta See The View From Here" which first appeared in Episode 14 - but it seems like forever since we had an original Misfits hit! 

After they finish singing, the Misfits and Li San slip and slide down an icy hill - which I admit looks like it would be a lot of fun!

Of course, that fun ends when the Misfits realize that Li San has got herself into a prickly pickle of a situation.  She's slid under a patch of snow briar plants which are very sharp.  Li San is uninjured, but she warns the Misfits to stay away from the patch.  Stormer is insistent that they try to rescue Li San, and Pizzazz and Roxy actually agree with her!

But in the process of trying to save Li San, Pizzazz and Roxy both get sliced by the snow briars.  In what seems to be a first for the show, we actually see Roxy bleed because of it!  Mind you, the horrible Korean animation that is present in this episode kind of makes it look strange, but still, the blood is shown!

After Li San is rescued, both Pizzazz and Roxy collapse on the ground.  Li San explains that the snow briars are poisonous, and that Pizzazz and Roxy need to get back to Hunza Village as soon as possible, or else they will die.  But Stormer and Jetta realize that they are hours away from Hanza Village, and they don't know how they will make it back in time.

Oh, look.  Here comes our friendly neighbourhood yeti to make another appearance.  Too bad Stormer and Jetta throw rocks and snowballs at him to make him run away.  Seriously, that's just rude.  Especially since the yeti genuinely wants to help.  He picks up Pizzazz and Roxy and urges the others to follow him back to the village.  He's simply trying to save them some time!  Besides, it's not as if they can just call an Uber to take them back.  One, Uber doesn't service Tibet.  And two, Uber wasn't around in the 1980s.

It doesn't take long for the yeti to bring back the sick women, and Stormer and Jetta are legitimately concerned for their friends.  Now, for Stormer, this is nothing new as she's always been soft-hearted, but seeing this side from Jetta is really something shocking.

Unfortunately, it's bad news for Pizzazz and Roxy.  The snow briar poison is not that easy to get rid of.  You can't get a vaccine or swallow a pill.  The only way to cure the illness is to play the music of Shangri-La.  Jem tries desperately to get the old woman to show her the way to Shangri-La, but the woman refuses, as she still deems Jem as false.

Jem is visibly frustrated and isn't sure what to do...until she really starts to think about what the woman is saying.  Of course Jem is false because Jem is NOT who she really is.  All it takes it for Jem to utter the words "Show's over, Synergy", and she transforms back into Jerrica Benton.  That makes another person who knows Jem's real identity. 

But it's funny that once Jem turns into Jerrica, the woman basically turns into a fangirl and compliments Jerrica on her magic skills!  And the best part is that now that Jerrica is in front of her, she has no problem giving her the map to Shangri-La!  Wow, Jerrica...great thinking!

Of course, she changes back to Jem before joining the others, telling them that they have the map to Shangri-La.  Eric, Jetta, Stormer, and Li San stay behind to watch over the feverish Roxy and Pizzazz while the others try to locate Shangri-La.

It takes a few minutes for the group to find the location, and once they do, they're disappointed to find nothing but a mountain peak.  But once Jem stands out in front, the heavens give way, and a magical village appears out of nowhere.

This is the mythical land known as Shangri-La.  It's a place where people never age a day, where people have lots of fun...

...where people look like this.  Seriously, this guy sounds a little TOO happy to be here.

Actually, he's the gatekeeper of Shangri-La, and he is there to welcome them all.  But he also states that once you enter Shangri-La, you may never leave.  Well, Pizzazz and was nice knowing you two!

Well, okay, there is ONE way that they can leave.  All Jem has to do is agree to learn the songs of Shangri-La by being given a special lesson from the High Lama of Shangri-La.  The rest of the Holograms decide that they're going to wait until Jem returns.  I just hope it doesn't take twenty years for Jem to learn the music!

I do have to admit, watching the music lesson between the High Lama and Jem is probably one of the better scenes of this incredibly weird episode.  It's really farfetched from beginning to end, but the High Lama is a patient teacher, and Jem is an eager student.  Before long, Jem is skilled in playing the music of Shangri-La, grateful for the experience and thankful for the opportunity. 

Of course, when Jem announces that it's time to leave, the rest of the Holograms consider staying in Shangri-La for the rest of their lives.  Yeah, great idea.  Let's let twelve girls under the age of fifteen take care of themselves.  Let Roxy and Pizzazz turn into corpses.  Who cares, right?  Well, apparently Jem cares.  And, it's Jem that convinces everyone else to go back to Tibet to save one-half of the Misfits from croaking.  At least someone has common sense!

Now, when Jem and the Holograms return with the musical instruments the High Lama gave them, they start to play a song for the sick girls...and I must warn you.  This next video is incredibly trippy, so if you're under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may want to skip this one.

This is definitely not the Shannon single of 1983.  "Let The Music Play" is definitely one of the strangest singles in the Jem discography.  It sounds like some new age music from the 1960s and the imagery sort of resembles a sketch from the Claymation Christmas Special.  And yes, the word Shangri-La is repeated about seventy-eight times.  As I said, it's very trippy.

But it seems as though this musical drug does the trick, as Pizzazz and Roxy immediately recover from the sickness they were suffering from.  And for a moment there, I almost think that both of them will show the Holograms a little ounce of gratitude.

Well, that is until Pizzazz and Roxy start yelling at Eric and their sherpa guide and storm off towards Shangri-La.  Sigh...well, it was a nice moment for a little bit.

At least Jem and the Holograms have really gotten a lot out of the experience, and thank everyone for their hospitality.

Oh yeah...about the Misfits quest to find Shangri-La?  They fail.  Miserably.  And Jem and the Holograms sing Shangri-La once more to rub it in their faces.

So, looking back on this's really not one of my favourites.  I think it's marginally better than "Aztec Enchantment" and "The Presidential Dilemma", but it's just a little too insane for me to really fall in love with it.  The reappearing yeti was on a little too much, and the poisonous brambles were just a plot point that seemed tacked on.  I appreciate the concept of the episode, but I feel it wasn't executed as well as it should have been.

Well, let's hope next week, we have a more believable plot.  Let's see...Jem and the Holograms get caught up in Techrat's time machine and end up visiting three historical places. there any way I can skip Episode 49 and go on with Episode 50?