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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

#LetsTalk

January is almost over, and with that comes an entry that will be quite personal.  It's related to an event that is happening in my home country of Canada, and I encourage all of you to take part in it...even if you aren't Canadian.  I know some of you want me to just do the pop culture thing, and I promise I will go back to that soon.  But this is something that I want to talk about, and I hope you'll stick around to read it.



It's an event known as Bell's Let's Talk Day.  The telephone company Bell has been raising awareness for mental illness for a few years now, and on the last Wednesday of the month of January, the company will donate five cents for every person who uses the "Let's Talk" filter on their profile pages on social media, or if they use the phrase #LetsTalk on Twitter.

(Actually, I'm not sure if that last part is right, but I know the first part is true.)

The money goes towards charities that help raise awareness for mental health issues and supports crisis lines and crisis centres that are equipped to help people of all ages deal with mental illness.



Now the purpose of this exercise is to not only raise awareness for mental illness, but it is also designed to end the stigma that surrounds it.  Anybody can be afflicted with mental illness.  Any skin colour.  Any profession.  Any age.  Any financial bracket.  It can strike without warning, and often times it can take months or even years for a proper diagnosis to be found. 

The best way to end that stigma is to talk about it.  Sharing your stories.  Telling people your thoughts.  Educating people on the subject of mental illness.  So, I thought that for today, I would talk about my own struggles with mental illness.

I suppose in my case, the one mental illness that I deal with constantly is depression.  The difference is that I have my doubts that it is caused by a chemical imbalance or anything like that (though it could very well be).  Mine is caused by unresolved feelings of anger that I have struggled with for years caused by a bunch of people who caused me more harm than good.

And how I've struggled with trying to find a place in my heart for forgiveness.

I guess I've talked about how I was bullied throughout my school years.  Mostly it was isolation from my peers, but there was some verbal abuse and a little physical abuse as well from my classmates.  It was a traumatic experience that I don't want to go through again, but ultimately I have to show my gratitude towards them for making me less likely to take insults and more likely to stand up for what I believe in.  I forgive you, but I don't want an invite to any reunions or anything like that.  I don't need your approval any longer.  Besides.  In the grand scheme of things, you boys and girls were far from being the main problem.  You were ultimately just a side effect of what the real issue was.  In a way, you guys were used too, and I suppose I can't blame you for the way you turned out based on that.

No, I actually blame the people who were supposed to protect me from your teasing and your bullying, and instead made the situation much worse.  And I actually blame them for the reason that I have such mental anguish today.



I suffer from depression, social anxiety and low self-worth.  And I feel that those thoughts were instigated and brought upon by a school board and several teachers who felt it was their mission to "fix me".  In their mind, their sole purpose in life was like the Coldplay song "Fix You".  But instead of fixing me, they ended up breaking me.

It wasn't easy going to a school where you were so incredibly different from all of the other kids.  Whereas everybody else seemed normal, I stood out for what seemed like all the wrong reasons.  I had poor motor skills, I was startled by loud noises, and I walked on my tiptoes because the arches in my feet didn't develop fully. 

Now, if I was in school today, it actually might not have been so bad, as schools today seem to figure out what difficulties children might have right off the bat.  But back in the 1980s, tests like these did not happen.  It was almost as if you were grouped into two different categories.  Normal and abnormal.  And lucky for me, the school saw me as having the abnormal brain in the bunch.

I stood out all right.  I was different.  And according to them, being different was bad.

I have told this story before, but when I was a young child, I walked on my tiptoes.  As I said before, my arches in my feet didn't fully develop all the way and caused me incredible pain when I tried to walk flat-footed.  But did the school listen?  No.  Instead they took me out of class, isolated myself from my peers for a full period, and made me walk around the school with books on my head to try and correct my walking style.  They even arranged for me to go to the nearest children's hospital to see if they could correct my walking style so that I could walk like everyone else.  Because apparently, walking on my tiptoes was considered an embarrassment to everybody around me.

I guess I can sort of understand why I became so far removed from my classmates.  It was bad enough growing up in a family that didn't have anybody remotely close to my age in it, but to further isolate me from my classmates because I didn't walk properly, or because I couldn't hold a pair of scissors correctly, or because I had a hard time with writing in cursive.  I guess that's why I can find it in my heart to forgive my classmates because it wasn't their fault that I saw myself as broken.  No, I actually think that the adults at that school - the ones who were supposed to educate me and build me up as a person actually caused me so much emotional stress and turmoil that I feel as though I slipped through the cracks. 

What I don't understand is why the various teachers, principals, and school board members decided to focus only on the bad things?  Why didn't they focus on the fact that I was creative, intelligent, and put forth the effort in trying to be a better person?  Why was it that how I looked and how I acted was placed at higher value than my ability to learn the material presented to me in class?  I don't have any answers for that now, and honestly as time passes by, I don't think that I will ever get those answers.

What I do know was that those experiences helped build the shaky foundation of the person that I am now.  And while I have done a lot of good things in my life, I still have feelings of how no matter what I do, it will never be good enough.  And that is largely based on how badly I was treated when I was a student.

Experiences that lead to me hating myself because I could not measure up to people around me.  Experiences that cause me to over-analyze people because I feel as though they are secretly judging me.  Experiences that actually had me thinking about taking my own life when I was sixteen years old.

Yeah.  I said it.  I plotted my own suicide attempt when I was sixteen.  Because of a bunch of people who thought they knew what was best for me, but ultimately broke me as a person.



It was like my emotional stability was like a set of porcelain tea cups on a table.  The educators within the school system kept poking the tea cups closer and closer to the edge until all of them shattered on the ground, one by one.  And instead of helping me clean up the mess, they abandoned me and left me to pick up the pieces by myself.  Anyone who has ever tried to glue a teacup back together again knows how frustrating it can be.  You try to make it look like it was, but it never will be again.  There are cracks that will forever be there.  In some cases, fragments of the teacups will be gone forever never to be replaced.

Well, that's exactly how mental illness works.  You can do whatever you can to grab the pieces of the broken teacup and glue them together to make it look as it did before it was broken, but it will always be there. 

Now everybody's case will be different.  Some people are born with mental illness.  In other cases, they are a side effect from traumatic experiences that we experience (examples including post traumatic stress disorder, body dysmorphia, or even social anxiety).  But it is a very serious problem for millions of people around the world.  And in a lot of cases, most people don't seek help for it because society makes them feel ashamed to.  In a world where men are considered "weak" for talking about their problems, it is especially hard for us to admit that we might be broken and that we might need some outside help in order to help heal us. 

Not fix us.  Heal us.  And yes, there is a difference.

One of the best ways to start the process of healing is by talking about mental illness.  It isn't a sign of weakness.  It isn't a crutch.  It is an illness.  And millions of people have their own struggles with it.  They should not be made fun of.  They should not be abandoned.  They should not be isolated. 

They deserve kindness.  Compassion.  Understanding. 

The reason I'm sharing my story is because my job of healing is not quite done yet.  I still have struggles with feeling as though I am not good enough to do the things that others take for granted.  I still have massive self-doubt issues.  My social anxiety flares to a point where one day I want to socialize with people, and the next I want to crawl into bed and stay there all day watching Netflix.  And as far as the depression goes, it too ebbs and flows. 

By talking about it here, I realize that I still have a lot of work to do.  And I realize that the stigma that comes from admitting that you have a problem is firmly in place in my mind - because years ago I was taught by a bunch of people that being different was bad.

I still have some anger from that period that I have to work out.  And as far as forgiveness goes, while I have come to terms with my classmates being rude and have come to understand why it happened and how badly they treated me...I'm nowhere near ready to bestow the magic wand of forgiveness towards the school system that I feel failed me.  I don't know if I am ever going to be truly ready for that moment.  I guess I feel this way because kids are going to be more honest than anybody in the world and they can say and do really cruel things - but on that token I know that they are too young to understand how hurtful they could be. 

But when it comes to the adults in my life during my school years, they WERE old enough to know better.  They did the wrong thing believing it was right, were proven wrong, and still went ahead and did it anyway.  They were responsible for isolating me from the world because I was different.  They were responsible for making me feel like I was worthless because I wasn't the perfect Stepford student in their perfect school.  They were responsible for making me broken in the first place, and I don't have it in my heart to forgive any of them for that. 

But maybe by talking about it.  Maybe by sharing my story and my struggles...maybe that's the beginning of my healing process.



It's January 31.  Let's talk.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Recapping One Day at at Time - Episode 1 - This Is It



This is it!  This is life, the one you get, so go and have a ball!

That is the first line of the theme song for the television series "One Day at a Time", and it will be the song that you will hear for the next twenty-six weeks as I will be recapping the new reboot of the 1975 television series "One Day at a Time". 

I think I'm going to call this feature..."Recapping...One Day at a Time".  Not exactly original or creative, but it tells you what to expect!

I'll be recapping Season 1 (which debuted January 2017) and Season 2 (which debuts TODAY) in this feature, and it will take me until July 2018.  And if the show happens to be picked up for a third season, I'll resume with my recaps then.

So, for those of you who may not have seen the series, the original was created by Norman Lear (who is the executive producer of the first season - at the age of 95!)  It was a show about a single mother of two trying to balance being a mother with finding out who she is.  The original series starred the late Bonnie Franklin, the late Pat Harrington, Mackenzie Phillips, and Valerie Bertinelli (and many other cast members throughout its nine season run).

This time around, the show is kind of the same concept but with some major changes to the presentation.



The first change to be aware of is that instead of the family being Caucasian, we have a Cuban-American family headed by nurse Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado).  And we learn quite a lot of information from the first scene leading into Episode 1 - This Is It.  As Penelope chats and examines her patient, they have a conversation and the focus turns to the photo on Penelope's clipboard.  The patient - who is clearly cast to be as annoying as possible - asks if Penelope was dressed up for Halloween. 

No, it turns out that Penelope was a war veteran who served in Afghanistan as a war medic.  We also learn that she is divorced from her husband and that she is a single mom of two children (who we'll meet later).  It's an impressive story and I already have mad respect for Penelope as a character...but when the patient tries to hit on Penelope, I just want him to disappear.



Thankfully, we get a reprieve when we see Penelope arrive home from work with her hands filled with packages.  We also learn another fact about Penelope in that while she was serving in Afghanistan she suffered a serious shoulder injury that likely resulted in her being discharged from the armed forces.  Want to know how I know that?  She's trying (and failing) to get the attention of her youngest child Alex (Marcel Ruiz).  There's not a lot to say about Alex except that he appears to be portrayed as a typical millennial boy - eyes wrapped in his laptop and social media.



We're also quickly introduced to Penelope's mother, Lydia (Rita Moreno).  And, can I just say that Rita Moreno looks absolutely fantastic?  Would you believe that when she was filming this season, she was 84 years old?!?  Now at 86, she shows no sign of slowing down.  Good for her.  And, to keep with the tradition of her being a Cuban immigrant, Moreno talks in a thick Cuban accent which as you'll find as you watch the show can lead to some hilarious jokes!



Anyway, Lydia announces that they have a MAJOR problem.  As Penelope is unpacking the groceries she purchased, she announces that her daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez) does NOT want a quinces.  Which is short for quinceanera - a fifteenth birthday party that sort of works the same way as a Jewish bar mitzvah...only for fifteen year old girls.  It's a Latino tradition that is supposed to symbolize the moment in which a girl becomes a woman.  But Elena is against the idea of a quinces because this modern girl sees it as an ancient barbaric tradition.  Yeah, Elena is going to be a polarizing character, I'm sure.



Meanwhile, Alex is doing some back to school shopping, and on his list is a pair of sneakers.  Well, actually, he wants FIVE pairs of sneakers.  Yeah, Alex seems to think that he will really turn heads if he wears a different pair of sneakers for each school day.  Of course with Alex lacking a part-time job of any sort, Penelope puts a freeze on her credit card and limits Alex to one pair of sneakers that cost under $40.  Actually, with sales on Amazon and online shoe stores, it's a fairly reasonable request.  Of course, this prompts Alex to exclaim how poor they are despite having a television, laptop, and a house over their heads.  Wow, I feel sorry for Penelope having a couple of brats for kids. 



To make matters worse for Penelope, Lydia has already fed the kids (even though Penelope insisted on cooking up the already reduced slab of beef that she purchased at the store), and the water faucet is broken.  Fear not, Lydia exclaims.  Schneider will be over tomorrow to fix it.  And yes, there is a handyman superintendent named Schneider in this incarnation of "One Day at a Time" as well - though he's a LOT different from Pat Harrington's version!  We'll meet him a little later.



For now, Penelope's mother has informed her that there is still some leftovers if she would rather eat those instead of the reduced meat, but Penelope is determined to make a meal out of it and actually tells her to go away.  This prompts a hilarious little temper tantrum from Lydia cursing and swearing in Spanish until she angrily closes her curtain!   But of course, Penelope caves and starts eating Lydia's meal to which Lydia responds with an emphatic "You're welcome!"



The next scene introduces us to Schneider (Todd Grinnell), who as I mentioned is nothing like the original Schneider aside from the thick mustache (which is revealed to be fake).  This Schneider is 40, single, a trust fund baby, and a recovering alcoholic.  We learn this from a conversation between Penelope and Schneider about how the Alvarez family moved in on the same day Schneider received his 5-year sobriety chip.  And hilariously, Lydia baked him a rum cake in celebration!  Ha!  At least Schneider enjoyed watching them eat it!



The talk also shifts to Penelope and how her boss, Dr. Berkowitz (who we'll meet later) has prescribed her some anti-depressants.  Since coming home from the war, Penelope has dealt with depression and mood swings, and while the doctor thinks that they will make her feel better, Penelope is reluctant to take them.  I get the feeling that this will be an ongoing storyline for the remainder of season one at least.

Meanwhile, Lydia and Elena are still arguing over the fact that Elena does not want to have a quinces, and to try and prove her point, Lydia shows Elena photos of Penelope's quinces.



Um, yeah, if those photos are any indication, I'm kind of seeing why Elena does NOT want one!  Though to be fair, those photos were made to simulate 1986 - and pretty much everybody who was around in that time period looked hideous.

At this point, Penelope has had enough of this and she decides that the best way to get all of their points across is for Elena and Penelope to role play swapping roles.  Elena will play the role of Penelope and Penelope will play Elena.  Schneider, Alex, and Lydia are the "jury" so to speak, and they will decide which side presented their case better.



Elena goes first.  She uses Penelope's mannerisms perfectly to imitate her.  According to Elena's point of view, she thinks Penelope wants to have the quinces to celebrate Elena's life and how it is like a global village coming together to mark the occasion in which Elena becomes a woman.



Penelope borrows Elena's glasses and hat and talks in a bit of a valley girl accent and whines about how she doesn't think it's fair that they need the validation of all of her relatives to prove that she's a woman.  Problem is that Penelope goes too far with the acting and it earns no love from the jury.  Remind me at the end of this to post some of the most hilarious lines from this episode.  I won't post them all because I don't want to spoil it, but the writing is exceptional!

Then as if Penelope hamming it up wasn't bad enough, Elena takes the overdramatics up to a hundred and starts imitating Lydia!  Which actually offends Lydia because she claims she doesn't talk with an accent!!!  Ha!



The rest of the exercise seems to go without incident, and Elena actually makes some good points from Penelope's point of view about why Elena has to have a quinces - which actually is the very reason why Penelope suggested the role playing exercise...so she could set Elena up to trick her into having a quinces!  And this causes Elena to go into a rant in Spanish, storm out of the room and slam the door to her bedroom.  Hmmm...I'm guessing she gets that quirk from Lydia!



The next day at Dr. Berkowitz's office, we see Penelope having a rough day.  She talks to Dr. Berkowitz (Stephen Tobolowsky) about how Elena is giving her a hard time about the quinces and she goes into how difficult life is.  Dr. Berkowitz asks her if she has taken the anti-depressants he prescribed for her, and she admits that she threw them in the trash.  The doctor then asks Penelope if he prescribed her heart medication if she would refuse to take them.  Penelope admits that she still wouldn't take them!  At least she's honest.



One person that isn't honest is Alex.  You see, during this conversation, Penelope's phone starts beeping and she explains that whenever Alex made a purchase online she gets a signal.  But after she hears five beeps, Dr. Berkowitz openly wonders how many feet her son has!  Either way, it's going to be a rather heated fight!



Sure enough, Penelope opens the door carrying the five pairs of shoes and Lydia and Schneider watch as Alex tries to explain why he did what he did.  He apparently has the plan that he won't have to pay for any of the sneakers because he plans on wearing them once or twice, sending them back afterwards, and getting the money back.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  Of course, Penelope thinks that it is a stupid idea because he'll never be able to keep the shoes clean.



Oh wait.  Alex has fake soles on his shoes.  He's thought ahead!  Schneider even suggests that he go on "Shark Tank"!  Pretty sure that is NOT helping, Schneider!

Then Alex makes the defense that because his father is giving them child support, there is extra money lying around - or "double money" as he refers to it which REALLY sets Penelope off!  She explains that while he does offer child support, SHE is the one that makes all the money decisions.  And as a result of Alex's dishonesty, she makes him send all the shoes back and is forcing him to wear Elena's pink sparkly sneakers with the multicultural princesses on them!  YIKES!



As Alex storms off, Elena hands Penelope a social studies test that she scored a "D" in and it's become painfully obvious that she is purposely getting bad grades so they will prevent her from having a quinces.  To which Penelope gets even more angry and informs her how selfish she is because she works her butt off to send both her and Alex to a private school and she tells her to go to her room because she can't stand to look at her.



Penelope then grabs the bottle of anti-depressants that Dr. Berkowitz has prescribed her which completely shocks and disturbs Lydia.  Penelope argues that she is too stressed and she needs them, which causes Lydia to exclaim that she needs her husband back home.



I won't go into the full conversation here, but this prompts Penelope to have a little breakdown about how hard it has been raising two kids on her own, and how she hasn't slept much since Victor left because he used to spoon her to sleep and how sometimes she just wants someone to hold her and say "I got you".  This prompts Lydia to hug her even though Penelope really meant it from a man.  But still, it is a great moment for the first episode.  It really shows the turmoil that some war veterans have dealt with since returning home, and how sometimes what they see has scarred them.  Penelope isn't the same woman she used to be and she is forever changed, and it's hard for her to jump back into the life she once knew.  As much of a cliche as it is, she truly is taking life one day at a time.



Fortunately, Penelope comes back to her senses and talks to Alex about the shoe thing.  Because let's face it.  These shoes are hideous.



Penelope discovers that of all the shoes that he ordered, there was one pair that matched the under forty buck criteria that Penelope issued, and so she lets him keep that pair.  She also informs Alex that he doesn't have to feel pressured to be the man of the house and that he just needs to be a twelve-year-old boy.



And when it comes time to talk to Elena, Penelope decides that if Elena doesn't want a quinces, she doesn't have to have one.  But when Penelope starts talking about how it would have been nice to have thrown her the biggest quinces in the world so she could prove to everybody that a single mom could succeed in planning the perfect quinceanera for her daughter, Elena changes her mind and decides she wants a quinces after all!  All she needed was a good reason to do it, and that was it!  Now, why didn't Penelope just do this at the beginning and be done with it!

And so our first episode ends with Penelope struggling to get to sleep and Lydia entering the bedroom, crawling into the bed and telling her that she is going to spoon her!  What starts off as a crazy moment ends up being rather sweet. 



Wow, the first episode had a lot going for it.  It is definitely a different show from the original series, but it still has a lot of laugh out loud moments.  And it seems to be referencing a lot of current events from the late 2010s, which is also a plus.  I'm interested in seeing how the rest of the series pans out.

Now, let's see some of the funniest lines from the episode.  I've selected four different ones.  Hope you enjoy!

ELENA:  I researched the history of quinceaneras and found that they are totally misogynistic.
LYDIA:  She's been reading again!  Why do you let her read?
PENELOPE:  I know, Mami, I let her do math too!  I'm a monster!

ELENA:  I don't want to be paraded around in front of the men of the village like a piece of property to be traded for two cows and a goat!
LYDIA:  Someone thinks they're worth a lot!

ELENA:  (as Penelope) You even refused to take any pictures with Santa because your Abuelita wouldn't admit that Christmas is a pagan ritual.
LYDIA:  Jesus and Santa were cousins.  Everybody knows this.

ALEX:  I can explain.
PENELOPE:  Really?  You can explain how one pair of sneakers magically became five?  Because that is some Jesus crap right there.

Coming up next Friday, we have a look at the role of sexism in the workplace...and how it might derail Penelope's life!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

What Game of Games Would YOU Play?

So, I suppose that I should probably write at least one more blog post before I kick off the "One Day at a Time" reviews that will be starting this coming Friday.  I've already got the screenshots saved on my iPad and I've watched the first episode a bunch of times on Netflix to write a detailed review.  I already love the show, and when you write about something that you love, it becomes easy to write about.

For instance, I love Ellen DeGeneres.  I seriously love everything about her.  I love that she's a stand-up comedienne, I love that she has hosted her own successful talk show for fifteen years.  And I love the fact that at nearly 60 years of age, she still looks and has the attitude of a woman a quarter of her age.  I don't know what she has been doing to take care of herself, but I think I want to know what that secret is because at nearly 37, I look half dead in comparison!



Lately, I've been watching her new show called "Ellen's Game of Games".  Have you seen it?  It's premiere episode was in December 2017, and it has currently screened six episodes so far.  It's already getting a lot of positive buzz, and it's likely going to be renewed for next season.  At least, I hope so because it really is a lot of fun to watch.

The premise of the game is simple.  You know how if you've watched an episode of the Ellen show, how she plays little games to reward viewers with prizes, trips, and/or cash?  Well, she's taken some of the most popular games from her daytime talk show and supersized them to choose four contestants to compete in the "Know or Go" round.  If they survive that, then they will play a game of "Hot Hands", and if they win that game, they will take home a hundred thousand dollars.

A nice chunk of change indeed!

Now, one of my bucket list goals is to go on a game show as a contestant one day.  And certainly it would be a lot of fun to go on Ellen's game show.  I could use an extra $100,000!

But which games would I want to play?  There are some games that I think I would be better at than others.  It's actually something that I have thought about since the show debut and I think I know what game would be the best one for me to play.

Of course, there are some games that I would be excluded from as I have no partner or spouse.  So, "You Bet Your Wife" and "In Your Face, Honey" are excluded from this discussion.

So, what games would I absolutely NOT want to play?



For one, "Dizzy Dash" is OUT.  I appreciate the concept of Dizzy Dash, and the trivia questions themselves would not be difficult to answer.  Let's just say that it has been close to twenty years since I last rode the Tilt-A-Whirl, and I nearly got sick afterwards.  My stomach just isn't meant to handle fast moving circular things, and I worry that I would throw up my lunch all over Ellen before I get the chance to answer the question.



I also don't think I would do very well with the "Scary Go Round" game.  It's not as bad as "Dizzy Dash", but it's extremely physical work to achieve and honestly, I'd probably pass out after the one minute mark.



"Master Blaster" is another game that I would hope not to play.  You might think that it is just another puzzle building game, and to be honest if it was just the idea of building a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, I'd have no problem with it. 

The issue is that when you have the added pressure of being the first one to complete it and if you don't, you get blasted out into the audience on a bungee cord, it simulates the board game "Perfection".  And to this day, the game "Perfection" causes me to stress out.  With "Master Blaster", I would have a full out anxiety attack!

So those are three games that I would NOT want to play.  Now...which games do I WANT to play?  I have four that are on my list.



Obviously the easiest game on the list is "Make it Rain".  I mean, I'm not the Wicked Witch of the West.  I will not melt if I get drenched with water.  Besides, even if I choked on "Know of Go", if I won the game I would get ten thousand bucks.  That would be worth getting soaked alone.



"Danger Word" would be another perfect game for me because I have a huge vocabulary and I would feel that I know enough words that I wouldn't have to say the Danger Word.  Of course, the only thing that could stop me in my thesaurus would be if my opponent was an English professor, Margaret Atwood, or an actual electronic thesaurus.



And, don't forget about "Don't Leave Me Hanging".  Sure, the thought of getting launched into the sky frightens me to death (I hate heights), but at the same time, the trivia questions that Ellen asks would be so easy that I know I could outlast everybody else.  Well, as long as Ellen doesn't ask me to name any characters from "Sex and the City".  I hate that show!



Finally, as challenging as it can be, I think I would like to play "Blindfolded Musical Chairs".  There's really zero skill involved at all.  You just have to try and find somewhere to sit when the music stops and the last one remaining wins!  Sometimes, the game can play out in really hilarious ways!

Let's hear from you.  What game of games would you excel in?  And which ones do you not want to play?

And remember...Ellen's Game of Games airs Tuesdays at 8:00 EST on NBC!  That's a lot of letters!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Why, 2K! (Two Thousand Thank Yous!)

Good morning.  Or, afternoon.  Or whatever time of the day it is.  Welcome to a very special edition of A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S GUIDE TO LIFE!

Now, at first glance, this might seem like an ordinary blog entry.  But this one is important to me.  It's a blog entry that has been almost seven years in the making, and it has been one that I never thought that I would write!

I have shared a lot of stories in this blog.  I have shared dozens of pop culture tidbits.  I've shared episode reviews.  I've shared pop culture advent calendars.  I've shared movie postings.  I've posted many links to many songs and shared personal stories of them all. 

And if you have been keeping track of all the stories that I have told in this blog - whether they are small tales or huge essays - you may be surprised to learn that I have shared 1,999 different moments.  1,999 blog posts mostly dealing with pop culture, but also sharing some feelings, warm fuzzies, and implementing you to share your thoughts as well.



So, I guess this makes this my 2,000th blog post! 

Now that is a reason to celebrate! 

It's hard to believe that I have written two thousand of these blog posts.  I didn't think I'd make it to two hundred! 

And what have I learned about myself based on these two thousand blog posts?  Quite a lot, actually.

For starters, I've learned that if I ever appear on the game shows "Jeopardy", "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?", or "Ellen's Game of Games", I would probably do extremely well.  With all of the research that I have done for this blog, I am a living, breathing vessel of pop culture history, and I do feel some sense of pride in that.  Whether anyone else feels that way remains to be seen.  Either way, I don't really care.

What else have I learned?  Well, I've learned over the years to pace myself, and to try and not to do more than I can handle.  You might have seen over the first three years that I have done this blog that I attempted to do a blog every day.  It was a great idea at first - but eventually I started to run out of topics, and run out of steam, and I noticed that my blog entries really started to suffer as a result.  I've been slowing down the pace since 2015, and I think it's given me the time I needed to be more creative and think about what I write about.  And that's nothing to be ashamed of.

I've learned that sometimes I get it wrong.  There are some rare instances in which some of the information that I have written in my blog have come from sources that are "fake news".  And believe me, I appreciate it when you point these things out to me (well, unless you're mean about it, in which case, you're a jerk face - yeah, you heard right jerk face).  The point is that I'm not afraid to admit when I have made a mistake...and in a lot of cases, I leave it as is as a reminder not to do it again.  I can't promise that it won't, but if anything, it has allowed me to be more diligent in my fact checking!

Speaking of which, I've learned to steer away from fact based entries in favour of personal commentary entries.  A blog, after all, is about sharing a part of you with the world.  It's not that I didn't enjoy writing them...I just didn't want the blog to turn into a poor man's version of Wikipedia.  So by sharing more of myself with all of you, I think I've taken this blog in a new direction which I hope is appreciated.

I've learned to incorporate more humour into this blog - and I think that one way I've succeeded in that is by doing the cartoon reviews that have been a presence the last couple of years.  And, speaking of which, I think it's time for the...

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!!!

Okay, maybe to you, it isn't THAT big.  But I am happy to report that the episode reviews will be coming back in 2018!  In fact, I've already chosen the show that I will be featuring and it will be debuting one week from today!

The catch?  I'm not doing a cartoon this time around.  I'm doing a sitcom.  And it's a sitcom that is still on the air!



I was so blown away by how good the Netflix reboot of "One Day at a Time" was that I've decided I will be reviewing every episode of the series so far!  The show's second season debuts on January 26, but on that date I will be starting off with episode one of season one.  I've timed it, and it should take me into the summer of 2018 by the time I recap seasons one and two.  So, I hope you'll stick around as I recap "One Day at a Time" in this blog beginning Friday, January 26!  It will be a lot of fun!



Okay...so here's where I end this blog entry - entry #2,000 - by showing you all my gratitude.

Thank you.  Merci.  Gracias.  谢谢, Kittos, 
Ευχαριστώ, धन्यवाद, 
Grazie, Go raibh maith agat, Domo arigato, Diolch.  
 

HERE'S TO TWO THOUSAND MORE!!!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Politics and Roseanne

Now, I don't usually tease with upcoming blog entries, but I do want you to stay tuned for the next one to come after this one.  I don't even know what it is going to be about, but I can guarantee that it is going to be a huge one.  It is a blog entry almost seven years in the making, and I hope that it will be worth it.  Again, I can't reveal too much about what the special blog is going to be about, but I can tell you about a special feature that is set to debut later this month.  I'll give you a hint though.  You know the cartoon reviews that I have done the last couple of years?  I'm going to be doing something a little bit different, but similar.

I'll have more information on the special blog that will come after this one.

For now, I want to talk about Roseanne.



No, seriously.  I want to talk about Roseanne.  In an era of everything old becoming new again, it's no secret that the television series "Roseanne" is coming back to television.  On March 27, 2018, the series is set to come back on ABC - the network where the show began thirty years ago.



The whole cast (minus Glenn Quinn who passed away in 2002) is returning for the continuation of the show.  Roseanne Barr, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert, Michael Fishman, Lecy Goranson, Sarah Chalke, and John Goodman.  It's going to be hard to explain how both actresses who played Becky will feature (though I'm predicting that Becky has turned into a lesbian and Sarah Chalke is playing her lover).  EDT TO ADD:  Actually, Sarah Chalke is playing the surrogate who is carrying Becky's baby - thanks to Railyn M. for the info! 

And it's going to be next to impossible to explain how they plan on resurrecting Dan who reportedly died at the end of the show's ninth and final season.  But then again, I try to forget that whole ninth season existed.  When I bought the Roseanne series on DVD, I purposely hid the season nine discs because I found that season to be a complete travesty.

There is a part of me that is curious to check out the new series of "Roseanne".  I was only seven when the original show debuted, but as I grew older I really appreciated the concept of the show.  It stood out from all of the other sitcoms that debuted in the 1980s because it featured a blue collar, working class family as the stars.  I could relate to the struggles of the Connor family more because they were experiencing the same struggles that my family endured being of a similar background.  It was really interesting that the set up of the Connor family was exactly the same as my family - two parents, two girls, and a boy (and the actor Michael Fishman who played D.J. was born the same year that I was made it even more surreal).

Naturally, I'm not the only one who is interested in tuning in for the reboot.  There's reportedly a lot of interest in the show's return, and I am sure that the true fans of the series are definitely looking forward to it.

However, for all of the people who are willing to welcome "Roseanne" back into their homes, there are people who are very vocal in wanting to boycott the show entirely.

Why?



I think it might have to do with a recent interview that Roseanne Barr gave as part of the promotion for the upcoming show.  Roseanne states that when it comes down to the show's political views, they will be addressing politics in the new show.  And to nobody's surprise, Roseanne Connor will be a Trump supporter.  I say this because Roseanne Barr has also made it clear that she voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Of course, this has prompted some anti-Trump people to boycott her show, claiming that she's helping the enemy and so on and so forth.  And certainly everyone is entitled to their opinion.  They have every right to choose to watch or not to watch.  And they can certainly disagree with Roseanne supporting Donald Trump.  I personally have aired my thoughts on Trump myself here, and I must say that I am not very impressed with his "leadership" at all.  Perhaps if he put the cell phone away, deactivated his Twitter account, and stopped using his potty mouth to insult entire nations, maybe I would stop putting the word "leadership" in quotation marks.  And maybe I'll win eighty million bucks in the lottery.

But would I boycott the show because I disagree with Roseanne?  No.  And truth be told, you shouldn't either.  Well, unless you hated the show the first time around - in which case that would be a solid excuse not to watch.

The thing is, "Roseanne" was always about a family with low income trying to find a way to make it in a world that seemingly treats them like they are dirt.  I've lost count of how many times Dan and Roseanne changed jobs - it's been a long time.  But they took on whatever job they could to provide food for their family and pay the bills.  I suspect that nothing has changed in that regard and that the stupid lottery win plot that kicked off season nine will be just a forgotten memory. 

And Roseanne Barr is correct about one thing.  It was blue collar people and working class people who were key in electing Donald Trump into office.  Whether or not they have buyer's remorse now, that's another topic for another day.  The point is that as a blue collar character, it would seem out of character for Roseanne to cast a vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump.  And one thing that "Roseanne" prided itself in during the first few seasons of the show was the gritty realism mixed in with the comedic punchlines.  So, I do appreciate the fact that the show in 2018 is trying to reflect the current times in that regard.

But perhaps what is really interesting is that Roseanne Barr and Sara Gilbert have stated that there will be at least one episode in the new series in which there will be some political divide in the Connor household.  I'm guessing that at least one member of the Connor family did NOT vote for Trump, and just putting it out there, I'm thinking it might be Becky - though that's just my prediction.  But again, the show is portraying a real issue that is currently happening, as the 2016 elections have caused a lot of divide between American citizens and some families have ceased communication with each other because of it.  Both Barr and Gilbert have stated that it was an episode that needed to be filmed.  Gilbert has stated that it would be a great thing for loving families to disagree on political issues and yet somehow overcome those disagreements to be a family.  The thing is, I agree with Gilbert.  If there's any family - dysfunctional as they may be - who can tell this story idea with the honesty and bluntness that it needs, it's the Connors.

So, no...I won't boycott the show.  Truth be told, I'm interested in seeing what will happen.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Embrace The Weirdness!

As I mentioned before (and as you can clearly see from the new banner and new look that I have implemented for 2018), this is the year that I have declared "Be Your Own Best Friend Year"!  It's basically another way of saying that this is going to be the year where I put myself first and taking control of my own destiny in spite of what others try to tell me. 

I'm finished with being a doormat to those who only want to use me for their own selfish needs and then toss me to the side like they would a worn out pair of sneakers.  Instead, I have found that I would rather enjoy my own company and get to understand myself better.  Once I get secure with my big and bad self, then maybe it will give me the confidence necessary to interact with other people better.

(Or, maybe it will make me realize that I'm the only person I can trust to be my true self around.)

Either way, win win.

Anyway, one of the goals that I have for 2018 is to really get into my psyche to understand what makes me who I am, why I have a hard time communicating with people, and for that matter, why I sometimes act like a curmudgeon towards people I do not like, or who I find incredibly frustrating and annoying.

And I suppose one conclusion that I've come up with is the fact that I tend to be one of those "think outside the box" people who more often than not does everything to go against societal standards.  I'm not glued to a mobile phone 24/7, I prefer to write thank you notes instead of typing them out on a computer, and I have opinions about social norms that are anything but normal.  And I make zero apologies about it either.

In fact, I think one of the first things that I want to do for 2018 is to embrace the weirdness.

You see, part of the reason why 2017 was such a rough year for me was because I was trying to be someone that I wasn't comfortable with.  I was trying to be more "normal".  And it took me until 2018 to realize that I absolutely hate being normal.  Because let's face it.  Stressing yourself out because you don't feel you are normal enough for society is not normal.  Stressing yourself out even more when you try to conform to society's definition of normal is not normal either.

Have I confused you yet?



Okay, let's demonstrate this using a pop culture reference from the television series "Full House".  And keep in mind that I will be mentioning some stuff that happened in the last season of "Fuller House" when driving my points home, so consider this a spoiler alert.  Granted, the whole third season's been up for three weeks now, but this is more for those who haven't seen it yet.  You have been warned.



So, if you have ever seen any episode of "Full House", then you are probably aware that D.J. Tanner and Kimmy Gibbler are best friends forever.  Since they were next door neighbours, it's hard to see D.J. and Kimmy not being there for each other, even though the majority of D.J.'s family thought Kimmy was incredibly weird.

Okay, so her fashion sense resembled a box of Crayola crayons after they have baked in the sun for twelve days.  And she did have a humongous foot odor problem that was much made fun of on the show.  And yeah, she did go a little bit trigger happy when she accidentally infected Stephanie's ears while piercing them.  But if you can ignore all those things, Kimmy's loyalty to D.J. remained firm and true.



Of course, while D.J.'s friendship with Kimmy was stronger than salt water taffy, Kimmy's relationship with Stephanie was always brittle.  Kimmy and Stephanie clashed at every opportunity with Kimmy bashing Stephanie on how immature she was and Stephanie insulting Kimmy about how dumb she was.  It was a silly little feud between D.J.'s best friend and D.J.'s sister, and more often than not, D.J. was always the one who tried to smooth things over.

It was sort of like D.J. became the Danny, Stephanie became the Jesse, and Kimmy became the Joey.  Which isn't much of a stretch from the roles they play on "Fuller House".



But as silly a show as "Fuller House" is, I do like one thing that has stayed constant throughout the show's three seasons so far.  The relationship between D.J., Stephanie, and Kimmy has become firm and cemented despite the differences between them.  



I mean, think about it.  You have an overachieving, overprotective mom, a party girl who often goes to bed when everyone else is getting up, and an eccentric woman who is stuck in the 1990s and who wears fashion accessories that look like food.  On paper, this combo would never work, but in "Fuller House", it makes up the unstoppable trio known as "The She-Wolf Pack".

And perhaps the biggest surprise is how close Kimmy and Stephanie have become.  Mind you, Stephanie dating Kimmy's brother might have a little to do with it, but the point is that Stephanie may have taken some time to get accustomed to Kimmy, but once they started living under the same roof, they started to not only like each other, but love each other like sisters.

Perhaps the greatest evidence of this is the fact that Kimmy helped Stephanie when she needed it the most.  On the first season of "Fuller House", Stephanie revealed that she couldn't have children.  However, in season two, there was a chance that she could by using a surrogate.  Initially, the perfect choice would have been D.J., but D.J. had a rough time with her youngest son's birth, so as a result she was ruled out.



But then Kimmy stepped in and offered to be Stephanie's surrogate, and at the end of the third season, Kimmy happily reported that the implanting of the embryo worked and that she was pregnant with Stephanie's child...and her brother's child, which is a little bit strange, but hey, whatever works right?

The point is that Stephanie was initially dismissive of Kimmy's eccentric ways, but over time learned to embrace the eccentricity, and now the two are forever bonded.  And Kimmy perhaps - who always did accept her quirkiness - found a way to accept Stephanie, who initially she saw as a geekburger.

I guess the whole point of this all is to let people know that it's okay to accept that you're quirky, or that you're weird, or that you're strange.  We all feel like that.  Embrace the weirdness.  And more importantly, embrace the weirdness in other people.  You never know...the weird kid who sits by themselves in the corner could be the best friend you've ever had.