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Monday, October 09, 2017

Remembering Tom Petty

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

I think the year was 1988 or 1989...it was right around the time that my parents got a brand new television for the living room.  Not only that, but it was the first time that our household had cable television!

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

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



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

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

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

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



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



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



And, "I Won't Back Down".



And, "Runnin' Down a Dream".

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

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

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

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

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




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

Thursday, October 05, 2017

October 5, 1970

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

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

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

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

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

1857 - Anaheim, California is founded

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All right, so what year will we be going back in time to this week?  I wonder...



...hmmm...how about October 5, 1970?  That sounds like a great date to flash back to.  Granted, I wasn't around then...but what happened on that date had a definite effect on not only my life, but the lives of millions of people.

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



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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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



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

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



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

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



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



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

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



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

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

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

After Vegas: What Now?



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Still want to put this on the backburner, America?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

September 28, 2016

Okay, so I will apologize in advance for the fact that today's Throwback Thursday post won't be going back in time that far.  In fact, it will probably be the most recent Throwback Thursday that I have done yet.  But there is a good reason for it - and besides, when we get to the background info on this subject, you'll find that it is definitely filled with its share of historical tidbits.

For now, let's take a look at some of the other events that took place throughout history on this, the twenty-eighth day of September.

1066 - William the Conqueror invades England

1779 - Samuel Huntington is elected President of the Continental Congress

1781 - American forces begin the Siege of Yorktown during the American Revolutionary War

1787 - The Congress of the Confederation votes to send the newly-written United States Constitution to the state legislatures for approval

1867 - Toronto officially becomes the capital city of Ontario, Canada

1901 - Variety show host/creator Ed Sullivan (d. 1974) is born in Harlem, New York

1909 - Cartoonist Al Capp (d. 1979) is born in New Haven, Connecticut

1918 - The Fifth Battle of Ypres takes place during World War I

1919 - Omaha, Nebraska becomes the site of race riots, leaving three people dead

1924 - A team of aviators enlisted in the United States Army Air Service become the first people to fly around the world in an aircraft; that same day Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni (d. 1996) is born

1928 - The medicine known as penicillin is discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming

1938 - Singer Ben E. King (d. 2015) is born in Henderson, North Carolina

1939 - Warsaw surrenders to Nazi Germany during World War II

1951 - The first color televisions are available for sale to the general public - they are discontinued by November, but will eventually make a significant comeback

1964 - Comedian/actor Harpo Marx passes away at the age of 75

1971 - The United Kingdom passes the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971 which bans the medicinal use of cannabis

1973 - The ITT Building in New York City is bombed

1975 - London, England becomes the setting of The Spaghetti House Siege, where nine people are taken hostage

1991 - American jazz musician Miles Davis dies at the age of 65

1994 - MS Estonia, a cruise ferry, sinks in the Baltic Sea, killing 852 people on board

2000 - Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau passes away at the age of 80

2003 - Tennis player and golfer Althea Gibson passes away at the age of 76

2008 - SpaceX launches Falcon 1 - the world's first private spacecraft - into orbit

As for famous birthdays, have a look at the people who are celebrating turning another year older today; Jeremy Isaacs, Brigitte Bardot, Bruce Crampton, Richie Karl, Jon Snow, Jim Henshaw, Jennifer Rush, Gregory Jbara, Grant Fuhr, Laurie Rinker, Susan Walters, Greg Weisman, Janeane Garofalo, Mira Sorvino, Moon Unit Zappa, Naomi Watts, Eric Lapointe, Joseph Arthur, Dita Von Teese, Jeezy, Bam Margera, Melody Thornton, and Hilary Duff.  Happy birthday to you all as well as anyone else who is celebrating a birthday today!

So where are we going back in time to this week?



Okay, I wasn't kidding about being a recent entry.  We're going back to September 28, 2016 - one whole year. 

I know what you're thinking.  Why would I want to revisit the year that most of us dread talking about?  A year which saw many of our entertainers pass away and many of our politicians losing the plot?

Well, it's partly because of guilt. 

For those of you who have read my blog over the last few years, you know that around New Years' Eve, I do a week long feature of the highlights and lowlights of the year gone by.  2016 was no exception.

Unfortunately when I posted my list of all the stars we lost in 2016 - and believe me, we lost a LOT of them...I had forgotten to include one. 

September 28, 2016 was the day that a woman passed away at the age of 93.  And while the name might not sound familiar at first to the average person, she had a long career in television - particularly within daytime television.

No, she wasn't an actress in a long running serial.  She tended to work behind the scenes instead.  She began as a scriptwriter for several long established soap operas, and by her sixty-fifth birthday, she had created three shows that at the time were still on the air (all on the same network) with varying degrees of success. 

That's right.  Of the dozens of soap operas that had aired on daytime television, she was responsible for the creation of three of them - "Loving", "All My Children", and "One Life to Live".

While these three shows went off the air in 1995, 2011, and 2012 respectively, the shows were also responsible for creating some of the most well known daytime characters to ever exist in the industry.  Characters such as Erica Kane, Viki Lord, Todd Manning, Tad Martin, Trisha Alden, and Dorian Lord.  Not only that, but this woman was also responsible for some of daytime's most controversial and groundbreaking storylines.



And today, as we celebrate the life of soap opera legend Agnes Nixon, we'll talk about those three shows, and more.  And I think the best way to do this is to make a list of trivia facts about her and her creations and go from there.  Believe me, some of the accomplishments that she had during her career were nothing short of extraordinary.  In fact, her memoir is set to be released sometime in late 2017 or early 2018.

1 - She was born Agnes Eckhardt on December 10, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois.

2 - She was a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority while attending Northwestern University.

3 - She married her husband - Robert Nixon - in 1951.  The marriage lasted until 1996 when he passed away.



4 - One of her first jobs in the television industry involved writing for the soap opera "As The World Turns", where she worked for show creator Irna Phillips.

5 - At some point during her career, she ascended into the head writer position for three different soap operas - "The Guiding Light", "Search for Tomorrow", and "Another World".

6 - Nixon is credited for penning the very first soap opera story involving a character getting a pap smear.  She wrote the story for Charita Bauer, who played the character of Bert Bauer on "The Guiding Light" and it was designed to educate women on the procedure.



7 - Although Nixon had created the outline for "All My Children" first, she wasn't able to get it passed by ABC executives right away, so "One Life to Live" became her first soap to debut.  It's first episode aired on July 15, 1968.



8 - "All My Children" would eventually get a premiere of its own a year and a half after "One Life to Live" debuted - on January 5, 1970.



9 - And thirteen years later on June 26, 1983, Nixon would create the college set soap opera "Loving".  It was the first show where she was credited as co-creator, as she had worked with Douglas Marland to bring it to screen.

10 - When "One Life to Live" debuted, it was designed to be a more contemporary soap opera, and Nixon made sure that there were characters of all backgrounds, including Jewish characters, Irish-American characters, and African-American characters. 

11 - "One Life to Live" also featured a storyline involving the AIDS Quilt in 1992.

12 - The daytime drama "Loving" also had a first associated with it.  It was the first soap opera that featured a main character suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after serving in the Vietnam War, and actually had his character visit the Vietnam War Memorial.

13 - And not to leave out "All My Children", it created controversy of its own by having a storyline where Erica Kane chose to have an abortion - the first time the subject was tackled on daytime television.  Of course, the storyline was completely rewritten thirty years later - which likely sped up the cancellation.  But still...it was the first time a show tackled a touchy subject like abortion.

14 - When "Loving" was cancelled in 1995 and turned into "The City", Agnes Nixon retained a co-creator title, even though James Harmon Brown and Barbara Esensten were at the helm for the show's entire run.

15 - Prior to that, when "Loving" was undergoing personnel changes, Nixon took over as head writer for a period in 1994 to keep the show afloat.

16 - Agnes Nixon sometimes appeared on her own creations in walk-on roles.  On "All My Children" and "One Life to Live", she played the role of Agnes Eckhardt - her maiden name.

17 - Her show "All My Children" did exceptionally well at the Daytime Emmy Awards.  In the forty-one years the show aired on television (plus its brief online run through Prospect Park in 2013), "All My Children" won the award for Outstanding Drama Series in 1988, 1996, 1997, and 1998 - plus a further twelve nominations between 1990 and 2012!

18 - Nixon herself won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series for "All My Children" in 1985.

19 - She was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1992.

20 - She was also inducted into the Soap Opera Hall of Fame in 1994; the first female writer to do so.

21 - And finally, in 2010, she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmy Awards.




It's a shame that Agnes Nixon is no longer around - she died one year ago today from Parkinson's Disease.  Even sadder is the fact that she outlived all three of her soap opera creations.  However, as the daytime industry keeps changing, and soap operas are becoming less popular - it's nice to know that for a little while, Agnes Nixon happily wore her "Queen of the Soaps" crown.  And you know something?  She deserved it.

On a totally unrelated note, I wanted to extend my condolences to the loved ones of Hugh Hefner, who died yesterday at the age of 91.  Rest in peace, Hef.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fast Food Commercials That Stick With You

I apologize for not writing in here for quite a while.  Real life has once again gotten in the way.  So, you know what?  I'll expand this special food theme into October as well to make up for it.

So, what's the theme for today?  It's all about commercials.  Specifically the commercials for fast food places that have made an impact on us.

These are the commercial jingles that have somehow stayed in our brains for twenty-five years, but yet we can't remember how to do basic arithmetic or what we need to purchase at the supermarket.

I'll tell you what inspired this post though.  Actually, I'll show you.



Yeah, yeah...I know.  It's shocking to see Jason Alexander of "Seinfeld" fame with hair.  But what is even more shocking is that I remember this commercial vividly.

A friend of mine posted this on his Facebook page last week.  It's a commercial for the McDLT which first came out in 1985.  Now, the product itself was designed to keep your lettuce and tomato crispy and fresh, while your burger stayed nice and warm.  It was a brilliant concept, but with more and more companies steering away from styrofoam packaging in the 1980s, the shelf life of the sandwich was short.  But it's absolutely amazing how more than 30 years later, that commercial is still etched in my mind.  Even more impressive was the fact that I was only four years old when the McDLT commercial first aired!

Anyway, it got me thinking...what other fast food ads made that much of an impact?  Well, I've searched YouTube to come up with some examples.

Now, keep in mind, I've only put examples up over the last three and a half decades.  If you have any other ones to share prior to say, 1982, I'd love to see them!

And since I started off with McDonald's, let's post another one from them that I remember a lot.



Okay, so the Mac Tonight ads were designed to try and make McDonald's a little more classier.  Because I know that when I think haute couture in the culinary industry, I think of Big Macs.  Around 1987, McDonald's tried using a dapper crescent moon doing his own take on Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife" by singing about wanting a "Mac Tonight".  For what it's worth, the commercials were quite well done, and I think I still might have a Mac Tonight fridge magnet hiding in my garage somewhere.  But it didn't quite gel with the general public.



I was probably still taking six hour naps when this commercial first started airing for Wendy's, but I think everyone tried to imitate Clara Peller's "Where's The Beef" inquiry!  It was an ad designed to promote the fact that Wendy's used more beef and had larger patties than the other fast food joints out there.  I can attest that as far as fast food burgers go, I definitely like Wendy's quite a bit.  Sadly, the commercials only lasted three years as Clara Peller passed away in 1987.



Moving away from hamburgers for now, some of the best commercials that I have seen for fast food places come from pizza joints.  And Little Caesar's commercials are probably some of the funniest and most creative of their time.  Who could forget the conga line commercial with the surprise twist ending?



Or the various commercials featuring how stretchy their cheese pizza was?



Yeah, those cheeser cheeser commercials sure were memorable.



Another pizza company that had great commercials was Domino's.  At least, back in the late 1980s, they did.  Having been a fan of the animation art known as Claymation back in the day, watching the commercials that starred the Noid was always a fun experience.  The Noid was kind of like the Trix rabbit in a way in that both wanted to eat the product that was advertised, but neither mascot came out the victor.  At least the Noid ended up getting made into a video game called "Yo, Noid!"



Seriously.  I'm not kidding - and it was a tough game too...I couldn't make it past level 11.



Sometimes the ads weren't for the food themselves, but for the toys that you could purchase with the meals.  Back in 1990, Burger King ran a promotion where if you bought food from them, you could also purchase one of five Simpsons stuffed toys for $3.49.  Unfortunately, I only managed to get three of these toys.  I missed out on Maggie and Bart.  But I still have Homer, Marge, and Lisa kicking around!



Okay, so here's a commercial that actually predates me by a few years, but I have to include it because of the fact that it has a slogan that became an instant earworm.  Long before McDonald's started lovin' it, Burger King made it clear that you could "hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don't upset us".  And as someone who could be quite picky about what they wanted on a burger (as in, you put onions and mayo on my burger and you will die a slow and painful death), this was a good thing.  Years after this commercial aired, they redid the commercial (with I believe the same actors who filmed the original).




A more recent commercial from McDonald's, I have to admit that the fish singing the "Filet-O-Fish" song was catchy as hell.



And I have to say that this Dairy Queen commercial for the "Flamethrower" burger was absolutely laugh out loud the minute I first viewed it sometime in the 2000s. 

Finally, to end things off on a heartwarming note, we have this commercial from McDonald's that used to air for a couple of years during the winter months.  It was a commercial that I absolutely adored as a kid, and if anything it helped me realize that Ronald McDonald was actually a very nice clown who just appeared to look like something from Satan's kitchen.



Okay, so now I turn the floor over to you.  Which commercials from fast food places did you enjoy the most?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

September 21, 1998

Before I go ahead with today's Throwback Thursday posting, I want to congratulate Josh for winning Big Brother 19.  It was definitely an unexpected, but incredible twist of fate that he took home the half million.  Good job for being a dragon slayer, Josh. 

Now, as for today's subject...well, unfortunately this subject met an untimely end...but made the most of her time on this earth given how "fast" it went.  More on that in a moment - but for now, let's celebrate the last day of summer with a list of historical events for September 21!

1776 - After being occupied by British forces, parts of New York City are burned to the ground

1780 - Benedict Arnold gives the British the plans to West Point during the American Revolutionary War

1912 - Animator Chuck Jones (d. 2002) is born in Spokane, Washington

1921 - A storage silo explodes in Oppau, Germany - the blast kills well over five hundred people

1931 - Actor Larry Hagman (d. 2012) is born in Fort Worth, Texas

1933 - The first "Lucha libre" match is held in Mexico

1934 - Honshu, Japan is devastated by a typhoon which kills over three thousand people - also on this date singer Leonard Cohen (d. 2016) is born in Westmount, Quebec

1937 - "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien is first published

1938 - The Great Hurricane of 1938 makes landfall in Long Island, New York, killing between 700 and 800 people

1942 - Over 2,500 Jews are slaughtered by Nazis in Dunaivtsi, Ukraine

1965 - The North American XB-70 Valkyrie makes its maiden flight from Palmdale, California

1974 - Author and actress Jacqueline Susann dies at the age of 56

1981 - Sandra Day O'Connor is unanimously approved to become the first female Justice of the American Supreme Court

1993 - "NYPD Blue" debuts on ABC

1996 - The Defense of Marriage Act passes the United States Congress

1998 - "Will & Grace" debuts on NBC

2001 - Ten days after the 9/11 attacks, America: A Tribute to Heroes is broadcast by thirty-five network and cable channels - the television special raised over $200 million for families of loved ones who died September 11, 2001

2007 - Actress Alice Ghostley dies at the age of 84

And for celebrity birthdays, we have quite a few people turning one year older.  Happy birthday to Don Preston, Dick Simon, Dickey Lee, Bill Kurtis, Fannie Flagg, Jerry Bruckheimer, Richard Childress, Don Felder, Stephen King, Artis Gilmore, Bill Murray, Marta Kauffman, Ethan Coen, Dave Coulier, Corinne Drewery, David James Elliott, Nancy Travis, Rob Morrow, Cecil Fielder, Angus Macfadyen, Cheryl Hines, Faith Hill, David Jude Jolicoeur, Ricki Lake, Anne Burrell, Melissa Ferrick, Alfonso Ribeiro, Luke Wilson, Liam Gallagher, Paulo Costanzo, Autumn Reeser, Nicole Richie, Maggie Grace, Lindsey Stirling, and Emma Watkins!

Whew!  I'm exhausted!  Let's just go ahead and see where the Throwback Thursday post takes us today.



September 21, 1998.  Nineteen years ago today.

Now, this happens to be the date that the show "Will & Grace" debuted in, and certainly it would have been a great topic of discussion as it is coming back to the small screen next week.  But then I remembered that something else happened on this date that was quite sad...not necessarily because of the way that this famous athlete died, but how she died. 

In order to begin this story, I'll tell you a personal tale.  No, I didn't know this person very well, but I do remember how I heard the news that she had died.

I should preface this by telling all of you that I have an obsessed love for all things related to game shows.  When I was home sick from school, all I wanted to watch were game shows.  My favourite YouTube clips are video compilations of stupid game show answers.  And I have made it no secret that one of the things on my bucket list is to be a contestant on a game show.  I don't even care if I win or lose.  I just want to be a contestant for the experience.



I very vaguely remember the old "Hollywood Squares" game show.  It was the one where you had to play tic-tac-toe by answering whether a celebrity square was lying or telling the truth about a certain statement read by the host.  I was too young to remember the days when Paul Lynde was the center square (he died when I was a year old), but do remember when Joan Rivers was in the middle.  I liked the show back then.  I was way too young to get the jokes, but I liked seeing the famous people playing the game.

So when "Hollywood Squares" was revived in the fall of 1998, I was really excited.  Hosted by Tom Bergeron, the center square featured Whoopi Goldberg (back in the days after she was a famous Hollywood starlet, but before she turned into a shrieking harpy on "The View").  And I admit that those first couple of years of the show were halfway decent.

The new show debuted on September 14, 1998, and was a success the first week.  But on the week of episodes beginning September 21, 1998, it was jarring to see Whoopi Goldberg appearing in a separate clip before the show began.  I thought...that's odd.  Is the show being cancelled already?

Then she announced that one of the celebrity guests for the shows that would be airing the week of September 21-25 had died.  That was REALLY shocking.  Especially when you consider that the person who died was not only a famous athlete in her own right, but that she was only 38 years old.  



The celebrity that died was Florence Griffith-Joyner.  Or, Flo-Jo, as the media lovingly referred her as.  She passed away on September 21, 1998 after having an epileptic seizure in her sleep.



Her death certainly cast a bit of a gloom on the week of shows that aired.  Watching her be witty, charming, and warm to all of the contestants and other celebrities she appeared on the show with, it was hard to believe that she was gone.  She really was one of those larger than life personalities that you often heard so much about.

Of course, Flo-Jo had far more talent than being a game show panelist.  In fact, at one point, she was considered to be the fastest woman in the entire world!  Now that is definitely a title to hold!

You see, Flo-Jo made her living as a track and field star.  And that love for all things athletic began at a very early age.  Born in California on December 21, 1959, Florence Griffith's interest in sports began when she was in elementary school.  She joined the Sugar Ray Robinson Organization and ran track meets on weekends.  This prepared her to join the track team in high school and to enter track and field competitions.  When she was just in her teens, she won the Jesse Owens National Youth Games back to back in 1974 and 1975!  By the time she had graduated from high school in 1978, she had already set the school records for the sprinting and long jump events.

She was so good in the sport that she was an early contender to be a competitor in the 1980 Summer Olympics.  Of course, we all know that thanks to a boycott of the Summer Olympics by the United States and several other nations, Flo-Jo's Olympic dreams had to be put on hold.  But she continued to train rigorously and earned a degree in psychology in 1983.

By the time the 1984 Olympic Games had come to Los Angeles, Florence was ready to take them on, earning herself a silver medal for the 200-meter sprint.  But it wouldn't be until 1988 that Flo-Jo would REALLY make a name for herself.




For starters, the nickname of Flo-Jo came about after her 1987 marriage to triple-jump gold medallist Al Joyner.  I guess Flo-Jo sort of rolled off the tongue a bit better than Florence Griffith-Joyner.  For another, Flo-Jo was getting attention for the elaborate track outfits she wore while competing.  With brightly coloured one-legged track suits and impressive fingernail designs, she certainly stood out in a fashion perspective.



But even more impressive, she stood out for her incredible natural talent.  When she took part in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Flo-Jo made history.  She won four medals that year, a silver in the 4x400 meter event, and three gold medals in the 100m, 200m, and the 4x100m events!  In the case of the 100m and 200m events, Flo-Jo performed so well that she broke the record for the fastest time ever recorded by a female athlete in those events - a record that has stood ever since!  It amazes me that after she competed in the 1988 Olympics, she retired from the sport while she was on top because she really was a force to be reckoned with.

After her retirement, she decided to embark on a different career path.  Certainly fashion was one industry she dabbled in (after all, she did design her own track outfits).  But she also did some acting on the side and appeared on various talk shows and game shows - such as "Hollywood Squares".

Sadly, when Florence Griffith-Joyner died in 1998, there was some talk that her death was related to steroid use.  It had been a nasty rumour that had been flying around for years - dating back to the 1988 Olympics where she had performed so well.  Many athletes had suspected that her fast times were caused by steroid and drug use, and many believed that she had cheated to get to where she was.  It was a claim that Flo-Jo had always denied, and several tests concluded that she had no illegal drugs in her system.  The autopsy results showed that she only had over-the-counter painkillers in her system the day she died. 

It wasn't until after her death that her family revealed that she had a cavernous hemangioma - a condition that made Flo-Jo susceptible to seizures.  She was treated for these seizures at several points during the early 1990s.  Whether it was this condition that prompted her to go into retirement, it's hard to say.  There hasn't been any confirmation to this, but it would seem like a logical reason.




All in all...September 21, 1998 was a really shocking day in the world of sports...and the track and field community lost a real legend.