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Monday, March 31, 2014

Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle

I am so happy to be bidding the month of March 2014 farewell.  I am so sick of this longer than normal winter, and I am convinced that the lions ate the lambs this year.  I say bring on April.

Of course, we have one final day of March to get through first, and for today's Monday Matinee, I thought that I would do a blog that was actually a request from a long time reader.  So, first things first, I would like to personally thank Michael G. for the wonderful suggestion.  While his suggestion was for a film that I had never seen before prior to now, I downloaded it on my computer and gave it a whirl.  After all, what good would a Monday Matinee be if I never got a chance to see the movie, right?

Oh, and don't forget that I do take requests for topics as well.  All you need to do is drop me a line in the comments section here, or shoot me a message on the Facebook page for this blog.  You can access the fan page HERE if you want to suggest a topic.  I'll try to find a way to get your request in at some point.

The funny thing is that the film features a prominent fast food location that I myself have never eaten at.  Of course, I do have an excuse.  This fast food chain doesn't have any Canadian locations - well, at least not to my knowledge, anyway.

Of course, to be fair, I currently live in a town that doesn't really have a whole lot of...well...anything.  As far as fast food chains, we have some of the usual suspects such as McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Domino's Pizza, and about half a dozen Tim Hortons' donut and coffee shops.

But there are some fast food chains located solely in America that I have never tried.  I see ads for Sonic all the time, and while comments that I have heard have been mixed, I still would like to try it once.  We also don't have any Rally's, Checkers, In-N-Out, or Papa John's in this area.

And, then there's the restaurant known as White Castle.

White Castle is an American chain with hundreds of locations mostly scattered throughout the Midwest and Southern United States, as well as a smattering of locations in New York state.  Since the company was founded in 1921, the company became famous for their White Castle "slider", a small square shaped hamburger that literally cost pennies to make.  Rumour has it that the sliders were the lowest priced take-out hamburgers of all the fast food chains.  

As a result, I can understand why White Castle is so successful - at least in the United States anyway.  The food is affordable enough that almost anybody in any income bracket can eat there. 

And, today's movie happens to feature a White Castle restaurant.  As well as two guys who are high on life (and on drugs) trying to make their way to said White Castle restaurant.

Which is essentially the whole plot for the 2004 film "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle", which starred John Cho as Harold and Kal Penn as Kumar.

And, to say that Harold and Kumar are kind of considered to be aimless would be a bit of an understatement.

Though, you can't help but understand how they ended up that way.  In the case of Harold, he in an investment banker who is always doing the work of three people.  Literally, his co-workers take a weekend off, and convince him to do THEIR work as well as his own.  On top of all that, Harold has developed feelings for his neighbour Maria (Paula Garces), but lacks the confidence to tell her how he feels.

And Kumar is having a bit of a difficult time deciding what he wants to do with his life.  He's expected to enroll in medical school per his father's wishes, but purposely botches his interview just so he wouldn't be admitted.  It didn't matter that his brother and father were doctors themselves.  He wasn't sure if being a physician was what his true calling was.

So, what do Harold and Kumar do to forget about their problems? 

Well, they get high.  And then they see an ad for White Castle and they get hungry.

Interestingly enough, although I don't have any experience with smoking marijuana (particularly because the mere smell of it makes me sick), whenever people used to smoke it at my residence hall in college, they always craved pizza.  But as I said before, we don't have any White Castles in Canada.  I bet if we had, they'd be ditching the pepperoni and cheese.

There's just one problem.  When the duo drive down to what they think is the closest White Castle available, they are stunned to discover that another fast food place has taken over, and they have to start all over again.  The good news is that there is another White Castle in Cherry Hill, and Harold and Kumar decide to go there instead.

Of course, on the way to New Jersey, the high that Harold and Kumar were on fades away, and they come to the "brilliant" conclusion that they can only eat at White Castle if they are high enough to do so, and this leads to a whole comedy of errors which include...

- A trip to Princeton University so that they can purchase the drug from one of the students.
- Having an unexpected guest pop in on their road trip.
- Making a pit stop to the hospital where one of them is forced to perform emergency surgery.
- Getting into an auto accident where their repairman proves to be a real "Freakshow".
- And, they even pick up a hitchhiker by the name of Neil Patrick Harris who is more high on drugs than they are!

Seriously, are White Castle sliders really worth all of that?

So, what happens?  Does Harold get the girl of his dreams and tell his slacking co-workers no more?  Does Kumar come to a decision about what he wants to do with his life?  Does Neil Patrick Harris ever become sober?  And, most importantly of Harold and Kumar ever satisfy their craving for White Castle sliders?

You'll just have to watch the movie to find out.  But, what I can do is offer you some trivia in regards to this film.  Some of it is really quite interesting.  And, you know something?  After watching this movie, I can totally understand why people enjoy it so much.  Sure, it can get goofy at spots...but as long as you keep telling yourselves that the main characters are stoned, it suddenly makes more sense...

...anyway, on with the trivia!

1 - Aside from Neil Patrick Harris, the movie also features some cameos by other big named actors which include Malin Ackerman, Christopher Meloni, Anthony Anderson, Ryan Reynolds, David Krumholtz, Fred Willard, and Jamie Kennedy.

2 - It is rumoured that Neil Patrick Harris' role in this film helped get him the part of Barney Stinson on "How I Met Your Mother" (in which the show's series finale airs tonight!)

3 - Kal Penn is actually a vegetarian.  Would be kind of difficult for him to eat a traditional White Castle slider, wouldn't you think?

4 - Kal Penn also almost died during the shooting of the film.  There's a scene in which Harold and Kumar are crawling out of a vent, and to simulate the dust in the vent, the crew used walnut powder.  Unfortunately, Kal has a serious nut allergy and had to immediately be rushed to the hospital.  In all future scenes, chocolate powder was used instead.

5 - If Neil Patrick Harris had turned down the cameo role in the movie, the producers second choice was "Karate Kid" star Ralph Macchio.

6 - A White Castle building was actually trucked into the filming location as there were no White Castle restaurants to be found at all!

7 - Although they did not appear in one episode together, both Kal Penn and John Cho appeared on the television series "House".

8 - Apparently, Maria's last name in the film is "Quesa Dilla". 

9 - The characters of Rosenberg and Goldstein were inspired by the Hamlet characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

10 - If you leave the menu screen on the DVD version of the film on too long, Harold and Kumar actually start mocking you, and encourage you to make a choice already! 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rapture - What Does It Mean?

For this edition of the Sunday Jukebox, we're actually going to be revisiting the year that could be considered the most schizophrenic year on the pop charts.

As it so happens, it was the very year that I was born.  1981.

Now, I won't bore you again with details about how crazy a year 1981 really was.  Let's just say that it was one of the only years that had rock, dance, pop, country, and even reggae hit the top of the charts!  It was as if the year couldn't decide what genre of music to spotlight, so it just decided to play all of them equally.

In fact, you could probably consider 1981 to be one of the first years in which a song that contained a relatively new genre of music hit the top of the charts.  And as it so happens, that song is the subject of today's blog.  Would you believe that it topped the charts thirty-three years ago this week?  And that the artists who made this song famous are still touring and recording music?

Okay, so here's a little story to tell you before I go ahead with announcing what today's song is all about.  This is a song by a band that formed in 1974, and has played together off and on over the last forty years.  Sure, they took a near fifteen year break in the mid-1980s while some of their members embarked on solo careers and other projects, but when the band regrouped in the late 1990s, they picked right up where they left off. 

Of course, it probably also helped the fact that the band had several #1 singles between 1979 and 1981, which included "Heart of Glass", "Call Me", and "The Tide Is High".  And, of course, the male populace of the world probably appreciated the fact that the band's lead singer was once a Playboy Bunny.

Have you figured out the name of our band yet?  Well, here's the song that we're going to feature today...a #1 hit this week in 1981.

ARTIST:  Blondie
SONG:  Rapture
ALBUM:  Autoamerican
DATE RELEASED:  January 12, 1981

So, Blondie's "Rapture" was a rather interesting hit, don't you think?  And, it's also a song that depending on who you talk to can have a whole lot of different meanings.  I don't think it has as many theories as Richard Marx's "Hazard", but we'll get to some of the ones that I have heard over the years, as well as the explanation that I think best fits.

First things first though, let's talk about the mechanics of the song.  Although this was likely not the first time ever that this style of music was made, it was one of the very first examples of rap music making an appearance on the charts.  The music video actually debuted more than two weeks after the song did on January 31, 1981.  And, believe it or not, it wasn't on MTV (the network wasn't founded until August).  It was on Solid Gold! 

The music video did however become the very first rap video played on MTV though.

I suppose that you could also say that this song was a perfect representation of the wackiness of the 1981 charts.  Much like the 1981 Billboard charts were a collective hodge-podge of genres, this song also featured an interesting blend of rap, disco, pop, R&B, and New Wave!  You'd think a combination like that would be a mess, but as you can plainly see, it blended very well together.

The choreography in the video was also done very well, with the smooth moves delivered courtesy of William Barnes (the man dressed entirely in white).  Even Fab Five Freddy (one of the pioneers of the hip-hop movement of the early 1980s) made a cameo appearance in the video.

TRIVIA:  Grandmaster Flash was also invited to do a cameo in the video as well, but was a no show.

But of course, here's where the song starts to get a little bit more...interesting.  When it comes to trying to decipher Debbie Harry's rapping, many people seem to have many different theories about what it all means.  At first glance, it might seem like Debbie Harry has lost her ever-loving mind, spouting off random words that make absolutely no sense.  But the thing about rap is that even the strangest combinations of words can provide a deeper meaning.

Here.  I'll post a link to the SONG LYRICS for "Rapture" and let you read them over.  Study them.  Attempt to make sense of them.  And, see if you can come up with your own interpretation of what they mean!  Go ahead.  I will wait.

Okay, so have you deciphered the lyrics between the Man from Mars eating bars and eating cars, and guitars?  Well, let's have a look at some of the interpretations that I have heard over the years.

First interpretation?  The song talks about "The Rapture".

In biblical and religious terms, the "Rapture" is an event which supposedly separates the sinners from the godly, in that a group of people will be taken up to meet the Lord, while others will be left behind on Earth to atone for their sins and to endure a series of tribulations.  The Rapture has been the subject of many movies, the most recent being the "Left Behind" series starring religious wingnut Kirk Cameron.

(And yes, I did refer to him as a wingnut.  Given some of the things he's done in the past, I suppose the description fits.)

Well, in a way, I suppose that the rap part could be considered a form of "The Rapture".  After all, the song is entitled "Rapture".  And in the song, the Man from Mars comes from above to wreak havoc on the population, eating more cars than a chop shop crusher, and chomping on bars all over the world before returning back to his own planet where he doesn't want to hassle with the human race.  I guess if you really wanted to, you could consider the Man from Mars as being a euphemism for God.

But that's just it.  A stretch.  I don't think this song is about THE "Rapture" at all.

Another possibility that I've heard is that this song is all about recreational drug use.  Certainly, the video is quite...strange.  Particularly in the long scene where Debbie Harry is rapping.  I mean, you have ballerinas, a man in an Uncle Sam costume, graffiti artists, and even a goat!  Certainly not images that one sees in everyday sober life.  But high on drugs?  Well, I suppose your mind could definitely play tricks on you and you might end up seeing goats on the street. 

But I doubt that this song is all about drug use.  Otherwise, there would be a heck of a lot of references to actual drugs in the song, whether they outrightly mention drug names, or euphemisms for drugs (i.e. Mary Jane, etc.)

There's also the fact that the song could be a symbol of growing materialism and consumer culture taking over the world, as many people have pointed out that the only casualties of the song were the Cadillacs, Lincolns too, Mercury and Subaru - and the poor guy who had his head eaten by the Man from Mars. 

But in all honesty, I think that the song is a perfect display of the changing times of the early 1980s.

I think "Rapture" is all about the death of disco and the transition to making music with pictures in addition to words. 

Just think about this for a moment.  1981 was really considered the last gasp of disco music.  It was the year that disco flatlined on the operating table (well, at least it was until the mid-1990s when it began to make a slight comeback upon its marriage with electro-pop).  A lot of people will say that the disco era was somewhat of a simpler time (despite all of the drug use), with people getting close to one another based on the beat of the music, the warm glow of the disco lights, and the general feeling that the only way to enjoy music was from a spinning turntable, or a live concert performance.

But as the 1970s faded into the 1980s, disco began to lose its appeal in a big way.  Some areas even hosted parties and celebrations that allowed people to destroy and burn their old disco records!  And, it was also a time in which simple melodies of disco records were being replaced by synthesizers, electric guitars, and drum machines.  It was as if technology was invading the world of popular music slowly, but surely.

Much like the Man from Mars came down from above to invade Earth slowly, but surely.

I suppose that the Man from Mars could be a symbol for the future of music.  And, it's especially telling in the last part of the rap where Debbie Harry talks about how they're having their party on TV.  Interesting, given that this song was released the same year MTV began killing the radio star.

Think about it.  It makes sense.  I think that "Rapture" is about the changing face of pop music.

But that's just my opinion.  What's yours?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lunch - The Happiest Part of the School Day!

All right, so for this Saturday's topic, I'm going to switch it up a little bit.

(Funny, so far this March, I've been switching it up quite a lot lately.  I think that this could be a recurring theme.  Keeps this place fresh.)

Anyway, today I'm going to making this blog about one of the greatest things ever.


Seriously, is it just me, or is lunch time one of the best times of the whole day?  For people who go to school, or work a full-time job, the lunch period can be a welcome addition to the day.  A nice break in between classes and job tasks.  And certainly, depending on what you do for a living, your lunch hour might very well be the only thing that keeps you sane!

Well, that is if you get time to take a lunch.  Some people don't.

Now, I will say one thing before I go ahead with this discussion on all things lunch.  My lunch periods at school were very much unconventional.  Unconventional in that unless it was very special day (like whenever we had McDonald's day, or pizza lunch day), I very rarely stayed at school for lunch.  I lived fairly close enough to my elementary school that I went home for lunch 99% of the time.  And, most often than not, this was probably one of the greatest joys that I can remember from my school years.

You see, going home for lunch was certainly a major positive.  Now, I see some of you arguing that I missed out on eating lunch with my classmates in a school classroom and having an extended play period outside in the playground with the enticing swing sets and slide sets.  But you also have to understand that I was always the kid who used to get picked on in school, and particularly in the later years of grade school, I was in a stage where the less time I spent with my classmates, the better!

Seriously, going home for lunch during school hours was the absolute best!  I could sit and eat my lunch in the living room on a TV tray while I watched whatever cartoon was on during that time (usually it was "The Flintstones", "The Pink Panther", or even reruns of sitcoms like "Three's Company" or "ALF"!) 

And, while most of the kids who stayed at school had to settle for apples, milk, and soggy peanut butter sandwiches (which have since been banned in my school district due to allergy concerns), I used to have hot lunches, whether it be stew, grilled cheese, or my personal favourite, fish sticks and steak cut french fries.  Might not have been the most healthiest lunch, but I didn't really care too much about nutritional value as a kid.

Let's face it.  Most kids don't, really.  At least, none of the kids I went to school with didn't.

Oh, and every second Thursday, my mom would plan a special lunch (as Thursday was pay day in our household).  It would either be an A&W cheeseburger combo (hold the onions, please!) or a poutine from the mini restaurant around the corner (which has unfortunately shut its doors since).

By the way, for those of you who are not sure what a poutine is, it's a plate of french fries covered in gravy and cheese curd.  Some of you may call this a disgusting combination.  I call it best lunch ever!

Now, of course, there were some instances in which I did stay for lunch.  Mostly it was on special days, where they served pizza in the classroom.  For moments like that, we stayed in and ate the pizza at our desks.  But when I was a kid, I played a couple of lunch time sports (mostly broomball and volleyball - the only two sports I knew how to play), and I had to brown bag it with a sandwich, drink, and candy bar.

TRIVIA:  You know my candy bar of choice back when I was a kid?  Cadbury Rum and Butter!  Now sadly defunct in Canada...and possibly worldwide.  My heart still breaks over that fact.

Well, actually, I didn't brown bag it.  I Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lunch boxed it.  And, this was the actual lunch box that I used between 1989 and 1993!

Isn't it so cool?  I wish I still had it.

Of course, my elementary school had its own little milk bar that was located inside of the French classroom on the second floor.  All the kids from grades one to eight would line up with their hands filled with pocket change to purchase drinks and snacks.  There was regular milk, chocolate milk, and lemonade for fifty cents each. 

(Of course, those were the 1990s prices.  Now, they'd be something like four dollars.)

Though, admittedly, I did sneak up there to pay for some lemonade.  I don't know what it was, but I liked the lemonade from the milk cartons...just because of the fact that it was pulp-free.  I hated lemonade with pulp.

Of course, those were elementary school lunch periods.  I can tell you exactly the number of times I stayed at school for lunch when I was in high school.

Seriously, living next door to my high school was a blessing and a curse.  A curse because I lived next door to the place that made me miserable for five years...but a blessing because I didn't have to spend my whole day there.  I did get that break at lunch time, and I really loved the fact that I had the opportunity to get away from the school for fifty-five minutes each school day so I could de-stress. 

(Yeah, in high school, lunch hours weren't really hours at all.  We got 55 minutes.  No wonder I hated high school.  Though to be fair, I did hear from other kids who went to high school with me that the lunch fare in high school was quite good, and the choices involved tacos, nachos, and hoagies.)

Things began to change when I was in college.  In college, for those of us who lived in residence, we had quite a few options.  Obviously one option was that we could do was cook and prepare our own meals...but since hotplates were banned, and there was one microwave for the seventy people who lived on our floor, it wasn't the most popular option.

But we all got meal plans which allowed us to eat all our meals in the cafeteria area, as well as some cash cards that we could use to eat at many of the fast food/coffee/dessert places scattered all over the campus.  Of course, some kids used up all of their money by November and were essentially screwed the rest of the year.  I did okay, as I made my cash card last until February.  After that though, I was forced to eat at the cafeteria.

Though sometimes that was okay.  Mind you, some of the meat dishes looked kind of sketchy, and there were only so many combinations of rice, fries, and mashed potatoes that you could make.  Mostly I spent my time at the cafeteria at the sandwich bar or salad bar.  However every Sunday they would offer ice cream sundaes which you could top yourself, and on holidays and weekends, they always brought out the best stuff. 

I'm talking steaks, cheeseburgers, and chicken burgers - with real chicken!  Not that processed breaded chicken. 

And they also did some really cool stuff for holiday dinners too.  They made turkey for Thanksgiving, ham for Christmas, and lamb with mint jelly for St. Patrick's Day - which actually made me sick...but hey, one meal out of 250 or so wasn't that bad.

And, one of the greatest things about the student rez cafeteria was the fact that you could sit pretty much anywhere you wanted.  There were two different sides, and one was painted green and the other was painted yellow.  I always sat at the green side.  Who wanted to eat lunch in a cafeteria that was the colour of urine?

And during first year, I always had a group of people who I could eat lunch with constantly.  A group of people who never judged my unhealthy addiction to raspberry juice nor cared that I dipped my dinner roll in a combination of A-1 steak sauce, and soya sauce (usually the two condiments I would use during lunches and dinners).

Hey, don't judge.  It's a delicious combo!

Though, part of me couldn't help but notice how some people would want to sit with their friends, but there wasn't enough room at the table, so they would steal chairs from neighbouring tables and scrunch up together around the same tiny table.  There were even a couple of times in which some people would grab chairs from my table essentially leaving me at a table where nobody else could sit with me.  And, you know, at first it really bothered me.  But the more I think about it, it was quite funny.  It's like sitting on an airplane.  While the group of rude people were all scrunched together having hardly any room to eat properly, I was at my own personal table with all the room in the world to eat.  If they wanted to turn their lunch experience into the coach section on an airplane, they had every right to.  I was fine with the "first class" experience with plenty of leg room.

All in all though, lunch time was a fun time.  What were some of your lunch time memories?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Brenda Walsh - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I think that it has been a very long time since I have done a character spotlight in this blog, and I thought that for the final Friday in March that I should do one.

And you know, I thought that for today's entry, I would choose a character that seemed to divide a whole lot of people, and sparked lots of water cooler chatter during the tumultuous decade known as the 1990s.

Seriously, when it comes to this fictional character, I've seen so much divide on both message board forums and in person-to-person chats about this character that there doesn't seem to be a middle ground.  You either love her or you hate her.  And certainly, based on how she was portrayed on the show, I can see how she could cause such different opinions.

But you know, I would argue that there's a lot more to this girl than any of us really knew.  And, I think that the more that I think about it, the more that I realize that she is probably one of the most well-rounded characters on her show.

Mind you, I would imagine that the tabloids and shows like "Hard Copy" may have coloured your impression of her, given that Shannen Doherty (the actress who played this character) was not exactly the pinnacle of good behaviour back in her heyday.  In fact, it was widely rumoured that the reason she left her show after the fourth season of the series was because her acting out angered show producer Aaron Spelling, and that she was essentially pushed out.

Whatever the case, today's blog topic is all about the character that Shannen played for four years.  Brenda Walsh from "Beverly Hills 90210".  Oh, let's have a look at the "Beverly Hills 90210" intro just for old times sake!

Okay, so some of you might realize that I already did a feature on Brandon and Brenda two years ago...but that was a team effort.  I'm doing another entry on Brenda Walsh because she was arguably the most interesting of the two, and she seemed to have a lot more interesting storylines than Brandon.

Now, for some of you who missed out on the 1990s completely, many of you are probably wondering who Brenda Walsh is.  I keep forgetting that it's been nearly 25 years since 90210 debuted!

(The original.  Not the one with Shenae Grimes.)

Anyway, Brenda Walsh and her twin brother Brandon (played by Jason Priestley) used to live in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota with their parents Jim and Cindy Walsh (James Eckhouse and Carol Potter).  Well, that is until Jim gets a promotion which has the family moving halfway across the country from Minnesota to California.

Specifically the uber-rich area known as Beverly Hills. 

And, certainly the Walsh family struggled with adapting to Beverly Hills society.  Jim did quite well with this, and Brandon eventually found a way to fit in as well, but Cindy and Brenda really struggled with carving out an identity in one of the richest neighbourhoods of America.

I mean, right off the bat during Brenda's first week at West Beverly Hills, she practically kissed the shoes of Kelly Taylor and Donna Martin (Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling) to get into the in-group, completely freaked out over her unfashionable wardrobe, and ended up hooking up with a man not realizing that he had a good 10-15 years on her!  Suffice to say, Brenda's time at West Beverly Hills High School was filled with ups and downs, and by the time she moved to London at the end of season four, she certainly had most viewers divided on whether they liked her or hated her.

As someone who has seen a few episodes in which Brenda appeared on, I'm going to be honest.  I liked her.  And, even though she did some things that make you want to shake your head in disgust, or shake her head to get her to understand why she was acting like a moron...she also had her moments in which she could be a loyal friend - even if sometimes her friends didn't deserve it.

So, to get things out of the way, let's talk about Brenda's flaws.  Or, in other words, the reasons why millions of viewers turned into FOX between 1990 and 1994.

First things first, Brenda was a little bit self-absorbed.

Well, actually, she was VERY self-absorbed.  She also seemed to lack self-esteem as well, as she was always constantly trying to change everything about herself to get Kelly and Donna to like her.  She tried to afford clothes that were out of her price range.  She had a fake ID made so that she could go to exclusive Beverly Hills parties.  And, she even dyed her hair blonde, which ended up being a huge disaster.

You see what I mean?

Brenda was also very rebellious - especially in the middle seasons.  Whereas Brandon was the child who could do no wrong, Brenda seemed to be the child who could do no right.  After all, Brenda was arrested for breaking into a science lab to release animals, she was arrested for shoplifting even though it was her friend who was actually stealing, she was interviewed for a teenage talk show and had her words skewered and edited so much that she nearly lost all of her friends, and on top of all that, she ran away from home to live with her boyfriend, which got her parents so upset that they decided that she needed to be away from her boyfriend at all costs.

Now, granted, maybe sending your daughter to Paris, France as a punishment might seem like an oxymoron to you...but given that Brenda had been steadily acting out since falling in love with Dylan McKay (Luke Perry), you could see how her parents might be concerned.  Little did they know that their act would cause Brenda even more pain than she ever imagined...

...but I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Now, as far as Dylan went, he and Brenda seemed to hit it off immediately.  It didn't matter that Dylan had an estranged relationship with both of his parents and spent most of his childhood living in hotel rooms.  Brenda thought the bad boy was dangerous and she liked it.  Granted, when Dylan throws a potted plant on the ground, it's enough for anybody to run, but by the time Dylan caught up with Brenda and apologized, they locked lips as if their very lives depended on it.  And during the first couple of years of the show, Brenda and Dylan were certainly going steady...and then some!

But when Brenda was sent away to Paris with Donna, things got really complicated.  Apparently Brenda became enchanted by an American tour guide named Rick (played by Dean Cain), but nothing really amounted to their little fling, as Brenda was heavily committed to Dylan.

Unfortunately, Brenda's best frenemy forever, Kelly, grew closer to Dylan that summer, and the two fell head over heels in love with each other...which lead to this memorable confrontation between Kelly, Dylan, and Brenda.

And when Rick happened to relocate to Beverly Hills, and began dating Brenda, things grew even more complicated when they ran into Dylan and Kelly at the same restaurant.

Though all three would eventually come to a truce, things were never quite the same between them.  Brenda would eventually grow closer to Dylan, but she and Kelly had a love/hate relationship.

PERSONAL OPINION:  Honestly, of the few episodes of 90210 that I did see, I guess if I had to join a team, I would probably go "Team Brenda".  Kelly reminded me of all the snotty girls I went to high school with.  Sweet at pie to your face, but would take a meat cleaver to your backside in the blink of an eye.

But, hold on.  Underneath all of that insecurity and rebellion lay a heart of gold.  And, certainly Brenda had moments in which she came out on top.

Do you remember the episode in which West Beverly High hosted a mother/daughter fashion show?  Not only did Brenda agree to let Andrea Zuckerman (Gabrielle Carteris who was practically old enough to be the mother of the show!) join herself and Cindy on the runway, but Brenda was also there for Kelly after her mother stumbled at the fashion show because she snorted cocaine before the show.

Remember when the girls had a slumber party, and that nasty girl was making fun and humiliating the other girls?  Brenda not only stood up for them, but also helped the mean girl when it was discovered that the mean girl was doped up on diet pills.

Remember when Brenda joined a teen line?  Her ability to listen saved a young woman from being raped!

Brenda may have had a frenemy relationship with Kelly, but Donna was clearly her best friend.  Aside from going with Donna to Paris, she comforted Donna when she found that she had a learning disability, and she comforted her after Donna caught her boyfriend David (Brian Austin Green) cheating on her.

And, Brenda was a real hero when she discovered that the girl she was a senior buddy to was being sexually molested by a relative, and grouped all of her other friends together to expose the truth.

Brenda even helped out at The Peach alter-ego Laverne!

So you see?  Even the most rebellious people can have a soft side.  And, certainly the mixture of sour and sweetness helped Brenda Walsh become one memorable character!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Questioning The Value of a Job Well Done

March 27, 2014

I just want to say something before I continue on with this piece.  I am what you consider to be a mostly perky person.  And, when I say perky, I mean perky.  I try to maintain as much of a positive attitude as possible because it means a lot less stress and a lot more happiness overall. 

(And, hey...if it annoys the hell out of those chronic "Negative Nellies", all the better, right?)

Well, today I'm going to warn you ahead of time.  This piece is probably going to be not quite as positive as most of you are accustomed to.  But that's fine.  It's not very often that I do feel down about certain things that are going on, but I've been doing a lot of thinking about certain things, and I feel as though I sort of have to vent about them.

Now, granted, when I say that I want to vent, it doesn't mean that I am going to be channeling my inner George Carlin and spouting off every single four-letter word that I can think of.  There's definitely nothing to be gained by doing that, even if I really, really want to!  But there are other ways to express my frustration about things.  For instance, I could turn the font a harsh, bright colour, like red for instance.  And, that's exactly what I've done.

Again, I don't usually have feelings like this.  Most days, I'm content with things, and how life is going (whether you choose to believe me or not.)

But today, I find myself questioning something.  Questioning the way that I have lived life so far, and wondering what the answer really is - or even if there is an answer.  All I can do is express my thoughts and hope that by the end of it all, I know where to proceed.

What I am questioning is the value of "honest work".  The reason why I call it honest work as opposed to hard work is because let's face it.  Nobody likes to work hard.  I myself prefer to work smarter instead of working harder, but I also admit that in some circumstances, we don't always get that choice.

But you know, just based on my own experiences, and also bringing up some pop culture examples as well, I'm starting to wonder if making an honest living really is worth it at all. 

When I was in school, I managed to get fairly decent grades.  In eighth grade, I ended up getting nearly straight A's on my report card (the only thing that kept me from getting that perfect report card was that stupid C minus grade that I received in gym class).  But considering that practically everybody was moved ahead to the following grade anyway, would it really have made much of a difference if I graduated elementary school with a D average instead of an A average?  I recall quite a few students in my first grade class being held back by my teacher because she felt that they were underperforming.  But then again, I have very little respect for my first grade teacher because had she had her way, I would have been held back too because of the fact that I walked on my tiptoes instead of flat-footed.

But you know, while I definitely won't single anybody out that I went to school with, I will say that I was absolutely appalled at the number of kids who basically didn't do a lick of homework all year long, who goofed off in class all day long, and who basically coasted through the class and still managed to do just enough work to pass ahead to the next grade, even though they were by no means ready for it at all.  But, who do you blame in this case for that?  Do you blame the students themselves for not taking initiative?  Well, in some cases yes, but in some cases no.  Everyone is different.

Or, would you blame the way that the current school curriculum is with their "no child left behind" policies?  I know some might point out that holding back a child in school would be scarring because you'd be separating him/her from the friends she made, but I don't fit in that category.  Especially if the child purposely does no work to prove that he or she has earned the right to graduate into the next level.  You wouldn't give someone a driver's license if they only answered two of the twenty questions correctly, would you?

At least...I hope not!

I don't know...I just felt that the message that we were getting in school is that you could fail every test, not do any work in group assignments, and goof off in class, and yet you would have no repercussions.  It certainly made the kids in the class who actually turned their homework in on time and did all their assignments (like myself) feel really great about ourselves.  It was as if the schools didn't seem to care about strengthening our weaknesses.  They were more concerned in moving us out of the class as if we were cattle to make way for the next class.  It wasn't exactly the greatest feeling to have, and I suppose that by the time I reached high school, I was feeling a little more than jaded by the whole public education system.

But something I'm finding myself even more jaded by is the amount of people who I encounter who basically get by in the world by doing as little as possible.

Now, before I get into more detail about this, let me just state for the record that I am not entirely against government programs that are designed to assist people who are in need.  As long as the people who are using them are in legitimate need for the programs, and as long as they use them for all the right reasons, and that they understand that these programs are not designed to be a substitute for a career.

But when people take these government programs and abuse them in such a way that they actually make more money than I do working a full-time job (and I really have to be careful and word this in such a way that doesn't make it seem like EVERYBODY does it because I know they don't), but when people do this, it kind of also makes me scratch my head in disbelief and frustration because I have to wonder where society went wrong.

Can I just say after that seeing examples of this in action in various places that I've been, is it any wonder that I have the feeling that maybe I've been doing this all wrong?  I'm having a difficult time making an honest living, and yet some people seem to know all the right steps to take in order to manipulate the system to their advantage.

And, can I just tell you right now that I absolutely HATE having these feelings right now?  As someone who is known for looking at the brighter side of life in most cases, and tries to look for the silver lining in every black cloud, it kind of makes me sad that thoughts like that even run through my head at times.  I wish I didn't have them, but sometimes I can't help but think about it.  I know everyone says that when you do hard work and perform well in certain situations that the rewards will automatically follow.  But I'm really beginning to doubt that.  I don't want to think these thoughts and wish I didn't. 

I mean, a perfect example of this not working in the world of pop culture is the television show "Good Times".  In that show, we had a family who grew up in near poverty in the Chicago projects, and their main goal was to get out of there.  And certainly Florida and James Evans worked their hardest to make it happen and to provide a decent lifestyle for their three children.  In many cases, James would work so many jobs that he sometimes lost track of what he was doing.  Mind you, it wasn't easy for James to get jobs, as he didn't have his high school diploma, but this was during a time in which getting a high school diploma wasn't necessary to land a job.  But, James did everything that he could to put food on the table, and try everything he could to improve his educational standing so he could get better jobs.

But just when he had found the job that could finally get his family out of the projects, he died in a car accident.  And, that was the ultimate tragedy.  Not only did we get to see Florida smash a punch bowl and scream the word "Damn" three times, but it also showed a sad reality that no matter how hard a person works, they may never see that hard work pay off.  Of course, had John Amos not been let go from "Good Times", there very well could have been a happy ending for James Evans.

I don't know what the answer is.  I don't know how I can stop feeling this way.  I honestly don't know if I'm doing it wrong.  But I do know one thing.  I can't change who I am.  And, I can't just suddenly decide to lay down and raise my white flag in surrender.  Like it or not, I am a person who is determined to make it in the world the way that it was intended...through perseverance and dedication.  

Maybe if I do enough of it, somehow it will be enough.  Even though I'm really questioning if it really does have as much value as it did some thirty or forty years ago.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Video Hodge Podge

I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before I had a situation in which I was pressed for time to come up with a decent blog entry for a day, and as it so happens, today was the day.

The good news is that today happens to be Whatever Wednesday.  And, Whatever Wednesday is one of those anything goes kind of days.

Now, technically, I drew the Colonel Mustard card today, which meant that I was supposed to talk about movies, and I kind of do...even though I completely lose track of my train of thought a couple of times.

So, basically what I am trying to say is that the video you see below is who I would be in real life as if I were naked (though take it from me, I AM wearing clothes in the vid.  Nobody needs to see THAT.)

What I mean is that it's not edited.  It's not polished.  I have bad hair.  And, I don't even turn the video equipment off correctly at the end.  It's a true video hodge podge project.

And, hey...I guess if you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March 25, 1947

Hey, guys and gals!  I hope you're prepared for the final Tuesday Timeline of March.  And, boy has March been a cruel month, hasn't it?  Colder than normal temperatures, snow still on the ground.  Makes you wonder if Spring will EVER get here.

Fortunately, I've got a topic selected that will hopefully provide you with a little bit of warmth.  Or at the very least, I hope it will get you moving on your feet enough that you can generate some body heat.

It's the twenty-fifth of March.  Let's see what happened on this date, shall we?

421 - According to legend, the city of Venice, Italy was founded on this date at exactly twelve o'clock

1584 - Sir Walter Raleigh is granted a patent to colonize Virginia

1634 - The first settlers arrive in the area that will later be called the state of Maryland

1655 - Christiaan Huygens discovers Saturn's largest moon - Titan

1807 - The Slave Trade Act abolishes the slave trade in the British Empire

1811 - Percy Bysshe Shelley is expelled from the University of Oxford after he publishes a pamphlet entitled "The Necessity of Atheism"

1911 - The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City kills 146 garment workers

1918 - Sportscaster Howard Cosell (d. 1995) is born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

1931 - The Scottsboro Boys are arrested and charged with rape in Alabama

1938 - Singer/actor Hoyt Axton (d. 1999) is born in Duncan, Oklahoma

1947 - One hundred and eleven people lose their lives following an explosion in an Illinois coal mine, near Centralia

1957 - Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" is confiscated by United States Customs on grounds of obscenity

1958 - Canada's Avro Arrow makes its first flight

1965 - Civil rights activists lead by Martin Luther King Jr. complete a four-day, fifty mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama

1966 - Singer-songwriter Jeff Healey (d. 2008) is born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

1969 - John Lennon and Yoko Ono begin their first "Bed-In for Peace"

1990 - Eighty-seven are killed in the "Happy Land fire" in which an arsonist torches an illegal nightclub in The Bronx, New York

1992 - After spending ten months aboard the Mir space station, cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev returns to Earth

1996 - The export of British beef is banned by the European Union's Veterinarian Committee following several cases of "mad cow disease"

1999 - Famous baseball player Cal Ripken Sr. passes away at the age of 63

2006 - A gunman storms Seattle's Capitol Hill neighbourhood, killing six people before taking his own life

And celebrating a birthday today...we have some famous faces!  Happy birthday to Gloria Steinem, Tom Monaghan, Aretha Franklin, Paul Michael Glaser, Bonnie Bedelia, Maizie Williams (Boney M), Thom Loverro, Susie Bright, James McDaniel, Haywood Nelson, Steve Norman, Brenda Strong, Fred Goss, Marcia Cross, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cathy Dennis, Kari Matchett, Sheryl Swoopes, Lark Voorhies, Melanie Blatt, Natasha Yi, Sean Faris, Danica Patrick, Katharine McPhee, Jason Castro, and Ryan Lewis.

And today's Tuesday Timeline entry is also celebrating a birthday today.  Birthday number 67 to be exact.

Making his date of birth March 25, 1947.

Now, today's Tuesday Timeline subject has been just as influential with the music scene as he is with the fashion scene...particularly in the accessory department.  For four and a half decades, this man has brought forth dozens of albums, and countless singles on the radio, and has delighted fans at his epic concert tours over the years.

He recorded singles for Disney movies, he came out to Barbara Walters nearly twenty years ago, and since then has become a father of two children with his partner of almost a decade, David Furnish.

Sure, in recent years, he has focused less on recording music and apparently brought more attention towards his views on Madonna.  But I suppose that we can give him a pass.  After all, Madonna had just turned ten when this man was recording his first singles!

And today, we wish Reginald Kenneth Dwight a very happy 67th birthday!  Though, most of you probably know him best as Sir Elton John!

Yes, I thought that for today, I would dedicate this blog towards the man who said farewell to the yellow brick road, lit candles in the wind to both Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana, and when it comes to duking it out with other people, prefers to do it on a Saturday night.

But which songs were considered his BEST songs ever?

Granted, the opinions are all subjective.  After all, my favourite Elton John song might be the one that other people hated.  But, in celebration of Elton John's sixty-seven years on this Earth (at least two-thirds of which was spent making music), I've hand-picked ten that I feel tell a great story, be it through my personal experiences with the song, or some random trivia about each song.

I'll start with number ten and progress to my favourite Elton John song.  Did any of my picks make your list?

Date Released:  June 1988

Funny story.  For years, I thought the title of this single was "I Don't Want To Go With A Girl Like That"!  Given that his sexual preference was officially broadcast six years after this single was released, I suppose that title might have fit.  But the reason why I picked this song was because I have memories of listening to this song in some of the weirdest places when I was a child.  Whether it be getting my teeth cleaned at the dentist, or shopping for Oreo cookies at the supermarket, or blaring from someone's car radio as I walked to school, this song was a big part of my childhood...and a big hit for Elton John too.  It reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary Charts in the summer of 1988.

Date Released:  January 1974/September 1997

This was one of the only songs that Elton John released twice, both with different lyrics.  And as it turns out, both versions were recorded for deceased pop culture legends.  The version I posted above is the original one that was released in the early 1970s, and it was written for Marilyn Monroe.  But when Diana, Princess of Wales, died from injuries sustained in a Parisian car crash on the last day of August, 1997, Elton John reworked the song to pay tribute to the woman who he had been friends with for years.  Elton's tribute to "England's Rose" peaked at #1 in several countries, and was declared the biggest-selling single since records began in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2007.

Date Released:  September 2001

Okay, I have another confession to make.  I actually thought Robert Downey Jr. was singing this song before Muchmusic put on the graphic stating that Elton John was the real chanteuse.  Very sneaky work on both of their parts!  At any rate, I love this particular single a lot, and it's definitely earned a spot on my iPod rotation.  And to Robert Downey Jr.'s credit, he lip-synched this song like a pro.  In fact, one could say that this video was the beginning of the absolutely amazing comeback he made in the 2000s as he cleaned up his act and landed the roles of "Sherlock Holmes" and "Iron Man".  The video was brilliant, and the lyrics were such that almost everyone could relate to them.  Might not have been the biggest hit of Elton's career, but it certainly is one of my favourites.

Date Released:  February 1975

It's too bad this single wasn't released just one year later.  It would have made the perfect soundtrack for America's bicentennial on July 4, 1976.  But in actuality, the song pays tribute to tennis ace Billie Jean King and her tennis team...which is kind of weird, since there's really no reference to love scoring, racket smashing, and fluorescent yellow tennis balls in the song at all.  Even Elton John's long-standing songwriting partner Bernie Taupin admitted that he couldn't write a song about tennis!  Still, the song did give Elton John a number one hit on the Billboard charts that April, and was heavily played throughout the next year.

Date Released:  February 1974

If Elton John had his way, this single would never have been released at all!  He didn't think it was powerful enough a single from "Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road" to make an impression on the charts.  Who knew that it would grow to become one of Elton's most requested songs to do in concert?  It all began when a radio station based out of Windsor, Ontario, Canada started playing the single on a constant rotation.  This made nearby Detroit radio stations take note, and it soon became the most requested song in that city.  It prompted other radio stations in America and Canada to add the song to their playlists, and the rest is history.  The song, about a fictional rock band during the glitzy 1970s, eventually peaked at #1 in April 1974.

Date Released:  July 1983

Can I just state right now that this song may as well be my theme song?  The song (which topped the charts in Canada and Switzerland) is all about self-esteem and rising above all of the stuff that one might go through during life.  Believe me when I say that I went through a lot when I was younger.  Heck, life isn't a cakewalk now!  What is interesting is the trivia that surrounds this song.  Apparently one full day of footage was lost after director Russell Mulcahy accidentally fell into the sea holding a very expensive video camera!  A guest who stumbled upon the video shoot was Duran Duran's Simon LeBon who shared martinis with Elton.  And you see that one dancer in that black Speedo like outfit with the studs on it?  You might recognize him as "Dancing With The Stars" judge, Bruno Tonioli!

4.  DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART - duet with Kiki Dee
Date Released:  June 1976

Now, I will state that while it was very rare for Elton John to do duets (he sang with both George Michael and Eminem in his past), this duet with Kiki Dee remains one of his best.  It certainly symbolizes the carefree love songs that dominated the charts in the mid-1970s, and it did become a huge hit.  But Kiki Dee wasn't the only one who sang this song with Elton.  I seem to remember watching a Disney special in which Elton sang the song with Minnie Mouse.  Funny how memories are evoked, huh?  And, of course, Elton John sang an updated version of the single in the 1990s with RuPaul.

Date Released:  October 1970

Many consider this classic to be the song that kicked off Elton John's brilliant career, and in many ways it was.  It certainly wasn't Elton's first single release, but it certainly was his very first Top 10 hit (it peaked at #8 on the charts in early 1971).  And it remains universally loved by many artists and songwriters.  Of course, the reason I have this song at #3 is because there are two songs that have more meaning to me.  But interestingly enough, this single was actually a B-side, and it was only played because disc jockeys liked the song a lot better than the A-side (Take Me To The Pilot)!

Date Released:  October 1972

Okay, so "Crocodile Rock" might not be the most memorable song to all of you reading this...but to me, it was the song that first introduced me to Elton John's musical talents.  For some reason, I recall this song being played a lot on the AM Radio station my mom liked to listen to, and the child in me loved the fact that there was a song about a crocodile (an animal that I was sort of obsessed with back then).  I suppose in some ways, this song could very well be a true testament to Elton John's own childhood, as a lot of the references to the song deal with some of the things that he enjoyed when he was a child.  And, certainly children could enjoy this song as well.  It was re-recorded by Elton and Nelly Furtado for the film "Gnomeo and Juliet".

Date Released:  May 1994

Maybe it's because I loved Disney's "The Lion King".  Maybe it's because it won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.  Maybe it's because I cried when I first heard this song (and for someone who had just turned thirteen when this single was climbing up the charts, that's a big admission).  Whatever the case, this song is my all-time favourite Elton John song.  I absolutely love it very much.  Actually, the whole soundtrack from the film was wonderful (I would have put "Circle of Life" in my Top 15).  Interestingly, the backing vocals were done by other established musical acts/celebrities such as his former duet partner, Kiki Dee, Gary "Take That" Barlow, Rick "Never Gonna Give You Up" Astley, and even Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund!!!

Yeah, just picture that for a moment.  Freddy Krueger singing "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" with Elton John!  Yeah.

So, that's my list of personal Elton John favourite songs.  What are yours?

Oh, and happy birthday, Elton!