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Monday, June 30, 2014

Closing the Book on Yesterday(Land)

I'm still trying to get used to the fact that MOTIVATION MONDAYS are completely different now that the chat show that I was a part of is now on hiatus.  But, I've always been the kind of person to roll with the punches, and I've faced down dozens of challenges before and come out the other side.

Well, I've decided that for this edition of MOTIVATION MONDAY, I'm going to motivate all of you to do something.  And this is based on an event that I had to deal with recently, and unfortunately is something that I still have to put up with years later.

My advice to everybody reading this blog entry for today is simple. 
Don't let hatred and grudges destroy your life.  You can choose not to like someone.  You can choose to cut toxic people out of your life, even.  But eventually most people move on from that and go on with their lives to achieve greatness.  I'll be the first one to admit that I had difficulty moving on from some of the nastiness that I had to endure when I was younger, but I'm well on my way to becoming a better person.

And do you want to know why?  Because I don't hold grudges.  I don't let hate take over my life.  And, I think I'm better for it.

That being said, I'm absolutely amazed by the number of people who continue to hold grudges and abuse people some one, five, even ten years after something happened.  And up until the last few days, I didn't have an answer as to why grown adults would choose to hold onto feuds and grudges for so long.

I now have my answer.  And, I'll share that revelation a little bit later on in this piece.  But, in the meantime, I'm sure you want to know exactly what happened that inspired this entry.  In order to set up the story, we ironically enough have to go back in time thirteen years ago to the summer of 2001.

I even remember the exact date it all began, my memory is that good.  Saturday, July 28, 2001.  



That was the day that I joined an Internet community called "Yesterdayland" under the screenname of jugheadjones12 (The screenname is my favourite comic character as well as the age I was when I dressed as him for Halloween).  It was a website that was dedicated to childhood memories and focused on toys, television, fashion trends, movies, music, and arcade games of the past.  In fact, I have to tell you that this website was a huge influence in my decision to make this particular blog pop culture themed. 

But that really wasn't the only influence that the site had on me.

I joined Yesterdayland during a very vulnerable time in my life.  The spring and summer of 2001 was a rough time.  My grandfather died of a stroke, I missed getting back into my program in university by a tenth of a percentage point, and all of the friends that I had made during that year of university had all gone their separate ways, and I had lost contact with all of them.  So, when I say that I was feeling a little bit alone and unsure of what I was going to do, I meant it.  I just needed somewhere where I could talk to people.  I needed a place where I could be myself.  I needed a distraction.




Yesterdayland was that distraction.

I joined that summer, and immediately made a lot of connections (many of which I still have some thirteen years later).  I know some people look at Internet forums as being nothing special, and many see them as being incredibly outdated with dozens of social networking options available.  But for me (and I'm sure many people from Yesterdayland can vouch for this), it was a real bonding experience.  Many of us became friends both on and offline.  There were Christmas card exchanges.  We had Secret Cupid games going on.  Some members even fell in love with each other, got married, and started families.  For many of us, we held Yesterdayland in such high regard that when the site imploded almost two years after I joined, it was a really sad experience.  The place where all of us had bonded was no more, and we were all left wondering what was next.

And, unfortunately, right around the time that Yesterdayland folded was the time in which some of us saw the true colours of some of the members on the site...and they weren't pretty.

You've likely seen the words "troll" or "flamer" posted on Internet message boards.  It's a term used for people who knowingly go onto online communities to manipulate people into turning on other users, or who post controversial links or images that are designed to cause a riot, or who plainly insult other posters in plain sight while hiding behind a keyboard.  Most of the trolls are pretty harmless and can easily be ignored...but weeks before Yesterdayland went offline, the trolls had taken over the boards, and many people decided to create "refugee" boards, so to speak, to get away from the disaster.  I and several other people found ourselves as members of a group called "Memory Lane", and for a few weeks, it was nice.  It wasn't as fancy as Yesterdayland was, but it was enough. 



At least that was the case until some people decided to confess on "Memory Lane" that they purposely decided to become trolls in an effort to show the owners of Yesterdayland exactly what they thought of them.  And that angered a lot of people, including myself.  Granted, the owners of Yesterdayland basically abandoned the site in the last few months of its life, but why would they have thought that posing as trolls to stick it to them was an appropriate solution?  I had been personally attacked by some of those troll names, so it really felt like a betrayal of sorts.  And, I'm sure that I'm not the only one who felt that way.

Long story short, those people either were kicked off of "Memory Lane", or left on their own accord, and started up a third site (complicated to follow along with, huh).  And their site was much more private, blocking everybody out who wasn't a part of their group - which was fine by me, as after their little moment of confession, I really didn't want anything to do with them anyway.  By that time, the Yesterdayland crew had gotten things together and started up a brand new site dedicated to pop culture.



Enter Retroland - a site that was founded in 2005.  I became a member in December of that year, and it was amazing just how much it was like Yesterdayland.  I thought that for one brief, shining moment that we could recreate the Yesterdayland site with Retroland and have everything go back to the way it was.

Of course, a lot of feelings had been hurt in between those two years, and some of those feelings were still raw.  And before we knew it, the people from "Memory Lane" were clashing with the people who had started up the secret third site, causing all sorts of tension and stress on the boards.  By then, I was tired of seeing people insulting each other and using passive-aggressive behaviour to try and make others feel inferior or outcast.  And, anyone who knows me knows that I can't stand passive-aggressive behaviour. 

Perhaps that's what made me decide to take on a job as moderator of Retroland, which was simultaneously the dumbest, but smartest move I ever made.  I loved the site, and I wanted to be a part of it in some manner, and when given the opportunity, I took it thinking that it would be a great experience.

And, there were definite pros to the gig.  It helped me deal with conflict resolution a lot better, and it helped me become a better judge of character (and to see exactly when people were telling me the truth, or lying to my face.  Trust me, it's a handy skill to have in life). 

However, the minute I became a moderator, the majority of people from the group that deserted "Memory Lane" seemed to make it their personal mission to make my job incredibly difficult.  They hurled insults at me, used passive-aggressive behaviour to poke fun at myself, my friends, and my family, and they did everything in their power to test my patience.  It never worked though.  As much as it killed me to not hit ignore on all of them (as a moderator, you have to watch every single comment, no matter how much they hurt), I did the job to the best of my ability.  And, I kept my cool during the whole process.  I only ever remember losing my temper with one member, and even so, it was kept off the boards, and I didn't even get that upset.  I believed in moderating behind the scenes, because the last thing I wanted was to add fuel to the flamers...so to speak.



But after a year of moderating Retroland, I resigned from the position.  But it wasn't because of the group who kept attacking me on the site.  I wouldn't give them the satisfaction - and besides, they weren't much of a threat anyway.  I resigned because once again the owners of the site abandoned ship, and didn't give me the tools necessary to do my job as a moderator.  And if you don't have the ability to delete obnoxious posts or shut down accounts of people who knowingly cause trouble, then there really was no point in sticking around.  And shortly after I left Retroland, the site was revamped, and the message board community was permanently disabled.  It was a sad thing to see, but at the same time, I understood why it was necessary.



So, here we are.  Six years after I resigned as Retroland moderator.  Since that time, I've started up a blog, done a few charity events, am working a full-time job, and I've moved on from the whole experience.  The friends that I made from Yesterdayland, "Memory Lane", and Retroland are still friends today, and believe me when I say that they know who they are, and I love them for being who they are.  You guys will always have my friendship, and I will always have your back, no matter what.  And no matter where life takes us, we will always be a true Yesterdayland family, just as my co-workers are my workplace family, and so on and so forth.

Now here's where the epilogue comes into play.  Unfortunately with the cases of some of my friends from Yesterdayland/Retroland, I can't choose who they are friends with.  Some of my friends are pals with some of the people who caused so much tension and hostility on "Yesterdayland", "Memory Lane", and "Retroland", and that's cool.  I'm sure that I'm friends with some people that some of my friends don't like.  All you do is avoid that person.  Case closed.

Well, imagine my surprise when I responded to a post that a friend posted on her own wall on Facebook, and underneath my response, someone had posted a reply that passive-aggressively attacked me and my blog.  Although she didn't mention me by name, I recognized the name as being one of the people who purposely caused trouble on the site, and was one of the group that isolated themselves from "Memory Lane" all those years ago.  There she was, attacking me...years after my moderating gig on Retroland.  And, would you like to know something?  I honestly don't even remember doing anything to her at all.  If I did, I completely forgot about it because the experience that I had on those sites were in the past and I had moved on from it.  Therefore, I found it a little bit sad that she obviously still held a grudge and didn't even have the courage to explain why.

In short, she is a coward.  In fact, that's all that her group was.  A cowardly group of grown adults who attack and put down people to make themselves feel better.

And, I decided to record a video message to these people to close the book once and for all.  Even though I've blocked most of them on social media and they won't be able to see it here...I'm convinced that they're going to find a way to see it anyway.  Because unlike them, I have no problem telling it like it is.


So, here they are.  My final thoughts.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Foolish Beat? Hardly...

One thing that I have been amazed by is seeing young people do extraordinary things and do things that most adults wish they could do.

In the world today, it is probably tougher than ever to be a kid.  Not only do they have the struggle to find yourself in the world while dealing with peers, parents, teachers, and figures of authority, but they also have to deal with things that I never had to face when I was a child.  When I was a kid, there were no cell phones or Internet, kids stayed outside all day to play unsupervised, and we did things that would be considered extremely unsafe by today's standards.

Believe it or not, there was a time in which drinking out of a garden hose was not even considered to be a bad thing.  I did it each and every summer, and I'd like to think that I turned out just fine.

But there comes a point in which you have to make a decision.  I think it's great that people want to keep kids safe, and they certainly do deserve to have places to play and learn that are as safe as possible.  But at the same time, I don't think that we need to have helicopter parents who oversee every single thing that a child does, or that we feel the need to control the schedule of a child, or cover their entire play area in gigantic sheets of bubblewrap either. 



And you want to know why that is?  Because I feel that the more we try to wrap kids inside of a cocoon like atmosphere, the more we stifle their creativity and the less well-rounded they become.  I think that's why I get so angry whenever parents don't do enough to save arts programs from getting cut.  But I think I get even more angry with parents who outright discourage their children from pursuing careers in art, music, filmmaking, or drama because of their belief that they know what is best for their children, and that belief doesn't include expressing their creative side.  And you might think that I don't know what I'm talking about, but I've heard so many stories of kids being discouraged to express themselves through art and writing that it makes me very sad.  I don't even want to begin to imagine a world without artists, writers, actors, painters, choreographers, and calligraphers.  I'm not saying that we need to get rid of doctors, lawyers, bank tellers, accountants, judges, and dentists.  We definitely need those as well.  I'm just saying that parents should let their children express themselves the best way they know how, and let them find out what interests them.

Just take a look at some of the kids from "MasterChef Juniors".  These are kids that were between the ages of 8-14 cooking dishes that the average person never even heard of, let alone tasted.  And yet, all of these children had one thing in common.  They had parents or guardians in their lives who really supported them in their creative goals, and the end result was a group of talented young chefs who could cook circles around some of their adult counterparts.

(I know they could certainly cook circles around me.  I can't even make microwave popcorn without burning it.)

Of course, I suppose you're wondering where I'm going with this train of thought.  The point I'm trying to make is that if one has the right support system that will support and encourage them, they can achieve greatness at any age.

Such as the case of today's
Sunday Jukebox spotlight.

We're going to meet a girl who started off being a performer at an early age.  She was five years old when she began performing with her sisters and cousin at a community theatre group in Merrick, New York - a suburban community located on Long Island.  It was also right around this time that she wrote her very first song!  That's right!  She wrote her very first song at the age of five.

Well, okay...so maybe the song "Make Sure You Know Your Classroom" wouldn't crack the Billboard Hot 100.  However, she'd eventually achieve her dream of having a #1 hit single.  And when she did make that dream come true, she would become a Guinness World Record holder...a record that has remained unbroken since 1988.



This was the song that helped give Debbie Gibson her first #1 hit...a song which topped the charts twenty-six years ago this week.



ARTIST:  Debbie Gibson
SONG:  Foolish Beat
ALBUM:  Out of the Blue
DATE RELEASED:  February 11, 1988
PEAK POSITION ON THE BILLBOARD CHARTS:  #1 for 1 week

These days, she goes by the name Deborah, but back in the late 1980s, she went by Debbie, the girl who made teen pop cool long before Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, or Ariana Grande even sang their first notes.  And I'm old enough to remember when Debbie Gibson was just one of several teen girls who tried their hand at singing.  I even seem to remember the constant comparisons between Debbie Gibson and "I Think We're Alone Now" singer Tiffany.

Now, not to take away from Tiffany's success, but I always seemed to prefer Debbie Gibson.  She had a pleasant voice, her songs were mostly happy songs, and at the very least she wrote and recorded almost every song she sang - unlike Tiffany whose two biggest hits were cover versions of singles from the 1960s.



Debbie's debut album was entitled "Out of the Blue", which was released on August 18, 1987 - approximately two weeks shy of Debbie's 17th birthday (Debbie's date of birth is August 31, 1970 - just in case you were wondering.)  And, it was certainly an album that did better than expected.  Of the ten tracks that were on the album, five were released as singles.  "Foolish Beat" was the only single from the album that hit #1 on the Billboard Charts, but the other four singles did quite well.  "Only In My Dreams" reached #4, as did "Shake Your Love".  The title track became a #3 hit for Gibson, while "Staying Together" stalled at #22.  But still, having four of your singles reach the Top 5 had to have been a fantastic career start.

Of course, "Foolish Beat" - the fourth single released from the album - was the biggest hit of the album.  And while it only stayed at the top of the charts for one week, the song about a relationship coming to an end and the heartbreak following afterward helped Debbie become the youngest female to write, produce, and perform a #1 single on the Billboard Charts.  When "Foolish Beat" hit #1 on June 25, 1988, Debbie was just two months shy of her 18th birthday.  It's a record that remains unbroken.



Yeah, just picture it.  A sixteen going on seventeen year old girl writing every single song that appeared on a ten-song album, and having four of those five singles hit the Top 5, of which one became a #1 hit before she was even allowed to legally vote in an election.  That's absolutely brilliant.  I couldn't even put together a science project at age sixteen, let alone a whole album.  That takes talent, passion, and dedication.



Of course, Debbie would go on to record more albums after her breakout hit.  Her 1989 album "Electric Youth" performed even better than her debut, and spawned another #1 hit with "Lost in Your Eyes", but her follow-up albums didn't quite match the success of her previous work.  Though, I admit that I do like some of Gibson's later work.  I'll post one of her songs from her 1993 album "Body, Mind, Soul" that I love, just to show you just how she matured as an artist since the early days when she was a squeaky clean pop starlet.



If anything, it'll provide mood music for the next part of this blog entry.  After all, I think that she had a lot of natural talent to put together a whole album, and I thought that her singing voice was (and still is) quite nice.  But I can't help but think that the reason why she was so creative was because she had a brilliant support system at home cheering her on throughout her entire journey.

Remember how I said that people could achieve greatness at any age if they had the right support system in their lives?  Well, luckily Debbie had the support of her entire family.  Her own mother tagged along with her while she performed at dance clubs all over the New York City area while at the same time making sure that Debbie continued her studies at high school (where she graduated with honours).  She also took on the role of Debbie's manager, making sure that Debbie got to all of her scheduled performances, and ensuring that she stayed grounded during the ride of her whole career, no matter what happened.  I think those family ties certainly helped keep Debbie on the straight and narrow, and as she transitioned from teen pop queen Debbie to the more mature and sultry Deborah Gibson, she did so seamlessly.

Oh, sure there was that time she did pose for Playboy Magazine...but it was in 2005 when Deborah was 35 years old.  By that time, I would hope that she knew what she was doing.  In fact, she did the shoot right around the time that she was promoting a single called "Naked", so I'd call that a great marketing opportunity.

The truth is that while Deborah Gibson isn't quite as well known on the charts as she used to be, she's done very well for herself.  She starred on Broadway, she appeared on a season of Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice", and she still records music today.



I guess it's true what they say.  Dreams can come true at any age.  The trick is that once the dream comes true you have to have both the maturity as well as the support system necessary to keep that dream alive without backtracking or derailing.  Fortunately, I think Deborah Gibson succeeded.  And as of right now, she still has a Guinness World Record.  A record that she achieved twenty-six years ago this week.

I really admire people who pursue their dreams and goals.  And if they can do it at an early age, awesome.  But even if they have to wait until they turn sixty-five or older, it's still considered a success story in my book.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bend It Like Beckham



So, how many of you are watching the FIFA World Cup this year?  Anybody?

Well, okay.  I admit that I haven't been.  I can't say that I've ever gotten into the whole idea of watching soccer on television, hoping that Portugal, England, and the United States can defeat Uruguay, Venezuela, and Ireland in a fierce game of "football".  But to be fair, I am an equal opportunity sports snob as I don't keep track of baseball, basketball, football, golf, and NASCAR either.  I may watch the occasional hockey game.  That's it though.

That said, I'm amazed at how big the game of soccer really has gotten.  I knew that in the United Kingdom, people responded to the finals of a soccer tournament the same way that Americans celebrate the Super Bowl, but it's now beginning to make its way into North America with hundreds of thousands of people being bitten by the soccer bug.

I wonder if the sudden interest in soccer in America might have anything to do with this guy down below.



I'm sure most of you know this guy by heart.  This is David Beckham.  For over two decades, he played professional soccer (retiring in 2013).  He's also the husband of former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, the father of four children, and part-time underwear model.  But, I only added that last part in because the ladies who might be reading this will only remind me later on that I forgot that detail.



Anyway, I would say quite a few Americans began to develop a sudden interest in soccer when David Beckham signed on to become a player of the Los Angeles Galaxy team in July 2007.  He played on the team for just five years, but his skills, charisma, and general passion for the game of soccer certainly grabbed people's attention.

And certainly, soccer is filled with a lot of excitement - a lot more excitement than I thought initially with soccer players getting suspended for biting people on the field, and Ann Coulter making claims that soccer is destroying America.

(I would argue that Ann Coulter is doing more to destroy her own country, but that's another can of worms that for now will remain closed.)

Anyway, why am I talking about soccer in this blog?  And, why did I bring up David Beckham in this blog?  Well, today's Saturday Night at the Movies feature combines soccer, David Beckham, and a young girl who wants nothing more than to become the next big soccer star, even though she comes from a family which believes that female soccer players are about as taboo as pornography, prostitution, or illegal drugs.


But, she can't help herself.  She just wants to bend it like Beckham.



Say...that's the name of the movie that we're going to be looking at.  "Bend It Like Beckham"! 

This film is unique in that it had not one, but two premiere dates.  The movie was first released in the United Kingdom on April 12, 2002.  It makes perfect sense, given how much of a cultural phenomenon soccer is in the UK.  The United States release date came a full sixteen months later in August 2003.

The film itself could easily be considered the breakout performance of some of television's biggest stars as well.  In the lead role, you have Parminder Nagra, who has since found success on "ER" and "The Blacklist".  You also have Archie Punjabi, who has been a cast member of "The Good Wife" since it debuted five years ago. 

The movie also featured some stars who would go on to become big stars in the film industry as well.  You'd be hard pressed to find any projects that Keira Knightly filmed before "Bend It Like Beckham", but since that film, she's become a huge part of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, as well as starring in "Love Actually", "Domino", and "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World".

Jonathan Rhys Meyers has also done quite well for himself, portraying Elvis Presley in a television miniseries and appearing in "Mission Impossible III" and "The Mortal Instruments:  City of Bones".  So, you see...this film was a huge stepping stone for a bit of a mini British invasion of sorts in Hollywood. 

Now onto the main plot of the film, which I briefly talked about in some earlier paragraphs.



At age eighteen, Jesminder Bhamra (Nagra) is looking forward to life as a young woman.  Jess is obsessed with soccer, having developed a love of the sport from an early age.  All she wants to do is have the opportunity to play the game on her own terms whenever she likes.  However, there is a bit of a problem that Jess has to overcome first.

Actually, there's two problems.  Her very strict, very conservative Punjabi Sikh parents.  They have their own belief system on how they should raise their children.  And unfortunately for Jess, one of their beliefs is that women should not be allowed to play professional sports.  Especially soccer.

Who knew that soccer would be treated with such taboo that Jess is essentially forbidden to play the game at all just because she happens to have been born female? 

Of course, Jess is eighteen years old when the film begins.  And, at eighteen, people start to make some really huge life choices. 

Jess' choice at eighteen was to rebel against her parents and her upbringing, and go ahead and play soccer in secret.  Hey, at least she's engaging in a positive activity and not choosing to go down the same path as "wasted child star holding up a Kwik-E-Mart".  I say rebel away!

As it turns out, Jess has been kind of rebelling against her parents for a while now, playing soccer with a group of guys in the park that she met through a friend of the group who happens to be a closeted homosexual.

(NOTE:  This is a recurring theme in the film - people who are afraid of being true to themselves for fear of getting bullied, or disappointing loved ones.)



Anyway, while she's playing soccer in the park, she happens to catch the eye of a woman named Juliette "Jules" Paxton (Knightley).  And Jules just happens to be one of the members of an all-girl soccer team, "The Hounslow Harriers".  Jules convinces her coach Joe (Rhys Meyers) to give her an audition to see if she has the skills to join the team.  Sure enough, all those practice sessions in the park paid off and Jess immediately makes the team, becoming best friends with Jules in the process.

Of course, if the movie ended like this, it would be about as exciting as watching paint dry.  There has to be some minor conflict in the film or else it wouldn't be worth watching.  And without spoiling too much about the film, I'll reveal that you can expect to see a whole lot of misunderstandings, Jess' parents to eventually find out what their daughter has been doing behind their backs, and what being a part of an all-girl soccer team is really like.  Trust me, I wasn't a huge soccer fan before I watched "Bend It Like Beckham", but I enjoyed this movie a lot.  I think if you give it a shot, you'll like it too.

Well, how about some behind the scenes trivia, eh?

1 - This film was supposed to have some scenes in it where Jess and Jules reportedly share some scenes in which they explore their feelings for each other, but that angle was dropped because of the controversy surrounding it.



2 - David Beckham's wife, Victoria, contributes the song "I Wish" to this film's official soundtrack.

3 - This was the very first Western film to screen in North Korea.

4 - Parminder Nagra played the role of eighteen year old Jess in the film.  Her actual age at the time of filming?  Twenty-six.

5 - There is actually a ten year age difference between Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley even though they are supposed to play characters of the same age.

6 - Parminder Nagra was concerned that a scar that she had on her leg would prevent her from getting the role of Jess.  To her surprise, the scar was written into the screenplay, as well as the story of how she got it.

7 - When the film was released in the United States in 2003, David Beckham was still virtually unknown in America, and marketing executives for 20th Century Fox suggested renaming the film "Move It Like Mia" (after American soccer player Mia Hamm).  The decision to keep the film's title the same was made after director Gurinder Chadha objected to the title change.

8 - Jess wears the #7 jersey in the film - the same as her idol, David Beckham.  Jules wears #9 - the same as Mia Hamm.



9 - Former Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm (a.k.a. Sporty Spice) rewrote the lyrics to her song "Independence Day" just so that the song could be used in the film.

10 - Parminder Nagra became the first female to win the FIFA International Football Personality of the Year award in 2002, beating out Ronaldo and Luis Figo.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Try These Dressings On For Size (and Flavour)!

Hey, everybody!  I do apologize for this edition of the FOODIE FRIDAY blog being so short.  This has just been one of those weeks in which everything has gone topsy-turvy for whatever reason. 


But, I promised you all a recipe, and a recipe is what you will get!  And in the spirit of it being summer, and not a lot of people liking to cook in superheated kitchens due to the heat and humidity outside, I thought I'd make this post salad themed.

Specifically salad dressing themed.  In one of my mother's retro themed cookbooks (I photocopied some of the pages), I have some recipes for homemade salad dressings that are sure to add a little bit of kick to your salads.

Enjoy!

FAVOURITE CHEESE DRESSING

4 tbsps. salad oil
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 tbsps. vinegar
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup grated Canadian (or American) cheese

Mix ingredients in the order given; shake thoroughly.  Serve with green salads.

BACON DRESSING

Dice about 2 ounces of bacon and fry to a golden brown.  While fat is hot add 1/3 as much vinegar as there is fat in the pan.  Season with black pepper, salt, and a little sugar.  Pour on green salads or potato salad while the dressing is warm.

And, for those of you who like fruit salads, here's an orange dressing that is just perfect for you.

ORANGE DRESSING FOR FRUIT SALADS

1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Sugar to taste
Juice of 1 orange
Whipped cream

Cook together egg, butter, a dash of sugar and fruit juices.  Stir until it thickens.  When cool, taste, and if necessary, add more sugar.  Fold in 1/2 whipped cream, but do not take away the tart flavour.


(Recipes courtesy of "Guide to Good Cooking with Five Roses Flour, 1962")

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Did Heather Locklear Save Melrose Place?

For this edition of Tube Talk Thursday, I thought it would be fun to keep up with the soap opera theme, given that yesterday I rambled on about the train wreck that was the 41st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards.  At least with this entry you can be assured that I've done my homework, checked the facts, and made sure that the information holds up.

And in this edition, we're going to be looking at a prime time soap opera that aired for seven seasons that was almost pulled off the air after a few episodes.  But when FOX took a gamble, and hired someone who had previous experience on nighttime soap operas to play a key role in the program, it breathed new life into the show.  By the time the show's second season debuted, the show became one of the biggest pop culture obsessions of the 1990s.  Many people attribute this jump in popularity to this starlet joining the show midway through the first season.  Some might even say that she saved the show from the axe. 

The question that we're going to ask ourselves is...did she really have that much impact on the show, or were there other factors behind it?

Regardless, as someone who admittedly used to watch this show in his teenage years (consider it my embarrassing guilty pleasure, if you will), I'm going to have some fun with this one.

First of all, let's discuss the show.



Have any of you heard of the program called "Melrose Place"?  I'm not talking about the 2009 remake of the show (we'll talk a little about that show at the end of this blog).  I mean the show that debuted during the summer of 1992 with this kick-ass theme song.  Seriously, it's probably one of the most memorable theme songs of the 1990s.  Have a listen to it.  We'll talk later.



Anyway, the original cast of the 1992 version of "Melrose Place" consisted of eight young urban residents of Los Angeles, each seeking their own dreams and goals.  They all lived together at 4616 Melrose Place, a classic Spanish style apartment complex with a pool in the courtyard and eight apartments conveniently located around said pool. 



The original cast members were (clockwise starting at top left) - Josie Bissett (Jane), Thomas Calabro (Michael), Andrew Shue (Billy), Courtney Thorne-Smith (Alison), Amy Locane (Sandy), Grant Show (Jake), Doug Savant (Matt), and Vanessa A. Williams (Rhonda).

The creator of the show was Darren Star, and when "Melrose Place" first debuted, it was meant to be a spin-off of another show that Star created, "Beverly Hills 90210".  Jake made an appearance in the final two episodes of the show's second season where he began an affair with Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth), and Jake and Kelly's relationship carried over into "Melrose Place", where Jake and Kelly found that they just weren't that into each other, paving the way for Kelly to go back to her own show to map out her plan to steal Dylan away from Brenda.

But once Kelly went back to Beverly Hills, "Melrose Place" sort of hit a brick wall at first.  The shows were more episodic than anything, and almost always had a nice little conclusion with a nice pretty bow on top.  It would have been great had "Melrose Place" been a sitcom, but as a prime time drama, it was tanking.  Producers did attempt to shake up the cast a little bit by hiring Daphne Zuniga (Jo) to join the cast after Amy Locane left the series, but the show still struggled to find an audience.  Still, Darren Star was not willing to give up on his show without a fight.  He just needed to find the right character.  Someone who could shake things up in the seemingly perfect apartment complex.  Someone who could cause a lot of drama between people.  Someone who wasn't afraid to get whatever she wanted no matter who she tossed to the wolves in the process.



That's when Heather Locklear joined the cast of "Melrose Place".

Heather certainly was no stranger to prime time television.  She did after all star in two television drama series at the same time.



(Those two shows were "T.J. Hooker" and "Dynasty", just in case you were wondering.)

So, Heather Locklear certainly had experience.  But could she step into the miniskirts and high heeled shoes that her character had to wear in almost every single scene? 

You bet she could!

Heather took on the role of the sultry, sexy, and powerful Amanda Woodward.  Amanda was an up and coming advertising executive for D&D Advertising, and when she was first introduced on "Melrose Place", she became Alison's boss, and the two formed a near instantaneous friendship.  However, one thing you need to know about Amanda Woodward is that she almost always puts business first, and friendship towards the bottom of her priorities list.  So if you were hoping for a kumbaya moment between Alison and Amanda, you'd be mistaken.



Truth be told, the friendship between Amanda and Alison was almost doomed from the start after Amanda set her sights on Alison's roommate Billy - whom Alison had developed personal feelings towards.  But after Billy decided to make a go of a relationship with Amanda, Alison moved on with a man she had previously had an affair with.  Needless to say, Amanda's self-centered attitude drove Billy away, and Alison was having second thoughts about staying in her relationship, and the two decided to try and start up a relationship themselves.  It made sense.  After all, they did live together as platonic roommates for almost a whole year.  But with Billy's decision to stay with Alison, it caused Amanda's malicious side to come out in a huge way.

She purposely goaded Alison by insulting her work, forcing her to stay after hours to complete her assignments, and purposely berated her at every chance she got.  Amanda even ended up getting pregnant by Billy while they were together, but lost the baby after suffering a miscarriage.

But just when Alison and Billy believed that they were free from interference from Amanda, Amanda proved that she had the last laugh when she announced that she had a big surprise.  With help from her father, Amanda purchased 4616 Melrose Place, and that she would become the new landlady of the property effective immediately. 



Amanda Woodward was there to stay.  And beginning with season two, Heather Locklear was added to the opening credits with a "Special Guest Star" billing - a billing that would last until the end of the series in May 1999.

So, what sorts of mischief did Amanda get herself into over the next six years?  Well, rather than write out entire paragraphs, here's a bullet point list, complete with some video clips and links whenever necessary.

- She helped Jane find a powerful divorce attorney to take Michael to the cleaners.
- Accidentally burned down Jake's motorcycle shop.
- Successfully stole Jake away from Jo.
- Turns on Jake after Jake records a conversation that Jake had with Amanda's father where he admitted to embezzlement.
- Sleeps with Billy after Billy temporarily calls off his relationship with Alison, and when Billy tells Amanda that he wants to stay with Alison, Amanda removes Alison from a huge advertising account.
- Supported Jo in her trial when Jo killed her boyfriend in self-defense (hey, Amanda did have her nice moments!)
- Has a deep seeded hatred for her mother, Hilary Michaels (Linda Gray), and takes her frustrations out on the models who work for Hilary's modelling agency.



(NOTE:  The Hilary/Amanda storyline kicks off the short-lived series "Models Inc.", which ran from 1994-1995 on FOX.)



- Makes Alison's life a living hell at D&D.
- Has to deal with the fact that her father's crimes would later get him killed.
- Launches a coup d'etat of D&D by using Dr. Peter Burns (Jack Wagner) and a team of doctors to purchase the entire building.  Amanda fires the president of D&D Advertising, and the next day, he hangs himself in Amanda's office.
- Is diagnosed with cancer midway through season three.
- Is double-crossed by Peter when he slips Amanda medication laced with marijuana, causing her to be let go from D&D.
- Is again double-crossed by Alison, who submits her own entry for an advertising contest (and wins), and promptly takes over Amanda's job as president.



- Is nearly blown to smithereens when Kimberly Shaw (Marcia Cross) blows up the entire building in an effort to destroy her enemies.



- Brooke discovers that Amanda faked her death in Miami, Florida and uses this information to blackmail her.
- Amanda's ex-husband Jack (Antonio Sabato Jr.) comes to Los Angeles and tries to kill Amanda, but Amanda overtakes him and pulls the plug on his ventilator.
- Amanda then gets involved with Jack's brother, Bobby (John Enos III), but the relationship doesn't last.
- Amanda begins using Billy to further her career, which causes Alison to quit D&D once and for all.
- After Peter is arrested for murder, Amanda marries him to keep from testifying against him, only for Amanda to learn that Peter has changed his name because he was accused of killing his first wife.
- When Craig Field (David Charvet) is successful in getting Amanda ousted from D&D Advertising, Amanda starts up her own agency, which essentially puts Craig out of business.
- Amanda is kidnapped and put through a harrowing ordeal where she almost died.
- Amanda has been hiding a secret herself - she was responsible for the death of the ex-boyfriend of her best friend, Eve Cleary (Rena Sofer) by pushing him off the bleachers of their high school to his death.  Eve took the blame and served twenty years in prison while Amanda got to live her life.



- When Peter dumped Eve for Amanda, Eve went crazy and tried to kill both Amanda and Peter on a couple of occasions. 

Wow...what a life, huh?  No wonder the show was considered a soap opera!  Some of the plotlines were so unbelievable, but yet "Melrose Place" seemed to make them work despite the occasional inaccuracy or inconsistency.

Of course, those people who watched the show during the entire seven season run know what happened at the end.  An explosion took place, and everybody assumed that Amanda and Peter were killed in the blast.  What really happened was that with help from Michael (whom Peter and Amanda paid a million dollars to keep their identity a secret), Peter and Amanda faked their deaths and they lived on a secluded island together happily ever after...



...well, that is until ten years later when The CW's reboot of "Melrose Place" started airing, and Amanda Woodward returned to 4616 Melrose Place - without Peter.  I never watched the reboot, so I don't know what the reason behind the break-up was.  But I do know that like the previous season of "Melrose Place", Heather Locklear was brought onto the show to once again save it from cancellation.  Unfortunately, despite good reviews for Heather's performance, and despite the fact that fans responded positively to her addition, the second series of "Melrose Place" was cancelled in May 2010.

So, I suppose this leads to the final question of the day.  Did Heather Locklear save "Melrose Place" from cancellation the first time?

My argument is that she was one key element in keeping the show on the air.  She certainly did create a character that was unlike any other character on television at that time, and she is considered to be one of the more popular characters on the show.

But I would argue that she is just one part.  Other things that I think saved the show were...

- The introduction of Sydney (Laura Leighton).  Without going into too much detail, Sydney was probably even more complex than Amanda.  At times you hated her, but at other times, you rooted for her.
- Kimberly's descent into madness.  Let's face it.  When Kimberly was the other woman in Jane and Michael's marriage disaster, she was kind of boring.  After the car crash which caused her to have brain surgery, she became a lot more evil (and fun as a result of it).
- The move from Wednesday nights to Monday nights.  Monday was considered to be a slow night in prime time television, and FOX's decision to move the show to Monday nights was a great move.  Mind you, the show sometimes competed with Monday Night Football, but the show purposely aired boring shows during this period so that they could show the most explosive storylines during February and May Sweeps.  Smart move.
- The decision to have storylines lasting several episodes instead of just one.  This was probably what kept people watching.  I would argue that the only other show that had more brilliant cliffhangers was "Dallas".

So, my final thoughts are...yes, Heather Locklear did breathe new life into a stale show...but she was just one part of that recipe. 

Regardless, it was a fun ride over seven years.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Commentary on Professionalism

Today's "WHO AM I WEDNESDAY" feature will focus on a subject that I truly do feel strongly about.  It's also the glue that will be holding this particular blog entry together.

That subject is professionalism. 

I'm certainly one who absolutely believes in the idea of putting your best self forward, and I would hope that a lot of people the same way that I do about presenting themselves in the best way possible.  None of us are perfect, and I'm sure we've all had moments of embarrassment that we all want to wipe clean from our memories (I myself have at least six dozen that I would love to forget), but for the most part, I do believe in maintaining professionalism in just about everything that I do.

Take this blog for example.  I made it a personal choice to make this blog one that resembles a tabloid piece.  I never use any swear words in this blog, unless they're part of a quotation (and even so, I'll blur the words out with symbols).  I also don't use this blog as a way to personally slander or humiliate anybody, or single them out.  If there is an instance in which I do, I never reveal their names, or I change them.  That way, nobody knows who the subject it (and it probably saves me from becoming the subject of a lawsuit in the process).  This blog is my "baby", and the absolute best reflection of me and my thoughts.  Why would I sully this blog by acting out on it in an unprofessional manner? 

That's why I do my best to make sure that the spelling and grammar of the blog is at perfection or near-perfection every entry.  That's why I do extensive fact checking to make sure that my information is one hundred per cent accurate.  That's why if I'm writing something that I'm not sure of the validity, I make sure that I point out that what I am writing may not be the absolute truth.  I want to represent myself in a positive light.  Even though this blogging venture is just a hobby right now, I still want it to be as professional looking as possible.  After all, you never know if I could use this blog as a reference point for something bigger.  It's always a possibility, I suppose.

I also try to maintain a professional attitude at my workplace as well (which admittedly can be a little bit more challenging).  After all, when you work at a workplace, you're being a representative of a company.  And no matter how big or how small a company is, I'm sure that the company would want their employees demonstrate a courteous and professional experience at all times.  After all, there are television shows such as "Undercover Boss" that send out owners and chief executive officers of corporations undercover to make sure that the employees are putting the best of themselves into the business.  It's just proof positive that you really have to make sure that you're presenting yourself well because you never know who might be seeing you in action.

I guess the major point that I want to illustrate in this blog is that professionalism is a very good thing.  When you go to a job interview, do your research on the company you're applying for so that you can be well prepared.  When you go out on a first date, take a little bit of extra effort in dressing to impress and keeping your ego at the door.  After all, the main reason for a first date is seeing if you have the chemistry for another, right?  Even the way you introduce yourself to a person can have a more of an impact in the impression that you give them than you might think.

So, I suppose that you're all wondering where I am going with this train of thought about professionalism.  I'm getting to that.  In fact, I've prepared a little bit of "video commentary" that explains that train of thought about a particular train wreck of an event that took place three nights ago. 


I've had a few discussions in this blog about television award shows.  I've discussed the Primetime Emmy Awards, the Grammy Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards, and even the Golden Raspberry Awards.  But I don't think I've ever covered the Daytime Emmy Awards.  Today I'll be doing exactly that.



First, a brief history of the awards show.  The very first one was held on May 21, 1974 in New York City with Barbara Walters and Peter Marshall as hosts.  The awards broadcast was created after John Beradino (who portrayed the role of Steve Hardy on "General Hospital" from 1963 until his death in 1996) lobbied to have actors and actresses in daytime soap operas recognized for the hard work that they put into each episode of the soaps that they filmed.  After all, with over two hundred original episodes being made a year, soap opera actors and actresses are probably some of the hardest working people in the entertainment industry.  It was long overdue that they get a chance to earn accolades for their talents.

And certainly over the forty-one year history of the awards show, many actors, actresses, talk show hosts, game show hosts, and children's entertainers have been rewarded for their talents, and some have been honoured more than others.  Susan Lucci (All My Children) won her first (and only) Daytime Emmy Award after nineteen tries, while Erika Slezak (One Life To Live) seemingly won one award every three years!  But in the height of the daytime era, the awards show would air on different networks (my understanding is that the three main networks of ABC, NBC, and CBS alternated every three years, but I'm not sure), and the show was just as glamourous and elegant as the Primetime show.

Well, times have definitely changed.  And some are wondering if that's a good thing.

These days, the daytime industry is a lot different.  Fifteen years ago, there were ten different soap operas on the air.  Today there are only four.  Chat shows, cooking shows, and game shows seem to be the hottest thing on daytime television, and some networks have even taken to broadcasting informercials or syndicated programming to fill in the empty blocks vacated by cancelled soap operas.  So, over the last few years, network television has decided not to host or finance the awards show, leaving organizers of the event to try something new.  Over the last couple of years, the ceremony had been hosted on the CW Network, or HLN.  But for the 2014 awards, the lack of finding a network to host the event meant that the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) had to get creative when it came to broadcasting the show.



Eventually, the decision was made to have the awards show air online only.  The entire ceremony would air live commercial free with no restrictions on acceptance speeches, and with ample time to show whole clips from the reels that nominated actors and actresses would submit as part of their reel submissions.  The ceremony would be hosted by "Suddenly Susan" and "My Life on the D-List" star Kathy Griffin, and the red carpet coverage would be handled by four social media personalities.  On paper, it sounded like a brilliant idea.



The execution was a complete embarrassment to not only viewers, but the entire daytime industry as a whole.

Before I voice my opinion in video, have a look at these clips from the show itself.



And now my thoughts.  And I must warn you...although I do try to be as professional as possible in this video, there are some instances in which I can't really help myself.  You have been warned.  But what can I say?  It's the professional thing to do. 



WINNERS OF THE 2014 DAYTIME EMMY AWARDS

Outstanding Drama Series:  THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS
Outstanding New Approaches Drama Series:  VENICE THE SERIES
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series:  EILEEN DAVIDSON (Days of our Lives)
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series:  BILLY MILLER (The Young and the Restless)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series:  AMELIA HEINLE (The Young and the Restless)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series:  ERIC MARTSOLF (Days of our Lives)
Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series:  HUNTER HALEY KING (The Young and the Restless)
Outstanding Younger Actor in a Drama Series:  CHANDLER MASSEY (Days of our Lives)
Outstanding Game Show:  JEOPARDY!
Outstanding Game Show Host:  STEVE HARVEY (Family Feud)
Outstanding Talk Show (Entertainment):  THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW
Outstanding Talk Show (Informative):  STEVE HARVEY
Outstanding Talk Show Hosts:  DR. MEHMET OZ/KATIE COURIC (tie)
Outstanding Morning Program:  GOOD MORNING AMERICA
Outstanding Courtroom/Legal Program:  THE PEOPLE'S COURT