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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Religious Freedom =/= The Right To Be A Jerk

I'm going to begin this entry by talking about an event that I remember from my childhood.  And yes, it's somewhat linked to the topic that I have chosen for today.

Do any of you that are around my age remember when McDonald's had birthday parties?  I know I certainly do.  After all, I had a party there when I was seven years old.

I'm not entirely sure why I wanted a McDonald's birthday when I was seven.  Perhaps it was because back in 1988, McDonald's food was still edible.  Or maybe it had to do with the fact that a couple of my classmates had McDonald's parties, and I decided that I wanted one too.  Either way, I spent my birthday with Ronald McDonald and six of my classmates. 

And I have to say for the most part, the party went off without a hitch.  We played on the Playland slides and equipment, we gorged on ice cream and french fries, and we even took a tour of the McDonald's kitchen to see how everything worked.  Granted, we were all seven at the time and we all thought it was the coolest thing ever.  Flash forward almost thirty years, and I'm thinking that anyone who ever worked at McDonald's should deserve a medal for putting up with what they put up with!

There was however, one tiny problem.

You see, the week that my party was booked was the same week that the men's washroom decided to malfunction.  I don't exactly know what happened, but it was deemed unusable that whole week.

What did this mean?  Well, for that one week, McDonald's was forced to turn the women's washroom into a unisex washroom.  This meant that certain stalls were reserved for men, and certain stalls were reserved for women.  I imagine it must have been an inconvenience for a lot of people, but I do understand McDonald's decision to do this.  The only alternative would have been to have closed the restaurant down while repairs were made, and that wouldn't have been a good option financially.

(Not to mention that my party would have been cancelled.)

Here's the kicker though.  Sure, it was a setback.  But nobody really complained about it.  At least, not back in 1988 they didn't.  When people have to go, they have to go, right?  I imagine the women weren't very happy to share a public bathroom with men, but at the same time, the stalls were all closed in.  Nobody could see anything that they didn't want to see.  And I imagine that for some of my friends at the party, they were just excited to see what the inside of a women's bathroom looked like!

But again, I reiterate the point that nobody complained.  We just dealt with the situation as best as we could.  I don't think anyone had any long-term effects from the week that McDonald's had a unisex bathroom.

So, I don't quite understand why people are in an uproar over Target making an announcement that anybody could use any bathroom that they so desired. 

Well, okay...let me clarify. 

When it comes down to it, most of us know what gender we are.  I know I'm male, so I will use the men's washroom - or if all the stalls are full, I'll use a designated "family washroom" in an emergency.  And yes, family washrooms do exist.  There's one at the store I work at.  Sometimes, that washroom has been a godsend.

But what happens if a person is confused about what gender they feel they are?  Or if a person decides to undergo gender reassignment surgery to become the gender that they feel that they should have been born as?  It's certainly a question that many people have wondered.

Some may say that transgender or questioning people should use the washroom as the gender that they were born as (which I don't believe is fair) and some feel that they should use the washroom as the gender they currently are (which I completely support).  And some just think that transgender people should have a bathroom of their own (which would be pointing out more attention to them which I don't really agree with).

Whatever the case, I just want to say that I really don't understand why there is such anger about it.

Some people claim that the idea to open up bathrooms to all genders is just asking for trouble.  My response to that is...why?  I mean, think about it.  Most people who go the bathroom aren't doing so to pick up a date.  They have to do things in there that really aren't appropriate to discuss inside of this blog!  I really couldn't care less if the guy in the stall next to me is really a male or not because I'm kind of doing my own thing, if you know what I mean! 

Besides, if I had someone staring at me trying to deduce whether I'm really male, I would think that would be more of a problem!

Some make the argument that it invites pedophiles into the opposite sex's bathrooms so that they can continue their deviant behaviour - and yes, certainly that is a legitimate concern.  But where did it say that all transgender people are pedophiles?  The vast majority of them are not!  And to be honest with you, I think anybody who does feel that way is a person that I most certainly do NOT want to know.

When it comes down to it, I think that transgender people have gotten enough abuse, and it needs to stop.  I get so angry when I see anybody get rights taken away from them because people do not understand their lifestyles or their cultures.  And, I especially get ticked off by people who claim to love their God and use that to justify being jerks towards people who don't fit into what they believe to be "normal".

Here's what's abnormal.  People who use religion as an excuse to hate people and to abuse their power to satisfy their own logic.  I think that's why I and many other people are outraged that states like North Carolina, Mississippi, and Tennessee are passing laws that deliberately deny people who identify as being a part of the LGBTQ community basic human rights.  To me, it's no different than it was back in the 1950s when skin colour dictated what water fountain a person drank from.

I thought we were supposed to improve on what history taught us, not go back in time and celebrate the worst of it.

To me, religious freedom means that a person has the right to practice whatever religion they feel best fits them, whether it be Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, etc.  It's even cool if you don't follow any sort of religion, as I certainly don't.  Religious freedom does NOT mean that you have the right to take away other people's rights because they clash with your own.  It doesn't mean that you have the right to bully other people who appear different from you because it's what the Bible tells you.  It doesn't mean that you have the right to kill someone else because they go against everything you stand for.  That's not religious freedom at all.  That's hate.

I think that the people of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi who do NOT have this much hate need to band together and get these politicians out of office.

Because this is an issue that goes beyond bathrooms...this is an issue of human dignity.  And believe me, no matter what gender you identify as, we all deserve that dignity.

After wasn't a problem in 1988.  I just provided proof of that.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Jem Reviewed: Episode 6 - Starbright: Falling Star

Before I begin this edition of "Jem Reviewed", I'll state that when I first began this blog and did a general entry on Jem and the Holograms, I actually watched episodes as a result, I probably know those episodes the best of all 65.  The good thing is that I can be more detailed...and more snarky in the process!

Last week, we watched Jem and the Holograms win a movie contract, control of Starlight Music, and ownership of Starlight Mansion.  Today we get to see how the movie is made in Episode 6:  Starbright - Falling Star.

So, as the narrator recaps the first five episodes of the series, we learn that six months has passed since the Battle of the Bands.  And appropriately for Jem Trivia this week, the same holds true for the airing schedule!  The last part of the Battle of the Bands series aired January 12, 1986.  This episode originally aired July 3, 1986.  Almost exactly six months!  Freaky!

And, admiring the continuity Christy Marx has shown, Jerrica's looking a little more polished and her hair has gotten longer.  It's a subtle change, but a noticeable one.  Also, the animation quality has gotten better as well.

But as far as Jerrica goes, she remains the same.  A total control freak at the party announcing the movie, and ordering her foster girls to be her slaves.  Some girl named Becky is ordered to get more cups, to which I wonder what the party guests are drinking out of - cereal bowls?

Anyway, Countess Danielle DuVoisin has been looking for Jem, and so Jerrica does her whole "Showtime, Synergy" spiel, changes to her cotton candy haired alter ego, and meets Danielle and the rest of the Holograms in a bedroom.  Apparently, Danielle has been hard at work on a brand new line of Jem fashions - which is good since her last collection was ruined by the Misfits - and she wanted Jem to try on her latest creation.

That latest creation just happens to be a fancy pink evening gown that would make Susan Lucci jealous.  And, Rio's already salivating at the mouth seeing Jem in that dress.  I'm guessing he'd probably like to see her out of that dress too, but since this is a cartoon and not Japanese anime, I don't see that happening.

But before Rio can pounce on Jem, Mrs. Bailey, the lovable housekeeper of Starlight Mansion approaches and wants to get Jerrica to come to the living room for a moment.  Just like that, Jem turns back into Jerrica lickety-split and takes off with Mrs. Bailey leaving Rio standing there as if he has just taken part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Mrs. Bailey takes Jerrica into the room where we meet another one of the Starlight Girls, a little Vietnamese girl named Ba Nee.  And fair warning, like Ashley, you'll see Ba Nee a lot.  Notice how Ba Nee is sitting extremely close to the television set?  Apparently this has been going on for some time, and Mrs. Bailey is concerned that Ba Nee may have a serious problem.  Nice to know that SOMEONE is looking out for the girls.  At least Jerrica tells her that she'll make an appointment with Ba Nee's eye doctor.

Once again, someone interrupts.  This time it's Anthony Julien, who wants to introduce Jem to someone.  Sheesh, can't Jem/Jerrica be ONE person for more than five minutes?

Once back into Jem mode, Anthony introduces her to videographer Vivien Montgomery - but she'd rather be called by her nickname of Video.  Because, you know, she makes videos.  At least she isn't called Porn Star.  As it so happens, Video is a fan of the band, and she is going to join the film crew of the Jem movie!  So, I'm guessing that we'll be seeing a lot of Video over the next three episodes.

Once more, Jerrica is being hunted down by Lela, and this proves to be a bit too much for Jem/Jerrica to take.  She walks through one of the walls of the mansion where Synergy's room is, and wants to make sure that Synergy isn't getting worn out to the point where she short circuits, explodes, and burns down their home again.  Synergy tells Jerrica not to worry, as the man who designed her - Jerrica's father - has prevented her from doing that.  However, as you'll see in future episodes, Synergy does have her weaknesses.

Anyway, once Jem changes back into Jerrica, Lela announces that they are out of ice.  THAT'S the emergency?  Sheesh, Lela...just go back to guarding the Honor Jar!  Jerrica sends Becky to get more ice, to which I would hope that Becky responds that her name ain't Britney bitch, and she's no slaaaaaaave for her.  But then I realize that this show was 15 years before 2001, so never mind.

Rio takes Jerrica aside, and tells her that he loves her, but Jerrica calls Rio out on the fact that he likes Jem too, and Rio makes the mistake of comparing Jerrica to an old pair of shoes.  Or, maybe Jerrica does that herself.  Who cares, it's time for a song.

You know what else I've noticed about episode 6?  The songs are more polished, more mature, and more sultry.  Seriously, I don't know how they got the line "is he making love to a fantasy" into the song, but kudos to them!  At any rate, I do like "Who Is He Kissing".

But I'm sure the Misfits don't.  In fact, Pizzazz is staring at the party through a pair of binoculars along with Roxy and Stormer.  Interesting fact #1...they seem to be staring at them from a mansion that is larger than Starlight Mansion.  Interesting fact appears that the mansion belongs to Pizzazz's father!  Who knew that Pizzazz was a rich spoiled brat?  I NEVER would have guessed!

You might be surprised to know that Pizzazz doesn't care that much about the wealth and money.  Instead, she wants to be famous and she wants to be noticed.  Perhaps this could explain why she is the way she is...we'll see.

Whatever the case, Pizzazz is absolutely upset that Jem and the Holograms won the movie contract because now they'll get all the attention.  So she does what she does best...get her father, Harvey Gabor, to buy the very studio that is making the Jem film.  Oh, this can't be good.

Sure enough, when Jem and the Holograms arrive at the movie studios, the man with no cojones himself, Howard Sands explains that someone else bought the studio, and has taken control of all the productions inside.

And you can only imagine the shock of Jem and the others when Eric Raymond and the Misfits are standing there.  And the news is grim.  With Harvey Gabor owning the movie studio, Eric announces that the only way that he will let the Jem movie continue is if the Misfits become cast members.  Naturally the other Holograms are upset at this, and naturally, Howard Sands comes up with a solution for the girls to quit the movie...

...but Jem announces that she's not going to be bullied by Eric Raymond, and declares that the show will go on no matter what!  If only she would have taken her foot and kicked Howard Sands in the face, that would have been even better!

So Jem, Kimber, Shana, and Aja arrive on set for their first day of shooting where they immediately walk in on an argument between Eric Raymond and Anthony Julien.  Jem makes a funny comment about how Eric is not a morning person and leaves them be.

Now, you might think that because Jem and the Holograms are sharing a movie set with the Misfits that things may be a little tense...and well, you'd be right.  The Misfits barge ahead of them in line for the make-up chairs, and this causes Aja to lose her cool.  I swear, if you let Aja at them, she'd rip off Pizzazz's hair extensions!

Inside the make-up area, Pizzazz is telling make-up artist Georgia about how much she hates Jem and proceeds to trash talk her.  Not very professional, Pizzazz.  Back outside, Kimber remarks that if the make-up artists go near Jem's face, they may disrupt Synergy's hologram which would be a catastrophe!

Jem comes up with some quick thinking and tells Georgia that she has brought her own make-up kit and she can put on her face herself - but Georgia is left thinking that Pizzazz was right about Jem being snobbish, and treats her very coldly.  I wonder if this little plot development will have any hand in the way the finale plays out.

We also find out that the leading man of the movie is a guy by the name of Nick Mann, who sort of resembles a young Val Kilmer or Mickey Rourke before his face was completely destroyed.  And as it turns out, Kimber and Pizzazz both have a major crush on Nick.  But when Pizzazz goes all diva like and orders a chair, Kimber nearly gets knocked out. 

Fortunately for Kimber, she is saved from injury by Nick's stunt double, a man named Jeff Wright whose hair is darker than Nick's.  Nick also happens to be smitten by Kimber.  Maybe it's the scarlet hair.  But Kimber rebuffs Jeff to try and get Nick's attention - only to be humiliated when Nick decides that he wants Jem instead.  Gee, I hope this doesn't make Kimber drive off in a huff again.

Outside the studios, a woman with pink and blue hair pulls up and announces that she is Montgomery and is here to pick up her studio pass. 

Less than a minute later, Video pulls up and asks for the same pass - and comes to a horrible conclusion that Clash is on the set.  But just who is Clash?

Oh, I see.  Clash is that pink and blue haired woman.  And the reason she's called Clash is because she has wrist bracelets that look like cymbals that cause a clashing sound when banged together.  She also happens to be Video's cousin.  And she is a HUGE fan of the Misfits.  Oh, great...another person out to sabotage the movie. 

Video tries to warn Jem and the others that Clash is on the movie set, but before she can explain what she looks like, Clash bursts in on the Holograms and smashes her cymbal bracelets so loud that Jem and Aja are visibly shaken.  This causes Anthony Julien to lose it and tell Clash to leave the set immediately.  This in turn causes Eric Raymond to tell Anthony that Clash and the Misfits are staying as per the rules of the amended contract. 

Anthony decides that he's done with the movie and quits as the director!  I'm sure that Shana will likely come over to his place for a little lovin'...ahem...tender care later.  For now, Eric announces that he will direct the film himself, which sends fear trembling through the hearts of the cast and crew.

But all Rio can feel is jealousy.  With Jem doing romantic scenes with Nick, you can see Rio's eyes turning as green as Pizzazz's hair.  And as Jem and Nick are filming their scene, a Jem and the Holograms song plays.

I must say...the ending of the video with Rio punching Nick in the jaw says a lot about both characters.  It tells us that Nick is a bit of a sleaze...but it also tells us that Rio has anger management issues.  And Eric nearly fires Rio on the spot!

Of course, Pizzazz - who is still in love with Rio despite also being in love with Nick - orders Eric to keep Rio on the payroll - making sure that Rio promises to be nice to Pizzazz right in front of Jem!  Now who's jealous?

I should also note that Mrs. Bailey has announced that Ba Nee's eye appointment is on the Saturday coming up.  It seems so random right now, but as we've learned in the Jem series, nothing is EVER random.

Whatever the case, a huge press conference has descended onto the movie studios, and Lindsey Pearce (who looks so much different from two episodes ago) is at the head of the media circus.  Lindsey interviews Eric and seems legitimately shocked and scared that Eric has taken over directing duties of the Jem movie.  And when Lindsey interviews Jem and Nick Mann about the movie, Nick takes the time to plant a huge kiss on Jem's lips...prompting Aja to make a smartass comment about Nick being shy.  

Yep, Aja's slowly becoming my favourite Hologram! 

Kimber becomes extremely jealous and starts to storm away, but Eric catches up with her.  He makes Kimber a promise that he will write in a scene for Kimber with Nick in the movie, and once again plays on Kimber's insecurities about trying to compete with Jerrica.  Once again, quintessential Eric Raymond strikes again.

The kicker seems to be when Pizzazz and Roxy hijack the press conference by revealing a giant banner that reads "THE MISFITS IN STARBRIGHT" with Jem and the Holograms in tiny lettering underneath.  Wow, that's low.  And, certainly Pizzazz taking great joy in humiliating the Holograms isn't sitting right with them.  This is turning out to be a war.

Howard Sands seems to also be at war with Harvey Gabor, with Harvey claiming that the Misfits are destroying the Jem movie and that Harvey needs to step in and reign in his daughter.  But for some reason, Harvey won't listen to reason.  Gee, I wonder where Pizzazz gets part of her personality from.

The final straw comes when Jem and the Holograms arrive on set to film a scene, but are shocked to see the Misfits performing their own song instead.  But to the Misfits credit, the song is an awesome one!

I mean, seriously.  Find one thing wrong with "Universal Appeal".  One.  I can't.  It's like the perfect Misfits song with one kick-ass video.  I told you the video production has gotten better in episode six!

Well, obviously Jem doesn't share any universal appeal towards Pizzazz and after a back and forth game of "let's attack the stars with stars", Pizzazz gets knocked to the ground and stares at Jem as if she wants to stab her right in the jugular.  But Jem decides that she's had enough of Eric and the Misfits and she, Aja, and Shana storm off the set announcing that they quit the film!  Eric tries to convince Kimber to stay, and Kimber hesitates for a bit - but in the end, she decides that no scene with Nick Mann is worth taking the abuse of the Misfits, and she quits too.

And while Georgia the make-up artist is like "sayonara, bitches", Video follows the band out and announces that she's quit the project too, saying that Eric isn't getting any of her footage.  It's actually kind of nice the way that Jem and the others make Video an honourary Hologram.  It makes me realize that yes, Jem and the Holograms can be genuinely nice.

Of course, the Misfits and Clash celebrate the fact that Jem and the Holograms have walked away, and Roxy spray paints over Jem's name.  So, that's that.  Jem's movie career is over before it even began.  What else could go wrong?

Well, a lot.  At Ba Nee's eye appointment, the doctor reveals to Jerrica that Ba Nee has a degenerative eye disease that she inherited from her parents, and the doctor gives Jerrica the grave news that in a matter of weeks, Ba Nee could lose her eyesight forever.

Cue the TO BE CONTINUED and Jerrica's shocked face - which has greatly improved since episode 1.

Tune in next week where we continue the Starbright saga.  Can anything be done to save Ba Nee's sight?  Will Jem rejoin the film?  And which two Holograms find themselves in major danger?  You'll have to wait until May 6th to find out!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

We're Gonna Party Like It's 2011!

Hey, everyone!

By now, I'm sure that you've noticed that this blog is looking slightly different.

I've changed the font of the main body - which I believe looks fantastic, and I've also changed the font of the titles...which is exactly the same font that I used for this blog when I debuted it five years ago.

This is not merely a is planned.

I won't have much time to do much more than that for now, but I just wanted to drop a line and state that for the fifth anniversary of this blog in May 2016, I'm going to be planning a month long celebration in which we're going to party like it's 2011!

Seriously.  With the exception of the Tuesday Timeline posts and the Jem Reviewed series, every single post that I will make this month (and yes, I'll be making one post each day in the month of May) will have something to do with the year 2011 - the year this party began!

So, download Angry Birds onto your iPhone 4S, challenge your pals to a game of Words With Friends, and post your planking videos onto YouTube because this coming month, everything five years old becomes new once more!

You're seeing a taste of what to expect...on May 1, I reveal the blog's new look...or, should I say...OLD look?

You'll just have to wait to find out...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April 26, 1986

It's time for the final Tuesday Timeline in April, and I have to say that coming up in the next week, I'll be starting a celebration for the fifth anniversary of this blog.  I can't reveal too much about what I will be doing right now, but it will legitimately be a throwback to the past - right down to the look of this blog itself!  Stay tuned for more.  I'll make the changes the end of April.

For now, it's the 26th of April, and we've got quite a bit to talk about.  But as always we'll talk about the historical events of the day that didn't quite warrant a full discussion.

1564 - William Shakespeare is baptized in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England

1721 - Tabriz, Iran is completely destroyed by an earthquake

1777 - Sixteen-year-old Sibyl Ludington rides 40 miles to warn American colonial forces of the approach of the British

1803 - Thousands of meteor shards fall from the skies over France, convincing European scientists that meteors exist

1865 - John Wilkes Booth is shot and killed by Union cavalry troopers

1923 - The Duke of York and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon get married at Westminister Abbey

1933 - The Gestapo is established in Nazi Germany

1943 - The Easter Riots commence in Uppsala, Sweden

1954 - The Geneva Conference begins

1962 - NASA's Ranger 4 crashes into the face of the Moon

1965 - Rioting causes a Rolling Stones concert in Toronto to be shut down after just fifteen minutes!

1981 - Dr. Michael R. Harrison becomes the first doctor to perform a human open fetal surgery in the world

1989 - Comedy legend Lucille Ball dies at the age of 77

1991 - "General Hospital" actress Emily McLaughlin passes away, aged 62

1994 - China Airlines Flight 140 crashes at a Japanese airport - only seven passengers survive

1999 - British journalist Jill Dando is gunned down outside of her home in London - Dando was just thirty-seven at the time of her death

2013 - Country legend George Jones passes away at the age of 81

2015 - Actress Jayne Meadows dies at the age of 95

And birthday wishes go out to the following famous faces - I.M. Pei, Mac Martin, Carol Burnett, Duane Eddy, Giorgio Moroder, Claudine Clark, Bobby Rydell, Gary Wright, Nancy Lenahan, Koo Stark, Giancarlo Esposito, John Corabi, Roger Taylor, Joan Chen, Michael Damian, Debra Wilson, Jet Li, Susannah Harker, Kevin James, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Curtis Jones, Kate Hardie, Melania Trump, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, Jay DeMarcus, Geoff Blum, Ivana Milicevic, Tom Welling, Avant, Stana KaticJason Earles, Tyler Labine, Jordana Brewster, Channing Tatum, Marnette Patterson, Jon Lee, and Jessica Lynch.

Certainly a long list of celebrity birthdays, huh?

Okay, so I've kept you waiting long enough.  Let's take this Tuesday Timeline back in time to the year that Peter Gabriel released "Sledgehammer", Sigourney Weaver battled aliens once more, and a quartet of "Designing Women" spread their Southern charm to CBS viewers.

We're going back thirty years to April 26, 1986.  And for several people in the vicinity of the Soviet Union at that time, it is a date that they will never forget as long as they live.

You see, on this date was an event that was so shocking and so devastating that it killed hundreds of people, displaced thousands more, rendered an entire portion of the world uninhabitable, and put fear into the hearts of many people who questioned the safety of using nuclear power.

Can you believe that it has been thirty years since the Chernobyl Disaster?  I can hardly believe it myself.  I mean, I was just a few weeks shy of my fifth birthday, so I wasn't able to process just how devastating this was.  The only clue as to how it might have gone down may have been similar to a music video released by the band Ultravox in 1984.

Okay, so the Chernobyl reactor didn't completely melt down.  But something happened within the walls of the power plant, located within the city of Pripyat which at the time was part of the Soviet Union - it is now considered a part of the Ukraine since the Soviet Union folded in 1991.

The events of Saturday, April 26, 1986 began quite normally.  A systems test had been scheduled for that morning just after one o'clock at the power plant's #4 reactor and it was slated to be just like all of the others that had been performed since the power plant became operational in 1977.  There was one incident that occurred in September 1982 when a partial core meltdown occurred in Reactor #1, but the reactor was fixed and fully operational by 1983.  However, only those who worked at the plant that day knew what had happened, as the 1982 incident was never made public until years later.  I can only imagine that had more people known, perhaps the incident in April 1986 might never have happened.

When the test was set to begin, everything in Reactor #4 was business as usual - at least, that is until something unexpected happened.  Too much electrical power was being used and that energy caused a massive power surge.  Recognizing the dangers of a power surge, engineers at the power plant tried everything they could to reduce the amount of power that was being used, even triggering an emergency shutdown of the whole reactor.  Unfortunately, that shutdown made the problem much worse, and the power surge intensified.

The resulting power surges caused a series of steam explosions, and ruptured the reactor vessel which caused the reactor to ignite into flames.  The fire shot out clouds of smoke that were filled with highly toxic radioactive particles, and the clouds covered much of the Soviet Union area, with some clouds drifting over as far as Scandinavia!

The hardest hit areas of the disaster were Russia, the Ukraine, and especially Belarus - where it is estimated that 60% of the nuclear fallout landed there.

At least thirty-one people died instantly at the Chernobyl plant.  It's unclear as to what the official death toll is from the incident, as that number continues to climb, but the facts are quite sobering.

Between 1986 and 2001, it was estimated that close to 350,000 people in the Chernobyl area were forced to relocate to areas that were not highly contaminated from the radiation.  Further statistics indicate that since 1986, the rate of cancer has increased among citizens of Europe with the 2006 TORCH report stating that a prediction of up to 60,000 people will lose their lives prematurely as a direct result of the Chernobyl disaster.

Now certainly the world has done its best to try and help those who were the most affected by the disaster.  I know that since the late 1980s, my town has hosted a "Children of Chernobyl" exchange program where kids from the Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were hosted by a local family so that they could have the chance to experience life that was free of radiation.  I have no idea if the program is still a go, but I can tell you that so many children had positive experiences during the years the program went on.

And interestingly enough, even though the land around the reactor is uninhabitable by humans, there have been some instances in which tourists have been allowed to visit the area - provided that they don't come too close to certain areas that are still covered in radiation.  And over the last thirty years, while the human population has decreased in that area, the animal population has increased and seems to be thriving. 

But don't take that news lightly.  The 1986 Chernobyl Disaster made the land unsafe for humans to stay for a significant period of time.  It's said that the radiation won't dissipate until at least fifty years from the time of the accident.  And in some areas, it may never fully disappear.  It's certainly a monument to the worst case scenario for sure.

Perhaps no place best describes that feeling than the once prosperous city of Pripyat.  Once home to fifty thousand people, the population is now zero.  The city left abandoned for thirty years.  In some ways, it serves as a time capsule to what life was like back in the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s, as children's toys, books, medical equipment, and Soviet propaganda still decorates the walls of the now decaying schools, hospitals, businesses, and residences within.  A ferris wheel sits rusting having never been used - the Pripyat Amusement Park was set to open in May 1986 - but as we all know, that grand opening never came, as every citizen of Pripyat had to evacuate the city by the 27th of April.

I can only imagine the frustration, fear, and horror the people of Pripyat had to face that day.  

Friday, April 22, 2016

Jem Reviewed: Episode 5 - The Battle of the Bands

Previously on Jem Reviewed, we saw Ashley attempt to be just like the Misfits, but when Jem was about to be framed for a crime she did not commit, Ashley - with help from Stormer - had a change of heart, pissing off Pizzazz and Roxy in the process.  Oh, and Synergy might be dead. 

This is the end of a very long five part episode.  It's time for Episode 5 - The Battle of the Bands!

But, wait.  If Jem only exists because of Synergy...and Synergy exploded...then how can Jem compete in the Battle of the Bands?  That Malone guy smashed Synergy up with a chair!  By all accounts, this episode and the series should be over!  But somehow, Synergy issues a warning to Jerrica through the JemStar earrings and Aja does a really wicked U-turn to try and get to Synergy - even though she's already exploded.

Oh, look!  How nice of Blanche, Rose, Sophia, and Dorothy to make a cameo appearance from "The Golden Girls"!  I love it when stars support each other's shows!  But why is Betty White wearing JemStar earrings?

Oh, wait!  That's just Jerrica, Kimber, Shana, and Aja using a hologram to keep Malone from spotting them.  But, wait...if Synergy has been destroyed, how can Jem's earrings continue to work?  I'd think they'd be deader than a Tamagotchi owned by a careless thirteen year old girl!

Whatever the case, Malone is not finished with the investigation yet.  He goes to the Bureau of Records, and demands to know who the owner of the Starlight Drive-In is so he can report back to Eric his findings.  Uh-oh...that reminds me.  He took a picture of Synergy before he destroyed her.  That can't be good for anybody!

And as Malone shows Eric the photo of Synergy before Malone smashed her up, Eric is intrigued it...especially when he hears that Emmett Benton - Jerrica and Kimber's father - is listed as the owner of the movie theatre.  Although Synergy is now circuit boards, wires, and broken glass (cue the Limp Lizards record), they must investigate it to figure out how Emmett managed to build such a thing and what it is used for.

At the same time, Jerrica and the others run through the holographic wall at the movie theatre and are shocked to see Synergy in pieces.  I could swear that Kimber probably thought it was anything but outrageous.  But before they have time to mourn, Synergy announces that she projected a hologram and that she is still safe and sound, restoring herself back to normal!

Uh...WHAT?  Okay, so if the Synergy that Malone destroyed was a hologram, shouldn't the chair that Malone swung have GONE THROUGH IT WITHOUT DESTROYING ANYTHING?  And if Malone took a picture of the hologram of Synergy, would it...oh...I don't know...NOT SHOW UP IN A PHOTOGRAPH?  At least, they didn't back in 1985 anyway...

...this show makes my brain hurt.  But with Eric fast approaching, the Drive-In Theatre is now a dangerous place.  The girls decide to take Synergy and stash her somewhere else where nobody else will find her.  Great plan, except that Synergy is not an iPad.  She's a computer that probably weighs 7,000 pounds.  I'd like to see how they even plan on getting her out of there with just the four of them.

Oh, wait.  I forgot.  It's a cartoon.  When cartoon characters are threatened, they have superhuman strength.

The girls load Synergy up in a truck as Eric and Zipper arrive at the drive-in with Malone.  How embarrassing for Malone when he takes Eric and Zipper inside and there's no broken computer.  Foiled again, it seems.

The girls decide to rebuild Synergy in one of the many rooms inside the new Starlight Mansion - which is to be honest a really stupid idea given that the house technically isn't theirs thanks to Howard Sands lacking any cojones whatsoever.  And then the girls realize that they know nothing about computers, and don't even know if they put together Synergy correctly.  But Aja seems to be in charge of the rebuilding and she seems to be the Hologram that has the most common sense, so how bad could it be?

Oh, look!  Synergy lives!  And now it's time for another happy song from Jem and the Holograms!

You know, Synergy may have the power, power, she may have the power...but this song is more of a brownout.  Not the greatest song at all, although it is marginally better than "Deception".

Back at the Misfits hideout, Ashley decides that after Pizzazz and Roxy tried to throw Jem in jail, she doesn't want to be a Misfit anymore, and she goes to return the thirty dollars that Pizzazz and Roxy extorted from Stormer.  Naturally, the Misfits grab the money and Pizzazz and Roxy insult Ashley some more.  But what Ashley doesn't realize is that she may have walked into a trap.

You see, Eric just happens to also be in the room at the time, and he orders the Misfits to grab Ashley and lock her up somewhere.  His plan is that if he kidnaps one of the Starlight Girls and holds her for ransom, then Jem and the Holograms will be forced to drop out of the Battle of the Bands, making the Misfits win by default.  Or at the very least, he'll send them on a wild goose chase so they miss the concert.  That is really low - but surprisingly I've heard that Eric can go even lower than this.

In fact, in a split screen conversation between Eric and Jerrica, he threatens exactly that!  And, naturally Jerrica is determined to rescue her...mainly because if she doesn't, child protective services will throw her ass in jail.  But they never really mention that.

Of course, if you think Ashley is going to sit and be a hostage like a good little girl, you'd be mistaken.  Ashley does her best to hide from Pizzazz and Roxy, and almost succeeds in getting away, but in the end, she can't escape from either of them and they lock her in a box.

Stormer, by this point, is quite upset, and when Pizzazz and Roxy temporarily leave, it's Stormer who tries to comfort Ashley.  For a moment, I almost think Stormer will release her.

But before Stormer can even have the chance to do anything, Pizzazz and Roxy come back and shame Stormer for going soft.  It's a heartbreaking moment as Stormer gives into peer pressure and leaves Ashley behind in the trunk.  I wonder if as the show progresses, we'll understand more clearly why Stormer went with Pizzazz and Roxy.  I certainly hope so, because you could tell that Stormer's loyalties were very conflicted. 

Now, as for where the trunk is going?  I'm assuming that it'll go to the concert venue where the Battle of the Bands is being held.  It most certainly won't be at the Starlight Drive-In, where Jem and the others are going to be.

But let's hold off on Jem and the others.  It's time for the Misfits to perform at the Battle of the Bands.

I have to admit, I've been a general fan of the Misfits music moreso than Jem, but I'm not feeling the song "Takin' It All".  In fact, as of right now, I'd say this episode has the weakest songs so far.  I definitely don't think the Misfits would win with this song, but since Jem hasn't shown up yet, they may win by default.  Of course, Rio demands to Howard Sands that they wait for Jem to show up, but Mr. Stickler for Rules Sands states that if Jem doesn't show up, he'll have no choice but to award the prizes to the Misfits.

It's too bad that Jem and the others are at Starlight Drive-In instead of the Battle of the Bands because once they've arrived they're immediately ambushed by Eric, Zipper, and a couple of other goons who were responsible for the robbery in Las Vegas last episode.  If this doesn't say "We fooled you", I don't know what else they'd have to do.

Of course, Jem tries a valiant attempt to escape by suckerpunching Eric (right on!) and she attempts to flee before getting caught by one of Eric's goons on a motorcycle.  The only thing that Jem can do is take off one of her earrings and throw it on the ground, leaving a frantic Synergy wondering where Jerrica is.  Wait a minute...I thought robot computers couldn't share emotions.  Oh, wait.  It's a cartoon.  Never mind.

Back at the Battle of the Bands, Rio is getting even more concerned by Jem's lateness, and he correctly suspects that Eric is involved.  And Eric strolls into the venue after making sure that Zipper and his goons are babysitting the Holograms, where Rio grabs him and threatens to kill him if he doesn't reveal where Jem is.  Howard Sands and Danielle DuVoisin break up the fight, but soon all four of them hear a strange noise.

It's the trunk where Ashley is being kept hostage in!  And it's about to be sent into a machine that likes to eat wooden boxes for snack!  Fortunately, Rio manages to rescue Ashley after someone calls out a warning that she's trapped in there.  We don't see who alerted Rio, but it sounded an awful lot like Stormer.  So, as far as I'm concerned, Stormer has redeemed herself.  A bit.

But you know who HASN'T redeemed themselves in my eyes?  Howard Sands.  Despite the fact that Eric more or less had Ashley kidnapped and almost murdered, and despite the fact that Stormer more or less gave away the whole crooked plan, Howard Sands refuses to change the contest rules even though the Misfits have broken every single one.

Guys...say it with me...


You know what?  Ashley's safe, and Rio decides to leave the Countess and the Dopey Mr. Sands to rescue Jem and the others from Zipper and his goons.  But if Rio is thinking that Jem is a fragile little flower, he's sorely mistaken.

You see, Jem tossing her earring outside was actually a very intelligent thing.  Because now she can project holograms from outside and inside the movie theatre.  And she uses this gift to really mess with the minds of Zipper and his cronies by summoning a pack of wild lions to try and scare the creeps away.

She also manages to create several different exits to make Zipper and his pals crash into walls over and over again providing them with even more brain damage than they had before. 

But as the girls really do try to make their escape, Zipper manages to grab a hold of Kimber, and pulls her back.  And since Jem and the others decided that Kimber was an important part of the band two episodes ago after she had a meltdown, they can't very well abandon her now.  So Jem's next plan is to create a hologram of Eric Raymond, ordering Zipper to let Kimber go.

And when that doesn't work, she summons Eric again and again until there's enough Eric Raymonds to fill a haunted house.  That's a scary thought.  And speaking of scary thoughts...

Wanna know how Eric Raymond got his name?  In this edition of "Jem" Trivia, I'll tell you.  Turns out that Christy Marx - the showrunner of "Jem" named the character after her brother!  Kind of makes you wonder if Eric Raymond Marx (or whatever his last name is) was as much a jerk as this one!

Anyway, the multiple Erics cause Zipper to lose his mind.  He shoves Kimber to the side to escape, and runs outside with the goons to see a bunch of police cars pulling up.  Naturally after all of the weirdness that they just experienced, they expect this to be a mirage too.  It's only when Zipper gets handcuffed that he realizes - I'm goin' to jail!  I wonder if we'll see him again...

Rio arrives after all of the commotion has happened, and for a moment there I almost think he's pissed off that he didn't get to play the role of hero because Jem and the others based on his tone of voice.  But that's Rio for you.  It's time for Jem and the Holograms to get to the Battle of the Bands...but to waste even more time, Jem - despite the fact that she is clearly wearing both earrings in the above screenshot - retrieves her lost earring that really isn't lost.

I hate this episode.  I sure hope Jem's last song is worth all of this.  Apparently it's a song called "Music is Magic".  But given the track record of the songs so far, I'm...

...OH.  MY.  GOD.  This song is AWESOME!  I particularly want to make note of that high note that Britta Phillips sings at the very end.  It is phenomenal.  Seriously, I think this is one case where they saved the best song for last, and I think it'll be hard to top "Music is Magic" as the best Jem song.

Of course, I still have 60 more episodes to review.  My opinion could change.

To nobody's surprise, Howard Sands officially declares Jem the winners of the contest - and even the fireworks display seems to spell out the Jem logo!  OUTRAGEOUS!!!

So Starlight Mansion officially becomes Starlight Mansion, meaning that Ashley and the rest of the girls will always have a place to live.  They also get a movie contract.  And with Eric presumably going to jail, Jerrica wins back full control of Starlight Music!  Seriously, this has been the greatest day of the Holograms' lives.

Not so much for the Misfits though.  In fact, Pizzazz now makes it her mission to take down Jem and the Holograms every chance she gets.  The rivalry between Jem and Pizzazz is on, bitches!

Of course, there's one last bit of housecleaning, and Rio accompanies Jerrica to Starlight Music to take over Eric's old office.  Because with Eric being charged with kidnapping, attempted murder, and...


Jerrica is stunned that he is even there in the first place, but Eric explains his lawyers worked miracles and that he's there to collect his personal possessions - including the snapshots of Synergy that by all accounts probably shouldn't even exist, but it's a cartoon.

Eric then bids Jerrica farewell with a bitchslap across her face!  Seriously.  This really does happen!  How dare he?  You want to add assault to your charges?  I dare him to do that to Pizzazz!  But do you really think that Rio will let Eric do that to his woman?

I'm guessing this delightful screenshot will tell us no.  It took me several times to get this shot too.  Well worth it.

So after Eric regains consciousness and leaves Starlight Music, Jerrica wonders if her father would be proud of her.  Rio admits that he's already proud of her, and they kiss as a refrain of "Music is Magic" closes off the show.

Coming up next week, six months have passed, and the girls are ready to shoot their movie.  What could possibly go wrong?