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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May 31, 2005

I have something to add to the end of this edition of the Tuesday Timeline, and it is something very important and personal.  It sort of goes back to what I wrote about yesterday.

In a way, I suppose it can be loosely linked to today's subject that I've picked for today.  Very loosely.  But, I suppose it will be a challenge to tie up some loose ends.

So, let's close out this month by seeing what happened throughout history this thirty-first day of May!

526 - A quarter of a million people lose their lives in a devastating earthquake that strikes Antioch

1854 - France abolishes the civil death procedure

1859 - The clock tower at the Houses of Parliament - the same tower that is the home of Big Ben - begins keeping time

1879 - Gilmores Garden is renamed Madison Square Garden by William Henry Vanderbilt

1908 - Actor Don Ameche (d. 1993) is born in Kenosha, Wisconsin

1909 - The National Negro Committee (which would later become the NAACP) convenes for the first time

1911 - The hull of the doomed ocean liner HMS Titanic is launched

1921 - Riots break out in Tulsa, Oklahoma over civil unrest; at least thirty-nine die in the melee

1927 - The final Ford Model T is rolled off the assembly line

1929 - "The Karnival Kid" - Mickey Mouse's first speaking appearance in a film - is released

1938 - Singer-songwriter Johnny Paycheck (d. 2003) is born in Greenfield, Ohio

1941 - During World War II, a Luftwaffe air raid over Dublin, Ireland claims thirty-eight lives

1942 - Sydney, Australia is subjected to attacks by Imperial Japanese Navy midget submarines

1948 - Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham (d. 1980) is born in Redditch, Worcestershire, England

1954 - Disco singer Vicki Sue Robinson (d. 2000) is born in Harlem, New York

1971 - Memorial Day occurs on the last Monday in May for the first time - previously the date was fixed as May 30

1977 - The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System is completed

1981 - Jaffna Library - located in Sri Lanka - burns to the ground during the Sri Lankan Civil War

1985 - Canada and the United States are subjected to no less than forty-one different tornadoes striking on the same day

2000 - The reality show "Survivor" debuts on CBS

2013 - Actress Jean Stapleton dies at the age of 90

I would also like to take the time to wish the following famous faces a very happy birthday; Clint Eastwood, Peter Yarrow, Sharon Gless, Joe Namath, Bernard Goldberg, Tom Berenger, Jean Chalopin, Gregory Harrison, Ben de Lisi, Susie Essman, Roma Maffia, Chris Elliott, Lea Thompson, Corey Hart, Hugh Dillon, Scotti Hill, Darryl McDaniels, Brooke Shields, Jeremy Hotz, Nick Scotti, Phil Keoghan, Sarah Murdoch, Archie Panjabi, Colin Farrell, Eric Christian Olsen, Joel Ross, Reggie Yates, Jason Smith, and Azealia Banks.

Now, while I can't promise you that the date I've selected will be quite a while back - the event in which this date is linked with certainly is.

So, let's set our time machine back eleven years to May 31, 2005.  But before we go and see what happened on this particular date, we have to go off course just a bit and go back further in time to the year 1972.

Otherwise known as what could be one of the worst years of Richard Nixon's life.

Those of you who were around and are old enough to remember what happened in could very well be summed up in one word.


The political scandal which saw Nixon resign as President in the summer of 1974, kicked off in June 1972 when five men were arrested on charges of breaking and entering the Watergate office complex in Washington D.C.  Specifically, the area in which the men targeted was the Democratic National Committee Headquarters.  At that time, the reasoning behind the break-in was not known, but when the Federal Bureau of Investigations got involved, their lengthy investigation found some very troubling information.

The investigation proved that there was definitely a link between the money that was found with the belongings of one of the men involved with the break-in, as well as money that was being stored in a slush fund used by CREEP (The Committee for the Re-Election of the President).  Keep in mind that 1972 was an election year and Nixon was about to conclude his first term as President of the United States.

A few months passed, and Nixon was re-elected as President in November 1972.  But as the calendar changed years to 1973, the investigation intensified, and by June of 1973, more damning evidence came to light against Nixon and his administration.  Between the testimony of former staff members at the Senate Watergate Committee, and the realization that there was a tape recorder in Nixon's possession that may have recorded some valuable conversations, it seemed as though Nixon's world was about to come crashing down around him.

And it did.

After a legal battle between the United States Supreme Court and Nixon - who refused to submit any of the recordings taped between 1972 and 1973 - the Supreme Court ruled that Nixon was obligated to release the tapes and its contents as evidence.  And when the tapes were listened it, they confirmed what many had suspected.  That Richard Nixon had tried to cover up some activities had taken place after the break-in, and that he used federal officials to delay and deflect the investigation.

Nixon formally resigned his presidency on August 9, 1974, and Gerald Ford was sworn in one month later.  Although Ford would later pardon Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal, the damage was done, and Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon's legacy as President was forever tarnished.

But how did this whole scandal get tipped off?  Surely if Nixon knew that what he was doing was wrong, you would think that he would have taken all the necessary steps to make sure that no information leaked out drawing suspicion towards him and his administration.  After all, if the general public got word of what was going on, it would surely mean impeachment, or even prison time.

See, this is where we go back to our original timeline date of May 31, 2005.

You see, back in 1972, it was long suspected that somebody who was either part of Nixon's administration or was involved in the Watergate break-in investigation was secretly feeding information to two reporters from the Washington Post - Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.  The two men had covered the whole investigation and scandal in the newspaper for the two year duration, and the Post was known for publishing inside information about the case before any other media source.

It was later revealed after the scandal had ended that Bernstein and Woodward had a secret informant who went by the name of "Deep Throat".  And it was the information that Deep Throat revealed that helped the investigation continue onward, leading to the biggest political scandal of the 20th century - well, until the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky story broke in the late 1990s anyway.

But nobody knew who Deep Throat was.  And it was a secret that was kept closely guarded for thirty-one years after Nixon's resignation.

The list of suspects as to who could have been Deep Throat was long.  Fred F. Fielding, Ron Ziegler, John Erlichman, L. Patrick Gray, William Rehnquist, Henry Kissinger, and even future Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush were suspected as being Deep Throat.

If Richard Nixon knew who Deep Throat was, he certainly didn't talk.  He mostly kept a low profile after his resignation, and he passed away on April 22, 1994.

It would be eleven years later, on May 31, 2005, that the identity of Deep Throat would finally be revealed - in of all places, Vanity Fair Magazine!

And who was Deep Throat?  Well, that would be W. Mark Felt, who at that time was Associate Director for the FBI!

The news was published in an article on the magazine's website, written by John D. O'Connor - an attorney who was acting on behalf of Felt.  At that time, Felt was suffering from the effects of dementia, and initially even denied that he was Deep Throat.  But once O'Connor had his article published in which Felt admitted that he and Deep Throat were one in the same, it was more or less confirmed by the two journalists who worked closely with him in the Watergate investigation.

So, I suppose the one question that needs to still be answered is why did he come forward with the information at that particular time?  Some might say that it was personally motivated, with Felt wanting to provide information to Bernstein and Woodward to satisfy his disappointment over L. Patrick Gray being named Director of the FBI over himself.  According to Woodward and Bernstein, they say Felt had a loyalty to his country and felt he had to step up before Nixon damaged it beyond repair.

Or, it could just be that most of the key players in the Watergate scandal had passed on at the time Felt made his announcement and felt that he had nothing to lose.  Felt himself would succumb to his disease just three years later in December 2008.

Whatever the case, the Deep Throat mystery saw its conclusion eleven years ago today.

All now to tie this entry to the one I wrote yesterday.  Well, obviously I was not linked to any political scandal.  The closest I ever came to that was when "Elbowgate" in the House of Commons took place on my 35th birthday!  And, I certainly haven't kept a secret for 31 years.  At the age of four, I was a chatterbox back then!

But I do know what it's like to have so much emotion eating away at you for so long.  I get the impression that with most of the Watergate key figures deceased, Felt had no reason to fear any repercussions for speaking out.

And for me, being out of school for 16 years gave me the courage to speak out against something that really held me down and controlled me.  Yesterday was the day I decided to take it back, and I feel so much better because of it.

I guess I just want to say thanks to everyone who might have taken something away from what I wrote yesterday.  It's nice to know that there are people who understand and who are supportive, and I will never forget that.

So, that concludes 31 days of new entries.  I'm going to take a break for a couple of days and will be back on Friday with a new entry.  I reckon I've earned it!

Monday, May 30, 2016

A "Prom"-ise to the BCI Class of 2000

The more I thought about it, the more I want to write this here.  At 35, I hold no regrets.  I have no desire to try and sugarcoat things any longer, and I definitely don't want to rebuild any bridges that I may have wanted to build after setting them ablaze some sixteen years ago. 

The first thing I am going to say is that this piece is directed towards a group of people in general.  If you just happen to be one of these people and you happen to be friends with me or have me friended on Facebook...chances are this note will not apply to any of you, and you can continue to drink your coffee, read the paper, or bury your children in the sandbox.  Whatever floats your boat.

To the rest of you.  Pay close attention.  In all likelihood, this will be the last thing that I ever say to any of you.

You know, I was actually inspired to write this post after overhearing a few of my workplace colleagues talking about the prom.  In my department, I'm almost considered middle-aged, as some of the people are older than I am, and many of the others are high school seniors.  But that in itself is not a bad thing, as I get along with mostly everyone in my department.

And many of you probably know that the end of May and the beginning of June is designated as prom season.  Some schools in my area have already had their proms, and some still have yet to hold them.  But essentially a prom is blowing hundreds of dollars on some fancy gown or rented tuxedo, dancing in the middle of a hall filled with balloons, crepe paper, and dangling silver stars that the dance committee spent hours making, and for some people getting drunk off of the spiked island punch. 

At least, that's how I imagine that prom would have been like for me.  I never went to mine.  Unless you consider the grad party where the only time I really did anything was when I sang "Love Shack" during the karaoke portion of the evening...and that was only because I was dared to do it.  But I don't really consider that a prom because there was no dancing.  I don't even think there was a cake!  Can any of the four people who I still keep in touch with from high school tell me if there was cake?  If so, I never got any.

But it wasn't just prom that I turned my back on in high school.  Truth is, I never really did much of anything in high school. 

See this building?  Some of you will recognize it right away.  But to the majority of you who have no idea, I'll tell you.  This is Brockville Collegiate Institute, located in Brockville, Ontario, Canada.  This is the place where I attended high school from September 1995 until June 2000 (remember, back in the days in which I was a student, we still had the OAC year in Ontario).  And this was the place in which I can legitimately say without a shadow of a doubt that I absolutely hated the most in my entire life.

Let's put it like this.  Whoever tells you that high school is the best period of your life is either lying, extremely shallow, or Al Bundy squeezing a size 9 foot inside a size 4 shoe at the local shoe store.

If your high school experience is what you make of it, then I'm afraid I didn't make much of it.  It wasn't always the case though.  When I first started high school and entered grade nine, I was really excited to be a part of a new school, and I wanted to have the ultimate high school experience that was filled with dances, parties, football games, school clubs...and yes, even homework assignments.  But by the time I was in my final year of school, the only thing that came true was the homework part.

For the entire time I was a student at BCI, I never truly felt like I belonged.  I was a fish out of water, so to speak.  In a school filled with Red Rams, I was totally the Black Sheep.  In a way it seemed fitting though.  Red and black were our school colours.

And why did I see myself as the black sheep of BCI's Class of 2000?  Well, I'd say that there were many reasons.  I always felt as though I never measured up to the rest of the school.  I was a kid from a working class background who knew how much the value of a dollar was and became a master of stretching it to its brink.  In comparison, many of the students that attended BCI at that time seemed more materialistic, snobbish, and holier-than-thou.  Maybe it was just how I perceived it, but I always felt that the majority of people at my school looked down at me as if they questioned why a scrub like me would dirty up their school.  And believe me, some were extremely vocal about it too.

I never forgot the time that some kids decided to decorate my locker with some of the biggest balloons that they could find.  Sounds nice, right?  Well, two things were wrong.  One, it wasn't my birthday.  And two, somehow they found out that I had a sensitivity to loud noises that caused me to burst into tears every time a balloon popped.  I guess they were using the opportunity to get some free entertainment at my expense.

The frustrating thing about it was that none of these boys - believe me, I refuse to call them men - even knew who I was.  They were just going on hearsay from some friends of theirs who knew me, and who didn't like me.  But I suppose that was par for the course when it came to the BCI Class of 2000.  For all the preaching that they did about being welcoming to all students, I certainly never felt welcome. 

And you know, I didn't deserve that.  I still don't feel that all these years later I deserved the horrible treatment that I got from the majority of the Class of 2000 at BCI.  I didn't deserve to be the target of a smear campaign from kids who knew me from grade school and who wanted my high school life to be a living nightmare.  I didn't deserve to be shunned and ignored by most of you because I didn't wear designer clothes, looked like a Backstreet Boy, or wasn't perceived as cool because I was the chubbiest kid in the class.  I especially didn't deserve to have my belongings inside my locker set on fire because you all thought it was the funniest thing ever even though that event triggered a depression so severe that it brought me social anxiety and made me almost do something at age sixteen that I look back on with regret.  

I didn't deserve any of that.  And yet, BCI Class of 2000...that's what you gave me.  EVERY DAMN DAY. 

The sad thing is that I look back on that time, and I realize that most of you were horrible, bratty CHILDREN who mistakenly believed that they were the best high school students in the world and that you would be popular the rest of your lives.  Guess what?  You weren't popular with me.  And, while I realize that I was the one member of the Class of 2000 that you never really saw as much of anything...believe voice and my thoughts counted, even though you were too absorbed in your fat egos to really notice.

You know what the real shameful thing about all of this was?  The shameful thing is that despite how badly the majority of you thought of me...I still thought the majority of you were worth getting to know.  The more you treated me like dirt, the more that I wanted to understand why. 

I suppose there was a part of me that felt that if I could sit down and have a one-on-one talk with all of you, I could understand what it was about me that was so repulsive and so horrible that it would justify you freezing me out and treating me so terribly.  I honestly would have listened to what you had to say if you had just given me the chance to reach out to you. 

But that's just it.  Most of you never really knew me at all.  You were so co-dependent on the people that you hung around with that you closed yourself off to those who were new and who just wanted some assurance that maybe there was a place for them after all.  And it's not just school that this happens at.  I can think of a few workplaces (including my own) where this happens all the time, and it's not a good feeling no matter how old you are.

I guess looking back on it, that's the main reason why I just saw BCI as a place where I went for seven hours to learn about things that really had no bearing on my current life now, and went home.  I never did any sports, clubs, activities, or anything like that until I was in my last year of high school.  I think maybe the only reason why I even bothered with doing some activities in my last year of high school was to show the Class of 2000 just what they were missing.  After all, they had more or less ignored me or humiliated me the previous four years.  The unfortunate thing was that I hadn't really changed my personality much between 1995 and 2000.  They just never really took the time to get to know me.  And that's on them.  Not on me.

When I told my co-workers that I purposely skipped my prom, some of them were absolutely shocked.  To many of them, prom is the best way to end a high school experience and I certainly don't blame them for feeling that way about what essentially amounts to an overpriced school dance.  But of course, I swallowed my pride and simply told them that prom never really interested me, and I would have rather spent the night listening to music in my bedroom while playing a marathon of Final Fantasy games.

The truth is...I lied to them. 

I wish I did have that prom experience.  I wish I could have gone to the prom with a date on my arm, dancing the night away underneath those balloons, crepe paper, and hanging stars. 

I wish I had signed up for at least a couple of clubs.  I think that if I had enough confidence in myself not to care what the Class of 2000 thought of me, I would have signed up for the Leadership Development Program.  I think that I would have made a great leader, and I think that it would have definitely helped me become a better person.

I wanted to sign up for the "Reach for the Top" team.  Even though I felt humiliated compared to the other people that signed up, I would have studied and I think I would have done very well.  I wouldn't have even minded being put on television!

I wanted to go to those football games - not because I cared about the sport - but because it was a great way to bond with your classmates and make new friends.

I wanted all of those experiences that shaped a high school career.

I just never wanted those experiences with the BCI Class of 2000.  Because as far as I'm concerned, I would have rather had those times with people who had the courage and respect to get to know me...not with a bunch of cowardly children with no balls who only wanted the "elite" of the school to be their friends.

News flash.  You weren't elite back then.  You aren't elite now.  Most of you probably don't even know how to SPELL the word elite.

So, I guess my final word to the BCI Class of 2000 is this.  I hereby disown myself from your graduating class - because it sure as hell isn't mine.  As far as I'm concerned, I want no part of anything to do with any of you ever again as long as I live.  Do not send me any invites to alumni gatherings or high school reunions.  I guarantee you that I have more important things to do with my time.  You all had your chance - five years, might I add - to get to know me for who I was and not for the bullying I suffered or the half-truths you believed to be gospel.  You all blew it.

I am no longer Matthew Turcotte, Brockville Collegiate Institute Class of 2000 Graduate.  I am instead Matthew Turcotte, a regular average Joe who treats everyone with the dignity and respect that I was never shown inside the hallways of BCI.

I'd wish all of you good luck...but honestly, I don't give a damn.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Moves Like Jagger - 2011 Music Moment

Well, this is the last Sunday Jukebox of the month, which means that it will be the last song from 2011 that I will be featuring in this space.

Well, at least for a while, anyway.

But, I've decided that for this edition of the Sunday Jukebox, I would choose a song that was an enormous hit during the summer of 2011.  And, I'm sure that it's a song that will continue to play throughout the summer of 2016.

But before I tell you all about what this song is, why don't I share some statistics about this song with all of you?  Because even though I give away the song title in the heading of this post, it's nice to know just how successful this song was.

For instance, did you know that this single was one of the most downloaded songs ever?  It ranks within the Top 6 songs purchased by digital media.  The total number of downloads?  Over fifteen MILLION!  Phenomenal!

This song also happens to be the second #1 hit single for the California based band Maroon 5 - their first since they released "Makes Me Wonder" in the spring of 2007.  The band partnered with a female singer for this track, which became her fifth #1 single.  And in regards to this female singer, she became the fourth female singer to score a #1 hit single in three different decades.  Only Janet Jackson, Madonna, and Britney Spears can boast that achievement.

I suppose that working together came naturally between Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera.  After all, she and Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine have shared judging duties on "The Voice" off and on - well, when Gwen Stefani or Shakira aren't available, that is.

And, what do you get when you combine two Voice judges and a song inspired by the dance moves of one Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones? get this hit!

ARTIST:  Maroon 5 f. Christina Aguilera
SONG:  Moves Like Jagger
ALBUM:  Hands All Over
DATE RELEASED:  June 21, 2011

Yeah, who knew that a song that is basically about a young man trying to impress a girl by doing the same dance moves that Mick Jagger would perform on stage (either sober or intoxicated) would be the most listened song in North America for the better part of a month?

It wasn't just the United States, Canada, and Mexico where the song topped the charts.  If you took all the countries in the world, and did a survey on where the song hit #1, you would have a list of twenty-seven different nations!  I guess the whole world was movin' like Jagger back in 2011!

For the record, I do have to admit that I like this song.  Though, when it comes to Maroon 5 singles, I have a tendency to like some of their slower jams - think "She Will Be Loved" or "If I Never See Your Face Again" with Rihanna.  Still, it's a solid hit, and one that was played on the radio for the better part of a whole year!

The song itself is quite a different style for the band, as most of their previous material was a blend of rock music - both hard and soft.  The song "Moves Like Jagger" was more of a dance-pop type single, and at first Adam Levine and the rest of Maroon 5 weren't sure how it would resonate with listeners.  Luckily, everyone gave it a chance and it became one of 2011's biggest hits.

Having Christina Aguilera as a guest vocalist in this single certainly made it pop even more.  There's no argument that Christina Aguilera has been one of the most talented female singers to come out of the late 1990s, and even though it's been a while since she's had any new singles chart on the Billboard Hot 100, the natural talent she has will definitely be a part of who she is.  And that singing voice in my opinion helped make the song chart as high as it did.  Watching the music video for this song, you can tell that there was a lot of chemistry between Levine and Aguilera.

I think it worked better than it would have had Adam Levine invited Blake Shelton to sing on "Moves Like Jagger".  That would actually be a very scary thought.

And what did Mick Jagger think of the song?  Well, he actually liked it a lot!  He remarked that the concept of the song was "very flattering" and he even made fun of the song in one of David Letterman's Top 10 Lists where he commented that it was frustrating that he wasn't getting any music royalties from having his name mentioned in the song.

At any rate...if Mick Jagger himself is praising the song, you know it had to be good!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Goodbye, Archie Digest - 2011 In Print Media

I just wanted to thank you all for checking in and reading this look back on 2011 - the year that this blog began.  Over the course of the last five years, I've discovered that I'm a completely different person at 35 than I was at 30 - at least on an emotional and dare I say spiritual level - and while a lot of the things have remained the same in my life, I've been able to look at them a lot differently.

I mean, at age 30, I was thinking that there would be no way that I would be able to afford to move out of apartment life, and just four years later I bit the bullet and did exactly that.  Mind you, the transition has not been completely easy, but it was a necessary change that I had to make in order to be happier, and to control my sanity.

(Believe me - if you knew any of my former neighbours, you'd understand my desperation for a change of scenery.)

And you know, sometimes when it comes to change, it can be a bit jarring at first.  Especially when the thing that changes just happens to be something that you've gotten used to for several decades. 

In this case, I want to talk about the time right around the end of 2010/beginning of 2011 when the Archie Comics Publication team made the decision to eliminate all digest titles from circulation.

Note that I said DIGESTS - not DOUBLE DIGESTS.

I have to say, as a fan of the Archie series for almost thirty years of the company's seventy-five in existence, this news really brought a lot of mixed emotions.  And, while at the time of the announcement there were only four digest titles still in circulation, it was still sad to say goodbye.

The four titles that ended their run in late 2010/early 2011 were Archie Digest, Betty and Veronica Digest, Tales From Riverdale Digest, and Jughead and Friends Digest.

In the case of the latter two, they were new digests that were created with the demise of two other older digests - Laugh Digest and Jughead With Archie Digest.

But Archie Digest was the company's first ever digest.  Since 1973, it had been entertaining fans with the promise of two new stories (one in the front, one in the back) and the rest of the book was filled with reprints of classic Archie tales.  It was a great way to introduce people into the world of Archie and not feel like they missed out on some of the older tales.  The Betty and Veronica Digest also had a long run, debuting in 1980, and much like the Archie title, it ran two new stories, and several older stories, only mostly featuring Betty and Veronica stories. 

Here's a screenshot of the first Archie Digest I remember reading.  I must have gotten it for a Christmas present given the cover gag.

And this is the first Betty and Veronica Digest that I remember owning.  And yes, I actually can remember!   My memory when it comes to Archie comics is photographic.

So, what prompted Archie Comics to decide to quit selling the digest books?  

I would think one factor would have been the fact that Double Digests outsold the single titles - literally by double the amount!  For every ten Archie Digests that were sold, twenty Archie Double Digests would be purchased.  And you know, from a consumer perspective it made more sense.  After all, you got twice the entertainment with a double digest than you would an ordinary digest.

Another reason?  Digests shrank to the point where it almost became a waste of money to purchase them.  At the time Archie Digests first became available in 1973, they were fifty cents for 160 pages.  By the time the final issue of Archie Digest was printed (#267), the cost was $2.50 for EIGHTY pages!!!  I don't know about you, but I didn't like paying five times the price for a book half its original size!

So, the final issues of the four remaining digests were Archie Digest #267, Betty and Veronica Digest #208, Tales From Riverdale Digest #39, and Jughead and Friends Digest #38. 

But this didn't mean that Archie had given up on digest publication altogether.

Instead, they decided to bring out three replacement double digests to make up for the four that were axed.  It also gave the company a chance to make some more money by releasing higher priced books onto the marketplace, but I suppose any company would do anything to increase profits.

In the place of Archie Digest came a title called World Of Archie Double Digest. As of May 2016, it's on its fifty-ninth issue, and continues to be one of Archie's more successful titles.  I particularly have a soft spot when it comes to the World of Archie title, because it reprints more of the older stories that I used to love reading as a kid.  It's a classic mix of old and new and it also is the title where you can read more of the one-off stories that Archie Comics dabbled in.  Stories starring That Wilkin Boy, Sabrina, Pipsqueak, Lil Jinx, and Katy Keene.  It was a real grab bag of stories that any Archie fan could appreciate.

Jughead and Friends and Tales From Riverdale morphed into the generic Archie and Friends Double Digest, and much like World of Archie, the book focused on classic tales from old and new.  It was also the book where you could find most of the SuperTeens series, so if you were a fan of Pureheart the Powerful, Captain Hero, and Evilheart, this was the book for you. 

Unfortunately, this series didn't last as long as World Of Archie has.  After 33 issues, it was once again revamped, and is now running under the Archie's Funhouse title.  Though, to me, I see no reason why the company did this, as it seems to be the same exact book!  But hey, some of the decisions the company has made haven't been the greatest - such as letting go of most of your classic Archie artists and writers to make way for new blood who are changing Archie way too fast.

Yep.  I said it.

As for Betty and Veronica Digest - it became B & V Friends Double Digest.  And weirdly enough, it was the only title to continue the same number sequence that the original title used...which explains why it's currently at issue #247!  But the B & V Friends title was another positive step for the company because it became the title in which Betty and Veronica merchandise was promoted.  When the company was promoting a new hardcover book that featured Betty writing in her diary as a fourteen year old, they printed excerpts of the book over a six issue spread.  It was almost like a sneak preview for us to sample before we committed to buying the whole book.  I have to say, it's quite smart marketing on Archie's part!

It's hard to say where the future of Archie Digests will go over the next few years.  2016 is looking like another year in which Archie will have to reinvent the digest style once more.  But I survived the reinvention periods of 1989, 1992, 1997, 2005, and 2011.  I'm sure I'll make it through this one too!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Jem Reviewed: Episode 10 - Adventure in China

Previously on Jem Reviewed, Jem and the Holograms took part in The World Hunger Shindig, which saw romance, jealousy, theft, and charity.  What a combo, huh?

It's time for us to take a trip to China, and watch Episode 10:  Adventure In China.  Great title, huh?  Apparently the people in charge of titles didn't think it was, so they left it off!  So, I took initiative and made one.  I don't know what font they used, but I think mine doesn't look too terrible!

It looks like Jem, Kimber, Aja, Shana, and Rio are on the trip to China.  And based on conversations between the band, we learn a few things.  We learn that Jem and the Holograms were invited as specials guests of the Chinese government to perform a pair of concerts for the people - the latter of the two being at the Great Wall of China.  And we also learn that Aja is really excited about the opportunity, meaning that it appears that Aja's background is Chinese.  Either way, it's a phenomenal opportunity for the band, and if memory serves me, this is their first concert abroad.  What could go wrong?

Oh, right.  The Misfits are on the same flight.  They too are performing in China, but not nearly with the same amount of fanfare that Jem and the Holograms are getting.  That must suck.  The Misfits started their career before Jem did, and yet Jem is getting more attention.  At least Stormer is trying to get assimilated with the culture of China by reading about it, but Pizzazz and Roxy couldn't be bothered.

Jem and the Holograms arrive at the airport to a hero's welcome, and for some reason we see a little girl in the crowd.  Who is she?  And why so much attention on her?  What are the odds that this won't be her first appearance?

The Misfits - or, should I say Misfats - have a much smaller crowd, which Pizzazz is irked by.  Roxy is grateful that they have fans though, even though she doesn't notice the spelling mistake on the banner.

Jem and the Holograms and the Misfits arrive at the security checkpoint where everyone is instructed to remove all metal objects including jewelry before entering the country, as per international law.  Three of the four Holograms abide by the law.  Can you guess which one doesn't?

Naturally, Jem is very hesitant to remove her earrings because they are her link to Synergy which causes her to become Jem in the first place, and the guard is doing his job and refusing to let her through until she complies.

At least that is until a government official who just happens to be in the area tells the guard that it's all good, Jem and the Holograms are guests, and that they can bend the rules this time.  That's...contrived.  But whatever, Jem passes through the metal detector and gets into China.

The Misfits are left wondering how Jem has so much clout - and honestly I can't say I blame them!  But even more curious is why Jem freaked out over the earrings in the first place.  Stormer seems to think that they might be good luck charms, while Pizzazz thinks they might be worth a lot of money.  But it's Roxy who makes the connection that Jem's paranoia about her earrings could mean that they're important to the Holograms act, and this prompts Eric to do some more scheming.  Interestingly enough, this is the last we see of Eric this episode, so I'm guessing he's leaving his dirty work to the Misfits.

Back at the hotel where the Holograms are staying, Kimber, Shana, and Aja are enjoying a warm mineral bath, and they encourage Jem to get inside and relax before their first concert.  Jem agrees, but she has to remove the JemStar earrings because getting electronic equipment wet is never a good idea.  Why the earrings wouldn't work.  And Jem could possibly get electrocuted.  

Of course, this sets the stage for the Misfits to pull off their plan.  When Jem is in the bath, Roxy snatches the earrings from the bench that Jem left them on, and flees into the darkness...or some dark area, given that it's like two in the afternoon.

And when Roxy is out of range, Jem changes back into Jerrica, which leaves the rest of the Holograms in shock for two reasons.  One, they can't understand why Jem changed into Jerrica so quickly - and two, they can't believe that Jerrica would wander into the mineral bath FULLY DRESSED!  I mean, those clothes would weigh fifty pounds soaking wet!  Why would she project a hologram of a bathing suit when Jerrica could just wear a bathing suit?  And this is just one of the many things that make NO SENSE in this episode!

Jerrica realizes that the earrings are gone, and she is at a loss over what to do.  Okay, Jerrica, here's what you do.  Go to a store and buy pink hair dye.  It's the 1980s, I'm sure China sells it.  Dye your blonde hair pink.  Then sing your heart out at the concert.  It's simple, it's easy, and really, you know you can sing, so what's the big deal?

Apparently, Jerrica thinks having no earrings is a big deal, and she flat out cancels the concert!

I need a headbash picture right now.

Naturally, the Chinese government officials are disgusted by the lack of commitment caused by a pair of lost earrings, so they decide to give their concert to the Misfits, who rub it in their faces.  And Jerrica and the others dejectedly leave, telling the officials that they WILL make it to the Great Wall concert.

On the way back to the hotel, they run into Rio where Jerrica makes up an excuse about why Jem isn't there, which Rio seems to buy - even though he doesn't understand why the concert couldn't go on.  Join the club, Rio.

But as the Holograms glance at the Misfits performing their concert, Jerrica proves her brain isn't completely dead when she notices that all three Misfits are wearing JemStar earrings.  And Jerrica decides that they need to give them a special ovation.  I wonder if this involves brass knuckles and baseball bats?

No, it's just a confrontation.  Which leads to a pedestrian chase set to a Misfits tune.

"You Can't Catch Me".  A solid song from the Misfits, and one which could be interpreted in a couple of ways that range from positive to negative.  I'll let you make the call.

This chase between the Holograms and the Misfits becomes exhausting to watch.  First they board a sky lift where the Misfits get at the controls to shake things up for the Holograms...okay, seriously, whenever there is electronic equipment, the Misfits have to play with it, and they are always unguarded!  Should this not tell people anything?

Then the Holograms try to catch them by climbing up a mountain, but Aja dislodges one of the statues which almost kills Kimber and Shana.  Seriously, Aja?  You're supposed to be the SMART one!

Then they lose the Misfits during a judo class taking place outside...though Pizzazz throwing a guy to the ground is somewhat funny.

The chase ends on a train - seriously, how many miles did they cover?  And despite a valiant effort to get the earrings back, the Misfits dispose of them.  Stormer throws her pair into a textile basket passing by.  Roxy's end up at the site of an archaeological dig.  And Pizzazz's end up inside a random garbage can.  We don't know which pair was the real one, but since all three are gone, it looks like Jem and the Holograms are sunk.

And this means it's time for another song!

I said in the last entry that Jem and the Holograms' strength seems to be in ballads.  And as far as "Something Is Missing In My Life" goes, it's a very good one.  But somehow singing about a pair of lost earrings kind of cheapens the punch that the song is supposed to make.

Here's your Jem Trivia for today.  All of the songs in the series - for Jem, the Misfits, and any other singing parts - were arranged by Anne Bryant.  And it's not her fault this song was used so poorly.  If it were used anywhere else, it would be phenomenal - and rumour has it that this song does make another appearance later on in this series.  I'll keep an eye on that as I do more of these.

It appears as though the Holograms are dejected and lost.  It also appears that Jerrica still hasn't thought of my idea to fake being Jem - unless Jerrica has the singing voice of a 60-year-old chain smoker and Synergy actually auto-tunes her voice.  They consider dropping out of the Great Wall concert, but Aja insists on picking up a magazine so she can determine whether or not she can still read Chinese.  An...odd request, I must say.  "Yeah, our concert is screwed, but if I can still understand Chinese, it's not a waste!"  As it turns out, Aja's decision is a good one.  They find an article about how a jewelry company will be issuing new earrings based on the JemStar naturally, they head to the factory to see what's up.

It appears as though the earrings that Stormer was wearing ended up at this factory, where the workers have now succeeded in making millions of pairs of them for sale all over the world.  I guess China was a superpower in manufacturing even back in 1986!  Of course, now that the earrings have been made, the owner of the factory sees no need for the original pair, so he gives them to Jerrica.  How nice of him to profit off of Jem's merchandise before giving her the earrings!  At least Jerrica's taking it well.

Too bad it meant nothing.  Stormer's earrings turn out to be a dud.  Too bad.

We also learn what happened to the earrings that Pizzazz was wearing in a random scene.  A father has picked them out of the trash can that they landed in, and he has decided to give them to his daughter as a gift.  Look, it's that same little girl that was at the airport!  Very peculiar...

Once again, the Holograms make the decision to cancel the concert, and once again, it's Aja who holds them up, saying that she wants to check out some exhibits of ancient Chinese artifacts.  The others are like..."what the hell, after today we'll probably be banned from China, Hong Kong, and possibly even Taiwan...we may as well enjoy it now."

For what it's worth, the Holograms do have a lot of fun immersing themselves in Chinese culture - at least until Aja notices something odd about one of the exhibits.

Well, we now know what happened to the earrings Roxy was wearing.  Apparently they're now a treasured piece of Chinese history.  We all know the truth, and so does Jerrica, who immediately snatches the earrings and puts them in her pocket!  Oh, stupid, stupid woman...don't you know that stealing things from a museum is a felony? 

At least if they get arrested, they have a legitimate reason for missing the concert.  There.  I said it!

Oh, but fear not.  The curator of the museum arrives and he too notices something strange about the earrings.  After a quick scan with a magnifying glass, he discovers that there's a message on them that says COPYRIGHT 1985.

No, I'm kidding.  But he does deduce that the earrings were manufactured during the 20th century, which means that they are NOT valuable - at least in a historical sense, anyway.  So, Jerrica and the others are free to go with the earrings.

Too bad Roxy's earrings don't seem to work either.  The grim reality sets in that their dreams of playing the Great Wall are all but over, and Aja even starts to cry.  It's...strange to see the normally cool Aja get so emotional about a concert, but I also look at it like this.  This is Aja's homeland in many ways, and I can see how playing in the country where her family came from would be a very fulfilling thing for her.  It's just sad that Aja's dream of playing in China might not come true.

Of course, if Jerrica would just go to a store and buy pink hair dye.  Just saying.

Jerrica and the Holograms arrive at the Great Wall gig and Jerrica makes the decision to let the officials know that Jem won't be there.  But before she can do that, she is distracted by a disturbing sight.

Look!  It's that girl that keeps popping up!  And it looks like she's being bullied by a group of boys.  That's not cool!  Jerrica decides to play hero and rescue her from least that is until the girl flips one of the boys on his back and they run away in terror!  Awesome!

Jerrica approaches the girl, tells her she was brave, and the girl opens up to her.  Her name is
Lin, and she is a huge fan of Jem and the Holograms.  The reason the boys were picking on her was because they were making fun of her earrings - the same JemStar earrings she got as a gift from her father.

Jerrica is forced to tell Lin that Jem has had some bad luck and won't be performing the concert.  Way to rip out her heart, Jerrica!  And you call yourself a mother for foster girls?!?  But to Jerrica's surprise, Lin gives her the earrings and tells her to give them to Jem, hoping that they will make her feel better and that her luck will change.  Aw...what a selfless thing to do!

Jerrica agrees, and thanks Lin for her generosity with a hug.  But as Jerrica puts the earrings on and proceeds to tell China that Jem won't be there, she whines to Kimber about how if they were the real JemStar earrings, she would put on the concert and thank Lin in person as Jem.

But Jem is interrupted by Synergy's voice who openly asks Jerrica if she's on crack why she can't do the concert.  Jerrica recognizes the voice and exclaims in excitement Synergy's name, and Synergy transforms Jerrica back into Jem.  She also synthesizes some of the most stereotypical Chinese costumes for the Holograms to wear, but what the hell...Jem and the Holograms are back, and ready to perform.

The Misfits on the other hand are pissed.  Roxy even exclaims that it was THEIR concert.  But Jem and the Holograms ignore them and tell them to enjoy the show the same way the Misfits did to them during their first concert.

And with that, the first order of business is to send out a special dedication to Lin in the audience, for helping Jem find the courage to go on stage.  And, again, I reiterate that Jem could have still done the show had she used her brain and pink hair dye, but did she listen to me?  No!  Of course, the episode would have only been four minutes long had she taken my advice.  Oh, let's just listen to Lin's song.

Okay, so Chinese stereotyping aside, I have to admit "Love Unites Us" is another solid Jem and the Holograms hit.  Actually, I think this might be the first episode where all the music is fantastic.  Okay, so "Something Is Missing In My Life" was used weirdly.  It's still a good song!

After the concert, Jem and the Holograms are signing autographs, and the Chinese government tells them that they are welcome in the country whenever they like even though they refuse to go through airport customs, steal artifacts from museums and destroy ancient statues.  How nice!

Jem spots Lin in the audience, and the way she is moving about, I think she has to go to the bathroom at first.  But Jem keeps her promise and tells Lin that her gift brought her luck.  She then hands Lin one of the pairs of JemStar earrings that the Misfits had as a present and token of friendship between the two of them, and the episode ends with Lin and Jem embracing.  This episode really does have a sweet ending...'s too bad that it's also the episode in which everyone acts really stupid.  This is easily one of my least favourite episodes plot wise so far.  Jerrica showed tons of insecurity in this episode over a lost pair of earrings.  I get that they are irreplaceable, but still...there were ways around it.  Plus, some of the behaviour that Jem and the Holograms partook in while running around China was - I hate to say it - very Misfit like.  It almost kind of makes them look like hypocrites when they bash the Misfits.  I bet that if it were Pizzazz stealing the earrings from the museum, Jem would be like the Queen of Hearts in "Alice in Wonderland", ordering her to be beheaded.  Yet when Jem does the same thing, she's given a slap on the wrist.

It just doesn't make sense!

Oh well.  Next episode, Jem and the Holograms vacation at a ski resort.  We'll see what happens then.