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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Truth About Myself - Part 1 of 5

Truth is a very complex thing to understand.  There are factual truths that exist in the world.  Water is always wet.  Snow is always cold.  Fire is always hot.  These are all truths that we have all come to accept, and they are truths in which we live our lives by.

But what happens when you come across a truth that you feel is so hard to comprehend that you actually want it to be a lie?  Examples would include having your significant other cheating on you with someone else.  Or, having to face the fact that a friend or family member has a terminal illness.  Or finding out that you have had your identity stolen by someone you considered a friend.  Certainly these are truths that can potentially happen to anybody, and it can be a living nightmare to those who have to face that truth.

And then there is my story.  My story that is based around a truth that has been a part of me my whole life that I have only recently become aware of within the last couple of years.  A truth that I am still struggling to accept.

For those people who have been following along on my blog, you've probably figured out what this truth is.  But for those of you who are wondering what I am talking about, I'm going to share with you some truth.  I don't exactly know how receptive people are going to be to it, but I need to talk about it because I think it could help other people who might be struggling to deal with the same truth that I am trying to accept.  The truth is that my truth might cause me to lose some contacts, but that is a risk that I am willing to take - for it is my truth that has likely been the fault of why some of my relationships have fractured over the last 35 years of my life.

The frustrating part about this truth is that I'm not really sure if the truth that I believe is really the truth of what I have.  I know that statement probably doesn't make sense to some of you, but it's the best way that I can describe it.

And this truth is so complex that I am going to need more than one entry in this blog to talk about it.  Consider this to be a miniseries of sorts.  This is merely Part 1.  If I've planned this out thoroughly, this should conclude the same week this blog turns six years old!

So, what is this truth that I need to reveal?

My truth is that I believe I have many of the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome.  I have never been formally tested by any medical professionals, nor have I been officially diagnosed by any doctor who specializes in autism.  But I know that based on my childhood experiences, my inability to do tasks that most people seem to take for granted, and my stellar ability to make a fool out of myself in social situations, I've got most, if not all the signs.  Asperger's can also be considered a form of high-functioning autism, so it's a bit difficult to determine if a person has it without knowing some of the symptoms associated with it.

I'm convinced though.  And the truth is...I openly admit to having a hard time finding acceptance of it.  Because in order for me to admit it, that would be like admitting to the whole world that I have an abnormality.  For my entire life, I've wanted to prove to the world that I can fit in with everybody, and I feel that by coming out as somebody who potentially has Asperger's, I'm essentially waving the white flag of surrender in ever being declared normal.  

I mean, yes, the truth is that normal is overrated and in some cases even dangerous.  On that token, I think all of us feel as though we stick out like a sore thumb or are square pegs trying to squeeze into a round hole once in a while.  It's just that I feel this way EVERY DAY.

I suppose I should explain why I feel that I have Asperger's, and I suppose the best way to do this is to go over some of the symptoms that people who have it face.  And once I explain my own experiences, it is my hope that those who know me will understand me a little better.  And for those who made fun of me, or who picked on me, I hope it will make them understand why I couldn't always conform to their standards, or why I felt it was unfair for them to gang up on me.

The first symptom of Asperger's deals with vocabulary.  Many people with Asperger's usually have an extensive vocabulary, and often use big words - even when they are in the single-digit age range.  I guess it comes as no secret that I used to read the dictionary.  For fun.  Not exactly an activity that most children would admit to, but I always found it fascinating to learn new words every day.  The problem is that I would often use these words in conversations with classmates or co-workers and get the blank stare in response.  It's kind of similar to the effect one would get if you tried to speak to Siri in twice the speed that you would normally talk in and it comes out one garbled mess.

Even now, I find that I have to second guess how I phrase things, and as a result, I come across as if I stutter, or my speech sometimes gets garbled because I think I used the wrong word.  If I could communicate through writing exclusively, I'd be fine.  But let's face it...this world is one that sometimes doesn't shut up.

Another sign that one might have Asperger's is the super sensitivity to certain noises and that they might have a keen ear for the slightest sound.  Even as something as innocent as a balloon popping or a sudden blast from a police siren could trigger a panic attack.  I hope some of my elementary school classmates are reading this right now because those times in which you used to chase after me in the school playground threatening to pop a balloon in my ears just to see me cry...THAT'S THE REASON WHY.  I'm not holding my breath for any apology...just telling it like it is.  Besides, you couldn't have known.  And while I can handle it a lot better now, it still bugs me.

It also explains to why I sometimes mute the television set if I know a gunshot is about to go off - much to the annoyance of those who happen to be watching television with me.

Another symptom of Asperger's syndrome can be (but not always) possession of a photographic memory.  I know I have one.  I've been told by family members, family friends, neighbours, and even several teachers that I've had that I have one.  One person I know even compared my memory to that of the Dewey Decimal System.  That's not me trying to brag or anything like that.  Those who truly know me know that this is the case.  If anything, I'm too humble to shout anything out from the rooftops.  It's just a fact of life that I've accepted.

Be grateful.  This blog wouldn't nearly be as exciting or interesting if I didn't remember everything that happened to me.  Both the good parts and the not so good parts.

People who identify as having Asperger's have a difficult time (though not always) with physical contact, and have a difficult time (though not always) with maintaining eye contact with people.  I can definitely say with a resounding "Hell Yeah" that I find it hard to lock eye contact with people - which could explain why I have bombed many job interviews over my lifetime.  I sure wish job interviews were conducted over the phone or through e-mail.  I wouldn't nearly be so stressed out over them.  I think it has to do with the fact that I find it a little uncomfortable when I have to stare directly into the eyes of another person.  I don't quite know how to explain it.  It's just the way it is.  I don't expect people to understand, and I think that some might have the wrong impression that I am rude or ignorant or flippant about them.  It's really anything but.  I find it frustrating that I find it uncomfortable to make direct eye contact with people.  

As far as physical contact goes, I'm only comfortable with it if it's someone that I know extremely well.  Family members, I'll gladly hug it out with.  Friends, it depends on how well I know you.  Complete strangers...keep away.  I mean it.

And then there's the social aspect that is associated with people who have Asperger's syndrome...or lack thereof.  And it's one of the many things that can be considered a negative.  Well, at least it is for me, anyway.

But that's a tale that will wait until next week.  Now that you know what some of the symptoms of Asperger's's time to reveal some of the pitfalls that can come with it.  

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Message To Myself - Aged 19

A few years ago, just before I turned 30, I was tasked to write a letter to myself from ten years ago.  It proved to be a cathartic exercise, and I'm really glad I did it.  I'm thinking of doing it again when I turn 40, only to my 30 year old self.

But in the meantime...and for your amusement, I thought I'd share what I wrote here.  I'm actually working on a blog project right now, but it's not quite complete yet.  

I hope this will tide you over until then.

August 11, 2010

Dear Matthew of the past,

A couple of my friends sort of subconsciously gave me the idea to do this, so if you don't like it...that's too bad, because I have a feeling that you'll do something similar down the road.

I imagine that you're pretty excited about heading off to Carleton University to study Mass Communications, and you're probably looking forward to the birth of your newest niece or nephew next month (I won't spoil it for you now, but let's just say that come September 20, you'll know for sure).  And, as you read this, you're probably freaking out as to how I know all of this stuff.

There's a reason for that.  I'm you in the year 2010.

And, no, I'm not lying either.

Okay, so as you look on your calendar, it will read August 11, 2000. Similarly, as I look back on my calendar ten years into the future, it will be August 11, 2010. Don't worry. The world hasn't ended yet, and I am still here. There'll be a bit of a scare come 2003 with the SARS bug, and you'll have to deal with endless talk about the H1N1 virus as you enter 2009, but survived!

Just like you survived the first nineteen years of your life.

Can I just say right now how proud I am of you for making it through Commonwealth Public School?  Can I just say that I'm even more proud that you survived those five years at Brockville Collegiate Institute?  You did great, man.  Oh, sure, your average in your final term of high school was a 79.5%, which just slightly prevented you from being an Ontario Scholar (and yes, as the years go by, you will learn to accept this), but I'm not talking about your academic success, Matty boy.

I know that your high school experiences were not the best in the world.  I mean, I should know...since I'm you, right?  I know you were going into high school expecting it to be just like Saved By The Bell, where you would make friends with everyone in school, play tricks on the principal and later head down to the teen hangout.  I also know how disappointed you were when you found that high school was anything but that.  I just want you to know that it will take a lot of time and a lot of healing, but you WILL get through this.

If there's one life lesson that you'll learn over the next ten years, it's that it isn't important for everybody to like you.  What is important is maintaining contact with those who really matter.  Why, ten years from now, you're going to meet up with two people from your graduating class for dinner at Boston Pizza, and it'll be a great outing, even though it was pouring rain.

And, I know what you're saying...Brockville doesn't have a Boston Pizza.  You're right.  In 2000, it didn't.  As you'll see, Brockville will go through a LOT of changes over the next decade.  Some good, some not so good.

And, honestly, don't get freaked out by this, but in 2010, you'll still be here in Brockville.  Yes, I know what I said back in 2000...I said that I was leaving Brockville and never coming back.  The truth is, things don't exactly work out the way things want them to.  And, yes, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you're probably going to experience some hard times come 2002, 2003.  But, obviously, you're going to come out of this a stronger person, or else I wouldn't be here in 2010 writing this letter to, I mean, me.

I've seen some of your writing, and I think that if you stick with it, it will really get you noticed.  I mean, there's a site called Facebook where you can post Notes for people to read.  You'll discover this site roughly around late 2007.  When you do...just try writing down your feelings and your hopes and your fears.  I'm sure that the discovery that other people have gone through similar experiences that we have will give you the power to do almost anything.  I also encourage you to write for your university least for one year.  You'll get your name out there, and you'll have loads of stories to tell ten years from now about all the free concerts you attended and compact discs you got (yes, compact discs do exist in 2010, though there's this new device called the Ipod that's all the rage these days), and just all the fun experiences you had.  If I can offer you one piece of advice...keep your eyes peeled about the organization called RRRA.  They'll offer you a lot of promises and a lot of praise...and I think you're smart enough to see through the lies and find the truth.  All the same though...just keep your eyes peeled.

I also know how discouraged you were in your part-time job search during high school.  It isn't easy to find a job when your work experience wasn't that good.  I know back in 1998 and 1999 when you tried applying for a jobs at Zellers, Walmart, No Frills, and Wheeler's Independent Grocer, it made you feel sad when you didn't get a call back.  I won't spoil it for you, but four years from now, one of those places will give you a chance.  Coincidentally, two of the other places will close up, and the third is barely holding on as is.  You'll find out soon enough.

Congratulations on getting your one thousandth Archie Comic book!  That's a pretty big accomplishment.  Don't be embarrassed by it either.  I know that family members pretty much discouraged you from making your love for Archie comics public knowledge in high school, but trust me...once you flee the judgemental hell known as high school, you'll be proud.  And, keep collecting them.  I'm sure that in 2010, you'll get your 2000th book!

It's really too bad that you and I are one in the same.  Had we had a chance to meet face to face, I think you and I could have become very good friends.  I know that you always said that your weight and your lack of self-confidence in 2000 held you back from being socially capable, but if I could show you how you look now, I think it would actually show you that you will turn out okay.  I know 2009 seems like such a long time from now, but if you can wait that long, I know that things will start to get better.  You can trust me on that one.  Which, I guess means, that you'll have to believe in yourself right alongside me.

So, let me give you a taste of what else is in store for the next 10 years...

I know you're liking the new shows Survivor and Big Brother.  Would you be shocked if I told you that in 2010, these shows are still on the air?

Cell phones will continue to evolve and grow in popularity...and ten years later, you still won't have one!

You'll have dozens of friends from all over the world...and not meet any of them face-to-face.

I'll recommend a good pharmacy for you to get muscle relaxants at the cheapest cost.  You'll need them around your 23rd birthday.

Don't forget about the person who set your locker on fire in eleventh grade...if you can wait until Commencement, all will be revealled.

I have a bottle filled with paper cranes in my 2010 bedroom.  They were given to me by someone who you'll meet in Ottawa.

You won't have met Ms. Right in 2010, unfortunately...but I promise time passes on, you won't nearly be bothered by it.

That's it for now.  Say hi to Mom and Dad for me, and please, please, give Ol' Thum a pat on the back for me, and keep giving him love for as long as you can.  You won't ever regret it.

Stay strong, 19-year-old Matthew, and remember...29 is gonna be a good's all up to you.

29 Year Old Matthew

MWT - 8/11/2010

Friday, April 21, 2017

Jem Reviewed: Episode 57 - Beauty and the Rock Promoter

It's time for another edition of Jem Reviewed!  There aren't too many of these coming up now that we're in Season 3.  The last episode had us feeling some sympathy for Clash as she became a misfit...and not in the way she hoped either.  Let's see what the next episode brings.

This is Episode 57:  Beauty and the Rock Promoter.  Ah, yes, this is Jem's take on "Beauty and the Beast".  Quite fitting, given that the remake of the film "Beauty and the Beast" was one of the biggest movie releases during the first quarter of 2017.  Let's see how they did it back in 1988, shall we?

The setting takes place in London, England.  Land of the Buckingham Palace Guards, double decker buses, and EastEnders - both the soap opera and people living in the East End of London!  And right off the bat, we're introduced to a guy who looks as if he should be attending classes at the School of Bad Fashions!  I mean, I was alive in 1988, and I don't remember seeing anybody dressed like that!

The man calls himself Red Johnny Mac.  I'm guessing he's not related to the Big Brother 17 player of the same name.  Anyway, it appears as though Johnny Mac is in a bit of a prickly pickle as he has thugs chasing him all over.  It makes one wonder what he did.  He either owes them a lot of money or he killed off a Coronation Street character.

Johnny Mac has escaped to a nightclub that happens to be playing Jem's "Truly Outrageous" on the video screens.  At first I think this is bollocks, as that single came out at the beginning of the series three years ago...but then again, it did take some time for the Spice Girls to find an audience in North America.  Maybe Britain was behind the times for American pop music.

Unfortunately, Johnny Mac has been caught and the man in charge of the operation - a man who calls himself Harold - orders his men to pick Johnny Mac up, hold him upside down, and gather any pound notes that fall out of his pockets.  Yep, I figured that Johnny Mac was in debt up to his ears.

Now, here's where Johnny Mac's predicament works to his favour.  You see, Johnny Mac is an aspiring producer, and he comes up with the idea to produce a rock opera of "Beauty and the Beast".  As it so happens, there is a Beauty and the Beast poster hanging on the wall of the club.  And with that poster being placed right next to a monitor showing the Jem video, Johnny Mac seems to convince Harold that he can get Jem to star as Beauty.  That's...a really huge promise to make.  I mean, by this time Jem has already done a Broadway musical and was nominated for an Academy Award!  You think she'd actually take the part for a musical written and produced by a man that she likely hasn't heard of?

Oh, who are we kidding?  Of course Jem is in!  Well, actually, it's Jerrica that receives a copy of the script - and airline tickets for all the Holograms.  Okay, question.  If Johnny Mac owes thousands of pounds to creditors and loan sharks across the United Kingdom, how can he afford plane tickets for the Holograms?  Just one of the many questions that come up during this episode, I'm sure.  But after Jerrica reads the script and seems to give it her seal of approval, she gives the Holograms the okay to fly out to London to give the musical a try.

Of course, the Holograms aren't the only ones who want to go to London.  The Misfits find out that the Holograms are going to London because they've been hand selected to act in Red Johnny Mac's play - leading to the question, how would they have known if Red Johnny Mac isn't well known in the United States?  I do find it hilarious that Pizzazz plays up the fact that Jetta will be able to travel back home again - especially since they last time they were in England, Jetta tried to con Pizzazz into selling her everything she owned!  I wonder if the rumours are true in that this episode was supposed to be for Season 2?  It's not exactly Jem Trivia, but it could explain why Eric is still in charge and why the Stingers are nowhere in sight.  Plus, in the version of the show that I watched, the bumpers are the same ones that they used for seasons one and two, whereas season three had new ones.

Anyway, the Holograms arrive in London, and Rio has decided to tag along as well in case the Holograms need some extra special effects, and in case Rio feels the need to chop down a pine tree.  Red Johnny Mac is there and he seems to be completely enchanted by Jem and the Holograms.  He is so in awe of them that he kisses every single one of them on the hand.  Rio casually remarks that he's surprised Johnny Mac hasn't kissed him too.  Don't be jealous, Rio. 

Johnny Mac also introduces the Holograms to two of the crew members of the show.  First is American born Zero Jones, who is responsible for the set design - apparently the setting is changed from medieval times to modern times, and the show takes place in an abandoned power plant.  And secondly, we have special effects supervisor Yoji Yokomura, who is responsible for the lighting and special effects seen on stage - including the light show that is attached to the costume of the Beast.  As for who the Beast is, we don't quite know yet.

Instead, we're treated to a photo montage of Jem and the Holograms posing in front of the Beast costume, as well as holding some Beast swag.  I don't know whether they're promoting the musical or doing a commercial for Esprit clothing.  Either way, Jem is eager to start rehearsing the first chance she gets.

We are immediately taken to the first scene of the play, which shows Beauty's father trying to take a gift to his beloved daughter Beauty.  Now, in the original story, the father tries to grab a rose.  But since this is a rock opera, the item the father tries to take is a guitar.  And if you know the story of Beauty and the Beast, you know that the Beast punishes the man by holding him as his prisoner for stealing.  But you also know that Beauty makes the ultimate sacrifice by offering herself in place of her father.

Sure enough, that's what BeautyJem decides to do.  The father is grateful, but you can't say the same about Beauty's sisters.  I like how the Holograms essentially play the roles of Misfits, and do a fantastic job with it too!  I guess they would know from experience.  I especially like Aja and Raya's performances.  Raya is so convincing, she actually loses her accent!

So BeautyJem arrives at the abandoned power plant where the Beast lives, and Beasty wants Beauty all to himself.  And he loudly proclaims that he will do whatever it takes to win her love.  But Beauty's all like "Nuh-uh, loser" and sings a song about how he will NEVER win her love.

The song "You'll Never Win My Love" is a typical throwaway song that seems to be the theme for Season 3.  It's okay on its own with the context that it is used in, but it's not exactly all that memorable.  It's not like, say, "Glitter and Gold" or "Truly Outrageous".  Though it's better than "Deception" and "I'm Taking A Train".

Needless to say, the Beast doesn't take BeautyJem's rejection well and tries to bash a chair over her head.  Well that escalated quickly.

Fear not.  This Beast is a gentleman, and only smashes the chair into the ground.  And that's a wrap for the scene rehearsal.

The Beast quickly disappears backstage, and Rio appears on stage to give Jem congratulations.  However Jem seems to be in some sort of trance as she completely ignores Rio and tries to look for the Beast.  Wow, it's not every day that a girl dumps her boyfriend for a big hairy monster, but given that it's jerkface Rio that gets dumped, I actually find it quite enjoyable.

It's interesting that Red Johnny Mac doesn't seem to be anywhere around when all this is going on, but Jem manages to track him down in one of the back offices.  Note how Johnny Mac happens to be standing near a Beast head.  I wonder if there is some foreshadowing magic coming up in this episode.  Because as we know, cartoons NEVER foreshadow anything.

Jem is already beat from doing several scenes of rehearsing, but Johnny Mac isn't quite finished with them yet.  They have another photo shoot promoting the rock musical and all five Holograms are put in front of the camera once more to pose, pose, and pose some more.  You'd think they'd be used to it, given that they released a rock fashion book not long ago.

By the time the band gets back to their hotel, Jem has changed back into Jerrica and she is trying to stay awake long enough to memorize her lines.  But ultimately Mr. Sandman decides to drop by and zonk Jerrica out long enough for her to start dreaming about the Beast.

What's interesting about the dream is that she is dreaming of Jem modelling dresses for the Beast that the costume designer of the musical has made.  Every single dress she tries on is a costume that she wore in a previous episode, and she's all like - these clothes suck!  I found it amusing anyway. 

Before "Jem" can get close to the Beast, Kimber wakes Jerrica up and tells her that they have to be at the theatre for more rehearsing.  Jerrica complains that she had hardly had any rest since they arrived in London and even Kimber remarks that none of the Holograms have gotten any more than three hours of sleep a night.  Ah, there's that foreshadowing fairy working overtime again.

Back at the theatre, it's time to shoot the next scene.  It's the dinner scene between BeautyJem and the Beast complete with an elegant dinner, dancing ladies, and all sorts of other luxuries.  I guess having actors playing Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts would be too Disney for this episode.

But just as the scene is getting underway, the ground shakes beneath them and the set starts to spin around in a gigantic circle!  What gives?

Oh, it's just the Misfits wanting to cause trouble by sabotaging the rehearsal.  While Roxy and Stormer have Yoji pinned against the wall, Jetta and Pizzazz are fooling around with the controls for the stage.  What is Pizzazz's obsession with grabbing levers and pushing buttons?  Does she secretly want to be an engineer or something?

Fortunately, Rio and the other crew members grab all four of the Misfits and throw them out of the building.  Now see, I think this was a missed opportunity to spotlight a Misfits tune.  It could have even been an older song like "Makin' Mischief" or "Takin' It All".  But no, the storyboard says that we must have all Jem songs this episode.

Before we get to the second of three Jem songs featured in this episode, Rio tells Jem that the Misfits tried to cause trouble but he got them out of the building...and Jem completely ignores Rio to schmooze with the Beast!  It's simultaneously pathetic yet hilarious as hell to see Rio pouting and sarcastically thanking himself since Jem won't do it.  Oh, Rio...always the putz.

The second song is actually a duet between Jem and the Beast, and the song is called "Let Me Go".  It's about Beauty's desire to go back home, and the Beast realizing that he is hurting her by not letting her go.  I think it's the best song of the three featured, and whoever does the singing voice of the Beast does quite a nice job.

The song ends, the Beast disappears backstage, and Jem is practically lovesick over the Beast.  This causes Rio to lose his mind and smash a rosebush on the ground.  No wait.  He just tells Jem that she is deliriously tired and that they are going to take the night off to have dinner and sleep.  You know, this may be the only time that Rio acts sensibly, so take that moment in for posterity.

Back at the hotel, Jem and Rio are arguing about how Jem is doing way too much for Johnny Mac and how she is going to burn herself out, and Jem is trying to defend herself by saying that she can press through it and how she's not even tired.  But when she passes out in the middle of the hallway and Kimber barely manages to catch her before she hits the floor, everyone sees just how much the rock musical has taken out of her.

A doctor is summoned (and who else is impressed that doctors still made house calls in 1988) and tells everyone that Jem has overexerted herself and needs to get plenty of rest.  Raya mentions that they are involved in a rock opera of Beauty and the Beast, and Rio rudely tells Raya to can it.  Wow, I know that Raya didn't exactly think before she spoke, but your snapping back at her was just rude.  Rio, you're not a man.  You're a boy.  An insecure boy who is too stupid to realize that he's cheating on his girlfriend with a hologram that is actually still his girlfriend.

Can you all tell that I hate Rio?

With Jem being out of commission for the time being, the other Holograms come to the conclusion that they can't continue with the show.  What they decide to do is something that is quite uncharacteristic for them.  They find out where the Misfits are staying and offer them the gig instead!  I wonder how Red Johnny Mac is going to take the news...

Well, clearly Red Johnny Mac is feeling a bit blue upon hearing the news...and he's especially green with sickness when he is informed that the Misfits will be their replacements.  Red Johnny Mac tries to protest, but Rio is white hot with anger blaming him for pushing Jem too hard, and eventually Johnny Mac backs down, realizing that he has no other choice.

The decision to make the Misfits the stars of the show doesn't sit too well with Harold either, who accuses Red Johnny Mac of lying to him.  It seems as though Red Johnny Mac needs a miracle to get through the practice run of the show.  But hey...maybe the Misfits have gotten better in acting since their disastrous movie project.

Luckily, just as the Misfits are about to go on stage, Jem wakes up feeling the most refreshed she's felt since arriving in London.  The other Holograms are happy to see that she's awake, and casually remark that she's been asleep for four days.  Um...WHAT?  Jem's been sleeping for four days, and they treat it as if it's just a cat nap?  That's not a nap!  That's a freakin' coma!  Needless to say, Jem is not happy that she managed to sleep for half a week knowing that they have to go on stage.  When Shana and Kimber mention that the Misfits are doing the show now, that surprisingly gives Jem more energy to get dressed and get to the theatre.  Wow, who needs coffee when you have pure green jealousy to get you through the roughest of mornings!

Oh, and in case you were wondering about the Misfits acting abilities, well...they've actually gotten worse.  Jetta and Stormer are staring into space, Roxy reads her lines as if she's Vicki, the robot girl from "Small Wonder", and Pizzazz throws a temper tantrum on stage because she forgets her lines.  Nice to see that some things haven't changed.

Fortunately, Jem and the Holograms arrive just before the play's final scene, and everyone - including Harold - are more than thrilled to see her come back.  Jem tells Pizzazz that she is there to relieve her, and Pizzazz goes into a full on Joan Crawford like meltdown which causes her to be escorted out by several men!  Heh...poor Pizzazz.  She always did want to be the center of attention no matter what the context.

Jem appears on stage to a standing ovation, and the Beast (who is playing the scene where he is dying in his bedroom) is so stunned to see her that he actually calls her Jem instead of Beauty!  Whoops!  Oh well...considering that the Misfits chewed the scenery so much that they're still picking splinters out of their tongues, I guess one gaffe wouldn't hurt.

And in the final song of the show, "Our Love Makes You Beautiful", we see why Johnny Mac hasn't been around for the rehearsals.  If you guessed that he was the actor playing the Beast, you'd win a gold star.  Of course, the show made it blatantly obvious, but still, it's a nice song.  It's no Peabo Bryson or Celine Dion, but they make it work.

The crowd goes wild and after the actors take their final bows, Jem congratulates Johnny Mac on the success of the play (well, at least the part after the Misfits left), and Johnny Mac is grateful to Jem for giving him the self-confidence needed to show his work more often.  Aw, that's kind of nice, Jem helping Johnny Mac become a better person much like Beauty helped the Beast find the man within.

I'm also guessing that based on this screenshot that Harold loved the play as well and that the debt is all but paid off.  Johnny Mac seems less than impressed.

Jem, meanwhile, beelines towards Rio, and Rio tells Jem that she was great, and blah blah blah.  Seriously, I don't care.  I hate Jem and Rio together and honestly think that she and Riot make a better couple given how narcissistic both are.  But other than the Jem and Rio scenes, this episode was a fun one.  I didn't think it was too bad, and I liked their take on "Beauty and the Beast".  But once again, the Misfits seem more like bit players, and it's kind of sad to see, given how strong they were in Season 1 and the first half of Season 2.  Mind you it was around this time that the Jem dolls were halted in production and the show was ordered to end rather quickly.  Perhaps the episode quality suffered in that regard.  But still, this episode's probably one of the better Season 3 episodes, so on that note, we'll nod our heads and move onto the next episode.

Next week, the Holograms travel to the area formerly known as Yugoslavia...where Danse finds herself in the middle of a mystery.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

April 20, 2010

Throughout history, April 20th has been seen as a very strange day.  It's a date that has been host to some of the most shocking tragedies in the world, and is the birthdate of one of the most tyrannical leaders in modern day history.  And it also happens to be the date in which marijuana use is celebrated.  As I said.  Weird date.

So what event will I focus on for this week's
Throwback Thursday?  I haven't decided yet.  Maybe if I take a look at some of the other events of the day, I will figure it out.

1534 - Jacques Cartier begins his first voyage to the area known as Newfoundland and Labrador

1775 - The Siege of Boston begins during the American Revolutionary War

1792 - France declares war against the King of Hungary and Bohemia which leads to the direct cause of the French Revolutionary War

1826 - Major Gordon Laing becomes the first non-Muslim to enter Timbuktu

1836 - The Wisconsin Territory is established

1861 - Robert E. Lee resigns his commission in the United States Army to command the forces of the state of Virginia

1889 - Adolf Hitler, the man who would become the most hated and feared man around the world, is born in Braunau am Inn, Austria-Hungary

(and no...I'm not afraid to share my dislike and disgust of the above either)

1902 - Radium chloride is first refined by Pierre and Marie Curie

1912 - Both Fenway Park in Boston and Tiger Stadium in Detroit open to the public; also on this date author Bram Stoker passes away

1914 - Voice actress Betty Lou Gerson (d. 1999) is born in Chattanooga, Tennessee

1918 - "The Red Baron" shoots down his 79th and 80th victims - one day before his death

1943 - Actress/model Edie Sedgwick (d. 1971) is born in Santa Barbara, California

1945 - Twenty Jewish children are killed in the basement of the Bullenhuser Damm school - the children were used for medical experiments at Neuengamme

1946 - Race car driver Gordon Smiley (d. 1982) is born in Omaha, Nebraska

1949 - Figure skater and painter Toller Cranston (d. 2015) is born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

1951 - Singer Luther Vandross (d. 2005) is born in Edison, New Jersey

1961 - The Bay of Pigs invasion fails

1972 - Apollo 16 lands on the moon's surface

1992 - British comedian Benny Hill dies at the age of 68

1999 - Twelve students and one teacher are killed and twenty-four others injured during the Columbine High School shootings - the perpetrators were two students of the school who later took their own lives

2007 - A shooting takes place at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas - the gunman and one male hostage lose their lives

2008 - Danica Patrick becomes the first female racer to win an Indy car race (the Indy Japan 300)

2013 - An earthquake strikes near Lushan County, China, killing 150 and injuring thousands

2016 - American wrestler Joanie "Chyna" Laurer dies at the age of 45

And for celebrity birthdays, we have the following people turning one year older; Leslie Phillips, Guy Rocher, Elena Verdugo, Pat Roberts, George Takei, Ryan O'Neal, Michael Brandon, Alasdair Cooke, Andrew Tobias, Craig Frost, Veronica Cartwright, Jessica Lange, Steve Erickson, Gilles Lupien, Rodney Holman, Don Mattingly, Mike Pniewski, Crispin Glover, Andy Serkis, Rosalynn Sumners, Julia Morris, Felix Baumgartner, Shemar Moore, Carmen Electra, Stephen Marley, Todd Hollandsworth, Tina Cousins, Joey Lawrence, and Miranda Kerr.

All on a date in history where potentially anything could happen, what date have I decided to go back in time to?

Well, it's only seven years into the past.  The date?  April 20, 2010.

I'll be the first to admit that this particular day's events seem quite hazy to me.  Come to think of it, 2010 was one of those years that seemed quite forgettable upon retrospect as nothing really major happened in my life.  However, one thing I do remember in relation to today's blog topic is the aftermath - an aftermath which was quite devastating.

I'm sure most of us remember at some point logging online and seeing the camera footage of a gigantic oil spill that took place in the Gulf of Mexico through a miniature underwater camera.  It was strangely mesmerizing to see the oil flowing through the water, but ultimately it would be a gigantic environmental disaster in the world.  With an average of 340,000 gallons of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico per day, the spill was the largest oil spill ever recorded within the United States.  It certainly was larger and more damaging than the earliest oil spill I can remember - the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989.  By the time the oil leak was patched, the oil had flowed into the Gulf of Mexico for eighty-seven straight days.

Naturally, people were upset about the massive oil spill and rightfully so.  A lot of the underwater ecosystems directly in the path of the spill were forever destroyed, thousands of sea creatures were displaced or were killed as a result of the spill, and it left behind a gigantic mess that as of 2017 is still being cleaned up.

But what caused such an environmental disaster to occur in the first place?

Sadly, it dealt with another tragedy.  One that killed eleven people, and threatened the lives of another one hundred and fifteen.  It was a disaster that spawned the 2016 film "Deepwater Horizon".

The Deepwater Horizon, of course, was the name of the drilling rig that was searching for oil buried underneath the ocean floor off the coast of Louisiana.  The oil rig that exploded exactly seven years ago today and was the direct cause of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The first signs of trouble aboard the oil rig were reported on April 20, 2010 at 9:56pm.  At the time, 126 crew members were aboard, representing British Petroleum (BP), Transocean, Anadarko, Halliburton, and M-I Swaco, and it was around the time listed that the first reports of flames being sighted aboard the rig.  Many of the crew members aboard the rig saw lights flickering inside the rig followed by at least two strong vibrations that shook the entire rig.  According to the internal investigation launched by BP, the cause of the vibrations was reportedly due to a bubble of methane gas that escaped through the oil well, and expanded as it traveled through the rig.  Eventually the pressure grew too great and the bubble exploded, causing extreme damage to the rig itself.

When the explosion occured, the fire spread quickly, and by dawn on April 21, the fire had engulfed the entire platform.  Fortunately the quick actions of most of the crew aboard ensured the safety of one hundred and fifteen people aboard the rig.  Sadly, the following eleven people lost their lives; Keith Blair Manuel, Donald Clark, Dewey Revette, Stephen Ray Curtis, Karl Kleppinger Jr., Aaron Dale Burkeen, Jason Anderson, Gordon Jones, Roy Wyatt Kemp, Adam Wiese, and Shane Roshto.  The youngest casualty was just 22 years of age.

Meanwhile, the fire continued to burn on top of the oil rig for one whole day until the rig sank to the bottom of the Gulf the morning of April 22.  Ironically, April 22 is Earth Day - a day in which environmental protection and conservation is celebrated.  That same morning was the day that the oil spill was first noticed.  Two days later, it was confirmed that a damaged oil wellhead was leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  And, well...we all know the rest of the tale.

The end result left a bad taste in everybody's mouth, and BP received a lot of the criticism in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

In June 2010, the House Committee of Energy and Commerce ruled that BP should have tested cement at the well, which might have prevented the disaster from happening in the first place.  However, in September 2010, BP issued a statement that crew members should have taken notice at some of the warning flags that erupted just before the explosion occurred, such as riser pipes losing fluid.  Transocean, meanwhile pointed the finger at BP, stating that their faulty well design was the real cause of the disaster.

The desire to find culpability was almost as messy as the oil spill itself.

By November 2010, the Oil Spill Commission had issued their findings, and stated that although BP hadn't intentionally sacrificed safety plans for profit, they did make it clear that poor decision making caused by bad management of the project caused risks to significantly increase.

One year after the explosion, BP filed a group of lawsuits against Transocean, Halliburton, and Cameron (the company in charge of the blowout-preventer) to the tune of $40 billion, and several of these companies did pay BP some money in damages.  However three years later in 2014, a judge ruled that BP was guilty of gross negligence willful misconduct under the Clear Water Act, and issued fines towards BP (67%), Transocean (30%), and Halliburton (3%).  As of 2015, BP is estimated to have lost close to $54 billion for the cost of the clean-up, as well as fines accumulated from environmental and economic damages.

A hefty price to pay.  And that's not even counting the eleven lives lost that day, as well as the casualties to the underwater ecosystems and the businesses that relied on the coast to make money.

It was a terrible tragedy on all accounts.