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Thursday, May 25, 2017

May 25, 1977

I'm not even going to give you a hint for today's Throwback Thursday post.  If I did, I'd give it away even before I got to today's historical events and celebrity birthdays.  Heck, the date alone might be a giveaway.  So, I won't waste time.  Here's a list of some of the things that happened on May 25.

240 BC - First recorded perihelion passage of Halley's Comet

1738 - A treaty signed between Pennsylvania and Maryland ends the Conojocular War

1787 - The United States Constitutional Convention convenes in Philadelphia

1803 - Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (d. 1882) is born in Boston, Massachusetts

1837 - The Rebels of Lower Canada (present day Quebec) rebel against the British for governmental reforms

1865 - An ordnance depot explodes in Mobile, Alabama, killing 300 people

1878 - Gilbert and Sullivan's "H.M.S. Pinafore" opens in London

1895 - Oscar Wilde is convicted of "committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons" and is sentenced to two years in prison

1925 - John T. Snopes is indicted for teaching Darwin's Theory of Evolution in his Tennessee classroom

1935 - At the Big Ten Conference Track and Field Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jesse Owens manages to break three world records and equal a fourth

1939 - Actress Dixie Carter (d. 2010) is born in McLemoresville, Tennessee

1940 - The Battle of Boulogne ends with the capture of the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer by Germany

1955 - A devastating F5 tornado strikes Udall, Kansas, killing 80 and injuring 273

1961 - President John F. Kennedy announces his goal to "put a man on the Moon" before the end of the decade - that goal would be met in 1969

1963 - The Organisation of African Unity is established in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

1968 - The Gateway Arch is dedicated in St. Louis, Missouri

1977 - The government of China removes the ban on all works by William Shakespeare, ending the Cultural Revolution

1979 - American Airlines Flight 191 crashes at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, killing everyone on board and two on the ground

1983 - Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi is released in theatres

1986 - Hands Across America takes place

1990 - Actor Vic Tayback dies at the age of 60

2002 - China Airlines Flight 611 disintegrates mid-air, killing everybody on board

2007 - Actor/comedian Charles Nelson Reilly dies at the age of 76

2011 - The final episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" airs

2014 - Actor/singer Herb Jeffries passes away at the age of 100

And the list of celebrities turning one year older are as follows; Georgy Grechko, Irwin Winkler, Tom T. Hall, Ian McKellen, Jessi Colter, John Palmer, Leslie Uggams, Charlie Harper, Frank Oz, Karen Valentine, Klaus Meine, Robby Steinhardt, Bob Gale, Robert Picard, Rick Wamsley, Anthea Turner, Mike Myers, Anne Heche, Stacy London, Jamie Kennedy, Octavia Spencer, Daz Dillinger, Molly Sims, Cody Canada, Erinn Hayes, Cillian Murphy, Ethan Suplee, Joe King, Neon Hitch, Jillian Wheeler, and Aly Raisman.

And now for today's Throwback Thursday date.  



We're going back exactly forty years.  To May 25, 1977.

Now, that was the same day that China revoked its ban on all works of Shakespeare...but it's not the main subject of this blog.  No, this blog is going to take you to place not from this planet.  I could say that we're boldly going where no man has gone before...but I won't.  Because that has nothing to do with today's theme aside from the setting.

And, notice how on this date in 1983 that Return of the Jedi was released in theatres?  Certainly it was a great film, and just one of several that have been made within this franchise.  However, it was on this date 40 years ago that the movie that kicked off this franchise debuted.  A movie that introduced us to characters such as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, and of course, Chewbacca.



Can you believe that it's been four decades since Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope debuted?  Of course, back in 1977, it was just known as Star Wars.  After all, George Lucas at the time didn't realize how huge the franchise would become.  It was also one of the first movies to begin its story right in the middle, as the prequel trilogy wouldn't screen until 1999 and the sequel trilogy is currently being made (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was released in 2015).  But it remains one of the most successful science-fiction films ever, and forty years later, its impact on pop culture is still widely felt.  It also made household names of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and the late Carrie Fisher.

So, I thought that in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, I'd put my search engine on warp speed and do some research on the first film.  And then I thought I'd post one fact for every one of the 40 years that has passed since the film made its debut!  I know I learned a lot more about the film by writing this blog, and I've consulted the Internet Movie Database and several other references to find the most interesting trivia bits about Star Wars. 

Let's begin!

1 - Initially there wasn't a lot of high expectations for the film to do well.  George Lucas skipped out on the premiere to go on vacation with Steven Spielberg - though it was on this vacation that they came up with the idea for Indiana Jones.

2 - It became the first film to make over $300,000,000 at the box office.

3 - Harrison Ford admitted to being on his best behaviour when Alec Guinness was filming scenes with him.  Once he was gone, he and Mark Hamill would get into mischief!

4 - David Prowse was the man in the Darth Vader costume - however his voice was provided by James Earl Jones.



5 - Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill did their own stunt work for the scene where Luke and Leia swing to safety - it was filmed in one take!

6 - Ever wonder how the lightsaber sound effect was achieved?  It is a combination of the humming of a 35mm projector with the feedback generated by passing a stripped microphone cable by a television.

7 - Carrie Fisher's mother, Debbie Reynolds, was so appalled that George Lucas was making the cast fly coach that she called him to complain - though Carrie had the last word when she told her to f@#$ off and that she was flying coach!

8 - During the trash compactor scene, Mark Hamill held his breath so long that he popped a blood vessel in his face.

9 - Peter Mayhew wanted to play a good guy while David Prowse wanted to play a bad guy.  They were cast as Chewbacca and Darth Vader respectively.



10 - Kenny Baker, the man in the R2-D2 outfit, has said that when the crew broke for lunch, they would accidentally leave him behind.

11 - Carrie Fisher's breasts had to be taped down with gaffer's tape, as her costume didn't permit lingerie to be worn underneath.

12 - After the trash compactor scene, the Chewbacca costume was left with a permanent stench.

13 - An interesting connection between two Star Wars films.  Denis Lawson, who played Wedge in the original film is Ewan McGregor's uncle.  Ewan, of course, played Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars I, II, and III.

14 - Peter Cushing would wear fuzzy slippers in scenes in which his feet weren't shown - the boots that were part of his costume were too tight for him.

15 - Amazingly, Princess Leia and Obi-Wan Kenobi NEVER really share any screen time together - unless you count the lightsaber duel where she sees him from a significant distance.

16 - John Williams composed the iconic Star Wars theme, as well as all of the music heard within the film.



17 - Take a good look at the Stormtroopers.  Almost all of them are left-handed.

18 - According to the Internet Movie Database, the film has one of the highest body counts (if not the highest) ever, with a total of 2,002,795,192 losing their lives!

19 - Han Solo's character evolved a LOT from the planning stages.  He was initially to be a giant green alien, but then that was changed to an African-American human, and finally a Caucasian.

20 - George Lucas was considering having Orson Welles do the voice of Darth Vader, but decided against it, as Welles' voice would have been too recognizable.

21 - George Lucas would refer to the film as a "Disney movie" during the production.  I'll let you all figure out the irony behind that statement...

22 - Kenner Toys was so hit with demand for Star Wars toys that they actually didn't have enough supply for holiday shoppers during Christmas 1977.  The company issued rain check vouchers during this time, and the toys were delivered the following spring.

23 - The scenes on Tatooine were filmed in a Tunisian desert - one that received the first heavy rainfall in over fifty years while the crew filmed!

24 - Sandstorms would destroy some of the sets representing Tatooine.  Twenty-two years later while filming "The Phantom Menace", the same thing happened.



25 - Ralph McQuarrie designed the iconic Darth Vader suit.

26 - George Lucas based the character of Han Solo on his friend, Francis Ford Coppola

27 - Brian DePalma helped George Lucas write the opening text crawl.

28 - When Captain Wedge Antilles' neck is crushed by Darth Vader, the sound effect is made by walnuts being crushed



29 - Several Star Wars references can be found in the "Final Fantasy" series of games - most notably in Final Fantasy VII, where two of the members of AVALANCHE are named Biggs and Wedge.

30 - Ben Burtt is the man behind Chewbacca's voice, as well as several of the other sound effects heard in the film - he disclosed that alien gibberish spouted by Garindian/Long Snoot was John Wayne's voice - albeit heavily processed.



31 - Fans were upset that Chewbacca (SPOILER ALERT) didn't get a medal in the closing scene.  MTV decided to fix that by giving Chewbacca a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards.  Carrie Fisher was the one who made the presentation!

32 - This was the first movie to be dubbed in Navajo.

33 - The film runs for 121 minutes - making it the shortest of all the Star Wars movies.

34 - The film's stars had to get used to being mobbed by fans.  Harrison Ford had half of his shirt torn off at a record store one day when a group of fans mobbed him.

35 - According to some of the Stormtrooper actors, they were paid 8500 Tunisian Dinar for their work - which only worked out to $6.50 US back in 1977!



36 - Anthony Daniels, who played C-3PO, had a wardrobe malfunction the first day he wore the costume which proved painful.  The left leg shattered down into the plastic of the left foot which stabbed his foot each step he took.

37 - Mark Hamill almost didn't get to play Luke Skywalker.  He was already committed to the television show "Eight is Enough" and the producers wouldn't let him out of the contract.  Shortly after filming the pilot, Hamill was involved in a car accident that caused damage to his face.  Producers released him from the contract, leaving him free to do the movie.

38 - Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford thought that George Lucas was a lousy dialogue writer, and after a confrontation, Lucas granted them permission to improvise some of the script.

39 - The film's budget was supposed to be $8 million, but it ballooned by another $3 million by the time production was completed.

And finally...

40 - It was the first science-fiction film to be nominated for an Academy Award.




HAPPY 40TH ANNIVERSARY, STAR WARS! 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Truth About Myself - Conclusion

Hello, everybody.

I have to admit, I was struggling to try and find a way to conclude this five part series.  Over the last month, I've learned a lot about myself and what makes me who I am.  I've confronted some truths about myself that were hard to try and take, but at the same time they make me who I am.  I've found that there are some things that I like about myself, and there are some things that I don't like as much.

But one thing I do know is that I am who I am.  And those who truly understand me and like me will accept it.

I've come up with a lot of truths about myself.  I'm socially aloof, I think outside the box way more than others, and the way that I make connections with people is often by the seat of my pants where not even I know what I'm doing half the time!




And the final truth about myself comes at the same exact day that this blog celebrates its SIXTH anniversary.  How in the world have I been blogging this long and not gone crazy yet?  

As you all can see, I've changed the logo to celebrate the sixth anniversary of this blog.  I decided to do something different this time around and took all of the previous logos and stitched them together to make a retrospective banner.

I still can't believe that the original logo I made back in 2011 was drawn with gel pens in a couple of minutes!  I'm not sure what I was thinking at that time!

Anyway, you'll notice that the other change I made was with the font.  I chose a different one that made it easier to read.  Not that there was anything wrong with the old font...I just sort of like this one better.  Aside from that, I left it mostly the same.

To be honest, I thought about drastically changing the look completely as I have done a couple of times before.  Giving it a whole new look with new colours.  But this time around, I decided against it.  I like how it looks now.

And, I kind of like me how I am now.  Well, at least emotionally.  The physical part is something that can come with time.

But really, when I stop and think about how this blog has progressed and how far it has come, any of the changes I've made were mostly superficial.  Back in the infancy of this blog, I tried experimenting with different looks.  Much like when I was a young kid, trying different looks in hopes of getting people to talk with me, or play with me.  But over time, I began to realize that people weren't engaging with me because of how I looked.  It was more along the lines of the stories I could tell, or the jokes I could crack, or the wisdom I could bring forth.

(Well, okay...maybe my wisdom isn't THAT great.  But I still have my wisdom teeth...that's something, right?)


I guess this blog is the same way.  People don't come here because this blog looks great.  Truth is, there are hundreds of thousands of blogs that look more well put together than mine.  But every single story that I have told.  Every cartoon that I have reviewed.  Every pop culture topic I've shared.  Every single time I've had a thought go through my head, I've posted it right here.  And I've done so for the last six years.  That isn't going to change.  It's not what it looks like, but the content that is within.

And that is the final truth.  It's not the outside of a person that makes a person intelligent, or wise, or handsome even.  It's the stuff that comes from within.

And although the truth is that I have a brain that thinks differently from others, a heart that feels things with more sensitivity than some people, and an exterior that admittedly could use some body work - I won't change my interior for any amount of money in the world.

Both in this blog, and within me.

I tell myself that by being who I am, I'll attract the people in my life who are meant to be there.  And I'll scare away the ones who don't!  But it's a truth that I've believed to be true for a while, and it's a truth that has most defined me.

Here's to the next six years, or for however long this lasts.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Focus



Another day, another devastating event.  And this time, I'm really angry and heartbroken over it.

By now, most of you have heard the news.  On the night of May 22, 2017, in Manchester, England, a terrible explosion took place at the Manchester Arena shortly after 10:30pm.  The explosion took place during the finale of the Ariana Grande concert which was sold out.  The end result was that twenty-two people lost their lives and another fifty-nine were reported to have injuries ranging from mild to critical.

It is the deadliest terror attack to strike the United Kingdom since the July 2005 bus bombings in London.  It has been reported and widely speculated that the cause of the explosion was a suicide bomber, and that terrorist group ISIS has claimed responsibility.

But you know what?  I don't want to spend this piece talking about them any longer.



I've labeled this post as "Focus".  The title happens to be the title of an Ariana Grande single that peaked at #7 here in North America.  It's also the theme that I want this blog to feature.  It's a time in which we all need to focus on what is really important and what we can do to get through this.  Because even though this tragedy was most felt in the UK, the whole world was watching and grieving alongside all of Manchester.

As I stated, I will NOT be focusing on the people who orchestrated these attacks.  One of my friends was bang on when she described the perpetrator as a "homicide bomber" and not a suicide bomber.  He is no martyr.  He is no hero.  He is a coward.  A coward who chose one of the most inexcusable targets to terrorize.  I don't want to say any more than that.



Instead, I want to focus on the people of Manchester.  And while there is a lot of bad stuff to focus on, there are also some silver linings to be found within the dark clouds.

I can't even imagine what it was like to have been in that arena when the explosions went off.  One minute the crowd is dancing in the aisle tossing pink balloons in the air and grooving along to the music.  The next, they're running for their lives.  It must have been jarring and shocking to those who were at the arena.

It also must have been pure hell for those parents were waiting for word on whether their children got out okay.  One of my dearest friends actually had a child attending that concert and was naturally worried sick about him and whether he was safe.  I'm happy to report that he got out of the arena safely...but not everybody was so lucky. 

I want to focus on the victims of the blast, and how unfair it was that they were caught up in a disaster that was orchestrated to bring fear and terror to a nation.  They did not deserve to die.  They just wanted to have fun watching their favourite singer belt out all their favourite tunes.   For some, it was their very first concert ever.  I hate that they were exposed to this.  I hate that so many lives were cut short.  I hate that some of the victims were as young as eight years old.  And for what?  What did this accomplish?  I don't think anyone will ever understand that.






I want to focus on Ariana Grande herself.  Her last tweet was made after the explosion took place, which stated how sorry she was and how she had no words to describe what happened.  I want her to know that she has absolutely nothing to apologize for.  She had no idea that anything like this would happen, and she should know that the world is feeling her pain.  We should be showing compassion towards her and everyone else that was at the arena.  We should focus on coming together so that everybody can heal.

I also want to focus on the united front that the city of Manchester took that night.  Because while there was lots of mourning done that night, there were also amazing tales of how strong the human spirit is.  It's incredible to see all of the stories of how people were reunited with each other because of social media platforms.  Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, people found out that their loved ones were all right a lot quicker than before. 

I want to focus on those people who helped others get out of the building.  I've read tales of how complete strangers bonded together to help everybody get out safely.

I've even heard tales of people who live in the nearby area opening up their homes to concertgoers so that they could either have a safe place to wait it out or so they could use their landline phones, or just to come to terms with what happened.  To me, I find that fantastic. 

That's what I want to focus on.  I want people to know that in the wake of senseless tragedies like this one that there is still a lot of good in this world.  That is what we need to shift our focus towards.  And that focus will be the strength we all need to not only stand up to the terrorists, but to continue to find happiness and joy in a world that some only want to destroy.





Focus on life.  Focus on love.  Focus on each other.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Jem Reviewed: Episode 61 - That Old Houdini Magic


So, last week's episode of Jem Reviewed was insane.  Absolutely, completely insane.  Come to think of it, season three in general has been very much all over the place.  I'm just hoping that with five episodes left in the series that things start to calm down a bit!  



Let's see if this is the case with Episode 61: That Old Houdini Magic.  It's the second episode to feature magic as a common theme ("Music is Magic" was the first).  Let's see what tricks will be in store this time.



Well, we're inside of a gigantic mansion known as the Farnsworth mansion.  The occupant is one Mrs. Farnsworth, who is your typical definition of a rich widow.  Her husband passed away some time earlier, and she is now filling her time with throwing charity galas to raise money for the children's hospital.  That's nice.  The theme of this year's gala is Harry Houdini - a famous magician who captivated audiences with his magic tricks and illusions in the early 20th century.  The dress code is early 20th century chic, and the special entertainers include rock band Jem and the Holograms, as well as the famous illusionist Astral - who we haven't met yet.  But it seems like a great idea for a charity ball, and I for one would love to go.  Houdini is one of my favourite illusionists of all time.  I even did a school project on him when I was in the tenth grade!



All of the Holograms are dressed in their magic outfits and are eager to bring some magic to the stage.  It's also here that budding magician Kimber decides to get back into the magic game and perform a few tricks.  She immediately handcuffs herself to Raya - who I might add is not impressed by this at all.  And Raya's frustration grows when Kimber can't figure out how to unlock the cuffs.  Sigh.  Kimber, don't quit your day job.



The Stingers are also there, but for different reasons.  It seems as though Rapture is a huge fan of Houdini, even knowing when he died - October 31, 1926.  Rapture's constant talk about Houdini and how she idolizes him bores Minx to tears.  I'm surprised, since Houdini is Hungarian by birth.



Riot, meanwhile, is trying to turn up the charm and convince Mrs. Farnsworth to ditch the Holograms and promote the Stingers at the charity gala instead.  But to Riot's shock and horror, Mrs. Farnsworth does not take the bait and storms away leaving him open mouthed in astonishment!  I'm beginning to like Mrs. Farnsworth!



But when Mrs. Farnsworth introduces Jem and the Holograms to play their set for the pre-show party, Kimber and Raya are still stuck together.  And I don't know about any of you, but trying to play a synthesizer and drums with only one hand would be hard!  What are they going to do?

Before any of them can think, a cloud of smoke erupts in front of the band, and a strange figure appears to release Kimber and Raya from their steel shackles.  



Ah, so, this must be the famous magician Astral.  I guess when it comes to magic, she really has the power.



And what perfect time to feature a replay of a song from Episode 5 - "She's Got The Power".  As I stated back then, it's not the greatest Jem song.  But used in this context, I kind of like it a little better.  It's more interesting to write a song about a magician than a 7,000 pound computer that looks like Jane Fonda in her workout tapes.



The performance is a success and Mrs. Farnsworth and the Starlight Girls approve.  Jem and Mrs. Farnsworth are really looking forward to the benefit and they remark that both of them make a great team.  Too bad for Riot that Mrs. Farnsworth doesn't feel the same way about the Stingers.  She once again tells Riot that she isn't interested in featuring the Stingers and orders them to go away!  Oooh, that must bruise Riot's fragile ego!

Certainly it causes the Stingers to feel as if they have gotten stung, and Rapture makes it a point to seek out revenge.  I don't know what Rapture plans on doing, but she's the subject of today's Jem Trivia.  She's voiced by Ellen Gerstell, who has also appeared on "TaleSpin", "Darkwing Duck", "My Little Pony", and "Tenchi Muyo!".



Rapture happens to overhear a conversation between Mrs. Farnsworth and Ba Nee, where Ba Nee asks her why she wears so many watches.  Come to think of it, she does seem to be a walking advertisement for Timex.  Mrs. Farnsworth explains that a psychic she went to once told her that she would live as long as her watch kept ticking.  Unfortunately, she took that prophecy a bit too literal and she decided that if she wore dozens of watches on her arm, one would always be ticking and she would live forever.  It's all the ammo that Rapture needs as she plots her latest move.



She heads back to the display of the Houdini exhibit where a statue of Harry Houdini is located, and she grabs the white gloves off the statue and puts them on.  Of course, once Rapture touches the gloves, the security system goes off and alerts everyone to see what is going on.



Now here is where we learn how truly devious the Stingers really are - and it makes the Misfits look like the Teletubbies in comparison.  Rapture pretends that she is possessed by the spirit of Harry Houdini (even saying his real name of Erik Weisz to convince Mrs. Farnsworth), and that he has come to give her a message.  Astral and Jem are immediately aghast at Rapture's scheme and they instantly cry foul.  But whereas Riot failed to charm the elderly widow, Mrs. Farnsworth cannot say no to Harry Houdini.



Astral tries to tell Mrs. Farnsworth that Rapture is playing a cruel trick on her, and not to believe what she is saying, but Rapture is one step ahead of her.  She grabs a top hat and flings it into the middle of the room and asks Astral what this gesture means.  Astral explains that it was an inside communication between he and his wife.  Whenever they had a fight, if Houdini's wife threw the hat back into the room after he threw the hat in first.  And that seems to be enough for Mrs. Farnsworth to latch onto Rapture and believe everything she says.

Sigh...I take back all the cool things I said about her.



And, in the next scene, we discover just how devious the Stingers really are when they decide to do what they do best - screw with people's minds.  You see, with Mrs. Farnsworth doing everything that Rapture asks - so as long as she's pretending to be possessed by the spirit of Harry Houdini - the Stingers are taking advantage of her generosity as payback for not choosing them as the entertainment instead of Jem and the Holograms.  So, Rapture is making up this mumbo jumbo about how Houdini's host body needs new dresses and how the Riot and Minx need new clothes as well, and Mrs. Farnsworth has been reduced to the cash cow that keeps them dressed in black and yellow duds.  It's really painful to watch and it makes the Stingers even more cold-hearted than the Misfits.



For some reason, Astral is there as well, and she tries once more to get through to Mrs. Farnsworth, saying that the Stingers are playing a cruel trick on her.  But Rapture throws Houdini's glove on the floor and pretends that the spirit has left her body, which causes Minx to blame Astral for making him go away.  Mrs. Farnsworth is reduced to a blubbering mess as she begs for Houdini to come back and this continues until Rapture puts the glove back on.  I shouldn't be too surprised.  According to the Stingers, manipulation is the name of the game.



It's too bad that once again their personalities suck because their songs are incredible.  Yeah, the song "Mind Games" is essentially a declaration of mind-flocking 101 - but it is so friggin' catchy, I don't even care.  The video is quite good too in an Alfred Hitchcock kind of way.



Astral has had enough of this and decides that she wants to go and tell Jem and the Holograms everything that is going on, and the Holograms agree that Mrs. Farnsworth is being taken advantage of.  Considering that Jem goes goo goo eyed for Riot though, she may not be the best person to try and talk some sense into her.  Still, they have to try before the Stingers cause Mrs. Farnsworth mental distress or before they clean out her bank account.



Seems as though the Holograms and Astral are right to be worried.  Because now the Stingers are not only trying to convince Mrs. Farnsworth to let them perform at the gala, but they want her to donate all the money raised to a fictional charity that likely is going to be re-routed to the personal bank accounts of Rapture, Minx, and Riot.  Wow, is there no depth that they won't stoop down to?  This is getting insane.



By this point though, Astral has had enough, and she takes off her white glove and smacks Rapture across the face with it so hard her nose flies off.  No, wait.  Not even she'd do that.  But she decides to challenge Rapture to a magic duel.  If Rapture is really possessed by the spirit of Harry Houdini, then she should be able to best Astral at every opportunity - since Astral herself took magic lessons from a former associate of Harry Houdini back in the day.  Whoever wins the duel will take all of the prizes, including control of where the money donated will go. 

Ah, smart thinking, Astral.  If Rapture is really faking it (and we know she is), she'll be exposed as a fraud and the Stingers will be run out of town until the following episode.  But Rapture isn't ready to wave the white flag of surrender just yet.  Under the guise of Houdini, she agrees to Astral's duel.  Though, I get the feeling that Rapture's idea of winning the bet will involve a lot of cheating.  Hmm, maybe the Stingers and the Misfits are cut from the same cloth after all.



Speaking of cloth, it appears as though Rapture is having a difficult time trying to get out of the straitjacket that she is wearing - which is going to be difficult because Houdini used one for many of his tricks.



Of course, Techrat is there making fun of them.  My question is - when the hell was Techrat introduced to the Stingers?  I missed that episode!  Even more shocking is that he is actually quite willing to let Minx touch and caress him, but when Pizzazz so much as breathes on him, he looks ready to put out a restraining order!  This doesn't make sense at all...but what does make sense is the piece of jewelry that he's working on.



It seems as though that bracelet doubles as a remote control of sorts.  As Techrat demonstrates, it will come into play when Rapture as Houdini performs his most dangerous stunt - the Chinese Water Torture Chamber".  It's that trick where Houdini is chained within a straitjacket and is dropped into a tank filled to the top with water.  When Minx turns the bracelet a specific way and presses the ruby in the bracelet, the shackles will loosen and Rapture will be able to escape.  It sounds complex, but as long as nothing happens to the bracelet, Minx should have no trouble operating it. 

It's the night of the gala and everybody at the mansion is partying like it is 1919.  But the crowd is genuinely concerned that Mrs. Farnsworth is touting the gala as the place where Harry Houdini will be resurrected.  A few people in the audience believe that she has lost her mind while others think it will be a great show regardless.



Of course, with the Stingers being a no show at the gala, Jem and the Holograms seem to think that maybe they chickened out.  But when Mrs. Farnsworth goes out on stage to introduce the band, a flash of light fills the room and the attention is drawn to three sarchophagi - one gold, one silver, and one bronze.



The Stingers appear out of nowhere through the three sarchophagi - no surprise that an egomaniac like Riot would claim the gold one all to himself.

And just like that, the duel is on between the Stingers vs. Astral and Jem and the Holograms.  And this makes the first mash-up between the Stingers and Jem. 



"Believe/Don't Believe".  Which side do you like?  One thing I can say about the mash-up is that it is quite fun and that Britta Phillips and Gordon Grody really know how to blend their vocals together to create a decent song.  The Stingers, of course, want everyone to believe in their magic, while the Holograms tell everyone not to.  The song sounds better than that explanation.  Trust me on that one.



After the song is over, Rapture announces that she will now perform the Chinese Water Torture Chamber trick just as Houdini had done 70 years earlier...but she says it as if she really is Houdini.  Great, so she's now trying to deceive the audience.



Astral is absolutely horrified that Rapture is even trying to attempt the trick.  It's a very dangerous trick that has been attempted by several magicians since Houdini died and not all of the attempts were successful.  This is beyond scamming an old lady.  This has the potential to kill Rapture!  Astral begs Rapture not to go through with it, but she is too stubborn to even consider listening to her.  She prepares to lower herself into the tank, as she knows that Minx is the one controlling how the trick goes with her bracelet.



It's just a shame that in Techrat's rush to get the bracelet going, he neglected to make it water resistant.  A woman sitting at Minx's table spills orange soda all over Minx's bracelet shorting it out - just as Rapture takes a plunge into the water cage.  Minx realizes that she has no way to release Rapture from her shackles and rushes towards the cage begging someone to help her escape.



Astral reacts quickly, grabbing an axe and running towards the cage.  But with the cage being made of a very thick plastic that won't even crack, Astral realizes that the only way to save Rapture is to climb on top of the cage and go in that way.  



Astral dives down towards the middle of the cage, loosens Rapture's shackels enough for her to escape and saves her from drowning!  Astral saves the day!



Of course, Astral takes this opportunity for Rapture to come clean about her real intentions, and Rapture - who knows that she owes Astral her life - confesses that the Houdini thing was a joke and that Mrs. Farnsworth was punk'd.  Interestingly, the Stingers are allowed to leave the building without any repercussions.  You'd think that Astral would have at least turned them into bumblebees or something.  But then, Astral would have to be a sorceress...not a magician.

Poor Mrs. Farnsworth is feeling betrayed and taken advantage of, and even though the Stingers' plan was foiled, she's not happy.  It's up to Astral to try and make things right by having her star in one of her own illusions.



She locks her inside of a cage, performs a series of moves that keep the audience glued to the stage, and before you know it, Mrs. Farnsworth changes into a tiger!  How in the world did she do that?

Especially since Mrs. Farnsworth happens to be seated with the rest of the audience!  Teleportation!  I like it!



The audience loved it too.  Enough to donate more than enough to build the wing for the children's hospital!  And as Mrs. Farnsworth thanks Jem and Astral for all of their help, she announces that if there's anything that this experience has taught her, it is that she shouldn't wait for tomorrow when she should be living today.  Or, maybe that's a Kylie Minogue song.  The point is that she'll be living her life without fear, and as a symbolic gesture, she throws all the watches that she was wearing up in the air.



Again, nice gesture, but those watches are probably expensive.  

So, this episode wasn't as bad as the last couple.  I loved the Houdini angle of the show, and I thought that Astral was a nice new character.  The Stingers are still morally bankrupt, and I don't see that changing in the next episode.  




But why was Astral only on the one show?  Perhaps we'll find the answer next week as we are introduced to another new one shot character - and how her designs for success will leave her in stitches.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

May 18, 1980

Ready for another Throwback Thursday entry?  I guarantee that this week's topic might spark some "heated" discussion and could cause some to "blow their tops", but it's definitely one of the events that made May 18 a very explosive date in history!

Let's have a look at what else happened on the eighteenth of May in this selection of postings.

1565 - The Great Siege of Malta begins

1652 - Rhode Island passes the first law in English-speaking America that makes owning a slave illegal

1804 - Napoleon Bonaparte is proclaimed Emperor of France; exactly one year after the United Kingdom revoked the Treaty of Amiens

1812 - John Bellingham is found guilty of assassinating British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval and is sentenced to death

1860 - Abraham Lincoln wins the Republican Party presidential nomination

1863 - The Siege of Vicksburg begins during the American Civil War

1912 - Singer Perry Como (d. 2001) is born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

1920 - Pope John Paul II (d. 2005) is born in Wadowice, Republic of Poland

1927 - A disgruntled school board member plants a series of bombs all over Bath Consolidated School in Bath County, Michigan, killing 38 students and six adults

1928 - Actor Pernell Roberts (d. 2010) is born in Waycross, Georgia

1953 - Jackie Cochran becomes the first woman to break the sound barrier

1969 - Apollo 10 is launched

1980 - Joy Division singer Ian Curtis takes his own life; he was just 23

1981 - Actor Arthur O'Connell and writer William Saroyan both die on this date - interestingly, both were born in 1908

1985 - "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds reaches #1 on the Billboard Charts

1990 - Actress Jill Ireland passes away at the age of 54

1995 - Actress Elizabeth Montgomery passes away at the age of 62

2001 - The motion picture "Shrek" is released

2005 - Photos taken from the Hubble Space Telescope confirms the existence of two additional moons orbiting around Pluto - Nix and Hydra

2007 - Six years after the original was released, "Shrek The Third" is released

2013 - Actor Steve Forrest dies at the age of 87

And for celebrity birthdays, we have the following people turning one year older; Bill Macy, Priscilla Pointer, Robert Morse, Dwayne Hickman, Bruce Alexander, Reggie Jackson, Gail Strickland, Joe Bonsall, Mark Mothersbaugh, George Strait, Wreckless Eric, Chow Yun-fat, Toyah Willcox, Marty McSorley, Mimi Macpherson, Martika, Tina Fey, Billy HowerdelChantal KreviazukJack Johnson, David Nail, Allen Leech, Asia Vieira, and Jessica Watson.

(Oh, and yeah...it's my birthday too...but I'm not a celebrity.  Just putting it out there.)

Anyway, happy birthday to everyone celebrating today!

All right...now what I really wanted to do was find a topic that corresponded with my actual date of birth...but nothing really exciting happened.  In fact, one of the most talked about historical events of May 18 happened before I was born, and I missed it completely.



That event happened on May 18, 1980.  And I'm sure if you were living on the West Coast of the United States or Canada at that time, you probably already know the subject I have chosen.  For those that don't, I'll tell you.

I'm sure most of us have built one of those volcano models for a science fair project at some point in our lives.  It's one of the most replicated science projects all over the world, but yet there's still something satisfying about mixing baking soda and vinegar together to create a messy chain reaction that sends torrents of "lava" cascading down the volcano's Play-Doh sides!

Of course, the lava that was used inside the classroom volcanoes was mostly harmless - provided you didn't get any in your eyes, of course.  In real life, volcanoes can be quite deadly.  It's not just the molten rock and magma flowing out the top of the volcano that you have to worry about.  The poisonous ash and potential rock slides can also be a nightmare to deal with as well.  



I mean, just ask Diddy and Dixie Kong about just how dangerous a volcano can be!

While there have been several instances of volcanic eruptions that have taken place all over the world over the last million years or so - in recent history there have only been two that have taken place in North America.  One was the Lassen Peak eruption in California that took place in 1915.  The second one took place thirty-seven years ago today.  And it was a much larger, much deadlier blast.



This is the story of the Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption.  One that I missed by 365 days.

While the actual eruption took place on May 18, 1980, signs that all was not right with the mountain began to show up a little over two months earlier.  In March 1980, a series of small earthquakes started to take place on and around the mountain.  The people in the area didn't think too much of it at first, given that the west coast of the United States and Canada was covered with fault lines.  And prior to 1980, the volcano was dormant for well over one hundred years.

A few days after the series of tiny earthquakes began, a much larger 4.2 quake took place on March 20, centered below the north flank of the volcano, which was essentially the warning to everybody that magma was starting to flow underneath and that the volcano was becoming active once more.  Over the next few weeks leading up to the weekend of May 17, 1981, a series of earthquakes took place almost like clockwork, with the intensity gradually increasing each time.  The vibrations within the mountain would cause sheets of snow and ice to cascade down the side.  By the end of March, a few craters opened up at the top of the mountain thanks to the consistent seismic activity, and smoke began to billow out the top.  A state of emergency was declared the first week of April, and by the first of May, Governor Dixy Lee Ray had ordered a "red zone" to be extended around the perimeter of the volcano.   Anyone who was caught within the red zone would be subjected to a $500 fine, or be jailed for half a year.



During the first part of May, it seemed as though things were calming down, and tests that were done prior to May 18 showed that there were no changes that would indicate a massive eruption.  But at 8:32 am on the morning of May 18, those test results would blow up in everybody's faces.

It was at that time that a 5.1 magnitude earthquake took place directly below the north slope, and it was that earthquake that caused that slope to fall apart.  It triggered the largest landslide in recorded history!  The rocks toppled thousands of trees, and temporarily displaced the water that was within Spirit Lake.

As a result of the landslide, a gigantic ash cloud billowed out the top of the volcano with its estimated height reaching approximately 24 kilometres high and its diameter being 64 kilometres wide!  No wonder the entire area around the volcano was blanketed with lots of ash!  A pyroclastic flow of lava poured out of the volcano.  At one time, the lava flow was so quick it reached a top speed of 670 mph!  The temperature of the lava was extremely hot as well, with the highest temperature recorded at approximately 680 degrees Fahrenheit.

Unfortunately, the explosion at Mount St. Helens caused more than just a lot of damage and permanent disfiguration of the area around the volcano.  Those unlucky enough to be in the path of destruction didn't live to tell the tale.  A total of fifty-seven people were killed that day - though not because of the intense heat of the lava.  Most of those who died succumbed to suffocation caused by the intense smoke and ash that rained down above them, though a few did have fatal burn wounds caused by the lava and the fires that erupted.

Among the deceased were lodge owner Harry R. Truman, aged 83.  He refused to leave his home outside of the mountain despite the red zone being put in place and the mandatory evacuations that were in effect at the time.  Also caught in the path of destruction was volcanologist David A. Johnston, and a pair of photographers - National Geographic's Reid Blackburn and Robert Landsburg.  Incredibly, Landsburg's camera footage survived, as his body protected the film inside.  





It's been almost four decades since the eruption of Mount St. Helens.  A large crater where the north face once was remains.  The direct area of the blast is still very much a wasteland of sorts, with dead trees littering various parts of the area and holes in the ground where trees once stood.  Scorch marks can still be seen in some areas due to the lava and fires that spread throughout the area.  The mountain which once stood at 9,677 feet in height lost over 1,300 feet in height following the eruption.  The estimated cost of the disaster was well over $1.1 billion.

And yet, to this day, Mount St. Helens remains an active volcano of sorts, with the last recorded eruption taking place in January 2008.  It's unclear as to whether or not the volcano could erupt once more and cause more damage, but I'm sure anybody who was around on May 18, 1980 won't even forget that day.