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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.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Extra "Credit" Assignment

I would like everybody reading this to think back to when they were in school.  I realize that for some of you, this will probably be only a few months.  And for some of you, it might be fifty years.  But just go ahead and imagine it for a second.

I want you to think back to some of the classes that you took in school, whether they were required classes or electives.  Which ones do you feel helped you the most in your day to day life, and which ones do you feel didn't?

It's not too hard to list the classes that I felt that I didn't get anything out of it.  One of the classes was gym class, and I stopped taking it after the tenth grade.  Not because I had anything against physical education.  I honestly feel that in the younger grades, it was necessary to have it.  It was more like, I was tired of busting my butt in that class and still only getting a C minus in the course while natural athletes were getting A's.  Not worth it, as far as I was concerned.

I also didn't have much use for trigonometry either.  I'm certain that I know how to cut a sandwich into triangles without consulting the Pythagorean Theorem, thank you.

When it came down to classes that I really enjoyed, I loved my English media class.  Imagine the idea of watching movies and television shows for homework!  Granted, it was one of the easiest courses offered at my high school, but given how tumultuous the entire experience was, I needed an easy course to distract me. 

I also appreciated any class that allowed me to submit creative writing.  After all, writing is kind of my specialty.  I wish I only had a way to legitimately get paid for writing my thoughts out.  Maybe one day it will happen.

Though, looking back on things, I think that I might have been better off if I had taken certain classes in school.  Maybe life would have had more purpose.  I regret not sticking with music classes after the ninth grade.  Although I had gotten tired of the baritone by then, there was nothing stopping me from learning another instrument.  I mean, I wasn't the best singer, but it's something that I wish I had explored more.

I also wish I had found a way to be able to take home economics.  As silly as it sounds, I would have liked to have gotten in to take that class.  Problem is, whenever I tried, one of my required classes always got in the way.  Too bad too.  Had I enrolled in that class, I wouldn't be so paranoid about burning my house down.  But I suppose that I can always find a way to remedy that.  After all, I am only in my mid-thirties.  At least I can use a microwave.  Somewhat.

But do you know what class I REALLY wanted to take? 

I'd have loved to have taken a class in high school on credit counseling, or how to pay bills, or how to determine what mortgage was right for you, or how to balance your student loan payments, or how to file a tax return.  Essentially, I really wanted to take a class on life as an adult.  The skills necessary for one to navigate through life without having to deal with the stress of massive debt.

Unfortunately that was a class that I couldn't take.  Because I don't even think that a class like that existed at my high school.  And if it did, it certainly wasn't promoted.

Not that one could actually promote a high school class that didn't technically exist.

But you know something?  I wish it had.  Because it certainly would have helped me navigate my early adult years without much turbulence whatsoever.  And I am certain that it would have helped quite a few of my classmates as well.

These days, it's hard not to go off to post-secondary education without running into people who want to try and get you to sign up for a credit card.  I don't know if they still do this at universities and colleges now, but back when I was a student, they'd offer up some incentive to get you to sign up for one.  It could be a free T-shirt, or free meals from the university food court.  Or in my case, a free CD with songs that were popular twenty years earlier.  I mean, yeah, anyone could win my heart with a mix tape of 1980s favourites, but signing up for a credit card as a lure?  Not so much.

Granted, I knew what the value of a dollar was, and I already was $14,000 in debt from student loans (which took me twelve and a half years to pay back, mind you).  The last thing I needed was a credit card to put me further into debt.  So, I took the CD, got the card in the mail, and cut it up into eighteen equal pieces. 

That said, it's amazing how many people I knew saw the card as having "free money" and they used it for every single purchase.  They bought beer, books, wine, clothes, spirits, pizza, and bourbon.  It was a magical card that could grant them every wish they desired.  Only in their case, there was no little blue genie that sounded like Robin Williams cheering them on from the sidelines.

Instead, there were several pieces of mail sent to their mailboxes demanding that they pay the amount that they spent along with an interest rate of at least 20%.  Needless to say, they weren't too happy about that.  It seemed as though nobody had taught them the perils of credit card usage.  While it is important to establish a credit history, you have to have some self-control, and it's amazing how many people didn't realize it, or didn't care.

I mean, we're living in a world that is constantly changing, and the pressure to keep up with the Joneses (or Kardashians if you're into that show) is honestly not worth it.  I actually know a few people who have to have the latest iPhone, and who have to have the newest car, or who have to have what the next door neighbours have, only better.  Who wants or needs that pressure?  I have no desire to keep up with anybody when all I really want is right at my fingertips.

Well, okay, I could use a career change, but aside from that, I have what I need.  I don't want to go into debt to impress people I can't stand to be around.  I'd rather be financially stable than have credit card induced instability. 

And I think that if schools would focus more attention on economics and basic adult tasks and less on algebraic equations that one will NEVER use unless you're answering a skill testing question for a sweepstakes, we'd all be better off in this world.

Food for thought.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Jem Reviewed: Episode 56 - Video Wars

In the last installment of Jem Reviewed, we learned that the Stingers are here to stay - much to the frustration of the Holograms, the Misfits, and as of right now, this recapper.  And to top it all off, we have one of the Korean animated shows that I feel is the worst produced one ever.

Find out why I say this as I recap Episode 56: Video Wars.  It's also the last great storyline that features the Misfits in a starring role, as they seriously get pushed to the background by the Stingers.  One reason why Season 3 isn't a favourite of mine.

Right away, we kick off with the "newest" Jem video...for a song that was first released in the 1985 episodes...and was just reused for a second time in Episode 54.  Seriously, was "Like a Dream" really that popular of a song?  I find it sort of bland myself.  And as far as the video goes, it's just Danse bouncing along a light stage.  The other two versions were much better produced.  Again, one of many reasons why I don't like the production of this episode.  Trying to pass off a song as new when it was in one of the first episodes of this series?  Fail.

Of course, the Misfits and Clash are not interested in minor details like that.  They are more interested in the news that Lindsey Pearce will be turning over hosting duties of her program to Jem and the Holograms next week - and at 9:00pm one week from today, the Holograms will be debuting their latest video directed by Video Montgomery - a fact I'm sure will cause Clash to feel extreme jealousy.

Sure enough, Clash is furious at all the attention and declares that she can make a better Misfits video.  Jetta sasses back that the last time she tried to make a video for them, it was a complete disaster - which is true (See "Aztec Enchantment").  This just makes Clash more determined to follow through with the project despite Pizzazz stating that Video has always bested Clash in everything.  Wow, when did Pizzazz become a Video fan?  Clash also wants to be the fifth Misfit, but Roxy tells her that they hardly need four, staring daggers at Jetta in the process.  Ah, nice to see that Roxy and Jetta still hate each other after all this time.  Despite the fact that the Misfits don't believe in her much, she has a plan to get them to take her seriously.

For now, we're in the editing suite where Video (with help from Shana and Krissie) is putting the finishing touches on the video, and we get a nice scene in which Video explains how hard her job is.  It's not just about filming and editing scenes together that make's the high expectations that record companies, video channels, and fans themselves have for her.  Each new clip has to be better than the one before.  I like Video's analogy...but let's face it.  ANY video would be better than the "Like a Dream" fiasco that opened the show.

Back at Gabor Manor, a mousy looking woman arrives to pay a visit to the Misfits.  And naturally, three of the four Misfits (Stormer refuses to play along) decide that they want to antagonize their special guest.

They steal her glasses, call her names, and basically bully the poor woman.  But looks can be very deceiving and eventually the guest rips off her face to reveal one covered in bright make-up.  Clash, the master of disguise herself shows off her latest disguise which admittedly has the Misfits impressed.  But what does she plan on doing with it?

Well, nobody at Starlight House seems to recognize Clash as she pays them a visit.  Clash assumes the identity of film student Sara Murgamont, and "Sara" initially comes off as a bit shy and meek.  But after Ashley of all people tells "Sara" to let her feelings out and tell them what is bothering her, "Sara" weaves an incredibly fabricated tale.  "Sara" is in danger of losing her film scholarship and she needs to get an A on her next project in order to stay in school.  Her idea is to follow the Holograms on tour for one week and film a documentary about them, which she hopes will earn her a high enough grade to keep the scholarship.

Not all the Holograms are on board with this plan.  Aja seems to think that the rough schedule they keep will be too much for "Sara", and Jerrica seems to initially agree with Aja.  But Raya has been listening in the background and seems to want to go to bat for "Sara".  She leaves the room to talk to Jerrica in private.  I can see where this is going.  The Holograms gave Raya a chance way back when and this is her chance to pay it forward.

Sure enough, Raya's words to Jerrica work like a charm, and she tells "Sara" to meet them at Starlight Mansion the next morning at 5:00 to get started.  "Sara" is overjoyed at the news and Raya thanks Jerrica for hearing her out.

However, not everyone is thrilled by this development.  Aja is downright pissed at Jerrica for even entertaining the idea of bringing "Sara" along.  For one, she is paranoid that "Sara" could film Jerrica changing into Jem.  Admittedly, that's a genuine concern.  And Aja seems to have the feeling that something doesn't seem right about "Sara".  But Jerrica has had enough of Aja's negativity and calls her stubborn and unreasonable which leads to Aja kicking Jerrica's ass.  Okay, so she doesn't do that.  But there's definite tension between Aja and Jerrica, and I'm sure that "Sara" will film every moment of it.

Back at Gabor Mansion as Clash again, Clash tells the Misfits that now that she has an in with the Holograms, she'll use the time spent with them to film instances in which the Holograms are at their worst.  Then once the tape is complete, she'll switch it with Video's tape.  Then when the Holograms host their show, they'll play the blooper tape and look completely humiliated.  I don't know...sounds like a lot of trouble for a lame plan.  However, it doesn't take much for the Misfits to get amused, and they give Clash their full support.  Pizzazz even goes as far as promising that if Clash succeeds, they will make her a fifth Misfit.  That's enough incentive for Clash to keep the charade going.

At 4:59am the following morning, "Sara" is there bright and early to film Kimber, Shana, Jerrica, Raya, Aja, and Rio boarding the bus to their next concert, and "Sara" is extremely excited to be there.  Raya tells "Sara" that they are glad to have her around as well which makes me love Raya even more.  But when "Sara" asks where Jem is, and Aja snarkily comments that Jem should be there, Jerrica is forced to summon a Hologram of Jem leaving Starlight House.  Nice save, Jerrica...and "Sara" is impressed that Jem could look that radiant at five in the morning.  Well, when you have a holographic computer at your disposal, you could make anybody look like Chris Hemsworth or Mila Kunis.

Fortunately, "Sara" is not wise to the hologram of Jem sleeping in the backseat.  With Jerrica in control of the hologram, she can have Synergy make Jem sleep in the back of the van until next Friday if she so desires.  But Aja just seems to want to take the opportunity to razz Jerrica some more, and I gotta say, this is a really bad side to see of her.  It may impact my ranking of her when I do my final season recap.  Even Kimber and Shana tell Aja and Jerrica to knock the fighting off because they don't want "Sara" to film them.  Raya can just shrug her shoulders and say that it's just one of those days.

Ah, a segway into the Jem and the Holograms song "One Of Those Days".  The song itself is not the best - I was kind of hoping that the Misfits would actually sing in this episode.  But what is even more ridiculous is the fact that this video seems to insinuate that Jem and the Holograms are the klutziest, dizziest women to ever take to a rock stage.  I mean, some of the images in this video can legitimately happen, like Shana breaking a guitar string, or the bus getting a flat tire.  But having Kimber smash a keyboard?  Raya punching a fist through her drum?  Two amplifiers getting smashed in a truck accident?  I mean, come on!  Not even Jinx Malloy in Archie comics is that accident prone!

After the montage of Dick Clark's Bloopers and Practical Jokes, we arrive at the next concert venue.  It will serve as a rock arena later on, but right now it's a circus venue complete with lions, and tigers, and bears.  Oh my!

"Sara" compliments Jerrica on how great she looks, and "Sara" actually says something that shocks even me.  She remarks about how the Holograms really seem to have each others backs, and how great she feels to be a part of it.  I mean, we all know that Clash is wearing her "Sara" mask...but a part of me wonders if maybe all the time she spent with the Holograms and how genuinely nice they are as people is starting to make her realize that they aren't the bad people the Misfits portrayed them to be.  Raya adds to the conversation by sharing what it means to be part of a group of friends, and how the Holograms made her feel like she was a part of something special.

But before Raya can finish her statement, a crisis unfolds.  The lion who is named Simba (wow, a full six years before "The Lion King" debuted) goes postal and escapes from the men loading him onto the transport truck.  The lion makes a beeline towards Raya, but "Sara" pushes her out of the way to safety!  

But Simba isn't finished yet, as he has his sights set on Jerrica for his next meal.  Luckily, Aja manages to get in front of Simba and distracts him long enough for the trainers to regain control and drag him away.  See, this is one reason why I am against circuses that use animals.  Simba probably just wanted to escape and be free.  Not held in captive.  No wonder he's so cranky in this episode.

With Simba now away from the group, Jerrica and Aja apologize to each other for being bitches to each other and they hug each other the way that sisters do.  Awwww.

Even more impressive is the fact that any ill feelings that Aja had towards "Sara" have been wiped clean now that "Sara" saved Raya from getting gobbled up by Simba.  Double awwww!  Of course, this puts Clash in an extremely difficult position.

When she catches up with the Misfits after the concert is over and shows them the Holograms' mishap tape, all four Misfits are thrilled with Clash's good work and are literally salivating at the mouth at the chance to humiliate Jem and the Holograms.

So it's really interesting that Clash suddenly has a change of heart and decides that she doesn't want to go through with the plan!  Clash makes a compromise and tells Pizzazz that she can have the tape to watch anytime she wants in her own home, but Pizzazz won't have any of it.  Once again, Pizzazz plays on Clash's insecurities and tells her that if she doesn't go through with the plan, she'll always have the knowledge that Video will be BETTER than her, and that she will NEVER be the fifth Misfit.  They bully Clash enough that she does another about face and goes ahead with the plan.

Wow, you know...I'm starting to really understand why Clash acts the way she does...and why I sort of feel sorry for her.  But we'll get to that at the end of this recap.

For now, it's time for Clash to put on another disguise - this time, dressed as Video Montgomery!  It's very confusing to see "Video" stealing a video from Video but it's effective.

It's so effective that when "Video" arrives at the studio to drop off the video to some man named Glenn, Glenn actually hangs up on the real Video who is trying to get through to him!  I wonder how many times I can say the word video in this damn blog entry?  One thing is for sure, Clash can not only look the part, but sound the part as well.  I wonder if she's related to Rich Little?

We also learn that the name of the video is "The Last Laugh".  Sounds ominous.  But wait...what's stopping Jem from getting to the studio in time, finding out the tape has been switched, and stopping the plan from going forward?

Well, I suppose giving Jem a ton of alcohol might do it.  Look at how badly she's driving on the road!  But Jem insists that she isn't the one controlling the car!

That's because the Misfits have recruited Techrat to install a device on the Rockin' Roadster that allows Techrat to control the car instead.  Stormer worries that it isn't safe, but Techrat insists that he won't harm them.  He just plans on having the Holograms drive so far out of town that by the time they reach the television studios, they will have missed the 9:00pm deadline.  I guess it's good that the Misfits don't want to kill the Holograms, but still...this plan is dangerous.  If they get into an accident, they'll be accessories to the crime!  They don't really think these plans through, do they?

While Jem and the Holograms are hoping that they don't drive off a cliff, back at Video's studio, Video is forced to work twice as hard to get another video edited by the time the show starts.  She gets help from Ashley, Ba Nee, Becky, and Krissie, but time is running out.  Video knows that Clash and the Misfits are responsible for taking her original clip, and she wants to find a way to make them pay.  Krissie seems to have a way to do this, and Video's like...what the hell, I'm screwed anyway, let's see what the twelve-year-old thinks!

Back on the road - and in one of the most contrived scenes featured in this cartoon - the Holograms spot a traffic chopper in the sky and Jem uses Synergy to send up an S.O.S. via pink lightning to get the traffic reporter's attention.  Surprisingly it works, and Jem and the other Holograms re-enact a scene from a 1980s action movie to escape the out of control Rockin' Roadster.  Of course, it may take some time for them to get their car back once Techrat finally parks it, but hey, with all five of them in the chopper, they should get to the television studio in plenty of time.

Already at the studio though is Clash, and when the Misfits arrive not long after she does, Clash is insistent that they make her the fifth Misfit right now, and asks if they brought her Misfits costume with them.  Pizzazz tells Clash to cool her jets.  Once the broadcast is finished, then they'll talk about it.  I get the feeling the Misfits are still sore from the Aztec Enchantment fiasco.  Let's see what happens.

Well, just before the clock strikes nine, the Holograms make it to the studio and immediately confront the Misfits about their joyride from hell.  The Misfits deny doing such a thing, but Jem doesn't believe them.  After what seems like a few minutes of squabbling but is actually something like six seconds, Raya remembers that they have to be on camera now, so the Holograms rush on stage to take over Lindsey's show.

Jetta seems concerned that their plan is kaput, but Pizzazz is still confident.  After all, the Holograms have no idea that Clash switched the tapes and when they introduce the blooper reel, they will never show their face in public again!

It's just too bad that Clash and the Misfits don't know that Video and the Starlight Girls have come up with a new video to replace the one that was stolen, and that Clash can only watch in horror as Video throws away the blooper reel and puts in her own revised version.  It makes me wonder exactly what is on that tape.

Well, it's definitely the song "The Last Laugh", which to me sounds more like a Misfits song than a Holograms song.  But the song itself is the best of the three.  Unfortunately, the show decides to do a copout by inserting past clips from previous episodes into this video.  So, we get a clip show in place of a music video?  This is why people think Video is a video savant?  Seems like lazy editing to me!  It is cool to see clips from past episodes like "The Music Awards", "Aztec Enchantment", "Last Resorts", and "Hot Time in Hawaii".  Interesting note:  Clash appears in many of these episodes!  And Jetta is hardly featured in this video at all, since most of these clips come from Season 1.  But after the video airs, the Misfits are the ones who are looking like they've been sucker punched.

One by one, each of the Misfits tell Clash off, thus ending any chance for her to become the fifth Misfit.  The only one who doesn't really take any pot shots is Stormer, who lightly taps her on the arm and looks at her with sadness.  It's like she's saying "what you did was wrong, but I still kind of respect you as a person even though the other Misfits will kill me".

Pizzazz goes one step further and refers to Clash as "Sara", which causes Jem and the Holograms to realize that "Sara" was Clash all along.  Video is deeply hurt that Clash would stoop to such levels to get back at her, while Jem and the Holograms feel betrayed.  Jem perhaps says it best when she tells Clash that when she was Sara, she actually felt as though she belonged, and maybe that's all that she wanted.  It's very insightful, and gives hope that Jem could actually forgive Clash for this.

Unfortunately, Clash tells Jem off, and runs away to go back to the Misfits, prompting Video to stand beside Jem and thank her for trying.  Unfortunately as Clash's cousin, Video knows her all too well, and says that she's one of those people who have to learn everything the hard way.

And as we watch the final scene with a desperate Clash begging the Misfits for one more chance, the show ends on a rather melancholic note.  And in this piece of
Jem Trivia, this is really the last time you see Clash in a speaking role.  So, in a way, it's sort of left unresolved as to what happens.

You know, the bad production of the episode aside, I said before that I feel really bad for Clash.  The reason why is because I know how it feels to be her.  I can think of several instances in which I wanted to be a part of the "cool crowd", so I did everything I could be to a part of it - only for them to reject me and hurt me more than I could have ever realized.  The difference is that once I was shown their true colours, I washed my hands of them and went to find others to be around.  In Clash's case, she would rather belong to a group that continues to harass and bully her instead of finding her own path in life.  Clash is co-dependent and almost suffers from Stockholm Syndrome as a result of it, and rather than hate her, I feel pity for her.

Imagine, me...feeling pity for a cartoon character.  That's funny.

Tune in next week where we'll review Beauty and the Beast - Jem style.  In the meantime, may you and yours have a very happy and safe Easter weekend!