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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What a Magic 8-Ball Taught Me About Myself

I'm sure that most of you reading this blog entry has owned, or at the very least heard of the Magic 8-Ball.  It's a mystical, magical orb, based on the most popular of all pool table balls that if you ask it the right question, it could predict the future!  Crystal balls?  Those were relegated to the carnivals and the red tents where women older than Carol Channing would attempt to spout off some mumbo-jumbo about how you'd find love in an unlikely place, and how you would live a long life, blah, blah, blah.

To me, it was pure fun to have a Magic 8-Ball.  The questions one could ask it were endless.  Hard to believe that the toy itself is over six decades old!

I think I got my very first Magic 8-Ball around twenty years ago.  I loved that thing.  I loved that thing so much that when I attended a summer playground camp as a child, I brought the Magic 8-Ball with me to show off.  It proved to be a big hit with the kids, and in some way, I was relieved because the Magic-8 Ball was right!

No, seriously!  Before I left for the playground, I asked the Magic 8-Ball "If I brought you to the playground to show off to the kids, would they like it?"

The response?

And lo and behold, the Magic 8-Ball was dead on!  Freaky, no?

Truth be told, I think during my early childhood, I relied on the Magic 8-Ball to answer life's fleeting questions.  Would I finish my homework?  Would I get to play Super Mario 3?  Would my teacher give me a good report card?

(For the record, the answers were usually 'Yes', 'All Signs Point To Yes', and 'Reply Hazy Try Again'.)

Apparently, my Magic 8-Ball felt that I needed to wait until June like everyone else did.

One day, I had come home from school very upset.  I think it was one of those days where everything that could have possibly went wrong did go wrong.  I had lost my math book, I slipped on the ice and fell into a puddle, and I couldn't find a partner to work on an art assignment with me, so I had to work by myself.

I was not having a good day that day, so I picked up the Magic 8-Ball, and asked it "Will I have a better day tomorrow?"

This was the answer. 

Nice, huh?

Of course, I was quite upset.  You have to understand that I was a gullible ten-year-old child back then.  I had really started to rely on the ethereal power of the Magic 8-Ball, and when it told me that my day would be even worse the next day, I was not looking forward to it.

I didn't want to go to school the next day.  Tried to fake having a sore throat.  My mother was the overprotective type anyways...I was sure I could convince her that I was sick so I didn't have to go to school.  The Magic 8-Ball said that I was in for a terrible day at school!  And the Magic 8-Ball had a success rate of one hundred per cent as far as I was concerned.  If I was to go to school, I was doomed!  DOOMED!

Yet, when I tried to tell my mom that I was sick, she didn't believe me, and sent me on my way to school.

My thoughts it comes.  This is where it begins.  The Magic 8-Ball prophecy has been made, and now it must come true.

So, anyone wanna take a guess at how the day turned out?

I ended up getting 100% on my spelling test.  The only one in the class to get that mark, might I add.  I got a good mark on a math test.  I ended up playing Four-Square with three other kids at recess, which was great fun.  I even ended up getting a compliment in gym class!  I never got compliments in gym class.  I HATED gym class!

Magic 8-Ball LIED!  It totally lied.  It said I would have the worst day ever, and it turned out to be the complete opposite.

Everything that I had believed in as a ten-year-old had come crashing down like a tower of blocks that had been smashed into with a Hot Wheels car.

The Magic 8-Ball was...WRONG!  But how?  It had been so right before.  What was different?

It wasn't until I was an adult that I ended up figuring out the reason.

The Magic 8-Ball was just a toy.  It always had been.  But the imagination of a child is a powerful thing.  As children, we want to believe in everything, and we let our imaginations take ordinary household objects and turn them into magical things.  Mine just happened to be the Magic 8-Ball.

Prior to the massive epic fail that the Magic 8-Ball delivered that one day in 1991, I had had a near-perfect record with it.  Looking back on it though, I did ask it some rather elementary questions.  I asked it if I was going to get my homework done, and it said that I would.  So, I did it.  I asked it if I was going to play video games, and it said yes, so I did it. 

But in all honesty, I probably would have done those things anyway without the aid of the Magic 8-Ball.  Why?  Because I wanted to.  I wanted to do my homework so I didn't fall behind and have to do more.  I wanted to play video games because they were fun.  That was it.  Simple.

And maybe that epic failure that the Magic 8-Ball delivered to me that day wasn't so much of a fail.  Maybe deep down inside, I was determined to go against the ball as a way to show that I didn't need to rely on it to tell me what to do.  I ended up having a great day because of it.

So, should I tell these guys my lesson as to what I learned?

Screw it, I would've told them anyways.  :D

The lesson is that one shouldn't rely on someone (or in this case something) to make their choices and decisions for them.  They have to make their own minds up and decide what is best for them.  While the novelty of having a Magic 8-Ball was good to have, it was just that.  A novelty.  It shouldn't be my life.  It's not my life now, and I probably won't ask it to make up my mind for me again.

That being said, my original Magic 8-Ball is something that I no longer have.  It had gotten smashed during a move.  I am contemplating buying another one know...just for fun.  Maybe I could even get that new Glee version!

Then again...maybe not.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday Matinee: Grease Is The Word

This blog post is one that initially I wasn't planning on doing.  I actually had another movie that I was going to talk about in place of this one.  At the last minute, I decided to hold off on the planned one until next Monday, and am going ahead with an idea that I thought would work better.

Why?  Two reasons.

First, I wanted to see if I could challenge myself and my writing abilities.  My hope is that by coming up with topics spur of the moment and pushing myself to write a blog entry on it without any sort of plan made, I can improve my writing skills.  In addition, I wanted to have some sort of fantasy that I really was writing this story for an entertainment magazine or a newspaper, and that I had a limited time to jot something down when given a last minute assignment.  So, that's exactly what I'm trying to that if lady luck smiles on me one day and hands me an opportunity to have a career in something that I love, I'll be well prepared to handle any stress that might happen along the way.

The second reason being that one of the stars of the movie I've decided to feature recently passed away, and at the end of this blog entry will be a little bit of a note explaining it in detail.

Before we do that though, I will kick off the first installment of Monday Matinee with one of the first movies I can remember seeing.

The movie "Grease" was released in 1978.  Three years before I was born.  Yet, one of my earliest memories from my early childhood surrounds this movie.

I think it must have been back around 1986 or 1987 when I was first introduced to Grease, and in an unlikely manner too.  See, if you do the math, you'll notice that I was roughly five years old at the time.  And at the time, my bedtime was something like eight o'clock. 

One Saturday night, my mother was looking at the television guide that back in those days used to be inserted into the Friday night newspaper.  She happened to notice that Grease was showing on WWNY-TV (that's channel 7 on our cable dial) that very night.  Grease was one of her favourite movies, and certainly, this was one of the first times that the movie had screened on network television.  She really wanted me to see it too, as my older sisters had both seen it previously.  There was just one problem.  Grease wasn't slated to start until 11:35pm...which was after the eleven o'clock news.  This was three hours after my supposed bedtime.

My mom however was insistent that I watch the movie because she thought that I would like it...even though I was only five, and my television viewing was largely limited to Polka Dot Door, Mr. Dressup, and Sesame Street.  So, after napping for most of that Saturday, I was allowed to stay up late to watch Grease.  I think I went to bed at like two in the morning, but I still remember that day as if it happened yesterday, and not a quarter of a century ago.

It was a great movie though.  Of course, when I was five years old, and trying to stay awake to watch a late night movie, you don't really remember a lot the first viewing.  I have seen the movie many, many times since that day though, and like my mother, it happens to be one of my favourite movies too.

The movie itself was based on the successful musical of the same name, and it takes place in the 1950s.  The stars of the movie were Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson, played by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, and basically the plot revolves around their summer romance, and the hilarity that ensues when they discover that they're both attending the same high school.  It's this plot that this blog entry is going to focus on.

You all have heard the saying that opposites attract, right?  In this case, that's exactly what happened.  On one side, you had the demure, soft-spoken Sandy who always dressed appropriately and hardly ever got in trouble.  On the other side, you had Danny Zuko, who loved to work on cars, and get into trouble with the T-Birds.  Of course, neither one had actually seen those sides of each other when they first met and fell in love the previous summer.  She was just an exchange student from Australia, and he was just a boy on the beach.  That was all they really knew of each other.  Of course, they had to be separated because Sandy had to go back home to Australia, and she was worried that she'd never see Danny again.

Fate had a funny way of working out though, and Sandy ended up staying in America to attend Rydell High.  She instantly befriended the Pink Ladies, and told them all about her romance with Danny.  Danny, meanwhile was telling the T-Birds all about his romance with Sandy, not realizing that Sandy was nearby.

Well, okay, they actually SANG about it.

Now, as a five year old boy watching this, I just saw it as people singing for no apparent reason.  Through thirty year old ears, I listen more carefully.  If you listen to the lyrics real close, you'll notice something.  Sandy's account of the summer love is filled with innocence and purity and lots of references to splashing around, and drinking lemonade.  Danny's is a little less innocent in nature, and he pretty much brags to his friends about saving her from drowning and making out.

This is important in many ways, but I think the main reason behind this shows that both of them seem to have different views of the situation.  I get the feeling that Sandy talks about Danny lovingly because she's genuinely in love with him, and I guess in some way, she was taught that love is special and pure, and filled with innocence.  Deep down though, you know that she's more than just smitten.  Danny on the other hand, is filled with bravado and confidence, and has no problems telling the guys what they want to hear...but you know that inside he really cares for Sandy, but for some reason doesn't want to admit it for fear that he will be seen as less of a man.

Remember this for later's imperative in the lessons that I took from this film.

Some time later, Sandy discovers that Danny happens to be at Rydell High, and the Pink Ladies decide to stage a little reunion for the two lovebirds.  At first, Danny seemed genuinely excited when he saw Sandy...but then he decided to act cool and tough since the T-Birds happened to be around at the time.  Unfortunately for Danny, that act really turned Sandy off, and after a disasterous slumber party at Frenchy's house with the Pink Ladies, Sandy reveals that she is still carrying feelings for Danny despite his attitude.

Sandy tries to move on, even accepting a milkshake date with Tom Chisholm.  Because apparently milkshakes bring all the boys to the yard...or, so someone said some time ago, that's what I heard...ahem.

Anyway, Danny happens to notice Sandy and Tom together, and he decides that maybe he did a bad thing by acting macho in front of Sandy, so he decides to try out for some sports teams in hopes Sandy will take notice and forgive him.  Danny tries out for several sports, and almost makes the track team, but ends up getting hurt right in front of Sandy.  Sandy does help him out, he apologizes, and they try to go on another date, which happens to be interrupted by the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds.

Don't you just HATE it when that happens?

The climax of the movie takes place at the Rydell High school dance, which happens to be televised.  Danny and Sandy end up entering the contest, and they happen to be one of the last couples standing.  But then Danny and Sandy are separated by Sonny and Cha-Cha, and Cha-Cha and Danny end up winning the contest.  Sandy ended up being hurt by this, and Danny tries to make it up to her by taking her to a drive-in movie and offering her his ring.

Now, I've been told that back in the 1950s, when my mom attended grade school, when a boy gave a girl his class ring, it meant that they were going steady.  So you could only imagine Sandy's excitement when Danny offered it to her.  Then Danny got a little carried away and made one too many passes at her, and she ended up running away, prompting Danny to sing this song.

How nice that both of these characters conveniently had a song to sing about how much they loved the other one, yet neither one could really find a way to express it to the other one without getting in a fight or hurting each other's feelings by doing something the other one wouldn't like.

If they could only find a way to show that the love and affection was still there, they would be okay.

After a few scenes involving a drag race and some scenes involving Rizzo and Kenickie, we end the movie off at the carnival.  Danny happens to be wearing a school letter sweater, which he earned by competing on the track team.  The T-Birds are annoyed at Danny's new image, but Danny didn't care, because he did it to try and be more like Sandy in hopes that she'll take him back.

Well, imagine Danny's surprise when Sandy comes strolling along in a leather outfit that would make Lady Gaga jealous, in hopes that her new bad-girl image would attract Danny's attention and she hoped that she had changed enough that Danny would want to stay with her.

Then they both laughed at how silly they had been, and sang one last song, finally admitting their true feelings.

(Or, maybe they secretly liked the way the other one looked...who knows?)

To go with the whole lesson that I learned about myself while watching this movie, let's go with the first idea.

The fact of the matter is that Danny and Sandy didn't need to go through all this frustration (seriously, I never realized how frustrating a movie Grease was until I wrote this blog entry down).  They really fell in love with each other on the beach that summer night by BEING THEMSELVES.  They didn't have anyone else to tell them how they should act, or how they should dress, or what music they should listen to.  Sandy liked Danny because he was Danny.  And Danny liked Sandy because she was Sandy,

When they were reunited at Rydell High, both of them had their own crowds, and honestly, I think both of them were afraid of losing their status in the crowds because of their "opposites attract" type of relationship, so they tried to act the way that their friends wanted them to act instead of being themselves.  That caused more trouble than anything.

I think the end scene was the most telling of all.  Both Danny and Sandy thought that in order for them to have a shot, one had to change their whole outlook on life and adapt to the other person's way of thinking.  What they didn't count on was that both of them would try it at the same time.  In the end, it did show that both of them were interested in making their relationship work.  It also showed in the end, that it didn't really matter to either one of them that they were who they were.  They still loved each other.

And, I think that's what Danny and Sandy taught me about myself.  I don't need to change myself to get people to like me.  I don't have to act a certain way because people tell me I have to.  Sure, Danny's T-Bird gang were razzing him for wearing a school letter, but it's not like they abandoned him.  I know that my true friends won't abandon me for doing something that they may find dorky or strange. 

Danny and Sandy had the chance to fall in love and see each other for who they were without influence from friends or other sources.  If only they hadn't let peer pressure influence their actions, their road to romance may not have been so rocky. 

I can only hope that if I'm lucky enough to fall in love, I can have the same luck Danny and Sandy had right from the get-go.

In closing, a sad footnote to this.  Actor Jeff Conaway, who played Kenickie in Grease passed away on Friday at age 60.  He had been having problems with drugs and alcohol for years, and sadly it all caught up to him.  Grease was one of his best roles that I can remember him from, and he will be sadly missed. 

Jeff Conaway
1950 - 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Funnies Spotlight: Forsythe "Jughead" Jones

As long as I can remember, I have been a fan of Archie Comics.  Most guys my age read comic books, but they were always of the typical superhero comics.  Action Comics, Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men.  You know, comics like that.

I tried to give traditional superhero comics a try.  I really did.  They just didn't tickle my fancy the way a classic Archie comic used to.

Certainly I am not the only one who has been a fan of Archie comics.  In 2011, Archie comics will be celebrating their 70th anniversary.  It's hard to believe that if Archie was aged in real time, he'd be almost ninety years old today.  That's absolutely unreal to me.

There was just something about Archie comics that attracted me from the very beginning.  And, as you'll see later on by reading this blog entry, it was one character in particular that attracted me to the comic serial.  Because as I grew up and matured from boy to man, I realized that this one character was a lot like me!

But, I'm getting ahead of myself here.

I got my first Archie comic just before my sixth birthday.  It was a Little Archie comic book, and I have to admit that the first story had me hooked.  I read that book so many times it fell apart, and it was by luck that I happened to come across another copy of it at a used bookstore years ago.  So, Little Archie was my first introduction to Archie...well, Little Archie, anyways.

My first foray into teenage Archie comics was the book seen up above from 1987.  Jughead Jones Comics Digest Magazine #44.  This is a scan of the actual book too.  Every crease and smudge on the cover is one hundred per cent real.

As you can tell, I really loved reading and re-reading my Archie comics.  And it was with this book and countless others after it that I really started to get to know the characters.

There was Archie Andrews, your red-headed, girl-crazy klutzy boy whose heart was filled with great intentions, but his plans often went bust.  There was blonde, girl-next-door Betty Cooper, who baked cookies AND fixed engines.  There was rich snob Veronica Lodge.  While she did have a heart of gold that one rarely saw, her appetite for gold, and silver, and diamonds, and rubies overshadowed most everything else.  Finally, there was the boastful, self-serving braggart known as Reggie Mantle, who is in a class all by himself.

But, this blog entry is not about them.  Rather, it's about the fifth member of this motley crew.

I don't know what it was about him, but Jughead Jones seemed to invoke a strange reaction in me.  On the surface, Jughead was pretty much a one-dimensional character who seemed to possess at least two of the seven deadly sins.  But, to me, he was a much deeper character.  All of his traits could not only be explained fully, but I found that he was so much like me that I just couldn't go on with this blog without dedicating one entry to him.

At the end, you'll understand why Jughead not only became my favourite character in Archie comics, but why Archie comics became a huge part of my life from childhood to age thirty and beyond.

So, let's dissect Jughead at the place that makes him the weakest.


Gluttony is a sin.  A deadly sin.  And, boy does Jughead have it.  The cover up above is just one of the many examples of this.  Whenever you read a Jughead comic, it's a fairly good chance that some sort of food will be involved.  Whether it be eating the world's largest hamburger, entering a pie-eating contest, or driving down to the corporate offices of a donut shop complaining about the size of the holes in the donuts, if there's food involved, Jughead will be there. 

It's gotten Jughead into quite a bit of trouble over the years.  From not being able to pay off his tab at Pop Tate's to getting detention for eating in Ms. Grundy's classroom, Jughead's love for food is almost obsessive-compulsive.

And I totally understand Jughead being that way.  I used to be that way.

I was one of those people who didn't see food as nourishment or nutrition.  I saw it as medicine.  Medicine that happened to have cream filling on the inside, but medicine, nonetheless.  From age 10 to about age 27, I used food to self-medicate myself.  That's as many years as Jughead Jones is supposed to be alive! 

Truth is, I used food as a way to cope with the depression that I suffered as a direct result of the bullying that I suffered from.  I was teased at school every day, and when the kids weren't making fun of me, they were ignoring me.  It made for a very lonely childhood, and even lonelier teenage years.  When most seventeen year old boys were out and about taking girls on movie and pizza dates, I stayed at home, where I spent the evening with Aunt Jemima, Sara Lee, and Betty Crocker...well...kind of like Jughead.

The only difference was that while Jughead seems very content to stuff his face with junk food, I was desperate to try and find an escape from it.  I don't say this to make excuses, but when I was at my peak with the emotional eating, I could only think about what junk food I wanted to eat next, and then when I did eat it, I felt so ashamed of myself.  When I came home from school, I just hibernated in my room, because I didn't feel proud of myself back then.  I topped the scales at 300 pounds by my senior year, and it was undoubtedly one of the most miserable times of my life.  It's only with great certainty, and with having lost 70 pounds in one year that I can say that I'm okay.  It took a really long time to get there.

But, at least I can say that I wasn't alone...watching Jughead binge-eat in some stories and gain acceptance from his peers because of it gave me some hope.  I mean, sure, I wish I could have had his metabolism...but just seeing Jughead get accepted by people despite his flaw, it did give me hope that I could eventually get to be where he was.  It just didn't start happening until I was twenty-seven.

From this note, we move on from one deadly sin to another.

There's another sin out there called "sloth", which is generally another word for laziness.  And, Jughead definitely had that mastered.  He was the master of sleeping fourteen hours a day.  He avoided chores the way that most people try to avoid influenza.  He slept in class (and as evidenced by the cover up above, he seemed to be a little ballsy about it).  And part-time jobs?  You even suggest that to him, and he breaks out in a cold sweat!  Needless to say, Jughead is NOT your idea of hard least, not on paper.

Truth be told, when I was a teenager, I had people accusing me of being lazy because I never held down an after-school job, or did after-school activities or volunteer anywhere.  It makes it a bit harder to swallow when members of your own family were making those very accusations.  I also want to get it out there that this explanation is not me making an excuse over this.  I honestly look back at that time of my life and wish I could be able to have had more of a social life and had been able to look for work.

But, it was kind of in relation to my issue with emotional eating...I felt ashamed of myself.  I didn't like the way I looked or sounded or anything.  All because I let some insecure brats make me feel badly about myself.  It was incredibly cruel and insensitive what they did, but at the same time, I wish I could have been stronger.  But that's what consistent bullying and emotional abuse does to a person.  It belittles them, and makes them feel like they want to hide away instead of face it head on.  It's especially frustrating when you don't even know what you did that would cause someone to do that to you.  On the surface, my staying at home in my room wasn't laziness at all.  It was fear of being judged.  I was left unable to take even the slightest criticism because I had been hurt so much that I just saw it as a personal attack, and it took me years of soul-searching to even begin to separate the truth from bitter sarcasm.

Whoa...I totally did not mean to get so personal in this blog.  Just went off on a tangent, I suppose.

The point is that Jughead seemed to do just fine being lazy.  Though part of that was his own choice.  More importantly, it was a choice he could live with.

Now, let's go to one OBVIOUS difference...or is it?

Jughead for some reason seems to attract a lot of attention from women that is at best, unwanted.  Especially from a young lady named Ethel.  When I was Jughead's age, on the other hand, I was very much interested in girls, but couldn't figure out how to get them to notice me.

Or, rather...I was so down on myself and had such low self-esteem that I couldn't possibly be interested in someone else.  I was having a difficult time liking myself most days back then.

Compare that to Jughead, who pretty much has one of the healthiest self-images out there (without going Reggie Mantle overboard).  I get the feeling that deep down inside, Jughead doesn't HATE women (in fact, I've read dozens of stories where he's dated women and had a great time).  In fact, I reckon that I would wager some money that if the right woman came around, Jughead would melt like a Creamsicle left outside in the hot sunshine.

Then a couple of years ago, I was thinking about Jughead in great depth and why he was a character that I idolized and respected so much as a teenager and even now, and it hit me one day.

Jughead as a teenager is similar to the adult I am now.

Sure, Jughead can be a glutton at times, but he's also used that gluttony to teach himself how to cook and bake and other food-related things.  I bet he would make a great executive chef someday.

And, yes, Jughead gets more beauty sleep than the average person.  But it's a well known fact that people who get a lot of sleep end up doing better on tests and have more alertness when it counts.  I mean, Jughead is crafty and witty, and can come up with some ingenious (albeit self-serving) plots to get what he wants.

And, Jughead might not want to be with a woman yet.  But he would make a great catch to someone if they do snag him.  He may not have much experience, but he has helped Archie get out of so many jams with Betty and Veronica that he has to know by now how NOT to treat a girl on a date.

In short, Jughead has taken his lemons, and squeezed them into lemonade in his own peculiar sense.

I think I'm doing the same thing as well.  This year in particular, I've really taken steps out of my comfort zone this past year, and have definitely made some positive changes for my future.  I figure if Jughead could do it by dating the occasional girl and working at Pop's for a couple of shifts, I could do the same.

I guess the main thing that Jughead has shown me is that one can be considered to be one of the weirdest, eccentric people in the whole world, and despite all that, they can still be accepted.  One of the main reasons why I got so attached to Archie comics was that Riverdale U.S.A. was the one place in the world where everyone loved each other, and respected each other, and showed kindness for one another.  Nobody got bullied (well, unless you hit on Midge, and then you faced the wrath of Moose), and everyone in school had a date for the dance.

It was a comfort to know that when school got to be rough and I felt lonely, I always had that place where I could go where everyone was accepted for who they were and not how they looked.  Riverdale U.S.A. was not only Jughead's safe was also mine.  It was one bright spot in my childhood, and I cherish every Archie comic that I own as a result of it all.

So, to Jughead Jones, I like a rock star.  You (and I) have both earned it!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Morning Cartoons: Elmer Fudd from Looney Tunes

Today's blog feature has to do with some of our favourite Saturday morning cartoons.  It will be a feature on this and every Saturday.  Because, let's face it.  Sometimes, some of the best lessons one can learn about ourselves can be learned from cartoon characters.

Today's featured character happens to be that wonderfully incompetent hunter, Elmer Fudd.

I have to say, picking Elmer as the topic of discussion for this blog was an inspired choice.  A couple of days ago when I posted the entry about Ralph Wiggum, there was a bit of discussion on my Facebook page about it, and a couple of my friends in particular were making all sorts of funny comments regarding Elmer Fudd.  I joked that I would make Elmer a featured character in my blog as a result of the comments, and I am now doing exactly that.  So, thank you Cathy and Brian for the inspiration for today's blog.

I was first introduced to Elmer Fudd probably the same way that a lot of kids in my generation were.  The Bugs Bunny and Tweety show.  Back in the good old days of the late 1980's when Saturday morning cartoons would air on some channels until six in the evening, we would have two different opportunities to watch this show.  I think ABC aired it at 11:00am, and then Global-TV here in Canada would air it at 5:00pm.  Ah...memories.

This entry's going to be a little bit shorter than what I would normally write (mainly because my entry for tomorrow is a little bit more detailed), but I will say that Elmer and I shared one common trait...especially when I was a child.

First, let's get the obvious out of the way.  No, I did not shoot bunnies in my spare time (though come to think of it, neither did Elmer Fudd, since Bugs Bunny always found a way to elude him and his traps over the years).  I've never been a type of person who wants to go hunting.  I won't go into my personal feelings on hunting...just that it's never really been my thing. 

For that matter, Elmer Fudd is portrayed as kind of a bumbling idiot at times.  I hope that I never come across that way to anyone I know, although I am certain that maybe a couple have thought that way about me.  You definitely have to give him credit for his persistence though.

Despite getting blown up, run over, pushed off cliffs, crashing cars, getting torched, having his belongings destroyed, he never gives up in his quest to kill the wabbit,  kill the wabbit,  kill the wabbit...

Most men would have given up the fight after the first ten minutes when dealing with Bugs Bunny.  Not Elmer.

I guess in some ways, I'm kind of like Elmer in that we can be quite stubborn about things when we want to be.  But, not even I'm as persistent as Elmer...not to the point where I risk losing my home, my clothes, and my sanity to get goals accomplished.

No, here's the way I'm most like Elmer...or at least used to be like Elmer.

Yep...Mr. Geico guy said it best.  Elmer and I shared a speech impediment.

From about the age of four to age six, I could not make the "R" sound.  It always came out as the "W" sound.

So, basicawwy, when I was wittle, I would always sound like Elmer Fudd.  It proved to be vewy, vewy annoying to evewyone who I met.  My pawents, my teachers, my classmates.  Evewyone.

It was something that I really didn't like either.  But, try as I might, I could not really master the sound.

Of course, my speech impediment only lasted a couple of years.  By second grade, it had pretty much evaporated like water on a hot August morning.  Poor Elmer...he's had it for thirty, forty years now?  Just how old is Mr. Fudd anyway?

The point is...did the speech impediment really stop me from contributing in school?  Not really.  I couldn't say "R" sounds, but I could write the letter R in my schoolwork.  It also didn't really stop people from talking to me.  Most people I knew could accept the fact that my speech was kind of odd.  Of course, I was a little kid back then who didn't say his first word until he was three years old.  I was a late talker.  I think that could explain why my speech wasn't quite as advanced as some of the kids in my class who said their first word at one or two.  However, just because it took me a while to master talking, it didn't mean I was incapable of other things.  I could read extremely well for a first grader, and I had so many kids crowding around my desk asking me to help them spell words for their first grade journals that my teacher had to move me to a segregated corner of the room because I was a "distraction".

Yeah, you'll have to remind me to go into more detail about her in a future posting.

And, I think that's how I'm also similar to Elmer Fudd.  Elmer didn't let his speech impedement get the best of him either.  He continued on with his day-to-day life, and seemed mostly happy about everything too (well, provided that Bugs Bunny was out of the picture).  If anything unfortunate did happen to Elmer, it wasn't because of the way he talked.  His ideas were just horrible.  No speech therapy could have changed that.

But, hey...Elmer Fudd has his own Chia Pet, so what can I say?

Friday, May 27, 2011

TGIF: Stephanie Tanner From Full House

I can't even begin to tell you how much grief I suffered in elementary school from all the kids in my class when they discovered that I still watched “Full House”.

I mean, sure, watching the show through adult eyes, I can sort of see where they were coming from. The show was sugary sweet. Incredibly sugary sweet. So sugary sweet that if Full House was candy, you'd be in the dentist chair for six months straight.

Of course, that's through adult eyes.

Back in the days when Full House was still airing original episodes, I watched the show through my kid goggles. No, seriously, quite literally, I was a kid when it aired.

The show ran from September 22, 1987 to May 23, 1995. Or, if you want to see it in the Matthew timeline, from age six to age fourteen. All kid years.

So, why was it that kids were making fun of me for watching Full House? Maybe it was because they liked Home Improvement better? Maybe they were running out of things to make fun of me for? Maybe they despised the Olsen twins with the fire of a million suns? Who can say, really?

You want to know what I think of those kids who bothered me over watching a television show that millions of people all over the world watched as well? Lame. Absolutely lame.

I mean, let us be realistic. I don't have children myself. However, if I did...I know I'd rather have them watch Full House than an episode of South Park any day.


Full House, while somewhat of an unbelievable concept itself (seriously, how the hell did all those people fit into that tiny San Francisco house?) started off as a feel-good family comedy, and eight seasons later when it ended remained a feel-good family comedy. It showed a non-traditional family doing traditional family things. It didn't have any salty language, nudity, violence, or anything of the sort. And, honestly, I don't really mind the fact that it was so sugary sweet at times. Like I said, there could be worse out there for kids to watch.

Confession Time: Even at the age of 30, if I am flipping through the channels on television and come across a Full House rerun, depending on the episode, I will likely pause it on that channel and watch the show. End of confession.

So, clearly you probably are aware that this blog entry will be about one of the characters in this show. If you read the title, you know which character it is.

So, why did I choose to make Stephanie Tanner the subject of today's blog? There's a number of reasons. When I was watching the show, she was the cast member closest to me in age (I think I'm about a year older than Jodie Sweetin, the actress who played Stephanie is), so naturally, I felt I could relate to her problems more than I could with Michelle or D.J. Tanner. She also had some personality traits that I could relate with myself. I'm sure you want examples, so examples I will give you.

  1. Stephanie could be stubborn.

Does anyone remember the show's very first Christmas episode? It was titled “Our Very First Christmas Show”. How original.

In the episode, the Tanner family were supposed to fly out to a family reunion of some sorts away from home, and a snowstorm grounded the plane. The family was forced to spend Christmas Eve in an airport. Everyone was miserable about the experience. They were made even more miserable about it when their luggage containing all their Christmas presents was lost. Young Stephanie refused to give up hope that Santa Claus would come find them at the airport. The picture above shows her in a telephone booth trying to call the operator for Santa Claus' phone number. I won't spoil the ending for this episode, but if you like Christmas miracles, this show is a nice one to watch. If anything, you'll like the scene where one of the Olsen Twins shoots Bob Saget down a conveyor belt outside.

I admit that I could be quite stubborn too. Granted, I was never trapped in an airport on Christmas Eve. But, I could be quite stubborn too. I you say...quite the argumentative child. Especially when it came to family members. I can't begin to tell you how many times I got into arguments with my parents and older siblings with me insisting that I was right and they were wrong. Most times, I did end up being totally wrong, but the rare time in which I did get my point out and they acknowledged it, it made me feel good. Shameful? Perhaps. But, when you're the youngest child, you take your victories where you can get them.

  1. Stephanie had a special bear.

Everyone who has seen at least one episode of Full House knows that Stephanie's most prized possession was her beloved trenchcoat and fedora wearing teddy bear named “Mr. Bear”.

How original.

Mr. Bear meant the world to Stephanie. Made sense too, considering that it was a gift from her now deceased mother. Mr. Bear appeared in quite a few episodes...I think he appeared in more episodes than Aunt Becky, D.J.'s boyfriend, and Kimmy Gibbler! But, he meant a lot to Stephanie.

Now, let me show you MY Mr. Bear...

Okay, so maybe I haven't had this bear all that long (the 2011 on his paw is a dead giveaway), but my niece actually bought this bear for me while I was recovering from having my gall bladder out. She said that it was a healing bear, and that it made miracles happen. Considering that my surgery was a lot more serious than it should have really been, having this guy around made me feel infinitely better. Why the surgery was so rough...I'll tell you all another time.

  1. When Stephanie screwed up...she screwed up...and often was too hard on herself.

I kind of touched into this on yesterday's Hotel Dusk entry, but dropping out of university was probably my biggest screw-up to date. And, boy, was I hard on myself. Whenever people told me that I was intelligent, I would often laugh off the remark, and say that if I were so intelligent, why couldn't I have found a way to get my university degree? Believe me, I was that hard on myself.

Fortunately, I managed to find a great support group in the form of family and friends who have made me realize that even though I was a university dropout that it wouldn't have made any difference to them. I was still the same guy. I didn't need a degree to validate that.

Just like Stephanie's family forgave her when she had her own great big humongous screw-up. (apologies for the really bad quality)

Though, if I had re-enacted that same scene at my house when I was eight years old, I probably might not be alive to reminisce about Full House today.

It's here that we come to the most important comparison between Stephanie Tanner and yours truly.

  1. It took a long time for Stephanie to find true friendship.

I'm not kidding here. In all the episodes I remember watching in Full House, Stephanie never really had what one would consider to be a lasting friendship. D.J. Tanner had Kimmy Gibbler. Michelle had a core group of friends that she always hung out with. Stephanie...not so much.

It seemed like any time Stephanie made a new friend, they always disappeared. One of her first friends was a boy named Harry. Gone. She made friends with a guy nicknamed Duckface. Gone. She tried to hang out with like, these totally, like, self-obsessed teenagers, who, like never wore denim after lunch because they were like, so totally last period. They never lasted either, though Stephanie was better off not hanging around self-absorbed twits like them.

Stephanie then entered junior high, and befriended a girl named Mickey. You can see their first encounter right here, as well as an...uh-oh moment.

You know exactly what I mean, eh. Peer pressure. It happens all the time in schools all over the country. How you have to do things or wear things or buy things that “all the other cool kids” are doing in hopes that you'll be seen as cool too. In this example, smoking was the subject, but anything could have applied. Like, it could have been seen as uncool to not drink alcohol. It could have been seen as uncool to wear Underoos in sixth grade. It could have been seen as uncool to watch “Full House”.

You see how ridiculously stupid that sounds?

I say be proud of what you watch. Be proud of what you wear. Be proud of NOT drinking or smoking in school! Be proud to be you!

Stephanie made the decision that she didn't want to succumb to peer pressure to keep friendships. She chose not to smoke, and while the three girls weren't into that at all, Mickey seemed to understand, and she and Stephanie developed a great friendship over the deal.

Weirder still, Stephanie also proved herself to be a good friend to the ringleader of the crew, Gia. Though, it didn't exactly start off that way.

I can't really say that I am an advocate of revenge. Personally, I'm more of a believer in karmic retribution. But Stephanie's plan to humiliate Gia by plastering her bad report card in the middle of a school hallway didn't work out as planned. Especially when Gia ended up at the brink of tears when all was said and done. Granted, Stephanie did have reason to be upset with Gia after her little prank, but Stephanie didn't intend to hurt anyone's feelings.

I know how Stephanie must have felt. I don't like hurting people's feelings either. I think my generally diplomatic nature in conflict resolution can attest to this. I try looking at both sides, and I try to see the pros and cons of every action. Stephanie's impulsive nature initially got her into trouble here, but she quickly rectified the situation, and Stephanie and Gia started to bond.

The journey that Stephanie had to take to get there was a long and arduous one. For me, it happened to work out the same way. It took me a really long time to find a group of friends that I could count on to always be there. Most of them happen to be my co-workers. They have supported me through some of my worst moments, including my surgery, which I talked about up above.

I think that's one of the biggest lessons that Stephanie Tanner taught me about myself. If you be yourself and try not to bow down to the pressure of others, people will take notice.  If they don't...well...that's rude!

Bear with me here...

This blog is only three days old, and already technical difficulties?  Say it isn't so!

Alas, I am having modem problems.  A new one is on the way, but it'll take a few days to arrive.  In the meantime, I'll work on the blog entries that I WOULD have posted and post them all in one day.  Not exactly how I want to do this, but I've no choice.

Hopefully things will be back to normal soon...I HATE it when this happens.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday Night At The Arcade: Kyle Hyde from Hotel Dusk: Rm. 215

Now, I'm sure some of you reading this blog may be asking yourselves why I would be bringing up video games in this blog.  Certainly, I imagine that only a small percentage of people in the world are die hard gamers.  I imagine even fewer people have played or even heard of the game that I am featuring in today's blog entry.  Well, fear not people...I have a reasonable answer for all of you out there that I'll split up into several reasons.

First off, I kind of want this blog to cater to all tastes.  This is one of the main reasons why I wanted to come up with theme days.  That way, everyone can have their tastes satisfied and their thirsts quenched.  Some people are really into film.  Others like television sitcoms.  And some love playing video games.

Secondly, video games have gotten a lot more complex over the last fifteen years.  No longer is the object of a game to shoot a whole bunch of space invaders, munch on power pellets to chase ghosts or dodge barrels thrown at you by an overgrown monkey.  No, today's video games have plots.  Plots that may or may not make sense mind you, but at least they have a goal other than "saving a princess that may or may not be in the castle you happen to be in at the very moment".

More importantly, the characters in video games these days really have a lot of character development.  They have emotions.  They have backstories.  They have friends and foes.  Love interests.  Some live happily ever after, while others have sad, even deadly ends.  They're characters we love or hate.  They have adventure, romance, and danger at every move.  They have storylines that Susan Lucci would probably be jealous of and she's had 40+ years of experience as a daytime diva!

(Wow...whoever thought I'd mention Susan Lucci and video games in the same paragraph?)

Anyway, video games are starting to become known for deep storylines and exciting adventures.  Alas, it seems that some game series seem to be shoving meaningful plots and deep character connections to the side in favour of realistic graphics and retooling of the gameplay features (I'm looking at you Final Fantasy series).  There's still quite a few games out there that I found quite fun to play, and I'm sure that some of you might be interested in playing them too.

So, I guess the whole idea of the Thursday posting is to bring video games into a whole new light, as well as offering up my own personal recommendations as a part-time gamer myself.

Oh, and to try and link these games to my own personal experiences along the way.

I'll admit, it does sound kind of challenging to try and compare myself to a pixelated image on the screen of a Nintendo DS, but I shall do my best.  At least I picked a great game to talk about, and the main character is someone who you'd never really expect to see in the role of video game protagonist.

As nice looking and demure as "Rachel" looks on the far right of the image...this entry is not about her.  Rather it's about the guy on the left hand side.

The man in question is Kyle Hyde.  Born 1946.  Used to be a police detective in New York City in the mid-seventies until his partner was shot in a bizarre crime, and as a result of this mystery, he resigned from the police and took up a job as a traveling salesman.

Already we have a guy who had it all, hit rock bottom, and is now trying to reinvent himself.  That sounds really familiar...I wonder why that is?  I'll get to that a little bit later.  Don't let me forget!

The game takes place in sunny California on December 28, 1979, at a quaint little motel.  The name of the place is not 'I like it like that', but Hotel Dusk.  On the surface, the hotel seems to be another run of the mill motel, but inside the place has more skeletons hidden away than you'd ever hope to find in a graveyard or a crypt.

The game itself isn't perfect.  I'll be the first one to admit that checking into a hotel where all the guests and most of the staff members have a secret to hide seems a little contrived.  Then again, there wouldn't be much of a game to play if everyone was as squeaky clean as Ned Flanders.

Wow...mentioning Ned Flanders in the same sentence as video games.  I'm on a roll!

Really though, the game was very much entertaining from start to beginning.  It really felt like I was reading an interactive mystery novel.  The plot was deep, the characters were incredibly well developed, and the puzzles that you had to complete to progress into the game were challenging, but not impossible.

In short, I recommend this game.  You don't steal any cars or shoot up soldiers, but it's a fantastic way to kill some time.

That was the easy part.  Writing a review for a video game I find really easy.  Of course, I used to write reviews for compact discs and movie releases for my school newspaper a decade ago, so it's nothing new to me to have opinions on things. 

But here's the conundrum.  How can I take the main character of Kyle Hyde, compare him to myself, and talk about what life lessons I've learned along the way as a result?

I think I can do it...but I'm gonna have to go into detail a bit storyline wise.  Particularly with one secondary character in particular.

When Kyle Hyde checks into room 215 of the hotel, his initial purpose is to retrieve a package from the front desk and bring it back to his boss.  Hyde happens to get the package, but due to the package arriving later than normal (at least, I THINK that's the reason as it really isn't made completely clear as to why he has to stay overnight), he is forced to check into the hotel for the night.  As mentioned before, everyone on his floor seems to be keeping a secret, and unbeknownst to Hyde, those secrets all come together to link to one gigantic secret to be revealled at the climax of the game that opens up the secrets of the hotel as well as offers closure to something bothering Hyde for years.  But to those of you who haven't played the game yet, I won't spoil the ending.

Still, Hyde ends up meeting a whole lot of people in the hotel.  There's an elderly lady in room 212 who enjoys wine and has a secret.  There's a published author in room 211 who has a best-selling book...and a secret.  There's a woman in room 216 who looks like she stepped out of the pages of Italian Vogue...and has a secret, and well, you get the idea.

And Kyle Hyde happens to use his not yet rusty detective skills to try and find out what these secrets are, and after he does, he tries to find a way to help them out.

However, there's one person who happens to have more of an impact on Kyle Hyde than anyone else in the whole hotel.  When Kyle first checks into the hotel, he tries to go upstairs to see his room, but a preteen girl happens to be blocking his way.  She refuses to leave the staircase and stubbornly tells Kyle Hyde off, annoying him in the process.  Finally, the girl agrees to let him by IF he'll help her put together a jigsaw puzzle.  And then once Hyde puts the puzzle back together, she throws it on the ground and it comes apart before running up to her room.

Confession time:  In kindergarten, I was kind of a bratty kid, and I didn't like seeing other kids play with the puzzles when I wanted to play with them too.  So, during playtime to show my frustration of it all, I took all the jigsaw puzzles and buried all the pieces in the indoor sandbox.  Boy, was my teacher mad too!  Almost as mad as Kyle Hyde was!  I think I spent the class outside time trying to put the puzzles back together again.

But, that point only serves to compare my younger self to do I compare myself with Kyle Hyde?

I'm getting there.

So, in the rush, the girl happens to drop a puzzle piece on the staircase, and the puzzle piece has a pen mark on the back of it.  Kyle returns the puzzle piece back to the girl, and after being forced to put the puzzle together a second time, the girl reveals herself as Melissa Woodward, and she's staying in room 219 with her father.  She opens up to Kyle, talks about how she and her father haven't been getting along lately, and how the puzzle was a gift from her departed mother, who seemingly abandoned the family without explanation.  Kyle tries to find out more information, but Melissa's father comes in at the wrong time and orders Hyde to leave.  Some time later, Kyle hears a crying noise coming from a room that was listed as vacant.  Turns out Melissa had a fight with her father and accidentally got herself locked in room 218.  You can see how Hyde gets her out in the clip below, but what I'd really like you to do is skip ahead to roughly the 5:18 mark...we'll pick this blog entry up from there.

NOTE:  It may freeze at roughly the 6:18 mark, but skip ahead to 6:33, and it'll run from don't miss much.

Of course, some of you probably are too busy to watch a whole video clip of someone else playing a video game, so I'll summarize.  Basically, Melissa and her father went to Hotel Dusk to try and locate Melissa's missing mother, as it was one of the last places she was seen.  He told Melissa that if she went with him on the trip, there was a good chance that she would be reunited with her.  Of course, that proved to be a lie.  This was the reason why Melissa got into a fight with her father and got herself in trouble by locking herself in a vacant room.  When Kyle rescued her and asked her the right questions, she told him everything.

The Woodward family was a family that was torn apart by the departure of one of its members.  This was a family that had hit the skids.  In fact, as you play the game, almost everyone in the game has hit rock bottom at some point in their lives, and they figured that by going into Hotel Dusk, they would end up finding the answers and soul-searching that they were desperate to find.

In many ways, Hyde too felt that way.  He had lost his partner in a bizarre crime, and ended up changing his whole life around to end up selling cosmetics door to door.  Hyde could understand those people because he himself had been in their shoes.

And, I myself have found myself in Hyde's shoes.  I hit rock bottom not once, but twice.  And survived.

I'll talk about my 1997 experience in a future entry, but this time, I'll bring up 2001.

As you all know, 2001 was a rather turbulent year in the world with uncertainty in financial markets thanks to Enron and the worst terrorist attack in American history occuring on September 11 of that year.  2001 was a rough year for least the later part of it.

The first part of 2001 couldn't have started off better.  I was a 19-year-old in university having a blast.  I had a core group of friendships that in high school I only could have dreamed of having.  I was in a program I loved doing in school.  I was working for my school newspaper.  Life was good.

And, within a matter of months, that rock solid foundation came crashing down like a stack of Jenga blocks toppling down when the wrong brick was moved out of place.

It all started around April of 2001.  My job at the school paper was such that I was doing a great job editing and writing articles for the editorial staff.  A job so great that they were going to start paying me for my contributions.  It sounded great.  Unfortunately, the group that ran the newspaper took serious advantage of me, and without going into detail, I resigned from the paper when I wasn't getting treated fairly.  So, goodbye newspaper.

I guess the stress of the newspaper gig kind of expanded into my study habits somewhat.  The severance of ties with the school newspaper came at the most inopportune time, which happened to be the week before finals.  Granted, I did my best to study for them, and I did manage great marks in a couple of my classes.  Unfortunately, they simply were not good enough.  I ended up not getting back into my program my second year of school.  I missed the cutoff by a lousy tenth of a percentage point.  Oh, I fought it.  I tried my best to convince the heads in charge of academics to let me back into the same program I was taking.  No dice.  I'd have to redo my whole first year to be able to stay in the program.  That crushed me.

So not only did I end up losing my chance to write for a school paper, but I ended up getting kicked out of my program too.  And I still had not yet reached rock bottom!

So, my second year of school, I switched to a general arts program, and tried to make the best of things.  I volunteered as a facilitator for Frosh Week, I found a different school newspaper to write for, and I still had a good group of friends by my side.

The only problem?  I HATED my new program.  I gave it the old college try, but I couldn't seem to figure out how I would ever use a general arts degree in real life.  It just seemed like a worthless diploma to have, and the classes were as dull as dishwater.  I wasn't getting anything out of it.  So, I made the decision to leave school after four semesters.  I haven't been back since.

So, there you have it.  I was a college dropout with almost fifteen thousand dollars in debt.  On top of that, I had to move back home, which happens to be a place without many job opportunities, and it took me almost two years before finding steady employment.

That, my friends was my rock bottom moment.

So believe me when I say that I know what Kyle Hyde and most of the guests of Hotel Dusk must have been feeling at the time.  I felt it too once upon a time.

I did get over it though.  I have a steady job that while I wish it paid a lot more than it did, I mostly like.  I'm well on my way to eliminating my student loans once and for all.  And while I'm not currently making any money writing in this blog, it is something that I love to do.  And really, if you find something in your life you feel passionate about, isn't it worth holding onto?

Kyle Hyde also found his passion.  He wanted to know the truth behind the reason why his partner was gunned down.  By staying in Hotel Dusk, he found the truth.  Might not have been the truth he wanted to hear, but at the very least, he found closure.  Most of the people in Hotel Dusk found that closure too, with Kyle's help.

I guess maybe that's the lesson I can take from Mr. Hyde.  Hitting rock bottom doesn't have to break you.  If anything, it can make you stronger and wiser.  As Mr. Hyde found out, hitting rock bottom can teach you things about yourself you might not have known before.  By helping other people get out of their depression to heal from the secrets they've kept for years, he was actually helping himself heal.

I guess maybe I want the same thing.  If telling my stories helps other people make sense of their own lives, then maybe it's helping me out too.

Or, maybe I just love my Nintendo DS and wanted to justify it in this blog entry.  Who can say, really?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Across The Pond And Beyond: Bobby Simpson From Home & Away

Welcome to the very first Wednesday of the Pop Culture Junkie's Guide To Life!

It also happens to be the day of the week that we celebrate media from “Across The Pond And Beyond”.

Basically what that means is that I'll be looking at various sources of media that is not native to North America. This means looking at television shows, movies, anime series, and lots of other goodies from the UK, Australia, Japan, and other countries all over the world.

If I can learn anything about myself as I play the role of Globe Trekker, all the better for the blog, right?

So, let's kick into this Wednesday entry by looking at one of my favourite shows from the Land Down Under.

I was first introduced to the show “Home and Away” quite a few years ago. I used to watch a Canadian channel called YTV when I was a kid, mainly because it was one of the few places that aired old episodes of “You Can't Do That On Television”. But about twenty years ago, the channel aired Home and Away from the very beginning of the series. The show premiered in Australia in January 1988, and the first time I remember watching it was around 1990, so we were about two years behind.

During the original airings on YTV, I only remember watching a few episodes every now and then...but the episodes I did see, I ended up liking. I guess the best way to describe the show would be part soap opera, part family sitcom. Kind of a weird combo, but it made sense if you saw the show.

The premise? Tom and Pippa Fletcher got married years ago, and wanted children, but were told that they couldn't have any of their own naturally, so they decided to become foster parents to fill the void. All went well, until Tom lost his job, and the family was forced to move out of the city to make ends meet. Tom and Pippa packed up their belongings and moved to a small little community called Summer Bay along with their five foster children. Carly, Frank, Lynn, Sally, and Steven.

When they got to Summer Bay, they moved into the house that was close to a caravan park, which used to be a place for backpackers and vacationers to stay while surfing on the beaches of the town. It is here that the family starts to carve out a place in Summer Bay, and where the kids find themselves in all sorts of adventures.

One of the first storylines in the show was when Tom and Pippa ended up taking on a sixth foster child.
That sixth foster child is the subject of this blog entry, and as you'll soon see, there's some traits we both share that help explain why I am who I am...and there's also some traits she has that I would LOVE to have myself!

Enter Bobby Simpson. A sixteen-year old who has been in and out of mischief her entire life. She was born to two people out of wedlock, was given up for adoption as a baby, and her adopted father basically abandoned her and ended up in jail. Her adopted mother passed away, and as a result, she had developed into a wild child, terrorizing people on the streets and rebelling against any sort of authority figure.

This is where we are completely different as far as how we grew up. Sure, my family life was a bit tumultuous at times, but my family never abandoned me or intentionally set out to hurt me. I also never really had a rebellious phase, although at times I did talk back to my parents. What person hasn't at some point?

Though, I can see how Bobby might have felt like she had nobody to confide in. I sort of felt the same way. When I was dealing with personal problems at school, I initially kept things bottled up inside and tried to handle things myself. There were a couple of reasons why I did this. One being that I didn't think that my problems were something that people cared about. I didn't think my parents could help me understand why some kids were being so mean to me. The second reason being that when I did tell people about what I was going through, their well-intentioned solutions ended up making things somewhat worse. So, like Bobby, I didn't really confide in anyone about the hurt I might have been feeling, simply because I didn't know who I could trust in.

I feel that Bobby ended up feeling the same way. She had been hurt and abandoned by so many people in her life that trusting people was out of the question.

And, this leads us to another similarity between the both of us. We both eventually found someone who we could trust in, and who would have our backs no matter what.

In Bobby Simpson's case, it was the owner of the town's general store, Ailsa Hogan, who stood by Bobby when nobody else would. In fact, in this clip below, you'll get introduced to Bobby and the Fletcher family, as well as Ailsa's opinion of Bobby.

As you can see, Ailsa has a thing for underdogs, and stood by Bobby when nobody else would. This was definitely made clear when one of the caravans in the caravan park was set on fire, and the fingers of blame were cast towards young Bobby. It's towards the beginning of this next clip that you see a very powerful scene between Bobby and Ailsa.

Wasn't that lovely how Ailsa stood by Bobby when everyone else seemed to be against her? I was kind of lucky enough to have someone who was like Ailsa. Back in sixth grade, I was having a really rough go of things. It seemed as though my classmates and I didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things, and I was very upset about things, and I didn't know how to vent my frustration or anger. Enter Mrs. Woodfine, my sixth grade teacher. Lovely woman she was. She took me aside one day, and handed me a notebook out of the desk, and told me that whenever I was feeling down and whenever I was upset, I should write it down in the book, and if I wished, I could hand it in to the teacher so she could give me some advice on how to handle things. Of course, I wasn't obligated to do was just left open as a suggestion. At first, I didn't think the book would have much impact on my life whatsoever, and when everyone in the class discovered the book, they immediately had more ammunition to make fun of me. But, in all honesty, the book WAS helpful. It helped me express my thoughts in a private manner without resorting to alienating myself from people...and in all honesty, I think that book helped contribute to the reason why I like to write about my problems rather than talk about them openly. It helps me understand myself better. So, in a way, Mrs. Woodfine helped me understand myself better. Just like Ailsa helped Bobby understand herself a little better.

And, maybe that triggered our want to change who we were as people. We didn't want to see ourselves as victims anymore. We wanted to just be accepted.

In the clip above, you'll see that she ended up finding another ally in Steven, who fought off the two goons who were giving Bobby a hard time. Of course, Bobby was kind of sassy and smart-mouthed towards them both, which kind of leads into another similarity.

We both are not afraid to say what we feel!

In the clips you have watched (or at least hoped you watched, or else this blog post is for naught), you'll see that Bobby does not mince words when it comes to people attacking her. I'm kind of the same way, though in a different manner. Bobby tended to speak her mind whenever a personal injustice was done to this case, her being wrongfully accused of setting a caravan ablaze. I, meanwhile, don't like seeing injustice of ANY kind. If I see any sort of news story or current event that I don't particularly agree with, well, I speak my piece. About a year ago, a city politician wrote a letter to the town newspaper blasting my workplace for supposedly not doing enough to protect our environment, even going as far as making the ludicrous claim that we forced him to put his purchases in a plastic bag. It's ludicrous because I know for a fact that we don't do such a thing at my workplace. In fact, we even have bins that are specifically designed for customers to recycle plastic bags outside the front doors. I could go on and on about how wrong his accusations were. So, I typed up my own letter to the editor and e-mailed it, and got it printed about two days later. And it felt really good.

I kind of regret not telling the politician to “Rack Off” like Bobby did...but in a way...maybe I did. :D

Now, here's something that I wish I could have been more like Bobby.

Bobby Simpson's foster sister Carly ended up suffering from alcoholism. To Carly's credit, she did go for help, and she was trying to go cold turkey from alcohol. Unfortunately, Carly's enemy from school Alison Patterson found out and twisted the news around spreading the word that Carly was a drug addict. Well, Bobby found out that Alison was responsible and was trying to undo the damage that Alison caused by telling the townspeople the truth about Carly. But, Alison was not going to let anyone stop her from humiliating Carly at every opportunity. So, Bobby took matters into her own hands.

How many of you were watching that clip, cheering Bobby on? I bet that some of you have known an Alison Patterson in your lives and wished that you had the guts to stand up to her the way that Bobby did. Bobby didn't even like Carly when they first met, so for Bobby to stand up for Carly against was pretty cool to see.

And, honestly, while I myself probably wouldn't have tried to drown my bullies in an ocean...I admit that I kind of wish I had more of Bobby's courage when it came to facing them down. So many times I was brought down by people who were basically so insecure about themselves...I'm actually ashamed that I didn't stand up for myself more. In that sense, I really admire Bobby because she did the one thing that I was too afraid to do. She wasn't afraid of anyone. Maybe it was the hard childhood that she had sustained that toughened her up that put that spunk in her. Whatever the case, there's a reason why Bobby was my favourite character in the whole show. That was it.

As tough as Bobby was though, she had a vulnerable side. Although she tried to hide it from everyone who got too close to her, she really wanted to be accepted by people, and she really wanted to be a part of something. Ailsa was her first and probably best friend, and Bobby could always count on her to be there no matter what. Eventually, Ailsa's kindness towards the Fletchers caused Tom and Pippa to take her on as a foster child, and as time passed by, she gradually began to integrate herself into the community of Summer Bay. The man who you saw in the first clip grabbing Bobby and proclaiming her to be no good? That was Donald Fisher, the headmaster of the high school where the kids all attended. Bobby Simpson was one of the poorest students in the whole school, and at first, Fisher didn't want Bobby in his school at all. But there was something inside of her that caused him to want to work with her, and help her get her diploma. Bobby befriended Alan, Fisher's estranged teenage son, and Bobby managed to help Alan patch things up with Fisher before he tragically died. The relationship between Fisher and Bobby was frayed and filled with fights, but it all paid off in the end. Bobby earned her diploma, and you can see that she also won a very special award on top of that.

I guess the lesson that one can take from Bobby Simpson is this. It shows that nobody is truly a lost cause. It shows that anybody can make a success of themselves if they're given enough positive reinforcements. It shows that even the most unlikely people can find a place where they belong.

Bobby Simpson found that place on Home and Away. The show still goes on in Australia, and sadly, Bobby Simpson's character was killed off years ago. It seems almost unfair in a way that she died when she finally got her life back on track. But to Bobby Simpson, the journey seemed worth it.

I just hope that one day, I can find my place in this world...just like Bobby did.