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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thursday Night at the Arcade: Bubble Bobble

Have you ever had a memory triggered by watching a television show, or viewing a movie?  A memory that may seem insignificant or even silly, but still remains in your brain years after the fact?

One memory of my life gone by was inspired by the video game Bubble Bobble.  At first, I thought that it was such an insignificant memory, but it turned out to have more of an impact than I realized.

Before I go on further, let me talk about the game a little bit.

Initially released by Taito in Japan in 1986, Bubble Bobble was ported to American gaming systems in the late 1980's.  The game was a puzzle based game where you went from level to level to defeat monsters and collect items to get to the next room.  In short, it had the same idea as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Rampage.

What set the game apart from the others was the gameplay, and the plot.

Whereas games like Pac-Man didn't really have a plot (unless you count mindless chomping of yellow dots as a plot), Bubble Bobble had a purpose.  You played as either one of two little dinosaurs.  Bub (the green one), and Bob (the blue one).  Their girlfriends were abducted by some monsters, and you have to break into the monster's hideaway to save them.

Above, you'll see a screenshot of the arcade version of the game, and I figure that the best way to describe the mechanics of the game is to point out what each of them stand for.

As I said, the object of the game is to move from room to room to save your girlfriend from the monsters within.  The best way to do this is with your bubble power.  These dinosaurs can blow gigantic green and blue bubbles that can trap the monsters inside.  When Bub or Bob pop the bubbles, the monsters die, and are sometimes replaced with power-ups or food treats.

The monsters in the game are of different varieties and varying degrees of difficulty.  They can be robots, ghosts, whales, and other miscellaneous creatures.  It's a good idea to try and get them trapped in bubbles and popped as soon as possible, because one of two things could happen. 

One...the monsters will eventually kill you.  That's not something you want.  Furthermore, if you trap a monster in a bubble and the monster somehow gets out of the bubble itself, the monster will turn red, get really angry and move more aggressively through the room...eventually killing you.

I should also mention that each level has a time limit and if you go over it, all the monsters will become angry, and more monsters will pop up, trying to get you the dreaded 'Game Over' screen.

Not all is lost though.  There are a few things in the above screenshot that can help you in your journey.

When you kill the monsters, they leave behind lots of yummy treats for the dinosaurs to eat.  I'm not entirely sure that back in the days of the dinosaurs that they ate popsicles, french fries, and cartons of milk, but in Bubble Bobble, those foods were considered the 'breakfast of champions'.  Eating these also gave you a boost in the high scores department.

Occasionally, popping bubbles with monsters inside of them netted you power-ups which could improve your chances of success.  The yellow bubblegum you'll see at the right hand side of the screenshot allows Bub or Bob to blow bubbles twice as fast.  Depending on the power-ups though, you can do so much more.  You can breathe fire, you can turn monsters into expensive diamonds, and you can even skip whole levels.

Another thing to collect are the rainbow letter bubbles, which float around if you kill two or more enemies at the same time.  If you collect all six bubbles, spelling the word 'EXTEND', you can skip the current level you happen to be on, as well as a bonus life.  Collecting the bubbles can definitely be an asset.  There were also special bubbles that randomly appeared that could drown monsters or electrocute monsters if popped.

So, there were just as many positives to consider in the world of Bubble Bobble.  Would you care to see some of these in action?  I bet you do!

Now that you know what Bubble Bobble is, and how it's played, I suppose you want me to tell you about why this game sparks a childhood memory from years ago.

Well, I am getting to that.

You'll have to take a trip back in time to 1989.  It was the year that the Berlin Wall came down.  The year Madonna had a Pepsi commercial pulled.  The year that Dan Quayle spelled the word 'potato' incorrectly.

Me?  I was just an eight year old kid.

During that year, one of my haunting grounds happened to be the little cornerstore just around the block from my house at the time.  It was a little variety store called 'Darling's', and inside the store was everything that a kid my age loved.  You had a candy counter right inside the store.  A magazine rack with the latest in comic books and magazines.  You even had a little corner in the store that was filled with Nintendo games that you could rent for a little over two dollars a day.

The piece de resistance of the whole store was the whole back wall.  Along the back wall were three or four arcade games that kept changing every two months or so.  All sorts of games, ranging from Mr. Do, to Super Mario Brothers, to Michael Jackson's Moonwalker even!  So many memories, and so many quarters wasted.  Good times.

I'll never forget the week that the 1989-1990 school year started.  During that time, Darling's changed their arcade games around, and one of the new games was the arcade version of Bubble Bobble. 

Although the game only stayed at Darling's for six months at the most, those six months were filled with me practically begging my mom for some quarters so I could run over to Darling's and play Bubble Bobble.  It was my all-time favourite arcade game, and I would always go there after I did my homework (if I had any), and play until I ran out of quarters.  I loved that game so much, and I looked for every excuse to play it.

One day around Halloween of 1989, I headed to Darling's, and I had a fistful of quarters in my hand, and I managed to get onto the Bubble Bobble game, and happily started to play away.

It was then that a group of kids from the nearby high school crowded into the store.  Some of them were in the red and black football jerseys, so I kind of figured that they were just getting out of football practice at the time.  Anyway, the group of them almost immediately made a beeline towards the Bubble Bobble arcade game, and immediately demanded that I step aside because they wanted to play, and they wanted to play it NOW!

Now, you would have thought that I would have backed down, and stepped aside and let them play while I had to settle for the not nearly as fun Burger Time arcade game. 

Surprisingly enough, I stood my ground.  I mean, here were these sixteen, seventeen year old guys crowded around this eight year old kid...easily twice my height and weight.  Yet, I stood up to them.

Part of it could have been that they were the same age as my sister at the time, who attended the same school, and I knew that if they tried anything, I could tell my sister, and she would quite literally kick their asses all the way from Darling's to Denver, Colorado.

Part of it as well could have been that the store clerks kept a really close eye on the arcade area, and I knew that if they tried anything, they would have thrown the mob out.  It was really that simple.

And, besides, Bubble Bobble was my favourite game, and it was there for a limited time, and I got there first.  They would just have to wait.

Or, maybe I could do something even better.

Seeing as how Bubble Bobble was a two player game, instead of stepping aside, I decided to issue a challenge to the ringleader of the group.  Head-to-head combat.  One against one.  We'd play until one of us got a Game Over.  The winner would continue to play Bubble Bobble.  The loser got stuck with Burger Time.

My challenger was a twelfth grader, aged seventeen, who readily agreed to compete against me.  He even so much as gave his companions a high-five, and said that he would make it his mission to crush me.  He was one cocky bastard, he was.

I took control of the green dino.  My opponent was in blue.  It was a valiant effort by both of us, and both of us lasted a long time.  The screenshot up above was the level that we both made it to before one of us got the dreaded Game Over message.  Level thirteen ended up being an unlucky number for one of us.

And it was NOT me!

That's right.  Cocky twelfth grader ate it on the heart shaped course.  Broke his little heart too being beaten by an eight-year-old.  I, on the other hand, felt great about it.

So, as promised, the gang had no choice but to step aside, and let me play Bubble Bobble until I ran out of quarters (which actually wasn't all that long, as I only brought $1.50 worth).  I didn't care though.  I knew that I had played the game so long that I could hold my own against any challenger.  I was so confident in my Bubble Bobble abilities that it worked out rather nicely.

I suppose that's the lesson that Bubble Bobble taught me.  If you keep at things long enough, you start to develop confidence.  And a confident person is a happy person.  However, you don't want to become over-confident to the point where you begin to turn into a jerk about it.  Otherwise, you end up spending your quarters making gigantic electronic burgers, much like my opponent did.

Whatever the case, that one autumn day in 1989 was one that I'll never forget.  Whenever I'm lucky enough to play Bubble Bobble again, I'll never forget that day, because that day had a...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Across The Pond and Beyond: Kylie and Dannii Minogue

The vast majority of us know what it is like to have brothers or sisters around.  Sometimes, there may only be eleven months between siblings, while in other families there may be eleven years.  Nevertheless, any of us who have siblings know that sometimes sibling rivalry is a part of being a sibling to someone.

Most times, it's friendly competition between brothers and sisters, such as trying to shoot more free throws in basketball, or who can wear the better bathing suit to a summer beach party.

In extreme cases, brothers and sisters can end up becoming bitter enemies, and try to harm each other or embarrass each other in cruel and unusual ways.  Sometimes one sibling can even kill the other one.

It happened with Cain and Abel, didn't it?

Fortunately in most cases, siblings don't really have that much malice towards each other except on soap operas and biblical tales.

It's hard enough trying to manage sibling rivalry in the privacy of your own home.  It becomes an entirely different thing altogether when the siblings happen to be in the public eye.

Certainly we've seen our fair share of sibling stars.  Jake and Maggie Gyllenhall.  Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.  Jessica and Ashlee Simpson.  The Kardashians.  Sometimes they fight, and sometimes they don't, but they've all managed to make their mark in some form in the entertainment industry.

(Well...okay, Ashlee Simpson did a hoe-down on SNL following a lip-synching fiasco, but she still had that.)

Because this is the Across the Pond and Beyond day, I figure that I would do this blog entry on a couple of sisters from Melbourne, Australia.  A couple of sisters who found fame and fortune in their own ways, and who have had lofty career ambitions.  What makes this story unique was that quite often, both of them ended up competing against each other on the music charts, on the television, and well, just about every media outlet you can imagine, really.

These two sisters are the Minogue sisters.  On the left is Danielle (who goes by Dannii) Minogue, born on October 20, 1971, and on the right is Kylie Minogue, born May 28, 1968.

In North America, more people are probably more familiar with Kylie Minogue.  She had a couple of hits in the late 1980's and made a comeback in late 2001 with this hit.

I realize now that you probably can't get that out of your head right now, and for that I sort of apologize.

Now, Dannii on the other hand, is rarely known at all here in these parts.  The only time I ever remember hearing her name was when she was briefly engaged to race car driver Jacques Villeneuve.  So, needless to say, I had to do a little bit of research on her.

Not so much with Kylie, who I readily admit to having a celebrity crush on.  Hey, I may be 30 years old, but I'm not dead.  ;)

Just looking at both of their biographies, there certainly looks like there would be ample opportunities for both Kylie and Dannii to clash with each other.

They both got their careers started in Australian television when they were both young children.  Ironically enough, both of them appeared on the same shows!  Mainly on Australian dramas that never ended up airing in North America.

So clearly both of them decided that they wanted to have a career in the arts and entertainment sector by basically going after similar parts in similar shows. 

In 1981, there was a show on television called Young Talent Time in Australia (which I suppose would be like the Australian version of Kids Incorporated or the Mickey Mouse Club maybe), and Kylie submitted a demo tape to the program, hoping that the show would cast her on the program.  Kylie had decided that she had wanted a career in music, and figured that by getting on the show at thirteen was a good stepping stone.  Kylie appeared on the show once as a guest, but unfortunately wasn't cast.

However, her ten year old sister Dannii WAS cast.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the Minogue residence in 1981.

Kylie didn't let it get her down though.  As Dannii continued to have success on Young Talent Time, Kylie was getting involved in the world of Australian soap operas, and she landed the role of Charlene Mitchell Robinson on Neighbours.

After a few years on Young Talent Time, Dannii left the program, wanting to further her acting abilities, and it is here where something interesting happens along the way.

Let's follow the bouncing ball, shall we?

Kylie Minogue appeared on the Australian soap opera Neighbours.  She played Charlene Mitchell Robinson for two years from 1986 to 1988.  Charlene was best described as a rebellious teenager.

Dannii Minogue appeared on the Australian soap opera Home and Away.  She played Emma Jackson for a year from 1989 to 1990.  Emma was...also a rebellious teenager.

Think that's a coincidence?  There's more.

While Kylie was working on Neighbours, she went to a benefit concert for a football league along with some Neighbours cast members.  The cast decided to put on their own talent show where they entertained the crowds, but it threw Kylie for a loop, as she had nothing prepared.  At the last minute, she decided to sing a cover version of the following song.

The Loco-Motion.  Originally a hit for Little Eva back in 1962, Kylie managed to put her own signature on the classic hit, and it got her signed to a recording contract with Mushroom records.  Soon after, she was signed onto the successful pop music writing team of Stock, Aitken, and Waterman, where she recorded her first five albums with the team.  Her sudden success as a pop music artist in Australia and the United Kingdom was a key factor behind her leaving Neighbours and solely focusing on music.

Dannii Minogue, who seemed to be literally following Kylie in everything she did, followed suit.  She decided to leave Home and Away to record her debut album in 1990, and much like Kylie's debut single, Dannii's first song was considered to be mindless, bubble gum fluff.  Let's take a listen, shall we?

Just like her sister's debut, Dannii's 'Love and Kisses' has not aged very well, at all.  Yet, it was still big enough for Dannii to get her first top five hit in Australia.

Unfortunately for Dannii, 'Love And Kisses' was her only top five smash. 

Part of it could have been the fact that it was Dannii's first album, but Kylie arguably had better success with her debut than Dannii did.

It also didn't help Dannii that Kylie had released her third album the same year that Dannii released hers.  In fact, the albums were released six weeks apart.  Although Dannii had the edge with releasing her album first, Kylie had released the first single from her album six months earlier. 

Better The Devil You Know became Kylie's twelfth top five single globally (except in North America where it never charted), while Dannii was lucky to have had one.

As a result of the sisters releasing their albums so close together, it was a safe assumption that the Minogues would often find themselves on the charts at the same time.  Although Dannii had the success on Young Talent Time, Kylie had the success on the charts.  In fact, in Australia and the UK, the majority of Kylie's albums had terrific sales and had better critical reception as she matured.  Dannii on the other hand had a rockier road.

Before I started this blog entry, you probably could name at least one song by Kylie Minogue.  I bet you couldn't do the same for Dannii.  Some of you probably didn't even know who Dannii Minogue even was!

Okay, so if you're keeping score, Dannii may have gotten her first big break before Kylie, but Kylie was having more success than Dannii was on the charts.  Though both of them ended up having meaty roles on competing soap operas. 

The public kept comparing the two sisters, and the media seemed to have a field day constrasting elder Minogue from younger Minogue.  They compared their musical talents, their acting talents...some even went so far as to print polls asking which Minogue sister was sexier.

I guess in some weird way, I too am guilty of comparing Kylie and Dannii in this blog.  Though in my case, no maliciousness is intended, which is more than I could say for the UK tabloids at the time.

It was almost like the media was salivating over any reports of strain between the sisterly bond between Kylie and they wanted the sisters to have a relationship so dysfunctional that they ended up shoving each other into a fountain.

Here's the irony of the situation though.  Despite the competition between the Minogue sisters on the television airwaves and the music charts, the relationship between Kylie and Dannii remains stronger than ever before.

None of that was made more evident when both sisters experienced their own crisis points in their careers.

We will start with Dannii.

You'll see Dannii on the far right of this picture, and on the left is former American Idol judge Simon Cowell.  This is a picture of the judging panel of the UK show 'The X-Factor'.  You may have heard that an American version of the show is slated to premiere in a few months, which will reunite Simon with Paula Abdul.  The American version is based on this show, which works the same way as American Idol, only with a wider range of contestants.  There wasn't an age limit, and people can perform in groups if they wish.

Anyway, Dannii Minogue was a judge on that show for several seasons, and during her tenure as judge, it was rumoured that she had been involved in feuds with other judges.  Apparently, Dannii Minogue didn't get along with Sharon Osbourne.  When Sharon left the show to judge America's Got Talent, she reportedly didn't like replacement judge Cheryl Cole.  She was also attacked by other prominent musical figures, questioning her ability to judge the contestants fairly, and wondering if her credientials were enough.  And she got into an on-air verbal sparring match with fellow judge Louis Walsh over a contestant's song choice, which left Minogue in tears.

Dannii's time on the X-Factor was filled with controversy, and her having to try and deflect her critics, whether the comments were accurate or not.  To add insult to injury, Louis Walsh kept making comments that basically stated that she was inferior to her more successful sister.

And that's when big sister Kylie stepped into the ring to defend little sister Dannii by saying this about Louis Walsh's comments.

"It was so cheap. I’m just so proud of my sister and it annoys the hell out of me when comparisons between us are made in an unfavourable way to her. In England, you lot don’t know where she came from. She was on TV every week from seven years old. I think that makes it harder for her when she gets Louis Walsh’s rather pathetic jibes – one of which is she hasn’t had a hit record. That’s not true. He has no idea where she’s come from. No idea. And neither does England. And that’s quite hard." 

To me, it sounds less like sibling rivalry and more like a family uniting together to get the facts straight.  Sure, Louis Walsh may have been completely justified in what he was saying, but he should have acted more diplomatically about it...because then he had to face the wrath of Kylie.  And even though Kylie's only 5'1", I hear the small ones are dangerous when provoked.

Kylie herself had her own which could have been life-threatening.

2005 was shaping up to be a great year for Kylie.  Her latest album 'Body Language' was doing relatively well on the charts, and she had kicked off her 'Showgirl' world tour.  Approaching birthday number thirty-seven, she was at the height of her career, and it seemed like nothing was going to get her down.

That was until May 17, 2005, when she received the news that would end up being her biggest challenge yet.  Kylie Minogue was diagnosed as having breast cancer.

Her Showgirl tour was postponed indefinitely as a result, and she had to pull out of several appearances that she had pre-planned before the cancer diagnosis.  Four days later, she underwent surgery and endured chemotherapy shortly after that.

By 2006, Kylie's cancer went into remission, and in November of 2006, she resumed her Showgirl tour in Australia, where she gave some of the most emotional performances in her career.  She was still feeling exhausted from the chemotherapy she had undergone, and she had to take longer breaks in between songs to regain some strength from the performances.  She somehow found the strength to continue on with the tour as a thank you to her fans for supporting her through her battle, and on a personal note, I find that to be so inspiring that she cared enough about her fans to even attempt putting on a concert just eighteen months after her initial diagnosis.  In an era where concert tickets are way overpriced to mediocre performances at best, Kylie Minogue was determined to give back to her real fans, which was very cool to see.

And who else would support Kylie during her toughest time than her little sister, Dannii?  In this interview with Piers Morgan filmed in 2009, this is how Dannii explained it all.

I think if you're still questioning whether there's a sibling rivalry between Dannii and Kylie, this video clip should end all that.

Now, Kylie and Dannii's relationship is a unique one, as much of it has been seen in the public eye, but as we've learned, it really wasn't any different between any other sibling relationship out there.

Naturally, as a brother to two older sisters, we all had our fair share of disagreements and fights.  I remember my sister screaming at me to get out of her room, so I destroyed her Barbie dolls.  The other sister later retaliated by pouring a whole tube of Alberto styling gel on my head to give me the Miami Vice look.

(Yeah...that event happened in 1985, in case you were wondering).

The point is that yes, there are times where I have felt like I needed to compete with them, and there are some times in which I would find myself being compared to them in terms of where we all are in life.  It still doesn't mean that I don't love them any less.  They're my siblings.  They were there for me when I was getting my gall bladder removed, and I was there for them through their medical scares.

TRIVIA:  My two sisters and I all had surgeries on our mid-sections for three different medical problems, and as a result, we all have unique scars.  My oldest sister made the crack that if we all became victims of a serial killer they could use our chests to identify us.  Heh.

The point is that your siblings are people who you may have a close relationship with, or you may not.  They're still your family no matter what.

If Kylie and Dannii Minogue can find a way to have a strong sisterly bond with each other in the public eye, anyone can make that effort.  You won't know until you try.

Besides, at least Kylie and Dannii can poke fun at themselves with it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What the Biggest Loser Taught Me About Myself

Reality television is one of those genres that people seem to have a great divide over.  You either love watching it, or you hate it with a burning passion.

There are some shows that I can't stand watching.  For instance, I've never really been a fan of those talent shows like 'American Idol' or 'So You Think You Can Dance'.  I loathe the idea of the Bachelor, which treats its contestants more like eye candy and hunks of beef in the guise of 'finding true love'.  And don't even get me started on 'Jersey Shore'.

For the most part however, I can deal with reality television.  I love 'Kitchen Nightmares', I'm a self-confessed addict of 'Big Brother' (season premiere July 7, by the way), and I would absolutely love to get a chance to compete on either 'The Amazing Race' or 'Wipeout'.

Certainly, reality television has certainly been successful.  Look at Survivor for instance.  When it aired its first season back in the summer of 2000, nobody thought that it would last, and as of today, it has aired twenty-two seasons in eleven years.  The Amazing Race is filming season 19, Big Brother is on season 13, and Hell's Kitchen will be airing season nine this year.  Love it or hate it, reality television is here to stay for the long haul.

The show that I'm going to be talking about will be kicking off its 12th season this fall.  It also happens to be a show that I once loved, and once respected, but am finding it harder and harder to get into due to lots of things that I don't particularly enjoy about the show in recent seasons.  However, I do want to talk about it anyways because the show was an inspiration for me in recent years, and because it sort of relates to something that I would like to add at the bottom of this blog entry.  I guess you could say that like the entry before this one, today's blog entry was an inspired choice as well.

The Biggest Loser is a show that premiered back in the autumn of 2004.  Hosted by Alison Sweeney (and previously Caroline Rhea), the show has changed the lives of well over one hundred contestants who have appeared on the show over the course of eleven seasons.  You can see some of them in the video below, although I do apologize for the overall crappiness in quality.

The above image is from the fifth season of the show, which is probably the first full season that I watched, and is probably the season where most of the references will be from as a result.

It seems hard to believe now with so many reality shows focusing on weight loss on these days, but this show was really a revolutionary show at the time of its debut.  Without this show, we would have no 'Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition', 'Heavy', or 'Dance Your Ass Off'.

It seems to make sense though as to why we would have these types of shows on the air.  It's no secret that obesity is a problem in both Canada and the United States, and that many people are suffering from obesity-related health problems as a result. 

The Biggest Loser is probably known as the grandpappy of weight loss programming.  And the first few seasons focused on exactly that.

The show has trainers who appear on every episode of the series to give our contestants the training, the tools, and the emotional support they need to make it through the experience and to make themselves as healthy as possible.  Enter Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper, the two trainers who christened the Biggest Loser.  While Jillian has decided to leave the show after this season, I believe Bob is still sticking around, and since then, three other trainers have featured on the show.  Kim Lyons (who only lasted two seasons), and Brett Hoebel and Cara Castronuova (who joined the show last season).  After all, you can't have a show without trainers.

And woe befall you if you ever talk back to a trainer or not do the work necessary.  Here's just a couple of examples from past seasons.

Like I said, you don't really want to get on their bad side.  And the last video was shocking because anyone who's watched the show before knows that Bob is the CALM one!

The whole premise of the show is that people from all over the United States come to the Biggest Loser ranch in California to begin a fitness regiment that includes extreme workouts, learning how to prepare and cook nutritious meals, and having pop challenges designed to teach contestants about calorie intake and exercise preparation.  Sometimes the seasons will be individuals competing against others, while other times, you'll have couples.  There can only be one person named 'The Biggest Loser' however, and the winner receives a quarter of a million dollars as well as bragging rights for losing the most weight.

Of course, the road to becoming the Biggest Loser is not an easy one.

The thought of stepping on a gigantic scale that shows your weight in big bold white numbers on a plasma television screen would probably make most of us shake in our workout clothing everywhere.  Yet on the Biggest Loser, that's exactly what contestants must do.  This example above shows the pink team of Bette-Sue and Ali from Season 5.  As you can see, their individual weights are shown, as well as the combined weight of the team. 

On any season of the show where couples are involved, the team scores are combined with each other to make one larger number.  Each week, after a couple of challenges and a last chance workout, teams have to weigh in and see how much of a percentage of weight loss they have accumulated in the week.  On the couples edition, the team scores are totalled, and if your team comes in last, one of the members will be voted off.

When the teams become individuals, or if the season is made up of individuals from the beginning, then the bottom two who have the lowest percentage of lost weight will be up for elimination.

You see that yellow line?  The ones below that line are in danger of going home, and in this case, either Jay or Brittany will be getting booted off the show.  Sometimes, they'll even add a red line, which if a contestant is unlucky enough to fall below it, will result in instant elimination from the show.

That doesn't mean that they're off the show for good though.  To motivate the contestants who have been kicked off the program, the show offers a $100,000 At-Home prize for the contestant that has the highest percentage of weight loss of all the previously eliminated contestants.  Most of the at-home contestants do really well, and have a better success rate at keeping the weight off from my experience watching the show, so I guess if that isn't proof that weight loss can be done anywhere, I don't know what is.

There's also a chance that eliminated players can come back to the show through one of the many challenges that are played on the show. 

What are these challenges?

Well, I already talked about there being Pop Challenges, where players answer trivia questions about calorie intake and exercise.  Sometimes they'll have to prepare healthy dishes where the team that has the lowest calorie count wins.  Temptation challenges are also a key challenge in this show, where teams are bribed with high-fat foods, or even cold hard cash, in an attempt to gain advantages in the weigh-ins.

Advantages like bonus time with Bob and Jillian, or taking a two-pound advantage, or phone calls from home.

(Though, considering that if I were on the show, and I ate two whole bags of peanut butter M&M's to win a temptation challenge, I'd need a two-pound advantage to break even.  Just one thing about the show that bugs me.)

Sometimes, contestants will be taken off the ranch and brought back home as a challenge to see if they are ready for weight loss away from the ranch.  Some contestants prove they are, while others didn't.

Oh, and did I mention that on almost every season of the show, the final four end up running a marathon as their final challenge?

I don't know about you, but I get tired just thinking about running 26.2 miles, but to the credit of the players, each one of them has finished the marathon.

At the end of each season is a finale, where all the contestants are reunited on live television, and the winners of the At-Home player and the Biggest Loser are announced.

Season 5's winner was Ali, who lost 112 pounds during the course of the show.  What makes her story unique is that she was eliminated fairly early in the season, and won a challenge that brought her back to the game.  Quite a bit of that weight was lost at home, so Ali definitely proved that you could lose weight anywhere at anytime.

I will say that the show (especially in the early seasons) was a great show to watch.  Seeing the determination of the contestants fighting their way through workouts and challenges to better themselves was inspiring, and seeing the rewards show right on our television screens made it entirely possible to change your whole life.  The trainers were tough, but caring, and in the early shows, I really did learn quite a bit about food intake and exercise techniques, which I thought was a nice touch.

So why have I lost some love for this show?

Because it seems like one gigantic infomercial some days.

During season five, yes, you did have the odd bit of product placement in the program, but to be fair, almost every reality show is sponsored by a brand-name company.  It wouldn't be unusual for the show to repay their sponsorships by creating built-in ads for the product in the show.  And I would be okay with it if the product was pitched in such a way that it becomes somewhat educational (like say, an ad for Brita water filters saying that they'll keep you hydrated while protecting the environment).  I'm down with that.

It's when you have entire segments devoted to turkey breasts, or a challenge that is more or less a gigantic commercial for Wheaties that I don't find attractive or appealing.  I watch the Biggest Loser to see the camaraderie between teammates or to see people's excitement over losing seven pounds in a week...not to hear about the benefits of Ziploc containers.

And, speaking of contestant camaraderie, in recent seasons, I ask myself where that disappeared to.

In early seasons, it seemed as though contestants were genuinely sad to see others go, and we saw teams encouraging each other to succeed.  Nowadays, you see contestants throwing others under the bus to survive in the game.  Like, say, someone who has only lost one pound a week the past three weeks forming an alliance in the game to vote out someone who still weighed 325 pounds.

I hear what you're saying here...forming alliances to get rid of players who may be a threat to you down the road are a part of reality television competitions, and if this were any other reality show, I would completely agree.  But when you have people fighting to stay alive (figuratively and literally) getting voted out by people who look like they have reached their weight loss goals, it makes one wonder.

Don't even get me started on those contestants who seem to care more about the cash prize at the end than getting healthier.  I would need a whole blog entry on that alone, and it would not be very polite.

Really, I feel that the show has really lost something along the way.  I know the whole message of positive thinking and making healthy choices is a message that is still being portrayed on the show, but it seems to be taking a backseat in focus of manipulated drama, product placements, and meaningless challenges that have nothing to do with the show.  (Seriously, one of the prizes on last season was a Hollywood premiere to the preview of the movie 'Hop', which is basically a movie that centres on Easter candy and the Easter bunny...yeah, great movie to show people trying to lose weight, producers).

At a direct result of this, the show has lost its lustre in my eyes.  Can the show possibly get it back again?  I sure hope so.  Especially for contestants who really could benefit from such a program.  I'm unfortunately not holding my breath for that to happen.

Now, I suppose that all of you are wondering why I would focus my attention on a show that I really am kind of lukewarm about these days.  As I mentioned before in this blog entry, there is a reason.

The above picture is me.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to post a picture of myself as a child, but feel it's important for the story.  I was in second grade when that picture was taken.  Couldn't have been much older than seven years old.  And, I didn't look too bad, aside from the bowl cut.

The thing is that this picture is only a headshot.  You couldn't tell it based on this picture, but I was a stocky kid.  By second grade, I was already well over five feet tall, and although I did weigh almost ninety pounds in second grade, I was built rock-hard.  Not doughy by any means.  Unfortunately, I was in a class filled with fifty-two pounders who thought I was fat, even though I really didn't think I was.  Sure, I was bigger than the other kids, as in, I was six inches taller, but I didn't think I was fat.

But almost the whole class made fat jokes at my expense, so I guess if the whole class felt that way, it must have been true.

Still, it wasn't a fun experience, and I tended to go home and chomp down on the Oreo cookies in order to make myself feel better.  By ninth grade, this is what I looked like.

Granted, this wasn't my best look.  My shirt was two sizes too big (I thought if I wore baggy clothes, I could hide the excess weight), and the reason I look like I have a black eye was due to a mishap involving a softball in gym class the previous day.  But as far as size goes, I pretty much stayed this way for the next twelve years of my life.  I knew that the way I was going was downhill.  I had little energy, I couldn't find anything to fit me, and I basically ate all the wrong foods.

It wasn't until January of 2009 that things started to change.  At my workplace, a group of people were starting up a competition based on the Biggest Loser television show, and at the last minute, I decided to sign up for it, thinking that it was worth a shot, and that if I had even lost so much as one pound that I would have considered it a success.

So from January to May 2009, the contest went on, and through the support and positive feelings given to me by my awesome co-workers, I ended up shedding pound after pound, and ended up feeling better about myself.

By early 2010, I had lost seventy pounds total, and I was the slimmest I had been in years.  It was fantastic.

Unfortunately in 2011, I ended up having surgery, and during the recovery process, I gained back a little bit of weight, but I'm not at the point where I'm stressing out over a few additional pounds.

This picture was taken in March of 2011.  Notice any difference?

(And, yes, I am quite aware that the DQ sign in the back makes me kind of hypocritical, but I add that in moderation, a treat is okay!)

So that's my story, and what the Biggest Loser taught me about myself.  It taught me that I am worth making myself feel and look better for myself and not anyone else. 

Now comes the additional fun.

I have a friend named Heidi who also happens to have her own blog.  You can read it in the link below!

It sort of relates to this entry because her whole blog currently details her own thoughts about weight loss, and her personal journey.  If you have a chance, read it, because she's quite the wordsmith herself.

Anyway, on her blog, she has a link to Friend-Making Mondays on another blog called (which for next week I will post ON a Monday), and from there, we post questions that the person on that blog posts as a way to link bloggers together and for people to read stuff from other bloggers.  So, I thought I would try this exercise, albeit a day late.

So, here's FM...T...LOL...entitled 'What's In Your Fridge?'.  You can answer the questions here, or if you've friended me on Facebook, you can post a reply there.

1.  List a few common items in your fridge.
I usually have some variety of fruit juice, ketchup, mustard, some form of poultry, some vegetables and fruits, yogurt, cheese...basi...cally everything from the food pyramid.
2.  What kind of milk do you drink?
I usually drink 1%, but can drink 2%. Whole milk makes me get cramps.
3.  Do you prefer fresh or frozen vegetables?
I prefer fresh of course, but like frozen peas better than fresh peas.
4.  What do you currently have to drink in the fridge?
 Lemon iced tea, water, milk, fruit punch...and although I shouldn't have it, Diet Pepsi...though I've cut back a lot on it.
5.  How often do you clean out your refrigerator?
I usually eat everything up before it gets to that point.
6.  What's the healthiest thing in it right now?
Healthiest thing is probably light yogurt. In cherry and lemon meringue flavours.
7.  What's the most unhealthy thing in it right now?
Unhealthiest thing is probably leftover vanilla ice cream from a dinner I went to on Saturday night.
8.  What do you wish you had in it that you don't have now?
Lea and Perrins barbecue sauce. It was discontinued 15 years ago and I still miss it.
9.  How often do you shop for groceries?
I'm usually buying groceries every day, but I'd say my big day is the first day off I have in the week. My work schedule is schizophrenic at best.
10.  What's the weirdest thing in your fridge right now?
Weirdest thing? Probably some eardrops from my last ear infection which I probably should toss by now...LOL...

I think this will be a fun activity to add onto this blog, so feel free to take part if you like.

As for me, I need to end this entry before it turns into a whole book!  Sometimes I get so carried away.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Matinee: Labyrinth

The choosing of the film "Labyrinth" for the Monday matinee blog entry this week was an inspired choice, and as it turns out, the timing of the entry could not be better.

This past Saturday evening, I was invited over for a dinner and a movie night with a friend who I've known for at least two decades, if not more.  It was a great night, and we both had fun catching up with each other and reminiscing about good times.

The movie we both decided to watch was 'Labyrinth', which ended up being Jim Henson's final film before his death in 1990.  The film was about a teenage girl named Sarah, who was a bit resentful of her baby brother, Toby, and in a fit of anger wished that goblins would come and take him away.  Little did she know that those words would send her into a whole new world, where she must endure the trials and challenges within the labyrinth to storm the castle and save her brother from being turned into a goblin himself.

Before I continue on with further details about this movie, I will say that the timing of this blog entry could not have been more perfect. 

Today's date is June 27, 2011.  Labyrinth was first released in theatres on June 27, 1986.

Therefore, today is Labyrinth's 25th anniversary.

Pretty freaky, no?

Almost as freaky as a thirteen hour clock, wouldn't you say?

Now, going back to the story, I don't think Sarah really meant for goblins to take away Toby.  She couldn't help it that she was studying a book entitled 'Labyrinth', and reading the lines of the book aloud.  And sure, she was angry that Toby was playing with her teddy bear without her permission.  I'm sure that even she wouldn't have wanted goblins to steal him away just because of that.

Alas, that's exactly what happened.  She said it while the baby was crying, and when the crying suddenly stopped, she investigated and he was gone.  Vanished.  Without a trace.

Alas, she couldn't call Poppy Montgomery and the rest of the 'Without A Trace' crew to help her out...Poppy was only thirteen then.

Instead, all she got was a barn owl flying through the window, morphing into David Bowie.

David Bowie played Jareth, the King of Goblins, and he reveals to Sarah that he has abided by her wishes and taken away Toby.

But, wait!  Sarah didn't want that at all.  She wanted him to give back Toby, and give him back now!

This is where the 13-hour clock that I posted up above comes into play.  You see, Jareth would give Sarah back her baby brother, but only if she found her way through the labyrinth within a thirteen hour time limit.  If she was even so much as one second late, then Jareth would turn Toby into a goblin forever.

Of course, the challenge is a daunting one for Sarah.  Almost immediately, she gets lost in the maze, and can't seem to find a way out.  She eventually gets some advice from a very unlikely source.

Okay, so the worm kinda sent her in the wrong direction, but the worm also provided a valuable clue for Sarah (and a valuable life lesson).

When things get tough, and you feel as though there is no way just might only be looking at something through face value.  If one thinks out a problem logically, and tries examining alternative solutions to problems, they may find that it's not that difficult at all. 

Sarah's little inchworm friend there wasn't the only ally she encountered along the way either.

There was Hoggle, a dwarf creature who treated fairies as if they were mosquitoes infected with the West Nile virus.  He refused to help Sarah in any way until she offered him up some of her jewelry.  It's revealled later in the film that he is working as a double-agent for Jareth, and Hoggle was supposed to stop her from reaching the castle in time.  He is extremely conflicted during the whole film, and often did things to hinder her journey.  However, when he genuinely feels guilt for trying to stop Sarah in her quest to save Toby, Sarah can find it in her heart to forgive him.

The next creature Sarah happens to meet is...well...take a look.

I only regret that clip was only ten seconds here's another one for you...

Yep...I'm talking about Ludo!

Ludo, the beast-like creature, who may be scary-looking and gigantic on the outside, but warm and soft on the inside.  Sarah comes across Ludo when he's tied up by Jareth's goblins and tortured by them.  With some clever work on her part, she distracts the goblins long enough for her to rescue Ludo.  Ludo is grateful for the help and he considers Sarah to be a friend after she saved him.

He later gets a chance to prove his loyalty by using his powers to control gigantic boulders to scare the goblins away while Sarah sneaks into the castle to rescue Toby.

Finally, you had the tag team duo of Sir Didymus and his loyal steed Ambrosius.  Sir Didymus was the guardian of the bridge that spanned the Bog of Eternal Stench, and thus did not let anyone through without permission.  However, once Sarah asked him if they could have permission to cross, he agreed and quickly joined the team.

Sir Didymus was loyal, brave, and definitely someone you wanted on your team.  Ambrosius on the other hand...not so much.

The road that Sarah took was not linear by any means, and even with help from her new friends, she still got into trouble.  In particular with her misguided trust in Hoggle.  When Sarah began to get hungry, Hoggle handed her a piece of fruit, which she greatly accepted.  Sadly, the fruit made her space out in ways nobody thought imaginable.

Jareth gave Hoggle the piece of fruit to give to Sarah to stall her long enough for her to miss the thirteen hour deadline that she had been given to save Toby from the goblins.  And they almost would have succeeded had Sarah not come to her senses and fought her way through.

For you see, the whole journey through the Labyrinth was Sarah's coming of age moment.

Think about it.  When we're first introduced to Sarah in the film, she comes across as a spoiled, entitled brat.  She only cares about material possessions, and how good she looks to others, and how the world should revolve around her, and how she can't stand it when other people control everything she does.

Basically your typical fifteen year old in a nutshell.

It almost seemed out of character for Sarah to then befriend so many strangers, yet she did.  It seemed unlikely that she would have helped Ludo in her own world, but in the labyrinth, she didn't give it a second thought.  She asked Didymus politely if she could cross the bridge instead of pitching a temper tantrum like she usually did at home.  Even when Hoggle was playing all sorts of tricks to stall her, she eventually forgave him, which is probably something that she wouldn't have done before.

So why the sudden change in attitude?

One could argue that she was more than determined to save her brother at all costs, and figured that the more help she had to get to the castle, the better.  And maybe she figured out that the best way to find her brother was to put his needs before her own.

Or, just possibly, maybe she felt incredibly alone, and needed some company no matter who they were.

I mean, once again, just think about it.  When we're first introduced to Sarah, we only see her alone in the park reading her Labyrinth book and trying to remember the words.  We don't see her with friends in the park, or at her house, or even at school.  It's almost as if the film sort of makes out that Sarah has somewhat of a sheltered existence, and that's part of the reason why she was so meticulous about everything in her room...and why she was so against Toby taking a hold of her precious teddy bear.

Is it any wonder why she was the way that she was?

She may have entered the labyrinth as an insecure, bratty teenager, but she certainly didn't stay that way.

With the help of her newfound friends, she made it into the castle, and after a battle of wills against Jareth, she...well...I'm sure you can guess what happens at the end.  :)

All in all, Labyrinth may not have been all that successful at the theatres, but it means the world to a lot of people from my generation...all in all because of the life lessons one can learn from watching the film.

That being that any leopard can change their spots...if what they're fighting for is worth the change.

A profound message this Monday.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Jukebox: 'I Just Can't Stop Loving You' by Michael Jackson and Siedah Garrett

As you probably are aware by now, yesterday marked the second anniversary of the passing of a musical legend.

June 25, 2009 was the day that Michael Jackson, who many referred to as the 'King of Pop' passed away at the age of 50.

Certainly, his death was one of the most talked about news stories of 2009, and definitely a death that was filled with controversy and accusations.

I suppose that was nothing new to Michael Jackson though, whose whole life was filled with controversy and accusations towards him.

Now, I'm not here to cast judgment on what kind of a person he was, or what allegations were made against him.  I certainly do not want the focus of this blog to attack any celebrity of any sort, no matter how famous or infamous they might be.  So, I'm not even going to bring that up here.

Whatever crimes he allegedly did or did not do are irrelevent at this point anyways.  Michael is dead, and not able to defend himself any more, so I think it would be pointless to talk about it.

Seeing as how I have brought up Michael Jackson in this blog entry, it makes sense that I would feature one of his songs in the blog in memory of him. 

Of course, choosing one song out of however many singles he's released was definitely a challenge.  I mean, if you take into account his work within the Jackson 5, as well as his numerous solo efforts, that's a career that has spanned almost four decades.

It was then that the perfect song came across my mind.

ARTIST:  Michael Jackson
SONG: I Just Can't Stop Loving You (duet with Siedah Garrett)
RELEASED:  July 20, 1987

Michael Jackson's 'Bad' album was anything but bad.  Almost every track on the album was released as a single, and of the tracks that were released from the album, five of them hit the top of the charts.  Impressive feat, especially after the success of 'Thriller', which was released five years earlier.

The song I chose to feature in this blog entry from this album happened to be the very first single released from the album.  It was a duet that he had done with singer Siedah Garrett, who had just come off of recording back-up vocals for Madonna's 'True Blue' album the year before.

The song hit number one in September of 1987, but because of the fact that the next single 'Bad' was rocketing up the charts at the same time, the song fell off the charts rather quickly.

There is a reason why I chose this song...and oddly enough, it's not because I have an emotional connection to the song whatsoever.  I mean, it's a nice song, don't get me wrong.

I think it's the perfect song to describe the true fans of Michael Jackson.  How despite his death, and all the controversy surrounding him, the people still loved him for his music.

Just take a look at the video for the song that I posted above.  As far as I know, the song didn't really have an official video release, so the one I found was fan-made.  If you watch it really closely, you'll see clips of all his previous videos, as well as some concert footage, and the like.  It takes real dedication to make a fan video for an artist, as well as real loyalty.

See, no matter how one may have felt about him, one has to admit that his musical career was solid.  I can still remember back to about two weeks before he passed away, getting excited about his brand new concert tour, entitled 'This Is It'.  It was slated to be his final world tour, and the tour was supposed to have kicked off in the UK on July 13, 2009.

As we all know, the tour never happened, but just seeing his joy for performing for his fans, and his excitement for the tour, you couldn't help but think how tragic it was that he never got his chance to see his last tour out.

I mean, yes, there was that movie documentary that showed his rehearsal sessions, but it wasn't quite the same as seeing him perform live. 

In the end though, Michael Jackson loved his fans, and that's something that you can't take away from him. 

When Michael Jackson's funeral was broadcast on July 7, 2009, one could not believe the amount of people who paid their respects to the entertainer.  In that one moment, it was like whatever he had done, or allegedly did in his past didn't really matter.

I think in the end, that's all that really counted.

Michael Jackson

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday Morning - One To Grow On

Back in the days when Saturdays used to air cartoons in their morning time slots instead of news programming and infomercials, each network had their own line-up to try and compete with each other to snag all the viewers who were under thirteen.

You had ABC, who banked all their success on Bugs Bunny and Tweety and their weekend specials.  Then there was CBS who had Pee-Wee's Playhouse, Garfield and Friends, and CBS Storybreak.

I will say this though.  My network of choice for Saturday mornings was usually NBC.

Part of it was the programming.  I liked most of the NBC kids programming that they aired back then.  Some of the cartoons that aired on this station were The Smurfs, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Kissyfur, The New Archies, Camp Candy, Captain N, Super Mario Brothers 3, Foofur, Kidd Video, and many more.  Quite an impressive roster of programming, no?

Their live action stuff was great as well.  I was a fan of Saved By The Bell, California Dreams, and Hang Time.  Some of the other shows like Chip and Pepper, and The Guys Next Door...ah...not so much.

Then there's the subject of this blog entry, which was probably the glue that held the NBC cartoon line-up together for six years.

One To Grow On ran from 1983 to 1989, and each segment only lasted two minutes each.  They would usually come on in between cartoon shows, and would often be introduced by NBC television stars at the time (such as in the image above where you see Kim Fields from The Facts Of Life).

What were these mini-segments about?

Each segment involved anywhere from one to four actors (usually children between the ages of 8-12) in a problem or conflict.  And with the help of NBC personality du jour, they would talk out the problem and offer a solution as to how the kids in the video could deal with the situation.

I thought it would be kind of fun to look back at some of these segments, and see if I could remember back to a time in which I faced a situation like that.

Oh, and to laugh at the retro 80s commercials that may appear in the segments.

All right...let's take a look at exhibit A, featuring Punky Brewster star, Soleil-Moon Frye.

Okay, so you have a little girl who is lost, and 'Punky' said that she should find help in the store, but not from any stranger.  She's right, of course.  Finding someone who works at the store, or a police officer in a mall is the best way to get help.

I should know.  I've had a couple of instances in my workplace where I've had to direct lost children back to their parents.  They did the right thing and found someone who worked there to help them.  Within seconds, they were reunited with their families. 

Great advice there, 'Punky'.

Onto the next scenario, presented by Family Ties actress, Justine Bateman.

Ouch!  Talk about being unable to keep your real feelings in check, right?  The truth is, I've been in both situations before.  Once, I was the kid who nobody wanted to work with.  Then the next project, I would be forced to work in a group with someone who used to pick on me in school. 

I really wish I had taken Justine's advice more seriously, because in both cases, they didn't turn out too well.  In the first situation, the other kids froze me out of the project and I rarely got a chance to even so much as share my ideas with them.  In the second case, the opposite happened, where I did all the work, and the other person got credit for nothing.  If only I had tried to listen to the others, or have the courage to speak to the teacher, maybe it wouldn't have been nearly a challenge.

All right.  We've heard from the women so far.  Let's get a guy's perspective.  Courtesy of Joel Higgins from Silver Spoons fame.

(Just sayin'...she could clean her room if she has nothing to do.)

But Joel does make a good point here, even if you chuckled a bit at the 'put on a fashion show for your goldfish' comment.  Yes, it would be nice to have friends over, or to go to a movie, but truth is, in my neighbourhood, there weren't a lot of kids around.  And my family didn't really have the extra income to go to the movie theatre every day.  So, like Joel said, I created my own fun with my own things in my own room, and it seemed to fill the void quite nicely.

Ah, now here's one from the A*Team's Dwight Schultz that will get you thinking. (P.S. Can you spot a very young Jaleel White in this segment?)

Yep...I can tell you exactly what poor Adam must have felt like.  I had trouble making friends in school, and whenever I did make a couple, my parents weren't exactly the you say...welcoming to them.  I guess because of my experiences in school that they were only trying to protect me, but in fact were making the situation that much harder.  I did follow that advice though, and talked to them about it.  Most times their fears were unfounded, but in a couple of cases, they did know what they were talking about, and it turned out that they weren't really friends at all. 

Heh...I suppose this advice could also be used in adulthood when it comes to dating and romance, couldn't it?

This next One To Grow On moment is courtesy of Knight Rider/Baywatch actor David Hasselhoff.

You know that David has shown some questionable behaviour in recent years, but he was right on about this one.  Sometimes you catch people when they're having a bad day, and they say things that they don't mean, or act in a way that is out of character, but unless it's directed at you, you shouldn't take it personally.  It took me a while to get this lesson, but once I did, it proved to be a valuable one.

So, you see that One To Grow On was a very educational piece of television, and I'm sure it has helped a few kids make the right choices in life.

Looking at what has been happening in the world lately, I wonder if maybe NBC shouldn't attempt to bring this series back with current NBC celebrities.  Maybe we could all use a reminder of what's acceptable and what isn't.

With that, I'll leave you with one final One To Grow On moment, presented by Thom Bray of Riptide fame.

A little food for thought this Saturday morning, don't you think?  I know I'd like to live in a world where differences are respected, and people didn't attack each other for their beliefs.

Maybe One To Grow On was onto something there.

Friday, June 24, 2011

TGIF: Out Of This World

Imagination and Fantasy week comes to its conclusion with a show that really was out of this world, but first, I should tell you a little story.

Approximately ten years ago, I happened to be surfing web communities online, and one site that I happened to find was a small retro community called...

It was the summer of 2001 at the time, and I was killing time in between school years when I stumbled across this place.  I had been members of other online communities before, but this one was different.  I guess in many ways, it kind of inspired me to kick off this blog ten years later because the site was similar.  It took a look back at some of our favourite toys, television shows, movies, and fashion trends, and had dozens of articles and interactive features in regards to all things retro.

So being the retrophile that I was at the time, I signed up with a screenname that I borrowed from my favourite comic book character (one that I happened to feature on the Sunday, May 29 entry, matter of fact).

It was amazing how many people remembered the same things that I remembered.  Although we were all scattered all over the world, it was like we all came together remembering the days of our childhoods.  Future events happened to strengthen us further, such as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the uncertainty of events shortly after.  Certainly the site wasn't absolute utopia, and quite often than not, some of us found ourselves at odds with others over the years, but it seemed like things never got too overly personal, and we were all friends again in a week or two.

Unfortunately, the site was pulled in 2003, and with the site's closing came some lost friendships and irreparable damage done to some relationships within the fold.  It was a sad moment to say goodbye to Yesterdayland, but through it all, I ended up with some amazing friends all over the world.  We send each other Christmas cards, and they were really great with me when I was recovering from surgery a few months ago.  Maybe someday I'll finally be able to meet some of them face to face.  I mean, let's face it.  I would feel more comfortable meeting a former member from Yesterdayland than I would on  That's a fact.

So now that you know all about what Yesterdayland was, I can tie it to today's blog entry.

On Yesterdayland, there was a sub-board called "Lost And Found".  This was a place where you could have some memory of some toy you played with or some retro snack food you remember eating in 1972, but couldn't quite remember what they were.  You would ask a question, posting every detail you could remember about the subject in question, and if you were lucky, someone else would remember it.

Sometimes, you'd have two different people remembering bits and pieces of the same topic, and not realize it.  That was fine.  It happens.  And sometimes you may have someone remembering some obscure record they heard during the summer they lived in Brazil, and nobody would have any idea what the person was talking about.  That also happened.

Then, there was a whole bunch of people who kept asking about the same show.  Mostly newbies who were brand new to the site.  It almost became a recurring joke to us because we had answered the same questions for months on end.  Questions like...

What was the show where they sang about swinging on a star?
I remember a show where a girl could freeze time by linking her fingers together, what was it?
Does anyone know a show where the girl had an alien dad who talked to her through a box?

Like clockwork, we'd have at least one of these questions asked every week or so.  Back in 2001, we didn't have such sites as YouTube, and the only way one could get video clips was to download them onto our computers.  All we could do was explain it as best we could in hopes that they would get it.

Now that it's 2011, I can proudly show you the answer. 

The show, of course, was called Out of this World, and this is where it ties into the Imagination and Fantasy theme for this week.  The show deals with a teenaged girl named Evie who finds out on her thirteenth birthday that she happens to be half-human, half-alien.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

The show debuted in syndication on September 17, 1987, and ran for four seasons (which for a show that didn't air on network television was pretty good).

As I said, the main character of the show was Evie Ethel Garland.  When she turned thirteen, her mother told her the truth about her parentage.  Evie had believed that her absentee father, Troy,  was a secret agent for the government, which explained why he was absent.  But when Evie started to develop skills that a normal human couldn't do, her mother had to tell her the truth.  Troy was an alien from the planet Antareus who ended up crashing his spaceship onto Earth in the 1960's.  His human appearance allowed him to mingle with the Earthlings, and he happened to fall in love with Donna (Evie's mother).  They married each other, and Donna gave birth to their child Evie in 1973.  The following year, war had broken out on Antareus, and Troy was forced to go back in order to protect the planet.

(Now you know why the show didn't last too long...)

At any rate, Evie discovered the truth and she was able to communicate with Troy through a crystal jewelry box in her bedroom.  The lid would open up and a bright pink light would shine, indicating that Troy was there.

TRIVIA:  Troy was never seen on camera, but his speaking voice was done by an uncredited Burt Reynolds.  He agreed to voice Troy as a favour to the producers provided that he wasn't identified in any way.

It took Evie some time to accept the fact that she was half-Earthling and half-Antarian, but once she fully understood, she was accepting of it, and was happy that she had both parents in her life again (even though one was on another planet, and the other one was a wee bit overprotective).

Very few people knew of Evie's secret though.  Certainly her mother Donna knew, and so did her two uncles, Mick and Beano.  She did have to keep it a secret from everyone else.  She didn't tell her two friends, Lindsay and Chris, and she couldn't tell Kyle Applegate, who happened to be the mayor of Marlowe, California (where the show took place).  This lead to some rather comical moments in the serial, where Evie tried to balance her human side with her alien side.

For the most part, she managed to do a great job of hiding it, but there were some instances in which it made it difficult.  Much like a classic mood ring from the 1970s, Evie's face tended to change colour depending on the mood she was feeling, which lead to some confused looks by those who weren't aware of Evie's secret.

And long before Zack Morris came along with his classic 'Time Out' move, Evie Garland could freeze time with the joining of her fingers.  She and Troy were immune to the effects of the time freeze, but everyone else were forced to stand in place until Evie clapped her hands to unfreeze everyone.

Sometimes it worked well for her.  Sometimes, not so much.

One bonus that Evie soon discovered about her alien DNA was that every year on her birthday, she was granted additional powers, and Troy was always on hand to help her understand what these powers were.

One episode of Out of this World that showcases this in action is the episode titled Julie's Sixteenth Birthday.

Oh...sorry...never mind, I meant EVIE'S sixteenth birthday.  (Evie's Sweet Sixteen to be technical)

In that episode, Evie turns sixteen, and Troy offers her a chance to choose one out of ten possible powers for her to have.  Evie is tempted by all of the powers that she has a difficult time choosing.

You know what?  Why don't I just find the episode, and post it here so you can see it for yourself.  It's a great introductory episode that introduces the characters as well. 

Quite the episode, huh?  I had kind of forgotten how bad the production value was on this show before I posted the episode from YouTube.

At any rate, Evie tried all the powers out, and decided to hold off of choosing one, because she didn't think she was ready to handle any of them, and that was a decision that she could live with.

I guess the lesson that Evie learned is that when one has too much power at their disposal, it can get pretty dicey.  And really, that's a lesson that all of us could learn.

I am curious though as to what you would do if you were Evie.

Seriously.  Imagine you're half-human and half-alien, and you were turning sixteen, and you could choose one of the ten powers.  Which one would you choose?  Here's the list again.

01.  Read people's minds
02.  Make others obey your every command
03.  Reverse time
04.  A free face lift
05.  Levitation
06.  Ability to change shoes quickly
07.  Make someone else invisible
08.  Make yourself invisible
09.  A money tree
10.  See through walls

(My personal choice would be #9...although #5 has possibilities)

So, that's the end of another TGIF entry, and as you can see, I've made it interactive.  Hope you take part!

And, with that, the Imagination and Fantasy week comes to its conclusion.  I hope you enjoyed the ride, and I hope to have more of these featured weeks very soon.  Remember, they'll always run from Monday to Friday.

We go back to normal tomorrow, but if you have any ideas for theme weeks, let me know!  You can reach me through the comments page, or contact me through this blog's e-mail address which is

This blog turns one month old today, and I want to keep this baby running for many months and years on end...and I really want to make this blog more accessible to everybody. 

Thanks for supporting me in this venture, and I hope to hear from you all soon.  :)