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Thursday, September 21, 2017

September 21, 1998

Before I go ahead with today's Throwback Thursday posting, I want to congratulate Josh for winning Big Brother 19.  It was definitely an unexpected, but incredible twist of fate that he took home the half million.  Good job for being a dragon slayer, Josh. 

Now, as for today's subject...well, unfortunately this subject met an untimely end...but made the most of her time on this earth given how "fast" it went.  More on that in a moment - but for now, let's celebrate the last day of summer with a list of historical events for September 21!

1776 - After being occupied by British forces, parts of New York City are burned to the ground

1780 - Benedict Arnold gives the British the plans to West Point during the American Revolutionary War

1912 - Animator Chuck Jones (d. 2002) is born in Spokane, Washington

1921 - A storage silo explodes in Oppau, Germany - the blast kills well over five hundred people

1931 - Actor Larry Hagman (d. 2012) is born in Fort Worth, Texas

1933 - The first "Lucha libre" match is held in Mexico

1934 - Honshu, Japan is devastated by a typhoon which kills over three thousand people - also on this date singer Leonard Cohen (d. 2016) is born in Westmount, Quebec

1937 - "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien is first published

1938 - The Great Hurricane of 1938 makes landfall in Long Island, New York, killing between 700 and 800 people

1942 - Over 2,500 Jews are slaughtered by Nazis in Dunaivtsi, Ukraine

1965 - The North American XB-70 Valkyrie makes its maiden flight from Palmdale, California

1974 - Author and actress Jacqueline Susann dies at the age of 56

1981 - Sandra Day O'Connor is unanimously approved to become the first female Justice of the American Supreme Court

1993 - "NYPD Blue" debuts on ABC

1996 - The Defense of Marriage Act passes the United States Congress

1998 - "Will & Grace" debuts on NBC

2001 - Ten days after the 9/11 attacks, America: A Tribute to Heroes is broadcast by thirty-five network and cable channels - the television special raised over $200 million for families of loved ones who died September 11, 2001

2007 - Actress Alice Ghostley dies at the age of 84

And for celebrity birthdays, we have quite a few people turning one year older.  Happy birthday to Don Preston, Dick Simon, Dickey Lee, Bill Kurtis, Fannie Flagg, Jerry Bruckheimer, Richard Childress, Don Felder, Stephen King, Artis Gilmore, Bill Murray, Marta Kauffman, Ethan Coen, Dave Coulier, Corinne Drewery, David James Elliott, Nancy Travis, Rob Morrow, Cecil Fielder, Angus Macfadyen, Cheryl Hines, Faith Hill, David Jude Jolicoeur, Ricki Lake, Anne Burrell, Melissa Ferrick, Alfonso Ribeiro, Luke Wilson, Liam Gallagher, Paulo Costanzo, Autumn Reeser, Nicole Richie, Maggie Grace, Lindsey Stirling, and Emma Watkins!

Whew!  I'm exhausted!  Let's just go ahead and see where the Throwback Thursday post takes us today.

September 21, 1998.  Nineteen years ago today.

Now, this happens to be the date that the show "Will & Grace" debuted in, and certainly it would have been a great topic of discussion as it is coming back to the small screen next week.  But then I remembered that something else happened on this date that was quite sad...not necessarily because of the way that this famous athlete died, but how she died. 

In order to begin this story, I'll tell you a personal tale.  No, I didn't know this person very well, but I do remember how I heard the news that she had died.

I should preface this by telling all of you that I have an obsessed love for all things related to game shows.  When I was home sick from school, all I wanted to watch were game shows.  My favourite YouTube clips are video compilations of stupid game show answers.  And I have made it no secret that one of the things on my bucket list is to be a contestant on a game show.  I don't even care if I win or lose.  I just want to be a contestant for the experience.

I very vaguely remember the old "Hollywood Squares" game show.  It was the one where you had to play tic-tac-toe by answering whether a celebrity square was lying or telling the truth about a certain statement read by the host.  I was too young to remember the days when Paul Lynde was the center square (he died when I was a year old), but do remember when Joan Rivers was in the middle.  I liked the show back then.  I was way too young to get the jokes, but I liked seeing the famous people playing the game.

So when "Hollywood Squares" was revived in the fall of 1998, I was really excited.  Hosted by Tom Bergeron, the center square featured Whoopi Goldberg (back in the days after she was a famous Hollywood starlet, but before she turned into a shrieking harpy on "The View").  And I admit that those first couple of years of the show were halfway decent.

The new show debuted on September 14, 1998, and was a success the first week.  But on the week of episodes beginning September 21, 1998, it was jarring to see Whoopi Goldberg appearing in a separate clip before the show began.  I thought...that's odd.  Is the show being cancelled already?

Then she announced that one of the celebrity guests for the shows that would be airing the week of September 21-25 had died.  That was REALLY shocking.  Especially when you consider that the person who died was not only a famous athlete in her own right, but that she was only 38 years old.  

The celebrity that died was Florence Griffith-Joyner.  Or, Flo-Jo, as the media lovingly referred her as.  She passed away on September 21, 1998 after having an epileptic seizure in her sleep.

Her death certainly cast a bit of a gloom on the week of shows that aired.  Watching her be witty, charming, and warm to all of the contestants and other celebrities she appeared on the show with, it was hard to believe that she was gone.  She really was one of those larger than life personalities that you often heard so much about.

Of course, Flo-Jo had far more talent than being a game show panelist.  In fact, at one point, she was considered to be the fastest woman in the entire world!  Now that is definitely a title to hold!

You see, Flo-Jo made her living as a track and field star.  And that love for all things athletic began at a very early age.  Born in California on December 21, 1959, Florence Griffith's interest in sports began when she was in elementary school.  She joined the Sugar Ray Robinson Organization and ran track meets on weekends.  This prepared her to join the track team in high school and to enter track and field competitions.  When she was just in her teens, she won the Jesse Owens National Youth Games back to back in 1974 and 1975!  By the time she had graduated from high school in 1978, she had already set the school records for the sprinting and long jump events.

She was so good in the sport that she was an early contender to be a competitor in the 1980 Summer Olympics.  Of course, we all know that thanks to a boycott of the Summer Olympics by the United States and several other nations, Flo-Jo's Olympic dreams had to be put on hold.  But she continued to train rigorously and earned a degree in psychology in 1983.

By the time the 1984 Olympic Games had come to Los Angeles, Florence was ready to take them on, earning herself a silver medal for the 200-meter sprint.  But it wouldn't be until 1988 that Flo-Jo would REALLY make a name for herself.

For starters, the nickname of Flo-Jo came about after her 1987 marriage to triple-jump gold medallist Al Joyner.  I guess Flo-Jo sort of rolled off the tongue a bit better than Florence Griffith-Joyner.  For another, Flo-Jo was getting attention for the elaborate track outfits she wore while competing.  With brightly coloured one-legged track suits and impressive fingernail designs, she certainly stood out in a fashion perspective.

But even more impressive, she stood out for her incredible natural talent.  When she took part in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Flo-Jo made history.  She won four medals that year, a silver in the 4x400 meter event, and three gold medals in the 100m, 200m, and the 4x100m events!  In the case of the 100m and 200m events, Flo-Jo performed so well that she broke the record for the fastest time ever recorded by a female athlete in those events - a record that has stood ever since!  It amazes me that after she competed in the 1988 Olympics, she retired from the sport while she was on top because she really was a force to be reckoned with.

After her retirement, she decided to embark on a different career path.  Certainly fashion was one industry she dabbled in (after all, she did design her own track outfits).  But she also did some acting on the side and appeared on various talk shows and game shows - such as "Hollywood Squares".

Sadly, when Florence Griffith-Joyner died in 1998, there was some talk that her death was related to steroid use.  It had been a nasty rumour that had been flying around for years - dating back to the 1988 Olympics where she had performed so well.  Many athletes had suspected that her fast times were caused by steroid and drug use, and many believed that she had cheated to get to where she was.  It was a claim that Flo-Jo had always denied, and several tests concluded that she had no illegal drugs in her system.  The autopsy results showed that she only had over-the-counter painkillers in her system the day she died. 

It wasn't until after her death that her family revealed that she had a cavernous hemangioma - a condition that made Flo-Jo susceptible to seizures.  She was treated for these seizures at several points during the early 1990s.  Whether it was this condition that prompted her to go into retirement, it's hard to say.  There hasn't been any confirmation to this, but it would seem like a logical reason.

All in all...September 21, 1998 was a really shocking day in the world of sports...and the track and field community lost a real legend.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Big Brother 19 - A-Paul-ling

So, the finale for Big Brother 19 is coming up very soon - tomorrow night.  But do I care?  Nope.

(Well, okay, I care enough to write a blog entry on it...but other than that, I don't care.)

Truth be told, this is one of the seasons of Big Brother where I really don't give a toss about who takes home the half million dollars, as this whole season has been spoiled by the threat of temptation, the stupidity of the players, and the cult of Paul Abrahamian.

Yeah, that's right.  I said cult.  Because watching this whole season has been a complete train wreck from beginning to end.  One might say that it was the most appalling season to date.

Or, maybe I should say "A-Paul-ling".

This summer was all about the idea of temptation.  No, the houseguests didn't get to play the popular game of the same name from "The Price is Right" to win a brand new car (though that would have been more entertaining).  No, they had the chance to accept temptations that would give them rewards and consequences in hopes that it would cause them to get further ahead in the game.

The only problem was that A) the temptations were incredibly lame and only seemed to benefit one player over everyone else, and B) many of the later temptations were never used because the other houseguests were too busy drinking their cult leader's Kool-Aid to make a huge move.

As it stands, this is probably the weakest final three that Big Brother has ever had.  And keep in mind that we survived the Big Brother 9 couples from hell and Big Brother 15's race riots.  Big Brother 19 isn't as terrible as either of those seasons, but I guarantee you that I won't ever look fondly on this season.  From people throwing away their games to give someone else a chance to win to disgusting things said on the live feeds, this bunch of houseguests are certainly not going to be remembered in a positive light - though I think in this case, it was one player in particular who really spoiled things.  For everyone.

Now, at this time, I have no idea who is going to win Big Brother 19, and as I said, I don't care.  But I think I can probably predict who will take the whole thing.  So, for the cast profiles and why I don't really like the vast majority of them, I'll post a screenshot of their cast credit and explain why they were an asset or a disaster.

For what it's worth, even though he spent a grand total of like 14 hours in the Big Brother house, I consider Cameron to be an asset to this season.  The dude completely got screwed over in the game.  He was almost like a sacrificial lamb of sorts.  After all, had the temptation not been taken, Cameron would have lasted at least a week instead of one night.  If there was ever an argument for a season where they brought back the first one voted out from each season, Cameron would be it.  Tough break.

There are two arguments that you could make for the sole quitter of the season, Megan.  One argument is that she took a spot that someone else could have had and threw it away.  I can understand Cameron being pissed off at her because of it.  On the other hand, maybe Megan saw the writing on the wall before the damage began to be inflicted, and she decided to cut out before she damaged herself any more than she had to.  The jury is out, but I can say this...for abandoning this horrible season, I think Megan inevitably became one of the more INTELLIGENT houseguests this season.  Still, if I were Cameron, I'd probably be pissed.

Like Cameron, Jillian didn't really make much of an impact in the house (though unlike Cameron, she did make it in almost one whole week).  Her undoing had to do with the den of temptation (as well as one other person who I will be talking about a little later).  Jillian was more or less fodder for the games of some of the other players, and I feel that she got a raw deal as well.  Besides, I think the hula dance she did in the opening credits of the show made me kind of like her.

Dominique, the only thing I can say is that you have a big mouth.  The talk show may have been a great idea on paper, but Oprah Winfrey you are not.  In fact, I can't think of anyone else who essentially blabbed their entire plan in the time frame of just a few minutes.  The other houseguests picked up on it, and out the door you went!  At least in this case, I can say that you held the cards to your own fate.

Ah, Cameron and Jillian, you also fell victim to the gameplay of others as a result of the stupid temptation twist.  Or maybe you just fell victim to the fact that you actually tried to fight for your life in the Big Brother house by actively going for the Power of Veto and pissing off the Cult of Abrahamian.  Either way, you were a really nice guy who ended up getting stung way too early.  I'm sorry, man.  You know, this seems to be a recurring theme...the nice ones always seem to go first.

All right, I am grouping Jessica and Cody together for three reasons.  One, they were considered to be the showmance of the season (no matter what "Maven" might suggest otherwise).  Two, they were evicted one right after the other (though Cody won a chance to get back in earlier in the season and is a juror), and three, they were considered public enemy number one and two for the Cult of Abrahamian.  You see, back when Cody was HoH, he tried to get Paul evicted.  Unfortunately, Paul was given a temptation to use, and Jillian was eventually voted out - but as a result of the temptation and the PoV and other twists, Cody ultimately ended up pissing half the house off and made enemies in the process.  Jessica ended up being collateral damage.

Here's the thing.  While Cody will not be winning a congeniality award anytime soon and while Jessica might want to keep her hands to herself (don't ask), I struggle to come up with a valid reason as to why they were constantly bullied by the Cult of Abrahamian so badly.  The abuse that both of them took was so vile and obnoxious that it really spoiled the whole show.  It wasn't as bad as the Aaryn/Candice/GinaMarie battles from Big Brother 15, but it was still mob mentality bullying.  I don't know if their relationship will last past the Big Brother house, but as people...they deserved much better than this.  Heck, I just might want Cody to win America's Favourite Juror so that the other houseguests would react with shock and awe.  It'd serve them right.

When the season first started, I had dismissed Elena as a genuine floater.  She essentially did nothing but cling onto Mark the whole time, and I can't even remember if she had won any competitions at all.  But as the game progressed and she and Mark became the next targets of the Cult of Abrahamian, Elena grew more likeable, and by the time we saw her in the jury house, she was actually a lot more intelligent than I gave her credit for.  She realized that the Cult of Abrahamian played all of them for fools before she was voted out and at least acknowledged that she was played.  So, thanks to Elena for showing me a more pleasant side to her.

(Side note:  The whole jury house segments are more enjoyable than the action inside the Big Brother house.)

Mark, you strike me as a genuinely nice guy.  Unfortunately, nice guys RARELY win Big Brother.  Look at Evel Dick, Rachel Reilly, Andy Herren, and Dr. Will Kirby for proof of that.  I think you lasted longer than I thought you would, and I think had you kept your cool and not tried to go after Josh so many times, I think you would have made it even further - though I have heard that you and Josh patched things up so good on you.  And good luck in everything.  Nice guys like you deserve it.

Matt...what exactly did you do this season other than Raven?  Yep.  Nothing.  Oh, wait.  You ate some cereal.  Yeah, you win the prize for most boring and pointless houseguest ever.  Next.

Jason, I want to like you, but we have to address the elephant in the room.  I don't care if you were joking around or being completely serious.  Rape jokes are not funny and you should be ashamed of yourself for uttering them inside the Big Brother House on the live feeds.  And it's really unfortunate because before that happened, I was really pulling for you.  You had a likeable personality, you played hard and won competitions, and I didn't even mind the Whistle-Nut references.  I think when you leave the house, you owe Kevin an apology for the comments you made, and you also owe one to your family.  Again, rape is not something to joke about.

Oh, now we come to Raven.  A puppet master in her own mind.  Which admittedly is pretty screwed up.  By now, you've probably heard all of the comments about how Raven's family are con artists who suck money from innocent people to fund trips and expensive shopping sprees.  I won't rehash that.  But I find it hard to take someone seriously when they apparently have more diseases than Anna Chlumsky claimed to have in the movie "My Girl".  I mean, if she has gastroparesis, I feel for her because it is a painful condition - but was the other 612 maladies really necessary?  Honestly, Raven...just.  shut.  up.  I don't know what Matt sees in her.

Alex, I'm not 100% impressed with you either.  I get that Paul played both you and Jason - and at least you two recognized the fact after you were voted out.  But I don't understand why all of you listened to Paul and claimed that KEVIN was your biggest threat.  And frankly, some of the stuff you said about Kevin and the other houseguests on the live feeds was not very nice and painted you in a really horrible colour.  My hope is that you take a look at how you came across and learn that you don't have to be so mean in order to get a point across.  I don't think that you or Jason are bad people...I just think that the stress of the house (and the Cult of Abrahamian) got to you.

Kevin, let's talk about the action that you did that MADE ME NOT LIKE YOU FOR A WHILE.  You took the $25,000 temptation that saw Cameron get evicted and Paul back into the Big Brother House.  We could say that YOU were the cause of this season going down the tubes because of that.  But I honestly can't because you turned out to be one of the most charismatic and lovable houseguests this whole season.  I was actually kind of hoping that you would have made the final three so that there could actually be SOMEONE to root for.  But hey, at least you have a shot at winning America's Favourite Juror.  That prize could allow you to buy all the plastic wrap you want! 

But were the one who unwittingly brought Paul back, and for that I admittedly have a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth.  I can't be completely nice here!

So, who do we have left in the house, and what place do I rank them in?

If there IS a Santa Claus out there, my hope is that he does NOT give Christmas the win.  The reason being that Christmas has literally rolled along week to week by doing absolutely nothing.  Okay, so granted, that's not all her fault.  She broke her foot horsing around with Jason and it potentially could have killed her career - and honestly I do feel bad for her in that regard.  But my sympathy well ran dry the moment she and Josh started drinking the Abrahamian Kool-Aid and somehow managed to hobble her way to the final three.  The only HoH competitions she won, she was essentially thrown by the other houseguests.  And as much as she claimed she was making big moves...she was actually nothing more than a ventriloquist elf puppet on Paul's knee.  It makes for not a good candidate to win - and honestly with Christmas' cockiness, I don't even think Corey from BB18 would have anything to do with this Christmas.

Now, if Josh made it to the final two, his best shot would be to take Christmas with him to the finals because I know he would easily beat her.  And if I can say anything positive about Josh, it's that he does have some brains and that he did try to stay in the game by playing hard.  Unfortunately, his extreme loyalty to Paul, his constant crying, his bullying of some of the other houseguests (Mark, Megan, Cody, Jessica) and the stupid clown dance with pots and pans has not only soured me on Josh, but has also soured me on non-stick surfaces, Hawaiian shirts, and circuses.  Josh, you can be a good guy, but you can also be a menace.  You need to find that happy balance and stick with it, you big meatball head!

I actually cringe when I think about what I wrote about Paul last season.  Let's see if I can remember...

It pains me to say this, but this time around the better man did NOT win.  And for that, Paul, I am truly sorry.  Your only crime was the fact that you had a stupid jury who voted for the wrong person - well, okay, Bridgette, Victor, Michelle, and James are exempt from this.  I can't say that I was 100% impressed with you.  Some of the language you used against some of the houseguests was not the greatest, and I truly never want to hear the word "friendship" from you ever again.  But played this game better than anyone else, and your adaptability alone was enough to guarantee you a final two position.  Don't be upset at happy that you made it as far as you did.  And feel free to use that $50,000 you won and go on a nice vacation with Pablo!  You both have earned it.

Suffice to say, I NO LONGER FEEL THIS WAY.  Because much like Nicole was ruined for me last year, Paul is forever tainted in my eyes this season. 

Okay, so let's get it out of the way.  If Paul makes it to the Final Two, I believe he has won the whole thing.  And from a gameplay perspective, I can say that he deserves it.  He played every single person in the house, promised deals to all of them, and somehow managed to make it so that the houseguests would NEVER target him.  Sure enough, he was the ONLY person to never be on the block for elimination up to now.  He did what he could to stay ahead of the game and right now, I think he's done it.

But did he play an HONOURABLE game?  Oh, sweet Jesus...where do I begin?

I cannot condone the fact that he went way to far in trying to get out his targets.  He not only bullied Jessica and Cody until they were both gone, but he encouraged Josh, Matt, Raven, and Christmas to join in the fun as well.  It was absolutely disgusting to see Paul encourage mob mentality bullying.  Not cool.

Also not cool was the fact that production seemingly did everything possible to throw Paul a lifeline at every opportunity.  Giving him weeks of safety, giving him a temptation, etc.  Way too many breaks to be a simple coincidence.  Some may argue that Paul played the best game, but I think he had a little help along the way.

It was also sort of boring to watch Paul get over on all the houseguests all the time.  In fact, I could easily say that with the exception of Cody and Jessica (who were the only ones to see through Paul and try to get him out), everyone else fell for his lies hook, line, and sinker.  These houseguests were made out to be the dumbest, whiniest, meanest people in the whole world.  Yet when they went to the jury house one by one, they became extremely likeable and thoughtful.

Well, okay...Matt and Raven are screwed up people no matter what.  But the point is that had Paul not been brought back, this cast might have gelled a LOT differently and maybe the season wouldn't have been so mean-spirited and dull. 

I think that as good of a game that people believe that Paul played, I really think it wasn't all that great.  It was as if Paul was a gigantic jaguar let loose in a house filled with rats.  And the more that Paul got into their heads, the more Kool-Aid they guzzled down.

But such was life in the Cult of, don't it?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Spotlight on Starburst

I have to admit that I have very few fond memories from when I was a high school student.  And you really don't need me to explain why as I've been extremely open and candid about it.  I'm at the point now where I have said what I wanted to say about it and am now focused on wanting to find some positives about that time period.

Such as taking tests at school.

Okay, I know what you're saying.  You're saying that I have completely lost the plot.  How can taking tests be considered a highlight of the school year?

Well for me, it all depended on who our teacher was.  Certainly there were some teachers that I hated getting tests by.  In particular one history teacher who had an obvious Napoleon complex who thrived on making life for his non-favourite students pure hell.  Hence the reason I will not be mentioning his name anywhere on this blog.

But if you were lucky enough to have Ms. Renusz as a teacher, you could guarantee that she'd have your back on test day - well, at least when it came to giving you a burst of sugar anyway.

During any of our history or sociology classes whenever we had a test, she would help all of us relax by giving us all candy to eat while we wrote our exam.  You can call it a placebo or you can call it a miracle candy, but I always managed to do extremely well on any test I had with her because of that.  Not so with Mr. Napoleon complex, in which I was lucky to score a 65%.

I suppose in some sense, she was sort of teaching us a bit of a lesson in the sociological manner by giving us candy in hopes that by doing so, we'd score higher on tests.  I don't know if it quite worked out that way, but I suppose she was demonstrating Pavlov's theory because whenever we had a test, we all thought we'd get candy!

Now this leads to today's topic.  It's all about the candy that Ms. Renusz used to give us the most often whenever it was test day.  It's a candy confection that was founded nearly six decades ago and has given boys and girls a guaranteed sugar high ever since.  Believe me, when I was a kid and I used to get these in my trick-or-treat bag, they were among the first candies to disappear.

I'm talking about Starburst Fruit Chews.  And as far back as I can remember, I have always loved them.  They pack so much flavour into them that each bite makes you crave more.  And they are still relatively cheap to purchase too - a standard package of 12 costs about the same as a Snickers bar.

Now, I'm sure that everyone has their own favourite flavour of Starburst.  Myself, I do love all four of the flavours in a standard pack of Starburst.  Though, I do admit that my favourite flavour is the cherry red ones.  I love anything cherry for the most part, but there's something about a cherry Starburst that makes me salivate just like Pavlov's dogs.  They are so amazing and I'm glad that they are a part of the original pack.

But they weren't always.  In fact, Starbursts weren't originally called Starbursts when they first debuted in candy stores!

Back in 1960, when the first Starburst candies were manufactured, they were actually known as Opal Fruits.  The candy was first sold in the UK and named by Peter Pfeffer (who won a contest to name the candy for a prize of five British pounds!)

And would you believe that cherry was NOT one of the original flavours?  The other three (orange, strawberry, and lemon) were present, but instead of the cherry flavour, Opal Fruits contained lime instead.  

(Okay, now I actually want to try a lime Starburst.  As far as I know, that flavour was phased out by the time I was born, as I cannot recall having a lime one.)

The candies were manufactured by the Mars company (responsible for creating Mars, Milky Way, M&M's, and Snickers chocolate confections), and though it took seven years for the fruit chews to arrive in North America, they were finally sold in American shops in 1967 - originally under the brand name of M&M Fruit Chewies.  By 1970, the name was permanently changed to Starburst.

Today, the name Starburst is used all over the world, though the UK and Ireland was using the Opal Fruits name until the late 1990s.  Over the last fifty-seven years, Starburst has experimented with brand new flavours of the popular fruit chew including Sour Flavours, Tropical Flavours, Combo Flavours, and Baja Flavours.  Some of these include raspberry, coconut, mango, passion fruit, banana, and apple, among others.

And don't think that Starburst stops at just fruit chews.  There are Starburst jellybeans, Starburst freeze pops, and even Starburst gummies (which are a weird texture but have exactly the same flavours as the original fruit chews).

Now, if you excuse me, I am going to have some red Starbursts now...but I still would love to try a lime Starburst.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

September 14, 1982

You know, I have to remember next time I feature a month long feature on food to not have it in September.  I'm telling you, there are no food related Throwback Thursday posts to be had!  Sigh...I suppose I'll just have to choose a topic at random and hope that it is interesting enough.

In the meantime, it's September 14th.  What happened throughout history on this planet?  Let's have a look...

1180 - The Battle of Ishibashiyama takes place in Japan

1814 - "The Defence of Fort McHenry" is written by Francis Scott Key - which is later used as the lyrics for "The Star-Spangled Banner"

1901 - American President William McKinley dies from gunshot wounds sustained eight days earlier by assassin Leon Czolgosz

1919 - Actress/comedian Kay Medford (d. 1980) is born in New York, New York

1917 - Russia is proclaimed a republic

1940 - The Ip Massacre takes place during World War II

1949 - Lynyrd Skynyrd member Steve Gaines (d. 1977) is born in Seneca, Missouri

1954 - Musician Barry Cowsill (d. 2005) is born in Newport, Rhode Island

1959 - Luna 2 - a Soviet probe - lands on the surface of the Moon

1960 - OPEC is founded

1969 - September 14 is selected as the first Draft Lottery date by the U.S. Selective Service

1983 - Singer Amy Winehouse (d. 2011) is born in Southgate, London, England

1984 - Joe Kittinger becomes the first person to fly a gas balloon across the Atlantic Ocean solo

1994 - Due to the Major League Baseball strike, the 1994 baseball season is officially canceled

1998 - WorldCom and MCI Communications merge to form the new company MCI WorldCom

2000 - Windows ME is released

2001 - Two vigils - one at the Washington National Cathedral and one at Ottawa's Parliament Hill - are held in memory of those who died during the September 11, 2001 attacks

2002 - Actress LaWanda Page dies at the age of 81

2006 - Actor/bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay dies at the age of 80

2009 - Actor Patrick Swayze passes away at the age of 57

2012 - Canadian actor Winston Rekert dies at the age of 63

And celebrities that are turning one year older today are the following; Zoe Caldwell, Walter Koenig, DeWitt Weaver, Joey Heatherton, Sam Neill, Ed King, Steve Berlin, Edu Manzano, Beth Nielsen Chapman, John Berry, Morten Harket, Melissa Leo, Callum Keith Rennie, Faith Ford, Michelle Stafford, Ben Garant, Craig Montoya, Mark Webber, Jeff Loomis, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Andrew Lincoln, Nas, Mike Ward, Ben Cohen, Carmen Kass, Danielle PeckAdam LambergJessica Brown Findlay, Logan Henderson, and Jesse James.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let's have a look at where we will be going to on this Throwback Thursday post. about we go 35 years into the past to September 14, 1982?

Unfortunately, my personal tales to tell of this date are rather limited.  I was only a year old at the time.  In all likelihood, I was probably playing with my Fisher-Price mobile while Dad worked and Mom watched her soap operas on television.  Her favourite was "As The World Turns".

And I can only imagine that the show might have been pre-empted when the word broke out about this person's sudden demise.  It really was quite a shock to the world, not just for who died, but how she died.

The tale takes place a day earlier, on September 13, 1982.  It was a typical day for this mother and daughter pair.  The mother, still a ravishing beauty at the age of 52, was the quintessential package of grace (pardon the pun) and class.  Her then 17-year-old daughter, Stephanie, was the beauty of her mother's eye - a woman who would later go on to become a pop star in addition to her royal title.

It had been years since Princess Grace of Monaco (also known as Grace Kelly) walked away from her Hollywood career to become the wife of Monaco's Prince Rainier, but at that time, she was considering making a brief film comeback.  She had acted in a 33-minute long independent film entitled "Rearranged" with her husband three years earlier, and after it was screened in Monaco, ABC was interested in airing the film - though it had to be at least an hour in length to make it worth their while.  It was rumoured that Princess Grace was going to approve of the deal and film some more footage that year.

Sadly, it never came to be.

While she and her daughter Stephanie were driving down a steep road on the way back to the palace in Monaco from their country home in Roc Agel, Grace lost control of the 1971 Rover P6 3500 and the car plummeted down the side of the mountain cliff (which was 120 feet tall).  Miraculously, Stephanie managed to survive the accident with some minor injuries (a fracture on her vertebra and a mild concussion).  Princess Grace was not nearly so fortunate.  She had injuries to her thorax, a fractured femur, and a severe head injury that caused severe brain damage.  After doctors told Prince Rainier that there was nothing that could be done, he made the difficult decision to pull his wife off of life support.

Princess Grace of Monaco was pronounced dead on September 14, 1982 at 10:55pm.  She left behind her husband, Princess Stephanie, and two other children, Princess Caroline, and Prince Albert.

Though the brain damage was what ultimately killed her, it is speculated that the reason why the car veered off the road was because she had suffered a stroke behind the wheel of the car and lost control.  Stephanie, to her credit, did what she could to steer the car to safety, but to no avail.

It was really a tragic end to a beautiful star.

I still remember the first time I watched Grace Kelly in a feature film.  It was about eighteen years after she died, and I was taking a film studies class in college.  One of the films we watched was the movie "Rear Window" directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  The film starred James Stewart and Grace Kelly, and was about a man who was confined to a wheelchair and watched in horror as he believed that a man who lived across from him was a murderer.  

I have to admit that it was one of my favourite films that we watched in that class, and part of the reason was that my gaze was firmly fixed on Lisa, played by Kelly.  She was, quite honestly, one of the most beautiful women that I had ever seen on film.  Her radiance made the entire film glow, and even though the film was meant to be a horror film, Grace Kelly was the type of actress that could never look bad.  She had great fashion sense, she was definitely the belle of the ball, and she had instant chemistry with almost everybody she worked with, in particular with Stewart.  On the day of Princess Grace's funeral, September 18, 1982, Stewart read a eulogy for her, which included the following...

"You know, I just love Grace Kelly.  Not because she was a princess, not because she was an actress, not because she was my friend, but because she was just about the nicest lady I had ever met.  Grace brought into my life as she brought into yours, a soft, warm light every time I saw her, and every time I saw her was a holiday of its own.  No question, I'll miss her.  We'll all miss her.  God bless you, Princess Grace."

I should also note that she didn't just shine in "Rear Window".  She was also featured in two more Hitchcock films - "Dial M for Murder" and "To Catch a Thief" (both highly recommended).  She was also featured in the film "The Country Girl", for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

And while she didn't do any acting jobs during her reign as Princess of Monaco (aside from the 1979 project she did with her husband), she took on a life of philanthropy, founding AMADE Mondiale, The Princess Grace Foundation, and hosted an annual Christmas party for local orphans.

And, here's one more bit of eerie trivia - one of the mourners who attended Princess Grace's funeral was a newly crowned princess herself - Diana, Princess of Wales.  You could say that Grace and Diana were two princesses cut from the same cloth...even right up to their deaths, as we all know that both died in car accidents.  

Monday, September 11, 2017

Comfort Foods

When it comes down to it, I think most of us have our own comfort foods.  Foods that make us feel better no matter how horrible our day was.

And that's what today's blog is all about.  Comfort foods.

I have my own stories to tell regarding comfort food, and I openly encourage all of you to share your own favourites.

And rather than come up with a simple list of my favourite comfort foods, I have some personal stories included in the mix.  After all, I have to try and keep this space entertaining!

We'll start at the very beginning, at a time in which I was really small.

One of the very first memories I have of food are plain M&M's.  I know it seems like a random memory, but it remains to this day one of my favourite candies.  I mean, I wore an M&M wristwatch for almost five years!  And, besides, the candies all had the same first initial as my name, so I told everyone who wanted some that they couldn't have any because they all belonged to me!

It didn't work, but I thought I would try it!

It might be interesting for those of you who are younger than I am to know that not all the colours of M&M's were available when I was a kid.  The only colours that we had that are still in a standard bag of M&M's were brown, green, orange, and yellow.  The red and blue ones didn't exist back then - though we had tan coloured ones.  I actually kind of miss those ones.

Anyway, M&M's were just so incredibly tasty, and whenever I went trick-or-treating, the plain M&M's were always some of the first things to disappear.  The peanut ones I didn't like as much, so I gave those ones to my sister.  Over the years, with the addition of new colours, we had new varieties of flavours including peanut butter (delicious), almond (not so much), caramel (yummy), and pretzel (surprisingly good).  In fact, one of the things that I absolutely have to do is visit one of the M&M's World stores.  They have them in Las Vegas, New York, and Orlando.  I must make this happen!

Sticking with the sweet tooth theme, chocolate chip cookies are another comfort food that I absolutely love.  And of course, fresh baked chocolate chip cookies are the most delicious of them all.  I know everyone says this about their own mother, but in my opinion, my mom makes the BEST chocolate chip cookies in the world.  Just ask anyone who has ever sampled one.  I think her secret is semi-sweet chocolate chips and the fact that she takes them out of the oven a couple of minutes before they are supposed to be done to make them extra soft.  But that could just be me.

Of course, that's not to say that I don't enjoy store bought cookies.  Oreos are a classic cookie that I still find delicious (particularly the Double Stuf ones).  And when I was a kid, one of my favourite snacks that made me feel instantly better was taking Chips Ahoy cookies and dipping them in Cool Whip. 

Let's put it this way.  I was picked on a lot because of the fact that I was the huskiest kid in the class.  So, to make myself feel better, I ate Chips Ahoy and Cool Whip.  Granted, it didn't really FIX the problem, but it was how I dealt with the pain.

And let this be a lesson to all of you.  If someone is built heavier than you, mind your business and stop picking on them.  The more people told me to lose weight, the more I wanted Cool Whip.  Fat-shaming people in hopes that they will lose weight NEVER WORKS.

But hey...I still maintain that chocolate chip cookies and Cool Whip are an amazing combo.

For that matter, another amazing combo is french fries, cheese curd, and hot gravy.  Also known as a poutine.

To me, this hot Canadian cuisine is my ultimate comfort food.  I always crave poutine when I am feeling down about things and I admit that I probably eat it more than I really should.  Back in the early 1990s, my aunt ran a chip wagon and that was where I tried my very first poutine, and I have been in love ever since.  And with so many people adding new ingredients and different flavours to poutines, there truly is an endless combo of tastes to experience.  I still remember that delicious barbecue chicken poutine that I had at PoutineFest 2016, and was bummed that they didn't return for PoutineFest 2017.  I'd have LOVED to have gotten another one.  But the popcorn chicken I had instead was just as tasty.

On that note, does anyone else find fried chicken to be a delicious comfort food too?  I'm not just talking about your run of the mill Kentucky Fried Chicken either.  I mean homemade fried chicken.  I have very rarely walked away from fried chicken, and it is a delicious comfort food.  But as delicious as hot fried chicken is, I find it even MORE delicious when it is chilled.  To me, the spices and the flavours become stronger when I eat fried chicken cold. 

And for that matter, I am one of those ones who loves eating cold pizza too.  I can't quite explain it, but cold pizza tastes really good for breakfast.  Or if you're hungover.  Not that I have any experience with that.

Another comfort food I enjoy is Chinese food.  Whenever we have a special occasion in my family, we always order from this place outside of town that makes the best chicken balls, fried rice, and barbecued pork ever.  If you're ever in Prescott, check out the Dragon Garden.  It is definitely delicious.  I don't even care that I'm hungry again one hour after eating it.  It is definitely very delicious and satisfying.

Finally, I'll end this blog off with a food combo that is unique only to me.  And chances are, it's a combo that most of you will gag upon hearing it.  Yet, it's a food combo that has given me so much comfort over the years and for a while it was the only way that I would ever eat mashed potatoes.

Some people put gravy on mashed potatoes.  Some people put salt.  But I guarantee you that I am the only one who puts mustard on mashed potatoes.

And when I say that I put mustard on them, I don't mean that I spray a whole bottle of French's mustard all over them.  I tended to use the mustard as a dipping sauce.  Again, it may sound gross to all of you, but it was delicious to me.  Seriously, try it at least once. 

So, that's what food brings me incredible joy and comfort.  What are some of yours?

One last thing...I just want to extend my support and good, positive vibes to the states of Florida and Georgia who have already or are experiencing the wrath of Hurricane Irma.  From Tallahassee to Miami and every city in between, you have my love and support.  As you come back home to assess the damage, know that we're all pulling for you.

And I also want to extend my condolences to those who lost loved ones sixteen years ago today.  We shall never forget.