Monday, November 16, 2015

The "Future" Is Now the Past, And Still Ahead . . .

Now that we've passed October 21, 2015 (the date that Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled to in the 1989 film Back to the Future, Part II), not to mention the thirty-year landmark of the 1985 original, you could either say the "future" is now, or it's in the past. And yet, the "future" is still ahead of us. 

A few weeks ago, somebody asked me if there was a part of the past I'd like to visit or a part of my past that I'd like to change. A few years ago, I had thought about going back to my junior prom and telling my younger self not to worry about prom, nor about the person I had feelings for then, but to instead be content that he was there with friends and could still have a good time. 

I now know that the past cannot be changed (as it was in Back to the Future). It can only be learned from, reported from, and matured from. There's a great interview Will Smith gave three years ago where he said something similar. In addition, there is some truth when Doc Brown said, "You're future is whatever you make of it. So make it a good one."


Monday, September 28, 2015

"All That and a Box of General Mills"

September 28, 2015 

This summer, General Mills decided to reissue a spin-off version of "Cinnamon Toast Crunch" that was released in grocery stores in 1995. But instead of cinnamon and sugar flavored in, it had cinnamon and syrup. It was called "French Toast Crunch."

I decided to purchase a box from the store a few weeks ago, and when I had it for breakfast one morning, it tasted better than I remember--and perhaps not as obsolete, for that matter. The same could be said for the 1990s, having grown up in that decade myself. Now seems a good time to recap on a few trends and facts mentioned on the back of the cereal box I purchased.

You played grunge or hip-hop jams on your boom box.
A: Well, I never owned a boombox. I did listen to music on stereos a lot, particularly the radio. My older brother was really into hip-hop and some grunge. 

You remember gas being under a dollar.
A: I don't, actually. 

You insisted that people "Talk to the Hand."
A: I do remember that phrase. 

You had clothes that were baggy, backward or neon.
A: I may have worn my shirt backwards a few times. 

You secretly prepared for Y2K.
A: I know Bugs Bunny and Company did with Subway sandwiches, though not secretly. I did anticipate it during the end of 1999. (I wonder what Prince was thinking then as well.) 

You went to the video store to rent VHS tapes.
A: All the time! Amazing they still have them at local libraries--at least, the ones I go to. (Arguably, the Disney Classics released in this format in the late 80s and early 90s still hold up.)

You knew the macarena dance by heart.
A: Who didn't?!?

You tight-rolled your jeans.
A: I did in high school sometimes, but that was in the early 2000s. So this response probably wouldn't count. 

You practiced doing the "Running Man" in the mirror.
A: N/A--I don't remember the "Running Man."

You played video games at home more than the arcade.
A: True. My older brother and I played everything from Nintendo to Super Nintendo to Nintendo 64. I didn't get that interested in Playstation or XBOX. I did play at the arcade a few times. 

You used the term "Chillin' at my Crib."
A: Actually makes me think of MTV in the early 2000s. 

You frosted your hair. 
A: Never

You totally ate French Toast Crunch for breakfast.
A: I did, one time or another. I also remember, specifically, certain cereal ads on T.V., including, but not limited to:

--Frosted Cheerios (featuring comedy veterans Gilbert Gottfried and Wayne Knight, and a host of other celebrities at the time and yesteryear)--"Tastes so good, this box never closes."

--Froot Loops (featuring Toucan Sam)--"Follow your nose"

--Cookie Crisp (featuring the cop and two burglars)--"Lots and lots and lots and lots . . ."

--Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles (featuring Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble)

--Frosted Flakes (featuring Tony the Tiger)--"They're grrrrrrrreat!"

--Rice Crispies (featuring Snap, Crackle, & Pop)

You occasionally threw the word "NOT" in at the end of a sentence.
A: More like quoted. Not occasionally, but at times. 

***
And here are a few other trivial facts I, myself, have incorporated about the 1990s:

In retrospect, my favorite songs would probably be: 
--"Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," by Green Day
--"One Headlight," by the Wallflowers
--"Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)," written by Baz Luhrmann (Although this one's more of a graduation speech set to instrumental music, it's still intriguing, nonetheless. By the way, it was written in 1997, not 1999 as it says above.)

  

  

 
Movies and Films:
--Some of the most memorable movies of the decade came from Disney (Beauty and the Beast, 1991; Aladdin, 1992; The Lion King, 1994). The second film became one of Robin Williams' most famous movie roles (as the voice of the Genie), as did Mrs. Doubtfire the following year (1993).

--There were big-action, sci-fi blockbusters like Jurassic Park (1993), Independence Day (1996), and Men in Black (1997). The latter two made Will Smith (a.k.a. "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air") a star.

--Jim Carrey made his starring-role debut in three films in 1994 (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb & Dumber), which I loved. But that was before I became a lot more discerning in recent years, as I have towards other certain "comedies" starring Mike Myers (Austin Powers, 1997, pictured earlier), Eddie Murphy (The Nutty Professor, 1996), and Adam Sandler (Billy Madison, 1995), to name a few. Carrey did display some impressive dramatic chops later in the decade with The Truman Show (as the title character, 1998) and Man on the Moon (as Andy Kaufman, 1999). Yet, some of his more "appropriate" stuff still makes me laugh.

--Tom Hanks had a pretty prolific decade. His filmography ranged from sports (A League of Their Own), to romantic comedy (Sleepless in Seattle), to drama (Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, The Green Mile), to music (That Thing You Do!), to space (Apollo 13), to war (Saving Private Ryan), and voicing (Woody in the Toy Story films).

--Some family entertainment came in the form of talking-animal pictures (Babe, 1995; Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, 1993).

--And Pixar began their unprecedented filmography with Toy Story (1995), followed by a bug's life (1998) and Toy Story 2 (1999).

 
Favorite TV shows were on the following channels:

--Nickelodeon (Doug, Rugrats, Clarissa Explains It All, Salute Your Shorts, Alex Mack)

--ABC (Full House, Family Matters, America's Funniest Home Videos)

--Cartoons on both channels, as well as on Fox or others (The Pink Panther, Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, Tiny Toons)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

One

September 10, 2015

When the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City were complete in construction in the early 1970s, they represented “America’s financial might” and were “probably the symbol of capitalism in the world” (philly.com). At 110 stories each, they were the tallest buildings in the world at the time.

On September 11, 2001, they were destroyed in an act of terrorism that left a nation crippled. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of ordinary individuals came together before and during the aftermath of the attacks. The Ground Zero memorials were created in memory of the victims of this tragic day. And from the ashes came the start of a reported work-in-progress to rebuild the site. 

Director Shaul Schwarz’s documentary short “Rise” (from TIME’s Red Border Films, which you can view here) briefly chronicles the construction of the One World Trade Center (1 WTC) tower and the iron workers who helped make it happen. 10,000 workers were reportedly involved in this building’s construction (which completed for the opening in May this year). Consisting of 102 stories (1,776 feet tall) topped by a 408-foot spire, a virtual elevator that recreates the growth of New York City, and a view that stretches as far as fifty miles (including the view of Philadelphia and New Jersey), 1 WTC now stands as the tallest building in the Western hemisphere, and the third tallest building in the world. 

Just as in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, it’s a story of ordinary people coming together to achieve the impossible and to rebuild from out of the rubble and to the skies. Hence a rebirth as well as a monument in memory of the men and women and families of 9/11.

The One World Observatory (center), above the Ground Zero memorial sites

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"Dear Journal": Doug's Cast of Characters, Part II: Intriguing Themes

June 17, 2015
Cast hangout at the Honker Burger
WRITER’S NOTE: The following is a continuation of Part I, as well as an expansion of it, in terms of discussing thematic qualities of specific characters on this series.

Other supporting characters on Doug include as follows:

spoiled rich kid Beebe Bluff;
athletic star Chalky Studebaker;
sweet-natured classmate Connie Benge;
classroom teacher Mrs. Wingo;


Roger's gang members Ned, Willy and Boomer;
the A.V. student Larry;
the brainy and "weird" twins Al & Moo Sleech;
the happy-go-lucky guidance counselor Mr. Shellacky;
ice cream factory owner Mr. Swirly (whose hair literally resembles an ice cream shape), 
foreign-exchange student Fentruck Stimmel, who hails from the country of "Yakestonia" (a combination of, possibly, Indian, German and Arabic nationalities);
the William Shatner-type Mayor Robert "Bob" White
and the shallow and athletic-driven Coach Spitz.








***
Regarding some of Doug’s friends as the second through fourth seasons on Nickelodeon went along, I've found some intriguing themes or qualities for each respective character.

Absent Parents
Patti Mayonnaise (Doug’s secret crush), lives with her quadriplegic father but has an absent mother figure in her life. In the third season, it’s mentioned that her mother died years ago.

Roger Klotz (the town bully) lives in a trailer park with his mother as well as his cat Stinkey (a likely enemy for Doug’s dog Porkchop), yet has an estranged/absent father figure in his life (opposite from Patti). In the same aforementioned season, it’s mentioned that his father lives in a different town.

Fear and Worries
Beebe Bluff is, on the surface, portrayed as the spoiled rich kid, and comes from a local family considered to be not only the richest family in town, but also historically the town founders. Despite her status, Beebe does display elements of conflict and empathy in a few instances, such as when she fears disappointing her family when a prized item is supposedly stolen (“Doug Takes the Case,” Season 2) or when she is pressured to audition for a stage role she really isn’t interested in (“Doug Wears Tights,” Season 2).

And Beebe isn’t the only one who identifies with Doug, in terms of feeling embarrassed or humiliated. The brainy twins, Al and Moo Sleech, are rumored to have a mad-scientist father, who turns out to be somebody else entirely, and somebody they don’t want others to apparently know about.

On a different note related to fears and worries, Skeeter Valentine (Doug’s best friend, besides Porkchop) is, at one point, considered to be a genius and is even persuaded to go to college at such a young age and leave behind his friends, including Doug who becomes worried that he'll losing his best friend.

Truth and Honesty
Connie Benge is the overweight but sweet girl who is best friends with Patti and Beebe. She invites Doug to a dance in one episode ("Doug's a Big Fat Liar," Season 2), but he turns her down by making up a fib about his "cousin Melvin" in order to go to the dance with Patti. Only when she realizes this is she mildly disappointed. When Doug gets to know her at the dance, however, he finds her to be an interesting person and is amazed when she confesses every lie she ever told in her life. (He's not alone in his fibbing, you see.)

In fact, the theme of lying also becomes central in a Season 3 episode ("Doug and the Little Liar"), when the new girl in school, Loretta Lequigly, claims she speaks "Yakestonesian" (the language of the aforementioned country of "Yakestonia"). Doug initially suspects her of being a liar who just wants to take his friend Skeeter for what he's got. Yet, Doug learns that even though somebody might not be truthful in the language they speak, "they may be telling the truth about everything else [in their lives]".

And Chalky Studebaker, the star athlete, turns out to be no less flawed than any other kid, especially when it comes to self-pressures to try and be as successful as an older sibling. (Season four includes an episode that showcases this very well.)

Each of these characters are obviously imperfect, and yet they’re relatable in one way or another. And their imperfections (and honesty) are what make them compelling.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

"Dear Journal": Doug's Cast of Characters, Part I

February 1, 2015

I thought I'd spend this blog post discussing some of the main and supporting characters on "Doug," including who they are, what they're known for, and what makes them unique. (Each character has a distinct musical theme/motif as well.)


Doug Funnie – The titular journalist/artist/daydreamer who occasionally ponders the best of a possible situation or the worst thing that could possibly happen. His other hobbies include playing the banjo, rocking out to the music band The Beets, and playing baseball. On occasion, he writes and doodles original comic-books featuring his superhero alter-ego Quailman.

Porkchop – Doug's semi-anthropomorphic sidekick dog and "best friend" is Snoopy to Doug's Charlie Brown. He has an igloo for a doghouse, and apparently goes through a vegetarian "phase".

Skeeter Valentine – Doug's best "human" friend is the quirkiest of all characters. Though known for his funny sounds ("Hnk Hnk!"), beat boxing and "cool, man"-ness, he dreams of one day being an astronaut.

Patti Mayonnaise – Doug's secret crush (and we've all had one), and a dedicated athlete known for playing the fictitious sport "Beat-ball ". She does her best to be a leader/captain of the local baseball team, yet does not know how to cook. Still, Doug considers her "the most wonderful girl in the whole world."

Roger Klotz – The town bully and occasional friend of Doug has apparently been in the sixth grade for for a few. Has a cat named Stinky, and his gang members include Willy, Ned, and Boomer. Despite his pestering attitude at times, Doug generally makes the wise decision not to retaliate.

Mr. and Mrs. (Bud & Tippi) Dink – Doug's next-door neighbors, whose name is an acronym for "Double Income, No Kids". This stands for a childless couple with an extra income, hence the reason Mr. Dink buys "very expensive" things. Mrs. Dink often rolls her eyes at her husband's antics, yet the characters illustrate people who can be honest and trustworthy. The fishing and grill episodes ("Doug's Big Catch" and "Doug Needs Money") in season one show interesting darker (in fantasy) and vulnerable sides of the former character.

Judy Funnie – Doug's theatrically-eccentric sister is a Shakespeare devotee who puts an unconventional meaning on "all the world's a stage," often to his dismay and fear of embarrassment. Think of her as a performing arts-meets-John Hughes-type character.

Mr. (Lamar) Bone – The vice principal of the Bluffington School, known for his yodeling expertise on the side, often looks down on students (in contrast to the more approachable classroom teacher Mrs. Wingo) and uses such terms as "permanent record" and "P.D.Q." ("Whatever that stands for.") According to trivia on IMDb, the character is based off of the late Don Knotts of "The Andy Griffith Show".

Mr. and Mrs. (Phil & Theda) Funnie – Doug mentions in the series premiere that his dad is a photographer and works at the local photo department store (the reason the Funnie family moved to Bluffington in the first place). As for Mrs. Funnie, we learn she is apparently a stay-at-home mom who tries to make the best of any situation. Although we learn, in season three, that she works at a local recycling center.