I HAD A BIZARRE DREAM...
I don't know if it's because I caught him at some point over the past couple of days on a late-night talk show somewhere talking about preaching to his dolls at the age of three or whether I was thinking of the surprisingly decent Saturday Night Live
episode he did last year or what, but I dreamt about Al Sharpton
last night. It was a fairly bi-partisan dream too; Sharpton wasn't preaching or talking badly about George W. Bush or indulging in race baiting, he was just staying with us for a couple of days and he was resting on the leather couch in my living room, fooling around with the temperature settings on the remote control for our Mitsubishi Mr. Slim air conditioning unit (that part of my dream was probably because it got a little hot for September over the past couple of days due to warmer air being sucked up north from the Gulf of Mexico due to those hurricanes, and it got hot in my bedroom and my fan wasn't facing me, so I felt the heat and I'm the sort of guy who prefers sleeping with a cool head).
The only political part of the dream was that I needed to make sure that he wouldn't find that one issue of National Review
from around 2000 with the cover story on Sharpton with some negative caption like "Race Huckster", not because I don't agree with the sentiment but rather just out of general courtesy for our guest, since it didn't seem appropriate to bring up Tawana Brawley and such. I thought that, if I was going to mention National Review
at all, it would be for this column about Sharpton
by John Derbyshire
where Derbyshire admits that he admires Sharpton as a preacher and orator for his energy and conviction, even if he disagrees with his politics.
Don't ask me why Sharpton was sleeping on our couch in Pincourt, Quebec, Canada (dullsville) in September; I didn't say my dream was particularly logical, but it had a much more cohesive narrative than 90% of my dreams, which all seem to involve me wandering around cities that change from being London to Montreal to various West Island and Vaudreuil area suburbs to wherever or walking around in buildings that change minute by minute from being airports to schools to shopping centres or me being in a train or a subway, taking weird branch lines that always make me more and more lost, or me wandering around railroad tracks with trains coming at me from all directions, or just driving along strange highways with interchanges that lead to nowhere but forested dead-ends.
PIERRE BERNARD'S RECLINER OF RAGE!
Late Night with Conan O'Brien
's graphic designer, Pierre Bernard, did another one of his famous "Pierre Bernard's Recliner of Rage" segments, which I believe is the first one since July. Alas, anime fans, tonight's segment had nothing to do with Japanese cartoons whatsoever, unlike his previous two installments where he complained about the problems he was having finding Robotech on DVD
and, the following month, about how he missed seeing Cowboy Bebop on Adult Swim and couldn't stand Case Closed
His rant tonight was complicated, and I took down notes as he said it but couldn't get 100% of even the gist of it. His favourite art store, Michael's
, used to have several coupons in their weekly circulars, but now he had to get them from the store, but he has to ask for them or something, or the clerk looks at him in an uncomfortable way when he picks one up. Then he said something about Michael's annual Midnight Madness sales, and how it's a great deal but they should have one a year because a working artist like himself needs supplies the whole year round. Then he talked about how he goes shopping with his girlfriend, Claire, on the weekend and he likes to buy Microfine line markers and some technical pens (couldn't quite make out the brand: Staedtler Marsmatic 700?), and he wanted to use two different coupons, but the cashier, Kelly, said that store policy is to only let customers use one coupon per purchase, so Pierre asked her if he could use a coupon and then leave the store and come back in and use the other coupon for the other item, and Kelly said she didn't have an answer while Claire thought that Pierre was trying to flirt with Kelly.
The "Bottom line, America" was, and I'm paraphrasing from memory: "Bottom line, America, Michael's art supplies should allow me to use multiple coupons on the weekend and Claire shouldn't suspect that I'm flirting with Kelly."
Unlike the anime-related ones, I don't know if a clip of this one will appear anywhere on the Internet, unless there's an "art supplies fandom" I'm not quite aware of.
Labels: Pierre Bernard's Recliner of Rage
THIRTY DAYS, THIRTY YEARS, THIRTY BORING STORIES...
My Fifteenth Year (14 years old)
October 2nd, 1988, to October 1st, 1989
This one will probably be a lot shorter than the previous few, as I can't think of as much that I want to say this time around.
This wasn't my first year IN high school, but it was my first year AT high school, if that makes any sense to you at all. Macdonald High School in Sainte Anne de Bellevue, on the western tip of Montreal island, just across the Galipeaut bridge from Ile Perrot island, to be exact. A little under 3 kilometres from my house in Pincourt.
Now that I'm discussing high school, I'll address some teachers by their surname if I have positive memories of them and if I think they were good teachers, but, others, if I'm not sure I want them seeing what I'll write about them, even well over a decade after I had to deal with any of them, I'll either use initials or even nicknames. However, if you're a current Macdonald High School student who found this blog using Google, please feel free to speculate amongst yourselves who these teachers are, and tell your friends to read this. Some of them might still be around, teaching the same classes; I did only graduate twelve years ago last June. For one teacher, where I don't know all the facts as to an alleged incident, I will write about later, I will have to use an initial anyway, as I don't want to be facing a libel suit.
On either the first day or at some point in the first week, we had orientation, but, unlike some American high schools, no hypnotist show. I think we had activities where we had to work together to build up teamwork, yay! I probably had to be put into a group by a teacher or orchestrator, not really being cut out for that sort of activity. The amusing part of this sub story was that we closed out the activities by learning the Mac High school cheer, though I can't for the life of me give you even some faint idea as to how it went because, after orientation, I never used it again or was at any sort of activity where it was used, and, while I, unfortunately, got more apathetic as high school went on, it's not like I never went to any sort of activities where the school cheer could have been used, just no one ever used it.
Back in grade seven, Mr. Giroux thought I would be better off in the English stream at Mac, rather than in the French immersion stream, and, although it made me feel a little like a failure, I didn't contest it. Probably, he knew what he was doing, but, on the other hand, I can't help but feel that I might be a lot more confident with my French ability today if I had been forced to use it more in high school, and maybe I wouldn't have become such an underachiever today if I had been forced to work just that little bit harder. On the other hand, I might have indeed found learning everything else in high school level French much too difficult for me and flamed out spectacularly and have been forced to repeat grade eight a second year. That's the problem with second-guessing, you only live once, so you can never really be sure what the alternate outcome would have been. Just, if I had been in French immersion, I might have gotten to know "her" a little earlier than I actually did. And who is "her"? Just a little foreshadowing...
My homeroom and English teacher was Ms. MacKinnon, a kindly youngish woman of Scottish origin who had very pale blonde hair with who we read stories like The Red Pony
, A Day No Pigs Would Die
, possibly Cue for Treason
, Flowers for Algernon
, and, if I remember correctly, a bunch of those depressing sci-fi short stories from the 1950s and 1960s where the plot twist was always that there is no human left (the one with the self-cleaning house) or no *other* human left (the one where the teacher is teaching an unseen class, unaware that she was resurrected by aliens) because humanity destroyed itself in a nuclear war. I wrote several good stories there, including one set 500 years in the future where my distant descendants still live in the same house I do in Pincourt, except it's much larger because of extensions built over the years (I guess they bought out the entire neighbourhood around the house and demolished it) and, one day, they found a long-sealed storage room (the little space under the stairs in the basement of our bungalow) and found the Noma artifical Christmas tree which we used up to and including Christmas 1996. In my first draft, I had them sell it as an ancient antique for a shitload of money, however, my peer critics thought the ending was much too materialistic (whoopie-freakin-doo), so I felt obliged to change it to one where they decided to continue using the Christmas tree as a Brandon family tradition. I think I got the best grade in the class on the Christmas English exam, but, now that grades don't matter, I almost feel like going back to Macdonald High, seeing if they still have a copy of that, typing it out here, and restoring my wonderful, original ending where they buy lots of stuff. It's my original "vision", damnit!
I was in advanced math, and my teacher was Mr. Chee, who was somewhat strict, but fair, and a good teacher overall, even if, a couple of times, he tried to intimidate us by telling us, "I am tiger!" (yes, without an article).
Ms. D. was our Home Economics teacher, who had some sound but some wacky urban legend ideas about nutrition, like how the chocolate in chocolate milk leeches out all the calcium, making chocolate milk unhealthy. (Not true, unless you're a PETA wacko, in which case you think ALL milk is unhealthy.) We did cooking and we did sewing, and my mother didn't care much for the sewing part because we had to buy a crapload of supplies for an activity I did once. ($20, in 1988 Canadian dollars, for pinking shears? But they're just scissors with a jagged edge!) And the pair of shorts I made were simply unwearable. In the second half of the school year, I had science with... umm... some guy I forget. I remember keeping a cloud journal and this one project where I drew a crappy-looking comic wherein Spider-Man discussed the exciting topic of "sedementation and decantation" as a method to remove stuff from liquid. Actually, I drew several assignments as comics that year; one of them was with me and Freddy Krueger, but, for the life of me, I don't remember what the assignment was actually "for". In another one, I had characters from several different syndicated comic strips, including Peanuts
, For Better or For Worse
, and Bloom County
, re-enacting the tale of The Good Samaritan. I had drama with Ms. Burr, but I don't remember too much about that year (I took sort of the same class with the same teacher later on in high school).
My French teacher was Mr. Busbib, who was a nice guy but a few years away from retiring and by no means at the top of his game. His curriculum consisted largely of us reading abridged versions of Georges Simenon's Maigret mysteries
and he taught us a few songs, like "Fais Comme l'Oiseau"
(roughly: "Live like a bird", more literally: "Do things like a bird"). Oh yeah, we did write essays; I remember getting indignant at Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson for getting stripped of his Olympic gold medal at the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul because he tested positive for steroids, and, you know, "good" 14 year old kids frown on all drug use without seeing any nuances, because "Drugs are bad, mmkay." (These days, my opinion on performance-enhancing drugs at the Olympics is leaning more towards: "Meh, level the playing field, let everyone use them.") Also, he wore the same green Macdonald High sweater-blazer thingie every day, though I'd imagine he had more than one.
My history and Moral and Religious Education teacher was Ms. R., who was nice enough, but I'm initializing her name because I always thought she bore a stunning resemblance to Lady Elaine Fairchilde
, the puppet who lived in the Merry-Go-Round in the "Neighbourhood of Make-Believe"
on Mr. Rogers' Neighbourhood
. (No, I never checked to see if she had her own "Boomerang Toomerang Soomerang".) We watched Spartacus
, and I did the Good Samaritan comic I mentioned earlier for her; I also did another one with the Mighty Thor talking about Greek Gods (yes, even though Thor is a Norse God... he can still know about Greek Gods). I did a presentation on Greek Gods in front of the class with just a piece of chalk and impressed the teacher enough to have her tell my mother about it.
Lastly, my Phys. Ed. teacher for the first two or three years was Ms. Petford. Yes, she did indeed look a little like the butch P.E. teacher from that one episode of Sailor Moon S
who pinches Makoto/Jupiter and Minako/Venus's ass, though that was just a test to see how firm they were, nothing more ;). Nah, she was married and had kids, she just *looked* the part of the stereotypical female P.E. teacher. Gah, I sucked at gymnastics, especially the floor exercises... I was flexible in some fun ways when I was a young teenage guy, but, for the life of me, I could hardly ever do even a basic somersault without being held, let alone anything more complicated. Also, just like Bobby Hill on King of the Hill
, I never showered after P.E. I don't know if it's still like that today, but, damn, the Mac shower room was dank and rank in 1988-89.
At the end of that particular school year, they tried something called something like "experiential education", which really meant "fieldtrips for marks". Oh, I went to the Mont Saint-Hilaire waterpark and Old Montreal and took a Saint Lawrence river cruise. By high school standards, that was a pretty good memory, but I don't think they repeated this requirement any other year (not that I didn't go on any other field trips, just not ones in near-midsummer).
I had a couple of mild heterosexual crushes that particular year, on L.C. (I put a Christmas card in her locker) and H.J. (the only girl I ever directly asked out; goddamn, I embarassed myself), and, to a lesser extent, on K.P. (a girl I never talked to). (Too Much Information warning: highlight to read) My two biggest crushes that year were gay, though, and I was old enough to know that what I was feeling was gay, I just came up with mental excuses as to why these particular gay crushes didn't "count", as I think a lot of bisexual teens do. I liked S.Y., who was my brother's friend and the first gay crush I had where I had some idea as to what was going on, and H.P., who was a guy I knew mainly from the bus at that point. I don't want to give any other identifying details, but let's just say that they were both "ethnic", which may have been due to National Geographic, and the French Geo, being about the only magazines where I could look at naked guys without anyone suspecting anything, this being many years before Google Image search made finding naked pictures of guys accessible to any teen.
I made a couple of friends in 8th grade, like Paul S., who came to my house a couple of times with James M., a slightly-retarded kid from our neighbourhood (who broke the antenna on my television so I had to get a new one). One time, we sang a song based on the demo tune from the old white Radio Shack keyboard, made famous in the Strongbad E-mail, "Crazy Cartoons"
, and another time we were playing Shinobi
on the Sega Master System and, through trial and error, one of them found the level select and fought against "Black Turtle", the helicopter boss, but I thought the Master System was overheating and turned it off. The guy moved to Wisconsin. I also met Jamie S. that year, and he showed me his house with his pool once.
Before I leave the academic portion of this year, this was the only year in high school I actually managed to make it on to the honour roll, and I think my average was just barely above 80. And, current Mac students, it wouldn't be on the permanent honour roll, carved into wood. I'm just talking about the printout one with dozens of names that they put up outside the principal's office at the end of each semester.
I briefly attempted to join the Air Cadets, but it was over at Virginie-Roy school and in French and the English one was way over at Beaconsfield High School, and it was on Saturdays, my traditional "veg out" day, and I was getting a little too... umm... "self-involved", if you catch my drift, and didn't feel like going out much, so I went for about four meetings and quit, which I do goddamn regret. I could have been a pilot by now. :(
One personal milestone happened in the autumn of 1988; my mother needed someone to go and hand in a cheque at American Express, downtown, so, after school one day, I walked over to the 211 bus stop and took it downtown, took the Metro (Montreal's subway) to Peel, went up, paid, took the Metro back to Lionel-Groulx station, got on the 211, got afraid that it was going the wrong direction (this was pretty much my first time taking it, though I've taken it hundreds, if not thousands, of times since). I took the bus to Saint Charles boulevard in Beaconsfield, at which point, I must have been given detailed instructions to get another bus and go north to Kirkland, where my mother had just started working at a daycare which shall remain nameless (actually, I don't think it's still around). My mother had just gotten hired by that daycare and was being complimented by her boss. On holidays, I would sometimes come with her and help out with the kids, most of whom would likely be, if they're still in this province, either in CEGEP (Quebec's junior college system) or, at the youngest, at the end of high school by now. The kids were cute... I also went because of a young assistant, D.L., who must have been either in her late teens or early 20s. I think she was in college and working part time. She was also cute; she had an English last name, but she looked Indian or maybe even Polynesian. I don't know if she was adopted or mixed-race or what, and I had enough sense not to ask her her race. One time, in April, I had a day off school, so I just walked from my house in Pincourt to the daycare, a 10 or so mile walk that took me about 3 hours on the dot, and then, a week or two later, I did the exact same thing again, except my mother wasn't too busy, so I walked over to Fairview Shopping Centre on Saint John's, another 2 or so miles away, which took me another half hour, at least, so I did at least 4 hours of walking that day, which is probably the most I had ever walked at once. I'll continue the daycare story next time.
In the summer of 1989, I went on the only other full-fledged vacation of my childhood, and it was only a camping trip to a campground just outside of Toronto. We rented a Plymouth Voyager minivan, and, the first night, we stayed at a campground at Rice Lake
, near Peterborough, Ontario, where I went to the beach but didn't go swimming and I recall a little girl who wanted to get out of the lake so she could pee, but her father was talking really loud to her, saying something like "Honey, just pee in the lake. No one will know!" Yes, no one will know, unless you talk about her peeing in the lake out loud, loud enough that someone sitting well away from you can hear it. After the first night, we drove to our "home base", Albion Hills Campground
, near Bolton, Ontario, some 30 kilometres northwest of downtown Toronto. The campground was fine; it had a small, private lake, showers, washrooms within short walking distance, and even a little store. And lots and lots of fireflies. And we watched television with my portable black-and-white television plugged into the lighter of the van. Amazingly, what we did in Toronto itself isn't that easy to remember. We avoided tourist traps and went to the Eaton Center and the soon-to-be-closed Simpson's (because that's where Today's Special
was set), and we went to the World's Biggest Bookstore
(allegedly). We also went to the Ontario Science Centre
, but... eh... most of my science museum memories are of Canada Science and Technology Museum
in Ottawa, which I've been to many times, so it's hard to isolate memories of the Ontario Science Centre... no, wait, they had an early synthesized voice computer on display, so I kept on trying to make it say "Hi, Ho! I'm Kermit the Frog!" We also went down to Niagara Falls, just for a daytrip, and I said "Looks like Roseanne Barr got into a bathtub." (with the water spilling off the edges, get it? Ha ha.), with a stop over for lunch in lovely, scenic Welland
, a town that has... a supermarket, possibly a Loblaws! And a McDonald's! I think we took pictures of those Welland memories we will cherish forever. I think Welland is about the furthest west I have ever been in my life. We didn't go to Marineland in Niagara Falls, though, and I kind of wanted to because I liked the then-current advertising campaign with the commercial where the Walrus king kept on shouting "Happiness is!", which I would always strategically "mute", so it sounded like he was saying "Penises!" I think the advertisers figured out why older kids with naughty minds found that commercial amusing, and they switched "Happiness is" to "Everyone loves (Marineland)". We went to Paramount Canada's Wonderland
, and I went on the only upside-down rollercoaster that I have ever been on, I think it was Thunder Run
through "Wonder Mountain". Actually, I can't confirm that I went upside down, since PCW Junkies, a Canada's Wonderland fan site
, doesn't seem to mention it, but it certainly felt like there is a "loop de loop" or two inside the "mountain". And we had a long drive around southwestern Ontario, in the Orangeville area. That's about it, but, on the way home, we passed through Napanee and ate at a McDonald's there, so, if there were any local four-year old girls in the restaurant at the time, one of them might have been Avril Lavigne
. Who knows?
This was a fantastic year to be a Sega Master System owner: I got the Master System version of Out Run
, which is still one of my favourite games of all-time, at least for music
. Then Nick got Wonder Boy in Monster Land
, the first platformer I ever played that included many RPG elements, such as getting items (amusing father quote: "The boots! You've got to get the boots!") and answering Pro-Sega-propaganda questions from the Sphinx and the Sega Fairy! Then there was Shinobi
(here's a page of graphics
; pretty primitive, yes, but, at the time, they were impressive for a home system; certainly better-looking than the first Ninja Gaiden
on the NES). Other games that year which we liked for the Sega Master System were Thnder Blade
, After Burner
(which I would have mentioned for last year but forgot), Altered Beast
, Y's: The Vanished Omens
(the Master System's answer to Legend of Zelda
)and the Master System version of California Games
, which featured actual product placement in a Sega game... I was floored.
The best Master System game of all, or, at least, the most sophisticated, was Phantasy Star
), for being a turn-based RPG with huge, for the time, worlds to explore and lots of items, armour, and weapons, and the graphics were incredible for 8-bit, with fully-animated monsters and environmental backdrops during fights (the sequel, on the 16-bit Genesis, only had a grid backdrop during fights, and the third one had these bands of colour only vaguely resembling sky and land), and pseudo-3D "brick wall" maze-type dungeons (though all the walls looked exactly the same, so they were hell to navigate). In the 8-bit wars, Phantasy Star
was the chip on Sega owners' shoulders, the game that convinced a lot of us that we had indeed bought the "right" system. And it was such a step up from anything I had played before... I don't think any other game since has been quite as much of a "step up"; at least, I don't recall being quite as blown away by a game.
Of course, Phantasy Star
is also from where I got the title of this blog.
It's this Jawa-rip-off creature that says it, but I think it only says it if you encounter one in the deserts of planet Motavia and use Alis's "talk" power. The game was filled with stilted English, like "Welcome to the First Food Shop" (instead of "Fast Food Restaurant"), and I'm pleased that the Gameboy Advance version of the game keeps all of the original typos intact.
I think my favourite TV show I saw that year was Garfield and Friends
, which is still about the best comic-strip-to-cartoon adaptation I have ever seen, excluding, maybe, a handful of Peanuts
specials; it was better than the Saturday morning Charlie Brown and Snoopy
show. What can you say, really? It's Garfield, Jon Arbuckle, Odie the dog, and, occasionally Nermal, the world's cutest kitten, Liz the vet (who doesn't like Jon, unlike what certain movies would have you believe), Arlene, Binky the Clown (who wasn't a character in the comic strip until after the Garfield's Halloween Adventure special
no one else. The U.S. Acres
(a.k.a. Orson's Farm
) segments, based on the Jim Davis strip that appeared in The Gazette
for a few months before getting pulled and which lasted maybe a year or two more in other papers, were fairly amusing, but they are the weakest link in the show, without a doubt. I loved the songs, like the "Abu Dhabi" song and the nightmare one with Jon singing "Eat, Garfield, eat! Eat with all your might! Eat that pasta, eat it faster, 'till it's out of sight. 'Till it's out of sight!"
Another show I liked, but only for a brief amount of time, was Freddy's Nightmares
, the TV anthology show hosted by Freddy Krueger himself, which were mostly unconnected to Nightmare on Elm Street
but they occasionally did "Freddy" episodes, like "No More Mr. Nice Guy"
, the original Nightmare on Elm Street
prequel, which was directed by Tobe Hooper, who also directed Lifeforce
, one of my favourite "cheese" films as I discussed in the movie portion of my entry for 1984-85
. This was also the year my mother started letting me stay up later on Saturdays, so I got into Saturday Night Live
during the Dana Carvey/Phil Hartman/Jan Hooks/Kevin Nealon/Chris Farley/Chris Rock/Tim Meadows years, when Mike Myers and Adam Sandler were only bit players, and I believe that was also the first season with Wayne's World
sketches. Back in the days when Dennis Miller was still pretty much an entertainment industry liberal. I also watched Bleu Nuit
, the softcore porn movies they showed on Télévision Quatre-Saisons. I especially enjoyed the Emmanuelle
films, this one movie whose title I forget that took place on, I think, the Maldives and features a fairly-explicit lesbian scene which included an Asian, and Tendres Cousines
, the David Hamilton film which bordered on being kiddy porn (though I'm talking teenagers here who, on film, were a year or two older than I was at the time). Ah, such illicit thrills for a teenage guy in the days prior to the Internet.
Other minor things worth mentioning: I got a pair of Reeboks, but my dog, Sledgie, ate the insoles the first day I had them. Also, I was sick the day that George Bush sr. was inaugurated as President and I watched it on television, and then, that night, I had a dream when aliens took me and were showing me the inauguration on television monitors and were asking me to talk about it. Very strange.
Another one that took me forever to write, and I will admit defeat in hoping to get this all done by the end of September. I'll get it finished, don't worry, but it will have to be sometime in October.
My favourite movie released between October 2nd, 1988, and October 1st, 1989?
Even if My Neighbour Totoro
shows up at the top of my list for last year, I don't think there's any way I can not name this one.
I want to write a review of kiki's Delivery Service
soon, and it's very late, so I'll just say that I like it because it is a realistic, if you ignore the plot device witchcraft, tale of a young teenaged girl trying to make friends and find her niche in life in an unfamiliar city, and the story, save for the deus ex machinas ending, is a series of small events with nothing too "big" happening, just like in real life, and it's not afraid to show that, yes, life can be pretty boring and not too welcoming sometimes. I like it because it's straightforward, unpretentious, and focused, unlike certain other, more recent, Hayao Miyazaki films I won't mention by name. ;)
If you haven't figured it out by now, me and Oscar
, as in OscarTM
, really don't agree on too much, but, of all the Best Picture winners of my lifetime, Rain Man
is the best, even if the Raymond Babbitt character, played by Dustin Hoffman, is often used as the object example for people with Asperger's Syndrome when he's closer to being straight Autistic, or, if he does have Asperger's, he's an extreme case.
Two great summer movies which my mother took me to see are Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
, which are still highly-respected films to this day. Ghostbusters II
didn't quite live up to the original flick, but it was still great summer entertainment.
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
is also great fun, and I've thought all along that Back to the Future Part II
was the first movie my mother let me see by myself, but, now that I think about it some more, it may actually be UHF
, starring Weird Al Yankovic, directed by Jay Levey, that deserves that honour.
Also, it's not technically a movie, but the 6 part OVA series Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket
remains, to this day, about the best "serious" anime I have ever seen.
THIRTY DAYS, THIRTY YEARS, THIRTY BORING STORIES...
My Fourteenth Year (13 years old)
October 2nd, 1987, to October 1st, 1988
(Yes, I am backdating these things, to keep up with my system. Sue me.)
Hooray! This is a very special year to talk about for an anime fan like me, in retrospect at least, because this was the year covered in the animated version of Kimagure Orange Road
, based on the 1984 manga of the same title by Izumi Matsumoto, one of the all-time greatest anime shows, at least for my tastes. (Though it started 6 months prior to October, but, still, around 50% of our years overlapped.) Not that I would be able to watch the show for another seven years, when I joined the anime club.
My first year of adolescence was, technically, my first year in high school, Quebec not having a junior high school system like the one they have in Ontario (as many of you would know from watching Degrassi Junior High
). Unfortunately, at the time, Macdonald High School, the closest high school to me in the Lakeshore School Board, the Protestant school board in the West Island area back when schools were organized in terms of religion rather than language, didn't have enough room for a grave seven, so I spent my first year of high school still at Edgewater Elementary school. (Macdonald added grade seven in the 1991-92 academic year, and Edgewater and Macdonald now belong to the English-language Lester B. Pearson school board.)
That year, I had a class split between two teachers, Mr. Giroux, for courses taught in French, and Ms. Proulx, for courses taught in English, and, for the first time, we had a proper computer course taught my Mr. Berg. In Mr. Berg's class, we used Apple IIe computers, which I think were essentially the same as regular Apple IIs, but cosmetically designed to look more like IBM PCs. (Yes, Apple Macintosh computers had already been on the market for about four years by this point in time, but they were a little too high-end for an elementary school computer class.) We played educational computer games at least 80% of the time, including Jenny's Journeys
, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
, and, possibly the most beloved educational game of all to people my age, Oregon Trail
, a game that's classic because it let you shoot bears, deer, rabbits, and squirrels in class, because members of your party could die from old-fashioned sounding diseases like dysentery and cholera, and, most importantly, because you could write your own epitaph if you lost, and, 13 year old boys being what they are (still somewhat immature), the funniest thing in the world is to just write a bunch of swears on your Oregon Trail gravestone (simulation)
, an offense for which I don't ever recall Mr. Berg punishing anybody.
Mr. Giroux covered French, some physical sciences, possibly minor geography, and a little art, which I don't think the school had too much of a budget to let him teach even though it was his speciality, as you will see in an upcoming paragraph. He actually gave me some useful drawing tips, which I am still very much grateful for. I remember doing several vaguely interesting (probably not to you) class presentations, one on the climate of Italy, where I "talked" to several characters I drew on the board, including the Pope. Another one I did about John Logie Baird, the inventor of the mechanical television1
, where I sang several songs about various stages in Baird's life... I think I had small chunks of the songs worked out and made up the rest as I went along. The other one I did on foxes, and I made a television theatre out of a box, and then I drew cardboard cutout puppets, coloured in with Prismacolor pencil crayons, of several celebrities in fox form, including Sylvester Stallone as Rambo and Dr. Ruth Westheimer. (By the way, since Mr. Giroux will surely see this sooner or later and since I doubt I can still face academic penalties some 16 years later for something I did in grade school, yes, Mr. Giroux, I confess, I did indeed plagiarize large sections of the text portion of the fox project I did for you from a book I borrowed from Beaconsfield library, and then I looked up all the difficult words like "glapissements" in the Larousse
French-English dictionary and I memorized them, and I changed the title of the book, the author, and the publisher, in the blbliography, something I've done several times in the years since grade seven, though usually less to cover-up outright plagiarism and more to cover the fact that I got the information from a general encyclopedia which is usually not a permissible source of information, especially at the post-secondary level.)
Mr. Giroux was the first teacher to really clue-in on the fact that there was something awry going on with me psychologically. He didn't like how I would avoid eye contact when speaking to him. I know now that that is a possible sign of Asperger's Syndrome
, about which I am currently on a waiting list at a CLSC clinic to see a psychiatrist to get an offical diagnosis and see whether or not that indeed is what I've had all along. (Or maybe I just avoid eye contact because I don't want most people to hypnotize me.) Two other things that stick out in my mind as examples as to how extremely social phobic I was, and still am to some degree, are about how I didn't want to go on the winter camp over at Les Forestiers over in the western fringes of Vaudreuil for a couple of days (I helped out with a grade two class instead) and how once, near the end of the term, I went with the class to the Pincourt pool but didn't want to go in2
or do anything with anyone and I was even crying about it for reasons that evade me now.
Henry Giroux is another one of my former Edgewater teachers where I can link you to things written about him, but, this time, for much happier reasons than the stuff I linked to about David Wadsworth. I think Mr. Giroux was somewhat burned out as a high school teacher and, a couple of years after I had him, he went on permanent sabbatical and decided to devote himself full-time to painting landscapes and village scenes, a field in which he has actually found great success and some degree of fame. Here's the Crescent Hill Gallery's official site for Henry Giroux's paintings
, and another page
, and another
, a site where you can order prints of some of his work
, and he has his own gallery in Saint Sauver des Monts
. Henry Giroux is another living painter of some renown to have had some impact on my life, just like the British painter, Eric Rimmington
, who happens to be my great-uncle, as I mentioned before. (By the way, just so there's no confusion for people coming here from Google, Henry Giroux the artist and former Montreal high school teacher is not the same person as Henry A. Giroux
, a noted and published Penn State university professsor who seems to specialize in pop culture theory and education-related issues.)
Ms. Proulx was a kindly woman who was probably in her late middle age years who taught English and Moral and Relgious Education and, I think, history. I'm pretty sure the year we had her was the first of several English classes in which we read Daniel Keyes
' sci-fi tale Flowers for Algernon
, about a slow-witted man named Charly, played in the movie version, Charly
, by Cliff Robertson, who briefly becomes a genius due to a mysterious television-like device whose effects are only temporary, after which the subject goes back to being a dimwit and then dies (possibly because of overexertion of mental energy). Also, we read James Vance Marshall's Walkabout
and we even watched Nicholas Roeg's 1971 film version
, but it must have been an edited-for-TV version since I don't remember seeing remotely as much adolescent nudity as I saw when I rented an unedited version of the film a couple of years back, and horny teenage boys take careful note of any and all nudity they see in movies, especially ones they show in class, believe you me. (I mean, were talking about a group of students who still laughed out loud at simple outline drawings of male and female genitalia when we had sexual education with the school nurse a year or two prior, and this was the era when a sex ed video of a guy putting a condom on a banana was controversial, so I'm pretty sure that we'd remember seeing a live-action film with a teenage girl naked.) Another thing we did, rather incongruous with the previous example, was to write an assignment about the Bible. Somehow, I got the idea that she wanted a summary of the whole
Bible, Old and New Testament alike, so I spent a whole weekend writing about 50 pages of looseleaf or so, but only got around halfway through Exodus. I don't remember much else about her other than that she had a tiny part of her cornea peeling inside her eye.
One guest we had at Edgewater that year was a musician who, and I'm about 75% sure was David Foster
himself, played a song about the upcoming 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary
, since the Olympic torch relay was passing through Pincourt (must have been a very, very long relay that year, unless part of it was in the air), but it wasn't the main Calgary Olympic theme, "Can You Feel It?" (a tune which they ripped off, almost note for note, for the Japanese Sailor Moon
"In the name of the moon, I will punish you" ("Tsuki ni kawatte, oshiokiyo!") background music in the first season), it was a song that went, in part, and this is only the part of the chorus I remember, "Transcending feuds and entities, to make the world unite as one, let us carry you Olympic torch, the race has just begun!" I never heard that song again, for some reason.
That's about it for my academic career at Edgewater. Sorry for the lack of detail.
In November 1987, we had the second death in the family in the same yearl my aunt Celia died from, I think, leukemia, and, suddenly, just my mother and her brother Pete were the only two members of her immediate family growing up left on Earth. She couldn't go to Celia's funeral, and didn't even get to visit the site where her ashes are interred for about another decade.
Continuing my puppy story from the previous installment, the puppies' eyes opened, and, by a week or two after my 13th birthday, they were wandering around the kitchen and peeing and pooping all over the place. I was lazy and was letting my parents clean up, but, by this point in time, my mother was working at an old people's home, so eventually I had to give in and do my fair share of depooping. Somehow, this one time, several of the puppies got on the decrepit back deck behind our kitchen and fell through the big hole in the middle, and, the next day, we couldn't find them and panicked a little, but, surprisingly, they were unscathed below the deck. By November, we had to put an ad in The Gazette
(or it might have been the West Island Chronicle
), offering to give the puppies away to anyone who wanted them, since we had eleven dogs to feed including Penny and Lucky, and, one by one, they left our lives, and we were down to two puppies, and my mother thought we could keep one, and my sister preferred a brown one who might have been called "Whiskey", but I liked my white puppy with the cute eyes who I called "Sledgehammer", either after the Peter Gabriel song or the show starring David Rasche I discussed briefly yesterday, and we had someone come over to pick a dog and I was very manipulative in trying to get her to pick the brown one and she did. I was elated. Pretty soon after, we had Penny spayed (and Sledge neutered). Lucky had always been sterile.
For a little while, we were a three dog family, even if Pincourt town ordanances prohibited having more than two, but God had other plans. During the spring of 1988, Lucky gradually began losing her appetite, to the extent that my mother pretty much had to spoonfeed her, and she grew very week, and, one day in July 1988, it looked like she pooped out one of her organs or something, and, by the end of the next morning, she was dead, so we buried her in the former vegetable patch in the backyard.
In November 1987, my parents were contestants on a game show filmed in Montreal called The New Chain Reaction
, a show where the goal was to find words that linked two unrelated words, like, for example,
SAILOR -> ____ -> SHINE
And you'd give your partner or opponent a letter over or under another word and continue until the word is complete or you could guess it. In my example, the missing word is obviously "Moon", as in "Sailor Moon" and "moonshine" (bootlegged alcohol).
Anyway, for about the first 2/3rds of the episode, my parents, "Anthea and Mark", were going all domineering "Ken Jennings" on the other contestants' asses, until, I think, the third round, where my father let my mother have control of the board and one of the links was this, with two letters already given:
JOHNNY -> CA__ -> FLOW
This was really my mother's Waterloo. Her guess? "Cake", because she was thinking of "Johnny Cake"
, as in the pancake-style cake made from cornmeal. The proper answer? Obviousy, "Cash", to make "Johnny Cash", the "Ring of Fire" country singer who died last year, and "cash flow", as in the financial term for money coming in and going out of a business. What is "cake flow"? I can actually find a couple of uses of the term used on filtration and separation technology web sites. But that's probably not the answer they were looking for... but it is a valid answer. Maybe I can make a case that they should be return contestants. They could, but they'd have to go back in time over thirteen years to be on the show before it got cancelled!
They flamed out in a big way, but they still got $400 for their trouble, and host Geoff Edwards mentioned them a couple of times after that, while their spectacular failure was still fresh in his mind.
For Christmas in 1987, my brother, Nick, and I finally joined the "modern" video-gaming era and received a Sega Master System
... I'm trying to remember the one variable that made us ask for a Sega instead of a Nintendo Entertainment System but I'm coming up short. It must have been the TV ads with the Sega Fairy. I remember a few days before Christmas hearing odd noises coming from my parent's bedroom and hearing my father say "I got the fucking aardvark!" as he played Safari Hunt
, one of the two pack-in games (along with Hang On
). I received the motorcross game, Enduro Racer
, a great motorcross game with a somewhat pretentious ending
, while my brother received the videogame adaptation of Ghostbusters
, which, I might add, looked far superior to the NES version. A couple of months later, my father got himself Alex Kidd in Miracle World
, which he got obsessed with finishing for weeks. Other cool Sega Master System games I liked that year were After Burner
, Wonder Boy
, and probably my favourite game the first year I had the system was Zillion
), a game based on an anime
), which itself was a tie-in cartoon for a Lazer Tag
-type game. It was a game that was essentially a rip-off of the British game Impossible: Mission
where you controlled three characters, J.J., Champ, and Apple, around a labrythine underground base belonging to the Norsa Empire ("Noza" in the anime), shooting robots and cannisters to get items, computer cards, and codes for the computer to open doors. You could also use codes into the computer to perform other actions, like four zeros to commit suicide, which seemed rather pointless, since you could just hit the reset button on the Sega Master System unit with your toe. After you start the self-destruction sequence at the main computer, you fight this large and well-animated, by Master System standards, "boss" that was supposedly some sort of dragon but which actually looked more like a skinned chicken and you have to shoot it in the mouth twenty times, and then escape from the base as quickly as possible. (I think you had five minutes total to escape, but fighting the dragonchicken thingie usually ate up at least two minutes.) One of the coolest things about Sega extensive ties to the Zillion
franchise was that the Zillion gun was the gun on which the Master System's "Light Phaser" gun was modelled, so the gun in the anime, which I've only seen screencaps of, looks exactly like the gun we shoot at the television (cathode ray tube televisions only)... hmm, I should cosplay as J.J. from Zillion
since I've had his gun all along. Though J.J. would be older and have gained a few pounds. :P
One problem with the Master System compared to the Nintendo Entertainment System, especially bad the first year I had it, was the lack of licensed games based on television shows and movies (except for games based on Ghostbusters
and movies with Sylvester Stallone in them; the Master System had two Rambo
games and one Rocky
game early in its life). I didn't realize at the time that most games based on licensed properties sucked total ass. I was pissed when the Nintendo Entertainment System got Double Dragon
, but we got our own Double Dragon
just a couple of months later. Of course, another reason why some of the popular titles didn't make it to the Master System was because of Nintendo's notorious intimidation tactics
, which kept most third-party licensors from licensing to the technically superior, by 8-bit standards, Sega Master System. Eventually, State Attourneys and the first popular next generation 16-bit system, the Sega Genesis, put a stop to Nintendo's strongarmed tactics. The best Sega games were yet to come.
In 1987, Children's Television Workshop, now Sesame Workshop, brought us one of the greatest educational shows of all time, Square One Television
, dealing with math, about the least television-friendly primary school subject, by ingeniously working mathematical concepts into television parodies, cartoons, and music videos, including a handful of original songs from famous acts like the Fat Boys, the Jets, Kid n' Play, and even "Weird Al" Yankovic. And every episode ended with an authourized Dragnet
spoof called Mathnet
, which was shot on film and not videotape, often using exterior locations, so it looked like a normal television cop show (albeit with most of the violence and all of the murder removed). There were other attempts prior to Square One TV
to teach math in an interesting manner, most notably TV Ontario's Math Patrol
, but Square One TV
was aimed at an audience a couple of grades higher, so they introduced more advanced mathematical concepts in an enjoyable manner. My favourite Square One TV
videos are "Mathematics of Love" (which used to be available online but the site's vanished), "Eight Percent of my Love" (available on this page
), and, the ultimate "New Wave" song, "Angle Dance" (available on this page
; I'm not going to be a jerk and direct link to the file so you can right click and download it, but if you investigate "view source", you should be able to figure out the exact location of the file).
September 1st, 1988, was a very important day in my life. Why? It's the day that YTV
went on the air in Canada, the first successful attempt at a national children's channel! Not that there was all that much worth watching for a teenage guy back then: I liked YTV Hits
, hosted by Ron Oliver, who was also a director and producer on many Canadian-produced TV shows and movies like Prom Night III: The Last Kiss
, Are You Afraid of the Dark
, the "American" version of Queer as Folk
, and Romeo!
(which my brother, John, is going to attend the wrap party of later this fall since he works at the film processing place), and I think he was also the voice of Snit during the years when Phil Guerrero (P.J. Fresh Phil) was the host of the Zone
. Ron would throw to videos, do interviews (once he asked the girl from Technotronic if she ever ate human flesh), have low-budget fun on the streets of Toronto and in the studio like bursting grapes in the microwave, and chat with Ralph the Happy Contest Goose, a cheap Gantz puppet. At the beginning, since they didn't have too much programming available, YTV aired You Can't Do that on Television
several times a day, and they were known, for a while, as the Bonanza
channel, since Bonanza
was the extent of their late-night programming. And they had a few British sitcoms on the air, most notably the first two or three seasons of Red Dwarf
. (By the way, just to dispel the anime fan urban legend, YTV, Youth Television, was founded by a Canadian organization with the initials REO, I forget exactly what they stand for, and has absolutely nothing to do with the Japanese YTV, Yomiuri Television
, which is the "YTV" you see in the copyright lines for some Japanese anime shows, like Magic Knight Rayearth
, which never aired on the Canadian channel with the same initials.)
I can't think of a lot else "new" that particular season I liked on television: I really liked Full House
as a young teenager, hated it as an older teenager, but now I recognize that that show had a heart and sincerity lacking on most family sitcoms. I also liked the Canadian show My Secret Identity
, even if they somehow couldn't find a decent Canadian actor to play Andrew Clements/"Ultra Man"3
and had to ship in the American Jerry O'Connell, the fat kid from Stand By Me
who had lost a considerable amount of weight in one year. Another show I enjoyed, even if I missed a lot of the British political references, was the satirical puppet show Spitting Image
, about which there are remarkably few fansites (maybe the BBC is a little strongarmed about these sorts of things), though I did find this one page which has an mp3 of the song "I've Never Met a Nice South African"
. (No, no, Arxane
, it's a song about apartheid-era South Africa, I wouldn't take it seriously.) Oh, yes, I enjoyed Star Trek: The Next Generation
, though the first season was rather weak compared to later seasons.
Next year should be a little shorter.
My favourite movie released between October 2nd, 1987, and October 1st, 1988?
Another year of my life where I'll have to split it between a John Hughes movie and an anime.
My Neighbor Totoro
is the Hayao Miyazaki film that is everything positive about Spirited Away
without the goddamn pretentiousness and muddled messages and overall grotesqueness. It has a vague environmental subtext in presenting the world of Tokyo's outlying suburbs back in the 1950s as being an ideal place for children to grow up, before the encroaching development swallowed up the entire Kanto plain, but it's nothing deeper than that. It certainly doesn't beat you over the head with environmentalism. And the film isn't really trying to "say" anything else, it's just a film about an older preteen girl, Satsuki, who is beginning to grow up but who is still well-rooted in the world of childhood imagination thanks to her being forced to take care of her younger sister, Mei, when their mother becomes ill, and their father, who isn't rushing Satsuki to grow up prematurely even with Satuski's added responsibilities, seems delighted that Satsuki is still willing to talk about fantasy creatures as though they are real. That's about it. Just like Kiki's Delivery Service
(hint hint), I like Hayao Miyazaki films best when they're simple, because being deeper or more complicated does not necessarily make a film better than something more straightforward. And, like I said sometime recently, I like that the film leaves it ambiguous as to whether the Totoros actually exist, or whether it's all in Mei and Satsuki's imaginations.
I like Steve Martin as a wacky comedian, and one negative point about John Hughes' Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
is that this film was the real turning point in his career when he began playing the "straight man" too much, being a foil for the comedy to bounce off of, and, after this, he was in too many "safe" comedies like Father of the Bride
, but the chemistry between him and John Candy in this film is remarkable, and Martin is still wacky in a way as an overly manic businessman simply trying to get himself home for Thanksgiving against all the circumstances he finds himself facing, and the late John Candy was never better than as the travelling salesman with no real family to go home to.
Both My Neighbor Totoro
and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
are on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies"
list, so I'm not completely against liking critically-acclaimed films, just a lot of what gets critical acclaim rubs me the wrong way or just bores me.
1988 was another landmark year for anime feature films: Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira
is a great film for four fifths of its length, up to the point where Kaneda reaches the unfinshed Olympic stadium (in Neo-Tokyo, not Montreal; Montreal's Olympic stadium was finished only 11 years after the Olympics were over... except for the roof, which is permanently under construction), and Tetsuo starts growing, at which point the film becomes a weird mess. But the detail and hand-drawn fluidity in the era just prior to the point where animators had the option of taking CG shortcuts has never quite been matched. Char's Counterattack
is widely considered to be one of the best single installments of the Mobile Suit Gundam
saga (but I somehow have never quite gotten around to seeing it)
. And I'm not terribly fond of Grave of the Fireflies
myself, but, obviously, because of its general critical stature
, I can't not mention it in a brief retrospective of "important" anime films from 1988.
Among American movies, Die Hard
is the Die Hard
of Die Hard
-type movies (you know, movies with one guy in something big and/or fast rigged to explode, usually talking to the badguy via walkie talkie or cell phone), and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (sans question mark)
has always been one of those innovative animated films, just like The Nightmare Before Christmas
, where I admire the artistry of the endeavor but, while I enjoyed it, I don't get nearly as hyped about it as some animation enthusiasts do.
1 The British John Logie Baird, the American Philo T. Farnsworth, and Vladmir Zworykin, a Russian emigré who had escaped the Revolution and bounced around Europe before moving to the United States to work for Westinghouse and then RCA, were all working on various television systems fairly independently of one another virtually simultaneously during the twenties. I don't think there's anything too astonishing about this coincidence; television was the next logical step after radio technology first became commercially available, and, if none of those three inventors had been born, someone else would have invented it, probably sooner rather than later.
2 Though I also had a somewhat semi-valid reason why I didn't want to go into the Pincourt pool itself... I had seen little kids pee in it on a couple of separate occasions when I had gone there with my mother.
3 No, not the Japanese superhero, Ultraman.
THIRTY DAYS, THIRTY YEARS, THIRTY BORING STORIES...
My Thirteenth Year (12 years old)
October 2nd, 1986, to October 1st, 1987
Damn, I will have to withhold talking about one of my favourite stories from this year, since it's a story that's fairly pointless to tell without visual aids, and I can't seem to find the binder they're in. We'll have to start cleaning up the house since a real estate agent is coming around Sunday, so, if I find this binder, I'll edit this entry and then link to it.
This was another year of my life that was fairly uneventful. In Grade Six, I was in Mme. Millin's class, but, again, I really don't remember too much about her. What I do remember is, by this point in elementary school, I had become so used to the work being much too easy for me that I had begun to slack off, with terrible studying and homework habits, and the difficulty of the work was beginning to catch up with me, so, while I was never in any danger of flunking, I was no longer the genius I was in the early grades. One technological milestone was that I wrote a book report on Daniel Pinkwater
's The Hoboken Chicken Emergency
, which isn't that interesting a story in and of itself (writing about writing a book report, I mean, not the book itself, which was probably fine), but it was the first school assignment I ever composed on a computer, at least outside of school, though, technically speaking, I didn't even compose it on a computer but rather just this remote terminal unit my father had that was connected to a computer downtown, so, it had a monitor and a keyboard and a modem but no local mainframe to speak of, since PCs were so expensive in those days. And typing didn't come easy to me, considering I didn't really grow up using a keyboard on a regular basis, so I had to "hunt-and-peck" for each letter, rather then just glancing occasionally like I do now. I thought the typing class which I took for an easy grade a couple of years later in grade 8 or 9 was a huge waste of time at the time, but, yeah, thinking of how slowly I typed back when I wrote the book report I'm speaking of, I could easily understand how valuable that class was in retrospect.
(Speaking of computers in class, I forgot to mention that, in fifth grade, there was this "computer class" where they sent a handful of us at a time with an older student to work on computers, probably old Radio Shack TRS-80s, but I think the only "work" I did was a picture of a middle finger with the word "FUCK!" written out above it. Oh, how naughty. Someone else using the same terminal drew a picture of a naked Virgo, as in the zodiac sign, with single pixels for nipples and a couple of more pixels representing female pubic hair. Really tame stuff, but, in the days prior to the Internet, this all seemed so illicit and tantalizingly forbidden to an eleven-year old that I hid the tiny, low-res, dot matrix printouts behind a Hulk Hogan card in a photo album I used mainly for stickers
. Yes, I do indeed realize that the hand I drew is facing the wrong way to be offensive, and I can see that it has two little fingers instead of one little finger and an opposable thumb.)
This was also the academic year when, one day, we had a very special visitor to our class: director Michael Rubbo and/or producer Rock Demers
, and he was or they were doing casting for a new installment in Demers' "Tales for All" film series, Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller
, and they had the boys trying out for two parts and the girls for one. I tried out for Ralph, the titular "Stamp Traveller", and they told us the situation but didn't give us a script, so I improvised using lines I think I pilfered from Arnold in Diff'rent Strokes
. I didn't get the part. However, apparently, my teacher pushed for them to give the part of Ralph to one of my classmates, Lucas Evans, who was a bit shy (not as much as I was), and, sure enough, Lucas did indeed get the part, and got to be a movie star and travel to China. I do like deluding myself sometimes that, if only the teacher hadn't pushed for Luke, I would have been Ralph, the Stamp Traveller, but I think winning the part did wonders for Lucas's self-confidence.
Another thing that happened that year was that one of the Kindergarten teachers at Edgewater had also become involved in the recently-formed far left political activist group Raging Grannies
, who I realize now were a bunch of senile old biddies who probably longed for the days when fellow "traveller" Walter Duranty
was telling them how glorious life was in Soviet Russia, ignoring certain inconvenient mass starvations and such... no, I shouldn't be mean to the Raging Grannies because I know they have good intentions, just like the "good intentions" Melita Norwood
had. So that particular year, they were shoving all sorts of
"anti-war" doctrine down our throats at school, and I remember writing this one poem in French wherein... shudder... Mikhail Gorbachev threw out his nuclear button (but the ending was cool, in the Beavis and Butt-head
sense, because the garbageman saw the button in the trash outside the Kremlin and wondered what it did, so he pressed it, launching a whole barrage of missiles... oh, wait, that means that, by implication, Ronald Reagan died in my story... okay, maybe that part wasn't so cool). Another pointless symbolic feelgood thing we did was release helium balloons (yes, Weemsco Tuna fans, perfect for sea turtles to choke on once they're deflated) with tags with the address of Edgewater school and messages for peace attached. I remember mine, where I wrote a parody of a couple of lines from "We are the World" (awful, awful song) where I replaced "world" with "war" and thought I was making some kind of profound point at the time. The amusing part of the story is, when we released the balloons, a good one third, at least, got caught up in the bank of trees beside the school along Cardinal Leger boulevard. Aww, so many of our pathetic little kiddy messages for peace failed to spread peace to people in Eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, people who were already living in fairly peaceable countries who haven't been at war with each other for about two centuries and, as such, didn't really need to hear a naïve pacifist message. The most amusing thing is still the anti-"war toys" monument, since this was the height of the 1980s G.I. Joe
's popularity and G.I. Joe
's pro-American and pro-military strength messages obviously were an anathema to "Raging Granny" types, and we were supposed to donate all our Transformers
and G.I. Joe
toys to be sealed underground in cement... in other words, if anyone could find this monument, which wasn't built at Edgewater and I don't know where it is, and dig it up, it would be an eBay treasure trove not unlike the cave in Three Kings
or One-Eyed Willy's cache in The Goonies
. I don't think they actually convinced too many of us to give up our war toys; in fact, having old women like that tell us war toys are bad only made the war toys that much cooler.
I was out of Cubs and started Scouts, but I was only in Scouts for one year before I started getting apathetic. One time, just before the Christmas of 1986, a bunch of us Scouts went to some sort of meeting at the Bonaventure Hilton in downtown Montreal, in a conference room which, we were told, had hosted the recently-departed Peter Ustinov
, the voice of Dr. Snuggles
, I don't remember what we talked about at the conference, but I do remember the entertainment, a honest-to-god bellydancer, which delighted 12 and 13 year old boys just beginning to learn to take delight in the female form (but which horrified my mother when I told her about it after). Also, my parents never took me shopping downtown during Christmas season, so this was my first glimpse of big city Christmas magic, in the Place Bonaventure shopping concourse back when it had customers. And, on the train ride home to Pincourt, I remember that a woman who was probably in her twenties at the time was chiding some of the other Scouts for using language, I think of the "cock" variety, that she never would have used when she was a kid... I don't want to think about what twelve year olds say these days with gangsta rap unrestricted access to the Internet.
For my birthday in 1986, I got a "ghetto blaster", though a fairly tame and cheap one from Candle, the cheap electronics company whose products seemed to be sold mostly through the Consumers Distributing catalogue. I taped myself doing The Steve Brandon Show
with me doing a couple of characters (like "Dolly", a flight attendant ripped directly off a Benny Hill sketch) and singing popular songs like Sledgehammer
without musical accompaniment, so I sang all the "Doo-de-doo doo-de-doo"s myself. I was also ripping off my brother, John, who did "The Johnny Channel" on another tape recorder... he was younger, but did better characters, like "Mr. Mooshe", the supposedly French host of a show called "Life of Nature". For Christmas that year, I got a 5" black-and-white TV/Radio combo from Radio Shack. I thought it was neat that it was battery-powered, but, damn, did that thing drain electricity! I think it took 9 of the big-ass D batteries which lasted about 45 minutes or so. The LCD screens portable televisions have today are so much more efficient than the cathode ray tube that my television had, so I don't think I bothered using batteries in it once the novelty of having a television that didn't need to be plugged in wore off and I plugged it in anyway; I think Radio Shack eventually realized that people aren't going to spend big bucks on batteries to watch less than an hour of television because I have a similar TV/radio combo from the mid-90s, and, while it does have a DC cord for automobiles, it doesn't take batteries, and, as such, is about half the size of its counterpart from a decade before. (That's one thing I didn't like about that John Lithgow movie, The Manhattan Project
: some guy is watching television on the bus, and it's a portable television with a colour cathode ray tube and he's dozed off but the television is still working even though it would be draining juice from the batteries like nobody's business. Okay, it's but one of many, many problems I had with that film, but I digress.) I remember Jeremy W., a kid who never watched television (and who had a real chip on his shoulder about it), chiding me for having a television in my room. Okay, I get it, you don't watch television, good for you, "you win the prize!!"
I used the television to watch Max Headroom
, the very short-lived cyberpunk television series set "twenty minutes in the future" produced in Britain starring Canadian Matt Frewer as Edison Carter, a reporter who got into a motorcycle accident and had his mind "digitized" and stored in a computer, though he recovered after, so there was himself and his computer alter ego, "Max Headroom", named after the sign Edison crashed into, and they both worked together to expose corporate corruption to the best of their ability, even when the channel they work for is reluctant to expose anything that would be biting the hand that feeds them. Oh dear, I enjoyed a show like that? Well, it's like Robocop
, which is perfectly enjoyable on its own merits as an violent action/comedy, even if you don't care much for the anti-corporate subtext. In any event, you know it's not completely anti-corporate when the title character is also famous for his New Coke commercials. (Also, from a computer animation standpoint, most of what I heard about Max Headroom as a kid was a fraud: I knew Max was an actor, but I thought the suit and tie were computer-generated; nope, they were just moulded plastic. I think only the bars behind him were actual computer graphics.)
Other shows I enjoyed that season were Pee-Wee's Playhouse
, which was my first introduction to true all-out balls-to-the-wall wackiness
, at least outside of the handful of G.I. Joe
episodes I talked about the other day. I think my favourite Pee-Wee's Playhouse
memory was the time the camera focused on a dog eating in a long take that must have been at least a munite and a half long, and you kept on expecting something to happen, but, nope, that dog just kept on eating, and all you heard were sound effects of the dog eating. Also, I liked the one time that the secret word was "Zizzybaluba"... wasn't the secret word, to which everyone screams when it is uttered, "the" one other time, or was that just in the Cracked
parody? And I liked how Cowboy Curtis is really Morpheus from The Matrix
(Lawrence Fishburne). A cartoon I liked, and a pseudo-anime one (animated in Japan for the first two seasons, but written by Americans for the American market), was The Real Ghostbusters
, which was lots of goofy fun and there were a few legitimately creepy episodes like "Mrs. Rogers' Neighborhood", with the evil old woman and the crazy house, and "Knock, Knock", with the demon subway tunnel. I was a little distracted that Peter Venkman now had the exact same voice actor as Garfield, the late Lorenzo Music
, but, like I said several times before, I think they were trying to match Peter Venkman's sardonic attitude more than they were looking for a guy who could do a good Bill Murray impression, and few English-language voice actors sounded naturally more sardonic than Lorenzo. Also, I liked Sledge Hammer!
, the spoof Dirty Harry
-type vigilante cop show (see also Frank Yeean Chan's great fan site
), The Charmings
, the sitcom with Snow White, Prince Charming, their kids, and Snow White's Wicked Stepmohter, transposed somehow into modern day Los Angeles, and, of course, ALF
, what quality television that was. What can I say about it? A bunch of disjointed words followed by exclamation points! ALF! Gordon Shumway! "Gordon, Gordon, put us in stitches!" Melmac! Bouillabaseball! His spaceship has pipes made from gold! Rhonda! Willie Tanner! Kate! Lynn! Brian! Benji Gregory! "Asparagus, Asparagus, put it on your table!" Lucky the cat! Hide ALF, Mr. Ochmonek is coming! The music video Alf did for Lynn! "You're the one that's out of this world!" Max Wright! Crack Addict! Pays homeless guys for sex!1
Writer Jerry Stahl! On drugs most of the time! Permanent Midnight!
ties in to the story I can't tell until I find that binder, but, also, my brother got one of those talking ALF dolls for his birthday, and, just after opening his present, he let my dog, Penny, out. Unfortunately, she was in heat, and Benji, a big black dog whose owners just let him wander the neighbourhood, smelled her scent, and you can guess what happened next. What's a good euphenism to use? How about this one: they "fucked like dogs". Yes, we used a hose and a broom handle to try and separate them, but we couldn't until it was too late. Two months later, on September 28th, she gave birth to a litter of nine puppies, though we didn't notice the runt, who we called "De Trop" ("Too Many") or "Trowie", until the day after. I'll tell the rest of that story in the next entry in this series, since my 13th birthday was just 4 days after.
Eh, there's one more show I want to talk about somewhat in-depth, but it premiered in January and I've already talked way too much about television in this entry, so I'll just save it for next time,
One sad note was that my grandfather, Charlie Rimmington, died of blood poisoning after an operation in July 1987. We had no money, so none of us, not even my mother, his daughter, were able to go to his funeral. I was sad, but I didn't cry. This was one of two deaths in the family this year, but the other one was after my birthday.
Goddamn it! Each time I start out intending to write a shorter entry than the previous one, it always ends up longer! And I know I'm a couple of days behind, and I will try to hurry up so this project doesn't spill over into October and past my birthday, but I can do a rush job or I can do it well, to my satisfaction, and I seem to be choosing the latter, not consciously but by virtue of what I'm actually writing. I just always think of "one more thing".
My favourite movie released between October 2nd, 1986, and October 1st, 1987?
A lot of movies I like this year, but none I love, however, my favourite of the batch is one of the Christmas movies from the tail end of 1986.
Not that it has all that much in the way of competition, but Frank Oz's big screen version of the Little Shop of Horrors stage musical
, with songs by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, based on the 1964 film of the same name from Roger Corman (which I've never seen all of the way through), is the best big screen musical of the 1980s, largely because of one song, "Dentist!", with Steve Martin as a sadistic orthodontist who loves his dead mama, Elvis, and causing great pain, but I also love Rick Moranis (Seymour) and Levi Stubbs's (Audrey II) duet in "Feed Me", Rick Moranis's solo in "Grow for Me", and Levi Stubb's solo in "Mean Green Mother from Outerspace". It was one of the first films I've ever seen where I didn't mind that the city didn't look real, since it's based on a stage musical, so it's supposed to look somewhat like a set, and that probably led to me being able to appreciate the intentionally unrealistic set design in Batman
a couple of years later.
I also appreciate Paul Verhoeven's Robocop
as a sadistically violent and funny action satire, even if I don't necessarily agree with its anti-corporate subtext, and Adventures in Babysitting
is underappreciated 80s fun.
1 Not that I particularly have a problem with the gay sex part, it's just that I can't imagine paying smelly bums for it. At least not if they look like the ones you find along Sainte Catherine's. Ewwwwwwwwwwww!
THIRTY DAYS, THIRTY YEARS, THIRTY BORING STORIES...
My Twelfth Year (11 years old)
October 2nd, 1985, to October 1st, 1986
Mr. Miles Drury was my fifth grade teacher, and I remember an intermediate amount of information about him; he had dark hair and a mustache and really liked to sing A-Ha's "Take On Me". Oh yeah, and he played French dubs of a lot of educational movies, particularly the old Disney ones featuring Jiminy Cricket or Ludwig von Drake. That's about it, besides the thing I already mentioned in my Mr. Wadsworth story. But that was the year I did the most extracurricular stuff; I was in the drama club and got to play the part of some sort of General or other royal court guard guy in [i]The Swineherder[/i]... not a huge part, but I think I was the person who actually opened the play by yelling several lines. The following semester, we did [i]Count of Monte Cristo[/i], but I think I just had some one line part like "Sailor 19" or something. Also, I'm not sure if we had an official school choir or whether this was just something we did within class, but this was the year that I sung on a Christmas chorus that they taped for CJAD where we sang Nana Mouskouri's bilingual "Chimbolom" in English
and in French
, one verse of each version, and we also sang "Silver Bells".
This was my final year in Cubs. I remember making a crappy "Cub Car", that was basically just the standard chunk of wood with a little bit shaved from the front using a plane (the wood shaving kind, not the Boeing kind) to make it look slightly less like a block, and I did paint it, but I don't think I used the glossy "Testor's" kind you use on models. For a vague photographic reference, check the car in the fourth lane of the sixth photo in the "Cub Car Races 2001" portion of this gallery
(it's not my page, so I don't think it would be polite to direct link to the photo). I put on a little more detail, painting on "headlights" (white squares with a black border) and perhaps a couple of windows, but the shape is about the same, perhaps with a small indentation just before the back end to separate the main body of the car from the "spoiler". I think my car actually won the first two rounds, but got knocked off in the finals or semi-finals, and I got so teared-up that my mother bought me a Transformer, the Autobot mini-bot Powerglide (a purple "A-10 Tankkiller" plane).
Also in Cubs, we did a manure door-to-door sales drive, to which one guy replied "No thanks, we make our own!"
This was also the year I started puberty. (Too Much Information warning, highlight to read.) I started practicing every teenage guy's favourite hobby starting around that spring... I don't remember quite how I started, I think it slowly progressed from innocent self-play that got out of hand, or, rather, "into hand", but, eventually, partially through trial-and-error, partially through sex ed books we got from the library, I found that it "felt good", and I think I had my first orgasm by the summer of 1986, though the first time I got a little freaked out because blood came out. I don't think the plumbing was all installed, if you catch my drift, until the following year, though, so most times before that, I was "dry". Also, this year me and a couple of other guys used to flash our penises under our desks in class, and I did "you show me yours, I'll show you mine" sorts of activities elsewhere, but that's as far as it ever got. Plus, this one time, I think in July 1986, my parents let me sleep downstairs on the hide-a-bed, and I got to watch TV real late and I discovered my first scraggly pubic hair on my scrotum.
In October 1985, we got a new car, a Hyundai Pony, the finest car we could afford at the time (sarcasm, yes). The lack of luck I'm having finding a Hyudai Pony fan site should tell you a little something about that. Well, it was a cheap commuter car, it did its job, I shouldn't really complain. Just, one backseat for four growing children when the youngest child was already six years old didn't work that well, especially when there were only three seatbelts. I don't think we went all that many places with all of us together. Our car before we bought that was a 1977 Ford LTD II, which was an ex-police car, probably very much like this one
, with a damn powerful engine, like something Miyuki Kobayakawa from You're Under Arrest
might have customized if she actually existed. Oh, I loved that car, with its four headlights, as a kid, I even drew a stupid comic called Super LTD
(you'll get to see some of my comics sooner or later, but not that one, of which I'm not sure any samples still exist). But, one foe that my parent's ex-police car couldn't arrest was the sort of corrosive road salt that they used on Quebec highways back in the early 1980s, and, by around 1984, the corrosion had eaten a hole through the floor of the car, so we had a "Flintstone's mobile". Plus the steering column began to collapse, so they had to hold it up with that plastic twine stuff. We traded it in for the Pony just a couple of weeks after my 11th birthday, and I cried and cried, hoping that they'd relent and we could have 2 cars, not really being all that familiar with a concept called "insurance", which ain't free. By the way, Hyundai cars are much better now than they were in the mid-80s, with our current car being a 2000(?) Sonata, which replaced an older-model Sonata which served us well for over a decade.
In December 1985, we finally got a proper stereo from Radio Shack, since, before that, all we had was an ancient turntable and speakers combo my parents brought over from England, and the only way we could listen to cassettes was on a mono tape recorder. A few months later, at some point in the late winter or early spring, we got a CD player, so I started listening to music much more often, with my favourite CD being WHAM's Make it Big
, which I listened to over and over, at least the tracks "Wake Me Up Before You Gogo!" (duh, the song everyone knows), "Careless Whisper" (double duh), "Freedom", and "Everything She Wants" (an underrated track, possibly my favourite from that album). Other CDs that got spun a lot on our player in that era were Dire Straits' [i]Brother in Arms[/i] (yes, mostly for "Money for Nothing"), Madonna's [i]Like a Virgin[/i], Bonnie Tyler's [i]Faster than the Speed of Night[/i], Bryan Adams [i]Heaven[/i], and the [i]Ghostbusters[/i] soundtrack. (I know, really obscure stuff absolutely no one else had.) And we liked Weird Al Yankovic's first three albums ([i]"Weird Al" Yankovic[/i] (self-titled debut), [i]"Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D[/i], and [i]Dare to be Stupid[/i]), but Al was slow to embrace CD, so we just listened to him on vinyl and cassette. And Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" video, directed by Stephen R. Johnson, the Brothers Quay and Nick Park, was like nothing I had ever seen, so, that summer I bought [i]So[/i] on tape and listened to it over and over. (I never got [i]So[/i] on CD, actually, if anyone's looking for birthday ideas.)
I guess the biggest news event that happened during my childhood, other than the collapse of the Soviet empire, happened this particular year: the space shuttle Challenger explosion
. Where was I when it happened? Uhh... in class. We didn't hear anything either, but my mother picked me up for lunch and she was crying to an extent that I thought maybe dad had died for a second but, no, it was just that the shuttle had exploded. I stayed off at least the afternoon and watched the television coverage, but I think I was planning on getting "sick" that afternoon anyway. I did find Reagan's speech reassuring... that's about all I can really say about a sad day over 18 years ago that has, for better or worse, lost much of its emotional punch in light of the 9/11 attacks (probably it would have even if 9/11 hadn't happened).
I watched too much television again that particular year. Shows I regret liking: Who's the Boss?
and Growing Pains
. So many half-hours of my youth I shall never get back. Stuff I watched that I was much too old for "just to make fun of it": Under the Umbrella Tree
and Curious George
, whose theme song
(closing credits version here
) has been co-opted into flash animations by the oh-so-clever "hate Bush" types, because "Bush = chimp", ha ha, and monkeys are kind of like chimps. Stuff I watched that I can't use as proof of my heterosexuality: Jem and the Holograms
("Exciting adventures, fashion, and fame! Once you're a Jem girl, you're never the same! Come on, come on and be a Jem girl! Jem! Jem is my name!"). Shows I don't regret watching so much: Mr. Belvedere
, because sitcoms about British guys are cool and because of the kickass theme song by Leon Redbone. And you can't fault a guy who keeps a whole cache of junkfood under a turnpike. Perfect Strangers
, because that theme song
is so damn uplifting and it was our first glimpse into the wonderful Miller/Boyett-verse. I wish I remembered Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories
Anything else? Not really, we didn't go on vacation that year, and my strongest memories of that summer are of going to a Legoland exhibition at the Simpson's department store just a couple of years before it closed for good.
Anyway, yes, I am a couple of days behind. Sorry, some stuff came up that I had to do.
My favourite movie released between October 2nd, 1985, and October 1st, 1986?
Too hard for me to choose:
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
comed first alphabetically. My parents actually took me to see that when it was playing, back in the long-demolished Famous Player's Fairvew Cinema. Just a lot of fun with Matthew Broderick goofing around in Chicago in a Ferrari (which will have a cameo appearance in a future story)... nothing too deep, other than that their carefree days of youth are coming to a close. Damn, I wish John Hughes could still make movies like this.
I still think that Project A-ko
is about the best pointless, subtext-free, pure silly fun anime film ever animated, and, since this was obviously animated on a limited budget, I find the slightly... umm... how should I put it... jerky animation actually adds to the overall sublime anarchic cheesiness. While I wouldn't really decry how anime films have bigger budgets these days, when the animation is too smooth, it just lacks a certain charm. One trivia fact is that the song "In Your Eyes" is sung by Samantha Newark, who is also Jerrica/Jem from Jem and the Holograms
, however, she's Jerrica's speaking voice, not her singing voice (Britta Phillips).
was pretty good, as was Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home