Thursday, June 30, 2011

Answering the Ongoing Debate: Showering at Night vs. Showering in the Morning

For trillions of years, I was showering first thing in the morning (I may be a little off on the number). That all changed when I got married, and Emily gently suggested I move my ritual to the evening. When I mean gently, she told me I can sleep on the couch if I want to sleep in my own sweaty and stinky filth. Since you only have to ask me nicely once, I decided showering in the evening might not be the world's worst practice. So, for the last three years, I've been an evening shower guy. But I have my memories of the morning where I'd drag myself out of bed and get my hot water wake up call, and then feel so refreshed and ready to conquer the world. Though, I do my evening shower without any fuss, I'm still not entirely convinced they're the best option for one's cleaning needs. So, today I decided to do a point by point comparison of the two major times of showering and allow you the reader to decide what truly is the best option.

Here goes my very scientific analysis of the evening showering compared to morning showering.

Morning Showering: It's a nice and enjoyable way to tell your body to wake up, and is a far better alternative than the 'knock the cobwebs out with a frying pan' method of starting the day

Evening Showering: It's a great way to completely wake yourself up right before you were ready to sleep and now you can torment your spouse by banging together frying pans for the next two hours until you tire yourself out.

Morning Showering:
Makes you feel fresh and clean before you head off to work where you'll end up stale and dirty.

Evening Showering: Makes you fresh and clean so you're wife actually lets you in bed with her.

Morning Showering:
Allows you to wash your hair and prevent notorious bed head.

Evening Showering: Stops your wife from berating you for allowing your grease ball head to stain the pillow.

Morning Showering:
Cleans off all that sleep sweat you accumulated from dreaming about that marathon race.

Evening Showering: Cleans off all that real sweat you got from doing everything but a marathon race.

Morning Showering: If you stay in the shower too long, someone might have to make your breakfast for you.

Evening Showering: Actually, exact same positive as the one above.

Morning Showering: Almost every character from a television show or movie showers in the morning. This means that if you follow their lead, you're more likely to have magnificent adventures like them.

Evening Showering: Just in case the big alien invasion happens in the middle of the night, you'll now not have to be smelly when saving the world.

Morning Showering: Can wash out the 5 pounds of dog fur and drool your acquired from spooning the pet all night.

Evening Showering: Dog will less likely lick you all night if you don't smell like a sausage.

Morning Showering: Nothing says morning like pressing your alarm clock too many times and realizing you need to shower, eat breakfast and walk the dog all before heading off to work in 10 minutes. Do you really want to ruin such a sacred ritual?

Evening Showering:
Yeah, probably. Shower at night and you have more time to press the snooze button in the morning.

Morning Showering:
Since you're both in a rush, you and your spouse will have to save time by showering together.

Evening Showering: You'll likely have way more time to enjoy a nice and relaxing shower. Besides, life isn't a porno so the above one never happens.

Morning Showering:
Three words. Morning Shower Fairy.

Evening Showering: Who wants to be watched by a magical being while you stand around wet and naked?

Morning Showering:
You can multi-task and eat your scrambled eggs while you're showering.

Evening Showering: You can multi task and chug your Jim Bean while. . . maybe not.

Morning Showering: Make yourself feel reinvigorated by cleaning off all your sleep drool and sweat.

Evening Showering: Make yourself more comfortable for sleep after cleaning off a days worth of work drool and sweat (some of it not even your own).

Morning Showering:
A clean morning you, means a huggable morning you.

Evening Showering:
Meh, who needs a morning hug. A clean evening you means your wife won't keep the stuffed bear between you and her at night.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Heartbreak in Freelance Writing

To stick with the writing theme, I thought I'd address the inevitable heartbreak a freelance write is destined to face in their career. Now, I am not talking about rejections, which is also something every writer is destined to experience (many times it has nothing to do with their talent or skill). Rejection is common enough that eventually you'll just dust yourself off and get right back in the game. If you're lucky, rejection is a great learning experience when a editor helps explain exactly why they didn't buy your piece. So, I'm not going to talk about rejection.

The heart break I am referring to, is the feeling you experience when you have to either turn down a a project you're really excited about or end a business relationship you really enjoy. I am pretty sure this will be something all freelance writers will eventually have to experience. It is the case where there is a project that you're really ecstatic and thrilled about, but for some reason, you just have to turn it down

In the last few months, I've actually had to either turn down or end the relationship with five clients. It was really hard, and it crushed me each time. These were all clients that I liked and projects I was excited to do. In the end, I wasn't able to justify doing them.

In my case, turning down the projects either had to do with it threatening to take up way too much time committed to other projects, or the client was unable (or unwilling) to pay me enough money to make it worth my time. Now, I am sure some of you aspiring writer were able to understand the first reason but started screaming "GREED RUINS ART" at the heavens after reading my second reason. Because it seems that among some writers, it is taboo to talk about money. For some reason, writing is the profession that it is a higher calling and it is far more important and valuable than money. We should be doing it for the fine art, love and passion of it rather than put some feeble monetary value on the work. To that I say, "piss off."

If you want writing to be this spiritual and magical experience, then more power to you. But make sure you keep it as a hobby. Because you'll be eating Ramen noodles for an eternity if you take that mentality into a freelance writing career. The reality is, if you want to make writing a business, then money has to be your first consideration. This doesn't mean that you always think about money. You can use the weekends to write poetry or things you find self rewarding. As a writer, you have to be able to occasionally write things you love in order to re-energize yourself. But to make an actual living, you need to make money the focus most of the time. This unfortunately means, that sometimes you can't afford to take on a project you'd love, because the client isn't willing or able to spring for the type of cash you need to spend the amount of time required.

This was the conundrum I've faced in the past week. There was some major projects that I was really excited about and I had already brainstormed a lot of ideas for. In the end, I couldn't find a way to justify the amount of time it would take, for the small amount of cash it would give me.

I'm in a fortunate place where I can now be a little bit choosier on the type of projects I take. It has also put me in a place where my time is getting far more valuable and I can only do things if it promises a certain rate. I know this has bothered some clients and maybe even made them think I was greedy. In the end, writing is my livelihood. This is how I pay the mortgage and keep the bill collectors away from my house. For me, my family's well being is my top priority and so part of taking care of them means I have the proper amount of money. To get that proper amount of money, I need to charge a specific amount in my job.

It seems that some writer forget that writing is a job. Not only is it a job, but it is skilled labour. It is something that not everyone can do well. So, a writer deserves a nice rate. Now, unfortunately, it can be hard to find those decent rates, but that doesn't mean you should be settling for a mere 5 cents a word or such rubbish. It is important to put value on your work and demand to be compensated a fair amount.

On the unfortunate side, this means you sometimes need to turn down work that you really wanted to do. I was really excited about these projects and one I actually had done some work on already. In the end, I needed to follow my philosophy and remember writing is a business. Hopefully, down the line I'll get a chance to do some similar work. For now, I'm glad I got a cheque to pay off my mortgage.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

No Instant Magic Formula to Writing Stardom

There is an interesting little article by John Scalzi over at his Whatever blog, where he details why you're not going to have a career just like his. I find it an interesting read, because even at my very moderate level of writing achievement, I've gotten phone calls and emails and meetings where I've been begged to reveal the magic secret to my ability to gain paid writing work. The messages poured in even more frequently when I revealed work with a byline rather than my vague talk of ghostwriting for businesses. There appears to be a lot of folks that love the idea of making money off writing, and even more who like to see their name in print. I can't really blame them, because it is a blast and sure beats asking if you want fries with that. It also appears that many of those people seems to think there is a magical formula to follow or that I've uncovered the dark secret to paid writing work.

Like Scalzi said, you can't just follow the path of one writer and hope mimicking them will you bring the exact same success. Because it won't. In the case of Scalzi, you have someone who has got two novel published that where originally put up on his blog. He's also had another non fiction book published that contained many of his past blog posts. He's also been able to sell many of his old blog posts to magazines or sites. But does that mean that posting stuff up on your blog is the road to mountains and mountains of cash? Probably not. The fact is, most editors and publishers are looking for fresh and new content, and are less likely to fork over cash for something that has already been read by several people for free. As far as they know, those people may have been the only people ever interested in reading those particular articles or stories or books. Blogging in an attempt to get noticed by publishers isn't the most solid strategy for monumental success. In the case of Scalzi, he never wrote anything on his blog that he thought he was actually going to be able to sell, but rather he just ended up lucky enough that something he wrote caught a publishers eye. It is rather risky to think the process can or will ever be repeated. Besides, it's best to remember the stuff he posted was just for his own amusement rather than any legitimate strategy to get published (plus he has already been published and had a writing career when he started blogging -- so he wasn't trying to catch a break through this medium).

So, if you pass on Scalzi then you may think Stephen King might be the best writer to emulate. After all, the guy is a millionaire and has been popping out bestsellers for over 3 decades now. Again, you're stuck looking at a career that is rather hard to emulate. In the 70s, he was working at an industrial laundry and writing short stories for men's magazines to supplement his income. At one point, he was finally convinced by his wife to complete the manuscript for a novel and try to sell it. This ended up being Carrie, which essentially launched his career into the stratosphere. You're going to have a lot of problems trying to copycat that success. First being, I am not sure how many industrial laundries are out there or if you'd really be interested in working there while you write (you'd also have to live in a trailer home at some point). The bigger problem from a writer's perspective is that men's magazines don't really publish many short stories anymore. Actually, not many magazines publish short stories, period. At the time, King was getting $200 to $500 a short story, and now, you'd be doing a happy dance to get $50 on one of the online sites. Yes, some of the glossier mags have short story anthologies and they do pay a decent price. But they're usually reserved for the already established writers. It is a different time now, and you can't expect to get the same opportunities with short story writing. As for making it big on your first novel? Well, let's just say you probably don't want to quit your job until you find out your advance and get an idea of how the sales will be. The fact is, King's story is a once in a lifetime tale rather than what you can expect as a writer. It's rather foolish to ever assume or think your novel will land you millions (or even thousands).

Now, it takes you to me. I won't ever think of comparing my career to either of the writers above. First of all, I don't have any novels published. More importantly, I'm nowhere near the tax bracket that those two fellows are at (not to say that they share the same spot themselves). But I've made money writing. I've made enough that I was able to take the plunge in April and make my writing business the main source of my writing income and time. I do still have to do some work outside of writing, and I'm quite a few tens of thousands short of making six figures. But for a newbie freelance writer, I'm happy enough where I am. I've landed enough success that people are trying to gain bits of writing wisdom from me.

Or more specifically, they try to find out the exact thing that I did to land a writing job. Because they seem to believe there has to be one all powerful secret to success.

If you totally missed the point of my two examples above, let me now inform you that there isn't.

I end up disappointing all these people by basically telling them my advice is to write. Then after you're done, you write some more. At some point, you then have to grab yourself a Writer's Market and find a publisher to sell your writing to. Or you can jump on a job board and find out what businesses are looking for a freelance writer. Then you contact them and write the best cover letter and resume you can. Usually, they'll want some writing samples too, and so if you don't have a portfolio, you might want to write up your own samples. If none of that works for you, then you can write up a sales pitch and start sending it out to local businesses. Or you can start calling local businesses and try to convince them that they need a writer. And of course that writer needs to be you. They'll likely say no, but if you're talented and have some decent (and relevant samples) you'll get that yes eventually.

The thing with all that advice is that none of it contains magic. It isn't quick. It is actually a lot of hard and time consuming work. But if you're good, then it eventually pays off. Or at least, you get a job that might pay for your coffee for the week. The good thing about landing a small job is that you have a real clip now, and you can use it to promote yourself to other prospective and better paying clients. Again, it means work. Clients rarely just start calling you.

I have had the occasional person come to me. That is only after I've marketed myself or had a previous client refer me to them. I've also got lucky and had a few come to me based off what I wrote here. For 90% of my work, it has been through contacting the client and trying to pitch them a story or my services. You have to put yourself out there. You can't expect wishing upon a star to solve it.

Then again, everyone's writing career is different. Which is the main point here. You can't follow one person exactly and think you can get the same success. You can learn from their career. I do think it is beneficial to see what several other writers have done to achieve success. In the end, your success is up to your hard work and any amount of luck that comes your way. The luck will find you more easily if your actually writing and working hard.

Speaking of writing, I've got some more of that to do. I'll leave you alone now.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Click Film Review

Click is a film that takes a classic premise and puts an original spin on it. The film follows classics such as It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol (and not so classics such as Family Man) where the protagonist is full steam ahead in one direction in life but has some 'divine' intervention to show him the many fatal mistakes he is making. It was one of the first Adam Sandler films that deviated from his usual formula of a man having to conquer some major quirk or crazy obstacle in order to win over the girl of his dreams, all the while encountering a plethora of toilet humour to appease the male audience members who are essentially watching a romantic comedy. This time around Michael Newman (Sandler's character) already has the girl and even a family. It's a movie that is much deeper than just trying to win a date with a beautiful woman -- or at least, deep for a Sandler film.

Michael Newman is a driven architect, who is bordering on being a workaholic, trying to land the position of being partner of his firm while still balancing his family life. He is a talented architect, and a loving husband and father, except work is winning his attention over his family. Newman is desperately trying to find a way to concentrate on a huge project that will land him his big break at work, while also appeasing his family. He justifies his addiction to work, by saying he is trying to give his family the type of life that he only dreamed of as a child. Newman seemingly gets his big break when he stumbles into a Beds, Bath & Beyond and finds the actual "Beyond" section. Here he encounters Morty (Christopher Walken in his typical hilarious performance), who gives him the latest and greatest technology, a universal remote control that controls your universe. Newman quickly learns this is a remote that does more than change channels or program the VCR. It gives him the amazing ability to rewind, pause and fast forward his very life. Of course, Newman learns that such a great technology comes at a great cost.

The film comes with a valuable message that is often missing from other Sandler films. I don't say this as a criticism to his other work, because I am a fan, but rather to distinguish how different this film is from his past work. There is a huge underlying message about the importance of family, and it is this message that will cause this film to appeal to typical non Sandler fans. It has an emotional and sentimental element that is atypical to the usual Sandler film and allows for the movie to come across much deeper than your usual popcorn comedy.

The story works because Michael Newman for the most part is a likable guy and seems to have the best intentions. He gets so obsessed with wanting to provide well for his family, that he forgets the importance of having a family. He does make mistakes that are pretty awful, but they're the same things that we could possibly see ourselves making. Newman is an everyman, but maybe one that yells a bit more and eats far too many Twinkies. The tragic elements work because deep down you do like Michael Newman.

The character development as a whole is pretty strong. Most of the main characters are likable and avoid being too superficial. It allows the viewer to get fairly attached to them and helps for the emotional moments to have far more punch. Kate Beckinsale does a great job playing the supportive but strong willed wife, Donna. She is one of the characters that you continue to root for throughout the film. I am also impressed that Kate does a fantastic job of not only hiding her British accent but is able to maintain a consistent American accent throughout the film -- something many American rarely do when trying to mimic another accent. Henry Winkler is a standout as the the lovable father, Ted Newman. You do care about the Newman family and its tears you apart when the family starts to crumble. One of the things that also makes it powerful, is even when Michael becomes more distant from his family, they still have moments where they demonstrate how much they love and care for him. It is a matter of the circumstances causing the drifting apart rather than the feelings or love going away.

The well developed characters and deeper message adds up to a much more emotional film. Near the end, there is two major scenes that almost anyone will struggle trying to hold in tears. One being a powerful moment where Michael rewinds back to the last time he saw his father, and it is a well acted and written moment that tug at the heartstrings. The second emotionally impactful scene is when Michael goes against medical order by exiting the hospital to stop his son from leaving for a business trip rather than attend his own honeymoon. It is scenes that show Sandler has some acting skills and that a silly comedy can have well written moments.

The thing is, it is still a comedy. And a Sandler comedy at that. There is sexual innuendos and profanity just like any other Sandler movies. Though for the most part it is pretty toned down and you'd be comfortable with your teenager seeing it (maybe not the entire family though). The film does pack some pretty funny moments and it is isn't heavy handed or message focused to the point that it detracts from the humour. There is some big laugh out loud moments such as when Newman realizes he has gained a lot of weight. Walken provided a lot of solid laughs throughout, as well. Yeah, you might tear up, but you'll laugh too. In the end, it's an enjoyable movie because it is fun and silly.

Click is a definite a surprise hit for me. Emily isn't a fan of his films, and this is one that she has now watched 3 times. I'd say it definitely one of his crowning movies that shows he can go against formula and do a great film. It is deeper and more emotionally engaging that anything he has done before, but also sneaks in all the humour you'd expect. Click is an enjoyable ride, that will help remind you the importance and value of family.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Off for the Weekend. . .

But you know the drill, I'll be back Monday. Have yourself the most loveliest of weekends and hopefully, your part of the world is less cloudy and rain threanteningy as mine.

Tropic Thunder Film Review

Tropic Thunder is a war film. . . parody. But we aren't talking a parody like Airplane is to disaster films or Scary Movie is to horror. And it is nothing like the scourge to society that has been all of the recent Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer films (Date Movie, Meet the Spartans, Vampire Sucks). The film does parody classic war pictures like Platoon and Apocalypse Now, but it does so much more than that. It actually parodies the type of actors that would enter into a big budget war epic and pokes fun at the process of that type of filming. Plus it has an actual story rather than just aping a prior film and throwing in some toilet humour.

The basic plot is that millionaire studio executive Les Grossman (played in magnificent over the top form by Tom Cruise) purchases the memoirs of Vietnam Vet John "Four Leaf" Tayback (played by Nick Nolte), and hires rookie director Damien Cockburn (played by Steve Coogan) to turn the book into the grandest and most expensive Vietnam war epic. Cockburn is faced with the problem of trying to control the egos of the big Hollywood stars hired for the picture, and finds himself in the precarious position of having the film potentially cancelled on him. Then Tayback suggests the director send the actors right into jungles and force them to really experience what it is like (since they'll be away from their comfy trailers and eager assistants). Coogan follows his advice, but it wouldn't be much a movie if everything then proceeded to be peachy. Instead, they end up mistakenly flying out of Vietnam and dropping them right into the Golden Triangle (most extensive opium producing area of Asia), where they're faced with the real threat of the heroin producing gang, the Flaming Dragons. The story unfolds with the pampered movie stars being attacked by a legitimate army, while they still believe they're filming the movie.

The premise sort of reminds me of the Three Amigos, where actors are forced into a dangerous situation but are believing they're just performing a show. In the end, the actors have to use their skills to try to thwart the evil enemy. After that, it ends up being two completely different films and no other comparisons are even fair. Tropic Thunder is an original film and takes on a whole new level of satire and parody.

The film has a pretty good story, but also is able to pack it with tons of laughs. If you've seen a fair share of war films or have an idea of what happened during the filming of Apocalypse Now, then you'll be thoroughly entertained by this movie. There are so many subtle little jokes about war films and it does such a good job of parodying the whole process of making such films. The main characters are perfect prototypes of actors who are usually chosen for a war blockbuster film.

You've got Ben Stiller playing Tugg Speedman, who is your typical box office giant action star who has fallen on hard times after choosing to star in a few flops, thus now trying to gain back some cred by taking on a more serious role (I'd guess he is loosely based off someone like Sylvester Stallone). Kirk Lazarus, played by Robert Downey Jr, is your highly talented character actor who has a room full of Oscars but has a bit of a bad boy image (considering the character is Australian, you'd think there may be some allusions to Russel Crowe). The extra fun part about Lazarus is that he is so focused taking on challenges and getting into character, he takes on the role of the black Sergeant. This means he undertakes a 'pigmentation surgery' to become black and proceeds to 'talk Black' for the remainder of the filming. Jack Black takes on the role of Jeff Portnoy, who is a drug addicted comedian whose attained great fame with his toilet humour and crazy antics (definitely tries to get you to think of Chris Farley). Brandon T. Jackson plays the role of mega hip hop star Alpa Chino, who fits the role of the cross promoting mainstream star trying to attach himself to a major motion picture to further launch his brand(you can pick countless different celebrities for this one). Finally, you have Jay Brauchal playing the role of Kevin Sandusky, who is your stereotypical unknown actor that always gets slotted into a supporting spot along with the major heavyweight stars. All these characters are essentially a parody of how Hollywood does business and it shows the brilliance of the writing in this film.

The characters are a huge part of what makes this work. Everyone in this film does such an incredible job with their characters. Tom Cruise is amazing as the over the top film executive who only cares about the bottom line. Matthew McConaughey is fantastic as a sleazy talent agent. All the previous named actors do a great job of fitting into their roles and playing up all the traits you'd expect. Nolte does a stand out job as the grizzled war vet, and proves he can do a great job at comedy. The characters aren't deep and are largely stereotypes, but the actors do such a great job of going over the top with it. This is one of those movies where it just seems like everyone is having a great time, and this makes for a very fun film

Since the film is a parody of war films, you expect some action and special effects. It totally delivers on both. This has to be one of the more spectacular special effects comedies ever and the explosions are pretty impressive. You never forget that this film is a comedy, but it does a great job of blending in the necessary actions scenes. It has some better special effects and action than some of your actual war or action movies. The thing that I liked about it was that it didn't overly rely on CGI but rather went for some real explosions like the old war films had to rely on. It does a good job of making you think of past war epics like Platoon and Apocalypse Now, which is sort of the point.

The film is a fun ride and for the most part really funny. I do think it would have benefited from being about 20 minutes shorter. It seemed at some point the writers ran out of jokes, but wanted to stretch the film out to a particular length. It started out as a really tight picture but then unraveled slightly at the end. For the first half, it seemed like the film hit every single laugh, but at the end, the jokes started to become a bit more stale and forced.

The only other criticisms of the films could be its crudeness and plot holes. The film is rated R, so you shouldn't be surprised with the foul language and controversial jokes. There is one joke about Stiller's character starring in a horrendous film about a mentally handicapped man called Simple Jack. I've read that this parody film offended some critics and viewers over the portrayal of mental disabilities. I am not going to try to defend the film too much, but I also think that the over the top characterization was part of the point. Just like how Downey's over the top 'Black language' was the joke. I also don't think they crossed a line, or at least not for me personally. But if such things easily offend you, then this isn't going to be an enjoyable film for you. It's a crude comedy, but it is also a R rated comedy, so you should know its crude going in. As for the plot holes, the movie is so over the top and goofy, that I am not even sure if some were a mistake or were actually intentional. For the most part, they don't jar you out of the experience too much and instead, probably just add to your laughter.

I ended up seeing this picture on the Blu-ray, which included the mockumentary Rain of Madness. I haven't watched the entire thing due to the fact it was late and I like this thing called sleep. The short film chronicles the hardships of trying to shoot the fictional version of Tropical Thunder. This is further proof that they were definitely going for a Apocalypse Now vibe with this film, as that movie not only was known for going way over budget and having many mishaps, but ended up having a documentary about it called Heart of Darkness. I appreciated that wink to war film making past and from what I saw, it looked like it delivered some solid laughs. Along with the many other extras and two commentaries, the Blu-ray looks like a good buy for fans of the film.

Tropic Thunder
is a hilarious and crude satire of not only war films but the entire filming process. The characters are quirky and funny, and amazing parodies of who you'd expect in epic war films. Tropic Thunder isn't for everyone nor does it even try. It is an action packed and hilarious film that deliver exactly what you'd want from this type of movie. It is easily one of the funniest and most entertaining comedies of the last several years.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The One Fictional Character I'd Never Want to Hang Out With

Through the deep annals of fiction, there has been a lot of ferocious and vile beings. You've got everything from vicious taskmasters preying on the poor to heartless barons trying to steal away land to deceptive homewreckers destroying marriages to evil masterminds trying to take over the world. I started thinking, which fictional character would I want to hang out with the absolute least. Yeah, Cobra Commander with his screeching voice would get ultra irritating. I wouldn't feel that safe working for Darth Vader, knowing how he lets employees go. Cujo is the last dog I'd ever want to play fetch with. I probably wouldn't be able to handle Mr. Hyde's mood swings. I would never want Count Dracula or Hannibal Lecter to have me over for dinner. I have a feeling O'Brien just wouldn't be all that fun at a party and I could never get over the feeling he's always watching me. The Joker might be fun for two seconds, until he wanted to do some plastic surgery on me. I could go on and on about the many classic villains that are ultra cool to watch or read, but would never be my first choice to call my best friend.

But there is one fictional person that I'd avoid like the plague and absolutely refuse to ever meet. This is one person that if I saw them walking the street, I'd immediately run the other way. If I even heard they were in the same city as me, I'd quickly move away and never go back there again. I would do whatever it takes to stay away from this person. This fictional character is not any of the ones I mentioned up there. Actually, this character isn't even a villain.

This character is supposed to be the hero.

Jessica Fletcher.

Fletcher is the protagonist from Murder, She Wrote. Now, I realize the youngsters among us may not know this show, since it was in the 80s. Anyone my age would either have heard of the show or was forced to watch it when they were at grandma's (or at home from school with mom). I didn't really have a problem with the show. Each episode was a little murder mystery that the smart sleuth, Jessica Fletcher, would always solve in 45 minutes or so. Fletcher always seemed like a nice enough old lady. She was even a writer, so we would have some common ground. The lady was doing a lot of good by solving all these murders that the local police were baffled by. She was an amazing detective and I'm glad she rid the streets of so many ruthless murderers.

But I still don't want to ever be anywhere near her.


If Jessica Fletcher is around, it means somebody is going to die. I realize she doesn't do the killing. The lady is sweeter than molasses. But the fact is, if she is in your town then someone is getting killed. There is just no way of knowing if you're going to be the victim.

You may say that the problem isn't Jessica Fletcher, but rather the fact she lived in a really murder friendly town. Yes, Cabot Cove may be the most dangerous place ever. The small Maine town of 3000 had a murder rate that was the same size as a city 20 times its size. So yeah, it isn't a top ten tourist destination by any means.

You see, it wasn't the town's fault. Jessica wasn't always at Cabot Cove. To my knowledge, the place didn't have any murders when she was on vacation. The lady visited other towns in the state or country. Yet every single time, she had some type of murder to solve (not sure when she got around to writing her novels). There was at least 22 weeks each year that a murder was committed near where Jessica was. This is only assuming that every TV season was capturing all the cases in Jessica's life. I wouldn't be surprised if there was far more.

The fact remains, if Jessica was in your town or on your bus or in your grocery store line, then somebody was going to die.

So yeah, all those previously mentioned villains are pretty awful, but none of them have the death rate that Jessica Fletcher can boast. I think more fictional characters have been murdered around Jessica than almost any other character. Heck, I don't think Cobra Commander or Skeletor ever had anyone killed around them (doesn't help their cronies had really bad aim). But that Jessica, despite her sweetness, sure brought a lot death around with her.

So, there you go. I am not ever visiting the fictional town of Cabot Cove. I am never going to a dinner party that Jessica Fletcher has been invited to. She is by far the most dangerous fictional character of all time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Super 8 Review: The Magic is Mostly Still There

I've said it before, but when I was a kid, going to the cinema was a magical experience. I was shipped off to worlds and adventures that I could only dream of being able to experience in the dull real world. Steven Spielberg was a man that was responsible for many of those magical film moments. He knew how to create a protagonist that you could relate to, someone who wasn't that different form you and had his own issues he had to work through, and then Spielberg threw him into the most magnificent and fantastic of adventures. Two films that fit that description perfectly are ET (Spielberg directed) and Goonies (Spielberg produced). It was remembering that kind of cinematic magic that drew me to Super 8 and made it the movie I most anticipated this summer movie season.

The J.J. Abrams directed and Steven Spielberg produced Super 8 is clearly a homage to late 70s and early 80s era of Spielberg film making. The film is set in '79 and so it even captures the exact same time period as those films (except then it would have been modern). The film has a young boy as the protagonist, and he has a serious personal conflict to work through (in this case, he lost his mother to a freak work accident). Of course, there is a fantastical adventure that will not only involve the boy, but his rag tag group of quirky friends. Their adventure is hampered by a group of adults (in this case the military)that the boys must try to elude. To keep with the homage theme, there is a larger message of hope and love that climaxes the entire picture. If you were an avid watcher of such films in the early 80s, then you'll know Super 8 does a great job of capturing the necessary elements.

But how does that all make for a good film in 2011? Just fine. That is probably the problem. In the 80s, these films defined an entire genre and captured the imaginations of countless filmgoers. This time, I walked out of the cinema thinking, "It was pretty good." Though, it should have been more than just pretty good and it had the potential of being an all time classic. And don't get me wrong, it is a good movie, and if you like aliens and Spielberg and fantasy and such then you'll have a fairly enjoyable ride. But it had a few flaws and in the end, I walked away feeling that not all the magic was still there. Like my title promised, there is still some magic, but maybe it just missed a few important tricks.

Super 8 is an excellent homage to the old Spielberg pictures. That would be one of the problems, Abrams seems intent on trying capture all the elements and feelings of the classic films and doesn't allow the picture to become its own. The first half of the film was magnificent and did an amazing job of building up towards the alien. There was this huge sense of mystery and the entire thing was shrouded in ambiguity. You knew there was more than what was being told, but you didn't know exactly what. Abrams is a master at building up suspense and making you want to solve the mystery. Unfortunately, Abrams was so intent on capturing an ET like moment, that it caused the ending to unravel a bit. The second half didn't seem to fit with what was established in the first half. It felt like Abrams was just trying to throw together what he felt a Spielberg-like movie needed, rather put together the type of finish this film initially caused us to suspect and crave.

Though the plot and story may falter a little at the end, the characters are what drive this entire picture. The one thing that ensures that this movie keeps the magic and remains an enjoyable film, is the well developed and engaging characters. The film has five young boys that will become the heroes of the children viewers and evoke fond memories of childhood for the adults. You actually feel for and believe in the people that are in this film. In perfect Spielberg style, you have a hurting boy that is easy to relate to and displays the same type of emotions you'd expect to have in his situation. It also perfectly captures pre-teenhood (or at least, young teenagers). The dialogue is witty and humorous. The actions by the boys are funny but realistic. The film also contains adults, and though some play the necessary villain, there is adult characters that are well fleshed out and realistic. For the most part, they react in believable ways, rather than just do random things to progress the plot.

Super 8 is a young boy's adventure. I am sure it is a film that will capture the imagination of many pre-teen boys. It is a great blend of ET and Goonies. The film contains some very impressive effects and explosions -- especially the train crash at the beginning of the film. The eventual appearance of the alien is satisfying enough and he doesn't look overly CGIed like some other modern film creatures. The set designs of the film fit the 70's motif and does a good job of propelling you into that era. The effects and costumes are done well enough that you are lifted into the film rather than being aware you're just watching a silly movie. The cool effects and explosions will be enough to capture the attention of many young boys and your typical 'kid at heart' adults.

The special effects are great, but I think it is the humour and warmth that make the movie. There is several little jokes where the character make comments that will reference to a future that we now know about -- such as one character berating another for even thinking his camera film could be processed over night or a sheriff bemoaning a future where kids can walk around with portable steroes. The boys dialogue is authentic but full of the type of language that makes you chuckle -- the characters aren't trying to be funny but young boys say unintentionally funny things. You really do believe the relationships between the parents and children. Even though there is tension, you know that both love each other and the dillema is due to miscommunication and the typical adult/child barrier. There is a sweet and believable relationship between the protagonist and the leading lady -- a young child romance that is far more believable than most other films' attempts at relationships. Though I feel that Abrams tried too hard to have the message of love and hope ring through at the end, he does do a good job of peppering those moments throughout the film.

Super 8 is not an original movie or even a film that holds the same magic as the films it is a homage to. It is still a good movie. A film that has characters you can connect to and actually care what happens to them. It has the necessary amount of action and special effects. The first half of the film is one of the best examples of building suspense and intrigue. Though some of that pixie dust may have been rubbed off, Super 8 still holds on to a fair bit of the magic that made us all first love movies when we were a child.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hey Look! I Be Published!

Or at least, I am published in online form. But no ghostwriting and corporate copy writing this time. This is a legitimate article with a byline and a pretty picture at the top.

So, if you're in the mood to read more of my ramblings and shamblings, then mosey on over to the fine Collective Publishing Company website. And no, I am not just saying that because they paid me. That may help, but it actually is a great site with high quality political and not so political content. Their aim is to try to reach those who have stopped reading the newspaper, so if that is you then get yourself over there. If you still read the newspaper, then there is always more reading to be done. So, why not do that reading over there?

Anyway, my article is a look at some of the historic reasons there were tensions and dispute over the proposed Brantford and Six Nations agreement. It still hasn't been signed, despite being scheduled back in March. So, I explain why there is no signatures and what the deeper issues are. It's an interesting read, if I don't say so myself. And I did. So, you should go read it now.

So, How About This 2011?: A Personal Reflection

Wow, 2011 has been a big proverbial roller coaster. I had been reflecting on the year with Emily the other night and started talking about how this will not be a year that I'll be missing when it passes on. Then she brought up the fact that actually a lot of great things have come out this year so far, too. It made me realize that I've likely never had a year that has been so bipolar (and I wish you could 'cure' a year).

Let's first look at the amount of loss that has been experienced this year. All in the first half of the year my grandmother passed away, lost a childhood hero, and my parents' cat entered eternal sleep. Then there is the family emergency that I've eluded to before, but I've decided to not entirely divulge since this is a public forum (this tragedy involves more than me). To sum it all up, there has been a lot of heartbreak.

On the other hand, my grandmother lived an amazing and wonderful 96 years, which by any estimation is a very full life. She lived almost the entirety of it healthy and with independence. My parents' cat, Storm, was definitely more than 'just a cat', but he also lived a full cat life of 18 years. In both cases, there really isn't too much to be sad about because they got to spend many years with those who loved them. Though Macho Man Randy Savage died far too young, at 58 years old, he also left many fond and wonderful memories for his fans. So, death is crushing and heartbreaking but often it opens up your memory to the many wonderful moments that you can cherish for the rest of your life. And yes, there is likely one more awful tragedy coming, but right now my family will focus on the good times together and create those memories that we can hold on to for the rest of our lives.

2011 has decided to bring in a few more major stresses, that had caused me to think that this year should be shown the door and directed to the nearest bus station. But then I realized that I'm focusing on the awful and missing a great deal of awesome.

As you know, I decided to take my writing career full time back in April. This has been a journey I started at the beginning of 2010, when I decided that I'd finally pursue my life long dream of being a full time writer rather than just fantasize about the possibilities. While I am not diving into a sea of coins ala Scrooge McDuck, I'm doing relatively well for a guy just starting out his own business. I am doing well because I am making connection on a daily basis, I have a pretty steady stream of work, I'm actually making a livable amount of money, and most importantly, I am doing the one thing I want to do for a living. That last one is pretty priceless. These past few weeks, I've got to do some pretty interesting things thanks to my new career, including interviewing the type of people I'd likely never talk to otherwise and being paid to learn about some really interesting history. Plus writing is just fun and I'm constantly getting the opportunity to try new styles and formats and genres of writing. I love the challenge. So, 2011 was the year that my career really got the start and hopefully, leads to many more years of success.

I also became an uncle in 2011. One of the coolest moment of my life was being able to hold Joshua for the very first time. I look forward to many years of becoming the cool uncle and spoiling him rotten while the parents aren't looking. I've only had a few chances to see him, but I already know he is someone I love dearly. 2011 will always be the year that I got a new title to my name and started a relationship with a special buddy.

2011 promises to bring a lot more good too. I have a few projects that are in the works, and I'm incredibly excited about them. I've got a few events in the summer that will be incredibly exciting and wonderful. Summer promises the usual greatness like trips, weddings and gatherings. I look forward to that, and know that each will help make 2011 special and memorable.

It seems like life ends up balancing itself out most of the time. Yes, 2011 has been a hard year with the stress of being self employed and having loved ones pass away. But 2011 has brought several tons of certifiable good too. It is a reminder that even though tough and awful times will show up at your door, you need to cling to those really good times. The good times often show up while you're focusing on some of the bad. The key is to recognize the bad and do what you need to do with it, but to actually focus on the really wonderful things staring right at you. Even in the bad, there is often some good hidden inside. During the family tragedy I've mentioned, our family has become much closer and there has been an amazing outpouring of love. It is things like this that need to be held on to, and the things that will make for much better memories.

So 2011, maybe I'll let you stick around for 6 more months. I know you've got a bit more bad in store, but I'll decide to look forward to the promised good.

Monday, June 20, 2011

RIP Storm: 1993-2011

My parent's cat, Storm, passed away last Thursday. His kidneys were shutting down and he was showing all the signs of a dying cat. So, he was put to eternal sleep, and officially called it a life after 18 years of playing the role of family cat. I haven't lived at my parent's place for a few years (and even then it was just for a brief period while I returned to school and before I got married) and so I haven't spent a lot of quality time with him recently. While I knew since he was at 18 years that Storm's days were numbered, I wasn't aware of his current health situation (though apparently, his regression happened in a matter of one day). In the last few years, Storm essentially became the cat that would run away from Summit, when we came to visit. So, there wasn't much of a human and cat relationship going for us.

I still remember the times that I did have with the cat. It was the summer before high school when we got him. I think we picked him out because he was seemingly more playful than some of the others (which I now know translates to he was more of a bug and tease than the others). It was quite a thrill getting him, because it was my siblings first non fish pet and my first pet in almost 12 years (I had a dog and cat when I really young). We'd been clamouring for a pet for several years (in my case, probably about 12), and my brother at one point was even ready to settle for a pig. It was a major event in the Spicer household when Dad finally conceded and allowed us to choose a kitten from my aunt's litter (well, her cat's litter -- my aunt lacked the super power of birthing kittens). I remember the thrill of putting the kitten into my arms and knowing that he was going to be a part of our family. That day may have been the last time that Storm really let anyone hold him for an extended period of time.

Storm wasn't a lap cat. My current cat, Crosby, is a giant suck and loves to crawl up into my lap or he happily purrs while I cradle him like a baby. That was not Storm's thing. He didn't do laps or cuddles or snuggles. This isn't to say Storm was anti-social. When we first got him, he would follow us all around the house. He always had to be in a room where another human was. Actually, he usually wanted to make sure you were paying attention to him. My mom would often moan about how he'd jump up on her desk and curl up on on her papers, but when she moved him to her lap, he'd promptly jumped off and scattered away (or went back on the papers). He wanted attention and would push your things away (or sit on them) in order to get it, but his desire for attention never translated to hugs and kisses.

He was a part of the family instantly. I remember the first fun cat game was chasing Storm down the hallway and then laugh while the running cat slid into the door when he tried to make a turn. It may sound cruel, but the amount of time he did it, makes me think he was having just as much fun. When crashing into doors stopped being fun, he started taking on the hobby of swatting at straws, aluminum foil, string and feet. He especially liked feet. He really liked the feet of my baby sister. Often he'd trapped her at the top of the stairs, where he'd prepare himself to swat at a toe when she walked by. This often prompted my sister to declare that "Storm is in the mood."

Storm was a very energetic and playful kitten/cat. Even if he wouldn't snuggle or cuddle on your lap, he found lots of time to play with you. Of course, he usually decided the best time was when you were otherwise busy. He also believed that fingers or toes where just as fine to chew as straws or string (oddly enough, the human residents didn't agree with this belief). I remember after only two days of having Storm, my youngest brother marched into my parent's room and declared, "Okay, we can take him back now." Storm apparently exacted his first bite on my brother, and that was enough to convince him that he didn't want a pet after all. Though my brother got over it, and Storm stuck around for a wonderful 18 years.

Storm wasn't the only one who'd torment. He had to suffer a bit too. My mom remembers seeing a plastic bag being hung on a doorknob and wondering why someone hung groceries there. Then the bag started to move around a bit. It was that day that my mom discovered my 3 year old sister's hobby of "hang plastic bag, stuffed with the household cat, on the doorknob." Though no one consulted Storm on his opinion of this game, my mom decided it was a hobby that needed to be scratched. This game may have been the motivation of Storm's love for trapping her up the stairs when she got a bit older.

Storm's energy ended up being too much to contain indoors. He was supposed to be an indoor cat and we tried to convince him of that fact for at least 3 years. But after playing goalie in front of an open door and often having the cat slip past and then watch him dart into the bushes for safe haven, it was decided the cat knew what he was better than us. He became an outdoor cat. He rewarded us for this decision by often gifting us with assorted dead animal parts. Though that part was less than delightful, I do remember one night that was especially fascinating. I had come home late from hanging out with friends, and I still wasn't in the mood to call it a night (otherwise, a typical night for a teenager). I happened to look outside where I found Storm outside with a white mouse in his mouth. He then dropped the seemingly dead mouse on the concrete. Storm then walked behind the pillar and crouched down facing the prone mouse. After a few minutes, the mouse came to life and was ready to run away. Except Storm was ready and convinced the mouse to stick around -- by pawing him and snatching the mouse up with his mouth. I'm not sure how long Storm repeated this process. I watched him for awhile, but Storm obviously was finding it far more fun than I. I called it a night and Storm continued to have quality time with his mouse friend. The next morning, I quickly learned the fate of the mouse, because another present was waiting for us.

Storm was probably your typical cat, but he was our cat. We formed our own special memories with him. I am not sure if he was especially attached to any of us. I do know that when I came to visit my parents, he still seemed to remember me and showed it by coming up for a pet or two (as long as Summit wasn't close by). I'll remember him as the longest pet our family had and the first that my siblings ever knew. He was fun and playful, and formed many memories that I fondly hold on to. It was sad when I learned he passed away, but I also know he had a good and long life. He was the first of my pets that taught me that an animal is more than 'just a pet.' He was family.

I'll miss you, Storm. Maybe I'll go swat around a teddy bear in tribute to you.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Taking Off

I've got loads of client work to try to complete, plus I have weekend plans that don't involve clients in any way. So, that means I need to minimize distractions for the next few days. I'll be MIA on the blog for the weekend, but will be back all bright and shiny on Monday.

For all the fathers out there, have yourself an absolutely awesome Father's Day. Make sure you get your chores done before Sunday, so you can enjoy it to the fullest. As for everyone else, have a dandy of a weekend.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How About That Canadian Curse?

I'm not the superstitious type, but I might start believing this one now. I was pretty convinced Vancouver was going to win this one when the series started. Though once it got a Game 7, I had a pretty crappy feeling that the Bruins were taking the Cup. I'm not a huge Vancouver Canucks fan, but I was looking forward to a Canadian team finally winning the Stanley Cup again. It would have been a glorious symbolic middle finger to Bettman to not only have an American team move to a 'small market' Canadian city but also actually get a championship won by another Canadian city. But it looks like I'll have to wait until next year, and even then, I'll spend the regular season actually believing my New York Rangers have a legitimate shot at winning the Cup. But when they disappoint me again, I'll be ready to have my heart broken by another Canadian team.

I can't even really say it was a great game and it definitely wasn't a very suspenseful final game. Boston put up an amazing performance and they definitely deserved it. It's got to be a great feeling for all the Bruins fans that finally get to see their team win the championship in their lifetime.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

X-Men First Class Review: Does the Latest Installment Score Top Grades?

Over the last few years, it feels like the cinemas have been overrun with either comic book movies or sequels/prequels or reboots/re-imaginings or films designed to kick off a franchise. X-Men First Class proves to be a real keener by actually being every single one. Considering how many failures there have been with reboots or comic films or sequels or any of those previously mentioned, you'd think a film aiming to be all those things would be a perfect demonstration of a cinematic car wreck. Sure, Batman Begins also aspired to do all those things to a certain degree (other than it didn't bother to try to tie in previous films), but how many Batman Begins should we expect within a ten year time frame. The answer is at least two. Despite an unappealing trailer and a glutton of Marvel films being pushed into movie theaters, X-Men First Class succeeds at being one of the summer blockbusters that is actually a quality film.

X-Men First Class
has been marketed as a prequel, but it is better described as a reboot since it presents a completely different feel and time period than the original film series (actually it is closer to the roots of the original X-Men comic book series). You quickly realize this is a much more adult-centric and grittier film than the originals, when the film opens up in a Nazi concentration camp in 1944 and you witness a young boy being torn away from his parents. The film doesn't shy away from darker material and is willing to explore the vilest forms of discrimination and persecution. Though the film isn't all bleak and morbid, it also embraces the more colorful and lighter is of the '60s (where the majority of the film is set), with the era's style and fashion creating for an attractive film. Plus it still remembers it is a comic book movie and thus it needs to be fun and full of action. It happens to be a film that provides the action and thrills, while still surrounding it with a deeper tale that looks at discrimination and persecution.

In any great story, it is the character development that allows things to evolve into something special and it is the actual characters that help drive the plot. In X-Men First Class, it is the startling juxtaposition between the two main characters, Charles Xavier/Dr. X (played by James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsher/Magneto (played by Michael Fassbender) that is so fascinating. The film adds a special dose of depth and allows the audience to truly understand what caused the two mutants to form into their more well-known personalities. For the majority of the film, the two are best friends and fighting alongside each other, but the story lays out exactly why the characters ended up in their more familiar positions of 'hero' and 'villain'. It's even been argued in past X-Men films that Magneto isn't really a true villain, or at least not the same vein as a psychopath like the Joker, but rather a figure pushing for a noble cause in a very radical way. This film explores this route even more and makes Magneto a rather sympathetic figure and sheds more light on why he becomes the antagonizer to the human race.

The film effectively explores the opposing backgrounds of the two main characters and gives a rather effective commentary on how environment and events can alter how one perceives the world around them. You're introduced to Eriks Lehnsheer, later to become Magneto, in a German concentration camp where he is torn form his parents and he is witnessed to the ultimate acts of human cruelty and discrimination. On the other hand, Charles Xavier is raised in a mansion and afforded the best education and becomes a bit of a minor celebrity for his renowned thesis on genetic mutations. Magneto is forced to see the evils of humankind and how they are capable of horrendously treating those deemed different. Xavier is surrounded by potential and hope and idealism, and this leads him to believe of a future where mutants and humans are able to peacefully coexist. X-Men at its heart has always been about civil rights and the dangers of prejudice, and the parallels between the Malcolm X vs. Martin Luther King relationship and the Magneto vs. Dr. X relationship have always been apparent, but this time it becomes much more profound. This film tries to explain why two men can try to achieve the same thing in such different ways.

The film is much more than just a social commentary or a 2 hour origin tale. It is an action movie with jaw dropping effects and an exciting crisis that can only be solved by powerful mutants. The film is set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and adds some twists that explain that these events actually were caused by some power hungry mutant baddies. The film does an effective job of weaving actual historical events and footage with fantastic fiction. It is far from a historical fiction film, and there is absolutely no need to actually know any of the intricate histories of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It just happens to be a movie that is set in the 60s and decides to use a real life crisis to steer along the plot. I do appreciate that there is several moments in the film that are subtle winks to people that do know a little about the Cuban Missile Crisis and thus can enjoy the fictional reworking of the almost disaster.

The strength of the film is that it can contain the deeper social commentary, the historical references, the nods to X-Men comic history, but as a standalone film being viewed by someone uninterested in all those things, it is still a thrilling and enjoyable way to spend 2 hours. It has several great action sequences and the special effects are top notch and far more easy to take than some of the recent overly CGIed blockbusters of the past few years (I'm not saying this film isn't full of CGI but it isn't as blatant or obvious). X-Men First Class is a movie that can be enjoyed on many levels, but most importantly, it is just an outright fun and enjoyable summer popcorn muncher.

I'm sure that some diehard comic fans will moan about it not following canon, but I've always thought that to be a rather pointless exercise. The reality is that films based off comics or video games or novels are better seen as a different take on the same basic story or premise. I think the strength of this film is that director Matthew Vaughn does take a fresh look on the franchise and try to do something very different with it. This is part of the reason it is more of a reboot than a legitimate prequel. Though I did really enjoy the two cameos that paid homage to the original film series (and both I feel were more a way to show they weren't taking themselves too seriously rather than any real attempt to connect this film to the past series). I think this fresh direction allowed for a stronger film, since it wasn't trying to fill in any possible plot holes or expectation from the prior films or comic books. At the same time, I enjoyed the shaping of the back story and the explanations of why certain characters ended up the way they are. It is the strength of the storytelling that it doesn't become a movie about explaining the character's past or back story (like the Star Wars prequels essentially were), but rather a strong stand alone film that just happens to be approaching well known characters before their more accepted stage (which involves events that drastically shape them for the future).

X-Men First Class has to be one of the most enjoyable surprises of the past several years. I despised X-Men Last Stand and wasn't seeing anything special coming from this movie, especially since I'm worn out on reboots and sequels and prequels. This is a film that proves that reboots or origin tales don't have to be laborious bores, and that it just takes some creativity and solid storytelling. X-Men First Class is a solid story that contains some deeper points that can inspire discussion, but also provides the necessary roller coaster elements you demand from your summer blockbuster. X-Men First Class is definitely one of the best comic book movies ever (hanging out near classic films like Dark Knight and the original Spider-Man), and is simply just a really great movie that properly kicks off the summer season.

Friday, June 10, 2011

On The Road Again

Well, not really. But I'll be departing from the blog for the weekend, so you can imagine me with a sack over my shoulder and my thumb sticking out to hail a ride to some distant town that isn't quite ready for this eccentric drifter. Or you can imagine that I have lots of client work that needs to be finished plus some rather important weekend plans (that don't involved the client work -- thus making my necessity to finish this work soon all the more important). So, I'm going leave this blog to the cyber wolves for the weekend, but I'll promise to be here again on Monday with a whole new slew of wonderful and magical words.

In the meantime, you can check out the two tributes that I lovingly crafted this week: the one about about a childhood hero and the one about a dear loved one I miss. And when you're done that, you can sit and wait patiently, because I hope to have a review of X-Men: First Class up on Monday. Or you know, do stuff that isn't related to this blog.

Until then, have a spiffy weekend.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

And Now For a Bacon Break

Because Thursday just screams, "Give me a video of how to serve the most baocny Thanksgiving feast known to man!" Since it is Thursday, I'll do just that. Thanks to a friend that steered me in the direction of this oh-so valuable culinary instructional video.

This is a production done by the wonderful folks at Epic Meal Time -- and anything involving bacon is truly epic.

As usual if you're reading this on FB, you've got to go to the actual blog to view the video.

Summit Contemplates Vancouver's Current Strategy

He didn't quite understand why Vancouver would want to 'throw' Game 3, but he did see how it wasn't the most crucial game to win. Now, Summit is wondering if being shut out in Game 4 is the next step in Vancouver's master plan to the win the Cup. Though Summit doesn't see how allowing the series to be tied up is a solid strategy for series victory. He's also wondering if that "Canadian Curse" is such a myth after all.

Plus he's wondering where Crosby is, because its about time for a good cat dragging.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Forever and Always: A Tribute to a Dear Belated Loved One

When I entered this world, you were one of the first to ever visit me. When you left this world, I was one of the last to ever visit you.

But I should have visited more.

I should have come more when I knew you were sick and that our time together would be much shorter.

I should have visited long before you were ever sick, and back when I thought you would be around forever.

But time is rigid and uncompromising, and it refuses to allow me to go back. I can only go forward. But there is something that time can not control. There is something that will stay with me until the very end.

My memories of you.

I don't remember the first time you ever visited me, but I have photographs to immortalize the occasion. I don't know what your first words to me were or what you thought when you held me. I don't know if you smiled or cried or laughed or sniffled. The pictures can only capture so much, and they don't let me know how I felt or thought. I am not even sure if I did either of those things, though I assure both feeling and thinking have been practiced in abundance ever since. All I know is that you were one of my first visitors, and that an amazing relationship had begun.

But I do remember when I started to visit you.

I remember being excited that I got to venture off into the country. Back then, it was a mystical land where I had potential of seeing horses or cows or immense fields of towering corn. It was an adventure going to the country, but the real reward was being able to see you.

I remember the stories you would tell, that would allow a boy's overactive imagination to fly to new heights. You may never have considered yourself imaginative or creative, but you were a storyteller. You always helped connect me to a past I knew nothing about. You opened a window into a fascinating world that I never experienced, but one that helped form the woman who would become my mother.

I remember that big tree that I used to climb, and all the stories you'd tell me about it.

I remember the food.

Oh, how I remember the food. The food that once caused a young boy to proclaim, "Why is your food so much better than mom's?"

Speaking of food, I remember caramel popcorn.

There is only one type of caramel popcorn of any value in this world. It is the caramel popcorn that was made by you. I can still smell it. I can still taste it. I can still remember how much that caramel popcorn was a huge connection to my childhood.

I remember how every time I arrived for a visit, you would happily declare you had just made a fresh batch of caramel popcorn.

I also remember my mom then spoiling it all by telling me I'd have to wait for after dinner. But deep down, I knew it was okay, because all your food was marvelous.

At one time, I did visit you. I visited you a lot. I remember when every summer vacation had to include a week long visit to your house. I remember that the extra bonus of having a new sibling enter into the family was the promise of a vacation at your house. Oh how I loved going to your house.

I remember our long walks to the grocery store. I remember you taking me to the park. Many years later, I remember you telling me how you had to devise different stories in order to convince me that maybe it was time to stop requesting 'underdoggies.'

But what I remember the most, is how it all made me feel. The visits were a very happy place. A place I felt loved. A place where I learned my past, and about all the different people and places I had connections.

Then I grew up. The visits started just becoming my weekly chore of mowing the lawn. Sometimes, I still had time to come in and drink pop and eat some, oh yes, caramel popcorn. Because even when I no longer considered myself a kid, you still knew my connection to your caramel popcorn.

But of course, you knew everything or so it seemed.

You knew everyone's birth dates or when they last visited or where every member of your massive clan lived. Your mind was sharp, just like your love was strong.

I didn't know then that my weekly mowing would be the last real regular visits. If I did, I am sure not much would have changed. Sometimes we move on and convince ourselves it is a good thing. Even when it is, we miss that past and what we used to cherish.

I wish it was different. I wish my wife saw you more. I wish she could realize how connected you are to my past and how much you control some of my happiest childhood memories. I wish I was able to be that kid again, who so eagerly wanted to see you and play in your backyard and of course, eat your caramel popcorn.

Like I said, time blocks up all roads to a physical return to the past. I can't be that kid again, no matter how much I yearn for it.

But it will not block my memories.

Or my love.

Though at some point, memories and love become almost the same. I remember because I loved. I continue to reminisce because I'll never stop loving.

You were a huge part of my wonderful childhood. You always will be a huge part of who I am. There are the obvious reasons, because I needed a mom to get here. But there are the much more important reasons.

Reasons such as the way you passed your work ethic and marital love and family values on to my mom. You demonstrated what marital love should be to my mom, and she so wonderfully passed that on to me. Thank you, for showing me what love and devotion is. Thank you for raising and guiding the greatest mother a boy and man could ever imagine. Thank you for all the things that I don't even know you are responsible for.

I do know you gave me stories and memories. Treasures that I'll never give away or try to hide away from others. These are gifts that remain close to my heart and force me to smile when I think of you.

I wish I visited more, but I know these memories will remain. I can return to them whenever I miss you or need to see my childhood one more time.

Thank you.

I love you.

Forever and always, Grandma.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

3 Years

It was three years ago today, that I committed to love and live with Emily for the rest of our lives. It was the smartest and best choice I've ever made in my life -- and I can't ever see many others that will be able to top it. My wife is absolutely amazing, and my love for her has grown so much more than I could have imagined from the day we got married. Not only is she an absolute knock out (definitely married up in the looks department), but she has countless other traits that form her into being my very best friend. It's not every day you land yourself a beautiful, smart, funny, compassionate, and silly (don't ever underestimate the importance of silly) lady who loves you back; I was lucky enough to do exactly that 3 years ago. More importantly, she puts up with all my quirks and rambling and hissy fits -- that is almost more important than the being silly part.

As you can tell, I am madly in love with my wife. I know I'll continue to be this way for countless more years. I am looking forward to many more years and decades with the love of my life.

So, go and celebrate my anniversary by telling someone you love him or her. You won't regret it. I promise.

RIP Macho Man Randy Savage 1952-2011

On May 20th, Randy "The Macho Man" Savage died after suffering a heart attack while driving, which caused him to crash into a tree. He was only 58 years old. The Macho Man was one of the most recognizable professional wrestlers ever, and next to Hulk Hogan, the biggest star of 1980s/early 90s wrestling. He was immensely popular among people my age and older, because many of us grew up watching the Saturday morning wrestling programs offered by the WWF. This was clearly evident by the mass outpouring of emotions over the weekend of Savage's death, where countless journalists, radio stations, websites and media outlets gave their own forms of tributes to him. Many of these people had long stopped watching wrestling, but they still had very fond memories of the resident of the Danger Zone, the Macho Man. The 1980s had a lot of colourful and entertaining wrestlers for a young boy to enjoy and cheer for, and the large majority chose Hulk Hogan to be their hero in wrestling, but Randy "Macho Man" Savage was my favourite. After I had grown out of Optimus Prime and He-Man, the Macho Man became my favourite television figure. At the time I was obsessed with wrestling, and the Macho Man was one of the major reasons that I was drawn to the pseudo sport (at least back then, it still tried to pretend to be one). Others could have their vitamin popping and prayer spouting Hulk Hogan, I preferred the cool guy with the shades and sparkly robe that was escorted everywhere by a hot lady.

I was such a big fan of the Macho Man that I decided to pass on the vampire and werewolf costumes and dress up as the ultra cool Macho Man for Halloween. Unfortunately, I couldn't convince any of the girls in my class to be my Elizabeth. To this day, I think my Macho Man costume is my all time favourite Halloween disguise. Even when I got older, it was still fun to try to impersonate the Macho Man and growl out an occasional, "Oh Yeah, Dig it!" (common Macho Man proclamation). The Macho Man was easily one of the best interviewees back in the day, because his style was so unique. He'd usually start off with a whisper then slowly raise his voice until it became a scream, but then knock it back down to a whisper. During the whole time, he sort of sounded like he was constipated. But you didn't dare to laugh at the man because he seemed to pull it off in such a tough guy way. Plus you always got the sense that he was just 3 seconds away from completely snapping and blowing everyone away. Besides, would you mess with a guy that always wore sunglasses inside buildings (and sometimes even during his matches)?

The Macho Man appealed to me so much as a kid, because he was so different than any other wrestler that was in the WWF. The WWF at the time was full of muscular monsters that were usually much better at grunting and flexing rather than performing actual wrestling moves. Savage in comparison was fairly small (though he was still really ripped and was well over 6 feet). The big difference was that the man was really fast and could fly all over the ring. He had classic moves like flying off the top rope and down to the outside of the ring where his opponent was often draped over the ringside barrier. His finishing move was the legendary elbow drop off the top rope, where he boasted really impressive hang time. During an era that appearance and showmanship was priority over actual quality wrestling, Macho Man always stole the show and was able to drag almost any buffoon into having an amazing match. He had mat classics that are still considered to be some of the all time best. The thing about Macho Man was that not only could he put on great wrestling matches, but he had a great look and an abundance of charisma. Actually, he probably had more charisma and showmanship than the majority of the wrestlers that were around (and even those around now). His interviews are still legendary today. He had such a distinct look and style that he ended up being a spokesman for Slim Jim (Snap into it!). When it came to wrestling promos, you knew a wrestler was in trouble when he finally threw off his sunglasses and had the camera zoom into those beady, crazed eyes. Besides, how could you not cheer for a guy that had the hottest woman in wrestling by his side? Having a hot female wrestling manager is far more common now, but back then, the Macho Man really was the only one. To this day, there has never been a wrestling relationship that carried the same type of magic.

Randy Savage debuted in the WWF in 1985, but he was already an established wrestling star from his time in other promotions. This would have been his first big national exposure, and he hit it big immediately. He was able to fly all over the ring, while also using power moves against guys much bigger than him and could even do some impressive mat wrestling. He also had the ability to make any opponent look good. Along with his unique charisma, he was a pretty easy hit among the fans. Though back in 1985, you weren't supposed to be cheering for the Macho Man, because he was an ego centric villain. The Macho Man character was clearly destined for big things, and the WWF made him a central part of storylines when every single evil wrestling manager was trying to recruit Macho Man to be part of their stable of wrestlers. This storyline went on for weeks with each manager scouting Macho Man during his matches and then trying to entice him to sign a contract. It all came to head when Macho Man gathered every manager in the ring, where he would announce who he decided to hire. That was the night that he revealed the lovely Miss Elizabeth. This created one of the most unique dynamics ever, where the lovely Miss Elizabeth was a beloved baby face (good 'guy') and the Macho Man continued to play the dastardly and conceited heel. It is probably one of the few times where there was a pairing where one person was a face and the other person was a heel and their relationship actually helped keep each strong in their roles.

The Macho Man played the perfect jealous boyfriend character. He wouldn't let other people interview or talk to Elizabeth. He forced Elizabeth to walk behind him, so the he got the good camera shots. He would get upset if Elizabeth moved away from her designated spot at ringside. During this whole time, Elizabeth would just quietly take his reprimands. He never hit Elizabeth, but you always got a feeling that she deserved so much better and that he was almost a borderline abusive boyfriend (in real life, there were actually married at the time). It was a dynamic that helped keep the Macho Man hated and Elizabeth a clear crowd favourite. It is a relationship that has been mimicked several times since but with little success. You just waited for the day that someone would step up and save Elizabeth.

Her saviour was in the form of an overweight, hairy, bald, green tongued wrestler known as George "The Animal" Steele. The storyline was that Steele had a huge crush on Elizabeth, though she seemed to be slightly frightened by the grotesque beast. The face announcers would also go on about how George would treat her so much better, even if he was a simpleton. The actions by Steele only made Savage more jealous, and it caused for a long and crazy feud between the two wrestlers. Steele was quite a bit older and at the twilight of his wrestling career, which meant he wasn’t overly mobile at the time. Savage was talented enough to still pull out some entertaining matches with him and it was a feud that the fans got behind. It may be one of the only times that people actually cheered a kidnapping, when the beastly George ran away with Elizabeth over his shoulder while Macho Man was distracted with a match.

In the 80s, title changes did not happen that often. Hulk Hogan was World Champion for 4 straight years. Usually, a wrestler had to be in the WWF for a few years before they got a crack at one of the championships. It was a sign of how big of a star Savage was becoming when in less than a year after debuting in the WWF, he defeated Tito Santana for the second biggest single championship at the time, the Intercontinental title. Now, someone who didn't watch wrestling then but is familiar with it now, may not think it was that big of a deal that Macho Man won the Intercontinental title. I realize now that belts don't mean as much, and the Intercontinental title is a joke now. But back in the 1980s, it was still a very prestigious championship that rarely changed hands and was held by someone that was breaking into the main event scene. Back then, the WWF had two or three house shows (non televised touring events) a night, and obviously, the World Champion (Hulk Hogan) could only be at one of them, so often the second show would be headlined by the Intercontinental champion. The Intercontinental title did mean something, and so it would draw crowds to arenas in hopes of a title change. It was a rather big deal when Savage became the champ in February of 1986, less than 12 months after his debut. This win firmly cemented him as one of the top guys in the company, and even earned him a few house show matches with World Champion Hulk Hogan. Macho Man would then go on to have one of the longest Intercontinental title reigns in the company history, when he defended the championship successfully for over a year.

In November of 1986, Macho Man took part in one of the most legendary wrestling angles, which was used to set up an even more legendary wrestling match. Macho Man was defending the championship against the immensely popular Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. Many fans were hoping this was the moment Savage would finally lose the title and be put in his place. The match went around 10 minutes and was considered an instant classic, but the real point of the match was to set up a long term storyline. Steamboat was on the verge of winning the championship when Savage went into crazy man mode. Savage draped Steamboat’s throat over the ringside barrier and then climbed the top rope so he could drop an axhandle (a name of a move -- not the object) across Steamboat back thus crushing the throat into the steel (not the Animal). Steamboat played up the move perfectly and starting clutching at his throat, while announcer Vince McMahon started bellowing about how reprehensible this was. But Macho Man only got started. He then tossed Steamboat in the ring, then he grabbed the heavy ring bell from the time keeper. He scrambled up to the top rope and then leapt into the air to plunge the bell into Steamboat’s throat. Steamboat continued to gag and grasp at his throat, while the commentators surmised that this may be the end of a man's career. Savage being the noble character he was, would gloat for weeks about ending Steamboat's livelihood. This was done during a time that the majority of the television shows were devoted to actual wrestling and didn't fill the hour with silly sketches and antics. It meant that when an angle took place, it left a rather big impact. This is a wrestling moment that is still burnt into the mind of many old school wrestling fans (while today, I'm sure many fans don't even remember what happened last week). Savage cemented himself as the ultimate evil doer and fans everywhere were begging for Steamboat's return and subsequent revenge.

In January 1987, Steamboat made his surprise return and Savage played his part perfectly by acting as if he just saw a ghost (he'd been claiming for weeks that Steamboat was done). This lead to the signing of a championship match at Wrestlemania 3, where this time Steamboat would have the protection of George "The Animal" Steele in his corner. Wrestlemania 3 happened in 1987, but to this day, it is still remembered as one of the biggest and greatest wrestling shows of all time. It is considered the prototype of what a wrestling supercard should be. It was held at the Pontiac Silverdome and drew a WWF reported 93 000 plus fans. The big draw of the night was the long awaited Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant World title match (the first time the two met since WWF went national, and the first time they met where Hogan was a hero and Andre was a reviled villain). Though Hogan vs. Andre was the reason the place was packed, it was Savage vs. Steamboat that stole the show. To this day, it is considered one of the greatest WWF wrestling matches of all time. The match had the perfect storyline and both guys played their roles tremendously. You had a match between two of the most talented wrestlers ever and laid out an almost perfect match. It is one of those matches that I'd show to someone who never watched wrestling before and use it to explain why I watch. It also had the perfect ending, because The Dragon finally got his revenge and won the championship against the evil Macho Man (after some help from George Steele).

The night Macho Man lost to Ricky Steamboat, he was getting a fair bit of cheers from a portion of the fans. It started becoming clear that many people saw Macho Man as a pretty cool wrestler and wanted to cheer for him even if he was supposed to be a bad guy. The announcers usually just claimed the cheers were actually for Elizabeth and that no one actually liked Macho Man. They could only get away with that for so long, and so in the Fall of 1987 it was decided it was time to turn Macho Man into a good guy. They came up with another all time classic angle, in order to cement Savage as a new top face. By this time, an irritating and obnoxious Elvis impersonator known as the Honky Tonk Man was the new Intercontinental champion (alas the Dragon has a criminally short reign). The brilliance of the Honky character was that fans found him a joke and to be beyond annoying, but Honky would just keep on thanking the fans for being a beautiful audience and claimed to be the most popular wrestler around. He also annoyed the fans by trying to sing and do a really poor Elvis like dance. After only 3 months as Intercontinental champion, he started to declare himself the greatest Intercontinental champion of all time. You could probably see why this may annoy the Macho Man character who had been champion for over a year and didn't duck any challengers. The thing was, even though Savage was a bad guy, the fans knew he was a tough and capable wrestler, but the Honky Tonk Man was seen as a fluke champion (he defeated the Dragon in a cheap fashion and went on to keep his title by often getting disqualified or counted out since you could only lose the title by pinfall or submission -- so he was essentially keeping the title through losing). Finally, Savage had enough of Honky's bragging and so he roughed up his manager, Jimmy Hart, and demanded a match with Honky Tonk Man.

The much anticipated match happened on the October edition of Saturday Night's Main Event (an occasional wrestling special on NBC, that would replace Saturday Night Live). I'm pretty sure most fans where expecting Macho Man to tear Honky apart and quickly regain his championship. At this point, Savage wasn't officially a good guy, but they sure hated Honky way more. The match ended when Savage was about to gain the pinfall, but Honky's friends, the Hart Foundation, interfered for the disqualification. After the match, the three wrestlers continued to rough up Randy Savage. Honky decided he wanted to do something extra special for Macho Man, which was serenade him with his guitar -- or more specifically, smash the instrument over Savage's head. In one of the classic moments, Elizabeth got in the ring and begged Honky to not hit her man over the head and when Honky ignored her, she stepped in his way. Honky cemented himself as the most dastardly of villains by shoving the beautiful Elizabeth to the ground and proceeding to smash the guitar over the already beaten down Macho Man. Then Elizabeth responded by running away scared or so commentator Jesse "The Body" Venture wanted you to believe, but in actuality, she was going to the back to get Hulk Hogan to make the rescue (something she would go on to do several times over the next year). Hogan ran to the ring to clean house on Honky and the Hart Foundation and saved the battered Macho Man. This left the two wrestlers to be face to face with each other, which was a big deal since one was the top hero and the other was up to that point the top villain. Fans held their breath to see if Macho Man would attack Hogan or not. Then one of the biggest wrestling storyline of all time would begin when Macho Man and Hulk Hogan would shake hands and begin the legendary tag team, the Mega Powers. After this ringing endorsement from the World champion, the fans now had permission to cheer the Macho Man and he was the clearly established number two baby face in the company.

It was around this time, I started watching professional wrestling. My first time seeing the Macho Man, he was this tough as nails anti-hero (probably one of the first ever in wrestling -- long before "Stone Cold" Steve Austin came around with a similar character). Savage was loved by the fans, but he was far from a clean cut goody two shoes, and was never afraid to bend the rules in order to make a villain pay. I quickly gravitated towards this very different kind of good guy and cheered him on while he chased Honky Tonk Man for the Intercontinental title. I was convinced it was only a matter of time before he would regain his rightful championship.

I thought the moment would finally happen on February 5th 1988 at The Main Event, a live prime time wrestling special on NBC. To this day, it is still the most highly watched network television wrestling event in history. Of course, the main reason would be the main event that was the Wrestlemania rematch between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant for the World title, but I know there were many fans like me that were begging for Savage to finally defeat Honky Tonk Man for the IC title.

It wasn't meant to be, as Macho Man only won the match by count out and so Honky kept the title again despite losing. The more important event happened after the match when Honky attacked Savage and beat him into a corner. He once again threatened to smash the guitar over the head of Macho Man, and the brave Elizabeth once again got in the way of Honky. This time, it looked like Honky was going to hit Macho despite Elizabeth being in the way. But at the last second, Macho Man recovered and was able to stop the guitar was coming down on Elizabeth. The weapon was ripped out the villain’s hands and Macho Man chased Honky form the ring with his own guitar. Savage proceeded to smash the guitar much to the delight of fans in the arena and watching on television. Then the really big moment happened, because every wrestling fan knew that Savage wasn’t treating Elizabeth properly and never gave her the rightful acknowledgment. On that night, he finally did when he lifted her up on his shoulder and allowed her to soak up the cheers of the fans. To really show that Randy Savage was a gentleman after all, he stopped Elizabeth from her usual act of opening up the ropes for Savage and instead, Savage opened the ropes for Elizabeth and allowed her to leave the ring first. This was the night that I think many fans finally felt comfortable cheering for Macho Man and recognized he was deep down a good man and loved his manager, Elizabeth. Over the next few months he would continue to show his love for the Elizabeth and she would continue to help him by getting Hogan to come protect him when he needed it (Savage seemed to have a lot of bad guys double or triple team him back then). The Meg Powers continued to grow and Macho Man became a bigger star in wrestling.

It was Wrestlemania 4, when Macho Man was given the torch and became the number one baby face in the WWF (Hogan had to leave to make that cinematic masterpiece, No Holds Barred -- what!?! you never saw it!). The storyline set up was that there was immense controversy in the Hogan vs. Andre The Main Event title match, where Andre not only won the match after using a paid off referee but he also surrendered the title over the Million Dollar Man. If I try to explain this to the point where it makes sense then this already huge tribute will become a hard cover book, besides explaining convoluted wrestling stories isn't really a proper tribute to a fallen childhood hero. All you need to know is this set up a 14 man World title tournament at Wrestlemania 4 (Hogan and Andre as the former champions got a bye to the second round while everyone else would presumably needed to win 4 matches to become champion). For 10 year old Christopher, this tournament was bigger than the French Open or March Madness or any playoffs, because this was to the crown the most important championship in the world (according to a wrestling obsessed little boy -- that is). It really was a magical moment when I found out the next day that my wrestling hero defeated four top stars to become the undisputed WWF champion. It was even sweeter when I could rent the tape a few months later and actually see my hero do it. You see, back in 1988, Canada didn't have PPV capabilities and there wasn't anything called the internet or at least not in its current form, so a boy like me had to rely on tongue-in-cheek newspaper reports or 10 second 'sport' clips or the rundown from the lucky kid that owned a satellite dish to find out what happened (or wait until the next Saturday when the morning wrestling show recapped the event). Then you had to wait for the video store to get its special copy of the event and then you could relive the moment for hours and hours or until your mom asked if you finished your science project yet.

Looking back now, Wrestlemania 4 is an overly long and bloated wrestling card that isn't the most entertaining of viewings. It is a hugely historic event in wrestling terms as it kicked off some of the biggest storylines in WWF history. More importantly for me, it was the crowning moments for any diehard Macho Man fan. It was the night he became the WWF champion -- a title that actually meant something back then and was the symbol that the title holder was the top star of the promotion. The final match was integral in kicking off a year long story arc that would cause Wrestlemania 5 to be one of the biggest grossing wrestling events in the 80s.

Macho Man Randy Savage made it to the finals against the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase. The problem was that Savage had to defeat three men before the final, while Dibiase only had two prior matches (he got a bye to the finals when Hogan and Andre both got disqualified when they played musical chairs against each other's head). Not only was Savage one tired man, but he also only had Elizabeth with him while Dibiase was accompanied by the much bigger and uglier Andre the Giant. Andre got himself involved in the match, as he constantly tripped and distracted the Macho Man. So, Elizabeth activated her super power of running to the back and bringing out Hulk Hogan. With the help of the Hulkster, Savage was able to vanquish the evil millionaire and win his first ever World Championship wrestling belt. Savage lifted his beautiful manager on his shoulder while Hogan passed him the title and the (symbolic) torch, thus declaring Macho Man the new top star (or at least, until filming was over). It really was a great moment in the crazy career of the Macho Man and still one of my favourite wrestling memories.

Macho Man got a decent one year run as World Champion, or as good as it can be when the company was set on Hulk Hogan remaining the top star. In the spring and summer, Savage got a shot at being the focal point of the company since Hogan was playing movie star and WWF had a plethora of Macho merchandise to peddle (all I ever ended up getting was a Macho Man and Elizabeth poster from a gas station -- which I demanded to be put up near the other fine art in the house). Eventually, Hogan has to come back, and this set up a huge tag team main event at the first ever SummerSlam, Mega Powers vs. Mega Buck (Million Dollar Man and Andre). I remember being so overly excited for that match and wanting to know if my hero could really overcome the awesome evil that was Andre and Dibiase. Alas, Canada still didn't know PPV and I was forced to re-enact, in my Grandma's backyard, what I thought was happening. A week later the good old Saturday morning wrestling reassured me that the Mega Powers earned the mega win and the evil doers finally got beat.

Savage proved to be a great world champions as he did something that Hogan could not, and that was perform the best match of the night. During the year he met several huge challengers such as Million Dollar Man. One Man Gang/Akeem, Andre the Giant (I got see them tangle live in Buffalo!), Bad News Brown, and the Big Bossman. Savage proved he could conquer the top villains just as well as Hogan, but do it in a much more entertaining way. Most of the stories usually revolved around the bad guys making some derogatory comments or gestures towards Elizabeth and thus Macho Man had to be her glittering robe wearing knight.

The Mega Powers tag team and Macho Man's overprotective nature of Elizabeth was the major long simmering storyline that built to the Wrestlemania 5 main event. Only in wrestling does a best friend pairing mean it has been designed for the express purpose of them being eventual hated enemies. By December, Macho Man's jealousy started to become more apparent, and most fans were aware of what direction this was leading to. The big blow up finally happened in February 1989 at the second edition of NBC's The Main Event, when the Mega Powers battled the Twin Towers (Akeem and the Big Bossman). During the match, Elizabeth had been knocked down and Lust Hogan (as Venture and a later heel Macho Man would call him during the feud) stopped paying attention to the match and tended to Elizabeth. He then carried her to the back, while Macho Man was beat down in the ring by the two evil blubber boys (the tag name I preferred for the obese heels). Eventually, Hogan returned to the match, and Savage tagged him -- via a hard slap across the face. Savage then decided it was his turn to tend to Elizabeth and left Hogan alone for the rest of the match. After Hogan overcame the odds all by himself (I always hated how he was the only one who could ever do that), he went to the back to find where Macho Man and Elizabeth were. Macho Man seemed to think the title wasn't shiny enough for Hogan to view, so he decided it had to be polished up a little -- via Hogan's bald head. I think one of the most replayed moments in my childhood, was the scene of Hogan coming into the locker room to ask Elizabeth what Savage's problem was and then Savage coming out of nowhere to smash the title (or polish the title) against Hogan's head. Partly because even at my young age the acting was unintentionally hilarious, but more so, it was fun seeing my hero knock out the big orange lug.

At this point, Macho Man was now the villain and Hogan was the virtuous hero ready to right a wrong. Except I didn't see it that way, and I still wanted to root for Savage. I knew Hogan was a spotlight hog. He always needed the attention on himself and his return had forced Savage to the background. I saw Savage's point about Hogan trying to steal Elizabeth -- I mean, who ever said she could start being his manager too? In my eyes, it was Savage's time for revenge and a chance to finally be rid of Hogan. Of course, even then, I knew that wasn't how it would play out. I knew Wrestlemania 5 meant the end of Savage's reign and time for Hogan to reclaim top spot. Just because I knew it, didn't mean I wanted it.

Despite the fact it was one of the most predictable Wrestlemania main events, it was also one of the most anticipated. The two were clearly the top stars in the company and the story had been built up over an entire year. The main event made Wrestlemania 5 an incredibly high grossing event, of course, I still couldn't see it until it came out on video. The day after the event, the kid with the satellite and a few newspapers informed me of the result I was dreading; Savage had been knocked out of the top spot as World champion. My consolation then, and even now, is that Savage was able to drag Hogan to the very best match he had in 1980s and still one of the best matches Hogan has ever had, Savage bounced around to make Hogan look like a million bucks, and pulled out a truly entertaining main event. Savage's reward was to constantly lose to Hogan on the house show tours throughout the spring and the summer. Worst of all, the evil Savage no longer had Elizabeth (she occasionally managed Hogan but mostly just stayed off the road for a while) and replaced her with the far less desirable Sensational Sherri (or as fans preferred to call her, Scary Sherri).

Wrestlemania 5 really did mark the end of the glory days for Macho Man, and really, even the glory days for professional wrestling (until it hit its next big boom in 1998 with Stone Cold Steve Austin). Macho Man got to play with Hogan in the main event scene until the second annual SummerSlam, where he teamed with Zeus (actor Tiny Lister in an effort to cross promote for the work of art, No Holds Barred) in a losing effort against Hogan and Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake (my other less impressive wrestling favourite). Savage was then moved out of the main event scene and defeated “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan for the wrestling crown (don't ask) to become the “Macho King” Randy Savage (seriously, don't ask). This is where Savage became a little less cool and started wavering away from the acclaimed top spot of favourite wrestler. Being carted around on a throne along with a screeching Queen Sherri while wearing a goofy crown, just isn't as cool as no nonsense bad ass with a hot lady manager. Even though he was becoming cartoony and no longer the top draw, he still always had a major storyline or feud. I think. that is one of the big proofs that Savage was a true superstar of the WWF. Many wrestlers had their chance at the main event but then fade and eventually get lost in the shuffle. Savage at his very lowest still was at least number 4 or 5 in the pecking order and was involved in one of the big stories (even if it wasn't the main event). So, for the next year or so he battled with the likes of “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, while I secretly wished he would get another shot at being on top (and get back together with Elizabeth -- in storyline because in real life they were still married at this point).

I was happy as anyone when in the fall of 1990, the Macho King was deemed the top contender for the Ultimate Warrior's WWF World title. At this point I was getting a little older and slightly wiser, and I had a good feeling of how wrestling worked. Though I was happy the man was back on top, I sensed he wouldn't win the title this time around (even if I really, really, really wanted him to so that he could drop that goofy crown). Alas, my instinct was right and when January came around Warrior was still champion and set to defend the title against the decrepit Sgt. Slaughter at the Royal Rumble (at this point, Slaughter was doing the rather tasteless Iraqi sympathiser gimmick in an attempt to draw attention due to the Gulf War). The night of the show, Savage's manager Sherri asked Warrior if he would grant Savage a title match if he defeated Slaughter. Or more exactly, she fondled Warrior's chest and did some PG rated innuendos disguised as a title request. But Sherri wasn't Warrior’s type and he turned down the request (via screaming "NOOOOOOOOOOOO" in her face). Savage being Savage, took the rejection like a Macho Man. Or more specifically, he smashed a scepter over Warrior's head during the title match, which caused Warrior to lose the title to the bloated senior citizen, Sgt. Slaughter. Now, according to storyline Slaughter had promised Savage a title match, but it never did happen. Instead, this incident set up yet another classic Wrestlemania match, “Macho King” Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior in a career vs. career match (loser agrees they will retire -- forever!!!).

By 1991, I had been watching wrestling long enough to know that a retirement match didn't really mean retirement but rather the wrestler was going to be taking a vacation. I also knew that Macho King was the one that losing. But what I didn't know was what actually was planned for after the match, and that one of the great moments in Macho Man history was about to take place. A moment that I've always claimed was one of the great "love story" moments in entertainment history.

First things first, Macho King was responsible for the Ultimate Warrior having the greatest match ever in his career. The Warrior had his fans, and he was ultra charismatic, but he wasn't known for having good matches. At Wrestlemania 7, he had the match that stole the show and is another match that is considered one of the best Wrestlemania matches ever. Savage just had the magic that made even poor wrestlers into great ones, and this was one of thos e classic times. In the end, Warrior had conquered Savage and it was now the end of Macho Man's career (FOREVER! or so).

Queen Sherri didn't like the idea of unemployment and let Savage know this via well placed kicks and slaps. Now, prior to the start of the match, the cameras revealed that Elizabeth had come to see the match. It wasn't clear why she was there, and it was actually almost exactly a year since she had last been on television (or even acknowledged). While Sherri was practicing her karate on Savage, it became clear why Elizabeth was there. She leaped over the barricade and ran down to the ring, and then got herself a nice handful of Sherri's hair and flung her right out of the ring. Then it was a moment that actually caused several fans in the arena (and probably some watching TV -- or on video 2 months later since they didn't have PPV in their country yet) to shed legitimate tears. Savage was picking himself off the ground and shaking off the cobwebs, when he turned around to notice it was Elizabeth standing there. He realized she had just saved him from Sherri's assault. He just realized she had come out to see him again. More importantly, he realized that after two years of abandonment, she still loved him. They allowed the proper amount of tensions and anticipation to mount, and then, after a 2 year long wait, they finally embraced in the most epic hug in wrestling history. The arena erupted and finally, wrestling’s greatest couple was reunited. Just like old times, Savage put her up on his shoulder and then after, he parted the ropes for her to exit the ring. It was the perfect ending to the love story that was Savage and Elizabeth. In some ways, it would have been nice if that really was the end of the Macho Man story (he magically stopped being the King after this match, at least). But like I predicted, Macho Man was not really retired.

Now that Macho Man was reunited with Elizabeth, it meant that all of Macho Man's stories would revolve around him protecting her again. The first happened at SummerSlam when the newly turned evil Jake “The Snake” Roberts crashed the wedding reception by tormenting the bride via shoving a cobra in her face (something I forget to do at my own wedding). Now, Macho Man and Elizabeth had actually been married since about 1984 or so, but it had not ever been acknowledged on television. So, WWF found the perfect chance to make money off a fake wedding plus use it to launch their next big storyline. For most of the fall, Savage would be tormented by Roberts, while the WWF refused to reinstate Savage as a wrestler (because he lost a retirement match). This storyline led to two really huge events that I still remember vividly today. The first happened when Savage was attacked by Jake and tied up in the ropes. While Savage hung their helplessly, Roberts pulled out a real life cobra and had the snake sink his teeth into Savage, and the camera filmed as the blood trickled down Savage's arm. I remember being very shocked that they allowed a snake to actually bite a man on national TV and it totally added a new layer to the feud. I realized that the snake didn't have venom (like the announcers claimed -- as Savage stumbled around like a drunken chimpanzee) but I couldn’t believe someone would allow themselves to be bit by a snake. This event wasn't even the most shocking in this feud. Savage finally was reinstated as an active wrestler and got a match against Jake “The Snake” Roberts at the PPV Tuesday In Texas (which I could watch because Canada had PPV!). Savage won the match and seemingly got his revenge until Jake attacked him from behind. Elizabeth then ran out to plead for Jake to leave Savage alone. This then lead the one of the most controversial and shocking things during the relatively kid friendly WWF era, Jake Roberts slapped Elizabeth. To her credit, she took the slap like a bullet and quickly crumpled to the ground. Roberts became even more hated and every fan was even more eager to see Macho get revenge. Nobody touches the beautiful Elizabeth.

Savage eventually got his definitive and decisive victory over Roberts. Immediately after, he was thrust into his next big program and boy, was it one that I had looked forward to for a long time. Savage was set up to challenge the WWF World Champion, "Nature Boy" Ric Flair at Wrestlemania 8. The two had never wrestled before on national television because for the previous years they had been in competing wrestling companies (Flair was the top dog in WCW). Finally, I had the chance to see two of all the time greats (and my favourites) meet in the main event of the biggest annual event of the year. The storyline was that Flair claimed that Elizabeth was 'mine before she was yours." He proved this by trotting out photos of Flair and Elizabeth spending time together in intimate locales and situations. In the end, you knew that the photos had to be doctored and it was all a ploy by Flair, but it was a pretty unique and risque storyline. It allowed for a pretty heated crowd when the two finally meet at Wrestlemania 8. Just as I expected, the match was spectacular and another all time Wrestlemania classic. To top it all off, after waiting for over 3 years, Savage finally regained his WWF World title. The match ended with Savage embracing his wife and yet another promise of a happy ending.

Unfortunately, life continued after Wrestlemania 8 . A few months later Flair regained the championship, and Savage would never again be WWF Champion. In real life, Savage and Elizabeth were experiencing marital problems and divorced by the end of 1992. Elizabeth wouldn't be mentioned again on WWF TV until she passed away in 2003. Savage played around in the main event scene for the remainder of 1992 (having main event matches with both the Ultimate Warrior and Ric Flair); this was essentially the end of his run on top in the WWF. By the time 1993 rolled around, he was basically just a commentator and he didn't even wrestle at Wrestlemania 9 (he was an announcer on the show, though). The WWF had lost a lot of momentum and wasn’t the draw it was a few years ago, and so their new strategy was to start elevating new talent, which meant the stars of the 80s were being shifted to the background. This meant that one of the biggest stars in WWF history, was now relegated to lowly commentator while lesser stars got to perform in front of apathetic audiences. Though the reality is, it did have to be done, because the current WWE shows the negative results when you don't allow new stars to rise and old stars to fade away.

"Macho Man" Randy Savage did get one last major storyline in the WWF. In the summer of 1993, WWF World Champion Yokozuna defeated Crush and proceeded to squash him several time with his fat ass (literally). When it was getting to be too much, Savage finally ran in the ring to protect his friend (or at least, it was revealed that night that apparently these two were good friends and remember what being friends means in wrestling?). Crush was gone for a few weeks to recover from his bum crushed ribs, and Savage constantly talked on television about how he is wishing his friend the best in his recovery. Savage a few times tried to call Crush to ask how he was doing, but every time Crush would hang up on him. Finally, Savage asked Crush to come live to Monday Night Raw (the show that replaced Saturday morning wrestling as the weekly staple) and explain what was going on between them (after all, Savage was lonely with Elizabeth gone and needed his sweet embrace). Crush appeared with the sinister Mr. Fuji, and revealed he was now aligned with him and Yokozuna. Apparently, nothing says bonding like a fat guy jumping on your chest. Crush said that Yokozuna and Fuji actually cared about him, while Savage wasn't around when he needed him. Savage tried to plead with Crush and explain he was making a mistake. In classic wrestling style, Crush agreed with Savage and then they shook hands and patched things up -- for 5 seconds until Crush blindsided Savage with a clothesline. It was a classic wrestling angle and immediately made Savage someone the fans wanted to see wrestle again.

Savage left as announcer and returned as a full time wrestler. The feud continued until Wrestlemania 10, where the two men wrestled in a falls count anywhere match. Savage proved that even in his older years, he could still drag less talented wrestlers to very good matches. This time a Savage match didn't steal the show, but it was still really good. It ended up being Savage's last major match in WWF, but at least his final big match was a victory.

Savage went back to commentary after Wrestlemania 10 but he occasionally participated in an angle. In November of 1994, Macho Man had rescued Bret "The Hitman" Hart from crazy man, Bob Backlund, which lead to Backlund attacking Savage. I knew that such an attack would force Savage out of the announcer position and allow for yet another Savage wrestling run. Except it didn't. A few weeks after the attack, a sombre Vince McMahon announced the WWF couldn't come to terms with Savage over a new contract and the company had parted ways. Now, you have to understand something in order to appreciate how big of a deal it was that Vince McMahon announced Savage was leaving the WWF. The year prior, Hulk Hogan had left the company and there was absolutely no mention of it. They just stopped mentioning his name one week, as if he never existed. That was just how WWF did business. Somebody left, he just disappeared to never be acknowledged again. It was a pretty big deal that Vince actually mentioned Savage was leaving, and it must have shown how special he was to the company.

Sadly, that night was one of the last times WWF acknowledged the Macho Man. I don't know what happened after that day, but for some reason, McMahon held some type of serious grudge towards Savage. After McMahon had forgiven 'WCW defectors' like Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, and Bret Hart and even honoured them by inducting them in his WWE Hall of Fame, Savage never got the same treatment and was largely ignored by the company. No one seems to know the reason except for Vince McMahon. I am at least happy to know that the Monday after Savage's death, the WWE did play a rather touching tribute to Macho Man. Though, it is sad that it took death to finally recognize a man that brought WWF lots and lots of money.

After Macho Man parted from WWF, he went to WCW where he wrestled until the fall of 1999. Savage was past his prime in WCW and only had a small handful of classic matches. His best remembered is a series with Ric Flair and another series with Diamond Dallas Page. The Page series is memorable because WCW was a place that was notorious for not elevating young stars and keeping all the old stars cemented on top. None of the top guys wanted to lose to those beneath them and made for a rather stale scene. Savage was one of the few that was even willing to work with the underneath guys, and on top of that, he was even willing to give them the much needed rub. At Spring Stampede ‘97, Savage gave DDP the greatest gift he could ask for, he allowed Page to win the match in a clean fashion. It elevated Page up to the main event and allowed the fans to see him as a legit star. It's great to know that not only was Savage an amazing wrestler but he could also be selfless and helpful to the younger generation.

I was moved when I heard about the death of Randy "Macho Man' Savage. I was brought to tears when I saw the WWE tribute video. I never knew the man personally. I don't even know if I would have liked him. He seemed to go into seclusion his last few years, with the occasional reappearance. In the 2000s, his biggest accomplishments were his cameo role in Spiderman and the release of his tongue in cheek rap album. The fact remains, he died way too young. He just remarried this past year and I feel deeply for his wife. I also feel deeply for all the friends and family that remained close to him, or used to be very close to him. As a fan, I still know I was connected to him. He was an important part of my life. I felt the Macho Madness and I sure did dig it.

I'll miss you Macho Man Randy Savage. I'll always be a fan, and I'll always have some very special memories.