Archive for the ‘Way Back When’ Category

The Simpsons to remove iconic 1991 episode featuring the voice of Michael Jackson from ALL platforms   Leave a comment

Image result for The Simpsons Michael Jackson

 

…This is sad and heartbreaking.

The Simpsons Executive Producer Jamees L. Brooks announced earlier today that he will personally oversee the removal of the iconic 1991 episode from existence. The episode from Season 3 (1991-1992) titled “Stark Raving Dad” features the voice of Michael Jackson, who is credited in the episode’s credits as “John Jay Smith”.

That episode was memorable for 1-minute song Michael Jackson wrote and performed alongside Bart Simpson’s voice actress Nancy Cartwright:

 

 

…I saw it when it first aired. It was such a touching episode and was long considered by series fans to be one of if not the best celebrity episode in the show’s history. Not just because of the featured celebrity but how they worked with Michael Jackson after the 1990 TV premiere of the Black or White music video on FOX to keep his direct involvement in the recording of the Season 3 episode a closely guarded secret. When the episode first aired back in 1991, viewers immediately recognized his voice and looked for his name in the credits. Everyone knew it was him but was shocked to see his name was not in the credits. It actually was: Brooks revealed several years later they decided to use the alias “John Jay Smith” per his request not to have his name featured in the episode’s credits. A few other celebrities have made the same before and since so it wasn’t exactly uncommon.

Brooks made the call to basically wipe the episode from the existence after he saw the HBO Documentary Leaving Neverland. The Documentary features one of Jackson’s former accusers coming forward with new accusations. The new accusations come a few months before the 10th anniversary of Jackson’s untimely death. Jackson died suddenly in 2009 from a medical drug overdose. The accuser, who had apparently been forgiven by the Jackson family and was present for Michael Jackson’s public memorial service in 2009 shocked the family with this documentary.

The surviving Jackson brothers got in front of cameras and condemned the documentary as well as the accuser a few weeks ago. They view the new accusations as a betrayal since they had invited him into their home after Jackson’s death as well as nothing more than a cash grab. More so given unlike before, Jackson is no longer alive and can’t defend himself from the new accusations. It’s worth noting The Jackson family is following through on a lawsuit against the accuser and HBO for defamation and libel. His 3 kids are aware of the new accusations and the family is pulling out all the stops to protect them during this very difficult time.

I have not seen the documentary myself and have no desire to personally. This is not the same as R. Kelly and Bill Cosby. Michael Jackson was tried and acquitted a few years before he died but the court of public opinion still considers him guilty of the charges he was proven NOT GUILTY of in court. I don’t hear calls for R. Kelly’s music to be pulled from iTunes or The Cosby Show being pulled off Hulu. Like Cosby, Jackson had his day in court. The evidence proved he was not guilty. The star witness–one of his alleged accusers–said Jackson never hurt him ever. So, why this now?

One word: Money.

Brooks doing this tells me he belived Jackson was guilty of what he was accused of and was just looking for a good excuse to erase this episode from existence. Well, he got what he wanted in this documentary. Not only is the episode being pulled off TV but is also being removed from ALL streaming platforms and digital stores such as iTunes, Google Play, Hulu, Amazon Prime and YouTube. Brooks even plans to go so far as to remove the episode from future DVD and Blu Ray box sets as well as having existing box sets with the episode in stores recalled so they can be destroyed and replaced. No, really.

I plan to download the episode via iTunes, Google Play and YouTube when I can to protest the decision. The episode first aired 28 years ago. Why do this now? It makes no sense. The best time to have done it would have been back in 2004.

 

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It’s a shame we had to wait 25 years for the Queen Biopic Bohemian Rhapsody   Leave a comment

Image result for Bohemian Rhapsody

 

…The main reason being the band’s lead vocalist Freddie Mercury is Bisexual. The biopic follows the rise of Queen, their falling out and reunion in time to perform at Live Aid in 1985 does not shy away from “The Controversy”. I had heard rumors there was some difficulty casting the role of Freddie Mercury specifically because of that. Rami Malek, who landed the role did the job well. Mercury’s sexuality had been questioned before and during his time apart from the band and the movie doesn’t shy away from it. There are a few moments in the movie some may find uncomfortable to see or have their kids see (The movie is rated PG-13). I won’t say what they are since those moments should not be focused on.

The real focus should be the movie’s namesake song:

 

Originally released in 1975 on the Album A Night at the Opera, the nearly 6 minute track bombed HARD though the band vehemently defended it and stood by it as their greatest song ever. It wasn’t until its appearance in a certain movie 17 years later the genre-crossing song finally got the long overdue respect it deserved.

…What movie? This one:

 

 

The story goes Mike Myers, who was a huge Queen fan insisted on Bohemian Rhapsody over I’m in Love with my Car, which is on the same Album and was considered a better fit for the sequence. Myers was so insistent on Bohemian Rhapsody he threatened to scrap the entire movie if it was not used. He not only starred in the movie but was also the Executive Producer so…yeah. It’s said Freddie Mercury saw the above scene before he died of AIDS-related Pnemonia in 1992, liked it and gave his blessing for the song to be used in Wayne’s World.

…Bohemian Rhapsody dethroned the stanglehold Michael Jackson had on the top charts for almost 10 years running. This despite the song having been originally released back in 1975.

Anywho, the movie ends with the 1985 Live Aid concert. Billions were raised to help with the severe famines in Africa. Michael Jackson’s iconic single We Are the World (featuring a who’s who of legendary artists including Stevie Wonder and Kenny Rogers) was made around the same time as the concert and if you ask me, there should be one every 5 to 10 years. Freddie Mercury, who knew his time was short pushed for Queen to be included in the concert. He passed away 7 years later in 1992. The surviving members of Queen started an AIDS research group in his honor.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t share this awesome cover from 6 years ago:

 

 

The video went viral at the time but as you can see, it’s a drunk guy singing Bohemian Rhapsody from the back of a police car.

…Then there is this:

 

 

…I know there were people in that crowd who were at Live Aid in 1985. The story goes, Green Day planned to do an instrumental and ran the pre-recorded track first when the crowd started singing. They were so moved, they fired up the band and recorded over the pre-recording.

Queen’s impact crosses generations. Every time the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Briuns won a title I would fire up The Anthem:

You know the song but might not have known where it came from ^_^

On that note:

…You see where I’m going now? Queen is Timeless.

As a bonus, here is their performance from Live Aid 1985 in full:

From the Video’s Description:

00:36 – Bohemian Rhapsody
02:42 – Radio Ga Ga
06:53 – Ay Oh!
07:34 – Hammer To Fall
12:08 – Crazy Little Thing Called Love
16:03 – We Will Rock You
17:18 – We Are The Champions
21:12 – Is This The World We Created…?

I bolded the ones that made the cut in the movie, in order. They had to cut the other 3 for time presumably. The home release will undoubtedly have the full set plus the original concert as bonus content.

 

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Some of my Favorite Sitcoms from the 1980s and 1990s   Leave a comment

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…Not gonna lie: I don’t remember much about the 90s that didn’t involve TV or video games. And I’m proud of it. LOL.

I’m gonna split this nostalia trip 4 categories actoss four different posts: Kids Shows, Cartoons, Sitcoms and Drama. I’ll cover Anime in my Anime Blog separately. Each Category will get a separate post because of how much I know I like to write ^_^

For those who were born in the late 90s or otherwise don’t watch broadcast TV much, sitcoms were TV shows that ran for 30 minutes from the 50s to the 90s.  The older generations might recall The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, The Jeffersons and Sanford & Son. Those were all Sitcoms. Sitcoms were often family oriented and depcited people or families of the time. Episodes also often had a lesson or message for viewers to learn.

Here are a few of my all-time favorite sitcoms.

 

Sitcoms

Image result for 1990s TV Shows

 

 

This was the shit RIGHT HERE. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air ran from 1990 to 1996 and lasted 6 seasons.

 

Some stuff about the cast you may or may not known:

 

  • Will Smith was actually the least experienced actor on the show at the time it began filming episodes. He would often forget his lines, much to the chagrin of the other cast members. It’s easy to forget he was an above-average hip hop artist trying to transition into acting. By the time the final season finished filming, Will Smith had landed his first major motion picture role as Captain Steve Hiller in the 1996 action thriller Independence Day. He reportedly beat out Tom Cruise for the leading role (Cruise was cast in 1997’s Mission Impossible).
  • James Avery getting cast as Uncle Phil is the stuff of legends. The story goes, Avery walked into the room not knowing who he was and chastised him for his demeanor and casual dress. Will Smith turned to Executive Producer Quincy Jones (the same Quincy Jones who managed Michael Jackson) and told him “I want him”. Reportedly, John Amos (Good Times, Roots) and Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption) had also been considered for the role. He passed away in 2010.
  • Janet Hubert, who played Vivian Banks for half the show’s run was famously fired because of her personal beef with Will Smith. She was angry Will didn’t advocate for the rest of the cast more and James Avery often had to talk her down, reminding her it’s HIS show. Daphne Reid was hired to replace her as Vivian Banks for the rest of the series. When Will Smith recently talked of wanting to do a possible reunion special, she made it known she still hates his guts. Ouch!
  • Alfonso Ribiero, like Jaleel White was defined by the character he played on TV: Carlton Banks. A little known fun fact about Alfonso: Before he was cast for the role, he trained to be a backup dancer for Michael Jackson. If you ever wondered why The Carlton Dance was so precise, now you know why. Tom Jones, who sings It’s Not Unusual made a guest appearance on an episode in a dream sequence after years of fan request and the renewed popularity of his song thanks to its use on the show.
  • Karyn Parsons, who played Hillary Banks was a talk show host for two years during seasons 4 and 5. It was a good way for those who only knew her for her role on Fresh Prince to see her in a different light.
  • You probably already know this but DJ Jazzy Jeff worked closely with Will Smith when they toured before the show. The “Jazz is thrown out” sequence was only shot once. In episodes in which he would be thrown out, he would always wear the same clothes he wore in the original shot to be consistent.

…Karyn Parsons, Tatiana Ali and Alfonso Ribiero are all of Trinidadian descent. I only just learned that from reading the show’s IMDB section. The only reason I mention that is because my family is from Trinidad ^_^

Alfonso brought back the Carlton Dance for his appearance in Dancing with the Stars back in 2014:

 

 

…He saved it for last and yes, he won the competition. He held off using the dance until the very end on purpose knowing he would only get to use it once and knew that if he saved it until the end, he would win the competition. His DWTS appearance also revitalized his acting career and celebrity status. A few years earlier, he revealed in an interview he left the business after the Fresh Prince ended because all anyone saw when they looked at him was Carlton Banks. Fortunately, he was able to get by on royalties from the show. After his DWTS appearance, he was able to find work in various TV roles.

Image result for Family Matters

Family Matters ran from 1989 to 1998.

…Man oh man. The IRONY of that video’s screenshot. I just finished reading the trivia section on IMDB for the show. I am now about to reveal to everyone the mystery of what happened to Judy Winslow. The character was appearantly doomed from the start and more so when Urkel became popular.

Valerie Jones played Judy in the first episode and was replaced by Foxworth afterward. The problem is her character had little screen time and was often ridiculed or the butt of jokes in almost all of her on-screen appearances. In other words, she was disposable. The story goes when Foxworth asked for a pay increase, the show’s producers were so pissed at her request she was promptly written off the show after four seasons. They told her she was let go due to budget cuts. This is why when she’s seen going upstairs, she’s never seen again. Later episodes revised the show’s canon to make it as if she never existed. If you look at family pictures in the living room after her last appearance, you will see she is no longer included. I do wonder if they never planned to keep the character for as long as they did given her abrupt exit without closure. They could’ve said she died and though morbid, it would’ve still been closure.

What happened to Foxworth after she was kicked off the show is tragic but unfortunately not uncommon: She got into porn at 19 and later, substance addiction. Fortunately, she got clean and is doing well now. She explains how and why here:

Fans of the TV series noticed Foxworth was left out of the reunion special that happened a few years after her OWN appearance. In a statement she released online, she explained she was not told of the planned reunion and though she was not surprised she was left out because of her checkered past since leaving the show, she felt that her omission was a missed opportunity. She also professed a willingness to be a part of a series reboot which the other cast members discussed.

Speaking of, here’s whart the other living cast members look like now:

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Rosetta LeNoire, who played Ester Winslow was 85 years old when she left the show in 1997. She passed away in 2002 at age 90. Michelle Thomas, who played Urkel’s love interest Myra passed away from stomach cancer the same year as her final appearance. Orlando Jackson, who was added to the show later on got into legal trouble after leaving the show. Believe it or not, Reginal VelJohnson was the only actor to appear in every single episode of the series on both ABC and CBS.

It is interesting to note Family Matters is actually a spinoff of Perfect Strangers in which Harriet Winslow (played by Jo Marie Payton for all but the last season) first appeared as an elevator operator.  She as well as Reginal VelJohnson were the most experienced cast members. Fans were familiar with VelJohnson from his appearances in the Lethal Weapon movies in which he also played a cop. Jo Marie revealed later she wanted to leave the show sooner but didn’t because she was under contract. When CBS bought the show, she agreed to do a few episodes of what ended up being the 9th and final season.

New Edition, Dave Koz, Shanice Wilson, Tracie Spencer, Freddie Jackson, Missy Elliott, Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers, Portrait, All 4 One, Immature, MC Lyte, Donna Summer, and Shai all appeared during the show’s run.

Image result for Family Matters Jaleel White

Now let’s get to some trivia about Jaleel White and the character that made him famous, Steven Quincy Urkel:

  • Before being permanently cast, Urkel made a cameo appearance in Full House (1989) in which he helped Stephanie Tanner (played by Jodie Sweetin) feel confident wearing her new glasses in school. He also appeared in an episode of Step by Step in 1991 and Meego in 1997.
  • White revealed apparently, he was originally going to be cast in the role of Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show when Bill Cosby decided to make the character a girl. That role was eventually given to Kiesha Knight-Pullam.
  • White had also apparently been considered for a role on Saved by the Bell, likely the role of Screech (given to Dustin Diamond).
  • Voiced Sonic the Hedgehog in the first 3 animated TV series.
  • At the time he was cast as Urkel at 13, he assumed he was out of the business since no one was calling him. Then he was cast for the role of Steve Urkel. Jaimee Foxworth auditioned for Judy Winslow 7 times just so you know. One of them was eventually cut. The other one became a TV Icon.
  • Apparently, Jaleel White had to shave weekly and was told to not work out to maintain his on-screen character. He noticably underwent several growth spurts throughout the course of the show.
  • In a 1999 interview, White revealed he had NBA aspirations when it looked like his acting career would be over. When he was told he couldn’t work out to maintain the Urkel character, that prettymuch ended his hoop dreams. He apparently played one on one with George Clooney during the latter actor’s run on ER since their respective sets were nearby.
  • In the same 1999 interview, White professed his hatred for the Urkel character. He couldn’t find other acting roles similar to Roberto Ribiero for prettymuch the same reasons. He would later walk back those comments in 2011, saying by the time the show’s run ended in 1998 he was just done and wanted to move on. He doesn’t hate the character anymore but has zero interest in doing it again.
  • The character of Stephan Ur’kel–in which White plays himself–gave fans a look at White’s range. The character was used sporatically throughout the series as Laura Winslow’s love interest. When given the choice to permanently have Stefan instead of Steve, she chose the latter because even though she loved Stefan she cared about Steve too. White pitched for Stefan to replace Urkel but was shot down because of the overwhelming popularity of the latter.

 

 

Image result for Steve Urkel and Carlton Banks

 

I opened with these shows mainly so I could now discuss the significance of the non-traditional roles played by Urkel and Carlton as Black Youth on Primetime TV.

This scene involving Carlton sums up what I’m trying to say:

 

Uncle Phil said it best: “When are we gonna stop doing this to each other?”

By “This”, he means the concept projected by Blacks that Blacks who find success outside Sports or Entertainment are sellouts. Blacks who are do not conform to how they think Blacks should be or are but still finds success is a sellout to them.

Carlton and Urkel were both non-conforming Black Young Men and their characters–especially Carlton’s–were introduced at a time when too many Black and Brown Males bought into the unrealistic myth that their only hope of relevance, fame and fortune was Sports of Entertainment and if that didn’t work out, they could turn to crime.

I do not having more sitcoms with a predominantly Black cast in non-conformist roles was a missed opportunity. Tyler Perry tried to bring that back with his studio but he let the fame go to his head. That seems to happen to everyone made famous because of Oprah. Just sayin’.

Movng on. Other sitcoms I watched with a predominantly Black Cast include:

  • Martin (Starring Martin Lawrence)
  • The D.L. Hughgley Show)
  • The Steve Harvey Show (featuring Cedric the Entertainer)
  • The Bernie Mac Show
  • Livin’ Single (Co-Starring Queen Latifah)
  • The Cosby Show
  • Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper
  • Sister, Sister (Starring Tia and Tamara Mowry)
  • Smart Guy (Starry Taj Mowry)
  • The Wayans Brothers (Starry Shawn and Marlon Wayans)

Those are just the ones that immediately came to mind too. I know I missed a few.

Image result for full house

 

…Obviously I was gonna go here. As the only one of the featured shows to actually get a spinoff series, I would remiss not to. The iconic sitcom ran from 1987 to 1995.

I have actually seen every single episode of this TV series. Like Family Matters and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, some of the cast members we already established or accomplished actors. In this case it was Bob Saget and Dave Coulier, who were friends in real life as well as John Stamos (Daytime Soap Opera). Story goes, Stamos got together with Coulier and Saget after the first season and hung out in Las Vegas. The new friendship between Stamos and Coulier was incorporated into the show as well.

Bob Saget was the host of America’s Funniest Home Videos and actually maintained his role as host during the entire length of the show’s run as Danny Tanner. His TV family even appeared in an episode of AMV in the audience in character. Candace Cameron Bure (Then just Candace Cameron before she married)–sister of teen start Kirk Cameron of Growing Pains fame–reccommended his sister audition for the role when she asked him about it. She would later push back against speculation (backed by her cast mates) the only reason she got the role of DJ Tanner is because of her more known older brother. Dave Coulier made recurring appearances on Nickelodeon before he signed on to Full House as well as during the first 3 seasons.

Everyone else including Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who took turns playing Michelle Tanner were newcomers.  They were not credited as separate people until the final season because the producers didn’t want viewers to know two people shared the role of Michelle (They were credited as “Mary-Kate Ashley Olsen” but written as one name). The problem is as they grew, they became more distinctive in both personality and appearance. Mary-Kate is Right-Handed and Ashley is Left-Handed for example. At Stamos’ insistence they chose not to cut one of the twins and just elected to not address the subtle but obvious differences on air and otherwise. The Olsens, unlike Tia and Tamera Mowry are actually not identical twins.0

I know of two instances in which they both appeared on-screen at the same time. One was in the first season when relatives came to visit. The other twin was cast as a cousin. The other instance I remember offhand was the 2-part finale. Michelle was involved in a horse-riding accident and suffered amnesia. The other twin was cast as her missing memories. They appeared together again in the final curtain call.

There was a planned ninth season but it would have aired on the then new WB Network. The other cast members decided the time had come to end the show when John Stamos and Candace Cameron both announced they would be leaving after the 8th season, which aired between 1994 and 1995 on ABC. Most of the cast went to private life for 21 years after the series finale until the new series, which premeired in 2016. John Stamos and Lori Laughlin (played Becky) continued their acting careers on other syndicated shows.

The Olsens used their status to pursue careers in acting (It Takes Two) and voice acting before transitioning into Fashion and College in New York. The twins were constantly followed by a throng of media everywhere they went and the lows of the Olsens were well documented to put it mildly. When asked, Bob Saget vehemently defended his former co-stars and expressed disappointment at the girls being denied privacy from the media during their lows.

The cast reunited in 2015 in honor of the 20th Anniversary of the series finale. The cast discussed the possability of doing a new show together and most were on board.

 

 

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…That new show is Fuller House, which is available on Netflix. Same concept as the original series with a new cast of kids. They even got twos to play the baby again.

Noticably absent from the new series is Michelle Tanner. Her absence is explained on-screen as her just being too busy with her fashion empire in New York. Fans often mistook this as taking shots at the Olsens when it’s anything but that. The Olsens were part of the conversation when the original cast discussed the new series (Co-Produced by John Stamos) but they elected not to make an appearance for now. When asked about the absence from the new series, the other cast members dodged the question and redirected the discussion to the new series.

There is some speculation the reasons ABC (now owned by Disney) didn’t pick up Fuller House is because the Olsens were not part of the cast even in a recurring role and the older members of the original cast–Saget, Stamos, Coulier and Loughlin–wouldn’t have alot of screen time. Netflix offered to run the show and the rest is history. I do think the we will see Michelle Tanner make an on-screen appearance eventually and I also think when is being kept a closely guarded secret.

The new series uses the same premise as the original series: After the sudden and unexpected death of her husband, DJ Tanner is left to raise her three sons by herself. Her sister Stephanie and her best friend Kimmy Gibbler both offer to move in and help her with the kids. Kimmy moves in with her teenage daughter Ramona.

For those who may be wondering “Whatever happened to DJ’s boyfriend Steve?”, don’t worry. It’s covered and no, he wasn’t the one who died. DJ’s Single Mom status is a major plot bunny toward the end of the first season, the end of the second season and the first two episodes of the third season too actually. Kimmy’s ex-husband Fernando joins the cast halfway through though the first season (officially credited as a permanent cast member starting in the second season). The two remarry by the end of the second season. Kimmy’s younger brother Jimmy joins the cast toward the end of the second season. He and Stephanie end up hooking up by the beginning of the third season. One of the more touching moments touched on early in the first season is Sephanie wanting kids but being physically unable to have any. At the end of the third season, Kimmy offers to be a surrogate for her and her brother. In the season 3 finale, Kimmy reveals she is pregnant.

Season 4 is set to premiere later this year. Unlike 20 years ago, the whole season is shot at once. Also unlike 20 years ago, the series is not shot in front of a studio audience (The crowd reactions are pre-recorded). The same sets were obviously used with some noticable modern additions such as cell phones and tablets.

Movng on. Some other sitcoms I watched during the 80s and 90s include:

 

  • Punky Brewster
  • Married With Children
  • Family Matters
  • Home Improvement
  • The Wonder Years
  • Charles in Charles
  • Who’s The Boss
  • Boy Meets World
  • Seinfeld
  • Saved by The Bell
  • Small Wonder
  • Alf
  • Herman’s Head

 

Image result for punky brewster then and now
…You know you’re old when Punky Brewster is pregnant with her fourth child and will be 42 years old next month. Time has been good to Solei Moon Frye, who continued her acting career after the show ended in 1988. Once she hit pubety her freckles faded, she became taller and almost overnight she was no longer the spunky orphan who had captured the hearts of millions on TV. She had a recurring role on The Wonder Years in the early 90s before making her return to doing sitcoms. When asked about a possible series reboot, she said she wants one of her two daughters to play the character she made famous 30 years ago.

Whew.

I think I let this go on long enough. I will do the other three categories over time and will try to do them before the end of the summer. Man, I the nostalgia was something else with this one!

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If someone from the 1980s and 1990s saw what’s on TV today, they would be horrified and disgusted   Leave a comment

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…More so when you consider the wholesome and staggering variety of programming that was available 30 years ago. I mean just on Network TV–today commonly known as “Free TV”: PBS, CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX and The CW (Formerly known as The WB)–since the only subscription TV service available for most of that time was Cable. Unlike today, it didn’t matter if you didn’t have cable. You could find something for you on Network TV with relative ease. A common problem was trying to watch two popular or favorite shows in the same time slot on two different channels.

Image result for 1980s Boston TV Guide
…Man, this takes me back. LOL.

This is the channel guide for the TV Stations that covered Boston in the early 1980s. I wasn’t born until 1984 but all of them are now available on Network TV. WNAC became WHDH and until a few years ago, it was the local affiliate of NBC. Due to a contract dispute, WHDH split between Channel 7 (Local Programming) and Channel 10, which became NBC 10 (National Programming). WXNE became WFXT and is the local affiliate of FOX. WLVI would become the local affiliate of The WB and later The CW. WSBK would become the local affiliate of UPN and then The CW before they merged and it became an independent network again. WGBH changed to Channel 44 and PBS was Channel 2. When the National Networks switched from Analong to Digital about 10 years ago–prettymuch making non-HD TVs obsolete–as a side effect, you now had access to local channels in neighboring regions.

USA Network, ESPN, HBO, CNN, Cinemax, The Disney Channel, TBS, Nickelodeon, Showtime, TNT, MTV and BET were some of the first Cable networks. Cartoon Network, The Discovery Channel, The Travel Channel and others would come later and over time. Pay Per View, which is still around now but is somewhat obsolete allowed viewers to watch a movie after its run in theaters ended for a whole day. Basically, early digital rental. Same with WWE (Then still WWF) Pay Per Views and (obviously) Porn. Boxing matches were on HBO while ESPN and NBC carried the Olympics.

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It’s not shown but Old School Gamers knew to switch to Channel 3 if they wanted to play their NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Sega Saturn, Sega 32x, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast or Playstation 1 console. All the consoles released after the PS1, Dreamcast and N64 required AUX or Video and later HDMI. The Reason Channel 3 was used is because it’s a “dead” channel. I’ll spare you the technical details but basically the RF Adapter hacks your TV to allow you to see and hear the game you play or in the case of VCRs, watch home movies.

Getting back to my earlier point, parents didn’t have to worry about what their kids might be watching back then like they do today. You knew whatever your kid was watching wouldn’t impress them to do anything stupid, dangerous or provocative. Even the stuff on Cable TV. Sure, you might see stuff like that but you didn’t have to worry about kids emulating what they saw on TV. Nowdays, you do.

In my next two blog posts, I will talk about some of my favorite TV Shows and  Movies from the 1980s and 1990s. There will be a bit of crossover as some shows premeired in the 80s and continued into the 1990s or premiered in the 1990s and continued into the 2000s. I’ll give movies and TV shows their own blog posts. Gamers, I will do one on my Video Game Blog too don’t worry.

 

 

Rap and Hip Hop’s Dark History: Anything For Money   Leave a comment

I want to preface this post with these two videos:

 

…Let’s be honest: This was what fueled the sharp rise of Hip Hop in the U.S. in the 1980s, the deaths of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur in the mid-1990s, the industry’s implosion during the mid-2000s and the mostly watered down stuff we see in the mainstream today.

Now me, I’m old enough to both remember and appreciate The System (The Government) and the Music Industry’s carefully laid out plans to indoctrinate, manipulate and brainwash the unsuspecting masses with African Americans as the primary focus. Most Blacks stopped listening to and playing Rock and Roll after Elvis Presley and Jerry Lewis made it famous among White Americans during the 1970s. The politics of the time and the start of Reagan’s “War on Drugs” during the 1980s left many African American youth without a healthy outlet to release pent-up frustration.

That all changed when Hip Hop was “re-discovered” in The Bronx in the early 1980s. Its popularity in African American cities exploded almost overnight. It came in at just the right time: Many young African Americans were researching their ancestors. Hip Hop, which survived in Africa was virtually unknown in the U.S. The self-appointed keepers of Hip Hop Lore, the original grandmasters and DJs of the early 80s still living in the Bronx often talk about how far Rap and Hip Hop has gone from its early years.

Here’s Kool Moe Dee’s Wild Wild West:

…And N.W.A.’s Express Yourself:

One thing both songs have in common is they tell a clear, concise story or message. THIS was Rap and Hip Hop’s original purpose. It’s like I said before: Rap is poetry over beats. Like other genres of music, Hip Hop is used to tell a story or message, usually about the times or who you are as well as uplift and empower.

…How then did we go from the above to this:

 

…Given I talked about the first song two years ago, my opinion of this type of music has changed since then. I now consider both Silento’s Watch Me Whip/Nae Nae and Soulja Boy’s Crank That to be fake Hip Hop and actually do more harm than good to the history of the genre. Why? Because they’ve become the blueprint for how to make “Safe Hip Hop”. You know, stuff that won’t offend privileged White Americans who don’t want to be reminded of how good they have it compared to many African Americans, Latinos and poor Whites.

The real problem with both of these “songs” and the copycats they spawned isn’t the dancing. The dancing is freaking awesome. The REAL problem is both “songs” are not real songs. I mean that literally and that’s why I threw in the quotes. Recite The Alphabet. Now Recite The Birthday Song (“Happy Birthday To You”). Notice how both songs don’t just have rhythm but have subtance and is purposeful. The above songs lack both substance and purpose. The focus of both songs is the dance and this is why they’re both so “simple”. All you hear is what would be the chorus in a normal song the whole time.

Let’s take a look at PSY’s Gangnam Style, which was recently dethroned on YouTube for Most Watched Ever:

Yes, it’s goofy and in Korean but this is still a full song. I’ve seen the lyrics translated into English so I can say that. Yes, the focus is obviously on the Horse Dance but it’s still a full freaking song.

All that said, let’s now look at a song that put the U.S. Government on edge in the early 1980s:

…I decided to go with the full version so you have the full, political context of the song. Public Enemy put both the U.S. Government and the Music Industry on notice with this song: To empower young African Americans to become politically involved, politically engaged and demand change from both themselves and the system. Believe it or not, this scared The System even more than N.W.A.’s F*** tha Police. They shut down that song by simply saying anyone who listens to it hates police and mainstream consumers ate up that lie like candy.

As the 1990s began, Hip Hop Artists realized they were being forced to do one of two things: Avoid politics and increase their chances of making alot of money or dive into politics and risk not just being blackballed but even killed. Most picked the former. All you need to do is look at popular rap music from about…I wanna say 1992 to now. Most of it is about glorifying money, sex, drugs, violence, alcohol and guns. It wasn’t until about…I wanna say 2007 Artists started to avoid the subjects of drugs, alcohol and especially guns. They knew the history so…yeah.

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Back then, those who did weave politics into their music had some success early on but not for too long. The lucky ones survived the 90s. The unlucky ones…well, this brings me to Biggie and Pac. Let’s be honest, Tupac Shakur was killed because of his mother’s affiliation with The Black Panthers first and his early political messages second. The Notorious B.I.G.’s death was also politically motivated, as was the “so-called beef” between them. THAT was carefully orchestrated to ensure whichever was killed first, the other would automatically blamed so their death could be written off as “retaliation”.

…And both of them knew it.

Listen to The Notorious B.I.G.’s last album Life After Death. At a glance, it can easily be written off as your standard rap beef mixed with sex talk. It wasn’t until AFTER he died people began to realize he’d actually foretold not just his death but the reason why he would be killed. Look up Notorious Thugs, My Downfall, What’s Beef?, You’re Nobody (‘Til Somebody Kills You) and Somebody’s Gotta Die on YouTube as I won’t post them all here to be nice to those who don’t have high-speed internet (LOL!). Overall, there is a reason it is considered his greatest masterpiece and one of the greatest Hip Hop Albums of the 1990s. Yes, it’s the same one Hypnotize is on as well (third song on the first disc).

All that said, sadly the overwhelming majority made their choice: They chose profits over principles. They chose to give in to the system they knew could care less about them or their fanbases. There is a certain irony with most of those rap videos of the 1990s and early 2000s: The jets, cars, mansions, clubs and and jewelry prominently featured in them? They were all rented. The scantly clad women and backup dancers were hired or volunteers to shoot the videos as well.

For what purpose?

Simple: The system wanted to present a false narrative and a false reality to African Americans.

The reality of the 1990s: Bill Clinton’s Mass Incarceration Policy. It wasn’t until during his wife’s Presidential campaign in 2016 he admitted it did more harm than good as African American men were unfairly profiled in large numbers. The rap videos and music glorifying guns, violence, drugs, alcohol, sex and money were all things many African American youth desired but felt would always be out of reach unless they pursued one of two paths: Music or Sports. Again, the irony being few actually made it in either. I see young artists trying to sell their music in Downtown Boston, Dudley Square and Grove Hall almost every day and have for 15 years.

The sad truth is there are no guarantees in either. While it IS true some of these artists used to sell drugs, the overwhelming majority of them never have despite rapping about it. It IS true some artists recorded while high on drugs or while drunk, though. Most out of their own admittance years after the fact.

It wasn’t until the late 2000s artists in general realized The Industry was taking a bigger and bigger cut of the profits from their music. Some artists didn’t write their own music and that made it easier for record labels to “own” an artist’s blood, sweat and tears. Turns out being indie or starting your own label is the smart thing to do. Few artists in general could pull it off and it was virtually unheard of in Hip Hop. Artists like LL Cool J and Ice Cube reinvented themselves as actors, leaving music entirely. The advent of social media changed the game. Now, artists could cut out the middle man and get their music to fans directly, keeping 100% of the profits.

This actually proved to be an interesting and unexpected perk for indie, underground and new artists as now they could record a song and sell it online by themselves. At the same time, established artists use Social Media to connect with fans and promote their music. Hip Hop and Rap have certainly come a long way. Given the recent politics of America, the time is right for a true revival of the genre with a new generation of promising talent driven not by greed but by passion.

In my next post on the subject, I will talk a bit more about how much Hip Hop has changed since 1979 and where it may be going. Here’s a video to check out you may find interesting until then:

…That cover picture. Really is something, isn’t it?

If you have enjoyed this post or other posts I have made on this blog, please consider making a monetary donation via PayPal. Whatever amount you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

…To date, no donations have come in since I started including this in my posts across all of my blogs. I am now asking those who have especially come to enjoy my postings no matter how long it’s been to please donate. Without going into all the details here, I need your fiancial support. If you’re able donate but want to talk to me first, you can email me at btboston1@gmail.com.

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Rap and Hip Hop’s Dark History: Hijacked by Greed   Leave a comment

 

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…Right.

This is the first of what will probably be a monthly series on the subject of Rap and Hip Hop’s evolution. I’ve thought about doing this for some time and more so after I wrote that blog post on why I never liked BET. I plan to write on this topic through June ^_^

Before we can talk about Hip Hop’s history over the last 30 years, we first need to talk about its origins. For those who do not know, Rap is basically poetry over beats. Rap as a genre dates back hundreds of years. Like Rock & Roll, Blues and Jazz, its origins are African. The difference is unlike those three genres, it was not white-washed when it became popular in the U.S. Not until very recently, anyway.

Before it was…”re-discovered” in the Bronx in 1983, Hip Hop was lost to time. Much of that was due to the slave trade in West Africa that saw over 15 million Africans forced from their homes, packed on boats and sent to The Americas as slaves against their will. Before Slavery ravaged Africa, Hip Hop was used as a form of spoken word to preserve the histories of families, tribes, nations and traditions. Written literature did exist but it was far more efficient to use hip hop and rap to preserve and convey important and practical information.

When Africans were brought to the U.S., they used music to keep the old traditions alive as well as to communicate in secret under the watchful eyes of their new masters and overseers. The rise of the Abolitionist Movement during the 19th Century saw most African American Slaves stripped of what was a way of life for them. They would begin to regain that lost knowledge before and during The Great Depression. As time marched on, old traditions long lost to time began to resurface.

 

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…It would be fair to say that Hip Hop was re-discovered in 1983 in the Bronx. Talk to anyone in the Bronx today and they will tell you that what Hip Hop was in the span of time from 1985 to about…I wanna say 2009 was not what Hip Hop was back then. What happened? Greed, that’s what. The Music industry wanting a piece of the pie and the allure of fame were the main reasons but they weren’t the only reasons Rap changed so suddenly and drastically in the mid-80s.

The message and Hip Hop’s purpose were what changed. Remember what I said at the top: Rap is basically poetry over beats. In the early years Hip Hop was used as a way to talk about politics, where you came from, who you are and what you’re about. You had rappers and artists talking about real issues, empowerment and learning from the mistakes of others. NWA’s “Express Yourself” is pointed to from that era as a song with positive messages though of course you had your occasional diss tracks. They were nowhere near as direct and personal as they would become a few years later though.

Starting in 1985, we would see a dramatic shift in how Rap and Hip Hop would be used and how it would be viewed and consumed. People like to blame Public Enemy and later NWA for the dramatic shift but it would be more accurate to say the intentions of those who got into “The Rap Game”–and I will talk about this in a separate blog–were motivated by fame and fortune more than anything else.

…To Be Continued.

If you have enjoyed this post or other posts I have made on this blog, please consider making a monetary donation via PayPal. Whatever amount you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

…To date, no donations have come in since I started including this in my posts across all of my blogs. I am now asking those who have especially come to enjoy my postings no matter how long it’s been to please donate. Without going into all the details here, I need your fiancial support. If you’re able donate but want to talk to me first, you can email me at btboston1@gmail.com.

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Aurabolt’s Folly: The Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Games   Leave a comment

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…I considered posting this on both my Anime and Game Blogs but I decided to post it on this one instead as a cautionary tale. Given this year marks the 20th Anniversary of the release of the Pokemon Trading Card Game, it feels fitting.

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To start, Trading Cards have been around for some time though until about 30 years ago, they were strictly Sports Cards. Then Magic the Gathering came along. It wrote the book on how to make a successful trading card game. They are to the Trading Card Game industry what Everquest is to MMORPGs. Like World of Warcraft, only the Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Games were able to emulate the success of the original. They were both introduced at the right time: When Anime and Video Games were becoming mainstream in North America.

Pokemon Red and Blue came to the U.S. in 1995. The Pokemon Trading Card Game (henceforth “Pokemon TCG” for short) was released the following year. What was originally intended to be just a means of marketing the Pokemon brand in the U.S. quickly become the biggest schoolyard sensation in America for almost a decade.

THIS is the original rare card kids spent hundreds on card packs to find:

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Those lucky enough get one were revered as heroes to their friends and had a virtually unstoppable deck. It wasn’t until I played the Game Boy Color Pokemon TCG game in 2001 I fully understood WHY the elusive Stage 2 Card was so sought after: Its Pokemon Power (see above). As long as you didn’t run out of Energy Cards, Charizard was unstoppable. No one other Pokemon Card except the equally rare Chansey (120 HP) could take one attack from it and live. This has long since become widely accepted but to keep the game balanced, Wizards of the Coast (The manufacturer for the card game from 1995 to about 2002) intentionally did not make a large amount of Charizard Cards to encourage people to keep buying card packs hoping to get one.

…I consider myself lucky I was late to get in on the TCG bandwagon. I was in high school at the time and was more a collector than someone who was competatively playing against others. The rare cards I was looking for were promo cards that came with video games and movies. At my peak, I had close to 800 Pokemon Cards. This goes without saying but the reason the first Pokemon movie still stands and the highest-grossing Pokemon movie ever is because of the promo Mew card given to moviegoers with every ticket purchase. It made the news a month after the movie’s release: Folks would buy a ticket just for the card but skip the movie. Said extra cards would then be resold. I saw alot on eBay.

There was little kids wouldn’t do to get their hands on rare cards. Myself included. This is the first time I’m sharing this publicly but I stole 30 cards from a friend at a summer camp when I was 16 and yes, I got away with it. Not saying I’m proud of myself as I realized after I’d done it that I was taking the TCG way too seriously.

As for how I did it without ever getting found out, I did it like a professional: While everyone was swimming, I went in the locker room and took the cards out the kids’ binders (we were around the same age but I was the oldest). To deflect suspicion since I knew everyone would’ve (rightly) assumed it was me, I took my rarest cards out of my own binder and hid them. Naturally, the kids I ripped off assumed mine were stolen, too. Of course, I never brought any of my cards back to camp after that!

I’ll give Nintendo credit where it’s due: The Pokemon TCG was a damned good hustle. I spent somewhere between $200 to $300 on Pokemon cards from when I started in 1998 to about 2003. I retired for good in 2004 and gave away all of my Pokemon Cards to a student at a school where I worked in 2007. Best decison ever. Looking back now, I knew I was in too deep when I decided to steal cards from others. Never again.

 

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…This brings me to the TCG giant of the last decade, Yu-Gi-Oh!

Holy crap. I’ll be real with you: I was hooked from day one. I’ll give Konami and Upper Deck credit where its due: They took the forumula the Pokemon TCG had been using and all but perfected it. The Anime starring Yugi Motou and his alter ego Pharaoh Atem (whose true name wasn’t actually revealed until the original  series’ finale) was used to sell the cards unlike Pokemon.

The cards featured in every episode of the Anime? You could actually get them yourself. Not only that, they worked exactly as shown in the Anime–minus the special effects, of course–and they were nowhere near as rare.

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Seto Kaiba’s Blue-Eyes White Dragon anf Yugi Motou’s Dark Magician. They are the most iconic cards even today yet Konami took the high road with both cards: They were rare in on TV show but in reality, they were obscenely common. One huge difference structure decks for the Pokemon and Yugioh TCGs have is while you only got one holofoil card in Pokemon, with Yugioh you got 3.

The iconic Yugi and Kaiba decks were upgraded a few years later to include powerful cards Yugi and Kaiba gained in the Anime. Even though the Anime series and the card game are not as big as they once were, no cards are more synonymous with Yugioh than these 5:

 

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…Exodia the Forbidden One. Like the Holo Chatizard card, Konami and Upper Deck intentionally made The Exodia set in limited quantities for the sake of game balance. Given you automatically win simply by having all 5 cards in your hand, it only makes sense. LOL.

Moving on, unlike the Pokemon TCG I got into the Yugioh TCG specifically for dueling. Unlike with Pokemon, I got early and spent alot early. I’ll be straight with you: I spent $1200 on Yugioh Cards from 2002 2009. It stands as the most money I’ve ever spent on one hobby. World of Warcraft came close at $950 including expansions, paid services and other premium content such as mounts and pets. The difference is with Yugioh it was in a small amount of time but with WoW, it’s been nearly a decade in comparison.

At one time, I owned close to 500 Yugioh cards. The difference is almost all of them were used to make 4o to 60-card decks for dueling. I had a different deck for different themes. The funny thing is after I graduated from high school, it actually became harder for me to simply find people to duel against. My younger brother played off and on at the time. Sometimes when I picked him up from school, we’d walk to the library and play against folks there. And I was good. I did alot of trash talking and had the skills to back it up. Never did tournaments since they never came to Boston but after about 3 years, duels against me were quick when they ended in my favor.

I think it was around mid-2007 when I decided to quit the Yugioh TCG cold turkey. By then, I’d spent close to $500 on Yugioh cards off eBay alone so…yeah. By the way yes, I did own all 3 of the Egyptian God Cards too. Any card I wanted, I bought off eBay. Most I ever spent? $105 to buy the Exodia cards.

Looking back at how much of my monthly budget I was spending on both TCGs that I probably should have spent on other things was why I decided to quit cold turkey. Well, that and the value we collectors had placed on the  Trading Cards. Like fools, the majority of us truly believed the longer we held on to the cards, the more they’d be worth later. In reality, it was the exact opposite. We should have sold the cards when they were still considered valuable. The longer we held on to them, the less valuable they became. A fitting irony!

During my last semester at a community college, one of my classmates appraised the 100 or so remaining Yugioh Cards I showed him at the time to be worth a bit under $1000. I sold them at Anime Boston in 2010 and only got $10 for all of them. I honestly didn’t care as it was fitting and what I deserved given I’d been motivated by greed. It was a hard lesson but an important one I learned: Trading Card Games are a massive time and money pit and if you’re not careful, you might not be able to get out on your own.

The only TCG worth dealing with is Magic The Gathering but as I said already, I’m done with Trading Card Games period. Before folks ask no, I don’t have any more Yugioh or Pokemon Cards. I gave them all away years ago. The interesting thing is it also effected my viewpoint on physical video games, too. I used to buy and sell video games alot during the last decade. After I quit TCGs, I now only buy video games for keeps. I figure if I’m going to spend money on a hobby, it should be on something I know I’ll enjoy for years to come.

If you have enjoyed this post or other posts I have made on this blog, please consider making a monetary donation via PayPal. Whatever amount you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

…To date, no donations have come in since I started including this in my posts across all of my blogs. I am now asking those who have especially come to enjoy my postings no matter how long it’s been to please donate. Without going into all the details here, I need your fiancial support. If you’re able donate but want to talk to me first, you can email me at btboston1@gmail.com.

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