Wednesday, March 16, 2022

People With The Last Name, "McGee"

When I first started this blog, back in 2005, in my introductory post, I mentioned several possible topics that I might discuss during the course of this blog: music, sports, politics, sex, spirituality, video games, giraffes, The Snorks, the crumb sitting on the coaster in front of me right now, people with the last name McGee, snowmen, cars, and the mysteries of life... 

In the run of this blog, I have discussed the music in my videos. I have discussed Peyton Manning, and a football game being cut off by CBS. I discussed the Obama election, wrote a post about politicians with goofy faces, and got a little political in 2020. I shared a link, in the very beginning, that discussed both sex and spirituality. I talked about a version of PS3 not being backwards compatible, as well as XBox being evil. I've discussed the mysteries of life on numerous occasions. I've even mentioned The Snorks.

Things I have not discussed are giraffes, the crumb that was sitting on the coaster in front of me October 11 2005 at 2:19, people with the last name McGee, snowmen (unless you count my video where I included Frosty the Snowman amongst the top five creepiest Christmas songs), and cars (unless you count discussing flying cars in a video about Marty McFly arriving in 2015).

So, today, I've decided to check "people with the last name McGee" off of that list:


 Tim McGee is a character from the show, NCIS, played by Sean Murray. One time, back when I used to watch the show regularly, I had a dream where I asked him, "Are you little Tim from Jurassic Park, all grown up?" and he replied, "No, I most certainly am not."


Sam McGee is the title character from the poem, "The Cremation of Sam Mcgee", about an old man running a dog sled, who complains to his partner about the cold, and then freezes to death, and gets cremated. His partner then finds him alive and enjoying the warmth of the fire that's cremating him. My class read this in the 4th or 5th grade.

There's also JaVale McGee, who plays for the NBA. He has played for the Cavaliers and the Lakers. My personal experience with JaVale, is finding him in a Google search, for the term "McGee". Also of note, is that both his first name, and his last name have the third letter capitalized. I wonder what his middle name is.

Then, there's celebrity interior designer Shea McGee, also discovered through a Google search. She designs interiors, as her self explanatory job title suggests.

Also of note, is that the name McGee, can be used in conjunction with a person's predominant character trait, turning said trait into a nickname, with McGee functioning as a last name. "There goes old Shoesey McGee, always wearing shoes!"

And, that's all I have to say about people with the last name, "McGee".

Monday, January 03, 2022

2011 - 2021

Ten years ago, 2011 marked the end of the beginning of J-Dubb's Theatre, and the transition into what would become the recognizable J-Dubb's Theatre format. First of all, this was the last year of the classic blog, as noted in a previous post. J-Dubb's Theatre began as a blog. A couple years into the blog, I expanded J-Dubb's Theatre into a YouTube channel. Eventually, the YouTube channel began to take precedence over the blog. 2010 was the last year of Superstar of the Week, and other weekly features. 

In 2011, written posts were sparse in between video posts. By the end of the year, I even ceased posting videos to the blog, and the YouTube channel became the central hub of J-Dubb's Theatre. In 2012, I wrote a post officially recognizing the end of the blog.

 Things changed after I got a retail job in 2011. Before 2011 was the"p-re-JoAnn's" years of J-Dubb'sTheatre, and everything from mid-2011 on marked the"JoAnn's Years". With the new job, and a schedule that changed every week, I found it more difficult to blog and film videos. 

In 2010, I developed the typical vlogging spot. The format of the majority of my videos, from then on, became cemented in 2011. Also, 2011 marked the beginning of my YouTube partnership, which would turn the future of J-Dubb's Theatre into a professional endeavor. At the end of the year, I upgraded from old-school cell phones, to my first iPhone.

The years following 2011 held many familiar traditions. From 2012 onward, I visited VidCon every year, and uploaded a video from the trip. I grew my hair out, and "J-Dubb" became recognizable as having long hair, whereas prior to 2012, I'd always had short hair, and even facial hair. Every Fall, I would make a video complaining about the beginning of the Fall. For Thanksgiving, I would upload a video of one of the J-Dubbles telling the Thanksgiving story in an eccentric manner. For the new year, I would upload a video which would repeat the footage from the 2010 New Year's video, confusing Floyd and Jim, and then go into a montage of the previous year's videos.

2011 was sort of in between the old and the new, where the old-school J-Dubb's Theatre faded away, but the recognizable modern format hadn't quite begun.

One notable thing that  made 2011 unique, was a phase in which I would begin the video in the middle of a skit, and then notice the camera and say "Oh, J-Dubb Here", and go into the video topic. for instance, in one video, I'm confronting my "Tyler Durden" alter ego, ala Fight Club. In another, I'm in the middle of singing along to the Sponge Bob Square Pants theme, setting a trap for the Easter bunny, or absentmindedly trying to unlock my front door with my key fob. I  began this series with a video in which my I'm trying to film a vlog, but my camera goes haywire, shutting off, and unpredictably turning back on unpredictably throughout my day. The implication was, that my camera would turn on in the middle of whatever I was doing, and I would have to film that day's vlog. After starting my retail job, I ceased this, because I decided it made the video too long. (This was before the infamous algorithm, which favors longer run times.)

Another notable thing from 2011, was the clown series. It began the previous year, when I made a video about hating clowns. YouTuber Happy Cabbie, then referred my video to several real-life clowns, who wrote angry comments. I found it funny that of all groups to offend, it would be clowns for me. I then made a Halloween video about scary clowns, and then made an apology to clowns. In 2011, I uploaded a three part series in which the clowns come after me, and I'm abducted. I then uploaded a video in which I've been converted into a clown, and am trying to proselytize being a clown, in parody of
Tom Cruiz's Scientology video. The series ends with Roach hiring a deprogrammer to convert me back, but not before I convert him first. Had the series continued, clowns would have turned out to be a part of a secret society who worship a clown god, and the clown god would turn out to be from a race of aliens. I did post a couple clown related videos in 2012, and one more in 2013.

And, most notable, was the viodeo, Tuesday, a parody of Rebecca Black's Friday, featuring Adam, Jon, and my sister. This was not only the most memorable video of the year, but one of my most memorable of all time.

As for 2021, there's not much to say that I didn't already say in last year's New Year's post. Most notably, we got past the year that we don't mention anymore, and Trump left the White House, while his fan base continued to insist that he remained the true president for half the year, if they aren't still doing it now. Also, I hit a new high in business, which has been pretty exciting.

So, typically, at the end of the New Year's post, I post a video which correlates to whatever video I had posted to the end of the New Year's post from 10 years prior. However, beginning with 2011, there are no more New Year's posts from ten years prior, (and none for 20 year's prior, yet). So, instead, I will post two videos to represent 2011.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Last Blog Post

 J-Dubb's Theatre Trivia

 10 years ago, I posted to this blog, for the last time. Okay, obviously, it wasn't the last time, considering I'm posting to it, now. But, It was the last post of the classic run.

From October 2005 to September 2011, I posted consistently to this blog. I posted articles, weekly posts, such as Superstar of the Week and J-Dubb's Moral of the Week, and starting February 2007, I expanded this blog to include online videos, posted to a YouTube channel of the same name.

Eventually, the YouTube aspect of this blog began to take precedence over the blogging aspect. By 2011, with a new job, I had difficulty focusing on YouTube and blogging. I stopped posting the weekly features, like Superstar of the Week, and only had a few blog posts, between videos. Eventually, I stopped writing blog posts. The only things I posted to this blog were embedded videos from my YouTube channel.

By September 2011, it became pointless to continue posting videos to this blog, when the sole focus of J-Dubb's Theatre had become the YouTube channel. September, 24 2011, I posted the video, "Proposition for Greg Benson", and then stopped posting. 

About a year later, I decided to post an official end of the blog. But then, in that post, decided to keep the blog open, even if the consistent run had ended. I've continued to post here and there over the years, the main consistent post being the New Years "10 years ago" reflections. Last year, while home during the pandemic, I even brought back the classic blog format for a while. I also backdated posts of all my YouTube videos that I had uploaded after September 2011, to maintain consistency in the blog's archive. But the classic run went from October 2005 to September 2011.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The Evolution Of The Robin Hood Legend

We all know a pretty familiar version of the story of Robin Hood. King Richard the Lionheart is off fighting in the Crusades. In his absence, the wicked Prince John oppresses the people, sending out his minion, the Sheriff of Nottingham, to over-tax the people, leaving them poor and destitute. Nobleman, Robin of  Locksley, returns from the Crudades, where he kindles romance with Maid Marion, and teams up with a group of woodsmen, the Merry Men, who organize raids on rich caravans, and give their spoils to the poor, earning Robin the nickname, Robin Hood. Robin, eventually defeats the Sheriff, King Richard returns, and Prince John is jailed. The end. 

Except, this story is a hodgepodge of elements that have been tacked on over the years. Many major tellings of the legend, have added new elements, that became canon elements of the story. Originally, the story didn't take place during the rein of Richard the Lionheart, or specifically any time period. Oral traditions of Robin Hood don't specifically mention any king. The earliest known ballads were actually created centuries later.

Robin Hood was not originally a Nobleman, nor was he named "of Locksley". He was a Yeoman, an autonomous working class, just above the Peasant class, which explains his proficiency with the bow, which was the realm of Yeoman, whereas Noblemen were raised to be proficient with the sword, but not typically the bow. Later, upper-class tellings are probably responsible for elevating Robin to the Noble class.

Robin Hood did not originally give to the poor. He was a thief who robbed from the rich. This made him a hero to the lower classes as a way of saying "down with the man". The "giving to the poor" aspect was tacked on later, as a way of morally justifying the heroism of a thief.

Original tellings didn't have a Prince John, or really mention any particular ruler. Robin Hood's main antagonist was the Sheriff. The Sheriff did, however, have a sidekick; his cousin, Guy of Gisbourne. In this aspect, the 1990's Kevin Costner Robin Hood, "Prince of Thieves", was more like the old legends, in that it left out the Prince John character, making the Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of Gisbourne the primary antagonists. Also, early ballads had Robin Hood decapitating both, which is much grislier than the Robin Hood we expect, today. Other antagonists were corrupt priests and bishops.

Robin, Little John, and the Merry Men go back to the earliest ballads. But May Day celebrations of the 15th century plays introduce characters Friar Tuck, Maid Marian, and reposition Will Scarlett as Robin's brother.

In the 18th century, historians began to postulate that Robin Hood was based on a historical figure. Robert Ritson examined different versions of the legend, and placed him in the 1200s, during the time of Richard the Lionheart. He published a collection, outlining the complete story of Robin Hood, containing most of the elements known today.

In the 20th century, many movie and TV adaptations familiarized the well-known narrative in the minds of the general public.


Monday, June 28, 2021

A Smile On Your Face Makes The World A Better Place

 J-Dubb's Theatre Trivia

 Ten years ago, I uploaded a video called CGI - Get a Clue Hollywood. I would be surprised if anyone remembers this, but at the end, instead of signing off with "J-Dubb out", I said, "A smile on your face, makes the world a better place". Some people knew why I said that, but a lot of people didn't. I always wondered if people thought it was meant as a joke. If that's the case, however, they would be wrong.

This sign off  was a tribute to a YouTuber who went by the handle, BillyCTV. Billy was a very friendly YouTuber, who made videos featuring other YouTubers. It was a way of having the YouTube community support each other, after YouTube had become to big to support or feature YouTubers, who weren't amongst the big money-makers. Billy introduced me to several YouTube friends, including Cheeky Tam, and Lanevids. 

During Christmas time, Billy had YouTubers send Christmas cards, which he  read in a video. I sent him a 100th Birthday card, but crossed out the "100th Birthday" part, and wrote Merry Christmas. He sent us all Christmas cards in return. This was the first physical object I had ever received from a YouTuber, at the time. I had never been to a YouTube gathering, and all YouTube existed solely on my screen in virtual space. This sort of thing, and other YouTubers have reported similar experiences, was like proof that YouTubers actually lived in the same world as me, and not inside a screen. This card is now in a box along with every other physical YouTube related item I have, including VidCon badges, and the "Teleporting Wristband" from John Lovell.

Billy's ending tagline was "A smile on your face, makes the world a better place". He said this, because he believed in spreading positivity. Billy had health complications. About ten years ago, his health complications began worsening, and you could see it. He had to leave YouTube for this reason. I do not know what became of him. Several years ago, I heard that he had reappeared, and posted a video updating people that he was still kicking. But, he took this video down before I saw it. I have no idea what his  well-being is, today. Before he left YouTube, he asked people to sign off with, "A smile on your face, makes the world a better place. So I did.


Monday, May 24, 2021

Forgotten Dubbles

We all remember the J-Dubbles, my reoccurring costars of J-Dubb's Theatre videos. If a character's quirk made him recognizable enough as an individual, he would reappear in other videos, as one of the J-Dubbles. If a character, however, was not distinguishable as an individual, his role was simply to be  another person in that scene, and never make a repeat  appearance...   that we know of. Some of the most memorable Dubbles are Floyd, Jim, Roach, and Wilhelm Hendrickson. 

However, some characters were intended to make repeat appearances as Dubbles, but disappeared for various reasons, never to be seen again.

Sleazy Sunglasses Guy

 Last seen in 2007's J-Dubb Does LisaNova Does YouTube, in the first scene to ever show all the  Dubbles in one room together. He's never had a speaking part, or a name, which was used as a joke in that video. In fact, this blog post is the first time I've ever called him anything. His only other real appearance was one of the prank victims in The 1890s Crank Phonecall Guy, the first video to involve several Dubbles in one video, but not in the same room.  Prior to that, there were a couple of quazi-appearances. There was a similar character in a Spanish Channel Soap Opera parody in the video Plant, and there was a sleazy past version of myself in About J-Dubb, both of which kind of lead to this guy. As the list of  J-Dubbles grew, I just sort of stopped using him.

Professor James Snark

From the video How to Stir Gumbo, James Snark was a Harvard Professor in the Stirology Department. He would have been a recurring J-Dubble, but in post, I decided he was too creepy, in an unintentional way. I just didn't like him, or find him endearing enough to repeat. In fact, in the narration when I say "The creepy guy had me intrigued", that part was an ad-lib that I put in as I was editing, as if I felt I needed to communicate to the viewer "I am aware that this guy is creepy". Looking back at the character 14 years later, he's probably not as bad as I thought he was at the time. He also delivered  funny gags, such as holding up a spoon and a bowl, and saying, "Let's say that this is a spoon and this is a bowl," and demonstrating two different types of stirring which were exactly the same. Trivia: his glasses are actually gas mask inserts, for military personnel who wear glasses, to wear underneath a gas mask without breaking the gas mask seal.

The Annoying Microwave

The Annoying Microwave appeared in a video about appliances that come with features that you didn't intend on when you bought them. In this case, a microwave that keeps beeping at intervals, until you get the food out. I illustrated this using a microwave with a face that continually hounds you to get the food. I intended for the microwave  to recur after this. In the 4th anniversary series, which featured a  reunion of all the J-Dubbles, I actually filmed a scene with the microwave that was intended to appear at the end of the video, in which he exclaims "Hey J-Dubb! Hey J-Dubb! Somebody just broke into your house!" But this scene was cut, possibly for length, or maybe I just wasn't pleased with it, and the microwave never showed his face again.

Phill McAlbreicht

 There's not a whole lot to say. He was an announcer who appeared in The Telephone Banking Gameshow, and the 4th Anniversary series. He appeared twice, and for whatever reason I never used him again.

The Angel of Death

Death had a pretty good run, appearing in three different videos. He first appeared  in "Can You Really Sell Your Soul?" in which he buys the insole of a shoe. That video received a lot of  weird cultist comments. He reprised his role in the Halloween video "Fate" or "Crossroads", being the only recurring character, other than Count Dubbula, to appear in a Halloween video. He showed up again as The Ghost of Christmas Future, in the video Bah Humbug, in which we recognize each other from past videos. Shortly after Trump was elected, I filmed a video which involved  a cutscene, in which I'm in Middle Earth taking the one ring to Mount Doom. Death appears as a ring wraith to stop me, we recognize each other again, and when he finds out I'm trying to stop Trump, he lets me go. Unfortunately, this video didn't make the cut, and was never edited or uploaded to my channel. The reason I'm including him as a forgotten J-Dubble, is because, the last time I made a video involving all the  J-Dubbles, I forgot to include him, and so he was never seen in the line-up with the others.


Honorable mentions

There are some J-Dubbles who were never seen with the other Dubbles, but for various reasons, don't count as "forgotten" Dubbles.

Proffessor Glenn Robbins

Glenn Robbins is an awkward professor who appears in grainy educational videos, often making references to outdated technology. Glenn never appeared alongside the other J-Dubbles, but there is a reason for this. Glenn Robbins' videos are set in the 70s/80s. Therefore, as a rule, Glenn can't appear alongside the other Dubbles, unless as an older version of himself (or perhaps with the teleporting wristband). Instead, in the video J-Dubb Who?, I had Wilhelm Hendrickson refer to "a professor whose glasses kept falling apart". This way, Glenn could be referenced amongst the J-Dubbles without actually appearing alongside them. It makes for a nice Easter Egg in the video, as well.

Hater Dubb

Hater Dubb is usually seen on his laptop, watching the very video that he's appearing in, and criticizing it, much like Statler and Waldorf of the Muppets. Hater Dubb never appeared in the lineup of Dubbles. In fact, after uploading the video J-Dubb Who?, I regretted having missed the opportunity of ending with Hater Dubb watching the video and exclaiming "You Suck!" He was used too frequently and recently, however, to be considered "forgotten". In fact, he appeared in my second to last video. 

Lazy Dubb

Lazy Dubb is a hard working individual. He can be seen cleaning, and his planner is booked with activities, such as chopping wood, and giving commencement speeches. He's really called Lazy Dubb, because I was too lazy to change shirts to film him. The only video he appears in is 30 Minutes to Vlog. He was never seen again after that. The reason he doesn't count as a forgotten Dubble, is because he's not actually a J-Dubble. I never intended to have him recur in future videos, and there's nothing quirky enough about him to set him apart from myself. He only existed for that particular gag. In fact, J-Dubble's names don't typically end with the suffix "Dubb",  with the exception of Hater Dubb.


Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Welcome To The Wasteland

 J-Dubb's Theatre Trivia

One thing I've been wanting to do with this blog, is a segment, where I talk about behind the scenes J-Dubb's Theatre trivia from the past. Today, what I want to talk about, deals with a video series I created in the beginning of the YouTube days, called, The Network. This was a two season series, that was intended to continue for more seasons, and is full of trivia that never actually made it to the YouTube channel. I guess you can say it was cancelled after the second season, although Belphegor, the Executive, made some cameo appearances in later videos.

 Belphegor in the video, El Pollito J-Dubb Here

The first season of The Network was actually the conclusion to a "YouTube Land" series, where I bump into people and events from other YouTube channels. In "The Network", the organization controlling the television networks considers the YouTube Community to be a threat. An entity named Belphegor, who works as a network executive, causes YouTubers to disappear, and replaces them with clones who say whatever the Network wants them to say. The second season deals with the return of Belphegor, and his attempt to take over YouTube and the Internet in order to create a new Network, which he controls, to rival the old Network. 

Originally, Belphegor was played by my friend Jon, but in the second season, in which Belphegor has taken on my likeness and is posing as me, I had the series explain that Belphegor's "Jon form" was merely an image pulled from my mind, in order to explain why Jon also exists in the series as himself.

Jon plays "The Executive", whose name, Belphegor, was not actually revealed until the second season

One of the major themes of The Network, is an ethereal forest in my mind, where Belphegor is able to pull me in and trap me. In the first season, I disappear, like the other YouTubers, and find myself in this forest, where I face down Belphegor. Belphegor has brought me there to send me into the void, but I end up pulling him in with me, causing everything he's done to be undone. In the second season, Belphegor has been trapped in the forest in my mind for over a year. He is able to manipulate me to a point of weakness, where he can draw me back into the forest and trap me there, while he takes over my body and does bad things in the real world.

In the first season, Belphegor refers to this forest as the "In-between Worlds". Originally, he was supposed to say "Welcome to the Wasteland". I drove around the Portland area with Jon, looking for a good spot to film this scene. One place we considered, was right  next to a radio tower, which would have been perfect, except that it was surrounded by fencing that was locked, and  we couldn't get in. We couldn't really find anything that looked like a wasteland, without driving a considerable ways away. So we found this wooded area in the hills, with a wooden staircase, that we thought would work great. Jon, however, thought that maybe we should call it something other than "the Wasteland", since it didn't really look like a wasteland. So I changed his line to "Welcome to the In-Between Worlds".

 Jon as Belphegor, behind Portland Community College

When we went to film the second season, we had no idea where the original filming spot was, and figured that it probably had a neighborhood built over it, anyway. So we filmed in a wooded area behind Portland Community College's Rock Creak Campus. I interjected footage of the staircase from the previous season, in order to show that it was the same place. In this scene, I had Belphegor explain that the forest was a space that he had created in my mind.

J-Dubb has lost his mind. Filmed at Noble Woods Park

 All further scenes which showed me stuck in this forest were filmed at Noble Woods Park.

Friday, January 01, 2021

2010 - 2020

 2010 was the first year of my 30s. It was kind of a year of liberation.  For one thing, up to that point, age 30 had always been some proverbial deadline to who knows what. I guess, I was supposed to be in the midst of a lucrative career, and be raising a family, or something. Passing that deadline without having achieved those milestones sort of freed me from society's expectations, to really look at and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. It was also a liberating year, as I decided to focus on forgiveness, and let go of things like anger and grudges. This lead to a rather positive vibe for the year.

2010 was a fun year for J-Dubb's Theatre. Possibly my favorite. Actually, in the beginning, I didn't post any videos, and barely blogged, for the first three months. We had just passed the YouTube-pocalypse  of 2009, in which a lot of the changes Google had made weeded out a lot of old YouTubers. Those of us who made videos for the YouTube community were left wondering if there still was a community.

In March, I began watching videos of YouTubers from the old community, and became kind of nostalgic. I came to a decision that I could be the YouTube community, whether YouTube was willing to support the community, or not. I began posting videos again, and began reaching out to other YouTubers, where I found that there still was a YouTube community, after all.

That year, I had a very fun and active J-Dubb's Theatre viewer base. My subscribers, which hadn't even grown to 200 in the first three years, suddenly shot up several hundred, up to the 500s, in just that one  year. And, most of my YouTube friendships were made that year.

In 2020, I began my 40s married and in the midst of my career. I approached this age with a plan of action. 

The year began with a  lot of parallels to 2010. I decided to have an alien themed birthday, as a throwback to the 30th birthday my sister had thrown for me. I also started the year intending to focus on forgiveness and positivity, like I had in 2010. The parallels ended, for the most part, in March, when 2020 hit. 2010 was a relatively easy year to focus on forgiveness and positivity. 2020, posited much more of a challenge, as, in the middle of the year, I found a lot of angering situations occurring in the world. I had  to really learn to take time to focus on those things which are empowering, and disconnect from those things which only drain. I learned to look at my life with gratitude, and resolved myself to make a real difference with my life, rather than grumbling on social media.

As far as J-Dubb's Theatre goes, by the time 2020 began, I hadn't posted a video in two years, and hadn't been active on this blog for 8 years. J-Dubb's Theatre pretty much existed as a place to occasionally write nostalgic blog posts. Then, into the Summer, I posted and back-dated all of my old videos to this blog, going back 8 years, when I had ceased posting videos to this blog. During this time, I remembered the days when this blog had been active. I began posting actively to this blog again, resuming the old format, complete with Superstar of the Week, Nosferatu, and other old J-Dubb's Theatre blogging traditions. 

So, I suppose, in a sense, the big parallel between 2010 and 2020, is that they were both years that J-Dubb's Theatre picked up again after an absence. But more than that, whereas 2010 began a journey of self discovery, 2020 represents the culmination of that journey.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

What Happened in 2020?

As you know, unless you're reading this sometime in the future, and are too young to have experienced 2020, this has been quite a year. It's not so much that there have been a lot of big events, or some world changing event, as that there has been a constant bombardment of events, month after month, ranging  from big, life-changing, society-changing, and world changing. Each new event has had us asking "Seriously? There's  more?" So, I've decided to compile a list of all the happenings of 2020.

For me, personally, 2020 started out as a full year of events, within the first three months, even before quarantine. A couple of people who were influential in my life passed away. I started to go into detail about that, and realized it was a lot heavier than I intended this blog post to be. My wife's alma mater, which has operated for over a century, announced that it was closing. And, the store where my wife used to work also announced it was closing. I was about to go on to Facebook and announce, "I've already had a whole year's worth within the first three months of 2020", when this happened:

The Pandemic:
Like a lot of people, having seen media hype over Bird-Flu, SARS, Swine Flu, Ebola, ect., I figured Covid to be just another hyped-up pandemic. A lot of the info we were given of what to expect from the virus was based on the behaviors of the flu and cold viruses. I remember going to the store and joking about coughing, and calling out "damn Corona Virus!" Then, laughing with the cashiers about all the people buying out the hand-sanitizer and toilet paper.

Then, Friday the 13th came. All day long, I heard about businesses that were closing down. I thought it was a good call. Minimize the spread, and we'd forget about the Corona Virus in no time. Then, towards the end of the day, the news came that Disney theme parks had shut down. That was the moment I realized that this was the real deal. A week later, I went to the store wearing a mask and gloves, and found it funny that just a week prior, I had been joking about the virus.

Lock Down:
States all over the US began to issue lock downs. Employees were sent to work from home. Others were laid off. A growing list of businesses began to close their doors for good. Social distancing became a household word. Large gatherings were cancelled, and shortly after, small gatherings were cancelled. Zoom became a well known software. Somehow, the virus became political, and armed right-wingers and conspiracy theorists, the line between which was beginning to blur, started to protest, and cough in cop's faces.

I continued to work from the office for the first two months. The building was near empty and had a post-apocalyptic feel. Then, after two months, I was sent home to collect unemployment. Not long after, mandates required people to wear masks in public places. Right wingers continued to protest.

All kinds of hopeful videos and messages went out, describing the positive changes that could come from people staying home with their families for months. But, just when we were thinking that 2020 was a crazy year because of the pandemic, things kept happening.

Murder Hornets:
During this time, swarms of giant hornets from Japan, aka, "murder hornets" began to plague the US. The stings of these hornets were enough to injure a human, but the worst part, was that they would target and kill entire hives of honey bees. Amidst the surreal seeming nature of quarantine, murder hornets seemed to be the logical next step of apocalyptic plagues. But, mysteriously, all the murder hornets vanished and were never heard from again.

World Wide Protests:
After a couple weeks of being home, a black man named George Floyd was murdered by a police officer. This was the last straw in a long line of police brutality against black people, and that line would continue to grow within the month. News of the pandemic became dwarfed for a short time in the midst of news of protests and riots. Like the virus, this too became political, with some people preferring to look at the rioters and rant about property destruction, while others preferred to look at the growing number of protestors gathering around the world in support of black lives. It was surreal to see crowds of protestors masked up for the pandemic.

For a lot of  white people who had been taught their whole lives that racism was a thing of the past which had been fixed, it was a wake-up call.

Police Brutality:
As protests grew, police brutality became transparent. Peaceful protestors were teargassed and shot with baton rounds, aka "rubber bullets" on a daily basis. Crowds of people were run over by police vehicles, and maced or beaten while minding their own business. People not partaking in the protests were attacked by police while trying to go home for the day. The same right wingers who had previously been partaking in armed protests and coughing in police officer's faces, were now condemning the protestors and lauding the police.

During this time, sitting president, Trump, had protestors beaten back and tear gassed to clear a path so that he could walk to a chapel for a photo-op.

Capital Hill Autonomous Zone:
Four blocks of Seattle, nicknamed Chaz, and later, Chop, were taken over and occupied by protestors, creating a police free district.

Commercial Space Flight Ignored:
One thing that was intended to be one of the biggest stories of the year, was the launch of the first ever commercial space flight. It happened. Nobody cared.

Olympics Cancelled:
The 2020 Summer Olympics were cancelled. Nobody noticed.

China Floods:
During the Summer, 12 provinces in China were under water. This news was often lost in the US, do to us dealing with our own issues, but my Vietnamese father in law, who I live with, was glued to this news, watching videos and reports of the flooding all day for three months.

Federal Troops Occupy Cities:
In July, sitting president, Trump, sent federal troops to occupy major cities, starting with Portland, to combat militant Antifa terrorists who had taken over. Except...  militant Antifa terrorists hadn't taken over. Portlanders, including myself and my wife, could see for our own eyes that aside from a heavily graffitied courthouse, the city was fine, and that the president was boldfacedly lying. That is, until the federal officers arrived. Federal officers abducted people from off the streets for interrogation all over Portland. Nightly demonstrations grew from a few hundred to thousands, in order to counter the Feds. Tensions were exacerbated, and Downtown was filled with teargas on a daily basis. Even the Federal Officers began to realize that their presence was only escalating things. Eventually, Governor Kate Brown struck a deal to get the officers out of Portland, but by then, the damage was done. Incidents which were previously centered around the courthouse, had spread.

Armed White Supremacists:
White supremacist groups, such as the Proudboys, began to show up, armed, to counter protestors, escalating violence in the city. Prior to this, the protests had gone without a single gun shot. This changed.

Previous news of city violence was quieted in September, when the west coast caught fire. A dry winter lead to an extremely dry summer. Fires broke out in Washington, Oregon, and California, which were then exacerbated by windstorms. The skies over these states were covered in smoke, giving them a red, orange, or sephia hue. People stayed in, not because of  Covid, but because the air was toxic. Admittedly, I had a moment, driving around the apocalyptic scene, where I wondered, in light of everything that had happened up to that point, if this was in fact the apocalypse. Fortunately, the rains came.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg:
Ruth Bader Ginsberg died, leaving behind  her supreme court seat.

Sean Connery:
Also, Sean Connery died. Ordinarily, this would have been big news that would be seen all over the news and social media. Because of everything that was going on, people barely noticed.

Election Week:
Election day came and went without final results. Several major states continued counts throughout the following week, the results of which could go either way, leaving the nation on the edge of their chairs. Right wing protestors began to protest polling stations. Once the results were declared, and Trump was ousted, the sitting president began to sue for recounts in several states, losing the election over and over again on a regular basis. Meanwhile, right wingers continue to protest the results, despite their criticism of people who protested after the results of the previous election.

Second Quarantine:
After the election, Covid spiked to a record high, causing mandates for a second lock down. This time, however, we were all used to it, and it was barely noticeable. 

Mysterious Monoliths Around the World:
In November, a mysterious silvery metal monolith was discovered in the middle of a nowheresville desert in Utah. Nobody knows how it got there. Ten days later, the monolith disappeared, and another appeared in Romania. That one has also disappeared and subsequent monoliths have been found in California, The Netherlands, and several other places. The disappearance of the Utah monolith has  been solved, as it was admittedly dismantled by a group not wanting an explosion of tourists to damage the surrounding environment. The appearance of these monoliths, however, is still a mystery.

The Vaccine:
At the end of the year, a vaccine was created, and began making the rounds.

Protestors Break into State Capitol:
And finally, armed right-wing protestors, who had previously condemned "the Left" for their protests,  broke into the Oregon State Capitol building, smashing through windows, assaulting journalists and using chemical agents on police officers, in protest of Covid restrictions.

So, beginning 2021 with a vaccine and a new president, things seem to be looking up for this next year. But, don't forget, ten years ago, I did predict that 2021 would be the end of the world...

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

How Commercialization Put The Christ In Christmas

If your most important holiday celebration is Christmas, your traditions are a product of  commercialization, not religion. This time of year we always hear things like "Remember the true meaning of Christmas." If you're a religious Christian, this means, "Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. To Hell with Santa, and reindeer, and the greed of getting things". If you're a more secular Christmas celebrator, this means, "Christmas is about togetherness, family and friends, kindness, and charity, not getting presents and frenzied shopping."

Now, personally, I'm all for this idea of focusing on togetherness and generosity, rather than getting  caught up in retail craziness. And while we're at it, why not throw the birth of  Christ in there, as well. Despite how some of his self-proclaimed followers act, he's a pretty decent fellow. But the truth is, historically, Christmas was never a terribly major holiday for Christians. The Catholic feasts were typically set up to commemorate the death of saints. As such, Good Friday and Easter, celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ, were the most important holidays on the Christian calendar. Christmas was never seen as terribly important until the early modern age.

The early Christian church tended to oppose the celebration of birthdays, viewing them as "pagan", a Roman slur once used to denote rural types, akin to the modern "hillbilly", "hick", or "backwater". As Christianity became the popular craze of the Roman Empire, traditional religions practiced by conservative rural types were referred to as "pagan" religions. When Emperor Theodosius I banned the practice of "pagan" religions, traditions associated with those religions became heretical to the Roman church. Thus, the idea of celebrating a birthday was a bit "iffy", and there was no celebration to commemorate the birth of Christ for quite some time.

At some point in the 200s, December 25th became set as the official date of the birth of Christ, on the Roman calendar. Some scholars believe that this was done to overide the pre-existing December 25th solstice holiday, dies solis invicti nati, or "Day of the unconquered sun" paying homage to the birth of the sun god Mithra, in celebration of longer days leading into Spring. Other scholars, however, dispute this. It was not until the 9th century, however, under a later generation of Roman Catholicism, that this date was organized into a liturgical celebration. It was not, however, seen as a particularly major holiday, as the importance revolved around Easter.

Throughout Europe, Christmas became a part of pre-existing Winter traditions, such as Yule, where families would decorate their homes with evergreens to remind them of the green seasons, while enduring the dreary winter seasons.

In the 4th century, December 6th became the feast of St. Nicholas. This day was commemorated by gift giving, as the Saint in question was said to give gifts to children, or gold to poor families, depending on the tradition. St. Nicholas Day, Christmas, and Yule all became a part of the Winter festivals. After the protestant reformation, protestant cultures, such as England, which do not commemorate Saints, merged the traditions of St. Nicholas Day with Christmas. In Holland, the Dutch shortened "Sint Nikolaas" to "Sinter Klaas", which was later Americanized into "Santa Claus"

After the American Revolution, Christmas, seen as an English holiday, fell out of popularity in the U.S. It wasn't until the late 1800s that the idea of the old Christmas traditions started to gain appeal in the U.S. Stories such as "A Christmas Carol", popularized Christmas as a time of gift giving and charity, and "Twas the Night Before Christmas", cemented the idea of Santa, presents, and Christmas trees as Christmas staples. 

Into the 20th century, with the emergence of  technology, businesses began to capitalize on the holiday, by emphasizing the buying of presents, decorations, cards, and treats, making it the hottest retail season. Every western child came to dream of the presents they wanted, looking at catalogues, seeing commercials, making lists, and  anticipated unwrapping those presents on Christmas morning. And when they grew up, they wanted their children to have that same experience. Thus, Christmas supplanted New Year's in the Western world as the biggest cultural holiday of the year.

With the rise of Christmas, and the cementation of Christmas, and its associated commercialism as a Cultural tradition, it became common for people to re-examine the "true and accurate" meaning of Christmas. It's become a great time to examine ourselves, and weigh our values of charity and kindness, vs greed and retail hype. However, its ironic that this time would not exist as it does now, without that commercial hype we're examining ourselves apart from.


Monday, November 30, 2020

Superstar of the Week is Shy Guy

The most iconic character of the American version of Super Mario 2, Shy Guy, has survived three decades as a member of the cast of Super Mario Bros characters. In fact, these days, Shy Guy is generally depicted as one of Bowser's minions, despite that Super Mario 2 featured a completely different antagonist from Bowser, and the entire game turned out to be Mario having a dream in the end.

As a kid, I always wondered why Mario 2 was so different from any other Mario game; a completely different cast of bad guys, enemies that you can hop on and ride, or pick up and throw, rather than enemies that die when you hop on them, pulling vegetables from the ground instead of hitting blocks in the air, a life meter, digging levels instead of swimming levels, selectable characters with different abilities, no fire flowers, no two-player mode, and a very distinct Middle Eastern vibe. 


Eventually, I found out that this is because, America's Mario 2 wasn't the actual Mario 2. Nintendo of America felt that Japan's Super Mario Brothers 2, which was identical in appearance to, but much more difficult from the original Super Mario Brothers, would be too difficult for Westerners. So, they took a completely different game, an Arabian themed game called "Doki Doki Panic", reskinned the playable characters into Mario characters, and released it in the U.S. as "Super Mario Brothers 2".

So, Shy Guy, despite being a character designed for a completely different game, has survived for three decades as a Mario character, and been adopted as one of Bowser's minions.

Also, when I first saw Shy Guy as a kid, I thought he was a walking loaf of bread with a face.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A Request From 2007


There's a particular tune I've been trying to figure out since I was in High School, over two decades ago. Something from my childhood that I just can't figure out where it's from.

Back in 2007, I filmed a video in three clips, in which I play the tune on a keyboard. I intended to edit the video into one clip, upload it to YouTube as a private video, and send the link to my friend Adam, who I grew up with, to see if he recognized the tune. I never actually got around to doing this, and the three video clips have been sitting around in a file on my computer ever since. 

The other day, I was organizing my files, and came across these three clips, so I decided, "what the hell". After all these years, I edited them together and uploaded them to YouTube as an unlisted video, and sent the link to Adam, despite the fact that we've already discussed this since the time that I filmed the video. I also decided to add some background music that I commonly used in my videos in 2007-2008, just to give it that 2007sy touch.

What do you think it is? It has an 8-bit sound to it, with a pulsing beat. My thoughts are, either some old game, either NES or Arcade, or some local (Portland metro area) commercial for a dealership or furniture store, or something. Leave a comment if this tune is familiar to you.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Superstar of the Week is Captain Bartholomew Gosnold

It's Thanksgiving week in the United States, so I thought I would feature someone who you've likely never heard of, despite the fact that he's only the guy who started the English migration to the Americas in the first place.

Everybody who grew up in the United States, grew up with the Thanksgiving story, about how the ancestors of the U.S. migrated to the Americas to escape religious persecution, sat down and had a lovely turkey dinner with the locals, then one two skip a few, and suddenly there's thirteen colonies going to war with the British.

Of course, if your history background is a little more extensive than what you learned in grade school, then you might be aware that Virginia colony was already well established in North America by the time our Thanksgiving pilgrims made their trek across the Atlantic, which is where our whole "Jamestown, John Smith, Poccahontas" story comes in. Actually, everything in North America that was claimed by the British was referred to as "Virginia" at the time. That is until John Smith, having been banned from Virginia colony, mapped the northern part of this area, and gave a little sales pitch to would-be English settlers, calling the newly charted area "New England". 

Many Puritan settlers had already migrated to Virginia colony for the promise of religious freedom. The pilgrims who boarded the Mayflower, agreed to partake in John Smith's New England project, starting a new colony in the New England territory, rather than settling in the already established Virginia colony. If anything, the Thanksgiving story is the story of why we have a "United States" rather than simply a "State of Virginia".

After the U.S. Civil War, the Union decided to focus on a northern based origin story for the United States, rather than a southern one, and so Thanksgiving was established, focusing on the pilgrims who migrated to New England, rather than the earlier foundation of the southern state of Virginia.

So now, I have written out an entire article, and haven't even mentioned the Superstar of the Week, yet. Basically, Bartholowmew Gosnold was the guy who had the vision of establishing an English colony in America. He started a company called the Virginia Company, and convinced the government and many would-be settlers that prosperity would be found by establishing a colony in America. John Smith referred to him as the "prime mover" of Virginia Colony. Once they reached  Virginia, Bartholowmew Gosnald became the first governor of Jamestown.

He dreamed of a happy utopia built by a union of  English colonists and native Americans. Of  course, it didn't quite go that way, as the natives were quite fine with their way of life, and not particularly interested in conforming to Engish civilization. And, the English weren't quite interested in taking "no" for an answer. But, Bartholowmew would never know this, as he only lived for a year after arriving in Virginia.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Blast From the Past

The Socrates 80s Educational Game Console


A friend of mine shared this video with me, which took me back a ways. In 1988, my family moved up to Oregon from California. The Nintendo Entertainment System was the latest and greatest thing that everyone had to have. I think I remember mentioning that I wanted video games for Christmas, or something. Sure enough, that Christmas I got a video game console. It was not an NES, or even an Atari. It was a Socrates educational console. 

This is where you may be expecting me to tell you how disappointed I was that I got a Go-Bot instead of a Transformer, like a spoiled ungrateful little punk first-worlder. No! I liked Go-Bots. Go-Bots were cool in a lesser than Transformers sort of way, and Socrates was cool in a lesser than Nintendo sort of way. I was excited to have some sort of gaming console that I could hook up to my TV like Nintendo.

Socrates had math games, and word games, and a hang-man, a music feature, and a "Super Painter", which was pretty much a rudimentary version of MS Paint. There were even cartridges we could purchase, which you could plug in for additional games. I had one that had really tough algebra that nobody could figure out. It also had a wireless control, which was pretty much a long bar with a keyboard and two pop-out controllers on the sides.

I pretty much gravitated toward the Super Painter, and also enjoyed the hang man game, which had different levels in which Socrates, an adorable little robot knockoff of Johnny 5, journeys from his home planet to Earth. There was also a two player game which involved competing Socrateses on a game board. I pretty much ignored the math and spelling games, but my friend Adam enjoyed them. He even spent a lot of time trying to solve the algebra game, even though we were fourth graders. He says he thought Socrates was cool because it was  different.

The next year, I got an actual Nintendo for Christmas, and Socrates became a dust collector.