Saturday, July 12, 2008

Singer Minnie Riperton died 29 years ago today...

Minnie Riperton is best known for her ear-piercing high note, notably on her 1975 hit song Loving You:

Trivia: Minnie is the mother of Maya Rudolph, a former cast member of Saturday Night Live.

Happy 60th birthday to...

... fitness guru Richard Simmons... honestly! Here he is in an hilariously over-the-top guest appearance on Whose Line Is It Anyway?

... singer Walter Egan of "Magnet and Steel" fame.

... actor and disc jockey Jay Thomas.

Legendary comedian Milton Berle would have been 100 today

Today is the 100th anniversary of comedian Milton Berle's birth. Berle, who died at the age of 94 in 2002, was known as "Mr. Television" and "Uncle Miltie" in his heydey.

Here he is in a 1977 appearance on The Muppet Show.

Friday, July 11, 2008

My cousin Kelley Mooney singing "Wildflowers"

My cousin Kelley Mooney singing Dolly Parton's "Wildflowers" during a concert she performed at the chapel in Beaumont, N.B., Canada, on July 7, 2008.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A bunny letter opener

Surviving the rocky routines of our summers

Hump Day
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Pg. D8

I really love Christmas, so it drives me crazy whenever I meet someone who doesn't. I just don't understand it. The lights. The decorations. The music on the radio that you only hear once per year. The parade. Visiting friends and relatives. The wrapping. The baking.

With that said, I guess I have to admit that I drive people equally crazy with my complete disdain for summer. What's good about it, after all? In my mind, not much.

For one, it's too darn hot. My energy bills are just as high in the summer as they are in the winter because of the air conditioning in my home. If I didn't have it, I would pretty much melt. Years spent without this luxury made me a miserable you-know-what in summer. (Not that I was Mother Teresa the rest of the year, but you get the picture.)

In the summer, routines are also way out of whack. Most of my favourite TV shows are in reruns and the schedules are all mixed up. I hate that! Work schedules are all confused, too, because so many people are on vacation. Ever try to get anything done in July and August? You can't! Everyone's away!

I suppose I'd love the summer if I could only get myself motivated to work in my flower beds, but that just won't happen. Despite my constant neglect, the bulbs that were planted by my home's previous owner continue to grow every year just like clockwork. The orange lilies are coming out this week despite being ignored by me. Some sort of other yellow flowers just bloomed, too. The one or two poppies that have managed to survive year after year lasted for only a few days a couple of weeks ago.

I desperately need to trim my hedge and the trees around the property. I'd do it myself, but I'm pretty sure that my post-traumatic stress would return from my so-called "Summer of Slavery" -- the summer of 1976, when my father decided to re-do the back lawn due to poor drainage.

My father's one of those men who always "knows a guy". Well, back then, when we needed a few loads of topsoil spread across the backyard in order to build it up to improve the water runoff, he "knew a guy" who brought over the so-called topsoil. Come to think of it, I think the name on the truck that dropped it off was Rocky Topsoil Inc. Its motto: "Keeping your kids in tears and busy picking rocks all summer."

Well, as you can probably tell, that entire summer was spent picking rocks out of the topsoil from "the guy" my father knew. To put it mildly, it was the worst summer of my young life. Hours were spent outside picking rocks out of that bloody mound of dirt. Needless to say, I whined the entire time. I know it's hard to believe since I'm such a jock now. (One word out of any of you, and...)

I spent that summer bent in half in the hot sun waiting for the vultures to come and scavenge my chubby 12-year-old body the minute I collapsed. Well, perhaps they were crows . . . or maybe really ambitious robins, I'm not sure. But I'm pretty sure they were drooling and I'm pretty sure I heard them discuss how they were going to enjoy picking the tender meat clean off my young bones the minute I fell to my knees. It's not every day that you see birds wearing bibs and licking their beaks in anticipation.

In fairness, my parents probably picked out most of the rocks themselves --- probably just to stop my sister, brother and I from constantly whining about how we wanted to be doing other things, like watching TV (at least in my own case).

I can still remember that summer like it was yesterday. On hot, dry days, we'd have to spend time picking those rocks out of the topsoil that "the guy" brought over. The wind would blow the dry dirt around, getting in our eyes and all over our clothes. To this day, I'd love to get my hands on "the guy" who delivered it. I'd wring his neck.

Oh sure, there were fun summer times, too --- at least when we weren't being forced into child slave labour by picking "the guy's" rocks out of the "the guy's" topsoil.

There were camping trips. Visits to my grandparents. Playing in the park. A few day trips here and there. Spending some time at the beach, as long as it was a free beach on the side of the road and not actually a good one that you had to pay to get into. I think I can count the number of times we went to a "good" beach on one hand. The rest of the time was spent about spitting distance from the side of the road in sand full of oil and broken bottles. That's living the high life, eh?

Oh I know, we're lucky to have been brought to the beach in the first place. There are starving children in Africa, etc. I still get a chuckle out of the horrified reaction of my grandmother whenever we asked her "What kind?" when she asked us if we wanted ice cream. "What kind???" she'd reply in quite sincere disbelief. In her day, ice cream was so rare that any flavour short of "Matted Monkey Fur Surprise" would have been gobbled up by any kid within a 100-mile radius without even batting an eyelash.

Since I've sworn off sugar -- and the artificial sweeteners in low-carb ice creams don't agree with me (maltitol is nasty stuff!) -- I can't even enjoy an ice cream cone in the summer anymore. That, at least, was a guilty pleasure during my high-sugar days. A plate of steaming hot cauliflower with a side of grilled salmon may be tasty, but it just doesn't have the same punch as a triple-decker cotton candy ice cream cone. With my luck, though, I'd end up buying a cone from my father's "guy" and breaking a tooth on a rock.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Canadian Idol Top 10 announced!!

Canadian Idol's Top 10 was announced tonight. I was mostly correct in my predictions of who was leaving, with two exceptions. Drew Wright got through, as did Adam Castelli. I was shocked by both because at least one big name was not in the Top 10 - Oliver Pigott. That was a surprise! I was also very surprised that Omar Lunan didn't go through.

So here's the top 10:

Mark Day (Age 20 - Portugal Cove, NL) is Canada's version of Sanjaya Malakar and will be the contestant everyone loves to hate. He's already the choice of Mark's a perfectly nice guy, but is no Canadian Idol. Ain't gonna happen. Here's his performance of Against All Odds from Monday night.

Adam Castelli (Age 26 - Hamilton, ON) hails from the hometown of last year's winner, Brian Melo. I was surprised that Adam got through, quite frankly. I think he's quite talented, but had to learn to stop talking back to the judges and offering opinions constantly. Adam's nerves may get the best of him, but he can do really cool things on stage. Here's his performance of If I Were a Carpenter from this week.

Mitch MacDonald (Age 22 - Port Hood, NS) is the Maritime entry in the Top 10 this year. I was really nervous he wouldn't get through, but I can say without a doubt that his likeability and talent will take him far this year. I think he's definitely an underrated contender and could surprise people by flying under the radar. Very very talented. Here's his Top 20 performance from last week singing I'm Yours, which has already become one of my favourites performances of all time!

Mookie Morris (Age 18 - Toronto, ON) is one of my absolute favourites this year. I love everything he does. The judges have coined his dancing as the "Mook Walk" and is considered the coolest contestant on the show. His one weakness: Stop being so serious and show a bit of personality. Needs to smile more. Here's his performance of Valerie from this week.

Sebastian Pigott (Age 25 - Toronto, ON) was the Pigott brother who wasn't going to make it into the Top 10 if only one of them was going in, but he surprised everyone with really strong performances. He's quite the showman, but he rubs me the wrong way. I'm trying to like him... I really am. Here's this week's performance of Bring It On Home to Me.

Earl Stevenson (Age 23 - Lloydminster, AB) is one of those contestants that you either really like or really don't. I'm in the middle. Love the guy, personally... but I find him uncomfortable to watch sometimes. Not sure why. Very authentic, but way too awkward for my own taste. He reminds me of Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Here's this week's performance of Something to Talk About.

Katherine St-Laurent (Age 16 - Otterburn Park, QC) is this year's youngest contestant and has a powerhouse voice for someone so young. Being only one of two females in the Top 10, she doesn't stand a chance against the other female contestant, Amberly Thiessen, when it comes to girl power. I don't think Katherine will last long in the competition. This week, she sang Love Is a Battlefield.

Theo Tames (Age 22 - Lethbridge AB) is certainly one of the favourites to win. Last week's performance of Collide drew heaps of praise from every judge and definitely showcased his talent. He's a brilliant singer with loads of God-given talent. Here's this week's performance of Bubbly.

Amberly Thiessen (Age 19 - Seven Persons, AB) is - at this point - considered one of the top contenders for the crown. She's a beautiful girl with a crazily good voice. Being the only girl in the Top 10 with a chance of winning, she'll do very well. Here's this week's performance of You and I Both. (She didn't do well this week, but trust me - she's good.)

Drew Wright (Age 28 - Collingwood, ON) is this year's oldest contestant and likely lacks the most charisma. He's white bread to me. Not memorable in the least. Boring. Nice guy, but ho-hum. Like watching paint dry. Here's this week's performance of The Reason.

Canadian Idol predictions for tonight

2008's Top 10 contestants will be announced tonight after six contestants are eliminated after performance shows on Monday and Tuesday nights. This week was a really bad week for the show. Most of the performances were utterly horrible.

With that said, however, here are my predictions for who's leaving tonight:

- Adam Castelli (Hamilton, ON)
- Marie-Pierre Bellerose (Quebec City, QC)
- Katelyn Dawn (Winnipeg, MB)
- Gary Morissette (Fruitvale, BC)
- Martin Kerr (Edmonton, AB)
- Drew Wright (Collingwood, ON)

No, I did not choose the nice-but-clownish Mark Day of Portugal Cove, NL, because I can't imagine a Newfie Canadian Idol contestant NOT making it into the Top 10. I don't think he'll last long at all, but the Newfs are insanely supportive of their hometown boys and girls. Usually, though, they have some popularity outside of the province that is enough to keep them in, such as Rex Goudie and Craig Sharpe, two talented guys who made it into the Top 2. Mark just doesn't have what it takes to make it far this year. He doesn't deserve to be in the Top 10 but, like I said, I can't imagine that regional voting won't put him there. He'll be out quickly, though.

Remembering Sean Collins on the first anniversary of his passing

Today is the first anniversary of Sean's passing. He died on July 9, 2007, after a long and courageous battle with cancer.

In an interview I did on CBC Radio Moncton's Information Morning today (click here to listen to the archived version of the interview in RealAudio), I promised to post some details of Sean's legacy to my blog.

The book Ten Needles (original French version: "Dix aiguilles" details the trials and tribulations of Sean's journey with cancer and his passing. Written by Martin Latulippe, the book as so far sold 13,000 copies and raised more than $120,000 to help children afflicted with cancer through the Dr. Georges-L. Dumont Regional Hospital Foundation's Tree of Hope campaign. As well, book sales have raised $10,000 for the Lions' Sick Children's Fund.

There are also discussions ongoing with Toronto's Hospital for Sick Kids, Hôpital Ste-Justine in Montreal and the IWK in Halifax. Should these come to fruition, Ten Needles has the potential to raise MILLIONS of dollars for sick children!

What a tremendous legacy for Sean.

Sean's Mission has also raised money for video game equipment and plasma TVs in local hospitals and has inspired other projects, such as a new negative pressure room in the Dr. Georges-L. Dumont Regional Hospital and renovations to the pediatrics ward at The Moncton Hospital.

Sean was posthumously awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship from the Dieppe Rotary Club and has been honoured with having a song written about his battle with cancer. "Run" was written by Peter Post of the Moncton band bigwhale and is already charting at #87 on the Canadian charts. Watch a performance of the song here:

You can also download a digital copy of the song here.

Finally, if you are a member of Facebook, click here to join the very active and popular Facebook group for Ten Needles (2500+ members).

Sean, although I never knew you when you were with us in body, I certainly have gotten to know you since you've gone into spirit. I am very honoured to have been able to help. Don't hesitate to "call" if you need anything else. :)

Today's Hump Day column...

... is about my disdain for summer and some of the reasons behind this oh-so-rare affliction, including being "sold into slavery" by my father in 1976. Read today's column on the editorial page (pg. D8) of the Moncton Times & Transcript. It will be posted online here tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Clever video trailer for Julianne MacLean's new book - The Mistress Diaries

Politics is a rough business!

This photo appeared on the front page of the Telegraph-Journal this morning. New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham is shown sporting a black eye he received during a charity ball game.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam...

Celebrity birthdays for July 7

Beatle Ringo Starr is 68.

Actress Shelley Duvall is 59. Here she is singing "He's Large" from Popeye.

Comedienne Mo Collins of MadTV is 43 today. Here she is playing Stuart's mother on one of the show's most popular sketches.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Celebrity deaths for July 6

Louis Armstrong died on this day in 1971 at age of 69.

Van McCoy, who conducted the orchestra that had the massive 1975 hit song "The Hustle", died on this day in 1979 at the young age of 39.

Beloved American actor and singer Roy Rogers died on this day in 1998 at the age of 86.

Actor and dancer Buddy Ebsen, beloved for playing Jed Clampett on The Beverley Hillbillies, died on this day in 2003 at the age of 95.