Category Archives: Entertainment

Braaaaaains…!

Confession time. I’m a zombie nerd. Yes, I do enjoy the endlessly entertaining exploits of the undead. I enjoy movies about them, and TV shows about them. And I even dropped in once at a zombie car wash because that was my idea of Saturday-afternoon thrills.

So, naturally, I’m a huge fan of the show The Walking Dead. (Not that you asked, but it’s Norman Reedus all the way. It’s a bad boy thing.) If you’re a viewer too, you know that a strongly recurring theme in this show is kindness. What? Some might say. How can blood, gore and splatty brains have anything to do with good deeds?

And yet it does. Over and over again in these episodes, the main characters go out of their way to help each other. They consider each other family, beloved individuals worth sacrificing their lives for. And yet they will even lend a hand to a stranger – yes, even at the risk of losing a hand (i.e. to a bitey person).

This may be one of the reasons why I’m drawn to this show. Besides the special effects, that is. I guess it’s comforting to know that, even in a zombie apocalypse, we humans will always look out for each other.

Getting blood-covered zombies to wash your car is, uh, kind of like vacuuming your entire house wearing muddy rainboots.

Getting blood-covered zombies to wash your car is, uh, kind of like vacuuming your entire house wearing muddy rainboots.

R.I.P. Archie Andrews

As a preteen, I was a huge fan of Archie comics. My entire digest collection – if I still had it – would have generated quite a buzz on eBay. I admit, in the years since, I haven’t kept up with the zany adventures of Archie Andrews and his hand-drawn entourage. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t a trifle saddened to hear that our favourite red-haired blockhead (whoops, I’m mixing my comic references here) is destined for, sob, a premature death.

Yes, it’s true. In a line of the comics called “Life with Archie,” Archie Andrews’ life will end abruptly before he’s had a chance to reach a ripe old age. Jughead will lose his best friend, Reggie will lose his competition, and Veronica and Betty will always wonder what could have been.

While I don’t know all the details, what I can tell you is that Archie will die a hero. This much, his creators have revealed: Archie will sacrifice himself in order to save someone else’s life.

So while regular Archie readers will mourn his passing, they may find the storyline inspiring. Publisher Jon Goldwater expects fans will “laugh, cry, jump off the edge of their seats,” he said last week in a statement.

Goldwater also noted: “Archie has and always will represent the best in all of us – he’s… good-hearted, humble and inherently honorable.”

Sorry you’re leaving us, Archie. But you’re leaving behind a legacy… if not in real life, at least within a juxtaposed sequence of illustrated panels.

Egad.

Riverdale won’t be the same, ever.

Riverdale won’t be the same, ever.

Cash ’n’ Carry

I’m mellowing out to lovely, folky, Atlantic-inspired electro-acoustic music while I write this. That’s because today’s story is about Joshua Van Tassel, a composer/producer from Nova Scotia whom I’d never heard of before this week. And to get in a proper frame of mind, I’m helping myself to a few sample tunes on his website.

Last Friday, Joshua made the news after setting out to make a music video for one of his songs, called “I Think You’re a Salesman.” Josh travelled around Toronto with his film crew, their equipment… oh, and a grey wool coat pinned with 200 ten-dollar bills for giving away to strangers.

How does this fit “salesman”? I guess Joshua was flogging the concept of good deeds. For a really, really good price. He encouraged everyone he met to take a bill from his coat – and then do something nice for another person. (Of the varied responses that ensued, many will be portrayed in the final video.)

Director Hiep Vu pointed out to The Toronto Star that this good-deed theme is a departure from the “dancing girls and fast cars” in typical music videos. Yeah, I wouldn’t really miss the girls and the cars.

“If there was one thing I’d hope the video could do, it would be to inspire other people to make just a little bit of random kindness every day,” Joshua told me. “It doesn’t have to monetarily focused. Just holding a door for the next person behind you would be great.”

Their experiment worked – sort of. It actually took five hours to get through all 200 giveaways. That’s a little longer than you might expect for free money, especially when a brisk March wind has it flapping tantalizingly. “We had no idea what kind of reactions we’d get, and believe me, I got them all! Happiness, distrust, anger, gratitude,” Joshua says.

But some results were promising. A few folks vowed to give the money to charity, or to people in need. Oddly, others planned to spend the cash on victuals for themselves – hot dogs and beer were both mentioned. One guy outlined a creative compromise that involved a coffee for himself and a kind word for someone else (I hope he wasn’t just referring to a “thank you” for the barista).

Paying people to pay it forward? It’s an innovative idea. And if it pushes a few men and women out of their comfort zones, where they can zone in on someone else’s needs instead, isn’t it worth it?

“If even 10 percent of Toronto’s population thought a little more about the other humans surrounding them throughout the day, I feel like the city vibe as a whole would drastically improve,” Josh says.

Of course, his music helps, too.

Not just talent and empathy, but also a strong fashion sensibility: Notice how the purple hues of the currency bring out the plum tones in the tie.

Not just talent and empathy, but also a strong fashion sensibility: Notice how the purple hues of the currency bring out the plum tones in the tie.

Just an Old-Fashioned Love Song

Fred Stobaugh was neck-deep in grief after losing the love of his life. Then he read about an online songwriting contest. Something about it reached Fred, who isn’t actually all that musical, and moved him to write a tribute.

There was just one hitch: Fred is 96 years old, and he doesn’t use the Internet.

No matter. He scrawled his song on paper and mailed it in a big envelope.

“We didn’t quite expect an entry like Fred’s,” says producer Jacob Colgan in a Green Shoe Studio video. The studio, based in East Peoria, Illinois, had asked contestants to upload videos to YouTube and send them the links. No wonder Fred’s submission stood out.

Fred had plenty to say about his departed wife, Lorraine. After all, they spent 75 years together – two dating, and 73 married. “Listening to the lyrics, and the passion behind the lyrics… it was just so heartwarming,” Colgan says. So, even though the song didn’t meet the contest requirements, the studio made the decision to transform the lyrics into a real, professional song – at no charge. When they told Fred, he cried. “Music means so much to so many people,” says Colgan.

“I wish we could do all the good times over again,” the lyrics of the song, called “Sweet Lorraine,” read in part.

Fred says the song – you can hear it at this link or buy it on iTunes – is helping him through his mourning. “It just seemed like she’s just sort of with me… She’s smiling down, and she likes that song, I know.”

Big-Hearted Bigwigs

Think celebrities are all about themselves, all the time? Certain superstars may be big, but they’re benevolent. That’s what I learned from this recent article on Cracked.com. Many famous people routinely perform acts of kindness, whether it’s Tom Cruise rescuing total strangers, or Keanu Reeves giving away millions of dollars for leukemia research, or Johnny Depp saving, in turn, a horse from euthanasia, a friend from a mugging, and movie-set extras from assured smushedness (apparently a stunt car was veering towards them). Of course, we all agree that Johnny Depp does a good deed just by allowing us to look at his face. But it’s heartening to know that even when it feels like the world revolves around you, you can still give back to the world.

Go to Temple

What is ostensibly planned as a promo for a biopic turns into a pow-wow about benevolence. Watch this lovely four-minute TV interview with Temple Grandin, who is probably the world’s most famous autistic woman (I’d say the title of most famous autistic man is sewn up by Bill Gates, if the buzz is true).

Turns out Temple is a big fan of being nice to others. In her chat with CBC’s George Stromboulopoulous, she promotes Roy Rogers’ legendary Rider’s Club Rules (which include “be courteous and polite” and “protect the weak and help them”), disapproves of any TV show that includes the phrase “You are the weakest link,” and advocates a kinder, softer touch with animals.

Temple Grandin, the made-for-TV movie starring Claire Danes as the Grandin dame herself, has been out for a couple of years. And this TV interview is almost as old. So forgive me for stale news – but then again, sweetness never gets stale, does it?

Crazy Little Sing Called Love

What can you do with a beautiful voice and a heart of gold? Give the gift of song, that’s what. That’s how one young musician, Anya Parker Lentz of Short Hills, New Jersey, makes her mark.

Anya, 16, is unquestionably a rising star. Check out her song samples and you’ll agree. But as she makes a name for herself, she isn’t forgetting her friends. When close pal Jake was diagnosed with dystonia, a neurological movement disorder, Anya was so moved that she wrote a song called “Mission Possible.” And when Jake and his family started an annual fundraiser to support research and awareness of the condition, “Mission Possible” became the unofficial theme song. True-blue Anya performs, of course, at Jake’s fundraising event.

Now this caring young teen is carrying on the kindness throughout the month of October with an online giveaway. Commit a random act of generosity, go to Anya’s Facebook fan page and post a comment or photo describing the deed you did. Each week, Anya’s planning to award one participant a signed CD and a print of original lyric art.

Why make the effort? “I know I’m not going to reach every single person that reads my posts or hears me talk about paying it forward, but you never know who you do reach, who you do truly inspire,” Anya says. “A simple act of kindness can make the biggest difference in someone’s life, so I take every opportunity I have. If I make even a tiny difference in someone’s day, it could turn into a huge act of giving if people just pay forward the small good deed.”

How did a 16-year-old get so smart? In many ways she’s an ordinary kid. Her hobbies include yoga and sewing, and her website attests that she’s “prone to giggle fits with her closest friends.” But Anya also stands out, with her musical talent and her sincere wish to reach out.

“I just want to make a difference,” Anya says. “It’s my goal to make my own lifestyle one of giving and being kind, and doing everything I can to make people smile.”

Her new album, not surprisingly, is called The Giving.

Photo of Anya Parker Lentz

That sing you do… it really is making a difference.