Pop Culture Affidavit, Episode 37: I’m Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today!

Episode 37 Cover-2With episode 37, I return to 1994: The Most Important Year of the Nineties with the only thing that I could possibly cover for episode 37: CLERKS! And to join me for this discussion of Kevin Smith’s classic debut is Trentus Magnus, the award-winning host of Trentus Magnus Punches Reality. We guarantee that it is so awesome, it will break you.

You can download it from iTunes via the Two True Freaks Presents: Pop Culture Affidavit feed or listen here:  Pop Culture Affidavit, Episode 37.

Ponies and Journeys: When What Was in the Driveway Became Important Again

The Ford Explorer after its update for the 1995 model year.  Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Ford Explorer after its update for the 1995 model year. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

I will fully admit that I’m not a car guy. I know very little aboutt the interior workins of an automobile, and don’t really care about what I am driving as long as it has four wheels and runs properly. In fact, I didn’t even get my license until after I graduated high school, and even then it was because I wanted to get my road test out of the way before heading to college. Still, like any of the guys I know who are into cars, I can appreciate a well-designed vehicle and did notice through the mid- to late-1990s how the automobiles I was seeing on the road were starting to change. By the time we hit the turn of the century, the SUV came to dominate, something os noticable that even The Washington Post Magazine was doing its cover story on how people in compact cars were afraid for their lives on the Beltway due to the high volume of Ford Expeditions (and how many of those Expeditions were being driven by the incompetent and the aggressive).

But the Expedition wasn’t king of the road yet in 1994, as most of the suburbanite families I knew were hauling kids around and running errands either in a minivan or in a Ford Taurus wagon, which was the last great station wagon. It was the best-selling car in the country at the time and held that status until 1997 when it was replaced by the Toyota Camry. I’m sure that there were many reasons for this, but a significant factor had to be Ford’s lackluster redesign of the Taurus in 1996, which effectively killed the sedan. That didn’t mean, however, that Ford didn’t make its mark in the mid-1990s because it did so with an SUV and a car: the Explorer and the Mustang.

Both of these cars already existed prior to 1994, obviously, but it’s important to note that this year saw important changes for both. The Explorer was a relative newcomer to suburban driveways, hvaving been introduced in 1990. SUVs weren’t as ubiquitous then as they are now–some people had Jeep Grand Cherokees, some had GMC Suburbans (which was more like a truck), and there was this infamous Ford Bronco that made its way down a Los Angeles freeway that June–so to own an Explorer back in its first few years meant that you had enough money to not need a Taurus and were a bit more sophisiticated than the average minivan owner. And if you had the Eddie Bauer edition Explorer? Well.

The 1994 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer edition.  Image from Motortopia.

The 1994 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer edition. Image from Motortopia.

Really, very few things int he early 1990s say “Family plucked from the pages of a catalogue” than the Eddie Bauer edition of the Ford Explorer. Usuall hunter green, the SUV had an all-leather interior with the Eddie Bauer goose logo stitched into the seat backs and tan pinstriping with “Eddie Bauer” stenciled on side. There was one owned by a family a few blocks over from me, a car appropriate for its street–Handsome Avenue, which was a wide street lined with trees whose leaves cascaded beautifully to the ground each fall. I pictured that family wearing matching barn jackets while driving their Eddie Bauer edition Ford Explorer to some cabin on a lake where they would then spend their evenings drinking cocoa while sitting by a fire in their coordinating sweaters. Ford probably saw this and saw potential in it too, because even though the Eddie Bauer edition was out in 1993 or so, they redesigned the Explorer for the 1995 model year to be less boxy and more in line with the curvature of then-modern cars. Unlike the Taurus, this was a win and by the end of the decade, the Explorer, Expedition, and Excursion were just about everywhere.

Another win was the redesign of the Mustang, a car that helped define “muscle” during its heyday. but like quite a number of cars in the 1980s and early 1990s, it had fallen upon hard times aesthetically and was a shadow of its former shefl. The 1994 Mustang was Ford’s shot at changing that, a redesign that was going to return its famous sports car to its former glory, as evidence by this ad campaign:

The redesigned 1994 Ford Mustang.  Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The redesigned 1994 Ford Mustang. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The redesign worked and the new Mustang definitely made enough of a splash to get it noticed by even non-car guys like me. But honestly, if it went from 0-60 in 5.3 seconds, it went from 0-guido in 2.5. I don’t know if it was Ford’s intention, but whenever I think of this car, I picture it being colored bright teal, reeking of Parliaments and blasting Gina G. with the driver spackling on another layer of base while driving 75 in a 35 on the way to a club whose name includes the word “Dublin” to meet a Mustang-driving boyfriend who infused the once-great car with all of the tricked out features, gold chains, tank tops, backwards Yankees caps, and Drakkar Noir they could get their hands on.

And I know I spent my time here focusing on Ford when there are scores of other cars out there, but these two cars are two that would help define the suburban landscape for the latter part of the decade. Furthermore, they would help re-create the sense of the cars you own as a middle class status symbol, an affordable luxury that was beyond the utilitarian K-cars of the prior decade and showed how well you were at keeping up with everyone else.

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 36: Celebrate Freedom! Read a Banned Book.

Episode 36 CoverIt’s National Banned Books Week and this time out I take a quick look at censorship, challenged and banned books, challenged and banned comics, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and why and how censorship of this sort still exists.

You can listen to the episode via iTunes at Two True Freaks Presents Pop Culture Affidavit or directly on the Two True Freaks website:  Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 36.

Here are some links and resources that I mentioned in the episode:

Banned Books Week’s Official Website

The American Library Association’s Banned Books Weeks Website

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 35: Geekery III: THE DOMINATION

Episode 35 CoverPop Culture Affidavit, the podcast that covers everything random in the world of popular culture has finally arrived at Two True Freaks! To celebrate our big move and the podcast’s third anniversary, it’s time for the third annual Baltimore Comic-Con episode! I take a look at the 2014 convention and talk about creators I met, comics I had signed, and what a whirlwind day it was. AND be sure to check out the show notes for all sorts of exclusive pictures!

PLEASE NOTE:  THERE IS A NEW FEED!  GO TO ITUNES AND SEARCH FOR TWO TRUE FREAKS PRESENTS POP CULTURE AFFIDAVIT!  

Or, go to Two True Freaks to download the episode directly:  Pop Culture Affidavit, Episode 35.

 

And now, here are the exclusive convention extras, which means pictures!  Pictures!  Pictures!!!

And a quick warning.  These pictures are pretty large and very self-indulgent.  Enjoy!

20140906_072154

Now, unlike this line, you won’t have to wait.  There’s plenty after the jump …

(more…)

O Say Does That Star-Spangled Banner Yet Wave; This Concludes Our Broadcast Day

JeffersonThis weekend marks the bicentennial of Francis Scott Key’s writing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  To mark the occasion, Baltimore had a large celebration in its harbor, especially near Fort McHenry, which is where Key was being held prisoner during the Battle of Baltimore.  The history of our national anthem goes beyond that one battle of the War of 1812 and  The Washington Post has a really great article that discusses that history (“5 Myths About the National Anthem”).  I actually knew a majority of the truths the writer discusses because of a filmstrip I saw in music class when I was in the fifth or sixth grade.  Don’t ask me how I actually retained that information and not, say, trigonometry, because it’s one of the great mysteries of life.

But I didn’t want to write this short post about the history of “The Star-Spangled Banner” or discuss its significance in our everyday lives as Americans.  No, this blog is about popular culture and when I, and quite a number of people older than myself, think of the national anthem’s place in popular culture, they might think of this:

If you’re under a certain age, you may not know what the significance of the clip I just posted because you might also not be familiar with the concept of a station signing off.  In the days before hundreds of channels and all-night infomercials, local television stations and network affiliates signed off for the night, concluding their broadcast day with a pre-packaged video montage and then going to some sort of test pattern with a constant high-pitched tone:

One of the most common sign-offs was the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” (something so common it opens Billy Joel’s song “Sleeping With the Television On”). There were quite a number of different versions of the national anthem sign-off, but this one always stuck out to me as one of the more memorable, probably because it was one of the few I actually saw–although if I’m being truthful, it may have been used as an early morning sign-on as well.

The montage I posted was created by the New York-based firm Saxton Graphics Associates, Ltd., probably in the early 1970s (since it closes with the moon landing) but I couldn’t find much else in the way of history of the montage beyond this paragraph on the Wikipedia page for “Performances of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner'”:

Over the early years of U.S. television broadcasts it became common practice by many stations to close their broadcast day, usually late at night or early in the mornings, by airing the Star Spangled Banner accompanied by some visual image of the flag or some patriotic theme. One audio-visual arrangement in particular, entitled “National Anthem,” [5] was produced by a New York-based graphics firm, Saxton Graphic Associates, Ltd. The uncommonly complex and interesting orchestral arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner commences with a trumpet fanfare then the anthem is accompanied by images that illustrate several of the highlights of the history of the United States of America, culminating with an image from 1969 of an Apollo 11 astronaut standing on the Moon by the US flag. Several television stations aired this including WNEW-TV in New York (through 1978), and Washington DC WDVM-TV channel 9. There is no reference to whom arranged the music, nor to what orchestra performed it though numerous sites on the Internet host messages inquiring about this and where the original music might be found today.

 

I don’t have a long, drawn-out nostalgic story for this one.  It does remind me of the times when I had to stay at my grandmother’s house and we’d get to stay up late for, say, New Year’s Eve or something, and it kind of reminds me of flipping around the channels in the very early hours of the morning when I had my first job of putting Sunday papers together at a local stationery store.  But when I watch it now, it actually is a little moving.  I’ve always loved how the montage takes us through all of American history and reminds us just how much has happened in the last 200-300 years; furthermore, the bombastic arrangement of the song is enough to get even the most cold-hearted cynic (read: me) feeling at least slightly patriotic.  And it’s a memento of an earlier time in our country’s media history, a piece of ephemera that makes some wistful for an earlier time and others curious.

Pop Culture Affidavit, Episode 34 — We Had a Time!

Episode 34 CoverMy MSCL two-parter concludes with an extra-sized celebration through conversations with longtime fans of the show.  Join me, Sarah Bunting (of TWoP and Previously.tv fame), Cory, Mark, Andrea, and chelle as we talk about MSCL, its impact on our lives, our history as fans, and the show’s legacy twenty years later.

You can download the episode via iTunes or listen here:  Pop Culture Affidavit, Episode 34

Pop Culture Affidavit, Episode 33 — There Was This TV Show …

Episode 33 CoverTwenty years ago, a television show premiered that, while it lasted only one season, had a clear impact on its devoted fans.  The show was My So-Called Life.  In honor of its twentieth anniversary and its place in 1994: The Most Important Year of the Nineties, here’s the first of two episodes.  In this one, I give my so-called origin story and take a look at each episode.

You can download the episode from iTunes or listen here:  Pop Culture Affidavit, Episode 33