Fallen Walls Open Curtains Episode 9

It’s the ninth chapter in a podcast miniseries that looks at the fall of the Iron Curtain and the popular culture of the Cold War. To start us off, I look at what happened in Eastern Europe from September 1991 to November 1991 with a special focus on real-life spies in the KGB and the CIA.  Then, I take a look at two “the Russians are our friends (sort of)” films in 1987’s Russkies and 1990’s The Hunt for Red October.

You can listen here:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Here’s some more stuff for you …

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Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 126: This is PBS

From Big Bird to Antiques Roadshow, PBS has programming that is part of our lives from beginning to end. As a longtime viewer, I have a lot of memories and favorite shows and in this episode, I spend time going through them, looking as far back as my preschool days and moving all the way up to the present.

You can listen here:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

After the jump, you can check out clips that I shared or discussed in this episode:

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Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 125: Back in Baltimore

Fully vaccinated and masked up, Brett and I returned to the Baltimore Comic-Con for the first time since 2019! Join us as we talk about what we bought, who we saw, and interview creators such as Thom Zahler, Cliff Chiang, Wayne Vansant, Angela McKendrick, and Rod Van Blake. Plus: yet another mystery box opening!

You can listen here:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

After the jump, you can see more about the creators we interviewed as well as a gallery of pictures!

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9/11 and Popular Culture Part Six

It’s the extra-sized sixth and final episode of a six-part miniseries that examines the books, movies, music, comics, and other popular culture that directly addresses or is about the attacks of September 11, 2001. This time, I look at an assortment of items, including “The Falling Man” (and an Esquire article written about the photo), an ominous PostSecret postcard, rumors and urban legends debunked by Snopes, Gordon Sinclair’s “The Americans” radio broadcast, the French documentary 9/11, comedy courtesy of SNL and The Onion, and the New York Mets’ return to Shea Stadium. Then, I close things out with listener feedback and final thoughts on the 20th anniversary.

A quick content warning: Though these events are now 20 years in the past, they are still traumatizing to many, and I also discuss some of my personal feelings and views, so listener discretion is advised.

And while I did answer feedback this episode, I still would love to hear from you, so feel free to leave leave comments on the Pop Culture Affidavit Facebook pagefollow me on Twitter, or email me at popcultureaffidavit@gmail.com. I’ll read your feedback on a future Pop Culture Affidavit episode.

Here’s where to listen:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Some extras for you …

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9/11 and Popular Culture Part Five

It’s the fifth episode of a six-part miniseries that examines the books, movies, music, comics, and other popular culture that directly addresses or is about the attacks of September 11, 2001. In this episode, I look at music, covering the music that was popular on the charts in September 2001, songs that had a resurgence because of the patriotism following 9/11, the infamous Clear Channel “don’t play” list, and songs written in response to 9/11. These include pieces by Alan Jackson, Tori Amos, the Beastie Boys, and a lengthy review of Bruce Springsteen’s album The Rising.

A quick content warning: Though these events are now 20 years in the past, they are still traumatizing to many, and I also discuss some of my personal feelings and views, so listener discretion is advised.

Finally, I will be including a feedback section in the sixth episode of the series, and would love to hear what you think, so leave comments on the Pop Culture Affidavit Facebook pagefollow me on Twitter, or email me at popcultureaffidavit@gmail.com.

The deadline for feedback will be Tuesday, September 7, 2021 if you want it read on the sixth episode.

Here’s where to listen:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Some extras for you …

(more…)

9/11 and Popular Culture Part Four

It’s the fourth episode of a six-part miniseries that examines the books, movies, music, comics, and other popular culture that directly addresses or is about the attacks of September 11, 2001. In this episode, I look at film and television, including the big budget films United 93 and World Trade Center, the worldwide short film compilation September 11, as well as the West Wing episode “Isaac and Ishmael”.

A quick content warning: Though these events are now 20 years in the past, they are still traumatizing to many, and I also discuss some of my personal feelings and views, so listener discretion is advised.

Finally, I will be including a feedback section in the sixth episode of the series, and would love to hear what you think, so leave comments on the Pop Culture Affidavit Facebook pagefollow me on Twitter, or email me at popcultureaffidavit@gmail.com.

The deadline for feedback will be Tuesday, September 7, 2021 if you want it read on the sixth episode.

Here’s where to listen:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Some extras for you …

(more…)

9/11 and Popular Culture Part Three

It’s the third episode of a six-part miniseries that examines the books, movies, music, comics, and other popular culture that directly addresses or is about the attacks of September 11, 2001. In this episode, I look at literature. Selections include poems by Toni Morrison, Abigail Deutsch, Deborah Garrison, and others; short stories by Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates; and Gae Polisner’s novel The Memory of Things.

This episode also crosses over with the most recent episode of Required Reading with Tom and Stella, where we talk about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.

A quick content warning: Though these events are now 20 years in the past, they are still traumatizing to many, and I also discuss some of my personal feelings and views, so listener discretion is advised.

Finally, I will be including a feedback section in the sixth episode of the series, and would love to hear what you think, so leave comments on the Pop Culture Affidavit Facebook pagefollow me on Twitter, or email me at popcultureaffidavit@gmail.com.

Here’s where to listen:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Some extras for you …

(more…)

9/11 and Popular Culture Part Two

It’s the second episode of a six-part miniseries that examines the books, movies, music, comics, and other popular culture that directly addresses or is about the attacks of September 11, 2001. In this episode, I look at comic books, starting with The Amazing Spider-Man volume 2 #36, Marvel’s A Moment of Silence, Kitchen Sink Press’ 9/11: Emergency Relief, Dark Horse’s 9/11: Artists Respond, DC’s 9/11 compilation, and Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers.

A quick content warning: Though these events are now 20 years in the past, they are still traumatizing to many, and I also discuss some of my personal feelings and views, so listener discretion is advised.

Finally, I will be including a feedback section in the sixth episode of the series, and would love to hear what you think, so leave comments on the Pop Culture Affidavit Facebook pagefollow me on Twitter, or email me at popcultureaffidavit@gmail.com.

Here’s where to listen:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

And for a look at when I covered two of these stories ten years ago, here’s a link to a “My Life as a Teen Titan” Post, This Too, Shall Pass.

9/11 and Popular Culture Part One

It’s the first episode of a six-part miniseries that examines the books, movies, music, comics, and other popular culture that directly addresses or is about the attacks of September 11, 2001. To begin, I take an historical look at the events of the day as well as some nonfiction about it, including the 9/11 commission report, news from professional and student journalists, as well as the works of bloggers and internet diarists.

A quick content warning: Though these events are now 20 years in the past, they are still traumatizing to many, and I also discuss some of my personal feelings and views, so listener discretion is advised.

Finally, I will be including a feedback section in the sixth episode of the series, and would love to hear what you think, so leave comments on the Pop Culture Affidavit Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, or email me at popcultureaffidavit@gmail.com.

Here’s where to listen:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

And here are some extras for you …

(more…)

The Spiral-Bound Life

I have to go school supply shopping this week, and my kid has finally hit the point in his academic career where, after years of giant, unwieldy binders filled with reams of loose-leaf paper, he’s decided to just pick up some five-subject spiral notebooks. I knew this day would come and I’ve been praying for it. The spiral-bound notebook is such a perfect school supply. In fact, it’s so great that it’s the subject of two of my favorite poems, Eve L. Ewing’s “To the Notebook Kid” and Ted Kooser’s “A Spiral Notebook”.

I encourage you to read both in their entirety, starting with Dr. Ewing’s poem and ending with Mr. Kooser’s, because they reflect upon different ends of life. Ewing’s line about “the ocean/you keep hidden in a jacked-up five star.” is about potential, promise, youth, and sets up a great closing stanza; Koozer laments, “It seems/a part of growing old is no longer/to have five subjects, each/demanding an equal share of attention,” although even he hasn’t lost some sense of that youthful wonder.

To this day, I still write drafts in spiral notebooks. It’s mostly a comfort of habit, as I’ve been filling “creative writing journals” since I took Mrs. Taber’s creative writing class in my senior year of high school; however, it’s also something that has always felt right to me. There’s something more intimate to me about writing in a notebook than typing on a laptop, and even if you don’t agree with me there, I’m sure you can agree that writing in a notebook with its lack of open browser tabs is certainly less distracting than a laptop screen.

I made the notebook transition when I got to high school as well. It’s possible that I had binders in the ninth grade, but I was definitely full notebook by the time tenth grade rolled around, having started with that classroom-issued yellow paper with blue lines in first grade off of which you could never erase cleanly before moving on to huge binders full of college ruled loose-leaf and the “Midvale School for the Gifted” Far Side cartoon blown up to 8-12 x 11 as a cover and finally to the spiral notebooks. Yes, I occasionally had to use composition notebooks, which I hated because you couldn’t tear out the pages cleanly and couldn’t fold over as nicely as a sprial-bound; and I dabbled in the Wireless Neatbooks that were not neat and usually fell apart within a few weeks after they were purchased; but those spiral notebooks became the staple of my school supply shopping*.

Most of the spiral-bound notebooks I’ve purchased over the years have been your basic-model five-subject college ruled notebooks. But every once in a while, I splurge and buy a Five Star.

With a durable plastic cover that measures 9″x11″ with 8-1/2″x11″ sheets, the Mead Five Star maintains its neatness through quite a bit of abuse; plus, with pockets at each subject divider, it’s heavier than your average spiral-bound five-subject notebook. It’s a piece of equipment, not just a school supply, and the price shows in the craftsmanship, as it’s not going to look completely destroyed by February, something demonstrated in the commercials.

Now, I probably wasn’t thinking about that when I was in high school, but I did take note of how “together” everything stayed within a Five Star as opposed to the notebooks that I had whose covers had fallen off and were stapled to the books’ first pages. Also, the amount of crap that one can cram into a locker always astonished me. My high school had the lockers like you see in The Breakfast Club: a long locker with a coat hook but also an attached “cubby” for textbooks. That’s where you shoved your lunch bag and I’m sure where a number of my peers shoved whatever contraband they were bringing onto school grounds**.

Anyway, that durability was a trademark of Five Star’s ad campaign throughout the early Nineties, and in one commercial, they managed to not only hit upon all of the “silly ways this thing can be abused” ad trope, but also the “cool Gen-Xer ’90s teen” trope (I linked the commercial here, but play-through is disabled so you’ll have to watch it on YouTube).

Commenters on the YouTube video have pointed out that this is Todd Alexander, who played Rob on the PBS series Ghostwriter. That was a little after my PBS-watching days, but it’s still a cool connection to be able to make. Anyway, what I love about this is the way that Rob is yet another “cool teen in a cool room”, living the kind of suburban life that we were all sort of living, or at least wished we were living in 1994. He’s got his earphones in, he’s got his drumsticks going, he’s got a basketball hoop set up and always makes the shot. I was never this cool. Then again, you can’t exactly be cool when you ask your parents to buy you a two-drawer filing cabinet for your bedroom.

Mead would extend the whole Five Star concept into a line of school supplies, including backpacks, making the brand a huge flex for the teens … at least according to this commercial (again, play-through has been disabled so you have to watch on YouTube).

The actor is Christian Hoff, a former Kids Incorporated cast member who has had a long career as a character actor on television series throughout the last few decades. I’m not sure who the girl in the commercial is except that they were clearly going for a Career Opportunities-era Jennifer Connolly with the look. And he’s another typical ’90s teen guy, the douche who thinks he’s all that because a pretty girl looks at him for more than a split second. Of course, the joke being that it’s his school supplies that have her attention. Is the message here that having Five Star is going to get you noticed and maybe even in with the ladies? I’m … not exactly sure. If it was, then I missed my chance because had I bought a lot of Five Star back in high school, maybe I would have actually gotten a date.

Damn cheap basic notebooks.

* To this day, I remember my first trip to Staples in East Islip. My friend Rich had bought a three-inch Avery binder with a plastic window and that’s what I’d wanted for eighth grade. It was like Randall walking into Big Choice video in Clerks. I wanted everything.

** We had the privilege of not having to deal with overzealous local police departments who thought it would be fun to bring drug-sniffing dogs into the school on a semi-annual basis. At one school where I taught, this was the “code yellow” lockdown, and oh man, I could go on about the inequities of punishment that resulted from those searches.