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Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 42: Closing the Door on 1994

Episode 42 Webpage CoverIt’s the end of the year and that means it’s the end of my year-long series, “1994: The Most Important Year of the Nineties!” I close things out with another grab bag that features music, movies, television, politics, and the Internet and then give a final, closing statement about why 1994 is the most important year of what’s proven to be an incredibly important decade.

You can download it via iTunes or listen here:  Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 42

And for your viewing/listening pleasure, here’s some things that were covered in the grab bag or at least mentioned at one point or another …

Dave Matthews Band: “Best of What’s Around”

Hammer: “Pumps and a Bump”

Weezer:  “Buddy Holly”

Beastie Boys: “Sabotage”

Scenes from The Ref

Opening credits to Party of Five

BoDeans: “Closer to Free”

Live: “Selling the Drama”

Live: “Lightning Crashes”

The trailer for True Lies

A call from The Jerky Boys

Dave Matthews Band: “Ants Marching”

Real McCoy: “Another Night”

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Classic College Memes: The Purity Test (slightly NSFW)

I am sure that Mr. Blutarsky's purity test score was in the negative numbers.

I am sure that Mr. Blutarsky’s purity test score was in the negative numbers.

The Internet is full of memes–lists, gifs, videos, and other things that often go viral–and that’s been the case since, well, since the Internet was invented.  A couple of weeks ago while cleaning out some old files, I found a few things and decided to spend a few weeks talking about memes that I first encountered in 1995.

My final entry is about The Purity Test.

A college dorm is some sort of primordial hormone soup, especially when you’re a freshmen.  Whereas you may have “hooked up” from time to time in high school, it was never to the extent that you do, or at least try to do, during your first year of college.  Okay, I should say “other” people do because when I started college I was at the first serious girlfriend stage that most guys are when they are freshmen in high school.  But my track record as a terribly late bloomer aside, it did seem like conversations about love and sex were everywhere and completely unavoidable.  In fact, sometimes they got intellectual, like the time a few people from one of my survey classes and I spent a Saturday night in a dorm room having our own version of Plato’s Symposium.  And that’s not a double entendre; we actually had an intellectual and philosophical discussion about love and sex … at least until it got interrupted by our gawking at the fire in Gardens A across the street.

Anyway, the quickest way to discussion about sex with the purity test.  Forwarded around at about the same time as the rest of the forwards I’ve looked at (for some reason, by spring semester and then in subsequent years, forwards would become less common, probably because the novelty wore off), this 100-question test was meme as group activity.  I remember printing copies out and taking it in a group of about ten people then comparing scores.  I think you were supposed to shoot for somewhere in the middle–a high score got you ridiculed as a virgin while a low score got you derided as a slut–although I don’t know why any score was ever a mark of distinction.  It’s not like “Hey, let’s lower that purity test score” was ever a successful pickup line, and there was more distinction in successfully completing the acrobatics necessary to have sex in an extra-long twin bed than a score on a test.

I haven’t looked at this list of questions in a good decade and a half, so I have no idea what my score would be (or honestly what it was at the time).  If you’re curious, you can take it yourself.

The Purity Test (more…)

Classic College Memes: Going to College is Easier Than it Looks

My freshman dorm, Wynnewood Towers of Loyola College in Maryland.  The building is now Newman Towers and the school is now Loyola University Maryland.

My freshman dorm, Wynnewood Towers of Loyola College in Maryland. The building is now Newman Towers and the school is now Loyola University Maryland.

The Internet is full of memes–lists, gifs, videos, and other things that often go viral–and that’s been the case since, well, since the Internet was invented.  A couple of weeks ago while cleaning out some old files, I found a few things and decided to spend a few weeks talking about memes that I first encountered in 1995.

This time around, it’s instant sentimentality and nostalgia for a few weeks gone by with “Going to College is Easier Than It Looks”

Your first semester of college is more thank likely one of the strangest three months of your life.  After all, if you’re like me, you go from living with mom and dad and having your own room to being shoved into what was once a one-bedroom apartment with four other guys who all have their own eating, sleeping, hygienic, and recreational drug habits.  Plus, unless you have a carry-over from high school to college (like friends or a girlfriend who came with you), you’re more or less figuring out both the social and academic landscape by yourself.  This is why those months–heck, the first few weeks–of college seem much longer than they actually are.

There was a point in mid-October where we were about a week away from my fall break and I had some sort of “you’ve changed” fight with my girlfriend.  Had I?  I’d been gone for all of five weeks and it’s not like I had dropped off the face of the earth for five years.  But at the same time, as I calculated the amount of stuff that had happened in those five weeks, I thought maybe I had.  A forward that landed in my inbox around the same time confirmed this.  Unlike the roommate lists, finals funnies, and other stupid crap we’d been passing around, this was especially popular among the girls and “romantic sensitive” doofuses like myself.

Reading it again, nearly 20 years later, I have to wonder if I was ever really was this sentimental about things.  I’m sure I was–there’s an earnestness that you have when you are 18 that eventually erodes as you grow into adulthood, one that I’ve definitely lost since then but that I can perhaps appreciate on some level.  You know, even though it was a little ridiculous to get this nostalgic over a mere five weeks of college.

For years, the author of this particular piece was unknown.  But in digging around on the internet for it, I found a version attributed to Ashley Wilson of Carnegie Mellon University.  I don’t know how true that is, but it may have been a newspaper column or essay that got picked up and sent around, her name being dropped at one point or another along the way.

“Going to College is Easier Than it Looks”

By Ashley Wilson
Carnegie Mellon University (more…)

Classic College Memes: How to Mess With Your Roommate

The Internet is full of memes–lists, gifs, videos, and other things that often go viral–and that’s been the case since, well, since the Internet was invented.  A couple of weeks ago while cleaning out some old files, I found a few things and decided to spend a few weeks talking about memes that I first encountered in 1995.

Here, I take a look at a favorite of ours, which is several ways to mess with your roommate.

It sounds weirdly sentimental, but when looking at memes like the ones I have dug up for this series of posts, I can picture the dank room in Wynnewood Towers and smell whatever lingered in the air for most of my freshman year–a combination of pot smoke, stale beer, rancid pizza, and b.o.  It’s a memory that amazes me with its staying power, especially since to this day I’m amazed none of my roommates and I died inadvertently at the hands of our habits (or each other, for that matter).

This was one of the first email forwards that went around in the fall of 1995.  I think at that point I was getting along with my roommates, although some of their habits were starting to work my nerves, but that’s partially because I wasn’t used to sharing a bedroom with someone for an entire school year and I hadn’t made that clean break from back home, so I was kind of stuck in two worlds in a sense.

So it was almost a relief that lists about ways to mess with your roommate landed our collective inboxes in the fall.  And I think that since the novelty of email and forward lists hadn’t worn off, we found ways to bond over them, as absurd as they could be.  There were several versions of this that floated around with different numbers of things to do and at one point I took all of them and put them into one huge master list which had about 250 items.  Unfortunately, I lost that list years ago and had to hunt this one down on the Internet.  I found this on an old, not-yet-deleted Angelfire site that was probably from the late 1990s or early 2000s, and though I would love to give credit to the original author, his or her identity remains a mystery.

100 Ways to Mess With Your Roommate (more…)

Classic College Memes: Fun Things to do in a Final That Does Not Matter

Final exams at Ridgemont High, circa 1983.

Final exams at Ridgemont High, circa 1983.

The Internet is full of memes–lists, gifs, videos, and other things that often go viral–and that’s been the case since, well, since the Internet was invented.  A couple of weeks ago while cleaning out some old files, I found a few things and decided to spend a few weeks talking about memes that I first encountered in 1995.

This one is about 50 Fun Things to do in a Final That Does Not Matter

My academic record during my freshman year of college was less than stellar.  My first semester was a nightmare, as I earned a 2.5 GPA, the highlight of which was a D+ in Calculus II.  My second semester was significantly better, as I earned the 3.5 GPA needed to maintain the 3.0 for my academic scholarship.

I had two amusing moments happen during finals that year.  One was in the spring when I overslept my Politics in Literature final by 45 minutes.  I remember waking up, looking at the clock, and then jumping out of bed and grabbing whatever clothes and writing implements were available, all the while saying, “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.”  I ran across campus, was admitted to my exam and was riding such an adrenaline high (I probably smelled horrible too) that I was the first one done.  It paid off, though–I got an A- in the class.

The other happened during the fall semester.  As I said, I wound up with a D+ in Calculus II.  Why was someone who would go on to major in writing taking Calculus II?  Well, I had scored a 3 on the AP Calculus exam in my senior year of high school and Loyola had told me that if I took Calculus II I would also get four credits for Calculus I.  Not having the wherewithal to see that I didn’t need this and also not having the common sense to drop the class the minute things got tough (especially since I knew it had nothing to do with my major), I toughed it out and flirted with academic disaster through December.

That final exam was the hardest test I would ever take in my life.  I knew this going in and did what I could to get help from my roommate, Rich, who was studying chemistry and understood this way more than I did.  I then holed myself up in a study lounge.  That is, until I ran into him during one of my study breaks and he told me that he ran the numbers and I could get a 0 on the final and pass the class.  That was good enough for me and I made sure I got a good night’s sleep.

To this day I don’t know what my grade was on that final exam.  That I passed the class was enough and I never took math again.  In honor of that final, I give you another popular forward from the fall of 1995.  The author is unknown but I wish I had followed his or her advice.

50 Fun Things to do in a Final that Does Not Matter
(i.e. you are going to fail the class completely no matter what you get on the final exam) (more…)

Classic College Memes: You Know You’re in College When ….

The Internet is full of memes–lists, gifs, videos, and other things that often go viral–and that’s been the case since, well, since the Internet was invented.  A couple of weeks ago while cleaning out some old files, I found a few things and decided to spend a few weeks talking about memes that I first encountered in 1995.

Beatty Hall at Loyola University Maryland (formerly Loyola College in Maryland).  I took quite a number of political science classes in this building.

Beatty Hall at Loyola University Maryland (formerly Loyola College in Maryland). I took quite a number of political science classes in this building.

First up: You Know You’re in College When …

So the fall of 1995 was a particularly weird point in my life.  It was my first semester in college and I wasn’t used to being on my own (few are when they’re freshmen), I wasn’t used to sharing a bedroom with someone for an entire school year and I hadn’t made a clean break from back home (read: I was still with my girlfriend, who was still in high school).  Plus, starting college in 1995 meant that Facebook was simply the book of senior portraits that you received at freshman orientation and most of us got our very first email accounts.

And since email was such a novelty, we’d be excited when what we referred to as “forwards” made their way around our social circles.  Most of them were chain letters–forward this to five people and receive good luck–but some of the more memorable ones were in list form.  This particular list got forwarded around early and employs a common trope of forwards, which is the “You know you’re _____ if/when …”  During my four years of college, I’d encounter “You know you’re a Loyola student when …,” “You know you’re from Long Island when …” and would actually create a “You know you’re from Sayville when …” list (that at one point actually was forwarded back to me), but this particular list was the very first one of these I received.

“You know you’re in college when …” is perfect for the type of person who has spent two or three months in a place that beforehand was only spied in 1980s comedies or admissions office brochures.  And while it seems weird to make it seem like “college” is a foreign land that I’ve been sent off to, when you think of the life you lead when you’re away at school and the place you came from, a lot of this makes sense.

I do not know the identity of the original author of this list, just that a friend sent it to me during the fall semester of my freshman year and at one point I decided to copy and paste it into MS Word and save it to a floppy disk.  Somehow it made it onto my current hard drive with the rest of my college stuff.

YOU KNOW YOU’RE IN COLLEGE WHEN. . . (more…)

Long Island State of Mind

I rarely intend to turn this space into a media studies seminar, but I have to say that I’m intrigued by how the culture of YouTube has upped the ante on homemade parody and satire, especially when it comes to music videos.

The idea that you can watch a television show, movie, or music video and then grab a video camera and film your own version has been around longer than the world wide web.  When I was in junior high school, my friends and I would commandeer my parents’ video camera (one of those huge cameras that held a full-sized VHS tape) and make funny videos of us lip-synching to certain songs or pretending to be in movies or on talk shows (we had one recurring thing that was a parody of Geraldo where the guests would always get into fights). 

If YouTube existed back then, I’m sure we would have posted at least one or two videos, although remembering what those videos were like, we would have definitely had to perfect our craft in order to get noticed at all.  The idea of copying a professional’s work and making fun of it/paying tribute to it is a craft all its own and just as the people who are creating videos on sites like YouTube have gotten better over the last few years, the audience has definitely gotten more discerning. 

Which begs me to ask: is there a benchmark for homemade quality?  Have we become so flooded with homemade videos that our home movies now have to have production value?

To examine this, I want to take a look at what’s been a parody meme of sorts (if that is even the right term–I’m not an academic, so most of this really is talking out of my ass) in the last year or so, which is videos that parody, or re-appropriate the Jay-Z/Alicia Keys hit, “Empire State of Mind.”

(more…)