Well-Catalogued Gifts That are Far from Ordinary

I’m one of those nerds who will spend loads of time flipping through old publications. When I was a kid, I’d flip through the back issues of TV Guide that my grandmother was hoarding. I would go to the library and look up old issues of The New York Times on microfilm. And until they sold them off, I would spend some of my planning periods flipping through the perma-bound copies of Life magazine that my school library had in a study room. And while the articles and photographs in these magazines were always fascinating, it was the advertisements that I spent the most time poring over. I have always been fascinated by what people bought in the 20th Century and how those products were sold.

So it’s no wonder that I’ll spend hours scrolling through scans of old Sears catalogues, and because nostalgia tends to run my life at times (okay, most of the time), it’s no wonder that most of the time when I’m scrolling, I’m peeking at the phone book-sized “Wishbooks” from my childhood in the 1980s and remembering what my sister and I used to circle around the time our parents were asking us to make our Christmas lists. If you don’t believe me, check out WishbookWeb or one of Dinosaur Dracula‘s many posts (and Matt over at DD is an amazing writer who’s been finding wonderful nostalgic bits for more than 20 years, so you should read all of his posts). So the Sears books (and by extension JC Penney, Montgomery Ward, and even Toys R Us) are well-worn territory in the nostalgia blogosphere, and as much as they were part of my formative years, there were others that were a regular presence in my life during the late 1980s and early 1990s that had even more of an impact.

Now, I still get a fair amount of catalogues delivered to my house, but thirty years ago we were not yet inside the dot-com bubble and were certainly not shopping online yet, so if you wanted to get something that was physically unavailable to you at a local store or the mall, you either accepted the fact that you were probably out of luck, or you filled out an order form or called a 1-800 number on the back of a catalogue. Living on Long Island afforded me many commercial options, including no fewer than four malls within a 20-mile radius, so clothes, toys, and media weren’t exactly hard to find. So what catalogues I do remember paying the most attention to were as niche as they came–and I don’t just mean Mile High Comics, which I ordered from pretty regularly.

Because we got the catalogues. We got all the catalogues. We even got a catalogue of catalogues. No, really. it was the size of the booklet you’d get from Columbia House or BMG and had listings of catalogues that you could get sent to your home. In fact, such a thing still exists in the form of Catalogs.com, where you’re just a couple of clicks away from having various catalogues sent to your house. For all I know, it’s the same company that was sending us the catalogue of catalogues thirty years ago; and yes, I’m pretty sure I circled catalogues in the catalogue of catalogues for my parents to order. I don’t know if they ever did. But I do know that a day didn’t go by when they were in the mail: Plow and Hearth, Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, Spiegel, Victoria’s Secret, Talbot’s, Chadwick’s of Boston, Abercrombie & Fitch … International Male? Yeah I was perplexed by that one, too, especially since if I wanted a pair of Cavariccis, I could probably find them for sale within a mile of my house; I mean, it was Long Island.

Anyway, most of these catalogues were discarded within a flip-through. Some, such as Columbia House, BMG, and Mile High Comics, became research for possible entertainment purchases. But there were others that were just interesting enough to warrant an actual read through, and we even ordered from on occasion. In fact, I still get a few of these and may have ordered something for Christmas.

Let’s take a look at four of them.

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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…)