2000s

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 72: The One With Tom and Stella Talking About Friends

episode-72-website-coverSo no one told you this podcast was gonna be this way … although someone told me and Stella when we sat down to dinner to talk about the iconic 1990s sitcom Friends. We spend a couple of hours talking about the show, its characters, and our favorite moments. Plus, there are tons of clips for your ears and Stella sings “Smelly Cat.” Repeatedly. But don’t worry, dear listener, because we’ll be there for you when the rain starts to pour.
Okay, I’ll stop.

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

As a bonus, here are links to times I’ve already covered Friends on the blog …

“The Routine,” a blog post about myself and my sister and Ross/Monica.

“So no one told you life was gonna be this way,” a blog post about the theme song.

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 39: Must See TV!, where Amanda and I do a commentary over the first Thanksgiving episode.

My 50-word commentary about the finale on “The Black List,” a weekly column on the late, lamented Black Table site.

And a YouTube playlist of some of the clips that I used in this episode

 

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The Rising

I am sure that if you were to scroll through your Facebook feed on the day I am posting this essay, which is the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, you’ll see a lot of images of eagles and flags and people posting their own memories of the day (despite their relevance to the events themselves).  I don’t tend to participate in these displays of patriotism, keeping whatever thoughts I have to myself or to the occasional blog post like this.  I also have particular pieces that I read every year, some that I incorporated into lesson plans back in my journalism teaching days.   But I do post one thing to Facebook on an annual basis, which is this:

If you aren’t familiar with this song or this performance, this is the performance that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band gave of their song “The Rising” to open the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards.  The song, which was released on June 24 of that year, was the title track to the album of the same name and won two Grammy Awards (Best Male Rock Performance and Best Rock Song), and even though it didn’t do very well on the Billboard Hot 100, is well known because of its lyrics, which are from the point of view of a firefighter in the World Trade Center on September 11:

Can’t see nothin’ in front of me
Can’t see nothin’ coming up behind
Make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile of line

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
I was wearin’ the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rollin’ down here

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li – li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li – li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li

There’s spirits above and behind me
Faces gone black, eyes burnin’ bright
May their precious blood bind me
Lord, as I stand before your fiery light

Li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li – li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li – li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li

I see you Mary in the garden
In the garden of a thousand sighs
There’s holy pictures of our children
Dancin’ in a sky filled with light
May I feel your arms around me
May I feel your blood mix with mine
A dream of life comes to me
Like a catfish dancin’ on the end of my line

Sky of blackness and sorrow (a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (a dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (a dream of life)
Your burnin’ wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li – li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li – li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li…

I first heard this song when it was released in the summer of 2002 and eventually bought the album when it came out, which would have surprised nobody at the time because I’m a fan of The Boss and this was the first album he had recorded with the E Street Band since Tunnel of Love in 1987.  I knew going in that the album was about the September 11 attacks, and so I knew it was going to probably be somewhat different, but that also intrigued me because I had not been very receptive to the songs that were being played in response to the attack, most notably Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?,” which I found cloying.  Springsteen had already performed “My City of Ruins,” a song he wrote about Asbury Park, New Jersey, at a telethon on September 21, but many of the songs on the album were written in late 2001 and early 2002, and the entire thing is packaged as both a statement of and contemplation of the events.

springsteen_rising_8x8_site-500x500Maybe it was the fact that it was The Boss that made me consider “The Rising” more than anything else I’d seen or heard about September 11.  The song is not subtle–Springsteen rarely is–but it doesn’t feel as blunt or saccharine as a “tribute song” would.  Instead, Springsteen uses a character to tell us about the events of that day, and he does this through several other songs on the album.  As I mentioned, this one is about a firefighter, but there are others that are from the point of view of other victims, their families, and the average citizen, a presentation that effectively tries to give them a voice while trying to interpret what happened for its audience.

“The Rising” is one of the album’s best pieces, both musically and lyrically.  Springsteen mixes the persona of a firefighter with religious imagery (“I was wearing the cross of my calling,” being a reference to the Cross of St. Florian) and while it does stumble a bit with his “catfish dancing” simile, the song transcends any of its minor lyrical faults through its music, especially the bridge, which is where Springsteen has the fireman seeing visions in “the garden of a thousand sighs” and then describes the sky while a bass line kicks in and the music begins lifting and lifting and lifting until it explodes into the song’s final chorus, personifying “The Rising” in the title.

This is one of my favorite parts to a song ever and this is one of my favorite songs ever because there is something about how Springsteen finds and expresses hope in the face of such a monumental disaster that is more genuine than manipulative saccharine pop or as tawdry as disaster porn.  He is finding humanity in all of this, which is something that often gets lost in memorial after memorial.  Yes, we remember that people died on September 11, but as the years go by, September 11 becomes more and more of an abstract idea and the individuals and the true human toll gets lost.  And it’s sad when this gets lost because that makes it harder and harder to teach to younger generations, because to the students I am teaching right now, September 11, 2001 is about as abstract a concept as the Kennedy assassination or Watergate were to me.  It’s something they’ve heard about, and something–depending on their family’s political leaning–they may have heard about incorrectly.

When I taught September 11 in journalism and later in English class, I focused on the reporting of the day in newspapers, the mis-reporting of the day in history textbooks, and then primary sources and interpretations.  I stopped teaching the unit after a couple of years of students not doing the reading and having nothing to say about it, figuring that they obviously weren’t finding it engaging.  But “The Rising” was always something I finished the unit with because it was about interpretation and finding meaning.

And you do have to wonder to yourself if September 11, 2001 is the type of thing that is open to interpretation.  Now, of course it is because anything is certainly open to interpretation.  But for years there has been a prescribed meaning or interpretation that our culture has been using.  What I have always loved about “The Rising” is that it doesn’t subscribe to that unless you want it to.  Springsteen wants us to take what we’re feeling and go along with this person, then release whatever that is, hopefully healing along the way.

 

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 58: Movie Songs!

Episode 58 Website CoverIt’s time for YET ANOTHER PLAYLIST EPISODE! Inspired by Andrew Leyland’s movie scores episode of “The Palace of Glittering Delights,” I’ve compiled a playlist of songs from movie soundtracks that are both classic and obscure but are in many ways spectacular. I’ve got Simon & Garfunkel, The Bee Gees, Queen, Irene Cara, and (of course) Kenny Loggins. So many movie memories! So many songs left off the list!

iTunes: Two True Freaks Presents Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Two True Freaks Presents: Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

 

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 55: Where Dreams Come True (Summer 2015 Part Two)

Episode 55 Website CoverThe summer 2015 recap continues with a Walt Disney World episode! Join me, Amanda, and Brett as we head to Orlando in July and cover past and present vacations, what we loved doing, what we loved to eat, and a little bit of Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure!

Here’s where to listen:

iTunes: Two True Freaks Presents Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Two True Freaks Presents: Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

And now for some bonus material!

During the show, I talk about my past experiences at Walt Disney World and also read the section on the now-defunct EPCOT Center ride Horizons found in Walt Disney World: A Pictorial Souvenir, which was published in 1984 and I received either right before or during my first trip to Walt Disney World in 1985.  Below are some scans of the book for you all to enjoy.

First, the cover:

Disney Guidebook Pictures0001

The beginning of the section of The Magic Kingdom, featuring a gorgeous evening shot:

Disney Guidebook Pictures0021

Disney Guidebook Pictures0022

Main Street, U.S.A.  I particularly like this page because of the perspective in the picture on the lower left.  You don’t get that view very often.  Plus, I have to admit that the lack of a crowd in the picture on the lower right is amusing:

Disney Guidebook Pictures0023

Two of the pages on Fantasyland.  I chose the first because of that gorgeous shot of Cinderella’s Castle with the purple sky behind it.  The second, I chose, because it has a picture of the skyway that ran over Fantasyland but closed in 1999 (fun fact: Disneyland had a similar skyway, which took you through the Matterhorn, which sounds awesome):

Disney Guidebook Pictures0024

Disney Guidebook Pictures0002

A quick look at Tomorrowland, which is definitely one of the lands of the magic kingdom that changed the most since I was a kid.  I rode the Astro Orbiter for the very first time this year, although I have to admit that part of me wishes I’d ridden it back in the day when it had its classic look:

Disney Guidebook Pictures0003

The opening of the EPCOT Center section of the book, complete with the old EPCOT Center logo.  I own two vintage-style T-shirts with the logo:

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The two-page spread about the EPCOT Center attraction known as Horizons.  This is the section of the book I read on the air.  A little more history about Horizons:  it opened in 1983 and was part of the “phase II” of EPCOT construction/attractions.  It closed in 1994 but was reopened in December 1995 and then closed permanently in 1999.  The attraction was completely disassembled and demolished and is now the home of Mission: Space.  You can see some of the pieces of the Horizons ride on display in the lobby of Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream theater in Hollywood Studios.

Disney Guidebook Pictures0005

Disney Guidebook Pictures0006

Another defunct ride in EPCOT is the GM-sponsored World of Motion.  This was one of the original EPCOT Center Future World rides before it closed in 1996.  The building still remains, as it was refurbished for what is now the Chevrolet-sponsored Test Track:

Disney Guidebook Pictures0007

Disney Guidebook Pictures0008

CommuniCore is the original name for what is now known as Innoventions in EPCOT’s Future World.  The buildings haven’t changed in structure–they are still two half-circles right behind Spaceship Earth–and there are still restaurants and gift shops.  The original exhibits were more thematically linked to the various pavilions in Future World, but the Innoventions ones seem to be more of their own thing.  If I may editorialize for a moment, I hope something more interesting is done with Innoventions because while some of the exhibits and interactive games are pretty cool, it seems like there is a lot of wasted space in those buildings:

Disney Guidebook Pictures0009

Disney Guidebook Pictures0010

The page on Canada in the World Showcase.  Because Canada is awesome, has one of my favorite gift shops in EPCOT, and there’s a guy playing a tuba:

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One of the souvenir guidebook’s pages on the Contemporary Resort hotel.  This one was always a personal favorite of mine, as I think it is with a lot of kids, because it’s the one that the monoral drives through.

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Here are some pages on Discovery Island, the now-closed zoological park that was part of the Walt Disney World resort until 1999.  And if you’re interested in more, here’s a link to a blog post by Shane Perez, who explored the closed facility in 2009:  The Photography of Shane Perez — Discovery Island:

Disney Guidebook Pictures0013

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River Country was Walt Disney World’s first water park and operated seasonally until November 2001.  It was scheduled to reopen in 2002 but that never came to be and the park now sits abandoned:

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One of the other resorts that you could stay at in 1984 was the Golf Resort Hotel.  The property has since been sold off and from what I can tell is no longer part of the Walt Disney World resort; however, if you’d like a trip down memory lane, the blog Passport to Dreams has an excellent post about it from 2012:  Passport to Dreams–Return to the Golf Resort:

Disney Guidebook Pictures0016

Two other areas that have been around since the park’s earliest days in the 1970s are Lake Buena Vista and Walt Disney World Village.  I am not sure if Lake Buena Vista still functions as a resort the way it did back in the 1970s and 1980s, but you can still shop at the Walt Disney World Village.  Except they don’t call it the Walt Disney World Village anymore–it was renamed Disney Village Marketplace in 1989, Downtown Disney in 1997, and Disney Springs on September 29, 2015:

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Disney Guidebook Pictures0018

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Finally, a look ahead at what was coming to Walt Disney World in 1986, the new EPCOT Center Future World attraction known as The Living Seas:

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Pop Culture Affidavit, Episode 49: The Waiting Place

Episode 49 Website CoverIn 1997, Sean McKeever self-published his very first work, The Waiting Place, a story about the ennui that comes with being a young adult trapped in a town that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It was soon picked up by Slave Labor Graphics and McKeever along with Brendon and Brian Fraim and then Mike Norton finished the entire saga of the town of Northern Plains and its denizens in three volumes plus an epilogue.

I spend this episode taking a complete look at The Waiting Place, which has been one of my favorite comics coming-of-age stories since I bought the volume one trade in 2001. This includes a full synopsis as well as a review.

You can download the episode via iTunes (search for Two True Freaks Presents: Pop Culture Affidavit) or listen here:  Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 49

If you’re interested in buying a copy of The Waiting Place, it’s available at Amazon.com.  Here’s the link

As a bonus, here are the covers to all three trades put out by Slave Labor Graphics as well as the IDW “Definitive Edition”:

Waiting Place Book One

Waiting Place Cover

Waiting Place Book Three

Waiting Place Definitive

In case you’re curious as to what music I used in this episode, here are some YouTube clips:

Tori Amos, “Pretty Good Year”

Nine Inch Nails, “Something I Can Never Have”

R.E.M., “You Are The Everything”

The Sundays, “Here’s Where the Story Ends”

Roxy Music, “More Than This”

80 Years of DC Comics, Part One: A Comics Life in Moments

80 Years Episode 1 Website LogoPresenting the first episode in an all-new podcast miniseries from Pop Culture Affidavit, 80 Years of DC Comics. Throughout these twelve episodes, I am going to be taking a look at the various genres of comic books that DC Comics has produced in its 80-year history. For my first episode, I start off easy by talking about superheroes. More specifically, I go through 10 moments in DC Comics published during my lifetime that have I’ve enjoyed or that have had some sort of impact on me. So while it doesn’t necessarily cover all 80 years of the company, it’s a personal look at DC, company I’ve been very loyal to since I started seriously collecting comics more than two decades ago.

Of course, you can download the episode from the same iTunes feed used for every episode of Pop Culture Affidavit, or you can listen here:  Pop Culture Affidavit Presents 80 Years of DC Comics, Part One:  A Comics Life in Moments.

Below are scans of the ten moments I talk about, in brief, in the episode (btw, some of these are spoilers for the stories they are from).

1. Batman Confronts Silver St. Cloud (Detective Comics #475):

Silver St Cloud2. Donna Troy Reunites With Her Adopted Mother (The New Teen Titans [First Series] #38):

Donna Troy Reunion3. Ordinary Citizens Reacting to Merging Earths (Crisis on Infinite Earths #5):

Crisis 5 Old Couple4. Bruce Wayne Has Some Bad News (Detective Comics #620):

Detective 620 Last page5. The Atom and Green Arrow Kill Darkseid (JLA #14):

JLA Death of Darkseid6. Batman meets … Batwoman? (The Kingdom:  Planet Krypton):

The Kingdom Batwoman7. Rose Wilson Chooses Her Family (Teen Titans #1/2):

Rose Wilson Ravager8. Darkseid and The Infinity Gauntlet (JLA/Avengers #2):

Darkseid JLA Avengers9. “Superheroes.  Kill.”  (Final Crisis #3):

Final Crisis 3 final page10.  Danny Chase’s Sacrifice (The New Teen Titans: Games)

Teen Titans Games Danny Chase

Signs and Stickers

scan0006It sounds ungrateful to say this, but there were many times throughout my youth where I was bored off my ass while on a family vacation. oh sure, we took trips to amusements parks and went to places like Washington, D.C. where there was plenty to do at museums, but I remember that for every ride at Disney World or every arcade
game at Weirs Beach, there was an antique shop or glass factory. Plus, there were car rides–long, mind-numbing car rides.

In fact, based on the amount of stuff geared towards keeping kids occupied in the car, I think it’s safe to say that a long, mind-numbing car ride was a rite of passage for much of my generation, possibly sitting in the seat that faced backward in someone’s station wagon. My parents didn’t have a station wagon, so my sister and I were sometimes forced to squeeze into the back seat of my mom’s 1987 Honda Prelude, which as an incredibly cramped fit when you were driving eight hours from Long Island to Williamsburg or to new Hampshire. But we definitely kept ourselves occupied with tapes in our Walkmen, comic books, novels, and travel board games.
These would keep our attention for at least a little while until we got bored enough to stare out the window and count the mile markers or keep an eye out for a Sunoco station because dad was low on gas.

There was one activity that I remember sticking with beyond an hour on I-95 in Connecticut, and that was a
folder with stickers titled Road Sign Games. My sister and I first spotted this in a store in Lake Sunapee,
New Hampshire during one of our many family outings. Being that it was one of those knick-knack gift shops
that seemed to be everywhere in that area of New Hampshire, when we went in, we weren’t allowed to do anything
and were instantly bored. Not that we would want to–after all, vases, dishes, scented candles, homemade
soaps, and necklaces with runes on them weren’t exactly the type of things that set our world on fire,
especially when I would spend most of my vacation each year reading Star Trek novels.

The road sign stickers that you would peel and place inside the Road Sign Games folder.

The road sign stickers that you would peel and place inside the Road Sign Games folder.

This particular place, though, had toys and games and Road Sign Games was not too expensive, so my parents went ahead and bought one for me and one for my sister. The game was simple, too–contained in a polybag was a folder containing pictures of commonly found road signs along with a sheet of stickers, which you would stick to the matching sign in the folder whenever you saw that particular sign. At a glance, it looks like the type of thing you’d have a little bit of fun with but eventually put away among the sticker books, word searches, and crossword puzzle books that were all bought at one time or another as boredom cures.

But when I was up in New Hampshire that year, completing the book became one of the most important things I had to get done when I was on vacation. My parents would often make us schlep halfway across the state or even into Vermont throughout the vacation and when I realized that I was seeing a number of road signs during these day trips, I knew that I had found my salvation. No longer was I going to spend my time int he back seat fighting with my sister or wondering why there weren’t any good songs on the radio, I had signs to see!

Some of the signs were pretty easy to spot. I didn’t have to go very far to see a stop sign, one way, do not enter, or a speed limit sign; and interstate shield and exit signs would about whenever we traveled long distances. But I had never seen a no passing zone or a pavement ends sign. And so began the quest. on the way to shopping, I noticed that whenever there was a solid yellow line on the side of the road, there would be a yellow triangular no passing zone sign; whenever we hit construction traffic, I saw orange signs; and I noticed how all of the signs around the parks were brown. In fact, I became so determined to finish the road sign game that I walked from our cabin over to Wadleigh State park, where I managed to fill more than a few of  that section’;s stickers. I think i got as far as all but ten stickers before the road sign game was filed away and then either lost or thrown in the trash. (more…)