high school

Origin Story Episode Seventeen

Origin Story Episode 17 Website CoverThe “Joes captured behind the Iron Curtain” storyline continues as Outback, the one who got away, escapes and fights his way across the border in G.I. Joe Special Missions #6.  As always, I take a look at the comic and give it a review.  Then, I spend time talking about the Stephen King novels published in 1987, especially his fantasy story The Eyes of the Dragon.

NOTE:  There were some technical issues with the audio and I may sound a little digitized and underwater.  Hopefully, I will resolve those issues by the next episode.

You can listen here:

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

G.I._Joe_Special_Missions_Vol_1_6

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 74: Well Everyone Else is Doin’ It …

Episode 74 Website CoverThey were cool, they were hip, they were the “in” thing, and they lasted all of three months.  They were fads.

Slap on a bracelet, flip a water bottle, hug your Beanie Babies tight and join me as I take a look at seven huge youth-driven fads (with some old people getting into it) from the mid-1980s until today.  I examine the background behind each, some of its effects, why they were often banned from schools, and how they died out.

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

And just for fun, here are the seven fads featured with some footage (where possible)

Bottle Flipping

Silly Bandz

Silly Bands

Snopes article about “Sex Bracelets”

Tamagotchi

Beanie Babies

Pogs

Slap Bracelets

slap bracelets

A couple of articles on slap bracelets from The New York Times 

“Turning Profits Hand Over Wrist” (10/27/90)

“U.S. Consumer Panel Warns of Injury from Slap Bracelets” (10/30/90)

“Principal Puts a Halt to Slap Bracelet Fad” (10/11/90)

Garbage Pail Kids

garbage_pail_kids_650x300_a

 

 

Five Musical Things I Missed Out on as a Teenager (Because I was Too Busy Listening to Metallica)

So I was listening to episode 73 of the podcast, where Amanda and I were talking about the albums that influenced us as teenagers, and at one point I mentioned something that I have mentioned before on both the podcast and this blog, which is that I listened to my fair share of Metallica when I was a teenager.  Not only that, but as I got older and essentially grew out of Metallica, I came to realize that I didn’t really genuinely like most of the band’s music.  Oh sure, there are songs that I think are still really good–“Whiplash,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Master of Puppets,” “One,” “Nothing Else Matters,” and “Hero of the Day” are still ones that I will put on rotation every once in awhile–but I hit a point in my adult life where I realized that I listened to Metallica and some other metal bands when I was a teenager mainly because I wanted to fit in with the guys I was hanging out with.

And yes, I reread that sentence and it sounds utterly ridiculous, but at the same time is so true, and I think that my fellow nerds will understand it.  When you are hanging around a group of people with similar interests and you’re … well, you’re a bit of an introvert who is unsure of himself … you want to fit in.  So when the guy who’s kind of the alpha of the group declares that a particular band or album is required listening, you either borrow his copy and tape it or you procure a copy of it yourself (I still remember the odd look on my aunt’s face when she gave me Kill ‘Em All for Christmas and asked if “this was the one you wanted”).

Anyway, I was listening to the episode and the Metallica point came up, and as I went through the rest of the episode and really reveled in the differences between Amanda’s and my musical tastes, I started thinking about what I either listened to in secret or completely missed out on while spending the better part of four years chasing my friends’ musical tastes.  I mean, there were bands or albums that I didn’t discover until I was in college, and there were also things I used to kind of sneak-listen, keep in my Walkman, and lie about when asked “What are you listening to?” (hence the time I got caught with a Righteous Brothers tape).  And maybe if I’d had the balls, I wouldn’t have had to not tell my friends that I was checking out Goodbye Yellow Brick Road from the public library or that I had taped most of 10,000 Maniacs’ Our Time in Eden and found that more enjoyable at times than, say, Ride the Lightning.  I liked Paul Simon and Van Morrison and had a pop-rock sensibility that I just took way too long to fully embrace or at least admit to embracing.

But regrets are really not worth it at my age and instead of lamenting my bad choices made in my formative years, I’m going to list five musical acts, albums, or songs that I almost missed out on but eventually caught up to after high school.

better_than_ezra_deluxeBetter Than Ezra.   Credit for introducing this band goes to my friend Valerie, who was really into this band when we met in the fall of our freshman year of college.  Deluxe had come out in February of 1995, so I was within about six months of its release when she introduced me to them, but during that February, I remember that I had just started going out with a girl whose favorite band was Live, so there was a lot of listening to songs that featured references to afterbirth (seriously … you couldn’t have thought of another lyric?).  Better Than Ezra, and by extension bands like Gin Blossoms and Dishwalla (both of whom played Loyola at the end of our freshman year) were this lighter, radio-friendly rock-pop that washed up in the wake of the end of the earlier part of the decade and songs like “Good” and “In The Blood” found their way onto my car mix tapes.  I personally prefer Friction, Baby, which was the 1996 follow-up to Deluxe, but I will say that these 3-4-minute pop/rock ditties were much more replayable than a seven minute-plus metal dirge.

the_clash_ukThe Clash.  Yes, even though I said that Dookie was my gateway to other punk music, I didn’t buy my first Clash CD until the very end of high school.  I had been watching some documentary about the history of rock and roll (in fact, it may have actually been called The History of Rock and Roll) on channel 9 and saw the episode about punk, which covered the 1970s punk scene and went specifically in depth with The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and X.  The last of those groups was never one I would get too attached to, but I had heard of the Ramones by that point and shortly thereafter (this would have been May or June of 1995), I took my hard earned money to Borders and picked up the U.S. version of the Clash’s first album (it was the only one available at the time and the only copy I ever owned, so I can’t even say I was doing punk right).  I really loved it, especially their cover of “I Fought the Law” (which, like a dork, I will pair with Mellencamp’s “Authority Song” on playlists from time to time).

Where this actually gets a little funny is that I brought this CD to the house of one of my friends who was that “alpha” of the group and seemed to want to dictate everyone’s musical tastes and the reception he gave the album was pretty indifferent.  A few years later, he was listening to London Calling and I remember standing there like, “Huh.  So … you’re full of shit.”  I mean, it took a while but I finally came to my senses.

the_cure_-_kiss_me2c_kiss_me2c_kiss_meThe Cure.  Now, I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of The Cure.  I don’t own a single album, and I think I may have only ever downloaded four of their songs: “Just Like Heaven,” “Love Song,” “In Between Days,” and “Lovecats.”  But I did have a friend in high school who absolutely loved The Cure and had I not been lured in by the siren call of “I Alone,” I would have probably let her get me into the band.  Because I have found since that I really do enjoy quite a bit of the 1980s new wave/alternative sound than I was willing to admit to in high school (except Morrissey … sorry … I can’t …).

And if I had listened to The Cure, I would have actually fit in at my high school.  There was a huge contingent of Cure fans who were pretty popular and had the type of musical tastes that one could get a real education out of.  I just never gave it a shot and while I want to say that I don’t know why, I have to say that I think a lot of it had to do with the way that a group like The Cure was seen, among some of the guys I was hanging around, as “chick music” or even “gay.”  And I will be the first to admit that it took getting out of my hometown and even going beyond the confines of my college to really understand how homophobic I was as a teenager–not that that was the complete reason I rejected The Cure, but since my musical tastes (at least the public ones) were so dictated by how I was perceived and I tended to be the butt of my friends’ jokes anyway, it’s not shocking that I allowed it to shape my view of what is a really solid band.

sarah_mclachlan_-_fumbling_towards_ecstasySarah McLachlan.  So I’m in my freshman year of college and listening to, of all things, a CD put out by Loyola’s a cappella groups, The Chimes and The Belles.  One of the tracks on the CD (and I own the CD … in fact, you can hear selections from it in the episode) is The Belles covering “Elsewhere,” a song I had never heard before and I think I might have had to ask someone where the song was from.  At any rate, that was the first time I had heard anything off of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and that was strange considering that the album had been out for easily a year and a half and was right in my 10,000 Maniacs/Cranberries/Lisa Loeb wheelhouse.  But again, when you’re tracking down old Metallica albums or trying to find those rare Nine Inch Nails singles because that gets you cred with a group of guys who could barely get a girl to look at them, you tend to miss the siren call of Canadian singer-songwriters.  In the years between that moment and the early 2000s, I’d buy most of the rest of her discography at the time, including Solace, which has two of my favorite songs of hers (“Path of Thorns (Terms)” and “I Will Not Forget You”) as well as a book of her sheet music.  In fact, I remember downloading the guitar tab to “I Will Remember You,” printing it out, and figuring out how to play it on the piano (something I did for Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” as well).  But the piano’s influence on my musical tastes is actually going to be the subject of another podcast episode, so I’ll move on.

The Entire Decade of the 1980s.  By the time I moved in with Amanda in the fall of 2000, I had an enormous Eighties music collection.  When I was a teenager, I would rock the hell out whenever the Totally ’80s commercial would come on:

But beyond my well-worn copy of Born in the U.S.A. and a few random songs I’d taped off the radio here and there, my Eighties game was weak and I went right on ignoring it while I chased the latest alternative and metal trends.  And honestly, that’s the biggest shame, because even back then, I thought that “Centerfold” by J. Geils Band had one of the best hooks ever recorded and I still remembered all of the words to “Everybody Have Fun Tonight.”  So when, in the late 1990s, the Eighties retro thing went huge with movies like Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, Grosse Pointe Blank, and The Wedding Singer, I was all up in that.

I guess if there’s a conclusion to this it’s that you really shouldn’t give a shit what people think when it comes to your favorite music and I wish I had been more sure of myself, or at least sure enough to say that it’s okay to like what I liked.  At least I eventually learned that.

Not that I don’t have musical regrets.  But that’s another story for another time.

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 52: It Was Just as if Everyone Had Swelled

Episode 52 Website CoverHigh school reunion month concludes with my all-time favorite reunion movies and one of my all-time favorite John Cusack movies, Grosse Pointe Blank. For this look at the high school reunion of Martin Blank, professional killer, I’m joined by Michael Bailey (From Crisis to Crisis, Tales of the JSA, Views from the Longbox) and we talk about the movie, its characters, its music, and how well it holds up nearly 20 years after its release.

Here’s where to listen:

iTunes: Two True Freaks Presents Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Two True Freaks Presents: Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

The Blonde Leading the Blonde

There is a scene toward the end of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion where Toby (Camryn Manheim) tells Heather (Janeane Garofalo) that Heather’s constantly telling her to “fuck off” throughout high school really hurt her feelings.  Heather, who at that point had come to the realization that Romy and Michele–whom she claims made her life hell in high school–went through hell because of the actions of the “A Crowd,” realizes that she made Toby’s life hell and says, “Tremendous!”  While Garofalo plays Heather as the bitter and cynical one at the reunion, it’s a scene that is a lot more funny and perfect than the way I just described it.  She’s just realized the truth about how bullying works within the high school social hierarchy:  the kids on top picked on someone below them and that person found someone below them to torture and that person found someone below them, and so on.

It’s one of a few darker points made throughout a movie that is best known for its two ditzy main characters.  Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow) are living in Los Angeles ten years after graduating from high school and leaving behind their lives in Tucson.  While they clearly have fun, neither is particularly successful–Michelle is unemployed and Romy works the counter at a Jaguar dealership (where she is constantly hit on by Ramon in the service department)–and after Romy runs into Heather at the dealership (Heather got rich after inventing a quick burning paper that eventually was used in a special kind of cigarette), the two prepare for their high school reunion by flipping through their yearbook and it goes from happy and funny to a realization that they spent the better part of four years getting shit on by the “A Crowd,” which was led by Christy Masters (Jessica Campbell).  Seeing that they’ve basically amounted to nothing and that they have to show up Christy and the A Crowd, they borrow a Jaguar from Ramon at the dealership, buy sophisticated-looking business suits and flip phones, and come up with a backstory about their having invented Post-Its.

This obviously falls apart, mostly due to Heather, who is unaware of the cover story and blows it right in front of Christy, who then take the opportunity to ridicule Romy and Michele for their lie in front of the entire class.  It leads to Romy and Michele going back to their car, putting on custom-made dresses, and then marching back into the reunion where Romy walks right up to Christie and says:

What the hell is your problem, Christie? Why the hell are you always such a nasty bitch? I mean, okay, so Michele and I did make up some stupid lie! We only did it because we wanted you to treat us like human beings. But you know what I realized? I don’t care if you like us, ’cause we don’t like you. You’re a bad person with an ugly heart, and we don’t give a flying fuck what you think!

Christie and her minions laugh it off, making fun of their outfits, but Lisa Luder (Elaine Hendrix), who was once one of the A Group but lost touch with them over the years as she worked her way up the ladder at Vogue, compliments the outfits, to which Christie replies, “You’re just jealous. Because unlike a certain ball-busting dried up career woman, I might mention, we’re all HAPPILY MARRIED!”

“That’s right, Christie,” Lisa says “Keep telling yourself that.”

It’s one of my favorite exchanges throughout the entire movie because in a way it fulfills a fantasy that I’m sure quite a number of people who weren’t on top of the pecking order have had at least once.  In fact, what writer Robin Schiff (who also wrote the play the film is based on, Ladies Room) and director David Mirkin (who was a longtime Simpsons writer and had worked on, among other series, the Chris Elliott show Get a Life) do is explore several scenarios that you’d expect from a movie that’s about a high school reunion:

  • The popular crowd still wants to act as if it’s on top
  • You want to see if your high school crush is still like you remember
  • There’s one-upsmanship to see who’s the most successful
  • You feel secure or insecure as to how his or her life has turned out
  • You come to realization that high school is not as important to your overall life as it seemed when you were there

There are all elements that could be taken seriously and even used for a drama, but Schiff and Mirkin turn what could be a middle-of-the-road movie into a weird, even crazy at times farce that is more of a “best friends” movie (I hesitate to use the word “chick flick”), and that’s what puts it above any run-of-the mill comedy of the time.  It also capitalizes on what was then a growing nostalgia for the Eighties (The Wedding Singer would be released about 10 months later) with flashbacks to 1987 and a soundtrack that included Wang Chung, The Go-Go’s, Kenny Loggins, Belinda Carlisle, and Cyndi Lauper–in fact, what’s probably the most famous scene in the movie is a choreographed dance the ladies have with Alan Cumming to “Time After Time”:

Funny enough, nearly twenty years after Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion came out, it’s now a great movie to watch for Nineties nostalgia.  The entire look of the movie just screams Nineties and I have to wonder if it was one of the things that the producers of Hindsight watched when they were planning their Nineties flashback series.  And while I’ve skipped over quite a bit of the movie in favor of a couple of the themes it explores, it’s easily one of the best films about a high school reunion ever made.

Since You’ve Been Gone

Back when there were video stores, there were always moves that you rented because nothing else looked good.  When I was in junior high, these were often produced by a studio like Cannon, but as I got older, and my film taste diversified from random ass, often crappy action movies to random-asse crappy comedies (I never said my taste improved as I got older).  One of those movies was Since You’ve Been Gone.  This one sat on a shelf at the Blockbuster in Bayport for what seemed like eons in 1999, staring at me, begging me to rent it, only to be disappointed when I decided that watching Jawbreaker was a better idea.

But one day, when I happened upon the film again, I picked up the box and read what seemed to be a good equation for the type of movie I could spend some time with on a Saturday night:  Lara Flynn Boyle + David Schwimmer + Teri Hatcher + High School Reunion = Decent Time.  Hey, picking up a video on an off chance worked for Clerks, so why not go for this?

Believe it or not, while Since You’ve Been Gone is not Clerks, it’s still an entertaining little flick that is worth it when you are scrolling through Netflix looking for something to watch.  The most interesting piece of trivia about it is that it was directed by David Schwimmer, who at the time was at the high point of his Friends fame and it also has a fairly decent number of walk-ons and cameos by famous actors (or at least people that I can spot).  While  it is an ensemble, it basically follows three sets of friends through their high school reunion at a hotel in downtown Chicago (and props to the film’s writers for not setting the reunion at the actual high school).

Our first group is made up of Kevin (Philip Rayburn Smith), Molly (Joy Gregory), and Zane (Joey Slotnick), who are basically, I would say, the most ordinary of the entire cast.  Kevin, a pediatrician, is the snarky cynic; Molly, his wife, is the outsider (she didn’t go to high school with Kevin); and Zane is their friend who achieved some marginal fame as a musician (although his most famous song is one that another artist sings).  Kevin’s time at the reunion is an exploration of that cynicism–confronting an old rival, seeing an old flame, and receiving bad new from work make him increasingly bitter.

The second group is that of Holly (Heidi Stillman), Electra (Laura Eason), and Maria (Teri Hatcher).  Holly survived a plane crash and is now a motivational speaker, while Electra is a walking calamity.  Maria–whom they haven’t seen in years–is living in Europe and has become a “worldly” type, peppering her speech with snooty-sounding European phrases.  So their plot is about the bullshit they create for themselves, although Electra’s is one of having more and more terrible things happening to her over the course of the night, including chipping her tooth on a nail that someone put in her slad and having her ass glued to a toilet seat.

David Schwimmer, who directed the film, as Rob, the douchebag class president.

Finally, there’s Duncan and Clay.  Clay (Thom Cox) is and has been “crazy” and self-destructive and Duncan (David Catlin) is his best friend and de facto caretaker.  Duncan is also the guy who is constantly shit upon by class president Rob, who is played by David Schwimmer in the douchiest way possible.  Duncan, it’s discovered by the end of the film, is great at networking with people and Clay winds up hooking up with Grace (Lara Flynn Boyle), who is just as destructive as he is and spends the entire night playing brutal practical jokes on her former classmates.

Honestly, while the plots of the film are solid enough to carry the whole movie, the most memorable stuff is found int he various one-off jokes and random cameos (Jon Stewart, Jennifer Grey, and Molly Ringwald as “Claire,” to name a few).  Years ago, I reviewed Since You’ve Been Gone for Bad Movie Night and noted that the film feels like it is the reunion of the graduating class that we see in Can’t Hardly Wait (which Since You’ve Been Gone actually predates by two months) and even though that review is more than a decade old, I still think that makes sense.  Can’t Hardly Wait is very much like this–random characters with separate storylines that all exist within the same setting (Can’t Hardly Wait takes place at a massive graduation party).  And while there are certainly better high school reunion movies than this one (Grosse Pointe Blank comes to mind), Since You’ve Been Gone is quite possibly one of the most realistic in its premise.  After all, an event like a high school reunion doesn’t have a through storyline, and everyone brings their own lives–and often their own baggage–with them.

Schwimmer and writer Jeff Steinberg play that for laughs and serious where it needs to be but with the exception of Zane singing his song at the reunion (after Grace has destroyed all of the band’s instruments through a massive feedback), which provides background for a montage, they do a competent job of not laying any emotion on too thickly. Like I did a number of years ago, you’d probably only ever watch this if you happened to be browsing through Netflix and it caught your eye (it’s been available for streaming for years and I don’t think it’ll be gone anytime soon).  But at least, I suspect, you’ll find it’s worth it.

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 51: Good Times Never Seemed So Good

Episode 51 Website CoverWith this episode of the podcast, I’m kicking off “High School Reunion Month.”  No, I won’t be attending my high school reunion (there are scheduling conflicts) but I am going to be doing two podcast episodes and two blog posts about high school reunion movies from the Nineties.  First up?  Beautiful Girls, a 1996 ensemble comedy directed by the late Ted Demme and starring Matt Dillon,Timothy Hutton, Rosie O’Donnell, Martha Plimpton, Natalie Portman, Michael Rappaport, Mira Sorvino, and Uma Thurman.  I take a look at the movie and offer up my favorite moments as well as tackle some long-awaited listener feedback.

You can download the show via iTunes or listen/download directly via the Two True Freaks Website.  Here are the links:

Two True Freaks Presents: Pop Culture Affidavit iTunes link

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 51.mp3

And for the blog, here’s some bonus material!

The song “Beautiful Girl” by Pete Droge, which plays over the opening credits (and provides the opening music to the show):

Gina (Rosie O’Donnell)’s epic rant about men and the female form:

The movie’s trailer:

Beautiful Girls