junior high

A New Year’s Eve on the Brink

When you trade in nostalgia, the idea of a milestone anniversary for something you cherished in your formative years is constantly on your mind.  Since starting this blog, I have watched the 20th, 25th, 30th, and even 40th anniversaries of pieces of popular culture that were personal milestones come and go.  Some, I have celebrated; others, I have acknowledged but decided not to cover because the idea of constantly chasing such anniversaries sounds exhausting.

That being said, today marks 30 years since New Year’s Eve 1988.  Nothing significant happened exactly on this day, but when I was thinking about what to write for my annual New Year’s Eve post, the thought of the 1988-1989 school year kept popping into my head and the more and more I thought about it, I discovered that in hindsight, this was a year that was more important than I once thought, both personally and culturally.

Why?  Well, for a number of reasons (and not just mathematically), 1988 was the beginning of the end of what we commonly celebrate as the 1980s and as we moved into 1989, we would see our culture shift into that odd post-1980s hangover that was the pre-Nevermind early 1990s.  It was, as the title of this post suggests, a time when we were on the brink.  The Cold War was ending, we were heading toward a new decade, I was hitting puberty, and there were other societal shifts that we as a culture were both seeing and wouldn’t realize were there until they were over (or in my case, 30 years later).

So, to take us out of 2018, here is my list of … Eight Significant Things about 1988-1989. (more…)

Advertisements

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

 

 

Bye Bye Junior High

Bye Bye Junior High

The final image from “Bye Bye Junior High.”

So funny enough, I actually missed the last episode of Degrassi Junior High when PBS aired it.  There was a point where I was watching DJH on a fairly regular basis and then PBS started airing episodes of Degrassi High, a series that I’m definitely going to cover in full detail on the blog because whereas I only remember certain episodes of DJH, I remember every episode of Degrassi High and that’s the show that I grew attached to, at least for the couple of years that I was able to find it on television.  But really, one day I was watching an episode like “Pass Tense” or “Black and White” and the next I saw the Degrassi kids starting high school at a new show and heard hints of something really bad happening to the junior high school.

It wasn’t until years later–a few years ago, in fact–that I managed to get my hands on a copy of this, the very last episode of Degrassi Junior High.  I had placed a bid for VHS copies on eBay and had won an auction but then the auction was done away with because the person involved was selling copies of the show that he/she had taped and that was technically illegal.  When that happened, the person contacted me and offered to send me a tape anyway.  I offered to pay for shipping and the cost of a VHS tape–all in all it was about $10–and wound up with all of Degrassi High and several episodes of DJH, including “Bye Bye Junior High.”  This wound up being one of the first episodes I sat down and watched, thinking, “I never actually got to see this.”

 

The episode famously (at least if you’re a Degrassi fan) ends with the boiler room of the junior high school catching on fire on the night of the big graduation dance and everyone in the dance being evacuated and forced to watch the place burn to the ground.  But before that there’s a lot of resolution to various character plotlines and we get the feeling that this is indeed some sort of finale and that the main stories from the entire season are being wrapped up.  So, it’s not a “jumping on” point but then again when is a season/series finale a “jumping on” point?

If you’d been watching the entire season, you know that there have been three major storylines at this point:  Wheels’s parents dying at the beginning of the season and his struggle to come to terms with their deaths and getting on with his life, Joey’s learning disorder and having to repeat the eighth grade, and Spike’s struggles in school as a result of raising Emma.  All three of these are addressed over the course of the last couple of days of school wherein the gang finishes their final exams and then gets their report cards.  Most of them pick their report cards up at the main office but these three have teachers personally hand them their grades.  It’s a weird thing, but for story’s sake it works.  Oh, and lurking in the background is the foreshadowing of the fire with the constant presence of a malfunctioning fire alarm and maintenance workers who are there to fix the furnace of what is a very old building–okay, it’s not so much lurking in the background for foreshadowing’s shake as it is blatant telegraphing of what’s going to happen at the end of the episode but it works in a sense.

Anyway, the three characters each have their worries and their moments.  Wheels struggles to finish his last final exam and in the end barely makes it out of ninth grade.  Mr. Garcia–who talks in “teacher vocabulary”–tells him that yes, he passed, but barely and under normal circumstances he would be made to repeat some courses, maybe even the entire grade.  Wheels seems to ignore most of this hearing: “Blah blah blah PASSED blah blah blah” and leaves excitedly, which is true to his character, especially considering what will happen as he moves through high school and at the end of the series in the School’s Out movie.   (more…)

Avant Garde in the Final Frontier

When I look at what my son likes to watch on television and what he likes to play with, I am amazed at how similar we are.  Now, I don’t have a photographic memory from when I was 3-1/2–most memories from that age come in flashes and spurts–but right now he is really into superheroes and Curious George.  I am sure that we’ll have years of superhero awesomeness in our house (and that’s a whole other entry), and Curious George is definitely another topic for another day as well, although I do remember that when I was young I had several of those books that I read and decorated with stickers that told everyone that it belonged to TOM.

But he’s also really interested in space travel and when he first showed interest in it I was excited but I wasn’t sure exactly how to encourage that curiosity about space.  You know, beyond watching space shuttle launches on YouTube and a set of space-themed flash cards my wife found in the dollar bin at Target.  I mean, it’s a bit too early to get him into Star Wars because even that type of violence might be a little much for a kid who gets a little scared when watching Scooby-Doo (besides, I don’t remember seeing Star Wars for the first time until I was about four or five).  And while I’m sure that I will get around to The Saga, I was hard-pressed to find something until I was hanging out in the library at work and came across National Geographic’s Picture Atlas of Our Universe.

With a futuristic-looking spaceship on the cover, Our Universe is one of those library books that when I was in junior high I would check out at least a few times a year in order to pore over its pages, taking in every artist’s rendition and satellite image.  The edition I had in my hands on was from 1992, so it was later than the one I used to check out of the library but still accessible to even a very little kid and still awesome to me.

That space ship on the cover is sort of our guide through the universe, as the book’s narrative takes us on a tour through all of the planets of the solar system including Pluto (and I don’t buy that “Pluto’s not a planet” crap anyway), and beyond.  The beyond includes stars, asteroids, comets, other galaxies and the history of space travel as well as the possibilities for the future.

The title page, which leads to …

Open the book and the title flies at you kind of how the opening credits of Superman do.  But what makes this even more awesome on some level than seeing “Richard Donner” streak across a screen is that Our Universe does the title flight over the course of two spreads with the words nearly off the page on the second spread.  That, and it’s in Avant Garde and Avant Garde is just awesomeness in itself.

After an introduction, we learn about how ancient civilizations viewed the cosmos as well as how our modern scientific theories come to fruition through scientists such as Newton and Galileo.  it’s an encyclopedia’s worth of information being written in a pretty tight narrative that your average and elementary and junior high kid would understand and probably enjoy.  The examples rely on both scientific models and artist’s conceptions, something that’s carried throughout.

… a TWO-PAGE SPREAD OF AVANT GARDE GRANDEUR!!!

(more…)

Uncool as Ice

For a brief moment in the eighth grade, I thought this was cool.

When you’re unpopular in junior high, pop music can be as cruel as the people who seem to make it their mission to go out of their way to make your life a living hell.  I guess I should clarify that because music itself can’t be cruel–for the most part, anyway–but it, combined with the hormonal awkwardness that can only come from being an early adolescent can make you do pretty stupid things, like think you can dance.

The usual popular culture portrayal of a junior high dance is the image of an extremely awkward evening in a humid gym where girls spend most of their time as far away as possible from much shorter boys, who are too busy trying to gross one another out to notice those girls.  In those movies or television shows, two people eventually dance and it winds up being a rather chaste, sweet moment.

However, the dances I went to at Sayville Junior High between 1989 and 1991 were nothing like the ones we used to see on TV.  I may be exaggerating here, but I remember those dances feeling epic, as if each was one night in my young life when I was in the right place at the right time.  The student council and junior high staff certainly seemed to make it that way, at least by using the building’s architecture to its fullest advantage.  Our dances were never held in the junior high gymnasium; rather, the student council utilized the large commons area that rant the length of the building from the main entrance to the gym hallway.  The commons area floor was carpeted and the second floor was completely open save for a catwalk and a couple of balconies that looked over the rug.  Most importantly, the commons area had an extra-sized stairway that pivoted on a platform, which is where the deejay would set up.  When you break it down from the perspective of twenty years later, it’s a junior high dance, but to an awkward kid who didn’t get out much, turning off the lights in the commons area on a Friday night made the place a dance club.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t much of a dancer.  If you pressed me, I could probably move back and forth to the beat of whatever music was playing but I really didn’t know my way around a dance floor.  That wasn’t a problem in the seventh grade because I spent most of my time in the cafeteria, working the soda table with my friend Rich.  People would give us 50 cents and we would slide a cold C&C Cola to them.  We got a few breaks and were allowed to roam the dance floor, but the two of us were fiercely dedicated soda jockeys, so much so that when a girl whose name I think was Becky asked me to dance one time, I declined because I was going to be back on my soda-serving shift.

My social ineptitude wouldn’t improve much from twelve to thirteen.  I’d blame it on the terrible accident that I was in two days after my thirteenth birthday because it’s not easy to go through an entire year of junior high with two fake front teeth (that you could remove) and a scar under your nose that looked like a giant pimple, but I’d been walking the halls with comic books and once wore a Star Trek pin to school.  Scar or no scar, I wasn’t a superstar.

But I wanted to be, or at least I wanted a girlfriend, which meant that at some point I was going to have to talk to a girl and maybe even ask her out.  This wasn’t happening, though, because I spent most of the year (and pretty much half of high school as well) with a mind-numbing crush on a girl who was completely out of my league and while I am sure she’d engage me in conversation if I tried, I suffered from the typical thirteen-year-old boy issue of acting stupid whenever I was around her.

There was something different about dances, though.

(more…)