Gaming for Luddites

I was born in the United States in 1973. If you were too, you either (1) heard of the Atari 2600 or, (2) grew up under a rock. Note I said “heard of” instead of “owned.”

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While most definitely familiar with the Atari, I owned one of these bad boys.
Image credit: Evan-Amos

I often get nostalgic for the 8-bit halcyon days of the 80s. Be it the romance of the video arcade before it descended into Chuck E. Cheese corporate banality, or the simple Zen of playing BurgerTime on Intellivision, if there’s one thing I miss about childhood, that’s it. The adept video game historians among you know Intellivision was technically superior to the Atari 2600, so you might assume I’ve ridden the crest of technology ever since.

Well, you’d be mistaken.

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Relics of a Geek

Earlier today I stumbled across a Facebook conversation regarding those wedding dress shopping shows on TLC and what not. Like my friend, I fail to see the allure of something like Say Yes to the Dress. Beachy, however, is steadily moving away from Disney Channel and towards TLC. That show is one of her favorites.

“I’m pretty sure second-graders are in TLC’s target demographic now,” I commented to uproarious approval.

Then the conversation turned to what sort of things we watched or played with at that age. Some like to play “marriage.” Others liked to play “doctor.” I suppose I had more in common with the latter.

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Although I’ve never been terribly fond of roleplaying.
Image source: crackedmoon

They were my sister’s Barbies. Weirdos.

Anyway, Beachy’s sometimes odd behavior has plenty of precedent. In 1981 my class made Easter Bunny figures out of eggshells. Naturally most of my colleagues went with springy, pastel and/or religious themes. Finding that shit boring as hell, I dressed mine as figures from the then-recent assassination attempt on President Reagan.

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“Chasing Jodie Foster’s tail, up and down the bunny trail ….”

Then as now, not all of my interests revolved around the prurient and/or borderline psychotic. Not even close. My most cherished childhood possession? That’s a no-brainer. It’s my copy of the 1976 World Book Encyclopedia, which I still possess. Every time I sit down to write SB they’re on a shelf less than five feet away, acting as something of a talisman of a simpler time. Or one when Jerry Ford was still president, anyway.

Although I don’t refer to them anymore in this era of Wikipedia, they still rest in a place of honor here in the Command Center, all 22 splendorous volumes. I also have the complete 1945 Book of Knowledge, an encyclopedia set originally owned by my grandmother.

So while other kids were reading stuff like Charlotte’s Web and various Judy Blume titles, this was what I was reading. A lot.

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A LOT.

I wasn’t entirely a mutant, though. As a matter of fact, I have an original Optimus Prime from around 1985 in the staff car trunk right now. It’s not in Antiques Roadshow quality to say the least, but I still can’t bear to part with it.

I also can’t figure out where else to put it. It’s been in my trunk for over four years now.

Repulsed by Radio

A couple days ago I regaled you with my thoughts on 1980s TV. I suppose it’s only fitting I make a few comments about 1980s pop music as well.

My fascination with music can be traced directly back to 15 July 1984, my 11th birthday. As a gift I received a small “boom box.” This in turn led me to an obsession with the weekly Top 40 show as hosted by Casey Kasem and later Rick Dees. It aired on at 4 pm on Sundays on the local Top 40 FM station, and I often taped the whole frickin’ thing.

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There’s no cheese like the Dees.
Image credit: lax.hyundai

I freely admit I liked a lot of the stuff they played on Top 40 radio back then. Still do. However, as time wore on I increasingly came across songs I didn’t like. That’s to be expected, of course. Even so, there were some tracks I found so loathsome that just a few notes would compel me to turn the radio OFF until the offending audio went away.

The following are some of the worst offenders.

Anything by Prince

At roughly the same time I embraced the Top 40, a Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter named Prince Rogers Nelson released a film called Purple Rain, along with a soundtrack album of the same name. For approximately the next three years, Western civilization wouldn’t shut up about the guy. At certain times Prince seemed to be more overexposed than the King of 80s Cheese himself, Michael Jackson.

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I’d post a YouTube clip, but he’d probably have it taken down before I hit the “Publish” button.
Image credit: Yves Lorson

Why I hated it then: When I was 11 years old there were two things in this world I absolutely despised: Cabbage Patch Kids and Prince. There was no single reason for my loathing of the diminutive Minnesotan, but it probably had to do with his eyeliner, his ruffled shirts, a bouffant which put Kim Jong-il’s to shame, his repeated dissings of Weird Al Yankovic, and the fact he seemed to be everywhere for a very long time. Whatever it was, I couldn’t stand the guy.

One Christmas during this period there was a present for me under the tree which was clearly in a cassette tape box. For several days I feared some well-meaning but profoundly uninformed grownup bought me Purple Rain. As it turns out, it was The Best of Spike Jones. My sense of relief was enormous.

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Possibly the only time in recorded history anyone was so relieved to receive a Spike Jones album.

What I think of it now: My view of Prince has moderated considerably over the years. He’s an undisputed musical genius, and I have to to admit even today “When Doves Cry” is a hell of a dance track. Nevertheless, I still haven’t seen Purple Rain (or any of his other movies, for that matter).

“Always” by Atlantic Starr

If there ever was a song written specifically to be played at wedding receptions, this 1987 track is it. Apologies in advance if this is “your” song.

Perhaps the best-known single by this upstate New York R&B group, “Always” is four solid minutes of the most concentrated shlocky sweet cheese produced to date. Repeated exposure to this track is bound to cause hyperglycemia in just about anyone. Consider yourselves warned.

Atlantic Starr was responsible for many, many awkward high school slow dances.

Why I hated it then: This sort of thing is exactly what a sexually confused 13-year-old boy DOESN’T want to hear, especially in heavy rotation. Sweet YHWH this was a painful experience.

What I think of it now: OK, OK, they were a talented group and it’s crystal clear why newlyweds gravitated to them. Still, if I ever get married again I’d much rather hear Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” at my reception.

“Kyrie” by Mr. Mister

In 1986, someone at the Top 40 station in the 2T must have really, REALLY liked Mr. Mister, as they tortured the whole of south-central Idaho for months with these guys. Overplayed doesn’t begin to cover it.

Remember styling mousse? They do.

Why I hated it then: If it weren’t for the excessive overplay, Mr. Mister would have likely merited little more than a footnote in my memory. But once the damage was done, there was no holding my rage back.

What I think of it now: I still don’t miss it.

“Hippychick” by Soho

If you’ve never heard of this one-hit wonder or their reputed “hit,” you’re forgiven. “Hippychick” was released in 1990, did its requisite tour of the Top 40, and then was quickly forgotten. Or at least I wish it was.

In 1996, some years after I swore off the Top 40 (more on that in a moment), I was a regular listener of an “alternative” radio station out of the Sun Valley area called KSKI. At the time KSKI was an independent, free-wheeling station which wasn’t afraid to play good music, even after an infamous incident involving “special brownies” among the morning drive crew.

Good music, with the glaring exception of “Hippychick.”

Gah!

Why I hated it then: This song is essentially a clumsy sample of Johnny Marr’s iconic guitar riff from “How Soon is Now?” followed by a crappy dance tune. That alone is bad enough. What really set me off is that it was broadcast on KSKI, a station one could reasonably expect to actually play The Smiths. But instead of Morrissey’s plaintive wailing, you were presented with this. Gotcha! I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be KSKI’s idea of a practical joke. If so, I sure as hell didn’t find it funny.

What I think of it now: No wonder why Queen fans hate Vanilla Ice.

“Do the Bartman” by The Simpsons

When The Simpsons premiered in December 1989 it was a big deal. I liked it. Possibly you liked it. In any event, it’s a TV show that’s still in first-run prime time nearly a quarter century later. It’s clearly a groundbreaking series.

Which is why we can almost forgive them for dropping the festering turd known as The Simpsons Sing the Blues on us a year later. “Do the Bartman” was the lead single.

I don’t care if he’s dead. I still want to bitchslap Michael Jackson for writing this.

Why I hated it then: Although by the time “Do the Bartman” came out I had given up on pop music (again, more on that in a moment), my hatred for it was nearly automatic. Unlike Mr. Mister, it didn’t need to be overplayed. Being the most ham-handed attempt to cash in on a fad since the advent of The Archies a generation earlier, there were plenty of other good reasons to despise it.

What I think of it now: Yeah, it still makes me want to go out and break stuff.

“Just a Friend” by Biz Markie

Oh my, this is the granddaddy of them all. Not only did this track elicit an immediate, visceral response, it also triggered a significant watershed moment in my life. For a variety of reasons, including some of the aforementioned songs, by the time the Biz hit the radio in late 1989 I was already quite disgruntled with the whole pop music thing. Then one fine day I was presented with this:

Absolutely stupefying.

Why I hated it then: As I recall my initial reaction was something to the effect of, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!?!?!?” Don’t get me wrong, I like old-school rap. At this point I was the proud owner of Run-DMC and Public Enemy albums. But this … this made Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” sound like Sgt. Pepper.

It was at that moment I shut off the radio and resolved never to willingly listen to a Top 40 station ever again. Over 20 years later I continue to make good on that promise. Not long after I started discovering the good stuff, including Living Colour, R.E.M., The Police, Jane’s Addiction, The Dead Milkmen, Erasure, the Pixies and – of course – Rush.

What I think of it now: In all seriousness, I think today is the very first time I managed to listen to “Just a Friend” the whole way through. In an odd way, I’m almost thankful to Biz Markie for delivering the coup de grâce to my Top 40 habit.

Damn, I feel dirty now. I think I need to take a shower and listen to Permanent Waves for awhile.

A Vast Wasteland

I find few things more irritating than the arguments of traditionalist scolds, especially the tired old tropes of “what about the children?” and “the good old days.” Generally speaking, with a bit of guidance children are quite capable of making their own decisions. Also, “the good old days” is often code for “nostalgia for an imagined past.”

I’ve been told Beachy sometimes watches television too mature for her. While I agree at her age she certainly shouldn’t be exposed to such things as graphic sex and violence, I assure you what she watches is much, much better than what I grew up with.

Seriously, would any children’s channel today air programming depicting this? (Click the image caps for video)

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This isn’t Porky Pig! Shocking!

Or this?

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No Curly? Outrageous!

Or this?

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No Sgt. Slaughter? Disgu … nah, this is still pretty hot.

Guess what? I watched all of the above and more during my formative years. Repeatedly. I didn’t even have to sneak in any Cinemax to do it.

Growing up in the 2T in the early 80s, where locally-produced kids’ programming was little more than a foreign legend, on a typical weekday morning you essentially had two options: soap operas or game shows. Guess which one I took? Yeah, there’s nothing like beginning an unexpected day off than with an hour with Bob Barker.

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“Cutting school again, eh Lane? Well, don’t forget to have your pets spayed or neutered.”

And that’s the high water mark. I was born in 1973, so for the sake of argument let’s say my prime years for children’s programming were between 1980 and 1985. Fine. Here’s what the world was like back then:

Children’s programming was limited to certain hours (usually school hours) on weekdays. You had Saturday morning cartoons which ended by 1 pm, and on Sunday you were flat out SOL. The golden age of animation was dead and buried by the mid-70s. There was no Cartoon Network or DreamWorks Studios. In short, no one was catering to kids very well. Even the pre-Pixar Disney spent about a decade dropping turds on theaters every couple years before they finally realized they should stick with fairy tales.

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And Martha Raye’s Polident ads were more entertaining than the early Disney Channel.

With few exceptions, children’s programming of the day fell into one of three categories:

-Prime time reruns and old short films not necessarily intended for children in the first place, including I Love Lucy, The Addams Family, The Munsters, The Flintstones, The Little Rascals (or Our Gang, whatever), The Three Stooges and Looney Tunes. Throw in Leave it to Beaver and The Beverly Hillbillies too. What the hell.

-Reboots of old cartoons and TV shows, including The All-New Popeye Hour, The Flintstone Comedy Show, The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show, Laverne & Shirley in the Army, The Real Ghostbusters, the (apparently fake) Ghostbusters and various incarnations of the Scooby-Doo franchise.

-Shows which amounted to little more than hard-sell commercials, including G.I. Joe, The Smurfs, Saturday Supercade, M.A.S.K., Challenge of the GoBots, and anything involving Care Bears, Shirt Tales, Teddy Ruxpin, Cabbage Patch Kids, Popples, He-Man, She-Ra, the ThunderCats or Lazer Tag. It’s a wonder some nitwit TV executive didn’t greenlight a show about a fad puzzle game.

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Oh wait, they totally did.

So in addition to the torture, alcohol abuse and risque content noted above, what else did these shows depict to kids of the day? How about misogyny, gender and racial stereotypes, juvenile delinquency, frequent armed conflict, gratuitous violence, dangerous stunts, glorification of war, animal cruelty, terrorism, elder abuse, unrealistic life expectations, attempted genocide, reward for misbehavior and/or incompetence, borderline plagiarism, and commercialism so crass and over the top it would make even Vince Offer wince?

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Yeah, plagiarism. The Flintstones blatantly ripped off The Honeymooners.

I and millions of others suffered through long years of this drivel. Watching this stuff again just makes it worse, as one notices the shoddy production values one disregarded as a kid. Bright spots were few and far between. Off the top of my head I can only think of one animated series from the era that was contemporary, genuinely funny and not a 30-minute commercial for a piece of plastic.

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Even if he did drive on the wrong side of the road.

So there you have it. Programming on today’s children’s cable networks isn’t anywhere near as bad as it was 30 years ago. What’s more, I turned out just fine, and today’s world isn’t an amoral, dystopian void after all.

Indeed, I’m glad I wasn’t sheltered and allowed to watch only “wholesome” crap like Superbook and The Flying House. I probably would have shot up a Taco Bell by now.

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“More like, ‘Live No Más’ bitches! HA HA HA!”
Image credit: Coolcaesar

Treatise on a Boring Saturday

The worst enemies of a blog like this are boredom and mediocrity. Unfortunately, today is rife with both. A day to drink water, get a headache and contemplate the depressing silence enveloping you. It’s bland, blasé. Dare I say stagnant?

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Yes, comrades. I dare.

Although it’s sunny out, it’s one of those windy days you’d just as soon not be a part of. You know it’s cold. You don’t have to go outside or look at the weather. Crispness is seen in the air by those in the know. That in turn keeps you inside … where absolutely shit bloody nothing is happening.

It’s that time of year in the 2T. Especially during March and April, southern Idaho has a hard time remembering what the hell season it is. One day it’s an idyllic spring wonderland. The next, your internal barometer wonders if the Idaho State Bengals lost their football game yet, or if the ass-whipping this week has an evening kickoff. Many other places experience this phenomenon, but it’s here where I grew up and therefore here I write about.

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It used to be worse.

Back in the 80s a day like this was made to watch golf, mainly because nothing else was on. Also because to this day that’s pretty much all Dad watches on the weekends. Yes, even now I can hear the announcer’s forebodingly soothing intonations as Craig Stadler‘s ball finds the water hazard on 16. “Deep into a watery grave.” So much for his chances at that year’s Bob Hope Desert Classic.

After the United Airlines golf sign-off the day invariably degenerated further into the likes of a bad TV movie or worse, The Love Boat followed by Fantasy Island. There are very few specific memories from these ordeals. It’s all a blur of Charo, polyester and toothpaste commercials.

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“Abandon all hope, ye who sail with Gopher.”

Later on I’d try to break the monotony with bike trips to the neighborhood Circle K and/or 7-11. But Big Gulps only go so far in terms of entertainment value. Barring something unexpectedly cool such as a hailstorm, the day would lethargically and mercifully.

Sunday might be a better day, but after Saturdays like this the odds were never good.

More Cheesy Ads

I spent a good part of the afternoon cruising YouTube in pursuit of various yuks and giggles. Apart from my usual diet of Monty Python, Epic Rap Battles of History, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Rush videos, I also perused some of the truly bad advertisements of the 80s and 90s. So I figured, “Hey, this sort of thing makes for a quick and dirty article, so why not go with that angle today?”

“Cygnus X-1” on a ukelele, man. Awesome.

Why not, indeed.

Leevers!

Circa 1982 the absolute coolest thing to have was the Atari 2600. This was the one and only thing I wanted on my Christmas list, man. Problem was those things were expensive back then, and my parents weren’t exactly technophiles to begin with.

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They bought their first VCR … in 1989.
Imaged credit: Priwo

As fate would have it I got an Intellivision for Christmas instead. Was that because my parents appreciated the fact Intellivision’s graphics blew the doors off the Atari 2600? Oh, hell no! It was on sale, y’all. At any rate, I played the ever loving crap out of that thing. I might still have it if the guys at Mattel didn’t design it with dedicated controllers. Thanks a lot.

Anyway, I’m digressing a bit. Home video games nearly died off in the mid-80s, with consoles such as the Atari 2600 and Intellivision (what gamer geeks call “second-generation consoles”) taking a massive dump in sales and essentially disappearing from the market. The industry was brought back from the brink a couple years later by the Nintendo Entertainment System. This ad is for an NES game which became quite popular:

Possibly an acting school project. “Be the psychopath. Feel the psychopath inside you.”

I didn’t have an NES, only returning to the ranks of home gamers with a Super Nintendo a few years later. The Legend of Zelda was a pretty cool game for its time. Apart from its batshit insane commercial, it was noteworthy for a few other things. One, whereas most NES games came in gray cartridges, Zelda came in a gold cartridge. Two, the protagonist was not named Zelda. In fact, the Zelda character doesn’t appear until the very end, after you defeat the game. I’m not even sure about that.

I beat Zelda (to this day one of the very few games I ever beat) on a friend’s NES about 10 years after it came out. As for technology, I bought a DVD player on my own for the first time … four months ago.

The Legendary Eagle of Crap

This ad ran in the Chicago market in the 90s. When I was still in college at Idaho State, I heard whispers about it. A local ad so incredibly awful that its notoriety transcended its media market. There was still doubt, though. I’d never actually seen the ad, and I couldn’t believe someone would unintentionally make something that stupid.

Then in the summer of 1996, I moved to Chicagoland and finally beheld it myself. It is very horrifyingly real:

Wow. Just, wow.

Never mind the hysterically bad acting for a moment. If you hear a thump on the roof of your car, chances are you don’t think it’s a guy in an eagle suit. If it is, you may be able to file a claim for any damage he caused. Well, assuming you had insurance.

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And if it were that easy to figure out, no police force would have a problem with ticket quotas ever again.
Image credit: Cliff

No, no. The best thing about this ad is that the character – specifically called “Eagleman” – lays an egg. And he does so after assuming a position like he forgot his birdie Ex-Lax that day, of course.

It’s sure a good thing society has since evolved to the point where we’re not constantly annoyed by auto insurance commercials, isn’t it?

Tales of a Soda Jerk

I’ve always been a big fan of soda. When I was a kid, around 11 or 12, I was known to drink an entire six-pack in a single day. This was a great source of consternation among my parents, especially Dad. At a certain point they switched primarily to caffeine-free and/or diet sodas, which I found increasingly unpalatable.

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Bleah.
Image credit: Roadsidepictures

Nevertheless, having a much stronger stomach in those days I drank the diet stuff anyway. It tasted like I was prematurely embalming myself, but whatever. Sometimes when money was tight we’d step down further into the bowels of Shasta Cola land. That low-end stuff was just as bad, if not worse. With the notable exception of generic black cherry soda – which I still buy from time to time – I came to hate that stuff with a passion.

Speaking of cherry, a watershed moment in my soda life came in 1985 with the introduction of Cherry Coke or, as the marketing department calls it now, “Coca-Cola Cherry.” This stuff was the bomb and a prized commodity indeed as far as my 12-year-old mind was concerned. It almost made up for the New Coke blunder.

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Pictured: 80s ambrosia.

I don’t know if I was imagining it at the time, but it seemed like back when Cherry Coke came out the intensity of the cherry flavoring varied randomly from can to can. If you got a can with less flavoring, it was still OK. But if you got a can on the high end, oh man, you had yourself the best soda experience ever. I hesitate to say it’s my favorite childhood memory, but it’s definitely in the top 10. Sadly, it appears whatever consistency issues Coca-Cola had with the product are long since corrected, as I haven’t noticed the discrepancy for years.

No entry like this would be complete without a discussion of the long-running “cola wars” between Coke and Pepsi. When I was younger I preferred Pepsi. However, this slowly began to change with the introduction of Cherry Coke. By high school I was a firm Coke partisan.

A lot of people say they can’t tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke, but I can. However, the infamous New Coke tasted just like Pepsi to me. So if you’re too young to remember New Coke, in my opinion you didn’t miss much. I suppose in an alternate reality where New Coke was successful Pepsi and Coke taste the same, but not in my reality.

Some of my favorite Coke products, such as Mello Yello and Mr. Pibb (er, excuse me, “Pibb Xtra“), are maddeningly hard to find around here. Another favorite, Surge, has been gone for years. So when I’m in that mood I settle for Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper instead.

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With Coke it’s either cutsey marketing names … or bad grammar apparently.

As I’ve aged I become less partial to sweet things in general. As a result I don’t drink nearly as much soda as I used to. As you’ve probably noticed I call it “soda.” Most people around here call it “pop.” I did too as a kid. That changed after I moved back east and stuck. Call it a personality quirk, or something.

Oh yeah. Now that I’m ostensibly a grownup I don’t drink diet soda, at all. I’m not ready to be embalmed yet.

More Embarrassing 80s Videos

A little over a month ago I wrote about a couple video relics from the 80s which stuck with me over the years. As a writer I find this is a pretty good well to go back to. If my site stats are any indication, you agree. So here we are again.

If you know what the image below is, this will all be review. As for the rest of you, prepare for an education.

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No fair Googling or using Tineye.

You Can’t Beat Our Meat

I had the “honor” of working at the Wendy’s in the 2T in 1991. Before I say anything else, let me assure from personal experience that this is 100 percent REAL.

As those of you who have worked fast food know – which I assume is damn near all of you – the job sucks. It’s sweaty. It’s greasy. You don’t get enough hours to qualify for benefits, and you have to wear the same goddamn shirt every day. You’re also controlled by corporate shills who just don’t understand the “younger scene.”

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“But, but, everybody loves Justin Bieber!”

And no, I didn’t live in the “good old days.” Consider this 1989 training video on “grill skills,” which I was instructed with in those dark days. It’s a bit slow at times. I’m posting only the second half, but stick with it and bathe in its innate cheesiness. The first half features a lot of the late Dave Thomas blathering about your “important job” in a curious accent. If you really want to watch that, it’s here.

Who’s up for chili?

Check out the rap and country rock excellence here. It’s somewhere between Biz Markie and, um, Billy Ray Cyrus or something. Incidentally, they had me wearing the exact same teal shirt featured, unfortunately without the glitter.

I was so glad when I got to leave and go to Idaho State later that year. You have no idea.

Canoe, Canoe?

Oh man, every time this spot appeared on MTV I cringed. Just cringed. Even though at the time I had no chance whatsoever of dating a hot chick – and if I somehow managed to succeed I would have blown a gasket – I knew this was just … wrong. If you kids think the marketing for Axe is over the top (and you’d be correct), you should have seen what it was like a generation ago.

So from the same pheromone experts who brought you such venerable female magnets as English Leather and British Sterling, Canoe allows you to talk to hotties familiar with international maritime signal flags, and smell like you raided a 10-year-old’s Christmas stocking in the process.

“We now return to Julius Caesar on an Aldis Lamp.”

I don’t know about you, but to this day I’m pretty sure if the first words out of my mouth in any singles setting were, “Oh! Canoe canoe?” a restraining order wouldn’t be too far behind. Afterwards, every once in a great while MTV would redeem itself by giving me a glimpse of the mystery girl in the Smiths’ “How Soon is Now?” video, but usually this crap was followed by more crap like Night Ranger.

The Proto-King of Cars

OK, this never aired nationally per se, but the basic concept plagued several media markets throughout the country in the 80s. The 2T was one of them. As a matter of fact, this guy like the 2T so much he actually moved there from somewhere back east later in his career. I want to say he was originally based in upstate New York, but I’m not 100 percent certain about that.

Anyway, meet Dave Campo, the undisputed master of local used car ads. In the 2T he worked for an outfit called Latham Motors, which was at the time the local Chrysler dealership. Sadly I was unable to find any Campo-era Latham Motors ads, but in his heyday his modus operandi was the same for all his clients. Take a look:

“With all the candy!”

Campo made what the industry calls a “shitload” of ads during his career, easily over 1,000. To this day anyone who lived in the 2T while he was active can recite the basic ad structure word for word, myself included. Campo died a few years ago. His favorite client Latham Motors went under at around the same time. Yet his legacy lives on in loudmouth used car TV spots to this day.

Is the US a lucky nation or what?

My Saturdays Were Once Animated

It’s 6 pm on a Saturday and I just woke up. Yes, really. I’m not an early riser to begin with. I’m also still shaking off the effects from my fall. My head feels fine, but my side is still a bit sore.

Even though the day is shot to hell, I guess I’ll write something for y’all anyway. My daughter, who never knew a time before the Disney Channel, Cartoon Network and such, has no appreciation for the concept of the “Saturday morning cartoon.” Those of us who do know that once upon a time waking up this late on a Saturday would have been sacrilegious.

I remember the routine more than the cartoons themselves. Circa 1981 for me this would begin on Friday night with The Dukes of Hazzard. In my defense, at least this was before they replaced Bo and Luke.

After that it was time for bed. I made a point of setting my alarm to exactly 5:55 am. I had the radio tuned to a frequency between static and a country station for maximum effect. 5:55 am was early enough for me to get up and go downstairs, but it wasn’t so early that I’d have to waste time spinning my wheels.

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Pictured: too early.

As mentioned there wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy about the cartoons themselves. This is probably due to the fact many of them were blatant 30-minute commercials, more so than anything on TV today. Within a couple years my sister joined me in this ritual. She liked watching shows such as The Smurfs, which bored and annoyed the ever-loving crap out of me. There was many a morning I wished Gargamel would catch the little bastards and put me out of my misery.

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“Screw it. It’s breakfast time anyway.”

Then again, at least Gargamel was a somewhat credible antagonist. When it came to The Care Bears or *shudder* Cabbage Patch Kids, when it came to villains I swear they just locked some poor writer in a closet with a tube of airplane glue and hoped for the best.

“But Lane,” you might say, “even then cartoons weren’t just on Saturday. What about after school cartoons and shows like Captain Kangaroo and Hotel Balderdash?” All right, all right, all right. Yes, we had those too. I couldn’t tell you a lot about Captain Kangaroo, as I wasn’t near as gung-ho about waking up on weekdays. He was a bit past his prime by the time I came around anyway.

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Yeah, not really feeling it.

The after school cartoons became important later, around junior high or something like that. I’ll tell you about that some other time. I don’t want to use up all of my good ideas.

By the way, if someone from Kellogg’s is reading this, consider bringing back C-3PO’s. Not everything from the 80s sucked, you know.

Thoughts on the Drive Home

Today is Presidents’ Day in the United States. Plenty of great sales of the “stack ’em deeper and sell ’em cheaper” variety. That’s what ‘Merika is all about.

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“Now with one-third less arsenic!”

Since I can’t spend the day punking banks by writing checks on dry ice, I suppose I’ll tell y’all about my weekend. Yesterday evening I drove home after a couple days visiting my daughter. The Command Center in Boise is about two hours away from the 2T. It’s a drive I’ve taken all my life. It’s also … how do I put this … desolate as all hell. When driven alone it gives one a lot of time to think.

Yesterday was a clear, crisp Sunday, very much like those I spent in the 2T as a boy. A typical Sunday in those days involved watching whatever PGA Tour event was on TV. To this day golf is the only sport Dad really gives a damn about. At tournament’s end I would resume the rigorous intellectual training which dominated my childhood.

The cultural significance of Hee Haw cannot be understated.

Those days are long gone. Yesterday was spent listening to a mix of Rush and the Cocteau Twins before the CD player in the staff car got too hot. Afterwards I had the radio on the local NPR station, although I understand 89.9 in Boise is not bad either. I’ll have to check it out.

Saturday I went to the movies with my daughter. We went to see Escape from Planet Earth, one of those Pixar-esque animated films. It was a cute enough movie. I’m sure we’ll get it on DVD once it comes out. I just wish I could have seen the end of it. Apparently Magic Valley Cinema 13 has never heard of an uninterruptible power supply. Also apparently they’re not aware every time some tanked-up idjut galoot crashes his 1992 Mercury Tracer into a power pole that parts of the 2T suddenly return to the 14th Century. At least we got free movie tickets out of it.

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But now that I think about it, perhaps the 14th Century in the 2T wasn’t that bad.

In spite of it all my daughter said the weekend was a win. That’s good enough for me.

That night I got a text from Myrtle saying she didn’t want to date anymore. The sorrow I felt was about the same as being told my $1 off coupon at Jack in the Box was no good anymore. For one, this is not the first time this has happened. For another, I wasn’t particularly emotionally involved in the first place. I guess that makes me single again, so… heeey sexy ladies!

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Ada County Style!

By the way, does anyone else have a problem with overheating car CD players? It annoys the shit out of me.