July 2011

Sit, Ubu, Sit!

Did you pause for a moment, then think "Good dog!"? If so, congratulations! You watched television in the 1980s!
This phrase is embedded in the psyche of anyone who watched sitcoms during the 1980s. Which, given that we only had a small handful of networks (local and national), was pretty much everybody. Ubu Productions was a production company founded by Gary David Goldberg. In college, Goldberg and his black lab Ubu Roi traveled the world.

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Such is the power of this magical invocation that I can crack up an entire room of pushing-40-somethings just by saying it after someone else says something particularly relevant, pithy, or funny. For nerds who grew up in the 1980s it was a very different world than the one you see before you today. In a lot of ways, today's world - with its fetishization of technology and the triumph of the nerd - is the world that we created for you, in reaction to the miserable loneliness of our childhood.

Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer

This time I thought I would try something a little different: sampling some 1980s culture that I didn't experience first-hand. I was a little too old for Rainbow Brite when she skipped on the scene. (Although I admired her horse and his rainbow mane.) Rainbow Brite's television series started in 1984, when I was already 12, and far too mature for that kind of thing. (Deadpan.)
"Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer" was Rainbow Brite's first and only feature-length movie, released in 1985. It thankfully features only one musical number, which is largely sung by the horse.

Dangerous Playground Equipment

Today a bunch of folks on Metafilter are reminiscing about the dangerous playground equipment of their youth. And it's true, the 1980s were the last bastion of crazy-ass head-cracking playground equipment. Was that equipment more fun than the safer stuff you see in playgrounds today? I am unable to provide a proper double-blind test. I can tell you that playground equipment scared me a lot as a child. And frankly, I had a right to be leery of the stuff.

Rise of the Trapper Keeper

Speaking of Velcro, this space age fastener was a critical component in another iconic 80's item: the Trapper Keeper. Unlike so many 80's things we mock, the Trapper Keeper actually was pretty clever, and somewhat revolutionary. And like all revolutionary products, it was completely obvious once you had seen one. You were left wondering, why did it take so long for us to figure this out as a species?

Velcro Shoes

I found myself confronted with a sweet hit of nostalgia the other day: a display of Velcro shoes. I went to Walmart looking for a cheap pair of semi-decent shoes that I could wear when I went out to run errands in town. Nothing too fancy, but something a little nicer than the beat-up sneakers I usually wear.
And let me tell you, I was sorely tempted by the Velcro shoes!

80s Hair: The Crimping Iron

We over-processed our hair like crazy in the 80s, but unlike now, we didn't try to pretend anything different. The truth is, there is no way to use a crimping iron and NOT have your hair turn out frizzy and straw-like.

The best you can hope to do - what I see models and actresses doing now - is act like you meant it that way. As if frizziness was, you know, what you were going for in the first place. This is certainly the tactic that Christina Aguilera is rocking recently, with her super-bleached blonde hair sporting many crimped sections.