I Love Junk

I love the shit out of the holidays.


But this year it’s not happening. I already had a lackluster Halloween, during which I made absolutely no effort to celebrate. This is not like me.

And now, Thanksgiving and Christmas are sneaking up. Normally, by mid-October I’m waging a secret battle against the urge to start covering everything I own with more shiny crap than a parade of drag queens. Now, it’s November – open season for Christmassy goodness by Overgrown Child standards – and I feel nothing but an impending sense of doom. Oh sure, I’ve got pumpkin Pop-Tarts and cranberry ginger ale as a tribute to the oft-neglected Thanksgiving season, and I’ve got the X-E Christmas Jukebox as background music for my paltry NaNoWriMo efforts.

What I don’t have is the house I’ve spent all my previous 25 Christmases in. I don’t have the string of programmable colored lights that has adorned my living room wall every December since I was twelve. I don’t have the six-foot artificial tree that has been in my family since the 1960s, sheds a few more needles every year, and smells unmistakably of every Christmas morning I ever had as a child. I don’t have the ornaments I made in elementary school, the ugly straw reindeer my mom insisted on keeping in the living room all year because she loved it so much, the stocking with my name on it. I don’t have my grandma’s roast pan and casserole dishes and weird green gravy boat for Thanksgiving dinner. All that stuff is still in Florida.

When I moved to Boston, I could only bring what I could fit in my car. There was room only for things I use every day, not special seasonal stuff. And so the special seasonal stuff got locked up in my house and left behind.

But I’m also aching for things I couldn’t have brought with me no matter how much room I had. My Christmas tree may be waiting for me back in Florida, but my mom isn’t. Neither is my great-aunt, who was so picky about her house but approved of my decorating skills enough to let me trim her tree each year. Neither is my grandma, who always asked me to play “Winter Wonderland” on the piano because she liked the part about the birds. I will never see them again.

Most of the year, I can focus just on what’s around me. I can distract myself with the Here And Now and never think about all the stuff from my past that I miss. But the holidays, for me, are about the past. They’re about all the people who loved me as a child, who are now gone forever. And I don’t want to become one of those bitter people who feels lonely at Christmas and so decides to turn it into a month-long bitchfest, snapping at anyone who dares to have fun near them. Those people drive me nuts. Besides, why would I want to forget all my best memories with my mom? She was awesome all the time, but that sweet Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas triumvirate is when we really came together. I don’t want to lose that special time just because it’s sad.

But it is sad, and it’s going to make me deeply homesick. And this is where I need your help, my fellow overgrown children. I want to know how I can make it not suck. I need to find some new rituals and traditions for myself, since the ones with my family are gone. I need to find ways to keep myself tied to the past without getting stuck there. I need to find some ways to make Thanksgiving and Christmas as awesome as they were when I was a kid. Maybe not awesome in the same exact ways, but still awesome.

Give me your Thanksgiving and Christmas cheer. Tell me your goofy traditions. Tell me your favorite recipe that features cranberries or pumpkin or ginger or eggnog or whatever. Tell me your favorite thing to do in the snow! I will have snow here! Help me find my normal annoying levels of Christmas mojo. I need it to fight the sadness away.

My Charlie Brown tree isn’t here to help me.

So, the return of both Matt and Annette to fairly regular blogging has prodded me to wanna post something here. I really do love having a blog for humor/pop culture stuff, and I miss writing on it. I still don’t really have any content to add here, but I figured I’d at least explain where I’ve been.

There’s a few good reasons I haven’t been blogging here:

1) I had big plans for a Halloween countdown/megaparty/other-word-less stolen-from-Matt last October. I got exactly one post into that countdown before my mother had a heart attack and died. This whole year I’ve been trying to recover from that. I don’t think I’ll ever be over that, but I’m at least slowly starting to feel like a human being again. Still, there’s nothing quite like losing your mom to kill your fun/humor blogging mojo.

2) And yet, I have been spending a LOT of time this year concentrating on more serious writing, mostly pertaining to hippie shit none of you care about and may find infuriating. Which is why I don’t generally share it here. (On the off chance you do care about hippie shit, my other writing is here.) So yeah, all my blog-juice has been going into my other blog.

3) Except for a few brief stints here and there, I’ve been unemployed since April 2009. You’d think being unemployed and bored would result in *more* blogging, but since this blog is about toys and junk food and media, and my access to all of those is significantly limited right now, the well runneth dry. I can only write so much about random crap I find lying around my house, and I really do not want to be one of those people who just links to shit I find on Youtube.

4) Much as it pains me to say it, I seem to be growing up. I am almost 25 years old. I started this blog when I was 22. That doesn’t sound like a big age gap, but if you think about it, it’s the difference between being barely old enough to drink and being able to see 30 on the horizon. I still mostly feel like a kid, but I can also feel my thoughts being pulled toward settling down, having kids, caring how my house looks, and various other boring adult shit. Kerplopitgoes Island is calling. Although apparently I am not too far gone, since I’m using Rocko’s Modern Life references to describe adulthood. But the point is, spending all my money on toys and candy and stuff isn’t as appealing as it used to be.

5) Let’s face it – we’re not in a great era for junk right now. The economy is still in the shitter, people are becoming more conscientious about food choices and consumerism, and there’s a disturbing “fun is a waste of time” mindset creeping through American culture as a whole, even (or perhaps especially) with regard to kids. All of this is bad for toys, games, junk food, cartoons, and goofy frivolous shit in general. We are just not living in the era of blue french fries and purple ketchup anymore 😦 (On the other hand, thinking about this makes me want to blog here more just out of rebellious spite, so perhaps this can work to my advantage.)

There’s also a few not-as-good reasons I haven’t been blogging here:

1) I feed heavily off X-E for inspiration, and during the off-season (and let’s face it, X-E is a very seasonal website – which I frankly am fine with, because I share Matt’s overall sentiment that late winter and spring are boring) I just don’t feel super junk-oriented.

2) I always feel like I write about the same crap over and over again. I know y’all are tired of Star Trek and Michael Jackson. Even I am.

3) Anytime I want to write about something nostalgic, I become overwhelmed with Simpsons-Already-Did-It Syndrome. Oh, Matt has an article about this. Oh, Mystie already covered that. The Angry Video Game Nerd has a video about that game, the Nostalgia Critic has a video about this cartoon, everyone will think I am ripping them off, yada yada. Kinda kills the fun.

4) A lot of my childhood favorite things are actually from the 60s or 70s, or even earlier, and I assume this stuff will bore everyone.

So I know it’s pretty lame to make a return post just to make excuses for never blogging, but I felt like getting all that off my chest. That being said, I really do want to use this blog more. If nothing else, I think lightening up a bit would be very healthy for me at this point, and this is a good outlet for that. The good news is, I’m in the middle of some life changes that will make my life less monotonous, and that will undoubtedly give me more to write about.

…is cancelled. Family emergency. HOWEVER please do check back here, because I have a few things that are so awesome I can’t possibly avoid posting about them. I just can’t commit to the whole countdown anymore.

Ironically for a post in which I’m announcing the cancellation of the official countdown, I’m also providing an entry. Because this is too awesome not to share. If any of you are going to Halloween Horror Nights and want to avoid spoilers, skip this. Otherwise, you MUST watch, because it is epic. Those of you who read this blog regularly will have noted certain patterns in my interests, and will also note that those are extremely well-represented here.

Seriously, y’all. Having seen Spock dancing to “Single Ladies” and “Thriller”, I can promise that this will be my last thought upon dying, even if I die 60 years from now. This is officially the most awesome thing I will ever see in my entire life. A fantastapotamus couldn’t top it.

The first law of blogging is this: If you go around promising posts ahead of time, something WILL happen to make a liar of you. Because this law seems to apply tenfold to me, I managed to miss the first day of my own goddamn countdown. FML. But fear not! I have 31 posts planned, and 31 posts is what you shall receive. I’ll just have to double up, or triple up, depending on how big of a slacker I turn out to be.

I was hoping to start with a long, interesting article, but as today draws to a close I’m realizing that’s not going to happen. A cheap start is better than no start at all, yeah? So instead, I submit for your approval….

Klaus Nomi! Singing songs other than “Lightning Strikes”!

What the hell does Klaus Nomi have to do with Halloween, you ask? Well, his music is… unsettling, to be sure. And he looked like the MPREG lovechild of Liberace and Count Chocula. Surely that counts for something?

Plus, he was German. That’s kind of evil.

In case that first song didn’t make jamming an icepick into your ears seem like a good idea, here’s another. This one comes complete with bonus cheesy 70s video editing effects. Hey, it worked for Queen, right?

Bonus: If you’re a Venture Bros. fan, now you know who that other dude was that hung out with David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Perhaps this tidbit will one day win you some swag or something.


Welcome to I Love Junk’s 2009 Halloween party! You can expect a new post every day of October, each featuring a different piece of Halloween mayhem. I’ll be mostly covering things I haven’t seen around any of the other blogs I read, so expect to find some buried treasure. Also some buried crap. But I promise everything featured here will be of higher quality than that banner up there. This blog is called I Love Junk, not I Love Shit A Kindergartner Could Make. Subtle difference.

I don’t wanna give too much away, but expect insanity. Expect stupid things you forgot about. Expect nostalgia. Expecto patronum.

Happy October, everyone!

So I just got in from Dragon*Con, and boy are my arms tired hardy harr harr. No, seriously. They are tired, from elbowing my way through crowds for three days, dancing for four hours straight, and driving six hours with only two stops. This was my first year at D*C, and while it wasn’t my first con of any kind – I’ve been to a few piddly, local anime cons – it was my first huge con. So naturally I came underprepared, didn’t eat or sleep enough, didn’t bring water, overexerted myself, and came home with a bad case of the con crud. You know that lull that comes after your favorite holidays, when you keep vascillating between basking in the glow of it all and being depressed that it’s over? Add belligerent sinuses and a Nyquil hangover to that and you’ve got how I feel right now. I’M HAPPY *AND* ANGRY! Nevertheless, I feel the need to write about my experiences before I forget them all, so I’m medicating myself with soup and X-E’s Halloween jukebox and trudging boldly onward. All you Trekkies and TV addicts, ch-check it out.

Day One: Friday

The first thing we did Friday, besides wait forever to register, was to get in a line that snaked out behind a hotel and that someone assured us was “for Shatner and Nimoy”.  We waited in this line for some time before we discovered it was the line for photo ops, not for the actual panel. As cool as it would be to stand next to Spock for four seconds, I am not a person who typically can bust out 80 bucks for something like that. So we ran off in a hurry looking for the Shatner and Nimoy panel, but it was already full, so we had to catch the overflow viewing on a screen in another room. Boo-urns. The panel was still good though. I won’t recount the whole thing because God knows it’ll be on Youtube soon enough, but one of the highlights was hearing them both say “dickhead” approximately ten times in thirty seconds.

I also went to a session where I learned about something called modular origami, where you fold pieces of paper into little cubes and stuff, and then build stuff out of the cubes. It was fun, except that it apparently takes all of the trees in the Amazon to make anything cool. I think I’ll stick with Legos.

Much of the afternoon was ruined by some unanticipated money drama, but the day was redeemed by a Venture Bros fan panel. A friend who doesn’t know dick about the Venture Bros went with me, and it was fun to watch her grow increasingly alarmed as people discussed naked clone armies, implied twincest, magic murder bags, and Klaus Nomi. There were trivia questions, and while I didn’t answer any, I got a free VB keychain anyway. Sweet deal.

After that we went to a panel with a bunch of voice actors who I’m ashamed to admit I mostly hadn’t heard of. When it comes to VAs I’m pretty much an Adler/Paulsen/MacNeille/Azaria fangirl and I have no knowledge of these newfangled modern kids and their rock and roll music. The only one I was really familiar with was Vic Mignogna who plays Edward on Fullmetal Alchemist, and I’ve only seen a few episodes of that because it makes me cry like a big pathetic baby. The only thing more depressing than FMA is those commercials where Sarah McLachlan sings over images of injured puppies. I need to be kept under observation away from strings and sharp objects after seeing one of those.

I was interrupted from this panel when my mom called and informed me that she is insane. See, the reason I went to the Venture Bros panel with a friend who doesn’t watch the show is that my other friend, who wanted to go to the panel, got separated from us at some point and couldn’t find the room the panel was in. I had her cell phone because I’d been separated from everyone when I went to the origami thing, and I couldn’t answer it during the VB panel because we were squeezed into the room like human Tetris blocks, so she called my mom to ask her for my other friend’s cell phone number, which was extremely helpful since my other friend was sitting right next to me and was obviously in the same situation. My mother’s thoroughly rational response to this was to freak out and assume that my friend had been wandering lost in a desert for 40 years. So she phoned hotel security to inform them that my friend, who I should add is 22 years old, was lost. Because she got separated from us for an hour and a half. At a con with more than 30,000 people.

When I got home I asked my mom what the security guy said to her. She says he hung up. I don’t blame him one bit.

That night, we went to a costume contest. It was… meh. There were a couple of totally badass costumes which were so large and heavy that they could, in a pinch, double as fallout shelters. But mostly it was just a bunch of foofy Victorian dresses, and while I appreciate the work that went into making them, I just don’t get geeked over that stuff. Despite being in possession of a uterus, I’m not very girly, and my reaction to big boofy dresses is usually to ponder the logistics of going to the bathroom in such a thing. Also unimpressive was the fact that it was -17 degrees in the room, plus someone sat next to me despite the entire rest of the row being open.

We interrupt this geekfest to bring you a Public Service Announcement. Please do not sit immediately next to a stranger, particularly in a situation where the chairs are approximately half an asscheek wide each, if there are seven open seats just to the left of you and no one is waiting to sit in them. Failing to at least leave the customary one-seat gap makes you seem intrusive and creepy, and deprives people of desperately needed ass-room. This message paid for by the Council to Prevent Me From “Accidentally” Elbowing You in the Face.

So my Friday was lukewarm, and I was worried that the entire con was just not going to live up to my expectations. Fortunately, things got way the hell better on…

Day Two:  Saturday

Saturday started out with the famous Dragon*Con parade, featuring hordes of zombies, Klingons, stormtroopers, Hogwarts students, steampunks, people whose costumes I couldn’t decipher, and even a tiny Dr. Horrible with his dad Captain Hammer. There was a Ghostbusters car, Robot Chicken, Shredder, and at least half a dozen of The Monarch’s henchmen. It was EPIC WIN. We found out later that the parade was on CNN, which seemed incredible until we remembered CNN is based in Atlanta and they probably just wanted a cheap local story that didn’t involve people bitching about dead grass in Piedmont Park. Some photos:





Now, I can show you pictures of this parade all day long and you will never glean from them what made the whole thing so awesome. It was the feeling in the air. Even though this was the South and it wasn’t even Labor Day yet, everything about the parade screamed autumn at the top of its lungs. The weather was (mercifully, for the people in costume) unseasonably cool. The chill in the air, the festive mood, the sound of marching bands blaring, and the sight of hundreds of costumed geeks all melded together to send one clear message: Halloween season is here, bitches. To hell with waiting for October! Citizens of the Netherworld, rejoice! The time for fake blood and fun-size Snickers is nigh!

After the parade my friends split off to go elsewhere while I immediately got in line for the Venture Bros panel. This was the real deal, with Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick, and since they’re more popular than they are famous, they didn’t get one of the huge ballrooms. This meant that not everyone who wanted to see the panel got in, so lining up two hours early turned out to be wise and totally worth it. I got to sit second row center, which is pretty much optimum fangirl seating. Again, the panel will be on Youtube so I won’t recount the whole thing, but they showed part of one of the new season 4 episodes and then answered questions. Someone asked who they think would win in a fight between Helen Keller and Anne Frank, and they argued about this for ten minutes. I strongly encourage you all to debate this for yourselves in the comments. My money’s on Helen, if only because Anne would get too distracted looking at her tits.

After that, one of my friends joined me and we went to see Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam. It was probably a fun panel, but I wouldn’t know for sure. The room was dark and cool, and it was late in the day by this point, so I was barely conscious through most of it. All I remember is something about Eric Idle being naked on a children’s show, and something about TV censors mistaking blush wine for “menstrual urine”. Yeah.

Adam Savage was speaking immediately after this in the same room, and we tried to get in line for that, except that we couldn’t actually find the line. Taking this as a bad sign, we gave up and decided to go ahead and catch the next shuttle to the Georgia Aquarium, where Dragon*Con Night was going on. As further proof of Halloween’s looming presence, the aquarium was playing flat-out horror movie soundtrack music as we waited to get in. I’m not sure if they were getting an early start on the season or if the staff was just confused about why a bunch of adults were wearing superhero costumes in early September, but the music seemed like an odd fit for the overall theme of “here are some fish.”

Aside from that, the only thing I remember from the aquarium is that when we went to pet stingrays, one of them slid up the side of the tank and splashed at one of my friends. We couldn’t decide if it liked her or wanted to make an Irwin out of her, but it was funny as shit either way.

Also, I went down a slide shaped like a giant whale. And that’s Saturday.

Day Three: Sunday

This ended up being our last day at the con, because by Monday we were exhausted. Fortunately, Sunday was the best day.

I dragged my poor friends out of bed hella early so I could get in line to fangirl squee over see Leonard Nimoy again, this time in person if it killed me. Actually, it’s not really accurate to say I dragged them out of bed; while getting up at ass-thirty was my idea, I was way backlogged on sleep and they actually had to prod me to get up. They probably sensed that I’d be handing down some wrath if they let me sleep through this after the wrong-line debacle on Friday. They chose wisely.

We had to stand in line for two hours, and I heard from the lady in front of me about what it’s like to get autographs and photos at the con; apparently you can’t talk to the celebrities because the staff rushes you through too fast, you can’t shake their hands because they’re stuck behind Plexiglas like so many salad-bar contents, you can’t look directly at them unless it’s through a pin-sized hole in a paper plate because you’ll damage your retinas, etc. From what I hear the guests didn’t like this setup any more than the congoers did – after all, if I were going to sit in a booth all day so people dressed as aliens and Sailor Scouts could gawk at me, I’d at least wanna be able to ask them why their nametags all said things like BorgNymph.

So we got in to see Nimoy and hear him talk about his non-Trek work – photography, voiceover work, forgotten zombie movies from the 50s, and so forth. It was fascinating to me, but I realize there are probably a grand total of 15 people on Earth who would say the same, so I’ll skip most of the details. One thing that stands out is that his newest photography project, “Secret Selves”, involves a bunch of cosplayers or furries or something. Yes, there is now something nerdier than dressing up as a wizard: having Leonard Nimoy take a picture of you dressed up as a wizard because your nerdiness provides him with some sort of insight into the human psyche. Fascinating.

From there, we got in a gigundofuckingrifficmassive line to see Patrick Stewart. There were some shenanigans involved here, because the Dragon*Con staff decided around 11:30 that it was time to start the Patrick Stewart line. The problem with this was that there was already a Patrick Stewart line; people had clearly been standing in this line since before Patrick Stewart was actually born. You could not possibly miss the fact that a line had already started; it snaked all the way around whatever floor we were on and looped around three or four times, probably violating numerous fire codes in the process. So I can see why they might have needed to move the line, but instead they started a brand new one, meaning many of the people who’d been waiting for hours weren’t at the front anymore. We actually ended up way closer to the front of the line than we should have been, but it wasn’t as if there was any clear way to tell where the fuck we belonged. Still I made sure not to say ANYTHING that indicated I had gotten ahead in line, because several of the people near me were out for BLOOD. One girl chewed out a staffmember for about 15 minutes, explaining that Patrick Stewart was the only reason she had come to the con and she’d been in line since approximately 1974 and if she didn’t get to see him the sky would turn red and the Earth would crash into the sun. So I definitely didn’t want her to know I had only just gotten in line recently.

Of all the people I saw at Dragon*Con (that I had specifically planned on seeing), Patrick Stewart is the one I’ve seen in the least number of interviews, so I was surprised at his demeanor. He’s very funny, though I kind of suspected that; what I didn’t expect was that he’d be so… humble? Not that I expected him to be an egomaniac like William Shatner, but he’s Patrick Fucking Stewart. Whether he’s playing a starship captain or a sassy gay man in a pink beret, he invariably comes off as the kind of guy who is quite capable of blasting your face off with eye lasers if you piss him off. So it caught me off guard to see him nearly blush over compliments and hear him talk about how he’s afraid to get caught watching himself on TV.

After that panel we ate some lunch, sat outside for a little while and for some reason received free ice cream, and headed over to get ready for what ultimately was my favorite part of the entire con. See, what really got me to the con was all the big-name stars, and I was really sure that was going to be my favorite part. But in all honesty, it wasn’t that great. Once the initial fangirl thrill of ohmigod he’s right there in this room that I am also in RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME wears off, you realize you just spent three hours standing in line for something you can watch on Youtube, in the comfort of your own home, with absolutely no risk of having your eye poked out by the metal steampunk fairy wings of a stranger who is sitting practically in your lap. So seeing celebrities wasn’t that awesome.

You know what was awesome? This:

You really can’t see me in that video, which is just as well because I didn’t know the dance all that well and I looked like a dork anyway. There are very few situations in life where failing to wear a ridiculous costume makes you look like more of a dork, but Dragon*Con is one of them.

What we were trying to do is break the official world record for the most people simultaneously dancing to “Thriller” in a single location, which previously was 242. I think the organizers were expecting to get maybe 300 people if they were really super lucky, because they were totally unprepared when 903 people ended up dancing. We had a big ballroom designated for rehearsal space, and there was absolutely no way in hell we could possibly rehearse in there without everyone being trampled to death. And that was only the people who showed up for the first rehearsal. We ended up breaking into small groups, eventually taking over the entire bottom floor of the Sheraton and confusing the hell out of all the hotel guests who just wanted to walk through the lobby without navigating through a horde of zombies.

We haven’t received word yet on if we got the record, but I don’t care if we do or not. I had a great time and learned a dance I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, which I can also show off at parties as long as everyone else at the party is as nerdy as I am. (Not that I get invited to any other sorts of parties.) This was definitely one of the more fun things I’ve done in my life, and if they do it again next year I will put it way higher on my list of priorities than any celebrity panel.

I also learned some things about human psychology, namely that the presence of TV cameras temporarily lowers human IQ. All of the people at this thing were intelligent; they were capable of both carrying on a meaningful conversation and learning a complex choreography routine in two hours. They were not at all the type of people you generally associate with mindless television behavior. Yet anytime a TV cameraperson showed up (and there were a lot of them there), everyone – including me – would start jumping up and down and yelling WOOOOOOOOOOOO, as if yelling really loud would prove to everyone who saw us on TV that we were absolutely the coolest people who ever lived. From now on I’m going to be more forgiving of the apparently stupid people I see on TV. For all I know they might have been discussing astrophysics over a cup of Earl Grey before the cameras showed up and destroyed all their higher mental faculties.

Also awesome: there was a person dressed as a gigantic sparkly Michael Jackson glove. I promise I am not making this up. Look:


All in all, I had a fantastic time at Dragon*Con, and it was worth any amount of con crud I’ve had to deal with since I got home. Even considering the fun activities though, I think the best part was just the timing of the whole thing. Since the con is Labor Day weekend, and since it’s mostly about sci-fi and fantasy and horror, it makes for a nice transition ritual between seasons. It’s both a last hurrah for summer and a first glimpse of Halloween. Since I have a mid-September birthday I usually try to hold off until at least after that before I begin my tribute to Satan. It’s still too hot in Florida to really get in the fall mood until then. This year, though, I couldn’t resist. A weekend of costumes and parades and zombie dancing gave me the Halloween fever, and now I can’t get through each day without a good dose of ghosts, pumpkins and Oingo Boingo. I suppose it’s fair enough, since by the time it actually feels like fall here I’ll be itching for Christmas.

Consider this your official kickoff to I Love Junk’s Halloween season. I realize I tend to go MIA for months at a time, but this year I’ve got something up my sleeve. Check back real soon to find out… if you dare.

It’s amazing how a single moment can make you feel really young and really old at the same time.  Last week I was at my friend Maria’s house, and before I came over she had emailed me saying her 9-year-old daughter really wanted me to bring over my DS so we could play Phantom Hourglass together, so I did. Her little brother seemed amazed that a grownup had a DS at all, which made me feel all young and hip and stuff.

Then he asked me if I had Mario Kart. I told him I don’t have the DS version but that I have it for Nintendo 64. At this, his sister perked up and asked something that made me feel really old:

“What’s a Nintendo 64?”

After recovering from the shock, I explained it was a system that came out when I was about her age (I was actually about 11, I think). Her response? “Wooooow! That’s a long time ago!”

And you know, I can understand that, because it came out like, four years before she was even born. I’ve never thought stuff from four years before I was born is old at all, but I grew up listening to Motown and watching The Partridge Family in the 90s, so my perspective on time is a little weird.

But boy it made me feel old to hear that. The N64 wasn’t my first console, or even my second console, but my third. Fourth, if the Super Gameboy counts. My first console, an NES, was brought home by my dad when I was only three.  What made it so great was that it brought us all together. My parents’ marriage was already on the rocks, but they’d get together to beat up the Hammer Bros or play Duck Hunt. My mom loved to play Spy vs. Spy, which was a little beyond my abilities as a three-year-old, but I loved Super Mario and Q-Bert. Unfortunately the system got fried during a lightning storm and we couldn’t afford to replace it.

My second console, an SNES with the included Super Gameboy, came one Christmas when I was ten. As was typical at the time it included a leaflet advertising Nintendo Power, and I begged my mom to subscribe me. My mom is pretty awesome, so she did. And it was because of Nintendo Power that I knew, a year later, exactly when the N64 was coming out and what it could do and how fucking cool it was going to be.

I just had to try it out, and our local video store happened to have one for rent. You could rent the entire system with Super Mario 64, but you had to put down a ridiculous $100 deposit (which you’d get back as soon as the thing came back in one piece) in addition to the rental fee. My grandma’s head just about exploded when she heard that, but she did it anyway, even though $100 was an awful lot of money for my family. I swore up and down that I would be extra super careful with it and that she was the best grandma ever and NINTENDO SIXTY FOOOOUR OH MY GOD!!!!

And of course it blew me away. The idea of a game where you could go in any direction, where things didn’t chase you down every second and you could just wander around doing nothing if you felt like it, was revolutionary. You could fly like a bird, swim, go on giant twisty slides, and surf on lava in what appeared to be the very bowels of Hell. With so many similar games out now, it’s easy to forget how revolutionary Super Mario 64 was at the time, but it truly seemed like you had stepped through your TV and into a Carroll-esque wonderland.

Of course, once I had rented the thing, I had to own one. I begged my parents for it, and they were willing to oblige me, but there was a problem: every store everywhere was sold out of the damn things. Remember the infamous Tickle Me Elmo shenanigans in 1996, where people were going crazy and beating each other up to get the last ones? Yeah, that was the same year the N64 came out, and the madness with that was nearly as bad.

So they put it on reserve at Walmart and cautioned me that it might be a really really long time before we were able to get one. And then one day (and this was in 5th grade, a grade that I loathed, which makes this story that much more awesome) my parents picked me up early from school. They did this once in awhile to avoid the school traffic, so I wasn’t that surprised – at least not until I found out why.

“Walmart just called and they said they have a Nintendo 64 and we can go get it but they only have one and we have to go RIGHT NOW so we’re going right now hurry up let’s go!” is approximately what my mom said. I couldn’t believe my ears: not only had my grandma and my mom picked me up from school early to get a Nintendo, but my mom was as excited to buy it for me as I was to get it. She never once played the thing herself, she just knew how bad I wanted it and couldn’t wait for me to finally have it. My mom is cool.

So maybe the kids these days wouldn’t be that excited by an N64. They have DS’s and Wii’s with way better technology and just wouldn’t get why the games I loved so much as a kid were that impressive. And if I felt like it I could sit here and snot about how back in my day we appreciated every little leap in technology and thought it was exciting just to be able to jump on Goombas.

But I’m never going to do that. Because the fact that kids are still excited about Nintendo, still playing for hours just to beat that one level that is really hard, still asking people who come over to please play Zelda with them? That is really fucking cool, AND it makes me feel young, because Nintendo is bridging the generation gap. Rock on, Nintendo, rock on.

Okay, I think that last post got all the depressing, gushy stuff out of my system. In the immortal words of that weird Apollo dude on Star Trek: “NO SAD FACES!!” Yesterday was a historic day for reasons other than people dying. Why? Because Wil Wheaton fucking replied to me on Twitter, bitches. Lookie:


That’s right, I’ve exchanged Simpsons quotes with a Star Trek actor over a website on which my username is derived from a D&D-related internet meme. I have truly arrived in the Land of Geek. It is less basement-like than I had been led to believe, though it does reek slightly of melted solder.

I also learned that random-ass motherfuckers will follow you in a heartbeat if they see your name on a famous person’s Twitter feed. If any of the, like, two of you who read this blog decide to follow me please let me know you saw me here, because otherwise I will assume you’re just some crazy person who wants to rape me and sell me a timeshare, not necessarily in that order. You’d be a pretty bad salesman if you tried to make your pitch after the rape.

Speaking of the two people who read my blog, DJ D gave me an award! He actually gave it to me nearly a month ago, but since I am a bad blog friend I did not know this until he told me on Facebook some 30 minutes ago. Quoth the DJ:

I randomly stumbled across her blog last year while at work and sat in the corner quietly shaking with the church giggles as I read her assessment of Babysitter Club books.

“Shaking with the church giggles” was not previously part of my phrasebook, but it totally is now. Few people are better at prodding me to write than DJ D, with his incredible Jewish mother guilt trip powers. (This is a good thing – there is no better motivator, for a writer, than knowing someone really would like you to please hurry up and write something already. Unless that someone is a professor.) You should go check out his blog, and all the other awesome people he gave awards to, most of whom will definitely be on my blogroll just as soon as I finally get around to making one. You can expect that around the time people stop making crackpot end of the world predictions involving Nostradamus (translation: holding your breath is not recommended).


Posted on: June 26, 2009

Edit: A bunch of other random memories keep surfacing, and I feel like I want to post them somewhere, so I’m just adding them to the end of this as I think of them.

As someone who 1) writes about pop culture nostalgia, 2) is a fan of Michael Jackson, and 3) keeps promising to write more and then disappearing, I feel the need to post something now. Except this is usually a humorous blog, and Perez Hilton’s stupid ass notwithstanding, this is not an occasion for humor. So I’m a little stuck on how to approach this. But since the loss of a huge pop culture icon certainly lends itself to a lot of nostalgia, I’ll start there. Here’s a smattering of memories of a man who always seemed to be in the background of my life, in odd little ways.

“Dirty Diana” was the first song I can remember hearing. Not just the first pop song, or the first Michael Jackson song  – this is my earliest memory that involves music at all. I must have been just about three or four, and all I remember is hearing the line about “unlock the door because I forgot the key”, and thinking that didn’t sound very safe. I didn’t listen to the rest of the song at all, and I had no idea what song it was until I heard it many years later, as a teenager, and that line sent me hurtling back in time. Up until then I’d figured the line must be from some old country song, because that’s mostly what my parents listened to in the 80s. So that’s one memory, a rare one, from the only time in my life when I didn’t care all that much about music.

By the time I heard “Beat It” a year or so later, I cared a lot. I danced my little preschool ass off to that song every time it came on Alvin and the Chipmunks, which was my main source of music at that time. Together with “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Material Girl”, “Beat It” completed my Holy Trinity of 80s Music. I’d still put it in my top five favorite songs of all time. The first time I actually heard Michael Jackson sing it was on a commercial for one of those “best of the decade” type CDs, so it must have been early 1990, and I remember wondering who the hell was this random black dude singing my favorite Chipmunks song.  To this day that’s probably my favorite “look how silly I was as a kid” story.

In the early 90s I didn’t care so much, because I spent that time immersed in music from when my mom was a kid – the Beatles, Elvis, Stevie Wonder, all that good stuff. But I remember my mom, a die-hard Elvis fan, obsessively collecting all the tabloids about Michael Jackson marrying Lisa Marie Presley. Eventually she started collecting ones that were just about Michael Jackson, hoping they’d mention Lisa Marie too. We had nightstands with cabinets and she had one totally full of these things. I thought this Michael Jackson dude sounded pretty weird, and frankly I was sick of hearing about him, and I made absolutely no connection between this pale man and my beloved “Beat It”, which I knew a black guy sang.

Then came 1997. As a preteen, I had just recently eschewed my mom’s music for more recent stuff, and had started watching MTV, mostly for stupid shit like Beavis and Butthead and Singled Out. Don’t let this fool you into thinking I was in any way hip. I wore sweatpants and tie-dyed Tweety Bird t-shirts to school, I carried a teddy bear backpack, and I made up stories based on the Babysitters Club. I was the dork to end all dorks, and I got into MTV in an effort to impress another dork into being my friend. Yeah.

So anyway, I was trying to watch Singled Out one day, except it was supposed to come on at 7, I think, and 7 passed, and they were still showing videos, which I quickly realized were all Michael Jackson videos. So. Many. Stupid. Michael Jackson. Videos. Finally a veejay came on and said they were playing a marathon of his videos because he had just become a father. “Uh, good for him,” I thought, “now where’s my show?” But I didn’t turn the channel right away, because some of the songs were kinda catchy, and I didn’t have anything better to watch, and… holy shit is that “Beat It”?! It was, and a black guy was singing it, and that black guy was the same as the “white” guy I’d been whining about a few seconds before. That hurt my head a little, but I didn’t care, because hearing that song again was like running into an old friend. And then magic happened, because the video for “Thriller” came on. I had never seen it before, and I loved everything about it. From that point, I was a huge fan.

I was also really, really embarassed about that, because if you were going to become a squeeing MJ fangirl, the late 90s were not such a good time for it. At the time I didn’t know anything about the allegations against him, but I did know that kids at school made fun of him, and I was dorky enough without admitting to being a fan of his. So I kept the whole thing secret – even from my parents, for some reason that existed only in my head, because they never really said anything about him to make me think they’d disapprove. Occasionally other kids would hint at being fans – we were all born in the 80s, after all – but none of us directly admitted it. Being a fan of an extremely popular musician seems a strange thing to have as a dark secret, but peer pressure is weird like that. (Today, I find it much more embarassing to admit that I once watched Singled Out.)

It wasn’t until last year that I started freely admitting to listening to him a lot, even to my own friends. First I posted this, admitting I owned a copy of Thriller on vinyl. And then a couple months later I was at my mom’s cousin’s house in Arizona for a week, and she had Off the Wall on vinyl, and I played it while she was at work. And I was like “this is a fucking good album, and I am gonna fucking buy it, and I’m gonna put it on my computer, and then I’m gonna fucking listen to it.”  And I did, and I put Thriller and Bad on there too, and put some of the songs on my iPod. I don’t know why I thought my friends would care when they saw the songs on my “now playing” message on MSN, but of course they didn’t. That whole ridiculous fear was just in my head. Hell, many of my friends had some of the same songs.

And you know what else? I might not have most of those friends if I hadn’t been a Michael Jackson fan. It was because of him that I started watching music videos and stand-up comedy (because comedians often mentioned him), and those things are what made me who I am. All the humor and knowledge of pop culture I picked up from those sources is what made me actually become a social creature. I became a nostalgia geek because I spent 1997 wanting 1983 back (despite the fact that I hadn’t actually been born then). And without that first big music obsession I wouldn’t have gotten so interested in music or at all interested in dance, and I might not have ever picked up a clarinet or a guitar or a piano. (Okay, I’ve never picked up a piano, but you know.)

I don’t know anything, for sure, about what Jackson did or didn’t do in his personal life, and I don’t especially care. History is full of weirdos with seedy personal lives – Lewis Carroll, also accused of being a pedophile, comes immediately to mind – and that never changes the fact that they were brilliantly creative people who spread immeasurable amounts of joy through their work. I really hope history remembers Michael Jackson that way. I know I will.

A few more random memories:

-Driving home from work, the day after Election Day 2008, and hearing a remix of “Man in the Mirror” with Obama quotes added in. I was extremely emotional that day, and I don’t think anything could have hit me quite like that joyful gospel choir singing “make that change”. It just so perfectly captured everything I was feeling at that moment.

-Watching the “Ghosts” video, with Sabrina, when it first premiered on MTV.  It was pretty bizarre, and we mostly joked about it, but we had a great time.

-Seeing my cousin’s band play “Beat It” on my last night in Arizona. I’d been reluctant to dance all night, but one of my cousin’s friends insisted: “You have to dance to ‘Beat It’!” She was right, and so I did.

-Going to Walmart a lot late at night a couple years back, because I live in BFE and Walmart is the only activity sometimes, and I swear to God every single time I went in the store “Say, Say, Say” came on over the speaker system. It was surreal because I’m pretty sure I’m one of like, five or six people on Earth who even know what song that is. I have literally only ever heard it on Pop-Up Video and in Walmart and Kmart.

-The storm of insanity around 2002 or so when somebody leaked the Freddie Mercury/MJ version of “State of Shock” on the Queenzone forums. This was back when a rare track actually was rare, before you could just go to Youtube and listen to any song in the universe, so collectors were pissed that people were getting it without making any effort to track it down. (For the record – it sucks. I was thinking hearing two of my favorite singers on a song together would be mind-blowing, but really, their voices just sound terrible together.)

-And finally, on Inside Joke Theater, something only Sabrina and I knew: Michael Jackson did not live at Neverland, but in a pineapple under the sea.

You know, reading back over this post again I just realized none – not one single one – of these memories were actually dependent on him being alive. When someone dies the immediate sense is “shit, it’s all over”, but these memories are all based on stuff he did years or decades ago, so it’s not like they’ve come to an end now. I was curious to see what his comeback would’ve been like, and of course it’s still horrible for his friends and family. But the 80s kid within me feels a lot better knowing that Michael Jackson-as-an-icon is pretty much immortal.

On my way into Walmart today to get groceries, I noticed some adorable Star Trek dolls in the claw machine. I really wanted Spock, but predictably he was on the bottom and Kirk was on top. I take no responsibility for where that sentence takes your mind. There was a Sulu within reach, but Sulu isn’t really worth blowing 10 bucks in quarters on, and I didn’t want Kirk, because fuck Kirk. I still haven’t forgiven William Shatner for all my childhood phobias involving carbon monoxide and escalators. When other kids were scared of the dark or the boogeyman, I was lying awake convinced that somewhere in my house there was colorless, odorless poison gas seeping out, waiting to kill me while I slept.

So anyway, I decided to skip the claw machine. I suck at them anyway. But I did still manage to come away with something stupid and Star Trek-related:

The quality of these images suck because my camera was being a whore, but you see that? AN ACTUAL TOY IN A CEREAL BOX. Not something to send away for, not a stupid pedometer or some other lame health thing. An actual prize right there in the actual box. I didn’t notice this right away, because 85% of my brain was devoted to going “lol, frosted butts” and the other 15% was preoccupied with the fact that I really needed to pee. But eventually the words “beam up” finally penetrated into the geek lobe of my brain and I examined the box a little closer.

The dorkiness of the words “beam up badge” already had me convinced this thing sucked before I even opened the box. I was correct. The back of the box shows the five different badges you can get. Obviously the most badass ones to have would be either the Command or the Klingon one, but that was not my destiny. Instead I got a lousy redshirt badge, confirming something I’ve long suspected: Kelloggs wants me to die.

The quality of the badge is even less than what you’d expect from a cereal prize. It lights up as promised, but there’s no way to clip it on, and you have to hold the button down to keep it lit up, making it absolutely useless as anything other than a tool to annoy your parents and/or cats. Still, this is the first time in years I’ve seen a toy prize in a cereal box, let alone one that was relevant to my interests at the time, so I’m pretty happy. Especially since I have plenty of cats to annoy.

March 2023