TEACHER IN SPACE - CHRISTA MCAULIFFE BEFORE THE TRAGEDY
I recently came across a documentary on YouTube about Christa McAuliffe. She is, as you probably remember, the would be "Teacher in Space". What is unique about this documentary, is that it does not retell the story we all already know, about the Space Shuttle Challenger (mission STS-51-L) that launched on January 28th, 1986 but never reached it's destination. Instead, "Teacher in Space" was filmed and aired just before that fateful launch. It is a snapshot of swirling excitement and optimism in Reagan-era America in the time just before Christa would have been the first ordinary citizen in space. This film, narrated with a certain charm by Burgess Meredith, captures the infectious spirit of wonder surrounding not just the flight of one woman, but of the coming changes that it would usher in. The entire field of space exploration, this film would have us believe, will never be the same. We must prepare ourselves for a new space age where humans, more specifically Americans, would have a more commonplace presence in space. In a time of increased and humbling environmental awareness and nuclear unease, we saw space as solution to earthly problems. Space was a new, vast frontier with untapped potential and resources for the taking. But, if space is to be the new industrialized frontier, we would need thousands of qualified people, for years to come, to meet these new challenges. There was warranted concern as to whether America could produce such vast numbers of qualified, skilled workers. At the time of the documentary broadcast a paltry 6% of America's high school students were skilled in math and science, while in Japan, Germany, and the Soviet Union as many as 90% were skilled in these areas. Christa McAuliffe, as the first ordinary citizen in space, along with the Teacher in Space Program and the Young Astronauts Program were not just public relation stunts for NASA. It was an honest endeavor to inspire other teachers and ignite the imagination in students to get our American education system, as a whole, reaching for the stars in terms of academic achievement and personal potential.
Surviving: Family in Crisis - 1985 Television Movie
Surviving: A family in Crisis is a 1985 made-for-television film that was originally aired on Sunday, February 10th 1985 on ABC in a rare three-hour slot. The film was touted as a "special event" that should be watched together by the entire family. In fact, in the years after the airing, some schools throughout the United States took it upon themselves to show the film to High School aged students in health classes. In the In the early eighties, the emergent increase of youth suicide rates alarmed the collective soul of the nation. As a reaction to the frightening headlines, in the 1984-85 television season there was a unofficial "trilogy" of teen suicide-themed films aired with the laudable goal of initiating conversations in American homes about this troubling subject. Firstly, on Tuesday, October 16th 1984 was CBS's "Afterschool Special" style half-hour film "Hear me Cry" about two teens united in their curiosity about death, first become unlikely friends, then form a suicide pact. This special starred Robert McNaughton, know for his role as the eldest brother on E.T., and Lee Montgomery (Girls Just Want to Have Fun). CBS followed up just a few weeks later with the made for TV movie "Silence of the Heart". Like Surviving: Family in Crisis, the movie had an impressive a cast. The film starred Charlie Sheen, Mariette Hartley, Howard Hesseman, Chad Lowe, Dana Hill, and Elizabeth Berridge. In this film a young man becomes overwhelmed by his problems and resorts to driving his gold Camaro off a cliff. The parents believe, or want to believe, that it was an accident. Meanwhile a friend has to live with the warning he ignored and must cope with the guilt of not being able to stop him. Again, like Surviving, this film deals with the fallout of suicide, the despair, guilt, anger, and other feelings that survivors are cursed to endure.
Roseanne's Halloween Episodes
The first Roseanne Halloween show did not haunt the airwaves until the Second Season of the popular series. You may wonder why there wasn't a Halloween show in the first season. This might simply have been an issue of timing. The closest air date to Halloween in the first season was October 25, almost a week away from the Holiday. Others maintain that, at that time, Halloween episodes were just not done. It is believed that Roseanne personally loved Halloween and after the success of the first season, she was able to demand a Halloween episode for the Second Season. It's certainly not the first situational comedy to feature a Halloween storyline, but it was extremely popular and seemed to jump start the concept of a yearly Halloween special, which has become commonplace among prime-time comedies. Roseanne's Halloween show benefited from the shows innate charms, it projected innocence, love for the holiday, and most of all fun. At least in the beginning, later episodes would become hit or miss in their tone and focus. So lets take a look at the best of the bunch, the first ever, and best Roseanne Halloween episode simply entitled: BOO!
THE INFAMOUSLY VIOLENT 1962 MARS ATTACKS TRADING CARDS
Mars Attacks is probably best know as the stylish yet underwhelming 1996 Tim Burton film (Mars Attacks!). What many don't know is that the film is actually based on a series of trading cards from Topps released back in 1962. Very collectable and somewhat infamous, these cards have achieved cult status today. The Mars Attacks trading cards featured a simple but compelling science fiction horror story that was bolstered by lush yet grim artwork. Designed by Wallace Wood and Norman Saunders the imagery depicted (often in graphic detail) an invasion and human extermination campaign by Martian beings in a desperate search for a new home. While the 1996 Tim Burton film is a comedy spoof, the 1962 trading cards tell the story in a deadpan manner. In fact the text on the cards read like news reels and brings to mind 1938 War of the Worlds "news" broadcast.
BE KIND REWIND - 1989 SEARS WISHBOOK
For this Be Kind Rewind, We going to try to be as kind as we can while taking a look back at a relic from the past. Here is a 1989 Sears Wishbook. For children of the 80's this was THE resource for tots deciding what Santa will bring them on Christmas morn. The catalog business and the Sears Wishbook are gone (since 1992), so now these old catalogs serve, as collectibles and time capsules. Lets see whats inside! But first, check out the cover, is that Cybill Shepherd?
THE RAYMOND BRIGGS CHRISTMAS TRILOGY
Raymond Briggs is an English illustrator of children's books. One of his most famous books is an artful graphic novel, 1978's The Snowman. Elements from this book were changed slightly and the Christmas themes were added to turn the story into an animated short film, or as I like to think of it a "Christmas Special". The special first aired in the UK on December 26, 1982. The snowman was re-released for American audiences the next year with an introduction by David Bowie. The Snowman was an instant hit in the UK and is still shown annually. It is not as well known in the US however. So even if you have seen The Snowman (and this brings back fond memories) you still may not be aware of the other two Christmas films by Raymond Briggs. If you've never seen it or if your tired of the same old Rudolph, Frosty, and Charlie Brown specials check out these Raymond Briggs creations that have a different feel but are full of Christmas spirit.
BE KIND REWIND - 1983 SEARS WISHBOOK
There is a reason why Kirsten Dunst is smiling! No it's not because her doll house is taller than she is. She is thrilled because another Be Kind Rewind is here, and is yet another Christmas Catalog, because it's the gift that keeps on giving. This time we take a look at the wishfull wares that graced the pages of the 1983 Sears Wishbook Catalog. So let's jump right in...
Strange Cinema - The Child (1977)
The Child is an odd film found in the deep, dark, recesses of late seventies, early eighties. It is one of many zombie schlock films found in that great era of horror cinema, but instead of this being a Romero, Fulci or even Mattei affair this film was brought to you by Harry Novak (not as a director but a producer). Harry Novak is not known so much for horror productions as his sexploitaion and exploitation films. To give you an idea of the caliber of work, here are some titles: The Sinful Dwarf, The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet, and Please Don't Eat my Mother. The director of The Child was Robert Voskanian with his only directing credit. The writer, Ralph Lucas has a few other horror credits that span some time. He also starred in the film as one of the movie's zombie-like creatures. This gory and atmospheric film draws inspiration from other horror classics like Carrie, The Omen, and Night of the Living Dead. The elements, those of a child who is an instrument of evil along with scenarios of zombie attacks seem crammed together in a patchwork storyline.
Strange Cinema - WNUF Halloween Special
What happened to this newscaster on Halloween Night in 1987 was truly shocking. Even more disturbing, it was all captured, and aired, on live television.
Dark and Abandoned - Urban Exploration Photography
I have long respected the Urban Explorer, an adventurer and artist alike who combines their love of photography with a lust for adrenaline in order to produce stunning images of places we're not supposed to go. As a hobbyist photographer, I have always longed (but never had the nerve) to follow through with my seemingly innate curiosity about shooting abandoned places. Particularly places that were once grand in scale or architecture but have fallen into disrepair and neglect. Fates often caused by socioeconomic factors swirling outside the structure's door.
TIME BURGLAR PROJECT - HALLOWEEN HAUNTED HOUSE
Boys and Ghouls, with Halloween quickly approaching I thought I would share a project that has consumed an embarrassing amount of my time in recent days. It is a haunted house that you can build and use to decorate and spookify your full size house this Halloween season.
BE KIND REWIND - ELVIRA'S 1986 MTV HALLOWEEN SPECIAL
Submitted for your approval on this Halloween edition of Be Kind Rewind we have a tricky treat known as the 1986 MTV Halloween Special hosted by Elvira, mistress of the dark. You may notice these photos are unfortunately pretty bad, that is because this comes from a YouTube video transferred from a VHS tape that an utter genius had the foresight to record from it's original live broadcast on Halloween night in 1986. At the beginning of the YouTube video the gentleman who uploaded it explained that he popped in the VHS tape, pressed record, then went out to have a Halloween night of fun with his friends. The Elvira Halloween Special was a four hour production that consisted of music videos and random skits spread throughout all featuring the talents of Elvira. These skits are split between Elvira doing some ad-lib shtick and some scripted skits. Because this was taped from television the original commercials are here and they are just as much (in retrospect) part of the show. The music videos are unfortunately removed to eliminate copyright entanglements, but the beginning and the end of each video is there so you can research and seek out the songs if you like. The music represented here for the most part is an odd but refreshingly progressive collection of moody almost goth-rock that was probably chosen to fit in with a Halloween theme. At the end of the four hour show Elvira herself gets into the groove with her oddly ambiguous "countdown" of songs, we will get into that later.
Strange Cinema - Brian BePalma's The Phantom of the Paradise
Strange Cinema is a poptechmotive series where we will take a brief look at movies that are in some way odd or unusual, films that may not reside within the mainstream consciousness. These may be obscure or overlooked films, sometimes dark, sometimes whimsical, either way this series is meant to shine a light on something you might not have known about before. In this first installment of Strange Cinema we will take a look at a movie that is certainly strange. It is a hard-to-categorize satirical and literary rock opera written and directed by Brian De Palma. His movies include Carrie (one of my favorite horror movies ever), Scarface, Sisters, The Fury, The Untouchables, and Carlito's Way to name a few. I discovered this movie's existence after experiencing Dario Argento's brilliant horror masterpiece Suspiria and was taken with the lovely Jessica Harper. She played the main protagonist in that colorful and violent acid trip of a horror film about a young dancer who becomes menaced by witchcraft at a secluded dance school. After seeing her in that movie I wondered what else she might have done. It was then that I discovered "The Evictors" (1979), a film about a young couple that had just bought a house, ignorant of it's violent past. And finally I discovered she was in a movie called Phantom of the Paradise. I was intrigued because Jessica Harper was singing in this film. Learning that it was written and directed by Brian De Palma (whom I respected) and featured music by Paul Williams (whom I saw constantly on television growing up but never really knew what he was famous for) solidified my resolve to seek out this elusive motion picture.
Ingeniously Gross - Our 30 favorite Garbage Pail Kids
Topps is well known, even today, as a maker of baseball and other sports collectible cards/stickers. The company also found great success with some non-sports themed collectible cards. They did this two ways. One was to create a line of cards based on a successful entity like The Beatles and Batman and license use of images for trading cards. Perhaps the greatest example of this is Topps' Star Wars collector cards from the late Seventies. This worked for them because the powers that be at Topps were prescient enough to anticipate the demand that would rise for Star Wars related merchandise before the fad tsunami hit the shore. This element of timing meant the cost of licensing was reasonable. The other way Topps found success was with original, artistically painted cards that combine humor and horror. Their popular Ugly Stickers from the Sixties portrayed funny yet grotesque characters. Later, the Wacky Packages line parodied existing products with outlandish and gross re-imagining of well known brands. The birth of Garbage Pail Kids was the result of a serendipitous combination of these two pursuits. With the Eighties and the eminent end of the Star Wars series Topps was looking for another entity to license. At the time Cabbage Patch Kids' popularity was exploding and Topps desperately wanted to produce a line of cards based on the toy line. However, they had waited too long and the cost for licensing The Cabbage Patch Kids became too high. So they decided haphazardly to "just do a parody" and the Garbage Pail Kids were born. In fact the Topps archives already contained a never released concept created for the Wacky Packages line that contained a "Garbage Pail Kid" in it's package. From there the company was off, churning out a combination of gruesome art and humorously clever name play that exploded into a fad that rivaled Cabbage Patch Kids themselves. If you grew up in the Eighties, even if you did not collect the cards yourself, you became quite familiar with some of these characters. You saw them in school, on notebooks, folders, and locker doors. Kids were proud to let you check out their collections and your young mind just absorbed the odd, wonderful images. In fact, at the height of popularity Garbage Pail Kids were banned from some schools. This was not so much in protest of the content, but because they were deemed a distraction.
CARS FROM ABOVE, a lazy, wordless, photo essay.
Cars of all shapes and sizes, as observed from my office window.
BE KIND REWIND - 1985 MONTGOMERY WARD CHRISTMAS GIFTS
Here is another installment of Be Kind Rewind and another Christmas Catalog, because it's the gift that keeps on giving. This time we take a look at offerings from a 1985 Montgomery Ward catalog which was called simply Christmas Gifts 85'. Sears, of course, had their "Wishbook" which is the darling of the holiday catalogs due in part to its magical "wish fulfilling" name. But I think this catalog, despite it uninspired name, actually offers a great (perhaps superior) selection of toys from yesteryear. It also has some cool features like full page introductions for popular toy lines that give a quick synopsis for parents or kids who may not be familiar with them. So lets begin on page one...
Quick Take - Adding Android to your Auto.
Most of us have become increasingly aware of technology creeping into new cars. It started when in-dash navigation became a more and more popular factory option. From there it evolved into automation systems that added voice activated integration like Ford's Sync. This quick tutorial will explain how to use an old tablet or phone to create an android powered digital entertainment interface for your older or under-equipped car.
QUICK TAKE - 2016 CAMARO VISUALIZER
Almost immediately after the sixth generation 2016 Chevrolet Camaro's reveal in Detroit we were told by Chevy to expect a "visualizer" to hit Chevy's website soon. This Visualizer is similar the the "build and price" feature common to car websites but is meant to showcase instead, accessory options for the car. There is no pricing calculator here. Well, the Visualizer has launched, and it does show the vehicle's color choices as well as wheel options, ground effects and some stripe packages. The visualizer allows you to tweak the car then see it in (only) four views from the exterior and two views on the interior. This setup was somewhat underwhelming and left me longing for the full 360 degree view that used to be commonplace.
TECH TOCK - GARMIN GPS WATCHES
Garmin is a relatively young company founded in 1989. It has become synonymous with global positioning satellite technology. For a time, in the 90's GPS units were the latest thing and were sprouting up suction cupped to windshields across America. Garmin, further demonstrating their authority, even made a GPS navigation focused phone, in collaboration with Asus. Back then there were several new companies making these devices, companies like Tom Tom, Navman, Magellan, Mio, Wayfinder, and others. Garmin has emerged from that crowd and is still a relative household name. It has survived even as demand declined for these devices (as more and more vehicles and smartphones gained GPS capabilities). The company earned real world credibility providing GPS solutions to the military during the Gulf War. But if Garmin was to survive on the retail battlefield, the company needed to find new markets for GPS technology. A breakthrough came in the form of wearable GPS technology (watches) called Forerunner which could be sold to sportsman and athletes alike. To the right is the Garmin Forerunner 610 the company's first touch screen enabled GPS watch. This device became a popular tool for runners utilizing GPS to track their progress. Along with a diverse array of products Garmin is finding new ways to integrate GPS and other technologies into watches. This article will focus briefly in words and pictures on Garmin's top of the line (at the time) GPS range of watches and talk about how they have created several variants that are purpose built for unique and specific customers.
Auto Reverse - Mitsubishi Eclipse
In 2012 the automotive world lost a rare celestial phenomenon: the Mitsubishi Eclipse. The Mitsubishi Eclipse started it's life in 1990 as an inexpensive, sporty, coupe for enthusiasts with limited funds but not limited expectations. The Eclipse went on to ride the wave of 90's tuner culture to achieve iconic status there, even earning a spot as a hero car in original "The Fast and Furious" movie driven by the late Paul Walker. Although it's time on this earth was historically brief, it lasted for four distinct generations. In that time it evolved from one or the first sporty import coupes in America to a new, improved, wildly popular second iteration. The polarizing third generation had it's share of detractors but survived in an automotive climate in which many coupes were going away. The fourth and final generation stepped back in the right direction but could not change it's ultimate course to oblivion.
JAN HOOKS TRIBUTE - 1957-2014
In 2011 Dana Carvey triumphantly returned to host Saturday Night Live where he had been an enormously popular cast member for several years. In his monologue called "Glory Years", he performs a song proclaiming his cast (1986 to 1993) was the best. He was absolutely right. This was a superb Saturday Night Live cast that included Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Nora Dunn, Kevin Nealon, Victoria Jackson, Dennis Miller, John Lovitz and... Jan Hooks. Perhaps it was just because this cast was new right as I discovered Saturday Night Live and was forming opinions for myself about what was funny, but all these players (even Victoria Jackson and Dennis Miller) were exceptional in my young eyes. I was at an age before I would go out on Saturday Nights and I looked forward to spending my Saturday night with my "friends" from New York. I would record skits on a compact cassette recorder. I began to recite scenes and catch phrases. I was hooked. And yet in a cast filled with such talent and brilliance Jan Hooks always shined bright enough to capture my attention in whatever sketch she was in. She was beautiful and versatile. She could play a prostitute or a first lady, a valley girl or a grandma with equaled heart. But most of all she was relentlessly funny. Although I still enjoy and watch Saturday Night Live to this day, the five years with Jan Hooks truly were the glory years. On October 9th, 2014 the world lost Jan Hooks, as she succumbed to a serious disease. This is a woman whom over the years I had felt such fondness, as if I knew her. I want to share some of her moments (there is not time for all of them) from SNL and other places in her career, so those of you who did not know her might know her a little better.
CLICKING FOR CRITTERS - LIVE ANIMALS ON EBAY
Ebay is known for being a resource for getting things you cannot find just anywhere. But have you ever thought of looking on Ebay for live animals? Even if you are not in the market for a live animal it is fascinating to see what can be ordered online or how people have managed to create a business out of the culturing of certain species for purposes ranging from food to friendship. There are no cats, dogs, or bunnies for sale because Ebay does not allow selling of "pets". This is probably because most "items" will need to be shipped and there is just no practical or ethical way to, say ship a live bird or a sugar glider. So there are no live mammals, but there is an extensive variety of fish because of their likelihood to survive the shipping process. Another way around the issue of shipping live animals is to sell eggs. There were fish eggs, bird eggs, insect eggs, even Chameleon eggs! From there it even gets a little stranger. I will show you what I found on an arbitrary day of looking for live animals on Ebay. Remember this was just a snapshot, this is not a fixed catalog. Everyday there will be new or different things to discover on Ebay. If I looked again today I might find something even stranger.
TECH TOCK - CASIO DATA BANK WATCHES
Can you think of anything more emblematic of 80's geek culture than a Casio Data Bank calculator watch? Here for your visual consumption is a collection of Casio Data Bank watches on display so you can witness a few of the models and variants that have existed over the years. Behold designs that date back from 1985 to the present with the newest model still being produced and sold today.
THE CRAZY PAINT OPTIONS OF THE 2014 RALLY FIGHTER
When I first heard about Local Motors in 2007 I was skeptical, skeptical that an emerging company that specialized in low volume high priced automobiles through an innovative business model centered around open sourced designs could find success with such a microscopic niche. Then I saw the car and became even more skeptical. The car resembled at first glance a Mitsubishi Eclipse-esqe pseudo sports car attached to a Jeep chassis. The Rally Fighter was designed to be the ultimate off road beast. I immediately dismissed it as outlandish and silly. And it was, at just under 100 thousand dollars it seemed even more ridiculous to me. As I stated, the car came out in 2007 and is still around, squashing my initial skepticism and replacing it slowly, with admiration. Over time I have grown fond of this odd yet historic car. The Rally Fighter is perhaps named so because it combines rally car capabilities with fighter jet purpose and aggression. The greenhouse of this car is even reminiscent of a fighter jet canopy. The company is not standing still with the single vehicle either. Local Motors have recently announced plans to release a second car, this time a serious track sports car. Like the Rally Fighter, its design will ultimately come from a submission from the public. The company, in cooperation with Cincinnati Incorporated and Oak ridge National Laboratory has recently built the Strati, the worlds first 3D printed electric car. This was done in front of an admiring audience in 44 hours but was not just a stunt. There is intent by Local Motors to bring the Strati to production. There may be yet, more exciting things coming from this company. Back to the Rally Fighter, as you might imagine from a high price, low volume vehicle such as this the customization options are unsurprising plentiful. But I was surprised to see how dynamic the Rally Fighter configurator actually was.
QUICK TAKE REVIEW - 1/18 SCALE MODEL CORSAIR
Today, a quick look at a Navy Corsair model made by 21st Century toys as part of their Ultimate Soldier line, in impressive 1/18th scale! This is particular model pays tribute to the fighter plane flown by famous pilot Ira Kepford as part of the Jolly Rogers squadron. The Corsair, also called Vought F4U was an American fighter aircraft that entered service in 1942 and was active primarily in World War II and the Korean War. It was originally designed for aircraft carrier use but proved to be initially problematic and could not be effectively used on carriers until several modifications were implemented later in it's service.
AUTO REVERSE - A LOOK AT PONTIAC'S SUNNY SMALL CAR
Welcome to the first installment of our new feature, AUTO REVERSE, where we take a picture-book look at a product of Detroit that you may have forgotten about or perhaps remember fondly (or might even hate). AUTO REVERSE is comprised of a chronological collection of photos and ideas from the pages of old car magazines and brochures. Here for us to enjoy before the pages turn to dust, as too many cars have turned to rust. Today's upload focuses on Pontiac's small sporty entry, arriving during GM's mid-seventies downsizing craze.