December 2011

Billy Idol's "Cyberpunk" Album

Maybe not the world's greatest album, but did it really deserve all the hate?
I had forgotten all about Billy Idol's concept album "Cyberpunk" until I ran across a mention of it this morning. Boy was I scathing about that album at the time. In hindsight, I really should have just chilled out. I tend to be a lot more forgiving of other people's foibles these days, now that - not to put too fine a point on it - I'm not 20 anymore.
There were two basic criticisms of the "Cyberpunk" album at the time: First, that it co-opted a culture (to wit, cyberpunk) that aggressively punished anyone who postured incorrectly. And second, that it was completely out of the loop, being a sort of advanced/future-pop album that was released well after the entire music scene seemed to have gone ape over the kids with their grunge movement. Utterly out of touch, in other words.

'90s Plush Dolls

Which ones do you remember?

This Christmas season, a singing, talking and dancing plastic doll with a light-up face was the toy that kids wanted the most. Back in the '90s, we kicked our stuffed toys old-school. We didn't need the toy to do all the work; we had our imaginations. Or at least I like to hope so, although I think I discarded many of my stuffed animals not too many months after receiving them for Christmas. Ah, how nostalgia blinds. Let's take a look at some the raddest plush toys from the '90s:

"Teen Spirit" 20th Anniversary

A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido
I just read that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Nirvana world-crushing hit "Smells Like Teen Spirit." And my first thought was, "Is that right? That can't be right." Then I counted back the decades - 2001, 1991 - and realized that yep, it was true. 20 years.
In late 1991 when the song became a hit, I was in my second year at college in Washington, in a town not too far from where Kurt Cobain grew up. We wore jeans and flannel because it was appropriate clothing for our climate. If you got more than a few states away, you encountered people who had never heard of Seattle. Washington was Nowheresville, in other words. But before long, MTV made "grunge rock" the next new thing, and suddenly we were, like, a thing. 
And a lot of that happened because of "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train" Music Video

Be careful what you wish for…


In 1994, Minneapolis band Soul Asylum had an innovative idea for their new single. The song "Runaway Train" deals with the alienation and hopelessness of a runaway teen. Why not use the music video as a pop culture Public Service Announcement? This earnest idea came at a time of great earnestness in the music industry, a very "crunchy granola" version of social awareness. It seemed like a match made in Heaven, a "win/win" situation.
The music video intercut dramatized scenes of domestic horror (a man beats his wife; an elderly woman steals an unattended baby from a stroller) with "have you seen this child" photographs and information about missing teens. The specific teens highlighted in the music video were changed to spotlight local runaways for the video's biggest markets, like the U.S., U.K., and Germany.

'90s movies that are often played on television

You know you have to watch.

There’s no better time to re-watch all of the movies from the ‘90s than when you’re at your parents’ houses over the holidays. All you have to occupy your time is baking cookies, wrapping gifts and writing cards, so you might as well put a movie on to entertain yourself. Thank god there are so many movies on television to help you while away the empty hours. Let’s take a look at some of my favorite movies from the ‘90s that are still good today:

90's Celebrities who didn't translate in the '00s

What happened to these guys?

Some of our favorite celebrities from the ‘90s graced our television screens at least once a week. They had girl-next-door qualities, wore baggy t-shirts or coined catchphrases that you couldn’t get out of your head; in other words, their appeal was confined to the ‘90s. Let’s take a look at some huge ‘90s celebrities who haven’t held on to their fame as the years have progressed:

MOPy Fish: That Conniving Devil

A clever scheme by HP to encourage office drones to print more


Thinking about Clippy the other day, I was reminded of my MOPy Fish. MOPy Fish is, as the Wikipedia entry will tell you, the world's most-downloaded cyber pet. (Not that there are very many contenders for that title.) It is basically a screen saver that acts like a pet, and encourages you to use printer ink. Fiendish, right?
The word "MOPy" is a clunky faux abbreviated phrase cooked up by the HP design team. It is short for "Multiple cOPy." The idea behind MOPy is that it would encourage people to print several copies of their document, instead of printing one copy and then taking it over to the copier and making copies. Because HP didn't run the copier, you see. HP only gets a cut of the printer ink business.

90s Microsoft Nostalgia: Clippy


Is there any figure of the 1990s more reviled and beloved than Clippy? You either love Clippy or you hate him with the fiery heat of a million suns. I hadn't thought of Clippy in years, until I ran across this great post on the BlogHer network. 
A woman and her son are saddened to find that their newest version of Office does not contain Clippy. They are able to track down the designer, and send him some fan mail. He agrees to a blog interview, and I was completely blown away. I was always a Clippy hater, but I had never really paid any thought to his designer.