Remember when foreign cars were still “exotic” and you had to take your Toyota or even a Daewoo to a specialty mechanic? Midas didn’t care where the car came from!Also on:
Did anyone ever shop at Big Star? I remember a couple of them around Marietta–in what I remember being “sketchy” areas. There was the one where Fairground St intersects SoMar Pkwy, next to the old County Tag Office (where the Food Depot is now). I think I remember another one being up on the hill across from the Pizza Hut we used to go to at the intersection of Sandtown and Powder Springs. I still remember that big, star-shaped lighted sign glowing in the rainy night….Also on:
Warm up your yo-yo arm, get those bananas out of your ears, and tune to 747MHz! Do me so far do me?
Remember video rental stores? The days before Netflix and Hulu and any piece of entertainment at your fingertips. Video rentals were a visceral experience. I remember it like it was only twenty years ago….When I was in middle and high school, there was a Hollywood Video at the intersection of Dallas Highway and the new Barrett Parkway extension where we used to grab a movie or two on weekends. It was like this video wonderland (actually, I think Video Wonderland was down by the Kroger) with shelves upon shelves of not just new releases, but a lot of forgotten 1970s and 1980s B comedies—which might explain my sensibilities today.
“Ugh! Why would you get that? That looks weird!” my mother would protest. Fortunately, I managed to recover and repair our old VHR and a Sears CRT monitor from the trash years before, so I had the luxury of my own private setup in my closet of a bedroom. The fact that my rentals were cheaper than new releases may have further swayed the odds in my favor.
I was a bit like Harry Potter in those years–forced to live in a cupboard after my baby sister was born–as my parents wanted her nursery to be closer to them. Our house was an ancient 2BR/1BA craftsman-style that formerly featured a sun-porch opposite the bedrooms. When it was moved to the country (Yes, it was moved from Marietta to its current location; there’s a story in that for another day), my grandparents converted the sun-porch into an extra bedroom for my cousins who lived there previously. The room is approximately 6×15, barely large enough for a twin bed and a desk. It didn’t help that my desk was a large, hand-built, office desk that was once the property of the Norfolk Southern Railway Company (we got it for cheap from a collector because it was in pretty rough shape), but I learned to respect vertical space (and craftsmanship) in that tiny room.
In the mid-1990s, Pokémon fever was ravaging the country. Anime in the US was just starting to evolve from a fringe interest to mainstream entertainment medium, thanks in no small part to Cartoon Network. I remember watching Robotech and Samurai Pizza Cats on Saturday mornings (Channel 69—when you could pick it up—was the epitome of old-school UHF as lampooned in Weird Al Yankovic’s eponymous 1989 film, showing a literal grab-bag of content that often rotated from week to week), but that appreciation became a near obsession when I discovered a copy of Macross in the animation section of Hollywood Video accompanying the same shelf as Mickey Mouse and—oddly—Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
“Oh, those damned ‘killer cartoons’ that your uncle Tracey watches! Why the hell would you want to watch those?” my father would gripe. My uncle and I are a lot alike, and we’ve both got an oddball streak a-klick-and-a-half long. Anyway, something happens to you when you watch Akira as a 12-year-old, then follow it with Kubrick’s 2001. Something, but I’m not sure what. While the other nerdy kids were trying to catch ‘em all, I was dreaming about giant, transformable mecha and the heroes who piloted them.Pictured: Killer Cartoons
In high school, I finally found more people who shared my affinity for “Japanimation” (“anime” was just now becoming the preferred nomenclature thanks to the Suncoast Motion Picture Company), and we began to coalesce into a regular group of mates. We wanted to watch more, and to enjoy with our friends, but we either didn’t have the money to buy new tapes from Suncoast and Media Play or the resources to borrow from other fans two counties over (Gwinnett County and its sizable Japanese and Korean communities was a hotbed for anime fandom). So, we did the next best thing: we raided the Hollywood Video.
It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon, the gang had all arrived at the house noonish—Gilmore, CJ, Little J, Reed, Danny, Wes, and Chris all came out for the inaugural Angst Haben Anime Party. It was an extremely informal affair, as was the case with any Angst Haben get-together: “Converge, then plan” was our M.O. I figured the best way to get started was to pile everyone into the “Shaggin’ Wagon” (a 1996 Ford Windstar that I had the privilege to drive) and hit the store. After a pit stop at the Publix for snacks and the obligatory case of Citrus Drop soda, we stormed into the Hollywood Video like a Walmart on Black Friday. Armed with caffeine, razor-sharp snark, and a bucket-o-change, we set about determining the agenda.
I’m not even sure what films we ended up renting, two or three titles—Dirty Pair, Area 88, and Macross Plus seem likely candidates—but what does stand out in my mind is a certain Playstation title with particularly appealing cover art:
“Hey, this looks kinda interesting. Maybe a fighting game between different teenage stereotypes? The girl’s kinda cute, too.”
“HOLY SHIT! THERE’S A GUY WITH A BASEBALL BAT AND SOMEONE WITH A HUGE SWORD! SOLD!”
Imagine for a moment that you’re the store clerk: three VHS tapes, a Playstation game, and a plastic pail full of change have just dropped onto the counter and now you’re starting at what might be the cast of a new Nickelodeon series about the “outsider” kids—the punk rocker, the trenchcoat, the raver, the Polo shirt, the jock, the darkly poetic kid, the awkward goof, we were all there—waiting for you to accept their hard-earned US, Grade-A, legal tender in exchange for the opportunity to rent a selection of what might have been considered questionable material (“tits and explosions” were how most people described anime at the time). What do you do?
You reach into the bucket, pull out the two dollar bills floating on top, set the stack of media on the pickup counter by the door, laugh hysterically and mutter “Just…Just go.”
Spoils of war in hand, windows down, stereo up, and bouncing to a classic Sublime track, we set off for The Yella House.
And that, children, is how you get free video rentals.Also on:
In the 1980s, long-distance telephone service suddenly found itself competing on the open market thanks to antitrust regulation against Bell Corporation. MCI provided some stiff competition for AT&T for many years until they folded into Verizon–who still gives AT&T a decent level of competition.
Gene Cernan, the last human being to walk on the moon, passed away today in a Houston hospital, surrounded by friends and family.
…As I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just (say) what I believe history will record: that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.
Despite never seeming to smile for photographs, Captain Cernan was a noted humourist–even being invited to roast legendary comedian Don Rickles. Additionally, he was a bit of a speed demon: He rode aboard fastest manned vehicle ever recorded (22,791mph) during Apollo 10’s return from the moon and he holds the land-speed record for any extraterrestrial time trial, racing the lunar rover up to a screaming 11.2mph!
After NASA, Cernan became a contributor to ABC news, published a memoir about his US Navy and NASA career, appeared in several documentaries about space exploration, and even testified before Congress with fellow Apollo alum Neil Armstrong in opposition to the Obama administration’s cancellation of the Constellation program.
There is also the story about how he wrote his daughter’s name in the lunar sand before boarding the LM for the return to earth, making him the first graffitist to tag a celestial body.
Godspeed, Captain Cernan. Godspeed, indeed.Also on:
A pair of commercial spots for McDonald’s new Big Mac Extra Value Meal (only $2.99!), back before “order by number” was a thing.
Only three American pesos for a Big Mac, large fries, and large Coke?!? Back in the day when a crisp fiver would buy you lunch (or dinner). Also back in the day when going to McDonald’s was worth ditching your friends for! Before the dark times, before Super Size Me.
Remember when we were all dying to know who Cartman’s father was? Somehow, I ended up with this sound clip in my collection:
Well, since I’m on the nostalgia train, why don’t I just link the episode from South Park Studios for your viewing and remembering pleasure. Sit back, watch, and remember when the world was a simpler place back in the late 1990s.Also on: