Friday, January 23, 2015

1980s MEMORIES!

I took a great professional development course recently called "Generations" where we learned about the differences between different age groups—did you know that Baby Boomers are people too?  Crazy but true!  I am a "Generation X" person, which means that I entered the world after the Baby Boomers but before Generation Y.  One of the neat exercises that we did was share some big important memories from our childhood—many of them were tragedies, like the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion, or profound political events like the fall of Communism and the Berlin Wall.  I spent a good deal of time reflecting on how the world today is much different than in the "olden days!"  Here are some highlights that I remember and I hope you enjoy the trip down memory lane.

Computers
My family got a computer in the mid 1980s.  It looked like this:


 It did nothing.  Well, that's not exactly true.  I played chess on it.  You could also type literally anything into it and get "command not found".  Good times!  Also, if you dropped, touched or even looked at the 5.25-inch floppy disks, they wouldn't work.

Toys
I stood in line at the Consumers Distributing for what felt like 6 days but was probably 20 minutes to try to purchase G.I. Joe action figures.  The catalogue would always show awesome action figures that they never carried.  To this day, when I hear "Consumers Distributing" I smile with delight that the company went bankrupt.  It feels so good.  I found these action figures at Sears (they were $3.00 each) and played with them until they literally fell apart.  Snake Eyes once disarmed a nuclear bomb that Cobra Commander had planted in my bath tub.  Good work Joes!




Saturday Morning Cartoons
Once upon a time, long ago, kids used to get up early and watch TV on the weekends.  Superfriends was awesome, although I wondered why Superman needed a wimpy guy like Batman all in the same city.  Superman was punching asteroids and Batman had a rope and Robin, who was a teenager in really short shorts.  It was less weird back then, I promise.  Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern... they were all just hanging out in the Hall of Justice, also known as the Greatest Place On The Planet.  Why were the super villains so dumb as to attack the one city on Earth that happened to house all the heroes in one place?
Cheesy writing... activate!

My favourite cartoon was this one called "Dungeons And Dragons".  The general rule was to not bug me at 10:00 am because there was a guy with a magic bow and a unicorn as a pet!  There was no VCR—life did not begin until 11:00 am on Saturday when the boring news or basketball game came on.



Comic Books
Spider-Man got a new suit in the mid-1980s.  It is still awesome even all these years later!


I find it weird that I think of Spider-Man still wearing this suit, even though it has been over 20 years since he wore it in the comics.  Even more disturbingly, I don't find it weird that a guy in tight spandex is swinging around New York City.  Totally normal. 

Music
Since there was no internet, and there weren't CDs, I spent New Year's Eve of 1985 making a double cassette mix tape of the best songs of the year courtesy of the radio and my parent's stereo system.  It was a real art taping REO Speedwagon and Dire Straits in real time and then quickly editing down the DJ's comments before the next song came on. 


 My good friend Greg introduced me to one of the greatest rock bands in the world in 1985 with a mix tape of KISS.  They were NOT in makeup.  Well, they weren't wearing 1970s makeup anyway.
 


Literature
I know that I can handle whatever life throws at me, because I learned many decision-making skills on board a spaceship, in an Old West town and in a submarine.  Thank you Choose Your Own Adventure.  Plus I got abducted by aliens.  Great books.


The best part was that after I got killed or the story ended, I would tell myself that I didn't REALLY choose that ending... in fact, yeah, in fact I really chose the OTHER ending!  Yeah, that's the ticket.



Wrestling
In the 1980s, wrestling was completely real.


Christmas
I want to end with the greatest Christmas present that I ever got—a tabletop hockey set.  Unfortunately, there was no way to know which two random teams were in the box—I got the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins.  I paid extra money next spring and got a bunch of extra hockey players sporting the colours of the Hartford Whalers, Colorado Rockies, N.Y. Islanders and many more.  Strangely, Coleco spent all their money on the jerseys and had no money for different faces.  They were all the exact same guy—I wonder if Larry the face model (I am assuming that was his name) is now a billionaire because every NHL player had his likeness in the 1980s.  Awesome times!  The only thing that was  more challenging than scoring a goal was trying to find the hockey puck after it fell under the couch.


And then the 1990s happened and now we live in the future.  I recommend spending a couple of minutes to think about the awesome toys and games that you had as a kid—it also helps us to appreciate the technology of today—I can better appreciate the high-speed Wifi and multi-gigabyte computers that we use to share cat photos with people in other countries.  I Can Haz Technology Indeed, LOL Cat.  I think it was Winston Churchill who said "those who cannot remember the past... are destined to look it up using The Google."  

Friday, January 2, 2015

PAUL STANLEY: FACE THE MUSIC (BOOK REVIEW)

I am a big fan of the music group KISS.  I remember sitting in my bedroom looking at the back of Marvel Comics, seeing Ace, Paul, Gene and Peter on an ad for music posters.  Who were these guys breathing fire and shooting sparks out of a guitar?  My parents had ABBA and Kenny Rogers records.  I had never heard of KISS.  They were mysterious rock gods who were like real-life superheroes.  Fast forward to 2015: Paul Stanley (the guy with the star on his face) is the last of the original members of KISS to write his autobiography, called Face The Music: A Life Exposed and officially complain about his band mates.  I have read the other three books, so now I can die knowing that I have read every word of these old men who love to badmouth the other guys.  One thing in common with these biographies is that in each case, regardless of which book you read, the author is the sane person and the rest of the guys are boobs. 

If you enjoy reading the dirt on other band members and hearing about the struggle to the top, then these biographies are great reads.  Paul Stanley is the front man for KISS and the book is really interesting.  Paul grew up in New York and was born with a deformity (born without one of his ears).  He really delves into it in the book and it is pretty cool to read someone talk honestly about being bullied and mocked.  It is a downer getting made fun of all the time.  He rose above it and spent most of the 1970s famous and (kind of) rich.  Spoiler alert: the lawyers and manager mismanages the money!  Plus there is plenty of sleeping around, crazy band stories and honest talk about what dummies the other members of the band were back then.

Of course, staying at the top as one of the most successful bands in the 1970s is tough -- it doesn't help when the drummer is snorting cocaine and the lead guitarist is drinking champagne for breakfast.  Eventually Ace (guitar) and Peter (drums) were kicked out, and Paul Stanley talks about the lean years in the 1980s, the reunion in the late 1990s, and even confides that him and business partner Gene Simmons don't see eye to eye on some things.  They aren't best friends, but they are respectful business partners who have grown KISS into a bazillion-dollar empire.

My only complaint about this (and any) autobiography is that they are written by the author, so they aren't exactly the poster child for unbiased journalism.  Basically in this book, Paul Stanley is the sane and noble musician and the rest of the original members range from na├»ve but talented egocentric sex maniacs to completely inept buffoons.  Peter Criss sounds so dumb it's a wonder he can barely tie his shoes or remember to eat food on a daily basis.

Here are the four autobiographies -- a must for any KISS fan to read and try to piece together what really happened during those crazy years.  After reading the four books, I can honestly say that I know what it would feel like to sit at the dinner table at Thanksgiving with this dysfunctional family and listen to everyone argue while they pass the stuffing. 

Paul Stanley: Face The Music

Gene Simmons: Kiss and Make-Up

Ace Frehley: No Regrets

Peter Criss: Makeup To Breakup

Who's the respectable musician and who's the dummy? 
It depends on which autobiography you read.