Magic Eye

These were so 'in' in the 90's. I stared cross-eyed into so many of these Magic Eye books when I was a kid, my nose pressed into the pages, it's no wonder I ended up needing glasses. These things made my eyes hurt--which, save for sticking something in them, is a rare occurrence.  And even if I saw the hidden image, I could never figure out what it was.

Remember, blur your eyes, look "through" the picture...or something.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

This may elevate my dork-dom to nerdhood status, but I think I've done worse. I am not a Trekkie by any stretch, but the fact is, before Jurassic Park arrived on the scene, my all-time favorite movie was probably Star Trek III, The Search for Spock. I didn't end up seeing the best Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan, until high school, but I knew the basic plot well enough to understand its sequel, which we had on tape. I saw the first Star Trek movie when I was six on the USA network, and all I could think was "ooh, pretty colors," otherwise, I was probably asleep after 30 minutes. I enjoyed The Voyage Home and The Final Frontier sure, but for some reason, The Search for Spock was my choice picture. Kind of like eating mac'n'cheese, you enjoy it more when you don't know any better. (Spoilers ahead!)

All I remember thinking when I first saw this movie was "when's he going to show up?" I don't think it clicked that the kid was Spock... I was just expecting him to come out of nowhere and for everyone to go "ah, there he is." Come to think of it, it wasn't much of a "search," seeing as they knew where he was, but then again, I guess they couldn't call it "Return of Spock" because that's a spoiler ... even if we could have figured that one out. They wouldn't make a movie and not bring him back. Nor were they just going to bring him back in the first two minutes and carry on. They can pull that crap within a movie in order for there to be a sequel but not when it ends with the character still dead. Ultimately, how they did it works... unless you think about too much.

"So you're telling me that... Spock's casket flew off into orbit around the Genesis planet, fell into the planet's gravity, and then fell thousands of miles through the sky at high speeds and crashed, I mean, 'soft landed' smack between two trees? Then while he was down there in the casket, his body was destroyed and somehow turned into Zygote Spock in the casket and grew into Baby Spock within the casket with no air-holes... and then somehow managed to open the space-sealed casket as a what... baby? child?... before running off naked into the woods?" Sheesh! You know what, I'm glad this movie was called the "Search for Spock," and not "Yeah... That Happened."

Maybe I like it because it's still a gorgeous movie. The score by James Horner is, well, it's just like the one from Wrath so it's excellent. But let's get serious, the real reason I enjoyed it so much was because the Enterprise self-destructs in an epic battle against the Klingon Bird of Prey (certainly the best time this happens). I can still hear the computer voice "5...4...3.."  "Get out of there!"  "...1". I also enjoyed how Kirk stole the Enterprise out of space dock in a grand orchestral swell, and how they had to sabotage the Excelsior and make it go "clunk-a-clunka-ka-dunk" in space to get away. It was all so well done you don't even care about the plot holes... ("wait, why do they need to go to planet Genesis to get Spock's body if it burned up in the atmosphere at the end of II for all they know?"...) My brain didn't work on that level at the time though. Heck, it barely works on that level now.

Anyways, loved the "goin' rouge" feeling, loved the humor, ("How can you be deaf with ears like that?" and [in an elevator], "Up your shaft!") ...can't say I loved the "talky bits," like the mind-melding and the close-ups on eyes and lips and such, but those were the bits I used for bathroom breaks or trips to the fridge. It's not the best Trek film, but it's the best odd-numbered Trek film by far and one of the most entertaining. I'd walk into elementary school and draw little Enterprises on my papers (I liked to draw), and walk around saying "Grissom! This is Enterprise calling, please come in!"

So I may have really revealed my borderline nerdhood with this one, but trust me, I was always more of a fan of the movies than I was of the TV shows, and I never really watched much of TNG, but this film was worth learning how to work a VCR for on a summer afternoon.

Doom By Asteroid!

To this day I can't hear Richard Kiley's voice without getting short of breath. I hold nothing against him personally, it's just his voice has come to be, in my mind, the voice narrating the Apocalypse. The only bad thing about the 90's was that with the new millennium fast approaching, out of the woodworks came all the doom sayers, and following close behind them, the scientists backing them up. Hollywood and science teamed up to inform us that... some serious shit was about the hit the fan, so we better buy out all the stores just to be safe.

After all, weren't we all treated to documentary after documentary, blockbuster Roland Emmerich movie after Roland Emmerich movie, low-budget Roland Emmerich rip off after low-budget rip off, all foretelling Earth's sure destruction through multi-character plot lines? There was nothing our parents loved to watch more than people running for their lives as New York City went up in flames, and nothing I hated more than being forced to watch it too, and I don't even live there!

Anyways, I single out the voice of Richard Kiley especially, for his narration of the 1996 Discovery documentary "Three Minutes to Impact,"--a film that planted the seed into this brain that not only are we going to get hit by an asteroid "the size of Texas", but it will hit a metropolitan area (preferably a world landmark), and it will hit sometime soon enough for people to still be driving around '96 Corollas (as featured during the animated impact scenes). And seeing as how people are still driving '96 Corollas, I can only to assume that doomsday is long overdue! Is it time for a change of pants yet?

Let's be honest here. The first thing anyone thinks when they see asteroids plummeting into Paris, London, or New York is, "thank God that's not close to me."

Every two minutes of this thing I was squished up on the edge of the couch, begging the scientists, "say it isn't so! Oh, say it isn't so. Say it won't happen to me!" And sure as the Apocalypse itself, they just kept retorting, "Oh yeah, it's a mathematical certainty. We will be hit again, in fact, fairly soon too!"

I think the 90's wore my disaster reflex out though. I've seen so many of these things pummel into New York, Vegas, Paris, Rome, London...etc., throughout my childhood, that I don't think the real thing is even going to shock me much. Let's get our hopes up that if it's going to happen though... it'll happen to all those sorry saps living in cities far, far away from me. I'm calling you out, Aprophis.

No Eggs, Condiments, or Syrups

There's the beef! (that's all I'd take)
To this day I can't eat eggs. They activate my gag reflex. Sure, I could probably eat an egg white, but I can not eat that gritty yellow stuff they tell you is the baby chick. It's not that I'm a persnickety vegetarian or anything, it's because the taste, the texture... it calls up the wet muck monster within. Besides, I like the sausage part of the McMuffin.

My dad wouldn't hear it. Real men eat everything! He bought me one of those Egg McMuffins every weekend when he had us, and every weekend I had to come up with ever more increasingly convoluted ways of removing the egg part without him knowing. Somehow, at some point, I had to pick off the egg and toss it with the wrappings when he wasn't looking. Yuck. I was also condiment-intolerant. If you were buying the eight-year-old me a hamburger, you'd be wise to just repeat the following into the drive through talkbox: "two all beef patties--hold the sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, oinions, ketchup, mustard--leave the sesame seed bun." Spare yourself the headache and make it simple, otherwise, "no thanks, you can have it."

Actually, I didn't mind the lettuce, cheese, and ketchup, but I wouldn't have missed them if they weren't there. And if it was hotcakes for breakfast, no syrup please. It was too sweet. Of course now I've refined my pallette, and I'll eat all this stuff--in fact, it almost seems it's the burger that gets left out of the condiment equation these days--pile it all on! My mom was a bit more subtle, and let us be picky, knowing that we'd come around eventually. So are you ready to experience life through the tastebuds of the eight-year-old me? If you are, remember, bland is better... especially when it comes with a tiny Hotwheels car.

Paranormal Alien Junkies

By the time third grade rolled around, my friend Nick and I were a couple of paranormal junkies. I suppose "junkies" is the right term, as it's fitting of what that stuff really is, but don't tell that to me back then. Those were the days when we didn't have the History Channel to give us our UFO fix. We had to rely on the infrequent sightings on the Discovery Channel (back then it was the "smart people" channel). I was hooked on all those weekend paranormal Lifetime Channel Unsolved Mysteries marathons. "Television for women" my ass. More like "television for 9-year-old boys who love freaky alien paranormal shit".

Nick was convinced they were holding aliens in Area 51 and doing autopsies, and I agreed, adding, "who do you think works there?" He suggested that people don't work there like a normal job, they are born, raised, work, and die there and never see the outside world. Yes, for us, Independence Day was a documentary. Was it not a documentary or something? Wasn't that really area 51? I don't know. That's an 'unsolved mystery' our old Lifetime channel friend Robert Stack took to his grave.

This is all heavily ironic, for nothing terrified me more as a kid (and even now as I think about it), than being abducted by aliens... that and ghosts... and girls. I knew there was no monster under the bed, but aliens? I wasn't so sure. You could say this fear was also ironic because if you talked to my brother, he would've told you nothing would've pleased him more than seeing me get "taken." He would have held the door for them. Indeed, it might have explained a few things. The feeling was mutual. It didn't help that a new "aliens destroy humanity" movie came out every year in the 90's, and of course, my parents kept renting them... even the horribly terrifying Mars Attacks, which haunted my dreams for weeks. Those eyes, those brains, those ray guns turning people into skeletons, the totally wasted all-star cast, the mere presence of Danny Devito! It was a horrible movie (and that's coming from a guy who likes Tim Burton).

Robert Stack probably was an alien, but I had my doubts about some kids at school. Humans? Or aliens wearing human skin? How could you tell? Well, if they tell you they're a pack of aliens living out behind the school eating "shiny paper foods" (the place was littered with potato chip bags)... it makes sense to play it safe and take their word for it. Your brain could be next.

Or as Home Improvement once put it, parodying the X-Files:

"The truth is out there..." -- Tim Taylor
"No Tayler, you're the one who's out there." --Jill Taylor

All About Reptiles

This is but a mere re-creation.
In selecting the new font for the glorious header of this blog, I came across this oldish Fraktur Nazi-esque one that reminded me of how much I appreciated the Old English font as a kid. I don't know why, perhaps it connected me with my humdrum "I say good sirs!" roots, but something about it could always class up any run of the mill school assignment. All those unnecessary lines, serif hooks, and random hairs, really made me think I was submitting something of quality when I handed in the 4th grade hyper-pixelated masterpiece "ALL ABOUT REPTILES" (in full caps, no less). Now that was fancy!

This was of course back in the day when computers were interesting. The one in the classroom had a really kiddied-up word processor that came with three fonts, and for whatever reason, Old English was one of them. It also had three sizes for header type: large, huge, and "make that, two pages." It allowed you to sort through what kind of image you wanted to adorn the header of your document from a list of severely pixelated and random clipart. Back then it was cool if you had a picture on your reports, whether related or not... so I went with the giant Indian with full feathery headdress.

Between these stylistic choices, "ALL ABOUT REPTILES" was complete at maybe 100 words, and it was pretty badass.

Boys are Dumber (An Essay)

Let me drop some knowledge on you. I'll be honest (that's what this blog is all about after all), I'm an attention hog and always have been. Anything that could get me some attention, good or bad, I was down for. Whether I ended up everyone's hero (like the time in gym class I was a goalie and stopped a hockey puck with my CROTCH!), or was shamed as the worst kid picked to lead the class in the "pledge of allegiance" ever (yes, I say "one naked, undergarment, in-the-visible" ...),  I was desperate to prove myself worthy of the stuff of legends. Of course, legends are usually built on fibs, and like most kids, I was very good at fibbing, and at being stupid, and for having a groin of steel. It came easy to me, and now I know why.

The reality is that growing up male makes you dumber. That's science talking. Don't shoot the messenger here. I don't make the rules, I'm just a hapless crotch-scratching victim of them. We can be genius level IQ but pretty much universally still be pretty darn stupid about something or other. If we're not dumb in the classroom, we're dumb when it comes to relating to fellow humans. If we're not dumb when it comes to book-reading, we forget to bathe, but if we remember to bathe, we don't know how to tell if we're using too much cologne. It's always something! We either struggle to read a book, or we read a book and struggle to remember our names when pretty girls ask us. We can either recite the periodic table, or all original 150 Pokemon. We can either put our pants on the right way and flunk math, or we can ace math and forget how to zip up. We simply can not do both. Multitasking... not our strong suit.

But forget what science says about "girls maturing faster" and other things that are actually true, because as many a dude has said before me: I got one better than science. I got 90s movies to be my guide in this. Now, any casual viewing of the medium will probably confirm my thesis easily, but right off the bat you might hop off your seat exclaiming "nuh-uh, that McCaulay Culkin kid from My Girl was pretty smart!" And yes, when it came to school there's no doubt he had smarts. The glasses tell you that. The hole in the theory? He died! Here he was actually getting a girl to like him, and I mean, really like him... and then he decides to just go and die one day. Not too bright if you ask me. And then he was too dumb to even keep his glasses on at the wake! I mean, come on. He can't see without his glasses! Even in death we need pampering.

No. For this battle of wits, I realized I'm going to have to pull out the big guns, the two most intelligent movie kids from the 90s: Kevin McCallister from Home Alone, representing boys, and Matilda Wormwood from Matilda, representing girls. Now, granted on the surface they are both very intelligent. Kevin is practically a small adult who can manipulate anyone, not to mention rig a whole string of houses with traps to thwart bad guys across multiple movies. His drawback (besides, you know, not being psychokinetic) is that he's very good at luring indestructable bad guys into his traps. No matter how many electrocutions, sticky floorboards, paint tins, or toilets filled with explosives he hucks at them, there's always going to be a point where he's out of traps and the bad guys are still left standing. And who's fault is that? Besides, how smart could he be if he's constantly getting left behind by his family?

Matilda on the other hand is a math and reading savant who doesn't even need school to function in the genius level, and she can even move shit with her friggin' mind! Now that's "girl power" for you! Both Kevin and Matilda are very capable of taking care of themselves, as Matilda is basically self-taught in everything and Kevin does all his own chores and shopping. But Matilda also reads profusely, everything from classic literature to tax law, and absorbs everything, so she can figure out more mature ways to bust an opponent than Matchbox cars on the stairs. What about Kevin? He reads Playboy and watches gangster movies. Matilda's downside though is that she needs to get emotional before she can use her powers to their fullest extent. The problem is... it takes quite a torrent of Danny Davito parental abuse to charge up that battery!

So basically, you know where this is going...  In a battle royale between Kevin and Matilda, I'm still going to have to give it to the Matil-dog. She could easily out-maneuver all of the Kevlar's ingenious and psychopathic traps with just her mind, and also chuck heavy objects at him as well, without any preparation, so it's no contest. Girls rule. Case closed.

(And don't even get me started on Minkus vs. Harriet the Spy... She is a spy after all, she can sneak up on him! Case closed.)

Seriously though... the fact is, girls may do a lot of downright asinine things (like play with the Dream Phone), but at least their schemes pay off for them. Meanwhile, we boys gleefully Roshambo each other to the point of puking, and ... for what exactly? At least girls know what they're doing when they manipulate and overthink everything. Males of this species never know what they are doing, period, whether asinine or completely justified. But fear not, being dumber is not necessarily a bad thing. All those nutshot challenges and off-the-roof trampoline jumps may look dumb on our part, but it just means we take more risks. For some, it means you go off and build the first airplane or invent the first jetpack. For most, it means you get your head stuck in a chair in the 1st grade. All those idiot jokes we make, that just means we aren't so self-inhibited. For some, that means we're so unafraid about what people think of us that we lead a social movement for some worthy goal. For most though, it means that when you raise your hand in class and get called on, you will then proceed to let out a looooooong burp... loudly.

For all this, I hold myself out as the archetypal example for the entire thesis about why's it's rad to be dumb. Growing up, I could be so many personalities around so many types of people. At school, the 8-year-old me had this "class clown meets Jr. Mr. Executive" thing going on. Around the boys I wanted to be cool with, I was a rebel, a kid who'd eat the classroom fish food if it would cause a couple laughs (I don't know how fish eat that stuff). Around boys who already thought I was cool, I'd suddenly become more mysterious and entertain them with tales of the Cub Scouts I'd never witnessed (I made it sound like recruit training--like any of those all-time great war movies like Full Metal Jacket, swearing included!). I once wore an elastic band around my leg and claimed it was to show where "I'd lost a limb" in the "war games." Lies! The closest to war I'd ever come was to sit through all 90 minutes of Major Payne.

Around girls at school I liked, I basically just answered all their "what is your favorite animal"-type questions and watched them swoon whenever I randomly interjected "dolphins" (all the girls back then wanted to be marine biologists after Free Willy). They loved my sensitive sides. Around girls at school I didn't like, I was still eating the fish food, but for the opposite reason (although the little marine biologists among them might have dug my "sensitivity" for the fish). In truth though, dolphins rock. I just liked them because of the Sega game Ecco the Dolphin, where they could fly in the air in the future, beat up sharks, and attack giant squid monsters! (Ah, Medusa, we shall meet again). I guess the girls just liked them because dolphins are also an animal that is probably "smarter than boys." And they are probably right.

I was only really myself around my immediate family, which was just to say, an average kid who wasn't a pre-military adventurer, wasn't a comedian, wasn't a covert girl dipped in Lisa-Frank rainbows, and wasn't a (complete) doofus. I was a nice kid, a bit starved for attention, who liked to draw and had a bit of talent with it, who liked movies and anything creative, liked pretending that my entire life was one big movie and going around inventing scenes for it. I played a lot of different parts for sure. Unless we're talking about "family" as in my girl cousins, because they only got to see the Ace Ventura part whenever my brother and I were around. It was just too much fun not to. But they were never as impressed as I was about how I could make zany animal noises, stick things in my nose, crack good ole' penis jokes, and bend over and "talk with my rear."

But that's how it is.