Thursday, July 21, 2011

Classic Children of the 90s Post: Lunchables

Your faithful Children of the 90s blogger is still on vacation...but in the meantime please enjoy this classic post about Lunchables:

In the late 80s and early 90s, the Oscar Mayer company was out to prove that they were more than just a catchy jingle and a Weinermobile. At this point, we were all fairly aware of Oscar Mayer's way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A. We were relatively proficient in identifying our bologna by both its first and second names. We even had general affection for ingesting the aforementioned mysterious lunch meat daily. What more could they want from us?

Perhaps they were upset were were packing non-Oscar Mayer brand products in our school lunches. Maybe it was that sometimes we favored Jennie-O Turkey Breast over our old mystery meat pal bologna. Or possibly they were just concerned we weren't meeting our daily sodium level potential. Whatever the instigator may have been, the quest to streamline the lunch-packing process had begun.

When it came to the 1990s elementary school cafeteria, brown bags and insulated coolers were out and prepackaged boxed lunches were in. Suddenly the height of cafeteria coolness revolved around snack-like, nutritionally devoid, candy toting yellow boxes. To pull out one of those signature Lunchables boxes at lunch time was to declare yourself party to the latest in food trends and blatantly flaunt your parents' reputable recalcitrance for wholesome nourishment. Those of us whose parents insisted on packing us a food pyramid-inspired balanced meal were forced to hang our heads in shame at our lack of preboxed lunchtime delights.

The Lunchables roster certainly expanded over the years, but it began with a simple savory formula: crackers, adorably miniature slices of lunchmeat, and overprocessed and suspiciously orange cheese slices. Later models included such awe-inspiringly nutrition-void amenities as Capri Sun drink pouches and a fun size portion of candy. Some of us, though I won't say who, learned the don't-put-metal-in-the-microwave lesson the hard way via the addition of the metallic Capri Sun pouches. Her parents may or may not have frozen Lunchables for posterity and future lunchability, and she was not quite patient enough to let it thaw. Again, I'm not naming names, but she may or may not have broken her family's brand new microwave through this ill-fated Lunchable venture*.

Lunchable varieties became increasingly questionable with each successive incarnation. Each model stayed true to the original formula of a collection of spare lunch parts complete with assembly instructions, but Oscar Meyer certainly weren't afraid to experiment with creativity. They churned out pizzas, nachos, mysterious forms of "dunkers," tacos, and nearly any other fathomable junk food-based product. Naturally (or as the case warranted, by means of artificial flavoring) it was only a matter of time before anti-childhood obesity groups and health advocates stormed the Lunchables bastille in the name of all things overly salty.

Yes, these salt-packed snacks were tasty, but it's largely due to the fact that they were often packing a whopping three quarters of a daily recommended value of sodium for an adult. Mind you, these were mainly consumed by children, so it's fairly simple to deduce that the sodium content more than exceeded their healthy daily dosage. This preservative-rich snack boxes came under fire for their absolute defiance in the face of rising health consciousness. Essentially, researchers looked on in horror as morbidly obese children waddled to their lunch tables, inhaled a Lunchable, chased it with the fun size candy, and went into a salt coma. These were kids walking through their elementary school hallways single file not out of obedience to teachers but out of necessity to fit through the cafeteria door.

The Oscar Meyer/Kraft people could only hold out for so long. There was really no adequate defense for the remarkably low nutrition levels of their products, other than that children adored them and their junk-foody contents. As long as there was a consumer demographic of parents still willing to poison their children with dangerous sodium levels, there was no reason for them to make any sort of adjustment. However, as the pressure from nutrition advocates mounted and led to devastatingly bad press for Oscar Meyer/Kraft, the company quickly changed their salty tune.

It may be a bit harsh to say they sold out, considering the admittedly poor levels of nutrition in the original product. However, they did oblige to their opposition and began offering options such as fruit juice and yogurt. While these new additions may have had some grounding in health food, it's pretty safe to say they didn't significantly alter the overall caloric content. Regardless, as long as the juvenile salt-related cardiac arrest subsided, they were able to quietly continue packing children chock full of delicious artificial additives.

That said, it's important to note that some of their current releases are highly questionable. Take this disturbingly fizzy pop-rocks knockoff meat+candy creation.It just goes to show you that change does not necessarily equal progress. To its credit, however, the packaging does herald the excellence of the meal's calcium content. Calcium or not, the whole thing seems pretty suspicious. It's safe to say that while contemporary children may not enjoy the same levels of salty deliciousness, Lunchables continue to outrage parents everywhere in a distinctly kid-pleasing manner.

And isn't that what really counts?

*In case you failed to gather from the heavy hints, this was clearly me. I never did own up to breaking the microwave.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In case you needed another sign Children of the 90s are getting older...

Just in case all of the reasons in this post weren't enough to bring your unstoppable pending adultification to light, here's one more to add to the pile. While hearing the songs we grew up with reduced to Muzak in waiting rooms, dentist offices, grocery stores, and elevators is certainly a step down from their once-hip status, now they're parodying our old favorites for less and less attractive causes. One day your song is an R&B top charter, and the next, well, it's in deep doo-doo.

Dog doo-doo, that is. The Puget Sound Starts Here environmental group ( released a Blackstreet "No Diggity" parody entitled--you guessed it--"Dog Doogity" to raise awareness about how picking up dog's poop can enhance the water quality in the city of Puget Sound. I remember skating to the original Blackstreet jam at roller rink birthday parties, and now it's been reduced to a dog poop awareness campaign anthem:

And the lyrics, for good measure:
You know what,
I like the Puget Sound,
Dog doogity, no doubt, uh!
Play on Puget
Play on Puget
Yo dog dropped a deuce!
Doggy get down, good dog
Baby got her walkin through Seatown
And all around the Puget Sound
Cover much ground, she ain't a hound from the pound
In the rain, it's a good day
Each and every day, the Northwest way
The girl and her dog, they were fine (wow)
Until they left a doodie, that's a crime (bow wow)
East side to the West side
Pushin I-5, take a ferry ride
I hope she got treats in the stash
Bacon gives her gas
Fast when it comes to the snacks
I noticed that dance
It's on when she kicks like a rabbit
Doggy, when you do your doo, I'm gonna help you
Can I get down so I can
I like the way you walk it
Dog doogity
We've got to bag it up (repeat 4x)
Hey yo x4
Hey yo, lets keep this clean
Hey yo x4
Pick it up! Pick it up! Keep it green
Hey yo x4
You don't want to swim in poo
Hey yo x4, Heeeeeey
I like the way you walk it
Dog doogity, we've got to bag it up (repeat 4x)

So there you have it. The once-cool songs we grew up with are morphing into some sort of public domain-owned joke song fodder. At least it's kind of funny, if you like lines like "Bacon gives her gas." I think the humor may be a little subjective. I do really like the dramatic way he appears in the shadows with a doody bag, though. That's just good citizenship.

In case you're thinking this is a cop-out of an excuse for a real post, it totally is. Thanks for noticing! More full posts coming soon, I promise.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Boy Band Party Playlist

Although I’m still a few months out from my wedding, this weekend I’m traveling to celebrate with some of my girlfriends for a bachelorette party. In the grand spirit of celebration, potential inebriation, silly sashes, and age-inappropriate tiaras, a collection of 90s mood music seemed in order. What better way, I figured, to get into the celebratory mood than with a boy band pregame playlist? No way better, of course.

Truthfully, the notion for this playlist stemmed from my friends’ slightly embarrassing request that I bring my iPod (my vintage pink 2004 mini model) to the weekend’s festivities. I warned my friend that since I lost the cord to update the iPod sometime around 2005, the playlists have been virtually frozen in time. While she assured me it would be fine and to bring it anyway, I mentally calculated the cheese factor of my carefully constructed party playlists. Deciding the nostalgia appeal outweighed the inevitably embarrassment of these decade plus-old songs, I figured I’d bring out the big guns. By guns, obviously, I mean synthesizers and impressively pitch-perfect prepubescent harmony compositions.

I’ve opted to share the most incriminating of these playlists here with you, with the understanding that you may feel free to mercilessly mock my musical mindset. Go ahead, I can take it. I also promise not to tell if you choose to reconstruct this playlist on your own music device and dance to it alone in your room in preparation for a night out, though I retain that you should probably cite you found the idea here somewhere in your footnotes or elsewhere in your music bibliography. Feel free to fear for my future wedding guests and the inevitable 90s pop-packed playlist I’ll probably roll out for the occasion. For now, though, get pumped up with some of these cornball boy band jams. You’re welcome.

Quit Playing Games with my Heart

This is the closest thing to a slow jam you’ll find on this list, and it serves as a nice transitional warm-up to build momentum for all the cheesy 90s dance music that’s to come. “Quit Playing Games” beat out several veritable contenders for this coveted warm-up spot, including 98 Degrees “I Do (Cherish You)” and All 4 One’s “I Swear.”

(You Got It) The Right Stuff

It’s physically impossible to hear this song without breaking into a hearty chorus of “oh-oh-oh-ohoh! oh-oh-oh-OH!” Seriously, try to stop yourself. It’s like a knee-jerk reflex for 90s children. This song is too magically catchy not to sing along, and that dancing in the video is just too ridiculous to hate on.

When the Lights Go Out

If I’m ever looking for inspiration for creative license for spelling, I should just remind myself of the 90s boy band 5ive. I may not agree that a number is an appropriate substitute for the first letter of that same number spelled out, but I will defend their right to make ridiculous faux-hip hop pop songs with inane lyrics and pulsating beats. That’s just common sense.

I Want it that Way

Judging by the 29 milllion YouTube views on a song that premiered long before we’d ever heard of YouTube, I’d say the Backstreet Boys have a pretty well-established 90s fan base. Their ability to gaze pensively into the camera while dressed in matching monochromatic ensembles isn’t bad, either.

Summer Girls

I’ve posted this video on this site exceedingly more times than is remotely justifiable, but I can’t deny my love for it. It never fails to put me in the mood for summer, plus it kind of makes me want to beg my parents for $79 for obscene cutoff shorts and overpriced shirts that simply read “Abercrombie.”

Tearin’ Up my Heart

NSync - Tearin' up my Heart by SUUZAN

These old *NSync videos are pretty compelling proof that if you’re as good looking as Justin Timberlake, you can someday recover from the corniness of being a teen boy band star and reinvent yourself as cool. To the other guys, sorry. At least you had your moment of looking soulfully into the camera for three seconds before the attention deficit music video director cut to a shot of one of your bandmates being more attractive and interesting than you.


This song fits in so well on this list, it’s almost difficult to remember that it’s a parody. The satire of MTV’s 2ge+her is so spot-on that without listening carefully to the lyrics, it’s tough to differentiate it from its allegedly serious real life boy band counterparts. Actually, the lyrics aren’t even that far off, if you go on cheesiness and generic content alone.

I Want you Back

Where exactly do I go about getting one of those super-cool zip-front crewnecks Justin and JC are sporting in the opening shot? Those are pure 90s goodness, though the shiny jackets in the next cutaway come in a close second. I imagine someday our kids will watch these videos and tease us mercilessly that we once idolized this kind of incredibly ridiculous dancing and even bought Darrin’s Dance Grooves to try to replicate them in the privacy of our own homes. Wait, who am I kidding? Our kids won’t even know what music videos are. Someday we’ll wax poetic on the virtues of TRL and they won’t understand a word of it.

Step by Step

Scratch that whole thing about the last video being the cheesiest in the bunch. Rewind a few years and the dancing gets much, much more cornball. This video also has a little cameo by Donny’s little bro, aka Mark Wahlberg, right around 3:45. You might miss it and get distracted by the miming of the violin that follows it, as that is pretty awesome as well.

Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)

This list has made it painfully obvious I was something of a BSB fan back in the day. What can I say, I appreciated their artful music videos. You know, like this one, where their tour bus breaks down and they stranded at a haunted house. It’s the very very poor man’s “Thriller,” except the song has nothing whatsoever to do with what’s going on visually in the video.(Note: the original music video was causing annoying ads on the blog, so please enjoy the lyrics in lieu of actual video.)

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