Tuesday, January 17, 2012

An Ode to Technology: Then and Now

A note to readers: Yes, it’s me, your as of late not-so-faithful Children of the 90s blogger. That is to say, the original eleven herbs and spices blogger, not one in many of the parade of worthy guest bloggers I’ve brought to you over the last few months. Now that I’m married and back from my honeymoon, my litany of excuses to put off blogging are dwindling quickly, especially with the long list of blog ideas I’ve yet to tackle. Don’t call it a comeback, of course, but hey: it’s an effort.

It can be hard to pretend you're still young and hip when so many of your technology reminiscences to anyone more than five years younger than you begin with a crotchety " When I was your age, we didn't have this newfangled (insert new and overly complicated mode of communication here.)" Who would have guessed that within a span of ten or fifteen years, the face of technology and human interaction could be rendered nearly unrecognizable from the simple telephone and instant messenger relations of our youth?

I freely admit I have found myself in multiple scenarios during which interacting with a friend in person has quickly devolved into showing off our respective front facing cell phone cameras to engage in simulated FaceTime. Never mind the fact that we are physically face to face in the same room. Because look how cool it is when we can video chat in tandem after only thirteen minutes and four failed network connection attempts! Now isn't that more interesting than plain old lower case face time?

While we're doling out the elderly style complaints (someone be a dear and bring me an afghan, wont you?) don't even get me started on hashtags. Why exactly does putting what I still think of as the number sign (or alternatively, the most boring button on my phone) in front of awholebunchofwordswithoutspaceslikethis suddenly constitute an astute sampling of social commentary? #imgettingtoooldforthiscrap

Call me a hypocrite for writing this on the Internet (and you probably should, especially since I'm typing it using my brand-spanking new Kindle Fire, albeit with lots of touchscreen misfire typos) but I just can't get behind changing my entire concept of communication and entertainment every time a new piece of technology is released.

Back in our day (and you legally need to be at least 22 to use that phrase, for future complaining reference) most technology existed to serve a single purpose. Even when I was in high school, it was largely unfathomable that someday you might be able to carry around some futuristic hybrid of your phone/camera/computer/calendar/book collecition/music player in your pocket. Barring, of course, the chance that you possessed a great deal of duct tape and/or some very large pockets.

Though there exist endless examples of fast-paced technological change from our simple 90s childhoods to the present day bonanza of ever-changing available devices, here are a few of my favorites that keep me feeling good and old at the ripe old age of 26.

Cell Phones: Then and Now



As any dutiful Saved by the Bell fan will attest, the quintessential “first realization of the existence of cell phones” moment came while ogling Zack Morris as he chatted on what looked like the indestructible little black box from an airplane crash scene. It was essentially a large plastic brick with a keypad and a huge antenna that veered dangerously into rabbit-ear territory and we all coveted it shamelessly.

Enter today, when our cell phones are about one-tenth the size with a thousand times the capability. Most of us have been out to dinner with friends or at some other in-person social gathering when you realize that every single person has whipped out their smartphone, creating a unique situation of socializing by proximity while simultaneously isolating ourselves into the self-created vortex of personal technology. Now that’s what I call a party!

Computers: Then and Now



It’s hard for me even to admit this sometimes for fear of sounding astoundingly middle-aged, but the first computer my family owned actually had a black-and-green-only screen. That’s right, pixelated screen colors hadn’t even broken onto the computer technology scene when I was playing Space Invaders on my Apple II. That’s how primitive our technology was. Scary, I know.

When laptops first debuted, it was hard to imagine computers could get any smaller. “But it can fit on my lap! Surely you can’t shrink it smaller than standard lap-size, adjusted for level of obesity!” But oh, they can. This mysterious “they” has morphed the oversized desktop into a cutely portable iPad or other knock-off tablet. Mark my words, someday we’ll be computing on pieces of looseleaf paper. That’s how thin these things are going to get (end prophecy transmission).

Data Storage: Then and Now



I remember looking at an oversized floppy disk and thinking, “but how did my ClarisWorks file get on you?” My understanding of data storage hasn’t increased, but my fascination with how small or even non-physical we can make it certainly has. Now we’ve got the ominously named “Cloud”, which conveniently stores all of my files in some remote online lair. It’s not perfect, of course. Any disruption of wireless internet means all of my files are dead to me until it’s restored. Damn you, Cloud, and your connectivity loopholes for holding my treasured Pinterest repins temporarily hostage!

Cameras: Then and Now



Remember film? If not, you should probably be reading some younger, cooler blog. Go ahead, I’ll give you some time to find something more hipsterish. Try looking for something wearing ironic black frames pseudo-intellectual glasses with clear lenses. That should be your first tip-off.
Are they all gone? Okay, good, now we can get down to business and recollect some things those kids have probably never even heard of. Seriously, some of them have never even seen a roll of film. They don’t even get what the film pictogram means on the sign that indicates what items should not go through the x-ray scanner at airport security.

Perhaps you remember when it was fascinating to think a photo lab had the capability to process your negatives into full-blown prints in just one hour. It seemed like such a breakthrough. If you can try to remember far enough back to the first time you saw a digital camera, perhaps you can recall just how amazed you were that the picture you just took was already visible on a tiny low-res screen. That was some crazy stuff. These days, we can take pictures with just about anything with an on-off switch, but back in the day, we used to actually wait for pictures to be developed to discover if they were flattering. Perish the thought.

Music Players: Then and Now



Boomboxes and Walkmans. Those words probably sound like no more than nonsensical gibberish to today’s children, whose music players are roughly the size of my pinky toe. I still remember upgrading from a cassette playing Walkman to a CD-playing Discman. At the time, I was almost certain that no, it just could not get any cooler than this.
Even in college, I still had a cassette tape adapter for my car that physically plugged into my external Discman to play burned mix CDs. It all seems so primitive now, considering every song I own is now available at the touch of a button on my phone. How are kids these days supposed to understand the significance of the gift of a good, heartfelt mix tape or CD? How, I ask you?

Books: Then and Now



Okay, I’ll just come out and say it. I’ve switched over to the dark side. I swore that books and I would never end our torrid ongoing love affair, but then my husband bought me a Kindle and I felt like a such a guilty two-timer. I tried to keep seeing books on the side, but they just didn’t have the same spark. Literally. They have no battery component. Bummer. I’m sorry, I promise I feel repentant. It’s just that now when I move to a new house, my book collection weighs one pound instead of 350 divided into 42 boxes. No offense, books, but that sounds like kind of a better deal, at least back-pain wise.

During what I assume was our respective period of childhood (since you’ve self-identified as a child of the 90s by virtue of arriving at this blog), a book was a tangible object and could be acquired at a bookstore or public library. Or a private library, I suppose, but I guess I never got invited to any of those. Of course, I don’t know two many eight-year olds with their own e-readers, so I suppose the Goosebumps franchise may still live to see another gory day.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ten Facts You May Not Know About The Baby-Sitters Club!

By Maribeth Curley of HalloweenCostumes.com, where you can find great kids costumes.

If you were a young girl during the 80s or 90s, you most likely read The Baby-Sitters Club. (I know I did.) You had a favorite sitter, a favorite client, and you probably even had a favorite Super Special. This book series was a big part of many little girls’ literary lives, so let’s take a look at some things you may not know about the BSC.

1. The popular series was created to capitalize on the popularity of another book about babysitting. The book was Ginny’s Babysitting Job, which was published in the early 80s. An editor at Scholastic saw the success of another novel about the hobby and decided that the publishing company needed their own version.

2. Author Ann M. Martin was originally a freelance author when she was hired to write a book about baby-sitting. Martin was responsible for creating the plot-lines, details, and characters of The Baby-Sitters Club, as well as writing the first books. The series was about a club, rather than a single baby-sitter, to help promote team work and unity among young girls.

3. The series was originally slated for just four novels. However, thanks to the success of those four, Scholastic ordered two more, and after that, another twelve.

4. Author Ann M. Martin only wrote about 60 out of 213 total Baby-Sitters Club books. Most of the novels were ghostwritten by other authors, including 43 by Peter Lerangis, who also wrote for a spin-off of another popular teen series of the 80s, Sweet Valley Twins.

5. During the 14-year run of the series, there were 176 million copies of The Baby-Sitters Club books printed.

6. While there were popular spin-off's of the series (Baby-Sitters Little Sister namely), there were also less popular spin-offs. The California Diaries was a series of books based on Dawn Schafer's return to California in her teenage years. It took a slightly darker tone in its writing and touched on subjects such as anorexia, sexual identity, and racism. However, only 15 novels were published before the series’ end.

7. In 2006, a division of Scholastic named Graphix published a graphic novelization of the first Baby-Sitters Club novel. The animated versions were updated adaptations of four of the early BSC books: Kristy’s Great Idea, The Truth About Stacey, Mary Anne Saves the Day, and Claudia and Mean Janine.

8. In 2009, the New York Times wrote an article about the upcoming re-release of the first two novels of the series. Scholastic hoped to spark a comeback of the books with the current generation of readers. Also, that same year, Ann M. Martin wrote a prequel to the series called The Summer Before.

9. Throughout the run of the series, there were five types of novels in addition to the core series of novels: Super Specials, which were longer stories and were narrated by a different girl each chapter; Readers Request, books that focused on non-main members of the BSC; Mysteries and Super Mysteries; Portrait collections, novels that were biographies of the girls’ pasts; and Baby-Sitters Club: Friends Forever, a 13-book mini-series, which ended with the girl’s graduation from middle school.

10. There was an (amazing) 13-episode long TV series named The Baby-Sitters Club, which aired in 1990. The shows were broadcast on The Disney Channel, as well as HBO and Nickelodeon. The other live-action version of the BSC was the feature film, released in 1995. The role of Mary Anne was actress Rachael Leigh Cook’s movie debut, and the film also starred Larisa Oleynik (The Secret World of Alex Mack, 10 Things I Hate About You) as Dawn.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Where Are They Now? Home Improvement, Saved by the Bell, & Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

By Allison Heard for T-Shirts.com


Home Improvement

Home Improvement was a sitcom staple of 90s television, airing from 1991-1999, that skyrocketed Tim Allen’s career out of relative obscurity. Tim, who played handyman dad Tim Taylor went on to be a common name in the industry playing Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story movies, Santa Claus in The Santa Clause, and most recently, starred alongside John Travolta in Wild Hogs. If you feel like you need a Tim Allen fix, he is currently playing Mike Baxter on Last Man Standing and has a comedy, Geezers!, slated for release in 2012.

Compared to Allen’s post-sitcom success, the kids of Home Improvement have a much smaller rap sheet. Hunky middle brother Randy Taylor, played by Jonathan Taylor Thomas, is most noted for his role as Simba in 1994’s Lion King, but after Home Improvement wrapped, he could only be seen in small roles. He voiced character Tyler Tucker in The Wild Thornberrys and had a three-show arch in 8 Simple Rules. He recently did an interview and photo shoot for Entertainment Weekly and said he is currently traveling and going to school. It seems like his days of gracing the cover of Teen Bop week after week are over for JTT, for now at least.

Zachery Ty Bryan, older brother to Randy with the laidback attitude and killer blonde mullet, has produced little since the show. His most noted roles were as Brian Nolan in Code Breakers, a made for TV movie, and as Clay in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Zachery got married in 2007, and since then has only made a splash in 2008 when he was tased by hotel security after trying to reenter his hotel room in San Diego. Apparently, hotel security thought he was a vagrant trying to enter one of their hotel rooms.

The youngest brother and resident show weirdo was played by Taran Noah Smith, and honestly, not much has changed since. His work in the film industry has been limited, but he did get married to a much older woman, sued his parents for $1.5 million dollars, and got a divorce. His million dollar mansion is now in foreclosure and judging from the amount of internet commentary about how weird Taran has turned out, it looks like he has no hope of returning to Hollywood.

If Home Improvement makes you miss your childhood or gives you feelings of sweet nostalgia, check out their recent reunion photo from Entertainment Weekly. (Sadly, beloved neighbor and fountain of wisdom Wilson passed away in 2003 and is not in the reunion photo.)

Home Improvement Highlight Reel: Taran’s weird and broke, Zachery has a wife and looks like a bum (without a mullet at least), JTT is still hunky, and Tim is Buzz Lightyear, Santa Clause, and still relatively awesome (on an older man scale of awesomeness). Oh, and Al (Richard Karn) hosted Family Feud and Jill (Patricia Richardson) guest starred on The West Wing for two seasons.

Saved by the Bell

While Saved by the Bell originally aired in August 1989, the bulk of the shows ran in the early 90s and it became a starting block for more modern sitcoms revolved around teen drama. Surprisingly, many of the stars of this show have gone on to make a name for themselves, even if it is not always a good one (and you know I’m talking about Screech a.k.a. Dustin Diamond).

Zack Morris, played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar, the shows heartthrob-worthy blonde, moved on from Saved by the Bell in 2001 when he played Detective John Clark in NYPD Blue. His days as a cop came to an end in 2005, but he continued to act in shows like Commander in Chief, Raising the Bar, and Franklin & Bash, a TNT drama where Mark-Paul currently stars as an unconventional lawyer in a sea of straight laced attorneys. Mark-Paul has two children, Michael and Ava, and is engaged to advertising executive Catriona McGinn after his 2010 divorce.

Mario Lopez, who played jock A.C. Slater, flew under the radar after SBTB until his breakout role as Dr. Mike Hamoui in the FX drama Nip/Tuck. Since then he has maintained a constant presence in the entertainment industry. He danced on the third season of Dancing With The Stars, hosted MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, and is a current correspondent for Extra!. His bangin’ 6 pack probably doesn’t hurt his star appeal either.

Kelly, Jessie, and Lisa, the trio of girls from Saved by the Bell, have all continued to be a part of the Hollywood industry alongside their male counterparts. Jessie, played by Elizabeth Berkley, shed her girl-next-door image with Showgirls in 1995, which, of course, was met with bad reviews and controversy. Her career took a hit after the film’s release and she began to take smaller roles. Now, she is developing a series with MTV that is based off her website “Ask Elizabeth,” a self-help program for teenage girls.

Tiffani Thiessen, who played head cheerleader Kelly, has been in multiple shows, such as 90210, since her younger days and is currently playing a wedding planner in White Collar. In 2010, she traded her pompoms for a burp rag when daughter Harper was born.

Lark Voorhies, (Lisa), has continued her acting career while also stepping into the music scene. She has released a few singles and starred in music videos for artists like Boyz II Men and Kenny Lattimore. She has now been forever memorialized in Asher Roth’s 2009 single “Lark on My Go-Kart”.

Saved By The Bell Highlight Reel: Mark-Paul and Mario still have their heartthrob good looks, Elizabeth is helping out teen girls with the help of MTV, Tiffani and Lark are both mothers, and if you want more information about Screech’s life after Saved By The Bell check out this link.


The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

“Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down, and I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air.”

Those opening lines of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air opened the world, or at least the American viewing audience, to the Banks, a ritzy family who gets an interesting new member when nephew and cousin William Smith (played by Will Smith) moves in. Since his time as the fresh prince, Will Smith has undeniably moved on to bigger things. His music career has prospered, with his chart-toppers like “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” and “Switch,” and his films like Bad Boys, I Am Legend, and Men in Black, have cemented Smith’s reputation as a Hollywood All-Star. Will’s wife Jada Pinkett, son Jaden, and daughter Willow have also created names for themselves alongside his sometimes overshadowing Hollywood persona. Men in Black III is set to release in 2012.

Alfonso Ribeiro played Will’s cooky cousin Carlton, most remembered by his wonderful dance moves. Alfonso has done little since the show wrapped in 1996, but landed the position of host on GSN’s Catch 21. Even with his lack of a proper Hollywood resume, Alfonso’s dance skills will always be legendary.

Prissy older cousin Hilary called her acting career quits after her 6-year run on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Karyn Parsons did attend film school in New York, but while there she met her future husband. They had two children together and are still living in New York.

The youngest member of the Banks clan grew up in front of the shows audience and Tatyana Ali acted her way through Ashley’s most awkward years. Tatyana graduated from Harvard in 2002 with a degree in Afro-American History and Government. While going to school she had roles in multiple movies and TV shows. National Lampoon Presents Dorm Daze and Nora’s Hair Salon are among her most recognizable roles. She also played Roxanne in The Young and the Restless from the 2007-2011. Ali ventured in to music as well, but it seems that Willow Smith (Will Smith’s pre-teen daughter) has made a bigger splash in the music industry just by whipping her hair back and forth. Either way, Tatyana seems to have done well for herself and has come a long way since her pre-pubescent days on Fresh Prince.

Sadly, there has yet to be a reunion for this show, but it has been rumored to be in the works.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Highlight Reel: Will Smith is Will Smith and needs no explanation, Karyn is a New York mom and wife, Alfonso is a game show host but will never be forgotten for his amazing dance skills, and Tatyana is still starring in movies and TV shows after graduation from Harvard.


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