Friday, December 30, 2011

Whatever Happened to Kids Being Kids?

I find it deeply disturbing how much today's children know about sex and sexuality at such a young age. I went out to dinner last night with a women's social group. One member at our table, a teacher, recounted stories that, while not terribly surprising, would still curl anyone's hair. A second grader came to school one day wearing gold "hooker heels", a micro mini and a low-cut top that was a size too small for her. A 7th grader who routinely dressed the same way was pregnant by the following year--despite the teachers' attempts to warn the mother (who stormed into the school showing off her enormous cleavage and butterfly tattoo on her chest, defending her daughter with the first amendment excuse.) A young boy was frustrated because, he said, "the girls won't leave me alone and stop asking me out." According to our dining companion he said he "just wanted to play basketball--not go out with girls." 

Another woman mentioned how her 5 year-old niece has mastered the art of flirting--when going out to eat with her parents recently, she batted her eyelids and flirted with the waiter--who "rewarded" her with an extra bowl of bread. 

In my Decline of Marriage post from a few weeks ago, I mentioned the book "The Good Girl Revolution" by Wendy Shalit. In the first chapter, she discusses the influence of pop culture on today's young girls and how it's not helping the situation. In particular she discusses the lack of modest clothing options (one company mentioned in the book actually makes thong underwear for 8 year olds) and how the Bratz line of dolls started the trend of dolls that are dressed like sluts. I guess the polyester pants from Sears that I wore in the 70s wouldn't fly with today's girls or their parents. A few years ago, a line of pony dolls called "Struts" were released that look like Victoria's Secret supermodels--wearing high heels, jewelry, and fashion accessories. Really? What was wrong with My Pretty Pony?

And don't even get me started on the piece of garbage show known as Toddlers & Tiaras--which earlier this year featured a mother who purposely dressed her 3 year-old daughter up as Julia Roberts' hooker character from Pretty Woman.

Holy whores, Batman! What the good gravy is wrong with our society today? Seems like it is truly headed down the toilet. I'm not a parent, but I feel sorry for anyone raising kids today who wish to shield them from sexual influences, particularly those who have daughters. Kids today are growing up way too fast and have limited choices when it comes to role models. I remember when Mary Lou Retton and other female athletes were looked up to. Today, according to the teacher who was at my dinner table, it's people like Snooki. Snooki was actually cited by two young girls in her class as their hero (on Who's Your Hero Day) because she has "'tude" and is "sexy." My immediate thought was why were the ridiculous parents letting them watch Jersey Shore in the first place? Jersey Shore is a show for grown ups, not little girls. 

Kids today don't seem to have much of an innocent childhood.

Despite the yearly sex ed classes, I truly didn't feel that I know much about sex until I was in high school. I didn't even know what it meant to be sexy until I was in college. It's only recently--in my late 30s--that I feel like I know how to flirt! The only girl we know of who got pregnant the entire time I went to high school happened during our senior year and it disturbed us. Who would want to get pregnant, when we were going off to college and had our whole lives in front of us? Unfortunately, today we have shows like MTV's Teen Moms which is supposed to show the unglamorous side of teenage motherhood, but instead had the opposite effect when a girl got pregnant on purpose to be on the show and become famous. 

For many pre-teen boys, their first look at naked or semi-nude women came from sneaking their old man's dirty magazine collection or looking at the undergarment section of the Sears catalog. 

That is not to say that kids in my junior high and high school weren't having sex. Teens have always been having sex, but their knowledge and experimentation is occurring at earlier and scarier ages. I remember a few years ago Oprah did a show about oral sex among pre-teens...12 and 13 year-old boys and girls who had shared many oral sex partners in their school. These kids didn't think much of it because President Clinton had declared that oral sex wasn't the same as real sex during the Lewinsky scandal. The girls didn't seem to care that they were at an increased risk at contradicting diseases. 

Technology isn't helping. Teens and pre-teens think nothing of "sexting" and sending sexy photos to each other using their smartphones. It landed at least one teen--who distributed pictures of his steady girlfriend to several friends and family members (what?!)--on the sex offender list.

Parents aren't doing their job. Yes, we have pop culture and toy influences but we can't place all of the blame on TV shows, musicians and the toy companies (personally, I think if parents are unhappy with certain toys and clothing manufacturers they should let them know, as was the case when Abercrombie & Fitch tried to advertise bikini tops for 8 year-old girls which attracted many negative comments on their Facebook page.) Parents need to talk to their kids about sex and stress the importance of waiting until they're older and not giving in to peer pressure. Watch what your children are watching on TV and look for clothing alternatives to letting them dress like a hooker. We need a return to family values.

P.S. I didn't mention the disturbing trend of girls going through puberty at earlier ages, because that is something beyond their control (and is a sad situation for sure.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Craptacular Star Wars Holiday Special

Just how awful was The Star Wars Holiday Special? So bad that it only aired once and has never been released on VHS or DVD. (Update: since this post was originally published, it HAS been released on DVD.) So bad that George Lucas himself alienated himself from the project. So bad that Conan O'Brien used a clip from it once to embarrass Harrison Ford during one of his appearances as a guest on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. So bad, that the only thing that could make it better would be for Bill Murray to make a cameo as his SNL Nick the Lounge Singer character crooning his made-up lyrics to the Star Wars theme.

Actually, it's quite surprising that Bill Murray didn't make an appearance in the 1978 train wreck, because Be a Arthur ("may the force BEA with you!"), Harvey Korman, Starship Airplane and Art Carney did. It's almost like the producers tried to turn the Star Wars legacy into a comedy variety show. For starters, you have Arthur playing a singing bartender and Korman as a four-armed alien who tries to romance her and consumes alcohol (or whatever concoction they imbibe on the planet Tatooine) by pouring it into a hole in his head. The comic relief is well intended, but it's also a little embarrassing. The storyline also takes place on "Happy Life Day" (the Star Wars universe's equivalent of Christmas) and introduces us to the disturbing notion of Wookies procreating; we discover that Chewbacca has a wife, son, and father. It also introduced the character of Boba Fett (via a cartoon) and features Carrie Fisher as Princess Leah singing at the end. 

All of which, I'll admit, sounds intriguing. I've never seen the special in its entirety and I don't even remember it as a kid, but the clips are out there and it's possible to watch the whole thing on YouTube. George Lucas loathed it, and told fans that it didn't match his vision of Star Wars. TV Guide ranked it number 11 on their "25 Most Hilarious Holiday TV Moments", mentioning that it was "unintentionally hilarious". The toy company Kenner was planning on creating characters of Chewbacca's family, but after the poor reception the special received, it canceled them. Supposedly prototypes still exist; I would imagine they're worth quite a bit of moolah. 

Here's some clips from the program; you can judge for yourself. And I'd like to wish all of my readers who celebrate a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Life Day!

Harvey and Bea's romantic interlude seems so out of place in the Star Wars story:

Some say that Bea's performance was one of the better parts of the special. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Year Without a Christmas Card

In 1843, Englishman Sir Henry Cole "invented" the Christmas card as a means of distributing holiday wishes more easily to his friends and contacts. Cut to the year 2011. Is anyone still sending--or receiving--seasonal cards? Thanks to the Internet, the Christmas card seems to be on its way out, sadly. I've really noticed the difference this season. I've only gotten a few. To be fair, I've only sent a few. Along with e-communications making it more convenient to post or send greetings online, it's also less time consuming. With physical cards you have to look up people's addresses, think of a thoughtful message to write, and stamp the cards. It isn't much, but more work than typing in an email address and punching the send button. Then there's the fact that many people won't send a card to a particular contact unless they regularly receive one from them.

Kind of a shame, even though I'm just as guilty of contributing to the holiday card shortage. Growing up, I looked forward to seeing the many colorful cards that my parents received. My mother would tape them to the wall in the entryway so that visitors could see them when they entered. This year, she has about 5 or 6 up when decades ago the entire wall would be filled.

How about you? Did you send--or receive--any holiday cards this season?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Love on the Rocks: The Decline of Marriage

Photo via Houseplant Picture Studio
Earlier this week it was reported that the number of married people in the U.S. has nosedived--from 72% of the adult population in 1960 to just over half (51%) today. It's sad news but hardly surprising--I've even noticed the change in my Sunday paper's "Celebrations" section, which used to have enough engagement announcements and wedding photos to publish weekly. Now the frequency is more like every month.

Curiously, the TV stations that reported on this didn't offer much explanation into exactly why marriage is declining. That's where Go Retro comes in. So, here are my honest opinions on what's been going on in the past 50 years that is hindering people from walking up the aisle...let me know if you agree (or disagree.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Original Ugly Sweater Contest

WTF are we looking at here? I found this image over at a cool knitting blog called Craft Schmaft. It originates from a 1985 knitting book called Wit Knits. More like Nitwits. Let me collect my thoughts--it's pretty obvious that that is indeed a banana on the sweater, so you don't need to actually knit the word into the pattern. The nerd wearing it, however, is obviously confused, which is why he's holding up a pineapple. And what's up with the frog vest--does he want women to think that if they kiss him, he'll turn into a prince? Who the hell wears a sweater vest without a shirt underneath anyways? Maybe the piano man below knows the answer...I'm not sure why there are tassels attached to the sweater; makes it even uglier.
That's John Inman from Are You Being Served? above. He is perhaps the only man who could get away with modeling a teddy bear sweater.

Just another prime example of 80s awfulness. If anyone actually did own this book or knit anything from it, my sincere apologies.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Movie You Probably Haven't Seen: The Ref

When one thinks about holiday movies, lots of classics come to mind. The Ref, however, is probably not one of them--and that's a shame considering the sharp comedic writing and acting supporting it. Somehow this one slipped off Santa's radar.

I first rented the movie about 7 or 8 years ago and my mother and I have made it an annual tradition to watch it every Christmas season ever since. In fact, she loved it so much that I purchased it--on VHS, no less. It's now beginning to get so worn out that a fresh copy on DVD may be in order. It may not be the most vintage Christmas movie out there (considering it was made in 1994) but I certainly think it's one of the most unknown/underappreciated holiday films, and one of the funniest, and for those reasons it deserves to have a little love thrown its way. 

The Ref is a comedy film by the late director Ted Demme. It stars Denis Leary as a burglar on the run who holds an unhappily married couple (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) hostage in their own home on Christmas Eve as he hides from the cops. Spacey and Davis play Lloyd and Caroline Chasseur, and their constant bickering makes Lester and Carolyn Burnham from American Beauty look like Ozzie and Harriet. You know your marriage truly sucks when you begin Christmas Eve with a visit to the marriage counselor's office--and that's just where we find this miserable couple at the beginning of the movie. The first ten minutes is full of memorable zingers--when Lloyd tells the counselor that his teenage son, Jesse, started an escort service for his school's high school football team and gave out his grandmother's phone number, Caroline retorts with, "And I still say getting laid by an 18 year-old linebacker is JUST what she needs!" That's not Jesse's worst offense--we soon learn that he's in possession of X-rated photos that involve one of the officials at his military school, and he's using them to his advantage.

Leary's character, Gus, is in hiding after his dimwitted partner deserted him after a botched robbery. He eventually makes his way into Lloyd and Caroline's car and orders them to bring him back to their suburban Connecticut house, but not before he loses some of his own patience along the way. Even having an armed criminal in their vehicle can't stop the couple's arguing--to which Gus realizes, "Jesus Christ, I kidnapped my parents." Eventually, Gus begins refereeing the couple with threats to get them to shut up, if only temporarily. 
Back at the house, Gus learns that the Chasseurs are expecting family guests for dinner, including Lloyd's mother, who turns out to be the quintessential stereotyped mother-in-law with financial control over the family (in other words, she's a queen bitch. There's even a portrait of her hanging in the living room.) Momma Rose is a tightwad and about as warm and fuzzy as Dick Cheney on a good day. They decide to pass Gus off as their marriage counselor, Dr. Wong (by explaining that he is half Asian, half Irish.) Christine Baranski has a small but hilarious part as the Chausseurs' sarcastic sister-in-law. 
My favorite scene in the movie is the Scandinavian Christmas dinner. Caroline has taken a Swedish cooking class and decides to show off the dishes she has learned, with little success--the menu looks and sounds horrific. In honor of Saint Lucia, she has made everyone wear wreaths with candles on their heads, and tells the lovely tale of how Saint Lucia was betrayed by her husband and burned at the stake. If you watch the scenes carefully you'll notice that the candles appear at varying heights, as they burned down throughout shooting.

Along the way, there's also a cranky drunk Santa to deal with, a missing baby Jesus, and stupid cops who are more fascinated with watching It's a Wonderful Life then solving crimes...just your typical elements of a comedic movie. And of course, there is some soul searching and a happy ending for all (well, except for the mother-in-law, but I don't want to give anything away.) 
Part of what makes this film work well is the chemistry between Spacey and Davis. Rolling Stone said of the pair, "They are combustibly funny, finding nuance even in nonsense. The script is crass; the actors never." Being a Kevin Spacey fan, I read some years ago that he and Davis didn't actually meet each other until filming began. That's a monumental chance for any director to take, but apparently Demme trusted his instincts, and they worked. And Leary, while still playing a loose cannon, has lost a bit of his potty mouth for this role, which makes him a little more palatable for non-Leary fans. The set is definitely very 90s--the Chausseurs' house is beige, beige, and more beige, complete with a seashell encrusted Christmas tree, and Davis' hairdo makes her look like she stuck her finger in an electrical socket.
So if you've grown tired of A Christmas Story and the other usual comedic holiday movies, I highly recommend giving The Ref a spin in the DVD player. Here's the first ten minutes if you'd like to give it a preview--let me know what you think! 

Friday, December 09, 2011

Scenes from a 1960s Office Party

Drinking and smoking, smoking and drinking. I found these photos on Tumbler, credited to the username Saltyrain. They're supposedly photos of a 1960s office party--with today's photo technology I'm not sure if they're indeed 100% authentic but I'm hoping they are (the vintage Coke bottles seem to validate them.) Don Draper and crew would be proud. I think we can learn a few things here: that blondes like to have fun and the guys from finance don't know how to dance.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Mommy Wants More Housework For Christmas

It hardly seems fair: before the 1960s, common gift ideas for men that were advertised included booze and grooming products, but for women it was usually anything housework related, most notably vacuums and ovenware. More amusing was that some of these ads implied that the man would not only be assured a cleaner house, but a little nooky for his gift giving efforts. By the 1960s and beyond, advertisers were promoting cameras and fragrances as gift ideas for women, but in the 1950s* I'm afraid Santa was a bit clueless:

*The Toastmasters appliances and Chesterfield cigarette ads look like they're from the 60s. Same with the Kenwood one which also isn't specifically for Christmas but I thought it would be fun to throw it in there. 

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Meri Wilson's Merry Double Entendre Hits

I love double entendre songs--there's a whole slew of blues music from the 20s and 30s, for example, that have suggestive lyrics, such as Lil Johnson's "Sam the Hot Dog Man." 

"Sam's got the best hot dog in this town, I like the way he serves it, he goes round and round! Baby, with his hot dog, Baby, with his hot dog, Baby, with his hot dog, Honey in his hot dog van!" 

So when fellow blogger Darrin over at the awesome Dads Dish Retro Blog introduced me the other day to Meri Wilson and her hits, I knew I had to share them here. Technically, this post should be saved for Two Forgotten Friday Favorites. But really, how I could wait until Friday to share prolific lyrics such as these with you?

"Hey, baby, I'm your telephone man
You just show me where you want it and I'll put it where I can
I can put it in the bedroom, I can put it in the hall
I can put it in the bathroom, I can hang it on the wall
You can have it with a buzz, you can have it with a ring
And if you really want it you can have a ding-a-ling
Because-a hey baby, I'm your telephone man"

Watching the ditsy clips of Meri Wilson performing her signature song, you'd never know she was a serious musician. She was actually a child musical prodigy who began singing and mastering several instruments beginning at age two, earning a master's degree in music from George State University. 

As an adult, she modeled on the side, appearing in commercials and singing. "Telephone Man" was a song she performed with her jazz group, and Jim Rutledge, who was the lead singer and drummer for a Texas rock group called Bloodrock, took an interest in Wilson after seeing her in a TV commercial, helping her record and release "Telephone Man" to the general public. It received airplay in the U.S. and England in 1976, and climbed to the tops of both music charts that year. Wilson claimed it was based on an exchange she had with an actual telephone company man. It quickly became a favorite on the Dr. Demento radio show.

Wilson had a few silly, naughty follow-up songs with "Dick the D.J.", "Peter the Meter Reader" (who actually was also the telephone man), "Santa's Coming", and "My Valentine's Funny"--the last about a cross dressing lover. She also released an updated version of "Telephone Man" in 2011 called "Internet Man." Not exactly Grammy-worthy but entertaining such the same.

Sadly, her life was cut short in 2002 when she died in a car accident in Georgia during an ice storm...but her legacy will live on here. There are not many uploads of her on YouTube, but here she is performing "Telephone Man" and "Peter the Meter Reader." 

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