Category Archives: Retrosphere

Retro Linkage – 10/6/2016

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Hey, slackers.  Your humble narrator has been really busy for the past year trying to save Western Civilization for ourselves and our posterity.

The Good News – We’re almost there.

The Bad News – I’ve severely neglected Muh Blog!

Regardless, for the past two Halloweens I’ve been meaning to draft a YUUUUGE effort-post on all things Universal Monsters in the 1990s.  They were everywhere!  Seriously, man… toys, books, t-shirts, ridiculous numbers of print ads and even postage stamps.  I’m probably not going to get around to it this year, but I’ve discovered some other bloggers digging down that same rabbit hole.

Universal Monsters Universe is a very well-done and entertaining blog founded in 2016, that obsessively and compulsively blogs about anything even tangentially related to Universal Monsters.  Check out some of their 90’s themed posts.

It was in the early 90’s that Universal began releasing their classic monsters on VHS.  It was MCA Universal that released all of the classics and with their engaging box art, these films were soon welcomed into the homes of new fans and of those that grew up with them.  It was soon after the release of the Universal Monsters on video that the “merchandising frenzy” for the characters like Dracula and Frankenstein began.

Over 1993 to 1994, Playmates Toys released eight action figures across two waves of remodeled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures that were styled to represent the classic Universal Monsters.  During the early 90’s, Playmates Toys were a very dominant toy company as they also had the license for action figures and collectibles based off of CBS’ Star Trek property.  I think all of us that were around in the early 90’s remember the terrific Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures.  They also had a tie in with the Ninja Turtles as well.  In 1993, Playmates released Leonardo as The Wolfman, Raphael as The Mummy, Michaelangelo as Frankenstein’s Monster, and Donatello as Dracula.

OK, I’ll admit it.  I LOLed.

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Wait till you see the Ninja Metaluna Mutant Turtle.

The 3.5 inch Burger King toys were not only perfect representations of their classic film counterparts, but they came at a perfect moment when the Universal Monsters were being honored not only through the U.S. Postal Service, but also seeing the VHS releases revitalize interest in the brand.  If you were a monsters fan, Burger King was your go to spot for the month of October in the year 1997.

I’ll expand on these themes later, add context and search for the esoteric meaning behind it all.  Until then, check out the links, enjoy the pictures and show these guys and ghouls some love.

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Retro Linkage – 7/18/2014

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Steve Sailer has just been knocking it out of the park this week by observing current retro phenomena though his dissident-right-colored 3D glasses.  I tried to re-post links to his blogs several times, but he just kept cranking out more.

Back in the 1950s, impresarios tried all sorts of upgrades to get people to stop watching free TV at home and pay to sit in a movie theater, such as color movies, widescreen formats, 3D, and Smell-o-Vision. That’s all coming back, although American theaters are lagging. One reason for those huge overseas box office totals this summer is because more and more foreigners are paying premiums to watch movies in new “immersive” theaters with power seats.

This immediately reminded me of another Retro in the 90s post that I need to write, Matinee (1993).  This period comedy was directed by Joe Dante and starred John Goodman as a 1950s independent schlock filmmaker in the mold of William Castle.  Castle was infamous for gimmicks, such as giving each customer to his first film, Macabre (1958), a certificate for a life insurance policy in case he or she died from fright during the movie.  Even better, Castle installed vibrating motors from military surplus airplane wing de-icers in theater seats during screenings of The Tingler (1959), starring Vincent Price.  Matinee (1993) paid tribute to Castle’s theatrical chicanery with the fictional film-within-a-film, Mant!  The gag is revealed at about 1:10 in the trailer below.

Did Steve Jobs singlehandedly bring back Shiny Box Modernism?  Did we forget why we got tired of it the first time? Did they invent some new window-washing robot that makes it affordable to keep it looking spiffy?  One odd thing about Ventura Blvd., however, is that a supermarket looking like an Apple Store is actually a locally sensitive retro throwback to the venerable indigenous architectural style of the San Fernando Valley, Googie.

While much of Apple’s marketing involves touting their products’ streamlined and futuristic designs, the concept is hardly new.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 100 times, the idea of a bright, shining, sparkling future was most perfectly manifested in Mid-Century Modern (aka Googie) architecture.  Chris Jepsen at Spaceagecity.com has been making this point for well over a decade.

Googie architecture and design was art that told a story. The story had many variations, but its general plot was always something like this:

Man left his caves and grass huts and through hard work and ingenuity has built an amazing modern world. Tomorrow he will conquer any remaining problems and colonize the rest of the galaxy. However, for all his achievements and modern science man will never lose touch with the natural world and his noble roots.

It would behoove all retro-philes and architecture junkies to spend some time perusing his site, Googie Architecture Online.  In my opinion, Mid-Century Modern is not only the perfect combination of form and function.  It goes much deeper than that, it works on many symbolic, and dare I say it spiritual levels.   Architecture reflects the culture that created it, and tells its story.  This is intuitive to most people when they view the Pyramids, Stonehenge, the ruins of Ancient Greece and Rome, Easter Island, and the Gothic Cathedrals of Europe.  The culture that spawned Mid-Century Modern architecture was comprised of a confident, competent, ambitious and optimistic people.  This was the culture that knew hardship, grew up during the depression, yet won WWII, emerged as a super power, and would soon put a man on the moon.  The spirit of that culture was as fearless as it was beautiful.  Hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of it.

This review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) proves once again why Steve Sailer is my favorite film critic, second only to Joe Bob Briggs.  I don’t want to take anything out of context or ruin any of the surprises, so you’re going to have to read the whole review.  It’s worth it alone for this solid gold nugget of trivia about Sammy Davis Jr.

It’s not just me who sees the Planet franchise as traditionally being an allegory about blacks and whites.  Sammy Davis Jr. considered the original Planet of the Apes the best film ever about black-white relations, and is said to have enshrined the eight-foot-tall prop statue of the primordial primate Lawgiver in his Beverly Hills backyard.  (After Sammy died $5 million in debt to the IRS, the feds foreclosed upon the fiberglass figurine and auctioned it off for $2,500.)

In the first Planet of the Apes, Charlton Heston, the ultimate white man, is thrown into a world where monkeys are the Man and he is reduced to the status of an angry black radical. In Rod Serling’s screenplay, gorillas are the Irish cops, orangutans the conservative WASP ruling class, and chimpanzees the liberal Jewish intellectuals who are Heston’s only hope.

Two thoughts spring to mind;

1. I wonder what the rest of the Rat Pack thought about Planet of the Apes (1968)?  Can’t you just picture Sammy, Dino and Sinatra, glasses of scotch in one hand and cigarettes in the other, sitting around some swanky Vegas lounge discussing the flick?  Oh, to have been a fly on that wall.

2. If we could just convince Steve to start adding dead body and breast counts to his reviews like Joe Bob, all other film critics would be rendered useless.

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Retro Linkage 4/1/2014

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Bowling was a staple of Mid-Century recreational activity, and figured heavily into 1990s retro culture as depicted in films like King Pin (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), and in various episodes of The Simpsons.    Priceonomics has an outstanding post about the days when “bowlers were rockstars.”  Observe  the literal money quote below.

The creation of the PBA in 1958 brought even more attention to the sport; by 1965, the PBA tour was televised on ABC Sports nationally, and had formidable sponsors in Coca-Cola and Ford Motors. A 1963 article in Sports Illustrated harped on the glamorous explosion of the bowling scene (2014 dollars have been added in brackets):

“This year the PBA will put on 38 tournaments and give away more than $1,050,000 [$7.9 million] in prize money. Of its 942 members, 65 are touring pros who compete in at least half of the tournaments. The minimum any one of them makes is $10,000 [$75,700] a year. Moreover, 15 of the bowlers are in the $30,000-a-year bracket [$227,200], and there are four or five, including Don Carter, the most famous name in bowling, and Harry Smith, who earn upward of $75,000 annually [$568,000].”

Harry Smith, the top bowler in 1963, made more money than MLB MVP Sandy Koufax and NFL MVP Y.A. Tittle combined.

The Atlantic, of all places, has a highly entertaining article comparing the dotcom and real estate bubbles to bowling.

Basically, the boom in bowling spurred massive investment in bowling centers which led to overcapacity in the industry. And around this time, blue-collar Americans began fleeing the cities for the suburbs, rendering many urban bowling centers obsolete. This also made land occupied by bowling centers in outer suburban areas more valuable for alternative users, like pharmacies and department stores, Sandy Hansell, a Michigan-based bowling center broker tells Quartz.

In the 1980s, the popularity of league bowling also began to wane, simply due to lifestyle changes. The number of league bowlers has reportedly declined by half since then.

By 2011 there were 5,860 bowling centers in the US, according to HighBeam, less than half the 1960s peak.

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So what does all of this tell us? Basically, it’s difficult to predict the future, no matter what industry you’re in.

I’m not sure why the author felt compelled to use the bizarre term “bowling center” when he clearly meant “bowling alley”?  But, this is The Atlantic, so “bowling center” must be a Newspeak approved term akin to “youths” or “white Hispanic”.  On the plus side, they did lead with a really, really swell picture of the 37th President of the United States, Richard Milhous Nixon, bowling at the White House.

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Retro Linkage – 3/24/2014

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Occasionally, a relative, co-worker or friend will ask why I spend so much time immersed in retro culture and media.  Moreover, “Why do you like all this old stuff?  It’s not nostalgia, because you weren’t even alive then.  Seriously, dude, what the hell?”  There are myriad reasons, but mostly I’d prefer to appreciate and emulate the apex of Western Civilization rather than watch a reality show about Kim Kardashian and her giant ass.  Honestly, I’m surprised I even have to explain this?

In the spirit of questions such as these, Captain Capitalism has an excellent post regarding what we love about the United States of America, and whether or not it still exists.  According to him, it does not.

 An interesting and intellectually honest observation I had about the United States was that I never got to experience what I presumably loved about the US.  This made me realize I was being a bit hypocritical, because the US I experienced was anything but the US I was fighting for.

The US I loved was what I saw in television and was taught to me (either through parents, school, media, etc.). It’s history, winning WWII, the nuclear family, truth justice, gallant country westerns, dashing heroes like James Bond (I know, British), John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, beautiful women like Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Doris Day, not to mention its entertainment culture be it jazz, comedy, fashion, etc.  But that version of the US died around 1965 and I was born ten years after.  The US I got to live in was practically the opposite.

Destroyed families, divorce, Volker Recession poverty, hideous 70’s music, fashion, and entertainment.  Harlots and sluts for female actresses and vocalists, masculine women, effeminate men, spoiled rotten children, bullies and bitches, idiotic teachers, increasing taxes, recessions, bubbles, and prisons masquerading as schools.  And let’s not forget a selection of women destroyed by feminism, bigotry against white males, a progressive credentialism that ensured your youth was wasted, bogus careers with false promises, and never ever coming close to achieving the American dream a la the 1940’s.

No, the two were actually quite different and it forced me to conclude something.  I hate the United States.  I loathe it.  Not the idea of America.  Not the ideals the country was originally founded on, but what it has become and consequently the US I get to live in.

You have to admit, the Captain certainly has a way with words.  He goes on to render the past versus the present in stark contrast.

If you step back, clear your eyes, and take a fresh look, you can see this “real” United States for what it is and realize this is what you’ve had to live in and endure:

  • Lena Horne vs. Madonna vs. Miley Ray Cyrus
  • Duke Ellington vs. Kanye West
  • Jimmy Stewart vs. Matt Damon
  • Dwight Eisenhower vs. Barack Obama
  • Women with decorum and class vs. feminist brainwashed arrogant lippy brats
  • Strong, independent men vs. wimpy, simpering obedient, emasculated “men”
  • Powerful classy cars vs. EPA compliant boxes
  • Traditional architecture vs. minimalist crap
  • This vs. that
  • Don Rickles vs. Margaret Cho

I can go on, but how can anybody champion such crap?  How can you advocate the US in its current state?

As I’ve stated previously, I think one of the most appealing things about retro media is the ability to tap into the more optimistic and hopeful zeitgeist of a superior culture.  Apparently, I’m not the only one.

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Retro Linkage – 1/9/2014

Steve Sailer has a couple of excellent posts about mid-century eating habits and the origin of the phrase “white bread” as a derogatory term.

In contrast, the Pure Foods Movement that WASP ladies (many of whom were also in the temperance struggle) started after the Civil War sought to find remedies for their more open and mobile culture. One was federal regulation: The coalition finally succeeded in passing the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906 after the publication of Upton Sinclair’s muckraking The Jungle.

Another tactic was favoring lighter-colored and lighter-flavored foodstuffs that were harder to pollute.

And it worked. A scientist wrote in 1926 of trends in bread, “To all appearances…the general public is continuing in its belief (justified both by the bacteriological count and the microscopic examination) that whiteness or creamy whiteness is a sign of cleanness.”

Another point about mid-Century cuisine served in middle class homes is that much of it was modeled on business dining in restaurants, meals served to people who might not have all that much in common but who want to develop a friendlier relationship. Business dining was in contrast to exploratory dining among people who already are friends and who have already dined together and who find their tastes are enough in sync to want to explore cuisines together.

So, business cuisine in 1950 had a high emphasis on common denominator foods (e.g., steak and potatoes) that wouldn’t be likely to weird out a customer. In turn, that had a lot of influence on what people ate at home. In general, the goal of mid-Century American culture was to create a friendly, open, fairly egalitarian, non-exclusionary society in which Americans would feel comfortable doing business with each other across a vast continent. This influenced norms toward some degree of homogeneity, blandness, and conformity in minor matters like cuisine, but was overall such an enormous success in terms of prosperity and national solidarity that we’ve forgotten the reasons behind many of the details, and thus view this culture with ignorant contempt.

As always, Steve is way ahead of the curve, and gives us some very insightful food for thought, and vice versa.  Meanwhile, W.F. Price commits retro-heresy at The Spearhead.

To see things accurately, we must separate the reality from the myth of the 50s. Yes, there was a fair amount of lip service paid to the idea that men ought to be respected as head of household, but the culture was already moving away from that at a rapid pace. There is a constant, unyielding desire in the human heart to be liberated from reality, and to forget hard lessons. Those who sacrifice are always resented, despite our deference to them — we are not by nature an obedient, grateful lot. The decade was merely an interlude; a time of uneasy peace between husbands and wives and fathers and children. Founded on poverty and war, it was not built to last in a growing, increasingly wealthy society.

With all due respect, I disagree with Mr. Price’s assertion that the 1950s were an anomaly of uneasy peace between husbands and wives and fathers and children.  Rather, men being respected as head of household was simply the natural order of things from the beginning of Western civilization up until the cultural revolution of the late 1960s.  However, I do agree that the 1950s were an interlude of sorts.  Specifically this was the apex of American culture.  Once the apex is reached, by definition there’s nowhere to go but down.

There is a common thread linking these posts; maintaining an advanced civilization is serious business.  (This will likely become a recurring theme here at Retro in the 90s.)  Currently, Western civilization is anything but serious, and thus in noticeable decline culturally, economically and spiritually.  Those of us with intellectual fortitude are forced to ask several difficult questions.  Must a nation’s apex be founded on poverty, war and hardship?  Is it possible to extend that apex over multiple generations?  How does a society successfully handle success?  The comment threads are always open.  Have at it.

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