Friday, July 30, 2010

Funky Food Friday: Planters Cheez Balls

Who didn't love Planters Cheez Balls? (The "z" reminds us these were about as close to real cheese as Funyuns are to real onions.)

They had just the right amount of powdery cheese coating and were an awesome shape, perfect for whipping at kids in the cafeteria when teachers weren't looking.

Best of all, though, was the container. Remember? They came, for some reason, in a big fat can, almost like a paint can. (The commercial below displays both regular size and the massively huge family size.)

They vanished, returned briefly in a similar form as Planters Cheez Mania, and were seen in that form as recently as 2008 or 2009, mostly in Blockbuster video stores. Now, however, even those seem to be gone. A moment of silence, please, for this divine and dead snack food.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later

I confess, I came to Sweet Valley High books waaaay too late for my age, but I still read them. They're as addictive as potato chips and equally bad for you.
But I read them enough that I absolutely appreciate the numerous SVH satire and recap blogs out there, especially Margo Rising and The Dairi Burger. And I seriously still hope to find a book that I somehow missed, where perfect Elizabeth and her wimpy boyfriend Todd "Wizzer" Wilkins (seriously! his nickname!) get their comeuppance.

But for now, I guess I can anticipate a new SVH book coming in 2011, "Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later," in which the twins are 27, having life issues (Elizabeth had a bitter break-up--PLEASE LET IT BE WITH TODD -- and Jessica is actually getting a divorce), and hating each other. You can sign up to read the first chapter here. (They'll mail you a link, but you can't copy or print it. However, as the CNN blog says, I can attest to the fact that the excerpt uses the word "orgasm" twice -- in reference to Liz, even!)

And of course, the awesome "Juno" screenwriter (and Oscar winner, and former Minneapolis stripper) Diablo Cody is writing the SVH big-screen movie. Please be better than the TV series. I have faith in you, Diablo! You too love the 1980s! Do us proud.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


This summer marks major anniversaries for a Blockbuster full of classic movies ("Back to the Future" just turned 25, belive it or not), but surely few hold up as well as "Airplane," which celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer.

It's true -- and don't call me Shirley.

How many flicks are quoted as often as 1980's "Airplane," the spoof of those uber-serious "Airport" movies? Well, maybe "Caddyshack," but come on -- think of the dozens of lines and scenes from "Airplane" that deserve a place in the Movie Quote Hall of Fame. Seriously -- I checked out IMDB's memorable quotes page, and my laptop started to smoke. Surely you remember these:

Barbara Billingsley stepping in to help: "Oh, Stewardess, I speak jive."

Captain Oveur and Roger Murdock doing a "Who's on First?" routine: "We have clearance, Clarance." "Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?"

Just about anything Leslie Nielsen says: "It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now."

Definitely anything Stephen Stucker (Johnny) says: "This? Why, I can make a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl..."

We could keep going, but the Internet might run out. For a more in-depth trip down memory lane, check out the Huffington Post's recent tribute to this classic flick.

What's your favorite "Airplane" memory?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


"They're functional, fashionable, and just plain fun!" So why then does this ad for legwarmers make them seem like only your stiffest, more preppiest, boring friend would wear them? It's like a Connecticut grandma made this commercial and thought they should only be warm by lacrosse-playing prep school students.

Commercial aside, legwarmers may have been a fashion statement in warm-weather states, but man, for me, growing up in Minnesota and going to a Catholic high school, they were a lifesaver.
We wore jumpers with bare legs during the day, but getting to school, in temps that sometimes reached 30 below, was another story. While you COULD wear jeans underneath your uniform jumper on your daily commute, wiggling out of snow-packed jeans or cords while sitting in a pile of melting snow in front of your locker was no fun. Legwarmers saved you from frostbite and were as '80s as popped collars and shoulder pads.

Did you wear legwarmers? What are your memories of this fashion fad? Can they ever make a comeback? SHOULD they?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: Sigmund and the Sea Monsters

Raise your hand -- or tentacle or piece of seaweed or whatever -- if you were just a wee bit freaked out by "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters."

And get used to hearing about it, because, naturally, it's going to be a big-screen movie!

It was a Krofft show -- of COURSE it was -- that ran from 1973 to 1975, featuring Johnny "Jody no not the girl, the boy, on 'Family Affair' " Whittaker as a boy who finds a sea monster (played by Billy Barty, because WHO ELSE?) on his beach. Sigmund was a nice sea monster, and his weirdo sea monster family threw him out for not scaring people. Or something.
Check out the cool post by Vinnie Rattolle, displaying numerous Sigmund tie-in items, from coloring books to an album featuring Johnny Whittaker's questionable musical talents.

But as a kid, this show caused me total agony. The mean sea monsters were going to get Sigmund! Or the other adults (because Johnny's parents were never around, not once on the whole show) were going to find out he was hiding him! Now I may have been an easily agitated kid, but this show gave me the willies. And watch the clip below--how trippy are the opening credits?

Fun facts from the Wikipedia entry: Sid Krofft was inspired by a floating piece of seaweed. (I suspect Krofft shows have been inspired by even dumber things.) Most of the sets were destroyed by a fire early in season two, so the sets were minimal from then on. (They needed sets? I figured they just shot it all on some Krofft beachfront property.)

The big-screen movie will doubtless cast Verne "Mini Me" Troyer in the Billy Barty role.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Funky Food Friday: Marathon bar

When I think back on my favorite discontinued foods of the 1970s and 1980s, the two that come first to mind are always Pepsi Light and Marathon candy bars.

Pepsi Light, of course, was Pepsi with lemon--started out with half the calories of regular Pepsi, then they came out with a one-cal version.

Marathon bars were braided caramel dipped in milk chcolate and wrapped in a bright red wrapper with a ruler on the back. Their gimmick, besides being sheer awesome, was their length. The commercials featured John Wayne's son, Patrick, as Marathon John, who battled with Quick Carl, who thought he could do everything fast, but couldn't manage to choke down a Marathon bar quickly.

As kids, we were looking for anything to make our limited pocket money stretch a little further, so Marathon bars were just what the doctor ordered (ditto Bub's Daddy, the giant sticks of gum). And if you went to Catholic school in Minnesota like me, your school had a fundraiser called the Marathon for Non-Public Schools, where you walked a certain distance and got pledges and raised cash for your school. At my school at least, Marathon bars were the fitting prize for getting to certain pledge levels, and since I was never one of those gung-ho pledge drive kids, I never won any.

I'd sure buy a Marathon bar if it was around today, though, and wash it down with a big can of Pepsi Light.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bean bags

For a while there, it seemed like we all had bean bags. In our rooms, in our rec rooms, somewhere. Those of us who didn't have them were incredibly envious of our pals who did, and always sat in them when we were over at their homes.

Bean bags were such a different twist on seating, and Mom and Dad generally would never touch them, since their aged limbs couldn't tweak their way down into one -- so they were all ours. They were modern and fun and crazy, and inevitably, we would poke a hole in ours and the damn beans would spill out EVERYWHERE.

Plaid Stallions found this incredibly awesome catalog page of branded bean bags -- Fonzie, NFL teams, even "Convoy."

Today, some people sit on those big plastic bouncy balls at their office, which always looks weird to me. But really, give me a bean bag any old day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Luke, Take a Left at the Next Exit."

It's the ideal gift idea for nerds with no sense of direction: Now you can get the "Star Wars" fan who has everything in your life one of four character voices for his GPS.

Not only is the idea an awesome one (come on, who wouldn't want Darth Vader, C-3PO, Yoda or, soon, Han Solo giving directions?), GPS manufacturer TomTom is handling the marketing with a pitch-perfect combination of irony and old-school cool.

This clip of Darth Vader in a recording session is as good as it gets. ("Roundabound.")

Thanks to @janicebashman for the link!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"What's Happening!!"

Remember a few years ago when that famous band took a stand against music piracy? Nope, not Metallica vs. Napster. We're talking the Doobie Brothers, who used a two-part episode of "What's Happening!!" to rail against bootleggers.

In 1978's "Doobie or Not Doobie," a bootlegger forces Rerun, Raj and Dwayne (“Hey, hey, hey!”) to tape a concert at their high school, so Rerun smuggles in a giant tape recorder in his ample trousers. After he dances so hard, the recorder pops out of his pants and the concert screeches to a halt. The Doobies dress down the trio ("We thought you were our friends."), and they decide to pay the bootlegger a visit.

The gang learns a Valuable Lesson, and the bootlegger learns that if you rely on a guy with Rerun’s appetite to record a show, all you're going to end up with is a one-way ticket to jail and a tape full of the sound of popcorn being eaten.

Even though these episodes devoted plenty of time to musical performances ("Takin' it to the Streets"), they were still about the "What's Happening!!" regulars, by far the best part of the show. It was 30 years ago, but the characters still hold up:

Bored Dee (in her jumper dress) demanding a quarter. Mama hugging people so hard she almost smothered everybody. Shirley the acerbic waitress. And of course Rerun, who was wearing baggy pants while MC Hammer was still in parachute pampers.

Did you dig "What's Happening!!" and "What's Happening Now!!" as much as we did?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: Opening Credits to '80s TV Shows

If they were anything, '80s action-adventure-show opening credits were consistent. From "Magnum, P.I." to "Riptide," "T.J. Hooker" to "Simon and Simon," just about every opening sequence featured cars, boats or helicopters; babes, explosions and goofy mugging, all set to super-'80s guitar music.

You don’t have to be a fan of Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” to appreciate this reimagining of its opening credits in the style of those sweet ‘80s shows. It particularly apes “Airwolf,” the 1984-86 series starring Jan-Michael Vincent, Ernest Borngine and a crazy-cool helicopter.

Here’s the “Airwolf”-ized “Firefly” credits:

And here’s the real thing. Believe it or not, this clip has 18 MILLION views on YouTube. Apparently there are tons of "Airwolf" fans out there (it can't all be Jan-Michael Vincent clicking on the link). Were you one of them?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Catching up...

Do you know we have a GenXtinct Facebook page? (If you're on Facebook, you can Like the page, and then our updates will show up in your News Feed.)

The nice thing about the Facebook page: It's very easy to drop new links on it during the day, and conversations in the comments flow smoothly, since they don't have to be moderated and people seem more willing to comment on Facebook.

The downside: Not everyone sees both the blog and the Facebook page. So here's a bunch of quickie links I put up during the week on Facebook and also wanted to share here.

By the way, you can also follow us on Twitter.

--Amazing R2-D2 cake
--Brady Bunch wall clock. It's a quarter to Marcia!
--PeeChee folders have a Facebook fan page, too
--False advertising! Not once in "Fred and Barney Meet the Thing" did Fred and Barney actually meet the Thing.
--Space Invaders lampshade. Cool!
--World's best advertising jingles. "I'd like to teach the world to sing..."
--Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Funky Food Friday: Discontinued Hostess products

Hostess Cupcakes, Ho-Hos, Twinkies, Ding Dongs, SnoBalls and Fruit Pies haven't gone anywhere, even SuzyQs are still around, but there are more than a few Hostess products that have come and gone. Let's review.

Twinkies dipped in chocolate. You can still get them on the West Coast (I see them in L.A. gas stations when we're visiting Rob's folks) or via Check out the commercial with Chauncey the pimped-out Crocodile. It's hard out there for a croc.

Banana Flips
Taco-shaped, banana flavored, GINORMOUS cream-filled cakes. One to a package unlike most Hostess treats which came two by two. I remember we had these in our vending machine at high school and the largest girl in school would buy them. I never got their appeal--I only liked the cream, not the cake.

These were the best. Chocolate cake layered with chocolate cream and topped with chocolate frosting. So 1980s, so gone. Relive the bliss with Matt's most excellent X-E post, and this commercial.

Are there any other discontinued Hostess treats? Share your memories of these or any others in the comments.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Here's another one for the oh-man-another-child-star-embroiled-in-controversy file: Jaleel White, Urkel from ABC's "Family Matters" from 1989 to 1998, is facing accusations that he hit a woman, according to TMZ. White's camp denies the accusations. (And yes, it would have been waay to easy to start this post with a "Did I do thaaaaat?")

What to do while we await the results of the police investigation? Here's one way to spend 14 minutes: watch this pheonomenal compilation of the top-20 Urkel moments, from (This video is a year old, and mentions that "Family Matters" hasn't been released on DVD -- it's since become available.)

And here's an an interview with White from June. What's your favorite Urkel moment?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Calling 'Gloria'

I totally forgot Gloria Bunker Stivic had her own "All in the Family" spinoff, "Gloria."

I've got Pac-Man fever

I've got Pac-Man fever.

Oh, I don't know why this cheers me up so much, but it does.

Heroes on the soap dish!

TMNT soap! Heroes on the soap dish! Turtle power!

Oregon Trail

So Oregon Trail, for the Apple 2, was made by MECC, Minnesota Educational Computing Corporation. We two GenXtinct founders are Minnesotans, but I know the game spread behind our state's borders.

What made it so memorable? Was it simply that it was one of the first computer games schools got behind and let kids play? Was it the simplistic graphics? The fact that everyone eventually died of dysentry?

One fan reminisces about it here.

Here's a fun version where the game meets the modern NFL...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bicentennial comics

I'm kind of fascinated with Bicentennial epherma, those transitory publications that came and went and honored America's 200th birthday in whatever star-spangled way seemed appropriate at the time.

The Bicentennial was a big deal in pop culture. Our 1970s dads were inspired to paint our mailboxes red, white and blue, and moms bought us garish spangly flag T-shirts. We kids loved the cool Bicentennial quarters, and I remember my dad brought me home a set of non-spendable Bicentennial coins made of some kind of brassy metal that I thought was just the awesomest.

If you get a kick out of our patriotic pop culture memories, you must check out Stupid Comics' two-part review of Bicentennial comic books. (Part one; part two.) Oh, they are awesome. I love the commentary, too, which includes "WAS SUPERMAN PRESENT AT THE SIGNING OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE? DID BIGFOOT FLY HIM THERE IN A UFO? Yup, it's the 70s all right."

I also cracked up at this: "DC Comics managed to plaster a "salute" across the top of all their titles just to remind everybody that they were as patriotic as the next comic book company. Nothing like a little red, white, and blue bunting to really bring home the horror of skeletons doing things that skeletons do not normally do."

The fact is, I would probably read any of these comics were I to find them in my closet, or at a garage sale, today.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: "Angie"

Love it seeks, and love it finds, love it conquers, love it binds...

We come to each other from different worlds...

Who remembers "Angie," with Donna Pescow as a Philadelphia waitress who marries up in her social and monetary class when she weds Robert Hays' doctor?

Man, I loved this show. And I just rewatched the opening credits, and really, it had it all. Fun Maureen McGovern-sung theme song, cool non-NY or LA setting, engaging lead characters, stereotypical but fun plot. And some of the cast are still around today-- namely Robert Hays (he was married to Cherie Currie of The Runaways!) and Doris Roberts.

A sad ending came for Debralee Scott, who played Angie's sister. According to Wikipedia, her fiance, a NY Port Authority police officer, died in the 9-11 attacks. She later moved to Amelia Island, Florida (where my brother lives, apropos of nothing) to care for an ill sister. But it was Debralee herself who suddenly collapsed and fell into a coma. She went home briefly, but died soon after, the cause still unknown. Her sister died a year later. Tragedy upon tragedy upon tragedy.

"Angie" only lasted two seasons, and apparently it was one of those shows where once the two lovers are wed, things get dull fast. But I just remember thinking it was great. (Apparently they wrote off the husband's teen sister, shown in the credits, after just one season.)

And man, did Donna Pescow have the best, most boingy hair in the world, or what? In contrast, her more modern Wikipedia photo does not flatter her very much. But she makes up for it by having played mobster Patsy Parisi's wife on "The Sopranos"!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Visiting "Goonies" locations

This guy spent his vacation visiting "Goonies" filming locations. Oh, I love that bowling alley...

Funky Food Friday: Koogle

Ever since George Washington Carver ground up some goober peas into a paste, kids have been nuts for peanut butter. So is it any wonder that peanut butter jacked up with our favorite candy flavors grabbed children by the throat like crack? Enter the 1970s’ answer to Red Bull, Koogle, a jar of sweet, sweet deliciousness that led to an entire generation of vibrating children.

It didn't matter if we preferred the chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla or banana flavor, we'd slather it between two pieces of bread -- or just grab a spoon and dig in.

It's long gone, but there's still plenty of online chatter, mostly from people who were completely addicted to the stuff (me included). Nobody would believe us when we'd talk about it, and they'd look at us like we were the owner of the "Hello, My Baby" frog, who'd only sing and dance when nobody was around. Sure there was something called Koogle. Sure there was.

Chew on this, Koogle skeptics!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Total Recall: The Musical!"

If there was ever a flick that begged to be turned into a musical, "Total Recall" ain't it. (Then again, they made "Carrie" and "The Wedding Singer" into Broadway shows, so who are we to judge?)

But I for one would be front-row-center if The Governator decided to bring a production of "Total Recall: The Musical" to the Great White Way. Outta the way, "Lion King," here's a taste of Broadway's next smash hit. Ladies and gentlemen, we present "The Mountains of Mars."

Why, why, oh, why couldn't this be real?

Also -- get to the choppah!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop

Play-Doh started out as a wallpaper cleaner in the 1930s. It first hit it big with 1950s kids.

But we 1970s and 1980s kids scored, too -- we were of the generation of the Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop. This fun list puts it as the #5 top Play-Doh set of all time.

It was awesome. You pumped Play-Doh through the holes in the little guys' plastic heads, and then chopped and styled (in only the vaguest sense of the word) it to your liking.

I don't remember this version, the Mop Top Barber Shop, but it looks like a more hippie-ified version.

It looks like the latest edition is the Fuzzy Pumper Crazy Cuts Playset. That's one goofy looking, removable-head guy. I miss the original.
And in 1992, there was a Muppet Fuzzy Pumper set, which is BRILLIANT, because all of the Muppets had hair that looked like it had been extruded through the Play-Doh Fun Factory, and all of them needed a trim.
How about you? Did you play with this, or other Play-Doh sets? Current sets include a Magic Swirl Ice-Cream Shoppe, a Burger Builder, and a Spaghetti Factory. And for retro freaks like us, they still have that creepy Dr. Drill and Fill dental set, and an awesome Star Wars set.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fiberoptic and oil lamps, and one whopping oil fountain

Remember these guys? Fiberoptic lamps that kind of looked like Andy Warhol's hair?

Oh, did we love them. Touching them, bending them, letting them swing back into place. As far as we were concerned, ALL lamps should look like this. When I saw "Avatar" and the Tree of Souls on Pandora, I thought it looked like one big giant fiberoptic lamps.

Also, 1980s icon MacGyver once used a strand from one of these to "bend a security laser sensor just enough so that he can deftly slide by without triggering the alarm." (See #3 in the link.)

A close cousin of the fiberoptic lamp was that 1970s fave, the dripping oil lamp. Someone actually thought it would be a good idea to have a lamp where some kind of oil ran down strands of wire and made drips, and perennially recycled itself.

Apparently these were called Rain Lamps, and the one at the top of this page, the bathing woman inside the shower of oily rain, is the one I remember most vividly. We didn't have it, but someone we knew did, and I was drawn to it like moths to flame.

Gael's husband, Rob, grew up in Southern California, and his home mall, Topanga Plaza, had a giant version of this kind of thing. Here's an old postcard showing it.

Do you remember fiberoptic and rain/oil lamps?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Classic Clip Monday: The many faces of the Bradys

Did any show have as many lives as The Brady Bunch?

First, the show itself. Then, the animated series. The variety show with synchronized swimers. The Brady Brides movie. The Brady Brides series. A Very Brady Christmas.The 1990s series where Bobby is a paralyzed race-car driver and Marcia's an alcoholic (and NOT played by Maureen McCormick). The hilarious spoof movies with Shelley Long where Jan shows her true insane side.

The scary thing is, I think I have seen them all. And I bet you have, too, or at least most of them.

I don't actually remember watching The Brady Kids cartoon, but somehow the theme song wormed its way into my brain. "With Moptop...and Ping and Pong the pandas! And Marlon who has voices by the score."

And don't miss this 10-minute clip from the show, where the kids meet Wonder Woman and go back to ancient times, and Jan and Marcia fight about whether brain or body is more important. Go ahead, guess which side Marcia is on. (Clip found via Retroland's awesome treehouse entry.)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Funky Food Friday: Peeeeople!

To paraphrase Charlton Heston (or Phil Hartman doing Charlton Heston): Peeeeople! Today’s Funky Food Friday is about peeeeeople!

We’re the appetizer, main course and dessert, at least from the perspective of the shark from “Jaws,” which is our topic du jour. June 20 was this phenomenal fishy flick’s 35th anniversary, and to celebrate, Encore is running an all-day marathon featuring the original and the three stinky sequels.

“Jaws” continues to rank at the top of my list of favorite movies of all time, for reasons big and small. Here are a few:

• The thrumming suspense – we don’t even see the shark until the last part of the movie.

• The John Williams score.

• Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb's script: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” “That’s some bad hat, Harry.”

• The iconic characters – chiefly Chief Brody and Quint.

• Quint’s U.S.S. Indianapolis speech (“And the thing about a shark is he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn't seem to be livin'... not'til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then...”)

In comparison, here’s my list of the top moments from “Jaws 2,” “Jaws 3-D” and “Jaws: the Revenge”:


OK, I guess when the credits rolled. That’s one.

If you haven’t seen the original for a while, sit down this weekend with a plate of sushi and watch Spielberg work his magic. It won’t take you long to remember why you wouldn’t even go into a swimming pool until you made sure there was nothing but water inside.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Royal weddings

Inspired by the news that Prince Albert, son of Princess Grace (and father of two children who cannot inherit the Monaco throne due to being born outside marriage) will finally wed, I started remembering the royal weddings of the 1980s.

First, of course, was Diana's. Sure, Prince Charles was somehow involved, but it was really all about her. Shy, pretty but at first unaware of that fact, born with a title but had lived on her own and worked the same kind of menial jobs many of us would someday take on (nanny, cleaning lady, kindergarten assistant). She must have been unable to believe her luck when she found herself engaged to the (supposed, we shall see) future king (who had once dated her older sister).
It was the 1980s, but early--1981. Eighties extravagance was just about to blossom. And those of us (mostly girls, face it) who tuned in at 4 in the morning were dazzled. We had never seen a royal wedding before -- some of us perhaps had never seen any wedding before. And some of us imprinted on the details like baby ducks, assuming that all weddings should have a horse-drawn coach, a diamond tiara, a voluminous gown with enormous veil and train.
Then, of course, it all fell apart. And those of us were became obsessed royal watchers (yes, I still have my copies of Royalty Monthly and Majesty Magazine), are able now to look back and know that even as she walked down the aisle on the arm of her trembling father (recovering from a stroke), it was probably already doomed.
But we knew none of that in 1986, when Diana's pal Sarah Ferguson came along and wed Andy. Her dress was a little more streamlined, her wedding a little smaller, her hips a little larger, but she had an impish charm that made her seem real. And that marriage, of course, fell apart also, although even after Fergie's disastrous recent attempt to sell access to Andy, the two seem to have remained friends.
There have been more royal weddings since Diana's and Fergie's, but none have, or likely will, capture the imagination the way that theirs did. The time was right -- or wrong -- for an entire generation to fall under the spell of the veil.
Did you get caught up in the royal weddings back in the 1980s?