Strange little decade fetishes

24 11 2010

The ’80s are the new ’50s … and the 1990s are the new 1960s, I guess. Eh?

A bit ago, I was listening to the radio (which I haven’t done on a regular basis in years) and except for the sonic gyrations of Katy Perry, everything was pretty much as it was the last time I regularly listened. Or, more accurately, it was like a time machine of my teen years. Alanis Morissette was swallowing her jagged little pill, Weezer was rocking out, Gavin Rossdale was crooning sans Bush, Usher was doing some R&Bing. I looked up some Weird Al Yankovic videos for good measure, because that’s what we listened to when I was 13. And just imagine cruising through certain parts of Maryvale or South Phoenix (or down Boulevard in Atlanta) with Eminem cranked up. Yes. You know the feeling. Or you don’t.

At that moment, I felt that it could have been 1995 or 2000 again. Really, I felt like a time traveler, which tells you something about radio. So imagine that you made a time machine that goes back all the way to 1995, or perhaps a couple years earlier to when Kurt Cobain was still alive and young boys weren’t mourning in pea-green sweater-veils and stringy hair. My, how much the world has changed.

My thoughts immediately turned to the first “Back to the Future,” which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. In that film, the “future” is 1985. Heck, that’s almost before my past now. If you did a parody of that film in today’s world, you could have some kid go all the way back to 1995 and try to get their strung-out grunge-loving dad to marry their grunge-loving mom somewhere in a glamorized pre-hipster conceptualization of the Seattle rock culture. (You might want to bring in Weird Al if you’re planning any parodies.) Universal Studios is already working on the motion-simulator ride for its Hollywood and Orlando theme parks. Or not.

It seems like at the moment, the 1980s and 1990s are getting to be almost as fetishably foreign to us now as the 1950s were then. You already see a lot of romanticization of the 1980s, as evidenced by my recent iTune-age of the “1000 GREATEST HITS OF THE 1980s.”

Time and decades were a difficult concept for me to grasp as a child. “Happy Days” was the ultimate confusion. By that time in my youth, I had learned that there were old things and new things. But the advent of “Happy Days” was a layered mess of reruns of an old series that took place 20 or 30 years before. Very, very confusing for a youngster like me. At the time, people were fascinated with the 1950s in a very special way. Music from the era was all over oldies stations and was popular with other kids. (Side note: it won’t be long before the Phoenix, Arizona, oldies station KOOL FM will be playing Madonna instead of the Marvelettes.) Enter “Back to the Future,” which didn’t make much sense to me when I was very young. Particularly because the second film was coming out and they were going “back to the future” in the movie, weren’t they? But they had done that in the first movie? But that was set in the past, not the future … OK, I get it now.

Incidentally, Back to the Future (the first one) is one of the tightest films or stories I’ve ever seen, plot-wise, and I think that’s why its popularity has endured. Modern movies and films and music would do well to learn from this example, regardless of genre. The key to its memorable nature is its straightforward plot, built in two perfectly intertwined layers so that the time-travel plot is a device for the emotional exploration of Marty’s parents’ relationship. How many things have you seen that balance this dichotomy so well?

Anyway, the point of this post is: leg warmers are going the way of the poodle skirt, Happy Days was awesome, BTTF is awesome, and holy moly, Weird Al is still going strong. Oh, and Gavin Rossdale is still as appealing as he was back in the day. That is all.





Knowledge for knowledge’s sake

22 02 2010

I really want to get learning again. I felt a touch of yearning to start focusing back on educating myself over the past couple days, but I don’t want to go back to school because of the expense and career setback involved. This might sound a bit odd, but I got to thinking that an interesting compromise would be to put myself through a “school” of my own design. Devising some independent-study courses would be a creative project that I could test and evaluate and turn into a cool experiment, itself a form of study on our educational system.

If you know me, you know I go through phases where I seek to learn certain things for a short while. It’s sort of like a class, just done independently. Having this structured format, I think, would help me become more interested in things going on around me and would help me be more creative in my daily life, and have more things to talk about as an unplanned consequence. Here’s a few courses I’d like to take (some of which I never imagined I would want to take in my school days):

  • European historical geography
  • Language (Spanish, French)
  • Film/TV philosophy
  • Modern television series
  • U.S. travel and tourism
  • Independent music
  • Game theory and its applications to business
  • Social networks and game theory
  • Beginning computer programming principles
  • Geometry
  • U.S. history
  • Newspapers throughout the world
  • Science fiction in film
  • Reggae and society
  • Electronic musical instruments
  • Physical education
  • Origins of English
  • The Big Three Religions
  • Ancient History
  • Human Migration
  • Urban planning and city design
  • Cartography
  • Photography
  • Photojournalism
  • Video animation techniques
  • Video editing
  • Social media and journalism
  • Psychology

That should give you an idea. I think I might be serious about this, and I wonder if this will pan out. I was thinking of having a “course schedule” of sorts on a monthly basis with a topical course, a scientific or technological course and an “elective,” as well as some sort of “physical education” for my health’s sake. I dunno, maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. I thought I’d start out in March with my first set of courses. In the meantime, I may take a mini-course or devote some time to researching independent study and curriculum development.

The downsides to this approach are that I would not have the guidance and expertise of a teacher or the social interaction with classmates. There would be no formal evaluation process. I might lose interest or focus. The upside is I can just do it with minimal overhead and interruption of my current routines.

So stay tuned; I’ll be posting my conclusions here on my blog. The first step, as I mentioned, will be to study curriculum development and learning techniques. On March 1, we’ll get started with the official courses if my interest in this project persists. Check back in and let’s see how it goes.





Wow, that sucked: A look back at the “naughty oughties”

31 12 2009


Unopened bag of 2004

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

This is a year-by-year look at the decade that saw me becoming a journalist and solidifying my identity, as well as blossoming from an awkward teenager into an semi-awkward adult-ish being.

There is a lot to go into here, but I will start out just going year by year. And, a look at my love of beer. It changed, you’ll see here.

I hope you enjoy this look at history through the lens of me. I mean think about all the politics, the economy, it’s all interrelated. I mean we started out with the attack, then the war, then the cycles of optimism and fear. Interesting decade.

  • 2000: Wrote for the school paper. Was the assistant fine arts editor, and then became entertainment editor. Was known as “Slim Saidi.” Dreamed about graduating from high school and hitting the big time, going all over the place, rocking the world. But first, settled on ASU.
  • 2001: Went to Office Max for Senior Ditch Day, a momentous milestone in my life (and the day I purchased Incubus’ Make Yourself at a Sam Goody-type establishment). Actually graduated from high school. Went to ASU, majored in computer science. 9/11 happened. I found out about it by overhearing conversations in the dorm restroom — about cars on fire, the world burning up, explosions everywhere, they said, and it was simply terrifying. It took a while for classes to be canceled, and I remember everything was so quiet.
  • 2002: My kitty-corner downstairs neighbor in the dorm died and it took three days to find him there — it was really sad. He had the room to himself. There was a burglary and ID theft at the family house while I was away at school, but reality didn’t hit until I was home for the summer. Had major ID theft problems for the rest of the year. Got my first real-ish job, by becoming a road service phone schlock at U-Haul HQ. Lasted a whole two months, but learned a lot and met some cool people. This experience convinced me that I was capable of holding down a job at a national company.
  • 2003: Snuck in through the back door of The State Press over winter break (figuratively speaking) and became the associate Web Devil editor. Decided I no longer wanted to be a computer scientist, and instead wanted to be a journalist, a humanities major, a geographer, a cartographer, a computer geek, maybe an engineer or scientist, really I couldn’t decide. Identity crisis a-go-go. Interned for the media office at the Desert Botanical Garden. Had my first beer this year, thankfully not around any cacti. Somehow I’d avoided it that long.
  • 2004: Became one of two “campus and administration” reporters for The State Press, and discovered I was obsessed with reporting. Worked at the City of Chandler a couple days a week, which created an insane schedule for me given everything I was doing. Turned 21 just before summer and right in the nick of time: Over the summer, traveled to Washington, D.C., and interned for Common Cause’s press office. Learned a lot, had a great time, decided that Budweiser was my Beer. (Not Bud Light) The third presidential debate was held at ASU in October of this year and I got to report on it, and even interview Triumph the Insult Comic Dog for the Web Devil.
  • 2005: The economy was still booming and ASU had ideas and new buildings practically coming out of its orifices. Got a reporting internship at the not-quite-defunct East Valley Tribune and then became Web Devil editor. Couldn’t find ONE job, so I got TWO jobs instead: Media specialist at Pan-American Initiatives at ASU, and also as a writing intern for Choice Hotels International. Drank.
  • 2006: Continued with my jobs but then at some point decided that the current situation was OK, but it was time to move forward. I somehow stumbled on CNN.com, applied on a whim, was accepted, freaked out, grabbed my father and four suitcases, flew out to Atlanta, found a lot of bad apartments, found a good apartment, said goodbye to my Dad, cried a lot, grew up and became a multimedia journalist in Atlanta! Drank a little, here and there.
  • 2007: Moved to a new user participation group that did mysterious things with “iReports” and “Exchange.” Got hired on full-time, and then became the first associate producer (full-time) for the budding User Participation group. Got my first taste of gourmet beer, in the form of a Blue Moon served at a going-away party for a colleague. A coworker explained to me that it was a “Belgian White” and I nodded and said mmm-hmmm-wow-awesome and then went home and did some research. Tried the Sweetwater Georgia Brown as well as the Hummer, and I was well on my way to beer snobbery.
  • 2008: The economy had been teetering a bit, but this is the year it really started going into the pooper. On the plus side, iReport started coming into its own, and I became a Senior Associate Producer. Moved out of my apartment in Dunwoody to a convenient place in midtown. Dealt with serious cockroach problems, moved to a less-convenient and more-expensive place and then went to Los Angeles to chill with the Murray scholars. While there, I met Kato Kaelin. He was pretty chill. Right after that, President Barack Obama was elected on a historic election night. Meanwhile, my taste in beer became increasingly snobby. Phoenix light rail launched December 27.
  • 2009: President Obama was inaugurated and the whole event was a big global Thingy that seemed unprecedented. The economy was much further into the pooper and we called it a recession. I didn’t seem to notice, as I single-handedly held up the country’s gross domestic product by traveling a ton and visiting San Francisco, Paris and London for the first time. Saw Cousin Julie get married in Wisconsin and was reunited with the family, most of whom I see maybe once every five years. Saw the World’s Largest Six-Pack in La Crosse. (Well I mean, just look at the Year in Review. You’ll see what I did in 2009.) My circle of friends practically doubled. Beer snobbery got even worse and maybe a tad pretentious, and the beers got darker and darker. Light rail celebrated its second birthday.
  • 2010: Let’s see what happens!




All that year in review stuff

31 12 2009

Wow, wasn’t 2009 awesome? Crickets.

OK — So I’m busy getting ready for a road trip tomorrow, so I don’t have as much time as I thought I would to crank out this Year in Review thingy. Nonetheless, here’s the basics, month-by-month, followed by a roundup of the factoids and numbers that you can’t get enough of.

Month-by-month, blow-by-blow:

  • January: Inauguration madness defined the month.
  • February: I can’t remember much from this month, but I remember I went to Phoenix and we took Grams to the Desert Botanical Garden.
  • March: God only knows what I did. The economy was going down the pooper, I know that for sure.
  • April: Uh… I turned 26, on my birthday.
  • May: The weather was getting warmer…
  • June: Wisconsin to see my cousin get married. And just to dink around in Wisconsin.
  • July: San Diego Comic-Con! And my first-ever trip to San Francisco.
  • August: No clue what I did. For all I know, I might have done nothing. Well I know my parents visited and we went to Chattanooga and looked at fish and met a gnome and bought a tiny SEE ROCK CITY birdhouse for my soul.
  • September: Went to Paris and London.
  • Some time in the fall: Road tripping, river rafting, corn mazing, etc.
  • October: Wild Halloween partying!
  • November: You know that band Soul Coughing? Well yeah, that’s my band for November. For you see, Coughing was a major pastime after catching some sort of flu-like-symptom-causing illness. And then, Thanksgiving at work.
  • December: Two-week treep to Phoenix! Lots of stories written.

Yeah, so anyway, seeing as that was oh-so-insightful, here are the vitals:

  • Total flight itineraries flown: 12 (not including 2010 return flight)
  • Major car trips: 5 — Rafting, corn maze/hike, Chattanooga, Helen GA, upcoming New Year trip (excludes drive from Minneapolis to La Crosse)
  • States/countries visited: 8 — Tennessee, North Carolina, Arizona (3+jump-off to WI), California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, France, England.
  • Aquariums visited: 4 — Tennessee Aquarium, aquarium under the Mall of America, carpy aquarium at Wisconsin Dells, Georgia Aquarium (parents mostly).
  • Major offbeat tourist attractions seen: Approximately 8 — Babyland Cabbage Patch Hospital, Upside-down White House, World’s Largest Six-Pack, World’s Largest High-Wheel Bicycle, Ruby Falls, Rock City gardens, San Francisco sea lions, Coit Tower.
  • Major must-see landmarks/attractions: About 6 — Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, London Bridge, Big Ben, Golden Gate Bridge, Mall of America
  • New cities discovered: 5 — Paris FR, London EN, San Francisco CA, Chattanooga TN, Helen GA
  • Sci-fi/fantasy conventions: 3 — San Diego Comic-Con, Dragon*Con, that new ‘con that is being held at the Renaissance Hotel in midtown.
  • Electronic devices purchased: 2 — Apple iPhone, Nikon point and shoot.
  • Social/media networks joined: 7 — Foursquare, Tumblr, Plurk, 12 Seconds, last.fm, Pandora, blip.fm
  • Phrases coined: “Rubber babushka”
  • Major music performances attended: 7 — Bob Dylan, U2/Muse, Yo La Tengo, Death Cab for Cutie, NIN/Jane’s Addiction, Guster, and yes, Captured! by Robots.
  • Music download volume: Approximately 20 GB (all-time high)
  • Job positions held: 1 (first-time result)
  • On-camera appearances: About 10
  • Hair growth: Approximately 6 inches
  • Major hats accumulated: 10 — Green Knit Hat, Bison Horns, Bunny Ears, Blue San Francisco Hat, Moose Antlers, Christmas Tree, Pink Cap, Purple Cap, Varsity Hat, Atlanta Braves Hat.
  • Photos uploaded to Flickr: Approximately 3,000 (not all public)
  • Tweets on Twitter: 1174, as of 12 a.m. December 31 (not the tweets after this post) — via TweetStats
  • Total tweets: 1,976
  • Average tweets per day (all-time): 2.6
  • Former desk number: 26
  • Age: 26
  • (Withheld): 26
  • Lucky number: 26