Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Apollo 8's Christmas Message (1968)

The year 1968 was one when the Vietnam War was raging at its height, there were protests, riots, assassinations and unrest throughout the West, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia, and the US presidential election was one of the most tumultuous. Amidst the unease and unrest, a remarkable event occurred on Christmas eve: U.S. astronauts became the first humans to circle the moon, and while there, delivered a hopeful Christmas message. Its a message we would do well to be aware of as we deal with the uncertainty of the present age
Here's the full inspiring message.

The voyage also produced the iconic "Earthrise" photo, which showed Earth amidst the darkness of space.

Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to everyone on "the Good Earth."

Thursday, December 13, 2018

'80s Holiday Cheer

Here's some '80s holiday music memories.

Band Aid, "Do They Know Its Christmas":A multi-musician effort to raise funds for African famine relief made up of some of the most well-known '80s musical acts.
(Note: I initially mistakenly placed above a video for a subsequent version of "Do They Know Its Christmas" which was not the original '80s version.  I have corrected this, and now the original 1984 version of this song is posted above.)

The Pointer Sisters, "Santa Claus is Coming To Town"

Wham, "Last Christmas":One of the most "stylistically 80's" Christmas songs

Eurythmics' "Winter Wonderland"

Billy Squire, "Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You"

John Cougar Mellencamp, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"

Friday, December 7, 2018

U2: "Happy Xmas" (And Some Thoughts)

Here's U2 in 1988 performing John Lennon's 1971 classic "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)."  Its indeed the holiday season again, and a time for joy as well as introspection. I love looking back nostalgically at the past, especially a hopeful moments. As typically nostalgic as this may sound, it does seem to me that things were more genuinely joyful and hopeful in times past. Of course, there was obviously still pain and sadness then too (after all, there were wars, and crises, and problems, and crime back then too). But it honestly seems to me as if those moments when joy and hope were present seemed more real and full back then. There was a greater space for things like genuine happiness, without irony.  Today, there seems to be a harshness in the air, and happiness just a little more circumscribed.

Here's a song I enjoyed listening to back in the '80s, Pat Benatar's "We Belong." Its not  a Christmas song, but one that maybe invokes a spirit that is applicable year round, including the holiday season. I guess I'm taking this time to ask that we think about whats going on, and what we can do. Maybe we can reach out to one another.  Maybe we can reach into our faiths and beliefs.  Maybe we can listen to one another better. Maybe we can all give thought to how to make the world less bitter, and more hopeful.

To all my readers:
Merry Christmas!!!
Happy Hannukkah!!!
Happy Holidays!!!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Monkees: "Unwrap You At Christmas"

Here's a new Christmas song from '60s pop group/TV stars the Monkees.  This song makes me smile for a number of reasons. First, it good to see that the Monkees are still at it all these years (albeit, sadly without Davy Jones, who passed on a few years ago). Second, its a Christmas song, which is always good. And, lastly its so upbeat and cheerful.  

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Grateful Dead : "Touch Of Grey" (1987)

The Grateful Dead were a legendary band originating in the Haight-Asbury section of San Francisco during the Summer of Love in 1967. The band developed a devoted cult following throughout the years, as they carried on the hippie ideals of the '60s into the '70s, '80s, and '90s. In 1987, the broke into the mainstream with their album, In The Dark.  From that album, their song "Touch of Grey."

Friday, November 9, 2018

Scorpions "Wind Of Change"

November 9, 1989 marked a pivotal moment in history, when the fall of the Berlin Wall was picking up momentum. The year 1989 marked the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, the end of totalitarian dictatorship in that region, and the end of the Cold War. Here's a song written in the aftermath of those events, a time when so much seemed possible and hope was in the air.  Here are the Scorpions, with their anthem, "Wind of Change."

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Psychedelic Furs

The Psychedelic Furs had their roots in the post-punk British music scene in 1977.  They evolved into a quintessentially arty '80s band, with a style that consisted of ethereal new wave with dark moody tones and occasional hard rock touches. They are perhaps most popularly known as the band which produced the song which later became the theme to John Hughes' Pretty In Pink, and for their top 40 "Heartbreak Beat." Above, one of their more well known songs, "Heaven."

As one who has attended many Furs concerts over the years, I can attest to the dreamy, moody atmosphere that the band is able to create in concert. Their ability to conjure up this ethereal style has remained throughout the years. Above, their live performance of "Sleep Comes Down."

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Depeche Mode :"Just Can't Get Enough"

Depeche Mode is a classic '80s synth group that has maintained their very '80s new wave style throughout the years, and has developed a strong cult following.  Here is their 1981 song "Just Can't Get Enough."

Friday, August 31, 2018

Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)

Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, a classic artist still going strong in the '80s.  Here, her classic 1985 hit, "Freeway of Love." 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

John Mellencamp - "Hand To Hold On To"

John "Cougar" Mellencamp recently won the Woody Guthrie Prize for his work highlighting the common man, including in such songs as "Pink Houses" and through his work organizing Farm Aid. I was a big fan of Mellencamp growing up, and I've continued to have a high regard for his work over the years. His work spoke to me, such as in this song: "A Hand To Hold On To."

Monday, July 2, 2018

Happy 4th: James Brown "Living in America"

Here's a piece of Americana from the mid '80s, James Brown's "Living in America."

A Happy 4th of July to my readers in the U.S.A..

Friday, June 15, 2018

For Father's Day: 60 Minutes

In the '70s and part of the '80s, my father was an avid watcher of the CBS news magazine show 60 Minutes. This show, still present on TV even today, featured investigative reports and interviews into important issues of the day. Although still on the TV schedule today, in the '70s (a time before 24 hour cable news networks, and various channels devoted to social and political issues) it occupied an even more important place as a source of reports which looked more deeply into issues. A high school history teacher with a keen interest in history, current events, and political ideas, my father would always be found glued to the television every Sunday at 7:00 pm.  

Unfortunately for me, as a young kid, 60 Minutes was scheduled directly opposite The Wonderful World of Disney, which I always wanted to watch, but rarely got to see due to my Dad's control of the TV.  Nevertheless, eventually, my Dad would transfer to me his love and interest in ideas, and I too would obtain an interest in factual programming about issues and ideas. Such would come to be a usual source of our talks and interaction, much more so than sports or entertainment, and such continues to be so today when we get together. I present to you this brief 60 Minutes clip from 1976, in honor of my Dad, and of Fathers Day.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Thank You, John Hughes (Re-post)

Some of my most pleasant memories of being a teen in the '80s came from some of the better teen movies which flourished at that time. Foremost among the creators of this genre of moviemaking was the great John Hughes whose work during the '80s was known for treating the minds and feelings of teenagers, and the situations that teens found themselves in, with seriousness and respect.

Hughes created such teen classics as Weird ScienceSixteen CandlesFerris Bueller's Day Offand Pretty In Pink, movies which were big in their day, and have since become cult classics, and the source of much imitation in the form of subsequent teen oriented flicks. Hughes also went beyond the teen movie genre to make such films as the holiday classic Home Alone and the comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles.  But Hughes' creation which, for many of us, still resonates most strongly was the teen classic The Breakfast Club.

An account of several teens from very different cliques bonding with one another during their stay in detention, The Breakfast Club served for many of us as a protest against the walls that separated us from our fellow teens. It also had an unusual depth for a teen flick, allowing its characters to express the complexity which lay behind the facades of various teen stereotypes. Kids who were as different as a nerd, a stoner, an arty outsider, a jock and a preppie suddenly seemed more than just one dimensional. I remember getting great pleasure out of the way this movie made you think, as you chewed on the dialogue going on between the characters on the screen.

But the thing that made The Breakfast Club, and all of Hughe's movies, so wonderful for a teen loner like me, is that Hughes had a particular soft spot for the outsiders, the individualists, and the misfits, and he had a great way of exposing their dilemma through his movies, and ultimately empowering them in the process.

For example, there is this scene in the Breakfast Club, where the jock character, played by Emilio Estevez, tells about an awful thing, a pitiless prank that he played on this nerdy kid. He had done it to impress his fellow jock friends, but in the movie, he was expressing how bad he felt over his part in such a cruel prank, and how awful he must have made that hapless boy feel. At the conclusion of the jock's account, the nerd character, played by Anthony Michael Hall, quietly mentions that the boy who was the target of the prank was one of his friends. The scene is powerful, and there is this painful awareness as the nerd and the jock realize how close this awful prank struck each of them.

Thank you, John Hughes, for moments like that, which exposed the pain of being an outsider, and brought home just how much we had in common as teens from different backgrounds.

John Wilden Hughes (1950-2009)

A Follow Up To The Above:

I've been enjoying reading a book called Don't You Forget About Me: Contemporary Writers on the films of John Hughes.  Its a collection of essays where different writers describe the effect that John Hughes movies have had on them as teens. Very often this effect is quite strong, and ground-breaking, causing an effect on the consciousness of those observers.

I, too, have found the teen films of the '80s to have had a significant and important effect on society, much more so than would be acknowledged by those who would casually dismiss them.  One such essay described an experience the writer had which shows this effect.  In the essay "A Slut or a Prude: The Breakfast Club as Feminist Primer," writer Juliana Baggott wrote about the following incident which happened after watching that seminal Hughes movie.

 A few days after I saw the movie, I was in the cafeteria with my people- a group of field hockey girls, a few with eating disorders. Some idiotic football players were spitting spitballs at some band geeks. But they weren't just football players and band geeks, not after The Breakfast Club. We were all trapped in the same ugly, dying organism: high school.

I walked over to the football players and said,”C'mon, knock it off.”

One said,”Knock what off.”

“The spitballs. Just grow up a little.”

“Don't I look grown up to you, little girl.” He had me by a hundred pounds and more than a half foot in height.

“Listen, asshole, just stop it with the spitballs.”

“Oh, she's angry now.” He put his arm around me, rubbed my back. “Isn't she cute when she's angry?”

“Cute” was my trigger word- often true for short people. “Don't call me cute again.”

“What's wrong cutie. You're so cute!”

“I mean it. Call me cutie again and I swear it won't be pretty. . . ”

He paused and looked at me deeply in the eyes. “You're so cute.”

I slapped him. He had a big head and a thick rubbery cheek. He was fair, and the skin went red fast. Friends told me later that my small handprint was on his cheek for the rest of the day.

The long term result was astonishing. All of the boys at that table seemed to fall in love with me and treated me with enormous respect. They addressed me politely in the halls. I'd feel someone watching me, and when I turned around, it would be one of them- all agaze.

It made no sense. It only encouraged me. To what? Refuse to accept a definition – a prude, a slut, a . I knew that definitions wouldn't work for me, that I was volatile, unwieldy, and that was the only way I'd survive.

This wonderful movie by John Hughes caused a typical American teenager to feel closer to the other teens in her school, to literally stand up for other teens who were different than herself, to confront a blustering bully, and to see her own self in a different light.  Thank you, John Hughes, or your remarkable work. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

For My Mom: "That Girl"

My mom used to love the old 1960's era sitcom "That Girl." As Mother's Day is upon us, I want to again pay tribute to my mom. Although we have sometimes disagreed about things, I always knew that she did her best to be a wonderful mom, and she succeeded. "That Girl" is a show that I always associated with my mom, because it, like my mom, seemed to derive from a gentler and nicer time. Of course, perception is not always reality, as all times have had harsh elements, especially the turbulent '60s. But "That Girl" showed a willingness to suspend belief for a short time, and to look at things in a more beautiful way, something that I know my mom was given to do. 

My mom passed away several years ago, but I know her spirit lives on, and I continue to love her. Here's to you mom. You are "That Girl."

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Explorers (Re-post)

One of my favorite '80s movies is a somewhat forgotten sci-fi flick from 1985 called Explorers

Explorers was part of a plethora of hopeful, positive sci-fi movies that came in the wake of the original Star Wars trilogy (1977, 1980, 1983), and the Spielberg classic E.T., the Extra Terrestrial (1982).

Explorers was about a trio of boys, all three misfits in different ways, who become friends and go on to do something fun and extraordinary. (It is a sci-fi flick, after all). The three boys were: Ben Crandall (played by a young Ethan Hawke), Wolfgang Muller (played by an equally young River Phoenix), and Darren Woods (played by Jason Presson). They were all different from one another: Ben was a dreamer who was into science fiction and fantasy, Wolfgang was a nerdy sort who was all into science and logic, and Darren was a practical sort who was into mechanics.

Yet they all found common ground in being outsiders in their school, and found a common goal when something very sci-fi-ish and remarkable happened: they started getting communications from extra terrestrials. This was the '80s, so were talking friendly aliens. Using the knowledge provided by the aliens, as well as their own various skills, they built a ramshackle spaceship.

You know what comes next: they go up in their ship, dubbed the "Thunder Road" (from a Bruce Springsteen song) and meet up with the alien ship.

It all ends with a wild a wacky meeting with the aliens themselves. Of course, you have to see the movie to know the rest.

One of the things I loved about this movie was that it was all about disparate misfits who join together, despite their differences, to overcome their problems and to do something extraordinary. It also came around at a time when some hopeful messages were very helpful, given that I was 15 at the time. And I loved sci-fi, so this movie just seemed wonderful when it came out. 

Explorers has gained a cult following over the years, even though it was not as well remembered as so many other '80s films. But it will always remain a favorite with me. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Last Starfighter (Re-post)

The '80s were an era full of wonderful sci-fi movies. One great little movie that has developed a solid cult following is The Last Starfighter, a 1984 movie which exemplified the '80s in a number of ways. It was, along with Tron (1982), one of the first movies to feature computer animation. It was one of many space-related fantasy movies out at the time, and it featured the '80s fascination with video games.

The film's protagonist, Alex Rogan is a typical '80s teen with dreams and ambitions who lives in a trailer park with his mother and younger brother. He longs to leave for greener pastures, but in the meantime, he bides his time while engaging in that very '80s passion: video games. In particular, he becomes adept at a space oriented Starfighter video game located at the trailer park, where he gets very good at beating the bad guys in an epic space battle.

One day, he is approached by Centauri, who claims to be the inventor of the Starfighter video game. It turn out Centauri is actually a disguised alien who is scouting for starfighters to save the universe from the clutches of an evil space bad guys the Ko-Dan Empire.  The part of Centauri was played by famed actor Robert Preston, most well known for playing traveling salesman Harold Hill in The Music Man (1962).

Alex is taken to the faraway planet Rylos, reluctantly recruited into the Rylan Star League, and introduced to Grig, a friendly repitilian alien who is to be Alex's navigator.

The Ko-Dan Empire is led by the evil Emperor Xur, who leads a sneak attack on Rylos, decimating the ranks of the starfighters, and leaving only Alex and Grig to fight for the freedom of the universe.

It is now up to Alex and Grig to save the universe.


Alex is trained to be a pilot and sent off with Grig to fight the Emporer Xur in a fighter craft called a Gunstar.  Caution: Spoilers immediately ahead!

Thankfully, the Gunstar is equipped with a powerful new weapon, called the "Death Blossom."

Suffice it to say, the universe is saved and Alex returns to Earth a hero. Here he is with his girlfriend.

The movie has quite a following, and its a fun and positive little sci-fi adventure that was truly of its time. And true to its time, it encouraged you to look to the future with hope.

Monday, February 12, 2018

For Valentines Day: "Hello"

I've posted this one before on a prior Valentines Day, but it just fits so well. Lovely song. For my love.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Billy Ocean - "Loverboy"

Here's a fantastic example from the era of music videos, Billy Ocean's very sci-fi video for "Loverboy." The '80s were the MTV era (when MTV really was "Music Television"), but it was also the era of E.T. and Steven Spielberg and many sci-fi/fantasy movies. This video clearly draws inspiration from them. Good fun '80s stuff!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Simple Minds - "Don't You (Forget About Me)"

Here's an absolute '80s classic: Simple Minds' "Dont You (Forget About Me)," which was featured in the seminal 1985 John Hughes movie The Breakfast Club.  The song always seemed to me to have a somewhat anthemic quality to it, and a sentiment symbolic of '80s teens who took many of those teen movies to heart. I was one of them.  The video also reminds you of how fresh, lively and even cutting edge the art of music video was at the time.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Mall Memories

Some of the best memories of my '70s childhood and '80s adolescence took place in shopping malls. Nowadays there is talk that the age of the shopping mall is passing (although you couldn't tell it from some of the malls where I live, where there are several thriving), but in the '70s and '80s the mall was at its height as a center of commerce and popular meeting place.

I have so many good memories of being in these climate-controlled, air conditioned shopping centers, and here are some.

The Style. Malls in the '70s and '80s had such a different style than today. Back then the typical mall aimed for a futuristic style that resembled the city in Logan's Run. Modern sculpture, water features, and lighting were common. 

Fountains. Most Malls of the '70s and '80s featured fountains, usually with the same modern style. Lots of them too, often in different locations of the same mall.  I loved those, and the fun ambiance they created. 

The Stores. I remember the specialty stores that you sometimes found only in malls, where you found them in abundance. Food vendors like Fanny Farmer Candies and Hickory Farms. Bookstores like Waldenbooks and B. Dalton Books. Record stores like Camelot records. Big department stores, some no longer in existence, like Burdines, Robinsons, Maas Brothers, and Jordan Marsh. There always seemed to be a store selling electric organs, featuring someone hired to play it and attract customers. Chick Fil-A was, at that time, found almost always in malls. Some of those names and experiences are now forgotten, others continue as much cherished establishments.

Growing up, my family used to eat at York Steak House, a family restaurant commonly found in malls. The decor at York often had the dark wood style so often found during that era, with a certain "Olde English" decor. We would then walk over to Doctor Pet Center, a typical mall pet shop where we would look at the various animals they had on display. And then we would go through the mall to enjoy the various sights and sounds of the mall. As a teen, this would involve bookstores and record stores, where I would indulge my musical and reading tastes as a nerdy teen.

Now, it is said that internet shopping and outdoor shopping centers are eclipsing the old malls. But I will always remember fondly the ways malls used to be. They were a safe place where you could stroll, get the latest record, and get something to eat. Here's to malls of the '70s and '80s.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year from Space

I'm a major fan of the space exploration. It always gives me hope in the human ability to advance, and even the most mundane space missions seem exciting because . . . its space!  So occasionally, I feature some space-related posts, regardless of whether they are retro or not. What a better way to celebrate New Years Day than from space? So here's a space-age Happy New Year from the International Space Center.