Monday, October 20, 2008

Way Back In The Stone Age

Another school break has been weathered, I'm convinced the schools do this to make parents appreciate them more. Don't get me wrong, I adore my offspring and I love them even more when we're not nose to nose for five days in a row. Granted, I did have to work during the break so it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. I've tried to remember what I used to do during school breaks that kept "I'm bored" out of my vocabulary. In this day and age of Playstations, internet and eight zillion cable channels, I can't imagine being bored for long but my children manage it quite nicely.
I can remember the thrill we got when our Atari game system was unpacked one Christmas, with a total of one game, Pong, in the box. We eventually acquired Tank, Missile Command, Space Invaders and the pinnacle of 1980s video gaming technology, Pac-Man. My sister Melissa stayed up all night once to see what happened when the score on Space Invaders went past 99,999 (it rolled back to zero, much to her dismay) and her right thumb has never been quite the same. Anyone old enough can remember the extremely basic (but way cool at the time) graphics and that marching sound the aliens made as the advanced upon the line at the bottom of the screen you were dispatched to defend. Missile Command was my game of choice as I felt it was good preparation for the eventual defense of the entire planet I knew would eventually fall to me, a twelve year old girl from Minnesota. Call me a purist, but I could never get behind Ms. Pac-Man and stayed true to my little yellow fella until the end. I look at the games my kids have now and can't imagine they'd ever be fascinated with stopping slow moving lines decending from the top of the screen using a little + to avert armageddon. My sons dislike games because of camera angles and unrealistic falls off buildings, camera angles...seriously? Try Pong sometime, kid.
Growing up with all girls in my house, we had the requisite Barbie dolls but none of us ever truly embraced the lifestyle of a real Barbie fanatic. We never had the dream house, unsmelly tennis shoes made an acceptable car and getting Barbie to smooch Ken without her head popping off as we tried to get the angles right was always a challenge. We never actually had a Ken doll, he was usurped by a Luke Skywalker doll (way cuter but still just as anatomically 'correct' as Ken). One of my cousins had all the accoutrements Barbie needed (being the only girl amidst four brothers, she earned them). She had that big head with the makeup and the rollers and stuff (until one of the boys decided what the giant Barbie head needed was permanent marker tattoos). The hair on those things was always an annoyance, it would become hopelessly tangled and knotted within about a week of purchase. Oh, and never ever ever ever try to use a curling iron on one of those things, it simply doesn't end well and smells awful.
I loved going over to my cousins' house, with four boys, they had loads of mysterious toys that we never had at our place. Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, those little green army guys were everywhere, Legos and GI Joe were ever present. And Sea Monkeys that you could order from the back of comic books, we never got them but I remember my cousins having them. The ad depicted the happy Sea Monkey family smiling from their sandcastle, the females with a little bow on top of their heads and the males looking manly (I seem to recall the Sea Monkey father smoking a pipe). What a disappointment when the freeze dried brine shimp arrived in the mail. Our first lesson in "read the fine print".
When we first got cable, it was quite a thing. MTV actually showed music videos and Nickelodeon was still something more than a tie in for the WalMart toy department. We got something like 30 channels and that was inconceivable! How are ever going to watch 30 channels? What could they possibly put on 30 channels? 30 channels? You're kidding, right? That's not even BASIC cable now. I think we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 channels and end up watching about 30 of them...hrmmm. 30, you say? I miss MTV as it was when it was first born. I LOVED music videos. Looking at them now on VH1's "classic" channel, I am amazed that any of us ever had crushes on Journey or Van Halen. Compared to the model gorgeous singers now, those guys were pretty darn ugly. How could Steve Perry compete with a Justin Timberlake? What could Eddie Van Halen have over Pete Wentz? At the time their pictures were in all our lockers and were scream and faint worthy. Videos were cool and fun and silly. Now they're four minute movies that have a big heavy message and a lot of symbolism. I'd love to see what some of these video directors would do with a song like "Jump". I saw the video for Journey's "Separate Ways" the other day...what a BAD, BAD video that was, even at the time.
Enough reminiscing, I'm bored....