Childhood TV List

Who could abandon Chairy?

Growing up, I didn’t watch much TV. I had a lot of energy and a freakishly active imagination- I generally filled my time assigning complex backstories to my dolls, building forts, and bossing around other neighborhood children. That said, there were a few shows that I loved and couldn’t miss. I gravitated towards the more bizarre childrens’ entertainment, a seeming abundance of which was found on both network and cable TV in the ’80s and early ’90s. Are kids’ shows today as strange and creative as these?

Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, CBS, 1986-1991

If some of your earliest memories involve watching a bowtie-clad manchild utter the phrase, “I know you are, but what am I?” you must have grown up in the 1980s. Every Saturday morning, starting in kindergarten, I was transported into this richly imagined fantasy world of sassy household appliances, screamed secret words, and giant underpants. And I think I’m all the better for it. (Photo above, callalillie.)

Ramona, CBC/PBS, 1988-1989

The books in Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series were always some of my favorites growing up. I related to the smart but perpetually misunderstood titular character a little more than I cared to admit, so I was thrilled when it was made into a (Canadian) TV series. Unfortunately, it only lasted a season, but it still remains one of the shows I loved the most as a kid. Now, if they had only made a TV show based on my other favorite book mini-series, the “Fudge/Superfudge” books by Judy Blume, I would have been in heaven.

I pretty much looked exactly like this drawing when I was little. No, seriously.

See? Well, OK, my neck wasn't quite so skinny.

The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Nickelodeon, 1991-1996

This show perfectly captures the nostalgia associated with those hazy, end-of-childhood/beginning-of-adolescence days. It reminds me of sunny afternoons, riding bikes through sprinklers, inside jokes, and secret crushes. In short, it reminds me of being eleven. This show has iconic characters, an indie-rock soundtrack,  smart humor, and surreal, yet universal plot themes. It’s as if David Lynch directed a show aimed at children. A few years ago, one of my best friends bought me Season One on DVD for my birthday, and I was able to relive those lovely days. I mean, how can you go wrong with a show in which Michael Stipe appears as a character called Captain Scrummy? (Look for him early on in this video, selling sludgecicles. Mmm.)

Ren and Stimpy, Nickelodeon, 1991-1996: How demented, sick, and wrong was this cartoon? More than often than not, its content was wildly inappropriate for its supposed audience of children- to the point where one had to wonder if they were really the target audience at all. In my class at school, I was one of the few girls who enjoyed this show, as most nice, normal females found it disgusting (my mother included, made doubly so because I used to watch it on Sunday mornings before church…). Side note: I was recently informed that I have a rather “masculine” sense of humor, whatever that may mean. Compliment? or “Ugh, what is wrong with you?” But if knowing all the words to “The Log Song” and “Happy Happy Joy Joy” is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

R & S with Powdered Toast Man. I mean, seriously, WTF.

Another early ’90s Nickelodeon favorite: Clarissa Explains It All (1991-1994). For better or for worse, Melissa Joan Hart’s character was my style icon as a pre-teen. Leggings! Oh, how she inspired my love of brightly-colored leggings. Every picture of me in fifth grade involves some variation on a theme: oversized, bright, monochrome t-shirt, crazy, color-splattered leggings, two pairs of different-colored socks, Keds, and probably a headband. She also taught me it was okay to not always match, to wear as many layers as I wanted, and that your best friend could be a boy. Sweet.

Clarissa and Sam. Is it just me, or were colors brighter in the '90s?


Murals, Mormonia, and More

Here’s some links for the February doldrums… At least the Olympics are providing me with my quadrennial fix for short track speed skating.

Vans in California. Weirdly beautiful.

Econoline with Primer and Tarp, Santa Monica, CA, Winter 2007, by Joe Stevens

Frightened Rabbit has a new album out, The Winter of Mixed Drinks. As my friends know, Scottish accents are a weakness of mine, but FR also has a great rock sound…The Killers meets Arcade Fire meets…Sean Connery?

Scientific Facebook data about who people are connected with across the U.S. I kind of love it for introducing the term “Mormonia.”

This is a great post about the use of the iconic drum beat from “Be My Baby.” I had no idea so many songs had sampled it.

Philadelphia has never been super-high on my list of cities to visit, but these murals are pretty awesome. I wish more cities would make long, boring commutes a little brighter with public art.

5651 Market Street, Philadelphia, part of "Love Letter" project by Stephen Powers

Yeah, this song is just slightly longer than what I thought was the longest song ever, “American Pie.”

Definitely on board with simplifying.

Lists of lists

Here’s a confession- I love to make lists. No, scratch that. I need to make them. Lists, specifically “to-do” lists define my life- they keep me hovering on this side of sanity. I know that without these little pieces of paper, chaos would reign. It’s not like the life I lead is so crazy-busy, but I can’t stand to have extraneous information floating around in my mind. Just the act of writing the lists make me  calmer and makes my brain feel less cluttered. Out of the head, onto the paper. Repeat. This could be my mantra. Crazy much? Yeah, except at least I know what it takes for me to be functional. I’m sure I get it from my mom, who is probably one of the most logical and organized people I know. I’m not on her level (yet), but that could be because some of my genes are my dad’s, who, let’s just say, has an artistic temperament. I could make a top ten list about their wildly different approaches to life and the effects it has had on me, but that’s another post for another day. (Or not.)

So, not only do I live by lists, I love reading lists.  There are an abundance of these to be found on the internet- one of the best sources is Pop Candy, where writer Whitney Matheson will often post various pop-culture lists that become fodder for endless controversy in the form of angry comments about omissions or inclusions.

Examples of my favorite weird, random and entertaining lists: 7 pretentious teenagers of cinema ( a few of which are pictured below, caught in pretentious poses) 11 predictions Back to the Future II got right (there is also a list of predictions the movie got wrong, but that’s not as fun), 61 essential postmodern books, 13 surprisingly enjoyable songs about the end of the world, 8 racist words you use every day… And I could go on and on. It’s nice to know I’m not alone: people like lists. They must really, really like lists for this site to exist.

All right, so where am I going with this? Not that we apparently need more lists, since even this has been covered, but I’ll be trying out a “list” feature as a way to keep my random, floating, mind-cluttering ideas organized. (Don’t worry, my to-do lists will not be making an appearance.)

To start, it may or may not be appropriate and/or necessary to list my top 5 favorite movies that involve characters traveling by train.

1. The Darjeeling Limited (2007)


2. North by Northwest (1959)

One of my favorite Hitchcock movies, but I haven’t seen Strangers on A Train, which would maybe be a better choice? But the final shot alone demands inclusion on this list.

3. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Can’t go wrong with the Beatles being all sassy on a train.

4. Away We Go (2009)

One of those new quirky, post-modern, self-aware hipster movies* that happens to involve train travel. However, one needs to be able to get past the glaring error that it it impossible to take a train from Phoenix to Madison, as neither city has passenger rail service.

5. Back to the Future III (1990)

Probably the weakest movie of the trilogy, but the plot is so train-centric it would be silly not to include it. Right?

Which awesome train movies am I forgetting?**

*AKA my fave kind. Yeah, so.

**I know Amy is a far better source of older movies in which train travel was the main mode of transportation, and there must be a ton that I should watch.