Z: Zooming Stock Market *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

Can the stock market be considered to be part of pop culture? Well, when it's as fun as it was in the 90's, I say yes. Imagine a time when opening your latest 401k statement was a joyful event rather than something you did with one eye closed and the other tensed and ready to join its partner should the numbers be even worse than expected.

Using the S&P 500 as an index, the 1990's experienced only one year of negative returns (and that only -3.1%) with 3 years at over +20%, and another 3 years at over +30%! 1999 ended with a ten-year annualized return of a phenomenal +18.21%  Compare that to the following decade, which ended at an annualized -.95%.

Thirty percent+ annual returns seemed mythical for a long time after the 90's, but fret not---2013 saw that level once again, and even with all the miserable returns during the new millenium, the market's 25 year annualized return is above 10%. We'll just ignore what's been happening so far this year... #LongTermBaby

CONGRATULATIONS on completing the 2014 A to Z Challenge,
and thank you, THANK YOU to our illustrious hosts
most especially to Arlee Bird for dreaming the whole thing up.


Y: Yada, Yada, Yada *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

And other phrases made infamous...and in most cases made up...by the forever relevant Seinfeld (1989-1998), liiiike: Festivus, Soup Nazi, Spongeworthy, Urban sombrero, Close talker, Low talker, High talker, Re-gifter, Double-dip, Shrinkage, Master of your domain, Manssiere, Bro, Puffy shirt,  Anti-dentite, Mimbo, Mulva, Manhands, Serenity now, Cabana wear. 


X: The X-Files *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

TechnicallyI've never watched The X-Files (1993 - 2002). Er, I haven't figuratively watched it either, not so much as one episode. I wasn't as in touch with my nerd-side in the 90's as I am these days. BUT I adored the fandom that sprang up around The X-Files, and I'm 100% certain that whenever I get around to Netflixing or whatevering the show, I'm going to love it. Plus, X is a really, really difficult letter to work with so I'm going with it.

Hey, maybe while we're here you can help me out---do you have advice for a newb? Like, were the early seasons really good but they petered out later, or are any seasons skippable? Or does the series stay strong the whole way through, and I'd better get on it tout de suit?


W: Wayne's World *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

Wayne's World, Wayne's World, party time, excellent.  Sorry, but there was really no other way to start this post. While I did enjoy the movie very much, the real purpose in giving it the W slot is to spotlight Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, two great comedic actors whose careers took off in the 90's. In my opinion, they're two of the funniest guys to have ever graced the Saturday Night Live Stage.

In addition to doing funny original characters, like Garth and the Church Lady, Dana Carvey was a master imitator of SO many people, including George H.W. Bush & Johnny Carson. What's rather cool about Carvey is that he ended up withdrawing from the limelight because he didn't want his kids to grow up with a dad who was gone all the time.

Ah, Mike Myers. He's just so lovably goofy as SNL characters like Simon ("Don't look at my bum"), Linda Richman (based on his mother-in-law) and Dieter from Sprockets. He played two roles in 1993 movie So I Married an Ax Murderer. He was both the male lead and the male lead's severely-Scottish father. And of course it was his character Austen Powers that put him into the major big time.


V: Video Workouts - Tae Bo *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

Jane Fonda may have started the video workout craze in the 80's, but I didn't jump in until Billy Blanks caught my attention with the Tae Bo video workout series in the 90's.  It's a very fun workout that lets me kick and punch out all my aggression while toning and working the cardio. And Billy is just so, so sweet and motivating.

The original Tae Bo video collection kept me happy until the poor tape got stretched to its limits and finally snapped, but I still meet up with Billy on a bi-weekly basis in his Insane Abs DVD. And I've gotta say, it's really nice to not have to remember to rewind the tapes.


U: Unforgiven *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

Unforgiven (1992), starring Clint Eastwood, has the distinction of being the first and only Western I've ever enjoyed...unless you count City Slickers (1991), which I don't think anyone is. Can anyone think of a U word that would go with City Slickers? Like maybe...the Unwestern? Because really, that movie deserves this slot more than Unforgiven. My self-imposed mandate for this challenge is to highlight 90's things that I still love, and I quite honestly don't even remember anything from the Eastwood movie other than that I was surprised that I liked it, and I've never been of a mind to watch it a second time. City Slickers, on the other hand...just thinking about it makes me giggle and gives me an hankerin' to see it yet again.

Which camp do you fall into---are you an Unforgiven or a City Slickers?


T: There's Something About Mary *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

Ah, the Ferrelly Brothers, so irreverent, so quirky, so freaking hilarious. Combine that with Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon & Chris Elliott, and fuggedabouddit. There's Something About Mary (1998) is still one of the best Rom Coms ever, with classic moments like the hair gel scene, franks & beans, Brett Fahvaruh, "Exceptional, my ass"; "He was down there closing the deal with the Rice-a-Roni people the whole time"; "I know this is the Bible Belt and everything, but where I come from, this is not  big deal." Etc., etc. A bonus for me was that during the movie's heyday, several people told me I reminded them of Cameron Diaz in "that movie"---thus cementing the film into a very special place in my heart...and ego.


S: Sex and the City *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

If I had to choose only one favorite thing from the 90's, Sex and the City (1998-2004) would probably be it. It came at a time when any social life I had was mostly spent hoping to complete a full sentence without being distracted by some form of impending danger to my toddler or explosive diaper emergencies with my baby, so I partied vicariously through these four lovely ladies. They're fun, witty, compassionate, and they've got really interesting love lives. What's not to like?


R: Red Hot Chili Peppers *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are another 90's favorite that's still going strong. These guys are not only talented and fun, they're entirely unique. What other band can you even compare them to? Their sound is completely their own. And I'm just gonna say it---that little Anthony Kiedis is damn sexy. I can see why my husband has a boy crush on him. One of my favorite things about the Chili Peppers is their versatility. They can beautifully perform a ballad like "Under the Bridge", and then jump right into something high energy and super fun liiiiike...


Q: Quentin Tarantino *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

I know, I know, I know---Tarantino transcends decades, but it was the 90's when the general public was first introduced to the genius of his writing and directing.

Lots of you met him in Reservoir Dogs in 1992, but I'm a lightweight with violence, so I didn't arrive to the Tarantino party until '94 with Pulp Fiction. I almost walked out of the theater at one point..."Bring out the gimp" to be precise about which point...but I stuck it out and after sleeping on it, I awoke the next day with the realization of what a treasure this movie is. Nobody mixes humor and grittiness and violence and cinematography and storytelling and characterization and everything as poetically as the Q-man does.


P: Phil Hartman *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

Ooph. This post is a little rough to write. It's just so tragically wrong that we don't have Phil Hartman around anymore. (If you don't know, in 1998 he was shot in his own bed by his drugged-up, psycho wife.) But this hilarious, endearing man most definitely deserves a spot in these '90s highlights.

From the late 80's into the first half of the 90's, he cracked me up and up on Saturday Night Live, playing characters like Bill Clinton, Frankenstein, Frank Sinatra---"I got chunks of guys like you in my stool!"---and of course, Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. All through the 90's he did the voice of Troy McClure (& others) in The Simpsons, and from 1995-98, he was the narcissistic Bill McNeal in News Radio. Plus he showed up in lots of other roles in TV shows and movies. Here he is as Vicky the tour guide in one of my favorite '90s movies (and this is me finding a way to work it into my list), So I Married an Ax Murderer:


O: Ooooh, the Claaaaw *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

I'm not the only one who's fudging on a few of these letters, am I? But come on---what could Ooooh, the Claw mean besides Toy Story?

This movie came out in 1995, the year before I started having kids, so I don't think I've ever looked at their toys as anything but characters that come alive when we're not around.  When my toddler son pulled out Woody's voice box, I freaked a little that I was raising a Sid, but when in his adolescent fickleness he moved on from Woody to favor Buzz, just for a little while, I sighed in relief that I was, in fact, raising an Andy.

Toy Story is one of those movies that's so classic, it seems like it was always there. I can't even remember not quoting it in my daily life.


N: Nirvana *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

No 90's pop culture list would be complete without Nirvana. And I still dig 'em. Can't really explain why; I just do. I'm glad Dave Grohl has gone on to make more great music with the Foo Fighters. Too bad Kurty Boy didn't handle the good fortune he was blessed with better. I would love hear the wonderful new things he would've written and performed.


M: Martha Stewart *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

I'm not afraid to admit it---I was a rabid follower of the mother of all domestic divas. As the owner of a 1950s ranch in need of a makeover, and with my business career set aside to stay home with my kids, I was primed for a takeover by Martha Stewart Living (1991-2004) and all its hyper-domestic stylings.

During my Martha years, not a candle wick strayed from the 1/4" ideal, and rarely did a plate of Christmas cookies make its way out of my did-it-myself decorated home without a sprig of fresh holly attached to it. I eventually broke free of the Stepfordness of it all, but I'm very glad to still occasionally call upon the things that woman taught me.


L: Loveable Brit *90s Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

By "Lovable Brit" I mean Hugh Grant, of course. A lot of his movies suck, actually, but no matter what the quality of the film, it is automatically more charming with the dashingly bumbling Grant in it.

In 1994, Four Weddings and a Funeral made him an international star, and it's still my absolute favorite of his movies. But I also loved him as Edward in Sense and Sensibility (1995) and William Thacker in Notting Hill (1995).

How about you---what's your favorite Hugh Grant movie?


K: Kahlua *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

Today you get a recipe. I don't know if this was the case everywhere, but in these parts, Kahlua was a pretty hot drink in the 90's, and a coworker gave me this awesome recipe that has stood the test of time. I love it because it is both delicious and soooo easy.


1 package devil's food cake mix
(that's right---a recipe that calls for a mix!)
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup Kalua
3/4 cup canola oil
1 16 oz. package chocolate chips
1 can ready-made chocolate frosting

Mix all ingredients together. Bake at 350 degrees 55 - 60 minutes or according to cake mix instructions. Let cake cool and frost.  I wasn't kidding about the easy, eh? 


J: John Grisham *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

I'll be honest, besides The Firm (1991) and The Pelican Brief (1992), I'm not sure if I've read any other Grisham books, but those two were awesome enough that he made my 90's favorites list. The Pelican Brief even got me to plan a side trip to New Orleans, and The Firm gave me an excellent nickname for one of the creepy investment firms I worked for.

John Grisham's characters feel so real that even though their circumstances are way crazier than anything I've ever come close to, the experience is quite tangible. I suppose that's why this brand of thriller appeals to me so much. I love it when an author can break a mold and get hundreds and thousands of people talking about it.

Did you read Grisham? What's your favorite?

And now, please excuse this brief sideline from
retroville for another J word:

This Tweet went out yesterday:

Ahhh!  Not only is my latest manuscript going to make its way out into the world, it's going to be with a publisher about which I'm feeling all sorts of wonderful things. :)


I: Infinite Sadness *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

The 1995 Smashing Pumpkins album is actually called Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness but "S" was already taken, and so was "M", while "I" was wide open, and I wasn't not going to include Smashing Pumpkins on my 90's favorites list, so there ya go.

I love this band. Through the years they've made the jump from CD to my mp3 player to my cloud. And they've starred in many of my mix "tapes". Their sound is edgy and emotional, and Billy Corgan has such a great, unique voice. Their instrumentals are nothing short of beautiful. Below is a video of one of my favorite songs from the Infinite Sadness album.

Billy Corgan now owns a tea shop in Highland Park, IL---Madame Zuzu's. I've seen him interviewed about the place on local news. He's really into tea and it sounds like a totally fun place.


H: Home Alone *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

Can you just hear him screaming? I recently learned that the scream was only supposed to be in the movie once, but Macaulay had two such really great takes that the director decided to get it in there twice. 

Home Alone (1990) is a classic and I'm sure I'll be popping it into...whatever it is we'll be popping movies into in the future...for many, many decades to come. 

It was funny to go from watching it before being a parent, when I didn't really think about the panic the mother must've felt, to having babies, when I thought "What kind of a mother would forget her kid at home?", to the kids getting older and life getting crazy busy and me thinking, "Oh yeah, I can totally see me doing that."

Actually, it sorta happened at my son's 8th grade graduation two years ago. I, my husband, and my parents hopped out of the car happily chatting and walking toward the school when we heard a muffled shout coming from the back of my parents' SUV...we forgot to open the hatch to let my daughter out...whoops.


G: Grunge *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

I may have come of age in the preppy 80's, but I was more than willing to jump off the overly-processed fashion train to embrace the grunge trend with worn jeans & cozy flannel---ironing optional. Thank you angsty Pacific Northwest bands who were too into your music to care about what you wore. Thank you.


F: Friends *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

How you doin'? You know the Friends (1994-2004) theme song is playing in your head right now, so go ahead and click on the image to listen to it while you read.

This is a show that stands the test of time. The writing and the acting blend so seamlessly together that it's impossible for me to see any of these actors as NOT Joey, Phoebe, Rachel, Monica, Ross, or Chandler. How about you?

Friends has been my happy place for a long time. My first baby wasn't colicky, but there was something going on with her for a solid two hours every single evening, and this show came on just at the point when my tether was about to break. I'd hand her off to the hubster and head to the basement for a half hour escape with my Friends. Then I'd re-emerge chillaxed and ready to be supermom again. What's kind of neato---and what I'm just realizing as I type this---is that as a teenager, my daughter is the one who reintroduced me to the joys of the show when she discovered it a couple of summers ago. It's the show that keeps on giving.


E: ER *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

ER was suuuuch a good show. As evidenced by its obscenely long tenure---1994 to 2009. But I was only in for about 4-5ish of those seasons, maybe less. Having two bebes less than a year and a half apart sorta cuts into TV time. I watched it from the Clooney years into the beginning of the River Song (Alex Kingston) years.

E.R. was a great mix of drama, humor, and gasp-worthy moments with interesting, warm characters. Nice romance too at times. And the Chicago setting was a bonus. So did anyone here watch this show into the new millennium? And if so, are those later seasons worth hunting down?

SHEEPISH ADMISSION: I'm not even here. I've been kidnapped by pirates and shall be hooped up on pixie dust for the rest of the week. Upon my return, visiting my A to Z commenters will be the top priority in my eLife, so see you then!  


D: Dean Koontz *90s Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

Have you read Dean Koontz? I haven't since the 90's, but I consider him to be one of my favorite mystery/horror/freaky writers. Turns out that the two books I mention in this post were published in '88 & '89, but I read them in the '90s, so I'm counting them.

Lightning was the first book of his that I read, and it was extra fun because I was reading it at the same time a co-worker was, so we'd take our lunch breaks together and theorize. Koontz was just so good at the timing of revelations---kept me guessing 'til I just couldn't stand it anymore, and then he'd drop something new that had me gasping.

Midnight is another one that sticks out to me. If you've read Dean Koontz's books, what's your favorite?

SHEEPISH ADMISSION: I'm not even here. I've been kidnapped by pirates and shall be hooped up on pixie dust for the rest of the week. Upon my return, visiting my A to Z commenters will be the top priority in my eLife, so see you then!


C: Chicago Bulls *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

I've never been a sports fan, but it was impossible to be a young urban professional in Chicago in the early 90's and not be a Bulls fanatic. It. Was. Magical.  Horace Grant, Scottie Pippin, John Paxson, BJ Armstrong, and Bill Cartwright all on the same team and led by Phil Jackson. Fugeddaboudit. Hmm, feels like I'm forgetting someone. Oh yeah---ever hear of a fella from North Carolina named Michael Joooordan?!?   

It probably didn't hurt that at the time I worked a job that scored me frequent tickets to the sky box. All I know is, I can't watch the video above without getting all tingly. 

SHEEPISH ADMISSION: I'm not even here. I've been kidnapped by pirates and shall be hooped up on pixie dust for the rest of the week. Upon my return, visiting my A to Z commenters will be the top priority in my eLife, so see you then!


B: Beverly Hills 90210 *90's Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

Don't judge me.

I was working 10 hour days in the city and going to graduate school at night. Beverly Hills 90210 (1990-2000) was a much-needed guilty pleasure once each week---recorded on VHS tapes, of course.

The Brenda-Dillon-Kelly love triangle was what got me hooked. Kelly knew exactly what she was doing when she moved in on the Dillster while Brenda was on that student trip to Paris. But Brenda---ugh!  She acted like Dillon was SO bad for messing around on her when she had that thing going with the Lois and Clark guy the whole freaking time...and then Dillon...don't even get me started.

Aren't you glad you didn't know me in the 90's??

SHEEPISH ADMISSION: I'm not even here. I've been kidnapped by pirates and shall be hooped up on pixie dust for the rest of the week. Upon my return, visiting my A to Z commenters will be the top priority in my eLife, so see you then!  


A: Affleck & Damon *90s Pop Culture Favorites* #AtoZchallenge

Aww!  Look how cute & happy they are!! Skidding into the Hollywood bigtime with Good Will Hunting (1997), Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were fresh, fun, exciting, and adorable. I mean, come on---they brought their moms as their dates to the Oscars! It doesn't get cuter than that. And to me, their joke about having better seats than Nicholson was the best moment in Oscar history.

As a side note...stay with me here...my cousin's husband's brother has been Ben Affleck's and Matt Damon's agent since GWH, which I think says a lot about loyalty and talent on all three sides of that equation. Also, I just like revealing that my cousin's husband's brother is Patrick Whitesell. ;)

SHEEPISH ADMISSION: I'm not even here. I've been kidnapped by pirates and shall be hooped up on pixie dust for the rest of the week. Upon my return, visiting my A to Z commenters will be the top priority in my eLife, so see you then!