Category “Looking Back”

Looking Back

Thursday, August 4, 2011 8:00
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Can you believe how long it’s been since The Return of the King came out in theaters? Or how about The Fellowship of the Ring? (I can’t believe it’s been twelve years since I heard that Elijah Wood was cast as Frodo! I remember reading it online and then thinking about it while walking to the post office to mail a letter. That seems like yesterday.)

I thought it would be fun to look back at a comparison between now and when our favorite trilogy was in theaters. Just to warn you, I’m from the United States, so some of this is very U.S.-centric.

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Looking Back: May 2009

Friday, August 13, 2010 9:00

And so we end our time traveling, looking back at the time of the most recent Star Trek film.

Star Trek (May 8, 2009)

What would someone in 2002 have thought had you mentioned myspace, facebook, youtube, apps, Obama, and sexting? That you were from an alien planet? Certainly the world of pop culture had never changed so much between two consecutive Star Trek films as it did the six and a half years between Nemesis and the 2009 Star Trek film. (Reflecting the changing times, the Wisconsin Tourism Federation, or “WTF”, changed its name to the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin, or “TFW”.) By May of 2009, magazines and newspapers began to look like dinosaurs, with competition from the internet forcing them to adapt or go extinct. (TV guide’s circulation, once 20 million, fell to 2.7 million. Meanwhile, over one hundred newspapers closed in 2009 alone.) Other businesses struggled as well, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping from 14,164 in October of 2007 to 6547 in March of 2009. Like December of 1979, when the first Star Trek film was released, 2009 was a time of change. The question was, change to what?

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Looking Back: December 2002

Thursday, August 12, 2010 9:00

Time to look at the time of…

Star Trek Nemesis (December 13, 2002)

The attacks of September 11, 2001 cast a shadow over 2002, with some of its effects still being sorted out as the year came to a close. Meanwhile, the nation prepared to invade Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction. A decade of economic growth in America had come to an end, thanks in part to the fallout from the collapse of the speculative dot-com bubble, as well as other business problems. For fans of sci-fi and fantasy film films, however, it was a golden age; 2002 gave us installments of Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings. At the same time, the popularity of reality tv exploded.

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Looking Back: December 1998

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 9:00

Now it’s time to look back at the time of…

Star Trek Insurrection (December 11, 1998)

By the end of 1998, the Titanic craze had played out (most radio stations mercifully stopped playing “My Heart Will Go On” a dozen times a day) and all eyes were on the upcoming Star Wars prequels. In America, business was booming, with inexpensive gas keeping shipping costs down and low healthcare costs making human resource costs manageable. (Low gas prices also caused a boom in SUVs, which was great for the auto industry.) Meanwhile, the internet grew even faster than expected (partly because computer prices were dropping like a rock), and suddenly every magazine ad, billboard, and commercial was plugging a website. Online sales took off, and stocks for internet sites like Yahoo! and Infoseek skyrocketed. Cell phones began to become ubiquitous, DVD players and digital photography began making inroads, downloading MP3s began to be a popular way to get music, and High Definition Television was publicly launched. At the same time, Cigarette smoking among teens began a rapid decline, and the tobacco industry began to be hammered with lawsuits. On the down side, the President was impeached, the dot-com bubble began to get out of hand, and lower back tattoos became increasingly popular.

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Looking Back: November 1996

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 9:00

Star Trek First Contact (November 22, 1996)

As 1996 came to a close, “The Macarena” craze was fading, and the world was at a point between “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” and “MMMBop”. The United States, after a busy year hosting the Summer Olympics and holding a Presidential Election, was enjoying good times. The economy was on fire and the internet was turning into a phenomenon. On the down side, there was global warming, a hole in the Ozone layer, and Boris Yeltsin. In the fashion world, the rise in women’s pants began to fall (at the same time thong underwear began to become popular) and smaller eyeglasses became the rule. Meanwhile, women all over America were asking their hair stylists for “the Rachel”, a haircut named after a character on the sitcom “Friends”. As for technology, there was a new way of communication for the hearing impaired called “text messaging”. However, it had yet to catch in popularity, partly because texts could only be exchanged between users of the same network.

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Looking Back: November 1994

Monday, August 9, 2010 9:00

Now it’s time to journey to the time of…

Star Trek Generations (November 18, 1994)

As 1994 came to a close, unemployment began to fall and America was set for a period of peace and economic growth. Public interest had begun to grow in the internet, previously the domain of academia, and technological advances began to pick up speed. Apple introduced the “Quick Take 100”, a fixed focus digital camera that could store eight images at a time – and the race to develop better digital cameras was on. Meanwhile, the DVD player was invented, though it was still years away from replacing laserdisc and the popular video cassette recorder. At the same time, the phone companies began to have a problem; second phone lines were becoming so popular, they were running out of phone numbers to give out. The proliferation of new area codes was just around the corner.

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Looking Back: December 1991

Sunday, August 8, 2010 9:00

Journey back with me to the time of….

Star Trek VI the Undiscovered Country (December 6, 1991)

Coinciding with the Persian Gulf War (and the rise of Grunge music), the United States had its worse recession in a decade, and unemployment continued to rise as the year came to a close. At the same time, the teenage pregnancy rate hit a twenty year high before beginning a decade of decline. Overseas there were bigger problems: the U.S.S.R. attempted to streamline their communist system and the result was a cascade of events that caused their government to collapse. Meanwhile, eyeglass frames began to get smaller, and hints of the future of technology were present; In 1991 Nick Meyer (in London) and Denny Martin Flinn (in Los Angeles) used e-mail to write the Star Trek VI script together, and the first web browser was introduced. At the same time, MP3 technology (still in its infancy) was nearly abandoned by its developers due to problems they thought might be insurmountable. As for music, just before Star Trek VI was released, Freddie Mercury admitted he had AIDS. He died the next day.

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Looking Back: June 1989

Saturday, August 7, 2010 9:00

It’s time to travel back to the time of…

Star Trek V the Final Frontier (June 9, 1989)

From the fall of the Berlin Wall, to the Tiananmen Square protests in China, it was clear in 1989 that the world was changing. Leaving the Reagan years behind, pop culture in America became less conservative, with Americans growing mullets and eschewing bubble gum entertainment like TV shows “Who’s the Boss?” and “Family Ties” in favor of edgier fare like “Rosanne” and “Married… With Children”. At the movies there was a logjam of summer blockbusters, causing even some of the more proven franchises like Star Trek and The Karate Kid to get lost in the shuffle. Meanwhile, kids cheered as the first portable video game system, Game Boy, hit store shelves. Simultaneously, adults cheered when Microsoft introduced Microsoft Office, which included Spreadsheet, Word Processor, Database and Presentation software. Less noteworthy at the time, the World Wide Web was developed, laying the foundation for the internet boom of the 90s.

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Looking Back: November 1986

Friday, August 6, 2010 9:00

Are you ready for some time traveling? Back we go to November of 1986, the time of…

Star Trek IV the Voyage Home (November 26, 1986)

1986 saw two high profile disasters. NASA, after having a number of trouble free years, lost its first crew during a mission with the disintegration of the Challenger shuttle, which happened in plain sight for the nation to see just after the launch. In the U.S.S.R., a mishandled safety test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant killed more than 4,000 people and sent radioactive deposits throughout Europe and Asia. On a less gloomy side of things, Nintendo gave Americans a reason to give video games another try. Microwave ovens began to become popular, with one in 25% of American households, up from only 1% in 1971. In sports, Michael Jordan became a sensation on the hardwood, and just days before Star Trek IV opened, 20 year old Mike Tyson became the youngest boxing heavyweight champion in history. As for Star Trek IV itself, it was a sensation and one of only two films that winter to surpass the $100 million mark, leading to another resurgence of interest in Star Trek.

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Looking Back: June 1984

Thursday, August 5, 2010 9:00

This is Part 3 of my “Looking Back at When the Star Trek Films Were Out” series. (Now there’s a clunky title.)

Star Trek III the Search for Spock (June 1, 1984)

It was “Morning in America”, as the nation saw inflation decline and people go back to work, and became increasingly optimistic about the future (except for the video game industry, which crashed spectacularly, putting an end to Atari’s glory days). In the fashion world, longer shorts and shorter skirts became more popular. In the music world, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album became the best selling album in history; Jackson himself won a record-breaking eight Grammy awards, and Time Magazine declared him the hottest thing since the Beatles. Meanwhile, the Macintosh computer was introduced to the general public (as was the computer mouse), and an immunologist discovered the cause of AIDS. Bigger news at the time was the forced breakup of AT&T leading to phone service competition, and the 1984 Cable Act leading to unprecedented growth of Cable Television. At the same time, the popularity of video recorders created a boom in the new video rental business.

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