Archive for the ‘The 1990s’ Category

With the recent death of Scott Weiland, Generation X has lost yet another spokesperson. This deserves a eulogy… for my generation and the decade we called our own.

Of course this is sad news for Gen Xers. Scott Weiland was one of the cool guys of the 1990s. He belonged to an elite group grunge vocalists who sang the soundtrack of our lives. Despite the impact he made upon my age group, Weiland’s death comes as no surprise. It is yet another bitter reminder that Generation X is getting older and more mortal by the day.

The 1990s Were a Decade of Darkness for Generation X
Stone Temple Pilots as being among “The Big Five” of 1990s rock music. (The other four are Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains.) These bands had a HUGE impact on the 90s sound as well as its overall musical direction. To fellow Gen Xers who came of age during that halcyon decade, the music was a journey into the causes and effects of childhood trauma.

Songs about rape, child abuse, and murder dominated the airwaves, CD players, and MTV rotations. At the time, I wondered how this morbidity could be so popular. Now I understand. As a generation, we were collectively working through the issues associated with being raised by our parents. Bands such as Stone Temple Pilots – and the rest of the Big Five – acted as the moderators for this decade-long group therapy session.

Most Me Generation parents weren’t the Brady Bunch. They were a bunch of pot-smoking, wife-swapping, cocaine-sniffing, child abusing assholes. And after their myriad fuckups, their greatest advice to us was “Just say ‘No.’” Needless to say, we saw through the bullshit, and our greatest act of rebellion was spending our disposable income on the pre-packaged subculture served up by people just like our dipshit parents.

I Fucked up and Missed Out on the 90s
Despite its trauma and false pretenses, the 90s were one hell of a party! Too bad I was too busy wallowing in resentment. I didn’t need Woodstock 94. I came of age in Flint, Michigan’s nascent punk rock scene of the 1990s.When my band wasn’t playing the stage at the Capital Theater, I was hanging out with my friends, seeing some great bands and slamming in the circle pit up front.

Then one day everything changed. Sometime in mid-September, 1991, I heard Kurt Cobain stroke the first chords of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I didn’t feel elated that the music that was so much part of my life was now recognized by the mainstream. Instead, I felt betrayed. To me, it was a blatant commercialization of the 80s punk that defined my teens and early 20s.

Of course I feel differently now. The concept of “selling out” is bullshit. No artist should be forced to toil away in obscurity just because some small group of fans want to selfishly lord over that artist’s popularity. More importantly, the 90s were just so fucking cool, creative, and free. I wish I would’ve done more to appreciate that unique time in history. But there are no decade do-overs.

Sorry to Hear of Your Passing, Scott
So this brings me back to Scott. I can’t wax poetic about how much you meant to me during my turbulent and tumultuous twenties. I don’t have any memories of seeing you live and in your prime with Stone Temple Pilots. The truth is, I never knew you.

But you still were the voice of my generation. One of them, anyway. You had everything a young, aspiring singer such as me wanted; but in the end, you died as you lived: a faded rock star past his prime. All I can say is that that wherever you are, I hope you’ve been able to heal your wounds and put down those demons that haunted you for so long.

Say hello to Kurt and Layne for me…

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.

ustv-girls-6James Le Gros, man! James motherfucking Le Gros. No one, and I mean no one, portrays the struggles of Generation X like this guy.

My wife started watching Girls, an HBO series about a group of 20-something hipsters who are vapid, conceited and completely self-absorbed… but not the least bit self-aware. The show is written by and about Lena Dunham, a young woman who’s supposed to be the “next big thing.” In reality, she’s a dead ringer for a freshly-shaven Paul Giamatti in a misguided pixie wig.

Watching the credits one day, I noticed that James Le Gros would be appearing in at least a few episodes and I was more than pleased. I knew that the mere virtue of Le Gros’ presence would elevate this bizarre shit-show into something somewhat redeeming and it did… in ways that I could have never predicted.

Before I go any further, there are some things you need to know about James Le Gros. First of all, his last name is pronounced “leh grow.” Secondly, he’s cooler than cool. In fact, he’s cooler than you and me put together. Lastly, he’s one of the coolest “that-guy actors” of the 1990s… you know, the kind of actor whom you don’t know his name, but always recognize him as “that guy” who was in another movie you saw.

With memorable performances in such films as Singles, Floundering, and Living in Oblivion, Le Gros was our guy – Generation X’s guy – and he helped usher us into the 1990s, which was our decade.

Watching episode after episode of Girls, I became antsy waiting for James to make his appearance. When he finally did, it was as Jeff Lavoyt, a character who was desperately clinging to his former 90s coolness despite being married, a father, and unemployed. With his characteristic acting chops, he evoked both scorn and sympathy for his character as he engaged in pathetic attempts to hook up with the babysitter his wife hired. His failure to do so was no doubt a metaphor for his character’s life.

And so, just like that, the man who introduced us to our decade of cool now ushered us into our decade of un-cool. Evoking both humor and pathos, he shows us how we with our children, mortgages, and dead-end jobs must appear to the generation to whom we’ve passed the proverbial torch. The whole thing served as a cautionary tale to my generation… a generation that failed to live up to its promise and ideals.

Looking back on it all, it seems the sum total of Generation X’s contribution was forcing the intellectually-bankrupt philosophy known as moral relativity (aka “political correctness”) into mainstream thought. Now we’re stuck in world of our own creation. It’s a bizarre nanny state where we’re not even welcome, and we’re reminded daily of our own uselessness.

No wonder we’re lost, no wonder we’re shiftless, no wonder our very poster boy is playing a pathetic character desperately trying to find his long-lost youth inside the pants of a woman half his age.

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of the Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two installments – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his novels, check out his website.

The 90s were our golden age, so why did we try so hard to turn it into the 70s? Seriously, Generation X!

Clinton was Carter All Over Again
Let’s start with our choice in Presidents. Wanting to copy our parents’ generation, we elected another liberal-minded, white male Democrat from the South. Perhaps we believed his idealism was what the country needed after back-to-back terms from Reagan and Bush Sr. Something had to account for the widespread optimism that marked the beginning of our decade.

The 1990s was the Comeback of Smack
Heroin was another 70s reject that needled its way into the 90s. What was up with that? helped make the 90s the 70s all over again. Twenty years earlier, only losers shot up the junk; but by the time the 90s were in full swing, everyone was dancin’ with Mr. Brownstone. Yeah, he just wouldn’t leave us alone.

It didn’t help that many of our idols were hooked on smack – Kurt Cobain being the poster boy – and movies such as The Basketball Diaries, Trainspotting, and Pulp Fiction made us all wanna put a spike in our veins … even if it was just the tip, just to see how it feels. Even supermodels were sporting the “heroin chic” look — pale skin, dark circles under the eyes, and a skeletal frame. (They weren’t your granddad’s pin-up girls!)

90s Grunge was 70s Rock All Over Again
The Seattle sound, aka Grunge, defined our decade. This was another 70s rehash. Heavy guitar riffs the likes of KISS, Zeppelin, and Cooper married 70s punk rock sensibilities to create the musical sensation that swept the nation. And speaking of music, remember Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits? Released in ’95, this compilation featured an A-list roster of 90s bands covering cartoon theme songs from the 60s and 70s. (Matthew Sweet’s rendition of Scooby Doo, Where are You? was positively sublime.)

The 1990s was the 1970s on Film and TV
With Dazed and Confused, Hollywood helped the 90s pay homage to the 70s on film. Who would’ve thought a movie about 70s stoners on their last day of school would strike a chord with us 90s slackers? And for the ultimate 90s street cred, film icon and 70s pop culture connoisseur Quentin Tarantino included it on his list of the 10 greatest films of all time. TV threw its hat in the ring with That 70s Show in ’98, offering Gen X one last wistful fling with an idealized version of its collective childhood. Kickass, Kelso!

We Were Given a Decade and we Blew It!
Like so many generations before us, Generation X failed to live up to its promise. The 1990s were supposed to be our chance to shine, yet we spent most of it looking backward through the perpetual haze of our beer/dope goggles. We’re halfway through 2014 and we’ve replaced our dreams with gluten-free meal-planning, a discerning taste for obscure micro-brews, and a wide-eyed wonderment for the latest flavors at Biggby Coffee. Anything to keep our mind off the whining sound of our car’s engine as we head out on our dead-end cubicle drive.

It’s times like this that make me wonder, where were you while we were getting high?