by Wes Shainline
5-9027 strode purposefully toward his “classroom”....all the students (ranging from several thousand to even hundreds of years old) were a holographically placed, in a re-creation of an auditorium from all across the globe.
The auditorium intended to resemble what people in the 20th (and 21st—and a good deal after that) century referred to as a 101 class. People from those times were strange not only in their apparel and customs—they were physically different as well. They had separate sexes and reproduced seemingly randomly.
In fact, they spent a good deal of their meager life-spans, in an incessant quest to impress members of the opposite sex—a concept completely foreign to him. They were all created in laboratory “birthing pods”—although, it was so long ago, he hardly remembered.
Over the intervening countless years, it became easier to refer to everyone simply as “he” (much better than “it”—that would cause endless confusion among scholars of 20th century media—a program, or “show” called “The Adams Family” had a cousin “it”). That was one of the main difficulties regarding scholarship of a particular decade (his was “the 80’s)—the Adams Family aired several years before his decade of interest.
5-9027 saw his reflection in the door window as he entered the “classroom”—he (as with everyone) was bald and completely devoid of hair—as he often joked, he was like a Ken Doll (a bald Ken Doll). All others simply stared blankly—they were no scholars of the 20th century.
He entered the auditorium and gazed at the ruckus of the assembly of holographic students (he honestly didn’t know what “ruckus“ meant, but he’d heard an 80’s movie star use that phrase). He assumed it meant boisterous noise—of which the students were definitely guilty.
He thought telepathically to the assembled students, “We are gathered together to study a decade simultaneously plastic and materialistic yet self-aware and politically relevant”. Everyone thought telepathically—they had for several million years—or so they had learned at a very young age.
Aloud, using his vocal chords, mouth and lungs (yes, they were for something other than breathing), playing both parts, “What do you want to do with your life?” “I wanna rock!”. Then a recorded Twisted Sister song seemingly appeared out of nowhere.
Everyone still possessed vocal chords—it was very much like an appendix (as he learned from historical records). Not a soul (to his knowledge) use them to rock out—he did, complete with a long-haired wig, banging his head and throwing horns with his right hand in the air.
As the song ended, and he slowly came back to reality, he noticed a few students had already winked out—they could not handle rockin’ out—not many could anymore (he was sure it frightened most people).
He continued speaking out loud, “Of course, Rock was only a smattering of the music of the 80’s—there was also dance…..” he ripped of his smock top to reveal a Michael Jackson t-shirt and jacket—Beat It began playing.
He realized, somewhat belatedly, that he should’ve completed the ensemble with a single, white glove—oh well, he was moonwalking.
Which immediately stuck him as ironic—people hadn’t been to the moon in several million years. It was much too dangerous (too many things could go wrong). When people lived for such a length of time, they would never engage in an activity that might result in injury—or…or…death. He knew of no one who had died.
There was a song delineating people who met with an untimely end (or people who died, the song claimed). In antiquity, death was quite common—as was disease and any number of ailments.
5-9027 continued, “If we’re going to study this decade of antiquity, we must arrive at certain assumptions. Mainly, they used monetary units used to delineate social class and status”.
A student raised his/her/it (not cousin) hand. “Yes, 6-7829?”
“If everyone had “monetary units” (it was difficult for him to even repeat, so alien was it), what difference was there?”
He replied, “A good question….the difference was in the amount of monetary units—one may have several, but their friend may have more. One could tell by several “conspicuous consumption” elements—clothes (that you used to buy—and everyone wore different clothes) and an automobile”.
As if to punctuate this thought, a clip (as they used to refer to them) from the movie 16 candles played….”Doooong, where is my automobile” Long Duck Dong replied “Automoobiiille?” His laughter trailed off hysterically. He might have been inebriated (or what they referred to as “drunk”).
5-9027 looked up to see several students mouthing along with the movie element—even If it was merely in a flat 2-d. This was common with classic media files (or “movies” as they termed them in antiquity).
“You see” he continued, “in the movie 16 Candles—it’s all about socio-economic standing resulting from differing amounts of monetary units….Jake (the desirous male student) had many “dollars” (they called them). In fact, if one understands this simple fact, one can understand almost every movie”. He made a conscious effort to refer to a “movie” and not a “classic media element”.
“Well, as in the movie “Pretty in Pink”—the socio-economic disparity was even more pronounced. Andie, the Molly Ringwald character, is what was termed as “poor” while the character Blane was “rich”—had many dollars.”
Another movie element played, “I make 30,000 dollars a year, I’m not about to let punks like you screw it up…..sometimes you get the bull, sometimes you get the horns”. His media-file-player was randomly malfunctioning.
“Obviously, 30,000 dollars had to have been an enormous sum of money”.
He continued (once he was in a pedantic 80’s mode, it was difficult to break), “It is somewhat ironic, that the actor portraying the character Ducky (John Cryer) was the only person from the movie to have a significant later career—albeit it was on television (in the first part of the 21st century) in the sit-comedy 2 and ½ men”.
“But that was not true either—in the movie 16 Candles, John Cusack appeared in what they termed “A Cameo Role”. He went on to appear in the classic movie “Say Anything”—culminating with him raising a portable listening device above his head…that, and many more movies.”
“But I digress….” Now, he had a “clip” readied for just such an occasion. The character “Doc Brown” proclaimed, “We’re sending you back to the future!” “Roads? We’re we’re going, we don’t need roads!”. Oh no, he thought to himself, he’d gotten the clips in the wrong order and the media-file-player was still malfunctioning. Oh well, the students didn’t seem to care—they were still mouthing the words.
“One other thing that must be understood—there were different sexes…male and female. And they reproduced sexually” the students gasped, unbelieving such barbarism “and the ‘woman’ gestated a fetus—a small human--in her body for several months!” several more student simply winked out—unable to hear something so profane.
“And then” he continued to whoever was left (which was still about 20 students) “she then physically birthed it! A natural, random-genetic birth…and the child stayed with them for 18 or 19 years—admittedly, that’s nothing now—but when you only lived 80 years….”
Something about that bothered him…..in Shakespeare’s time, people lived even shorter times—maybe 50 years (if they were fortunate).
His thoughts were interrupted by his computer implant (they were all implanted). You are summoned to the Grand Council. He knew better than to tarry (he did learn something from his Shakespeare classes).
He reached down to activate a bell sound, “Saved by the bell—which was a television program from 1989—1993.”
The show often incorporated dramatic elements into episodes by dealing with real teen social issues, such as friendship, drug use, driving under the influence, homelessness, financial issues, divorce, graduation, college, sibling rivalry, taking responsibilities for one's actions, bullying, death, and environmental issues. This made it a precursor (with other teen sitcoms of the time, like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) for networks of more recent shows such as Beverly Hills, 90210, Dawson's Creek and The O.C. to introduce young target audiences to critical moral matters. Notably, intimate relationships were alluded to but not actually dealt with.
Oh, alright, he simply copied from his implant search and pasted such to his telepathic lobe—then simply broadcast this to his assembled class. There was much in the paragraph he simply didn’t understand.
He did possess the good sense to re-don his top smock—he retired the rocker and Michael Jackson ensemble to his desk. Now, he looked just like everyone else.
5-9027 walked down the hall—much like the nurse in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”—he made a mental note to address that movie to the class at their next meeting.
Perhaps he walked like Mr. Rooney—because he actually ran (and stopped before non-existent classrooms—it was the principle—which Rooney was……all of these thoughts raced through his head—like Speed Racer….but that was from the 70’s, but no element of a decade existed in a vacuum—like a Hoover from the 80’s could not exist without the dam—unless you had a Delorian and a flux capacitor…..
After all of his internal rambling, arrived at the grand council area.
Sitting extremely high were the seven members of The High Council—all appearing the same. Identical to him—even their eyes were colorless.
The de-facto spokesperson for the council projected his thoughts, “5-09027, it has come to our attention that you have been studying elements of antiquity—things that should not be remembered. We have strived valiantly to leave those terrible days behind…days of sickness, population explosions, hunger, pollution, and….and…death.”
Another council-person projected his thoughts, “Another problem with the thoughts of the ancients—it was all about the individual—not modern thoughts where the group is paramount.”
A third council-person added his two cents (he was even thinking like them), “Everything has already been created—there can be nothing new….do not even attempt such. What you are engaging in is…dangerous.”
He sprang to life,” My ego’s writing checks my body can’t cash!”
“Uh…..yes….the problem is…” he heard nothing further—that’s exactly what Iceman said to Maverick—you’re dangerous.
That gave him an idea.
He returned to his classroom—fully outfitted for his “class prep” (as the ancients referred to it).
An entrance song was needed….the media player randomly selected—Oingo Boingo “Weird Science”
It would have to do until he fully entered.
He was attired with Nike shoes, parachute pants (complete with legwarmers)….his upper torso was covered with a leather jacket—the front of which read “Highway to the dangerzone”….and it began playing, thankfully.
The left sleeve read “Maverick”….the right sleeve read “Goose”. On his neck hung a gold chain containing an oversized ‘Rubiks cube’. His head was adorned in a short-haired wig with fake beard stubble (he was attempting to look like George Michael). The ensemble was complete with the reflective sunglasses (that could be for both Maverick and George) and a dangling cross earing on his left ear.
The back of the jacket had the phrase ‘REVENGE’ boldly emblazoned across the bottom. A guitar slung over his shoulder completed the “threads” (as they referred to them in antiquity).
Now “Faith” from George Michael began playing—he again realized belatedly that he should’ve requested a “juke box” from the matter arranger—then, he could lean against it.
5-9027 made a mental note to include that in his actual class—this was more of a dress rehearsal (the more he studied, the easier it became to think like them….he didn’t even proclaim them as “ancients”.
He also realized that he must re-name himself—5-9027 was too unwieldy and everyone else had a number. He was a scholar of the 80’s—he would be different.
He randomly scanned the neural-net…..Miami Vice—a “TV” show from the 80’s.
The choice of music and cinematography borrowed heavily from the emerging New Wave culture of the 1980s. As such, segments of Miami Vice would sometimes use music-based stanzas, a technique later featured in Baywatch. As Lee H. Katzin, one of the show's directors, remarked, "The show is written for an MTV audience, which is more interested in images, emotions and energy than plot and character and words." These elements made the series into an instant hit, and in its first season saw an unprecedented 15 Emmy Award nominations.
Well, that didn’t help—was he going to be Crocket or Tubbs?
Something bothered him regarding his chosen decade of study—everything was so colorful, so about the….the…in-di-vi-du-al (he felt vaguely guilty even thinking of such a thing).
During his prep-work for his class, he had been listening to music from the decade…Howard Jones proclaimed that “I won’t stop and falter…If we thew it all away….Things could only get better”. That’s ridiculous, things have remained the same for millions of years—and throw it all away?
And Howard Jones’ “New Song” where he sings “Don’t be fooled by what you see, don’t be fooled by what you hear….challenging pre-conceived ideas, say goodbye to our standard fears….throw off your mental chains”.
No wonder the Grand Council claimed it was dangerous (no reference to Iceman).
Who told Howard Jones he could create music? Who told John Hughes he could write “16 Candles”….or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. Who told Shakespeare he could write plays?
“To be or not to be”…..”Nine Times….he’s just leeeading you down the primrose path”.
What reason could there be that he could not create? Even if everything has already been created, he studied enough of the 80’s to know about sequels.
He decided then and there to commit a totally awesome heresy, dude….he began to command his computer to write with his mind.
He smiled internally—he was just like the legendary John Hughes.
“Life moves pretty fast, you don’t stop and look around—you could miss it.”
Now, was he Crocket or Tubbs?