Fumi Ishino's 'Index of Fillers' chronicles Japanese culture in the 80s and 90s

someone making stir fry in a wok

Index of Fillers is the artist’s second monograph following his acclaimed publication rowing a tetrapod (MACK, 2017) and is the first artist book published by Assembly. Composed of found images of Japanese culture from the late 1980s and 1990s along with Ishino’s own photographs, Index of Fillers is a recreation of the artist’s elusive memory of growing up during this era in Japan.

I like the Japanese comic strip panelling he uses for his images. There’s nothing dramatised or embellished about the subject matter; it’s literally an index of cultural fillers and while that may seem mundane to some, it’ll be refreshing to others.

Buy it on the Assembly Art website.

How to make a Hey Arnold! skateboard

Making A Hey Arnold Skateboard!

North West Decks tried his hand at making a Hey Arnold! skateboard using some cool-looking decals. Before watching, I assume the decals were complete with the outlines and the colour but they were separate, meaning you need a steady hand and an eye for detail. The result is the coolest thing this side of 1998.

Follow North West Decks on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Carry A Bag Man's carrier bag designs

Aaron Thompson’s job involves garden maintenance and clearing out derelict homes but in his spare time, he goes by the name of Carry A Bag Man on Instagram. The account is dedicated to retro carry bags he finds on his travels.

The power of something so simple as a crinkled old carrier bag hit Aaron time and time again on his searches, and when he found a bag relating to his own life in a 1990s Kwik Save bag, “I was hooked.”

Since expanding his collection, he decided to include bundles from local auctions: “After collecting them for five years, I started to realise that I should probably do something with them all,” Aaron tells It’s Nice That. In need of a way to revisit his finds “without having to haul out all the storage boxes under my bed,” he began to photograph each find, laid flat to showcase their iconic design and shape. Instagram resultantly appeared to be “the fasted way to go about archiving them all,” and is where Aaron has been selflessly pasting design inspiration over the past two years as Carry A Bag Man.

The retro designs on these carrier bags are glorious. They transport me back to the 90s.

(via It’s Nice That)

MORTAL KOMBAT!!!

For Vox, Aja Romano wrote about the “cheesy, exotified, incoherent action movie mishmash” that was Mortal Kombat the movie.

The first time I watched the 1995 movie Mortal Kombat I felt like I was drunk. Movies can sometimes be joyously terrible, such that they cease to be terrible and instead become transcendent. Reader, I was transported.

Since I first randomly encountered it while Netflix-surfing a few years ago, I have come to love Mortal Kombat — a movie made about a video game I have never played — so much that I no longer know whether I love it merely ironically or have crossed over into loving it sincerely.

My personal memories of the movie actually go back to the mid-00s. I was at my friend’s house and he told me about the movie (I was aware of the game although I’d never played it) and how funny the “MORTAL KOMBAT!!!” shout was at the beginning. And then I heard it and we spent about 10 minutes giggling. Still gets me to this day.

In terms of the game, my last memory was playing MK III with another friend on his Sega Megadrive. Lots of fun was had that day.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember much of the movie. Fortunately, it’s streamable and I will rectify that soon.

Mortal Kombat 1 Movie Opening

What year was Batman Returns set in?

As I got older, I started wondering “what period was Batman Returns set in?”. Its predecessor, Batman, seemed modern for the time (1989) but Returns felt a lot older. People wore clothes from the early 20th century, maybe 20s-30s and the architecture was very Art Deco.

The problem is, when you Google “What year was Batman Returns set in?”, you get the year the film was released: 1992. Not helpful. Then I found this on Quora about the first film:

It’s hard to tell. The architecture suggests that, but the technology suggests what was then the present day.

That was 1989, meaning that Thomas and Martha Wayne were probably killed around 1969 or so. So why, in the flashback to that scene, were they and little Bruce dressed like it’s the 1940s? Did somebody mess with the timestream? Does the Keaton Batmobile have a flux capacitor?

Batman Returns has a similar issue. It almost feels like the main characters are stuck in a period they aren’t from, as they appear modern and the rest of Gotham is still in a weird 20th century time warp. But let’s look at this logically. In the film, we start with Oswald Cobblepot’s birth and early days as a baby 33 years before what we believe is 1992, taking us to 1959. Are you telling me 33 years pass and people haven’t updated their clothes? And there are other suggestions about the time, as a commenter on this blog post mentions:

Some more timewarp craziness, this time form (sic) Batman Returns:

Ted Bundy exists and is a known serial killer. (Bruce Wayne dialogue to Selina)

And yet, only about 30-40 years earlier (whatever Penguin’s age is), Gotham was something out of circa early 1900s (judging by Penguin’s parents’ dress and house furnishings, Pee Wee and Simone)

Comment link

Bundy was alive between 1946–1989 and he admitted to murders committed between 1974 and 1978 so it definitely wasn’t set in the 20s or 30s. So maybe, like Batman, it was set in an alternate universe’s 1992 where Art Deco and German expressionism never died. Did I mention Tim Burton was the director and the film was criticised for being too dark?

So, to answer the question “what year was Batman Returns set in?”, my answer is: probably 1992 but not our 1992.

Roy Mehta's 'Revival' explores Brent's multiculturalism between 1989–93

Revival book cover

Roy Mehta is a London-based photographer and in his latest publication, Revival: London 1989-1993, he reconnected with his roots in Brent, north-west London. The book is a collection of Roy’s photos taken in a 4-year period from the tail-end of the 80s to the early 90s.

During this time, in 1989, Roy was living in Farnham, but he knew the area of Brent like the back of his hand – he just hadn’t been there for a while. So he packed up his camera and started to wander the roads of his old hometown, taking pictures along the way and observing the streets that he once used to roam as a child. “I gradually got to know the people and began to be accepted into churches, pubs, homes, dancehalls and other places in the community,” Roy tells It’s Nice That. “This was a long time before digital photography and social media, so photography was a different kind of practice; people related to the camera in a different way.”

Quote from It’s Nice That

Revival: London 1989-1993 is available from Hoxton Mini Press and on Amazon. There will also be an exhibition of the work in March 2022 (you can check some of the photos from there too).

5 retro videos from The VHS Vault

xena: warrior princess

VHS might be old hat now but that doesn’t stop people from collecting them or keeping them around. Check your attic, I bet you’ll find boxes of tapes. My love of VHS is more overt as I have two VCRs in my house (although one is broken so that’ll need replacing) and a humble collection of tapes, some recorded, some official.

I could digitise them but that costs money on equipment and I don’t care enough to do it. Fortunately, some people did and uploaded their works to The Internet Archive’s VHS Vault. It’s a treasure trove of nostalgia with over 25,000 uploaded videos covering all kinds of genres.

I’ve picked 5 to look through:

1. Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout

(Content warning: contains nudity from the offset)

If the horror part is watching a naked woman not wash her legs in the shower, consider this a scarefest. In fact, why did it even start with a sultry shower scene when it’s not a porno? Here’s the synopsis from IMDB:

After a nice shower, Linnea does some warm-up stretches and then goes for a run. She encounters some flabby zombies who follow her back to the house, where she leads them in some poolside aerobic routines. Later she unwinds by inviting some girlfriends over for a slumber party and some exercise. When something goes bump in the house, her friends begin experiencing an attrition problem.

What’s the point in weight loss for the undead? Fatphobia is truly boundless.

2. Microsoft Windows 95 Video Guide

This is still pretty famous now and back in 1995, it was a masterstroke having two famous actors demonstrate how to use Windows 95, if a little peculiar.

The video guide was split into three sections:

Our guide is separated into three sections.

  • Section one presented the world’s first “Cyber-Sitcom”, starring Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry set in the Bill Gates’s office.
  • Section two gives a step-by-step review of all the Windows 95 components demonstrated in section one.
  • Section three answers the 20 most asked questions about Windows 95.

I’m sure this wonderfully hilarious 25 years ago but it just seems very cheesy and outdated.

3. Power Rangers In Space Psycho Ranger Saga

AJ Brown is a Power Rangers fan so I’m sure he’d appreciate this and correct me if I’ve got anything wrong in this description.

This video appears to be an episode from the “Psycho Ranger” story arc where the evil Astronema creates a team of Psycho Rangers to gain more power. I only ever watched Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers but I did notice Zordon and Bulk & Skull in the credits so that was pleasant to see.

4. VHS 1987 – 1998 – ThunderCats, DuckTales, Pooh, Donald Duck, ScoobyDoo, Ghostbusters, Flintstones

That’s right—it’s a collection of 5 videos featuring episodes of:

  • ThunderCats
  • Duck Tales
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • Donald Duck
  • Scooby Doo
  • Ghostbusters
  • The Flintstones

It’s a childhood dream for any millennial. There are some tracking issues (when the picture gets distorted and those lines wipe down the screen) but that adds to the charm.

5. The Ultimate Xena Warrior Princess Video Tape

To complete the 90’s fest, here’s “The Ultimate Xena Warrior Princess Video Tape” starring an intro with Lucy Lawless, loads of bloopers, and interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.

For any Xena fans, this will be a dream come true.

Clarissa Explains It All, Explained

Clarissa from Clarissa Explains It All with her mouth open

Thanks to the rare joys of the YouTube recommendation algorithm, I found PushingUpRoses, an awesome channel that runs through classic shows such as Murder She Wrote, Golden Girls, and Goosebumps. But for this video, PUR looked at the history and influence of “Clarissa Explains It All”.

PUR runs through how it came to be, how different it was to have a young teenage girl take centre stage in a 90s kids show, and all the complexities and nuances of the cast. It reminded me how much I loved Clarissa and how much leading TV women influenced my childhood, including Wonder Woman and She-Hulk. Clarissa wasn’t a superhero in the literal sense but I’m sure fans felt her presence in the 90s.

The History and Influence of Clarissa Explains It All

Triqqa Pli'c: a Pizza Hut advert for Klingons

Triqqa Pli'c: a Pizza Hut advert for Klingons

Pizza Hut pulled out all the stops in the 90s with their unorthodox commercials. But this was features a language from another planet!

Pizza Hut’s Klingon advert was the first full non-English advert on British television when it aired in 1994. While I don’t remember the advert from childhood, I do remember the promotional Star Trek cups that came with them because I had two (which, in hindsight, I wish I’d kept)!

If you plan on emulating this commercial and want to order a pizza in Klingon, here are some suggested phrases:

  • nuvpu’ Qong (Deep pan, please)
  • pagh latlh vIlegh’a’? (Can I have extra cheese?)
  • ghorgh lutu’lu”a’? (Is the base gluten free?)
  • ‘uQ’a’ (Meat feast)
  • tlhIngan taHqeq chuS’a’Daq yIjaH?! (What do you mean the ice cream machine is broken?!)

jochqu’ ‘e’ yIHar or stream it below.

Star Trek - Pizza-Hut Klingons (Funny Commercial)

The Guy Who Built A Video Store In His Basement

Nostalgia Video basement

In June last year, Kevin Cortez from AV Club wrote about Nick Collins aka Nostalgia Video, a man who built a video rental store in his basement. People still miss Blockbusters in its original form—shelves filled with VHS tapes, diabetes-inducing candy on sale, and awesome movie posters on the wall—and Collins has recreated that aesthetic with “two months of labor and roughly $1,200″.

The results are impressive: Huge boxes of candy; old toys, posters, and promotional cardboard cutouts; enough old magazines to make your local dentist blush; a foam board ceiling; and an ugly, slightly dizzying ’90s carpet. As you’ll see in the below tour, the videos are sorted by genre—from horror to comedy to old professional wrestling pay-per-views.

While I could find better uses for a basement if I had one (that I owned anyway), I admire the dedication to detail and 90s VHS culture. I still own and covet my VHS tapes and understand where Collins is coming from, at least on a basic level.

Unfortunately(?), this faux-video store is only for show so you can’t visit or purchase anything because nobody should voluntarily go to a stranger’s basement for any reason.

Follow his exploits on Instagram and YouTube.

MJ vs. MJ and the fall of LA Gear

Michael Jackson BAD Edition Photoshoot Famous LA Gear Unstoppable

The two MJ’s – Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan – may have joined forces in the video for Jam but they were in competition when it came to sneakers in the late 80s.

the detail., a dedicated Michael Jackson channel, made a video discussing the King of Pop’s involvement with LA Gear and how it competed with Nike before its demise and eventual bankruptcy in 1998.

What is LA Gear?

LA Gear is a US shoe company founded in 1983. Focusing predominately on sneakers, the company had a long string of influential athletes endorsing their shoes, including:

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  • Karl Malone
  • Hakeem Olajuwon
  • Wayne Gretzky
  • Joe Montana

But the endorsements stretched further than sports.

Singer Belinda Carlisle appeared in print ads for LA Gear and, of course, Michael Jackson, who had his own shoe: the Billie Jean, released in 1990.

Shoe business

Michael’s endorsement was with $20m and billed “the largest and priciest corporate endorsement deal in showbiz history”. LA Gear saw Jackson as the best person to compete with Jordan and his “Air Jordan” line with Nike.

To target the younger demographic and kids going back to school, the company launched the Billie Jean sneaker in August 1990. Jackson also appeared in a TV commercial promoting them, at a cost of $700k for 30 seconds.

But this wasn’t enough to keep LA Gear from its steady decline.

Retailers immediately reported abysmal sales. Some department stores struggled to sell even a few pairs and were quickly discounted as a way to shift stock. Parents complained about the style, refusing to buy the impractical fashion-oriented sneakers. Many concerned that the studded and buckle-laden design would make their kids look like junior Hells Angels in them.

Quote from the detail.’s video

LA Geared for court?

While parents feared their children would look like mini bikers, the poor sales could have been related to Michael Jackson’s low profile at the time. The slated Greatest Hits he was working on was scrapped (before returning in a different form in 1995) and, instead, he released Dangerous in 1991. This was a particularly thorny point for LA Gear as he had suggested wearing their sneakers in music videos during that period but it never came to be.

LA Gear eventually pursued legal action in a $46m lawsuit, alleging fraud and breach of contract, claiming Jackson had “missed deadlines to deliver footage that could have been used in shoe commercials and had not released the album that was involved in the contract”. Michael filed a $44m countersuit but the stalemate led to an out-of-court settlement.

Nike’s dominance

As LA Gear continues its decline in the 90s, Nike grew from strength to strength. Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan line launched in 1984 and a slew of version came out throughout the 80s and 90s, with Jordan wearing each iteration for every season in the NBA and the Olympics in 1992.

In contrast, LA Gear filed for bankruptcy in 1998 but have made comebacks since then and the company’s products remain a part of retro culture. In 2019, Skechers sold a line of shoes branded “LA Gear X Skechers”. And who founded Skechers? None other than Robert Greenberg, founder of LA Gear.

Can you still buy LA Gear gear?

Absolutely. The brand doesn’t have the same appeal as it did at its peak and doesn’t have any endorsements on the same level of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Michael Jackson but the sneakers still retain their retro charm.

Check out the company’s collection and get a hit of nostagia, follow the detail. on Instagram, check out their store, and stream the video below.

Michael Jackson & The Fall Of L.A. Gear | the detail.

Catch some retro 80s and 90s vibes with Retrogeist

Retrogeist logo

I’m not heavily into vaporwave but certain parts of the aesthetic appeals to me. That’s why Retrogeist intrigued me when I found it on Instagram.

It’s an 80s/90s account with the coolest images from two bygone eras. As we inch closer to a new decade, we move further away from the old ones. But the Internet preserves those memories in the form of accounts like Retrogeist.

Here are some photos from the account to take you back in time.

Miami Vice

Good ol’ Crockett and Tubbs. Between the iconic fashion to that theme tune, Miami Vice defined the 80s.

Ferrari Testarossa

The Ferrari Testarossa premiered at the 1984 Paris Auto Show and the two-door sports coupé encapsulated what the 80s was all about. It was all about indulgence, image, and excess and the Testarossa had a 4.9L tank to hold them all in.

RoboCop

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5VtQPgFx-0/

Paul Verhoeven’s cyberpunk classic depicted a crime-ridden Detroit being saved by a cyborg cop with some of the wildest special effects of the 80s. It’s hyper-violent, entertaining, and full of iconic one-liners. And it’s 80s as hell.

The Nintendo Game Boy

The Game Boy came out in 1989 but it was very much a 90s console. The Game Boy line sold 118.69m units and lasted all the way to 2003. It got everyone hooked on Tetris before they got hooked on Pokémon. The green screen with its lack of a backlight managed to overcome the threat of Sega’s Game Gear thanks to a better battery life and illustrious games catalogue. And it came in some many colours and sizes.

Pulp Fiction

I know everyone talks up Reservoir Dogs but I didn’t like it much. Pulp Fiction was my favourite. Before Tarantino used his films as a cover for amplifying the N-word, he made a film starring a washed-up John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson in a Jheri curl straight out of a Soul Glo commercial (which is funny because he had a cameo in Coming To America where that commercial was from), and Uma Thurman in that bob wig that seemed to do the rounds in 90s movies.

Chris Morris pranked a McDonald's employee during a pilot for The Day Today

Chris Morris on a pilot for The Day Today

The Day Today and Brass Eye were controversial in their time. But a lot of the depicted surrealism doesn’t seem so strange in 2019. In this pilot, you see Chris Morris without the slicked-back hair he chose for the final version and a middle section involving a round table political discussion. It’s very rough around the edges and some of it doesn’t hit as hard to the comedy bone but there is one funny segment.

A “submarine” was found “at the bottom of the Pacific” and The Day Today had successfully contacted one of the men on the vessel. Of course none of this was true and Morris had actually pranked an American McDonald’s employee who was oblivious. This was standard for Morris who regularly pranked people on the radio and infamously used the technique on Brass Eye. His acts involved celebrities and even a member of parliament who was duped into advocating a crackdown on “cake”, a fake drug created for the show.

Stream it below.

The Day Today - Second Pilot