The Oregon Trail, Jordan Catalano, and New Stuff

Why would I even be thinking of an 80's computer game and a cute teenage boy who was on TV in the 1990's?  You'd be surprised. It's very relevant, actually. It's something I've been thinking about and that has been brought up to me in the last week or so frequently. Maybe it's because of The Obamas exiting the White House today and Donald Trump entering it … Sorry … Or maybe it's because of a project I have been working on and trying to name, or maybe it's because of someone I met recently who understands every reference to the things I mention that are totally random to some other people. Doesn't matter. It all links up to one thing:  

I've always been interested in generations and their traits, so just a little bit about my generation: I am not a member of Generation X or a Millennial. I am a member of the microgeneration between them, a "cusper" if you will. It has a few names, the most popular being The Xennials, The Oregon Trail Generation, and The Catalano Generation. Unless you are a part of my generation, you might not even know what The Oregon Trail is or who Jordan Catalano is. What a shame.  

But the names all make sense: Xennial is a combo name, duh. The Oregon Trail was an computer game from the 80's, and my friends and I used to FIGHT over playing that game in our elementary school classroom after finishing assignments. It always sucked when your character got Typhoid Fever or Dysentry while crossing the country in a covered wagon. Another game we used to play was Where in the World Is Carmen San Diego. I was the kid who always rushed to finish my work just to play that game. This was me: "Yeah, of course I did it all carefully. YES I double-checked. Why would you ever wonder that?" Yeah right. Lying 3rd grader. I never double-checked my work.

 Ohh the Commodore and the good old days. Third grade in the basement at Greenwood Elementary. There was also this great Winter Olympic game with ski jumping that we battled over playing. Good memories.

Ohh the Commodore and the good old days. Third grade in the basement at Greenwood Elementary. There was also this great Winter Olympic game with ski jumping that we battled over playing. Good memories.


Why also The Catalano Generation? Only because of arguably my favorite TV series on during the 1990's, My So Called Life, where the main male character, Jordan Catalano, was loved by girls and thought to be cool by boys because he was a stereotypically hot, lazy, but sensitive high school boy acting opposite of Claire Danes, or Angela on the show. This series was so popular with the people of my "microgeneration" that we are sometimes known as young, hot, Jared Leto's character from the show's generation. Here he is then, as Jordan Catalano, and now … which I'm definitely not complaining about either.

I have to say it's not really a bad idea for a generational name. I like The Oregon Trail idea too though. They both really do capture some important things of my youth. 


I guess this all came up because of a few things. First, I'm working on a bunch of different ideas, but one that I started awhile ago, and has been brewing for about two years has to do with the music I loved when a child, music that is on records. I have a huge collection of records, and that's because of my mom and dad who used to listen to music almost every night after dinner. I'd stare at the album art and be amazed by it. I'd also memorize the songs. This music was mostly from their generation, but some was not. Some would have been considered "current" during the early 1980's, and therefore a became big part of me. I have always hung my favorite albums up on walls as album art, but then I had this idea to remake some of my favorite covers but with some differences. The catch is these have to be albums that MEAN something to me, whether it be the artist, songs, memories associated with them, or just the damn weird album covers - one that comes to mind is the Rolling Stones album "Some Girls" where you could move their heads around to fit onto lady bodies. Most were bodies in bras that were on sale? Yeah that's what I remember.  So far, I have tried this with two albums, and it is HARD. It involves photography, of course, and it is often photography involving many models and poses the aren't easy to replicate.  I also don't want these pieces to look exactly the same as the original covers. That would be lame.  It is also involves a lot of editing and digital painting, something I am not so familiar with but now enjoy. The next step is image transfer onto a blank album cover (Thanks for that idea Riley Child, and for actually having them, Amazon) because I tried this on wood panels and it just didn't work like I wanted it to. Then I have to use oil or acrylic, charcoal, or oil pastels to finish the piece. After over 20 tries, I finally have two pieces to show for it. I think a lot of people would have quit by now, but I can't and won't.  There are a lot of ideas that I have for this, and  a lot of models lined up, so the project WILL continue.


All of this got me thinking about what generation I'm really from: Generation X, which I don't completely fit into, or the Millennials, which I feel even less connected to, because people born during about a six year age span don't really fit into either. That's where I found the information on the Xennials, or my generation, and it all makes sense. It's for real. And then I started hearing about it more, I believe because of current politics and the amount of job turnover among my friends and others; stuff like that. But then it was even brought up by a close mentor friend of mine and a few friends - this generational thing. I think I would rather be an Xennial instead of the other two generations sandwiching us because it is a pretty flexible and versatile generation. We grew up without the technology we have today, so we didn't have cell phones until our 20's, which meant we actually had to call and talk to people, including our friends' parents, to make plans. Either that or we went and knocked on a door to play. But, we were the first ones to grow up with affordable household computers, so we were exposed to technology and the awesome sound of a dial up modem for the slowest Internet speed imaginable - when we were about 16. Millennials can't even remember a time without them, and older Gen X'ers often don't understand the latest technology because of a lack of use and/or exposure. We are in the middle. Give me something and I can fumble around and always figure it out. Or don't give me anything having to do with technology and I am perfectly happy. I still WRITE OUT anything before I type it. Old school. It's kind of nice to have been able to adapt easily to technological advances but to not be addicted full on - well not me anyway.

As a teacher, I find it so funny to talk to my students about the kind of stuff. They do not remember pay phones. They do not remember calling collect. Or calling collect, leaving your name on the recording, having someone pick up and listen to it so they know to come get you, and hanging up. They never had the pleasure of knowing how to use both card catalogues and article databases. They have never used CDs OR tapes. I did until the end of college when I got my first mp3 player for running and that was like, unbelievable. So was Napster, where I got to use Eastern Illinois University's Ethernet to seriously increase my music collection. I love what it's evolved into, namely Spotify. It's great. Another thing that's nice is not having to wait at least an hour and paying a lot of money to wait for my film to be developed. My kids have no clue about that either. Or what knowing about the Gulf War was or feeling the effects of 9/11 as a 21 year old student teacher while trying to deal with the fears of my Advanced Senior English students who were 3 years younger than me when I was worried about my cousin who worked in Manhattan very close to the Twin Towers. Weird times. These kids get to use wireless everything, and soon our district will have 1:1 technology for each student; my 8 year old has his own Chromebook. I was just happy in Keyboarding I and II class with Mrs. Carroll when we used electronic typewriters and sometimes got to go to the ONE lab we had to use the awesome Apple IIe computers. They didn't even have Internet access.  Internet happened senior year in the OTHER lab, the ITC lab. I used it maybe once. And I didn't care because I didn't understand it.

 This.was.hi.tech.

This.was.hi.tech.


So the album art series is not yet titled, but it will have something to do with how I feel about music and what it has to do with my membership in The Oregon Trail/Catalano/Xennial crowd. Here are a couple of my first albums - at least the photography used with them. If you know what they are, cool. If not, that's ok too. I'm just kind of messing around for now. David Bowie comes next, but that is a whole different endeavor. For this one we have the front and the back. Thank you, Kai, for including a spastic Lily on the cover.  These are just the images for transfer, so the color is obviously going to be evened out and changed. For the next, that is my son at the same age as  the boy who modeled for the real cover. Now he is the same age as when he modeled for the next, and we will be doing that soon. 


Most of the album ideas will come from the 80's or before, so I guess that's where all this generation stuff started popping into my head.  Anyway, I have also been working on some other projects. The Yellow Gloves are a given, but they aren't a focus of this post today. I have been working on a lot of other types activities with that series, but as far as working on art goes, I have really been into the albums and mixed media projects. These are two: both image transfers onto wood panels, one of a classroom at an abandoned schoolhouse in Iowa, and the other a transfer of the snow and rain on the side of a cab ride during a blizzard down Michigan Avenue in the dark on December 16th. I used some Crackle on that one. Fun.


I've also been experimenting with another idea. I won't get into the nuts and bolts of it, but it clearly involves distortion. I know that sometimes I can be a bit … let's see … realistic, not exactly dark … like some people like to say. So some of what I have been working on might reflect some of that, but it's been fun to use new programs and techniques, like Studio Artist and others, to try new things out.


Anyway, that is what my brain, my heart, and my hands have been up to. And I know that you totally appreciated this post if you knew what I was talking about, used Slap bracelets, stick on earrings, wore Hypercolor t-shirts, loved making mix-tapes, used AOL, read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark or any Shel Silverstein collections, would break peoples' arms and cry over Cabbage Patch Kids, "smoked" candy cigarettes, loved Atari first but even more, the originall Nintendo system with Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt - you had to blow on the games to make them work sometimes -, watched Heathers, the Goonies, and Clueless over and over again, and wouldn't miss episodes of Dawson's Creek, the real Full House90210Saved by the Bell, or The Wonder Years. Oh yeah, and you also had to be able to attempt dancing hip hop in a circle at a school dance to "Jump Around!", "Poison", or "The Humpty Dance".  If you can rap all the words to "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air", I know you're the real deal. 

On a side note, my Etsy page is not up and running anymore. I do have some artwork for sale listed on this site, but if you want to talk about purchasing a piece of The Yellow Glove Series, please contact me using either the "Contact Me" form on this site, or email me at lisabeardart@gmail.com.

Have a good weekend everybody! Maybe go watch some Wonder Years on Netflix.