Three Rambling And Rose-Tinted Tips For Adding Early-Mid 2000s Nostalgia To Your Art Or Story

Well, although I’ve probably talked about this before, I thought that I’d look at early-mid 2000s nostalgia today. After all, this time period is probably still just about recent enough at the time of writing for it not to be a major source of pop-culture nostalgia in the way that the 1980s and 1990s currently are. So, I thought that I’d offer a few tips about random ways to add some early-mid 2000s nostalgia to your story.

I’ll mostly be focusing on early-mid 2000s Britain (and to a lesser extent America) here and this article may well turn into more of a nostalgic ramble than any actual serious advice. Although, of course, the irony here is that when I was a teenager during the early-mid 2000s, I never actually thought that I’d get nostalgic about such a “crappy” part of history. Of course, in comparison to the modern world… Anyway, onwards with the article.

1) Horror, gloom and angst: Although the 1990s technically ended in the year 2000, they probably ended culturally on one terrible day in 2001. The mood of optimism, innocence and hope that characterised a lot of 1990s culture came to a reasonably abrupt end after 9/11. Although this resulted in more polarised politics, wars, more authoritarian government in both the UK and US etc… It also had an effect on popular culture too. In short, things got a bit gloomier, more “serious” and angst-ridden. This is one of the core cultural differences between the 1990s and early-mid 2000s.

Of course, this change was most noticeable in the thriller genre. Whilst the relative peace of the 1990s forced writers, screenwriters etc… in this genre to come up with imaginative, wonderfully silly and gleefully unrealistic plots, almost everything in this genre suddenly became focused on serious topical stuff like terrorism, moral issues surrounding torture etc.. during the early-mid 2000s (eg: TV shows like “24”). In this time, the detective genre also saw more of a shift towards police procedural type stories that focused on forensics etc.. (as seen in TV shows like “CSI” etc..)

This change in mood also had an effect on films too. One of the interesting things about the early-mid 2000s was that horror movies were actually a popular genre of cinema for a while 🙂

Not only was Hollywood remaking a lot of suspenseful, supernatural-based psychological horror films from Japan (with “The Ring” being the classic example), but it was also a good time for the zombie genre (eg: films like “Shaun Of The Dead”, “28 Days Later” and the “Resident Evil” films) and for new horror franchises in general (eg: “Final Destination”, “Saw” etc…). Of course, some slight hints of the superhero genre (eg: “X-Men” and the first “Spiderman” film) popped up sporadically in cinemas, but they were thankfully still just an occasional infrequent novelty back then.

Likewise, horror was also a popular genre in videogames too 🙂 Yes, the survival horror genre was invented in the 1990s (in both “Alone In The Dark” and the original “Resident Evil”), but it reached its zenith during the early-mid 2000s with games like “Silent Hill 2”, “Silent Hill 3“, “Project Zero/Fatal Frame”, “Forbidden Siren” and possibly the remake of the original “Resident Evil”. It was a good time to be a fan of horror videogames 🙂 Another cool thing was that most horror games of the time still used the classic “tank controls” that – whilst obtuse to modern gamers – are surprisingly intuitive if you grew up with them.

Even music was affected by this gloomy mood too. Not only was the most popular type of heavy metal music during the early-mid 2000s Nu Metal music (and, later, shouty angst-ridden metalcore music). But, even more melodic popular rock/metal groups often tended to have a bit more of an angsty and/or gothic influence to them. This was a time period where both Evanescence’s “Fallen” and HIM’s “Love Metal” albums were reasonably popular 🙂 Yes, at the time, I didn’t really think that they were as good as the 1980s heavy metal I was also listening to, but I still really miss the days when records like these could actually have mainstream chart success.

Likewise, pop-punk music was also afflicted by the angst-ridden mood of the time. Whether it was the slightly heavier, more morose and/or gloomier sound of The Offspring’s “Splinter” album, Sum 41’s “Does This Look Infected?” album and Green Day’s “American Idiot” album when compared to earlier albums by all three bands, early-mid 2000s pop-punk music certainly reflected the mood of the time. And, yes, pop-punk was actually still a popular genre then 🙂

2) Culture, phones and the internet: Both the internet and mobile phones existed in the early-mid 2000s. But, mobile phones were thankfully just phones (not portable computers. Seriously, text messaging was still an exciting new thing. Yes, phone cameras existed on high-end phones – but the picture quality was often atrocious) and faster broadband internet was also only just starting to be widely introduced too (with many people still using dial-up internet).

The blissful absence of smartphones also meant that lots of other portable things were more popular (eg: portable MP3/CD/Cassette players, digital cameras, paperback books, disposable film cameras, wristwatches, notebooks [the paper type] etc…) too. Not only were these more reliable (eg: if your CD player runs out of battery, you can still write stuff in a notebook, read a novel or check the time on your watch) but – novels aside- they often weren’t the type of all-consuming distractions that modern smartphones are. They were functional single-purpose items that didn’t get in the way of life.

The landscape of the internet was also very different too. A few examples of this are the fact that many pages were still optimised for slower dial-up internet (and for desktop PCs too 🙂) or the fact that “social media” tended to consist of more localised, private or topic-focused things like forums, MSN Messenger, MySpace etc… Or the fact that video streaming wasn’t really a thing (Youtube began in 2005 and Netflix was still a DVD rental company during the early-mid 2000s). Or the fact that there was a lot more variety and competition when it came to search engines (*sigh* I miss AltaVista).

Likewise, because the internet was less of a well-developed thing and smartphones didn’t exist, it was less of a distraction too. People actually went to pubs/clubs, read books, played local mutliplayer videogames/ had LAN parties, hung out in town, went to the cinema, took photos of places and other people (rather than of food and of themselves) etc..

3) Fashions and physical media: The fashions of early-mid 2000s Britain tended to be a bit more understated/ordinary, although some fashion trends and subcultures (eg: “emo” fashion, Burberry caps, hoodies, short-sleeved flame print shirts layered over T-shirts, chain wallets, “Boho chic” etc…) emerged during this time. Still, the “look” of the early-mid 2000s is probably a bit more subtle, understated and less out-there than the “look” of decades like the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

Still, one of the really cool things about the early-mid 2000s was that it was one of the last times where physical media was king 🙂 It was a time when CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes (yes, you could still buy them back then), paperback books, magazines and game discs/cartridges were were a lot more widely used. Yes, “100% digital” media certainly existed back then too – but, with the exception of a few sites like the early versions of iTunes and possibly Steam, physical media was usually what people chose when they were actually buying entertainment.

But, although I don’t want to ramble too much about physical media, it had all sorts of cool effects on everyday life.

Whether it was how your book/CD/DVD collection could also add a bit of life and personality to a room (and is a million miles away from the cold, soulless minimalism that is so popular these days), whether it was things like demo discs on videogame magazines or CD singles in shops, whether it was old ex-rental VHS tapes in gigantic cases (I once found one of “Army Of Darkness” that contained the alternate ending. For years, I thought it was the actual ending of the film), whether it was buying a random second-hand book by one of your favourite authors – only to find that it is a signed copy (this happened to me at least twice with Shaun Hutson novels) etc… I have a lot of nostalgia for the heyday of physical media and, for some things at least, still vastly prefer it to modern “100% digital” equivalents.

And, on a more general level, because physical media was more popular, things like record shops, game shops, second-hand shops, magazine racks, bookshops etc.. used to be a bit more common during the early-mid 2000s than they are today. Kind of like how payphones were also a lot more common because mobile phones were slightly less ubiquitous.

————–

Well, although this turned into a bit of a ramble, I hope it was useful 🙂

Two Basic Tips For Adding Some Nostalgia To Your Stories

Well, since some of the short stories that I begun posting here last February were nostalgia-based stories, I thought that I’d offer a couple of fairly basic tips about how to add nostalgia to your stories.

1) Small details: One of the best ways to add nostalgia to your stories is through small details. In other words, include items and things that are strongly associated with the time period you are nostalgic about.

For example, this “2000s nostalgia” story briefly includes a description of an old early-mid 2000s mobile phone. This other “2000s nostalgia” story briefly includes a reference to a defunct chain of video shops that were popular in early-mid 2000s Britain. Likewise, this 1990s nostalgia-based story briefly includes a segment about POGs.

However, you need to remember that not all of your readers will have memories of the things that make you feel nostalgic. So, it is often best to include a brief physcial description of the nostalgic items in question.

For example, here’s the segment about POGs in the “1990s nostalgia”-themed short story I mentioned earlier: ‘ “‘Oh my god, is that a tube of POGs? No way!” Since the next student loan instalment didn’t arrive for three days, she knew that she’d have to ration herself. Even so, the translucent green tube of cardboard discs was only 25p. It even included a couple of gnarly-looking slammers too.

As you can see, this passage also includes a brief physical description of what POGs are. Since it’s possible that many readers didn’t grow up in the 1990s, they may not have had the nostalgic connection to them that I have. They may not even have heard of them. So, it’s always a good idea to include a brief physical description of more random, ephemeral or obscure nostalgic things.

2) Rules, commonalities and differences: If you’re going to include nostalgia about a particular time period in your story, then you need to understand what made that time period so distinctive.

In other words, you have to examine your memories and/or lots of things (eg: TV shows, books, pop culture etc..) from that time in order to see what they all have in common – and how this contrasts with the present day.

Not only will learning this allow you to subtly add the “flavour” of a particular time period to your story (eg: stuff involving the 1990s will often be a bit more optimistic), but it also allows you to make the kind of pithy observations that can really add some emotional and/or intellectual depth to your story too.

For example, in one of my “2000s Nostalgia” stories, there’s a segment where the two characters are talking about silly rumours that they heard during the (early-mid) 2000s. Finally, one of the characters comments: ‘These days, it’d be pics or GTFO. I miss folklore.

This is the kind of detail that comes from thinking about what made the early-mid 2000s different to the present day. Back then, smartphones/camera phones weren’t as common and social media was very much in it’s infancy. Likewise, the whole “fake news” thing hadn’t happened. So, there was less of an impulse for people to document and/or question literally everything. As such, things like silly rumours were more likely to be spread and believed by more naive people. It’s a small difference, but a noticeable one.

So, yes, study the time period that your story revolves around and see what everything in it had in common, and how it differs from the present day.

———-

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

When Nostalgia Isn’t Defined – A Ramble

Although this is a rambling article about nostalgia, creativity and gaps in popular culture, I’m going to have to spend the next 3-4 paragraphs talking about music. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.

A day or two before I wrote this article, I was clearing part of my room when I happened to find a CD that I’d forgotten that I even had. It was a free music CD that had been attached to the March 2006 issue of “Metal Hammer” magazine.

Although I was initially pleasantly surprised to discover that it contained “Cyanide” by Deathstars (a song that really reminds me a lot of 2008/9), I listened to a few of the other tracks out of curiosity and, although I didn’t know or remember any of them, one of them stood out in particular.

It was a song called “The Last Sunrise” by Aiden and it was the absolute epitome of mid-2000s heavy metal. With a mixture of clean vocals, emo-style vocals (that almost have a whiny early 2000s-style pop-punk quality to them) and shouty vocals, it couldn’t have come from any other era in history.

Even the intense, but sharp, guitar parts of the song sound very much like something from this part of history. Likewise, the emotional angst-filled lyrics are also very mid-2000s. I suddenly found myself feeling incredibly nostalgic about the mid-2000s (of all times) just by listening to a song I didn’t remember.

But, as you can probably tell from the convoluted description in the previous paragraph, the vocabulary for describing and defining mid-2000s nostalgia doesn’t really exist yet.

I mean, if I was to talk about – say- 1990s Hollywood movies, then I could talk at length about the chiaroscuro lighting that was popular back then. Or I could talk about how being made between the end of the cold war and before 9/11 gave these films an optimistic emotional tone that can’t be replicated today.

I could probably talk about how the fact that the internet was less widely-used back then affected the stories films told. I could probably talk about how the larger number of mid-budget films back then was beneficial to popular culture (and how smaller-scale stories can often be more dramatic than larger-scale ones). I could probably go on for a while.

But, when talking about something as simple as a song from 2006, I’m forced to use convoluted descriptions that may or may not make sense. Yes, I know what sets heavy metal music from the mid-2000s apart from heavy metal from other parts of history. But, finding a way to express that knowledge is somewhat more challenging because popular nostalgia hasn’t really caught up to this time period yet (eg: there’s usually at least a 20 year gap when it comes to nostalgia becoming popular).

So, what is the best thing to do if you’re a creative person who wants to express a type of nostalgia that hasn’t really been explored in popular culture?

Well, the first thing to do is to try to work out which qualities make something from a non-nostalgic period of the past so distinctive. Use your memories, do some online research, look at examples of things from that time etc.. and try to work out what they have in common. Or, failing that, find some creative works from the time period in question and take inspiration from them.

Even if you can’t concisely express what makes things from a particular time period unique, gaining a greater knowledge of it (through research and thought) will help you to find less direct ways to express this particular quality (eg: the way you describe locations, your characters’ personalities etc..).

If you’re an artist, then you have an advantage here, since you can try to replicate the “look” of a particular period of history, even if you can’t quite find the words to articulate what makes it do distinctive. For example, here are two paintings of mine that are based on a stylised version of the early-mid 2000s:

“Future 2004” By C. A. Brown

“Like 2005” By C. A. Brown

Finding ways to turn nostalgia that isn’t widely shared into art, fiction etc.. can be a bit of a challenge. And, you probably aren’t going to get it right the first time. Still, it’s certainly worth trying nonetheless.

————-

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Limitations And Nostalgia – A Ramble

Although this is a rambling article about nostalgia in general, I’m going to have to start by talking about musical nostalgia for a couple of paragraphs. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.

A while before I wrote this article, I was going through a bit of a musical nostalgia phase and, whilst listening to the first track of Sum 41’s “Half Hour Of Power” album, I suddenly remembered that they were one of the few punk bands that I knew about when I was a teenager. And how they seemed even cooler as a result of this.

A while earlier, I had also found myself listening to “Virus” by Iron Maiden. This is a bonus track that was included on one of the first Iron Maiden albums I ever bought (the “Best Of The Beast” compilation) and it reminded me of when I first discovered the band and how I knew relatively little about them at the time, but was eager to learn.

So, what was the point of this brief trip down memory lane? Well, it’s all to do with how limitations can affect and provoke nostalgia.

One of the interesting things about growing up at a time when the internet was a little bit less common is that information was harder to find. These days, if I see or listen to something interesting, then it’s a simple matter of searching for more info about it online. Likewise, finding information about other things that are like it isn’t too difficult either. Yes, this is really cool – but it means that anything you find probably won’t provoke quite the same type of nostalgia when you remember it in the future.

If you found something really cool 15-20 years ago, then it was a much more significant event. Chances are, you probably even have some kind of convoluted story about how you first found it.

For example, I discovered Iron Maiden (in about 2000/2001) by accident because they were on the soundtrack to “Carmageddon II” – which was a game I only got by accident because it happened to be included in a multipack with the PC port of “Resident Evil 2”.

Finding something cool 15-20 years ago was also a much more significant event for the simple reason that it was a bit more difficult to tell whether there were other things like it out there. As such, finding something really brilliant was like finding a rare treasure. Instead of eagerly researching it on the internet, you tended to savour it whilst also hoping that you might possibly chance upon something similar in the future.

Finding something cool 15-20 years ago also relied on chance, luck and serendipity a lot more than it does now. It involved noticing things in magazines, hearing recommendations from people, happening to watch things on TV, happening to hear something good on the radio or finding random things in shops. As such, discovering cool things tended to feel like more of a matter of luck or fate than it does now.

Then, of course, there’s all of the nostalgia that you didn’t actively seek out. In the days before the internet was truly mainstream, mass culture used to be much more prominent. I mean, if you asked me to name ten songs by current pop bands, I’d probably look at you like you’d asked me to translate this article into hieroglyphics.

But, during my childhood in the mid-late 1990s, I could probably reel off twenty song names without even thinking about it. Why? Because it was the main type of music (aside from the occasional pop-punk or rap song) that I was exposed to back then. The only real variation was the fact that the local radio station I listened to regularly at the time also used to play 1980s pop music too. So, a lot of my musical nostalgia is from genres that I don’t really listen to much these days.

Of course, limitations also provoke nostalgia in other ways too. Whether it is the graphics in older computer/video games (that force the player to use their imagination more and which place more emphasis on the actual gameplay, story etc..) or the fact that special effects in movies looked cooler in the past because there was no modern photo-realistic CGI to compare them to, the limitations involved in creating things in the past often tends to evoke a lot of nostalgia.

So, yes, a lot of what makes nostalgia “special” can often be due to the limitations of the past.

———————-

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (11th October 2017)

Yes! Today’s digitally-edited painting was originally just going to be a painting of a bookshop/newsagents from the early 2000s. But, I was feeling even more inspired than I had expected, so it ended up going in a much more interesting 1980s/90s cyberpunk style direction 🙂 And, yes, I used a bit of artistic licence since – were I to draw a realistic early 2000s horror bookshelf, it’d probably consist of at least 50% Stephen King novels…

And, yes, I consider this painting to be a belated part of one of my two “awesome stuff” art series (here’s a page containing links to the first one, I can’t remember if I compiled the second one into a single post)

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"And Those Were The Glory Days" By C. A. Brown

“And Those Were The Glory Days” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (14th August 2017)

This silly “mid-2000s nostalgia” digitally-edited painting was surprisingly fun to make. Basically, after watching a few episodes of a ‘so bad that it’s good’ anime series from the mid-2000s called “Tokko“, I was in the mood for making another attempt at painting a ‘nostalgic’ painting set in the mid-2000s.

But, then, I realised that there’s a good reason why the world isn’t saturated with mid-’00s nostalgia. I may have been a teenager back then, but it was probably one of the most hilariously uncool decades ever (second only to this dreary, austere and puritanical decade).

Sure, flip phones were cool and maybe flame shirts were too (not to mention that DVDs are timeless, and ‘The Da Vinci Code’ isn’t a bad book) – but almost everything else was just hilariously silly – sickly alcopops, fake Chinese script tattoos, Limp Bizkit, boho fashion, “l33t haxxor” elitist nerdiness, emo fashion, chav fashion, that bloody ‘crazy frog‘, endless American remakes of J-Horror films, the sequels to “The Matrix”, MSN Messenger, MySpace etc…

So, this painting is as much a parody (I certainly had a laugh when making it) of the mid-00s as it is a ‘nostalgia’ painting.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Like 2005" By C. A. Brown

“Like 2005” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (10th August 2017)

Today’s digitally-edited painting was something of an experimental painting. It mostly began as an attempt at using three-point perspective and then it somehow morphed into …a nostalgic painting about the 2000s.

Seriously, that decade isn’t old enough to get nostalgic about (and it isn’t as cool as the 1990s), yet I found my painting gradually including subtle allusions to early-mid 2000s music, technology, horror movies etc….

The perspective experiment failed (the wierd proportions in part of the painting are evidence of this). Likewise, taking a different approach to painting rain also failed slightly. Still, as bizarre as this painting was, it’s still probably the best painting I’ve made over the past few days.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Festival Perspective 2004” By C. A. Brown