Saturday, March 22, 2014

Who Made You? Analog Dreams in a Digital Era. Have You Ever Seen the Great TV Show 'The 90's: Race And Racism – Red, White, And Black'?

The hip hop generation has analog memories but lives in a digital age. We were born in the mid to late 1960's, the 1970's, and the early 1980's. In those decades--especially the latter two--we lived the transition from analog to digital technology and the Internet.

Who are we? What do believe? How do we come about believing what we know if it is function of life experience and fallible memories? How do we know what is real?

Those are all timeless questions. They are immortal. Yes, both people and thoughts have a life.

The supposed certainly of the Internet has ruined many things.

I know that I saw multiple versions of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan on TV as a child and teenager.

I know that I saw Hulk Hogan in West Haven, CT eating at Jimmies restaurant while I was a child.

I know that there are multiple versions of Robotech, and that an American TV network accidentally showed a sex scene between Rick Hunter and Lynn Minmei which resulted in the series being pulled from the air.

I know that there were different versions of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back shown in the movie theater.

I know that Public Television and the USA Network showed full female frontal nudity during the 1980's.

The Internet would have ruined many of those mysteries (and what I then knew to be concrete facts). A life as a troglodyte in the proverbial and metaphorical Cave is very comforting; there is a reason those who escape from the Cave are at first hurt by the sun's rays.

The Internet has confirmed my first two memories. The Internet has revealed my memories of Robotech to be very incorrect. Questions remain about what in fact did transpire with Empire, as well as the various short films shown before Star Wars: A New Hope during its theatrical release.

I am damn certain that I saw nudity on both PBS and the USA Network. Moreover, I remember using the rabbit ears on the television in my childhood home's den to watch New York City public access TV and all the wonderful debauchery it offered in the name of "art" and "free speech".

However, my most formative analog memory was of the non-profit, independent TV series The 90's.

That show really challenged me: The 90's opened up my eyes to the fact that my teachers could be lying. The 90's aired randomly, Sundays and late Saturdays, on Public Access. I would wait, as I am sure others did for The 90's, VCR ready to record.

A curious student, I would raise questions about current events that I gleamed from The 90's to my middle school and high school teachers. They would smile, laugh, or ignore me.

Now we/I/us have the last laugh.

[One of my most painful and powerful memories of being a student who should have been encouraged, but was instead punished on more than a few occassions, was about an essay I wrote in high school about race, whiteness, greed, and the book Silas Marner

The teacher sat with me in the cafeteria, and the she told me how my claims were "horrible". 

The teacher then used my paper as grounds for kicking me out of Honors English. My parents wanted to protest and sue. I told them I would get my revenge later. I refused to go back to that class. I would rather have been suspended or expelled.

While reading a journal article about literature, psychoanalytical frameworks, and whiteness years later, I discovered a very similar finding, one that echoed my own but (of course) using more sophisticated language. 

Yes, I was the only black student in class. Yes, she was white. I hate how functional and flat explanations are all too right and correct too many times from those who live on the other side of the colorline. Post racial colorblind dreams do not prepare children of color for the real world.]

The best gift a teacher can give to a student is the answer "I do not know." The auxiliary best question follows, "how would we go about finding the answer?" I had some great teachers who did both; most of my teachers--and I bet yours--did neither.

Race And Racism – Red, White, And Black is now online courtesy of the great archival project Media Burn.

Every segment of Race And Racism – Red, White, And Black is worth watching. From a great compilation, the man on street interviews about race in America, circa 1991, are especially compelling because of how much has changed while remaining the same...even in 2014.

The First Nations brothers and sisters standing down the Canadian government are awe inspiring. I do wonder what happened to those principled citizens and warriors?

The interview with Dr. Joel Kovel is priceless. He was an honored scholar and elder some decades ago. Kovel never stopped telling the truth--even when it was to his own personal detriment.

The "black memorabilia" collecting segment is sickening as an example of how historical erasure, myopia, and white supremacy intersect.

Who made you? What analog dreams in a digital age are you still holding onto? Which have been proven or disproved?

For those of you who are children of the digital age, what has analog taught you--and what do you have to teach those of us who grew up in a previous era?


ChuckieJesus said...

On Channel 20 in Washington, D.C. during the 1970s, you could see occasional nudity if you stayed up late and watched Benny Hill. I don't know if they were asleep at the controls, or just didn't care.

This article brings out all the nostalgic feels for that era. My analog flipping-number alarm clock had digital numbers fonted upon it, like the manufacturer knew what was coming, but technology hadn't reached that point just yet.

I was the one who figured out how to set the clock on the VCR, how to hook up the Atari 2600, how to screw around with the cable box and get the channels we weren't paying for. This is what passed for technological childhood precociousness back in the Plastic Ages. Back when Jem was truly outrageous.

Back when there were nothing but wallphones and square phones upon desks, I was a kid. I was young enough and my nervous system was new enough that I could feel the phone calls coming before the phone rang. I used to pick up the phone and simply say, “Hi, what’s up?” and my friend or my mom on the other end would be all, “Bu-wha?”

Turns out, talking to other people familiar with old tech, when they were young, they did those things too. Some attributed it to sensation (feeling the phone call come over the wires and echoing through the house before resolving upon the telephone’s bell), others attributed it simply to, “I was always on the phone, so chances were good I would be calling my friend at the same time she was calling me, so… that’s just how old analog phone wires did back then, now, can I please go back to eating? You’re so weird.”

The generation younger than mine might be similarly nostalgic for the next era. I was a young adult by the time I heard and became sickeningly familiar with this sound.

It’s as familiar to me as an old television jingle.

ChuckieJesus said...

Oh, and The 90's was a great damn show. Me and my mom would watch it.

Learning IS Eternal said...

Never have never will be a fan of "FaceSpace" as I call it. You can be a target for malice even worse than when it was just chat rooms.

People had options to have private number unlisted in the phone book. Now that I think about it, I can't recall when I last used a phone book. Texting may have caused a spike in carpal tunnel but gave way to short hand for dummies. GTFOH, IMY, WYD... Your love interest can now call you more than a 304/hoe or 7734 2 06/go to hell in your pager.

Google earth, map quest awesome for roadtrips; even better for stalkers.

I like some of the technological advances we've made. In some ways & in some people it made us lazy & (more) narcissistic.

And yes, you did see skin on USA network.

chauncey devega said...

I am validated. I knew I wasn't crazy. I remember the first 2 Nightmare on Elm Street movies offered some great nudity.

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

Yes, I can also confirm that I saw boobs in one of the B-movies shown on USA Up All Night sometime around 1991. It was a fleeting glimpse, one they just didn't bother cutting out, I guess. And yes, I did occasionally stare at the scrambled signal of the Playboy Channel waiting for a brief look at some nudity.

One of my favorite analog memories was getting up at 6:30 in the morning to watch cartoons on Saturday morning. We didn't have cable until a few years later, so I would stare at the test pattern for 15 minutes, back in the day when programming was not 24 hours (at least not out in the sticks where I grew up.) At 6:45 the local newscaster read the news, radio style, with various fixed graphics on the screen. When I was a little older I would stay up late and watch Saturday Night Live to the end, and they would play the national anthem afterward as the sign off, as if I had done some kind of patriotic duty by consuming television late into the night.

chauncey devega said...

You midwest boys did such things? I thought you were "wholesome"?

Martin Wisse said...

Ha, growing up in the eighties in the degenerate Netherlands, I didn't need to hope for a fleeting glimpse of boobies; we got ours at prime time in the commercials for shower gel and shampoo.

JustMe said...

The talk of old phones reminded me of this video.

It's really amazing to think of how we called our friends - tied to the wall, with a long cord stretched completely out around the corner to try and have privacy because there was only a kitchen phone and one in mom's room but that one we didn't get to use.

I don't remember the show but definitely sounds interesting enough to check out.

But this will make you feel old. Ha.