The Internet is for Nostalgia; SCMS

Could there be a better justification for the interwebs than the preservation in an accessible form of what might otherwise become cultural detritus? I don't mean just any old stuff, mind you. I have in mind the items from one's own experience that had been thought lost or perhaps were just forgotten. One day they turn up when you are searching for something entirely unrelated and, kapow, a wallop of your past, your whole youth and innocence dropped on your brain, and for a long moment the world outside your memory ceases to exist.

Lately I have been satisfied with early 80s music videos, Sesame Street Old School DVDs, and Genesis's Trick of the Tail for my nostalgia. Then I discovered the hundreds of videos posted to YouTube by the user WNED17, clips recorded off of cable TV in Toronto, mostly in the 1980s. What I love most about WNED17's videos is how they seize on the interstitial bits we often think of an inconsequential: commercials, idents, intros for news shows and movies, and promos. These once marginal forms now command my full attention in a way they probably did not then. My most intense reactions are for the children's programs that used to air on the Canadian public television channel TV Ontario, which was my only source of age-appropriate programming in the late afternoons in those days (PBS, which we received over the air from Buffalo, had Sesame Street in the mornings). Elsewhere on YouTube one can find bits of TVO programs like Fables of the Green Forest. And there is also a site where you can listen to MP3s of theme songs for shows that aired on TVO, including Barbapapa, Jeremy, and Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings. I wasn't aware of how many of the shows I watched then were part of the global circulation of children's media. Barbapapa was French, Fables was Japanese, and Simon was English. Simon was parodied on SNL by Mike Myers. Here is the original.

This is the French intro segment for Barbapapa, adapted from books about creatures who change shape (barbe à papa, literally "daddy's beard," is the French word for cotton candy). I never appreciated as a child how trippy kids' culture could be, though I have been attentive to this idea ever since I caught my first glimpse of Teletubbies:

And the intro theme to The Polka Dot Door is a tune I heard every day for years as a child. If I am to grow old and demented, even if I forget my own name, I doubt I will ever lose my memory of this melody.


I am leaving tomorrow for the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Philadelphia. My panel is on Sunday morning at 8 a.m. The topic is the Coen brothers. Hope to see you at SCMS, if not at 8 a.m. Sunday. My paper is called "The Coen Brothers and Pastiche" and is about the idea that their films play with their influences and sources. More SCMS blogging to come.

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