If you thought I knew how to cover the stranger side of pop culture, you should check out my latest YouTube obsession, the Oddity Archive. Because he does it better!
YouTube Channel Shoutout
I’ve given a few shoutouts recently for several channels whose work I watch with a diligent eye, a smile on my face…and the intense concentration and excitement of an excited geek.
In recent months, I’ve praised urban explorers Dan Bell and Ace’s Adventures and their journeys through dead/dying mall culture. As you know, I dabble in pop culture bizzarreness, especially nostalgic pop culture bizarreness. And I’ve found a channel that makes it so weirdos like me can revel in someone else’s equal enjoyment.
To be honest, I have no idea how I found the Oddity Archive, but it has already been responsible for a recent Music Monday post on my blog, so you know it means business in my life.
Oddity Archive delves into the strangeness of pop culture (specifically the nostalgic kind), and tells its story through history lessons, local commercials, and any relevant footage. Host Ben Minnotte sits behind his box and tells the tale of these bizarre moments in pop culture. His tales are funny, the pop culture is odd and painful, and all of it is done with proud geeky passion.
And for every new episode, a different picture on the box.
He’s smiling behind that box.
Ben’s topics run the range of pop culture oddities – riffs, short films, local access programming (think Wayne’s World, but terrible), VCR gaming, analog broadcast sign-offs, drive-in theater ads, and children’s programming. The stranger, the better!
The webseries premiered with the Max Headroom hacking story, and from there, has gone on to cover anything that is pretty much on the level of that infamous incident. There is strong language as well as some not safe for work imagery in the video link
If you’re still reading this, then obviously, this piques your interest.
Which brings me to the part you came here for…VIDEOS!
How about a whole playlist of oddities? Go on, click play!
Uploads via OddityArchive (Playlist via Michael Roden)
THE FUTURE also comes complete with early 1990s Dennis Miller smarm and smirk!
For the record, I’ve always liked that smarm and smirk.
Now, I Don’t Wanna Go Off In A Rant Here…
When I was almost in my teens (and carrying right into today), Dennis Miller was my hero. He never failed to amuse me (even when I didn’t get the reference), he was aware his acting skills were terrible (Bordello of Blood, anyone?), and he had books in publication. I like funny men, I like bad acting, and I love books. Say what you will about him now, but I (still) love the guy. He still cracks me up…and I still don’t get every reference.
I’ve been lucky enough to see the man perform live twice (once in 2005, another time in 2006). The first time I saw him (at Borgata’s Music Box Theater), the show was initially “sold out,” but a random Ticketmaster email with the promise of available tickets 24 hours before the show meant seeing him perform. The second time (at Circus Maximus Theater, Caesars Atlantic City), it was a surprise that I knew about three weeks before.
Most “critics” say he’s lost his edge. I don’t believe that for a second when you don’t miss a beat in your material. He’s still as esoteric as he ever was, but damn, I laughed hysterically each time.
Back to the 1990s…
In the early 1990s (post-Saturday Night Live), the man was marketable, and he turned up everywhere. ESPY hosting duties, Primetime Emmy hosting duties, Talk Show #1, Talk Show #2, a movie here, a movie there, commercial, commercial, commercial, another movie, commercial.
He was the spokesperson for everything, folks.
And as I just found out…he hosted corporate marketing videos!
Allow me to turn over a New Leaf…
New Leaf Enertainment
In 1992, Blockbuster Video, coupled with IBM, turned over a “new leaf” in THE FUTURE of home video and gaming rentals. The concept allowed retailers access to a vast digital library of films and video games, copied into a cartridge or disc.
The company name, you ask? New Leaf Entertainment!
And they asked Dennis Miller to tell us about it, while dispensing of esoteric references and technological talk, while displaying his bad acting skills and his hilarious depiction of a French accent.
That’s probably his best acting, folks.
Although, if you saw Disclosure, he’s not that terrible of an actor. But Michael Crichton wrote his part with him in mind, so…
Seriously, he was REALLY good in this movie. Especially when he turned his back on Michael Douglas. You’d think an actual actor with actual acting chops publicly questioned Douglas’s character’s “transgression.”
Anyway, I could tell you all about this amazing technology Miller can’t wait to tell us about, but why don’t I let him do that instead?
Click play, cha-cha!
Upload via retailgeek
Sounds great in theory, right?
It Sounded Like a Great Idea…
But it wasn’t. Because it never happened.
Well, not in 1992.
The whole concept wound up being just that…a concept. A concept with terrible acting and presentation material that may as well have been Miller’s stand-up routine.
I wonder if Dennis Miller remembers that he did this.
The idea sounds amazing in theory, but technology as it was in 1992, as well as a weak distribution model, lead this the whole idea.
For more information on this (and the eventual testing phase in 1994), the Gaming Historian covered the gaming end of it on his show.
(That’s how I found the Dennis Miller marketing video!)
Upload via Gaming Historian
What do you think? Was this a great idea in theory, or just an idea of what was to come once the right technological advancements were made?
Just because our beloved technology is dated, doesn’t mean you can’t find out something new about it!
This interesting idea for an article came to me while writing about what happens when you insert a LaserDisc “dead side” up.
Call me crazy, but inspiration hit to look back at some other interesting things we tried to do or figure out with our “primitive” 1980s technology. Truly it was a fun time that can’t be explained to today’s modern kids, who “know” and “discover” everything!
I’m sure some (or all) of this is not new to our very nostalgic minds, but humor me, this was a fun little bit of research! Plus, nostalgic technology! :-)
Our Very Nostalgic Technology
Did you have one like this?
We loved our gadgets in the 1980s just as much as we love our gadgets now. Sure our tech has advanced – Walkmans are replaced with mp3 players and phones, our portable phones are truly portable, cassettes and records have evolved into CDs and digital media, and BETA and VHS became DVDs, Blu-Rays, and like our music, digital media. We love our technology, and as it advances, it makes our lives better. But there was this awesome time when we tried to figure out what our “primitive” tech was doing, or what we could make our “primitive” tech do to work for us!
Because we loved experimenting with our tech then just as much as we do now!
Consider us the early innovators…or just a bunch of creative kids.
The Videocassette Dial-Up
Uploaded by BlueOctopede
I KNEW IT!
I wasn’t the only little kid that heard the dial-up tone at the beginning of my videocassettes. And like the wonderful BlueOctopede (whose videos I highly recommend!), I heard this on my Disney videocassettes. Which reminds me, I really should pull out my Beauty and the Beast VHS for the nostalgia factor…but mostly to catch that dial tone.
The tone at the beginning of our videos is the Dual Tone Multiple Frequences, or DTMF, tone. This “dialing” sound, as described by Reddit user NerdyGerdy:
“DTMF signaling tones can also be heard at the start or end of some VHS (Video Home System) cassette tapes. Information on the master version of the video tape is encoded in the DTMF tone. The encoded tone provides information to automatic duplication machines, such as format, duration and volume levels, in order to replicate the original video as closely as possible.”
But why was this more commonplace on Disney videos?
…And the Videocassette “White Screen of Death”
That is actually more gray than anything.
Uploaded by Princess Daisy Fanatic Backup
And sometimes red…
Because a blood red screen and a long beeping squeal were perfectly acceptable at the end of a videocassette, when white/gray wasn’t scary enough. This color just screams “I murdered your favorite Disney video!”
Actually, it is a from a United Kingdom print of O Brother Where Are Thou?, and was uploaded (bravely) by You Tube user Daniel Mullins.
…Or This Strange Noise
Guess whose headphones were (accidentally) turned up for this one?!
Uploaded by tititag89
Because the White Screen of Death (and its snappy British cousin, the Red Screen of Death) wasn’t terrifying enough, here’s some loud music, followed by a faux siren!
Teddy Ruxpin Sings!
Uploaded by scbird
Everyone tried this at least once. I tried it with Cricket and my New Kids on the Block tape!
The whole thing with getting our talking dolls to rock out to our other cassette tapes is that, unfortunately, it doesn’t work well. Unless you’re uploader scbird.
This video’s uploader explained in the comments section that they recorded the song on the right channel, and the tones on the left channel to control the eyes and mouth, resulting in what everyone with a talking doll wanted to accomplish in the 1980s.
And this was the best video of the “experimental” bunch. Unfortunately, all the other videos trying the same thing were done by kids who probably found out about this…and felt the need to talk on the video. Nope, couldn’t handle them. This, on the other hand? I could seriously rock out to this!
…And Talking Doll Tapes Do This In Standard Tape Decks!
This was something I tried with my Walkman when I was nine years old. I still had all the tapes from my Cricket doll that I gotten about five years earlier, and while I wasn’t incredibly fond of the doll anymore, I still liked her stories and figured taking one “one the road” would be fine.
This is exactly what happens when you play a talking doll cassette in a standard tape deck (and no, it is not my video):
Uploaded by BB182000
You can hear the recording just fine, but your enjoyment had to contend with the beep boop bop sounds. These “beep boop bop” sounds are the signals that control the eye and mouth movements of our classic talking dolls. As explained with the Teddy Ruxpin video, there is one channel for the recording (right channel), and another for the eye/mouth motion controls (left channel).
Give ‘Em Credit!
Our tech was much more sophisticated than most will ever give it credit for, because someone had to figure out how to make our toys talk and get our videos to work correctly in our VCRs! Sure we were weirded out by the sounds things made, and equally fascinated by how those weird noises made things work. But in the end, it was our technology, and we always made do with what we had…while figuring out all the cool ways to make something work for our adorably nefarious purposes.
Those kids trying this stuff probably think they’re the innovators. If they only knew how many 30-somethings were so far ahead of them…
It is easy to get nostalgic for stuff. Every day I find myself fixating on things from the past. Usually it is not surprising stuff. A TV show, movie or a toy are easy thing to recall and to have a fondness for. Today though, it was something else. I went to use a pencil and realized I did not have a pencil sharpener. Instead of thinking of where I could find some handheld one, my mind went back to the beautiful wall-mounted manual pencil sharpeners of my youth.
We had them in classrooms, of course, but my family also had one in the basement. It was randomly mounted on this support pillar near nothing. So the only reason you had to go to this area of the basement, was to sharpen a pencil. This was a thing I did often. Which when I was young was an event since I was terrified of the basement. Still, I needed to sharpen my pencils for school. So down the basement I went, nearly every day.
As I got more into Dungeons & Dragons, the sharpener became a much-needed gaming accessory. Not only did I need to keep my own pencil sharp, but often the pencils of 4 gamers as well. Eventually we started gaming in the basement and when we chose a place to put our gaming table we made it as close to the pencil sharpener as possible. I had a player who would sharpen their pencil out of nervousness at least once an hour. By the end of the session the pencils would be half the size as when we began.
That pencil sharpener was the one I used from before I could reach it, till I got the the pencils I sharpened and brought to college with me. One day I came home and it was just gone. My mother thought one of my sisters took it, but neither of them would admit to it. Nor have I ever seen it at their houses.
To this day, whenever I get the opportunity to sharpen my pencils on a hand-cranked pencil sharpener, I get to it with gusto. I just wish I had one right now. More to the point, I wish I still had that one from my childhood.
Watch someone take apart and explain a manual wall-mounted Pencil Sharpener
In the 1980s and 1990s, we were really getting jaded with that miracle of communication, the telephone. No longer did we venerate this hi-tech bit of magic with a place of honor on the wall or a special telephone table. No, the phone had become so ubiquitous that you could throw some anywhere. Not only did they start to disappear, we found it funny to make them look like other things. That is where you get things like the Sports Illustrated Sneaker Phone.
While not as well-known as its cousin, the football phone, the Sports Illustrated Sneaker Phone was released with a splash. Advertising was rampant and they put together a “hilarious” commercial to demonstrate just how much this thing looked like a sneaker. In the ad, unsuspecting “shoppers” are in a shoe store. Confronted by a wall of sneakers, they are surprised when one of them starts ringing. When they inspect the ringing, they discover with delight that this sneaker is actually a phone.
My first thought is that these people are all paid actors. Some of the reactions seem just a bit too perfect to not be scripted. But I am not going to be jaded. Instead I want to lean into the era. This was a time when gadgets were still fairly clunky. So putting a phone into a sneaker was actually pretty clever. So maybe a “Get Smart” reference could be expected.
Hello Chief, this is Clark!
The phone does look a lot like a sneaker, but had everything you needed on a hi-tech phone in the 1980s, including Mute and Re-dial. The best thing about the Sports Illustrated Sneaker Phone? It was free with your subscription to Sports Illustrated. So for years after this promotion, you would find these things at garage sales and flea markets. Sadly I never picked one up for a bargain back then because nowadays they run between $20 and $30 online.
Was this commercial staged? Watch it and judge for yourself.
Watch the Sports Illustrated Sneaker Phone Commercial