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Tag Archives: 1979

Recorded History

30 Aug

August 30, 2016

I grew up in the days before VCR’s were common. And that really dates me since a lot of my younger readers who have TiVo or any kind of digital recorders may never have had a VCR. But at one point it just wasn’t common to have any kind of home television recording device. They existed in the 70’s but they weren’t cheap or in every home.

As a kid, I had a black + white TV in my bedroom, and that dates me too. Even then B+W TV’s were on the way out and color sets were soon all you’d find. It was an old set.

This was around 1979 or so. I was young and I was just becoming a Star Trek fan. (How did that happen? Read here.) Problem was, the show aired on WPIX channel 11 late at night. I’m not sure, but it aired at 11:00 or even later, and for a kid like me, that was past my bedtime. Even though there was a  TV right near my bed, I knew Mom or Dad would see the light under my door or hear the sound so watching the show wasn’t an option. But I came up with a work around.

Dad had a portable cassette recorder and I put it next to the TV speaker, turned down the sound, and adjusted the picture so the screen was all black. That way I recorded the Trek audio and eventually I had three or four shows in my meager collection, audio only. I’d listen to them late at night.

See how old it is? It has a leather case and a carry strap!

See how old it is? It has a leather case and a carry strap!

Flash forward to today. DVD, Netflix, Hulu, and more. If you want to see (let alone hear) an episode of Star Trek it is at your fingertips. And the other night I put on Netflix and found a particular episode of Star Trek, one I haven’t seen in a few years, at least.

Kirk, Spock and Co. beam down to a planet where Spock gets infected by alien spores and his emotions are released. He falls in love and refuses to leave the planet. It’s not a bad episode but certainly not one of the best. Middle of the road, I’d say. It’s memorable for Spock falling in love but also for McCoy speaking in a slow Southern drawl.

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But it is very special to me since it was one of the shows I taped on that old recorder of Dad’s. Both the recorder and the tape are long, long gone. So just for the heck of it, to relive some of my youth, late at night I after I got into bed the other night I took out my tablet and played This Side of Paradise. Without the picture. Just the audio. The same way I listened to this episode back in the late 70’s.

It isn’t a great line, and not a memorable piece of dialogue, but I would be lying if I didn’t get a thrill hearing the head of the planet’s lost colony introduce himself to Jim Kirk.

this side of paradise new caption

I have a clear and distinct memory of lying in my childhood bed in my family’s old apartment listening to that scene. And for the next 50 minutes or so, while I may have been lying in my 2016 bed, I was also lying in my 1979 bed, in my 1979 home, and I felt every bit the kid I was then.

I suppose there’s a point here about technology, or childhood, or whatever you may have read into this. For me, the only point is that it’s a damn shame I had to grow up.

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bmj2k enterprise

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How I Earned My Geek Card

24 Apr

April 24, 2013

May 1977. I remember it like it was yesterday.

It was a Sunday, around noon. Little me, not quite six and a half years old, was laying on the carpet in the living room of our small apartment with the New York Daily News Sunday comics spread out before me. The carpet was turn-signal green.  The bedroom carpet was turn-signal red. Hey, it was the 70’s.

Dad asked me and my little brother if we wanted to go to the movies. I suspect this had less to do with wanting to take is to the movies than it did with Mom wanting us all out of her hair. With me and my little brother, not quite four and a half years old, we were a handful. And my Dad could be, well, you had to know him. So my Mom would really appreciate a Sunday without us around.

It was a sunny day and the TV was on, although I am not sure what it was playing. I distinctly remember that it was shaping up to be a lazy day. I’d probably end up driving Mom nuts with getting underfoot, hence Dad wanting to get us all out of the house.

I’m pretty sure I was pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. “What’s playing?”

Dad was flipping through the movie section of the paper. When Mom picked the movie we’d end up seeing Victor Victoria or Kramer vs. Kramer. When Dad picked the movie I tended to enjoy them a little more. A couple of years later, little eight year old me would enjoy Roger Moore in Moonraker with him. (I enjoy that film a bit less today.)

After a few seconds of selection, Dad said “Star Wars is supposed to be good.”

I was not impressed.

“Nah, it’ll be boring like Star Trek. Let’s see something else.”

trek_tv_guide_adAt that time, WPIX channel 11 aired Star Trek on the weekends, two episodes sometime between, I think, 3 and 7. During the week Star Trek aired at midnight. As I said, I was not impressed. Little six and a half year old me said “all they do is talk.” (Ironically, that is one of my current complaints about The Next Generation.)

Dad was a sci-fi fan. Most of my early sci-fi books, by people like Harry Harrison and Frederick Pohl, came straight out of his collection. I read The Dragonriders of Pern because of him, as well as The Elfstones of Shannara. My collection today still features his 1977 hardcover copies of Star Wars and Han Solo at Star’s End from the Book of the Month club. So his wanting to see Star Wars was no surprise.

Well, Dad wanted to go, so we went. And I loved it. So much so that when I got home I turned on the TV to watch Star Trek and I not only sat through it, I loved it. I was hooked.

Oddly enough, it was Star Wars that made me a Star Trek fan.

Star Wars must have struck that right chord of action and aliens that made me want to sit through the Spock and McCoy bickering until the Enterprise encountered the Klingons. Today of course, I realize that the Spock and McCoy bickering is just an example of the type of characterization that makes Star Trek work.

old-star-wars-posterDad took us to see Star Wars five times. We could not get enough, and he went just to see what he missed the other times. Two little kids always want something. Dad was always getting up for popcorn, or soda, or more popcorn, or candy, or more soda, and he said that he saw the same film five times but never saw the same parts twice.

So I became a fan of both series and even though it wasn’t long until Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out, I never did see it in the theaters, probably due to the bad reviews. (Unlike me, Dad had standards.) And looking back, it is a good thing I didn’t see it because if I once thought that Star Trek on TV was talky, I would have been bored to tears by that movie. That was one boring movie.

But when Star Trek II came out, I had already cut out the newspaper ads and pasted them all over the house so there was no missing that movie.

What puts me in mind of this tale is that although I earned my geek card in 1977, I think 2013 is the year I give it back. The new Star Trek franchise is not Star Trek. I see the trailer for the new film and nothing about it feels like Trek. George Lucas of course ruined Star Wars many years ago, and with Disney planning to put out a move a year starting in 2015, this may be the time to bail out before it gets worse. I’ve already torn my geek card nearly in half. Back when DC rebooted in 2011 I decided to get out of comics entirely and, other than a pair of back issues from the late 70’s, I have not bought a single comic book from any company since. So with all due love and respect to Dad, who got me into both comics and sci-fi, I think the ride is over.

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