Nostalgiabra (Frankie – 2011)
In Year 12 my friends and I went through a phase of reminiscing about our childhoods, in particular the cartoons we used to watch on the ABC. Of all the shows there was one that elicited the most passionate reaction. The Mysterious Cities Of Gold. Unlike other kids shows, the series was only screened once, and we had equally foggy memories. We pieced it together like detectives, remembering iconic images such as the gold condor, medallions, and the African dress of Tao. Post-school I continued my mission to track it down, traversing a labyrinth of anecdotes and bootleg tip-offs. In 2008 I found the re-released DVD set in J-Mag’s freebies bin – a surprising and sudden end to my quest. While I revelled in how well the series had dated, I noted a slump in my spirits. With nostalgia, the journey is often better than the destination.
The theory of nostalgiabra has changed. Detective work is a much swifter affair with the advent of the pop-culture super computer. Instead of fishing for clues amongst ourselves we let The Net trawl the oceans for us. One of my obscurest memories is an Australian movie from the late 80’s called Frog Dreaming. All I remember is the title and a scene involving a mechanical monster in a swamp. After a minute on the keyboard I’d found the movie uploaded in eight parts to the ‘Tube. The most rated comment read: “Everyone has the SAME experience with this film, they all saw it around the late 80’s period, years pass and they can’t remember the title or anything else except a few brief moments. Then they eventually believe they dreamt or imagined those brief moments because nobody they talk to knows of a movie that fits the descriptions.”
It was true. Here was the modern, virtual equivalent of my Year 12 experience. For a moment I felt flush with acknowledgement – I was part of a community of fellow Gen-Y detectives, albeit online – but after clicking through to a site offering a burn of the film for thirty dollars I hit an emotional firewall. Where was the warmth? The heart. Where was the excitement of a friend putting the movie on at a party, or the vibrancy of a drunken chat with a stranger, rallying memories with high-fivin’ eyes? Like CD’s to vinyl, this experience was too clinical and efficient compared to the warmth of meandering conversations and video store scouring. The conundrum was that I didn’t really want to find the answers all at once. What kind of series would Sherlock Holmes have been if he’d solved the cases by the second page?
During high school, my favourite pastime was to head to the local second hand record store and search though the CD singles. My number one target was a copy of my favourite song Infinity by Guru Josh. I spent so much time scouring the ‘G’s’ that I’ve build up an autistic knowledge of 90’s ‘G’ bands: Garbage, Gang Starr, Ginuwine, Gin Blossoms, Gina G. After five years solid searching I never found the single. This is because it was only released on cassette and vinyl. Looking back, it didn’t matter. The rush of suspense that accompanied my police cleric flicking was worth it. These days, I would head to Ebay and locate a copy within seconds. While this would suit the time-poor me today, my teenage hunting by hand is the equivalent of kids being encouraged to ‘run around in the backyard’ instead of playing the computer.
As super-detectives, with our minds in the matrix and the answers at our fingertips, are we experiencing obscurity blues? Thanks to the Internet nothing is lost anymore, so can we take the same joy in discovering it? As the online bargain bin grows, perhaps our connection to art is becoming more depersonalised. As one of the 25, 000 Fans of 80’s claymation ‘Trapdoor’ I feel that nostalgia, like everything, has been commodified as another status symbol. It seems important to preserve my own relationship with the show, and distil the excitement from those faint technicolour memories. As a retro Poirot, perhaps I’ll take the long road, and wait until I stumble upon it on a dusty shelf. That’s StumbleUpon the old fashioned way.