Before there was YouTube

The weenies in the corporate IS department have suddenly blocked YouTube. Now my blog-surfing experience has big holes in it. Honestly, how they expect me to do my job without the toilet flushing cat, I do not know.

Now that I’m the blogosphere’s nerdy kid who smells funny and doesn’t get what the cool kids are laughing about, I kicked a rock across the playground and went to visit my favorite film site, the Prelinger Archives at — which still make it through the productivity filter. Rick Prelinger collected film ephemera; nearly 50,000 film strips, educational shorts and snippets of amateur footage going right the way back to Edison days. The Library of Congress bought the bulk of the collection a few years ago, but there are still thousands of Prelinger’s saves among the films at (and the LOC has a bunch of its stuff free online, too — check it out).

I can’t get enough of this stuff. Today, they’re featuring this saucy Latin number from 1944 starring Yvonne deCarlo (born Margaret Yvonne Middleton in saucy Canuckistan). Miz deCarlo died Monday, aged 84. Lily Munster will not be down for breakfast.

They have the jolly antics of schizophrenic mental patients and happy children in the Appalachians living on biscuits and bacon grease. Okay, that was sarcasm. Those are two really creepy and depressing filmstrips. Let’s move on to something lighter, mmm?

Mystery Science Theater fans will recognize Jam Handy, king of the industrial films. Remember Coily, the Spring Sprite? Design for Dreaming, from the 1956 General Motors Motorama? The Chicken of Tomorrow? And, yes, they have Duck and Cover and Are You Popular? too.

Oooo! Let’s play “Compare and Contrast”! At the right are two stills from public service VD spots. The first one is Innocent Party, a corn-fed, hokey seventeen minute public health film from 1959. It gives very little information about preventing or treating venereal disease but instead concentrates on the shame and horror of social disease. Don fears for the very existence of his “special organ.”

The second is a TV ad titled VD is for Everybody from 1969. What a difference a decade makes! It gives almost no information about preventing or treating venereal disease but instead shows a montage of happy, attractive, prosperous people behind a jaunty accordian tune while the lady sings, “VD is for everybody, not just for a few!” Yes, all the cool kids have a dose of the clap! Get yours!

Okay, now, guess: which culture had a generally low rate of venereal disease (and divorce and teen pregnancy), and which one felt really good about itself while it spread a virulently lethal, promiscuity-and-buggery-loving form of venereal disease across the planet? Go on — guess!

Here’s an eerie one. The first frame is from a fantastic fourteen minute film of the streets of San Francisco in 1905. They stuck a camera on the front of a cable car let it ride down Market Street. It looks like complete chaos, with horses and cars and pedestrians going in all directions and missing each other by inches. Nobody gets smushed, though. It sort of gives support to the Dutch idea that we’re better off without road signs and traffic regulation because people slow down and pay attention.

The second film, just by chance, is exactly the same ride down Market Street one year later, after the earthquake and fire. What a difference a year makes!

Both films have problems with roll, but they’re slowed down to the proper frame rate, so they have a slow, eerie, ghostly sort of pace. Somehow, I find the before picture even spookier than the post-apocalyptic version. So many, many walking dead people.

In short, I’m doing just fine without YouTube. Y’all can have it. We’re having much more fun over here in….GAAAAAAHHH! I’m kidding! Kidding! I don’t mean it! GIMME BACK MY TOILET FLUSHING CAT, YOU SELFISH BASTARDS!


  1. Posted January 13, 2007 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Meant to post this last night, but my laptop suddenly went dark and lost the backend of the post. Damien had clamped his teeth into the power cord. It must be some kind of short-out protection, because the battery was fully charged but didn’t kick in. He seems okay. I just stared at him drunkenly and thought, “I remember when you were cute.”

    I’m having problems with streaming videos from Prelinger. I can download them, but not stream them. Opera, Firefox AND IE all give a plug-in error and crap out. I think it’s just me, though. I’ve spent the morning trying to diagnose it and download fresh plug-ins, but no joy.

  2. nbpundit
    Posted January 14, 2007 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    I prefer tube socks meself.

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