Learning Day: Liberation and Let There Be Light 🌭

Do me a favor: close your eyes. I know, I know, but please, just trust me on this. Go ahead, close ‘em. Okay, are they closed? Hey, your mother sucks cocks in Hell and does a really bad job of it. Okay, good, just checking.

Now project into that space, if you will, the future; neither a time nor place, but the very concept itself…the way it makes you feel. For example, a Virtual Boy is from the past, but it is also a chunky plastic goggle that shows you red wireframes in the dusky dark, and that makes it futuristic as all fuck.

Are you imagining the future as hard as you can? Then we are imagining the same thing, for there is only one correct answer in all timespace to the question “what’s most future?” I speak of course of a CD so large its hole begs to be explored, a record so shiny with chrome you can see your face in it and you’re wearing those glasses that are just horizontal plastic bars painted neon. The LaserDisc. See it spinning there, in the showcase of your mind, rainbows playing across its vast unwieldy expanse. Now imagine that you are no longer imagining, and instead listening to me.

My friends, I speak today of a movie-watching medium so dope it has to be flipped halfway through like a record, and whose sleeves were so thin you couldn’t tell which one was which on a shelf. To 1993 me, they were the epitome of science fiction. Consider just the word: LaserDisc. Laser, obviously a strong futuristic offer along the lines of a “cyber” or “A.I.-written.” Then there’s disk, but spelled in a different way, a way they might use when all the Ks run out in, hm, I don’t know, the future perhaps?

This brings me to my new recurring column-within-a-column, LASERDISCS IN THE RAIN, comprising a hodgepodge of memories and meanderings surrounding things in my Dad’s LaserDisc collection I watched as a child. Regular readers (hi Dad!) will know that this whole column is basically for his benefit. I crave his aloof, icy approval.

Hey, here’s one now!

When I was eight, my father would take us on a trip from San Diego to Los Angeles several times a year on what he unironically called a “pilgrimage.” We’d pile into his SUV with three other very weird guys and hit up four spots: Amoeba, Fry’s, the Music Trader where they shot the beginning of the Brütal Legend video game, and fucking Ken Crane’s LaserDisc.

There at KC’s, in a room smelling exactly like a Circuit City, awash in looping trailers on CRTVs stationed throughout, we’d spend hours flipping through Discs like neanderthal hunters of antiquity and pile our pelts high in victory. “Oh look, Wayne’s World 2,” we’d say, veritably frothing at the loins.

On one of many such occasions, once home Papa called me and my brother into the media room for whiskey sours and cigars and we rifled through our bags to find something to watch. Naturally, my brother and I, being young and as yet naive, gravitated to baubles and trifles, your “We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story”s as it were. Dad, on the other hand, wasn’t fucking around. Using his car key to slice open the shrinkwrap on a preem new LD, he proceeded to blow our minds with a kind of media I hadn’t even known existed: COMPUTER GRAPHICS GENERALLY.

Yes, burned onto these wheels of yore, from a time of past-yet-to-come, was the most futuristic thing possible: low–poly jams from the very earliest days of CG. Literally the only other computer graphics I’d been exposed to were, like, Virtua Fighter 1 and the Pixar short that’s just a snowglobe.

It’s important that younger people understand, computer graphics were so impressive to us in the early ’90s that we would make whole LaserDiscs full of anything with computer graphics in it, just whole compilations of NOW! That’s What I Call Computer-Generated!

Many was the Sunday we’d sit there on the black leather couch, freshly puked out from the whiskey and cigars, and watch our way through an entire playlist of shit like:

● POV: Frog Jumps into Radiator and Dies

● The Video they Show in Line for a Six Flags Ride

● POV: Cat Jumps into Blender and Dies

● Spheres – A Study in Texture-Mapping

● Spanish Cleanser Commercial with CG Mosquito

● Japanese Computer Chip Commercial

● POV: Small Meowing Man Jumps into Blender

● Circles – Origins of the Sphere

Naturally, there would also be the occasional music video, but only from artists so forward-thinking that they should be living on the freakin’ moon, if indeed they aren’t (I haven’t looked into it in every case). For the rest of our time today, let us dive deeply into a crystal-clear pool of Mike Oldfield and lap up the sweet nectar of the Pet Shop Boys, pictured here as colorful blobs, which is, let’s be honest, what a lot of early CG can be described as.

The other thing a lot of early CG can be described as? CONES-HAVING, baby. Here we see the Pet Shop Boys singing about sexual freedom as their disembodied heads fly by on golden wings in conical dunce caps, and guess what they’re poopin’? Here’s a hint: you put ice cream in them.

When you need to copy and paste a lot of stuff to prove your computer works but it can’t handle pyramids? Cones. For the computing wizards of 1993, making the colorful Pet Shop Boys face-blobs poop out cones was but a trice. Behold!

I’ll see that miracle and raise you the Pet Shop Boys as neon Party Jesuses glorifying several lightly textured spheres with the cones they poop. This is the OFFICIAL VIDEO for this song.

Fuck it, here’s CONES pooping cones. Have you been New Aged yet? Are you not coned?

But I see that you’re discerning consumers, unimpressed by cones alone. I know what you’re thinking: the true benchmark of computer generated imagery is that perfect form, the human body. Six hundred muscles, enough vascular material to stretch around the Earth, lousy with bones, the human body has long been the standard by which artistic renderings are judged. To that end, we the Pet Shop Boys proudly present you this tube made of gray potato chips filled with blobby stick-men.

If you’re not picking up on the subtle theme of videos like this, it’s “We purchased computer graphics.” At no point does a narrative any more coherent than that surface. And yet, all the CG videos from this brief period share a shocking number of elements. Case-in-point: Mike Oldfield’s head presented here as a colorful blob pooping cones.

In case you’re not familiar with Oldfield, he’s the chap who brought us “Tubular Bells,” better known as the Exorcist theme. In the late’ 80s and early ’90s he was busily dismantling any and all creep cred he may have earned by producing soft-rock dreamscapes with the exact vibe of a Lisa Frank dolphin Trapper Keeper. The premise of “Let There be Light” seems to be “What if stuff flew? Wouldn’t that just be swell?”

Heck, everyone’s flying! We got cherubs hanging out on a couple lightly textured spheres, presumably just about to diarrhea some serious cone-age.

We got those same cherubs but grown into adult angel-men, now sporting wings too structurally unsound to achieve flight but majestic enough to flabbergast a vagrant.

We even got giant flying manta rays being ogled by a guy repairing a plane, as if to say “Wait, maybe fly? Maybe that’s what planes should do? Thanks for the inspo, mantas!”

And of course, there’s the issue of the rogue Pet Shop Boy:

Quick! Lash the beast to the Earth lest he drown us all in his powerful stream of cone-shit! I kid. Actually, this was just one of many subtle references to the longstanding Oldfield-Boys beef, the most notorious battle in early ’90s West Coast New Age. Tragically, the feud wouldn’t end until the infamous Yanni and Enya hits, now believed to have been carried out by that indigenous guy in the Enigma song that goes “Ayyuh haiiii oh haiwaiyuh.”

Not to be outdone, Oldfield got his own uncredited indigenous guy, who does a dance that makes dragons fly out of the sewers, surprising a work crew. This is the OFFICIAL VIDEO for this song.

Ultimately, the angel-men decide to stand on the flying dragons to reach their beloved skies again, then tool around downtown a while before crashing into a skyscraper. Remember, this was 1994, so no offense was intended except to your taste.

Another wonderful thing these early-days CG music videos do is feed you imagery of people being absolutely fucking amazed by lightly textured spheres, in case you didn’t know that was the level of awe and delight you were supposed to be experiencing.

Honestly, if you aren’t sitting there reading this article with your eyes closed and your jaw on the fucking floor, I can’t help you, and neither can any number of cubes, even this many:

Oh, right, and you can open your eyes now. You passed! This was one of many trials that will determine if you are ready to join the Swaim Swarm, where we’re taking back our masculinity one paint-your-own-ceramic at a time. As for closing out this edition of LASERDISCS IN THE RAIN, all I can say is that my heart still aches for that simpler time, a time when all it took to impress me was to have a very serious black dude roll aside to reveal bikes in the ocean.

Next time on LASERDISCS IN THE RAIN, I get sidetracked and end up doing a capsule review of Rock-a-Doodle on Hi8 Tape, then the glue in the discs starts to rot so now all our movies have static in them. Coooooooones!

This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme: Badger, the winged cone-pooping sphere who represents the human soul!