(This Post) Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody

A few loose thoughts about DVR and Internet technologies. With particular reference to Kid n’ Play’s 1991 film “House Party 2: Pajama Jammie Jam.”

  1. When digital-video recording first entered my life — creating a technological right to watch TV programming on a personal schedule — I worried that I might stop channel surfing all together. Do other people have a sour association with the act of idly flipping channels, maybe the sort of thing you do when there’s nothing good on? Not me. I always found channel changing to be one of the most satisfying aspects of television viewership. So it was as if the DVR, which had a very clear and massive upside, was also solving a problem I didn’t really have. At least that’s what I thought when DVR became a technological reality for me a few years ago.
  2. Turns out, I was wrong: I still flip channels. Not that it’s exactly the same — there’s always a guide now, the name of the show, etc. — but I don’t only do what I expected I would: watch mostly recorded shows, outside of live stuff like sports. I take an aggressive approach to programming my DVR, too. So there is, literally speaking, always something on hand that I “want” to watch. And yet I still flip channels at times. So I’m pleased that, at this point at least, technology hasn’t been able to sap my interest in this particular pastime, which I really do (somewhat nostalgically, I admit) consider a hallmark of the early digital era (i.e. my youth)
  3. Interesting — at least for me — is the realization that nowadays I tend to channel surf and watch odd bits of television while also hopping around on the Internet. Which tonight led me to happen on the second film in Kid n’ Play’s “House Party” cycle while I had a Web browser open on my lap. I first saw this movie shortly after its theatrical release, on a VHS cassette almost certainly rented from Highland Park’s Ravinia Video. Here is a good chunk of the eponymous “Jamma Jammie Jam” scene (skip to the 1:10 mark only if you want to bypass some white person rap from the heyday of Vanilla Ice):
  4. Are you still reading? I appreciate it. And here is my key loose thought for this post…. While watching the final 30 minutes of “House Party 2” tonight, a film I first encountered as a 6th grader, I was able to summon forth from YouTube the precise part of the film I was at that moment watching on the TV — the clip I have embedded above. This is in and of itself, given the somewhat obscure and nostalgic cultural moment I was having tonight, a significant achievement. The current state of Internet technology means that “House Party 2” had been at my fingertips all this time, I didn’t even need the serendipity of a random channel-flipping encounter. That’s quite a technological wonder, from a certain point of view. Goes to show the distance we’ve come with our video-delivery technologies. And here’s what I realized: If I traveled back in time to 1992 — to the very moment when 12-year-old me was returning the Kid n’ Play cassette to Ravinia Video — and explained to my younger self that in 15 years time I would be able to watch the climactic moment from the Jamma Jammie Jam whenever I wanted via a computer, 12-year-old me would have found the remark almost completely incomprehensible. I mean this in the most literal way. In 1992, the notion that a person in the near future would be able to watch Kid n’ Play perform “Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody” at any time they freaking pleased, and on a computer no less, just wouldn’t have made sense at all. It would have sounded absolutely weird and insane, a crazy forecast of things to come. Pure science fiction. And maybe it is.

Bonus Loose Thoughts: a) Funny to encounter positive message rap, a la DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, once again. I loved this stuff back in its time, owned a bunch of tapes. b) “House Party 2” had an anti-alcohol message? And Martin Lawrence was in it? Huh. c) Interesting that these movies consisted of very poor plot and comedic elements linking music performance sequences, a formula that goes back to the days of the Marx Bros. And, beyond that, all the way back to Vaudeville. Has Hollywood abandoned this hoary formula today? I can’t think of a recent analogue. d) The Wikipedia entry for the original “House Party” film is detailed, including fine-grained plot synopsis. But the entry for the sequel consists of almost nothing. Here’s all it says about the plot: “‘House Party 2’ basically has the same premise as the first except it is a pajama party instead of a regular house party.”

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