Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Am Carlanlawan

Recently I happened upon an old VHS tape called "The Best of Robyn and Carly." Ah, me. Robyn was my best buddy all through the awkward years between 7th grade and senior year. She saw me through all the bad times (braces, perms, self-cut bangs, bacon-and-chocolate-shake-induced weight gain, over-sized rugby shirts, retainers with fake teeth on them, boys who didn't love me back, and big, round glasses), and through all the good times (.......)

Did you know that Robyn and I used to make a lot of home movies? When I say "I used to make a lot of home movies" I don't mean that I made a lot of home movies the way M. Night Shyamalan made a lot of home movies. I was neither talented nor artistic. I was just a HUGE SPAZZ. And when I say "a lot" I don't mean like five, I mean like I had five BOXES of tapes documenting everything from the Chinese Sisters Club meetings to the music video I made to Michael Jackson's "Bad" to tell a boy I wanted to go to homecoming with him ('I want to go to homecoming with you BAD"--turned out he hadn't seen the original music video! What a waste!).

Anyway, so I found the "best of" tape and watched it last night, and here are some things I observed:

1. Back then I thought my face was deformed. I thought I was the ugliest creature to walk the earth. I considered the elephant man to be my peer. I mean, we're talking BAD ugliness here. These days, I don't feel so strongly about my hideousness. But when I watch myself at ages 12-18 I realize that I was NOT ugly! I mean, there were awkward and unfortunate moments involving hair and braces, etc. (see above), but I was not, in fact, deformed like I thought I was. What is the deal with that? I mean, really? Now I know that body dysmorphia is real and not just a nice way of telling someone who really is ugly that they are not (which is what I always thought it was when I was a teenager).

2. I was clearly driven by some strong need to express myself that could not be satisfied in any other "normal" non-lip-syncing-in-a-leotard-and-Ronald McDonald-wig sort of way. Once I graduated from high school that need diminished. So, what was it about those years that drove me to such extremes????

3. It truly is a pleasure to see film footage of the house where I grew up. I saw the way it looked before my mom tore out the shaggy orange carpet. I saw how my room was decorated when I was seventeen. I saw the old tile and ceiling in my kitchen. It was actually quite touching for me to see my home again like that.

4. We had no technology back then. There were no Apple computers with video editing software. We didn't know how to put music in the background of the videos we made. We had to have music playing in real time as we acted things out or lip synced, or whatever the heck we did. We were really good at pausing the tape (yes, cassette tape), setting up a new scene, rewinding the tape a few seconds before the place where we stopped it, turning it on, then pushing "record" on the camera at just the right spot. I mean, we did a whole music video to Des'ree using that technique! We were old school. We dreamed of being able to some day put the music in AFTER we did the filming, but the only way we could conceive of that happening was a giant pair of headphones strapped onto the TV. Yeah. Old school indeed! The most exciting technological breakthrough we experienced was when I learned how to "superimpose" words and images, ushering in the ability to put credits on the screen.

5. We LOVED doing credits. Our production company was called, simply, 'Toot Productions."  My favorite time with credits was when we did a talk show called "Carlanlawan" (my nickname). We had the word "Carlanlawan" in pretty cursive writing on the screen, and Robyn was clicking a button that made the word change colors (which you could hear really well because the button was right next to the speakers) while I sat on the couch in the background, wearing an oversize blazer, white shirt, tie, enormous aviator glasses, with a microphone in my hand, saying "Hi, and welcome to Carlanlawan..."

I should be super embarrassed by these old videos--and I am, sort of. But I am also proud of my moxie. It's fun to "reconnect" with myself as a teenager. A lot has changed since then, but I am basically still the old Carlanlawan of my youth. The again,  it's nice to look back and see the way things were with my current, wizened perspective. Now I just need to figure out how to get the VHS tape onto my Apple computer so I can post some of these gems (Ed McMahon and Bill Cosby singing "Memory" for example). I'm thinking a giant set of headphones wrapped around my monitor....


  1. YES! HA HA! I am saying it a la Ed McMahon by Carly in my head. You summed it all up so well! Oh all of those audio "transitions"! Seriously, you'd think we'd just give up on the music video genre with how much work they were! A great memory I have is how our faces would contract with fear during the filming when the cassette started sounding like it might be getting eaten. Ah technology! Oh and the boys I thought would love me so much if they only saw our videos. Alas... Thanks for bringing such fun memories back. And yes, try the big head phones!

  2. I've got a video->digital USB device...they're about 30 bucks at newegg. Let's see these videos!

  3. I completely agree with Beau's statement. We want to see these videos BAD! "Ah-ooh-hoo!!" *Yes, that was me trying to type out MJ's signature high note.*