Plastic Man

Analog is back. Not that it went anywhere. Not that we, the gadget-hungry public, haven't been passing by the lonely typewriter on our way to the cell phone cases. Not that we haven't been sneering at the stacks of old VHS tapes at our parents' houses, some of which we used to watch ourselves. (Stephen King's World of Horror, for instance.) Not that we stopped leaving our junk lying around.

Who knew that vinyl would become such a big seller in the second decade of the 21st century? Jazz-heads, I suppose. Record collectors. Your dad. They may seem to live in the past, but they've known all along that there's something about that format, something magical. You've heard the arguments.

Who knew there would be VHS conventions, and YouTube channels and documentaries dedicated to the fuzzy format? Adjust Your Tracking and Rewind This!, two docs I'm eager to see, seem to treat the clunky old things like priceless artifacts. They are, in a way. They weren't back when you were laughing openly at that dollar store copy of The Fox and the Hound 2, but history speaks volumes, and many of those volumes are still lying around, taking up space.

Who knew that shows like The Angry Video Game Nerd and others would help spawn a resurgence in retro gaming, a scene popular enough to lead to 4- and 8-bit sounds finding their way into pop music? No, James Rolfe and company aren't responsible for that horrible song on the radio, but drop a pebble in a pond, and you get ripples. Or pixels, in this case.

What was ubiquitous a mere twenty years ago has suddenly become rare. No, you're not going to pay more than five bucks for a VHS tape of Pulp Fiction, no more than you'd pay more than three for a paperback copy of The Stand at Half-Price Books. But Ninja Gaiden Trilogy for the Super NES? Enjoy those 16-bit colors and stereo sound, because you'll be paying over a hundred. Of course, every Tarantino movie except My Best Friend's Birthday is on every home format imaginable. Type Ninja Gaiden into Amazon.com. You have to scroll halfway down the page to get through the Sigma series, until you finally find the original, NES version, used, with no packaging. About ten bucks if you still have your NES, and if it hasn't fallen apart from you blowing into it like a pensive opossum since 1989.

Guess which version of Ninja Gaiden I have fond, fuzzy memories of. Now, guess who doesn't have the disposable income to buy it again, at any price. I'm as sentimental as anyone about the plastic crap I grew up with, whether or not it's slowly been giving us all cancer. That doesn't mean we have to buy everything we missed out on, or re-buy everything we sold at garage sales or traded for Legos. (I actually did that with the Super-NES and a few games. I still don't know why, except that video games seemed to be consuming my life, and I needed a dramatic exit. I don't have the Legos anymore, either.) Sometimes -- maybe all the time -- the memory is better.

I'd still love to get all of those old Fangorias, though.