Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Cube

In 1969 NBC had a show called Experiments in Television. It gave young directors a chance to put pretty much anything they wanted on the air. One weekend afternoon while I was still in grade school this show came on. Probably the only episode I ever saw was called "The Cube". It was about a man trapped in a cube. People could come in and out, but he was never able to escape.

Today I see it was a study of alienation and reality. Then it just blew my mind, opening up thoughts I had never before experienced. It made a huge impression on me. For the next 35 years I would periodically remember The Cube, tell others about it, and try to find it. In all probability it was just lost in the mists of time, but I continued to search for others who had seen it.

To my amazement I was not the only pre-teen out there who was profoundly impacted by this show. The internet has created an unprecedented means through which people of like (and unlikely) interests can connect.

We all had slightly different recollections of the show. I had misremembered the gorillas in tutus. I thought they were on trikes. Turns out they just danced around, and the next tormentor was a little kid on a trike. I had completely forgotten about the Nazis. But I remembered the chocolate bunnies, and most of all the strawberry jam. Everybody remembered the strawberry jam.

Hundreds of us have been bothering friends and relatives about this dimly remembered but profound experience. And now many of us have found each other.

There is a Yahoo group with over 300 members:

There are hundreds of ratings and dozens of comments on IMDB about it:

And now it is available in color, in its entirety, on the web:

So why am I posting this? Couple of reasons. First for fellow travelers who are still looking for The Cube. Second, to comment on the web's ability to provide quest fulfillment.

I have long noted the changes in our society brought about by our no longer being reliant on our physical neighbors. Many of those changes are bad. Most are wondrous. Like the ability to find like thinkers and fans of obscure subject matter. Sure we see the concentration of craziness (Ronulans anyone?), but good things are happening as well.

I have never seen anything like the fans of The Cube. There was such joy, relief, satisfaction, and fulfillment in finding that others felt the same way. Soon a black and white copy surfaced, and was sold on ebay. Then a color version surfaced. Lore was found (It was one of the most requested films at the Museum of Television in the Midwest). The show was created by Jim Henson, of all people. It may have been influenced by experimentation with LSD. And now anyone can watch the color version any time. Amazing.

But maybe there are lots of little quests and fangroups out there on the web. I just haven't noticed them because they are not one of my "unscratchable itches".

Does anybody have a feel for it? How unique is The Cube phenomenon? Is there anything else out there quite like it? Or is it just another drop in an ocean of web connections.

I feel as though the depth of passion around this finding is pretty rare. I talk to civilians about re-discovering The Cube and they tend to start edging away from me. There is no shared experience of "Oh Yeah, I had a similar experience this book, or this movie, or this song."

So I ask you, what childhood quest have you had fulfilled by the expansion of the web? Tell us your story.


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