15 years ago I started this site as a way of focusing my creative yearnings into a project that made a lot of sense to me at the time. It was 2006, I was 29 years-old and an intensely nostalgic guy who wanted his own little place on the web since he first signed onto AOL on a friend’s account back in the mid-90s. At the time I felt like there was a piece of me that was missing, a part of me that loved to create whether it was writing poetry and short fiction, illustrating pictures of vampires or comic book characters, or documenting my love of the things I grew up with as a child. Branded in the 80s became that outlet, a place where I could exercise my creative energy and share it online. As a quick aside, before I launched this site I spend a few years fostering an art account at DeviantArt where I shared my artwork and it’s where I first really found some comfort in sharing things I was creating with an online community.
Branded launched on March 17th, 2006 as a podcast and a blog to support it. I landed on the podcast format because at the time I’d recently become obsessed with listening to them, and had found Wil Wheaton’s show that really struck a chord with my other obsession, nostalgia. In my launch post I wrote:
“Sure I’ve been reading some pretty fun blogs, and adding his (Wheaton’s) to the list was cool, but the podcast was great. For once, hearing inflection and sarcasm in a blog, it was revolutionary to me…I got the bug and for some demented reason I wanted to do one of my own. I can’t explain this. I’m not outgoing, and I hate the sound of my own voice, but it just seemed like it would be a fun project to put together…”
The original show I put together lasted for 18 main episodes with a few extra mini episodes on the tail end that were super short and more geared towards product reviews as I’d gotten on the radar of some DVD imprints that were sending me free 80s junk to talk about. Those episodes were released over the course of a year or so, and though they were fun to put together I found that I was having even more fun writing pieces to support the audio show. So I switched my focus to writing for the site, leaning heavily on accumulating and scanning ephemera to share at a time when there weren’t a lot of people doing that on the web, specifically in the 80s era nostalgia community. I used the site as an excuse to put my nostalgic collecting into overdrive and I began scouring antique stores, flea markets and eBay for junk to write about and to share. I amassed a ridiculously large collection of old stickers, mom magazines, books, comic books, food packaging and toys over the course of the next 15 years, and I had a lot of fun writing about all of that stuff.
Branded became that missing piece of me. It was a key into a new world as well and because of this site I’ve mt so many wonderful people and done so many things that I never thought I’d ever do. Whether it was turning the site into a very short-lived zine and exhibiting it at comic book conventions back in 2007-2008 (even traveling to Chicago for the first time to table at Wizard World with a bunch of online friends), or finding myself being asked to be a guest on a ton of other folk’s podcasts. I even spent some time focusing my love of the movie the Monster Squad to such a point where I not only got on the radar of a lot of the folks who worked on that film, but also managed to find myself taking part in a documentary on the film. I mean, I’m in a movie that screened all over the world, and it’s because I got off my lazy butt back in 2005-2006 to work on this project. Hell, I met the love of my life because of this website, and now have an insanely awesome family with two kids that I never thought was in the cards for me. To say that starting Branded changed my life is an understatement.
There’s been an ebb and flow to the site over the years. There were moments when I had a ton of free time to focus on creating content for the site, particularly in those first 10 years. But speaking of family, and life changing, the last five years have seen my focus and free time shift dramatically. Every year it becomes harder and harder to find the time to work on pieces for Branded. More often than not I find myself daydreaming about ideas I’d like to write about (or talk about on the relaunched Branded podcast), but never actually finding the time to commit to write or record them. Since the birth of my son this past October our family has become so busy just with the day to day that I have no idea when I’ll be able to eke out that time I need to actually work on the site.
And time isn’t the only factor. Again, speaking of family, on a personal level life has dealt me quite a blow over the last decade. In 2010 I lost my sister and only sibling to suicide. In 2017 my father passed away after a battle with throat cancer. And this past year I lost my mother to breast cancer at the very same time that I was welcoming my child into the world. I’m blessed to have my wife, my children, and her family and our friends, but losing my entire immediate family on my side has been hard. Specifically, when it comes to working on this site, I’ve found myself left alone as the very unreliable narrator of my own personal history, of my nostalgia. Without having the family who lived through those years around me anymore I’ve found myself weirdly burdened by the idea that I am alone in remembering our collective lives. It’s compounded by the fact that my folks were very insular when it came to interacting with our extended family, and honestly, so many of those folks have also passed on or connections have been lost over the years. This might be a weird thing to admit, but because I’m now left alone with my memories, I’ve become uneasy with trying to write about them. I just don’t trust them the way I did when I could call up my folks or sister to get their side of these stories.
All this is to say that on the eve of my 15th anniversary of this project it feels like a fitting time to put it to rest, if not permanently, at least for the time being. Branded in the 80s is a huge part of my life, and it always will be. There are still a ton of things I’d love to write about, and I have no plans of just yanking the site from the web (though the podcast feed will probably fall away soon), but for the foreseeable future there just isn’t enough time or energy to focus on it the way I would like to.
I’m beyond grateful for all of the folks who have stopped by to read these words, to listen to my silly podcasts, or who have taken the time out of their own lives to reach out and share your own memories and nostalgia. It’s meant the world to me.