So I missed the early YouTube emergence, in 2008, of Fred and Sharon, two Canadian retirees with a full service videographer solicitation: "Who Needs a Movie?"
I love it, and not for the obvious reasons. OK, for the obvious reasons, but also some other reasons (see below).
Failing to get much business, I'm guessing, Fred and Sharon decided to embark on a very productive filmmaking adventure themselves, posting 165 videos over the past five years or so. Some are songs, some are serialized relationship advice, some are interviews with strangers, some feature recurring cartoon characters. Many of them feature Fred's signature animation, and weirdness. One is an exhortation to treat addicts well, and includes an interview with a very handsome crack addict superimposed over mountain scenery.
Come and see Me is the one floating around more recently, as it is a new creating, posted just six days ago. Fred cuts loose with a free style rap, accompanied by animated dancers, and the appearance of a diminutive cartoon hype man character. (Fred should consider giving that guy his own spin-off album.)
Outsider rap has its moments. I like Fred's verve, but it's fundamentally silly. Although I must admit I rather like the sentiment of Fred's Ode to Spring:
In the event that Apollo 11 failed, William Safire wrote a speech for Nixon to deliver:
These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.
They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.
Note: it assumes that Neil and Buzz died, but Michael Collins in the orbiter, comes out just fine!
Or so says The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting, a book I'd like to read (just ordered), in this New York Times review. That's not the main thrust of the book, or anything, but is apparently part of the historical narrative:
Once the domain of the leisure class, penmanship — in a popular style called “copperplate,” modeled on the printing of engravers — had long been a luxury pastime, the more curlicued and ornate the better. The growth of industry brought pens into the hands of the masses. Copperplate “was no longer a leisured, artistic activity,” Hensher observes, “but a crucial way in which people should learn to communicate for practical, business purposes.”
Auto-play seamlessly transitioned to episode twelve, to Tara saying to her friend, "I think I have a boyfriend," and my first reaction was, "You dumb idiot, of course you don't," because I knew, from life, a kiss does not mean a relationship.
Wrong! In the next episode, she introduces Ethan to her parents as her “boyfriend," and he doesn't flinch. For the next three episodes — while I ate lunch — they are a couple, and he's perfect and she'sperfect and they are perfect and at peace, and for the first time in a long time, I felt perfect and at peace, like I had love in my world. Watching television reminded me that living could be more exciting, more interesting than watching television. I had a lightness and a thrill in me as I waltzed around my apartment, washing my dishes. Of course I had to remind myself these feelings came from the Australian teen dance dramedy Dance Academy. My happiness was absolute and tangible and transformative, but it wasn’t real.
Although I don't go for shows like Dance Academy, I do find myself similarly affected at times. I am a sap, and have been known to cry watching dog food commercials -- which I don't see so much anymore now that I watch TV on Netflix or HBO GO.
Point is: I get it. Except Elissa's last point, because sometimes I wonder -- and this is where it gets metaphysical -- why isn't it real? Or, more properly, why can't it be real? We articulate our own internal emotional lives in relation to external narratives all the time. So, why not Dance Academy? Or Girls (for an obvious example)? Or Friday Night Lights? (Which features in one of the laugh out loud moments in this essay.)
I love FNL. The first season, anyhow. Unlike, Elissa, I was able to kick the compulsion and not move forward to seasons two and beyond because I'd heard that it was a disaster and I loved the show so much I didn't want to sully what I'd constructed in my mind as a perfect thing. And that brings me to weltschmerz, which is where Elissa lands in this essay. Somehow, I did not know until now, reading Elissa's story about Dance Academy, that weltschmerz describes the pain one has upon realizing that the idealized world in one's mind cannot be matched by reality. I speak German and somehow I did not know this. I thought, like most casual Weltschmerzers, that it just meant the pain of realizing that life, the world, maybe existence, is fundamentally tragic. But come to think of it, that's just a default state of awareness. The true meaning weltschmerz, the full Byronic sense, is for advanced lament.
And I guess that's the danger of opening yourself up to the joys of Dance Academy. (Making matters worse, not only do you invite weltschmerz, but it's a weltschmerz inspired not from poetry but from an Australian teen dance drama.) But why not open yourself up whatever glories can be found therein? If you accept that happiness derived from Dance Academy is not real, maybe it's a worse tragedy, because then you undo the idealized realm too. And without that, you are left with only the failings of reality. Sure, you don't have weltschmerz; instead, you're stuck with schmerz.
He despised phonies, his 1969 Volvo (which he also loved), know-it-all Yankees, Southerners who used the words "veranda" and "porte cochere" to put on airs, eating grape leaves, Law and Order (all franchises), cats, and Martha Stewart. In reverse order. He particularly hated Day Light Saving Time, which he referred to as The Devil's Time. It is not lost on his family that he died the very day that he would have had to spring his clock forward. This can only be viewed as his final protest.
The Zombie Zeitgeist A full scale movement is on the lurch. But why the best zombie movie ever made a video game?
Believer interview with Mark Allen Digital artist and awesome gallerist Mark Allen talks about Tekken Torture Tournament and other projects where people were wired to machines and did strange things in public.
Believer interview with Marjane Satrapi Enlightening Q & A with the Persian cartoonist, memoirist, quick conversationalist in which she declares: “THE WORLD IS NOT ABOUT BATMAN AND ROBIN FIGHTING THE JOKER; THINGS ARE MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT.”
Yeti Researcher Yet another 100-page issue of the world's top academic journal devoted scholarship about the Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasqatch, and other mystery primates worldwide. For researchers and lay audiences alike, the latest YR features a history of Sasquatch sightings in southern California, an update on the wily orang pendek of Sumatra, and a new look into Teddy Roosevelt's obsession with bagging a Bigfoot. As Editor-in-Chief, I promise you won't be disappointed.
Panda PowerPoint! I guess I don't mind being "the entertainment" when it's at Mark Allen's second annual Holiday Fry-B-Que. Presented: preliminary findings from my ongoing research into the most charismatic megafauna of all: Giant Pandas.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | Dec 9, 2006 For those who missed it, there will be more. World, Explained is going strong! Money was raised, laughs were had, and for those paying attention, small amounts of useful information about things like the aurora borealis were transmitted. Plus: Michael Cera = lovably funny. And Nick Diamonds' renditions of Dumb Dog and Hanging Tough are still in my head. As is that horribly catchy Fresh Step jam.
Jest Fest at Skylight Books Somehow I wound up hosting the 10th anniversary jubilee for Infinite Jest at Skylight Books. Because who doesn't love a jubilee, right? Despite being delirious with Hepatitis A (that's the mild, non-lethal kind; I'm not at risk for Hep B since I always go the needle share and choose clean-looking prostitutes), I managed to not mis-pronounce anyone's name and make an erudite joke and poke gentle fun at Michael Silverblatt.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | June 10, 2006 Number Three! Last one was sold out so we moved to a slightly larger theater. Andy Richter hosted, and his opening exegesis of CSI: Miami warmed the people up right. Evany Thomas presented her very scientific findings on the Secret Language of Sleep; Starlee Kine bared her neuroses to the world (or at least the 300 people in the audience); Josh Davis showed video of his 135-lb self sumo wrestling a 550-lb opera singer from San Bernardino; and Davy Rothbart closed it out with some Found Magazine magic. Grant Lee Phillips, Sam Shelton and Zooey Deschanel provided the music punctuation! I can still hear their rendition of We Are the Champions.
McSweeny's Presents: The World, Explained | Feb 11, 2006 The second in our series of precision comedy and fact-based entertainment extravaganzas benefiting 826LA. Patton Oswalt was kind enough to host, and Jon Brion joined in on the piano and guitar as thematic accompaniment. Presenters included: David Rees, Michael Colton, John Hodgman (along with his hirsuit troubadour, Jonathan Coulton), and me. Plus: a fashion show of exciting multi-user garmentry.
Little Gray Book Lecture at Galapagos How to Observe President's Day. Jonathan Coulton's technical wizardry has made this entire show available online. The summary from PRX: Sarah Vowell, John Hodgman and Joshuah Bearman on Presidents' Day, along with a fifteen-piece marching band and a new song about all forty-three presidents. My contribution? Yes, from Yeti Researcher. Again. Actually that was the first one. So I have only five stories!
July 25: TJ to LA -- A Night McSweeney's Readings I was honored to be part of a strange triptych along with Salvador Plascencia and Josh Kun. Sponsored, somehow, by La Ciudad magazine, we all packed into Beyond Baroque with no air conditions. 150 people showed at 7 o'clock on a Friday evening, which we took as a good sign of something. Sal held up and anxiously discussed drawings from his novel, Josh delivered an essay on the Dr. Moreau of Tijuana, and my shtick (again) was Pac Man and metaphysics, this time with fun slides.
October 8th: Skylight Books w/Stephen Elliott Fun times were had by all. Someone in the audience actually mistook me for an expert on the psychology human character. We ate shrimp cocktail and drank cheap wine and laughed at Bush and celebrated the certainty of right besting wrong in American democracy. A lot of good that did.