Remix Culture: Very, Very Old Stuff

10 05 2010

I’m not sure how long the “comedic remix” in the current sense has existed. I doubt anyone does. But the first three funny techno remixes I ever ran across were “The Picard Song,” “Boil ’em, Mash ’em, Stick ’em in a Stew,” and “They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard.” Unbeknownst to me, these all came from the YTMND collective. I’m not saying YTMND invented the entire internet phenomena of goofy remixes, but it’s a damn interesting coincidence.

I haven’t actually listened to “The Picard Song” in over a year, but I still get it stuck in my head every other week.

Not quite as catchy, but equally as geeky, “Boil ’em, Mash ’em, Stick ’em in a Stew” was probably the second video I ever watched on the internet.

“They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard” just plain jams. No more explanation neccessary.

And while I was looking these up, I also happened to run across this. This is the most I’ve liked Johnny Depp in a long time.

ADDITIONAL: Why all the YouTube fanvids for “Pirates of the Caribbean?” I blame the children.
Seriously, there are an assload of “Pirates of the Caribbean” remixes. Why? Can anyone tell me why?


MC Trebek in the Hizzouse

4 05 2010

In my last post, I was going to talk about how Leeroy Jenkins led to my second favorite clip ever on “Jeopardy.”

Then I was going to mention that my all-time favorite came at 0:26 in this clip.
But then I found this little beauty, and I figured it was probably just best to create a new post.

Alex Trebek’s delivery is great, and I really enjoy the security camera footage of the drunk guy stumbling around the convenience store. I think we need to see more of Alex Trebek rapping.

But how will Alex Trebek be remembered in the internet community? As noted rap MC? Or as the guy who did the weird little seizure dance?

Or the foul-mouthed drunkard?

Or the man without pants?

Or when he made Ken Jennings admit he knew what a ho was.

In summation, I believe Alex Trebek to be totally insane, and I love him for it.

Machinapiece Theater

4 05 2010

Most clips of machinima are pretty clear with their intentions. They are meant to tell a story, and they do so in a pretty straightforward fashion. One of the most famous pieces of machinima, though, is much trickier. The famous “Leeroy Jenkins” video was filmed and presented as though it was actual footage of the game being played (Which, I mean, it is, but…GAH THIS IS CONFUSING!). This piece of “stealth machinima” shows a party of World of Warcraft users preparing for a big battle. All their plans are ruined, however, by an overzealous fellow named Leeroy Jenkins.

Of course, it turned out to be fake. The numbers they are reciting are just babble. But the video clip grew to popularity because it so accurately reflected the obsessive-compulsive nature of many WoW players.

Most machinima films take place as though the characters in the game were real, and not being controlled by human players. “Leeroy Jenkins,” on the other hand, turns the players into the characters (?) and the characters into…avatars?

Man, this is hard. Let me try this again.

Instead of a self-contained piece of fiction occurring within the game universe, “Leeroy Jenkins” is actually a sly commentary about WoW players in the real world. There. That’s better.

They Tampered in God’s Domain: Nick Madison

4 05 2010

So I’ve written 40+ blog posts about people who have reused someone else’s artistic creation in a creative way. I generally think that strict copyright law stifles creativity and is counterintuitive when considering the history of art as a whole. If anyone wants to quote my blog to further their argument, go for it. If anyone wants to quote this blog out of context in order to make me look like a jackass, fine by me, as long as the final product is funny.

But there’s a difference between reusing someone else’s work for your own purpose and flat-out plagiarizing them. Nick Madison decided to plagiarize some of the finest alternative comedy acts of my time, and for that he shall be forever remembered as a complete jackass.

You can read Patton Oswalt’s outraged response at his blog.

I interviewed Kembrew McLeod about copyright law my Sophomore year. Pretty much the single thing I walked away with was that an individual can use another person’s intellectual property in their art as long as the final product won’t replace the original on the market. So, by this standard, Danger Mouse‘s “The Grey Album” is fine because it won’t replace “The White Album” on the market. Re-cut editions of “The Shining” trailer don’t affect either the value of the original trailer or the movie itself. The Asylum is able to get away with producing “Transmorphers” because there’s no way it could take the place of “Transformers” because of differences in plot, cast, director, release size and budget. The two works can be similar, even incorporating portions of the original, just not so similar that they are interchangeable in the market.

I believe that there’s a fundamental difference between covering a song and “covering” a comedy act. The value of comedy tends to depreciate with repeated exposure. Monty Python and the Holy Grail isn’t as funny on the 500th viewing as on the first. Trust me.

In this case, Madison not only rips off other comedians word-for-word, he also steals their timing and inflection. To a person who’d never heard the comedy of Patton Oswalt or Dave Attell, it would appear to Madison’s own work, and it would effectively take the place of Oswalt’s comedy on the market. And by using the same jokes and inflections, Madison essentially depreciates the value of the real comedians’ work.

So, while I extol the virtues of a freer and more open copyright system, we still must acknowledge the devilry that thieves and usurpers are capable of. Taking another person’s work and repurposing it is sublime. Taking another person’s work and parroting it blows. Remember kids- if you’re gonna steal someone else’s idea, at least be creative about it.

Remix Culture: Hoisted by my Own Hipster Petard

3 05 2010

So someone in my facebook feed linked to the new “United States of Pop” mashup by DJ earworm. The slave drivers here at the University are clearly working me too hard, because I’ve been looking forward to USoP 2009 since the last one came out. I haven’t checked the mashup forums in ages *wistful sigh*. The bad news is, the quality of these things has been declining every year. I don’t think it’s because pop music’s getting worse, because pop music has always sucked. I don’t think it’s DJ earworm, because the quality of his production has always been pretty topflight. Maybe the novelty of hearing Billboard’s Top 25 songs lumped together is wearing thin. I hope I don’t ever have to start enjoying things sincerely.

Still, you have to admit, DJ earworm manages to build some pretty impressive tunes (especially considering quality of the 25 limp noodles he has for construction material). Anyway, check out the USoP 2007-2009, and lemme know which year you think was the biggest travesty in pop music.

For a real taste of what DJ earworm can do, check out his mash “No More Gas.” It’s a great illustration of how you can mash lots of songs together in a small space and still come out with a clear, substantive final track. Earworm slyly takes some vapid pop music tracks and points out the undertones of consumerism, addiction, desperation, and unhealthy materialism running through them. Which is really cool, in my book.

Trolling for Justice

2 05 2010

In my online journalism class we’ve spent a fair share of our time whining about how trolls are ruining forums (We’ve never used the word “troll,” though. A little disappointing.). As far as I can tell, most people in the industry think that it’s best to break out the fascist armbands when it comes to moderating comments on a website. They want to steal their users anonymity, and remove  profane or racist comments from their website. Part of it’s legal, but it’s mostly because journalists are thin-skinned pansies who want all the comments to be overflowing with thoughtful discussion and praise for their brilliant work.

I think it’s folly to expect intelligent discourse from the general public on the internet, because I think it’s folly to expect intelligent discourse from the general public in person. I live in a college town, cloistered in academia, and I think Iowa City lifers tend to forget that real people exist outside the bounds of college campuses. We imagine that regular people walk around thinking about Nietzsche, Interactive Communications, and gluten-free bread just like us. In fact, most of them are thinking about Skoal, paying the light bill, and Sammy Hagar.

So I figure that going near the internet is like going near the monkey house: if you get offended by the shit-slinging, you have no one to blame but yourself. Seriously, what did you expect? Monkeys in tiny formal wear,  re-enacting select scenes from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice?

Beyond that, I think trolling is an enjoyable, largely harmless, and occasionally constructive pastime. This rabble-rousing, defiant ethos often leads to a certain type of anarchic prankster justice that’s beyond satisfying. Say, for instance, last month when that radical Muslim group was making death threats against Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  Anonymous trolls on the internet responded by crashing their site with DDoS attacks, and redirecting to a offensive spoof site. That seems like a pretty fair trade to me. Jerks on the internet start acting like jerks. Other jerks on the internet respond by being jerks to the original jerks. As far as justice goes, it’s fun, it’s fair, it’s quick, and it was relatively easy.

So, why not do your part to give trolls a good name? I recently found out about this website which is a resource for people who want to troll those Nigerian scammers that you always hear about. The basic idea is, you toy with these scammers for as long as you can without divulging any real information, thereby distracting them from stealing from real people. Extra points for getting them to believe ridiculous things. You win the game if you actually get one of them to book a hotel room for you, or otherwise make them spend money on you. These scammers are ruining their home countries. They’re robbing from the poor and soft-headed. Their scams are responsible for most of the GDP of Nigeria, and there’s no effective way to police them. So, the only way to combat this phenomena is to screw with some heads. It’s time to put the unrestrained id of the internet to good use.

Go out there, be somebody, and help save the world by dicking over someone who really deserves it.

SNL Parody = Less Funny Than Real Life

2 05 2010

So I really promised myself that I wasn’t going to post anything about ICP’s “Miracles.” At this point, the meme’s beyond tired. But when I was scanning through my favorites folder, I found this:

Skip ahead to any portion of the video and wait 30 seconds. See something ridiculous/inexplicable/ soul-crushingly stupid? Don’t bother answering. Just hang your head in shame and think about what you’ve become.

I usually don’t go out of my way to ridicule juggalos. They’ve never done me any harm. But since I ran across that video in my favorites folder, I was piqued enough to check the Encyclopedia Dramatica’s entry for “Fuckin Magnets.” In it, they mentioned that there was a SNL skit parodying the infamous “Miracles” video. Turns out, they were kind of parodying the “Gathering of the Juggalos” infomercial format, too.

Do an exercise with me, won’t you? Go back to the legitimate infomercial, and skip to 2:17, where the hosts introduce themselves. Isn’t it the most painful, awkward, degrading thing you’ve ever seen in your life? Don’t you feel sorry for everybody in the room? Don’t you feel sorry for the editors and voice over guys that put this together? Don’t you feel kind of dirty for watching it and deriving snide pleasure from it? Isn’t the name “Sugar Slam” the greatest thing ever?

Similarly, compare the SNL parody to the actual “Miracles” video.

Isn’t it amazing how every single aspect of this video seems to be shot/written/timed like it was a punchline? In a world full of ironic hipsters, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope seem to be the last two people alive who lack any sort of self-awareness. It’s sad that SNL tackled ICP, because there’s really nothing funny left to say. Everything’s been blown to cartoonish proportions in the first place. There’s absolutely no way that SNL could make this more absurd for comic effect. Essentially, joking about ICP is like joking about the Holocaust. You either have to be so funny that you totally shed a new shaft of sunlight into the dark corners of the human psyche, or you just have to be coarse for the sake of coarse. Saturday Night Live did neither.