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.

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.

The Digital Campfire: Leon Czolgosz

29 04 2010

My next round of creepypasta is an especially short-and-to-the-point one.

Leon Czolgosz
Leon Czolgosz, assassin of William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States, was electrocuted for his crime on October 29, 1901, at Auburn Prison in Auburn, New York. Among the personal effects found in his cell was a U.S. quarter stamped with the date 2218. The face in profile on said quarter was not George Washington, but rather a face which has yet to be identified.

Okay, so this one obviously isn’t much of a creepy story. But I love it for the following reason: it’s a fantastic lie. As a casual fan of lying (I’m not compulsive, just a hobbyist), I have nothing but respect for this complex, detailed, direct and utterly-full-of-shit statement. It’s the type of lie that’s so patently absurd that people might actually believe it if you adopt an appropriately matter-of-fact tone.

Imagine saying this one out loud (you’d have to learn how to pronounce Czolgosz).There’s so many details and so much formal language (“personal effects,” “yet to be identified.”), that most people would be confused before you hit the fifth comma. Then, before they’re able to fully orient themselves within your story, you abruptly end with a completely ridiculous lie. Now, you simply have to observe the gathered onlookers as they nod, trying to piece together what the hell you were just talking about. And then, you get to laugh and laugh and laugh.

Take care in using this story around coin-collectors or Snopes readers, though. They will likely smirk and point out that the Washington quarter wasn’t introduced until 30 years later. If you’re looking for a tactful method of dealing with this possibility, I suggest smacking the offending brainiac upside the head with a frying pan and scampering away. PROTIP: as you flee the scene, consider shouting “He’s on to us!”

Adventures in the Public Domain: Write a Songs About Astrology and Mythology, Sit Back and Wait for a Black Metal Cover

29 04 2010

Today, I’m going to be taking a look at another piece of public domain music- namely Gustav Holst’s seven movement orchestral suite “The Planets.” But first, I’m going to give a shoutout to Aaron Dunn and Musopen. It’s a non-profit charity designed to catalog sheet music and recordings of public domain music. It’s a good idea in my book.

You might not be a big fan of orchestral music, but there’s still a decent change you’ve heard a portion of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.” It might sound familiar if you’ve watched The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Right Stuff, or Wallace and Gromit in Curse of the Were-Rabbit. You also might have run across it if you’ve played the game Drakengard, or happen to be a fan of black metal.

Holst was an English composer and astrology whacko. He started composing “The Planets” in 1914. The concept was that each planet in the solar system was represented by an movement embodying it’s astrological significance and mythological namesake. Thus we have movements entitled “Venus, the Bringer of Peace,” “Mars, the Bringer of War,” and “Mercury, the Winged Messanger.” Pluto doesn’t get a movement, because it was discovered in 1930 and nobody cares about Pluto anyway.

The composition premiered at Queen’s Hall in 1918 and promptly blew the roof off the joint. “The Planets” quickly became very popular, especially “Mars” and “Venus.” Holst later revised a portion of “Jupiter” and so that the tune would fit the popular hymn “I Vow to Thee, My Country.” The revised portion of “Jupiter” (called “Thaxed”) has since been used as the melody for other hymns, as well as in the theme song for the World Rugby Cup.

Oh yeah, and the obligatory metal reincarnations.