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    Thursday, August 28, 2008

    Internet killed the video star

    Well, some headlines just lie there dormant, waiting for the right opportunity to become overused. That opportunity is here.

    The phenomenon that prompted the headline is called "Take-Away shows" and is being done to perfection at La Blogotheque. The concept is easy; pick up a camera and a cheap microphone, convince a band that this is the new cool, and shoot an improvised, raw, dogma-like music video on the fly. As the web site states, "what makes the beauty of it is all the little incidents, hesitations, and crazy stuff happening unexpectingly". The results are mixed, as can be expected, but it can be pretty awesome.
    I think the best examples are the sessions with REM -- five videos shot on one night in Athens, GA. Perhaps the main reason why they are supreme to the others is that Michael Stipe is simply not capable of producing sounds that are out of tune. In fact, I was wondering whether it was playback or not on occasion, but it's really not. I particularly recommend "Living well is the best revenge". There is something so refreshing, pure and this-is-what-its-all-about in this video, where the REM guys are crammed into a car, guitars and all, while playing the song to perfection.
    The final song is "Sing for the submarine", where Stipe's haunting voice is augmented by the acoustics inside a silo, while banging his elbow into the silo wall (which looks pretty painful at times). The drummer spontaneously try to break some twigs to produce the necessary rhythm. Not entirely succcesful, but just shows the spontaneity of it all. Incredible stuff!

    The headline is not just an empty play on the title of the famous music video from the launch of MTV. In an era where "live" award shows are delayed to avoid any surprises (such as, god forbid, any wardrobe malfunctions), where music videos are endlessly produced on the same stale format ("all we need is a corridor and some [insert degrading nouns for females]"). Although YouTube is ridiculously over-hyped (and, technologically speaking, services like dailymotion, guba and megavideo are superior), it has brought back spontaneity, instanteneousness, and the importance of conveying a sense of being-there. Although this tends to produce many annoying Internet memes, the upshot might indeed be that it brings back spontaneity. If so, it's all worth it!

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    Best comedy sketches

    So, I came across this listing the other day (can't find the link right now) about the top ten comedy sketches of all time. It covered pretty much only US comedy (a lof of Saturday Night Live), and missed some of the best sketches ever -- the ones that literally made me roll on the floor laughing. So here it is, my collection of the best comedy sketches, from the five best comedy shows of all time:

    5. Arrested Development; The Chicken dances

    Arrested development must be the best sitcom ever, yet for some idiotic reason got canned. Although I loved it for its intelligent humour and intricate plots, those are difficult to present as a clip. Luckily, good olf fashioned slapstick and body humour was also a major part of it, and nothing made me laugh harder than the Bluth family's somehwat original takes on the chicken dance, nicely captured in the montage below.

    4. The Fast Show: Arse and coughing

    Although I simply love The Fast Show and can't get enough of the recurring characters, it rarely gives me tears in my eyes. This little bit featuring some unfortunatte tourette-like characters did the trick.

    3. Monty Python: Tinny words
    Well, I could've mentioned so many by Monty Python (the fish slapping dance is another one of my favourites), but this one is relatively unknown, yet so darn funny. Graham Chapman at his very best!

    2. Saturday Night Live: Chris Rock as rapper with toe fetish
    Ok, let's admit it. SNL is 95% crap, which might be the reason why the 5% times they get it right, it makes it into comedy history. Again, I could've mentioned many of the familiar ones (I think "more cow bell" was one the top 10 list I mentioned above), but this is also a rarely seen one, featuring Chris Rock as the most puny rapper ever. When he hits the chorus towards the end, I literally fell of my chair.

    Hmm, I just couldn't find this vid anywhere, except for which is only available within the United states (I guess the SNL copyright hunters are pretty good). If you come across it, be sure to watch it, laugh, then let me know where.

    1. Reeves and Mortimer: Mulligan and O'Hare
    Weird is the only word for British duo Jim Reeves and Vic Mortimer. Often it becomes so surreal that you're left with a smile, albeit a confused and slightly disturbed one (you can see some of this in the intro to Mulligan and O'hare below). Sometimes, they just hit the nail on the head, and there's just no beating their amazing and surreal portrayel of singers Mulligan and O'Hare. Enjoy!

    Please let me know if any of the videoes have been removed.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008

    The strangest conference

    I went to a conference the other day, about intellectual property in cyberspace and all that. The experience turned out to be quite surreal.
    When I entered the building, there were only three people standing around. One of them were shouting commands, seemingly to a technician that I couldn't see; as with all conferences, Murphy's law was upon them. This went on for a while. I was quietly sitting at one end of the auditorium. I didn't really know anyone there and wasn't in the mood to network, so I decided to just wait for the show. On stage, nothing was happening, though.

    Half an hour had gone by, and there was still not much happening on stage. Some people, who looked like technicians, would show up now and again, but disappear just as quickly. While waiting, I almost dosed off. My head was slowly sinking towards my chest when, with a jerk, I woke up again -- looked around as if nothing had happened. By this time, there were more people in the auditorium, many of them complaining loudly about what seemed to be shoddy organizing. Then, presto, as if out of nowhere, the keynote speaker suddenly appeared on stage. Apparently, enough time had been wasted so he went straight into his talk.
    Although the talk was interesting, I found myself drifting. There were so many weird characters at this conference, so I couldn't help look around. Sure, we don't need to wear suits at conferences these days but this is ridiculous, I thought to myself upon noticing an older gentleman with short shorts. Behind me, there was a woman wigh a huge bloody hat on -- flowers and all. As if the presence of all these characters weren't enough, a number of the participants were half asleep and many were discussing things loudly that had nothing to do with the lecture. I felt like I was back in primary school.

    While trying to understand what kind of weird conference I was attending, a friend of mine messaged me and asked where I was. "I'm at this crzy cnfrnce. Lots of weeeird ppl. It's free, so come by if u want". Sure enough, my friend showed up a few minutes later. In general, I must admit I'm not completely used to Dutch manners, yet (I'm originally from Norway, but work in the Netherlands now). Still, I was quite suprised when my Dutch friend came through the doors and strolled down the aisle mid-lecture with clogs on!!! That's right, huge bloody wooden shoes. He sat down next to me, and I couldn't help but feel slightly embarrased by the spectacle he was making. He shouted, so the whole auditorium could hear, "what's all this then?". I don't know if it was to prove a point or not, but at the other end of the auditorium, a woman shouted back "a lecture about intellectual property". Weird, I thought, but this was when things started becoming even weirder. Suddenly, I felt like I was having problems seeing the stage. My vision was getting blurry! What the heck is happening? As this happened, I heard people around my make the same complaints. One man shouted "I can't hear anything", the woman with the flowery hat behind me shouted "Even worse, I can't see anything". People started getting out of their seats, run out for a moment, and come back in again. The guy who had been shouting to the invisible technician started shouting again. My friend said "This sucks. I'm outta here". I was sitting there trying to figure out what the heck was going on. It was at this point the shout-to-invisible-technician-man got up on stage and shouted to all of us. "If you want to see the lecture again, you have to press stop and then start on your quicktime players". Second Life conferences are weird.