Sunday, February 19, 2006

You Tube: That Good Good

      Like too many people with far better things to do, I waste a lot of time on You Tube. I haven’t gone there with a critic’s eyes (it’s where I go to zone out mostly,) so I can’t wax deep on sociological or large-scale cultural meanings behind either it’s extraordinary popularity or the beautiful unwieldiness of its content. I love that it’s a place where any of the huddled masses with a modem and a monitor can access a bottomless trove of treasure: Old television commercials; snippets and scenes from movies and television shows that span decades; music videos old and rare, but also pulled piping hot from the corporate oven; concert footage from years ago, from last night – and from around the world.
      But I most love the homemade stuff. Everyday people doing parodies of pop culture icons and items in ways funnier and wittier than anything “Saturday Night Live” has done in decades; kids uploading the rock star performances that used to take place in front of a mirror, with a brush as their mic (now they just lip-synch like video stars); the easy jacking of movie/TV/video images and assorted music, all remixed into personal statements; bizarre but hypnotic footage of random shit seen on the streets of Compton, Paris, Rome. And beauties and delusionals of all races, genders and sexual persuasions skirting the edge of soft-core porn as they flex, preen, dance and strip for the camera – amateur models but professional narcissists.
      There’s also disturbing stuff – bum fights; footage of crackhead fisticuffs; inner-city street brawls in which people of color wild the fuck out, seemingly determined to prove their savagery. I won’t link to any of that. It’s easy enough to find.
      Below are just a few examples of how I waste my time. Some are already huge internet hits:
  1. Only hours after this much-hyped, much anticipated Brit Awards 2006 performance took place, it was up online. It’s Prince, accompanied by Wendy & Lisa and Sheila E.; I’m not sure, but I read over at the Okay Player site that the drummer is Cora Coleman. It makes me grin to see the balance struck between standard roles for women onstage – Tina Turner-ish backing dancers – and the fact that the spine of Prince’s band has a decidedly female bent. He’s so clearly most well fed by his feminine side. (Tangent: I interviewed Wendy and Lisa when they were promoting their Fruit at the Bottom album, years ago. When the subject of Prince came up, they were very dry but very, very funny in making the point that they had no desire to work with him again. Wendy even made some withering quip about him and his high heels, while Lisa laughed. So, it’s good to see them all onstage again.) I’m not crazy about the single, “Te Amo Corazon,” and I’ve never really been a fan of the song “Purple Rain,” though the guitar solo always slays me, but there is an undeniable magic to Prince onstage. Watching Sheila work it out as Wendy takes her rightful place alongside the Purple One is just… wow. And he still hits those high notes while rocking high heels. Click here to see the performance.

  2. Sacha Baron Cohen (a.k.a. Ali G) is a fucking genius. At times, his HBO show made me cringe in discomfort, though I laughed all the while. He just goes there with jaw-dropping fearlessness. True balls-to-the-walls comedy that chainsaws propriety while tackling issues of race, class, religion, sexuality, and the ignorance that surrounds them. In this clip, Cohen is the deliriously shallow, self-important and involved Austrian fashionista Bruno, interviewing real-life Pastor Quinn (from Little Rock, Arkansas) on the holy man’s religious beliefs on faggotry. It’s tempting to list some of Bruno’s more insane comments and questions, but that’d rob them of their punch when you watch the clip.

  3. You Tube’s bonafide superstars are the Chinese Backstreet Boys. They’ve spawned countless clones and parodies, but none come close to the original. (How do you parody that which is already so winningly tongue-in-cheek?) The CBC have made a half-dozen or so clips of themselves lip-synching various Backstreet Boys hits, but their first one is the best. It’s all about the choreography, the over earnest faces (Guy on the Left, his assigned position in all their clips, is the breakout star on the strength of his mugging) and the dude in the back at the computer, who’s ignoring it all. Also check out this clip, one of their later efforts.

  4. An Ode to Black Ass. On assorted streets of Paris, to the accompaniment of a booming rap track, thick women of African descent – fully clothed and never slipping into crudeness or vulgarity – celebrate their bountiful back-sides in all their jiggling, quivering majesty. To quote a dyke friend of mine after she saw the clip for the first time, “When the brotha put his ear to sister-girl’s ass, don’t you just know he heard Mother Africa calling?” I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly. I have no idea what the skinny white girls are doing.

  5. Maybe it’s my crappy computer and my DSL that moves at the speed of dial-up that grace this clip with the qualities that make me hit repeat whenever I watch it. Or maybe it really is the low-tech way it’s shot. A solitary black kid dances lovely in what looks to be a wood-paneled (or maybe wall-papered) room, with a toy basketball set and the edges of a card table visible in the left-hand corner. The blurriness of the image and the shadows that are cast give it a cool muted quality that underscores the kid’s isolation. As a moody instrumental wafts at low BPM, the boy tosses off some dazzlingly rapid-fire footwork. The contrast between the pace of the music and the pace of his dancing is mesmerizing, and by the time some clumsy tap dancing beats and a gentle female vocal kick in, you’re hooked. At least I am. I think it’s beautiful. Click here.

  6. I’m probably the last resident of planet earth who’s still a Diana Ross fan. And this clip even made me give up some love for Jamiroquai, who’s rarely done anything for me. (Check the David Morales remix of “Space Cowboy.”) The big-hatted Brit joins Ross in a duet of “Upside Down” that works surprisingly well. Maybe you have to be really, really, really, really, really, really gay to care. Props to Jamiroquai for not changing the gender – “Upside down, boy you turn me…” – as he croons the song.

  7. Isn’t she lovely? Chaka Khan playing drums in 1976; Chaka playing drums many years later. And a young Chaka singing “Sweet Thing.”

  8. This spoof classic is what you get if you type “blow job” in the search engine: click here. You also get this from Korea.

  9. Here’s a send-up of Madonna’s “Hung Up” video that trumps the original. It’s the looking-glass version whose laughs roll out in swollen proportions to the humorlessness and pretension that pulse through Mrs. Ritchie’s career. It also makes me think of the drag shows at La Plaza, on La Brea Ave. here in Los Angeles, although the queens who perform there rarely do so with irony or parodic humor. (An exception: Years ago at La Plaza, before the mainstream media would state the obvious, a flawlessly made up “Whitney” took the stage clutching a dingy sweat rag which she repeatedly wiped across her brow and upper lip, all the while intentionally flubbing her lip-synching. The Friday night crowd looked on in confusion and rewarded the performance with lukewarm applause. They thought she’d simply been a bad performer. In truth, she was brilliant.) To watch the Madonna spoof, turn up the sound and click here for the clip. Just for shits and giggles, here's another re-thinking of “Hung Up.” I have a suspicion it was made by a homosexual. You can watch it with the sound off.

  10. It’s all about House music – its fluidity, its grace and beauty. Its ability to simultaneously cup both the darkest emotions and transcendence, to sooth and inspire. It’s so much more radical and subversive than rap music or hip-hop culture. It just is. House stands – or flows – in certain opposition to the cultural / gender / societal norms that too much hip-hop too enthusiastically embraces, fetishes and amplifies. Of course, I mean real House – the stuff that’s non-white and non-hetero at the center (regardless of who makes it), even as it’s wholly universal. I mean the music and culture that flower from House’s black faggot roots. At the same time, however, I hate forced either/or choices when it comes to the myriad manifestations of black creativity, so I won’t stress the preference too hard. Check out these three clips – one, two,three. They’re all part of the same raw, shoestring budget documentary on House. These clips are not definitive, exhaustive or the place to turn for meaningful historical context or in-depth analysis. And that’s cool. It’s just that it’s unintentionally amusing to hear 20-somethings refer to themselves as battle-scarred House veterans holding it down against newbies who don’t know their history. And hearing some of these “vets” describe the House scene as evolving out of raves (da chile dun gave berf to hiz mama,) or tracing its origins back to the ‘90s is kinda funny and horrifying at the same time. But for all that which is tragically inaccurate (a Negro, DJ KD, appears in the third clip to set the record straight), there’s a real sweetness here. In the brevity, narrow goals and realized potency (not to mention shooting locales) of these clips, I’m vaguely reminded of the classic 1986 documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Here, it’s just a bunch of L.A. kids – late teens / early ‘20s; largely Latino – giving props to House and its life-saving, soul-healing properties. In the third clip, kids are interviewed and dancing on the corner of Hollywood & Highland here in L.A. You can spot the red gleam of the Roosevelt Hotel sign in the background. I don’t care that some of the documentary’s “stars” aren’t that great as dancers; it’s their spirit and enthusiasm that matters. It’s interesting that almost all of them shadow the patented old dance floor moves of black queens when they dance.

    BONUS TRACKS: Years ago, when I worked in a video store on the Sunset Strip, I first became aware that there was a small population of women who were really into XXX man-on-man action. They rented from the gay porn section sans giggles or embarrassment. (I once had to help a young actress I won’t name – she rocks a Cape of Fear – pick out some hardcore gay titles. “I only like the stuff from the ‘70s,” she told me. Good taste.) And it’s long been known that Japanese teen girls are devoted connoisseurs of sexually ambiguous males and homoerotic fare. (Did you know that Brokeback means “manna from heaven” in Japanese?) The combination of the internet and the Emo subculture of whiny white rock has given rise to a stateside equivalent of the Japanese phenomenon, with teenage boys making out with one another for the pleasure of femme voyeurs. (Undoubtedly a lot of them do it for their own sword-wagging pleasure. En Guarde!) A thesis paper or three could be written on that topic. I’m not really trying to do that right now. But here's a clip put together by a girl (supposedly… who knows for sure?) who has also uploaded a few other similar compilations. And here's a clip spoofing the whole little movement. This is all old news, but I still find it fascinating… All these tremors of change and evolution taking place beneath the surface as moneyed old white hetero men who do not have lips or souls – and working with the assist of their coven of closet cases – labor tirelessly to turn back the cultural clock.


Anonymous said...

You gotta love the bravado of any 26 year old house dj from L.A. who only discovered the music when he was 16, but talks about legendary NY clubs as if he experienced it. Do the math dude, you weren't even pre-cum in ya daddies dick, so what do you know about the Paradise Garage.

Not only is house a feeling - it's also false memories.

Anonymous said...

o honey. hetero girlfriends have made off with so much of my gay porn, that i don't have one Jeff Stryker video left, or any Leo Ford blue movie classixx. Most women who aren't sluts, have only seen a few men's penis'in their lifetime, so gay porn is quite thrilling. One of my pals just couldn't believe how long,thick and muscular the boys are. My smart straight male friends ask my advice on gay titles that they can give to their wives and girlfriends to ensure that they are super aroused.
love your line, "coven of closet cases" just brilliantine, pure brilliant!!!!