ONCE A MONTH or so, The Weeklings editors are each required to respond to a single cultural question in this wildly popular parlor game. Music, movies, television, books, dance, sex, sports, art, and death are all up for grabs. There are no correct answers, no political correctness allowed, and only one rule: sheer, brute honesty.
As always, please, no wagering.
“What’s your all-time favorite YouTube clip?”
The only way I made it through grad school psych was by writing papers on subjects like ponzi-schemes, subliminal advertising – and Stevie Nicks. Particularly by watching concert footage of Fleetwood Mac performing “The Chain” through the 70s, 80s and on up through the reunion tours. None was more fascinating to me than 1997’s version from The Dance – that red hot glare Stevie locks onto Lindsay as she turns her back to the audience and sings solely to him – if you don’t love me now / you will never love me again — the way Lindsay tries so hard to remain stand-offish but eventually gives in, the glances and body language, chemistry bleeding through the screen, how John McVie stares at his feet and Christine plays her part of the nervous neighbor who knows what’s going on but looks the other way . . . and even Mick, that typical drummer, obliviously diddling, flailing as his hat flies away. Is it simply the grandest musical example of the sum being greater than its parts? Projection, transference, magical thinking? Is it all for show? Or real emotion? A show based upon real emotion? I could still teach a semester of Personality Theory just on this five minute clip.
YouTube, feeder of the infinite infinity of the interwebs, destroys singularity, giving us all ADD. But since Jamie mentioned Stevie Nicks, I’ll see his Nicks and raise him by a marching band — with the video shot for Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk.” California, 1979: the band is following up Rumours with a pricey double album, so it has to be big. Here’s the strung out, groovy, mysterious, edgy, slightly disaffected, not entirely united rock band, come to dusty, hot Dodger Stadium to work with the USC Trojans marching band — a group of college kids who by nature are required to function as one. Makes all sorts of sense: the tribal beat in Tusk and its insistent “Just tell me that you want me” swells anthemically when backed by the unified throb of a marching band. And the video is full of moments, more process than product: tall, skinny Brit Mick Fleetwood clutches giant headphones to his head and stomps to the bead, Lindsay Buckingham dons a helmet and looks like a little boy. Along comes Stevie Nicks. She channels her inner cheerleader and begins high-stepping it, twirling a baton like a hippie goddess majorette. It’s just a few seconds, but there she is. She twirls beautifully, perfectly, flashing quicksilver all around. Her white dress swishes in the sun, her skinny arm works like she’s casting a spell. In the midst of this phenomenally complicated (for the time) production involving an entire marching band, helmets, tubas, walkie talkies and all, she just grabs a piece of metal and flicks her wrist and outshines them all. I can watch that segment over and over, the all-American ethereal goddess turning an all-American, very un-ethereal ritual into a magical rite. That it’s on YouTube, decades later, that’s magic too.
I still think this is one of the funniest things on the Internet, five years after first doing random searches for Wooden Teeth+Revolutionary Arcana. It’s a history lesson. Possibly revisionist. About George Washington. Who “ate opponent’s brains and invented cocaine.” He also has “two sets of testicles so divine.” Both things I’ve always assumed were true in any case. The animation is great, deadpan and demented. But the song? The song kills. It’s like the best thing Ween ever produced, if they were spliced together with half the Meat Puppets and a third of Gibby Haynes. “…He’ll save children, but not the British children…” Damn straight he will. And Washington? He’s coming.
The 70s were Baltimore’s magical decade for baseball. The Orioles wore a cartoon bird on their hat, had a tomato patch in left field, and were skippered by the angriest man in the world, Earl Weaver. Our dad had season tickets on Memorial Stadium’s first base line so we could watch Weaver erupt from the dugout. My brother and I didn’t have that kind of attention. We liked to drift up into the nosebleeds where an alcoholic cabbie had transformed Section 34 into a redneck riviera. Though his name was William Hagy, everyone called him Wild Bill. He was a beardo with a sweat stained cowboy hat, a pronounced gut and not much else going for him. Wild Bill owned Section 34. Plus, he tolerated all of us kids who came to watch him, leading everyone in cheers punctuated by that unmistakable Bawlmerese. But watch this longish video more closely. About halfway through, a Raymond Carver vibe descends as the TV crew spotlights Hagy’s job and his local hangout, a depressive bar in Dundalk. The drunks at Ed’s Inn and Packaged Goods aren’t people you want to know. At the same time, you wish the outtakes made it to youtubeland. To me, it’s an essential document that denotes baseball’s unique place in American history, much like my second favorite part of youtubeland, the Dock Ellis animated short about the no-hitter he pitched while high on LSD.
Oh YouTube, you are where chaos meets cat videos and where quality sound goes to die, but I still love you for your recreational, slightly educational and ever stoner silly-ass humor. I can appreciate the cerebral baseball symphony of Mr. Cherry above and the oddly erotic crossroads where Ween meets George Washington’s dick (which I totally reposted on Facehooker just now), I’m stuck in the past. Specifically, I’m peddling the past to dream up the future. Allow me to explain: Jamie Blaine and Jana Martin reminded me of the leather and lace power of Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks. I see their Rumours and raise them double to meta. I bring you one of the best Ted Talks ever: young fashion rookie Tavi Gevinson, feminist, pop culture nerd and teenager hell bend on “Still figuring it out.” Gevinson discusses the importance of powerful, complex female role models in our cultural landscape, she champions Lena Dunham’s Girls, and she reminds us that “Every woman is a bundle of contradictions.” At the end of her Ted Talk, she beckons all of us to JUST BE STEVIE NICKS. So, do that. Be Stevie Nicks and watch Ted x Teen Now:
In my final year of law school, I enjoyed a long AND glorious stretch where I’d come home from school, turn on the television and prank phone call whatever low budget Chicago cable access shows I could find. I was an equal opportunity punk– I would hassle Irish culture shows, African American history programs, Polish cooking series or whichever poor bastards were unfortunate enough to be on television when I returned to my apartment. This is perhaps why I have such a soft spot for this clip. There’s something innately funny about watching somebody trying not to laugh, while collapsing into spasmodic fits of giggling during a completely inappropriate moment. Consequently, this gem knows no rival in my Pantheon of YouTube Classics– I revisit and share this more than anything on the Internet, and even as I type these words, I’m already chuckling as I look forward to watching it again.
No pressure, right? Favorite YouTube clip? That’s like asking what’s my favorite orgasm (answer: all of them) or best bourbon on the rocks I’ve ever savored (answer: most of them, at least once I could afford good bourbon), my favorite Beatles song…you get the picture. The Internet is like the universe: vast, impenetrable, intimidating. Only it has Google and YouTube. Want to know how much the world has changed in less than a decade? Ask someone under age 20 to imagine the world without Google or YouTube. Then ask yourself. YouTube is perhaps the best metaphor for democracy anyone could imagine: it’s messy, often ugly, occasionally brilliant. It is by the people, for the people. How many miraculous moments (in song, sport, celebration, comeuppance) has it captured? Too many to count, and it has single-handedly helped stave off quiet desperation for countless uninspired cube-dwellers. If pushed, I’d have to pick a real feel-good moment, one that flies in the face of all those naysayers who insist the Internet is a forum that obviates connection and soul. On the contrary, at its best, the Internet (in general) and YouTube (in particular) connect us across cultures and languages and showcases our barbaric yawps, our joyful noises, celebrations and defeats. My choice ostensibly goes against all my natural impulses (hint of jingoism, the notion that it’s merely a sporting event, albeit a world event and perhaps the world event, and it features the good ole USA in a role we’re not remotely accustomed to (and likely will remain for the foreseeable future): underdog. In this regard it’s at once humbling and hopeful). Not a soccer fan? Don’t care. Not interested in sports, period? Doesn’t matter. How many times are you going to hear anyone this excited about anything? For anyone who is unaware, Andrés Cantor is the sine qua non of sportscasters: his enthusiasm, knowledge and passion are unsurpassed, period. For anyone who is understandably cynical about the cynicism of our…everything these days, particularly as it plays out in politics, the media and yes, the Internet (where Irony died but was resurrected by itself, making it a kind of secular Holy Trinity), this clip is an antidote for apathy, a free adrenaline burst and a reminder that we are on earth for two reasons: to bear witness and sing the song of ourselves.
It was a very hard decision to make. I feel that I am the person who contributed at lease 10,000 views to the Surprise Kitten video. Ultimately, I choose a video that I watch when I am down. In keeping with the musical theme the other editors are flowing with, I naturally had to go with Nick Cave. The first time I saw The Weeping Song I broke into hysterical laughter. The song is amazing but the video is so absurd. I love them rocking on a boat over a sea made out of hefty bags. So weird and so beautiful.
No matter how you feel about “We Are the World,” there’s no denying that the collection of musicians in that recording studio was formidable. Watching the video a million times, we get the impression that the singers, wonderful as they are, sang flawlessly in one take…but no, there was a process. This is a look behind that process, when Quincy Jones coaxes a superior performance out of Cyndi Lauper, whose pipes are the stuff of legend. The takeaways from this clip: all art is a process, editing makes everything better, good producers are worth their weight in gold, and Michael Jackson NEVER SCREWS UP EVER. I know he co-wrote the song, but the guy was clearly a Cylon. If you’ve ever felt like you weren’t quite good enough at the art you were trying to create, this is about as inspiring as it gets. WHEN WE…STAND TOGETHER AS ONE! YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH! (Note: the Steve Perry one is also great).