Who’s Number One?

I lost track of popular culture sometime in the 80s, and now I’m permanently stuck with big hair and thin ties.  It’s not that I don’t like contemporary stuff; I do (pick and choose) but I have no idea who does what or even when.  For example, I was shocked to hear Destiny’s Child on my Classic (read — Old Man) Rock Radio station — so I looked it up.  My God! That was 20 years ago!  Anyway, I said all that to say I’m no expert on anything in the 21st century, but that’s not going to stop me from having an opinion.

So…  Last week, YouTube announced that it has a new “Most Watched” music video.  More people have clicked, looked and listened to this 2 minute track than any other song in human history.  It’s “Baby Shark!”  Just when I thought it was safe to finally come out of the closet and admit I actually like “Let it Go,” the mega-annoying tweenie hit from Frozen, apparently, two-year-olds have taken over the world.  (What next?  Womb music?)  Okay, okay, okay!  It’s a phenom: over 7 billion hits is nothing to sneeze at, but there’s a bigger question going on here.  Why is “Baby Shark” even in the conversation?  It’s not real!  It’s a novelty babysitter song for stressed-out parents who need a minute to sneak away and eat a candy bar or have a pee – in peace.  Here’s the deal.  Millions of chubby little fingers tapped this redundant little ditty to Numero Uno in the universe — even though most of those little fingers haven’t even mastered a knife and fork yet.  Unfortunately, that pushed all the good stuff out of the way.  “Despacito” (one of the best videos I’ve seen in years) got knocked off the top spot, and Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” was moved to third.  (BTW, how did that guy become a heartthrob?  Yeah, he can sing, but if he’s sexy, I should have girls lined up around the block — and I’m old.)  Meanwhile, “Uptown Funk” in its original incarnation is 6th and the mighty “Gangnam Style,” the video that started it all (first to one billion!) is now 7th!  My point is, these are all recognizable songs, musical renditions of something — even if it’s only an aging K-Popper leaping around as if he has an unfortunate itch.  Putting “Baby Shark” in that mix is like including Velvet Elvis in the National Portrait Gallery because it’s on so many trailer park walls.  Face it, folks!  Sheer numbers are not always the best way to rank things.

Way back in the day (1958, to be exact) when Perry Como got the world’s first Gold Record for a million sales of “Catch a Falling Star,” that number actually meant something.  It meant people were willing to take the time and trouble to leave the house and go to a record store; and, more importantly, it meant they were willing to shell out some hard coin to take Mr. Como home with them.  That’s a lot different from showing your kid how to click “play” cuz you need time to fold the laundry.  These two should be treated differently.

I understand that a million isn’t what it used to be, and even a billion won’t get you into the top 20 on YouTube.  However, I do think if YouTube wants to be taken seriously, they shouldn’t be rolling out those numbers quite so promiscuously.  Quite frankly, more isn’t preordained to be better.  If you’re using that flawed logic, sheep should be running the show in Australia.  After all, there are 3 times as many of them down there as there are people. 

A Couple Of Big Mistakes!

Anybody who isn’t prepared to acknowledge that the world is messed up right now is probably still writing their emails with crayons.  Besides all the regular stuff – crime, poverty, injustice, starvation — we’ve got the big bogeyman Covid-19 hiding under the bed.  And that’s kinda supersized our inability to deal with this crap.  Admit it: agrarian reform is Sub-Saharan Africa is not exactly your #1 priority these days, is it?  The fact is, our world is in big trouble and we’re mostly worried about whether our facemasks make us look fat.  So, how did we get on the express bus to Disasterville?  Easy answer!  Back in the day, we made two fundamental mistakes, and ever since then, we’ve been muddling around, trying to fix them — without ever actually admitting we made them in the first place.  So just to clarify: here is where we screwed up.

We got rid of Latin – Anybody who’s ever studied Latin will tell you it’s a completely whacked-out language.  It’s full of things that just don’t make any sense.  For example, there are 3 genders, about 100 verb forms and God only knows how many declensions (whatever they are.)  It takes years of study, an incredible memory and dogged determination to learn Latin.  In fact, teachers used to have to beat little kids with sticks to make them learn the damn thing.  However, Latin had one thing going for it.  Because it’s so godawful difficult, it was the language of serious people.  That’s why all the serious stuff is written in Latin — legal stuff, (like habeas corpus and modus operandi) religious stuff, medical stuff, even sex stuff, plus astronomy, anthropology and all the other ologies.  Even today, everything on Earth that walks, crawls, flies, swims or grows has a real Latin name.  For centuries, anybody who wanted to be taken seriously did it in Latin.  Think about it!  Isaac Newton (totally serious guy) wrote Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica — not An Apple Fell on My Head.  But the very best bit is, Latin kept people who weren’t serious from jumping into the conversation with their 2-bit idiot opinions.  They didn’t know the words, so they had to shut up when serious people were talking.  Thus, the world had a quick and dirty way to distinguish the people who actually wanted to deal with the problems that plague our planet from the other folks who just wanted to flap their jaw.  It wasn’t foolproof, but it worked.

We invented YouTube – In the old days, if you didn’t know something and your friends didn’t know it either, you had two choices.  You could either spend hours in a library, looking at books, or shrug it off and go watch TV.  This separated the serious folks from the rest of us who had a life – even if it was only reruns of Gilligan’s Island.  These days, however, if you don’t know something, all you have to do is click YouTube, and suddenly there are 15 videos that answer your question.  The problem is those answers aren’t necessarily the right ones: they’re just the most popular.  Plus, a 12 minute video on how to make a missile out of a Pringles tube, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda doesn’t make you a rocket scientist.  YouTube has made information available to the masses, but it has also made a bunch of people (who should be watching Gilligan’s Island) into make-believe experts.  And these fugitives from Basic Cable think they can talk the talk with the big people.  But the very worst bit is there’s nothing to make them shut up, and they’re muddying the intellectual water for the serious folks who want to take a drink.  Not to mix too many metaphors, we simply can no longer distinguish the conversation from the noise.

So what do we do? 

Unfortunately, the horrible conclusion is until we bring back Latin and limit the influence of YouTube so we can distinguish the populo gravi from the fatuis, we’re pretty much screwed.

Disclaimer: We live in unsophisticated times, so I have to point out that this is satire.  I do not advocate banning YouTube or beating children with sticks, so please save your emails!  Cheers.

YouTube – A History Lesson

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In the future, when archeologists mine our computer data, they will eventually run across YouTube and when they do, they’re going to come to some interesting conclusions about life in the early 21st century.  Here are just a few examples.  (In no particular order.)

Half of all Russian drivers had dash cameras and the other half were drunk.

The tattoo industry was basically illiterate.

Our society was obsessed with puppies, kittens and fat people falling over.

Stairs were dangerous, trampolines were dangerous but the most dangerous thing of all were stripper poles.

It was common practice to scare the crap out of people – friends, neighbours, total strangers.

Construction workers were idiots.

Every man on the planet was nailed in the crotch by a ball, a bat, a rock, a pole, a stick, a croquet mallet, a hot beverage, a flying piece of fruit or some other heavy item — at least once.

The number of skateboarders who attempted suicide was astronomical.

Grown men spent their lives looking for mistakes in movies.

Taylor Swift was part of the problem.

Kanye West had only one song.

Millions of people spent millions of hours watching men doing various activities with a variety of balls.

No one could get through an entire day without mentioning Trump.

People made all sorts of things out of used plastic bottles and old toilet rolls – but they were totally useless and looked like they were made out of used plastic bottles and old toilet rolls.

Western religion was based on celebrities and babies.

Bikinis made women stupid.  Men started out that way.

People worried about zombies a lot more than they did nutrition.

Accidents, catastrophes and natural disasters were spectator sports.

Marriage proposals were publicly staged and elaborately planned.

Wedding, yearbook and family photos were objects of ridicule.

But actually:

Despite all their research, future archeologists are never going to be able to figure out who was filming all this stuff or why.