YouTube – A History Lesson


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.

Test Driving Our Instinct for Connections

faceOne of the cool things about being a writer is, aside from the occasional drink-‘til-ya-drop tequila binge, you generally go to sleep smarter than when you woke up.  You’re constantly finding and filing away facts, like an information squirrel worried about winter.  For example, I know that Birmingham, England has a larger canal system than Venice, Italy, there are actually five different versions of David’s painting, Bonaparte Crossing the Alps and China is scheduled to take over the world sometime in 2028.  This kinda stuff doesn’t come up all that often in casual conversation, but it definitely keeps most conversations casual.  After all, when you’re the Wyatt Earp of useless information, you don’t get a lot of people calling you out on it.  That’s the other reason why writing is such a lonely profession.  People tend to think you’re a pompous ass.  But I digress.  The cool part of having tons of off-the-top-of-your-head trivia at your disposal is that you get a leg up on analysis that most people don’t have.  You can see the connections between ideas before other folks even get their Google warmed up.  Let me show you how it works.

Remember when you were a kid and, face up to the sky, you actually spent some time looking at the clouds?  You didn’t see nimbus or cumulus (unless you were terminally nerdy) you saw sheep and surfers and an old guy with a pipe.  This is because our minds are hardwired into detecting images (especially faces) long before our conscious brains have accumulated enough information to make a judgement call.  Essentially, we see things before we actually see them by instantly reducing any image to it basic components.  This phenomenon comes from a time before time when humans were not even close to the top of the food chain.  As a species, we needed to recognize the things that were going to eat us — with enough time left over to run like hell for the trees.  In evolutionary terms, our ancestors who were good at this became our ancestors; everybody else ended up digested on the savannah floor.

Move the calendar forward half a million years, we still see faces in inanimate objects, but the only time we actually use this instinctual skill is to face2generate religious revivals from tortillas or buy into paranormal swindles.  After all, it’s been a lot of years since our species was threatened by hairy beasts.  However, in the 21st century, the predator of choice is information.  In order to thrive, if not survive, we need to recognize essential information out of the info-flood we’re soaking up every minute of every day.  Since no one has the waking hours to analyze every piece of data that arrives, hat in hand, to our conscious mind, we do this by connecting new information to the knowledge we already have.  A very simple example is when we see a truck drive up and park in front of our house, we immediately determine what kind of a truck it is (fire, garbage, FedEx) and take appropriate action.  If we don’t recognize it, we file it and get on.  Thus, the more information we have, the greater our ability to test drive the new stuff when it arrives.

As a writer, I get to test drive tons more information that most people — it comes with the territory.  And the thing that’s really cool is, like cloud watching, it’s a never ending process.  One shape morphs into another and another and another.  Think of it this way: what started off as an Internet search for “pareidolia” (you need to Google this, BTW) ended up, somewhere after midnight, at a YouTube video on how to fold t-shirts.  Now, how cool is that?

2013: Dull, If Not Boring!

new year3The year is less than two weeks old, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say 2013 isn’t going to be a very good year.  It’s not going to suck or anything; it’s just going to be dull, boring, historically dismissive.  It’ll be one of those years which a hundred years from now nobody’s going care about.  Kinda like 1489, or 1843 or 1771.  Those were years that, I imagine, were perfectly cool at the time but simply couldn’t keep their lustre compared to 1492, 1848 and 1776.  They just didn’t have the star power.

First of all, 2013 doesn’t sound right.  It’s got too many syllables or something.   It trips on the tongue.  Nineteen eighteen has cadence.  Ten sixty six has rhythm.  Forty four B.C. has an authority about it.  These are all years when big stuff happened.   However, take a look at twelve fifty seven or seven thirty one.  These are years that so closely resemble every other year that even nerdy historians don’t worry about what happened then because guess what?  Nothing did.  That’s going to be the problem with 2013.

Yeah, we’re going to have all the regular stuff in 2013: Easter, Father’s Day, Labour Day, Christmas etc., but we’re not going to have any of the big stuff.  There are no Olympics this year, no World Cup and most importantly, no American elections.  American politics are going to be dominated by budget negotiations.  Big snooze!  Budgets aren’t sexy, and besides now that Obama’s been re-elected, there’s nothing much at stake.  The political shine is off the rose and all those oh-so-committed (informed? engaged?) voters are heading for the exits.  The last thing any of them wants to do is play Survivor with fiscal responsibility; a subject most people think is about as exciting as eating lukewarm Kraft Dinner.  No, Springsteen and Oprah have put away their microphones for the duration, and political entertainment has left the building.

Speaking of entertainment; don’t expect 2013 to be a banner year at the movies,new year2 either.  Film makers are doing so many storyline retrofits I fully expect to see Holmes on Homes listed as technical advisor in most of the credits.  First, there’s The Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp, who is going to outshine Armie Hammer by a long shot and probably end up riding off into the sunset with Red (Helena Bonham Carter) leaving Lone to fend for himself.  Then, there’s Gatsby who was great when Redford portrayed him in the ‘70s; something about Oz which has James Franco playing a prequel to Dorothy (remember him in drag at the Oscars, hmmm?) and two more additions to the Star Trek and Superman franchises – like we need those.  Eventually, Hollywood is going to get boiled down to just one single movie with various sequels, prequels and equals regurgitated every year.  Oh yeah, I almost forgot, there’s another Die Hard this year, which, with any luck at all will be Die Hard: Once and for all.  Unfortunately, I think John McClane is going to go on forever — like those “Call Me Maybe” parodies on YouTube.

Of course, in 2013, there won’t be that YouTube menace Psy kicking around.  2012’s answer to The Starlight Vocal Band is gone, if not already forgotten.  Last time I looked, he was hanging out in Times Square on New Year’s Eve with Jenny McCarthy and MC Hammer.  If that isn’t a triple whammy kiss of death, I don’t know what is?  And don’t expect a 2013 equivalent of “gangnam style;” there’s only so much a discerning public can stand in one decade.

That’s probably the problem with 2013.  This decade is relatively new, and there’s a whole pile of stuff out there just quietly waiting to hit the fan.  When it does, we’re going to have a lot more than reinvigorated “Hammer time” to contend with!  Actually, this might be the calm before the storm.  So, to that end, I suggest you just sit back and relax in the relative peace and quiet of the next eleven months or so.  Gather your wits about you, because after that it’s going to be “Buckle up, Pardner!  Here we go again!”