For this week’s Monday Music Video, we’re going way out of our usual decade (the 1980s) to a song that was released just a couple years ago. In fact, I reviewed the album, Alpocalypse, shortly after I first launched Morgan on Media. Yes, this song is by “Weird Al” Yankovic. But while it’s certainly comic in tone, this should not be taken to mean it doesn’t have a serious and heartfelt point behind it…
The song is one of Yankovic’s original songs, not a direct parody of any particular song, but what he likes to call a “style parody” — a song which imitates the style of a particular artist’s work without directly using the tune or lyrics from any specific song. In this case, Weird Al is mimicking the style of songwriter and producer Jim Steinman, the man behind Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell. The official video — released straight to YouTube and on DVD in this post-music-television era — was done by animator Koos Dekker. Personally, I think the dynamic typography suits the song better than just about anything else could. It’s a song which doesn’t need a lot of visual embellishment.
Weird Al’s lament is an old and familiar one. For as long as email has been available to the general public, the general public has made themselves a nuisance with it. Spam. Chain letters. Rumors and misinformation. Hoary old jokes. The song references several of the more famous ones directly — if I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen the “Neiman Marcus cookie recipe”, I could buy one. Not the cookie (which apparently didn’t even exist before the hoax), a Neiman Marcus department store. I’ve seen lists of “hilariously” dumb George W. Bush quotes, and recognized several from years earlier when they were dumb Dan Quayle quotes. I suspect some of them go back to the Grant administration. The frustration comes from the fact that these often aren’t just some random spammer, but are being forwarded by a well-meaning friend who may not even be that naive in other circumstances. Blocking them becomes difficult, since one doesn’t want to block the friend.
The song is specifically talking about messages being sent to email, but in my personal experience, there’s been a marked drop-off in recent years of people sending these things by email. There has not, however, been a drop-off in them being sent. It’s just the method that’s changed. Facebook is rife with this kind of stuff. There are Facebook fan pages specifically for stupid jokes and paranoid political rants and snide one-liners, and all a person has to do is click “share” and everybody on their friends list sees it. Which would be all right if it was an occasional thing. But most days I find that there are so many clip-art images with sophomoric one-liners that it’s difficult to see what anybody is actually saying.
I realize part of this is simply just me. It takes a pretty good joke to get me to laugh, so most of these just make me roll my eyes. I’m politically moderate, and consider my political views to be just one aspect of my personality, so the constant back-and-forth bashing from “Americans against the [whatever] party” and the like gets on my nerves quickly. And I’m easily annoyed by willful stupidity, so obvious hoaxes and “share this and get money, don’t and face doom” chain letters bother me. The “money bags” one is particularly obnoxious since it reoccurs every few months and requires multiple levels of ignorance.
The same problem as with email crops up; the person is your friend, so you don’t want to block them entirely, because you might miss something genuinely interesting they have to say. And sometimes it doesn’t help because four or five different friends all share the same thing. It’s gotten a little better since Facebook finally wised up and provided the option to block items shared from “Lame Joke Page 37″ instead of blocking items from your friend, but it’s a new feature, and it’s still somewhat buggy. There are a lot of times I still see something, go to hide it, and the message tells me that everything from that page is already being hidden. Clearly not.
Now, I am aware there’s a touch of irony in making this point by sharing a video… especially one that refers to “some dumb thing on YouTube that everybody else already saw three years ago”. (Fortunately this is a year short of that, so it’s OK, right?) But I do think there’s just a small difference. Nobody’s seeing this who isn’t a follower specifically of Morgan on Media, or someone who has otherwise come to this page of their own volition. Everybody that this is being shared with is somebody who has opted in to reading what I have to say about media. It’s not something that is being foisted upon regular friends who then have to opt out of seeing it.
Because — and maybe I’m the strange one here — when I’m friends with somebody on Facebook, it’s because I want to see what they have to say. Not what they have to regurgitate from some random individual I’ve never met, have never heard of, and couldn’t even identify because their real name isn’t associated with their crap anyway.
So, if you’re somebody who has been filling their friends’ pages with dozens of image macros, just remember that your friends are probably fine with just hearing from you, not the online joke book you’ve found. If this means you’re quiet for a bit, that’s probably OK; you’ll have something interesting of your own to say before too long. In the meantime, kindly stop forwarding that crap to me.
Also, get off my lawn.