Sunday, August 2, 2020

everybody is a star

I have two blogs to which I regularly contribute. I am active on Twitter, Instagram and, now (unfortunately) Facebook. My posts across all social media platforms bear a certain similarity. There are unusual things I see, unusual things I seek out, screenshots of old television shows and an inordinate amount of death references. Over the years, I have had a few people (fans? followers? inmates?) suggest that I do a podcast, focusing on my specific interests. Now, my son makes his living as part of the broadcast field. He is very qualified to do a podcast, from both the content side and the technology side of things. The idea has been suggested to him countless times - waaaay more times than I have received those suggestions. He does not do a podcast. Of any kind. On any subject.

The internet and easy-to-learn, easy-to-access technology has made it possible for anyone — literally anyone — to create a podcast. That doesn't mean that everyone should create a podcast. And If you have listened to a sampling of the plethora of podcasts flooding various podcast outlets, you will soon discover that a lot of these folks should have those microphones wrenched out of their hands and their access to upload immediately cut off. An overwhelming number of podcasts are unscripted with no real focus on a coherent subject. The improvised commentary is fraught with "umms" and "ahhs" and "errs," along with incessant laughing (usually at something that isn't funny). Don't get me wrong. There are some podcasts that are enjoyable, but one has to weed through hours and hours of amateurish tedium to find them.

Which brings me to You Tube, the original "do-it-yourself" production platform for those frustrated documentarians whose stories must be told... even if they really don't have much of a story. I humbly admit that I used to contribute to my own YouTube channel. I would post videos from concerts I went to. After 150 videos, I realized that I wasn't watching them. No one on the internet was watching them and I was impeding on my own enjoyment of the concert. So, I stopped (although the videos are still there).

Like most people, I have watched a lot of YouTube content. I learned how to accomplish some techniques in Photoshop. I have watched full concerts and live broadcasts from some of my favorite bands. I have watched some funny clips from comedians and informative pieces on subjects in which I am interested. But — like podcasts — just because you can make a YouTube video doesn't mean you should make a YouTube video.

With my current situation of having a lot of time on my hands, I have been watching more that my fair share of YouTube videos. I have found there is something for every interest — so matter how obscure. If you are interested in something... anything, someone (often more than one person) has made a video about it. I don't have to remind you of my interest in all things Disney, so I often look for videos about Disney Parks. I also look for content dealing with the area surrounding Walt Disney World. I was in Central Florida for the first time in the early 80s. On later trips, I have driven around looking for changes, improvements and additions to the area — new attractions, closed attractions and other alterations to the Orlando area landscape. Now, I can do that from the comfort of my own home via YouTube. Usually.

Mystery Fun House
In 1980 and '81 (my first trips to Orlando), my friends and I went to a local attraction called "Mystery Fun House." True to its name, Mystery Fun House boasted hours of fun in the form of a walk-thru, multi-room fun house with a hall of mirrors, a disorienting odd perspective room and many standard examples of carnival-level amusement. There was also an arcade and a pizza restaurant. The facade was notable for the giant fiberglass wizard character that spanned the entrance way and loomed high over entering guests. Mystery Fun House shut its doors for good in early 2001 after declining popularity in the shadow of Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. It was used as a Welcome Center for a time-share company until it was converted to its current role as one of many discount ticket centers to entice tourists. Curiously, I am not the only person interested in the path and eventual fate of the attraction.

YouTuber A and YouTuber B
This week, I found not one but two videos on YouTube, surprisingly, dealing with the same arcane subject. Both videos are part of a series by two different so-called YouTubers, each of whom have been posting videos to the site for nearly a decade. These two guys' videos employ nearly identical motifs. They both work alone, using their cellphone to shoot their video and later, do their own editing on a most-likely free piece of software. The videos appear choppy, jumpy, unscripted, unprofessional and poorly thought out. Both hosts seem unfamiliar with the subject on which they are reporting, using off-the-top-of-their-head commentary instead of actual research. Neither host appears to have crossed paths with a bar of soap or a bottle of shampoo since the Carter Administration. I suppose this is a good time to point out that they boast 14,800 and 502,000 subscribers respectively. (I have purposely blurred their identities.)

YouTuber A shoots a lot of scenes through the windshield of his RV. From what I understand, this is his trademark "thing." His narration is unfocused stream-of consciousness, often stumbling over his words while he gathers his thoughts. He also peppers his speech with a distracting amount of "cool" catchphrases that feel awkward and more suited to a person half his age. He injects more personal anecdotes than pertinent information regarding his various subjects. He is the star rather than the topic of the particular video. I found his inarticulate delivery to be both distracting and irritating. A dangerous combination. I can't figure out why he doesn't edit out and re-shoot some of his flubs and missteps. He obviously has the capabilities. I watched one of his videos that included him running to avoid a bee, with footage from his perspective accompanied by shrieks.

Yes... I know... there were windows right here.
I watched YouTuber B's video entitled "What Remains From Mystery Fun House." The eight-and-a-half minute piece consists of the host wandering the empty parking lot, wondering aloud if he will be asked to leave by employees in the building. Then, he films and points at the building from several different angles, noting the former location of the wizard figure as well as several windows that have been covered up. He repeats this in its entirety with each angle adjustment. A full five minutes in, he ventures up to a Plexiglas-covered sign left from the attraction's early days. He focuses on the sign for a very, very long time. He goes back to pointing out the former window locations again before wrapping things up when he is spotted by a suspicious ticket center employee.

Both videos were torture to watch, like that guy at a party who won't shut up about a movie that no one cares about and interrupts you when you attempt to change the subject. They are both in-your-face and are in possession of a face that you really don't want in yours.

I'm sure there is good and enjoyable content on YouTube. I have actually viewed some. I just have to remember where I left it.

And I won't be doing a podcast any time soon.

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