Shorts That Don't Suck, Vol IV: Music Video Edition

For our fourth installment of "shorts that don't suck," we turn to an art form which many have declared dead or dying: the music video. It seems that the age of the internet has done something drastic not only to the business of music, whose coffers have been drained by file-sharing and music-pirating, but to the business of the music video, which goes through every crisis that its parent business goes through. The main result of this has been that music video budgets have shrunk -- from the millions to the hundreds of thousands, to in many case the just-thousands -- and the way most people see them has changed. As you're probably aware, there aren't a whole lot of music videos on MTV anymore; YouTube is now one of the industry's main distribution platforms, and she is a fickle beast, indeed. It's not the million-dollar Paris Hilton music videos that get the most views these days; it's those silly OK Go people jumping around on their treadmills (34 million views) -- a video that probably cost a few hundred dollars to shoot.

Weezer: "Pork and Beans"
Capitalizing brilliantly on this new model of success, ever-popular Weezer made their new video not only for the internet, but starring the internet. (Didn't I just blog about internet memes?) Keep an eye out for the Numa Numa guy, Chris Crocker, some Mentos-'n'-Coke experiements, and countless more nerdy net in-jokes:

Emily Haines: "Dr. Blind"
This simple but haunting video for Emily Haines (of the band Metric) uses a bit of special effects, but not in a way that seems overtly music video-ish. There are no black hole suns expanding over cartoonish skies, no crazy lights, no guitar-wielding rock stars floating through digital universes. Just a girl who goes to pick up her prescription at a Wal-Mart pharmacy, and has a little bit of a freak-out.

The Arcade Fire: "Black Mirror"
If F. W. Murnau had ever directed music videos, they would've looked like this. It uses more digital tricks than you can shake a keyboard at, but makes every one of them look like an old-school silent era technique. Unlike the other videos in this post, it certainly wasn't cheap to make -- but when you're a band at the top of the (indie rock) pops, you can spend a little coin on your videos. Strange and beautiful, not to mention one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands, I couldn't help but include it.

Eric Avery: "All Remote and No Control"
I don't know much about Eric Avery (formerly of Jane's Addiction) but the director, Andy Huang, is a friend of mine, and I think the visuals he created for this video are stunning. Not to mention he basically made this in his bedroom, on a computer less powerful than the one I blog with. Hats off, Andy -- those people growing roots out of their faces are going to give me nightmares for years to come.

How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?

Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

TAKWest, Youtube
Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
TAKWest, Youtube
TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]


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