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It's really loud (the Shop-Vac not the song)
December 1, 2010 9:24 PM   Subscribe

Considering Jonathan Coulton's lyric-writing, any text-based video of one of his songs is going to be good. But when graphic artist Jarrett Heather committed acts of "kinetic typography" to the ode to suburbia "Shop Vac", he made a SLYT that deserves multiple viewings.
posted by oneswellfoop (67 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
not really feeling the song, but the video part is just fantastic. thank you for posting this!
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:30 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nice use of boustrophedonic text for the lawnmower section.
posted by kenko at 9:31 PM on December 1, 2010


But yeah, the song seems to be pretty standard-issue "rot in the suburbs" stuff.
posted by kenko at 9:32 PM on December 1, 2010


Jarrett Heather is participating in the discussion of the video on Reddit.
posted by birdherder at 9:35 PM on December 1, 2010


*groan* not another mediocre kinetic typo- oh, that's actually quite good.
posted by jnrussell at 9:39 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


That was pretty damn cool.

BTW, it's Coulton's 40th birthday today.
posted by maudlin at 9:39 PM on December 1, 2010


Somebody get him a pipe!

(This is a really awesome video.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:40 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


|
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:46 PM on December 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


That was completely awesome!
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:49 PM on December 1, 2010


I am fascinated at how much the redditors hate Jonathan Coulton's song. It's obvious this is the first time they've come into contact with him, and they don't like his style. The world is very big.
posted by jscott at 9:50 PM on December 1, 2010


I am fascinated at how much the redditors hate Jonathan Coulton's song.

What are you talking about?

One of them seems not to get it, a bunch of others identify themselves as fans, and almost all of them are talking about the video, not the song, anyway. Ok, and one guy says it was great until he turned the speakers on. But I've scrolled something like 85% to the bottom (reading as I went, even) and have seen nothing that makes your comment comprehensible.
posted by kenko at 9:59 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I predict someone's Graphic Arts career is about to rocket in an upwardly direction.
posted by CynicalKnight at 10:10 PM on December 1, 2010


I kind of liked the song. I really liked the animation.
posted by bz at 10:21 PM on December 1, 2010


I heard this earlier today and thought it was great, then I saw it posted here and realized it was Jonathan Coulton and experienced this sound effect.

Those of us who are living the suburban dream sometimes appreciate songs like this, even if they aren't that subtle.
posted by mecran01 at 10:22 PM on December 1, 2010


Someone please switch that Shop-Vac® into reverse so I can call this Pepsi Blew.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:27 PM on December 1, 2010


This song has always made me sad. Maybe because I don't picture Suburban Hell, but rather an elderly couple that doesn't know what to do with themselves anymore and has grown apart but can't find a way to actually address it now that they can't say that they're going to stay together "for the sake of the children." It may be that I have "shop-vac" and "grandfather" more closely linked in my neural net than others. I don't know. I just see an elderly guy looking for something to do, anything to avoid trying to sit and relate to his wife as a person again...
posted by Scattercat at 10:29 PM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


In the Reddit discussion, he Heather estimates that it took him anywhere from 500-1000 hours of work. This tutorial shows the ins-and-outs of making basic kinetic typography videos, and just how much work you have to do for each little word in the video.

And that doesn't even begin to touch some of the interlude stuff, or the fancy animated graphics going on once the song gets going. Very cool.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:31 PM on December 1, 2010


Ironically, from the original thing-a-week entry about this song, written when Coulton was doing a song a week, he mentions he's just putting out some little Fountains of Wayne suburban ennui song to keep up with his commitment. He doesn't sound particularly anti-suburban or attempt to make some serious statement; he's just doing that sound and tone for that week.
posted by jscott at 10:32 PM on December 1, 2010


I have a man crush on JoCo. And JScott.

What?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:52 PM on December 1, 2010


I don't get the hate on the song, myself; in a perfect world, my songs would come out sounding exactly like his, and I heart this one. The video, meanwhile, is exquisite.
posted by davejay at 10:57 PM on December 1, 2010


of course now that I know he did this song in a week, when I usually do my songs in an hour after thinking about them on and off for a week, I know I can't play the "if I put more time in, my songs would sound like his" card. Sigh.
posted by davejay at 10:59 PM on December 1, 2010


Song is OK, but the video is great. So, 1000 hours at what, I would say, would be a (quite) conservative rate of $75/hour for this level of talent, would be $75,000. Probably more like $150,000. Hope the artist hits a payday from this work if they haven't already.
posted by maxwelton at 11:30 PM on December 1, 2010


I think the tone and the use of logotypes matches the song very well. I like the song and the video.
posted by demiurge at 11:34 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Out of a 339 comment thread on reddit, someone finds some explicitly negative comments about the song, which comes to a total of maybe ten at best, and somehow this morphs into redditors as a whole loathing the song.

The Internet: Working As Intended.
posted by quantumetric at 11:37 PM on December 1, 2010


This has always been my favorite Jonathan Coulton song up to the point until I listen to another Jonathan Coulton song.
posted by KChasm at 11:47 PM on December 1, 2010


Finally, we're getting somewhere.

That is interesting, to me, that there's a concern I'm doing wrong by Reddit. I merely intended to point out that a notable set of people on Reddit were going after a JoCo song, some speaking strongly enough to indicate the song ruined the animation for them, and I wouldn't have expected that.

I'm hardly out to say something bad about Reddit or characterize them wrongly; I just wouldn't have expected the percentage of messages related to the music (much less than 300, probably 20-30) to be so negative on the work; I've been steeped in his fanbase for so long I'm just used to him being a given in online communities.

It was interesting, and I noted it.

The reactions here have been also interesting.
posted by jscott at 11:50 PM on December 1, 2010


This is really cool-- I keep noticing more neat stuff every time I watch it. I've always appreciated a good send-up of corporate iconography, and this is absolutely stellar work.
posted by NoraReed at 12:21 AM on December 2, 2010


I enjoyed how happy that shop-vac looked, just to exist. How can there be strife in a world with such cooperative, enthusiastic shop-vacs?
posted by Neofelis at 12:22 AM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really, really liked this. I have a soft spot for animated typography, and this is a terrific example of the form. Coulton music is just great for this format; Mandelbrot's Set is another fun animated abstraction.
posted by biddeford at 12:24 AM on December 2, 2010


[deleted the monster fighty derail earlier upthread, carry on with the JoCo love people]
posted by mathowie at 12:30 AM on December 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


That was wonderful. I am now going to try and start every morning with a Jonathan Coulton song.
posted by janepanic at 3:00 AM on December 2, 2010


That was remarkable.
posted by jbickers at 3:26 AM on December 2, 2010


For those of you who felt 'meh' about the song, may I suggest the live acoustic version? I heart Jonathan Coulton and his work, but I find some of the production on his tracks a little blandy-mc-blanderson. Stripped back to just him and his guitar, you're left with some very good songwriting and, yes, I'll say it, a beautiful voice.
posted by RokkitNite at 4:24 AM on December 2, 2010


"...he made a SLYT that deserves multiple viewings."

Actually, he didn't make a SLYT, you did.
posted by AwkwardPause at 5:06 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hope the artist hits a payday from this work if they haven't already.

He works as a graphic designer for a government agency, and it's the first animation work he's ever done, and his first time using After Effects. Apparently, he has already gotten job offers for this.
posted by empath at 5:26 AM on December 2, 2010


Someone needs to make this into a greasemonkey script.
posted by empath at 5:31 AM on December 2, 2010


doh, wrong thread.
posted by empath at 5:46 AM on December 2, 2010


This reminds me of a Katy Perry song; ok repetitive music with great visuals.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:18 AM on December 2, 2010


Why does this remind me of the theme to Friends?
posted by Ad hominem at 7:00 AM on December 2, 2010


Just figured out what this song reminds me off, Bowling for Soup's "Girl All The Bad Guys Want"

The last line of the chorus:

She's the girl all the bad guys want!

Versus:

Because it's loud with the shop vac on!
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:14 AM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


She's the girl all the shop vacs want.
posted by pracowity at 7:50 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've done only a little motion graphics work, but enough to appreciate just how amazing this is. It's beautifully realized, slick, gorgeous. I'm blown away.
posted by Brainy at 7:51 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have mixed feelings about the animation. I find myself responding positively to the stylishness of it. It has a strong "voice" -- a confident playfulness I find appealing. I don't want to under-stress that point, as the rest of this post will critique the video negatively. It's not that, for me, the negatives outweigh the positives. Rather, I find it easy to sum up what I like in a pithy statement. What I dislike is a bit more complicated.

However, I can give my critique a heading: "redundancy." Basically, I don't like the fact that the video's words ape the song's lyrics. As each new bit of text flies (or flips or scrolls...) onto the screen, a voice in my head barks, "Yeah, I can HEAR that. I don't need to see it, too."

The reverse effect -- equally annoying to me -- happens when I'm riding in a car with one of those people who reads every sign out loud: "Welcome to Ohio!", "Joes Diner!", "Construction Ahead, Next Five Miles"...

"Yes! I can SEE that! I don't need to HEAR it, too!"

Since Coulton has always allowed people to make videos (and since I like Coulton), I've watched a lot of music videos based on his songs. I've never seen one that DOESN'T do this -- that doesn't illustrate his lyrics in a literal way. ("Code Monkey likes Fritos / Code Monkey likes Tab and Mountain Dew..." timed precisely to close-ups of a bag of Fritos, then a can of Tab, then a can of Mountain Dew." It's like someone saying, "When you go to the store, please buy me some bananas," and then holding up a picture of a banana. Not necessary. Insulting. Wasteful.)

Granted, of all the redundant videos I've ever seen, this one is the best -- as I said, the most stylish. It also DOES add something new (besides just the literal visual translation). I'm not sure what it is, so I guess I'll just fall back on "a particular style." But my brain still balks at the ape-like redundancy.

This disease, which has always been with us to some extent, is spreading like wildfire. I've noticed it overtake Broadway musicals. It used to be that, when someone sang on stage, he would sometimes accompany his words with a pointless, redundant gesture (e.g. pointing upwards on "...it looks like it's climbing clear up to the sky" in "Oh What A Beautiful Mornin'"), but it's now reached epic proportions:

For instance, in a recent production of Assassins, during the opening number, which is set at an amusement-park shooting gallery, there's a lyric that goes...

You can get the prize
With the big blue eyes,
Skinny little thighs
And those big blue eyes...

It's a (simple) metaphor. The barker is telling a loser (who will one day try to try to shoot the president), that he can get a girl by shooting something. He's likening winning a girl to winning a carnival prize. It's a crystal-clear lyric, but when I saw the show on Broadway, it was illustrated by a big bunch of stuffed animals being lowered from the ceiling on the word "prize." (The audience mistook it for a sight gag and laughed.)

Tim Burton's movie-version of "Sweeney Todd" was rife with this stuff, too. There's a song called "A Little Priest" in which the murderer and his sidekick sing about all the sorts of people they're going to make into pies:

It's fop.
Finest in the shop.
And we have some Shepherd's Pie peppered
With actual shepherd on top.

Burton insisted on showing us a fop and a shepherd. (Or maybe he showed us some of the other professionals mentioned in the song, instead. I can't remember which ones he showed, but there were definite cuts to the specific people mentioned in the song AS they were mentioned, as if they lyrics themselves were unclear.)

This ISN'T the way people used to film musical numbers. For instance, take a look at "My Forgotten Man" from "Golddiggers of 1933."

I think this "illustrating" often happens for two reasons: (1) because someone simply wants to make a video (or is hired to do so). He doesn't have any ideas of how visuals that can add to, subvert or compliment the song. So all he CAN do is illustrate it. And, (2), because this trend is simply powered by its own momentum -- once enough people do it, it becomes an accepted style and ... people accept it.

A few years ago, Art Speigelman wrote an article for "The New Yorker" about comics that, in his opinion, are worthy to be labeled as high art. His primary example is a story called "The Master Race." No doubt it is important historically, but it is rife with redundancy. It hasn't decided whether it wants to be a prose-only story or a illustration-only story. It would be awesome if it was a mixture -- in which prose and image play off each other in interesting, unexpected ways -- but it's not. It's the same thing twice.

On the other hand, this strip (also featured by Speigleman) is lovely. The prisoner's execution is left to the words; the scared birds are left to the artwork.

Sometimes, the medium you've chosen to work in makes redundancy hard to avoid. I was discussing this recently with some friends, in reference to the witches in "Macbeth." When Banquo sees the witches, he says...

What are these
So wither'd and so wild in their attire,
...By each at once her chappy finger laying
Upon her skinny lips: you should be women,
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
That you are so.

What is a director supposed to do here? Show the audience wild-looking women with beards? Shakespeare's words already paint that picture vividly! It doesn't need a literal counterpart in the visual. That's just redundant. On the other hand, is a director supposed to NOT show women with beards? The play -- if staged -- calls for them! I don't think there's a perfect solution to this problem. But it's a fun one to grapple with in production. (What stunned me is how some of my friends thought that, because there's no perfect solution, the problem isn't worth thinking about and working through! Wow. Different strokes...)

Having said that, my guess is that a lot of people will respond to this post (if they respond at all), by saying, "the so-called 'redundancy' in the video doesn't bother me." Or even "I like it." Which is fair enough. I can't prove that my aesthetic is "right" and yours is "wrong." In fact, I don't even think that makes sense. Aesthetics are subjective. Different people have different relationships towards redundancy. I am simply describing mine.
posted by grumblebee at 7:55 AM on December 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


This is the same guy who did the portal song right? that is why reddit doesn't like it. It has nothing to do with cake.

The cake is a lie people!
posted by Ad hominem at 7:57 AM on December 2, 2010


Great now the top comment in every reddit thread will be "it's really loud with the Shop•Vac® on, people!"
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:14 AM on December 2, 2010


The guitar solo is accurately transcribed* in the video, fwiw. Bonus goodness.

(*To my eye and ear, without playing along.)
posted by lothar at 8:42 AM on December 2, 2010


Every time I look at this, I am more like

Holy.
Fucking.
Shit.

Because A, I need to remember that there is more Jonathan Coulton out there than just "Re: Your Brains". And B, Holy. Fucking. Shit. This animation is so, so good. I've watched it three times already.
posted by Night_owl at 9:27 AM on December 2, 2010


I watched the video that grumblebee linked to and saw Busby Berkeley providing a template for every over-simplified over-pretentious over-produced music video since the MTV era began that took a small piece of a complex lyric and hammered you over the head with it with glossy, unrealistic and obvious visual metaphors (and while not long and much repeated, the lyrics really had more to say than "Support Our Veterans!").

You know all those "Literal Videos" that rewrote the lyrics to fit the visuals? All the best of those are videos that forgot and ignored what the SONG was all about. Sure "Take On Me" was a great little short film that had pretty much nothing to do with the song on the soundtrack, but that's because the song was mostly content-free!

I am very lyric-centric at times toward music. I got a kick out of Cee-Lo's "Fuck You" rhyming Ferrari and Atari but was totally frustrated by its wrenching changes in focus: going from a refrain addressing the guy with a toss-off "and fuck her too" to verses aimed directly at her - maybe it was intended to show off the character singing as irrational, but for me it did it so ineptly. The best thing about the text-based first video was that it ignored whatever deeper meaning the song tried to have and did focus you on the specific words (including the "ooh ooh oooh").

If someone had tried to make a video for "Shop-Vac" focusing on the middle-class angst behind the clever wordplay, it would've been a pretentious mess that totally missed the point... this Coulton song, more than most, recognizes the reality of the situations it's illustrating and intentionally focuses on the level of denial in the POV of the character. So, the literalism and redundancy of the typographic illustration fits the song perfectly and AMPLIFIES its irony. And also added a few less-than-obvious visual references: did ya recognize the typography of the Mrs. Fields and Macy's logos on the 'trip to the mall' lyric? (And yes, I loved how the word "dog" wagged it's tail. Redundancy I can totally get behind)

No, music videos should never upstage their songs, and I'd rather see somebody handle the material too literally than go off on an unrelated tangent (unless, again, like "Take On Me" there's nothing there to start with).
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:17 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


To be perfectly honest, I prefer the song to the video—and I'm not crazy about the song (but only because of the production; if it was just a bit more raw, more Cheap Trick than latter-day Barenaked Ladies, I would totally dig it 100%; it's all just too clean, too restrained, too khaki pants).

The video is, as grumblebee eloquently pointed out, far too literally illustrative to add much value, but that's not my main beef. (It's just the text of the lyrics, after all; how could it not be literal?)

No, my one complaint is that bears an uncanny resemblance to a lot of idents and promos for basic cable stations and ads for big box discount department stores.

The production of the song and the production of the video both seem to have surrendered to the same sort of repressive middle-class suburban ennui (which I know all too well) described in the words. If intentional, that's positively brilliant, but I'm not convinced that's the case; I don't know about the filmmaker's other work, but Jonathan Coulton's is largely the same.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:29 AM on December 2, 2010


No, music videos should never upstage their songs, and I'd rather see somebody handle the material too literally than go off on an unrelated tangent

Me too. (Or, actually, I'd rather see neither.) I hear that you didn't like the "Forgotten Man" video, and that's fine. Maybe it's a bad example. But you set up a binary equation -- too-literal or off-on-a tangent -- which I think is like saying, "I'd rather eat an apple pie with a stale crust than one with rotten apples in it." Sure, but how about a pie with neither.

If you LIKE the literal stuff, I doubt you like it because you prefer that to something else. Surely you like it because of some intrinsic qualities. Or maybe literal illustrations are neither here nor there for you: you don't really think about that aspect and enjoy the video for other reasons, just like I (a person who rarely notices shoes) won't find a woman attractive (or unattractive) because the shoes happens to be wearing sexy shoes. I just don't care about shoes. They don't make or break anything for me.

To me, the best works (and, also to me, the only acceptable ones) are the ones in which sound and image both work together to help tell a story, but in which there's no overlap between their contributions.

Music videos are tough to get right, because, in general, the original song was a complete entity on its own. Visuals can't complete something that's already complete. So, if you're determined to make a video, you should (if you want to please me, anyway), aim for something more -- something for which the song can be a building block and the images can be another building block. I think this can be done without seeming tangential.

(I think the second comic link I posted above gets it right, but, again, that's a specific work. You might object to it -- e.g. find it pretentious -- for reasons unrelated to my main point.)
posted by grumblebee at 10:44 AM on December 2, 2010


I'll admit my choice is too "binary". But your analogy is not good; I'm comparing the half-baked pie crust to the over-cooked, and the quality of apples is not relevant. Or under-ripe vs. over-ripe apples and the crust is not relevent. WHATEVER. There is a tiny 'sweet spot' where a video can "serve the song" subtly but beautifully, but I can't think of one off the top of my head. It's like using CGI in a movie without anybody realizing it's CGI. (And dammit, I wish the Hollywood publicity machines would stop pointing out when it's done - maybe I don't WANT to know).

Okay, now I'm digressing.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:11 AM on December 2, 2010


Love the song. Love the video. For those who need to take the theme of the song and crank the despair meter up to 11, I recommend No Children.
posted by gwint at 11:12 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


It sounds like we're in agreement about aesthetic principle, oneswellfoop, even if we disagree about specific examples.

I bring this stuff up because, as a theatre director, I've spent the last 25 years adapting written scripts into staged plays. And I've found that the redundancy issue, and some issues surrounding it, to be the core problems I have to think about and struggle with and, when the gods smile, solve. I gave an example, above: the Macbeth-witch conundrum.

It all starts with "why put this on the stage?" In other words, if it works on paper -- if I enjoy reading it as a script (which I often do with Shakespeare plays in particular) -- will morphing it into a flesh-and-blood spectacle likely add anything useful? Sometimes (often) I can't know until I try, but the question lingers.

And I wish that music-videos auteurs would ask themselves the same question more often than, to me, it seems like they do: why make a video of this song? I think, for too many of them, the answer is, "Because that's what I do. I make videos." That same wrong answer (wrong in my opinion, of course -- not cosmically wrong) plagues the theatre and all art forms that involve adaptation, which is to say all art forms. That blockbuster novel doesn't inevitably HAVE to be made into a movie, at least from an artistic perspective. (I won't comment on financial and ego perspectives.)

At each point during the adaptation process, I've learned to ask myself, "Do I need this?" By "this" I mean some piece of business or some object I've plopped on the stage -- a gesture from an actor, a hat, etc. Am I "adding" something that's already clearly there. If so, it becomes one of those darlings for which Hemingway (or is it Falkner?) has bloodlust.

These are the key, key questions that music-video producers should ask themselves. And it's SO easy to get seduced by one of those darlings (or three or a hundred of them), that you have to keep relentlessly asking yourself those questions again and again and again.

IF you share that basic, anti-redundancy aesthetic principle.
posted by grumblebee at 11:40 AM on December 2, 2010


Seconding No Children. I have the hots for John Darnielle.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:46 AM on December 2, 2010


What are these
So wither'd and so wild in their attire,
...By each at once her chappy finger laying
Upon her skinny lips: you should be women,
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
That you are so.

What is a director supposed to do here? Show the audience wild-looking women with beards? Shakespeare's words already paint that picture vividly!


Bill's kind of breaking the fourth wall there, I think. In Shakespeare's day, all female characters were played by male actors in drag. To be faithful to the picture he's painting, start there.

posted by Sys Rq at 1:08 PM on December 2, 2010


No, my one complaint is that bears an uncanny resemblance to a lot of idents and promos for basic cable stations and ads for big box discount department stores.

Yeah, I could do without all the consumerist brand references too.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:53 PM on December 2, 2010


Sys Rq, I think you and I are talking about two different things. I know they would have been played by men, and that Shakespeare is winking at the audience when he says, "Look! Women with beards," but, unless I misunderstand you, that doesn't help solve the redundancy problem, which is...

1. The words the audience hears say "These women have beards."

2. The sight the audience sees "says," "These women have beards."

The audience is getting the exact same information twice. (I guess it could be slightly different: the lines say "beards," but the audience could see red beards or whatever. But that's not a very interesting addition.)

Unless the director (or designer or actors) chooses to not put beards (or ragged clothes or whatever) on the witches. In which case the lines and the images will contradict each other.

Assuming you DO put beards on them, this is a common problem (if you consider it a problem). It happens in any movie or play in which someone describes a character being tall and then you see that he IS tall. It's unavoidable, and I don't drive myself crazy trying to get rid of every crumb of redundancy. (That's impossible.) But since I think that less is generally better than more, I try to curb redundancy whenever possible. And to know when it's possible, I have to constantly look out for it.

It's specifically an issue with the witches, because Shakespeare doesn't just say the equivalent of "they're tall." He doesn't just quickly describe them using one or two words. He describes them at length. He paints a very specific picture of them. So it seems kind of lame to just parrot that picture visually.

(Are you suggesting that I could cast men, and then the audience would get the joke? Maybe. But they'd still see witches with beards and hear about witches with beards at the same time.)

Imagine Shakespeare was a modern screenwriter and we wrote a line like this:

BANQUO
Oh my God! Look at those creatures! They're wearing ragged clothes! And they look like women -- but they have beards!

Those lines would rightly (or at least hopefully) get cut when the script was filmed, and not just because they are clunky. They would be cut because the director would realize that he could just show the witches and have Banquo say, "Oh my God!" The movie doesn't need a verbal description AND an image that just illustrates that description. Amongst other things, that insults the audience's intelligence.

One solution is to take that route with Shakespeare: just cut the lines. Put the witches in really cool, scary makeup and let that tell the story without the words. I am generally loath to do that with Shakespeare, though, because his words are the main reason (many) people go to his plays. And his words are usually more powerful than any image I can come up with using costumes or makeup. Which leaves me with redundancy.
posted by grumblebee at 1:58 PM on December 2, 2010


Uh, grumblebee, you seem to be missing that redundancy can serve to really, really emphasize something. It's part of language. A blanket rule that it's better to reduce redundancy is silly, and expecting someone who has chosen dynamic fontography to not use that type to render the lyrics is a bit silly too — especially when you don't seem to realize that the point of the words isn't the words, but rather how they're rendered and the associations that are drawn forth. Maybe you're just not as aware of logos, but hardly any of the words in the song don't have a brand that underscores the irony of the lyrics.

And further, you know, you don't have to treat Shakespeare like a fundamentalist treats the Bible — the line is a pretty great turn of the phrase, but nothing stops you from just showing the witches or whatever. In dynamic typography, having words is a constraint of the medium; in theater, the script is a constraint. And the obvious reply, that there could have been different words (not the lyrics) running throughout is like saying to use a different script to perform MacBeth. You can, sure, but that ignores the fairly obvious intention of performing MacBeth.
posted by klangklangston at 2:19 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sure, redundancy can emphasize something. But you always have to* ask the question, "does this point need to be emphasized?" (*I'll quit saying "In my opinion." Assume that's what I mean.)

Usually, when I ask myself that, the answer is no. Occasionally it's yes. But I'm always suspicious when "it's emphasis" is an ex-post-facto explanation. "Why did I allow that redundancy to remain. ... Er. Because it acts as emphasis! Yeah! That's the ticket!"

I am totally aware of what the animator is doing with the logos. (It's ugly to me in another way, that has nothing to do with redundancy. It's like someone saying, "Hey, you know what would be cool? To have marginal notes in a novel that explain all the subtext." Why would you want to do that?)

I briefly touched on this, above: "expecting someone who has chosen dynamic fontography to not use that type to render the lyrics is a bit silly too." I said that (too) often, people make these sports of adaptations because "that's just what I do."

If you're a puppeteer, that doesn't mean you have to turn EVERY story into a puppet show. Not all stories work as puppet shows. If someone asks you "Why did you make that Chekhov play into a puppet show?" it's a bad excuse to say, "Because I like Chekhov plays and I happen to be a puppeteer." Yes, but why THAT play as a puppet show? The definition of puppeteer isn't necessarily "someone who must turn any work he likes into a puppet show."

So, yes, I do expect people who choose to make dynamic-type animations to think, "I wonder if this song would make a good soundtrack for a dynamic-type animation." If I was doing an animation like that, I'd probably choose something without lyrics. That way, my type could add the words without being redundant. Or my animation would of English subtitles for a foreign-language song. Or I'd do a call-and-response sort of thing, where my type added new words, in between the actual lyrics. If a song didn't lend itself to any of that -- or some other non-redundant collaboration -- I wouldn't choose it.

"you don't have to treat Shakespeare like a fundamentalist treats the Bible"

I don't. I make cuts. But I don't just make them willy-nilly. And since my way into Shakespeare (why I direct his plays) is first-and-foremost because I love his words, I think long and hard before I cut any of them. I'm in the process of cutting "Hamlet" right now. I suspect it will take several months to cut it so that I'm happy with the cut, even though (because?) I'm collaborating with several Shakespeare scholars and actors who are helping me.
posted by grumblebee at 2:46 PM on December 2, 2010


1. The words the audience hears say "These women have beards."

2. The sight the audience sees "says," "These women have beards."


No, rather the audience sees they're not women at all; they see what is really going on, something not explicit in the text: That despite his own observations, Macbeth is allowing himself to be deceived.

It's a fundamentally important bit of the play, IMO. The overarching themes of the whole thing are deception and self-deception, fate versus free will, and so on; to show MacBeth disregarding his own observations of the witches illustrates these themes perfectly. Obviously, the witches must fit the description--and then some.

Shakespeare would have expected the Three Witches (not to mention Lady Macbeth) to be portrayed by men, and the play seems to have been written with that very much in mind. Why not just do that?
posted by Sys Rq at 3:03 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


For those who need to take the theme of the song and crank the despair meter up to 11, I recommend No Children.

MASHUP PLEASE?
posted by NoraReed at 3:17 PM on December 2, 2010


No, rather the audience sees they're not women at all; they see what is really going on, something not explicit in the text: That despite his own observations, Macbeth is allowing himself to be deceived.

We're still talking at cross-purposes. I won't belabor my point beyond this post, because I've monopolized this thread enough. (But I love discussing this stuff, so feel free to memail me any time.)

I agree with everything you said. You're talking about the gender of actors playing the witches interacting, in an fascinating way, with the lines in the script, which doesn't mention the fact that they -- the actors -- are men. Cool. Agreed.

I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about what the men are wearing and how they're groomed.

1. Script: witches (female), dressed in rags, with beards.

2. Stage: witches (male), dressed in rags, with beards.

Do you see how everything after the commas is redundant? I think you're talking about the part in the parenthesis. I'm ignoring that -- not because I don't think it's interesting, but because it has nothing to do with my point.
posted by grumblebee at 3:19 PM on December 2, 2010


"(It's ugly to me in another way, that has nothing to do with redundancy. It's like someone saying, "Hey, you know what would be cool? To have marginal notes in a novel that explain all the subtext." Why would you want to do that?)"

Except that it's the exact opposite, taking words and giving them a referential context that provides another subtext, instead of explaining away the subtext.

Which is why it's dynamic fontography, to add that extra subtext.

If you don't get that, you should probably put the thread down and back away slowly.
posted by klangklangston at 4:35 PM on December 2, 2010


I'm ignoring that -- not because I don't think it's interesting, but because it has nothing to do with my point.

If you hadn't ignored it, you'd have seen that it's got everything to do with your point.

Presented with a faithful depiction of Banquo's observation, the audience sees that he is unequivocally correct. When Macbeth then takes the Witches' "prophecy" as truth, the audience sees that he is truly blinded by his newfound ambition.

Make the witches a bunch of hotties in slick get-ups, and it's Banquo who ends up looking like the crazy asshole. He's supposed to be the Jiminy Cricket!

There's no redundancy there. The description and the depiction work together to bring the subtext into view.

Like klang said, "the point of the words isn't the words, but rather how they're rendered and the associations that are drawn forth."

(I still think this video is too on-the-nose, though.)
posted by Sys Rq at 5:23 PM on December 2, 2010


If you don't get that, you should probably put the thread down and back away slowly.

I may need to back farther away than that -- maybe to the opposite side of the universe from any sort of analysis, because I don't understand your words and logic.

He's taking words, like Shop-Vac, Starbucks and Applebees and "giving them referential context"? What does that mean? Does it mean that, when Coulton sings "Starbucks," the animator is showing us a Starbucks logo? The context for Starbucks is the Starbucks logo? How does that add subtext?

Or do you mean things like the typography? Do you mean the font styles and other design elements are giving the song a referential context? I guess so. They are linking Coulton's words with a that sort of faux early-60s look, or whatever you call it: Mom, Dad and The Beaver... But, to me, that "context" is already in the song. The illustrations do nothing but hammer it (in a song that is ALREADY hammering it), which you may like or dislike, but I don't see how it's subtext.

But, as I said at the top, I probably misunderstood you.

There are parts of the video I really like (in addition to its energy and confidence). I like the glimpse of Facebook when Coulton sings about "our friends" and the google-maps imagery. Those are real additions. They are not literal illustrations of words in the song, but they are -- so to speak -- playing on the same game board as the song. I wouldn't say they add context or subtext. It's more like they add "evidence." Coulton is making some rhetorical points, and the animator is cramming even MORE in ("How about google maps? How about Facebook?") -- a few of which are new ones, not rehashes.
posted by grumblebee at 5:24 PM on December 2, 2010


Uh, grumblebee, you seem to be missing that redundancy can serve to really, really emphasize something. It's part of language.

YES BUT TOO MUCH EMPHASIS IS REALLY REALLY ANNOYING or so many people feel.

Except that it's the exact opposite, taking words and giving them a referential context that provides another subtext, instead of explaining away the subtext.

Indulge me here - what is this extra subtext you see? Like, just a sentence of two that describes the extra meaning you think the video adds to the song. I like both song and video, but agree with grumblebee that the individual creative flourishes are more of the same subtext, or (more often) the existing subtext made more obvious, rather than a new and different subtext.

For clarity, my understanding is that the plain text of the song is a guy summarizing his fairly normal life and marriage, the subtext is that he and his wife are both rather lonely because they've opted to define themselves entirely by their shopping habits and thus lead empty lives. So I wonder what additional subtext you think the video brings to this.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:14 PM on December 2, 2010


Mandelbrot Set
posted by zarq at 4:46 PM on December 3, 2010


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