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Photo: YouTube
The enthusiasm of YouTube phenomenon Twinsisthenewtrend (brothers Tim and Fred Williams) pushed an old Phil Collins song back to the top of the charts.

I’ve been getting a kick out of YouTube videos showing young people listening to pop music that was big decades ago. If you haven’t heard of this trend, read Luke Holland’s overview at the Guardian.

“Earlier this month a wonderful thing – remember those? – happened. Twin brothers Tim and Fred Williams, who post YouTube vids under the name Twinsisthenewtrend, shared a clip that went viral. In it, the affably enthusiastic 21-year-olds sit down to listen to Phil Collins’s moody, 1981 reverb anthem In the Air Tonight.

“And, well, that’s it. The clip is just them, doing that. But their reactions made it one of the most talked-about videos of the year, clocking up over six million views in three weeks.

Because there’s a twist: the twins had never heard this song before. Their minds are suitably, and adorably, blown.

“ ‘I ain’t never seen nobody drop a beat three minutes in a song!’ they hoot, delighted, after Phil clatters in with that drum fill – the one we’ve been so familiar with for so long that it’s passed into the graveyard of hoary old cliche. But hearing it through fresh ears – their ears – and watching the twins as they’re floored for the first time reminded people what an amazing musical moment it is. As a direct result of the clip, the song shot to No 2 in the US iTunes charts.

“First-reaction videos have been a thriving, and rather joyous, subsection of social media for years. In 2018, YouTuber Bman shared a video of him experiencing Bohemian Rhapsody cold. Watching the full gamut of human emotions – gentle contemplation, wistful sadness, wide-gobbed amazement – shimmer across his face, as the song lunges from one operatic movement to the next, is nothing short of wonderful.

“ ‘WHERE HAVE I BEEN?!’ he asks at the end, on the verge of tears. Bohemian Rhapsody is such a pillar of music that it’s taken for granted, in the same way gravity is taken for granted. Bman reminds you what a monumental achievement Freddie Mercury managed to pull off, because you’re right there with him, hearing it anew. …

“As viewers, it goes beyond simple nostalgic appreciation of these songs: it’s a way of reliving your own first experiences of them by proxy.

“Most importantly, despite predictably joyless accusations that many of the videos are staged, they represent a level of wholesomeness that is sorely lacking in music appreciation right now. No snark, no whataboutery, absolutely no pretension. Just people loving some great music, possibly reminding you that you – yes, you – still love it, too.” More at the Guardian, here.

If you want another angle, Jody Rosen at the New York Times sees a darker side to the current trend. “The viral popularity of this display of intergenerational sympathy — Black 20-somethings professing love for a white boomer’s pop-rock chestnut — may also tell us something else about the ambient tensions and neuroses that are, you might say, in the air, adrift in the ether of 2020. …

“Race is a crucial component of music-reaction videos. There are many Black YouTubers who specialize in responding to white musicians, and the twins’ most popular clips feature white performers. These videos … suggest that Black and white people inhabit walled-off cultural spheres — a dodgy proposition in the first place — and then perform a symbolic rapprochement, in which a sick beat-drop holds the power to bridge a racial divide.”

OK, I take his point, but I still think these videos are delightful.

In 2018, YouTuber Bman showed himself listening to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time.

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Photo: Night Media
A collaboration to plant 20 million trees started when YouTuber Mr. Beast (Jimmy Donaldson) hit 20 million subscribers.

Last year, when an ancient tree in our yard was pronounced too badly diseased to save, I felt terrible about cutting it down. After all, Planet Earth needs all the trees it can get. So I searched the web to find a good place to offset the loss. I wanted to find a highly rated nonprofit that was planting trees. I ultimately donated to the Arbor Day Foundation.

The radio show Living on Earth recently featured a story on an Arbor Day initiative that got its start on YouTube.

“YouTuber Destin Sandlin, who runs the science-based channel ‘Smarter Every Day,’ spoke with Living on Earth host Jenni Doering. …

“JENNI DOERING: On October 25, in what’s being called the largest YouTube collaboration of all time, hundreds of YouTubers from around the world came together and used their combined influence to send a message on the environment. … These YouTubers have a combined subscriber count of more than a billion people. One of the most popular YouTubers and an organizer of the event is Mr. Beast, who posted a video of himself and a team of volunteers planting trees. …

“Another YouTuber, Destin Sandlin, helped recruit fellow YouTube creators. … He joins me from Huntsville, Alabama. Destin, welcome to Living on Earth.

“DESTIN SANDLIN: Thank you so much for having me.

“DOERING: All right, so first, tell me about this collaboration — what kinds of videos are being featured?

“SANDLIN: [There are] a ton of different creators from all over the internet coming together; … people that have beauty channels, vlogging channels, we have science creators, education-type creators, people that do challenges. All these creators are coming from different places all over YouTube and the rest of the internet to work together on this one thing: We want to make an impact for good. We’re calling it Team Trees. And we’re going to support the Arbor Day Foundation and try to donate $20 million. And the Arbor Day Foundation has agreed that for every $1 that is donated to them, they will plant one tree, which is so cool.

“DOERING: How did this big, huge collaboration among different influencers and creators actually get started?

“SANDLIN: That was from the internet itself. When [Mr. Beast] passed 20 million subscribers. … Everybody on Twitter and Reddit were telling him to plant 20 million trees. And he’s like, ‘How the heck am I going to do that? That’s that’s a huge task’ But he decided to basically reach out and get help.

And so there was this little Twitter storm that happened one particular day, and everybody jumped in on it. They’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, we could actually do this.’

“So there was this video that was created behind the scenes. It was a secret video that was invite only. You can make a video unlisted on YouTube. And this was pushed out to a bunch of different creators, and it included a lot of really big creators in it all the way up to PewDiePie, right?

“PEWDIEPIE: Of course, Mr. Beast, I am by your side. I will plant at least a couple of trees. …

“SANDLIN: Once you watch [the secret video], you’re like, ‘Holy cow. This is bigger than any one YouTube channel. This is bigger than any one genre even.’ … The viewers have the power to actually do things themselves. You know, a lot of times we think about these issues, and we’re like, ‘Oh, that’s another person’s problem.’ It’s not. It’s all of our problems. So if we can come together and literally do something, it’s an empowering message, right?

“DOERING: And you’re not competing with each other.

“SANDLIN: No, not at all, like, to succeed is for everyone to succeed, right? Because it’s the Earth, right? Like if we’re all helping the Earth, that’s like all being on the same bus and rooting for the bus driver to do well. We want the Earth to succeed. And so you know, there’s a lot of policies that, you know, we see a lot of campaigns. But what we want to do is physically and tangibly do a real thing that helps the environment. And that is putting trees in the ground. …

“DOERING: I understand that some creators have even made songs just for this occasion. Let’s listen to a clip.

“GABRIEL BROWN [singing]: ‘Is there anything better than the tree? If you ask me it ain’t that hard to see. How about 20 million, 20 million trees. Making 20 trillion little baby leaves. And I can’t help but choke up thinking about all the birds and bees.’

“SANDLIN: What we just heard is from a guy named Gabriel Brown. He’s a creator that was in the Navy. He’s a veteran. But now he makes music videos. He does all kinds of stuff on YouTube. And he decided to make a song for this movement. … Let me tell you a story. I got a tree in my Happy Meal back when I was six years old, and we planted it at my granny’s house.

“DOERING: Wait, in your Happy Meal?

“SANDLIN: Yeah, there was there was the Arbor Day that they gave away pine trees down in the south in your Happy Meal. And I went and planted my tree beside my two cousins. They had trees as well. And we still go by that house today. And we look at this tree and it’s huge. And knowing that I had a part in planting it so long ago is amazing. So I really think that planting trees is awesome, as long as you know exactly what you’re doing, make sure you you make a decision, an informed decision on what to do and how to do it and just put a tree in the ground.”

More here.

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Photo: Shirley Curry via Kotaku
A grandmother who plays the Skyrim video game has made more than 300 popular YouTube videos about her pastime. Her videos are said to be soothing.

File this article under “Never Too Old.” It’s a 2016 Kotaku story by Alex Walker that showed how one woman in her 80s became rather cutting edge.

“Unsurprisingly, Skyrim: Special Edition quickly became one of the most popular games on Steam over the weekend,” Walker reported. “And given that she had already established herself as a channel for older gamers and Skyrim fans, it made sense that Shirley Curry, aka Grandma Shirley, would return to Skyrim.

“Her 300th video highlights just how prolific the 80-year-old gamer has been when it comes to updating her YouTube channel. Her first Skyrim ‘Let’s Play’ was uploaded on September 18, and since then she’s received a Silver Play button from YouTube  —  a button given out to channels with more than 100,000 subscribers. …

“The Virginia-based grandmother … gained a following for [the videos’] calming, almost meditative quality.” More here.

I also saw this report from Elizabeth Tyree & Annie Andersen of WSET ABC television. They quote Grandma Shirley saying, ” ‘One of my sons gave me my first computer and he gave me a game, and he taught me how to use both and I got so addicted, I was playing that game day and night, day and night. He would say, “Mom you have to eat and sleep sometime,” Curry said.

“The Rocky Mount senior isn’t the only mature gamer. But she may be the only one with a huge cult following on YouTube.

” ‘It just went viral. I got on my email and it was like 11,000 emails and I didn’t know what to do. I sat here and cried,’ Curry said. …

“Her newfound popularity and the demand for her YouTube can be overwhelming.

” ‘Now, I just make my 30 minute recording. That’s about all I get to do. Because then I spend so much time reading comments and replying,’ Curry said.”

It’s good to have role models. I took up blogging in my 60s. It wasn’t because of the two old gals in wheelchairs who used to blog about politics in funny, unexpurgated language. But seeing them out there sure didn’t hurt. What other seniors have taken up something fun and different?

 

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I like the radio show “Studio 360” for its kooky interviews. Comedienne and multifaceted creative force Jenny Slate provided an especially fun one this weekend.

Jenny, now 32, graduated as valedictorian from Milton Academy in Milton, Mass., and suffered through the dubious distinction of being hired and fired by “Saturday Night Live” at a young age. The daughter of a poet and a ceramic artist, she is creative enough to keep reinventing herself.

Just for no reason, she made an oddball video that went viral, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” which her husband filmed using stop-motion. It’s about an extremely awkward and self-deprecating snail.

You can read more about Jenny at wikipedia, here. Listen to the interview at Studio 360, here, and look for Jenny’s “Catherine” series on YouTube. It’s even more offbeat than “Marcel the Shell.”

 

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John sent around a funny YouTube series. Have you seen “Convos with My Two-Year-Old”? The conversations are quite professionally produced by a dad, Matthew Clarke, who has written down actual conversations with his daughter so that a fully grown man in the role of the two-year-old can help him reenact them.

The acting is good. I love the costume touches, like the little heart necklace on the actor who plays the two-year-old girl, and in later video, the barrette and fairy wings.

Check out more, here. I’m impressed. I wrote down lots of funny conversations when John was learning language and then when Suzanne was. But carrying it to this level did not occur to me. Of course, everyone wasn’t making videos then, but I could have done Super 8. Or Betamax.

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Playwriting teacher Peter Littlefield had the class do an exercise. First, we each drew pictures of two different people on two pieces of paper and decorated them a little (stick figures were OK). Then we shuffled the pictures, and we each pulled out two that were not our own, invented names for the characters, and wrote the names on the papers. Then we shuffled them again and chose two other drawings. About these two final characters, we each wrote a little scene, read it aloud, and discussed.

It was almost like an inkblot test, because the stories we saw in these crude drawings came from inside us. People were very supportive of one another’s writing efforts, some of which entailed far-out themes, and the teacher pointed to what was unique about our voices and what aspects he himself found most intriguing.

The previous weekend I had had time to write a short monologue about someone I know, a rather obsessive person with whom I had recently had a strange conversation. I wanted to capture the bubbly surface and the sadness beneath. What was really nice was that everyone in the class totally got what I was doing.

We also did a Meisner acting exercise, which involved one person saying the same word over and over as another person repeats the word in between as if responding. I have just wasted a lot of time trying to find a good example of this Meisner exercise on YouTube. Although there was a lot of blah-blah-blah about Sanford Meisner and “the Group,” I think I better ask my class to make its own video. It would fill a YouTube vacuum for sure.

Instead, I am showing you, by means of the photo below, that the theater bug runs in our family. This is John as Grumpy in 1983  (lower right, green shirt).

And sometime you should ask Suzanne to sing “Turn Back, Oh, Man” from her performance in Godspell as a teenager.

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My friend Asakiyume writes a blog at asakiyume.livejournal.com. Like me, she blogs about whatever interests her. She is also an accomplished children’s author under another name. Today on her blog she shares photos from the natural world she loves to observe and ponder: “Sometimes, you can be so sure the day will fall to rain, and instead the sun wins out. This evening the breeze was running through the long grass, making it undulate and shimmer silver.”

Asakiyume is also the mother of four exceptionally gifted children. One, who is in college, calls herself LittleMetalDrop on YouTube and did this adorable animation for the song “Don’t Stop Me Now.”

Although Asakiyume asked me to hurry up and activate my “comments” function, Luna & Stella is still testing the blog. So for now, please send comments to suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com. I aim to include many comments in my entries.

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