Critical Hit!!

pop culture (and everything else) explored

Vines and the Rule of Six

Vines are popular, and not just among the hip kids. Ellen Degeneres has a reoccurring segment on her show where she merely shows some Vines to her audience. Many have casually noted that Vines are a new form of film, but I haven’t yet seen a full essay that tackles this new idea. So let’s begin. We need to define what a Vine is before we figure out its form and function. Vines are 6 second looping videos that are easily shareable in social media. Founded in June 2012, it was quickly snapped up by Twitter later in October of that year. Vines are unique from other forms of digital video media in that they endlessly repeat, albeit muted unless the viewer unmutes it. In the app, the user records video only when the screen is being touched, allowing for quick and easy editing anyone can do. Its endless looping mechanic is likely due to the video’s short length. No need to bother moving the mouse and clicking the play button over and over again until you can get the joke, the video can do that for you! Speaking of comedy, that’s the majority of what the most popular vines are, short skits (or accidents) that work perfectly within a six second time frame. The editing mechanic also allows for easy stop motion effects, for the videos that seek to wow the audience. Vines have a six second rule. You can post anything, but you only have 6 seconds. In this we have a limitation. And from this limitation springs innovation.

We can think back to literature for its ancestor: the six word story. “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.” is the pioneering example, often attributed to Ernest Hemingway. The format is a niche well traversed in literary circles seeking to hone their craft. I believe we have found its film equivalent here. Comparing each creative format enables us to see how their form shapes their function. How are these short work so impactful within such brevity? Part of it is that they form complete stories through choice imagery. In writing, there is the careful choice of diction to allow for multiple meanings and possible interpretations.

Longed for him. Got him. Shit. —Margaret Atwood

With Vines, at least those trying to tell a concise story, these films must also be selective. There can be no excess.

With this Rule of Six, both forms of expression find their content boiled down to their very essence. This makes each entry so powerful in such a short time. The format forces the hand of the creator to create sparingly, and create beautifully.

Vines are a more refined form of the GIF, and their connections illustrate the new demand for expression media not he internet. GIFs are also taking the quintessence of images for maximum impact. The difference is in terms of consumption. Vines are primarily a form of entertainment. GIFs are used to express emotion. A picture is worth a thousand words, and what better way to express your soul’s inner turmoil than, say, a GIF of Roger and Pongo angrily pouting?

101 Dalmatians GIF Roger with Pipe

Gif.gf: the best resource for GIFs

GIFs also have the advantage of taking from popular media franchises, which continues the cycle of fandom consumption. GIFs are also not hindered from the Rule of Six, and hence have a certain flexibility in capturing a moment, whether short or long.

Compressed visuals are a new standard of communication on the internet, as we find both forms of moving images increasingly common. This generation is incredibly visually literate, and can comprehend such forms of complex images. Of course, short videos are also easier to commit to, in that you barely need to commit to them at all. That also helps in an internet flooded with content.

Brevity is the soul of wit and all that, but it also becomes a necessity in a world where time is a scarce commodity. We flit from image to image in a flurry under the grinding gears of capitalism, trying to eek out moments of peace.

Vines offer such illusions.

Gifs on Facebook

GIF in Facebook

Facebook outsources its cool factor from other social media sites.

You can now post GIFs on Facebook. Just post the direct link to the GIF as a status and let the screen load it up. This is significant in that people have wanted GIFs for a long time. Let’s not forget the time The Atlantic posted a celebratory short article about such a GIF breakthrough a few years ago, only to find that is was a hack.

It’s also a move by Facebook to attract the younger crowds lured by other more flexible social media sites like Tumblr, which allows any kind of expression, be it text post, audio, or GIF. Facebook still has the social compression problem in that no one acts like their true selves, but a sterilized version of themselves to suit all of their connections. GIFs on Facebook marks a new change for more flexible means of expression, but it’s not enough yet to get rid of its milquetoast aura.

Frasier and the Problem of Elitism

Frasier and Niles drinking coffee

Though I rarely imbibe in them, I do have a soft spot for some traditional sitcoms. Frasier remains one of my favorites, and I would usually watch it whenever I could on cable. Now with Netflix, I can catch up with the show properly.

Frasier has a few elements that I particularly enjoy. For one, it’s partially a workplace comedy dealing with media production, and I quite like those. (Heck, I once watched half of a yaoi because it was about making shoujo manga!) It’s a critically acclaimed show, so it’s always been on my radar once I became more media literate (i.e. Top X Shows lists.) The media scholar and media completionist in me practically demands its consumption. I also enjoy the show because it has smart jokes.

Niles: Although I feel perfectly qualified to fill Frasier’s radio shoes, I should warn you that while Frasier is a Freudian, I am a Jungian. So there’ll be no blaming Mother today!

Frasier and his brother, Niles (played by the scene-stealer David Hyde Pierce), play highly educated psychiatrists. Much of the humor resulting from their relationship with their working class father (a retired cop) and his nurse. Class tension undergirds much of the show. While Fraiser and Niles’ presumptions are often punctuated and deflated for the pomposity that they are, the humor cuts both ways. Though I haven’t seen the bulk of the show, I have witnessed a few jokes that are rather uncomfortable in their elitism. So far though season one, Frasier dumped a few with the the first couple episodes, but has since refrained from straight up elitism. It’s a balance Frasier walks, mining the tensions between modes of living (“sophisticated” vs. “basic”), though I suspect it’s shed such a simple dichotomy. I’ll have to touch upon this again when I’ve seen more of the show, but for now, consider this a something I’m tracking: to what degree is this show elitist?

I’ve always identified with Frasier and Niles. As a graduate student, I notice that I relate to them even more. Let’s hope I can learn from their mistakes. After all, I think the show has its heart in the right the place.

Frasier says Roz is fired

Frasier Roz says I'm Union

I love this.

Some Notes on the Form and Function of some Social Media Websites

As a millennial fresh(ish) out of undergrad, I feel the tug of social networks, the need to drum up an audience for my work through multiple media platforms. LinkedIn, tumblr, and now twitter have gotten more than their fair share of my attention. I find twitter to be the most refreshing for text publishing. It allows quick conversation, while the 140 character limit forces one’s own vocabulary towards the laconic. I find that many of the people I follow tweet excellent insights, small gems that seem to work best as text posts. Twitter works in that it allows one to quickly quote another through retweeting. For jotting down thoughts, or sharing short notes, twitter seems the way to go.

WordPress caters to the blogging craft. Freshly Pressed posts are usually essays of 700-800 words. The site is a mass of writers liking other writers work. Short posts always feel awkward. When the blogs surround it with empty space.

Tumblr handles images better that twitter, and is more visually oriented in how it presents information. There is massive amounts of stuff available for perusal, which necessitates an inquisitive and rigorous mind to sniff out the bad stuff. (This note is applicable to all new media sites.) And because of the plethora of material, archiving your favorites requires creativity (I reblog my likes to a separate blog solely for searchability.) if anything, tumblr gets at the heart of the generation and how we relate to media around us – the very environment that shapes us. We millennials are Trash Monarchs, sorting through the refuse of today and the past (the latter often with nostalgia-googles). More and more stuff leads us to liking all this garbage for its terribleness or so-bad-its-good quality. I seriously wonder when this began. Typically with media the bad stuff fans from our conciounsness, but with digital media allowing for advanced archiving and the push for home entertainment (VHS, DVD, Blu-ray), will we ever let this stuff go?

LinkedIn is terrible.

One can never be satisfied with your LinkedIn profile, because it always feels incomplete. Of course, LinkedIn’s recommendations only homogenizes your profile more. The site swallows your positivity, wanting you to join the circle, endlessly paling each other on the back. Maybe someday I’ll care about my profile, but until then, I’ll stick to stealthy and snarky for now.

Mad Max: Fury Road and the Hope for Revolution

Thematic Spoilers Ahead, also read Binary Bastard’s review

Films are obsessed with our own demise recently. Whether it be comedy in This Is The End, standard blockbuster fair like Elysium, or The Hunger Games and its copycats, Hollywood found post-apocalyptic scenarios in vogue and is mining it for all its worth. However, Mad Max: Fury Road understands that post-apocalyptic fiction’s power lies in its commentative power. Fury Road excels because it has something to say about its state of affairs, not just use dystopia merely as a backdrop. Like another recent post-apocalytpic film, Snowpiercer, it illustrates to the audience the possibility of revolution.

Most importantly, Fury Road illustrates that we cannot merely escape the exploitative system interlocking systems capitalism and patriarchy (as bell hooks would put it, white supremacist capitalist patriarchy), but we must tear down these exploitative systems and rebuild a more just world. And this is true. As capitalism ravages our environment, our world, we find echoes of Max’s world manifest in our own. The subjugation of women. The exploitation of labor. The decaying world mined until its extinction.

Mad Max: Fury Road offers hope. Not only is it an oasis of exceptional filmmaking in a swath of mediocrity, but it shows the audience that yes, another world is possible, and that we all have the ability to fight for it. Its hope isn’t a cheap sentimentality, a glimmering trinket offered by the worst of tales who merely tell us to wait for “it gets better.” Mad Max: Fury Road illustrates the hope lingering in all of use to transform our world for the better.

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