Category Archives: Web Video

Happy Carl Sagan Day

Those who know me know that I tend to replace religious-themed cursewords with references to science and astronomy. I do this because when you have a religious upbringing, and more importantly, a difficult-to-curb habit of taking the lord-you-don’t-believe-in-anymore’s name in vain, you need to fill that void in your vocabulary somehow.

Turns out I’m not the only one who likes to allude to Carl Sagan as a kind of Christ figure: the Fuck Yeah! Carl Sagan tumblr is stuffed to the gills with photos of “What Would Carl Sagan Do?” shirts and tattoos of the good man replacing Jesus in a religious tableau. Some would say it rather defeats the point of atheism to hold up a scientist as a sort of spiritual icon… but that’s exactly what Carl Sagan was, and continues to be.

I’ve written before about finding spiritual fulfillment through science and technology. If Sagan left us with anything, it is the reminder that there is enough around us in our natural world that can inspire a lifetime’s worth of awe. For me, the presiding message of Cosmos –that we are all connected, that we owe our existence to the spin of electrons and the bindings on amino acids, that there is a line to be drawn from the first single-celled organisms to us– is tremendously powerful and emotionally uplifting. So, yes, I think it’s appropriate to think of Carl Sagan as something on the order of a messenger from the stars.

And so, a Merry Saganmas to one and all. Go make some apple pie.

I had the most curious dream.

Now– before you start clicking away, this isn’t your usual recounting of some bemusingly vivid decoupage of pop culture and personal psychology that usually accompanies someone’s desire to tell you their dream.

It’s more about a certain tendency I’ve noticed within media studies. Something that started itching in the back of my brain when I was writing my thesis in 2008, and which emerged from my head fully formed a couple weeks ago during my MA exams.

In the dream I was browsing through a website that was participating in yesterday’s SOPA/PIPA blackout web protests. The website had left up most of its text articles but taken down most of its multimedia, such as embedded video, replacing them with a brief encyclopedic description of their function, development history, and appearance. Each format was given a Latin name with genus and species.

It was the perfect illustration of an argument I had made repeatedly in my MA exams, which is that we have a tendency to imagine all the various media -especially new media, but any time texts speak about media “in transition”- as on its way to becoming some particular thing, as if we know its destiny. On the contrary, history is full of examples of divergent yet coexisting media “species,” each adapted to the specific habitat in which it developed.

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Anatomy of a Pony… Music Video

Academics like fanvids. The Kirk/Spock “Closer” video (NSFW), “Buffy vs Edward”, “Yes We Can”. I could go on. Someday, when we (they, as I’m not sure I’ll ever dip back into this particular pool after my MA is completed) start holding History of Youtube courses, these will all be present on the curriculum. One which I’m afraid will not show up on anyone’s Powerpoint anytime soon is mmmandarinorange’s “The Stars Will Aid Her Escape (Cosmic Love)”, featured above. And that’s a crying shame, because it’s one of the most complex and intelligent fanvids I’ve ever seen. It’s no “Buffy vs Edward” deliberate critique of the patriarchy, nor “Yes We Can” levels of people power, but damn, is it smart, and shows off exactly what I like about fandom’s ability to transform and elevate its subject matter.

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