The Null Device
Proof that there are second acts in North American lives (or at least in Québecois ones): Ghyslain Raza, last seen eight years ago swinging an imaginary lightsaber around in the notorious Star Wars Kid video, is now president of a nonprofit organisation dedicated to preserving the heritage of the Québecois town of Trois-Rivières.
Back in 2002, a teenage Raza recorded a video that would become one of the most popular viral hits of all time, and one of the first cautionary tales in the debate about privacy on the Internet. In it, he swung a golf ball retriever around as if it were Darth Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and accompanied his movements with muffled sound effects. Four classmates discovered the video and distributed it online. It spread rapidly via e-mail and Internet forums, reaching millions of viewers — a great feat in the pre-YouTube era.
News outlets reported that Raza was so ridiculed for his activities in the video that he slipped into depression and had to take time off from school to seek psychiatric care. His family sued the families of the classmates who leaked the video for $250,000, then settled out of court.It's somewhat reassuring that he lived that down and got on with the rest of his life. I imagined one's options in such a case would have been to obliterate all traces of one's identity, move to somewhere that didn't have internet access in 2002 (outer Mongolia perhaps, or the depths of the Amazon jungle) or else become an embittered alcoholic.
The Guardian's Dorian Lynskey on popular music artists with autoparodically distinctive styles of titling songs:
Ten years ago, my colleague on the soon-to-be-defunct Select magazine, Steve Lowe, had a good line in inventing fake song titles, spoofing the faux-profound contradictions of Oasis (Money Makes You Poor), the twee archaisms of Belle and Sebastian (Take Your Coat Off or You Won't Feel the Benefit) and the parenthesis-loving rock cliches of Richard Ashcroft (Standing Out from Everyone Else (Sure Is Hard)).The article was prompted by a new Richard Ashcroft album with a track listing packed with clunky banalities, but soon explores further afield, mentioning fake track listings for unreleased albums and commercially successful artists' unintentionally comic lapses in self-awareness:
I'd like to think Primal Scream were sending themselves up on 2006's Riot City Blues with titles such as Suicide Sally and Johnny Guitar or We're Gonna Boogie, but I fear not. Equally, Christina Aguilera's Sex for Breakfast was probably conceived in the spirit of Sex and the City 2 rather than Flight of the Conchords. And Oasis's Don't Believe the Truth is every bit as stupid-clever as Money Makes You Poor.And, as one might expect, the discussion turns to Morrissey, whose later material serves as a perfect horrible example:
I once made the mistake of telling Morrissey how much I liked the witty self-parody of How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel and was rewarded with a withering glare. "It's amusing when you say it," he said unsmilingly. "I don't know why. Isn't it something we all feel at some stage?" The shrivelling of Morrissey's spirit since the Smiths can be measured by the fact that Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now is funny and How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel is not.And in the comment, Guardianistas inveigh with their own suggestions, one positing that the entire heavy-metal genre should be disqualified from contention because it has a monumental unfair advantage.