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October 12, 2006 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-10-12

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4B-The Michigan Daily - Thursday, October 12, 2006

the b-side


$1.6 billion later, Google and You - Tube, that is

By Forest Casey
Daily Arts Writer
"Don't be evil."
That pretty much sums up the ethics
code that internet giant Google has fol-
lowed throughout its eight year history.
It's like the Golden Rule. It explains
why they decided to charge nothing for
its unique services like trip planning
and massive e-mail storage, why they
announced a grand mission to scan
the amassed written knowledge of the
world and make it available for free to
everyone and why they have yet to run
a banner advertisement.
The public image of Google is as
spotless as their front page. Their stock
is seemingly bulletproof - one of two
true blue chip stocks of the NASDAQ.
That other blue chip stock, of
course, is Microsoft. And when Google
announced two days ago that they were

buying out their main competitor in the
web video sector, YouTube, a collective
feeling of unease crept through inter-
net forums everywhere. Could Google,
that cathedral of virtue, somehow turn
into Microsoft, the true Evil Empire,
for whom buying out competitors was
a matter of course?
From a distance, it's difficult to see
what all the fuss is about. Google's
purchase of YouTube seems almost
unnecessary - Google already has a
competent video service titled, unsur-
prisingly, Google Video. For the aver-
age user, the experience of both of
these sites is identical: if you want to
watch a video of, say, shrubs having
coffee, you type your phrase into the
search bar and both sites come up with
the same result (nothing).
But there are thousands of other
pointless videos uploaded every sec-
ond. With both sites, you simply create

an account and start uploading videos.
The two sites are fundamentally the
It's helpful to think of this buyout
like elections for high school class
president. Going in to election day,
Google was the clear frontrunner, with
massive name recognition based on the
near-universal use of its search feature.
And yet, Google lost - not just to a
similar opponent, but to the unknown
new kid in school.
How did YouTube win? Unlike
Google Video, YouTube quickly built
a community, much like MySpace or
Facebook. Videos from YouTube are
better-integrated into regular websites;
you don't need to click an extra link,
wait while your movie is download-
ed or even install player software. It
brings video to the masses, and that's
precisely why Google bought it.
Google has paid for users that it

thinks will pay a small fee to down-
load licensed content, registered users
it can advertise to in (hopefully) a non-
evil way. In buying YouTube, Google
has lost the election, but successfully
purchased the recount.
How YouTube built its community is
another story - it's popular because
it's all sorts of illegal. It's like crown-
ing the new kid high school president
because he deals drugs.
You might not be able to find shrub
movies on YouTube, but it's easy to
find copyrighted content. All it takes
is someone with a DVR connected to a
desktop to turn YouTube into a garden
of network TV, all without commer-
cials, and all completely illicit. Don't
be fooled by talk of clever home videos
- this is the true reason for YouTube's
And it's not as if Google doesn't also
show copyrighted material. It too is a

user-controlled website where anything
could potentially be uploaded, but
with its strong market value, Google
is an easy target for MPPA and RIAA
lawyers. In contrast, YouTube has 67
employees and hasn't yet appeared on
the legal radar.
Google has an interest in vigilantly
scouring their website and removing
copyrighted material, and now that
Google owns YouTube, it means that
the copyrighted material will likely be
taken down. Users that keep uploading
it will be subpoenaed.
In five years, people will talk about
the age of finding free, copyrighted
movies on YouTube with the same nos-
talgia usually reserved for mentioning
the golden age of Napster downloads.
Google bought out a more popular
competitor and will likely extinguish
the very reason for its popularity. And
that is evil.

Art and politics come to
blows in music videos

By Caitlin Cowan
Daily Arts Editor
It seems as if mass culture is talk-
ing more loudly than ever. But what,
exactly, is it saying? Disposable art is
everywhere, from movie trailers and
YouTube clips to television spots,
sound bites and music videos. Much
of the jargon-laden trash that comes
our way is absolute noise. Yet some
still attempts to make a statement.
Music videos are the hardest to
come by today, which seems crush-
ingly stupid considering that VHI,
as you may remember, stands for
"Video Hits One." MTV2 and rntvU
are the last bastions of heavy-rotation
music videos on basic cable. After
watching only these two channels for
the better part of a day while sick, I
realized political music videos are
very much in vogue.
Musicians have always been vocal,
and for good reason. They're highly
visible, moneyed and most have a
team of high-powered, fearless pub-
licists, stylists, directors and consul-
tants who constantly shroud them.
But saturation is undoubtedly the
issue today. This feeling of scraping'
the bottom of the political barrel with
a rusty spoon is currently exempli-
fied in many ways by many artists.
Take John Mayer's video for his
latest single, "Waiting on the World
to Change" Mayer struts around a
city drained of its color while he
simultaneously chastises his gen-
eration for their apathy and attempts
to call them to action. "They say
we stand for nothing and there's no
way we ever could," he sings while
arty pictures of hazmat masks and
urban youths switch back and forth.
"When you trust your television

/ What you get is what you got /
'Cause when they own the informa-
tion, oh / They can bend it all they
want' His statements are true. But
the problem is that no one is going
to write a letter to Congress or start
a demonstration after watching his
video. It's too watered down and
general. It sucks.
On the other end of the spectrum,
master of political paranoia Thom
Yorke has a video out for "Harrow-
down Hill." Widely known to be
written about the death of British
Ministry of Defense employee Dr.
David Kelly, who was found dead
on the hill days after testifying in
front of a parliamentary committee
concerning a report on weapons of
mass destruction in Iraq, "Harrow-
down Hill" is a scary, angry song,
and Yorke knows it. Some con-
sider his death to be a murder, even
though his official cause of death is
listed as suicide. "You will be dis-
pensed with / When you've become
inconvenient," Yorke warbles as the
outline of a predatory falcon soars
through an oil-paint sky. Narrating
as Kelly himself, Yorke asks, "Did
I fall or was I pushed? / Don't ask
me / Ask the ministry." By being
less explicit about the next course of
action and more specific about the
details of a single, startling event,
Yorke's video doesn't use as much
trite imagery (with the exception of
the riot footage placed at the end)
and is much more effective (not to
mention artistic.)
Hip hop has woven a socially con-
scious thread through its tapestry
since its inception. But it seems that
this genre, too, is stalling out. The
video for Mr. Lif's "Brothaz;' while
certainly startling, is hardly a video at

all. Lif's rapping is clean, quick and
cutting, but the statements that flash
across the screen in capital letters
take away from his message rather
than adding to it. It's hard to hear
his cutting, clever raps like ""People
drawn and quartered / Castrated,
slaughtered, burned, disgraced /
Gang raped, displaced / But live it up
/ We 'bout to burn in hell 'cause God
knows" when I'm reading things like
TRIES." The sad fact is that no one
wants to read while they watch film
and television. If I had a dollar for
every time I heard someone in a
video store say "Oh, it has subtitles?
Ugh. I really don't want to read all
that," I'd have more cream than the
Wu-Tang Clan.
Jurassic Five and Dave Matthews
collaborated on the track "Work It
Out' and the video is the crowning
glory of all absurd commentary. Talk
about a total lack of artistry: In the
video, a George Bush look-alike jogs
gaily through the streets of a major
city while the police profile black
men and the NSA taps phones. At
one point Bush's doppelganger runs
past men with signs that say "Out of
work." He turns around, whips out
a sharpie and changes the words to
"Work It Out" - as in work it out
on your own. The video is kind of
funny, but it's incredibly stupid.
Has political art been declawed
by the indifference of a genera-
tion? Or should the artists blame
themselves when their messages go
unnoticed? People seemed more
inclined to laugh than vote when
Diddy commanded the youth to
"Vote or die" And remember when
Sinead O'Connor tore up a picture
of the pope on Saturday Night Live
years ago? No one did anything then,
either, because that also wasn't art.
If musicianswantto make a politi-
cal statement through art, they can't
discard the art in favor of piling on
more politics. It simply doesn't work.
Record labels and video producers
will continue to buy up politically
charged records and film idiotic vid-
eos like these, but if this disregard for
creativity continues, no one will ever
take political art seriously again.
ti IsDay




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