Topic A, Part 2: You Filmed Me Doing What?

I grew up in suburban Ottawa, Ontario feeling that Rochester, New York – a city I haven’t visited to this day – was something of a second home, because when I was young, before the explosion of available channels, all of our American network TV stations (and by “all” I mean CBS, NBC and ABC) came from Rochester. So I knew that city, in a strange, detached way, rather intimately: The Great House of Guitars; J&E Grocery (139 Reynolds Street); The Eddie Meath Penny Fund; Carvel Ice Cream; Eastman Kodak. Rightly or wrongly, I still expect to be able to navigate my way around and to recognize local landmarks if ever I do visit The Flower City. Cultural literacy, Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe calls it.

Now, with YouTube (or Google Video, or iFilm, or Veoh, or hell, even, the whole damn world is something of a second home – a vast, dizzying, perplexing and altogether overwhelming one, stacked virtual floor to cyber-ceiling with all manner of cultural effluvia (satellite TV contributes to this to, in that I can now watch the evening news from St. John’s or Spokane, if I want to). And like Miss Imperial, I dig the ability to find Rap Cat, or the Geico Caveman commercials, or old music videos whenever I chose to see them. Content delivered on my terms (this is the great advantage the new providers are promising us). The problem then becomes wading your way through all the content that’s available, much of it user-generated. In theory, I’m all for user-generated content (UGC, if we must get all jargon-y). I mean, you know, power to the people and huzzah for the quasi-democratization of the media, but doesn’t the vast majority of it suck?

AFV always struck me as something to chuckle at before changing the channel (with all respect due to PF). Now there’s a gajillion pratfalls, bloopers, hi-jinks, goofs, pranks and stunts vying for your attention, so what’s any of it worth? And who has the time? I think of it all as part and parcel of the cheapening of celebrity, wherein notoriety, infamy, recognition and ridicule are basically and unfortunately synonymous.

And then, as Miss Imperial discussed, there are those unwitting victims of this extreme proliferation of lenses. Combine that with the infinite storage capability we’ve seen develop in our lifetimes, and you arrive at the very sinister notion that once something finds its way on the internet, it can never be erased, suppressed, denied, ignored, deleted or hidden. That’s a good thing in the arena of truth-finding, but not so good if you’re the victim of unwanted photojournalism or overzealous camera phone usage.

Maybe I’m just getting older, but there are days when the whole thing seems tremendously overwhelming, and I’m tempted to forget all about it and sign up for the Luddites’ newsletter (printed on paper, naturally). Of course, then somebody digs up something funny, and I’m back to toasting our cleverness and ingenuity. And being thankful that I’m not this guy:

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