Thursday, October 25, 2018

First Time Watching: First Time Hearing Videos

By: Ben Johnson

A thing people like to do on YouTube is watch videos of people who just got a cochlear implant reacting to hearing for the first time in their lives. Their eyes light up. They can’t believe it. They burst into tears. They are usually sitting in a chair in one of the extremely nondescript rooms where medical hearing tests are conducted.

These videos are weird but compelling and touching and emotional, and also highly controversial within the deaf community. Not to be a killjoy, but if you’re a hearing person who loves watching those videos, maybe read up about why plenty of people in the deaf community don’t feel the same way.

I’m not here to talk about those videos.

I’m here to talk about a newer, different kind of YouTube video. It’s a video with a name like “FIRST TIME HEARING reaction video blah blah blah,” and the “blah blah blah” part is an extremely popular song.

These videos are of a person, generally a person of color, watching and listening to a YouTube video of a song, generally of a piece of music created by white people, like Tool’s “Sober,” or Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” or Disturbed’s rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.”

Definitely all of the people who are uploading these videos, for whatever reason, have reacted to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

What is the typical arc of this newer YouTube video subgenre?

Usually the person in the video asks you to subscribe to their YouTube channel, puts on the video of the song, nods along to it, and then talks about what they’ve heard.

Quamax really took the meat pipe from the Tool "Sober" video in stride

These YouTubers pretty much always find something to like about the song they just heard, even if it was utterly (and here I am being subjective) irredeemable, like a live rendition of Staind’s “Open Your Eyes.” They never go, “Oh wait yeah, come to think of it, I have totally heard this song in every grocery store and CVS I’ve ever been in during the last 30 years.”

Here’s what I like about these videos:

  • They are funny. Not in a “ha ha ha” way, but in that way where something is mostly odd but also kind of funny.
  • These are people, again, usually people of color, who are entrepreneurially working to monetize the YouTube platform by doing a very specific thing that takes advantage of people’s apparently limitless appetite both for cochlear impact reaction videos and fairly dumb but nonetheless extremely popular rock songs made by white people.
  • Kind of soothing?
  • Nobody’s getting hurt.
  • Actually, it would be funny if these videos somehow got more popular than both cochlear implant videos and every available non-reaction version of Pink Floyd’s “Learning to Fly.”
  • It would be great if it’s all bullshit and these people have totally heard these songs before.
  • It’s fun to imagine the kind of person who’d care whether a stranger has previously heard “Bohemian Rhapsody,” or be emotionally invested in video proof of that no longer being the case.

Here’s what I don’t like about these videos:

  • They aren’t as funny as they could be. They’re mostly pretty boring. I am sensing there's not yet a master of the young genre. I could be wrong.
  • There’s some very complicated cultural forces at work in a phenomenon when you’re a white person like me, and you’re watching a person of color listen to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” for what they profess is the first time, and then when they’re done they don’t really do anything except agree that it’s pretty good, and that’s a thing you like to watch?
  • Like people subscribe to this?
  • Are the people in these videos kind of… are they… basically renting their brains out to the highest bidder, and that bidder is an algorithm?
  • Is that what the internet is now?
  • Is this a bad racial thing, am I bad for thinking that, or am I completely stupid for even being confused about the relative racial goodness or badness of this phenomenon?
  • Maybe people are getting hurt. Maybe this yet another symptom of a deep, pervasive, unrecoverable hurt — of the slow heat death of human dignity. Of people entertaining machines because it’s worth more money than entertaining people. Maybe everybody’s very hurt, and everything’s broken, and we’re all living in some weird bonus time where everything’s recognizable but seemingly detached, like a normal-seeming world on the other side of permanent kaleidoscope glasses.
  • Why are there people in the world who haven’t heard all 9 minutes of “Bohemian Rhapsody” enough times, and who, through YouTube comments suggestions, also want to make sure everybody else has listened to it, all the way through, at least once?
  • What if these videos are 100% genuine, and exposing a whole new generation of excited fans to mediocre rock, and I have to feel alienated by prevailing tastes all over again, well into my 40’s?

Final analysis:

I am now nearly a decade older than most people who are alive in the world. I don’t know about YouTube things. I don’t really want to know about YouTube things.

This is probably fine. It’s probably not even really a thing. I probably don’t even know how to tell the difference between a thing and a non-thing anymore.

You should, if you watch YouTubes often, absolutely subscribe to all of the channels where people do this, including Lost In Vegas, King KTF, Joey Reacts, AFRO REACT, QuamaxReacts, DO LEGACY, Got Flava Reacts, TooFunnyTerrell and any others you run into. Unless any of them are bad in a way that I am not willing to research, in which case, don’t.

I will be fine. We’re all going to be fine. (We’re totally totally not going to be fine, but THAT will be fine).

Also, this is the best one I saw:

Saturday, April 14, 2018


by: Pete Johnson

I’m curious as to why a train near your train yard in Northeast DC blew its loud whistle for such a long time at around 9pm last night. It was annoying, sure, but I’m more just genuinely curious as to why it would seem necessary to blow a train’s whistle for what felt like 20 minutes straight. I’m sure it was more like 2-3 minutes, but still, it was a long time and the reasoning escapes me.  I could hear the train moving, and not particularly slowly. If it was to warn someone/thing that was on the tracks that a train was coming, it really seems like in that amount of time the train would have just hit it already. If a train hits a deer is it Amtrak policy to lay on the whistle for an hour to honor its noble life being sacrificed to the destructive whims mankind calls progress? That would be kind of nice actually, I could live with that. There aren’t that many deer in my neighborhood.
            My wife went on Nextdoor, which, don’t ever go on Nextdoor. It’s like if you took all the bad parts of Facebook and turned up the volume on them and also now all of your annoying Facebook friends live in your actual neighborhood and have the potential to murder you. So she found out sometimes train whistles happen in our neighborhood and people think it’s because kids cut holes in the chain link fence and go on the train tracks. That sounds about right, but still, why so long? I think what probably happened is there was someone on the tracks so the conductor blew the whistle, the person got off the tracks and the train passed them just fine, but then the conductor kept right on whistling out of indignation at someone being on the tracks. Is that what this was? Is there an angry conductor out there holding whistles down too long for their own emotional benefit? Every time an Amtrak employee hears a long train whistle do they sigh and think “damn it Howard, give it a fucking rest”? If so could you tell Howard to knock it off?
            Anyway, how are you, person that has to read Amtrak customer questions? I feel like I’m talking about me a lot. I bet you get a lot of dumb questions on here. I bet it gets pretty grating to type the same polite translation of ‘google it yourself’ and ‘no, you entitled prick’ over and over again. I hope this one is at least entertaining you a little bit. I guess what I’m trying to say is, my wife hasn’t been feeling well recently. She’ll be ok, it will be fine and everything, but right now she’s pretty miserable and it’s been tough. The train didn’t even bother her all that much, although she was trying to sleep. It’s more just like, I dunno, it’s a new thing I’m dealing with and maybe it’s throwing me off kilter just enough so that I feel like I want to write a long thing to a poor Amtrak employee expressing my very specific curiosity about train physics.
            Maybe it was to cover for a really long fart?
            Or maybe it wasn’t anger at someone being on the tracks, but a different anger. Maybe the conductor just checked the mini fridge and saw that someone ate their lunch. It could have just been a mean tweet. It could have been an article ranking the best episodes of Lost that the conductor REALLY did not agree with. Do conductors ever whistle out of love? Why not?
            In conclusion, I found the coffee you served on the train I took 4 years ago to be adequate. I wonder about the most bland, unnecessary comment you’ve ever gotten in your work. Have you ever read something like “My friend worked for Amtrak 13 years ago and liked it ok” and been like WHAT IN THE WORLD MOTIVATED THIS? I’m sorry for yelling, you don’t have to answer that. You don’t have to answer any of this really, you deserve better. There are lots of different trains that come through my neighborhood- it probably wasn’t even an Amtrak come to think of it. Well anyway, keep your head up. I’m rooting for you.