Saturday, November 24, 2018

YouTube Live 2008/ 10 Years Later

Remember the first time big YouTubers got together and mixed with mainstream celebrities, such as Katy Perry and Will I Am, for a live variety show? No? That's probably because it was a flop that people were quick to forget. However, forgettable-flop or not, it was in fact an event which altered the face of YouTube. It signified the end of the first era, and the beginning of a new era; an era of fans and celebrities, networks and contracts.

Today, an event such as YouTube Live would be business as usual. But in it's time, it was something new. This was a time when YouTubers existed within a box on your computer screen. They were ordinary people broadcasting from grainy webcams in their bedrooms. They did not have networks, and professional equipment. YouTube "celebrity status" existed within a niche. Many people hadn't even heard of YouTube yet. YouTube Live, in November of 2008, signified a major shift.

I remember, 10 years ago, sitting in front of my computer desk, in the chair I got on clearance at Office Depot. I had a pad of paper, and took notes for my report I would write, because that's what I did. YouTube events were my domain. This was the first live YouTube event, and I loved watching YouTubers step out of their microcosms and collaborate. But, as I watched Katy Perry and her crew work her way through a line-up of YouTubers, I began to experience a sinking feeling. Something about the event just didn't sit right with me. I stopped taking notes, and never wrote about the event (until now). I don't remember if I even watched the whole thing. Later on, as vlogs began to pour out on the subject of YouTube Live, I saw that I wasn't the only YouTuber who experienced this.

For those of us who joined YouTube in the beginning years, YouTube was essentially seen as the messiah of media. It was the next evolution of media, superior to television and movies. Traditional media realized this, but never quite grasped what made it what it was. YouTube wasn't revolutionary because it took place on the Internet, instead of cable and air-waves. It wasn't the fact that we watched it on a different box that made it what it was. It was revolutionary, because everybody was a participant. Corporations wanted to capitalize on this, but it wasn't a thing that could be duplicated or controlled by a board of directors.

Traditional media is passive. You watch TV, and you live vicariously through characters. You don't exist. The actors who depict these characters are heralded and fan-fared through award shows. Pictures of them are sold for a high price to sleazy magazines. They live cushy and luxurious lifestyles. Meanwhile, you are nobody. Your meaningless life is paused, to observe the much more interesting lives of these great characters. Then, you get up early and return to your 9-5, where your life is treated almost as meaninglessly as it was while you were watching TV.

YouTube, or more accurately, the YouTube Community, was not passive. Everybody was a part of it. You watch somebody's video, and upload your own in response, which is viewed in return. Even if you don't want to upload videos, you comment on videos, and the uploaders reply. YouTube was revolutionary, because it was media that we all participated in. We were both the viewer and viewed. We interacted with the people we were watching. We could simultaneously enjoy the show, and be one of the characters.

As we watched YouTube Live, however, a glaring feeling began to smack us in the face. We weren't a part of it. This was an exclusive event that only the top YouTubers were invited to. We watched these "YouTube celebrities" intermix with mainstream celebrities. We watched these elite YouTubers upload videos of their backstage parties they were having...  that the rest of us weren't invited to. We were watching our "new media" hijacked from under us by people who didn't understand what made it "new media", and relegating us back to our old traditional media roles of meaningless observers.

This was the sentiment we had, at the time, as first era YouTubers. There had been a buildup to this. As the YouTube Community developed, sort of an accidental byproduct of the video sharing site, a hierarchy began to develop, as happens within a community. Before YouTube became a household word, people began to experience a pseudo-celebrity status within this niche online community. News stations began to pick up on this, and would report on "the new celebrities."

After Google took over, they introduced the partnership program in mid 2007. I always supported the idea of the partnership program, but regarded its execution as being poorly handled. The greater community saw the elites being hand-picked and given special privileges. This exacerbated a rift between the "YouTube stars" and the "regular YouTubers".

YouTube began to market itself as a reach for stardom, rather than a community. It misappropriated the terms "YouTuber" and "YouTube Community" to refer to the totality of uploaders, rather than the community of people who participated in interacting with each other, who had coined those terms in the first place. A new wave of people began to join YouTube with the aspirations of online celebrity status, and YouTube partnership, and being like their online celebrity heroes.

By 2008, there was a well-established rift. At one point, YouTube came up with a feature called "premium most viewed" in which partner's videos would show up first in search results, and be identified by a red triangle in the corner of the thumbnail, making them stand out from other videos. This was met with much resentment from the community.

A lot of people in the old community saw YouTube Live as the death-nell of the community, and of our new media revolution. Well, actually, a lot of things have been met with claims of being the death-nell of the YouTube Community. But YouTube Live, in a lot of ways, did in fact signify the end of the first era. At that time, a lot of my associates disappeared from YouTube. I would have to rebuild my network of associates, later. Renetto, once YouTube's strongest evangelist, became YouTube's biggest critic.

YouTube Live was intended to "mainstreamize" YouTube's content. Despite being a flop, I'd say it was successful. In the same way, the Apple Newton is seen as a flop, but it lead to the marketing of PDA devices, which lead to the marketing of the iPhone. Ultimately, the Newton was a success. While YouTube Live was a flop, it opened the door to the mainstream public, changing the face of YouTube.

While this change was a disappointment to the first era YouTubers, the new star-driven approach fueled the success of YouTube. We had our fun for a while, but it's the nature of things to change. This is an inevitability, and it's in one's own best interest to keep moving forward. We can't stop change any more than a corporation can reproduce the old YouTube Community. What if Google hadn't bought YouTube? What if there never was an exacerbation of the the rift between YouTubers? Do you think the YouTube community would still be the same in 2018 as it was in the old days? My guess is, we'd be saying, "remember when YouTube was popular in the 2000s?" We'd have all moved on to other things in our own time. But, we'll always have the memories of YouTube's golden age.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Moving Forward

So, you may have noticed that the year has come and pretty much gone without a single J-Dubb's Theatre video. The fact is, I have other obligations, and J-Dubb's videos have had to step aside. This is something I've seen coming for the past few years, but change can be difficult, and I delayed it for as long as I could. On the other hand, J-Dubb's Theatre is not ending, as I plan to post to this blog more frequently. I just don't have the time to make videos these days.

When I started making videos, it was a fun hobby. I was a blogger, studying graphic design, and I thought it would be fun to extend my blog into the YouTube world. I developed the ambition to become one of the top YouTubers, and collaborate with the other top YouTubers. Eventually, YouTube videos took precedence, and blogging dwindled.

Over the years, with the partnership program, and trips to Vidcon, YouTube grew from a hobby to an entrepreneurial endeavor. Much like Phillip DeFranco, I wanted to expand J-Dubb's Theatre from a YouTube channel, to an enterprise. I worked a part time job, while struggling to gain traction in the YouTube world.

Time went by, and my future was uncertain. I was tenacious, and didn't want to give up. I read "Think and Grow Rich", and saw YouTube as the modern equivalent of the radio enterprise which was burgeoning at the time the book was written. I didn't want to be the gold miner who gave up, just to have someone else find that I was mere inches from striking gold. But, I was afraid of going nowhere in life. So, my ambition became split, between, "keep pursuing your passion", and "put your effort into something stable". I just didn't know where I should put my efforts, and I went back and forth in committing to things.

Gradually, me and YouTube began to grow in separate directions.YouTube began to feel like busy work. And the YouTube environment just wasn't what I had originally signed on for. I didn't recognize it anymore. Ironically, as I felt myself "jumping the shark", My subscriber count began to grow faster than it ever had, something which made it difficult to step away. After all these years, my channel was finally growing, but I just didn't have the YouTube juice in me anymore.

Earlier this year, it came time to commit to something. When YouTube ended my partnership, I decided to let that be the deathnell, and I finally made the decision to walk away. While I maintain my entrepreneurial spirit, I've shifted my focus, and for the first time in years, I'm experiencing progress in life. I toyed with the idea of coming up with a finale. I would've had the J-Dubbles move on with their lives. I even had a tear-jerker in mind, in which one of the J-Dubbles dies. (Maybe you're glad that idea didn't pan out.) I was  going to conclude things with the return of Belphegor. There would be another tear-jerker, where I take Spenser to a new home, while I go off to deal with Belphegor. At some point, my house blows up, and furniture is strewn all over the place. The Time Traveling wristband comes into play somewhere, too. The series ends with the conclusion of J-Dubb's Theatre videos.

Well, I didn't really have the time to do anything like that, but the last video I uploaded, a montage of ten years of videos, turned out to be pretty fitting as a conclusion to my channel, even though I hadn't planned it that way.

Will J-Dubb's Theatre videos return, someday? Who knows. But at the moment, it's time to say adieu. I'll see you around the blog.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Last Jedi Is The Anti Empire Strikes Back

With The Force Awakens, probably the main talking point, was that the movie was a "rehashing" of A New Hope. This has been stated both as a positive and as a criticism. It seemed that a lot of people, upon watching it in the theater for the first time, felt that the movie "brought back Star Wars" after the deviation they felt from the prequels. Criticisms, however, were that Force Awakens was merely a clone of A New Hope, with no original story. Either way, it seems that the goal of Force Awakens, was to "reawaken" Star Wars, by giving the audience something familiar, which may or may not have been over-done.

With The Last Jedi, on the other hand, the main talking point is, "did it feel like Star Wars?" In fact, discussions of this movie seem to present a duality between "was it a good movie" vs. "was it a good Star Wars movie". This would not be a question if there were not some element that felt different from one's expectations of what a Star Wars movie feels like, which provoked fans to ponder and decide whether these deviations were reconcilable to their experience of the movie. However, similarly to The Force Awakens, there is also the criticism that it "rehashes" The Empire Strikes Back. The movie seems to be simultaneously criticized as "too different" from Star Wars, yet, "too similar" to Empire Strikes Back.

I see The Last Jedi as essentially a "rejection", so to speak, of The Empire Strikes Back. When it comes down to it, it seems that the goal of The Last Jedi is the opposite of The Force Awakens. Where The Force Awakens intended to draw us back into the Star Wars universe by invoking familiar "Star Warsey" feelings, The Last Jedi set the stage to expand the Star Wars universe beyond the familiar. (It's a big galaxy, after all.) It did this by essentially "rejecting" The Empire Strikes Back.

In the beginning of the movie, we have the template set up for The Empire Strikes Back to happen all over again. We have the new Empire and the new rebellion, the new Emperor and the new Darth Vader, the new Luke heading off to train with the new Yoda, the new betrayal of the rebels, and the new battle of Hoth. Only, in each of these instances, the movie takes an unexpected deviation, swerving the series away from the direction of the original trilogy.

Right off the bat, this premise is exemplified when Luke rejects the light saber, symbolically rejecting the role of "Yoda 2". Of course, Yoda had apprehensions toward training Luke in the beginning, but not with such a symbolic gesture of rejection towards everything he once was. Next, we have Snoke criticizing Kylo Ren's mask, which seems to be garbling his voice exaggeratedly from the first movie. This is followed by Kylo destroying the mask in a fit of rage, symbolically rejecting his likeness to Darth Vader.

With Leia in a coma, General Holdo takes command of the rebellion. General Holdo essentially seems to betray the rebels, whether through corruption or ineptitude, much as Lando betrayed the rebels in Empire. It's now up to Poe and his cronies to fight back. We believe that they are standing up against the betrayer, up until the scene where awakened Leia enters the room in which Poe has barricaded himself. We are expecting Leia to congratulate Poe, and join him, after all, why would the movie take us through this if we were not watching the good guys standing up to the bad guys? Poe seems to expect this as well, right up until Leia shoots him. We then find out that Holdo was not in fact the betrayer of the rebels, and Poe was not the good guy struggling with the bad guy. The rebels proceed as Holdo had planned, with Poe's mutiny acting as a mere hiccup.

Luke states the idea that, rather than reinstating the Jedi, it's time to move on and let the Jedi die. This sets the story up for a change of mind, but still sets a tone of "moving on". Later, Yoda burns down the tree. Even though we find out that the texts had been saved, this symbolizes a moving on from the old ways. (The texts move from the old temple into the possession of the new force user.)

Rey and Kylo reject the adversarial "Luke and Darth Vader, dynamic", as they form a bond, and eventually team up against Snoke. Then, finally, Kylo kills Snoke, and assumes control of the First Order, smashing to pieces the "Emperor/ Vader dynamic" which defined the original series. The Emperor runs things and Darth Vader is subservient. By killing Snoke, Kylo eradicates both the Emperor and Darth Vader, and becomes something entirely new. He even suggests to Rey that they team up to create something different, that is neither the Empire nor the Republic.

Rey and Kylo themselves are shown to be something new that has never been seen before. In the previous movie, Rey demonstrates an uncanny adeptness with the force, surpassing even Anakin. Yet, as Kylo reveals in Last Jedi, she is not linked to any of these institutions which precede her. She is something new which has appeared. Similarly, in the previous movie, Snoke refers to Kylo as representing a new power which embodies both the dark and the light. In Last Jedi, Luke states that he feels the same energy from Rey as he did from Kylo. It is unfamiliar, and it scares him to the point that he considered killing Kylo. The two of them team up and essentially end up smashing the premise of the original series.

Then, we have the final battle. To me, this battle seems to symbolically sum up the movie's rejection of the Empire Strikes Back template. Arguably the most iconic scene in Empire, is the battle of Hoth. The Empire Strikes Back begins with the battle of Hoth, and The Last Jedi ends with the battle of Hoth. In both battles, the rebels have been cornered within a facility on an ice planet, by the Empire, and must face down Imperial Walkers. Only, it is revealed that in The Last Jedi, it is not actually an ice planet. It is merely a thin dusting of salt covering a red mineral surface. The movie takes care to point this out to us, even though it doesn't play a part in the plot. Since it is not a direct part of the plot, yet is deliberately pointed out in the narrative, it is likely symbolic, showing that this is only superficially a rehashing of Hoth. Under the surface, there is something else to be revealed. By the end of the battle, most of the salt covering has been blown away, revealing just the red planetary surface, as if Hoth itself had been blown away, and replaced with something new.

In the end, Luke, the protagonist of the original series, fades away, taking the old series with him.

It seems to me that the ambiguity as to whether The Last Jedi "feels like Star Wars" was a deliberate mechanism to move us beyond the confines of the original series. Whereas The Force Awakens was all about reentering the Star Wars universe by re-purposing the original template, The Last Jedi was all about moving beyond the familiar, into yet unknown areas of the universe, by rehashing the familiar template, and deliberately veering in a different direction.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Don Polinski: Where Is He Now?

Who is Don Polinski? This mystery man made his way into an old blog post, years ago.  But, I have no idea who he is. For 12 years, he's been an enigma. He's been known by his name, and this one image. How did this unknown person show up in my blog, and who is he?

In the old days, on this blog, I used to feature a Superstar of the Week. This was something I had done ever since day two of this blog, and continued on and off, usually in the Summer. This continued up until sometime in 2010, about a year before this blog ceased to be active. It was essentially a gag. I would think of someone random, usually a celebrity or historical figure, sometimes a fictional character or a cartoon. I've even chosen Muppets, a Mii made to look like Jack Black, and a Kenmore washer and drier set. It was essentially just a picture of said person or entity, with the title reading "Superstar of the Week is..." Sometime in 2009, I expanded Superstar of the Week into being a full article.

At one point, towards the beginning of this blog, I decided to think of a random name off the top of my head, and Google it. Or, "Yahoo search" it, according to that particular post. I guess this was back when I was still using Yahoo instead of Google. The name I randomly thought of, was "Don Polinski". Why the name that popped into my head was "Don" in combination with the last name "Polinski", I have no idea, but I put the name into Yahoo search, and came up with the picture at the top of the page. Thus, this man became the Superstar of the Week for December 19, 2005.

Occasionally, I would make a reference to Don Polinski in my blog posts. I could have sworn that Don Polinski had made an encore appearance as Superstar of the Week at some point, but I just went through my entire blog history, and found no evidence of that. (Don Polinski never found his way into my videos, however). At one point, I found that an anonymous commentor had commented, "Ok, well this is too funny b/c the Superstar of this week is my dad! (literally)".

But, who is Don Polinski? This image originally came from a park services website in Canada. Several years ago, while reminiscing through old blog posts, I decided, out of curiosity, to Google "Don Polinski", again, and see what came up. The only image that came up for Don Polinski, was from my blog post. The site from which the image had originated, no longer showed up. There were, however, some obituaries which lead me to believe that poor Don had passed on.

Towards the end of this past year, I found myself once again reminiscing through old blog posts. I decided, out of curiosity, to Google "Don Polinski" again, and see if anything new came up. Once again, the first image in the search that was relevant to Don Polinski, was from my blog post. But, this time, I also found this image:
 This image, from an article, posted in October 2016, is relatively new. I scrutinized it a bit to determine whether the older gentleman in the picture was the same man from the image above. He does seem to have the same features, but he looks quite a bit older than the original image. This article was posted about 11 years after my Superstar of the Week post. And, who knows how long ago the image from my Superstar of the Week post had been taken prior to finding its way to my blog. Yes, there's been quite a bit of time in between. It looks like the obituary had reguarded a different Don Polinski. Our Don Polinski is alive and winning awards!

According to the article, the image depicts the Alberta Recreation and Parks Association being presented with the 2016 Parks Excellence Award. This image lead me to another article featuring Don Polinski's team winning an award, the previous year. For the past 12 years, Don Polinski has been sort of a mystery man who had arbitrarily made his way into an old blog post. I find myself feeling glad to see this complete stranger alive, smiling, and holding an award, a sign that he's been successful in his endeavor. Whoever he is, I hope life is treating him well.

Friday, January 05, 2018

10 Years of J-Dubb's Theatre in 10 Minutes

In this New Year 2018 video, J-Dubb of 2018 shows up to talk about new year 2007, while saying all the same things he said in the New Year 2011 video. This confuses Floyd, so Jim sets things straight. J-Dubb then initiates a flashback montage of every J-Dubb's Theatre video over the last ten years.

Music by Kevin MacLeod