The world wide web has become a virtual universe illuminating the reach of collective human imagination, which stretches farther every day. In our new series, we explore the forgotten corners and disused spaces of this universe, revealing some of the most ingenious, absurd and wonderful rest stops of the information superhighway. This time around we asked the London-based Werkdiscs recording artist and 2010 Academy alum Lukid to compile a list of his most treasured obscuro YouTube users. Things get a little bit disturbing along the way.
I remember when I used to read books. I remember when I used to listen to albums in their entirety, when I used to watch films from beginning to end. I remember when I used to try to improve myself as a human being. Then Steve Jobs invented the Internet and ruined everything for everybody.
These days, from the moment I wake, my life is fed to me at 8mb/s. Do I need the toilet? Maybe. Am I hungry? Probably. Will I ignore these needs and stagger bleary-eyed from my bed to my laptop in the hope of finding a life changing e-mail sitting in my inbox? Absolutely. And that’s it – you’re sucked in to a sickeningly addictive whirlpool of e-mail and Twitter and Facebook and football videos and Omegle and before you know it, it’s four o’clock and you’ve achieved literally nothing with your day and your girlfriend will be home from work soon and she will once again find you in tracksuit bottoms and yesterday’s egg-stained t-shirt and she will ask you what you did today and you will mumble something about e-mails and “sounding out future projects” and she will ask you if you bought some milk like she asked you to and you will say “fuck” and she will not even be angry with you this time, Luke, just disappointed.
“The main offender is YouTube. YouTube is an ocean.”
Even leaving the house is no escape now. The first sign of a late bus or a pause in the eulogy and I am on my smart phone checking to see how many people have favourited my tweet about Londis. I do, of course, realise that complaining about the ease with which I can access the world’s most cutting edge technology is disgusting and ridiculous, but I am a ridiculous man and this is a ridiculous planet and I apologise for everything. As Neil Young once said, “though my problems are meaningless, that don’t make them go away.”
The main offender is YouTube. YouTube is an ocean. It’s so big that even my procrastination gets procrastinated. I will get sidetracked in my search to find my favourite fat-Ronaldo goal, or that video about the thing that made me laugh in 2008 – the ‘related videos’ sidebar steering me down a yellow-brick-road of oddities that leads me not to the Wizard Of Oz, but to the YouTube channel of man who uploads videos of toilets flushing. These are the forgotten corners of the internet, where the forgotten people of this world broadcast their strange lives to no one in particular, people whose dedication to the bizarre and the banal is as compelling as it is depressing.
So, let me present to you five of my favourite obscuro YouTube users:
Conrad is an Argentinian man who looks like Lawrence Tierney. Conrad uploads videos of himself smoking cigars. Each video is titled with a description of the cigar he is smoking and the outfit he is donning, his unique brand of English is his trademark; “Begin, smoking, my Boswel Pipe Tobaccos, with Black Leather Adidas Hat; and Beige T-shirt of Surf.”
He seems to mutter these words out of the corner of his mouth between puffs, but these are the only words we ever hear from Conrad. He is a silent mover, ferociously documenting his one-man battle against the onset of mouth cancer. Why is he doing this? Not many people are watching him. His most popular video has 6,500 views, most have around 30. This doesn’t seem to put Conrad off. He uploads several videos a day, every day: his current YouTube channel boasting 5807 uploads. I say current because he seems to get routinely banned from YouTube, presumably for breaking their strict ‘no more than 10,000 cigar videos’ rule. This is no obstacle to Conrad; he simply starts a new channel, and his mission continues. His tenacity is equalled in his prompt replies to his viewers. Most comments on his channel read along the lines of, “lol wtf,” but every single one gets the same response from Conrad: “My friend, thank you; by very good message. Your friend, of Argentine.”
Conrad, who are you? What are you feeling? What has happened to you to make you do this? Why do you love tennis so much?
Occasionally, we do get a glimpse into Conrad’s pre-YouTube existence. Every so often a shaky video of a photograph of a pretty red-haired lady will pop up under the title, “Remember, at my Wife ‘ANA MARIA’.” The blurred image and super-distorted ‘music of cinema’ accompanying the video make it that bit more heartbreaking, and that bit more psychotic.
Conrad, wherever and whoever you are; I salute you.
Your friend, of English.
I got banned from Facebook for putting a video by WendyVainity on my page. The video (which I co-opted for a track of mine) consisted of a computer-generated obese woman rolling around in her pants on a beach with some whales. I still struggle to work out why I was banned. I can only assume that it was something to do with nudity, but not only is the woman in the video not nude, she’s also not a real person. Who knows. Not to worry though, after some embarrassing kowtowing on my part I am now back on Facebook doing what I do best, delivering incredibly well-timed and pertinent status updates.
From what I can gather, Wendy is a woman from Australia who enjoys making computer generated animation in her spare time. She is not very good at it, or she is very good at it, depending on your viewpoint. The videos look like they were made in 1997 as part of some kind of mental health programme, and are often backed by nightmarishly autotuned music made by Wendy herself. The combination is highly disturbing, coming across like Werner Herzog trying to direct an episode of Home & Away using only Microsoft Paint. How in-the-know Wendy is about this weirdness is debatable, but either way she has a great skill for making videos that creep the living shit out of me.
Watch this video. I love it. In it, our subject (G0D) approaches an unwitting maintenance man (Andy) in a van. After a bit of polite small talk G0D asks Andy to film him ‘doing a little demonstration video.’ Andy is clearly unnerved by the situation, but being English he agrees. As the camera is passed to him, so are we, the viewer. We can hear Andy nervously shuffling in his chair as he films G0D doing donuts on his roller-skates and swinging a yoyo around his head. We can hear Andy breathe, the metronomic tick-tock of the van’s indicator building the nervous tension to an almost unbearable level. We can practically hear his thoughts: “I’m just here to fix a gas leak. I don't want to die like this. Not here. Not now.”
According to a Bristolian friend of mine, G0D is a legend around those parts. Take a drive up the A38 and chances are you’ll see him on his rollerskates, swinging a rope around his favourite lamppost. Aside from weirding people out on a dual-carriageway, G0D is also the inventor of the Chaospack. Chaospacks are cigarette packet covers designed to ‘help achieve smoke free environments,’ rendering your cigarettes unsmokable simply by covering them. I believe in you, G0D.
Armitageshires is a man who likes to film toilets flushing. I’m assuming he’s a man because only men do things like uploading over 1000 toilet flushing videos to YouTube.
I don’t know what to say about this channel. You don’t need to watch the videos, they are literally videos of (empty) toilets being flushed. (Although the beautifully earnest descriptions are worth a read: “Cistern is a Shires Lynx, likely to be early 90s, high level straight pipe. Flush weaker than expected.”) Just know that the channel exists, and take that in to consideration the next time you are about to make any kind of positive judgement about the human race.
Neville Lawrence (AKA Superstar And Star) is a musician and video artist from Trinidad, currently living in Omaha. Neville’s output has the uncanny ability to make you feel like you’re watching some kind of relic from the early 90s – perhaps the recently discovered home recordings of a prolific serial killer. In actual fact, the videos are from the last few years, and are still being updated. The music is always weird, and sometimes genuinely good, and along with the VHS videos (often of Neville dancing outside of his suburban home), feel like some kind of bizarre pre-cursor to Hype Williams.
Apart from the music vids, we also get to see Neville being interviewed by wide-eyed public-access TV hosts (in which Superstar claims to have shared a stage with “Tupar and Biggies”), alarming insights in to Lawrence family life and the occasional video with such impeccable comic timing that it’s hard to believe it’s not a Vic & Bob sketch. Each video is another piece in the curious Superstar And Star puzzle, another brief look at the slightly terrifying bigger picture of a man living in small-town America, expressing his frustrations through the medium of the lo-fi pop song.
It is all pretty bleak, but then who am I to judge? Who do I think I am, sneering down at these misfits from my ivory tower, patronisingly giving them a pat on the back while at the same time giggling at their idiosyncrasies (and in some cases probable genuine mental illness). I am no better than these people, and in fact I am no different. I too spend my time making things that will be consumed by the few, and that the many would regard as a mystifying waste of time.
You may look at these videos and ask, ‘what is the point?’ Well, to quote a YouTube comment, a YouTube comment that has received 88 thumbs up, a YouTube comment that was made by me, “What is the point of anything?”
In-page image: Jason Turner