A Home For Quick Hits

By Frank Ahrens
Sunday, July 30, 2006

So, you say you don't have the attention span for YouTube and its seat-squirmingly long two-minute videos?

Got just the thing for you.

YTMND.com is the creation of artist Max Goldberg. The site name stands for "You're the man now, dog!" It was a line uttered -- improbably, embarrassingly -- by Sean Connery in the 2000 film "Finding Forrester," about a reclusive white author mentoring a young black writer.

At the time, Goldberg says, he was in a domain-buying spree. And he loved the crazy juxtaposition of James Bond trying to get all jiggy wit' it. So he bought www.yourethemannowdog.com and posted a simple, 1.4-second-long audio-video element: several copies of a still photo of an angry-looking Connery pointing, overlaid with the text of his quote. Then he added the audio clip of the quote itself, constantly looping.

This kind of art form -- a sort of Philip Glass-like video fugue -- previously had been limited to avant-garde galleries and sometimes paid for with shockingly large grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Of course, those were serious and meant to make A Point.

The Connery bit was just for fun.

Within a couple of weeks, someone got hip to Goldberg's idea and posted http://picard.ytmnd.com/ , dialogue from actor Patrick Stewart, playing "Star Trek" Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, set to dance music. (Shocking, isn't it, that the early adopter was a "Trek" fan? Indeed, a search on the site for "Star Trek" produced 139 hits. My favorite is http://shatneriskirk.ytmnd.com/ , which examines the possibility of Matt Damon playing the young Capt. Kirk in next year's 11th "Trek" film.)

Now, YTMND claims more than 136,000 users and nearly 319,000 sites. It's ad- and viewer-supported -- fans of particular clips can sponsor them via donation. The site has gotten a little ink, most recently in Wired magazine.

Some clips are more than a minute long; most are just a few seconds. They range from still video and text to extensive audio mixes that approach mash-up and rap-style sampling quality. Bits of actual dialogue recorded from movies and television shows are chopped and diced and set to music, often to techno and MIDI tunes. Pop culture icons are shoved together -- Bill Cosby and Pokemon, Klingons and Willy Wonka -- to hilarious effect. Some of the pieces are quite brilliant and laugh-out-loud funny.

YTMND is more than just an excellent work time-waster. It's the perfect manifestation of how the Internet enables artists -- and would-be artists -- to express themselves in ways not previously available.

People who make art like to make art in many forms, but have been hamstrung by traditional forms of delivery -- the two-hour motion picture, the half-hour sitcom, the 10-song album.

In 2001, acclaimed film directors John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee and Guy Ritchie jumped at the chance to make short films that were used as television commercials for BMW, flipping the bird at snobs critical of commercial art.

More importantly, the move emphasized the point that stories need not be an hour or two long to be told. A video story can be told in 60 seconds. In 2001 -- the Golden Age of Dial-Up -- the Internet was not really available to short-story video auteurs. The widely seen short-form was limited largely to art house theaters and television commercials.

But now that nearly half of all Internet homes (and almost all businesses) have high-speed Internet -- and easy-to-use video- and sound-editing tools are cheaply available off the shelf -- anyone can be a video artist. Further, there are now multiple venues for your work.

If you've got an actual short movie, upload it to Atomfilms.com, or any of several similar sites.

If you've got a digital video you shot with a Web cam, post it to YouTube.

If you've got an idea for a political cartoon, but you can't draw, find the appropriate picture of President Bush hefting a baby, Photoshop in some blood and post it on YTMND.com under "bush eats babies?"

There might just be an NEA grant in it for you.

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