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It was April 2009 when The Gregory Brothers — then a fledgling folk/soul band comprising brothers Michael, Andrew, and Evan, complemented by Sarah, who literally married into the group — debuted the first iteration of their Auto-Tune the News series. It’s a wonderful example of media convergence: the brothers record television news as it occurs; insert clips of themselves in a succession of zany costumes while singing parodic tunes over footage and commentary that is freeze-framed, sped-up, or repeated; process the audio tracks of political luminaries and newscasters through the Auto-Tune technology popularized by T-Pain; and post the results on their YouTube channel.

Previously, the group’s best effort at rising to prominence entailed getting laughed out of an American Idol interview. Now ATN’s most popular episode is approaching 3 million views on the group’s channel alone; additionally their videos are simultaneously hosted on the Barely Political channel, which brought the world Obama Girl. The Gregory Brothers have since been featured on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show. They obtained a record deal and released an album in July, and they’ve become sought-after session musicians, lending their skills to projects helmed by wunderkind Sufjan Stevens. Even T-Pain himself — an artist who demonstrates a remarkable capacity for self-parody — is now in on the joke.

So the Gregory Brothers effectively force the likes of titans Joe Biden, Michele Bachmann, and Katie Couric to sing their songs for the world to hear; their meta-commentary supplants the original commentary that it pillories.

Auto-Tune #9 debuted yesterday:


Richard Cohen at the Washington Post has some deep thoughts about torture:

But where I reserve a soupçon of doubt is over the question of whether “enhanced interrogation techniques” actually work. That they do not is a matter of absolute conviction among those on the political left, who seem to think that the CIA tortured suspected terrorists just for the hell of it.


Actually, Dick, if you devote even a fraction of your attention, you’ll notice that most American critics of the War on Terror as practiced by the most recent Administration are highly in favor of making public as much information as possible, as they are primarily concerned with determining who authorized the torture, and when, and why, and what the practical effects of those decisions have been — which sort of undercuts your two propositions that

A) critics of the torture already know why it was done, and

B) the focus of this criticism is directed at the CIA agents who performed these acts, rather than at the Administration officials who called for them.

As to A), the running theories are that

a) the Bush Administration comprised a gang of sadistic imps who were simply too inept to allow intelligence professionals to perform their jobs in the manner in which they had been trained, and

b) the Bush Administration believed that if they could extract some bogus confessions indicating collusion between an Afghanistan-centric Al-Qaeda and a nuclear-enabled Iraq, they could bolster their bogus case for an expanded war.

Naturally, while these theories  do complement one another, they are nonetheless mere running theories, so they beg for further information which may alter our understanding as said information arises. Which is why the hell we are having this discussion.

I first became aware of the retrailer sometime in the early fall of 2005 — not via YouTube, as the site had then scarcely begun to exist — with a retooled Shining trailer that imagined the horror classic as a feel-good family comedy:

This gem says a lot of things, however elliptically, about the ways in which we interact with popular culture through time — for instance, the suggestion that a film could attain totemic significance by unnerving us to our sinews only to finally evolve, 25 years after the artifact’s release, into singularly effluvial kitsch; or that Peter Gabriel’s song “Solsbury Hill”, released in 1977 (the same year as the original novel The Shining), a song about a moment of spiritual epiphany of all things, would have lain dormant in the culture for most of that time period before a sudden deluge of exposure in movie trailers of the early 21st Century would render it the nadir of treacly commercialism.

Since then we’ve had a number of these things, including Ten Things I Hate About Commandments, 8 1/2 Mile, and Brokeback to the Future.

Sure, one can reduce the phenomenon to a pedestrian meddling between the sacred and the profane, the artistic and the opportunistic (approximating Riff Market‘s digression on Girl Talk) — but the main takeaway seems to be that these things are fun.

Flash forward to May 2009, wherein Andrew Sullivan, via Buzzfeed, points to an interpretation of Dirty Dancing as a David Lynch film:

Now somebody envision Mulholland Drive as an episode of Three’s Company, and we’re really driving somewhere.