Crimes Against Humanity

Well, crud.

I–and hopefully everyone else who writes anything more involved than a shopping list–work for years to learn the rules for clear, persuasive writing, and what happens?

Some joker (and I mean that literally) summarizes them in under four minutes.

Yes, Weird Al did the world a service, but did he have to do it so well? I feel like I’ve wasted decades.

I mean, really. Why did I take all those classes when I could have learned grammar from a Shiba (0:55)?

In the first two minutes he covers the difference between “less” and “fewer,” the “I could care less” fallacy, the difference between “its” and “it’s,” and the gratuitous “ex” in “espresso.” It just gets better from there. Check out the proofreading markup at 2:15, for instance, the illustrations for homophones at 2:27, and the dead-on coverage of the difference between irony and coincidence at 2:43.

His only error in the entire video is in dismissing the Oxford comma.

(Anyone know where I can get an add-on to give me a “Biohazard Bin” for my Windows desktop (3:02)?)

By now you have, I trust, figured out that I’m deeply in love with Word Crimes, one of the videos from Weird Al Yankovic’s latest album, Mandatory Fun.

Al did eight videos for the album. Pretty impressive, considering that there are only twelve tracks. All eight are available for your viewing pleasure on WeirdAl.com. Spoiler alert: Word Crimes is far and away the best of the set. Next best is Mission Statement, though that’s more for the clever animation than the work as a whole.

I was going to suggest that Al has reached the point where his original songs are better than the parodies, but then I realized that they’re both parodies, respectively of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and the complete oeuvre of Crosby, Stills, & Nash. These two songs transcend their origins in parody and are fully capable of standing on their own.

Leaving the videos aside, how’s Mandatory Fun as an album?

Well… IMNSHO, Weird Al hit his peak with the perfect mix of creativity and silliness in 1999’s Running With Scissors–although the previous and succeeding albums, Bad Hair Day (1996) and Poodle Hat (2003), were almost as good.

Mandatory Fun doesn’t come close to that high-water mark. The worst cut is clearly Sports Song. There’s nothing in it that Tom Lehrer didn’t do better in Fight Fiercely, Harvard–in 1945, and the uninspired video won’t appreciably enhance anyone’s enjoyment of the song. First World Problems and Inactive are entirely too similar to be on the same disc, much less adjacent tracks. And My Own Eyes could have used another edit. Yes, it’s constrained by the parody form, but it fails to hang together as a unique piece, descending into random incoherence. Several other tracks, most notably Foil and Tacky are enjoyable, but seem unlikely to have much long-term appeal.

Bottom line, much as it pains me to say it, is that Mandatory Fun is really of interest only to fans of Weird Al. Hit up iTunes/Google Play/Your Store of Choice and buy Word Crimes (better yet, buy the video) and let the rest go.

Sorry, Al. Can we try again in 2016 or so?

9 thoughts on “Crimes Against Humanity

  1. I love it, too! And, you are absolutely correct about the Oxford comma. I was so happy to hear him explain “less” and “fewer”; if only he had also mentioned “more than” and “over”, it would have been perfection! (I put the semicolon in there just to be a smarty pants.)

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    • We can hope that anyone smart enough to understand the explanation of the less/fewer distinction will be smart enough to realize that the over/more than distinction is exactly the same.

      OK, it’s a forlorn hope, but no more so than the typical Cubs’ fan’s feelings every April.

      There’s probably a joke around here somewhere about introducing silly semicolons to colons via the shortest route, but I’ll let you make up your own.

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      • In my previous editing life, I spent an awful lot of time explaining the over vs. more than thing to people. I also spent a lot of time explaining that “alot” is not a word, “……….” is not an ellipsis, and “impactful” is wretched and unacceptable (oh, and NOT a word).

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      • All subjects best explained with liberal use of a crowbar in a fashion similar to that used by Weird Al in explaining the meaning of “literally”.

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  2. As I’ve said elsewhere, listening to Weird Al’s parodies is an odd experience for me. I am so far out of what I suppose to be the mainstream that I have, literally, (and I mean that literally) never heard the songs being satirized. Thus, I hear the songs as if for the very first time, (yes, like a virgin). The whole thing leaves me feeling kinda wistfully out of things, as if I was from another country, or planet, wondering what song I’ve never heard, by what group of which I’ve never heard, is being pilloried. Experience has shown that I’m unlikely to run to my… what? Radio? Computer? Wherever people hear these things, to seek out the originals, however cleverly rendered. What I hear is what I’ve got, and that’s just gonna have to be good enough. Fortunately, with Weird Al it it usually is.

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    • As time goes on, I find myself more and more in the same position. I eventually recognized the sources of five of the parodies on Mandatory Fun. Out of eleven. First time I’ve been under 50%, which is a bit disturbing.

      But yes, at least most of the time Al makes it enough. Hopefully the misses this time around aren’t a sign of things to come.

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    • Argh. Ouch.

      Well, baseball and baseball people have never been noted for adherence to the accepted rules of language or logic.

      See my post… Oh, wait. I haven’t written that one yet.

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  3. Pingback: If You Insist | Koi Scribblings

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