To the best of my knowledge, YouTube entered the vast world of the Internet in about 2005. However, although I have had the Internet in my home since 2002, I was unaware of the wondrous offerings of YouTube until a chat partner pointed out this particular feature of my computer in 2009.
Since then, I have probably spent an average of an hour a day exploring its tremendous scope and remarkable diversity. According to my rough calculations, there are about 100 million videos accessible on YouTube, and you can safely bet that number is growing appreciably by the day.
Because of my great affinity for pop music, the videos containing that ingredient of YouTube are the most used and the most enjoyable for me. For example, I had little difficulty locating all the major hits of Johnny and the Hurricanes, which is my favourite rock band of all time. In addition to original recordings, numerous concert numbers are also available from the Hurricanes, including a complete capsule of their 1965 appearance in Germany. Of large significance, too, is the fact that Elvis Presley is featured in roughly 50,000 videos, and what is especially enticing is that you can listen to, and view, many different versions of all his songs as well as take in videos of such events as his 1968 “comeback special,” which lasted more than an hour. I have also discovered that nearly every song that was on the hit parade since 1950 — even “B” sides of records — is offered on YouTube. For example, I have repeatedly listened to “Pointed Toe Shoes” by Carl Perkins, “Cutie Pie” by Johnny Tillotson and “Sweetie Baby” by Floyd Cramer, all of which I had thought had disappeared from my reach forever.
You may not know this either, but I am particularly interested in the monumental cataclysm that was the Second World War. I have a special awareness of the invasion of Poland by the Germans, which started the war on Sept. 1, 1939, and there are many videos (with narration, of course) about this event. This invasion is deeply representative of how ruinous the Second World War was for all concerned.
I recently also became interested in the start and development of the Bosnian War, which lasted from 1992 to 1995 and involved much murder, brutality and upheaval. Videos on YouTube show how monsters who called themselves men ruthlessly drove tens of thousands of people from their homes and set up concentration camps for them that were comparable to those of the Nazis. Then there was the particularly hideous mass slaughter in Srebrenica near the end of the Bosnian War.
About 8,000 men and boys were executed by gunshots in a most merciless manner. There are videos available which show in frightful detail the suffering and carnage of such events, and I am deeply moved by this anguish and grief as narrated by impartial observers of this war, which, after all, occurred less than 20 years ago and shows how uncivilized much of the world still is.
I wrote an essay on Rex Murphy last year, which was recently published in The Western Star. To add to my enjoyment and edification, I have discovered that there are quite a few videos on YouTube of his brief commentaries originally done for CBC. Rex, in the opinion of many contemporary journalists, is almost singularly complex and colourful in these outpourings of interpretation and illumination of events in the news.
I have viewed, and especially enjoyed, his pieces on the long-standing, 45-year-old futility of the Toronto Maple Leafs, which is known to practically every Canadian sports fan; on the hypocrisy of Elliot Spitzer, former governor of New York state, who almost simultaneously prosecuted people for prostitution while hiring $4,000-per-hour call girls for himself; and on the egregious wrong-headedness of the European Union, which set out to destroy — and has largely succeeded in this — the Newfoundland seal hunt while blandly ignoring the much more human catastrophes of Africa. Yes, even a video that repeats a commentary which I have already seen by Rex is instructive and still captivating.
Finally, about a month ago, while browsing through the endless stream of YouTube videos, I discovered an hour-length feature done by British journalists about the O.J. Simpson case of 1994-95. To me, O.J. is guilty of two bestial murders, but this particular documentary did made me think a little about the question of why there were not more bruises on O.J.'s body from the fierce struggle that must have ensued after his encounter with his two victims on the night of the murders.
One observer ventured the view that Simpson was at the murder scene at that time (as evidenced by the extent of his blood found there) but that he was merely a witness to the crimes. However, I don’t buy this version of events for a second, as I feel sure that Simpson is not so brave or so righteous as to let himself go to trial for murder in order to protect his son. O.J. is currently serving a lengthy prison term in Las Vegas for kidnapping and theft, and also has been beaten up badly by other inmates at least once. I think that his crimes have finally caught up with him, and, incidentally, there are several videos on YouTube showing his encounter with an angry judge as she sentences him for his later crimes, calling him “arrogant and hostile.”
I would think that the next few decades will bring even more sophisticated and intricate features of the marvelous source of information and entertainment that we call the Internet. Right now, however, YouTube is sufficiently intriguing and stimulating for me to enjoy it in all its fullness and its depth. Whatever follows YouTube will not diminish my pleasure or enrichment at all, because I have become successfully attuned to the natural evolution of cultures and technologies.
I feel that we are living satisfyingly in highly exciting times, in large measure because of eminently
fascinating inventions such as YouTube.
Lloyd Bonnell writes from Corner Brook.