Flo and Friends vs. The Deep Crazies

What’s better than a friend recommending some pop culture artifact (band, TV show, movie, book) and quickly realizing it will soon become one of your favorites?

That’s right, being the one who recommends it.

It’s always better to be the person who says “hey, have you seen/heard/read X?” rather than the person who says “… no?”

The question mark at the end is the other person secretly asking “will my simple answer spare me from an hour-long lecture highlighting the entire history of whatever it is you recommended?”

It never will.

Don’t say it isn’t fun, because we all know it is. Being the first person in on some underappreciated cultural gem is great; you get to go around to all your friends and share something they might actually enjoy … or just annoy them, either is fine.

But what happens when one of these hidden gems shows up in a supporting role for something incredibly popular; something so popular as to obliterate any notion that whatever hidden gem you previously enjoyed could ever have been held in good favor by so few when it is now a passe bit of cultural flotsam?

Example: the band Massive Attack.

A friend of mine in college told me about Massive Attack; a British band that, according to people far hipper than I, play a style of music called trip-hop.

I liked what I heard so, naturally, I binged on Massive Attack music for roughly three months straight. It was easy to do as it was the summer and I had no professors telling me to “start doing your work” or “this is why you’re on academic probation.”

Flash forward a few weeks; classes are in session, it’s finally stopped being a consistent 100 degrees outside, and the NFL is back on TV.

My roommates were watching a game when I walked into our kitchen. As the game went to commercial, imagine my surprise when the small, unknown band I enjoyed came out of the TV.

Massive Attack is being used as outro music for the NFL? Wow, I thought, that is quite the “get” for them; I wonder if this will be their big break?

Turns out Massive Attack’s “big break” was a decade previous when they first became a touring success, but that was in England so it doesn’t count.

Flash forward a couple more weeks and I’m with some friends of mine when, once again, I hear Massive Attack come from the TV. Only this time it was no NFL game, it was the theme to the TV show “House.”

I couldn’t get into “House” right away, I would always imagine the inevitable, poorly produced local affiliate syndication ads:

“This doctor is making a House-call! Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 9 on WHBD Channel 7: YOUR Home for House!”

Drek. Just drek, up and down the street.

I would eventually change my mind about “House” … except for the last couple seasons, those were bad. If they had just left him in prison and kept the show going but with House being an unofficial prison doctor, all the while assisting inmates with nefarious whatnot so he could feed his vicodin addiction then I would have become a fan all over again … but I digress.

Now whenever I listen to Massive Attack sans headphones I’m asked “why are you listening to the theme from ‘House?'”

Would I ever be able to say that I was an early fan of Massive Attack with any shred of credibility? WAS I an early fan? Or did I jump on the bandwagon moments before it took off? I heard Massive Attack for the first time in the summer, then I heard them on the NFL that fall.

Conclusion: I was being spied on by the NFL. So I would like to take advantage of their persistent surveillance and formally invite Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft to a steel-cage-deathmatch to see who will succeed Roger Goodell as commissioner.

Who will win? We all will win, because we’re not going to unlock the cage.

So, unless the NFL is actually wasting valuable resources keeping tabs on my musical tastes, I had just become an “early” fan of a band quickly becoming as ubiquitous a background player as Brian Doyle Murray or Microsoft Excel.

Well, it happened again.

This time it was no mere band that has been lured away to commercials by the promises of fortune and C-list celebrity status.

No, this time the victim of digital cultural appropriation was the raison d’etre of troglobites, soothsayers, and harbingers the world over: the weirdo YouTube conspiracy video.

Once enjoyed exclusively by loud, boisterous friends at the end of an evening out, these conspiracy videos have been repurposed to serve as the Nth angle of attack on your wallet by Progressive Insurance, the company that originated the “carpet-bomb” approach to corporate mascots. (Flo, some guy named The Messenger, that box with the voice of Chris Parnell, the guys from the other insurance companies that talk to Flo and act like teenagers … I’m sure there are more)

I love those conspiracy videos! Every year I write a column before the Super Bowl about which of the Deep Crazies has most accurately predicted the Illuminati’s plan to use the Super Bowl halftime show as a razzle-dazzle device to trick the world into believing we are under an alien invasion so as to use the crisis to usurp power from world leaders and consolidate all control within the lair of the secret Illuminati organization who count among their ranks the royal House of Windsor, the Bush family, the Clinton family, country music’s favorite hobo Boxcar Willie, and Kris Kristofferson, who played Whistler in those “Blade” movies.

None. The answer is none of the predictions are accurate … which must mean the real plan is only moments from its terrifying reveal!

So now Progressive is going to try and “main stream” these YouTube gems? Making videos about how Robert Zemeckis predicting the 9/11 attacks in the opening sequence of “Back to the Future” is an activity that is both conceived and created entirely in the dark; if you expose these things to sunlight they will die!

And then what are we (read: I) to do before the Super Bowl? Write about the commercials? I refuse to be so predictable. Write about the game itself? I’ll discuss Super Bowl predictions with fantasy league players, friends, Facebook friends, co-workers, and any particularly chatty cashiers … but I’m not putting any of my consistently wrong predictions on the record.

Progressive, leave the YouTube conspiracy videos alone! In fact, just leave … everything … alone. You guys already have enough mascots, and the kind of people that pick their insurance provider based on the mascot alone have already signed up with The General.

As for the rest of the companies (especially the mascot happy insurance crowd) stay off of YouTube! If I hear one melodica cover of a soaring movie theme used to sell me homeowner’s insurance I will quit the internet.

Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or wburns@timesrepublican.com.