What’s good? A man once said, “What is truth?” I’m asking you: What is good? What is good in your life? Do you take time to acknowledge it? Are there things in your life that aren’t just good, but they’re so good you make a point to tell other people about them? I’ll bet there are. It is an interesting question, and I would enjoy reading your answers. Leave a comment below if you don’t mind.
I was presented with this question when I was asked if I was going to write another post on my bro’s other blog. It was kind-of a big ask. I haven’t made time to write a post for this blog for over nine months (if that last one even counts – note to self: update the images on that post.) So, is there something that is so good that I would be motivated to write a post about it? I mean, there are lots of things that are good, as I mentioned last time: surrealism, understanding, gardening, the Book of Judges, Simon Stålenhag… The list is long, and I would love to tell you about every entry on it, if only I had the time. But is there something so good that it motivates this composition that I’m writing right now?!?! There is…
What up, y’all? It’s ya’ boy, Hal. I commandeered Scott’s blog for my own purposes, and then I upcycled the post here. But I would like to acknowledge that I really appreciate Scott sharing his appreciation of things with those wonderful few who are interested to read it. We don’t take enough time to appreciate the good things around us. It is worthwhile to take a moment now and again to pause and say, “You know what? I really enjoy _______ for the following reasons…” Scott does it, and I enjoy it. You’re good, Scott.
So, four paragraphs in… What am I writing about today? What’s good? Mash-ups! In my opinion, mash-ups are the best. A mash-up is something where two independent things are fused together to make a hybrid thing that stands alone as its own thing. The two parts were fine on their own. They didn’t necessarily need to be melded together, but someone was creative enough to do it, and it produced something new that can be altogether wonderful. For instance, the TV show M*A*S*H was pretty good. And people tend to have high opinions of the Pixar movie Up. But what if the wacky medics were also cantankerous curmudgeons and a few enthusiastic new recruits who travel around Korea by means of helium balloons attached to their tents? Boom, you got a M*A*S*H-Up. It would definitely be weird. It might not appeal to devoted fans of either component (then again it might.) But it would be new, and it could potentially be great.
Why do I like mash-ups? Here’s something you probably don’t know about me: my brain aggressively prioritizes storing references to culture, above and beyond other things like important dates, verses of scripture, the names of people I meet, etc. I don’t know why. It just be like that. And so in the background, my mind is constantly shuffling the deck and pulling out the index cards of every esoteric reference related to anything I experience in my day to day life. My child presents me with a book about a monkey, and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” starts playing in my head. So, when other people connect dots and draw out synergies in disparate things I LOVE IT!!!
This applies to most areas of life in general. I like comic books. But some of my favorite comics are ones where characters who usually don’t or can’t interact get to meet each other. Even better, comics where they smoosh two characters together into one. (I’m lookin’ at you Amalgam comics.) I even like Composite Superman. (It seems like a reference to Firestorm is called for here. Yes, I like him too.) That’s one of the reasons that Dial H for Hero is and continues to be one of my favorite serieses. (I just found out DC is publishing new issues. Go read them while you can.) Not to get too deep in the weeds, but Dial-H isn’t about a superhero. It is about a person who gets access to a mysterious dial that can turn them into ANY superhero. So by definition, it has the potential to mash-up all superheroes even ones that don’t really exist. Then, if the story involves a second person with a dial, everything is on the table in terms of mash-up potential, and you’ve officially entered “shut up and take my money” territory. It’s so good, it can even get me past dubious plot points like oblique references to The Human Centipede (that is one mash-up that I do not endorse.)
I like mashups because I like it when familiar things have to do something new or operate in a new environment. What’s going to happen? Will it work? Not always, but let’s give it a chance. When it does work it can be magical.
One of the most common formats for mash-ups is music. I would be criminally negligent if I wrote a blog post about mash-ups without mentioning the name Neil Cicierega. He is a virtuoso when it comes to remixing and mashing up other people’s songs (especially if those songs are All-Star by Smash Mouth). As an example I encourage you to check out his song Best. It is. But he has a wide variety of high-quality work and could easily be the subject of his own “What’s Good” post on the other blog.
My point is, it takes a certain kind of creativity to splice together things other people have made in a way that results in a unique and objectively good thing. “Sweet Dreams Are Made of These” by the Eurythmics plus “Seven Nations Army” by The White Stripes? Two great tastes that taste great together! Have you ever had a song stuck in your head and then started to incorporate another song into that song? For instance “Rasputin” by Boney M and “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga. See, you may have more of that mash-up creativity in you than you realize. And in my opinion, using other people’s work in new ways isn’t derivative, and it doesn’t demonstrate a lack of creativity. It demonstrates a different kind of creativity.
What really makes a great mashup great is the surprise factor. Some of the best are the ones you never saw coming. Unintuitive mash-ups are the best. The Best. THE BEST. THE BEST! (This will only make sense watched the video I linked above.) Melding two songs is fine, but what if you took a song by Lana Del Rey and put it together with some of the animation from Fantasia 2000? It is a thing. They work together. And that highlights another point: either of the components might not be your jam (or even particularly good) but when mashed, they make each-other better. Musical artist David Byrne says he likes working collaboratively with other artists because it inspires him to be creative in a different direction than when he works alone. In a way, mash-ups are collaborations that happen after the fact.
Look, I could talk about this all day. Mash-ups are good. They don’t all work. Toothpaste and orange juice – no bueno. But sometimes you get bacon ice cream and your day is improved. I’ve mentioned a few mash-ups in this post, and I encourage you to investigate mash-ups in general. See if it’s something you’re into. As a great man once said, “I have a pen. I have an apple. Put them together…” Or even more succinctly “Why not both?” Thanks to the internet nearly anything can be, and potentially has been combined. And if your two favorite things haven’t been mashed yet, why don’t you give it a try. There hasn’t been an actual “What’s Good Scott” / “Comical Musings” joint post yet? Well, boom. Now it’s a thing. (And I mentioned the other blog a third time, so I can post it there and get credit for actually writing something.)
On behalf of all good things, thank you for reading. And thank you, patient musers. I’m back, for the moment. I don’t know how long I can stay, but I’m gonna drop at least one more post about something REALLY GOOD! Good things are good. Go out and enjoy them.