Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Top 10 YouTube Videos (2014)


Here is my list of top ten YouTube videos that I’ve watched in the last few years.


10. “Bryan Stevenson: We need to talk about an injustice” by TED



Make no mistake: this is not just another TED talk. As much as I like TED, sometimes I get the impression that it’s just a group of people giving presentations to themselves in a big echo-chamber. In its pursuit of all things fascinating, new, and ingenious, the TED movement is in danger of losing its “grounded-ness” and ultimately being disconnected from the real problems of the world.

Against this backdrop, Bryan Stevenson’s presentation is a welcome breath of fresh air. From the “un-sexy” subject matter (criminal justice in the US, wrapped up in the personal tagline “There is Power in Identity”); the humble mannerism of the speaker; to the fact that the speaker just exuded genuine-ness. This subject was obviously a life-long passion for him.

He begins by telling the story of his life. His presentation makes no pretensions about solving this endemic race problem in the US society. This was my first proper exposure to the problems of mass incarceration of black men in America. Above all, it was just beautiful to see someone give his life so completely to the task of defending the disadvantaged, and speaking up for the weak.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. 
Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8–9)


9. “Twelve Tones” by Vi hart



Don’t let the seeming craziness of her sped-up hand-drawings-on-a-notepad fool you. Vi Hart’s videos begin with some fun illustrations and explanation of a new concept, but always goes on to make a beautiful point that is both thought-provoking and original.

This video is awesome on so many different levels. At one level, this is a whirlwind tour of modern music theory, starting with the Twelve Tones of Schoenberg. But on another level, she uses this subject matter to explore deeper issues such as authorial intent, the process of artistic creativity, and yes, copyright laws.


8. “Curtis Martin Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech”



Don’t ask me how I came to watch this speech (I don’t even watch football), but this was one memorable speech. Here is a guy who is not “erudite” by any measure; yet he seems to have such an insight and wisdom into what life is about. The lessons he learned in his life (the speech is his gritty and emotional life story) are both real and deep. He is a real example of how hard work, when it does not mutate into being just a routine, can make all the difference. His deep appreciation for his mother and his simple but reverent faith in God are also stand-outs.


7. “Civilisation: A personal view by Kenneth Clark” by BBC



The year is 1969; color television is starting to become mainstream. BBC, under the leadership of David Attenborough, makes a brilliant decision to hire the historian Sir Kenneth Clark to tell his story of Western Civilization over the last thousand years, with a focus on visual arts and architecture. The thirteen-part journey into history will have us travel to various landmarks throughout Europe and America. What I love the most about these videos is not the impressive visuals though. It’s rather Sir Kenneth’s succinct and original account of  (his personal view on) “what happened” in history.


6. “Things I can do” by John Green



If you haven’t watched any videos by the Green brothers (or “vlogbrothers”), you’re in for a treat. They speak impossibly fast, but it’s all well-scripted, intelligent stuff. Also worth check out: their “crash course” videos!

“I know how to read”… is how this 4-minute video begins, but along the way, he goes on to say something that is much more far-reaching than it first appears: “and finally, Hank [his brother], like everyone on the Internet, I know how to disrupt systems of content-delivery.” So begins his plug for all things wonderful on the ’net: Kickstarter, Gumroad, and other ways to realize an artistic utopia (or not).


5. “Humans need not apply” by CGP Grey



CGP Grey is (or used to be?) an American-born teacher in England, but now he makes awesome educational (“XX Explained!”) YouTube videos. This is his opus magnum (in much the same way “Twelve Tones” currently is for Vi Hart). In it, he systematically and persuasively builds the case that “technological advances in robotics and artificial intelligence will make humans obsolete for much of the jobs in existence today”. More people need to watch this video (the view count is ~3 million as of November 2014).

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By now, you have probably noticed that for me, the most important thing that makes a good YouTube video is the script. But here are some videos that are remarkable for the sheer non-verbal contents: whether it be visual vistas, drama, or technological wonders.



4. “Chronos, Baraka, Samsara” by Ron Fricke



These three videos by Ron Fricke have no narration or words in them. It’s just a snap-shot of how different people-groups around the globe live, set to a haunting soundtrack. Apparently, “Baraka” was the inspiration behind the excellent Hyperlase app by Instagram (link). The sheer visuals make these videos (the three are more or less the same) worth watching at least once.


3. “1977 Korean Boxing Archive: Soo-hwan Hong Vs. Hector Carrasquilla”



This 4-min. highlight video of the famous 1977 match is a source of inspiration for me. The commentary is in Korean, but is not necessary to appreciate this video. Hong gets downed four times in the second round, getting right back up each time. In the third round, Hong makes the biggest come back in the history of Korean boxing. This is such a legend among Koreans that the saying “down four times, get up for the fifth time” has become a proverb in Korean vernacular. (4전5기)


2. “7 Miutes of Terror: Curiosity Rover’s Risky Mars Landing”


This 5-min. video combines excellent interview footage and realistic animation to walk through the Enter Descent and Landing stage of the NASA (JPL) Curiosity Rover on Mars.  Heat-shield, parachute, rockets, then sky crane! The sheer display of human ingenuity in engineering and overcoming the challenges at hand is so amazing.


1. “The Story of Keep Calm and Carry On” by Temujin Doran


There is so much to like about this video. The narration, the music, the story... It’s simply beautiful.
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