Wednesday, April 22, 2009

alias babyporridge

Some of you may have noticed that my July 1, 2008, post is hawking a CD that isn’t real. No, there isn’t to be any compact disk called Calamities & Codswallop, although I think that would make a good title for something (anything!), and I’m a little impressed with myself for thinking of that wacky moniker on the spot.

There is, however, such a person as Nikki Malvar. She is the very presentable person in the picture, and under the sobriquet “babyporridge,” she makes
YouTube videos as well as her own music on her MySpace page. At its best, her music reverberates with the kind of haunting notes and quirky lyrics reminiscent of The Roches or Suzanne Vega and is definitely worth a listen or two.

But where the mischievous Ms. Malvar made her most lasting impact on my neurons was with her YouTube videos, whose sublime silliness is about as far away from the reflectiveness of her songs as the Marx Brothers are from Jacques Brel. For quite some time, I wanted to put my bemused musings about her videos down on paper (or the electronic equivalent thereof), but I had no idea what to say: such anarchic absurdity can’t be contained by the strict structures of nouns, prepositions, and adverbs.

Then, on July 1, 2008, the date of my aforementioned blog post, I was visiting her own
blog, where she posted the picture of herself that you see below. I liked how most of the photograph was taken up by the empty space surrounding her, while her own image was scrunched into a corner. (Very “Zen,” don’t you think?) I immediately thought that the picture would make a good album cover and set about mocking up my own mock CD package. Not having any other way to show her the results, I posted the image here on my blog and let her know about it, fully expecting to delete the image once she had viewed it. However, after a couple of hours had hobbled away, I felt a fondness for the fake CD cover and asked Nikki if I could leave it up. She graciously consented, and I promised that I would write something about her on my world-famous blog.

Days went by. Then weeks. Then months. Summer turned to fall. America elected a new president. Fall turned to winter. Christmas came and went.
High-School Musical 3 came out, and people actually went to see it. Nearly a year had passed, but I still hadn’t written anything. Worse, I was feeling bad for not living up to a promise, so much so that I could barely bring myself to blog about anything at all. My blog, already sadly neglected, drifted into dereliction.

So, these comments are as much an effort to resuscitate my blog and assuage my guilt as they are an attempt to squeeze the square peg of my words into the round hole of the most indescribable videos on YouTube. When you watch a babyporridge video, don’t expect a coherent story. Don’t expect a comprehensible idea. Don’t expect anything to make sense. All that you can reasonably expect is the sight of a young lass in her late-teens/early-20s frolicking in front of her video camera, sometimes showing off her musical skills, delighting in her own nonsensical sense of humor, and exuding her infectious zest for life.

Here’s a video of hers called “I Was a Fetus Once,” in which she announces her nineteenth birthday. In this shot, she’s flipping a clear plastic ruler through her pitch-black locks. In the next shot, she’s lip-synching to “Delicious Demon” by The Sugarcubes, sometimes clad in a black dress, sometimes in male drag with a mustache scribbled on the finger resting just below her nose. Now, she’s concocting her famous booger soup (a recipe she obviously stole from Rachel Ray) and dancing around her kitchen. Did I miss anything? In her video “Paperbananas,” she holds a banana in front of the lens. Wait a second! That’s not a banana! That’s an avocado with a hand-drawn sign saying “banana” tacked to it. Could’ve fooled me! The video titled “What Disney Left Unsaid” features her as Cinderella opposite herself as her own Shakira-wigged fairy godmother, singing in high-speed overcrank. What’s it all about? Haven’t the foggiest. But why am I laughing so hard?

Hmmm ... I’ve written this much without mentioning that babyporridge currently lives in Australia after spending her childhood in the Philippines, Malaysia, and the United States. So, even though she presently resides in Sydney, she sounds like she comes from middle America — give or take a broadened A or clipped R. There’s no way of discretely inserting that info into this blog post. I’ll need to find another way.

If anything can be said, it’s this: babyporridge’s baffling videos demonstrate how viewing habits and expectations have changed since the advent of digital video and its transmission on demand via computer. Back in the days before home video (yes, I was around then), the idea of watching an audiovisual presentation without a readily identifiable point to it would widely be seen as a waste of time. But with the availability of webcams and streaming video, any “rules” about what makes for a worthwhile viewing experience fly out the window. Now with YouTube, a cat playing the piano carries as much viewer fascination as Lucy Ricardo stuffing her face with chocolates. If instant video weren’t just a mouse-click away, would there be room for the stupefying silliness of someone like babyporridge? And to what extent is the appeal of these videos connected to the concept of a virtual community? In other words, are some viewers drawn to videos like babyporridge’s because they feel that they are getting to know someone socially?

But at the end of the day, babyporridge videos are fun to watch, pointlessness and all. They are reminders that some of life’s magical moments don’t need any meaning. Lewis Carroll understood that. Unfortunately, babyporridge/Nikki has not been particularly prolific of late. After a year or so of regularly producing about a video a week, she has made (or not deleted) only four videos in the last eight months. A much-needed hiatus? If so, she’s earned it. Here’s hoping, though, that the video gods will instill babyporridge with inspiration once again. Every now and then, the world needs to stop making sense.

a babyporridge video