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Summary:

If you made it to Pixelodeon a couple of weeks back, you might have seen Rob Parrish’s Tapes of My Father. Composed entirely of found, public domain footage set to voice over, Tapes purports to be a son’s presentation of recently unearthed videos made by his […]

If you made it to Pixelodeon a couple of weeks back, you might have seen Rob Parrish’s Tapes of My Father. Composed entirely of found, public domain footage set to voice over, Tapes purports to be a son’s presentation of recently unearthed videos made by his late father, a public access TV producer who secretly recorded his innermost thoughts over stock footage reels. On Parrish’s Blip.TV page, the clip is listed as the 33rd episode of his fascinating and addictive weekly series Next to Heaven, but to me it seems like a more logical entry point for the series as a whole than any of the 32 episodes that precede it.

The intro to Tapes is played dead straight. When the son says something like, “Releasing dad’s secret videos in this film is part of the healing process for me,” even though it plays over footage branded “Public Access Producer’s Association” (or, “P.A.P.A”), it’s still possible that this could be a real, non-ironic tribute from a real son to his real dad–there certainly are enough of them on YouTube. But the second we flip over to “dad’s footage”, it’s clear that Parrish isn’t emulating or even spoofing the existing family tribute genre. He’s much more interested in a different genre: the comedy of personal misery.

Parrish seems to be using the juxtaposition of old footage and narration both to evoke nostalgia for the era of the totally subjective movie narrator, and to conduct an investigation into the nuances of a certain type of first-person storytelling, one that’s simultaneously confessional and not at all reliable. But all of that aside, each episode also works as a kind of convoluted joke. Throughout the series, as in Tapes, you never see the punchline coming right away, because Parrish is so slick about slipping into the tropes of the footage that define each clip. Maybe it’s a trick of the ears and eyes, but Parrish’s modulated voices pair so well with his montages that, sometimes, it’s not until I’m laughing out loud that I remember that I’m watching a manipulation.

I’ve watched about ten Next to Heaven episodes, and my favorite so far is probably episode 41, in which an ex-junkie describes replacing his addiction to heroin with an addiction to anti-drug education films–particularly those narrated by Paul Newman.

  1. Karina –

    Wow! What a nice surprise. I was reading NewTeeVee (as I often do), and there I was. Thanks so much for the thoughtful article.

    Rob

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  2. i love rob parrishes work.
    his personal videoblog is also amazing
    check out this video, one of my favorites:

    http://www.hoppervideo.net/2006/08/hand-carved-tusk.html

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  3. Rob Parrish surprised us all with his NTH series.
    Its one of those gems that will really shine when his year long project is complete. A benchmark for videoblogging.

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  4. [...] Karina Longworth wrote that “Parrish’s modulated voices pair so well with his montages that, sometimes, it’s not until I’m …” His work is always surreal and often funny, yet remains oddly coherent and even poignant at [...]

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  5. Joseph Hiles III Thursday, January 24, 2008

    What common, pretentious drivel. I loved it all. The peculiar part is the obvious suburban, I’ve got a rich daddy but no talent of my own, brilliance. Thanks Parrish. You make the fool look wise. Aside from being a not-too-serious “junkie”, what do you actually recall about the early childhood trauma? You brightened up my day, baby. Whoa. Any chance that you might ever make a buck hocking this schlock? Or are you an undiscovered wiki-genius, searching for some sugar?

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  6. Sunny days Parrish. The above guy Hiles III obviously hit it on the head. Brilliant! Thanks for the laughs. I get it now, cracking on yourself, the “lack of talent wanting more” thang! Esoteric. Funny shit boy.

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  7. Hung "Ping Pong" Wong Thursday, January 24, 2008

    stitches, shit!

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  8. yucks rob. looks like you have a following!

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  9. keep going spike! we know ya got talent! someday they’ll all look back and see what shining stars we were. vlogging is eons ahead. we’re the new frontier. they’re jealous. love ya babe. london is sinful…

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