Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What Dr. Parker taught me about The Killers



In the fall of 2005, I was a sophomore at Concord University. Still fairly naive, not yet so jaded. I didn't even drink alcohol at the time. I don't remember what class it was, but I was in one of the basic 100-level classes in the Communication Arts program at Concord. It was with my favorite professor of all time, Dr. James Parker.

A profile on Dr. Parker was my first assignment for The Concordian, Concord's student newspaper. He was also new to the university in the Fall semester of 2004, just like me. The next week, I did a similar profile on Dr. Matchen, a geology professor. The third week saw a piece on Dr. Crick, a biology(?) professor. That third one was so bad that they stopped having me do those articles.

Anyway... What I remember from this 2005 class with Dr. Parker:

I dropped the class after a few weeks, the first of many mistakes I made while in college. That was the semester I tried to take 19 hours. I've noticed that 13 hours was really about all of the course load I could handle. Yes, I know how pathetic that is. I've never once professed to be a good student.

Dr. Parker had two specialties: television camera work, like lighting and whatnot and he also was a bit of a radio historian; he could talk a lot about the history of the medium. He also brought in his extensive vinyl collection one day. This was back before hipsters, because we all made fun of him for listening to records.

Parker talked about the history of radio and where the position of DJ was going. He talked about how all of the smaller companies were getting consolidated and the radio industry was going to only be run by a few large corporations at one point. It brought to mind the Tom Petty song "The Last DJ," a 2003 track that's about exactly that.

Parker casually mentioned that one trend he foresaw happening was for a wider array of radio personalities being syndicated around, but not being showcased that way; rather, being presented as people from local stations.

For years, I listened to my local classic rock station and never gave what Parker said another thought. In 2010, I was driving to Morgantown. My iPod died and I was forced to listen to the radio. I began scanning station and came across some music I liked. I listened to the next couple songs, then I was shocked at what I heard next: my DJ was on this other station! She was talking about this station like she worked there. That's when I realized Dr. Parker's prediction had come true.

To address the video at the top...

The class was learning about a director's job and what they were responsible for doing. He was talking about the differences between directing for television and movies. Parker brought up music videos, adding that it wasn't like a television show where you watch it once and go on to the next episode in the series. The point of a music video was to be watched multiple times so that the song gets in your head, leading you to buy a CD or ticket or merchandise.

One of the popular songs in the fall of 2005 was "All These Things That I've Done," by The Killers. The music video tells a story of two rival gangs, presumably in the Mexico or Texas area. One is all male and the other is female.

Dr. Parker's words hit me because that video is presented out of sequence. Before each segment, a woman holds a numbered card. There are eight sequences, numbered 0, 4, 1, 3, 6, 5, 2, and 7. In the proper order, it tells a somewhat clear story. But the video shows it out of order, necessitating several views in order to understand it.

I didn't bring this up with Dr. Parker for two reasons. The first was because I figured he hated that kind of music. The second was because I didn't own the album for him to listen to it and while YouTube existed in 2005, it was definitely in its infancy and I didn't know much about it.

Random trivia: the first thing I ever watched on YouTube was a clip from Conan O'Brien's NBC show where he would randomly pull a lever and a "Walker, Texas Ranger" clip would play.

So there we have it. A collection of things I remembered from a 2005 class at Concord University that I didn't even finish. 

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