Like most politically minded Americans, Jonathan Barlow tuned in Monday night to watch Howard Dean go batshit-loonball crazy.
You've seen it. Letterman and Leno and Stewart made sure of that. Dean's third-place Iowa Democratic caucus concession speech, intended to cheer up and invigorate his cabal of devastated supporters, instead transformed our hero into Macho Man Randy Savage, hoarsely shouting random names of states before concluding with a banshee wail, a pterodactyl screech, a guttural primal scream powerful enough to smudge glass, if not break it.
"I even woke my wife up to tell her how funny it was," recalls Barlow, a 29-year-old working on his Ph.D in American religious history at Saint Louis University. "The next day, when I saw you could get the actual audio of his address, I knew I had to do something with it. I knew someone would."
Actually, everyone did.
Barlow downloaded audio clips of Dean's speech/exorcism and built a funky little 22-second sound clip around 'em using nifty music-making computer software he'd just picked up. "I figured my friends would think it was funny, and just the small circle of people who read my blog," he says. "It took me about fifteen minutes. I posted it up there (www.barlowfarms.com) and by 10:30 that night, I got a call from ABC. So, overnight, you know? It wasn't even overnight. It was that night."
As he talks, he's straightening up his house, since a TV crew will arrive soon to shoot footage of Barlow playing back the clip on his home computer, which he now needs to dust. "Okay, I'm closing the bedroom," he notes. "So the camera won't see the bedroom."
Behold the next great Internet phenomenon.
No, wait. It's more than a week after the speech. Behold the death of a once-great Internet phenomenon.
The create-a-remix-using-the-Howard-Dean-YEEEAGGGGH-speech revolution lit up the Net like Dean's campaign had previously, bolstered by the audio clip's immediate online availability and the evidently enormous army of bored college students with high-tech studio software loaded on their dorm computers. "I've never done any remix or anything like that, but I was in a band in high school," explains Jonathan Strong, a twenty-year-old poli-sci major and staunch conservative at Wheaton College outside Chicago. "But I just kinda had this vision of this Howard Dean remix on Monday night at about midnight, and just went ahead and did it. It wasn't that difficult, you know?"
Part of that nondifficulty arises from the fact that Strong simply dropped various screams and yelps from Dean's speech into the middle of the Aphex Twin song "Wax the Nip." (Yes, staunch conservatives love Aphex Twin.) But (most) everyone forgave him -- Strong tapped into this particular vein early, so when he posted the creation on the site of his online poli-sci publication Right Magazine, gleeful downloaders leaped on it immediately.
Too immediately. The "Dean Goes Nuts Remix" is no longer available there. "Yeah, for one thing, the bandwidth was just too much," Strong says. "In the morning, people started downloading it, and I came back from class and my Web site was down. So I talked to the hosting company and I said, 'I wanna buy seven more gigs,' thinking that would take care of it for a while. Then I took a nap because I hadn't gone to sleep the night before, 'cause I'd been doing the remix and my homework. And when I woke up from my nap, the site was down again. I couldn't keep just buying bandwidth, so I had to take it off."
Strong's budget crisis made waves all the way across the Atlantic. In "Primary Colour," a sidebar about the Democratic primaries in the January 24 issue of The Economist, Strong was credited with the "Conservative gloat of the week" for the message on his Web site that read, "Due to bandwidth restraints, the 'Dean goes nuts' remix is no longer available for download."
Oh yeah, one more thing. "A lawyer from Aphex Twin contacted me," Strong says, "and he was like, 'Cease and desist allowing download of this file immediately,' and so that was an extra impetus to get it off there. My dad was pretty concerned about that."
Meanwhile, other Dean remixes spread like wildfire, largely thanks to the valiant efforts of Caner Ozdemir, a 21-year-old Turkish student at Ball State in Indiana. His major: "Uh, I don't know, computers, business?"
Ozdemir has taken it upon himself to register the domain DeanGoesNuts.com. "It was only eight bucks," he reasons. "So I was like, why the hell not?" The site now houses about 50 Dean remixes, most of which were e-mailed to Ozdemir directly after word of his archival project got out. There's a lot of material to wade through -- plenty of techno mash-ups, along with fusions of James Brown's "I Feel Good," Primal Scream's "Come Together," and, inevitably, Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle." Best of all is a truly hilarious collaboration between Dean and hip-hop crunkmasters Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz: "Throw it up! Missouri! Throw it up! New Mexico! Throw it up! Delaware! Throw it up! Arkansas!"
A question: Has the scream and its aftermath destroyed Howard Dean?
Ozdemir -- a Dean supporter -- says no. "All our politicians are scripted and gay," he reasons. "They just don't let it go. The reason I like Dean is he just doesn't give a damn. He says the first thing that pops in his head, which I think is nice. Even if he loses and fails miserably, I still think that shouldn't disappear."
Strong, the staunch conservative, obviously feels otherwise: "This is kinda his final over-the-top, go-out-with-a-bang demise." That opinion is shared by Michael Green, a 52-year-old consultant and engineering part-timer responsible for the Ozzy Osbourne "Crazy Train" Dean remix currently housed on Ozdemir's site and Green's own FarmGolf.com.
Green, who's not entirely comfortable with the phrase the Grandfather of the Remixers -- "Well, I'm not a grandfather, so you can't call me that" -- admits to a somewhat nefarious agenda. "If I can help Howard go down, I guess I would get a little bit of enjoyment out of it," he admits. "We're kinda taking odds...we're figurin' Wes Clark is gonna be the next one to make a major mistake. We'll see what happens. When it does, I'll see if I can't come up with somethin' else."
As will everyone with a decent computer, a slight political bent and nothing to do for the next, oh, say, fifteen minutes. "I wish I was getting calls from ABC for doing something really cool," Barlow laments as he tidies up his house. "I sorta feel like I'm getting calls from ABC for doing something that really anyone could do, if they tried to."
Say what you want about Dean's politics, but he's certainly been an inspiration.