Flash viral video: "We didn't start the fire"

Ye Li is a PH.D. Candidate in Decision Science at the University of Chicago.
Written by Ed Burnette, Contributor

Ye Li is a PH.D. Candidate in Decision Science at the University of Chicago. When he was doing undergrad work at CalTech, he "played around with Flash" and created a catchy version of Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire. It's "not exactly professional", Li writes on his home page, but it sure is entertaining. Think of it as 50 years of history compressed into 3 minutes:

[ Watch the video ]

According to Li, his creation has proven to be especially popular among teachers, who want to give their students some kind of connection with history in a format that will catch their imagination. The video has been out there for a few years but has only recently been making the rounds. While there has been at least one other adaptation of the song, the quality and timing of Li's version are impeccable.

Li makes it even more fun by sprinkling in personal comments like "Please don't sue"(a reference to the fact this is all copyrighted material used without permission), exultations to sing or dance with the music, and comments about the number of images used and the price of Flash."Please don't sue" -- from the video He even tosses in a few subliminal quotes like "I am not young enough to know everything" (Oscar Wilde).

The song was released in 1989, and covers many of the headline events and people during Joel's life from 1949 up to that point. Popular entertainment, foreign affairs, sports, and other events are mixed together to give an impression of the culture at the time. Wikipedia has a complete list of all the events chronicled.

One could argue that the Li's adaption of Billy Joel's song will be a better legacy for future generations than any dry time capsule; a better message to the stars than a laser-etched plaque on the side of a spacecraft. Any aliens who want to view it will need to install Flash 9 first, of course.

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