Power Hours are my favorite form of social drinking (side note: my favorite form of non-social drinking involves Colt 45 and Youtubing bad 80s horror movies). A Power Hour is when you take a shot of beer every minute for sixty minutes, while listening to a pre-made playlist of song clips. The signal for taking a shot is indicated by the change from one song to another on said playlist (in other words, there is a 60 second snippet of each song you’ve selected). I’m sure it sounds strange and contrived from that description, and that’s because it is strange and contrived. As you might imagine, it’s popular on college campuses. It is, in my humble estimation, the best pre-game for someone venturing out to a bar or party. However, I’m not sure if that reveals more about the pleasure of Powers Hours or the dubious quality of my character.
A Power Hour is not a game. I’m not saying that condescendingly, the way people sometimes explain that a particular thing is “not a game,” like the beginning of that DMX song where he barks and goes, “This… is… not… a… F-CKING… game!”
Well, about 75% of DMX songs start like that, I guess. But when I say a Power Hour is not a game, I mean that it is not competitive, and there are no winners or losers. There is no score. It’s just a well-crafted activity that deftly blends friends, drinking, and music.
So stop saying, “Hey, does anybody wanna play Power Hour?”
It sounds weird.
Power Hour — when spoken, the words seamlessly entwine. When used regularly, they become not just one word, but a single syllable, all soft consonants and congealed verbs. When each word is pronounced distinctly it sounds jarring, like when my mom holds a pregnant pause in the middle of saying “Best Buy.”
I have done audio Power Hours of heavy metal, rap, and Christmas songs, as well as video Power Hours featuring music videos, terrible commercials, viral videos, and clips from the Simpsons. The level of planning that goes into designing and editing Power Hours is pretty impressive at times.
I believe they (yes, they) are preparing us for a media culture in which everything is digested in 60 second snippets. Some people might argue that we’ve already reached this point, that MTV-editing and the immediacy of the internet and information-access systems have already shrunk our attention spans to these narrow limits. However, they are missing a crucial part of the equation — we must also be provided with small doses of alcohol to soothe the despair caused by our cultural vapidity. Once we are equipped with time-lapse alcohol pills that keep us at a steady buzz throughout the entire day, the generation of the Power Hour will begin, and the corporate overlords will hold us at their mercy. Our already reduced powers to separate culture and commerce will be completely subdued, and they will continue to blend entertainment and propaganda, fact and fiction, art and advertising, until we are completely in unison with their overarching vision for society. I offer no judgment on this view of the future. Power Hours are powerful, indeed, as they operate under the (correct) principle that the right mixture of alcohol and socializing can make literally anything enjoyable. When Power Hours fall into the wrong hands, they will become weapons of mass delusion.
Nightly Power Hours resemble my father’s drinking habits in an artificial sort of way. He would drink about six beers every night while sitting at the kitchen table. At least, that’s how I remember it. He drank heavy beers like Guinness that I’m too lame to enjoy. Of course, he didn’t drink them out of shot glasses. He also drank at a much more relaxed pace, probably over the course of three hours or so. And he didn’t listen to music.
My father listened to music pretty rarely, and when he did, it was mostly out of nostalgia. He listened to Ray Charles or Steppenwolf, or played some of his old records on the 45-record player that he bought second-hand. He never listened to background music while he was doing other things, though. He asked me to turn the music down in the car because he thought it was important to listen closely to the engine, or something. For him, listening to music was something you set aside time once in a while to do, like watching a movie or doing a puzzle.
Usually when he drank he just watched TV or tried to start conversations.
My friends and I used to joke about the prospect of explaining various drinking games to a doctor during a general checkup.
Doctor: Hello Ted, it’s nice to see you again. I see here you put “20 beers” in regards to your weekly alcohol consumption. That’s a lot.
Ted: Actually, Dr. Hypothetical, that’s a pretty conservative guess. I felt a little guilty about telling the truth. To be honest, I drink just about every night.
Doctor: How much per night?
Ted: Well, I do a Power Hour every night. It’s a drinking game. Well, not really a game, more of a drinking activity. A drinking hobby, if you will.
Doctor: A Power Hour? I’ve heard of Beer Pong. What’s this Power Hour?
Ted: Well, it’s one of those things where you set aside an hour of every night, preferably around 10 p.m., and you drink a shot of beer every minute for an hour.
Doctor: Good God.
Ted: No, no — it’s set to music! You’re getting the wrong idea. Really, it’s fine.
My college roommates and I used to do a Power Hour five or six nights a week. Sometimes I would keep drinking afterwards, and sometimes I wouldn’t. At the time, a Power Hour got me more “buzzed” than drunk. Nowadays, it makes me do that thing where you get up and all the blood rushes to your head, and you think, “Geeze, I’m a little drunker than I thought I was.” Then you woozily sit right back down without doing whatever it was you stood up to do.
My excuse for doing so many Power Hours was that they helped me fall asleep. I was having a lot of trouble falling asleep at the time.
My roommates and I listened to Power Hours through speakers that were connected wirelessly to our laptops. We had two TVs, one on top of the other. Somebody played a video game on one, and on the other, we would watch something that was good with the sound off, like America’s Funniest Home Videos, or America’s Wildest Police Chases. These were pretty much interchangeable, except the participants usually died in the latter and only rarely in the former.
Or we just watched sports or pro wrestling or whatever.
When we first moved in, I brought a box of Sega Genesis games, a broken bong, and a ceramic deer that I had stolen from my neighbors stoop.
When I moved out, it was a difficult transition. I mean, I owned Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Running Man on Blu-ray, and I didn’t even have a Blu-ray player.
Now there was no one to do Power Hours with, either. I’d lie on the couch tossing and turning, unable to sleep. I missed my apartment, my friends, and all the stuff we had that I didn’t know how to use. I missed getting exponentially drunk on a level so consistent that it could be graphed. I missed drinking to music I liked, on a playlist that my friends and I had painstakingly arranged. I missed the diversions I had elaborately designed to fill the stretching void that dulls everything.
Plus, now I was sleeping on a couch.
Sometimes after a Power Hour, I find myself inexplicably drinking beer out of a shot glass for the remainder of the night. It is inconvenient and messy — an unnecessary compulsive behavior, like masturbating into a condom.
I never actually explained what a Power Hour was to my doctor, or even the extent of my drinking. But once I was filling out a form for a standard checkup after a night of heavy drinking, struggling to tactfully answer the question, “How many alcoholic drinks have you had in the last 24 hours?”
First, I lied and wrote four, figuring that I’d show that I had been drinking, but not attempt to provide an accurate number. However, I scribbled that out because I was having some blood work done, and I figured it would be better to be honest than to have it screw up the results. In an attempt at a more realistic appraisal, I just wrote down a question mark.
I related the story to my mom later that day and she laughed resignedly, presumably wondering, “Why is my son such a goddamned idiot?”
“A question mark?” she said. “Don’t write a question mark! You’re just like your father was. He liked to go in for a checkup after a night of drinking and write down ‘six rum and Cokes’ for that question. He thought the doctor would appreciate this.”
My father always hummed when he had several beers in him; not melodies or anything, just atonal humming, like fluorescent lighting or a TV set on mute. It’s the kind of habit that sounds idiosyncratic and endearing in retrospect, but was just really annoying at the time.
Every culture devises its own etiquette, games, and behaviors designed to encourage group drinking. This apocalyptic desire lies at the heart of every frat kegger and office Christmas party — the shared unconscious flirting with the thrill of mutual oblivion.
New Year’s Eve countdowns resemble the self-destruct sequences found in the doomed spaceships of old-fashioned science fiction films. After the final tick, everyone shouts “Happy New Year!” but, who really considers the post-midnight revelry to be the legitimate beginning of the new year? The exhilarating charge lies in the duality of the moment: falling in the lapse between two years, and fueled by alcohol and lust, the celebration seems to exist outside of time itself.
The Power Hour lasts exactly one hour, divided into regimented minutes, yet, it also seems to transcend its temporal boundaries. Some Power Hours pass by in the blink of any eye, while others feel dense, prolonged.
“Didn’t the song just change?” people will commonly remark in disbelief as they refill their shot glasses.
Power Hours are so concerned with time and order that they transform these notions entirely. It reminds me of staring at a clock and watching the second hand tick off a minute – it feels like it takes forever. It’s actually kind of surreal. Your devoted attention distorts time until it loses its meaning altogether. By observing too closely, and marking it distinctly, time can evade your perception completely. The saying, “a watched kettle never boils” is pretty apt at describing the situation, although it is meant to evoke another sentiment altogether.
Individual time zones should band together to do group Power Hours during the nocturnal “extra hour” we get on the day Daylight Saving Time ends. When the clocks are set back, it will be as if nothing ever happened.
Except that everyone will be pretty drunk.
Lots of people think drinking beer out of shot glasses is for pussies.
I’m not sure what my father would’ve thought of Power Hours. Probably, he would have thought that they were stupid.
“I don’t want to take a shot of beer every minute,” he might have thought. Or, “I don’t want to take shots of beer at all. And who drinks six beers in an hour? What are you going to do the rest of the night?”
Our drinking habits diverge at this point, I suppose. But this isn’t surprising. We were very different people, and when we both enjoyed something, it tended to be for different reasons, or out of an attempt to bridge some distance that lay between us. He wouldn’t have liked Power Hours, and I’ve never been one to throw a few back every night to relax. But I’m sure we could have found some common ground that we both would’ve enjoyed, even if he hummed the whole night.