June 27, 2006


The 9/11 conspiracy theories are going mainstream ... or at least they've made the front page of Salon and there's talk of theatrical distribution for the leading alternative history documentary.

I had a number of friends in high school who were really into JFK conspiracies and it kinda fascinated me how a single event, observed by so many, could be interpretted in so many divergent ways. Surely, I thought, if only we had better documentary evidence of the assassination, we could settle the issue once and for all.

The 9/11 conspiracies are a strong rebuttal to that point. Not only do you have arguments about whether the Pentagon was hit by a plane or a cruise missile, but there are even folks who don't believe planes hit the Twin Towers.

We're talking about an event that was witnessed live by millions of people and video taped from numerous angles. And yet, apparently, those arguing on the side of heretofore unknown holographic technology have achieved enough of a foothold that someone needs to write 20-odd pages explaining precisely how preposterous this sounds.

Holograms, for crissakes! Makes the grassy knoll seem pretty pedestrian.

June 24, 2006

June 22, 2006

Back in the Saddle

I've started playing a bit of Warcraft again. It's still a very well done game.

June 19, 2006

One note

(Henceforth, I will only blog about the following three things: Ze Frank, Vegas/Poker and why the New York Times sucks. With the previous two posts, this one completes the combo trifecta.)

Ze Frank made the NYT yesterday with a piece by Warren St. John in the Sunday Styles (?) section. The article is about the Fabuloso Friday episode of Ze Frank's The Show in which viewers of the video blog collaborated using a wiki to write the script for June 9th's episode.

Ze Frank then faithfully executed the script (mostly gags making him do/say stupid things) about which he observed in the NYT, "The meta joke here is, 'See how hard you can shake the marionette.'"

While St. John's article contains background on both The Show and Ze Frank himself, the central question is "How well does audience generated content work?" The borscht-y headline reads "And You're So Funny? Write My Script" and the conclusion about the quality of the episode is "Mr. Frank's performance was true to the script, and if that is any guide, it is doubtful that any 'Saturday Night Live' writers will soon lose their jobs to the vast networks of volunteer comedy writers on the Web."

The last sentence truly irks. First off, while it's natural to ask "Was it funny?" (my answer: not as funny as a regular show) St. John's conclusion illustrates the flaw at the heart of so much of the NYT's reporting about online media. The NYT cannot help but see online content as a possible wholesale replacement of traditional media. Around every corner is a group of young cannibals agitating to eat the collective lunch and staff of the Fourth Estate.

This leads to reporting where folks who are doing stuff online have to be patronized in order to be discussed. For example, Warren St. John's piece has this line in the 3rd paragraph "Like a lot of young adults, Mr. Frank, 34, has a Web site." Doesn't 'young adult' usually refer to a literature targeted at teens? Perhaps this sentence just got recycled from one of the MySpace articles but isn't 34 solidly adult adult?

(The original sin in this category is Rebecca Mead's New Yorker piece from November 2000 which is frequently cited as the first big article on blogs but is really just a story about the relationship between Meg Hourihan and Jason Kottke. She's recently written a followup on how blogs have evolved ... the thesis: after some time apart, Jason and Meg got married!!)

I've never read McLuhan ... or rather I tried reading McLuhan but couldn't follow the meter of his prose-poetry. But I'm pretty sure he makes a point about how new media doesn't replace old. In any case, I wish the professionals in traditional one-to-many media would just understand this single idea: No one is coming for your lunch. The reason your business models are failing is not because there's no role for traditional journalism in contemporary life ... it's because, as of late, your product has sucked beyond the telling of it. And I'm looking at you broadcast TV/White House correspondents.

Getting back to Ze Frank, it's worth noting that Fabuloso Friday is only one of a number of things that Ze Frank has done to get his audience involved in the act of content creation. In fact, one of the central premises of the show is that folks can try to gain admission to the League of Awesomeness by submitting video of themselves performing a Power Move.

The fact that this is absurd is less interesting than the fact that it is generative. Online content allows a creator to directly inspire content creation from others. By comparison, despite the fact that the Daily Show is the most important social commentary of our time, it's ability to inspire new content creation is limited. Television doesn't do dialog well. Ze Frank, on the other hand, is doing more interesting, new stuff to get his audience participating than pretty much anyone else online today.

And that, I feel, should have been the thesis of St. John's piece about Fabuloso Friday, not how high it scored on the laugh-o-meter.

June 14, 2006


Ze Frank is in Vegas and had the following smart thing to say about the old place:

Here, what you see is what you get and there's no reason to feel like you're missing anything. This New York [the casino] means the same to me as it does to everyone else. Everything is out of context and that means context allows for everything.
I completely agree.

June 12, 2006


The NYT (magazine) has found more things online that are destroying our children. We already knew about the fatal charms of blogs and webcams, now it's online poker. I'm guessing I missed the cautionary tale about Warcraft.

Anyway, of all of these, online poker is the most legitimate one to cause concern. College kids do all manner of stupid things; losing all of their money online seems a reasonable addition to the repertoire. But I just can't get over the sensationalistic way in which the NYT tells these stories.

It's always the same; find the most extreme example of compulsive-destructive behavior for a given online activity and show how the factors at play in said example could easily lead to your own Little Johnny blowing the entire SigEp house in order to pay off his gambling debts.

The protagonist in this week's story is Greg Hogan Jr. who, after a 16 month losing streak at online poker, asks his friends to stop at a bank so he can cash a check on the way to the movies. He walks in, robs the place for a couple grand, and is arrested a couple hours after enjoying Tilda Swinton's turn as the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia.

It's a juicy tale as Mattathias Schwartz reveals when he writes in the piece "Hogan's lawyer has been fielding calls from bookers at 'Oprah,' 'Montel' and 'Good Morning America,' all drawn in by the irresistible 'good kid robs bank' story."

The fact that I foolishly keep thinking that the NYT is somehow better than Montel is the only reason these pieces continue to irk.

June 06, 2006

The Sausage King

Oh, yeah. The Flacks were in town this past weekend.

photo credit: cupcake

June 01, 2006


A sign it's been a long day: The Examiner headline reads "Bay Area's share of anti-terror funding shrinks" and I'm thinking "Did we ever really have a big problem with psychiartrists who support Al Qaeda?"