Archive for September, 2003

Blogs briefing the press

September 30, 2003

Billmon think’s truly pathetic that journalists are getting their background on the Plame Affair from blogs, but one of his commenters points out that its the journalists who aren’t reading blogs who are harder to understand.
It’s a great thread, not least because it includes this rewrite of Shakespeare by “Monica”:

To the liberal blogosphere:

Shall I compare thee to a Full-Blown Criminal Investigation?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the blow-hards of the right,
And public hearings have much too long a wait.
Sometimes too hot the eye of a Full-Blown Criminal Investigation shines,
And often is the punditry’s sensibility dimmed.
And every Liar from lying sometimes declines,
By chance or a court-issued subpoena.
But thy eternal truth-seeking shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that integrity thou ow’st;
Nor shall Drudge brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in esteem of lazy reporters thou grow’st.
So long as men will lie and press is free,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

It’s been interesting watching people like Kevin Drum systematically tracking down and refuting the right-wing lobs and trial balloons. The story is being written in a collaborative fashion, to some extent a right-left dialectic, but the usual order-chaos axis is in there too, along with the delicate dance of source-pimping.

Like 'what is jazz' but bloggier

September 29, 2003

Just as a novel approach to time is part of what makes jazz jazz, the reverse-chronological format of weblogs are their defining element, says Michael Feldman in Dowbrigade News.

But for me, the crucial factor is that a blog is a web site organized in REVERSE chronological order, and this makes all the difference in the world.

And you can quibble about running the current day’s items in forward-chronological order and still being a blog, but it’s true that having the newest stuff above the fold just makes good sense. It is a form that the medium demands.
The web is about now. The web is about “What have you done for me lately?”
I’m glad Michael hearkened back to Greek and Roman concepts of storytelling, because someone once told me that modern people look at time as if we are on the prow of a ship cutting through the sea. The past is behind us, the future lies ahead. This is the heroic American posture familiar from film and legend.
The Greeks, my friend told me, viewed time as if we were in the stern of a ship moving across the ocean looking back at our wake. As I thought about it, this metaphor is in many ways more apt. We back into the future. We can’t see it. We can only see the past, but even then we can only see the ripples and memories of the past, gowing fuzzier and fainter as they recede into the distance.
While running backward, blogs actual face forward, each new post an updating of the constantly moving now, already gone when written, long gone when read. (But the slicing of time before, during, and after now gets more refined, as the filters and the obstacles and the editors and the gatekeepers and the schoolmarms are removed from the workflow.
The quickly dying moment is noted. With it’s last breath it pings or some other page of recently updated blogs. Perhaps someone sees it, is reminded, takes a chance, encounters the noted moment only recently deceased, still warm.
The dead past is still smelly when you stumble across it on a blog.
Michael says,

Blogs… follow a chronological order which is neither random nor abstract. It is simply straight chronological order IN REVERSE. This is again a direct result of the technology used to create blogs, and defines their basic nature. A blog, if you read it every day, is an evolving, unfolding story as seen through the eyes of the blogger, but to a new reader it unfolds backwards as one reads down the page.

Yes, sure, till you’re caught up, like asking your mother what happened on the soap opera in the last week or so, and in fact this is disorienting to new blog readers! Too bad it’s not easy to backfill, add roadmarks at some good starting points for various story arcs. But, hey, it’s working.
I would quibble with “it’s a direct result of the technology used to create blogs” only insofar as to point out that the technology itself evolved in response to the needs of the living web, where things that are not easily updatable and that don’t advertise their freshness fall out of circulation.
I think Michael gets very close to the nut of the thing when he writes “A blog… is an evolving, unfolding story.”

Schwarzenegger is scary

September 29, 2003

Last night I saw Arnold’s “Indian Gaming” ad and when he said, “I promise you, things will change” I suddenly realized that we are in fact a phantasm in the mind of Philip K. Dick, still transfixed by a sourceless beam of pink light, turning Hollywood into reality, one politician at a time. On the right coast a treason scandal is erupting. Is Jerry Bruckheimer advising any of the candidates?

Imminent death of blogging predicted -Film at 11

September 28, 2003

Written in the mode of a jaded Internet old-timer (how weak is that?), a New York Press Media & Politics item points out the deep irrelevance of weblogs, noting that they are “a circle jerk” and that the best bloggers long to be media columnists like ol’ no-signature who penned the slam.
You have to scroll down from the link given above to the item (Best Loyalty: To Print). Something the Press could learn from blogs about online journalism is to make each item uniquely addressable. Of course that would require the use of permalinks or some equivalent, which would involve knowing more about the so-called new form than this jaded “ho-hum I had a homepage in 1996” journo has bothered to do.
Let’s set our watches to check this prediction around October, 2004:

The blog is a dead form within two years. On the outside.

Speaking of the web address for the column, it uses a raw (unescaped) ampersand in its URL. Sniff.

[via Elizabeth Spiers – in whose comments see also an encomium from Peter Jurew at the New Yorker, who says “Keep on writing!”]

Working titles

September 28, 2003

When I get around to writing a novel loosely based on this period of my life (but not legally actionable), I may want to call it South Lake. I like the name for some reason. I try to name all my novels, even the ones that are still just a glimmer in my eye. Having a name puts them on my short list of what to work on when I’m stuck on whatever I’m supposed to be working on. Currently, by the way, that’s Johnny Come Lately (a working title), my memoir of growing up in New York centered roughly on 1974 – 1976.
I’m at the point where I should put the working titles in chronological order based on the period inspired or portrayed in them. I’ve got nothing for high school or college ’cause those still feel like really hackneyed times to me. More fun to end JCL with me preadolescent with the Studio 54-era coming on. I remember people in 5th grade repeating lines from the first season of SNL: “Ouch, my penis sure hurts when I urinate!” and stuff like that. Fairly radical for 10- and 11-year olds.
For the period of the late ’80s – early ’90s in San Francisco (all pre-dotcom), I’ve got History of Utah (a novel in the form of a bunch of Camper Van Beethoven bootlegs, some mixed tapes, and commentaries), and For You, the Stars a set of short stories, at least one per girl.
Only Way Free stalled out with about 100 pages happens in the mid-90s, eventually including email. It deals with hack writing and fidelity and is stuck on a context-shift metanovel thing that’s kind of embarassing.
Wellspring is my dotcom novel, mostly a sketch, pretty theoretical, and possibly not worth doing but when I took the stock options, I promised myself I’d take notes and capture some of the best scenes, and it does have three natural acts. It’s just a story that we all know too well right now. And how boring on the Internet, especially if you were here before, during, and after the bubblee. Still, again, witnessing is worth doing and maybe it will mutate to another context. Maybe I’ll set it in Texas in the ’80s.
A Supposedly Staggering Infinite Work of Heartbreaking Illumination I’ll Never Read is a hyperlinked writing sandbox with pretensions of someday spilling out at least one good story, possibly the one about Rafe.
Not set in period / hard to classify: Blurt is a hypertext that currently exists only on my Palm and which consists or many very short interlinked blurbs written for specific words.
I’d also like to take the a text like the neverending sentence a make every word a link. Maybe like a wiki so that some of the links went to form pages where anyone could define the word or write about it or reweave the slub back into the woof, or maybe more authorial, more auctorial than that. Still, the Mola Project has always made me want to write (or contribute to) a densely linked and nonetheless coherent hypertext story, one where literally every word (or almost every word?) links somewhere, but that’s another story.
I also wrote about two paragraphs of something called Wodeneye that might be about my dad. I’m not sure.
There, I’ve named them. Now I just have to finish, write, or start them and we’ll be all set.

South Lake

September 28, 2003

B commented on how it seems that numerous people we know have bought houses in the Brooklyn area on the south side of Lake Merritt (between Lake Shore and Park Boulevard). We live in a strangle little interstitial rhombus, bounded roughly by Oakland High on Park Blvd., Highland Hospital over on 14th. Ave., 580, the great class-divider in Oakland, between hills flats, high foothills and low foothills, the old MacArthur Boulevard route that turned Oakland into a commuter throughway, its traditional thoroughfares reduced to snaking over and underpassing the concrete, and some arbitrary point around 27th or 24th Street, in what used to known as the San Antonio area – probably a former ranch.
The patch between Park Blvd. and the Lake is more fashionable than our multiculti enclave, but they’re not too far apart. If you include the lately bustling Lake Shore area on the near side of the Grand Lake Thetre and the Trestle Glen / Glenview area near Park Blvd. above 580 (sometimes known as “baja Piedmont”), you’ve got a nice little thing going on.
I’m calling this rough area South Lake to give it some geographical context around Lake Merritt, which is the geographical focus of Oakland for me as well as, of course, not actually being a lake.

Microsoft, Apple blog plans?

September 28, 2003

The Blog Herald reads about a panel at the upcoming Microsoft PDC conference and predicts that MS will roll out a blogging tool as part of MSN or SharePoint. SharePoint 2003 includes a “Web Log” web package for including a blog-like element in a SharePoint collaborative website, but it’s only semibakes from my perspective. MSN would be a more likely platform to launch an actual service to compete with AOL Journals, LiveJournal, Google’s Blogger, and Six Apart’s TypePad.
Over at BlogRoots, mathowie notes that iBlog is being folded – ever so delicately – into Apple’s official .Mac offerings. Matt speculates that Apple is trying not to stomp on the independent iBlog product.

Substantial blogging at Edwards site

September 28, 2003

Mike Kasper from (an unofficial Edwards-supporter site) followed up my comment from a few days ago about John Edwards writing some of his own blog entries. I compared his first efforts to cat-blogging, in the sense of journal- or diaristic entries. I actually think that’s a good place to start and not a bad way for readers to get into the candidate’s head.
Anyway, Mike pointed me to a more recent entry from Elizabeth Edwards in which she addressed some more substantial issues. The Slashcode format of the blog permits threaded (and ranked) follow-on comments from blog readers, which is a nice community-encouraging bonus.

Essential to my story

September 26, 2003

Bringing nothing to read forced me to write.

  1. Some guy I hate, goading me on.
  2. A looming deadline.
  3. A tempting escapade.
  4. Anxiety, guilt, shame.
  5. Sex.
  6. Bodily functions.
  7. Unsatisfactory conclusion.
  8. Go to (1).

Shut up, shut up, shut up!

September 26, 2003

Today is, of course Talk Like Bill O’Reilly Day. Don’t make me turn off your mic!
This Internet is a hotbed of dangerous speech! Even the print media are committing liable against me. There’s something wrong in this country when famous people deliberately try to harm a legitimate businessman like myself.
Looks like O’Lielly’s are busting out all over. Why do they hate America?
My precious… bodily fluids.
Just shut up, everybody. Shut up. Shut up!