Friday, April 04, 2003

THE COMMENTARIAT REACTS With the left losing so often these days, why do we let the right dominate the debates we can win? Instablogger pointed a thousand browsers to the Indymedia site, and now the comment board looks like FreeRepublic.com.

Now more than ever, folks: Let them know, as I posted, "this is not the left I signed up for":

I'm no friend or fan of Michael Kelly's, either, but calling him a "Nazi" just gives the folks at Instapundit (as a opposed to the "folks at Indymedia") a chance to prove to themselves that they're right about the left. The comments thusfar (20 in the last 30 minutes or so) tend toward "Little Green Footballs" knee-jerk jackhammering (an incomprehensible favorite: "I only hope that San Francisco is conquered by the satanic Saracens. Then you can enjoy as the the real Nazi-Arabian beasts teach you how to practice human sacrafice, bloodlust and how to worship Satan/Allah.").

This is not debate. This is not, to paraphrase protesters, "what democracy looks like." This is just dumb.

I can only hope that this board is swamped by more than just ugly comments from justifiably enraged right-wingers -- who no doubt will be calling the talk radio shows tomorrow to brandish this as an example of the left's "anti-Americanism." I hope more people like me -- Nader-voting, national-health-care-supporting, card-carrying ACLU feminists -- weigh in with our justifiable outrage. You aren't the left, Indymedia, we are.
ANY POLITICAL MOVEMENT THAT WOULD HAVE THEM AS A MEMBER Michael Kelly was not my friend. I think I met him once, as most journalists in DC tend to meet each other once. I disagreed with most of what he wrote and thought that The Atlantic's renaissance was perhaps over-appreciated. (Any magazine with David Brooks as a regular columnist can't be doing everything right.)

But he was a good reporter, by all accounts a decent fellow, and a father. Unless the folks at Indymedia can dig up a photo of him yakking it up with Goebbels, I'm afraid that their irresponsible, juvenile tagline to the news of his death:

WP Nazi columnist bites the Iraqi dust

is more than just petty, mean, and wrong, it's a sign of the End of the Left As We Know It. Or it should be. Who are these fucks? If they're what passes for "a viable alternative to corporate media's profit-driven agenda," then I'm going to buy stock in Clear Channel and start writing crawl jokes for Fox News.

I was going to call for anyone out there who cares to not give these kids any more attention than they deserve, but I figure that they consider lack of response to be business as usual by the corporate infotainment-industrial complex. So post on their bulletin board, give them a hard time, and -- especially if you're a liberal/left/progressive/Democrat/libertarian whatever -- let them know they aren't allowed to come the meetings anymore.
GRATUITOUS SELF-PROMOTION For me, the lasting lesson of the Eggers empire has been that if you call attention to your own short-comings, particularly in a knowing, pop-cult-conscious way, then it's ok.

So it both without shame and with a great deal of expectation that I call your attention to this piece in Slate, which mentions yours truly (twice!) in connection with the Eggers phenomenon/cultural tsunami that is the McSweeney's publishing empire.

I especially like it that there's no appositive explaination of who, exactly, I am. (You should just know!) I especially, especially am pleased to be associated with both the "good," "early" McSweeney's (before they sold out, man) and with the "bad," "over-self-conscious" (is there such a thing?) McSweeney's.

Is this why Dave stopped asking me to write? I actually suspect that it might have more to do with my beloved's singular pan of A Staggering Work of Over-Praised Genius. Or, you know, "Rick Moody" just looks better in a TOC. Or I just wasn't very good. Also a possibility!

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

"MARGE, IT TAKES TWO TO LIE. ONE TO LIE AND ONE TO LISTEN" Halliburton withdraws from the "invitation-only" bidding process to rebuild Iraq--they will continue to compete for secondary contracts, however. Leave it to our Simpson's quote machine to turn this marginally good news into a Homeric verbal pratfall:

I mean who cares if Halliburton works on reconstruction? Aside from symbolism, there's absolutely nothing disturbing or unpleasent about the idea.


"Aside from symbolism," indeed. I guess if you consider Halliburton pocketing millions in what would amount to an influence-peddling scheme as just a symbol for "one hand washing the other," rather than, oh, I don't know, one hand actually paying off the other.

But still, I wouldn't call it "disturbing or unpleasant" either. To cite another comedy eminence, The Daily Show's Stephen Colbert, the proper term for this may be "oh-Christ-just-when-I-was-about-to-buy-their-line-of-crap-ical."

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

WHEN DENIAL OF SERVICE ATTACKS A reader writes to remind me ("I suppose you know this by now," he says, generously) that www.al-jazeera.com as well as the network's main address, www.aljazeera.net, were felled by a "denial of service attack" earlier this week.

I know what you're thinking: "Denial of service attack? Does that mean that the Lysistrata Project is finally working?"

If only that were so. Rather, it seems that pro-war hackers decided to down the site in protest of the network's ruthlessly objective reporting.

The site's managers say that it's up and running now, but I've had trouble getting to the English language version. I can, however, get a peek at the Fox version: Al-Arabiya, which promotes itself as a "wise and balanced alternative" to what I can only assume they call "the liberal bias" of Al-Jazeera. (Mr. Murdoch, Mr. Ailes, I hope your lawyers are paying attention.)
FEDAYEEN OPENS FOR CAKEWALK AT THE 9:30 CLUB More potential punk band names:

The Fedayeen
Cakewalk
100 Bin Ladens
The Ultralights
Operation James
The Dubious Allegations

Monday, March 31, 2003

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE Last week, three of the top four Google search terms were "BBC," "CNN," and "al-Jazeera." I mentioned this factoid last week in my not-really-full-employment day job capacity, so I'm embarrassed that it took the Wall Street Journal to point out the idiocy it implies: People are too stupid to figure out for themselves that you can get to the BBC by typing "www.bbc.com," to CNN with "www.CNN.com," and to al-Jazeera with "www.al-Jazeera.com."

Hardly rocket science. These are the web-search equivalents of "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?" or, as the WSJ columnists put it, "calling directory assistance to get the number for 1-800-FLOWERS."

Always with an eye on the bottom line, the WSJ surmises that the "let Google do it" approach to web surfing spells the end of URLs proper: "People have become so used to getting good search results that the actual Web addresses are becoming increasingly irrelevant." Interesting, as my sketchy recollection of the early days of the web has it that URLs were always intended to be temporary placeholders until the time came when you could just type in the name of a "resource" into your address bar and you'd be reliably delivered there.

Ladies and gentlemen, that time is now. Of course, "internet keywords" got a step closer to the dream of disappearing URLs as far back as 1998, but keywords were proprietary and hit or miss. The Google toolbar is populist and popular.

The big losers in this search-engine success story? Well, some are obvious: Domain poachers, their lawyers, and indexers such as Yahoo. A survey cited by the WSJ story reported that users get to web pages via links than half as often as they used to; search engine referrals doubled.

I'm quite sure that G. Beato can come up with something more insightful than I can about what it means to lose the stumbling, what-happens-if-I-go-here method of web browsing. I suppose it's actually good news for pranksters like those who operate "premradonline.com" (not to be confused with "premrad.com") -- how can Premiere Networks sue them if there's relatively little chance that a search for "Premiere Networks" will get them to the parody/protest site? At least as the first option, it is, however, the third. Perhaps it's not such good news after all.