What distinguishespragmatic Internet optimists from their starry-eyed, pollyanna-ish optimist kin is the ability to recognize the real problems raised by technology. More than anything else, that means being able to appreciate great satire on the downsides of the Digital Revolution. Robert Lanham, author of TheHipster Handbook and other satirical classics, offers the definitive guide to the “post-print world” in his “Internet-Age Writing Syllabus & Course Overview” for the fictitious college course, “ENG 371WR: Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era.” If only the arch-pessimist Andrew Keen were half so funny!
As print takes its place alongside smoke signals, cuneiform, and hollering, there has emerged a new literary age, one in which writers no longer need to feel encumbered by the paper cuts, reading, and excessive use of words traditionally associated with the writing trade. Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era focuses on the creation of short-form prose that is not intended to be reproduced on pulp fibers.
Instant messaging. Twittering. Facebook updates. These 21st-century literary genres are defining a new “LostGeneration” of minimalists who would much rather watchLost on their iPhones than toil over long-winded articles and short stories. Students will acquire the tools needed to make their tweets glimmer with a complete lack of forethought, their Facebook updates ring with self-importance, and their blog entries shimmer with literary pithiness. All without the restraints of writing in complete sentences. w00t! w00t! Throughout the course, a further paring down of the Hemingway/Stein school of minimalism will be emphasized, limiting the superfluous use of nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, gerunds, and other literary pitfalls.
My favorite part, Week 8: New Rules:
Students will analyze the publishing industry and learn how to be more innovative than the bards of yesteryear. They’ll be asked to consider, for instance, Thomas Pynchon. How much more successful would Gravity’s Rainbow have been if it were two paragraphs long and posted on a blog beneath a picture of scantily clad coeds? And why not add a Google search box? Or what if Susan Sontag had friended 10 million people on Facebook and then published a shorter version of The Volcano Lover as a status update: “Susan thinks a volcano is a great metaphor for primal passion. Also, streak of my hair turning white—d’oh!“
Now, as it happens, I think Strunk & White, authors of the 1918 classic The Elements of Style, would probably have appreciated Twitter’s 140 character limit (and blogging more generally) for ruthlessly, if over-zealously, enforcing their core rule for good writing: Continue reading →
In January, we had the “Fear the Boom & Bust” rap video that pitted John Maynard Keynes v. Friedrich Hayek rapping about their respective approaches to monetary and fiscal policy, and theories of the business cycle. Now Pantless Knights (a web comic team) offers a terrific spoof of the Jay-Z/Alicia Keys video “Empire State” of mind rap video—instead of “New York,” the video celebrates the “New Dork” and the “Entrepreneur State of Mind.”
PantlessKnights describes the video as a “tribute to our favorite entrepreneurs (who are all ‘new dorks’).” The lyrics offer a short introduction to start-up capitalism:
Now I’m in the blogosphere, Now I’m in the twitterverse
Fans get so immersed, But I’m a nerd forever
I’m the new Zuckerberg, And since my website
I been cookin’ dough like a chef servin’ killa-bytes
Used to be the basement, Back at my mom’s place
Buildin’ web traffic so that we could sell an ad spaceContinue reading →
I have decided what my swan song moment in the field of public policy will be. For some time now I’ve been considering retiring from the public policy world since I am really quite sick of political BS in Washington, but I’ve always wanted to go out in style. So, here’s what I plan to do to end my career next week. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has just announced that he will be delivering a major policy speech outlining how the agency’s new National Broadband Plan will benefit children and families next Friday at 10:30. According to the press release, the Chairman will be joined by Sesame Street’s Elmo when making the announcement.
An ugly scene will no doubt follow in which several of my old friends at Common Sense Media, who are co-hosting the event, will try to talk me down from the cliff by asking me hand over the gun and to “think of the children.” But I’ll rush out the back door of the auditorium with Elmo in tow and escape in my getaway car. (I plan to live in mountains in rural Idaho and skim money off of the FCC universal service fund & the E-Rate program since I know how to rig the system from reading years of GAO reports on fraud and abuse of both!)
OK, so you get that this is all sarcasm, right? I don’t want to Secret Service showing up at my door on the grounds that I am threatening a Muppet. And I certainly don’t want to live in Idaho. But, seriously, what is the deal with politicians appearing with puppets? That’s always freaked me out a bit. I will never forget attending a congressional hearing about children’s television issues back in 1993 and watching a surreal exchange between Rep. Ed Markey and Lamb Chop, the sock puppet. Really, a woman with a sock on her hand (Shari Lewis) delivered testimony to Congress. No, seriously, it really happened. Check it out: Continue reading →
Adam saysno, as have Sonia and Wayne. Adam and I have pointed out that the FTC might want to think twice about crippling advertising at a time when it’s needed more than ever—before rushing to the kind of media bailout called for by the neo-Marxists at Free Press. The Onion‘s team of leading commentators generally agrees, but points out an under-appreciated dimension of the debate.
If you are like most Americans, three questions probably pop into your mind:
1) Am I paying for this?
2) Seriously, am I paying for this?
3) Because if I’m paying for this, I’m going to be really ticked off.
Indeed, it’s probably going to cost us a lot more than we can possible imagine, especially with all the lawyering and lobbying that will accompany it. Oh well, that’s Washington for you–we pay $2 bucks to get $1 worth of benefits. I’m voting for the National Elevator Plan instead.
Last week I received Public Knowledge’s press release and letter urging support of a “Bold National Broadband Plan.” I admire PK a great deal on several issues, but remain struck by the arbitrariness of demanding “national plans” for this-or-that technology. It occurred to me that if anybody were to actually ask me (so, don’t), I think I favor a National Elevator Plan instead.
Too many Americans live in two-story homes, and/or have basements, yet have no easy access to the upstairs bathroom and Halloween decorations in the attic, or to the aunt living up there. They are forced to rely on outdated “stairs” technology. (And stairs are dangerous! So this is far more urgent than broadband! Show your outrage! Etc.!) So I ever-so-slightly tweaked the letter; this bold new campaign is meant to rectify this injustice and I hope you’ll sign on and spread the word. Continue reading →
Let’s give thanks for the miracle of the modern Internet, which makes darn near any bit of fine literature or obscure doggerel available at our fingertips. A case in point: My search for Larry the Cable Guy’s “The Story of the First Thanksgiving as Told by my Drunk Grandpa” immediately returned a readable link:
Hey people. You owe me. All of you. You owe me free broadband. I am entitled to it, after all. That seems to be where our current FCC is heading, anyway. And hey, Finland’s just done it, and the supposed Silicon Valley capitalists at TechCrunch are giddy with delight about it. We’re apparently all just Scandinavian socialists at heart now.
Thus, I too have decided to throw in the towel on the idea of everyone carrying their own weight and picking up their own tab. So, get your wallets open and ready for me because I have lots and lots of things that I believe I have an inalienable right to receive free of charge from the government (i.e, “the people”; i.e., “YOU”). Please let me know which of the things on my high-tech wish list that you’ll be purchasing for me and I’ll check you off my registry so I don’t have to send the cops to your house to collect:
free broadband (fiber, Wi-Max, and whatever else is around the corner);
a couple of free new computers (and a really fast ones, thank you very much);
3 new HDTVs for my home (including one of those sweet new DLP projectors that usually cost about $10,000 bucks. And I’ll need you to pay for someone to help me install it. Or could you just come over and do that for me perhaps?);
3 free new DVRs for each new TV set that you are buying me (and could I get a nice universal remote to control everything, please);
a free subscription in my area to either DirecTV, Cox Cable, or Verizon FIOS TV (with all the premium channels and sports packages… and don’t forget the Playboy Channel!);
a free lifetime subscription to Netflix (or I guess I would settle for a free Blu-Ray player and some free movies);
free new wi-fi router and signal extenders for my home (N-standard please, none of that B or G garbage… too slow for me);
free mobile phone service for life + an iPhone + unlimited downloads in their app store (oh, could you have that iPhone autographed by Steve Jobs if you get a chance?);
free Playstation or XBox + lots of games (and if I could get one of those driving wheels to play my new Gran Turismo game that would be dandy); and finally,
free lifetime tech support when all this crap breaks down.
In closing, I thank you for your generosity. I mean, look, I know I don’t actually deserve any of this stuff, and that there’s no good reason that you should have to pay for my free-riding ways, and there’s obviously nothing in our Constitution to support all this, but hey… screw all that! This is my God-given birthright. I am entitled, baby! Now get busy thinking of how you are all going to start paying for me, you selfish bastards.
Please pardon its vulgarity, but for those of you out there who are as tired of the b.s. dished out by many self-labeled “social media gurus” as I am, I think you will very much enjoy this bit of humor from freelance journalist Markham Nolan. Too funny.
Gotta love The Onion… [Make sure to keep a close eye on the messages on the Twitter pages. And I like the "E-Mom's" advice to "Just make sure you spell everything wrong and swear a lot" to fool your kids. Great stuff.]