May 28, 2009

Dead like me?


If you've been reading this site lately, you've probably noticed that there's been nothing to read lately. Longtime suffers of Radosh.net will recall similar dry spells, but this week I not only didn't judge the last anti-caption contest, I didn't even post the new cartoon. I mean, what the fuck?

Here's the thing. First of all, I've been pretty busy with real work for a few months. I'm juggling several things, including one big story that's a lot of fun, but kind of an ass-kicker. Every time I'm tempted to spend half an hour blogging, this annoying little voice in my head asks, "Is that the best use of your time right now?"

But there's more, honestly. I usually enjoy blogging. That's why I do it. But lately it has come, sometimes, to feel like a chore. Who does chores that they don't have to? No one, that's who. Part of the problem, I think, is that Facebook makes it too easy to share links and toss out random thoughts, which is about all I'd have time to do on the blog right now anyway. On a blog, two barely thought-out sentences about some big story in the news seems lazy. In a status update, it's clever.

I know where this is leading, though I've been trying to resist it: Twitter. The problem is, I don't want to trade blogging for tweeting. Even if I could persuade myself that I could say anything meaningful in 140 characters, I doubt I can be persuaded that other people can. I like reading blogs, but following tweets? Not so much. My Facebook friends who stream their Twitter feeds into their status updates have pretty much all been hidden. So starting a Twitter account and then not following anybody would just be stupid. I wouldn't be part of "the conversation." And I'd get no followers.

And if I did somehow get into the Twitter spirit, well, that would be a monster time-suck. The pressure to keep the tweets coming is far more relentless than the pressure to blog. I can get away with one or two blog posts every couple of days (though not, I know, every couple of weeks). Twitter needs to be fed by the minute.

One compromise I'm considering is adding a microblog to this site, maybe even via Twitter. But of course setting up such a thing takes a fair amount of time, and then I'm back at square one. I've also had great success with guest bloggers in the past, and I'm willing to consider lining up a semi-permanent squad if you think that would be fun. At the very least, I'll make sure to have guest judges for the contest, since people seem to still enjoy it. Frankly I started it with the expectation that the New Yorker would quit in shame after a few month, but that doesn't seem to be happening, so I guess I'm stuck.

Anyway, sorry for the handwringing. The bottom line is, this site is not yet dead, just seriously pining for the fields fjords (Duh. My 15-year-old self would be so mortified for me right now). Feel free to talk amongst yourself until the ambulance arrives.

Posted by Daniel Radosh



I know what you about facebook. I now throw all my links up there and blog less than before.

I'm glad you have the work to be busy with. Whatever it is I'm sure it's a bigger audience and that's good all around.

The problem I have with twitter and facebook is that I don't have time to read a deluge of tweets and status updates throughout the day. I have a job. And I don't give a shit if "Celia is thinking about puppies right now" or that "Monique sent Darrell a shocker." That is a waste of my time.

I want to check in once every day or two, read something substantial about Huckapoo (i.e., more than 140 characters, and some photos) and toss my hat into the caption contest ring.

The very idea that someday the world will exist solely in Internet quanta of 140 characters or less is infuriating. The whole is less than the sum of its parts. That is, until Google invents a tweet aggregation tool which will turn a given number of hours of tweets into intelligible prose.


Actually, two really well thought out sentences would be enough for me. And refreshing. Like a caption.

A moment of silence please for Aurence Matheson.

She was a hot piece, n'est-ce pas?

Except that "pining for the fjords" = dead.

I've recently started using Twitter as a writer/inventor and I'm really liking it.

When I am working on a particular piece, there will be areas that an observation will spin off a potential new idea. I don't have time to work on it because I'm working on something else, but I would like to note it.

I have far more of these ideas than I can ever generate into actual products and Twitter lets me simultaneously record them and release them out into the world.

It's also fun trying to come up with quotable quotes. Everyone has massive amounts of media vying for their attention, I figure I'm just doing them a favor by making my potential contribution compact and entertaining.

The problem most people have is filling it with uninteresting minutia. There's nothing wrong with that use from a social networking perspective, but the tool has a namespace problem currently since creating new feeds requires coming up with a new unique name in Twitter.

When one of the perfunctory NWO minions attacks a regular here, Daniel is usually the first to respond with an immediate defense. (Alex Jones claims the US government spends about $100 billion a year on propaganda and the US military about $10 billion, with generous funds to disrupt blogs by government-paid trolls.)

Yet when Daniel gets disparaged on his own blog, how often do we regulars pipe up in his defense?

It's no surprise Daniel gets demoralized - that's their design.

I learned that sketch off the record long before it came around in the TV cycle (on Ohio public TV, that is), and also thought he was saying "fields." Then when I saw Palin say it and got that it was "fjords," I thought that was just brilliant.

One thing about this whole 140-character business: The tweets that I read twitter for (and tweet on it for) contain links (is.gd gives you the shortest). Try not to think of it as a conversation that's just happening within 140-char bursts but that those are the hubs of larger conversations.

There's still a lot of stereotyping as to how tweets are all inane navel-gazing, exactly the same stuff that was being said about blogs 7-8 years ago.

The hours, apparently, became obscene.

several times in the past week i was going to leave a comment on this blog berating you for not posting anything. but i didn't have the time. either.

Daniel, give yourself a break. There is big difference between too buzy and too lazy. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. In the meantime...

As a service to my fellow anti-cappers, I have posted contest #195 on my modest little blog. Feel free to visit and use the comments section to leave your anti-caption. To start off, I entered an anti-cap that is sure to stir controversy!!

Anti-Cap Contest #195!

I check in almost every weekday before I start work. To have some sort of stake, I usually submit one caption, but rarely more than that because I am not a funny person. But I do so enjoy reading the many entries. And while reading though the new captions each time, I normally harrumph or snort or make some sort of noise, just short of laughing out loud, about three or four times a week. And I honestly do think, at least once a week, Damn, I wish I had thought of that one. A lovely twisted bunch of people add submissions here. Although I hold no grudge, I must say I snarl and spit when the contest is not updated. On the other hand, the unpredictability of when it is judged, or whether it is even judged at all, makes getting the results like spotting a nipple on The Benny Hill Show as an adolescent. You know it is coming. Wait for it. Wait for it. Wait. There it is! Yeah, baby!

My points are (1) reading through the entries is 90% of the fun, but (2) few would enter if the contest is never judged. (3) I will probably remain a follower until you shut the site down. (4) Even the weather girl on CNN is trying to getting me to follow her bullshit fragments. Death to Twitter.

Whenever I make a post to my blog to please my, um, half-dozen readers, I think, "Well, that's it. I will never post again." Yet, somehow, the urge returns.

BTW, I got bored of Facebook in a month, and the words "Twitter" and "tweet" give me hives.

It's my fault, isn't it?

A couple months ago, I went to a discussion at our local Bertrand Russell Society's meeting -- http://jayceland.com/blog/archive/2009/03/12/david-white-discusses-the-new-age-at-the-bertrand-russell-society-meeting/ . A college professor and philosopher David White was discussing his views on Joseph Butler and Ken Wilber and meandered his way into one of his innovative teaching methods: ask students to read a work then make a brief comment on what they took away from it. In other words, rather than the conventional absorb/regurgitate method, this is more of a collaborative effort because it creates an amalgam of tiny views that form a collective interpretation. His idea was that it was a path toward this so-called "Singularity".

I took this new idea like a kick to the nuts. It meant that all the time I spend introducing a topic on my blog (which predates the word "blog" by 6 months or so: brag brag [and I was totally doubling words for emphasis way before it was popular: lie lie]) was kind of a waste. I should be Twittering smart things instead -- to become part of the conscious collective consciousness.

It definitely feels different from a usual dry spell. It also correlates with the tail end of (as a friend's mom put it) my "arrogant thirties". Everything I learned in my 20's and 30's, I've espoused. So what now?

In any case, do whatever you feel is the right thing to do. I advised a friend recently when facing an unknown situation to try to think of the biggest good outcome -- the best thing to affect the most people -- and try and base your decisions on that. It's the forward-thinking corollary to my convoluted "do that which your future self won't regret."

When I think about the "collective consciousness" all I see in big, block letters is the caption:

"None of us is as dumb as all of us."

I will grant that it is impossible for us to have truly meaningful friendships or conversations with the entire globe, and simply feeding the pot of tweets adds to a collective something-or-other, but ultimately real conversation and friendship - and true understanding - require more than an amalgamation of thoughtlets.

Thanks to all those who have submitted anti-cap entries on my blog. Some of them are turly amazing! Very funny and very controversial. See for yourself (and submit your own entry):

Anti-Caption Contest #195

(And once again, this no dis on Daniel. Just trying to help the guy out while he is busy. Think of him as Curly and me as Shemp--if that helps.)

I don't like this sort of morbid speculation on your part. I take such pleasure in your thoughts, frequent or occasional. Twittering- tweeting is for the birds and essentially giving up- or giving over to something entirely lacking in structure or substance. icky. I'm not discussing Facebook. Your strength is clearly revealed in your stride. Not to suggest that you can't be concise and witty, but you basically owe me more. sort

Where is this cemetery/headstone located?

When you need to find a grave, try findagrave.com. For all your grave finding needs.

"I am a lie that tells the truth." -- Jean Cocteau, 1922

As Daniel Radosh so brilliantly wrote in his original amazing contest guidelines, one of the possible criteria for a stellar anti-caption (and in my opinion the most affecting) is aggressive unfunniness. Those get the belly laugh out of me and the other lovers of the genre at the bimonthly meeting of anti-caption trolls here at our anti-caption troll headquarters.*

At some point Daniel's droll little esoteria here achieved an unfortunate celebrity among the hoi polloi, and many anti-caption contest entrants since that fateful day haven't the advanced risibility resources to imagine how a proposed anti-caption, were it actually to appear in the pages of the New Yorker, would be an incredible parallel universe-type event. They seem not to have a personal history with the original magazine, hence little knowledge of or affection for it, so parody for them is impossible. A New Yorker cartoon anti-caption is a parody of a parody squared, hence a supreme form of parody. Mad skillz time.

Instead of parody these naifs go for simply "trying to be funny," which is what contestants in the official contest attempt, i.e., why the official contest is so lame. It's kind of like when Jay Leno became a shocking disappointment when he dulled his edge to appeal to the masses. Also kind of what slow Midwestern children do in middle school cafeterias.

Daniel's painstakingly detailed analysis of what makes a great anti-caption should win him an anti-Pulitzer. Never have I seen irony described so succinctly. Even a literal-minded humorless boob (of any gender) in her little black dress reading Daniel's humor instructions might for a fleeting moment examine her usual repertoire of kneejerk ripostes, mostly culled from sitcom dialogue as repeated to her by her fake greencard-toting Singaporean hairdresser. She might even realize that the giggles she hears after every gem she utters are solely her own. But alas, probably not. Explaining a joke is like teaching a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and annoys the thousands of YouTube users who will inevitably stumble on yet another video of a singing pig.

For anti-caption fanatics, it might be useful to track down the Harvard Lampoon's parody of Playboy magazine from 1961 or 1962 I believe, with its centerfold photo of a toothsome JFK-era nymph baring reverse-colored tan lines. The cartoons all contain delightful anti-captions if I recall. The one that stands out in memory is a drawing of a naked female speaking to a leering male, the caption something like: "Hi. Do you like my breasts?" Best. Anti-capton. Ever. (I have seen the National Lampoon's New Yorker parody from the 1970s, but remember not one of its cartoons, just a marginalia drawing in the faux listings section: a stylized row of brownstones, each with an identical burglar on its stoop stealing a television. Funny.)

Al in LA, old chap, you have in the past indicated that you require an anti-caption to be conventionally funny. If you insist on usurping Daniel's uber-inspired format (as a selfless mission of mercy no doubt) could you please pray that the anti-comedy gods grant you wisdom commensurate with your hubris?

Here's a hint: think of ironic humor as a hall of distorted mirrors. A conventional joke is told by one fucked up reflection to another, a third overhears it and repeats it to a forth who pretends to be a fifth not understanding it for the entertainment of a sixth, while infinite increasingly fucked up reflections interpret and misinterpret and generally mock all involved, each adding a layer of ... irony. The successful distillation of such a jolly clusterfuck results in the perfect anti-caption.

*We meet in one of the mustier men's rooms at Hunter College on east 68th Street. We're just down the block from the Council on Foreign Relations. In fact many CFRers join us for a quick bon mot and quickie with an undergrad homo as they sneak in one by one to wash the blood of the world off their hands.

damn. i keep checking this blog, forgetting that it's dead.

Oh, please, Daniel.

One big freelance gig and your blog is dead?

Gimme a break.

I have posted contest #196 on my blog. Click below to visit and leave your anti-cap in the comments section. To get started I posted an anti-cap that already has a lot of people talking. See for yourself:

Anti-Caption Contest #196

I've enjoyed this site for years. I will miss it. Good luck.

I totally get where you are coming from with the thought about "use of time."

When I started my own writing project I went right out and got myself a nice URL (my name, natch) and good hosting and even a few cool WP designs.

Then, I too had a "wtf?" moment when it occurred to me how my "blogging duties" might easily overwhelm the little time I'm able to set aside for "real writing" (whatever that is) and also feed into my own helpless OCD obsession with procrastinating activities...like reading your blog for instance.

That's why my ears perked up when you mentioned guest bloggers in passing.

Score! Maybe I can blog on your site la HuffPost sans the pressure to produce a reasonable volume of text.

So how would "guest blogging" work?

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