Inhuman Swill : Internet

mayoremanuel-book.png
Hugo Award nominations are now open, and that means it's time to make good on my threat promise to spearhead a campaign to get the @MayorEmanuel Twitter stream nominated.

As you may recall, Bob, @MayorEmanuel was the anonymous but highly popular tweeter who created a profane and fantastic alternate Chicago during the course of our 2010-11 mayoral election season. Though it started out as something of a lark, by the time it wound down on the night of the election the stream had grown into one of the most absorbing works of science fiction of the year.

The author soon revealed himself to be Chicago journalist and educator Dan Sinker, and late that summer the tweets appeared from Scribner in book form, collected and annotated, as The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel.

I think this innovative story is deserving of a Hugo. At the very least, a nomination for this most Chicago-centric of SF works would be appropriate in a year when Worldcon comes to our fair city. I've consulted with experts, and we agree that we're best off to nominate @MayorEmanuel in the Best Related Work category. If you're with us, then for consistency please fill out your nominating ballot in that category exactly as follows, including the asterisks:

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Louis C.K. gets it

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Louis C.K. is one smart dude. He's not just one of the best standup comics working. He's also a writer, producer, director, and entrepreneur who's been making films for a long, long time. His FX series Louie—essentially a tenuously related string of short films—is the logical culmination of that interest. He even edits the series himself.

But standup is his main bag, and today Louis started offering his brand-new concert video, Louis C.K.: Live at the Beacon, at his website. Exclusively at his website. Streamable or downloadable. Completely DRM-free.

For five bucks.

This shouldn't seem like such a revolutionary idea, but for the movie and television industries it is. With all the hysteria over piracy in those quarters, it takes a smart, iconoclastic guy with the power to do his own thing to do something so simple and obvious.

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First, let me say that most of you aren't going to care about this.

To the few of you who do, let me say that my long LiveJournal nightmare is over.

Not that I have as bad an opinion of LiveJournal as some, but the fact that it had been my primary blogging platform for so long was holding me back from bringing all my blogs together under one roof. As I posted on Saturday, I'd written scripts a long time ago to let me crosspost my LiveJournal entries to my Movable Type blog, but now I wanted to switch that around and go the other direction. I wanted to be able to use Movable Type's superior content management system to work on more than one entry at a time, and to schedule them for automatic posting at future dates. It was only once I began looking into my options that I realized finding a solution would mean I could crosspost to LiveJournal from all my blogs. Bonus.

Interestingly, it was people I know who led me to the answer. My very first Google search led me to this 2008 post from Ben Rosenbaum, who was looking for a similar solution, and Tempest Bradford served it up in the very first comment. She pointed me toward a Movable Type plugin by Chip Marshall called ljcrosspost that sounded perfect. Several other sites praised it highly. The only problem was, site where the source code was archived no longer existed.

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RerunJournal

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I've been on LiveJournal a long time. I joined in October of 2000, more than eleven years ago. I've posted more than 2,000 entries. If you go to my profile page, you'll see that my user ID (17832) is in the low five digits. If you were to create a new account today, you'd get an eight-digit user ID. I obviously haven't been here since the very beginning, but I've been here long enough. I have a lot invested here. But I'm thinking hard about abandoning LiveJournal as my primary blogging platform.

I'm not going to rehash all the changes in management and ownership that have plagued us here over the years, the privacy concerns, the outages and denial-of-service attacks. That all contributes, but the biggest problem I've come to have with LiveJournal is simply the lack of some basic features that most other major blogging platforms feature. And two of the biggest of those are the inability to save more than one in-progress blog entry at once, and the inability to schedule completed entries for future posting.

Over at my personal site, I'm running a Movable Type blog. I know it's not the best choice out there, but it's the one my hosting service offers, and I've customized the hell out of it and even built some of my own widgets. I've written a script, also, to scrape my entries from here at LJ and repost them over there. But now I'm thinking seriously about reversing that polarity.

So here's my question. I know that a lot of you blog elsewhere and have your entries reposted to LJ. What process or service do you use to do it? How do like the results? I seek your wisdom.

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Dan Sinker is @MayorEmanuel
The man behind the curtain has been revealed. Well, really, he came out from behind the curtain himself. As reported by Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic, @MayorEmanuel is Dan Sinker, a journalism instructor at Columbia College in Chicago, and one of the founders and editors of the zine Punk Planet.

Having myself waxed rapturous over the @MayorEmanuel tweet stream, I can't help but feel a little disappointed that the mystery is no longer a mystery. I'm not nearly as disappointed as Jim DeRogatis is, because, hey, that Twitter account was a brilliant, engrossing, and uplifting example of a new form of literature, accidental as that might have been, and its author has every right to reap the benefits of his achievement. My disappointment is more that of a fan for whom part of the thrill was the not knowing, and the hope that we would never know. Did you honestly want to know for certain whether or not that top in Inception was ever going to stop spinning? I didn't.

But to be pragmatic, it was probably better that Dan Sinker control the revelation than that someone else out him, which no doubt would have happened sooner or later. And at least now we know whom to nominate for that Hugo next year in the Best Related Work category. (Hey, Chicago in 2012!)

Hats off, Mr. Sinker. As your character wrote: "Only things that fucking suck never end: look at laundry, or dishes."

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Into the time vortex!

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@MayorEmanuel
The most entertaining and rewarding piece of fiction of the past six months has been, without a doubt, the Twitter stream of @MayorEmanuel. (Sorry, Mongoliad.)

@MayorEmanuel is, or was, a delightfully profane Rahm Emanuel impersonator whose tweets started appearing six months ago, after the real Emanuel expressed his intention to enter the Chicago mayoral race. (Tagline: Your next motherfucking mayor. Get used to it, assholes.) The tweets were drop-dead funny—so much so that I'm sure I retweeted them more frequently than I've retweeted anyone else's—but at first seemed like little more than an amusing and perceptive piss-take on the real Rahm and Chicago politics.

But then a surprising thing happened. Characters from @MayorEmanuel's entourage began to develop, some based on real people (David Axelrod), others fictional (Carl the Intern, Quaxelrod the mustachioed duck). Storylines began to emerge. Riffing off the real ups and downs of the Emanuel campaign, the daily news, and even the weather, the tweets led followers through the dark underbelly of a fantastical Chicago populated by celebrities and politicians, by the famous and the infamous, by the living and the dead alike, with the gang often tooling around town in Axelrod's beloved but increasingly damaged Honda Civic. (Even the real Rahm tried to insert himself into the story, famously offering a large donation to charity if the anonymous author would come forward.)

From Jane Byrne's secret dungeon to a harrowing ride through the flooded sewers beneath City Hall, from New Year's Eve bacchanalia with Kanye West to Mayor Daley's secret celery dome, the story blended an insider's knowledge of the minutiae of Chicago politics and an intimate familiarity with the geography of the city with a stew of pop-culture references and jaw-droppingly absurdist comic sensibility to create a prodigious, profane, and ultimately moving kaleidoscope world that nonetheless captured the essence of this city-like-no-other. Wilco and Gene Siskel, Groupon and Threadless, even celery salt, that key ingredient of the Chicago dog, all get their moment in the spotlight.

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U QT!

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Sometimes as I glance through my website's server logs, I see the anonymous messages people have sent through my little Scrabble-izer. Here's one of the sweetest I've seen, which just caught my eye:

If you were a Scrabble tile, you'd be a Z - one of a kind and worth more than everyone else
Or see it in Scrabble tiles.

On Tuesday I plan to sit down and watch The Oprah Winfrey Show for the first time, ever. I've seen bits and pieces before, but this will be the first time I watch the whole thing in a premeditated fashion. Hey, I want to hear Roger Ebert's new/old voice.

Ebert's new voice has been synthesized (and is being further refined) from DVD commentary tracks he recorded for a handful of movies. The Scottish company behind the voice is CereProc, which specializes in text-to-speech synthesizers that speak in a variety of accents. It's fun to play around with their live demo and make voices from all around the British Isles say vulgar and juvenile things.

As more and more of us litter the intertubes with extensive examples of our speaking voices, the easier it will be for convincing artificial versions of our voices to be cobbled together. I suppose the technology will have matured when it can pass a sort of text-to-speech Turing test—when someone can call your close friends or relatives by telephone or Skype or whatever and fool them into thinking they're talking to you.

Damn, I just got an idea for a story.

Shamrock sharks

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Lest anyone unfamiliar with the phenomenon assume I am overstating the fanaticism of Shamrock Shake devotees, let me direct your attention to...

      ShamrockShake.com

...a message board for confirmed Shamrock Shake sightings around the country. Believe.

(One of the saddest recent reports from Illinois, echoing Laura's disappointment, reads: "got one with whipped cream...it was only half-full of the glorious green stuff...I was very sad.")

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Missing the mark

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I end up with some very interesting Google Ads showing up on the page for my Accidental Terrorist podcast. Just now there was a big splashy banner ad for the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute ("Gunfights don't give second chances"). Apparently the Googlemind doesn't want you potential terrorists going out into the world without firearms training!

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