Inhuman Swill : Internet

Let me tell you about the night I hung out with Mötley Crüe.

Okay, to be honest, it was only half of Mötley Crüe, and it's not like we were out clubbing it up with groupies and blow. But we were at a club. I was reminded of this story the other day when I happened to hear "Shout at the Devil" on the stereo for the first time in quite a while.

This was June 1997. I was working in New York City as technical producer for a website called Rocktropolis.com (sadly now long deceased). Our company, N2K Entertainment, ran a variety of genre-specific music sites, all meant to drive traffic to our online CD store, Music Boulevard. At Rocktropolis we ran rock music news, contests, curated streaming radio, artist chats, and—coolest of all—live concert webcasts.

Some of our live shows were simply streamed versions of special syndicated radio broadcasts, but more and more we began to arrange our own on-location webcasts. We would get a temporary DSL line installed in the venue (if they didn't already have one—and they usually didn't), hump our equipment over there, tap directly into the soundboard, and stream the feed out to users via RealAudio. Believe it or not, this was trailblazing stuff at the time.)

So it was that my friend and colleague Andrew and I lugged our gear uptown to Roseland Ballroom one afternoon to set up for a special Mötley Crüe record release show. This was their big comeback attempt—well, their first one, anyway. Vocalist Vince Neil had just rejoined the band after an angry stint away, and the new album, Generation Swine, featured a touch of oh-so-no-longer-hip industrial flavoring.

Generation Swine For the weeks leading up to the show, we'd been running giveaways on the site and debuting a new track from the album every day. The office favorite—okay, the favorite of me and Michael, tech producer on Classical Insights—was track 12, a re-recording of the Crüe's 1983 hit called, imaginatively enough, "Shout at the Devil '97." Michael and I would arrive at the office early just to blast this tune at full volume in our little wing of the cubicle farm. (I wasn't super-familiar with the original version, having deliberately avoided all things hair-metal in high school, so the faster, harder 1997 version is still the one that sounds "right" to me.)

Anyway, along with our decks for compressing and transmitting digital audio, Andrew and I brought a couple of huge laptops. These were not just for running the webcast but also for the live chat session we were doing before the show with Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee—the so-called "Terror Twins." We set up shop in a balcony overlooking the club floor. At about two hours to showtime, our chatroom was teeming with fans who'd logged in for the unmoderated free-for-all. That's when Nikki and Tommy walked up to the long table where Andrew and I had the laptops set up.

Now, I met some of my favorite musicians while working that job, folks like Curt Smith from Tears for Fears, and John Wesley Harding. Chuck D. was in our office once. I even spent a couple of hours on the phone with Krist Novoselic from Nirvana, moderating a chat session. Hell, my boss was Nick Turner, who'd been the drummer for Lords of the New Church and The Barracudas. But of all those people, Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee were the two who looked more like rock stars than anyone else. Tall, muscular, slim, heavily tattooed, wearing their expensive white T-shirts, black jeans, cowboy hats, and boots with casual ease, oozing charisma. They shook our hands and put us instantly at ease. They came across as the nicest, most charming guys in the world.

We all sat down at the table. I ended up between Nikki and Tommy, with Andrew on Nikki's far side. The two of us had the jobs, for the next 45 minutes or so, of monitoring Nikki's and Tommy's activity in the chatroom, standing by to offer any needed assistance, and being ready to fix any technical issues.

"So, do we just jump in and start?" Nikki asked, watching the chatter scroll by on the laptop in front of him.

"You're both logged in," Andrew said. "Any time you're ready."

Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee
Nikki started typing. I was watching Tommy's screen, and I saw Nikki's first comment appear:

Nikki_Sixx> Hey fuckers!

I must have chuckled, because Nikki turned to me and said, with a grin but in all earnestness, "Insults and profanity are the entire basis of our relationship with our fans. Which is mostly thirteen-year-old boys."

I thought this was a remarkably cogent analysis of market expectations from someone I hadn't expected to be quite so self-aware. I was thinking about this when Tommy, who had been pecking two-fingered at his keyboard, leaned past me.

"Hey, Nikki!" he said, sounding as proud and excited as a three-year-old. "I just typed 'Fuck'!"

I have to say, hanging out with them during the chat was a lot of fun, even if it was a little surreal to have someone who'd been clinically dead for two minutes after a heroin overdose sitting to my right, and the star of the most infamous celebrity sex tape to date sitting to my left, and who between them had been married to three Playboy Playmates. (Of course, we were seeing only their most charming selves. I'm not sure I would have wanted to meet them under other circumstances.)

After about 45 minutes, Nikki logged out. "Time to get in wardrobe," he said, standing up. "Come on, Tommy."

"I'll be there in a few minutes," Tommy said. He was having a hell of a good time chatting.

Maybe fifteen minutes after Nikki's exit, Tommy turned to me in consternation. A troll in the chatroom had been saying for some time that Tommy and Nikki were not who they claimed to be, and now he was urging everyone else to stop chatting with Tommy.

"What am I supposed to do?" Tommy asked me. "This guy's telling everyone I'm not Tommy Lee. How do I prove I'm Tommy Lee?"

"Um," I said, racking my brain, "I don't know. I guess all you can do is say something only Tommy Lee would say."

Tommy frowned, then bent back to the keyboard and typed:

Tommy_Lee> fuck you i am tommy lee!!!

Eventually someone from the band's management came upstairs to the balcony and insisted that Tommy get down to his dressing room. He hugged us both and went on his merry way. I'm a little bummed that I didn't carry a cellphone at the time. A picture of us all would have been cool.

I worked other live location webcasts, including a Halloween show with The Cure at Irving Plaza, and two nights with the Allman Brothers Band at the Beacon Theatre, but our Mötley Crüe night was by far the most memorable. Now I feel like shouting at the devil, '97-style:

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:

TITLE: The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel
AUTHOR: Dan Sinker
PUBLISHER: Scribner

The book is essentially a work of non-fiction that describes and fully annotates the process of writing the original work, even though the tweets are included in full. For that reason, calling the book a Related Work seems to fit best. We think it would be dicey to attempt to nominate a Twitter stream in one of the fiction categories.

Anyway, if you're not familiar with @MayorEmanuel and want to catch up, the annotated book is a terrific place to start. And here are a few other relevant links to get you going:

@MayorEmanuel in 2012! Together we can make a difference.

Louis C.K. gets it

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

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.

Louis C.K. gets it.

He gets that the exposure and goodwill a move like this will generate far outweigh any loss of revenue he'll incur from piracy. He gets that most consumers are basically good, and will gladly pay five dollars for something of value to someone trusted who trusts them back.

In fact, here's a little message from him that appears during the purchase process:

To those who might wish to "torrent" this video: look, I don't really get the whole "torrent" thing. I don't know enough about it to judge either way. But I'd just like you to consider this: I made this video extremely easy to use against well-informed advice. I was told that it would be easier to torrent the way I made it, but I chose to do it this way anyway, because I want it to be easy for people to watch and enjoy this video in any way they want without "corporate" restrictions.

Please bear in mind that I am not a company or a corporation. I'm just some guy. I paid for the production and posting of this video with my own money. I would like to be able to post more material to the fans in this way, which makes it cheaper for the buyer and more pleasant for me. So, please help me keep this being a good idea. I can't stop you from torrenting; all I can do is politely ask you to pay your five little dollars, enjoy the video, and let other people find it in the same way.

Sincerely,
Louis C.K.
The really interesting thing is what your five bucks buys you. It gives you a license to download the film twice, and to stream it twice. In other words, you can watch it twice online, but you can download the file twice and watch it as many times as you want. In fact, you can remix it or burn it to a DVD or whatever. It's yours.

I'm downloading it now, and I can't wait to watch it. The file is a 1.2Gb H.264 MP4, which in layman's terms means I'm going to easily be able to copy it to my iPad and watch it on the exercise bike at the gym, or wherever.

I haven't even watched it yet, and I'm inclined to love it. Louis C.K.—what a smart fucking dude.

(Get your copy at buy.louisck.net.)

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.

I tried a couple of other plugins I ran across, but when I tested them they were kind of iffy. I kept coming back to ljcrosspost in my Google searches, but was frustrated by the elusiveness of the source archive. If only I'd embarked on this project in 2008!

But then I realized I could probably get the code from the Wayback Machine. Bingo! There it was.

So finally I made some time today to familiarize myself with the code and to write a few test scripts. The ljcrosspost plugin works by communicating with LiveJournal.com via XML-RPC, and that makes it startlingly easy to post LiveJournal entries from a Perl script. (In fact, I probably annoyed the hell out of my LJ friends with all the placeholder entries I posted then deleted this afternoon.) Once I had the basic concepts down, I made some tweaks of my own to Mr. Marshall's code, and I was off to the races.

The cool thing about ljcrosspost (and forgive me if I get too geeky) is that it not only lets you crosspost but also crossedit. When you first publish a blog entry on the Movable Type end, the plugin opens an RPC channel to LiveJournal, posts the entry there, and gets back a couple of unique identifiers which it then stores with the Movable Type entry's metadata. If you should ever go back and edit that entry, Movable Type sees from the metadata that a copy already exists at LiveJournal, so it posts an RPC request to update the LiveJournal entry with the altered text. Very slick.

Another consequence of ljcrosspost's design is that, once you've installed it, if you republish your entire Movable Type blog, all the existing entries will get posted to LiveJournal. I actually did that with my Proper Manuscript Format and Signs of Yesteryear blogs, which you can now see neatly mirrored here and here.

Of course, as you might guess, I made some of my own little tweaks to ljcrosspost. First, I enabled the list of categories associated with a Movable Type entry to be translated into LiveJournal tags and passed to the remote server.

I also extended the <MTLJCrosspost> tag so I can pass it an explicit list of categories to be added to all entries mirrored from a given blog. (This is how, for instance, I can give all the entries from my formatting blog the LiveJournal tag "manuscript format," even though that's not a category associated with any of the original Movable Type entries.)

And finally I inserted a little message at the end of each mirrored entry which incorporates the name of the originating blog and links back to the original version of the post.

You might think that's a lot of trouble to go to just to be able to send content to a site that doesn't entirely suit me anymore, and you'd be right. But the fact is, I still have a lot of great friends at LiveJournal, and I like interacting with them there even if the other aspects of the site aren't what they used to be. We've got a lot of history, and I'm glad I'll finally be able to put some of my other content in front of them without a lot of annoying crosslinking.

So anyway, I've tested my new setup pretty thoroughly, but this will be the first real new entry that I post with it. I'm going to schedule it to go live just before midnight. Then I'm going to cross my fingers and hope it gets to you LiveJournal folks.

RerunJournal

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

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.


I was sorely tempted to name this post "DeadJournal," but of course there is a site called DeadJournal. It's one of the many alternative sites built on LJ's codebase. I'm not sure whether or not the code is still open-source.

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, Dan Sinker is @MayorEmanuel 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."


I had been meaning to do this anyway, but here's a selection of some of my favorite @MayorEmanuel tweets, selected by the very scientific method of searching my own tweet stream for the nuggets I retweeted over the past few months. I've provided a bit of context where necessary.

Motherfucking pro tip: soy sauce and fucking cognac. Motherfucking amazing.
9 Dec

[WINTER PARKING IN CHICAGO]
Axelrod is a motherfucking parking-space shoveling artist. They should hang his fucking shovel in the Art Institute.
26 Dec

He's marked his space with 14 lawn chairs, an ironing board, and a pyramid of milk crates. He'll fucking shank someone if they move them.
26 Dec
[/WINTER PARKING IN CHICAGO]

Jesus fucking Christ, there is not enough motherfucking coffee in the whole fucking world this morning.
29 Dec

[ANGRY BIRDS]
Fuck these Angry Birds right in their motherfucking feathered fucking vents.
30 Dec

These giant bowling ball red birds would be motherfucking amazing if this whole game wasn't fucking me in the ass right now.
30 Dec

All I want right now is a motherfucking cheeseburger and to claw my goddamn eyes out. Instead I'm fucking flinging these fucking birds.
30 Dec
[/ANGRY BIRDS]

[RESIDENCY HEARING]
Carl the Intern's at the circuit court with three pounds of my shit in ziplock bags. He's tossing 'em if the verdict comes in wrong.
4 Jan
[/RESIDENCY HEARING]

Fuck this motherfucking brutal fucking cold right in its frozen fucking asshole.
21 Jan

[BEARS-PACKERS PLAYOFF]
We finally got Spielberg to take off his cheesehead, but he's got a Packers doo rag on underneath it. What the fuck.
23 Jan

Kanye's choking back fucking tears: "Cutler's knee injury is a nice match for my heart injury."
23 Jan

CALEB FUCKING HAINE! YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL FUCKING MAN!
23 Jan
[/BEARS-PACKERS PLAYOFF]

Double birds to the motherfucking world. TO THE MOTHERFUCKING WORLD.
24 Jan

[ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT RESIDENCY RULING]
We're all fucking crying and laughing and barking and quacking and the city has never looked more beautiful, and in four weeks I'll be mayor
27 Jan

Now we're all crammed in Axelrod's fucking Civic, the ceiling's still dented in, driving down Lake Shore Drive, just fucking freestyling.
27 Jan
[/ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT RESIDENCY RULING]

[BLIZZARD]
Report from Axelrod's weathercenter has the big storm hitting later this afternoon. Perfectly fucking reasonable to get drunk now.
1 Feb
[/BLIZZARD]

[CAMPAIGN SPEECH AT THREADLESS]
Speech preview: "We're Chicago. Maybe--just fucking maybe--we can build something better than stupid T-shirts and half-off deals."
8 Feb

Original plan was to do this speech at Groupon, but now everyone thinks they're fucking assholes. Note to self: Lay off the Tibet jokes.
8 Feb
[/CAMPAIGN SPEECH AT THREADLESS]

Hanging out with nerds at Google today. Up half the night building up my elfin sorcerer, in case anyone throws down a motherfucking 20-side.
10 Feb

Snow stopped, week's done, MOTHERFUCKING BEER O'CLOCK, BITCHES.
11 Feb

Our Grammy party got ruined when we remembered that the Grammys are motherfucking awful.
13 Feb

HOLY FUCK, THE MOON IS MOTHERFUCKING ENORMOUS.
18 Feb

[ELECTION DAY EVE]
Hambone just brought the schedule: (1) shake 10,000 voters' hands (2) pick up Ari from the airport (3) keep Ari away from voters. Fuck.
21 Feb
[/ELECTION DAY EVE]

[SACRIFICE IN THE TIME VORTEX]
"There must be something we can do..." But there's not. Only things that fucking suck never end: look at laundry, or dishes.
23 Feb
[/SACRIFICE IN THE TIME VORTEX]

This can only give a bit of the flavor of the feed, if you haven't followed it. For two good distillations of the story's climax, I still recommend you read Tim Carmody's "The Two Mayors" and "The Last Hours of @MayorEmanuel."

Into the time vortex!

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

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 @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.

You'll note, I did say moving. The night before the election, the narrative took a cosmic and elegiac turn, with @MayorEmanuel snatched away for a tutorial in the secret powers of which Chicago mayors are custodians. I don't want to spoil the story, but let me just praise the brilliance with which the promise of that sequence was fulfilled last night. In an inspired feat of improvisation, the unknown author actually wove the real hailstorm taking place outside our windows into the climax of the story, and somehow managed to time the culmination of @MayorEmanuel's hero's quest with the single giant peal of real thunder that reverberated over the city (and that not to mention scared the crap out of my dog).

Timothy Carmody has compiled and annotated some of the key tweets from the past few days here and here, and I urge you to read through them if you haven't been following the story. But really, to experience the story properly, you had to be following it as it unfolded, and even more so, you had to be in Chicago at the end to properly appreciate that cathartic thunderclap of a conclusion. Sorry, everyone else.

In all seriousness, I want to nominate the @MayorEmanuel tweet stream for a Hugo. (Best Short Story? Best Dramatic Presentation? I don't know.) It's too bad the story had to wrap up in 2011, since that won't make it eligible until next year, if it's even eligible at all.

But moreso, now that the campaign season and the election and the story itself are over, I want to state for the record, a la those West Wing bumper stickers, that @MayorEmanuel will always be my motherfucking mayor.

Hold onto your head scarves. There are 103 full episodes of "21 Jump Street" available on Hulu. Johnny Depp must be so pleased. You needed to know.

E-blast from the past

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Today is the 114th running of the Boston Marathon. I am reminded of this because I've started receiving race alerts via text message for a runner named Jen Stronge. So has Laura.

I wish Jen Stronge all the luck in the world in finishing strong in the marathon this morning. But I never signed up to get her alerts, and I wish they would stop. My guess is that she has the same chip number that Laura had last year, and the fine IT staff of the Boston Marathon never cleared out the alert requests from last year's race. Which makes them, for today anyway, some of the dumbest fucks in the tech industry.

To repeat, Boston Marathon IT crew—you suck.

UPDATE: It's the bib number that's the same as Laura's from last year—18649. A dumb, dumb programming mistake, friends. And who's paying for all those bad text messages?

U QT!

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

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.

Featured Book

William Shunn

About This Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the internet category.

insults is the previous category.

interviews is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Archives