Random thoughts on thoughts
Have you ever had the seed of a good idea, but didn't know what to do with it?
That's how Blogumentary started. A vague notion that something cool was happening, with lots of questions. I did lots of reading, article-saving, note-taking, and tried to connect the dots. In the end, most of that stuff wasn't actually used in the film but it was so helpful just soaking it in, thinking about it, giving ideas space and time to emerge and pop.
It was the same with Minnesota Stories. It started as a TV show idea before I'd ever heard of blogs. I'd put a call out for thematic home video from people around the state, weaving it together with cool music and ambient video. Like a visual, democratic, MN-based This American Life. Actually, before that? I just really loved the Daft Punk song Digital Love and thought it would be a sweet-ass tune to start a new kind of show.
Minnesota Stories turned out to be something quite different and equally wonderful. It just needed to gestate for a couple of years until videoblogging came along, then it was like... duh. It was meant to be a videoblog all along.
Eskimo Witch popped into my head watching a band at the Turf Club. I thought, "I want to form a band that sounds like a cross between Devo and Sigur Ros." I know, right? (Sorry - I hate when people do that.) This band would have to be called... Eskimo Witch. But most of my mojo is firing around online video, so I figured it would be a vlog instead of a band.
Vlogs can be freakazoid punk rock.
I wanted to start making Eskimo Witch last fall, but then I started editing Amanda Across America. That was an incredible opportunity, and anyway, I didn't have any idea what Eskimo Witch would be. I kept jotting down ideas and capturing images that felt Eskimo Witchy to me. I'm still doing that now. Comedy ideas, media criticism, audience interaction ideas, freeform weird shit that would give people confused sour lemon faces.
Then I had an epiphany. I rediscovered Voltron News, or at least the idea and the aesthetic behind it. It's like I found a magic key that was deep in my pocket all along, and it unlocked Eskimo Witch. I know this babbling doesn't make much sense, but I'm more excited than ever to get a studio space and start working on this thing to see what happens.
The electron flow is happening in my brain, and I want it to spill out into action.
Thoughts on Justin.tv
Bill Streeter sums it up:
Actually, I think it's kind of a cool idea. I was going to get another cell phone and publish the number on Minnesota Stories. Basically, anyone could call me at any time and I'd be open to the possibilities and I'd videotape it. If I had live webcast capability, well even better.
Then I remembered I don't like talking on the phone. I don't want you freaks calling me, okay?
I call bullshit
"YouTube hadn't really caught on. There were a handful of aggressive video blogs. No one was harnessing the conversational energy." That was the genius insight: Ze conceived of his project as a conversation. Most writing and art says, "Look at me." Ze said, "Talk to me."
I'm sorry, but that's a steaming pile of bullshit. Videoblogging was about conversation from the start. Ian Mills spent a year interacting with his audience via The 05 Project (original site offline). Ryan Hodson posted No Answers in Jan. 2005, inviting people to enter into a conversation with her about religion. Michael Verdi's Vlog Anarchy lit a firestorm of conversation and video responses. The list goes on and on.
Ze Frank is a talented guy, and he took audience interaction to new heights. Earth sandwich is freaking brilliant. But Ze Frank did not invent the concept of "harnessing conversational energy" in a videoblog. I'd argue nobody did. It's simply a natural outgrowth of our human desire to communicate.
Lament for Video Lost
Right now I'm listening to Laurie Anderson and lamenting the disappearance of my video "Voltron News" from 2002. Perhaps it's still on an old hard drive somewhere?
The spirit of these things, I feel, are key to my next vlog adventure: ESKIMO WITCH.
Watch the Video
My favorite song this week is Martha & The Muffins, "Echo Beach" from 1980. Stereolab's Tim Gane is the drummer.
The video we've been waiting for?
Everyone's been raving about this YouTube mashup of Hillary Clinton with Apple's 1984 ad, called "Vote Different." The Washington Post writes: A Brave New World of Political Skulduggery? Anti-Clinton Video Shows Ease of Attack In the Computer Age. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have even had to answer for it on CNN. The chap who anonymously created the video has fessed up and lost his job because of it.
So everyone is crowning this video as The One. The One that starts the avalanche; the first YouTube election. Holland Wilde asks: What is the big fuss here? There are MANY other, more biting, disparaging, and cynical political statements than this. Does this video manipulation add up to any kind of critical political persuasiveness? No...
My first reaction to this video was *shrug*. Mildly entertaining, I appreciate the effort, but it doesn't say much or have much impact on me. I'm not nearly as harsh as Holland on the creator's initial anonymity or the various (surely accidental) imperfections. I actually think it's exciting not knowing the creator. It strips away one tool we use to decide how we feel about it. Was it created by a Republican hater? A bored teen Obama fan? Chelsea Clinton?
A nice fellow at SXSW kept making the same dinner conversation: "What if a foreign power made a persuasive online video to affect our elections?" Lots of thoughtful nodding... My God, you're right. Brilliant. After a beer I finally said, dude, so what? Who cares. Anybody can and will make persuasive online videos for all kinds of reasons, and we won't know who's responsible for half of them. Bring it on. If some foreign power can make a video so incredibly persuasive as to tilt our election toward a certain candidate, then frankly, that is the candidate we deserve to have.
What I may have underestimated is the media's retarded thirst for just such a thing to happen. In effect, the media can make an anonymous political video have exponentially more impact because they're dying for that juicy story. They've had the narrative written all along and have been waiting for a Hillary 1984 video. This troubling fact may deserve our attention more than the video itself.
Of course, I'm biased. I prefer my Paris Hilton / Apple Computer mashup circa May 2005. It's called "Think Different. Please."
See also: Adam Hanft on HuffPost: The YouTube Hillary Commercial is Sooooo 2006
Amanda Congdon in warm water
That sounds a little too sexy, doesn't it? I wanted to say "Amanda Congdon in chemical bath" but that just sounds gross. In any case, there's a bit of a kerfuffle over Amanda's infomericals for Dupont. CNet's Daniel Terdiman has a good analysis.
The spots themselves are pretty entertaining, naturally. It's hard to argue with the specific products she's endorsing - Kevlar saves lives. At issue is her status as a journalist. Most professional journalists can't get away with shilling for a product or a cause, because it would call their impartiality into question. If you're paid by Dupont, you might not report on a controversy surrounding the company - for example, their role in Iraq's nuclear weapons program or potentially cancer-causing products.
Is Amanda a journalist? Am I a journalist? Many bloggers are, at best, hobby journalists. We put on a citizen journalist hat when the need arises, often mixing our own opinion into the mix. Most bloggers are also independent, and understood to be one person's take on events.
Amanda, however, has an ABC News logo next to her videoblog. She's paid by a news organization and represents it to some extent. But she also represents their experimental foray into new media. Her show is a tour of what Amanda finds interesting. It weaves between entertainment and journalism, raising interesting questions along the way. In other words, we're firmly in gray area territory.
I was in a similar gray area earlier this year when I was paid to document John Edwards' campaign launch.
Amanda was critical of this situation:
I wasn't too happy about this video at the time, for a couple of reasons: (1) Amanda herself consulted with Vilsack's campaign about videoblogging
and didn't disclose that fact, though apparently it was unpaid. (2) I don't work for a journalistic news organization - I work for clients who pay me to make video.
She ends her piece with some good questions: "Since bloggers don't have to live by the same rules as traditional journalists, it leaves us - the viewers and readers - to question: Who's sincere? Who's a paid shill? And oftentimes, who's somewhere in-between?"
Clearly, Amanda is somewhere in-between. What confuses people is that ABC News logo screaming "official journalism!" It really comes down to trust. Do I still trust Amanda even though she's in paid advertisements for DuPont and Dove? Of course. I don't mind Amanda getting paid for her acting and producing talents in other contexts. But both Amanda and ABC News should tread carefully in the future, because many people won't be so forgiving.
I'm a weiner!
Hey homies! I'm down with a sinus infection after a super intense and incredible SXSW trip. Notes on that are forthcoming. I'll tell you what makes me feel better though: Winning 2nd place in the Network2.tv contest! Here's the video that helped me barely edge out those bloody singing hamsters. I still get that song in my head. The big winner is quite wonderful: Friend#1 & Friend#2 by Mike Ambs. Well done, sir. Well done.
My exciting plans for the moola? Paying off some debt, fixing some plumbing, maybe a NewTeeVee. Oh yeah, and treating my woman to some fine wining and dining - perhaps in an exotic locale.
Lonelygirl15 interview on Rocketboom
Andrew Baron grabbed me in the hall a couple days ago and said, "Want to interview the producers of Lonelygirl15?" Umm, yeah! I wasn't really prepared to do that. Heck, I sure didn't think I was going to be taping a Dan Rather interview here either. You just never know what's gonna happen.
Watch the Rocketboom