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Well, the story ran tonight, and it was pretty weak. In fact, the anchor's cutesy alliterative introduction was almost as long as the story itself. "'Blog' was the word of the year! Look what they're doing in the modern university!" So, I'm not going to digitize it -- I was only on screen for one sentence (the same as the professor and student who were interviewed at the same time). However, you can read the text version here -- if you like watching very low quality commercials for US Cellular you can also watch the piece in lo-fi, streaming Windows Media.

This episode puts me in mind of this metapost on the nature of blogging, which I don't believe I've ever posted here, but which struck at the time (and still does) as a good starting point for a real discussion on what blogging means. I found it while writing a short paper on the difficulties in conceptualizing "Internet use" (it's actually a revised version of an academic conference presentation). In that paper, I wrote that the Internet "is as much a media infrastructure as it is a medium," and I think blogging is our first clear evidence of that. Given the infrastructure, a handful of people came up with similar tools to exploit that infrastructure, and a new set of communication standards and practices arose to exploit those tools.

This local TV report (the third recent local media report on this exact subject, for the record) does not begin to discuss what blogging means for education in the future, whether it requires different skills of students than other teaching and learning methods or even what a blog is -- Greg Downey, the professor in question, is given exactly 16 words on-screen to describe what a blog is. Those 16 words are correct, but the many other words that were cut out are the ones that really tell you what blogs do. Not surprisingly, while I watched the reporter set up his camera and tell his interviewees to focus on an imaginary point on the wall, I found myself thinking the same thing I thought during my interview last spring: I knew there was a reason I never had any interest at all in broadcast journalism.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Around Madison ... Permalink




I'm being interviewed for a local news piece about blogging tomorrow -- not so much because I'm a hip, happening blogger, but because I'm a hip, happening mass communication researcher. It's the same station that interviewed me last spring as the TA strike was about to start, and I guess I impressed them enough for a callback (well, that, and one of our faculty recommended me).

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Around Madison ... Permalink




posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Around Madison ... Permalink




The Buffalo Beast has determined the 50 most loathsome people of 2004. Some highlights:

39. Tom Cruise ... Consistently influential in casting women in his movie for the sole purpose of nailing them. Extremely convincing when he plays an ambitious, superficial prick.

19. Zell Miller ... Part Yosemite Sam and Part Foghorn Leghorn. Miller doesn�t make the list for his salivating, traitorous keynote speech at the Republican National Convention, or even the duel thing with Chris Matthews. He makes the list because he really does represent Southern Democrats.

5. John Kerry ... Managed to lose to the most hated president in American history by virtue of his total inability to convincingly portray himself as a human being.

4. Dick Cheney ... The kind of guy who starts talking cannibalism the minute he steps on the lifeboat.

2. Donald Rumsfeld ... Carries himself in press conferences like a cranky grandfather who is sick of hearing his daughters whine about how he molested them every now and then.

Somehow not featured: Dennis Miller, Jim Belushi and every football announcer in the employ of Fox Sports.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Politics ... The World at Large ... Permalink ...
Comments (3)



The legality (or illegality, as it may be) of file-sharing is still up in the air. While it appears that uploading, or sending files out to others, is the only thing that's definitely illegal under current law, many downloaders have been sued or threatened by copyright holders, as have many producers of file-sharing technology. (A person's status as an "uploader" or a "downloader" is made murky by the way most P2P programs automatically make anything you've downloaded available for upload.) Most of those who have been sued have settled rather than take their cases to court. To be honest, I don't really give a damn about the legal context of file-sharing beyond its circumvention. As far as I can tell, the legal avenue that big media corporations are pursuing is just another tactic to delay dealing with the enormous market problem that they know is waiting for them.

The ethics of file-sharing are another story.

(For the purposes of this discussion I am using the definition of "ethics" found at dictionary.com.)

Is file-sharing ethical? Conditionally, yes, I think it is. There are several reasons for this conclusion.

Click to read more

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Technophunk ... Permalink ...
Comments (1)




Well, I don't know if they all fall asleep, but I sure do. When I do feel sleepy, I can usually get away with making a bunch of moaning noises and the pervs hang on for many many minutes. Last night, I didn't realize I was feeling sleepy until I was moaning and moaning for a perv. He kept pleading with me to tell him what turns me on and what I was into. I woke myself up when I heard myself tell him that I wanted to cut his hair. What?!?! I want to cut your hair??? He was all "OH, does that turn you on?" I couldn't think of anyway to make that sound sexy, so I returned to moaning. He finally hung up after 21 minutes.

posted by
My 69 Cents Worth ... Permalink




We tend to use "file-sharing" and "peer-to-peer" interchangeably these days, but they aren't really the same thing. P2P systems allow users to to send files directly back-and-forth to one another, but they are only one part of the file-sharing universe. Most of the things that wind up on the KaZaa network or the major BitTorrent trackers got there via Internet Relay Chat (IRC) or File Transfer Protocol (FTP).

It all starts with a scene release group. If you've ever downloaded an album or a TV show, you may have noticed a seemingly random three-character string at the end of the filename; that's the name of a release group. These are the hardcore file-sharers who, in some cases, have access to advance copies of CD's or have high-end digital TV equipment capable of dumping tonight's episode of Boston Legal out to an XviD file in about ten minutes. They also, uniformly, have access to very high-speed connections and secure, private servers.

Click to read more

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Technophunk ... Permalink




I didn't see many movies last year, but I did see four worth talking about.

1. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
D: Michel Gondry, W: Charlie Kaufman

"Adaptation" was the greatest writer's block exercise in the history of writing. Taking the old adage, "Write through it," to its logical extreme, Charlie Kaufman followed "Being John Malkovich" with a movie about himself and his fictional brother writing a screen adaptation of Susan Orleans's The Orchid Thief, which was largely about the trouble he had writing a screen adaptation of Susan Orleans's The Orchid Thief. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is the true thematic follow-up to "Malkovich," and is perhaps the better film for its lack of a pop gimmick and the seriousness with which it handles its fantastical elements.

The movie, Kaufman's fourth produced screenplay, feels almost like it could've opened just as "Malkovich" closed, John Cusack's interminable longing replaced with Jim Carrey's unexplainable emptiness. Kaufman again shows a deft touch when rending emotion and delivers the kind of love story that might not make sense to anybody who's never been one of those characters. It's a story that demands to be seen again, not because it tries to trick you, but because it builds in self-supporting layers.

Kaufman is the most vital, dynamic writer in Hollywood right now, and he could do much worse than to work with Michel Gondry again. Gondry, who did a staid directing job on Kaufman's similarly staidly written "Human Nature," takes the same leap here that Spike Jonze did with "Malkovich," providing a level of detail that turns an interesting story into an immersive one. The way he shoots the film leaves you increasingly disoriented, until you find yourself as unsure as the characters are of quite what's going on.

Click to read more

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Movies ... Permalink



Now that last month's raid on BitTorrent seems to be settling down, I think it's time to put some thought into where peer-to-peer file-sharing (P2P) is going from here. And so begins a series of stream-of-consciousness posts on the subject.

To recap, BitTorrent is the current champ of P2P technologies, taking over from Napster, Audiogalaxy and KaZaa before it. BitTorrent is especially well-suited for transferring very large files, and its success has tracked with the rise in sharing of TV episodes and movies. These changes have also coincided with the continued penetration into homes of broadband Internet access.1 Thus, even someone who is relatively new to the process can easily download, for instance, the entire third season of Scrubs over a span of a couple days.

Click to read more

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Technophunk ... Permalink ...
Comments (1)




A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from my bosses telling me that there was going to be a new type of call offered to the pervs: 2-on-1 calls. Yup, every man's dream, two chicks all for himself.

When I first read this, I thought it was a terrible idea. How are two girls who never worked together supposed to do this? One girl is assigned to be the first agent and the other the second agent. Agent 1 takes the lead, and agent 2 follows her lead. The big thing the bosses stressed was not to talk over each other.

So, last night, first call of the night was "Pussy Cat X, Second Agent." Okay, here we go! I was so surprised, it was actually fun! I waited for the other girl to introduce herself and tell the guy that her friend was with her too and told me to introduce myself. We jabbered back and forth and since I was agent 2, I held back and just listened a lot, interjected in pauses or when spoken to. The guy ate it up! At the two minute warning, we gave him our numbers and told him we would LOVE to keep talking to him. Well, he did call back, but he called my number so now I was agent 1. I said "Hello" and when I heard it was the same guy, I was a little nervous because I didn't think we'd have the same third person. Of course, we didn't. I asked the new girl to introduce herself and we made up a story about how the other girl just ran out for some liquor and this girl just got back from her date. He didn't care, he kept eating it up. He stayed on for 2 20-minute calls!

posted by
My 69 Cents Worth ... Permalink




This Wired article is a couple months old, but I just found it and it's blown my mind. Author Chris Anderson describes the new digital media marketplace in a way that reveals how "non-mainstream" material is able to thrive in the unlimited shelfspace of the Internet. Key point:

The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon's book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication: If the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are. In other words, the potential book market may be twice as big as it appears to be, if only we can get over the economics of scarcity.

"The market for books that are not even sold...is larger than the market for those that are." While Anderson focuses primarily on large digital retailers (Amazon, Netflix, iTunes), I think it's also worth looking at the role played by entertainment-related communities and hub sites like Pitckfork, All Music Guide and TV Tome. I've learned about innumerable bands from AMG's "similar artists" feature that I otherwise wouldn't have, even from Amazon's recommendations.

Still, quite an interesting analysis. With the BBC announcing that they will be offering on-demand re-runs to some broadband customers soon, I wonder if we're entering an era of micro-culture, in which we see blockbusters in all media become rarer but success stories like Interpol become more and more common.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Technophunk ... Permalink



Fantasy X.

This guy calls up and tells me that he is driving between El Paso and Dallas, TX.

"Oh, are you a trucker?" I ask.

"Uh, no. Not a trucker." He replied.

After a few more "Are you a...?" questions and "Why are you driving....?" on my part he finally admits to me that he is a professional athlete. Not one in the 4 major sports though (hockey, football, basketball, or baseball).

"What are you then?"

"A professional bowler."

Now, I haven't consulted the dictionary yet, but I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't call bowling a sport and I wouldn't call bowlers athletes. But anyways....

"Oh, like that movie? King Pin?"

"Yeah, right." he says.

Here is where my natural curiosity kicks in and I just start asking questions...

"So, what size ball do you bowl with?"

He explains that everyone pretty much throws a 15 lb ball. I ask if throwing a 14 lb ball meant you were a pussy. He thought yes. I ask if throwing a 16 lb ball was a sign that you were compensating for a small dick. He said yup, that was called "Man Weight."

"What color is your ball?" I ask.

Again, this has a much more detailed answer than I expected. I was hoping it was green, because that is my favorite color. But it wasn't. He said you have to bowl with a lot of different balls.

"Why, because they don't get through fast enough?"

"No, because there are different conditions on the lane."

"Like what?"

"Well, mainly the amount of oil on the lane."

We talk about how there is a lot more to bowling than people think and how it is all about physics.

"Have you ever bowled a 300?"

"Yeah, I bowled 2 this week." He said.

"Have you ever picked up a 7-10 spilt?"

"Yup, twice."

"Wow, only twice in your whole bowling career?"


We go on and talk some more about form and practicing and how he got 6th place but only bowlers 1st-4th get to be on TV. Maybe next time.

We are going on and on, up to 10 minutes already. For you money conscious, that is about $40 already.

"So, what would you say is the most important muscle involved in bowling?" I ask.

No immediate answer, so I add, "Besides your brain, I mean."

Click. And that was the end of that.

posted by
My 69 Cents Worth ... Permalink



Enjoy this list of the ways in which Wal-Mart is -- no exaggeration -- evil.

The owners of one of America's (I prefer to say, U.S.) premiere retail corporations is comprised of five of the ten richest people in the world, all from the same family. Their personal wealth eclipses $100 BILLION dollars.

Last year the companies CEO was paid a cool $11.5 million, more than the annual salaries of 765 of his employees combined! The company's profits are over $7 BILLION annually. In these difficult economic times how do they do it? This company runs ads featuring the United States flag and proclaims "We Buy American". In 2001 they moved their world-wide purchasing headquarters to China and are the largest importer of Chinese goods in the US, purchasing over $10 BILLION of Chinese made products annually. Products made mostly by women and children working in the labour hell-holes, China is famous for.

Their average employee working in the US makes $15,000 a year, $7.22 per hour! The company brags that 70% of their employees are full time, but, fails to disclose that they count anyone working 28 hours a week or more, as full time. There are no health care benefits unless you have worked for the company for two years. With a turnover rate averaging above 50% per year, only 38% of their 1.3 million employees have health care coverage. In California alone it's estimated that the taxpayers pay over $20 million annually to subsidize health care benefits for these employees who get nonefrom this behemoth corporation.

According to a report by PBS's "Now" with Bill Moyer, their managers are trained in what government social programmes are available for these "employees" to take advantage of, so that the company can pass on those costs to you and me. It allows them to, not only keep their $7 BILLION in annual profits, but to do so by substituting benefits they refuse to provide with benefits paid for with taxpayer dollars.

This company holds the record for the most suits filed against it by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A lawyer from "Business Week" (not exactly the bastion for supporting Labour) said, "I have never seen this kind of blatant disregard for the law." They had to pay $750,000.00 in Arizona for blatant discrimination against the disabled! The judge was so incensed that he also ordered them to run commercials admitting their guilt. The National Labour Relations Board has issued over 40 formal complaints against the corporation in 25 different states in just the past five years. The NLRB's top lawyer believed that their labour violations, such as illegal spying on employees, fraudulent record keeping, falsifying time cards to avoid paying overtime, threats, illegal firings for union organizing etc., were so widespread that he was looking into filing a very rare national complaint against the company. Nearly 1 MILLION women are involved in the largest class-action suit ever filed against a corporation. Although women make up over 65% of this corporations work force only 10% of them are managers. The women who have become store managers make $16,400 a year LESS then the men.

The corporation took out nearly 350,000 life insurance policies on their employees. They did not tell the employees and then named the corporation as the beneficiary. They are now being sued by numerous employees, and although the corporation has stopped this practice of purchasing what is known as "Dead Peasant Policy's", a company spokesperson stated, "The company feels it acted properly and legally in doing this."

They force employees to work after ordering them to punch out. In Texas alone this practice of "wage theft" is estimated to have cost employees $30 million per year. Wage theft or "off-the-clock" lawsuits are pending in 25 states. In New Mexico they paid $400,000.00 in one suit and in Colorado they had to pay $50 MILLION to settle one class-action case brought against them. In Oregon a jury found them guilty of locking employees in the building and of forcing unpaid overtime. With 4,400 stores they practice "predatory pricing." They come into a community and sell their goods at below cost until they drive local businesses under. Once they have captured the market the prices go up. Locally owned and operated businesses put virtually all of their money back into the community which helps keep the local economies vibrant. This corporation sucks the money out of the local community, decreases wages and benefits and ships the profits out of state. This company doesn't buy locally or bank locally. They replace three decent paying jobs in a community with two poorly paid "part-timers".

In Kirksville, Missouri when this company came to town, four clothing stores, four grocery stores, a stationary store, a fabric store and a lawn-and-garden store all went under. Eleven businesses are now gone. (The above information can be found in "Thieves in High Places", James Hightower, The Penguin Group, New York, NY, 2003 p. 166 193.)

Now you know how they can claim, "Always low prices." Wal-Mart is the largest corporation in the world, larger than General Motors and Exxon Mobil. Wal-Mart will reap over 250 billion in sales in 2003, which is larger than the entire gross national product of Israel and Ireland combined. It has over 1.3 million employees. It sells more groceries, jewelry, photo processing, dog food, and vitamins than any other chain in the world. Wal-Mart is owned by the Walton family.

[Via New Medievalism.]

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
The World at Large ... Permalink ...
Comments (2)




I've finally finished it and have it ready for you to view (and buy from):

Go to www.etchouse.com/EKRA for the all new EMILY KIRCHER RECYCLING ARTIST site! Do it now! Right now!

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Administration ... Permalink




Emily's new site is launching this weekend. Get your credit cards ready!

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Administration ... Permalink




Apple just announced the Mac Mini. This is it:

It's got a CD-RW/DVD drive, DVI and VGA ports, plus the standard assortment of USB 2.0, Firewire and network connections. $499 for a 40GB drive and 1.25GHz G4, $599 for 80GB and 1.42GHz. As for the size, the box it ships in is smaller than the standard iPod box. It's 6.5" square on top and 2" tall. Hello, dedicated media center.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Technophunk ... Permalink




I never thought I'd say this, but the Chemical Brothers' Push the Button is the early front-runner for 2005's album of the year.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




At John Kerry's first Madison rally of the general election season, he had Lance Armstrong's arm-candy, Sheryl Crow, and Lance Armstrong's wrist-candy, those silly yellow bracelets, with him. Now, several months later, you can buy rubber bracelets in every color of the rainbow, with messages of "support" for any number of different causes.

Putting aside the question of whether Armstrong himself is worthy of the adulation he receives (he's not -- all right, not quite aside -- he got cancer, got better, and kept riding his bike; BFD!), these bracelets, like the "awareness" ribbon lapel pins that are their forebears, are a scrouge on a culture too lazy and dim-witted to endure discussion any more substantive than "LIVESTRONG" or "BELIEVE/ACHIEVE" or "SUPPORT OUR TROOPS," while at the same time too vain and self-involved to give any charity a single dollar without getting a trophy in return. I suppose it should go without saying that there are now tsunami relief bracelets available.

The terrible, right-wing mirror-image of the bracelets can be found on bumpers across the midwest. Perfect for the bigger-is-better culture we've become, those lapel ribbons have been blown up to half a foot tall so that "inspirational" or "patriotic" slogans can be written on them. These ribbon magnets are often sold with a vague promise that the proceeds go to the troops that have been impoverished and/or maimed by Donald Rumsfeld, but that may not be the case. Some of the ribbon owners opt for subtle Jesus references by placing the ribbon sideways on their car, to resemble a Jesus fish idol. Others prefer the painfully obvious route of buying a ribbon whose center hole is shaped like the cross on which they believe their favorite guy was nailed until dead. More often than not, these ribbons seem to be joined by a "W '04" oval or one of those ironically faded "These Color Don't Run" stickers.

These are the torch-carriers of our public discourse for 2004, along with not just a little bit of flipping-off directed at the ribbonites (I'll cop to that one). I tend to think the ribbons are worse than the bracelets, if only because I see so many more of them. You don't really notice the bracelets that easily, especially with everybody wearing winter coats now, but the ribbons are everywhere, all the time. Luckily, you can now make your own custom ribbons, if, for instance, you wanted to secretly replace a parking lot full of troop ribbons with ones that said "Jesus hates Iraq!" or something like that.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
The World at Large ... Permalink ...
Comments (2)




Is that true? I only have an N of 1, but I'm blaming my complete lack of domination in me on it. I seem to have it all backwards....

So, New Year's Eve, this guy calls me up on the Fantasy X line and tells me that he is in the backseat of his car and his wife is driving them to a party. She's the dom and likes him to tell phone girls what he is doing.

So here's where I get it all mixed up. He tells me that at this party there is going to be a 'Spanking Contest.' All the mistresses randomly select a sub from all the ones at the party to spank. They all start spanking and the sub that cries first loses. Interesting. this guy tells me that his mistress spanked him really hard earlier that day. I assumed it was because she wanted to toughen him up so he'd be able to last longer tonight (I forget spanking is not the same as 'spanking it.') But, no, he told me it was because she wanted him to LOSE! That would be VERY humiliating. The winner of the contest is the mistress with the biggest pussy of a sub.
Now that I relay this story to you, it is all making a lot more sense. But I still think it will be a long time before I'm a decent dom. I think the first thing I need to work on is eliminating the "Do you like it when" from the "I spank your ass."

posted by
My 69 Cents Worth ... Permalink ...
Comments (1)




I went to sleep for about 15 hours after we got home last night. Still pretty beat. Here's a picture of Emily.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
The World at Large ... Permalink