Reading too deeply into these things since 1981
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As two or three of you know, I used to review ALF. It made me the most famous person on the internet. Anyway, some dope decided to review Perfect Strangers, and he’s halfway through the run, meaning he’ll get his life back sometime in the mid-2030s.

To celebrate / pity this milestone, he’s hosting a live stream of six episodes, various surprise goodies, and the requisite profane chatroom. It will be fun, and I’ll be there for sure. There’s also Larryoke, in which Casey, myself, and a few other familiar names get together to sing Perfect Strangers parody lyrics over the backing tracks of popular songs. It’s a great idea because I had it.

It all goes down at 8 p.m. EST on Friday, April 14. As ever, you can sign up to the Facebook event to let it do the timezone calculating. It will also remind you to join us for a terrible 80s sitcom we all still kinda love anyway.

Definitely tune in. Even I’m looking forward to it, and I hate everything.

What this site could look like

February 20th, 2016 | Posted by Philip J Reed in internet | Meta - (10 Comments)

Grand Theft Auto V

Running a website is its own reward. As you know, I just need to turn on my computer and lots of money and sexy ladies and respect come tumbling out of the screen and into my lap. It’s great and you should all feel pret-ty envious. Probably even suicidal.

But it has its…less rewarding aspects as well. Mainly the investment of time and money to keep it operational.

Time is not exactly a rigid requirement, I admit. Yes, it can take me several hours of work for an ALF review, or several days of work for a Fiction Into Film, but on the whole it doesn’t take too long to sit down and write something.

However, if I am sitting down to write something, that’s time I’m not spending writing other things…whether those are personal projects, freelance work, or just the emails I owe friends who at this point definitely assume I’ve died.

Then there’s also fresh air (whatever that is) and a social life, or reading, or watching movies or playing video games or, basically, experiencing all of the things other people have created. And so it can be difficult to balance. Sometimes I’ll go for weeks on end doing nothing but writing. Other times I want to spend that time catching up on things I’ve missed.

And I can do that. That’s the best thing about having my own website and not working for others anymore: I set my own deadlines.

That’s also the worst thing about having my own website and not working for others anymore: I set my own deadlines.

So while this means I can delay something (or many somethings) it also means that if I’m not posting anything, people will check back less and less often. And if they check back less and less often, finding very little to read when they do return, they might stop showing up. And while that’s okay, it’s not ideal. I don’t write for the sake of having an audience, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t value having an audience. And I value it deeply.

This audience. The one you’re a part of. The audience who is reading this right now, wondering why the heck I’m bringing any of this up. (I love you and you are handsome.)

Well, that’s because it ties into the other less-rewarding aspect: money.

Running a site like this isn’t free. There’s not an exceptional expense, but it’s significant for someone in my…ahem…modest income bracket. I pay for the domain and I pay for the bandwidth. The latter of which I had to upgrade about a year ago when my traffic increased, and which I’ll have to increase again before long.

And those things are fine; believe me, I’m not complaining, but I want to make it clear why I’m interested in defraying the cost as much as possible, and within reason. (We’ll define “within reason” before long.)

Frankly, Noiseless Chatter operates at a loss.

Big deal. I’m okay with that.

But I’d be foolish if I wasn’t at least a little interested in reducing the degree of that loss.

Fortunately, webmasters like me can pull in money hand over fist! Every day I get offers from people who want to throw money at this site. LOOK!

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I mainly just thought this one was funny…later emails were more in line with what you see below — I did ask for clarification — but anyone who comes to this site and thinks I’d be the kind of guy who wants to open crates with a crowbar can’t have read a word that I’ve ever written. And I don’t think any readers hang around here because they think they’re reading the ponderous thoughts of a man who blogs between crowbar sessions.

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I’m sure that a broad spectrum of international organizations would be touched to have their content featured between screengrabs of a masturbating puppet, but I had to decline. I know what the content looks like. It all looks the same. It’s without value or meaning, written for the express purpose of fooling search engines into associating one specific company with one specific keyword. In short, they’re writing to fool a robot. And they’re wondering if I could be bribed to let them do it on my readers’ time. For the princely fee of $20.

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And hey, look, confirmation that the folks reaching out to me aren’t even bothering to customize their templates beyond the barest minimum. Surely the content they’re offering will be stellar. (They’re doubling that money, though. I’m twice as tempted to fuck over my readers!)

I get these a lot. Like, all the damned time. Sometimes they take the time to learn my name. Usually they don’t. One of them, for some reason, called me Sue. And none of them, ever, care about you, or the site, or what anybody coming here would like to read.

They write garbage. I know they write garbage, because I used to work for a digital marketing agency that pulled this same crap. We wrote garbage, too.

But…well…wouldn’t that be nice? If I could just take one of these folks at their ostensible word every month? That’s an extra $40 every 30 days. And, hey, what if I did two per month? Or three? I could pull in $1,200 a year easily, just by posting this crap that nobody cares about. And doesn’t that sound like a fair trade? Maybe I could even post it on Sundays, when I never post anything and nobody even thinks to visit the site anyway. Who would that hurt?

It’d hurt the site.

It’d hurt what I’ve built.

It’d hurt you guys, and make poor use of your time.

I don’t want to hold Noiseless Chatter up as some exemplar of quality or anything, but I hope it can have just a little bit of integrity in a medium that…doesn’t always value it. And doesn’t always want it. And is glad to fake it just long enough to turn itself around for an easy buck.

There’s a blogger I used to visit that, within the past year, has turned her site over to sponsored content, and it’s sad. I won’t name her site here because I don’t intend to shame her and I don’t know what’s behind her decision, but I went from having a blogger I was interested in reading whenever she had something to say, to having a shell of a blog that doesn’t seem to have much of her in it at all.

I don’t want anyone here to feel that. If you get any joy out of this site whatsoever, I’d like to maintain that. If you don’t…well, even then it’s not like sponsored content is going to change your mind. Nobody wins.

I make money, yes…but nobody wins.

I’ve hosted pieces here that were provided by outside writers, but I’ve never accepted a penny for doing so. I’ve reviewed other people’s products and wrote about their projects, but never in exchange for money. And I wouldn’t take any. Ever. If I get a review request for something that interests me, I ask for a copy of that item, which I think is fair. If they offer money, I refuse. As you see above, people do indeed offer money.

I’ve had people ask how they can support the site. One reader — whom I don’t wish to embarrass, but feel free to out yourself in the comments — said he goes out of his way to click ads on my site in order to help.

And, yes, that’s a way, but never, ever feel obligated to do that. If you see an ad on my site for something that interests you, and you click it, I get a little money from Google. If you don’t click it, I get a little less (as long as the ad actually displays).

Don’t click for the sake of clicking…but if you do click, it helps. I’m not asking you to click; I’m just explaining how it works. If you tell me here and now that you’d never click a damned thing on my site, I wouldn’t think any less of you, and I have no expectations that anybody will click anything.

Really, the only thing I would ask is that you disable adblock on my site. And that’s not even a very strong request. Frankly, I don’t mind what you block or don’t block. But if you’re wondering “how can I help?” that would be the extent of my answer.

Ads are a touchy subject. I feel dirty every time I see them on my own site. At the same time, they’re helping me afford to keep the site. Does that make them a necessarily evil? I…honestly don’t know. And it’s probably not for me to decide. Many of you don’t seem to mind either way. Others, I’m sure, hate that they’re here. Believe me, I hear you, and I understand. If there were any other way to defray the cost of maintaining the site, I’d be all ears.

I could offer something for sale, here. And maybe I will, at some point. Right now, you could always buy a mug if you haven’t already. They’re good mugs! But that’s just an option. Maybe in the future I’ll have more options. Again, I’m all ears.

But, really, there’s not much that you can do. I could set up a donation link or something, but I’d rather there be something of value changing hands. I do have an idea for something else to offer in the near-ish future, and I’ll probably announce that in the near-er-ish future, but right now the way to help…the best way to really help…is just to read.

To comment.

To like this stuff on Facebook.

To share it with your friends should you feel so compelled.

That’s all. It’s not money that keeps me going. If this site one day broke even I’d do a cartwheel, but that’s not what I’m after. I could make this site immediately profitable at the expense of its identity…and I don’t want that.

I want you guys.

And every time you show me you’re engaged — even through disagreement — it means the world to me. That’s what keeps me here, investing time and money and, on Thursdays, my sanity. I read all comments. I value every like and retweet and everything else. I get giddy when I look at old articles and see that they’ve been shared dozens of times. In some cases hundreds. In one case thousands.

That means everything to me. That’s why I write. That’s why I have this site. And that’s why no amount of money is going to tempt me — really tempt me — to part with it.

The internet eats great things alive.

Thank you for giving me reasons every day to keep this small one afloat.

Star Trek: The Animated Series
Many of you no doubt know commenter Sarah Portland, a longstanding, intelligent, periodically evil presence on this blog. Well, she runs her own episodic review site, focusing on Star Trek, the original series. Just recently, however, she finished that classic show, and moved on to its…marginally less-classic Animated Series spinoff.

So, yes, utterly shameless plug, because her Star Trek reviews were great and I expect these will be too. Check them out.

Today saw her first post about the cartoon adventures of the Enterprise crew, which according to the picture above consists of Uhura, a butter sculpture of Mr. Spock, Chevy Chase circa 1982, Jar Jar Binks, Zapp Brannigan, the painting lion from Zoobilee Zoo, Bruce Lee, Tommy Wiseau, and Anne Heche.

So, go read that while I try to muster up the energy to write about Fallout 3.

The Simpsons, Thomas Pynchon

The following is a great article on artistic discussions of the deep web, online privacy, social responsibility, and more, courtesy of UK-based reader Patrick Massey. I found this fascinating, worrying, and enlightening in equal parts, and I hope you experience some mix of those three things as well. Take it away, Patrick.

A “Marco Polo” of the contemporary public sphere: “Internet” and “privacy.” The two phenomena are often yoked together in the news: the various problems of data access (who should be denied it? Whose data should be sacrosanct? What justifies access sub rosa?) swap pre-eminence in public consciousness as the Big Three of ‘net privacy–Snowden, Assange, Manning–swap the limelight. (In this essay, “‘net” refers to both the readily accessible surface Web, typically but carelessly referred to as “the Internet,” hence my coining an alternative term— and the Deep Web, the Internet’s large, largely criminal underbelly.)

In this essay, I want to consider how, not the news, but contemporary visual culture (i.e. screen and theatre of 2013/4) visualizes and/or fails to visualize ‘net privacy. I hope to address familiar issues of ‘net privacy via less familiar co-ordinates. Of course, William Gibson and other genre authors have been addressing cyber-issues, crafting cyber-aesthetics for years; but here I’m thinking of a) the real world ‘net in b) mainstream works of c) the last two years.

SCREEN MEDIA, and The ‘Net/Screen Problem

Documentaries aside (though cf. Terms and Conditions May Apply, Citizen Four), Internet privacy is surprisingly scantly treated in ‘13/4 screen culture. The two so bracketed, ‘net-oriented films I remember most readily–Her and Transcendence–privilege online addiction and a deus ex machina Johnny Depp over issues of ‘net privacy. Even Assange bio The Fifth Estate is more reportage, a primer on its subject and Wikileaks, than a meditation on abstractions or themes (and even then, Assange’s relationship to the media is privileged over ‘net privacy).

In mainstream C21 cinema in sum, ‘net privacy is principally a means to emotive ends. In Hard Candy, Chatroom, and Trust, the abuse of ‘net privacy does not itself merit attention–rather, it enables plot-wise the kidnaps et al that define and rather pre-occupy those thrillers. Even in the Catfish franchise [’10 film + current MTV series], any interrogation of ‘net privacy abuse is suborned to affect: to first terror (“who are these people?”), then horror (“look at those people!”). Although Catfish et al can be, indeed have been starting-points for discussing ‘net privacy, that discussion doesn’t happen in the films themselves.

Such scanty treatment of ‘net privacy on screen owes not only, I think, to auteurs’ simply “not having got round to it”, but also to a fundamental, broader disjunction between the ‘net and screen media. The ‘net does not readily lend itself to concrete visualization. One must get figurative, experimental; but screen media tend towards “meatspatial” settings— realities, however fantastical or futuristic. Consider Star Trek’s holodeck: always a real-world milieu, often Earth-historical, never a Tron-scape. Consider too the recent backdoor pilot for CSI Cyber: introducing a series oriented around the Deep Web, yet resorting latterly to “Female (Early 20s)” showing hard copy evidence of her online chat-room ignominy to meatspatial paparazzi in a meatspatial VEGAS: EXT.

Star Trek, Holodeck

I might suggest three reasons for this disjunction. First, the chokehold of corporate network funding and the likelier non-profitability of experimentalism [versus the realism that characterizes the “New Golden Age” of television]; the desire to fully exploit and justify investment in physical sets; and third (and still more tentatively proffered), the Internet’s being TV and film’s unheimlich, uncanny counterpart, perhaps frustrating the interrogation of the former by the latter… Heady stuff. But the bottom line for us is: if the Internet in sum cannot find a screen aesthetic, what hope for its clandestine, its even less readily visualized cyberspaces? And what hope consequently for addressing ‘net privacy?

Happily, ‘net privacy has been better visualized in theatre of ‘13/4— a medium naturally more amenable to the figurative and the experimental.

THEATRE, and Romancing the ‘Net

In The Net Effect, Thomas Streeter posits romanticism as a key co-ordinate in ‘net studies. He primarily argues that neoliberal forces propagate a romantic individualist idea of computing, and that “capital R” Romanticism can help us understand the social meaning of computers.

With this precedent in mind, I turn to ‘net privacy in theatre of ‘13/4. All the plays I’m going to consider deal with perversions, criminal iterations of ‘net privacy. But none less than Keats was ‘half in love with death’; and however perverse their content gets, these plays evince, if not a Romantic aesthetic per se, then something sufficiently akin that I’m going to draw formal Romantic parallels and beg your indulgence.

Jen Haley’s The Nether deals with online pederasty in a private “Hideaway” [Haley’s device]. In fashioning the Hideaway, Haley eschews a complementarily grimy, abject aesthetic for irony: it is an archetypal country estate, with trees, gazebo, and fishing-pond. Notwithstanding its nominally Victorian context, a Romantic aesthetic— Blakeian innocence, a “Lakeland Poetic” idealizing of Nature— surely underpins a milieu that presents like this:

The Nether, The Hideaway

Blakeian also is Iris, the Hideaway’s resident, white-clad sprite–and “willing” victim of virtual child abuse. Innocent prima facie, but horribly au fait with abhorrent experience (“Perhaps you’d like to use the axe first”): Iris embodies the disjunction that hinges Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. Note finally how, according to its creator, “it’d upset a balance” in the Hideaway to suggest that Iris could grow older: anyone whose mind went to the Romantic organic conception of nature, give yourself a mark.

Price’s Teh [sic] Internet is Serious Business is a reportage piece about the respective rise and fall of the “hacktivist” groups Anonymous and LulzSec. Its dominant aesthetic is anarchic: a ball pit abuts the stage, from and around which emerge Socially Awkward Penguin and other costumed memes. Bright lights, Harlem Shake: you get the drift. At first sight, privacy is not the word here. But Price also depicts hackers’ private forums— and here, the staging tends towards lyricism. Computer code is recited as poetry (cf. Chandra’s recent equivalence of the two, if intrigued); databyte flow, enacted as dance. Here, literarily and physically, is a lyricism where elsewhere is jouissance: thus is privacy “Romanticized” (cf. Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads, Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” Dvorak’s New World Symphony…).

James Graham’s Privacy tacks otherwise to Haley and Price. Graham’s is a synoptic approach to ‘net privacy, a condemnation of illiberal governmental/corporate/ security state malpractice as regards ostensibly password-protected public data. Such factuality is not the Romantic way, likewise Privacy’s format: a hybrid of verbatim enactments of his [The Writer’s] interviews with real British Establishment figures (Shami Chakrabarti, anyone? Well, Google her sometime); lectures; and fourth-wall—breaking audience participation. For good measure, Privacy rides roughshod over the Romantic exaltation of the subject: an array of thumbprints is the default [screen] backdrop, and the “subject” of the audience participation (having given prior permission) has her real-world online footprint, herself by proxy dissected onstage.

Privacy, James Graham

Despite all this, Privacy retains a double pertinence. First, it acts as a counter-proof: as its core is non-Romantic, so Privacy does not depict privacy itself [cf. Haley’s Hideaway, Price’s hackers’ forums] but exposes, is an exposé of its absence. Second, its aesthetic rather taps into the “other end” of Romanticism, where rapturous apostrophes fade into disquiet, into sublimity: the awesome dimensions of Big Data, the staging [that screen, those magnified thumbprints] vis-à-vis the actors and the script’s analytical impulse.

So: 2 1/2 proofs and a counter-proof, we might say, of a relationship between ‘net privacy and a quasi-Romantic aesthetic. My humble explanation: that the ‘net (especially the Deep Web) remains so broadly un-comprehended, its depth so untapped, as to inspire from us what “the naked countenance of Earth” [Shelley] inspired from the Romantics.

PYNCHON: A Quick Nota Bene

In another world, where space and time were as playthings, I’d fully discuss Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge: the only “literary” fictional novel that readily comes to mind that not only foreground ‘net privacy as a theme, but actually figures it as a distinct, visualized cyberspace–DeepArcher; conceived of as a ‘grand-scale motel for the afflicted’, for Pynchon’s kindred preterite [cf. Gravity’s Rainbow, or Google judiciously]; variously iterated as train concourse, desert, and galactic Void; and ultimately a Purgatory for leads, lovers, and 9/11 victims all encountered (and killed off) in the narrative. (On a complementary note for that latter point: Kabbalistic imagery and lexis is deployed in descriptions of the Void). Would I could share my MA dissertation with you all; but I’ll highlight simply this: doing what even screen media cannot (at least easily), and in keeping with his typical trickster mode, Pynchon visualizes ‘net privacy chimerically; that one cannot identify a definitive DA-scape is the whole point. A nicely postmodern note, I hope, on which to finish considering contemporary cultural visualizations of the ‘net.

Adult Swim Comes to Hulu

April 24th, 2015 | Posted by Philip J Reed in internet | television - (5 Comments)

Rick and Morty
…and we all have a lot of catching up to do.

I got a press release regarding Turner Broadcasting and Hulu reaching an agreement. But as many stations as Turner owns, and as many programs as it has the rights to, the press release spotlighted Adult Swim coming to the streaming site.

This is both interesting and refreshing to me. While other shows on TBS and TNT draw larger viewing figures regularly (understandably so, being as Adult Swim is only discovered by those who have trouble sleeping one night), Adult Swim’s programming pushes the envelope. And while it’s by no means always good (hello, Assy McGee!), it’s at least always interesting. To see these shows being heralded above the more traditional comedy fare on its sister stations represents a much-deserved step forward in terms of visibility.

The press release doesn’t specify a date, and it’s crawling with future-tense, so I have no idea when these shows will actually arrive. But it promises full back catalogues, so get ready (seriously, get ready) to work your way through some of the best alternative television ever made.

HERE I MADE YOU A LIST

  • The Venture Bros.
  • The Boondocks
  • Moral Orel
  • Tom Goes to the Mayor
  • Metalocalypse

And anything else you feel even slightly compelled to watch. The above, as far as I’m concerned, are varying degrees of required viewing, with The Venture Bros. easily — easily — ranking high on the list of my favorite shows of all time. (Don’t tempt me to prove it by making the list.)

The press release also mentions some great Cartoon Network (non-Adult Swim division) fare coming along as part of the deal. Adventure Time, Regular Show, Dexter’s Laboratory, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, and lots of other great stuff. I’m…really excited about those. Even more than I am the Adult Swim stuff, because I have much less experience with them, and I’m thrilled to get to know them properly.

And, yes, the choice of header image is deliberate, because a few people here have asked me to check out Rick and Morty, and I haven’t, because I’m a stubborn ass hole who hates you. But with it coming to Hulu, I’ll be giving it a spin. I can’t promise I’ll review it or anything, but we’ll see. As of right now that screen grab represents all I’ve ever seen of the show, so we’ll see where it takes me.

Regardless, I’m excited, and I hope you are too. Viewing these shows was always a hassle to do it legally, requiring cable (which I rarely have), the ability to stay up late (which I also rarely have), and the luck of catching whatever it is you want to see in their constantly fluctuating schedule (which I almost never have). The Adult Swim site has episodes available to stream, but they rotate as well, meaning any time I wanted to sample a new series I’d have to buy the DVD, or buy an episode through iTunes…both of which are definite gambles.

This will be a great way to help people fall in love with these shows, and I’m excited to discover more of them myself. I hope you are, too.

(Watch The Venture Bros. at least. You owe that to yourself.)

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