I’m going to tell you one last time about The Awl

Last Friday I deleted the 400+ to-read items from The Awl in my RSS so that I could start fresh and really stay with it. And before I did, one thing caught my attention that deserves a little bit of explanation. If ever there was one canonical example of the sheer brutal Strength of this particular little site, maybe this is it.

Okay, so here is the post: I Mean, Really, “J-Setting”? I Spent Half An Hour On Wikipedia Figuring Out What That Is. You’re going to want to read it before I go on, and you may want to click through to the “J-Setting Marmaduke Welfare Office Cat Fight Video Dance-Off” link in it, and watch both the videos. I don’t want you to get lost here. There’s going to be a quiz.

A little backstory: Choire Sicha is a guy primarily known for being the editor of Gawker a few years ago, and though he’s been published in all sorts of other publications (even in print!), his name redirects to the entry for Gawker on Wikipedia, just to give you some idea. (I just added “wtf?” to the discussion page for the discussion page of the redirect, so that’s your half-hearted attempt at making the internet more coherent for the day.) Alex Balk worked for Gawker too, tho him I’d never heard of before the two launched The Awl last April. The consensus (scroll to #2) is (a) the Awl is fucking great and (b) how the hell is it going to survive, if the people who are writing it are hoping to eventually/soon do it as a major source of their income and not as a hobby (and keeping in mind that they’re good at their fucking job and live in New York City so a salary of like $30,000 is not really what we’re talking about here), considering the state of the publishing world and the generally accepted suckiness of online advertising revenue.

So you could be forgiven for thinking at first blush that this post is pretty sincere — we’re trying to make money, can we please take it just a touch more seriously. And while I ponder that there may be a grain of that literal sentiment behind it, I presume that would be about all there is. It’s an inside-joke of a throw away-post, quickly typed up by a guy who’s got so many hilarious/great ideas going that he can just pull stuff like this out of his ass anytime he wants. (Or is it? Read on!)

OK now on to the post with the videos. I’ll save you the 30 minutes on Wikipedia and just tell you that J-Setting is the dance that BeyoncĂ© does in that Single Ladies video. Watch carefully: The guy in the first video does it as he’s being escorted out the welfare office. And the dogs do it at the end of the Marmaduke trailer. They are both fucking upsetting. Furthermore, you will note that the pairing is pretty interesting and maybe even says Something Important about our culture, and that the headline “J-Setting Marmaduke Welfare Office Cat Fight Video Dance-Off,” is just about prefect (if smart-alecky, but of course smart-alecky is what sites like this use to make the medicine go down).

But there is more. Because, it is not enough that The Awl (I’m pretty sure I need to capitalize the “T” every time for the title to hold together) publishes 25 posts per day, at least a few of which run long. Also shockingly great are the comments, and sometimes indispensable. That fake Balk memo? Well take a look at this and try to not crap your pants. You probably know that Nick Denton is the wildly controversial head of Gawker Media (not just internet-controversial either, since the wider journalism world is afraid that his management model may be the way of the future for writers, and it’s not representative of a world in which they feel they can live), and as such Balk and Sicha’s former boss. And so yes, this is how “successful” blogs are run, and this is how successful blogs that are not run this way mock and poke fun at the ones that are, while simultaneously wondering what the future holds for them. And more to the point, this is how clever you have to be in 2010 to make it out here on the internet.

100 best films of the decade

The Times’ 100 best films of the decade. Great list! But!: I like the Bourne series too, but number2?! Also overrated: Slumdog Millionaire (#6), Borat (#11), and Bad Santa (#54). Underrated: The Royal Tenenbaums (#88), Milk (#53), and the films of Spike Jonze, of which Being John Malkovich is #29, and Adaptation and Synecdoche, New York are missing. Also missing: Rachel Getting Married. (via)

To The Best of Our Knowledge

to the best of our knowledge logo You know how episodes of This American Life are supposed to be based on a theme? But they’re not, right? The “theme” thing is a conceit, and the episodes are really an excercise in tying together the most disparate possible group of stories. It’s pretty fantastic, but what if a radio program picked a theme and really tried to explore and shed some light on that theme. Well, that radio program would be To The Best of Our Knowledge. But TTBook, as it calls itself, is not dry and didactic. It’s every bit as poetic and inspirational as This American Life. It’s contributors have enough Midwestern NPR sincerity make Steve Inskeep sound like Steven Colbert, and they sometimes veer dangerously close to paralyzing self-consciousness, but it’s always in the line of trying to get to the real heart of the issue.

But the best way to explain how great this all is might be to present a few episodes. Almost all of the episodes on the site are in RealAudio(!), so I figured I’d try to make them a little more user-friendly. I’d suggest subscribing to the podcast for future episodes.

The New Abolitionists: There are more human slaves in the world today then at any other time in history. The first interview in this show is with a woman who was abducted from the street in New York, and spent 5 years as a slave. The second, with a journalist who wrote a book on contemporary slavery, is about going to Haiti to purchase a child. Then follows the story of the successful abolitionist movement in Britain, over two hundred years ago, which succeeded — while innovating many of the techniques still used by political activists — because it got the whole of society to care. Finally, looks at a modern-day family’s attempts to come to grips with its slave-trading legacy and an interview with a Nobel Peace Prize winner about the economics of poverty which drive slavery. In one hour, the program explains how slavery works, argues that it can be stopped, and explains how to stop it. mp3 link

Alone Time: The first two segments are the quintessential TTBOOK juxtaposition: an in-depth discussion of the neurological and evolutionary origins and consequences of the cognitive process of loneliness, followed by an interview with a guy who spent a year living in complete isolation in the near-Antarctic part of Chile. Plus songs of loneliness, and a look at how American society is becoming increasingly isolated. mp3 link

David Foster Wallace: Obviously a labor of love for the crew, this posthumous look at DFW’s life and writing includes interviews with book critics, family, editors, and the writer himself (the program interviewed him three times between 1996 and 2004). There are links at the bottom of the page to the full versions of these interviews (recommended!) as well as an excerpt from the famous commencement speech DFW gave at Kenyon College in 2005. mp3 link

About Andy Kaufman

andy are you goofing on elvis? The Andy Kaufman Chronicles

Here’s a file I put together something like 12 years ago about Andy Kaufman, with information pulled from the then-internet.

Let me set the stage: back when I was your age, there was no YouTube, no Wikipedia, no blogs. There was no friggin’ Google yet. What there was were tons of websites, lovingly hand-crafted with the first wave of web authoring tools (Dreamweaver 1.0 was cutting-edge), which you browsed on your crappy bulging-front 15” CRT monitor. And these websites had tons of stuff on them. And so if a subject popped into your head, you could pull up the Yahoo[!] and find information — sometimes on multiple sites! — and get your information piped directly into your eye-stream, or whatever. And I used to put together these dossiers on different things to print out and read offline. Well, a dozen years and at least half that many computers later, these files live on (and who says hard drives crash?) on my computer, which suddenly seems like such a shame.

Microsoft Word, which I originally put these together with, of course now exports HTML (hideous, bloated html, but whatever, right?), which I was able to cobble together enough to get it into the most rudimentary of my templates.

I hope you’ll get a kick out of my younger self’s enthusiasm for Kaufman (of course today you can see a lot of the stuff I could only read about) and overlook the horrendeous design choices (more my fault then Word’s, a testament to getting over-the-top formatting stuff out of your system while you’re young) and probably copyright violations (I hope to add citations and links to this file at some point). I hope you enjoy it.


I haven’t read much on TVTropes yet, but apparently lots of people have fun poking around in there. The idea is to take certain re-occurring ideas from our culture and lay them out explicitly, thereby revealing something about ourselves and generally to amuse and enlighten.