the listenerd

optimized for maximum incontinence

Category: blogging

The Absence of Everything: On Bootyclipse and Garfield Minus Garfield

One of the more well-worn ruts of my day job concerns the idea of context. We natter endlessly about why people make the decisions they do – and how that why changes depending on the context of their choices. People buy coffee in the morning for the ritual. They buy it in the afternoon because they’re bored. They buy it in the evening to be social. The situation shapes the decision, and it’s notable that in this brain-dead example (as in many scenarios), the actor and the outcome are the same each time, despite changing context.

One of the concepts those explorations of context eventually spawn is around something that’s been increasingly engaging my imagination – the changing importance of the idea of absence. Absence as I’ve been thinking about it, and as illustrated by a recent rash of online examples, actually often accentuates the centrality of context to narratives – traditional media narratives, brand narratives, the flow of your home, your expectations about how to interact with people, with pornography, with a website, with whatever – by removing all but the context.

Online, the subtraction of key actors (or a radical shift in a narrative’s perspective) has taken a few notable forms. The most prominent recent manifestation, of course, is Garfield Minus Garfield – the book and comic series that takes the cat out of the comic, leaving the pathos-inducing Mr. Arbuckle staring into space by himself.

Add to that awesome example, though, a litany of other high-concept subtractions:

*Dennis Knopf’s Bootyclipse (booty shaking videos in which the booty shakers have been removed)
*Waxy’s Meme Scenery (YouTube faves without the main characters)
*Unphotographable (a site of descriptions of pictures never taken)
*John Haddock’s Porn Sans People (porn! sans people!)
*And these Danish porn interiors of the 1970s (a focus on the furniture rather than the fucking)

Though online occurrences of conspicuous absence abound, the digital realm isn’t the only place to find what’s not there. Again for the day job, one of the observations we wrote about months ago was the Debranded home – a company that gives homeowners the chance to remove branding from everyday objects – soaps, shampoo, etc. It’s an exercise in deconsumption, surely – a way to buy cheap goods and transfer them into bottles that don’t look ugly. But it’s also a way to change the story of one’s home by taking away, by creating a conspicuous absence. (Similarly prosaic, Product Displacement is a blog that tracks the removal of product brands in movies and television shows.)

It may seem difficult to extrapolate anything useful from bootyless booty videos, missing cats and consumers choosing to debrand their lives, but absence is also at the root of the “local assignment” I noted on this blog the other day. (It seems like in a world of opinions and assholes, what isn’t here is still one of the great untapped opportunities for online conversation.)

So is Garfield Minus Garfield really an example of “late capitalist anxiety,” as Mother Jones said? Huh. Maybe. And maybe it’s some other things, too. Maybe it’s a simple manifestation of the fact that in a world of extreme exposition, silence and subtraction are becoming ever better ways to tell a story. Or maybe it’s an acknowledgement of a rising primacy of context over individual actor.

Reading over this, it’s obvious that I’ve failed to completely articulate why these ideas interest me, how they connect or even what they are (not to mention what insights one may draw from them). And that’s actually fine – and even fitting. Call me an idiot, but I rarely write what I know anymore. I more often make the effort when I don’t know – or when I know that something should be there, but isn’t. At least, not yet.

(**If anyone has any other examples of conspicuous absence, I’d love to hear them.)

Blogging about some blogs from the day job. Blog.

I have a day job (FOR NOW). I don’t write about it all that often on the ‘nerd, but it takes up kind of a lot of time. Also, it helps pay for food. And healthcare.

Anyway, a couple of things happening at said day job (for Iconoculture – a cultural and consumer trend research firm) may be of interest to regular listenerd readers.

1) We’re now pushing our weekly newsletter – which offers a taste of Iconoculture content – through an online publication (call it a blog if you REALLY WANT to). Check it out here. You will see Never Greens. And hangover-free red wine. And other such interesting things.

2) Iconoculture has a partnership with a local business publication, Twin Cities Business, through which we publish some stuff on a blog called Culture Capture. Unfortunately for all parties, if you go to the front page of their site and wait for a while, you may have to see a HUGE picture of the author rotate through.

I’m bald, everyone. Really bald. I can’t say with 100% assurance that there hasn’t been some hair photoshopping done to this picture. You know? Sorry.

Wait a second. Did I just blog about blogs? Ugh.

I am going away for a while now.


I am going far, far away for a little while.

To a place where cellphones, computers and music do not go. To a place where peyote rules the world, where whiskey fills your pockets and where walleye hang in the evening air like dew. (I have no idea. Really. None whatsoever.)

I hope to return to the non-physical world sometime next week. If I am too tired to blog at that time, I will turn over to you my OPML file and the name of a cheap mechanical turk to sort through it for you.



State of the listenerd address!

As of this Wednesday (the 28th), I’ll have a year under my belt blogging on the ‘nerd. With work on the backburner and a long weekend for leisure, I’m seizing this opportunity for some brief meta-blogging self-indulgence. If you are easily bored, fall asleep now and save yourself the eyestrain.

Unlike many bloggers, I started this site with very clear goals. At the time it began, I was covering consumer trends in the media/entertainment/technology space as a Senior Editor, playing with Web 2.0 stuff and consumer electronics, reading extensively, and writing 10-12 articles a week. The problem: Everything I wrote was published behind a spendy subscription firewall. In fact, despite 3+ years of writing about media and tech trends, I had practically no discernible presence on the ‘net at large.

So I started the ‘nerd with the focus of developing an online record of some of my work and thinking. Obviously, I was a heavy blog consumer, and I’d experimented with blogging before extensively, usually to test platforms and applications (I started tumbling when it still kinda sucked; and ended up giving it up before it hit big), but occasionally to stretch my legs a bit as far as subject matter, too.

The main goal of this blog, however, was not to give myself a venue to play with new technologies, nor was it to be a place I could experiment with content. It was simply a way to, in a focused and efficient manner that was, in fact, a by-product of my everyday work and life, develop an authentic, organic, semi-controllable web presence for myself.

With that goal in mind, the blogging part was sort of easy. Google (and, actually, future readers) was a prime part of the audience; writing for a real-time readership was secondary. At least at the beginning. Anyway, if searchability was a key metric, I did just moderately well this year. I’m still behind the surfing photog who runs and buys AdSense, but there’s at least some record of my work and/or thinking (or lack thereof) online now.

So whither the ‘nerd? Not sure. Having met my primary aims, I’m now contemplating whether to adjust my ultimate goals in writing this thing (with one option being to actually WRITE more instead of linking so much), or to just keep on trucking (or maybe simply skip-hop to the next venture).

As far as a linkblog goes, the setup I have now is almost too efficient. Despite switching jobs (I’m Exec. Editor now), 80% of the information that hits the ‘nerd is basically a byproduct of my everyday work and life. I spend 20-30 minutes a night smashing a monster feedreader and posting links, and once in a while I press a video onto the site in the middle of the day. The total, realistic time commitment’s about 8 hours a week, though it’d be significantly more if I ever wrote decent-sized posts. (I’d prefer if it were like 4.5 hours.)

Traffic these days is not bad; and the trajectory is actually spiking. Each of the last two months has been the highest ever. Each of the last three weeks has been the highest ever, as well. And the highest trafficked day for the site was posted in the past week. Just two days shy of a year and I (this isn’t – like many others – a group blog or a partnership, and I don’t have guest writers or linkers) have put up 1,114 posts. Kind of a lot.

Anyway, thanks to anyone who reads, watches on, links to, or – at the least – does not try to hack into and destroy the listenerd. It’s been an interesting experiment, and I’m not really sure where it will go from here. Having pretty much met my primary goals, I will most likely shift my tactics a bit (though the focus of the blog, if it continues, will pretty much stay where it is; any subject matter shift will be organic).

OK, that was long. Sorry. Same time, same place, next year? Maybe?

Please note: I have returned

And I will begin kicking ass once again as time and technology permit.

Thank you.

Off topic: I just discovered Postcards from Yo Momma

Postcards from Yo Momma: “Does your mom still have an AOL account? Does she email you her random, yet charming, thoughts on life and love?” E-mail from people who don’t know anything about e-mail. Excerpts:

“face book
tell me about face book. do you have a page on it? can anyone look at your page? I am worried about this type of thing.”


Mates of State are ‘rent-blogging again

Catchy popsters Mates of State are blogging again on Nerve Media’s wannabe-hip parenting blog Babble. Only a couple updates in November, but watch Band on the Diaper Run for a taste of what it’s like to tour and parent simultaneously.

See also: “Low in Europe.”

The cyclical blog, or how meaning may accumulate

Being partially braindead, I’ve lately been thinking a lot about conceptual repetition in blogging. I’m not concerned with technologies, ways of working, subject matter or rhetorical style, really (or at least, the ideas don’t start there). Rather, I find myself having the fairly regular urge to post and re-post certain items, over and over.

I don’t want to do this to bore my very few readers, but rather I feel like a good link’s meaning can and does change depending on its context (including the temporal). Things get more interesting when this assumption’s taken to its logical conclusion.

I’ve of course seen (and maybe written about) disposable blogs (blogs with intentionally limited lifespans) before, and there are many blogs that exist outside of time (repostings of diaries and journals from historical figures such as Samuel Pepys). I’m now wondering, though, if any cyclical blogs exist; modern-day blogs that click through a cycle (preferably with culturally aware posts that are optimized to accumulate meaning with each repetition). At its best, a cyclical blog would be an online version of Borges’ Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, in which each old post within a new cycle – despite being word-for-word, link-for-link the same as the original – would be richer and more meaningful than the same post the previous time around.

The links I feel compelled to repeat, though, are not timeless at all, and I think I may be the only person who could ascribe new meanings to them as they are repeated. Just a few of the long list of links I sometimes feel compelled to repeat, ad absurdum:
-A BBC article predicting that there will eventually be two kinds of humans.
Flying Wangs attack Second Life reporters.
Lemon party. (Kidding!) Ugh. Sorry.
Dave Matthews Band blamed for human waste
-Phone guy EXT. OFFICE PARK.

Wow: the PayPerPost Revolution?

I am doing some historical research on blogging. Long story. Day job. Reading the wikipedia entry for “blog,” I came across this section:

“Recently, through the mass popularity of sponsored post ventures such as PayPerPost a massive amount of personal blogs have started writing sponsored posts for advertisers wanting to boost buzz about new products and services. It has revolutionised the blogosphere almost in the same way that Google AdSense did.[16]”

The footnote (which leads nowhere):
“^ Eloquentia, Sponsors and the revolution of the blogosphere.”

Wow. Will have to check this out.