Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Monday, February 09, 2009

Things That Are Upcoming: Gigs, Guns, and Blogs

Here are a bunch of things I'm looking at over the next few months. I say this in spite of the fact that I passed on tonight's Over the Rhine show at Birchmere (so very tired). And this may not include events that I can't talk about, should they exist:

* Tonight, Feb 9, 7:30pm: DC area Tweetup, Indique Heights in Chevy Chase. Indian food and good conversation amongst some of DC's Twitter elite. (Twee-leet?) Free, all welcome.

* Tuesday, Feb 10, 5-9pm: AOL Employee Reunion, eCitie in Vienna. Given the economic and employment outlook (for the industry as a whole and AOL in particular), current employees might want to check in on this, too.

The venue also provides a bit of irony -- eCitie opened during Dotcom Bubble 1.0, and during the heydey, they took great pains to make sure the Lambos, Ferraris, Bentleys and such were parked prominently and ostentatiously out front.

Also Tuesday, 7:30pm: The Puppini Sisters, who I will be missing, yet again, at Birchmere.

And, from Feb 10 to Feb 15, the muppet musical Avenue Q plays the Warner Theatre. Tickets start at $45. Also, the Internet is for porn.

* Wednesday, Feb 11, 9pm: College basketball, Duke vs. UNC. Not sure where I'll be for the game, but I'll be somewhere.

* Feb 13-15: Nation's Gun Show, Dulles Expo Center, Chantilly. Notable if only for timing (Valentine's Day), and because this is just after the Virginia legislature just killed a bill to close the so-called gun show loophole (which would have required private sellers at gun shows to conduct instant background checks, just as federally-licensed firearms dealers are required to do.)

* Sun, Feb 15, 7:30pm: Cowboy Junkies, Birchmere. Sold Out (I snoozed, I losed.)

* Wed, Feb 18, 7pm: February Washington Blogger Meetup at RFD in DC. We had an okay turnout last month -- a lot more "yes" RSVPs than actually showed up. I know I'll be hitting up the Wordpress folks for some Blogger-to-Wordpress transition advice.

* Thurs, Feb 19, 6pm: Bloggers for Good Meetup, O'Faolain's in Sterling. Networking with the proceeds supporting charities. More info here.

Also, 7:30pm, Fountains of Wayne play an acoustic gig at Birchmere. Sold Out.

* Sat, Feb 21, 7:30pm: DC 10th Anniversary Fark Party at The Black Rooster Pub in DC. Drew Curtis will be there -- this is part of his extended bender world tour celebrating Fark's 10th Anniversary.

DC Fark parties are always fun, though the appearance of Drew will undoubtedly bring out all the lurkers and superlurkers (folks who read Fark, but don't even have accounts).

* Thu, Feb 26, 6pm: TechCocktail DC 4, at LeftBank in Adams Morgan. This is a new venue, relocated from the now-closed MCCXXIII.

Looking out a little farther:

* Sat, Mar 14: Shamrockfest at RFK.

* Fri, Mar 20, 8pm: Ting Tings at the 9:30 Club. I already have my ticket, so call it a definite unless something unexpected comes up.

* Thu, Mar 26 (all-day): My birthday.

* Fri, Mar 27 (7pm happy hour) and Sat, Mar 28 (all-day): Government 2.0 Camp (more: Facebook | Eventbrite)

* Sat, Apr 4, 8pm: Mates of State, 9:30 Club (soft sale right now, it's not on the main page listing yet)

* Sat, Apr 11, 8pm: Demetri Martin, Warner Theatre. Just saw this listing. Call it a maybe -- perhaps seeing his new series on Comedy Central will sway me.

* Sat, Apr 18, 8pm: Legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, Warner Theatre. I saw him a few years ago, in Rahway, NJ of all places. Tickets start at $40 and go to $80. If you go, don't be that guy who yells out, "Take Five!" Just don't.

* Fri, Apr 24m 8pm (pre-party) and Sat, Apr 25 (all-day): 2009 Milblogging Conference, Westin Arlington Gateway. $50. I went in 2007 (and blogged about it in my now-dead AOL Journals blog -- 2008 was in Vegas with Blog World Expo, which I didn't attend). In 2007, they were talking about mainstream media lagged behind milbloggers about the Anbar Awakening, curious to see what they're talking about now.

* Sat, May 2 (all-day): Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race. Get working on your entry and/or costume now. Mine will have to involve skates. I suppose I should try to post my 2008 photos and video before then. (More info at Kinetic Baltimore)

* Sat, May 17 (all-day): The second-ever Washington Post Hunt. I swear that I got nearly 75% of the way to solving each of the puzzles, by my lonesome. (Except for the final puzzle, which was crazy convoluted.) With a team, I will win. I will!

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

The New York Times Doesn't Want Any Dirty, Stinking Fark Links

I've seen a notable lack of New York Times links on Fark over the past few months. NYT used to be really unfriendly to social bookmarking and linksharing sites (with their login-registration wall), but that changed when they added permalink sharing URLs, which made linking to their stories easier.

Now, though, when you try to submit an NYT link to Fark, it fails -- you get an error:

"Can't verify that link: Throwing away unfetchable URL... 302 Moved Temporarily"

The error message says it's a 302 temporary redirect, though Redirect Checker says it a 301 permanent redirect. Either way, Fark doesn't like it.

I'm not 100% on the timing, but I think it's related to changes that were made when NYT rolled out their TimesPeople social network a few months back. (I already disliked TimesPeople because it adds a persistant Javascript tool bar at the top of the page -- when you page down in an article, it cuts off the first few lines, so you have to scroll back up to pick up where you left off. It's annoying.)

Anyway, that's probably why there haven't been any NYT links on Fark the last few months. (Other social booksharing sites seem unaffected.)

I guess an alternate interpretation would be that Fark doesn't want any NYT links. But the headline on that doesn't sound as cool.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Vanilla Ice Isn't Even a Good Punch Line Anymore

I got my 65th Fark headline submission greenlight today:

(Yahoo) Scary Deadly, incurable vanilla fungus hits Madagascar. Word to your mother

As you can see (or can you? -- read on), I went with the Vanilla Ice joke. As you can also see by looking at the ensuing comment thread, this comedic choice was met by indifference, even confusion and outright disgust, over the fact that I didn't make a Pandemic 2 joke out of that hanging meatball of a Madagascar/disease reference.

If you're not familiar, Pandemic 2 is a Flash-based, disease simulation videogame. You play the pathogen -- virus, bacteria, or parasite -- and you try to infect and wipe out humanity. Madagascar is often the lone holdout, since it only has one seaport, and if they shut it down, you can't kill the last remnants of humanity to win.

I'm familiar with the game (I've taken to naming my in-game disease-self "Joelogonorrhea"), but since I'm of a certain age (old), the first thing that came to mind was the Vanilla Ice joke. Apparently, the Fark admin who approved the headline was also of this generational mindset (that is to say, culturally irrelevant), so I guess I got lucky here.

I also have to conclude that '90s hit rap artist Vanilla Ice has been overshadowed by a semi-popular Flash video game on the Web.

Sic transit gloria mundi (Latin, of course, for "Drop that zero and get with the hero.")

Like I've said before, for me, submitting Fark headlines is a way to test my writing chops, and to see if other people find what I find interesting, interesting. (You don't get any recognition for a greenlit headline, except a notch in your greenlight count.)

(Actually, today I also got my 66th greenlight, but that one got taken back. Apparently, Fark has this rule against posting links to snuff films. In my defense, it didn't look in any way real, so long as you define "real" as "the way Michael Bay shows it.")

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Monday, October 27, 2008

The Joelogon Facepalm Strikes Again

The Industry Standard blogger Jordan Golson has an item today taking bigshot tech bloggers to task (or, more accurately, taking bloggers at bigshot tech blogs to task) for committing attempted journalism without actually doing any of the "journalism" bits -- "A lesson for bloggers: go to the source or look like a fool" [link via Fark].

It's about some "OMG, Congress wants teh iPhones!!!" misinformation that was primary sourced at an article on TheHill.com, then batted around the tech media blogosphere with lots of punditry and very nonexistant fact-checking.

Anyway, that's not the important bit. The important bit is, the article uses my facepalm photo:

D'oh! I mean, woo-hoo!

This is the first media use of it I've seen since I noticed the photo made it into Wikimedia Commons (and it's properly attributed too, at the end of the article).

Additionally, here are the Fark tie-ins: I saw the article where it was greenlighted on the Fark main page; it quotes Drew Curtis (and mentions his book); it links to Fark, and it uses the creative commons-licensed photo from (and of) a Farker. So it's like a quad-damage bonus that's worth... precisely nothing.

Oh, as to the rest of it?

BoingBoing updated with a correction, but of the other linked tech blogs -- all of whom originally reported the story with varying degrees of righteous indignation and/or wish fulfillment -- none of them did a correction or followup that I could see (from the article, Ars Technica, Wired Gadget Lab, Gizmodo, ZDnet, CNET's iPhone Atlas, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, PC Mag (via Gearlog), a quickie mention in the LA Times Technology blog, Cult of Mac, and iPod Observer).

This is just using a citation as an appeal to authority, and it's nothing new, of course: It's how things like the Super Bowl domestic violence myth perpetuated itself, and it's gone on in academia forever (who traces a citation all the way back to a primary source? If you see something cited enough, it becomes its own source, very much how a lie told enough times becomes the truth.)

Of course, me: I didn't do any fact-checking either, but I'm not a journalist, and I'm not much by the way of media -- I'm just a cat-blogger (sans cat) who just wanted to brag about one of my photos.

However, looking at some of the blogs in that list, that are either associated with "real" tech journalism or trying to make a case for legitimacy in that space -- how many of them can make that claim? Folks, if you want to play journalist, you have to act like one. Just saying "I'm just a blogger" isn't going to work unless you want blogging to forever stay the junior varsity dumping ground of media, somewhere above tabloids and below the main stream (or was that the other way around?)

I know, it sucks -- having to do all the new media stuff like transparency, authenticity, and responsiveness, then having to do more traditional media stuff like "sources," "requests for comment," "factchecking," and "ethics" (such as they are) -- that's a pain in the ass, as opposed to just snark and punditry.

But, if you're going to make it a profession, you're going to have to be more... professional.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tips on Getting Fark Greenlights (or, an unexpected Fairfax Times Twofer)

I was catching up on this week's Fairfax County Times (Reston/Herndon edition -- the print version comes out mid-week), and I saw a couple of stories that I thought were potentially Fark-main page worthy: The first because it involved beer pong/beiruit and offsetting stupidity; and the second because it hews to one of Fark's favorite current ideological punching bags, "millenials as precious snowflakes."

I like submitting items to Fark -- partly to contribute to the community (in the realm of the Fark top 100 commenters, I'm solidly in the 9-percent portion of the 90-9-1 participation inequality ratio side of things), but mostly to test out my writing chops, to see if I can generate a funny or interesting wordplay, or one that otherwise fits in with the current Fark zeitgeist -- something that stands out among the thousands of submissions.

The headlines I submitted this afternoon, though, were not particularly interesting. So I was surprised to see that they were both greenlighted to the main page, back-to-back, in a Fairfax Times two-fer:

(Some Guy) Stupid School groups protest forthcoming beer pong game for Wii. Game company claims beer pong actually discourages drinking because, "If anything, you're going to be drinking less" (67)
(Some Snowflake) Asinine Fairfax County, Virginia schools abandon "valedictorian" in favor of groups of "honor graduates." Reactions range from, "This is a communist system" to "I'm glad I don't have to give a speech." (145)
I wonder if the Fairfax Times people are scratching their heads trying figure out where the traffic spike is coming from. (They seemed to handle the load okay, though they didn't get any comments -- most likely due to the required registration.)

So that takes me to 24 greenlit headlines. Not a lot, but a respectable number.

I've never had any success trying to pitch anything I'm working on professionally (and rarely try), but here are a few strategies that seem to have worked for me in general (this is in addition to following the submission suggestions in the Fark FAQ):

* It doesn't have to be new, but it has to be interesting: My very first Fark greenlight was in 2004, referencing a 1997 article about Army lessons learned from the 1992 LA Riots. Not at all current, and the the headline was pretty straight. However, the straight headline invoked some very comical imagery, and was therefore funny: "Lesson learned from the 1992 L.A. riots: Cops and marines understand "cover me" to be two entirely different things"

If you try to submit breaking news or something that's already being highlighted on another popular social linksharing site, you have to be fast and funny (funny enough -- by the time you craft the perfect comedic gem, you will probably have already lost out to someone else). There's a lot of competition around the time-senstive stories, so I try to stay out of it.

* Submit outside of peak times: Since I'm a night person anyway, I'll take a look at the BBC News to see what they've got going on that the US will get to in a few hours. Also, the next-day's Washington Post top stories are usually up on the Web by then. (I submit a lot of Washington Post items, mostly because I'm reading it anyway.)

It's somewhat paradoxical, but if you submit during a slower time, when fewer items are flowing through the submissions queue, there's a higher likelihood of your submission catching someone's eye.

* Know your Fark community: Admins tend to pick topics that they know will generate lively discussion. As I said before, Farkers lately like to beat up on the perceived "everybody gets a trophy" stereotype of the millenial generation, though boomers are also pretty common targets. Hence a lot of "precious snowflake" and "get off my lawn" references in headlines.

Other discussion drivers include guns, driving, fat people, female teachers having sex with students, and bad parents.

Here's another example -- after an April 2007 redesign caused some problems and complaints from some folks, a Fark employee ill-advisedly told people, "You'll get over it." It's made it into Fark folklore and at least a few headlines (including a recent one of my own).

* Crowd-pleasing headline constructions: There are certain headline conventions that are pretty popular on Fark. Most of them are now tired cliches used by unfunny people trying to be funny. But when used carefully (especially if you can turn a headline cliche around and do something different with it), they'll resonate with the community.

The Fark FAQ has a list of Farkisms (though a lot of them have aged out by now). Other headline constructions I'd note:
  • [Alarmist story.] EVERYBODY PANIC (bonus points for clever wordplay variations)
  • Having solved all other problems, [politicians wasting time on trivial matters]
  • [Something strange in an otherwise mundane story. ] Wait, what?
  • *Shakes Magic 8-Ball* used in connection with a reason for a change in oil prices
There's a bunch more, including backwash/blowback from 4chan, SomethingAwful, and other internet memes. Keep an eye out and you'll see some trends that you can dovetail your submission into.

* Rhyme and alliteration are the province of hacks: Of course, anyone can be a hack at any particular time, and a good use of rhyme, alliteration, puns, germane movie quotes, etc. can be worth a cheap laugh. And a cheap laugh is still a laugh. Just don't try to force it too hard.

* Be useful, be interesting (or best of all, be both): You don't always have to be funny. In fact, if you're not funny, you probably shouldn't even try. Just play it straight, but be informative. And brief.

Things I wouldn't recommend doing:
  • Sometimes, a headline will be so miserably spelled (or otherwise incomprehensible), the administrators will approve it just for the entertainment value. I wouldn't call it a good strategy.
  • Seeding a comment to get your submission into the "Commented" category (as opposed to the full-on regular queue) -- I don't do this, and I have no idea if it would help anyways.
Oh, and you can also try looking at the profiles of some of the more prolific submitters -- they tend to highlight their favorite headlines (braggarts, the lot), so you can see some samples.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Social Roundup: Getting Lucky at a Fark Party and More

Looking back, I had a pretty active latter half of the week.

Saturday was a DC-ish Fark party, at Carpool in Ballston. I am happy to say that I got lucky and scored in a big way, snagging a prime, um, parking space in the Carpool parking lot.

In all my years down here, I think that's the first time that's happened.

It was a good meet; we had a spot at the bar, and it was busy but not too crowded. It was a smaller meet, but there were some new folks.

It was not a sausagefest.

I'm not sure what Chris and Jess are trying to do here, but whatever it is, you're doing it wrong.

It started out pretty warm, but then it got cold. I don't remember when I left, but I'm pretty sure no one got stuck with a huge bill this time.

Friday, I met up with the Gel-Man, who was in town for some training:

Obligatory Metro shot. I didn't bring my camera, so had to settle for the cameraphone.

We met at Mackey's, then moved to Lucky Bar for a bit. I guess I just can't hang with the youngsters any more, since we took off as it was starting to pick up. (Then again, I had been drinking -- moderately -- since 5pm.)

On previous trips, I hadn't noticed the strong odor of empanadas permeating the bar from Julia's next door. It was slightly irritating, since I'd just eaten at Mackey's and wasn't at all hungry.

There was also an interesting-looking building demolition nearby -- K or L street, around 17th. It made me wish again that I'd brought my camera:


Waterfall effect.

Pile of scrap metal debris.

Passing it again at night, there was an interesting scene with the work site lights going through mist from the rain and spray from a hose, but that picture didn't come out.

Thursday was all over the place. I got out of work about 3:30pm and needed to grab a bite and kill some time before a Social Media Club DC event in Falls Church, so I stopped by Clare and Don's Beach Shack.

I'd planned on eating, then moving to Stacy's Coffee Parlor to mess around online (I haven't been yet, but it's next to the CD Cellar), but then David told me that the Beach Shack has wi-fi. And the signal is perfectly fine from the patio seating. And it was about 70 degrees out. Score.

I anticipate I'll be there more often. Unlike some others I could mention.

The Social Media Club DC event was just down the road at Viget. Here's Aaron streaming video of audience comments with his Mac's iSight:


After the discussion, I hung out for a bit, then went back to the Beach Shack, since I'd convinced the Captain to come out. Here, he shares a big Guinness with Rebecca:
Guinness, now served in handy book form.

After that, it was off to the tail-end of a pre-season kickball happy hour at Carpool back in Herndon:
This season, we're trying out the Fairfax Athletics league instead of WAKA, so we'll see how that goes.

Wednesday was the Washington Psychotronic Film Society's showing of Kentucky Fried Movie at its new location at the (new) Old Arlington Grill restaurant at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse. It's a little space just off (and before) the ticket booth.

I got there about quarter to 9, which means I missed a few of the opening sketches, but arrived just in time for Catholic High School Girls in Trouble. Here's a cameraphone photo I snuck:

The movie ended about 10pm, so I decided to head over to Galaxy Hut. Driving down Clarendon Boulevard, I saw a striking young woman wearing a very trendy black and white trench coat-ish jacket, and I said, "Hey, this looks like someone I'd like to know." But it was just Jenny. I yelled at her through the car window to meet me at the Hut for a drink. (I'm persuasive that way, and the fact that it's on the way home doesn't hurt.)

The patio is also open for the season, and the Patio Clown is waiting for you:

I also hadn't realized that the Hut acquired the silo from Dr. Dremos -- it's at the end of the patio. That makes me happy -- I like the silo.

Anyway, that was last week. I still have to talk about Hirshhorn After Hours, the Mike Doughty show and a few other things. But that will have to wait.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

The Pizza Dough-Encrusted Nerve Center and National Farker Radio

Saw this on DCRTV today:
WTOP Sells "Nerve Center" Name To Ledo - 5/7 - Ledo Pizza has just purchased the "naming rights" to all-news WTOP's "Glass Enclosed Nerve Center." That's according to Ledo Marketing Director Will Robinson. Check out the audio clip supplied by Ledo: ledo.mp3....
If there's something more annoying than hearing "from the glass-enclosed nerve center" every 10 minutes on the 8s, it would have to be that.

While I'm on the subject of local radio:

* Unzipped on 106.7 (their sex talk show from 7-10pm) -- I dunno, I kind of like it. Then again, I don't listen to more of a few minutes of it as I'm driving home.

* Bill Redlin -- The guy may be Brent Musberger for all I know (heck, he could be Bo Jackson), but listening to him read the morning sports briefs, I don't get the sense that he's quite comfortable with it, which starts to make me feel uncomfortable

* Fark on NPR -- Back in March was a Fark Party at RFD. I never did get around to blogging about it. Drew Curtis was there. I met him:

Nice guy.

There was also a really big tab, of which I think I put in more than my fair share. But that's okay.

I'd forgotten there was an NPR reporter there (I'd arrived late and didn't talk to him). But there was. And they did a story about it. So there.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Former President Gerald Ford Eaten By Wolves (He Was Delicious)

This will probably be the 10 millionth time you see this today, but if you haven't, this SNL sketch of Dana Carvey as Tom Brokaw pre-taping obituaries for Gerald Ford is one of the funniest things you'll ever see (even now, given news of his actual death):

This link was posted in the Fark thread, which also brings up the ever-popular "Trifecta in play/Celebrity deaths come in threes." Who's next -- will it be Castro, as one poster suggests? (I know it would make my dad happy.)

Incidentally, the bit at the end where Dana Carvey is speaking some "African" language of clicks and pops for the Zimbabwean invasion scenario newscast is one of the reasons why the whole Rosie O'Donnell "ching chong chinese" affair from a few weeks ago didn't bother me much -- whether it's gringos speaking fake Spanish by adding -o to everything (el pass-o el mayo-o), or someone putting on a Sgt. Schultz German accent or whatever, making up sounds for languages you don't speak just doesn't strike me as all that offensive.

If she'd done the slanty-eyed, buck-toothed thing, then we would have problems. But otherwise, it's silly and stupid and some folks need to get a grip.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Meet the Farkers

I finally made it out to a DC Fark party Friday night.

This was after a few previous aborted attempts, where I'd gone to the venue but failed to meet the Farkers (like during the night at the Big Hunt), mostly due to a lingering shyness that makes me unwilling to go up to random people and ask "Are you a Farker?" (though it might make an interesting conversational entry, a.k.a. line.)

Meeting up with online people in real life is nothing new, of course. I've been doing it for 10 years, which means I was doing it way before Dateline NBC made it cool. (Why are you looking at me like that?)

Typically, though, I've been a more active contributor in those communities. While I've had a Fark account for a few years, I don't post very often, and it's been a while since I've had a submitted link approved.

I made it out to Whitlow's, and headed to the back bar for a drink as I looked for the party. I saw a group in the back room that looked like it was loitering with intent, and I asked the waiter for confirmation.

Mid-sized story short, I hung with the Farkers. I met a bunch of folks, including 612WharfAvenue, Bufu, Creepy Lurker Guy, Kronicfeld, MsStressa, Stars_at_Night, TheKnownUniverse, TheMailDemon, and a bunch of people whose names I forgot (including some ultralurkers who don't have accounts -- not that there's anything wrong... actually, I think that is kind of wrong).

I was not involved in any shenanigans, though I did take pictures. I tried to avoid using the flash as much as I could. You can see the full set of 18 pics here: Friday Night Fark Party at Whitlow's.


I have no idea, either.


"Let it rain. Clear it out."


There was a lot of kissing going on.


I like this one, in spite of, or probably because of, the fact that you can't really see anything.

The Whitlow's segment of the party broke up before midnight. There was talk of an afterparty, though I headed home safe and sane.

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