December 29, 2005

"So brutal, ruthless, cruel, vicious, fierce, pitiless, heartless and inhuman!"

Last night I watched the obscene, titillating, reality-warping, meta-journalistic, stunning, and horrible, in every sense of the word horrible, movie, Cannibal Holocaust--all by myself. Like a moth repeatedly burned by the lightbulb of 1970’s Italian horror cinema, that insane experience drove me to frantically parse the Google Blog Search results for Cannibal Holocaust last night, just so I wouldn’t feel so dirty.

Cannibal Holocaust is a fictional movie about unreleased footage taken by four filmmakers who died while making an Amazon documentary. The Blair Witch Project’s robbery of this premise aside, these meta-layers buried a Heart of Darkness scenario that I never in a million years expected from this bloody chunk of grindhouse cinema -- it’s a phony National Geographic snuff film that intentionally makes you feel like a Terrible Human Being for watching the movie.

This wonderful post at Thought Peach sums up the contradictory feeling of accomplishment and self-loathing that I felt when I finished this infamous grindhouse classic my buddy Justin gave me for Christmas. I stopped reading blog posts after I found this masterpiece of cinematic commentary on 16-year-old Sheena Valencia's site: “On the first half we had Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Cannibal Holocaust! Charlie was cute and the latter film was so brutal, ruthless, cruel, vicious, fierce, pitiless, heartless and inhuman!”

God bless the Internet for bringing together thousands of hapless teenagers and horror fans and nutcases and people like me who all inexplicably decided to watch this movie during the holiday season. May we all go blind together...

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December 21, 2005

Travel Goat, Dude

Like that time when Jack Kerouac took up a collection to buy cheap wine and everybody sat around listening to poems read by unknown beatniks, this is your chance to plunk down beside a Really Good Idea.

This is Travel Goat-, the technology that our hip kids will use navigate cities in the brave and stirring future. Despite the fact that I am one of the featured writer-types on the site, I do think it’s a pretty sweet idea—it’s a set of Metropolitan Museum of Art headphones for reality.

You can download these stories on your IPod and wander around New York City listening to me (or somebody like me) rambling on about the places that you visit. If that doesn’t work, you can sit at your computer and listen to me so you don't have to do all the exploring yourself. I don't care what you do with it, as long as you listen. Then, you can call me a self-promoting rat and add your own stories.

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December 18, 2005

Novel Excerpt: Ultimate Wild Deer Hunter IV

I’ve spent the weekend thinking about Lt. Colonel David Grossman and his killology theory. Wired had an article about it on Friday, but I can’t get my laptop to load the stupid thing. Point is, I think people like Grossman could throttle this fledgling, wonderful medium with some Comics Code-esque government regulation.

There are much more sophisticated people writing and thinking about videogames, and I can’t compete. Myself, I think videogames have changed the way I think, the way I remember things, and the way I tell stories. Since I couldn’t win an argument if my life depended on it, the only way I can contribute is by writing about it. Here’s another excerpt from my nebulous novel

One night I met some friends at a dingy bar on the Lower East Side, the kind of place with no name-plate out front, a neon “Beer” logo outside, and sticky floors inside. We sat too close to a group of college kids celebrating Christmas or the end of school or something else I didn't care about. They were videotaping the party, like that would make the experience more memorable. Amplified by the camera, they hammered the bar every time they took another licorice-smelling shot.

Towards the back of the bar, there was an arcade game called Ultimate Wild Deer Hunter IV. In New York, these videogame oases always draw twenty-year-olds like piglets crowded around mother’s tits. Standing in front of the eight-foot-tall machine, one of the beefy college kids pumped his orange plastic shotgun in midair like an action movie star. I drank a whole whisky watching him shoot pixilated animals, remembering all the cozy hours I spent shooting video game spaceships, zombies, and terrorists as a kid. The game began inside a leafy autumn forest with bucks jumping in and out of the bushes; then moved to a wheat field with brown blob turkeys bobbing through the stalks; and then ended inside the most difficult stage of all, a winter forest with swirling snow and deer zipping too fast to follow.

Every videogame scene made me feel more homesick for the Midwest, and the whisky widened the distance between New York City and Michigan. I felt like John Travolta at the end of the comic-book movie, Punisher. The remake followed the obsessive logic of videogames: as the Punisher killed progressively more difficult bad guys, the gaudy style of each killing also evolved. At the end of the film, John Travolta’s bad-guy character was beat up, shot, chained to a car, dragged down a cement hill, and finally, exploded.

Watching that hipster blast away at a computerized landscape resembling my hometown, I felt like John Travolta—not like John Travolta’s character in Punisher, but like John Travolta the real person. I felt how John Travolta must have felt while watching his stunt double perform that scene on a video screen in some Hollywood sound stage and recording every “Agggggghhh!” and “Oooooh” sound that his dying movie character made in that spectacularly laughable scene. He must have felt like his whole life was a sick joke while he yelled bad dialogue into that microphone, knowing that through a combination of computers, stunts, tricky photography, and editing, it would appear that John Travolta had physically participated in that awful movie.

Still, I felt this gnawing, primal satisfaction as the kid killed successively more creatures in a videogame simulation of the wilderness surrounding my Podunk Michigan hometown. Videogames taught me how to measure life in episodes and videogame levels, expecting mounting difficulty with proportionally increasing rewards. When my turn came to play Ultimate Wild Deer Hunter IV, I hunched close to the grimy glass, trying to find Michigan inside there; to travel backwards ten years to the day I played hide-and-go-seek with my high school girlfriend in an apple orchard. Leaning closer, I remembered chasing my girlfriend Sarah through the leaves. We had stopped and hid in an apple crate, and the air smelled like ripe and rotting fruit. Sarah and I cuddled in the warped wood bottom of the man-sized container, two 17-year-old kids kissing and kissing inside an apple pile; I love you, I told her, lost in an imaginary orchard.

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December 15, 2005

Jeff VanderMeer and the Future

I’ve never read a single word that Jeff VanderMeer has written in his dusty old "books." Nevertheless, I’ve been lurking around his blog the last couple works enjoying genius posts like this and, much more importantly, THIS.

Yesterday, I read VanderMeer’s Book List with mounting excitement, cheering as he ticked off my favorite books by Paul Auster, Angela Carter, A.S. Byatt, Nabokov, Cormac McCarthy, and Bulgakov. I’m not kidding, it was like plugging into a saline drip feeding me a heady overdose of my own taste in books.

I had to restrain myself from buying VanderMeer’s books last night because I already have a five-book bottleneck that my latest paycheck and I created at the Strand Bookstore last week. But still!

God bless the Internet for giving me a chance to get inside a writer’s brain before I ever pick up his book, for giving me a list of ten other books that I haven’t read yet pre-stamped with said-author’s approval, and for giving me my soapbox to ramble on about these strangely intertwined mediums.

It’s a backwards and counterintuitive and I'm probably two years behind most of the cool kids that already find all their novelists via a chilly computer screen, but now I’m sold. It's more than just Web 2.0 and synergy and all that, it's changing how I find the people I like to read and I like it.

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December 13, 2005

Gossip Gossip

My buddy Corynne Steindler just took an editor spot at Jossip. It's crazy living in New York City where you can actually meet the people that write in these slick voices.

Writing is just a bunch of regular people that write glamorously. Even sitting out here knee deep in Starving Writer Land, I can never keep that separation straight. Coincidentally, I missed Corynne’s party last weekend. Even though these things have nothing to do with each other, I figured maybe mentioning her new job at a blog lots of people read on my blog that nobody reads might make it better when I call her and apologize in real life.

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Darknets and the Lightnet

After a week of interviews with Internet luminaries J.D. Lasica and Lucas Gonze, I put together a Publish article analyzing two web memes: Darknets and the Lightnet

Here is my story.

In addition, Lucas Gonze suggested that I post my interview questions on an open thread on a blog—an open-source conversation about the story. So, read the story, grab some Star Wars metaphors ("Lucas, I am your father," for instance), and start remixing…

How will Lightnet's focus on interactive, user-manipulated video/audio content affect the publishing industry? For instance, what will the New York Times website look like in a Lightnet world? What kind of things can a subscriber do with New York Times content in a Lightnet world?

The idea of an audience is changing too. How can a newspaper/television show/old media outfit possibly survive in a Lightnet environment? In a world where users are constantly manipulating and mixing media, how can royalties, subscriptions and all that get sorted out?

Your new classification system seems to relegate Web 2.0 heroes like I-Pod and ITunes to the Darknets' past--just as the world was catching on! How will these platforms evolve over the next few years, if the Lightnet trend continues? Are general audiences really prepared for this dramatic media shift?

I'm still unclear about the ultimate effect of the Lightnet shift. Is it really possible to live in a world without Darknets’ DRM restrictions on these digital properties? Will the future depend on a balance between Darknets and Lightnet models, or will one idea eventually conquer the other?

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December 12, 2005

Novel Excerpt: Google Google

Google had already swallowed my life. Freelance journalists depend on that crazy program. We all have stories squirreled away just like lonely and elderly people squirrel away newspapers. Somewhere in our ratty brains, all of us writers hoard stacks of impossible stories that we found on Google.

Sitting around for two months of desperate unemployment last winter, I Googled enough wasted stories to last a lifetime—about rat lovers, anarchists, sex hypnotists, Christian videogame evangelists, Private detectives, and feeders that stuffed their girlfriends with so much food that their shirts burst. I gorged myself on information, shuffling through thousands of pages of feeder erotica, GI Joe fan fiction, and computer gadget websites looking for stories.

Looking for the next idea, and thinking that one idea could save me. I hung around my journalist friends, smiling and weighing my stuff against theirs; everybody’s always weighing future alliances and the probabilities of everything you might write. Everybody is always trying to figure out if you will ever escape this measly crew, and if you do, how far you will go.

This, I told myself, is the story that will save you. But the point was, I was starving.

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December 07, 2005

Novel Excerpt: Playing War

I used to play war behind my house with my GI Joe action figures. I would leap from rock to rock on the landscaped trail my parents built to decorate our farmhouse—I dashed quickly for battle scenes and slowly for dialogue. I was the narrator, good soldiers, bad soldiers, vehicles, weapons and sound effects all rolled into one. One day I tripped while playing a particularly violent campaign and bounced my skinny body off a rock. I lay there, sucking air and whispering, “Damn! Damn! Damn!” because I was still too scared of god to swear out loud. In the fall, my best GI Joe had snapped in half. His torso and legs were connected by the flimsiest of rubber bands and when that broke, it left me with a torso, a pelvis, and two separated, ball-screw legs.

Lying flat on my back and wheezing, I thought about Rachel, the girl who sat in front of me in the Band flute section. I was convinced she would drive past my house with a carload of her friends and somebody would say, “Isn’t that Jason Boog playing with those toys over there?” and Rachel would laugh and zoom away forever inside this car she was inexplicably driving even though both of us were in eighth grade. I felt trapped, wanting my toy wars even though I was too old for GI Joes. Even so, I put them away that same night and started writing private detective stories instead.

The only thing I was ever good at was writing stories.

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December 01, 2005

From Cinderella to in less than ten seconds

I just moved out of my apartment, but I slept in empty room one more time last night. Then, I woke up way too early to move my bed and mop the floor for the new guy. In classic Jason Boog form, I forgot to save some scrubby clothes at home when I moved last night, and at the same time, brilliantly decided to wear the smart-looking tan pants that I bought yesterday to work. So, a half hour before work, I ended up mopping and scrubbing my old apartment floor in my boxer shorts...

Then, I got to work and read this story by Stephen Bryant, my editor and friend at, about the future of journalism. I was so excited that I managed to spill coffee on my pants while reading, completely negating all my efforts to protect my new pants. See what I'm talking about:

"Another new media venture called Newsvine is also coming online in a few months. (Hmm, a coincidence of timing, Mr. Newmark?) According to founder Mike Davidson, Newsvine will combine feeds from the Associated Press and ESPN with reader blogs, comments and stories. Readers will vote on the most interesting stories, thereby promoting or demoting them within the site.

'I think traditional journalists, writers, they spend a week, two weeks, a month, however long they work on an article, and they publish it and that's it. An article's life sort of ends when it's published,' Davidson told me in a phone conversation recently. 'We feel the opposite. We feel an article's life begins when it's published, and there's a conversation that surrounds it.'


That's a radical departure from the way old media works. If the site performs as advertised, Newsvine will not only deliver the news and remix the news, it will give readers a direct financial stake in seeing that the news is relevant, trustworthy, accurate and fair."

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