Posts from May 2002

This blog is brought to

This blog is brought to you by…
: Eric Olsen quotes Christopher Locke on his view of blogs and so-called gonzo marketing. I read his book and it didn’t click with me until I got to one word: “underwriting.” Locke’s idea — which I’ve been pitching to most anybody who’ll listen — is that instead of intrustive advertising, the wise marketer will recognize the power of blogs and join that power by joining the community. Instead of buying ads on blogs (which we’d all love, but which would not work even if it happened… witness other failed Internet ad movements; we will be spared that humiliation thanks to timing) the wise marketer will recognize a community of shared interest and will underwrite that community, will help make it possible, will say by that act “we share an interest and affection for this community.” Thus the marketer joins with the audience and stays on the edge of buzz. If this works, it will start with special-interest blogs. And if it works, it will spread. It won’t be a way to get rich, but it will be a new layer of advertising and marketing that has not been discovered yet. It will be a new way to build a relationship of true value with the audience, the consumers, us. Would I look kindly on a company that helps bring us Layne, Welch, Johnson, Denton, et al? Yes… even moreso than a company that helps bring us palaver about poetry on NPR. I buy it.

: Note, too,’s story on Macromedia experimenting with employee blogs. [Note as well that the story gives credit where credit is due, to William Quick, on the coining of Blogosphere.]

: So John Ashcroft now says that owning a gun is a God-given or at least Constitution-given right.

And now our various well-armed professors in Blogdom — Reynolds and Volokh to name two — are grinning and gloating.

I dare to disagree.

And that realization struck me like a wet slap in the face — or more like a pistol butt to the skull.

Now that I had become a hawk, I was wondering — fearing — just how far my rightward transformation would go. Would I start admiring Ronald Reagan? Would I schedule my nights around watching Bill O’Reilly? Would I vote down school budgets for sport? Would I start wearing short-sleeved shirts? Would I get a gun?


To me, guns are a fundamental dividing line of civilization.

I don’t understand why anyone would want to own a gun. Guns are not fun; they are not macho; they are dangerous. I spent too many years as a reporter watching what guns did. I was glad when my gun-toting next-door-neighbor moved and took his arsenel with him for I always dreaded an accident. I fear guns.

I will never own one. If you want to, well, I may not understand but I can’t stop you.

But I don’t see why you would be against licensing and basic government control — until you are either (a) a criminal or murderer or Robert Blake or (b) an anti-government nut in the lineage of McVeigh and now Helder. Especially now, in the age of terrorism — imported and domestic — and violent crime, it all the more important for us to gain any control we can over guns and to try to keep them out of the hands of all the dangerous nuts on our streets: the next McVeigh or Helder, the next assassin of Reagan or Brady or Lennon. It is a matter of safety. It is a matter of civilization.

Stating the obvious
: Chomsky is such a dork.

: I’ve been mean, angry, and grumpy the last couple of days; spared you the mood. Don’t say I never did nothing for you.

EGOogling: This morning I heard

: This morning I heard Howard Stern et al talking about searching the Internet to find out what people are saying about them. Artie Lang, the new guy, is still looking for anything nice said about him (I like you, Artie). Gary is still amazed at the cruel tooth jokes about his teeth. Howard looks. They all do.

Of course, they do. We bloggers look for ourselves: We go to Blogdex to look up who’s linking to us; we search our names in Daypop. We ego surf. We EGOogle.

And then it occurred to me that, of course, the famous, the stars, and the powerful do the same thing. If Howard’s posse does it, then surely Rosie and Rosanne and Madonna and Bubba Clinton and Al Gore and Bill Gates and Steve Case (if he dares) and the casts of Survivor and Bachelor all do it.

Whenever I write about Howard Stern here, I get more traffic. It’s the power of celebrity; I learned that working at People.

But the difference in this medium is that you can speak directly to the celebrities. You never know whether you are. But I’d bet on it. What if Arafat is reading the blogs? Or Tom Ridge? Or Michael Moore? It adds a new layer of fun.

From sea to shining sea
: I took homeless Nick Denton to lunch in the Conde Nast cafeteria yesterday. He was amazed that we have a food stylist. It’s Conde Nast. Life is style.

Substance is such a bother.

Nick is wide-eyed anew at things American. The other day, I told him that we had a hurricane watch in New York. He screeched: “Hurricane? Here?” Yes, Dorothy.

Now he has written a good column about his trip across America to get to New York (he complains about the edits in the piece as it appears at Management Today; that’s why he prints the whole thing on his blog; Nick is the one who said that the great thing about blogging is that there are “no editors”).

Anyway, Nick sees some differences across the country. But I, protoAmerican — midWest-bred, still serving the heartland in my businesses — have to disagree. What’s comforting (and boring) about America is its Holiday Inn no surprises ethos. Once you leave the city-states, as Nick calls them, of Manhattan or San Francisco and live where most Americans live — in the great suburbs, in the real America — there is very little that separates us and much, economically, that joins us: homes, lawns, mortgages, real estate taxes, Burger Kings, Taco Bells, Starbucks, Targets, Home Depots, food courts, warehouse stores, auto dealers, kids’ soccer games, parent-teacher conferences, malls, Houlihans, Fridays, candle stores, Gaps, and mostly cable TV. Besides the accents (and politics that tend to go with them) and in spite of the ethnic reach (my kids’ playmates are Arab, Indian, French, even Canadian) we are pretty much as homogonized as our milk.

Mail bomb bozo
: The suspect in the mailbox bombings had a web site. It’s down already, of course. But here it is in Google’s cache.

: Their CD: “Sacks of People.” I’d say that shows his attitude toward people.

: Adam Curry from Amsterdam [via Instapundit] says he would have voted for Pim, if he were Dutch.

Europe’s war of the right:

Europe’s war of the right
: The Netherlands’ Pim Fortuyn, a right-wing, anti-immigrant, and gay political leader, has been assassinated. The coverage of De Volkskrant is here. You don’t need to read Dutch to see what a shattering event an assassination is in any country.

I don’t assume this is an act of political conspiracy. I remember the murders of my friends Harvey Milk and George Moscone in San Francisco. That was not the act of a conspiracy or politics; it was the act of one dangerous political freak and twerp, Dan White, who later got off with the infamous Twinkie defense and then killed himself. Unless government-sponsored, assassins are as a rule lone lunatics.

Still, this act only adds to the right-wing BTUs heating up Europe. Add Le Pen in France. Add right-wingers scaring the electorate in local elections in Britain. Add more in Hungary. And elsewhere.

It all makes me all the happier with our two-party system in America. Our system is often frustrating and certainly imperfect and frequently maligned. But this system assures greater stability. It assures moderation. It assures the closest any political body can come to consensus. To state the obvious: Because we elect our chief executive directly — and not via any coalition of parties that often have to do deals with devils to add up a majority to run the government — and because only two parties can truly afford to run major races and because our government’s cannot collapse on one lost parliamentary vote, we are left with two parties that each must find ways to bring their edges to the middle, for that is their only hope of winning. Sanity lives in the middle. Of course, we have our third parties as well but whether it’s Nader or Perot or Buchanan or Anderson, they tend to spoil elections and pump already overinflated would-be politicians’ egoes more than add to the debate or give us true choice. And because those third-parties do not succeed, it means that fourth or fifth or sixth parties — the ones that live in the extremes, the ones that are getting upwards of 15 to 20 percent of the votes in Europe — cannot possibly grow here; they cannot gain a position to blackmail coalition-partner parties; they cannot win; they stay on the fringe, where they belong and the government stays in the mainstream.

God Bless those Founding Fathers.

: The Times says:

…his main target was Islam. After an imam in his native city of Rotterdam described gays as being worse than pigs, Mr Fortuyn attacked almost every aspect of Islamic culture. His central argument was that The Netherlands had to defend its open and tolerant values against a flood of Muslims who were intolerant. Islam, he said, was a

Blog Nation: Here’s the best

Blog Nation
: Here’s the best reason to publish the blog book, Blog Nation, and hope it is a success: Noam Chomsky’s 9.11 rant has shipped more than 100k copies.

Blog biz
: Blogs, I’m coming to see, are bringing together the best and the brightest (well, at least the better and the bright) of our era.

These people are not only good writers with intelligent curiosity and independent minds.

They are also business people.

: Note Nick Denton — one of the best and brightest, truly — starting a new blog business. I sit on the board of one of the other companies he started, Moreover, and my company invested in it. He introduced me to Blogger/Pyra and my company invested in it, too. (I’m proud to see that both Internet companies are still alive. The Internet, as things turn out, will not be won by First-Mover advantage. It will be won by Last-Standing Advantage.) Now Nick is working on a new company and I’m quite enthusiastic about it. It will be small and smart and ahead of its time (but not too much). I’m having lunch with Nick on Monday and we’ll play oneupsmanship on new ideas.

: Matt Welch, Ken Layne, and Tim Blair are working hard to start a new newspaper. I’ve talked to the guys about the project and I’m excited about this, too.

: Last week, Henry Copeland stopped by (while I was on the phone to Matt and right after I got off the phone with Nick… blogs are my new clique) and told me about an exciting new business he’s working on. I’ll let him tell you about it when I’m ready.

: Max Power and Eric Olsen are putting together Blog Nation (I like the title, even if they don’t), a book with the best of this fraternity(sorority) of bloggers.

Smell the trend?

Bloggers are also entrepreneurs. It makes perfect sense: All these people are independent thinkers and energetic and smart and dedicated. I’m tempted to say that this is what made America great (except two of these are Aussies and one’s a Brit and one’s living in Paris). So this is what makes the Blogosphere great.

The Week
: Jim Treacher discovers The Week (or he will once he actually buys one). I’m surprised to say that it has turned into one of my favorite magazines, for it freeze-dries some of the value of the Web and weblogs.

The Week (and webloggers) browse and read so we don’t have to; they find the best of what’s out there and summarize it for us. No, this is not the Reader’s Digest of the new millenium; that’s pablum. Both weblogs and The Week have perspective and opinion

My colleague and friend Joe pointed me to The Week; I made fun of him but then admitted I was a wrong snot.

The other Jewish homeland
: In an otherwise odd excuse to criticize Israel and Russian support of it, Al-Ahram nevertheless tells me something I didn’t know about an “other Jewish homeland:”

The passions and pains of the Middle East conflict have drawn a bloody curtain over the fact that, ever since 1934, Jews have had a homeland in the Russian Far East. The Jewish Autonomous Region, popularly known as Birobidzhan, is an uninviting, mostly marshy territory, twice the size of New Jersey, that was earmarked to be Soviet Jewry’s home. It was conceived as a brave social experiment that would score propaganda points in the international arena and be hailed as a viable alternative to Palestine, courtesy of Joseph Stalin.

The Jewish Autonomous Region is still there and alive, notwithstanding the massive exodus that has occurred in the past 15 years to the alleged “historic homeland” that is present-day Israel. Those who decided to pack up and leave did it for economic rather than ideological purposes.

Note the “alleged.” Nevermind that.

I went looking for more on Birobidzhan and found it in a good Swarthmore online exhibition (move through its 35 fascinating pages by clicking on the page number; the directional arrows sometimes don’t appear). The purges of the 30s and then Stalin did in the settlement. The exhibit concludes:

Of the current population of over 200,000 in the Jewish Autonomous Region, no more than a few thousand are Jewish. In addition, hundreds are leaving the region every year for Israel and other places.

Here’s a book on the topic.

And here’s another good story about the last Jews leaving Birobidzhan; it says they are practically gone.

So how about giving it to the Palestinians, an even swap: The West Bank for Birobidzhan.

France v. Israel
: Andrew Sullivan tries to explain to Britain why Americans are siding more strongly with Israel and sneering more snidely at the French:

In almost two decades of living in America, I

A. Welch: I told Matt

A. Welch
: I told Matt Welch that I thought he was the mysterious A. Beam. My forensic blogging:

: He knows the whole L.A. clique well.

: Both of them say “anyways.”

Good enough for me.

Welch denies it.

So did Joe Klein.

: Jim Treacher thought it’s Welch, too. Welch says he thought it was Treacher or Blair.

: Emmanuelle adds:

we’re about to go to another L.A. party/barbecue where everybody accuses each other of being a.beam! It’s like an Agatha Christie novel: every body is a suspect. It’s fun! I suspect that a.beam writes from New York and has a lot of ideas.

All those L.A. people ever do is party.

: Spiderman on track to smash records with a $105-million weekend. [via Drudge]

World’s worst job
: Mailman.

Allah’s shame
: The other day, I quoted Elie Wiesel calling on Muslim clerics to issue a fatwa against suicide-murderers.

Instead, they are issuing fatwas encouraging hate and murder.

At Islam Online, a nonMuslim writes in that he heard hateful incantations in Mosques in Arab countries: