ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Geek Entertainment —

The ANSI Art show I attended earlier this month got a little video coverage, courtesy of Geek Entertainment, a “web-broadcast” television show that purports to cover some sort of general geek-relevant topics, which the site lists as “web 2.0, tagging, AJAX, social software and the bubble juice known as VCs”. All well and good.

The episode is certainly useful for some nice video footage of the gallery and how packed it was, and the appearance of one of my heroes Jacob Appelbaum in an interview was a nice bonus. You see the scrolling ANSIs, the dedicated ANSI circuit boards (I purchased one) and a bunch of other details in there. Again, all fine and good.

But I guess I’ve been lucky enough to have avoided or missed out on the “journalist” Irina Slutsky, who is the blonde microphone-wielding terror that provides the bulk of the commentary/description of the context of ANSI art. Holy hamburger in a can is she horrible.

Fine, apologists can explain to me in grating detail that the short turnaround for getting these microvideos out the door would necessitate a few shortcuts, but the descriptions she blorts out are beyond mere speediness and into negligence.

Using phrases like “secret identity in the nether regions of the web-er-net” strikes me as what it probably is, a disposable, hipster reference to internet culture, one in this case that spans decades, because it sounds like you have even a middling grasp on its context. Which she doesn’t.

If it matters at all, I went to school for just what she’s doing, that is, attempting to not look like an idiot on video, and having the camera continue to focus on her while she dumbly nods along doesn’t do anyone any favors either. “AND WHAT IS BBS?” is not, if you’d pardon the term, hard-hitting journalism. And while we’re over here, “So here I am with” is not the best way to start with every fucking shot.

I think if this was called “WebNet Now!” or some other generic, meaningless title, I wouldn’t be so bothered, but you’d think that something with the word “Geek” in the title wouldn’t be filled to the brim, and I mean absolutely jam-packed, with such poorly-constructed pseudo-news that acts like the people watching weren’t born 30-60 minutes ago. Geek, after all, is quite a provocative word, and part of the pride of geekdom is that if you don’t know something, you possess the skills to look it up instantaneously and integrate it into your own personal “web-er-net”.

Do I have an example of someone doing it right? Well, I was interviewed by Kevin Pereira for the now-gone G4 series “Pulse” about my BBS Documentary. We talked for an hour on the phone, and then he came out to interview me with a crew, and then the whole thing was cut together into a story about my project. I found it treated me with respect, got the message across, and while there were shortcuts within it that I wouldn’t have approved of in the editing room, you never felt like Kevin, or myself, or my subject, were fuckin’ idiots.

Here’s that news story. Sorry, it’s a 30 megabyte WMV file, but that’s what VLC is for.

I see no excuse for a “Geek” show to be so insulting and stupid, and I’ll be glad never to watch it again.


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14 Comments

  1. LateBlt says:

    I don’t think it’s just that the video needed to be short and made quickly; more than anything else, it has to do with target audience. There are “geek” productions for people who are actually serious geeks, and then there are “geek” productions for people who think they’re geeks because they know how to play Halo 3 and use Facebook or Myspace. This video clearly falls into the latter category. I agree that it’s mostly shallow, meaningless tripe, but that’s kind of the point: The video is intended for a general audience. The fact that she asks “what is BBS?” clearly establishes that the video isn’t intended for people who’ve actually seen ANSI art before. Thus, it really isn’t that much more lowbrow than how an interview on ANSI might might get handled on, say, the 6 o’clock news.

    As such, Slutsky (good grief, is that actually her real last name?) fits the bill: Kind of attractive but not distractingly so, preternaturally perky, and not afraid of looking like a n00b. That’s all you really need for something like this. These interviewers aren’t actually expected to know anything about what they’re doing the interview on. Indeed, it works out better if they don’t, because then they’ll ask the kinds of questions that the viewers would ask. Someone familiar with the scene would not have asked “what’s a BBS?”, which would have then left the intended audience in the dark. This video’s actually of a similar caliber to what frequently got aired on ZDTV/TechTV/G4 back when it had anything worth watching.

  2. Chris H. says:

    Glad you found some use of that clip after all; – I like what you did with it, hehe. ;)

  3. Jim Leonard says:

    You wrote pretty much everything I was thinking, but better than I could have. Glad I know you!

    When that Kevin P. interview of you ran on TV, I grabbed it in full MPEG-2 glory and made it available to you. Hope you grabbed it…

  4. Eddie C. says:

    Hi Jason. I think this is greatest number of characters and time anyone has spent critiquing us in the 2 years we’ve been doing the show. I’m honored, not only because I’m a fan of your stuff, but because you care.

    I’m sorry if we gave you the impression that we’re about providing “hard hitting journalism”. We wouldn’t know what that is if it bit us on our collective asses. You note that we have “Geek” in our title and you must have also noted that “Entertainment” is there. That should provide a bit of a clue to the nature of our reporting.

    Like the previous commenter noted, our audience isn’t intended to be l33t scenesters who already know everything. An RTFM attitude is all well and good in newsgroups and forums, but our audience kinda needs some help.

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time. I’m serious when I say I’m a fan. I wrote and ran my first BBS on a VIC-20 when I was 12 so I’ve seen a few things. If you can stand us a second longer, we’d love to interview you sometime in the future. Maybe our correspondent Violet Blue might be more up your alley. Cheers!

    Eddie Codel
    Producer/Cofounder, Geek Entertainment TV

  5. Jason Scott says:

    Eddie, your self-effacing style holds no quarter with me.

    It is possible to discuss technical subjects for a general audience while still being 1. Accurate, 2. Clever, 3. Funny, and 4. Listenable. Your contempt for the audience shines through with every frame, with your every “ironic” use of the terms “l33t” and “RTFM”. I despise this and will continue to do so.

    Hiding behind your title is poor, and simplistic. I’m sure you can point to “geek” if someone says they didn’t get it and point to “entertainment” if someone like myself contends your show plays like a broken speak-and-spell, but that’s taking the easy way out. Acting like 2k of text in a weblog entry represents an unfathomable amount of discussion of your product is just the kind of light-n-fluffy “ha ha” hipsterism that infects the show itself.

    No, I am not in the least bit interested in being interviewed by anyone connected to Geek Entertainment TV.

    Also, aim the fucking camera at the interviewee when they respond. Film your eye candy nodding at some other point in the day, after you get the useful footage. If you’re going to be shallow and ape news organizations, use some of the positive aspects.

  6. Eddie C. says:

    Jason, how about a dime? Is my style worth that much? How about a Canadian penny from let’s say a year ago, when it was worth less than a US penny?

    I’ll just have to chalk you up in the “hater” category. No worries, diversity is the spice of life. You’re certainly not the first and won’t be the last. Nonetheless, we’ll continue to make media that pisses you off. Why? Because it’s fun, we’re passionate about what we do and we like documenting other people’s passions. Thanks for your sage advice & again, cheers!

  7. violet blue says:

    Jason, can I take a picture with you sometime? I’m a huge fan.

  8. FSFunky says:

    Jason, you’ve got a bit of stick stuck up your ass.

    Seriously, who gives a shit? Your name got out there, if people were truly interested they would get on the internet and find out more and find out the “correct” information.

    If someone was barely interested in the subject and was just watching ms. Slutsky’s chest bouncing around, they got their fill.

    Don’t like don’t watch it. Want to piss and moan about it on your blog, go right ahead. But stop taking yourself and everything else so goddamn seriously.

  9. adam quirk says:

    I’m (I am) not the biggest fan of GETV (Geek Entertainment Television), but I like Eddie and Irina. I wouldn’t (would not) have ever heard of you if I didn’t (did not) follow her on twitter. I’m (I am) sure you’re (you are) a very nice, popular guy IRL (in real life).

    Also, do you dislike the use of “l33t” because you are emotionally attached to that verbal abortion, or because you realize it is an abomination?

    Also, yes, I realize that blogs are a great way for any self-important asshat to feel superior, and I realize that this isn’t going to change anytime soon. I don’t mind it at all, and find it very entertaining.

    BTW (by the way), are you trying to mimic The Rock with your eyebrow raised like that, or did you stroke out?

  10. Jason Scott says:

    It is, of course, understandable beyond all measure that the informative commentaries ” hahahhaa i have a hater! yay! you’re not real until someone hates u! lol” and “i wonder if i should tell him getv is a “fake show that’s real” or that i just got nominated for the columbia jschool alumni board :)” would drive passionate fans my way to defend Ms. Slutsky’s honor. (?)

    I will, of course, let your counterpoints stand on their own merits.

  11. Green Bastard says:

    I actually find this sad situation quite amusing.

    But mud-slinging aside, It seems a fundamental misunderstanding on Jason’s part is at heart here. There is, I think, a generational gap, per se, between Jason and the GETV crew in how they approach filmmaking. Jay comes from a background that views video media as something of a serious art form that requires a proper set of discipline to execute and produce a quality respectful piece of video; his works reflect his philosophy and training in the field. Meanwhile, Geek Entertainment, like so many things that has come out of the “Web 2.0″ cultural trend, is an amateur production with a completely different, almost ad-hoc, pure entertainment approach to making videos that are released in short bursts of clips, unfamiliar as to what came before them. Both parties have different approaches to doing interviews, and craft their production to a particular taste. GETV pumps out stuff that appeals to and is aimed towards a certain target audience, while Jason wants to ensure his topics and interviews are given the proper level of respect and intellect they deserve. They’re two completely opposing philosophies on the same medium and subject matter.

    Perhaps Jason felt that the GETV guys (and yes, there really are people who are named Slutsky) have desecrated BBSes and other related topics in that video in question, let alone offended by the method by which the interviews were conducted. I personally do not see anything wrong with asking “What’s a BBS?”; I don’t know about you, but I’m sure many people from those days would be happy to explain it to the younger generation whose only familiarity with online communication and socializing is in the form of things like instant messaging and Facebook. Plenty of scientists I’m sure have to put up with similar tactics of not knowing much about the field when interviewed by a reporter about a latest research find or whatnot. Again, target audience: for whom is this stuff is made for?

    I’m not here to defend GETV, which doesn’t appeal to me to begin with. We’re all entitled to our own opinions about whatever and to express it, and we all see the same things in different perspectives. But I would advise you, Jason, to next time you come across something like this to step back for a moment and consider that not everything is made in a way that would suit your tastes and methodology on the same subject matter (thus avoiding attracting nonconstructive asshattery such as demonstrated by ‘adam quirk’, ‘FSFunky’ and the fake ‘violet blue’ above in the process.) Let the dumbasses fall for the crap, and let the quality stuff prevail. Stick with what you do best.

    On a side note, I personally can’t stand the viral YouTube stuff with its extremely short lifespan and low-culture shallowness, and I think that the meaning of the word ‘geek’ has been so dumbed down that anyone literally can proclaim themselves to be a geek simply by purchasing the latest do-everything cell phone and knowing which button to press to turn on the computer. But maybe that’s just the state of culture today. Sigh.

  12. Jason Scott says:

    I like your style and point, Bastard, but I’m going to disagree on one small area of order.

    I see no reason to avoid posting my honest, true opinion on things, even if non-positive, to avoid the terrifying wrath of a handful of disagreeing comments at the end of said posting. Nobody in there is particularly abusive by my standards, nobody goes over the line into actionable statements… all in a day’s weblogging, really.

    This is not a fan club, after all. Well, not an expected one, anyway.

  13. GETVbegone says:

    GETV is the worst- there are some well-done, watchable video blogs, but the Web 2.0 “Now YOU interview ME for YOUR video blog!” sycophantic shit is as repetitive and boring as watching an internet video meme of someone watching an internet video meme of someone watching ANOTHER internet video meme while wearing a tshirt proclaiming YET ANOTHER internet meme.

    Bandwidth talks. If this shit were on bittorrent, there would be 0 seeders.

  14. Not_quite_anonymous says:

    Mr. Scott, perhaps you would find it reassuring to know that you are not alone in shaking your head at Ms. Slutsky’s behavior.

    “Anonymous vs. Scientology”:
    http://www.cnettv.com/9742-1_53-32298.html?tag=cnetfd.vid

    …and a thread at a “Anonymous” rally board:
    http://forums.enturbulation.org/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=3770

    A political protest or an art exhibition, however “geeky” its origins, is NOT the place to deploy a simple-minded camera whore. Both events are deeply dependent upon getting decent PR. Both want their audience to do more than chuckle and wander on.
    As stated above, if Ms. Slutsky had been willing to maintain her composure and simply let the folks involved speak, her coverage might simply have been unenlightened. As it is, her behavior is, to slip into the current parlance, unadulterated FAIL.

    Happily, Anonymous is getting coverage from a fair number of more respectable outlets; CNet’s intellectual vacuity doesn’t hurt the movement in the least. And, while Anonymous is quite serious about its social goals, it’s also in the business of having fun. Especially at the expense of the slow-of-wit.

    Good luck on your own home front.

    -not_quite_Anonymous