Archive for August 28th, 2007

28
Aug
07

Vint Cerf: TV will melt down before Net does

Vinton Cerf, no relation to Bennett

Internet godfather Vinton Cerf is not worried about video traffic bringing the net to its knees in an oft-predicted technical meltdown. Instead, at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival he warned that TV, and not the net had better watch its ass as it approached its own “iPod moment.”

Distinctly unlike most techno-pundits, when Cerf starts mumbling threats or using weird new phrases or conjunctions, it really pays to listen closely and unpack what he says. There is little chance that Cerf crafted his words to fulfill some kind of lecture-circuit deliverable, some meme-for-meme’s sake nonsense phraseology standing in for insight. This is a guy who got up from his terminal one day having built IP, which you just used, are using now and will use again in the next ten seconds; there isn’t much he can say about the internet that isn’t insightful.

From the August 27 2007 Guardian:

Dr Cerf, who helped build the internet while working as a researcher at Stanford University in California, used the festival’s Alternative McTaggart Lecture to explain to television executives how the internet’s influence was radically altering their businesses and how it was imperative for them to view this as a golden opportunity to be exploited instead of a threat to their survival. The arrival of internet television has long been predicted, although it has succeeded in limited ways so far. But the popularity of websites such as YouTube – the video sharing service bought by Google in 2005 for $1.65bn (£800m) – has encouraged many in the TV industry to try and use the internet more profitably. Last month the BBC launched its free iPlayer download service, and digital video recorders such as Sky Plus and Freeview Playback allow viewers to instantly pause and record live television.

Dr Cerf predicted that these developments would continue, and that we would soon be watching the majority of our television through the internet – a revolution that could herald the death of the traditional broadcast TV channel in favour of new interactive services.

In Japan you can already download an hour’s worth of video in 16 seconds,” he said. “And we’re starting to see ways of mixing information together … imagine if you could pause a TV programme and use your mouse to click on different items on the screen and find out more about them.”

Some critics, including a number of leading internet service providers, have warned that the increase in video on the web could eventually bring down the internet. They are concerned that millions of people downloading at the same time using services such as iPlayer could overwhelm the network.

Dr Cerf rejected these claims as “scare tactics”. “It’s an understandable worry when they see huge amounts of information being moved around online,” he said. But some pundits had predicted 20 years ago that the net would collapse when people started using it en masse, he added. “In the intervening 30 years it’s increased a million times over … We’re far from exhausting the capacity.”

16 seconds? That’s a lot of time to wait for Bambino!

28
Aug
07

David Yow: Problem Solver, Bridge Builder

The great David Yow is these days fronting a Los Angeles rock trio called Qui – who are in fact appearing in Chicago Sept 28 at the Empty Bottle. Looks like David lost his passport while on overseas tour, and he would like it back. Learn how to handle this situation from a master of diplomatic finesse in this short clip.

28
Aug
07

National Lampoon’s Beatts, Miller and McConnachie at Hideout

Josh Karp, Chris Miller, Brian McConnachie

Tonight at the Hideout was the latest in a string of comedy-centric events put on by Chicago rock label Drag City. At the front bar I spotted DC’s Dan Koretzky and asked him what’s with his stalwart music label and the comedy lately (back in December, I saw the first in his series at Weeds hosted by Fred Armisen). I got a helpful “I dunno, but thanks for coming” for my trouble. Hey, who cares why? Just keep up the great work, especially when it brings my heroes onstage.

Tonight’s panel: No less than creators of the mighty 1970s National Lampoon magazine: Anne Beatts, Chris Miller and Brian McConnachie all wrote and edited the late great magazine in its heyday (universally known as “when it was funny”) and shared hours of stories about the giants there including Henry Beard, Doug Kinney, Michael “Mr. Mike” O’Donohue, and even P.J. “David Horowitz” O’Rourke.

The ’70-’75 Lampoon was evergreen for smart gags and brutal satire, and as a bona fide humor magazine, nothing since has ever came close. The Onion is the only contender, yet forever removed from the ‘Poon’s weight class due to its being a parody form. Maybe the Buffalo Beast?

Some sniff at the post-’75 ‘Poon, but not me. I started regularly buying it in ’79 or so and purchased the many available reprints of the early days. I even liked it into the 1980s, but by ’82 or ’83 it was clearly weakened beyond help.

By then it had served its purpose in the North American comedic pageant: populating Saturday Night Live and SCTV with writers and performers and re-conceiving the American comedy film with Animal House.

Beatts, now a screenwriting instructor at USC, relayed a great story detailing a time she took acid with Mike O’Donoghue and earned her place at the sausage party that was the Lampoon. In the time before her unprecedented work on the early years of Saturday Night Live, she told of being brought to NatLamp editorial dinners and having her stuff run in the magazine before long. She had loving descriptions of the late Michael O’Donoghue, a guy who I mostly remember for an early SNL bit where he performed an imitation of “Tony Orlando and Dawn after having nine inch steel spikes with real sharp ends plunged into their eyes.” I was, what, nine years old when I saw that? I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I will never forget the punhcline writhing and shrieking of Mr. Mike and “Dawn”.

Miller, who along with Doug Kinney and Harold Ramis wrote the screenplay for Animal House based on his experiences as a Dartmouth frat boy, talked up his new book and recalled his journey to the Lampoon’s pages on the back of debauched stories detailing holiday turkey-fucking, beatoff contests and erotic encounters with telephones. Oh, and the phrase “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs”? That was him, too. Miller wrote for an agency before he was fired for pulling out a bag of pot in front of his bosses.

McConnachie, a recognizable visage from the many films he’s appeared in rolled out some tape of John Belushi in his National Lampoon Radio Hour days doing a Sondheim-esque turn as Captain Ahab in the musical “Moby.”

During Q&A, every one of them name-checked James Thurber as an influence, which only makes sense – and Beatts invoked Dorothy Parker’s name along with the Algonquin round table.

Beatts also remarked about the lack of a point of view in modern mainstream comedies. She called out Judd Apatow specifically, guessing that his point of view was either not discernible or was “unattractive guys can get with attractive women”. Thanks Ann, for putting a finger on what isn’t there with the Apatows and the Chandrasekhars: what Thurber would call “Humor: emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.”

And thanks as always to the eagle-eyed Maureen for spotting this once-in-a-lifetime event. Love you!




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