Wednesday, June 29, 2005

cheer with compassion - article

Fellow Cheerleaders Rally Cheer of Support for Recently Raped Teammate

BLOOMINGTON, IN—The Bloomington East Hawks varsity cheerleaders organized a pep rally after school Monday, in honor of a squad member who was date-raped last weekend. "R-A... P-E-D, nothing's gonna stop Su-zie. Yay, Suzie!" the squad cheered before the 1,500 students who filled the gymnasium to celebrate the victim's return to school. Rapist Fritz Hent, an East Hawks linebacker, will sit out the first game of the season as punishment.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

*weeps* ... *eats* - article

Boohoo, and pass me that éclair
They cry and eat while millions watch and click. This wacky, weeping site is an Internet phenomenon.

By Gina Piccalo, Times Staff Writer

Even if the video clips are somewhat disquieting, they're irresistibly funny. A guy in a yellow T-shirt cries loudly over a newspaper, his plaintive sobs stifled only when he fills his mouth with whipped cream from an aerosol can. A woman seated at a kitchen table throws her head back and wails like a wounded animal, then pops a Tater Tot into her mouth. A lanky fellow, his face contorted in pain, sobs as half-chewed potato chips fall from his mouth.

These ridiculous vignettes, along with 38 others, appear on Crying While Eating (, a website that has prompted 15 million hits since late May to become one of the Internet's most popular. It spent about two weeks as No. 1 on Google for a search of the word "crying," according to the site's creators.

The site's success, no doubt, lies in its absurdity. The episodes, all faked, are each labeled with an incident that supposedly inspired the emotion. "Afshin" weeps over his chocolate-covered éclair because there are "not enough positive news stories." "Demian" groans with a mouthful of mustard sandwich because he "feels like a fraud." "Nate" and "Sean" cry over coriander lobster bisque and beer because "they haven't lived up to each other's expectations." "Aaron," the man with the mouthful of potato chips, sobs because "his girlfriend is making him go to therapy."

Yet the site's appeal is rooted in something deeper than the absurd; the effect of the clips is actually visceral. The scenes evoke the kind of unself-conscious, shame-free expressions of psychic pain that few have indulged since childhood. They capture people at their most vulnerable, taking childlike refuge in another primal experience: eating. Yet the food fails to comfort, creating a wacky incongruity. Put simply, it's at once funny and disturbing to watch someone sob uncontrollably, break for a mouthful of éclair and resume sobbing.

"It's a very private thing," says site co-creator Casimir Nozkowski, a Brooklyn-based writer-producer with the AMC cable network. "Sobbing. Sobbing. Letting it all out. And then, 'Oh, this beer is really tasty!' "

Despite the site's homegrown appeal, its design and concept were actually quite strategically thought out. Nozkowski, 28, and his high school chum Dan Engber, 29, a freelance writer with the online magazine Slate, created the site to compete in a contest sponsored by the New York-based Eyebeam Art and Technology Center. The goal of the Contagious Media Showdown was to create the Internet's most infectious website.

Nozkowski and Engber attended the center's how-to "Mass Hoax" seminar, learning the essential ingredients for perpetrating a Web hoax with maximum appeal — humor, entertainment and slight discomfort. Then there's "dirt style," the aesthetic that Jonah Peretti, director of research and development at Eyebeam, says gives a site that do-it-yourself look.

Nozkowski and Engber searched the Web for ideas, stumbling upon, which features real clips of just that. They also found references to an early 20th century crying-while-eating vaudeville routine by actor Bert Wheeler, who later starred in films of the 1920s, '30s and '40s. But Nozkowski says their idea was most influenced by a childhood game.

"A friend of mine and I, when we were young, had pretended to cry while we ate as a joke," says Nozkowski. "It was funny to eat ice cream and sob. You have to use a certain amount of manual dexterity, but your body's totally out of control."

Within three days, they had filmed 12 friends, some performers, some convincing crier-while-eaters, and launched the site on May 19.

Bloggers picked up the link almost immediately, and it quickly made its way around the Internet. Soon, dozens of crying-while-eating video clips came flooding in from as far away as Australia. Nozkowski and Engber have posted about 26 of them with about 100 more to consider.

Days later, VH1 aired clips from Crying While Eating. Then Kevin and Bean of KROQ (106.7-FM) featured the site on their morning show. Britain's Guardian ran an item about the Contagious Media Showdown, with a mention of Crying While Eating; mentions followed in the Boston Globe, the Toronto Star and the Ottawa Citizen. Last week, "CBS Evening News" aired clips, and Entertainment Weekly included the site in its weekly "Must List," which was posted on

Marketing executives started calling, hoping to persuade Nozkowski and Engber to sell products on the site. A gallery expressed interest in showing clips.

Visitors to the site have voted three amateurs as their favorites: "Ryan," the whipped cream-eater, crying because he "missed a great opportunity," followed by "Spencer," who's eating ribs and grieving because "his conjoined twin didn't make it," and "Aaron," the overwrought fellow munching potato chips.

As for the Contagious Media contest, Nozkowski and Engber won prizes totaling $2,000 — the Alexa Prize, named for the Internet's version of Nielsen ratings, for most popular site, and the Creative Commons Prize, awarded for clips made available to the public for "re-mix."

The $2,000 grand prize, however, went to Forget-Me-Not Panties (, a hoax site offering GPS-enabled panties to track wayward girlfriends and wives.

"We're just sort of excited to have won," says Engber. "I had no idea it would be this popular."

FOR THE RECORD: —An article in Wednesday's Food section incorrectly stated that the creators of the website attended a mass hoax seminar at the New York-based Eyebeam Art and Technology Center. The site's co-creator Dan Engber had attended the center's Contagious Media event, which included the mass hoax workshop, but Engber did not attend that particular session. The article also suggested that the site's creators came up with the concept after seeing a website called as well as online references to an early 20th century vaudeville act. However, the creators said they had already come up with the concept before seeing those on the Internet.

ps. happy 15th anniversary, mom & ppr!

Monday, June 20, 2005

gay marriage - article

it's too long for me to reprint here, but the ny times magazine has a great article that examines the conservative stance regarding gay marriage. i'm continually fascinated by this political/moral stance - though perhaps 'disgusted with' or 'disillusioned by' are better terms for how i feel about it. the article is excellent. if you end up skimming it, jump to the last 2 paragraphs - a must-read.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

recommendations 2 - kid stuff

first off, i want to say that kari and i have successfully converted marcos on to veronica mars. i use the word ‘converted’ a bit loosely; he saw it on tv and he liked it, without any actual intervention from us. still, being correct early on allows for a very satisfactory ‘we told you so,’ and a victory is a victory!

my second list of recommendations is a hark back to kidhood. enjoy:

smart kids’ fiction
a couple summers ago i retreated from the essays and textbooks that i had been flooded with at williams and devoted the entire summer to re-read awesome kids’ books. i did all three harry potters, as well as the classics (the lion, the witch and the wardrobe, the giver, a wrinkle in time, the true confessions of charlotte doyle, the witches, etc). there’s something daring about kids’ fiction; how it doesn’t succumb to the fear of being silly. but there is a specific time when i appreciate kids’ fiction the most – when it doesn’t underestimate the reader. it is rare, but remarkable, when authors of kids books don’t necessarily resort to the easy solution, and instead unfold their stories in a complex & intriguing way. i think this is why some stories really remain with us into adulthood—it resonates deeply with us because we are so impressed with it.

i’ve got two contemporary examples. the first one is the third harry potter, the prisoner of azkaban. usually, authors have three or so different storylines going, and sometimes those plots end up intertwining, particularly at the end of the book. but with books that deal with an entirely different universe, sometimes these plots are just stories to flesh out the world. what rowling does in hp3 is amazing – her ending ties together five or six different story elements that you completely did not see coming; little things that happened earlier that seemed irrelevant or that seemed to already have a conclusion suddenly proved vital to the primary plotline. the structure is so complex and savvy! my second contemporary example is louis sachar’s relatively recent newberry award winner holes, which some may remember from the movie version that was made a couple years ago. like tom stoppard’s “arcadia” (a work of genius! and hilarious to boot), holes tells a modern story at the same time as a historical one, and the interesting part is where the two overlap – and possibly influence each other. a fairly advanced style, considering i think the thing was aimed at 9-13 year olds. anyway, i hadn’t read or heard anything about this book before i bought it for ry, so by the time the ending rolled around, and all these separate, ridiculous elements just wove themselves together, i was sold.

mac & cheese
especially if you add a bit of your own, real, (i like mild) cheddar on top. mmmm. there’s something to be said for easy mac, too. it’s horrible for you (*so* salty) but it’s awesome! you can make it so fast!

one more thing about mac & cheese – some moms make it with the breadcrumbs or something on top and then bake it. i have never made this. it’s delicious. i’ve only had personal experience making it from the box (annie’s is quite yummy, even if it’s from a box), but if anyone has the recipe for the kind with the breadcrumbs…send it my way.

…especially on saturday mornings! there’s something about sleepily rooting for a superhero to beat the bad guy and get the girl that’s a very satisfying way to start one’s weekend. a short list of cartoons that i (and my family!) enjoy (or have in the past): "spiderman TAS," "xmen TAS," "the new adventures of batman & superman," "mighty max" (man, that’s old, i wonder if anyone remembers it), "gargoyles," "adventures of chip and dale," "darkwing duck"… ryry also liked "jackie chan adventures" (not my favorite), "xmen evolution" (eeeehhhh), and "fairly oddparents". now, of course, we’re all about the "family guy." but back in the day, the classics were it! looking back, the old "xmen" storylines actually followed the gist of the comics themselves (ie, pretty dark for kid stuff), and "gargoyles" definitely worked in some of that complex storytelling i spoke about before (c'mon, what other kids series dealt with main villans from shakespeare?!). good stuff.

comments welcome.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

last day

so today was my last day at the mayor's office. i am finally free, from my crazy boss and hectic stress and downtown LA traffic and last minute press conferences and missed meals.

i stole a -ton- of office supplies.

monday, i'll start my summer internship with toyota. (no rest for the weary.) (or wary? weary, i think) i'm nervous about starting somewhere new, even though they seem very exicted to be getting an intern with professional work experience. actually, that's probably part of my problem - i'm so concerned that i'll get there and they'll realize i'm a total hack, and all my "experience" entailed at the mayor's office was avoiding my boss and procrastinating. it's not entirely true, but i certainly feel there's a danger of my real inability to be exposed.

the other concern is that people there will not like me. which is a stupid concern. because i know that no matter where i go, there will always be people who do like me, as well as people who don't, and as long as i'm not deceived about which is which i shouldn't have a problem. but i do let it mess with my head; all i can think about whenever the dislikers are present is how to be impressive somehow to make up for it. and then i end up sounding like a babbling moron or standing reeeeally awkwardly in silence.

i have found that boyfriend's sisters, in particular, do not like me.

at least i am consistent!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

car. ears. eggs. - article

ladies and gentlemen. don't say i never gave you anything interesting.

i feel so unaccomplished.
Man pulls car with ears while standing on eggs

A Chinese man pulled a car with his ears while walking on eggs without breaking them.

Zhang Xingquan, 38, pulled the car for about 20 metres in Dehui, Jinli province.

His performance drew a big crowd of astonished onlookers.

Zhang said he began to learn the stunt when he was just eight years old.

He can also pick up a 25kg bicycle with his mouth while standing on eggs.