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The innovative new web series H+, a project helmed by Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men), is set to roll out its first episode on YouTube August 8.  The multi-perspective, piecemeal narrative revolves around a deadly virus unleashed on a futuristic population implanted with an HPlus chip, designed to enable instant and continuous internet access.  But it’s not only the series’ online venue and big-name backers that make H+ particularly ambitious.  It’s the potential for audience interactivity with the order in which the story elements are presented.  As series creator John Cabrera recently explained to Wired:

This is why Louis C.K.’s Live At The Beacon Theater is important:  he listened to the market and responded accordingly.

C.K. is a comedian. His popular, culty stand-up is known for pushing boundaries while also being incredibly approachable. His cameos in TV comedies bring the giggles. He directed Pootie Tang.

His latest stand-up special was self-produced and self-financed. He released the video online, but did so in a fashion antithetical to the status quo. In his own words:

Readers of The Nervous Breakdown did a tremendous job these last two weeks distilling the impressive harvest of what was a vintage year of TNB to five stand-out drafts; the final quintet, I submit, is, as they phrase it at the better MFA programs, pretty fucking good.

For the next little while — and “little while” may turn out to be “a few weeks” or “year,” depending — we’re testing out a new feature in this space, called, oh-so-cleverly, Who Am I.

It’s not really a feature; feature makes it sound like a Michael Bay movie, and this is more modest than that, and does not involve Ben Affleck or explosions.  At least, not yet.

A co-worker recently introduced me to an Internet meme that combines the wonkish humor endemic to programmers and their ilk with the high-culture aspirations of literary types such as myself. It’s a supposed lost Nintendo game circa 1990 based on Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. According to the website “it’s an unreleased localization of a Japanese cart called ‘Doki Doki Toshokan: Gatsby no Monogatari.” Of course, those claims are completely bogus. Nintendo never released a Gatsby game here or abroad. But it’s easy to imagine Doki Dok Toshokan as a forgotten treasure recovered from Nintendo’s vault. The graphics are of the two-tone, blocky 8-bit variety, and stylistically everything about it feels like an old-school Nintendo game. The music is so synthetically melodic and completely lacking in tonal subtly that you can almost hear the binary code ticking away behind the scenes. It’s magical in the way that only NES games can be, and once you get accustomed to the awkward interface used to emulate the original Nintendo controller on a keyboard (space bar to jump, the letter Z to shoot), it’s an easy game to master and beat (I completed all four levels in about half an hour during lunch).

When Alexandra Wallace posted a YouTube video of herself complaining about the “hordes” of Asian students at UCLA and how their existence on campus interfered with her student performance (in the video Wallace mocks the way Asian students speak on their cell phones in the library. “Ching Chong, Ting Tong, Ling Long” she sneers, holding an imaginary phone up to her ear) the response was venomous. Tons of insulted students of all races, creeds and genders logged online to insult her back, oftentimes relying on racist and sexist stereotypes designed to insult and intimidate. Most of these insults drew attention to her cleavage and the fact that she was a “stupid, slutty little white girl”, rather than a bigot. Though the rage that Wallace provoked was certainly merited, as noted on blogs like Racialicious and Colorlines, the use of equally appalling slurs to shame her begs the question of what kind of dialogue we aim to promote in our current culture. Though there has been considerable backlash about what is politically correct and incorrect to say in our culture, the constant influx of these type of insult matches demonstrates how often discussions about racism, sexism, orany other “ism” end with piled on insults and relying on hurtful stereotypes in order to shame the other. This is the current landscape of 2011, a far cry from the days where politically correct labels were slapped on to anything in order to minimize conflict. These days, people want their conflicts right out there in the open. The question is, are these types of conversations actually working to minimize hate?

the whole ecosystem

more semantically aware

most things aren’t social
most things don’t use your real identity
connections aren’t just happening

The biggest problem I’ve always had with Western philosophy, especially in the wake of the neo-Platonic Humanism that fueled the Renaissance, is contempt for crowds. Pericles’ famous comment about “hoi polloi,” hailing the masses as the fount of Athenian greatness, has somehow been transmogrified into a symbol of contempt for crowds and crowd behavior by Western intellects. I’ll none of that¹. Crowds, like individuals, are capable of intelligence, and of stupidity.  Yet bigotry against crowds seems a common affliction of modern intellectuals, especially progressive ones.

Last week at TNB, Joel Fishman called out the New York Times Book Review.Its methodology of selecting which books to bless (or damn) with a review, he suggested, has become whimsical to the point of irrelevance.

This past summer one of the richest and most famous people on the planet committed Facebook suicide.

“It was just way too much trouble, so I gave it up,” said Bill Gates at an event in New Delhi. Gates deactivated his account upon being inundated with more than 10,000 friend requests. He then expressed his aversion to certain aspects of new media, stating that “some tools can waste our time if we’re not careful.”

The other day I was walking down Market Street, enjoying a rare day of calm winds and clear, sunny skies, when a stranger approached me. His hair was brown and coarse, like horsehair, which he clearly hadn’t washed in weeks. Maybe months. He was short and swarthy and wore a thick, bushy moustache and a black trench coat that was too big for him. I tried to walk around him, delete him from my life, but he swerved to intercept me. This is what always happens. You can’t get away from these guys.

A little over three years ago a friend of mine in South Florida sent me a Craigslist post from a gentleman in the Los Angeles area seeking writers for a new website. The writers had to fit two criteria. They should be situated on any part of the planet, the weirder and more varied the location the better, and they must be able to write good creative non-fiction. When I received the email I was holed up in a mansion bordering a golf course on the outskirts of Cascais, Portugal with an injured leg and a bored and shitty attitude. I fit the first part of the bill, for I was definitely living in a weird and remote location, but I was no writer, oh no, never would be. Not me.

Let’s start with the Twitter advice for you, since the majority of you fit into that category. If you’re Johnny Depp or Mary Lynn Rajskub, you can skip to the relevant section.

Scenario: You are you. You’re on Twitter. You’re not totally lost, but you still aren’t sure why you’re there.

Well don’t worry. Because Twitter is a site where people type what they’re doing into the Internet and then nobody reads it because nobody cares.

People have been wanting a place where they can go to read the Twitter novel “Small Places” without clicking through the reverse order on its Twitter page site. Right away, this post is for “Small Places” readers and new fans, and people who want to discuss literary innovation, because here, they will get 14 chapters (of the 25 posted), and a whopping 358 tweets of the nearly 600 posted.

Hello.

My name is Zoe Brock and I am a MySpace addict.

Wow. That’s embarrassing.

If you’d like to run me over with a train right now I’d be more than happy to lay down and oblige.

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Like most addictions my MySpace dependency took time for me to notice, acknowledge or declare.

It was not an addiction I anticipated.

Most addictions are so anticipated that they’re downright boring by the time they kick in.

Weed?
Yawn.

Various psychedelics, uppers, downers and sidewinders?
*whistles innocently and looks towards the heavens*

Cigarettes?
Fuckity fuck fuck.

Booze?
Hello? I’m Australian.

Sex, drugs and rock n roll?
Hello? I’m human.

Strip clubs with performing dwarfs?
Hello? I’m twisted.

Expensive shoes, raunchy lingerie and designer jeans?
Hello? I’m a big titted female with a shoe fetish and an ass made for Marc Jacobs.

Social networking on the Internet????
Ummmmmm……

NO.

It all began last year when a complete stranger, some author by the name of Listi, preyed upon me when I was bored, incapacitated, and unable to walk for three months, and encouraged me to
join MySpace in order to read his blog. Listi lured me with promises that I might potentially write for him on his new writers website “thenervousbreakdowndotcom”. At this stage I was ignorant, I didn’t know what a blog was and nor did I care. But, like an absolute twat, I reluctantly followed instructions… and now look at me. This Listi character must pay for his evil ways! He is nothing short of an enabler! HE MUST BE STOPPED!!!!!!!

The symptoms of my dependency kicked in shortly after my first attempt at a blog. The immediate responses and instant gratification fueled me to write more, to spend more time on the site, soaking up the praise and, while the knee injury I suffered from kept me inert, my fingers tapping on the keys were my only form of physical activity. Hours spent blogging and commenting quickly grew and began to usurp aspects of my life. At first I was able to brush off this inordinate amount of time as “research for my impending documentary on Internet social-networking”, an idea I conceived of shortly after joining, or “a sociological experiment”. I tried to file my addiction under “work”. But the sad truth is that I was hooked on attention and positive feedback after a life lived with little confidence and a desperate need for creative validation.

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The more I wrote the more people loved it, and the more they told me they loved it, and the more I wrote.

Easy.

Not so much.

The more people read me the more they wrote to me, and the more involved we became in each others lives. There was no symbiotic distance between reader and writer, but an uneasy truce between pseudo-friends and not-quite-strangers. I became enmeshed in relationships that weren’t tangible, were elusive and undefinable, and no matter how hard I tried to justify them as friendships they weren’t REAL to me a lot of the time.

A dangerous path.

It’s hard for me to understand how I could grow to care about so many people I’d never met, because I did care. I still do.

It’s hard for me to understand how my life became public knowledge, at my own behest. Does honesty have it’s limits? At what point will I learn to draw the line?

It’s hard for me to pick up this computer and not check my MySpace account to see how everyone is doing.

It’s hard for me to cancel my account.

It’s especially hard for me to cancel my account because I don’t know the password anymore. In a fit of enlightened pique, I forced my dear friend Sara to change it for me so that I couldn’t log on when I felt compelled to. And I am COMPELLED, kids, I’m jonesing like a common crack whore.

I’m sitting here in the midday sun with a snarl on my face and a twitch in my eye. Furious. Annoyed. Wanting on. Refusing to succumb. Conscious of the seductive power of feeling connected. Missing the people I’ve grown used to communicating with every day. Wondering how they are, if they miss me, what they’re doing, writing, saying, feeling.

But the truth is… life goes on.

Without wanting to diminish my time on there, or negate the several remarkable relationships I have forged, the ones I HOPE will be lasting, the question remains… if I left MySpace tomorrow would I even be missed? I’m unconvinced. Perhaps I’d be noticeably absent for a few weeks, but then I’d slither into the back of people’s consciousness, a gradual subside, before fading to black. Poof. See ya.

Very few people would care. Very few people would be even remotely affected. Why should they be?

Knowing how intermediate most of these connections are could make saying goodbye very easy.

I would never be so bold as to presume that I’ve made an impact on anyone’s life. There will always be fresh slants on humor and culture and news and random idiocy to rise up and entertain, better writers, prettier faces, funnier girls. There is definitely a market for it, a need. People are hungry, bored, unsatisfied, lonely. They are crying out for stimulus and love. They should be, it’s a cruel and crazy world out there, I’ve seen it. Human beings, further disconnected from each other by long roads and longer hours or work and stress, are crying out for companionship.

But so are my friends here in close proximity. And they also need physical contact, hand-holding, attention and love.

They need the thing I was in danger of losing touch with – touch itself.

In the last six weeks I’ve traveled America, eight-thousand grueling, exhausting, uplifting miles of it, meeting a lot of the people from MySpace that I needed to meet in order to begin solidifying those relationships and understand them.

I’ve experienced a journey far above my expectations, and also far below. America is sprawling, spreading, filled with sameness. In the midst of that sameness are a few hundred million individual, all different, all trying to find each other and connect in new, exciting ways. Ways that aren’t physical, ways that are safe and sheltered, ways that are semi-anonymous and easily controlled. I know, I’ve been out there… I’ve talked to hundreds of people on beaches, streets and sidewalks, in cafes, hotels, motels, bars and homes.

I’ve made my intangible friendships real ones. I’ve pulled and dragged and danced my unreal people into my world. They’re real. And they’re wonderful.

And now I can take the friendships that mean something and nurture them without a computer – a truly glorious feeling.

The journey is over and it was a trip.

I’ve come back to my life to find it in substantial disarray. Friends seem distant, I feel disconnected, relationships have taken strange turns. And yet, outside the sun is bright. Hummingbirds do their hummy thing. The beach beckons, friends call, and the world awaits.

And so I’ve taken a small break from all things MySpace. I ponder the likelihood of canceling my account, but am reluctant to commit. I tell myself it’s a great marketing tool for my movie and my writing. I tell myself it’s a great place to practice being a writer, to build an audience, to grow as an artist.

I also tell myself that to stay on MySpace now would be a distraction to life, an excuse to not further my dreams, a time waster.

I’m very confused.

MySpace has given me a great gift, and for that I should thank that Listi sumbitch. I can write happily these days. My readers and their criticisms and praise have given me that ability. I have no excuses, no lack of confidence, no insecurities to hold me back, no dedication to procrastination. I know I can do it. Look. You’re reading this now.

And so I sit here at my laptop. I smile at the screen. I click the application FINAL DRAFT and begin a fresh file. And I type.

SCENE ONE – EXT. NEW YORK APARTMENT BUILDING. A TOO-BRIGHT SPRING AFTERNOON.

And I’m writing a movie, not a blog, and I can see it’s characters move and swell and trip and fall and get back up again. And I laugh as I write my ‘comedy canon’, hoping it will blow people out of their seats.

I’m home. I’m homeless. I’m broker than a smashed plate. I’m jobless and carless but certainly not aimless. I have twenty weeks of post-production ahead of me and a deadline called Sundance. I have no idea what is going to happen, no idea what the future holds.

Life is bittersweet but it’s all I’ve got.

My name is Zoe Brock, and I am a recovering MySpace addict.

Are you?