August 14th, 2012
And that was just it: Instead of the internet working against our real lives in provocative ways, it became an extension of them. The looking glass was now a mirror; instead of reinventing us, the web simply provided more of us to the world, and more ways to take advantage of the world around us. We speak of Yelping and checking in on 4Square as if these were activities, when they are simply the day-to-day cataloguing of our lives—or, even worse, a grimly detached version of modern life in which we aspire to be ourselves. Mediation presents itself as a friendly tool when in fact it creates distance between us and the ordinary.
September 16th, 2011

The Classical and You

The Classical is $8,140 away from its goal. If you’ve donated, we thank you with all our hearts. If you’ve made a principled stance not to—maybe you would prefer to “support” writers with a different model, or believe freelancers can write two things at the same time—then we appreciate your honesty. 

If you’re either waiting, or on the fence, this Tumbl is for you. We want The Classical to happen, and we hope you do, too. We’re not asking you to prop up our hobby, or rejecting those time-honored internet precepts of hard work and tireless sacrifice. We just need a hand getting started. If in a year, The Classical can’t support itself, it dies as dead as if it never existed in the first place.

The Classical isn’t just for us, it’s for all of you—the writers interested in contributing, the readers who feel there’s something missing from sports journalism that has yet to be fulfilled. This money allows us, and you, to build the kind of site we know can work without looking over our shoulder from Day 1. It’s a luxury, sure, and may run counter to all libertarian ideals. But we prefer to see it as trust. Trust in what we’ve done, and will do. Or, if you want, good old-fashioned fear. If we don’t raise this money, The Classical doesn’t happen.

It’s an old NPR refrain, but it’s that simple. The Classical won’t exist without you. And if The Classical doesn’t exist, it tells us that it all we need to know. If that’s the case, we’ll take our answer off the air.

June 14th, 2011
“I have long admired your publication” becomes “I love the stuff you guys are doing”; I use capitalization, and labor over word choice, in a chat about people who are dicks. I find myself replacing the stately italics with all-caps in a for-pay piece of writing. Exclamation points and emoticons crop up where there’s no guarantee the audience will get the irony behind them. We’ve all had the experience of typing in the wrong window; instead of mechanical errors, though, these are instances of bringing the wrong person to the window.
"Personality Seepage", a very modern problem that I diagnose on The Awl today.
April 22nd, 2011

I’ve been planning for a minute to vivisect the NBA Playoffs advertising playlist. My initial reaction: None of these speak to me, and I am the league’s target demographic. I guess being broke boots me out, though. That’s the only possible explanation, since this advertising is corny as fuck. The non-stop ads for metal detecting as a hobby and a way of life (learning to draw, however, is NOT a possible career) are especially incongruous. Forget about race, or (sub)cultural niche. Are age 24-35 men really looking to take up the banner hobby of the retired, the far-flung, and the Dale Gribbles of this world? Even more poignantly: When I think metal detectors and the NBA, I flash right to racial tensions and fear of young black men and weapons. Or, as in the photo above, little girls being searched in mildly suggestive ways. Thankfully, the playoffs advertisers, whose name escapes me, are most interested in digging up ancient Celtic gold or Civil War relics.

Then I noticed that Barkley’s incessant mentions of CrossFit actually made me sit up and ask, sometimes to no one in particular, “what’s CrossFit”? Commercials, save me for the sneaker and Old Spice ones that qualify as pop art, are inherently silly in the information age. We know the products, or at least have a more ingrained perception of the brand than could be changed in twenty seconds. Advertising itself, unless it goes for self-aware or weird (maybe not the most popular choice for companies in these shaky, risk-averse times), is for chumps. What is the NBA demographic? Black, white, rich, poor, it’s folks who can’t watch ads with a straight face. Any attempt to pull the wool over our eyes only pushes the product, and its new image, further and further away from us. At least the local ads we used to, and sometimes still do, get over League Pass had regional obtuseness going for them.

Basketball, as evidenced by its over-developed relationship with blogging, YouTube, and streaming game, appeals to people who like to find shit out for themselves. Not be handed a bill of goods. It’s not skepticism, and a good website certainly goes a long way. But handing NBA fans a pitch just won’t cut it. Why does Wieden+Kennedy continue to run this? It doesn’t try and sell anything, or manipulate image. They provide enhanced content, a missing link between the player brands that develop almost organically, and the product associated with them. In those Ray Lewis ads, we learn nothing about deodorant. We do, however, get a play on the Lewis we though we knew, plus a dash of entertainment. Cachet accomplished, and just maybe, the Old Spice brand is stronger for it. But there was no serious, linear attempt to impart to values of X onto Y in a way that couldn’t possibly alter our perception of a familiar product.

That’s why, for my money, the best advertising for these playoffs has been Charles Barkley’s non-stop shout-outs to CrossFit, whatever that is. Every time he mentions it, in could-give-a-fuck-less, self-deprecating manner, I ask my wife “what’s CrossFit”? She’s smarter than I am, so she doesn’t answer. But I’m part of that NBA demographic. I want to buy, and believe, but I want to get there myself. That’s what Google is for, or the associations I bring a good W+K ads. Brand becomes collaborative, participatory. You complete the puzzle. It’s the difference between completing a puzzle with friends, with beer and shit-talking in tow, and someone giving you that same image as a framed poster for Christmas. Actually, that last line really bummed me out. On some level, I suppose metal-detecting ads do, too. Please, put us both out of our miser. Let the future in. Shit, I’ve got the laptop open throughout most of these games. Shouldn’t all advertisers get wise to that dynamic?

Oh, and over at the blog, the heavenly David Roth stops by for some kibitzin’ about the playoffs. Look for him more regularly from here on out. For Good Men Project, I wrote a moving tribute to my brothers and sisters in NBA Twitter blastin’, even if that medium is pretty much useless at this point.