Comments: Week of February 22, 2010

1. Insiders and outsiders alike applauded Mark Harris for immersing himself, and them, in Hollywood award culture (The Red Carpet Campaign,” February 15). Tom O’Neil at the L.A. Times’s oddsmaker blog Gold Derby deemed it “a must-read.” Blog Awards Daily noted that “when you read this kind of story … one is reminded that there are still very good writers covering this silly little corner of the world.” Commenters on also expressed their fondness for the story (if not always for its subjects). “Fascinating article. I felt like I was there with you, taking a detailed look at Hollywood’s insides, and boy, it’s not very pretty, is it? The whole campaigning thing is actually kinda sickening. I cannot believe how many awards there are. I think if there were fewer, it would make winning more meaningful,” said one. “This was a great article. There’s always a narrative to the nominees and how you can gauge who’ll walk away with the prize,” agreed another. “Now, if you can only give me a way of figuring out who will win Best Animated Short and Short Documentary, I’ll be able to win the Oscar pool!”

2. In responding to Kurt Andersen’s essay on the populism epidemic (Is Democracy Killing Democracy?,” February 15), many commenters on made an effort to keep the conversation civil, even some who defended the tea-party rallies as an important political phenomenon. “The populist ‘mobs’ of the modern tea party are actually just individuals concerned with individual liberty,” argued a commenter. “That they’re in groups is merely incidental; their collective power is not intended as a means to collectivist ends. Andersen is right that the founders were wary of democracy over the long haul. He’s wrong about the reason. They were wary not because democracy could become a threat to governance, but because democracy could become a threat to liberty.” Others believed Andersen’s hand-wringing wasn’t warranted. “The tea-party thing is way oversold,” claimed one commenter. “It’s just a warmed-over collection of the same far-right groups that have been around forever. Even I would be elected over a tea-party candidate for Senate from any state.”

3. Last week, Sam Anderson took one for the team and experimented with ChatRoulette (“The Web: The Human Shuffle,” February 15), a website that connects you via video with random strangers all over the world—and allows either party to instantly disconnect if you don’t like what you see. Following Anderson’s lead, commenters and bloggers took their own spins through ChatRoulette and reported back. “I watched the Super Bowl with friends while ChatRouletting,” said one commenter. “It was so weird seeing snippets of hundreds of other people watching the Super Bowl. It’s so creepy and voyeuristic—Law & Order SVU is definitely going to make an episode out of it. Also a lot of unsolicited penis.” “My favorite is this large Asian guy in women’s leopard-print underwear—I have seen him twice,” offered another. Some were chastened by the experience: “After reading this, I immediately checked it out, and I have to say that it’s baffling. I agree that this could be something positive, but right now it’s more like a viral porn meme.” Even ancient (by ChatRouletters’ standards) users enjoyed it: “Pity that at 48, the burden of excessive age is obviously a freaky deal-breaker—although I’m prepared to suffer the abject humiliation of being ‘nexted’ just to check it out!” Another got poetical, exclaiming, “This site is the most hilarious, saddest, weirdest thing I have seen for a while. I have seen boobs, bongs, penises, pretty girls, ugly guys, beer, cigarettes, within the hour I spent on the place. Out of all the people I ran into, some were funny, some were rude, some were disgusting, and two were nice actual people who I conversed with.” Jason Kottke at described the standard parade of genitalia and uninterest, as well as noting, “In a Malkovichian moment, I was even connected to myself once … and then the other me quickly disconnected.” “It is the end,” averred one philosopher-commenter. “There is no more Internet after this. I’m glad I got to see this in my lifetime.”

The Commenters Vote
Olympic Showdown
Jason Zengerle’s “Intelligencer” essay on the pointlessness of the Winter Olympics polarized commenters. Below, their reactions.

Send correspondence to:

Comments: Week of February 22, 2010