What are you supposed to be doing right now, and why aren't you doing it? Is this tab sandwiched between Facebook and Twitter, with Gmail all the way over to the left, and is there another window hidden behind this one, growing staler by the minute, that contains all the things you're really supposed to be reading? For work, say, or even more trivial necessities like finding out why your cat is licking the floor, or to leave a Yelp review for the mechanic who fixed your car last week because you promised you would, or to browse a takeout menu? And behind that window, way back in the dark closet of your computer, where it's dim and the moths and bats are circling, is there a blinking cursor on a Word document? Is the Word document empty? Did you think it wouldn't be, by this hour? Did you assume that you'd be on Page 4 or 5, feeling accomplished, clicking save and running off to reward yourself with a lunch beer? What happened there, bozo, and why does it keep happening to all of us, every day? Why can't we stop?
I'm stressing you out. I can tell. You're going to start work in a second, you just have to see if it's your move in Words With Friends, the poor man's Scrabble. And there's the odd chance that your inspiration would really get jump-started by a little think-'n'-tweet, just to get your mind ripe. We are addicted to Facebook, more so than we are addicted to the promise of lunch beers or packs of gross Parliament Lights. We sense that it's harmful in excess, but for most of us it's so entangled with our professional and social lives that it's necessary in small amounts, or at least abstractly beneficial. If only we could figure out a way to limit our use, we'd be gold: The Platonic ideal is to have social media as an afterthought, to jump into bed with it for a quick romp and then head out the door to go back to our lives. We want to be the Don Draper to our social media mistresses: We may show up to work late and bed-headed, but we show up and we dazzle, more informed and refreshed.
Our time spent on Facebook and Twitter is meant to be recuperative, and now there's a handy gadget called the Pavlov Poke to shove you out the door with an electric shock administered through your keypad when you've lingered too long.
The attractiveness-rating website Hot or Not was founded in 2000 by Silicon Valley engineers James Hong and Jim Young to serve as "a technical solution to a disagreement they made one day over a passing woman's attractiveness." Phrased originally as a question ("Am I Hot or Not?"), it dropped the "Am I" for the catchier "Hot or Not," whose lack of question mark makes the interrogation feel more grim and reminds you that it is a mechanized poll conducted by a non-person. Hot or Not eventually evolved into a matchmaking site, one that falls somewhere between OkCupid and Adult Friend Finder on the yardstick of creepiness. While Hot or Not came after RateMyFace (1999) and AmIHot (also 2000) and didn't add any new functions to the Y/N photo-rating concept, it was more popular than either of its forebears.
Mark Zuckerberg was inspired by Hot or Not to create Facemash, the early version of Facebook, as mythologized in The Social Network. Likewise the founders of YouTube originally planned to develop online video content just so they could create a site like Hot or Not with video.Jawed Karim, who cofounded YouTube and designed much of PayPal, has said that Hot or Not was so monumental because "anyone could upload content that everyone else could view. That was a new concept because up until that point, it was always the people who owned the website who would provide the content." It probably didn't hurt that most of these developers were teenage boys when Hot or Not launched, placing them firmly in the site's target demo.
Do you ever wonder what the cast of Entourage is up to now? I know I do, every day of my life. Here's how I picture it:
Adrian Grenier (Vince) watches Teenage Paparazzo on Blu-ray on a flat-screen the size of the world's biggest pizza and marvels at how presciently it doused our current cultural maladies. "I am a great director," he mutters aloud, perhaps to the Estonian models strewn around the waterbed sofas, possibly to no one at all.
Kevin Dillon (Johnny Drama) works on his deal to turn Viking Quest into a direct-to-web series, pitching it as "House of Cards meets Game of Thrones" to three bags of cocaine, who immediately buy it.
Introducing Graph Search, the new Facebook feature that will prompt a bunch of bogus disclaimer posts, just like every new feature that came before it. If you attempt to Graph Search for something outside of your social matrix, the query will be passed along to Bing. The search, which Zuckerberg is calling the "third pillar" of the platform (Timeline and News Feed are the other pillars; Scrabble is the caterpillar), is still in beta, but you can get on the wait list here. Best-case scenario: We can all become Millionaire Matchmakers by more easily searching for single friends by city. Worst-case scenario: the Power Bar, which is "almost frightening in its ability to personalize potential questions," sings you "Daisy Bell" while trying to sell you that Baies candle you looked at once on Amazon. When you refuse, it sets you on fire like a bouquet of blackcurrant leaves and updates your status to "dead."
There's a very specific, fleeting kind of glee around the Grantland offices on Bracket Day, heady moments the editors greedily drink in as we creep toward the cliff's edge to lash our latest single-elimination tournament to a stake, waiting for the churning waters of the Internet to part as the Kraken of our readership rises up to consume its sacrificial offering. We know the feeding is coming — after all, we are the ones summoning the slumbering leviathan from the deep — but we're always a little surprised at the violence of the ritual; within moments, Facebook and Twitter feeds are flooded with gore and the staff is swept out to grisly @-deaths in an unforgiving sea freshly chummed with our newest, dumbest ideas.
Wait a minute. Is this a bracket about movies or a faux-epic retelling of Wrath of the Titans? Did that one even have a Kraken? We bet it had, like, 10 Krakens; that's the way sequels work, but it's not like anyone saw it and can tell us. Anyway. Let's just get to the trolling, shall we?
I spent six hours at the emergency pet clinic yesterday. Besides being the horrible experience that it always is — the boxes of tissues, crates of miserably crying cats, howls from the back room, people sobbing openly to the always-chilly-mannered receptionists and then being handed a giant bill for euthanasia — being in the waiting room felt sort of old-fashioned. Everybody was talking to each other: Oh, what’s that, a foxtail in the ear? Is he Siamese? I hope she’ll be okay, she’s a good dog, look at her sit in your lap like that. Nobody really reached for their phones, unless it was to check to see how many hours they’d been waiting there. They were busy talking to each other or being miserable while absentmindedly patting their labradoodles’ heads.
As we get ready to open our Christmas presents from Hollywood (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo! Tin Tin! Uh, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked!) we thought it was worth remembering that eternal truism: Sometimes the wrapping is prettier than the gift. So, with that, let's look at the greatest packaging Hollywood has ever bestowed on moviegoers: the greatest movie trailers of all time.
The Black Dragon (1975)
Alex Pappademas:0:13: Voice-over guy tells us that after Bruce Lee’s death, “Kung Fu people especially mourned the loss of their most popular hero,” and then we see some kung fu people in traditional Chinese dragon-dance costumes, presumably grieving. This movie is part of the Brucesploitation genre, which thrived after Lee’s demise turned him into the Tupac of chop-socky. The true masterpiece of the category is probably The Clones of Bruce Lee, a.k.a. Death Penalty on Three Robots, which starred Lee impersonators Bruce Le, Bruce Lai, Bruce Thai, and Dragon Lee.
0:18: “The early reports of his death were unclear and confusing.” Implication: This movie’s going to clear everything up. Implication-undercutting hint that maybe this movie itself operates in the same zone of ambiguity its marketing promises to dispel: The fact that the title cards can’t decide if the movie is called The Black Dragon or The Death of Bruce Lee. (On IMDb, it’s listed as The Black Dragon’s Revenge.)
0:21: Our hero, would-be Jim Kelly successor Ron Van Clief, is introduced; he has received an autopsy photo of Bruce Lee in the mail. Ron Van Clief, to camera: “Man.” He looks confused. This is going to be an amazing documentary.
0:32: “A Chinese millionaire from San Francisco was willing to pay $100,000 up front to find out the truth. The assignment went to the most feared man in America — Ron Van Clief.” Wikipedia facts about Ron Van Clief: He was the fight choreographer on The Last Dragon; he made history in 1997 as the oldest man ever to fight in a UFC event (and get choked out after four minutes by Royce Gracie); he was supposed to be in a movie called The Art of Cliefing, but funding was pulled at the last minute “due to widespread protests in Korea,” a nation historically inhospitable to Cliefing after Hawkeye Pierce invented it during the war.
0:38-1:19: Voice-over guy lists Van Clief’s qualifications for this fake job; Van Clief meat-tenderizes a bunch of dudes. You just experienced the Art of Cliefing, motherfuckers!
1:30: “No, baby, it’s the real shit.”
1:39: Fast-motion eye-gouge!
1:55: “His connection: Charles 'La Pantera' Bonet — the Puerto Rican Terror!” Who looks like a nunchaku-wielding Pete Townsend, kind of, but who we’re assured is “unsuspectingly, one hell of a kung fu man, something the Chinese didn’t expect to see.” No one expects the unsuspected!
2:36: Slow-motion groin-stomp!
2:54: Sleazy porn-funk groove over title-card reading “Serafim Karalexis presents THE BLACK DRAGON.” Karalexis was still in the picture business as late as 1995, associate-producing something called The Steal, with Alfred Molina. The IMDb page for The Steal has a picture of the DVD box for another, unrelated movie called Steal. Wiki-synopsis of that one: “Slim, Frank, Otis and Alex are a group of youthful bank robbers who commit their crimes in innovative ways involving extreme sports such as skating and snowboarding.” Because there are so, so many banks located at the top of sweet black-diamond snowboarding runs. Stars of this “Steal” include Stephen Dorff and Natasha Henstridge, the Stephen Dorff of women.
3:22: “We’ve said enough. Now we’ll let him do the talking.” Someone kicks Van Clief from behind. “Why, you creep!” he says. Maybe he should not do the talking.
3:44: V/O: “None of that jumpin' around and flying through the air, because this is the real shit!” For your consideration: THE BLACK DRAGON!
4:18: “Also starring the Latin Terror — Jorge Esparga,” and his Freddy Fender mustache. There is some real transcultural outreach going on here; you get the sense that only scheduling conflicts and/or DGA rules about one movie being too awesome prevented them from including Patrick “The Human Shillelagh” O’Flanrahan, the Hebrew Hammer, and some guy from Finland who gets mean when he drinks.