A eulogy for Television Without Pity

The buttery and soothing tones of Brooke Gladstone’s voice informed me tonight on the drive home from work that Television Without Pity is no more. The archives will stay up but NBC Universal, which owns the site (?????), has shuttered it and there will be no new recaps.

I haven’t been on TWoP in years but this still hurts my heart all the same. I suppose it is just another fact of life when you’ve been on the internet for forever. Even though things on the internet can live forever doesn’t mean they will. Sites I loved so hard (Google Reader, I’m still not over you) are going to come and go as the nerdy ephemera of the internet mimics more and more the ebb and tide of real-life brick and mortar gathering spaces through time.

My introduction to TWoP came in college from the editor of the student newspaper. She was a HUGE Buffy fan and read the recaps religiously. I checked out the site and found myself quickly hooked on Six Feet Under recaps and would read them instead of watching the actual new episodes, since we didn’t have HBO. They were so good back in the day. So funny and easy to digest.

Recaps of 7th Heaven were my longtime guilty pleasure, since I loved to hate to love that show. The best recappers had a way of giving you every important detail of the show so that you could build the episode scene by scene in your head, while delivering some of the sharpest criticism and hilarious writing I’ve ever read on these tubes.

TWoP recaps opened up a perverse and embarrassing new vocabulary world for me. That site was the first place I ever saw the word “snark” used purposefully. And that site was where I let those obnoxious abbreviations — totes, whatevs, adorbs — seep into my vernacular. (It didn’t take much prodding, if I’m being honest.) I still to this day say “Whatevs, Revs,” which makes NO SENSE in any context except to someone who might have also read it in a hilarious 7th Heaven recap.

I am sad to see the site go, as in its heyday it was brilliant. Television is currently putting out so much fucking great stuff that a robust, at-its-best TWoP could be INCREDIBLE, but that is not really how the universe works, is it? After all, you could argue that the heyday of TWoP led to the current crop of INCREDIBLE television, couldn’t you?

RIP TWoP. You were a cornerstone of my bookmarks for a long time and you were one of a handful of sites that made the internet important to me.

Dear Google, I don’t give a crap about your April Fools pranks but I do actually give a crap about useful services


I don’t hate fun. Really, I don’t. I have even been known to HAVE fun every now and again. I encourage it. Within reason, of course!

But this is getting ri-frickin-diculous.

That link that you probably hovered on but did not click is a roundup of all the April Fools pranks Google staged in 2013 alone.

I realize that Google is a global ginormamegacorporation that employs tens of thousands of people, so it’s possible that the total percentage of work time spent on a dozenish fairly elaborate pranks does not amount to much.

But as someone who has been mourning the death of the internet I used to love since Google started powering down Reader in late 2011, watching a dozenish cutesy fake marketing campaigns pop up every April 1 now just makes me grumpy. Think of the brainstorming sessions devoted to coming up with silly April Fools ideas. Think of the teams that were created or leveraged to push those pranks forward. Think of the art direction, the storyboarding, the scriptwriting, the illustration, the plotting, the self-satisfied back patting once the pranks were posted and started getting hits.

Meanwhile, an actually useful program that many people rely on and like and would love to continue using isn’t getting the time of day from Google’s well-intentioned pranksters. They are too busy eating their free lunch on their indoor playground and dreaming up hilariously useless fake stuff to devote brainpower to so that people will get a quick chuckle on April Fools Day.

You know what, Google? You are not The Onion. I don’t need you to make me laugh. You are not Martha Stewart. I don’t need you to add whimsy to my everyday interactions with the world. You are not a DVD. I don’t need you to put Easter eggs everywhere. You are a company that makes tech products and experiences. I expect you to do that and really effing well since I pretty much let you log all the data about my life that you want, around the clock, and you use that data to make BUTT LOADS of money.

So stop f&*%$ing around with this fake April Fools crap and bring Reader back or make something better and more useful for once.

Shameless self-promotion: Recorded yapping edition

Remember this bit of strategic foreshadowing? No? Well, that’s why Al Gore invented the hyperlink.

So my pal Ed and I sat down and had a little chat about the social web and what a sticky wicket it is, and we recorded that conversation for posterity and for a time capsule element I will one day beam into my children’s head pods’ humor modules. My one regret is that I was having such a mouth-stuffing love affair with my honey-slathered bagel that I didn’t make some of the points I should have. Good food gives me temporary amnesia, so what? But honestly, if you read this post, you get the gist of where I’m going with my thoughts anyway.

The point is that the social web has such amazing potential for connections that never before could have existed. But I am scared about where we are headed because companies looking to get in on a good thing are hell bent on fucking it all up. The image I keep getting in my head is of an over-eager chihuahua frantically humping a human leg. You are the leg, these companies seeking to infiltrate and control are the chihuahua. They want your attention, they want you to like them, they want your thumbs ups, they want you to opt into the game, but on the flipside, they want you to play by their rules and conduct yourself 24 hours a day as if you are a roaming ambassador for them. What you do is what the company is. Your living out loud on the web means you are subject to constant scrutiny and potential regulation by your employer. Doesn’t that scare you? It surely scares me, and I have a fairly boring life and a fairly lenient employer.

Anyway, listen to the conversation if that’s your bag, and then check back. I was Ed’s guinea pig, so I’m super excited to see where he takes his project once he starts sitting down with the really interesting people he knows.

Day 87/365: Podcaster


My friend Ed was kind enough to ask me to blather on and on into a microphone about The Internet the other day. Details on that to come a little later.

Our server at Republic Coffee saw us hooked up to lapel mics and wanted to know what we were doing, exactly.

“This is how we give blood,” Ed quipped.

Good show.

[Project 365]

Opening Lines: A writing game for you to play

I’m good at starting stories, but I’m not so good with coming up with compelling conflict and I’m even worse at wrapping things up. Most stories I write get rambly and bogged down in details and go unfinished, and yet opening lines tumble through my brain on a nearly constant basis. I thought it might be fun to put some of them here in the hopes that you writerly types might see fit to use them as story prompts. If you do, just come back here and leave a link in the comments so we can all go read your story.

• When she finally took her hands off his neck, he still wasn’t dead.

• Lucinda Belle Craddock née Van Mott clutched her bucket of quarters and pulled the lever one more time, for Frank.

• It had skidded across the road and landed at the foot of Seth’s lawn chair, and had it had just a smidge more momentum, it would have taken him out with it.

• He hated his name and always had.

• “You said you would show me the scars.”

• Margaret was fairly sure that when she wrote her marriage-counseling book, she was going to include a chapter titled “Sleepfarting.”

• Caitlin had kept her eyes closed for ten seconds, just like Dr. Smoltz had told her to, but when she opened them, it was still there, looking at her and not blinking.

• The things random passersby threw into the gravel pit never really surprised Daniel, until today.

• Hitomi remembered the awful tension everyone felt the year the census numbers showed that cyborgs outnumbered humans.

• His hands, from the right angle, looked like gnarled tree roots, but they knew her body better than they knew anything else in the world.

• The smoke brought him into this world, and now it looked like it was bound to take him right back out.

• The building was obviously alive, the way it sighed and shuddered and sometimes even shrieked.

• Tom left her the day after their fiftieth anniversary, and all she had of his was his gold watch — a memento too bitterly ironic even for her dark sense of humor.

• The so-called invasion was decades behind them.

• Abel had never asked for the visions, never wanted them, never indulged them, but suddenly the entire class was gathered around him, begging him to tell them what was going to happen.

• Tilly had heard the rumors about David — “Doggin’ Dave” they called him — but it wasn’t until she clicked the video link some anonymous e-mailer had sent her that she realized just what he had got up to.

• Mandy sat by the empty crib for three days and three nights.

• The man in the cell was hollerin’ something fierce, his face white as a sheet, but Deputy Mason didn’t speak Spanish and so just stood there, wide-eyed, unable to comprehend the commotion.