Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kewtsi Pooing For Dollars

Once again I find myself behind the times. Hey, I could claim to be on top of things, then walk around like I had an ego up my butt, you know, sort of sniffing at some higher air, but I'd still be clueless. Just like most of us.

Out of curiosity yesterday or out of boredom I hunted for news of my high school class. They should have had a reunion last year. I'd like to wait until my 50th before actually attending a high school reunion. By then I'd finally have something worthwhile to talk about. No, I'm not working on my portable, safe, back yard fusion reactor which needs only a few more months, or a year, two or three years, tops, before it's ready, and will sell for $27.50, or no more than $57.75, worst case. I'm talking about surviving. Getting old, getting past all the early crap, and talking to anyone else who has made it. By then we won't care about trying to impress anyone.

There was a good quote that floated by a month or two back, but I let it go by without making a note. It was something like: When you are young you are obsessed about what people think of you. At middle age you are proud to show others that you are doing things your way. In later years you realize that no one ever even noticed you.

That's when I want to get there. When things have cooled down to a nice even glow.

I didn't locate anything about my class. I even hate to think of "my class". Buncha losers. But I did find a rudimentary web site devoted to an annual reunion of all classes at the high school I attended.

Right. They've taken to forming an annual herd in the gym for some reason. The photos were more depressing that the reality would have been. No life in them. In a real situation there is always at least one good looking woman, or some guy telling a joke. Some life. Not in the photo. They were all standing like zombies and most of them were old. Sure, lots of them were from classes even before mine, but I realized that a lot of the people there would look like my former classmates now look. Not like me.

I can still scare people occasionally. I used to pass for someone 15 to 20 years younger than I was. Not quite so much any more, but aside from some gray hairs in my beard and nose and a few more wrinkles around the eyes I don't look any older than some hard-ridden 35 year olds. Which in itself could be a good reason to attend a high school reunion. Be surrounded by people your own age who look old enough to be your parents. Who cares if you've never amounted to much. Get old enough and people stop caring how many toys they have, or how big the house is and start fearing death. So if you're youngish looking and in good health you've got them aced.

The main thing is, though, as dumb and slow as I am, these people were a lot worse off, the ones in the photo. They made a point of going and congealing into a puddle inside an old high school gym with other losers so they could stand and listen to the rancid old school fight song and feel like they still belonged to something. Mindless. Pointless. Like me, true, but more so.

I keep missing opportunities but yet I'm not quite as pathetic as they are. Just sort of pathetic.

You get an idea how dumb you are when you hear a really good comedian, or read a stellar novel, or sit through a movie so compelling that you forget to breathe. Especially the comedians, who can take something absolutely ordinary make it bizarre and alien. And make stuff shoot out your nose.

Try it sometime. Go grocery shopping and stop in front of the canned beets and come up with a five minute monologue that will make people go crazy. That is genius. It is not easy.

Sometimes you can be sort of bright and sort of creative and pay close attention and come up with something worthwhile, or at least grab it when it goes by. The really great ones, the masters, the geniuses among us, pull things out of blank, empty space. I don't think I'll do that even once. But maybe if I pay enough attention, maybe then, just once, please, I might be able to grab something when it swims by.

Like Eric Nakagawa, "a software developer in Hawaii, [who] posted a single photo of a fat, smiling cat he found on the Internet, with the caption, "I can has cheezburger?" in January, 2007, at a Web site he created. It was supposed to be a joke. Soon after he posted a few more images in the same vein: cute cats with funny captions written in a silly, invented hybrid of Internet shorthand and baby-talk. Then he turned the site into a blog, so that visitors could comment on the postings. What happened after that would have been hard for anyone to predict." So saith Business Week.

Now that can't be hard, can it? I mean, even I could do that. I hear that he was unemployed at the time and first hosted "I Can Has Cheezburger?" on a $6.95 per month site. And this was January, 2007. Not long ago. Very late in life for the internet. You would have expected this around 1993 maybe. But even by the late 1990s you normally didn't get much beyond Hampsterdance. Somehow. Things are speeding up.

The boys who did YouTube weren't the first to do web videos. They just got something right, or reintroduced the right idea at the right moment. Something. I, like you, am still clueless.

By July of 2007 "I Can Has Cheezburger?" was pulling in around $5,600 a month and made it to number 26 on the most-linked-to blogs list on Technorati.

I could handle that.

Maybe I'm not paying attention. In fact I'm sure of it, or I would be rolling in dough right at this moment.

So instead I listened to "Ben Huh Chief Cheezeburger On The ShoeMoney Show", an audio recording of an interview with the new cheez head. Eric Nakagawa and his partner sold out. The site now belongs to Ben Huh. He has eight staff: three moderators/posters, two full time developers, two part time developers, and one editor. The site gets 7000 submissions a day, of which about six see daylight. It gets around two million hits a day, and 80% of them are direct, coming from people who know where they are going, and go there directly, with great vigor. The staff is totally focused on making the site interesting and easy to use. This is smart since the visitors provide the content.

How about a great business model? It's spreading to all sorts of businesses. The average person gets a thrill when something they submit is used. Then the site owner gets the money. And then everyone is happy.

Now there are three sister sites as well: "Loldogs 'n' Cute Puppies" (dogs), "Pundit Kitchen" (politics), and "Graph Jam" (stories told through graphs).

One moral of the story I got from the ShoeMoney interview: have fun. Maybe you could call it a business plan.

I've heard this one before. A big problem, maybe the biggest, is to break out of one's own prison. Your thoughts keep you boxed in, and that's why most of us never start those new businesses or shock people with originality. Here's the rule: If you start out to have fun you will, and maybe make money too. If you set out only to make money you probably won't do that, or have fun either.

There is a reason why we go through life seeing only the ordinary, being only ordinary. Because we have to. No one can be creative every minute. You can't question every assumption, every social convention, every habit all the time. People blind since birth who have been given sight as adults can't handle it. Their nervous systems don't know what to ignore, so they get a lot of noise but can't pick out the signal.

The way to do something original is to destroy part of your life but not too much of it. You can't be either totally creative or totally mundane. Either way you will die. Explode from overload or expire from boredom. The right way seems to be to get to a level adequate to handle the mandatory needs of life, and then to engage in extraordinary play with the rest.

Now just let me go back in time about two years and see if I can get to this cheezburger thing first. Then I will be the one going home with the golden hairball.


Bloggers Bring in the Big Bucks: How a personal obsession can turn into a popular favorite and maybe even a full-time job. (Business Week)
Graph Jam
I Can Has Cheezburger?
Loldogs n Cute Puppies
Pundit Kitchen
The Definitive Lolcats Glossary
With 'LOLcats' Internet Fad, Anyone Can Get In on the Joke. (Wall Street Journal)


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