Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Breakfast Taco

Today's breakfast taco is brought to you by Juanita's, the little red caboose on 5th. The egg and chorizo is solid and the salsa verde is among my favorites in Austin.

Soundtrack: I Do Not Play No Rock 'N' Roll, by Mississippi Fred McDowell. North Mississippi Hill Country Blues earliest exponent plugs in electric for the first time and features a rhythm section comprising more than his foot and right hand (it's some dude with brushes barely audible in the background). As the title indicates, this ain't no sell-out. Aside from a little amplification, it's the same straight, rhythmic, droning deep blues McDowell had been playing since the '20s (although that's a matter of faith, as it wasn't until 1959 when folklorist Alan Lomax became the first to capture McDowell on tape). The Stones turned in very faithful cover of "You Got to Move" on Sticky Fingers. The album also features a rollicking "Jesus is on the Mainline" and a jagged, slashing "61 Highway." McDowell died two years after this album's release (1969) of cancer.

Vote Different: Several versions of the mash-up of Apple's 1984 Super Bowl ad attacking Hilary Clinton are circulating on YouTube. Per Wired, the original is the product of Phillip de Vellis, an employee of Blue State Digital, a political technology consulting firm whose clients include Democrats Barack Obama, Bill Richardson and Tom Vilsack. De Vellis revealed himself in the Huffington Post, noting that he supports Obama's presidential candidacy, but that he made the video independent of his employer, "on a Sunday afternoon in my apartment using my personal equipment (a Mac and some software)" and then uploaded it to YouTube and e-mailed links to blogs. Accounts differ whether de Vellis was fired or resigned, but, either way, he's no longer with Blue State Digital.

The message was brilliantly executed: Clinton gives her candidacy speech from a giant telescreen from George Orwell's novel 1984, promising to "let the conversation begin," a conversation that de Vellis apparently believes is really a monologue.

At issue is whether the Federal Election Commission should be monitoring this kind of activity, to see whether large corporations, unions and other groups are unfairly influencing elections by bankrolling viral Internet campaigns – basically, creating an online wave of Swiftboat-esque campaigns. When you think ahead to what well-funded ad agencies, cashing checks from the RNC or DNC, could do with this medium, I suppose regulation of the public airwaves could resemble deck chair arrangement on the Titanic. That said, the Internet is not a public commons, like the airways, so you have to factor in free speech considerations.

Still, I think the other takeaway here is how easy this apparently was and what a landmark moment this may well have been for social media and user generated content. I'm guessing de Vellis didn't get any clearances from Apple to use the original 1984-themed Super Bowl ad. He just grabbed some content that was freely available on YouTube and spliced it up to suit his own purposes. Clearly, he didn't need a Madison Avenue budget and Big Oil dollars to pull this off; all it cost him was a few hours of his weekend. Contrast that with Swiftboat, which was a massively coordinated campaign that entailed a lot of pricey media buying.

Granted, this wasn't a true populist uprising, as de Vellis is – or was – a part of the political machine when he produced "Vote Different." But this could have just as easily been done by someone outside of the political machine. De Vellis made an eloquent statement about how, using a few free online tools (and with a cavalier attitude about copyright), anyone – not just a Karl Rove-esque Svengali – can reshape the "conversation" Ms. Clinton, like everyone else in our two-party charade of a democracy, had expected to control.

Oh, yeah: I'm way, way, waaaay overdue on this, but I want to share my appreciation for some recent hat tips from T. Kyle King at Dawgsports and Senator Blutarsky at Get the Picture. Both of these guys do phenomenal jobs covering college sports from a Dawg's-eye view, delivering thoughtful analysis wrapped in clever, incisive writing that invariably rewards a visit several times over. And, particularly with the addition of MaconDawg over at Dawgsports, they're prolific enough to keep your RSS reader busy all day. Gents, if you want to use that as testimonial, have at it -- it applies equally and fully to all parties. Thanks again for directing a portion of your well-deserved traffic to my dark corner.

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