Saturday, February 13, 2010

Merlin, Forum, Bloggus Spherus

Remember that Jorge Luis Borges short story, "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Terius?" It describes how the history and culture of another world slowly infiltrates itself our own via a set of mysterious entries in a particular edition of the Anglo-American Cyclopedia. (For more details, follow the link.)

I love the story. It's eerie, the idea of something subtly alien sneaking into the environment.

I had a similar experience today reading this post in my friend Aaron's blog. It references a person I've never heard of (Merlin Mann), who is apparently somewhat famous for writing fiction and a blog I've never read, being slammed by another anonymous person on a forum I don't read, defended by someone who worked writing columns I never heard of for another venue I don't use, only to have Mann himself post a rejoinder (which I had to read twice to follow) that I think he wrote, only to mock himself a bit in the process.

It was remarkably self-referential set of comments referring to a world that seems to exist parallel to the one I live in. I don't even know how someone would learn about the dispute. It was all very surreal.


Aaron DaMommio said...

Wow, how will you ever catch up? This is the guy who does You Look Nice Today, a humor podcast I've very much enjoyed. He and his pals did some videos that were also fun. I think he's most famous for doing the 43Folders web site, but really he's just a dude who writes funny and sometimes inspirational stuff.

I started watching The Wire because Mr. Mann recommended it so highly.

Doug said...

None of those references ring a bell either. Internet fame is a funny thing. I've done okay being unaware of his existence, so I'm not too worried. I also thought his reply to his critic was ironic, as it involved a guy I haven't heard of mocking someone else for being anonymous and sharing an opinion. Plus, the rejoinder was painful to read and that dancing clip was awful. (Doesn't help that it was probably supposed to be awful: mocking bad dancing by dancing badly is setting a really low bar.) Chalk me up as underwhelmed.

Aaron DaMommio said...

Yeah, I think the net breeds this sort of net experience contains a lot of Merlin Mann, yours contains none. This doesn't mean much by itself.

Of course, this is how you hear about guys like this: a friend mentions them.

If his fame achieves real network effects, then suddenly references to Merlin Mann will be EVERYWHERE, unavoidable.

Also, there is SO MUCH content out there in the one can keep up with all of it.

Doug said...

All good points, my friend. I just take a bit of umbrage (that's right, I get my umber up) when I run into this phenomenon and people assume I should know who these popular folks are. It reminds me a lot of how self-referential music critics get: they describe one obscure band as being an amalgamation of two or three other obscure bands. I probably do the same thing in sci-fi reviews, but I try not to assume too much knowledge or to explain what I mean.

That's partly due to my interest in the past, I suppose. I get irritated at how blindingly ignorant many people are of historical figures and events, yet they can name all the American Idol winners. I love the pop culture of my youth and I've found that I like contemporary bands that are seen as fluff by some of my peers. But I never thought it was more important than the big picture of our world.

Plus I just don't get a lot of the things that other people find funny. For example, Maybe one out of every four Penny Arcade strips is funny to me, and the op-ed bits on the site don't make much sense to me either.