AMY GOODMAN: What are you facing? When you say “the lesser of two evils,” what was the other choice?
LADAR LEVISON: Unfortunately, I can’t talk about that. I would like to, believe me. I think if the American public knew what our government was doing, they wouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore, which is why I’m here in D.C. today speaking to you.
So let us hope that this is what the sale signifies: the beginning of a phase in which this Gilded Age’s major beneficiaries re-invest in the infrastructure of our public intelligence. We hope it marks a beginning, because we know it marks an end.
Michele Catalano is my friend. So take that as you will, before you read this.
Yesterday morning, she published a story on the Internet that caused a media ruckus. It had implications about the government spying on Americans. By yesterday afternoon, she was being pilloried as a liar, or at least a provocateur.
I believed Michele was telling the truth to the best of her knowledge from the get go—because she’s a friend. An Internet friend, sure, but a friend whom I know well enough to know wasn’t Making Shit Up. She lives online, and uses the medium to express herself. I would wager that many of us today find the distinction between Internet friends and real friends increasingly if not completely meaningless. And so, she often goes online and talks to her friends (or: “friends”) about her moods, her kids, her jobs and, sometimes, things that have upset her. Things like six cops who identified themselves as part of a joint terrorism task force coming into her home.
And so, here’s the thing: it turned out that she got a key assumption wrong. Yes, they were there to ask about search history, but that questioning was triggered by an employer, not government monitoring. She accurately portrayed her perception, but she didn’t know a key detail, and it turned out to be one that would have avoided a subsequent frenzy.
There was this sin too: she wouldn’t answer questions from the media. She took a lot of heat for dropping a bombshell and then walking away. (She didn’t, completely. I was in touch with her via DM on and off all day yesterday. But still, she didn’t talk to the press in an official capacity.) The media doesn’t like to be ignored. Especially when its by one of their own, which Michele, more or less at least, is.
And so the media was left simultaneously arguing that her husband (not a writer; not a reporter) should have been more aggressive with the police (gotten badge numbers, refused to answer questions or allowed a search of the home) while also making the case that she should be more supple with the press (return our emails, answer our phone calls).
Don’t talk to the cops; do talk to us.
Michele is a loudmouth. And rude. And sarcastic. And as I began turning this over in my head yesterday, I made an assumption too. I assumed she had—over her many years online—perhaps said something obnoxious or sarcastic or both that landed her on Some Sort of List. That was wrong. But what is true is that it is in character for her to say fuck it and walk away from a big mess of people questioning her story and motives with her middle finger in the air. She was under no obligation to talk to the press, no matter how much we wanted her too.
—And to be clear, I attempted to get her to talk to Wired on the record.—
Two days ago, most people had never heard of Michele Catalano. And then yesterday, she was all over the news, being used a convenient prop for our existing prejudices—be they about the police state, hysteria about the police state, or fucking blogging platforms. She made the mistake of writing about something that traumatized her, with an attempt at levity, that wasn’t thoroughly and completely documented and then refusing to answer questions about it from a story-hungry media beast. She made the mistake of failing to anticipate how her story would be received. So maybe she deserves to be pilloried for that.
Maybe she of all people should have understood what the media is, and how it operates, feeding on itself and its sources and shitting out traffic and truth.
But she didn’t. And so, now we get to call her a liar, or at least a provocateur.
And you may think of her as a liar, or at least a provocateur. Or you may think of her as someone who reached out to other human beings to share a troubling story she didn’t fully understand.
Either way, Michele Catalano is still my friend.
I’ve thought about it a lot and these are the best things that have ever been on the Web in order and this list is objective not subjective so fuck you.
1. The Britt and Tiff posts to Craigslist Missed connections in 2001.
(And if you have any idea what I’m talking about without googling the internet archive you are a Master Mason and I will love you unconditionally regardless of anything else, yum-yum.) And look, okay, these aren’t in and of themselves that funny. I know. Reading them now you’re like, wut? But you have to look at them in their place and time. Craig and his list used to just be a local san franciscoy/ay area thing. Local people went to CL missed connections for the same reasons people read them in alt weeklies: they were desperately bad. But unlike your local Wednesday streetcarpet, CL offered the chance to reply troll. And so people did. But Britt and Tiff took that next level, and instead of just snarkily replying to people (the norm) started using CL for narratives. And more to the point, she/they/he/whoever just used the board to post whatever they wanted. Craigslist was whatever they wanted it to be. If you ever read the best of craigslist, it was because of the pioneering work of Britt and Tiff. Or maybe I’m overstating things. Because in fairness, it was really dumb. So anyway, eat shit if you don’t like Britt and Tiff.
3. Mahir. But only the very first original xoom.com site, or whatever was before that, before he had his own domain or email address or any of that other mersh bullshit.
4. That Autotune the News with Joe Biden where he sings you’ve got to believe.
5. Mike Monteiro’s twitter from 2008-2011
6. All Your Base
7. There was probably something on 4chan I missed. Fuck it. Let’s just say 4chan.
8. The Ben Brown video about how Metafilter makes you smarter and more angry
9. Suck.com, Feed Magazine, and The Finger, which were all actually the same thing but they didn’t realize it which is why they’re gone. (And shut up, just shut up, about Plastic.)
Paul Ford Choire Sicha
11. The XKCD about someone being wrong on the Internet
12. The entire trapped in a closet series
14. The ipad
15. Ready Steadman Go
16. The Internet vs. research paper cartoon
17. Brunching Shuttlecocks
18. keyboard cat
19. That long post Kanye wrote that time he rage quit the Internet
20. That time Gizmodo turned off all the TVs at CES.
21. Some fat kid
22. We’re all fat kids
UPDATED: I almost forgot. 23. BArack Obame is your new Bicycle. (eat me)
OOOOOOOOOPS: I left off number 25, Anil Dash’s Prince obsession (please stop cyber bullying me)
stop hiding your imperfect and incomplete ideas for years. Stop collecting them in your head, like dying butterflies in a glass jar. It’s always better to let them fly.
Sometime in the last decade, dogs achieved dominion over urban America. They are everywhere now, allowed in places that used to belong exclusively to humans, and sometimes only to human adults: the office, restaurants, museums, buses, trains, malls, supermarkets, barber shops, banks, post offices. Even at the park and other places where dogs belong, they’ve been given free rein. Dogs are frequently allowed to wander off leash, to run toward you and around you, to run across the baseball field or basketball court, to get up in your grill. Even worse than the dogs are the owners, who seem never to consider whether there may be people in the gym/office/restaurant/museum who do not care to be in close proximity to their dogs. After all, what kind of monster would have a problem with a poor innocent widdle doggie? It’s a dog’s world. We just live in it. And it’s awful. Bad dogs!
A few years ago I would have said, “Oh, Slate. You’re so contrarian!” But after having a kid who gets regularly run roughshod over by people who just say of their terrible, terrible canine companions that won’t sit, won’t stay, won’t not jump up and knock your child over, “oh, he’s friendly, he won’t bite” I’m totally down. Word, Farhad.
NoPa = Prospect Heights. You moved away for a few years and came back and all of a sudden there was a whole neighborhood that your friends spent time in that never was a neighborhood before. In San Francisco’s case, it was a neighborhood named after a restaurant. This is basically the worst thing I can imagine.
The writer is completely and utterly wrong (and I assume, kidding/trolling, but maybe not). I say that because of a small crime I took part in, a civic misdemeanor that is still playing out.
In 1999, my then girlfriend (now wife) and I moved into a little garden apartment on Fulton between Central and Lyon. The neighborhood was then still widely known as the Western Addition—and with good reason because it was and is a part of the Western Addition. While it didn’t have the homeless issues that plagued (and plague) the Haight just across the panhandle, crime was still pretty bad. If you wanted to buy crack, it was very, very easy to do so on Central at Grove.
It wasn’t even remotely trendy, but we loved it for the old Victorians, some of the best in the city, and its central location. There were occasional all night house parties at The House of Love, complete with giant naked pileups in the front room downstairs, The Justice League and Storyville had great shows. The Fulton Street Bar was an oasis of pool tables and punk rock jukebox. It was nice.
At the time I worked for a soon to be ill-fated start up web magazine. One of my writers was Annalee Newitz. When I changed jobs there, she took my old gig editing the tabloid section. We were co-workers and pals. Then the whole thing went to shit, and we both moved on.*
Annalee got a job as an editor at the San Francisco Bay Guardian. This was back when Alt-Weeklies were still a Thing City People Read Every Week. And when it came time for her to put together the Best of the Bay issue in 2000, she asked me if I could write one of the neighborhood guides. Sure. But which neighborhood? We had a conversation that went something like this:
Me: I guess I could write about my neighborhood. The neighborhood association keeps pushing this dumb NOPA name—you know, like SOMA, but for North of the Panhandle instead of South of Market—but it’s a made up thing and nobody actually calls it that.
Her: That’s perfect. Can you get me 1000 words including four or five venue write-ups by Monday?
And so I wrote this thing about a neighborhood that didn’t really exist. It was (as far as I’m aware, and I could be wrong) the first time NoPa showed up in print on anything other than some huckster impresario’s real estate flyer. It was certainly among the first.
It was hard to find anything to write about in, um, “NoPa.” There were virtually no restaurants, and the few that existed weren’t any good. Did I want to write about the PopEye’s? No. Of the four things I wrote about, one was a corner store. That was what kind of neighborhood it was.
And then Fly Bar opened, which, for whatever reason, was popular with yuppies. The Justice League became The Independent. Little Star started serving deep dish. El Rico finally closed or was shut down by the health department and Little Chihuahua moved in. Cafe Abir opened a sushi restaurant, then a sake bar. The bar/brothel on Fulton closed. Storyville turned into an Asian fusion restaurant. The empty lot where Plaza Foods (and a very downmarket version of the original Fallettis) re-opened as an Albertson’s. The crack house vanished. Things changed. Look! It’s Papalote. It’s Nopalito. It’s Four Barrel. Would you care for some gelato, sir?†
I remember noticing that a check cashing place had closed and was now a gallery. That was when you could really feel the money money money coming. More so than Bar Crudo. And definitely more so than when NoPa opened.
Speaking of which…
When the neighborhood was still “transitional,” and gangsters still hung out on the corner of Grove 24 hours a day, I was walking up Divisadero** when I passed a woman standing on a ladder. She was scraping paint off of a derelict bank building that had long stood empty. I asked her what she was doing, and she told me the was opening a restaurant there. This, as it turned out, was Allyson Jossel. And at the time (I believe it was 2005) opening a Fancy Restaurant on Divis—at least on that part of Divis—was anything but a sure bet. It took courage.
And while I wish I had not been priced out of that part of town, and while Divisadero Street now makes me I groan and gnash my teeth, and while I can’t stand the detestable little shits who hang about in the parklets or the polar fleece farmer’s market, and the whole scene just depresses me and reminds me of everything I hate about the city I love(d), and, and, and…
More power to Nopa for having the guts to move there when they did—albeit many years after the neighborhood took its name.***
*One of our other co-workers was a young kid just out of Berkeley who was working 20 hour days in the art department and doing all kinds of back end work for something like $18,000 a year (in San Francisco!) named Andy Baio.
**I was on my way to my rent-a-mailbox, which I had because all of our mail and packages would get stolen. It was called the Post-All Center. And although it lost its lease and shut down, you can still see it painted on the walls of NoPa, by the then up-and-coming muralist Brian Barneclo.
***Anyway. I’m sorry about whatever role I played with the name. I know that, like the gentrification of the neighborhood itself, it would have happened with or without me. But still. For both of those things: Sorry.
PS: I swear to you I’ve had nothing whatsoever to do with naming FolSoMa.
All things considered, La Taqueria is offering a better burrito. But Chipotle is offering a better burrito-based business proposition. Chipotle has better-designed spaces, with greater menu visibility and superior clarity as to what your options are. Chipotle’s lines move substantially faster. Your mileage may vary as to the merits of a prudent slim burrito vs Chipotle’s mega-calorie bomb, but in some sense Chipotle is offering a better value proposition. More realistically though if a burrito was to materialize at my desk I would want it to be a La Taqueria burrito.
Maybe you were hoping for something radically new and different from a Facebook phone. If so, Zuck just broke your heart. But so what. Facebook never does anything new. New doesn’t matter in the blue. What matters is this: What Mark Zuckerberg announced today runs software called Facebook Home that makes it easier for people to spend more time with Facebook. And that’s all he really needed to pull off.