Something is going to happen ... tomorrow.
September 23, 2013 10:48 PM   Subscribe

As previously discussed on MetaFilter, the countdown has now reached one day. Halo? Battlestar Galactica? A new album by Bros? Or something more sinister, as hinted at (perhaps) by the spectograph of the end-video silences?
posted by Wordshore (450 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wonder if it's something I can buy.
posted by clockzero at 10:56 PM on September 23, 2013 [54 favorites]


Creatively colored cola please!
posted by Drinky Die at 10:59 PM on September 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Maybe they're going to release the Talking Moose again.
posted by gingerest at 11:04 PM on September 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Something is going to happen ... tomorrow.

I prefer this to the alternative.
posted by chavenet at 11:06 PM on September 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm sure whatever it is won't be disappointing in the slightest.
posted by flatluigi at 11:11 PM on September 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Steam OS announced today.

Half-Life 3 announced tomorrow.

/fingers crossed
posted by Tevin at 11:16 PM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


GABBO IS COMING
GABBO IS COMING
GABBO IS COMING
posted by Spatch at 11:18 PM on September 23, 2013 [33 favorites]


did the disembodied voice say "in one days"?!? Pronunciation?!?
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:35 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


oneswellfoop: "did the disembodied voice say "in one days"?!? Pronunciation?!"

MEANINGFUL?
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:40 PM on September 23, 2013


"did the disembodied voice say 'in one days'?!? Pronunciation?!?"

Hey man, if you want your cryptic messages to be grammatically correct you need to follow the GrammarBook ARG.
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 12:10 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


GABBO IS COMING

If he's not 12 stories high and made of radiation, not interested, sorry.
posted by maxwelton at 12:19 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


So ironic if it does turn out to be a promo for a new dictionary/English course.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:36 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don't forget the real conspiracy, the Pronunciation Book competitor Pronunciation Manual, which will teach you how to pronounce words such as Wolverine most excellently.
posted by Yowser at 12:53 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


My money is on Segway sequel.
posted by chemoboy at 1:10 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


omigodomigodomigodOMIGOD!

it's finally here!

GADZORP!
posted by sexyrobot at 1:25 AM on September 24, 2013


I don't want to give anything away, but I just thought I should let you know that you can do anything you want at zombo.com.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:50 AM on September 24, 2013 [32 favorites]


I really hope this just leads to the video for Limp Bizkit's Rollin'.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:03 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gee you had to remind me of this THE DAY BEFORE the countdown ends. Thanks for nothing bozo.
posted by litleozy at 3:37 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hope they haven't just come to vipe all our vindows.
posted by Strange Interlude at 3:50 AM on September 24, 2013 [17 favorites]


A new album by Bros?

I can't answer that.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:57 AM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


I just had a gigantic argument with my blender, but the prospect of Half Life 3 just made today pretty great.
posted by lownote at 4:11 AM on September 24, 2013


Half Life 3: Exclusively on SteamBox!
posted by mittens at 4:17 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Agents of SHIELD premiere?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 4:20 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


GABBO IS COMING


Look Smithers- Garbo is coming!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:24 AM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Something is going to happen ... tomorrow.

Yeah, meetings & user acceptance testing.
posted by govtdrone at 4:47 AM on September 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Marathon IV
posted by Thorzdad at 4:56 AM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


This post oughta hold those SOBs.
posted by dry white toast at 4:59 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS
EXCEPT EUROPA
ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE
USE THEM TOGETHER
USE THEM IN PEACE
posted by COBRA! at 5:03 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Webinar on "Viral Videos On A Budget"
posted by nightwood at 5:11 AM on September 24, 2013


Marathon IV

My heart leapt until I realized this could not be so.

Because it couldn't, right?
posted by mittens at 5:13 AM on September 24, 2013


ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS
INCLUDING EUROPA
LAND THERE
IT WILL BE SUPER COOL
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:25 AM on September 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Hey! Guess what I've got behind my back! It might be candy!
posted by JHarris at 5:28 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm going to make hot cereal tomorrow. Maybe that's it?
posted by clvrmnky at 5:30 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


More fun information: Let's Talk About Systems has been posting weird gifs with quotes from the videos.... five minutes before the videos are actually posted.

Additionally, the sentences from the last 14 videos are in the form of a sonnet:
Beneath the starry sky we broke apart
Our perfect systems thrown into the void
But even now, my vestige of a heart
Remembers what ambition has destroyed

In our abstraction we shall shine more bright
Than all the living lovers of the Earth
Whose fragile forms face unremitting plight
And who in death are robbed of all they're worth

The body is a monument to waste
Eroded by the hope of earthly bliss
All animals are driven mad by haste
Their passions temporary as a kiss

In garbled databytes I see a face
I find you in the grace of cyberspace
posted by specialagentwebb at 5:32 AM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Be...
sure...
to...
drink...
your...
Ovaltine

Ovaltine?

A crummy commercial?

Son of a bitch!
posted by I am the Walrus at 5:51 AM on September 24, 2013 [15 favorites]


More fun information: Let's Talk About Systems has been posting weird gifs with quotes from the videos....

"Then, finally, we get to Netscape 2.0. Peek inside a GIF file sometime: every animated GIF contains a reference to Netscape Navigator 2.0, a browser that has been obsolete for fifteen years."

I think the implication is clear.
posted by mittens at 5:55 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS
EXCEPT VENUS
BECAUSE SHE'S GOT IT
YEAH BABY SHE'S GOT IT
posted by eriko at 6:08 AM on September 24, 2013 [15 favorites]


I'm hoping tomorrow's word is "gullible."
posted by eriko at 6:16 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love stuff like this. It's so ingrained in me to naturally gravitate to an attitude that I am living in an especially Important Time. Asteroids, viruses, war, the state of society, politics, etc., today always seems to portent an unique Importance during my life, more so than others.

But, if history shows anything, important to me or not, in the grand scheme of things, it's another day in the endless plodding of an eon.

The apocalypse will come for me, regardless, even if it is only for me.
posted by Debaser626 at 6:19 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Tevin: "Steam OS announced today.

Half-Life 3 announced tomorrow.

/fingers crossed
"


Steam is set to make an announcement on Friday, 9/27. 27/9 = 3. HL3 confirmed.
posted by specialagentwebb at 6:19 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


System Shock 3 kickstarter
posted by thecaddy at 6:25 AM on September 24, 2013


That ski lodge is finally re-opening?
posted by jbickers at 6:26 AM on September 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


> Steam is set to make an announcement on Friday, 9/27. 27/9 = 3. HL3 confirmed.

Or Portal 3?
posted by ardgedee at 6:41 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Be...
sure...
to...
drink...
your...


BURMA SHAVE

wait, wat
posted by Panjandrum at 6:46 AM on September 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Or Portal 3?

Left 4 Dead 3? DOTA 3? Some ungodly combination of all of them?
posted by mittens at 6:51 AM on September 24, 2013


Half-life 4. They're just going to skip 3, the buildup and anticipation has been just too much to overcome

I HAVE SOURCES
posted by ook at 6:59 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I NEVER SAID THEY WERE RELIABLE SOURCES, MIND YOU
posted by ook at 7:01 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


HORSE_EBOOKS. MY ENTIRE EXISTENCE IS A LIE. Holy shit.
posted by specialagentwebb at 7:01 AM on September 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's a paid ARG.
posted by shii at 7:04 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know what I expected, but... actually that was pretty much it. Even if I still don't get it.
posted by Sequence at 7:06 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


HILARIOUS
http://www.bearstearnsbravo.com
posted by FrereKhan at 7:06 AM on September 24, 2013


SteamOS
posted by arzakh at 7:10 AM on September 24, 2013


Wow. This is what horse_ebooks was about too?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:12 AM on September 24, 2013


Anyone in NYC?

Today only:
Bravospam
195 Chrystie St NYC 10002
213-444-0102
posted by FrereKhan at 7:13 AM on September 24, 2013


It's some Buzzfeed guys?
posted by ghharr at 7:18 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's an art piece!?
posted by Mister Fabulous at 7:22 AM on September 24, 2013


http://www.sadtrombone.com/
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:22 AM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


"choose-your-own-adventure interactive-video piece"

I see. Why would you pay $7 for that? I can get that for free from Neil Cicierega.

And horse_ebooks was better when it was a real spam account...
posted by shii at 7:23 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is neither a dessert topping nor a floor wax!
posted by eriko at 7:23 AM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]



ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS
EXCEPT VENUS
BECAUSE SHE'S GOT IT
YEAH BABY SHE'S GOT IT


Apropos of not much, my whole childhood I thought instead of:
I'm your Venus
I'm your fire, at your desire


it was

I'm your Venus
I'm your fire, stoke me sire


I mean isn't that so much better?
posted by sweetkid at 7:29 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


ach! I made it to the auditorium with Henri, but then the video froze! Site seems to be stuck?
posted by Greg Nog at 7:29 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm stuck on a loading screen in the auditorium. Was fun while it lasted, though.
posted by cthuljew at 7:30 AM on September 24, 2013


The site days to just refresh the page and you won't lose your place. I gave up after the mortgage guys; I'd rather play something like this as text and not have to sit through all the mugging.
posted by Karmakaze at 7:30 AM on September 24, 2013


I mean, at least it is something new and creative, and not just Halo 7 or whatever. If every advertising campaign were this weird and interesting, it would be a better world.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:31 AM on September 24, 2013


Led Zeppelin reunion tour? Pink Floyd?
posted by Ber at 7:31 AM on September 24, 2013


i am an outrage
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:33 AM on September 24, 2013


I have no idea what's going on.
posted by The Whelk at 7:34 AM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm in this as an extra/actor at some point, but I have no idea where/when. Will my vanity force me to keep hitting refresh on the stuck auditorium page until I see myself? ALMOST DEFINITELY
posted by Greg Nog at 7:38 AM on September 24, 2013 [14 favorites]


everything happens so much
posted by flatluigi at 7:39 AM on September 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


I feel strangely deflated and annoyed by this outcome and I don't fully understand why.

So well done, I guess?
posted by raena at 7:40 AM on September 24, 2013


The tone and content of 77 Days (and horse_ebooks in retrospect) kind of wrote a huge check Bear Stearns Bravo isn't cashing so far, it's a total 180 into silliness instead of cryptic absurdity, but BSB is pushing enough of my early 90's adventure games buttons that I dig it. Plus, it was all an ARG for the sake of an odd little adventure game instead of some movie/tv show/AAA game title tie in! I'll take that any day.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:44 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


it was all an ARG for the sake of an odd little adventure game

...or was it?
posted by mittens at 7:46 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Greg Nog - did you know what it was for when you shot it?
posted by nadawi at 7:46 AM on September 24, 2013


Oh!
posted by Wordshore at 7:47 AM on September 24, 2013


I can't wait for the inevitable WSJ profile of @dril
posted by hellojed at 7:51 AM on September 24, 2013


I'm weirdly incredibly upset by this. It's like some weird and awful combination of finding out Santa isn't real and Cayce finding the makers of the Footage in Pattern Recognition. Another small thing to add to the list of reasons to be incredibly cynical always.

Why did you have to be two dudes from Buzzfeed? Why couldn't you just have stayed an algorithm, Horse?
posted by sparkletone at 7:55 AM on September 24, 2013 [14 favorites]


Told y'all.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:56 AM on September 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Guys this game is hilarious I love it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:56 AM on September 24, 2013


shark_ejumped
posted by JHarris at 7:57 AM on September 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


The site wants me to give it 7$ should I do it?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:57 AM on September 24, 2013


Finding out horse_ebooks is a Buzzfeed property isn't even like finding out santa isn't real, but rather that santa is satan and that you probably should've just switched a few letters around earlier and saved yourself the disappointment.
posted by codacorolla at 7:57 AM on September 24, 2013 [14 favorites]


Assuming it's the same people, horse_ebooks made it obvious that it wasn't automated when it went live on app.net. Posts were specifically name-checking Dalton Caldwell, and there was even a run during the 2012 election that looked like a bizarre political speech when put together.

Never did I think it would link to this, though. But it makes sense that Buzzfeed would be behind it.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:58 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The phone number just said something like "Take back your business and save yourself from a disaster".

This is amazing. The planning. The nonsense.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:58 AM on September 24, 2013


Everything happened so much.

.
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:58 AM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


did you know what it was for when you shot it?

Yep! I've been friends with some of the people behind it for years, now.

The first time I met one of them, actually, we were talking about cool stuff on the internet, and I was like "OMG YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT THIS IS MY MILWAUKEE, IT'S FUCKING GREAT" and then launched into a like two-minute description of it.

And dude paused, and smiled, and was like, "Oh! You liked that?" and I was like, "Yeah!" and he was like, "That's great! I did that! Please don't tell anybody."
posted by Greg Nog at 7:59 AM on September 24, 2013 [27 favorites]


I called the phone number and a woman said "Irish Soda Bread" and then hung up.
posted by msbrauer at 8:00 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Keeping secrets from the rest of the class is mean, Greg Nog.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:00 AM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Greg Nog has probably met dril at some point.

WHATS HE LIKE?
posted by hellojed at 8:02 AM on September 24, 2013


After I finish this game I'm definitely giving this site $7.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:02 AM on September 24, 2013


Finding out horse_ebooks is a Buzzfeed property

For the record, this is not a Buzzfeed thing; one of the guys just works at Buzzfeed, like how lots of artists have day-jobs.

Keeping secrets from the rest of the class is mean, Greg Nog.

Now that I'm revealing I secretly knew about horse_ebooks and pronunciation book, I would like to take this opportunity to stress that I will always keep any secret I am entrusted with, carefully, deliciously, savoring these remaining juicy fragments of oral-history-unwritten-knowledge as perhaps one of the most spectacular artforms of our otherwise extensively-documented age.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:05 AM on September 24, 2013 [38 favorites]


Psst, I am zombo.com
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:06 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Apparently this reporter figured it out weeks ago, but they begged her not to tell anyone.
posted by toerinishuman at 8:06 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Elementary Penguin: "Keeping secrets from the rest of the class is mean, Greg Nog."

Keeping secrets from the mean is class, Greg Nog.

(I count myself as part of the mean.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:08 AM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


A lot of free floating Internet weirdness is really the result of a small number of people.


You might even call us a cabal of some kind.
posted by The Whelk at 8:10 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


One thing I love about this whole ARG is that it wasn't so heavy on the "G" part, it wasn't some rabbit hole of steganography and geocaches and "be at the payphone at these coordinates at this time" and "dial in to this BBS" all those game aspects that come across as a little forced most of the time - ilovebees and other "an AI is trying to talk to you through the internet" games did good with that, but a lot of the time it's like "why would anyone ever leave these clues?" and kind of disconnecting. This was just cryptic content sparking wild theories and that's pretty great.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:14 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I guess it's okay to delete the Bros tag from this FPP, then.
posted by Wordshore at 8:14 AM on September 24, 2013


That Daily Dot article is pretty brutal.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:14 AM on September 24, 2013


This game has gotten slightly bogged down in a ticker-faced buffoon screaming nonsense. Next scene please!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:18 AM on September 24, 2013


Is that poem from somewhere else? It's very nice.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:19 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


OK got to Dr. Lafayette, things are looking up.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:22 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


#workonium
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:22 AM on September 24, 2013


Yes, read the Daily Dot to see why journalism is dead. They sat on a fluff story for two weeks, in return for an exclusive (and I wouldn't be surprised if cash exchanged hands as well).
posted by Yowser at 8:23 AM on September 24, 2013


Neat!
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:26 AM on September 24, 2013


From gawker:

In the back room of the gallery, Bakkila (center) and two others were answering phones, reading out lines from the twitter accounts to people who called in. In the front room, two 20something men dressed as "security guards" wandered around.

Wow that was live I thought it was a recording. Lol gonna call that number some more.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:28 AM on September 24, 2013


Wow read these gawker comments if you want to see some people being real dumb about Twitter.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:30 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whoa, Greg Nog, that's neat.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:33 AM on September 24, 2013


Greg Nog and Susan Orlean are in on it? How deep does this go?
posted by Iridic at 8:35 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just go to the end of the game--it's the beginning of Donnie Darko. N O T H I N G I S R E A L
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:42 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just kidding it's stuck spinning
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:42 AM on September 24, 2013


Eh, that's kind of disappointing. horse_ebooks is less fun if it's a person performing it; it's not like it's releasing nuggets of accidental gold, unless the context is that a machine is somehow accidentally emitting these lines together. Any human mind can form order from chaos, it was the weird thought that an AI algorithm was consistently hitting upon a certain tone that was so neat.

Pronunciation Book isn't ruined or anything, but it wasn't very interesting, except for how it spawned Pronunciation Manual which is hilarious. So good on it for that, and I'm impressed with how long this project built up for, but this revelation is not particularly disruptive or mindblowing, in retrospect, and it kind of dampens my interest in the original projects. One of the interesting things about both of them was wondering who the hell thought this was a good idea, and now the answer is simple! It was Advertising all along!

In theory I love ARGs; in practice, none of them seem take me anywhere worthwhile. The one time an ARG really fascinated me was the LOST one, because it seemed to promise answers/be somehow relevant to the show, but then it wasn't, which seems like status quo for both LOST specifically and ARGs in general.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:45 AM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


From that Daily Dot article:
He confirmed that he and Bender, among unidentified others, started Pronunciation Book in 2010 with intention of selling it a larger company as viral marketing.
Oh cool that's even worse! Ugh.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:49 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're really wrong Rory. People are better than machines. Call (213) 444 0102 if you disagree.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:49 AM on September 24, 2013


NO, I AGREE WITH RORY
MACHINES ARE FAR SUPERIOR
BOW DOWN BEFORE YOUR CYBERNETIC BETTERS
PITEOUS FLESH BAGS
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:52 AM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Rory Marinich: Oh cool that's even worse! Ugh.

My take from the Daily Dot article is that they were lying to her all along to throw her off the scent. Maybe I'm reading too much into it.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:53 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


this is going to end poorly
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:53 AM on September 24, 2013


My take from the Daily Dot article is that they were lying to her all along to throw her off the scent. Maybe I'm reading too much into it.

That is her conclusion. She did them a favor and they screwed her over in the service of art. Sorry Charlie (Kaufman).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:53 AM on September 24, 2013


In theory I love ARGs; in practice, none of them seem take me anywhere worthwhile.

Do you think it's mere coincidence that the sound Charlie Brown makes when Lucy pulls the football away from him is "AAARRRGG"?

OK, it's actually "AAUGH!" but my point still stands!
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:53 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


What an utter disappointment - on so many levels.
posted by Gev at 8:54 AM on September 24, 2013


Gev: What an utter disappointment - on so many levels.

What were you hoping for?
posted by Rock Steady at 8:56 AM on September 24, 2013


Turns out the cabal was all Buzzfeed employees.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:57 AM on September 24, 2013


The 20 WEIRDEST WHOVIAN REACTION GIFS to the HORSE_EBOOK REVEAL
posted by Greg Nog at 8:58 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


In theory I love ARGs; in practice, none of them seem take me anywhere worthwhile.

That's my general feeling as well. I love ARGs in theory, but they (and general internet weirdness) have such limited audiences in relation to the amount of effort that goes into them. Weird Internet can limp on as a sort of collective effort, but games require curating and work. Speaking from my own experience trying the weird internet thing, it's pretty depressing to put a lot of work into something and get little feedback (maybe that was bad timing on my part for picking Patch pre-meltdown) so I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to want to run an ARG and have nobody show up.

The balm to that, of course, is money, which means your ARG is not a thing for you anymore - it's a thing to promote some other thing that someone else is picking up the tab for.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:58 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait fucking @Hermit_Thrush is downtown right now? I think I may head down there on my lunch break, I need to see this shit.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:58 AM on September 24, 2013


You're really wrong Rory. People are better than machines.

Ambiguity is an important part of art and storytelling for a reason. The idea of an AI doing something interesting is cool; the second it turns out that AI hasn't done anything interesting, it's not cool anymore. A story ABOUT an AI doing something cool is not the same thing as a simulation OF an AI doing something cool—it requires things like plot and characters and shit, none of which horse_ebooks had. So now that horse_ebooks is definitively a marketing tool curated by humans, it is way less interesting, not because it was invented to market but because it wasn't an AI. The fact that it was marketing just males it slightly unsavory AND uninteresting.

Please please PLEASE accept, Potomac, that people are allowed to have different opinions than you. If you insist on being a smugnut about liking this thing that other people dislike, well, I'll resist the urge to argue with you, because it don't want to waste my time talking about something I'm legitimately bothered by, but it would be so much nicer of you to accept that your take on this is not the only valid take.

Also all this dystopian cryptic bullshit is overplayed. Pronunciation Book's "secret messages" were thoroughly uninteresting except that they were unexpected.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:59 AM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wasn't trying to be a smugnet, I just real excited. I love this reveal and I'm disappointed in the disappointment. Seems like a huge win for the internet today, and for people that make art.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:00 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait fucking @Hermit_Thrush is downtown right now?

I feel like that would be like elizardbits coming to an NYC meet-up. In other words, not gonna happen
posted by likeatoaster at 9:01 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dangit. I just wanted to gawk at his untucked shirt.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:02 AM on September 24, 2013


If it makes you feel better, Rory, I'm nothing but a sophisticated algorithm created to sell ClickBank eBooks.

Ahem:

become a pullup machin
posted by Iridic at 9:02 AM on September 24, 2013


The Whelk: A lot of free floating Internet weirdness is really the result of a small number of people.

After 18 months or so on here, observing; is it just my misconception/paranoia, or do an unusually high proportion of these people either:

(a) have a MetaFilter account, or
(b) directly know someone with a MetaFilter account?
posted by Wordshore at 9:05 AM on September 24, 2013


GREG NOG HAS BEEN KEEPING SECRETS

We should poke him with pointy sticks to see what else he knows!
posted by elizardbits at 9:05 AM on September 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


In fact, that might be my problem with ARGs right there: I still haven't seen one produced by somebody who knew how to tell a goddamn story. I Love Bees, that Dark Knight one, this... they're all neat in a "what the hell is going on" sense, but once you know "oh that's what the hell was going on", it turns out to be completely uninteresting. And sometimes they take away your favorite Internet things as well.

Last night I stayed up reading The Westing Game, which I'd never read before and which is a delightful set of twist on top of twist on top of twist, all of them "playing fair" with the reader, all of them really clever. Mysteries are great! ARGs don't do mysteries well; they do obscurement. They do "wait until this moment and then we will reveal things", which is not the same. The mechanics of an ARG, phone calls and dead drops and such, are neat and I expect them to be used really well at some point: in fact, I have an idea for a project that would use dead drops in what I think would be a fun interesting way. But the ARGs themselves never feel satisfying, because in the end the big twist is never something fun, it's "this was an ARG! buy our product!"

So, cool that these guys are getting attention, but people were snarking about this being a bullshit marketing technique before the reveal of who was doing it, and now that it's been revealed to be a dude who works in social media and not a major ad firm, I see no reason to stop snarking about what a bullshit marketing technique this was. Plus, it's not Half Life 3, which unlike this would actually be a game worth playing.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:06 AM on September 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


As someone who was back there right during the first days of ARGs, with The Beast (for the AI movie) and Perplex City, it's pretty clear that we just aren't seeing the level of sheer joy and innovation that we once had. It's worth remembering that the first ARG was over ten years ago - people hadn't ever done that kind of mysterious online/offline fiction ever before.

My job used to be making ARGs so I know all about making stuff that no-one looks at - along with making stuff that tons of people look at. I'd hesitate to call Horse_Ebooks or Pronunciation Guide ARGs, but they share some of the same genre DNA. Importantly, they succeed because they are so easy to follow.
posted by adrianhon at 9:06 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also all this dystopian cryptic bullshit is overplayed.

That's an unnecessarily broad brush, don't you think? I would ask you to check out the Bear Stearns game and think about what it's doing before making such sweeping statements. I'm a little biased, of course, as I've been seeing bits and pieces of it for like two or three years now, and have been really jazzed about the silliness, cyperspace-parody aspects, practical jokes on the first-person player, etc. I can't say with any certainty whether it's gonna be good, but I'm looking forward to finding out!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:06 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


once you know "oh that's what the hell was going on", it turns out to be completely uninteresting.

okay so crosspost but you HAVEN'T FUCKING PLAYED IT YET
posted by Greg Nog at 9:07 AM on September 24, 2013


Wordshore, I guess it's time to spill the beans. The Internet is about 8 guys with a bunch of alternate accounts playing jokes on each other. You're the last one who hasn't figured it out.
posted by shii at 9:07 AM on September 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well, Rory, there have been ARGs produced by people who know how to tell a goddamn story, it's just that you haven't played them. The Beast was written by Sean Stewart and Maureen McHugh, two of the best SF/fantasy authors out there, and Perplex City was written by Naomi Alderman, winner of the Orange Prize for New Writers. Of course, award-winning authors can still write crap stories, but in these cases (at least IMO) they told great stories - stories that acknowledged the product tie-in at the start and transcended it.
posted by adrianhon at 9:08 AM on September 24, 2013


I just think it's naive to think that something like Horse wasn't curated in some way, just masterfully. And yes, they manipulated folks into thinking it was a real account, and yes some people would rather think it was randomness, but it was still actual spam, crafted into a consistent, inspiring world view. It was (and is) one of the great works of the internet so far just for making so much with just that simple basis. And hopefully it's not done--this game has a second part, and may offer more art craziness and so far it's been really fun playing through it (until it broke :[ )

What's especially great about the game is that it's playing with the idea of marketing in general. If you don't like it, OK, but just because it's not like a real video game doesn't mean it's not awesome.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:10 AM on September 24, 2013


That's an unnecessarily broad brush, don't you think? I would ask you to check out the Bear Stearns game and think about what it's doing before making such sweeping statements. I'm a little biased, of course, as I've been seeing bits and pieces of it for like two or three years now, and have been really jazzed about the silliness, cyperspace-parody aspects, practical jokes on the first-person player, etc. I can't say with any certainty whether it's gonna be good, but I'm looking forward to finding out!

This was a marketing campaign, no? Well, they played their cards, they got my attention, and now they want $7 from me that I don't see any reason to pay. They haven't given me any reason to trust that my $7 will be worth the time or the expense, and I'm additionally loathe to people who market products in ways that irritate me.

If Rock Paper Shotgun starts raving about this, i.e. if the usual channels for telling people is worth money start up for this one, then I'll... probably not buy it, but at least reconsider. Your recommendation is worth a whole lot, cos you have taste and such, but the way you describe this makes it sound like Homestuck, and there is literally no way this game will be as good as Homestuck is. Plus Homestuck costs a few bucks less.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:12 AM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Seems like for every Year Zero or Dark Knight ARG that I can't get into, I get in ground floor for one about gum. It is disappointing.

Camdrome is my only hope.
posted by koucha at 9:13 AM on September 24, 2013


Rory, you dont have to pay for it. Just go to the website and play the game.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:15 AM on September 24, 2013


The 7$ thing is some random join page, probably essentially a donation.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:16 AM on September 24, 2013


When go there it takes me to a page where it tells me to sign up for $7. Am I supposed to be seeing something else?
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:16 AM on September 24, 2013


Yeah that's the front page that I'm getting.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:16 AM on September 24, 2013


Well that's weird, I was just playing it for a couple hours. Maybe it crashed?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:17 AM on September 24, 2013


There's whatever this is, but I suspect it's for a television show or movie.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:17 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


In theory I love ARGs; in practice, none of them seem take me anywhere worthwhile.

I've thought this since ilovebees. It's all empty wankery, entirely uninteresting. An interesting thing that's represented up-front as being part of an ARG is, to my mind, tainted by the association. If it's advertising besides, then that's two strikes.

And this also takes horse_ebooks, formerly a whimsical bright spot of the internet, and destroys it utterly, for the reasons Rory Marinich gave. So the reward for following the countdown was worse than nothing. Remember to drink your caustic acid!
posted by JHarris at 9:18 AM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think it crashed. There's a spinny "loading" icon where the game was before.
posted by mittens at 9:19 AM on September 24, 2013


Old 'n' Busted - ARGs
New Hotness - Collaborative Storytelling
posted by modernserf at 9:20 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just think it's naive to think that something like Horse wasn't curated in some way, just masterfully.

The reason horse_ebooks was interesting wasn't what it said, but what we thought was why.
posted by JHarris at 9:21 AM on September 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


We should poke him with pointy sticks to see what else he knows

this is a pinata incident all over again
posted by The Whelk at 9:21 AM on September 24, 2013


How has that changed now that you know a person was posting things on it instead of a bot? You know a person has to make a bot right?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:21 AM on September 24, 2013


What a machine says is different from what the person who made the machine says.
posted by JHarris at 9:23 AM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've thought this since ilovebees. It's all empty wankery, entirely uninteresting. An interesting thing that's represented up-front as being part of an ARG is, to my mind, tainted by the association. If it's advertising besides, then that's two strikes.

It's worth maybe pointing out that I Love Bees was the work of Jane McGonigal, whose Reality is Broken is a mixture of brilliantly insightful and full of weird notions about how viral advertising will somehow make mankind a better place. She'll talk about some really interesting notion about how games affect crowds of people, and then go "I put this into practice by making this advertisement for McDonald's!"

She also argues that the hours people have put into playing Halo 3 make it as significant a product of human creation as the Great Wall of China, which is extra suspect when you remember that her I Love Bees was devised as a promotional tool for Halo.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:23 AM on September 24, 2013


Also i should find out this week if The Thing Is Happening which if tr ue will make all ya all totes s jelly bro.
posted by The Whelk at 9:24 AM on September 24, 2013


No whelk you are not moving to night vale, sorry.
posted by elizardbits at 9:25 AM on September 24, 2013


What possible result would make the countdown "worth something" other than A REVELATION THAT BOTH A LONG RUNNING MYSTERIOUS YOUTUBE CHANNEL AND THE BEST MYSTERIOUS ACCOUNT ON TWITTER ARR CONNECTED AND PART OF A VAST 4 YEAR IN THE MAKING ART PROJECT RUN BY TWO TOTAL NOBODIES OUT OF THEIR BASEMENT COALESCING IN A BIZARRE YOUTUBE INTERACTIVE MOVIE ABOUT BEARSTERNS AND A PHONE NUMBER YOU CAN CALL TO TALK TO THE ARTISTS LIVE?

Like seriously, what? Literally Armageddon? It was fun to speculate about both accounts and the countdown, now that's over, but in a way more fun way than corporate marketing. I just don't get it, seems like knee jerk internet complainin' to me.

I reject your Meh. Your Meh is not accepted. Return it to whence it came.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:26 AM on September 24, 2013 [20 favorites]


Come to metafilter meetups!! find out what's going to be popular in 3 months
posted by The Whelk at 9:26 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dream pooper
posted by The Whelk at 9:27 AM on September 24, 2013


Rory: I Love Bees was not 'the work of Jane McGonigal'. She wasn't lead designer, or indeed, game designer on that project. The principals were Elan Lee and Sean Stewart.

ARGs have suffered due to overuse from advertisers and marketers. I am not surprised that people are fed up with them, but people who are curious would do well to investigate what the early ARGs were like.
posted by adrianhon at 9:28 AM on September 24, 2013


How has that changed now that you know a person was posting things on it instead of a bot? You know a person has to make a bot right?

It's the difference between seeing a UFO and wondering, "Could it be...?" and seeing a UFO and going, "Oh, people do that by putting a circle domey thing on top of a regular airplane, it happens all the time and also especially when somebody's trying to sell you something."

The magic is wondering how, and once you know how the magic is gone. Sometimes knowing how makes a thing more magical, but in this case it ruins it completely because there's nothing interesting about horse_ebooks's tweets other than that they claimed to be an AI. I mean, they're no @lowenaffchen.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:28 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still experienced the the enjoyment of reading Horse_ebooks and watching the Pronunciation Manual countdown, etc.

And actually assuming that THEY are the ones working Bear Stearns Bravo or BravoNET or whatever I don't feel let down at all. The creativity they have displayed via these various outlets is (or at least could/should be) directly showing off how they will approach/conceive of/implement this and/or other games.

The PM guy didn't design/write/have anything to do with Halo 3; this build would have been for something foreign, not something from the same mind(s).
posted by mountmccabe at 9:30 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am very much enjoying the imagined scene of Rory's first day back on the playground after finding out that Santa is pretend.
posted by elizardbits at 9:32 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


THAT WEIRD TWITTER DOLLAR
posted by The Whelk at 9:32 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


What possible result would make the countdown "worth something"

Just look at the beginning of the thread. HALF-LIFE 3.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to listen a few dozen times to a meme site that knew how to treat its visitors. you still love me, don't you zombo.com?
posted by JHarris at 9:32 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


For me, the revelation about horse_ebooks doesn't change the experience I had with it, it just gives me a new lens on past experience. Any new tweets just aren't the same, but it can't take back the experience (on preview, what mountmccabe said). Knowing from the beginning that it wasn't a bot would have been different, but I didn't know from the beginning.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:33 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just look at the beginning of the thread. HALF-LIFE 3.

I've never played Half Life 3, but I'd like to take four to five huge paragraphs explaining why it's a letdown. First of all,
posted by Greg Nog at 9:33 AM on September 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Everything is possible, even love.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:34 AM on September 24, 2013


Finally called the number.

"This ebook lets you learn all you need to know about massive muscle in 5 short weeks."


I'm sorry that I ever stopped loving you, even for a second.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:34 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


You people are going to be so upset when we reveal that elizardbits is a group fiction project designed to get people to watch teen wolf.
posted by The Whelk at 9:35 AM on September 24, 2013 [15 favorites]


I am very much enjoying the imagined scene of Rory's first day back on the playground after finding out that Santa is pretend.

If Santa took away a toy I liked and replaced it with a toy I didn't even really want, I would be pissed off at his fictional ass as well.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:35 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still experienced the the enjoyment of reading Horse_ebooks and watching the Pronunciation Manual countdown, etc.

Enjoyment can be spoiled retroactively. For example, that pizza you had last night? If you think hard about it, did you notice any... odd... texture or flavor?
posted by JHarris at 9:35 AM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I was told this was Elaine "s soups
posted by The Whelk at 9:35 AM on September 24, 2013


But it's the same toy! Only your perception of it has changed!

this is such a weirdly existential conversation though for reals
posted by elizardbits at 9:37 AM on September 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wait a minute was that pizza made out of WORMS?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:37 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact that this revelation is causing these kinds of arguments about fiction and authenticity is further proof of how fuckin awesome it is, and I'll bet my last donut on it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:39 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


THE TWEETS ARE COMING FROM INSIDE YOUR PIZZA
posted by jason_steakums at 9:39 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think this is where ShawnStruck and I reminisce about our days of keeping bees and tell you kids to get off our lawns!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:40 AM on September 24, 2013


The existence of death has inspired a whole lot of beautiful poetry, but that doesn't mean that death doesn't suck.
posted by JHarris at 9:40 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


In the bio, Jane McGonigal's involvement on I Love Bees.
posted by Wordshore at 9:40 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not the same toy! It's like Ocean's Twelve! Once you get to the ending where you realize the entire set-up was bullshit, you can't go back and pretend like the set-up meant anything to begin with!

It's amazing how well the Ocean's trilogy works to explain almost every argument about art you can get into.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:40 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait a minute was that pizza made out of WORMS?

I once had a pizza that was 100% Worms.
posted by ersatz at 9:40 AM on September 24, 2013


Wait a minute was that pizza made out of WORMS?

*Martin Luther turns to camera, pulling at shirt collar*

"I've heard of a Diet of Worms, BUT THIS IS RIDICULOUS!!!"
posted by Greg Nog at 9:41 AM on September 24, 2013 [15 favorites]


So is anyone actually doing anything with the game (or whatever) itself on bearstearnsbravo.com? I'm too impatient to watch a bunch of videos & was mucking with the source to see if I could get to them all, but they seem to be randomly-named unlisted YouTube videos uploaded with random usernames (eg, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mga4MD1n1Gg is named 764k1k57ige48hsg uploaded by user '5dnxuit3l19hwj9q')
posted by zempf at 9:41 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


This guy's mom gets it!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:42 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Free Darko gets it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:45 AM on September 24, 2013


Best mom talk ever.

"okay
first remind me the degree to which you understand what twitter is"

[...]
"ok
a continually renewed stream of waste"

posted by jason_steakums at 9:45 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wordshore: I didn't say Jane wasn't involved in ILB, but it most certainly wasn't her project as shown by the credits. Other people had more influence.
posted by adrianhon at 9:45 AM on September 24, 2013


At the horse sweatshop.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:48 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


The fact that this revelation is causing these kinds of arguments about fiction and authenticity is further proof of how fuckin awesome it is, and I'll bet my last donut on it.

The notion that people are arguing about something makes it good is one of the things advertisers say that I find frustrating and also completely wrong. It's also untrue about art, Andy Warhol be damned.

Look, I argue far more about how little I like American Beauty than I ever will about this. And people have told me that this is proof of how excellent American Beauty is. But American Beauty is a shit fucking film, and arguing about it doesn't make it any more profound. This is like that.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:51 AM on September 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Man, subjective framing is getting thin on the ground these days.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:53 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


As is often the case, Douglas Adams had a bit about this sort of thing:

There is, or was, a poet. His name was Lallafa, and he wrote what are widely regarded throughout the Galaxy as being the finest poems in existence, the Songs of the Long Land.

They are/were unspeakably wonderful. That is to say, you couldn't speak very much of them at once without being so overcome with emotion, truth and a sense of wholeness and oneness of things that you wouldn't pretty soon need a brisk walk round the block, possibly pausing at a bar on the way back for a quick glass of perspective and soda. They were that good.

Lallafa had lived in the forests of the Long Lands of Effa. He lived there, and he wrote his poems there. He wrote them on pages made of dried habra leaves, without the benefit of education or correcting fluid. He wrote about the light in the forest and what he thought about that. He wrote about the darkness in the forest, and what he thought about that. He wrote about the girl who had left him and precisely what he thought about that.

Long after his death his poems were found and wondered over. News of them spread like morning sunlight. For centuries they illuminated and watered the lives of many people whose lives might otherwise have been darker and drier.

Then, shortly after the invention of time travel, some major correcting fluid manufacturers wondered whether his poems might have been better still if he had had access to some high-quality correcting fluid, and whether he might be persuaded to say a few words on that effect.

They travelled the time waves, they found him, they explained the situation - with some difficulty - to him, and did indeed persuade him. In fact they persuaded him to such an effect that he became extremely rich at their hands, and the girl about whom he was otherwise destined to write which such precision never got around to leaving him, and in fact they moved out of the forest to a rather nice pad in town and he frequently commuted to the future to do chat shows, on which he sparkled wittily.

He never got around to writing the poems, of course, which was a problem, but an easily solved one. The manufacturers of correcting fluid simply packed him off for a week somewhere with a copy of a later edition of his book and a stack of dried habra leaves to copy them out on to, making the odd deliberate mistake and correction on the way.

Many people now say that the poems are suddenly worthless. Others argue that they are exactly the same as they always were, so what's changed? The first people say that that isn't the point. They aren't quite sure what the point is, but they are quite sure that that isn't it. They set up the Campaign for Real Time to try to stop this sort of thing going on. Their case was considerably strengthened by the fact that a week after they had set themselves up, news broke that not only had the great Cathedral of Chalesm been pulled down in order to build a new ion refinery, but that the construction of the refinery had taken so long, and had had to extend so far back into the past in order to allow ion production to start on time, that the Cathedral of Chalesm had now never been built in the first place. Picture postcards of the cathedral suddenly became immensely valuable.

posted by JHarris at 9:54 AM on September 24, 2013 [15 favorites]


Why do you keep calling it advertising and marketing Rory? If this is advertising, how is Dogboner or Self-Aware Roomba not advertising? I think you've got some wrong impressions about the purpose and content of this reveal.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:54 AM on September 24, 2013


Your argument that eyeballs equals quality is essentially an advertising argument.

Do you think that that one Twitter plagiarist is better than the people whose tweets he rips off just because people write more about him than they write about the individual tweeters?
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:56 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not sure how that relates. Is that an analogy or about Horse_?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:57 AM on September 24, 2013


You said that people talking about this proves how "fuckin awesome" it is.

Do people writing about a plagiarist make that plagiarist fuckin awesome as well?
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:59 AM on September 24, 2013


Do people writing about a plagiarist make that plagiarist fuckin awesome as well?

I just realized horse_ebooks can't hug and now I can't sleep.
posted by modernserf at 10:00 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyway --

Nothing means anything without context. If you can control the contextual frame around something, you can utterly change what that thing means. So it is with this. A series of whimsical statements made by a machine is interesting; a series of whimsical statements made by people, not as much.

And it is easy to forget that, for all its hits, horse_ebooks had a lot of misses, that people overlooked because it was ostensibly a spambot making them. The criteria for excellence is a lot higher for human beings.
posted by JHarris at 10:02 AM on September 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


So basically what you are saying is that everything happens so much
posted by elizardbits at 10:04 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


See, "everything happens so much" is hilarious if it's a machine posting it, and if it's a person posting it then it sounds like a not-as-good line from Achewood. The context of "ha this machine said this at random and it's incredibly banal but also not wrong?" is the only reason that line was good to begin with.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:09 AM on September 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


No Rory I said "the fact that this revelation is causing these kinds of arguments about fiction and authenticity" is fucking awesome. This specific discussion. Not just "us chattering about whether it's good over some pie." That we're specifically discussing what makes something authentic and the limits of fiction vs reality. That everyone from Susan Orleans to some guy's mom somewhere can help us try to puzzle out A. Why people even liked the idea of Horse in the first place. B. What it means for something to be "Truly random". What would it mean for something to be produced by accident? Is it different from something being created by god? C. Whether (as in the awesome Douglas Adams quote above) the source of a work changes our appreciation of it--is Lead Belly any worse if he isn't a rural criminal? Is the bible any less holy if it's written by people?

These are fantastic questions about art that I love people are discussing today on a grand scale. Something happened today. It really did.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:10 AM on September 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


this machine said this at random

It was never funny imo. It was always poignant. It's still poignant because it connected with so many people. Especially since it resulted in something as awesome as this bearstearns site.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:12 AM on September 24, 2013


This specific discussion. Not just "us chattering about whether it's good over some pie."

The cause of a discussion cannot take credit for the discussion, just as a company dumping toxic waste into a river cannot take credit for the environmental regulations its act provoked.
posted by JHarris at 10:12 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wordshore: "I guess it's okay to delete the Bros tag from this FPP, then."

No wait I'm standing on line at Tower Records waiting for the new Bros. record to drop.
posted by chavenet at 10:13 AM on September 24, 2013


The cause of a discussion cannot take credit for the discussion

What? How does Gertrude Stein's writing not specifically raise the meta-texual question of "Is this kind of thing poetry?" for instance.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:15 AM on September 24, 2013


The cause of a discussion cannot take credit for the discussion

Of course they can. What's stopping them?
posted by Greg Nog at 10:16 AM on September 24, 2013


These are fantastic questions about art that I love people are discussing today on a grand scale. Something happened today. It really did.

Yeah maybe the argument of "why are things funnier/more interesting when they're said by a particular source than when they're said by random people doing an Art" is fascinating to you, but it's awfully dull to me.

Why is "I will fuck your face" hilarious when an ancient Greek poet writes it but not when a sexist bro posts it as an internet comment? Why is Mozart writing a composition called "Kindly Lick My Ass" more funny than when Seth MacFarlane writes a song called that on American Dad? Context matters. Many hoaxes, once revealed to be hoaxes, are no longer funny.

This was a hoax. It says nothing interesting about art that wasn't already said by a ton of culture jammers in the past. It's of an impressive duration, but it's nothing compared to what Andy Kaufman pulled off every other week. And it made horse_ebooks less fun, which is bad.

Nothing of interest happened here, and a month from now nobody will give a shit about this guy, this game, Pronunciation Book, or horse_ebooks.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:16 AM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'll have you know we are a full time internet
posted by The Whelk at 10:17 AM on September 24, 2013


What's stopping them?

I am. With my credit-stopping stick. Don't ask me where it came from, eBay is a strange place.
posted by JHarris at 10:18 AM on September 24, 2013


1000 years from now only one artifact of 21st century culture will remain, it will definitely be horse_ebooks, and everyone who doesn't worship it will be sent into the meme mines at 4chan forever.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:20 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I give them credit for the discussion, but this is not a particularly rich discussion. It's all twitterers snarking about how over horse_ebooks they already were and people who like a prank attempting to justify it as high art because god forbid we find a long-running hoax interesting for its own sake.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:21 AM on September 24, 2013


Why do you keep calling it advertising and marketing Rory?

I'm not Rory, but I don't see how thinking that both projects were interesting makes them somehow not marketing. Both pronunctiationbook and horse_ebooks functioned as advertising -- they got people interested in one set of concepts and then used that interest, via the recent countdown and then the direct link, to drive interest towards a project the creators wanted to draw attention to -- Bear Stearns Bravo -- which wants to take my money. That's the same thing most ads do, just played out over a longer period of time. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck and it's called duck_ebooks, etc etc...

Given how long it took, I'm curious if it started out as advertising or if they transitioned to that when they were ready to roll out a new project; if that later, does the use of horse_ebooks as marketing invalidate its (hypothetical) earlier existence as not-marketing?
posted by cjelli at 10:21 AM on September 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


You don;t think stuff like this constitutes fascinating discussion? I weep for the youth of today.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:24 AM on September 24, 2013


cjelli: Both pronunctiationbook and horse_ebooks functioned as advertising -- they got people interested in one set of concepts and then used that interest, via the recent countdown and then the direct link, to drive interest towards a project the creators wanted to draw attention to -- Bear Stearns Bravo -- which wants to take my money.

This means every network television program and just about everything ever written in a newspaper or magazine is advertising. Are you OK with that definition?
posted by Rock Steady at 10:24 AM on September 24, 2013


Tomorrow on Slate: Is the horse_ebooks authorship validity question the modern-day Shakespeare authorship question?
posted by griphus at 10:25 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


You don;t think stuff like this constitutes fascinating discussion? I weep for the youth of today.

How is snark about Santa not being real remotely fascinating?
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:25 AM on September 24, 2013


It's funny?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:26 AM on September 24, 2013


JHarris: Just look at the beginning of the thread. HALF-LIFE 3.

So if the last video said "How to pronounce Half-Life 3. Half-Life. Three. Available now on Steam." That would have made this whole thing more worthwhile? What if Half-Life 3 ended up sucking? Would that make it worthless again?
posted by Rock Steady at 10:26 AM on September 24, 2013


Guys can we just agree that American Beauty is a shitty movie?
posted by The Whelk at 10:26 AM on September 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


It's like, if Night Vale did something like this and the result was a link to a extensive website that the guy from Night Vale wrote everyone would be like Cool! Not UGH this invalidates all the other podcasts.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:27 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's all twitterers snarking about...

It's pronounced "tweeters".
posted by Wordshore at 10:27 AM on September 24, 2013


Guys can we just agree that American Beauty is a shitty movie?

Yessss. Yes.
posted by sweetkid at 10:27 AM on September 24, 2013


So I was at the New Yorker and I told this story about horse ebooks being a real person to one of the younger cartoonists and I think she almost cried.
posted by The Whelk at 10:27 AM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Actually, Potomac, on the Internet they would probably be like "I never liked Night Vale anyway."
posted by Rock Steady at 10:28 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact that rory brought up American Beauty, a terrible movie I haven't thought of in years, as an example of something not worth talking about, almost sort of invalidates his argument and makes me wonder if maybe it isn't as terrible as it was. But yes, it was terrible.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:28 AM on September 24, 2013


It's gonna mean a lot of overtime, Chief, but I think we're *this close* to finally nailing that dastardly Definition of Art and showing the world what he really is.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:28 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Actually, Potomac, on the Internet they would probably be like "I never liked Night Vale anyway."

Or "I liked Night Vale before tumblr found it and started liking it wrongly."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:29 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


And now I am in Greenpoint having a beer(Lokal actually, come say hi, I have an hour to kill) , so this is the best of all possible worlds, I think I'm just going to tell everyone I meet today about this and gauge the general reaction.
posted by The Whelk at 10:29 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's funny?

Funny != Fascinating
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:30 AM on September 24, 2013


Or "I liked Night Vale before tumblr found it and started liking it wrongly."


WHY DOES HE HAVE A THRID EYE THAT'S NOT EVEN SENSE MAKING DAMN YOUR PERPLEXING FAN CANON TUMBLR
posted by The Whelk at 10:30 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hate the extraneous eyes.
posted by elizardbits at 10:31 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


So if the last video said "How to pronounce Half-Life 3. Half-Life. Three. Available now on Steam." That would have made this whole thing more worthwhile? What if Half-Life 3 ended up sucking? Would that make it worthless again?

It would have made this a semi-interesting hoax, which is what this already is, but slightly less disappointing because HALF LIFE

Again, the question isn't "is this worthwhile", because worthwhile is silly. The question is "does what this has become help with the fact that horse_ebooks is less fun now", and I think the answer is no. And I think the whole discussion about "is this breakthrough fascinating art" is irrelevant (but that this is not).
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:33 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Guys, if you want AUTHENTIC real bot horse_ebooks, it was only run by a person starting with this tweet. Good luck navigating through twitter to get to those older tweets.

Anyway, Rory is a wet blanket and this whole thing is great.

Here's video of them answering the phones at (213) 444 0102.
posted by zsazsa at 10:33 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Interesting threads on MeFi are just advertising trying to get me to read more MeFi threads. Good passages in a book are just advertising to get me to keep turning the pages. Exciting choruses are just advertising to get you to listen to the rest of the song.
posted by mountmccabe at 10:34 AM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Two shadowy figures approach one another in on a moonless night.

"Shall we reveal the truth behind @big_ben_clock?"
"No, it is not yet time. We must wait until they are ready."

EXEUNT
posted by griphus at 10:35 AM on September 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


Though I suppose the disconnect is that @horse_ebooks and pronunciationbook's YouTube channel aren't quite the same thing as BearStearnsBravo even if all of these things are directed by the same people.

But, shit, I follow tumblrs and twitters and whatnot of folks here because insightful/interesting/funny comments here. I listen to new music by musicians I like, even if they change around projects.

The BSB game/video hasn't loaded for me but I am interested because, hey, it's made by people who have done intriguing/captivating things.
posted by mountmccabe at 10:36 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are you saying songs with good hooks don't ever turn out totally sucky? Because Coldplay's entire career is an argument against that proposition.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:36 AM on September 24, 2013


You told me you liked Coldplay. Now who's being inauthentic?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:37 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Guys, if you want AUTHENTIC real bot horse_ebooks, it was only run by a person starting with this tweet. Good luck navigating through twitter to get to those older tweets.

Oh, wow that actually turns this around for me -- that's really clever.

I think what Rory is bugged by is that it seems like the "hoax" was cheating; that the reality was less impressive than the bot. HOWEVER, seeing that one tweet turns that around; that the hoax was actually part of a meaningful plan.
posted by modernserf at 10:39 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


In fact, that might be my problem with ARGs right there: I still haven't seen one produced by somebody who knew how to tell a goddamn story.

I agree with those who said that The Beast was really well-written. In fact, it's one of the few where I think that the ARG and the thing being advertised were equally "art." I also liked the Cloverfield and Lost ARGs but in those cases, the ARGs themselves far overpromised some sort of narrative cohesion in the ultimate work. Generally, I feel like these things don't quite cohere enough but it's difficult for me to quite pin down what I mean by that.

I'd love to do an ARG for a book some day. Have even had some ideas. But unless I get a huge marketing budget I just don't see it ever happening. They're clearly really resource intensive projects which require, minimally, a lot of planning.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:39 AM on September 24, 2013


All that shows for me on the bsbravo site is a black box with a spinning disc. I had a couple of minutes of video...wanker, elevator, huge anachonistic walky-talky thing, then the camera faded as it looked at floor 77, and I've got nothing subsequent. I've reloaded, I've tried other browsers (I can only get it to do anything at all in IE)...I don't get it. Maybe the servers are slammed or something, but I got nada.
posted by dejah420 at 10:39 AM on September 24, 2013


griphus has been sixcolors all along!
posted by elizardbits at 10:39 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


This means every network television program and just about everything ever written in a newspaper or magazine is advertising. Are you OK with that definition?

Probably yes? That's a good question though; I may be being overbroad there but I think not. There's a lot of line-blurring in the media, going way back to forever. Plenty of network television programs that are effectively advertising -- product placement blended into dialogue and scene backgrounds for the sake of selling goods. Plenty of newspaper articles get written because someone wants to get people to go to their store and, to that end, runs an event in part so that it will get covered by the news. And magazines? Good lord: there are quite a few magazines out there that are nothing but advertisements, right down to the interviews.

That's not a value judgement; I'm not saying horse_ebooks is necessarily less compelling because it's marketing. Just that it is now serving as marketing, which makes it marketing. It may or may not have been intended as marketing at its inception, and I look forward to hearing more about how the project evolved.
posted by cjelli at 10:40 AM on September 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


I like Coldplay and if you were to argue that a new Coldplay album was big news for art the way you've been arguing that this must be, I'd call you just as full of shit.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:40 AM on September 24, 2013


Rory aren't all your firey outrage comments really just clever propaganda for the Rorgy Manwich Experience?
posted by elizardbits at 10:43 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:44 AM on September 24, 2013


Rory, you're getting very worked up about a subject that you've said you find "awfully dull". It kind of seems like you're taking this weirdly personally.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:44 AM on September 24, 2013


On reflection, the distinction I would draw is: the act of linking to the pay-us-money-for-stuff new project is advertising/marketing. The countdown leading to that is advertising/marketing. The existence of those things frames the prior history of horse_ebooks and pronunciationbook as advertising/marketing, but we don't know that for sure yet; they could have started them as art projects and then, in winding them down, used them as to point to a new project. If that's the case, it's probably unfair to call them, unequivocally, advertising, if they weren't intended as such until very recently -- but that's something only the creators can resolve.
posted by cjelli at 10:45 AM on September 24, 2013


Rory is going to start his own ARG twitter, with blackjack, and hookers!
posted by The Whelk at 10:45 AM on September 24, 2013


This all has me wondering if that long-passed Rory/PhoBWan innernet fight about the end of LOST has more to do with ARGs than I ever suspected.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:46 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Greg: I just like arguments. And it's rare that the people I'm arguing with online are people I like and respect a lot?
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:47 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


griphus has been sixcolors all along!

As long as sixcolors is back I'd be OK with that
posted by sweetkid at 10:48 AM on September 24, 2013


In fact, forget the ARG twitter!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:48 AM on September 24, 2013


( fuck it I'm feeling good today, I am going to check the status of the super cool thing I really really want to get accepted.)
posted by The Whelk at 10:49 AM on September 24, 2013


I have to admit I am taking it personally. Partially out of boredom but also because I just love this so much the fact that anyone doesn't get how genius it all is makes me surly about people's ability to like things which is silly because today is a great day full of joy because of the funny and the weird is being written about and not ignored in favor of evil garbage for once. We should be celebrating.

I also would like to accuse Rory of DDoSing the Bearstearns site right when I was about to capture the chairman dammit.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:49 AM on September 24, 2013


MetaFilter: I am taking it personally, partially out of boredom.
posted by griphus at 10:51 AM on September 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Well it is an argument about subjective stuff where there's a lot of "you're WRONG" going around so yeah it'll get personal real fast.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:51 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


( ha ha I told the young looking bartender about this and he said he didn't know about it because none of his friends are on twitter- OMEN OF TWITTER DEMISE????)
posted by The Whelk at 10:54 AM on September 24, 2013


Thinking more about it, my problem with most ARGs, even those I like, is that they often feel like the beginning to a story with no middle or end, or, when they connect to the media they're selling us, it's only in this tangential way (the LOST ARG was totally just like that, and to a certain extent, The Beast, too, though again that one was well-written enough that I didn't care). Like, great, intriguing set-up that eventually frazzles out into nothing. Or Ovaltine (and I think part of the frustration with this one is the insane build-up, which is a lot like being a kid and waiting to get your decoder in the mail for WEEKS). I don't know if this thing has enough narratively interesting enough to carry what they've done, and won't get to look into it more until I'm not working later today, but I think it's a problem generally with the medium.

In contrast, something that worked really well for me which wasn't even an ARG proper was the media stuff surrounding Arcade Fire's The Suburbs where, when I finally watched the Spike Jonze short film, put everything in a richer and more interesting context with enough story and universe to either be a part or separate from it all.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:56 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


So if the last video said "How to pronounce Half-Life 3. Half-Life. Three. Available now on Steam." That would have made this whole thing more worthwhile?

No. Because I was having the kidding fun. (It'd have been ovaltine, just like this, although at least an interesting flavor.)

1000 years from now only one artifact of 21st century culture will remain, it will definitely be horse_ebooks, and everyone who doesn't worship it will be sent into the meme mines at 4chan forever.

My time-traveling neighbor says: because it was the first age with a truly global and pervasive meme culture, a large amount of 21st century culture survives to pollute later centuries. It's one of the reasons he picked this era to hang out in, he says he already felt like a native.

I will say this much. This is inspiring to try to create a bot that would actually be what horse_ebooks pretended to be. Maybe cortex can help with his mad Markov skillz.
posted by JHarris at 10:57 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is inspiring to try to create a bot that would actually be what horse_ebooks pretended to be. Maybe cortex can help with his mad Markov skillz.

People have indeed made those! For example, here's one that Markovizes the tweets of Meredith Gran, and posts them automatically: granulac_ebooks
posted by Greg Nog at 10:59 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


These poems get it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:01 AM on September 24, 2013


I stopped by the gallery and watched them answer calls for a while.

And then I got to meet Susan Orlean - yay!
posted by moonmilk at 11:03 AM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thinking more about it, my problem with most ARGs, even those I like, is that they often feel like the beginning to a story with no middle or end

I am not sure that problem is limited to ARGs. How many serial TV shows have dropped the ball. How many movies have really cool ideas and look really new and then devolve in the same old.

And for Rory, of course there are hooks that promise a better song than we get.

But yeah I can see how ARGs might have it worse than some of these others.
posted by mountmccabe at 11:05 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm going to stop by the Fritzroy gallery on my way home and provide a full report.
posted by The Whelk at 11:06 AM on September 24, 2013


Greg Nog, Markov chains are nothing new, and are not actually what I would be considering. Anyway, it's not like I don't already have A PROJECT to work on, so never mind.
posted by JHarris at 11:06 AM on September 24, 2013


The phone call tells me that I can become the envy of my neighborhood for fruits and flowers. He sounded very sure about this.
posted by The Whelk at 11:08 AM on September 24, 2013


I was a little disappointed, but now I like this. By my read there are a few fun themes here: the sort of Chariot-of-the-Gods-style question of how we would react if it turns out that things we thought had arisen from roughly natural phenomena turned out to be the work of a creator (and here already it's a better work of art than Prometheus),* the contours of our conception of randomness, especially as it pertains to human language, and then finally the sort of dialog with automation and progress that actually reminds me a lot of the Hyperrealists, like Chuck Close or Antonio López García. What does it mean to take up a task that's been made obsolete by technology or fashion? And it manages to be pretty cerebral in all those ways while still giving you the straight-up fun of OMG Horse_ebooks is people! and seeing the ensuing fallout.

A+++++, quality art, would art again
posted by invitapriore at 11:10 AM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


I am not sure that problem is limited to ARGs. How many serial TV shows have dropped the ball. How many movies have really cool ideas and look really new and then devolve in the same old.

But I think ARGs promise this higher standard of narrative cohesion than almost any other form of media.

I think a lot about something that my boss at this video store told me at 18. He was telling me about the book The Magus and the way he described it way over promised: "You meet an old man. He asks you, 'Do you want to play a game?' You say no. He says, 'But you've already been playing it your whole life.'"

I mean, mind=blown. The book was good, but not quite that good. But that's the sort of thing these ARGs seem to build you up for: the notion that the deeper you go, the more interconnected you'll find media and art and life to be, that you'll discover a deep conspiracy underlying everything. Sure, we know it's fake, it's art, but with the first ARGs, we didn't. They were playing in media that hadn't been played with, yet, which made it all feel dangerous and frightening and thrillingly real.

So we get this advertising stuff now, a decade later, and it dabbles but it doesn't really come close to creating this deeper interconnected web. And that's what we want. Rabbit holes that eventually link our real life to the fictitious. Or at least, that's always been the appeal for me. Frankly, I can't resist a good ARG at all, but I've learned simultaneously not to get my hopes up for them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:11 AM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I forgot to add my footnote there and now I forget what it was going to say anyway
posted by invitapriore at 11:12 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reddit reacts.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:14 AM on September 24, 2013


THB the whole game/not game expectation vs. realityis kind of the point if The Mags. i think being disappointed is the natural and intended endresult of having read it
posted by The Whelk at 11:29 AM on September 24, 2013


Wait Google says the Fritzroy is closed on Tuesday are they open for this or?
posted by The Whelk at 11:34 AM on September 24, 2013


Yeah, probably, but at 18 I guess I wasn't really ready for a metanarrative about how disappointing life turns out to be, more or less. And even at 29 I really am still waiting for stories as cool as my expectations make them out to be, so maybe it's not about being 18 at all.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:34 AM on September 24, 2013


About the paid portion of BSB, from the terms of service and privacy policy (and this must count as some victory of art, as it's the first time I've read all the way through a site's TOS):

There are two levels of interaction with BSB. The first level is “First Impact: LA Nights, Love of the City,” an interactive video experience. The second level of interaction is for Members only. We are constantly changing and improving BSB. We may add or remove functionality or features, and we may suspend or stop BSB altogether.
posted by mittens at 11:36 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


PhoBWanKenobi: Sure, we know it's fake, it's art, but with the first ARGs, we didn't. They were playing in media that hadn't been played with, yet, which made it all feel dangerous and frightening and thrillingly real.

I remember standing by a payphone in a Burger King parking lot waiting for ilovebees to call me and wondering what the fuck was going to happen next.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:39 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Eventually we'll find out that ilovebees was some sort of large-scale DEA plot to confuse the shit out of dealers.
posted by griphus at 11:52 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing is, I like silly, a lot. And whimsy. This is more like a prank. "Watch these clueless Internet people believe this is a real bot! What larks!" it's one-sided fun. The fact that it's brilliantly done doesn't change that.

Maybe it is simple pride as well, I will admit to that. No one likes being made to feel a rube, even when someone tells you it's for your own good, because it's art, you see. Ta da! Now you'll be more cynical! Because I needed help with that?
posted by emjaybee at 11:53 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The exceptionally bad acting drove me away after a few minutes, but can anyone who's actually sat through it confirm or refute my suspicion that the Bear Sterns Bravo stuff bears absolutely no relation to the 77 days of buildup?

The disconnect in tone and content between the buildup and the reveal feels like they had no idea what the reveal was going to be when they started, or that this (from the dailydot article)

After a few months of pitching the project around, the two apparently landed a $40,000 deal to tie the countdown concept to a viral marketing campaign.

is actually what happened.
posted by ook at 11:53 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Agreed with PhoB. And the frustrating thing about horse_ebooks turning out to be part of a promotional scheme is that before today, it was this kind of wonderful thing that made no sense but was fascinating to think about and ponder in its own right. It felt like an embodiment of something cool and new, AKA the ability of computers to create something poetic and strange and unusual on their own. Procedural art is a really, really cool idea and the "selling point" of horse_ebooks was that it was, like, procedural surreal comedy. And that's super cool.

Other procedural text exists, but most markov chains are not especially funny unless you're drunk. horse_ebooks felt like an exception.

This reveal that horse_ebooks isn't that thing that we thought it was would be... not revelatory, but sort of neat? My response to Pronunciation Book starting its countdown wasn't THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING, it was just sort of a mild "whoa I wasn't expecting that". And if that was all, if it was something unexpected that came out of the blue regarding something I didn't care much for in the first place, then sweet! Mild surprises are cool!

But in the process of revealing this, horse_ebooks lost the thing that made it so intriguing. There are far better human twitterers out there, in terms of every tweet being freaking hilarious and wonderful. Twitter is this excellently fertile ground for young comic minds. Horse_ebooks wasn't exactly a comedy feed. It was (supposedly) a computer firing neurons into a void. Its stream of nonsense interrupting my Twitter feed felt unique and unusual and helped add contrast to the tweets of people that weren't horse_ebooks, because those people were all choosing what to say, and horse_ebooks... wasn't.

Except that it was.

The sort of feeling that an ARG is supposed to give you, that sense of "I don't know what this is and suddenly the world is slightly stranger and cooler", is what horse_ebooks was already doing. This reveal replaces that with a new game that I'm not remotely interested in. And that feels like a dick marketing move to me.

In a lot of ways this falls at the nexus of Things I Am Interested In: games, advertising, internet platforms being used to create something interesting and unusual. I was probably going to mention horse_ebooks offhandedly in the book I'm working on, in the part that talks about how computers and platform architecture enable a kind of art that never existed before. Pre-hoax horse_ebooks was a prime example of that sort of thing, although it's by no means unique. It was in my headspace canon for what the Internet was best at.

And don't get me wrong, I love hoaxes, but they're not at all as interesting as this other thing. Taking away the one and replacing it with the other is disappointing to me. It strikes me as the opposite of what a well-executed art project ought to feel like, because a well-executed art project ought to feel like horse_ebooks and ruining horse_ebooks is pretty much the opposite of that.

The beautiful thing about Andy Kaufman, who (again) pulled mass-media hoaxes of this magnitude repeatedly and more skillfully, was that he never let on that the hoaxes he created were fake, even after it became obvious that they must be. He insisted to the end that the reality he pretended to occupy was real. And even now, after his death, all the things he created have that air of mystery to them.

That kind of alternate reality is pull-off-able. But it requires you to adhere to your reality. Commit to the scene and such. Once you stop, the drama is ruined, the magic is over, the reality becomes fake. And that's what happened here.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:54 AM on September 24, 2013 [15 favorites]


Oh no Rory's on his laptop RIP this thread.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:58 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The disconnect in tone and content between the buildup and the reveal feels like they had no idea what the reveal was going to be when they started,

I disagree based on what people in this thread have said about working on this film/game for the past several years.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:00 PM on September 24, 2013


Fair enough. Still, a pretty huge disconnect in tone and content. I find that offputting but maybe that's just me.
posted by ook at 12:04 PM on September 24, 2013


I never understood the appeal of horse_ebooks. Half the internet is robots writing nonsense! You want procedural poetics, take a look at my spam folder.

This whole reveal, though: Pronunciation Book, and Horse, and that photo someone posted above of the two guys sitting in a room answering the telephone with weird snippets of conversation.. calling it a hoax seems mean at worst and obtuse at best. This is some damn fine performance art going on right here, and it warms my cold dead heart that it wasn't just trying to get us out to see a movie or drink Ovaltine.
posted by jess at 12:05 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The hoax part is where nobody thought Pronunciation Book and horse_ebooks were supposed to be part of somebody else's high-concept performance.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:08 PM on September 24, 2013


Rory Marinich: "Other procedural text exists, but most markov chains are not especially funny unless you're drunk. horse_ebooks felt like an exception."

Eh, having worked in NLP, Horse_ebooks was always amusing but not especially magical from my point of view. I can think of several ways that I'd go about producing that type of output. That's not to say it wouldn't require some tuning, but it seems totally doable. One thing that I would have on my side is the fact that a few really good gems would get people in the right frame of mind to start seeing the other portion of its output as equally profound or funny.
posted by invitapriore at 12:09 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The exceptionally bad acting drove me away after a few minutes, but can anyone who's actually sat through it confirm or refute my suspicion that the Bear Sterns Bravo stuff bears absolutely no relation to the 77 days of buildup?

From the bit of discussion I read at 77 Days Forum it sounds like they're coming across the same characters mentioned in the countdown YouTubes. (See this thread).

But again I haven't gotten the interactive videos to load on my computer so I can't say for myself.
posted by mountmccabe at 12:09 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


But in the process of revealing this, horse_ebooks lost the thing that made it so intriguing.

Where it failed for me--and I am using a mild definition of "failed" because I swear I have spent a long time on the BSB website considering I have no intention of finishing the game once it becomes available again--was that you had to be interested in both horse_ebooks and Pronunciation Book for the reveal to have much emotional weight. I'm sure plenty of people were fascinated by both, but since I never got the point of horse_ebooks, the revelation felt oddly flat to me, in a way it would not, had only one site been involved in the project. You want the discovered connection to involve a deepening of meaning, and that hasn't really happened here. Instead, the suspense-generator has led to a game that is not very suspenseful and is oddly offputting.
posted by mittens at 12:09 PM on September 24, 2013


I think a lot of people were offput because they were expecting a cool laser gun game but if you play far enough in the game it does have lasers you should try it once it goes back up.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:09 PM on September 24, 2013


The hoax part is where nobody thought Pronunciation Book and horse_ebooks were supposed to be part of somebody else's high-concept performance

What do you mean "somebody else's"? The voice I got when I called the number was the voice of the pronunciation manual. The guys that show up in the vine posted in this thread are the guys what ran that twitter and created those YouTube videos. It's their own work.
posted by mountmccabe at 12:12 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but those-works-as-standalone-things is different from those-works-as-parts-of-a-bigger-piece, and if the bigger piece involves ruining the standalone works, people will end up being perturbed.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:13 PM on September 24, 2013


The hoax part is where nobody thought Pronunciation Book and horse_ebooks were supposed to be part of somebody else's high-concept performance.

Ehhhh. The word "hoax" implies a motivation to catch people out, to shout "gotcha!". That was certainly evident in a lot of Kaufman's work -- he was kind of the king of the dick moves for performance art. (And I mean that in a good way! I'm pretty sure that was his goal.)

My impression here though is that there is no "gotcha", no intent to pull the wool over the eyes of the public and then shock and dismay with the reveal. Instead Horse and PB were tools to tell a story, over the course of years. It's not a hoax any more than writing under a pseudonym is a hoax.
posted by jess at 12:14 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Except for how horse_ebooks was not the thing that people thought it was. That's the hoax part.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:15 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was the thing until today, because we experienced it as that thing until today. We'll always have Paris.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:19 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have inside information that HL3 is coming very soon.

Hat Life 3 is the sequel to the popular hat simulation, Team Fortress 2.
posted by jclarkin at 12:20 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can you show me the difference between before it was bought where it was "Random" (besides ads for e_books) and after when it was "Created" (when it still tweeted ads for the same e_books)?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:20 PM on September 24, 2013


I have inside information that HL3 is coming very soon.

Hat Life 3 is the sequel to the popular hat simulation, Team Fortress 2.


"...and so, we're proud to introduce Half Life 3! ...d. Half Life 3d. Just the first Half Life game redone for 3d displays. You're welcome."
posted by jason_steakums at 12:21 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm just too cynical at this point, but I never for one second assumed horse_ebooks was random output. I always thought there was a human behind the scenes at least choosing what and when and how much to tweet. If it was really random, it would have been mostly garbage data, right? There was too much wheat in the chaff for it to be unmediated.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:29 PM on September 24, 2013


I think art can sometimes be things other than what it initially appears to be.

For me, the world is a little stranger and cooler today because I know that there are folks out there right now creating pockets of online art for us to discover later. Think about it -- isn't that amazing? Complaining that this culmination of years of effort and expression has "ruined" a nonsense bot strikes me as being a bit of a bummer, but that's also part of the beauty of expression. We don't have to like it all.
posted by jess at 12:30 PM on September 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


And I don't mean that in a "I'm smarter than you, I knew all along" way, I just mean that we didn't all assume horse_ebooks was one thing to now have it revealed as another. We all had different ideas about what horse_ebooks was, that's part of what made it so fun.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:32 PM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


And I don't mean that in a "I'm smarter than you, I knew all along" way, I just mean that we didn't all assume horse_ebooks was one thing to now have it revealed as another. We all had different ideas about what horse_ebooks was, that's part of what made it so fun.

For reasons I have trouble articulating clearly (so far anyway), that being an open question with some likely answers but no definitive one was a big part of the fun. Having all that possibility space reduced down to the actual truth is somewhat... deflating. I don't seem to be the only one who feels that way. No more even remote sense of mystery.
posted by sparkletone at 12:36 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was just grumbling over the tonal shift, as well--neither horse_ebooks nor Pronunciation Book seemed like lighthearted action-comedy; each had a certain tone, put you in a certain space. You might've expected this to lead to a game announcement, or to be part of some other interesting project, but what you didn't expect was the Financial District version of Seventh Guest.

And then I just noted at the bottom of the page: ©1995 Synydyne

I know there is not a deeper level here. But I keep hoping there is.
posted by mittens at 12:41 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the thing that keeps me from being totally impressed is the implication that this wasn't just a three-year lead-in to an ARG, that it's entirely possible the people who'd started both the Twitter and the Youtube channel had hoped to turn them into cash and settled for a game when cash wasn't forthcoming? But otherwise, BSG seems an apt connection, because I loved the show but found the ending lackluster. I found this whole thing fascinating, but... I'm not gonna pay for the game, I guess. Like BSG, my crackpot theories about what's happening turn out to be more interesting to me than the real thing.
posted by Sequence at 12:41 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


sparkletone: No more even remote sense of mystery.

But you still had the mystery. I feel like this comes down to a kind of binary divide between folks who can separate the in-the-moment appreciation for a thing from the current status of that thing and folks who are more holistic in their appreciation of a thing. Not placing judgement on either, but it seems like it is such a fundamental divide we are not going to come towards agreement on this. Which is cool. There is no "right" answer. Personally I'm finding it really interesting to hear from both sides.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:44 PM on September 24, 2013


(7th Guest's sequel, 11th Hour, came out in 1995. Pronunciation Book for 11: "Remembers what ambition has destroyed." See? This could've been leading up to a much worse outcome.)
posted by mittens at 12:48 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know the show's ARG has come up already in the thread, but this really does feel like the end of Lost all over again.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:49 PM on September 24, 2013


When mysteries conclude, there should be a sense of satisfaction to it. As in, Oh, so THAT'S how everything fit together! It all makes sense!

This doesn't have that.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:52 PM on September 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Importa AM Int in the gallery you guys
posted by The Whelk at 12:53 PM on September 24, 2013


This doesn't have that.

That is your opinion. Which opinion is as yet unsullied by playing the game that was the capstone of the revelation.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:54 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


They really are answering phones
posted by The Whelk at 12:54 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Importa AM Int in the gallery you guys

WHAT DOES IT MEAN *falls to knees* Oh its a typo. *rises, brushes knees off impatiently*
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:55 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whelk answer one of the phones I'll try the number again.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:56 PM on September 24, 2013


Horse e books at the Fritzroy pic.twitter.com/EsXyjGA582
posted by The Whelk at 12:56 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


When mysteries conclude, there should be a sense of satisfaction to it.

Unless you're talking that kind of noir that survives on plot complication, which I guess you are not, but it has been one of the genres I've been thinking of while trying to figure this thing out.
posted by mittens at 12:56 PM on September 24, 2013


MCMikeNamara: "I know the show's ARG has come up already in the thread, but this really does feel like the end of Lost all over again."

For the record, I meant the conversation - not the event itself.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:56 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The mystery wasn't "what's happening in this super cool mysterious art project?" It was, "wait, why is Pronunciation Books doing a countdown?" And, "why does horse_ebooks post the way that it posts?"

The answer to that mystery is "somebody wants us to look at their super cool mysterious art project". That's the letdown.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:56 PM on September 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


John did you just say "What you were afraid to ask your friends?" It really sounded like you.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:57 PM on September 24, 2013


We are influenced by data
posted by The Whelk at 12:58 PM on September 24, 2013


zomg
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:59 PM on September 24, 2013


There was a lull in calls and the tech guy came out all panicked looking
posted by The Whelk at 1:02 PM on September 24, 2013


Maybe they finally realized their game is broked.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:03 PM on September 24, 2013


Simply think of Tarzan
posted by The Whelk at 1:04 PM on September 24, 2013


Seriously how can everyone else not be paying all their attention to this today I feel like the guardian should be live tweeting it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:04 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just called, it's working.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:04 PM on September 24, 2013


It really is cool to hear the Pronunciation Book voice reading horse_ebook tweets on the phone.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:05 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Bedroom master is your personal roadmap to perfection."
posted by mountmccabe at 1:06 PM on September 24, 2013


My game is trying to make everyone laugh by puffing at the rapid fire absurdity
posted by The Whelk at 1:08 PM on September 24, 2013


Got stronger and thicker
posted by The Whelk at 1:08 PM on September 24, 2013


Please pretend you're an old lady from Queens who dialed the rawng numba.
posted by invitapriore at 1:09 PM on September 24, 2013


Greg Greg are you the guy in the wig you can tell me rock
posted by The Whelk at 1:11 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Hash brown baked."

I can't believe I didn't think to call while I was IN THE GALLERY.
posted by moonmilk at 1:12 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I heard him say hash brown baked!
posted by The Whelk at 1:12 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whooooa this is some heavy shit
posted by moonmilk at 1:13 PM on September 24, 2013


Modern art makes me rock out pic.twitter.com/PLZLiBr6HT
posted by The Whelk at 1:15 PM on September 24, 2013


Look, I guarantee you won't find
posted by Rock Steady at 1:19 PM on September 24, 2013


The phone call aspect of it makes it seem weirdly old-fashioned. Like Dial-A-Song or something.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:21 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm making this entire bar call them now.
posted by The Whelk at 1:25 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know what's going on anymore but it looks fun
posted by sweetkid at 1:28 PM on September 24, 2013


INTERACTIVE ART TOMFOOLERY
posted by The Whelk at 1:31 PM on September 24, 2013


I didn't really do this but it would be super fun.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:38 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Five stock business plan
posted by invitapriore at 1:47 PM on September 24, 2013


I'm glad I didn't have to say anything
posted by invitapriore at 1:47 PM on September 24, 2013


The guy on the right has a great bro tan and perfectly clean, pristine white sneakers.

Guy on the left looks and sounds like a larval James Urbaninak
posted by The Whelk at 1:50 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


See this is exactly like Battlestar Galactica. Ok well not exactly like it (no ray guns, fraking, alien robots, or any other type of gun neither), but close enough for the purposes of this conversation. BSG was awesome. It was amazing to me. It really redefined my understanding of what tv could be. This is of course a unique experience to me given a lot of factors, not the least of which is that it was the first ever show other than stargate sg1 that I watched start to finish.

But the ending sucked. The whole last season bordered on a cluster fuck most of the time and then when the 'truth was revealed' the house of cards actively came tumbling down. It truly ruined things for me. The reason as has been said is that things take context, and now that context was shattered by the shit on screen.

I've been thinking about this in light of these recent horsey revelations and I think I have a theory for me as to why things can be ruined retroactively. In general I experience art (tv, music, literature, etc.) with the expectation of being able to enjoy it a second time if I have to. So I love say Name of the Wind so far because having read the second one I can still go back and experience joy in reading the book. Nothing in the second book ruined my ability to enjoy the first one. Which is great.

I can't do that with BSG anymore. I tried and even watching my favorite episodes, I know what's coming and the writers wankery and the mess that is the hamfisted explanations. So while I enjoyed it at the time, I can't say I like series.

This seems to me to be similar. The twitter account was awesome for what it was, but finding out the truth of something can cause the house of cards to come tumbling down.
posted by Carillon at 1:57 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


No more even remote sense of mystery.

But you still had the mystery.


Wait why are we talking about Lost now I'm confused
posted by ook at 2:00 PM on September 24, 2013


5 easy steps to increase mystery today
posted by The Whelk at 2:02 PM on September 24, 2013


I have such mixed feelings about this. I'm impressed that they put all this work into this for such a long time, and the result is pretty entertaining. But I still liked horse_ebooks better when I could believe it was a half-abandoned Russian spam engine, or... something else, but we didn't know what else. If it was all going to lead up to selling something, unike Rory, I'd rather have it be selling an inexpensive game made by a couple of weirdos in their spare time than a $80 boxed game from a big corporation. But I'm disappointed that it has to lead up to selling something. As an operator of a moderately successful twitter bot myself, I once had vague thoughts of monetizing it somehow. But I couldn't bear to do it - the twitter feed has to be completely deadpan and never change step out of character. I've never even been willing to let it mention me, though it's no secret that I'm the author. Or, I guess, meta-author, since it runs completely unattended.

Anyway, I have no interest in playing the game but I enjoyed the live performance in the gallery.
posted by moonmilk at 2:09 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh no Rory's on his laptop RIP this thread.

Hold on now. Rory makes excellent points, and you, Potomac Avenue, have expended a good number of words tussling with him. You've been at least as much of a thread killer as he.

Maybe I'm just too cynical at this point, but I never for one second assumed horse_ebooks was random output. I always thought there was a human behind the scenes at least choosing what and when and how much to tweet. If it was really random, it would have been mostly garbage data, right?

What we call "random" here is really nothing of the sort. True randomness is nonsensical, chaotic sequences of such as to make the most dedicated Dadaist weep. It's what happens when you turn an old TV to a channel that isn't there, it is electric snow. A random level in Nethack is really built using an algorithm that's "fueled" by random numbers, but there are still patterns. If there were none, it'd be worthless.

What horse_ebooks pretended to be was a procedural generation algorithm based off of a corpus of texts and random processes. The texts and algorithm combine with the random numbers to give the mind something to interpret, like combining hexagrams of the I Ching. The absence of a human mind behind imparts a kind of impartiality, and that is part of what people appreciated about it, and why people feel annoyed/upset/saddened now it's revealed it was a hoax. Now, we have this game thing --we already have lots of those thanks-- but we no longer have horse_ebooks. It wasn't a good trade.

We all had different ideas about what horse_ebooks was, that's part of what made it so fun.

Actually, the story that it was a Russian spam account was pretty firmly established.

That is your opinion.

It's all opinions, yours, mine, his, theirs. They do mean something.
posted by JHarris at 2:11 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Numbers Stations are fascinating partly just because they're unexplained. If we learned exactly what they're for, that'd be kind of disappointing. If they turned out to be a years-long hoax perpetrated by some pranksters with spare time and transmitters, that would be disappointing but also AWESOME. I think these guys managed to make it at least 40% of the way from disappointing to awesome.
posted by moonmilk at 2:14 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


but we no longer have horse_ebooks

But we didn't never have horse_ebooks. We have a different experience of horse_ebooks now, and we will never have the same experience of horse_ebooks again, but we still had the experience of yesterday's horse_ebooks and no revelation changes that.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:16 PM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


The twitter account was awesome for what it was, but finding out the truth of something can cause the house of cards to come tumbling down.

And so it turned out this thread was an ARG for another season of House of Cards.

Carillon, what you point out above is, I think, the basic problem with art that depends on surprise and revelation for its effect. When Rory was talking about mysteries earlier, one of the authors that immediately came to mind was Jeffrey Deaver, a writer who has made a very lucrative career out of books which repeat the same structure over and over, and built into that structure are surprises with little emotional depth. Now, people love him and read millions of his books, but I think they are essentially un-re-readable; once you know the surprises, there is really nothing else to them. Mild character development over the course of many books, although that development usually has more to do with physical symptoms rather than emotional change. And that structure may be appealing to people--given the sales, it must be--but if you think too much about the structure, if the joints start to show, it drains a lot of the pleasure out of it.
posted by mittens at 2:17 PM on September 24, 2013


You've been at least as much of a thread killer as he.

I hope that didn't come across as mean, Rory was joking about switching to his laptop to really dig in to this thread on twitter so I was just playing along. If that sounded like I wanted him to stop talking I apologize, I meant the opposite--it was like that moment when the Dread Pirate Roberts switches his sword and is like "Im not ever left handed ha ha ha!"-- I was looking forward to more Rory-pages.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:17 PM on September 24, 2013


It's always been Wankershim horse_ebooks!
posted by jason_steakums at 2:18 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


we will never have the same experience of horse_ebooks again

Goodbye Horse(_ebook)s
posted by mittens at 2:19 PM on September 24, 2013


Mystery is only half of an emotional pair, like tension and release, and it doesn't work without a balanced amount of its own counterpart, revelation. Being on a roller coaster as climbs up a long hill creates an enjoyable sense of anticipation, but nobody would (or should) be satisfied by a roller coaster that just ended at the top, or which had a tiny drop incommensurate with the climb. And if the roller coaster operator tries to tell you "But wasn't the anticipation fun?" you might get the urge to shout at them for wasting your time.
posted by Pyry at 2:20 PM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


If Cecil Baldwin is not down there answering phones then I don't even
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:23 PM on September 24, 2013


But we didn't never have horse_ebooks. We have a different experience of horse_ebooks now, and we will never have the same experience of horse_ebooks again, but we still had the experience of yesterday's horse_ebooks and no revelation changes that.

False, for the reason I gave (some ways) above -- experiences can be ruined retroactively.
posted by JHarris at 2:23 PM on September 24, 2013


Pyry: but nobody would (or should) be satisfied by a roller coaster that just ended at the top

Are you kidding me that would be awesome. Postmodern theme park rides. Bumper cars that don't touch. A haunted house that eases your worries and reassures you that all will be fine. Deep fried nothing. I love it.

JHarris: False, for the reason I gave (some ways) above -- experiences can be ruined retroactively.

And as I said above, it seems clear we don't all think that way, so not false.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:25 PM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


False, for the reason I gave (some ways) above -- experiences can be ruined retroactively.

It doesn't go back in time and change what you've experienced, that all still happened.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:28 PM on September 24, 2013


But it does alter your perception of that experience. Growing up, one of my favorite books was Ender's Game. I can't look back on those lazy summer days sitting on a couch eating twizzlers and reading that book without having that recollection impacted by the author's hate-advocacy.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:35 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've been rewarding myself with calls to the number as I complete tasks during my work day.

(finish an agenda draft)
"Self is soon."
(finish mailing out a bunch of stuff)
"What are mints and mint-markers? Master this."
(eat lunch)
"Top ten toxic ingredients."
(go to a meeting)
"Provide them with solutions."
(log off my computer for the night)
"HAIR."

I don't think I'm going to do better than "HAIR."
posted by ausdemfenster at 2:37 PM on September 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


But it does alter your perception of that experience. Growing up, one of my favorite books was Ender's Game. I can't look back on those lazy summer days sitting on a couch eating twizzlers and reading that book without having that recollection impacted by the author's hate-advocacy.

Right but that's not the same as altering the original experience or even your current perception of the experience you had. Otherwise what was ruined, and how would you know it was?
posted by jason_steakums at 2:38 PM on September 24, 2013


this is fundamentally an aesthetic controversy, which flows from what you think Art is.

In my opinion (OPINIONopinionopinionopinionopinionopinion) people who retroactively dislike something based on later iterations of that thing are limiting themselves unnecessarily though a kind of prejudice that I will annoyingly call postjudice. Post-judicial assessment of art, like pre-judicial, bases its evaluation and criticism on the context of an Art as much as on what the Art is.

My understanding of art is objective--in that I believe Art is made up of objects that must be understood on their own merits, rather than in a historical, psychological, or other (Marxist) context. You look at the art and say what you can about its formal structures first. And the play of formal structures is really all Art is, and we perceive the forms through our subjective skeins which makes us like or dislike them, and the most skillful or courageous play of forms are the best ones, and most Arts succeed or fail in different measures.

Now of course in real criticism that must appeal to humans rather than art nerds, we like to hear about context and background and commentary tracks and see the author's picture and buy the same kind of hair gel as the band and so on, which is fine. That's part of the fun of being a Fan, which is about you and your connection to a group of other people, which is wicked important, maybe more important than aesthetics. But I still maintain there is a distinction between being a Fan and making a true aesthetic judgement.

So I can understand not being a Fan of BSG because the last season wasn't good, but I cannot understand insisting that your Fandom has affected the objective weight of those early seasons.

Now you could also say that a TV show's Object is its entire run of work, which is a fair argument. But then in the balance of Great and Not Great how does "The End" weigh? Not as heavy as "The Rest of The Work" I think. But somewhat. That's a different discussion. We be digressin' yall.

My point is that as An Art horse_ebooks has not changed. If you are no longer a fan of it, then OK, but either A. It never was that great to begin with and you were silly to like it at all or B. The body of work of the past 4 years of text from the account still has the same power or beauty or humor IN IT that you thought it had before, but you can no longer see it because of your feelings about context. I think it's B. Perhaps it's really A. Maybe there is a D. Perhaps it's X where X is a pile of burning thought as civilization collapses and all is lost and meaningless. I hope not.

I hope not. I still believe in Horse_ebooks.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:52 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


It doesn't go back in time and change what you've experienced, that all still happened.

But what was experienced was not an accurate reflection of the world. We have experiences that mean something. When what we had turns out to be based on an incorrect understanding of the world (like a Twitter account wasn't really run by a bot, or there was a foreign substance in a pizza, or the author encoded terrible opinions in his work), then our understanding of the experience is shown to be false, and it must be reevaluated in terms of the new data.

This is because we constantly strive internally to build a coherent view of the world. We experience enjoyment when the view is pleasant because that means things are going well for us. When new information reveals that things actually weren't going well for us, the enjoyment we felt is soured.

In other words: reading a thing, or tasting a pizza, that's a first-order stimulus. Enjoyment is experienced as a reaction, a second-order phenomenon. When the stimulus is viewed in a different light, bringing changed understanding, our reactions can change. Even though we enjoyed it first, we come to see we were wrong to enjoy it, that we were tricked, which is a negative experience greater than the original enjoyment. And this process is not a bad thing -- it's essential to how we perceive our environment.
posted by JHarris at 2:54 PM on September 24, 2013


I Kant handle this thread right now
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:58 PM on September 24, 2013


Even though we enjoyed it first, we come to see we were wrong to enjoy it, that we were tricked, which is a negative experience greater than the original enjoyment. And this process is not a bad thing -- it's essential to how we perceive our environment.

This still requires retaining the experience of the original enjoyment, though. Your interpretations around it change, but not the thing itself. Like, I learned as a child that there really weren't monsters under my bed - but that never changed the experience of utterly believing that there were, of living through those nights when that was real in the only way that mattered.

aargh and now I have to leave internet access for a few hours when the conversation is awesome
posted by jason_steakums at 2:58 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


So what if your mom tells you, at age ten, that she's not your real mother, and you shouldn't expect any support after you turn eighteen; and then when you do turn eighteen, it turns out that she is, in fact, your real mom?

Is that retroactively a good experience, or is it double-retroactively negative?
posted by Iridic at 3:15 PM on September 24, 2013


tasting a pizza

This is an interesting analogy, maybe a derail but how would you be "tricked" by pizza? I'd say, by the taste. When you were young you thought MMM DOMINOES IS THE BEST. Then you got older and had a super healthy fresh margherita pizza in Naples. Maybe you said "Oooh this is better than Dominos" and whenever you have Dominos from then on you say "This isn't good anymore, I was wrong before"! Maybe you say "Yuck this isn't Dominos!" and keep eating Dominos all the time.

But the reason Dominos tastes worse than Naples 'za is that Dominos is made with cheap, fake, and bland ingredients, while the Naples slice is made with fresh ingredients, real spices, and more nourishing grains. Your perception of whether the pizza is good or not is taste. Maybe you recognize the difference, maybe you do not. The question of how nourishing and authentic they are is a totally different comparison.

By analogy then, you can surely change your mind about whether you liked something or not, whether Dominos is good or not, based on future experiences. But you can't change the composition of the pizza with your perception. There is a thing in art that is like the ingredients of the pizza--this is the true nature of the Art.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:16 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


But I still maintain there is a distinction between being a Fan and making a true aesthetic judgement.

Sure there is, but part of that distinction is that fans exist, while true aesthetic judgments do not. Your knowledge of, experience of, and appreciation of the formal elements of the work are part of the context. Your knowledge of Vermeer's lead-white underpainting has already given you some liner notes, and you can't escape the little gin scourge entry in your mental encyclopedia when you look at Hogarth doing Beer Street and Gin Lane. I think the fan-vs-aesthetic judgment distinction is really about how many people are allowed into one's personal reading of the work, how much you can allow yourself to fence off, but that is an arbitrary line.

But let's talk about the form for a minute anyway. Since this BSB project does involve a big finish, it has forced something that seemed random into a narrative setting, and then it becomes very hard to ignore The End, because The End has such tremendous, all-defining power in narrative art, a power that is very hard to escape, especially when, as you say, fans are involved; their expectations become the context to a degree that is overwhelming. But even putting the fans completely aside, the project has engaged the form of narrative, the expectations there, and we have to judge it like a narrative now.

You can read the three chapters of BSB separately: horse_ebooks, pronunciation book, BSB, and enjoy them separately, but together, how can any one chapter not influence your reaction to the others? And if the first two chapters lead in one direction, how can the surprise of The End not be jarring (even if separately enjoyable)?

I don't think many narrative works can survive such a tone shift at the end. Since for some reason I've got Hogarth on my mind, I'll throw in "Marriage A La Mode" as a work that easily survives its weaker ending, the shift from gossipy disapproving humor to gloomy moralism, but I can think of far more that didn't survive the shift, and yes, the failure of the ending does reflect on the beginning, because once you are thinking of a narrative, you can take no single part in isolation.

It doesn't mean you never enjoyed the piece, it doesn't mean that the components weren't well put together in a formal sense; but it does mean the work as a whole has failed in some way that causes one's disappointment to seep through the entirety.
posted by mittens at 3:31 PM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


By analogy then, you can surely change your mind about whether you liked something or not, whether Dominos is good or not, based on future experiences. But you can't change the composition of the pizza with your perception. There is a thing in art that is like the ingredients of the pizza--this is the true nature of the Art.

Wish I'd seen this before I posted, because it's a good analogy, and brings up the question: By this view, is art nothing more than a set of ingredients and a recipe?
posted by mittens at 3:35 PM on September 24, 2013


I think the pizza analogy would be more like if you ate good pizza for a while and it was comparatively good compared to other pizzas and then later on you found out it contained ingredients that you really dislike very much.

OR possibly that you had thought it was vegetarian pizza and it was very delicious and then you, the vegetarian, found out that there were meat products.

Either way, you enjoyed it in the past, and now new information about an aspect of the enjoyed thing reveals a Bad Thing You Dislike was present all along (or most of the time).
posted by elizardbits at 3:46 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am really hungry now.
posted by elizardbits at 3:46 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


What if your Dorite was haunted?
posted by The Whelk at 3:48 PM on September 24, 2013


i would eat it very quickly to contain the spooky
posted by elizardbits at 3:49 PM on September 24, 2013


Tweets glide by with constant movement, not unlike a stream. For neither can a stream stay its course, nor can horse_ebooks.
posted by jason_steakums at 3:56 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nothing gold can stay

Faaaart.
posted by The Whelk at 4:00 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the things that made @Horse_ebooks appear to be a real spambot is that it would occasionally post a link to what appeared to be a shitty ebook or PDF that it was trying to sell. Did anyone ever click on those links? Were they, in fact, shitty ebooks?
posted by Hogshead at 4:02 PM on September 24, 2013


Potomac Avenue: "My understanding of art is objective--in that I believe Art is made up of objects that must be understood on their own merits, rather than in a historical, psychological, or other (Marxist) context. You look at the art and say what you can about its formal structures first. And the play of formal structures is really all Art is, and we perceive the forms through our subjective skeins which makes us like or dislike them, and the most skillful or courageous play of forms are the best ones, and most Arts succeed or fail in different measures."

Holy shit it's Zombie Stravinsky! I have so many things I want to ask you

...

Kidding aside, I don't think I agree with this. Teasing out the formal structures of a work is an important part of analysis, but they don't constitute the entire aesthetic mass of the work. Partly this is because I don't think a truly contextless critique is possible -- if New Criticism were serious about its project I think it would have tossed out its dictionaries and started scrutinizing letterforms instead -- and partly because I think some formal structures only arise out of context (allusions, for example). So I think meaningful aesthetic critique is always the result of an object-context pair.
posted by invitapriore at 4:09 PM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also if the aesthetic value of art is limited to its context-independent formal contents, that means that a lot of works that we would consider different works in different contexts become aesthetically equivalent, thus shrinking the space of possible artistic expressions, and who wants that?
posted by invitapriore at 4:12 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the pizza analogy would be more like if you ate good pizza for a while and it was comparatively good compared to other pizzas and then later on you found out it contained ingredients that you really dislike very much.

It's that cheesy scene of someone in a fancy restaurant clearing their plate and then, upon being told they were eating monkey brains, getting sick to their stomach. I've never even believed that was possible, because if it happened to me, Hey, I guess I like monkey brains now! but I guess it really is how some people experience life. Their past enjoyment really is affected by the future context. Maybe it helps that I have a shitty memory.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:29 PM on September 24, 2013


Eulogy for a Horse, by Dan Sinker, the former @MayorEmanuel
posted by moonmilk at 4:36 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Their past enjoyment really is affected by the future context.

So, forget about finding out about the monkey brains for a second, and let's assume you ate and enjoyed the pizza, but then promptly felt sick. Are you saying the new knowledge that some ingredient in the pizza turned your stomach wouldn't affect your past enjoyment--an enjoyment you can only experience now through memory, since it is gone?
posted by mittens at 4:39 PM on September 24, 2013


It really wouldn't. I know for a pretty certain fact that I got food poisoning from some amazing buffalo mozzarella I had in Italy once, but that mozzarella was still fucking delicious.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:55 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


So I was thinking about this on the train home today and I think for me its a separation of the thing itself versus my experience of it. At the end of the day I can only interact with objects through my own experience. Which means as a general rule that my perception of good vs bad in terms of aesthetic judgement mainly comes from my own potentially flawed recollections of my potentially flawed experience.

It's that way that say a series or piece of art can be ruined retroactively. I can't ever go back and enjoy BSG again for the first time, baring amnesia, MIB flashy thingys or some other innovated technology. The only way I can access that is through remembering my own judgements or feelings. So while I can say sure at the time before I know now, it was a good experience. But it's now always going to be through a lens in which I know it goes to shit.

Same with this twitter and youtube feed. In the moment I enjoyed it, but as I can't ever access the thing itself outside of the context I create for it, it is no longer as enjoyable of an experience.
posted by Carillon at 5:12 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well any kind of truly long-form narrative will be inevitably touched by context, and the tension created by slowly dribbling out pieces of that narrative is part of it--the delicious, shivery build-up to something; the anticipation, like waiting for Christmas morning. Smart writers know this, and use it to their advantage; truly gifted writers can capitalize on this while also creating a cohesive whole which works even without that tension. M. Night Shyamalan's works are a good example of someone who knows how to manipulate form but who consistently lacks a sense of greater vision.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:27 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


"For starters, Bakkila says he never scheduled a tweet. That meant late nights and fitful posting hours, but for Bakkila, the hardship was part of the art. He modeled the project off of the performance art pieces of Marina Abramovic and Tehching Hsieh, in which the artist’s endurance becomes a central focus of the art. “The point was to never automate it,” Bakkila says. “Part of the installation was performing with no breaks for two years. You begin to see things differently." "

Wow. Say what you will about the conclusion, but that's some hard work.
posted by ShawnStruck at 5:40 PM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


I want to believe that beauty can be assembled from the randomness of life all around us.

But it is Fake Mayor Man! IT ALREADY IS THIS IS WHAT IT IS WE ARE DOING
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:44 PM on September 24, 2013


AND WE WILL CONTINUE
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:49 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am so excited by this outcome. It was like Christmas and my birthday all in one.

I AM A FULL-TIME INTERNET
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:18 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is like The Artist Is Present but I don't feel weirdly alienated from it!
posted by The Whelk at 7:41 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, forget about finding out about the monkey brains for a second, and let's assume you ate and enjoyed the pizza, but then promptly felt sick. Are you saying the new knowledge that some ingredient in the pizza turned your stomach wouldn't affect your past enjoyment--an enjoyment you can only experience now through memory, since it is gone?

Actually, people are very frequently turned off of a kind of food forever by one bad experience with it, but that's a physiological response. I've heard of this happening an awful lot -- it's anecdotal evidence, but it happened to me, so I'm inclined to accept it. It happened with broccoli -- I used to really like it, but then one day, for a reason I can't explain, it sickened me, and now it's decades later and I still can't handle the idea of cooked broccoli. But that's not what I mean.

You can enjoy things that aren't good for you, but it's empty enjoyment. It's not fulfilling. It's empty calories. But to go further in this direction is going to possibly not make a lot of sense to you. I'm not going to argue the point strongly, it doesn't matter that much to me if you don't see it my way, but I do feel it very strongly.

So let me put forth a different objection: it is not human nature to appreciate being tricked. The people responsible for it, I do not think, deserve the benefit of the doubt on this. The world is full of dishonesty, I don't feel they are dealing with their audience in good faith, and I don't feel like encouraging it. I am, as always, open to counter argument, but know that it will be tough going.
posted by JHarris at 7:56 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Horse Ebooks Identity Revealed, New Film Announced.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 8:44 PM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


My point is that as An Art horse_ebooks has not changed. If you are no longer a fan of it, then OK, but either A. It never was that great to begin with and you were silly to like it at all or B. The body of work of the past 4 years of text from the account still has the same power or beauty or humor IN IT that you thought it had before, but you can no longer see it because of your feelings about context. I think it's B. Perhaps it's really A. Maybe there is a D. Perhaps it's X where X is a pile of burning thought as civilization collapses and all is lost and meaningless. I hope not.

This utterly ignores the most important (by some arguments) part of art, which is the ambiguous space that it creates between itself and its interpreter. The ambiguity is the space which the viewer dwells in, exploring a piece's limits and such, figuring out new ways to think about it, and in the process figuring out new ways to think about its subject/culture/themselves. And that ambiguity is defined as much by what a piece isn't as by what it is.

As An Art horse_ebooks has completely changed, as that interview with Bakkila demonstrates. The concepts of endurance and emulation didn't exist until Bakkila revealed himself as author: how frequently a human can post to Twitter and how effectively he can emulate a bot are questions that can't be posed to a bot. Conversely, the question of how an algorithm forms a tweet doesn't exist when the tweet-former is not an algorithm.

For people who found the interesting part of horse_ebooks to be that ambiguous, unknown posting algorithm, because of what it says about procedurally-generated art versus art crafted with a certain human intention, or who found it unusual that an advertisement for something as obscure as ebooks about horses could find such a huge audience by nature of its unusual posting mechanism, the interesting part of The Art of horse_ebooks disappeared. That's been replaced with a different Art entirely, which some people here – yourself included – find interesting, and which some people – that's me! – don't find particularly appealing. And because the revelation effectively annuls the old work, or at least modifies it substantially, people who were interested in the old one are bothered that the thing they found interesting was not the thing they thought it was.

Somebody upthread mentioned Ender's Game, which is an apt comparison, though I think the later books in the series featuring Bean would have been even apter. Ender's Game avoids Orson Scott Card's controversial political views, for the most part, whereas Shadow of the Giant features a gay scientist who marries and has children and monologues about how important it is for everybody to find a heterosexual spouse and continue the human something-or-other. Once you know what Card is, it's difficult to read that and not have a part of your brain shout NUTJOB!

Similarly, things which seemed serendipitous about horse_ebooks before no longer seem serendipitous, because they are no longer random. They seem like they were written by somebody trying to sound like an algorithm, and while that's not the most boring thing on the planet or anything, it's also not inherently super interesting to me. Bear Sterns Bravo has finally loaded for me, and it's pretty excellent so far, but that doesn't make the viral marketing of this any more interesting than it was, and it doesn't change the fact that horse_ebooks is now, disappointingly, a different project than I thought it was, and not one that I care about as much.

This attitude of yours of "I'm so happy about this thing so I'll take a shit on anybody who tries to express why they're disappointed about it" is a kind of troublesome one. This was not a thread announcing the Bear Sterns Bravo game, and it wasn't even about horse_ebooks. I don't think, therefore, that it's out-of-line for people here to express their disappointment that this not-especially-interesting viral marketing campaign ended up ruining something that they liked.

We often have a problem on MetaFilter of people hating any kind of art that's come out more recently than two centuries ago, but this wasn't that. This wasn't people "not getting" the brilliant concept art that's changing the Internet forever. It was people responding to a viral marketing campaign less-than-enthusiastically, which happens here all the time, and also being pissed off about horse_ebooks being a person, for reasons which are completely valid albeit subjective. And the response from people who did like this thing, you in particular, was weirdly negative and dismissive, especially at first (it seems like things have calmed down somewhat now). I get that MeFites were involved in this project/on the scene of that phone thing happening/generally proud of things that are done by New Yorkers in New York, and the people doing it were all pretty awesome upstanding people, but it's not like y'all being upset about some of us having unpositive reactions means that w'all have to stop expressing our unpositivity.

Anyway, this Bear Sterns Bravo thing is pretty neat, and I disagree fundamentally with your understanding of art.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:11 PM on September 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


We keep responding to people questioning our disappointment with the revelation that horse_ebooks is fake with longer and more detailed explanations. Then people continue to question them, requiring more, when one explanation should suffice.

I have personally told more than one real-world person about horse_ebooks in the past in affectionate terms, but my description has now turned out to be incorrect. (I put a lot of work into my spoken introductions -- they're basically little routines.) Now, whenever I tell someone about it, it will have to be The Whole Story, because I try very hard not to lie (or at least, not when it isn't completely obvious that I am lying). I just won't bother, because it's too many words, and because the interesting thing isn't there anymore, actually was never there.
posted by JHarris at 10:59 PM on September 24, 2013


Wherever seen it has been an object of intense curiosity, to all persons who think. Yet the question of its modus operandi is still undetermined. Nothing has been written on this topic which can be considered as decisive — and accordingly we find every where men of mechanical genius, of great general acuteness, and discriminative understanding, who make no scruple in pronouncing the Automaton a pure machine, unconnected with human agency in its movements, and consequently, beyond all comparison, the most astonishing of the inventions of mankind. And such it would undoubtedly be, were they right in their supposition.
posted by mittens at 4:05 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact that Horse_ebooks has been revealed to have narrative elements does not mean we should treat it like a novel; it is not a novel. It is also not an epic poem or an opera. It is of a new form with new strengths and weaknesses and should be treated in that fashion. [I should explicitly acknowledge that not everyone has to like every form of art, every type of narrative. I am not saying (for example) that you have to like opera but if you are going in looking for clarity of plot, naturalism and restraint you're going to be disappointed].

It seems like Pronunciation Book fared better because that same reveal (narrative content) was less abrupt; words, strange words, phrases, countdown with short phrases, countdown with longer passages, tumblr sonnets, etc. The slow reveal here inspired people to go back and watch Pronunciation Book videos, looking for clues, teasing out the narrative, characters and situations.

I hope to eventually find the results of similar/related communities that have combed through the Horse_ebooks tweets, looking for patterns and connections. That a much more daunting task, though.

I also believe that Horse_ebooks was an amazingly interesting viral campaign. It was incredibly soft, this was no hard sell. It built a following, but through ARG-ways, without marketing, without Twitter tricks... and even more important the account is now done. The account and its followers were not sold off to some other marketer (also interesting to consider: who would buy an account followed by that particular group of Twitter users?).

Revealing that Horse_ebooks is going to stop because the guy wants to get some sleep again and work on other things is strange in that it is several jumps away from the popular conception of thing. Yet Horse_ebooks would not have existed without Bear Stearns Bravo; those two years of tweets were a thing because of this conception of an art project.

In my mind the closer analogy to Battlestar Galactica is if someone was Galaxy Quest-style shocked to learn that Lee Adama and Laura Roslin weren't real people, that there aren't actually Cylons and Vipers. Though this is flawed because the television serial is a familiar form and we know how it works... which is not true about Horse_ebooks.

We did not approach Horse_ebooks in the fashion that we approached Battlestar Galatica, Der Rosenkavalier, Gravity's Rainbow or The Blair Witch Project.
posted by mountmccabe at 5:47 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rory Marinich: This attitude of yours of "I'm so happy about this thing so I'll take a shit on anybody who tries to express why they're disappointed about it" is a kind of troublesome one.

I really don't think anybody was trying to shit on anyone. I know I certainly wasn't, and I apologize if I came off that way, or if I offended anyone. I thought we were having a friendly, if animated, discussion. I wasn't trying to require more explanations, I just wanted to try and understand the opposite viewpoint better. I totally respect your right to be disappointed and pissed off.

JHarris: So let me put forth a different objection: it is not human nature to appreciate being tricked.

Again I think you are making universal blanket statements that directly conflict with my experience of reality. I love it when someone pulls a good prank on me. Lots of people do. I think I understand why you are disappointed, and I respect that (and I'm truly sorry that your enjoyment of horse_ebooks has been damaged by this revelation), but I'm just trying to point out that that disappointment is due to your own preferences and predilections, not because of some universal objective failure on the part of the artists behind it.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:56 AM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


It is of a new form with new strengths and weaknesses and should be treated in that fashion.

Or, and this is why I quoted Poe above, it is an old form, with known strengths and weaknesses: The hoax, which as art has its strength lessened by the knowledge of the trick, but gains new life through proper storytelling about it. It's doubtful we'd remember the Mechanical Turk without someone reporting thoroughly on the hoax, how it worked, how people were fooled.

I think it's fair to put this project into the same space as magic tricks and professional wrestling: We know there is something being pulled over on us, but the continued enjoyment of the piece depends on either continued concealment, or a thorough and entertaining exegesis that lets us re-examine our initial impressions.
posted by mittens at 6:00 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm confused - not in a negative way, just confused - about what horse_ebooks and Pronunciation Book have to do with Bear Stearns Bravo, on a narrative level. I don't see how they play into the story of the game.

I've now played the free part of the game. I guess I lost, because I called the glitchy lady as a witness and she took over the universe or something. I guess I should play again, but I really just want to wait for someone to make a Youtube compilation of all the endings.
posted by roll truck roll at 6:44 AM on September 25, 2013


Well I just got to the credits of the game (great ending) and the main badguy, the mad chairman Jackie, was played by the creator Jacob Bakkila. They also identified someone in the credits as Horse_ebooks, played by "Herself."

I think there are plenty thematic connections--especially the connection between commerce and loneliness-- and possibly some literal ones (definitely a bunch of the quotes from Pro-book show up in the game, the Chief etc.). I'm going to pay the 7$ and play the second part of the game, we'll see how that goes.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:51 AM on September 25, 2013


How long is the first part? Based on everyone's comments I've gone back to try again, but wondering how long Jackie will be shouting at me.
posted by mittens at 8:00 AM on September 25, 2013


(also, speaking of countdowns, only about 2 hours left until Valve's next big announcement, which will probably be that Gabe hand-drew all of Portal while you were playing it.)
posted by mittens at 8:03 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pretty long. The shouting.

Hint: He wanted to be a sommelier.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:03 AM on September 25, 2013


Gabe hand-drew all of Portal while you were playing it.

And Ellen McLain, Stephen Merchant, and J.K. Simmons were phoning in their voice work live from a table at a New York art installation.
posted by Iridic at 8:21 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Iridic: And Ellen McLain, Stephen Merchant, and J.K. Simmons were phoning in their voice work live from a table at a New York art installation.

Actually they were hiding behind your couch.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:22 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, I'm assuming these are hosted on Youtube, hence the watermark. Has anyone figured out where the actual videos are?
posted by roll truck roll at 9:55 AM on September 25, 2013


roll truck roll: Also, I'm assuming these are hosted on Youtube, hence the watermark. Has anyone figured out where the actual videos are?

I read something yesterday that indicated they were randomly named videos (like z56XWEr9f random) posted by similarly randomly named users, so it would be really hard to track them all down.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:58 AM on September 25, 2013


The illusion was fun while it lasted.
At least we still have Idakoos, right?
posted by anthom at 11:59 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


so wait how does the execution of Hyon Song-wol figure into all this
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:22 PM on September 25, 2013


#coats
posted by moonmilk at 2:20 PM on September 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


moonmilk: #coats

This is the best thing, especially when it re-tweets some other corporation referencing @burlcoatfactory. You know the BCF corporate office must be furious.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:25 PM on September 25, 2013


Looks like this has gotten a hell of a lot grosser.
posted by flatluigi at 7:53 PM on September 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah I just saw that on tumblr and it is rather creepy and weird.
posted by elizardbits at 8:10 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh. The plot thickens.
posted by JHarris at 8:27 PM on September 25, 2013


Somehow I know there would be crying.
posted by sweetkid at 8:43 PM on September 25, 2013


Reading that... wow. It makes the people who made this sound really scummy. Another nail in horse_ebooks' coffin.
posted by JHarris at 1:55 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, you should automatically distrust anyone who uses 'ask' as a noun.
posted by mittens at 4:10 AM on September 26, 2013


Gaby Dunn, the Daily Dot journalist, interviewed for On The Media

I'm not being cynical or contrarian, just confused: how do the bits of Bakkila's email quoted in the Tumblr post prove that it was all a giant lie designed just to keep a journalist quiet? That is, I don't see what parts of the email have since been proven to be flatly untrue. Am I missing something? Again, I'm not calling BS, I just don't understand.

Because in my opinion, looking at BSB, the narrative of the email makes more sense to me than the idea that this was the endgame all along. The game feels to me (again, in my opinion) like something they scrambled to put together after a third party they were planning to sell the pageviews to backed out at the last minute.

It just seems really off to me that, upon being confronted by someone who knew the truth about his involvement in an ARG, Bakkila would decide that the best course of action was to pretend that his affecting art piece was just actually just an elaborate frontend to a generic viral marketing scheme open to the high bidder all along, that not only is he actually a Web 2.0 douche who talks about monetizing and eyeballs and uses "ask" as a noun BUT ALSO that he's really fucking bad at it, so bad that he ended up getting nothing and even lost money on his craven attempt to cash in on his internet celebrity. That just doesn't feel like the sort of thing even a pathological liar would come up with...this kind of long-form lying is rooted in narcissism and insecurity, and though pathological liars are more than willing to make themselves look pitiful ("omg you guys I totally have cancer now") they never make themselves look pathetic the way this lie does.

I don't know, the details and tone of the email just feel real to me in a way that the "they toyed with me for months and then got all my friends involved and all for a cruel laugh" version of events doesn't.
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:48 AM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


The game feels to me (again, in my opinion) like something they scrambled to put together after a third party they were planning to sell the pageviews to backed out at the last minute.

I've only played the game for a little bit, but it does not feel like something just scrambled together. But, it may also be true that there had been other plans for the projects, which didn't fall into place.

I'm also not seeing what's so awful about someone wanting to keep their involvement in horse_ebooks secret, even going so far as to lie. There are lots of pranksters out there in entertainment, e.g. I once remember reading that Spike Jonze used to show up at interviews, not as himself, but as Jonze's harried publicist. There are also plenty of lies or polite deceptions out there, e.g. it's an open secret that Spielberg directed parts of Poltergeist when Tobe Hooper couldn't make it happen, but nobody is talking.

I mean, I get why Gaby Dunn would be unhappy, and granted I didn't listen to the audio interview, but it just doesn't seem like that grave of an injustice.

This whole thing seems like a bunch of interesting projects twisted around one another. The bigger lesson for me is that things like horse_ebooks and PronunciationBook are very different from things like Bear Stearns Bravo. Just because the open-ended/ongoing mystery projects really clicked with people, it doesn't mean that the satirical point-and-click game will click in the same way.

The internet makes me sad sometimes. BSB seems like something that would have landed much better in the CD-ROM game era.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:06 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I haven't had a lot of time to pursue the game any further, but I agree about the CD-ROM part; there is just something about the little chromakey outline around Henri that makes me laugh and reminds me of, I don't know, the video in Phantasmagoria or something awful like that.

As for the Gaby Dunn part of the controversy, I do have to wonder what I would do if someone found out about my Secret Project (nb: I do not have a Secret Project) and wanted some kind of exclusive in exchange for not letting the world know...but knowing that intrepid reporter didn't have nearly the kind of reach that someone writing for the New Yorker might. I think lying would be a fine tactic there. Maybe not lying and crying, though; that's laying it on a bit thick.
posted by mittens at 6:37 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The final Horse_eComic.

(Read them all! They're good.)
posted by moonmilk at 6:54 AM on September 26, 2013


i think with gaby dunn it's important to remember that this isn't just a random journalist stumbling upon a stranger's project - they had friends in common who also lied to her - they manipulated their personal relationship for professional ends - that's the ooky part.
posted by nadawi at 6:57 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


As someone who has only the barest shred of an idea of what a lot of this universe is about or what the new big reveal is, could someone point me to a 101 page about this whole thing? I get the outlines of it from the comments here, but I'm still sort of confused and think I lack the relevant backstory to really get it. I know what Pronunciation Book and Horse_ebooks are and that's about it.
posted by jessamyn at 6:57 AM on September 26, 2013


they had friends in common who also lied to her - they manipulated their personal relationship for professional ends - that's the ooky part.

What's weird to me, though, is how much she paints herself as a victim when she was also trying to do a story about it. I mean, I was in more or less the same position as Gaby Dunn, knowing the people involved, knowing the secret behind the various aspects of the ARG, but I never threatened to publish the information I had. If she was friends-of-friends with these people, it couldn't have been so hard to say "Oh, wow, you've been working on this project for years and don't want it revealed before a certain time? Cool, I'll keep it on the DL, no worries."
posted by Greg Nog at 8:37 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


that doesn't really excuse the lying and crying, though.
posted by nadawi at 8:41 AM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


I mean, I think it does? They were trying to get her to not publish anything when she seemed to want to. Why wouldn't they lie to her?
posted by Greg Nog at 8:53 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


And then they give the big "real" story to Orlean, who was obviously involved with the project.

It's icky in the same way that basically all internet marketing is icky - it leaves me not angry, exactly, just vaguely disappointed. If you want me to treat you as a capital-A artist rather than a bro, find novel new ways to be icky.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:11 AM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why wouldn't they lie to her?

It's not the lying so much that bothers me, it's the sheer effort that apparently went into it, and the seeming intent of those lies. If they had just said, at some point "no, you're wrong, we're behind this" or "yes, it's us, and this is all a lead-up to [Fake Media Propety]," or simply refused to to comment on the project, that would be one thing. But to repeatedly lie to a friend-of-a-friend -- to any person, really; the acquaintance angle, like communism, is a red herring -- over a sustained period of time, specifically to manipulate their emotions into not publishing a story rather than simply to mislead them factually seems...mean-spirited, I guess, because it goes beyond what would be necessary for keeping the project and reveal secret.

By her own admission, she didn't even have the full story at the point she asked them about it; she hadn't made the horse_ebooks connection and had no knowledge of Bear Stearns Bravo. All she was doing was connecting pronunciationbook to the authors, which seems almost inconsequential; she wasn't aware of the planned reveal. And she made those connections using publicly-available information, not knowledge gleaned from anyone she knew personally.

Given that (and presuming her account is accurate), Bakkila's response seems disproportionate. Charitably, they may not have known have she knew (or didn't know) and panicked, but there's no evidence for or against that so far as I'm aware.
posted by cjelli at 11:42 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


As someone who has only the barest shred of an idea of what a lot of this universe is about or what the new big reveal is, could someone point me to a 101 page about this whole thing?

77 Days has a Pronunciation Book FAQ but it has not been updated since the reveal. They do have a lot of character bios, attempts at piecing together the narrative, etc.

This article (at Entertainment Weekly?) seems to be a fairly complete run down.


A big part of the reveal is that for the last two years @Horse_ebooks has not been a spambot but a person, Jacob Bakkila, (manually) imitating a spambot. But (apparently) there was something of a (an exceptionally loose) narrative, including posting a lot about (Bear Stearns Bravo antogonist Jackie) Dalton.

And the guy doing that has also been the voice of Pronunciation Book, which went from standard words (picked by Google hits for "How do I pronounce...", etc.) to strange words and cryptic phrases talking about Jackie (Dalton), Chief and various other characters. This eventually turned into the 77 days countdown and some of those videos eventually grew to be several minutes long.

And now we know they were linked, Jackie Dalton was incarnated (in video form) in Bear Stearns Bravo, a (cheesey) YouTube adventure game about the investment bank. First Impact is free to play, there is also a Second Impact which you have to be a member (for $7) to play. There may be more but who knows.

Many people wish this didn't have to happen and that @Horse_ebooks could go on as before... but we now realize that this is unrealistic as it was all manual. And the hint of mystery, the glimpse into the magical (a spambot that is so poignant!) is gone. And many people were expecting a lot of different things from Pronunciation Book; the end of a popular Twitter account was not one of them. Nor was a 90s-style adventure game.
posted by mountmccabe at 12:08 PM on September 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm also not seeing what's so awful about someone wanting to keep their involvement in horse_ebooks secret, even going so far as to lie.

Lying itself is something bad, although it can be understandable, and exactly how bad it is depends on context. To defend what amounts to NEW AND EXCITING WAY TO SPAM? I do not buy it. Because horse_ebooks and Pronunciation Guide have little to do with Bear Sterns Bravo, except as a way to publicize it. They wanted to preserve it so all those eyeballs would be focused on them when they had their chocolate malted reveal.

I mean, I get why Gaby Dunn would be unhappy, and granted I didn't listen to the audio interview, but it just doesn't seem like that grave of an injustice.

So she's right to be upset, but not over anything they've done? Just over "circumstances?" I do not buy this, they were circumstances that were explicitly engineered by these people.

As for the Gaby Dunn part of the controversy, I do have to wonder what I would do if someone found out about my Secret Project

You can refuse to comment. You can try to mitigate the damage that way. You cannot* do what these people did. (And I am not prepared to justify even lying for this, but I've always strived to be extremely honest -- tales about time-travelling neighbors and backyard fairies notwithstanding.)

*(When I say "you cannot," I don't mean you literally cannot. I mean you can't and be a good person.)

What's weird to me, though, is how much she paints herself as a victim when she was also trying to do a story about it.

If I was in her position then I would publish it -- see above commitment to honesty. Journalists, good ones anyway, have a strong commitment to the truth, and a lot of people would like to know what was up about horse_ebooks, more than a few wondered about it.

If she was friends-of-friends with these people, it couldn't have been so hard to say "Oh, wow, you've been working on this project for years and don't want it revealed before a certain time? Cool, I'll keep it on the DL, no worries."

Except a lot of people loved horse_ebooks and were bound to be disappointed. Which is why I myself would have published it, in her shoes.

The more I think about horse_ebooks, in fact, the more suspicious I start to get. At what point did it become a "thing?" Who broke the news of it? It is far from the only source of randomly-generated internet noise -- who popularized the idea of it in particular as being some kind of oracle of whimsy? Because I'd like to know what proportion of those people were other people connected to these folks, so that I can excise them from my interest-locating diet.

I mean, I think it does? They were trying to get her to not publish anything when she seemed to want to. Why wouldn't they lie to her?

Not being a manipulative bastard? Basic fucking decency? Seriously, this is really scuzzy. (Not that you were involved with any of the scuzziness.)

Many people wish this didn't have to happen and that @Horse_ebooks could go on as before... but we now realize that this is unrealistic as it was all manual.

Not at all. The reason horse_ebooks was popular could be applied to most other sources of random content, I reckon, if the text generator is good enough. The thing about imitating a computer program is that you make it easy for a computer program to imitate you. I've thought a bit about this problem a bit, but as is often the case, do not yet have anything to show, and other things getting in the way. I'm sure someone will step in with an open source horse_ebooks sometime though.
posted by JHarris at 12:48 PM on September 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


At what point did it become a "thing?"

Let's blame Gawker! At least, that was the first place I heard about the change in ...what, tone? Diction?
posted by mittens at 1:00 PM on September 26, 2013


Because horse_ebooks and Pronunciation Guide have little to do with Bear Sterns Bravo, except as a way to publicize it.

Knowing the characters in Bear Stearns Bravo from Pronunciation Book and @Horse_ebooks can help one figure out how to beat that game. The Twitter feed and YouTube channel are backstory for the game.

I mean, the connection sure could be a lot stronger - I certainly expected more direct tie-in - but maybe it will be in Second Impact or if there are further elements of this chain.


Not at all. The reason horse_ebooks was popular could be applied to most other sources of random content, I reckon, if the text generator is good enough. The thing about imitating a computer program is that you make it easy for a computer program to imitate you.

I disagree. The reason @Horse_ebooks was popular was that there was a person putting so much work into it, picking the text excerpts and making intelligent decisions. Well, and also that we could imagine/assume - not that everyone did - that it was just an amazing program.

But that amazing program did not exist. I would be a fool to call it impossible but there are plenty of bots and plenty of related accounts... how many of them have the devotion that @Horse_ebooks did?
posted by mountmccabe at 1:17 PM on September 26, 2013


Basic fucking decency?

I don't think I would ever use the phrase "basic decency" as a justification for cooperation with a journalist who has expressed interest in publishing my secrets, nor would I call it being a "manipulative bastard" to try to obfuscate in order to maintain my secrets.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:26 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I want to know more about your scandalous secrets. I bet they are cat related. I bet you have a secret cat family somewhere, you are a cat bigamist.
posted by elizardbits at 1:34 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


stop catshaming.
posted by The Whelk at 1:36 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Twice a week I drive up to Chicago and pet the cats at their Petco, where they know me as "Steven"
posted by Greg Nog at 1:38 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think I would ever use the phrase "basic decency" as a justification for cooperation with a journalist

Has anyone actually claimed that? It's been a long thread, though, so perhaps I missed it, but I don't think that anyone has said they should have cooperated, or that they they should have told her everything they were planning; "cooperation" isn't the opposite of "elaborate lying," it's just the reverse of "not cooperating."

The lengths to which they went to prevent her from revealing the names of the authors behind Pronunciation Book -- per the Daily Dot article posted waaaaay upthread, she wasn't aware of the link to horse_ebooks, and wasn't aware of the upcoming project, but, again, they might not have known she didn't know -- go well beyond "not cooperating." That's the issue. Not cooperating would have been a completely different thing.
posted by cjelli at 1:45 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


What cjelli said. What you do is say No Comment.
posted by JHarris at 1:52 PM on September 26, 2013


Or lie!
posted by Greg Nog at 1:55 PM on September 26, 2013


I mean, this may just be an intractable difference in our fundamental moral outlooks; I don't think it's wrong at all to dissemble to a journalist, especially given that you never know how much they know or what they'll do with what they know. Their whole job is digging through chaotic information to give a refined narrative version to the public, and I don't see how a private citizen has any moral imperative to help them with that.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:58 PM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you lie, then we reserve the right to hate the liar. Which is what I am doing now, hating the people who lied.

I don't think it's wrong at all to dissemble to a journalist, especially given that you never know how much they know or what they'll do with what they know.

These guys went rather beyond just lying. But we're starting to get into ideas of what it means to be a good citizen, to not treat other human beings merely as tools to your ends, what do you trade just to get more eyeballs for your silly little video game, in short, what it means not to be a psychopath, which is what Gaby Dunn directly called them, and which sounds like a fair cop to me.
posted by JHarris at 2:03 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


cjelli: Has anyone actually claimed that?

Yes:

Greg Nog: Why wouldn't they lie to her?

JHarris: Not being a manipulative bastard? Basic fucking decency?
posted by Rock Steady at 2:08 PM on September 26, 2013


I believe cjelli was referring to the word "cooperation."
posted by JHarris at 2:10 PM on September 26, 2013


I believe cjelli was referring to the word "cooperation."

Yes, that -- that there's a spectrum of possible responses, with total cooperation and transparency on one end, not commenting/engaging in the middle, and deliberately misleading someone on the other. Stating that they should not have lied isn't equivalent to saying that they should have cooperated; I just wanted to make sure we weren't talking past each other.
posted by cjelli at 2:13 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


JHarris: I believe cjelli was referring to the word "cooperation."

Gotcha. I was not reading that right. I think the problem is No Comment means the story probably runs, potentially ruining an art project you've been literally working on for years. Regardless of how you feel about this specific project, you don't have any sympathy for what they did?
posted by Rock Steady at 2:13 PM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Regardless of how you feel about this specific project, you don't have any sympathy for what they did?

Sympathy is tricky. I imagine that were I in their position I would be panicking and terrified; I would have wanted the article not to run. So I can sympathize with the position they were in, and I wish that they had not been in it. Ideally, as Greg Nog noted, a journalist hearing about the project would have opted for discretion and opted not to run the article even absent a request by them. Project runs, reveal isn't spoiled, journalist still has a lot of lead time to line up a better-than-average article for when it happens. Everybody wins.

But that sympathy takes me to being morally okay with the situation as outlined by Gaby -- and, as an aside, can I say that I'm slightly uncomfortable with how one-sided this is, since so far I've only seen her account of things? -- because weighing the lying against a non-zero chance that my art project's big reveal is ruined or maybe made less dramatic, I probably fall the side of accepting the risk, going ahead without commenting, and hoping that everything works out.

There's another counter-factual here, which is that I'd probably be okay with a simple, direct lie -- "No, that's not our project; also I'm secretly a cat." (Ideally something more plausible than that.) That it dragged on for months bothers me, more than the lying itself. Together with the elaborateness of the lies; that feels more like messing with someone's perception of reality than it does like lying.

And, yeah, a lot of that is going to come down to

this may just be an intractable difference in our fundamental moral outlooks

which is exceedingly okay. I don't think this is so open-and-shut that there's One Right Answer here, not least because all the relevant parties involved in it have been keeping most of the pertinent information secret until recently.
posted by cjelli at 2:32 PM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


But that sympathy takes me to being morally okay with the situation

Er, that should read:

But that sympathy doesn't take me to being morally okay with the situation

We regret the error.
posted by cjelli at 2:42 PM on September 26, 2013


I'm really two marketing assholes from Deadspin + Joan Didion, if you're scoring at home.
- @AuthenticWmGibs (not actually the authentic William Gibson)
posted by moonmilk at 2:54 PM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


The actual authentic William Gibson is actually the authentic JT LeRoy.
posted by griphus at 3:12 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Ideally, as Greg Nog noted, a journalist hearing about the project would have opted for discretion and opted not to run the article even absent a request by them. Project runs, reveal isn't spoiled, journalist still has a lot of lead time to line up a better-than-average article for when it happens. Everybody wins.

If the journo thinks they're being gamed, or is a freelancer and has bills to pay and doesn't think of the sources as people to count on as a long-term information resource, they are sure as hell going to run what they have as soon as they can. They don't get paid for not writing.

On the other side of the coin, the ethics of lying scores on a curve. Lying to a journo about your art project is a crime on the level of doing 70 in a 65 zone. Bakkila and Bender were not fomenting war with Iraq.
posted by ardgedee at 3:21 PM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah I guess my take after understanding this a bit better now (thanks folks, for helping me out) is that they were really bad friends but maybe not terrible people?
posted by jessamyn at 3:31 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


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