Ze Frank on Crop Circles, Bulls, Palin, McNamara and Progress
July 12, 2009 6:03 AM   Subscribe

 
I never understood Ze Frank's relevance
posted by jsavimbi at 6:14 AM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love this part, over the video on the right menu it says:

"Ze Frank on Crop Circles, Bulls, Palin and Progress
Ze Franks offers another edition of 'That Makes Me Think Of"


When do you think Time will decide how they want to spell Ze's last name?

And, my eyes hurt just watching his eyes.
posted by HuronBob at 6:16 AM on July 12, 2009


2:34 in he blinks.
posted by srboisvert at 6:17 AM on July 12, 2009 [12 favorites]


Yeah that may have been far more effective as just text since I spent the length of the video staring at his unblinking bulging eyes. Jeez. By the end of it his words started to lose meaning and I'm not sure if that's because I was under his spell or if his every-word-I'm-saying-is-important cadence and delivery forced my brain to give up.

Although I too watched the Fog of War again after hearing about McNamara. Errol Morris undoubtedly has some magic going on with his interviews.
posted by palidor at 6:36 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Chatty guy is chatty.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:38 AM on July 12, 2009


Last time I saw that look I kicked the guy out of my house for hogging all of the coke.
posted by item at 6:44 AM on July 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Errol Morris undoubtedly has some magic going on with his interviews.

Fog of War is probably my favoritest documentary. Even though I couldn't McNamara throughout the film, Errol Morris was able to bring out a weird sense of humanity and slap it on him. A must see. And the soundtrack was amazing.
posted by jsavimbi at 6:48 AM on July 12, 2009


Ze Frank's making progress: he's on Time Magazine's website. But that may not be progress for Time. Or maybe they think this is going in another direction, if they're willing to admit what direction they think it is at the risk of having it pointed out to them that Ze's whole schtick is about appearing to be making a lot of forward motion while actually just going around in circles, like those stoned wallabys.
posted by wendell at 7:16 AM on July 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


This makes me think less of the both of them.

Also, "That Makes Me Think Of"? Seriously? was "Frank's Finkings" taken by the Oshkosh Bee or something?
posted by The Whelk at 7:19 AM on July 12, 2009


I expected not to score cool points since Ze Frank is internet old hat obviously. And on time.com which is mefi-bad.
His video struck me though. He mentions all these things that we discussed on metafilter. And mixes them up in a kind of idea-rhyme. Listening to it made me feel as if I were on drugs. On a very sober sunday afternoon.
And that's the kind of effect that I expect art to have on me.
posted by jouke at 7:28 AM on July 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


this vaguely reminds me of the days when ze frank was actually good.
posted by krautland at 7:31 AM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wanted to shout, "SCREW YOU ALL I'LL NEVER STOP FALLING IN LOVE WITH ZE FRANK," but this strange and sort of lousy mishmash of old and new media unsettles me into silence.
posted by youarenothere at 8:01 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh we hate Ze Frank now? OK good. Glad that is clear now.
posted by schwa at 8:02 AM on July 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


schwa: hate is much too strong a term. I hate checkout lines but not zefrank. I just miss those days when his videos made me rid myself off milk through my nostrils. the time videos are so terribly toned-down, inoffensive, vetted by a committee or, if this really still all is coming straight from him, devoid of his trademark passion. it's like the last 50 cent album. yes, we know you are tough and you got shot a million times. you already told us many times. what's new?
posted by krautland at 8:09 AM on July 12, 2009


I dunno, his optical illusion still really gets me.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 8:18 AM on July 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


Yeah, he seems to have lost his playfulness and replaced it with inoffensive SERIOUS BUSINESS.
posted by amuseDetachment at 8:20 AM on July 12, 2009


That's it, that's what's wrong... the "SERIOUS BUSINESS"... I want more about his cat Annie... the hell with Palin!
posted by HuronBob at 8:33 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


buriednexttoyou's link is internet gold
posted by Merik at 8:37 AM on July 12, 2009


Yeah, its kinda wierd to see him on time.

I think the disappointment, for me, comes from the fact that when I used to watch "the show", I had this feeling like he was inventing a new medium and would pioneer a totally new way of independently financing creative online expression.

But instead he went and got a day job with Time.

But I still love you Ze.
posted by Merik at 8:42 AM on July 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Haha internet!
posted by Xoebe at 8:43 AM on July 12, 2009


I've never heard of this fellow, and I hope to hear nothing more of him in the future.
posted by Outlawyr at 8:46 AM on July 12, 2009


There are more of these, some of them really good, and I wish the post and included more links. I loved his black and white piece a few weeks ago and of course his TED talk and of course The Remnants pilot. I guess if you don't understand Ze Frank's relevance or think he's like a person on cocaine or otherwise casually dismiss him, you might not like these links; good for you, keep us updated.
posted by shadytrees at 8:59 AM on July 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I remember how much people used to gush about Ze Frank, but I somehow never managed to see any of his work. I'm assuming this was a bad place to start.
posted by Donnie VandenBos at 9:00 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


SCREW YOU ALL I'LL NEVER STOP FALLING IN LOVE WITH ZE FRANK!!! (!!!!)
posted by eatdonuts at 9:17 AM on July 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Oh we hate Ze Frank now? OK good. Glad that is clear now.

I can simplify this process for you. Mefites hate everything. Or at least enough of them do to give you that impression. See also - Highschool.
posted by srboisvert at 9:20 AM on July 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


The Show was awesome and I look forward to each of his new Time.com videos.

I'm assuming this was a bad place to start.

Yes, if you have the time and are at all interested, check out The Show.
posted by vkxmai at 9:26 AM on July 12, 2009


I really, really like Ze Frank and hope to see more of him and Time magazine soon, but then again, I'm contrary.
posted by belvidere at 9:52 AM on July 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Fuck the haters
posted by voltairemodern at 10:45 AM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I know next to nothing about videography, but the style of this video -- in which the jump cut occurs after Ze Frank finishes remarking on a topic -- is rather appealing. Particularly in comparison to wavy, cut-up camera work which focuses more on the speaker's manubrium than the conveyance of information.
posted by Kikkoman at 10:57 AM on July 12, 2009


While I'm disappointed that Ze discontinued his daily The Show - it would have been nice even on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly schedule - I feel downright dismayed that its social networking side project, the ORG, dwindled away as a consequence (and its legacy site is dead, too). Since it was powered by such an intensely self-selecting crowd, aggregating around Ze's sense of absurdity in the face of current events, it was that rarest of things on the 'net: a forum without trolls.

Still, Ze's Show had a helluva run for that one year. Jon Stewart's and Stephen Colbert's programs are all well and good, but they still have to play to their studio audience. Ze's, which didn't have any breaks for applause, laughter, cheers, etc., felt like an essay in video format (often a very eccentric essay, e.g. Braincrack, Jon Benet, or Vegas, Baby; and some just uncategorizably weird). His Time videos are positively conformist in contrast.
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:01 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


The braincrack video is brilliant
posted by dng at 11:06 AM on July 12, 2009


I miss The Show.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 11:13 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's Amanda Congdon up to now?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:41 AM on July 12, 2009


What kind of a name is Ze anyway? Is it short for Zebediah Frank? Or is he really called The Frank, only in a French accent?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:43 AM on July 12, 2009


Apparently he used to be called zefrank. When did he get a space in his name, and what's the significance of that?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:45 AM on July 12, 2009


I can simplify this process for you. Mefites hate everything.
wow, those simplification capabilities indicate a promising career as a youtube commenter for you. keep up the good work.

anyone misinterpreting the comments in this thread as hate don't know the meaning of that word.
posted by krautland at 11:57 AM on July 12, 2009


Ze Frank's The Show got me through a really tough time in college. It was old by then, and archived, so I got to sit down and watch all of them in a row. I would sometimes watch 20 or 30 a night.

Haters gonna hate, of course. MeFi is great at that. Keep it up.


Ze, you are awesome and lots of people love you. Don't stop.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:03 PM on July 12, 2009


Hindsight.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:07 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


What kind of a name is Ze anyway? Is it short for Zebediah Frank? Or is he really called The Frank, only in a French accent?

In one of the episodes of The Show I think he demonstrates that he speaks German. I’ve always read “Ze Frank” the way a German might who hasn’t mastered “th.”
posted by vkxmai at 12:19 PM on July 12, 2009


A simple wikipedia search shows that his real first name is Hosea, and Ze sounds like a shortened form of that. C'mon people.
posted by bottomlesspop at 12:37 PM on July 12, 2009


Everybody shape up: Ze is watching.

I miss the antic pacing of The Show (as well as its more regular schedule) but both the Time videos and Hard Times (with Ze Frank) have their special charms. But seriously bring back The Show.
posted by gerryblog at 12:44 PM on July 12, 2009


Hmm. Since Ze is reading these responses and asking for insight and suggestions, I guess I will take a stab at it.

Most people know you from The Show. To me, one of the defining things about The Show was that it was a mixed medium. There was the "spine" of each episode which was usually you speaking directly to the camera about various topics, which were then supplemented by various other media like photo, video, screen caps, et cetera. The songs and music videos were also a huge part.

Now, I don't think it would be possible or even desirable to re-create The Show. As much as it really, really helped me get through a difficult time, it's sort of permanently fixed in a particular time and space and it probably would not be useful to try and mimic it for the Time videos.

However, it might be possible to apply some of those techniques to make the Time stuff more interesting.


Lastly, let me say that one of the things that helped me so much in watching The Show was it's very peculiar manner of holding the mirror up to the watcher. It wasn't a passive enjoyment experience. Your creativity and narrative voice was constantly challenging the watcher to recognize their innate potential to create anything they wanted. That changed The Show from a one-man diatribe to a conversational dialectic (especially when you added S-S-S-Something From the Forums) that challenged and encouraged the watcher to take an active role in participating.

That is a great thing.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:00 PM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, I for one love zefrank ever since the Earth Sandwich. I'm glad he's got a paying gig. (And I think "ze" is short for "Hosea" but I'm too lazy to look it up.)
posted by Ron Thanagar at 1:02 PM on July 12, 2009


People who don't get Ze will possibly never get Ze. Who says Ze has to be for everyone?

I get so frustrated with people who say, "Bring back The Show!!" Does anyone have an inkling of a concept of how grueling that was to do? And he was doing it all himself, whether he had to travel, whether he was sick... I mean, I *loved* The Show - but I was always aware that it was one single human guy doing all that - hopefully working toward a paying gig. Can we please acknowledge the man's gotta eat and sleep and pay bills, maybe have a life?

I think the Time segment is in its protean stage. Instead of whining and flinging poo, let's give Ze some constructive ideas so he can give us what we want.
posted by mjstone323 at 1:07 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


zefrank brought us the word "freepooping" and for that I thank him.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 1:19 PM on July 12, 2009


Instead of whining and flinging poo, let's give Ze some constructive ideas so he can give us what we want.

I don't think stating that the time project isn't as entertaining as the show was is whining or flinging poo but that it's at least somewhat helpful to hear that. look, the show was so loved because it was so lighthearted. it had that "well, here goes nothing" attitude to it -whether real or imagined I care not to speculate- or a certain aura of some guy just doing something for the moment. that is what differentiated what he did from what we all know and most likely do - attempt to produce work that will help ourselves get ahead. he never had that "I hope I'll make it when I grow up" look on his face. every single of his time videos is kind of cute but strikes me as trying to not rock the boat. the impression I get is that someone is striking things off his list for fear of alienating an editor. the show had moments like the soda can taped to the head with a plea to sponsor him or him making fun of a certain airline for calling its turboprop quiet. with suddenly something at stake I wonder when he's going to produce those kinds of "I can't believe they let him get away with that" moments in respect to time.

ze, since you're reading this: have you seen the banners on that site? the crap your coworkers write? you have the gig and you'll probably have the elevator code, can't you please go over to someones cubicle and ask them what the fuck they were thinking with... lame example perhaps but damnit, time is rich territory. rock the boat. have some fun. please.

you are someone who is fun to watch having fun. I don't believe you are having that right now.
posted by krautland at 1:32 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]



I apologize for the unusual taste of your cereal.
posted by srboisvert at 1:38 PM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I still remember choking up when The Show was nearing its end. Boy was that hard to explain to co-workers. A good part of why I fell for it was the production values - it was ranty and occasionally pointless, but done really well and consistently so. Ze is an insightful guy and as narcissistic as a self-vodcast is, it was great fun listening to him. I wasn't much of a sportsracer or participant, but it was fabulous to watch Ze pull something coherent out of the comments from just the previous day; Hey, it was almost, sorta, whadjumacallit, interactive. Or there was a communal sense in the project.

Hard to see that happening with the Time gig, where I imagine that fingers in fruit might not go over well with their demo. In that medium though, I guess these pieces are meant to pick up some of the Daily Show folks? In that case be better of asking them. Gonna watch the space though, thanks for the link jouke.

Oh, and it struck me that the more recent stuff that Merlin Mann has published remind me of some of the serious episodes from The Show. Similar sentiment, anyway.
posted by monocultured at 2:29 PM on July 12, 2009


Oh, and "That makes me think of" sound like Sesame Street. So it's post-ironic sardony?
posted by monocultured at 2:34 PM on July 12, 2009


HuronBob: When do you think Time will decide how they want to spell Ze's last name?

Time Copy editor #1: ‘So…uh…I'm putting up this new guy's crazy video…

Time Copy editor #2: “What new guy?”

Time Copy editor #1: “His name is…uh…Z. E. Frank.”

Time Copy editor #2: “‘Z. E.’? Weird. I wonder what the ‘z’ stands for.”

Time Copy editor #1: “Well, and that's the thing; it's written here like ‘Ze’ is actually a name, and not just initials. But that couldn't be right…”

Time Copy editor #2: “Well, I guess ‘Ze’ is as weird as any other name that starts with a 'z'.”

Time Copy editor #1: “Zuh…zeh? Maybe ‘zee’?”

Time Copy editor #2: “Anyway, at least he has a normal last name. What was it again?”

Time Copy editor #1: “Oh—uh…Franks. Like that general, Tommy Franks. I think maybe they're related. I'm pretty sure that's how he got a job here, anyway.”
posted by koeselitz at 2:43 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


That Makes Me Think Of was also, as Sports Racers will attest, a regular segment on The Show.
posted by gerryblog at 3:03 PM on July 12, 2009


This one feels a lot more different than the linked one. What do you folks think?
posted by lazaruslong at 3:15 PM on July 12, 2009


The Show and the Midwest Teen Sex Show both have the same issues, I think. They're created by brilliant people who have a great reach for the internet, but as a creator there's always the drive to take it to the next level. MTSS was optioned for a pilot by Comedy Central, which means that they'll have a huge reach if they actually make it. People who've never even heard of podcasts will be quoting them.

The Show was so awesome because 1) it was intimate and B) it was painfully hilarious. It was like having the funniest friend in the world who actually seemed like he cared about you and would show up in your computer once a day to chat. He'd tell you about what he thought about the news or the funny things he did at the hotel he stayed at. The fact that hundreds of thousands of people were having the same experience created a community, and it was actively nurtured, and that was great, but it comes back to the HP Lovecraft problem. You can be brilliant and a group of people you can personally touch (now nearly infinitely larger than it had been thanks to the internet) can adore you, but your creations will probably never be quoted like Cartman or seen by millions like Dave Chappelle. When you get to that size, though, it becomes purely about how brilliant you fundamentally are and how tight you can hold on to your sanity. Dave Chappelle couldn't, though I don't blame him, the pressure is insane.

The new Ze Frank Time videos are great because they're brilliant but they're not really intimate. Ze isn't eliciting feedback, we're not creating a community around the 'Recent Videos' list on Time. He's getting paid, which is great, but it's the 'I have an agent' side of the performance spectrum, not the 'this is my creation and I'm creating it with you' side (which pays crap). I don't begrudge Ze for wanting to go to Hollywood and do something big. I'm sure he would enjoy a supporting role on a sitcom or something, and that would be 'success' as a performer, but for me it's an entirely different experience. I don't have 'my buddy Ze' anymore.

The only people I can think of who have successfully pulled this kind of paradigm off are the Penny Aracde guys. They're brilliant and they expose themselves to their audience a fair amount. They're not directly, constantly involved in their community, but they do use the feedback. Millions of people don't know they're work, but they've managed to monetize it well, and as geeks they enjoy their free time, which is great for them. They're not performers, working with the top people in their industry and running a big convention where they get to meet the people who make the things they love is plenty.

This is huge and rambling and only partially sensible, but I guess what everybody wonders about Ze is what he really wants. If, on one hand, he wants to mean a lot to a fair amount of people and flood the world with positive karma, the Show did that in spades and he just needs to figure out how to monetize, something that should be easier to do now than then. The Show touched people like few things ever do, and it was only because of Ze that it was possible. You could have 'The Network' where Ze does a video three times a week and people create movements or show off their stuff around it and post their own videos that get voted up. Post-roll advertising has come a long ways.

On the other hand if 'succeeding in show business' is Ze's goal, these Time pieces are probably a good step. It's an established media entity, his social media footprint should get them decent views for commentary, and eventually he could end up on a network doing similar punditry or segments. He seems more internet-defined than TV-defined, having him do Talk Soup would be weird, but so be it. He'd be a hell of a lot better at it than I would.

I bet that Ze has a hard time since he has been a one man band. He's created web sites, created communities and gotten hundreds of thousands of viewers, all by himself. Other people are going to be gatekeepers and they're going to want him to do things their way. They're going to want to send memos and have conversations about 'market placement'.

So I apologize for this internet diatribe, but like many, I regularly think about The Show and how much I miss it. I would totally pay $5 a month for forever it if I could.
posted by jeffkramer at 3:28 PM on July 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Oh, and it seems like either you have a scary tan or there's too much makeup going on in those Time videos.
posted by jeffkramer at 3:29 PM on July 12, 2009


Ze Frank I never really enjoyed, but this was good.
posted by nola at 3:53 PM on July 12, 2009


jeffkramer, that was great and pretty much explained everything better than I did. Especially the Penny Arcade analogy and the intimacy - community - interactivity aspect of The Show.

What he said.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:55 PM on July 12, 2009


And I must say it's a testament to Ze's success that regardless of what I perceive to be lacking in his new venture at Time, I am just so glad to see him back and doing videos and reaching out to me from the Interwebs. Which just highlights the "My Buddy Ze" effect. We're just so proud and happy!
posted by lazaruslong at 3:57 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Hindsight episode really demonstrated how Frank could get a lot of mileage out of seemingly nothing. The final shot of the guy moving the luggage carts, which kept going and going, was in strict form just like playing out -- filler, B-roll -- but the way it was framed by the preceding discussion made it unexpectedly poignant. Brilliant stuff, sharp use of narrative for the YouTube age. I hope that's the kind of thing that he can bring to these TIME pieces. The editing, the use of screenshots and so forth, obviously come from The Show as well, but they're just techniques. Make sure the sensibility is there as well.
posted by dhartung at 4:47 PM on July 12, 2009


Knowning that he's reading the comments, I feel like one of those "friends" that talks shit about others behind their back. Blah. So instead here's some constructive criticism:

The Show's primary aspect was its community. Take this as an opportunity to show stodgy old media that the way to succeed on the internet isn't to directly port the old medium to this. At least have a comments section. Furthermore, It's really bizarre that there's no (discernible) landing page for your videos. How can I view it in succession if I was given the link from the original post? Part of the web implies that you have editorial control of your presentation.

Want to give the show an air of authenticity? Everyone internalizes that you work for Time, you need to address that. I don't mean some long monologue, no one really cares about "selling out" these days. I think it'd be important to at least show you don't take the viewer for idiots, that The Show is effectively on Time's site and you're connected. I suspect that this can be achieved by even a less-than-5second clip to indicate you have access to the Time mag offices or something like that (or jokingly refer that you now have a budget, or anything quick and small). The key is to not defend (as we don't care if you're on Time), but rather show that you know, that the viewer knows that you work for Time (I know, confusing). If you already addressed this, I wouldn't know, see above. Over 9000 bonus points if you address why Time put your videos on their site in the first place.

We like you talking about the news, but it shouldn't be all of it. You come off as very distant in the videos in comparison, we don't feel any emotion or connection.

Currently, the videos don't "suck", it's more, "it's good... but not quite as good as the better episodes of The Show".
posted by amuseDetachment at 5:02 PM on July 12, 2009


Opened the Time link, nothing on the page except the Time logo and the copyright stuff at the bottom. No problem, adblocker got it. Disable, reload. Video starts stuttery autoplaying with a bunch of blinky ads around it. No problem, pause and let it buffer. Click pause, TWO POPUPS, and my Firefox button on the taskbar starts jumping around.

No fucking thanks.
posted by Evilspork at 5:10 PM on July 12, 2009


Well, if he is reading this, I guess maybe I should try to balance some of the hate by saying that I had heard of him before this, but never bothered to really look at any of his stuff, but I liked this, and now I've looked at some of his other stuff, and I like it too. The Time thing could maybe be funnier.

Also I'm sure I am far from the first to notice, but that is a guy who should probably get his TSH looked at.
posted by molybdenumblue at 5:32 PM on July 12, 2009


So... How do you spank a giant baby?
posted by erniepan at 6:56 PM on July 12, 2009


I followed The Show from a few months in, and loved it. I certainly felt the "Buddy Ze Effect" but that comes through much less in the Time videos. Still, those are in a totally different space, not on his own website with its little notes saying things like "I didn't forget about you. I like you."

I think we need to give some credit to the fact that "That makes me think of" is running in effective parallel with the "Hard Times" videos, and they are complementary, in that one has the SeriousZe and one has the WackyZe (or whatever). I wouldn't expect Ze to push the envelope with the editorial team at Time to accept jokes about how if you don't forward his latest video, your genitals will release air after you pee, or have Ze turn out to be actually humping your finger. Not *yet* anyway - it's only his third episode. You need to build up to such things.
posted by slightlybewildered at 6:56 PM on July 12, 2009


In re: "hating" - you're right - it isn't hate - but it is an off-putting level of negativity about something that probably couldn't deserve it. Maybe you should channel that energy into something less negative.

Ze is brilliant - and the strength that brilliance comes from, in my observation, is that he treats every work like a work in progress. He looks for incremental improvements (whether they come from the community, himself or somewhere else) and he makes the ones that seem to be most appropriate and best.

I genuinely enjoy everything I have seen him done, even and especially these Time short videos.

That said - if he's still watching - I always got a wierd 30-years-after-the-fact Connections vibe from Ze's political commentary. Maybe watch some James Burke.
posted by Fuka at 11:14 PM on July 12, 2009


Change 'something less negative' to 'something more deserving or appropriate.'

2:15am. yeah.
posted by Fuka at 11:15 PM on July 12, 2009


Metafilter: "Ze Frank--Hot or Not?"

He never got back to the topic of stoned wallabies, and that disappoints me, but I could see the "Fnords!" in his pupils.
posted by eegphalanges at 3:57 AM on July 13, 2009


Stop pissing about with crappy novelty news stories and do something interesting.
posted by cillit bang at 8:42 AM on July 13, 2009


He never got back to the topic of stoned wallabies
He started out by mentioning wallabies going in circles. He ended by mentioning a quote from T.S. Eliot as quoted by McNamara in 'The Fog of War' "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." That's where the going in circles returns. And as such Ze's whole video came full circle.
Rather elegant.
posted by jouke at 8:51 AM on July 13, 2009


2:34 in he blinks.

You missed the one at 0:41.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:51 AM on July 13, 2009


I'd recommend this long but informative video as a good place to start understanding what Ze Frank is all about, if you are not a sports racer.

For me it's his genuine enthusiasm for actually connecting with people online -- which is a phrase that has been completely ruined by marketers; all those buzzwords about community building and social networks and blah blah blah, except that you can tell that he actually means it; it's not about marketing and monetizing, it's about making something cool and watching others love using it, or better yet about making the opportunity for other people to make cool stuff as a group. It's genuine and infectious.

As for this Time gig: yeah, it feels like watered-down, mainstream Ze Frank. Duh. It's a mainstream magazine. It can't be The Show; it's just not possible to take the kind of risks he was able to take in a podcast that was so clearly just one guy's individual take on the world. If he made a crude or dumb joke or expresses a political opinion on The Show that offends somebody or that people find stupid, big deal, there's always tomorrow's podcast. But when Time Magazine is giving it its official imprimatur, obviously you've got to rein things in a bit. I'm just glad he's (presumably) getting a decent paycheck for doing what he does, because he damn well deserves it.
posted by ook at 11:26 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Watched the Webstock 09 presentation linked in the last comment and am man-crushing on Ze all over again.
posted by jeffkramer at 3:20 PM on July 13, 2009


jeffkramer: "The Show was so awesome because ..."

I say this entirely without snark: you need to perform that as a video monologue staring right at the camera, barely blinking. :)
posted by WCityMike at 5:36 PM on July 13, 2009


Finished watching the Webstock 09 presentation, and I am glad that I did.

In it, Ze talks repeatedly about the idea of social and emotional resonance. Specifically, taking something that he has an emotional resonance with, and then hoping that it socially is felt and enhanced and shared and responded to.

I think that is the crux of the issue with the Time videos, and perhaps with everything Ze will do, forever. That is, to people like myself who have already connected with the social and emotional resonances of his earlier work, when I see something new of his it automatically carries the expectation of fulfilling the existing emotional resonance that is there in me as a result of already sharing experiences in the past.

So the new work has to, at least for me, both honor that existing emotional resonance as well as somehow satisfy the social aspect by being entertaining, relevant, or newly-emotionally-resonant enough to reach that critical mass.

For people without that existing emotional relevance as a result of stumbling onto something you are making for the first time, I think it might just be a case of who Ze is now. I mean, he's essentially spent the last 7 or 8 years going for the brass ring that is emotional and social resonance in his projects, and maybe that has changed his rhetorical and presentational style to reflect that in non-discrete or obvious ways.

The engaged eye contact and the quick cuts and the vocabulary and verbiage used automatically closes the audience distance significantly, and I worry that when the content itself isn't resonant enough emotionally or socially to justify that distance it can ring as hollow or false.

Of course, it is neither of those things, and it might be unfair to expect that level of emotional commitment and interactivity with every project. Certainly we can't operate based on the needs of the audience all the time or we would go crazy.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:01 PM on July 13, 2009


Oh, and it's even more hard in this particular venture because you have another intinsic emotional resonance to surmount: The one against Time.

It's possible that it is just me and my friends and my internet friends, but we don't read Time. We aren't interested in Time. That would be fine if it was just a neutral thing, but Time is also sort of a member of the Old Media that has a negative emotional resonance with me. It's like your working for The Man, as ridiculous as that is.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:34 PM on July 13, 2009


The engaged eye contact and the quick cuts and the vocabulary and verbiage used automatically closes the audience distance significantly, and I worry that when the content itself isn't resonant enough emotionally or socially to justify that distance it can ring as hollow or false.


Or fnordy. The only thing I got from watching that was "I have no idea what's actually happening out there, but what a wild ride it is, and I'm so very passionate and tangential and Now," and behind that I just get a whole lot of fear. The content is just so disjointed and strange, grasping to force meaning onto dissimilar events by invoking circularity---it just reminds me of how a manic person thinks and speaks. It doesn't seem hollow or false, per se, just trying so hard to be meaningful when it isn't, really. Since he's not really saying anything about anything, because the ground is constantly shifting under him and the goal is always moving--I just get a big scary, "Fnord!" out of that.

I guess I just don't enjoy other people's attempt to explain the Nowness of things and thus inspire me to keep breathing, especially when they get to make a living at it and I don't. So, yeah, "hot", but I'm still jealous. Now, let's go read George Will and see if he can tell me what the real, solid deal is with those wallabies...
posted by eegphalanges at 11:37 PM on July 13, 2009


it just reminds me of how a manic person thinks and speaks. [...] [Not] meaningful. [...] Since he's not really saying anything about anything, because the ground is constantly shifting under him and the goal is always moving
The things you disliked are exactly what struck me about it. Idea poetry.
posted by jouke at 9:12 AM on July 14, 2009


On zefrank's twitter stream:
"reading responses at: http://bit.ly/eHeKi :: and wondering, what should i strive for in the Time vids? are they tame? too serious? tell me."
3:23 PM Jul 12th from web
(That bit.ly link is this thread.)
posted by Plutor at 5:16 AM on August 2, 2009


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