Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Marmots, Trolls, Avatars and Other Random Creatures

So, the Marmot's Hole closed the comment section. Very good, says I. If people have something to say, let them write about it on their own websites. Or they can email the blog owner, and if he likes it, he can post it. I know my view is a minority, but that is what I think of Internet commentary -- keep the signal-to-noise ratio as high as possible. Even if it means being choosy or mean.

Strangely, the closing of the comments have led to some really weird accusations here and there around the Korea blogosphere. People have called the Marmot arrogant or a sell-out or whatnot. Kind of fascinating, really, to see what kind of a bizarre world so many people live in, and how much we bring our own quirks, foibles, biases and scars to our analysis of the world (myself included).

As someone who knows the Marmot reasonably well, I can say with some assurance that "arrogant" is about the last adjective one can apply to him. His blog has changed over the years, but that is mostly based on changes in his life. For several years, he was translating for a Korean news site, so he was regularly immersed in Korean news; his blog content reflected this. Plus he had a lot more free time at work then. One reason I liked the blog so much back then is that it provided fast commentary on the news of a sort that one could not find elsewhere in English (and was hard to find in Korean, too, imho).

But after he changed jobs to Seoul Magazine, he was no longer surrounded by news, and he no longer had nearly as much free time. No surprise that his website content changed to reflect his new job and schedule. That is the simple truth. No government pressure on him. No one telling him to do more of this or less of that. No dreams of glory. No Uncle Tom hopes of being accepted by Korean society by attacking foreigners. Just changing circumstances.

(I should note, too, that no one has remotely come along to pick up his slack from his news-blogging days. As I said last year, with the disappearance of Oranckay and Antti Leppanen from the blog world and the Marmot changing his style, it was a real hit for English-language commentary on Korea. Sure, there are more voices out there now, some quite interesting, but no one is doing what they were doing).

Although I see Robert is now planning to re-introduce comments, with some snazzy new moderation software in place. Best of luck to him. But seeing how his comment section went (and others like it at countless other blogs and forums I have followed over the years), I offer the following half-assed analysis:
  • Bad commenters drive out good (as Coming Anarchy noted, this is the Internet version of Gresham's Law). Back when the Marmot's Hole averaged 10 comments a post, it had more substantial comments than when it was averaging 50-100 comments a post.
  • Insanity is solely a function of size.
  • Ergo, eliminating a crazy will not reduce the amount of insanity in a website. Either someone else will become infected with the craziness, or else two or three people will start to share a portion of the crazy.
  • Corollary: No one can be crazy alone.
  • (Counter-corollary: Michael Jackson. And most other mega-celebrities, who clearly go insane after too much isolation).
  • (Possible counter-counter-corollary - We are all nuts already. Just the Internet sometimes makes it more noticeable.)
  • And finally, most people's reading comprehension is really terrible.

    * * *

    Okay, so I saw AVATAR over the weekend. And I suppose I liked it well enough. It was impressive. But at the end of the day, that is all it was -- an impression. Great special effects, but nothing that held any weight, which I fear is the problem with all digital effects. When I think back on Aliens, or Skeksis, or even ET, despite the mechanical fakeness they sometime had, I remember them with a sense of reality. AVATAR, however, I remember like a video game. A really expensive, well-made, realistic video game, but still fake and slight.

    Honestly, I quite preferred TITANIC. Sure it was cliched and had some terrible dialogue, but its basic plotting and storytelling were fantastic. The world it presented felt truly real and substantial.

    Anyhow, after I saw AVATAR, I saw IN THE LOOP, and I liked LOOP a lot more. Funny, insightful, often witty and sometimes even wicked. And a film for grown-ups. Highly recommended.

    Btw, AVATAR did 1.6 million admissions last weekend in Korea, or about 13.6 billion won. Not bad, but certainly not SPIDER-MAN or TRANSFORMERS numbers.

    * * *

    Random note: I loved this Manohla Dargis interview from a couple of weeks ago. As many others have quoted: "Let's acknowledge that the Oscars are bullshit and we hate them."
  • 1 comment:

    Chris said...

    "Most people's reading comprehension is really terrible."

    This might be the most important forgotten point in the whole debate. Any debate. Anywhere. Ever. Listening comprehension too, for that matter.