Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Monday Morning Quarterback 2: The Shame Edition


What’s not to love about more “shaming videos,” as New York Times columnist Virginia Heffernan calls them in her “Screens” blog, which is a regular feature on the New York Times Web site. This week, she points to a video of former “Baywatch” star David Hasselhoff in a drunken stupor, which was shot by–wait for it–his daughter. It’s an embarrassing moment for Hasselhoff, a recovering alcoholic, but such fare is now pretty inevitable with the ubiquity of Web videos, as the astute Heffernan writes:

With all this child-parent surveillance–and the straight-to-online capacity to go very public whenever one records the Hoff or, say, Alec Baldwin mouthing off–will celebrity children no longer have to write “Mommie Dearest”-style memoirs, as their tales of woe will now be meted out to the world in leaked voicemails and uploaded videos? Will, moreover, camera phones and other recording-and-publishing devices put to rest thorny questions about the accuracy of memories of childhood abuse, including sexual abuse?”

It’s a shame that the blog by Heffernan, who also writes for the print edition, is buried so deeply in the New York Times online stew. It is always interesting to see what her eclectic mind will choose for the online column, which focuses on “here-goes-nothing online” Internet video, from Hoff hijinks to funny Norwegian videos to sappy clips from “Gilmore Girls.”

Says the author in her mission statement: “‘Screens’ will find, review and make sense of all those senseless new images: Web video, viral video, user-driven video, custom interactive video, embedded video ads, Web-based VOD, broadband television, diavlogs, vcasts, vlogs, video podcasts, mobisodes, Webisodes, mashups and more.” Not so senseless to me.

Also, a nice succinct essay by Matt Marshall of VentureBeat on the the implications of the Digg revolt and how such an event is likely to occur more often. He writes (and is right, too):

If there’s one lesson learned, it’s that the Web tends toward radical openness, and that aggressive censorship is futile.”

And, one of the more insightful writers on one of my favorite sites, Mike Masnick of Techdirt, has a good question he asks of the Motion Picture Association of America. Masnick asserts in the piece that the powerful lobbying group makes up film-piracy numbers, this time specifically about Canada and its role in camcording piracy. More important, writes Masnick:

Insiders will still leak copies (that are much better in quality than camcorded ones) and they’ll still be available on the Internet. Instead of focusing on pointless legal solutions, the industry would have been better off making the movie-going experience better so that people actually want to go out to the movies. In the meantime, though, why doesn’t anyone ask the movie industry to actually back up the numbers they put forth?”


That’s the kind of challenge former MPAA head Jack Valenti would have taken up and run with. The spitfire lobbyist, whose personal style and zest for a good political fight were legendary, died last month after decades of passionately defending the movie industry. While many did not agree with his aggressive, defend-the-fort-at-all-costs manner, he was also always willing to mix it up and, in fact, was onstage at our very first D conference in May 2003.

He delivered (with his patented sly smile, of course) one of my favorite moments when he told Excite and also JotSpot Co-Founder Joe Kraus that he was essentially a thief and perhaps even a communist for compiling a personal video for his newborn that contained a lot of very short movie clips. Kraus had created it to show just how stringent the laws were, and it was, if truth be told, a shameless attempt to get Valenti riled up.

It worked in a great way that resulted in an insightful debate on the important issue. And, more important, thinking back on it, it makes one realize what a shame it is not to have Valenti around anymore in these even more interesting times.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus