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July 29, 2005

The rise of the vlog — bookofjoeTV draws nearer


Easily the most exciting news this week from my warped perspective was Sarah Boxer's story in Monday's New York Times about the rise of the video blog, or vlog.

Just when I was finally getting used to the dreadful word blog, along comes one that's even worse.


That sounds like some new footwear company out of Uppsala or Reykjavik, not the new new online thing.

But I guess I can get used to just about anything.

After all, every morning I wake up and I'm me so I should have a pretty good tolerance for weird by now, wouldn't you think?

Can you imagine what it must be like to be me 24/7?

You can't, really, but trust me: it's the most fun you can have in scrubs.

But enough idle chatter: on to vlogging.

Long story short: vlogging is making a video and then posting it online so people can watch it.

So far it's just a faint ripple on the internet's surface.

Boxer wrote, "At this point the video blogging world is still small enough that all vloggers appear to know one another and show up in one another's work."

Once upon a time — I think it was last year — podcasting was like that.

Tell you what: I'm just tickled pink about the new developments in vlogging because they're breaking the ground and paving the way for what I've dreamed of ever since bookofjoe began as an aberration of sorts in April of 2003.

Back then when I used to muse about my bookofjoeTV dream, many readers — well, OK, not all that many since all told there were about 16, but a few, how's that? — would attack me for being nutso.

Well, so?

You can be nutso and have a dream become reality, can't you?

I said it then and I'll say it again: bookofjoe (the blog) is simply a placeholder for bookofjoeTV.

Read Boxer's story for the bigger picture; it follows.

And if you want to have a look at the early days of vlogging, go to the sidebar of her article and click on the many links that will take you directly to an assortment of vlogs.

    Watch Me Do This and That Online

    In the vlogosphere, 'mundane is the new punk'

    Can you vlog a dead horse? Only if you make a video of it and post it on the Web.

    After blogging came photo blogging and then, suddenly last year, video blogging.

    Video bloggers, also known as vloggers, are people who regularly post videos on the Internet, creating primitive shows for anyone who cares to watch.

    Some vlogs are cooking shows, some are minidocumentaries, some are mock news programs and some are almost art films.

    Most simply are records of ordinary life.

    The Das Vlog recently demonstrated the virtues of urinating in the bathroom sink.

    Village Girl has posted a video of her 2-year-old dancing with a friend.

    Josh Leo taped himself browsing through his old baby pictures and art projects. (The first book he wrote as a child, "No," is excellent.)

    Fat Girl From Ohio is a man blogging largely about his wife's pregnancy.

    As the video blog Reality Sandwich recently put it in a video of vegetable shopping, quoting a mantra of the vlogosphere: "Hey ... mundane is the new punk."

    At this point the video blogging world is still small enough that all vloggers appear to know one another and show up in one another's work.

    For instance, two vloggers, Amanda Congdon and Richard Hall, recently met and their encounter was vlogged and blogged on at least three different sites, from more than one perspective.

    Michael Verdi, who wrote Vlog Anarchy, a manifesto, has two young daughters, Lauren and Dylan, both with video blogs. (Lauren shows off her Brownie badges; Dylan plays with Neopets.com and talks about a boy who can't get her name right.)

    Already, though, it's beginning to look a lot like television, at least in spots.

    Some vlogs even share television's worries, chief among them the burden of coming up with fresh programming on a regular basis.

    For instance, Rocketboom, an amusing and ambitious vlog posted by Ms. Congdon, looks like Weekend Update, the newscast on "Saturday Night Live."

    Ms. Congdon has a wry look.

    She sits at a table in front of a map reading reports off sheets of paper.

    She tosses them after she's finished.

    She has correspondents in the field (who do things like give away the ending to the latest Harry Potter book), and she wears cute, nerdy glasses.

    She recently asked her audience to start sending her story ideas.

    Another vlog, the Carol and Steve Show, in which a married couple offer up the tedium of their daily lives - shopping, driving to the gym, arguing about "American Idol" - has stolen its type and its theme music from the land of sitcoms.

    It wants to sell out, but who would buy?

    Maybe a laugh track would help.

    One of the most winning vlogs is the 05 Project, the work of an 18-year-old in Keynes, England, Ian Mills, who has promised to post a video a day all year.

    He begins almost every short video by moving close to the camera and addressing the audience with a sweet formality, "Okay, so today...."

    In January, he showed the inside of his closet to prove he doesn't have just one set of clothes, but two.

    In February, he filmed a stuffed kangaroo seeking directions from a stuffed teddy bear sitting in front of a microwave oven.

    In March there was a video of a fire, with this note: "Damn im so glad i went to my grandparent's house today. If i hadn't, i wouldn't have seen this."

    But now the 05 Project is beginning to look a lot like "Fear Factor," minus the fearlessness.

    In June, when Mr. Mills found his well of ideas running dry, he asked his audience for challenges: an easy one, a moderate one and a hard one.

    In each "Challenge Ian" episode, he recites the three challenges, chooses one, and then makes a video of himself doing it.

    One of his most charming features is that he always takes the easy challenge.

    "I'm not going to slam my fingers in the door," he said, in one episode.

    "This isn't 'Jackass,' " he said, referring to the television show.

    So far, he has drunk a pint of raw eggs and vomited; jumped into a wading pool fully clothed; and spun around until he was dizzy.

    It doesn't sound like much.

    But Mr. Mills has a great sense of pacing and drama.

    He has Conan O'Brien's direct delivery and David Letterman's deadpan.

    In short, he has television charisma.

    Right now it seems that video bloggers can't agree what vlogs are exactly, and some of them want to keep it that way.

    "What's the rush to define it now?" Mr. Verdi asks in his video manifesto.

    "It would be like trying to pick a career and a mate for a newborn."

    But indeed, the newborn seems to have picked its mate.


    It's television!

July 29, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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So is bookofjoeTV going to be more like The Learning Channel or The Playboy Channel?

Posted by: Shawn Lea | Jul 29, 2005 3:25:45 PM

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