Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from April 2004

Yes, I am shock-jock-with-a-jockstrap Howard Stern

April 29th, 2004 · 2 Comments

This just in from Xeni over at BoingBoing:

America’s public enemy #1, radio-dude Howard Stern, made an off-hand
remark on this morning’s show — he claims he writes a secret weblog.
Stern said he writes as “another character” and that only “about 4
people are in on the joke.”… If anyone out there has candidates for what might be Stern’s secret
blog, let us know — if the blogger brags about hurling prosciutto at a
stripper’s ass, that might be a tip-off.

Ouch, Xeni, you’ve twisted my arm, I confess.

This whole “Betsy Devine” blog was a sham.

You say, people met so-called “Betsy” at BloggerCon? Wearing a badge with a red
ribbon that said Mom?

Ha ha ha! That was Dustin
Hoffman. And it was Dustin who threw the prosciutto at–well, just
check the tabloids to find out whose ass it was. Dustin can’t help
himself, he gets so into a

But I knew that prosciutto meant the end was coming.

I heard about David Weinberger‘s
“meaningful look.”

My friends did
what they could to hush up the stories. Larry, Sergey, you’re just the best doggone pals … That whole Google IPO story? Just a smokescreen, thrown up to distract the media from my story.

But I knew–I KNEW–that  Gawker and BoingBoing would
find me…

Geeze, it’s really over?

How am I going to tell my husband and children?

Tags: Life, the universe, and everything

My experiment in spamming Google

April 28th, 2004 · 5 Comments

I just sent my first gmail–to my friend Susan Mernit.

The buzz is that Google will scan stuff we write or receive for
hints about ads to show us. Proactively, I’m starting by spamming their

“Dear Susan,” I wrote, “I love flowers–roses, lilacs, lilies of the
valley. I love my neighborhood florist shop. Her stargazer lilies have
the most wonderful perfume. I have never actually ordered flowers from
1-800-FLOWERS or Calyx and Corolla, but I’m exactly the kind of person
who might.”

I also told Susan ( a sweet, tolerant person) more than you might want to know about my fondness
for shiny Waring blenders and bright-red sports cars. I hope Susan also
likes flowers, kitchen gadgets, and cars, because if my hypothesis is
correct she will be seeing ads for them too!

If this silly game works, consider its dark-side potential. I’d never
ever send get-well email to Gmail–“Dear Uncle Ern, Hope your
hemorrhoids are improving…”–just think of the ads Uncle Ern would

What kind of ads have you been seeing in Gmail?  Were they related to anything you wrote?

Tags: Learn to write funny

Why is this woman like a box of Kleenex?

April 27th, 2004 · Comments Off on Why is this woman like a box of Kleenex?

An unnoticed camera gives new insight into how our President thinks. Do you see the world the Bush way?

Suppose you want to give your glasses a polish. Suppose you are standing in back of a woman who’s busy working.

Great–then you don’t have to acknowledge her existence! Just grab a
handful of her sweater and polish away. Keep talking to the important
people–a category that clearly doesn’t include the woman whose
clothing you have in your hand, so who cares what she thinks?

Thanks to BoingBoing for the link to this unbegoshdarnlievable video.

Tags: Invisible primary

Bullied by bullet points

April 26th, 2004 · 5 Comments

I was going to be a poet when I grew up. I didn’t have a coherent plan for this–what I had was a bunch of sharp, motivating images, like a PowerPoint substitute for an actual plan:

  • I would have my own garret, with long streaks of butterscotch light from the skylight.
  • My garret would be in Paris, because Paris is where artists go to starve.
  • I would live on French bread and black coffee, because I was poor. I didn’t like black coffee much in those days–and my idea of coffee back then was instant coffee–but I liked it better than red wine, which was the other drink option I knew for Parisian poets.

Garret: Sara Crewe feeding birds, from her garret's skylight. Ethel Franklin Betts illustration for A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. My childhood image of poverty and city life was based on the pictures by Ethel Franklin Betts in my copy of A Little Princess:

Beautiful, misunderstood Sara Crewe leans out the skylight of her lonely garret,* feeding birds, with a backdrop of picturesque London rooftops.

* What is a garret? A romantic, fictional attic.

Not until college did I figure out that starving in garrets has big drawbacks as a lifetime career.

Amazing how “bullet points” can bully you into enormous leaps of happy illogic.

Tags: My Back Pages

Look–up in the sky–it’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a…journalist?

April 25th, 2004 · 3 Comments

Journalist role models come in many shapes–sleek Katherine Hepburnsleazy Danny DeVito–and the ones I grew up with, who worked at the Daily Planet:

Young wannabe Jimmy Olsen eagerly eavesdrops, as….

a hot tip comes in for Lois Lane, star reporter, while…

editor Perry White feels the weight of his responsibility, and…

Clark Kent looks so conscientious. How could anyone guess he’s secretly Superman?

Are bloggers journalists? Real-life investigative reporter
Micah Sifry says
bloggers tend to be editors–Perry, not Lois. We look over the stories
from Lois and Jimmy and Clark, then decide which one of them should be
our front page lead.

From another galaxy (says Betsy), we have the Superman/Clark types–blogging journalists, like Micah or Dan Gillmor. May they always find editors eager to pay for their bandwidth–and a handy phone-booth for switching back and forth.

Micah says a bunch more good stuff, and Britt Blaser does some fine slice-and-dicing of Micah, so you should go over and read them.

Micah and Britt don’t say anything about Perry White and Lois Lane and
phone booths–that’s just me. I’m the wise-cracking, gum-snapping
cartoonist with a tiny messy office down the hallway.

Maybe when I grow up, I’ll be Perry White.

Tags: Metablogging

Never again?

April 23rd, 2004 · Comments Off on Never again?

Chalk up one more evil result of Hitler’s Death Camps:

In the Darfur region of Sudan, observers widely believe that a genocide
is being carried out on a massive scale. Nations are loath to make such
a judgment, because under international agreements they must intervene
to stop genocide when they officially acknowledge it. Nations do not
like to be forced to act against other nations–even to prevent
terrible tragedies. Quite often real genocides are ignored until it is
too late to save the victims.

Joanna Cipolla Moore, “Passion of the Present”

Mass graves in Bosnia, Rwanda, and elsewhere may well be monuments to pious treaties nobody wants to live up to.

“Passion of the Present”, Moore’s new weblog in Dave Winer‘s
Harvard project, is tracking the systematic racial killings in the
Sudan, where an ethnic-Arab militia has targeted local black
communities for extinction. How can you help? Check out the links on
her site.

One piece of good news in the Washington Post (April 24): the UN now plans to investigate.

GENEVA, April 23 — The U.N. Commission on Human Rights overwhelmingly
adopted a resolution Friday expressing concern about the scale of
reported abuses in Sudan’s Darfur region and agreed to appoint its own

U.N. officials have accused Sudanese troops and Arab militias of
raping, torturing and killing black Africans in the area, equating such
abuses with ethnic cleansing. …

United States, which slammed the text for failing to condemn “ethnic
cleansing,” was the only member to vote against the resolution.

U.S. Ambassador Richard Williamson took the floor to denounce “horrific
events” in the western region of Darfur. He charged that 30,000 people
had been killed in “racial and ethnic targeting.”

Three cheers for Ambassador Williamson! I haven’t agreed with the Bush
administration on many issues, but they seem to be on the side of the
angels in this one.

Thanks to Jim Moore for letting me know about this.

Tags: Good versus Evil

Betsy’s last BloggerCon five: Lessons of BloggerCon

April 19th, 2004 · 2 Comments

  1. Just as at BloggerCon I, a lot of great ideas came from bloggers I didn’t know.
  2. Integrating IRC chat in the discussion was a huge plus–for people
    inside the room and for those left outside. The IRC was free because
    the non-profit heroes at raise money to keep it that
    way. How about a few dollars in their collection box
  3. IRC was great, but a lot of interaction happened in face to face. So “being there” really adds
    value.  Some amazing people I now know just a little:
  4. Let’s all spread the meme of Discussion-Not-Lecture!!!!!  Unconvinced?
    • Picture a room with 100 conference-goers.
    • What’s the chance
      that one of them could hold you spellbound with an hour lecture?
    • What’s the chance that a dozen of them have 5 minutes worth of exciting info to share? 
  5. If I ever want to organize something as ambitious as BloggerCon
    II–gee, that’s a scary thought. I hope I’d have people as wonderful as
    Lisa Williams and Jay McCarthy and Wendy Koslow and Susan Kaup (Sooz) to help me. (That’s reverse alphabetical order, just for a change.) Especially when I
    consider how huge a project it was for somebody as energetic and
    experienced and plugged-in as Dave Winer

Thanks, Dave, you created
something wonderful.

Amazingly, I’m not the only person still posting about the stuff I
learned at BloggerCon. Tara Liloia is doing a great job of aggregating
. Not enough? Check out the Feedpaper for BloggerCon
at –that pulls from only about 50
feeds of people who attended–or get even more posts with a Feedster search for bloggercon.

Tags: Metablogging

Betsy’s top Bloggercon ten: International

April 19th, 2004 · Comments Off on Betsy’s top Bloggercon ten: International

  1. Jeff Jarvis: “Hoder is
    attending in IRC because he couldn’t get a visa. Hoder is Hossein
    Derakhshan. whose work with Iranian bloggers is a roadmap for how we
    can change the world. There are 100,000 Iranian bloggers. Iranian (aka
    Persian aka Farsi) is the third-most used language on the Web. The Vice
    President of Iran has a blog. And this is the work of Hossein
    Derakshan. Hoder has that roadmap. What was done in Iran can be done in Iraq.”
  2. Hoder [IRC, Toronto]:
    ” Iranian experience can be used almost anywhere. We should promote
    Unicode standard among English speaking programmers. Many tools do not
    work well with Unicode and this sucks.  We need tools that index
    popular posts based on languages. And then initiatives to get them
    translated. We can get English teaching institutes to promote blogs
    among their students.
  3. Hoder [IRC, Toronto]: “We also need
    blog-to-email services such as Bloglet. Email is very crucial in
    developing countries and it beats censorship. Bloglet-like services
    should be expanded. They send out emails including favorite weblog
    posts everyday using their RSS feeds.”
  4. Hoder [IRC, Toronto]:
    “Local celebrities should be dragged to weblogs! The Iranian
    vice-president is blogging. He loves blogs and posts everyday himself.
    His mobile photos
    are amazing. Photoblogs can be very helpful, especially for those who
    can’t write in English very well but are wealthy enough to get a
    digital camera and a big hosting space. We should promote them.”
  5. Ethan Zuckerman:
    “Big media neglects poor nations. You can graph coverage versus a
    nation’s GEP. But the US blogosphere talks about the developing world
    even less than the mainstream media does. [For maps and analysis that
    back this up, see Ethan’s April 16 blogpost.]
  6. Rebecca MacKinnon (discussion leader) “I don’t think we can assume that because
    blogs exist, that enables truth. You also enable extremism and closed
    goups agreeing about some minority group they hate. To what extent are
    bloggers breaking down barriers if people stick to reading blogs that
    validate their own world view?” (Jim Moore
    says, “That’s a problem of
    the world, and not just the blogosophere.” Fons Tuinstra [IRC,
    Shanghai] replies, “But every problem of the world is a problem of the
  7. Fons Tuinstra [IRC, Shanghai]: “In China being anti-Japanese is
    very popular on the internet. It can become a very nationalistic
    sentiment, but not necessarily in the good direction (or what we think
    is good).”
  8. Ejovi Nuwere: “If I go to Nigeria and get a couple of
    hundred people to start blogs, nothing will happen until a US blogger
    starts to point to one of them.”
  9. Ethan Zuckerman: ” I’m dragging Joi Ito to Ghana. The other
    bridge I’d like to build is between blogs and talk radio. The
    discussion we hear in blogs, in this country, is going on in talk radio
    in Ghana.”
  10. David Weinberger: “Is it good for the blogs?” – 21st century question…

Rebecca MacKinnon, who led the International blogging session, gives an organized summary, as do Jim Moore, Jeff Jarvis, Michael Feldman, and Hoder himself. Other good links: Rebecca MacKinnon’s public blogroll of international blogs, Hoder’s aggregation of Iranians blogging in English, and the IRC transcript.

Tags: Metablogging

My Manila blog on the radio (as in, WGBH of Boston)

April 18th, 2004 · Comments Off on My Manila blog on the radio (as in, WGBH of Boston)

Long before Tony Kahn was the funny guy on  Says You
(that’s a WGBH quiz show that keeps Boston-ites glued to 89.7 on
Saturday nights), he was my glamorous Harvard-freshman boyfriend. I
was thrilled to hear from him after a lapse of many years, and
learn that he wanted me to come on the air and talk about my blog on
Morning Stories.

Morning Stories runs Tuesday mornings at 7:50 a.m. I love listening to its
10-minute locally-colorful stories from real people’s lives.

If you tune in to hear my blogging story, you will discover:

Due to time limitations, Tony warned me, you may not hear my
excerpts from Boston bloggers other than Halley and Scott Johnson–not even my demo of the difference between Dave Winer and David Weinberger.

On the other hand, if you miss it (or if for some reason you don’t live
in Boston), the audio will be posted after the show on the Morning
Stories page

Tags: Metablogging

Picturing Bloggercon II

April 18th, 2004 · Comments Off on Picturing Bloggercon II

During the last session, I played with my Mac to capture a bunch of screenshots from the video, some of which came out pretty well…  (Clicking that link gets you action shots of Andrew Grumet, Dave Winer, Dean Landsman, Jim Moore,
Jay Rosen, Jessica Baumgart, Joey deVilla and Shimon Rura in the same shot, and
John Perry Barlow.)

Sooz took a bunch of fine photos of the dinner and the conference.
The sliver of photo above (which shows Mary Hodder, Micah Sifry, me in
red vest looking away from the camera, my Berkman and IRC pal Jack
, and Steve Garfield) is one of Sooz’s.

My favorite of all Sooz’s photos is her lovely evocative picture of Dean blogger Matt Gross.

JR (Duly Noded) took some great pictures of our Friday night dinner at Durgin Parks. If he ever gets tired of doing geeky software stuff, he could have a fine career taking flattering photos.

Tara Liloia has some fine photos as well as the absolute best collection I’ve seen of links to
Bloggercon blogging
. (And thanks to Tara and others for plugging the
Feedster search for bloggercon.)

The multi-talented Werner Vogels also took some interesting shots, including one of me talking to the Kerry team’s Dick Bell.

Dan Bricklin has a generous pageful of high-quality crowd shots and other photos.
And, poetic justice at last, Dan shows up as a subject in one of my
favorite photos, taken by Amy Langfield with her Treo, of  David Weinberger and Dan Bricklin laughing together.

Tags: Metablogging