R. Fink | Packet Rat: LonelyRat ready to catch wave of unreality

The Rat

The great thing about having a teenager is that, if you keep a close eye on what they do, you'll never get caught off-guard by any emerging pop culture phenomenon. And that's especially true of the Web.

Often, the Rat has even dived into new phenomena before his offspring. First there was instant messaging, and texting. Then there was MySpace'the whiskered one had a MySpace page even before his son did. The same went for the Xanga blog service, and even YouTube.

But to really appreciate these Internet communities, the wirebiter had to sit back and watch his eldest offspring demonstrate his mastery over the medium, such as his frequent IM'd Links of Disdain'URLs fired off in instant messages as objects of ridicule, such as 'LOL this is so lame.'

If it were not for that early-warning system of teenage scorn, the Rat would have been caught totally unaware by the YouTube melodrama of Lonelygirl15, the video series that had thousands (perhaps millions) of teen- agers thinking that a very attractive, slightly dweeby home-schooled girl was producing a video weblog (or vlog) that spoke directly to them.

In fact, 'Bree,' the girl making the video postings, and her friend/possible love interest Daniel were not teenagers'they were actors creating a hoax, or a serialized webshow or a new entertainment art form, depending on whom you asked.

'It's kind of like GAO,' the Rat explained to a co-worker. 'Everybody thinks they're real, and then NASA proves they don't really exist if you don't listen to them. Eventually, the shock and outrage wears off, and you're just entertained by the continued attempts to maintain the illusion.'

When Jenna Rose, the 19-year-old actress who plays Bree, appeared on the 'Tonight Show' to confirm that she was in fact an actress, the reality distortion field ruptured with such intensity that it spawned hundreds of little bubbles of unreality.

Some LonelyGirl true believers even insisted that her appearance with Jay Leno was the hoax and not the slickly produced Web videos; that somehow, her evil parents had discovered her Web high jinks (after they were covered in the New York Times, BusinessWeek and the L.A. Times'go figure!) and she put on the whole 'actress' charade to provide cover for her family'so they could get back to that virgin sacrifice plan they had been putting together.

The warps in space-time created by LonelyGirl stepping through the fourth wall may explain why Steve Jobs did something he's never done before'at MacWorld, he pre-announced a new product coming next year. The product, code-named 'iTV,' will allow the media-hungry masses to watch iTunes videos and movies on their computers on big-screen televisions. Rumor has it that Google is partnering with Apple to provide Google Video as a 'channel' on iTV as well.

Inevitably, that means LonelyGirl and her cohorts in Internet video-blog-and-podcast-land will be invading televisions around the world. The Rat hopes to catch that wave, too. He's preparing to do a video podcast of himself reading the contents of the Federal Funds Accountability and Transparency Act Web site, in the event that the bill passes. Otherwise, he'll just read transcripts from Jack Abramoff's and congressman Bob Ney's court appearances.

It's sure to get at least five or six viewers.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].


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