Oh you didn’t know? The Learned Fangirl is on Facebook!

Big News! The Learned Fangirl is now on Facebook!

“Why should I care?” you’re probably thinking. “I get spammed enough on Facebook by my elderly relatives.”

Fair enough, but hear us out. If you like the TLF blog, then you’ll want to check out the TLF page for posts that we’re too lazy to flesh out  shorter, time sensitive posts and maybe, just maybe, some multimedia stuff like video  if we’re not too lazy to do that.

Anyway, “join the conversation” as the social media folks love to say and like the TLF Facebook page today!

3 Reasons to Skip SXSW Interactive This Year

For the past few years, The Learned Fangirl has enthusiastically covered the sessions and keynotes of South by Southwest Interactive. There was a point when SXSW was the most wonderful time of the year for startups, bloggers, VC’s, coders, and social media douchebags. 5 days of networking in a glorious haze of free beer and tacos.

But this year, TLF reluctantly plans to sit this one out,which saddens us because we have a lot of great friends presenting this year! The reason? It’s not worth the money.

Though the price of a badge has nearly tripled in the past three years, at $950, SXSWi is still a deal compared to similar tech/innovation conferences like Techcrunch Disrupt or TED. Even so, the tech conference marketplace has become a crowded, fragmented one – SXSWi is no longer the must-attend event that it used to be, and that money may go further at other, more specialized events.

Here are the three reasons TLF is skipping SXSW and why we think you may be better off spending your (or your employer’s, lucky you!) money on a conference that you’ll get a lot more out of.

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TLF’s Favorite Internet Memes of 2011

Most pop-culture blogs are posting their top album of movie lists at this time of year, but TLF is sticking to what we know best: The Internet. After all, it was a pretty lackluster year for music, but for internet memes? Stellar. From rainbow-pooping cats to Republican presidential candidates holding gigantic pizzas to teenage songstresses of questionable talent, there was something for everyone.

Rebecca Black’s Friday

Yes, the song is awful.  Production wise, lyrically – on any level, it’s hard to defend “Friday” as a song of any redeeming quality.  But it’s oddly hypnotic (I know all the words, and I don’t even know why!) and its brain-numbing simplicity makes it an easy – and hilarious – meme target. Not all the parodies worked but a few, like comedian Matt Mullholland’s emo cover version, were well done and inspired. I still find myself saying “we so excited” at random intervals. Usually on Friday. – KDC

Pepper Spray Cop

One of the most memorable and disturbing images of the Occupy movement – Lt John Pike casually pepper spraying UC-Davis protestors directly in the face – has become one of the year’s more darkly hilarious internet memes. The Pepper Spray Cop  has been photoshopped spraying everyone from Mr. Rogers to Sleeping Beauty to the Declaration of Independence on peppersprayingcop.tumblr.com.  I admit, that I get a little humorless when it comes to activist movements (I went to UW-Madison, yo) and people’s responses and part of me wonders if the explosion of Occupy-inspired memes are too glib, that some jokester’s seem to take the civil liberties far too lightly if they can poke fun at this.  The Pepper Spray Cop Tumblr, however seems to toe the line comfortably between absurdity and cultural commentary.  At least enough so that I am not discomforted by it. – KDC

Nyan Cat

Who could imagine that an animated gif of a Pop Tart shaped cat with a rainbow coming out of his butt combined with an irritating Japanese pop song would me the most epic internet meme of the year, but here we are. Like Rebecca Black’s Friday, the song’s viral annoyingness is a part of its appeal, but for me, the musical inventiveness of many of the meme parodies. Two of my favorites, like the orchestrated version and the dubstep remix (posted above)and several versions of the meme inject Nyan Cat with some cultural pride with Nyan Cats from Mexico, Sweden, China, and other countries. Nyan Cat is what I love most about internet memes: random, nonsensical but oddly unifying and beloved across internet subcultures- KDC

Hey Girl, Ryan Gosling

The Hey Girl, Ryan Gosling meme, where a picture of Ryan Gosling (preferably shirtless, preferably looking directly at the camera) with a ridiculous come-on line, is my favorite meme of the year, from its slow burn start in 2009. I warmed to this meme slowly, but the ridiculous themes (Hanukkah, Feminist, Public History, Silicon Valley, Librarian, Biostats — it’s like he’s a Barbie!) plus the cheeseball photos, slowly wore me down, unlike any of the appalling lines.

One of the frequent questions asked is “Why Ryan Gosling?” And my response is — who else would be more appropriate for a third-wave feminist reinterpretation of the oppositional gaze? Or crassly, why the !@#$ not?

Additionally, this meme is an unfortunately rare well-recognized form of reinterpretation specifically not only directed towards a female audience, but also female created. One of the interesting things about this meme is that some dudes seem strangely threatened by it, though the only thing menacing about Hey Girl, Ryan Gosling is that he always has both the best abs … and the best lines! -RL

Herman Cain and the Invisible Orange That Is Instead a Pizza

What end of the year list would be complete without a meme that lives up to the short half-life of most memes? For our entry this year, we give you: a Pokémon quoting Presidential candidate who … hmm, how to summarize Herman Cain? I know how! With a badly photoshopped picture of him holding a pizza! A meme that even a five year old can understand, despite its short shelf-life, this meme is now over, but the memories of its LOLs will warm our hearts, if not our pizzas, for months to come.


Peace, LOLs, and lots more memes in 2012!

Why Online TV Couldn’t Save ABC Soaps

RIP One Life To Live. It’s official: the 11th hour online deal that would have saved beloved soaps One Life To Live and All My Children from the cancellation has fallen through.

ABC  announced earlier  this year that AMC and OLTL would be replaced by daytime lifestyle shows, “The Chew” and “The Revolution”. (I’ve seen The Chew  and it’s pretty grating, imagine “The View” with C -level Food Network hosts).

Expectedly, the fan outcry was swift and passionate after the announcement, but a ray of light emerged when indie production company Prospect Park acquired the rights to both shows, with plans to reincarnate the soaps as web-based series. Unfortunately hefty production costs and union squabbles derailed the plans, so in January, One Life to Live fans will say the same goodbyes that All My Children fans did in September. (Hopefully with a much more satisfying ending than AMC)

Admittedly, I haven’t followed daytime soaps in several years, but  I grew up watching the ABC soaps at my grandmother’s knee, and I was a One Life To Live CRAZY FAN when I was in high school  so I followed the Prospect Park story with interest. I was skeptical about the Prospect Park deal, mostly because it was hard for me to imagine how Prospect Park could successfully recreate a genre as expansive as soaps for an online audience. With decades of history, huge casts and 45 minutes of story, Prospect Park would have  had to make drastic changes to the format to bring the shows online. Clearly the shows would have been shorter, the casts smaller and the sets/costumes less lavish.  I figured that veteran stars would likely not make the cut in favor of less expensive younger talent. Would the soaps even look like the ones fans followed and loved for years?

I still think online TV is the future of entertainment; I think the resurrection of Arrested Development on Netflix will mean good things for producers with great pilot ideas that are too” niche” or “risky” for traditional TV and even cable, but daytime soaps as a genre may not be able to find new life here. It’s not that hardcore soap fans wouldn’t have followed the shows to the web; I have no doubt they would have. If anything, the shows would have been able to take advantage of Facebook and Twitter’s 30+ and female skewing demographics to keep fans engaged.

But the rich history and intertwining relationships of soaps, the slow burn of daily storytelling that makes soaps what they are, I’m not sure if Prospect Park would have been able to pull it off, and if they did, I’m not sure how long. I think they would have been a shadow of what soap fans have been enjoying for decades, and not financially sustainable. Still, it’s sad to see all of those years of storytelling history fade away. Much like comics, soap opera lore was something passed down through generations and to know that there will be a point where the names “Pine Valley” and Llanview” will have no pop culture resonance is a pity.

There is only one thing that you can learn from The Muppets social media strategy

ImageI’ve read about 5 or 6 blog posts in the past month or so about the popular social media campaign surrounding the latest Muppet movie. In the past few weeks, they’ve been everywhere: YouTube, Google +, Facebook, etc, and of course all the big social media marketing blogs are weighing in on what other social media marketing people can learn from it.

Personally, I think there’s only one important thing to take away from The Muppets social media campaign: Be awesome like the Muppets. I personally don’t know anyone who dislikes the Muppets and if I did, I would probably judge their lack of humanity. The Muppets are the best. They are hilarious and fun and full of cheer and for many of us who grew up with them, they are like beloved friends. And of course, since it’s been proven (at least by Pew Research)  that most people are active on social media to connect with their friends, it’s a perfect venue for the Muppets to reintroduce themselves to the public.

So, if you are thinking that it may be great for your product/brand/company to have a cool Google + Hangout or mobile app like the Muppets did, I beg you to ask this question of yourself: “Is my product/brand/company awesome like The Muppets?” if that answer is no, you may wish to reconsider your strategy. Or more importantly, consider how you can channel a little bit of the awesomeness of the Muppets in what you do. Whether that’s a musical routine, or costumes, or movie parodies or wakka wakka jokes  do something that will make your company more fun and approachable (like actual fun, not marketing fun). THEN you can do that Google + Hangout and people will be more likely to join in, because you are awesome. Now if you will excuse me,. I’m going to go put on makeup and dress up right.

Are music startups killing online music fandom?

Turntable.fm dubstep room

It’s the end of the year and time for one of my favorite annual book purchases, the DeCapo Best Music Writing series. It’s a great time to catch up with all the music writing I have generally ignored for the past year. (Not on purpose!)  It’s also an excellent opportunity to go back in time and discover some of the releases that may have slipped under my radar in the past 10 or so months.

But I haven’t been ignoring music, it’s just that my attention has been more focused on music streaming platforms like Spotify and Rdio to get my music, or (very) occasionally poking my head into Turntable.fm. The popularity of music discovery startups has been one of the hotter tech stories of the past year , with Spotify’s celebrated arrival in the U.S. and controversial integration with Facebook, not to mention this summer’s love affair with Turntable.fm among music bloggers and social media folks.

But even with the popularity of these services, I can’t honestly say that I discovered more new music this year, or made more informed music buying choices because of them. Honestly, I think I discovered more new music when MySpace was the only game in town for burgeoning bands to share tunes. Thanks to Facebook, I know how little most of my social circle and I have in common when it comes to music preference. More broadly, I think the music startup explosion hasn’t really done much to promote new music discovery at all, but mostly encourages an echo chamber of musical tastes where friends and acquaintances share the same small pool of artists, bands, and songs with each other.

My other big problem with algorithmic-based music discovery platforms like Pandora is that musical taste (like food, and romance/dating) is often too complicated for an algorithm. Music communities are a huge arbiter of  musical tastes; the shared, collective sense of identity, emotion and memory that comes from music fandom is just as important as musical, style, production, and genre when determining listening preferences.

A couple of music startups do address this. Turntable.fm opens up that closed network of music sharing a bit more, with its real time, chat-room like element that allows for moments of serendipity, and more importantly, real time conversation and opinion sharing. One of the elements that stands out about Soundcloud’s approach (I SWEAR I don’t work for Soundcloud, even though I talk about it all the time) is the company’s use of community managers to act as music/sound curators while also encouraging in-person and local community building in the form of meetups.

And of course, music blogs remain a major player in online music fandom. I’ve written about my take on the future of music criticism before.  Music blogs like Pitchfork and Brooklyn Vegan don’t appear to have the same level of  cultural authority  as tastemakers that they did several years ago but still remain well-read. And it seems odd in the age of social everything, that Pitchfork still doesn’t allow reader comments. But do blogs compare with the ability to sample, rate and share music almost instantly? Will music blogging and long-form writing be disrupted by music startups the way food/restaurant criticism was disrupted by Yelp?

I can’t see Rdio or Soundcloud ever replacing the experience of music fandom or reading writing music criticism for me personally, but I have seen it impact how I consume music on a daily basis. I’m curious to hear from other music junkies:  has Spotify/Pandora/Rdio/Soundcloud replaced music blogging or personal recs for you in finding new music?

Why I think Awkward Black Girl is the future of television

I don’t watch a whole lot of television these days. I get most of my entertainment online, and when I do watch television programming, it’s on Hulu or Netflix. My favorite TV show of 2011 isn’t a traditional television show at all, however. It’s a web series called the Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. The best way I can describe this show is “Black Grownup Daria” ABG chronicles the daily life of J, a socially inept black woman in her 20’s as she navigates work and dating in Los Angeles.

For obvious reasons, this show resonates with me. For all that I enjoy shows like Community and Parks and Recreation, ABG is the first time I’ve seen anything even remotely reflecting my life presented in such a format. So naturally, I’m a bit protective of the show. (The last web series I loved this much was “McCourt’s in Session” and there was only three episodes of those, so ABG is a vast improvement on a number of levels.)

In the past few months, the show’s popularity has soared. Issa Rae, the show’s creator/star has been on dozens of magazines and blogs and even CNN recently.  It’s like Issa Rae has become the black Felicia Day, and I love it. When the show took to Kickstarter to raise funds to complete additional episodes, ABG fans stepped up to the plate and raised more than the projected goal of $30,000 to complete ABG’s season. Once again, Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans model proves itself replicable:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

I don’t know if Issa Rae is yet making a living from ABG, but she is able to continue her work, improve the show and gain new fans. She’s really stepped up her game when it came to marketing and fan engagement, the college tour is a great idea, the t-shirts/merch are awesome and I love their approach of giving all the ABG characters their own fan pages. Issa Rae knows what she’s doing and understands what the fans want.

As the show’s popularity and buzz increases, there’s been talk of ABG moving to television. When the show first started, I was rooting for Issa Rae to be discovered by a network and picked up for TV, so maybe, for the first the first time in my TV watching life, I can see TV show that reflects my life in some way (what a concept) but with the success of the Kickstarter campaign, and the continuing grassroots support of ABG, I’ve begun to wonder if ABG (or other web series) needs traditional TV at all. TV execs like to pat themselves on the back for having a show with two black leads, but then only keep that show on for three weeks (though, to be honest “Undercovers” did suck) If fans continue to support Issa and ABG (i.e. if supporters become subscribers) who needs traditional TV?

My thoughts have echoed this blogger, who breaks down some of the math:

“…set up a website where fans can pay $5/mo for unlimited viewing. That’s a reasonable $60/year for each of us, and since a show like ABG has at least 25000 fans, that’s a generous $125,000/mo for them. ABG and Ktown Cowboys have shown us that we don’t need to see special effects or massive explosions, or ridiculous, over-the-top wardrobes. We just need to see us. We just need to see people who look like us, sound like us, and behave the way we do in real life, without someone else’s agenda coloring the script. I watch a 10-minute episode of ABG and it sends me straight to Cloud Nine. I end each episode feening for the next one. I see a dark chocolate, natural-haired black woman being witty and holding it down on her own show and I am catapulted into heaven.”

I think “K” is onto something, I love the idea of fan supported online series becoming the rule rather than the exception. And regardless , I think TV execs could takes notes on how popular web series like ABG are marketed to fans. However, I still want to see Issa Rae get the opportunity to create for mainstream television. Mainstream television needs this, more than ever.

Why? I saw “The Help” last month. I was on the fence about seeing it for the entire summer, I had conflicting feelings about the film from the time I heard of its release (I’ve not read the book) Once again we have a Civil Rights era film about Black people but written and directed by white people, and I was bracing myself for some painful stereotypes.

As I watched and enjoyed the film, I was still settled with a growing sense of unease. It’s 2011, Viola Davis and/or Octavia Spencer will likely get Oscar nominations for playing the same type of role that Hattie McDaniel played when she won in 1940. To be fair, Abileen and Minny are certainly no Mammy stereotypes; they’re well-acted and three dimensional characters.

But still, in 2011, this is one of the few times in Hollywood where African-American women are central within a story. That or Tyler Perry movies, and please let’s not go there today. That’s a whole other post. I can count on one hand the times I can walk into a movie theater or turn on TV and see black women’s lives portrayed where they’re not someone’s afterthought. And even then, it’s too often rooted in the past, or the convenient Hollywood narrative of the Strong Black Woman: challenged but unbowed, tough but maternal, drawing from superhuman reserves of emotional tenacity to face hatred and violence. With her sass.

Awkward Black Girl is the present. It’s the future. It’s the story of a black women as she lives and loves now. Awkward, funny, smart, wacky, romantic, vulnerable. And it’s only one story that can possibly be told from the many diverse stories of black women. Stories that have more “universal” resonance that Hollywood seems to think.

So yeah, do I want to see that on TV? In the movies? Hell yeah I do. I wish Issa Rae the very best of luck with ABG and her future endeavors. I think she can make a splash on TV while still keeping ABG real for the web.