Movies The Dork Report

Exclusive! The Expendables 3 Poster

Carter. Grier. Hamilton. Jolie. Jovovich. Thurman. Weaver. Yeoh. The Expendables 3 movie poster

Coming summer 2014 — The Expendables 3! Starring Lynda Carter, Pam Grier, Linda Hamilton, Angelina Jolie, Milla Jovovich, Uma Thurman, Sigourney Weaver, and Michelle Yeoh.

This movie does not exist, but should. Hollywood, call me.

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Based On a True Story: Mike Daisey

I agree 99% with the popular consensus regarding Mike Daisey: he lied. But the tiny 1% nobody seems to be talking about is bothering the hell out of me: if his now infamous monologue “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” is a work of fiction, why can’t we talk about it as a work of fiction?

Until recently, Daisey was forging a reputation as a popular monologist in the tradition of the late Spalding Gray: fusing the mechanics of autobiography, journalism, and theater to tell stories with the power to move individuals and sway popular opinion. That is, he was, before his enormously popular show “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” was dramatically revealed to be largely comprised of half-truths and fabrications. Daisey initially required theaters to advertise it as “a work of non-fiction”. When he began to feel the heat, he initially claimed he had merely taken dramatic license, but finally issued an actual apology.

The imbroglio has been Tweeted, blogged, podcasted, and analyzed to death over the past two weeks, but here are the key incidents: Daisey’s original stage monologue (with a free transcript on his website), an episode of the venerable radio program This American Life featuring a version of it, followed by their astonishingly gripping retraction. My favorite analyses of the ensuing fallout came from Daring Fireball (Separating the Baby From the Bath Water) and Derek Powazek (How to Spot a Liar).

The general consensus among the cognoscenti, digerati and NPR set alike, is that Daisey made a fatal error in presenting his piece as journalistic report. I agree. But most of these analysts go on to express horror and outrage that Daisey’s show goes on. The monologue inspired a popular petition on (now there’s a petition against the petition). Theaters are not canceling Daisey’s future shows and are refusing refunds for past showings. Gruber, in an episode of his podcast The Talk Show, attributes this to the theater business running on a tight margin, as if it were simply a matter of economics. Interestingly, The Understatement reports that many theaters are also daring to defend the “essential truth” of Daisey’s work.

Mike Daisey went to great lengths to preserve the fiction that “The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs” was nonfiction

The Understatement

Which brings me to the tiny sliver of this whole story that I believe needs to be addressed: there is a massive disconnect between journalists and, for lack of a single term, artists / writers / performers / monologists / etc. Or simply, “creatives”. So Mike Daisey largely lied about what he saw in China; so what? Should his admittedly powerful monologue be wiped from the record? Can we not talk about it as a work of literature? Here is the point where, perhaps, the English majors of the world ought to take over from the journalists.

Ira Glass states in the This American Life retraction that Daisey’s use of the literary device of speaking in the first person triggered his brain to register it as truth. Other outraged journalists seem to not want to even entertain the idea that Daisey’s work might be an effective work of fiction on its own terms. Daisey was free to present his first-person account as truth (or as Stephen Colbert might term it, “truthy”) within the context of his play itself, but he erred by also doing so on This American Life, Real Time With Bill Maher, CBS News, and other venues. He deceived accredited journalists with hard-earned reputations in order to preserve the fiction that his piece was nonfiction.

But what if he hadn’t? What if he had, from the beginning, pitched “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” as what it actually is: a fictionalized dramatic account, told in the first person but, to use a familiar phrase, based on a true story. Most of what Daisey claims he personally witnessed are actual ongoing events at Foxconn and other factories in China. Workers’ conditions are harsh and unjust, not only to western sensibilities, but also in violation of Chinese regulations.

Many commenters have mused on how Apple Inc. may have been harmed by Daisey, both financially and in terms of reputation. It most likely has to some measurable degree, but no matter how much I may personally use and like many of their products, I don’t believe Apple is any more possessed of sensitive feelings than any other multinational corporation. Apple is no more deserving of protection from a work of fiction than — to fabricate a hypothetical example — Exxon might be if a writer were to publish a novel telling the story of an environmental activist visiting the 1989 Valdez spill.

The current refusal to consider that Daisey’s discredited work might still have merit as a piece of literature smacks to me of two things:

  1. Excessive apologia to Apple. Apple is justly beloved for designing great products and seems to be making a great effort to improve its environmental impact and supplier responsibility. But no one needs to worry about their feelings being hurt.
  2. A general distrust and fear of fiction and literature. On a grand scale, you often see this when video games are blamed for school violence, rock lyrics for drug use, or comic books for juvenile delinquency. When a problem is too big to deal with, often the easiest thing to do is ban or burn a book. Now, of course those are extreme cases, and all that’s happening here is a few journalists discrediting one man’s dramatic monologue. Perhaps journalists spend too much of their careers dealing with verifiable facts, and are ill-equipped to deal with the sometimes messy business of analyzing literature.

Daisey is not a journalist, and his situation right now is not the same as that of Jayson Blair, who was rightly run out of town for his numerous fabrications published by the New York Times up until being discovered as a fraud in 2003. He’s more akin to James Frey, whose supposed memoir A Million Little Pieces was revealed in 2006 to have been better classified as a novel. Had it not been marketed as his true life’s story, it probably would have been lost in the fray of bookstores’ crowded fiction aisles. Daisey’s medium is the theater, worlds away from the media journalists work in. No theatergoer or novel reader expects absolute verifiable truth from literature. The tools of literature have the power to entertain, instill a sense of catharsis in the audience, to illuminate, and perhaps even to move people to action. All of these goals seem to have motivated Daisey to do what he did.

It’s now near-impossible to appraise the merit of Daisey’s work on its own terms. Interviewed by Ira Glass in the This American Life episode Retraction, he stated that “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” is the “best thing I’ve done.” Clearly, he knew he had really hit on something that touched a nerve in his audiences, and it brought him a great deal of acclaim that later curdled into notoriety. He wrongly felt that the notion his work was factually true was essential to its continuing popularity, which provided him many benefits: larger audiences, fame, and likely a greater income than the vast majority of struggling theater artists are ever likely to glean from their work. I think it’s clear now that had he presented his work as fiction, it may have reached far fewer people, but still have had its undeniable impact on those that did experience it. The shame is that now we’ll never know.

The silver lining is he contributed to an ever increasing spotlight on the complex issue of China’s labor practices, and a growing awareness that the consumer electronics industry could not exist as we know it today without it.

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I’m With Arsenio

I’m with Arsenio.

I'm With Arsenio
Movies The Dork Report

Paul Muni: Original Gangsta

Paul Muni Scarface The Shame of the Nation
The shame of the nation.
Paul Muni Scarface Original Gangsta Say Hello to my little friend
Say hello to my little friend.

The Onion AV Club’s How’d it get burned? 22 film remakes dramatically different from the originals piece points out that while Al Pacino’s Scarface has become a modern gangsta icon, nobody slaps the original Paul Muni incarnation from 1930 onto t-shirts, posters, and cheezy mirrors for sale by street vendors. A quick Googling confirmed that there are no 1930/1983 Scarface mashups to be found. So I set out to rectify that with some quickie Photoshop jobs.

It has crossed my mind that the reason no one seems to have posted this sort of thing on the intertubes yet is that it’s probably semi-illegal. If not against the movie studios owning the rights to the property, then at least to the estate of Paul Muni. But this is just for fun, and I’m not trying to sell t-shirts or anything.

UPDATE: I took another spin through Google after finishing the above post, and found a few examples of prior art:

“Keep it Gangsta T-Shirt” on Cafe Press: one of the only “gangsta” graphics I could find that used 1930s imagery. No longer available. exactly what it sounds like.

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Dork Report for February 20, 2008 (Special Mutant Freak Edition)

Whut- duh- huh? Wow!

The Daily Telegraph: World’s Only Blue-Eyed Koala

blue-eyed koala
Gadzooks! A mutant koala kutie-pie

Flickr: Pizzler’s Albino Moose photos

albino moose
How not to be seen

Today’s Dork Report featured guest reporting by Dave.

The Dork Report

The Dork Report for Feburary 3, 2007

Kids-in-Mind is my new favorite site, boldly making no distinction between parents (looking for information about the latest piece of crap their kids are begging to see) and right-wing cultural warriors (looking for something else upon which to blame society). According to my non-scientific survey of the site contents, Scary Movie is possibly the most offensive, child-warping movie ever made, out-raunching even Borat. Honorable mention: a surprisingly strong showing by Pride & Prejudice with a Sex/Nudity score of 3 out of a possible 10. Excerpt: “A woman kisses a man’s hand and they hug. A man and a woman argue, and then they come close to kissing each other but do not.” (featuring guest reporting by Andrea)

A fascinating scrap of Hollywood history is uncovered by the New York Post: learn not only that Hitchcock snubbed Speilberg, but more interestingly, why! (guest submission from Andrea)

Smashing Magazine inspires us with 50 wee 16×16 favicon masterpieces, organized into Web 2.0-cliche categories like “Petal.” Also linked: another huge favicon collection at Delta Tango Bravo.

The Dork Report

The Dork Report for January 27, 2007

Horning in on our spottily-updated territory, Mean Teacher gets her Dork on and pens a proper concert review (but not before paying the price). That said, no, you’re never too old. Although it’s probably best The Peppers don’t rock out with their socks out anymore… do they?

Peter Gabriel’s gone indie. (spotted on Genesis-Movement)

This came out of nowhere… at least to me! Microsoft enters the web design & production market with Expression, analogous to Adobe Creative Suite in every area except Flash. Poor Adobe didn’t have a chance to properly enjoy themselves after buying their only competitor. (spotted on Daring Fireball)

Videos of the 20 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time (no longer online: (according to Guitar World, that is, leading to an extreme “classic rock” prejudice). In other words, 20 ugly men posturing and grimacing before thousands of sycophants. (spotted on Boing Boing)

Khoi Vinh notices the iPhone uses Helvetica throughout. (spotted on Daring Fireball)

Do you have Design Disease? Is it wrong that I’m jealous I have only a mild case compared to this laundry list of advanced symptoms? (spotted on

The Dork Report

The Dork Report for January 18, 2007

Wikipedia’s Unusual Articles entry does exactly what it says on the tin, and it’s a veritable goldmine. Just to name a few gems at random: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo, famous body parts, list of self-referential songs (no longer online:

Bouncing back from last year’s biking injury, Michael Brook lines up his 2007 tour dates.

Hey, there are dorks in Congress [no longer online:], too! (guest submission from Andrea)

Frack up your desktop with some Battlestar Galactica icons from The Iconfactory.

The Dork Report

The Dork Report for January 15, 2007

A belated announcement: Mean Teacher opts for a new blog persona in the new year: Ordinary World. Thrill and wonder at her first-class movie reviews and tales from the catbox.

Nintendo stuff on my cat: WiiKitty (no longer online:]).

Twitterific, a new (free!) application from The IconFactory. Twitter allows one to never lose touch with all your virtual friends, Web 2.0-style, and strike a blow to privacy and productivity everywhere.

The Dork Report

The Dork Report for January 12, 2007

Fortune‘s piece on Apple’s secrecy surrounding the iPhone highlights two points I’ve always wondered about: 1. in a business world where Hewlett-Packard is the news for literally spying on its own employees for high-level boardroom leaks to the press, Apple’s security measures look decidedly quaint. And 2. as a web designer, I often think that of the privileged few assumed to have early access to items like this goes beyond the highly-paid CEOs, managers, and industrial design teams; what about the poor schmoes who have to crank out the web sites, product packaging, and manuals without even being able to tell their family and loved ones what they did at work all day, honey?

The New York Times examines 24‘s politics, and strongly reminds me why I refuse to watch the show to which I was once addicted.

Rolling Stone posts video of Joseph Arthur and The Lonely Astronauts live.

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