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You, tube can be a star

December 18, 2006 BY NEIL STEINBERG found at Sun-Times

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Opening shot

They're handing out huge holiday bonuses on Wall Street -- one top honcho got $40 million. Which is in keeping with the polarization of our economy. Those at the top --the CEOs, professional athletes, movie stars -- get an ever bigger slice of the pie, while everyone else dukes it out over crumbs. And now Time magazine is here to add insult to injury, to honor the average guy and gal for his and her uncanny ability to produce creative effort for free, whether by writing encyclopedia entries or mixing music videos, all for the honor of being online.

Everybody wins!
"Everyone's special," sighs Helen Parr, the superhero disguised as a suburban mom in the cartoon masterpiece "The Incredibles" to her speedy son, who wants to run track but isn't allowed, ironically, because he's too fast.

"Which is another way of saying . . .'' grumbles the boy. ". . .'no one is.' "

That thought came to mind when Time named me --and you, and you and you and you -- as "Person of the Year," because we are all content providers on the Web.

It is a curious choice, particularly if we ask ourselves: OK, if we're content providers, what content have we provided?

Well, I've got this column here, but that isn't really the epoch- shattering change they have in mind, since I get paid. Rather, it is the blog you may run, sharing the secret murmurings of your heart, or the area of you have homesteaded out, with your favorite songs and photos of your pals -- the inside of your high school locker door, basically, writ in cyberspace.

Somehow, taken together, it just doesn't seem the most significant personage of 2006. Yes, the video-sharing site YouTube was purchased in October by Google for $1.65 billion. And what content have we, the people of the year, provided for that? Teenage girls lip-syncing to popular songs in their bedrooms. Lots of pets and babies and snippets from TV shows.

Actually, a whole lot of snippets from TV shows. And excerpts from professional sports. The truth is that most of the new amateur content that people are watching on YouTube is the same old commercial content in a new box -- Nike ads are also very big. Even "Lonelygirl" -- who seemed to be a creepy teen confessing her skewed life to the camera -- turned out to be a ploy by professional moviemakers.

Yes, occasionally some truly amateur clip will grip the public for a moment -- a fat boy dancing, a very good guitarist. But there aren't many of those, and the ones that do pop up never come back with a decent second act.

You can only take so much amateur hour. It gets old. I just logged on to YouTube now, and the first three featured videos are "Handfarting the Star Spangled Banner," "Spit Art" and "Pickup to Electronic Snare Drum." And if that doesn't send you racing to the Web site, I can't say I blame you.

You can see how Time made its mistake. On its Web site's "Person of the Year" straw poll, the short list was George W. Bush, Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Nancy Pelosi, Condoleezza Rice, Al Gore, Hugo Chavez and "The YouTube Guys."

Well, Bush already got it twice this decade. Kim, Chavez, Rice or Gore didn't exactly dominate the year. The editors no doubt cringed away from Ahmadinejad and Pelosi. Which left "The YouTube Guys," which probably seemed unwise, picking a duo that few could even name.

Hence "You."

It'll create good PR -- the point of the annual stunt -- and introduce the New Year's Eve Season of Introspection. But don't buy all this new virtual democracy stuff. Maybe we'll all be logging en masse on to YouTube next year to watch kittens play with balls of yarn. But I doubt it. At least I hope not.


We come a-wassailing
This is the Christmas party season. Well, not for our office, as befitting the nail-biting anxiety that has afflicted the entire newspaper industry this past year. Yet the desire to celebrate -- Nietzsche would call it the "will to party" -- is still there, so a small convivial group headed over to the Gold Coast Room of the Drake Hotel last week, where the law firm of Winston & Strawn held its swank soiree.

There is something truly classless about that -- ink-stained wretches, deprived of their own pudding, hurrying over to leech off the largess of the flush legal community. But heck, we're journalists, and a certain amount of mooching is expected. Besides, we were invited.

I love how Winston & Strawn had a comfy stool set up at one end of the room, as if for Santa Claus. It wasn't, it was for Jim Thompson, the former governor and former chairman of the firm. As with Santa, people lined up to pay homage and ask favors.

After kissing Big Jim's ring -- we're old pals, from way back -- I positioned myself against a pillar, bracing with my left hand, which set up for an unusual exchange.

"Oh, you're married," pouted a drunk woman, reeling up to us, pointing at the big honking wedding band on my ring finger.

"I am?!?" I said, gazing in horror at my hand. "My God, when did that happen?"

Not really -- I grunted something, and the woman immediately kicked off her shoes, depositing a pair of heels by the pillar. They were some shoes -- purple satin, with a three-inch heel and a kind of bow on the top. The sort of shoe that a man might drink champagne out of.

"Don't you dare!" the woman cried, mistaking an idle observation for a plan to drench her shoe, snatching back the footwear. "Look how much it cost." She flipped over the shoe. There, on the sole, was a square paper price tag -- $625, marked down to $418.

This sparked amazement in me.

"You kept the price tag on your shoes?" I asked, in awe.

"Well . . ." said the woman, "it wouldn't come off."

I considered doing her a favor and scraping the tag away with my thumbnail then and there, but realized she was probably a lawyer and might sue me for destroying the badge of honor on her pricey shoes. Time, I thought, to head for the train.

Which is why it is so important to go to parties, whether your own or somebody else's. Because they make you value staying home all the more.


Today's chuckle
Ever wonder why so many of the great violinists of the last century were Jewish, but so few of the great pianists?

Well, you try escaping with a piano under your arm.

© Copyright 2006 Sun-Times News Group

Time magazine unveiled its "Person of the Year" for 2006 on Dec. 16, 2006, as -- You, the creators and consumers of user-generated Internet content like video-file sharing site YouTube and social network MySpace. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

You are Time´s Person of the Year


Time magazine, long famous for its annual 'Person of the Year' award, has broken with tradition by selecting millions of people instead One of which is you.

The 2006 "Person of the Year" was announced at the news magazine's headquarters in New York on Saturday.

The periodical hits newsstands on Monday, with a white keyboard on the cover and a mirror for a computer screen, where buyers can see their reflection.

"Time's Person of the Year for 2006 is you, the consumers and creators of user-generated content, who are transforming the information age. From You Tube this year to My Space, individuals all across the planet were changing the way we do business, changing the way we perceive each other, changing the way we perceive the war." Richard Stengel, Time editor said.

Runner up was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The magazine says he touched on the most vital issues of the year, the war in Iraq and the rise of Shi'ite power.

The magazine also cited 26 "People Who Mattered," including the DPRK's Kim Jong Il and Pope Benedict the 16th.

It was not the first time the magazine shied away from naming an actual person for its "Person of the Year."

In 1966, the 25-and-under Generation was cited; in 1975, American Women were named; and in 1982, it was The Computer.


Editor:Du Xiaodan


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