the show: 07-14-06

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Good morning Sports Racers, its the 14th of July. Today we vote for the "I Knows Me Some Ugly MySpace Contest". Why? Because its important. [music begins]

YOU...SO...UGLY! [montage of MySpace ugly pages and other images begins]

(Song)

Uh-huh. I knows me some ugly! And you, you is ugly.
How ugly?
You so ugly, ugly sticks get ugly when they hit by you.
You so ugly when you were a baby, momma tried to put a spoon of mushy peas in your ass.
I knows me some ugly! And you, you is ugly.
So ugly!
Uh! I knows me some ugly. SO...UGLY! And you, you is ugly! [music fades out]

You get ten votes today and on Monday we'll vote for the winner. Do you know you's some ugly?

S-s-s-something from the comments.

Varion writes, "Having an ugly Myspace contest is like having a contest to see who can eat the most cheeseburgers in 24 hours... You're mocking people who, for the most part, have no taste or artistic training."

Varion, thanks for telling me what I was doing. I didn't even know I was mocking people.

For a very long time, taste and artistic training have been things that only a small number of people have been able to develop. Only a few people could afford to participate in the production of many types of media. Raw materials like pigments were expensive; same with tools like printing presses; even as late as 1963 it cost Charles Peignot over $600,000 to create and cut a single font family.

The small number of people who had access to these tools and resources created rules about what was good taste or bad taste. These designers started giving each other awards and the rules they followed became even more specific. All sorts of stuff about grids and sizes and color combinations — lots of stuff that the consumers of this media never consciously noticed. Over the last 20 years, however, the cost of tools related to the authorship of media has plummeted. For very little money, anyone can create and distribute things like newsletters, or videos, or bad-ass tunes about "ugly."

Suddenly consumers are learning the language of these authorship tools. The fact that tons of people know names of fonts like Helvetica is weird! And when people start learning something new, they perceive the world around them differently. If you start learning how to play the guitar, suddenly the guitar stands out in all the music you listen to. For example, throughout most of the history of movies, the audience didn't really understand what a craft editing was. Now, as more and more people have access to things like iMovie, they begin to understand the manipulative power of editing. Watching reality TV almost becomes like a game as you try to second-guess how the editor is trying to manipulate you.

As people start learning and experimenting with these languages authorship, they don't necessarily follow the rules of good taste. This scares the shit out of designers.

In Myspace, millions of people have opted out of pre-made templates that "work" in exchange for ugly. Ugly when compared to pre-existing notions of taste is a bummer. But ugly as a representation of mass experimentation and learning is pretty damn cool.

Regardless of what you might think, the actions you take to make your Myspace page ugly are pretty sophisticated. Over time as consumer-created media engulfs the other kind, it's possible that completely new norms develop around the notions of talent and artistic ability.

Happy Ugly. This is Ze Frank, thinking so you don't have to.

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