Boing Boing, the world’s “most favorited” blog, according to Technorati’s vastly hideous phrase, is a hybrid of tech-culture newsletter and DIY lifestyle magazine. Its posts speak of copyright skirmishes and art-prankster attacks, of retro-kitsch bric-a-brac and futuristic gizmos, of comic books and academic journals. While an ideal Boing Boing post would concern an academic journal article about retro-futurist comic books, the site offers a little bit of everything for the cosmopolitan geek. This is in contrast to Boing Boing TV, a new Web video endeavor, which is about nothing.
It’s taken several weeks for the site to develop this voice. When Boing Boing TV launched at the beginning of October, it kept making dodges in the direction of substance, or at least something like “content.” The floating head of Xeni Jardin—the most glamorous member of the Boing Boing crew—would deliver information from a news anchor’s pulpit. She did a story titled “Burma Internet Crackdown” in a stern public-radio cadence and charged through the piece “Fall TV Shows” with a kind of guy’s-gal strut that recalled the news-reading flirts of Rocketboom. She treated a segment on a novelty hit from the Japanese pop charts with the happy-talk gusto of a lifestyle reporter on the local morning news.
But lately Jardin has abandoned her MaxHeadroom act. Instead, she’s been venturing around greater Los Angeles, collecting oddities and pulling pranks. The other day, she sat John Hodgman down in his suite at the Chateau Marmont. Hodgman—familiar from Apple ads and The Daily Show—has made a fine career for himself as a humorist despite only occasionally trafficking in humor; more often, he practices a strain of performance art where half of the performance consists of trying to be droll and the other half lies in not cracking up at yourself. As a writer with a McSweeney’s pedigree and a cult celebrity on account of his absurdism, he’s a Boing Boing kind of guy. Hodgman and Jardin had a poker-faced chat about his latest book, which is about mole men and, deliberately, said nothing worth remembering. In the most exciting moment, the camera panned down to catch the athletic socks on his feet.
In another recent video, Boing Boing’s Mark Frauenfelder, wearing a lab coat evocative of a Devo stage costume and at one point strumming a ukulele, showed us how to build a rudimentary engine using some magnets, some wire, and a tea light. Inasmuch as the clip illustrates that magnets lose their field at a certain temperature, it might plausibly inspire you to create a science project, should you happen to be enrolled in fifth grade and hard up for an idea. The video is shaped to be pure distraction, effectively so, and all that counts is its personality. It’s a harmless enough use of Web video, branding as entertainment and vice versa.