Look, I’ve got this blog section here that I do almost nothing with, because my daily life is feed the cat, watch something, write about it, go to the gym, watch something else, wrestle with existential angst, sleepytime, rinse, repeat. The highlights are small and personal and not particularly interesting to the outside observer. Maybe I’ll start posting cat photos here just for the hell of it. We’re still a long way from gym selfies at any rate.
Buuuut… I do come across plenty of tangential stuff that’s worth throwing a spotlight on, and the most notable lately is the new longform podcast series Downlow.d whose first season is titled “The Rise and Fall of Harry Knowles and Ain’t it Cool News.”
Old internet hands will need no further elucidation. AICN and Harry Knowles were huge at the dawn of the internet age. Knowles was hugely influential as a critic and blogger, and his site was the big dog of early film sites, wielding immense influence over the industry until the studios figured out exactly which carrots and which sticks would work on the new and alien crop of film writers who suddenly had a worldwide audience and little respect for The Old Ways. Of course, Knowles himself was fond of the odd carrot, being particularly susceptible to the soft power of junkets, premieres, and studio gifts, and no small amount of controversy dogged him and AICN even before allegations of sexual assault torpedoed his career.
Podcast author Joe Scott, a self-confessed fan of AICN back in the day, does not shy away from this, and he seems to be taking a pretty measured and balanced approach based on the three episodes so far released. He talks to a lot of the folks who were there, including Drew McWeeny, Jeremy Smith, C. Robert Cargill, Garth Franklin (who was not an AICNer, but whose own site, Dark Horizons, is more or less the last man standing of that era). Everyone seems pretty candid and open to digging into the good and the bad of the time and the org, although looked at with the distance and clarity of age many of the behaviours that were indulged or even encouraged were unarguably terrible. I’m not just talking about the sexual assault claims against Knowles; Scott draws a straight line between the bro-y, fractious, fanboy culture of AICN and the current intensely tribal, hyper-defensive, aggressive state of play in online fan circles and, look, it’s hard to argue against.
Anyway, if you’re a veteran of those early days or have an interest in How We Got Here, give it a spin. It’s almost certainly on your preferred listening service, or you can hit the link here.
That Joe Hallenbeck dude sounds like an asshole, though. Perhaps he needs a few more months on the chain gang.