Episode 0066 · August 17, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.

Vaudeville Gang Gang

[Unedited Transcript]

Rich Ziade: [00:00:00] Paul, you sound like shit today. How are

Paul Ford: Uh, thanks for… No, I have, uh, I have a sinus infection, so I apologize to the listener for the tone of my voice.

Rich Ziade: I think it’s actually very, um, what’s the word, velvety.

Paul Ford: Yeah, it’s velvety, but it’s got that nasal top. It ain’t great, but regardless, let’s not talk about my sinuses anywhere. What do you got? You, you have an idea, which is good. We’re gonna keep this one

Rich Ziade: I woke up early this morning,

Paul Ford: okay? You guys, you’re, you’re the CEO, so you gotta get up and gotta crush it, give it the elliptical.

Rich Ziade: up with lists. I am the stereotypical dipshit CEO.

Paul Ford: actually CEO behavior right there, yeah.

Rich Ziade: And I opened Twitter, or X,

Paul Ford: This is also,

Rich Ziade: what you want to

Paul Ford: yeah, that’s the other thing CEOs like to do.

Rich Ziade: I’m a little obsessed with the ads on Twitter.

Paul Ford: Oh, it’s become the back of Family Circle magazine. It’s just, yeah. Yeah.

Rich Ziade: there was a mug that came up,

Paul Ford: It’s that, but it’s also like anime, like soft poured, like I can’t show you the rest of her animated [00:01:00] nipples.

Rich Ziade: Yeah,

Paul Ford: It is pretty bad.

Anyway, you saw something, it wasn’t that,

Rich Ziade: So I’m Mug.

Paul Ford: so a bug.

Rich Ziade: And there was art and an inscription on the mug, and I’m going to read it to

Paul Ford: Oh, okay. Let me, let me listen.

Rich Ziade: To my wife.

Paul Ford: Okay.

Rich Ziade: I wish I could turn back the clock. I’d find you sooner and love you longer. I may not, I may not be your first date, your first kiss, or your first love. Which, in my mind, gives me images of waiting on a really long line for ice cream.

Paul Ford: Yeah, we’re still on this bug. We’re still reading the bug. Okay.

Rich Ziade: I just want to be your last everything. I love you. Forever and always.

Paul Ford: Wow, so that guy’s like, I banged the entire church group. But now, [00:02:00] I wanna die with you in a trailer.

Rich Ziade: Well, I may not be your first kiss or first love, so he’s actually insinuating something about

Paul Ford: That’s very progressive, good for him. He’s, he’s accepting that she had a very fulfilling erotic life before she showed up on that bug.

Rich Ziade: Now let me, one thing aside here.

Paul Ford: Boy, that’s an ugly ass mug. You just held it up. I wouldn’t give that to my dog. And I don’t mind garbage. I don’t mind classy with a K. That’s garbage.

Rich Ziade: It’s garbage. It’s a lot of junk. There are a lot of junk ads on Twitter. Just to be clear, if I gave this mug to my wife, it would come sailing back at my

Paul Ford: As you say, I can see the parabola of, like, hot coffee flying out of it as it hits you smack in the middle. She’s very, very athletic, very fit person, your wife. So she would be able to get it probably about a good inch directly into your enormous forehead. Yeah, so,

Rich Ziade: I guess this led me to a thought and led me to a topic I think we can talk about.

Paul Ford: okay.

Rich Ziade: I have always viewed [00:03:00] technology as this thing that elevates us.

Paul Ford: Oh, this is the heartbreak of middle age in technology. Absolutely. I know exactly where we’re going with this.

Rich Ziade: I view it as something that makes us more enlightened.

Paul Ford: Absolutely.

Rich Ziade: More productive,

Paul Ford: We’re going to augment human intelligence.

Rich Ziade: more intelligent, I guess, more intelligent, I don’t know, or it frees us up. The fact that I’m not spending a lot of time on rote tasks and like grunt work allows me to think big thoughts. But then I open… Twitter slash X and I get ads like this and and this ad is just an example of like what really takes hold on the internet What’s really popular on the internet is Someone frying an egg on pavement for 10 seconds in a video.

Paul Ford: of the content that’s not pornography on the internet is like pictures of shoes. So

Rich Ziade: [00:04:00] It left me a little sad.

Paul Ford: Sure.

Rich Ziade: Should I be sad?

Paul Ford: Uh, well, uh, there’s a few things going on here.

I’ll give you some context. When television started to happen, One of the, one of the first things, I think it was Pat Weaver was like an early guy at NBC, actually was Sigourney Weaver’s dad, just crazy, you know, trivia, but he was like a buckety book, and he would talk about like, we’re gonna put Shakespeare on television, and you know, fast forward, and you have like, Welcome Back, Cotter, and you know, entire TV shows in the 80s where the, where the, where the catchphrase was like, uh, an alien going, brah,

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah, yeah,

Paul Ford: for years, just, just like, now we have smart TV again.

Rich Ziade: You know what the 70s was, and we’re old enough to remember this. And I look back on it and really see it. The most popular sitcoms were essentially… Like urban because you were sort of observing the craziness of living in

Paul Ford: Or, or all of the family where it was about like racial tension, and so it was, but what it was about, [00:05:00] when you look back at the 70s, we were broke, don’t have any money,

Rich Ziade: Yeah It was it was it was

Paul Ford: you just would come home from

Rich Ziade: Sanford and son was a junkyard. It was the setting was a junkyard

Paul Ford: on a British TV show, which is also about a junkyard family.

Rich Ziade: It’s not good Right. It’s

Paul Ford: Uh, it’s, so. But that aside, right? Like, okay, technology, the promise of technology, the sort of 1960s whole earth catalog thing is like, you’re going to get this godlike power, and you’re going to use it to become incredibly informed, and you’re going to make enlightened decisions about your own life, and you’re going to create an amazing future.

That is the narrative.

Rich Ziade: pretty beautiful.

Paul Ford: Wonderful. I bought into it completely. I love it. And it’s actually, it allows you to really cop out as a technology person because everything you’re doing is somehow part of the narrative. And so you will sometimes meet people in our industry who are like, Hey, what are you working on?

Really? It’s a thing where if you scroll, The ad won’t move until you touch a monkey’s nipple, you know, [00:06:00] and they’ll be like, and, but in the back of their head they’re like, by doing this I’m enabling people to get access to media experiences for less money and they’re going to make the board more powerful and smarter and the reality is like now you just put a monkey nipple smacker ad in the middle of the New York Times, you know.

And so, so no, do people Technology does not change human experience. It doesn’t. It does make us, we are more informed, but we don’t know what to do with the information.

Rich Ziade: I think about like, you know when when The like, carnival would come to town and it had the freak show. Like the bearded lady and the world’s shortest man or whatever, like just freakish stuff.

Paul Ford: I love, I love that you’re, you’re in Bay Ridge. Like, when did that happen?

Rich Ziade: no, no, no, I, I didn’t

Paul Ford: Wait, you just, when,

Rich Ziade: 170

Paul Ford: When you would go to Canarsie, like

Rich Ziade: No, no, this didn’t happen to me. My point is, I guess we’re kind of into the same weird stuff that we’ve always been into. We just like to be

Paul Ford: I’ll [00:07:00] give you an example. Remember when that woman, everyone was like, Oh my God, look at what’s happening in the world. It was this very, very pretty woman. And she would look at the screen and people would type things to her on TikTok, or they’d give her a little gifts, virtual gifts. And she would go, gag, gag, ice cream.

So good. Ooh, so good. And all that nice.

Rich Ziade: this.

Paul Ford: You heard it. You heard about

Rich Ziade: I saw it too.

Paul Ford: So, and everybody in my, in my cohort was like, well, that’s it. End of the world. It’s all over. Let me tell you a story. Well, I told the story of the podcast before, but it’s a relevant story. My grandfather, who I never met, grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, and when he was a little boy, like, Maybe nine years old.

They’d pay him a nickel to go with his friend and roll an attire across the vaudeville stage between acts because they wanted to keep people entertained.

Rich Ziade: You never told me this story. That’s impressive.

Paul Ford: Okay. So, hey, what are you doing? What are you doing? And off he would go, and he would roll, he would roll his friend in a tire. Sometimes he’d be the guy in the tire.

And people in the audience who were literally between an act [00:08:00] where like a donkey would count and a woman would sing a song, would be like, Ah, that kid just rolled across in a tire!

Rich Ziade: This really

Paul Ford: This really happened. I actually love vaudeville. I’m fascinated by vaudeville. And we’re going to go into this for

Rich Ziade: Is the internet vaudeville writ large? Is that all it is?

Paul Ford: so vaudeville is a fascinating form of entertainment because it’s a true popular creation So Americans first form of entertainment that we had like Shakespeare plays There were actually big fights in New York City over Shakespeare because like right riots

Rich Ziade: Nobody

Paul Ford: they really did. Yeah, I mean, like, there was a huge fight, kind of like, Shakespeare was lowbrow, and then they kind of started to elevate him.

Different, you know, British actors would perform, and that would make people who wanted American actors angry, and so on and on. Anyway, regardless, you got all that going on. The popular entertainment in America was the Mitchell Show, where white people would put cork on their face and do racist impersonations.

That was the popular entertainment, and they would just, that was like through [00:09:00] the 1800s, and then like parts of the Mitchell show started to adapt, and it’d be like, ah, I’ll sing a little song, this guy will come out and tell jokes, stand up comedians. So then there’s this

Rich Ziade: It’s a variety show.

Paul Ford: Yes, it became a variety show.

It started as just like singing and dancing and just plain old racism. And then they’re like, hold on a minute,

Rich Ziade: We’ll tell a joke. We’ll show a trick. We’ll bring a magician out.

Paul Ford: it got kind of burlesque y out there, like, you know, you could, but you couldn’t take the family, right? So you have like, Bistro shows are good, traveling around America, you know, the, the, the trains are coming in, then you get like burlesque showing up and sort of burlesque style stuff, and it’s like raunchy songs, and then Vaudeville shows up.

And Vaudeville shows up, like, actually a lot of it in New York City, because you could take the ladies. It wasn’t like, just all, like, booby jokes.

Rich Ziade: Ah, okay.

Paul Ford: wasn’t just racism anywhere, there’s plenty of racism. Don’t worry. Lots for everybody. And a lot of actually, like, funny Swedish jokes. Like, just like, Oh, the Swedes!

Ha ha ha! So, [00:10:00] but wait, I’ve got to go to a place. So, absolute novelty and silliness and vaudeville was continuous, meaning for like literally hours and hours and hours. The shows would repeat. So you’d do like a five minute act,

Rich Ziade: walk in,

Paul Ford: in, and

Rich Ziade: catch some of it, walk.

Paul Ford: the same show would come back on.

Rich Ziade: And it’s just stuff coming at you. It’s essentially a feed.

Paul Ford: do you

Rich Ziade: a TikTok feed.

Paul Ford: the stuff around the country? Well, you have a network called the railways, which is hub and spoke, and you transmit the entertainment for human beings from city to city where they land on vaudeville theaters. How do you have a huge motion picture industry? You suddenly start showing movies.

That’s a novelty. But it’s so, it’s so much cheaper than humans. It’s like bad news for the humans. What happens to the comedians? Well, you know, movies are coming in, and so is radio in the 20s and

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Suddenly, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, all these people start performing on the radio. And suddenly, one network begets the next network begets the [00:11:00] next network.

Bringing this back to your point, Are we getting dumber? No, this is always the same. There is a network of information that is putting absolute folly and silliness, anything that can make money. Uh, for the audience, for the theater owners, and for the acts. Anything that people want to see, including a little boy rolling another little boy in a

Rich Ziade: Yep. Yep. Um. You know what this is making me think of? Um, minor league baseball.

Paul Ford: Ah, oh, yes, I know exactly

Rich Ziade: Like, flaming baseball bats and somersaults. And then they have, in between innings, baby races. They’re like, do you have a baby? If it’s 6 months old, uh, if it’s 6 to 12 months old, bring him out. We’re gonna have a race and the winner gets a 100 gift certificate to Bill’s Hardware

Paul Ford: 100 gift certificate

Rich Ziade: they like know, they know they gotta work it out, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah,

Paul Ford: Store.

Rich Ziade: yeah. You gotta [00:12:00] entertain, right?

Paul Ford: game. What’s happening?

Rich Ziade: Okay, I guess let’s look ahead. I don’t know if this leads to advice. It’s more observational. Should I, here’s a piece of advice I want from you to close this out. This is actually, it’s very illuminating because it’s hard to zoom out. It always feels like the end of civilization.

Paul Ford: always so you could go back 2, 000 years. It’s not it’s not we actually have better access to more information.

Rich Ziade: till Apple straps a, an IMAX camera to your head, and then that’s the end of that. Then we’ll be having another podcast like, Paul, I haven’t seen a human or touched anyone in two weeks.

Paul Ford: The answer to human behavior is how humans behave. It is not, there is no device that improves the quality.

Rich Ziade: Is there a device that degrades the quality?

Paul Ford: I do think that, uh, here’s what we’ve learned. Small, clustered groups of mutually [00:13:00] supportive people are able to achieve really amazing things. Enormous groups of fighting people get really, really bad.

Rich Ziade: Yes.

Paul Ford: Right, like we just saw Twitter. We saw like, you know, Gab and like just you just thousands of screaming people It just brings out the worst in us

Rich Ziade: I think, I think there is that aspect of it. The thing we’re not going to talk about on this podcast is that it was stage and audience, right, for the longest time. And, and, and now everyone’s got a stage. And I think that, that, that instinct to perform and that urge to perform and be loudest in the room leads to some messed up stuff,

Paul Ford: will say the easy access to everything means there is less rehearsal in practice. So chat GPT will write an essay for you. It’s pretty good, better than you could probably

Rich Ziade: yeah, yeah,

Paul Ford: So you don’t do that thinking, you don’t rehearse the thinking. You don’t learn the form. That’s too bad.

Rich Ziade: That is too bad, and I think, but you know, to close it with a bit of hope, when you do see something that clearly [00:14:00] someone put a lot of work into, it’s still a marvel, right? It’s still really appreciated. Like a great movie is still a great

Paul Ford: right? It’s still really appreciated.

Rich Ziade: because he’s an obsessive

Paul Ford: Difficult people are still making interesting things. And you can also appreciate the craft of popular stuff. You can appreciate the craft of like Dua Lipa songs.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Those are industrial interesting products of their own.

Rich Ziade: Yeah All right. This was a great zoom out Paul. You’re good at that. You’re good at that because I want to be angry I woke up angry. I had a list I saw that mug and I got angry.

Paul Ford: People are getting dumber. They’re the exact same as they were, which is too bad. And they have green. But they’re not getting

Rich Ziade: Paul, if you’d like to save novelty mugs

Paul Ford: Well,

Rich Ziade: on the, off the web, what tool should you

Paul Ford: We have a product called Abort. And Abort lets you, like, save things on the web. And there’s a [00:15:00] fantasy I would have had years ago that Abort will make you, like, make everybody smarter and better.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: But I don’t think, no software will do that. But what a board does do is make it easier for you to have a resilient place to save your information and communicate with the people in your peer group. So I’m going to, all I want this software to do really, is just allow people to do what they do with less friction.

I feel that that’s the best you could hope for. And so I think we,

Rich Ziade: Aboard. com.

Paul Ford: good, it does

Rich Ziade: live very soon and everyone will be able to sign up. So check it out and check us, check us out at Ziadeford. com and at Ziadeford on X, not Twitter, Paul.

Paul Ford: You know what, one way you get smarter, you listen to this podcast. We’re not making people dumber.

Rich Ziade: We’re not selling mugs, I’ll tell you that. We may sell mugs one day, who knows.

Paul Ford: it’ll be exactly like that book. Alright, I’m gonna go decongest.

Rich Ziade: a lovely day. Feel better, Paul. Bye. [00:16:00]

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