inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #176 of 189: Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Wed 3 Sep 03 11:17
For perspective on heroism, I offer a quote from the "Carl" section of
the book. It is as straightforward explanation as I felt I could make.
For reference, Jaap van der Meer was Louis' boss at the time he
started his first magazine, Language Technology, in Amsterdam. Language
Technology became Electric Word, and some of Electric Word went into
the original plan for Wired.



To Carl, Louis seemed to be trying to make his company into a model of
the Darwinian system that he envisioned as the ultimate means of
social progress. Business solutions at Wired emerged from the natural
selection of a few successful projects from many failures. Conventional
management, which requires careful planning and top-down authority,
might have inhibited the process of extravagant risk out of which real
economic value would grow.

Carl took this lesson, which was hidden in plain sight, as the
solution to the problem of his ambition. He had long been in a fury of
resentment over not being invited to what he thought of as the
high-level meetings where the company's major decisions were made.


Carl had been stewing for months... but [finally] he figured out a new
way to look at it. If the world was a Darwinian game, then the
managers who attempted to get Carl to work on their ridiculous projects
were predators, and Carl's task was the evade the predators and
evolve. After all, what would  have happened to Louis had he listened
to Jaap van der Meer's ideas about Language Technology?

Carl saw that within every business plan lay a hidden opportunity for
subversive success, just as there is a seed of parody buried in every
romance. The new economy turned the corporate pyramid upside down. The
purpose of Wired was not to exploit Carl's talent; rather, the purpose
of Carl's talent was to transform the company into an instrument of
personal expression. The young man's face was a study in innocence as
he expounded his new philosophy to anybody he guessed would be
irritated by it.

"Louis is my  hero,"  he said.

<end quote>
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #177 of 189: Gail Williams (gail) Wed 3 Sep 03 11:23
Now that's interesting.
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #178 of 189: Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Wed 3 Sep 03 11:24
Just to try and prevent mistakes: my point is that heroism is a
product of a point-of-view, and that by altering the point-of-view
heroes become fools. And fools, heroes. If you think you have control
of this process (i.e., that your own point of view resolves the matter
decisively), then you are a hero - at least in from your own point of
view. As for how you may look to others (say, in the future), well -!

I suspect that trying to expose this level of reality (the reality of
the unresolvable shifts of historical point-of-view) in a business book
is a fool's errand. It creates genre confusion: is this a business
book or is there a confusing layer of irony messing things up?!!
Submitting to this risk, as a writer, is my own form of entrepreneurial
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #179 of 189: Chip Bayers (hotwired) Wed 3 Sep 03 11:46
I think that gets at Mike's confusion about why Louis would have stiff-armed
Andy Lack from NBC when he came to inspect Wired TV. There are numerous
scenes in the book showing how Louis had succeeded in the past with such
behavior, at least from his own POV. The incident where Suhler of the
investment bank Veronis Suhler talks to Jane on the phone, for example, with
Louis repeating over and over again, "tell him to go fuck himself," or words
to that effect, when Suhler tries to get them to talk to Si Newhouse. In the
end Louis got Newhouse as an investor, but a very passive minority one.
Louis, in his own mind, had retained control despite being an asshole - or
in fact, because he was one.
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #180 of 189: Steve Silberman (digaman) Wed 3 Sep 03 12:32
Brilliant writing, Gary!
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #181 of 189: Seahorses of the Liver (mnemonic) Wed 3 Sep 03 18:10

I think I get that Louis's personality was the primary reason for his
assholiness to Andy Lack (I know more about how Louis works now than I did
then, partly through life experience and partly through Gary's book).  I
think the thing that's harder to explain is why people who had more sense
didn't protect Louis from his worst impulses, especially when it involved
something as important as the MSNBC relationship.  You don't have to know
much about Louis, or Wired, or Lack, or NBC, to know that when a network
exec flies across the country and is stiff-armed by the director of a
project he's investing in, things are not going to go well. And I don't just
mean there's going to be a tiff -- I mean the whole relationship is likely
to go sour Real Soon Now. (As in fact it did.)

One of the earliest impressions I had of the Wired TV division (and this may
reflect hiring decisions made by folks other than Louis) was that *no one*
seemed willing to tell Louis in any way that this whole thing was being
fucked up.  When I wrote an evaluation of the first show, I was (I think)
comical in the extent to which I bent over backward to communicate to Louis
that the show sucked big-time, while saying there was something there that
could be fixed. I remember thinking, I'm already on the outs, so I've got
nothing to lose by telling Louis the truth, but I have to couch it in a way
that might lead to Louis's actually listening to what I was saying. It was
quite an exercise -- especially since I was doing this to give Louis ideas
about what to say when he met Lack next in, I think, Chicago.

That memo is still posted in the Media conference on the WELL, I think,
somewhere. I know I kept a copy, and gave one to Gary when he was
researching the book.  To the last, I wanted the show to succeed, but once
the first segment aired it was doomed.

I wish some of the pugnacious people on the magazine side or the Hotwired
side had been at the TV division -- it seemed to me that the TV people
were constantly shivering with trepidation about Louis's likely criticism as
to this or that minor thing.
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #182 of 189: Chip Bayers (hotwired) Wed 3 Sep 03 20:45
I think you overestimate what pugnaciousness at Wired and Hotwired got you.
Gary and I were each, at separate times, cut off at the knees when we
challenged Louis, for example. And Battelle and Plunkett at the magazine
were usually flattened, or just got out of the way, when conflict arose
because they knew most if not all battles with Louis were unwinnable.
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #183 of 189: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Thu 4 Sep 03 12:31
Time flies! We're near the end of the third week of what was announced
as a two-week stint in the Inkwell for Gary Wolf (sing along: "a
three-hour tour"). Everyone is welcome to stay, of course, and continue
the discussion. Still, I wanted to step in briefly to thank everyone
who has contributed here, but especially to express our appreciation to
Gary and Kevin for their time and efforts in the topic.
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #184 of 189: Steve Silberman (digaman) Thu 4 Sep 03 21:59
Thanks, Gary and Kevin!
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #185 of 189: Gerard Van der Leun (boswell) Tue 9 Sep 03 10:11
I second that. A nice bit of a book all around. I note that, in the
end, Louis and Jane are sitting around on a tiny pile of millions, so I
guess -- given what they had before -- they came out ahead. Don't you
wish all romances had as happy an ending?
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #186 of 189: Kevin Kelly (kk) Tue 9 Sep 03 13:31
And, BTW, they ARE happy. Two kids, two houses, and a marriage that
survived the worst (an achievement I never expected).

I hope this glimpse of Wired's ability to ignite passion will convince
those have not yet read Gary's book to hurry to Amazon and order it.

Gary, thanks for writing the book, and for extending it via this
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #187 of 189: an oceanic sofa of bliss (sd) Fri 12 Sep 03 13:03
just got mine (a day or two late) and i'm enjoying it.
thanks gary.
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #188 of 189: Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Fri 12 Sep 03 15:14
Thanks to all of you for piping up here. You are a much more
sympathetic group that the reviewers on Amazon, the most recent of
which accused me of talking about the character's pets and flowerpots
rather than the interesting things that went on the company, adding
that I didn't give much information that readers wouldn't already know.
Jeez! Some people are so ungrateful. This is payback for all the mean
restaurant reviews I wrote when I was a reckless, unfeeling young man. 
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #189 of 189: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Sat 13 Sep 03 06:22
Didn't give much information readers didn't already know?! That/those
reviewer/s is/are on drugs! Gary, I followed the "Wired story" from
afar in those halcyon days, enough that most of the characters are
familiar, but I learned loads reading your book. SOmeone's posting
reviews without looking at the book.

Just last night, I was telling someone about the
Wall-Street-Journal-endorses-the-mania moment, about which you pointed
out that then the last cynic was in the market and it *had* to come
crashing down. A fine observation at the end of a well drawn scene.

I really enjoyed it. Thanks.

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