'Borat' Conquers The Blogs ... High Five!

Actor Sacha Baron Cohen arrives at the Toronto International Film Festival premiere screening of "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" held at Ryerson Theatre on September 7, 2006 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
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Blogophile is written by CBSNews.com's Melissa P. McNamara.



"Borat," comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's new film is a cyber-sensation. Plus, many runners in the New York City marathon are also bloggers. Read about their training. And, what's a vloggie? Find out below. Also, why is everyone searching for Wee Shu Min?

Borat Conquers The Blogosphere

"Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" proved that Internet buzz (plus a loyal television following) can make for a cyber-sensation. Unlike "Snakes on a Plane," which generated a huge amount of online buzz, but opened to only modest crowds, "Borat" surprised Hollywood with a No. 1 debut over the weekend.

The movie stars comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat Sagdiyev, a reporter from Kazakhstan, who comes to America to make a documentary and make Pamela Anderson his wife. Cohen's "Borat" has long had admirers online — there are hundreds of Borat clips on YouTube — but the movie's weekend debut created even more buzz in the blogosphere. Many bloggers applaud Cohen's ability to expose parts of American culture that often aren't raised, especially in a comedy.

"Borat is one of the funniest movies we've ever seen …," Heidi MacDonald writes at The Beat, summing up the reaction of many.

" 'Borat' allows the 'voyeur' to sit laughingly or even quietly, in the darkened cinema, unobserved, and, just maybe, become more aware of what biases lie within," Gary Chew writes at TulsaTV Memories.

However, not everyone is laughing, especially about Borat's open dislike for Jews. Cohen is Jewish himself. "Granted Borat is a funny guy. But does that alone excuse his brand of humor? Or does it help us to ignore and dismiss anti-Jewish behavior that is occurring on a global scale?" a blogger writes on Aliyah Blog.

Tony Karon agrees, but argues that Cohen's offenses really come at the expense at the Kazakhs. "Essentially, he's operating his own stereotype, i.e. that Muslims are inherently anti-Semitic. And I can entirely sympathize with the exasperation of the Kazakh government in having to respond to this nonsense," Karon writes at Rootless Cosmopolitan.

But others say these critics just don't get it. "The whole point of Cohen's Borat character is to lampoon the prejudices and bigotries — or sometimes just confusion and discomfort — of the people he comes in contact with," PJB writes at Parenthetical Remarks.

Still, is all the talk of Borat too much of a good thing? Perhaps, some bloggers say. "Sacha Baron Cohen and his various in character interviews as Borat has probably reached the point of annoyance and tedium, especially for those who don't dig," Douglas Reinhart writes at Skeet On Mischa.


Racing To Their Blogs

Jelena Prokopcuka successfully defended her New York Marathon title Sunday, and Brazilian Marilson Gomes dos Santos won the men's race. For marathon runners with blogs, the excitement for the race had been building up for months.

Just a day before the marathon, nyflygirl was blogging with anticipation. "It's so close, and so surreal. In less than 24 hours, I will be toeing the start line on Staten Island," she wrote on Training Hard, Hardly Training. "The hard work is done. Now the fun really begins. And it is gonna be fun. How grateful am I that I will have the home field advantage for my first marathon? I can't wait to see the sights, and see my friends, family and teammates along the way."

Josh Morphew was running to raise money to honor the memory of his grandmother who passed away with Alzheimer's, and was eager for race day. "The New York City Marathon is just days away and now it is my turn to contribute. I shall give every bit of strength, will and heart I can possibly muster," Josh blogs.

Many bloggers' tales of their pre-race training show just how difficult it is to run 26.2 miles, and how much rigorous training it entails. "My legs are getting tired … Are my hamstrings tight? I wish I could have a glass of wine. I really should be sitting down ...," Sempre Libera blogged, days before the marathon. Three weeks before the marathon, Stephanie Gehrsitz wrote that she pulled a muscle, "the PSOAS MAJOR!" and began intense physical therapy. With one week to go, she wrote, "Today has been the very first day my 'pain' hasn't been that strong."

Thanks to a boost in technology, many bloggers were posting right from the marathon's streets. Fellow CBS Newser Michelle Peltier, who completed her own marathon three weeks ago, blogged from the NYC marathon at Chelle-On-The-Run. She included photos of the race as runners, and some friends, whisked by. She also recalled the excitement of visiting with others in the hours before the big race. "There's something really nice about the night before a marathon that you aren't actually running. There's still all the excitement and planning and eating pasta with your loved one, helping them put out their race gear the night before and setting the alarm early for oatmeal and coffee in the morning," Michelle blogs. "You get to be out on the race course and part of the action, dashing from point to point to catch up with your friends and spot the famous people running the race."

Other bloggers posted the automatic time markers sent to them in real-time on e-mail. Meryl Yourish enjoyed tracking where her brother was in the race as he passed the marathon kilometer markers.

There's a large community of runners with blogs, and they are very encouraging to one another. They understand the aches and pains of training for the marathon, and especially understand the feeling of accomplishment after finished a successful race.

Even bloggers who were just spectators appreciated what an eventful race it is, and the beauty of New York's streets. "It has to be one of the most spectacular things to see in the city. It makes me all teary to watch everyone run by; I get so excited for them. Congrats to everyone who ran today!" William Earle blogs at Design Sponge, summarizing what many felt on Sunday.


And The Vloggie Goes To ...

One of the most searched topics on blogs this week was "Vloggie." What are Vloggies, you ask? The Vloggies were the first annual awards for the best video blog (vlog). The awards, given out in San Francisco last weekend, recognized the funniest, smartest, strangest and best of online video.

The evening was a big night for video bloggers, who came out for their version of the Emmy's. "It's for videoblogging what the MTV Music Awards are to the music industry," Andreas Haugstrup Pedersen explains. Tom Forenski, writing at Silicon Valley Watcher, declared it "the place to be Saturday evening."

The event was organized by PodTech, and was co-founded by John Furrieror. Many considered the night a total success. "The Vloggies surpassed my greatest expectations — with all the glitches and mistakes," an organizer blogs.

The list of winners ranges from Freshtopia in the Best Cooking Vlog category to Chasing Windmills in the Best Entertainment Vlog category. Scobleizer posts a list of all the winners. Alive in Baghdad garnered the most awards, and was praised by many bloggers. "Vlogs from Iraqis tell the world uncensored what they have been through," Lizze writes.

Judges make their decisions based on several factors. Andreas Haugstrup Pedersen explains that he has certain factors that would immediately eliminate a contender. Among his rules are: "You've got to have more than 4 videos up — there's no One Hit Wonder / Best New Vlog award," "having no personality," and "more involvement with sponsors than the community," are all no-nos.

Many vloggers are optimistic video blogging is the next big thing. "Video on the net people. It's the future," Drew Olanoff writes at Unplugged.


Who Is Wee Shu Min?

One of the most talked about people in the blogosphere, Wee Shu Min, is likely largely unknown by many Americans. Just who is Wee Shu Min and why is she one of the most searched name on Technorati?

Wee Shu Min is the 18-year-old undergraduate daughter of a Singapore MP and a college student. She recently posted a snarky entry on her blog — and, classist, according to some — in response to fellow blogger Derek Wee's fears about Singapore's struggling labor market.

Derek Wee, 35, is a Singaporean who works for a multinational corporation, had written in his blog that he was concerned about competition from foreign talent and the lack of job opportunities for older workers here. He urged the government to understand Singaporeans' plight. Wee Shu Min called Wee one of her country's "wretched, undermotivated, overassuming leeches." "If uncertainty of success offends you so much, you will certainly be poor and miserable," she added.

Wee Shu Min's blog has since been taken down, but many bloggers have reposted her entry and are angry at what they say is her disregard for others.

"…There is a strata of society in Singapore that is oblivious to the plight of others," Shang Jun writes at The World Through My Eyes.

"People like Wee Shu Min should really take a good look in the mirror. Try waiting on tables and giving private tuition to raise funds to pay for your own tertiary education," Stressed Teacher blogs. "Try taking a loan from the bank to fund your university tuition fees. Many of us stand on our own two feet. We did not receive any freebies from the State, even though we are from a significantly lower-income group than the elites."

While some bloggers denounce what Wee Shu Min wrote, they also don't think she's being treated fairly. "(Derek Week) may be whining (or may not be), but the underlying issues are real. Anyway, I don't think she deserves to have her photos dugged up and splashed across the Web," a blogger at The-Double-O-Project writes.

Ixora05 agrees. "I begin to understand somewhat how Wee Shu Min feels. Something written in a moment of silliness, rashness, recklessness, stupidity, carelessness, impetuousness, can come back to haunt you and bite you in the butt very severely," Ixora writes on LiveJournal.

And some defend Wee Shu Min's remarks because she is young and her views are not fully developed. "She's 18, she's young, she has everything going for her, being scholar at a top jc (junior college) in singapore etc. full of ideals, opinionated, energetic, outspoken, not yet tried and tested in the world, hence hasn't faced any failure of any sort in the real world," déjà vu writes at Love. Angel. Music. Baby.

Meanwhile, as bloggers continue to debate Wee Shu Min's words, Derek Wee says that his mission was accomplished. "Some may be wondering how I feel about the whole episode. Well, my objective was to create an AWARENESS of the plight of people in their 40s," Wee wrote on his blog. "Looking at the numbers who have visited my blog & the 'accidental' limelight as a result of a 'visit from the elite,' I should be happy some level of awareness has been achieved indeed."


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By Melissa McNamara