Dane Cooks Up Fans Online

LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 19: Actress Jessica Simpson and actor Dane Cook pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Lionsgate's "Employee of the Month" at the Hollywood Rosevelt Hotel on September 19, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
With millions of sites floating through the blogosphere, who really has time to peek at even a fraction of them? Blogophile reads them for you and presents a weekly roundup of the buzz on must-read blogs. Blogophile appears new each Wednesday, and is written by CBSNews.com's Melissa P. McNamara.

Comedian Dane Cook's new movie has hit the theaters, and bloggers are gushing about the star. Plus, the New York Times' alarming report about YouTube videos showing insurgent attacks against American troops in Iraq has bloggers talking. Some question whether taking the videos down restricts free speech. A letter from a Marine is also making news online. And why is Chevy's new ad sparking controversy? Find out below.

Dane Cook Storms The Blogosphere

Comedian Dane Cook's movie, "Employee Of The Month," has hit the theaters, and thousands of bloggers are buzzing about him. It's just the latest fanfare the star has garnered in the blogosphere.

Type in "Dane Cook" to any blog search engine, and you're likely to find tens of thousands of people blogging their praise for him. He already has more than 1.5 million friends on MySpace. Between the comedian's HBO specials, his recent hosting of Saturday Night Live and the movie, he sure is hard to miss these days.

Cook, not one to shirk publicity, has boosted his own star power by interacting with his fans. He was one of the first comedians out there to openly chat with people through Instant Messenger and MySpace. And it's paying off. His recent HBO comedy special, "Vicious Circle," is the highest OnDemand show ever requested.

For those of you living under a rock – or at least without a television or computer – Dane Cook is a 34-year-old comedian who is soaring to Seinfeldian hights.

Last year, his second album, Retaliation, had the biggest Billboard showing for a comedy album since Steve Martin's Wild and Crazy Guy. Slate's Bryan Curtis describes Cook's repertoire as including "self-generated sound effects like primate shrieks and pure nerd fantasies, like being abducted by a UFO."

"Employee Of The Month," with Jessica Simpson, has hardly received critical acclaim, but bloggers aren't complaining. Many had nothing but praise for Cook's new flick, mostly because he was in it.

Just how much do some bloggers love him? "Of course Dane rocked ... He rocked cuz I mean ... he's DANE COOK!," Mrs. Leslie Bloom writes at LiveJournal. And that pretty much sums up reaction in the blogosphere.

"Dane Cook, in my mind, one of the few comedic geniuses of our generation that has invented so much: the Su-Fi, cashew catapulting and my personal favorite, the 'Car Alarm Song,'" a blogger at Teen Critics writes.

"Dane Cook solidified the notion that he is one of the least funny humans on the planet...," a blogger at Ain't It Cool News writes, referring to his Saturday Night Live appearance.

And a blogger at VanChick's Blog said that after watching "Employee Of The Month," she ended up "leaving the theater proud to have an '89 Civic, a Costco card ... and a wee bit of a crush on Dane Cook."

But has fame gone to his head? Possibly, some bloggers say. "Dane Cook is really not that funny now that he's gotten to be all over the place. He's not super awful, yet ... but he could be going there and fast," Lars writes at MySpace.

And lest it does, here's a quote from one blogger who just doesn't find the comedian all that funny. "I find myself listening to Dane Cook now and waiting endlessly for a damn punchline that never delivers," Jeremy writes at MySpace. "There's a ten-minute set-up, which grows and grows into an elaborate puzzle, and then the joke itself is minor at best."

Latest YouTube Hit? Insurgent Videos

The New York Times had an alarming report about videos showing insurgent attacks against American troops in Iraq appearing on YouTube and Google video. It captured the attention of bloggers, with thousands posting their reactions to both the newspaper report and the videos themselves. Most bloggers questioned whether the sites should be taking these videos down, as YouTube and Google says it does, or whether it's a free speech restriction.

As the Times reports, many of the videos show sniper attacks against Americans in Iraq and roadside bombs exploding under American military vehicles. As a result, thousands of people are seeing sniper attacks in which Americans are hit and armored military vehicles being hit by roadside bombs as a camera records it. But surprisingly, many of the videos have been posted by Internet users in the United States and other countries, not by insurgents.

YouTube and Google Video have tried to take down many of the videos, maintaining company guidelines prohibit the posting of videos with graphic violence. But many in the blogosphere are questioning whether this is a free speech restriction, and preventing people from seeing the reality of war.

Adrian Chan says the videos raise more questions than they answer. "Is a sniping seen on Youtube more truthful than what news agencies are willing to show, or are these images reprehensible and sick? What is truth, when truth is produced, edited, narrated and told through media that put us 'in touch' with events beyond our direct experience?," Chan asks.

On Hot Air, the conservative online video site, Michelle Malkin alleged that in response to these "pro-jihad videos," YouTube was banning videos made by conservative YouTube users. Malkin's video, titled "First They Came," had been on YouTube for some time, but was recently taken down, she says. It portrayed a slideshow of people — authors, politicians, filmmakers — who had been made targets, she implies, by intolerant Islamic fascists.

Many bloggers defend the right for people to view these videos, however awful they may be. "Why shouldn't the public be allowed to see what's really happening?," Courtney Radsch asks at Arab Media.

"What exactly, in principle, is unpatriotic or immoral or whatever, about showing Americans an accurate portrayal of one aspect of what is going on in Iraq? Yes, it is true that we may disagree with the motives of some of the people making the postings, but that does not change the validity of the videos themselves," Ted Landau writes at Slanted Viewpoint.

Scott Carney agrees. "And while I cannot bring myself to whole-heartedly support the videos that have appeared on YouTube, I think they add a necessary perspective to the conflict that has been silent for too long," Carney writes at Trailing Technology.

But others blame YouTube for posting the violent videos and suggest a profit motive clouded the company's ethics. "YouTube is a business that is profiting from depictions of Americans being murdered and Islamic propaganda films. YouTube knows full well that these videos are there, and more importantly that they have a significant audience," a blogger at Red Alerts writes.

Jeff Jarvis at Buzz Machine is simply conflicted. While he says he supports free speech and "the notion that more information is better for democracy than less," he writes, "On the other hand, I fear that my making these snipers and terrorists video stars, it will only inspire them to kill more; it adds another motive to the crime."

Chevy Rocks The Blogs

General Motors' new ads for its Chevrolet Silvarado have attempted to tap into American patriotism. Chevy enlisted singer John Mellencamp, who sings "Our Country" in the background of the new ad campaign. Sounds pretty safe, right? Well, as Mellencamp strums on his guitar, the ad features a montage of American moments: Rosa Parks on a bus, soldiers in Vietnam, Richard Nixon waiving from his helicopter, Katrina flood waters and two towers of light commemorating 9/11.

Chris Thilk at AdJab describes it as "basically a hodgepodge of newsreel footage of Rosa Parks, Neil Armstrong, Ground Zero in New York and more, all set to a Mellencamp song."

"Our goal is to own the hearts of the American pickup buyer," said Kim Kosak, G.M.'s general director of advertising and sales promotions told the New York Times recently.

But the ad is certainly not winning over many hearts in the blogosphere, where people are angry that moving, historical images are being exploited to sell a truck.

"It's not OK to use images of Rosa Parks, MLK, the Vietnam War, the Katrina disaster, and 9/11 to sell pickup trucks. It's wrong. These images demand a little reverence and quiet contemplation," Seth Stevenson writes at
Slate.com. "They are not meant to be backed with a crappy music track and then mushed together in a glib swirl of emotion tied to a product launch. Please, Chevy, have a modicum of shame next time."

Will Bunch agrees. "You heard that right: The General Motors Corp. is using 9/11 to sell its freakin' pick-up truck to America. This is our country, warts and all. But it's your truck. We don't want any part of it," Bunch writes at Attytood.

Perhaps bloggers would be happy to know that one controversial image was taken out. According to the car Web site Jalopnik, the original cut of the ad showed an atomic bomb.

Other bloggers are unhappy that Chevy is trying to link patriotism to cars in the first place.

"Chevrolet has really just gone off the deep end with the montage of America... good and bad (I guess). For God's sake Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.?! Woodstock?! What does this tell me about your truck?," Romeo the Special writes. "I'm all for a good commercial that tugs on your patriotic heartstrings, but Chevy has just gone too far with this one."

"Give me a break. Using these images to hawk inefficient, overpriced trucks? I guess when you get whomped by Toyota in the American market and lose out on the chance at a major merger, you'll resort to this hyper-patriotic pap to move merchandise," Rob Tricks writes.

Stevenson, writing at Slate, questions the message behind the ad, especially the images of Richard Nixion waiving from the helicopter that will whisk him away from the White House in disgrace, all while Mellencamp sings, "This is our country." "That's our country? Shamed politicians? Drab, mid-'70s melancholia? Bummer, man," Stevenson writes at Slate.

Many are also unsure whether this ad will even be effective. "I wonder if this will sell trucks. I wonder if it might do just the opposite. (I suppose I also begin to see how 9/11 footage has become a superb selling tool.)," P.J. Bednarski writes at the BC Beat.

Of course, if any publicity is good publicity, this ad campaign might already be working.

"Dante's Inferno"

A Marine's letter home, with its frank description of life in "Dante's inferno," has been circulating throughout the blogosphere after Time.com posted it last Friday. As Time notes, "Perhaps inevitably, the "Letter from Iraq" moved quickly beyond the small group of acquaintances and hit the inboxes of retired generals, officers in the Pentagon, and staffers on Capitol Hill."

The Marine — who wants to remain anonymous — describes daily life in Iraq as "a level from Dante's Inferno." The letter begins with an eloquent depiction of arriving back in Fallujah. "The moment I stepped off of the helicopter, just as dawn broke, and saw the camp just as I had left it ten months before -- that was déjà vu. Kind of unnerving. It was as if I had never left," the Marine wrote.

Other parts of the letter are divided into subjects that are at times humorous, and at times sad and moving. For example, here is a humorous description of the biggest hassle facing Marines:

"Biggest Hassle — High-ranking visitors. More disruptive to work than a rocket attack. VIPs demand briefs and "battlefield" tours (we take them to quiet sections of Fallujah, which is plenty scary for them). Our briefs and commentary seem to have no effect on their preconceived notions of what's going on in Iraq."

The Marine's saddest moment was "having an infantry battalion commander hand me the dog tags of one of my Marines who had just been killed while on a mission with his unit."

He is also blunt when referring to the media. He says the "biggest outrage" is: "Practically anything said by talking heads on TV about the war in Iraq, not that I get to watch much TV. Their thoughts are consistently both grossly simplistic and politically slanted. Biggest Offender: Bill O'Reilly."

Bloggers praise the Marine, not only for his bravery in Iraq, but for writing an honest account of what life is like for a Marine in Iraq. Nomadcoaster's response was similar to what other bloggers said. "It really offers a non-politically charged true glimpse into the military action in Iraq that the media in this country completely fail at supplying us," he writes on Nostalgic and Wishful Thinking.

"After all the talk from everyone else, it's good to hear someone whose boots on the ground in Iraq talk about what's going down over there," John at By The Way writes. Marie at Across the Pond agrees. "It's written straight to the point, easily read, humoristic and honest. I would recommend all of you to take five minutes and discover what the situation in Iraq is really like," she blogs.

Chuck Goosbee echoed the sentiments of many who have the troops in their minds every day. "I think about these guys every day. I think about their families. I cringe everytime I hear about another US soldier getting killed, wondering when I'll recognize the face in the newspaper, or on the TV screen," Goosbee writes. "Remind me again why we're there?"

Perhaps the Marine's "happiest moment" is the most telling about life on the ground in Iraq. "Happiest Moment -- Well, it wasn't in Iraq. There are no truly happy moments here. It was back in California when I was able to hold my family again while home on leave during July," he writes.

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By Melissa McNamara