Two Great Internet Mysteries, Solved (Or Ruined)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - 10:16 AM

This morning, Pronunciation Book, the ominous, apocalyptic count-downing YouTube channel, hit zero. 

It turns out, Pronunciation Book isn't a viral marketing campaign for some kind of Battlestar Galactica franchise, as we'd so recklessly speculated. Instead, as Susan Orlean reported this morning, both Pronunciation Book and horse_ebooks, everyone's favorite nonsense spewing twitter account, have been under the control of two guys promoting an alternate reality game they've created called Bear Sterns Bravo

An ARG. Argh! I felt emotionally reconciled to the letdown of learning that Pronunciation Book was one more instance of viral marketing, rather than a genuine doomsday warning system. But horse_ebooks, for years, has been the internet mystery that seemed genuinely mysterious. People got tattoos of horse_ebooks tweets. People felt safe to love it as a thing that was genuinely weird, instead of deliberately, artistically weird. 

Twitter seems to mostly agree.


One last thing. Over at the Daily Dot, Gaby Dunn, who's been on the Pronunciation Book part of the story forever, talks about how she found Bakkila and Bender a few months ago, and posits that Pronunciation Book may've been a viral marketing campaign that only became "art" after the client pulled out. 

After a few months of pitching the project around, the two apparently landed a $40,000 deal to tie the countdown concept to a viral marketing campaign.

On the phone, however, the source sounded distraught. He cried. He explained that the company backed out, deciding that Pronunciation Book wasn’t getting enough views to merit the release of their trailer. Even worse, the source claimed there was no “kill fee” in the contract, meaning the two will not be reimbursed for their efforts, since the project was cancelled before its completion.

The change left the duo scrambling to complete their narrative without its intended ending. Frazzled, the source told me they intended to create a short film in one weekend in a desperate attempt to wrap up Pronunciation Book’s story.

In summation, there is no wonder in the world beyond our capacity to creatively deceive each other. Never love anything you meet on the internet again.


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Comments [8]

Duffy Johnson from Albuquerque

I think I digested this whole saga in under 30 minutes (including an internet search for the answer to a Jeopardy clue), and I had only one reaction. The team behind this trifle should get out more. Start an herb garden. Volunteer for Meals On Wheels. Something. Anything that doesn't involve the internet. Please.

Oct. 05 2013 08:46 AM

poo pee

Sep. 27 2013 05:58 PM
Mason from Chicago

The thing that bothers me most about this reveal is that the horse_ebooks account WAS actually a broken-English spambot until 2011. It's a story of people taking over an account that others found charming with the express intent of making it a viral marketing campaign, and then falling back to 'art' when the money wasn't good enough. To completely ignore the start of the story is putting way too much credit in these guys' hands: it's one thing to take something over and keep doing a simulation of what it was doing, but it's another to create something and have it grow.

Sep. 25 2013 11:35 AM

I think we'll be fine, DMF. Thanks for your concern.

Sep. 24 2013 05:41 PM

And you devoted a whole podcast to doing the legwork for a marketing campaign. How can anyone take you seriously now?

Sep. 24 2013 05:25 PM
Ben from Chicago

I'm not upset by the reveal. Up until now, ARGs have been a very small but beautifully collective thing. ARGs have always been fascinated with the blurred distinction between actual and the "alternate" reality, they are best when the game inserts itself in the physically real world (like hidden clues inside public libraries, etc. as people collectively invest and create the alternate reality within offline space complete with new relationships and new personal identities.) Yes it's heady, yes it takes a little leap, but it's not something to scoff at... it's just as real as terrorism (if that's what you were hoping for.)

The best art is always pushing at the roles between the art and the participants and observers... in a way, PJ's disdain echoed all across twitter (an unreal community if there ever was one) is all part of the ARG itself. And to someone lamenting the tattoo.. why? Horse_ebooks always belonged to someones mind... did you get it because you preferred the idea that this was an artist who would always be enigmatic, preserving your own image that you are?

Sure are asking for an admission fee... and on that point I cede that is upsetting... but I would still think of this as a functional, dynamic and progressive use of the internet, and I would still view synydyne as a collective of new transmedia artists. If you ask me, the whining tone on this -TLDR, an examination of life online- of all platforms is the most absurdly pleasing thing to think about... why are we trying to save the "objective" integrity of a medium that has never possessed such a thing... regardless of the fact that singling out the internet feels arbitrary when our entire lives are so irrevocably entrenched in "selling proverbial soap." Of course we can never find true authenticity when it doesn't exist to be found. We are all advertising something...

Sep. 24 2013 02:27 PM

I don't think there's much of a difference between a mystery solved and a mystery ruined. A mystery is always more compelling than a solution. Except in Murder On The Orient Express.

Sep. 24 2013 01:02 PM

"...deciding that Pronunciation Book wasn’t getting enough views to merit the release of their trailer."

They should disclose who that client is and boycott any of their future plans.

Sep. 24 2013 12:56 PM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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