In “The Gambler,” by Paolo Balcigulpi, Ong is a Laotian who fled a despotic regime. His father was an idealist who believed in Thoreau, civil disobedience, and publishing broadsheets denouncing Laotian politics. His mother was a realist who escaped with Ong after his father was arrested. Now Ong is in LA, working for
Milestone Media—a combination of NTT DoCoMo, the Korean gaming consortium Hyundai-Kubu, and the smoking remains of the New York Times Company.
The coolest part of their site is a graphic representation of the hits each story generates, called the maelstrom. Truly his father’s son, he keeps posting stories about political corruption and lost butterflies. Currently he is working on a story about the bluets disappearing around Thoreau’s Walden Pond, and how they might be saved. But nobody wants to hear it.
In Ong’s world, Laos is lost down a digital rathole darker than North Korea. Ong is an endearingly earnest figure lost in the blinking glitterati-obsessed world of a celebrity gossip site. I don’t understand what Ong is doing there, except to show what online-only news sources might be headed for in a meditation on the death of Real News. Sounds pretty bad, but the story ends on a positive note.
Not much has changed, but I really think it’s about to. I like Ong, and I can’t help wanting him to be happier. I can’t see him staying where he is much longer. I guess I’m an idealist, too, because I don’t buy into the monolithic view of the web presented here. There will still be places where the Ongs of the world will be heard. He just hasn’t finished his journey.