Zawinski vs. Arrington: If life were only like this

Maybe you remember the famous scene from the movie Annie Hall in which Woody Allen is annoyed by the man behind him in a movie queue for his too-loud pontifications about the theories of Marshall McLuhan. Allen steps out of line and breaks the fourth wall and starts complaining to the audience about the blow-hard. Insulted, the blow-hard explains, “I happen to teach a course at Columbia called “TV, media & culture, so my insights into MCluhan have a great deal of validity.

“Oh, really,” says Woody Allen. “I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here,” and then pulls Marshall McLuhan from just off-camera so that McLuhan can dress-down the blow-hard.

“If life were only like this,” Allen deadpans to the audience.

I thought of that clip when I saw this takedown by Jamie Zawinski of TechCrunch founder turned VC, Michael Arrington, for his post over the Thanksgiving Day weekend Arrington titled, “Startups are hard. So work more, cry less, and quit all the whining.” (Celebrating “Black Friday,” I guess.)

So how is this like the scene in Annie Hall?

Arrington’s pontifications are set up by extended quotes from the 1994-96 diary of Zawinski, then a Netscape engineer. And Zawinski’s rejoinder post is like McCluhan stepping in from just off-camera, in order to explain that Arrington has no idea of what he’s talking about.

Zawinski cuts deep with his first reference to Arrington, “I guess this guy is famous or something.” Translation: So what if you teach a course about TV, media and culture or have sold a blog to AOL.”

Then Zawinski lets loose with an Annie Hallesque McCluhan body-blow:


(Arrignton is) trying to make the point that the only path to success in the software industry is to work insane hours, sleep under your desk, and give up your one and only youth, and if you don’t do that, you’re a pussy. He’s using my words to try and back up that thesis. I hate this, because it’s not true, and it’s disingenuous. What is true is that for a VC’s business model to work, it’s necessary for you to give up your life in order for him to become richer.”


Apparently, life is like that scene from Annie Hall.