Thursday, January 31, 2002

Rules for Fools
I've decided that I have a drinking problem. Not a big one, but enough that it's time to do something about it. At first I thought it was because of depression over separating up with my now ex-girlfriend. Then I thought it was because of the holidays. Then it was because the Anchormen were recording. It's time to stop coming up with reasons for drinking too much.

Just recently, Alan playfully punched me in the stomach and was surprised by its lack of tone. "There's such a thing as pecs, you know," he said. I replied with a joke about how there really was a six pack down there. Ha ha.

Anyway, my new rules are as follows:

  • Don't buy beer for consumption at home.
  • Never drink alone.
  • If drinking during a meal, especially if eating alone, observe a two-drink maximum.

    I'll let you know how it goes! Thus starts my new diet, albeit not of media.
  • Products I Love
    I received a shipment of Safety-Sleeves from Univenture Inc. yesterday. I spent several hours sitting on the hardwood floor of my apartment transferring CD's from their jewel cases to my new Viewpaks, which take up about 1/4 of the space of a normal CD case. And I realized that I was in love.

    Univenture's Viewpaks rock. They take up less space than normal CD cases. It's easier to store discs in filing cases (I use CD boxes from Hold Everything. And I'm thrilled silly any time I winnow out the stacks of un-filed CD's, get rid of the jewel cases, and alphabetize the discs I've just filed. I discover forgotten music every time I go through this exercise.

    All hail the Safety-Sleeve!

    Wednesday, January 30, 2002

    How Great Thou Art?
    My friend Jef has been approached by the Jukebox Junkies, who would like him to draw the cover for an upcoming recording.

    Should he? Take the Media Diet poll!
    The Operators... on the Air!
    From Emily Operator: My bandmate Steph and I will be hosting On the Town with Mikey Dee, the local music show on WMFO-FM, 9 p.m. to midnight tonight. Reverend Glasseye and His Wooden Legs will be performing live (They are crazy.), and Dave Sakowski of Swizzle/Q Division (even crazier) is the interview guest. Yay! You can tune in at 91.5 FM in the Somerville area or listen online.
    Buy Yourself a Band! IV
    Email to the Explosion: Did I see Damian at that goofy Miki Singh & Jetset show at the Karma Club last night? Jef and I -- both in the Anchormen -- were distraught by the lack of local punk and indie-rock kids to balance out the older dot-commies and techvolk, and when we saw who we thought was Damian, we said to each other, "Now it's less depressing. The Explosion is here!"

    True; I was there. I was DJ'ing next door for my friend's art opening at Bill's. After hearing all about the huge production this guy blew all his cash on I had to check it out. I didn't even see the band, but the whole thing seemed pretty lame. I ended up going over to the Middle East to catch a little bit of Murphy's Law -- the exact opposite of what was going on at Axis. Jimmy Gestapo has been in that band something like 19 years and he's still singing his old songs about beer, weed, bongs, girls, beer, and um... beer. I heard Jetset has a ton of talented musicians though.

    By the way, have you checked out START! yet? It's a night I'm doing at Bill's Bar on Saturdays with Gibby. I spin punk, postpunk, garage and psych, and lots of other stuff too. It's a good time. Check it out some time.

    Oh yeah. What was with the camo?
    -- Damian
    Buy Yourself a Band! III
    I'm going to post a full report of the Miki Singh & Jetset show later, but for now, here's a snippy snapshot of Jef Anchorman and me gold digging and trying to meet rich people.

    Tuesday, January 29, 2002

    Media Diet by Mail
    Now you can receive new posts to Media Diet via email. Using the wonderful new tools of Blogger Pro, I've set this puppy up so you can subscribe to Media Diet... in your in box. We'll see how this works compared to the discussion forum I have set up.
    Comments, Say You? II
    Just checked out how -- and whether -- BlogBack's comment tool was working on Media Diet. It wasn't. I got a snarky pop-up box about how I'd received some notice about updating the code -- which I haven't (received, which means I haven't updated the code either) -- and how I hadn't jumped in time. Anyway, I've gone into the templates to remove the vestiges of the BlogBack scripts, and for some reason, they're still showing up. Sigh. I'll get 'em gone eventually. Done.
    Party Hearty
    I'm starting to spread word about this a full month -- practically -- ahead of time because the event is going to be too darn cool. Feb. 26, two of my favorite Boston bands will play at TT the Bear's: the Operators and Jumbo. Joined by Swizzle and the Fightin' Dogs, they'll be participating in a "crazy circus-themed" extravaganza featuring rock 'n' roll, circus peanuts, cotton candy, unicycles, and juggling. The Ops go on first! Extra special bonus: Feb. 26 is my birthday, and I'll be ringing in Year No. 29 with the Handstand Command music collective. Woohoo!

    You are all, of course, invited.

    Record Score
    I was in Montclair and Newark, New Jersey, yesterday for a work-related meeting. While there I had some time to walk Montclair's main shopping drag, Bloomfield Avenue, and I came across a wonderful, tiny punk record store that I must recommend if you're ever in the area. Let It Rock (424 Bloomfield Ave., Montclair, NJ 07042; 973-783-1213) doesn't have much stock, but what it does have in terms of punk, oi, hardcore, emo, ska, and garage is impressive. I picked up two new records: a promo CD of the new Lawrence Arms release and a Reagan Youth anthology. Good stuff! Some of the prices felt high, but the stuff I picked up was quite reasonable. Store opens at noon.

    Monday, January 28, 2002

    Anchormen, Aweigh! III
    What an exhausting weekend! We spent about 22.5 hours at the Sound Museum to record about 80 minutes worth of basic tracks that we'll mix down to eight songs maxing out at about 20 minutes.

    We spent Friday setting up the practice space to record, taking much longer than we'd planned. Saturday was a low-energy and long day -- about 12 hours. I started the day awakened by my landlord knocking on my door to tell me that they were turning off the water to do some plumbing work. I couldn't shower or shave, and I had to use the bathroom at a Burger King before heading to the South End. Showering and shaving Sunday morning felt amazing. On Sunday -- a beautifully sunny and warm day (a shame to be inside!) -- we listened to the basic tracks we recorded Saturday and did four new takes -- a much more fun and high-energy performance.

    We've decided to release these eight songs as an eight-song EP, saving up newer songs for our next, hopefully longer CD.

    Friday, January 25, 2002

    Anchormen, Aweigh! II
    I just typed up the lyrics for the eight songs the Anchormen are going to record for "My Pronouns Are Precise" tonight, and here they are:

    The Anchormen
    "My Pronouns Are Precise" (working title)
    UNS-XXX (catalog number yet to be determined)
    Recorded on Jan. 25-27, 2002, at the Sound Museum, Boston, by Paul Coleman and Ken Kokubo

    Another Gentrification Song
    Another storefront boarded up. Another homeless paper cup. Another U-Haul moving truck. Another family gone. Another big box starts to trade. Another student class turned slave. Another million dollars made, not saved. Another gentrification song. Why were we not invited? Why were the developers beknighted? Why was the neighborhood so slighted? When will these wrongs be righted? Another street loses its life. Another sheltered suburbanite. Another man picks up a knife. Another gentrification song.

    Audobon Park
    Walking down Magazine past the Abstract and Ms. Rae-Ann’s grocery to le block du veterinary. The OK Shoe Shop’s closed up like an oyster. Sitting on the roots of a tree reading a book by a punk-rock nothing, writing a postcard to my family, and listening to the song sung by the pool, swimming. We are going down to Audobon Park. We are house rotten at the Status Palace hanging out after dark because Alisa’s on her mobile phone, and we are going on home. Sitting down at the Kerry. Feet are hurting, toe bone cracked like Vincent Van Gogh. Three pints of Guinness times five minutes. Now we’re late, and who knows where we will go? Going back to 316. Can’t watch a movie because we didn’t pay per view. Call room service, serving dervish. Fill our stomach, still we feel empty.

    Celebrate Democracy
    In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue and proceeded to kill 3 million Arawaks. Their gold had made him woozy, but because of Amerigo Vespucci, we are not Columbian, we’re American. Celebrate democracy with me. In 1776 we freed ourselves from wily Brits to play out our Declaration of Independence. But despite our Constitution there is still stark class division, and wars are fought by the impoverished not the rich. In 1983 the cover of Time magazine turned its annual man award upon its ear. Instead of a world leader, it gave laud to a binary reader and gave the computer machine of the year.

    Finger Lakes
    Should I take the train or should I rent a car? I would take an airplane but I don’t need to go that far to see you because we will meet halfway: I want to see you tomorrow; you wanted to see me yesterday. If you could see through my eyes, get a new perspective, and maybe even be surprised. If I were you and you were me. Just think of all the things that we could see. If I were you and your were me, I think that I could be happy. Take me to the edge. Take me to the pier. Tell me all the reasons why you wanted me to come here: to see you, to see the Finger Lakes. I am taking what you’re giving. Now there’s not much more for me to take. I haven’t seen or heard from you in a while. Wish that I could hear your voice, wish that I could see your smile. Smile at me. Smile at the things we say. Then I’d know what you are thinking. Then I’d know what kind of games we’re playing.

    You’re spending the weekend in Michigan debiting the balance sheet that our relationship is built on. I urinate in used car lots and then get in a van with poets from New York and without destination. I do not know where we are going. I hope we reap the seeds we’re sowing. Idlewild, you make me feel like I’ve never felt before. Idlewild, is this love real? Are you an open door? You say that I don’t tell you how I feel yet layer after layer of my heart’s defenses you keep peeling. Your self-esteem and self-doubt make me sway. I love you; I’m not in love with you. At least that’s how I feel right now, today.

    If you want to make a decision you’ve got to make it with precision. You’ve got to make sure that you’re in the right head. If you want to give an answer you cannot be a second guesser. You’ve got to be correct again. No, I will never let you down.

    Peel Away
    Down in the basement behind the stairs is where you keep it. Up in the attic in the rafters, where you hide my heart. Around the corner is where you’re lurking. Too far away, too far away, too far. Peel away the layers.

    Unsung Heroes
    Lucy Parsons. Eugene Debs. Peace Pilgrim. The Mayors of Bronzeville. Ira Steward. William Sylvis. Kate Mullaney. August Spies. If history was written by the winners, then social studies textbooks were compiled by the sinners. Our social ills were not caused by the poor, and labor organizers don’t lead choirs any more. The world was not created by the people who make the news. Society was built by working people: me and you. We’ve got to share our stories, our successes, and our loss if we want to break the iron chains forged by every boss. Unsung heroes are less than zeroes. We cannot afford to forget our past. There’s a new day, a new way about to dawn. Yet we can’t take steps forward without knowing where we’ve gone. We’ve lost ourselves in the language of the Left. We’ve got to learn a new tongue if we want to be heard by the deaf. Unsung heroes are less than zeroes. Without collective memory we won’t last.

    More explanatory links to be added later.
    Buy Yourself a Band! II
    Just got an email from Jeet Singh, ex-ATG CEO who's now frontman of Jetset, Boston's latest millionaire-driven rock outfit. And... I'm going to get tickets to the show at the Avalon! How cool is that? The new economy meet nu-metal, perhaps. Or, maybe not. I will report.
    Freelance... Magazine Assassin
    Allison Adato, a writer who left Life magazine in 1998 to pursue a freelance career, landed assignments at no fewer than four magazines just before they folded: George, Working Woman, Mademoiselle, and the recently RIP'ed Talk. The articles never saw the light of day. Moral: Hire Alli at your own risk. Assignment editors, beware!
    Buy Yourself a Band!
    Millionaire Jeet Singh, former CEO of Art Technology Group in Boston, just spent baskets of cash to record and release a slick four-CD, 28-song "demo," complete with a 48-page booklet chock full of photographs. The "demo" for Singh's band Jetset was produced in a limited edition of 700 and has been hailed by one area scenester, "the most ambitious product any Boston band has ever produced, even the Cars."
    Anchormen, Aweigh!
    The Anchormen, the band for which I sing, starts to record our third record tonight. Right now we have eight songs prepared, and we'll probably either release them as they are or hold onto them until we have more songs recorded -- like three more so we continue our 13 songs, 12 songs, 11 songs album-length sequence.

    The songs we have lined up include:

  • Another Gentrification Song -- about the neighborhood development changes in Central Square, Cambridge
  • Audobon Park -- about a long walk I took (and a long night I spent) in New Orleans
  • Celebrate Democracy -- about how awesome democracy is
  • Finger Lakes -- about a girl in Rochester, New York
  • Idlewild -- about my ex-girlfriend and some of the reasons our relationship didn't work out, I guess
  • Indecision, Precision -- about doing your best and striving for your ideals... and perfection
  • Too Far Away -- about unrequited love
  • Unsung Heroes -- about some of the folks who helped make our country what it could be... but whom nobody knows

    If you run a label and are interested in hearing some of the rough mixes, let me know. We plan to release this on our co-op label Unstoppable Records, but we're open to other ideas. And, I have a question for everyone: Should the Anchormen release the eight songs right away or wait until we have a few more to make up a proper CD release? Take the Media Diet poll.
  • Thursday, January 24, 2002

    Fatal Funnies
    Scott Shaw highlights what he calls Oddball Comics, the "craziest comic books ever published," for Comic Book Resources. They're a hoot. Reminds me of some of Scott Saavedra's kitschy comics coverage in Comic Book Heaven.
    I've Got Your Number
    You know those fake phone numbers that they use in TV shows and movies? That all start with 555? Well, now they have their own phone book. "A compilation of 555 numbers from movies, television and radio" is now available, and the collector's looking for more submissions. Crazy. (Via Boing Boing.)

    Wednesday, January 23, 2002

    Email I Would've Sent My Ex-Girlfriend
    The first in a series of occasional Media Diet entries that are basically emails I'd send my ex-girlfriend if she weren't in fact my ex-girlfriend. You know how you strike up a little email correspondence with someone who's special to you and then, when things change, you miss those email exchanges just like you miss their presence in your life? (Not as much, but you know what I mean, I hope.) Well, this is like that.

    Went for a walk in the sun and wind this afternoon, stomach growling and my leftovers sitting in the fridge at home. First stop, the fruit store, where I picked up a banana, an orange (been jonesing for oranges something fierce!), some hummus, and wheat crackers. Next stop, the candy store, where I picked up some hard candy for my office. Mmm, candy; I'll bring you some. Haven't had candy to share with folks in the office since last fall before I left for my road trip! Last stop, the hardware store, where I got some glue. I need to fix the little clay skeleton men I bought in Mexico City. Have you seen those yet? With the policeman at the bus stop and the skeletons playing cards?

    What are you doing tonight? I might be hanging out with Kurt, a childhood friend -- and son of my mom's best friend from college -- tonight, but he hasn't gotten back to me yet. He's working at MIT, so it's close to home anyway. Maybe we could watch "Andromeda Strain" later?

    I'd like to be able to send her emails like that again.
    Off the Boards, on the History Books
    A recent piece in Salon takes a look at a couple of repositories of old BBS and Usenet postings. Textfiles collects ASCII posts from the mid-'80s. And Google's 20-year Usenet archive does something similar. Using Google, I found almost 150 posts I made to the alt.zines newsgroup in the early- to mid-'90s. I also needed some technical help using Microsoft Access during my first job out of uni. I turned to for help.
    Radio, Radio
    Ever been traveling -- like on a road trip -- and not know what to tune in to on the radio? Ever wonder what hidden radio gems might lurk in your own backyard? Instead of picking up one of those quickly outdated print directories to radio stations, check out Radio-Locator. This new MIT project, formerly the horribly but descriptively named MIT List of Radio Stations on the Internet, lets you search by ZIP code and state in the United States. Radio-Locator also helps you find streaming radio online, as well as radio stations around the world. Tune in, turn up, rock out!
    Web Remnants
    James Squeaky has stopped working on Mister Ridiculous to begin work on a new Web project, Sincere Brutality. Mostly music-related, Sincere Brutality features news, record reviews, show reviews, and MP3 files. James also maintains a blog that folks can follow for a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the site.

    What are your favorite blogs and Web sites?
    From the In Box: Music to My Ears II
    I hand picked the original line-up of the Traitors and was sad to see it disintegrate. Things happen. At least the stuff got released finally. Glad you like it. -- Marc Ruvolo
    Hanging out with Hicks II
    Action Attack Helicopter recently published a two-part interview with Sander Hicks, of White Collar Crime and Soft Skull Press. It starts here and continues here.

    Tuesday, January 22, 2002

    Music to My Ears II
    A six-pack of new record reviews!

    The Colour Blue: six-song casette
    This band contacted the Anchormen last summer to see whether we could help them get a show in Massachusetts while they were on tour. We couldn't; we can hardly get ourselves shows. But maybe it'll help a little to review their demo tape. Opening with an energetic burst of indie-rock chunka-chunk, the tape quickly switches into some sensitive, start-and-stop shout-along emo. While the slower, sensitive parts don't do much for me, the earnest, strained sections are quite impressive and interesting, especially the bit at the end with layered vocals. (No song titles with the tape, so apologies extended.) The third song seems to be relatively straight-ahead SoCal pop punk, sporting the standard song structure popularized by bands such as the Ataris, although less bright. Here, as in the fourth song, as well, the rough vocals are a liability, as their thin tonality doesn't really carry the songs too strongly. That said, the Colour Blue are competent songwriters and performers, and the low production value of this tape probably doesn't do their Midwestern emo justice. There are enough promising bright spots in these six songs to intrigue me: What are they like live? What are their newer songs like? This tape, albeit not very satisfying, is just a taste. Pirate Party Record Co., P.O. Box 814, Dundee, IL 60118-0814.

    James Kochalka Superstar: "Don't Trust Whitey" CD
    If you think that Atom & His Package is the "Weird Al" Yankovic of the punk-rock world, then prolific indie comics maker James Kochalka might very well be our Dr. Demento. From his previous hardcore punk attacks recorded with the Zambonis to his Coctails-style children's songs, James represents a wide range of musical genres and lyrical themes -- occasionally channeling from beyond as he improvises a new song at a party or at the bus stop. On this 23-song CD recorded in Copenhagen, Connecticut, California, and Vermont, James touches on a number of subjects: racism, karaoke, cunnilingus, frogs, horses, ice skating, marijuana, corn on the cob, toast, Ozzy Osbourne, computers, and beer. While it's tempting to file this under joke rock, the music is too good to dismiss. Accompanied by a number of talented friends on synthesizers, strings, horns, and other instruments, James indicates that even the smallest of ideas might be worth expanding on -- and that it's always good to do even the small (and occasionally disposable) things well. The DIY production on this recording, made in many basements and bedrooms, is hella impressive, and James even works in that glitchy little vocal effect used by Cher and Madonna on "Sleighride to Heck." Made me laugh out loud, that one. James takes his charming, precious brand of joke rock very, very seriously. James Kochalka, P.O. Box 8321, Burlington, VT 05402.

    Onion Flavored Rings: "One Big Onion" cassette
    Featuring Bay Area productive punks Steve Funyons, Paul Curran, and Iggy Scam, these 10 songs written in 1984 but recorded in the fall of 2001 capture the area's bouncy pop-punk sound a la Sweet Baby or the Potatomen while carrying a darker lyrical theme. Song topics include a self-destructive lack of self-esteem, the antisocial treatment of friends (something I have a little experience with these days), not telling the people you love how you feel, addiction, breaking up, and resignation. I was surprised and delighted that Paul and Iggy were involved in this project, but Steve is new to me. His vocals are reminiscent of Dallas Denery and Franklin Bruno, perhaps with a little but of the Pansy Division dude thrown in. If you don't listen closely or read the lyrics, you might miss the down feeling of the songs -- with a name like Onion Flavored Rings and somewhat funny songs about quantum physics and mummies, it'd be easy to mistake this tape for classic, sunny, Bay Area pop punk... which is is but isn't all at the same time. Steve tells me that this is also available as a CD for $5 postpaid (the tape costs $3), including three extra songs from their last show at Gilman. 1450 7th Ave. #6, San Francisco, CA 94122.

    The Queers: "Today" CD EP
    Remember when the Queers were agressive and snotty? This Ben Weasel-produced CD EP featuring Joe Queer on guitar and vocals, this time backed by a proper band, walks the line between the band's hyperactive heyday ("Yeah, Well, Whatever," a nice burst of bile) and Joe's current songwriting default setting: Beach Boys-styled bubblegum pop. The Queers even cover a Beach Boys song on this five-song release: the just-in-time-for-the-Olympics "Salt Lake City." That track makes for a nice contrast with the still-snotty and Weasel co-written "I've Had It with You," which targets California indie punk aristocrats. "We do all the work and you get rich," Joe sneers. Curious. The Queers have never been as popular in the Northeast, where Joe lives and works on a lobster boat, as they have been in the Midwest or Bay Area. Is "I've Had It with You" a bit of New England second city finger pointing? Maybe, as suggested by "Salt Lake City," there's room for more than one hardcore hometown. Sad to say, it's not Boston these days. Nevertheless, I think this release calls for a relevance check. Between Ben Weasel's obsession with the Ramones and Joe Queer's taste for the Beach Boys, what do the Queers offer punk rock today? I'd like to see Joe pick a direction and sail more swiftly. Lookout! Records, 3264 Adeline St., Berkeley, CA 94703 or Joe Queer, P.O. Box 1201, North Hampton, NH 03862.

    Traitors: "Everything Went Shit" CD
    Take a largely unknown band. Take 33 songs on a CD. Take 18 unreleased tracks. Take two songs that came out on record with the founding singer, Todd Pot (ex-Apocalypse Hoboken). Add one reviewer who lived in Chicago for five years, and you get a CD full of unsung punk-rock hits. This postmortem best-of release captures more good songs than I heard at any one whole-hog local show at the Fireside Bowl the entire time I lived in Chicago. They don't say when these songs were recorded, but if it was post-1997, why wasn't anyone in the recording industry watching that city? This is the shit. Better than the Bollweevils and all the post-Screeching Weasel/Vindictives/etc. bands, the Traitors are innovative, interesting, and intriguing. Todd Pot is freaking schizo, spazzing between Mike Patton-like noise-rock yelling and Billie Joe-esque pop punk crooning, mixing in Midwestern hiphop and Victims Family-like funk. Sure, the Traitors draw on traditional punk-rock formulae, but they also rope in Dead Kennedys-reminiscent diminuendoes in "Homeless for the Night" and many other divergent and diverse elements before Billy Smith's vocal takeover in... when? With the arrival of Mr. Smith, who is much more consistent, perhaps, but much less interesting, the Traitors quickly devolved into a band good for, at most, a series of several 7-inches that, though more energetic and aggressive, were less exciting and important. Of the Steve Albini-produced and other post-Pot songs, "Superhero Zero" and "Last Will & Testament" stand out, and that's about it. I can't understand why 13/20 of the lesser singer's songs were released prior to this -- while 11/13 of Todd Pot's songs weren't. Go figure. Johann's Face, P.O. Box 479164, Chicago, IL 60647.

    White Collar Crime: "Their Laws Are Dimwit Greed" CD
    One of my favorite unsung and largely unknown bands for awhile, this guitarless drama-punk band blends the political polemics of Billy Bragg with the black-box theatrics of Maestro Subgum and the Whole or the World Inferno Friendship Society to take "the Idea into the street." Henry Rollins-reminiscent Sander Hicks (who often wears kneepads so he doesn't hurt himself at shows) wears his politics as well as his heart on his sleeve, even covering "The Eight Hour Day," a song originally sung by striking miners in 1897, and other labor songs, including Woodie Guthrie's "Union Maid." By bridging union anthems and keyboard-fueled punk-rock aggression, White Collar Crime refreshes leftist sing-alongs and punk rock, calling for listeners to "unite and fight with our teeth and our speech." The record's not all political manifesto, however. Sander and the gang also offer several heartfelt personal songs -- "My Comrades I Failed You" and "You Are Not Mine" -- that touch on the frustrations of trying to live up to your ideals and the sadness that stems from unrequited love. In lieu of perfection or romantic bliss, White Collar Crime throws its shoulder to the wheel and keeps striving to realize its ideas and ideals, falling prey to neither the intellectual limitations of the Left nor the distractions of day-to-day life. Practical political punk for the artistic activist. Soft Skull Press, 98 Suffolk N. 3A, New York City, NY 10002.

    What are you listening to?
    The Movie I Watched Last Night II
    Rock 'n' Roll High School. (Well, not last night, really, but this past weekend.)
    Must-Read TV
    According to Robert Putnam, author of "Bowling Alone," more people watch "Friends" than have friends.

    Friday, January 18, 2002

    Blogging About Blogging VI
    Oh, foo. One more blogging-related post before I head out for the show. Sean Nolan has written a handy little script that lets you track folks who refer to your blog. The script is easy to use, but really long referring URL's seem to mess up the format of my blog. I'll add the thing back in when I figure out how to make the really long URL's break over multiple lines so they don't make the left-hand grey bar hella wide.

    For now, here's a simplified sample:

    I'll build this into Media Diet permanently as soon as I can avoid the really long URL dictating my page format.
    Blogging About Blogging V
    While I'm on this little run of self-referential and blog-related posting, let me steer you to two interesting essays that start to outline what blogging is, where it came from, and where it might go. Anatomy of a Weblog looks at the consistent elements that make up most blogs. And Rebecca Blood's Weblogs: A History and Perspective consider the impact of watershed moments in the history of blogging -- and why blogs are important. Be cool; go to school.

    Similarly, while Google and AltaVista spider blogs to help fuel their search engine results, there are also a couple of blog-specific search engine-cum-indexes that can help you find blogs... and identify which ones have been updated recently. Eatonweb Portal features newly added blogs, random blogs, and a Top 10. And Userland's directory of Recently Changed Weblogs frequently highlights blogs that have been updated. It's a more extensive list than the one Evan houses at Blogger.

    Enough blogging about blogging for today. I'm going to go see Mission of Burma.
    Blogging About Blogging IV
    Blogdex is a "system built to harness the power of personal news, amalgamating and organizing personal news content into one navigable source, moving democratic media to the masses." That means that you can track the top 25 links recently mentioned in blogs around the world. It's a good way to keep on top of the various memes transmitted between bloggers -- and to catch up on blogging-related news and commentary. It's also a useful tool for self-referential and -obsessing bloggers who care about whether they're linking to the hippest and most happening blogs and Web resources. I was slightly pleased that I had only come across four of the top 25 links recently... and was thankful that the list included a clever essay on the implausibility of the Death Star's trash compactor.
    Blogging About Blogging III
    My Blogger Code is B3 d t k- s- u f i o x e l c. What's yours?
    Read but Dead III
    And an inside source at the now-defunct University Business tells me that University Business -- as well as Lingua Franca, its parent magazine -- has shut up shop, too. Sad, sad news.
    The Movie I Watched Last Night
    Best in Show.

    Thursday, January 17, 2002

    Technofetishism II
    My new DVD player and VCR arrived yesterday, thanks to and UPS. Awesome! I hooked 'em up to my TV and stayed up late watching the Beastie Boys DVD, "Rock 'n' Roll High School," and "Best in Show." So late that I slept through my alarm this morning. I fell asleep during "Best in Show," so I'll have to watch it again before I return it to NetFlix. Usually can't do that with a rental movie.

    I'm not much of an audiophile or videophile when it comes to the actual equipment, so I don't really know how good these are, but so far, I'm pretty pleased with them. I got a Toshiba SD1700 DVD player and a Toshiba W705 six-head VCR, which isn't listed on Toshiba's Web site. Woohoo!
    Writing About the Hands That Feed
    Dan Fost contributed an interesting piece to the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday addressing the effects of the current economic slowdown on business magazines. The article's lead -- "When big tech companies feel the bite of recession, so do the big business magazines that depend on their ads. And when big magazines publish tough stories about the tech companies' business, the companies often bite back." -- spells out the gist of the piece, which looks at how companies such as PeopleSoft and Sun target magazines like Fortune and Forbes when they receive less than rosy coverage. It's a good look at the objectivity of the business press -- and how corporations throw their weight around when journalists take notice of their foibles.
    Weeding the Web
    In a recent column, Dan Gillmor contends that highly accurate search responses via services like Google have made highly specific domain names a thing of the past. "If you and I can quickly locate the Web address we're seeking, who cares what it's called?" he says.

    Hiawatha Bray has a slightly different perspective in his Boston Globe column today. Suggesting that the new .name domain could be a step toward the "ultimate personal ID," he waxes enthusiastic that folks can secure their own names as Web addresses. And he states that .name will make it easier to keep in touch with business colleagues, friends, and family. But will it? I'm not sure. I know the email addresses for folks I need to be in regular contact with... and if I don't, I can track them down pretty easily by searching the Web, contacting a mutual friend, or... calling them on the phone.

    Still, the idea of having the email address is intriguing -- because if I wanted to contact, say, Michael Dittman, who I was trying to get in touch with again recently, I could just email and not worry about finding his email address or whether it was still valid. But ultimate personal ID? Hmm...

    Wednesday, January 16, 2002

    I hope that Green Day's recent "International Superhits!" video and CD fulfills the band's contract with Reprise Records because, seriously, this dual release writes the Bay Area pop-punk wunderkinds' epitaph and might very well free them up for a signing with the label of the same name. Luckily, the video hadn't sold out at Newbury Comics in Cambridge, else this denouncement would be easier to write. Oh, I'm no long-time Gilman Street scenester, and I probably have no right to criticize Billie Joe, Mike, and Tre, but I can't help but feel betrayed. Growing up in Wisconsin, I've listened to Green Day since 1989, met Al Sobrante shortly after he left the band -- and just before the big break that broke Green Day -- and have seen Billie Joe walking down the Haight with his kid in what might have been a Reprise-purchased stroller.

    Oh, I have fond memories of dancing around Liz's apartment to Insomniac in the mid-'90s, but this video sours my stomach. One, the dual release. It's probably the label's doing, but coming out with a 15-video tape at the same time you put out a best-of CD with several unreleased tracks plays into the hands of the yuppie-cum-collector scum while avoiding a full new release. Two, the videos are exactly the sort of videos Green Day should never have made. Full of eMpTyV-style videography that -- outside of "Longview" and "Geek Stink Breath"'s mostly band practice ambience -- focuses more on image and "narrative" than performance or prank (Green Day could've taken cues from Lookout! and Hopeless records' compilation videos) -- the video is rife with largesse and waste.

    Billie Joe knifes a couch. Most of the videos involve a cast and crew that -- while probably less egregious and expensive than most video trappings -- are a far cry from the band's Gilman, Absolutely Zippo, and Telegraph Street origins. There are porn star-styled soundstages. Victorian dresses. Apocalyptic junkyard settings. Hawaiian dancing girls. The "Stray Cat Strut"-inspired flapper cabaret stage for "Hitchin' a Ride." Bettie Page lookalikes. Staged parades with computer-animated balloons.

    That said, there are rare Winston Smith animations in "Stuck with Me," Billie Joe's crooked teeth, the brilliant near-tracking shot of "Walking Contradiction" -- the "Destroying America"-presaging pick of the litter -- "Good Riddance"'s allusions to portraits of Bay Area punk longtimers (a touching reference -- what I wouldn't give for a real place/real people index of the video cameos!), a Green Bay Packers parody that must do Rev. Norb proud, and tour footage (even though "Last Ride In" bites).

    Maybe Green Day are the showmen punk rock needs to become commercially viable. Then again, maybe punk rock doesn't need to be commercially viable. It's not a question I should need to ask in 2002. Watch the video to Green Day's "Waiting." Then watch Mr. T Experience's "I Fell for You" or "And I Will Be with You." Who would you rather have at your party?

    Thank the gods that Adeline Records puts out more records than Green Day does. Just look at Mike Dirnt's side project The Frustrators. At least Billie Joe's putting his money to good use -- just like David Eggers. If I ever come into money, I hope I use it as wisely -- and as wise-acrely -- as Billie Joe does with Adeline and David does with McSweeney's. Because then I'd have the time of my life.

    From the In Box: Turning the Page II
    I will forward you note to our Consumer Relations Manager to see if she can shed some light on this. Hope all is well with you. Thanks. -- Suellen Johnson, Mead School and Office Products
    Wired, Tired?
    When Wired magazine first launched, I was a devotee for about the first year. In that period of time, the magazine broke ground, rich soil that was fertile with ideas, ideals, and innovation. Now, years after the departure of its founders and its acquisition by Conde Nast, Wired is a pale shadow of the magazine I read in its first wild and wily six issues. Imagine my surprise, then, when the February issue hit my in box and grabbed my attention not once, not twice, but a handful of times.

    This -- surprisingly -- happened starting with p. 68, just past the midpoint of the issue. I am a fan -- an aficionado, even -- of the front sections of magazines. The front of the book usually includes some of the more short, sharp, and shocking pieces in a magazine. Not Wired of late. Rants & Raves? Yawn: Not the who's who of lettercols even if the mag has retained its fun Return to Sender (now a formal contest with rules printed in every issue). Electric Word? Yawn: They've morphed the previously beautiful image-laden frontispiece with the former front of the book to create a collection of frivolous one pagers. Fetish? Yawn: Can you afford this stuff? I can't (read: so I don't care). Must Read? Yawn: Don't assume it's so.

    Now we hit the feature well. Fast Company, my current employer, wrote about William McDonough (p. 60) in June 1998. We covered the Slow Food movement (p. 86) in May 2000. So what hit me, if not how slooow Wired seems to have become? The following:

  • Jonathan Weber's relatively in-depth feature on the global complicity of Disney
  • Matthew Yeomans' roundup of anti-globalization activists and organizations
  • Richard Martin's obituary of the steel industry, which focuses on one plant in Pennsylvania and features some amazing photography by Joseph Elliott
  • David Streitfield's roundup of influential mailing lists and their proprietors

    Equal parts trendsetter and contrarian, booster and conscience, the February Wired almost makes up for the magazine's more notable lapses in judgment: the Zippies, Push, the Long Boom. And even though the meat of this issue only accounts for one-fourth of its page count, my one-time favorite section, Street Cred, still sucks. Sometimes the delight lies in the details. As much as the record review page is increasingly mersh and mundane, Wired has one saving grace that will keep me happy issue after issue regardless of the rest of the content.

    That would be the Cool Things That Helped Get This Issue Out minutiae on p. 127. A throwback to the days when Wired shared a building with Might and Boing Boing, this clever, personal piece of indicia shows that the spirit of the founders isn't dead yet; the founders have just left the building. All things said, this issue continues the Net economy reminiscence begun in last month's Rewind issue. Wired still looks to the future but holds firmly onto the past -- leaving readers to hang in the balance.

    Is Wired still relevant and useful, or is it a dot-bomb dinosaur? Take the Media Diet poll!
  • Monday, January 14, 2002

    As mentioned previously in Media Diet, Jason Little's comic strip Bee is one of the best comics currently on the Web. And it just came to my attention that his sole print venue -- the New York Press -- just dropped the strip, less than halfway through the current story, leaving thousands hanging. If you feel inspired to register your displeasure, letters may be sent to:

    The Mail
    New York Press
    333 7th Ave., 14th floor
    New York, NY

    You can also email the paper.

    Per Jason: "Bear in mind that concealing your status as a non-resident of New York City, or your status as a cartoonist will lend your comments more credence, as will genuine postal mail. I thank you for your support."

    Shutterbug Follies will continue unbowed online. The collected hardcover is still firmly on schedule for a Sept. 15, 2002 release. Email Jason if you have other ideas of ways readers can help -- or if you'd like more information on the situation.

    Thursday, January 10, 2002

    From the In Box: From the Reading Pile IV
    Sorry, Heath. I thought you were another Heath. -- J.R. Poush

    No worries. I might still take you up on your hosting offer the next time I come to New York City, though. ^_^
    Breaking Up Is Something I Should Be Paid to Do
    In Japan, you can hire someone to break up with your lover, husband or wife -- even business partners. Tricky separations can cost as much as $150,000. "If this wasn't my business, I'd consider a lot of what we do immoral," says one wakaresaseya ("breaker-upper") in Tokyo.

    Would you pay someone to break up with your lover, spouse, or business partner so you didn't have to? Take the Media Diet poll!

    Wednesday, January 09, 2002

    Blogging About Comics
    Kris Dresen does an online journal about her comics work with Max & Lily and Manya, how she feels about comics reviews, and other topics. Interesting metamedia stuff!
    From the In Box: From the Reading Pile IV
    Heath! Hoped I'd hear from you again. I went through Atlanta recently and tried some ole f'ing number. You in Boston now? I'm squattin' New York. Every night I go out selling comic books on the subway for a dollar each. And they're getting a little better each time. No shit, I'm selling 100 books every night: young folks, black folks, white folks, asian dudes, latinas, fogies, businessheads and dreds alike. I never know who´ll stop me and buy a book. Now I'm in Mexico. A place called Tamazunchale. I like it. I'm sleepin' for free by the river in a nylon sack. But the bugs, ooh, the bugs. Barato gets what barato gets. Cheap is as cheap does. I'm releasing a rap cartoon book (with album) under the name Jupe some time next year. I'm taking the photos. Don´t know if it'll work, but whatthefuck. One more barber shop infinite reflection. Besides, I got some songs worked out, and other titles waiting to be fleshed out. I'm in Boston several times a year if you're around there. And you're welcome to crash with me and Makiko (my Japanese mamasita) in Long Island City. -- J.R. Poush

    Gosh. Thanks! But I don't think we know each other. #14 was the first issue of your comic that I'd read, and I'm curious where you think we know each other from!

    Tuesday, January 08, 2002

    With some Christmas money from my grandmother and a recent FC bonus, I've gone on a bit of a technology buying spree lately. My VCR at home isn't working very well, so I just bought a new VCR. And falling prey to the recent DVD craze, I've also gotten a DVD player and signed up for NetFlix. Woohoo! The movies in my queue have already begun to ship.

    Add to that one cell phone. I used to have a cell phone for work but turned it in to help FC save money. I've been missing it lately, so on Sunday, I signed up with AT&T wireless for a cell phone. The plan is good, the cost isn't too bad, and it's nice to have a phone with me while I walk again. I was even able to check voicemail from my mom and dad while standing in the shelter and sanctuary of a church doorway on Union Square while waiting for the bus Sunday night in the midst of the cold, cold wind and rain. Now that's progress!
    From the In Box: Turning the Page
    Howdy. I found you via Google. Like you, I swear by my Mead Fat Little Wireless Neatbook. I'm the TV critic at the Kansas City Star and have a daily Web site.

    It appears Mead has discontinued the product! Walgreen's ran out of them, Staples no longer carries it, and is bogged down. But a Web search for the product number (57190) came up empty.

    Have you run into a shortage of Neatbooks? And what will we possibly do without them?
    -- Aaron Barnhart

    I've contacted the Executive Assistant to Neil McLachlan, President of Mead School and Office Products in Dayton, Ohio, to see what the deal is. I, myself, haven't noticed a lack of Neatbooks, and truth be told -- I haven't used too many in the last 6-9 months... I wrote that review a couple of years ago... and tend to use standard reporter's notebooks or scrap paper now. I'll pass on word when I head back from Mead.
    Meeting I Never Miss

    Videoconferencing From a Sauna??
    Last Updated: January 04, 2002 11:19 AM ET

    HELSINKI (Reuters) - Boardroom meetings could get steamy if a Finnish company's idea of fitting its new sauna with a Web camera for videoconferencing catches on.

    "I thought a firm like ours should be able to get in touch with the outside world from the sauna when there is something important to discuss," Jarkko Lumio, head of digital media development group Media Tampere, told Reuters Friday.

    The sauna has played a key role in Finnish business and politics over the decades, with much wheeling and dealing done in the heat of the steamy room.

    Four bathers will fit into Media Tampere's sauna, which will have a window onto a computer screen outside. A portable web camera and microphone will be installed so bathers can interact with discussion partners online. "The sauna goers can decide for themselves what to wear for the Web casts," Lumio

    Finns traditionally enjoy the sauna in their birthday suits.
    From the In Box: From the Reading Pile V
    Big thanks for the heads-up, and the terribly kind and insightful review of The Comics Interpreter. It was a very pleasant surprise.

    It's true that seemingly everyone in small press comics pays fealty to Jordan these days, if only because he either has a hand directly in the design of their books or has lent invaluable advice via phone or email regarding layout, marketing, or niggling technicalities of printing. I'm happy to say that TCI interviewed Jordan a bit before everyone jumped the ever-expanding Crane bandwagon, and a good two years prior to The Comics Journal turning the reins of one issue over to Jordan and Highwater Books impresario Tom Devlin.

    Now skipping away from any noxious ME-centrism: All of the reviews in Media Diet were exceptionally well-written, and I was immediately inspired to nab at least of few of the zines you covered. Certainly you seem to know a helluvalot more about comics than I do (which I guess is no big feat).

    Anyway, who knows why you do it, but regardless I'm sure Media Diet is vastly appreciated by the unwashed minions of neurotic, self-pubbing types out there who aren't exactly sure why they're doing it either.
    -- Robert Young

    Thanks for the kind words, Robert. Perhaps we should start our own little Mutual Appreciation Society! Heh. Because sometimes doing this sort of stuff is frustrating. Case in point: I don't know what Media Diet's traffic is, but I can tell you that very few people ever visit. This is even more true in the discussion forum adjacent to Media Diet. So even though I feel like I'm shouting into a canyon sometimes -- doing this blog is way different than when I used to publish zines because then at least, I knew that I had 250 copies floating around somewhere; with Media Diet, it's all electrons -- I really enjoy keeping this going.

    Why do I do Media Diet? I haven't really thought about this, but here's a stab at a rationale:

  • to document and catalog some of the small-press ephemera that crosses my path (I donate everything I receive to DePaul University's library in Chicago)
  • to help improve the state of self-publishing and DIY media by highlighting some of the best (and worst, sometimes) examples of personal media -- and connecting the respective media makers
  • to meet creative, productive, fun, talented, and slightly crazy people
  • to get the proverbial free stuff occasionally
  • I like telling people I don't know what I think, feel, and do

    I doubt I know more about comics than you do. It's all in the appearing to be smart -- just like it says in ReadyMade.

    Why do you do what you do?
  • Monday, January 07, 2002

    From the In Box: From the Reading Pile V
    Hey, now that's cool! Haven't had any feedback in a while, much less a critique/review thingie. Thanks for the words, Heath. Can I ask where you managed to pick up Engine! #5? It's the most widely distributed one, and I never know how it gets itself out there.

    Also, you mentioned you liked the watercolor stuff. Well, most of my work is done with brush, ink, and watercolor. The no-light-box interior art was kinda rushed for SPX 2000, as well as being just black washes. Anyway, please check out "Flora" on my Web site if you get a chance. The story is from my first three Engine! books, but it's in color. I also need to re-upload the color pages from Stone Cold Fish (Engine! #6). I took it down because all I had were grayscale scans left over from getting the book printed.

    Anything I do in the future will have more of the same, hopefully better. Most reviews (mainly from distributors) think it's all too sloppy.
    -- Toby Craig

    I probably picked up Engine! at the Million Year Picnic in Cambridge. Don't worry about being too sloppy. I wasn't struck by sloppiness at all when I read your stuff. But maybe distributors are more important than readers. ^_^

    Friday, January 04, 2002

    From the In Box: From the Reading Pile V
    As you said, I should have a new issue out now, but unfortunately I don't. My new deadline is Beantown Zinetown at the end of March. I have been doing some smaller mini-comics. -- Dan Moynihan
    From the In Box: From the Reading Pile V
    Thanks for the review. It's been a while, hasn't it? I'm no longer unemployed -- now working for the city government (an extension of the volunteering I was doing before). -- Larry-Bob

    Wow. Congratulations on landing the job!
    From the In Box: From the Reading Pile V
    Thanks for the great review. It's nice to know that someone notices and appreciates the interviews about zines (They don't generate as much feedback as the band interviews do.). -- Mike Faloon

    Really? I wonder why that is! I think that the people behind the zines and comics I read have probably put way more thought into what they're doing -- as well as how and why -- than the folks in the bands I like. And they're rarely given a forum other than their own zines for sharing those ideas, motivations, and values.

    If anyone has any thoughts on this, please start a topic in the discussion forum.
    From the Reading Pile V

    Cars-R-Coffins #10
    Why do the best bicycle messenger zines always come from the Twin Cities? Hurl's slim but extremely well-designed read quickly touches on bike event news, the allure of winter bikes, Congressman Jim Oberstar (also chairman of the House of Transportation Ways and Means Committee), and punk rock. It's a quick read, but it captures the energy and enthusiasms of single-speed riders. The mindful political undercurrent is also welcome. I'd read the next issue of this with no hesitation, and I think I need to order a T-shirt. Cars-R-Coffins, Hurl Everstone, 117 Washington Ave. N, Minneapolis, MN 55401.

    Engine! #5
    Toby Craig and Todd Gail's 48-page comic is a two-part example of what happens when Futuroid meets Brian Ralph and Paranoia. The first story, "No Light Box," exemplifies the first two influences, telling the story of a group of gladiator-style robots who fight, discuss, remember, and fight again. The panel sequence on p. 27 is an impressive bit of comics cinematography. Then, "Robot Free" adds Gail and the Paranoia roleplaying element. Two people answer a jobs ad only to find themselves testing robots: one wheeled, one an overly agressive chair, one a washing machine, and one... well, let's just say that the Fred Hembeck- and Phil Foglio-styled artwork adds a light touch to the ending's heavy hand. I'd like to see more watercolor work as displayed on the cover, but otherwise, I'm not sure how long this'd hold my interest. Little Engine Studios, 116 Natures Way, Huntsville, TX 77340.

    Fragments #2
    Five years coming since #1, this 48-page zine focuses on the theme Power -- of community, over nature, and sex, of belief, of fear, and of the military. The editor and contributors offer interesting perspectives on the power of small groups, animal rights, the funeral of Orlando Letelier, and the Gulf War, but I have some trouble wading through the contributors near-academic language and postmodern posturing, as well as the zine's clip art-ridden design. That said, two pieces hit me extremely hard. The narrative "Jason" recounts encounters between activists and police, as well as an attempt at dialog. And Maureen Milton's "Girl in the World" shares her appreciation for a man she'd perhaps never pursue but who "made me realize that, as a girl, I have all the power." The whole zine is worth reading for this line alone: "I have the power. I have it and they are afraid of it. They may run banks, drive fire trucks, and tinker with the government, but these guys can't toy with me. Ultimately, they can't do anything without me." Right on. Hey. Don't take five years to make #3, OK? Fragments, P.O. Box 28253, Santa Ana, CA 92799.

    Go Metric! #13
    If you've ever been into Bunnygrunt or the Mutant Pop back catalog, chances are you'll dig this fully fledged pop music and punk culture zine. Ostensibly trying to become a general interest lifestyle magazine, this issue opens with a hilarious sex quiz rivaling those in Maxim. Brian Logan pens excerpts from an imagined Chicken Soup for the Punk Rock Soul. Kimmie Varsity shares some stories from Junior Varsity's tour of Japan, including a shop run by Sachiko and Ronnie of the 5,6,7,8s. Mike Faloon comments on some recent Plastic Man reprints. Rev. Norb rants about the X-Men movie. Johnny DIY anthropologizes some stereotypical mail order customers, including Anarchy Dude and the Girl Band Geek. And John David Cawley asserts Why Mod Matters. While there are scads of interviews in this issue -- the Sissies, the Figgs, the Young Fresh Fellows, and Swearing at Motorists -- Mike's conversation with Michelle and Doug Daugherty, makers of the zine Spank, might be the most insightful. While thousands of zines document emerging culture, very few people look at the motivations and background of zine publishers. Michelle and Doug have a lot to say about how Spank has changed since 1994, how people react to reviews, and the self-publishing process. And Mike has a lot to say, too; this issue weighs in at a whopping 56 pages, well worth the $2. (Full disclosure: Mike reviewed a CD by my band, the Anchormen, in this issue. He liked it, and dare say, I like Go Metric!) Mike Faloon, 2609L Village Court, Raleigh, NC 27607.

    Mreowkoblast! #17
    Another charming comic from the local talent Dan Moynihan. Combining his old Microblast comics with his new Mreow project, this issue is a clever assortment of John Porcellino-simple comics, writing, and photography. Dan and Leslie demonstrate how the game Caption is played. Nixon the cat goes on an adventure. Ethylene treats Crash to her own version of Understanding Comics ("I draw pictures and you come into my world."). Dan skates to MassArt. And a closing wordless comic about music brings Megan Kelso's Queen of the Black Black to mind. #18 should be ready by now -- it was going to be done in time for the canceled SPX. Get this. You won't be sorry. Dan's quickly becoming one of my favorites. And he has a Web site!

    Off My Jammy #13
    Lisa Kalner went to Brazil. And while there she met various filmmakers and zinemakers. So doing, she spent a lot of time learning about the country's indie rock scene, but she also roped in a bunch of notable Americans to share their Brazilian experiences. Mac McCaughan from Superchunk recalled the country's 1977 state of punk rock infrastructure. Chris, editor of the Brazilian zine Tudo E, addresses how Brazilian bands look to America for inspiration. The Donnas listen to a Brazilian musician's demo tape. Ian Svenonius of the Make-Up recalls their Brazilian tour. Lisa shares tips on how to eat vegan overseas. And Tom Ze schols Cibo Matto. As always, Lisa brings music together with multiculturalism and somehow ends up looking at something other than music. Something more real. Off My Jammy, P.O. Box 440422, Somerville, MA 02144.

    Paul the Punker #2
    This Sharpie marker-made photocopied cmic is a silly example of what happens when someone gets into punk rock and self-publishing. Unlike the thoughtful and highly stylized Arnie comics, Paul the Punker is a 12-page series of profanities, racism, and crotch jokes. While there is one clever sequence -- p. 4's paranoid obsession with a lighter that doesn't work and is "but a soldier for some large conglomerate fat cat [who] has sent you to throw a 'wrench in my works'" -- too much of this is poorly drawn and overly dependent on punk-rock cliches: squats, beer, anarchy, and vomit. There's some promise here in terms of dialogue, so perhaps the creator will improve as he continues to experiment. FNS Publishing, 24 Bynner St. #1, Boston, MA 02130.

    Ponytale of Tears
    A brilliant comics/zine from Da Claw. Starting with some found text and art, Mr. Claw builds a mystery story about four friends' bad haircuts that reminds me of the Three Investigators, Behind the Music, and the Blair Witch Project. Might even be a little Bloodhound Gang (not the band) in there. While trying to solve the mystery, the four friends -- Alexis, Patsie, Stacie, and Christie -- suspect each other, skate the "peace full pipe," write each other notes, and encounter the elusive Mr. Claw himself(!). A wonderful combination of found and fake text and comics. Probably available via Paper Radio.

    Queer Zine Explosion #19
    Larry-Bob hasn't put out an issue of Holy Titclamps or QZE since mid-1999. But he's started organizing a queer comedy showcase, volunteering at KPFA, working on local political campaigns, and been laid off for more than a year, so it's understandable. And it's super good to see him dabbling in zines again. This four-page newsletter reviews almost 60 queer-related zines, including notables Batteries Not Included, People Under No King, and RFD. His reviews are constructively critical, friendly, and in depth. QZE is international in scope, although if zine production is any indication, there are no queers in Massachusetts. There goes my idea for a zine column in Bay Windows! If you live in the Bay Area and want to see more of QZE, you can help by volunteering to catalog Larry-Bob's zine library, which he hopes to donate to the SFGLBT Historical Society. Larry Roberts, Box 590488, San Francisco, CA 94159-0488.

    Seattlite #19
    Part of Imageanation's Spacecamp series of comics, this edition focuses on Seattle: its rain, the space needle, and the WTO. Starting with a couple of choice word pictures -- the fan and pipe -- the comic's trenchcoated narrator realizes that the WTO wasn't only a trade organization, gets some alien assistance, and kicks some tentacled-alien butt Raymond Chandler style. Mission accomplished, our hero sets the "culture dial at twenty years." and so ends another cryptic of Imageanation. Equal parts Yul Tolbert and Max Traffic, these comics increasingly intrigue me. Who makes them? How can you get them? Where are they going story wise? Good stuff.

    The Comics Interpreter Interview SPX 2000 edition
    There's a reason why everyone who's anyone in self-publishing these days thanks LA-based comics maestro Jordan Crane in their books: He rocks. And Robert Young's interview in this edition of the Comics Interpreter's interview counterpart indicates why. Jordan reads the right comics, and he firmly believes in editing self-published work (his anthology Non). The interview also addresses the unwanted role of publisher, inspirations, how to surpass your own work, and why good comics belong in bookstores. Jef Czekaj talks abut the Star Wars bug, the New England comics scene, the distractions of making music, the value of doing mersh work, and why it's good to make fun of your friends. Jesse Reklaw touches on dreams, spoofing other artists, distribution, and comics networking. And David Choe expands on his cultural influences, artistic process, how to make your own comics, and how people -- including his father -- respond to his work. There are few good comics magazines and zines today. Read this. Then read the Comics Journal. Robert Young, TCI, 5820 N. Murray Ave. D-12, Hannahan, SC 29406.

    The Wurst
    This is the best zine I've seen in awhile without any contact information. But maybe you'll find it somewhere; if you have any leads on how to contact the folks behind the worst, let me know. Ilene Ree contribues an article on various drugs and how they affect the author's irritable bowel syndrome. The cocaine and acid vignettes are especially colorful, and the piece is noteworthy because it was supposed to appear in Vice magazine. Then the Wurst's pig mascot interviews "No-Smoke Sally" about when she started smoking, smoking rituals, what brands she smoked, and why she quit. LL contributes a story about an ice cream truck that serves as cover for a crack dealer. And "Alice's Story" is a sad, sad almost poem about a dope addict. All are solid stories about substance abuse, done in a variety of styles. Wish I knew who did this!

    What are you reading?
    From the In Box: From the Reading Pile IV
    For Press Release ASAP:

    Hey, you are the only one who buys those comics. We usally sell them to the MYP to get money for food that day, then go home, eat food, laugh, and make more shit. We rarely all smoke pot or drink beer. However, the "MJ" comic you can buy at Twisted Village. Maybe you even reviewed that; I forget. Anyway, that is an example of, like, just sitting around and drawing while having fun. The "Mass Art News Paper," though it maybe looks SILLY, is a very long process. All the stuff is like treasure, meets our high diamond standards, and is never fun to make, even though only one of us makes it, while all of us wait at Kinko's. That's when we make most of those shitty zines.

    POINT BEING, PAPAR RAD (NOT RADIO)* IS MAINLY FOCUSING ON OUR MUSIC VIDEOS NOW SEE THIS SNEAK PREVIEW: Goo-Goo, and 13 Monsters. (P.S. Both have sound.) Also, Joe and I are working on a print project for real print.

    Anyway, the Mass Art News Paper I think is really cool and is such an important newspaper, really. Also, all those books on the paperrad Web site are really good, and proof that not all we make is funky. So thank you for being the only one to buy them. And we have plenty of books in store to make the spooky ones seem cool. Thank you.
    -- Ben Jones

    Thursday, January 03, 2002

    From the Reading Pile IV

    Book of Insomnia
    Originally published four years ago, I picked this 36-page comic up at the Picnic last night in a fit of appreciation for the shop's minicomics selection -- and skilled reorganization by Cheryl. Gabrielle Bell has an awesome Bay Area Tales of Blarg-meets Leela Corman-meets Ariel Schrag style that just sings through the eight stories collected here. Parts of her page composition occasionally remind me of Richard Scarry and Edward Gorey, but to be truthful, I read this without imposing the above-named people on her art or writing. "The Dream I Had" is a William Gibson-cum-Jesse Reklaw story about an alternate future for the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. "The Bicycle Story" is a touching tale about anger and bitterness converting into love and creativity. Here, Gabrielle's portrayal of characters with lanky frames really impressed me. And "Just One Reason" sports an Emily-like waif girl who -- in a simple surprise ending -- decides not to commit suicide. Gabrielle's panel composition and character design is amazing, and this mini is delightfully dense wihout being reproduces too small or overly weighty. Awesome and well worth the reminiscent return to 1998, so write before you send money. Wonder if she's still active? Email Gabrielle or send $3 to 3288 21st St. #217, San Francisco, CA 94110.

    Bus Tips
    Here's a tip: If you're self-publishing comics and zines in the hipster-riddled Y2K2 and have Net access, don't assume everyone else does. You still have a mailing address, and chances are that folks still have to send you money somewhere. Soapbox stowed. Daniel Morgan's 100-copy, 24-page mini offers nine useful suggestions for people who ride the bus a lot, as well as folks who "don't and maybe never have before." Advice covers seat reclining, luggage, headphones, how to spend time, and relations with fellow passengers. The funniest tip: "Ride the train." Dan seems to alternate between a permanent marker and a heavy brush, but perhaps this is all marker. Regardless, the art is pleasant and iconic, and the writing is friendly and clever. "An informative booklet," indeed. Email Dan to ask where to send your $1.50, or visit his Web site.

    Does Canada Even Have Months
    Oh, those Paper Radio fellers. When will I cease being a sucker for their puckish sense of whimsy and only pick up the comics and zines "worth" documenting? Hopefully never, although some of their photocopied ephemera might not have a lasting shelf life. Take this 16-page mini, for example. The 13 stories are reproduced Mad-Libs that have already been filled in. The parts of speech don't always match the insertions, but occasionally the results are funny. Most of the time, though, the experiment fails and is probably best shared with close friends already in on the joke. Michael Jackson, city guys, and millionaires gloat, rap, and sleep over with astronaut suits, dope, and the family. The result of free photocopies ad ample free time. Costs $1. Paper Radio is on the Web.

    Go-Go Girl #2
    Snuggled somewhere between Andi Watson, Megan Kelso, and Maurice Vellekoop, Craig's stylish scooter-girl comic evokes the scripting of the Powerpuff Girls and Richard Salas, of all people. I haven't seen #1, so I can't speak to Craig's consistency, but with self-published comics like this around, why does Jim Mahfood have steady work? A hair stylist's clients start to be mysteriously attacked by a hideous creature, and Go-Go Girl is on the case! She meets a cute guy, infiltrates a society ball, confronts the monster, and eventually saves the day. I knew I'd like this; Craig's contribution to the Expo 2001 anthology, now available from Highwater Books, was one of the better pieces. Tailor made for an animated short, this is a wake-up call for Rick Veitch and Alan Moore, too. Let's see Craig draw a Cobweb story instead of Dame Darcy for once. Very impressive. $3 to Craig Bostick, 7 Weld St. #2R, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130. He also has a Web site.

    Lady Dwenton's Matrimonial Planner
    Published in March 2001, this simple, slim (eight pages) mini recalls Robert Lewis and Jhonen Vazquez, on the Lewis side of the family. Purchased as a gift for my friends -- well, acquaintances, if Sarah were to call me on it -- Matt and Mary, this mini offers wedding planning tips that touch on musical group selection, flowers, dresses, and uncertainty. Probably worth expanding into a full-fledged DIY wedding planner to match the pocket-sized goodness of the Slingshot annual planner I just picked up in Brooklyn over New Year's. 25 cents to Bruce Orr, 1601 S. 8th St., third floor, Philadelphia, PA 19148. Published by Immersion Press.

    Landfill Anxiety
    Gods love Allison Cole and the comics she's making at the Rhode Island School of Design. This beautifully printed eight-page mini tells the story of a broken turntable, a broken heart, and a kept promise. Allison name drops John Porcellino and Ron Rege, Jr., in another comic, so it's somewhat clear where her influences and inspirations lie, but her comics -- like her previous mini Record Love (dreamy!) -- are current faves of mine... ranking among the work of folks like Megan Whitmarsh and Dan Moynihan. Her work is a tad more Fort Thunder- and Paper Radio-inspired, but her simple linework and understated bittersweet pacing and writing elicits a tender melancholy that's right up my alley these days. And I think her comics carry a lasting impact, so snatch them up now. Allison's been self-publishing thread-bound limited editions of 30 or 40 comics. Fingers crossed that she keeps them coming. A sure-to-be hit. Sigh! $5. Email Allison for more information.

    Macros2000 #7
    Macros are "tiny community/media-inspired phrases, actions, and concepts that get together and have little parties but you're not invited because you're way too big!" This recent 12-page collection -- released into the wild in November 2001 -- gives nod to David Eggers, even though he didn' invent parenthetical indicia, and Nicholas Baker, even though he's not the only person who loves the library, and is uncestually related to Media Diet because I'm hosted by the same nice man. I bask in the glow of my comrades, comrades more talented than I am. The macros pay heed to Shake 'n' Bake, my friends at Audi, the Peace Corps, Hasil Adkins, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Captain Kangaroo, gender identity, Sizzlea, and Mr. Show. That might explain the excellent Molly Kiely artwork on the cover. There's also an insert that explains why there's been no issue of Macros since 1998: printers are weird, software is hard to use, and Evan Dorkin uses a lot of black. Not as awesome as past issues, but still awesome. $1 to Jeff, Box 476, Palo Alto, CA 94302. Macros is also on the Web

    Not in Order #4
    Max and Danny O.'s hardcore zine is a slim shade akin to HeartAttack or Maximum Rocknroll. Amidst the requisite hardcore and straight-edge record ads, there are interviews with Salem resident and show organizer Matt Pike, Over My Dead Body's Daniel Sant, and Blood for Blood's Ian McFarland, a couple of puerile "new band notices" written by people in the bands, record reviews, and show reviews -- mostly in the immediate Boston area. Even though the zine pushed me over the edge to pick up the Moment CD, "Songs for the Self-Destructive," which I've been enjoying, I can hardly recommend this zine. The writing is short, shallow, and sketchy in terms of values (like tattoos, drinking, and gossip means anything; I have no idea who these people are, what their bands sound like, or what they think -- and after reading this zine, I couldn't care less), and your quarter is probably better spent. Room for improvement. 25 cents to 372 Russett Road, Brookline, MA 02467.

    Poush Comics #14
    J.R. Poush's 20-page, pocket-sized perzine blends page-long comics art with writing about his (?) time in Thailand. The zine concentrates on his flight overseas, Puk's becoming a monk (ordination?), how he met Puk's family, Jim's Vietnam memories, and J.R.'s time in and around Bangkok. While the writing borders on the dramatic -- Nanthana's disapproval and J.R.'s pending solo adventure in Phuket -- this stuck me as surprisingly bland and restrained. Still, it's better than Joe Chiapetta and Tony Consiglio's experiments with text comics. Kudos for format and presentation even if the art doesn't relate to the writing. The ad "How to Subscribe" alludes to what J.R. can do in full comics form, and the back-page "Adding an Extra Comic Book Isn't Splurging... It's Living!" shows that J.R. has a sense of humor he doesn't show in the main body of the comic -- even if it is appropriated text. So... points for trying. I look forward to a regular issue of Poush. $1 to J.R. Poush, P.O. Box 1236, Cooper Station, New York City, NY 10276-1236.

    Sketchbook of Frustration
    Self-published in November 2001, this 52-page mini of sketchbook comics lacks the production values -- multiple color printing and thread binding -- of Allison's previous minis, but it still results in a tidy item. Allison's apologetic that this is one of those "I don't have any ideas" self-referential DIY missives, but Sketchbook of Frustration holds up as an interesting and independent read nonetheless. Poking fun at the angst inherent in her creative process, Allison draws on her love for her cat (RIP, Marmalade) as she stresses out over her edition class, fable- and literature-oriented inspirations, opinions on the importance of art, love of coffee and comics, consignment sales success (I was probably one of the five!), and productivity. Well, if Record Love and Landfill Anxiety resulted from this process and her new sewing machine, I gather that everything turned out OK. More John Porcellino- and Ron Rege, Jr.-inspired comics from my pick of the litter this batch. Major comics crush! $3. Email Allison.

    Everyone's sewing their comics together these days! Another cryptic mini assumedly from the Paper Radio crew, this limited edition of 60 (what's with the edition counts all of a sudden? Are folks in art school or something?) is a collection of sketches, found text and art, prose poetry, and detourned comics. Themes addressed include freedom, the male gaze, holidays, risk, technology, and pop culture. While not as nonsensical as Does Canada Even Have Months, this continues Paper Radio's recent rash of disposable one-offs. Bring back the likes of the characters that populate the previous, longer comics works, I say! $2. Paper Radio is on the Web.

    What are you reading?

    Wednesday, January 02, 2002

    New Year's Daze
    So my new year has begun on an upbeat note. Until Sunday, it looked like I'd be spending New Year's Eve at home alone with nothing but a six pack of Red Hook ESB and Dick Clark on the telly. All of my friends -- well, almost all, all who are involved in the Handstand Command music collective -- were in Long Island, I had no ride down to New York, and I didn't know about anything else that I could step into the slipstream of. Until Sunday night.

    Then, at the Dilboy Jam, a wonderful party organized by my pal Leslie Case -- a party that featured several bands, including Scrapple Jr., the No-Nads, Asian Babe Alert, Chromium, and the college-rock jam band of the man for which the fete was thrown -- I learned that one of my friends who was planning on heading to Long Island wasn't driving down until Monday. Score! I also learned about two other parties on New Year's Eve. So everything came together, I spent the holiday in Long Island with the crew, and I didn't have to spend a sad spell at home with Dick Clark. Happy new year, everybody!
    Dirty Linen
    No, this has nothing to do with the wonderful folk music magazine. It has everything to do with not doing my laundry. I've been wearing dirty clothes since Sunday. That's four days now. Too little time to do laundry, and when I do have time at home, too little inclination to spend that time doing so. So far it's been OK. Nothing's been too gamy, and nothing's been too wrinkly. But for a guy who's norm is to wash everything after one wearing, I'm curious. How dirty is too dirty?
    Car Talk
    There's a car that's been parked in a lot at the airport in Austin since September 2000. It's totally covered in dust, and people have been marking it up with graffiti. Here are some photos of the car: [1] [2] [3] [4] People are also talking about the car in a Web discussion forum.
    David Farber transmitted a hilarious report yesterday about AOL. According to the Associated Press, about 100 Harvard applicants never received email notification of whether they'd been accepted or rejected by the ivy league school because AOL bounced the emails back to Harvard as spam. Harvard started sending admissions emails this year because of the Anthrax snail-mail scares but will return to sending notification through the USPS because of the AOL spam brouhaha. While about 6,000 emails were sent and almost 100 were rejected (less than 2%), this is pretty silly. Just goes to show that people applying to Harvard should probably be smart enough not to use AOL.
    Music to My Ears
    It's been awhile since I've gotten an unannounced CD in the mail (keep 'em coming!), so here's a review in honor of random promotional mailings. Ted Killian's "Flux Aeterna" solo outing CD is an exercise in emotive and ambient guitar, sample, and loop work recorded in Medford, Oregon. The opening track, "Hubble," is a brief anthem that pays tribute "The Star-Spangled Banner." But make no mistake, Ted's no Yngwie Malmsteen or Joe Satriani. Eschewing finger-fast technique for layered guitar exploration, the subsequent tracks, at their more energetic and interesting moments, remind me of a guitar-driven instrumental cross between Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, and Zirbel -- while they avoid any semblance of beat-driven techno or dance. This is experimental guitar for the Starscape set. Think Mike Hersch. While not overtly technically adept or classically composed, "Flux Aeterna" makes for some interesting background noise, if not repeated, studious listens, and its wide(ish) range of stylings -- from "Cauterant Baptism"'s eventual burst of Locust Abortion Technician-era Butthole Surfers-style noise and "Recurvate Plaint"'s more ballad-oriented approach to "Convocation Solitaire"'s near-Bill Frisell nuances -- make me wonder where Ted comes from musically... as well as where he's going. pfMentum, P.O. Box 1653, Ventura, CA 93002.

    P.S. Send me your CD, and I will listen to it.