Sunday, September 22, 2002

Mark Trail(er)
Today's Richmond Times-Dispatch includes two articles about trailer parks and camping trailers -- neither of which is available on their Web site. One, a Los Angeles Times piece about the Monterey Trailer Park, which dates from the '20s and might soon rank among LA's historic-cultural monuments. Two, a Jay Dedrick feature about vintage trailers. Given my current interest in old cars -- and my road trip, I'm wondering whether I'd be better off in a trailer or camper than a car. At least I could sleep now.
No Media Res(t) for the Weary Traveler II
When I get to a new town, I do several things. I map out the main post office, city hall, train or bus station, high school, police station, and main branch of the public library -- thinking that, if you hit at least several of these landmarks, you see most of the livable city. I also check the Yellow Pages for comic book stores, record shops, and book stores. I did all of this in Richmond. I also picked up as many free papers and alt.weeklies as possible.

In Richmond, there are three primary entertainment sections and alt. weeklies. While I didn't pay as much attention to other entertainment and shopping guides as I did when I visited Chicago, I did pick up several papers worth mentioning: the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Weekend section, Style Weekly, and Punchline.

First up, Weekend. This is your basic daily newspaper entertainment section. This edition is particularly worth your attention because it features an article by Kelly Gerow entitled "Just Push Play: For Many Richmond Bands, Home Really Is the Road." The article communicates the mixed message that

  • There is a Richmond music scene
  • Local bands are really only appreciated outside of the city

    Gerow highlights Engine Down (whose CD I picked up at Soundhole), Bats and Mice, Denali (whose CD I bought at Plan 9), Broken Hips, and Soft Complex. As I shopped for records, I got mixed reviews. One record store clerk (at Plan 9) said, "So, you raided the local section." And the owner of Soundhole, Greg, steered me away from the local section, saying that most of the bands were "dead issues" and that, if a record worthy of attention wasn't on sale on consignment -- which they wouldn't be in most cases, I was led to believe -- it'd be in the main racks. He also suggested that I listen to a handful of records -- of which I purchased several -- and then threw in several free local records and samplers. Hoorah, Soundhole. If you're local and you haven't gone, go go go!

    Then there's Style Weekly, which isn't associated with a local daily -- and which resonates more with the Chicago Reader than New City. Opening with an oddly placed front-of-book advertorial about an art nouveau exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, the Weekly seems oddly upper crust -- more Mass. Ave than Davis Square. To its credit, the weekly does include a piece by Edwin Slipek that analyzes the architectural Renaissance slated for downtown. Considering the $105 million performing arts complex, Slipek looks at Richmond's urban development plans, placing them in a cultural and political context that draws on the use -- and misuse -- of several city blocks and properties in question. Given Slipek's active and forceful voice and perspective, he might well be a local writer to watch.

    Lastly, Punchline. With an Adam Kidder cover this week, this New City- and Weekly Dig-like weekly is what I'd read regularly if I lived here. Given, it's not that well written or designed, but Punchline seems to be the voice of young Richmond. It's got edgy commentary on sobriety, the lottery, and the fall TV season. The paper name drops Haruki Murakami and seems to have a stronger sense of local music, and includes the listings to back it up.

    Punchline also has a stronger sense of comics sensibility. Featuring work by George Tautkus, Tony Millionaire, Jen Sorenson, N.V. Dogma, and J.M. Coates, the paper indicates that it's plugged into the right artistic sockets, even if they don't power all of the weekly's editorial slots.
  • Rock Shows of Note XLII
    After dinner, Elizabeth, Wheeler and I crossed the street to Poe's Pub, which isn't really a pub -- or connected to Edgar Allan Poe -- to see Page Wilson with Reckless Abandon. I wish I'd had a chance to talk to Wilson, because, as a local radio DJ who specializes in folk, country, bluegrass, the blues, and other roots music -- and who's been involved in the local music scene for almost 20 years -- Wilson knows a lot about the local music and media scenes. Back in the mid-'80s, he published a fanzine-turned-newspaper called Out o' the Blue Review that has since evolved into a radio show -- first on a local commercial station and now on public radio.

    Last night, he played with a five-piece band featuring an upright bass player with a wonderful baritone voice, a second guitarist, a younger (by comparison) fiddle player, and a mandolin player who could've been amplified more. There wasn't a dedicated percussionist, and the band didn't need one. Their stage presence was energetic and friendly, and they opened their first set with "Moonlight Midnight," a standard that -- eerily enough -- I last heard while in Nashville, Tennessee, visiting another Company of Friends coordinator who wanted to treat me to local music. And treat Jody did.

    We arrived just before Wilson's show, and while I recommend you get to Poe's before shows start, I also suggest that you sit further forward toward the stage. As it was, as the place filled up around 11 p.m., folks began to stand in front of us, and the club -- which has featured Angry Johnny and the Killbillies, a band that has Boston ties -- quickly filled to standing room only. We left just before the band's second set, and I was struck by the wait staff's friendliness, the door man's sense of humor, and the audience's mixed makeup. Fun, fun, fun.
    The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night XIV
    After a day of touring Richmond, checking out area record shops and bookstores -- including the well-stocked Black Swan Books; Richmond's answer to Berkeley's Rasputin, Plan 9 Music; and the strip-mall square peg Soundhole (which is going to move closer downtown near Sweetwater later this year) -- and meeting the car decal guy so he could detail the car I'm using for the CoF Roadshow, my hosts and I relaxed at home for awhile before going out for dinner.

    To eat, we headed across town to Millie's Diner, a wonderful diner-styled fine-dining restaurant that is in fact the namesake for one of my hosts' cats. I was initially surprised by the restaurant's layout -- and then by its menu. The restaurant is hardly a diner at all. With an extremely small cooking station perched between the restaurant's entrance and short counter, Millie's menu is relatively highly priced. Entrees range upwards of $20. But if you focus on the soups and salads and the appetizers, you can eat pretty well for around $15. You might need dessert, but at Millie's, the dessert is the best part.

    I started with Millie's tomato and fennel bisque, which was very creamy and good. The bowl was a little shallow, so it cooled quite quickly, but the soup was awesome. Next up, the pan-seared scallops, which counted three and were accompanied by a panzanella comprising grilled bread, capers, and other goodies. The panzanella was a highlight of the appetizer and came topped with fresh bean sprouts. Very good. But the dessert? Oh, the dessert! If you ever visit Richmond, go to Millie's and insist on ordering the frozen mango mousse with honey dew and vanilla soup even if it's no longer on the menu. Consisting of two wedges of frozen mousse, the dessert was drizzled with blackberry sauce, and several blackberries joined in as garnish. Beautiful presentation -- as with all of Millie's food -- and utterly wonderful taste sensations. I need to figure out how to replicate this dessert at home. I was in heaven.

    Friday, September 20, 2002

    Reports from the Road III
    I still owe you a report from my trip to Indiana, but I thought it'd be good to get a start on documenting my personal time while on the CoF Roadshow. I won't have a lot of down time while working on this project, but when I do, I'll weigh in with some snapshots and commentary on the people, places, and things I encounter in the cities I visit.

    Edgar Allan Poe, Irene Gibson, and Nancy Astor lived here.

    None of the fireplaces at the Linden works any more.

    Bed head.

    The view from just outside my room.

    Looking down into the "enchanted" garden.

    Check out this building!

    Signs of the times.

    Then: A house. Now: Parking lots.

    VCU graffiti.

    In case you eat too much at Bandito's.
    The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night XIII
    After arriving in Richmond around 8 p.m., and dropping off my luggage at the Linden Row Inn across the street from the Richmond Public Library, I needed a bite to eat. Upon the recommendation of the local Company of Friends coordinator -- bolstered by the enthusiastic endorsement of the hotel manager -- I set off on foot walking down Main Street through the Virginia Commonwealth University campus to find Bandito's Burrito Lounge.

    It was a great place to eat. With a metallic ceiling and interesting jukebox, the restaurant had attracted a fair Thursday-night crowd, including a large, rambunctious group of about 20 college students who were spilling over from their long banquet-style table. I couldn't tell what they were celebrating, but the pitchers of beer kept coming. When my order came, it was exactly what I had ordered: chips and salsa, a spinach and mushroom quesadilla, and a Red Hook ESB. Good, simple food. Just what I needed.

    Next to Bandito's is a function room called the El Diablo. Supposedly, people and groups can rent it out, but it seems like it'd be perfect for shows. I wonder if there's a stage back there, and I wonder if what I thought were occasional strains of live music was actually just the jukebox. Hmm...
    Pulling the Plug VI
    As the saying goes "nothing lasts forever." That is unfortunately true for the Upstairs Lounge.

    TUL began when the manager and a few employees from a wildly successful yet ill-fated fetish club, Hexx, found their venue being sold out from underneath them to a long-standing gay club in the Boston scene that was forced from their previous venue. In one week we packed up and moved across town to what was formerly the Causeway and Chet's Last Call. With some adjustment, we made a long run at offering people a fun venue with an eclectic flavor. The Upstairs Lounge was home to Boston's first weekly swing night, which ran long after the trendier venues discarded swing as a fad. We offered a world-renowned Brit pop/mod night that has been called "the Best in the U.S." We have done a killer '80s night, lounge, rockabilly, goth, industrial, techno, house, and live acts local, national and international. Now, just as we began we have ended. We were told this week by the owners of the venue that TUL is gone and will be replaced by a different longstanding Boston gay club that has been forced from its venue.

    Ken, DJ from the Pill, wants to say:

    Just wanted to say, regretfully, the Pill at the Upstairs Lounge is over. Last Friday was our last night, unbeknownst to myself until this past Monday evening. Here's the breakdown. There is new management taking over the lounge. They did not have the Pill on Friday nights as part of their agenda. It's with great sadness that the night should end when there were still many good Friday nights to come. However, we are already shopping around for a new venue. There is a good chance we will be back in the not-too-distant future.

    Thanks to everyone who came and supported us through the past five years. I have to say it's been one of the best things in my life and I will miss going out every Friday and spinning.

    Keep the faith. We will return and be even better than before. -- Ken

    For Ken, Charlie, Pete, Liz, Brian, and any of TUL employees who have had the pleasure of serving you over the last years, I want to say thank you for being there. We have made some memories that will last a lifetime, and I'm sure you have, too. We always had fun and hope you have also. We are looking forward to bigger and better things. -- Forrest


    I've slightly thrown by the overly reminiscent tone of this closing notice, because the closing of the Upstairs Lounge has been in the works for quite some time. The last time the Anchormen played above the Penalty Box on Causeway Street, Forrest, the primary booking agent for the series, had already stepped away from the Lounge. Word was he had quit. The fellow who was doing sound was negotiating with the management of the place to continue shows there, branching out to other multi-performer, DJ-oriented dance nights, and events that he thought would bring out more people. The outcome of that was uncertain at the time.

    Now it's not. While I'm sad the Upstairs Lounge is no more, other people will book other shows there. Forrest and Ken will find other venues for their projects. And the fellow who was doing sound will find places to book his kind of shows, too. We are not heroes, we play in bands. We organize shows. We dance. The closing of the Upstairs Lounge hardly feels historic, and I'm confused by Forrest's apparent concern about the gay community stepping into his space. While I understand how long-time attendees of the Pill nights might feel like they've lost something, my take is that the place was kind of a dump; Forrest hadn't hit any kind of stride in terms of frequent, consistent bookings that actually attracted a regular audience; and the mix of bands was always slightly off and not quite my bag (other than the Anks' nights, which we had a hand in).

    Nevertheless, RIP, Upstairs Lounge. RIP.

    Thursday, September 19, 2002

    Rules for Fools XIII
    Rule No. 16: Even though you never see Santa Claus and Superman in the same place at the same time, that doesn't mean that Santa Claus is Superman's alter ego or secret identity.

    Corollary to Rule No. 16: Or vice versa.

    Off to the airport in 30 minutes. Thanks to the Media Dieticians who've already suggested places for me to check out while on the road trip!
    On the Road Again III
    In about four and a half hours, I head to the airport to fly to Richmond, Virginia, the first city in the CoF Roadshow. For the next six weeks, I'll be driving a VW Passat W8 wagon from Virginia to Vermont, visiting Fast Company readers, interviewing local business leaders, and meeting with local groups of the Company of Friends, Fast Company's readers' network. Along the way, I'll be writing almost-daily diary entries about where I am, who I meet, and what I learn.

    While I hope to update Media Diet while traveling, the Roadshow diaries and reportage will take precedence. That doesn't mean that Media Diet is dead (long live Media Diet!). It just means that it's resting. I'll try to pop in every so often, but chances are good that Media Diet won't be on a regular schedule again until November.

    If you'd like to recommend bookstores, comic shops, record stores, restaurants, or people I should meet along the way, I'd welcome your suggestions. Check my itinerary and let me know what you know about the cities along the way.

    Wednesday, September 18, 2002

    Corollary: Everything's Coming Out, Rosie
    Reports say that Rosie O'Donnell will pull out of Rosie this week because of the ongoing struggles over editorial control. The magazine, formerly McCall's, one of the seven sisters, will cease publication after the December issue. A lawsuit will probably be filed.

    Full disclosure: I work for Fast Company, which is also published by Gruner & Jahr, Rosie's parent.
    Corollary: The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night XII
    Went to the Good Life again last night to take advantage of the $1 burger special. My friend Hiromi was working, and I got a seat in her section. The taps were working, so I was able to get a Harpoon IPA instead of a bottled beer in addition to the burger, which I ordered medium well instead of medium. It was much, much better. The kitchen staff skipped the cheese this time, even though I ordered it with swiss, but that's understandable; the restaurant was much busier -- much busier -- than it was Monday night. Word is they went through 16 cases of burgers. At 20 a case, that's 320 burgers. What are they, McDonald's? In fact, they had to close the kitchen an hour early because they ran out of patties.

    Today, Hiromi told me that friends Chris and Em also stopped by, even sitting at the same table. So word is spreading! If you're local, tell your friends. The deal runs all week. It'd be interesting to track the word-of-mouth dissemination of a special like this. I haven't seen any ads for the promotion, and if Hiromi hadn't told me about it, I probably never would have known. The Good Life doesn't even have a sandwich board on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.

    $1 burgers. Just don't order one with water and tip 30 cents.
    Corollary: Music to My Eyes III
    Which came first, the chicken or the egg? While I'm quite delighted by the recent Punk Kittens Web meme, this apparent knockoff, which comes complete with a Clash parody about cleaning the cat box, strikes me as pale by comparison.
    From the In Box: Blogging About Blogging XXXII
    Nice blog, very local, and not so medial (?) as I remember it being. I like reading about places I don't know and never will. But Kal-El wants his name back; he's real pissed.

    As a not-published-enough writer, I blog compulsively. But it's OK; it's not a problem really. Great outlet, isn't it?
    -- Lorraine Murphy

    Good to hear from you! What do you mean by "medial"? "Media-related"? The opposite of "remedial"?

    As far as my email address at the Well goes, "kalel" was partially inspired by my penchant for comic books -- although I wouldn't be seen in public reading Superman -- it's also an abbreviation of sorts for a zine I published from 1991-2001: Karma Lapel. Media Diet was a one-shot zine side project I did while still publishing Karma Lapel -- there's even a "lost issue" I completed but never published. This blog is in many ways the evolution of my thinking behind the original Media Diet -- a combination of personal writing, meta-media DIY platform establishment, media criticism and analysis, and straight-up commentary and review.
    The Movie I Watched Last Night XXXIX
    Osmosis Jones
    I had no idea that this was an animated and a live-action movie. I'd imagined it as some sort of an Earthworm Jim-meets-Iron Giant children's film, but au contraire, mes freres, this is not the case. Instead, it's several things rolled up into one. First of all, it's a Farrelly brothers movie, so you can expect some degree of gross-out humor. Secondly, it's half live-action and half cartoon, taking on the format previously set by movies such as Cool World and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, albeit not mixing the media. Thirdly, it's your stereotypical buddy/cop movie in which Chris Rock and David Hyde Pierce offer voice services for the misunderstood, badazz rebel local officer -- and the stick-in-the-mud, unaware outsider who's brought in to save the day. All of that adds up to a rather generic movie devoid of any particularly interesting animation, but Osmosis Jones does serve up some intriguing concepts worthy of any science-fiction author.The concept that excited me the most was that our bodies' immune systems are in fact squadrons of police. Our bodies are cities overseen -- and sometimes -- overrun by a mayor and political administration. And diseases, the illnesses we get -- or the hardcore Thrax voiced by Laurence Fishburne -- are criminals staging a heist, in this film, of the body part that regulates our temperature. Fun ideas. What bothered me was that an illness would probably be better represented by a mindless horde or army of germs rather than an individual mephistophelean bad guy. And the live-action sequences, dominated by a sloppy Bill Murray, a dismissable Chris Elliott, and a tangential Molly Shannon, do little to augment or improve the cartoon -- although they do set the stage for the battle waged in Murray's body. Other interesting tidbits include voiceover work by William Shatner, a musical sequence featuring Kid Rock, Joe C, and Uncle Kracker (ho hum), and a wonderful election advertisement positioning Ron Howard as the out with the old/in with the new Tom Colonic. Not quite what it could have been, but given its wide range of inspirations, not bad for what it is.

    Tuesday, September 17, 2002

    Rock Shows of Note XLI
    Playing catch up today! Coco and I took in several fun shows this past weekend, and I'd remiss not to comment on them before I leave for the CoF Roadshow.

    Friday night, we returned to the Middle East Upstairs for a Kimchee Records CD release party celebrating new recordings by Seana Carmody and Victory at Sea. The two local bands were joined by two other quality acts, Suntan and El Guapo.

    Suntan had an interesting lineup: drums, two guitars, and a keyboard that took on the bass parts. While I wasn't thrilled silly by their songs, I enjoyed their updated version of country/space-rock (their description, not mine), particularly the gut-wrenching undercurrent of keyboard-driven bass. It took me awhile to peg where the low end was coming from. Next up, El Guapo was much more my bag. A trio, El Guapo takes on two of the major sounds emanating from the DC scene these days -- post-hardcore art rock and relatively loose free jazz. I've yet to listen to their new Dischord record, but in the liner notes, they thank Trans Am -- so it's evident where they're coming from. Accordion, a spazzy drummer, electronics... plenty to wig out to. Hooray for El Guapo. Kimchee did well.

    Seana Carmody's set was also impressive. With a new lineup -- I only recognized the drummer from the last time I saw her play, and I thought he was moving to LA -- Seana was joined by one of the tallest men in the Boston scene on bass (I've seen him at so many shows; it's good to know we're friends of friends) and Winston Yu, who has played fiddle with the Boston Philharmonic, Dormouse, and Solar Saturday. Their set was mostly composed of songs from the new record, "Struts & Shocks," and Seana played some of my favorites. Her voice is extremely dreamy, and the band's laid-back approach added to the wash and wave of sound. And sometimes, Seana surprises with a burst of noise guitar and space rock. A nice blend that reminds me slightly of folks like Mary Timony. Seana even sang a song about unicorns at her show at TT's not long ago.

    Lastly, at the end of the night, Victory at Sea. I'm not the biggest fan of Victory at Sea, but I've been enjoying their new CD -- and their show Friday was one of the first I really paid attention to and appreciated. Comprising former members of Spore and the Swirlies (of which Seana is also an alumnae), Victory veers toward the melancholy. The songs, while couched in trudging rock, are sad, dark, and heavy. No surprise that they've co-released a CD with Helms. Listening to the CD now, I think Victory is better suited to listening at home than seeing live -- Mona Elliott's vocals are quite effective -- but I'll give them another chance to see just how wrong I am.

    Media Dieticians can look forward to reviews of these two new CD's in the future, but if you're champing at the bit, you can order them online from the friendly folks at the Garment District in Cambridge.

    You can also read Coco's review of the show.

    On to Show No. 2: Diver Down at the Good Times Emporium. You might guess from their name that Diver Down is, yep, a Van Halen cover band. First-wave David Lee Roth Van Halen, to be exact. Check that, I mean tribute band. Cover bands merely play other people's songs. Tribute bands dress up like the band members, try to act like the band members, and otherwise pretend that they are, in fact, in the actual band to which they're paying tribute. Good Times is a skeezy Assembly Square entertainment complex in Somerville that combines video games, in-door basketball, sports bars, billiards, and other diversions all under one roof. The show -- which was sparsely attended -- took place in the "night club," and we (Jef, Jen, Chris, Em, TD, Coco, and I) were doubtful that the $10 cover was worth it.

    Oh, it was. Three-fourths of Diver Down made a sad showing in the dressing-like-your-inspiration department, with the bassist being too tall, missing the mad hair, and merely wearing a jumpsuit in his attempt to reflect Mike Anthony. The other three tried harder. The drummer had a tangle of black hair, wore oversized sunglasses, and wore Alex Van Halen's trademark prison-stripe body suit. The guitarist, while on the pudgy side, made a respectable Eddie Van Halen, also sporting a mess of hair and wearing a red and white slash-mark overall getup. And the singer? He did his best. Floor-length zebra-stripe longcoat, a teased frizz of hair, more bandannas and scarves than I could count, and an acrobatic stage show that did its best to replicate the scissor kicks and sex-kitten posturing that David Lee Roth specialized in.

    The music was straight-forward enough. They stuck to the earlier catalog, mixing up their set list with some tried-and-true favorites as well as some lesser-known songs from the first few records. And even though the schtick ran long and eventually loathsome, there were some bright spots. They closed with an encore of "Happy Trails," which was fun and funny -- and my shouted request when their request for such met little response from the accumulated townies. And... get this... Gary Cherone former front man for Boston hair-metal one hit wonder Extreme -- and then, for a stint, Van Halen proper -- was not just in the audience, he took the stage to perform a song with Diver Down.

    This was perhaps the highest and lowest point of the evening. Why high? This was a historic, ironic juxtaposition. An actual former member of Van Halen -- albeit third-wave Van Halen, and even then for a short amount of time, all things considered -- joined a sad and slightly seedy Van Halen tribute band on stage. How historic is that? But it was also a low note because it emphasized just how sad it can be to be in a tribute band. If you're in a tribute band, it's doubtful that anyone actually likes you. They like the band you're trying to embody. And even though Jef speculated that people might actually have preferences for specific tribute bands -- a la Diver Down is so much better than the Top Jimmies or whatever -- it's got to be a hard row to hoe to play in a tribute band. Besides, as neat as it was to see Cherone take the stage with Diver Down, he was such a sport to do so. I'm not sure why he was even there, but after his time with Extreme and Van Halen, I hope he has more to do than make token appearances with cover and tribute bands on the bad-bar and state-fair circuits. He seemed slightly sheepish but made a good showing. Kudos to him for his rolling with the punches.

    You can also read Coco's review of the show.

    Sunday's "show" was hardly such. Coco and I went to Toad to see if the Gordon Beadle performing was the Gordon Beadle she went to high school with, but after a drink and a fair amount of time, Beadle hadn't shown up yet, and the backing band -- including Andy from Schwang and the Pee Wee Fist -- began playing without him. So we left. But there you go: Gordon Beadle, no show.
    The Movie I Watched Last Night XXXVIII
    The Lord of the Rings
    After my recent viewing of the disappointing Heavy Metal animated movie, I didn't have high hopes for Ralph Bakshi's 1978 adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's historic fantasy novel. And even though the movie has its flaws, it was actually quite impressive, and I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to watch the whole thing. Depending heavily on rotoscope animation, the cartoon, while largely lifelike and fluid, is rather jerky at times, and that can be distracting. Bakshi also experimented with some almost-animation, similar in some ways to the techniques Richard Linklater used in Waking Life. In these sequences, Bakshi filmed live actors and then heavily colored the film so they felt animated but really were not. While interesting, Bakshi overused this technique, and there are several sequences -- particularly those featuring the black riders and the orcs -- that run long and frustrating given their lack of art. Must've been some fun weekends running around on the Bakshi estate! The cartoon is also notable because of some solid parallels not just to the books, but to the more recent live-action movie. Several scenes, including the tree-trunk vista of the elven village and the guardian statues on either side of the river pass, were seemingly recreated visually -- from the cartoon -- in the newer movie. Curious how much they used Bakshi as source and inspiration. Worth watching if you're a fan of the Tokien mythos -- or if you need a fix before the second live-action installment is released.
    The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night XII
    Last night before going home after work, I stopped by the Good Life on Central Square to avail myself of their $1 burger special. This week -- all week -- the Good Life is offering its "classic" cheeseburgers for $1. You get your choice of cheddar, swiss, or American cheese (perhaps even blue cheese), and the burger comes with a side of fries. I ordered mine medium with swiss, and while a little pink -- every restaurant does burger differently, and I've gotten tired of overcooked medium wells -- it was a tasty, tasty meal. Even the fries are good. Not bad for a dollar. Even with a bottle of Sierra Nevada, my dinner came to about $5.50, and I tipped high because of the deal and because my waiter was new. "Break him in," the hostess said.

    The restaurant was near empty, so I had a booth to myself on the main floor. There were perhaps two other tables taken, one with a fellow also taking advantage of the $1 burger, and one with a couple. The bar side had more patrons. Don't take the Good Life's emptiness as a sign of bad food or atmosphere. The food is good. The decor dark and cozy -- perfect for reading John Brunner -- and the wait staff is friendly.

    $1 burgers. All this week at the Good Life on Central Square. Hop to it.

    Monday, September 16, 2002

    Comics and Controversy II
    I was at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland. My Sketchbook Diaries book had been nominated for two Ignatz awards, which gets voted on by all the folks who attend the Expo. Before the awards ceremony, I went out to dinner with a big crowd of cartoonists. It was a special night, so I got a stir-fry of green beans and frog legs. Fellow caroonist Tom Hart was sitting across from me (he was also nominated for an Ignatz award for his online Hutch Owen comic strip.). I asked him if I could have a bite of his Pad Thai. He said sure, if I promised to give him my Ignatz award when I won. I wasn't really thinking, so I said OK!

    Later of course, wouldn't you know it, they announced my name as a winner for "Outstanding Series" for Sketchbook Diaries. I really wanted to give a good speech, something meaningful, but this is what I came out with: "I want to thank my cat Spandy, and my wife Amy, and all my friends for allowing me to draw them in the diary. But I'm feeling pretty stupid right now, because earlier at dinner, I traded my Ignatz to Tom Hart for a bite of his Pad Thai."

    Then Tom came running up all the way from the back of the room, grabbed my Ignatz (which happens to be a brick... yeah, it's the coolest award), and, holding it over his head, ran back to his seat while the crowd laughed. It was funny; he was hamming it up, but the instant the brick left my hands I was struck by a terrible pain from my chest down to my stomach, like a muscle spasm. And as time clicked by, the pain wasn't subsiding. It was getting worse! Finally I went to Tom and offered to arm wrestle him to get the Ignatz back. You know, like, "double or nothing." Tom graciously just put it back in my arms and said I could owe him the bite of Pad Thai.

    Within a few minutes, my terrible pain went away. And I lived happily ever after.
    -- James Kochalka

    Sunday, September 15, 2002

    Corollary: Blogging About Blogging XXXII
    Has anyone done a good study of the different approaches to producing LiveJournals and blogs -- as well as similar sites and Web journals (Moveable Type, Diaryland, etc.)? I'm thinking content, context, frequency, process, and so forth.

    Let me know.

    Friday, September 13, 2002

    Blogging About Blogging XXXII
    I've been encountering a lot of people who are into LiveJournal lately. I'm curious how blogging and LJ'ing compare -- both in terms of practice, form, and content. So I've started a LiveJournal of my own: Heath Row's Journal. Ouch, it's painful. I think I like Media Diet -- and Blogger (thanks, Ev) better. But we'll see.

    Why do you blog? Why do you LiveJournal? Why do you do that thing that you do to me? I have no idea.
    North End Moment XXVII
    Penciled on a memo about window-cleaning posted in the elevator of the Scotch & Sirloin building:

    Marathon Messengers

    Related resources:

  • Messenger Memorial: David Reuter
  • The Perils of Pedaling
  • Bicycle Backlash in Boston and Unionization
  • Discontinuing Education
    Last weekend, Koshka and I were signed up to take a class through the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. No longer listed in the center's online catalog, the class was an early-morning historical walk along the edge of Boston Harbor. It was postponed because the instructor was injured in an accident of some sort, and then it was canceled. I hope the instructor's health improves, but we were pretty bummed. While Koshka takes a lot of classes at the center, this was the first continuing education class I've ever signed up for. I was really interested in learning about some of the old pirate coves, former musket ball factories, and other pieces of lost history along the harbor's edge. I'm going to contact the center to see if I can learn what source materials the instructor used to create the class's itinerary. It'd probably make for fascinating reading.
    Rock Shows of Note XL
    Congratulations to show reviews being the first standing category to break the 40-mile mark! I had to enlist Steven Gibbs' Roman numeral conversion page again. A useful tool.

    Tuesday night, Coco and I went to the Middle East Upstairs to see the In Out and the Pee Wee Fist. I didn't really pay attention to the In Out during the Anchormen's recent show with them and Tunnel of Love, distracted by drink, conversation with friends, and getting in the "zone" for the Anchormen's set, so I wanted to catch them again. And Coco's friends with Pete and Anna of the Fist -- and used to date another member of the band. So she wanted to see them play -- and she had some Korean tuna-fish cans that she wanted to give Anna. Anna sculpts birds out of metal cans.

    But, like at the last In Out show, we were early. Way early. I have no idea why the Middle East only booked two bands for this show, but while we arrived at 9, a fine time for a show to start, the In Out wasn't scheduled to hit the stage until after 10. So we hung out at the bar, chatting with Jef and Steph, and catching up a little with some of the guys from the In Out.

    Their set was amazing. They've been together since 1995, but their sound is straight out of the '80s. Equal part the Fall and Gang of Four, with some vocal elements of the Talking Heads and perhaps even the B-52's, the In Out played an excellent set of energetic, edgily dramatic, tangle pop songs. The vocalist's delivery was exceptional -- wonderful deadpan delivery -- and the dual guitar-bass work was fun to figure out. I couldn't always tell who was making what noises, and the guitarist used a neat strumming technique that kept tricking me into looking at the bassist. And vice versa. The drummer, then, was one of the most focused and intense percussionists I've seen in awhile. He leaned into his kit as though he were near-sighted, staring down the cymbals as he maintained a counterpoint rhythm on the bass and toms. Fun, fun, fun. I'll have to track down some of their recordings, and I'll definitely have to see them again.

    Then came the Pee Wee Fist, or the Fist, as I'm going to call them. The Fist are slightly more straight-ahead, combining a theremin, keyboard, guitar, bass, and drums to craft a thoughtful, if at times overly serious, rock sound that occasionally reminded me of the Elephant Six or British folk music. The Fist is an atmospheric rock band, with layers of sound. I enjoyed Pete and Anna's interplay on stage. And I was glad that the theremin wasn't overly assertive. John opted for a pleasant accompaniment approach to his theremin playing, offering swelling chords and harmonies to offset the melodies instead of the usual science-fiction freak-show fidgeting that many theremin players seem to specialize in. The accordionist was absent, and Andy, the usual drummer (also a mainstay in Schwang) wasn't joining the Fist on tour, so another drummer sat -- or stood, rather -- in for the night.

    This drummer, who wore some sort of hat the whole show, was responsible for some of the most interesting parts of the set. Evoking memories of Poi Dog Pondering's dance-oriented work, the Fist's use of a drum machine set a solid foundation for some fun stop-and-start groove-oriented tunes, still with the angular orchestral rock sound in full effect. Interesting combination of the traditional rock lineup and electronic gear.

    You can also read Koshka's review of the show.
    From the In Box: Rock Shows of Note XXXVII
    Wow, we are media stars!

    While searching online for information on the Mayflies USA, we came upon your Aug. 27 item that not only mentions Three Aces Pizza (and the bizarre barbershop next door), but also appears to refer to us! Given the sparse crowd when the Mayflies began their set at T.T. the Bear's, we feel pretty sure that we are the "couple dancing up near the stage." We love the Mayflies and their music and love dancing to live music, but often there's no room to do that. Our "Western Massachusetts" home is only in Newton, Massachusetts, and though we would have loved to have seen the Mayflies every time they came to town, it was actually only the first time we made it to one of their shows (we always seemed to find out about the appearances too late, and once you pass 40 years and have a child, it gets a little hard to suddenly run off to a club on a Wednesday night).

    Your review of the Mayflies USA seemed fair enough. We would encourage you to check out any of their three albums. They avoid the usual cliches of "power pop" music (believe me we've got a shelf of it), with instrumental, melodic, or lyrical touches that make the songs stand out. It probably helps that they have three songwriters. The latest CD, "Walking in a Straight Line" is as good a place to start as any and includes the organ-based song you liked.

    (Bruce adds: By the way, I decided to see who Heath Row and Lisa from Scrapple were. For what it's worth, I was pleasantly surprised by Scrapple and the Anchormen. I'm not sure what to make of this intelligent, funk-based music of Scrapple. Is there anything out there like this? The best references from my experience were Was (Not Was) and the George Clinton clan and maybe Pigbag (but I can't really remember what that was like). Don't misread me, I found it pretty good and definitely intriguing. As for the Anchormen, with the "Punk Rock is Awesome" CD title, I feared the usual buzzsaw guitars and shouted "angry" lyrics. However, I then noticed the local touch on the titles of several of the songs and when I listened to a half dozen of the songs was pleased to find some clever lyrics (good song about Houdini, for one) and diversity in musical settings. Damn good stuff.)

    In any case, see you at the next Mayflies show! Or let us know when the Anchormen and Scrapple are playing and maybe you will have the pleasure of a "Western Massachusetts" couple dancing to the tunes of you and your friends. Keep up the good work.
    -- Bruce Kelly and Mimi Minkoff

    Thursday, September 12, 2002

    Overextended... and Out
    I leave for the CoF Roadshow in exactly seven days, and I'm feeling overwhelmed by a lot of things. There's still much to do before I leave, my personal life is a bit complex, and I need to pare back a little. So Media Diet might be quiet for the next few days. I'll be sure to check in before I leave for Virginia, though. Sorry for the radio silence.

    Wednesday, September 11, 2002

    Rules for Fools XII
    Rule No. 15: When setting an alarm clock, pay strict attention to whether the time is set for a.m. or p.m.
    Corollary: Music to My Ears XII

    By Warren Ellis

    Funny how I've come to associate music with the dark. The music that affects me most, anyway. It's half-three in the morning, it's dark and cold -- and I mean cold, cold for the first time in months, like someone flicked a switch and winter's here. And suddenly everything coming out of Winamp is taking me back 10, 15, pushing 20 years. Suddenly everything's turned back into the soundtrack to a dozen love affairs and the moments that your mind makes widescreen. Eight bars of something and you can see that girl dancing, you can see that girl waiting for you in the square at 8 with the pigeons launching away from her, you can see that girl walking towards you, and you can see the first time that girl smiled at you and meant it. And... I dunno. This is a cold country. Night comes quickly.

    There's a club I'd go to where they played old-fashioned R&B music, a basement club, and we'd crawl up the stairs in need of a cigarette and some air, and when you opened the door this great column of steam would burst out and rush up into the night, visible from streets away... me and Sheelagh Baxter, sitting on the pavement and just watching it jump up at the stars.

    Winter music. Comes out of the dark and just pokes at your heart a bit.

    Reprinted with permission.
    Our Trauma Will Be Televised II
    One year ago today, I was late to work. I'd overslept. The T was crowded and slow. And when I finally arrived at the Steak & Sirloin building to take the elevator to Fast Company's offices, I overheard a conversation that made me wish I'd read the newspaper on the way -- or turned on the TV before I left home. I had no idea what was happening, but it didn't sound good.

    Once at FCHQ, I found all of my co-workers and friends crowded around the 'Rang, our communal lunch and meeting table, glued to CNN, watching the events of the day unfold. We watched the second plane hit, live and in real time. Once it hit me what was happening, I rushed to my office to call my parents, sister, grandmother, and girlfriend at the time. Then I emailed the Company of Friends groups in New York City and Washington, DC, to see how folks were affected, how they were faring -- and how I could help.

    But I neglected Media Diet. I made a dismissive post about how there were better sources for 911 news and commentary than this blog. And I wrote about some of the projects CoF members were taking on to help other members, to serve their communities, and to stay sane and able in the face of the unexpected, inexplicable, and incomprehensible.

    My girlfriend didn't want me to stay at work. I didn't feel safe leaving until it was relatively clear that downtown Boston wasn't a target -- and that the evacuation traffic leaving the business district had let up some. There's nothing worse than being stuck underground in a train car when you're not sure if it's safe up above. That night, we gathered at my girlfriend's house for pizza, TV, and conversation. And several days later I was finally able to reschedule my flight to Vancouver for last year's CoF Roadshow. It was hard to be 3,000 miles away from home, sleeping in the homes of strangers, immediately after the disasters, but it was also somewhat comforting. Life goes on. We are not alone. We're all in this together.

    Fast forward to today. I'm no longer dating the woman I was last fall. I leave for the 2002 CoF Roadshow in eight measly days -- almost a year to the day. And this morning, I came into work at about the same time I did 365 days ago. This time, I was witness to a moment of silence on the T perched on the Boston edge of the Charles River, anonymous passengers around me sitting still as the conductor recognized the tragedy of 911. (Guiltily, I smirked a little because it sounded like he said "7-11" instead of "September 11." Oh, the atrocities of convenience stores.)

    And arriving in the office right now, it's a ghost town. No people milling around. Nothing on the TV. No sound. I just took a walk around the space. Turns out I'm not alone. Our receptionist is here. One of the designers just walked by. And later today, the entire team will observe a moment of silence with other Gruner & Jahr and Bertlesmann employees around the world. But today feels empty. And while I felt a rush of connection and companionship a year ago today, I feel a little alone this morning.

    Perhaps I'm a little overwhelmed. New relationship. Upcoming road trip. New assistant at work. Lots of loose ends to tie up before I leave eight days from now. The coming end of summer. But perhaps it's a malaise exacerbated on by 911 overdose. I haven't been able to bring myself to read any of the 911 coverage in the newspaper. While I bought some of the early lefty books sharing perspectives on the events, I've yet to read them. The thought of going to war against Iraq curdles my stomach. And I'm going to avoid the 911 TV events this evening like the plague. I don't need it. I don't want it. And I'm not sure it's how we as a nation -- as a world -- need to process and proceed from what happened 365 days ago.

    But we do need to make sure it doesn't happen again -- anywhere. Recognize this day in your own way. But please recognize it.

    Tuesday, September 10, 2002

    Corollary: Magazine Me XVII
    Just when you thought it was safe to read magazines again, acronym-riddled executive-oriented business periodicals continue to pop up all over like mushrooms by your bathtub. To accompany the recent launch of CSO, comes CLO, which is aimed at Chief Learning Officers at major U.S. corporations.

    I'll see your ho and raise you hum. Blardy blar.
    Music to My Eyes III
    If you like kittens and you like the White Stripes, you'll love Punk Kittens. Watch out for the stage diver!

    Thanks to Metafilter.
    Business Media Reportage Goes Bust, Now Boom?
    Inc. magazine, Fast Company's sister publication, has snagged former Worth editor John Koten as outgoing editor George Gendron's successor.

    Thanks to I Want Media. Full disclosure: I work for Fast Company.
    North End Moment XXVI
    Taped to the door of a former, somewhat shady furniture store in the Steak & Sirloin block -- now long vacant -- a little flier for City Maid, a flat-rate, uniformed cleaning service.

    We [heart] to clean

    Seems that they think it's easier to keep unutilized, vacant, utterly empty offices clean than target venues with actual tenants!
    Blogging About Blogging XXXI
    Evan Williams and the Blogger posse have relocated their collaborative space from Ev's apartment in Noe Valley to some downtown digs. Now housed in Adaptive Path's old space, the new location appeals to the Pyra gang for several reasons -- some of which involve drinking.

    Here's to you, Ev. Cheers!
    Magazine Me XVIII
    Every year, the graduate magazine publishing project at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism produces a prototype magazine. Graduate students create the premiere issue of a test magazine -- some of which end up launching as proper newsstand mags, a la Book. And some are destined to remain relegated to the dustbin of class project history.

    A class of almost 20 master's students developed the prototype issue of Renew: City-Inspired Home Improvement, which is aimed at people actively interested in refurbishing their living spaces. Opening with an overly open-ended table of contents, the issue comprises pieces addressing how your pet smells, designing a home office, alternatives to wood flooring and wallpaper, rooftop gardening, and redoing a kitchen.

    The editor's letter didn't really catch my attention, and the magazine is chock-a-block with one-page features, which lends a negatively short-lived energy to the book. While I appreciate the grad students' balance of personal considerations and design how-to, as well as the features "Kitchens at Every Price" and "Life As a House," I'm not sure there's a market for another magazine like this. Combining elements of ReadyMade, Wallpaper, and Metropolis, not to mention the sundry other shelter rags, Renew is positioned to enter an already-crowded niche. There's a reason Gruner & Jahr shuttered HomeStyle earlier this year. Renew just doesn't carry enough swagger or passion to outshine other magazines already on the shelves.

    Still, the magazine publishing project is one of the most-impressive aspects of NU's journalism program, and I'm always jazzed to see what those crazy college kids came up with this time. Kudos to all involved.
    Music to My Ears XII
    Media Dietician Noah Lamson tells me that he's head-over-heels in love with the band Flipp. "Cheap Trick meets Sex Pistols meets Kiss," he says. Even though I'm thrown by their Tree-like logo and lame Insane Clown Posse-esque band photo on the Web (much less their nicknames), the music is pretty fun. I think much of Noah's comparison is valid, although the opening to "Freak," scheduled to be on their forthcoming album, "Volume," initially reminded me of Van Halen and -- this is stretching it -- Jane's Addiction. The "half-assed" morning show theme for 93X is an interesting bit of ephemera, but "I Was a Planet" clinches things for me. In the end, Flipp is overly produced power pop destined for radio. I get little sense of edge or risk from their music, and the straight-forward guitar rock feel doesn't quite pique my interest. Still, y'all are always welcome to clue me in on new music. Thanks, Noah!
    Magazine Me XVII
    CXO Media Inc., the IDG division that publishes CIO magazine, just launched a magazine targeting chief security officers called, you guessed it, CSO. Timed to synchronize with the anniversary of 911, the September 2002 premiere issue outlines the purpose of the publication, and features touch on the Freedom of Information Act, biometrics, disaster recovery, and related topics. Mary Lester's design is clean and straight-forward but avoids being overly stodgy or heavy-handed. And CSO succeeds in what the other CXO periodicals have done well for years -- putting a face and personality behind an acronym-ridden executive mindset. Equal parts personality profiles and useful case studies that offer tactics, tips, and tricks other business leaders will find useful, CSO balances the usual technology management gibberish with an extremely confident human flair. It'll be interesting to see where this new title goes.

    Full disclosure: I used to work for CIO.
    The Movie I Watched Last Night XXXVII
    After heading home from work early yesterday because I wasn't feeling well, I headed over to Coco's to play with the cats and soak up her air conditioning. Yesterday was scorchio, as they say on The Fast Show. We ate a light dinner of salad and cereal, and then we watched...

    Prelude to a Kiss
    Released in 1992, this movie is a romantic fantasy with some plot elements you won't expect. Alec Baldwin and the cute-as-a-button Meg Ryan star opposite each other as a young couple that falls in love almost at first sight. Ned Beatty and Patty Duke impress as Meg's love-bird parents, and the cast as a whole is relatively strong despite Baldwin's occasional ham-fistedness. He comes across as a lunk sometimes, and his hair and glasses have absolutely got to go. At the couple's wedding, a seemingly senile old man who wandered away from home takes advantage of the reception's chicken wings -- and the opportunity to kiss the bride. That's where the fantastic elements come in. The old man and Meg's character switch personas, and it takes Baldwin awhile to catch on to the psychic exchange. He eventually tracks down the old man (now Meg) and deals with Meg's (now the old man) new personality and duplicitousness. Turns out the old man has cirrhosis and other health ailments -- he's not about to give up his new, young, healthy body. Nevertheless, Baldwin finagles a meeting after Meg (old man) retreats to the safe distance of her folks' house following their separation, and the exchange is made again. While I appreciated the movie's look at what we really fall in love with when we fall in love (the shell of the body? the insides?), I didn't find the old man's portrayal of Meg's character convincing, and the whole honeymoon with an old man in the body of a young woman is kind of gitchy. Regardless, a fine film, albeit a tad slow for the second half.

    For the record: I will watch any movie with Meg Ryan in it.
    From the In Box: Books Worth a Look VIII
    You are just like my wife: Book gobbler! I envy both of you. -- Noah Lamson

    Noah and I worked together in the late '80s and early '90s when we were involved in the Sinnissippi Council of the Boy Scouts of America in Janesville, Wisconsin. Members of the Order of the Arrow, we also served on the staff of Camp Indian Trails together. I think he lives in Minneapolis now. Always good to hear from him.

    Monday, September 09, 2002

    Books Worth a Look VIII
    These are the books I read in August 2002.

    The Annotated Supernatural Horror in Literature by H.P. Lovecraft (Hippocampus, 2000)
    Editing and annotating Lovecraft's original text, S.T. Joshi does a good job contextualizing the supernatural study from the late '20s and '30s. Lovecraft discusses the evolution of supernatural horror fiction, outlining its definition and elements, and describing and commenting on the work of writers such as Ambrose Bierce, Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, and others. If you're at all intrigued by the foundations of Lovecraft's writing, he lays it all out here.
    Days to read: 3. Rating: Excellent.

    Boston's Depots and Terminals: A History of Downtown Boston's Railroad Stations by Richard Barrett (Railroad Research Publications, 1996)
    Written by a former Somervillain, this book details the history of the more than 12 train stations that predated and eventually merged to form today's North and South stations. Heavily documented with period maps, photographs, time tables, and assorted railroadiana, Barrett's book is a fascinating glimpse at the changing face of Boston, the city's commercial and cultural past, and the pre-Amtrak railroad days. More local places I need to visit to see what's changed!
    Days to read: 15. Rating: Excellent.

    Don't Sleep with Your Drummer by Jen Sincero (MTV/Pocket, 2002)
    Evoking Pagan Kennedy's The Exes, this first novel by a former record company copywriter is an extremely straight-forward look at life in a rock 'n' roll band. The narrator quits her job, forms a band, and proceeds to embark on a series of romantic misadventures. The segments on new-member tryouts and interactions with the teenage band member's mother -- as well as the heroine's flamboyantly gay confidant -- are particularly good. The band goes on tour, gets a record deal, gets screwed, and -- in the end -- looms larger as an independent pop phenomenon.
    Days to read: 7. Rating: Good.

    The Executioner #287: Rogue Warrior by Mike Newton as Don Pendleton (Gold Eagle, 2002)
    Don Pendleton's long-running adventure series is always a welcome palette cleanser and mindless read. A former Special Forces comrade of Mack Bolan's emerges as a cultish religious leader and guerrilla chief in Southeast Asia. Bolan falls in with a French journalist as he challenges the militaristic prophet, who seeks to unleash an Ebola epidemic on the world. This volume is no better or worse than others in the series.
    Days to read: 7. Rating: Fair.

    Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto (Grove, 2002)
    It took 13 years for this novel to reach the United States in Michael Emmerich's translation, and while it's a welcome read -- Yoshimoto is one of very few writers I eagerly await -- it's a challenge to place in the context of her other work given its age. That said, the novel was worth waiting for. Yoshimoto continues her sentimental relationship narratives, weaving in several dark elements and a bittersweet edge. Love, loss, hope, and revenge all play a role in the story. Hope we don't have to wait 13 years for the next book!
    Days to read: 2. Rating: Excellent.

    The Great Swamp of Arlington, Belmont, and Cambridge: An Historic Perspective of Its Development 1630-2001 by Sheila Cook (Alewife Watershed Trust, 2002)
    Equal parts economic, environmental, and urban planning history and analysis of Fresh Pond and the former swamp land in northwest Cambridge goes far to explain the development of the area as well as the environmental impact of that development. Cook describes many lost landmarks of Cambridge but doesn't quite nail down her environmental critique.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

    The Harvey Girls: The Women Who Civilized the West by Juddi Morris (Walker & Co., 1994)
    Fred Harvey's restaurants and cafe cars along America's railways during the population expansion west in the late 1800's are fascinating examples of entrepreneurialism. And the Harvey Girls -- the women who moved west to work in the occasionally remote frontier restaurants -- are even more interesting. Harvey trained his staff well and despite his occasionally harsh restrictions (rules in the girls' dorms, etc.) managed his restaurants with heart. The book isn't very well written, but this is a good introduction to a little-known aspect of history.
    Days to read: 7. Rating: Fair.

    Haymarket by Wendy Snyder (MIT Press, 1970)
    Haymarket, an open-air produce market adjacent to the meat markets near Clinton and Blackstone streets, has been operating in one form or another for 50 years. The 60 photographs and transcriptions of tape-recorded stories in this book represent several years of Snyder's work. The book captures the hustle and bustle of the market's atmosphere, vendors, customers, commercial culture, and place in the context of Boston as a city. Extremely well edited, the transcribed first-person accounts occasionally read like poetry, and Snyder's photos beautifully capture the face of the place called Haymarket.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Excellent.

    Images of America: Somerville by Anthony Mitchell Sammarco (Arcadia, 1997)
    Dover, New Hampshire-based Arcadia Publishing is doing the world a great service with its series of Images of America history books. This 128-page volume about Somerville, Massachusetts, covers the city's splintering from Charlestown, churches, schools, libraries, transportation, and role as Boston's quintessential streetcar suburb. It also includes material on the Ursuline Convent, which was destroyed by an anti-Catholic riot in 1834, and the McLean Asylum, which relocated to Belmont in 1895. Makes me want to walk around town to see everything that has changed.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Excellent.

    Marmalade Boy Vol. 1 by Wataru Yoshizumi (Tokyopop, 2002)
    Among the better manga translated into English in recent days, Marmalade Boy shares the unconventional story of two families who swap spouses and the effect the exchange has on Miki and Yuu, their teenage children. Miki doesn't approve of the new arrangement at all but quickly crushes out on Yuu. Over the course of the edition, Miki becomes more comfortable with her new family and wavers between the affections of Yuu and Ginta, an old friend. The art is cleanly cute, and the story is sensitive yet light-hearted.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

    The New Sins by David Byrne (McSweeney's, 2001)
    In English and Spanish with different images in each flip side, this is a quick read. Byrne expands on 11 new sins. The sins include previously lauded and admired characteristics such as charity, thrift, hope, contentment, and cleanliness. In exploring the new sins using language usually reserved for evangelical religious tracts, Byrne sheds light on the down side of the qualities while also poking fun at people who often build their images and careers on such characteristics -- celebrities, politicians, lawyers, and talk-show pundits. The beautifully designed book is a clever curiosity but doesn't seem to have lasting value.
    Days to read: 2. Rating: Fair.

    Pinky & Stinky by James Kochalka (Top Shelf, 2002)
    James took 11 months to write and draw this graphic novel, and I'm actually rather surprised it took so long. It's a simple story: Two piglets get stranded on the moon on their way to Pluto. There, they commandeer a walking robot, discover an underground city,, save a princess -- and leave the moon as heroes. It's a quick and silly throwaway story, but there are several interesting snippets, such as Kochalka's determined missile and character design for the moon men.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Fair.

    Solo Flights Through Shared Worlds by Mike Resnick (Dark Regions, 1995)
    Resnick wrote these 16 short stories to participate in shared-world projects led by Jerry Pournelle, Isaac Asimov, Bob Silverberg, Phil Farmer, and Piers Anthony. His explanation of how shared worlds work is useful, and his admitted attempts to get away with as much as possible within what can be extremely limiting frameworks are evident. While the Dracula, Frankenstein, Elvis, and other popcult tales aren't as interesting as those from the Fleet and Riverworld series, the collection is an excellent example of shared-world science fiction.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.
    The Movie I Watched Last Night XXXVI
    Saturday: Snatch
    Written by Madonna's husband, this movie is a blend of Ocean's Eleven and The Fight Club in terms of mood and motivation. Starring -- although not primarily -- Brad Pitt and Benicio del Toro, it's the story of a drawn-out jewel heist of sorts. Several plotlines overlap as various groups of characters interact, and while interesting, the movie's not quite what I expected. Not sure what I thought was going to happen, but I was surprised by this movie's Trainspotting-meets-Four Rooms feel. This is the first movie I've seen in a long time that evoked so many other movies. I'm having trouble pegging this.

    Sunday: Kate & Leopold
    This is one of Coco's favorite movies. It's got Meg Ryan. It's got romance. It's got comedy. It's got time travel. In fact, what could've been a pretty mundane science-fiction movie ends up being an excellent study of character, connection, and collision. Continuing the comparison trend, I think it's safe to say that this is like Sliding Doors and Quantum Leap. Throw in a little Holy Man, maybe. Hugh Jackman's scene at the TV advertisement shoot is absolutely priceless. I can't believe it's not butter! This is a movie I'll have to watch again. Liev Schreiber provides a subtly silly foil to Jackman, and Breckin Meyer's role as Ryan's frustrated brother is excellent. Yay, Coco! Good taste.
    Rock Shows of Note XXXIX
    Slightly sheepish this morning, in part because I missed two (2) shows of note this weekend. Friday night, the Weakerthans played at the Middle East. I had tickets to their Sept. 14 show last year, which was canceled because of 911, but I just couldn't bring myself to go out after work Friday. So I missed the show. The ticket from last night remains in my office as a souvenir, and I'm left with the possibility of having gone and this email report from my friend Jenn:

    The Weakerthans were great! They played a lot of my favorites, so I was happy: "Elegy for Elsabet," "This Fire Door Is Never Open," "Confessions of a Futon Revolutionist," "Aside." They sounded awesome -- especially the vocals, which were particularly endearing -- and any fears about them sucking live were quickly abandoned. Martin Wong was right.

    They even brought up three guys from the audience to take over the guitars and bass during what was supposed to be John Samson's solo. And while one guy was terrible and admitted as much in a short apology before he jumped off stage, John was like, "You weren't terrible! Everybody give him a big hand!" How supportive, I thought. He seems like the coolest guy.

    Then, Saturday night, Dillinger Four played in Allston with the Explosion and the High-Steppin' Nickel Kids. What a great show to miss!

    Sigh. C'est la vie.

    Saturday, September 07, 2002

    Corollary: Technofetishism XVI
    Potential disaster averted! When I plugged my iPod into Coco's PowerBook this morning, it started right up. Woohoo! I was actually kind of worried when the Menu-Play/Pause reboot didn't work. Now my iPod's almost filled to the gills with new music and charging, charging so I can take it with us for our walks today. Phew!

    Friday, September 06, 2002

    Technofetishism XVI
    I am at a loss. My iPod isn't working. It won't turn on, and it doesn't respond to being plugged in to charge, being plugged into my PowerBook, or the nifty little Menu-Play/Pause reboot troubleshoot Strand told me about. Does anyone have ideas of other things I can do? Grr. I miss my iPod.
    Rock Shows of Note XXXVIII
    Ouch. As Scan said, "Last night was most rocknificent." The Handstand Command showcase at the Abbey Lounge in Somerville was quite a night. I showed up promptly at 7:30 p.m. to load in, and most everyone else -- except for Chris and Em, bless their hearts -- showed up around 9. For most of the waiting time, I hung out on the stage-side of the bar, read my Gilmore Girls book, and talked to the woman who was working the door. She used to play in Swizzle and the Decals and now plays with the Other Girls.

    By the time the rest of the Anchormen showed up, much less the other bands -- Tunnel of Love and the In Out (insert your own joke here) -- I'd been hanging out in a bar for way too long. It was a relief when the show finally started, as well as when an audience began to form a little into the In Out's set.

    While they weren't as raucous as they were at O'Brien's -- they didn't wear their wrestling shorts and striped leggings last night, either -- Tunnel of Love still surprised with their standing, full-on garage rock assault. Their choice of cover songs is thoughtful, and their energy is amazing. A band to see for sure. The drummer just wails on the drums, and the guitarist is a stomping, grimacing, mic-stand-knocking-over madman. Fun stuff.

    Bash pop!

    The In Out, while solid, were much less fun to watch, even if they're fun to listen to. "They're much less visually interesting," one friend commented. Because I'd been at the Abbey for so long -- and because I was distracted catching up with friends Kurt, Geraldine, and Hiromi -- I didn't pay a lot of attention to their set, but I liked what I heard. Coco and I look forward to their show Tuesday with the Pee Wee Fist at the Middle East. I'll definitely try to be more present.

    Makin' whoopie.

    Finally, the Anchormen. Jef's concern about this being a short show was unfounded, and I think we went on around 11 p.m. After debating whether we should wear our suits like we usually do, whether we should doll up in work shirts to express our solidarity with the striking service workers in Boston, or whether we should just wear, gasp, clothes, we decided that the suits had to stay. I finished donning my garb in the back room just before we took the stage. (And later, at the end of the show, I had trouble finding my pants. Sigh.)

    Hair today...

    The show, although people seemed to get a kick out of it, was a mess. My voice was scratchy. I forgot more words than I have in a long time. And I didn't feel like our banter was as manic or frantic as it usually is. Regardless, people appeared to enjoy watching us, our songs evoked some smiles, and people in front of the crowd danced up a storm. We even sold a CD or two.

    Woohoo. This is probably the last Anchormen show before I head out on the CoF Roadshow near the end of the month. I'll miss it and look forward to the Anchormen karaoke show we're organizing for early November. Thanks to everyone who came out last night to see if we'd spin out of control or collapse under the weight of our own rock.

    You can also read another review of the show. Photographs courtesy of Koshka Delgado.
    Music to My Ears XI
    With the coming of fall, my musical tastes veer toward the metal. Not very far, mind you, but I have many fond memories of the heavy metal and autumn. Iron Maiden's "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" while walking across the Rock River bridge, Samhain on the Walkman as I stand in the yard listening to an approaching thunder storm, Megadeth's "So Far, So Good... So What?" accompanying me on long bus rides.

    With the coming of fall, my musical tastes veer toward the metal. And as the weather begins to turn in Boston and the air takes on a crisp and cleanliness that heralds the approach of autumn, my ears prick up for heavier music. So I welcomed the recent email from Mike of Bloodmask, a self-described "heavy band" in Boston.

    Listening to the MP3's, I can hear that they are indeed a heavy band. Even though the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival is scheduled for the spring (Why not the fall?), Bloodmask strikes me as straight-ahead festival fare: classic, relatively standard grunge metal. The guitars are chunky and repetitive. The vocals are guttural and growly. And the music is almost utterly devoid of melody, opting instead for a driving, occasionally droning intensity. I can't listen to this kind of music all the time, but today? on this fall Friday? Perfect.

    Thursday, September 05, 2002

    Comic Book College
    MIT media mensch Henry Jenkins is teaching a course this semester titled "Media in Cultural Context: Comics, Cartoons, and Graphic Storytelling." The required reading includes Alan Moore's Watchmen, Art Spiegelman's Jack Cole and the Plastic Man, Howard Cruse's Stuck Rubber Baby, Dylan Horrocks' Hicksville, and other notable books.

    I've already missed the first class, but Henry's invited me to sit in on the course. Schedule willing, I plan to do so and will post reports on his lectures and the readings in Media Diet.
    It's an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World XV
    The Old Computer Dot Com has archived more than 20 TV commercials advertising Activision, Atari, and Coleco video games from the '70s and '80s. The downloadable adverts are in Real Media format, and the quality's not that great, but what a kick to see the classic Atari "The Fun Is Back" spot for the 2600.

    Thanks to Slashdot.

    (Can you tell I'm blogrolling after a brief respite of keeping up with my daily reads?)
    Music to My Eyes II
    Based in the UK, Sewkits offers cross-stitching kits featuring artwork from record album covers. "All kits come with full instructions, needle, threads, cloth, and a cute square keyring to put the stitching in when you've finished." Albums include releases by Aphex Twin, Chicks on Speed, Hefner, and the Strokes.

    Seems right up ReadyMade's alley.

    Thanks to Metafilter.
    Burning Bridges
    One of the six remaining covered bridges in Madison County, Iowa, burned two days ago. It was the only covered bridge in the county that motorists could still drive over. While the cause of the blaze hasn't been determined yet, investigators speculate that a chemical coating intended to protect the bridge from the elements might have accelerated the fire.

    Thanks to Drudge Report.
    Daypop Down!
    Something's askew over at Daypop today. Their usual list of the top 40 hot topics cited in blogs sports URL's but no blog titles. Every site is labeled as Untitled. Makes for an interesting exercise in Name That Blog but also indicates how important contextual information is -- even if you recognize a URL, without at least a headline, there's little reason to follow a link.

    Similarly, the Daypop Top News Stories page is also down. The page is empty. There is no top news.

    Fingers crossed that the Daypop gang didn't get hit too hard by whatever happened.

    Wednesday, September 04, 2002

    Corollary: Blogging About Blogging XXIII
    Henry Copeland has expanded on his essay "Blogonomics" in a new piece entitled "Blogads: Advertising Hand-Delivered at Light-Speed." In it, he calls for the continued emergence of professional journalistic blogs -- and suggests that blogads (adverts in blogs, natch) might be one way for bloggers to support their independent media activities.

    His thoughts hit me at a particularly appropriate time, as I close the window on the 50% off hook up at DC Shoes. While not a blogad per se -- my friends at DC Shoes sent me a promotional mailing at work, and I couldn't think of a way to work the hook up via Fast Company so the swag offer made its way to my Web -- offering Media Dieticians a deal like that made me wonder:

  • Was I comfortable promoting one companies products and services this way?
  • Would I be open to the idea of doing so for other companies I appreciated -- perhaps even for paid placement?
  • Was the offer of interest to folks who frequent Media Diet?

    The questions intrigued and concerned me. Obviously, I wasn't uncomfortable hooking people up with 50% off -- and I continue to appreciate the people I met at DC Shoes -- but how would I handle this in the future? Why did I do this when I've hesitated to even add book sales via an affiliate program? Would taking money sully the recommendation and appreciation inherent in the hook up? Was I interested in seeking other organizations that might be interested in reaching the people who read these words (yes, you)?

    Turns out, I'm not interested. If another hook up falls in my lap, I certainly consider it, but I have no interest whatsoever in soliciting or managing blogads in Media Diet. Which begs the question, "Why not?" One, I have a full-time job and see no need to even come close to breaking even on Media Diet. It's a labor of love. Two, one of the joys of blogging -- a joy that Rebecca Blood touches on in The Weblog Handbook (not a paid placement, heh) -- is the independent voice. Even if you consider your audience and think about appealing to your audience, that's hella different than marketing to, segmenting, or targeting your audience. Which you need to do if you're going to be successful managing ads.

    Because ads change the nature of what you do. I don't mean selling out or changing what you do to better meet the needs of advertisers. What I mean is this. Blogads are not a new thing. Recall the early days of personal publishing on the Web -- and when the first Web sites began including ads. Remember Tripod asking its members if they minded Tripod including ads on their Webfarm pages to help cover costs of the service. Think anyone would do that today? Similarly, the discussion about blogads parallels the old and ongoing debates about advertising in zines. Are zines with ads still zines? What a silly question. Yet people argue about the answer.

    When I was publishing Karma Lapel in the early and mid-'90s, I played with selling ads. I welcomed the money, and it helped me beef up the production values of the zine -- from photocopies to newsprint, from two pages to 36 -- and it got tiring. When you do a zine or a tape label... or a blog by yourself, do you really want to spend time finding advertisers, managing relations with advertisers, and so on so on so forth? Doing so almost killed Karma Lapel -- I quickly scaled back from my highfalutin' format and size to a more manageable presentation and production.

    One that I could handle. One that still met the needs of the folks who read it. And one that -- while not totally adverse to adverts -- wasn't dependent on or driven by them. Blogads could very well become the tail that wags the blog dog, just like with most media. I'd prefer Media Diet be bobbed and docked.

    Thanks to Jim and Amy for the vocab assist.
  • Manna for Media Dieticians V
    The 50% off online hook up courtesy of DC Shoe Co. USA is now over. Congratulations and thanks to the Media Dieticians who contacted me to snag their 50% off discount codes. Enjoy the gear!

    Thanks to DC Shoes for the hook up.
    The Movie I Watched Last Night XXXV
    Sunday: My Big Fat Greek Wedding
    Sort of a Moonstruck for the 2K's, this well-scripted, well-cast, and, well, hilarious movie tells the tale of a formerly frumpy Greek waitress who -- once she decides to date a non-Greek -- blossoms in, oh, so many ways. The movie focuses on the development of her relationship with a romantic foil played by John Corbett, and while it's somewhat difficult to get past Corbett's previous role of Chris on Northern Exposure, the couple's energy is there. The movie also considers the impact the relationship has on the family, the role education can play with one's self-esteem, and the importance of family. Now that I think of it, if you combine Moonstruck with East Is East, you might very well get this movie. Loads of laughs.

    Tuesday: Heavy Metal
    Ivan Reitman's flawed but inspired animated take on the European genre comics stories of Heavy Metal magazine isn't all it's cracked up to be. Despite the self-congratulatory tone and sex-drugs-rock 'n' roll posturing of the crew members featured in the additional "Imagining Heavy Metal" documentary, the cinematic adaptation of stories by Heavy Metal regulars such as Richard Corben and Bernie Wrightson is sloppy and slightly disorganized. The loosely knit nature of the film isn't the result of the lame framing device Daniel Goldberg and the other writers developed to add continuity to the feature segments -- instead, the adaptations themselves are weak, and the movie does little to capture the spirit and substance of the magazine itself, especially in the late '70s. The DVD does include some highlights, however. The Captain Sternn segment is perhaps the best of the lot, and it's fun to see Wrightson's big-headed character come to life. Voiceover work by John Candy, Eugene Levy, and Harold Ramis brightens the often-plodding script. And the Kevin Eastman sequences in the "Imagining Heavy Metal" documentary communicates the mistakes that can be made when the wrong people come into a lot of money. Worth watching for all of that, as well as to snicker at the "groundbreaking" rotoscope animation. On the whole, however: Feh.
    Must-See TV
    Here's what I'd like to see on TV and available on video and DVD:

    Your Southernmost Window

    A series of half hour programs

    What you can do with one south-facing window -- or how to live within a solar budget, including designs viewers can replicate at home to provide heat, light, and ventilation; and stimulate ecological growth.

    Program 1: "What You Can See from a Window" -- one square foot of sunlight, orientation to the sun, design principles, window types, glazing, heat loss, infiltration, insulation, heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), air purification, and breathing

    Program 2: "Every Window in the House" -- window types take 2, radiation and convection, caulking and weatherstripping, drafts and infiltration, how to chart your airflows, how to use them, window insulation, and whole house HVAC

    Program 3: "The Electric Window" -- solar electricity/photovoltaic/PV, small battery charger, solar/dynamo flashlight radio, one window systems, permanent emergency capacity, and battery switching and your car

    Program 4: "Hot and Cold Windows" -- windowbox heaters, passive and active ventilators, advanced airflow usage, active and passive water heating, your northernmost window, and a nod to refrigeration

    Program 5: "The Greenhouse Window" -- windowsill gardens, bubbling out/bubbling in, heat storage, aquaculture, vermiculture, and ecological housekeeping, and the neighborhood

    Program 6: "Most Windows in Town" -- what if everybody did it?, the economics of sunlight, physics is international, a range of possibilities, systems thinking from community to region to country to world

    Thanks to George Mokray.
    Comics and Controversy
    A professor at MIT recently came under fire for appropriating an image from the comic book Radix in a $50 million research proposal. Here's the back story:

  • USA Today: MIT's Future Soldier Resembles Comic-Book Heroine
  • Wired News: America's Might: A Comic Tale
  • The Tech: MIT Used Comic Art for Grant Proposal
  • New York Post: MIT Had Designs on Comic Book War Gear
  • Wizard: MIT Swipes Comic Art
  • MIT News: Professor Writes Artist to Apologize for Inadvertent Use of Comic Book Image
  • Slashdot: MIT Steals Comic Book Character

    I don't have a lot to say about this, but several things strike me. The Tech notes that the use of the comic art didn't help the proposal. Um, have you read Radix? Secondly, a Slashdot contributor is wise to wonder whether MIT's use of the image negatively affected the comic book's credibility and status (as the creators claim). Um, have you read Radix? Lastly, if Prof. Edwin Thomas is telling the truth when he says that his daughter -- a graphic artist -- selected the image, how good a graphic artist can she be? Have you read Radix?
  • Cliché? Touché!
    Frank Lingua, president and CEO of Dissembling Associates, is the nation's leading purveyor of buzzwords, catch phrases, and clichés for people too busy to speak in plain English. Business Finance contributing editor Dan Danbom interviewed Lingua in his New York City office.

    Danbom: Is being a cliché expert a full-time job?

    Lingua: Bottom line is I have a full plate 24/7.

    D: Is it hard to keep up with the seemingly endless supply of clichés that spew from business?

    L: Some days, I don't have the bandwidth. It's like drinking from a fire hydrant.

    D: So it's difficult?

    L: Harder than nailing Jell-O to the wall.

    D: Where do most clichés come from?

    L: Stakeholders push the envelope until it's outside the box.

    D: How do you track them once they've been coined?

    L: It's like herding cats.

    D: Can you predict whether a phrase is going to become a cliché?

    L: Yes. I skate to where the puck's going to be. Because if you aren't the lead dog, you're not providing a customer-centric proactive solution.

    D: Give us a new buzzword that we'll be hearing ad nauseam.

    L: "Enronitis" could be a next-generation player.

    D: Do people understand your role as a cliché expert?

    L: No, they can't get their arms around that. But they aren't incented to.

    D: How do people know you're a cliché expert?

    L: I walk the walk and talk the talk.

    D: Did incomprehensibility come naturally to you?

    L: I wasn't wired that way, but it became mission-critical as I strategically focused on my go-forward plan.

    D: What did you do to develop this talent?

    L: It's not rocket science. It's not brain surgery. When you drill down to the granular level, it's just basic blocking and tackling.

    D: How do you know if you're successful in your work?

    L: At the end of the day, it's all about robust, world-class language solutions. My vision is to monetize scalable supply chains.

    D: How do you stay ahead of others in the buzzword industry?

    L: Net-net, my value proposition is based on maximizing synergies and being first to market with a leveraged, value-added deliverable. That's the opportunity space on a level playing field.

    D: Does everyone in business eventually devolve into the sort of mindless drivel you spout?

    L: If you walk like a duck and talk like a duck, you're a duck. You have a result-driven mind-set that isn't a strategic fit with my game plan.

    Thanks to Jonathan Priest of Creative Communication.
    Newsletter of Note IV
    In the recent edition of advertising firm Killian & Co.'s newsletter, the staff includes a section headed "Cover Letter Klassics." The clumsy job-search correspondence excerpts are but a small example of material archived in Killian's Lost Art of Cover Letters Web page, which analyzes what makes cover letters work well -- or waffle and woof.

    Killian also offers a white paper entitled "In Defense of a Low-Tech Secret Weapon" that sings the praises and potential of the humble cocktail napkin as a strategic business tool.

    Just two examples why Killian's newsletter has been described as the "best (and funniest) newsletter in the business."
    Event-O-Dex X
    Shows and other activities of note in the near future:

    Wednesday, Sept. 4: So & So, Red Zone Cuba, and Sticky at the Abbey Lounge, Somerville
    Thursday, Sept. 5: Tunnel of Love, the In Out, and the Anchormen at the Abbey Lounge, Somerville
    Friday, Sept. 6: Evan Dando and Chris Brokaw at TT the Bear's, Cambridge
    Friday, Sept. 13: Seana Carmody and Victory at Sea CD release party with El Guapo and Suntan at the Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge
    Saturday, Sept. 14: Fray Day at the YWCA, Cambridge

    Maybe I'll see you there!
    Gannett is launching alternative weekly newspapers in Lansing, Michigan, and Boise, Idaho, possibly as a test for the rollout of a national alt.weekly -- or a host of alternatives to the alternatives. Ann Hinch, writing for the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, says that local alt.weekly publishers are concerned. Concerned about the increase in ad competition, concerned about the quality of the papers, and concerned about copycat journalism.

    They probably have every right to be concerned. The relative success of cookie-cutter city guides online such as Ticketmaster's Citysearch, the existence of regional visitors' guides stashed in hotel rooms, and the seemingly successful test of a similar alt.weekly -- the Nashville Rage, a Gannnett-Tennessean joint -- indicate that such experiments have merit. In addition, we've already seen some alt.weekly consolidation in Newcity, New Times, and the Alternative Weekly Network, a nonprofit that coordinates national advertising buys for its affiliate alt.weeklies.

    We've also seen alt.weekly publishers branching out into multiple publications -- to reach readers in other parts of the country, and to reach local readers in multiple demographics. Cases in point: the Seattle Stranger's sister paper in Portland, the Portland Phoenix; and the Boston Phoenix's foray into the yuppie echelon with Stuff@night (which, while termed a "section" is really a competitor rubbing elbows with the Improper Bostonian.

    What does this all mean? I have no idea. But I think that if we -- the "we" in "alt.weekly" -- are going to compete with large media companies such as Gannett moving into our media neighborhoods, we need to increasingly focus on what "alternative" really means. What are alt.weeklies alternatives to? Are they merely weekly ugly cousins to the workaday dailies? Are they actually asking questions, meeting needs, and sharing stories untouched by other local print media? Or are they merely homes for the call-girl and 900-number ads other media outlets refuse?

    Here in Boston, I read the Boston Phoenix every week. But I really read it for only three reasons: the editorials and letters of comment, the listings, and the media analysis (kudos to Dan Kennedy). The syndicated columns (News of the Weird, the Straight Dope) don't float my boat any more. The movie, music, and book reviews fall flat far more often than they inspire or inform. And the lengthy feature stories -- and perhaps I'm biased having read the utterly amazing Chicago Reader for five years -- rarely move me beyond a passing glance. Meanwhile, I refuse to peruse Stuff@night or the Improper Bostonian. They're just not aimed at me.

    For my news, I turn to the Boston Globe and Boston Herald. And for my "alternative" news, I turn elsewhere. Where will we turn if this mainstream-style consolidation continues?

    Thanks to the Utne Web Watch.