Monday, March 31, 2003

The Free-Range Comic Book Project X
This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project.

Batman #441 (DC, 1989). Writer: Marv Wolfman. Artist: Jim Aparo. Location: On the Red Line between Park Street and Central Square.

Notable quote: "Blow up the Twin Towers? Possible, but what do I get out of it besides Batman's death? I do so like killing two birds with one stone. Should I do it? (Flips coin.) Scratch the tower."

For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.
Technofetishism XXXII
I just installed Jaguar, and while I couldn't use the AIM client previously because of how our firewall is configured, I can use iChat quite easily. Hurrah. Nice to have IM at work again -- not just on my Sidekick. My AIM username is to the left, if you'd like to IM me ever.
Corollary: Uncommon Cents II
Someone's already bought shares in Media Diet! This blog is currently valued at $939.01, and outgoing links are valued at $1039.01. I don't know what that means, really, but at least the numbers are big.
Business Media Reportage Goes Bust, Now Boom? V
Worth magazine is cutting its staff in half and changing its publication frequency from 10 issues a year to eight. But the the magazine doesn't yet plan to shut up shop.

Thanks to I Want Media.
Uncommon Cents II
Hot on the heels of my post about Celebdaq and related projects, I learn about Blogshares, a fantasy stock market for blogs. Players get to invest a fictional $500, and blogs are valued by inbound links. To date, Blogshares comprises more than 20,000 blogs, almost 80,000 links, and about 1,300 active users. I don't have time to play around with this today, but it might be worth checking out.
Corollary: Comics and Community IX
One of the more useful items I acquired at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival is a coaster made by Philadelphia-based "bartoonist" Jeff Kilpatrick.

My Lunch Is Fun coffee cup now rests gently upon it. Mmm, coffee!
Comics and Community IX
This weekend, I flew to Toronto for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. I arrived around 7:15 Friday night and caught a cab to Jim Munroe's house off Spadina. The cab cost $44 Canadian, and I was a little sheepish spending that much money because my return subway and bus fare Sunday cost all of $2.25. Regardless, I wanted to get there in time for Matthew Blackett's book launch party at El Mocambo, and I didn't want to risk holding up my hosts. After hanging out with Jim and Susan -- and a quick dinner of veggie dogs and kettle chips -- we made our way to the club.

Matt -- or M@B, as he's known in town -- did an excellent reading of his strip, which just started running in Eye, a local alt.weekly. Projecting transparencies of his strip on the wall, he didn't so much read the comics as he did tell the stories and experiences from his life that influenced the comic. He also shared an outline of his creative process, which was interesting to see. The bands didn't really interest or impress me, so I spent much of the evening hanging out with and talking to folks from the Highwater Books gang.

Greg Cook arrived before everyone else, with his sleeping bag slung over his shoulder in a clear plastic sack. When I stepped outside to call Jef back -- he'd called from Boston to see if I wanted to go to a show -- most everyone else showed up: Megan, Ron, Brian, Tom, and Jason Little. They'd all driven up from New York City, where they'd been delayed by some drunken yahoos who'd gotten the bright idea to climb on the Williamsburg Bridge. I also ran into Paul and Scott, who were there to represent Cyberosia Publishing. Tons of friends from New England!

I shared the room at Jim's house with Montreal-based cartoonist Joe Ollman and his girlfriend, and we got up relatively early in the morning, Joe to seek breakfast, and I to head over to Trinity St. Paul's Centre for the show, which opened at 10. The church is just a block away from Jim's house, and I arrived just as the Highwater crew was unloading the van. With more than 50 exhibitors, mostly American and Toronto-area creators, the festival filled three rooms. I was surprised how predominant folks from the United States were, and it would've been nice if more Quebecois comics folks turned out. Regardless, it was a good day. I grabbed breakfast with Tom and Jason Lutes at the Future Bakery & Cafe, sat in on a couple of panel discussions -- one on the history of the comics scene in Toronto and another on self-publishing -- and walked the floor several times to gather up minis, comics, and zines to review for Media Diet.

By the end of the day, I was pretty tired, and I hadn't even been working the table all day like Greg, Ron, Megan, Brian -- and Gabrielle Bell, whose new book, When I'm Old, just came out -- did. Folks were making dinner plans with Seth and Chester Brown, but I didn't really feel like hanging out with a crowd, so I headed back across the street to read, chat with Jim, and watch some fun digital videos. Eventually, we headed out for dinner at Seoul Restaurant, a wonderfully minimalistic Korean Restaurant. After a healthy bowl of bi bim bap -- for $5 Canadian! -- I walked back with the crew to the Tranzac, where the panel discussions earlier in the day had been held.

Saturday night's program involved a panel discussion about autobiographical comics featuring Seth, Chester, Phoebe Gloeckner, and M@B, as well as several art demonstrations and readings. Jason Little did a wonderful slide presentation of a portion of Shutterbug Follies, with a well-edited soundtrack featuring Pram and other bands. Jason Lutes and Phoebe Gloeckner also did presentations. The day had been long, and I didn't really feel like hanging out sitting in a darkened theater, so I spent much of my time in the bar, hanging out with the Highwater kids and several new friends.

Another late night, I got home after everyone else had crashed for the evening. Waking a little late Sunday, Jim and I grabbed a pleasant brunch at the Green Room. Then it was the subway to Kipling, the Airport Rocket bus to Pearson, through customs, and on the plane home. Greg and I were on the same flight back to Boston, so we hung out together in the gate area -- and waited for a ride from Carrie once we'd landed at Logan. I was cold and wanting to get home, so I left Greg for a cab.

And you know what? The new Liberty Tunnel is open!
The Free-Range Comic Book Project IX
This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project.

Friday: Backlash #16 (Wildstorm/Image, January 1996). Writers: Sean Ruffner and Brett Booth. Artist: Mel Rubi. Location: Logan International Airport, Terminal E, Gate 8.

For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Workaday World XXIV
Today is Hiromi's last day officially working at Fast Company with me on the Company of Friends. One of the things she's going to do after FC is work part time at a Ben & Jerry's. So I thought it'd be appropriate to have a little ice cream sandwich party to send her off in style -- and to help her ease into her new job.

It certainly wasn't easy to find ice cream sandwiches in bulk in the North End. I walked all over Hanover, Parmenter, and Salem streets, hitting maybe five or six shops before coming across a place that sold ice cream in the quantity I wanted. The good news is that a Buck-A-Book is moving into where the CVS used to be. The bad news is that the guy at the shop that had the ice cream wouldn't give me a deal.

These were the most expensive ice cream sandwiches ever. At $1 a piece, 23 ice cream sandwiches ran me $23. Had I thought to go to a grocery store closer to home last night, I could've spent a lot less. A lot less. Still, Hiromi's been a treat to work with, spring has sprung in Boss Town, and I love ice cream sandwiches. Besides, the Discordian in me was quite pleased by the 23.

To Hiromi!
Online at the Trident II
According to Wired News, Tech Superpowers Inc. has continued its WiFi walk down Newbury Street over the last year. Three-fourths of Newbury Street is now online with WiFi. It's free, there's no sign in, and all you have to do is put up with a pop-up ad every three or four hours.

Thanks to Go Away.

Soundtrack: Caetano Veloso, "Omaggio a Federico e Giulietta"
Uncommon Cents
Media Life is bullish on the new BBC spoof series Celebdaq, which trades shares in celebrities in a Nasdaq-like marketplace. Similar to the US-based Hollywood Stock Exchange, Celebdaq reminds me of the Celebrity Dead Pool and parallel projects, in which people bet on when celebrities will die. Chicago artist Ben MacNeill has sold shares of his artwork as part of a printmaking project. And musicians such as James Brown and David Bowie have also sold bonds as shares of their future royalties. How far off is something like Celebdaq or the Hollywood Stock Exchange? Apply Cory's concept of whuffie and the old-school egoboo of fandom, along with near-realtime cultural currency trackers such as Blogdex and Daypop, and we're almost there.
Technofetishism XXXI
Oh, I want a night-vision scope.

Thanks to Lost Remote.
Blogging About Blogging LIII
Jon Udell contributed a useful article about project blogs to Infoworld. One of the most immediately productive ways to incorporate blogs into a corporate setting, project blogs can serve as realtime records of activity and progress, as well as internal and external project promotion mechanisms. Udell touches on the shortcomings of chronological organization and holds up categorization and RSS feeds -- which I still don't offer (sign up for the mailing list!) -- as good workarounds. He also offers some tips on what to post, how to post it, and other aspects of project blogging. A solid piece, and a great way to get started!

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Music to My Eyes XIV
Gig Posters is an online archive of promotional posters, handbills, and fliers from around the world. Awesome, ephemeral street media that's rarely archived. Organized by designer and searchable by performer, the collection is not searchable by location. I'd love to see what they have from Boston and Cambridge. Folks can even sign up and submit their own fliers. What a neat project!

Thanks to Metafilter.
Music to My Ears XXXI
This is awesome. A song about blogging that name drops Ben and Mena Trott.

Thanks to Boing Boing.
Event-O-Dex XLVI
Tomorrow evening, I fly to Toronto for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. I'll be hanging out with Jim Munroe and the Highwater Books gang.

Friday night, before the festival kicks off proper, Matthew Blackett is throwing a book-release party to celebrate his new book, Wide Collar Crimes. The event is at El Mocambo and will feature musical guests Gentleman Reg and Rais The Fawn. It'll be a nice welcome to Toronto!
The Free-Range Comic Book Project VIII
This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project.

Azrael: Angel of the Bat #63 (DC, April 2000). Writer: Dennis O'Neil. Artist: Roger Robinson. Location: On the Green Line between Park Street and Haymarket.

For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.
Technofetishism XXX
I just ordered Mac OS X v. 10.2 to upgrade my PowerBook from v. 10.1.5. I am so psyched that there's an iChat app included, and that it's AOL IM compatible. Soon, I'll be IM'ing at work instead of just on my Sidekick. Skee!
Corollary: Rock Shows of Note LIX
Christine has posted a more in-depth report on the No. 1 Fun Boston Blog Bash.
Rock Shows of Note LIX
I'm getting into work late today because of staying out late last night -- and this odd lack of motivation I'm experiencing with the onset of spring. Last night was the evening of the No. 1 Fun Boston Blog Bash. Seven Boston-area bloggers gathered at the Cambridgeport Saloon to hang out, swap URL's, and talk about the war. In attendance were:

  • Charles Dodgson
  • Christine Geiger
  • Rick Heller
  • Michael Laing
  • Shannon Okey
  • Heath Row
  • Brad Searles

    Conversation -- at least the circles I found myself in -- largely centered on the war. Rick's been writing a lot about the war and the current state of politics lately, but he says that he doesn't consider himself a warblogger. Brad commented that he was having trouble writing about the mundane pleasantries of life -- such as going snow shoeing -- because they seem so small when compared to everything else that's going on in the world. I said that I've consciously not been writing about the war. Plenty of other people are, the risk of being overwhelmed with war-related news commentary looms large, and, really, what do I have to say? Besides, this fits into my thinking that if something is already all over Blogdex or Popdex, I probably don't need to seed the meme. Do the new.

    The Cambridgeport Saloon, as always, was my kind of place. A gaggle of cute girls showed up just as the Blog Bash was breaking up, and I lingered longer to play video games. Unfortunately, the Saloon has ditched Radikal Bikers for Viper Phase 1, a vertical shooter set in outer space. It's a fun play, and I'll probably go back to play it again, but I was really looking forward to playing Radikal Bikers again.

    Around 10, I decided it was too early to head home, so I headed instead to the Lizard Lounge for the Scrapple show. It was raining, so the walk from Harvard Square to the Lizard was kind of a hassle, and I arrived a little wilted. Part of the Scara's Night Out series, the show ran hot and cold with me. The "comedic emcee," Sinus Brady, was quite awful and irritating, and the band that played before Scrapple seemed pretty full of themselves. Lots of drama, and not too interesting. But Scrapple was quite nice. They played most of my favorite songs, and Dave even donned the rat mask. It was also nice to hear the theme song to the Art Beat Sideshow again.

    OK, to work!
  • Wednesday, March 26, 2003

    The Free-Range Comic Book Project VII
    This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project.

    Askani'Son #4 (Marvel, May 1996). Writer: Scott Lobdell. Artist: Gene Ha. Location: On the Red Line between Park Street and Central Square.

    For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.
    Event-O-Dex XLV
    Don't forget tonight's No. 1 Fun Boston Blog Bash at 8 at the Cambridgeport Saloon. I'll be there right on time, and if you don't know what I look like, I recently shaved my head, wear small glasses, and will be wearing a blue T-shirt with "shirt" printed on it. Looking forward to seeing you!
    Pulling the Plug XI
    Two concerning instances of music-related closing or threatened closing. Word is that Deb Klein's wonderful independent record store in Jamaica Plain, Hi-Fi Records is going to close. Her landlord practically doubled her rent, and CD's just aren't selling that well these days. Our guess is that the landlord wants to get a dentist's office or similar renter in that space. It's far enough off the main drag not to be ideal retail space, and it's sad, sad to think of the store not being there. Where else would I have gone when I tripped and gashed my hands? Where else can you go see a band play live on a weekend afternoon? Hi-Fi will be much missed. I'm hopeful that Deb organizes a marathon series of live shows as a last hurrah. I know I didn't shop there enough.

    Also, Congress is considering two pieces of legislation that could spell the end of live music. According to the Drug Policy Action Center, the RAVE Act (H.R. 718) and the CLEAN-UP Act (H.R. 834) would make it a federal crime to promote live dance, music, and entertainment events at which drugs may be sold or used -- regardless of whether the organizer is aware or involved -- and make it easier for the feds punish property owners for drug offenses that their customers commit -- again regardless of whether the owner takes steps to control such crime.

    This is bad, bad news. Basically, anyone owning property on which or organizing an event at which, someone sells or uses drugs -- again, regardless of their involvement -- will become liable for that activity if this legislation goes through. That could spell the end of live music, because no matter how alert and aware organizers or owners might be, someone could always do something stupid on their own accord. This legislation takes drug control out of the hands of law enforcement and the government and put it in the hands of citizens. Seems like a losing proposition to me, and an egregious irresponsibility.

    Take a second and send a letter to your local representative expressing concern. DPAC makes it easy. Also, if you're in the Boston area, take some time this weekend and go to Hi-Fi. Their local section is always well stocked, the staff is amazing, and they could use our support in these late days. RIP, Hi-Fi. Sad to see you go.
    Rock Shows of Note LVIII
    After meeting a friend for dinner at the Good Life -- which, I was disappointed to learn, has gotten rid of its former entree menu to fall back on burgers and pizza -- for dinner, I headed over to TT the Bear's for a wonderful indie-rock show. Before I report on the show, let me share some of the history I've learned about TT's. The next time you go, make sure you read the enlarged newspaper clippings hanging on the wall in the pool room.

    Originally located on Pearl Street, TT the Bear's opened in May 1973 as a full-service restaurant. It was known for its vegetarian-friendly menu, handicapped-accessible restrooms, and bear decorations. There were bear posters on the wall, bear figurines on display, and a big stuffed bear sitting in a corner stool at the bar. All of this is now gone, although last night, the door woman used a teddy bear rubber stamp to mark hands. TT's then moved, perhaps in the early '80s, to its current location. I'm not sure when they closed the kitchen and stopped being a restaurant, but Chris and I were figuring out where the different seating areas might have been. The kitchen space is still there, even if it's not in operation.

    The first band up was Teradactyl, an ethereal pop band from Honolulu. A three piece, the band consists of a lanky guy playing guitar, an absolutely beautiful slim woman playing the keyboards and singing, and a slightly larger man playing guitar and working a box to provide bleeps and beats. The guitars were by turns twee and punctuation oriented and almost psyche washy. I appreciated the skinny guitarist more of the two, as his melodic lines were well performed and he occasionally broke into jagged bursts of guitar chunk. The other guitarist focused more on a dreamy, washy, effects-laden sound, which isn't really my bag. And the singer? Her vocals were extremely clean and controlled, and her voice is much bigger than what you'd expect from her frame. Quite a surprise. The songs with more dancy beats were quite fun, and the last song with ukelele, washy synths, and a breathier singing style -- the almost Poi Dog Pondering-like "Sleepy Eyes" -- was extremely nice. But overall, Teradactyl was a little too restrained for my tastes. I'm listening to their "Prepare for Lift-Off" CD now, and it's slightly better suited for listening than watching. Still, fun.

    Next up, the Operators, who have several songs newer that they've only played one or two times. One is an awesome Stereolab-inspired number, with Jen singing in a higher, falsetto-like voice. Quite a departure from their usual sound, and quite impressive. I learned that the song "The Old Man Doesn't Like It" is based on Thor Heyerdahl's book Kontiki -- not the restaurant out by Alewife! -- and that the lyrics are almost entirely plagiarized from the text. Even the line "1, 2, 3 ... 39, 40, 41" is lifted straight from the page, ellipses and everything. The show was also marked by a nice moment in which Paul jumped up and down like a spaz, flopping his hair all around. A solid set.

    Second Story Man hails from Louisville, Kentucky, and plays a more straight-forward, tuneful mode of indie-rock than the Operators do, and their set made it quite clear why Emily likes them so. The bands are closely related soundwise. While their songs have slightly more concrete structures, I didn't find them as engaging. That said, I found the four piece engaging enough to pick up their homemade CD, "Compilation Songs for the Road," clad in a handmade, sewn cloth sleeve adorned with an embroidered ribbon closure. Worth getting just as an item. (In fact, the Teradactyl CD is also a nice item, with the CD tucked into a screenprinted paper sack.)

    Last up, Seana Carmody. I've seen her play live several times already, and this set was much like the others I've taken in. One difference is that she played with a three piece this go. The band included her boyfriend, who debuted as a lapsed drummer at her Dec. 19 show. He's much better and more confident than he seemed at that show, and the band played many songs I recognized, even though I haven't seriously listened to her work enough yet to be able to sing along, name songs, etc.

    A fun night, with lots of friends in attendance. One friend even locked herself out of her apartment, so she crashed at my place. I don't think I've ever hosted a friend before because they got locked out.

    Tuesday, March 25, 2003

    The Free-Range Comic Book Project VI
    This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project.

    Ascension #10 (Image/Top Cow, November 1998). Writer: David Finch. Artists: Brian Ching and David Finch. Location: On the Green Line between Haymarket and Park Street.

    For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.

    Soundtrack: Milky Wimpshake, "Lovers Not Fighters"
    Newsletters of Note VII
    Fine, it's not really a newsletter. But, like the Leadership Directories Guides, if I had a million dollars, this is the kind of stuff I'd squander my new-found wealth on. The 2003 Entertainment, Media and Advertising Market Research Handbook from Richard K. Miller & Associates Inc. is a 550-page guide to the entertainment, media, and advertising market, looking at time spent using media, the Net's impact on other activities, media conglomerates and consolidation, the top 25 entertainment and media corporations, television programming, satellite radio, music retailing, teenage markets, and other aspects of the industry. I'm getting chills just thinking about it. At $375, it's outside of my impulse purchase range, but if any Media Dieticians want to step up as a patron, I promise you I'll use this only for good. Some day. Some day.

    Soundtrack: Greyboy, "The Greyboy Essentials"
    Corollary: Academy Awards Fight Song
    The Boston Globe's editorial page editor and some schlub of a Harvard Law School student take shots at Michael Moore's Oscars overture in today's paper. The Globe, oh, so tactfully points out that Moore is overweight, and the student claims that Moore is out of step with America and Hollywood, as if Hollywood is in step with America. Better to all march in step, I suppose, and quiet still voices lest others take offense.
    Games People Play VIII
    Robert Bourque, co-inventor of the Zoltan: the Astrological Wizard coin-op fortune-telling machine, died Saturday. You can learn more about the Zoltan machine in Yesterdayland and Vintage Coin Operated Fortune Tellers, Arcade Games, Digger/Cranes, Gun Games and other Penny Arcade games, pre-1977. Bourque's Zoltan game was the inspiration for the Zoltar fortune-telling machine that played a role in the movie Big.
    From the In Box: Academy Awards Fight Song
    My memory weeps in fits and starts, and Media Dieticians are there to aid me. I couldn't remember who performed the song from Frida during the Oscars, and I get this in my in box:

    Caetano Veloso (Brazilian) and Lila Downs (Mexican), performing "Burn It Blue" from Frida.

    I appreciated Gael Garcia Bernal's introduction of that performance, also, for it's well-stated peace advocacy.
    -- Joe Germuska

    It was truly a wonderful performance. Check them out if you haven't listened to them yet!
    Academy Awards Fight Song
    Sorry for the day's delay, but yesterday got a little busy. Sunday night, I went to the Brattle Theatre with Chris, Scott, and Simone to watch the 75th Academy Awards. They have a big-screen showing of the awards ceremony open to theater members and special guests, including a paid reception before the screening, a silent auction, and other festivities. It was a fun time. I was coattailing because Emily was in Philadelphia with the Operators, and I probably wouldn't have watched the Oscars or gone to an Oscars party, but this was a lot of fun.

    Most of the people dressed up for the event, some in tuxedos and evening dresses, even. We were definitely the most under-dressed. But we fit right in on the balcony, where a smaller crowd gathered -- most of the people stayed down on the main floor. My group of friends is prone to heckle and comment on almost anything we go to, and I was a little nervous about how our heckling would be received, but the women in the row ahead of us and the people one row behind seemed to appreciate it, grinning and looking over their shoulders, and occasionally jumping right in with us.

    One woman shouted, "Did you just smoke a bowl?" when Matthew McConaughey took the stage, which led us to wonder whether she had just smoked a bowl. Maybe she confused him with Woody Harrelson, but McConaughey was decidedly not bleary eyed. However, the most interesting crowd interaction came during the multiple anti-war commentaries -- and subtle recognition of the conflicts overseas. When Michael Moore was booed at the ceremony for his anti-Bush tirade (which I thought was relatively well stated), the audience in Cambridge cheered.

    Many other actors and directors commented on the war, so I'm not quite sure why Moore was made the scapegoat at the ceremony. He was the only nominee-cum-winner who showed solidarity with the other nominees by bringing them up on stage, and it seems odd that writers such as David Hardy are now contending that Moore shouldn't have even won the award.

    In any event, the other anti-war statements were rather lackluster. Adrien Brody gave one of the most personal and sensible speeches. That balanced with such inanities as Nicole Kidman's commentary that, "there is a lot of problems in the world and since 9/11 there's been a lot of pain, in terms of families losing people, and now with the war, families losing people." My friend Tony leaned back from the row ahead of us and said, "There weren't any problems before 9/11?"

    Other highlights? Peter O'Toole is a grand old man. It was awesome to see Pedro Almodovar win for best original screenplay. I was glad that the Pianist edged Chicago out of a couple of key categories. And one of the musical performances, featuring a Mexican singer, was really awesome. I'm guessing that it was a piece from Frida, but I'm embarrassed that I don't remember who the performers were.

    Hooray for Hollywood. Maybe next year I'll make a better effort to see more of the nominated films.

    Monday, March 24, 2003

    Event-O-Dex XLIV
    Lots of midweek mischief to participate in:

    Tuesday, March 25: The Operators, Seana Carmody, Second Story Man, and Teradactyl get bullish at TT the Bear's in Cambridge.

    Wednesday, March 26: No. 1 Fun Boston Blog Bash at the Cambridgeport Saloon in Cambridge, 8 p.m. Afterwards, I'll be heading over to the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge to see Scrapple, Valerie Forgione, Joe Mazza, and Mi3.
    Television-Impaired X
    Reuters reports that ReplayTV maker SonicBlue is filing for bankruptcy. How's Tivo doing?

    Thanks to Interesting People.
    The Free-Range Comic Book Project V
    This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project.

    Saturday: Akiko #39 (Sirius, May 2000). Writer and artist: Mark Crilley. Location: On a bench inside the Zeitgeist Gallery.

    Sunday: Amanda and Gunn #2 (Image, June 1997). Writer and artist: Jimmie Robinson. Location: On the floor outside the Million Year Picnic.

    Monday: The Amazing Spider-Man #389 (Marvel, May 1994). Writer: J.M. DeMatteis. Artist: Mark Bagley. Location: On the Green Line between Park Street and Haymarket.

    For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.
    Rock Shows of Note LVII
    Building on his short set during a recent Punk Rock Aerobics show at TT the Bear's, Thereminist Jon Bernhardt of Pee Wee Fist and the Lothars has built out an entire show of indie-rock, punk, and new-wave covers. He took the stage at ZuZu's, tucked in between the Middle East, Friday night with an all-star cast of collaborators.

    Here's who took the stage with Jon: Chris Connely of Mission of Burma and Consonant; Winston Braman of Fuzzy, Consonant, and the Count-Me-Outs; Hilken Mancini of Fuzzy, the Count-Me-Outs, and Punk Rock Aerobics; Jef Czekaj of the Anchormen, the Tardy, and Plunge into Death; and Paul Coleman of Sinkcharmer and the Operators.

    It was an awesome show. Good Cuban pressed sandwich on the menu, ample beer, good friends in abundance, and a wonderful staff, including TD working the door. Oh, the music? I don't always dig the Theremin, but I quite enjoyed it in these small-band settings. Even though Jon used the Theremin to highlight most of the vocal and melodic parts of the songs, including the jokey "I Wanna Be Sedated," which he debuted at TT's, the other performers added a lot to the proceedings. A lot.

    Connely continues to impress me. Not only is he an amazing player with an amazing history, but since the return of Mission of Burma and the emergence of Consonant, he's been immensely game to play around with other, younger, local musicians. He's becoming quite the grand old man of Boston rock, and he's not even that old. Right on, Mr. Connely.
    The Movie I Watched Last Night LXI
    Since I've gotten cable, I've tried not to just fall into the Big Blue Couch at Church Corner and zone out with whatever movie was currently airing, but this happened Saturday afternoon while I was kind of, but not really waiting for a friend to call. Monkeybone is an embarrassment. Equal parts Beetlejuice and Roger Rabbit, it could have used the help of Tim Burton. Lacking that, it's a relatively shallow story about a man sent Downtown while in a coma. Downtown is a Beetlejuice-like world featuring awkwardly designed fantasy characters -- and the animated Monkeybone, the comic strip creation of our comatose cartoonist hero. After snagging an Exit pass from the devilish Whoopi Goldberg, the cartoon Monkeybone escapes in the hero's stead, embodying Brendan Fraser's comatose body and wreaking havoc in the real world. Fraser's character later escapes, embodying the form of an organ donor, played by the rubbery Chris Kattan. Eventually, Fraser overcomes, and everyone lives happily ever after. This movie is slightly intriguing on several levels. One, the star power deployed is confusing: Goldberg, Bridget Fonda, Rose McGowan as the feline and fine anthropomorphic Kitty, John Turturro as the voice of Monkeybone, and Dave Foley. I'd always pictured this as a Chris Kattan vehicle, but his role is relatively limited. Two, there are several cameos that surprised me. Stephen King shows up in the prison holding Fraser's character after he was caught by Goldberg's Death. He exchanges a funny bit with Edgar Allen Poe. And Austin's own Harry Knowles pops up briefly. The character designs could have been much better, but to be honest, Monkeybone's cartoony possession of Fraser's body has its moments, although the Joker-like Smile-X scheme could have been better handled. A time waster if you need one.

    Moulin Rouge!
    The couch surfing continued because this came on right after Monkeybone, and I'd just caught the end of this while visiting Rick and Melissa in Austin. It's one of their favorite movies, and while I've had no previous interest in it -- parallel to Chicago -- I thought I'd give it a go. Baz Luhrman does well. His vision of Paris of a timeless, placeless place works well, and the cinematography is relatively interesting. That said, the story waxed and waned with me. It waxed during the ensemble cast portions featuring the acting troupe. And it waned when the evil Duke was involved. As a love story, I don't think this really works behind simple sentimentality, and as a death story, Satine's consumption neither emotes pity or sorrow -- nor weakens her supposed courtesan of a character. I needed either more heart of gold or more vamp. And the music? Feh. The pop-music pastiche didn't really impress me, and I think I might have preferred if Luhrman had worked in whole, modern songs, originally written for this film, than the in-joke top 40 mix tape we're left with. This method resonates well with William Burroughs and Brion Gysin's exhortation to "cut paper cut film cut tape," and I'm curious what the royalties and rights ran, but the soundtrack isn't the strongest part of this movie. Still, worth seeing for the visuals -- and for the curiously short John Leguizamo. Oh! And the absinthe-inspired Green Fairy, played by Kylie Minogue. It's about time someone recast Tinkerbell for the adult set!

    Friday, March 21, 2003

    Corollary: Nervy, Pervy XII
    Phew! Despite an iBill screw up and challenges accessing Suicide Girls' new secure payment server using multiple browsers in multiple OS's, a password tweak and assistance on the part of almost all of the core SG team -- LE, O, and Spooky -- has helped me get back into the mix.

    It's weird. I don't even visit SG every day, but my interest in what they're doing -- and my inexplicable need to keep giving them $48 a year -- was really starting to take its toll. If I didn't have a passing acquaintance with them and hella respect for their community organizing model, I'd have given up and jumped ship when it first got difficult to get back in with my existing membership. Hope no one else has the same problems I was having!

    Their attention to customer service is impressive. I'm sure they had better things to do today.
    Corollary: South by Southwest 2003 XXI
    This is oversimplifying his response to my SXSW Interactive reports, but Joe Clark doesn't think I should blog conferences. He's got some interesting reasons why, and an intriguing technical solution to the challenges of manual real-time transcription.
    Anchormen, Aweigh! XVII
    The forthcoming CD, Nation of Interns, isn't even done yet, but the Anchormen have already written four new songs! Before you know it, we'll have another record's worth of material ready. Here are the new songs we almost completed last night. They're about 99% finished, I think.

    Evacuation Day
    Do we ever really know if we've found the one we're looking for, or do we just get tired and stumble home? Do we ever really care about the places where we spend our time, or are they just containers for the air that we breathe, and the water that we drink, and the dreams that we dream with the coming of the sleep, and the songs that always get sung when the bars are closed and we're walking home? Evacuation, oh, happy Evacuation Day. You've got to get out while the getting's good. Your reputation, your reputation can't be saved. Do we ever really claim the prizes that we're fighting for, or do the felt ears come off in the rain? Do we ever really heal from little scars in little wars, or are they just an outline of the pain that we feel when we're walking down your street, and the books that we read while we're eating our last meal, and the songs that always get sung when the blinds are drawn and we're home alone?

    Harrison Avenue Overpass
    I'm on the Harrison Avenue Overpass, watching the sun set behind the Pru, and the bridge below me is shaking and quaking as the commuter rail pushes through. And the cranes behind me are bending their necks as they life their heads high as my hopes. And the sky is turning purple as my heart. And I am reminded how great I am not.

    She's Sick
    She's sick: That's what her family says. Just like her mother, counting down the days. Please fix: I seek repair. I am so, so tired, just like damaged hair. She's sick, and I don't know what to say. She's sick, and she's always going away. She's sick; I guess that's the price that I've got to pay. She is sick. She's sick: That's what the doctor says. No chance of improvement; limited recovery.

    Trapped in the Basement
    We broke in through a window and climbed into the house. We were all tippy toe and dodgeball. We had to check it out. But then we saw the flashlight coming down the stairs so we ducked into a closet; we were feeling pretty scared. Now we are trapped in the basement. Got to get out!
    Conferences and Community IV
    Adam Greenfield is planning a conference about moblogging in Tokyo this summer. I was supposed to go to Japan last spring, and a dear friend is moving back home next month, so I'm thinking about going. We'll see if this passes muster as a topic for a presentation or panel discussion, but here's what I just proposed to Adam:

    1:1 Mapblogging
    Billboards outfitted with low-frequency radio transmitters. Acoustiguide's audio tours of museums. The Portland Radical History Tour's coupling of audio cassette and fanzine. The Web-based New York Songlines walking tour guide. The Wiki-like Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy. What if every building in every city in every country was set up with WiFi and a Web site or blog? What if you could learn what was inside the building -- offices, shops, sales, access to telephone directories and Web search results -- as well as about the _history_ of the building merely by approaching the building? What if you could contribute to that living urban history and map using Moblogging -- or Maplogging -- technology? This panel discussion will consider several extant experiments leading in this direction -- and consider what the final product and process might be, as well as its societal and cultural implications.

    What do you think? Worth researching?
    The Free-Range Comic Book Project IV
    This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project.

    The Adventures of Superman #477 (DC, April 1991). Writer and artist: Dan Jurgens. Location: On the Green Line between Haymarket and Park Street.

    For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.
    Products I Love VII
    I don't know if you remember the zine Office Supply Junkie, which was published by the Baby Split Bowling News crew in the Twin Cities. But a catalog I received in the mail recently rekindled my love affair with the humble office supply. Particularly those supplies found in the mail room and shipping department.

    Ship It, a mail-order company based in Twinsburg, Ohio, is "your complete shipping supply source." Claiming more than 600 box sizes, the company also provides bags, bins, bubble wrap, edge protectors, envelopes, packing foam, knives, labels, mailing tubes, scales, stretch wrap, and tape.

    And the catalog is a joy to behold, hella better than the office supplies available at Staples or Office Depot. Ship It also sells carton stands so you can neatly organize your flattened boxes, as well as a carton sizer so you can perforate and resize boxes that aren't the right size. The label section alone is awe-inspiring: "Discard," "Hold," "Salvage," "Re-Work," "Must Ship Today." There are international pictorial labels and caution labels available, as are your general mailing labels and manila shipping tags.

    To paraphrase Devo, "Ship it. Ship it good"

    Thursday, March 20, 2003

    The Free-Range Comic Book Project III
    This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project.

    Action Comics #658 (DC, October 1990). Writer: Bill Messner-Loebs. Artist: Curt Swan. Location: On the Red Line between Park Street and Central Square.

    For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.
    Animation Nation III
    If you haven't already eyed the Animatrix shorts currently available, they're worth checking out. Beautiful work. So far, there are two episodes available -- and a trailer. Seven directors take on nine animated shorts, some of which will be released for free online, and some of which will precede feature-length films in movie theaters. A DVD of all the eps will be released this June. The animation released online to date is primarily Moebius-meets-anime styled work, but some of the pieces teased in the trailer appear to be more video game graphic-like in approach. There's even a Hack the Matrix Easter egg hidden on the site that allows you to access video shorts from the Matrix movie itself. Fun stuff.
    The Mediated Me
    Two recent Web readings match up quite nicely. Joi Ito comments on how different Anil Dash is in person than he is in his blog, remarking that "his ability to manage his online personality was his key to success."

    Elsewhere, William Gibson considers the difference between mediated personas and the public self. "While a ruler would have a public (as well as a private) self, this technological 'broadcasting' of the individual constitutes something else, something fundamentally different," Gibson says.

    These posts raise some interesting questions. Sure, Sherry Turkle and Brenda Laurel have written about the performative aspects of computer-mediated communication. But what about blogs and LiveJournals?

    Here, in Media Diet, am I sharing a public self? Or am I portraying an idealized self? The me I want to be -- or the me I want you to think I am? I don't know. To be true, the Media Diet me is a mediated me. I consider what to say and how to say it -- which is no different than in real life. And I can probably make myself out to be more than I really am, although I like to think I rarely do that. But it's easier to say less or more when an audience is largely anonymous. Just like when I published perzines.

    I've also been thinking about this in terms of email communications with friends. Sometimes there are things that are easier to write -- and hit Send -- than they are to say in person. You can be more honest. You can be almost irresponsible. But yet, what's been said is out there, and we're left with the repercussions, as tenuous as they may be.

    Were I to ask Media Dieticians a question, it wouldn't be whether our Web writing represents a mediated persona (which I believe it does), but what such self-representation means -- for us as well as for the other.

    Technofetishism XXIX
    It's about time! For years, I've pestered the fine folks at Corex Technologies to release a Mac-compatible CardScan business card reader to no avail. Earlier this week, in the April 2003 issue of MacHome magazine, I read about the Iris Business Card Reader II for Mac. I still need to research its features and such, but, wow. Maybe my piles and stacks and shopping bags of business cards will soon be useful.
    Shock Jock or Not?
    Howard Stern has filed a $10 million law suit claiming that ABC stole its "Are You Hot?" idea from him. I'd say that it's much more likely that they cribbed the concept from the uber-rating Web site Hot or Not?, if anywhere. I wonder whether Jim and James' project predates Stern's "The Evaluators" radio bit.
    It's a good day for archeologists, historians, and urban anthropoligists. In Boston, preservationists have determined how the Union Oyster House acquired the characteristic bend in its structure. Turns out that the proprietor of a once-nearby candy needed to widen the street to accomodate carriage access to his building. The Union Oyster House bent to his will.

    Meanwhile, an FBI sting snagged North Carolina's original bill of rights when a collector tried to sell it for $5 million. The historic document, actually worth about $20 million, was stolen by Union soldiers in 1865 and has been passed hand to hand since then.

    And Spanish archivists have discovered almost 1,000 ancient Hebrew texts tucked into the covers of medieval books. Hidden inside about 165 books, the texts include fragments of the Torah, as well as wedding and business contracts. The son my my childhood piano teacher used to hide pages torn from pornographic magazines in the sleeves of record albums. I wonder if those documents have ever been found.

    Just goes to show, as uncertain as the future might be, the past can only become more and more certain.
    Got "Our" War On
    So we bombed Baghdad early their morning. And I think I now realize the source of part of the malaise I felt earlier this week. It's war. A war that much of America doesn't support, that much of the rest of the world doesn't support, that the "leaders" of America are waging in our name regardless.

    I felt this way back when the Gulf War was just getting started, and I was hanging out with Jodie and stressing over whether I'd be drafted. At the time, there was no draft, but I'd researched conscientious objection and talked with friends in Canada just in case I needed an out. I also felt this way just after Sept. 11, having left work early to eat takeout pizza with Sarah and Paul -- and debate whether we should watch the news coverage or change the channel to something less real. I felt this way days later sitting upstairs at Charlie's Kitchen, almost crying into a beer as the import of what had really happened really hit me. (That night, I actually left without paying my bill. I mailed the restaurant a check for $9 because I wasn't able to get back before leaving for the 2001 CoF Roadshow. I've never ditched a bill before. Or since.)

    And I feel this way now. It's a slightly different feeling because so much of the country's population isn't with Bush on this one. But it's frustrating to think that this is happening in America's name without the full support of America. We do this to ourselves. And the sociologist in me is curious. What impact does war have on the mood and emotions of the populace? Is there a war-time depression?

    A lot of research has been done on war's impact on soldiers and veterans -- shell shock, post-traumatic stress disorder -- but what of those who don't fight but still bear the psychological brunt of the fighting? Researchers have considered how the threat of war affects Iraqi children. Clinical psychologists offer advice on reacting to terrorist attacks on our soil. Economists analyze how war can influence economic activity. And experts line up to comment on the psychological effects of war.

    But what about me? That's all a bit macro; let's go micro. Is war-time sadness and helplessness natural and normal? What toll does this take on us as military conflicts expand and continue?

    How does this make you feel?
    Technofetishism XXVIII
    Mystery solved! What I thought was a smudge on my PowerBook screen -- and which I've tried to clean off to no avail using the iKlear Apple Polish Kit -- is in fact the luminous Apple on the lid of my laptop shining through the display. It's only visible when the sun is shining on the flip top of my PowerBook, and it's good to know that my laptop display doesn't have a permanent smudge worked into the screen. Mystery solved!

    Wednesday, March 19, 2003

    Corollary: Magazine Me XXV
    The 2003 National Magazine Awards finalists have now been officially announced. The full list is now available.
    The Free-Range Comic Book Project II
    This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project.

    Accelerate #1 (DC/Vertigo, August 2000). Writer: Richard Kadrey. Artists: The Pander Bros. Location: A bench in front of Pagliuca's.

    For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.
    Event-O-Dex XLIII
    There's a Blog Meetup that I can't make tonight, but it's exactly one week before the No. 1 Fun Boston Blog Bash that I'm organizing, it's a good time for a reminder. Media Dieticians everywhere are invited.
    Nervy, Pervy XII
    My Suicide Girls membership has been deactivated. When I went to log in and catch up on the discussions last night, my username wasn't recognized. When I entered my email address to make sure I was using the right password, I was informed that I wasn't a member. So I emailed the customer service address. This is what I got in response:

    i don't know what's up, i'm just a customer support lackey. you probably said something lame on the boards or something. sorry! happy trails.

    So I emailed Spooky directly, and this is what's going on:

    According to our records your last transaction did not go through at iBill, our old payment processor, due to a technical error on their part. If you would like to reactivate your account, simply go to join page and use the reactivation box to turn your account back on. In the future you will be billed directly by us, and these sort of errors should not repeat themselves.

    I apologize for the inconvenience, and hope you decide to remain a member of suicidegirls.

    Phew! I was wondering what I might have said or done that would prompt an arbitrary deactivation, but it seems that SG is moving its billing in house -- and that the transition hasn't gone as well as it could have. For a minute, my conspiracy-filled mind was doing cartwheels.
    Magazine Me XXV
    Judges for the American Society of Magazine Editors' National Magazine Awards gathered yesterday to select the finalists. To be announced later today, here are most of the finalists, hastily scribbled down during the judging:

    General Excellence: Under 100,000
  • American Scholar
  • Chronicle of Higher Education
  • Foreign Policy
  • JD Jungle
  • STEP Inside Design

    General Excellence: 100-250,000
  • Architectural Record
  • Harper's
  • Mother Jones
  • Nylon
  • [One more]

    General Excellence: 250-500,000
  • National Geographic
  • Saveur
  • Skiing
  • W
  • [One more]

    General Excellence: 500-1,000,000
  • Atlantic Monthly
  • Conde Nast Traveler
  • Esquire
  • House and Garden
  • New Yorker

    General Excellence: 1-2,000,000
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • ESPN
  • Fortune
  • Real Simple
  • Vanity Fair
  • Discover

    General Excellence: 2 million and up
  • Newsweek
  • O
  • Parenting
  • Sports Illustrated
  • [One more]

    Web Site
  • Chronicle of Higher Education
  • National Geographic
  • Slate
  • [One more]

    Personal Service
  • Business Week
  • Money
  • My Generation
  • Newsweek
  • Outside

  • Atlantic Monthly
  • Newsweek
  • New Yorker
  • Sports Illustrated

    Public Interest
  • Golf for Women
  • Texas Monthly
  • Newsweek
  • National Review
  • Harper's
  • Atlantic Monthly

    Feature Writing
  • GQ
  • New Yorker
  • Harper's
  • Men's Journal
  • Outside

  • Fortune
  • The Nation
  • New York
  • New Yorker
  • Vanity Fair

  • American Scholar
  • Atlantic Monthly
  • New Yorker
  • Self
  • Vanity Fair

  • Atlantic Monthly
  • Harper's
  • New Yorker
  • Vanity Fair

  • Atlantic Monthly
  • GQ
  • Harper's
  • Outside
  • Sports Illustrated

  • Conde Nast Traveler
  • Elegant Bride [?]
  • National Geographic
  • Vanity Fair
  • [One more]

  • Details
  • Dwell
  • Esquire
  • Nest
  • Surface

    Single Topic
  • GQ
  • Popular Science
  • Scientific American
  • Tech Review
  • Texas Monthly

  • Book
  • Georgia Review
  • New Yorker

    Leisure Interests
  • Esquire
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Vogue
  • National Geographic Adventure
  • Time Out New York
  • Tele-Phony III
    Two cell phone models manufactured by Siemens can be disabled if the user opens a text message containing specific language. The two models affected are sold only in Europe.

    The e-mails contain a single word, taken from the phone's language menu, surrounded by quote marks and preceded by an asterisk, such as "*English" or "*Deutsch," Siemens said.

    This makes me wonder whether all cell phones have such back doors or ways phone makers, government and law officials, or other people can deactivate or limit our access to and use of our cell phones. Paranoid? Sure feels like it.

    Thanks to Lost Remote.
    Business Media Reportage Goes Bust, Now Boom? IV
    BusinessWeek's working on a "dramatic" redesign that could hit the stands as early as this summer.

    "It has a lot more pop," said one person who has seen the work. "It gets rid of the spindly, spinster look."

    Hmm. I can barely wade through the thing every week. Maybe this'll help!

    Thanks to Jim Romenesko's Media News.

    Tuesday, March 18, 2003

    Event-O-Dex XLII
    What is up with March 29 this year? Regardless of where you might find yourself, chances are good that there's a good independent media gathering afoot. Here are just a few:

    Boston: Beantown Zinetown 6

    San Francisco: 8th Annual Anarchist Book Fair

    Toronto: Toronto Comic Arts Festival

    Sheesh. Do I stay home? No. I'll be heading up to Toronto to hang out with Jim Munroe of No Media Kings and to check out the fest. The Highwater Books hoi polloi -- Marc Bell, Tom Devlin, Megan Kelso, Brian Ralph, and Ron Rege, Jr. -- will also be present. Should be a fun time. Perhaps I'll even blog it like I did SXSW.
    Among the Literati XXVIII
    Jeffrey LeRoy Boison recently stepped down as editor of the hip-lit journal Pindeldyboz "to raise his heir so that the Boison name might someday rule all of the earth." Whitney Pastorek will replace him as editor. Big shoes to fill, given that Boison founded Pindeldyboz and all. Best of luck, Whittlz!
    Workaday World XXIII
    With the overcast skies and turn toward the cold in Boss Town today, I was feeling pretty down and mopey earlier today. I was feeling sad, even. Then I talked with Seth Godin on the phone for awhile, and our conversation picked me right up. New directions, new ideas, new people. I've got my twitch on again. Woohoo!
    Workaday World XXII
    Lately, I've become fast friends with Chuck, the current security guard for the Scotch & Sirloin building. Since we learned each others' names, he's greeted me by name every single time he's seen me. Having worked in the security and building management industry for 14 years, Chuck's working here to get out of the house -- and "away from my wife during the day." He's retired military, and he's organized his work load so he's busy for six of the eight hours on the job. Most of the time, security work might be four hours of work during an eight-hour day. He reads when he has free time, and if his wife weren't out of work, he'd go back to school in political science and history. He's only got 18 credits left, he says.

    But the excitement today is that they're fixing the windows in the Scotch & Sirloin building. The building management company spent the last five months securing a contractor for the project, and it looks like it's about to start. In the building, there are two kinds of windows. An older, single-pane style, and a newer, double-pane style. They're going to replace all of the single-pane windows and make sure that the new windows are up to snuff. Of the 380-odd windows in the building, about 160-plus are old. On our floor, there are about 45 old windows. I just checked my window now, and it's a new window, double paned with a 3/4-inch silver strip in between the panes. So they won't be climbing all over my desk.

    How many windows per floor? I'm glad you asked because I wanted to do the math. If there are 380 windows in the building, with nine floors, that's about 92 windows per floor. If 45 windows in our office are old, that means that they'll replacing about half of them. That's quite an undertaking.

    And I wouldn't have known about it were it not for my new friend Chuck.
    The Free-Range Comic Book Project
    This is the first installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project.

    100 Bullets #13 (DC/Vertigo, August 2000). Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: Eduardo Risso. Location: A park bench in the North End.

    For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.

    Monday, March 17, 2003

    March Is the Month of the Prominent Crotch
    You might already know that March is Women's History Month. And if you read advertising circulars in the Sunday newspaper, you might also know that March is Frozen Food Month. But if you take some time to flip through the March 2003 issue of Interview magazine, it quickly becomes clear that March is also the Month of the Prominent Crotch. Let's spread ourselves out and take a look, shall we?

    Not too far into the book, we come across a two-page Prada spread. Here, a male model wearing an awkward knit sweater, lei, and almost-tartan skirt ensemble raises his left knee to the sky and bunches his eyebrows forward in a glower as if to say, "Look at me! You lookin' at me?" A mere eight pages later, we have a two-page Donna Karan spread in which a well-dressed and high-heeled model with no undershirt demurely knocks her knees while she reads what appears to be an academic journal or book of scientific abstracts. This is perhaps the most tasteful and teasing shot of the crotch in this issue, softcore for randy R&D kids.

    On the following page, an oiled-up Dior model flashes the swell of her breast while swooning against a blood-red rubber wall, clutching at her pelvic region with the hand not holding her steady. Eyes closed and lips parted, the model seems to be losing consciousness: "I should eat," she thinks. Six more pages in, Dolce & Gabbana goes ga-ga glancing at a full-frontal crotch shot of a woman spreading her legs for a handheld video camera. Surrounded by no fewer than 10 monitors and two cameras, this is self-mediated crotch prominence at its best. Another showing swell of breast hints that this model is much more than just a crotch. Let's not pigeonhole these people, please.

    On p. 70, a 1990 Herb Ritts photograph shows Madonna clutching at her crotch, indicating that the crotch knows no class boundaries. Everyone's got a crotch. P. 77 sports a Matthew Barney advertisement in which a pale-skinned, bee-hived model spreads her legs for the camera's eye too, demurely and delicately crossing her unringed and uncalloused hands in front of her bared crotch. "Don't go there! Oh, whatever, come on," her eyes seem to beckon tiredly. On p. 94, a slightly out-of-focus tennis ball hovers in front of -- and partially obscuring -- Buddhist athlete Paradorn Srichaphan's crotch. A Bebe advert on p. 109 displays another full-frontal crotch shot. And on p. 167, a fashion shoot by Kelly Klein highlights yet another full-frontal, spread-legged male crotch rocket. Clad in a silk robe, our near-prone hero has dangled a string of pearls over his midriff. "Barbara Bush has got nothing on me."

    But it is the Gucci ad placed just one page before the magazine's masthead that has brows a-sweating, angry pens a-writing, and tongues a-wagging. It is also this advert that successfully secures March's position as the Month of the Prominent Crotch. The Guardian has yawned at the ad's daring and slightly dangerous display of pubic hair shaved into the shape of a capital "g." MarketingWeb's Kim Penstone has asked whether Gucci has gone too far. And Adland has also addressed the controversy surrounding the ad.

    It's interesting that this advert hit the stands just before wannabe Boston brahmin began to bawl about a barely bawdlerized FCUK advert insert in the Boston Globe this Sunday. In today's newspaper, the Globe's ombudsman -- or woman, as the case may be -- Christine Chinlund takes it on the chin and collapses under the weight of reader complaint faster than any of the lingerie-clad models would have fallen for one of their male (or female) counterparts. I have no problem with FCUK's naming or branding strategy -- as long as they fess up to the value and vigor of the probable pun.

    But Gucci. Whither Gucci? When I first heard about the ad, I was shocked. Shocked. Pubic hair on parade in a newsstand magazine? Then I saw the ad. And you know what? I have no problems with it whatsover. It's hardly titillating, and the male model kneeling before the G-shaved girly girl seems more bemused and confused than aroused. There's little sense of what comes next. So the fantasy hangs in the air and we are left to turn the page and our attention elsewhere -- and to other prominent crotches. Counter to Chinlund's unnecessary concession that the Boston Globe is a family publication -- what daily newspaper shouldn't strive to be so? -- Interview has no such limitation. While a pale shadow of what I think Andy Warhol envisioned, Interview is quite similar to the previous iteration of Details magazine, a periodical focusing on gloss, fashion, and celebrities -- all the while embracing an intriguing queer angle to everything it does.

    I think instituting March as the Month of the Prominent Crotch is a fine idea. And I salute Interview for holding the banner so high. Because that way, we can see people's pelvises more prominently.
    Music to My Ears XXX
    A three-pack of new record reviews!

    The Hardwood Brothers "Hardwoods on Humpnight" (Hardwood)
    This is a pre-release version of a live recording made at the Dutchman Inn in Houston. Why pre-release? "We're still trying to figure out the names of some of these tunes, who wrote them, and how to pay royalties!" What we have here are 27 songs performed by the Hardwood Brothers, a five piece playing acoustic guitar, upright bass, harmonica, baritone saxophone, and fiddle. Some of the pieces are covers, and some are originals, and the overall effect is one of Lady and the Mant by way of Harmonious Wail or the Gomers if they were into bluegrass and country swing. While the band comes off as primarily a joke band, their playing is surprisingly adept, and I'm curious where they could go if they took themselves just a little more seriously. Regardless, the CD captures an extremely enjoyable 80 minutes of what must be a great live show. Highlights include Lennon and McCartney's "I've Just Seen a Face," Merle Haggard's "Sing Me Back Home," the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil," and the silly song "D.I.V.O.R.C.E.E." The on-stage banter is friendly, and the Hardwoods' interaction with the crowd is playful. Worth catching live if you can, for sure!

    The Movielife Selections from "Forty Hour Train Back to Penn" (Drive-Thru)
    I usually avoid reviewing samplers because labels really should send full releases to get a proper review, but this is impressive enough to warrant comment. This "limited edition" CD comprises four songs from the Movielife's new album: "Face or Kneecaps," "Jamestown," "Spanaway," and "Takin' It Out and Choppin' It Up." Based in Long Island, the band suffered a setback in a near-fatal van accident a couple of years ago, and these four songs recorded after the wreck indicate that they haven't broken stride one bit. The first track is an earnest, melodic number that eschews emo leanings for energy and some nice angular guitar work. "Jamestown," the source of the album's title, chronicles the band's almost unfortunate end. The third song features some interesting multi-tracked harmonies by lyricist and vocalist Vinnie Caruana, as well as some subtle piano work. We'll see what the liner notes share, but the press release that accompanied this promotional mailing serves up sone of the positive aftermath of the accident -- a benefit concert featuring the Reunion Show and support from the label to get up and running again. And run Movielife does. The closing track is a fast-paced pleaser with an infectiously humorous chorus. Well done, and way to recover. It's good to see such survival and support in the scene. And if the full length is as solid as this four-song teaser, it should be a great record. But who knows? These could be the four best songs.

    Terror "Lowest of the Low" (Bridge 9)
    Featuring former members of Buried Alive and Carry On, this aggro hardcore five piece has done recent tour duty with Biohazard and Madball. So their shouted, mosh-tinged hardcore comes as no surprise. What does come as a surprise is how angry Terror is. Oh, plenty of metal-influenced hardcore bands are angry, but what is Terror so angry about? Nailing their frustration down is a challenge because Terror's expression of anger is largely an exercise in negative self-definition. Terror takes a stand against pretense, insincere assistance, unrequested support, and, well, a lot of things. At the same time, Terror takes no stands for anything, and their message is mostly one of reaction in a vacuum. This makes the record somewhat sad rather than empowering. Every song expresses frustration and displeasure with how things are, contends that the primary speaker in the songs is alone and has no support -- while avoiding statements of helplessness, however -- and paints a bleak picture of the lyricist's self-esteem and -image -- despite his self-sufficiency. So there's no hope here. Perhaps Terror reflects the isolation and dissatifaction of others, but in the end, if you stand against everything, what do you stand for? Hopefully Terror will tire of tearing everything down and refusing to take the responsibility to create their own future. Then, perhaps, we can build something more positive and productive in its place. As things are, this record is good background music for the disaffected. But it's far from a call to arms.
    The Movie I Watched Last Night LX

    Saturday: The Twilight Zone
    In "A Passage for Trumpet," which originally aired May 20, 1960, Jack Klugman plays a down-on-his-luck, alcoholic trumpet player who waits in the back alley of a nightclub to persuade an old friend to let him play. His character's monologue on the meaning of his music and how half of his language is inside his horn is wonderful. But the scene in which he notices that the trumpet he just sold for $8.50 is now in the pawn shop window priced $25 is quite sad. While the purgatory sequence is fun, the ending is slightly disappointing. Still, a good episode with an interesting Angel Gabriel cameo. "Mr. Dingle, the Strong" originally aired March 3, 1955, and is a silly twist on the Willy Loman story. Burgess Meredith plays an inept, cowardly vacuum cleaner salesman who is embued with superhuman strength by two horribly costumed aliens. Meredith's stutter contradicts his strength well, but all in all, the episode isn't that great. Still, it's neat to see Meredith tear a phonebook in half. The dramatic and fey TV announcer with the unplugged but oft-used microphone is a highlight, as is Meredith's growing confidence until his anticlimactic end. Don Rickles' presence is appreciated. The third episode on the DVD, "Two," which originally aired Sept. 15, 1961, has a great opening line: "This is a jungle, a monument built by nature commemorating disuse." After a slightly more interesting title sequence, we are presented with the story of a city that's been abandoned for five years after enemy foot troops land on Earth. Two survivors, one male, one female -- including a young Charles Bronson -- have to determine the future of both of their races. "There are no longer any armies, just rags of different colors that were once uniforms." A good episode to watch on the day the Stand up for Peace rally was held along Massachusetts Avenue. Lastly, "The Four of Us Are Dying" originally aired Jan. 1, 1960. Perhaps the darkest and most twisted take on the human condition on this DVD, the episode features a man who can change his facial features at will. He impersonates several people who have disappeared, tinkering with the lives and loves of those who remain behind. Then he adopts the persona of a boxer to escape some thugs in an alley -- only to encounter the boxer's estranged father, and his own strange end. Rod Serling-era Twilight Zone episodes rock.

    Sunday: Sneakers
    Movies like this give me hope that Dan Aykroyd isn't a washed-up has been. In fact, for a movie about computer hacking and cryptography, this movie's cast comprises a surprising number of stars: Aykroyd, Robert Redford, a young River Phoenix, and Sidney Poitier. A Ghostbusters-like clutch of cryptographers, hackers, and cat burglars are enlisted to recover a little black box that can break any code. Redford's character has a countercultural past from his days at Harvard (That was the Widener Library, wasn't it?), and the team quickly learns that they were hired by people who weren't as they claimed. So they decide to try to reclaim the box. It's a fun movie that casts security hacking in a surprisingly sensitive light circa 1992, and the mystery is convoluted enough that you're kept guessing for much of the movie. In the end, the hackers win, of course, but it's sure fun getting there. Ben Kingsley plays a wonderful misguided, evil genius. And the scene in which the blind Whistler -- played by David Strathairn -- commandeers a van to save the day is a one to root for. Surprisingly good, and it's held up well for the last 10-plus years.
    Games People Play VII
    Just in time for St. Patrick's Day: LepreKong 2!
    Music to My Eyes XIII
    Handstand Command now offers the entire Unstoppable Records' back catalog at a glance online. As the collective's third anniversary -- and the CD release party for the Anchormen's forthcoming CD, "Nation of Interns" -- nears, we're fondly recalling our collective past. Catch up with some of the Handstand history and take a short walk down memory lane with us.
    Interlude: South by Southwest 2003 XXI
    Some found text from Aus-Town:

    My welcome to Rick's house

    Found on the sidewalk in front of the convention center

    On the flip side

    Friday, March 14, 2003

    Workaday World XXI
    What a day! I stayed up not too late last night -- but definitely too lively. A bunch of us went out to the Drummer and Paddy Burke's, and while I was home by 11:30 last night, I was a little slow and mopey this morning. Following the relaunch of the CoF Web at the end of January, today was the deadline for members to confirm their involvement. I emailed the people who haven't yet confirmed their memberships a deactivation notice earlier today, and I've been working on customer service emails as a result for a large part of the day.

    I also spent time researching and considering the entries for this year's Webby Awards. As the Communitt category chair, I worked with a qualified team of nominating judges. It's not been as tightly connected or collaborative a team as we've had for the last few years, but I'm pleased with my final five suggestions for nominees. We'll see what the others vote on for the final mix!

    It''s 5:40, and the sun's still out. Spring's a poppin'!

    I hope.

    Thursday, March 13, 2003

    South by Southwest 2003 XXI
    I have two more SXSW Interactive-related entries left in me. Then I need to let it go, get it behind me, and get back to Media Diet's usual business. One of the entries will be my wrapup of and commentary on the entire event's discussions, in which I'll draw connections between the different sessions I sat in on and try to make some conclusions.

    This is not that. This entry is a quick explanation of what I was trying to do, how it felt -- and how I think it went. These thoughts aren't fully formed, but I wanted to share a little glimpse of the process behind my SXSW reports. This is that.

    I've long been interested in what I consider Immediate Journalism. The Web reports I've filed during the last four annual Company of Friends Roadshows for Fast Company magazine are the outcome of my first experiments with Immediate Journalism.

    For the last four years, I've taken six weeks out of the office to cut a swath across part of the world. I stay with Fast Company readers in their homes. I visit two or three companies and organizations during the day. I gather with members of the local CoF groups in the evening. And I document everything I do, experience, and learn in almost-daily diary entries on the Web. People can follow me as I travel, and when I finally get back home after the six weeks, I write an essay highlighting the major themes that arose over the course of the trip.

    This experiment was slightly different. Highly inspired by Cory Doctorow's conference and panel reports in Boing Boing, I wanted to see how else this Immediate Journalism could be done. Cory's reports are relatively impressionistic compilations of what he considers the major points, ideas, and concepts of a given talk. I didn't want to copycat Cory, and I didn't want to compete with Cory, had he planned to file SXSW reports as he's done for other gatherings. So I could either go shorter. Or longer.

    I chose longer. I type really, really fast, so I was able to capture almost verbatim transcripts of what went on. Oh, I didn't catch everything, but I'm pretty sure I caught almost everything. But why go so long? Why strive to be such a completist? Many conference organizers opt to audio record the event's keynote speakers and breakout sessions. SXSW does not. And if we look at projects such as DharmaNet (for whom I've transcribed Buddhist texts in the past), the Open Pamphlet Series, and Big Sur tapes, the Left and counterculture has a long history of making talk transcripts, audio recordings, and interview-driven pamphlets widely available. The world of technology culture has no such parallel. If people are going to publish a pamphlet every time Noam Chomsky spits up soup, why aren't talks given by people such as Lawrence Lessig, Bruce Sterling, and others similarly captured, published, and distributed -- online or offline? We're losing an important part of our industry and culture's conversation and history. (That's not a slag on Chomsky, by the way.)

    Similarly, I just wanted to see if I could do it. And making such an effort to transcribe everything, typing real-time transcripts as the speakers spoke, lightly editing them, and publishing them -- most of the time -- mere minutes after a session ended really changed my experience of the event. While I like to think I was present and engaged with my friends outside of sessions, inside the breakout rooms, it was just me, what I heard, my head, my hands, and my PowerBook. It was kind of neat when I'd really get in the zone and almost fall away so I was typing automatically. I almost wasn't paying attention to what was being said. I wasn't ascribing any meaning to the sounds and words I was entering into the blank Word document. I wasn't really there.

    But it wasn't easy. While I'm not a trained stenographer -- lots of SXSW participants have asked -- and while my hands didn't really hurt at the ends of the days, my head did kind of hurt. When you're trying not to be present or actively engaged in a given situation, when you're only trying to document, project, and reflect what's happening, you get this thin feeling. You're fragile. Light like balsa wood. And it took some effort to come out of the near-fugue state to be present and in the moment again. For much of the conference I was distracted and inattentive. That was a weird state for me to be in -- actually, that's not totally true because I'm pretty hyper -- and if any of the people I hung out noticed or were bothered by it, I apologize.

    So. How'd it go? Great. I'll do it again. Response on site was amazing, and word quickly spread throughout the conference that I was documenting the talks so thoroughly. Some people made decisions on what sessions to go to based on what session I was going to go to. If I was going to publish a transcript of a given panel, people felt free to go elsewhere. That brings up some interesting traffic flow and attendance questions. I hope I didn't gut people's headcounts because I was there in the room. I also hope that Cory, who didn't report on much at SXSW -- but who has said he was busy in his own panels and sessions -- didn't choose not to take notes because I was. I have him and Boing Boing to thank for most of the people coming to Media Diet to read my SXSW reports. Boing Boing far and away drove more traffic to Media Diet over the last week than the other folks I've given shouts out to. That speaks well of Boing Boing's readership and influence.

    How was Media Diet traffic affected? Let's go to the traffic logs. Since I started doing Media Diet in June 2001, I've averaged about 100 readers -- unique visitors -- a day. Thank you, faithful Media Dieticians! But let's look at the last handful of days:

    March 7: 100
    March 8: 223
    March 9: 450
    March 10: 686
    March 11: 400
    March 12: 375
    March 13: 599 (as of 5:08 p.m.)

    Hopefully, some of y'all will decide to stick around. I've gotten several emails from people who weren't able to make it to Austin for the conference thanking me for the reports, and I think that response to date goes to show that if your blog or journalism is of widespread interest, extremely timely, and not replicated elsewhere, readers will follow. That's part of why I don't regularly blog stuff that's already hit Boing Boing, Blogdex, or Daypop. Don't just mimic the memes that are already reveling in the blogosphere. Do the new. People will pick up on it.

    What would I do differently? I'd let the speakers know what I wanted to do -- and get their verbal permission. A couple of people were slightly surprised that what they'd just said showed up on the Web so quickly after they finished saying it, and I apologize for the surprise. The good thing is that everyone felt like I accurately captured their remarks, so the concern of misreporting their comments was relatively low.

    OK. I think that's enough. I would like to thank some of the people who really made my SXSW Interactive experience worthwhile. This, then, is a potentially incomplete alphabetical thank-you list.

    Thank you: The 15 bus, Lauri Apple, Lane Becker, BookPeople, Ben Brown, Heather Champ, Joe Clark, Viki Collier, Michael Cruftbox, Cory Doctorow, Dudley Dog, Dan Gillmor, Heather Gold, Adam Greenfield, Scott Heiferman, Hiromi Hiraoka, James Hong, Don Jarrell, Kyle Johnson, Pableaux Johnson, Morris Johnston, Philip Kaplan, Will Kreth, Eric Lawrence, Jon Lebkowsky, Gordon Meyer, Monkeywrench, Jim Munroe, Jason Nolan, David Nunez, Anitra Pavka, Derek Powazek, Melissa Quackenbush, Theresa Quintanilla, Dana Robinson, Ana Sisnett, Kevin Smokler, Molly Steenson, Bruce Sterling, Sandy Stone, Toy Joy, Don Turnbull, Mike Wasylik, David Weinberger, Rick Weller, Nancy White, Evan Williams, and Amy Yan. If I forgot anyone, let me know. You all rock me like a hurricane.
    Corollary: Mention Me! XXXIV
    One more shout out, then I'll stop eyeing my reference logs.

  • Die Puny Humans

  • South by Southwest 2003 XX
    One last batch of SXSW Interactive reports. Nancy White took some great notes on Cliff Figallo's session Tuesday morning, which I missed. Here's Nancy's report, barely edited:

    Cliff Figallo: Putting Online Conversation to Work

    Attention is energy. If a small child is acting out, giving them attention gives energy to those behaviors. Online you have to pay attention to whom you are paying attention. Pay attention to negative behaviors, you "feed the energy creature."

    These are concepts we’ve put to work. Having a conversation you want to get things out of consider:

  • Who’s talking
  • Intentions
  • Commitment
  • Tolerance
  • Traction

    A productive conversation can only happen under certain conditions. Forcing people who don’t exhibit the right intention, commitment, tolerance -- sometimes you have to be selective as to who you invite. The Well said anyone with a modem, money and could navigate on, they could join. Everything else was up for grabs. Stuart Brand thought it would be good to have people with communal experience managing this thing rather than business or technological experience. There were tradeoffs there, but we did understand what it took for a community to be productive. In this case, be functional. We went through quite a learning phase in the first 5 years. Some people could inhibit others from participating in an online conversation. How can we make these things work when people who are more willing to join the conversation could dominate a conversation and send it off in directions that chase people away.

    We’ve learned a lot over the years. Now millions online who have experienced chat, online communities. Seen how they can work and be a total pain in the ass. It would keep people up at night on the well because there was such hope that people would join this group, writers, consultants who did not work with a team on a day by day basis. They had a hope that the well would thrive as a community. When someone came and tried to crash the party, they wanted us to throw them off, but we did not want to be the despots, the cops. We wanted the community to sort out it’s own problems. There were cases where we had to remove people because they were detractors from the conversation. It’s important to know who’s talking

    Intentional Community
    If you have an intention about a conversation in an organization or business. Shared sense of mission, purpose, ethos. It is then easier to solve problems. All aimed in the same direction and willing to tolerate each other. To listen as well as talk.

    Nardi, Whittaker and Schwarz called them "Intentional Networks’ PERSONAL Social networks. "We chose the term intentional to reflect the effort and deliberateness with which people construct and manage personal networks.

    In a conversation in NY last Fall, Listening to the City, a conversation about what to do with the site around ground zero. WHT TO do with that neighborhood, how to redevelop Manhattan. They had a 1 day F2F LARGE Meeting with tables of ten with facilitators and laptops who collected the conversational themes and feelings and fed them back to the larger group. Briefly they formed an intentional conversational community. All of their aims were tom come up with a good solution for where the WTC had been blown up. Even though they did not agree- some were strongly opinionated that it be a symbolic building that NY will not be defeated, we’ll put up something bigger. The final design is taller.

    We took this online the week after in groups of 30. Half with facilitators and half without facilitator. All could read each other’s conversations. Most of the groups that did not have an assigned facilitator, one rose from the ranks and took on that role to lead the conversation. It was quite and emotional couple of weeks. Some had lost close relatives, friends, involved in recover efforts, had seen the towers collapsed. Everyone had a strong emotion around it and willing to engage in the conversation. But there were differences between groups. Some people were tying to shout their positions down the throats of other people. We call them the tall towers people. Bu t there were other people who were victims family who said the memorial was most important. There were complaints that they were getting more than their representative voice. It wasn’t
    fair that their emotions were going to sway how things would developed.

    Mostly people were concerned about the trust that their input would be part of the decision. They hoped to have some effect on the decision makers. As it turned out it really did. The F2f conversation was widely reported as expressing strong disapproval to the initial plans. Based on that the publicity of getting this strong disapproval and sent everyone back to the drawing board. The online conversations contributed that yes it was important that the towers be tall and there be a memorial. And the chose design reflects this.

    Trust, Identity, Reputation
    These are concepts you see being talked about on the web. Software is being developed and put in to portal software. I was associated with a company called RealCommunities which had a flexible database where people could establish identity and a reputation management module. A lot of this stuff operates in our daily life according to where we trust people, what we know of their identity and reputation. When engaging in online conversations with people online you rely on many other factors to determine if it is worthwhile in engaging in the conversation. You are investing your time. Don’t want to feel like you’ve wasted it.

    What we found on the Well when we all came together, a bunch of people who didn’t know each other with just a bunch of words on a screen connecting. Came to a point when Howard Rheingold and Howard Mandel started a conference called "True Confessions." It was basically a place where people could write stories about themselves. Up until them people learned just what they learned about each other in conversations about politics, news, sports. That was valuable especially if you engaged in conversations across topics. A person in politics might be a flaming liberal and you were conservative, but in the parenting conference both have kids and shared experiences. A multidimensional relationship, the way it is in real life, we know each other from at least two different contexts. Helps us get a sense of what these people are. IN True CONFESSIONAS once they saw a bit more about each other’s background, it opened up the community. They knew this person was what they stood for, what they’d been through, why they were what they were.

    When you start a conversational community you will find different kinds of leaders. Founders who understand the mission, where the conversation is supposed to go, who was invited and why. The Implementers who actually start the conversations, comfortable with the tools, recognize what to do with the vision provided by the founders. The Sustainers hang in there. The facilitators, the challengers who keep volatility in the conversation and attract more people to it because conversations generally want to expand.

    Power Imbalances Destabilize
    Make it difficult for people to trust. Today’s world situation. People don’t necessarily want to go along. They don’t want the US to say not only are we the most wealthy, but powerful, military strength, democracy – and thus our vision is the most powerful vision. But will we be kept in our place. Will other nations keep their validity. France is digging in it’s heels. Other countries are digging in their heels.

    The Truth Will Out
    The internet has lent this whole other side to propaganda. You can’t keep a lid on things anymore. There will be other visions represented. Blogging, even though its in principle the same internet publishing model, we’re probably being blogged as we speak -- this element was not there when Berners-Lee put up the initial web pages. Blogging is now a medium, or an application of the medium, that allows many viewpoints to come together, cross represent each other, disagree with each other. A wide conversation that when used well in communities in trust -- which does nto mean you necessarily agree, but you understand where they are coming from, but as long as you believe they are speaking from the heart, you have a level of trust that they are a known element, not a maverick, one who spoofs you.

    In a conversation if the truth doesn’t out, if people don’t agree to speak truthfully, not a balance of weight in the conversation, and least everyone going in the same direction of having a productive conversation rather than shouting each other out. On the well we had "subtext" you could read a conversation and tell if there was dissatisfaction or lack of cred under the surface. People might not say it, but a vibe, of argument running below the surface. In an online discussion that happens on a company’s intranet you will find a lot of that. People are afraid to really express what they believe because their jobs at stake. If the company does not have a culture that encourage people to say what they believe, if people don’t’ feel they can say what they believe, it will still come across in refusal to participate or what you can read between the lines. People’s subconscious. Belief system at work that they did not want to express because it would create a hassle, an argument. But their subconscious will still come through in how they talked.

    Weinberger: Typical in business that there is an imbalance in power. What do you do to accommodate conversations?

    This is part of the problem with business culture and how it’s developed through the years. In the first couple of chapters of Building the KM Network, we run through a quick history of civilization and how we got through the industrial age, how orgs formed in a hierarchical sense built on a military model. Was not important what the lower ranks thought. Whoever was running the place held all the knowledge and wisdom, hired lower ranks with wisdom and now power. The net has broken into distributed non hierarchical model. Business has not caught up. They go through team building sessions and OD trying to enable a more open and distributed conversation, but still that power balance exists if the upper levels of management don’t participate in conversations that cut across the layers. At the Well it mattered that Steward Brand as founder of the Well participated. But he was sort of thin skinned. If anyone criticized his vision or suggestions, he didn’t stick around very long. We always wished that he would. He was initially a very vocal participant but when the hard questions started he did not feel it was necessary to answer them. That’s when the leadership model has to move on. When the founders and CEOS aren’t going to participate… now the customers are much more powered. They can talk to each other. They can talk about products through boards such as Epinions, online gatherings like on about their cars, and if the company is not going to be part of this conversation, its going to suffer from not getting, taking and using that feedback. I think not being a CEO and not choosing to work within a company as an employee, throwing rocks from over the wall as a consultant, my council is that companies have to evolve. Look at Enron and all these scandals. If these conversations aren’t enabled with in the company all kinds of things can take place. If they aren’t talking about it they see how it gets out of control. Companies, careers, 401Ks ruined. It’s hard to visualize what its like working in a co with tens of thousands of employees and how you get them started. But conversations start incrementally and can spread within organizations.

    Weinberger: Short of changing the ethos of the org, a big challenge, many companies would rather die than do that. Experience on the well, someone gets on where the power imbalance is wrecking the conversation, the answer to Brand is not step down from your role, but change your conversational behavior. Do you have advice or help for working within the conversation itself, short of changing the way businesses work?

    Tom: All the things you talk about operate in my world of online support groups. If you put a doctor in a conversation it changes the conversation. Just breast cancer survivors the conversation is more open and wide-ranging. In these communities you do not have the flames. A built in "we’re in this together and we need to help each other." Similar response to a disaster when you work with people you had not worked with before.

    What do you do about power imbalances? First acknowledge it. That there is that difference between the person who is operating from a higher rung on the ladder One of the people I worked with on the LTC forum came up with the idea of a "Full Value Contract." When a conversation is engaged, in this case online, that going into it everyone agrees that they are going to give full value to the conversation. They make an agreement going in that they are gong to listen, respect, do what they can to encourage each other to speak, not dominate the conversation, do everything they can to make the conversation as useful for ist purpose as they can. It’s a very important idea that you have an agreement, which formalizes the conversation more than they usually are. Usually more ad hoc. People set up a forum, invite people, a topic. But as far as any kind of social contract they have to evolve over time. On the Well we had "you own your own words" which was formulated to protect the well from liability but adopted as a rallying cry for personal copyright issues. Social contracts evolved by trial and error. When you go into a conversation you set up for a purpose, presenting everyone with some sort of contractually worded agreement can really help, especially where there is a power imbalance so everyone assumes an equal role, even with different levels of responsibility. If a biz is going to have an online discussion w/ CEO and higher folks, that they declare this is the way it is going to be. Not a George Bush press conf where you have to ask the right questions to get picked on.

    Question: Would you advocate to people with power to use an alias to make it a more egalitarian environment?

    I don’t that’s really what you are looking for. You are looking for true identity. If you use an alias that allows the person with the higher power position to act like a fly on wall, Joe Everyman and speak. It might be useful for them, but for everyone else, fi they don’t know this.

    I was thinking more of a person with some dominant power enters the conversation; it tends to polarize the conversation by dint of their identity. If you wanted exchange of content, not identity, it would make it a more level playing field.

    [Cliff asked Nancy what she thought. She talked about unintended consequences of anonymity and the importance of treating root issues at the root. Organizational warts just appear even bigger online.]

    It’s (anonymity) tempting. Does it create a false sense of security? What is the organization is about? An organization that does not operating to certain ideals in the offline world, online they have to be based in reality. We are proposing to do work with a company that is promoting the idea of the democratic workplace. They have models and theories and they want to start online discussion. There are plusses and minuses to the democratic workplace.

    Gonna rip through the rest of the presentation (clock ticking)

    Getting into an argument …saying if we oust Sadam Hussein it’s going to reduce terrorism and the others say increase and it goes around and around. You don’t’ want to spend time doing that. We’re in a loop and shoot for common ground. Sorting, looking for the exit point to looping conversations. Diplomacy, as we’re seeing, does not work all that great when it is relegated to national PR> What are the conversations that are really happening. People being diplomatic can lead to beating around the bush. Talk about the real stuff even if it is hard. You shouldn’t have to have to use diplomacy. Spit it out and say what you mean.

    Not getting Work Done
  • Diplomacy -- communications out of network
  • Politics and
  • Gaming and competition (winners and losers is not what getting work done is about. It’s about achieving and cooperating
  • Gratuitous complexity -- run in to it a lot. With intranet development. We’ve done this and this -- really good business for software consulting development, but it delays getting conversations done via email lists or simple discussion tools. A lot of companies are seeing people use IMs because they need it and it works

  • Reveal all motives
  • Agree on a vision
  • Share the floor (keep posts to reasonable length)
  • No praise, no blame (comes out of the communal era -- don’t heap praise on people all the time. When you praise one and others don’t get it, this creates difference much like blame. Keep even keep for appreciating and thanking for contributions. Don’t get excessive.
  • No free riders -- people should not benefit from a conversation if they don’t’ support it. Tom, we see 80% are readers but they benefit from it. IN an online health support community, they want to see what other people are saying. That is a different context. To solve something then they should all be contributing.
  • Hooray for progress -- praise the progress you have all made. Make sure everybody notes it to encourage continued participation.

  • What’s the best tool for online conversations?
  • I began with asynchronous message boards and certain features of these boards were key. You could always look up who people were. ON well you could always look up people. Have seen effective email lists, newsgroups, and today blogs are incredibly powerful, especially if Dave Weinberger, who was here earlier, is a model of how somebody who has attained credibility, a very good interesting entertaining writer, connected with other people and they quote and point -- has created this huge, expanded conversation. Blogs can be used by companies, CoPs, as a very powerful medium for linking in not only other peoples comments, but current information. I read Dave’s Blog like I read the NYTimes on the web. Sometimes he’s talking about his family, a convergence, an idea. He forms a core of a specialize conversation that’s happening across many areas. He’s an integrator. Serving as a great model. Bruce Sterling has his Viridian list about global warming. He calls himself the Pope of the list, sole publisher, but includes many people who are related and creates a distributed conversation. Our approach as we get more sophisticated we have a range of tools, skills and publishing models that are happening.
  • Q: I work for a national nonprofit and part of the charter is to create an online community, but there’s difficulty because there is a Federally project there tends to be a lot of moderator censoring. Difficult to get the free flowing conversations going. Before things are even put online. Self defeating situation
  • A: That’s the thing about getting funding. If part of the funding proposal does not specify that censorship is not part of the people, once people realize if they say something that crosses the power, then the funding disappears. You have to question how much you are going to accomplish. There’s a lot of power in open discussions.