Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Music to My Eyes XVI
Promotional photographs of bands and musicians have long been a dark spot on the face of pop music. Outside of reproduction in alt.weeklies as part of the show listings, they're practically useless and more often than not make the bands and musicians look bad -- rather than good, as they're intended to do. Similar to the stilted mug shots of executives PR agents send business media, they're almost always sent straight to the recycling bin. So why even make them?

Because we can. The Anchormen had a lot of fun during our last promo photo shoot. We drank Yoohoo at tables near the Alewife T station. Played with Chinese children. Jumped around in a sculpture garden. And ran laps at Tufts University. We also had a lot of fun shooting a music video which didn't turn out so well because the, well, the lens was smudged. That still doesn't mean they're useful.

In the Portland Mercury, one of the scrappier alt.weeklies, Julianne Shepherd offers some tips and tricks to making a band promo photo. She also deconstructs some good and not-so-good examples, offering snarky comments and catty slams along with her advice.


Thanks to Blanketfort.
Blogging About Blogging LVI
The 2003 nominees for the Webby Awards were announced today. I was the chair for the panel of nominating judges in the community category, and I'm quite pleased with the five nominees we selected. Feel free to cast your vote in the People's Voice!
Off-Site Insight III
It was almost exactly a year ago to the day that I last felt like I do today. Maybe this is an annual phase I should get used to. Maybe this ties into the Easter story of death and rebirth. Maybe I should've paid more attention to what I learned last year when I headed up to Maine for Easter weekend to get away from the city and my life here -- and deeper inside myself. Then, I really needed to get away. I was in fight or flight mode. This year, it's slightly different, but pretty much the same feeling. An existential explosion of sorts. And I think I understand it better this time.

The world is an uncertain, unstable place right now. We're at war. The economy's awful. There are a lot of pending changes at work. My personal life is less than satisfying. I haven't been making the wisest decisions in a lot of ways lately. I feel out of control, and I realized this morning that I've been waiting for something bad to happen to wake me up and pull me back from whatever brink I've been nearing. Why wait? If this malaise and occasionally self-destructive distraction is rooted in not feeling in control, I need to reclaim some of that control.

So what can I control? Let's start with the little things. This morning I threw out a pack of cigarettes and took out the trash. I've done that before and I may do it again, but there is absolutely no reason to smoke -- and so many reasons not to. I got into work a little late but in time to have lunch with my dear friend Hiroyasu Ichikawa, who's visiting Boston before heading home to Japan this weekend. The Fast Company office was one of his first stops when he moved here five years ago, and he wanted it to be one of the last before he headed back to work with the World Ship for Youth project. We shared time and table over soup and sandwiches at Mangia Mangia. That is something else I can control. I've gotten quite lazy with eating lately, often skipping breakfast and lunch for an extremely light dinner. And I think it's starting to take its toll. So, three square meals a day from here on out! Why is that so hard?

What else can I control? My stuff. I wax and wane feeling nested or claustrophobic on Church Corner in Cambridge, and I need to purge a little in the name of spring cleaning. Today I mailed five (5) mystery novels to my grandmother and about six (6) James Bond and Powerpuff Girls video tapes to my sister. I have a couple of DVD's I'm going to sell on Amazon or Ebay. And I need to get rid of some of the lifestyle ballast that's dragging me down.

There are other things I need to reign in a little on, but I think this is enough as I start this renewed self-improvement kick. I don't know if others feel like this, but these days are all about control. If you feel lost or out of control, focus on and control what you can. Claim the life that is yours.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Shay's Whine Bar II
Huh. Boston Common, the Boston blogs metablog, riffs on my experience at Shay's in two entries recently.

Just to be clear. It was a mistake. Word is that they feel bad. Dana's awesome. It's a cozy place.

That doesn't mean that I've gone back yet.
Mention Me! XXXV
I think this is the nicest thing anyone's said about me in a long time. Warren Ellis wrote that I'm a "clever little bastard."

Adam Greenfield's First International Moblogging Conference is coming together nicely, and if I decide that I'd rather go to Tokyo for the gathering than spend time with my family in Wisconsin for my dad's birthday, I'll be in Japan sharing what I've learned about Mapblogging.

Yay. I'm a clever little bastard.
Comic Books and Commerce II
Dave Arnold of Mark's Rare Comics (That's kind of like a man named Lam running a store called Bob's!) in Saratoga, California, recently sent me a white paper entitled "10 Methodologies for Collecting Comic Books." You can email him for a copy of the PDF if you'd like to check it out.

Having just read the four-page primer for potential comic book collectors, I'm torn. On one hand, I think beginner's guides like this indicate a lot of what's wrong with the state of the comic book publishing and retailing industries. On the other hand, the authors step back from several of the more egregious collecting traps. Given my Free-Range Comic Book Project, you may already know where I stand on the topic of "collecting" comic books. If you don't, here's the short form: No bags, no boards, open boxes.

Comic books are meant to be read. And shared. Most of the methodologies featured in this white paper skew more toward the collecting and keeping side of the equation, and that bothers me. It doesn't matter whether an artist or writer is "highly collectible." Do you like their work? Do you need more, regardless of whether they are a "superstar"? Why care about issue numbers at all? If a first issue isn't worth reading, it's not worth getting or owning, and given Marvel's renumbering scheme over the course of the years, I think it's clear that lower numbers don't necessarily indicate better reads.

Budget-price? Now you're talking. Quarter and dollar bins are worth pawing through if you've got the time -- and if you don't mind getting your fingertips dusty. Already, the box of 200 back issues I bought for the Free-Range Comic Book Project has yielded some real finds. The Pander Bros. Akiko. That said, saying that the quarter bin is "a good place to start collecting if you don't know what to collect and want to actually 'read' your comic books" rubs me the wrong way. Is "read" in quotes for emphasis? Or for sarcasm? If you don't read, don't collect. It's as simple as that. Same goes for their comments on condition. They play up the possibility of reselling comics but do mention that if you collect for a sentimental reason -- which still isn't as good as, say, reading for enjoyment -- condition matters less. Regardless, I shudder when I think about condition grades, bags, boards, and boxes. "Slabbing the books in plastic" kills comics. My comics are reading copies, but that doesn't mean that they're all dinged up.

In the end, it's hard for me to be totally disappointed in this slim guidebook for new comics readers. The authors contend that speculation and investment is the "worst way to collect comic books," which earns them some credit. Remember the death of Superman. And they close the list with some thinking about fun. Right on, but the point isn't that fun is the "best way to collect comics." The point is that reading comics can be fun. That you should read comics you enjoy. And that you should, well, read comics instead of collecting them.

When will someone write a white paper titled "10 Methodologies for Reading Comic Books"?
Happy Birthday to Media Dieticians XII
My sister turns 33 Wednesday, and I decided to get her a gift certificate at a local business in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. I would've sent flowers, as spring is coming, but I think this is a more useful present. Kudos to the Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce for offering a member directory online. The directory made it quite easy to do business with the local company earlier today. It's nice to see such a small town -- Fort's got a population of about 10,000 -- using the Web to good effect.
From the In Box: Among the Literati XXX
Some thoughts on your stories in Uber:
Story #1: I'm 52, and my partner is 48. We don't worry about rubber bands, but we do worry about small things. We try to assure they are hip small things.
Story #2: I've always thought that those inland gulls were fish deliverer trailer-truck stowaways. Tired of surf, maybe they are looking for turf (chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits). I know it’s a silly theory, but hey, I’m sure even John Nash had the occasional silly theory.
Story #3: Brilliant.
-- J.D. Finch

Thanks for the kind words! People have responded to those rather immediate short, short stories relatively well, and I've already written several more. It's the first fiction I've written since 1994, and it feels pretty good.
Blogging About Blogging LV
Media Dieticians Mr. and Mrs. Sizzle were featured in a New Haven Register article about area bloggers Sunday.

Thanks to Bradley's Almanac.
Among the Literati XXXI
Bob Hoover weighs in on the new McSweeney's-related cultural criticism journal, Believer. So doing, he manages to comment on the state of literary critique and culture writ large. While I've yet to see a copy of Believer, I'm quite excited about this new David Eggers-connected project. Has anyone read it yet? Comments?

Thanks to Moby Lives.
Corollary: Business Media Reportage Goes Bust, Now Boom? VII
More on Fast Company's hire of John Byrne:

Fast Co. Spirits Away a Top BW Talent
Byrne's mandate: Make title a big-league player

Fast Company Names Byrne as Editor

Magazine to Leave Hub for N.Y.
(This Saturday Boston Globe article isn't freely accessible online.)

Corollary: Workaday World XXVI

The transcript of my Spirituality.com chat is now available. I haven't read all of it yet, but I seem to make some sense.
Television-Impaired XI
I watched the first episode of Twin Peaks again last night. Actually, it's the second episode, the first full episode of the first season following the pilot movie. Does that make sense? Anyway, Laura Palmer's Secret Diary exists as a blog interspersing entries from her day book and quotes from the series. The quotes indicate what episode they're taken from. A nice blog project blending fictional personal journaling and meta-media context.

Thanks to Evhead.
See You in the Funny Pages IX
Joey Manley, mastermind behind the growing online comics clearinghouse, Modern Tales, has launched a new comics service aimed at female readers and creators. Girlamatic features work by Andre Richard, Jason Thompson, Donna Barr, Kris Dresen, and others. A nice addition to MT and Serializer. It'll be interesting to see how much further Joey can take this market segmentation and fragmentation. The focus is nice, but now that I subscribe to three of his services, I'm wondering whether I'd rather just pay for one umbrella service.
The Movie I Watched Last Night LXIII
Hooray for Robert Altman. Practically everything he touches, including this 1970 movie prevursor to the TV show by the same name, is golden. As a movie, this film is amazing. The idea alone -- following the foibles and follies of a medical unit three miles from the frontlines of the Korean War -- is interesting. But what Altman and the cast do with the concept, balancing seriousness and high silliness, is even more important. This movie shows people at their best and worst during wartime, showing that people can care for the wounded even if they don't always care for each other... or themselves. A couple of scenes stick out, but I was most affected by the last supper-like so long to the best-equipped dentist in the army, who wanted to commit suicide (the inspiration for the movie and TV show's theme song). Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould stand out as Hawkeye and Trapper John, but Tom Skerritt's Duke character is almost a throwaway. David Arkin's PA announcer riffs are hesitant and occasionally hilarious, especially the movie screening announcement at the end, an announcement for the film that just ended. A nice Altman meta moment. The movie is also interesting for its spillover effect. MASH the movie inspired MASH the TV show, one of the longest-running series on the air. I ran eight years longer than the Korean War itself. And MASH the TV show spun off Trapper John, M.D.. (We'll neglect another spin-off, AfterMASH.) Good to finally see where some of television's finest history started. And good to know that the original source is solid, silly, and serious, all at the same time.
Event-O-Dex XLIX
April 9: Clare Burson CD release show at Club Passim in Cambridge. Door opens at 6:30 p.m., show starts at 8. LJ Booth opens.

April 10: Scrapple plays a Mister Records showcase at the Choppin' Block in Boston.
The Free-Range Comic Book Project XII
This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project.

Sunday: Batman: Gotham Adventures #26 (DC, July 2000). Writer: Scott Peterson. Artist: Tim Levins. Location: On the Red Line between Central and Harvard squares.

Notable quote: "You all know who I am. You know what I can do. But I'm holding a small child here. And if you make me do anything that could possibly endanger this baby... You will be very, very sorry. Forever."

Monday: Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #95 (DC, June 1997). Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Artist: Anthony Williams. Location: On the Green Line between Park Street and Haymarket.

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

Friday, April 04, 2003

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

The Batman Chronicles #21 (DC, Summer 2000). Writers: The Pander Bros., Brian Michael Bendis, and Jordan B. Gorfinkel. Artists: The Pander Bros., Michael Gaydos, and Dick Giordano. Location: On the Green Line between Haymarket and Park Street.

For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.
Business Media Reportage Goes Bust, Now Boom? VI
Fast Company announced the hire of its new editor in chief today. John Byrne is a great choice! His work on "Superman: Man of Steel" was absolutely beautiful, even if his "Next Men" series was a little lackluster. Wait. You mean that there's another John Byrne?
Pieces, Particles XIV
The following media-related stories recently spotted in print publications might be worth a look. Heads and decks, only. Heads and decks.

30 Reasons AOL Time Warner Lost Almost $100 Billion in a Year, GQ, April 2003

The Art of War by John Colapinto, Rolling Stone, April 17, 2003
There may not be any great protest songs on the radio, but these five young political cartoonists are bringing the noise of dissent to America

Basement Jacks by Don Tapscott, Enroute, March 2003
These days, anyone with a song in their head can produce a slick-sounding CD in the comfort of their own home -- even if they can't play a single note.

Blender's 10 Commandments for Saving the Record Industry!, by Joe Fleischer, Blender, April 2003 (?)

CGE Reading Program Bridges the Gap, Wizard #140

Consumers in the Mist by Alison Wellner, Inc., April 2003
For real insights into your clients, hire an anthropologist

Et Tu, Punk by Robin Vaughan, The Boston Phoenix, March 21, 2003
The Explosion, Clint Conley, and Hilken Mancini find their own way

An Eye for the Ladies by Lisa Eisner and Roman Alonso, The New York Times Magazine, March 30, 2003
Those who call him a misogynist don't know R. Crumb.

Exposing a Phony Photo, National Geographic, April 2003
NGS website tells all

Front Page News by Paisley Strellis, YM, April 2003
In the town of Itasca, TX, it's up to the high school students to get the paper out.

Get Your Browser On! by Stephen Burt, The New York Times, March 30, 2003
The independent voice of online comics

He Takes a Village by John Anderman, The Boston Globe, March 29, 2003
Fort Apache's Gary Smith looks to create a music hub in Vermont

Homes for the Homeless -- Books by David Desjardins, The Boston Globe, March 30, 2003
A woman recycles unwanted volumes

How to Draw on a Wall by Christine Temin, The Boston Globe, March 23, 2003
It's art that gets erased. Making it is more complicated than you'd think.

A Movement Yes, but No Counterculture by John Leland, The New York Times, March 23, 2003

On the Road and On-Line by Stacy Kunstel, Yankee, April 2003
MIT's hotel in the heart of Cambridge marries high tech with high design.

Politics in Play by Elizabeth Jozwiak, Wisconsin Magazine of History, Spring 2003
Socialism, free speech, and social centers in Milwaukee

Popaganda by Michael Barson, Entertainment Weekly, April 4, 2003

Radio Network Bonds Farmworker Community by Dave Wagner, The Boston Globe, March 23, 2003
Union founder's dream is realized

Railroad Buffs Are Working to Bring Back a Legend by Cate McQuaid, The Boston Globe, March 30, 2003

Real World Robots by Brad Stone, Newsweek, March 24, 2003
They're finally among us. They may not look like the Jetsons' Rosie, but they are actually doing real jobs alongside humans -- in homes, hospitals and on the battlefield.

Reel Solitude by Louise Kennedy, The Boston Globe Magazine, March 23, 2003
Alone at the movies, you're accountable to no one's tastes or experiences but your own. And that's liberating.

Selling the War on TV by Susan Douglas, The Nation, March 31, 2003

The Sound of Things to Come by Marshall Sella, The New York Times Magazine, March 23, 2003
Woody Norris has reinvented acoustics. Big news for the world of music. Bigger news for advertising and crime-fighting and combat.

Stage Craft by Mike Milliard, The Boston Phoenix, March 28, 2003
In search of "The Lost Theatres of Somerville"

"Townie" by Anne McPheeters, Maine Boats & Harbors, April/May 2003
What you are is what you are, and recognizing that is central to growing up.

"We're Glorified Schleppers." by Susannah Meadows, Newsweek, March 24, 2003
Behind every gorgeous superstar is another kind of celebrity: the stylist

When a Brand Becomes a Stand-In for a Nation by Rob Walker, The New York Times, March 30, 2003

Why Radio Sucks by Jenny Eliscu, Rolling Stone, April 3, 2003
Five ways that giant corporations are running the airwaves

If you work for a magazine and would like to sign me up for a complimentary subscription, please feel free to do so. My address is in the grey bar over on the left.
Got "Our" War On II
Michael Kelley, editor-at-large for the Atlantic Monthly was killed in Iraq. The first American journalist casualty in the war, Kelley died in a Humvee accident while traveling with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.
Event-O-Dex XLVIII
April 6: Sara Cooper, Naughty Shirley, and So&So support the arts at the Washington Street Art Center in Somerville. 7:30 p.m.
Shay's Whine Bar
In the 30 years I've been alive, I've not once been asked to leave a bar or restaurant because of any misbehavior. Until last night. Band practice for the Anchormen was canceled because Chris had to work late and Tom had an Asian Babe Alert show at the Sky Bar. I debated going to the Pornbelt show at the Choppin Block -- or to the ABA show -- but it was raining mildly, and I wanted to stick closer to home and the T.

After hanging out at the Different Drummer with some colleagues after work, a couple of us headed to Shay's Wine Bar on Harvard Square to meet up with some other friends, including one who'd been recently laid off and one who might have a hernia (he's going to the doctor soon). We were hanging out, talking, and I stepped outside to get some fresh air because the place was getting a little smoky. I came back in, made my way back to my friends, and picked up my Bass.

A man came up to me, said, "I'm not comfortable serving you," took the pint out of my hand, and set it back on the counter where I'd set it down just moments ago before stepping outside. "You're not comfortable serving me?" "No," he said. "Can I at least hang out?" "No. You have to go."

I was stunned. "I have to go?" "Yes," he said starting to move to help me leave the bar. I bent down to pick up my bag. "That's not your bag," he said. "Actually, it is my bag." He made me show the bag to my friends and asked if it was my bag. They confirmed that it was, and I left.

I was stunned. What had just happened? What had I done to warrant that? I hadn't bumped into anyone. I hadn't been rude to anyone. I hadn't been loud. I wasn't intoxicated. I was the exact opposite of the kind of person a bartender would feel uncomfortable with or threatened by. I almost turned back to ask him some more questions, but I thought better of it. I hopped on the T and headed home.

The wheels kept spinning. I should've asked him why he was uncomfortable. I should've asked for a refund on the beer I had just bought. If they were comfortable enough to serve me a minute ago, what made them uncomfortable a minute later? Maybe he thought I was a drunk stumbling into the bar because I did kind of trip on my shoelace as I was coming back in. Maybe he thought I was a drunk just stumbling in who made a bee line to the back of the bar, picked up someone else's beer, and tried to take someone else's bag. What had just happened?

As I was walking to the T, I emailed Jenn to say that I owed them money. I should've at least tried to settle my part of the tab before leaving. Still, I was stunned. She emailed me this this morning:

After you left, Nick and that bouncer went looking for you but couldn't find you. Then Nick wanted to call you but didn't have your cell phone number. See, that guy thought that you had just walked in and started drinking a random beer. Apparently, they get that all the time at Shay's. That's why he asked you to leave. So imagine how much of an asshole he felt like when we were like, he was with us. Why'd he have to leave? This guy at the bar told him to go lie down and that clearly he was too tired, kicking out legitimate customers and all. Then he and Nick ran out to go look for you, but I guess you were well on your way.

Phew! When I got home and when I got up this morning, my mind was still reeling. What had I done? I had done nothing. I've not experienced such a weird mix of self-righteous defensiveness and concern before. I was ready to write a letter of complaint to ask for a $4 refund. I was ready to boycott the joint. Funny that the guy who'd asked me to leave came after me to invite me back -- I'd just headed straight to the T. Jenn says that Dana, the cute bartender there who plays drums in the Signal, was angry at the bouncer. And Dave says that I should go back tonight and ask if I can finish my beer.

I guess it all worked out for the best. I was stunned, but it was the guy's mistake. Had I had more presence of mind to talk to him about it, I probably could've set him straight. Weird.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Books Worth a Look XIII
These are the books I read in March 2003.

The Big Dig at Night by Dan McNichol and Stephen SetteDucati (Silver Lining, 2001)
The important things here are SetteDucati's photographs of the Big Dig, one of the world's largest public works projects, which were taken in Boston since 1996. This book, one of several about the project published after there was a critical mass of visual documentation -- and at the peak of Boston citizens' interest in the project -- focuses on night photography. The images are beautiful. Cranes, girders, overpasses, tunnels, bridges, earth movers, and structural supports are all captured while the city sleeps. It'll be interesting to see how this volume compares to similar texts, but one thing is clear here. SetteDucati did all the work. McNichol's scant captions, while occasionally informative and insightful, should not have earned him top billing and authorial credit.
Pages: 127. Days to read: 5. Rating: Good.

Chariots of the Gods? by Erich Von Daniken (Berkley, 1980)
This book, which must have been no little influence on writers such as David Hatcher Childress and Graham Hancock, contends that the Earth was in part populated by aliens or alien parents from planets such as Venus. Blending history, archeology, sociology, anthropology, and New Age speculation, Von Daniken analyzes whether God was an astronaut. While the book is overly aggressive in its smug onslaught of unanswered questions and conspiracies, it's a good book in terms of making connections between archeology and astronomy -- and offering some ideas about why those connections exist.
Pages: 157. Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdon by Cory Doctorow (Tor, 2003)
Cory's first published novel is set in a post-scarcity society in which there's no death, hunger, or poverty. There are, however, ad hocs, democratic, self-organizing groups living in and running Disney World. There's also an esteem-driven economy in which your reputation is measured in a currency called Whuffies. Everybody has persistent Internet access, and people can back up and restore their memories, even in new cloned bodies. The plot is largely a mystery centering on the politics surrounding the ongoing reconstruction of the Haunted Mansion. While I didn't totally dig Cory's Disney fetish, the novel is chock full of Cory's day-to-day fascinations. The heat death of the universe, Faraday cages, traffic flow analysis, and how people carry things -- intriguing ideas all wrapped up in a quickly untangling tale.
Pages: 208. Days to read: 4. Rating: Good.

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (Houghton Mifflin, 2002)
If Ben Marcus had written the screenplay for the Pianist, this novel may have been the result. Furthering three interlocking narratives, the story details a young writer's journeys to the Ukraine to track down a woman who saved his grandfather's life during World War II. Foer's storytelling structure -- the personal narrative of the author's young Ukrainian guide, a speculative history of the author's Ukrainian family, and letters from the guide to the author -- works quite well, and with the fictional author being a less than totally present character, it's unclear what the true story being written is. Is it the Ukrainian guide's? The speculative history? A well done meta-novel that plays with the form deftly.
Pages: 276. Days to Read: 2. Rating: Excellent.

The Family of Man ed. by Edward Steichen (Museum of Modern Art, 1955)
This photography exhibit -- promoted as the greatest of all time -- comprised 503 pictures from 68 countries. This book, an after-the-fact catalog published by the Maco Magazine Corp., collects most, if not all of those images. Published in black and white, this well-read library reject once housed in the Hillside School Library of Berkeley, California, was acquired on the passive recommendation of Mikela and Philip Tarlow at SXSW. True to their "Digital Aboriginal" ideal, the book is a world-ranging visual documentation of love, marriage, birth, parenthood, childhood, anger, struggle, family, work, food, craft, art, dance, play, education, civil society, poverty, religion, war, law, old age, and death -- the whole range of the human experience. The photos are slightly dated at this point, but it's a worthwhile chronicle -- and an exhibit that should be revisited for 2005.
Pages: 192. Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs by Brendan Mullen with Don Bolles and Adam Parfrey (Feral House, 2002)
Digging a little deeper than Exene Cervenka's Forming, this roughly 110-source oral history of Paul Beahm AKA Bobby Pyn AKA Darby Crash, the singer, front man, and erstwhile savior of the seminal Los Angeles punk band the Germs is an insightful and informative biography of the American Sid Vicious, a punk-rock martyr who is largely overlooked because he committed suicide on the same day John Lennon died. The most interesting aspect of Beahm's punk iconoclasm is his grasp of evangelism, self-help obsession, and fascism. His "circles" were est- and Scientology-inspired codepency-driven support groups, and he brought an accidental, partly formed focus to his musical performance and lifestyle. Or maybe he was a drugged-out alcoholic. Like Black Randy says near the end of the book, he should've had the balls to stick it out.
Pages: 294. Days to read: 3. Rating: Good.

Lucky Wander Boy by D.B. Weiss (Plume, 2003)
One of the jacket blurbs says Weiss does for video games what Michael Chabon did for comics, but because I've yet to read Chabon's book -- or David Mamet's "Wilson," for that mater -- I cannot say. What I can say is that Lucky Wander Boy is a wonderful look at the video game industry and the repercussions of pop culture obsessions. After returning from working in Poland, the novel's hero takes a job writing marketing copy for a video game developer. On the side, he's writing a comprehensive encyclopedia of classic video games that blends post-modern cultural critique with actual history. The novel details the hero's quest for information about a little-known game and ends in a very game-like manner. Innovative and funny.
Pages: 273. Days to Read: 8. Rating: Excellent.

Memoir of the Hawk by James Tate (Ecco, 2001)
Tate's prose poems, fictional vignettes that are laid out and scan like poetry remind me of a marriage between Dan Buck's short, short stories and Jack Handey's "Deep Thoughts." While some of the pieces are relatively absurd and impressionistic, many hit quite hard emotionally. And it is the more realistic and narrative pieces that I enjoy most. Despite the excellent writing, the book is a little overwhelming. Tate's stories read best one at a time, or in small handfuls. To read them all in short order -- even in several sittings spanning half a month, as I did -- is an invitation to be deluged and perhaps drowned in Tate's world.
Pages: 175. Days to read: 13. Rating: Good.

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin (Perennial, 1972)
I had no idea. All I knew about this book was the image of glassy-eyes suburban women from the movie a la Children of the Corn and the possible political commentary on suburban stultification. No, this is science fiction! And feminist social commentary! It's a quick read, one of the most economic novels I've ever read, and Peter Straub's introduction well explains how the novel can be misread. The book proceeds step by step until Joanna's revelatory research in the basement of the library. There, she puts together all of the pieces -- the jobs of the men in Stepford whose wives have changed, and the insidious scientific innovations that contributed to those changes. It's a subtly surprising acceleration to the novel's open-ended conclusion. How long will the cycle continue? I've got to rent the movie.
Pages: 123. Days to read: 1. Rating: Excellent.

Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison (Counterpoint, 2001)
I need to borrow more books from Andrea. Any author that thanks Roger Angell and Rick Moody in the acknowledgments has a good chance of being good. A teacher at the University of Southern Mississippi, Robison has written for the New Yorker -- as well as for Hollywood. So it's no surprise that the man character, Money, is a script doctor. The highly fragmented novel -- almost a collection of short, short stories -- tracks her manic work writing and unwriting a screenplay about Bigfoot. Through a series of more than 500 musings, insights, representations of what appear to be multiple personalities, and slices of life shedding light on the main character's family, friends, and colleagues, it becomes clear that the novel is really about the sexual abuse of Money's son and the impact it has on her family. I need to read more of Robison's work.
Pages: 200. Days to read: 1. Rating: Excellent.
Conferences and Community V
Ramon Ray did a confblog while he was at the Inc. 500 this year. Thanks for documenting the event, Ramon!
Games People Play IX
At the end of January, one of my co-workers at Fast Company, Joel Janney, released a board game he and his wife produced themselves. Lights… Camera… Action! is a high-energy movie trivia game focusing on what Janney calls "movie moments." Media Diet talked to Janney about what people remember about movies, the role movie moments play in popular culture, and what he learned while making a board game independently. Here is an edited transcript of our conversation:

Media Diet: Tell me a little bit about the concept behind Lights... Camera... Action!

Joel Janney: This all started with what kinds of games I like to play -- and the fact that I love movies. Computer games are usually solo activities or may involve one other person. Board games are highly social -- and this game in particular is very interactive. It is more fun with more people, and it requires a lot of eye contact and immediate feedback. Laughing with a group is a lot more fun than laughing by yourself.

That's why going to the movies is such a great experience. It's a bonding thing, a communal sharing activity. Watching movies at the theater is a communal activity that is really important to most people. Parts of the movie industry freaked out about VCR's and big TV's because they thought people would stop going to the movies. They don't get it. People go because they would rather watch the movie in the company of a few friends and 200-plus strangers then watch it at home. It's a bonding experience.

Lights… Camera… Action! could easily be made into a computer game, but that's not what I got into this for. I got into it because I think an awful lot of people would have a great deal of fun playing the game with other people. If it's successful, I'll feel great because we make money while putting a smile on a lot of people's faces. That would make me happy. It also stirs interest in movies as people hear quotes from movies they haven't seen. I love the movies.

MD: You've said that a couple of times now. Why do you love the movies so much?

JJ: I love the movies because I love life, and the movies are about life. The thoughts and feelings and emotions one has when watching a movie are easy to share with others who have seen the same movie. People can talk about things going on in a movie, whereas they would feel uncomfortable talking about those same things going on in their own life. Movies are stimulating and engaging.

MD: How did you come up with the idea for the game?

JJ: I originally created a rough version of this game with a friend several years ago. The look and feel was completely different, and the game had different rules, but the "movie moment" concept was the same. One game company wanted to see the prototype, but they shot it down. They liked it, but they eventually decided that although they liked the game, it would take them into a different market (the mass market rather than the specialized market they were used to). They didn't want to be competing against the big players there.

MD: How did the idea develop from talk to action? What made you take the step to actually make the game yourself?

JJ: It's always nagged at me that I never gave it a full shot. My wife and I talked about it and finally decided to go for it. She wasn't working, which made it difficult money-wise but allowed her to devote each day to the many issues that had to be dealt with. We were both bored and looking for something exciting and stimulating to work on -- and here was something I believe in strongly and feel passionate about. It just got to the point where I had to give it a try.

MD: Are there other movie-related games available? What kind of market research did you do to identify competitors and so on?

JJ: Yes. We looked all over to see what was out there. Why still make the game when there are other movie games out there? Three answers: One, this game is different because it's all about "movie moments" -- it's not about memorizing facts or trivia. Movie moments have a strong emotional element. When you remember them you re-experience the emotions you associated with that scene. That's not the same as remembering who won Best Actor in 1969.

It's also different because of the three levels -- you get three chances to name the movie. The great majority of players answers most of the movie moments after all three clues -- good players get more of them off the quote, of course. So there's a reward for being better at it, but it's not so hard that players, particularly when working in teams, get stumped frequently (It's not a lot of fun to play a game where you don't know any of the answers).

Also, the marketing and promotion is different. I believe that movie games have not taken advantage of their marketing opportunities Besides, the fact that there are successful movie games out there does not preclude our ability to be successful with a different game.

But the short answer is that what makes this game different is the much higher level of emotional involvement you get from playing this one. There tends to be a lot of laughter, and it's loud and raunchy in a way that trivia games are not. Simply put, it's more fun.

MD: It might be good to expand a little on the concept of movie moments. What makes a good movie moment? Why do they resonate so strongly with people?

JJ: A good movie moment usually comes from a movie that has staying power within popular culture. The moment is a memorable one within the film -- almost always because it's representative of what the film was about or representative of one of the characters. It's a parking lot moment. If you hear people talking about a movie they've just seen, their discussion is usually limited to half a dozen or so of these moments from a movie.

MD: The game includes 800 questions. Are they from 800 movies? How many movies did you and your wife watch to develop the questions? And fess up: Did you refer to any movie quotation books or other resources?

JJ: They're from about 350 movies. We rented DVD's and watched the movies, for three reasons. Quote resources that are out there are often inaccurate, and it was very important to me that we get the quotes right. Secondly, part of what makes a movie moment is what is happening on the screen -- "Get off the babysitter," doesn't sound like much of a quote if you haven't seen Risky Business, for example. We also needed to see the scene in order to write the scene descriptions. Some of these movie moments were created by me and a friend several years ago in the original version of the game. We rented the movies for those also.

It didn't take long, because we thought we were going to have the game out before Thanksgiving. We crammed it in. On a normal day, my wife Laura would watch three movies and write down many quotes for each and the times on the DVD clock. I would come home from work and pick the ones I liked and rewatch to check for accuracy -- and so I could write the scene description. It was utterly exhausting and went on for about 10 weeks I think. We got a lot more done on the weekends.

MD: If your wife would watch three movies on a weekday, how many did you two hit on a weekend?

JJ: We only have one DVD player, so not many more than that. The player was basically playing a great majority of the time. Our life was watching movies for awhile there.

MD: As you developed the list of questions, did you try to keep a diverse mix of genres and eras?

JJ: The 350 movies range from Citizen Kane to Spider-Man. The game is definitely weighted more to the last 10 years, and those are weighted more to the last five. Still, tons of movies are pre-1990. We have lots of classics. For the most part, we focused on popular movies and popular actors -- movies people would know.

Some movies may have been popular at the time but have no staying power. Few people ever rent them, they don't show up on cable, and no one watches them anymore. They're forgettable. Those movies didn't make it. We also paid a lot of attention to not necessarily using the obvious quotes, but trying to find quotes that played off one of the themes of the movie or a main character.

MD: Did you and your wife learn anything about the kinds of movies you like and dislike?

We'd never seen Citizen Kane before and loved it. I thought it was revered for it's technical innovations, but the story and acting were also great -- in addition to the directing. There were plenty of other movies that were surprises. Two that stand out for me were Breakfast at Tiffany's (which I'd never seen because I thought it was going to be a repetitive light romantic comedy, and they're everywhere) and Saturday Night Fever (which stunned me because I thought it was just a dance/party movie, and I loved it).

MD: What do you think the best quote in the game is? Surely you have a favorite.

JJ: "That's part of your problem, you know, you haven't seen enough movies. All of life's riddles are answered in the movies."

MD: Um, what movie is that from?

JJ: It's from Grand Canyon, spoken by Steve Martin, who is playing a movie producer. I think it's an underrated movie and a good rental. It's a bit of an obscure quote but I love it.

MD: When you reached the point of actually designing and producing the game, how did you learn how to do it? Are there companies that will produce a game for you?

JJ: We learned on the fly. We advertised for a graphic designer and picked from over 200 applicants. We worked with her closely on picking design. And we had all kinds of problems I don't even want to go into. Laura had to individually lay out 800 cards in Quark. We called all over for printers and game board and box makers. We talked to a lot of people. In the end, we used a broker for the printing and another company to make the box and board. We didn't get terms or credit from either. Companies that would do it for us weren't economical and required much more units printed.

MD: In the design and production process, what aspects of game making surprised you?

JJ: Just about everything, not knowing anything previously. Formats of files, the fact that colors on screen vary dramatically from printed colors, the many things that can -- and often did -- go wrong when something is going to press, the expense involved at all levels. It was a nightmare. And now we have to collate the cards by hand ourselves because the collating machine would have added too much cost. There are 400,000 cards. I definitely had not thought about that.

MD: What were some of the decisions you had to make? What were some details you decided not to include that would have been nice?

JJ: Originally, we only wanted to print 50-100 copies and not offset print them. Instead we were going to use a substandard printing method that wouldn't look that great just to see if people who bought the game were really into it. We spent a lot of time looking at options before wising up and going with offset color. It would have been nice to finish the box to protect it better. And it would have been nice to have thicker cards.

Most important, though, I thought the game needed to stand out. People need to notice it, and that means it can't look like anything else. It looks like a movie game, and if you see it from a distance you'll either recognize it if you've seen it before or be intrigued enough to check it out. But these are all purchasing decisions. Once a certain number of games get out there, all that really matters is word of mouth -- does it create a buzz, do people talk it up to their friends so that their friends want to buy it?

MD: With what the game cost to make per unit, how did you determine what the retail price would be?

JJ: Trivial Pursuit is $35. Most games are $25-$35, and quite a lot of those are $30-$35. That's where we got our price point, not our cost per unit. We're getting pretty low margins right now because of the limited print run.

MD: You could have easily self-produced a game with less-expensive and -impressive design and production values. Why not make the game more of a DIY cottage industry? Do you plan to market the game widely? How does one get distribution for a self-produced game?

JJ: We wanted a product we could be proud of. We didn't want to have to apologize to people and say, "Hey, we'll make it nicer if this takes off." Because then, if it didn't work out, I would just wonder if we should have gone all out. I wanted to take a full swing at this, not bunt. Yes, we want to market widely eventually. How does one get distribution? The hard way, a little bit at a time. And I wanted this to be a board game -- not just cards in a box, not on the computer -- because I believe in the communal sharing thing, people laughing in groups together. That could still happen with cards, but the board makes it more substantial and more likely to attract a group to sit around and dedicate time to play it. I also think the board version is more fun if you invest about two minutes to learn the rules (They're pretty basic.), and the board version allows people who aren't that good at it to have as much fun as the experts. That is very important.

MD: You must now know more about the game industry than you thought you ever would. What are some of the more interesting things you've learned about making and selling games?

JJ: A lot of games come out every year. A lot. And many of them invest more money than we have to get started. There are some good Web sites I referred to, but I largely didn't listen to them -- though I still recommend reading all about it before diving in. Most of the Web sites focus on standard methods of distribution (meaning stores), not Internet sales.

MD: So what resources would you recommend people check out? What was most useful for you?

JJ: What's been most useful to us has been finding the right people to work with. That may sound like I'm evading the question, but it's really important. Here's an informative Web site.

MD: What advice would you give people who might be interested in making their own game?

JJ: Be sure that you really want to do it.

MD: Why do you say that? Were there any moments when you doubted whether you wanted to do it?

JJ: No, but it was a lot harder and a lot more work than I thought it would be. There were also a lot of scary moments where problems came up and we were not sure how we would fix them, or if we could. If you're only into it 80%, you're going to find it very easy to give up when the inevitable roadblocks appear.

MD: You named the company Georgie Games after your dog. What does Georgie think of the game?

JJ: He definitely isn't happy. He doesn't like all the boxes and cards in the house and doesn't like change of any kind. He can tell we're stressed, and he'd rather we had nothing to do but sleep with him all day.

One thing George has really liked about the game, though, has been the frequent trips to the video store, where the staff recognizes him and always gives him a treat. Another is that my wife is home all day with him instead of at a job.

MD: What's his favorite movie?

JJ: He does a good job of keeping his emotions to himself when watching a film.
Music to My Ears XXXII
It has been brought to my attention that musicians such as Paul Melancon and Adam McIntyre occasionally call friends and fans to perform new songs life or to leave musical messages on answering machines and voicemail.

Now, I've called myself before to record nascent Anchormen songs on voicemail as a songwriting and memory aid -- and I've written songs based on old outgoing answering machine ditties -- but I don't think the Anks have ever played live for someone over the phone. It's an interesting idea -- like They Might Be Giants' Dial A Song, only using that push technology from days of yore.

Do any Media Dieticians know about other musicians or bands that perform phone shows? There might be something here.
Music to My Eyes XV
From Spin the Bottle:

Dear Singer/Songwriter/Comedian,

I'm the talent coordinator for a TV pilot for VH1 called "NewsJam" (from the creator of "Pop-Up Video") which will feature singer-songwriters delivering amusing songs about the big news topics of the week. Think "Schoolhouse Rock" meets Tom Lehrer's "That Was The Week That Was" or a musical version of Comedy Central's "Daily Show."

The assignment is to write and record (low-tech home recording is fine) a 2-3 minute song on one of the two following topics:

1. Awards Shows
2. J.Lo & Ben

If your song is chosen for the demo/pilot, you'll get $1500...but more importantly, you'll get entered into the stable of "musical correspondents" who will contribute on the actual weekly show (if it's picked up). For now, we're not planning on showing artists' faces...(but that may change)...rather, we're turning their songs into cartoons, bouncing ball montages, or other yet-to-be-invented visual offerings. The deadline is April 16th on a CD if you're interested (with lyrics e-mailed to me).

Please feel free to call me with any questions and if you know of any other singer/songwriters who might be right for this project, please let me know.


David Turley
Spin The Bottle, Inc.
9 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001

Thanks to Emily!

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Corollary: Among the Literati XXX
My three short, short stories in Uber have been archived.
Ravaging Radio VII
Quoth Stephen Provizer:

I just wanted to let you know that, due to a combination of factors, not the least of which is financial, April, 2003 marks the end of my official involvement with Allston-Brighton Free Radio.

Time goes by. It's been seven years since I organized Radio Free Allston and three years since I started Allston-Brighton Free Radio and I know that a change is due. I think that this change will be beneficial to both me and the station.

In difficult times such as these, it becomes even more important for all of us to know we can express our point of view and to take steps to do so. I hope that in the months ahead, you will continue to support community and alternative media efforts like A-B Free Radio.

For my part, I will be out there looking for gainful employment, hopefully in the field of education, media or community organizing.

It has been a tremendous priviledge to be able to communicate with you on some of the most vital issues of our imperiled civic culture. Thank you so much for the support you've shown my efforts.

Having toured the old Radio Free Allston studio when I ran the Mass. Media mailing list -- and having played an A-B Free Radio benefit with the Anchormen -- I know what a force for free speech and free media Stephen is. I'm sure that the A-B Free Radio team will miss Stephen's involvement, but I'm also sure that he will find new progressive media projects just as productive and positive.

Best wishes, Stephen!
Corollary: Technofetishism XXVI
Eudora 5.1's profanity filter informs me that the phrase "sick and tired" may cause offense. Oh, so?
The Movie I Watched Last Night LXII
Dr. Strangelove (Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)

This 1964 film directed by Stanley Kubrick is amazing and well worth watching somewhat frequently. Its dystopian take on the military-industrial complex is particularly effective in times of war. Peter Sellers' multiple roles all work well, especially his portrayal of Dr. Strangelove, and George C. Scott's Gen. "Buck" Turgidson is by no means turgid or tepid. But what strikes me most strongly is that Kubrick aptly balances light-hearted humor while addressing one of the more frightening possibilities of the Cold War. The movie is neither fatalistic nor overtly dismissive, and the blend of comedy and commentary is still relevant today. File this beside Johnny Got His Gun. Wonderful.
Anchormen, Aweigh! XVIII
Last night, on my way home on the T, I was recognized as a member of the Anchormen for the first time in public. A young man got on the train and moved down the aisle. As the train started to pull out of the station, he made his way back to me.

"Aren't you in the Anchormen?" he asked me. Taken aback, I replied, "Yes. I am." He'd seen us play at the Upstairs Lounge with Hip Tanaka and said that we'd really impressed him. "Straight-ahead punk, but with different song topics," he said. He asked when we were playing out again, and I told him about our May 16 CD release party and Handstand Command third anniversary celebration. (Details forthcoming.)

When the T reached Central Square, we got off the train together. Then we bumped into each other again at the co-op. It felt kind of nice to be recognized in public, and he had a really cool stocking cap on. I, microstar! If you ever see me out and about, don't be shy to say hi!

Soundtrack: Lila Downs, "Tree of Life"
Corollary: Blogging About Blogging LIV
Just got word from Jupiter Media and Clickz: I've got media credentials for the June Weblog Business Strategies conference in Boston. It'll be an awesome event to confblog.
Among the Literati XXX
Three short, short stories I wrote have been published in Uber today.
Corollary: Among the Literati XXIX
My silly little humor piece in Zulkey has been archived.
The Free-Range Comic Book Project XI
This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project.

Batman Beyond #4 (DC, February 2000). Writer: Hilary Bader. Artist: Craig Rousseau. Location: On a bench in the park at the corner of Prospect Street and Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge.

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

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

From the In Box: Workaday World XXV
Here's what Matt had to say:

I'm honestly not sure about the enforceability of these sorts of disclaimers, and searches of Lexis and Westlaw didn't turn up anything useful. I expect that they're generally seen as enforceable to a certain extent, however from my first-year law student point of view I'd say that they're probably not the cure-all companies think they are. After all, by the time you get to the disclaimer, you've already read (and possibly copied/forwarded/etc) the email.

He's going to poke around a little to see what he can learn, but he's got a good point. Sheesh. Fingers crossed that they don't move disclaimers like this to the top of our emails. Ha!
Heavy Petting II
I met Jerry Kaiser in 2001 in Boulder Creek, California, during the third CoF Roadshow. I also met his cat Mack. Mack died recently, and Jerry emailed me to see if I still had the pictures I'd taken of him with Mack.

I do.

Here's looking at you, Mack. Rest in peace.
Blogging About Blogging LIV
I wonder if Clickz will give me a media pass to blog their Weblog Business Strategies conference in June. I'd love to take another stab at immediate journalism and confblogging. My SXSW Interactive transcripts got great response.

Thanks to Marm0t.
Weather Report X
The clouds and cool of this morning turned to sun -- and now again to blustery snow. The world outside my window is a snow globe, flakes of fluffy white blowing horizontally, dancing in sudden fits of twisting wind, and almost hanging still in middair. I wish spring would come back!
From the In Box: Workaday World XXV
Via IM:

It's supposed to provide some protection, confidentiality-wise. You couldn't really go after someone for using the information contained. It's kind of a fake out.

My boss says that some lawyers came up with it to pretend like they could go after you if you used the info, but they probably couldn't, because the rules of evidence would make it tough to prove they had used it without authorization.

See? It is silly.
Workaday World XXVI
I just finished doing an hour-long online event on the Spirit of Work on the Web as part of Spirituality.com's Spirituality@Work conference. Spirituality.com is a Web site inspired by the writings of Mary Baker Eddy -- and aids people as they consider their individual spirituality. The conference, which runs three weeks, focuses on balance and purpose, the workplace, unemployment, and ethics. It was an interesting experience.

As the first online event I've participated in as a speaker, I joined a conference call with the conference organizer -- a member of the Company of Friends who credits his job at Spirituality.com to my work at Fast Company -- and a typist. I talked. She typed. That was rather strange, as I'm used to doing my own typing, and I don't really feel like I found a comfortable pace or rhythm for her to keep up with me. Still, she did a fine job.

We'll see how the transcript turns out -- I'm not sure I had anything important or new to say -- but the experience was an oddly disembodied engagement with the online community. I hope I gave people some good ideas, shared some useful resources, and didn't waste anyone's time. The organizer said about 70 people participated in the chat, with about 35 being the maximum participation at any one time. It felt strange dictating to the typist, but I guess that's how large-scale chats are done. Huh.
Workaday World XXV
I just got the following email:

Company policy dictates that the following verbiage be added to all outbound mail. Therefore, it will be automatically appended to all messages you send out to the Internet:

This electronic transmission contains confidential information intended only for the person(s) named. Any use, distribution, copying, or disclosure by any other person is strictly prohibited. If you received this transmission in error, please notify the sender by return e-mail and delete all copies of this message.

If you have any questions and/or concerns, please contact the Legal Department.

I am going against policy by posting this, even, and it kind of irks me that this is now appended to every email I send at work. It makes the messages longer, and part of the beauty of the Net is that things can be forwarded and shared.

Besides, do such appendages really do anything? I don't see how they would have an impact on people who I might accidentally email -- how else would they get a message not intended for them? Or is it more about us having grounds for legal action after the fact if someone forwards an email I wrote them?

Seems silly to me. My friend Matt is going to law school. I'll ask him.
Event-O-Dex XLVII
April 3: Scott Allie, writer for "Devil's Footprints" and "Star Wars: Empire", as well as editor for "The Art of Hellboy," signing at the Million Year Picnic at 5 p.m.

April 3: Asian Babe Alert, Ellison (from Providence), and Tizzy (from Northampton) play at the Sky Bar in Somerville.

April 10: Scrapple is part of a Mister Records showcase at the Choppin' Block in Boston.
Among the Literati XXIX
I have a silly little humor piece in Zulkey today. I'm almost embarrassed to tell you about it.

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.