Friday, May 30, 2003

'Tis the Season to Be... AWOL XIII

Tomorrow I head to Miami, Florida, for RealTime.

While I will most likely not be tending to Media Diet until next Wednesday, I will be confblogging the event, if all goes well.

You're welcome to keep up with the session transcripts throughout the course of the conference. Otherwise, Media Diet will be back up and running June 4 or so.

Event-O-Dex LIX

Thursday, June 5: The Anchormen take the stage with Spoilsport and Mittens at the Choppin' Block in Boston in Week One of the Handstand Command residency.

Friday, June 6: The Anchormen join the Shods, the Pills, the Brett Rosenberg Problem, Soltero, Francine, Mittens, Spoilsport, Fuzzy, the Mary Reillys, Steven J. Lawrence, the Count Me Outs, and others to bid fond farewell to Deb Klein's Hi-Fi Records at the Milky Way in Jamaica Plain.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Comics and Controversy V

Johnny and Edgar Winters sued DC Comics for portraying them as "villainous, gnarly half-worm, half-human creatures with green tentacles sprouting from their chests" in a 1995 comic series. A decision is due from the California Supreme Court any day now.

Previously, St. Louis Blues hockey player Tony Twist sued Todd McFarlane for a Spawn character named the same -- and had an early court win overturned. Not too many issues ago, Wizard magazine highlighted some awesome long-lost celebrity comic cameos featuring folks such as the Saturday Night Live cast and David Letterman. And you don't see Dean Haspiel and Ivan Brunetti suing Bob Fingerman for their cameos in his recent book.

But the interesting thing about the Winters case is that they didn't sue for libel -- they challenged the commercial use of their public images. Now, I wonder if the Winters brothers are considered public figures, in which case, pleas for parody are much stronger legally. And it's arguable that the Winters brothers should have a pretty thick skin to albino jokes already. Because, really, what's next, suing Michael Moorcock for Elric of Melnibone?

NetWork VI

This is too weird. An article I recently read says that Friendster currently claims more than 200,000 members. According to Friendster, I am currently connected to 64,142 people in my personal network. Even if Friendster only has 200,000 members, that means that I am connected to almost a third of its overall membership. That strikes me as slightly odd.

Happy Birthday to Media Dieticians XIII

On this day in 1848, Wisconsin became the 30th state admitted to the Union. I was born in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, and still very much consider myself a Midwesterner, if not a Wisconsinite. Happy birthday, Wisconsin!

What the Hell? V

Back in August 2001, I wondered whether the American Journal of Print was a shameless knockoff of McSweeney's. In any event, the little magazine turned out to be quite good, it was edited and published by nice people, and -- unfortunately -- the just-released third issue will be its last. That's the bad news. The good news is that you can buy all three issues for a measly $20. Still, I wonder. Is the post-modern, post-ironic hiplit upswell on the wane?

Thanks to Zulkey.

Corollary: Business Media Reportage Goes Bust, Now Boom? X

More on Linda Sepp's leaving Fast Company.

Steal This, Booked

First a forklift operator in eastern England gets nailed for pilfering pages of the forthcoming Harry Potter novel. Now two printing plant workers in Wisconsin get caught sneaking advance copies of Business Week to investors wanting to glean trading tips before the magazines were distributed. Not that it's the same thing, but I think it's funny that a Fast Company bag we mailed to new subscribers as a premium rates a measly $1 on Ebay.

Thanks again to I Want Media.

Business Media Reportage Goes Bust, Now Boom? X

Fast Company's publisher, Linda Sepp, has stepped down.

Thanks to I Want Media.

Books Going Bankrupt III

Running parallel to the situation Top Shelf was in last April, I just received the following missive via Warren Ellis' Bad Signal newsletter:

Fantagraphics Books Needs Your Help!
Buy Books! Keep Us Alive!

To Comics Lovers Throughout the World:

Fantagraphics Books has just celebrated its 27th year publishing many of the finest cartoonists from all over the world as well as our flagship publication, the magazine people love to hate, The Comics Journal. We are proud of our long-term commitment to comics as an art form and our dogged determination to push excellence down everybody's throats. This is all very well and good but it doesn't mean much in the face of brute economics -- and it's the wall of brute economics that we've just hit, hard.

Due to two major financial obstacles over the last two years, we're hard against it.

Our former and now bankrupt book trade distributor went out of business owing us over $70,000 -- which we will never see. (To add insult to injury, we learned that the owner is selling copies of our books that he should've returned on e-bay!) This unexpected shortfall necessitated taking out a couple loans which have now come due. In late 2001, our line was picked up by the W.W. NORTON COMPANY, who took over our bookstore distribution, and has done a magnificent job of providing us unprecedented access to the bookstore market. Inexperience with the book trade resulted in our erring on the side of overprinting our books too heavily throughout 2002, so that our anticipated profit is in fact sitting in our warehouse in the form of books. Loans must be paid in cash, not books. The only way to get out of this hole we've dug ourselves into is to sell those books. Which is where, we hope, you come in.

Over the last few weeks, we've worked to fix our in-house problems (which included, most painfully, laying off several fine and long-term employees). We have put in place a system of checks and balances by which we will watch our inventory growth scrupulously. But, we have a debt to pay down and wolves at the door. It's so severe that this month we envisaged shutting down our active publishing, seeking outside investors, or similarly odious measures. (Fantagraphics continues to be owned 100% by Messrs. Gary Groth and Kim Thompson. We'd like it to remain that way.)

If you've respected what Fantagraphics stands for and what we've done for the medium, if you've enjoyed our books, and if you want to insure that this proud tradition continues into this new and ominous century, we're asking you to help us now in our especial hour of need by buying some books. Put simply, we need to raise about $80,000 above our usual sales over the next month, and the only way to do that is to convert books into cash.

We've spent the last quarter century trying hard to produce the best comics the world has ever seen. You've rewarded us over the years with your loyal patronage, your moral support, your praise, your intelligent and honest feedback, all of which are more than we could ever have hoped for. We know we have tens of thousands of loyal readers: if even a fraction of you come forward and order two or three books that you've been meaning to buy, we'll be over this hump. We've published some some of the best books ever over the last year -Gene Deitch's (yes, that Gene Deitch!) THE CAT ON A HOT THIN GROOVE; B. KRIGSTEIN, Greg Sadowski's definitive biography of the pioneering artist from the '50s; the magnificent FRANK collection; and the third volume of the extraordinary KRAZY KAT series. Our publishing plans for 2003 include a huge coffee table book by Will Elder (WILL ELDER: MAD PLAYBOY OF ART); KRIGSTEIN COMICS, a 240 page follow-up collection of Krigstein's best comics from the '50s, and new collections and graphic novels by Gilbert Hernandez, Jason, Dave Cooper, Robert Crumb, A.B. Frost, Bill Griffith, Gary Panter...

We already sell books by mail, so, as clichéd as it sounds, we really do have operators standing by. You can view out catalogue online. You can order by calling our 800 number or on-line at our web site (all ordering information below.)

If this was a standard pitch, we'd offer you some extra incentive -- a discount or free books or knicknacks or whatnot. But, it's not. We're asking those of you who believe we've contributed something worthwhile and meaningful to help us continue to do so, that's all. We need the full retail value of our books. But we can offer something that won't cost us any money: anyone (individually or collectively) who buys $500 worth of books from us will get a personal phone call from Gary Groth thanking you for saving Fantagraphics' ass. Think how much fun this could be at a party!

via FAX: 206-524-2104
via mail: FANTAGRAPHICS , 7563 Lake City Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115
Secure Internet Orders:
phone: 206-524-6165 or 800-657-1100

Needless to say, if Fantagraphics goes under, Bad Comics is that much closer to winning.

Sites on the Side of the Road VIII

Just another reason why Mark Frauenfelder consistently ranks near the top of my Favorite People Whom I've Never Actually Met list.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Weather Report XII

Well, the rain's finally hit Boston hard like a handslap. Large, sloppy drops splatter against my windows, and the thunder crackles like clapping. If this keeps up, the history walk I signed up to go on this evening will most likely be canceled. Sigh. Fingers crossed, Media Dieticians!

Magazine Me XXXIV

Steven Berlin Johnson has a great idea for a new periodical. We've also got ReadyMade, which comes close to what he's proposing, but I think Johnson's onto something.

Tele-Phony V

Forget what your homework assignments are? Call 1-570-372-2255 for a reminder!

Ravaging Radio IX

My friend Maura Johnston will be hosting a radio show on WPRB, 103.3 FM in Princeton from 1-4 p.m. every Wednesday afternoon this summer. Media Dieticians can listen live online to help combat their post- or pre- (depending on which time zone you are in) lunchtime energy ebb.

Event-O-Dex LVIII

Sunday, June 8: The Dirtybird Revival at the Oni Gallery in Chinatown, a "show featuring an absurd number of accordions, horns, and a human beat boxer, culminating in a sweaty sing-a-long" featuring Dreamland Faces (AKA the Winston Yu Experience), the Milwaukee Horn Band, Adam Matta (vocal percussion), and the Dirtybird Fluffers.

Thanks to Media Dietician Sady Sullivan.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Music to My Ears XXXVI

A friend of mine in Richmond, Virginia, recently saw the Blue Man Group on their Complex tour, and she was quite delighted by the opening band, Venus Hum, which also plays on the Group's "Complex" album, it seems. While I can't get the streams on their official site to play, the two tracks on their page are quite nice. Kinda Siouxsie and the Banshees-y, kinda Depeche Mode-y, kinda dark, kinda goth, but with enough IDM-addled blip blop blork to get your twitch on. Thanks for the head's up, Elizabeth!

Corollary: Poll Position II

Word is that Victor Jacob Gossage has moved onto the finals for the Kansas City Idol competition. This Saturday, he and the other finalists will perform for a group of three judges who will then select the winner of KC Idol. Thanks for rocking the vote, Media Dieticians!


Finally, someone describes what Howard Dean is doing. Jon Lebkowsky's recent essay on nodal politics offers some solid insight on how community organizers, special interest groups, and political parties can better leverage the Net as an organizing tool.

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXIX

Along the lines of and the mockumentary Dot, this movie follows the rise and fall of a dotcom company. Tracking the formation, development, and dissolution of, one of the more widely covered near-success stories of the Net Economy boom, the movie isn't as cliched or pointed as Dot -- and is substantially more interesting than because the company covered is a known entity. I only used Kozmo once, to order a newly released Green Day CD while I was in a hotel in Brooklyn. I'd walked around the neighborhood looking for a record store, couldn't find one, and turned to the Web. Truth be told, I felt a little guilty and silly when the front desk called up saying a courier had arrived with a "package" -- the single CD -- for me, and I never used the service again. Given Kozmo's self-description as FedEx for the Internet -- I think it was more like Amazon for local delivery in an hour -- the concept had promise but several challenges, the largest of which was the low minimum orders customers placed. You cannot build a business on a movie rental, free ice cream, and 60-minute delivery. Some of the more telling moments of the document include the early interviews with the bicycle messengers hired by the company, Kozmo's first troubles meeting payroll, one founder's inability to not talk to the press -- highlighted by a close friendship with a former Industry Standard reporter and a PR problem with Doubleclick -- and the founders eventually stepping down. The ending is particularly ironic, as the documentarian accelerates to the company's folding and indicates where the founders have ended up. The two initial founders, believe it or not, went to business school -- at Harvard and MIT Sloan, no less. Perhaps they should have done so before trying to build Kozmo. Regardless, the rise and fall story is good, the documentary solid, and the overall tenor less depressing and desperate than other similar movies I've seen. More than a quaint snapshot of what once was -- but an indication of what might have been and what could be again.

Comics in the Classroom

Beginning June 9, Lauren Weinstein and Tom Hart are teaching a five-week workshop in cartooning to children in the Cypress Hills area of Brooklyn. Through their new StoryArk comics and cartoon workshops, Weinstein and Hart are working to bring comics into the classroom, highlight comics as a way to meet the needs of the multiple intelligences and learning styles of students, and -- to be totally honest -- make a better living through comic art. It looks like a promising project! The materials they offer for download include several minicomics aimed at readers between the ages of 5-10, as well as teenagers. A simple minicomic how to is also available. Good luck, you two! If any Media Dieticians have other examples of educational projects involving comics, please let me know.

Comics and Community XII

About a year ago, the Kansas City Comic Creators Network started meeting in a local coffee shop. Through the first week in June, the group's first exhibition, which features local and national artists, will be held at three galleries in the West Bottoms district of Kansas City. The group hopes that the exhibition will rival APE and SPX -- and that the event evolves into America's answer to Angoulême. Ninth Art's B Clay Moore reports.

Event-O-Dex LVII

Friday, May 30: Benefit for the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls at the Berwick Research Institute in Roxbury featuring performances by Spoilsport, Alicia Champion, the Silent Wheel, Shumai, Sprites (featuring members of Barcelona), Sallie, Amatul Hannan, Toni Amato, the Princesses of Porn with the Dukes of Dykedom, Mal from Queer Soup, Talia Kingsbury/Manuel Hung, and J*me. The event also includes a yard sale and auction items from Beth Driscoll (16-by-20 black-and-white photographs), Kimchee Records, Magic 12, Charlie Girl Anders, Ida and time Stereo Records (You Are My Sunshine/Flower and Ida CD's), Handstand Command, the Kitty Kill, Simple Machines, Villa Villa Kula, Cory Skult (zines), Paula Kelley, Rick Berlin (Orchetra Luna CD with cutting room floor tracks and T-shirts), the Princesses of Porn with the Dukes of Dykedom, Sara Seinberg (Auction Package: one-hour writing lesson or editing session, a jailhouse style tattoo, a photograph, and two tickets to K'Vetsh), as well as assorted items such as hot sauce, vintage clothes, housewares, and used CD's.

The Free-Range Comic Book Project XXVII

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

Deadpool #38 (Marvel, March 2000). Writer: Christopher Priest. Artist: Paco Diaz. Location: On the Red Line between Central and Harvard squares.

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

Friday, May 23, 2003

Poll Position II

The younger brother of one of Inc magazine's staff writers is in the semifinals for Kansas City Idol. It's a regional competition in Kansas City based on American Idol, and the winner gets $1,000, studio time, and the opportunity to sing the national anthem at a major Kansas City sporting event.

You can help the cause by voting online for Victor Jacob Gossage. Make with the clicky click.

See You in the Funny Pages XIII

Brian Merkel, the friend of a friend of mine, has been working on the technology side of the online comics project The Street for more than a year now. I haven't spent too much time with the series yet, but a recent email from a friend outlines some of the project's more interesting aspects.

The Street is an online comic serial. Designed to progress through regular episodes, the navigation/story progression is what makes The Street unique to online comics and interactive storytelling. The reader is able to weave their way through the various story lines, experiencing them in any order they choose.

Expanding on the effectiveness of the comic medium.
Enhancing the traditional graphic novel by using the tools of interactivity is a primary goal of this project. We are able to convey multiple storylines while maintaining the strengths of the comic medium. “Every act committed to paper by the comic artist is aided and abetted by a silent accomplice. An equal partner in crime known as The Reader…Closure in comics fosters an intimacy surpassed only by the written word.” – Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics.

Introducing non-linearity without abandoning a linear familiarity.
The technical approach to navigation accommodates the users linear sense of experience while giving them the option to jump around between storylines and points in time. This gives new readers intuitive access to the story with the freedom to experiment with non-linearity. Not only will this boost engagement, but it also enhances the unique quality of the graphic novel medium mentioned above.

Decision Mode vs. Story Mode
We employ two basic points of view in this approach. These demos deal mostly with Story Mode while touching on its relation to Decision Mode. Story Mode, reflects the traditional graphic novel. In this view, the user is able to see the various Strings (see below) and their relation to each other. In Decision Mode the Strings drop away and the panel inhabits the majority of the screen. Decision mode occurs when two or more Strings cross and the user must decide which direction to follow.

Strings are storylines. The succession of panels viewable in Story Mode. Decision Mode occurs at the point where two or more strings split into separate strings. Strings also relate relative time, allowing us to easily show the succession of events without having to address actual time. Moving right or down through a string relates to progressing forward in time, and moving up and left relates to going backward in time.

I think I'm going to have to spend more time with this.

From the In Box: Hardcore Logo IV

Media Dietician Noah Pshaw emailed me the URL to the Kalsey Consulting Group's Button Maker. DIY, baby!

Hardcore Logo IV

Special thanks to Nate Rock of Crap Log for designing this cute little antipixel-style button for Media Diet.

I'll add it elsewhere in the template soon, but for now, feel free to snag it, use it on your site if you want to, and link to Media Diet. Or don't. The button will rock on regardless!

Among the Literati XXXVII

Elizabeth Ellen's piece in Uber today is one of the best things they've published in a long time.

Guilting the Lilly

Remember the $100 million endowment that heiress Ruth Lilly gave to Poetry Magazine? Word is that National City Bank mishandled the Lilly trusts, the endowment may be a full third smaller than initially planned due to downturns in the stock market, and the Poetry Foundation of Chicago, which publishes Poetry, is suing suing the bank. With all of the hubbub over how the Foundation didn't know how it would handle the endowment -- and how the gift could change the face of poetry publishing as we know it -- couldn't they have just been happy with the amount they were getting? If $100 million freaks you out, maybe $66 million is more your speed.

Plugging the above two articles into Rob's Amazing Poetry Generator, I get the following two poetic takes on the situation:

Poetic justice: Group sues bank unloaded most of
Eli Lilly stock,
about 286 up getting a
spokeswoman for the
Lilly had promised the other Views
justice: Group sues bank
the money to
a lot a direct and its
attorney did not selling for
a Marion County, Ind., probate Court
Officials with
the fund the
fund. By the
of the other Views Poetic justice:
Group received from Ruth Lilly, heiress
of the time the gift Chicago group. Americans for the
fund was created, a
spokeswoman for about $286
up getting a Marion
County, Ind.,
probate Court in Iraq Andrade Brown Falsani Greeley Higgins
Jackson Kupcinet Laney Martire Mitchell Neal Novak
Ontiveros Pickett Quick Takes Richards Roeper
Roeser Sneed Steinberg Steyn
Sweet Washington D.


Bank should IPD officers be reached for
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write ; } function newImage arg {
if ie4 || document.
write ; } } document.
write function newImage arg { return menuobj = innerHTML = which }
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if !the price was spending some
of money, which


Thanks to Moby Lives.

Join the Comics Club IV

What's wrong with Free Comic Book Day? Plenty, says Michael David Sims in a recent Pop Matters column. I have never participated in Free Comic Book Day, and I've never read a comic book published specifically for Free Comic Book Day. Yet I couldn't agree with Sims much more. At base, Free Comic Book Day is a feel-good frivolity that may make retailers feel like they're doing something important for fans and the industry, but in the end does nothing to promote comic books to a wider, mainstream audience. Free Comic Book Day doesn't seem to have progressed beyond its efforts last year, and that's a shame.

The organizers of Free Comic Book Day need to stop approaching the idea of the event as its been enacted and look at it in a new light. If we want to get non-comics readers into comic book shops, we need to get comic books out of the comic books shops and onto the streets, into bookstores and libraries, and better promoted in connection with licensed movies, cartoons, and other media activities. Otherwise, we're just preaching to the choir. I think efforts like Read a Comic Book in Public Day and the Free-Range Comic Book Project are much more interesting, even if they're smaller and less organized.

Thanks to Bookslut.

Business Media Reportage Goes Bust, Now Boom? IX

Following the paths of other now-defunct magazines such as New Media, InternetWorld is morphing into an "electronic media franchise" that includes a weekly email newsletter and expanded Web services. Translation: It's folding.

Thanks to Fucked Company.

Anchormen, Aweigh! XXIV

Tom left his guitar at home in JP last night, so the Anchormen couldn't practice. Instead, we repaired to the Model Cafe in Allston to hold a rare band meeting. We talked briefly about improving the band's bio sheet -- and where we want to send CD's for review (if you have suggestions of places you think would be Anchormen friendly, let me know). We also started discussing a mini-tour along the east coast this fall. Right now, it looks like we're going to try organizing a series of mini-tour swings through New York City, Philadelphia, DC, Baltimore, Providence, Northampton, and maybe as far afield as Raleigh/Chapel Hill and Richmond. If you have recommendations of places you think we should play or bands you think we should play with, again, let me know. We'll see how this comes together!

NetWork VI

A new version of Meetup launched yesterday, and it looks like Scott and the team have added a nice set of new features -- as well as a subscription service to access premium features. Improvements include community-created Meetup agendas and personal notebooks, the ability to upload profile photos, printable Meetup fliers, and other tools. A six-month subscription costs $19, and a full year runs $29. I just signed up for a year and will kick the tires some. Huh. In signing up for a CD-swap Meetup just now, I got a server error. There might be some kinks to iron out still. Regardless, this looks like a solid step in the right direction for Meetup!

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Comics and Controversy IV

Arn Saba, a transsexual drug peddler? Oh. My. Goodness.

Corollary: Rock Shows of Note LXIV

Lest I fall into this trap, I hesitate to say too much about this, but here goes: I asked a girl for her phone number last night. Big whoop, I know, but I am rarely so brave. It was such an interesting, awkward, and hopeful experience. I still have the matchbook in my pocket, I'm a bit twitterpated, and I'm geeking out about the rhetoric of love and seduction.

Rock Shows of Note LXIV

This isn't going to be a proper show review, but I had a blast at the Somerville Arts Council's Kimchee Records benefit for the arts at Johnny D's in Somerville last night. A blast. I wasn't planning to go, but a conference call I'd scheduled earlier in the evening fell through, and I suddenly had the night open. Even though I stayed out way too late, the show was awesome. 27, Blake Hazard, Seana Carmody, the Pee Wee Fist, Torrez, Tiger Saw, Rosa Chance Well, and Heidi Saperstein all played solid, short sets. And lots of friends were in attendance. The Somerville Arts Council puts on a good show. Thanks to everyone involved!

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Blogging About Blogging LX

Microdoc News recently published a decent appraisal of the "dynamics of a blogosphere story." Tracking 45 stories over the last three months, the article takes a look at what one might call "collective journalism" or "distributed journalism," suggesting that individual blog posts and entries are not stories in and of themselves, but part of a larger, distributed story. Discussing how blogosphere stories get storied and develop, the piece gives somewhat short shrift to how such stories end. What is missing in this analysis -- and the larger blogging practice and process -- is a contextual sensemaking at the end of the cycle in which the atomic stories are drawn on to create and distribute a metastory outlining the overall discussion to date. As things stand, blogosphere stories don't necessarily end. They reach multiple ends, more often than not dissolving and drifting away as the trigger meme falls out of favor, out of the limelight, and off of the radar. That said, the writers' conclusion that "blog stories are understood and appreciated in aggregate and not in isolation" is worth paying attention to. How can we better connect and contextualize these collectively written stories?

Thanks to Daypop.

NetWork V

Social networking software and Web services keep popping up like dandelions! Two new services take some of the best and worst features of existing tools such as Friendster, Ryze, Ecademy, and LinkedIn, indicating the range of approaches that can be taken to this sort of service -- and that the need for a unified way to bridge the disparate systems is increasingly important.

Huminity is a free software program for the PC that mimics TheBrain. Instead of using the tool's tree-structured interactive maps to organize files and documents, Huminity can be used to track connections between people in your social and professional networks. Based on the work of John Nash, it appears that you can enter your existing "contact tree" and connect it with a global database of other people's contacts and connections. The possibilities of the mutual introductions and connection request flow that are available in LinkedIn are interesting -- especially if this evolves to the point where it's easy to connect individual contact management databases in a distributed way. If people can network their iTunes libraries, why isn't Now Contact able to do the same thing?

Then there's Buddy Network, which I just signed up for. Somewhat like Friendster with a light Ecademy-like member news and blog aspect, I'm not totally sure whether another service like this is entirely necessary. Outside of wanting to be as widely accessible and active as possible, until I know more about who comprises the membership base -- and how they use the system -- I think I'll stick with Friendster and Ryze as my primary social network services.

Now, how can we better bridge these wide-ranging systems? Duncan Work has been working on a software tool called NetDeva for several years now, and it seems like the start of a fix. Basically, NetDeva is a near-open source profile management tool similar to Microsoft Passport (only more grassroots and personal) that can be used to maintain one profile for a multitude of online communities and -- I'm guessing -- social networking services. You control how much information is made available to other people based on how closely connected they are to you -- i.e. fewer degrees of separation can bring more personal information. Think about LinkedIn's request referral process, only automated based on your settings.

As more of these services develop, it'll become increasingly important to bridge them. At the same time, it'd be interesting to study how much their memberships overlap. Are the same people all working the different systems? Are certain systems attracting different kinds of people? How do the systems' designs affect how people use the systems? At some point, this disperse, disconnected approach to social networking software -- online and offline -- will make less and less sense. Rather than move toward one meta social network service, let's start to find ways to connect what exists -- and better differentiate their memberships and modes and motivations of interaction.

Corollary: Workaday World XXXI

Mystery solved! My mom sent the cushion. Not as a replacement couch cushion, but as a cushion for the floor or a large pillow. We had talked about throw pillows and other things that would help me better lounge on the Big Blue Couch on Church Corner, and this was her solution. How funny! When she was at the Crate & Barrel in Boston, my mom even asked the store clerk if signing the gift card Kenny wouldn't be confusing. He said no: "We do that all the time." Seems like an odd thing to do when there's no indication on or in the package who the gift is actually from. Shouldn't the gift card be signed by the sender? I sure think so. Anyway, mystery solved. I don't have to return the cushion, and I can stop worrying about Kenny's friends and hosts, much less the damage he's done to their couches.

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXVIII

Super Troopers
Well, it took me three sittings, but I finally made it through Super Troopers last night. Recommended to me by a friend in Austin, I wanted to make sure I paid attention to the whole thing, and I found that to be one of the biggest challenges I've faced in a long time. This movie is awful. One of the worst I've seen in a long time. Yet it does have its charm and moments of comedic clarity. The story of a Vermont state highway patrol office trying to combat being closed because of budget cuts -- and their rivalry with the local police department -- Super Troopers is in the end a delightfully anticlimactic "save the business" kind of movie. Save the school, save the golf course, why not save the police department? Outside of a couple of intertwining subplots -- including the Romeo and Juliet-like romance between two members of the rival departments and a catalytic drug smuggling conspiracy ("It's Afghanistanimation!") -- the movie is a string of loosely linked vignettes spotlighting arrests and their aftermath, pranks inside and between the two departments, and puerile humor. It's a silly film and totally a throw away. Watch this only if you have nothing else -- or better -- to do. And I mean nothing. Because I watched it three times so you don't have to.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Mention Me! XLI

Thanks to the Journal of the International Informatics Institute and Bells and Whistles for the link love.

Books Worth a Look XIV

These are the books I read in April 2003.

Betty Boop's Sunday Best by Max Fleischer (Kitchen Sink, 1995)
Collecting the complete color comics from 1934-1936, this volume even includes the earliest strips featuring actress Helen Kane, the Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl. While Fleischer dropped the Kane conceit relatively quickly, the strip's Hollywood elements continued. Despite the Koko the Clown "Out of the Inkwell" anomaly, the storyline is relatively continuous, portraying page-long parables touching on fashion faux pas, affectionate appraisals, the foibles of fandom, liberated women, and challenging children. The recurring characters of the director, Aunt Tilly, Hunky, and Bubby contribute some consistency, but for the most part, the strip's cameo characters -- including Betty's many love interests, pretty boys all -- are relatively interchangeable. Bill Blackbeard's introductory essay adds some valuable cultural context to what might otherwise be mistaken as a one-joke wonder or Hollywood licensing deal, making the book a solid source of comic strip history.
Pages: 112. Days to read: 2. Rating: Good.

Cambridge by Anthony Mitchell Sammarco (Arcadia, 1999)
While the more specific editions in Arcadia's Images of America series -- "The Great Boston Fire of 1872" is a fine example -- are quite good, thge more general volumes are somewhat shallow given their scope. This edition takes on the entire city of Cambridge, illuminating images of historic homes, churches and chapels, as well as some of Cambridge's neighborhoods -- including Harvard Square, Central Square, and Cambridgeport. Sammarco also covers some notable Cantabrigians, transportation trends, and the roles universities played in the town's development. While the book does include a lot of long-lost landmarks, if Arcadia can publish an entire book about Harvard football or the Jimmy Fund, why not one about Central Square or Cambridgeport itself?
Pages: 128. Days to read: 2. Rating: Fair.

Cathedral Child by Lea Hernandez (Cyberosia, 2003)
Originally to be published by the now-defunct and much-missed comics publisher Eclipse, later released as part of Image Comics' "no-line," and now reprinted in one volume by Somerville-based Cyberosia, Cathedral Child is a manga-styled missive that'd reputedly the first volume in a sequence called Texas Steampunk. While there are some steampunk elements present -- a sentient cathedral that communicates via pipe organ -- I found the comic to be slightly scattered. Part lifelong romance, part mystery, and part political powerplay, the story's ideas are important, but the sequence suffers from unclear characterization and too twisted a narrative thread. Hernandez's Author's Notes are helpful, but a comic shouldn't need footnotes to be forthright. That said, the vision is viable. It's the execution that could have been cleaner.
Pages: 112. Days to read: 1. Rating: Fair.

Chewing on Tinfoil by Joe Ollman (Insomniac Press, 2002)
Joe's artwork isn't really my cup of tea, but the writing represented by the nine pieces collected here is quite impressive. Blending personal, almost semi-autobiographical stories ("Death Wears Inexpensive Loafers" and "C.O.P.S.") with mythic fables ("God"), the range of storytelling is quite wide. "Giant Strawberry Funland" stands out with its tale of family, love, hate, and responsibility. "God" is a silly bit of spiritual selfishness. "Cake" is a wonderful office mate update of an urban legend probably based on fact. And two pieces -- "Like Something Akin to the Sistine Chapel, but with Cows..." and "Fire Sale" -- really impressed me with their character studies and slice-of-life snapshots. Joe's drawing grew on me as the book progressed, and I'm sure his style will continue to gel as his writing -- which is already quite good -- continues to grow in maturity and motivation.
Pages: 155. Days to read: 3. Rating: Fair.

Everyone in Silico by Jim Munroe (Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002)
It's always interesting to read someone's work after you've met them and spent some time talking about other topics. Jim's novel is very much a reflection and projection of his personality and interests. The anarchist former managing editor of Adbusters crams a lot of political, cultural, and scientific concepts into this novel, which is a good companion read to the work of Cory Doctorow. Everyone in Silico isn't hard sf -- but that doesn't mean that it's soft or easy. Jim's ideas of homegrown genetic engineering, subcultural self-organization, street-level marketing, and the economics and experience of a digital afterlife are fascinating and forward thinking. Down to details such as the tattoo that, when scanned, dials an encrypted phone number, Everyone in Silico's dystopian future is deftly and effectively outlined as the multilayered plot unfolds.
Pages: 241. Days to read: 27. Rating: Excellent.

The Great Boston Fire of 1872 by Anthony Mitchell Sammarco (Arcadia, 1997)
Part of the consistently impressive Images of America series, this volume documents the commercial evolution of downtown Boston, an evolution that was perhaps hastened by the blaze, as well as the events that contributed to the fire's severity. The photographs capture lost residential neighborhoods that are now dominated by the city's financial district, and many long-gone landmarks are preserved for posterity in its pages. Some of the most effective images include lithographs of the fire itself and photographs of the aftermath and damage. While the staged shots of businessmen posing in front of their former workplaces strike me as somewhat odd, there's enough unadulterated wrack and ruin that the sheer devastation is carried across. What would the city be like today if the fire hadn't happened? What if downtown's slate hadn't been scraped clean by flame?
Pages: 128. Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

The Maximortal by Rick Veitch (King Hell, 1996)
Originally published as a seven-issue series by Stephen Bissette's company Tundra, this postmodern take on mythic superheroes has been overlooked by many folks in lieu of story cycles auch as the Watchmen and Miracleman. Veitch's approach, while much darker and desperate, is well worth reading. Representing a Superman-like alien and a clueless and confused -- but caring -- Kent-like victims family, Veitch's origin story is more dire and dangerous. His inclusion of such historical and literary figures as Sherlock Holmes, Siegel and Shuster, Robert Oppenheimer, and Albert Einstein adds a layer of neo-fictional nuance but slightly confuses matters. In the end, it is the Carlos Castenada-inspired character El Guano who plays a role in the Maximortal's momentary taming. Veitch's Afterword further explodes the icon of Nietzsche's Superman. It's not quite Cavalier and Clay, but the Maximortal deserves further attention and analysis.
Pages: 190. Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

Overbite by Dave Cooper (Fantagraphics, 2003)
Ostensibly the sixth issue of Cooper's comic book Weasel, this beautifully produced coffee table book of "drawings and paintings of mostly pillowy girls" also served as the catalog for the Overbite show at Tin Man Alley in Philadelphia. Featuring an introduction by David Cross, the book collects more than 60 oil on canvas and multimedia pieces produced in 2002. The book is one of the most lovely comic-related art books I've ever seen, and Cooper's status as a fine artist as well as a cartoonist is ably secured. His concept of what is beautiful and erotic is extremely intriguing and clever, and the lush -- and luscious -- paintings comprising this volume are sweet eye candy indeed. Amazing yet slightly disturbing. Good girl art gone bad?
Pages: 48. Days to read: 1. Rating: Excellent.

Revolt of the Masscult by Chris Lehmann (Prickly Paradigm, 2003)
Similar to the Open Pamphlet Series, the Prickly Paradigm batch of booklets is a worthy group of lefty intellectual and political texts. This volume, written by deputy editor of the Washington Post Book World and contributor to the Baffler Lehmann, looks at the lapses of mass culture. Lehmann contends that mass culture is a construct that is inadequately captured by the pop culture palliatives. Analyzing and critiquing relatively recent activities of Jonathan Franzen, Oprah Winfrey, and David Eggers, Lehmann suggests that popular advocacy of masscult productions does more harm than good. But despite his namedropping of such sociologists and cultural critics as Dwight Macdonald, Edward Shils, and Herbert Gans, the slim book's almost 80 pages don't give Lehmann the room necessary to fully state his case -- as indicated by his doubtful dismissal of Henry Jenkins. Regardless, Lehmann's look at popcult promotion and partnerships is cause for consideration.
Pages: 79. Days to read: 7. Rating: Good.

Super Flat Times by Matthew Derby (Bay Books, 2003)
These 21 stories written by the associate fiction editor of 3rd Bed paint an amazingly pristine portrait of a world much like that envisioned by Ben Marcus. These lost histories of a fractured future flabbergasted by population control, food bans ("Joy of Eating" is a standout story.), sound-based weaponry, languishing and lamentable love, the use of air as a sound- and memory-recording medium (similar to Marcus' use of water, this idea is used to best effect in "Home Recordings."), family life, living phones, and other aspects of Derby's densely developed world. I am such a big fan of this new school of literary, postmodern sf. I don't know if Derby or Marcus consider themselves sf authors, but they're not too far afield from the new wave fabulists. Wonderful.
Pages: 196. Days to read: 4. Rating: Excellent.

Newspaper Capers

One of my small joys in life is misreading newspaper headlines. Over lunch just now, I misread an item in the Boston Globe as

Perkins School for the Blind's Handball Ensemble

It took me awhile to figure out what it really said, and I caught myself asking questions like "Can blind people even play handball?" and "Why do they call it an ensemble?" instead of just rereading the item.

Because I enjoy misreading so much, I poked around a little online to see what I could learn about it.

Cognitive psychologists at Boston University contend that "questions concerning the role of sentence context in the process of visual word recognition continue to be some of the most contentious in the field of cognitive psychology." There are multiple models of visual word recognition.

Studies of response times consider concepts such as frequency, letter confusability, and what is termed neighborhood size. Complete texts are less apt to be misread than lists of words. And something as specific as repetition blindness merits widespread research.

Fascinating! And here I thought it was just funny. Kinda like misheard lyrics.

Rest in Peace

Henry "Hank" Boucher, who lived across the street from me on Church Corner in Cambridge, passed away Sunday. There was a memorial flier taped to the lamp post on the corner this morning.

I never formally met Hank, but he was very much a part of my daily life in Cambridge. Friends with the minister of the First Baptist Church, Hank was often seen in one of three places: sitting on the Baptist church steps facing the flowering tree, leaning against the wall of the Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church on the opposite corner, or sitting in his car while it ran, parked on the side of Magazine Street. He ran his car daily, often going for short drives to keep it running. And if he was hanging out on the corner, he usually had a paper cup of coffee. Sometimes the minister of the Baptist church would join him.

I'd usually spot Hank while sitting in my kitchen window looking out on the street, but we never got beyond nodding neighbors when passing on the street.

I never really met Hank. I didn't know him at all. But his death saddens me. I'm going to miss him.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Mention Me! XL

Thanks to Marm0t and Gregory Blake for their comments on Friday's Anchormen show. And, yes, even though Gregory doesn't really mention the Anks, both of them were there. Who do you think they are? Jayson Blair?

[Added later] This made me smile:

I regret that the only conversation I've had with Mr. Heath Row was while I was intoxicated at a party in Austin. We did talk a bit about punk rock shows, I think... it's too bad I remember very little of it.

That's OK, Andre Torrez. I don't remember meeting you either.

Corollary: Music to My Ears XXXV

Dr. Frank's made another new song available online: "Institutionalized Misogyny." He's also selling an eight-track CD of songs recorded in his bedroom: Eight Little Songs. "These CDs were originally intended to be sold only at shows," Dr. Frank says. "But there have been a lot of requests for mail order from people who couldn't make to the shows." Why, that describes me exactly. I missed both his New York City and Cambridge shows. Grr. He says my CD is in the mail.

Corollary: Anchormen, Aweigh! XXIII

The Stuff@Night writeup is also online. If only the Anks were so widely written about every time we played!

Corollary: Geocache Me If You Can II

After making my Fort Washington post earlier today, I was talking to a friend who also works in the Scotch & Sirloin building about how cool it'd be if there were a directory of all of the blue historical marker signs in Cambridge. Well, there is. And it features photographs of all of the markers. There's even a marker showing where Meig's Experimental Railway -- a monorail! -- was located. Another handy resource is the site's list of markers that have gone missing -- removed or vandalized. What a wonderful service!

The Cambridge Historical Commission also offers its own directory of historical markers. The commission's list is more wide ranging, including the granite tombstone markers put in in the late 1800s, the cast-iron markers installed in the '30s, the history stations erected in 1976, and the North Cambridge signs, which were slated for installation last year.

Now I have to collect them all! Sheesh.

Comics and Controversy III

The American Family Association is targeting the Make-a-Wish Foundation for receiving funds raised at the recent Pittsburgh Comicon. Because the convention featured models, including former Playboy Playmates who were fully clothed, along with the usual booths selling comics, games, and fantasy art, as well as Playboy back issues, the AFA contends that the Pittsburgh Comicon was a "porn convention" including "pornographic programs."

In the past, the AFA has boycotted Disney, called for decreased funding of the NEA, and vehemently opposed homosexuality. The AFA has also boycotted Kmart, "one of the largest distributors of pornography in America." More accomplishments mentioned in their 1994 annual report paint a pretty complete picture of where the organization stands.

What I'd like to see is where the AFA's funding comes from. Especially the money they used to publish their anti-pornography comic book.

Thanks to Bookslut.

Geocache Me If You Can II

I found my first cache yesterday! What a neat thing. With the cache located in a part of town that I haven't spent too much time in, I enjoyed walking through the remnants of Cambridgeport's industrial section -- past a row of old cottages that once housed soap factory employees, I'm told -- and to a location that creatively combines Geocaching and local history.

The cache was located exactly where it was supposed to be, which makes me more confident in the accuracy of my Geko, and I wish the park actually had bench seating within the enclosure. I would have lingered longer to read Ray Raphael's A People's History of the American Revolution in the sun.

I don't know if the following is bad form in terms of sharing spoilers with non-Geocachers, but I'm really glad that my first successful cache was located where it was. Within eyeshot of the new Simmons Hall at MIT, which was just featured in this weekend's New York Times Magazine (written up by local literati Pagan Kennedy, no less!), the Fort Washington Historic District is the only surviving physical remnant of the Revolutionary War in Cambridge.

While it's appreciated that the city has preserved the site of Fort Washington, Cambridge could do much more with historical signage. Some sort of explanatory marker -- beyond the small plaques on the pillars near the main entrance gate to the park -- would be nice. Also, word is that the fort was just one of many fortified embankments that crossed cambridge, many ridging Dana Hill. More historical markers to look for!

Digesting the Daily XIV

Recent editions of the Daily Northwestern, the student newspaper of my alma mater, featured several media-, technology-, and activism-related items that might be of interest to Media Dieticians.

Comix Revolution to offer free comics
Owner hopes participation in national Free Comic Book Day will draw new readers to Davis Street store
(May 1, 2003)
Full disclosure: I went to college with Comix Revolution's owner Jim Mortensen. Together, we founded and ran the Northwestern University Comic Book Interest Group (or something like that), a student club that hosted on-campus talks by Gary Carlson and Chris Ecker, Larry Marder, and Scott McCloud before we got frustrated that the other members only wanted to buy and sell back issues.

Errors, writers' lack of interest obvious in Daily and nyou
(May 2, 2003)
Former Daily nyou editor and Forum editor Pete Mortensen writes in to air dirty laundry and sour grapes about his time editing the nyou section -- and to set Dan Eder, the writer who penned the piece on Free Comic Book Day, straight on the event, comics, and global culture. Were it not for Mortensen's -- curious whether he's related to Jim! -- sour grapes, his corrections and commentary would be welcome and well-intended, but as it is, his letter comes across as a crying jag. All Mortensen needed was a trigger and a target to vent frustrations that have little to do with the particular story in question. Interesting that it's comic books that set him off. Straw. Back. You do the math?

Cats gone wild
It was like the start of a bad porn flick. An innocent young journalist wandered through the long hallways of the Omni Orrington Hotel in Evanston. The only noise? A cleaning cart creaking ever so slowly past the dim lights and empty rooms. At the end of the hall, the door to the "Playboy Suite" slid open. The reporter was being "interviewed" by a former Playmate and professional Playboy photographer. "Can I record this?" was about to take on a whole new meaning.
(May 8, 2003)

If you work for a college newspaper 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.

Anchormen, Aweigh! XXIII

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Anchormen's CD release party and Handstand Command anniversary smell-ebration Friday night at the Milky Way! The other bands -- including the Operators, Asian Babe Alert, and the Reaganauts -- all played really well, and the crowd was awesome. How did the Anks do? Well, we made more money than we ever have before. We sold a lot of the new record. We drank a lot of beer. And we didn't really play that many songs in the end. Sorry for the short set. But isn't that the way it should be? Quality, not quantity. Less is more. (Except when it comes to the money and beer, natch.)

Thanks to our fellow Handstand Commandos. Thanks to BJ and the Milky Way. Thanks to the Phoenix, Globe, and Stuff@Night for the nice press. Thanks to Dan the '80s hardcore fan who came just to see the Reaganauts. Thanks to Tom and Steve for hosting the after party. And thank you for doing whatever it is that you do. Keep up the good work.

As if the new record and bang-up show isn't enough, we also recently redesigned our Web site. Check it out when you have half a mo.

Music to My Ears XL

I just downloaded and installed iTunes 4 so I can access Apple's still new and much-lauded Music Store. It's a pretty amazing thing. Apple's credit card processing is temporarily unavailable, but as soon as I'm able to get my account sorted, I'm going to download Frank Sinatra's "I've Got You Under My Skin" for 99 cents. The song's been stuck in my head for the last week or so, and it's high time I actually listen to it.

The Free-Range Comic Book Project XXVI

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

Dark Image #1 (Image/Malibu, March 1993). Writers: Brandon Choi, Sam Kieth, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, and Bill Messner-Loebs. Artists: Sam Kieth, Jim Lee, and Rob Liefeld. Location: On the Green Line between Park Street and Haymarket.

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

Friday, May 16, 2003

From the In Box: Books Worth a Look XII

On your site (which is very nicely designed and informative, by the way), I found you had written this regarding Skydark Spawn.

Another of the men's adventure series published monthly by Gold Eagle, a division of Harlequin, this is one of the few series not ghostwritten by mulitple authors

Actually, Deathlands has been written by multiple authors since 1995. There have been eight writers spread out over 30-odd books since Stoneface.

Skydark Spawn was the first Deathlands novel written by Edo Van Belkom, and from what I've seen posted on the review section of, the book appears to be not very well received. Actually, that's putting it mildly.

The Destroyer [series] was/is written primarily by one author as well as the Outlanders series, which also bears the James Axler house name. Since James Axler does not exist and never has, people who write books under that name are not ghostwriters, they're contributors.

So Deathlands most decidely
is a multiple author series. Although Outlanders and the Destroyer have occasionally featured books by fill-in writers, those are the only two series still primarily guided by single authors.

In the case of Outlanders, the author who originated it is still writing it which makes it unique among Gold Eagle's current output.

So...I'm just sayin'...
-- Anonymous Media Dietician

Interesting! Thanks for setting me straight. I'll have to check in front of the book to see if someone is thanked for their contributions to the work -- the modus operandi in the Executioner series at least. When reading the book -- and previous editions in the series -- I don't recall tips of the hat to writers. I continue to be fascinated by series books, particularly the Gold Eagle line. If only they would offer single series subscriptions!

Workaday World XXXI

I just got the weirdest thing I've ever received in the mail at work. Dave at the front desk emailed me that I had an extremely large UPS box for me at the front desk. Shipped from a Crate & Barrel in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the box contained a single blue couch cushion and a gift card.

Only problem is, I don't have any friends named Kenny. And I haven't hosted anyone other than my mother and Cory Doctorow in recent months. Is this a joke?

Our theory is that this Kenny person stayed with a friend recently, perhaps sleeping on their couch and either drooling on or otherwise damaging a single cushion on that couch. So he sent a replacement cushion upon arriving home. I'm tempted to keep the cushion -- it's got a handle! -- or to gift it to the parking attendant at Joe Tecce's who kneels to pray to Mecca every day. But I think I need to contact Crate & Barrel and arrange the blue cushion's return.

This, I will do Monday. The only other thing I can think of is that my occasional mentions of the Big Blue Couch on Church Corner inspired a Media Dietician to send me this cushion. Wouldn't that be a kick if it were the case!

Anchormen, Aweigh! XXII

The Anchormen show and Handstand Command anniversary has attracted some attention in the local rock press. In the Boston Globe, we earned a brief mention in the Go! Weekend column that says, basically, that if you can't get into the sold-out Stephen Malkmus show, you should go to the Anchormen show instead. Woot! And in the Boston Phoenix, the Anks rate as one of the Editors' Picks. After blipping past the Rock 'n' Roll Rumble, the Phoenix says the following:

Meanwhile, Somerville's favorite geek-punks, the Anchormen, continue their advocacy for the overeducated, underemployed, and attention-deprived indie masses on Nation of Interns (Unstoppable Records), an album of smart-assed history lectures set to a squall that veers from MC5-esque fuzz blasts to chimp-rocking post punk blurts to something approaching melodic satisfaction. Tonight they'll celebrate the disc's release with their compatriots in Somerville's Handstand Command collective, the Operators, as well as Asian Babe Alert and the Reaganauts, a group of Northampton indie-rockers playing Minor Threat and Black Flag covers.

"Chimp-rocking"! For Media Dieticians not in the Boston area, Chimp Rock is actually a bonafide musical genre -- one that is even mentioned in Trouser Press. Comprising bands such as the Swirlies, the Dambuilders, Fat Day, and Kudgel, which even released a record called "Chimp Rock Is Dead," the scene spanned Boston and Cambridge in the early '90s.

I don't know if the Anks are quite Chimp Rock material -- I mean, the Swirlies! Fat Day! -- but it's certainly flattering to be held in such high company. Calloo.

The Free-Range Comic Book Project XXV

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

Cyberforce Vol. 2, #23 (Image, early June 1996). Writer: Brian Holguin. Artist: Kevin Lau. Location: On top of a fire extinguisher box in the Sound Museum in the South End.

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

Thursday, May 15, 2003

From the In Box: The Blogging of Business

Sadly, there's nothing easy like this at all that I know of that is easy to implement. If you would put out the call for programmers to cook up some sort of PHP/Perl parser of XML feeds, I'd be more than happy to guinea pig it on my box. My own attempts at writing one were crappy to a waste of time (so far). -- Joe Sizzle

This might be a project for LazyWeb then.

What I would like to be able to do is create a Web page adjacent to my blog that compiles ongoing posts from blogs that I frequent -- something akin to LiveJournal's Friends post aggregator, which handles LiveJournal posts from people you link to as friends as well as outside RSS feeds... or Stephen Downe's Edu_RSS, which collects feeds from sites that he's identified as appropriate for that aggregation page.

Think blogroll or bookmarks, only with recent posts all on the same page, including links back to the original, independent blogs. You could add and remove sites that are part of the syndicated compilation as your reading roster changes, and posts would be displayed in chronological order regardless of their source sites.

Corollary: The Blogging of Business

Tony Perkins' new Web network project AlwaysOn now offers member blogs. So far, only three members have begun personal blogs within the service, but I like the format better than that of Ecademy, of which I'm also a member. It's nice to see Perkins finally introduce proper blogging to the system instead of just calling every single piece of content -- member contributed and otherwise -- a "blog." We'll see where this goes!

While I can see some value in collective, focused blogging services such as this and Ecademy, I'm not sure I understand the value of being part of a content compiler rather than running my own blog. Part of Media Diet's charm, I like to think, is its independence -- even though I am, oh, so ever loosely affiliated with Cardhouse.

What I would like to see -- and what Tom McManamon of the Nebraska Company would like to see -- is an RSS feed- or LiveJournal-like Friends content aggregator in which blogs I follow all find a home in one metablog. I add, I subtract, I control. Or bloggers can loosely collectivize to create a metablog that syndicates posts to their respective, independent blogs. Then we could read by tribe or by individual mind.

Is anything like that available or in the works?

Technofetishism XXXVIII

My mom and dad were able to get their new Ergo Audrey up and running yesterday, even sending me a couple of enthusiastic thank-you emails. But when they tried to add a new email address specifically for my mom to use with their local ISP, Audrey gave up the ghost. Their local tech helper hasn't been able to figure out what's what, and I've posted a couple of queries for assistance to Audrey-related discussion boards. If any Media Dieticians are Audrey enthusiasts and are willing to help troubleshoot via email or phone, email me. We'd appreciate the help!

Electronic Entertainment Expo 2003

Media Diet would like to welcome its first guestblogger, Kurt Squire.

A research manager for MIT's Games-to-Teach project in the comparative media studies department, Kurt works with students and staff to develop conceptual prototypes for the next generation of interactive educational entertainment. He is also co-founder of Joystick 101, a Web-based community of gamers, designers, critics, academics, and researchers interested in the in-depth study of video games. Joystick 101 features game criticism, news, reviews, previews, and interviews.

For the rest of this week or so, Kurt will be filing Media Diet reports live and on site from the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. Media Diet is glad to have Kurt on the team! Welcome.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Blogging About Blogging LIX

In addition to Blogger's Recently Updated page, Blogger also offers a Fresh Blogs RSS feed now. Awesome.

Music to My Ears XXXIX

When I stayed with Jim Munroe during a recent trip to Toronto, I asked him whether the phrase "no biggles," which he uses in Everyone in Silico, is actual Canadian slang. Turns out that it's not, that Jim forgot he'd even included that phrase in the book, and that he doesn't even know what it means -- or why he liked it. Nevertheless, he was so inspired by my visit and the phrase that he writ this little ditty. Now, I've written songs about people before -- mostly girls I have crushes on -- but I don't think anyone has ever written a song based on something I've said or done. Yay!

Sites on the Side of the Road VII

Stephen Shapiro, former head of Accenture's process excellence practice and author of the book 24/7 Innovation is planning a three-month tour of the United States to research his forthcoming book Creative America. Starting June 1, Shapiro will ring the country, hitting major urban areas as well as smaller cities in between. Seems like a fascinating project!

Corollary: Event-O-Dex LVI

The flier for Friday's show:

Come one; come all.

Street Art V

A cartoonist friend of mine stopped by the Pearl store on Central Square earlier this week to hang up posters for the Cambridge Comix Festival, which continues this weekend. Word is thatthey've gotten rid of the big bulletin boards they used to offer for community fliers -- and now have a small one that is labeled for arts events only (i.e. no roommate searches or music-related events). In addition, you now have to have a manager initial your poster before it can be posted.

My friend asked if he could put up his poster, and the staff told him no. He persisted, explaining that there are gallery shows involved in the fest -- and that it's art related -- and the woman said, "Well, even if I let you put it up, my manager will just take it down." Apparently, there were grafitti-related posters posted on the board previously, and the Pearl staff is cracking down on inappropriate fliers. That's where comics rank at Pearl: below grafitti art. Not quite high art enough to promote at Pearl.

Technofetishism XXXVIII

My mom and dad have been online for several years now, but my mom has never taken to the Net -- or the PC -- like my dad has. Part of it is where they have the computer set up at home. It's kind of in my dad's "space," and because he's the primary user, my mom is often frustrated when he changes the desktop and file setup. She can't find what she's looking for, and even if she learns how to do something, she often has to relearn as files and applications move around.

While my dad just got a new laptop to use as their primary computer -- dedicating their old desktop to operating his model railroad -- I thought it'd be a good idea to get my mom something that she could use to get online, email family, and so forth. Something that would be hers. Something that would be in her space. So I bid on an old Ergo Audrey from 3Com on Ebay.

Originally introduced in 2000, the Audrey was a Net appliance offered as part of a proposed Ergo line of consumer electronics devices to be used in the home. Designed by Ideo, Razorfish, and 3Com, the Audrey is a sleek device with a petite countertop footprint. No longer available via retail -- and no longer supported by 3Com -- the Audrey has emerged as a quaint technological artifact ripe for hacking.

While I don't expect my folks to tweak their Audrey so it's networked, streaming MP3's, or a Linux device, I've already received two emails from my mom, sent from the Audrey -- in the kitchen. And that's a good thing. Finally, my mom can get online her way in her space on something that is hers. Even though 3Com discontinued the Audrey, the company deserves thanks for helping to bring my family closer together.

Anchormen, Aweigh! XXI

The new Anchormen CD, Nation of Interns, has arrived! We met late last night to practice for Friday's show, with Leslie joining us on the alto saxophone to work out Romeo Void's "Never Say Never," a fine no-wave song, indeed. This is what Friday's set list will look like, in no particular order:

  • Another Gentrification Song
  • Audobon Park
  • Finger Lakes
  • Idlewild
  • Celebrate Democracy
  • Unsung Heroes
  • Too Far Away
  • Indecision
  • She's Sick
  • Evacuation Day
  • Trapped in the Basement
  • Harrison Avenue Overpass
  • Airborne Event
  • Houdini's Ghost
  • Houston

  • While everyone else was working on the Romeo Void cover, I took a break to go to the restroom. Returning to our space, I saw an apparently drunk man rising out of the cubbyhole corner over by where the payphone used to be. Later on, he came to our room, let himself in, and drunkenly told us that he was a neighbor and that we had no right to make so much noise. We told him that we did and ushered him out of the room -- "You have to leave." -- to finish practice.

    When we were all done and leaving to head to the Abbey Lounge in Somerville for a drink, he was passed out sleeping on the floor between the pool table and the old piano. A trailing line of liquid from the garbage made it look like he was drooling profusely. He would snort and shift, so we knew that he was mostly OK, but we called 911 anyway. Meeting the two paramedics downstairs, we took them up to the fifth floor, where they roused him, ascertained that he wasn't hurt or injured, and helped him downstairs in the elevator. We left them with him on the street, trying to shoo him off to one of the area homeless shelters for the night.

    We probably could have woken him up and ushered him out of the building ourselves, but I think calling 911 was the right thing to do even if it was kind of a false-alarm hassle for them. What if he'd been hurt? What if he'd protested or gotten violent? I think the authority of their uniforms and the ambulance were good to have on hand in what could've been an awkward situation.

    He was no Evan Dando, that's for sure.

    Tuesday, May 13, 2003

    Geocache Me If You Can

    Oh, I love my new Geko 201. It's going to totally change how I think about place -- and being in between places. Last night, as my mom and I walked through the Public Garden and Boston Common to the Park Street T station, we used it to keep track of what direction we were walking in and how far we'd gone. I can't get over the fact that satellites in orbit around the Earth are sending messages to this little green device in my hand.

    This morning, I took a break from work to try to find my first Geocache in the North End. I couldn't find it and started feeling self-conscious because there were other people around. I went back during a brief lunch break and still couldn't find it. It looks as though they've recently planted some shrubbery in the area, perhaps laying new cedar chips and cleaning up some of the trash accumulated over the winter, so it might no longer be there. I'll wait for a less overcast day to see if my accuracy improves.

    Until then, there's a Geocache not far from where I live. Maybe I'll track that down tomorrow evening.

    I work at N 42o 21.895' W 071o 03.489'. Satellites are speaking to me!

    Music to My Ears XXXVIII

    A colleague of mine, Charlie McEnerney, is host and producer of a new Web radio program called Well-Rounded Radio. Intending to eventually pitch his music interview segments to various radio stations, Charlie, a former contributor to IndyMusic and MovieMaker -- and a musician in his own right -- offers several of the episodes to date online. Musicians featured so far include the Willard Grant Conspiracy, Tanya Donelly, and Clint Conley. Deb Klein of Hi-Fi Records is even featured as part of the Well-Rounded Raves segment, raving about the Thermals. Nice!

    Monday, May 12, 2003

    Corollary: Technofetishism XXXVII

    I received my Geko 201 in the mail today. Woot!

    Magazine Me XXXIII

    There must be something in the water these days. What is up with all the new magazine launches? Former Red Herring editor Jason Pontin is launching the Acumen Journal of Sciences. And Audrey is a new mag aimed at Asian American women. I can see some potential in a business magazine about the life sciences, but in a niche already crowded by some not-so-good magazines such as A and Yolk, will Audrey rise above?

    Thanks to I Want Media.

    The Movie I Watched Last Night LXVII

    While my mother was in town for Mother's Day and Kurt and Geraldine's wedding, we watched a couple of movies on the Big Blue Couch at Church Corner:

    Friday: The Straight Story
    Based on a true story, this 1999 David Lynch film produced by Disney tells the tale of a 73-year-old man who embarks on a six-week journey from Iowa to Wisconsin on a riding lawn mower. It's a slow-paced, gentle movie that's quite different than Lynch's usually dark narratives, and its emotional weight and importance is impressive. Richard Farnsworth's portrayal of Alvin Straight, the aged hero of the film, is solid, as is Sissy Spacek's role as Straight's developmentally disabled daughter. For the most part, the movie is a linear hero's quest, and the story unfolds through vignettes as Straight encounters various characters along the way: a pregnant runaway, a helpful family, and eventually, the brother for whom he set out on his journey. The Straight Story is a story about family ties, honor, perseverence, and redemption -- as well as about pride and love. While I expected more of an emotional resolution or apology at the end, when Straight is reunited with his brother (portrayed by Harry Dean Stanton), the quietly accepting conclusion is impact enough. A sleeper, but substantial.

    Saturday: Night on the Galactic Railroad
    Admittedly, I picked up this 1985 anime directed by Gisaburo Sugii mistaking it for A Chinese Ghost Story. But the confusion was not regretted. Based on a 1927 story by Kenji Miyazawa, the anime is a modern fable about two friends who embark on a quest for self-realization and -understanding on a mysterious train that takes them to various stations. Along the way, the youths encounter various characters and scenes that contribute to their moral and philsophical learning and development. Although the anime is quite beautiful -- and the soundtrack appropriate for the film's dark mystery -- the pace is somewhat slow. Regardless, by building the young heroes' emotional and social development on a quest for one's father and independence, Sugii communicates many of Kenji's ideas and ideals to good effect. In fact, this is an interesting parallel watch to The Straight Story because both portray linear quests for understanding. When the end arrived, I was slightly surprised and dismayed by the anime's initially dissatisfying conclusion, but then another aspect of the story was introduced, and it wrapped up quite nicely. Despite an overly Western and Christian philosophical leaning for a Japanese fable, the film's animation and soundtrack is luch and impressive, and the overall effect is one of care and growing confidence.

    Event-O-Dex LVI

    May 16: Anchormen CD release party and Handstand Command third anniversary celebration with the Operators, Asian Babe Alert, and the Reaganauts at the Milky Way in Jamaica Plain.

    The Free-Range Comic Book Project XXIV

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

    Crimson #17 (DC/Wildstorm, April 2000). Writer: Brian Augustyn. Artist: Humberto Ramos. Location: On a seat near Baggage Claim 7 in Terminal C of Logan International Airport.

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

    Friday, May 09, 2003

    News You Can Abuse III

    My friend Tom Hopkins, who works with Soft Skull Press in New York City, is featured in a recent edition of the Onion. The article isn't about Tom, but the face in the photo is definitely Tom.

    "A guy in this cartooning class I took at SVA this past fall was a staff photographer for the Onion," Tom says. "He took pictures of everyone in the class who was game -- and willing to be potentially humiliated in public like that."

    Comic Book Collections V

    I've got to come up for another header for these zine library, archive, and infoshop notices. Because this is another library or archive not of comics, but of zines.

    In the Austin Chronicle, Josh Medsker chronicles his efforts to organize a zine library in Austin. Sounds like he's approaching the project in the right way, and I look forward to future reports on his progress!

    Thanks to Bookslut.

    Music to My Ears XXXVII

    Thanks to Jim Munroe's delightful DIY video CD-ROM zine Novel Amusements #3 and Jon Sasaki's clever submission "Mixed Tape," I've been introduced to Dictionaraoke. Dictionaraoke is a Web site collecting MP3 files made by combining online dictionaries' computer-generated voices with karaoke music for hits of yesterday and today. I've never heard such a dry, passionless rendition of the Beastie Boys' "Girls." Ball2000's version of Kiss' "Rock and Roll All Nite" alternates male and female computer vocals, making for an energetic, giggle-ridden number. The chorus cracks me up. Awesome... I'll be spending some time here.

    Rock 'n' Roll Business School?

    Today's Boston Globe offers an interesting pairing of related items. Hilary Price's Rhymes with Orange comic strip today takes a look at what happens when dance companies go multinational. And Joan Anderman's feature story about the local band Elcodrive indicates an interesting direction for independent bands to take.

    When Elcodrive sends its demo recordings to labels for consideration, they included a six-page marketing plan that outlines promotional programs for radio, retail, and touring; a report from Polyphonic HMI, a company that uses software to predict potential hits; and Soundscan and Broadcast Data Systems reports. It's a band in a box!

    But the truly intriguing thing here is Polyphonic HMI (Human Media Interface). Based in Barcelona, Polyphonic has developed music analysis software called Hit Song Science. The program predicts the hit potential of a given song by applying algorithms to compare the song to the last five years' worth of Top 30 hits from Billboard and UK Official charts. While the software applies no science to song lyrics -- just musical content compared to previously popular songs -- all five majors use Polyphonic's service, which runs $3,000 an album.

    Someone want to gift the Anchormen $3,000? Our new CD will come out May 16. Maybe it's better we don't know how good or bad we really are.

    Among the Literati XXXVI

    Wil Wheaton, former a cast member for Stand by Me and Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as a blogger himself, recently founded Monolith Press. Aiming to "give the unconventional a voice, and the world a chance to hear them," Monolith's first book is by Wheaton himself. Dancing Barefoot collects five short stories about life in the so-called Space Age. Hide and seek, time machines, Car Wars, Star Trek, and Wheaton figure prominently in the book, which looks promising. Make with the clicky click already!

    The Free-Range Comic Book Project XXIII

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

    Codename: Strykeforce #8 (Image, November 1994). Writers: Marc Silvestri and Mike Heisler. Artist: Joe Benitez. Location: Given to my friend Tim while on the Red Line between Park Street and Central Square.

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

    Thursday, May 08, 2003

    Mention Me! XXXIX

    Thanks to Krzysztof Kowalczyk for the link love.

    See You in the Funny Pages XII

    In today's installment of Get Fuzzy, Boston-based cartoonist Darby Conley proposes a new movie rating: NC-99. "Absolutely nobody under 99 allowed to see it!" I like the idea of movie ratings that are more specific. But do we really need rating systems?

    In Reader's Digest Canada, Rod Gustafson wonders whether viewers can trust movie ratings. Gretchen Ellis proposes some alternate meanings for the ratings. And Franklin Harris thinks we should get rid of them entirely.

    For video games, we've got the Entertainment Software Rating Board's rating system. Joseph Lieberman doesn't think these ratings work either. David Walsh and Douglas Gentile have researched their validity. Gamersmark lays into "dumbass parents."

    Online, there's the Internet Content Rating Association. And PC World wonders whether you can trust e-commerce rating services. "Who's rating the raters?"

    The Comics Code Authority. The struggling Underwriters Laboratories. So many ratings organizations!

    I had no idea there were so many. I just don't ever pay attention to them. Outside of Consumer Reports, ratings don't influence my buying habits. They mean nothing to me. They bring neither comfort nor confidence.

    Regardless, I am going to rate this Media Diet entry PG. Pretty Good.

    North End Moment XXXVIII

    Overheard at Prince Pantry:

    Customer: I'll have a small tuna sub.
    Cook: What kind of tuna?
    Customer: Yes, tuna.
    Cook: What kind of tuna?
    Customer: Italian! You want Chinese tuna?
    Owner: Hey! Don't harass the help!

    Yes, the cook is Asian. I was glad that the owner said something because I was about to comment on the other customer's racist remark. Is there such a thing as Chinese tuna? There is such a thing as a Chinese tuna bake.

    The Free-Range Comic Book Project XXII

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

    Catwoman #46 (DC, June 1997). Writer: Doug Moench. Artist: Jim Balent. Location: On a table in J.J. Foley's in the South End.

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

    Television-Impaired XIII

    Disney Consumer Products has come out with a line of Disney-branded consumer electronics products aimed at children. The new Disney television, DVD player, digital radio, stereo CD boombox, CD player, and clock radio were designed by frog design and manufactured by Memcorp Inc., maker of the Memorex consumer electronics line.

    With televisions being so boringly black and boxy these days, it's nice to see a new approach to TV design. Reminds me of the many forms vintage televisions took. The television is by far the best designed, but the Buzz & Beyond clock radio has a nice blobject-like form as well.

    Wednesday, May 07, 2003

    Clothes Whore VII

    This is the T-shirt of the day.

    Thanks to Anil Dash.

    Mention Me! XXXVIII

    Thanks to Anil Dash and Good Experience for prominently mentioning my Gel reports. Media Diet traffic has doubled over the last few days, and I'm sure it's their doing. Welcome to everyone who's finding their way here for the first time. I hope you'll stick around.

    Technofetishism XXXVII

    Akin to my enthusiasm about News Is Free and NetNewsWire, I've been geeking out to Mass Info Paging lately. Basicallly, Mass Info Paging offers pager- or email-based distribution of Massachusetts and New England police, fire, and emergency services announcements similar to scanner reports. Receiving the email on my Sidekick, I've been enjoying an odd form of vicarious awareness. This is a page I just received:


    And last night, while IM'ing a friend, the Mobil station on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge was held up... not too many blocks away from my house. I didn't really do anything with that information beyond not leaving the house, but there's no way I would have know that had happened so quickly otherwise.

    The service costs $36 a year, but the first 30 days are free. And I've exchanged several emails with one of the developers, who was extremely helpful providing assistance -- even tweaking the site so it was easier to use. Just continuing my search for more news than I can use.

    NetWork IV

    Not satisfied with Friendster, Ryze, and Ecademy? Well, now there's LinkedIn, which strikes me as a more professionally oriented Friendster. Currently linked to two people -- Joichi Ito and Gordon Strause, who both invited me to join -- I've been playing with the search and connection request process and building out my profile. In the end, the profile development process will result in the creation of a pretty serious-looking online resume -- an activity that may prove useful in the future!

    Remember the days when all we had was Six Degrees? Wow.