Thursday, July 31, 2003

Music to My Eyes XX

Photographs and videos from the Handstand Command residency at the Choppin' Block last month are now available online.

Hiking History X

Last night, I went on a history walk titled "What Makes Harvard Square a Square?" through the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. What follows are my rough notes and photographs taken during the walk and talk. I have not fact checked the dates or names, so there may be some inaccuracies.

Cambridge founded 1630 as capital of Massachusetts Bay Colony... Originally a planned city on a three-by-four grid... Now mostly Harvard dorms... 64 house lots in a one-third mile radius surrounded by a fence... On the Charles so only small craft can access... Elected officials built homes in Boston and Charlestown... Didn't want to move... After a year, only 10 families... By 1635, 500 people, 86 families because of the Great Migration... 1635, Hooker's parishioners all moved to Hartford, Connecticut... Only 11 families remain... Shepard's flock moved into abandoned homes... Founded first college in British America... 400 pounds pledged in 1636... Will be located in Newtowne...

Changed name because of Cambridge, England... Classes start in 1638... Harvard named for minister in Charlestown... Died of consumption and gave half of estate and 300-book library to college... Died 1638... Town 35 miles long from Billerica to Newton... V shaped... Less than a mile wide at Harvard Square... 70 acres dedicated to pasture... Only college in America for 50 years... Even at Revolution, only 12... Attracted first printing press... Provincial Congress met here... Continental army based here... Massachusetts constitution drafted here 1779... Brattle house... Reclaimed by son Thomas in 1776... Street not as wide, formal garden... Also a little creek where sidewalk is...

Brattle Hall built in 1789 as a live theater and meeting space for Cambridge Social Union, now CCAE... 1948 theater converted to movies... Also Architect's Corner built in 1966... Design Research one of first furnishings importer... Also Architects Collaborative... Blacksmith's house... Longfellow lived nearby... Chestnut tree near Cafe of India... 1946 the Window Shop helped European resettlers... Christ Church oldest church still standing... First Parish on other side of burial ground... First church has rooster on top... Puritans weren't separatists, Pilgrims were... Puritans Congregationalist... 1686 Church of England imposed, resulting in King's Chapel...

No Church of England in Cambridge until 1759... Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts... Opened 1761... Originally five windows, split in half, added two... Designed by architect of King's Chapel... East Apthorpe first priest... Fears of Anglican bishop... Apthorpe's house called the Bishop's Palace... Unitarianism started in England, first Unitarian church in Boston 1789, 1810 a major movement... Cambridge's church split, original church in center of square... Burial ground 1635 not the original site... Churches postdate ground by 100-200 years... Vassal family tomb in basement of Anglican church... Cambridge Common shared pasture land...

Originally to Linian Street... Shrunk, fenced in... Need to feed 10,000 soldiers... Slaughterhouses on Charlestown side, cattle would graze on common... Mt. Auburn Cemetery founded 1835... Old milestone 1734... William Dawes' route... Five milestones remain... Originally stood in center of square... Other side 1794 directions to new bridge... Unitarian parish building paid for by Harvard... Used for graduation until Memorial Hall... Emerson gave address in 1837... First bit of Transcendentalism... Churches are 0 Church and Garden Street... Movie theater originally University Theater... Entrance originally on Massachusetts Avenue, cut through...

Known for 1970 live performances, Leonard Bernstein lectures, play "Oh, Calcutta!" banned in Boston but staged in Cambridge, and Bob Dylan/Bruce Springsteen concert... Rolling Stone review.. Used to be one auditorium... 1827 house... Palmer Street originally an alley with stables... Coop built in 60s... Starbucks a carriage house... Nearby firehouse... Abercrombie building on site of 1790 wooden building with posts, 1896 electric street car couldn't make corner with sharp point, so they remodeled it as rounded, removed one post, 1990s debate about demolishment, removed all but 1890 facade, preserving next door brick building...

Brattle Street from a creek leading to a pond in Harvard Yard... Brattle Square originally Creek Lane... Subway opened in 1912, sidewalks 5-6 feet lower originally... Creeks converged at 1 Brattle Square... Tunnel for subway under here no longer used, trains once stored near Kennedy School... Winthrop Street part of original 1630 layout... Ground level behind Charlie's is original level... Stone wall 1700s... Until 1909, Charles was tidal... Newtowne Market 1635-1699... Stone thing only 15 years old... Winthrop Street part of grid... Harvard undergraduate life on original grid... JFK originally Boylston originally Wood...

Harvard didn't have enough dorms until 1920, wealthy didn't live on campus, gold coast apartments along Mount Auburn... No fraternities, but dine in clubs, final clubs... Used to be 12-plus along Mount Auburn... Some still operate, building used otherwise.. Fox Club green shutters on corner... Grendel's Den Pi Eta... Brick with green shutters near For Eyes was Sigma Alpha Epsilon... John Hick's house, white with shutters originally a couple blocks over, killed in British ambush... 1920 Harvard dorms built (called houses)... Still lumberyards, coal docks, subway power plant... Harvard bought up land... ice house with freight dock at end of Dunster...

Houses named after Harvard prexy... Dorms copy historic building elements... Tower has 17 bells bought from Bolshevik monastery, rung Sunday afternoons... Mount Auburn all private dorms, Ridgely Hall, Claverly Hall bought by Harvard... Each dorm had own identity, Adams House with older recycled buildings had fringe elements, theater, leftists, gays... Also dorms in yard itself... Now for first years... Now you don't choose dorms, too cliquey, random assignment... Lampoon building designed by Edwin Wheelright... Ibis pranks with Crimson...

Fly Club, Phoenix SK, Iroquois Club, Spee Club... Nantucket Nectars headquarters used to be in old Delta Upsilon club with ivy... East Apthorp's home 1760 10 Linden St., yellow wood with shutters... Now housing for Adams House master... Fairfax actually three buildings... Gnomon Copy storefront dates to 1907, French art nouveau...

J. August building houses Porcellian Club, top of the line, named after roast pig at inaugural banquet... George Washington didn't want to stay in Wadsworth because of Longfellow house... College house dorm built 1832-1870... Coop was site of courthouse... Lyceum Hall built there, Emerson, Charles Dickens, glee club... Out of Town News is old subway entrance... Old Harvard Yard.

As time allows, I will add links to some of the people, places, and things encountered during the tour.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Among the Literati XLVI

Mayrav Saar, an old college chum, now has a column in the Orange County Register. The first installment, published yesterday, is a hoot.

Sites on the Side of the Road IX

Kurumi's Web site is a rich resource for road geeks. Tools include a field guide to interchanges, a Java applet that enables you to make your own road signs, and a virtual drive through 1971-style Hartford, Connecticut. But the most interesting part of the site is the section on "secret routes" -- state-maintained roads that are unsigned and usually not visible on maps. Kurumi outlines what the different route numbers mean and offers a brief history of these secret routes. While I need to track down a Massachusetts corollary, Kurumi did turn me onto the book Turnpikes of New England. A fascinating read, I'm sure.

Thanks to Metafilter.

Rock Shows of Note LXXII

Last night was the weirdest. I kept hearing friends' voices through the window outside as people walked past my house -- when they weren't the voices of my friends. I thought I saw a friend walk by talking on her cell phone. It wasn't her -- and she doesn't even have a cell phone. I even thought I heard a friend calling my name at one point. Bizarre. Clearly, I had people on my mind, so I went for a walk around the block to find some.

Stopping by the Middle East to see who was playing, I bumped into Brett Rosenberg, and then I heard some of the music emanating from the back room. Deciding that I liked what I heard even though I didn't know who was playing, I plunked down some money to check out the Fugue. Am I ever glad I did!

They were amazing. And even though I heard just a few songs at the end of their set, I think they are my favorite band of today. Herky-jerky angular guitar stabs punctuating the vocalist's frenetic singing -- and tons of energy. The singer was insane. At one point he leapt off the stage into the crowd, then catapulted himself back on stage in a tuck and roll only to barrel into the guitarist, who collapsed on top of him. They kept playing the whole time, and the guitarist regained his feet without dropping a note, ending the song by throwing his guitar to the floor with a satisfying final squall and thunk. Wow. Well worth seeing live.

I don't remember the name of the next band that played, but they were a five-piece that played energetic alt.rock. The lead singers voice was pretty cool, and the bassist and second guitarist jumped around a lot together. My one gripe was that the band didn't just under-utilize the female vocalist, they pushed her way over to the side so she was almost waiting in the wings. She had a great voice and should be featured more prominently instead of relegated to the edge.

Event-O-Dex LXXI

Thursday, July 31: Mittens, Choo Choo la Rouge, and Fearsome Earsome give an ear full at P.A.'s Lounge in Somerville.

Friday, August 1: Mike Tremoulet and Christine Selleck, two Houston-based bloggers, are visiting Boston and convening area Web writers for a meet and greet.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Corollary: Happpy Birthday to Media Dieticians XVII

Woohoo! Dennis Huston's 32!

From the In Box: NetWork VIII

What we really need is a common data format for all of these different services to manipulate and "decorate" (in the pattern-language sense).

Well, we have that common data format: FoaF. It would be cool if these sites let you export/import your friends list as an FoaF file. It wouldn't be hard at all.

Well maybe not that cool; I don't really use those sites that much. But it would be the "right way to do it".
-- Joe Germuska

I guess I'm not as concerned about porting my networks from social software service to social software service, as I tend to use different ones for different purposes -- and have slightly different networks as a result. But I'd sure like a portable profile -- perhaps with an accompanying FoaF file since you mention it -- that I could swap out instead of signing up anew, creating a new profile page, and otherwise populating each new service as it emerges. Then we could truly navigate by person -- not by service. Even though I just canceled my premium subscription to Ecademy, I'm still a member of Friendster, Ryze, LinkedIn, and the Buddy Network, which I haven't revisited since I signed up in May. That's a lot of disconnected networks. And networks shouldn't be disconnected.

As more and more of these services emerge, the more I think that Duncan Work is onto something with his Net Deva project. In the past, I wasn't convinced I needed a portable profile for the various online communities and discussion forums I frequent, but the more I think about all these new online networking and social software services, the more I want one ID for all my overlapping networks. I said it in May, and I'll say it today: "As more of these services develop, it'll become increasingly important to bridge them."

Who's building that bridge?

From the Reading Pile XIX

Benjamin Franklin: History's Greatest Time Traveler!
I don't really see the point in billing this as "the story SPX didn't want you to see." I don't self-publish short stories as pieces Eyeshot rejected, and I think it's bad form to grouse about rejection by editors. That said, this eight-page mini by Ron LeBrasseur details a young student's report on how he spent his summer vacation. On the way to Florida, the narrator is joined by a time traveling Benjamin Franklin, whom the boy doesn't recognize and who is there to combat the 50-foot Mecha Lincoln, a rampaging robot brought to ground by a lightning bolt. It's a quick bit of cartoony silliness, and the punchline -- "The assignment was, 'Why I love America!'" -- gives hint to why the piece wasn't accepted for the SPX annual. The SPX pieces were to be biographical comics, not selections merely involving historical figures as characters. Still, punk points for trying, Ron! Also, extra credit for the Gloucester Dogtown snapshot in the beginning of the comic. Contact Ron LeBrasseur for more information.

Drake Marvel, Private Eye
Ron LeBrasseur claims Peter Phelan's character Drake Marvel as his own in this 12-page digest including the eight-page story titled "Roswell That Ends Well." It's a silly, cartoony story in which a stranded grey obtains work as a DJ. LeBrasseur's character designs are clean -- despite some potentially misleading coloring (p. 7, panels 4-5 led me to think a new alien character had been introduced) -- and the punchline pays off. I look forward to an anthology of Drake Marvel stories. The full-color covers add a nice touch. Contact Ron LeBrasseur for more information.

I feel slightly cheated now that I'm actually reading this 32-page digest. As much as I like the work of P. Shaw, $10 for this photocopied, reflective cover digest? "You cannot afford that," (p. 3) is right! Collecting Shaw's Dust, Kurla, and Sloppa Lee Slapdup strips, inked and watercolored in his characteristic style, the comics involve robots, cooking, nature, music, ninjas, Tinker Toys, revenge, and construction work. In many ways, it's a love story between Dust and the Insuperable Kurla, and the tender tales are more oriented toward process comics and the oblique than Shaw's past work. The Flip n' Read comics gracing the center spread -- one dedicated to Jamaica Plain-based City Feed and Supply -- are a concept worth returning to. You know what? I don't feel ripped off at all. Despite my slight irritation about the item's price, Shaw deserves kudos for this new complexity and direction, as well as the more mature character set. Kudos! $10 to P. Shaw, P.O. Box 425430, Cambridge, MA 02142.

Go-Go Girl #3 (Spring 2002)
Every time I see Craig Bostick, he gives me a hard time for not reading or reviewing any of his comics since the previous issue in this series. This one's for you! Craig's got a fun Maurice Vellekoop and Los Bros. Hernandez by way of Leela Corman and Seth art style, and the four short pieces in this 28-page digest are extremely well paced and timed in their comedy. In the first and longest story, "Specially Marked Boxes," the chain-smoking Go-Go Girl falls under the thumb of a hyperactive child in an attempt to win a date with a pop singer. The two-page "Last Call Close Call" might be the best of the lot with its pratfall, passing time, and apologetic punchline. And "Hypnotized" works well until the overly expositional explanation at the end, which is then redeemed by a well-drawn Pete Bagge-esque pratfall. Craig's art and sense of humor are pleasantly clean and well-paced. I won't hesitate to read #4 when it comes out -- if it hasn't already! $3 to Craig Bostick, 7 Weld Hill St. #2R, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130.

Don MacDonald's watercolor, well-lettered historicomic originally appeared in the 2002 SPX anthology. Scaled down to an almost too-small mini format, the eight-page comic remains a lush, expertly illustrated story even though MacDonald's beautiful cursive, near-calligraphic scripting is practically illegible. The art is wonderful, and it's clear MacDonald has a solid grasp of perspective, his use of reference photographs aside. A beautiful introduction to what will hopefully expand into a longer work. Contact Don MacDonald for more information.

Happy Birthday to Media Dieticians XVII

Doc Searls turns 56 today. And Wil Wheaton turns 31. happy birthday, you two!

Rules for Fools XVII

Tom Hopkins doesn't update his blog frequently, but when he does, it's a doozy. His July 28 entry shares some of the things he's learned lately. I'm right with him on Nos. 2 and 8. I've been skipping breakfast for far too long, and I've been sleeping way too much lately. Thanks for the elbow, Tom!

NetWork VIII

There's a new social software kid on the block! is currently in beta, and it appears to be a combination of Friendster's degrees of separation-based connection making and Craig's List's focus on listings. We'll see how it develops, but how many of these services do we really need? I wonder.

Thanks to Boing Boing.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Music to My Ears XLIII

The fourth episode of Well-Rounded Radio is now available. The Summer 2003 edition features music and conversation with the Kossoy Sisters, Mark Dwinell of Bright, and Atlas Soul, as well as "raves on their latest favorite CDs from the music instrument store owners in Boston, including Mayflower Music’s Pat McDonald." Kudos, Charlie!

Corollary: Hiking History IX

Boston World Explorers Foundation member Brad Searles also shares some snapshots of Sunday's expedition. If anyone has any idea what the large concrete wall sections with 12 circles cut in them were used for, let me know!

Hiking History IX

Sunday afternoon, six members of the Boston World Explorers Foundation gathered at Sullivan Square in Somerville to explore an abandoned overpass. Despite two connecting overpasses closed to traffic, neither stretch was very long, so we also explored a highway tunnel closed to traffic and the waterfront. Intrepid adventurer David Belson took some excellent photographs of the expedition. Thanks to everyone who participated in the outing!

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Blogging About Blogging LXV

Wait a minute! I can now access a wireless network -- not my own, thank you very much -- from my kitchen table? Whoever you are, thank you very much. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have no idea.

Friday, July 25, 2003

It's an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World XXVIII

NBC's one-minute movies, scheduled to begin airing this fall, could be pretty cool. The idea is that they'd rip through a conflict and resolution in 60 seconds, tucking the minute movies in between adverts. Curious how they'll compare to the BMW films and VW films. Now if only they could improve ads on a more widespread basis.

Thanks to Lost Remote.

Fonts of Knowledge

Last night, I read Alex Irvine's short story "Reformation" in Live Without a Net. In it, a young man creates an intelligent character set that works its way through the Net. "Brethren is the first language to speak to the totality of the Virt." Rooted in an Islam and the Brethren of Purity, the typeface takes over other font sets, converting all online -- and offline -- communication to esoteric spirituality. Living words.

Yesterday in the New York Times, then, there was an article about a living typeface that changes its form based on ambient information around it. In one application, the letters and numbers on public weather report displays -- time, temperature -- change their form based on what kind of weather front is moving in.

Designed by the Dutch firm LettError, the font set is also fully interactive. By changing the degree to which various characteristics are represented, you can experiment with your own letter forms. Interesting stuff!

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Corollary: Tele-Phony VI

I just got my second SMS spam. It says:

Add a new line of service and receive a $30 credit! Please call Ray Johnson @617-***-****.

I'm not going to call Ray, but I am going to look into stopping this new onslaught of SMS spam. It's not just intrusive; it's disappointing.

Corollary: Music to My Ears XL

This is fairly old news, a month-plus stale, but Apple is now working with independent labels to offer more independent music in the Music Store. The details are pretty interesting, but the caveats are that Apple works with the labels -- and that each release must have a UPC symbol.

On the Road Again V

I'm not sure, but in 2000, I may have gone to a dance party at an airport in East Berlin now believed to be built on top of fully armed Nazi bombers. I hope the hip-hop DJ's didn't shake things up too much.

Thanks to William Gibson.

Read But Dead XVII

St. Jude, one of the patron saints of the now-defunct Mondo 2000 magazine, died recently. Wired's obit is a good introduction to St. Jude's work, but I'd like to see an appreciation written by co-conspirator R.U. Sirius, if he's written one.

Since Mondo 2000, Sirius, who is now a senior editor for Dig It magazine, has had his hand in projects including Revolting, Getting It, and the Thresher. I've long held Sirius and St. Jude as inseparable. Now that we're separated from St. Jude, he's about as close as we can get. Geek media just lost one of the good ones.

Life Imitates Art?

Not too long ago, Brad blogged the Hipster Bingo card that's been making the rounds. Yesterday, Matt mentioned that some people have replicated the card using real-world examples. It's funny because it's true. "Believe it or not, we did run into some resistant hipsters," the site organizers write. Join the Hipster Resistance. The revolution will not be Bingo-ized.

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXII

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Written and directed by Guy Ritchie, this 1999 movie is a neo-noir British comedy of errors involving four working-class chums who get way too involved in some of London's seedier activities. One friend is extremely good at reading people's reactions and emotions, so he enters a high-stakes card game, which he loses. Now he and his friends need to come up with half a million pounds in a week's time. They conspire to steal the money from some other thieves, and this catalyzes a clumsy circle of crime in which everyone's stealing from each other to pay each other back: money, pot, and guns. In the end, the foursome get off relatively scot free but are in no way redeemed of their opportunism, as the final scene attests. Some of the best vignettes involved Lenny McLean's character Barry the Baptist and the pairing of father-son street toughs Big Chris and Little Chris. And I was thrilled that Sting's role was as down played as it was. Interesting in a British Quentin Tarantino kind of way, but not overly impressive in terms of story or cinematography.

Event-O-Dex LXX

Thursday, July 24: The Anchormen count down to the rock with Big Digits and Asian Babe Alert at P.A.'s Lounge in Union Square in Somerville. (Update)

Saturday, July 26: The Rock & Roll Library is holding a benefit reception at 33 Restaurant in the Back Bay.

Sunday, July 27: The Boston World Explorers Foundation is organizing an urban hike of an abandoned overpass near Sullivan Square in Somerville.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Tele-Phony VI

Speaking of spam, I just got my first SMS spam. It says:

AT&T Wireless: Test your knowledge with text trivia. Type A for Music, B for Entertainmant, C for Sports & send to 2003. To stop msgs reply with END at no cost.

Guess what I just did? Seems to me that this is something people should have to sign up for, not opt out of. I was delighted when my phone beeped just now, and crestfallen when I saw it was an advert. Also, at 10 cents an outgoing SMS, this could get pretty expensive quite quickly, no? To my surprise, AT&T offers all sorts of SMS games. I can even change my ring tone by SMS.

But what I really want to do is figure out how to adjust the phone's volume.

Newsletters of Note XI

EIntelligence is the online version of the newsletter Intelligence, which has been published monthly by Ed Rosenfeld since 1984. Rosenfeld was founding articles editor of Omni magazine and has published several books on neurocomputing, neural networks, and Gestalt therapy. Currently, he's working as a consultant with Columbia University's technology transfer office on science and technology IP. Not much is accessible by non-subscribers, and several of the links are inaccurate, but it's interesting to see what an Omni alumnus is up to these days. Much of the same, it seems!

Science-Fiction Spam II

In December, I received one of the better spams I've ever seen. This morning, I received another version of the spam from an E.J. Jansen:

I'm a time traveler stuck here in 2003. Since nobody here seems to be able to get me what I need (safely here to me), I will have to build a simple time travel circut to get where I need myself. I am going to need an easy to follow picture diagram for a simple time travel circut, which can be built out of (readily available) parts here in 2003. Please email me any schematics you have. I will pay good money for anything you send me I can use Or if you have the rechargeable AMD dimensional warp generator wrist watch unit available, and are 100% certain you have a (secure) means of delivering it to me please also reply. Send a separate email to me.

Do not reply back directly to this email as it will only be bounced back to you.

Thank You

The reference to the dimensional warp generator wrist watch is a clear riff on the previous spam, as well as a longer version. Googling for "dimensional warp generator," there's a lot of information about the email. You can buy a mock generator online in the Alien Technology Online Catalog. One blogger even sent a reply to the time traveler, and there seem to be several variations of the spam. Nikke analyzes the emails, and Dave Hill, who operates the Alien Technology Online Catalog, exchanged emails with the spammer earlier this month.

Turns out the guy is in Woburn, Massachusetts! And that he might be taking this seriously.

Music to My Ears XLII

At least two songwriters have written songs about New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountain, which collapsed in May. Ken Sheldon's slow-paced country-tinged ode "Good-bye, Old Man" is rather dirge-like, and the rest of his music seems to be educational in nature. "Sing Along and Learn Wonderful Math" even includes a song called "Saving My Money."

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

From the Reading Pile XVIII

In this screenprinted wordless, 32-page minicomic, Brian Ralph cribs from Greg Cook something fierce. Even Greg's girlfriend thinks so! An artistic alligator (hence my guesswork title for the title-free item) prepares to paint some baby chicks when a Baby Huey-scale behemoth arrives on the scene, scaring the chicks away. The alligator decides to paint it instead, but it indifferently flies away. More inspired by Richard Scarry than much of Brian's work, this piece is bittersweet, sad, and slightly cruel. The page-spread, wide-angle view approach to setting the largely static scene is a welcome innovation. Very nice despite its brevity. A perfect little item. Contact Brian Ralph for more information.

Mixtape (December 2001)
This sewn binding photocopied comic combines a glimpse of Jeff Zenick-like architecture comics with the predominant wispy simplicity of artists such as John Porcellino. Music is the major metaphor for these short, borderless strips about memory, correspondence, completion, distance, and loss. Largely dissatisfying given its slim nature -- and despite the high quality of the work itself -- the 12-page digest is a peek at a new talent in our midst. Or at least on my radar. The cassette diagram diary (p. 5) is particularly interesting. Contact Susie Ghahremani for more information.

Paper Rodeo #14 (April-March 2003)
Another wonderful 28-page tabloid edition self-published by my favorite cryptic comics kids. Amazing, and I never quite know what to make of it. Not all of the artists are credited, but I can detect Ron Rege, Jr., who shares the first comic he drew after moving back from California; Matthew Thurber; Erin Rosenthal; Casper; Brian Chippendale, who (if it is indeed him) appears to be branching out into less process comics-oriented work; Gary Panter; and Ben Jones. There's plenty of clip art and psychedelic art-inspired comics in this issue, which is mysteriously themed "Magick." Highlights include Rege's piece, "Still Inside the Stupid Cave Rave" (the Garfield vs. Heathcliff bit is a nice touch), Thurber's "A Trilogy of Misery," "Zissy and Rita," the cute brut "Don't You Think It's Weird" strip on p. 16, "Thugvillage," G.I. Comics 12, and the advertisements for local businesses. As always, brilliant and indispensable. $1 to Paper Rodeo, P.O. Box 321, Providence, RI 02901.

Reinventing Everything
James Kochalka loves his Gameboy, and a play session in a South Carolina state park brings on a 28-page minicomic musing about bits, simplification, the emotions and physical reactions brought on by playing video games, the "always on" generation, connecting with nature, and beauty. It's one of James' more didactic pieces -- "Technology is not in opposition to nature," and the twin towers of 911 indeed -- but, as with almost everything James does, it carries a gentle whimsy and a self-effacing punchline that makes the near-lecture worthwhile. The title makes me wonder how inspired this mini was by Scott McCloud, and it's nice to see more of the thought behind James' deceptively simple comics -- as well as comics-based conversations among comics makers. This may in fact be an ashcan that's part of a longer forthcoming work. Contact James Kochalka for more information.

This 24-hour minicomic project tells the tale of two space explorers who crash on a distant planet, encounter aliens, and then belly up to a bar. At 36 pages, it's impressively long for a one-off joke containing all of six or seven discrete scenes, but the art is solid (especially p. 9, panel 1; p. 20, panels 1-2; p. 28, panels 1-2; and p. 33, panel 1) and there are some nice scripting moments ("Oh, that was sweet," "Well, it's a space worm," and "It's an energy bar!"). Not a bad effort, but far from brilliant. $2 to Dick Troutman, Jasen Lex, and Aweful Books, P.O. Box 4517, Pittsburgh, PA 15205.

Street Angel #1
What a fun comic. Quite different than Dick Troutman's 24-hour comic project, this 28-page digest collaboration with Brian Maruca reminds me of Jim Mahfood by way of Warren Ellis, almost. Dr. Pangea escapes from prison and kidnaps the mayor's daughter. The mayor enlists Jesse Sanchez, Street Angel, an orphan skate rat ninja, to save her. She reluctantly takes the case, outwits some basketball-playing ninjas -- the spread on pp. 14-15 is a key scene featuring some wonderful artwork -- and infiltrates Pangea's lair to save the day. Shades of Hopeles Savages, this comic shows some real promise. And I think Troutman should work with Ellis. $3 to Aweful Books, P.O. Box 4517, Pittsburgh, PA 15205.

Who's Who
Produced specifically by Kaz, Gary Leib, and John K. as a short-run one-off for the recent 2003 Museum of Contemporary Cartoon Art Festival in New York City, this 52-page all-star digest sketchbook contains caricatures of almost 200 of the convention's guests and participants. While I can't quite tell who did what, there are many highlights: Dave Kiersh, Craig Bostick, Tomer Hanuka, Phoebe Gloeckner, Phil Yeh, Kim Deitch, Marc Bell, Prentis Rollins, and Evan Dorkin. Incorporating clip art, celebratory photos, and newsprint, there's a bit of an E.C. Segar by way of Basil Wolverton flair to these funny animal-ridden scatological portrayals that look next to nothing like their subjects. A conference rarity best appreciated by attendees on site -- or small-press completists -- perhaps. Contact Gary Leib for more information.

You're Great
Produced as part of a print run of only 60 in June 2003, this 48-page "collaborative fictional effort" by Dave Kiersh and a friend recounts high school happenings between September 1996 and August 1997. Resonant of Ariel Schrag's Potential, the book shares the story of a classroom crush turned confusion involving drugs, goals, disapproval, drinking, the questionable gift of suicide, love, adventure, and sorrow. It's a touching tribute to lost love, a love lost to mental illness, and it's more in depth than Ron Rege's work with Joan Reidy. Kiersh's art elucidates his friend's writing well, and this might be his most mature work yet. Kudos to both. Contact Dave Kiersh for more information.

Hiking History VIII

I've started a new mailing list dedicated to use by members of the Boston World Explorers Foundation. If you live in the Boston area and would like to be involved in future history hikes, join the Foundation today.

Music to My Ears XLI

Free Speech for Sale is a slightly confusing Web project that in effect offers more than 30 songs and sound collage pieces that remind me of Negativland, the Tape-Beatles, John Oswald, and Stay Free!'s Illegal Art compilation. I've only downloaded two songs so far, but it's amazing, thought-worthy, and entertaining stuff.

Now that I've spent some more time poking around the site, it's less confusing -- and more impressive in its concept. Basically, it's a spoof of online and TV shopping services, and each product listed is a track on the compilation. The individual song-based pages feature more information about the sound artist, as well as links to their own respective project Web sites. An inspiring effort that reminds me of the sound art tape trading networks I used to participate in. Anyone remember the Screaming Popeyes?

Among the Literati XLV

Kathy Biehl now writes a monthly food column for LLRX, the "online power of law." Her first installment of After Hours concentrates on the Fancy Food Show in New York City, where she encounters the fine folks behind the Switch Beverage Co., which I visited during the 2002 CoF Roadshow.

Weather Report XIII

What's up with this? It's overcast and threatening rain all morning. I go to the dentist -- good check up, thanks for asking -- and it doesn't start raining until I step outside. Then it's cats and dogs. Buckets. The rain lightens up, and I walk to the office in a drizzle. Now, 15 minutes later, the sun is out and the clouds are starting to part. It had to rain during the exact window of time I was walking to work, didn't it? Yes. It seems it did. Nice to see the sun!

Monday, July 21, 2003

Event-O-Dex LXIX

Thursday, July 24: The Anchormen count down to the rock with Big Digits and the Count Me Outs at P.A.'s Lounge in Union Square in Somerville.

Read But Dead XVI

Penthouse soon to be homeless? Staff receive 25% of their pay. The mansion is about to be foreclosed. No issues of the magazine were published between April and July. Yet a spokeswoman insists the magazine has no cash flow problems. If the skin mag goes down, whatever will Pud read?

Thanks to Fucked Company.

Rock Shows of Note LXXI

Friday night after work, after catching up on mail at home, I walked to the Zeitgeist Gallery to see Paul, Jef, and Jen perform as Sinkcharmer. I was running a little late, and I thought I'd miss some of the other bands performing, but the show started late, as well, so I didn't. Static Films opened. A three piece led by a bearded man wearing a trucker's hat, Static Films specializes in sleepy Elephant Six- and Orso-like post-rock, bordering on The frontman had a resonating voice, and their use of clarinet, electronic drums and other recordings, mandolin, melodica, piano, and miniature steel drum made for a wonderful set. A member of the next band, Elephant Micah, who also worked the sound board, joined them to add a fourth harmony part on one song. Well done.

I missed most of Elephant Micah's set, though, because Jef, Jen, and I hustled over to the Druid for a quick beer and conversation. But what I heard when we returned, I enjoyed. Some of the material reminded me of Static Films, but their later pieces were more straight-forward indie trio work featuring traditional instruments. I picked up a cassette that they self-produced, complete with spraypaint-stenciled cover, and look forward to a deeper listen.

Lastly, Sinkcharmer. Paul's written several new songs and debuted them Friday night. One was a slower, more ambient number featuring an electronic drum track. Another was more indie rock in nature. Overall, the set was energetic, the three-part vocals were well placed, and Sinkcharmer delivered another solid performance. The crowd seemed to particularly enjoy the increasing intensity throughout the show, and the band ended on a delightfully high note, with Paul turning his back to the crowd and really putting his guitar through the paces. I look forward to more new songs!

Comics and Community XIV

I spent much of Saturday at the Somerville Arts Council's annual ArtBeat festival volunteering at the Somerville Comics Collaborative table.

Jef Czekaj, Dan Moynihan, and I provided paper and drawing supplies to help the entire city draw a comic.

More than 40 people of all ages contributed panels to a collectively developed story about a dog-turned-cat that took over the world, a flying turtle, the Hulk, and banana pirates. One boy sat at the table for most of the day working on his own 24-page story about "snow goons." We plan to compile the contributions into a booklet to distribute to participants, as well as publish the collaborative comic online. Working title: "The ArtBeat Monkey Eat."

Among the Literati XLIV

Poetic Inhalation Vol. 2, No. 6 features the stories and drawings of Mission of Burma's Roger Miller. The pieces included date between 1993 and 2002, and examples of Miller's graphite rubbings, or frottage. This edition also includes writing by Benjamin Miller, Roger's brother and a musician in his own right.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Corollary: Signs of the Times

As previously mentioned in Media Diet, the security guard at 601 Montgomery St. in San Francisco is a bit of a wordsmith. Here is an article that a friend wrote about him. It's an amazing story.

Did you hear the one about the croissant?
One San Francisco security guard's commentary on life, the universe, and everything.
By Alison Overholt

Everyone has a morning ritual: for some it's coffee, for others a jog through the park. Mine is a little different. I think about the sign -- the one that sits next to the security guard station in my office lobby. Sometimes it makes me laugh, sometimes I just shake my head in confusion -- but I always feel that the day hasn't begun until I get the joke on that sign.

Take the day that it read, "Beware croissants of dubious origin." Usually the topic relates to current events (my personal favorite, from the week after the Enron scandal broke: "Note to Congress: Lay off Dick Cheney about Enron so he can get back to being President."), but this one had me stumped. My fellow nine-to-fivers tried to figure it out in the elevator -- had there been an International Croissant Incident of some sort that we'd missed in the morning news? When a second reading of the newspaper yielded nothing, I went straight to the source.

The source is Steve Kiernan, the 50-year-old site supervisor of security at 601 Montgomery. He's been sitting watch from behind the guard's desk from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day since 1987. Kiernan is a stout guy with close-cropped salt and pepper hair, wire glasses, and a tendency to stare just slightly off to the side of you when you're having a conversation with him. Even when he's sharing his life story, he doesn't take his eyes off the front doors of the building, and glances now and then at the security monitor set into the desk at his station.

I ask him about the croissants of dubious origin. "It's true, I usually aim for one of the 'Big Three' -- news, sports, weather -- but anything is fair game, even if it only makes sense to me," Kiernan says. It turns out that on this particular day, the line for breakfast at the Bush Street McDonald's was halfway down the block, so Kiernan bought food at a local bakery instead. Their croissants tasted foul, and the sign went up as soon as Kiernan arrived at work. "Above all, this entertains me," he says with a chuckle. "It's my intention to make people do double takes. Often they do triple takes." I got lucky with this straightforward explanation. People ask Kiernan what his jokes mean all the time, and he's often known to smile and answer vaguely with a comment such as, "Sorry, this is no-explanation Thursday."

The signs started appearing about eight years ago when the building manager gave Kiernan the board to advertise outside meetings on the 4th floor. The meetings business never took off, but Kiernan still had the sign - and suddenly, he was hit with the muse. "I had this board, and they gave me all these letters," he says, "so one day I decided to put up something totally off the wall."

That first message wasn't off the wall enough for Kiernan to remember it now, but he does have a few favorites from over the years, like this choice comment from the day that the O.J. Simpson verdict was announced: "Double homicide in CA is now punishable by a really big fine." Or this note from when the Unabomber's hermit cabin was discovered: "Also found in Unabomber cabin was O.J. knife, Amelia Earhardt & the 49ers pass rush." The messages, which began as occasional comments when something particularly funny struck Kiernan, are the talk of the building and have become a daily affair. You can even win compilations of his jokes from over the years by joining an annual holiday raffle.

Occasionally, Kiernan's signs take a serious turn. After September 11th when many struggled to find a reason to show up for work, Kiernan encouraged with postings such as, "Rally caps on, people!" More importantly, when anti-Arab propaganda appeared in the building's elevators, he responded immediately with a sign proclaiming that "Willful stupidity never did anything good for anyone." His familiar sign was a peculiar source of comfort as we tried to get back to the business of doing business.

Occasionally, Kiernan has tried his hand at longer writing styles. In 1981 the Examiner ran a weekly writing contest that lasted for 24 weeks and culminated in a serialized novel, and Kiernan won two of the segments. He's toyed with the idea of writing an entire novel, but says, "I don't have the discipline to sit down and do it. Being a security guard has a better stress-to-pay ratio." It seems that his creativity works best on a 12" X 12" sign, with a stash of white letters. His favorite form is the haiku, or what Kiernan called an "M-Stew-ku" a few weeks ago when he posted this gem: "Today on Martha/I'll teach you how to build a/nice legal stonewall."

The story was submitted to the San Francisco Chronicle but declined. Silly, silly Chronic. Herb Caen would've been all over this.

Geocache Me If You Can III

Oddly, my Geko stopped working. I let the batteries run out and left the device in my bag for several days. Even when I tried several sets of new batteries, the on button wouldn't respond, and I couldn't the device to work. So I contacted Garmin, and they requested that I send it in for repair under warranty. Even though I can't use my Geko to determine where it is, I can use FedEx to track its location. And FedEx says that it arrived at Garmin in Kansas this morning. I should get it back in 7-10 days.

Corollary: Virtual Book Tour XII

Inkblots' conclusion to the Virtual Book Tour is an excerpt of the first 1,000 words of the book. Huh. The tour ends where the book begins.

Well, it's been a good run, I guess. I may share some of the feedback I plan to offer Kevin in the future -- perhaps mapping out my own design for a virtual book tour.

Event-O-Dex LXVIII

Friday and Saturday, July 18-19: The Somerville Arts Council's ArtBeat takes place on Davis Square in Somerville. Some friends organized the Pajama Soul Dance Party on Saturday night, and I'll be volunteering at the Somerville Comics Collaborative table, where we plan to once again help the entire city draw a comic.

These Links Were Made for Breaking? XI

Thanks to our country's current administration, here's to a less responsive -- and responsible, it seems -- government. So much for a representative democracy, much less participatory government and serving the American citizenry. You can no longer email the White House. You have to follow a multi-page process, assigning various qualifiers to your communication before it can be sent. Those qualifiers include indicating whether you're for or against a policy. Guess which messages will actually be read? Attempting to access the White House's new "user-friendly" Web mail form just now, it timed out while attempting to connect. I'm sure it's struggling because people are sending in letters of concern and complaint today, but wow. Way to make it harder to access our "elected" leaders. Boo? Meet Hiss.

Thanks to Slashdot.

Sites for Sore Eyes II

Looks like Media Diet has a little friendly competition! The Haas Culture Review is a Web zine featuring bar, book, movie, record, and restaurant reviews. Meghan Haas' writing is relatively brief and balances fangirl giddiness with clever commentary. But the neatest thing is that occasionally, she reviews something when she's only seen the trailer, hasn't seen the movie at all, and is halfway through a book. Funny stuff. Some samples:

I really really want to see this movie…I've seen the previews where Jon Cusack is all wet from being in the rain and he looks really concerned and scared and I could watch that preview over and over again…but I'd rather actually see the whole movie.

I didn't see this movie, but I am so tired of seeing Hilary Swank on talk shows saying over and over again, "this movie really puts the science back in science fiction."

I'm actually only half way thru this book at this point, but I'm loving every word in it.

Any band that can keep a serious groove going with all the passion of a Baptist preacher, while singing about wet paint, for 4 1⁄2 minutes is pretty damned good in my book.

I drink two beers here once a week.

The material currently available is labeled Vol. 1, No. 1, and I'm not sure how frequently Meghan will update this, but it's good, good stuff.

Virtual Book Tour XII

Mary Roach, author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers -- and the Virtual Book Tour -- have moved on to their tenth and final stop.

At some point today, Roach will be featured in the July 18 edition of Geoffrey Long's Web magazine Inkblots. I'm not sure when, where, or how, but given that the upcoming edition will also feature work by Kevin Smokler, Ben Brown, Derek Powazek, and Heather Champ, it's sure to be a doozy.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Markets, Flash Mobs, and Mayhem

I adore the idea of flash mobs, well-coordinated, inexplicable sudden critical masses of people participating in a shared activity for 10 minutes and then gracefully dispersing. What a beautiful, beautiful concept. Makes the city dance. So imagine my delight that the project has come to Boston. Yes, oh, yes, it has.

From the In Box: Rock Shows of Note LXVIII

Via the Boss Improv mailing list, more news about the Berwick Research Institute:

ISD Inspires New Era for Non-Profit Art Space in Boston

Boston is not particularly well known for being a safe haven for experimental art. But as the Berwick Research Institute approaches its fourth year of operation, Berwick artists and all-volunteer staff are working diligently to ensure that the non-profit visual and performance art space will continue to provide a sanctuary for community-based film, dance, robotics, sound, performance, conceptual and new media art in Dudley Square.

Recent months have seen great victories for the organization, bringing respect and accolades from important members of the Boston arts community. The Berwick has seen a notable increase in favorable press attention since January, when the artists' space won the largest monetary award given to an arts organization by the prestigious LEF Foundation. The grant was given to develop the Berwick's innovative Artist in Research residency program. Since receiving the award, the Berwick has hosted three site-specific artist's projects, while simultaneously expanding its footprint to include affordable studio space for artists working in new media. One of the artists in residence, Aliza Shapiro and her group of architectural designers, PodLab, spent the month of May developing new plans for the exhibition space, which will improve the safety and handicap-accessibility of the gallery.

The growing strength and notoriety that the Berwick has gained over the past year is sure to help the group manage a new challenge that presented itself on Friday when the gallery was temporarily closed by officials from Boston's Inspectional Services Department. The ISD informed the artists that the building in which they rent a space had fire-code, zoning, and occupancy issues that needed to be addressed. Several violations were immediately rectified upon the arrival of the ISD officials, and a full inspection of the building on Wednesday will determine what other changes the building's owner, Nicholas Spelios, needs to make in order to bring the building into compliance with the city's code.

In addition to the Berwick, the building is also home to a number of artist studios, grass-roots community activist organizations, religious groups, and neighborhood businesses. Spelios has made a conscious effort to provide these burgeoning community-oriented enterprises with a comfortable and supportive space. "This building has always had an important place in Dudley Square's history, but its current role is just as vital," points out Katya Gorker, a founding member of the Berwick. "It's a multi-use space that serves a variety of purposes and a variety of audiences. Mr. Spelios could make a fortune renting or selling this property to commercial interests but he chooses to rent to us instead because of his dedication to the community."

Spelios and members of the Berwick attended a hearing with the ISD on Tuesday to discuss the zoning and fire-code breaches in the former cake factory. Berwick members feel optimistic about the outcome of the hearing and their interaction with city officials. The timing of the ISD hearing may actually be auspicious for the organization, which has been preparing to gather resources and funds to implement the new PodLab plans. As news of the city's pressure on the space spreads, the community is showing their support for the organization. "In the past few days I've received many phone calls from city officials, artists, producers, other art spaces, community organizers, and audience members asking how they can help," says Meg Rotzel, the Berwick's Director. "We need to raise money for our improvements, and we always welcome volunteers, especially assistance from people with special expertise. This is an opportunity to become involved in the arts community and have a direct impact on the cultural climate of Boston."

All Berwick programming scheduled for the month of July will be re-located or postponed, including a performance by the internationally regarded sound artist Francisco Lopez, curated by local experimental music series, Non-Event; "Effigy," a new stage production by renowned artist/activist Nomy Lamm; and a sound and video exhibition by Dudley Square-based youth program, Arts in Progress. For updates on the status of Berwick events, please refer to the organization's website. Anyone interested in donating funds to complete the new architectural design, please contact the Berwick Programming Director, Meg Rotzel.

Kudos to the Berwick staff for downplaying dissing Boston's lack of arts friendliness in lieu of highlighting the institute's contributions to the local arts and business community. That's a good strategy to seek support!

Read But Dead XV

Just received this via email from a Media Dietician:

One of my favorite magazines, Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, is about to go the way of many other feminist outlets recently (Sojourner, New Words) and succumb to a struggling budget... but you could save it.

We all know we need more independent media.

Subscribing to Bitch is only $15/year, and your support could make or break them. (See letter from the editor below.) -- Sady Sullivan

Dear friends:

As many of you know, Bitch has always functioned on a shoestring budget, especially in the spreading-the-word department. Well, our mid-year financial statements show that the shoestring has gotten even stringier of late. We're falling pretty short of our projected magazine sales for the year, and to ensure that there's a Bitch next year and for many years to come, we need your help now. To put it bluntly, we need more subscribers. About 3,000 more.

Here's why subscriptions are so crucial to our financial health: When people buy Bitch at a bookstore, we eventually (four to five months later) get between $1.77 and $1.98 of the $4.95 plus tax that it costs. When people subscribe, they pay only $3.75 per issue (better for them), and we get all of the money right away (better for us).

A lot of people think that buying Bitch on the newsstand supports us just as much as subscribing. Some even think it's more helpful because it convinces bookstores that Bitch is worth carrying. But the bottom line is that Bitch is much better off having you as a subscriber than as a newsstand buyer. (Of course we'd rather have people buying it in the bookstore than not buying it at all, but I promise that stores will continue to stock the magazine, and new newsstand buyers will always come along.)

And then there are all those folks out there who say, "Oh, yeah, Bitch, I've thumbed through that in the bookstore/been to the website/read a friend's copy, and I always meant to subscribe." Now is the time to get all of these people to actually sign up!

Here's what you can do to help:

  • If you are not a subscriber right now, become one today. Go to the Web, call us toll-free at 877-21-BITCH, or send a check for $15 to Bitch, 1611 Telegraph Ave Ste. 515, Oakland CA 94612.
  • Buy gifts for your friends and family. Multiple subscriptions are even cheaper: $15 for the first and $12 for each additional. See info above, and please note: If you are ordering online, the discount for multiple subscriptions will not show up automatically. Write a note in the comments field about it (along with the other addresses, of course) and we will manually adjust the price.
  • Pass this message along. This e-mail is going out to about 700 or so people. To meet our goal, every one of you would need to buy 4.3 subscriptions -- or we would collectively need to reach out to a whole bunch more than 700 of Bitch's closest friends. So please send this to anyone you know who likes the magazine or who you think would like the magazine. Help us get the word out!
  • Tell people about Bitch. Read it on public transportation. Leave a copy in places where people will discover it (your local coffee house, your college's student center, the waiting room at your friendly women's health clinic, etc.). If you want to take part in a more formal effort to do this, e-mail publicity director Marisa Meltzer at and tell her you're interested in helping to promote the magazine in your area.
  • Buy a t-shirt, too. We have a bunch of styles now and they're super-cute. If you're an exhibitionist, we also have very happenin' underwear for sale. (Pictures and descriptions are online.)
  • Pester your local library to buy a subscription (they really do listen to patron requests).
  • Donate a subscription to your local campus women's center, community resource center, or the like.

    Anything you can do to get us further toward the goal of 3,000 subscriptions will help Bitch be strong and healthy!

    With gratitude,
    Lisa Jervis

  • Thanks to Media Dietician Sady Sullivan for bringing this to my attention. Bitch is an amazing read that combines straight-up media studies-style critique and analysis with a healthy, forthright feminist bent. Think Bust plus Stay Free. If Bitch folds, the media world is the lesser for it. And the staff does good work, so supprt their efforts and spread the word!

    Bait? Meet Switch.

    This email, received today, cracks me up:

    Dear Evite-On-The-Go Users,

    Due to our efforts to improve our most popular tools as well as grow our gallery of designs, Evite will no longer offer wireless services. Suspension of Evite-On-The-Go will take place July 22, 2003. Please make a note of it.

    You can still access all of your event and calendaring information on your MyEvite homepage.

    We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your continued support of our free service.

    The Evite Team

    I laughed out loud because of the misleading marketing speak in the opening sentence. That line, in effect, says, "We are no longer offering a used service, and somehow, taking it away makes Evite better." Ceasing the support of wireless services neither improves Evite's tool set nor increases the range of services they offer. It takes something away from customers. Something customers might use and appreciate.

    That said, I also laughed at the closing sentence, which pairs the recognition that they're taking a service away from users -- while reminding them that it is, in fact, free, so what are you complaining about? Fair enough. I don't pay to use Evite, so you can scale it back all you want. Maybe you could remove the occasionally pesky @'s from your Evite URL's.

    But this is particularly interesting because it strikes me that wireless services are on the rise writ large, not on the wane. And isn't Evite a possible tool to support moblogging and on-the-street mobilization of people using wireless devices for ad hoc events and gatherings? How can the company not see that potential?

    Whatever. It's their free service.

    Virtual Book Tour XI

    Even Doc Searls is cracking wise about the dead. His idea is certainly an intriguing use for the dearly departed.

    Everything's Coming Out, Rosie III

    This is interesting. Even though Rosie O'Donnell and former publisher of Rosie magazine Gruner + Jahr USA filed motions to dismiss their lawsuits against each other, a judge has denied them, pushing the two parties into a court trial. What part of "We don't want to sue each other," did the judge miss? It's fascinating -- and sad -- that the legal system can force people into court cases.

    Thanks to I Want Media.

    Read But Dead XIV

    The Oxford American is folding again. This is the second time they've had to shut up shop, doing so previously just more than a year ago. This time, relatively new investor At Home Media Group says that advertising revenue isn't meeting expectations. Huh? You buy a magazine that folded because of low ad revenue, and then you're surprised when a year later, ad revenue is low? Go figure. More coverage available in Media Life.

    Thanks to I Want Media.

    Happy Birthday to Media Dieticians XVI

    Cory Doctorow turns 32 today. Woohoo, 32!

    Rock Shows of Note LXX

    Met Geraldine for dinner at the Middle East last night so we could go see the Kills play downstairs. They're Geraldine's sister Meghan's favorite band of the moment, and word was they put on a stellar live show. They do. But first, we caught the end of a set by the Horrors, an intense three piece that specializes in sludgy, blues-tinged swamp garage rock. Or something. Sometimes, the wall of guitar sound would get so dense, my ears would trick me into hearing trumpets or some sort of keyboards. Maybe the guitarist was using some effects. Relatively run of the mill, their sound was still fun, and I'm glad we caught a little of their performance.

    Then the Kills! They were amazing. A two piece featuring dual guitarists and electronic drum tracks, their sound reminded me a little of PJ Harvey by way of Mecca Normal or Lois. Extremely distraught, intense singing by the woman. Such presence and danger. Her stringy black hair obscured her face, her skinny frame convulsed and enveloped the microphone stand. Her bandmate was also wonderful, playing sludgy groove-oriented swamp rock accompanied by occasional herky-jerk contortions of his body and sharp guitar stabs. Their interplay was interesting. He was relatively confrontational -- to the audience as well as his bandmate. And when they focused on each other while playing, the intensity increased immensely. An extremely moving, visceral experience. Wonder how it translates to record?

    Lastly, the Dirtbombs. With a go-go band-like gimmick (They dub themselves a "dance combo.") of having two bassists (one a diminuitive Asian woman) and two trap set players, the band had straight-ahead R&B-meets-garage rock energy. Yet they were a little too clean for me, falling somewhere between the Estrus roster and the Get Hip back catalog. Perhaps it was the lead singer's vocals -- or the frat party nature of their playlist and songwriting style. We left before the end of their set.

    Interesting bits of tour trivia: The Kills' road manager Dave was in a band with Geraldine's sister Meghan. It was fun to meet him -- good luck with your new job! And while the Dirtbombs were playing downstairs, the High Strung was playing upstairs with Squirtgun and a band featuring members of Screeching Weasel. Just the night before, the Dirtbombs and the High Strung played a show together at the Bug Jar in Rochester, New York. Small world, and intersecting tour schedules!

    Virtual Book Tour XI

    Mary Roach, author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers -- and the Virtual Book Tour -- have moved on to their ninth stop.

    In his blog Crabwalk, Joshua Benton interviews Roach about the writing process behind Stiff: the book proposal process, the book's inspiration by her Salon column, her pacing and use of the first person, and other books similar to hers. It's an in-depth conversation that reads as witty as Roach writes.

    Good to see Virtual Book Tour participants increasing the amount of content they offer during their stops! Roach's post to Jason Kottke's Undesign yesterday sparked a lively conversation among readers. And Erik Benson's interview with Roach is also well worth reading. It's interesting how participants' questions overlapped -- or didn't. Once you've done one interview, you've done them all, I suppose.

    Wednesday, July 16, 2003

    Blogging About Blogging LXIV

    I'm going to take the day off from Media Diet today. You can continue to follow Mary Roach and the Virtual Book tour at Jason Kottke's Undesign. Or see what I cared about a year ago.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2003

    Rock Shows of Note LXIX

    Last night, after watching "Murder at Harvard" on television, I felt a little bored and antsy. It wasn't too late yet and I wasn't really tired enough for bed yet, so I decided to go to the Middle East to check out some new bands. Usually, when I go to shows, I know at least one of the groups performing. Not last night. I decided to go to a show not having ever heard -- or heard of -- any of the bands playing. And you know what? It was fun, and I think people should do it more often.

    I arrived a couple of songs before the end of Elad Love Affair's set. They play rather intense, dark rock featuring dense guitar washes and a female singer, Nola, who can really belt out the vocals. Songs such as "On Wifeburning" include some nice angular guitar stabs, as well, but given the neo-gothic nature of their lyrics, this really isn't my cup my cup of tea. Regardless, the band played well, and Nola was a kick to watch.

    Next up, the Call Up. This band struck me as your typical suburban punk rock band. High school kids weaned on records from Epitaph and Fat. It was energetic enough, and they were having fun enough, but nothing really stood out beyond the singer's shouted vocals and the guitarist sitting in because the band's original guitarist had broken his arm. He joined them on stage to sing a Jawbreaker cover. Oh, the bassist was really skinny and jumped around a lot, too. Fun, but forgetable.

    Lastly, the Broken Word. I only stuck around for a little of their set because I was feeling like I shouldn't stay out too late on a school night. And, similar to the Call up before them, they didn't leave much of an impression. Regardless, like Moose Taverns of the Weekly Dig, I'm now a fan of Monday night shows. It's a good start to the week, they're usually less crowded, and you can absorb some interesting music -- even if you know nothing about the bands playing.

    Go see a band you've never heard of soon, Media Dieticians.

    Virtual Book Tour X

    Mary Roach, author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers -- and the Virtual Book Tour -- have moved on to their seventh stop.

    Later today, Erik Benson will publish an interview with Mary. He also reports that there will be some new material available in All Consuming, as well.

    I'll continue to follow the tour as it progresses.

    Monday, July 14, 2003

    Pranks People Play

    In a disturbing bit of synchronicity, the fine minds behind Reason magazine and the Boston Herald report on a couple of innocent pranks gone awry. July 8, the Herald included a short piece on a parade goer in Dixon, Illinois, who was arrested, charged with felony aggravated battery, and charged $25,000 bail -- for throwing a water balloon at an antique fire truck during the Dixon Petunia Festival parade.

    His crime? U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert -- third in line to the presidency of the United States -- was behind the wheel. Hastert got wet but was not injured. Now, the fun-loving "felon" didn't know Hastert was driving the truck. Don't you think the speaker could have been a little more understanding given that it was a holiday weekend? This is not the kind of man I want to be my president.

    Meanwhile, in Florida, a 12-year-old boy was -- as reported by Reason -- cuffed and hauled off to jail by police after stomping in a puddle to splash classmates and school officials. The boy was charged with misdemeanor disruption of school activities.

    Remember: It's all fun and games until somebody gets a little wet.

    Music to My Ears XL

    I am listening to some of the more fascinating sounds I've ever heard. Further afield than John Oswald's Plunderphonics and mash ups, the "songs" created by Jason Freeman's Network Auralization for Gnutella application are a shadowy snapshot of the sounds between songs. What we'd hear in the narrow spaces between parallel planes of existence. The songs that shadows and static sing.

    N.A.G. (Network Auralization for Gnutella) is interactive software art for Mac OS X and Windows 2000/XP which turns the process of searching for and downloading MP3 files into a chaotic musical collage. Type in one or more search keywords, and N.A.G. looks for matches on the Gnutella peer-to-peer file sharing network. The software then downloads MP3 files which match the search keyword(s) and remixes these audio files in real time based on the structure of the Gnutella network itself.

    The New York Times quotes Freeman as describing the program as an instrument that plays the Internet. Wow. My ears are bleeding.

    Corollary: Event-O-Dex XXII

    The Globe today also keys in to the Illegal Art exhibit curated by Stay Free! publisher Carrie McLaren. Media Dieticians, you read it here first.

    Corollary: Factsheet Life II

    The Boston Globe gets hip to Found Magazine. Media Dieticians, you read it here first.

    Event-O-Dex LXVII

    Friday, July 18: Sinkcharmer works its musical magic with Elephant Micah and Static Films at the Zeitgeist Gallery in Cambridge.

    Conferences and Community VIII

    Dave Winer just added me to the invitation list for BloggerCon 2003, scheduled for early October at the Harvard Law School. That is, oh, so long away, but I'm already excited about going.

    Virtual Book Tour IX

    British poet laureate Andrew Motion has written a handbook about writing eulogies. Responsible for writing the funeral speeches when a member of the royal family dies, Motion collaborated with Co-operative Funeralcare to develop the book, which is titled Well Chosen Words. So far, 100,000 free copies of the guide have been distributed.

    Thanks to Bookslut.

    Virtual Book Tour VIII

    Mary Roach, author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers -- and the Virtual Book Tour -- have moved on to their sixth stop.

    In his site Consolation Champs, Toronto-based blogger James McNally remarks on the black humor and scatology that I've referred to previously, cites Six Feet Under, and offers a brief excerpt.

    I'll continue to follow the tour as it progresses.

    Rock Shows of Note LXVIII

    Last night, Jef, Mac, Dave, and I met up at the Middle East to hang out and soak of the sounds spun by our friend TD, who's been DJ'ing most Sunday nights lately. It was a quiet evening, with very few people in the restaurant, and TD's set impressed me as quite different than the other sets he's played. Lots of international music, some long-playing funk, and an ample selection of dance music. One Blondie 45 was so warped that it sounded like a dub remix. Fun!

    Not so fun was the fate of two local shows this past weekend. First, a Friday night show at the Berwick Research Institute was shut down by police. According to the institute's online calendar:

    The Berwick is temporarily closed this week due to a visit from the City’s Inspectional Services. We are working with the City to put in place the proper licensing so we can continue to bring you quality programming. In the coming weeks, we need your support to make this process go as smoothly as possible. If you can help with legal council, relocation of events, or monetary assistance, please contact us! We are confident that with support and resources we will be up and running in no time.

    Then, Saturday night, a show at the Oni Gallery was interrupted by police. During the first couple of songs performed by Laughing Light, which I'm told were primarily a cappella vocal noise -- read: screaming -- plain-clothes police officers in Chinatown were concerned that someone was being attacked. Word is that the windows had been left open and that much of the sound was making it to the street. What police found on the fifth floor was a musical performance.

    They warned the organizers about charging admission and closed down the show, which was shut down just as I called Jef to see if Plunge into Death had played yet. They hadn't, but it was unclear what would happen next, so I stayed home. Turns out that Travers performed his video piece without a microphone, and then the show relocated to the Choppin' Block so the Japanese band Peelander Z could play. Word is that their set was amazing, involving hand-drawn signs, costumes, and loads of audience performance. You can access a video online. Plunge into Death did not play.

    Is this the start of a Boston-wide police crackdown on musical performances? In Cambridge, the Zeitgeist Gallery has had its own troubles in the past because of not having the appropriate permits -- and instead of charging admission at the door, soliciting "donations." Perhaps we'll see a similar stifling of independent music venues in Boston? I hope not.

    Sunday, July 13, 2003

    The Free-Range Comic Book Project XXX

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

    The Dirty Pair: Run from the Future #4 (Dark Horse, April 2000). Writer and artist: Adam Warren. Location: On the floor outside the Million Year Picnic.

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

    Friday, July 11, 2003

    Event-O-Dex LXVI

    Saturday, July 12: Plunge Into Death dives in with Peelander Z, Laughing Light, and Travers at the Oni Gallery in Boston.

    Sunday, July 13: The Fully Celebrated Orchestra parties hearty at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade.

    Virtual Book Tour: Corpses and Conversation II

    Even though Mary Roach and the Virtual Book Tour have moved on from Media Diet, Mary agreed to a brief follow-up interview via email.

    Media Diet: Yesterday, when we were talking on the phone, you said something intriguing. I had just told you which pages have made me queasy so far -- pp. 48 and 68, the sections involving the "dead houses" of Scottish churches and the process of bloat and putrefaction -- and you said something to the effect of "You get used to it after awhile." Are you at all queasy or squeamish by nature?

    Mary Roach: Oh, quite the opposite. I'm happy in an O.R., standing at a surgeon's elbow as he's operating. In fact, on the several occasions I've done just that, they've had to politely ask me to step back. Bloating or putrefying bodies are about as queasy-making as life gets, but even then, my curiosity outweighed my revulsion, and it wasn't really hard for me. It's possible there's something wrong with me.

    MD: Did you encounter anything that made you wonder whether you should keep going, though?

    Roach: My first research excursion was to a local mortuary college to sit in on a student embalming. The guy had been autopsied before he got there, so all his organs were taken out and put in a plastic bag like giblets, and his body cavity was all hollowed out and meaty and wide open. The image stayed with me for a couple days and kept intruding in my thoughts. I'd be having a pleasant conversation with an officemate about the plants on the roof or something, and then FLASH! there's the ghoul from the embalming lab. I worried that it was a permanent condition. And that I might have made a serious mistake deciding to do this book.

    MD: What helped you keep focused and driven?

    Roach: The flashbacks went away after a day, and I calmed down and carried on. I'm a workaholic. I love reporting and writing. No problems there.

    MD: On pp. 13-14 you mention what it was like to have the project come up in polite conversation. What drove you to write such a book in the first place?

    Roach: The book grew out of a Salon column I did, which had to do with medicine and the body. As a writer, I tend to gravitate to the less-explored fringes of a subject. And I enjoy writing about topics that seem to be taboo in mainstream publications. Anyway, two or three columns had to do with cadaver research. These were among the most interesting and certainly got some of the highest hit rates. I found the topics fascinating, and clearly others did too. And it struck me as one of the very last subjects that hadn't been written about in a book. Honestly, it was either cadavers, or, I don't know, squirrels.

    MD: Last year, something akin to the Scottish dead houses hit the news when a Georgia crematorium was charged with discarding corpses it was paid to cremate. What's your take on that case?

    Roach: It's actually in there, in chapter 11. [I'm currently on chapter 10. -- MD] My take is that Ray Brent Marsh is either extraordinarily, unfathomably cheap (I mean, it doesn't cost that much to keep a crematory retort burning.) or he's nuts. Marsh's antics gave a real boost to a new disposition process that's waiting in the wings. It's called water reduction -- or, less euphemistically, tissue digestion. Basically, a pressure cooker with lye. Reduces bodies to liquid and a couple pounds of bone hulls. Right now, it's just used on livestock, but ever since the Marsh brouhaha, the company that makes the machinery has been getting calls about building a mortuary edition. In other words, Marsh was mondo bad PR for cremation.

    It's an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World XXVII

    I don't know whether Andrew Keller and his team at Crispin Porter + Bogusky are behind the BMW Mini print advertising campaign, but they keep trotting out some fine innovations. If any Media Dieticians ever visit the Big Blue Couch on Church Corner, you'll see that I've punched out and assembled the perforated paper-board Minis inserted in some magazines in recent months. And while I'm not too convinced of the practicality of this month's "Mini Guide to Tranquility, Bliss and Utopia" insert -- a map indicating mileage counts between American cities such as Allgood, Alaska; Difficult, Tennessee; Loyal, Wisconsin; and Soso, Mississippi -- I am thrilled silly by another recent ad insert.

    Headed by the phrase "Let's embrace Evel," the Mini advert is an iron-on transfer featuring daredevil Evel Knievel illustrated in classic '70s fashion design style. The insert even includes a quick how-to to ease your iron-on pain. "Jumping iron over image will not be effective," BMW warns. I know I own an ironing board, but I wonder: Do I own an iron?

    Magazine Me XXXVIII

    Last night, the August 2003 issue of Details magazine almost restored my faith in a periodical I've had trouble pinning down for more than a decade. While I breezed -- breezed! -- through the current issue of Men's Journal paying attention to next to nothing, the current edition of Details is quite impressive and interesting.

    Despite Details's contention that it's not oriented toward gay men -- while Men's Journal is published by Wenner Media, a company chaired by a gay man -- its sexual orientation continues to confuse me. On the cover, Tobey Maguire is touted to take off his tights. Whitney McNally dissects gays and guidos, claiming that the Italian stallion and Chelsea boy are indistinguishable. (p. 32) Augusten Burroughs touches on the risks of checking out other men's endowments while standing at the urinal. (p. 60) And Lee Smith considers whether the Taliban were gay. (p. 62). Yet people continue to debate which side of the bed Details sleeps on.

    What impressed me? Steve Kurutz blurbs It's a Man's World, a new book from Feral House celebrating pulp adventure magazines. (p. 40) His quickie Q&A with editor Bruce Jay Friedman is a nice thing to see in the usually ho-hum, edge-free magazine. Jeff Gordinier's page-long look at what he -- and others, it turns out -- terms "dadrock" is a welcome consideration of "music performed by aging rock stars; also, music that is strongly influenced by groups from the '60s and '70s." (p. 49) Go back to school, old school. And local literati Pagan Kennedy queries "Can a Car Run on Corn Oil?" in her profile of alternative fuel advocate Justin Carven. (p. 84) Another nice, on-the-edge piece for Details.

    That said, it might be Kevin Gray's feature, "The Bone Collectors," that clinched the deal for me. (p. 140) His extremely well-photographed (by Reuben Cox) article about a team of U.S. soldiers and scientists exhuming corpses in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia resonates well with my reading Mary Roach's Stiff. In fact, I need to recommend the article to her.


    To Esquire's credit, its August issue also pushed some buttons. First there's the Q&A between Paul Giamatti and cantankerous comics creator Harvey Pekar, whom Giamatti portrays in the forthcoming movie American Splendor. (p. 22) Best quote from Pekar: "I didn't hold it against you that you played an orangutan." Dirty monkeys. Then there's this little item:

    Best Execution Scene
    "Her mantle trimmed with ermine -- she had worn a royal fur to the last -- was removed. Then she took off her headdress herself. ... She knelt and, for decency's sake, tucked her dress tight about her feet. Then one of her women blindfolded her.

    "Immediately, before she had time to register what was happening, the executioner swung his sword and her head was off." -- from Six Wives, a new book about the fate of Anne Boleyn and five other wives of Henry VIII, by David Starkey (p. 20)

    I might have skimmed past that had I not been reading Stiff. Funny how you see stuff you're not looking for just because it's on your mind!