Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Workaday World XXXVII

I got home last night to find that they hadn't finished work on my apartment. My landlord didn't mess things up too much moving stuff around, but he'd neglected to mention that they'd be putting vents in the bathroom and kitchen, as well. The place was basically unlivable, so I went out to eat at Charlie's, caught a show at the Middle East, had an end-of-night drink (anything to avoid being home!), and slept on the floor next to my bed, which was piled high with stuff. Got up and out this morning before the workers were scheduled to return and worked for several hours before extreme sleepiness crashed into me like a wave. I just got up from a two-hour nap on the couch in the founding editor's old office. First time I've slept at work in six years.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Corollary: Anchormen, Aweigh! XXVIII

The Anchormen's newest CD was reviewed in the September issue of the Noise.

Anchormen, Aweigh! XXVIII

Members of the Handstand Command music collective are hosting a two-venue, seven-band independent music festival Saturday, Nov. 1. With performances at the Choppin' Block in Boston and P.A.'s Lounge in Somerville, the Operators and the Anchormen have organized a two-bill rockathon featuring Sophie Drinker, Dear Nora, Bread and Roses, the Young Sexy Assassins, and the Beatitudes from Denmark.

We realize it's not overly convenient, given the distance between the two clubs, but we will be staggering set times to encourage back and forth travel, there will be a two-for-one admission special, and if everything works out, we'll have a shuttle bus running between the two locations. Should be cool!

Workaday World XXXVI

I just got a frantic phone call at work from my landlord. They're removing the radiators from all of the apartments in my building and installing new baseboard heating vents. Last week Wednesday, I got a voicemail that said they would do my apartment today, Monday. Perfect! I'd have the weekend to move all of the furniture away from the walls and get the place organized for the workers.

Thursday morning, at about 8 a.m., one of my landlords knocks on my door and starts to key in. I had just gotten up and was getting ready for the day, so I answered the door groggily in my boxers and T-shirt. I said I thought they were going to come Monday. She said that they were hoping to remove the radiators that day. I said that I'd rather they wait until I was gone for the day -- or until Monday as they'd requested initially. I hadn't had a chance to get my apartment sorted.

So yesterday, I rearranged my apartment, moving most everything away from the walls, piling stuff in the center of the apartment, and only having to leave one small corner cluttered because of my numerous books and records. I left a note this morning saying that if they couldn't do what they needed to do, they should do the bedroom first, as much as they could in the living room, and then tonight, I'd move stuff out of the living room to open more space.

Anyway, back to that phone call. My landlord just called me at work saying that the workers needed everything moved away from the walls immediately. I said that I'd done as much as I could yesterday and left a note saying that if they needed me to move more stuff around, I'd do so tonight. I said that if they did the bedroom first, I could clear out the living room tonight. My landlord said that they'd already finished the bedroom -- it only takes 20 minutes to do what they need to do -- and they needed the other room cleaned up immediately.

I asked him what he would suggest. Did he want me to come home from work? If it only takes them 20 minutes, couldn't they let me rearrange things tonight? Then he said that the first thing they said when they entered my apartment was that it was a fire hazard. And that when this was all over with, I'd have to do something about that. I said that I'd begun paring down on my books and records and that I'd keep clearing the place out. It's quite a hassle when your landlord doesn't provide any storage space in the building.

So that's the end of my weekend -- and my Monday morning so far. It is such a hassle to have to move everything away from the walls for a new heating system when the old radiators worked just fine. It is also irritating that if it only takes 20 minutes, they couldn't have finished the work tomorrow. Did my landlord call me seeking assistance -- or just to yell at me? I shudder to think what my place will look like when I get home tonight. I feel bad about my landlord having to move stuff around. And I'm nervous about how they'll relate to me in the future if my place is, in fact, a "fire hazard." I do have a lot of books and records, but a fire hazard?

In any event, I listed about 30 Mack Bolan, Destroyer, Deathlands, Stony Man, and other Gold Eagle men's adventure novels for sale in Amazon Marketplace this morning. Thus begins the Big Book Purge of 2003.

Event-O-Dex LXXVI

Monday, Sept. 29: Toshio Okada, co-founder of Gainax and screenwriter of Otaku no Video, speaks at MIT (8 p.m. in 4-370.) Addressing the topic "Fans Making Anime: The Early History of Gainax and Japanese Animation," Okada will explain how anime is made and how a small band of fans (otaku) managed to break into the industry and form the Gainax studio (Neon Genesis Evangelion).

Comics and Community XVIII

The Somerville Comics Collaborative has edited, scanned, and published this year's collectively created comic made at the Somerville Arts Council's annual ArtBeat festival. It's a wide-ranging tale involving cats and dogs, flying turtles, killer flowers, Buddha, and a whole bunch of banana pirates. In fact, it's called "Curse of the Banana Pirates." Check it out!

Soundtrack: Colin Clary, "One Hundred Decembers"

Friday, September 26, 2003

Selling Out II

This is too cool. I listed about 25 books for sale in Amazon's Marketplace over the last couple of days. So far today, I've sold three. I've got a ways to go to clean house, but that's still about $30 income on books I don't need in about as many hours. Pretty nifty.

Business Media Reportage Goes Bust, Now Boom? XIII

'Tis the season for business magazine redesigns, it seems. Fast Company is refreshing its look and feel. Technology Review retools with its October issue. And now BusinessWeek gets in on the action. I'm only 20 pages into the Oct. 6 edition, but it's a drastic departure from the BW of yore -- and it's looking good.

Monsters, Inland

The folks behind Kaiju Big Battel are about to undertake the most ambitious video project in Studio Kaiju's history: The Birth of the Swarm. The centerpiece of Kaiju's second nationally-distributed DVD -- the first will be released Sept. 30 -- this shoot on Saturday, Oct. 11, calls for almost 70 performers plus crew. If you're interested in participating, the deadline is today.

The Birth of the Swarm shoot is a Kaiju-branded spoof of the battle scenes in the movie Braveheart. Firmly grounded in the Kaiju brand, the script calls for a healthy mix of physical action, storytelling, parody, and comedy. Performers will be wearing costumes (including masks), primarily as one of Dr. Cube's Minions or as a Swarm member. Light physical activity (running down a field, simple choreographed movements) is required. The vast majority of the roles require no experience in either acting or live monster combat, however.

If you live in the Boston area and want to get in on the Big Battel action, email the studio your name, age, and contact information soon. Like today.

Nervy, Pervy XIX

More like "Pervy, Unnerving," Zombie Pinups portrays cheesecake images of women in various states of decay. Think Suicide Girls as in committed, not attempted. Think a more fleshy Fangoria. Creepy!

Thanks to Memepool.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Music to My Ears XLVII

Chris Maguire's songs in Hypercombofinish are fun bits of hobbyist rock. "Recursive Rock" reminds me a little of the Ne'er Do Wells and that part of the northern California punk scene in the early '90s.

Boss Town Tidbits

Gawker disses Boston today.

Number one phrase New Yorkers dread to hear in the office: "I need you to go to Boston for a few days." Of being in that city itself, we can only offer our apologies and slip you an Ambien. You can't pretend that the bus is not bound for the soul-death that is Boston.

Soul Death? I thought that was in Idaho.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Books Worth a Look XVII

I still need to review the books I read in July and August 2003, but the American Library Association recently issued a list of the top 100 most frequently challenged books of 1990-2000. Required reading for Media Dieticians everywhere!

Monday, September 22, 2003

From the Reading Pile XXI

Styx Taxi: Pastrami for the Dead
Written by Steven Goldman and drawn by Jeremy Arambulo, this 28-page self-published comic outshines some of the recent work written by Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis. Blending the gritty reality of New York City with the mythic travails of next-gen boatmen on the River Styx, the book considers what it might be like if cab drivers ferried the recently dead to the afterlife. While Arambulo's art is solid and at times reminiscent of Jim Valentino's early work (p. 5, panel three; p. 9, panel two), it is the story that carries this read. Following the fares -- and farings -- of three cabbies (Charon, Circe, and Dom), the call outs made by the dispatcher are almost competitive as the drivers strive to make quota. Possessing living liverymen, the drivers help the recently departed revisit loved ones, elephants, old haunts, and unclosed clauses in their lives. Charon even leaves one soul in the lurch because his final request was lacking: a last meal at McDonalds. Styx Taxi is a great concept and a brilliant book. Is it sustainable for multiple issues? Where will the drivers go? Who is the dispatcher? Interesting stuff. $2.50 to Steven Goldman, 1771 E. 14th St., 2nd floor, Brooklyn, NY 11229.

Tread #6
When I met Robert Young, publisher of the Comics Interpreter -- only the most important replacement of the Comics Interviewer and fanzine corollary to the Comics Journal -- at SPX, this 36-page comic was well placed on his table, and I ignored it. Totally. Regardless, I'm glad artist Greg Vondruska sent me a copy for review. The first story, "The Snake Charmer," was actually written by Young and is a 17-page text-heavy tale about a snake charmer with aspirations to become an asp himself. It's a solid piece, but the heavy exposition makes this more of an illustrated story than a comic -- and slows the pacing somewhat. Greg's artwork is dark and heavily inked, reminding me at times of Gene Day's work. "You Waited at the Airport" considers the lives of people encountered while traveling. And the final selection, "Insomniacs and Cockroaches" is a mysterious story about a man who dreams of meeting what might be the queen of the cockroaches. The man-roach image on p. 28 is awesome. Of the three stories, I enjoyed the airport piece the most because of the personal aspects. I look forward to more semi-autobiographical work from Greg! $3 to Greg Vondruska, P.O. Box 273415, Tampa, FL 33688.

True Adult Fantasy
This 40-page glossy "comic art sketchbook" collects selections created by Emmy-award winning animation director and storyboard artist Bradley Rader over the course of 20 years. Having worked on the cartoon Spawn and drawn for DC Comics' Catwoman, as well as the gay erotic periodicals Drummer, In Touch for Men, First Hand, and Chiron Rising, Rader's taste run to those of the bear. Including ink and watercolor work, the collection touches on many of the things bears might like: shower scenes, male-to-female fantasies (a seven-page preview of a story Rader plans to continue), pianos, shaving, saunas, hair, and the military. Indicating that he was somewhat isolated during his formative years in Anchorage, Alaska -- as well as that there was a 12-year gap between 1989 and 2001 while Rader recuperated from a car accident -- the artist was inspired by 911 to return to erotic art. While I need to check out his general comics and illo work -- and while I appreciate his New Yorker-esque watercolors more than most of the material -- True Adult Fantasy shows that it's not always a bad thing to be a near-Tom of Finland. Not really my bag, but respectable nonetheless. $6.95 to Bradley Rader, 4470 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90027.

Yellow Baby #1
I buy most of the comics published by Jeff Mason, but this is the first book his company has actually sent me for review consideration. Usually, I only review self-published and minicomics that I buy, but in the hopes that Jeff will "service" me, here we are. Is this whoring or wholesome commentary? You be the judge. Jed Alexander's 36-page pamphlet is interesting but not really my cup of tea. His art is slightly messy -- what I'd call ugly in the Alison Taylor sense (grotesque, not idealized) -- and the writing, while solid, falls slightly short of what I'd guess to be his goal. The 13-page untitled piece that opens the book comes closest to Alexander's potential as the protagonist ponders his American-Mexican-Jewish heritage during a plane ride. Otherwise, readers get an analysis of Alexander's creative process, a sloppy-flabby return to the old dingaling joke, and a Chester Brown-esque attempt at the golem myth. Maybe Alexander's art is getting in the way of my appreciation of the writing, but for the most part, Yellow Baby visually represents a more fully formed Victor Julio Cayro and does little else. Perhaps concentrate on the writing? $3.95 to Alternative Comics, 503 NW 37th Ave., Gainesville, FL 32609.

Thanks to Media Dietician Tony Shenton, who seems to be spreading the word about my comics reviews far and wide. Both Tread and True Adult Fantasy seem to have reached Media Diet based on his say so.

Blogging About Blogging LXX

Blogmapper takes us one step closer to true mapblogging. By associating blog posts with points on an online map, you can create a physical visualization of your movement and location online -- and offline. The process involves embedding GPS data as hidden tags in your posts, so it's not as point and click as I'd like, but there is a handy Flash app you can use to extract the necessary code from Blogmapper's catalog of maps. I'll have to poke around a little, but this looks pretty cool. Map your blog, map your world.

Thanks to Media Dietician Joe Germuska.

Among the Literati LII

Swingset is an online and print magazine that publishes interviews and reviews of indie
bands, short fiction, artwork, and photography. This weekend, they discovered that they were 15 pages short of what they needed to send to the printers early this week.

It may be too late already, but this could be a good way to get in the pipeline for next issue, as well. Quoth an email plea for submissions: "If you write music-related articles, short stories, or draw/paint/take photos, and have completed work ready for publication (or nearly), you should consider submitting something, but you have to email him fast. It'd be a great place to get your work in print. Email attached pieces to Howard Wyman, the submissions editor."

Corollary: Conferences and Community VIII

And now I've been comped a pass to BloggerCon, which takes place Oct. 4. Dave Winer indicates that the con's site was Slashdotted, so I'll have to check back on the schedule in a bit. Thanks are due Ethan Zuckerman and Wendy Koslow, as well as all of the other participants who've emailed me to see if I'll be there. Kinda flattering to feel like I'd be missed if I skipped it!

Friday, September 19, 2003

Rock Shows of Note LXXVII

Last Saturday night was the final evening of live music at the House of Blues in Cambridge. Local singer-songwriter Ryan Montbleau helped give up the ghost, performing with his full band following an evening of live gospel singing.

I've never been a big fan of the House of Blues, much less a regular, but I admit feeling a twinge of loss upon its closing. It's funny, even though the House of Blues' Cambridge location tried to replicate a down-home blues bar, it's only been in operation since 1992 and -- despite a friendly, long-time staff (some of whom worked there 10 years, and one of which goes by the nickname "Wily Giraffe") -- it's not as though the Boston area has lost anything that's authentic. If anything, the House of Blues was fauxthentic.

In Hermenaut #15, editor Joshua Glenn explores the concept of fake authenticity, and contributor Slotcar Hatebath considers whether beer tastes better in fake Irish pubs. Both are wonderful introductions to fauxthenticity and context for my experiences at the House of Blues early last week.

Founded by Isaac Tigrett in 1992, the House of Blues attracted the interest -- and investment -- of Dan Aykroyd, James Belushi, and Paul Schaffer. That should be clue one that the organization would be hard pressed to make good on its promise to celebrate the African-American cultural contributions of blues music and folk art. Despite feeding the homeless on Thanksgiving before opening -- and the quirky hand, feet, and buttock imprints of the surviving members of the Blues Brothers in the venue's driveway -- we must remember that Aykroyd also brought us Blues Brothers 2000, a shallow rehash of the original movie.

That said, I strangely mourn the House of Blues' passing and -- thanks to Heather at Victory Records -- I was able to participate in some of the closing closeness. Seeing that Spitalfield would play at the House of Blues with Fall Out Boy, whose record I'd recently reviewed, I called Heather to see if I could get on the guest list. She came through, and I found myself at the House of Blues on its final Monday night for the Radio Takeover Tour.

While I don't know whether Pabst Blue Ribbon tastes better at the House of Blues, I do know that I was one of the older people in the audience -- and one of very few drinking given the age and possible straight edge-ness of the average audience member. Because I'd left the house without a pen in my pocket, I had to bum a Bic from the merch guy, and I settled in near the rear of the room to check out the assembled bands: Trouble Is, Spitalfield, Acceptance, and Fall Out Boy.

Trouble Is opened with a set of melodic hardcore and pop punk not dissimilar to Fall Out Boy. "Mad at the World" has a good melodic chorus, and despite some early trouble with the mics, the hatted band settled into the stage quite nicely. Unfortunately, following a disappointing chorus to the second song, "Nonstop," I was struck by the crowd's tweener fauxthenticity. As the band played a Blink 182-wannabe lust song to the largely passionless audience, I wondered whether this was going to be a night of watered-down third-generation punk rock. The band vacillated between out-of-tune falsetto and moments of catchy clarity, but "Graduation" opened extremely well and included a subtle breakdown that I quite liked. Out of tune overall, the band played a thankfully short set, earning them some points for punctuality.

Next up, Spitalfield. The sound problems with the mics continued, but the band stepped up with a tight set of excellent choruses and choreography. There were some interesting vocal tradeoffs and a brief, lame reggae break before a fun Rick Springfield-like section that could've lasted longer. While I'm not overly familiar with their recordings, one song struck me because of its repetitive chorus and ooh's that didn't quite work. Some of their songs were quite strong, but all in all, I felt that they played too long. End sooner, end more strongly, and leave the audience wanting more. The yelling in the last song solely irritated instead of adding energy. But then again, I'm slowly but surely becoming quite the sad old man.

Acceptance was the first band of the night to break the four-piece mold, and at first I thought they were local because it seemed the band's parents had come out. Opening with a bizarre recorded introduction, Acceptance played largely generic emo, which seemed to go over well with the Boston University students that made up much of the audience. I stepped outside for some fresh air, taking a last look at the hand, feet, and buttock imprints in the driveway -- I hope the new owners don't tear that out when they take over the place -- before heading back in for Fall Out Boy, so I didn't catch all of Acceptance's set.

Even though I didn't quite agree with the music the House of Blues chose to play over the PA before Fall Out Boy's set, the band opened with one of my favorite songs from their record. Everyone knew the words to "Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy," and the show suddenly caught its stride as the night turned into one long singalong. Fall Out Boy has their stage antics down pat, and it was funny to watch members repeatedly sling their guitars around over their shoulders. Once, it's surprising. Continually, it's comic. Near the end of the show, the singer from Spitalfield joined Fall Out Boy onstage for some enjoyable band interaction, capping what was definitely the best set of the show.

All in all, the closing of the House of Blues still saddens me. I'm not sure whether it saddens me that my last experience there was four melodic hardcore and emo bands playing to the tweener set, but I'm glad I could be a part of the venue's final week despite the irony of the final days' fauxthenticity. One bartender who'd worked there for just under a year told me that he'd miss the other people working there the most. And my friend who worked there 10 years said it was the staff that kept him coming back. I suppose that's the way it works. And I suppose that despite the House of Blues' commercial history, financiers, and booking, the place is real enough. Because it made people feel at home. At least for awhile.

Forever, Vermont

Not too long ago, Media Dietician Brad Searles lent me part of his collection of Burlington, Vermont, scene ephemera. This entry is the first in a series of archival reviews of comics, zines, and records produced by participants in Burlington's indie-rock and -media scene. If you participated in the Burlington scene in the early '90s and would like to share your stories, insights, and experiences -- or correct any factual errors I make in this series of reviews -- please add a comment to contribute to the context!

Deadbear and Pals
James Kochalka produced this photocopied comic book starring Deadbear, James himself, his wife Amy King, Lil' Rocket Boy, Magic Fairy, and Clunky the Mechanical Monkey in 1993. Partially autobiographical, "Yup, I'm All Grown Up" informs readers that James has been cartooning since second grade and that "The best part of drawing comics is reading them when I'm done." Using visual humor, his usual goofy characters, and occasional autobiographical interludes, James tells the tale of Clunky's trip to outer space -- and inserts a gentle environmental message at the end. The story doesn't really matter, and James' early characters aren't that interesting, but it's fun to see James' early drawing style, and it's clear that there are some clear parallels to his work today -- Magic Fairy probably evolved into Magic Boy, and the personal elements were always there. A lively long-lost comic. James used to operate out of P.O. Box 8321, Burlington, VT 05402.

English-Lesson: A True Story Told with Simple Pictures
James Kochalka's 1994 Konk My Konk Comix book is an eight-page book marker-sized mini. Apparently, it's a recollection of a conversation between James and someone whose first language isn't English. They discuss calling women "baby," politeness, and how to best meet a potential girlfriend. It's a quick bit and an impressive departure, albeit slight, from James' usual fare.

I'm Not Action Johnny! #10
Colin Clary, the person once behind Sudden Shame Records, published these periodical, pocket-sized pamphlets. Sporting the cover line, "U don't love me, u just love my doggy style," this edition includes stories about stolen guitars; working a T-shirt cart in Burlington; the Fags, Philistines Jr., and James Kochalka's old band Jazzin' Hell; local zines such as Poo Poo Mag and School Bus; reviews of records and tapes by Eggs, the Bedroom Boys, and Kimbashing; and other Burlington-related musings. This may have come out around Thanksgiving and appears to have been a weekly. Sudden Shame used to operate out of 2 Cypress Lane, Essex Junction, VT 05452, and Colin's phone number was once 878-8759.

I'm Not Action Johnny! #12
"All the girls think I'm retarded cos my hair's not even parted," quotes the cover of this pocket-sized zine once published by Colin Clary. Colin also did a show listing zine with Brad Searles called Sounds Around. This edition includes news about Colin's then-band the Madelines, local zines, and Colin's radio show on WRUV-FM. Show reviews touch on Snowplow, Hover, the Fags, and Doc Hopper. In addition to several 7-inch record reviews, the zine features little stories about Colin's mom, license plates, the Sounds Around compilation, and the Burlingtonitus indie-pop fest. We need more little zines about out local scenes.

James Kochalka Superstar #1
Published in 1994 with a cover price of $2, this 16-page digest features Deadbear and a winged James Kochalka asking, "Am I famous yet?" on the cover. Thus begins James' formal quest for stardom. The book opens with a four-panel comic by his wife Amy King entitled "Girl Talk" that blends the cartoony and more dense styles exhibited in her digest Mine's Ugly. James' contributions include five autobiographical stories and a one-page Deadbear strip, all drawn in 1993 and 1994. A young James dreams of the demise of his dad and decides teenagers are bad. An older James is accosted by a gang of toughs on his way home and is robbed of a jacket and shoe. "Nov. 20, 1993 Burlington, VT" is a pleasant piece of natural whimsy that reintroduces the magic fairy characters that would evolve into Magic Boy. And the Deadbear page is a disposable time-travel tale. You can see quite a bit of development from James' earlier Deadbear work, and several panels really shine (p. 3, panel 4; p. 6, which portrays James' later sketchbook work; and p. 10, panel 1). The self-conscious racial sensitivity of "The Walk Home" and the natural wonder of "Nov. 20" telegraph James' current self-awareness and inter-story self-analysis as a narrative device. His style is starting to mature, and this sheds solid light on the directions in which he could head.

Jazzin' Hell 7-inch
Released by Tarquin Records in Connecticut and Thicker Records in San Francisco, this three-song record issues in 1992 predates the James Kochalka Superstar recordings. Performed by Peter Katis on the Casio MT-50, James on vocals, Hilton Dier III on soprano saxophone and bass, and Eric Bradford on tenor saxophone, the mono, lo-fi songs remind me slightly of Atom and His Package. One song, "Moon Tune," was recorded live in 1989 at Border in Burlington, and the other two songs -- "Egg Hunt" and "Let's Go Steady" -- were recorded in 1991. They're all simple, silly songs and aren't as well done as James' later recordings, but it's a fun listen nonetheless. And the picture of James dressed up as the Easter rabbit is priceless -- and might even rival the beefcake bit at the end of his new Fancy Froglin book.

Mine's Ugly!
This eight-page digest compiling comics done by James Kochalka's wife, Amy King, was collected as a surprise for her 25th birthday. Drawn primarily in a spiral-bound sketchbook, the digest represents two styles. The two one-page "Sparkle: Queen of the World" strips are simpler in nature, with a cute, clean line. In one, Sparkle becomes prom queen. And in another, she gives her friend Starbeam a bad home perm (hence the title of the collection). In both, the closing panel offers a beauty tip. Funny stuff. There's also a four-page story done in a more complex, realistic style that seems to be an appreciation of who might be Amy's father. The four standalone vignettes add up to a tender recollection of a man who was generous, a heavy drinker, and in the end, surrounded by family. Amy's work is quite good, and I'm pleased she also contributed to early issues of James Kochalka Superstar. But I wonder: Does she still draw? I hope so!

Sudden Shame catalog
Colin Clary used to run this little record label near Burlington, Vermont. This edition of the label's catalog lists releases available in 1994. 7-inch records feature the Smiles; Chisel; and Brian, Colin, and Vince. Tapes include recordings by Snowi Springs, the Madelines, and a compilation comprising Vibrolux, Chisel, Severinsen, BCV, Snowi Springs, Trendinista 5000, Zero Series, Richard Scarry, Teenage Dope Slacesm tge Smiles, Slow Ham and the Ditchbockers from Bean Bean, Emily, and Sweet Mamma of Guadelupe. There's also a CD by BCV -- Sudden Shame's first release. This and Colin's zines were produced using a nifty single-sided photocopy, slit, and accordion fold method. If anyone wants to tape any of the above for me, I'd sure appreciate it.

Soundtrack: Tunnel of Love, "Rock 'n Roll'n Bitches"

Games People Play XII

Even though Good Time Emporium in Somerville has its share of old-school video games, New Hampshire's Funspot sounds like a gamer's Valhalla. Featuring 185 working arcade games produced between 1971 and 1987, Funspot's offerings include games such as Tapper, Spy Hunter, Paperboy, Jungle Hunt, Gauntlet, Breakout, and Asteroids. Road trip, anyone?

Newspaper Chase III

As long as I've lived in Boston, there's been a slightly delapidated newsstand perched on the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth streets by the Old South Church on Copley Square. A few weeks ago, the newsstand shut up shop, its new owner of just two years bowing out quickly but quietly. The stand's previous owner, Max Kaiserman, ran the old-school shop for 73 years, missing only a few months of work while he recuperated from heart surgery. Even though Kaiserman had passed the torch, the traditional newsstand is now moving steadily into the past. Even though I didn't frequent the stand, I'll miss its presence.

Hiking History XIII

Kudos to the fine folks at Talking Street for improving on the guided walking tour. Launched just this week, the first cell phone-guided walking tour in New York City, "The Lower East Side: Birthplace of Dreams," is narrated by Jerry Stiller -- and is extremely easy to follow. You dial a toll-free number on your cell phone, select the stop you're at, and learn about the immigrant-fueled neighborhood. Pretty darn cool.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Event-O-Dex LXXV

Sunday, Sept. 21: Big Digits passes the hat at Zuzu in Cambridge.

Blogging About Blogging LXIX

Back in April, I mentioned that William Gibson would stop blogging soon. Well, it took him awhile, but he finally gave up the ghost. His final post came just a couple of weeks after Bruce Sterling announced that he was wrapping up his Infinite Matrix column-cum-blog. While Gibson's heading to the woodshed to write a new book, Sterling will contribute to a new blog published by Wired.

Among the Politerati?

Is the Katha Pollitt who provides the poem "Lilacs in September" in this week's New Yorker the same Katha Pollitt who writes for the Nation? If so, step aside Mr. Trillin!

Games People Play XI

Arcadia combines four very simple, old-school, Atari-type games that you play simultaneously, making it a multitasking challenge. The all-at-once combination of Jumpy McJump, Over Drive, Strathreego, and Electronic Tennis was developed by GameLab, a New York City-based game development studio. It's an awesome idea, but truth be told, my first attempt playing two of the games at once wasn't very successful. Jumpy McJump got stumped.

Thanks to Media Dietician Mari Guarino.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Read But Dead XVIII

James L. Morrison is the editor in chief of the Technology Source, which is published under the auspices of Michigan Virtual University. A couple of days ago, Morrison was informed that because of budgetary constraints, MVU will no longer produce it. The university is willing to transfer the journal's ownership to a suitable organization/ or publisher. If any Media Dieticians are interested, feel free to contact Morrison.

Business Media Reportage Goes Bust, Now Boom? XII

Technology Review, MIT's magazine about innovation, undergoes a redesign with its October issue. Focusing more on business and investing, the magazine seems to be working to reclaim some of the ground lost by the Red Herriing and Industry Standard.

IM'ing the Fat

In Minneapolis today, a staff member of KQRS-FM is moblogging a plastic surgery makeover using his PCS Vision Camera. Ulp. I hope Vicky's happy.

Television-Impaired XV

TV Newsline has compiled an impressive list of TV station slogans. In Massachusetts, we've got

WHDH (NBC) Boston: "The News Station"
WBZ (CBS) Boston: "WBZ 4 News, WBZ Means News"
WCVB (ABC) Boston: "Coverage You Can Count On"

Lost Remote's Liz Foreman comments: Why can't TV stations just be honest like the Aspen Daily News -- "If you don't want it printed, don't let it happen."

I usually don't get into the new fall season of TV shows, but so far this fall, I've caught two premieres I thought would be worth watching. Anderson Cooper 360 got a lot of buzz, and I looked forward to the reportedly whip-smart, fast-paced approach to nightly news. While Cooper did impress me with his presence and delivery, it wasn't quite the hectic headline hullaballoo I wanted. His heavy dependence on reporters in the field added to the depth of the reportage but closed off opportunities for commentary and critique. That said, two segments pleased me. In one, he addressed the contents of several news and culture weekly magazines, harping on their headlines. And in the final segment, the show's close, I was slightly irked by the bait and switch. After analyzing the ways other anchors say goodnight, providing a nice meta-media look at a behind-the-scenes aspect of broadcast television, Cooper copped out, in the end merely promoting another new program, Paula Zahn. This was Cooper's chance to go personal. Instead, he opted for promotional. Opportunity lost!

And Sunday, I watched the first episode of HBO's new program Carnivale. Scheduled to run 12 weeks, the series is more Stephen King's The Dark Tower than Twin Peaks, but David Lynch's influence is clear. The main character, played by BenNick Stahl [the character's name is Ben], is still finding his way in the role, but the ensemble cast -- primarily comprising a clutch of sideshow freaks and carnies -- is intriguing enough. The characters Lodz, Samson, and Sofie will stand out, and Clancy Brown's Brother Justin could well emerge as a parallel to King's Randall Flagg. Worth watching for Rodrigo Garcia's able direction.

Soundtrack: George Winston, "Autumn"

Newspaper Chase II

This morning, while leaving my building to head to work, I ran into one of my new neighbors. Dressed in a shirt and tie, he had just picked up a newspaper in the foyer and appeared to be hesitating. I checked the foyer for my paper, scanned the entry way, and then turned back to him -- he'd paused on the stairs.

"Is that the Boston Globe?" I asked.

"Yes. Is it yours?"

"Does it say A-3?"

It did. He'd taken my paper. Turns out that, having just moved into the building, he'd subscribed to the Globe as well. It'd been delivered to him once and then stopped for some reason. So he'd been taking my papers, reading them in the morning and then returning them to the foyer when finished.

That explains why the paper's been missing so often lately -- and while it's been waiting for me when I arrive home in the evening. I thought the delivery person had been slacking. Instead, there's a thief in the house. I don't mind, really, as long as he puts it back in time for me to pick it up. And if it's not there, I now know where to go.


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

NetWork IX

Cynthia Typaldos has compiled a nice roundup of social software and services. While I'd like to eventually do an in-depth study of best practices and processes, as well as how people use the services differently, I'm largely with Clay Shirky: Interoperability is increasingly important.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Street Art IX

Space Invaders is an urban invasion reality game in which participants surreptitiously install mosaic tile patterns in urban settings around the world. You can even obtain maps of invasions already made. Similar to Shepard Fairey's Obey campaign, Boston's Hi Guy, Upski's open-source No More Prisons tags, and other street art, I can't wait until I find my first tiles.

Big Brother Is Watching XVI

The Surveillance Camera Players now offer outdoor walking tours in New York City. Sounds like another possible project for the Boston World Explorers Foundation: cataloging security cameras in Boston.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Comics and Cinematography

If you thought Frank Miller's Dark Knight was a progressive take on the Batman mythos, wait until you get a load of Dan Harmon's Batman.

Thanks to Go Away.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Comics and Community XVII

Last weekend, I drove down to Bethesda, Maryland, with some friends for SPX. Rumor is that the conference is going to merge with a larger, more mainstream comic-book convention and move to Baltimore soon, so I wanted to catch it while it was still what it was. Thing is, I should've gone several years ago, I think. SPX wasn't the awe-inspiring, energy-raising experience my friends had described, and even the parties in the evening were relatively lame. That said, I hung out with friends, met lots of neat people, reconnected with folks I'd met at TCAF and MoCCA, and went to an interesting panel on comics and journalism.

Featuring Heidi MacDonald, who writes for Comics Buyer's Guide and Pulse; Johanna Draper Carlson, publisher of Comics Worth Reading; and Arnold Blumberg, a senior editor at Cinescape, the session focused on the "strange relationship that the comics industry and journalists share, what works, and what doesn't." Here are my Cory Doctorow-inspired notes on the discussion:

Johanna Draper Carlson: Comics journalism gets no respect.

Heidi MacDonald: Has written for the Comicon.com Pulse daily news site for more than a year. Got into comics journalism 20 years ago. Has written for Amazing Heroes and the Comics Journal. Used to edit for Walt Disney and DC -- now back to journalism.

Arnold Blumberg: A senior editor for Cinescape. Worked for Eon online. Also an Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide editor.

Carlson: It's her 10th anniversary in comics journalism. Used to contribute to Comicology magazine. Has a masters in popular culture, thesis on comics fandom. Once DC's Webmaster. Comics journalism and criticism is fairly new academically and otherwise. No impetus on standards or journalism as a craft -- no medium is healthy unless there's a culture of criticism and commentary. Large companies don't support that.

Blumberg: Crossover to other media (film, video games) encourages mainstream media to pick up on it. Entertainment Weekly's comics coverage is subscription only.

Carlson: Still targeting a young male audience, though.

MacDonald: Need to get past negative feelings that they hate us! Concentrate on the positives.

Blumberg: Not really a strange relationship, but an area of journalism focusing on a medium that's not overly respected. Literate criticism still not looked at. Media studies now spilling over into comics. He teaches a class on comic book literature at the University of Maryland. Usually it's an art department course, which is another battle.

Carlson: 10 years ago it was part of the English department.

Blumberg: Largest growth is on the art side. He focuses on the literature side. How to analyze and critique rather than make comics.

Carlson: Need a shared language about comics to critique.

Blumberg: Need consistent rules to critique.

MacDonald: Disagrees. There's little textual analysis of comics. But look at Fantagraphics' Frank Miller interview book. An interview in the '80s focused on craft. Today everyone focuses on the industry.

Carlson: That's not true.

Blumberg: Journalism is now about the self-involvement of the industry. Mainstream needs to chang from focusing on the top two publishers and most iconic characters. Some look at the licensing.

Carlson: That's the benefit of being independent. Writes for Publisher's Weekly. Actually edited by Heidi. Covers collections of strips, graphic novels -- chunks, not serials.

MacDonald: Comics world is small and cliquey. Arnold works on a price guide and covers comics -- conflict of interest?

Blumberg: A sign that few people have the capacity?

MacDonald: The comics industry is really welcoming. We really don't turn anyone away.

Carlson: Hard to find paying outlets.

MacDonald: Doesn't write reviews any more. Gets two emails a week about her CBG column. There's a gentlemen's agreement. If you're friends with creators, what if you don't like their book?

Carlson: People either know her, know her husband, or hate her.

MacDonald: Needs to do news -- needs to maintain friendly relationships.

Carlson: Cut me off, fine! Publishers don't. They need the coverage.

MacDonald: I do news.

Blumberg: Danger of doing news features and then negative reviews. Can't review stuff honestly?

Carlson: Involve yourself in the story. Is news the problem? Small industry, easy to connect with anyone.

MacDonald: Other than Todd MacFarlane, Neil Gaiman, and Alex Ross.

Blumberg: Negative reviews aren't a personal thing.

Ed Mathews: Gets uppity PR people who will threaten you if they don't get good coverage. You just have to not care. Comics journalism needs external sources of funding so you can do what you need to do.

MacDonald: All magazines, editorial and advertising aren't always separate.

Mathews: Make comics vs. cover comics?

Carlson: Doesn't want to do comics. Writing comics is a separate skill than writing about comics.

MacDonald: Doesn't want to write comics either -- she's a journalist. I don't know how big your place is, but my place is not big enough for free comics.

Blumberg: I still read superheroes comics. Sue me. Reach a point where you realize what you're not comfortable writing about. Lose the spark you had when a kid. Deserves serious critique.

Carlson: Combine hobby and day job focuses way too much on one thing -- if this is what you want to do, you need outside hobbies. Role of feedback -- writes about comics about ideas. Feedback is still too personal. Talk about ideas, not people.

MacDonald: Publishing and library interest in comics. Great to see books coming out. Knowledge is becoming Google-ized. Old reference books: George O' indices, Maurice Horn, Steranko's history. FAQs started about 10 years ago.

Carlson: Group mind and accuracy.

MacDonald: Old knowledge spreads out. New knowledge not there? She's contributed to the group mind.

Carlson: Comics scholars' list.

Blumberg: Teachingcomics.org .

Question: Consideration of audience?

MacDonald: Hard with the Pulse because it's a big readership. Has to be more general interest. Feels like she gets more out of pieces not written by insiders. Publisher's Weekly article on licensing tie ins. A challenge to get a fresh perspective.

Carlson: Uses the term collection or graphic novel vs. TPB.

Blumberg: More mainstream vs. academic. Magazines need to be short, punchy, cool quotes. Essays in price guide a different gambit.

Carlson: Hard to fake the perspective of a new reader.

Blumberg: Can't meet extremes -- aim for middle, the intelligent reader.

Carlson: Is print news viable?

MacDonald: The Pulse, Newsarama, CBR.

Carlson: Best print news source is the Journal.

While interesting, the panel was hardly the in-depth consideration of comics-related journalism I was hoping for. And the participants for the most part fell prey to the very traps they mentioned. As I see it, there are three basic camps in which comics-related writing is welcome: academic media studies, industry- and reader-related media, and the mainstream media. The discussion focused primarily on industry media -- the very self-involvement mentioned above -- and somewhat on media studies. Both are fine and help support the industry, but it's the mainstream media coverage of comics that's the hindrance for the medium's growth, I think. Why does mainstream coverage of comics suffer?

  • Most newspaper reporters and magazine writers (read: people) aren't comic book readers.
  • Most comic book readers are still teenage boys, and the medium's output reflects their tastes and interests, which don't resonate with the wider culture or a mature audience.
  • The pamphlet form ghettoizes comics (read: direct market) and adds to the impression that comics are ephemeral, disposable, and not deserving artistic or literary respect and consideration.

    Some of the more interesting parts of the conversation were about how comics journalism largely focuses on craft -- the process and practice -- or the industry (Who has MacFarlane sued lately? Will Dave Sim punch Jeff Smith?). That's fine and dandy for people already in the know -- we read comics, we know people who make comics, and we care about the industry. But to the average person? Yawners, goners. We, as comics readers and writers, need to begin writing comics journalism for a non-reader audience. We need to encourage publicists to better educate writers while promoting select titles. And we need to continue to increasingly approach comics as books. Sure Jimmy Corrigan was serialized in Acme. But what got picked up by the New York Times Book Review? Sure Jason Little serialized Shutterbug Follies online. But what got picked up by... you get the picture.

    In a recent CBG column, Peter David argues that the TPB (Sorry, Carlson.), graphic novel, and collection is killing comics. Au contraire. Publishing books that should be books as serials is killing comics. (Actually, crappy comics are killing comics, but that's just Sturgeon's Law in action.) Quantity, meet quality. Maybe comics made for kids should be serialized. Kid culture embraces that. But not all comics should be pamphlets. Pamphlet sales shouldn't determine the fate of what was created as a book-length story. And if we want to attract more older, mature, life-long readers of comics, we need to make better comics, reconsider their format and distribution, and begin to infiltrate professional mainstream journalism about popular culture.

    I was also fascinated by the industry PR service aspects of the discussion. I've never received ongoing free comics service as a reviewer. (Full disclosure: Jim Valentino and Deni Loubert did set me up with Aardvark-Vanaheim and Renegade Press service in the late '80s. But I was 13 then, and Jim didn't remember me at all when we met at SPX. Ouch!) Sometimes a minicomics maker will send me an item they'd like me to consider for review. Sometimes I'll rank a freebie from Top Shelf or Highwater. But in general, when reviewing comics, I buy almost all of what I write about. At SPX I dropped about $300 on stuff to review. Support the scene, as they say. I buy the books I review. I do get some free records. Sure, I'd like free comics. If you work as a publicist for a publisher, hook me up. Heck, if you're a small publisher, hook me up. But know that I won't review everything, I might not like everything I receive, and that I'll tell Media Dieticians what I think works -- or doesn't work. All in a constructively critical, widely read, appreciative way.

    I'll leave comics news to MacDonald and Blumberg.
  • Among the Literati LI

    Warren Ellis, one of my favorite comic-book writers, is now a novelist. To quote the man hisself: "Behold, and shit." Man's got the gift of glib some days.

    Tuesday, September 09, 2003

    Cover Story IV

    Open, a design studio in New York City, has designed the covers of The Nation for the last five years. That's more than 225 covers. Their run ends with this week's issue, dated Sept. 22.

    Monday, September 08, 2003

    Rock Shows of Note LXXVI

    Having no interest whatsoever in the NEMO showcase and conference, which strikes me as a poor man's SXSW -- and which will hopefully change now that it's under new management -- I went out last night to hear my friend TD spin at the Middle East. We'd both gotten up to leave Bethesda, Maryland, at 5:30 a.m. yesterday, TD heading to the airport in Baltimore, and me to drive to New York and then catch a Greyhound home. We were both relatively tired, but I thought the usual Sunday night at the Middle might make up for the lame parties at SPX.

    Even though I fared slightly better than TD, who was left to DJ'ing for a largely empty bar, I was right. Last night rocked. Why? Upon my arrival, TD told me that he didn't start for another 30 minutes and that I should check out the bands playing upstairs. "Aren't they NEMO bands?" I asked. "No; they're downstairs. Here we've got the Ex Models." The Ex Models? I am so there.

    I stepped into the stage side to catch the end of a set by whom I think was the Chinese Stars, a band comprising former members of Arab on Radar and Six Finger Satellite. It's also rumored that comics cutie Allison Cole's boyfriend is in the band. The several songs I heard impressed me with their energetic, herky jerky approach to dance music a la the Rapture. Fun stuff, and the singer had his jean jacket buttoned all the way up. I think more bands should light their drummers from below, too.

    Next up, the Ex Models. One of the more intense bands I've seen in awhile, their angular combination of the Talking Heads, Fugazi, and Scared of Chaka is feverish enough on record but much, much more impressive on stage. All three standing band members jump around, throw their instruments back and forth, share vocal attacks, and otherwise make the music with their bodies as well as their instruments. Stab, attack, jump, growl, hoot, holler, twitch. And repeat. A brilliant set. "Other Mathematics" does them little justice. Guttural but gladsome. Took me back to the days of Scissor Girls and Math, they did.

    But the band that everyone seemed to really be there for was Daughters. While I was pleased to see one member wearing an old Warp Comics T-shirt, Daughters isn't really my bag. Take one Jim Morrison-like frontman. Add screamo hardcore. Result? Instant mosh pit. Not that the pit, which erupted almost immediately, irritated me any more than the tall men that kept stepping in front of me, trying to back into me to edge me out of my spot, and otherwise invading my space, but for the most part, Daughters don't do it for me live. Their recordings are slightly more palatable, reminding me of Weasel Walter's projects, so maybe there's hope for me yet, sad old man that I am.

    I left the show a little into Daughters' set to revel in the openness of the restaurant, sit up front near the DJ booth, and talk with TD. He was pretty bummed that there weren't more people there. When the show closed and people filed out in a parade as though heading to a tour bus, some folks -- including Tall Guy -- stayed behind, which was cool. Thanks, TD, for turning me on to the show. I had no idea the Ex Models were in town, and I was thrilled silly to see them.

    Soundtrack: Helloween, "Rabbit Don't Come Easy"

    Hiking History XII

    Forgotten NY documents the "infrastructure of a lost metropolis," offering photographs of old advertising, cobble stones, outdated signs, and abandoned hospitals. Deeply researched, the resource is an amazing project. Does anyone know of anything similar for Boston?

    Among the Literati L

    One of my favorite bloggers name drops one of my favorite young writers and former co-workers. Small world, smaller.

    The Free-Range Comic Book Project XXXI

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

    Disavowed #2 (Homage/Image, April 2000). Writers: Brandon Choi and Mike Heisler. Artist: Tommy Lee Edwards. Location: On the freebie table at SPX.

    Doom 2099 #6 (Marvel, June 1993). Writer: John Francis Moore. Artist: Pat Broderick. Location: On the freebie table at SPX.

    Doom's IV #3 (Image, September 1994). Writers: Mark Pacella and Kurt Hathaway. Artist: Mark Pacella. Location: On the freebie table at SPX.

    Dragon Ball Z Part 3 #4 (2000?). Writer and Artist: Akira Toriyama. Translator: Lillian Olsen. Location: On the freebie table at SPX.

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

    Anchormen, Aweigh! XXVII

    Many thanks to KDVS-FM, WRMC-FM, WVKR-FM, and CJSR-FM for playing the Anchormen on the air!

    Thursday, September 04, 2003

    Technofetishism XLV

    I now have my iSight camera on hand and operating. We've opened some firewall ports, and audio and video (presumably) now works outside of the office. My AIM username is h3athrow. If you use iChat AV, feel free to ping me when I'm online. This is pretty darn cool. As my friend Davo says, "The future is now."

    The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night XXI

    When my friend Joanie was in town not too long ago, she recommended that I meet a friend of hers. We messaged via Friendster a couple of times and then took the conversation to email. Last night, we met face to face for the first time. The setting? The West Side Lounge on Mass. Ave. between Harvard and Porter squares. I don't spend a lot of time in that stretch of Mass. Ave. since I moved to Central Square, and it's interesting to see how posh it's gotten. West Side Lounge, while posh, also focuses intently on the nosh. Attracting a clientele that's a mix of after-work business people who live in the neighborhood, older area residents (which was nice to see), and -- later -- a younger crowd, the restaurant and bar is highly designed and darkly lit but not at all pretentious. Unfortunately, my new friend had already eaten dinner , so I ate alone -- we'd discussed coffee or drinks, but I hadn't eaten, so there we go. I was so glad I ate there. The menu is reportedly largely Mediterranean in nature, but I opted for the salmon dish. The salmon was cooked well and seasoned sensibly, and it rested on a bed of absolutely fabulous garlic mashed potatoes. The accompanying side salad didn't do too much for me, though. We sat at the bar, which is relatively short -- my friend described it as comfortable enough that you can almost always get a seat, but you're lucky if you do -- and the booths looked even better. Cozy, intimate. Perfect just to meet up with friends who don't always follow the funk -- or for a quieter, romantic dinner, perhaps. If you like Christopher's but don't quite go for Temple Bar, try the West Side Lounge. It's stylish enough that it's appropriate for a special night out -- but comfortable enough that you could eat there every night, easy.

    Comics and Community XVI

    After some internal debate, I've decided to make the trip to Bethesda, Maryland, this weekend for SPX. As much as I could use the time at home, this is an opportunity I can't quite pass up. Should be a hoot! If any Media Dieticians are going, let me know, and we can try to meet up.

    Wednesday, September 03, 2003

    Rock Shows of Note LXXV

    After work yesterday, I went to the Million Year Picnic for the signing featuring Jason, creator of such wonderful books as Ssssshh and Hey Wait. I hung out with Stacie, Jef, Dan, and Tony for awhile, and then Greg Cook showed up. Four of us mosied over to Charlie's Kitchen to "edit" this year's edition of the Somerville Comics Collaborative's project. While last year's edition was pretty easy to organize, this year, it was quite a challenge. Because the table was crowded almost all day, we ended up with several plotlines and recurring characters making appearances in each story thread. But with a couple of transition pages -- one contributed by Greg -- inserted, I think it'll make sense in the end. But, boy, was this year's comic confusing!

    Around 9 or so, after eating dinner, Tony, Jason, Ben, and Stacie made their way to Charlie's as well, so we all hung out until they were about to start karaoke. Then Jef and I walked down Mass. Ave. to TT the Bear's for the Scout Niblett show. We arrived a little ways into the second band's set, having missed all of Joy's performance. Joy comprises former members of 71 Sunbeam and the Jack McCoys, which are in the process of breaking up. "Aren't Joy and the Jack McCoys basically the same band?" I asked Matt Savage. "All you did was take some letters out and smash the words together!" He replied, "Pretty much." I was sad to miss their set.

    That said, last night's show was the loudest show I've ever gone to at TT's in terms of conversation on the bar side. It seems that all of the second band's friends came out and then stuck around to socialize after the set. Usually, I don't notice this -- or get irritated -- but it was frustrating given Niblett's solo, scaled-down approach to songwriting. A guitarist and drummer, Niblett sings scarring songs of anger, loss, and frustration, reminding me slightly of Cat Power, Bjork, and perhaps Sinead O'Connor and Lois. Her voice is extremely intense, and her guitar playing just as harsh. My favorite songs were the ones she sang while playing drums. Niblett is an argument for simplicity. No drum machine. No tape. Just a too-pure voice and a single instrument. The drum songs got some cheers from the carousing conversationalists, and I especially appreciated the pieces about Linus from Peanuts, the song about how we're all going to die, and a couple of others I don't recall.

    The show wrapped up around 11:30, which made it a welcome early evening given Monday night's late Labor Day cookout. Jill and Jef headed home, and I walked back to Church Corner to read Jason's new "Meow Baby" mini and hit the hay. A fun and productive night.

    Tuesday, September 02, 2003

    The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXVII

    The Skull
    I couldn't sleep Friday night, so I set my alarm for 2 a.m. to watch this 1965 horror movie starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Based on a short story by Robert Bloch, the slow-paced suspense expands on the mythos surrounding the Marquis de Sade. A phrenologist digs up his grave shortly after death to claim de Sade's skull. Possession of the skull leads to the demise of almost everyone who comes in contact with it. Cushing's character, a collector of supernatural esoterica, obtains a book about de Sade's life -- bound in human skin -- and then the skull. And all heck breaks loose. The plot is relatively plodding, and the special effects unconvincing. But the idea behind the movie -- and its ending -- are quite interesting. B-movie fare straight from Shock Theatre.

    The Fog
    Jef and Dave were right: This movie way predates Jamie Lee Curtis's emergence as a proper movie star. The 1980 John Carpenter film is a west-coast wave at the hidden history of a small town. On the 100th anniversary of the town's founding, a sour -- and sacriligous -- secret returns to lay claim on the future of the city and its citizens. While the special effects are next to nonexistent -- and highly dissatisfying -- the characterizations are quite believable, and the story is an intriguing one. I liked the sequences in which the heroes were trying to determine the fate of the dead -- and their seafaring vessels -- and several sections caused me to jump with surprise and fear (something the Skull failed to do). I also appreciated the sultry-voiced radio announcer, who practically narrated the progress of the killer fog from her lighthouse studio. The sea, lepers, hidden treasure, heavy weather, and an independent radio station: What more could you want?

    The Story of Spam V

    With the SoBig virus continuing to hammer the Net, I came in after the holiday weekend to 400-plus emails diverted to my Deleted Items -- and 900-plus emails in my Inbox. But just now, a message crossed my transom that me smile:

    Old Farts Band


    Permit me to introduce myself. I am Sonnie Chamberlain the father of Drummer Matt Chamberlain. I am contacting as many of the fathers of famous musicians as I can to see if any of them play any thing. I am trying to get a band together of fathers. I talked to Sheral Crow's father yesterday and he is busy but said that if I can get something going he would like to play rhythm sometimes. I dont know if this email will reach anyone or not but was hoping by going threw you it may . I play drumms so not other drummers need apply. LOL If you know of anyone please ask them to contact me.

    Sonnie Chamberlain

    I am not the father of a famous musician, but it sounds like an interesting project -- like the All Heaths group on Friendster. I think it's hilarious that he misspelled Sheryl Crow's name. If you're going to drop a name to lend credibility, spell it right, for chrissake.

    Newspaper Chase

    On the way to the T this morning, I spied a new paper box in the row by the station entrance. Barstool Sports is a new free tabloid "by the common man, for the common man. Featuring a half-page Hooters ad below the fold, the first issue of this weekly outlines the editors' agenda -- sports, gambling, golfing, and "chasing short skirts." In addition, there's an NFL season preview, fantasy football tips, an advice column "to help us win over the ladies," a top 10 list of public golf courses, an essay about dealing with the "gambling god," and a review of Boston-area sports reporters and writers. Dated Aug. 27, it's a thin read at eight pages, and it's not really my cup of tea, but it's good to see a new paper in town. We'll see how it develops!

    Rest in Peace II

    My sister just called to tell me that Ruby Williams, one of our longest-running babysitters when we were children -- and a dear family friend -- died yesterday. She was 99. Her birthday wasn't too far away from mine, and I'll always remember her grilled cheese sandwiches. They were perfect. I'll miss you, Ruby.