Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Breakfast of Champions

This morning, I walked across the street from the hotel and finagled a bagel and cream cheese from a street cart for breakfast. The total price of my breakfast? $1. Sure, the bagel wasn't toasted and there wasn't a heck of a lot of cream cheese on the thing, but just the other weekend, I bought a plain bagel from an Au Bon Pain in Cambridge for 89 cents. The cream cheese itself cost an additional $1. Almost makes it worth the airfare down.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Corollary: Television-Impaired XVI

Oh! The first episode of Average Joe just ended. And Media Dietician Clint Schaff got cut. Zach's an ass. Marc and Dennis are such dark horses that they their nags just might come in. And Tareq wins punk points for the best exchange. Paraphrased, perhaps extremely inaccurately, but you'll get the drift:

Tareq: Do you like broccoli?
Melana: I don't like broccoli. I like peas.
Tareq: Peas.
Melana: Do you like broccoli?
Tareq: I don't really like green food.

Go get 'em, tigers!

Full disclaimer: I didn't plan to watch the show. I turned the TV on after my post-dinner nap, and there it was. Clint was in my house.

The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night XXVI

I was so tired this, well, late afternoon, really, after covering conference sessions for Ad:Tech Blog and FC Now. In fact, walking south on the Avenue of the Americas in search of a bookstore and dinner, I was quite surprised when I saw that it was all of 5:30 p.m. So I didn't try too hard to find a good restaurant. Looping back north on Broadway around 40th Street -- where I heard the voice of and saw my friend Albert, whose attention I didn't catch (still, small world!) -- I ended up at the Playwright Restaurant on W. 49th Street. Established in 1993 -- what is it with this nod to faux history? -- the Playwright is a two-story tavern/restaurant pairing. I sat upstairs on the tavern side, where a bartender with a thick Irish accent chatted up three women visiting from San Francisco. My order? A Sam Adams Seasonal and Collin's Sub, a sandwich with turkey, ham, pepper jack cheese, and some sort of red pepper and caper tapenade. It was OK. No great shake. The great New York City Restaurant Elimination Game begins! I'd go back to the Astro. I wouldn't go back to the Playwright.

All in the Family

Last month at BloggerCon, I urged Steve Garfield to encourage his 78-year-old mother to start a blog. Oct. 12 -- not much more than a week after the event -- she launched My Mom's Blog. So far, Millie has posted entries about sunflowers, Tarzan, movies, local politics, marriage advice, dieting, and Mah Jong. Maybe she should meet the 86-year-old blogger Andy McCaskey. Regardless, file under: Thoroughly modern Millie!

Sunday, November 02, 2003

From the In Box: Television-Impaired XVI

Straight from the horse's mouth:

Early this year, before I found this wonderful place to work, a notice was forwarded to me by my a friend I was staying with to audition for an unnamed reality TV show. So there I was in Palm Springs with a camera in my face, giving cheesy answers to cheesy questions, and trying a lil' political subversion through political anecdotes and leftist propoganda.

I knew nothing about the show going into it. I still know very little. What I do know is that I'll be on NBC Monday night. I also know you should probably check out the premiere because I may not have made it any further (ya never know).


Yes, it's true. I'm on a silly reality show. I don't recommend 'em -- watching 'em or participating in them.

No, I wasn't under the influence of drugs at the time of that decision.

Of course, no, I am not average. Far from. In fact, my lawyer is fairly certain that I have grounds to sue for defamation.

And, no, I won't let the fame go to my head. Just please don't ask for autographs while I'm eating dinner in public. That is so tacky.

So... as much as I wouldn't mind no one watching the show, check it out. And then do damage control amongst the millions of viewers who will mistake me for some wack average dude on TV.

Make that surreality TV, I think.

Urbannatural History

On the cab ride to the hotel tonight, we drove past a wonderful sight -- and site -- that I'll have to revisit. Set back from the street in a courtyard littered with tables and chairs near 1 E. 53rd St. is a waterfall. Cascading along a wall at the back of the courtyard, the 20-foot waterfall -- running at 1,800 gallons a minute -- is well-lit and extremely beautiful. Especially at night. Named Paley Park after a former chairman of CBS, the site is actually a public park and has been active since 1967. Thank you, William Paley!

The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night XXV

I'm in New York City for the first few days this week to confblog Ad:Tech for Fast Company Now and MarketingWonk. The New York City Marathon was today, so the hotel is relatively crowded, and a lot of people are wearing marathon windbreakers. I can hear and feel the elevators running near my room -- at first I mistook it for the subway.

In any event, I walked a couple of blocks away from the hotel to grab dinner at a neighboorhood. The Astro Restaurant has been in operation since 1980 and blends the best of old-school diner fare with sit-down restaurant comfort. With a staff wearing dress shirts and ties and dark-upholstered booths, the restaurant feels more formal than it might, but the menu is anything but fancy. About $15 got me a salami sandwich with Swiss cheese, lettuce, and tomato on toasted rye and a bottle of Sam Adams. While the sandwich came with a paper cup of coleslaw and a pickle that was more pickled than most diner pickles I like, I missed the presence of potato chips or French fries. But that's the Astro: Comfortable, unpretentious, but a step above the basics.

Friday, October 31, 2003

'Tis the Season to Be... AWOL XVI

Sunday night, I head down to New York City to confblog Ad:Tech for Fast Company Now and MarketingWonk. That means that Media Diet may be quiet until I get back to Boston. That doesn't mean that Media Diet is dead (long live Media Diet!). It just means that it's resting.

Television-Impaired XVI

Hold the phone. Could this be... Media Dietician Clint Schaff?

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Event-O-Dex LXXXI

Saturday, Nov. 1: The Anchormen, Young Sexy Assassins, and the Beatitudes (from Copenhagen!) count down the days and count off the hits at PA's Lounge in Somerville.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Rest in Peace III

I can't believe I just learned that Neil Postman died earlier this month. Rather ironic for the iconoclastic media critic.

Library Silence

The University of Illinois Library is taking books that haven't been checked out in 10-20 years and moving them to a high-density storage warehouse. Workers have already selected the first 800,000 books to be moved to the warehouse. And get this: They'll be organized by size. Well, at least it's better than destroying them.

Read But Dead XX

DoubleTake, the high-minded magazine based on Davis Square in Somerville, has gone on hiatus. Most of the staff walked out in July, and a skeleton crew of three is currently rethinking the publication as a business. Since August, the team has stopped publication, cut expenses, audited the magazine's taxes, registered as a business, and enlisted a consulting firm to help craft a business strategy. Good luck!

Monday, October 27, 2003

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXXI

The Fall of the House of Usher
The 1928 silent French version of this classic Edgar Allan Poe story is an atmospherically minimal adaptation of one of the more suspenseful pieces of short fiction. While I don't think it's as impressive visually as some of the German expressionistic silent films of the same era, it still has its impressive moments. I guess my major beef with the Jean Epstein-directed hour-long piece is its pacing. The movie just plods. I realize silent films aren't the quickest of movies, but between the slow-moving visuals, overwrought depictions of madness and surprise, and overdubbed readings of the title cards, I got frustrated. Frustrated because I knew where the story was going, having read and reread the source material, but I had to stick with the film to get there. One saving grace -- in addition to the delightfully overacted facial expressions one can expect from silent movies -- was the new score, which was provided by a music historian who drew on source material from the medieval period. While occasionally scribbly in the stereotypical horror movie soundtrack violin sense, the score was often distraction enough from the presentation's plodding pace.

Clip-Art Comics V

I don't have a lot of details, but word is that the character Karate Snoopy will not appear in future printings of David Rees' "new" book, My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable. Did United Media and the Charles Schulz estate threaten legal action? Now that Rees is being published by Riverhead Books, is he too high profile to sneak by on the down low? Only Circulatory Man knows for sure.

Happy Birthday to Media Dieticians XIX

An uncle of mine in Indiana turns 100 years old today. 100 years old. Wow.

From the In Box: From the Reading Pile XXII

As a point of interest, Gabagool! #1 Special Edition was the original Gabagool! #1, but totally redrawn so it would look better. It was a dumb thing to do, but at the time I was bothered by the cruddy drawings I did for the original comic. -- Mike Dawson

From the In Box: The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXX

Saw your blurb about watching "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest." This profile ran in our paper today. -- Su Yim

Pieces, Particles XII

The following stories spotted recently in print publications might be worth a look. Heads and decks, only. Heads and decks.

Candlepin Bowling Is Still Up His Alley by Nathan Cobb, The Boston Globe, Oct. 25, 2003

Kendall Cafe Closing by Ted Drozdowski, The Boston Phoenix, Oct. 24, 2003

Pleased to Meter You?, by Marty D. Wolfand, The Boston Phoenix, Oct. 24, 2003
From its obscure and humble beginnings in Oklahoma, the parking meter has become a ubiquitous street presence whose long shadow now looms darkly over our motoring experience

Recovery Phase by Dan Kennedy, The Boston Phoenix, Oct. 24, 2003
The Atlantic survives -- and thrives -- following the death of Michael Kelly. But questions about its future remain.

With Progress, a Cruel Twist by Joseph P. Kahn, The Boston Globe, Oct. 25, 2003
Once Dunkin' staple, labor-intensive cruller out

Highways and History

This is the first year since 1999 that I haven't gone on a six-week roadtrip for the magazine. And a couple of people are undertaking a similar participatory journalism project for Wired! Truth is, as glad as I am to be home this fall, I'm a little envious. Route 1? In search of geek history? Too cool.

Friday, October 24, 2003

From the Reading Pile XXII

Bries Catalog 2003
As a catalog, this beautiful screen-printed item doesn't work so well, says the woman staffing the table for this "publisher of fine comics" at SPX. And I'm amazed and disappointed that that's the case. This catalog -- the most impressive I've seen -- is a wonderfully produced item complete with tucks and folds, illustration details, and handwritten descriptions. The catalog features work by Pieter de Poortere, Lamelos, Stefan van Dinther and Tobias Schalken, Ulf K., Uli Oesterle, and others, which should give you a sense of the kinds of comics Bries trafficks in. Wonderful stuff -- and a catalog, while worthy in its own right, that's well worth ordering from. $3 to Bries, Kammenstraat 41, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium.

Gabagool! #2-3 (June and September 2002)
Despite the funny animals depicted on the cover of #2, this is farn from an anthropomorphic mini. After obsessing over whether the Fantastic Four should have welcomed Spiderman into their ranks -- and withstanding his landlord's rant about blowjobs -- Christopher Vigliotti gets ready to go to a Brazilian restaurant with his roommates and his almost-girlfriend. The sequence in which he selects an outfit (p. 7) works well, and the dialogue during the dinner party is quite clever, as are the first four panels on p. 13. Love the waiter on p. 11! There are artistic moments (p. 19) in which this comic really shines, and given the solid scripting, my only complaint is that #2 is too short at 24 pages. So the longer #3 -- at 36 pages -- is quite welcome. The "all action" issue opens with some surprisingly Tom Hart-esque drawing (especially given the usual Tony Consiglio by way of Peter Bagge artwork) and Christopher Vigliotti dramatically (panel 5, p. 3) retells the tale of bounty hunting, the Y2K "problem," and the recovery of a magic guitar. Ace Frehley makes an appearance, Jed name drops Alan Davis, and the glowering Aris Samaras finally says something. Throw in some able narrative interludes, a flashback to eighth grade, and the first edition of Fiend Folio, and you've got an impressive story of friendship, violence, and justice. The inside back cover sports a column by Cousin Lenny about the Bronx, adding a nice zine-like feel to an otherwise excellent comic. I can't wait to read more of Gabagool! $1 from Mike Dawson and Chris Radtke, P.O. Box 1638, Radio City Station, New York, NY 10101-1638.

Gabagool! #1 Special Edition (February 2003)
Contributing to the general comic book geekery of other issues of Gabagool!, this 28-page "special edition" adds an element of InterWeb fannishness. Our hero, Christopher Vigliotti, scours the Web for Star Wars and Spiderman news before going home, dreams of ROM, Voltron, and Cthulhu dancing in his head. The roomies debate the merits of selling pot versus working at the grocery store and go to a bar, where they call back the "Who talks like you?" joke from #2 (p. 11 -- p. 10 in this issue), reminisce about their old band at SUNY-Albany, and hatch their plan to become bounty hunters. It appears as though this "special edition" is a reprint of #1, but that's OK. Continuity Chris would approve. Indeed, for this is the issue in which the bounty hunters find Doreen's dad. The at-work small-panel sequence on p. 17 is a nice piece of minimal narrative, and the manner in which they find Bill is a pleasing punchline, especially given the doubletake. The issue closes with a three-page throwaway titled "Secret Santa" and an opinion column by Cousin Lenny. My only advice would be to use the text-based column to break up the comic -- and to get a Xeric grant. Mike Dawson and Chris Radtke could easily publish a longer book. $1 from Mike Dawson and Chris Radtke, P.O. Box 1638, Radio City Station, New York, NY 10101-1638.

House of Cards
Using a deck of cards as the organizing principle, Shawn Cheng shares a 44-page story about love and loss, wishes and wanting, sin and snowglobes, pets and preference, adventure and absence, Halloween and hollowness, and music and mistrust. Cheng's artwork is at times evocative of Megan Kelso, and if he's able to maintain this level of lushness daily online, he's a talent to watch. Quite impressive. Write Shawn Cheng for more information.

In a Rut
Apparently an ashcan promoting the fifth issue of David Stanley's comic Outside, this 12-page story is a good introduction to his work. Artistically reminding me somewhat of John Hankiewicz's Tepid work, Stanley's drawing blends sketchy realism with occasionally oblique cartoonishness. A young boy grapples with his growing attraction to women, and his sister and her friends discuss the kind of men they like as a result. Meanwhile, the boy and girl's mother copes with the "octopus" at work. It's a good, multi-level look at sexual attraction and harassment, and if it's any indication of Stanley's wider work, Outside appears promising. Free at SPX from David Stanley, 850 N. Randolph St. #103, Box A35, Arlington, VA 22203.

The Patron
I picked up several of Jamie Tanner's minicomics and pamphlets at SPX. Featuring excellent artwork, off-kilter narratives, and hand-decaled items, they are interesting objects as well as excellent reads. This 28-page 2002 publication includes four connected vignettes about Heinrich Bruno, a monkey-man and "patron of the pornographic arts." I'm not quite sure who the dead body on p. 20 is, but the panels depicting Bruno's children (pp. 17 and 23) are awesome. A solid read, but slightly dissatisfying. Write Jamie Tanner for more information.

Sketchbook 2
Designed by Cheryl Weaver, this 40-page handmade collection of "pictures which have been cleared for publication" combines elements of Farm Pulp, Jeff Zenick, and John Porcellino. Content includes cubes, chair construction, belligerent birds, word play, artistic analysis, passionate pickpockets, and history that's not heavy handed. It's an interesting idea for a publication, and even though I was initially put off by the price, Anders Nilsen remains a need to read. Very nice. $10 to Anders Nilsen, 3103 W. Augusta Blvd., Chicago, IL 60622.

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXX

One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
This is one of the better movies made in the last few decades. A young Jack Nicholson shines as the lead character in this adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel about a man who's transferred from prison to a mental hospital. It's mostly a statement that life is what you make it and that you should never give up regardless of the challenges you face. It's also a wonderful character study of people who find their confinement safer than the wider world even though they're not formally committed. And lastly, it's a strong argument to question and stand up to authority for what you think is right despite an overly oppressive environment. In the end, Nicholson's antihero Randall Patrick Murphy falls prey to the very system he's trying to game, and the only character to truly become free is the quiet hulk Chief Bromden, played by Will Sampson. Despite the accolades heaped on Scatman Crothers for his role as Orderly Turkle -- and later appearance in Nicholson's magnum opus the Shining -- I think it's the young Danny DeVito (Martini) and Christopher Lloyd (Taber) who deserve considerable kudos along with Nicholson. DeVito is priceless -- and almost unrecognizable. A brilliant movie. Worth revisiting.

Event-O-Dex LXXX

Monday, Oct. 27: The Mary Reillys, Star Star Quarterback, Rosa Chance Well, and Mark Robinson pop up at TT the Bear's in Cambridge.

Mention Me! XLVII

Joi Ito's been egosurfing Amazon's new Inside the Book search, so I thought I would, too. I had no idea I've been quoted and cited in so many books! Among the books that have dropped my name:

  • Tom Peters, The Circle of Innovation
  • Leonard Berry, Discovering the Soul of Service
  • Christine Piotrowski, Professional Practice for Interior Designers
  • William Upski Wimsatt, No More Prisons
  • John Hagel III and Arthur Armstrong, Net Gain
  • F. Leigh Branham, Keeping the People Who Keep You in Business
  • Cynthia Froggatt, Work Naked
  • Drew Banks and Kim Daus, Customer.Community
  • Hesselbein, Leading Beyond the Walls
  • Robert Reich, The Future of Success

  • That's pretty rad. Peters and Reich cited articles I wrote. I can go home now.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2003

    The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXIX

    Cat People
    Complete with a mournful David Bowie theme song, this early-80s self-described "erotic fantasy" is a wonderful example of cheesy horror/softcore crossover. A redux of the lycanthopy myth, this is a loose remake of the 1942 movie by the same title and focuses on the trials of two siblings who suffer from an age-old curse. The progeny of a race of leopard people, the two turn into voracious felines whenever they're sexually aroused, and the brother -- played by Malcolm McDowell -- tries to persuade and seduce his sister, played by the lovely Nastassja Kinski, to become his lover. Because it's only safe for family members to sleep together. Otherwise, others die. She'll have nothing to do with it and takes up with a zoo curator -- the heroic John Heard -- who strives to secure her love while unraveling the curse of the killer cats. Set in New Orleans, the movie has some nice city and country shots -- along with a stereotypical bayou bumpkin played by Emery Hollier. The suspense is light, as is the erotica, and the Maxx-like flashback exposition adds an out-of-place mythical element to the proceedings. All in all, Cat People is a nicely atmospheric period piece that attempts to blend and bend genres with some success.

    Mention Me! XLVI

    When I was only a lad, I was actively involved in the Boy Scouts. Order of the Arrow, two National Boy Scout Jamborees, scout camp staff, Eagle Scout -- the whole nine yards. Back in the day, I and several friends published a staff newsletter for Camp Indian Trails in southern Wisconsin that was reviewed in Factsheet Five by Mike Gunderloy, who described it as a "punk fanzine that seems to be edited by Boy Scouts." That has been one of my guiding principles in journalism, as well as on the Web: "Would this work in a punk fanzine that seems to be edited by Boy Scouts?" Imagine my disappointment when I learned that Larry Livermore's Smart Punks idea was a Maximum Rocknroll April Fool's joke.

    But leave it to Noah, one of the former editors of that newsletter, Stafficidal Tendencies and, later, ST, to dig up an old Jambo photo and identify who is now an active blogger. Too funny.


    Jon Lebkowsky has some good news for Austinites and book lovers everywhere. Book People, one of the best independent book stores in the country -- and a necessary stop every time I visit Aus-Town -- now has WiFi. They've got an impressive selection of books by local authors, a wide-ranging newsstand, a cafe -- and now WiFi. Right on.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2003

    Corollary: Games People Play XIII

    Brad reports on our Funspot excursion last weekend.

    Technofetishism XLVI

    To accomodate my iSight camera and iPod -- my PowerBook only has one FireWire port -- I just got a Belkin 6-port FireWire hub. The little plastic stand doesn't work so well, but I'm glad that I don't have to swap devices any more. I didn't like having to unplug the iSight in order to charge my iPod. And now I can take pictures of other things when they're plugged in!

    I also got the iTrip from Griffin Technology. Because I don't always take my laptop home, I'm sometimes frustrated that I can only listen to my iPod with the earphones. And I'd like to be able to listen to what's on my iPod while in friends' cars. Again, without earphones. So far, the iTrip seems to do the trick.

    Monday, October 20, 2003

    From the In Box: Games People Play XIII

    According to Media Dietician Adam Gaffin, the Hobo Railroad should be called the Ho-BORING Railroad:

    Do not take the Hobo Railroad -- unless you are having severe insomnia problems.


    The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXVIII

    How to Make a Monster
    Not to be confused with the 1958 movie by the same name, this made-for-TV mauler is a shallow take on video game development, artificial intelligence, the potential for avarice in the technology business, and virtual reality. Can't get Robert Culp? Steven Culp kind of looks like him and doesn't act any better. Wonder what Carnivale's Clea Duvall has done before? Look no further. The basic gist of the flick is that a video game project is about to go over time and over budget -- and that it's not test marketing well in the scary department at all. So a misfit trio of developers featuring the requisite brute, phiolosopher, and nerd (played by a Rick Moranis lookalike, pretty much) is brought in to up the terror ante. Philosopher Sol does a Net search for "monster" and imports the results into his "million-dollar AI engine." Julie Strain is brought in for some Lara Croft-like motion capture, and the movie goes downhill from there. The monster AI gains sentience during a storm and takes over the telemetry suit used for the motion capture. The suit absorbs body parts of the people it kills -- and continues to play the very game the developers are making as it attempts to kill them. In the end, humanity wins and loses in one fell swoop, as the sole survivor falls prey to the very philosophical and political foibles that got the team into the mess in the first place. That '70s Show star -- and Ashton Kucher's Punk'd patsy -- Danny Masterson co-stars in an uncredited cameo as Duvall's character's physically and emotionally abusive boyfriend. His enthusiastic email exchange with heroine Laura Wheeler is not to be missed.

    Games People Play XIII

    Saturday morning, after a quick blessing by the Reverend Father Asteroids, Brad and I hit the road to head north to Weirs, New Hampshire, where we spent much of the day at Funspot, the second-largest arcade in the country. Funspot -- "the spot for fun" -- claims the largest collection of classic video games in the world. Between now and Jan. 16, 2004, if you buy $20 worth of tokens -- 80 tokens -- Funspot offers a coupon for 50 free tokens. What a deal! Brad and I went crazy. Here are some snaps:

    I'll have to head back. We didn't have much time to poke around Weirs Beach, and there are several functioning tour railroads nearby. Among them:

  • The Mount Washington Cog Railway
  • The Hobo Railroad and Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad
  • The Conway Scenic Railroad
  • The Hartmann Model Railroad and Toy Museum

    You can access a guide to New Hampshire's scenic railroads online.

    Also not so far away is Ruggles Mine and Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves, which seem cool.

    Ah. At home, I'm a tourist.
  • Weather Report XIV

    With a frost advisory issued last night at 9, the Bourne Bridge closing because of ice, and flakes of thin ice on car tops this morning, it's clear that the cold has finally snapped for real and that fall is officially here. High today, 52 degrees. Glad I made my bed with flannel sheets last night!

    Friday, October 17, 2003

    Books Worth a Look XVIII

    Quinn Skylark recently launched his new bookblog, BookWatch. To date, Quinn's posted entries about NaNoWriMo, BookSense, the science of comic books, and the National Book Award. It's only been live five days, but it's clear it's worth reading. Good work, Quinn!

    Reigning Cats and Cats

    Forget Dog Island. I'm moving to Cat Town.

    Thursday, October 16, 2003

    Corollary: Technofetishism XLV

    I don't think our firewall is set yet so I can actually use my iSight camera and iChat AV outside of the office yet, but I was thrilled to find several online resources that help iSight users connect and communicate. After all, if you don't have a lot of friends with iSights, who're you going to iChat with?

    iChatters seems to be one of the better tools, offering a number of dedicated thematic chat rooms that members can align with. While the room organization is interesting, iChatters isn't very adept at helping you find people -- much less people online now. iChatFinder is much better, focusing more on the members and their profiles. The profiles are quite robust -- think Friendster with iSights -- and you can browse members based on whether they're currently online. This is what iSight-related services need to do!

    Seeser's user interface is slightly difficult to navigate, and it seems that in addition to the ability to search members based on location, the service offers discussion forums in which users can connect. And iChattin does much the same. iChattin's forums are light on member introductions and heavy on chat requests, which seems an odd about face.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2003

    Read But Dead XIX

    Spenser's Mystery Bookshop on Newbury Street in Boston is closing. At least we'll still have Kate's Mystery Books in Cambridge.

    Event-O-Dex LXXIX

    Thursday, Oct. 16: Kelly Link, Alex Irvine, Greer Gilman, and Vandana Singh will read from the new anthology Trampoline at Avenue Victor Hugo on Newbury Street in Boston. 7 p.m.

    Saturday, Oct. 18: Big Digits gets rigid with Plunge into Death at "Get Your Goth On," an event happening at 61 Montebello Road in Jamaica Plain. Dusk.

    Wednesday, Oct. 22: Danielle Miraglia, Jimmy Tingle, Sam Hooper, Sinkcharmer, and others help ring in the 20th year of Somerville Community Access Television at Johnny D's in Somerville. 7 p.m.

    Monday, Nov. 10: They Might Be Giants will perform and sign copies of their book Bed, Bed, Bed at the Borders on School Street in Boston. 7 p.m.

    Hiking History XIV

    Members of the Boston World Explorers Foundation are encouraged to join an expedition this Saturday, Oct. 18. This outing will take the Foundation to Funspot in Weirs, New Hampshire. The second-largest arcade in the country, Funspot -- "the spot for fun" -- claims the largest collection of classic video games in the world.

    We'll gather at 9 a.m. Saturday for the drive north -- supposedly 1.5-2 hours -- in the parking lot of the Greek Orthodox Church on Magazine Street in Central Square, Cambridge.

    If you want to come, you need to RSVP to me by Friday morning. And if you can drive, please let me know if you're willing to help chauffer -- and how many explorers you can take in your car. We'll be making sure that everyone has a ride if they need one. We'll be returning to the Boston area as members' needs require.

    Explorers will be responsible for their own rolls of quarters, dollar bills, and other funding sources for their gameplay. Our grant application fell through, and the Foundation will not be able to subsidize this endeavor. Apologies extended.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2003

    Friday, October 10, 2003

    Mention Me! XLV

    Welcome to everyone checking in from Wired News. I'm about to head out for the weekend, but if you'd like to check out Media Diet's Virtual Book Tour entries, you can start with Dennis' first entry this past Monday. Make with the clicky click and scroll up to catch up.

    Virtual Book Tour 2 VI

    Dennis Hensley, author of Screening Party, trips on over to the fifth stop of the Virtual Book Tour today.

    Over in BradLands, Dennis and Erin Quill, the inspiration for the character Lauren in the book, wax gabby about movie musicals. After dissing Moulin Rouge and Chicago, Erin goes on to list her favorite movie musicals. It's a fun segment, and it's good to see Brad opening BradLands up to other contributors -- and to see Erin join the fray!

    Sounds like there will be more material published throughout the day. Cool beans! I'll continue to follow the tour as it progresses.

    'Tis the Season to Be... AWOL XV

    This afternoon, I hop a train south to Rhode Island to spend the holiday weekend with my parents. While I always hope to update Media Diet while traveling, if I don't, that doesn't mean that Media Diet is dead (long live Media Diet!). It just means that it's resting.

    Worst case scenario: Media Diet will be back up and running Oct. 14 or so.

    Thursday, October 09, 2003

    Virtual Book Tour 2 V

    Dennis Hensley, author of Screening Party, moves on to the fourth stop of the Virtual Book Tour today. Over at Rogue Librarian, Carrie Bickner shares her personal recollections of the movie Jaws.

    Wednesday, October 08, 2003

    Virtual Book Tour 2 IV

    Supposedly, Dennis Hensley, author of Screening Party takes the step to the third stop of the Virtual Book Tour today. But checking in at Inkblots Magazine, I can't find Dennis anywhere. Maybe he'll show up later in the day. I'll continue to follow the tour as it progresses.

    The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night XXIV

    Last night, a friend and I checked out Namaskar, a new Indian restaurant in Davis Square in Somerville. Quite a bit better than Diva in terms of decor, food, and service, Namaskar impressed me quite a bit. Basically, Namaskar is a fancy restaurant hiding behind reasonable prices. The interior design is amazing, and the restaurant is extremely tastefully lit. The partial suspended ceiling really works well. And the food? My friend and I shared an aloo nan, lamb saag, and chicken vindaloo. Neither dish was overly spicy, even though we requested them to be "hot," but everything was extremely good. Even the glass of milk I ordered.

    The service was a little intense on the upsell, trying to get us to buy beverages and desserts we didn't want. "Anything to drink, sir?" "I'll have a glass of milk." "Perhaps a coffee? A special coffee?" "No." "OK, how about you ma'am. Anything to drink?" "No." "Coke?" "No." "Sprite?" "No." "Ginger ale?" "No." At the very end, I declined more ice water, and the man with the pitcher said, "Please, sir," and insisted on pouring me half a glass even though we were about to leave. It was hilarious.

    Right now, the restaurant doesn't have a liquor license, but if and when it secures one, Namaskar will be a classy establishment indeed, especially if they can cut back on the upsell. The place was practically empty. They didn't need to pressure us.

    Event-O-Dex LXXVIII

    Oct. 9-11, 16-19, and 23-26: The Poets' Theatre stages Dario Fo's "Accidental Death of an Anarchist" at Jimmy Tingle's Off Broadway in Somerville.

    Tuesday, October 07, 2003

    Virtual Book Tour 2 III

    Extra special thanks to Dennis Hensley, author of Screening Party for hosting Media Diet yesterday. He rocked the casbah. Now, he's continued on his merry way for the second stop of the Virtual Book Tour, dropping into Dave Thomas' Baltimore-based blog Confessions of an Indie Filmmaker.

    In an email interview with many of the people featured in Hensley's book, Thomas plumbs the importance of Mad magazine, the new James Bond actor, movies Hensley couldn't include in the book, and whether Dr. Beaverman ever braved a gay bar. It's a catty snarkathon that's in the spirit of the book -- but in addition to. Imagine: They're really like this when they all get together! If only all my friends were so fabulous. (Just kidding, you guys are great.)

    The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night XXIII

    On the way back from Narrowsburg, New York, where the Fast Company editorial team gathered for a planning retreat late last week, Bill, Rob, Christine, and I stopped Friday night at Rein's Deli-Restaurant in Vernon, Connecticut. If you drive between the soul death that is Boston (harf!) and New York City frequently, you're well advised to check this out as an eating option. Crowded with locals -- including several elderly couples that seemed to be regulars -- and road-weary travelers, the New York-style deli boasts an ample menu. Slightly lacking in service -- "Didn't he take your drink order? Harrumph." and "French fries? I thought you wanted chips." -- the restaurant does provide good food. I had a pastrami reuben, French fries, coffee, and water, and while it wasn't amazing, it was worth returning to if I find myself between the two cities again.

    Event-O-Dex LXXVII

    Wednesday, Oct. 8: Neal Stephenson reads from Quicksilver, volume one of the Baroque Cycle, at the Harvard Coop. 7 p.m.

    Monday, October 06, 2003

    Virtual Book Tour 2: Newsletters of Note

    The only thing that's newsletter like that I can think of is Written By, which is the magazine that is sent out to Writer's Guild members by the WGA. It always has interesting interviews with film and TV writers. The only problem is, you have to be in the Guild to get it. When I inked a deal to co-write a pilot of my first book Misadventures in the (213) for NBC, I got to be an associate member, but then you have to work again in the next three years, which I failed to do. So I'm no longer an associate WGA member, and I no longer get the great mag Written By. Whenever I see it at a newsstand or somewhere, I think about my failure and floundering career.

    Virtual Book Tour 2: The Movie I Watched Last Night

    My favorite movies about movies: Cinema Paradiso -- an all-time fave. I always cry when the older director visits his childhood bedroom, and the kissing montage at the end lays me out. I also like Living in Oblivion; it's so dark and funny. I laughed a lot at Bowfinger, too, where Steve Martin tricks Eddie Murphy into being in his movie. When I think of people watching movies in movies, the first image that comes to mind is Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan. There she is again: Madonna Goddess of the Silver Screen. Ugh. It's always interesting in movies where they have a character watching a certain movie, because the choice always tells you a lot about the character, like what is the movie Rosie O'Donnell and Meg Ryan watch in Sleepless in Seattle? I can't remember, but it was some romantic movie. If they'd been watching The Exorcist 2, it would have been a totally different movie.

    Virtual Book Tour 2: Event-O-Dex

    As far as events go, I'm going to be doing a reading/signing of Screening Party in Seattle on Thursday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. at Bailey Coy Books (414 Broadway East), which should be good for a few laughs. I usually have a full cast of folks reading with me. I'm going up there for The Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. I'm hosting an event there called the Home Video Gong Show, which is where people bring videos from home -- whether they made them or just happen to have them -- and we screen them for a panel of celeb judges who either Gong or score them. At the LA version, which I've hosted every July for the last five years, we've discovered such gems as The Dixie Carter Unworkout, excerpts from a TV movie where Kate Jackson broke her arm and had to keep filming -- it's genius the way they tried to hide it -- and a very popular old video of a young girl beiong taught about her period. It's going to be a nutty night.

    Some other events that I like are the Last Remaining Seats series. Every June, the LA Conservancy screens old movies at the old movie palaces on Broadway downtown. If you're around LA and love old archeticture and movies, you gotta check it out. They always have celeb guests being interviewed or fashion shows or some such thing. I'm also a big fan of the American Cinematheque series at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. Earlier this year, they did a series of musicals of the '70s and '80s that was heaven. I saw Xanadu, the Apple, which is absolutely nuts, and Fame, which made me cry five times because I felt bad for all the talented kids who would never succeed.

    Virtual Book Tour 2: Magazine Me

    All right, I confess. I am a magazine junkie. I subscribe to so many magazines, it's ridiculous. Part of how I rationalize this is that I write for many magazines for my living. So it's part of what I need to do for my job, but it's still a little out of control. Some thoughts on magazines: I miss the old mid-90's Movieline with all the fun, edgy interviews. The new Hollywood Life looks good and still has some fun suff, but it also has all that fashion crap like lip gloss etc. We live in an Instyle world. If my Entertainment Weekly doesn't come on Friday, I'm very upset. I need it to kick off my weekend. I enjoy their film reviews by Lisa Schwarzbaum and Owen Gleiberman. I recently co-wrote a film called Testosterone that premiered at the Toronto Film festival, and Lisa S. reportedly saw it but did not write about it in her wrap up of the fest. I don't think she liked it. Although EW did mention the fact that Antonio Sabato, Jr., drops his trousers, which is true. Well, at least it was a positive mention. My pal Dave is the king of the zines, and whenever I'm at his place, I get to read cool zines like Chunklet and Giant Robot and The Believer, which has these excellent long interviews with interesting people. I also like to read screenwriting magazines like Creative Screenwriting. I like to hear how other writers do their thing and what they bitch about. My magazine addiction must at some time be curbed. If I stacked my magazines at my front door, stood on top of them, and leaned forward, I would end up in the Pacific. Oh, and I am constantly amazed at how dumbdumbdumb Us Weekly has become. Although there is a picture in the latest issue of Mariah Carey taking golf lessons in high heels, which is well worth keeping my subscription for a while longer.

    Virtual Book Tour 2: Products I Love

    When I think of new products that I love, the first thing at comes to mind is Tivo. I've had mine for about two years, and can't imagine life without it. I even wrote a story about it for TV Guide called, "Help I'm Addicted to my Tivo." But the truth is, I don't want any help. You can have my trusty Tivo remote when you pry it from my cold dead fingers. Though Tivo's far from perfect. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, my roommate and I -- while watching the horrifying WTC coverage -- got the following message: "Tivo would like the change the channel and record Mama's Family." Hey, at least it wasn't Caroline in the City.

    Speaking of watching TV, my new favorite couch potato snack is the cereal Marshmallow Safari. It's like Lucky Charms, but a little more buttery. Sugar-coated heaven.

    My other new favorite product is my duct tape wallet. It's super fun, though everytime I pull out my wallet, my friends make fun of me for carrying so much stuff, like I'm George Costanza from Seinfeld. I just need my retail punchcards where I can find them. Sue me.

    My favorite gift that i got recently -- my birthday party was last night -- is the Olivia Newton John Barbie from Grease doll that I got from my pals Doug and John. It rocks, but the face isn't very Olivia; it's like and old-school Barbie face. I'm going to fix her up with my beloved Joey Lawrence doll.

    Virtual Book Tour 2 II

    As you might have noticed, Media Diet was hosted by Dennis Hensley today. Dennis is participating in the Virtual Book Tour to discuss his book Screening Party. The tour runs through Oct. 13, and you can follow his itinerary as he bops across the country. While I'm heading home for the evening, Dennis is based in LA and I'm hopeful that he'll grace us with more media-related pointers and commentary. Maybe if we squeeze our eyes shut and wish really hard...

    Virtual Book Tour 2: Music to My Ears

    I tend to buy a lot of CDs and just received an iPod for my birthday so it looks like my music listening is going to go to a whole new level. One of the friends who pitched in on my iPod made me promise that I'd still put together my slightly adolescent mix cassettes with self-designed packaging. I assured him that I would. I'm basically a teenage girl at heart.

    My favorite CDs of late include John Mayer, Liz Phair, Gavin Degraw (who kicked my ass live at the House of Blues recently), Trisha Yearwood, Martina Sorbera, Jann Arden, and Robbie Williams. When I'm writing I sometimes listen to movie soundtracks as mood music. My favorites are Gattaca -- so atmospheric and haunting -- and Cinema Paradiso, which moved me so much when I first saw the film that i get moved just listening to the music. I also love song soundtracks from my favorite sort of cheesy favorites, like Xanadu, Centerstage, and Coyote Ugly. Leann Rimes is right; you can't fight the moonlight.

    In working on my book Screening Party, I bought the soundtracks to most of the movies I feature in the book -- for inspiration and also to play at the release party for atmosphere. I thought for sure I'd be able to get the Glitter soundtrack cheap or used, but the joke was on me. I absolutely needed it for my party and the only copy I was able to find was full-priced retail: $18.99. I think it was Mariah's revenge for all the jabs I poke at her in the Glitter chapter. She was having the last laugh as she so often does.

    Virtual Book Tour 2: Books Worth a Look

    In working on my book Screening Party, there were a few books that I used as references.

    One was the Jaws Log, which is a record of all the crazy shennanigans that happened on the set of the original Jaws; all about how the shark wouldn't work right and so forth. I actually discovered it after I had sort of finished the chapter on Jaws, so I didn't pull too much from it, but it was interesting reading.

    Another book I found particulalry inspiring is John Travolta's Staying Fit, a workout book from the early '80s, his post Staying Alive buff phase. I refer to it with a mixture of affection and ridicule in the Saturday Night Fever chapter of Screening Party. I've decided recently that I want to be a collector of celebrity workout paraphernelia, like the way some people collect lunch boxes or cat stuff. My favorite item of late in this department is Dixie Carter's Unworkout, in which she makes a lot of insane faces and inspires the viewer to think of themselves as a cougar.

    But back to books, the truth is I didn't use too many in working on the book. Between all my mouthy friends and whatever nuggets of trivia I could get from the DVDs of the movies, I had more than enough material. In fact, I was surprised at how long the chapters ended up being. As far a reference books go, I do find myself referring a lot to Leonard Maltin's 1997 Movie and Video Guide from 1997. I flip it open a lot when I'm doing articles. Perhaps I should update it at some point. Apparently, there have been a number of films released since 1997.

    As for film critics, I always enjoy reading them but I seldom let them keep me away from films I want to see. Some people don't like when critics get really personal in their reviews but that's what I enjoy reading the most. I do like Pauline Kael's reviews because you never quite know where she's going to go. I also enjoy Manohla Dargis' writing in the L.A. Times. She's surprising and brings a welcome jolt of youth to the paper. My favorite online critic was Dave White on Ifilm, but I think they got rid of him. His reviews were so blunt and hilarious. He wasn't above using such terms as "sucks", "blows," and "bites it."

    Where Screening Party fits into the world of film-related books, I don't know. I think I'd rather have people look at it as an entertainment rather than a reference type book about movies and get into the more novel-esque aspects of the book. It's funny; in bookstores, I've seen it stocked in every section from fiction to humor to film to gay books. I think I like it best in fiction for some reason, even though much of it is fact.

    Sunday, October 05, 2003

    BloggerCon 2003 IX

    Managing a Community: Joi Ito

    Joi Ito is the founder and CEO of Neoteny, a venture capital firm focused on personal communications and enabling technologies. Here is a rough transcript of his talk:

    This session is on community, and I wanted to start off the discussion by getting everyone involved. A lot of the other sessions have been about the content of blogs and the technology. To me, blogs are a really interesting tool for connecting people, but there are a lot of other tools that can bring people together. I use IRC and Wiki as community tools, too. I'm going to talk about the different kinds of communities, some of the issues, and how we can alleviate some of the problems that come up in communities.

    This is an IRC channel. Originally, it was a place for people who hang out at my blog to hang out. I don't control it in any way. It's kind of an odd thing when your name becomes a place. I have a lot of experience with communities. I started a mailing list in the late '90s, and people forget that it's your living room and think it's a public place. The IRC channel and Wiki support blogging a lot. When you blog aggressively and get flamed aggressively, you need emotional support and technical support.

    Blogs are pretty temporal. Wikis are more structured. And the IRC channel is really temporal. If I blog something and get flamed, I can go to IRC for support. If I blog something, I can mention it in IRC, and people can rip it apart for me to edit it. There are also bots in the channel. Joibot does a lot of handy things in the channel. It keeps track of who people are. When you enter the room, you're heralded. Since Joibot are an open-source project, a lot of participants can contribute functions.

    At conferences like this, there are a dozen people right now who have something to contribute. In IRC, it doesn't get cluttered. You can share links. You can provide feedback on the back channel. During the power outage in New York, a lot of people came to hang out and help people.

    Wikis are also really useful. They really are about community. Once it develops a critical mass, a lot of people hang out there. Then it's a Wikisphere. Some people just fix punctuation. Some people insert strange comments. There are a couple dozen contributors to the Wiki, but there's a great deal of traffic. As a result of having a great deal of Google juice, people put themselves in the Wiki.

    Both Wikis and IRC, which are relatively old technologies, benefit from blogging. Your reputation becomes collateral, and you tend to behave more. A funny thing we did at a conference in Aspen: I was streaming in iSight, and Kevin was talking in an IRC channel. There's a distributed way to conference bash.

    Kevin Marks: The heralding and chat bots are the interesting things here. One member added a dictionary to Joibot. After awhile, someone else started keeping track of the people in the room. Because anyone can add a definition to something, you can find out who someone is. That makes for some interesting times. There's also a feature in several of these bots that will post to blogs.

    Joibot actually has a blog, which is broken right now. Chumpbot is also a common form of bots. People who operate IRC channels are basically in financial disaster. They're maintaining a sustenance level. Now that all of us bloggers are getting into IRC, it's rejuvenating IRC developers. How can we bridge protocols and mix all these things up. A lot of uses won't survive, but we'll come up with other uses. There are generally 60-80 people in this channel at any given time. Maybe a dozen focus on the screen.

    Kevin Marks: Microsoft abandoned all of their IRC not long ago. A lot of people are now going to be looking for other ways to chat.

    One of the things that's interesting is that blogs have a certain kind of tempo. In IRC, there's another kind of tension. If you connect them well, say, you have a problem on the blog and take it to IRC… [Loses track of thought while Kevin tinkers] One of the problems is that IRC brings on ADD.

    Halley Suitt: The brevity of it takes some getting used to it. It goes so fast. And people you don't know come and go. It's so ghostlike.

    It's like having some flatmates. I get up in the morning and go into IRC. People will say, did you know so-and-so came by. Did you see this blog post. It's kind of strange when you get into it. One member is really tough on regulars but nice to newcomers. That's something that only women can do, I think. AKMA is really important because when the potty mouths come out, he says, "Cough!"

    This is one other modality. The Wiki and Wikisphere are another modality.

    Dave Winer: I just started using IRC because we got a channel for BloggerCon, and it reminds me a lot of the computers of the '70s. Whatever happened to the graphic computer revolution? Why does it look so bad?

    The problem is that people have forgotten about IRC and it hasn't been worked on for 20 years.

    Kevin Marks: Microsoft about six years ago did graphic chat with people talking out of speech bubbles. It was amusing, but then it got irritating.

    The interface has a lot of work. The people making Java apps that do what IRC does are building proprietary things. IRC is built into Mozilla. With just a little bit of support, IRC could be brought into the blogging and software community. There's an interesting alchemy happening.

    Dave Winer: The biggest this session could make is to define what community is at BloggerCon. The word just comes up in conversation. You're not an audience. You're not an eyeball. What should community be like?

    Question: I'd like to see the Emergent Democracy Web site. The Dean scene needs to start working together. Maybe a Wiki could help them do that.

    A lot of the people who participate in this are much more knowledgeable about democracy than me. If a page gets too long, someone can move it somewhere else. For example, in the section "Does Direct Democracy Scale," you can create links to people and concepts by putting their name or the phrase in camel case. It's like a little mini Who's Who. The difference between this and a blog is that it's one document where people can add things in between. If you have a lot of people moving stuff around, it can emerge into a really readable document. The structure's not always clean.

    Wikis are also really useful for group linkrolls. This is more centralized than blogging. It can also get messed up if people don't feel ownership for the space. It's more like gardening than your living room.

    Different personalities are attracted to different tools. There's one guy in the channel who's great at one liners, but he's not very good at paragraphs. So he's good at IRC. I prefer paragraphs. There are also people who don't really care about ego or getting credit, so they'll contribute to a group project rather than a blog. Some people prefer commenting on my blog.

    Not that we have people using the different tools, maybe we can get people using IRC, Wiki, and blogs can learn from each other. Bloggers seem to care more about how things look.

    Dave Winer: Let's do a directory that's more Wiki style. The problem with Yahoo and DMOZ is that there's one person organizing the directories. Wouldn't it be nice if I could just go to Yahoo and add a link where it belongs?

    That would be very cool. One of the keys to successful Wikis is that the project needs to be just interesting enough to attract a lot of people, but not interesting enough to attract the trolls. Wikis are used in verticals as information repositories. Most people use Wikis like this and have decent page ranking because they make pages for themselves. Camel case your name.

    That's the bright side. The dark side is that every single tool, you get a different kind of troll. Someone came on my Wiki the other day and erased everything. The good thing is that one command, and it's back. It's about Google, too. People have been getting comment spammed. It's the same with the IRC channel. You'll get people who don't know about blogging wander in and start flaming people.

    How do you deal with the person who comes to destroy the party? There's a book written for elementary teachers to learn how to deal with bad children. It's been used in community because there are a lot of tools you can use to deal with people.

    People impersonate people and leave comments. Usually it's just one or two people, but they'll post as a bunch of different people so it looks like they're getting attacked.

    Question: If you want to stay under the radar, that's counter to what you're trying to achieve. It's an inevitability.

    Some people just turn comments off. Screw people. Everyone should have a blog. Some people get into blogging because they start commenting.

    Dave Winer: When I turned comments off, it really was time for people to start blogs. There weren't a lot of blogs then. Every blog will eventually attract flames. The beauty of it is that flames are not attractive. If you try to stay off their radar, you stay off the radar of lots of people. If you're being Web-like and doing good things for the Web, you shouldn't give into that. Just go through it. In the Dean campaign, if someone comes in and flames, other people come in and make a donation because someone flamed them. Positive energy screws up negative energy. But usually, people just run away. That sucks. 90% of people are good. Stand up to them.

    Halley Suitt: People give me a lot of shit about not having comments. My blog's called Halley's Comments. When I write about sexy stuff, I know I'm going to get a lot of comments. I have no time to commit to doing that. People can just email me directly. I love that.

    I was talking to Howard Rheingold, who's a community guy. He gave me a lot of advice. There've been some interesting results. Now, Google includes comments as well as blogs. My comments will come up in Google.

    Griff Wigley: Can you talk a little bit about conferencing boards? I don't understand the difference between a Wiki and something like the Well.

    Even I can edit and contribute to the code of the Wiki. I'm not a script kiddie. It's all open source. Blogging destroyed the whole content management industry. All we're doing is going to destroy the conferencing industry. I'm a newbie blogger. I've only been doing this a year and a half.

    Question: You've talked about four different media that have their own tempo and form. They're very loosely coupled. Do you seem them being more tightly coupled or integrated?

    If you spend a weekend learning Applescript, you can connect all this stuff.

    Question: What about the metatools? What do you use for community discovery?

    Some people wonder how to authenticate comments. One way is Technorati, which is a centralized service. There are two ways to authenticate. One is centralized. One is decentralized. With Instant Messenger, you've got buddy lists. Other services, the six-degree services like Friendster and Tribe, are another way to do this. What if you're in Helsinki and you have a list of everyone who's available to go drinking within a kilometer, and if you can't find a friend, you find a friend of a friend.

    Blogging has been primarily an American thing. Mobile blogging, like cell phone culture, is much more advanced in Helsinki and Tokyo. Community culture will bring in the synthesis of cell phones. The cell phone problem won't go away until the carriers change.

    There's an interesting book called Beyond Culture. M-time is delineated time and space. P-time is polychromatic time and space, like Mediterranean bureaucracy where everyone just shows up. P-time is very content sensitive, while M-time is much more scalable. When I get up, I can see who's online and spend all morning following what people think and develop it. When you can see the presence of hundreds and hundreds of people you know, you don't really need to schedule meetings.

    There are kids in Japan who go out without any plan of who they're going to hang out with. You can see who's where and say, "Let's go there!" You can even send maps using Japanese cell phones. In the old days, we didn't even have clocks. I'll meet you in that town in two months.

    Dave Winer: That's what this is. This is total M-time.

    Mobility really adds to location-based services. PCs are a sucky platform for mobility. But cell phones are great. I want to see blog entries from everyone within a kilometer of here. A lot of cell phones have GPS. So if you take a picture, you can embed GPS data into the JPGs. That's pretty cool. But it's also pretty scary. If I blog that I'm going to Boston, any thief can learn that I'm not home.

    BloggerCon 2003: Interlude III

    Hello to everyone visiting from Blog for America. This is neater than getting Slashdotted.

    BloggerCon 2003 VIII

    Spirituality: AKM Adam

    AKM Adam is associate professor of the New Testament at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. Here is a rough transcript of the session:

    I walked in a little late, when Adam was taking suggested topics of discussion from the audience. Recommended themes included the role of blogs in congregations, blogs as genre of spiritual writing, blogging as spiritual exercise, the spiritual community, the community-building aspects of sermons, the difference between oral and written traditions, and how blogs can help us learn about real-live people. After touching on Real Live Preacher, a semi-anonymous minister in Texas who blogs regularly, as an example, Adam began leading a group discussion.

    There are two schools of thought about sermons. One holds that you prepare spiritually, reading, studying, meditating, and then you channel a sermon. No documentation of the actual sermon. Other people don't ever really prepare but still preach extemporaneously. Those are the people you don't want to listen to. Still, we hold ministers responsible for being the real Christians for us.

    There are also people who can't read. I don't mean that they can't read but that they have trouble reading from a text. I have trouble reading Bible. They sound like the built-in text reader on your computer. There's a problem with reading in general. That's a more fundamental problem than preaching extemporaneously. It's a problem coping with words, thoughts, and expressions. There's a reason that preachers frequently go to seminary: It's to learn something about what they're doing. Seminary is bad for some preachers.

    You can get feedback and input on your work by, say, posting a Weblog. If you put sermons on a Weblog, you're preparing for Google juice and interested people who actually want to see what's going on there. People come to my site and comment on my sermons whom I've never met before. They have no intrinsic motivation to find out more about me. They're doing a Google search for some word and "sermon," and they're stuck in the mire of conversation with me. If a real-live preacher puts the effort into starting those conversations, there's a lot that she can learn. There might be some things that you don't want to say to their face. Maybe she says "obviously" all the time.

    Dan Bricklin: What you're saying is more about the Web than about blogs, unless you're following the development of a preacher. When I think about spirituality and blogs, I think about the intertwining of spirituality and other stuff that's going on in the blog. The blog lets you put the two together. In my blog, I will quote scripture, which is somewhat odd in a techy blog. Scripture is great to use as examples because there's so much commentary around scripture.

    One of the fundamental things that I try to do is go to congregation groups and look at their Weblogs. Sisters and brothers, there are a lot of bad Web pages in the world, but a disproportionate number of them belong to churches. And they're more resistant to change. If you're not showing anything that someone might not like, you're probably not showing anything that people might like.

    The more of the stuff of the congregation that shows up here, the more that anyone who comes to the Web page will recognize the voice of the congregation. Chris Locke says that large corporations and organizations don't have soul. I don't agree. I wouldn't say that corporations have soul, but collective entities have a lot going on.

    Question: Is it your experience that the written form of a sermon is more useful before it's preached -- or after?

    I have an inflated view of myself of a preacher. People say that when they read my sermons, they can hear me preach. The same is true with my blog. There's a lot of continuity. There's not so much a better or worse, but people like going back to it and remembering. People who weren't there like knowing what people were talking about. With student sermons, they tend to get better after a few whacks at them with comments. Unfortunately, by then they've already been preached. One thing you could do is put some notes up on Monday, ask for some feedback, and then incorporate that into your sermon Sunday.

    Griff Wigley: Have you done that?

    No. This is my sermon, sir. It comes from preparing it, going over it, maniacal composition and copy editing. I preach it to myself three or four times. My father worked in English composition and specialized in comedy. We would watch movies such as W.C. Fields, and analyze what was funny. W.C. Fields says that you'd go to a city, find the outlying areas that were funny, and incorporate them into what you say. In Pittsburgh, there's McKee's Rocks. Anything you say about that will be funny. I'm from that school, going through everything and seeing what works for me.

    Griff Wigley: Would you post your reflections about your struggle going through that sermon?

    I do. I did a sermon about El'dad and Me'dad in the camp. Every hour or two, I put up some comments about my struggle. I need two things in a sermon: the introduction and the conclusion. It takes a lot to really wrap a sermon to lodge it in someone's brain. The other thing is a hook. Just like a pop song, I need something that I know is the riff -- not something I'll repeat all the way through -- but something that I'll return to and lean on in critical moments. I couldn't find a hook for that sermon. But people left comments, and I eventually came up with the Dad Bros.: El'dad and Me'dad. I just did that one time. I can't imagine boring people with that process every time I preach.

    Some churches aren't open to comments. This isn't business, this is God. I am not one to prescribe one thing, not for anyone, not for preaching, not for anything. That said, a lot of that hesitation and fear is antithetical to what a congregation should be doing. A Trappist monastery Web site without any text on it? That I could get behind. Paul says, "I am not afraid of the Gospel." Put it out there. Take the shots. Take your lumps. For congregations that are inclined to take that step, that's an important part of it.

    Dan Bricklin: This is a problem with any community and the Internet. We've got a general mailing list. And we've got a list in which topics are discussed. That can get pretty hot and heavy. We split it because not everyone can put up with the nerve.

    Not to put Ross on the spot, but in Blogware, to comment, you need to be registered. That makes me think that you can say, I don't want to see anything from Ross. It's a problem, but it's a problem worth dealing with.

    Dan Bricklin: But it's a question of what you put out in the world. Does the preacher decide what's put out there? Do you post the comments that matter? Open deliberation is important. The Talmud sounds like a Weblog. That's a great model for this, as is the revolutionary period and pamphlets. Sermonds are much more closed in their deliberation.

    They're not mutually exclusive, though. The Web can counteract and countervail the cultural tendency to short attention span by drawing you into interactive deliberation about things.

    Griff Wigley: The reason I asked about your blogging about struggling with a sermon is that because as a man of the spirit, it's a good way to share your development as a spiritual person. As a dad, I've posted excerpts from my real journal to my blog for my three 20-something sons. You can't say too much about the people you're counseling, but you can blog about your daily experiences as a preacher. This isn't just God and me, this can happen to you, too.

    This is a really important topic. There are a lot of congregational leaders whose notion of relating to an unacquainted public is that they have to seem pious and perfect and spiritually powerfully in every way. Or, on the other hand, to say, in effect, I'm not that kind of guy. I don't know what I'm doing. This is all so confusing. The perfect preacher might not be as wonderful as you want him to think. That's the PR notion. Real Live Preacher has a depth that's not available in any other sources. You don't have to be a clergy leader to do that. It's edifying for the world to see there are alternatives to the extremes.

    Dan Bricklin: Seminary students can use their blogs as a resume. Congregations might choose to hire only clergy who blog.

    Halley Suitt: Or don't.

    Dan Bricklin: Exactly. That's different than an established preacher blogging -- or a 17-year-old writing about their date last night.

    When I wrote the blurb for this session, people gave me a hard time about saying that bloggers have souls. There's a perceived question about whether I'm speaking to people to whom I'm accountable to. Am I saying that all bloggers need to subscribe to a metaphysics or they don't have a blog. That's not what I said. It's an environment in which people can correct me even if that's what I'm going to say in the end.

    Purely hypothetically, not based on any congregation I know about, but something that I can only imagine, say you call an interim minister without knowing anything about them. If it just doesn't work out, wouldn't you like to replay that, look at the person's blog and be able to say the person is a tedious windbag or their far right politically. If you can fake something well enough for two years, you might be close enough, but it takes a lot of energy to fake that much.

    Dave Weinberger: Is there an implied metaphysics in truth, if not soul? Let's look at communities. You're open to people of various faiths questioning you. There are all sorts of truth. Others aren't so open to that. Do communities of bloggers have a shared metaphysics about truth, if not faith?

    Let's change the subject from faith to politics. You're either going to get a lot of right on's or people actually discussing the topics.

    Dave Winer: I want to go back to the example where both of us got flamed simultaneously. Looking around the room, there's the notion that were friends on the Web. I'm not your friend. I'd like to be your friend. But there are some people who assume we're friends. You got push back because you had anything to do with me. Is it OK to make it a condition in a friendship that someone can't be friends with someone else? I say no. That's not OK.

    There's not much of a me left if you take away my friends. I am largely constituted by the spiritual hyperlinks.

    Dave Winer: I don't believe that. I see you right here.

    I wouldn't have been here if two years ago, David hadn't started emailing me and Halley hadn't started emailing me. My presence here is dependent on those relationships.

    Dave Winer: My uncle just died. Did he die because his friends stopped supporting him? No. His heart stopped beating. Existence is pretty simple.

    I got the impression from your blog that when your uncle died, you were diminished.

    Dave Winer: I wasn't in any way diminished. I was enhanced in real ways. His existence is what I'm talking about.

    As a reader, for someone who Dave Winer was a three-minute voice on the phone and reading Scripting News, my sense was that it was like you were in a movie, hit in the chest with a shotgun blast. I read that as loss, as something important going out of your life. If you subtract the social hyperlinks, the spiritual hyperlinks, what is left is not AKMA but some kind of body lying there.

    Dave Winer: Are your friends allowed to make friendship conditional?

    This is a pointed question that gets really deep and uncomfortable. I owe people to whom I have long-standing relationships and respect, and there's some concern that I am endangering the AKMA-ity of AKMA by associating with you. There are folks where it changes the very notion of who they are when you learn something about them.

    I want to signal that in that instance, I extended myself to say, look, I've read the controversies. Part of me is that I'm a pastor. I hear what's bothering you and you and you. I'm not here to adjudicate what's bothering you, but to listen, respect, and perhaps interpret what seems to be going on. Sometimes it's best just to listen.

    I'm going to go to BloggerCon. Then I'm going to go home.