Friday, November 28, 2003

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Humor Me XI

Newspaper publishing trade magazine Editor & Publisher recently considered the success of The Onion. Seth Porges considers the brand's extensions, forthcoming premium (read: paid) content online, and the publication's history -- go, Badgers!

When media humor brands such as The National Lampoon and Mad continue to falter and flail, it's good to see the Onion continue to grow like kudzu.

Virtual Book Tour 3

I didn't participate in the Virtual Book Tour this go, and I missed mentioning it while it was underway.

If you missed it, too, and would like to catch up, see what Meg Hourihan, Christine Selleck, Josh Greenberg, James McNally, Geoffrey Long, Shannon Okey, Matt Haughey, and Heather Champ have to say about Ethan Watters' book, Urban Tribes.

There, just a week-plus after the fact. Such are these days.

Read But Dead XXII

Vanguarde Media, publisher of Savoy, Honey, and Heart & Soul, has folded.

Thanks to Romenesko's Media News.

Subway Soundtrack V

The MBTA has delayed plans to crack down on and restrict buskers performing on the city's public transportation platforms. Citing security concerns, the MBTA intends to limit live subway music to acoustic instruments -- no amplifiers, no drums, no brass, and no woodwinds. Additionally, the plans call for buskers to be "neat in appearance," wear photo ID, and pay $25 for an annual performance permit.

Joe Pesaturo, the MBTA spokesman, has said that the musicians drown out the public address system and that "if people can't hear those messages, then we have a problem." Critics of the new rules countered that no one can understand the messages, which at times are muffled and distorted, even when musicians aren't playing.


It's true. I think the solution to the problem, if there is a problem, is to ensure that the MBTA's PA system works well first. I can never understand what the agents are saying when the system is used, and it's not because of buskers. The speakers sound like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons even when a station is dead silent. Musicians such as Tracy Chapman who got their start in the subway are speaking up against the proposal. As did Roland Tumble last night at Park Street. Tumble's one of my favorite performers, and if the plan goes into effect, I'll miss his grouchiness and beautiful blues guitar.

Games People Play XIV

While in New York last weekend, I went to a GameStop with Steve so he could sell some used Gamecube games and pick up the new Rogue Commander. While there, I picked up a couple of used games for my Playstation -- yeah, I'm a bit slow on the uptake for consoles. In any event, I snagged an Atari Classics, which features Tempest, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. And for the last two nights, I've played video games until my hands hurt.

While the Atari games are a bit awkward to play using the standard Playstation controller, I've been enjoying being Bam Margera. But, just as when I got into Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, I'm all about the cheats. Thanks to Cheatstop, Ace Cheats, and Game Winners, Bam now has perfect balance, is always "on," and bleeds when he falls. What fun!

I still can't find the secret tape in the Foundry though. But I think I know where it is.

Read But Dead XXI

Just in time for my move to New York City, long-running zine store See Hear is shutting up shop. While I used to love going to the St. Mark's icon and dropping mad cash on zines, comics, and underground newspapers, proprietor Ted Gottfried has almost always been plagued by complaints in the zine community. Doesn't accept their zines, people say. And if he does, he never pays them their consignment, they add. I'll miss See Hear -- we need more zine stores and infoshops -- but I guess this means that the folks who have money coming to them will never get it now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Books Worth a Look XIX

Instead of catching up on reviews of the books I've read since June, I'm going to change my book-review policy. As editor of Media Diet, I can do that. No longer shall I review every single book I read, publishing review roundups every month. From now on, I shall only review books I really think beg mention -- perhaps bundling like-themed books in topical reviews, as I am about to do today. Of course, I might change the policy again in the future, but I think it's safe to say I'm not going to grandfather in the books I read in July, August, September, October, and November any time soon. Better to look ahead than behind and all that. Without further ado, the new-school approach to book reviews:

Little Lit: It Was a Dark and Silly Night edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly (Raw Junior, 2003)
I cannot compare this volume to its two predecessors -- Little Lit and Little Lit: Strange Stories for Strange Kids -- because I haven't read them. In fact, I've totally ignored and dismissed them. Why? One, children's books are expensive and pretentious enough without donning the mantle of a postmodern comic book. Two, most comics are childish enough; there's no need to resort to children's book trappings to tap into the youth market. Yet, considering Little Lit III in the light of Spiegelman's adaptation of Joseph Moncure's Wild Party and Peter Kuper's redux of The Metamorphosis (reviewed below), perhaps this is another way for comic books to enter the book trade. The roundup of creators clearly indicates such: Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, J. Otto Siebold, and Spiegelman hisself. Regardless, when I can buy a Siebold softcover for $6.99 (20 pages) or an issue of Tom Strong for $2.99 (36 pages), the economics of this book ($19.99 for 50 pages), parenting, and the children's book market strike me as most mercenary. The Snicket and Richard Salas pairing, however, bodes well for the read. Salas' dark yet dainty artwork, paired with Snicket's intelligent morality tale (there are two lessons in this nine-page piece) work quite well together. It may even be arguable that Snicket nudges Michael Chabon out of the slot reserved for the first postmodern fiction author to script a comic book (Chabon penned a piece for JSA All Stars #7 in January). The offering by Siebold and Vivian Walsh is their basic fare, only shorter and with more word balloons (add another moral lesson). William Joyce shines with his Winsor McCay-meets-R. Sikoryak bit of visual fabulism. The four-page Basil Wolverton reprint is a nice touch, Joost Swarte is beautiful in such a large format, Patrick McDonnell stretches himself slightly, and Barbara McClintock and R. Sikoryak add nice puzzle parts (Yum! Interactive books!). All in all, not a bad read. Still, children don't need children's books-cum-comics to get into comics, and the adult comic as children's book reeks as postmodern pretense. Like Dan Zanes' children's records, are they for you -- or your children? Better to buy your child a proper kids' book -- or an edition of Blab, Raw, or (harf!) Taboo.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, adapted by Peter Kuper (Crown, 2003)
I had my doubts about this hardcover graphic novel, novella, novellette, or short story -- whatever -- and I'm still not sure whether I'd rather read Kafka's original text illustrated by Kuper or this comic adaptation. Regardless, Kuper, cofounder of World War III magazine and Atonio Prohias' successor as artist-writer for Mad's Spy Vs. Spy, adds some refreshing aspects to the existential tale even if he doesn't totally improve on it. Opening with an introduction in which Kuper pairs Kafka's turn-of-the-century considerations with Winsor McCay's Sunday funny-page surrealism, the book retells the story of a traveling salesman turned dung beetle -- and his family's reaction. Largely a story of economic survival, as well as existential angst, the book includes several pleasant cartoony moments, including the Richard Salas-esque p. 44; nice Robert Crumb nods on pp. 65, 66, and 75 (keep on truckin'!); and some pleasing panel placement on pp. 27, 48, 49, 58, 70, and 72 (not to mention the typography on p. 42). While I'm not sure the tome rates its pricy format ($18 for 80 pages), it's substantially better than most new-schol Classics Illustrated fare. For Kafka completists, Kuper fans, and adult comic readers who seek a gateway to literature. If you haven't read Kafka's original story recently, do so -- now. Just as I did William Hope Hodgson's House on the Borderland after reading Richard Corben's adaptation.

Nervy, Pervy XX

Wait, Ben Brown is now fiction editor for Suicide Girls? Cool beans.

Double wait, Ben also has interns? And so does Justin Hall? Methinks Media Diet should have an intern. OK, so who wants a banana?

Monday, November 24, 2003

Take That, Big Apple III

So this past weekend was the start of my big hunt for housing in New York City. I flew down Friday morning to work out of the New York office of Fast Company. That morning I was concerned about weather because it was cold and raining in Boston. Once we hit 10,000 feet, the plane broke through the clouds and into sharp sun, and the front that was moving over Boston fizzled to clear and clean on our way south to New York.

I went down Friday instead of Saturday, as per my original plan, to participate in Friday Fun, an afternoon team screening of Shattered Glass. After the movie, we repaired to a nearby bar south of Houston, the very bar in which Jeff Smith, the creator of Bone, bought me a beer early this summer.

As the night progressed and people began to head home, Jenn and I headed to the subway to go back uptown toward the office. She was to meet up with her boyo and some friends, and I had to get back inside the building to snag my suitcase and laptop before heading to Ryan's sublet on the upper west side to crash for the night. Even though I'd gotten a magnetic key card to the floor we're on, I was a little nervous that I'd get hassled by security. But because I was still on the guest list for the day, I got in no worries. And that meant that I got to Ryan's place, ate, and hit the hay in good season. Phew! I'd pictured myself wandering the streets without a change of clothes -- and my laptop out of reach. Yikes.

Saturday morning, I got up and surfed the subway by 9:15 in order to find my way to Brooklyn in time for my first appointment. Despite one misstep once I was across the river -- I got confused once I got off the 7 and onto the G -- I made it to Greenpoint in good time. A quick walk down Manhattan to Nassau -- call that misstep No. 2, as I could have stayed on the G one more stop to Nassau -- and I was at the realtor's office, just as she was arriving to open up. I did some initial paperwork, we discussed what I was looking for again, and off we went in her car, her smoking a cigarette and me clutching my bag to my chest. (She wasn't the most attentive of drivers.)

Most of the apartments she showed me, while in my price range, weren't even close to what I was looking for location wise or quality of living wise -- one place even included a refrigerator stocked with a stick of butter, mold spots, and a sickening stench -- but I did like one place not far from the Cooper Projects (one of hip hop's earliest wellsprings), so near the end of our time together, I asked her to take me back so I could keep it firmly in mind during my later appointments. Then she remembered another spot -- did I want to see it? Of course. So off we went.

Now, I don't know why she didn't think of it sooner, and I'm amused that I almost didn't even know it existed, but the place is amazing. Five blocks from the G train. Nice building. On the edge of a park. Has a view of the Manhattan skyline from the kitchen. Sports a sunny yellow kitchen. The bathroom is bright blue. There's a neat glass dividing wall between the kitchen and living room that looks like an ice cube staircase (Pengo, anyone?). Reasonable rent. And it includes ample space for books. Wow. Perfect. But do I decide now or keep looking at other places with other people?

I chose the latter because my next appointment was all of two blocks away. The third floor of a house owned and lived in by the landlord and his family. He's super cool. Manages the grocery store around the corner. Ample space. New kitchen and bath. An office off the bathroom. And a totally flexible living situation: no fee, no security deposit, no lease. Month to month; he just wants a long-term tenant he likes and trusts. Double wow. What to choose? I knew that I didn't want to keep looking at places lest one of these go away. I also knew that I needed to get some finances sorted before I could actually seal either deal. So I went back to stand on a street corner near the realtor's to think.

It was there that she, the realtor, saw me. "What are you doing?" she said. "I'm thinking," I replied. "And I think I'd like to look at that last place again. Can I see it?" She couldn't show me because she was off in her car to another appointment, but she took me back to the office so someone else could show me. I still liked it, I wanted it, and I still needed to get my money house in order. We went back to the realtor, I chatted with the owner, and he agreed to let me go to a bank to get settled and return to get things sorted. (He also agreed to let me pay by personal check instead of cashier's check or money order, which was awesome.)

Off to the bank I went. The first realtor I met had said there was a Fleet near the Graham stop on the L line. Not only was the L line not running -- I already knew that because another realtor had called earlier in the day to warn me -- but there wasn't a Fleet in sight once I got to Graham. So I walked and walked and finally found a bank ATM I could use to make the transfer. That done, I called my later afternoon appointment to cancel, headed back to the train -- and Greenpoint. (At this point, I was in Williamsburg.) Still thinking, tormented, I called the home owner and the realtor to ask how big the apartments were square foot-wise. Turned out the place with the view of the skyline wasn't smaller (one of my concerns), so I headed to the park to sit and make my usual pro-con lists.

Ben Franklin made pro-con lists. And so do I. I sat in the park, considered the floorplans I'd drawn of the two apartments, made my pro-con lists and mulled. Mull, mull, mull. Like cider. Then it was decided. View of the skyline and ice cube kitchen it was. Back to the realtor, paperwork filled out, checks written, receipts gotten, lease and rider read and signed. Done. Just now, I called the realtor to see how my credit check turned out -- good, good -- and I can expect the lease to be finalized by the end of the week.

Looks like I have a new place to hang my hat -- in Brooklyn, not Brookline. Not that I live in Brookline now, mind you, but, you know. As Strecker says, "Words, words, words." Now that I've got a foot in both cities, my stride stretches more than 200 miles. Harf!

Rock Shows of Note LXXVIII

Because of my trip to New York, I missed almost all of the International Pop Overthrow power-pop festival this past week. But I did get home in time to drop off my luggage, call my parents, and head over to T.T. the Bear's in Cambridge for the event's final evening last night. I arrived just in time to catch the last few songs by School for the Dead, a clever and catchy foursome from Northampton. Their third to last song featured some awesome vocal harmony breakdowns, and the last tunes, including the wonderful "Omnivore," an ode to vegetarianism, made me wish I'd gotten home sooner. I'll have to listen to more.

Then, Fooled by April, which made the claim of being the headlining act for the entire series. Harf! Their front man reminded me of the elder Hanson brother, and their guitarist -- by far the most fun member to watch -- looked like one half of Junior Senior. More tuneful in their power pop, the band performed well but had neither the edge nore the friendly humor of School for the Dead. I'd wager they take themselves more seriously, too. Kudos to Andrea and everyone else involved in bringing the IPO to Boston. Or the Boston area. It's local shows like this that I'll miss once I move.

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXXIII

Playing catch up on a week-plus or so:

The Devil Commands
In this hour-long 1941 yawner, Boris Karloff plays a scientist who discovers that radio waves can transmit the thoughts and voices of dead people. When his wife dies, his experimentation turns to the macabre -- well, more macabre -- as he and a dimwitted assistant (the Igor to Karloff's Dr. Julian Blair) unearth corpses to power some sort of radio from beyond. Modeled after a medium's session in which people sit around a table and link hands, the transmitter is created when corpses are capped with a monitor helmet of Blair's own making. There's a nice scene in which Blair debunks a medium a la Harry Houdini, but -- just like Houdini -- Blair enlists her in his efforts to reach out to his wife beyond the veil. For the most part, the movie is light on shock or suspense, but the final scene in which the transmitter goes out of control, Blair's wife's voice is the strongest, and the lab is disturbed by a supernatural tempest is well worth building up to. Fine for fans of Karloff, Houdini, and radio. Rather dull otherwise.

American Graffiti
"Where were you in '62?" I was -11 years old, as George Lucas' early work was initially released in 1973. It's a fine film, sort of a '70s-style Dazed & Confused as a circle of high school friends contemplate their next steps following graduation. Richard Dreyfuss' character develops the most as he wrestles with staying at home instead of going to school -- even getting entangled in the Pharoahs, a cartoony gang of hoodlums. Ron Howard and Cindy Williams -- fancy that -- play a cute couple debating breaking up as Howard's character plans to go to school and date other people to prove their love. Even featuring a drag race scene, the movie is a redux of, oh, so many JD films of the '50s and '60s. Good boy goes bad. Nerd becomes lover. Hard-hearted hotrod hunk goes gentle. And in the end, everyone gets theirs. Even a surprisingly cast Harrison Ford. Did this role get him Star Wars? Go figure. Oh, also look for a nice cameo by Wolfman Jack, the mysterious voice behind the voiceover radio show -- and resulting top-40 soundtrack. Weird, another radio movie. Is this a trend?

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
It's made in 1963. It's cast sports such comedy luminaries as Spencer Tracy, Milton Bearle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Stan Freberg, Jimmy Durante, Don Knotts, and Buster Keaton. How can it feel so freaking long at almost three hours? And how can it be so dreadfully unfunny? What a wash! I had such high hopes for this movie, and I had to watch it in two sittings I got so bored and distracted. A shame, really, as the plot's not too bad for the time. A bunch of random people learn of a buried treasure at the same time and then race to discover it themselves -- kind of like Rat Race, which I haven't seen. But for the most part, this movie is dismissable. That said, I did thoroughly enjoy the beach movie-inspired scene in which Dick Shawn and Barrie Chase exhibit some of the most uncomfortable and disturbing go-go dancing I've ever seen. Rent the DVD for that scene alone. While Jack Davis did draw the poster for the movie, this is not a Mad magazine film. That would be Up the Academy, which was so bad, Mad pulled all mentions of its involvement before release.

Shattered Glass
Huh. The Fast Company editorial team went to watch this as a group Friday afternoon because it's a journalism movie. And even though I work in journalism and fall easy prey to films featuring editors, reporters, writers, newspapers, and magazine -- go figure -- I don't think this is a very good movie. It's certainly not a very good journalism movie. The writers and directors don't dig very deep into Stephen Glass' psychosis, and the narrative basically retells his tale and little else. What I liked: Steve Zahn as Forbes.com's Adam Penenberg, who first uncovered Glass' fabrications; Hank Azaria as Michael Kelly, even if he looked nothing like him; the editorial meeting scenes in which Glass pitched his pieces; and the sequence in which Hayden Christensen's Glass asked Peter Sarsgaard's Chuck Lane -- then editor of the New Republic -- for a ride to the airport after he'd been fired. I would have liked more exploration of Glass' inner workings, particularly given his romanticization of high-profile, high-minded, and high-impact journalism. Yet despite that romanticization, he focused on producing a product of high quality while ignoring the process entirely. For a "full" list of Glass' fabrications, check out Rick McGinnis' Tissue of Lies. He even includes the fake Web site Glass created for Jukt Micronics.

The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night XXVII

While in New York City over the weekend to hunt for housing, I ate at a couple of interesting restaurants. Friday night, after stowing my possessions at a colleague's sublet on the upper west side, I hit City Diner, a 24-hour eatery, around 10 p.m. Nothing fancy, it's your basic all-day diner. I ordered the corned beef reuben with fries and a Corona. The sandwich was served open face, which always irritates me. "It's not a sandwich!" But the food was good and the people watching fun. Besides they have a $2 fried egg sandwich, so if the early-morning or late-night munchies hit you -- and you live in the area -- it's a quick stop for sustenance. $2 fried egg sandwich. Yum.

Saturday night, my friend Steve, who writes for the New York Post, and I headed to Gabriela's at 93rd and Amsterdam. Neither of us had eaten much all day -- me, only coffee -- so we were looking forward to some solid Mexican food. And we weren't disappointed. I ordered the chicken burrito, which was well prepared and not overly large. The entrees come with your choice of sides, but if you select beans and rice, it doesn't really feel like a side dish at all. Regardless, good food, pleasant atmosphere, and attentive staff. Worth checking out.

And last night, before catching my flight back to Boston, Steve and I walked to a high-end grocery nearby. Called something like Zapato's or Zapata's -- my googling isn't finding anything applicable -- it's reportedly always crowded and has a load of gourmet food and fine produce. We picked up some cheese, bread, prosciuto, garlicked olives, and cheese-filled gnocchi. Back at the ranch, we prepared some plates, mixed martinis, and settled in for a quiet urban picnic. Then it was back on the street, in a cab, and on the plane home.

Update: But how were the pickles? Glad you asked. I didn't have a pickle at Gabriela's, but the pickle at the City Diner was no great shake. The Search for the Perfect Pickle continues.

Music to My Ears L

Let Them Sing It for You is a nifty Web app that allows you to type in lyrics -- and then stitches together an audio piece that features different singers and musical groups singing the lines for you. If the system can't find a word you entered, it encourages you to help it find an example that it can add to the audio dictionary. Fun stuff, shades of NAG and Eigenradio.

Thanks to Memepool.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Workaday World XXXIX

While standing in front of the office in New York this afternoon, I saw a man walking down the street singing "Rasperry Beret" to himself, not at all softly.

Technoforgetfulness II

I found my Palm V at home last night. Like a lost dog, it had found its way home to my place on Magazine Street and was resting contentedly on the Big Blue Couch when I got home last night.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Technoforgetfulness

A couple of nights ago, while shutting down and preparing to leave work, I removed my Palm V from its dock. Where it went next is totally open to conjecture. I can't find it. Anywhere. Where, oh, where has my little Palm gone?

Event-O-Dex LXXXVII

Thursday, Nov. 20: The Operators, Choo Choo la Rouge, and the Fightin' Dogs kick out the jams at P.A.'s Lounge in Somerville.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Event-O-Dex LXXXVI

Saturday, Nov. 22: Nice & Easy, Secret Cock, and Plunge Into Death hold down the fort at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain while I hunt for housing in New York. Sad to miss Nice & Easy's debut, as the band features members of the Tardy, the Operators, and Spoilsport.

Music to My Ears XLIX

The new episode of Well-Rounded Radio is now available. The Fall 2003 edition features music and conversation with Josh Ritter, Francine, and the Burnside Project. Kudos, Charlie!

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Humor Me X

Fucked Company reports that National Lampoon laid off its writers (again!), who are now pimping their pen skills on eBay. How many times can one magazine fold, relaunch, and fold again?

Monday, November 17, 2003

Event-O-Dex LXXXV

Wednesday, Nov. 19, to Sunday, Nov. 23: The International Pop Overthrow festival throws down at T.T. the Bear's in Cambridge.

Mention Me! XLVIII

My coworker Rob just took this candid snap of me with his new Sony Ericsson T-610 camera phone.



Pretty neat, eh?

Take That, Big Apple II

My great Hunt for Housing has begun. I've called a broker in Brooklyn, emailed someone who'd posted several listings on Craig's List, and posted my own listing on Craig's List. If any Media Dieticians can offer Craig's List tips, I'd sure appreciate it. And if you know anyone who might have apartments up my alley, feel free to share the listing with them. Fingers crossed that I'll be heading down this weekend to start looking at places.

Update: Within several hours, my Craig's List post had attracted two emails, one with a followup phone call. Looks like I'll definitely be going down Saturday and Sunday to look at places, perhaps including one in a house shared by the owner. Now, which friend to crash with?

Event-O-Dex LXXXIV

Tuesday, Nov. 18: Burning Star Core, Jason Talbot, Brendan Murray, and Mike Shiflet make some noise at the Zeitgeist Gallery in Cambridge. Burning Star Core features C. Spencer Yeh, a long-time tape trader from Chicago.

Friday, November 14, 2003

From the Reading Pile XXIII

Catfight Part One (September 2003)
A stark contrast to MK Reed's abyssmal attempt at an ashcan with Zombie Hunters in Space, this is a more full-fledged foray into simply drawn storytelling. Featuring a trio of women interested in sports, music, cigarettes, and social interaction, the 36-page comic sports some nice Ariel Schrag-like scripting moments, as well as some absolutely artistic moments (panel seven, p. 10). The directional detour on p. 12 was well "written," as well. While the "hells yeah" got tiring, the Rodney Schroeter-esque badminton bash up on p. 15 is quite funny, as is the lunchtime inquisition. Reed stretches a little with panel four, p. 19 -- in the awkward anatomy plus Jessica Abel allusion sense -- but all in all, the comic is a nice pre-college pretense, particularly given the anti-boyfriend screed on p. 23 and the Syracuse reference in Zombie Hunters in Space. The accelerated relationship sequence on p. 25 and the distant detail of pp. 26-27 show some solid storytelling skills not included elsewhere, and the ending, while open-ended, left me wanting more. For 23, MK's not too bad. I look forward to more. Write MK Reed for more information.

Don't Leave Home
Joining Shawn Cheng at Partyka, Sara Edward-Corbett's 24-page cloth-covered comic is an oddly bound exhibit of a romantic pentangle. Combining the styles of Tony Millionaire, John Hankiewicz, and Greg Cook, the creator leaves a love-lorn look at youthful insolence and pessimism. The second story is a folkloric frolic involving anthropomorphic accoutrements, with the overeager shoe breaking the insecure straw. That shoe's laces are the most expressive I've ever seen! Kudos! Write Sara Edward-Corbett for more information.

Forlorn Funnies #5 ashcan
As a promotion for the 80-page issue due in October, this 16-page pamphlet is a terrible tease. Even the production values -- the paper stock and vivid color -- makes me want the complete edition. Understandable, but unforgivable. Including reviews of previous issues, a description of the upcoming volume, and excerpts from several of the stories, the mini addresses race relations, robots, and rationalization. Paul Hornschemeier is brilliant. More, please. Free from Absence of Ink, P.O. Box 875, Lincoln, CA 95648.

Gabagool! #4-5 (May and September 2003)
Leaving behind the digest-sized photocopied minicomics of last year for 28-page "properly" printed comics, Mike Dawson and Chris Radtke slow down the pace much too much. The comedy is all in the timing, and now that Radtke's writing for the longer form, their humor is half-baked. After Christopher Vigliotti gets laid off from his dead-end dotcom job, he and his roomies heroically take some time off in "Hedonism," Jamaica. Incorporating some interesting Terry Laban-influenced artwork, Dawson pens some pleasant panels involving hair removal, role-playing games, and vacation vocations. I miss the sitcom-smart silliness and whip-witted whackiness of previous issues. Please don't sacrifice the silly bits for the Joe Sacco-inspired seriousness sussed out by tangible travel. $3 from Mike Dawson and Chris Radtke, P.O. Box 1638, Radio City Station, New York, NY 10019.

Where Are You Going (August 2003)
Signed and sealed at the point of purchase, Lark Pien's 44-page book one the Mr. Boombha series is a hand-bound collection of six stories. Mr. Boombha wakes, observes his morning constitutional, and proceeds to visit his friend Flowe. Mixing characteristics of Greg Cook, Bil Keane, and Larry Marder, Pien portrays Boombha's day, which is full of playful math, gentle jealousy, and wanton waiting. Then Boombha goes on a trip to Down Under. With work in eight other published comics, Pien's one to watch. Write Lark Pien, 4016 Opal St. #1, Oakland, CA 94609 for more information.

Zombie Hunters in Space
In addition to an introductory essay outlining the author's seven biases for MK Reed's scribbly comic strip, this eight-page photocopied catchall comprises several examples of the comic. For the most part, it addresses loneliness, robots, technical writing, the creator's artistic process, and card games. Lesson: If you don't have a full-fledged comic to bring to SPX, don't bring a comic to SPX. Who the heck is Matt Finley? Write MK Reed for more information.

From the In Box: Clothes Whore IX

Good man -- almost gave up on you! -- Sarah Chauncey

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Daily Dosage III

Neal Pollack has stopped blogging. Like Dan Pink and William Gibson before him, the media personality reaffirms that stopping is the new starting.

Comics and Community XIX

Wow. I published my first proper zine when I was 15 years old -- in 1988, when I published the first issue of No Drama, inspired by an issue of Maximum Rocknroll. My friend Brad claims earlier independent media cred by at least four years: He started publishing his comics fanzine The Friendly Neighborhood Comic Paper in 1984. I am in awe.

Clothes Whore IX

Back in June, Sarah Chauncey of Information Connections sent me a T-shirt in response to the open invitation that if a Media Dietician sends me a T-shirt, I'll wear it to work, take a picture, and post it in the blog.



Better late than never, I suppose. Thanks for being game, Sarah. And apologies for the delay! I promise to be more timely next time someone sends me a shirt.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Take That, Big Apple

Well, it looks like I'm moving to New York City in the next couple of months. The Boston office of Fast Company is closing, and while I can work from home in Boston, where I live now isn't really conducive to working from home -- and I need co-workers around. You see, I'm one of those people people.



Soon, I'll be looking for a new apartment in the city to the south. I think I'll check out Hoboken, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and other parts first, but Manhattan isn't out of the question: East Village, Lower East Side, perhaps between midtown and Canal Street. I'd like one or two bedrooms and ample space for books. I have a lot of books and records. If you have a lead on a place that doesn't require a fee, I'll offer a generous reward. Email me if you have referrals or leads.

Photo credit: Michelle Kennedy

Rules for Fools XVIII

Rule No. 21: If you leave your cell phone on the kitchen table at home, you will feel absolutely naked. Naked!

Monday, November 10, 2003

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXXII

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Why go see the new remake, when you can revisit the 1974 Tobe Hooper original? While I didn't keep up with the sequels, I see no reason to remake this low-budget shocker supposedly based on a true crime that occurred in 1973. As far as slasher movies go, Hooper's vision is relatively restrained. Most of the violence is suggested, and outside of some establishing shots of bone-iture in the killers' home, there is very little gore. Similarly, it's more of a linear run-and-hunt screamer than a suspenseful mystery. There's very little hesitancy in the movie, and Gunnar Hansen's Leatherface is absolutely mindless and relentless in his attempts to kill his prey. In several scenes, B-queen Marilyn Burns demonstrates her golden throat as she screams persistently for surprisingly long periods of time. And the only hint of the supernatural is the desiccated grandfather's taste for Burns' heroine Sally Hardesty's blood. In fact, despite the movie's history and fame, what Hooper has left us with is a backwater Texan tale of economic development -- development in which a mentally unbalanced family is left behind and turns elsewhere for their livelihood and survival. I was surprised by how quickly Hardesty's circle of friends was dispatched -- the meathook scene is a favorite -- and for the most part, the deleted scenes and "blooper reel" on the DVD aren't really worth watching. Bloopers, indeed: "I meant to cut off her arm! I slipped and sliced off her leg!" "You goof. Cut!"

Event-O-Dex LXXXIII

Saturday, Nov. 15: Big Digits, Radar Eyes, and the Count Me Outs save the world at the Abbey Lounge in Somerville.

Anchormen, Aweigh! XXIX

I couldn't decide if it was good news or bad news, so I'll leave it up to you: I spotted an Anchormen CD -- "Punk Rock is Awesome" -- at a Half Price Used Books in Rocky River, Ohio, west of Cleveland. -- Joe Germuska

From the In Box: Street Art II

The timing isn't exactly random. I don't get to London (from Norwich) all that often, so my trips to Leytonstone have tied in with the annual general meeting of the British Association for Modern Mosaic in October. It was the Friday before the meeting. I didn't get to London until midday, and I still managed to scurry around and get about 250 photos for my site. Someone has to, surely. Maybe more information than you really wanted, but did you see the new ones of the Paolozzi mosaics at Tottenham Court Road? The Michelin building is pretty funky too. -- Rod

Corollary: Technofetishism XLVII

There's a handy little app called Postfix Enabler that you can download and run to configure your mail server under Panther. Slick as heck. Personal email's back up and running.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Technofetishism XLVII

I'm at work late tonight, but I just finished installing Mac OS X Panther. It seems to have confused my mail server, which I use for personal email through Eudora, but otherwise, it seems stable. We'll see what differences I detect as I use it.

From the In Box: Street Art II

Almost exactly one year ago today, I mentioned some Alfred Hitchcock-inspired tile mosaics that had been installed in Underground stations in London. Yesterday, Rod, the proprietor of the Joy of Shards Mosaic Resource, emailed me to say that he's updated and expanded the archive of mosaic photographs. Not only are all of the mosaics now available for viewing, Rod's included extra detail shots of the installations. Thanks for the update, Rod!

Event-O-Dex LXXXII

Friday, Nov. 14: Spoilsport, Les Sans Culottes, and Pansy Division rock hard at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge.

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).

ANSWERS TO FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

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.