Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Happy Birthday to Media Dieticians XXII

Oh, Media Diet -- this blog, ayup -- turned 3 years old on Sunday, I think. (Confirmed: June 27, 2001.) Here's to another half-half-dozen years!

Pop Quiz: Should I do a book or Media Diet annual?

Anchormen, Aweigh! XXX

"Nation of Interns," as reviewed in Big Takeover #54:

"Historically, the reason you start a band is to get girls. But I think that's probably not happening here. The Anchormen are just weird, mixing a Descendents-like vocal style with about 78% more words per song than most experts advocate, and backing that with bashing music that manages to sound amateurish and complex at the same time. I guess you'd say it's punk, but it ain't Green Day -- it's got Gang of Four jaggedness wihout the funk and Swell Maps oddness, and hell, when's the last time you heard a catchy song that mentions five-time socialist presidential candidate of a century ago, Eugene Debs? Anyway, this is good stuff -- fresh-sounding music that's catchy and rocking and has interesting lyrics. Who could ask for more?" -- Steve Gardner

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

I Am Poser

[The following item was written as a contribution to a minicomic collecting various memories about and perspectives of skateboarding. Edited by Dan Moynihan, the zine will be available this coming weekend at the MoCCA Art Festival.]

Those of you who do not know me could probably not care less, and those readers who do are probably not all that surprised, but I have a confession to make:

I am not a skateboarder.

Oh, I know that I put on a good act. At 31, I wear Vans, once subscribed to Thrasher magazine, played 720 at the local Aladdin's Castle, and still say, "Rad." But truth be told, I am an imposter, a pretender, a poser.

Pardon my French, a poseur.

I wanted to skate. Really, I did. I was fully prepared to skate or die. But despite the best efforts and intentions of the collective denizens of Dogtown, fallen pro Mark "Gator" Rogowski, and the ongoing video game series Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (for which I use all the cheats), I couldn't.

And I didn't.

Instead, throughout junior high, high school, and college, I hung out with skateboarders, listened to their music ("Skate Rock" on cassette, thank you very much), watched their videos (The Search for Animal Chin rather than Gleaming the Cube), and wore their clothing. I still do.

How come?

For me, the discovery of skateboarding came hand in hand with that of punk rock. It was 1988. I was in Madison, Wisconsin. And I had just picked up issues of Maximum Rocknroll and Thrasher magazines. Back in the day, Thrasher was printed on easily smudged newsprint, much like MRR's then-rival Flipside. Transworld was almost always more mersh.

I was floored. While MRR impressed and inspired me with its DIY make-your-own-media ethic, Thrasher upped the ante somewhat. Thrasher -- and therefore skateboarding in general, in my limited Midwestern mindset -- was more than music, politics, and community. It was all that plus food, clothing, and sport: almost a plug-and-play lifestyle.

The "Mailbag" lettercol taught me how to communicate with my near-peers. "Puszone" turned me on to new music. "Skarfing Material" told me what to eat -- and what not to. And the rest showed me what was important writ large: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Long story short, my friends skateboarded, but I didn't.

I couldn't.

That's not to say I didn't try, if by "try" you mean design and price the perfect skateboard only to realize I couldn't afford it, try skating on a friend's Variflex only to scar my ankle trying to kick flip off a launch ramp, and resort to making fingerboards with pencil erasers and Matchbox car parts.

I tried to skate. I hurt myself. So I gave up. And even though I know I should've, could've skated harder, I decided to leave it to others: Brett, Chase, and Jason. They could do what I couldn't, and I was happy to sit on the sidelines, watching them carve lines in front of the public library while I wrote lines of my own kind.

They skated. I wrote. And while zines helped us stay connected for a time, we strayed. They kept on keeping on, and even though my skating memories are relegated to their experiences, it's not too late to redeem myself. After all, I do still have a new deck outfitted with Thunder trucks and Spitfire wheels just waiting for grip tape.

It's never too late to skate or die. Or lie trying.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Geocache Me If You Can IV

Phil Libin has written a wonderful appreciation of his handheld Garmin GPS device. Since moving to New York, I've been trying to use mine more often, mapping the paths I follow and the landmarks of my new home, and reading Libin's piece made me glad my GPS was in my bag.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Magazine Me L

The American Council on Science and Health has released the 2004 results of its Nutrition Accuracy in Popular Magazines survey. Basing its analysis of accuracy in nutrition writing on factual information, objectivity, and sound recommendations, the council ranks periodicals as follows:

  • Cooking Light
  • Parents
  • Ladies' Home Journal
  • Better Homes and Gardens
  • Good Housekeeping
  • Consumer Reports
  • Reader's Digest
  • Redbook
  • Woman's Day
  • Glamour
  • Self
  • Health
  • Runner's World
  • Prevention
  • Shape
  • Fitness

I'm fascinated that Consumer Reports falls almost in the middle -- and that the health-related books such as Self, Health, Shape, and Fitness hit the bottom of the list.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Nervy, Pervy XXV

While the new Suicide Girls book is available from Feral House, the forthcoming magazine, which was almost completed -- and to which people could subscribe -- has been delayed.

We were unhappy with how the first issue of the magazine turned out, and have decided to scrap it and go back to the drawing board. We just felt like we were unable to create a Magazine that properly complemented the website with our first attempt.

People who ponied up the subscription fee have been issued refunds, and the team plans to have another go at the new title's first issue.

Happy Birthday to Media Dieticians XXI

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen turned 18 yesterday. Insert popcult or pervy quip here.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

By Cycle

The Daily News today included an item on Conference Bike, a seven-person cycle operated by a part-time comic in Central Park and Times Square to make bank off of tourists. Now, if only the complicated contraption could be outfitted like an Xtracycle -- I'm curious whether the multiple pedalers adds much power to the pushing. And if the Conference Bike threw off cloud like the Magic Bike, it could provide a valuable public service while earning money. Still, an interesting concept.

Friday, June 11, 2004

President Chill

I've been trying hard not to follow all the news about and romanticized remembrances of former president Ronald Reagan. One, I don't think that my opinion about the whole thing really matters; a former president dying is a fine time to show respect, pay homage, and mourn as a nation. Have at it. Two, in first grade, my grade school held a mock election for president. I voted to reelect Jimmy Carter. The cutest girl in school voted for Reagan. I poked fun at her; she won -- the election and my heart (for that year, at least). And three, OK, I do think the whole thing's a little overblown. Reagan wasn't all that, and now could be a time to show respect for the dead -- while still giving some time to consider what makes a president passable... or great.

Luckily, despite the back-and-forth sniping that's been going on in the newspapers of late -- some cautious critics finally, seemingly bravely emerging, and the expected near-immediate backlash trying to put the kibosh on anyone who dares question the Gipper -- thankfully, no less than Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin has finally stepped up with his take on the matter.

In a column entitled "Reagan Should Be on a $3 Bill" -- OK, Reagan was an odd duck, but was he queer? -- Old Man Breslin -- sadly one of the last remaining old-school columnists left in the wake (and wakes) of scribes such as Mike Royko and Herb Caen (may Eric Zorn continue to mature and Jim Knipfel [a reason to read the New York Press] not go Jim Carroll or Hunter Thompson on us) and only one of many reasons to read Newsday -- contends that Reagan is not only imposing on America with his prolonged death throes, was not already near-dead for quite some time, but is now -- in his post-mortem media portrayal -- mistakenly being assigned roles he didn't play.

Opining that Reagan didn't end the cold war as some have claimed, Breslin returns to the fact that Reagan was an actor. First, foremost, an actor. And while we as a country may have yearned for a telegenic president ever since the Kennedy-Nixon debates, Breslin reminds us that even the most heartstring-tugging lines associated with Reagan -- "Win one for the Gipper" -- wasn't even his line.

It was Knute Rockne's. So regardless of how you feel about Reagan's media portrayals, sentimental history, and loving relationship with his wife -- which is truly a beautiful thing worth celebrating -- let's look to the man's presidential performance and record... and judge his American leadership based on that.

Not just our sadness that a former national leader has died, which should perhaps be a patriotic given, given analysis.

Coin, Coin, Gone

I saw an item in Newsday today about a new coin unveiled at a UFO conference in Bulgaria recently. Minted by a Bulgarian foundation on cosmic intelligence research, the coin, the Galactos, is intended to be the official currency for trade between planets.

File under: Cart before horse? We've yet to even discover life -- sentient life -- on other planets, yet we already fully intend to do business with them. As soon as possible. What if the new societies we encounter don't understand concepts such as explicit value exchange, much less money? Go, market economy, go!

Mapblogging V

Joe Crawford has begun to map the physical locations of San Diego County bloggers. I'm curious how the various visual representations of blog distribution affect our perspective on the overlapping online/offline spaces. For example, NYC Bloggers is tightly tied to transportation, which highlights mobility, as well as proximity.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

New York Niches II

I had a nice small-world New York moment this evening. Walking to Deb's from the 23rd Street subway station, I bumped into my friend Kirsten, who's a grad student at the SVA and a fellow alum of Northwestern. She's one of the people I've fully intended to contact since relocating, haven't gotten in touch with, and still fully intend to hang out with.

We did a double take as we walked toward each other, me toward Deb's house and she away from the SVA, caught up in that cursory way people do on the sidewalk, and exchanged phone numbers. Again.

I was heading to walk Harpo, and she was heading to a Final Cut Pro class. At the same time, our mutual friend (for me, acquaintance) Chuck Wren was in town for a Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra show.

Hello to you, Kirsten. And hello, New York. Small world, smaller, I've been waiting to bump into Kirsten since moving here.

Now I have.

It's a Dog's Life

I'm house sitting for a friend this week. More accurately, I'm dog sitting. My charge? One Harpo, the No. 1 Dog of Deb Klein, formerly of Hi-Fi Records in JP, the Mary Reillys -- and now a New Yorker and part of a new band -- my new band, a veritable supergroup -- featuring members of the Anchormen, the Reillys, the Ergs, and the Kung Fu Monkeys.

But this entry isn't about me. No, it's about Harpo. And taking care of a dog. Harp's an aging Chow mix who's a bit of a Snuffleupagus, as well as an Eeyore, but who's still a champ, not a chump. I woke early this morning to walk him down Second Avenue. And I left work early-ish this evening to do so again. I've never really been responsible for another living thing for a long amount of time before.

He's very smart and loving, and I hope he enjoys my stay in Deb's stead. Several things have been fascinating me. One, dog-walking etiquette. You need to be aware of glass, go where the dog wants to go without being led all over, and remain cognizant of other dogs. There's this whole "Is he cool?" "He's cool," thing that happens with dog owners. Or not. This morning, I think I was overly effusive when I assured a woman that "Mine's nice." She sniffed and walked away.

There's also the whole peeing and pooping thing. Dogs sniff a lot. They smell around a lot. They don't pee everywhere they smell, and they only poop if they smell the ground first -- not a tree stump or fire extinguisher. I feel like I'm overly proud of the Harpster -- proud when he walks where I want to go, proud when he pees if I think he will, proud if I pick up all his poop in a plastic bag.

Anyhoo, we're home now, and I go between trying to entertain myself -- and trying to entertain him. He's this big, intelligent, independent being I can influence. But we can't really interact. And I'm concerned that my attention is just irritation.

"Come on, Harpo. Come on, Harpo. Come on."

"Oh. Just leave me alone, wouldja?"

Rest in Peace VII

Two Media Diet-style musicians on different ends of the musical spectrum passed away recently. Steve Lacy, an innovative soprano saxophone player whose jazz recordings grouped him with such musicians as Cecil Taylor -- and who ended his days teaching at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston -- died Friday. And Robert Quine, an Ohio native and punk-rock guitarist who played with Richard Hell and the Voidoids, may have committed suicide last week.

Rest in peace, you two.

Free to Be... Freelance? II

Similar to Lingua Franca's reclaiming paid wages from freelancers earlier this year, near-worthless Worth magazine is going after the former independent scribes for the finance magazine, seeking to rescind their already paid paychecks. The law firm contacting the freelancers asked them to repay their wages in a scant six days. Pay to be published, anyone?

Nervy, Pervy XXIV

Spell out your name in naked bodies: Porno Nombre.

The Free-Range Comic Book Project XXXVIII

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

Harley Quinn #5 (DC, April 2001). Writer: Karl Kesel. Artist: Terry Dodson. Location: On a bench near the corner of 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue.

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

Monday, June 07, 2004

You Light up My Life

Yes, the Hancock Tower in Boston is lit up in a way that means something, but it seems that
the Empire State Building in New York City does, too.

'Course, Boss Town's light, say, tells the weather -- which is eminently useful in New England -- but the Big Apple's has more lights... And a schedule.

Like, tonight's colors mean, um, "New York." Doesn't the Empire States Building? Regardless, I like the idea of an ambient urban signifier.

Music to My Ears LIV

I just realized that the song played by the ice cream truck in my neighborhood is "Barnacle Bill the Sailor." Same on the lower east side. Played and played and played, almost so much that it's played out.

Now, what kind of ice cream truck driver would choose a song about drinking, swearing, and smoking? Mine, it seems.

Cover Story VII

MagazineArt is an online gallery of magazine cover art from the 19th and early 20th centuries. So far the "visual database" collects material from monthlies, weeklies, popular science titles, and pulp fiction magazines. The service draws on a lot of external sources, which makes understanding which elements are MagazineArt-specific somewhat difficult, and it takes awhile to actually get into the cover thumbnails, which are wonderful indeed. Especially this one: "What makes a magazine cover?" Indeed! Come see.

Music to My Eyes XXV

The Lot Six have a new music video available. Shot by guitarist Julian Cassanetti, it's for the song "I Get So Down," and it's well worth your attention.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Zine Seen

Zine World may be looking for several new reviewers soon. If any Media Dieticians are interested in contributing -- and can pledge to submit their reviews on deadline -- email me (contact info on the left), and I'll share your query with the editor.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Pulp Friction

Kudos to Charles Ardai and Max Phillips, ex-CEO and art director for the ISP Juno, for cashing out -- and stepping up with a new media project. Following a merger, the two launched a pulp fiction imprint, Hard Case Crime, with Dorchester Publishing. The publisher's wares will include classic pulp work by folks like Erle Stanley Gardner, as well as writing by new authors. One of those newcomers is Phillips, whose Fade to Blonde snuck in on the first six titles. Let's just hope that Hard Case isn't a vanity project.

The Free-Range Comic Book Project XXXVII

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

Ghost #3 (Dark Horse, June 1995). Writer: Eric Luke. Artists: Tom Grummett, Paul Guinan, Adam Hughes, and Casey Jones. Location: On a bench at the Grand Central stop on the 7 line.

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