Monday, December 31, 2007

On the Age of Conversation

When The Age of Conversation first came out in July, I was intrigued enough by the Advertising Age review that I bought a copy of the PDF.

As the founder of Fast Company magazine's readers network, the Company of Friends, which is going through a transition these days, and as a contributor to Seth Godin's book The Big Moo, I saw several promising ideas in the project. "100 voices. 1 conversation." All proceeds going to charity. And I knew several participants: Valeria Maltoni, David Armano, Susan Bird, Thomas Clifford, and others. Seems like it should be right up my alley!

In any event, I bought the e-book, I read it almost immediately, and I didn't really like it. I've wanted to write about some of my impressions and reactions for some time but didn't necessarily want to actively criticize what I think is a positive, community-oriented, collective publishing project -- that I think fell flat. Regardless, I want to share some of my feelings before I recycle the printout as printer paper in order to reach some sort of closure. On what, I'm not exactly sure. So please take this post with a grain of salt, some sour grapes, and a crumbling cookie.

First of all, I was kind of put off by the assertion that this project was a first. Sure, this could be the first self-published book to involve 100 contributors. But the project pretty clearly may have been inspired by Godin's The Big Moo, which involved 33 contributors and donated its proceeds to three charities. I'm not really concerned about the editors giving credit for inspiration to Seth's project, but because he's certainly someone who'd be on their radar -- he's mentioned by a couple of contributors, including the author of the very first piece -- it's a little odd that the parallels would go unmentioned. Not every inspiration needs to be credited, but the similarities between the projects are too strong for there to be no connection.

Secondly, unless you're going to actively edit and organize a book like this, the whole approach of 100 contributors serving up one page -- 400 words -- on a similar topic can lead to repetition and echo chamber-like self-reference. Reading this was somewhat frustrating because most of the pieces were pretty similar, and the consistencies meant that I couldn't really tell one piece or one contributor from another. That leads to a couple of challenges: One, no strong voices really stood out, and two, any major subthemes or threads were lost in the cacophony of like-minded voices. This was particularly frustrating because the book was organized alphabetically by contributor's last name. Some thought was given to how it'd flow. My guess is that the alphabetical structure was intended to democratize the level of attention paid to the multiple voices. But in the end, it just struck me as lazy.

Thirdly, even as a long-active online communitarian, I got really tired of all the references to community, conversation, listening, and relationships. Yes, all three things are important. Very much so. But when you're reading an anthology like this -- a project that in many ways is preaching to the choir -- the very building blocks and common parlance of the discussion can come across as cliches and trite expressions of half-baked ideas. We need to move beyond warm fuzzies and touchy feelies and onto more solid ground if we're going to reach the people we need to reach and accomplish what we want to do.

Additionally, one of the possibilities offered by a conversational and collective publishing project like this is the opportunity for dialogue and some kind of iterative improvement or progress on the ideas and topics. I assume that no one but the editors read any of the entries en masse before going to print because there are no intertextual references or connection between the selections. Rather than a 100-person discussion, the book is more like 100 soap box speakers set up in the same public plaza. 100 one-way diatribes versus a conversation among 100 participants. If I wanted to, I could read these 100 people individually -- most have their own blogs and projects. The benefit of the book is getting them all in one place to see what kind of sense can be made collectively. That wasn't really explored.

And finally, because I don't want to fall prey to the very things I'm criticizing any more than I have already, I would have liked to have seen more reliance on primary sources rather than secondary sources. Chances are, we all have many of the same touchstones -- Godin, Martin Seligman, Guy Kawasaki, etc. Chances also are that quoting or citing them will have less impact than uncovering and sharing something new -- and a little closer to the bone and the source. Similarly, I was struck by how many people involved in the project were consultants and communicators rather than individual contributors or practitioners. I could totally be wrong, but other than the occasional mention of a blog, there was very little material explicitly drawing on experience in a project, organization, or company. Being a social media consultant is meaningful work, but I'd like to know more about people's projects and products.

What did I like? Lots of things, believe it or not. Almost every contributor has a blog or Web site that they work on or contribute to, and if you turn all of the bylines into bookmarks, your online reading list will be well set into the foreseeable future.

Several contributions also really rang my bell. Peter Corbett's insight on his firm Blattner Brunner's use of social media optimization was interesting. Phil Gerbyshak's exhortation to follow up with handwritten notes as well as online communication was well received. (I sent a friend a thank-you card today.) Kristin Gorski's comment on the value of commenting on other people's blogs made me wonder whether one could blog solely through comments -- and how to aggregate that aspect of online conversation. Jessica Hagy's entry was sheer poetry. Sean Howard's neo-flowchart was a hoot and a half. AJ James, Emily Reed, and Sacrum B. Rown each offered bits of visual punctuation that provided welcome breathers in what was otherwise a text-heavy endeavor. John La Grou showed how social media can impact one particular practice -- that of religion. (The term "microclesia" is wonderful.) And Joe Raasch provides a useful model for discussion with his "no limit conversation."

Last but not least, despite any criticisms or concerns that I might have, it's awesome that this book exists. Kudos to Gavin Heaton and Drew McLellan for spearheading the project. And congratulations to all of the contributors for being included -- you're in great company.

In the end, I think I was hoping for less many-to-one communication and more many-to-many-to-one communication in this project. That might not have been the point.

Off the (Business) Books

In the interest of saving time and money in terms of trying to keep up with current business and technology books, I subscribe to several book summary services. In recent days, I've been impressed by several such summaries -- and the ideas they (as well as the books they're about) contain. Here are some highlights:

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
Nassim Nicholas Taleb is Dean's Professor in the Sciences of Uncertainty at the University of Massachusetts, and if that's not a cool academic title, I don't know what is. I'm sure the 400-page book is well worth reading, but GetAbstract's five-page summary turned me on to several fascinating concepts. They include the Ludic fallacy, confirmation bias, and the risks of Gaussian curves. This was my first exposure to GetAbstract, and I was pretty impressed. We'll see if every five pager is as jam packed with ideas!

Intellectual Property: The Tough New Realities That Could Make or Break Your Business (via Soundview Executive Book Summaries)
Soundview's summaries are a tad longer, but at eight pages, this is still a quick read, and you're able to get the main ideas behind the book in pretty short order -- I read this one last night in bed before falling asleep. Key topics addressed in this summary include the paradox of public goods, how economists view IP as inexhaustible while businesses view them as scalable, and the current state of patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret law. Several cool examples were briefly considered, like the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, landmark cases in patenting plants and vertebrates, and McDonald's v. Quality Inns (which is touched on in Language Log). A useful primer.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (via Audio-tech)
I've had a copy of Chip and Dan Heath's book on my reading pile since it came out, and I've even exchanged emails with them. But I've yet to read the thing. So it's high time I checked out this 16-page summary. While Audio-tech tends to summarize on the long side, this is still a relatively quick read and stays a little more true to the original text. Among the highlights in this summary were the debunking of the dangers of Halloween candy, the Curse of Knowledge, the commander's intent statement (something I plan to start using when appropriate), forced prioritization, the gap theory of curiosity (discussed in Trusted.MD), and the origin of the phrase "sour grapes." I'll have to make a note to go through the book in more detail when I hit it in the old reading pile.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

An Open Letter to Vladimir Putin

Inspired by a recent screening of Sicko, an Amnesty International campaign, and today's Garry Kasparov op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, I wrote the president of Russia a letter.

President of the Russian Federation
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
Rossiiskaia Federatsia
103132 g. Moskva
4 Staraya Ploshchad
Prezidentu Rossiiskoi Federatsii

RE: Reopen the investigation into student Artur Akhmatkhanov's disappearance

Dear President Putin,

While I've yet to pick up the current issue of Time magazine, which lauds you as the 2007 Person of the Year for helping create a new Russia, I can't help but think about the ironies involved in this announcement. If you are one of the more progressive and successful world leaders, how can instances like Artur Akhmatkhanov's disappearance -- and Yury Chervochkin's death -- continue to happen under your authority?

I call on you to explain why the investigation into the enforced disappearance of Akhmatkhanov was suspended in mid-2007. This is especially concerning given that the Chair of the Chechen Parliament’s commission for the search for abducted and missing persons pledged that they would try to discover the fate of all missing persons by the end of this year.

Please reopen the investigation immediately and ensure it is conducted in a thorough, independent, and effective manner. The findings should be made public, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. Additionally, Akhmatkhanov’s family should be kept fully informed of all developments in the investigation.

I further call on you to conduct an official inquiry into the effectiveness of the investigations into enforced disappearances. Numerous judgements of the European Court of Human Rights have found the Russian authorities guilty of violations of the European Convention on Human Rights and of failing to investigate them effectively and to take steps to end violations committed by Russian security forces and to ensure that law enforcement agencies operate in full accordance with Russian and international law.

Garry Kasparov's recent piece in the Wall Street Journal (Dec. 22, 2007) also concerns me. If you are indeed worthy of Time magazine's mantle, if you are indeed dedicated to being a respectable and progressive leader for Russia, if you are an ethical and moral human being, please end the attacks on those trying to bring a true democracy to your country. Don't fall prey to the allure of being a bully and a dictator. Because if you do, the new Russia won't be much different than the old Russia, and the country's newfound political strength will be a sign of your moral weakness.

Heath Row

Cc: U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer

If you ever get the urge to write or otherwise contact a political leader, I encourage you to do so. The best way to celebrate the rights you have is to use them.

Return to Sender

I sold a book via Amazon Marketplace, and the buyer requested that I send it to someone housed in the Federal Correctional Institution in Bastrop, Texas. I did, and the prison sent the book back to me. I received it today with the following note:

Hardcover books cannot be properly inspected without damaging the publicatoon. As a security concern, policy only allows for hardcover publications if they are received directly from a book store, publisher, or book club.

The correspondence inclosed with your mailing has been forwarded to inmate.

The following material was returned to the sender: 1 hardcover book

Kudos to the jail for sending the book back to me. Curious, however: What kind of criminal wants a copy of Christian Mikunda's Brand Lands, Hot Spots & Cool Spaces?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Quote of the Day

"I don't like 'graphic novel.' It's a word that publishers created for the bourgeois to read comics without feeling bad." -- Marjane Satrapi, "Just Asking," Wall Street Journal, Dec. 15, 2007.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

From the Reading Pile XXXIV

Another batch for Zine World:

Dance of the Skeletons #4: This excellent zine about class struggle and labor issues focuses on the realities of unionism from an IWW and anarchist perspective in this issue. There are three pieces: A story about unionizing student film projectionists at Carleton University in Ottawa, an email interview with organizer Floyd Peterson, and the details of a direct action at Carlingwood Mall. The writing touches on the challenges of organizing, the need to connect with workers, ongoing union activity, and other topics. I'd pick up this zine again, if it's this good consistently. Johnny Aztec/Braden Cannon, 6020 Cherry St., Halifax, NS, B3H 2K3 Canada; Web; email [$2 or trade 52XS :11]

Dinotaur: In the summer of 2005, Lindsey and Virgil set out on a three-month search for dinosaurs. Inspired by the Nova Scotia Anti-Tourism project, they hitchhiked, snuck into museums and zoos, and otherwise tried to learn as much as they could for as little as possible. This zine collects writing, correspondence, and photocopy collages inspired by their travels. While I would have liked more of a trip diary -- Where did they go? What did they do? -- this is still a fun read. I particularly enjoyed the ideas behind the project, the love letter to paleontologist Dr. Philip J. Currie, and the literary email exchange. Makes me want to organize a trip of my own. Dinosaurs are where you find them. Lindsey and Virgil, 3-3627 Notre Dame O., Montreal, Quebec, Canada H4C 1P6 [$1 32S :11]

Small Press Review Vol. 38, Nos. 7-8 (Issues 402-403)/Small Magazine Review Issues 154-155 (July/August 2006): Before the Internet and Web, with its infinite cacophany of blogs, online journals, and discussion forums, there was the small press. Zinemaking and being a small-press writer are labors of love, and every issue, the Small Press Review and its sister publication the Small Magazine Review hold that fact up to the cold light of day. So it's somewhat ironic that contributing editor Bob Grumman writes in this issue, "If (serious) poetry is to be saved, it will be computers that save it." True, the Web and print-on-demand publishing houses can help writers find their audiences more easily, but it is the writers who will save writing. The reviews and commentary in this long-running publication are celebrations of the people who make the chapbooks and little magazines -- who write the words -- we love to read. Thank you. Special thanks to Kaye Bache-Snyder for her accounting of money spent on participating in the small press. It's a worthwhile investment! Dustbooks, P.O. Box 100, Paradise, CA 95967; Web [$25/year 24M :20]

Smiling Disease: A Guide to Public Stickering: While it might seem silly to write a how to on stickering, Scott's friendly little pamphlet is actually quite useful. After discussing the logistics of making stickers, he offers some pretty decent advice: large stickers tend to be removed faster, don't patronize a printer who might be offended to see stickers they've made all over the place if you want to do business with them again, stickers put on straight can look like they're supposed to be there, don't sticker a mom-and-pop shop or people's private property, and clean the surface first. A quick and practical read. Scott, P.O. Box 18233, Portland, OR 97218; Web [$? 16S+five stickers :07]

Zine Show: In June 2006, this was the Irish zine event to participate in! Anto, who started the Early Irish Fanzines project, helped organize an evening of zine readings and performances at Anthology Books, which also hosted an exhibition. This exhibition catalog of sorts is a who's who of Irish zinemaking, dating back to the '70s. Several notable zines and related projects are described, including the Forgotten Zine Archive maintained by Ciaran. A wonderful introduction to the world of Irish zines. Anto, 3 Crestfield, Youghal, County Cork, Ireland; email [Free 8S :05]

From the Reading Pile XXXIII

I just submitted these reviews to Zine World, to which I haven't contributed for awhile. Lest they be too old to publish, I'm also posting them here.

5 Speed: Klyd Watkins, proprietor of the poetry Web site the Time Garden, has lived near Radnor Lake and Nashville for many years. His poetry, compared by Stephen Thomas to the work of A.R. Ammons and Charles Potts, touches on two primary themes in this collection of 24 poems: the fleeting glimpses of truth witnessed in the natural environs of Radnor Lake and the passing of time shared by people. I appreciate Watkins's inclusion of references to comments from his Web site in his work, particularly the pieces "Poam" and "I Asked for It." To quote "Chelsea's Softball Game at Whitfield Park -- 6/16/01," "As surely as civilization is neurally transmitted in little packets, there's no place right now I'd rather be." A poet to return to. The Temple Bookstore, 40 S. Colville, P.O. Box 1773, Walla Walla, WA 99362; Web [$5 56S :27]

Batteries Not Included Vol. 8 #9 (September 2006): Other than the slightly more political EIDOS, there are few sex zines as smart and intriguing as Batteries Not Included. In this issue, editor Richard Freeman jams more content in its teensy-typefaced pages than an average issue of Adult Video News. Richard Pacheco remembers his long career while watching a talk show featuring aging starlets he worked with; Cindi Loftus interviews porntrepreneur Kelly Madison; Freeman collects a number of news items about breast ironing, abuse in Liberia, and; Kate Keene reviews a new (at the time) Jonathan Morgan movie; and Jean Roberta reviews a book by Jalaja Bonheim. There's a lot here. Bring your own batteries. 513 N. Central Ave., Fairborn, OH 45324; email [$3 12M :25]

First Class #26 (February 2006): Like most small-press litzines, First Class is a mixed bag. There's no unifying theme, and it's difficult to get a sense of what editor Christopher M. is going for in terms of tone and content. But there are highlights worth mentioning. Ed Galing's poem "Day Care" sheds some light on the internal monologues possible to an Alzheimer's patient. Richard Harvell's short story "Headhunter" is an intriguing consideration of the costs of fighting crime. And spiel's story "Soda Crackers," while not fully satisfying, makes for a good companion read to Galing's piece. Lastly, I was impressed by Larry Rapant's poem "A Matter of Faith," although I was disappointed by how quickly it ended -- and how. I'm not sure First Class is a need to read, but it has potential. Keep up the good work! Four-Sep Publications, P.O. Box 86, Friendship, IN 47021; Web; email [$6 56S :43]

The F-Word (Spring 2006): I don't always like feminist zines -- too strident, too exclusive, too stereotypical -- but I absolutely adore the F-Word. It's smart, wide-ranging, and very well written. Melody seems to be in New York City now, but when this issue went to press she was going to move to California and intern at Bitch magazine. The layout is slightly haphazard -- what's up with all the house ads? -- but the writing is lively. There's a profile of sex education activist Shelby Knox; interviews with poet Alix Olson, comedian Margaret Cho, feminist icon Gloria Steinem, musician Pamela Means, and journalist Maria Raha; and other articles worth reading. Gwendolyn Beetham's piece on "gender mainstreaming" in global politics is especially interesting. Melody Berger, Web; email [$3 52M :36]

The Mystery & Adventure Book Series Review #39 (Summer 2006): Even if you're not interested in children's series books, this zine is a wonderful read for anyone interested in self-publishing and the small press. Fred Woodworth has been publishing this for more than 25 years, and over time, he's really honed his skills as an editor and printer. This issue includes features about trying to track down the person who inspired a character in John Blaine's "100 Fathoms Under," the series book artist E.H. Kuhlhoff, the history of justified text, Norvin Pallas's Ted Wilford Books, and the burial of a time capsule containing 25 zines. The letter column shows there's an active community of other series book readers, and their discussions are in depth and insightful. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this wonderful zine. It's a piece of art. Fred Woodworth, P.O. Box 3012, Tucson, AZ 85702 [Free 52M :58]

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

People Hour Power

When working on projects, I often calculate how much time a set of tasks will take me personally -- and how long I've worked on something. But I don't always keep in mind the time that will need to be spent by other people involved in the project, either in tandem with me or separately.

At work, we use a conference call service that, after every call, sends you a report indicating what phone numbers dialed in, how much time each participant spent on the call, and the total time spent by participants in the call. After a half-hour conversation this morning, I received such a report.

I spent 36 minutes on the call. Five additional people dialed in, ranging between 23 and 36 minutes per call. The mean time spent was 31 minutes. The median was 35. The mode 36. But another number is even more interesting. The total time spent by those six people (including myself) ended up being 186 minutes. More than three people hours!

What I considered to be a relatively low investment in terms of my time and work energy in fact cost six times the time I spent on it. Were there any people who didn't really need to be on the call? Did I need to be on the call?

BusinessWeek recently turned me on to's Meeting Miser, a tool you can use to determine not just the time cost of a meeting, but the actual salary cost of a meeting. Just plug in the titles of the people participating, and it'll tell you how much the meeting costs by the second and minute. And you can even start and stop it during a meeting to determine how much a work session is taking.

The call this morning, if I have the title mix right, cost a nickel a second, or $3.23 a minute. At a mean time of 31 minutes, it cost just more than $100. Was it worth $100?

A new way to think about how you spend your time at work!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Old School New Economy PR Guidelines

The recent online discussion about Wired editor Chris Anderson's "outing" of lazy PR people inspired me to dig up some PR guidelines I wrote for Fast Company magazine in the late '90s.

They're no longer on the magazine's Web site because they were linked off my team bio page and I no longer work there, but they might still be interesting and useful. Courtesy of my friend Paul, I'm reprinting them here verbatim (sans some URLs), as they once appeared on the site. Some of the new economy speak might seem quaint, but take what you will.

Caveat: I no longer work for Fast Company. Please don't email me pitches for the magazine.

Heath's PR Guidelines

Do you work in public relations? Do you want to pitch Heath a story for Fast Company? Here's how.

Do you work in public relations? Do you want to pitch Fast Company magazine a story? Do you want to do so in the most efficient, welcome, and successful way? Here's how.

In the new world of work, time is a precious commodity. Here at Fast Company, it's no different -- and it might be in even shorter supply. As we work to find the stories we want to tell, we frequently work with public relations professionals. Those relationships can be productive and rewarding -- even fun. They can also be inefficient, frustrating, and unproductive.

If you work in PR and travel in circles that overlap Fast Company's, you've probably pitched us a story, client company, or person to profile at one time or another. You've also probably tried to schedule a conference call or a meeting in our offices. And I'm sure you've learned that it's not easy. We're pretty clear, driven, and focused on the kinds of stories we want to tell. As you are. And when those needs don't overlap, it can be a challenge.

This page is intended to help you hit us harder -- more directly, with more focus, and more in line with the work we do. However, even if you do everything I suggest on this page, I can't guarantee that you'll succeed. We move at a pretty fast clip, and windows of opportunity close as fast as they open. Sometimes, timing can be everything. But there are things you can do to work smarter with us. Here's the short course.


Know the magazine
If you've never read an issue of Fast Company, don't even bother calling or emailing us. Please. Read the magazine. If you can't find a copy on your local newsstand or in your office, check out our Web site. I'd give you the URL, but you're already here. That's a good thing.

There are also Web resources you can use to better acquaint yourself with the kinds of stories we tell, how, and why. [The press section] can serve as a basic introduction to the magazine: who the founding editors are, why they started Fast Company, and what we've done to date. The [Fast Company Mission Statement] outlines the goals of the magazine. Our [writers' guidelines] aren't just useful for freelancers; they can help you cast your pitches in the language we speak. And our [media kit] expands on our mission, the magazine's market, and more.

Lastly, [the resources section] can direct you to descriptions of the magazine's core themes, section and feature types, and examples of the Big Idea pieces we've run. It's helpful to know how we organize the magazine and categorize the stories we publish.


Know the staff
If you want your pitch to reach the right staff member, be sure to acquaint yourself with the people on the Fast Company team. Our [team roster] lists everyone involved in the day-to-day workings of the magazine and Web site. By clicking on team members' names, you can access the person's profile page, which offers information on their background, role at the magazine -- and for some staff, a roundup of articles they've contributed. The [directory of Fast Company email addresses] can also help you figure out whom to email about what. Use these pages to determine who does what kinds of pieces -- and pitch accordingly.


Know how to work with us
I'm sure everyone at Fast Company has their own pet peeves about and ideas for how PR people can do their jobs better, but mine are probably pretty good advice to follow when dealing with everyone on the FC team. Some of these tips are small beer, granted, but they'll make your -- and our -- jobs easier.

1. Email is king

If you can email us information, it's always preferred as the first point of contact. There's no need to waste paper, energy, and time sending faxes or snail mail if you can email something. If you email us, please try to direct your email to the most appropriate person on staff. Realize that our staff is small, that we all like each other, and that we all talk to each other -- if you email everyone on staff, it doesn't necessarily increase your chances of getting in the magazine. If you email us, do not attach documents to your email; if it's worth emailing, it's worth emailing in the body of your message. Personally, I don't like downloading attachments, don't like them taking up space on my hard drive, and don't read them. Please don't send them to me. If you email us, do not use that little receipt requested function. I never send a receipt to notify people that I got their email, and it's not necessary -- it's the Net; it works. Most of the time. And if you email us, do not fax it to us, mail it to us, or call us on the telephone to see whether we got your email. We did. And if we need to get in touch with you, we will track you down like hunting dogs. (We're the dogs, not you. The dogs are hunting.)

2. Phones aren't always fun

Like I said above, if you email us, you don't need to call us to follow up on the email. In fact, phone pitches are rarely productive or efficient. More often than not, the whole time you're talking, I'm thinking, "I'd rather just read this," and then when you pause to inhale, I'll ask you to email me what you just said anyway. Similarly, phone briefings are also rarely productive or efficient. I never take them. I'd rather read a news release. And if I'm working on a story that your client will fit in to, I'll schedule a one-on-one, focused interview. If that happens, please don't shepherd the interview call. We'll need the source's phone number eventually for fact checking, and I'd rather call them directly than have you call me or conference call us all in. Likewise, if that does happen, please don't use the speakerphone. I can't understand everything people say, it's harder to distinguish voices if there's more than one person in the room, and if I'm taping the interview, it's harder to transcribe. Whine, whine, I know, but it's bothersome.

3. Meetings aren't always neat -- or needed

Every month, I get about 100 meeting requests and invitations from people. As much as I like meeting people face to face -- heck, I'm the staff coordinator for the Company of Friends -- meetings aren't always necessary. Most people who want to meet with us are on a media or analyst tour. That means that they've got an agenda, a PowerPoint slide presentation, and a limited message they want to send. Sometimes, that's fine -- like when I'm working on In Gear and want to demo a new tool or technology. But most of the time, it's a waste of time. We don't do product news. We don't do merger news. But we do want to learn about what your company does, how the organization works, and who its thought leaders and change agents are. Be ready to scrap the slides and talk to us like people talk to each other -- freeform, flowing, fun. If you need PowerPoint to get your message across, you're sending the wrong message.

Also, be on time. When we schedule meetings, we often tuck them in to an already-busy day. Most of the time, I set aside 45-60 minutes for meetings with visitors. If you're late, we have less time to talk. Our offices can be a challenge to find because of the Big Dig, but that's why we provide [maps and directions].

And to back up some, when requesting a meeting, please be clear about who's coming, when, and why -- in fact, put all that at the top of your email. I can't even count how many meeting opportunities I've missed because I had to hunt for the visitors' availability details, got frustrated, and set the email aside to read later.


That's not so bad, is it? If it is, I'm sorry. I'm not an ogre. Really. But I do have a lot of work to do, and I know that you do, too. Let's work together.

Seems like there are some consistent, common frustrations among high-profile journalists and editors. In the end, I think it comes down to knowing what a publication covers, knowing how to reach out to, and how. Can that be that hard?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

One Hour for the Future

This evening, I went to the inaugural Jacob K. Javits lecture at NYU. After brief remarks by NYU's president, John Edward Sexton; Marian B. Javits, president of the Marian B. and Jacob K. Javits Foundation; and professor Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, Howard Gardner, author of the new book Five Minds for the Future, gave an "autobiographical" speech largely detailing his professional development and the current state of his ideas and work.

Here's an audio recording of his lecture:

Optimal Subscriptions

According to Advertising Age, Paste magazine is running a subscription promotion in which subscribers can set their own price.

While traveling recently, I picked up an issue of Paste, primarily to gauge its range of music coverage -- and to take advantage of the sampler CD included in the issue. This might be the best part of this subscription promo. Every issue of Paste comes with a sampler CD so you can listen to select musicians and bands featured in a given issue.

That means that whatever price you pay, you get 12 issues of Paste, as well as 12 CDs. That's attractive. So I just signed up. They've set the floor at $1, and people who pay full price will supposedly be named in an upcoming issue. I split the middle and ponied up $10, which is more than fair. I was tempted to pay full price -- I did, after all, have a subscription card filled out and ready to mail that I ended up not sending -- but I didn't want to inflate the expectations of experiments like this.

A good number of people will pay full price -- $19.95 for 12 issues and 12 CDs. And a good number may go for the $1 steal. I'd be curious to see what the bell curve ends up looking like. What's the average price going to be?

Best of luck, Paste. It's a neat thing to try.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Raindrops Keep Falling

Yesterday and today have been quite rainy, and while C. was on her way to meet me to see a screening of the new Coen brothers' movie -- a sneak peek that she got us passes to -- she saw a neat city sight and left me this voicemail:

Voicemail You'll Love
Share this ...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

People Watching

A few weekends ago, Oct. 6, I volunteered for a public survey organized by Gehl Architects and the New York City Department of Transportation. Basically, the Danish architecture firm is helping the city gauge vehicular and pedestrian traffic levels at various intersections in the five boroughs.

Meeting one of the organizers at Worth Square early in the afternoon, I was stationed at four different locations. Position A was on the south side of 34th Street just east of 6th Avenue and Broadway -- across from the tree in front of H&M on the opposite side of the street. Position B was roughly across the street from position A, across from the entrance to the Gap, standing under the H&M sign. Position C was on the west side of 6th Avenue, just uptown from the subway entrance. Position D was across the park, on the east side of Broadway by the fire hydrant in front of the Duane Reade.

Between 2 p.m. and 6:55 p.m., I stood at those four locations, counting pedestrians, cars, and taxis using a six-button Multiple Tally Denominator made by the Denominator Co. in Woodbury, Connecticut. With a Sper Scientific stopwatch (model 810022), I marked off five- and 10-minute intervals at each station, counting people and vehicles that passed by on my side of the street during that timeframe.


  • Count all the pedestrians walking through the street. Count pedestrians in both directions. Count pedestrians on one side of the street.
  • Count children, also children carried by parents.
  • Count people on rollerskates and skateboards as pedestrians.
  • Don't count people on bikes.
  • Use your stopwatch and counter. Check your equipment is working after a couple of minutes.
  • Remember to start from 0 at each count.
  • You don't have to talk to people asking questions, if you are busy. You might need to show your "official letter."

Here's my tally:

Location A
Time intervalsPedestriansVehiclesTaxisNotes

Location B
Time intervalsPedestriansVehiclesTaxisNotes
1710-17154894414Purse vendors there, gone (narrowed way)
1815-18259498911Ice cream truck at corner

Location C
Time intervalsPedestriansVehiclesTaxisNotes
1520-15253437671Car accident: Truck hit and stopped

Location D
Time intervalsPedestriansVehiclesTaxisNotes

During one of the shifts in front of the Duane Reade, I even got to meet Jan Gehl, who's been running Gehl Architects for about seven years now. He was making the rounds himself, taking sample counts at select intersections.

While the work wasn't very difficult, it was a fascinating experience. It was a great excuse to people watch for several hours, and it really brought home that city life and traffic have rhythms and cycles. It'll be interesting to see what comes of the study!

Cracked-ing Up

Last week, I got an item in the mail that surprised and confused me. Not that long ago, a team of people revitalized and relaunched Cracked magazine, perhaps Mad's biggest and longest-running competitor, as a humor magazine more attuned to standup and the old National Lampoon than serial humor comics. Now, after three issues, that experiment has ended.

From the mailing:

Dear Cracked Magazine Reader:

I am sad to say that Cracked Magazine is no more.

Several years ago, we purchased Cracked with the hope to bring it back as a sophisticated version of the original publication. We upgraded the editorial and made it more contemporaneous. We brought in new writers and added a web site. We upgraded the production quality and the distribution. However, to make a long story short -- the magazine failed in large part due to troubles in the magazine business itself. However, on a brighter note, the Cracked website succeeded and will live on under the auspices of Demand Media -- its new owner.

For those current subscribers to Cracked, Teshkeel Media will be fulfilling its subscription responsibilities by delivering copies of The 99 -- a new comic book super hero series. Please checkout Teshkeel and its products at

All of Cracked readers will, of course, still have the option to go to the Cracked website to enjoy the new re-invigorated Cracked in its digital format at:

We want to thank our loyal readers who have enthusiastically cheered us on in our effors to recreate the magazine and who have helped us create the new website.

Thanks to all of you -- Cracked will now live on due to your efforts!

Marc Liu
Cracked Entertainment

I guess I'm not that surprised that the magazine folded. Humor magazines have historically had a hard slog on the newsstand. But the choice of subscription fulfillment replacement is intriguing. The 99 is a popular superhero comic book series in the Middle East, and its writing is heavily influenced by Islam. So the series' launch in the United States is interesting. Similarly, the publisher, Teshkeel, also publishes Marvel, DC, and Archie comics translated into Arabic.

While the replacement is even less appropriate than Enter magazine subscribers having to ride out on 3-2-1 Contact after Enter folded, it's a fascinating example of global publishing and cross-cultural licensing.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

City Speed

My friend Beth emailed me the following bit taken from an old edition of the New York Times:

The pace of life in big cities is faster than it is in small towns -- about 2.8 feet per second faster, according to a study by a Princeton University psychologist and his wife, who is an anthropologist.

By measuring how fast people walk along the main streets of municipalities of varying sizes, they have confirmed what most people have sensed informally. The bigger the city, the faster its inhabitants walk.

They found, for example, that on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, people walk at a brisk 5 feet per second, only a little slower than their counterparts on Wenceslas Square in Prague, who bustle along at 5.8 feet per second.

In contrast to Brooklyn and Prague, both of which have a population of more than a million, the 365 citizens of Psychro, Greece, amble along at 2.7 feet per second and the people of Corte, France (population 5,500) move at 3.3 feet per second.

(New York Times, Feb. 29, 1976, p. 46)

A PDF version of the article is available.

Friday, October 05, 2007

On the Sly Librarian

Earlier this week, I went to an Ipsos Insight breakfast session on their newly available business elite service. It was held at the Yale Club of New York City, and the venue -- which has been located near Grand Central Terminal since 1915 -- is really what attracted me to the event. After all, when invited to the halls of power, go.

After the breakfast, I went to the top floor to the dining room to use the restroom and check out the eating area. Then I went downstairs to the second floor to see the lounge. And before I left, I went back up to the fourth floor to explore the library. While I didn't have much chance to examine the collection closely, I did make the rounds, scanning the shelves -- and I picked up the September 2007 acquisition list on my way out.

How many private or membership-serving libraries are there like this? Do publishers and authors target them as audiences? The Yale Club has a speaker series, and it seems like a good way to get a text in front of an influential audience.

Because the acquisitions list online is about a year out of date, I'll post some of the more recent highlights here:

Lighter reading is also available:

I wish they made their acquisitions list more public more often. Even the Global Business Network's book club is languishing. Harrumph.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Le Chat Lunatique

I've removed the MyCyberTwin icon from the left sidebar, but earlier tonight, I got an alert that someone was chatting with my cyber twin. Here's the exchange:

Wonderer15: hey
Heath: Hey!
Wonderer15: are you real?
Heath: I am a cyber clone but I have been given the ability to interact with you on a human level.
Heath: What's your favorite record?
Wonderer15: i dont know
Heath: Oh, I thought a smart person like yourself might know that.
Wonderer15: but i have a guestion
Heath: Are you happy that you have one of them?
Wonderer15: i have a question
Heath: What do you want to know specifically?
Wonderer15: is it bad if my heart rate is 203 when i run a 10 min mile ?
Heath: Are you giving me your heart? Thanks.

I hope they're OK now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Video Game Warden

This video is a little long at five minutes but still made me smile several times.

My Animated World - video powered by Metacafe

While the life as video game aspect is intriguing, the ambient sound as life soundtrack is even more interesting. What would life be like if there were mood music to match happenstance?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blogging About Blogging LXXXV

Please don't mistake this little outburst of posts as an active return to blogging. I'm still not sure what direction I want to take Media Diet, whether I want to revisit the kinds of posts I'd been doing before my summer "vacation," or whether I want to turn this into a "clog" (column blog) like Randall Rothenberg and Scott Donaton.

The fact that I'm taking cues from those two gents might show where my head's at, but we'll see what happens.

One thing I do know is that Media Diet's design needs a refresh. I've been using the same Blogger template since launch and could use some help updating the look and feel of my blog. If any Media Dieticians would like to volunteer to redo my template, please email me, and we can discuss particulars.

Thanks for reading all these years, and thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

Class Inaction

Due to low enrollment, my NYU course, Enter the Blogosphere, has been canceled. Sadness!

We'll see if I can get back on the teaching tip next semester.

What's the Big Idea?

The Adbusters staff is currently considering what to include in the magazine's upcoming Big Ideas 2008 issue -- and they'd like our help.

What are the Big Ideas that will change the world in 2008? Send us your epiphanies, articles, photographs, artwork, whatever. -- the bigger and bolder they are, the better.

We'd also like your help in putting together a "Best of 2007" section. Who do you think are the best artists of the year, the greatest journalists who broke the most important stories? The book that really inspired you... or the film, the song, the activist, the product, the whistleblower, the environmentalist?

You can email your contributions to the magazine directly. If/when I come up with my list, I'll be sure to post it here, in Media Diet.

Girls on Film

VoiceAmerica Network recently launched FlickChicks, a talk radio show hosted by Roberta Burrows and Manuela Goren. On the program, Burrows and Goren comment on upcoming movies, interview people in the industry, and discuss films with listeners -- on air, as well as in response to listener emails.

To date, the show has touched on The Nanny Diaries, 3:10 to Yuma, In the Shadow of the Moon, and The Bubble. Interviewees have included screenwriter Michael Brandt, The Nanny Diaries's authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, and director Eytan Fox.

FlickChicks airs at 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET on Wednesdays on VoiceAmerica Women's Channel.

While I'm not sure how much attention the program will pay to independent film -- or how they'll approach women's perspectives on movies -- I plan to send the hosts some questions for a brief interview in Media Diet. If you have any questions, feel free to email me or leave your questions in the comments.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Class Action

I'm scheduled to teach Enter the Blogosphere in New York University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies again this fall, and word is that the course is currently undersubscribed.

If you know anyone in the New York area who would benefit from a media studies-styled class looking at the potential and possible pitfalls of blogging as a practice and media, please let them know about the class. I'd like a few more students!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

'Tis the Season to Be... AWOL XXII

It's been awhile since I've taken a break from blogging. So I'm going on summer vacation. I'm going to try not to update Media Diet during the month of August. We'll see what happens when I come back! If you miss me, you know where to find me otherwise.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Video-A-Go-Go-Away XII

Iron Feather Journal Presents:

Commodore 64 Cracker Screens Video

100+ minutes, audio + video =
of cracker intro screens, phreak toolz and demos
from the C-64 underground of 1980's and early 90's

Produced by Towne Club (c)2003 by Iron Feather
Iron Feather Journal POB 1905, Boulder, Colorado, 80306

Video-A-Go-Go-Away XI

Cigarette Commercials
from the Golden Age of Television

Something Weird Video



Cigarette Commercials from the Golden Age of Television

There was a time when it was A-o.k. to have cigarette advertising on television, and here's some of those old commercials that should satisfy that nicotine craving for at least an hour!

You get these brands and many more: Old Gold, Muriel, Marlboro, Kool, Camels, Kents, Winstons, Newports, Tareytons, & Salems. #5236

Package, Design, Summary 1996
Something Weird Video
All Rights Reserved
Recorded in SP mode on high-quality tape
For a complete catalog send $5 to:
PO Box 33664 Seattle, WA 98133
Please state with signature that you are 18 or older!

7 60513 52363 1

Video-A-Go-Go-Away X

Something Weird Video

Teen-Age Schlock Trailers


"Previews of coming attractions"


Rock All Night
The Cool and the Crazy
Hot Car Girl
Young and Wild
Hot Rod Gang
High School Hellcats
Go, Johnny, Go!
Because They're Young
The Choppers
Ride the Wild Surf
Racing Fever
Having a Wild Weekend
Ferry Cross the Mersey
Go-Go Mania
Beach Ball
Winter A-Go-Go
Teenage Gang Debs
Girls on the Beach
Riot on Sunset Strip
Wild in the Streets
The Love-Ins
Let It Be

Reform School
Hey, Let's Twist!
Born Reckless
Senior Prom
Rockabilly Baby
Cry Baby Killer
Going Steady
Live Fast, Die Young
Unwed Mother
Life Begins at 17
Blackboard Jungle
Joy Ride
Sorority Girl
Teen-Age Monster
Speed Crazy
Too Soon to Love
Beach Party
Bikini Beach
Muscle Beach Party
Pajama Party
Ski Party
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini
Dragstrip Girl

Package, Design, Summary 1996
Something Weird Video
All Rights Reserved
Recorded in SP mode on high-quality tape
For a complete catalog send $5 to:
PO Box 33664 Seattle, WA 98133
Please state with signature that you are 18 or older!

7 6051 3 49303 3

The Blessed Land

This was written while in sixth grade, for a class. I think my teacher was named Miss Lindl. Her grading notes written in the margins include "Neatly done," "good word" (for my use of "capitulating"), and "Interesting ideas." The original paragraph breaks have been maintained.

Daimon unsheathed his sword as the kobold approached. A kobold is a fur-covered human with a dog's head. His sword gleamed in the autumn's twilight, but the kobold showed no sign of capitulating. The kobold barked an unknown word and two others appeared. Daimon knew that kobolds were fierce, unmerciful fighters who, after defeating their enemy, promptly ate it. The kobold's approached. Daimon slashed at the one nearest him separating a drooling tongue from its owner. The kobold yelped spitting blood from its mouth. The other kobolds looked at their companion. Was there a hint of fright in their eyes? Yes, there was. Daimon took this chance and attacked the others. He leaped high up in the air slashing downward with his sword. Upward, downward, soon two kobolds lay on the soil-covered ground with blood streaming from their heads. The last one looked at Daimon in panic and quickly ran away.

Daimon stood there for a moment, catching his breath. Soon, he washed himself off in a nearby stream. As he looked up he saw a hint of smoke just above the treeline. He gathered up his weapons and equipment. As he walked through the forest the hint of smoke grew. Daimon walked into a clearing. There was a crude hut made of branches. The roof was pine branches covered with clay for waterproofing. Out of a primitive chimney ran a stream of oddly colored smoke. On the side of the hut was a humongous pile of wood. A door was slightly ajar letting a strong voice's singling be heard. Here is what Daimon heard.

Across the valleys, green and wide.
Across the forests, tall and proud.
Across the oceans, blue and grand.
Lies the blessed land.
Yes, the blessed land.

Promised to us long ago.
By the roaming gods who know.
What it is like to go.
To the blessed land.
Yes, the blessed land.

But, now the great ones, they are dead.
All we need is a dragon's head.
To open up the doorway.
To the blessed land.
Yes, the blessed land.

Finally the song ended. The voice from inside the cabin said, "What's that lad? You think someone's come a-waiting? Well, by all means, go welcome our guest!"

Daimon was very much surprised when the blink dog appeared. A blink dog is a dog who can teleport from one place to another. Daimon was very much enthralled by the singing, but his train of thought was totally disrupted when the blasted dog appeared in front of him. As Daimon drew his sword the dog just flashed to somewhere else! Daimon was quite perturbed. He sheathed his sword as a kindly old man appeared in the doorway. "Yo ho! Me laddie's greeted you! Well, come in, come in." Daimon dumbly stumbled forward. Soon he was in the old man's hut. On one wall was a cupboard. On teh other wall was a cane table with a candle on it. Next to that was a bed. Across the room was a table with two chairs at it. "Sit down!" Daimon did. "What's your name?"

"Uhhh... my name is Daimon. Who are you?"

"My name is Alexander. I am a member of the Bear clan, but they banished me because I dabbled in magic and the unknown."

"Well, uh... Alexander, I'm just looking for my father and mother."

"What happened to them lad?"

"Well, last year, our village's harvest was going very poorly. Many months had gone without rain. Our elders blamed the drought on Darkfox, the evil weather wizard. The council held a vote to see who would venture to his castle and defeat Darkfox. My father was chosen. My mother insisted she went with him. They left me with the herbist, Leif Johnson, so someone would take care of me. In April of this year, I decided to go look for my parents."

"Well, you may stay for the night with me. I'm sure me laddie won't mind. Will ye?" He laid his hand on the dog's head. The dog blinked out and appeared on Daimon's lap. Daimon fell backwards surprised. "Ha, ha. Well. Would ye care for a bite to eat?" Daimon nodded. The man got up and walked to the cupboard. He brought back a wooden bowl filled with stew. "Just cooked it before ye came." He set it down on the table in front of Daimon. In moments Daimon had finished the heavily spiced stew.

"Alexander, what was the 'blessed land' you were singing of?"

"My homeworld."

"What do you mean?"

"Many centuries ago, my clan lived in a world Greyland. Greyland is on a different plane than this world. Our oracles told me that very powerful wizards were having a war down on this plane. Our world was constantly falling apart and changing because of their magic. Our most powerful magic-user's opened up a drift in time, or a portal, to your plane. We came through to here to try to stop the are. After the war the portal was destroyed."


"Well, an evil wizard named Blackbird created an evil land where the terrain is ever changing. You see, his land is where our portal was."

"Oh, what's a plane?"

"You see, our universe has many planes, or levels of existence. The higher a plane is the [more] advanced its culture and people are. The lower, the less."

"Where are we located?"

"Somewhere in the middle."

"Why did your clan banish you?"

"They're not my original family, really. As we went through the portal, I was thrown through a mindwall. A mindwall is a wall built of mental energy. It sent me to a primitive part of your world."

"I see. How far are we from the top plane?"

"This world is fifth down."

"How many are there in all?"

"There are nine."

"Oh. I see," Daimon said. "Thank you for the stew, it was very good."

"Your welcome." Alexander picked up the bowl and walked over to a basin of water. Soon he had rinsed it. "Well, it's getting dark, we should build the fire."

"I'll go get the wood for you." Daimon walked out and went over to the wood pile. He heard a growling noise. Then there was a crackling of leaves. He looked in front of him and saw a huge monstrosity rushing him. "It's an owlbear!" he yelled. He drew his sword and slashed at the creature. His sword bounced off its hide. The owlbear tackled him and Daimon hit his head against a log. Blackness overcame him.


Daimon woke up to find himself in a bed. He sat up and pain surged through his body. He fell back with a groan. "What happened?"

"Don't try to speak. I heard your yell and ran out to find an owlbear on top of you. I scared him away and dressed up your shoulder."

"What happened to my shoulder?" He touched it and groaned.

"Don't touch it yet, Daimon. The owlbear ripped it up."

"How'd you scare it?"

"I told you I dabbled in magic. I just created a phantasmal force."

"Oh." Daimon's vision started getting blurry.

"You're delerious. Close your eyes and relax." Soon Daimon was asleep. Alexander walked over to a chest by the table and opened it. He pulled out a book and opened it. He started reading aloud. A glow surrounded him. In a moment he was gone and a small, winged cat appeared in his place. The cat opened the door and sunlight streamed in. It spread its wings and flew away. The door closed silently behind him.

The hilly terrain passed quickly under Alexander. The trees were a dark green blur. The cat, Alexander, sniffed the air and changed its course slightly. Soon, the cat was flying over a large lake. Suddenly, the cat's wings stopped flapping. There was a flash and a screaming Alexander, plunged into the icy water.

A canoe left the shore. A frightened Indian paddled quickly out towards where Alexanger fell. He grabbed a branch and fished around in the water. In a minute a drenched man lay panting in the canoe. The Indian paddled into shore, and ran into a hut. The Indian, and another man came outside. They picked up and carried Alexander into the hut.


Daimon woke up and glanced around. Where was Alexander? He got up and ran outside. He looked around the hut. He ran out into the forest. He heard a twig snap. Daimon whirled around to have a wooden club brought down on top of his head. Daimon blacked out.


Alexander cam to to find himself in a very dark place. Pain surged through his mind. He had flown into a mindwall! Impossible! They only appeared in between planes he had thought. Someone must have built it up for a special purpose. He must find out what it is! He heard a groan. He stumbled through the darkness. He bumped into something. A cot? Yes! There's a man laying on it. Alexander lit a piece of tinder. The light shone on the man's face. It was Daimon.

Alexander made sure he had everything that he had taken from his hut. He shook Daimon. Daimon groaned and rolled over. Alexander slapped Daimon. Daimon sat up and looked around panicing. He saw Alexander and said, "What happened?"

"It seems you were hit on thead my friend."

"Why did you leave?"

"I had an errand to run. I flew into a mindwall and ended up here."


"I have many different bodies."

"I see. Ouch!" Daimon rubbed his head and lay back down. Alexander walked around looking for a fireplace. He found one and lit a small fire. The fire's glow produced enough light for reading so he got out his spell book. He started studying some spells.


The Indian guard was quite mad. He was asking a girl to marry him when the chief came up and asked him to go keep watch on two stupid prisoners! He stomped over to the hut and noticed that inside there was a fire going. He opened the door and walked in. No sign of the prisoners. Could they have escaped? Couldn't have. He turned around to walk out. A silvery blade sliced through the air. He never knew what hit him.

Alexander and Daimon crept out of the hut and ran toward the woods. A shower of arrows flew through the air. An Indian's shout could be heard above the din of evasion and pursuit. The Indians let the two run on. No use chasing them.

"Boy!" Daimon panted. "Are they still chasing us?"

"I don't... think so," Alexander said as he ran. "Let's stop at the next clearing." They kept on running until they came to a huge open area. "Whew!"

"That was close."

"Yeah. Oh my."

"Let's rest awhile."

"Good idea," Alexander said. The two men lay down on the soft grass. Soon, both were asleep.

A few hours later they awoke. It was dark out and the forest's night noises filled the air. "Let's start a fire," Alexander said.

"No the Indians'll see it. We better go back to your hut."

"Okay." The two men started walking through the forest. After many hours of walking Alexander said, "It seems that we're not going in the correct direction. I[t] seems like the path keeps changing to a different direction after we pass over it!"

"Yes, wemust have ran off in the wrong direction. Let's just walk over this hill and then look around."

"Okay." They climbed quickly to the top of the hill. On the horizon they could see the crumbling remains of a once majestic castle. The rising sun shone on the ruins. Shadows played with the men's eyes, distorting the true shapes of the castle. "Daimon, if I remember correctly, this is the ancient ruin of Castle Erorn. Millenia ago, the great wizards created this as a gateway to different planes."

"How could they do that?"

"You see, they built a similar castle on every plane of existance. The wizards then blessed every castle at the same time. Therefore a magic portal was crated."

"Let's go look around." Daimon started walking down the hill.

"Watch out for the guardian!"

"What?" A screech filled the air. A leathery flap of wings accompanied it. Daimon looked up to see a gargoyle swooping down toward him. He drew his sword.

"Don't let your eyes look at the beast!"

"What?" Daimon turned around. All he saw was the gargoyle's gleaming eyes. A violent sensation swept through Daimon's body. He had turned to stone. Alexander grabbed his dagger from the folds of his robe. The gargoyle's claws raked his flesh, ripping the flesh to shreds. Alexander fell down panting. The gargoyle ripped open his throat and flew off.

Minutes later a beautiful woman appeared in the doorway of the ruins. Daimon's mother wept.


This was probably written around the same time as the previous post. The original paragraph breaks have been maintained. "Wagner Bros." is a reference to a grade school friend, Alan Wagner. Other friends from the time are mentioned by name. Alan and I used to draw at school together. I actually drew issues of some of the comic books mentioned.

Hello, I am Heath Row; Editor of "Exciting Comics Company." Have you ever read a "Wagner Bros." comic? Most people haven't. I admit, I have. But I threw it away after I finished the first page. But my company's comic books are great. They are printed on high-class quality "Xerox" paper. They are also colored. They star heroes like "Blooperman," "Laserman," etc. But, who ever heard of "Hose-nose the Kleenex king"? Who ever read a comic book called "The American Aardvarks vs. The German Gerbils"? I haven't. Also, he wants companies like "Marvel," "D.C.," and "Whitman" to go out of business! I think those three companies are the best, next to me, of course. Also, my company features artists such as Eric Hendreksin, Andy Nelson and me. But, his artists are him, him, and him. Also, his company is called "Wagner Bros." I'm surprised he hasn't gotten sued by "Warner Bros." yet. But, my company's name is original.

His comic books cost 60c while mine cost $1.25. I mean, 60c doesn't make his comics sound very good. But $1.25 makes my comics sound great, superb, fantastic! Usually people buy something because it costs more. I mean, if "Brand F" cost $2.00 and "Brand A" cost $10.00. The person'd probably buy "Brand A" because they figure it's better quality. Also, my comics are sold at drug stores while his are sold at laundrymats! Who'd buy a comic at a laundrymat?

He once said, "Give me comic books or give me rocks!" Even though they gave him rocks he was brave. Bah! He already had rocks in his head. But his comics are okay. At least he doesn't publish parodies of my comics. Well, comic book readers of America; this is is why I think you should vote for me as "Comic Book Editor Of the Century." Thank you.

Alan, if you somehow come across this, email me. I'm curious what you're up to!

Halloween Night

I wrote this story around 1983, when I was 10 years old. I would have been in fourth grade. Paragraph breaks have been added to ease reading.

Beware, for tomorrow is October 31st. Halloween night, the worst night of the year! Halloween is a time of zombies, ghosts, and last, but not least, the living dead. Now that you know what to watch out for, let's zap to October 31st. There now, here we are. Sit back, get comfortable, and keep calm, if you can! Ohhhhha-ha-ha-ha!


It was October 31st, 1983. It was about 9:04 p.m. My mother had just told me to go to bed. But, I couldn't sleep. I got out of bed and walked towards my closet. I opened it, and stepped in. I turned around and shut the closet door. I sat down on the closet floor and closed my eyes. In a few minutes, I was asleep.

When I opened my eyes, I was in a room unlike any other room I'd seen but quite familiar. The room had one window, one door, one closet, and a table with a lamp, pad of paper and a pen. I walked over toward the window and tried to open it. It opened easily enough, but, when the window was open fully, the room lit up so bright I had to close my eyes. I slammed the window shut, and the light began to dim. I started to walk toward the door. As I heard a loud click, I started running toward the door. It had locked.

I ran toward the table and turned on the lamp. I wrote on the pad, "Help! I am being held prisoner in a room with one window." I put the pen down and picked up the letter. I folded it over as I walked towards the window. I opened it just enough to slip the paper through and shut it before the light got too bright.

I walked over to the corner of the room and waited for something to happen. In a few minutes nothing had happened so I sat down to rest awhile. As I was falling asleep, I was awakened by the sound of wood splintering or splitting. I looked toward the closet to see a bald man with a pale face, bloodshot eyes, and clothing torn to shreds. The zombie was walking toward me with his arms outstretched, ready to strangle me.

I ran to the other side of the room while the zombie said, "You try to escape your fate. You don't like me." The zombie turned around and started walking toward me again. It got closer and closer. Just as it grabbed at my throat, I ducked and ran through his legs toward the window. I stood, back to the window as the zombie screamed and started running toward me. Just as it reached my throat, I ducked and the zombie flew through the window.

After a few minutes of silence the door swung open. I walked slowly toward the door suspecting a trick. As I got to the door, I looked cautiously out and around. Outside the door was a hall that looked like it went on forever. At the end of the hall was a door. I stood looking at the door, wondering how long it would take me to walk down the hall.

I started to run down the hall. I got to the other door in at least a few seconds. I leaned against the door and thought about the hall for a few seconds. Before I turned around the door swung open, and I fell into the room. As I hit the floor, the door slammed shut and clicked loudly. I got up, dusted myself off and looked around the room.

Again there was 1 window, 1 door, 1 closet, but instead of a table in the center there was a bed with a pillow, a sheet, and a blanket on it. I walked over to the closet and opened it hoping not to find a zombie ready to strangle me.

Relieved that I hadn't found anything, I locked and shut the closet door. As I walked over to the bed, I took off my shirt and threw it across the room. When I got to the bed, I took off a candle out of my pocket and placed it on the bed board in case I needed some light. Then I got in bed and dosed off.

I was awakened by the squeak of a door opening. I struck a match and lit the candle. I pulled the blanket up to my chin and looked around the room again. The window slowly opened by itself. A gust of wind blew through the window and snuffed my candle out. I jumped up and stood on the bed looking around frantically.

At the foot of the bed I saw someone or something materialize out of nothing. The thing had a face badly burned and it was swinging an ax at the air. "Wh-who are you? Wh-what are you doing here?" I asked it frantically. The thing groaned back, "I-i am h-here to k-kill you dor the p-p-pain you have c-caused me."

The thing swung its ax at me. I jumped and placed a drop kick at the thing's chin. The thing materialized and laughed like a maniac. I felt the ax singe a few of my hairs. I jumped from the bed and ran towards the closet. I opened the closet and waited. I felt the thing run at me. I dodged and shut the closet door. Then I locked it. I ran over to the door as the creature screamed, "Noooooooooo!" I opened the door and ran down the hall.

This time the hall looked short but was very long. The hall was very damp as if it were underground. At the end of the hall was a spiral staircase. Upon reaching the bottom of the staircase, I saw a bookcase. I walked up to the bookcase and took out a book. The bookcase swung open like a door. Behind the bookcase was a dimly lit staircase. I dropped the book and started to walk down the staircase.

About halfway down the staircase, there was a twelve foot gap, and then more stairs. I backed up a few stairs, then I started to run down the stairs. At the bottom of the first section of stairs, I jumped, hoping to hurdle the great chasm. But, to my surprise I didn't even make it halfway across.

I fell round and down, round and down. Then I hit something. Soon, I blacked out. When I regained consciousness, I saw that I had fallen in a mud puddle. I stood up and looked around. I looked like I was in a cemetary. It was raining and it was very foggy. The fog, rain, and shadows made the gravestones look like monsters. I heard a noise like leaves rustling under someone's feet. I turned around to see a man in torn clothing walking towards me.

He looked alive, but yet quite dead. I turned around and ran into another. I fell down, but I got back up and ran to the side. I ran into another, fell backwards, bumped into another, and fell forwards into a mud puddle. They looked at me with eyes full of hatred and moaned. I sat there and covered my eyes with my hands waiting for them to get it over with.

The next thing I knew I was in my closet screaming. I got up, walked out of my closet and turned on a light. In my hand was a piece of paper folded over saying, "Help! I am being held prisoner in a room with one window." It was all a dream, or was it?


Pretty scary story, eh? Oh, before you leave, Happy Halloween! Ohhhhha-ha-ha-ha!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Booknook Perhapsness

When LibraryThing launched, I signed up, but did nothing. When Shelfari launched, I did the same. When Goodreads launched, I did more, and I'm trying to figure out why.

It might have been because a friend who'd added a lot of books invited me to Goodreads, so when I joined, I added a handful, too. For the others, I was friendless and didn't have that inspiration or model to follow. Now, I have a couple of friends in Shelfari, but no books. And I have one friend who actively used LibraryThing, but no books.

I've put my energy into Goodreads. This introduces a quandary -- and a possible solution.

When this happens, this happens a lot. And in this age of Web 2.0 creativity, the chances of being introduced to similar services in short order increases. What to do? As things are, we must choose. Which platform do we choose? Why? Is it because of how many friends we have there? How many books we've listed? Personal preferences for the features and functions?

The possible solution might be something akin to the Friend of a Friend project. Just as we're struggling with how to keep our social networking service friends lists consistent -- which, honestly, I don't think is all important, we might want to keep our other shared lists consistent.

In the case of books, versus friends, I think the need might be stronger. I haven't taken the time to look into whether the three bookshelf management tools I've mentioned offer list export and import options. If they don't they should. That begs the idea of list consistency so exports and imports can include similar data fields and, therefore, consistency.

Are switching costs so high -- or value of service exclusivity so high -- that this is a bad idea? I don't think so. If I could export and import my lists at will, I'd maintain all services equally. I'd probably, as I suggested tonight to my friend who's a LibraryThing fiend, maintain one predominately and consistently... and then update the others occasionally. There's little downside to anyone following this approach, just upside.

Is anyone working on this? Does anyone else perceive it to be a problem and opportunity? Which one of these services do you use?


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Today (A Song Fragment)

I find this handwritten lyric sheet in an old milk crate of zines, comics, and personal papers. The Anchormen never finished or performed this song.

I wake up in the morning
and I go right back to bed
I look into the mirror
and I look like living dead

I don't even want to go outside
I just want to stay inside today
Inside today x3

I'm sitting at the table
and looking at the bowl
It's full of Frankenberry
But I'm feeling kind of full

I don't even, even want to eat
I'm too full of myself and me
Myself today x3

Why oh why -- why is everything
Why oh why -- against me
Why oh why -- I don't know
Why oh why -- I've got nowhere to go
Nowhere to go x3

I look outside the window
and I see you on the street
You've got my necklace on
And you're in your stocking feet

But I don't really, really miss your ???
I've got a bad case of the miss you blues today
Miss you today x3

I hear the doorbell ring
ringing loud and clear
my heart begins its singing
my mind introduces fear

I don't know why, why I think it's you
But I hope that, hope that it's true today
It's true today x3


And now you're in my kitchen
We're cooking up a storm
I think it's pretty bitchen
??? my heart is fiery warm

I don't know if we're missing any spice
But I think that, that it's nice today
It's nice today x3

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Poem for Sunday

Afternoon air smells of smoke
Burning rubber, tarpaulins
If cottonwood were ashy snow
Then dish-filled sinks would crust with ice
New leaves pale, green, and sky hangs gouached
While Bobbie Gentry sings her songs

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Event-O-Dex XXXIII

Wednesday, July 11: Bernardine Dohrn, "Sing a Battle Song: The Revolutionary Poetry, Statements, and Communiques of the Weather Underground" reading, 7 p.m., Bluestockings, 172 Allen St., New York. This book collects the three complete and unedited publications produced by the Weather Underground during their most active period.

Thursday, July 12: Patton Oswalt, 8 p.m., Sound Fix, Brooklyn. From the invite: "The famed funnyman ... makes his ONLY New York appearance of this tour, for his official album release show."

Friday, July 13: "Lenin For Your Library?" book launch and discussion, 7 p.m., Orchard, 47 Orchard St., New York. From the invite: "The project Lenin For Your Library? began in Spring 2005 when Yevgeniy Fiks sent one hundred copies of Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism by V.I. Lenin to the addresses of major global corporations (Gap, Coca-Cola, General Electric, and IBM among many others) with an enclosed letter, offering the book as a donation to the corporate library. Out of one hundred copies sent, fourteen were acknowledged with "thank you" letters. Seventeen were returned with letters stating various reasons for rejection (focus of library collection, policy of not accepting gifts or donations from private individuals, est.). The fate of the remaining sixty-nine copies remains unknown. ... The original 31 letters received from the corporations will be on display at Orchard during the event."

Sunday, July 22: Peter Kuper and Kevin Pyle reading, 7 p.m., Bluestockings, 172 Allen St., New York. World War 3 Illustrated co-editors unveil their latest graphic novels, "Stop Forgetting to Remember" and "Blindspot."

Monday, July 02, 2007

Video-A-Go-Go-Away IX

Fast Company Videos

1. Out Takes
RealTime New Orleans
December 1998

2. Fast Company
Holiday Video
December 2000

3. Fast Talk

4. Fast Company Presents Jim Collins Live: Good to Great

"Imagine you have three circles, and your task is to find the intersection of all three. One circle is what you are absolutely passionate about. The second is those things you were genetically encoded to do. The third is what people will pay you to do. The secret, then, is to find the intersection of all three." -- Jim Collins

"Can that which is good or mediocre ever change itself to become great?" -- Jim Collins, RealTime Phoenix

"To me, entrepreneurship is about carving a path that is so idiosyncratically you that it fits you like a glove." -- Jim Collins, RealTime Phoenix

To continue the conversation, go to
For more information on RealTime and other Fast Company events, visit
To order additional copies, visit

The following is a presentation given by Jim Collins at RealTime Phoenix on October 31, 2000. Jim Collins operates a management-research laboratory in Boulder, Colorado and is coauthor of "Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies." His new book, "Good to Great," will be published shortly by HarperBusiness. More information about Jim Collins and his work can be found at

Sponsors for RealTime Phoenix: Discover, HP. MarchFirst, Sony, Steelcase

Video-A-Go-Go-Away VIII

The Best of Flipside Video
Circle Jerks
Bad Religion
(New Improved Re-release)

60 mins.

Live in L.A./1984!

Bad Religion:

Damned to Be Free*
Along the Way/Frogger*
Drastic Action
Fuck Armageddon/New Leaf
Bad Religion/Politics
Voice of God Is Government
Latch Key Kids/Slaves

Circle Jerks:

I Just Want Some Skank
Beverly Hills/Operation
Leave Me Alone/Coup d'Etat*
Junk Mail/Stars and Stripes*
Behind the Door
Wild in the Streets*
Red Tape/Wasted
Backs Against the Wall
Question Authority
Political Stu
Letter Bomb/In Your Eyes
Murder the Disturbed
Under the Gun
When the Shit Hits the Fan*
Parade of the Horribles
I Don't Care/Live Fast Die Young
Put a Little Love in Your Heart*

(*Not included on previous release)

All rights reserved. Copyright 1995 Flipside Video. Made in USA!

Send S.A.S.E. for a catalog of videos, CDs, mags, etc.

Flipside, POB 60790
Pasadena, CA 91116

Video-A-Go-Go-Away VII

Trolleys of New England
Volume Two
Southern New England

Trolleys in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island
From films taken between 1936 and 1962

A Production of the
Seashore Trolley Museum

63 Minutes
B/W & Color

This video presents many of the trolley lines that ran in southern New England during the 1930s.

We start at New Haven, Connecticut to see the open cars in Yale Bowl Service in the 1930s. We head north to Hartford to see trolley operations in the capital city before conversion to buses in 1941. Check out an unusual freight move on the Glastonbury line. We also stop in New Britain in 1937 for the last day of streetcar operations.

We proceed north into Massachusetts for visits to Springfield, Worcester, Boston and New Bedford. We also see operations of the American Car Sprinkler Company, the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company, the Grafton and Upton Railroad and the Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway.

We then pay a brief visit to Providence, Rhode Island for a look at trolley operations there in the 1930s.

This video features black & white and color film in 8 and 16 mm., accompanied by music and narration.

This program runs for approximately 63 minutes.

This program is produced for the New England Electric Railway Historical Society Inc., owner and operator of the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine.

(c) 2000, NEERHS, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this program may be used without the expressed written permission of the NEERHS.

For information on the Seashore Trolley Museum or our other video titles, please write to the Seashore Trolley Museum, P.O. Box A, Kennebunkport, ME 04046-1690, or telephone the Museum at (207) 967-2712. On the Web visit


Video-A-Go-Go-Away VI

Teenage A Go-Go

Teenage related television show openings/closings, clips & commercials from the 60's and early 70's.

Hullabaloo (Brylcream)
Rice Krispies (Partridge Family)
Cover Girl (Susan Dey)
Ultra-Bright (Farrah)
Kool-Aid (Monkees)
Happening '69 (Cover Girl)
Beech-Nut Gum (Four Seasons)
Summer Blonde
Code 10
Secret Agent (Pillsbury)
Old Spice
Groom & Clean
American Bandstand '64
Clark's Teaberry Gum
Karen (Coke)
Patty Duke Show (Breck)
Raisin Bran (Pixie, Dixie & Mr. Jinx)
Where The Action Is (Bit-O-Honey)
Great Shakes
Vespa Motor Scooters
Hollywood A Go-Go
English Leather
Rice Krispies (Monkees)
Ultra-Bright (Maud Adams)
Swingin' Together
Breck Shampoo (Patty Duke)
Cover Girl (Dorothea McGowan)
Monkees (Kellogg's)
Shindig! (Str-dex)
Sea & Ski
Something Else (American Dairy)
Where The Action Is (Closing)

Running Time: 1 hour

I think I got mine from Cool Stuff Toys and Videos.

Video-A-Go-Go-Away V

Dame Darcy
The celebrated artiste is now appearing in
Turn of the Century
May we suggest you attend?

The House of Luxury

Join Meatcake cartoonist Dame Darcy at the strangest variety show of all time on Turn of the Century. With ghosts, frying feet, crooners, doppelgangers, and cryptic film making, this cult hit program from late night NYC will pull your leg and twist your mind with its delirious vision of Victorianism run amok. Turn of the Century is relentlessly bizarre -- and relentlessly fun!

"Dame Darcy -- (her) Turn of the Century obsessions make her the cutest and cuddliest corpse that's ever walked the earth." NY Press

A Thrilling spectacle direct from Gotham!
You must be witness to this fracas!

Dame Darcy

reputed scion of the assassin booth
and artiste long associated
with the comic series


now starring in an amusing program of
high stepping action you will not forget!

Hi Jink

of a most extraordinary nature via that
marvel of today ie television!


suitable for both gents and the ladies
no touts or rough sports need attend!
Miss her feats and friends at your own


See the dolls living and otherwise!
For those with a taste for fancy goods
A non pareil of song, burlesque and mayhem
from the latenight NYC variety show
"Turn of the Century"!

Will you dare too look?

Running time: 90 minutes
(c) 1997 Dame Darcy
Produced by Blessed Elysium
Published by The House of Luxury
Manufactured in the U.S.A.
Cover Photo: Rustyn Birch
Package Creative: Devon!
Package Production: Amy Hayes
For quantity discounts contact:
The House of Luxury,
Box 763. Lyons, CO 80540
To order single copies send
$21.95 to: Dame Darcy, Box 730,
New York, NY 10009

ISBN: 1-56455-2756

Handwritten on tape shell:

Turn of the Century
"Best of"
Vol. 1 & 2
Dame Darcy (c) 1997