Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Zine World Wide Web

Julie brought to my attention today that the catalog and index of my zine donations to DePaul University is now available as a PDF download.

For going on 10 years now, I've been sending them every zine and zine-related correspondence and ephemera I gather for inclusion in their zine collection, which was sparked by the 1994 (or so) Underground Press Conference. They primarily collect zines from the Midwest, but because I send them correspondence and ephemera, they include everything I send.

They've done a good job annotating many of the items I've donated to date, and it makes me want to send them the three-plus boxes of material I've gathered and packed since my last donation. I've been a bad reviewer for Zine World in recent months, so much so that I was dropped from the volunteers list in the most recent edition, and I'm somewhat sheepish about my missed deadlines and backlog of material on which to comment.

But this collection matters and is available for people to explore. And that's a good thing.

In other zine news, I finally met Brett Leveridge, the mind behind BrettNews, last night. We traded zines and letters years ago -- so long ago that he didn't even remember me. That makes me think two things. One, the zines you made 13 years ago don't matter much now. And two, the people you meet through the media you make are worth keeping in touch regardless of the media you're making. Brett's a wonderful man, and I've been a dolt to let him fall by the wayside.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Happy Birthday to Media Dieticians XXIV

I turn 34 years old today. Happy birthday to me!

So far, I've received email greetings from David Lidsky, James Shaw, Courtney Pulitzer, Clint Schaff, and Ted Rubin.

Thanks, all!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Clocking In

For the last few days, I've been reading Cory Doctorow's new collection of short fiction, Overclocked (Thunder's Mouth Press). It's been one of the first things I've looked forward to in the morning -- reading it while waiting for and riding the subway to work -- and one of the last things I've done each day -- reading it before sleep.

Because the six stories in the book have all been published elsewhere, chances are good that at least one or two will be familiar. Apparently, that's OK, because even though I'd previously read "I, Robot," I caught myself rereading it with glee despite the fact that I knew exactly what was going to happen. It might be the case that -- in Cory's writing, as well as in the future itself -- it's not just what happens... but how it happens. His stuff holds up under the pressure of memory.

But it was one of the stories I haven't previously read that I found the most enjoyable, effective, and affecting. "After the Siege," in part inspired by his grandmother's survival of Hitler's invasion of Stalingrad, is the kind of short story that holds your attention, your imagination, and your affection all at the same time. At times, I'm irritated by how preachy Cory can be in his infopolitics, but in this story, he shows us that his heart is as big as his brain and his hopes for society.

Congratulations, Cory. Each of these stories was an accomplishment in their own right when they were first published, and in book form, they become an accomplishment in the aggregate. And the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Thanks for the good reads -- and rereads.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Steal These Ideas

While waiting for a colleague to finish printing a PowerPoint presentation that was taking forever to print, I came up with the following ideas. If you're able to use them, feel free to do so!

Smart Printer Routing
In a networked printer environment, it'd be great if, when printing, the network gauged whether a printer was in use, how long its queue was, how complex the documents being printed are -- and routed a printout accordingly. If I'd known that the printer I normally use was already in use -- and would take a long time to become available -- I'd have selected another printer and walked a little farther. The network could make that decision for me and then tell me where to go to pick up my pages.

In-Stream Paper Reloading
When a printer runs out of paper, you need to refill it. That's obvious. What's not obvious is why this need to interrupt the printing process. What if printers told you when they reached a certain threshold of available paper, maintained a reservoir of 25 pages or so, and let you refill the paper while the printer was still printing? That way, you could reload the printer without interrupting your print job. Similarly, when you go to print a document, the network could tell you whether the printer was out of paper -- or needing to be refilled. Too often have I printed something, gone to the printer, and had to refill the paper.

My coworker and I had to laugh. You know you're a geek when ideas like this come to you while waiting for the printer. And it'd kind of sad that this even matters to me. But these ideas would make printers better, no?

Friday, February 16, 2007

On Serendipitous Browsing

I've been online since about 1988. I started by dialing into Mac- and Commodore 64-oriented BBS's, and when I went to college in 1991 I started digging into the Internet proper. While hanging out with Noel Hidalgo in Chelsea the other afternoon, I bemoaned the passing of Lynx, Gopher, Archie, and Veronica. And tonight, I'm kicking around with two new tools -- and remembering my first journalism job.

In 1995, when I graduated from college, I had two requirements for my first post-graduate job: It not be at a newspaper (in my senior year, I'd discovered the joys of magazining) and it bring me free Internet access. I ended up at Online Access magazine, working with a staff of less than 10 in a small office building in River North, Chicago.

While at Online Access, I edited the HotList section, in which I reviewed and oversaw the review of 300 online services, Web sites, and other online resources. And that aspect of my job changed how I looked at and thought about the Internet. In the beginning of what some might call the commercial Web, everything mattered. The first search engines and directories, like Yahoo, even the first weblogs, were built on the idea that every new Web page was important, exciting, and deserving of recognition. But when you critically consider 300-plus sites a month, quality becomes more and more important.

That said, the early days were days of serendipity. Every link could take you somewhere new, teach you something exciting, introduce you to someone fascinating. Today, the Web is much the same, but the leisure of serendipitous browsing -- of being a Web tourist -- is a more rare opportunity. Our Web use is much more targeted, our threshold for crap much higher, and our time and media attention much more scarce and fragmented.

So it's been with interest and some reminiscence that I've been playing with two new tools (new to me, at least): Medium and StumbleUpon. Both work radically differently, but both bring back some of the once social serendipity of early Web reading.

Medium -- my handle is h3athrow, like it is in most places -- allows you to install a sidebar in which you can keep track of what Web sites you're exploring, as well as what sites other Medium users are using at the same time. I'm not entirely sold on Medium's potential yet, but one of the two capabilities intrigues me. For the most part, I'm not benefitting from the social surfing: If you see that people you know are on a specific Web page, you can go there, too, and join a site-specific real-time chat. Right now, I don't know enough people to take advantage of that. What I can take advantage of, however, is the serendipitous browsing aspect. By seeing what pages people are paying attention to while I'm online, I can learn about new sites and services. For the most part, the sites are knowns -- Digg, Flickr, Blogger, Google (most people seem to use Google) -- but occasionally, I check on other pages that pop up. Additionally, it's useful as a shared presence indicator and social outlet. Many newcomers use the chat for general discussion, and you can occasionally find a conversation worth participating in. The other night, a user was looking for a free copy of the documentary Jesus Camp. It's commercially available for $20, and we debated the merits of BitTorrent versus supporting independent filmmakers.

And today, I started to use StumbleUpon. That tool is another browser add on that helps you find Web sites you might not be actually looking for. When you sign up, you select topics and categories that you're interested in, and when you activate the toolbar button, it takes you a page about a topic you've selected. It's less random than Blogger's Next Blog option, which can make for an occasional ramble of worth, and it's more random than Google's I'm Feeling Lucky button, which is based on your search query. I've yet to explore StumbleUpon's Friends feature, so I'm not sure of the social possibilities of this serendipitous browsing tool, but I think that Medium and StumbleUpon, if used in conjunction, could prove particularly promising.

In fact, I'm considering the idea of Medium-driven StumbleUpon tours. What if a handful of Medium users participated in a real-time StumbleUpon session, sharing URLs and conversation about the sites discovered? What kinds of connections and comparisons could be made? What could be learned?

If you're interested in participating in this, let me know, and I'll consider scheduling a Web tour. Might be a kick.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Magazinedex: Rock Video (July 1984)

Cover: David Lee Roth. Cover price: $2.25. Cover lines: More No-No Videos!! Under 17 Not Admitted, Unless Accompanied by This Magazine / Over 100 Color Photos! / New Wave Video Stars / Van Halen's David Lee Roth / Giant Pull-Out Posters: Eurythmics, U2 Plus Scenes from All Their Videos! / A Shocking Interview with David Lee Roth by Lisa Robinson / Not Invited to Michael Jackson's Million-$$ Party? See What You Missed (Page 13) / Complete Videography: The Who / Plus: Duran Duran, Toni basil, Art of Noise, ZZ Top

Inside Cover: Ad for 10 Giant Rock Posters! Full Color! featuring four back issues of Rock Poster Magazine and a coupon addressed to Starlog Press in New York, NY

P. 3: Ad for Rock 'n' Read books featuring David Bowie, Rod Stewart, the Beatles, and others and a coupon addressed to Starlog Press

P. 4: Masthead and table of contents. Publishers: Norman Jacobs and Kerry O'Quinn, Editor: Danny Fields, Video Critic: Jim Bessman, Art Director: W.R. Mohalley. Published by Lamplight Enterprises Inc., 475 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016

P. 5: "Video Lowdown" by Jim Bessman -- news items on video LPs, promotions, media coverage of music videos, and controversies

P. 9: Ad for Rock Video Back Issues! Now Available! with a coupon addressed to Starlog Press

P. 11: Ad for Rock Video T-Shirts & Jackets! with s coupon addressed to Starlog Press

P. 12: Michael's Million $$ Party feature including stills from a video tape taken of the event

P. 14: "What You Can't See on MTV" by Jonathan Gross -- before and after censored scenes from videos by Peter Godwin, the Rolling Stones, Golden Earring, and Mel Brooks

P. 20: Letters

P. 21: Ad for Movie Souvenir Programs! from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, Alien, and others with a coupon addressed to Starlog Press

P. 22: "Video Reviews" by Jim Bessman commenting on videos by Berlin, Rockwell, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Alcatrazz, and other musical groups

P. 23: Ad for America's Top 10 with Casey Kasem and All American Television

P. 24: "Doc Rock!" advice column

P. 25: Ad for These Exciting Movie Tie-in Magazines featuring Staying Alive, Rocky II, Joanie Loves Chachi, and others with a coupon addressed to Starlog Press

P. 26: "About the Posters" by Lenny Kaye. Two pieces on U2 and the Eurythmics. The two posters feature a photo of the band and video stills from several music videos

P. 44: "Video Tech: The Panasonic Home Video Studio" by Richard Robinson

P. 46: "Video File: Here's a Complete Videography of One of the World's Legendary Rock Bands" by John Chu and Elliot Cafritz. Featuring: The Who

P. 48: "Lisa Robinson's Rock Scene: Yet Another Week in the Life of Lisa Robinson" featuring candid photos of the contributing editor (and perhaps relative of the technical editor Richard Robinson) with various musicians and bands. Robinson was host of the music video program Radio 1990 on USA in the mid-'80s

P. 51: "Director Dialogue: And Now for Something Completely Different... Ralph Video / A Look at the Videos of New-Wave Genius Graeme Whifler" by Michael Shore

P. 54: "David Lee Roth: He's the Front Man for One of Rock's Most Spectacular Bands -- Van Halen -- and He's Nothing Short of Shocking" by Lisa Robinson

P. 62: "Video Active: New Wave Alternatives from Screaming Mad George, a Japanese Reggae Artist and Generic Video" by Merrill Aldighieri

P. 66: Ad for Crazy Craniums hats with a coupon addressed to Starlog Press

P. 67: Ad for Rock Video / Be Part of the Rock Video Explosion! Subscribe Today! with a coupon addressed to Starlog Press

Back Cover: Ad for Iron Maiden's "Video Pieces" Video 45 from Sony

Event-O-Dex XXV

Time for me to end my long-running live show dry spell, mayhaps. The next week-plus should be hella fun. This is where I'll be bopping and hopping:

Thursday, Feb. 15: Apples in Stereo, Bowery Ballroom.

Wednesday, Feb. 21: The Steinways, the Ergs, the Unlovables, and others at Lit Lounge.

Sunday, Feb. 25: Lost Locker Combo, Lakeside Lounge.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Forward This Book!

This evening, in one sitting, I read, in full, Lucy Kellaway's book Who Moved My Blackberry?. The novel, which draws on Kellaway's Martin.Lukes@a-bglobal.com columns in the the Financial Times, is hilarious. The columns, which comprise fictional emails, memos, and blog entries authored by a cartoony business exec, run every Thursday -- and are required reading.

I bought my copy used via Amazon, and the book already had a history of having been forwarded. Turns out that a copy shelved by the Free Library of Philadelphia in March 2006 had already been withdrawn -- and somehow obtained by a used book dealer in Georgia. In this case, being booted from a library is no indicator that a book isn't worth reading!

Martin Lukes, the anti-hero of the tome, is a stuffed-shirt blunderer who absorbs all of the latest workplace buzzwords and career development pap as gospel. While Scott Adams's Dilbert comic strip takes a more explicit critical approach to the foibles and failings of the office environment, Kellaway takes a more light-hearted approach, in some ways similar to the BBC series, the Office.

Kellaway doesn't need to hold Lukes up for ridicule; he hoists himself on petards of his own "creovation." The book lampoons falsely innovative business culture, executive coaching, lapdances in the popular business press, and other themes taken more seriously by most business media. Motivational speakers such as Tom Peters and Tony Robbins are satirized. The Jack and Suzy Welch affair is mimicked -- even to its storybook ending. And the point that work, while personal, isn't the end all, be all is driven home as Luke's family life crumbles around him, just as his work life comes close to doing.

But the most charming aspect of Kellaway's satire is Luke's very cluelessness. In the end, he comes out practically unscathed, almost where he began at the start of the read, and blissfully unaware that anything untoward had gone on -- much less that he was responsible and in the wrong. Who Moved My Blackberry? is an example of the Peter Principle in action, nay, hyperaction.

It's an extremely clever book, and I cannot wait until next Thursday. While reading, I was struck by the idea that the saga would be a kick to read message by message, sent over time. The FT offers the next best thing: You can sign up for email alerts when new columns are posted online.

Bestest, Heath

Tales of a Sheepish Consumer

Sometimes I'm a dolt. My concerns about the state of my eReader were premature and unfounded. Turns out that when the device's battery has been sapped, charging via USB isn't enough to get it back up to snuff.

Since my chat with the service rep, I've dug out the AC power adaptor, plugged it into my kitchen counter socket, and away we go. The eReader is working like a charm. Thankfully, I didn't send it in for repair. The repair folk would have had a laugh!

Now, if only I could get my Thinkpad's cup holder to work!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Products I Love XXI

After just three months of ownership and use, my Sony eReader has stopped working. I'm going to try one more thing -- charging it with the power adaptor vs. the USB cable -- but it's looking like I'll have to send it in for repair. Here's a transcript of yesterday's real-time text chat with a service representative:

LiveAssist Transcript
chat id : b9dc94b5-ea34-4698-a65a-946269a5aaec
Problem : eReader won't turn on -- gets hung up on Starting up screen. Reset on back of device did nothing.

Myler_ > Hi Heath. Welcome to Sony Online Support. I'm Myler. Please allow me a moment to review your concern.

Heath Row > Additional info: The device has been charging for about 24 hours via the USB cable

Myler_ > Thanks for waiting, Heath. I'm sorry that the PRS500 unit is not working normally. I'll be glad to assist you with this.

Myler_ > Please stay online while I check this information for you.

Myler_ > Thanks for staying online.

Myler_ > I suggest that you reset the unit and check if that works normally.

Myler_ > I'll be happy to provide more information on that. Would you happen to have your manual to follow along?

Heath Row > I don't have the manual. I just pushed the reset button in back with a pin. Nothing happened

Myler_ > Heath, as much as I would have liked to solve this issue, based on the information you’ve provided, it seems your unit needs service.

Myler_ > Shall I forward the link where you can find a location to get your Sony product repaired, the Sony repair cost, and to initiate the repair?

Heath Row > I just bought it at the end of last year -- how can it possibly need to be serviced? If possible, I'd like any repair fee to be waived.

Heath Row > But yes, send me the information I need to get the device repaired.

Myler_ > I would like to forward a link to a page where you can locate the Sony Factory Service Center.

Myler_ > When you receive the link please click on it to open the page and let me know if you are able to view it.

Myler_ > Web Page Push : http://eservice.sony.com

Heath Row > I can see the page

Myler_ > There may be some internal malfunction in the unit. I suggest that you get the unit service at the Sony Service Center.

Myler_ > Are you able to take it from here or would you like me to assist you with setting up service?

Heath Row > I asked a question about waiving the fee. $79.99 is a lot to pay for a faulty unit less than six months old.

Myler_ > Please contact the service center to get the exact repair cost.

Myler_ > Is there anything else that I may assist you with?

Myler_ > Are you still with me? Just to check the connection.

Myler_ > Thank you for contacting Sony online support today.

Myler_ > Analyst has closed chat and left the room

Largely not helpful. I'm hoping they'll waive the service fee, because there's no reason this should happen after only three months -- unless it's a shoddy product.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Magazines About Music Videos

Magazines about television and TV shows are nothing new, but it's a rare moment in TV history that inspires magazines about specific forms of television programming. In recent years, TV-related magazines have been limited to TV Guide and the short-lived celebrity sister mag Inside TV, ongoing genre titles such as Daytime TV, and single-issue specials concentrating on reality television and other programs.

So I was intrigued by a subscription card inserted in the VHS video box for the copy of "We're All Devo" I bought on the street for $3 yesterday. The 1984 video, which has been repackaged as the DVD "The Complete Truth About Devolution" without the inter-video segments, was apparently packaged with a purchase registration card and a subscription card for Rock Video magazine. Here's the text of the card:

Be part of the rock video explosion! Subscribe today!

Rock Video is the magazine of today -- brand new and happening this very minute! More color photos than any other rock magazine -- plus 4 giant posters in each issue! Star portraits! Scenes from your favorite videos! Rock Video brings you the latest rock video news, exclusive interviews with the biggest rock stars -- plus regular MTV coverage!

For a limited time only! Free T-shirt!

If you subscribe to Rock Video right now, we will send you FREE a handsome black T-shirt with the Rock Video logo in white.

The magazine was published by Lamplight Enterprises Inc. in New York City, and a 12-issue subscription cost $21.98. A quick search indicates that Lamplight published books and magazines in the '60s, '70s, and '80s. Magazines included titles such as Daily TV Serials and Beatles, Forever.

Does anyone have any additional information?

Patricia, the Grifter

Earlier today, I took a copy of The Grifters from C.'s bookshelf to flip through. Inside the book was a pink, sealed envelope. On the envelope was written "Jan. 2000 / Patricia K. / Clothing allowance receipts so far / Counselor: Ethel"

After ascertaining that the envelope didn't belong to C. -- she had bought the book used -- I opened it. Inside, there was a pink notecard -- matching stationery! -- and a handful of receipts. The note read:

January 5 /00

Ethel and Guy,

These are my receipts towards the next clothing allowance.

As for the last clothing allowance I handed in about 60.00 to Guy on Dec. 23 1999. Guy said something about getting that about amount I could in Jan, because I was late.

Patricia K.

There are five receipts dated between Dec. 24-27 from a Duane Reade and ABC on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, as well as the Linen Depot on Jay Street. Each has a dollar amount circled and is annotated. Annotations include "hair assorries, scarf $6.59," "women's long underwear GOOD SALE," "gloves," "socks," and "women's undergarments (pink and blue) GOOD SALE."

I'm curious about several things. Why did Patricia have a clothing allowance? Why did she spend it on long underwear? Given that the receipts and note ended up inside a copy of The Grifters, was she ever reimbursed? More interesting, however, is this:

One of the receipts -- the one for the hair accessories and scarf -- is actually an itemized receipt for three items: a box of Kool menthol cigarettes, four Hershey bars, and a bottle of Mistic orange carrot juice drink. The total does equal $6.59 as circled, but hair accessories and a scarf?

Seems like Patricia K. had a little grift of her own going on.