Friday, December 28, 2001

Blogging About Blogging II
Just came across the blog of a friend of a friend: Michael Dietsch. In recent entries, he recounts his vacation travels to Indiana, from where my folks hail.

Which reminds me... in May 2001, I participated in a Well discussion about zines and blogs. This is where my interest in blogging started.

Do you do a blog? Do you regularly visit any particular blogs? If so, let us know.
Visceral Lit
The kind folks at Diversity Inc. have been friendly enough to send me their recent poetry booklets, and Catherine May's "Guts," which hit my P.O. Box not too many weeks ago, is of particular interest. The more than 40 poems -- grouped in thematic sections addressing devotion, people, home, and life -- are as the title implies: visceral, emotional, and raw.

Many of the poems deal with the emotional scars left by relationships and abuse -- physical, sexual, and psychological. Even though Catherine's background is largely unknown, the writing hints at experience working -- or working through -- therapy and psychiatric treatment. "Psychoanalyzing a Private Poem" speaks to this -- the assistance poetry can offer in working through problems and the emotional weight that a poem can carry for the writer, as well as the reader.

The poems -- including "Hot," "An Almost Empty Office at Sunset," and "Droll" -- invoke the idea of escape through looking for one's self in the body of another, suicide, and alcoholism. Catherine has felt and seen pain. Her poetry is one way we can escape it ourselves.
A "Blast" from the Past
After posting an index of the second issue of Blast magazine, a Mad-like parody periodical from the early '70s, I emailed Marv Wolfman to see what he remembered about his work there. This is what he said:

"Nothing more than when the editor -- whose name I can't remember right now -- edited my copy he actually put in curse words, which I don't use. I wasn't pleased. However, I enjoyed working there."

So, um, if anyone else knows anything about Blast, let me know.
Sax Punk II
A continuation of the Media Diet interview with Jake Williams, tenor saxophonist for the punk band, the River City Rebels:

What's the worst show-related injury you've ever received?

The worst show related injury I've ever received was during this set we played in Warren, Vermont, in our friend Gavin's barn. The barn was pretty tightly packed, and the stage had just been repaired since the last show we played there -- but had also somehow shrunk in size. Anyway, during the very first song we played, I jumped up like I was some kinda rock star, but when I was coming down, someone knocked me over, and I fell face first into the drum set, simultaneously slamming my forehead into something hard enough to cut it open and give me a huge lump, and I also managed to practically dislocate my shoulder. I kinda stood aside for one song, and then danced cautiously for the rest of the set.

You were actually in a band called Cobra Skammander? Did the band consider any other names before they settled on that? That's pretty rad.

I honestly can take no credit for the name Cobra Skammander, unfortunately. But I think the name existed before any kind of band actually did.

You said the band wasn't able to play out very often lately because folks are in college. What are the River City Rebels studying? How does the school experience influence or inspire the band, if at all?

College is gross. I'm a writing major at Emerson in Boston. Everyone else is studying very random things. College really only makes me appreciate the opportunity that I have to play in a band that much more.

Fair enough. You also mentioned that you'd like to do more in response to the Sept. 11 tragedies. How have you been affected by the tragedies and the subsequent military actions? What role do you think the band could play in helping further the antiwar effort?

Sept. 11 was supposed to be my first day of class, but I only had the first one before the rest were cancelled. Everyone was freakin' and told me not to get on the subway. I just walked to a record store, bought the new Grade album -- and then I went to work. The truth is I haven't been affected by 911 any more than I have by any other world tragedies. Natural disasters occur all over the world, killing thousands at a time, and it's barely headline news in the US. Ethnic cleansing and civil war take place in Africa and Asia semi-frequently, and yet Americans can't be bothered with it. Just because this event occured within a few hundred miles of my home doesn't mean I would any more or less affected. I'm really unsure what the band can do except tell our fans to think for themselves about the events taking place -- and not buy into all the blind flag-waving going on right now. I'm not sure how bands in Boston are politically engaged, but if the punk scene is representative of Boston itself, it's just a bunch of "patriots" talking about justice and pride while they drink beer and watch football. I'm sure there are bands who are just as against the war effort, but I know none personally. My politics borrows from early punk ideals of an underground community that stands against a corporate government and consumer-based society. It's hard to communicate because punk rock now to me goes beyond being a music; it's an idea that transcends a musical style. The music is unimportant if the message is unpolluted. The message is unity of all people, a burning of all barriers that separate, be it by race, gender, age, class, or religion.

You went straight to work Sept. 11? Sounds like a pretty crummy job. What do you do to make it fun and worthwhile? Do you at least get to see movies for free?

There is little that makes the job fun or worthwile except the fact that I will never have to pay money to see a movie in any Boston theater again. Suckers.

Back to the engagement of the Boston-area punk-rock scene... What do you think small-town punks bring bigger-city scenes? Coming from Connecticut, what were some of the biggest differences you saw moving here?

Hmm. Small towns punks have a naivete that is quickly swallowed up once they realize how little fun big city shows actually are. The biggest change moving to Boston from Connecticut was mostly the increasing access I now had to all types of music shows -- but then quickly enough, a lack of desire to go to any after I'd seen the way kids act at them. There is little similarity between the two scenes. Kids in smaller towns sometimes wish they were in big cities, and vice versa. If you could mix the potential for big city shows with the integrity and eagerness of small town punks, you might have something there.

Feel free to email Jake. To learn more about the River City Rebels, check out the band's Web site.

Thursday, December 20, 2001

'Tis the Season to Be... AWOL
I'm heading to Wisconsin from Dec. 21-28, 2001. While I hope to update Media Diet while in the Midwest, if I don't, that doesn't mean that Media Diet is dead (long live Media Diet!). It just means that it's resting. Happy holidays!
Sax Punk
Jake Williams plays tenor saxophone for the punk band River City Rebels. Media Diet recently interviewed him about what it means to play sax in a punk band, the Boston punk scene, and what small-town punks bring big-city scenes. If you have additional questions, you can ask them in the Media Diet forum and I'll add his responses to the interview.

Simple statistics

Age, horoscope sign: I'm a vital 21-year-old, but my sign is kind of a different story. My birthday is May 21, which is on the cusp between Gemini and Taurus, and I've yet to determine which is my official sign. I usually just say Gemini.
Hometown: The lovely, yet terribly consumer driven South Windsor, Connecticut.
Saxophone make and model: Well, I usually just play a Yamaha student model tenor. I tend kick the crap out of it at shows, and right now it's in pretty bad shape, but I've got no substantial cash flow with which to repair it.
Mouthpiece make and model: I think it's a Selmer Paris. It's sweet.
Reed brand and hardness: Rico Royal, 3 yo.
Favorite saxophonist: Hmm. Angelo from Fishbone is a total badass, and I always really dug Derron, the original baritone sax player for Less Than Jake, but I'd probably have to say... Roland Alphonso, formerly of the Skatilites. He was one smooth mofo.

The questions

Having seen you guys play at the Middle East Upstairs and listening to your records, I've noticed some differences between the live shows and the recordings. Live, the Rebels evoke some kind of youth crew ska punk; on record, the band seems more assertive, a la Black 47 or the Strike. I've noticed a similar difference in your role in the band. Live, you're overshadowed by Brandon's fist pumping and trombone enthusiasm; on record, you stand out in several songs -- at the end of Long Lost Life and at the beginning of 22 Years, particularly. How do you see your role as saxophonist for the Rebels? What do you bring the band?

Well, Brandon might overshadow me physically because he's way bigger than me. I just like to dance, jump, and get down on stage, and Brandon likes to pump his fist and toss his bone around, and get right in the kids' faces. Just different approaches I guess. I tend to be left holding down the fort while Brandon drops his horn and gets in the crowd. As saxophonist for the Rebels, I'm supposed to play the horn lines, sing backing vocals, and dance in between. That's pretty much it, and I'd like to think I do it pretty damn well. I bring to the band some crappy emo glasses, and more dyed black hair. Go figure.

Are you ever concerned that Brandon's going to hit you or knock you into the wall when he's jumping around? He's got a lot of energy for a big guy.

After a show on a small stage, everyone in the band has pretty much had the crap beaten out of him. It's OK; there's never any hard feelings. Brandon will run me over sometimes. Drew will slam everyone in the back of the head with his guitar, and I tend fall over a lot. It's just how it is, and everyone's OK with it. No one really bitches about injuries. And yes, Brandon does indeed have a lot of energy for a big guy. He's very virile.

I understand you're relatively new to the band. How did you connect with the Rebels? What got you into sax and punk in the first place? Have you played sax in other bands?

I've been with the Rebels since February 2000. They posted an ad on, and I was bored, so I responded. Bopper liked my creepers, so they let me in. I started playing the saxophone because it was cooler than the clarinet. I started listening to punk because it was cooler than Pearl Jam. I've played sax in local Connecticut ska-punk bands, most notably the ridiculous Cobra Skammander and the illustrious Glueseaspiders.

Why did Dan McCool step away from the trumpet to sing? Now that he's switched from trumpet to vocals, is the horn section now a farm league for the next front man? Do you want to sing for the Rebels?

McCool switched to vocals following the original vocalist leaving the band. However, Bopper has now switched to vocals from guitar following McCool's departure. As far as me singing goes, I'm content to do my crappy screaming backing vocals. I'm really bad at screaming, but if I don't practice I'll never be any good at all.

Listening to the new record, there's a certain amount of youth crew trappings -- many of the songs deal with topics like being in a band, playing shows, hopes for the future of the band, going on tour, and getting into punk. That's a lot of songs about being in a band! What's the reason for the self-referential song writing? What's the biggest challenge or issue facing the folks in the band right now? Any pet causes?

Our former singer, Dan McCool is responsible for some of the lyrics on the album, and no one in the band is exactly sure why he got so stuck on the topic of being in a band as inspiration for writing songs. The biggest challenge facing the band right now is the lack of time we actually have to play shows, on account of almost everyone attending college in Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire. The biggest issue is of course the atrocities being committed in Afghanistan, and the compromise of human rights for national safety. My pet cause would have to be the antiwar effort.

In the CD's thank-you list you give props to the Kendall for not firing you. The Kendall Cafe in Cambridge? If so, what do you do there? If not, what's the Kendall?

Actually, I'm thanking the Kendall Movie Theatre for not firing me (it's right up the street from the Kendall Cafe however). It's the indie movie theater I've been working at for almost year, and it's a very hip place with some of my favorite people in Boston being employed there. Essentially, my job is to cater to the petty whims of the predominantly rich white wannabe cultured intellectual crowd. This includes fetching their mineral water, making change from their $100 bills, and sweeping up the insane amounts of trash they manage to leave beneath their seats in the theater. It's great. Really.

Do you think the Rebels will ever play at the Kendall Cafe? There aren't many clubs in the Boston area that hold punk shows regularly. What do think of the state of the scene these days? What do you think needs to happen to improve it? What's the neatest stuff going on?

The Boston scene is in serious trouble right now. My friend Kim actually explained to me that no one in Boston actually plays music; they just wait for bands to come through so they can stand in the back in their hip mod clothes and talk shit about the kid wearing a ska shirt (not necessarily her exact words). But seriously, what bands are there playing Boston right now? The clubs are very unsupportive of the bands, but then again, so are the kids who go the clubs. The neatest things going on where I live are Aurora Seven Records and the Panda Squad, the best goddamn band in Boston.

Where are you from originally? How long have you lived here? In Small Town Pride, the band paints a pretty divisive picture of punks in rural and urban areas. How do you think the two groups are different? What do you think small-town punks bring bigger-city scenes?

I was born in Connecticut and then moved to Boston. But in general, small towns are better scenes. True, more kids might come to shows in a larger city, but the kids in smaller towns appreciate the shows so much more because they occur with less frequency. Small town kids aren't into the scenester shit that city kids are. There's just the scene without pretense to fashion or elitism. It's the jam.

What do you want to ask Jake?

(Thanks to Kathi Haruch of Victory Records for her help.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Other People's Reading Piles
Arizona-based Almost Normal Comics features a pretty solid review section that looks at comics and zines. The proprietor's kept it constant since April 2001, so I'll be sure to check back in a month to see what's crossed his transom.
Book 'Em II
Just got a new book in the mail from Upski Wimsatt, scribe of Bomb the Suburbs and No More Prisons. Titled Another World Is Possible, this new release from Subway & Elevated Press and New Mouth from the Dirty South is subtitled "conversations in a time of terror" and features more than 100 contributors responding to Sept. 11 and its impact. The book is accompanied by a video produced by the NY Independent Media Center, Paper Tiger TV, and Big Noise Films, as well as by a forthcoming hip-hop album. The book's editors will also be conducting a six-month, 36-city tour.

That's the neat part. In Upski's publisher's note, he puts it thusly: "This isn't just a book. It's a conversation sparking campaign. Carry the book around. Read it in public. It's not just a book to spark idle conversations. It's a book that raises the question: 'What can we do?'"

Indeed. What can we do?
Poli-tick, Tock, and You Don't Stop
In the news today, Mumia Abu-Jamal's death sentence has been overturned by a federal judge. The decision doesn't call for a new trial -- but there will be another sentencing hearing, at which Mumia could be sentenced to death again. (Mumia's been imprisoned since 1982 for the shooting death of a police officer.) For more information on the efforts to free Mumia, check out the Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Math with Mammals
Sometimes you just have to love the Web. Here's a site at which you can watch a bear poop prime numbers. Huh.

What's your favorite weird Web site?

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

From the Reading Pile III

Low Tide #4
Another top-notch Paper Radio comic! This edition includes comics, fiction, and found art that touches on an early morning at work, 14 good things, a meeting in Arabia, a postal worker's adventures, art school, and food. The standout is "Tiger Threat," which entails a man's search for his tiger friend, an amplifier, and the dissipation of their friendship. The surprise ending of that story is worth the $2 alone. Box 254, Allston, MA 02134.

March Madness
Ben Jones' love of basketball is made manifest in this cryptic sketchbook-style comic. Combining images of Basketball Land, how a basketball feels when it hits you in the face, high-top shoes, a basketball juicer, ghosts, scooters, and people playing the game, this 16-page minicomic is a psychedelic ode to the game. Three points for pursuing an obsession! $1 to 23 Forrest Hills St. #2, Boston, MA 02130.

Modern Industry: Futurista!
A two-volume, 116-page anthology published early in 2001, this edition of Modern Industry would have benefited from better production. Photocopied with rubber stamp logos, these two comics would have made a nice perfect-bound book. Still, the comics are impressive. Jack Turnbull emerges as a self-publisher to watch with his piece "The Girl from Outer Space," which captures connection, frustration, and dedication quite well. Carrie McNinch's "My Dear" communicates the multiple, life-long forms of love that couples can feel -- almost all captured in drawings of photographs. F.C. Brandt's "And Another Thing" is a Jef Czekaj-like romp through time travel, politics, and good humor. Bruce Orr's "Linka" is a two-page existential quandary. And the seven-page "... Stalin Joe Stalin" by Trevor Alixopulos is an insightful parallel between historical world politics and the current business landscape. The art is often rough, but the ideas and concepts carried by these views of the future are strong. A quality roundup of comics creators from three countries, the collection also includes work by Jason Shiga, Mike Tolento, Marissa Falco, Jess Reklaw, and Dylan Williams. $8 to TFR Industries, Shawn Granton, 3719 SE Hawthorne Blvd. #243, Portland, OR 97214..

Perfect Plastic #2
A bit pricy, but this screenprinted, handmade wonder is one of the most beautiful minicomics I've ever seen. I'd like to blame this on one of the Paper Radio or former Fort Thunder crew members, but I really have no idea who produced this amazing piece of small-press ephemera. [I didn't when I read it; I do now: Alex Barry of Jamaica Plain.] Screenprinted in three colors throughout, the booklet juxtaposes raw comic art and mysterious writing such as, "A good robot friend is hard to come by. Sure you could purchase one in a supermarket gumball machine, but those ones, oh boy, they listen to the worst albums." The art reminds me slightly of Ron Rege Jr., Gary Panter, and Ben Jones. Alex informs me that there are four editions available.

  • #1, $5, xerox, color and black and white ( very few copies left)
  • #2, $15, color silkscreen book ( currently reprinting)
  • #3, $5, silkscreen cover, b&w xerox, blotter paper LSD insert, 83 pages (500 copies)
  • #4, $10, color and b&w xerox, on executive and photo glossy stock (100 copies)

    You can write Alex at 6 Pond St. #3, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130. Tell him Media Diet sent you.

    Snow Bits 2001
    Another mind-blowing minicomic out of Massachusetts. This almost-anonymous work [I've since exchanged emails with a Donald P. Grady.] is drawn almost entirely on graph paper, with the artist using the boxes to fill in pixels -- or as panels for non-pixellated art. It's largely a stream of consciousness story that invoked Larry Marder's process comics and former members of the Fort Thunder collective. The plot involves snow, robots, a digi-dog, a frozen castle (the best page spread!), a book, pixellated goggles called Digi-Eyes, and a bird lady who makes gift boxes. The story flows scene to scene by falling into an aspect of the art, and the resulting read is one of free association, cascading progress, and ambivalent relevance. Wonderfully done! Email Donald to request a copy.

    Sparkly Angel #1
    A stunningly personal zine that described encounters with physical abuse, emotional abuse, eating disorders, sleeping pill overdoses, bisexuality, stuffed animals, racial discrimination, and Harvard Square. Sara's lived a lot for a 19-year-old, and discovering zinemaking seems to be good therapy. I read almost every word, and Sparkly Angel reminded me of the zine Navelgazing in many ways, from its charmingly sloppy collation to its revealing handwriten layout. A mix of personal writing, clip art, poetry, and child-like artwork, the 52-page Sparkly Angel helped me realize that my relationship and work problems are small -- and make me want to tell Sara that she's OK, beautiful, smart, and not alone. She says her mom helped her with the zine. That's pretty cool. $2 to Sara Berry, 9 Ellsworth Road, Nahant, MA 01908.

    Superflux #1
    This stark, black-and-white, bile-drenched pamphlet was produced by Mr. Graham, who published these "notes from the front lines of the analog resistance" just after he quit his job this summer. Oh, how he hated that job. Here are some other things Mr. Graham hates: cell phones, yuppies, the rich, pretentious design, JFK Jr., Survivor, and the Internet. But -- lest you think that this almost all-text screed is merely a rant or whining, know that Superflux is extremely smart and very, very funny. Mr. Graham does more with these four pages than most zines can do with 48. His writing is spritely, his sarcasm is whip smart, and his sense of humor outshines even the most dire of his commentaries. Of the eight easy pieces, my favorites include "If You Have a Cell-Phone, I Hate You," "Thank God for the Rich," and "" Extra punk points for the distressed typewriter on photocopier layout. Look for this in the Boston area or email Mr. Graham. He informs me that #'s 2 and 3 are now available for $1.

    Have you read these? What did you think?
  • From the Reading Pile II
    Adam Greene expressed interest in a spare Rentals CD I had, so we traded -- the CD for his comic. Little did I know that I'd be throwing in a review! Written by Adam and drawn by Sonny Andreotte and Mark Audette, The Prince (#1, August 2000, 28pp, $2.95) is a self-published story about a "serial killer that targets serial killers." Adam's writing is relatively slow-paced and cinematic, and Andreotte and Audette's pencils and inking reminds me of many a Faust, Warren Ellis, or Grendel comic -- lots of dramatic (bordering on awkward) shadowing and Howard Chaykin-meets-Rob Liefeld hash-mark texture. Adam says there will never be a #2, which is a shame because there's a mysterious hero, a mysterious undead boy (?), anda character named Corum -- a nice tip of the hat to Michael Moorcock. Send Adam $3 and demand more. And ask him about the New Vanguard, Ikan, Cyberosia Publishing, Broken Boy, Combustible Muse, and New Toys. I smell an indie comics co-op! (Soundtrack: Propaghandhi, "Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes)

    What comics are you reading?
    The Story of Spam
    Ever wonder why bulk emails and unwanted commercial messages are called spam? Brad Templeton did a bit of etymological research. According to his research using Google's new Usenet archives, the term dates back to the late '80s, when it was first used in MUD's.

    Monday, December 17, 2001

    Making the Move
    As you might know, there's a low-traffic mailing list associated with Media Diet. I've made the executive decision to largely scotch that list and move the conversational aspect of this project over to a Web discussion area. I'll probably keep the mailing list active until the membership dwindles -- or until I decide the Web discussion thing is a Bad Idea -- whichever comes first.

    In the Web discussion area, you can do more than post comments to entries here. You can start your own topics. And if you're lucky, something you post might make it back here -- and vice versa, ad infinitum. Whatever!
    Mention Me!
    So, um, I'm searching Google for references to, well, me. And I'm finding all sorts of fun stuff. I'd forgotten that I'd won the Columbia Scholastic Press Association's College Gold Circle Award in 1995 for a critical piece on P.J. O'Rourke. I stumbled across Thomas Madsen-Mygdal's blog, CommonMe, a delightful commentary on all things technological, entrepreneurial, and Thomas-ish. I found a picture of me and Oil Can Boyd in a dive bar in San Diego. And one of me, Jordan Crane, and Oil Can looking for another bar in that same city. I tracked down an interview I did with Skip Williamson in 1993. Some people make fun of my name in a chat transcript. And I found an article from the New York Times Magazine about the work I do; it makes me look like some sort of rabble rouser.

    Anyhoo, the upshot of this bit of self-gratification is that if you mention me in your blog or elsewhere online, I will mention you. All you have to do is let me know.
    The Name Game
    Ever wonder why Heathrow Airport is called Heathrow? Ever wonder why I'm called Heath Row? Me, too.
    Blast from the Past
    When I was in college, I wrote a paper about the history of zines. Imagine my surprise when I found it on the Web. Now if only DePaul University wouldn't confuse me with Chip Rowe, I'd be fine.
    Off the Shelf II
    Steve Portigal, who's been mentioned in Media Diet previously, recently started a blog called All This Chittah-Chatah. In it, he details his recent stand-up and improvised comedy performances, a new car battery, and holiday misadventures with And... he says he's "working on a large update to the foreign grocery museum." Keep your eyes -- and those wrappers -- peeled. Huzzah!
    See You in the Funny Pages III
    Tom McManamon of Big Wheel Records drew this quirky Web comic "on college rule notebook paper with a pen found on the ground." It's a cautionary tale, so be... careful!
    Weather Report
    It's snowing in Boston, and it's beautiful.
    See You in the Funny Pages II
    This Web comic hasn't been updated since October, but there's lots here to catch up on. Demian.5's When I Am King is a beautiful, horizontal-running comic with 63 parts broken up into five chapters. What I've read so far is an interesting Chris Ware/Larry Marder/Jim Woodring-like process comic that involves a man and a horse. I'll be checking out all of this -- good to learn about, late though it be.
    Free Radio II
    My friends Charlie and Andrew suggested I check out several other Web-based radio broadcasts, so I'm passing their suggestions on to you. You can find Vin Scelsa's freeform show online, as well as Fairleigh Dickenson University's radio station. Charlie says WFUV-FM has become a sort of refuge for great NYC DJ's who can't get hired. And pal Andrew gives props to the Milwaukee School of Engineering's WMSE-FM. Wonder if it's similar to WMBR-FM. You know, engineers and all.

    A Napkin for a Nickel?
    The fellows at Cardhouse recently turned me on to this online museum of napkin holders that also contain coin-operated machines. You can wipe your mouth, and you can buy perfume. Now that's progress!
    Ignore the War VI
    The president and publisher of the Sacramento Bee was booed, hissed, and heckled Saturday when he mentioned threats to civil liberties inherent in the federal government's investigation of terrorist attacks. He made the seemingly incendiary remarks during a commencement speech at California State University in Sacramento. "When Heaphy raised questions about racial profiling, limits on civil rights and the establishment of military tribunals, the audience interrupted by clapping and stomping their feet for five minutes." So much for our liberal college campuses!
    Pooch Music
    Just Dogs Records recently released a CD called Just Dogs Touching Tunes: 2001. Music for pooches! Some quotes from the news release: "Our CD ... contains specialized music ... to comfort [your] canine companion in the time and space of each song. ... [The] CD is produced to bring about a greater consciousness in dogs making life more manageable for both the dog and the owner/companion. ... Take the time to use our CD and touch format with the dog and sense for yourself the calming effect and a feeling that will pulse back and forth between each of you, while lightening the burdens of the heart." For more mammalian music, check out the Furry Discography.

    Friday, December 14, 2001

    Free Radio
    Salon recently published an article on how the Digital Millennium Copyright Act might shut down college radio station Webcasts because the stations' can't afford the exorbitant streaming fees that their commercial counterparts can more easily bankroll. This is bad news, especially because college radio remains one of the bastions of independent broadcasting -- and because if you don't live on or near a campus with a station, the Web is one of the only ways you can access the broadcasts. Take some time today to tune in to a Webcast. I recommend WNUR-FM from Northwestern University, WMBR-FM from MIT, WMFO-FM from Tufts, WFMU-FM (which isn't a college station but is still independent and community-oriented), and Allston-Brighton Free Radio, a great microbroadcaster in the Boston area.
    Hot Water Muse
    Turns out that Scott Sinclair, the dude who does the wonderful artwork for the Hot Water Music records, lives and works in Boston! Enough Fanzine recently interviewed Scott, and you can eye some of his artwork online. Also of note, Scott runs a local label that's released material by Pilot to Gunner and my friend Brad's band the Also-Rans. So I'm three degrees of separation from Hot Water Music. Not bad for a Friday afternoon!
    Talking Heads Are Men
    The White House Project recently released a study analyzing who participates in the high-power Sunday-morning talk shows such as CBS’s Face the Nation, ABC’s This Week, CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, and Fox’s News Sunday. It's a pretty sad showing -- 10% of guests on these shows are women. Then, the weekend after the report was released, the shows gave women even shorter shrift: "Out of the 23 guests appearing on Sunday morning Dec. 9, NBC’s Meet the Press was the only one this week that featured a woman guest. Thus, this Sunday women comprised only four percent of all guest appearances." Just goes to show how few women are given positions of political power and how unbalanced the political talk shows are in their coverage.
    A San Francisco-based organization called the Cultural Conservancy is working to preserve Native American songs. In so doing, they're documenting songs about the spiritual connection the Native Americans they're working with feel with the land on which they live. This connection can then be used as a tool to better preserve Native American lands. An interesting methodology... and an interesting idea: that the places we frequent can be captured and coded in cultural artifacts such as artwork and songs. The art becomes part of our culture, and our culture can transmit the value of a place.

    Thursday, December 13, 2001

    Book 'Em
    In my copious free time, I edit books on the side, just for kicks. My "first" book, a collection of short stories by a middle-aged brittle diabetic and cancer survivor in South Dakota named Dan Buck, is now available for sale on the Web. Check out the offerings from Highwater Books if you're interested.
    Blogging About Blogging
    If you're interested in reading about what people are trying to do with their blogs and how blogs affect the people who make them -- and read them -- pop on over to Keep Trying, a wonderful new meta-blog I just came across.

    Monday, December 10, 2001

    Lap Dog
    A friend of mine is friends with someone who operates a dog kennel. This weekend, that kennel held a fundraiser event at which people could bring in their dogs to be photographed with a person dressed up as Santa Claus. My friend helped pose the dogs with the Santa, and the results, he says, were hilarious. I'm pushing for some of the photographs to be digitized and posted online so they can be shared with the world. Until that happens, you can whet your taste buds here, here, and, yes, here. Bow wow wow. I mean, ho ho ho.
    Caught in a State of Address
    My mailing address has changed, signaling the completion of my move -- physically and mentally -- from Somerville to Cambridge, which started back in, um, September 2000. No longer holding a P.O. Box in the 02144, my new mailing address is

    Heath Row
    P.O. Box 390205
    Cambridge, MA
    02139 USA

    You may send any and all items for commentary and consideration to that new address. Fill my P.O. Box with love. Please.

    Friday, December 07, 2001

    Email of the Day
    From Mike Topp, author of the new book "I Used to Be Ashamed of My Striped Face" (published by Elimae Books):


    When Banzan was walking through the Union Square greenmarket he overheard a conversation between a vendor and his customer. "Do you have chocolate mousse?" asked the customer. "We have chocolate pudding," replied the vendor. At these words Banzan became enlightened.

    16 O'S, 16 0'S

    O O 0 O 0 O O
    0 O 0 0 O 00
    0 O 0 0 OO 0
    0 O O O O O
    0 0 0 0 O


    As it turns out they have relaxed the restrictions and I think your son should reapply. Make sure he wears protective clothing since he will most likely appear before one with a bird head, one with a rat head, and one with the head of a snake.



    Thursday, December 06, 2001

    Make Your Own Media
    If you're interested in learning how to deal with the different ways of reproducing zines and comics, Jordan Crane of Non fame offers a free, downloadable guide to zine and comics repro. It's a Crane, David Choe, Ron Rege Jr., and Brian Ralph joint.

    Wednesday, December 05, 2001

    Patent Insanity
    British Telecom claims that it holds a patent for hyperlinks on the Net, and they're taking the ISP Prodigy to court because they're using links illegally. Huh? Yeah. I hold a patent on the word "the." So stop using it.
    Winging IT
    The Bergen Linux Users Group in Norway recently experimented with how carrier pigeons can distribute information using the Internet Protocol. It took an hour and 42 minutes to transfer a 64-byte packet of information. Doesn't look like that supplant the Net any time soon.

    Friday, November 30, 2001

    Map Your Attack
    One of my biggest frustrations -- OK, two of them -- are not having the most recent bus schedules... and not having them with me. So lo and behold, how happy was I to learn that not only can you access bus schedules on the MBTA's Web site, but that you can also download and print PDF files of the most recent schedules? Pretty happy, I'll have you know. The PDF's print out in a format perfect for folding like a brochure and putting in your pocket. Which is what I did just now for the 91 schedule. Woohoo!
    On the Road... to Rhode Island
    My friend Tom is moving to Providence soon. He does a blog called Thomas Hopkins Tomato Tome that's worth checking out. Make sure to eye his early experiments in Flash, some of his art, and his photography. Damn, that man's always got something going on.
    Ho Ho, It's Mr. Show!
    I don't need to say too much more about this, but the first 10 episodes of Bob Odenkirk and David Cross's wonderful HBO program Mr. Show are going to be released on DVD early next year. This is by far the best news I've heard all day.

    Thursday, November 29, 2001

    Walls That Speak
    There's a house in Spencer, Mass., that's bedecked with Dr. Bronner-like slogans and signage. Reminds me of the outspoken, evangelical Christian, and homophobic sign car that's in Somerville. If you have other examples of sign/art cars and houses, please email me.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2001

    The Poster Police
    The Independent Weekly recently ran an article about a Durham, NC, student activist who was targeted by local police because of an anti-Bush poster hanging on her wall. Reportedly, the police were responding to a tip on "anti-American material." Those interested in learning what to do when the police come knocking will be interested in this guide from the National Lawyers Guild.
    Taking the Pulse of the New Economy
    Just stumbled across a solid blog about new trends in business and technology. The potentially inaccurately named Internet 3.0, etc. features Tom Peters' seven rules for weathering a recession, EBay's customer relations, the death of standard pricing, and other topics. Updated almost daily since July 2001, S.G.'s reports from the front lines of business media might make good daily reading. Sources include Businessweek, Darwin, Slate, and other solid media outlets.
    Death of a Diver
    Paul Levenson, former president of the L Street Swimming Club, died Monday. He was 84. As prexy of the L Street Swimming Club, Levenson was a member of the L Street Brownies, a group of Boston-area people who dove into Boston Harbor every Jan. 1, following a tradition started in the late 1880s. Searching the Web, there's little official information about the club, but you can read an article from South Boston Online, a piece from the Boston Herald, and a poem from Mark Leigh Gibbons about the event. And if you'd like to have a go yourself next year, bone up on L Street Beach, where the swim happens annually. Newsreel, a seven-member media collective, has also produced a documentary called "Winter Splash."

    Monday, November 19, 2001

    Bust Goes, Well, Bust
    According to the Boston Phoenix, the brilliantly cunning third-wave feminist magazine Bust has closed its covers for the final time with the issue currently on newsstands. New owner Razorfish laid off the staff just after a launch party to announce a new 10-times-a-year schedule, and the magazine's founders are working to buy the magazine back. Meanwhile, online discussion activity continues in Bust's bulletin boards, as well as in an independent site readers started just in case Razorfish pulled the Web plug as well as shutting up the Bust shop and staff. Best wishes to Bust founders Debbie Stoller and Laurie Henzel. I love Bust.

    (Thanks to Jen Vilaga for telling me about this.)
    Ignore the War V
    The Week doesn't actually offer articles online, but the Nov. 23 edition sports a thoughtful look at a recent controversy in the media: Is objectivity un-American? A writer in the Weekly Standard criticizes media workers for not wearing flag pins or acting more patriotic. And in the Washington Post, Michael Kinsley says that the media is damned if they do -- and damned if they don't. Prior to the current military action, conservative critics claimed the press lacked objectivity. Now members of the press are being accused of upholding their objectivity. Depends on which way the wind blows, I suppose. But if more journalists were honest about their biases, opinions, and subjectivity, we'd avoid this hubbub in the first place. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. And stand behind it.

    Tuesday, November 13, 2001

    Magazine Me II
    I haven't seen Seed magazine yet, but an article in today's Globe might encourage me to brave the Boston cold to head to a nearby newsstand this afternoon. Can't track down any Web references to the new magazine, but it seems to be a science fashion magazine riffing off periodicals such as Mondo 2000, 21C, New Scientist, and others. Word is that AOL Time Warner is calling Seed a "science couture" magazine, and the Globe story is ripe with descriptions of Harper's Bazaar-like photography spreads.

    In an interesting turn of events, Felice Frankel, the magazine's arts editor, is a scientific photographer at MIT. As artist in residence at MIT's electric engineering and computer science department, Felice has penned a personal manifesto on new ways of seeing science, and she's contributing to a symposium this June on "envisioning and communicating science and technology."
    Ignore the War IV
    Today's Boston Globe features an article on a conservative academic group that's taking 40 college professors to task for not being patriotic enough. A recent report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni -- headed by Dick Cheney's wife -- says that university faculty and staff members have been the "weak link" in America's response to the Sept. 11 tragedies and subsequent military action.

    The report reminds me of McCarthyism, and with the shallow increase of patriotism turned jingoism, I say "Right on!" to the college professors named in the report. If we don't continue to question the United States' complicity in foreign activities that aren't in our country's -- or individual citizens' -- best interests, how long will America remain the land of the free and the home of the brave? As mentioned in a previous Media Diet report, being against the war doesn't necessarily mean being against America.

    On the hand, being against free speech in academia -- one of the few segments of American society that's supposedly built on questioning and analyzing -- might very well be.

    Wednesday, October 31, 2001

    Read but Dead II
    My inside -- now outside -- source at the now-defunct Lingua Franca tells me that its sister publication, University Business lives on: "The plan is to cut the budget
    significantly by doing most or all of the writing in-house."
    Letter Man Intervenes!
    Just learned that Evan Williams of Blogger is involved in a project called The End of Free, a site that chronicles the move from "free to fee and beyond." Might be an interesting parallel read with the Online Community Report. Is the Web still the land of the free?

    Sunday, October 21, 2001

    Off the Shelf
    While in Redwood City recently, I stayed with Steve Portigal, curator of the Museum of Foreign Grocery Products. He doesn't have much online yet, but if you contact him, maybe he'll invite you over to see the exhibit in his kitchen. Then again, maybe not.
    Nothing New(ton) under the Sun
    Exactly two days after I made a joke about the Newton to some folks at Palm in Santa Clara, California, I come across this blog about the Newton. It's stuff like this that made me order Joseph Jaworski's book "Synchronicity." Bill Green mentioned it. John Renesch mentioned it. Jerry Kaiser had it on his shelf. Then this happened. 'Nuff said. Book ordered.
    Read but Dead
    Joining the ranks of new economy magazines such as the Industry Standard and more standard fare such as Mademoiselle, Lingua Franca announced last week that it's closing its doors -- and its pages -- with the upcoming issue, already at the printers when the announcement was made. "While there's still a chance that a friendly rich person will ride in on a horse and save us, the chances of that happening are not very high," says one now-former editor.

    I'm not sure what this means for Lingua Franca's sister publication University Business, but Lingua Franca was good. Really good. And I'll miss it. Thank you to all of the editors who made the magazine happen -- and for broadening my perspective on the state of higher education.

    Wednesday, October 17, 2001

    The Revolution Will Be Webified II
    "Home" now with a friend in San Jose following the first ever Weblogger Users Group -- or Weblogger Interest Group (which would make us wiggers) -- or Blogger Users Group (which would make us bugs) -- or "Sheila" (which would make us... ?) -- meeting in Mountain View. The notes taken at the meeting are now available, and I'll be writing a bit about my experience soon in the Roadshow Diaries.

    Anyway, I said all that to say that I got to spend some more time with Evan, met the folks behind Hot or Not?, Moveable Type, and a bunch of other cool projects. It's a good group to plug into, and I look forward to meeting the Boston contingent when I get home.

    Sunday, October 14, 2001

    On the Road Again II
    When I was in Oakland as part of the CoF Roadshow, I met Anthony David Parks, one of the founders of Webvan (RIP). His talk with the Oakland CoF was recently written up in the Oakland Tribune.
    What's in a Name?
    Thanks to Chelly, I found an online name analyzer. Here's the acrophonology of my name: Ewing Heath Row.

    You have a need to communicate and express yourself. You are inclined to over intellectualize, and hate to be misquoted. You have high aspirations and a cheery disposition. You are relatively demonstrative in your affections. You enjoy being stroked verbally and physically. You can handle details well. You have a methodical mind. You are a hard worker when you make up your mind to do a job.

    You are an 11th hour person, always succeeding just in the nick of time. The lesson of money is prominent in your life. You need to learn to be expressive. You are a person who cannot tolerate being misunderstood. You have much enthusiasm with a driving attitude toward achievement in life. Your privacy is important to you. You have a rich inner life. You need to learn the true value of material possessions. You have a natural protection in life. You are always saved - especially from yourself.

    You make impersonal decisions quickly, but not so with personal concerns. You like to think things over carefully, but tend to be indecisive. You have a great deal of loyalty to those you love. You have much inner strength. You need to learn humility.
    Ignore the War III
    Dave Winer pointed me to a feature in the New York Times today about how businesses in the Silicon Valley are finding "hope in a land of hyperbole." I don't think Silicon Valley is any more hyberbole-fueled than, say, um, New York City. But the writer's call for long-lasting change in terms of the Net economy is one worth making -- and heeding, regardless of whether you're in Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley.
    Comments, say you?
    You might not have noticed, but I just added BlogBack's comment tool to Media Diet. Seems that Reblogger is RIP.
    The Revolution Will Be Webified
    Friday I had the pleasure to meet and spend quite a bit of time with Evan Williams, founder of Blogger. We hung out at his house, talked a lot about the power of personal publishing, went to a party at a gallery near the Museum of Modern Art, and capped the evening by hitting a house party in the Haight. He's a good guy -- just like Blogger. I know I mentioned this experience before, but I just went live with the Roadshow Diary that shares what we talked about.

    In related news, I'll be participating in the Weblogger Usergroup this coming Tuesday. There's a sister group in Boston, as well, so be sure to check it out regardless of what coast you're on.
    Ignore the War II
    There's a good piece on SFGate today discussing why the old formulas of peace and patriotism might no longer be valid. "Loyalty doesn't mean suppression of dissent."
    Interactive Nonfiction
    If you're at all familiar with the Cluetrain Manifesto, you might already know the name Christopher Locke. Chris has a new book out called Gonzo Marketing. Anyway, I said all that to say that Jeneane Sessum is reading Gonzo Marketing as we speak, so to speak, and that she's also writing about it as she works her way through the pages. Regardless of whether you've read or are reading the book, it's interesting to see what someone's thinking about as they read Chris' book. If the book is indeed a conversation, part of that conversation -- though largely monologue -- is here.

    Saturday, October 13, 2001

    Dead Letter Office?
    Do you think that the recent Anthrax attacks via the US Postal Service will lead to the end of mail as we know it? I hope not.
    Say What?
    Just read in People magazine that Rush Limbaugh is going deaf. People magazine has run two articles on this. One recounts how Limbaugh announced that he was losing his hearing on his radio show and quotes him as saying, "All I've lost is my ability to hear, but it doesn't mean I've lost my ability to communicate." Another describes the drug treatment Limbaugh is undertaking to fight the hearing loss. I don't agree with Limbaugh on most fronts -- but I'm curious what will happen to Limbaugh's show -- he can recognize sound, but he can't identify it -- and what going deaf means to someone who's life has been built on radio broadcasting. Maybe he should go into the theater.
    Web Site of the Day
    I've been spending a lot of time poking around on Driven by Boredom tonight. Now I think I should go outside and go for a walk. Thanks, Nate, for showing me that my night last night wasn't as wild as your night of drunken kickball.
    Join the Choir
    Even though I met the folks who make the Opera browser last spring, I've not used it too frequently. Cheryl's got it on her laptop, and you know what? I'm going to start using Opera as soon as I get back to Boston. It's pretty slick, even if it has some trouble handling Blogger's text-entry boxes. Check it out.
    Ignore the War
    I've felt pretty disconnected for much of the Roadshow, but today -- having spent most of the day sleeping and having Cheryl's apartment all to myself -- I feel especially adrift. Part of it stems from straddling the immediate world -- the people I'm meeting and the places I'm visiting -- and not being aware of the wider world because I don't have time to read a newspaper every day, keep up with the news online, or watch the TV news.

    I've been trying to plug in a little bit this evening -- my morning, having just showered -- by checking out some blogs recommended by Evan. And I'm glad I did. RU Sirius recently contributed an interesting article to Disinformation expressing his deepseated neutrality in terms of the current conflict with the Taliban. He's not for the war -- or what he terms a "situation" -- but he's not going to protest it, either.

    This connects with a conversation I was having yesterday or so about how being against the war seems to be taken as a lack of support for our country -- or a lack of patriotism. You can be patriotic and still be against the war. In fact, I wish more people were less jingoistic these days. The American flags in the Castro almost outnumber the rainbow flags.

    A good companion read to RU Sirius' piece is Peter Beinart's current piece from the New Republic. He addreses several cases in which people who've criticized the war -- or supported it too strongly -- and come under fire for it. While I don't agree with everything Beinart says -- he blames most of the free-speech concerns on the Left -- but his point that freedom of speech is a balancing act is well taken.

    Hopefully I'll be better able to balance my place in the immediate world -- and the wider world -- in the coming weeks. The Roadshow is almost half over.
    On the Road Again
    If you're curious why I've been so quiet lately, it's because I've been traveling since Sept. 18. As part of Fast Company magazine's Company of Friends Roadshow, I'm driving from Vancouver, BC, Canada, down the west coast of the US, and into Mexico. And even though I'm not keeping up with Media Diet, you can keep up with the Roadshow by following my Roadshow Diaries.

    Slightly ironic that I'm finally posting this now because I spent some time yesterday with Evan Williams, the fellow who runs Blogger. We even went to a couple of parties with some folks from the Kaospilots. A wild night -- and good to meet Evan. He's as cool as Blogger is. (Or something like that.)

    Monday, September 17, 2001

    Con Job
    Even though the Small Press Expo this past weekend was canceled because of the recent tragedies, people still gathered for a grassroots gathering dubbed SPX-iles. To learn about what happened, check out Rich Watson's reportage and Charles Brownstein and's coverage.

    Thursday, September 13, 2001

    Open Letter of Apology
    I seem to be apologizing frequently to a lot of people these days. Just to make sure I'm covered, here's an open apology to every single Media Dietician. I'm sorry.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2001

    The Comfort of Community
    I work for a magazine. But I'm really a community organizer. Yesterday and today, I've experienced a rush of emotions, from the tragedies of the bombings -- and from the way that readers of Fast Company and members of the Company of Friends have come together around the events. Yesterday I got calls from FC readers in Vancouver, Dallas, Rochester, and Paris to see if I, my family, and the FC staff was OK. CoF members from London emailed members in New York City and Washington, DC, to see how they can help. Local cells around the country started to organize blood drives. A CoF member in Los Angeles developed a Web service to help people track down their loved ones and colleagues.

    I work for a magazine. But this isn't how magazines work.

    Tuesday, September 11, 2001

    Our Trauma Will Be Televised
    I was going to write something about going to see Steve Martin speak at the screening of his new movie "Novocaine" last night at the Boston Film Festival, but it seems silly in the wake of what's been happening around the world today. To follow coverage of this atrocity, visit the media links at Jim Romenesko's Media News, The Drudge Report, and Aaron Barnhart's commentaries on TV coverage at TV Barn.

    Thursday, September 06, 2001

    Scrapstock Gets Scrapped... Almost
    Got an email from Rob Chalfen at the Zeitgeist Gallery today about a disappointing near-disaster. Folks have been planning a 12-night series of experimental music to be held in a scrapyard in Somerville: Scrapstock. And just last night Somerville -- who had signed on to the idea -- put its foot down and nixed it. Here's a rundown from Rob:

    "The combined might of the Somerville Council of Alderman and the owner of the Empire Stone Company have tonight put the kibosh on the Scrapstock Festival happening in Union Square. Al & I attended a meeting of Alderman & Chief of Police at Licensing & Permits and they essentially read us the riot act: Despite not having authority to regulate events on private property, and despite all city departments already having signed off on the event, there was no fuckin' way they were going to let it go down; they'd enforce every city ordinance real or imagined if we defied them. They even had us 'withdraw' a petition we did not in fact even have before them, and which did not exist! Further, the Empire Stone guy got cold feet, we think the city got to him. In any event we are now in the unenviable postition of having to communicate to everyone that it's not happening in Union Square, find another place, then tell everyone about it. Oy vey! We are going to try to preserve as much as possible the times, dates and order of acts performing! Possible alternate locations are Carberry's Restaurant on Prospect in Cambridge, and the Cambridge Multicultural Center. It is quite possible that the first scheduled date, this Friday Sept 7th, will be a free concert in Sennott Park across from the Zeitgeist Gallery on Broadway & Norfolk. Wish us luck! we're gonna need it."

    Tuesday, September 04, 2001

    Polling Teeth
    Awhile ago, I polled the members of the Media Diet mailing list about how they discovered the blog. The results are split 50/50 between folks who used to belong to the old Mass. Media mailing list (RIP) and folks who came across Media Diet through Blogger or BlogSpot. 'Course, only two people responded to the poll -- and I was one of them. Skee! Now that's news you can use.
    Put the Party back in Politics
    Scott Beale and the fine folks behind the Millennial Politics project are now organizing regional book discussion groups. Scott says: "This is a different kind of book club, because in addition to reading a book each month about youth politics, clubs will have first access to reading finished draft chapter of the Millennial Politics book and be able to offer comments. In addition, members of the club will get to network with other young political activists and even have online chats with the authors of the books that are read each month." There's even one in the Boston area, and it meets for the first time next week. I'll let you know how it goes!

    Thursday, August 30, 2001

    The Unfinished Revolutionary
    Michael Dertouzos, director of MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science and author of "What Will Be" died Monday. RIP, Michael Dertouzos.

    Wednesday, August 29, 2001

    The Return of Factsheet 5
    From Tom Wheeler: "After a three-year hiatus, Factsheet 5 is coming back! A new editorial collective has taken over and we hope to have the first issue out by the end of the year.

    "Factsheet 5 is an authoritative guide to zines and alternative publications. Each large issue will be packed with hundreds of reviews of independent and unusual publications. Every issue of Factsheet 5 will catalog and review an abundance of zines complete with price, critical reviews, and ordering information. Additionally, it will include informative articles on zine culture, independent publishing, lively columns, interviews with self-publishers, and an extensive news section.


    "We will review zines and alternative/independent publications. We suggest you enclose a separate card clearly stating the sample price and subscription price. Also print the ordering address, email address/web site, the check endorsement name, and if you regularly review zines, books, videos, comics, or records. You can also tell us if you want submissions, if you require an age statement, if you regularly print reader letters, if you offer free prisoner subs, and the page count for that issue. Some people love trading, while others are more selective or don‚t want to be bothered at all by unsolicited trades. Feel free to state your preference on the card.


    "Besides zines and independent publications, F5 will also review books, music and videos. Preference will be given to DIY/independent projects, although books from major publishers and music from major labels will not be automatically excluded. Music of all styles welcome!


    "Factsheet 5
    PO Box 4660
    Arlington, VA 22204


    "Factsheet 5 will publish quarterly (4 times/year). Although the magazine has been on haitus for three years, all current active subscribers will have their subs honored and fulfilled. The cover price for the magazine will be $4.95. Single copy sample will be $5.00 by mail. A one-year subscription (4 issues) is $15.00 ($25.00 for first-class delivery)."
    Big Brother Is Watching III
    Thanks to the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center, I just learned about the Surveillance Camera Players. While I've heard about people staging street theater in full view of video monitors, I wasn't aware that there was such an organized network. The SCP's site includes a wide range of street theater and protest resources, including the group's founding documents, video clips, and a 10-step how to. Take to the streets -- and take the stage!
    Chip of the Old Blockhead
    From the Washington Post: "Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Germany have electronically linked multiple snail neurons onto transistor chips and demonstrated that the cells communicate with each other and with the chips. Biophysicist Peter Fromherz says: "It's very primitive, but it's the first time that a neural network was directly interfaced with a silicon chip. It's a proof-of-principle experiment." The combination of biology and technology eventually may lead to such things as artificial retinas or prosthetic limbs that are extensions of the human nervous system, and the development of robots possessing far more intelligence than the current generation of such machines." -- thanks to David Farber

    Tuesday, August 28, 2001

    Provocative Art Panel II
    Stayed in last night during the rain -- skipping the Spitzz show at Charlie's -- to work out what my 10 minutes at Harvard tonight would cover. Here's what I came up with. Comments? Email me.

    "Hi. My name is Heath. I work as a community organizer for a business magazine called Fast Company. On the side, since 1988, I've tracked developments in grassroots media by reviewing undrground newspapers, zines, minicomics, homemade cassettes -- even pornography.

    "In the zine world, reviewers play a dual role: that of traditional critics, a la the folks who write for the New York Times Book Review, and that of documentarians, perhaps the only people to catalog and comment on some of the most esoteric ephemera ever published.

    "In 1994, when I was 20 and living in Chicago, I found myself just off center of one of the most storied obscenity cases involving grassroots media since the '60s.

    "After receiving an order in the mail, a long-haired kid named Mike Diana sold a copy of his photocopied comic Boiled Angel to a cop in Pinellas County, Florida, one of the most conservative counties in the sunshine state.

    "Boiled Angel -- and the issue Diana mailed to the cop, #ATE, the only copy sent to someone in Florida -- wasn't pretty. Diana's comics depicted flying skulls, amputated infants, priests raping children, blood, feces, and other bodily fluids.

    "The cop and Pinellas County took offense. And their response wasn't pretty either. Because of that slim, hand-drawn pamphlet probably with a print run in the double digits, Diana was charged with obscenity. And I found myself publishing daily courtroom reports on the Web.

    "Obscenity is a funny law. Sure, there's the bit about prurient interest: Will this turn you on? You'd have to be pretty creepy legally to get off on Boiled Angel. But there's also the bit on local standards, and Pinellas County's standards were pretty local.

    "Diana was found guilty. He was charged with thousands of dollars in fines. He was required to perform almost 1,300 hours of community service. And he was ordered to not draw. He appealed with the help of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and failed in 1997, three long years later. Then he moved to New York City to become an exotic dancer.

    "Earlier this year, Diana was part of the Angry White Male tour, a Jim Rose Circus Sideshow-like extravaganza featuring artists, musicians, and writers such as Jim Goad, who edited the controversial zine Answer Me! Diana's resting on his artistic laurels -- by law -- and reveling in the controversy surrounding him.

    "Diana's response is not unlike that of another New York City-based cartoonist, Danny Hellman. Sued in 1999 for libel by editorial cartoonist Ted Rall, whose work appears in daily newspapers as well as the punk fanzine Maximum Rocknroll, Hellman has been targeted because of a series of parody emails sent to 30 people. The emails aped Rall and poked fun at an article he wrote about Art Spiegelman for the Village Voice. Hellman's not hiding either.

    "Instead, Hellman has surrounded himself with comics celebrities such as Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, and Gary Panter -- as well as Diana himself and notable self-publishers like James Kochalka, Ron Rege Jr., and P. Shaw! -- to publish this book: Legal Action Comics.

    "These two cases raise some interesting questions:
  • As shocking and parodic as Diana and Hellman's work might be, did they intend to provoke the paper tigers they were poking? Why did Diana produce and distribute work that was so clearly disturbing? Does his commentary on the state of religion or childcare outweigh the shocking nature of his work? And in Hellman’s case, why assume Rall’s persona and run a fake mailing list to poke fun of Rall’s attack on Spiegelman?
  • Would anybody really know -- or care -- about them if they hadn't been sued for obscenity and libel? Has the value and importance of their artwork been elevated because of its attachment to the legal proceedings? Does art challenged legally somehow become better art? Think Banned Book Week: Are all these books good books?
  • What do relatively high-profile cases like these mean for the rest of the zine, comics, and arts worlds? Is Mike Hunt, the Malcolm McLaren of mail order, merely profiting off of Diana’s notoriety? Or is he a viable patron? Are the artists supporting Hellman doing so to defend freedom of speech or to draw political lines of support in the comics community? What side are you on: Rall or Hellman? What does that say about your work?
  • If all the mainstream public knows about grassroots media is undead sex, cannibalism, and bloody stools, how can it be taken seriously as an alternative to the mainstream? Why defend and support questionable work like this when it might only denigrate the state of the artform and media? What role does the comics community play in casting a more accurate picture of the state of the medium?

  • "I don't know. But I do know this: Just as I covered Diana's '94 trial online, I'm going to keep an eye on the $1.5 million Hellman/Rall libel case. And I'm going to continue reviewing zines and minicomics -- not just to capture potentially lost media history, but to encourage zinemakers to pursue quality work in order to rise up as a viable challenge to what we find on the newsstands at CVS. That might mean eschewing flying skulls and semen.

    "My name is Heath. Thanks."

  • Mike Diana Says Good Morning America!
  • The Mike Diana Censorship Debacle
  • Roc Talks with Mike Diana
  • Mike Diana
  • I Was a Teenage Boiled Angel
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Wanted Man
  • A True Tale of Internet Terror

  • Special thanks to Paul Hanna and Sarah Pikcilingis for their help.
    Big Brother Is Watching II
    Bookstore chain Borders Group Inc. has temporarily suspended a trial plan to implement FaceIt face recognition software in two stores in London, pending a review of legal and human rights issues. Computerworld has the full story.

    Monday, August 27, 2001

    Mixed Drinks and Mingling III
    A bunch of Boston-area hangers on active in Warren Ellis' discussion forum congregates frequently for what are called "drink up"'s. There was one Saturday night. Photos were taken. I'm the recently-shorn fellow wearing the yellow Enjoi panda T-shirt.
    Provocative Art Panel
    Oh, I so wanted to refer to Franklin Bruno's song "Panel," but I couldn't track down the lyrics. However, tomorrow night you'll be able to track me down at Harvard University, where I will be sitting in on a panel discussion focusing on provocative and controversial art as part of Harvard's Freshmen Arts Program. Other panelists include Sarah Hutt, director of technical assistance for visual art from the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs. I'll be weighing in on the work -- and court experiences -- of Mike Diana, whose Boiled Angel comic came under fire in an obscenity case in Florida and who now is legally limited in what he can draw and publish. During the 1994 court case, I ran a Web site that documented the proceedings. My interest in the case -- and Diana's work -- is rooted in the balance between freedom of speech and art of questionable merit that is elevated because of controversy... perhaps at the expense of the overall arts community. There are some interesting parallels between Diana's experiences and those of Danny Hellman, who's now involved in a libel case with Ted Rall. Should be an interesting evening.
    Rock 'n' Read!
    Read a great novel over the course of two days this weekend. Andrew K. Stone's "All Flowers Die" is a deep and slightly dark novel about two friends who grow up together in the Boston rock scene of the '80s. Starting off in the same band -- their first -- together, one goes on to become a writer... and the other's lifeline. Because the other becomes a rock star. While the sex and subtance use portrayed in the book is slightly stereotypical, the book is an insightful look at friendship, early childhood memories, the choices people make, and how the consequences of their actions can affect them -- and those close to them. The book's chock full of Boston landmarks -- and Boston rock landmarks -- which makes the book an extremely fun local read. Read Pagan Kennedy's "The Exes" back to back with this. You won't be sorry.
    Big Brother is Watching
    A couple of interesting items about surveillance were transmitted over David Farber's Interesting People list recently. One notice details a New York federal court case in which the judge ordered a cable company to provide federal investigators details about one of its Internet subscribers without informing the subscriber. Then there's an item about Borders using high-tech surveillance equipment to spy on their customers. Word is that the company is to become the first retailer in the world to introduce a security scheme, normally used to trap football hooligans, pedophiles and terrorists, to photograph customers as they enter Borders book stores. SmartFace -- known as FaceIt in the USA -- keeps a database of "unique digital face-maps'" that will check customers' pictures against those of known shoplifters. So keep your head down as you walk through the revolving doors.

    Friday, August 24, 2001

    See You in the Funny Pages
    Jason Little's been serializing his most recent comics work on his Web site since last July. "Shutterbug Follies" tells the tale of a young female photo developer who stumbles across a series of mysterious negatives and enlists the aid of several friends, including a cab driver, to crack the case. There are more than 30 episodes online right now, and it's a fun read. Don't wait for Jason's Doubleday book to come out next fall. Start following Bee's adventures today! You can also read "Shutterbug Follies" in the New York Press every week.

    Thursday, August 23, 2001

    From the In Box: What the Hell? IV
    I just came across the letters you sent to the American Journal of Print. Funny, because after the journal-release party in May, I sent an extensive e-mail to Scott Korb saying, in essence, the exact same thing: I like the content generally, it's great to see the journal, you've gotta watch the blatant McSweeney's idolatry. You should have seen the press release advertising the event -- or for that matter, the event itself, featuring a high-school gospel choir. Which was good, actually.

    The reading in May was cool. Readings are almost never cool, with the exception of (you guessed it) the McSweeney's readings. This AJoP reading, in addition to the aforementioned high school choir (a little too "Is this meant to be ironic or is it earnest?" chin-scratcher-y to me), took place in a dark bar that usually hosts avant garde music, and the agglomeration of pieces read felt sorta like a "This American Life" sans the soapy Sarah Vowell-esque "This is what America is really like," feeling. They had bands. It seemed improvised (mainly because they forgot I was supposed to read, and they shoehorned me back in at the last minute).

    And it was interesting to be seen as a link in a great literary chain, though I have never met Eggers (I have been to three or four of his events, though, and I randomly ran into Sara Stewart at one of them. ... She works for Razorfish (well, "worked," probably) and blew me off when I told her that I was surprised Neal Pollack turned out so un-twerpy-looking, considering how he looked when he was a Daily columnist).

    I was wondering who would come across the AJoP. That answers that.
    -- Jeremy Simon

    I didn't know "agglomeration" was a word. Now I do. Thanks, Jeremy.
    From the In Box: From the Reading Pile
    Thank you muchly for the review [of Comb-Over #2]. It's great to get positive feedback, especially when it's someone you don't know. I mean, there's only so many times I can hear my mom say the comic is funny before the words lose all meaning. ... We are currently awaiting word from the Xeric Foundation, from whom we applied for a grant. Whether or not we get it, #3 will hopefully be out by the late fall (i.e. October/November). -- Dave Bryson

    Wednesday, August 22, 2001

    Fish Are Funny
    Courtesy of David Mankins, a fish joke from Japan:
    "Sakanaya no ojisan ga odoro ita."

    "The old fish monger was surprised."
    "Just kidding."

    "Gyo" is the sound that they use for being surprised in manga; it's also a way of reading the character for "fish" in Japanese. Maybe that's why fish always look surprised.
    From the In Box: What the Hell? III
    I saw your Web site last week during the American Journal of Print brouhaha. The one thing, though, that I have to contest is your description of my "David Eggers fetish." I think that once you read more of the Log you'll understand that although I'm interested in The Dave's rise to fame, I'm not by any means running some sort of continuing fanzine-type of column. I could have used any sort of recent "hot" thing to chart the rise of a pop culture phenomenon. I just chose him because I found him fascinating at the time. -- Gary Baum

    Fair enough. So eggers is less of a fetish and more of a totem for your wider interests? I was certainly struck by the preponderance of Eggers references -- and mentions of his compatriots.

    I'm looking forward for more from MM -- brilliant stuff, Gary. You should be proud.

    Thanks for the kind words. MM's on a semi-hiatus for the next six weeks or so, though, since I've just moved into college (the University of Southern California) and now have some new priorities, like the school paper.

    Tuesday, August 21, 2001

    What the Hell? III
    Thanks to my friends at Cardhouse, the following just came to my attention: Gary Baum's blog My Manifesto is a Sam Pratt-inspired look at media. In its entries, Gary spends no little time exploring his David Eggers fetish. Gary communicates with Eggers groupies, receives hate mail -- or at least spite mail -- from the effervescent Karl Wenclas, and traces the ripples of Eggers' media wake. Gary hasn't updated the blog since the end of July, but the logs are deep -- digging into February 2000. I'll be poking around for awhile, that's for sure.

    Monday, August 20, 2001

    From the Reading Pile
    Just got word today that most of the zine and comics reviews I contributed to the next edition of Top Shelf were cut. C'est la vie. Here's a handful of reviews of some of the self-published comics and zines that pile on my floor.

    Comb-Over #2: Ed Curran, Dave Bryson, and Joe Keinberger team up for this 40-page comic of darkly humorous one-offs and parodies. In "How to Eat an Ice Cream Cone," Bryson turns a seemingly harmless how-to into an Ivan Brunetti-styled gag strip. Curran shares a malicious-minded of roommate life in "Toe Skin Crunch." But it's Keinberger whose offerings -- "Eddie the Pill," "Windy Day," and "Stuart" -- make the mini worthwhile. While the first three-page opener is an extended play on words, the 11-page "Windy Day" is an impressive Ralph Steadman-meets-Robert Lewis assortment of one-page vignettes showing what might happen on a windy day in March. "Stuart," then, is a quick bit of petty power play that caps the issue on a bittersweet note. I'll look forward to more from Keinberger and Bryson in the future! Available from Dave Bryson, 19 Taft St. #1, Dorchester, MA 02125.

    Lowbrow Reader of Basement Brow Comedy #1: Published by someone who's a music writer for Time Out New York and a friend of Camden Joy or Mark Lerner -- guessing from the ad for Camden's upcoming Highwater Books novels -- the Lowbrow Reader belongs on the zine racks of comic shops for one reason only. It's not the Johann Sebastian Bach-tweaking sheet music-styled "Quartet for Three Strings and a Talking Jew," (although that's quite clever) and it's not for the rest of the 32-page zine's humor pieces on Billy Madison, the Three Stooges, Howard Stern, or Will Ferrell's portrayals of George Bush on Saturday Night Live. No, it's for Neil Michael Hagerty's eight-page treatise on CAR-toons Magazine, a now-defunct Mad-like satire periodical that focused on hot rod culture. Hagerty's feature is quite similar to a piece Highwater's own Tom Devlin wanted to do for the SPX annual for several years, and it's an important piece of comics ephemera history. Hagerty looks at CAR-toons mission, style, contributors, and content, concentrating on an issue from late 1964 -- well in the magazine's hey day (it wasted away until 1991). In so doing, he addresses CAR-toons relationship to other enthusiast parody magazines of the day, Von Dutch's legacy, and the magazine's role as a gateway to the wider fandom of hot rods. May each issue of the Lowbrow Reader contain such gems, and may Bach burn rubber in his grave. Available from Jay Ruttenberg, 243 W. 15th St. #3RW, New York City, NY 10011 USA.

    Low Jinx #3: Riffing off of Matt Feazell's Understanding Minicomics and Coober Skeber #2, Kurt Wolfgang's stellar 100-page self-published anthology pinches, pokes, and prods the sacred cows of independent comics. Edward Gorey meets Dr. Seuss. Dean Haspiel's Billy Dogma tries to pimp his girlfriend. The Maus cast smuggles drugs. Sam Henderson gets dissed. Ron Rege, Jr., gets tweaked. Jordan Crane tackles Chris Ware with a brilliant 10-page send up of Ware's multi-threaded process-oriented narrative style. John Porcellino's King Cat takes Johnny Ryan to meet the Fort Thunder gang, to visit the Million Year Picnic -- and to save his comics bacon. And Jef Czekaj pinches Brian Ralph's cheeks with a 12-page critique of Ralph's plotting, character development, and dialogue. While it's not always clear who's making fun of whom, Tony Consiglio, Eric Reynolds, Jessie Reklaw, Crane, Czekaj, Henderson, Wolfgang, and the rest of the gang take friendly and funny jabs at some of comics' greatest. Available from Wolfgang at Noe-Fie Monomedia, 14 Allen Pl., Canton, CT 06019.
    What the Hell? II
    Following my exchange with American Journal of Print co-conspirators Ryan Purdy and Scott Korb, they also published portions of our correspondence on their site. Touche! In addition to our emails, there's some Media News commentary by one Richard Braun, who had the same suspicions and contributed valuable additional information. Like that Eggers moved to San Francisco months ago. And that the AJoP site also features meta-tags naming other McSweeney's contributors and fascinations -- sure to attract other McSweeney's fans.
    Dot-Bomb Exhibitionists
    With the recent demise of the Industry Standard, it's slightly en vogue to look forward with caution while celebrating what once was during the Net economy's gilded age. (Insert sigh here.) One venue that's perfect for such celebrations and reminiscences is the Museum of E-Failure, an online exhibit of ghost sites: "an attempt to actively preserve the home pages of sites that will probably disappear in the next few months." Curator Steve Baldwin's even been there and done that; he started collecting dead Web sites six years ago while he was working for the now-defunct Time-Warner portal project, Pathfinder.

    Thursday, August 16, 2001

    Do Not Emulate Me
    I haven't eaten anything in about 24 hours.
    A Lemonhead Drops in
    Star sighting! During band practice last night, Evan Dando walked into our practice space at the Sound Museum. Then, at the Operators show at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain, Evan Dando took the stage for an impromptu set at the end. The Anchormen rushed the stage just after for a quick two songs. I might have even used the same microphone as Evan Dando. That's pretty cool.

    Wednesday, August 15, 2001

    From the In Box: What the Hell? II
    Of course, we were/are a little worried about similarities -- it's hard doing something like this under the shadow of McSwys, especially b/c Korb and I are fans, and acquainted with some of them. And design-wise McSwys is tough to break away from if you're using Quark in your bedroom and have no money for other fancy bits, not to mention the pervasiveness of their design
    ethic (at least Vols. 1 - 3)in today's day and age.

    But your pointing out the similarities served to get us in gear as to really defining ourselves, both on-line and otherwise. As is often the case with such things, we're trying to improve upon the last one, both in content and look, and it should be interesting to see what we come up with for the next one, due in September, we think.

    Again, thanks for reading and noticing Heath, and I (and Korb) look forward to chatting with you in the future -- we're probably going to have a reading in Boston in September...

    Take care, and thanks for your support.
    -- Ryan Purdy
    From the In Box: What the Hell?
    We were informed today of our mention on this Web site, and the attention we have received because of certain similarities to Eggers's journal and Web site, McSweeney's. We, Scott Korb and Ryan Purdy, are the editors of the AJoP, and we would love to clear up some things.

    We aren't affiliated with the McSweeney's gang, although we are friends with some of them, either through coincidence or otherwise. Many of our contributors' works have appeared either in their journal or online, and we have met some of them through McSweeney's infamous events. As far as we can tell, that's where the connections end. (We may be wrong.)

    As sometimes gets spoken about, there is here in New York quite a pool of writers, many of whom happen to operate in the same circles, and many of whom support each other's work. Without trying to sound too conspicuously humble, we are simply one of the several outgrowths of this "community," others including (and its print version) and the Americana reading series.

    About a year ago we started talking about publishing a quarterly journal (We should also credit Amie Barrodale with being there at the beginning). Having the wherewithal to do so may have been prompted in part by Eggers making this not seem an impossible task. After figuring some things out, we chose to try and focus on things that appear infrequently in other publications, namely, people's private fascinations and other such esoteric nonfiction topics. Hence the AJoP: One has articles on pneumatic tubes in New York City, Scrabble tournaments, and the Giant Squid. We also realized that we knew a number of good fiction writers, and expanded the scope of the journal. It has proven successful and, more importantly, amazingly fun and interesting to collect and edit all of these pieces by such great authors, and publish them however we can.

    As for our Web site's design, well. As with many similar endeavors, we were itching to take advantage of the visibility that a Web site would provide. Working with our Web designer and editor, Teresa Lopez-Castro, we made the site in a few days, actually a few hours, still unsure of what its role would be. Hence, our design is simple, and is, in fact, about to change to reflect our own design ideas. It's actually a little funny that this got noticed, as this is the week we're figuring out what to do next with the site. As for all of those things mentioned in our site's code, that's partially our own naivete: in an effort to make sure people could find us, or our writers and their articles, and being a little ignorant of how search engines work, we decided to include everything that may relate to the AJoP's first print edition.

    Regarding our tone, well, we're not sure what to say about that. If what we've written seems ironic or otherwise, we're not sure that was our intention. After all, we all have our own tones, whatever the influences, and sometimes certain things bleed through more than others. We aren't aiming to be thought of as an ironic (post- or otherwise) humor journal; the Web site aims to complement these ideas we've set for our print version and ourselves.

    Thanks, though, for finding us and caring enough to think about what we're doing. After starting out with a quiet task, it's great to see that others are noticing. The support and recognition is wonderful.

    P.S. The Brooklyn location is a coincidence; in fact, one of us is moving to Queens next month, and the AJoP is moving to a P.O. Box.
    -- Ryan Purdy and Scott Korb