Monday, July 30, 2001

Finds of Mine
Random shouts out to two online treasures I've been digging lately.

  • Space is the blog of a 19-year-old Singaporean girl who's into the Net, zines, color, and her dog. Her blog is extremely bright and happy-looking, and I've enjoyed reading the last few entries about her first days back at uni. Seems to have quite a community around her blog, too, as most posts attract a good share of comments and discussion.
  • Paul Hanna's Naked Acid Castle might not be of much interest to you if you don't know Mr. Hanna, but I've gotten a kick out of his friends' recent discussions and shenanigans. Paul's a contributor to Pop Image and seems to revel in the work of Warren Ellis and similar creators. Come to think of it, if you check out the Acid Castle, you might want to stumble over to Warren's discussion space. You'll find many of the Acid Castle's denizens there, too.
  • Building the Next Beantown Zinetown
    Tireless DIY media maker and political activist Rich Mackin is starting to think about Beantown Zinetown 4, the next iteration of this annual grassroots media gathering. And he's going to do it a little differently this time:

    "As I start trying to organize Beantown Zinetown 4 way ahead of time so as to not only avoid the annoyance that has plagued the last 2 but to also make it more a multi-event conference instead of the standard BZ bunch of zinesters in one room, I have decided to make up a Yahoo! group about it, instead of having an increasingly complex mailing list on my email account(s)."

    I know you probably don't need another mailing list, but if you live in the Boston area, this is the premiere zinemaking gathering, and it might be fun to get involved. You can access some past reports on Zinetown thanks to Lone Ranger Radio, Wred Fright, and Rich Mackin himself.

    Wednesday, July 25, 2001

    Pull off, Plug in, Log on
    Former bOING bOING and Wired editor Mark Frauenfelder writes monthly column for Playboy called Living Online. Most months, there's not too much of interest in his reports from the inside of the Web. But occasionally, he picks a winner and highlights a Web site well worth visiting. As I plan the CoF Roadshow for this fall, the more I realize that the less I carry, the better -- and that if I can't get online, I can't get to the next city in good shape. So I was psyched to see Mark's writeup of, an online directory of more than 4,000 Net cafes in 148 countries. You can learn about their hours of operation, their rates, and what kind of equipment they have on hand. Now I know that I won't need to dial in using my laptop all the time. I can just pull off to the side of the road, plug in to one of these cybercafes, and log on. Thanks, Mark.
    Throwing the Book at the Boomers
    This past weekend I read the most wonderful book almost in one sitting. John Strausbaugh, editor of the New York Press has written a smart, funny, and insightful book about the state of rock 'n' roll, how quickly the counterculture became a commodity, and how the Boomers who once led the revolution might have been the very architects of its demise. "Rock Til You Drop" starts as a screed against aging rockers a la the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen but quickly becomes an analysis of the commercialization of rock -- and how the rock "revolution" of the '60s as propelled by MC5, Jefferson Airplane, and other musical groups was never really meant to happen. Strausbaugh holds up several solid examples of how this happened: the Stones themselves, Rolling Stone magazine, and the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. If you have any interest whatsoever in music's role in politics or the politics of music, pick up Strausbaugh's book.

    Friday, July 20, 2001

    On the List: As the Globe Spins
    For more commentary on the Phoenix's coverage of the recent editorial changes at the Globe -- and what they might mean for the paper -- check out Keith Berman's contribution to the Media Diet mailing list.
    From the Inbox: As the Globe Spins
    Have you seen the amazing Dan Kennedy piece in this week's Phoenix about the changing of the editorial guard at the Globe? Wow -- very thorough stuff, though it's too bad that new editor Marty Baron didn't give him an interview. -- Scott Kirsner, July 20

    You mean Goodbye to All That? I hadn't read it yet, actually. And, man oh man are you right: It is thorough. Dan Kennedy's one of the best writers at the Phoenix, and his work documenting the media and journalism scene in the Boston area is one of the things that makes the Phoenix a true alternative paper, despite its corporate organization (the Phoenix, WFNX-FM, Stuff@night, etc.).

    I'm not too surprised that so many Globe-trotters are keeping mum. This is a big deal. And I won't be too surprised if the rounds of layoffs that we've seen recently are followed by an exodus of top-level editorial talent that didn't get the head editor nod. Kennedy's right, Baron needs to build bridges with some of these folks quickly; his arrival is indeed the end of an era at the Globe. It'll also be interesting to see what the outsider's arrival means in terms of the Globe's changing focus. The paper's had a rash of plagiarism charges and bad blood internally. It's dropping sections left and right these days. Will the paper continue to lose credibility and weight? Or will it step up and renew its search for excellence? -- Heath

    Thursday, July 19, 2001

    Meet the Meta-Community!
    Web Crossing Inc. is holding a public online think tank called Return on Investment: Can Your Community Pay the Bills? through July 27, and so far, I am hella impressed with it. The people involved -- including Cliff Figallo, Jon Lebkowsky, Nancy White and other online community notables -- the ideas already being shared and discussed, and the whole feeling of the gathering energizes and inspires me like nothing else. If you have any interest at all in online communities, check it out.

    While I'm on the topic of online communities, I'd like to tip hat to Craig Newmark, founder of Craig's List, which just last night won a Webby Award in the Community category. As a nominating judge in that category, I tried not to have any vested interests in the nominees, but I've got to say that I'm proud and pleased that Craig's pet project has been recognized so. Right on to someone I consider an inspiration, a colleague, and a friend.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2001

    Shows of Note
    In the spirit of Bill Graham, I'm now a show promoter. Friday night, Friday the 13th, natch, I organized a concert featuring three bands: The Tardy, Clare Burson, and Gloria Deluxe. And it was a blast. After a series of near disasters -- previously scheduled bands losing band members and promised venues falling through -- Handstand Command connected with the friendly and funky folks at the MIT Electronic Research Society. Every month, MITERS holds what they call SHOW+TELL potluck performance art parties. We collaborated to punctuate the usual technology demonstrations, mime performances, poetry readings, and other high art shenanigans with live music. Folks seemed to have fun. Now Kastle, my partner in crime for this, and I are thinking of organizing another show in a month or so. Woohoo!

    Friday, July 13, 2001

    Hanging out with Hicks
    A friend of mine, Sander Hicks, publisher of Soft Skull Press was recently interviewed in Terra Spatial. Quoth Sander about the interview, "This might be one of the best interviews I've done, because it was in Ohio, and my mind had been feeling very isolated that morning, among the ultrarelativistic, postmodern anarchist youth of the Underground Publishing Conference, 3 weeks hence."

    I think I know what Sander's talking about. Way back in 1994, I was a panelist at the first Underground Press Conference at DePaul University in Chicago. Events like the old UPC-ICE and the newer UPC tend to bring out the best and the worst of zinemaking -- and zinemakers. One relatively positive zine-related event I recently participated in was the Well's Inkwell discussion about zinemaking and blogs. In fact, the similarities between the two are what inspired me to start Media Diet as a blog.

    Thursday, July 12, 2001

    Get on the List
    There's now a new Media Diet mailing list for people who are interested in discussing items published here, as well as other sundry topics. If you'd like to join the conversation, sign up today.
    From the Inbox
    I stumbled across your blog when updating my own -- yours came up on the "recently updated" section and I recognized the name, but wasn't sure. Are you the same Heath Row who writes for Fast Company? -- Keith Berman, July 10

    I am. Do we know each other? -- Heath

    Unfortunately, no. I'm a former PR guy (don't worry, this isn't a pitch, this is strictly non-business) so I've seen your name around a lot as well as read your stuff in Fast Company, which I liked, and I've always found it interesting to see what writers are like off the clock, so it was great to see that you have a blog. Meeting and chatting with Scott Kirsner (I seriously doubt he remembers me with all the people he's met though) actually made me appreciate his columns and articles more.

    How'd you hook up with your band? I'm looking for a band to sing with as well, though my style leans more towards alternative than punk, so if you have any suggestions of places to look (besides the Phoenix), I'd welcome suggestions. Thanks!

    Huh. I've never started a band with anyone other than friends, so I don't know what advice I can offer. You might check out a couple of local mailing lists -- Newconcerts offers notices of local events, as well as other indie-pop news; and Blisscent is a new-ish list that concentrates on "dreampop and shoegazer projects." You might also flier in places that you think might be frequented by the kinds of folks you'd like to play with. Does anyone else have other advice? Share.
    Spinning Discs on the Web
    As I was researching record labels based in cities I'll be visiting on the Company of Friends Roadshow this fall, I stumbled across one of the most amazing Web resources I've seen for quite some time. Record Labels on the Web is a searchable database of record label Web sites. The labels are organized geographically as well as by genre, and it's quite the useful tool -- regardless of whether you're a music geek or some sort of strange traveler who likes stopping by record label offices while you're on the road. I'd be, well, both. Thanks to the developers, Rancid Amoeba. You guys rock.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2001

    The Dirty Half Dozen
    Last night's rain also gave me a rare chance to hole up at home and catch up on my reading pile. Here's a handful of reviews of some of the self-published comics that pile on my floor.

    Love Letters for the President: Handwritten by area cartoonist Ben Jones in two narrative voices, this 16-page pamphlet contains 11 fictional letters exchanged by John Truman and his love Bess Oldheart. Dated in the late '20s, the letters share mundane details about the romantic wonders of correspondence, new stationery, farm life, tennis, marriage, and war. They also tell of the frustrations brought on by distance, familial meddling, and how little love letters can convey. Ben graces the bittersweet correspondence with computer graphics and hand drawings, which stretch his usual drawing style. Available through Million Year Picnic, 99 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA.

    Spaceship on Earth 17: Drawn in a dense, almost claustrophobic style incorporating a surprisingly clean, spacious line, J.D. Durst's 16-page photocopied comic carries the "story of the day spaceships came to earth and of the effect they had on the rest of the planet." Dated 1999, the comic features a bald, bespectacled narrator who tells readers about changes in architecture, religion, art, and business. Pages 7 and 8's spread of Space Camp, a sprawling metropolis, is quite impressive, but the comic's concentration on commerce goes nowhere; the utopian hopes of the future are given short shrift. The comic ends with a two-page spread dominated by Marvel Comics-influenced killer robots and the title "Welcome to the Big Brick Shithouse." An odd mix of intention and inanity. Unfortunately, the email address in the comic no longer works; I have no contact information to offer.

    Shelf Life: An impressive 24-page, half-legal, photocopied effort by Max Nordlie, this mini is a clever mix of roughly drawn comics, writing, and sketchbook pages. There are three main sections. The first, a five-page, 10-panel comic, features two men sitting on a brick wall and talking about love. The pacing and dialogue is excellent, and the punchline funny. Next there is a sloppy comic titled "Adventures in Weight Training" that concentrates on the embarassing horrors of gym class and lacrosse injuries. Lastly, "The Last Man on Earth." A lone man enters a burning city, procures a hand gun, and then wakes from a nap to a new, less satisfying reality. Impressive. Write to Max Nordlie at 1418 3rd St., Coronado, CA 92118 USA to see whether he's still up to his old tricks.

    Cyril, the Little Dead Boy: If you grew up on Casper, the Friendly Ghost, and you're sick and tired of Jhonen Vasquez, Neumie's eight-page pocket comic will make you smile. The short story? A sad boy gets crushed by a falling bookshelf. The up side? Neumie's heavy pen and children's book exposition. Reminds me of Aaron Pikcilingis's contributions to the zine Karma Lapel. Email Neumie for more information about the ghost with the most.

    Gator: Ben Jones is brilliant. Just when you think he's gone and drawn a comic with a Sharpie and then proceeded to phtocopy it double-sided accidentally so you can see the bleed, he throws in a one-panel Warp Zone that indicates he know exactly what he's doing. Gator is a new character, of the Alfie school. He's dressed like a motorcyclist, is an avid coffee drinker, writes and performs poetry, and is about to go on a very Hip Trip. This 22-page multicolored comic blends Ben's comics with his recent experiments in poetry and delivers quite a punch of attitude, humor, and neo-psychedelia. If there's a new underground underway, Ben holds a shovel. Available through Million Year Picnic, 99 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA.

    Runoff: Tom Manning's well-printed 2000 comic is difficult to read. Actually, it's a relatively quick read, but it's a challenge to decipher. What I got out of Tom's darkly inked, shadowily drawn story is this: Near a rural, mountainout community anchored by highways, there are ghosts: cartoony, floating eraser-shaped apparitions; wispy, smoke-edged little girls; and vicious lycanthropes. The art is solidly impressive in its weight, and Tom's sense of humor lightens the dark mood several times. His Doonesbury-esque strip on pages 14-17 and the couch-bound exchange between Mort and his trucker friend are especially clever. I came across Tom's work late. I hope to encounter it again. Email Tom or visit his Web site for more information.
    Mixed Drinks and Mingling II
    Torrential rain kept me from making it to Boston Business Forward's launch party at Vox Populi. So I didn't get to meet any of the staff or rub elbows with the folks BBF listed in their "Next Network," 40 rising stars in the Boston business community. The publisher's letter in the first issue nods to the current economic challenges but contends that Boston "deserves a magazine of its own." We'll see how things develop!

    Tuesday, July 10, 2001

    Book, Line, and Sinker
    This space has been blank for the past week because I was on vacation in northern Wisconsin. While visiting my parents, I picked up an issue of Musky Hunter magazine. It's based in St. Germaine, Wis., is published out of a building that contains a collection of muskellunge replicas, and is one of the neatest examples of enthusiast journalism I've seen for awhile. You see, the editors are fishing guides. They write instructional books and make instructional video tapes. Articles feature photos of the authors, editors, and their friends -- complete with fish. There's even a Readers' Photos section that compiles pictures of MH readers -- complete with fish they've caught. (But there's a disclaimer: "Please be patient -- due to the popularity of this section, it may take up to a year for your photos to appear." Isn't fishing all about patience?)