Wednesday, July 31, 2002

The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night IX
While in Evanston, Illinois, earlier this week, I had dinner with Claire Zulkey at the Lucky Platter. I ordered four side dishes -- mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, beans and rice, and a simple salad -- just like I was at a meat-and-three in Tennessee. Mmm! I also had a tamarind lemonade. It was really good, but I wondered: What the heck is tamarind? I like tamarind nectar, and I like tamarind lemonade, but I couldn't quite peg it. Kind of like figs, kind of like dates. A little like raisins, sort of like prunes. But not really. I thought it was a fruit -- and it is -- but it's also considered a spice. The word "tamarind" derives from tamr hindi, or "date of India." So they are kind of like dates!


My friend Lynne-Marie and her husband just opened a cafe near the Art Institute of Chicago at Michigan and Madison. Millennium Perk is a wonderfully comfortable spot with extremely good coffee -- try the Foglifter! -- a shelf full of interesting books ranging from Christopher Locke to Thomas Merton, and a friendly staff and patrons. They cater, too. If you go, be sure to look up toward the front of the cafe from the counter to see the second-story office without windows, and if you're feeling brave, ask to see the narrow, narrow staircase. Depending on how much coffee you drink, you might need to use the restroom. Ask for the key at the counter, and the bathroom's on the second floor -- you can walk up the stairs from the lobby. Congratulations, Lynne-Marie -- Millennium Perk rocks!


Last night, I ate at Carton's with Joe, Jennifer, and Kirsten. They called Carton's a diner, but it's probably the nicest diner-cum-family restaurant I've ever been to. The section we sat in was filled to the gills with Gold Coast blue hairs, and there's a pretty large bar on the other end of the restaurant. Decorated like a Denny's, Carton's food is anything but similar. Three of us ordered breakfasts, and Joe ordered a corned beef sandwich. I ordered a Greek scramble -- I forget the word for it -- that had eggs, onion, feta, and tomatoes. Came with Greek toast, which is kind of like scali bread, but thicker, grapefruit juice, and coffee. The coffee was really, really good. You should go there just for coffee.

Friday, July 26, 2002

'Tis the Season to Be... AWOL IX
In a couple of hours, I'm heading to the airport to fly to Wisconsin for a mini-family reunion -- and then to Chicago, where I will be judging a marketing competition for architecture, design, and construction professionals. I will be back in the office and online next Wednesday.

While I always hope to update Media Diet while traveling, if I don't, that doesn't mean that Media Diet is dead (long live Media Diet!). It just means that it's resting. Besides, I still owe you a trip report from my previous trip home. Keep your eyes peeled for a report on Al Capone's summer home in northern Wisconsin -- and a supper club that got shot up by the feds because John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson were staying there.
Morning Delusional
This almost never happens to me, but this morning, upon waking (for the first time) at 5:17 a.m., I was completely disoriented. I didn't know where I was, I didn't know what day it was, and I didn't know what I had to do today. This never happens to me -- not even when I'm on the road for two months -- I always know where I am and why I'm there.

But this morning, I woke in a near-panic and totally disoriented. I checked the clock, walked around my apartment, looked outside, and checked my calendar to reaffirm where I was and when it was. Then, having gotten everything settled again ("I'm home, it's Friday, and I'm flying to Wisconsin this afternoon; I need to pack."), I went back to bed for a couple of hours.

When I finally got up at a reasonable hour, I knew exactly who I was, where I was, and what I was doing. Phew! Has anyone else ever experienced this disorientation in the morning?

Thursday, July 25, 2002

The Red... Sux!
I am ever so lame today, for many reasons, but the reason I am going to tell you about involves baseball. I had a ticket to last night's Red Sox game. I didn't go, though. You see, I thought the game was tonight. Yesterday a co-worker forwarded an email reminder about the game, and it said "tomorrow" because it had originally been sent two days ago. So "tomorrow" was actually yesterday. You with me?

Also, having just moved into a new office, the ticket was stashed away. Thinking the game was tonight, not last night, I planned to find the ticket today and give it away to someone else. I couldn't go tonight because of recording with the Anchormen. But I could've gone last night. And had I looked for the ticket yesterday, I would've. Certainly should've.

Anyway, I found the ticket more easily than ever expected this morning and was quite surprised that it was dated for yesterday, not today. So I can't even give it away. This is one reason I am lame.

At least the Red Sox lost.

What did I do last night instead of going to the Red Sox game I could've gone to? Stayed home, sat on the Big Blue Couch, and listened to a bunch of great late '80s Wisconsin bands: Couch Flambeau, the Gomers, Cattleprod, and the Tar Babies.
Business Media Reportage Goes Boom, Now Bust III
Gruner & Jahr, publisher of the magazine I work for, recently reorganized its business magazine division. Media Life's Jeff Bercovici paints a less than rosy picture of the state of business magazines.
North End Moment XXIV
Written on a little slip of paper found in the Central Square T station on my way to work:

Marilyn Diptych

Flip side:

  • comment on the media status @ the time after Marilyn's death
  • used garish colors to make masklike
  • From the In Box: Ditherati Down! was domain-jacked by a cybersquatter. I'm trying to get it back now. Meanwhile, Ditherati continues. -- Owen Thomas

    Wednesday, July 24, 2002

    Business Media Reportage Goes Boom, Now Bust II
    Contrary to my previous entry -- and unpopular opinion about the magazine after it merged with the now-defunct and -retitled E-Company Now -- it seems as though Business 2.0 is on the upswing. Time Inc. is going to inject more money into the monthly, and the magazine continues to tweak and redesign how it does what it does.
    Business Media Reportage Goes Boom, Now Bust
    There are a couple of interesting pieces on media coverage of the economic boom and bust in this week. First off, Michael Dolny analyzes how most mainstream media coverage of the boom was conservative in nature -- not liberal as many media critics contend generally. Conservative think tank representatives got more ink than liberal think tank representatives. Corporate executives got more play than union officials.

    In addition, Steven Rosenfeld interviews author Jack Beatty about recent changes in business reportage. Boosterism is ceding to skepticism. There was a "new economy" in the '20s built on automobiles and the radio. And the New York Times and magazines such as Businessweek are increasingly critical in their coverage of large organizations, largely sparked by Enron.

    Interesting perspectives as the page counts -- and reporter staffs -- of newspapers' business sections continue to shrink. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that business sections were cutting their stock and mutual fund listings. In fact, many business sections have continued to thin -- beefed up slightly by coverage of the recent corporate corruption scandals -- and while I haven't been able to track down stats, I wouldn't be surprised if our former glut of business reporters hasn't been trimmed, as well.
    Thought for Food III
    I've been cooking at home again lately. Cooking at home is a rarity. In fact, eating is a rarity, as I don't really like food and for some strange reason, my body never really feels hungry. I don't get peckish. My stomach doesn't growl. And because I miss the usual human cues to eat, I regularly skip meals. Eating is something I have to consciously schedule. It doesn't ever just happen.

    In any event, I've been trying to cook again. Cooking up a storm, although last night's storm was nowhere as bad in Cambridge as folks had predicted. I didn't need to worry about my windows at all. Elsewhere, others were not so lucky. In West Brookfield, the wind tore the roof off an unoccupied home on Lake Wickaboag. The wind there also uprooted a grove of 30 trees. In Easthampton, wind speed reached more than 70 mph. In Cambridge, it drizzled.

    But what have I been cooking? I'm glad you asked! Sunday I whipped up some clam pasta. It's basically a sauce you pour over whatever pasta you prefer. The recipe from Parents magazine suggested linguini. I used rotini. The sauce goes a little like this. Heat up some olive oil. Add some red pepper flakes. Add some garlic. Just before the garlic browns, add a can of V8 -- or about a third of the V8 glass bottle size. Boil and reduce by about half. Stir in some diced tomatoes and cook until it bubbles again. Add some drained clams from a can (the first time I've ever bought clams in a can!), a bit of lemon or lime juice (I used lime, and it was fine), a bit of butter to make it creamy, and basil if you've got some. Heat a little longer and then pour it over the pasta. It's good, it's got bite, and the leftovers reheat well.

    Last night's recipe -- gleaned from Fitness magazine -- wasn't as good, but it was worth a shot. Crumble up about a fourth of an extra-firm tofu package. Add some crumbled-up goat cheese. However much you think you can stomach. Crack in four eggs. Add some curry powder, again to taste. Whisk away. Pour all of this into a frying pan -- I melted a bit of butter into mine first. Let the eggs settle and cook on the bottom. When firm, cut into quarters and flip to cook the other side. When done cooking, throw some of the egg into a warm tortilla, add some salsa, roll it up, and eat. I didn't like this dish as much as the previous one for several reasons. I used too much tofu. I didn't add enough curry. I should've added some salt and pepper. The thing needed some green -- maybe some spinach or something. But if done well, this could be quite tasty. It's certainly comfort food and as good for dinner as it would be for breakfast. Mmm, migas.

    What have you been cooking lately?

    Tuesday, July 23, 2002

    Factsheet Life
    I recently reconnected with an old friend I haven't talked to or emailed in about five years -- Seth Friedman, former publisher of Factsheet 5. When I lived near San Francisco, I spent quite a bit of time hanging out with Seth and the F5 gang -- Chris Becker; Ashley Parker Owens; John Held, Jr.; and Jerod Pore. I've fallen out of touch with most of the old F5 gang, and I miss them. Like I miss San Francisco. While I lived in the Bay Area, Jerod introduced me to Japanese cuisine and wasabi, for which I will be eternally grateful.

    In an edition of the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month, Jerod contributed a piece about his bipolar personality. This is what Seth emailed me, and it's what reconnected us. The first-person account of manic depression was inspired by a Rob Morse column about Electroboy. It's a moving and insightful look at how extreme ups and downs can affect your life. What's even more moving and insightful is Jerod's account of the series of events surrounding the publication of the piece -- Morse's original column, Jerod's letter of commment, his original draft, his edited draft, the draft as it was edited by the Chron, and reader response.

    The context is as interesting as the content. Jerod experienced waves of mania and depression while writing the piece -- and writing about writing the piece. In fact, Seth says that Jerod's been going through a pretty rough spell lately, and I miss him -- regardless of which him I might be missing. Good to reconnect.
    Rules for Fools X
    Rule No. 13: Leaving all of your windows open and saying, "It won't rain; it's such a beautiful day!" won't fend off the storm barreling toward New England.
    Technofetishism XIII
    And I thought the Activision handheld was a cool idea. Intellivision Productions Inc. has developed a wide-ranging Web site about the classic video game system of the '80s. But the really neat thing is that you can download free games to play on your Mac or PC -- and that they offer CD-ROM collections of more than 80 old games, including games that were never released! They also offer a CD-ROM of Colecovision games. The discs also provide the history of Intellivision, original package art, biographies of programmers, TV commercials, and video interviews with many of the original programmers. Wow.

    Thanks to Matt.
    Rock Shows of Note XXIX
    Apologies for the delay on reporting on the actual Art Beat Sideshow organized by Handstand Command. This was the first time -- that I'm aware of -- that the Somerville Arts Council helped set up an evening event attached to Art Beat, much less an event geared more toward adults than children and families. We were thrilled to be part of it, and Emily, Beth, and Rachel deserve a lot of kudos for putting together such an amazing show.

    An actual baby bottle.

    Besides the paperboard facades and stage decorations, the Dilboy VFW hall was outfitted with a circus relic display, jarred curiosities, a popcorn and cotton candy machine, and assorted art installations. Folks didn't have a lot of time to explore the space and see the displays, and it was quite dark once the lights went out and the show started, but the installations and circus decorations added a lot to the feeling of the space.

    The show opened with Scrapple performing a framing song -- reprised at the end of the show -- welcoming everyone to the Sideshow's "freak flesh parade." I dressed up as a half-man/half-dog and was led onto the stage by Leslie, who performs in Asian Babe Alert with Tom of the Anchormen and Scrapple. The song peaked with a parade around the hall. My dog hat fell off on the way around. I never did find it and hope that someone else picked it up. (Geisslah said he thinks he has it, so things should be cool.)

    Laurel the Baton Twirler is a freak.

    There was so much going on, it's hard to describe in a linear way. So I'm not going to. An artichoke fought a beet. Baby Man recited poetry. Steak battled a potato chip -- perhaps the best wrestling costume done up in grand Kaiju Big Battel style. Jennifer took photos of people. I made popcorn. Steph made cotton candy. Scads of bands played short, short sets: the Operators, the Anchormen, Asian Babe Alert, Sinkcharmer, and Scrapple. The Anchormen's set was really fun, and people seemed to respond well to our songs about gas stations, Chinese restaurants, and urban planning.

    The Operators take the stage.

    After the bands played, the show shifted gears. The Burlesque Revival Association (yes, BRA) performed several sultry numbers. Jake the Puppet Master staged a disturbing Punch and Judy show drawing on original scripts. Laurel the Baton Twirler did her thing. And at the very end, a DJ spun records. Folks danced until the place closed around 1 a.m. and Handstand Command broke down the sets.

    Overall, the Sideshow was a brilliant ending to Art Beat. Handstand Command enjoyed putting it together. The Somerville Arts Council folks seemed to have a good time. And the place was packed! Thrilled silly that everyone hung around for so much of the show. There was a lot going on, and it lasted about five hours.

    Hooray for Art Beat!

    Photographs courtesy of Kathleen and Paul Coleman.
    Red Letter Day
    Been fired? Right-sized? Esquire offers an Exit-Memo Generator that will help you torch the bridge or kiss the boot.

    Thanks to Metafilter.
    Pulling the Plug IV
    608 closed last night. I know they had trouble with their transition from club to restaurant to club again, but did anyone see this coming? Club III was open so long. 608/Lilli's, we hardly knew ye.

    Monday, July 22, 2002

    Fill Your Television II
    Are you tired of your geeky friend expounding on how Mork & Mindy is really a spin-off of Happy Days and that Charlie's Angels once set sail on the Love Boat? One up the bum with knowledge gleaned from Thom Holbrook's Crossovers and Spin Offs Master List. Like, I betcha didn't know that Col. Klink from Hogan's Heroes cameoed on a 1966 episode of Batman. Well, now you do.
    Behind the Scenes: Rock Shows of Note XXIX
    This weekend was the weekend of Art Beat on Davis Square in Somerville. I was involved in two Art Beat-related activities. One, I helped work the Somerville Comics Collaborative table, the brainchild of Jef Czekaj. He spent much of the day overseeing a collective comics creation project in which Art Beat participants could contribute panels and pages to an ongoing narrative comic.

    Our spot at Art Beat

    Even though the day was overcast and near-rain for most of Art Beat, there was a good turnout -- and the sun finally broke later in the afternoon. "The whole city is drawing a comic! You can help!" I would call into the crowds passing by. Young children, young adults, and even the elderly sat down for a spell to help develop a flip-book comic about a giant cat attacking Somerville, rocket ships, its friend Funky Dragon, giant cookies, dancing, and the sea.

    Jef, head of the Somerville Comics Collaborative

    We're going to produce a minicomic compiling all of the contributions to redistribute to all of the people who contributed. I was pretty pleased with how it came out -- and thrilled to be able to help Jef at the table. We're even discussing making a Web slideshow of the comic with a voiceover narration. I'll let you know if that comes together.

    Somervillains co-create a comic

    We shared table space with Dan Moynihan, who made Davis Square T-shirts sporting an image from a nearby traffic sign. He also had handmade note cards and minicomics for sale.

    This is Dan. He's not glaring, but the sun is.

    He only made 100 of the shirts, and they were quite popular. He was down to less than 10 by the end of the day and says that he might make more.

    A better view of the sign. But not necessarily of Dan.

    All that said, I spent much of the day hanging and helping out at the Dilboy VFW hall to set up for the Art Beat Sideshow organized by Handstand Command. (Mostly, it was organized by Emily and Beth of the Washington Street Art Center, so many thanks and kudos to them!) We gathered at the Dilboy to construct the stage, put together facades for the merch and display tables, and set up the popcorn and cotton candy maker.

    The go-away zone.

    It's amazing what paperboard, scrap wood, ribbon, thumbtacks, and duct tape can do -- and our constructions really changed the nature of the space. Even Rachel Strutt of the Somerville Arts Council contributed a display of Lemony Snicket-like circus relics.

    Emily and Geisslah puttin' up the house.

    Between meeting up with Jef at 11, checking out the Dilboy at 12:30, and reconvening for band setup and soundcheck at 6, Saturday was a full day -- and the Handstand Command Sideshow hadn't even happened yet!

    Stay tuned for the rest of the story...
    It's an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World XII
    Been digging the new Apple Switch ads featuring fine folks such as Mark Frauenfelder? Now there's a parody of Mark's spot. It made me smile.

    Thanks to BoingBoing.
    Cashing in on Comics
    If you've been inside a comics shop lately -- or scanned the newsstand at your local grocery store -- you might have seen some throwbacks to old standbys: GI Joe, the Transformers, Battle of the Planets, and Thundercats. Why the resurgence of reminiscence? In Ninth Art, Ben Wooler takes a look at the return to time-tested cartoon and comic properties. He consider the market for what he terms a "new nostalgia" and compares the string of rehashed series to Vertigo's revitalization of Doom Patrol, Sandman, Swamp Thing and other titles in the '80s and '90s. While I agree that the new nostalgia is nothing new -- filmmakers, musicians, and cartoonists cyclically return to reconsider successful creative franchises of the past -- I doubt the strength of the Vertigo parallel. The new-old titles we're seeing lately are more media tie-in plays than drastic rewritings a la Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. Think Archie's repositioning of Josie and the Pussycats in conjunction with the release of the move. Also, the publishers in question are clearing playing to the post-baby boomer nostalgia many post-Generation X'ers are currently experiencing. But Wooler poses an interesting question, hinged on his fond memories of Voltron and the Masters of the Universe: "We don't really remember the sub-par animation, dialogue and characterisation, do we?"

    Do we?

    Friday, July 19, 2002

    Blogging About Blogging XXVIII
    The Media Diet discussion forum is open again! Now you can either comment on a Media Diet entry or take your talk over to the discussion forum.

    Why bring it back? Well, I missed other friends' forums, and my recent participation in a discussion in the Atlantic Monthly's Post & Riposte forum heightened that longing. So there you go. Do what you will. We'll see if Delphi Advanced's $1.25/month is worth it.
    Comics and Calamity II
    Not only can you help William Messner-Loebs, creator of Journey, through his current financial and housing crisis by making a donation via PayPal -- Bill's email address is -- but John Roberson is currently working on a benefit e-book for the cause.

    Entitled Working for the Man, thanks to Donna Barr, the book will include work by folks such as Sam Henderson, Peter Kuper, David Lasky, and a score of others whose names I do not recognize. Word is that Gary Groth will pen the introduction and that Unbound Comics will publish the e-book.

    Thanks to the Warren Ellis Forum. Wasted My Money
    I'm obsessed with secret societies. And while I realize that the Masons are hardly secret, I've been researching their history, organization, and rituals. So I recently bought Duncan's Ritual of Freemasonry from Amazon. They even recommended that I also purchase a companion volume, Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor, at a discount along with Duncan's Ritual. So I did.

    The tomes arrived in the mail yesterday. And while I should have done a little more poking around before making good on that impulse purchase and cross-sell, Amazon wasted my money. They are the same book. One is hardcover, one is softcover. And while the ISBN's are different -- hardcover and softcover editions differ by a single digit -- the title and author is exactly the same. Despite Amazon's positioning on their site.

    Thanks a lot, Amazon. This is why I usually buy books from Powell's or the Harvard Book Store. And why Media Dieticians should do the same.
    Playwright or Wrong
    David Mogolov, former editor-in-chief of Knowumsayin, gets his 15 seconds of fame today courtesy of Claire Zulkey. David and Claire chat about a one-man play David wrote about a night he spent at an airport in Warwick, R.I., improvisational acting, and the history of Knowumsayin and 1099, another Webzine David was involved in. He also comments on the differences between the Midwest and New England -- as well as the perceived rivalry between Boston and New York City.

    I haven't met David, but I'll be sure to check out his play when it debuts in September. And I know he knows Ken Gordon, so he's probably good people.
    Happy Birthday to Media Dieticians V
    Air conditioning turns 100 this week. With Boston's recent heat, I'm quite thankful to air conditioning's inventor, Willis Haviland Carrier.

    Thanks to Slashdot.
    Event-O-Dex VI
    Don't forget the Somerville Arts Council Art Beat festivities this weekend on Davis Square. The Anchormen are performing several short songs about food and fighting as part of the Art Beat Sideshow organized by the Handstand Command music collective. Expect a burlesque show, wrestling vegetables, and other fun. If by fun you mean a baton twirler.

    The Handstand Command collective was featured today in the Boston Globe. If you get your hands on the print edition, look for the photograph -- I'm the guy in the red T-shirt with the stringless violin standing on the tree. Reilly Capps, a relatively young and recent transplant to the area pens a piece that is part report on Art Beat and part profile of the collective. He shares our origin story, outlines the kinds of arts and music events we like to organize, and details our place in the Somerville and Boston-area arts community.

    Anchormen, aweigh!

    Thursday, July 18, 2002

    Among the Literati XI
    If you think that David Eggers' writing is funny, you might find these jokes about Eggers funny.

    Thanks to Typing, Typing, Typing: AOPTTWADE.
    Comics Crackdown II
    Chicago-area cartoonist Stu Helm, also known as King VelVeeda, has been ordered to stop using his nickname as part of a court case brought on by Kraft Foods. According to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund:

    CBLDF defendant Stu Helm has lost the first round in his battle against corporate censorship. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys handed down a 32 page decision granting Kraft's request for preliminary injunction against Helm's use of the nickname "King VelVeeda." The injunction prohibits Helm from using the name on his Website or in any commercial context. The decision freezes Helm's ability to sell original art created before the injunction unless he physically removes the nickname from the piece, effectively defacing each original image. It also blocks the sale of "Singles and Seconds," a collection of single page erotic vignettes.

    The Magistrate's decision further orders Helm to remove the nickname from all Web pages, metatags, and search engines. Helm has spent the weeks since the decision painstakingly obliterating all references to the name from his site. His next court date is July 29 where he will demonstrate full compliance with the Judge's orders.

    The CBLDF's legal team has filed an appeal to the Magistrate's decision. Presently we are awaiting a decision on the appeal, following which a trial date will be set. However, the decision on the appeal may take months to come through. Meanwhile, the Fund is nearing the five figure mark in case expenses and needs to build funds to fight the next round.

    "They already took my name," Stu Helm says, "and in court I could be fighting for my life." Part of the terms of Kraft's suit is that if Helm loses he may have to pay Kraft's legal fees plus punitive damages. The Fund's legal team estimates Kraft's expenses are nearing six figures. The longer the case is delayed, the sharper their fees escalate, and the more urgent Stu's plight becomes.

    CBLDF Director Charles Brownstein explains, "We leapt onto this case when it was already in motion with all our legal guns. Unfortunately the judge felt that the balance of harms favored Kraft's commercial speech over Helm's artistic speech, but that doesn't mean that Stu's case has been weakened. The preliminary injunction needed to show Kraft having a fair shot at prevailing in the trial, it doesn't mean that they're right, and it certainly doesn't mean that they'll win. It's still early in the process, and we intend to keep fighting."

    "With trademark and copyright laws in a state of flux, it's important to fight these instances of corporate censorship," explains Fund Board Member Louise Nemschoff. "If Kraft prevails, the precedent could be damaging not only to comic book creators poking fun at corporate culture, but to musicians, filmmakers, and other artists making use of puns or homonyms of corporate marks."

    "This case is about what is protected as free speech," says CBLDF legal counsel Ken Levinson. "We would be remiss in our duties if we didn't protect a comic book artist like Stu while that battle is being waged in the higher courts. Comics are a place where precedents are set in entertainment law, and we have to fight to ensure that a bad precedent isn't set here."

    To Support the CBLDF's continuing defense of Stu Helm and other casework make a donation.

    Or, boycott Kraft, Phillip Morris, and affiliated products and brands.
    Music to My URL's II
    I just heard co-worker Dan's band Cathode for the first time. Media Dieticians everywhere should listen to some of their MP3's. Beautiful instrumental music on a slightly post-rock tip.
    Splitsville, Population: 2
    Uber-couple of the '90s Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie, have separated. I'm not usually one for celebrity gossip, but I find this fascinating. They were so delightfully creepy together!

    Thanks to Real Joe.
    Music to My URL's
    WebPlayer is one of the most interesting Shockwave projects I've encountered recently. The tool converts Web pages' HTML code into numbers, which are then run through formulas that create sound streams. The Fast Company home page evokes a soothing wash of sound, while this very page results in a stuttering, busy signal-like series of tones.

    Thanks to Metafilter.
    North End Moment XXIII
    In the alley behind the Scotch & Sirloin building, there's a Meola Vending van. Meola is based in Worcester, Massachusetts. On the rear door of the van, there's lettering that reads "Just Say No to Drugs." Quote marks formerly surrounded "No," but they've been removed. You can still see faint traces.

    I have two questions. One, why is Meola taking such a public position on the drug issue? And two, grammatically, "Just Say 'No' to Drugs" is correct, while "Just Say No to Drugs" is not, no? I'm no copy editor.

    Wednesday, July 17, 2002

    Technofetishism XII
    Finally up and running with my new PowerBook G4 full time! Getting all of my preferences set -- printer, etc. -- and making sure everything's here. What a beaut!


    Just a quick review of the Toymax Activision 10-in-1 TV Game, which I took for a test drive last night. It's important that you use fresh batteries in the controller, or you get these surreal, shifting pixellated graphics on your TV. I thought it was broken at first. Of the games included, Grand Prix and Crack Pots seem to be the most fun. There's a game called Freeway that really perplexes me. You're a chicken, and all you can do is cross the road in a straight line. It's like Frogger, only boring. Additionally, it doesn't seem that you can actually progress through levels in the games. When you complete a run, the game just ends, and you have to select a level manually. So it doesn't bode well for long-time game play. But the biggest frustration is the fire button. You see, it doesn't work very well. The directional keypad works fine, but the keypad used for firing is slightly inconsistent and difficult to work. That'll also affect gameplay. But it's fun revisiting all the old Activism games. And for $20, some cheap design elements can be overlooked.
    Sketchy Ethics II
    In her blog Hangzhou T-Salon, Media Dietician Andrea Leung comments on my recent post about Steve Friess' time working in China. She argues that as a foreigner, Steve probably didn't have any opportunity to initiate change at the paper -- and that any attempts to do so may have written his ticket home.

    Valid context. Thanks, Andrea! I must admit that I'm still somewhat bemused by opinion pieces like Steve's, however. American journalist works overseas. American journalist comes home and writes a snarky take on the experience, pointing out the limitations of non-American journalism with some humor. American journalist makes little effort to improve conditions overseas. The columns just write themselves!
    Read But Dead VIII
    The Oxford American which almost shut up shop this spring, has found a new backer. But don't expect to see the same magazine. OxAm's going to relocate to Little Rock, Arkansas, has let go its existing staff, and will hire a new team after the relocation. I hope they continue publishing the music issue, at least.


    In other news, it looks like Paul Miller and a gang of others is going to relaunch 21C magazine, an Australian mag that combines elements of Mondo 2000, BoingBoing, Wired, and Shift. The issues of 21C that I've read were quite solid, and this is a way welcome relaunch.
    Telefun and Games
    Junkbusters, an organization devoted to helping people eliminate junk mail and messages from their lives -- telemarketing calls, spam, Web ads -- offers an anti-telemarketing script that you can use to gather information about telemarketers who call you, request that they not call you again, and learn what you need to know if you decide to pursue legal action against telemarketers.

    The script identifies what questions might be grounds for legal action if the telemarketer responds negatively, and the script is separated into two sections, the first of which is pretty general. "If you feel like making them pay, keep going."

    Thanks to Utne Web Watch.

    Tuesday, July 16, 2002

    Technofetishism XI
    In the mail today, I received my Toymax Activision 10-in-1 TV Game. It's got 10 old Activision games stored in the handheld controller, which looks like a Nintendo controller. You just plug it in your TV and go, go, go. Games include Pitfall, Atlantis, River Raid (!!!), and Grand Prix.

    Tonight I'll be clickin' it old school!

    Thanks to Matt.
    Fill Your Television
    Marc Weissbot is reviewing the pilot episodes of TV shows slated for the 2002-03 season. The blog is all about pilots -- about 20 tapes worth -- and seems to be geared toward getting more work reviewing TV shows. Weissbot also maintains a more general site, Weissblog.

    Thanks to TV Barn.
    Adventures in Book Reviewing
    Taking a step beyond Katha Pollitt's piece in the Nation in April, Mark Bauerlein contributes a thoughtful look at the differences between peer review in academia and being reviewed in the mainstream press to the July 19 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Bauerlein considers the slow pace of reviews in academia -- it can take years for a scholarly tome to have impact -- scholars reaction to reviews written by what they consider "unqualified or uncongenial" writers, the lack of discource in the mainstream media, and how academics can improve their relations with mainstream reviewers.

    Thanks to MobyLives.
    Products I Love II
    Toscanini's ginger snap molasses ice cream. It's like eating gingerbread with vanilla ice cream, only all mixed up. Real pieces of ginger snap -- though they're soft, not snappy. Sooo good. I left the pint in the freezer when I went home to Wisconsin, and it was still tasty when I returned a week later. I usually eat a pint of ice cream in three sittings. How many does it take you?
    Workaday World III
    The bulletin board in my office just fell off the wall. I hardly even touched it.
    Personal Daze
    I am inexplicably sad today. Absolutely morose. What do you do when you're not quite sure why you're sad? I'd rather be happy.
    Rules for Fools IX
    Rule No. 12: Don't email 43,000 people during the peak of summer. A lot of people will be on vacation, and a lot of those people will set autoreplies to inform you of that fact.

    Monday, July 15, 2002

    Sketchy Ethics
    Not one to shy away from controversy, a former colleague of mine, Steve Friess, recently penned an opinion piece for Editor & Publisher. I was originally going to list it in today's Pieces, Particles entry, but I think it begs further comment.

    Bull in China Shop
    Our man in Beijing and his Year of Living Ridiculously

    Steve's piece bothers me for several reasons. One, it's an example of the classic Ugly American story. A Western journalist goes to work for an overseas news organization and is appalled by what he finds. He goes on to portray the locals' journalistic gaffes and foibles as humorous and quaint. (Steve secures his rebellious outsider role in his tagline to the piece: "Friess wrote frequently [and illegally] for USA Today from China last year.")

    Two, Steve shares his experience giving no real sense that he seriously tried not to be complicit in -- much less to counter -- those very same gaffes and foibles. As an employee of the Chinese Ministry of Information, Steve passed on the party line. Colleagues changed quotes and invented people. Sure, Steve "wrote a query into the text" questioning the veracity of a statistic, but it's unnerving to think that -- if the practices of the Chinese journalists Steve worked beside were so wrong -- he didn't do more than he alludes to in the article.

    Now, I didn't spend Steve's time overseas. I'm sure the role he found himself in was challenging. I'm also sure that he was surprised and not always delighted by how the China Daily's journalists worked. But Steve was in the mix. He was complicit in the very practices he's criticizing in what's supposed to be one of professional journalism's trade magazines. The point of this opinion piece -- outside of highlighting the humorous and quaint gaffes and foibles (and romanticizing Steve as a journalist) -- is weak. He helped local staffers apply to American journalism schools, "spreading the subversive gospel of the First Amendment." Please.

    Higher up in the last column of the piece, Steve asks himself, "How did we stomach it?"

    I ask, how did you sleep at night?
    Pieces, Particles VI
    The following media-related stories recently spotted in print publications -- and now online -- might be worth a look. Heads and decks, only. Heads and decks.

    A Model Journalist, by Richard Connelly, Houston Press, July 4-10, 2002
    A TV anchor does a little promotional work on the side

    Board the Weblog Bandwagon Now, Please, by Steve Outing, Editor & Publisher, June 26, 2002
    Newspapers missed most Internet trends; isn't it time to catch one?

    Journalistic Blogging, by Barb Palser, American Journalism Review, July/August 2002
    Mainstream news organizations could steal an idea or two from blogs.

    Midgets in Advertising, by Don Preziosi, Postcard Collector, July 2001

    No Longer the Cat's Meow?, by Dave Astor, Editor & Publisher, June 17, 2002
    Their core daily-newspaper market isn't what it used to be, but syndicates are improvising by finding new revenue sources

    Radio: The Rookies, by Ariel Hart, Columbia Journalism Review, July/August 2002

    "Sentinel" Seeking Drive-By Business, by Lucia Moses, Editor & Publisher, June 17, 2002
    Electronic billboard is designed to steer Orlando motorists to the print product
    Event-O-Dex V
    Several upcoming DIY and other media gatherings you might be interested in:

    July 18, Allston, Massachusetts: So & So, the In Out, Choo Choo La Rouge, and the Rudds at O'Brien's
    Erin says, "Judy and I are playing a set under the name So & So. Dave and Dan of the Fightin Dogs will back us up on bass and/or drums. Plus! I'm gonna wear a Canada shirt." Maybe she'll even sing in Canadian!

    July 19-20, Somerville, Massachusetts: Somerville Arts Council Art Beat
    Food, folks, and fun, as well as the Art Beat Sideshow organized by Handstand Command. The Anchormen will play several songs at the Sideshow.

    August 10-24, New York City: In the Wire
    A friend from college who just today re-entered my life is putting on this play with her husband. I don't know if there are puppets involved, but the InterWeb sure is!
    From the In Box: The Story of Spam III
    I like the spam on your site today and kinda thought this was one of the better spams I've seen. Hope you enjoy, too. And hope all is well with you otherwise. -- Marty

    You have just received the Amish virus. Because we don't have any computers or programming experience, this virus works on the honor system.

    Please delete all the files from your hard drive and then manually forward this virus to everyone on your mailing list.

    Thank you for your cooperation and God bless you.

    The Amish Computer Engineering Department
    Metafilter Down!
    Following the trend set by Ditherati, Metafilter is now down. Happy birthday, server maintenance.
    The Story of Spam III
    This is the best spam I've received in a long time:

    Subject: LOOK! Desparately Seeking 100 Lazy People.... Who Wants To Make Money

    Dear Friend,

    We are desparately looking for 100 lazy people who wish to make lots of money without working.

    We are not looking for people who are self-motivated. We are not looking for people who join every 'get rich quick' scheme offered on the internet. We are not looking for class presidents, beautiful people, career builders or even college graduates. We don't even want union workers or trade school graduates.

    We want the laziest people that exist - the guys and gals who expect to make money without lifting a finger. We want the people who stay in bed until noon. We want those of you who think that getting out of bed to go lay on the couch is an effort that is best not thought about.

    If you meet this criteria, go to this site and join free:

    [URL deleted to protect the guilty]

    In case you haven't figured it out yet, we want the kind of people who DO NOT take risks. If you are the kind of person who will consider doing something that's NOT a 'sure thing', then do NOT respond.

    This is too easy a way to make money and there's no challenge in it.

    If you can get to the website, you will be able to see the first home business in history that requires no work. NONE.

    By clicking on this link and going to this website, you will be aknowledging the fact that you want to make enough money that you can quit your regular job and sleep all day.

    We are not looking for a commitment from youand we don't even want your money.

    As a matter of fact, we don't even want you to hear from us again if the idea of making lots of money without working does not interest you.

    So if nothing else, remember this -

    to make money without working for it just "Join Free". Simple as that.

    [URL deleted to protect the guilty]

    We look forward to hearing from you.

    In all seriousness,

    This is NOT a "no work" program that will make you money without lifting a finger.

    Advertising effectively requires WORK and plenty of it. Oh, for sure, it's not like picking cotton under a broiling sun, but it IS work, nonetheless.

    And we DO want peoples' money ONLY when they see the value of our products, services and upgrades.

    We look forward to hearing from you.

    Cordially your lazy friend,
    [Name deleted to protect the guilty]

    Well, at least they've clearly defined their target market.

    Friday, July 12, 2002

    Tickle Me Emo
    Several friends have asked me to explain emo music to them recently. And I've had some trouble doing so. Well, if you haven't read the newsweekly magazines' recent expositions on emo, I've found the best emo song ever. "Three Easy Steps to Emo" by Girlband is a three-ingredient recipe for the perfect emo song. You'll have to listen to it to truly appreciate its greatness, but here are Girlband's three easy steps to emo:

    Lesson 1: Start out mellow.
    Lesson 2: Scream.
    Lesson 3: Go for the throat.

    That's basically it. Listen to the song, and you've heard almost every single emo song. Truth.
    Community and Reconstruction
    Fellow Webby Awards nominating judge Cliff Figallo is recruiting about 50 volunteer online facilitators to help with part of New York's recovery from 911. A recent email from Cliff says, "Volunteer online facilitators are needed between July 29 and August 14 to help gather citizen input for planning the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan and the design of a memorial for WTC victims from 9/11. Discussion will take place using Web Lab's innovative Small Group Dialogue interface and technique."

    If you're interested -- or if you know people who might be -- check out the full announcement.
    From the In Box: Comic Book Collections
    I first read Swamp Thing ("Love and Death") from the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library. We had a good library back then. I don't know if they had other graphic novels; I didn't look for them much, but my friend Chris Breitenbach was a pretty big Alan Moore fan and he told me to go looking for it.

    I bet they stock a few graphic novels at CCPL. I used to check out pop music charts when I was playing the guitar. They had lots of good stuff, although you had to order it from the regional branch.

    I don't go to the library enough any more. I had a phase in the winter when I got some real good stuff, but the Chicago branches are usually pretty mediocre. When I lived near Sulzer Regional in Lincoln Square, that was promising, and Evanston will let me check out up to three books at a time on my Chicago card, so that's good.

    The best library book i got during that binge was Basil Davidson's "The Lost Cities of Africa," about the history of Africa before colonialism. So much that we don't learn in school! But understandable in the sense that there's not much written record, and archaeology has only been digging this stuff up (sorry!) for about fifty years now.
    -- Joe Germuska
    Books to Be Took II
    Neal Coonerty, uncle of a former colleague of mine and owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz -- with whom I spent time with while traveling last fall -- penned an interesting column about shoplifting for the American Booksellers Association's BookWeb yesterday. He recounts some of the shop's most notable shoplifters -- including a nun in full habit who almost lifted a copy of Buck Naked: A Photographic Guide to Gay Men's Sex -- and a court case in which a young man is torn between three months in jail or a year banishment from Neal's store. "I don't know if I could go a year without going into Bookshop Santa Cruz," he told the judge. I know Abbie Hoffman wrote a tome entitled Steal This Book, but if you do shoplift texts, please don't steal from beautiful independent stores like Bookshop Santa Cruz. Shoplift at Borders or Barnes & Noble. I mean, come on.
    The Movie I Watched Last Night XXVII
    The Bourne Identity
    After hanging out at the Different Drummer for a couple of hours after work, Dan, Dave, Nick, and I headed over to the new Boston Common theater to see The Bourne Identity. I almost didn't go, thinking that 9 p.m. was a good time to head home, but it's a movie I was slightly interested in -- and I haven't gone to a movie with friends for quite awhile. And you know what? Even though it's based on a Robert Ludlum novel (I'm not a fan of the Crichton/Ludlum/Clancy school of writers), it's a pretty good movie. Incorporating elements of The Manchurian Candidate, DOA, and Memento, the movie tells the story of a former government assassin who loses his memory and strives to untangle his web of international intrigue while evading his former employers. Matt Damon has the makings of a solid heroic actor -- much more promise than Ben Affleck -- and I'm sure his role in The Talented Mr. Ripley helped secure this part. Julia Stiles of Save the Last Dance for Me and 10 Things I Hate About You is surprisingly under-utilized, and I was surprised to see her in the movie, her part was so inconsequential. The ending doesn't come as much of a surprise, but it's a nice ride along the way.
    Comic Book Collections
    Does your library include comic books in its permanent collection? Bryan Fagan went to last month's annual American Library Association conference to explore why libraries don't stock comic books and graphic novels; how comics publishers such as DC, Dark Horse, and CrossGen are trying to make inroads with libraries; what kind of swag the publishers distributed; and what the publishers did not do: explain why libraries should choose comics over other media. Fagan makes the extremely important distinction between the heavy presence of superhero-related wares -- seemingly a hard sell to libraries -- and Diamond's focus on books such as Maus, Safe Area Gorazde, and the 911 anthologies. He also suggests that "libraries will pay more than $50 for an academic press's thin volume containing the diary of a war refugee, but they won't pay less than $20 for Joe Kubert's Fax from Sarajevo or Will Eisner's Last Day in Vietnam."

    I was slightly surprised that publishers pushed superhero-related material. Libraries -- unless they host an extensive underground comics, Golden Age, or Silver Age collection -- don't have room for single issues. So trade paperbacks, anthologies, and comic-related books are better bets. But how do you select what TPB's have a shelf life? The 911 books make sense. As does Maus. But should a library stock the Preacher series? I'm not so sure.

    Several librarians and people involved in the comics industry have compiled lists of recommended graphic novels. Here are a few resources to draw on:

    Steve Raiteri
    Recommended Graphic Novels for Public Libraries

    Steve Miller
    Graphic Novels in Libraries mailing list

    Francisca Goldsmith
    YA Talk: Graphic Novels

    Patrick Jones
    Graphic Novels for Young Adults: A Core Collection

    Stephen Weiner
    The 101 Best Graphic Novels

    That's three Steve's. Why so many Steve's?

    Thursday, July 11, 2002

    Among the Literati X
    Neal Pollack is moving to Texas. And he pens a farewell for the Philadelphia Inquirer's daily magazine explaining why he likes the city so.
    Blogging About Blogging XXVII
    Two of my favorite Netizens, Justin Hall and Cory Doctorow recently discussed linking tactics within their respective sites via email. It's well worth reading, and even though Justin and Cory agree to disagree -- Justin builds links into his writing as I do, and Cory aims to highlight as many links as possible without spending a lot of time researching or contextualizing. Both have their uses. And not everyone uses either well. Justin and Cory are heading in the right direction, though they may be divergent. May diverge? Oh, I don't know how to use that word. Link.
    The fine folks over at Play have opened up their blog Pure Content to allow frequent readers to join their street team. Participants will be able to post business, creativity, design, and similar news and resources to Pure Content, as well as the usual contributors -- employees of Play. Media Dietician Charlie Park hopes that the street team will foster an ongoing conversation about business and innovation topics. Seems like a step in the right direction!
    Ravaging Radio VI
    Laura Holson contributes an excellent article to the New York Times today about radio station marketing research and how playlists are developed. She details the rise of radio conglomerates such as Clear Channel, which operates about 1,000 stations, and analyzes how commercial playlists are constructed. Mainstream DJ's don't take requests any more. They can't. And what they can and do play is determined by what are now mostly automated playlists -- which are created based on test marketing, telephone surveys, and other research. Commercial programmers say it makes for more democratic radio. I say that it makes for bland, white-bread radio that represents no regional variation or DJ-driven exploration of new music. I want my WMBR and WNUR, thank you very much.
    The Movie I Watched Last Night XXVI
    Tuesday: Stephen King's Rose Red
    Most Stephen King stories and novels haven't translated that well to the TV or silver screen. This TV miniseries -- which hasn't been published previously as script, story, or otherwise -- stands up well. I usually wouldn't even be interested in a show like this (my days as a King fan are behind me), but I stayed in the castle used as the primary exterior set for the miniseries -- Thornewood Castle near Tacoma, Washington -- while traveling last fall. Awesome to see what the filmmakers did with the property! The story, like many of King's recent writing, is a hodgepodge of themes and models he's used previously. At one level, Rose Red is your classic haunted house story -- a locked-room mystery of sorts. But it also incorporates King's penchant for possession (a la Christine) and organically growing horror (a la Thinner). Throw in a little telekinesis that evokes Carrie, and it's clear what made it into the equation. I made the mistake of watching this in one sitting -- it's almost five hours long, and I recommend taking a break -- but I was riveted the entire time. The acting is solid, the special effects are impressive, and the plot progresses at a good pace. On the DVD, there's an additional documentary about the making of the series, so you can learn more about Thornewood, the special effects, and how the producer and director worked around the untimely death of David Dukes, who passed away playing tennis during the shoot.

    Wednesday, July 10, 2002

    Technofetishism X
    I have been playing with my new PowerBook all day. It is absolutely beautiful. Tomorrow, I'll be able to start using it full time. Yay!


    The born-again geek in me is kinda wishing I was going to MacWorld next week, but I'm not. Maybe someone will blog the conference like Dan Gillmore did for the Berkman Center for Internet & Society's Internet Law Program.

    Meanwhile, especially because MacWorld pulled about 30 press passes from folks who'd hoped to cover the conference online, you might want to keep up with RumorTracker, which draws on a handful of Apple news services.


    In other Mac news, I recently learned that Chris Imlay is the art director for MacAddict magazine. "Who he?" say you? Well, he's guitarist for the Hi-Fives, and he was in the Ne'er Do Wells, as well as Thee Shatners, previously. Awesome, awesome. Not sure how much I like the redesign -- I haven't really read the magazine before -- but subscription ordered solely based on Chris working there. Mac punks, unite!

    Tuesday, July 09, 2002

    Movin', Groovin'
    It's official. T-Dev of Highwater Books has up and moved to Brooklyn. Now he can hang out with all those bands we read about. And Gary Panter. Let's not forget Gary Panter.
    Blogging About Blogging XXVI
    BlogChalking is a self-described movement attempting to create a region-sensible blog-search system. Who knows if it'll take off, but another little icon can't hurt Media Diet. I'm also supposed to post the following text:

    Google! DayPop! This is my blogchalk: English, United States, Cambridge, Central Square, Heath, Male, 26-30!

    Also, I can't always see the comments attached to posts. I think it's our new firewall. Firewalls are frustrating -- and I'm on the inside.

    Also, also, Mr. Madsen-Mygdal refs a news and commentary service focusing on corporate and organizational blogs. Worth checking out if you're interested in the business applications of blogging.
    Technofetishism IX
    Back from Wisconsin and Texas, and I'll have some trip reports soon. Today, though, after arriving back in Boston around 1:30 p.m., I've spent my time catching up on 1,500 emails, skimming about 900 posts in an Atlantic Unbound discussion, and playing with my new PowerBook. Sigh: My new PowerBook. Life is good.

    Sorry so silent!

    Tuesday, July 02, 2002

    'Tis the Season to Be... AWOL VIII
    Tomorrow I get on a plane to northern Wisconsin to spend July 4 and my father's birthday with family. Then I get on a plane to Houston for some work-related meetings. I'll be back in the office and online next Tuesday.

    While I hope to update Media Diet while traveling, if I don't, that doesn't mean that Media Diet is dead (long live Media Diet!). It just means that it's resting.
    Shelf-Publishing II
    Well, today I mail the last batch of photocopied material I think should be excerpted and reprinted in the anthology I'm editing for Capstone-Wiley in the UK. Now it's a matter of negotiating with the publisher to pick the final selections and securing permissions from the respective authors and publishers. Feels good to have taken another step toward completing this project. We'll see how the book turns out!


    On a totally unrelated note, have you ever met someone online, been intrigued by their discussion forum posts and instant messages, called 411 to get their phone number for possible future use, and printed out everything they've written on the Web so you can read their body of work on a plane? Um, me neither.
    From the In Box: Faceless, but in Front of the Fans
    I don't think that's all that new, though. There have been performers who are purely industry creations for ages. I guess the Monkees are the most famous, but if we could remember more, it would disprove the point that there have been faceless generitrons for as long as there's been a music industry.

    Plus, isn't it a little early to credit Kurt Cobain with being old-school?

    I think the nature of the world is that there will always be a lot more people than there are notable people. Replace the names Graham puts forth with the one or two hit wonders of yesteryear and I don't think she's got much of a thesis at all. Do you remember who the members of REO Speedwagon were? What about Toto? The Fixx?

    I'm not saying that there's nothing different today, but just that at first blush, I'm not so sure she's framed the phenomena so well. None of the groups she named are today's "the Who", so of course none of them will be remembered like John Entwhistle.
    -- Joe Germuska
    Faceless, but in Front of the Fans
    In today's Globe, Renee Graham contends that most rock stars and musicians today are nameless, faceless generitrons who won't be missed when they die. She compares the Who's John Entwistle, who was widely eulogized, with such anonymous auteurs as Nickelback's bass player, Creed's drummer, Hoobastank's guitarist, Default's lead singer, and Linkin Park's turntablist.

    Renee's got a point. Bands are bands these days. And so many are corporate creations -- and styled after similar bands -- that the world is awash with unidentifiable cookie-cutter copycats. Add to that replacement members -- Iron Maiden, anyone? Van Halen? -- and it almost doesn't matter who's in a band. The band retains the name. Renee holds up bands like U2 and the Red Hot Chili Peppers as musical groups who rise above this aural anonymity -- as well as a whole slew of old-school rock and pop personalities: Keith Richards, Joey Ramone, and Kurt Cobain. All of the above attract their own followers in addition to the fan base that resonates with the band as a whole.

    What intrigues me about Renee's thesis is its parallels to the local rock scene. Sure, if you're involved in a scene, you'll know who's in what band -- and what they're like. But so much local music is still band-centric or sound-centric. The people are secondary. We could learn a lot from the jazz scene, which has always focused on individual players and reveled in the innovations and intricacies that result when people move around and play with other people.

    I'm not saying that individual players should be more celebrated than bands in the rock world -- who would I be without the Anchormen? -- but that people should share their personalities, pursue strong stage presence, and perhaps align themselves with creative collectives such as Handstand Command, the Elephant Six, or Initech. As individual participants in a given band or scene, we should share our strengths, strive to be supportive, and stand out from the predominant cookie-cutter crowd.
    Technofetishism VIII
    While my new PowerBook will probably arrive while I'm still travelling later this week, the AirPort Base Station arrived today. It's rather anticlimactic because I can't do anything with the base station until the laptop arrives, but it's comforting to know that it's here, waiting for its friend. We'll keep the love lights on.
    Something About Getting Mary'd
    This past weekend, my friends Matt and Mary got married. Then they, Brad and Amy, and some other folks painted Portsmouth, NH, red, white, and blue. Congrats, Matt and Mary!
    Rock Shows of Note XXVIII
    This past weekend brought two awesome shows. Friday night, I met Jef and Steph at TT the Bear's before heading over to T-Dev's old house in Somerville for his going-away party. He and Highwater Books are moving to New York. Or have moved, I guess. At TT's, I caught most of a solo set by Emily Sparks, who played a sleepy-Sunday selection of pop songs. She's got quite the singing voice and even whistled during one piece. While I couldn't catch all of her lyrics, most of the songs seemed to be about self-confidence, relationships, and similar topics. She's got an album coming out soon and plans to go on tour later this year.

    Seana Carmody, formerly of the Swirlies, also has a CD to be released soon. She played with a trio Friday night, building on her shoegazing jangle-pop past. At times, her post-Syrup USA "fantasy rock" reminded me of Mary Timony, but Seana's not all puppies and snails. Her singing style wavered between the plaintive and the aggressive, and the set ended with a nice, prolonged bit of noise and amplifier feedback. Looking forward to the record!

    Fast forward -- or rewind, given that today's Tuesday -- to Saturday night. I almost didn't go to this show because Jamaica Plain felt so far away, but around 10 p.m. or so, I decided that I should cab to the Midway Cafe to see Nod, Naughty Shirley, My Own Worst Enemy, and the new band organized by Steve Lawrence (ex-Car Models Blue). I caught just the very end of Nod's set and didn't hear enough to comment. Naughty Shirley quickly took the stage, and having seen them previously, I was much more impressed this time. A guitar-drums duo involving Slamber of Pelvic Circus, the band struck me as an energetic act akin to many of the scaled-down K Records bands. I enjoyed the drummer's work immensely, and the guitarist had some nice spazzy, jump-around moments. She even stepped off the stage and walked into the audience at one point. A much stronger impression than the one made when I saw them a month-plus ago.

    My Own Worst Enemy, however, didn't really impress me. Scan commented that the band almost sounded like two bands, and I'm tempted to agree. The best, most energetic, and most melodic songs were led by Steve Prygoda -- who shared some excellent pop-punk ditties. Otherwise, the music didn't really connect with me. And the drummer, who's the spitting image of Kenny G, was slightly irritating in that Berklee School of Music kind of way. Half and half on this one.

    Lastly -- and late, late, late -- Steve Lawrence, formerly of Car Models Blue. This was a bit of a triumphant return to the stage for Steve, who -- after Car Models Blue disbanded and their still in-process recording project dragged on and on -- hasn't played live for eight months or so. For this show, he enlisted a bunch of friends to play with him; I think they practiced once earlier in the week. So the show was slightly strange. Steve writes Brian Wilson-inspired pop songs, many of them quite impressive and orchestral in scope. But the sense that this was his show and that the band was secondary and temporary was strong. I'd like to see Steve play with a full, full-time band again. I think the coherence would be helpful. But as it was, I appreciated hearing the new songs -- and being able to share the night with Steve and friends. Now, finish that CD!
    The Movie I Watched Last Night XXV
    First Blood
    Despite Sylvester Stallone's extremely guttural performance, this remains one of my favorite action-adventure flicks from childhood. (I was 9 when it came out.) A drifter, Viet Nam War veteran, Green Beret, and guerrilla warfare expert pushed too far by a parochial small-town sheriff, John Rambo wigs out and heads to the hills. The movie is basically a series of chase scenes and fight scenes, but director Ted Kotcheff builds in ample suspense -- particularly when Rambo's crawling through the abandoned mine. Brian Dennehy plays the small-town sheriff to good effect and we're treated to a young, boyish David Caruso, but Richard Crenna's Col. Sam Trautman is a little heavy-handed and dampens some of the drama and interpersonal sparring. Even though the movie helped sales of survival knives skyrocket -- particularly if they had a compass in the hilt -- I'm disappointed that the movie became the progressively weaker franchise it evolved as. Based on a novel by David Morrell, the movie doesn't capture the psychological workings of Rambo -- especially the flashback scenes and memories that trigger his lashing out -- and totally changes the ending. In the novel, Rambo dies, making for a nicely ambivalent and slightly pessimistic ending. In the movie, he lives -- perhaps to ensure the making of Rambo: First Blood Part II three years later.

    Monday, July 01, 2002

    Books Worth a Look VI
    These are the books I read in June 2002.

    The Al-Anon Family Groups: Classic Edition by Lois W. (2000)
    Originally published in 1955, this book details the origin of Al-Anon, its relationship with AA, its purpose and work, and how Al-Anon family groups self-organize and -operate. While its content about the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions is useful in terms of alcoholism-related mutual support, I was particularly interested in the material on starting a group, how meetings can be run, and what members are encouraged to do. An interesting grassroots leadership and social action primer. That said, the historical appendices that track how the book has changed over the years are less than necessary outside of the information on Alateen and how to solve problems within a group.
    Days to read: 10. Rating: Good.

    Al Azif: The Necronomicon by Abdul Alhazred (1973)
    A misleading curiosity of interest and questionable value only to H.P. Lovecraft fans and completists, this volume reputedly reproduces the horrific book written by the Mad Arab. However, other than L. Sprague de Camp's seven-page preface, it's basically the same 16 pages of untranslated "Duriac" text, which calligraphically resembles Arabic, repeated for the bulk of the book. De Camp's preface has, I'm sure, been reprinted elsewhere, and his history doesn't quite keep to Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. But the reproduced, repetitive, illegible Duriac? Ever feel like you've been cheated?
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Poor.

    Alcohol: How to Give It Up and Be Glad You Did by Philip Tate
    Drawing heavily on Albert Ellis' work in rational emotive behavior therapy, Tate's sobriety primer also seems related to the Decision Maker process, est, and learned optimism. As an alternative to AA, Tate's take on REBT involves alcoholics and drug addicts disputing irrational beliefs to develop more effective beliefs and therefore happier consequences. The books takes the reader through this process many, many times and seems overly oriented toward individual work until Tate introduces the concept of recovery groups. Useful, but not overly influenced by the concept of mutual support.
    Days to read: 20. Rating: Good.

    The Bhagavad Gita trans. by Juan Mascaro (1962)
    Originally composed in Sanskrit around 500 B.C., the Bhagavad Gita describes Krishna's philosophies on vision, love, and work. Portrayed as a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna on a battlefield, the Gita espouses selflessness, right action, purity, and other ideals, outlining the elements of a righteous life. While I'm not sure how Mascaro's translation stacks up against others, the Gita's message is clear and often quite poetic -- especially in the tenth chapter. Worth returning to.
    Days to read: 21. Rating: Good.

    The Day I Turned Uncool: Confessions of a Reluctant Grown-Up by Dan Zevin (2002)
    This book hit me at a particularly good time. Dan now has a lot of the things I've started to think I might want -- a house, a yard, a family -- and he's slightly self-conscious about it. Luckily he's not overly apologetic or ironic about his recently discovered maturity. Instead, he's rather surprised and amused by it. "I played golf! I hired a cleaning lady! I went to a wine tasting!" All of these things delight Dan, and he continues to hold onto his past self while wondering whether he's now part of the New Bourgeoisie. Don't worry, Dan; you're not. You're just getting older. My only complaint about this collection is that many pieces build up to a head and them quickly fall off with a dismissive punchline or call back. Regardless, Dan is clever and critical.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

    Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
    One of several books I've started to read a couple of times but never finished -- among them In Cold Blood and Helter Skelter -- I'm glad I finally made it through this horror classic. Roughly divided into three sections -- gothic horror narrative, medical mystery thriller, and melodramatic heroic adventure -- Stoker's mythos-building novel combines journal entries and letters to propel the story of one of the world's most famous vampires. While I found the final third -- basically a chase scene -- to be unrewarding, the first two thirds are worth a read alone. This 1997 Norton Critical Edition is heavily footnoted and includes an additional 160 pages of commentary and analysis.
    Days to read: 16. Rating: Excellent.

    Interesting Monsters by Aldo Alvarez (2001)
    This is one of the best collections of interconnected short stories I have ever read. Throughout the 16 stories compiled here, Alvarez follows the relationship of Dean and Mark, as well as Dean's decline in health and the effects it has on his family and friends. While Alvarez specializes in gay fiction, he emphasizes the fiction, and the homosexual themes are foundations and undercurrents. The result is a heartfelt assortment of smart stories that occasionally evoke Haruki Murakami, Jonathan Lethem, and Franz Kafka.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Excellent.

    Point It: Traveller's Language Kit and Picture Dictionary by Dieter Graf (1992)
    To be appreciated by active world travellers and fans of global design journalism a la Colors magazine, this pocket-sized tool is aimed at people who "may be fluent in four languages but sometimes ... find yourself 'off the beaten track.'" Featuring pictures of about 1,200 different items, places, and activities, Point It can help you seek assistance eating, finding lodging, arranging transportation, shopping, and going about daily life anywhere in the world. While the images are somewhat dated, the 70-page booklet is equal parts postmodern eye candy and indispensable travel aid.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Excellent.

    Preacher Book 7: Salvation by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon (1999)
    It's been a couple of months since I've read Preacher, and this 10-issue collection redeems the series in my mind. The bulk of the book compiles a multi-issue run about Jesse's stint as the sheriff of Salvation, Texas. He reconnects with a long-lost family member and takes on a corrupt, racist businessman whose employees walk over the town and its townspeople. Ennis also introduces an interesting character, Miss Outlash, a frigid attorney whose tastes run toward S&M and Nazism. Jesse learns more about his mission and his past, and I get a sense of acceleration from this edition.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Excellent.

    Preacher Book 8: All Hell's A-Coming by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon (2000)
    Collecting issues #51-58, this trade paperback does more than redeem the previous failings of the series. Jesse is reunited with Tulip -- which actually brought a tear to my eye. Arseface separates with his evil, manipulative manager. Jesse learns about Cassidy's true self from a dying homeless woman. And All-Father Starr gets his -- although not so much that he's out of the picture. Ennis is done with the vamping and space filling, and the series is barreling along to the end.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

    Preacher Book 9: Alamo by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon (2001)
    An admirable conclusion to the 66-issue comic series, this edition ties up all of the loose ends. It also returns to the book's early concentration on religion and mythology. Starr goes off the deep end in order to seek revenge. Custer makes a deal with the Saint of All Killers. And Custer and Cassidy confront each other -- emerging in the end as friends. I was slightly irritated by Custer's abandoning of Tulip, Ennis treated the Starr-Featherstone-Hoover love triangle a little too lightly, and the final conversation with John Wayne was drawn out too long. But otherwise, a satisfying ending -- particularly in the case of the Arseface plot line.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

    The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman (1921)
    How wonderful that Applewood Books has reissued this historic children's book. While the controversial book has been challenged as racist because of its portrayal of African Americans, it holds a cherished place in my heart -- partly because of the cleverness shown by the young hero Sambo, and partly because of its past. I vaguely remember a Little Black Sambo restaurant; the menu retold the tale -- which in the end involved pancakes and butter. Applewood's edition is a tidy size and passably reproduces the original color illustrations.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

    The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castenada (1968)
    I can't believe I read this. The fact that Castenada built a career on this work -- and that it's the underpinnings of modern shamanism -- flabbergasts me. While his experiences in the early '60s may have been very real and his academic analysis seems well structured, this book leaves little to build on. Too heavily focused on the preparation processes of two consciousness-expanding drugs, the book does offer some wisdom, particularly his comments on nonordinary reality, the goal of learning, and the validity of the paths we choose, but otherwise, Castenada's a waste of time. Less process, more philosophy, please!
    Days to read: 4. Rating: Poor.

    3rd Bed Vol. 6 ed. by Vincent Standley (2002)
    My introduction to this biannual journal published in Rhode Island was somewhat of a letdown. While I wasn't that impressed by most of the poetry, though most of the prose ran long, and was disappointed by the comics, there were still several delightful selections included in this edition. For the most part, I was struck by the Kafka-esque fiction of Ben Miller, Brian Evenson, and David Ohle -- with Evenson's "House Rules" standing out. Jeffrey M. Bockman's "Speculations on the Gateau Impossible," while a bit wordy, offers a nice pseudo-historical analysis of alchemy and baking. And Mark Laliberte's "Brick Poems" reconstructs brick walls using source material from several cartoonists, including Mignola, Griffith, and Schulz. Worth watching.
    Days to read: 2. Rating: Good.

    Why do some books get a link while other books do not? If a publishing company or author sends me review copies for consideration -- and if I review the book in Media Diet -- they get a link as well as a review. I don't review every review copy or galley I receive, and I don't always have time to track down author, publisher, and other book-related links in general.

    Most of the books I review should be relatively easy to find via the Harvard Book Store and Powell's Books online ordering services. If something's out of print, check the Advanced Book Exchange first.

    And if you'd like to send me a book to consider for review, Media Diet's address is P.O. Box 390205, Cambridge, MA 02139. Thank you very much.
    Oh, Canada!
    Today is Canada Day. Checking the most-recent Media Diet hits, I see that we were last visited by a Canadian about 12 minutes ago. Happy Canada Day to you! (And to everyone else, too, of course, but most importantly, to you.)
    Party to Record Releases VII
    Books and records, today.

    The Harvard Book Store, one of my favorite book shops, offers an email newsletter that includes information about new arrivals, special first edition acquisitions, and notable remainders. The newsletter also features listings of author reading events, brief promotional reviews, and bestsellers lists. The new arrivals and bestsellers are the most useful elements, and while the newsletter rarely inspires me to go to the shop, I go frequently enough that it doesn't need to. If you live in the Boston area, this is the book store to visit. You can even order books online -- and pick them up at the shop on Harvard Square. Now that's click and mortar!

    Victory Records, the long-running hardcore label, provides an email newsletter, as well. It's mostly oriented toward new-release information and tour schedules, but if you're not into the bands featured in a given edition, it's less than useful or interesting. The newsletter is also occasionally victim to awkward formatting and lame promo writing. Example: "Drawing from the two most prominent types of hardcore, Dead to Fall is the perfect blend of metal and mosh. They charismatically blend metallic hardcore with Euro-metal stylings and their own technical musings." Ho hum. Reads like ad copy from Metal Maniacs! Victory may have been around for awhile -- and they may be a relatively large business at this point -- but the label could learn from Lookout! Records' mix of personality, insider scoop, and humor. On the whole, Victory seems to take itself too seriously.
    The Movie I Watched Last Night XXIV
    Friday: Weird Science
    This movie hit me in all the right places when I was 12 -- I wasn't very athletic, I'd just started playing around with the Apple II, and girls were still a mystery. I had forgotten that this was a John Hughes movie -- much less that Anthony Michael Hall starred in it -- and it holds up pretty well more than 15 years later. Robert Downey, Jr., and Robert Rusler shine as two white-bread, new-wave bad boys who aren't half as dangerous as they act. And Hall has some occasional moments of brilliance, particularly the stereotypical scene in the blues bar. While Kelly LeBrock did all she could to carry her role as self-esteem builder and moral teacher, the message of teen empowerment is largely lost, and Hall's last scene with Suzanne Snyder -- "I'm not really this cool. This isn't my car. This isn't my suit." -- falls flat. Still, worth watching for the uninformed portrayal of new wavers and computers, as well as the horrible character design of the monster into which Bill Paxton's character is temporarily converted. Oh yeah, Oingo Boingo did the movie's theme song: "From my heart and from my hands, why don't people understand my intentions?"

    Sunday: How to Marry a Millionaire
    Wow. Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, and Marilyn Monroe co-star in this man-trap, gold-digger romantic comedy in which three models share an apartment to lure wealthy men into marriage. Their plans aft gang aglay, but in the end, each ends up with her true love -- and Bacall's character unwittingly falls for a millionaire she believes to be a gas pump jockey. ("After we get off this ferry, I never want to see you again!") Monroe steps past her usual breathy vapidity and takes on a rather comic role as a nearly blind woman who almost always refuses to wear her glasses. She accidentally gets on a plane to Kansas City instead of Atlantic City, where she meets a man almost as blind as she is. And Grable, with whom I was less impressed, participates in some scenic skiing scenes supposedly shot in Maine. Egyptian-born Alexander D'Arcy stands out as the elder lover of Bacall's character -- their scenes together exhibit real tenderness even if sparks don't really fly between them. I forget why I rented this movie, but I'm glad I did. Funny stuff. Oh! Two irritations, however. As the first romantic comedy filmed in the then-new CinemaScope, the movie opens with a six-minute orchestral performance. I'm sure that might have been interesting in 1953, but if I want to see an orchestra, I'll go see an orchestra -- not go to the movies. And the scene in which the Fashion World models display newly designed outfits for Cameron Mitchell's character is a silly, stilted excuse for a fashion show. Nonetheless, Mitchell's closing line to that scene hit home: "I don't see anything I want here." Ouch, Bacall!