Friday, May 31, 2002

Fast Fiction III
Dang, I'm enjoying the Warren Ellis Forum this afternoon in the quiet, summer-hours slowness of work. I had no idea that Richard Kadrey was publishing short, short stories in Infinite Matrix. There are 22 available so far -- and new tales appear weekly, it seems. Time to catch up with the man.
Comics and Commentary
Scott R. Kurtz's recent run of comic strips at PvPonline takes alternative comics publishers and creators to task. It's a giggle-ridden tirade about talent, production values, self-publishing motivation, intentional obscurity, comics journalism, sales, and readers. Make with the clicky click already.
From the In Box: The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night V
In his book "Love Is the Killer App," Tim Sanders mentions that one of his networking tactics is to take a digital photograph of him and people he meets -- and then send that person the snapshot. He recently emailed me a photo of us taken earlier this month in San Diego -- but with a little twist.

Muggin' uglies.

I was gonna paste on Creed or Linkin Park or something. I gave you a break -- out of respect. -- Tim Sanders

I think it's time I take off my pants and jacket. This is a little Improper Bostonian for me.
From the In Box: Blogging About Blogging XXIII
Are you familiar with the Advogato "trust-metric"? They have the theory down to extrapolate a network of trust rankings that might mechanically realize the networks you're describing without them needing a name -- in fact, they would only be nameable as "yours" because the details of whom you trust and how much would be uniquely yours. No doubt patterns would emerge (like art movements) based on natural affinities.

Apparently the SourceForge project has adapted this idea to ranking developers, but I can't find any general write-up of how it works. Not sure if anyone else has implemented anything based on the ideas.
-- Joe Germuska
Nervy, Pervy V
I cannot believe it. I haven't laughed so hard at a spam before, so I need to share this.

Take a walk on the wild side... and try something a little different.

Whitey-tighties are such a bore, and boxers have lost their appeal. Manties are made for the man who wants to be unconventional and not feel that he has to do what the crowd does. He is a man who is secure in what he does and does what he wants. What woman could resist him in a pair of these. They are the softest underwear a man could get today, while getting the support he desires.

Finally, fit and comfort all rolled into one for guys who want underwear that is fun to wear.

For those nights and days, when you want to be and feel a little special, naughty, and very sexy, these Manties are made for you. They are made of nylon and have the extra room where you need it, for the most comfortable fit there is... They can even be embriodered with whatever you want on them and make the nicest gift any guy can get. Birthdays, anniversaries, retirement, stag parties, divorce celebrations, etc. They have been sold worldwide for any and all occasions. C'mon ladies, give him a little gift made just for him. You might be suprised and glad that you did.

Panties are for the gals.

Manties are for the guys.

These have got to be the worst idea ever.
Sites on the Side of the Road IV
Everyone needs a hobby, I suppose. John Winter Smith is going to visit every single Starbucks in the world. According to his site, Starbucks Everywhere, he's visited more than 2,800 Starbucks so far. That's out of about 3,300. That's also about 85% of the Starbucks currently existing.

He's even hit most of the Starbucks in the Boston area, including the one near my house. The site sports photographs of the stores he's visited, as well as occasional commentary such as, "Chenille, or perhaps corduroy, curtains cover the windows." Now that's news you can use.

Thanks to Just One Thing.
Blogging About Blogging XXIII
I try not to dip into the blog memes that everyone trumpets about to avoid overlapping with other blogs and commentaries, but occasionally, Blogdex gives me a mindful that I need to share and expand on. Take Henry Copeland's recent essay, "Blogonomics: Making a Living from Blogging."

My first instinct is to reactively debunk the essay, contending that an essay entitled "Zineconomics: Making a Living from Zine Publishing" or "Tapeconomics: Making a Living from Running a Cassette Label" circa 1991 would've been the epitome of naivete, but perhaps this whole "blogonomics" thing has some weight to it. Sure, his coining of blogs as un-media rather than "nu-media" reeks of hyberbole, but Henry offers some ideas worth considering and building on. As well as questioning.

Blogs will never upend traditional, mainstream media. They will feed it. They will complement it. They will challenge it. But we will probably never have what the mainstream mass media has -- and what we so desperately need: distribution and promotion. So I question Henry's position that this is a battle between amateurs and professionals, between entrepreneurs and established media organizations. The idealist in me would like to think that this could happen, but what we have seen in zines, in comics, and in music to date -- not that the DIY media history will continue to repeat itself -- is that people in independent media circles tend to step up into the mainstream, mass media -- perhaps stepping back down at some point -- or at least straddle the two worlds persistently. This is what I think is more likely to happen. Especially because folks in the mainstream are already dipping their toes in the DIY waters.

I'm particularly intrigued and enthused by Henry's concept of "capillarity." And I'd like to up the ante on Henry's portrayal of blogs as social networks -- and people reading blogs to eventually read other blogs mentioned in the original blogs (which is just like tracing the tracks of zine reviews, not to mention book-jacket blurbs). What I think will emerge are hives of bloggers... tribes of bloggers... either collaborating to co-create collective blogs such as the recently launched Listen Up! -- or even BoingBoing, which I read every day -- or nesting in loose confederacies like the blogrolls and link lists we can already find on so many sites. This could develop into networks of like-minded, -styled, and -experienced bloggers... either under a collective name brand that folks can remember, recognize, and find easily or in the loose-knit affiliation webs that currently exist. This isn't much different than a collaborative zine or collective record label... and takes steps toward building our own parallel news and media organizations. Move over, Fox. Or whatever.

What concerns me most about Henry's statements about the potential of blogonomics, however, are the parallels I see between the current state of blog services and the Webfarms of yore -- Tripod, Geocities, etc. Even during the heyday of the Webfarms, advertising wasn't a sustainable enough model to support the organizations' business needs and operations. And the Webfarms weren't identifiable enough as consistent brand names to warrant affiliation with the network as a whole. Sure, folks know Tripod. Folks love Tripod. But not every Tripod site falls under an umbrella that's consistent in terms of content, context, etc. Perhaps this isn't necessary. But if blogs are going to compete with mainstream media, we need to begin creating sustainable networks that involve the like-styled, -minded, and -experienced creators I mention above -- as well as a reading audience that's also like-styled, -minded, and -experienced. Otherwise, our demographics are going to be a mile wide and an inch deep. And that's not going to attract advertisers.

Of course, I don't even think blogs need to attract advertisers, but that's another story altogether.
Music for the Movement
Shannon Okey informs me that she, Sooz, Brad, and other Boston-area (and elsewhere, I'm sure) bloggers are collaborating to produce Listen Up!, a collective resource highlighting music recommendations, MP3's, reviews, and show notices.

Listen Up! to Tom and Jef of the Anchormen.

So far -- I believe Listen Up! launched about 10 days ago -- contributors talk up innovative radio stations, Jane Siberry, weekend soundtracks, and the "shred metal" subgenre. We'll see how the blog evolves, but there are some good people involved. I'm not sure I'll throw my hat in that ring right now, but the site is worth visiting.

Thursday, May 30, 2002

It's an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World X
The John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History at Duke University has developed a searchable online archive of more than 7,000 ads published in North American newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955. The collection, dubbed Ad*Access, concentrates on advertisements related to radio, television, transportation, beauty and hygiene, and World War II. Researchers can browse the collection by category and subcategory, as well as search for ads featuring specific keywords or images. The center also provides parallel histories of the categories, including a timeline of world events, to create stronger context for the collection.

Thanks to Weblogsky.
A Collision of Interesting Women II
Well, as the day progresses, it improves. I'm not as sheepish or concerned as I was this morning, and it looks like there aren't as many pieces to put back together as I thought there might be given my confusion and surprise last night. That's good news. I'm not a big fan of damage control.

Why "Collision of Interesting Women," though? Just felt right. I hope it catches on as the new term for a group of women. You can help with that.
Comics Crackdown
Chicago-area cartoonist Stu Helm, also known as King VelVeeda, is being targeted by Kraft Foods because of his nickname. According to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund:

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is defending Chicago cartoonist Stu Helm against Kraft Foods in a trademark dilution and infringement suit over Helm's nickname King VelVeeda. The Phillip Morris owned cheese food giant is suing Helm to stop using the name on any comics or illustration work and for punitive damages of three times the amount he has made from using the name. They are also seeking a preliminary injunction that would prevent him from using the nickname leading into and during the trial. Helm had been signing comics under the moniker for over a decade before Kraft took notice and is the author of the comics collection "Singles" and operates the website

Helm had been defending himself against Kraft for over a month before he contacted the Fund for help. Within two days of taking Helm's call, he was in the office of CBLDF legal counsel Burton Joseph building a strategy for the case. Joseph agreed that Helm's long use of the nickname falls within the rights afforded him by the First Amendment and that he is being unjustly persecuted by Kraft. "This case represents a two billion dollar corporation trying to push the envelope in restricting the use of anything that resembles or ridicules a trademark," Joseph explains. "Kraft's complaint alleges that Stuart Helm's website, which averaged about 350 hits a day by use of the designation 'King VelVeeda's Cheesygraphics' diminished or diluted the value of the Velveeta pasteurized processed cheese food that they sell. The facts seem highly dubious from Kraft's standpoint that any visitor to would confuse King VelVeeda with Velveeta pasteurized processed cheese food."

Helm, Joseph, and the CBLDF see larger implications in Kraft's suit, and feel it's an important fight. "The law is in a state of flux with regard to trademark dilution, so it is more important than ever to protect the First Amendment rights of comic book creators who poke fun at the symbols of our popular culture," explains attorney and CBLDF Board Member Louise Nemschoff. "Claims such as the ones brought by Kraft against alternative comic book creator Stu Helm have a tendency to chill freedom of expression when it comes to such jokes, parody and commentary," Nemschoff adds.

Helm says, "Even though it seems like a small issue because it is a silly nickname, I feel that it's so far removed from the actual product that if I go down, it opens the door for a lot more action against a lot more people. It's a big issue. If it can happen to me -- and I'm so far removed from the product -- that sets a bad precedent."

Since taking the case, the Fund has spent dozens of legal hours waging Helm's defense, including the deposition of a Kraft executive and an appearance at the Preliminary Injunction hearing. "We are hoping first that the court will deny Kraft's request for a preliminary injunction and will ultimately rule that Kraft cannot prove any dilution of its trademark by the artist's nickname of King VelVeeda," Joseph says. "We're very confident, but the ultimate decision will depend on a case now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Mosely d.b.a. Victor's Little Secret v. Secret Catalog Inc. (Victoria's Secret), and also whether Kraft's arguments are mere speculation or grounded in some evidence or genuine concern of market confusion."

"It's cases like this where the community's support of the Fund matters the most," says CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein. "Without our involvement Kraft could have steamrolled Stu into bankruptcy simply because they have more money and lawyers. We believe that Stu Helm is well within his First Amendment rights and are committed to defending them, despite the monstrous expense ahead of us. That's what the Fund was set up to do and this is what every membership and donation dollar goes into making happen."

Helm is grateful for the Fund's involvement in his case, but it's a hassle he never wanted. "I haven't tried to cut into their market by mimicking anything they do," Helm says. "I made a good name for myself doing what I do best which is my art and I just want to be left alone to do that."
Rock Shows of Note XX
Four bands played at the final Handstand Command anniversary show last night. I caught sets by three of them.

After parting ways with the friend I hung out with at the Media Bistro cocktail party (I'm not using people's names in order to protect the innocent.), I arrived at the Abbey just in time to catch the end of Palomar, an amazing rock foursome that reminded me of Heavenly and Pest 5000. They were a lot of fun and seemed extremely friendly, to boot.

Next up, the Operators, who were celebrating the release of their new CD on Unstoppable Records, "Citizens Band". It's been forever since the Operators have played live, and their return to the stage was excellent. There've been rumors that the band was going to, well, disband, but Steph says that isn't so. Yay! Welcome back, Operators.

Lastly, the Pee Wee Fist. They didn't really float my boat. 'Course, I was in the midst of a bit of girl trouble, so maybe I didn't give them a fair shake. Regardless, a good show -- and an amazing end to the Handstand Command residency.
A Collision of Interesting Women
My computer has frozen -- and my browser has crashed -- during my last two attempts to think through the events of last night. I'm going to take it as a sign from above and not try to detail the confusing experiences at such great length.

Suffice to say, I'm having girl trouble. An ex called me at work yesterday afternoon. I took a friend to the Media Bistro cocktail party, which my most recent ex also attended. That friend and I shared an awkward but interesting moment on the street corner before heading our separate ways. And at the Handstand Command anniversary show, I hung out with two other women I'm crushing on.

Too much all at once. While I didn't do anything egregious, I'm afraid I didn't handle any of it very well. Apologies to all involved.

It's wholly inappropriate that my horoscope says, "Light up your house of intimacy. Love and loyalty flourish in an atmosphere of freedom," today.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Blogging About Blogging XXII
Perhaps because of the new Blogger Pro software, my archives are slightly dodgy, and the links aren't populating the $BlogURL$ value. I've emailed Evan to see what's what and hope to work this out soon. Thanks for your patience!


Evan's on the case. I've replaced the old tag with my base URL -- and the archives are now available again. Woot!
From the In Box: Mention Me! XI
Any before and after pictures? It'd be worth a couple thousand words... and you only wrote about 100. -- Rick Weller

This is Heath's head. Hair grows out of it.

It's not the best picture, but there's only so much one man can do in a day. Even if it's a banner day -- like the day I first post a photo to Media Diet. One for the history books, you betcha.
Cover Story II
The May 10, 2002, issue of Entertainment Weekly gave a shout out to Life magazine's Cover Collection, and the props are well deserved. You can search and browse magazine covers dating between 1936 and 1972, when the magazine was a weekly. You can see past covers for today's specific date. And you can browse select sub-collections, such as the 60 "wackiest" covers, which sport images of terriers, roosters, and women kissing pillars. Wonderful stuff.
Pieces, Particles III
The following media-related stories recently spotted in print publications might be worth a look. Heads and decks, only. Heads and decks.

Alan Moore: The Wizard Q&A, by Mike Cotton, Wizard, July 2002
The writer behind WildStorm's ABC line chats about his refusal to work on a Marvel hero, why he'll never do a "Watchmen" sequel and how he might quit comics

Kicking It Up, Sports Illustrated, May 20, 2002
Female soccer players consider how far they'll go to sell their sport

Open for Business, by Adam Rapoport, GQ, June 2002
Advertisers and art directors keep telling women to spread their legs. Which is a good thing? Isn't it?
Mention Me! XI
My haircut yesterday has been garnering all sorts of praise and near-insult. Just now during lunch at the 'Rang, one of my bosses said, "There's a fine line between Dobie Gillis and Green Day. You walk it every day." Yesterday a co-worker said I looked like Tobey Maguire in Pleasantville. Someone else said I looked like I'd just arrived from the '30s. Rich posted, "This lunch was fun because Heath is finally getting that mop of his trimmed. I'm praying they wash it too," on Lunch Is Fun. All I know is that it was high time I got a haircut -- well, all of them, actually.
North End Moment XVI
It never occurred to me that folks have to actually paint fire escapes occasionally, but on Prince Street just past Screen Printing USA, a man was painting a fire escape this afternoon. He had paint on his face.
Managing Me-Mail
Phew! After 11 days vacation in New Mexico and a long weekend for Memorial Day, I had more than 3,000 emails waiting for me in my in box. Because I had guesstimated 4,000 in a conversation last week with Ryan and Simone, I was actually quite pleased that the count was so "low."

Thing is, I just now finished catching up on those 3,000 messages. Almost a week after I returned from vacation. So Mark Hurst's recent report, "Managing E-Mail: What Every User Needs to Know, hit me especially hard. I read it in my hotel room over the weekend in Sonoma County for Roy and Amy's wedding, and it's extremely useful. Mark says that email management is not about server-side filtering of spam. It's not about unsubscribing from all of the mailing lists you belong to.

It's about keeping your in box at zero messages. That's right: Zero messages.

Right now, having just caught up on my emails while away, my in box stands at just more than 600 messages, the oldest of which dates back to February. (Ashamedly, my personal in box dates back to January 2000 with 475 messages.) So I'm going to start following Mark's advice to keep my in box clean. Among his recommendations:

  • Concentrate on lessening overall persistent message count, not daily email volume. (Keep your in box empty.)
  • Delete all spam.
  • Handle personal emails before work-related emails.
  • Act immediately on work-related emails: Read, file, add to your to-do list, and delete.
  • Schedule when you do email.
  • Never reply to spam.
  • Filter incoming spam conservatively. (He offers several solid filtering tactics I've already begun to employ.)

    Mark says all of that better than I have -- and at greater length -- and I heartily recommend that you download the report. I also encourage you to chip in with the $10 honor-system donation Mark asks for. The tool's well worth the $10. I just sent him some money via PayPal.
  • My New Low-Key Local?
    After a conversation in which my girlfriend and I redefined our relationship -- we are now "just good friends" -- we walked down River Street to River Gods, a relatively new Irish pub just steps away from Central Square. I don't know why I haven't gone there before, but I'll be sure to return soon. It's cozy, comfortable, and extremely well-designed. Our pints were reasonably priced, and we were lucky enough to check out the bar on one of their Eavesdrop listening party nights. Every Tuesday starting at around 9:30 p.m., River Gods hosts a listening party that includes the playing of a new or unreleased record. Last night, that record was the Belle & Sebastian soundtrack to Storytelling. Next week it's Chris Brokaw's new record. Then Guided by Voices.

    River Gods has a full-fledged schedule of other events throughout the week, including a guest DJ night in which members of local bands spin discs and other activities. Folks in the pub last night included Arto from the band Mishima USA, a DJ from one of the area mod nights, and two friends of friends I had met at Mary Mary's All-Star Karaoke at 608 awhile ago. Seems like quite the place to see and be seen if you're into that sort of thing.

    Me? I just like the pews. Woot!
    The Revolution Will Be... Subdivided
    Thanks to Charlie Park for directing me to Douglas Rushkoff's recent thinking about revolutionary movements. Instead of thinking about revolutions and movements as linear (and usually cyclical) narratives, Rushkoff suggests that we consider these "moments" as aspects of a Renaissance. While I got a little lost in the logic of his argument -- for example, his recommendation that we begin acting as though we live in a just world now -- I think I get the gist of his riff: We need to start leading by example and living as we think people ought to live... instead of making concessions and taking stop-gap measures in the flawed present banking on the eventual emergence of an ideal future.
    Blogging About Blogging XXI
    Jon Udell has produced an interesting study of "social networking in Radiospace." Analyzing the list of RSS channels to which he subscribes, Jon poses some interesting questions about bloggers' willingness to reveal their regular reads, what kinds of social organizations might emerge out of such transparency, and how bloggers cluster.

    Using the word "hive," Jon contends that blogspace is moving away from a unified body of like-minded people -- and is instead beginning to follow traditional social networking models that apply to affinity groups, subgroups, people connected by weak links, and so on. Interesting stuff -- particularly his thoughts on clustering.


    On the flip mode, John Hiler's recent essay Blogosphere: The Emerging Media Ecosystem goes far to outline the connections between -- and around -- bloggers and professional journalists. He differentiates between breaking news and making sense (fixing the news?), and he looks at the value of grassroots reportage and collaborative media. Perhaps most importantly, he even paints a pretty picture. The diagram he provides titled "The Complete Blogosphere in Action" is well-reasoned and sets a solid foundation for further thinking about the relationship between amateur and professional journalists and media makers.


    And finally, Dave Winer spent some time exploring how blogs might add to the conference, convention, and trade show experience. This is something I've been thinking about for awhile. Why hasn't anybody built a Web business around reporting on trade shows and other business- and technology-related events? "We went to Comdex so you don't have to." People could provide an online show floor of exhibitors, complete with participant, journalist, and attendee comments on their wares and information. Folks could report on the break-out sessions and keynotes. Participants could build a collective context for the event and the content offered at the gathering.

    Alan Reiter builds on Winer's argument. WiFi + blogs = Might as well be there yourself?

    Tuesday, May 28, 2002

    From the In Box: Comics Commotion II
    Er... Ghost World? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? -- Joe Germuska

    Good points, both. (And duh.) Not to pick nits or split hairs about the differences between alternative comics and independent comics, but I'd still contend that the early issues of TMNT were more independent than Dan Clowes' Eightball -- at least in terms of obscurity. I'd also argue that Mephisto and the Empty Box is much lesser known than either Eightball or TMNT. Does that make it more independent or alternative? Hmm. Nits and hairs.
    North End Moment XV
    While waiting in line for my lunch order at Mangia! Mangia!:

    Customer 1: He couldn't even pronounce "polio." He'd say "polo." "Measles"? "Mezzles" or "Me-ah-sles."
    Customer 2: Was he on the computer?
    Customer 1: No. This was on the phone.
    Customer 2: Maybe he needs to see it to say it.
    Customer 1: He ain't getting no freaking job. He's lucky the word "diphtheria" wasn't on the test.
    Comics Commotion II
    Chris Staros of Top Shelf Productions recently announced that the film rights to Jason Hall and Matt Kindt's comic Mephisto and the Empty Box has been optioned for feature film development. This might very well be the first movie inspired by an independent comic. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    From the news release:

    "Hollywood Producer Joe Singer (Dr. Dolittle, Dante's Peak) and entrepreneur Janet Jensen's new production company, Singer/Jensen Entertainment, has optioned the rights to Top Shelf Production's critically acclaimed comic book Mephisto and the Empty Box for feature film development.

    "Written by Jason Hall and illustrated by Matt Kindt, Mephisto and the Empty Box is part of the creators' well-renowned Pistolwhip series of books (included in Time Magazine's List of Top 10 Comics of 2001). While the creators are excited their work may make it to the big-screen, they really hope that the Hollywood attention will help bring the comics themselves to a wider audience.

    "The screenplay for Mephisto will be written by Michael Browning (Bad Company, Six Days, Seven Nights). The story involves a couple with a troubled marriage who attend a magic show. The woman volunteers for the disappearing act but the magician (Mephisto) dies in the middle of the trick. With the wife missing, the husband embarks on a metaphysical journey to bring her back. Alva Entertainment will executive produce."

    Congratulations to all involved!
    Join the Comics Club III
    In a recent Ninth Art column, Patrick Meaney outlines how the Net and online comics communities can put the click in clique -- and might give the cold shoulder to comics readers who aren't online. But instead of focusing on the insular nature of Web-based fandom, Patrick opts to consider the economics associated with online discussions about comics.

    If we're serious about attracting newcomers to comics, ghettoizing our word-of-mouth recommendations, conversations, and advertisements on the Web isn't going to do the trick. Publishers need to consider marketing their wares in traditional, mainstream media -- as well as in other comic books. Off the top of my head, here are some ideas for things folks in the industry could do:

  • Move Free Comic Book Day, if it's repeated, out of direct-sales specialty shops and into book stores, newsstands, and convenience stores that sell comics along with other printed media. The tie-in with the opening of Spider-Man was an excellent opportunity to give away comics -- and for local retailers to secure display space -- in movie theater lobbies. Did anyone actually do this?
  • Include comics readers' mailing addresses (or email addresses and URL's, natch) in letter columns. In the early days of comics fandom, people relied on one-to-one connections for their comics news and friendships. The Web allows us to pursue many-to-many connections and conversations, but let's do all we can in the comics themselves to foster connection and communication.
  • Are you a comics publisher that currently produces a television cartoon? Advertise your company and related comics as part of the program if you're able. You probably advertise the cartoon in your comics.
  • The same goes for movies. Is there any way comics publishers such as Marvel and DC -- and soon to come Top Shelf! -- can mention and market their comics as part of a film's production?
  • Pursue more local promotion of specific comics. Is there an upcoming event or special issue attached to a comic you publish? Where do the creators live? How can you play up a local promotional angle to garner local and regional media coverage? More widespread regional promotion will build toward nationwide awareness. We need to move beyond "Pow! Zap! Comics Aren't Just for Kids Any More" headlines.
  • Host, Not Guest
    This is slightly anticlimactic, but for a few months, it looked like the tables had turned. While I usually stay with friends and members of the Company of Friends when I travel, this week I was slated to serve as a host. I met Gonzalo Bedia Diaz, a 24 year old from Spain who's moving to Boston to work at the Eliot Hotel, online through Global Freeloaders, the "worldwide free accomodation network." GF is similar to the now-defunct Crash Network; members offer to host traveling members in exchange for being able to approach others as a guest as they travel.

    This was going to be my first time hosting someone through a network like this, but I received an email from Gonzalo on Sunday indicating that he didn't need to stay with me tomorrow and Thursday night as we'd previously arranged. He'd been able to book a room somewhere for a month and didn't need my assistance in the interim. Gonzalo's email brought an odd feeling of relief -- I don't have to tidy up my cluttered apartment now -- as well as disappointment -- I was really looking forward to hosting someone through GF.

    We're still planning on meeting once he's in the Boston area. If you travel frequently, you should check out GF. It might be useful.

    Thursday, May 23, 2002

    'Tis the Season to Be... AWOL VI
    Yep. I'm going away again. Tomorrow morning I head to northern California for the wedding of two friends, Amy Middelburg and Roy King III. They met back in 1999 through the London Company of Friends group, and Saturday afternoon, they tie the knot. Not bad for a business-oriented network spawned by a magazine, eh? Stuff like this makes my job worth doing -- and makes me feel extremely proud of Fast Company's readers. Yay, Amy and Roy!

    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. See you Tuesday after Memorial Day.
    Thought for Food
    A little comic strip I drew in mid-May has been published in Lunch Is Fun. I think it's pretty clear why I review comics instead of drawing them.
    From the In Box: Calling out Cabbies
    Saw your Web page with cabby references. In the '70s there was a series in National Lampoon called "Bernie X" about a fictional cabby. Not sure if they are online. -- John Carvalho

    I can't find any "Bernie X" pieces on the Web, but I did find a wonderful "unauthorized guide to the golden age" of the magazine produced by Mark Simonson. Similar to my Humor Me entries in Media Diet, Mark indexes issues published 1970-1974. Wonderful stuff!
    From the In Box: Calling out Cabbies
    Soon to be Seattlite and Media Dietician Andi has posted a story about a decidedly creepy cab ride in the discussion forum. Maybe it's too early to nip the forum in the bud? Share your cab calamities if you have any stories to tell.

    Should I nix the discussion forum? Take the Media Diet poll.
    Mention Me! X
    Um, Weight Loss Zone has deemed Media Diet worthy of inclusion in their directory of diet resources. Quoth Jon, "I don't think she's put much thought into this."

    Also, I received a nice email from Tim Bauer today:

    Great blog, with always-interesting links. I've been a fan for a while. Thought I might finally write in to ask if you'd check out my blog. Political satire and current events parody from a former contributing editor of the acclaimed SuBBrilliant News site. It might be something your readers might be interested in. At the very least, it might be something you personally might be interested in.

    Consider your blog checked, Tim. Thanks for the kind words!
    From the In Box: Blogging About Blogging XX
    I meant to comment on your post about the Peer-to-Peer Review Project. I too was not reviewed. Of course, I decided that I probably wouldn't have liked a review of my site because I'm so inconsistent with what I write about. Then again, I think most of the sites were reviewed glowingly. -- Jacob Wolfsheimer
    Rock Shows of Note XIX
    Is that the Roman numeral for 19? I hope so. If I keep this up, I'll have to become more well-versed in Roman numerals. (Steven Gibbs has developed a useful Roman numeral and date conversion page to which I'm sure to return.) In any event, I'm home now after 11 days (or XI, if you're keeping track of my progress) in New Mexico with my family -- our first family vacation in years. It was awesome -- select reports on what we did and where we went to come soon -- and it's slightly weird to be back: back in Boston, back with my friends, back at work. In fact, I'm a little hung-over. From the time away, but also from last night's Handstand Command anniversary show -- as well as the prospect of wading through the 3,000 emails waiting in my in box. Yikes! But first, the show.

    Last night was the residency's wild-card show. Jef's been great in terms of organizing shows highlighting similar but slightly divergent musical groups, and last night was no exception. It may have even been the rule. First up, Cathy Cathodic, a Boston-based "femcee." Cathy's a wonderfully empowering hip-hop artist whose rhymes focused on relationships, self-esteem, and respect. Most of the pieces seemed to deal with gender differences and how to avoid -- or respond to -- being mistreated by men. A powerful set -- and welcome in one of Boston's best rock venues.

    Next, Scrapple. It's been awhile since I've seen the gang play live, and it was well worth catching up with their brand of "popera": a self-described "cabaret of musical vignettes rolled out with props, costumes and such stuff." They performed most of my favorites, including "Light-Up Alien Pussy," which I mention primarily to see how it affects Media Diet's search-engine results. If you haven't heard -- or seen -- Scrapple, they're worth checking out. The only band I can think of that comes even close to what they do is the now-defunct Double Dong. (Double Dong's last show was May 17 -- RIP.)

    Lastly, Naughty Shirley, the rock act involving Slamber of Pelvic Circus. To be totally truthful, I was a little in my cups at this point and sequestered behind the merch table, so I didn't pay that much attention, but, yes, they're a rock band -- and Naughty Shirley's music is quite different than Pelvic Circus' virulent queercore. I'll have to see them again before I can say much more about them. Apologies extended.

    Teddy, the bartender at the Abbey, says that the Handstand Command residency has been the best Wednesday night series the bar has ever scheduled. Fingers crossed that the music collective will secure more dates there in the future. Yup, definitely a little hung-over. On to those 3,000 emails.

    Incidentally, some photographs of the residency are now available. Make with the clicky click.

    Friday, May 10, 2002

    Rock Shows of Note XVIII
    The day after I get back from New Mexico, the Anchormen have a show at the Upstairs Lounge with Choo Choo La Rouge and Tony Goddess, formerly of Papas Fritas. That's Thursday, May 23. Always rocking, never stopping. Hope to see you there!
    'Tis the Season to Be... AWOL V
    Tomorrow morning I head to New Mexico for a much-needed vacation with my family. I'll be back in Boston on Wednesday, May 22, just in time for the Handstand Command anniversary show. 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.
    Calling out Cabbies
    Whenever I'm in a taxi, I have the tendency to engage the driver in a conversation for the duration of the ride. I'm not sure how it happens, and I'm not sure if this is something I actively pursue or encourage, but it happens a lot. All the time, in fact. And most of the time, talking to taxi drivers is fascinating. I've had two conversations with cabbies in the past week that I think are worth sharing.

    The first conversation happened Wednesday night. I'd gotten back from San Diego at 6:30 that morning and headed straight to the office, thinking I'd work a while and then head home midday. I'd totally forgotten an online event I was scheduled to facilitate, so I ended up staying until 5:45 p.m. Then I called a cab so I didn't have to lug my suitcase home on the T. I'm not sure what prompted the driver, but for some reason he told me, "If you lead an unplanned life, you have to deal with the consequences." That's what got us talking. Turned out that the driver used to have a gambling problem -- frequent trips to Foxwoods and scratch tickets every day. Said he'd probably wasted away $200,000 over the course of his gambling career. "If only I had that money today," he said. A friend of his had once lost $47,000 over the course of three days. ("You could live for a couple of years on that money," I said.) He started to question his gambling habit -- his addiction ("That's exactly what it is," he said. "An addiction.") -- when his 13-year-old son asked him for a computer and he couldn't afford it. So he stopped gambling. Started taking classes to learn how he could improve his credit rating. Started driving a taxi to earn more money on the side. It's been three years since he stopped gambling. He's still driving the cab.

    The second conversation took place last night when I caught a last-minute ride to Alex's house for dinner. Mike, my driver, was a talkative one. We kept driving past buildings he'd never seen before -- "When did they put that there?" -- as well as construction sites. Weird. Mike's been driving a taxi since the '60s -- in Somerville since the '70s. His wife is in the hospital with a urinary tract infection her doctors "should have caught the last time she was in the hospital," but she's scheduled to be released early next week. She goes to the hospital a lot and seems to have a lot of medical problems. "Some of the doctors think that she's one of those people who likes being taken care of in the hospital," Mike said. "Give me a break. She's in a wheelchair!" Because her primary care physician isn't always readily available, sometimes she doesn't receive timely care because the other doctors and medical care professionals doubt she's really ill, thinking she's a hypochondriac.

    Then we started talking about books for some reason. "You know what radio show I'd want to be on when I publish my book?" Mike asked me. I didn't. "Forget Oprah. It's the Art Bell show. If you work during the day you probably don't listen to it because it's on at night, but that's the show." I'm not sure whether Mike is really working on a book, but he did say that he's working on a unified theory about everything, "which I'm constantly adapting," he said. Anyway, Mike says that the Art Bell show is the show to go on because book sales skyrocket after authors appear on it. Two examples:

  • A paranoid woman ("She was a total nut case.") who moves every two months so people can't track her down -- and stores her book in friends' garages -- appeared on the show. Her book hit No. 800 on the sales rankings.
  • A former private investigator who penned a tome on how to drop out of society ("He used to track people down for the FBI, so he wrote a book about what he did in reverse.") also appeared on the show. Then, according to Mike, his book hit No. 1 on the New York Times' best-seller list.

    I have no idea whether that is true, but it got me thinking about books written by and about taxi drivers. There's Risa Mickenberg and Joanne Dugan's "Taxi Driver Wisdom." There's David Bradford's "Drive by Shootings: Photographs by a New York Taxi Driver." Ansara Ali's "Sacred Adventures of a Taxi Driver." C.E. Patterson's "Memoirs of a Taxi Driver." Mike even told me that a driver for Town Taxi in Boston has written a book about little-known history in the area. "Tourists kept asking him questions, and he was frustrated that he didn't know all the answers," Mike said. "So he started to do research and realized that a lot of the history he'd learned and stories he'd heard wasn't correct. Like Paul Revere's ride. Didn't happen."

    What I want to know is whether that Town Taxi driver sells the book out of the back of his cab. He'd certainly have a captive audience.
  • From the In Box: Comics and Correspondence
    Thanks for your glowing review of Letter Show on Media Diet. You summed it up perfectly, with just the proper tone of "You better go see it," that I wouldn't have added myself. -- Leslie Kleinberg

    I just wanted to say thanks for the excellent review of Letter Show that you wrote on your Web site. I actually didn't even notice or remember that envelope from '95 with the first mention of the whole show idea, so I'm glad you pointed it out! I went back and checked it out. -- Dan Moynihan

    Thursday, May 09, 2002

    Blogging About Blogging XX
    It's like the Superbowl! And that's rather appropriate given that the Peer-to-Peer Review Project seems to have finally run its course. You can now access the blog reviews -- which might be slightly challenging because the scripts seem somewhat buggy, attributing blogs and reviews to the wrong people. But everything's there.

    What doesn't seem to be there, however, is a review of Media Diet. Maybe I can't find it because the scripts are weird, but, sigh. What if nobody reviewed Media Diet? I hope that whomever was slated to review Media Diet didn't get reviewed either, although that would probably create a vicious circle in which no sites were reviewed at all. If a tree falls and all that. Sigh. Darn free-rider problem! Oh, well, I'll get over it -- and myself. Sigh.
    Blogging About Blogging XIX
    So I'm thinking about ditching the discussion forum associated with Media Diet. My plan is to add a commenting tool such as Yaccs so folks can discuss specific Media Diet entries instead of broader topics -- and then I'll move over some of the forum-specific content that's worthy of adding to Media Diet. What do you think? Sound like a good idea? Is there a better comment tool than Yaccs? Let me know.
    The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night VII
    Hi-Fi Pizza
    After all of the bands were done and everything was loaded out, Jef gave me a lift home. And I was staaarving. All I had eaten yesterday was some of the small, snacky food they give you on planes, and I was feeling pretty empty. So before going home, I walked over to Hi-Fi Pizza to see if it was still open. It was 1:30 a.m., and it was! The place was packed. Sociologically, it was pretty interesting. The late-night crowd mostly comprised a bunch of indie-rock kids -- all sitting on one side of the joint -- and a scattering of other people, who mostly kept to the other side. I ordered two slices and sat down in my suit, scarfing down the food like it was nothing. Hi-Fi doesn't make the best pizza, but it does make good pizza. Cheesy, greasy. Good. And it's not far from my house at all. Before I got up to leave, I noticed that everyone was kind of checking me out. I guess I must have stuck out because I was wearing a suit and carrying a backpack -- no one else in the place was wearing a suit -- and I imagine that I must have looked like some sort of hungry night-owl Mormon. That's me: Elder Row. It was so good to eat. It was also good to sleep. A good ending to a good day.
    Rock Shows of Note XVII
    Another fine installment in the Handstand Command anniversary residency at the Abbey last night. Thanks to everyone who came -- especially all the people we didn't know, the people who danced and cheered us on, and the people who stuck around to see who the super-secret special guest was.

    We had to rejigger the lineup a little because the super-secret special guest had to work last night and couldn't get to the Abbey in time for their scheduled slot. But it all worked out well. Asian Babe Alert, a wonderful garagey duo comprising Tom from the Anchormen and Leslie, celebrated Asian-American and Asian-Pacific-American History months, as well as Mother's Day with a raucous set full of aggressive guitar, Tom's charmingly hoarse singing, and Leslie's unbridled enthusiasm slamming on the drums and singing. They surprised me with a solid cover of the Anchormen song "Moon Face."

    Next up, the Anchormen. Oh, did we have fun. In our announcement for the show, we said that we'd spend 30 minutes insulting each other, and we basically did. Chris wasn't as acerbic as he normally is, but he took a lot of pokes at me (like when I wanted to play a song we'd already played again because I like it so much), and the rest of us ganged up on Tom at one point. I think we played a more assertive set than we usually do, erring on the side of our rockier numbers and playing only one of what Emily calls our "girl songs." My glasses kept flying off of my face, people were bopping along up in front, and one girl was even kind of singing along or cheering. Awesome to see so many people we don't know in the audience. Thanks again to everyone who came, especially the girl who said hello right after the set and the guy who'd just moved here and was into socialism and anarchism. The audience rocked.

    I'd never heard the Count Me Outs before, but I was familiar with Hilken because of her work with Punk Rock Aerobics. They're fun and garagey, and they wear home and away T-shirts for their shows. The home shirt, which is reserved for Boston-area shows, sports dark blue (or black) sleeves, and the away shirts have orange sleeves. I particularly appreciated Mark's singing and Hilken's guitar playing and hair flipping. Fun!

    Last up, the super-special secret guest: Mr. Airplane Man, which we couldn't promote because they're playing tonight as part of the WBCN Rumble. I'd also never heard them play live before other than one of their street busking performances on Harvard or Central square. And you know what? I wasn't that psyched about their set. I like the general idea, two women playing energetic, authentic blues rock, but I didn't really get into them last night. Maybe they were saving themselves for the stage tonight. Maybe I was finally fading, given that I'd only slept a little bit flying back on the red eye from San Diego.

    Our friend Roland Ouellette was there shooting photos, so perhaps some images will be available in the near future. Happy birthday, Handstand Command. Happy birthday to you.

    Meanwhile, across town, our friends' band Spoilsport played at the Midway in JP. "We had a very sparse crowd, but we were told the sound/mix was the best we ever had," Craig reports. "We had fun, so I guess that's the important thing."

    Indeed. Fun is an important thing.
    From the In Box: It's a Small World
    I looked at your Web site today and noticed that my name was on it. It was a funny bit, and I was glad to see that you didn't call me a stalker, which is a nice change of pace. Those restraining orders become costly. Good thing I get a bulk discount. -- Tammy Reasoner

    Wednesday, May 08, 2002

    Rules for Fools VI
    Rule No. 8: The key to your apartment is not a fine substitute for a corkscrew.
    Rule No. 9: Thou shalt not covet your co-worker's strawberries.
    Mention Me! IX
    Halley's at it again, suggesting that I'm going to perform in a band while at BlogCon this August. This BlogCon thing frightens me more every day. Huh.
    The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night VI
    Friday: Bombay Club
    Let's go back in time to before I left for RealTime in San Diego. After Leslie and Dan's Letter Show reception, Alex and I caught the bus to the Bombay Club on Harvard Square for dinner. It's one of my favorite Indian restaurants in the area, with a wonderful view of the small park by Grendel's Den and the Marketplace Theater -- and, of course, wonderful food. We shared a vegetarian thali and a chicken dish -- the most tender chicken I've ever eaten -- as well as some garlic naan. Yummy on my tummy. You should go there.
    Comics and Correspondence
    Last Friday before sharing time and table with Alex -- and packing to go to RealTime, I took in the opening reception for Leslie Kleinberg and Dan Moynihan's Letter Show installation at MassArt's Tower Gallery. The show features about 220 envelopes and postcards that Leslie and Dan exchanged through the mail between 1991 and 2002. It's a wonderful exhibit -- multiple rows of envelopes clipped to strands of wire running across the gallery space -- and lots of solid examples of mail art, illustration, comics, and artist's stamps.

    Leslie and Dan met in 1991 through a pen-pal ad placed in the Cure fanzine, Other Voices. They later met face to face while they were both studying in Providence, but their correspondence started sight unseen -- and represents a wide-ranging creative exchange over the course of more than 10 years and straying coast to coast several times. While many of the envelopes are interesting pieces of art in and of themselves, the backs of the envelopes are even more interesting, featuring ephemeral marginalia such as song quotes, cartoons, and last-minute questions or ideas. In fact, Leslie and Dan first had the idea for this exhibit in 1995. The envelope sporting that brief note -- suggesting that they exhibit the four years of envelopes and correspondence to date -- is included in the installation.

    During the reception, Leslie and Dan even played some of the mix tapes that they have exchanged since 1991, adding an interesting musical accompaniment to the browsing and conversations -- and again highlighting the value of trading networks, zine friends, and correspondence. Brilliant. The exhibit runs through May 10, so you can still catch it. I suggest you do.
    Other People's Reading Piles IV
    In his new book, "Love Is the Killer App," Tim Sanders includes an appendix of what he considers to be the Ten Must-Read Books for Lovecats. It's a good mix of titles, but Tim also mentions and cites -- and thereby recommends -- 28 other books over the course of the read. They didn't make the appendix, but they make Media Diet. Here are the books that didn't make Tim's top-10 cut, in the order in which they were mentioned:

  • Milton Mayeroff, "On Caring"
  • Harry Beckwith, "The Invisible Touch: The Four Keys to Modern Marketing"
  • Kevin Kelly, "New Rules for the New Economy: 10 Radical Strategies for a Connected World"
  • Larry Downes and Chunka Mui, "Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance"
  • John Hagel and Arthur Armstrong, "Net Gain: Expanding Markets Through Virtual Communities"
  • Adam Brandenburger, Barry Nalebuff, and Ada Brandenburger, "Co-Opetition"
  • John McKean, "Information Masters: Secrets of the Customer Race"
  • Duane Knapp and Christopher Hart, "The Brand Mindset: Five Essential Strategies for Building Brand Advantage Throughout Your Company"
  • Seth Godin, "Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends, and Friends into Customers"
  • Patricia Seybold, " How to Create A Profitable Business Strategy for the Internet & Beyond"
  • Sandra Vandermerwe, "Customer Capitalism: The New Business Model of Increasing Returns in New Market Spaces"
  • Phil Carpenter, "eBrands: Building an Internet Business at Breakneck Speed"
  • Emanuel Rosen, "The Anatomy of Buzz: How to Create Word-of-Mouth Marketing"
  • Kevin Davis and Kenneth Blanchard, "Getting into Your Customer's Head: The Eight Roles of Customer-Focused Selling"
  • Abraham Maslow, "Toward a Psychology of Being"
  • Sergio Zyman and Scott Miller, "Building Brandwidth: Closing the Sale Online"
  • Lowell Bryan, Jeremy Oppenheim, Wilhelm Rall, Jane Fraser, "Race for the World: Strategies to Build a Great Global Firm"
  • Spencer Johnson, "Who Moved My Cheese?"
  • Dale Carnegie, "How to Win Friends and Influence People"
  • Jim Collins, "Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies"
  • Paco Underhill, "Why People Buy"
  • Ray Kurzweil, "The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence"
  • Gail Evans, "Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman: What Men Know About Success That Women Need to Learn"
  • Jack Trout, "Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition"
  • Adrian Slywotzky, "Profit Zone: How Strategic Business Design Will Lead You to Tomorrow's Profits"
  • Mackenzie Kyle, "Making It Happen: A Non-Technical Guide to Project Management"
  • Stanley Marcus, "Minding the Store: A Memoir"
  • Philip Kotler, "Kotler on Marketing: How to Create, Win, and Dominate Markets"

    Most of the books listed should be relatively easy to find via the Harvard Book Store and Powell's Books online ordering services.
  • Rock Shows of Note XVI
    Tonight is the second night of the Handstand Command anniversary residency at the Abbey.

    Kicking off at 9 p.m., we've got a stellar lineup, if I do say so myself: Asian Babe Alert, a super-secret special guest, the Anchormen, and the Count Me Outs. Hope to see you there! I'll be a little jet lagged, but, hey, always rocking, never stopping.

    Monday, May 06, 2002

    It's a Small World
    Yesterday at 9:30 p.m., I received a phone call while I was in my hotel room. Turns out that while I was at RealTime, staying at the Del Coronado in San Diego, a high-school friend of mine, Tammy Reasoner, who works for Allen Press Inc. in Kansas, was staying at a Hyatt across town while exhibiting at a conference organized by the Council of Science Editors.

    I haven't seen Tammy since an August 2001 reunion of Fort Atkinson High School alumni, and we don't touch base with each other that often even though she's probably one of the people I've talked to more often since graduating from high school.

    Anyhoo, some colleagues of Tammy's visited the Coronado during their conference because it's supposedly haunted -- and when they returned to the Hyatt, Tammy made the connection between their visit, the signs they saw for RealTime and Fast Company, and me... and called the hotel on the off chance that I was in fact here. I was. So we met for lunch today. And it was fun. We caught up on post-reunion gossip and life changes, discussed the differences between our two conferences (and, ahem, hotels), and enjoyed the San Diego sun.

    Just goes to show: The best way to make your world smaller is to make your world bigger. The more people you know around the world -- regardless of how often you communicate or collaborate with them -- the better the chances that you'll encounter people you know randomly. That's pretty rad.

    Sunday, May 05, 2002

    The Movie I Watched Last Night XIX
    Saturday: Not Another Teen Movie
    After arriving in San Diego and getting settled at the hotel, I had some open time, so I spent some time reading on the deck in the sun -- and then almost-napping while watching this extremely silly but well-done pastiche of teen-movie cliches on pay-per-view. The movie's original working title, Ten Things I Hate About Clueless Road Trips When I Can't Hardly Wait to Be Kissed, gives viewers some idea of the screenplay's source material, but there are some curveballs in there -- such as the "American Beauty" references (I wouldn't really peg it as a teen movie) and the Molly Ringwald cameo at the very end. There's also a wonderful Breakfast Club scene spoof -- almost verbatim. All in all, while I occasionally enjoy teen movies, I particularly enjoyed this extremely goofy self-conscious spoof. All of your favorite teen movie character archetypes are here. All of the run-of-the-mill plot elements are trucked out. And it's all done with a solid sense of harmless fun. Worth seeing solely for its meta-movie nature.
    The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night V
    Cafe Sevilla
    Members of the San Diego Company of Friends, Tim Sanders, and about 15 other CoF coordinators and members from around the country joined me for dinner last night in the basement tapas bar of this wonderful restaurant in the Gaslamp District. Spread out over two long tables next to the performance area -- which was livened up by several talented flamenco musicians and dancers -- we shared several courses of tapas and paella, as well as a couple of pitchers of sangria. The food was tasty, the music was energetic and authentic, and the conversation was interesting. I think the Sevilla is probably better suited to smaller, more intimate dining situations -- they were hard pressed to accomodate 20-plus people, and I can see it being quite cozy and romantic -- but I'd recommend it for the music and dancing alone. Supposedly, the place turns into a disco after hours. Just as we were leaving, they started to clear the tables away to make a dance floor. We didn't stick around.

    Friday, May 03, 2002

    'Tis the Season to Be... AWOL IV
    Tomorrow morning I head to San Diego for Fast Company's RealTime conference. I'll be back in the office Wednesday, May 8. I'm still debating whether to take my laptop to California -- and I need to decide soon so I can leave work at 6 to meet up with Alex -- so there's a chance that Media Diet might be quiet for the next four days.

    As before, 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. I'll be back on the attack soon. If you miss me while I'm gone, catch up on the Archives. Media Diet turns a year old in a month-plus. Woot!
    Books Worth a Look IV
    These are the books I read in April 2002.

    Amped: Notes from a Go-Nowhere Punk Band by Jon Resh (2001)
    Perhaps more useful that Chadbourne's how-to book for working musicians, Amped combines the autobiographical narrative of a Florida punk band, Spoke, with practical commentary on most aspects of DIY music production, from rehearsing to touring. Jon was quite well connected to the early-'90s punk scene, and his fond reminiscences energetically balance out the punk rock meta-commentary. The chapter "Tour" could've done with some subdivision, but otherwise, the book's a good read and tells an almost universal tale from the perspective of a relative unknown.
    Days to read: 8. Rating: Good.

    The Buk Book: Musings on Charles Bukowski by Jim Christy (1997)
    This brief, appreciative essay on the life and lines of Charles Bukowski also collects some wonderful photographs Claude Powell took of the author on one fateful, frantic night in 1971. The result is a slim, beautiful ode to the poet that draws on his life, loves, wine, women, and small-press celebrity. Christy does well to address Buk's life as his art, his dedication to DIY publishers, toe-dipping into the celebrity scene of Hollywood, focusing on the man's literary philosophy, utter lack of pretense, and dogged creative process. Makes me want to read Bukowski, and that makes this fond remembrance well worth reading.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Excellent.

    Communication@Work: How to Get Along with Anyone in the Workplace and at Church by H. Norman Wright (2001)
    Aimed at Christian business people, this book is a clumsy bundle of repositioned work drawing on neurolinguistic programming, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and John Gray's "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus." You're better off reading the first six chapters and then turning to other, more in-depth and accurate books. Wright also short changes the promise delivered in the books subtitle and concentrates largely on relationships and communication at work. His treatment of "antisocial" people is heavy handed, and there have got to be better books about communicating and overcoming conflicts at work -- much less at church.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Poor.

    Dance Till Tomorrow Vol. 5 by Naoki Yamamoto (2002)
    Right up there with Video Girl Ai, Dance Till Tomorrow is a manga chock full of unrequited love, unsolved mysteries, and unspoken desire. I might have missed Vol. 4 because there are a couple of new characters I don't recognize, but the story is this. A young man bound to receive a $4 million inheritance is courted and countered by several people intent on securing the money for themselves: the sexy Aya, the mousy and mechanistic Miyuki, and the stone-faced attorney Tachimi. With shades of Ranma 1/2 (a playful ghost) and Maison Ikkoku (the boarding house), Dance draws on several solid sources and draws readers in well along the way.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

    The Essential Crazy Wisdom by Wes "Scoop" Nisker (1990)
    An excellent perspective of crazy wisdom, the "insights and teaching methods of the most radical masters of the Way." Nisker draws on four archetypal characters -- the clown, jester, trickster, and fool -- as well as thinkers from the East (Taoism, various Buddhisms) and the West (Christianity, Rumi). The book also turns to less general traditions: existentialism, music and other art, various creation myths, and quantum physics. I particularly appreciated the passages on haiku, time, and language. As roundups go, this is hella better than Communication@Work and does much to make some new connections between disparate traditions.
    Days to Read: 2. Rating: Excellent.

    The Executioner #282: Jungle Conflict by Jerry VanCook as Don Pendleton (2002)
    Avoiding the political commentary of Mike Newton and the popcult pastiche of Gerald Montgomery, VanCook opts for a straight-forward adventure tale set in the Amazon. Involving a land dispute between Peru and Ecuador, chemical warfare, an indigenous tribe, and other interesting plot constructs, this book also includes some class commentary and a May-December romance. There's also the first -- that I've read -- use of the Net as Mack Bolan frequents cybercafes to communicate with his comrades at Stony Man. There's email. There's even instant messaging. How 1995! VanCook also throws in a cartoony journalist stereotype: "I only report the news. And I do so as impartially as I possibly can." Do people still say that?

    I'm OK -- You're OK by Thomas A. Harris (1967)
    I started reading this in late January when I was in the midst of a little self-help binge. This classic manual on transactional analysis and the psychological roles of parent, adult, and child shares some common ground with learned optimism and Scientology's Dianetics, leaning more toward the latter. L. Ron Hubbard and Harris' relegation of the brain to a computer proves concerning, but Harris' suggestion that we can identify what role we're playing when interacting with others and adjust our responses accordingly is valid and useful. I could've used a lot of this in my last relationship. Like "Who Moved My Cheese?" and "Dianetics," this book is a bit self-congratulatory and -propagating, and I'm not too sure how far transactional analysis has come since the late '60s, but this is still worth checking out. A true pop-psych classic.
    Days to read: 82. Rating: Good.

    Miss America by Catherine Wagner (2001)
    This Burmese poet now lives in Boise, Idaho. The jacket copy compares Wagner to Jack Spicer, which makes me want to read him, but you might as well read this, too. By turns scatalogical and sacred, Wagner's poems revel in a madcap rhythm and stilted but silly wordplay, covering the mundane as well as the melodramatic. Her 16 "magazine poems" (tip of the hat to Spicer) address periodicals such as Guideposts, Harpers Bazaar, and Entertainment Weekly but aren't as media-inspired as I'd expected. Additionally, her 21 "fraction anthems" are also notable -- as are the notes, which were composed by passing Wagner's social security number through the poems. I'd enjoy a collection of the magazine poems, and I appreciated Wagner's off-hand disrespect for some of life's finer moments.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

    My Life in Heavy Metal by Steve Almond (2002)
    These 12 short stories by Emerson College teacher Steve Almond blend the modern-day relationship narratives of Nick Hornby with sme tasteful, humorous erotic fiction. Every story looks at a relationship or series of relationships, with "The Pass" perhaps being the most self-consciously analytical of a literary method. My favorite pieces riff on pop culture, and "My Life in Heavy Metal," "Geek Player, Love Slayer," and "How to Love a Republican"'s use of music, tech support, and political subcultures all work well. The shorter pieces -- "The Law of Sugar" and "Pornography," especially -- bring Haruki Murakami's naive realism and Anain Nin's erotic fiction to mind. This book is largely candy, though. It'd be good to see more character development and longer work.
    Days to read: 12. Rating: Good.

    Notable American Women by Ben Marcus (2002)
    Ben's postmodern blend of autobiography and biography uses his, his father's, and his mother's fictional personal narratives to detail his initial embrace by and eventual rejection of Jane Dark and the Silentists. His reclamation of language and nature is brilliant, ascribing air, water, and physical space with spiritual meaning and value, as well as mechanical uses, while relegating people to destructive and disruptive forces. Air as communication device. Water as recording media. Movement as catastrophic trigger. A heady view of an alternate world.
    Days to read: 3. Rating: Excellent.

    Oh, the Things I Know! by Al Franken (2002)
    Subtitled "A Guide to Success, or Failing That, Happiness," this quick read is a slim motivational book that spoofs the recent wave of celebrity advice books. While not as snarky as Franken can be, the book forgoes the soft, simpering side of self-help for a self-conscious, self-promotional, and self-deprecating tone -- occasionally lapsing into Neal Pollack-like self-aggrandizement. The premise doesn't feel that solid, and I think Franken could've gone over the top a little with this concept.
    Days to read: 2. Rating: Fair.

    Pendle Hill: A Quaker Experiment in Education and Community by Eleanore Price Mather (1980)
    This account of the Quaker learning center's first 50 years draws heavily on Pendle Hill records, course schedules, and pamphlet publishing, so the almost decade-driven history is somewhat we did this/she wrote that in format. Nevertheless, there's quite a bit of personality in this book. Perhaps most interesting are Mather's accounts of the center's founding; analysis of faculty, staff, and student conflicts; portrayal of such colorful people as Anna Brinton; consideration of the center's response to the war and popular art within Quakerism; and touch on how the '60s affected Pendle Hill. Also of interest is Mather's recognition of the role publishing played in the center's promotion to and communication with the outside world. Makes me want to go there!
    Days to read: 2. Rating: Good.

    Slackjaw by Jim Knipfel (1999)
    Brilliant. What I expected to be fiction turned out to be the biography of a man struck blind by retinitis pigmentosa in his early 30s. He grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, was involved in the punk scene, and lived in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia before settling in New York City and at the New York Press. A columnist for alt.weeklies and the like, Jim fought depression and alcoholism as well as his increasing blindness, and the book narrates his many adventures and misadventures with all three along the way. The book is also about friendship and ends on an oddly upbeat note as Jim seems to realize the support network around him regardless of his distaste for assistance.
    Days to read: 4. Rating: Excellent.

    Spiritual Hospitality: A Quaker's Understanding of Outreach by Harvey Gillman (1994)
    This Pendle Hill pamphlet (#314) looks at outreach less in the sense of the evangelism and recruitment favored by conservative Christians and more in the vein of developing personal relationships regardless of religious participation. Gillman touches on authenticity, the act of welcoming, intimacy and its risks, communication, reciprocity, taking on the role of guest, and other topics. A quick hit, but a solid message that would be well heard by many organizations and people.
    Days to read: 2. Rating: Excellent.

    Stewardship of Wealth by Kingdon W. Swayne (1985)
    Pendle Hill's 259th pamphlet is a leisurely and luxury-inspired look at the role wealth plays in the Society of Friends. As a retiree with some savings, Swayne brings a less-than-universally practical perspective to the matter, but his approach to shepherding personal resources is laudable. Swayne looks at affluence and accountability, self-sufficiency, philanthropy, the role of investing, the myth of private property, responsibility, security, and wealth. The pamphlet ends with a useful self-assessment guide so people can go through Swayne's experiment themselves.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

    True Facts: Comics' Righteous Anger by Larry Young (2002)
    Thank you, Sarah and Paul, because if I'd never met you, I might not have ever known about Larry Young. Why has there not been a zine how-to book written like this? Larry -- regardless of whether you appreciate his comics -- has written an accessible, useful book devoted to DIY comics production. He nods to the importance of the creative urge and recognizes the value of the distribution, marketing, promotional, and retail legs of the business. He also tips hat to the value of fandom as a support network. Go direct. Go to your readers. Go buy this book.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Excellent.

    Voices in the Purple Haze: Underground Radio and the Sixties by Michael C. Keith (1997)
    Keith, a professor at Boston College, compiled and wrote this oral history and sociological analysis of the rise and fall of commercial underground radio. He includes the recollections of more than 30 participants in and pioneers of the era, creating a thoughtful account of the shift from AM to FM; the emergence of largely freeform, DJ-driven programming; the corporate adoption of the broadcasting style; and the genre's eventual evolution back to Top 40, AOR, and label-driven promotional programming. Keith does a good job tying commercial underground radio to other of the day and sheds good light on the naivete of the genre balanced with the corporate control.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Excellent.

    We've Got Blog: How Weblogs Are Changing Our Culture ed. by Perseus Publishing (2002)
    Despite the book's confusing authorial and editorial credits, this book's wide array of perspectives and voices ably addresses the potential and power of blogs. Most of the pieces, which all appeared in print and online previously, aare meta-blogging commentary and go far to capture the history of blogs and some of the philosophical debates among bloggers. My only concern about this book, perhaps the first text on blogs, is that it'll overly solidify some of the more dogmatic aspects of blogging -- format, relation to other blogs, formal vs. informal language, and so forth. Read it for the history and the ideas, but don't take some of the precepts people espouse too seriously.
    Days to read: 5. Rating: Excellent.

    Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson (1998)
    Written by the author who wrote the One Minute Manager, Salesperson, Mother, Father, and Teacher, this book can be read in about as long. It's a simple fable that has some sense to it, but the fact that it's grown to -- and sold in -- such mythic proportions is worrisome. The book is designed to encourage such growth. Before the actual fable, there's a four-page setup in which a person is about to tell the tale to some friends. And at the end there's an 18-page fictional discussion of the book. There's even a list of companies that have shared the book with its employees and a page describing how you can do the same. If you do want to read this, buy it in paperback because for $20 there's not much cheese here.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Fair.

    Zirconia by Chelsey Minnis (2001)
    This collection of 22 poems runs hot and cold with me. Hot when they're McSweeney's-esque pieces of prose a la the hilariously obsessive and observant "Report on the Babies" or the briefly emotive "The Torturers" and "The Aquamarine." Cold when Minnis gets busy with her awkward and ungainly poetic device of delineating entire lines with periods and tucking words inside. The jacket copy says this enforces long pauses. I say it makes lines difficult to scan and clutters more than clarifies. Still, I was struck by several poems: "Pitcher," the hesitant and inventive "Uh," and "Primrose." There's a lot of nature in Minnis' poetry -- birds, the moon, grass, blood -- but the extensive use of ellipses feels downright unnatural.
    Days to read: 1. Rating: Fair.

    Why does We've Got Blog get a link while the other books do not? Perseus sent me a galley to review. 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.
    Among the Literati V
    Following a reading in Seattle, the Stranger asked Ben Marcus to review the audience. Ben did.
    It's an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World IX
    This summer, Abercrombie & Fitch will begin including advertisements from other companies such as SoBe, Sony, Trek, and the WB withing the pages of its magalog, the A&F Quarterly. The magalog, which includes original editorial as well as photographs depicting A&F clothing, has a circulation of about 200,000. A&F also publishes a traditional catalog without articles or the controversial photography of Bruce Weber -- the ads will not appear in the catalog.

    I think this move is interesting on several levels:

  • It positions A&F as a lifestyle company, not just a clothing retailer.
  • It further blurs the lines between advertising and editorial content -- reminding me slightly of Urban Outfitters' old tabloid newspaper.
  • People already pay for the Quarterly -- in stores or by subscription. Including outside ads might nod in the direction of A&F launching a proper magazine a la Benetton's Colors. I'm not sure if the Quarterly is currently distributed to newsstands.
  • A&F is doing more than just selling its customer list. It's maintaining the presentation and shell it uses to approach its client base -- and is opening the way for other companies to do so also, but in an A&F-branded and -controlled environment.
  • This might also be a step in the direction of cooperative catalogs a la AirMall. What if all of your favorite lifestyle and clothing retailers issued a collective catalog?
  • Clip-Art Comics III
    Soft Skull Press announced today that it will publish David Rees' Get Your War On. Rees will donate his royalties from the book to landmine relief efforts in Afghanistan; Soft Skull will also contribute a royalty to the cause.

    This is good news, especially just one day before Rees' appearance at the Million Year Picnic on Free Comic Book Day.

    I can't go to the signing because I'll be out of town, but you should. And if you do go to the signing, feel free to introduce yourself to David as Heath from Media Diet -- regardless of your gender. I'm sad I can't be there, and I think it'd be funny if a bunch of people introduced themselves to him as the same person. In fact, I double-dog dare you.
    North End Moment XIV
    New graffito penciled on a traffic sign posted on the back outside wall of the Scotch & Sirloin building:

    Coloney Tool
    Spire Print
    Savin Hill T
    Rock Shows of Note XV
    My plan last night was to maybe head home after a quick, scaled-down Anchormen practice at the Sound Museum (Chris was exhausted after moving to his new apartment Wednesday night, so it was just Jef, Tom, and me). Maybe even hang out with Alex a little. But sometimes plans change. The rain -- and my need for a ride home -- the fact that our friends' band Spoilsport was playing at the Milky Way, and Jef's acquisition of two free tickets led me to head into Jamaica Plain with Jef, who had offered me a ride. Our new plan was to show up at the Milky Way just as Spoilsport started their set -- we were sure they'd play first -- and then leave right afterward. The night was still young.

    That plan changed, too, as a third, wild-card band was also on the bill -- and playing first. Grr. Skunk was the band's name, and the three-piece played a pretty standard, derivative, college-age mixture of power pop, ska, and reggae. They played a song that seemed inspired by Elvis Costello. They played a song that seemed inspired by the Spin Doctors. They played a song that seemed inspired by "Rattle and Hum"-era U2. They played a song that seemed inspired by Social Distortion. They played a rather uninspired Clash cover, which surprised me because there were a lot of Clash influences woven throughout their set. Rather tiresome, all told. There's a reason the band's called Skunk. That's a joke, son.

    Thankfully, Spoilsport eventually took the stage -- although too late for my tastes last night. Craig, Jon, and the gang get better every time I see them play, and last night was probably the most fun I've had at a Spoilsport show. By turns Ne'er Do Wells-styled beat pop and a sunny, surfy pop appreciation a la Tullycraft, their songs are amazing. And their onstage demeanor is excessively fun and friendly. They seem to have a lot of fun being on stage together, and they seem to have as much fun watching the people in the crowd as they do playing live. Charming, disarming. Very, very nice. Even if "Bootz" did throw her cap gun at me. The gall.

    So. A show of mixed feelings. Frustrated I didn't get home as early as I'd planned. And frustrated by Skunk. But quite pleased to catch another Spoilsport show. I think they're a keeper.

    Thursday, May 02, 2002

    The Movie I Watched Last Night XVIII
    Wednesday: Man on the Moon
    I was first introduced to Andy Kaufman back in the late '80s via a song by the Gomers, I think. And while I haven't seen all of his work -- much less many episodes of Taxi -- I have been extremely impressed by his comedy and blending of the personal and the professional. The man was a walking prank. From his Tony Clifton persona to his stint as a wrestler, Andy lived and breathed comedy. And you could never tell where the joke begins or ends. Despite the dangers of biographical movies such as this, "Man on the Moon" largely works, both as a telling of Andy's life story -- and as a portrayal of his actual performance and life style. I had my doubts about Jim Carrey's ability to ape Andy, but he does well, adopting Andy's mantle as who might be today's most skilled ever-evolving, flexible comic actor. Casting Courtney Love as Andy's love interest, Lynne Margulies, was also a risk -- but it pans out OK. She wasn't half as irritating in the role as I usually find her (I actually quite dislike her.), and she and Carrey manage to pull off several impressive moments of true intimacy and tenderness. If you're at all interested in Andy, his life, or his comedy, this is worth checking. But if you know nothing about the man, it's best to expose yourself to -- and to explore -- his actual work.
    Music to My Ears VII
    A four-pack of new record reviews!

    The Also-Rans: "The Resignation" CD EP
    This is the kind of record that you get after months of waiting and wonder, "Why the heck are there only three songs?" Call me biased -- my friends Brad, Matt, and Mary are in the band -- but seriously: Why are you teasing me? The Also-Rans could be Boston's next big thing. "Resignation Letter" opens with a delectable guitar riff that the front man's vocals quickly joins before lapsing into full surround sound. Subsequent verses do not suffer, and the chorus includes Mary's backing vocals in measure better mixed than any of their live shows. Second up, "Glass Jaw" is one of my favorite songs from their live shows. Chris' vocals are spot on until the band's emo breakdown, and then the band gets slightly mathy with overlapping male and female vocal lines. Beautiful. Lastly, "Chapter 3" (How appropriate!) rocks out with an escalating melodic line that buds into a slightly angry vocal exhalation before the chunka-chunk middle part. This song never really wowed me, but the Chris and Mary dual vocals do please, as does the aggressive part two minutes in. Later verses add male vocals in the background -- something the band should consider doing more of in the future. Huh. Three songs. I want more! SINCaudio

    Hip Tanaka: "The Sky Is Smaller Than the Sea" CD
    This band irks me. The show I saw at the Abbey with the Jack McCoys rocked. The show they played with my band, the Anchormen, at the Upstairs Lounge decidedly did not. And their CD? Aargh. Parts are really good. Why didn't they play well at the Upstairs? Did they? Can they? This CD says they can. "We Love Our Customers" is a brilliant Weezer-inspired pop number that includes some Elephant Six-like elements. The cascading chorus wraps around and around in quite a good way. And the lyrics are surprisingly astute. Yet the song devolves into a wanky, Berklee-inspired prog-rock decline I can't quite condone. "Mustang Pride" leaps out with a power-pop punch and a verse more catchy than its Celtic-tinged chorus. Next up, the title track is even more akin to Elephant Six bands-- specifically Neutral Milk Hotel. Why don't they replicate this feeling live? Maybe they can't, because the rest of the CD is a mix of herky-jerky pop dynamics with keyboards, arpeggiated obscenity, Smoking Popes-meets-Slot Machine classic rock, and inappropriately slap bass-infused Tom Waits wannabe ballads. Ouch. Hip Tanaka exhibits some worthy tendencies but is overly disappointing in so many areas. Pray for them. Because they could use the help. And they might even deserve it. Hip Tanaka, c/o Local 33 1/3 Label, P.O. Box 918, Allston, MA 02134.

    Joey Hamilton: demo CD-R
    These five songs represent the recorded output of this Midwestern three-piece prior to the release of their debut album. Admittedly inspired by such bands as Weezer, the Rentals, and Fountains of Wayne, Joey -- an eponymous band that features no band member by that name -- plays music that is much the same. Roughly produced but not garagey power pop is what this is, with some degree of sensitive-boy swagger. The banter-laden introduction to "Sara" is more interesting than the song itself. Nevertheless, "Castles in the Sand" indicates the direction the band could really go in -- emo. This slow-paced number really makes me appreciate their earnestness, if not their affect. "Happy Times Ahead of Us" tips hat to honest college-age singer-songwriter music. Not bad for a demo. Joey Hamilton, 1026 N. Franklin Road, Indianapolis, IN 46219.

    The Queers: "Pleasant Screams" CD
    Finally, a new full-length Queers record -- and one that isn't confused about what makes a good Queers song! While the Beach Boys melodies and harmonies are here, the songs representing that side of Joe aren't overly produced or limp this go 'round, and there's a healthy dose of antisocial anger to balance it out -- primarily "Get a Life and Live It Loser" and "See Ya Later Fuckface," the first two songs. This record mixes the best of what makes the Queers work -- the Beach Boys pop fetish, the Ben Weasel-meets-the Ramones songwriting style, and the unabashed hatred of posers. But there's also a lot of love here: "I Wanna Be Happy," "I Never Got the Girl," and "Psycho Over You." In addition to the requisite nods to scenester back-patting -- "Danny Vapid" and "Molly Neuman" -- the Queers dip their toes in the cold Atlantic Ocean for several appreciative adaptations of songs by the Choir, Donova, and the Fantastic Baggys. A solid record. Lookout Records, 3264 Adeline St., Berkeley, CA 94703.

    If you'd like me to consider a record for possible review in Media Diet, send it to Heath Row, P.O. Box 390205, Cambridge, MA 02139.
    Rock Shows of Note XIV
    As mentioned previously, Handstand Command, the musical collective that the Anchormen is involved in, is celebrating its second anniversary this month. And last night was the first show in our residency at the Abbey Lounge. Four bands played: the Mary Reillys, the Tardy, the Seana Carmody Trio, and Mark Robinson.

    I almost didn't go, but around 10 p.m. I dragged my lazy self out into the night to Inman Square. I was sad to miss the Mary Reillys -- Deb says it was their first show with their new drummer and that they "rocked" -- and the Tardy, but I arrived in time to catch most of Mark's solo set. Mark, a super nice guy who used to be in Unrest -- and who started Teen Beat Records, I believe -- now lives in the Boston area, where he works for Houghton Mifflin Co. I didn't pay too much attention to his set because I volunteered to work the merchandise table (although people might argue that I didn't pay too much attention to the merch table, either), but I was impressed by his earnest guitar rock. Small world moment: He's friends with a former colleague, Heather Ivins.

    Then Seana's new band played. Formerly of the Swirlies and Syrup USA, Seana has a new CD coming out on Kimchee Records later this year, and her band impressed with its honest pop harmonies and ample guitar. Seana's got a great voice, and I enjoyed her playing with a full band more than I've appreciated her in smaller settings, I think. Not that I don't like her in smaller settings, but the Seana Carmody Trio was a lot of fun.