Friday, August 29, 2003

Science-Fiction Spam IV

Finally, Wired News picks up on my favorite spammer.


Want to see where I live? Here's an aerial photo. And here's a topographic map.

Thanks to Metafilter.

Technofetishism XLIV

File under: Tech demos can be dangerous.

Davo, a co-worker, just brought over an iSight camera for me to test drive with him. I downloaded a new version of OSX and the iChat AV beta, and we just played around with the video and audio chat functions.

Brilliant. Absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, Davo wasn't giving me the camera, so I had to order my own. Which I just did. Wow. I can't wait. The iSight is extremely cool.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Comics and Commerce IV

According to this morning:

07:55 ET Marvel Enterprises Vice Chairman sells 5.13 mln shares (MVL) 21.07: In an SEC filing, Vice Chairman Isaac Perlmutter reports the sale of 5.13 mln shares on Aug 26.

Who's the largest shareholder now? Does this mean Toybiz chief Isaac Perlmutter is on the outs? Is this good or bad for the company?

Event-O-Dex LXXIV

Friday, Aug. 29: Emetrex, Verona Downs, Francine, and Dear Leader get down at TT the Bear's in Cambridge.

Sunday, Aug. 31: The Great Clearing Off, Combat, Disaster Strikes, and Fruit Salad get tossed at the All Asia Cafe in Cambridge. The all-ages show starts at 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 2: Norwegian comic artist Jason does a signing at the Million Year Picnic in Cambridge.

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXVI

Taxi Driver
This 1976 film directed by Martin Scorsese ends with a mixed message. While Robert De Niro's character Travis Bickle's first instinct is to lash out in a destructively antisocial manner because he was jilted by a woman (Cybill Shepherd's character Betsy), the way he finally lashes out in a destructively antisocial manner -- to free Jodie Foster's street-walking Iris Steensma -- secures him as hero. While his motivations in the latter violent outburst are understandably more laudable, Bickle's more antihero than hero as his post-Vietnam war trauma and trials add up to a distaste for most New Yorkers, if not the city itself. The movie's cast is awesome, including an early role by Harvey Keitel and a political campaign nebbish played by Albert Brooks, and the cinematography is solid. Even though I don't think the "You talkin' to me" line is the most memorable (I much prefer the following exchange: "I think you are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen," "But how do you feel about the candidate, Palatine?"), it's clear why this movie has found such a priveleged place in late-'70s filmmaking. And finally, Bernard Hermann's score, his last, adds a layer of jazzy atmosphere to a film that becomes increasingly dark and desperate.

Tunnel Love

Building the Washington Metro outlines the organization and construction of the 103-mile rapid transit system in the Washington, DC, area. The Architecture and Construction sections are particularly interesting, as are the reader-contributed history and memories.

Thanks to Metafilter.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Comics and Media Coverage

The New York Times is all over comic books today.

One Vision from 1940's Still Rocks by Elvis Mitchell, New York Times, Aug. 27, 2003
Jack Kirby Heroes Thrive in Comic Books and Film

The Magic of Comics! While Batman Turns 64, a Fan Goes Back to 9 by Dana Jennings, New York Times, Aug. 27, 2003

Library Gets a Trove a Cartoonist Collected by Elizabeth Olson, New York Times, Aug. 27, 2003

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXV

Tomb Raider
Honestly, this was hella better than I expected the video game-inspired movie to be. Not overly linear -- and with a richer back story than I could have imagined -- this is a straight-up adventure movie in a fine Indiana Jones-inspired style. The mystery surrounding the key Croft finds -- and the role it might play in the once-every-5,000-years planetary alignment -- adds a degree of desperation and necessity to the plot's development, and the screenplay writers rolled in several other popcult aspects that work quite well. While I don't agree that the Illumimati made the best evil foils for Croft, the mythical undercurrents pulled me in. Jon Voight shines as Croft's father, but Croft -- as played by Angelina Jolie -- showed no chemistry with the Alex West character, although it seemed some romantic connection was implied. It is the end that impressed me the most, with its Contact-meets-From Hell singularity in time and space. For what it is, a fine movie. Not great, but not awful.

Requiem for a Dream
This, however, is a great film. Directed by Darren Aronofsky, the man who brought us Pi, Requiem for a Dream is a frantic expansion on exploration of the American dream. To paraphrase Jared Leto's lead character, "I really only want her to be happy, I guess." The pursuit of happiness looms large throughout, with Leto's Harry Goldfarb seeking ecstasy --- and escape -- with his friends and the drugs that they take together. His addiction -- to drugs, to Marion -- is picked up by his mother, portrayed by the frenetic Ellen Burstyn, who obtains an uppers habit in order to lose weight for a TV appearance that never solidifies. The cinematography is amazing, trading surreal TV sequences featuring Christopher McDonald's infomercial king Tappy Tibbons ("No red meat! No refined sugar! Juiced by you!") for quick-cut, multilayered sequence that aptly capture the rush of drugs. The movie itself is a rush as it accelerates to its demeaning end, in which happiness eludes all of the main characters and the shared dreams that connected them dissipate like so much sand. The Kronos Quartet-provided soundtrack portions add a nice touch, as does the DVD's interface. When I first popped it in, I thought something was wrong with the DVD or my TV. But the DVD designers incorporated infomercial elements from the Tappy Tibbons sections to create one of the best DVD UI's I've ever seen. Play around with it for awhile. It's an impressive part of the movie experience.

North End Moment XL

Some random snaps taken in the alley behind the Scotch & Sirloin building:

These were taken moments ago in response to Warren Ellis' "It's Wednesday. I want to see the world, please," plea in Die Puny Humans.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Music to My Ears XLVI

I had no idea how important it was for presidential and other political candidates to have a theme song. Months before the Boston Globe picked up the story, Martha Brant gave Rev. Al Sharpton extra credit for the appropriateness of his choice: Bob Marley's "Stand up for Your Rights."

Magazine Me XLIV

Advertising Age features a solid article about the forthcoming magazine Tracks, which just secured $5 million in startup funding. Previously titled Good Music, the magazine will target music listeners over the age of 30. The ideal reader? Pushing 40, kids, a commuter, shops at malls. Huh. Planning to publish two issues before the end of the year, the magazine aims for 10 issues a year by 2006.

Thanks to I Want Media.

Among the Literati XLIX

While David Eggers continues to play soft shoe when interacting with reporters and interviewers interested in writing about him, his erstwhile partner in crime Neal Pollack has no such qualms about letting it all hang out with fellow mediavolk. MediaBistro catches up with my favorite Pollack, pushing his buttons on book tours, the importance of being informed, and his writing habits. It's interesting. While Eggers will most likely be remembered for his editing, publishing, and other endeavors, Pollack will most certainly be remembered for his writing.

Thanks to Jim Romenesko's Media News.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Sites for Sore Eyes III

SillyGlobe is a snarky, external ombudsman of sorts for the Boston Globe. Every day, Terry Catchpole tracks the "editorial whimsies" of the Globe, deconstructing headlines, comparing Globe content with other newspapers of record, and attacking specific writers' foibles and failings. It's a lively, invested read of the Globe -- and a site I'll return to daily from now on.

Thanks to Boston Common.

Happy Birthday to Media Dieticians XVIII

Blogger launched Aug. 23, 1999. A belated happy birthday to Evan and the Blogger gang!

Magazine Me XLIII

As part of the Medill School of Journalism's Magazine Publishing Project, graduate students at Northwestern University collaborate to create a prototype of a new magazine title. I recently read the two most recent prototypes: Fall 2002's Bite and Spring 2003's Invite.

Bite establishes its purpose and attitude on the front cover. With an edgy name and a solid cover image, Bite opens with energetic cover language. The table of contents continues the enthusiasm, sharing the insides of this effervescent magazine for foodies. The prototype features shorts on vegetables (the humble radish), soda pop (with a lefty leaning), and basics (rice and beans), along with recipes, drink recommendations, and regional hit picks. But it's the deeper features -- dinner party reports, profiles of catalytic cooks, pieces on important ingredients (goat cheese), retrospective trend reports (the raw food movement) -- that really please the palate. Add to that a tippler's timeline, a compilation of comfort food, and international immersion, as well as a kitchen gadget guide, interior design developments, cookbook looks, and hoi polloi how to's, and you end up with an engaging and encouraging read. Given ReadyMade and extreme golf magazines, it's high time we get an everyman's guide to eating. If Martha Stewart's Everyday Food isn't it, maybe this is.

Invite is another shelter and nesting read. Less radical in its approach than Bite, it still focuses on food and drink -- and establishing one's image through entertaining. Despite its subtler tone, Invite's table of contents is decidedly less staid, and the magazine motivates with a much more fun approach to layout. The mag leads with products, entertainment elements, fete faux pas (a key item), ingredient introductions (watermelon), an entertaining calendar of recommended events and holidays, a social grace Q&A, and recipes. The feature well comprises decorating decisions, first-person narratives, holiday-oriented how to's, social strategies (the ever-beguiling guest list), party promotion profiles, and other offerings. Invite emphasizes the how as well as the to (in terms of purpose). But all in all, this prototype issue falls far from Bite's belligerence and -- while timely in terms of 911, the downturn, and all -- doesn't quite connect with my nesting instincts.

We need an edgy foodie magazine to accompany such lifestyle lit as Bark and ReadyMade. I think Bite's got potential.

Big Brother Is Watching XV

The Carnegie Mellon Data Privacy Lab's new SOS Camera Watch project aims to catalog the estimated 10,000 publicly available Webcams trained on public spaces. Currently featuring about 600 cameras in New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC -- as well as ocean, prison, and school views -- the project is growing slowly but surely. Some cameras you can even control online, taking control of the surveillance yourself. Wonder how soon they'll get to the Webcam aimed at the Rock at Northwestern University!

Thanks to Interesting People.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Blogging About Blogging LXVIII

Halley Suitt, the mighty mind behind Halley's Comment, wrote a fictional case study about blogging in a corporate setting that will be published in the forthcoming issue of Harvard Business Review.

I can't wait to read it, but I'm curious about three things. One, is HBR now in the business of publishing fiction? Two, is the fictional case study approach a sign of poor reportage? Or three, is the fictional case study a sign that business-related blogs are still the exception, not the rule?

It's clear that No. 3 is a possibility, but really, there is no shortage of business people -- or people working for companies -- doing blogs. Curious how much of the fictional case study draws on real-world examples. Because a case study like this doesn't need to be made up out of whole cloth.

Thanks to Scripting News.

Rock Shows of Nope

Showing a rare bit of restraint last night, I left the house after 10 to consider going to a show -- only to turn around and walk right back home again.

I went by TT the Bear's and the Middle East before debating whether to check out the show at the Middle East Down. The Damn Personals, Cracktorch, and the Gentlemen were playing, and a friend was going to be there. But standing in back of TT's near the rear load-in door that accesses the automated ramp down into the Middle East Down, I decided I couldn't cope with the noise and the smoke and the people so I walked home and settled in to read about turnpikes.

This morning, my friend emailed me saying, "It was really REALLY loud. Not so much fun. Kind of like a big drunken frat party with a cover charge."

Glad I didn't go! Perhaps we can expect more Rock Shows of Nope posts in the future.

Mix Tapeology III

Don't forget that I am almost always open to mix tape and CD-R trades. I recently received two mix CD's worth mentioning.

Sean Kennedy recently mailed me two CD-R's chock full of wonderful MP3's. One contains the aforementioned Trojan Dub Box Set. And the other comprises songs from no fewer than 16 Richmond, Virginia-area bands. Well, Denali's more DC-based, aren't they? Seems not. Denali member Keeley Davis is also in Engine Down. Regardless, a nice counterpart to the Richmond mix I made while visiting last fall.

Thanks, Sean!

Humor Me IX

The Boston Globe details how Harvard Lampoon staff members drink beer, eat pizza, smoke cigars, play cards, and publish a college humor magazine -- all in the name of pursuing a career in writing comedy.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Rock Shows of Note LXXIV

Last night, antsy after 10, I went for a walk around the block to see what shows were going on. For some reason, the Boston Phoenix's Web calendar doesn't let you see what shows are Wednesday night on Wednesday because the schedule starts on Thursday and the new edition comes out that evening. Makes no sense to me. The Web shouldn't follow the print schedule in lock step. Anyway, the Middle East didn't have any fliers posted outside, so I walked around the block back to TT the Bear's, where I'd seen that the Lot Six was playing. I got there in time to see quite a bit of the set performed by the Beatings, which I enjoyed immensely. The dual guitars work well, and the songs in which the female bassist sang added a nice touch. Aggressive, catchy, power pop with a punk tendency. The Lot Six disappointed me a little, however. On record, they come off as a kind of post-Fugazi, post-emo hardcore act, but on stage, they were pretty basic. Still well worth listening to, but not acerbic or edgy in the Les Savy Fav sense that I recall from the recordings. They've got one more Wednesday night in their residency, and Mittens joins them next week. Check it out.

But the real show of note took place last Friday at the Milky Way in Jamaica Plain. Travers did his hyperkinetic dance-pop video art performance piece again, focusing mostly on Primary Color Man, Accidentally Prepared Homosexual, and DJ Nitetrain, who joined him to mime turntablism. If you're fond of Tracy and the Plastics' brand of video-driven performance art rock, you'll get more than a giggle out of Travers. The video segments are priceless, and the whole show is extremely well done. The highlight, of course, was the debut of Scrapple's new lo-fi sci-fi techno-popera Tromo. The gang got hella press, being featured in the Globe, the Phoenix, and the Weekly Dig, and they did not disappoint.

The popera itself was wonderful. In a dystopian future, heterosexuality is outlawed, and people are bred artificially. A special police force makes sure that heterosexuals -- tromosexuals -- don't rise up, and people are regularly sent to reeducation camps. In the midst of this, two police officers -- one male, one female -- fall in love and strive to beat the system. Even though my friend Chris' performance was a little stilted -- he's expressed interest in not having speaking roles in Scrapple performances any more, instead just playing the bass -- the show went off without a hitch. Jef's security guard role rocked, and everyone did really, really well. Then, because one writeup had mentioned several songs and props not included in -- or used -- the popera, Scrapple did an encore featuring "Light Up Alien Pussy" and "Trash Ass" so people wouldn't go home disappointed. The crowd ate both up, and it was clear that those mentions inspired some people to come.

Scrapple will stage Tromo again in November. It is not to be missed.

Products I Love X

Back in July, I bought a pedometer. It's a little, simple one, totally analog with no special features. And even though I look a little geeky if my shirt's tucked in, I've been wearing it every day this week to see how far I walk. Sunday, I walked almost four miles along the Charles River, but during the week, I range between 1.6 and 2.2 miles. That's not a lot.

In fact, to get to work only takes just shy of .4 miles. Sure, I take the T, but this interests me -- and makes me think that time and distance are eminently relative. Mapquest indicates that it's a 2.73-mile drive from my apartment to the Scotch & Sirloin building. Where did the other 2.33 miles go? Does time on the train erase space?

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Blogging About Blogging LXVII

For the first time since Media Diet launched more than two years ago, I deleted an entry at the request of the subject of the post. Turns out that my friend who's launching a new Web magazine is in the earliest of early days of the project and -- despite letting people know about the project -- didn't really want to let people know about the project. While I'm more than happy to respect the wishes of a friend, our email exchange got me thinking.

If you're doing something on the Web that you don't want the Web to know about, don't do it on the Web. If you're working on something that you don't want to spread word about, don't spread word about it. And, as the disclaimer to the left says, "Portions of our correspondence might make its way back here. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, be sure to let me know."

Clearly, I post with discretion if I think something is sensitive or overly personal. So don't be overly concerned that anything and everything you say to me will be blogged. I'm not that kind of blogger. If I'm not sure whether something is public, I'll check in to ask. But if you're working on a project you don't want to promote, please don't promote it.

Because the whole point of Media Diet is to turn people on to innovative independent media projects -- and to offer tools and resources for DIY media makers.

Pieces, Particles XVI

The following media-related stories spotted today in print publications might be worth a look. Heads and decks, only. Heads and decks.

As Talks Resume, Verizon Argues with a Union over an Ad Phrase by Matt Richtel, New York Times, Aug. 20, 2003

FBI Accused of Corrupting Surveillance by Benjamin Weiser, New York Times, Aug. 20, 2003
Techniques questioned in terrorism prosecution

Gunning for Search Engines by Byron Acohido, USA Today, Aug. 20, 2003
Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft are in a race to dominate

Ready, Set, Compute by Robert Weisman, Boston Globe, Aug. 20, 2003
Pentagon driving a renewed race for faster machines

Schwarzenegger Buys First Ads: $1M to Start by Martin Kasindorf, USA Today, Aug. 20, 2003

Survey: Cable Costs More, Offers Less Satisfaction Than Satellite Service by Michael McCarthy, USA Today, Aug. 20, 2003
But J.D. Power study gives both industries reasons to brag

This Could Be Hobbit Forming by Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe, Aug. 20, 2003
A Westwood company is re-creating Middle-earth for a world of online players

With a PC and the Right Software, You, Too, Can Be a Music Producer by Sean Piccoli, Boston Globe, Aug. 20, 2003

Monday, August 18, 2003

Pieces, Particles XV

The following media-related stories spotted today in print publications might be worth a look. Heads and decks, only. Heads and decks.

"Edgy" Language Invading the Comics by Christine Chinlund, Boston Globe, Aug. 18, 2003
To the under-20 crowd, the s-word is just slang.

Lowly Home Movies Get a Day as High Art by Lawrence Levi, New York Times, Aug. 18, 2003
Intimate moments, now for all to deconstruct on the big screen.

Silly Convergences of Strangers by Janet Kornblum, USA Today, Aug. 18, 2003
Secret e-mails send "flash mobs" into action

The Smoking Gun Joins High-Caliber Media by Cesar G. Soriano, USA Today, Aug. 18, 2003
Dirt-digging Web site hits TV, radio, books, mags

Friday, August 15, 2003

Mention Me! XLIV

Media Diet is one of two Web sites linked to from Far West Funk, a cryptic blog created by two people in Hawaii and California. My question to them is: "Who the hizzle do this dizzle?" And how do you know me?

The other site linked to is Reshaping Minnesota, a much-less off-the-cuff activism-oriented blog about reshaping the social, cultural, and political landscape of that state.

Mystery of the day!

Street Art VIII

New Jersey Churchscape is an online guide to early churches in New Jersey. Combining photography with architectural and historical analysis, the site is a pleasant directory of interesting edifices. Readers can annotate articles, there's a database of architects and master builders, the Endangered Churches section highlights at-risk structures. Wonderful.

Thanks to Metafilter.

Magazine Me XLII

The State Department launched a glossy monthly magazine entitled Hi to win young adults in Arabic-speaking countries over to American culture. Frankie say: Propaganda. Media Diet wanrs against confusing Hi with the cheeky British celeb mag Hello. Or the seemingly defunct Russian rag Yo.

Thanks to Bookslut.

Workaday World XXXV

Someone propped two pennies on a ledge above the bank of floor buttons in the Scotch & Sirloin building's elevator. Normally, I'm prone to pick up found pennies, but I enjoyed seeing those two cents sitting there subtly so much that I left them there for another denizen of 77 No. Wash. to find.

Music to My Ears XLV

Shades of the Network Auralization for Gnutella project, Eigenradio is an MIT Media Lab service that analyzes real-time broadcasts of dozens of radio stations, analyzes which songs are statistically optimal -- "only the most important frequencies, only the beats with the highest entropy" -- and then distills the broadcasts into an iterative stream. "One song on Eigenradio is worth at least twenty songs on old radio," the site proclaims. More shadowy snapshots of the sounds between songs.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Water Blogged II

The New England Aquarium lost its accreditation? I hope they're able to shore up their finances. Boston is now home to the only major aquarium not accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

Music to My Ears XLIV

Speech Accent Archive is an online repository of more than 250 recordings featuring people with different native languages reading the same paragraph in English.

Please call Stella. Ask her to bring these things with her from the store: Six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and maybe a snack for her brother Bob. We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids. She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station.

I find projects like this fascinating. Several speakers hesitate while reading, adding an extremely human feel to the recordings, and the IPA phonetic transcription is a handy comparison tool.

Thanks to Metafilter.

Magazine Me XLI

Now there's a periodical devoted solely to men taller than 6'2" and women taller than 5'8". Tall magazine, scheduled to launch with a test issue in October, was founded by the managing editor of Game Developer. Everard Strong hopes to eventually spin out other titles so there's a Tall magazine for men, women, and teenagers -- and is working to secure distribution at big-and-tall clothing stores, as well as display placement on the top racks of newsstands. For some reason, I find the idea of a magazine for tall people to be a really funny idea. What's next, Bald? Skinny? Pale?

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Rock Shows of Note LXXIII

The launch of Fast Company Now has distracted me from Media Diet for the last week-plus, but it hasn't kept me from going out to shows in the evening. Here's a roundup of the last week's worth of live music experiences.

Last night after eating, reading the day's magazines, and taking a disco nap, I braved the possibility of rain to head to TT the Bear's. It's been awhile since I've listened to King Missile, but I've been reminiscing about bands such as They Might Be Giants and the Dead Milkmen lately, so I thought it was high time to catch up with one of their compatriots -- at least in my listening history. I got there a little way into an energetic, extremely funny set by Pittsburgh hip-hop duo Grand Buffet. Featuring Matt and Nate Kukla, who don't appear to be related, the act is a boisterous, humorous stage show limited to two vocalists and electronic beats. I think they'd fit well with Big Digits, and their lyrics were well suited for a show with King Missile. Their on-stage banter and audience antics added a lot to the performance. I'd check them out again.

Next up was Bradford Reed and His Amazing Pencilina, who's also performing with King Missile III, the latest iteration of King Missile. Playing a homemade instrument that combines a guitar and bass in a lap-like setup intended to be played with pencils, Reed played a Lonesome Organist-like one-man band set. His songs were largely spacey pop numbers, and I quite enjoyed "She's a Rocket" and "Voodooman." I was pretty far back from the stage, so I couldn't watch him closely, but it's an interesting gimmick, he gets some rich sounds out of his set up, and his songs were solid.

Then King Missile. On record, they come across as a joke band and novelty act, but on stage, John S. Hall's brain child is equal parts spoken word performance and art rock. Performing as a trio featuring Hall, Reed, and a female bassist, the band played an assortment of newer material -- King Missile's recent records have been self-released or only available at shows -- as well as some of the kitschy hits such as "Detachable Penis" and "Jesus Was Way Cool." But, akin to Grand Buffet, the banter and between-song political and cultural commentary was most impressive. Hall's a smart guy, and King Missile is just one way he expresses his ideas, which aren't to be dismissed in the joke-band context. I was quite surprised the show wasn't better attended.

Last week Thursday I moseyed over to Drugless Douglas' farewell party, also at TT's. Primarily an assortment of local power-pop bands, the highlights of the short sets I witnessed included the Red Telephone's reunion set, Ad Frank's solo keyboard drama rock, and the almost-mod bash pop performances by Dave Aaronoff and the Details and the Pills. Slightly overwhelmed by the number of bands performing -- and I only caught six of the 17 acts -- and embarrassed that I waxed crushy for Paula Kelley, I did have a chance to say goodbye to Douglas before he left town. "I kind of took you for granted," I told the long-running WMFO-FM DJ. "You were always around."

And last week Monday I ventured unwisely to the Choppin' Block in Boston for a stop of the Paper Radio Summer of HTML tour. Featuring Extreme Animals, 8-Bit Construction Set, Beige Programming Ensemble, and/or Bitch Ass Darius, Taketo Shimada, Dr. Doo, Cory Arcangel, Extreme Animals, and DJ Jazzy Jess -- I can't always tell what Paper Radio projects are what -- the night was a hodgepodge barrage of geeky technology-driven music mayhem. Some of the performances were more demonstration than set, and highlights included the Mario Brothers game that had been hacked so the game's sound effects composed the soundtrack music, the Commodore 64 tour of cracked games -- including the work of Crapforce Omega -- and Ben Jones' percussion performance accompanying projected computer animation. Monday night was kind of a train wreck and I was lucky to get home in one piece, but if you get a chance to check out the tour, do so. It's an amazing combination of HTML performance art, computer animation, consumer electronics hacking, and music. Extremely interesting.

From the In Box: The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXIV

Media Dietician Quinn Skylark comments:

Hey! I never really planned on watching Hair, but now you've given away the surprise ending. What's with that!??

Oh, yeah. One retroactive and belated spoilers alert coming up. Spoilers alert!

Fun Things to Do with Silverware

The Spoon Trick is one of the funniest things I have ever seen. Now you, too, can learn how to do it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Technofetishism XLIII

You know you're safely ensconced just on the outside of true technological geekiness when you read a Scripting News post about ZIP coming undone and you're concerned that the USPS is changing how the zoning improvement plan works.

Or you learn you're just a different kind of geek. File under: Just fine, thanks.

Workaday World XXXIV

Bonding with a bicycle messenger in the elevator.

Messenger: Op Ivy, huh? (commenting on my Operation Ivy T-shirt.)
Me: They were quite a band.
Messenger: I haven't seen an Operation Ivy reference for a long time.
Me: They're much missed.
Messenger: Sure are.

If it weren't for Common Rider, all we'd be left with is Rancid. Oh, Common Rider broke up. Rancid it is, then.

Hiking History XI

This Kuro5hin account of an urban exploration south of London makes me want to organize another Boston World Explorers Foundation expedition soon. What a wonderful vicarious read!

Monday, August 11, 2003

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXIV

Based on the musical by the same name, this 1979 movie doesn't quite capture the spirit of the '60s but sure tries hard. (This might be because the movie was made 11 years after the musical's original staging.) A young man from Oklahoma travels to New York City to enlist in the Army so he can serve in Viet Nam. Why he couldn't enlist in Oklahoma is unclear, but perhaps he wanted to go to the Big City before he was shipped overseas. Once in the Big Apple, he encounters a playful gang of hippies and an uppercrust debutante who steals his heart. Mmm, Beverly D'Angelo! The hippies turn him onto free love, sleeping in Central Park, smoking pot, taking acid, and anti-war rhetoric, but the country boy still plans to join the Army. The leader of the hippies, played by Treat Williams, decides they should follow him to Nevada, where he's stationed. They sneak him off base for a picnic, but -- much to his dismay -- Williams' character Berger is accidentally shipped overseas in his stead. A dark ending I wasn't quite expecting! For the most part I felt like the musical sequences gave the original book short shrift (even the rendition of "Hair" was disappointing) -- and that the story didn't hook onto the song order as well as it could have. Regardless, the back-to-back "Black Boys" and "White Boys" were awesome numbers, and the ending reminded me a little of Dr. Strangelove. What a twisted conclusion! Worth watching as a detached period piece, but not as valid a time capsule as Jesus Christ Superstar.

Event-O-Dex LXXIII

Friday, Aug. 15: Scrapple premieres Tromo, a sci-fi, lo-fi, techno-popera -- and Travers revisits his multimedia performance piece -- at the Milky Way in Jamaica Plain.

Comics and Computers V

Donna Barr now offers two books through BookSurge, which provides on-demand distribution services for books listed in R.R. Bowker databases, including Books In Print, Global Books In Print, and BookWire. Available as paperbacks and PDF's -- e-books -- Barr's available titles include The Grandmothers' Hive and An Insupportable Light. Barr emailed me the PDF for An Insupportable Light this weekend, and to my surprise, it's a 280-page novel, not a Stinz comic at all!

Friday, August 08, 2003

Corollary: Blogging About Blogging LXVI

Fast Company Now, Fast Company's new staff blog, is now live. It'll "officially" launch Monday, but check it out. I'm pretty jazzed.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Street Media

This is cool. The Publicity Club of New York now offers an online interactive map of media companies in Manhattan. Mouse over Forbes and learn they're near 14th and Broadway. Gruner + Jahr's near 42nd and Lexington. I hope they continue to expand this. It'd be awesome to see where every newspaper and magazine is located, not just the big boys.

Thanks to I Want Media.

Ego Tripping

In an email news release transmitted yesterday, Tony Perkins' new Web network project AlwaysOn claims responsibility for Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to enter the California gubernatorial race.

Just days ago, AO launched a "Grudge Match" between Mr. Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis in the right hand column of its home page, and Arnold has been consistently running ahead of Davis by a 3-to-1 margin.

"I think it is the AO poll that ultimately pushed the Terminator into the race," said Matthew Falzone, the AO team member who creates the "Grudge Match" series.

Um, OK. Perhaps AlwaysOn's tongue is firmly planted in cheek, but really. This is a weak current events hook to promote the Web site, and it's unbelievable that AlwaysOn would have such effect. Still, maybe I should watch my Media Diet mouth. After all, Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie did break up.

Am I to blame? Shudder to think.

Comics and Community XV

Modern Tales will launch a new Web hosting service for comics creators next month. As an adjunct to Modern Tales focused online anthologies Girlamatic and Serializer, as well as Modern Tales proper, Webcomics Nation will be open to any cartoonist wanting to offer online comics.

Joey Manley, Modern Tales' mastermind, says that all the programming and back-end database work needed for creators to sell subscriptions or specific pieces of work via micropayment will be provided. "All you have to do is make your comics," he says. Webcomics Nation will also organize, promote, and spotlight the hosted comics.

If you'd like to help beta test the service, get on board now.

Event-O-Dex LXXII

Thursday, Aug. 7: Drugless Douglas' Farewell Party at TT the Bear's in Cambridge features 17 local rock acts, including Kenne Highland, the Red Telephone, Ad Frank, Dave Aaronoff and the Details, and the Pills. All proceeds will be donated to the Mikey Dee Musician's Benefit Trust.

Thursday, Aug. 14: Spoilsport, Shumai, and Mercury Charm Offensive get defensive at the Milky Way in Jamaica Plain.

Cobblestone Pie II

Near the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and State Street across from the Miracle of Science, there are several patches of exposed granite paving stones that haven't been covered by asphalt yet.

Here's hoping they don't pave them all over like they did along Franklin Street back in May.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Magazine Me XL

When I read the September 2003 edition of YM earlier this week, I fully expected to get hip to the Olsen twins, hallway makeout sessions, and 432 ways to stay in school -- and be cool. Instead, I got a surprising reminder why I'm glad I'm not environmentally sensitive. In addition to two bind-in samples of Bonnebell's strawberry LipLix lip gloss and L'Oreal's Diva glam shine "lipcolour," I was subjected to no fewer than four perfume samples. Ralph Lauren scalped me with the Ralph scented hair collection. Scented hair? Esprit's Life fragrance lifted off the page and into the air. Davidoff's Cool Water Woman and Cool Water (for men) eau de toilette made me cough. And J. Lo's Glow eau de toilette made me go, "Oh, no!" I want my magazines writ to peruse, not fit to ooze. Sensory overload!

Compare that with the Aug. 5 issue of Family Circle. Only two scented samples surprise. In addition to a clever insert promoting Botanical Bliss, a new "scent" by Snuggle brand fabric softener, there's a faux strip for Lever Bros. Co.'s Sunkissed Breeze.

Technofetishism XLII

I just downloaded and installed Apple's iCal as another step away from Outlook. Were it not for my sizable email archives and Outlook folder organization, I'd start using Mail in a minute. Any iCal tips and tricks? Any ideas on moving from Outlook to Mail without maintaining email archives in two locations?

Among the Literati XLVIII

Jim Munroe's Perpetual Motion Roadshow performance art party series, which combines DIY lit and media, might nix the Boston stop. "No local agent to help us out there," Jim says. The previous event happened in June, and another Roadshow is scheduled for this fall. If you're local to Boston and interested in getting involved, contact Jim.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Blogging About Blogging LXVI

I've really tried not to post about this in Media Diet. Really, I have. But I'm currently working on a blog-related project for a certain business magazine, and I am so excited about its launch. You have no idea. More to come as it develops, but if I'm quiet for the next few days, it's because my blogging energy is being expended elsewhere.

Science-Fiction Spam III



I'm a time traveler stuck here in 2003. Upon arriving here my dimensional warp generator stopped working. I trusted a company here by the name of LLC Lasers to repair my Generation 3 52 4350A watch unit, and they fled on me. I am going to need a new DWG unit, prefereably the rechargeable AMD wrist watch model with the GRC79 induction motor, four I80200 warp stabilizers, 512GB of SRAM and the menu driven GUI with front panel XID display.

I will take whatever model you have in stock, as long as its received certification for being safe on carbon based life forms.

In terms of payment: I dont have any Galactic Credits left. Payment can be made in platinum gold or 2003 currency upon safe delivery of unit.

INSTRUCTIONS MUST BE FOLLOWED EXACTLY: Please transport unit in either a brown paper bag or box to below coordinates on Tuesday August 5th at (exactly 5:00pm) Eastern Standard Time on the dot. A few minutes prior will be ok, but it cannot be after. If you miss this timeframe please email me. I will not be there prior to 4:45pm EST, so do not transport before then.

Item is to be delivered at (out of service tennis court) located at: Latitude N 42.47935 & Longitude W 071.17355 and the Elevation is 119. WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TRANSPORT ITEM BY REGULAR MEANS OF TELEPORTATION. THEY ARE MONITORING AND WILL REDIRECT THE SIGNAL!!
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SEND IT SO THAT THEY CANNOT REDIRECT IT??? If in doubt do not transport actual unit until your method of transfer can be confirmed as a success. You just might need to send a intergalactic courier to deliver item safely to me. If so be VERY careful at how they approach me IN MY WHITE CAR.

After unit has been delivered please email me with payment instructions. Do not reply directly back to this email.

Thank You

No, thank you. Some spam makes me smile.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Among the Literati XLVII

There's a new online pomo popcult mag online, the High Hat. Ostensibly a monthly, the first edition of this Net-based newcomer includes content and commentary addressing cover songs, the marriage of comics and movies, reality TV, infomercials, media bias, and other topics of possible interest to Media Dieticians.

Corollary: Magazine Me XXXIX

Harf! I didn't have to wait long. Ken Gordon's look at the business media scene in Boston ran recently in Folio magazine. Gordon considers the fate of former Boston-based magazines -- as well as the city's immediate media future. I said it best myself: "Inc. and Fast Company were anomalies. They were founded by Bostonians. Staffed by Bostonians. They were outliers, indicating that quality magazines could be located outside of New York." The same goes for the Bay Area, as Dan Fost tells it.

The Height of Vanity

Just as the zine Baby Split Bowling News spawned Office Supply Junkie, the fine folks behind Lost Armadillos in Heat have a side project of their own going. Big-Headed Pygmies is a laugh-a-minute look at the height of vanity -- or the vanity that comes with a, well, lack of height.

What do I mean? Most celebrities, most actors, are shorter than they seem. In a rear-view mirror, they actually appear further away than they actually are. Or something. Why? Because they're small. Long on ego, perhaps, but lacking in the stature department. And with a lack of stature comes status. Russell Crowe wears special "tall" shoes. Corey Feldman is only slightly larger than a picnic table. And the Internet Movie Database over-reports Julia Roberts height by a good 3 inches.

Thanks to Media Dietician Joe-O for the tip off.

Magazine Me XXXIX

Media Dietician Laura Goldberg turned me onto a great piece in the San Francisco Chronicle about the magazine publishing scene in Northern California. Writer Dan Fost considers the role the Net economy boom played in attracting media moguls to the Bay Area and takes names of the magazines that remain post-bust -- including some brilliant smaller magazines.

Citing the move of Parenting, Health, and Rolling Stone, Fost lists several innovative titles that still make the Bay Area their home: ReadyMade, Bark, and Dwell. And his mention of Bitch magazine's recent plea for readers indicates that Fost dug deeper than most mainstream journos would have. Kudos.

Additionally, Business 2.0 editor Josh Quittner's comments on what it was like to relocate from New York to take over the title -- including his struggle finding solid staffers -- are well worth considering. But really, is Business 2.0 the only "last man standing among the new economy magazines"? Either Fost is only considering Bay Area books, he doesn't consider Fast Company a new economy mag -- which is good, actually -- or he doesn't consider us standing. Well, we're still here.

Can't wait to see a similar piece about Boston's media scene soon.

Products I Love IX

GP Markham has compiled a comprehensive illustrated catalog of ACME products as featured in various Warner Bros. cartoons between 1935 and 1964. The product listings are quite brief but include an image from the cartoon in which the item was featured, title and animator credits, and either a guarantee or usage warning based on the content of the cartoon. Fun stuff!

Thanks to Memepool.

Technofetishism XLI

Hardware goes hardcore. Software goes, well, hardcore, too. Get your tech fetish fix.

Thanks to Blogdex.

Comedy of Terror

Wait, so now Bob Hope isn't funny? Leave it to Christopher Hitchens to whip a dead horse laugh. I don't think that Hope was that funny, either, but, dude, he's dead. Let the people who liked him continue to like him. I don't need to read about why he wasn't funny. I don't need validation for thinking he's not funny. I can just choose not to read the appreciations and respect a grand old man of humor in his passing. Can't wait to see what Hitchens has to say about Tim Conway. Sheesh.

Thanks to Daypop.

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXIII

I didn't see this when it was in the theaters -- just as I missed X2 and Hulk -- but I did pick up the DVD to validate my comic book geekdom. And even though I had my doubts going in -- Ben Affleck? -- this movie could have been much, much worse. Not having been a big reader of the comic since the '80s, I don't think the director played up the darkness of the character as much as he could of. I remember Daredevil being so desolate and despairing. The production team tried to capture some of that by portraying a Tim Burton-era Batman-like world blending modern-day elements and gothic overtones. But outside of the nighttime scenes, it didn't really carry. For the long-running comic-based romance and storyline with Elektra, it's a shame that their relationship was so shallow in the movie -- and that she was killed off. Likewise with Bullseye, who was demoted to a cartoony ethnic tough. So what did I like? The repositioning of Daredevil's origin was interesting, with hazardous waste physically affecting his optic nerves. And the special effects during the sequences in which viewers got a taste of Daredevil's radar-like vision were extremely well done, particularly the scenes in the rain (which beg the question: Following Spider-Man, do all superhero movies now require a rainy romantic scene?). Two action sequences stand out: the scene in which young Matt Murdock fights the neighborhood bullies shortly after his blinding, and the scene in which Elektra and Murdock first meet and spar in the playground. But above all, I think it is the repositioning of the Kingpin that I think has the most promise. The ending opens up the opportunity for a sequel -- which might not be the wisest of decisions -- with the Kingpin put up against Daredevil as Magneto has been put up against the X-Men in their respective movies. Worth seeing if you're interested in comic books, but not overly satisfying if you don't have prior exposure to the characters.

Friday, August 01, 2003

From the Reading Pile XX

The Big Mess
Produced for Free Comic Book Day this year, this is a 16-page prelude to T.J.G./Rocket Nova's fully fledged first issue, which was scheduled to be published in June. With an Andy Ristaino-meets-Bruce Orr artistic flair, the digest describes a roundup of robots' reactions to new comic day, the weekly point at which new comics are sold. Meanwhile, the Yezzah Nozzuh Brothers duke it out, characters' tongues tell tall tales, robots go to the flea market, Frankenstein eats spaghetti, and Nippy McGee gives readers advice. I get the sense that this is some sort of ADD-addled sampler, but Rocket Nova's work shows promise, and I hope to see some proper comics soon. Write 107 Conwell Ave., Somerville, MA 02145 for more information.

Published in honor of Free Comic Book Day, this 24-page mini by Jeffrey Brown contains excerpts of Sulk #1, the forthcoming book "Any Easy Intimacy," and previously unpublished work. Brown's my new favorite autobiographical comics maker. His art is less clean than the usual cute brut school I appreciate but gentle enough to worm its way under my skin. And his writing -- John Porcellino meets Ben Snakepit -- is pleasantly revelatory yet self-effacing. The mostly brief vignettes featured in this mini address making comics, supermodels, childhood birthday parties and embarrassment, crushes, the safety of friends, making love, and dishonesty. My favorite pieces include "My Pathetic Day," the four-panel piece on p. 21, and the page-long foldout "(So He Says.)" I think we have a hot new talent in our midst. Write Jeffrey Brown, P.O. Box 120, Deerfield, IL 60015 for more information.

Misfit Toy
A cartoon skeleton gives a princess his heart. Meanwhile, Vix shares stories about stuffed animals, reviews a book about a transsexual, appreciates the Muppets, counts down 10 scary toys and analyzes a poll's results, considers "creatures I wish were real," and reviews related movies in this 28-page digest. While slightly disorganized and disjointed, this zine is an interesting look at morbid pop culture. Vix has unexpected insights, enjoys folk singer Richard Shindell (who recently played in Cambridge), and dabbles in photocopy collage. Best of luck with the next issue! Write Vix Spooky, 125 Earl Pl. #234, Toronto, ON, Canada M4Y 1M4 for more information.

True Confessions of a Big Geek
Starting with the premise that "Gays are geeks, too," editrix Sarah helped form the organization Action Grrrlz, and this 16-page "zinelette" was launched. The mini includes "Geek Confessions 101," a top 10 list of gay geek identifiers; Michele Collins' "Just 5 of the Reasons I'm a Big Geek" (hankies!); Siue's explanation of what it's like having trouble talking to strangers; Jonathan Culp's appreciation of Robert Christgau; and Steven Bereznai's writing about Bangkok, the Oriental city. While I don't think this zine is overly confessional or contextual, it's a nice almost-manifesto. Extra credit for the "alternate geek titles" for the zine and the snapshot on p. 14. Write Sarah, 57 Aziel St., Toronto, ON, Canada M6P 2N8 for more information.

Underground Surrealist #11
This 36-page standard-sized comic reminds me a lot of Rodney Schroeter's Bat Comix out of Random Lake, Wisconsin, c. 1982. I wonder if I still have my issues stowed somewhere. Published in 1999, this edition leads with some Steve Jackson Games-like cards featuring the Ambassador's Daughter, Russell Rooster, and Phil I. Stine, the comic's characters. Ramses gets his. Augustus is defrocked. India and Pakistan get it on. People fall down the stairs. (P. 7 is awesome!) A London raver spills some brain cells and changes his life. The Loch Ness Monster swallow Excalibur. Mike Cusimano misspells "renowned." Phil pollutes a river. And the rooster runs away. Then there's a photography spread by Alik Olisevich from the Ukraine before a solid comic by R.J. Pentzell and some ads. It's no Rodney Schroeter, but it's not bad in its silly surrealism. $3 to Mike Cusimano, P.O. Box 382565, Cambridge, MA 02238.

Books Worth a Look XVI

These are the books I read in June 2003.

All Gothic 1: The Boats of the Glen Garrig and the House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson (Xlibris, 2000)
If the PBS special "Lucky Jim" inspired me to read Kingsley Amis' novel this month, I need to credit reading this pairing of classic gothic horror novels to Richard Corben's recent "House on the Borderlands" graphic novel. The first two books of Hodgson's trilogy helped inspire H.P. Lovecraft's weird fiction, which means that these books' original publication predates the '30s at least. Yet they hold up. The first novel outlines the nautical misadventures of a crew lost in the Land of Lonesomeness. Encountering a placeless state of terror, humanoid fungi, a weed-choked sea, a ghost ship protecting a stranded band, and a slew of hulking horrors, the story is a largely linear tale. The second story, which Corben adapted almost accurately, is much more Lovecraftian in nature. An abandoned house rests not so comfortably above an ancient horror that evokes Ramsey Campbell-like time travel-triggered disease. While Corben's adaptation casts the hero's sister as his demon lover, Hodgson's original text portrays her as an alien adulteress. The description of the heat death of the universe and its aftermath is well worth the price of acquisition alone.
Pages: 317. Days to read: NA. Rating: Good.

Beemer by Glenn Gaslin (Soho, 2003)
I went to college with Glenn. He married the journalistic girl most wanted. He co-authored a Might-like book that sank like a stone. And his first novel is absolutely amazing. Like Maxx Barry's Syrup on uppers, Beemer is an awesome parallel read to D.B. Weiss' Lucky Wander Boy. A wandering wastrel seeks to secure success by establishing himself as a brand. Combining the occasional cliche with the life-changing lesson, Gaslin attacks pop culture proponents -- comic books, magazines, TV -- as his hero gains work in the advertising world, rekindles a lost advert icon, and gets into the virtual vortex of video games, values, and Variety. The book comes complete with a Brandon Tartikoff fetish and a Fast Company name drop. Required reading for Media Dieticians.
Pages: 261. Days to read: 2. Rating: Excellent.

Buddy the Dreamer by Peter Bagge (Fantagraphics, 1994)
I was inspired to revisit Bagge's earlier comics work after a recent email exchange with him about his page-long pieces in Reason magazine and his new comic Sweatshop. The second volume of the Buddy Bradley reprint series collects seven stories taken from Hate #6-10. "Valerie's Parents" shows that there's some gentleness and good in Buddy when it comes to relationships. In "Paranoia Reigns Supreme," Lisa tries to seduce George, reaffirming that "it's a very sick world out there." In the two-part "Follow That Dream," Buddy and Stinky get involved with a touring band, adding some expected Pacific Northwest grunge-rock color. And "The Nut" continues the stereotypical themes of early Fantagraphics books, particularly because of its setting in a used bookstore. Despite the introduction of these pop culture concepts, Bagge continues his character study, establishing Buddy as a mostly helpless -- and hapless -- bystander and expanding Stinky's self-centeredness and Lisa's self-loathing. Not as impressive as the first volume, but still worth revisiting.
Pages: 120. Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

Col-Dee by Jordan Crane (Red Ink, 2001)
This slim graphic novelette by Jordan Crane is a well-designed item comprising a tenderly mature two-color story about a young boy and his relationship with his mother. The 7 year old copes with securing status among his circle of friends, his family's poverty, guilt about a small theft, his sick cat, and wanting to do well. The children do the things kids do -- flip off truckers, run errands, tell white lies, believe in magic, enjoy burping, try to one up each other, feel cheated when they lose faith, and try to hide their shortcomings -- but overall, the boy acts quite adult, expressing compassion, love, and remorse. Jordan's artwork is clean and gentle, but it is his writing and sense of design and presentation that really wows me. This book and his other recent work secures Jordan as one of the best comics makers -- and designers -- active in DIY media today.
Pages: 96. Days to read: 1. Rating: Excellent.

Cosmic Trigger Vol. 1 by Robert Anton Wilson (New Falcon, 1977)
One of Wilson's most controversial books, this first of three volumes helps expand on the agnosticism and intersubjectivity established by his co-authored magnum opus Illuminatus! And while I've yet to read the volume he wrote with collaborator and co-conspirator Robert Shea, I'd almost rather read Wilson's nonfiction than his fiction. Name dropping luminaries such as Aleister Crowley, Tim Leary, Aldous Huxley, and Uri Geller, Wilson riffs on UFO's, Sirius, the Kennedy assassination, psychedelic drugs, his time working at Playboy (about which I'd like to know more, back-issue hunt begun!), Discordianism, the channeling of ascended masters, space travel, the Masons, synchronicity, and multiple intelligences. It's a wide-ranging and rollicking ride that's a clear precursor to Everything in This Book is False but It's Exactly How Things Are, but it's certainly better written and more legitimate regardless of whether you decide to step across the threshold to enter Wilson's chapel perilous. I wouldn't say the book is mind blowing, but it does make one think.
Pages: 269. Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

Dancing Barefoot by Wil Wheaton (Monolith, 2003)
These five stories were cut from Wheaton's autobiography Just a Geek because "they didn't fit." Offering a nice companion read to that volume, the golden boy child actor-turned-active blogger who just turned 31 isn't a bad writer. But I hope his fans can keep him afloat because it's his Star Trek experience that helps him stand out the most. Adam Curry:MTV::Wil Wheaton:STTNG. Including "short but true stories about life in the so-called space age," the book might be one of the first published under the Creative Commons. All of the pieces originally appeared in Wil's blog, which makes it a nice Web-to-print project. Sharing short stories about losing an aunt, playing hide and seek, getting a girl's phone number, and walking in the rain, the book is largely a container for the standout selection "The Saga of SpongeBob Vegas Pants." That story, which accounts for about two-thirds of the book, considers the science-fiction convention experience, the cultural progeny of William Fucking Shatner, and the creative risks of sketch comedy. The recollection of Wil's talk at the con is priceless, blending narrative with commentary on his personal experience of the speech. Students of fandom will be fascinated. Throughout the book, several aspects of Wil's life become clear: his helpless geekiness, which is charming; his intense love for his wife, which is enviable; and his adoration of the pop-punk band the Ataris, which I hope was slightly lessened by their most recent record. I believe he even name drops Oingo Boingo. That's rad. Not a brilliant read, but not bad at all. Get it for the convention story.
Pages: 116. Days to read: 4. Rating: Good.

Flying Leap by Judy Budnitz (Picador, 1998)
I bought this collection of short stories because Budnitz blurbed the jacket of another book I read recently -- perhaps Matthew Derby's Super Flat Times -- and I figured like likes like. I quite liked the 23 stories collected in this volume. From the Ben Marcus-like tale about a man in a dog suit to the closing first-person piece about a professional baby maker, Budnitz's simple, surreal stories shine with a concrete sense of impressionistic wonder. Themes include affection and loneliness, difficult choices, the heroism of fashion, the roles place and presence can play, popularity, entrapment, lies, the lowest common denominator and how quickly it can change, accelerated relationships, secrets, the love of leprosy, the stories people carry, and noisy neighbors. Like glimpses into an alternate reality, Budnitz's fiction feels like home yet horrible. I need to read more.
Pages: 244. Days to read: 31. Rating: Excellent.

Hey, Buddy! by Peter Bagge (Fantagraphics, 1993)
Collecting material from the first five issues of the comic book Hate, which was published in the early '90s, the first volume of the "complete Buddy Bradley stories" comprises nine selections. Readers are introduced to Buddy, his living space, his friends, his love life, his lifestyle, his cultural tastes, and his roommates. Those, as well as other people in his life, may be more interesting than Buddy himself, but he serves as an excellent centerpiece for the other characters. Stinky, Buddy's cheap, complaining, and duplicitious roommate, stands out, making Buddy look more mature and responsible by comparison. Conversely, George Cecil Hamilton III is a conspiracy theorist and obsessive martyr who wallows in popular TV programs as "research." Their interactions, in addition to Buddy's relationships with Lisa and Valerie -- much less Buddy's brother -- provide rich material for storytelling and character study. The bonus piece, "Prisoners of Hate Island," is a self-deprecating poke in the ribs of Bagge, Gary Groth, and Kim Thompson, offering some jokey context for the other stories. Reading this book now doesn't feel as epiphanal as reading Hate did when it was first published, but it's still more solid and important than the quaint example of early '90s indy comics that it could be. That speaks well of Bagge's body of work.
Pages: 116. Days to read: 2. Rating: Good.

Keeping Two Part 2 by Jordan Crane (Red Ink)
As the printed version of part two of Jordan's comics story originally published on Highwater Books' Web site, this is more comic book than book, but I read it as a book rather than as part of a batch of comics and zines. So here we go. Perhaps Jordan's most serious work to date, the story includes two intertwining storylines, one in which a young couple experiences a miscarriage, and another in which a second young couple deals with the ups and downs in their relationship, as well as the loss of the man's mother's dog. The ending is foreboding, as the man imagines the passing of his partner, and the overall impression is one of remorse and loneliness, even in the company of others. I can't wait until the entire storyline is collected into a book of its own.
Pages: 48. Days to read: 1. Rating: Excellent.

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (Penguin, 1961)
After watching the PBS adaptation of this witty British novel originally published in 1954, I had to read the book. And it is such a good read. Amis' comedy of manners involving the denizens of a second-rate post-war preparatory school is wickedly funny and includes several intriguing characters. Teacher Jim's entanglement with the daft but dedicated Margaret, love of pints, scheduled cigarette smoking, and befuddlement about buffoons adds up to create a forlorn hero out of his element. His love for Christine, who is likewise entangled with the asinine artist Bertrand, is worth cheering for, and while the conclusion of the novel doesn't quite match the TV program's righteous -- though thoroughly ripped -- call for quality education, Jim gets lucky and the ill-suffered fools get their comeuppance in the end. Wonderful.
Pages: 251. Days to read: 8. Rating: Excellent.

Purple Cow by Seth Godin (Portfolio, 2002)
Seth Godin's the greatest guy. He's bald. He's brilliant. He's hyperactively innovative. One Fast Company editor recently described him as a Unit of 20. So it's no surprise that the post-Yahoo marketing maven's most recent manifesto is a quick hit. Focusing on "how to transform your business by being remarkable," Seth ups the ante on his thought virus marketing theories by calling for an increase in quality and character during a downturn economy's days of grey. In about 75 easily digestible chunks, Seth describes the value of vigor, the death of the TV-industrial complex, what's wrong with the Wall Street Journal, the deficits of the attention economy, the mishaps of measurement, the parody paradox, and what it means to be a marketer. Like Chinese food, Seth's writing isn't always filling, but it's still nutritious food for thought. The man's a brand. He's a master of the sound bite. And he walks the talk, supporting the book with a viral marketing campaign and book-mentioned Web that works additional wonders. The airplane ride it takes to read this book, which I nibbled at over time, is well worth yours.
Pages: 145. Days to read: 13. Rating: Good.

Markets, Flash Mobs, and Mayhem II

Brad Searles has done a good job of rounding up the documentation of Boston's first Flash Mob. Today, he offers his description and photographs of the experience, commentary on the resulting media coverage, and pointers to other reports.

I wasn't able to join in on the fun because the Anchormen were stuffing envelopes to send our new CD to zines and magazines for review, but I hope to get in on the next one. Despite the unwise pre-mob attention, it looks as though the gathering was a success. Next time, let's do it right.