Friday, January 30, 2004

Mapblogging III

TagandScan seems to be an interesting project. A mobile service that enables participating members using Java-enabled phones to "tag" physical locations with text and images, the service is currently only available in the UK. That's somewhat confusing because its parent company, Cimarrones, is based in New York City, but I've emailed them to see if it'll hit New York soon.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Comics and Community XXI

Also on Saturday, just to jump forward again in time, I met Todd Allen to check out the Big Apple Comicon. Todd helped get me in free because he writes for the New York Resident, and the organizer of the show, Mike, seems nice enough. But it was so not my kind of comicon. Too crowded. Too dealer oriented. Too musty-dusty back issue boxy. Not any focus on publishers or self-publishers. So I got tired of being there pretty quickly. That said, I did find several solid science-fiction digest, pulp magazine, non-sports cards, and rare TV DVD dealers that turned out to be the highlight of the show. Among them, Attic Entertainment Cards, which set me up with several sets of Mad and National Lampoon trading cards, and Brendan Faulkner's R&B Enterprises, which trafficks in rare TV videos such as episodes of Boston Blackie, s-f digests, and pulps. I also snagged an issue of Epi-Log, a much missed magazine that featured episode guides to shows such as Sledge Hammer!

Mixed Drinks and Mingling VII

Last week Thursday after work, I trekked down to a little place Madonna used to waitress at now called Solas. There, I met up with Andrew Hearst, a long-time online friend who helps organize occasional social events for area writers, editors, and other media people. I didn't know many other people there, but I met a couple of friendly Clark supporters, a woman whose book about man-eating lions is in between publishers, and a couple of other people -- including the witty and wise Daniel Radosh. Then my friend Katie arrived, I met her friend Wesley, and I bumped into a couple of old friends from the Atlantic. Once the crowd started to peter out, we went to another bar, whose name I forget (seems to be a trend!), to see if another new-media mixer of sorts was still going. Nothing doing, but I did meet Lindsay, who knew of me -- but whom I think I offended because I'd never heard of her. Seems we once crossed paths in a certain special discussion forum and have mutual online friends. Small world indeed.

Among the Literati LIII

Saturday night, friend Katie and I grabbed a quick bit at a noodle shop on 28th Street before checking out a Soft Skull Press event at the Bowery Poetry Club to see David Rees and Ben Greenman read. We arrived to learn that David Rees, mastermind behind My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable and related projects, would -- in fact -- be singing. And playing the guitar.

While I didn't find his music distasteful, it wasn't really my bag. But I did enjoy one song in particular, a cover of a song taught him by a camp counselor, lo, those many years ago. That counselor had been in a training program for motivational speakers and personal coaches, and the final project was focused on the theme "the giant that I am to become." The resulting song, a cautionary tale about loneliness, isolation, and depression, got him booted from the program. Wonderfully impressive. But otherwise his two sets were basic singer-songwriter plaintiveness. Smart, but not critical.

Ben Greenman, then, read from his new "novel," Superworse, which is a reworking of his previous collection of short stories, Superbad. While I was initially interested in the story behind the book's move to Soft Skull, I'm not so sure it's as big a story as I thought. The editor of the first volume, one Laurence Onge, wasn't happy with the edit he did for McSweeney's, so he did another edit for Soft Skull. They took out some pieces, added some pieces -- most seemingly by Onge -- and took out what might have been one of the more interesting elements of the first edition. Who knows, but I think I might be getting tired of later editions of books having more and less than the first edition. I just want to buy one, kind sirs, not be hoodwinked into thinking I'm getting more... or new. Greenman's reading was relatively decent. He doesn't have the most presence, but he didn't get in the way of the words, and I appreciated most of those.

Rock Shows of Note LXXXII

I'm all lined up to play catchup on the last week's worth of Media Diet reports, but I'm going to start with the most recent and work my way back. Apologies for the chronological confusion.

Last night, Deb and I, along with her visiting friend Kate, headed down to the Lower East Side to a place called the Pyramid to see a couple of bands. The draw was a new band called the Bedouin Thieves, which includes a woman who used to be in another band, Me Jane, with a mutual friend. But we arrived in time for the first band's set, which we watched courtesy of closed-circuit TV in the bar.

Madam Robot and the Lust Brigade was a somewhat sloppy but still interesting four or five piece that seemed to specialize in dramatic space rock. Parts reminded me of David Bowie, but beyond their on-the-edge performance, I was primarily struck by their lyrics, which addressed robots, politics, media control, and other topics. I'd have to check them out again -- or listen to their MP3's -- to make a decision whether I like them, but in theory, I like their concept. (Now that I'm listening to some songs online, I don't think their live show does justice to their recordings. Once they polish their live act, they'll be a band to watch; the recordings show a complexity, direction, and humor that didn't communicate live.)

The Bedouin Thieves -- who don't seem to have a Web page yet -- however, were amazing. With three women and one man in the band, they had an on-stage presence and balance that was welcome. Two of the women -- guitars and drums -- are sisters. And the man played cello and sang along with the other women. For the most part, they reminded me of late '80s and early '90s DC-area hardcore turned art rock. The front woman had a droney yet punctuated guitar style, and the cellist's barks and vocal contributions were well in line with those of Guy Picciotto or Einar Orn. I will certainly go to see them again.

Yet I hope that the drummer, who seemed to be the youngest of the group -- but not the least expert by any means -- tones down her attitude somewhat. Susanna Hoffs cute, she had a watchdog glare and demanding nature that was slightly irritating. I can understand displeasure with too much volume on stage -- while not hearing her own vocals enough -- but she occasionally snipped at her other bandmates, going so far as to shout "No!" at the bassist when she appeared to be about to come in too soon. Right now, the band is great. If they can get their band relations and performance anxiety worked out, they'll be even better.

Back to the closed-circuit TV's in the bar. I understand that this is common practice in New York. I'm curious, though. Do any venues record those in-house microcasts -- even just for a courtesy tape to give to the band? Seems like a good takeaway, as well as rich fodder for community television. Do any Media Dieticians have any ideas for how these closed-circuit TV's could be put to better use?


After the first two bands -- we left before the third of many, which seemed to be Madam Robot's members all over again with the addition of a female keyboardist -- Deb and I crossed the street to another bar whose name I forget for a quick pint before braving the snow to head home. On Sunday nights, it seems that the bar screens horror, science-fiction, and B movies -- while a DJ spins punk and new wave music. Only problem seems to be that they just have one small TV -- and that the bartender tries to get DVD's with subtitles and closed captioning... it's not really a proper movie screening. Does anyone know of any Psychotronic Video-style screenings in the city?

Monday, January 26, 2004

Hiking History XV

This is official notice of the launch of the Brooklyn World Explorers Foundation, an organization devoted to delving more deeply into the culture, environs, history of Brooklyn -- primarily through occasional urban hikes. Join today!

Mapblogging II

NYC Bloggers is a wonderful project in which more than 3,000 New York-based blogs are listed -- organized by the subway station closest to the proprietor. For example, almost 20 people have registered for listings in my neighborhood alone. Unfortunately, there's no freshness dating, so not all of the sites are still current.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

The Free-Range Comic Book Project XXXV

This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project:

Invincible #3 (Image, March 2003). Writer: Robert Kirkman. Artist: Cory Walker. Location: On a bench beside the Lorimer Street station on the L line.

For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.

Rock Shows of Note LXXXI

Last night, I met up with my friend Deb to carch a twofer of cultural exploration. First stop, the Happy Ending for the Happy Ending Reading Series. Hosted by the diminutive but hard-as-nails Amanda Stern -- she cut off one audience member, a friend of one of the readers, for jokingly flipping her the bird -- it's an every-Wednesday affair, and if you arrive before the 8 p.m. start time, bottles of Bud cost a whole $2 less. Good to know. The place filled up pretty quickly, and house staff trundled out a spare bench to accomodate the latecomers. On the night's roster: Sam Lipsyte, Wesley Stace, Samantha Gillison, and John Wesley Harding.

John Wesley Harding opened the evening with a quick set of '80s covers songs. Playing guitar -- he usually forgoes mic'ing his guitar -- he stuck to the oeuvre of Prince, playing with a sense of humor and comfort that was extremely welcome and fun. He deconstructed lyrics, fessed up not remembering all the words, and shared some stories about how the songs affected him. Good stuff.

First up -- reading wise -- Sam Lipsyte, who, may I say, was the lip-shiznit. My favorite reader of the evening, he read part of a forthcoming novel that comprises letters an antisocial acid pen-wielding homebody and fetishist mails to his high school alumni magazine -- but which are never published. Extremely funny stuff, rhythmically verbose, with several awesome turns of phrases. Next came Wesley Stace, who -- it turns out... is John Wesley Harding! He read an excerpt from his forthcoming novel, which struck me as a nice mix of Charles Dickens and Lemony Snicket. A Dark, deeply British, comic novel.

Sorry -- and sad -- to say, but I wasn't at all impressed by Gillison. She read two extremely brief pieces, relatively poorly. I'm curious how her stuff reads on the page, because hearing her read on the stage didn't impress me at all. She might be a brilliant writer; she could use some work as a reader. After Gillison finished, Harding stepped up for a second short set of songs, all still from the '80s. But the highlight of his set was the finale, a cover of Adam McNaughton's song Hamlet, which Harding first heard performed a capella by Martin Carthy. Brilliant stuff.

After the reading ended, now joined by friend Dave, we walked several blocks away to 145 Ludlow for Saint Reverend Jen Miller's Anti-Slam. We stopped by more than an hour into the open-minded open-mic and were pleasantly surprised that the bothersome was amply balanced by the brilliant. Among the brilliant: The upset woman who wants to be the best spokesmodel in the world -- well worth tracking down -- and the comedian who sat in front of us and riffed on religion, sex, and other subjects. Among the acceptable: The elderly man who'd been featured in a Move On commercial and the hefty fellow who sang TV theme songs on request. The irritating: People who did whatever you'd do at a normal open mic -- the standups and acoustic musicians. Shame on you, Brief View of the Hudson, for stopping by just to promote your CD release party. Even if people cheered your song.

Magazine Me XLVII

Somewhat cool on the heels of Ken Gordon's August examination of Boston's declining magazine publishing community, CommonWealth's Jeffrey Klineman recently wrote a wider ranging but similar piece contending that Boss Town will never be a media mecca.

While many of the names and ideas included in the feature parallel Gordon's precursor, there's some new here. Robert Kuttner, one of the founders of The American Prospect, says that Boston's intellectual base makes it "a very good place for what they call 'thought-leader magazines.'" Cullen Murphy, managing editor of The Atlantic Monthly, cites the Boston Globe's Ideas section as an indication of that tradition. Problem is, Alexander Star, that section's editor, just decamped for New York City, as well -- where he will step in as senior editor at the New York Times Magazine. Will Joshua Glenn become Ideas editor -- or follow Star?

And several sources touch on why Boston might remain a hotbed for startup magazines -- while not needing to retain their hometown hotshots. Quoth my former boss Alan Webber: "There's no presumption of a right or a need to be a headquarters of a nationally prominent magazine to be a great city."

That said: "I don't think we could have started the magazine in New York. In some cases, it's harder to do something new when you're in the headquarters of the old. We were close enough to New York to get advice and direction and professional input, but without having to listen to the steady drumbeat and inevitable discouragement of people saying 'you can't do it that way' that comes from being in the headquarters of the old regime. We were doing a business magazine about ideas and new ways of thinking about business, and Boston is a great place for that kind of talent."

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Comics and Commentary V

Ninth Art's Alex Dueben interviews Low-Jinx editor Kurt Wolfgang. Their conversation addresses how Kurt first got involved in "minicomics," Scott McCloud's surprising support, and Kurt's artistic process.

Blogging About Blogging LXXI

File under: You know blogging is so over when...

Publishers Lunch reports that Judy Goldschmidt has sold her debut middle-grade novel The Secret Blog of Raisin Rodriguez to Penguin's new YA imprint Razorbill. The book is written as a blog "by a larger-than-life seventh grader, chronicling the ups and downs of puberty during her tumultuous first year at a new school."

Larger than life? I always thought seventh graders were, well, smaller than me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Subway Sightings

Last night, I read a brief article in Time Out New York by Steven Weiss and Zackary Sholem Berger titled "Hasidim vs. Hipsters." With the subhead, "Trucker hat, schmucker hat: Williamsburg's religious Jews want the 'hood's arty arrivistes to go away," the piece recounts how the Hasidim dislike the hipsters -- they bring higher real-estate prices and "morally suspect nightlife" -- and the hipsters dislike the Hasidim -- "When you willingly have ten-plus children based on your religious beliefs, feed most of them on food stamps, and displace everyone else in the neighborhood, there's hardly any sympathy to be had," says one acid-tongued transplant.

On the train this morning, I stood next to a seated Hasidim who was reading a Hebrew newspaper. Every so often, he'd peek at a magazine or another publication hidden beneath the newspaper, turn through several pages and then turn back to the paper.

That other publication? A Victoria's Secret catalog.

New York Niches

Time Out New York saved my life. Well, it made my day, at least. When changing from the G to the 7 line at Court House Square every day, I've noticed signs on subway stairs -- one labeled M1B, which makes me think of the Men in Black every time I pass it. I've been curious what those signs mean. In the Jan. 8 edition of Time Out, Clare Lambe answers a reader's question about those very same signs in her What's Up with That? column.

Here's the scoop.The first letter indicates where the stairway leads: M for mezzanine, P for platform, S for street, and O for privately owned property. The number indicates which flight of stairs you're on. And the last letter -- A or B -- means you're on stairs divided by a handrail, and which side you're on. Some signs even end with N. S, E, or W to tell you which corner you'll come up at.

Thanks, Clare. Your timing was impeccable.

Pieces, Particles XIV

The following stories spotted recently in print publications might be worth a look. Heads and decks, only. Heads and decks.

Bright Idea! by Pete Donohue, Daily News, Jan. 11, 2004
Street signs light way

A Cast-Iron Eagle Seeks an Aerie at Grand Central by Denny Lee, New York Times, Jan. 11, 2004

Direct to Video by Joanna Molloy, Daily News, Jan. 11, 2004
Shoot the movie, edit the movie, show the movie. Voila! You're famous

From Lex to Third, with Groucho, Chico and Harpo by Christopher Gray, New York Times, Jan. 11, 2004
Two of the block's brownstones are getting a face-lift.

Going Home Again, in a Worried Mind's Eye by Mark Allen, New York Times, Jan. 11, 2004
An electronic re-creation of a Texas town becomes a strangely compelling retreat

Hollywood's Buck-Aneers by Jon Healey, The New York Post, Jan. 11, 2004
Pirate CDs, DVDs to pre-release over Internet -- for "fun"

Hot Dog!! Once a Sin, Now Just Sinfully Good by Tiffany Elliott, Greenpoint Star, Jan. 1, 2004

How to Do It at Home by Michelle Megna, Daily News, Jan. 11, 2004

Mural May Be History by Brian Kates, Daily News, Jan. 11, 2004
Famed cartoon wall facing wrecker's ball

Saving the Past One Window at a Time in W'burg by Reed Jackson, Greenpoint Star, Jan. 1, 2004

Who Was That Food Stylist? Film Credits Roll On by Randy Kennedy, New York Times, Jan. 11, 2004

Newspaper Chase V

I've discovered another local weekly, and it might be the best of the batch. The Greenpoint Star & Weekly Brooklyn News of Northside & Williamsburg (gasp!) is published by the Queens Ledger Newspaper Group in Maspeth, which also does the Queens Ledger, Glendale Register, Forest Hills Times, and other papers. Much like the suburban Chicago chain Pioneer Press, which publishes the Evanston Review, the papers seem to share some regional content -- as well as feature local, neighborhood-based news.

The Jan. 1 edition, weighing in at 48 pages, features some interborough transportation developments, the new school safety plan, the City Reliquary, a brief history of the Coney Island hot dog, the standing Eyesore of the Week feature, and school news. It's not totally pro, but it's a step up content- and production-wise from the other neighborhood-based papers. I do believe I'll subscribe.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Street Art X

Joe Schumacher, a Harlem-based blogger, has compiled an online exhibit of abandoned bicycles in New York. Currently featuring more than 40 images, the collection is by turns inane and poignant. Such are the things we leave behind. Good thing I remembered my hybrid in the basement on Church Corner before I moved.

Soundtrack: The Small Hours

Monday, January 12, 2004

The Free-Range Comic Book Project XXXIV

This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project:

Superman #94 (DC, November 1994). Writer and artist: Dan Jurgens. Location: On the G line between Court House Square and Nassau.

For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.

Rock Shows of Note LXXX

Saturday night, I braved the ill winds and bitter chill of Brooklyn to meet up with Deb, Boots, Mary, and Carl at the Magnetic Field on the edge of Cobble Hill. We were there to see our friends Eric, Frank, Colin, and Jenny in Shumai, but I was also there to check out the Brooklyn-based Strip Minors -- and I wasn't disappointed. I was, however, cold.

The Magnetic Field describes itself as a "rock & roll cocktail lounge," and beyond a small stage area in front, it's almost all lounge. They feature DJs almost every weekend, including the guy who runs March Records. And Matt, the sound guy, used to work at the Diesel in Somerville. Small, small world. Small world even smaller, the bathrooms were painted by Brooklyn-based tatooist and comic book maker Adam Suerte, whose work I've reviewed previously. And, history geek fed, the bar is but blocks away from the site that gave Cobble Hill its name. Near the corner of Court Street and Atlantic Avenue was Ponkiesbergh, or Cobble's Hill, a circa-1766 rise that was supposedly haunted. Later on, Fort Cobble Hill found its home there.

Oh, yes, the show. Shumai performed a laid-back and friendly set of their twee pop with occasional boy-girl harmonies. I wish Eric would sing more, but Colin's got a great voice, and I suppose I shouldn't complain. Well worth checking out, if a little on the low energy side. And the Strip Minors? Fun in the Soltero sense, the band blended plaintive vocals, off-kilter harmonies, a great sense of humor, keyboards, and a trombone to good effect. Fun live, and a good pick me up after Shumai's subtle shoe gazing.

The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night XXVIII

Several colleagues from work and I treated a departing coworker to dinner mid-last week at Amuse on W. 18th. While slightly out of my price -- and ego -- range, the tony eatery impressed more than it amused. And at about $70 a head, I think it's good such send offs are rare. We shared a bunch of starters, including an upper-crust macaroni and cheese and a gourmet pulled-pork tortilla spiked with cumin and black-eyed peas, and my entree of duck was delish. The short-rib main course also received high marks. Knowing that the restaurant's space has housed bars and restaurants for about a century helped ground me amidst the hype and hubbub. After eating, we repaired to the upstairs of the Cedar Tavern, now a long ways away from its storied beat past. After an initial -- and amusing -- run in with the bartender, we were welcomed with open arms and almost outstayed our welcome.

Friday night after work, I ventured into the back side of the Palace Cafe, the corner bar near my new digs. In operation and family run for almost 50 years, the Palace appears to be predominately a bar -- but also includes a full-service restaurant with little decor but a solid homemade menu. On Fridays, the bartender's brother secures plenty of seafood, so I tried the fish and chips. Featuring a lightly breaded filet, the main dish was quite simple and good -- but the lentil soup starter stole the show. I'll eat there again. Interestingly enough, the Palace is even listed in the Payphone Project. Please don't ask for me by name.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Event-O-Dex XCI

Saturday, Jan. 10: Shumai and the Strip Minors do the old shimmy shake at Magnetic Field in Brooklyn. Show starts at 7:30 p.m., so get your early glad rags on.

Comics and Community XX

The New York City Comic Book Museum and the Jewish Community Center Manhattan are collaborating on an exhibit of Jewish contributions to and representations in comic books, "The People of the Comic Book: Superheroes and Jewish Culture." Curated by Alan Oirich of JewishSuperHero, the show -- which opened last night! -- features depictions of stories set in biblical times and World War II, as well as Sabraman, the first Israeli superhero, created in 1978.

Music to My Eyes XXII

Rafer Guzman waxes enthusiastic about Bellmore: The Unscene, a documentary film about the Long Island hardcore scene. Guzman describes the wider Long Island scene as full of "industry-savvy bands promoting themselves and taking meetings with music-business bigwigs," but the online trailer to the movie shows that the punk scene was anything but. Crowd surfing, throwing garbage, and raging at aging. Director Frank Fusco is working the festival circuit seeking distribution, but I think he should just sell the film as a DVD. I'd buy one in a minute.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Movie Magic

I think this is the first Disney movie I've ever looked forward to as long as I've lived: Teacher's Pet. How come? Two words: Gary Baseman. OK, more words: Nathan Lane, Kelsey Grammer, Jerry Stiller, and Paul Reubens. How freaking cool is that? An animated Disney movie.

The Free-Range Comic Book Project XXXIII

This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project:

Star Trek: The Next Generation -- Perchance to Dream #4 (Wildstorm/DC, March 2000). Writer: Keith R.A. DeCandido. Artist: Pachoumis & Benefiel. Location: On a bench at the Nassau stop on the G line.

For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Newspaper Chase IV

Now that I live in New York, I've been going a little newspaper crazy. There are so many papers here! So far, I've been sticking to the New York Post, Daily News, and Newsday to acquaint myself with the papers I've not read much previously. But, soon, I think I'll be able to return to my normal newspaper grazing -- adding some nice new locals.

This past weekend, I was pleased to see that my new neighborhood -- Greenpoint in Brooklyn -- even sports two papers of its own! The Greenpoint Gazette and Advertiser is a 25-cent weekly published on Manhattan Avenue and claiming to be the "voice of Greenpoint." With a questionable print quality -- a lot of the ads appear distressed, and the designers made some bad typeface calls -- the 20-page tabloid largely consists of legal notices and unbylined news releases. If the Gazette and Advertiser didn't have the legal notice contract, my guess is that it wouldn't be in print. The Brooklyn Public Library has a lot of back issues on microfilm.

Despite the slim pickings of the Gazette and Advertiser, the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Gazette -- "your weekly source for local news" -- is a promising 28-page tabloid that also costs two bits. While the paper runs its share of unbylined stories and news releases -- complete with stand and smile photographs from banquets, awards ceremonies, and other events -- the weekly features a more timely focus on news affecting the area. The highlight the week of Dec. 30: Motiva Enterprises donates historic property to the Greenpoint Monitor Museum. The paper's offices are on Nassau Avenue, not far from where I live -- I'll have to stop by!

New Year's Daze IV

Some subtle snapshots from Mac Swell's Future Room c. Dec. 31, 2003:

Monday, January 05, 2004

The Free-Range Comic Book Project XXXII

This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project:

The Patriots #5 (Wildstorm/DC, May 2000). Writers: Brandon Choi and Jonathan Peterson. Artist: Michael Ryan. Location: On the 7 train between Grand Central and Court House Square.

For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.