Friday, July 30, 2004

'Tis the Season to Be... AWOL XVIII

Tomorrow, I head home for a week's vacation in northern Wisconsin. That means that Media Diet may be quiet until I get back to New York. That doesn't mean that Media Diet is dead (long live Media Diet!). It just means that it's resting. Worst case scenario: Media Diet will be back up and running Aug. 9 or so.

From the Reading Pile XXX

A Murder of Corvids
While living in Merritt, British Columbia, Hatton published a number of zines, including one on community access television and another called the Corvid Revue. This collection compiles stories taken from that zine, and while none really conveys the sense of the local evoked in his introduction, a handful are worth noting. "Copycats" is a brief slipstream short about civilized felines. "Everyone Else Is Wearing Theirs" could be an allegory about homelessness but still reels in slipstream savviness. The nonfiction "A Brooklyn Tour" recounts a visit to New York's best borough, giving me several walking tour ideas. The post-911 "Corvus on War" piece, the only item not previously published, recommends several anti-war media must-sees, -reads, and -hears. And "Treed" returns to the slipstream. Were Hatton to focus on his new fabulist fiction, he could be a voice to follow! Dave Hatton, P.O. Box 2318, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. [$2 US, $3 Elsewhere, trade, free to prisoners 64S :20]

Off-Line #28 (Spring 2004)
Published since 1999, this zine edited by what seems to be a politically active couple, is an intelligent personal zine that goes beyond diary entries. Opening with an article about an anti-war protest held on Memorial Day, the zine establishes its personality: caring, involved, and smart. The way Romano and his compatriots in the Westchester Activist Youth defused the situations in which people challenged their stance is impressive. Other pieces address conversations overheard on the bus, a Food Not Bombs action, violence at an Iron Maiden concert, a review of two 2003 talks by Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, vegan recipes, and letters from readers. After reading this zine, I like and want to meet Romano and Cocco -- and not every zine inspires that sense of connection. Vincent Romano and Claire Cocco, 35 Barker Ave. #4G, White Plains, NY 10604. [Free, trade, free to prisoners 64S :07]

Team Evil #1 (March 2004)
This extremely well-designed and -produced zine is published by an Australina freelance writer and public relations professional who uses a slew of pseudonyms -- Weezy, Milk Is Chillin', and Mr. Sniffles -- to "not lose my job." Opening with a consideration of violence in hip hop, the zine includes interviews with the Neptunes and Prince Paul, a quick conversation with an old-school secretary using a typewriter, pieces on video games and super villains, an appreciation of driving while high, and a look at the Hairdressing Society State Titles. Were Napieralski not so enamored by not-quite-Hunter Thompson drug-fueled writing -- and were the stories longer reported pieces like those he must do as a freelancer -- given his interests, experiences, and access, this zine could be awesome. As it is, it's acceptable. I look forward to future issues. Mikolaj Napieralski, 12 Heathfield St., Eight Mile Plains 4113 Brisbane, Queensland Australia. [$3 32S :07]

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

From the Reading Pile XXIX

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From the Reading Pile XXVIII

Alice in New York
This is the first installment of a planned graphic novel. If the first proper book edition is intended to be 100 pages long, it will be a breezy read indeed. Beginning in 1989, this first issue covers Henry's arrival in the city, meeting his bed and breakfast hostess Carol, and initial fortuitous welcome to the Big Apple. I'm not overly impressed by Henry's page design or artwork -- think a sloppy Matt Madden, perhaps -- but this issue does feature several memorable moments. The opening vignette on an overheard conversation about love -- and fortune -- found, p. 9's sidewalk still lifes, p. 21's lovely lust, and p. 24's call to "be smart despite yourself" all show promise. One to follow, perhaps. Henry Chamberlain, 1545 NW 53rd St. #1, Seattle, WA 98107. [28S :03]

Barry Pago: Crime Scene Photographer
Holy cow. And how. As always, Jamie's delightfully dark depictions deliver a surprisingly efficient emotional effect. Blending Greg Cook's anthropomorphic cartoonishness with Hans Rickheit's ghastly gaze, this mini -- complete with characteristic label-affixed covers -- really packs a punch. A cyborganic penguin working as a new-school Weegee cannot contain his cannibalistic urges while his son -- a frustrated photographer himself -- also goes too far. The final six complete pages are absolutely priceless, contributing a catastrophic closure while pulling the heartstrings and providing a playfully pathetic look at the father-son dynamic. A real call to pause and wonder. Jamie Tanner [36XS :01]

A color photocopied or laser-printed edition, this is a DIY catalog and program for Russell's MFA thesis exhibit at the Art Sinner College of Design in Pasadena. Combining photographs of tomb archways, distressed walls, cloudscapes, facades, and found objects with appear to be three sections of found text or original writing, the digest doesn't do much to share Russell's skil or validate his overall vision. More meaningful if you experienced the exhibit, I'm sure. Fingers crossed he got his master's! Christopher Russell, 745 Maltman Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90026. [12S :01]

Celso #2 (Birth of Celso: Inevitable)
What a trip of a comic! This legal-sized issue is an immensely and intensely dense piece of work that, while not entirely clear or cohesive, remains intriguing. Combining the fantasy world building of Sam Kieth with the psychedelic yet subtle silliness of Andy Ristaino, Celso drills through several layers of surreality to explore the environs of a humongous warrior-like creature who seems to spawn cities in his steps, a paranoid old man who is intimidated by a cat and afraid of a perceived demon on his roof, and a baby with a mallet who shares a moment with what might be an homage to Tony Millionaire's Drinky Crow. Despite the edition's oblique surrealism and the over-long text interlude featuring the old man, Celso's artwork is delightfully detailed, bringing to mind the efforts of Geoff Darrow, albeit entirely different. Confusing, yet convincing, it's worthy of consideration. Celso, 9 Bench Mark Dr., Boulder, CO 80303. [$2 US, or trade 22L :03]

Sidewalk Bump
Full disclosure: I contributed to this comic anthology celebrating the personal importance, impact, and appreciation of skateboarding. While the pieces by Dan Moynihan, the editor, ably address the wonder, joy, and celebration skating can bring -- in his segments on pavement, architecture, the strength of wooden decks, the art of drawing lines while skating, and cats -- the other contributors also add a lot to the consideration of conquering concrete. Leslie Kleinberg offers two looks at her memories of not skating when she could have. John Isaacson provides a six-page piece on skating in a rustic setting. Dave Kiersh submitted three comic-text items on how skating can affect relationships. And John Porcellino amazes with a couple of wonderful items himself. Less aggressive and more amiable than the old Thrasher Comics, this anthology is a heartfelt hallowing of what some see as a humble hobby. Dan Moynihan, 29 Farquhar St. #2, Roslindale, MA 02131. [$5 US 52S :04]

Friday, July 23, 2004

Music to My Ears LVII

I just learned how to upload playlists to iTunes Music Store, and if you're curious -- and have iTunes -- you can check out some of the mixes I've been listening to lately.

Pretty slick, that iTunes.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Blogging About Blogging LXXIV

Ben and Mena Trott announced the winners of Moveable Type's Developer's Contest tonight at BlogOn, which I'm confblogging for FC Now. Here's a partial transcript of their awards presentation:

Mena Trott: Blogging has come really far, and this event is proof. If there's proof that you can make a business out of blogging, the proof is standing up here. We're incredibly excited. One of the main things we want to talk about is developers; they're the bread and butter. There are people in this room who've been Moveable Type developers since Day One. We want to make money, but we also want our developers and the community to make money. Tonight, we're going to announce an award -- six awards, really.

Anil Dash: I've moved from being the third Trott to being their first born, so I'm really lucky. There are people all around the world who don't work for Six Apart but make their living on Moveable Type and TypePad, and now legally. There are things we didn't Moveable Type could do, that blogs could do.

Mena Trott: Our developer program is just in its infancy, but we've had 1,000 people sign up for it. This is the inaugural event for that network. We have three third prize winners.

Ben Trott: The first winner has been a developer for a long time now, and he's done a number of plug ins. He did a plug in called MultiBlog. Moveable Type allows you to separate your content into different weblogs, but this plug in lets you make a page that pulls in content from a number of blogs. The winner is David Raynes. The next winner is someone whose weblog we've long admired. His plug in is a text formatting system. Not having to know any HTML, you can still express a lot of ideas and syntax structures. This award goes to John Gruber from Markdown. The next award is for a plug in that closes a pretty critical feedback loop in weblogs. It's important that your community keep up to date on your weblog, comments, and such. This plug in allows you to keep track of changes in your comment threads, and the award goes to Chad Everett for his Notifier plug in.

Mena Trott: We have two second prizes.

Ben Trott: The first winner was pretty amazing to us. It's something we never would have imagined. I'm not sure of everything that this thing can do. It's a visualization engine that lets you create visuals for your posts. It was made by Andrew Sutherland of KoalaRainbow. The next one is a replacement for the search engine in Moveable Type that allows you to use indexing and things that are more powerful. This goes to Timothy Appnel for X-Search Plus.

Mena Trott: Our final first prize is one prize.

Ben Trott: The winner is someone who, like Tim, has been around in the community for a long time. He was really great when we were having the troubles with the 3.0 licensing. He really understood what we were trying to do, and he helped get that message out. The plug in is MT-Blacklist. Jay Allen won this. He's really integrated it into the new version of Moveable Type. And he's rewritten the plug in completely to take advantage of all of the new developer features.

Mena Trott: These winners will be integrated into a plug in pack. And if you didn't win, we're sorry. All of the entries were really great.

Big Brother Is Watching XXI

This past weekend, I took a brief trip to Staten Island on the Staten Island Ferry. According to the New York Post, they've installed hidden security cameras on the ferry boats -- and in the terminals. Maybe it's to keep tabs on the slow-going construction work or the pigeons on the Manhattan-side terminal. Keep your eyes open if you scoot over to check out the forthcoming National Lighthouse Museum.

Mapblogging VI

93 Photo Street is an intriguing piece of shareware that will help you organize your digital photographs geographically -- by connecting images to specific locations. Tie this into a social network service -- and add moblogging -- and it could be hella cool.

Thanks, Joe!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Music to My Eyes XXVI

Through Tuesday: Planet Earth: Dreams, a video feature directed by D.J. Mendel and featuring Cynthia Hopkins and the music of Gloria Deluxe, screens at Two Boots Pioneer Theater in Manhattan.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Monday, July 12, 2004

Music to My Ears LVI

Michael Mayham works the coat room at North Six in Williamsburgh. He's also really nice, and he makes music. Listen to it.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXXIX

You know you're the kind of member Netflix makes money off of when you still haven't watched DVD's they sent you in January and March. This past week I cleaned house -- and cleaned up my queue. I can't keep sitting on discs like that!

Monday: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Without the syrupy sentimentality of Miracle on 34th Street, which I've always likened to this for some reason, Frank Capra's 1939 film is a wonderful comedy, as well as a period, positively patriotic piece. James Stewart's lead is a humbly heroic American icon, the epitome of the Boy Scouts, Grit magazine, and Tom Sawyer. His blend of country bumpkin naivete and honest respect for what the United States' political system was founded on is a welcome reminder of what America could -- and should -- be. Likewise, Jean Arthur's embittered Hill career girl acts as a fun foil, irritating slightly in the boozy interlude with Thomas Mitchell, but delighting as her love of Jefferson Smith develops. In the end, several elements help this film really resonate: the toothsome grin of Smith's idealist boy supporters, his samizdat sidestep of mainstream media with the four-page paper Boy Stuff, the scenes on the Senate floor, and the reminder of what politics can be. That said, the end of the movie is a train wreck and comes to a close much too quickly. Pouvez-vous dire, denouement?

Tuesday: Now, Voyager
What, was I on some kind of a Claude Rains kick or something? Who knew? This 1942 drama was also a fun watch. Basically a Cinderella story, it tells the tale of Bette Davis' sob sister, who, thanks to her therapist, a cruise ship, and a married man, blossoms into the flower we knew she could be. Everyone always talks about Bette Davis' eyes. Have you ever looked at her teeth? Holy cow. Paul Henreid's romantic but unavailable Jerry Durrance balances Davis' character well, but it is Janis Wilson's Tina, Durrance's ugly duckling -- and uncredited! -- daughter, that caps the characters. Largely a story of individuality and redemption, the movie's pairing of Davis and Wilson adds a nice bit of closure -- but also responsibility, respect, and recognition for those who help us.

Wednesday: Cinemania
The pick of the week. There's nothing like a movie that makes you want to watch more movies. Cinemania is a 2002 documentary about five cinephiliacs, avid moviegoers and film buffs whose celluloid obsessions dominate their lives. Three of the five are unemployed and on disability, and the other two have designed their working and personal lives around their intense need to see the cinema. Eric Chadbourne (Any relation to Eugene?) is perhaps the most socially adept of the five -- and the most in depth in his analysis of and insight on what movies really mean. At times apologetic and rationalizing, his description of the importance of films to society and culture occasionally seems self-serving, if not enabling. Then there's Roberta Hill, who is similarly serious in her analysis, but pleasantly unaware of her carriage -- or impact on those around her. In one of the film's most telling scenes, former ticket taker Tina Bonacore details a night on which Hill attacked her for ripping her ticket. In the end, we learn that Hill had saved every ticket from every movie she's ever seen -- and that Bonacore's lack of understanding ended that run. Eventually, Hill was banned from MOMA for her behavior, even trying to sneak in once in disguise, and the segment -- a sad sequence of painful portrayal -- indicates just how overwhelming obsessions can be. The other people, for the most part, come across as sad and nerdy, but their loose-knit friendships and camaderie -- as represented in the sections during which Eric visits Harvey Schwartz and Jack Angstreich at home, as well as in the film's final scene, in which the five attend a screening of their own documentary -- brought a warmth to my heart. Brilliant soundtrack featuring Stereo Total, as well. Kudos.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Newspaper Chase XI

Reasons to Read the New York Sun:

  • The typography -- the best in New York's dailies
  • They syndicate James Taranto's Best of the Web from the Wall Street Journal and Daily Candy -- more newspapers should draw on online sources
  • Publishers Lunch (same arrangement as above?)
  • They include comics-related events in the calendar
  • The Past & Present item
  • Gary Shapiro
  • Arts & Letters

Reasons to Read the New York Times:

  • The weekly Metropolitan Diary column
  • They gave Martin and Eric's magazine Giant Robot good ink in the July 5 edition
  • Two words: Jodi Kantor
  • The Science Times section
  • The obituaries
  • The Weather Report
  • The Metro section
  • The City section on Sunday, but particularly Michael Pollak's FYI Q&A column
  • Stacy Peralta's A Night Out With column
  • Maureen Dowd
  • The Streetscapes item in the Real Estate section on Sunday
  • The New York Times Magazine, especially William Safire's On Language column, Randy Cohen's The Ethicist, and Rob Walker's Consumed
  • The Book Review

From the In Box: Newspaper Chase VIII

Holy cow! Getting on Gawker earned me some great email. Not only did Nick Parish, sports writer for the New York Post, and Sunny Lee, who writes the Daily News' "Today in New York" column, send in hellos, I heard from a former "Gridlock Girl":

I read your Newspaper Chase VIII via Gawker and I had to write you. I'm surprised/thrilled to know that someone actually knows who Gridlock Sam is. You see, early in my writing career, I wrote the GS columns. Sam typically doesn't pen his column; he hires young writers to do it.

When I was there, I'd go in to the office in the morning (Sam's company, SSC, and clip the day's column from the DN for filing. Then I'd look over DOT (Dept. of Transportation) reports, peruse past columns for annual events, and write the traffic forecast. At about 11, I'd sit down with Sam and he'd review my work -- sometimes he'd rip it apart, sometimes he wouldn't touch a thing (the hokier, the better). After that, I'd re-edit, send the column over to the Daily News, and spend the rest of my day looking busy. Depending on the season, I'd work on the annual parking calendar.

In any event, it was a great experience overall. It was my first "real" job out of college and I was able to get a full time salary (well, depends on how you look at it -- I made about 25K the year I worked there) while in grad school at nearby NYU. The engineers and planners working at SSC were a fun, young, raucous bunch. We were encouraged by Sam to do stuff together outside of work -- there was the annual trip to Shea, office softball games, and many many lunches (with drinks) at the Mexican restaurant downstairs from the office. (A few hook-ups as well.)

While Sam and I had a great working relationship, we didn't part on friendly terms: Essentially, I was fired after asking for a raise. (I'm sure he doesn't see it that way.) It worked to my benefit, though; a month after I was fired, I got a job as an associate editor for a trade mag, complete with pay increase and -- shock!! -- a byline. -- Laura Kenyon

Hold the phone. Next you'll tell me that the Slammer doesn't write his column either.

From the In Box: Newspaper Chase VIII

On what must have been a slow media gossip day, Gawker picked up on my ongoing self-analysis of why I read various papers in New York. "I'm not sure we're even reading the same paper," Choire writes. "I literally have no idea what he's talking about."

Friday, July 02, 2004

Newspaper Chase X

Just so Media Dieticians don't think I only read the dailies, I also read the weeklies. If you have additional reasons why you read a particular weekly -- much less a daily -- leave a comment!

Reasons to Read the Village Voice:

  • Toni Schlesinger's eminently domestic Shelter column
  • Richard Goldstein's deconstructively critical Press Clips
  • Boston boy Nat Hentoff (much more important than his Editor & Publisher gig)
  • Tony Millionaire's dual comic strip Maakies
  • Francis Davis' jazz writing
  • The show listing adverts
  • Ruben Bolling's Tom the Dancing Bug comic strip, which should be swapped with Ward Sutton's lettercol suck-otash

Reasons to Read the New York Press:

  • When they need to, they're not ashamed to run adverts... on the cover!
  • Page Two, which, in the June 23 edition, ran on page... six
  • Neil Swaab's comic strip Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles
  • The Thank You, Really item
  • Jim Knipfel, man genius (and perhaps the only reason you need to read the NYP every single week)
  • Almost-Media Diet contributor Richard Kostelanetz's occasional contributions (I really need to meet him, as I've been sitting on a draft since 1997)
  • The Tech section, just because
  • Jennifer Blowdryer
  • Nicholas Gurewitz's Perry Bible Fellowship comic strip
  • Sara Edward-Corbett's See-Saw comic strip
  • Cecil Adams!

Newspaper Chase IX

Reasons to Read Newsday:

  • The marketing feature It Happened in New York
  • The Fishing Forecast, which includes a map of Long Island drawn as a fish
  • Mr. G's G-Whiz weather quiz
  • Color comics every day, including Herb and Jamal, Ziggy (gack, but in color!), Pickles, and Stone Soup
  • Local Sounds MP3 features in Impulse regardless of how good the band is (Support your scene!)
  • They recently gave back-cover Weekend section treatment to my current popcult crush Nellie McKay
  • Straight outta Strong Island, baby!
  • Occasionally, Patricia's in the Kitchen
  • Columnist Jimmy Breslin, a real gem, and a rarity among newsmen today

Reasons to Read the New York Observer:

  • It's printed on salmon-colored paper, and that just _screams_ bagels and lox
  • The paper runs full, broadsheet-page stories
  • Joe Hagan's NYTV TV listing meets broadcast gossip column
  • On the Town with Rex Reed
  • Noelle Hancock and Jessica Joffe's deliciously dastardly Fifteen-Day Week events listing (perhaps the only reason you need to subscribe!)
  • The Transom
  • Tom Scocca's Off the Record column
  • It's got the lock on the city's Public & Legal Notices
  • How quaint; it thinks it's the New Yorker or Harper's... in newsprint!

Newspaper Chase VIII

Since moving here in January, I've been reading at least three daily newspapers a day. I love each for different reasons. This is the first in a series of what I appreciate -- and need -- in each paper I read regularly. If you have additional reasons why you read a particular daily, leave a comment!

Reasons to Read the New York Post:

  • The editorial cartoon on Page Six -- Richard Johnson's celebrity gossip column is next to useless.
  • The NYPD Daily Blotter
  • The weekly On the Newsstand magazine summary
  • Keith J. Kelly's Media Ink column
  • Rhymes with Orange, Heart of the City, and Dennis the Menace on the comics page
  • Brooklyn Cyclones coverage

Reasons to Read the Daily News:

  • Big Town Songbook
  • Today in New York column, which announces what color the Empire State Building will glow at dusk.
  • Your Neighborhood: Brooklyn section
  • Gridlock Sam
  • A four-page comic section including Mutts, Get Fuzzy, Rose Is Rose, Out of the Gene Pool, Doonesbury, One Big Happy, Agnes, and the Jumble
  • Bill Gallo!
  • The Mini Page
  • The Slammer's wrestling column
  • Meet Mr. Luckey

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Music to My Ears LV

File under: Sheer Opportunism. Let's say you're a little-known R&B singer. Let's say you're looking to be discovered. Let's say you record a song about a recently released movie that's sure to be boffo. Let's say you make the vague claim that it's "the song that didn't make the soundtrack." Regardless of whether the song was even under consideration for the soundtrack, it's a fair cop.

Evette Chris' SpiderMan Song is a slow jam capitalizing on the Spider-Man craze -- and laze, given the transparency of this marketing gimmick.

Singer Evette Chris creatively likens Spiderman to her personal superhero - the ultimate man that any woman would want. However, even guys can groove to this funky track and place themselves into the song as the man that women call their Spiderman.

Um, whatever. Coming soon: a King Kong Song, believe it or not. Give me the Mr. T Experience's version of the Spider-Man theme any day.