Thursday, December 21, 2006

'Tis the Season to Be... AWOL XXI

In six-plus hours, I leave for dual holidays with my family. I will be offline until at least Dec. 29, and I will miss every minute.

As 2007 approaches, know that I appreciate every single Media Dietician, as well as the fact that people check out this very blog every single day.

You folks keep me honest and active. Gods bless you!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

An Open Letter to Peter Davison

Over the last two days, I've been reading Peter Davison's wonderful history of the Boston poetry scene between 1955-1960, The Fading Smile. The book has changed how I look at poetry -- and how I look at Boston, as well as literary communities in general.

While flying from San Francisco to New York this evening, I wrote Davison a brief letter of appreciation as thanks for his book. I was sad to learn upon my return home that he died two years ago, almost to the day. Here is my letter, which will never be mailed:

Dear Mr. Davison,

I am on an airplane, flying between San Francisco and New York City. I have just finished reading your book The Fading Smile and want to write you a letter about how much I enjoyed it.

Yesterday, while in SF, I went to City Lights Books, as I often do when visiting. I picked up some punk-rock fanzines, a couple of New Directions books by Bob Kaufman, and your book in hardcover. It was rather worn, and "had been around forever," the shop girl said, and so I got 10% off.

Such a strange way to obtain your book. I am forever finding books about places I love in other places I love, but never in the same place (especially in the case of older books!). I was attracted to your book for several reasons:

One, I adore local history, especially that of places I love and in which I've lived. I lived in Boston -- primarily Somerville and Cambridge -- from 1996 to 2004 and miss its streets and sites madly. I have highlighted all of the addresses and locations you mentioned in the text and as soon as I am able, hope to come north to walk and see them all myself -- some perhaps again!

Two, I've been on a bit of a poetry binge recently. My girlfriend and I have been reading from the Seamus Heaney green-cover anthology near nightly, and because of that, I've recently been inspired to seek out work by Auden and others. I don't have much of an education in poetry, although I did take a writing class at Northwestern.

And I was intrigued by the history by way of collection of profiles approach you took. I think it worked well, especially with the intertextual page references later on. Very well done, although I do feel ending with Lowell was a bit anticlimactic despite his status as the central figure.

So there you go. Thank you for your book. It will lead me to read more poetry! I hope this brief note finds you happy and healthy. I'll have to look you up on the Internet when I get home to learn where I might send this to best reach you.

Heath Row

P.S. Oh! Given the season, happy holidays -- any and all. May 2007 bring only the best.

The green-cover anthology I mentioned is The Rattle Bag, which Heaney edited with Ted Hughes -- and which title I couldn't remember. Oddly enough, Davison died in Boston just a few days before I left Boston for New York. If only I'd learned about him and his work sooner.

Please check out a copy of The Rattle Bag or The Fading Smile in remembrance of Davison. I miss him terribly, and I never even knew him.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Card Shark

I spent the afternoon today to finish writing, preparing, and mailing (mostly) my Christmas cards for the year. I love Christmas cards for several reasons, and I've been giving some thought to why.

First of all, I "manage" my Christmas card sending in two ways. One, since 2001, I've maintained an address book especially for Christmas cards. It's red. It has "Christmas Card List" embossed on the cover in gold. And I like the fact that it's been in my life for six years now. It's not entirely full, but it's falling apart at the binding, and there are enough address corrections in it that it might be time to start a new Christmas card address book. Any advice on which to get? I could maintain a database, granted, but I like the idea of a Christmas card-specific address book, especially since this one lets me keep track of whom I've sent cards to -- and who's sent me cards in return... and in which years.

Secondly, I like the fact that sending Christmas cards every year makes me think of more people to whom I'd like to send Christmas cards. While you can catalog your acquaintances, friends, and family in social network services online, there's something special about a handwritten and annotated list of relationships. I usually send cards to most of the people on my list, people who send me unexpected cards (I add them to the list.), and some additional people. I've sent cards to the CEOs of companies I've worked for, former housemates, ex-girlfriends -- and their parents -- and even people I've never met. In 2001, I exchanged Christmas cards with Rebecca Mead, a writer for the New Yorker. She doesn't know me from Adam, but I wanted to let her know I appreciate her -- and her writing.

Because that's what Christmas cards are all about. They're a way to keep people in your life who don't play a major role otherwise. They're a way to reassert family ties to people you're related to -- but to whom you don't regularly relate. And they're a way to map relationships and locational proximity in a way we don't don't often have. I have cousins to whom I've sent cards for six years or more who haven't sent a card, letter, or note in return. One of my dad's brothers has never sent me a card in exchange. Still, they're on the list.

One year, I culled the list. People who hadn't reciprocated in a couple of years were removed. I'll never do that again. Instead, my Christmas card list will grow -- and continue to grow. Because sending cards is a way to say I know you, I love you, and I'd like you in my life more than you are right now -- or, I'd like to keep you in my life one way or another.

I sent 43 cards so far this year. I have at least two more I could and should write right now. What's your mailing address? Maybe you could be on my list, too!

Sending cards is also a good way to use up inserts and decals that you've accumulated over the year(s). This year, I used four boxes of Batman cards printed by Chronicle Books bought at Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books, as well as a handful of leftover cards from last year. I also used up two sheets of 2004 New York Post sticker book decals featuring the Jets football team. I don't follow the Jets at all, but I'd kept the stickers. I used almost two sheets of USPS comic book stamps. And I inserted $10,000 worth of hell money in most every card. I bought the hell money in San Diego years and years ago. Why do I still have it? Who the heck knows.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Tag, You're It

My panel idea for SXSW Interactive next spring has been approved!

Tag, You're It

Services such as Delicious, Flickr, and others allow users to tag various kinds of content. Some people use the tags for personal information management -- making things easier to find -- and others use tags to discover certain kinds of content -- such as pictures of puppies. But are people tagging content with those uses in mind? For use by others? Or just for personal use? This panel will consider trends in tagging and how people are actually using tags -- not how cool and important folksonomies are.

Thanks for those of you who may have expressed interest in the topic. I'm peopling the panel now and will let Media Dieticians know who will be participating as soon as it's all worked out. Should be awesome.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Twitter? I Hardly Know... III

My pal Harper Reed just made a Twitter app that may help you update the SMS service more quickly and easily. It's called TwApp! and while I haven't tried it out yet, Harper's Twitter entries indicate that it works well.

Let me know what you think!

Monday, December 04, 2006

The 12 Rules of the DimeDine Dozen

1. There will be a maximum of 12 DimeDine cities
2. Each will follow the 10 Rules of DimeDine
3. Each DimeDine city will be led by a facilitator
4. Each facilitator will secure a book publisher and record label willing to provide one (1) book or record for each DimeDine participant (100 a year)
5. Only facilitators can vote on DimeDine concerns
6. DimeDine Concerns will be chosen by the Prime Facilitator
7. Each facilitator has 12 vote points to allocate among vote concern options
8. If a DimeDine facilitator reneges on 12 votes, their position will be voided
9. Each remaining facilitator will be able to nominate 12 replacements
10. DimeDine facilitator replacements will be chosen by the remaining facilitators
11. If a DimeDine city is demoted, each remaining facilitator will be able to nominate 12 additional cities
12. The Prime Facilitator can be replaced only by a unanimous vote of the existing 12 local facilitators

Want to "run" a DimeDine? Email me.

The 10 Rules of DimeDine

1. DimeDine dinners will be held on the 10th day of each month
2. 10 people will be allowed to participate in each individual dinner
3. 10 dinners will be held each year
4. Each dinner will cost 10 cents (plus the cost of each member's individual order; participants are responsible for the cost of their own meals, plus their equal share of tax and tip [20%])
5. RSVPs are due 10 days before each scheduled dinner
6. If a member reneges on 10 positive RSVPs, their membership will be voided
7. Each new member will be able to invite 10 friends
8. Each month, 10 participants will receive a book and record of the organizer's choosing
9. Every 10 months, in the 10th month, there will be an all-member event
10. DimeDine will be facilitated by a group of 12 members (plus a Prime Facilitator)

Want to "run" a DimeDine? Email me.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Last (Mail) Call

I have less time than I've ever had. And the time I have is ever more precious. So I need to be ever more efficient and effective in everything I do.

Time was, I'd open every item of mail. And if you sent me mailing labels, I'd do my best to use them. But I can't do that any more.

If you send me snail mail, if you send me junk mail, I will only open it if it's important and useful. Otherwise, I'll toss it, unopened.

I know many people do this already and that I'm late to the game, but, please, don't mail me things I don't need.

Direct marketers have lost one of their more patient people.

Junk mail, begone.