Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On the Rejection of Friends

In recent days, I've received a swarm of Friendster requests from people in the Philippines, mostly young women. I rejected them all.

Usually, I tend to approve most anyone requesting a connection through the main social network services. I have few restrictions and use friend connections as a way to bookmark people -- in the social network services, I can keep track of there where- and what-abouts, and in a pinch, I can contact them through those channels.

In MySpace, I reject requests also -- unless they're really people I know or musicians I might find interesting. Accepting musician add requests is a way to support their music even if you haven't connected with them otherwise.

Does that approach make those visible friendships meaningless? I don't think so. But how do you use social network services? I think the choices we make are more nuanced than many people studying the social dynamics of the Web might realize.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Best AltWeekly Writing and Design 2007

I also recently received a copy of the Best AltWeekly Writing and Design 2007 book published by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Press.

As a judge for the Website Content Feature category this past year, I had a hand in selecting the winners recognized in the book. While I was pleased to have some of my comments on the pieces quoted in the hard copy, I was disappointed that the online articles weren't actually reprinted in print form. Regardless, you can check out the winners online.

This is an underpromoted effort. While the best American magazine writing warrants its own annual anthology series and we have the Project Censored effort, the AAN awards should be just as recognized. Alt.weeklies contain some of the most critical and important journalism today, and the best of the best should be lauded appropriately. Similarly, the Web categories should be given similar shrift as the print categories. Print articles are reprinted in this volume, and online articles should be, too.

Regardless, you should buy this book every year. You'll be glad you did.

Using Zines to Construct and Craft Meaning

A piece I wrote in the early '90s, "From Fandom to Feminism: An Analysis of the Zine Press", has been reprinted as part of the current Stepping Out course book published by Pearson Professional Learning in Canada.

The course book is a 250-page guide to constructing and crafting meaning for writing instructors who specialize in grades 7-12 education. I originally reprinted the paper, which was written for a class while in university, in the spring 1997 issue of Media Diet (the print zine). Chip Rowe later included it in his Web site for The Book of Zines.

And now, it's included in a writing teachers' guide, accompanied by the following questions.

In your opinion or experience, is zines' material or topics likely to be useful to your subject area?

How important is it that -- as a teacher -- you stay abreast of popular culture influences, such as zines?

It's an honor to be reprinted in such a book, and if you're at all involved in writing education, please consider the Stepping Out resources for your class work.

Rethinking What We Wrap Around History

One of my favorite locations in Brooklyn is the Old Stone House, a reconstruction of a 17th-century Dutch farmhouse in Brooklyn. It currently sits in a public park near Prospect Park, and various groups are currently considering some renovations to the park.

Tuesday, January 22: 7 pm - 9 pm

Play space, open space, green space - what do you imagine?!? Join us for a group discussion hosted by the Old Stone House and Brooklyn Parks to get your input on potential renovations to the 5th Avenue side of the park between 3rd and 4th streets.

Please RSVP and let us know if you are planning to attend -- [via email] or 718-768-3195. This is a wonderful opportunity for community input, and we look forward to hearing from you.

If you live nearby, or if you'd just like to lend your voice and ideas, get involved! It's a wonderful structure in the midst of a modern urban area.

Dissecting the Times

While I'm pretty sure I stop shy of being obsessive compulsive, I do like to put things in order. I like alphabetizing my records. When catching up on reading back issues of magazines, I read them in date order. And, if this morning's read of the New York Times is any indication, I like to read my Sunday newspaper in a specific order.

Struck by that observation this morning, I took note of how I organized the various sections of the newspaper before reading it. Half of the paper is delivered on Sunday. I don't know how the following list falls out in terms of what section was delivered when, because I don't read the Sunday Times on Saturday. It's the Sunday Times.

Regardless, before reading the paper, I unbag both days' deliveries and arrange them in the order I plan to attack the sections. Here is that order:

  • Book Review
  • The City -- I'm especially fond of the FYI Q&A column
  • The Metro Section
  • Magazine -- I look for Rob Walker, Dan Clowes, and I save the Acrostic for Caitlin
  • Sunday Styles
  • Arts & Leisure
  • Real Estate -- the first section. The second is all listings and less interesting
  • Week in Review
  • Business
  • Automobiles -- a quick flip
  • The front section
  • Sports
  • Travel -- usually my least favorite section, and therefore, the last to be read

I don't know how consistent I am Sunday to Sunday -- I'd imagine there's some variance -- but I found this interesting.

What Sunday newspaper do you read -- and how do you do so?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Travel Reading

Earlier this week, I received the prototype issue of a new magazine planned by 8020 Publishing, the San Francisco-based business behind JPG Magazine. Titled Everywhere, the magazine's tagline is "Travel is all around you," and that seems to be a solid theme throughout: Place matters.

This prototype issue is edited by one Todd Lappin, the man behind Telstar Logistics, a member of the Well, and one-time editor at Business 2.0 and Wired. The man's got cred!

I had some time to spend with the magazine this evening, and it's an interesting read. Like Monocle, they map their content in the front of the book so you can pick your bits geographically if so inclined. But otherwise, all places are roughly equal to another, and there's a heavy international angle. The magazine's about finding yourself places, and what it means -- and how it feels -- to find yourself there. It's not travel how to, and it's not adventure travel. It's more like being travel. Wherever you are, there you go. Do, be, do, be, do.

My favorite items included pieces on old postcards and re-photography, the Postcards section (akin to JPG somewhat), the "Tokyo People Watching" article and accompanying guide to street food lanterns, the "Geeky Tucson" and "Tumbleweed Tucson" companion pieces, the Dan Gillmor gear bag roundup, and the mention of the Point It book (I agree; it's a necessity.).

Given Everywhere's relationship to JPG, it's little surprise the mag is as photo heavy as it is. That's not a bad thing, necessarily, but it would be neat to get some more writing in there. And maybe even some more resource listings. The blog mentions are OK, but it'd be good to highlight some of the Yelp-style hotspots in some of the locations, if possible.

Still, I'm a growing fan of 8020's Web-meets-print community publishing model, and if JPG and Everywhere are at all successful, the model is highly extensible. Not to encourage them to spread themselves too thin too soon, but picture, if you will, similarly styled periodicals on cooking, parenting, and other lifestyle-oriented themes. Pretty cool possibilities!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Can't Help But Pop

Katy Perry might not have been destined to hit it big, but I bet she does. She kinda can't not, you know? Even though her debut album doesn't drop until this spring, based on a CD EP released in November and some live performances, including a New Year's Eve gig in San Francisco, Perry's got a resume that just says superstar.

Even though she's yet to release an album, Perry's appeared in music videos for Gym Class Heroes, POD, and Carbon Leaf. She's had a song on The Hills. She's got a song opening the Oxygen show Fight Girls. She had a song on the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants soundtrack. And she was on the ABC Family program Wildfire.

That's an impressive resume leading up to your first full-length release! She's even attracted the attention of Perez Hilton, whose mention in his blog last March earned him promo package placement. Blurbed! Perry's been working with some pretty impressive people: Glen Ballard (producer of Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill), Dr. Luke (who produced Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend"), and Greg Wells, who co-wrote Perry's breakout single "Ur So Gay." And she's sung for the Matrix, the songwriting powerhouse behind hits by Lavigne, Hilary Duff, and Britney Spears. All by the age of 23.

The record's been three years in the making, according to press materials, and earier this month, I got a copy of the EP courtesy of Jules Di Cesaris. For the last couple of days, I've been giving it a listen.

The single, "Ur So Gay," is a slow-paced giggle-fit slam on an emo boy who might have broken Perry's heart. While the repetitive melody is somewhat infectious, the song doesn't have a lot of lasting power. In addition to the SMS-text slang in the title, the song has a homophobic undercurrent that's as conflicting as it is "funny." While I'm no fan of using "gay" as a derogatory term, I can imagine the remix getting turntable time at gay dance clubs -- as well as straight ones.

You might get tired of the song by EP's end, because it's on it five times. There's the edit -- as opposed to the actual song? -- the remix, an instrumental, an instrumental remix, and an a cappella version. It's the a cappella version that's my favorite. Stripping the song of everything but Perry's voice let's you focus on her and her alone. Can she sing? Kinda. But just see if you make it through the scat singing without taking her even less seriously than she's taking herself.

It would've been nice if she'd taken her cover of the Outfield's 1986 hit "Use Your Love" (which peaked at No. 6 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart) a little more -- or less -- seriously. From the initial guitar riff, the cover's just a little too close to true, despite its distorted, synth-driven vocals. Similar to the Ataris's cover of "Boys of Summer," the song just begs an original approach rather than a dead-on copy.

But the inclusion of the cover might telegraph Perry's goal. She's not aiming for high-minded new-school jazz like Nellie McKay. She's not working out her blues like Amy Winehouse. She's not pop tarting up punk rock like Avril Lavigne. And she's not trying to reinvent herself like Alanis Morissette. She's going for camp. "Ur So Gay" will get the jocks giggling. The remix will get folks of all persuasions out on the dancefloor. "Use Your Love" will tug the heart strings of the '80s reminiscence set.

And "Lost," the outlier on the EP, will keep us guessing. Can she really sing? Does she really want to? Or is Katy Perry so tightly packaged and promoted that she can't help but pop?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Life Drawing

I've been on a bit of an idea binge tonight, planning much of my media intake for the year in terms of book summary services, newsletters, and the like. And while it's been awhile since I've spent any time with ChangeThis, a 12-page piece by Ralph Perrine has rekindled my interest in the service.

Drawings That Will Change Your Life offers four different hand-drawn models you can use to make decisions, set priorities, and otherwise make your life work better. It's a bit of a pitch for a calendar Perrine's selling -- that contains 12 different drawings -- but there's enough meat here that you can start using his ideas immediately.

My favorite might be the 360 Degree Awareness drawing in which you map what you're aware of -- and make new connections among existing ideas, tools, partners, and projects to come up with something entirely other... something you weren't aware of. A useful exercise that might help you discover a new direction.

Archives and Sour Dreams

I've been lazy to address this, but my blog archives stop at 02/18/2007 - 02/24/2007 even though I've been posting since then. Does anyone have any idea what I need to do with Blogger to make sure all my archives are accessible and visible?