Monday, February 25, 2002

Things are better now. Reaching out. I recommend it highly.

Sunday, February 24, 2002

Just got back from my friend Laura's "Housecooling Party" (she just moved. Opposite of housewarming. Get it?) and am totally freaking out about my move. Nothing works in my apartment, I'm sleeping on the living room floor after breaking my bed (more on that some other time), none of the phones in my house work and my DSL is handled by the biggest gang of idiots since Mad Magazine. Live is slipping into a gooey mess and I just realized SXSW is next week. Where have I been?

I originally thought I was going to be able to move the last two weeks in March but the way I feel right now, that is NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. I don't want to write. I'm so angry at myself right now that I'm about one blog away from tossing most of my furniture from the roof.

Excuse me....

Friday, February 22, 2002

Visit Chickclick's hompage now and then cry. It looks like the place has been robbed. I may not be a 16-year-old girl but I got my start in online communities at several CC affiliate sites, most of which are gone now. ChickClick's affiliate program used to number about 30 strong, mostly independent content sites run by one overworked person and a lot of exploited friends. Adds from Mama Chickclick allowed these sites to have a litle money, to survive without driving their creators insane. I was about to become one of those people so I learned a lot from them.

How things have changed. My friend Britton used to work for Snowball, Chickclick's parent company, and told me the site had been gutted and sold for scrap. I think I would have been happier if there had just been a "We're Closed" page up like the one I also saw at Switchhouse this morning instead of this shadow of its former self.

Marrije Schaake, one of the intrepid six readers here at Where There's Smoke, has pointed that Adam Curry is still very much a celebrity in her native Netherlands. I quote...

"To you, Adam C. may be a huge-hair has-been, but to us Dutch people he's an internet powerhouse, and a Celebrity. He has a multi-media company here which according to some is a huge success and according to others near bankruptcy. Who knows? He has abominable taste, though, or his wife has. Check out, her hilarious make-up emporium. We love them both, in all their awfulness."

I stand corrected.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

And speaking of Psychic Friends...

Did anybody hear that Miss Cleo got busted?
Adam Curry, Mr. Huge Hair from the mid 80's stable of of MTV Veejays, has a blog. Add that to Wil Wheaton-dot-netand Rupaul's blogging efforts and, to my mind, we've seen a new incarnation for this ever-changing medium: As a snicker-free refuge for celebrity has-beens.

Psychic Friends Network, your days are numbered.

Hey, what washed up celeb would you like to see blogging?

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

The FCC has agreed to relax restrictions on the amount of ownership major media and cable companies can have in any one region. I fear this decision may spell disaster for alternative and community-based media outlets.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Barry and I took a three-hour walk on Saturday back from the Inner Sunset neighborhood all the way to Deboce Park, chatting about our own futures, work styles and relationships. Naturally, he had a hundred great ideas about what I should do with Central Booking now and when I'm ready to move on. This afternoon, I'm going to jot down some of the ideas. He painted a picture of a thrilling yet rediculously busy life for me in my 30's. It always scares me at first but ultimately I think the best advisors are those who think bigger than you, who can imagine your projects much further into the future than you can. My fear is always that the project will overwhelm my life and I'll be strapped in for the duration. I need to remind myself that, if I start something, no matter how big, it's still yours. You in control. you hold the switch.
Saturday a large group of my friends (including Barry) went to see Super Diamond, San Francisco's own Neil Diamond tribute band, at Bimbos 365, one of the city's great nightclubs. Suzan and I were the only ones who had seen them before and everybody had a rockin' good time. I get the feeling though that SD is a band you can only see once in a while, since the show is exactly the same from one date to the next. But even if you turn up your nose at Neil Diamond, I would highly, highly recommend it. The hokeyness alone is worth the price of admission.

It all got me thinking about tribute bands and their unique place in our own musical pastiches. They've got their own booking agencies, managment companies and webrings. They emulate everyone from pop megastars, to art rock wonks, to late 80's metalheads. My favorite, although I've never seen them, is a San Francisco Jackon 5 tribute act composed entirely of white men. Their name? Wonderbread5.
So this weekend, whew! My friend Barry was in town whom I haven't seen for nearly three years (four? lots of months? I'm not sure, a real long time). He's a screenwriter in L.A., a career hatched back when we were in high school together in Ann Arbor. He would often bring me ideas which I would dice up and ask questions. He's written like 14 screenplays since then and we've had this critic/creator sparing match for nearly a decade.

He's been having a rough go of it lately and decided to drive up to San Francisco for the three day weekend. He had no particular plans and neither did I.
I just found out from my friend Dave that at 8:02 PM on Wednesday, (that's Feb. 20th, this Wednesday) the time will read, if you're British, 20:02, 20/02, 2002, one of only two times in history that the time and date will be in perfect symmetry.

What's the significance? None whatsoever. I just love crap like this

Monday, February 18, 2002

I had my old friend Barry in from out of town this weekend. The laptop stayed dark. What will follow is a breathless roundup of thoughts of the last three days.

You've been warned.

Friday, February 15, 2002

I'm really curious about this Creative Commons project that Standford Law professor Lawrence Lessig has begun. The venture will offer customizable ways for artists, software developers, anyone with intellectual property in their pocket to decree how said property is to be used. Aimed at creating a middle ground between proprietary fiefdoms (ala Microsoft) and a free-for-all (Napster), creators will now be able to change the licensing of their song/movie/asparagus-shaped mouse icon with a few clicks of a mouse instead of thousands in fees to a lawyer. The Creative Commons site (not up yet) will also create a searchable database of what content is available for what purposes when, again without going to a lawyer or dealing with the Copyright Office.

Behold the power of the Internet (via the SXSW Blog).

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Best. Picture. Ever. Even Kit seems to be smiling (thanks to my friend Amy)
Happy birthday to my buddy Kristin. On Valentine's day, no less. I can't imagine having a birthday on another holiday since mine is on an innocuous day in August. But that meant I never got cupcakes in school.
My former employer AlterNet has published a book on level-headed responses to the threat of terrorism and the aftermath of September 11th. It's called Solutions for a Saner World, which is a lot of what we need right now.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

I know nothing about snowboarding but I have been completely won over by Kelly Clark, the 18-year old from Vermont who was the first American to win the gold metal in this year's Olympics. She won the Women's Half Pipe a scant 48 hours after the games began.

I do not anticipate her showing up on Letterman or a bunch of commercials for unrelated products because A) She's a snowboarder and B) She's not conventially mediagenic. I don't care. I think she's adorable: real, quiet, and a world class athlete whose proof is out there on the snow, not in an add campeign for Mountain Dew. Athlete's like her are the only, rapidly diminishing reason I pay attention to the Olympics at all.

Monday, February 11, 2002

Remember "Soviet Snow?", a haunting six minute diddy about Chernobyl? My mp3's do.

Sunday, February 10, 2002

After 6 long months, My old computer's hard drive is now residing comfortably in secondary bay of my new system. All 491 of my old mp3's have come back to me along with a pile of old data.

In the words of the Velveteen Rabbit, "At last! At last!"
So the Alternative Press Expo was a bit less than expected--about 90% underground comics and maybe one or two zine booths. Not how it was advertized but let the buyer beware, I suppose. Didn't stop me from picking up an armload of wild stuff including "Mac Afro" which looks like Shaft crossed with Battlestar Galatica, a hand-drawn pamphlet on the history of amusement parks and a very cheap copy of So I Married an Earthling a hilarious novel about a futuristic love story between a scienist and an intergalactic hairdresser. I saw the author Alvin Orloff read some months ago at Dog Eared Books and laughed myself weak.

Also I saw a flyer for something called the Portland Zine Symposium in July which I think is a bit more what I had in mind. And I've never been to Portland...

Saturday, February 09, 2002

SoThere has published one letter a day from ordinary people who have something to say to one another for three years running. What a great idea. What a great use of the web.

Friday, February 08, 2002

Warning: This post written while stinking up the joint. I just got back from the gym

Sorry I haven't been around, loyal reader(s?) of Where There's Smoke. Between moving plans and finishing up a long interview with Jennfier Egan, the week has left the station with me stranded on the platform. Odd, I've only been blogging here for about 6 months (maybe more? I haven't kept track), but I can tell when I haven't posted in a little while. It's a bit akin to the sour, metallic taste you get in your mouth if you haven't brushed in a while.

So hey. Plans on buying the house are proceeding apace. My real estate agent (an old friend and the only way to go if you're voluntarily morgaging your life away) is out of town this weekend so we've gone ahead and scheduled the inspection for next week. I didn't know this but if you're buying property, you want an expert to look it over, make sure the walls will hold up the ceiling, that water will flow when you turn a faucet and that a termite metropolis hasn't sprung up in the floor. After that, you apply for a loan, bicker with the bank over how much they'll give you, let the seller know, pay a bunch of other assorted fees, hopefully close on the property before an earthquake reduces it to matchsticks and then between paying mortage, property taxes, and climbing that mythical thing to nowhere called The Equity Ladder.

Or so I'm told. There are some other steps in here but I don't remember. I've been trusting Britton the agent and she's kept me afloat thus far.

To others possibly in the same boat (at last count, my friend Dinah had just moved to town, my friends Mena and Ben Trott may be on their way, and my youngest brother Daniel has his eye on the East Bay), I offer an excellent essay by my colleague at The Grotto, Ethan Waters.

Tomorrow is the Alternative Press Expo, a huge convening of over two hundred independent presses, zinesters, independent comic artists, and other assorted media weirdness. I'm so there. And thanks to the way-with-it creator of Wishbone Zine for keeping me in the loop.

Tuesday, February 05, 2002

I think Kevin Fox makes a good point: Are you ready for a Sesame Street makeover? Yes, the program's demographic is getting younger and times have changed but isn't the idea that the show challenges kids, instead of strokes them?

However, I haven't lost faith just yet. If anyone can reinvent themselves and stay true to their vision, it's the folks at Children's Television Workshop. When I saw the Sesame Street biography on A & E, it confirmed what I remembered asserting at age 4: This is the absolute best that television can be.

Monday, February 04, 2002

Sunday, February 03, 2002

An old joke: "How do you make God laugh?"
Answer: "Tell him your plans"

Oy, the change in the air. Not three days ago, I was driving home, in tears at how right life was, how beautiful the day was, in this the greatest city in world, and how happy I was to be alive, to be doing what I'm doing RIGHT NOW.

Saying that out out loud is like setting the eggtimer. In the last three days, I've found out my friend Dinah is moving to San Francisco (all right!), my friend Jay is moving away (which I knew), my friend Laura is leaving the neighborhood and heading to the East Bay and I'm about three pen strokes away from buying a house and moving, the biggest change one can make short of getting married, having a baby, or dying.

God is cracking up.

Saturday, February 02, 2002

I don't have it in me today, the energy to sit down and write. We've started a little virtual writing group over at the Central Booking forums and the goal is to write 30 minutes a day, no exceptions. Doesn't matter if it's a novel, poetry, letter to mama or complete gibberish (the area we're visiting now). The idea is to instill in each of us a job-like discipline in writing, with hopes of shaking free from the self-criticism and doubt that often comes with it. If writing is an elementary to your day as brushing your teeth, how much can you really get worked up about it?

That's the theory anyway. We're on day 2 and everyone seems to be hanging with it just fine. I had a vague idea of how I wanted to spend my 30 minutes today (beginning an interview I did some time ago with Laura Fraser and just rescued from a corrupt hard drive, 2 or 3 essay ideas I've got knocking around) but that's all going to have to wait. As my mom used to say I'm "too pooped to poop," exhausted, whipped, flatter than newly-layed pavement. So I'm just going to blither blather here until my 30 minutes is up because it's about all I can muster right now.

I spent the day participating in a city-wide scavanger hunt organized by some Standford folks my friend Amy knows. It goes something like this: You report to a designated point at noon, get an envelope of clues and try to figure out from them where to go next. At each stop, you have to cycle through all the information you've garnered thus far, figure out what it means and where it will send you next until, about 6 hours later, you come to the finish line. Its a treasure hunt for grownups.

Now I didn't know any of these people and by nature, I'm not a competitive person, so I figured I'd be agreeable dead weight, follow everyone else's lead and make occasional smart remarks. That plan lasted a few minutes. As soon as we hit our first clue, I was completely swept away, racking my brains, conferring with my teammates, desperately trying to outsmart the game masters. By clue #2, I was a raving lunatic, by the end, catatonic. Solving the puzzles is actually the least taxing thing you do during a hunt. The real shitkicker is the emotional roller coaster you're on all day, feeling like a genius and a complete moron inside of a minute. Decipher a clue and you're on top of the world. Get stuck and you're fly on the dung heap of life. It's brutal.

So I *yawn* stretch my aching muscles and contemplate bed at 9 pm as if I was a 5th grader. I'm beat but I had a great time. And am already scheming about how to do it again.

Friday, February 01, 2002

I'm dipping my feet in the volatile waters of property ownership in San Francisco so I was very interested when I saw a link to a story about Microflats on Apparently, a London architecture firm has borrowed a page from house boat design and packed an entire apartment into 350 square feet. The design is being harolded as an affordable quality housing solution in urban centers, a puzzle only slightly less complicated than the Riddle of the Sphinx.

Cramming a lot in a small space is a lesson I should heed immediately. But affordable? Surely you jest. I've only been looking for a little while but I've had to quickly acknowledge that I will be morgaging the next several generations of my decendants so that I may have my couch in a different room from the refrigerator. What I would pay for a 2 bedroom condo right here would buy me an airport and a fleet of helicopters in my hometown. San Francisco is 7 miles by 7 miles. For 750,000 people. That's it. That means that what space there is is all tall, thin, rectangular and locked behind a door. Small wonder the Victorian house caught on so quickly here. And yes, I know, you visited San Francisco once and thought they were sooooo beautiful. I did too until I considered buying a floor in one.

Victorians are layed out like this: One long hallway with rooms branching off it, like a railroad car. It made perfect sense 150 years ago when it was considered very impolite to come into the parlor wearing your dressing gown and wives worked hard to keep their husbands out of chambers with a "feminizing" influence. Each room's activities were seperate, locked away from one another. Open space meant too much mixing of sin and virtue.

Call me a heretic but I'm into open. I find it inviting, homey even, when I can see a friend reading in the living room from the kitchen, or the toaster toasting while sitting on the corner of my bed. Open design to me say this is a space to be lived in, not to put forth the proper image to the neighbors.

And yes, there are more open floor plans in San Francisco. The dot-com boom created a whole rash of snazzo condo building with big windows, high ceilings and other such extravagence. But for pete's sakes, you can get a Kohler sink fixture and granite countertop anywhere these days. If I want a home that looks like it was built five minutes ago in a suburban housing development, why don't I get one in suburban housing development at half the price?

Because I want to live here, that's why. I didn't haul myself half way across the country to the greatest city in the world, to wave at it from 15 miles down the freeway. I want to live IN IT. And I'm just now realizing what sort of sacrifics that will entail.
I'm dipping my feet in the volatile waters of property ownership in San Francisco so I was very interested when I saw a link to Microflats on Apparently, a London architecture firm has borrowed a page from house boat design and packed an entire apartment into 350 square feet.