Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Why are my wrists hurting?

Monday, April 29, 2002

Look Ma, I'm in the Detroit News!

Sunday, April 28, 2002

Hey. I was interviewed on Slack Street Radio about books and the web, the demise of Oprah's Book Club, and, eh, broccoli.
Yesterday Suzan and I worked a day for Rebuilding Together, an organization that refurbishes homes for low-income and disabled families. We showed up at a house in Berkeley bright and early (where her sister, who had volunteered several years running was the volunteer coordinator) and were immediately put to work as laborers, she caulking windows and painting, me on the roof tearing off old shingles and laying down new plywood sheeting with a hammer. Since my physically tasking jobs of book critic and web publisher rarely require standing up much less sweat and lung capacity, it was a welcome relief to let my muscles swing free and wind up covered head to toe in black shingle dust.

I had a great time and highly recommend it to anyone with a good heart and a strong back.

Friday, April 26, 2002

The Covers Project, a reverse-Kevin Bacon game with music instead of movies. However, I've been there three times and can't think of a single cover they haven't already got (via Justin).
Central Booking's event at Clean Well Lighted Place for Books was awesome last night. Many friends, professional and otherwise, in the house, Jish, Kristin, Ed Champion and Peter representing the personal web world. Everyone just seemed giddy to be enjoying books together. Jonathan Safran Foer was modest and quite nice, despite the avalanche of hype surrounding his book Everything is Illuminated. He'll be at Central Booking all week answering your questions if you want to know more.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

More tomorrow...

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Cardboard, cardboard, everywhere cardboard.

Monday, April 22, 2002

I went to college with this guy, the one who went on 70 dates. He was as big a Mac Daddy then as he apparently is now.
I'm here. I've arrived. Cardboard everywhere. But I'm reconnected.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

This Blog Rests: I'm sorry to all my nine readers (Popularity soaring. I'm going to be fielding a football team before long) but I move in two days and have nothing to convey but anxiety and lots of clear tape. You'll hear from me soon.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Michael Brown, an Austin blogger and excellent person just had his second son. Congratulations to Michael, Ari (Mom) and Julian (big brother). These are great people.

Monday, April 15, 2002

There is never a convenient time to get into a car accident.
Thanks to my buddy Kristin, I've just registered for the Bay to Breakers, the single largest footrace in the world.

Sunday, April 14, 2002

I'm finally starting to feel better. Only took 5 days and an idiotic amount of resistance of my part to lay low and led my body heal itself (just one more email, one more Important phone call). I probably got this way from the punishment I put myself through on Monday and Tuesday, a pair of 12-hour days juiced to the gills on adrenalin, no shower, scurrying the halls in gym shorts like an escaped nutball. Times like this I just know I am my mother's son. And I hate it.

But health returns and not a moment too soon. I move next Saturday and begin the second chapter of life here in San Francisco. Good-bye North Beach. I couldn't have asked for a better place to spend my first two years as a newly minted San Franciscan. After all, this is what most of the world thinks of when they dream about this city: cable cars, narrow streets, views into the bay and old Italian men arguing over strong coffee. But I am no longer a tourist, a cable car or an old Italian man. I'm ready to be to live as a San Franciscan, someone who wants to swim along with the flow of this city rather than be an island in the middle of it. I'm ready to leave in a neighborhood with other young, working people and to have something resembling community. Many of my friends are already there. Most of all, I'm ready for the streets that surround me to feel like home, instead of a playground for people from someplace else.

There's much to do before then but I feel strangly sane about it, like it will get done as its supposed to, in its own time. That's the strongest indication I have that what I'm doing is a good thing.

Friday, April 12, 2002

BeckWorthy Project Track #3 "Lolita Go Home" by Jane Birkin

Who?: Berkin was a French film actress in the 1960's turned singer. Her stuff has a silly artiness to it, like Nico with less self-hatred. They even look alike.

Why Me: I needed another random pick, this time from Beck's left ear.

Why Beck: Berkin was a dopey 60's ingenue, a dark-haired French version of Marianne Faithful. For some reason this type of singer has a strong resonance with male musicians of Beck's generation. Henry Rollins (a few years older than Beck but with a similar grab-from-anywhere musical attitude if not compostional style) once sighted Marianne Faithful as one of his chief inspirations even though the two sound like night and day.

The Verdict: A flyaway pop tune, all in French except for the chorus. A hooky little guitar line but mostly forgetable, further evidence that Beck mines a song for its parts rather than ingesting the whole thing.
Feeling better.
George Pelecanos, the crime novelist behind ten novels set on the mean streets of Washington D.C. including the just-published Hell to Pay is chatting it up with users at the Central Booking forums. Register if you like and ask him a question. He's a fascinating fellow who worked in construction, as a line cook and a bunch of other weird-ass jobs before turning to fiction. He's also got a really cool record collection.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

Sick. Return to your homes, people. Nothing to see here.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

What one day brings: Central Booking was written up in a story for Wired News called (Book Clubs') Life After Oprah, about various online book communities. The writer MJ Rose was super nice to me and this morning's traffic is through the roof. Shazam!

Also an essay I did on Life After Oprah is being syndicated by AlterNet, my old employer. More traffic, more accolades.

Finally, mystery novelist George Pelecanos will be having an online conversation at Central Booking beginning Thursday. Pelecanos was featured in the New Yorker this week and his new book Hell To Pay is getting killa press.

I'm dizzy with all this activity. And so so grateful to be doing what I do.

Monday, April 08, 2002

Very smart technology analyst Esther Dyson has done a fine piece on wirelessness at live events. That means while industry pundits, your boss or anyone with the podium is chattering away, you could be in the back with a laptop, posting snarky commentary on the web in real time. The building needs to have wireless Internet access (as most conference centers and an increasing number of workplaces do) but we're getting there faster than we think. (via CamWorld).

Sunday, April 07, 2002

My friend Eric Rice of the esteemed web projects Audioblog and Slack Street radio just became a dad for the second time. Damn, that's a cute kid.
I recently left a post at SXSWBlog about what exciting new projects folks at the conference may be embarking upon following a few rollicking days in Austin. I've got a few of my own to share as well.

Saturday, April 06, 2002

BeckWorthy Project Track #2: "Ordinary Version Chatper 3" by Impact All Stars

Who? The Impact all Stars were an assortment of respected reggae musicians including Burning Spear and The Wailers who recorded at the same studio between 1968 and 1977.

Why Me? Random pick. I closed my eyes and pointed at Beck's Face.

Why Beck: Search me. Probably for the production value. I think there's some other reggae in there too.

The Verdict: Less a song then a beat in search of a melody. Barely gets off the ground before it's over. Next.
Dave Gallman at Recently Observed and I met at South by Southwest and he's expressed some interest doing interviews for Central Booking. I'm putting that down as way exciting since I think Dave is a superb writer who also has a background in journalism. I saw his work on the strut when he was the opening particpant at 20 X 2 and I thought is answer to "What is Real?" rocked the house. Jacked to have in aboard, my job is now to convince my contacts in New York to give him the access he needs to the authors that interest him. And me.
BeckWorthy Project Track #1: "Extravagant Traveller" by Kool Keith

Why Me: Kool Keith is a California rapper whose had several critically acclaimed album, most where he assumes a different persona. My cousin Kurt (aka Kutmasta Kurt) has produced for Keith for several years, probably drawing my eyes to his track in the middle of the mass of Beck's face.

Why Beck: Probably a servicable, catchy hip-hop tone you don't have to consider too much. A musical mint between meals.

The Verdict: A pretty straightforward shout-out to the good life, not a bad beat and Kool Keith has the kind of pounding, authoritative MC's voice I like. It's not as imaginative as something you'd expect from a guy who invents a new identity each album. But as a no-frills finger-drumming song, it works just fine.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

These are Herb Caen Days: San Francisco is playing host to Herb Caen Days until the end of the week, a series of events, presentations, and general meriment to honor the late-columnist of the San Francisco Chronicle. A Pulitizer Prize-winner, Caen wrote nearly 16,000 columns over from just before World War II to just after the explosion of the Internet, when he died of cancer in 1997. Somewhere in there he managed to add the word "beatnik" to the English language.

Though the official celebrations focus on Tourist San Francisco (which I guess were Caen's favorite parts. Maybe?), hearing about it all has prompted me to find out a little bit more about the man. Sadly, almost all the collected anthologies of his work are out of print, (a crime in a publishing happy town like this one) which just means a trip to the library. And reading the solid week of rememberences his colleagues and friends penned immediately following his death.

Dean, my insurance agent and a lifelong San Franciscan told me when his father first imigrated to the city from East Asia, he learned to speak English by reading Herb Caen's column. He later tought his young son that the best way to express one's self in a new language was clearly, simply and honestly, as Herb Caen had always done. I don't think you can pay a writer a higher compliment than that.

New York Times Magazine did a really neat feature for its music issue two weeks ago. They called it "Beck's 198-Track Mind" and it featured a full page outline of Beck's face wearing earbud-style earphones. Filling in the face are 198 of the song's the singer had on his iPod on Feb 27, 2002, my dad's birthday but probably a coincidence. My descriptive powers really do not do it justice do you may just want to see for yourself. Apparently Beck's got over 8,000 tunes stored digitally, a mammoth list that he updates daily. Though I own none of his albums, I admire his kitchen-sink style of composition which, if nothing else, indicate that the man has fantastically electic listening habbits.

So I'm following his lead. I'm going to randomly pick a track from Beck's list, download it and listen. Then give a report. I'm calling it The BeckWorthy Project because it's late, I'm naked, and haven't thought of a better name.

Downloads via Audiogalaxy

Listening via Winamp

Interpretation via Kevin

And away we go...

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

On my way home from lunch, I drove past a group of Hell's Angels, in full colors, taking pictures of Alcatraz. I figured they might have been in town for Sonny Barger's book signing at the Booksmith. But that isn't until the 22nd.

My next guess was some sort of national meeting. The Angels were founded in 1948 in Southern California but it was Sonny Barger, based at the time in Oakland, who expanded the club worldwide in the 50's and 60's and make them a pop culture phenomenon. Some say the release of Easy Rider in 1969 or the violence at the Altamont music festival spelled the the end of America's fascination with the Outlaw Biker. The personification of the untethered rebel had been first neutered for the movie-going public then reverted back to that of a dangerous thug of the decades before. Yet specials continue to pop up on TV, books still appear in stores. The Guggenheim museum's Art of the Motorcycle show drew record crowds including hundreds of bikers. The annual rally in Sturgis, South Dakota still attracts hundreds and thousands of bikers of every stripe.

Barger himself is now reitred and living in Arizona. He's been accused of exploiting the image of the club for his own gain (hard to say, really) but his influence is undeniable: The Hell's Angels call themselves "The Original 1%ers", meaning the one percent of mortorcycle riders who live outside of society's rules. And although there are others, Barger's influence has make his club bigger, meaner and more enduring than all the rest.

Maybe because I come from a long like of misfits and troublemakers, I'm fascinated with this uniquely American subculture. If you are too, I recommend reading Yves Lavigne's Hell's Angels: Three can Keep a Secret if two are Dead, Hunter S. Thompson's Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, and Barger's own Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club for a much closer look.

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

If being hooked on Cher's new tune "Song for the Lonely" is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

Monday, April 01, 2002

And I missed the St. Stupid's Day parade. What a dull April Fool's I had.
Apparently the thing to do on April Fool's Day is to dress up your blog to look like someone elses. Had I but known...