Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Oodles of classic literary audio and video clips

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One of my readers, Dan Shouky, pointed me today to a website he recently saw mentioned in an Israeli newspaper that he thought I'd like - and I do! It's called Ubu Web and is a collection of both contemporary and classic audio and video files by various artists over the decades, with a heavy emphasis on writers and experimental musicians. Just the front page alone contains clips by John Cage, Ogden Nash, Marshall McLuhan, Joseph Beuys, William Burroughs and Abbie Hoffman; I can't wait to go through the archives and see what other goodness can be found there. Thanks for the tip, Dan!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Chicago gets serious about government-sponsored WiFi

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Did you hear? For the last six months or so the Chicago city government has been contemplating providing free WiFi access throughout the entire city, for use by its citizens; we would become the largest city in the US to do so, if it actually happens. Now, according to local hipster guide GapersBlock.com, the city has created a task force to actually see if it can be done, and has drafted legislation giving the city the right to do so, as a pre-emptive strike against the state government possibly banning cities from doing this (being the prison-bitches of the telecommunications industry that they are). The idea would be to install a total of 7,500 WiFi broadcasters on the tops of streetlights, every few blocks across the entire city, so that citizens would have free 24-hour home internet access no matter where they live; they're estimating at this point that the total cost will be somewhere around $18 million. This will be a very interesting thing to follow this year, I think; speaking as a poor artist who can't afford home internet access himself, I really really really really really really really really hope they do it.

Love your Vespa? Wanna blog about it?

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Interesting news from Steve Rubel: his PR firm's newest client is the hipster scooter manufacturer Vespa, and they've decided to hire four of their most zealous customers to write lifestyle blogs this summer about them. In keeping with the spirit of amateur blogs, those chosen will not be censored by the company, but won't get paid, either; you will, however, receive invitations to Vespa events and other such little perks. Those who are interested can get started with the process at VespaBlogs.com.

Read more, like it more

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The Christian Science Monitor has an excellent review up right now of Steve Leveen's The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life, a slim 100-page guide on how to fit more pleasure-reading into your life, as well as enjoy that reading more than you currently are. It sounds like a great book; I'm going to have to check it out the next time I'm at the bookstore.

PR firm: "Do what we say." Blogger: "Ah, screw you."

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Blogger John Gorenfeld has a hilarious entry up at his site right now, concerning a DVD he recently received from PR firm Special Ops Media for possible review. The firm apparently started sending harrassing emails to him about how his review absolutely needed to be up by April 21; so, Gorenfeld purposely waited until April 29, just as a little "f**k you" to them. My favorite line from the entry: "'They're not paying me enough to put up with this!' I thought, feeling a twinge at the thought of my $15,000 'consultant fee,' before remembering that I'm not Corey Greenberg and am not, in fact, being paid at all to write this blog. Whew!" (Thanks as always to Threadwatch for pointing this out.)

scheisse

jasonpettus posted a photo:

scheisse

Just a reminder that the electronic version of my newest travelogue, Ach Du Heilige Scheisse!, is being released May 9. You'll be able to read and view the contents of the book for free if you want, via HTML pages at my website; or you can pay US$10 (8 euros, 5 pounds) for a snazzy PDF version, with separate editions for American laserprinters, European laserprinters, and for reading on a computer screen. Plus for the same price you get free versions for Palm and PocketPC thrown in as well. All money raised is going to a good cause; namely, printing the paper version that I still owe people who donated money before the trip. Anyway, more as the release date approaches; for now, I just finished the final version of the front cover, so thought I'd throw it up for all of you to see as well.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Help the NYT create a literary map of Manhattan

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The New York Times Book Review has decided to create a map of Manhattan, showing the supposed addresses of various fictional literary characters over the years; for example, they point out that Nero Wolfe's office, according to the novels, was supposedly at 922 West 35th Street, which will then be dutifully noted on this upcoming map. The finished map will be published on June 5; you can send suggestions (with the book and page number of the citation) to bookmap@nytimes.com.

Underground artists hired to paint hotel rooms

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The Hotel des Arts in San Francisco's Union Square has been doing something interesting recently - they've been hiring underground artists to custom-paint various rooms in their hotel, which they are then using to lure new hipster customers. Last year's project brought in 16 artists, including David Choe and David DeRosa; this year they're doing another dozen, including commissions from John Fedman and The Vinyl Killers. Hey, I'm always glad to see underground artists get a little work! (Thanks as always to PSFK for pointing this out.)

Welcome to our blog! F**k you!

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God, has BusinessWeek been pissing me off recently. First they run a cover story about blogs in their paper magazine, which was exactly as insulting and misinformed as you would expect from a paper-based mainstream publication. Then they decide to start up a blog themselves, which they claim on the page is "where the worlds of business, media and blogs combine," but should instead be labeled "The Place Where You Can See Stupid Pointless Shit From Mainstream Journalists Who Profoundly Don't Understand the Concept." (I mean, seriously, one of their first posts was on how to properly write in a "blog style" - as if ten million blogs all have one particular style of writing that can be emulated. Gah!) And now, the capper - not only are they pre-reviewing comments readers send to the entries and only posting select ones, but they've actually put up an entry trying to rationalize the decision. (Their argument - "Our bosses make us do it!" Yeah, nice way to shift the blame to a group of anonymous corporate "higher-ups," guys.) For what it's worth, the authors claim that they've only disallowed one comment so far, for excessive profanity, and that they're not in the business of censorship; my point, though, is how do we know this for certain? Because you're telling us? Because we should just take your word for it?

Blogs from mainstream paper-based publications don't have to be this stupid; take Inc. magazine for an excellent counter-example. Their blog, among lots of other interesting things, sponsors a weekly diary from Pete Kadens, some random guy trying to start up a new small business right now (here in Chicago, no less), and who is writing a journal about all the joys and frustrations that come with it. (Here's his latest, for example, concerning the headaches that come with finicky investors.) Now, see, this is a perfect thing for a mainstream publication like Inc. to be sponsoring; it's intriguing, entertaining, informative in a way that you wouldn't get from traditional journalism, taps directly into their key readership demographics, and perhaps most important to the idea of a blog, inspires readers with more business experience to leave their own comments, offering suggestions or relating their own start-up horror stories. Frankly, such a journal wouldn't be interesting to nearly enough people to justify running it in their paper magazine; and that's the beauty of blogs, because you can just throw it up for free there and make evangelizers out of the couple thousand of us in the US who are interested in reading such a thing.

Despite how this blog may sometimes sound, I am not arbitrarily against everyone in the mainstream media; I'm simply against people in the mainstream media who are morons, just like I'm against people in the underground arts who are morons as well. BusinessWeek, you've got a long way to go before anyone on the web is going to take you seriously; I highly suggest starting by taking a look at your competitors, and seeing where they're getting it right and you're getting it wrong.

Make your own sex toys

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Yes, that's right - now you too can make a vibrator that can be controlled by a radio transmitter from 25 feet away, all for about twenty bucks. There's actually a number of intriguing projects listed, including a vibrator made out of the guts of a pager, which turns on every time you send a page to it; unfortunately, though, there are no projects for men. Won't somebody finally give me instructions for building my robot girlfriend? (Thanks to Fleshbot for pointing this out.)