Archive for September, 2006


Friday, September 29th, 2006

Two good pieces about personal passions found during today’s proscrastinatory (good word, huh?) clickings:

From Slate, The Secret Lives of Baseball Card Writers. David Roth riffs on his time as a Topps baseball card employee — not, of course, the world he expected, but still a trip to wonderland.

From Mac Montandon, our friend and neighbor at Radar, comes the story of one man’s quest to hit all 12,000+ Starbucks across the world. His legal name is “Winter.” His personal site is here. His project sounds expensive.

Radar bonus: this imagined correspondence between SPY founders Graydon Carter and Kurt Anderson is brilliant. Beware: It’ll suck you in.

P.S. We met those guys once.

New Friend Request

Friday, September 29th, 2006

This week’s video goes out to those of you (well, I suppose now it’s us) whose life hinges on your MySpace, and specifically your friend requests on MySpace.

A note about this video, and one other thing I found interesting about it — I’d never heard of this band (the Gym Class Heroes, by the way) before, but having looked around a bit to figure out who they are and what they do, what I think is interesting about them is they’re clearly a small-ish, up-and-coming band that’s taking full advantage of YouTube and MySpace to get their videos out. It’s like a low-budget MTV, except, you know, with music videos.

Mexican Food In New York

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

Like a lot of people, I often complain about not being able to find good Mexican food in New York. So I was really glad to find out about this new book, Nueva York, by Carolina Gonzalez and Seth Kugel. In an interview by Dan Avery in Time Out New York, Gonzalez talks about her new book and adresses the issue of why people complain about not being able to find good Mexican food in NYC: “Because they’re expecting Tex-Mex. But New York’s Mexican immigrants come from Puebla, which has its own cuisine and culture. They make cemitas, which are eggy, sesame-seed rolls filled with beef, avocados, chipotles — everything you want in a sandwich. Yes, it’s true you can’t find a good burrito here. So stop looking for the damn burrito and start eating all these other great things you can find.” Enough said, point taken, and I am now on the hunt for cemitas!

Nine Lives and Then Some

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

Some guys have all the luck. Some have none of it. And then there’s Thomas L. Cook, who spent most of his life recovering from one mishap and physical accident after another, and TWICE had to learn to walk, talk, dress and feed himself after serious brain and spinal injuries. The Denver Post has a unique obituary on Cook, a man who’s main achievement in life was that he kept getting up after being knocked repeatedly to the ground. An excerpt:

“That was when he broke his back for the first time,” his sister recalled. “He broke it two other times after that and broke his ribs in falls and various accidents. It left him really crippled as a young man.”

Again, he learned how to walk, talk, dress, feed himself and perform other chores that once were second nature. Though the injuries and other disabilities left him increasingly hunchbacked - “kinda comma- shaped,” Silverman said - Cook insisted on using a cane instead of a walker until a few months ago. He refused to use a wheelchair, though it took him half an hour to shuffle from his apartment to the corner of his block.

People of the Web: Advertisers Are Tuning Into Your “True Voice”

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

As people get more fluent with the cheap technologies of self-expression that can project their voices and visages far and wide on the Net, front stoop chatter and opinion-sharing become more pervasive and influential. This fact is of course not lost on advertisers, whose vigilance in recording the slightest shift in the winds of popular communication is unmatched by any teenager or media critic.

Marketers’ interest in the viney jungle of discussion happening online has indeed catapulted of late, with the launch of many new platforms designed to track word of mouth in blogs, podcasts, social networking sites and video sharing sites. They include companies with names like Umbria, Cymfony, Nielsen BuzzMetrics and BuzzLogic. Most of them are geared toward crisis management (i.e. someone with lots of friends and fans online says a nasty thing about your product) but there’s a growing movement afoot to identify and track down these popular people, wrap your arms around their knees and ply them with free schwag.

Anyway, I offer up the following email, sent to journalists today by the Advertising Research Foundation and a company called iModerate, as an especially weird demonstration of advertisers’ growing obsession with the everyday chitchat on the Web. Note the surreal and disturbing new catchphrase, “true voice,” used in quotes.

Candid dialogue and informal discussion now reign supreme on an information highway dominated by blogs, IM’s and online communities. This communication phenomenon is so sweeping and significant that Corporate America is turning their resources to these channels to capture honest feedback regarding brands, products, trends, messages and advertisements.

The informal dialogue spawned in these mediums articulate “true voice” - the unaltered expression of what people are thinking in their own words. The value of this banter to end clients cannot be overstated, which makes it imperative for market researchers to capture this information. iModerate’s instant message based technology is doing exactly that and bringing this form of feedback into the research mix. Click here to join this webcast and learn about… “True Voice” as a phenomenon and why it is so necessary to harness the types of dialogue used in the IM, blog, and online community formats.

And of course, I must end by noting that actually listening to what everyday folks have to say about your product or service isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. Let’s just make sure spying and bribing of the influential don’t come into it, k?

“My Rocketbelt Daze” — A Video Blast Off

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

SMITH’s first original video is a gem. The man at the ukulele is Harold Graham, the first person to fly a rocketbelt, which he did for 13 seconds in 1961 while working for legendary Bell Aerospace Co., earning him the nickname, “His Eminence.” Graham and other supermen of the rocketbelt world gathered this past weekend for the world’s first rocketbelt convention. In honor of that, His Eminence composed and played this original song. John B. Carnett, who I met while doing a story for Popular Science on a self-taught rocketbelt builder in Mexico, accompanied me to the convention and shot this unforgettable bit of video.
Fellow conventioneer Bill Higgins posted the lyrics with some great links on his LiveJournal page here.

A Scratch-and-Sniff Adventure

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

I just posted an interview with Julie Blattberg over at She’s the author of the new book Backstage with Beth and Trina. What’s really fun about this book is that it features a format from the tomes of our youth — scratch-and-sniff scents. But instead of strawberry and banana, there’s beer, leather and latex. Beth and Trina are rocker chicks, after all, determined to get backstage and, well, party with the band. Read the interview here, and check out the book.

Step 1: Buy Space Ticket. Step 2: Blog

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

I’m just back from the first annual Rocketbelt Convention — which will yield a very special treat shortly — and so space is on my mind. SpaceChick.jpg

That led me to the much-clicked space blog of Anousheh Ansari (it with the groovy space music buzzing in the background), the first woman to buy her own ticket to space, and probably the first space blogger.

Check out her Flickr photos, more for the novelty and rarity of someone shooting pics from a spaceship (and posting on Flickr) then for the high quality of the shots. For some reason I like this close up of Astronaut Ansari quite a bit.

Click here for her video greeting.

Girls Have Diaries, and Boys Have…???

Monday, September 25th, 2006

Earlier today, I was reading my way around the Internet and I came across the following quote in a post on the fine public health blog, Effect Measure:

“Now I know from what Mrs. R. says and my own knowledge that personal diaries are commonly kept by young girls. They are extremely private, kept hidden and often destroyed post adolescence out of embarrassment or fear of discovery (boys don’t keep diaries; I’m not sure why).” (Full post here.)

The author was writing about blogging in general, and speculating about who blogs, and why. He made some interesting points, many drawn from the Pew Survey on bloggers, from this July.

But the thing that grabbed me was the assertion that young girls keep diaries but young boys don’t. I never thought about it before, but anecdotally in my experience, it’s true.

It got me wondering why. Why do girls but not boys keep diaries? What, if any, are the consequences? How, then, do boys document their experiences, or don’t they?

Are there any men out there who did keep diaries as boys? Ladies? Do you remember why you started, at the time?

Murderers on MySpace

Monday, September 25th, 2006

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick has an interesting piece on murder and blogs today; I think what I like best about it is that it’s actually a think-piece, not an alarmist screed about the crazy people lurking about waiting to kill you, which so much of journalism about MySpace is.

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