Monday, February 27, 2006


Last week was extremely hectic at the job, so I didn't have much time to blog as either a reader or a writer. The large multi-national corporation that I work for changed its name and so all of the logos, colors and other things that you don't even notice about corporate identity all had to change, right down to the tiny print in the legal disclaimers. And of course, the department that does this is the graphics department.

I will be right back after I rebrand the laces on my running shoes, which are red, so they have to be changed to blue, and not the old blue but a different blue.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Chico Welcomes the Return of the Steam Heat

Monday, February 20, 2006

Weekend of My Discontent

New York's been in a deep freeze since Friday, and the heat in our building went off on Saturday afternoon. Multiple calls to the super, the landlord and the City produced no results until this morning, when the plumber called us and said that the heat was not working only in our apartment, since we were the only ones complaining.

"Nobody else has been complaining because they know nothing is going to be done!"

So the plumber came up to our house, the apartment across the hall, and several upstairs and finally concluded that we weren't delusional or enjoyed sitting in our kitchen in down parkas purely as a fashion statement. He did something downstairs and the heat is ticking merrily away right now, although he said we really needed a boiler repair guy.

Then, in the Great Credenza Saga, the carpenters came on Friday and sawed the bottom of the credenza in the back to compensate for the tilt in the floor. It looked great, and I filled one of the designated drawers with CD's on Saturday night.

Sunday afternoon I noticed that the drawer was slightly open.

"You're supposed to push it back until you feel a little catch," I advised my husband.

"I did." Uh-oh. On a hunch, I walked back and forth in front of the cabinet a few times, and sure enough, the drawer inched open. And to top it off, I started filling the bottom drawer with CD's and when I went to push it closed, the tops of the CD's hit the top of the frame. They'd cut the drawer too shallow! I don't know how the heck they're going to fix this, but I'm sitting here waiting for the manager to come in at two-thirty so I can begin to find out.

Then, I was in Sephora on Saturday trying some new lotions and potions. They had Hylexin, which has been running an ad in all the beauty magazines: "Serious Dark Circles?" featuring a model with football player's stripes under her eyes. A clerk who looked way too young to be concerned about such things gave me a thimble-sized sample--for $95 a tube, I didn't want to find out that Hylexin made my face break out into automatic writing.

I did the patch test thing with a tiny amount on my neck when I went to bed Saturday night and when I found myself unharmed although freezing when I awakened on Sunday morning, tried it under my eyes. It dried my skin, which you really don't want in this weather, and I didn't know whether or not I was supposed to use moisturizer over, under or not at all. But it did shrink the bags under my eyes. Only trouble was, it wore off in the middle of the afternoon. I was in Bed Bath and Beyond when I felt something under my eyes go boi-oi-ing! like a cartoon fat lady taking off her girdle. I found a mirror in the "Beyond" department and Robert Mitchum stared back at me.

So I'm sticking to Neutrogena with Melibiose. I have no idea what Melibiose is, but it begins with the word "Mel." It's almost time to call the furniture store, and then I'll go get the ingredients for some more soup. I'll have pots going on the stove for warmth like a pioneer girl. The next time you think Manhattanites are sophisticated, think again: When the furnace goes out, we're all Caddie Woodlawn.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Somebody Googled My Blog

I put one of those freeware site trackers on my blog last night (H/T Letter From Gotham).

I checked the Summaries this morning to see where my hits were coming from, and among them were two Google searches: One for outlet stores in Secaucus, New Jersey and one for Muxed files, those little Quicktime movies that your digital camera makes that aren't supported by any video-editing software on earth.

I figured people were coming here for witty comments on pop culture, politics, or cats. But maybe my average reader is a bargain-shopper holding a camera in one hand and shaking a fist with the other.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Our Blog Thing

So yesterday, I was talking about New York Magazine's blogging issue, and the similarities, for me, between comedy in the '80s and blogging now. And one that occurred to me this morning is how, with both practices, you can get so caught up in the tiny distinctions in your little universe that you forget that the astounding majority of the planet doesn't even know or care about what you're doing.

One day in the very late '80s, I was volunteering in the office of a comedians' advocacy group. Our computer broke down--a Mac SE with a whopping 20 megabyte hard drive--and we called a tech to come in and fix it. The tech arrived, this twenty-something Hispanic guy, and there were four or five of us comics sitting around talking to him while he was fixing Univac, and one of us asked him, "So, who do you like in comedy?"

The tech thought about it for a moment. "Well, I like that show 'In Living Color.'"

"No," another one of us said, "I mean, like, stand-up comics."

"Aw, Richard Pryor! He's great, man."

Another one of us ventured, "How about ______," mentioning one of our colleagues who we thought was the President of Show Business because he had "Done a Carson."

The tech drew a blank. "Nope, never heard of him."

We were nonplussed. We had built entire hierarchies around "Do you have the 10:00 spot or the 10:20 spot at the Comic Strip" and the average human being on the street, if you asked him "Who's your favorite comic," would say something like "Robin Williams."

Jump forward fifteen years. When I started this blog, I e-mailed a copy of my first post to every friend, relative and acquaintance with a computer. I included the URL so that they could click through and bookmark the site.

A few weeks ago, our friend Peter was visiting from upstate and asked me, "Did you ever write another one of those blog things?"

"Peter, I've been writing in the blog almost every day!"

"But I only got that one post."

"No, the blog is online! I included the URL in the e-mail."

"Oh, I don't go in for all those high-tech things." He had thought a blog was e-mail. And you can have people subscribe to your blog and get notified by e-mail whenever there's a new post. The point was, I get so caught up in somebody dissing me in a flame war on a spinoff of a spinoff of a little-known blog--the same as I got caught up in the politics of comedy clubs, day jobs, and e-mail lists--that I forget that even to most highly-educated people, blogs are "those high-tech things."

Practically every day, you can read an article on "The Blog Explosion," just like in the late '80s there were any number of features about "The Comedy Boom." The real boom in comedy was actually a few years before that, and had already reached a saturation point by the time most normal human beings read about it.

I would take with a grain of salt any statistics on how many blogs there are these days. Not a day goes by that I don't run across some blog that hasn't had a post in over a year. When I first set this one up, I didn't realize that the preferences were set wrong until I had several friends tell me:

"Yeah, I started a blog."

"Oh, I inspired you?"

"No, but your blog wouldn't let me leave a comment unless I started a blog."

Needless to say, these are blogs that were not continued.

Plus, there are people who have more than one blog, or who have their own blog and are part of a group blog.

So while it may look as if everyone and their cat has a blog, there are actually huge swaths of the population who are not my mother, and yet have no idea what a blog is. Just as there were large quantities of people who couldn't have cared less who had bumped me from my spot in a comedy club. Unless it was Robin Williams.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Blogging and Comedy

This week's New York Magazine is all about bloggers, especially the bigtime bloggers.

The main article, Clive Thompson's "Blogs to Riches--The Haves and Have-Nots of the Blogging Boom" compares blogging to high school, with A, B and C listers.

Blogging has also become a business for a lot of people, and Thompson describes three business models:
The first—and most common so far—is the accidental tourist: A lone writer who starts a blog as a mere hobby but then wakes up one day to realize his audience is now as big as a small city newspaper.
He highlights Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall, who started his blog "just for fun" during the November 2000 election recounts, and gradually accumulated 150,00 page views per day.

The second basic blogging business model is the record-label approach: Crank out dozens and dozens of sites and hope that one or two will become hits.

That would be Weblogs, Inc.'s Jason Calcanis, who's been a new media mogul since he published the Silicon Alley Reporter back in the mid-'90s.
The third and final model? The boutique approach: a publisher who crafts individual blogs the way Condé Nast crafts magazines—each one carefully aimed at some ineffable, deluxe readership.

Which is Nick Denton of, who scared away competitors by telling the press, “While I love the medium, I’ve always been skeptical about the value of blogs as businesses.” So it's like he said, "Don't bother; there's no money in it" and then he made a lot of money from it and went "Heh heh heh heh."

For me, blogging is kind of like what stand-up was for me back in the '80s. Although if I were a 27-year-old comic today, I would probably have a blog as a supplement to my act, to publicize the act and to put things that translate better into words and pictures than into performance.

Unlike stand-up, I don't have to wait until the gig. I can get an idea and go right to the computer. So maybe it's like a stand-up act for people who have no self-control.

We had the A, B, and C list in comedy clubs, too. There were the acts that got prime time on the weekends, acts that got pretty regular spots the rest of the time, and people who got a chance once in a while at 2 AM in front of six people.

Blogs have become an industry, and comedy had become an industry by the late '80s. In fact, you had a lot of twenty-three year old comics all of a sudden who were saying things like "comedy business model paradigm" as if Lenny Bruce were spearheading an MBA program. So many comics had become so into "Running my comedy like a business" that it killed off a lot of what had made it worth doing in the first place. The person who has a "Mission Statement" for their comedy is a person who's stopped seeing the joke. In fact, the first time you begin a sentence with the words, "My comedy is..." you should be slapped silly.

Naturally, you have to eat and pay the rent, so you have to put some standard of care into your work and be aware of getting promoted. The tough part is the balance between selling, and having something you're proud to sell.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Day of the Credenza

I took a vacation day today, not because of the snow but because I was expecting the arrival of custom-made furniture that I ordered a couple of months ago. It's a credenza six feet long and thirty inches high, with drawers and shelves to hold our media and the stuff on which to play it.

The credenza is here and looks beautiful; just what I'd asked for when I sat down with the designer. But we can't use it yet: When I told the guy we have a tilt in our floor, I meant we have a tilt in our floor. The thing needs a special frame built to prop it up in front. Right now it's shimmed on toothpicks.

So I'll post "Before" and "After" pics of the clutter we had before versus how it all fits together in our new Altar of Media, but it'll have to wait.

Also, I didn't bring my camera when I went out to the store afterward, and won't be back downtown until after sundown the rest of the week, so imagine if you will the sun setting and casting an almost neon glow on the ice-covered tree branches and brownstone lintels of West 11th Street.

The snow is dissolving into deep puddles of slush at the curbs, the paths on the sidestreets are now two feet wide, and on main thoroughfares you can see large swatches of naked sidewalk.

It's expected to be 54 degrees by Thursday.

Blue Neil

I had some time to relax yesterday evening and I was listening to "On The Beach," a Neil Young album from 1974 and part of the "Depressed Mid-Seventies" period. I hit "Repeat" on the last track, a nine-minute lament called "Ambulance Blues."

You can find as much over-analysis of Neil Young's lyrics as you can of Bob Dylan's, but my own quick-and-grungy analysis of "Ambulance Blues" is, "It's how the '60s looked from the middle of the '70s." The whole album is like that. The decade that had passed looked like an old groupie with her make-up washed off by the rain, mocked and derided by upstart ho's.

And coming up next: Disco.

The horror. The horror.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Snow Etiquette

I went out this afternoon to photoblog the snow and get the ingredients for what I always make a big vat of when I have a lot of time at home: Marinara sauce.

The sidewalks were already being shoveled by store owners and building superintendents. Most of the sidewalks down in the Village had a little path about a foot wide down the middle, with snow banks three feet high forming on either side. (On some streets on the East Side, the snow banks look topiary and manicured.)

The little paths make it possible to get around, but create a situation that calls for its own kind of etiquette. Like, if you see somebody walking toward you, and both of you know that there's not enough room to pass, what determines which one of you steps temporarily onto a snowbank and lets the other one pass?

Is it determined by age? I look young for my age. What if some 32-year-old assumes I'm 30 and that I will get out of his or her way, and then knocks me over and I break a hip?

Do you just keep heading toward each other and hope that one of you will get out of the way at the last minute, like some pedestrian game of "Chicken"?

Is it determined by size? Do you let a smaller, more delicate looking person have the right of way? How about a bigger, tougher-looking person who can beat you up?

I mentioned this to my husband and we agreed that one point was inarguable: If you're at a curb, the person who is already on the sidewalk should step aside, because the person who's still in the street can get run over. This applies even on a day like today, when there weren't a lot of moving vehicles out there.

Twenty years ago I was in an improv comedy class where we did scenes based on exercises from the Keith Johnstone book Impro. A big hit was "status" exercises, with us noting and replicating all of the little behaviors that indicate social hierarchy. Like first-year med students, we went around seeing "status" in every interaction outside of class. One of the guys in the class, who grew up in England, remarked that he wondered how New Yorkers didn't constantly collide with one another on the streets. On days like this, with the stakes a little higher, I wonder that too.

Blizzard Blogging

Out the window.

In the back yard.

Out here in the streets...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Pop Culture

I was in the bedroom listening to a CD on my personal CD player late last night as Jim watched TV in the living room.

"Marty Ingels is on Becker."

"Oh. Is he still on?"

"There's a commercial and then he's going to be back."

I put the CD back in the jewel case and the player into its little spot in a drawer in the etagere, and went into the living room, which means, as it does for many New Yorkers of average means, that I walked across to the other side of the same room.

"That's not Marty Ingels. His face is rounder and not as pouchy as this guy's."

"So who's that?"

"I don't know. Some other guy. Not Marty Ingels."

Suddenly, there was a short, sharp Bang! from the other side of the room.

"What was that?"

Oh no, do I have to find out? "A balloon popped in my closet." Except that I didn't have a balloon in my closet.

Jim opened the door and looked out into the hallway, looked out the window, I checked out the bathroom to see if the lightbulb in the ceiling fixture exploded. We agreed that it definitely came from inside the apartment, as opposed to our neighbors shooting themselves or others. It's an old building, so we checked the floors and ceilings and corners of the apartment to see if the floor or the ceiling was about to rupture.

I checked my closet; maybe I did have a balloon in there for no apparent reason. Then I got a brainstorm and checked the etagere, which is next to the closet, and opened the drawer to see my CD player with its lid and battery compartment open.

I took it out. "Oh, no! What's this foam?"

The batteries in the player had exploded.

"We'd better get them out of there quick."

But we couldn't. They had swelled and spot-welded themselves to the inside of the compartment. Since it was long past the warranty date, and the cost of fixing it was more than buying another player, we ended up having to throw it out.

My husband offered me the use of his CD player, which he got in a contest almost ten years ago and has used so infrequently that it's still in its original packaging, like Felix Unger's childhood teddy bear. I thought about getting myself a new player, but then remembered that mine had been receiving short shrift in the three years since I'd bought my iPod. I used it once in a while at home, if I wanted to listen to a disc that had not yet been added to my Pantheon of Pod, but more and more, I had just been thinking of CD's not as playable objects but as a permanent storage medium for iPod tracks.

Maybe the player got lonely and blew its brains out. I'd better do some kind of intervention on my old Walkman now. Thank God I wasn't listening to it when the batteries exploded; I've lost enough hearing from all those years of Mountain.

P.S. I had a crush on Marty Ingels when I was seven years old and I used to watch him on "I'm Dickens, He's Fenster." I wanted to ride my bike to Hollywood to meet him, since I'd thought at that age that the country looked sort of like this.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

New Look For My Blogiversary

A year ago today I started this blog, and I picked Blogger's "Dots" template.

After a year of blogging and trying to add a Blogroll to the sidebar and seeing that I picked the only template Blogger has without space for a Blogroll and putting in some Blogroll code and watching the entire template get screwed up for no apparent reason and thinking "Maybe it's me" and "Maybe I'll try it again when I'm not busy with work" and "Maybe I'll try it again after my gallbladder operation" and "Maybe I'll try it again after I've had a little sleep" and "Maybe I'll make my own template in Dreamweaver and figure out how to connect it to Blogger," I finally said "Screw It!" and changed templates.

I like this one for its vivid, clean look. I also wanted to stay away from white type on a black background so that other middle-aged people wouldn't look at it and say, "Oh, why do people do that?"

So now I'll add my links. Or look at the Dreamweaver manual again. Or become the Unabomber.

P.S. The Spell Check on this blog still doesn't recognize the word "blog."

True Religion

You know those "Ads by Gooooooooogle" that run down the sides of some Web sites? They're computer-generated links to ads that usually have something to do with whatever the topic is on the page on which they're advertising.

Peter Beinart has a column this week in The New Republic about the Muslim zealots and the cartoons. The ads down the left side all have something to do with religion: A church, a book...and an ad for True Religion Jeans.

Punk'd By Apple

My new digital camera takes little movies. It's no substitute for a video camera, but it'll do in a pinch.

You can view the movies in Quicktime, and I wanted to bring them into iMovie to edit them and make them part of a larger project. So I opened iMovie and imported one. The picture showed up...but no sound. I Googled around and found out that this was a common problem, and that you had to change the little movie from an MPEG into a DV file before iMovie would import it correctly. And what would do the trick was a handy-dandy little $30 upgrade to Quicktime Pro.

I went to Apple's Quicktime page and ponied up the $30, even though I shudder whenever I give a credit card number on the Internet. I imagine the numbers flying through the air like Mike TeeVee on WonkaVision, with criminals grabbing them and charging a million bucks to my card.

The upgrade wasn't a piece of software. It was a key number that you enter into the "Preferences" on your Quicktime Player, and then it opens a magic door to the myriad of features available to you, including the ability to turn an MPEG file into a DV file. So I downloaded, keyed in the number, launched my new magical Quicktime Pro, exported the movie and I got a picture...but no sound.

I restarted the computer, even though I knew that wasn't going to do squat, but at least then I could call Apple and say, "And I already restarted the computer." I called Apple, and got the usual voice menu and was put on hold for ten minutes. Then my call was picked up by a tech who knew less about Quicktime than I did. Then came three quarters of an hour of:

"Try this."

"Nope. No sound."

"Try this."

"Nope. No sound."

Then the tech Instant Messaged another tech at an undisclosed location, possibly the one that Dick Cheney goes to when he goes to an undisclosed location. So then I got a whole new barrage of "Try this." Followed by "Nope. No sound." Finally, the tech relayed a message telling me to open the "Get Info" menu on the Quicktime movie and read him what was there.

"It says Codecs MPEG1 Muxed."





"And...did you say 'Muxed'?"


"Oh. Sorry. Quicktime doesn't support Muxed files."


"And there's no work-around."

"So what do I do?"

"Well, you could find a discussion board..."

"That's what I did before I paid $30! I want my money back!"

"Ma'am, we don't do that in this department. You'll have to call the Customer Service department."

He gave me an 800 number, and as I went through the "hold" process and got shuttled around from one rep to another ("Ma'am, your download was a number. You can't return a number,") I Googled "MPEG1 Muxed" and discovered that there was an entire MPEG1 Muxed Community out there, people wailing that they had paid $30 for a Quicktime upgrade and found out they had bupkiss. It turns out that a "Muxed file" means the audio and video are mixed into the same track instead of separate tracks, and so they can't both end up in the re-encoded file.

A few enterprising programmers had created shareware and freeware that claimed to fix this problem. I downloaded and tried a few, but only MPEG Streamclip worked. At least it did last night. Who knows what evil could be happening in my absence?

We'll probably keep Quicktime Pro, since you can't return a number. Perhaps, although it can't do what I needed it to do, it will do things I'd never expected. Maybe laundry.

Update: One Discussion Board had this link to a page way down deep in Apple's site:

If the format is "MPEG1 Muxed" or "MPEG2 Muxed," you can't use the clip in iMovie. You may want to consider using a third-party utility to convert the clip to DV format for use in your iMovie project.

Hmm...which is different from what I ended up doing in what way?!?

Note: If you have the QuickTime MPEG-2 playback component installed, it may not change the issues described above. Editing muxed MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 files is not supported in iMovie, even with this component installed.

So even if I'd popped for an extra five bucks for the MPEG-2 component, I still would have been wailing and gnashing my teeth.

Okay, so how was I supposed to have known this? And I'm a geek!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Middle Responds to Moose

Bull Moose doesn't allow comments, so I was going to write a post on my blog responding to his post from yesterday on the rioting Islamic zealots and the Mohammed cartoons. More specifically, about his theme that's becoming a meme among Right-of-Center bloggers: The Silence of the Left.

I didn't write it, because:

1. I've been slammed with work up to my eyeballs;

2. The little voice of common sense whispered to me, "He doesn't mean you, schmuck. He means blogs like Kos."

Fortunately, Michael Reynolds at the Mighty Middle expressed what I was thinking in a way that made me point to my monitor and say, "Yeah, that's what I was thinking!" Italics are the Moose's original post:

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on the Administration's surveillance program. That is their oversight responsibility. Last week, the Director of Intelligence gave a sobering overview of the multiplicity of threats to America, but it seemed that all the Intelligence Committee's Democrats could focus on was not Al Qaeda or an Iranian Hitler obtaining a nuke, but the possibility that NSA had intercepted a call between two terrorist suspects without a judge's approval.

Moose, it's not an either/or. A person can simultaneously harbor murderous thoughts for Al Qaeda and be suspicious when an administration declares itself above the law. Witness this blog.

We are not in a competitive chest-thumping contest here. We don't have to choose between blowing our enemies to hell and preserving our system of law and of checks and balances. We can fight the Japs without interning the Japanese-Americans. We can fight the Commies without unleashing Joe McCarthy.
On a related note, Eric at Ezra Klein responded to a similar post from Tigerhawk:
Yes, I think it's bad that religious fundamentalists overseas are having conniptions about a set of cartoons. I think it bad when religious fanatics anywhere get all fanatical about perceived provocations in the media. I think it bad when Christians cancel TV shows and declare a counteroffensive against the made-up war on Christmas. I think fanatics are bad. And while various folks will unleash spittle-flecked tirades for the perceived equivalence I'm drawing, so be it. I tend to think fanatics are fanatics and my readers are smart enough to draw their own conclusions when nutcases attack. That I haven't dedicated 60 outraged posts to it isn't confirmation that I think it unimportant, but that I think my opinion on it derivative.
Yeah, that's why I didn't write anything! It would have been derivative.

That, and I'm so friggin' tired of defending myself against something I didn't do.

Anyway, read the whole thing while I go make soup. It's freezing today. And read Eric's commenters, too, 'cause I kept pointing to my monitor and going, "Yeah, what she said...and kinda what that guy said...and the first three sentences of what that guy said."

Goodbye Cabrini Green Apartments, Chicago

The famous housing project is in the middle of being demolished, and in this picture (from Apartment Therapy) it looks strangely like a doll house as one side is sheared away.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Boop and Death

Ann Althouse links to the obituary of Myron Waldman, an animator who worked for Max and Dave Fleischer and helped to create Betty Boop as we know her today.

He's also responsible for one of the saddest cartoons I ever saw. It's an early Casper The Friendly Ghost cartoon called "There's Good Boos Tonight" (1948) where Casper makes friends with a little fox and the fox is killed by hunters, but he gets resurrected as a ghost.

This may actually be the first Casper cartoon, since there's a narrator and a little exposition at the beginning, as if we didn't know who Casper was. He looks different, too: Not as rounded as he was in the late '50s Harvey cartoons. Also, when people and barnyard animals see Casper, they just flee--The cow jumps over the moon, the dogs turn white with fright--and they're not saying, "A go-go-go-go-ghost!"

I can remember this cartoon from when I was four or five years old, the music and Casper crying and holding the lifeless body of his little friend. It's sadder to watch now than it was when I was a kid! Maybe because you don't have a real concept of death and eternity when you're four. Also, Ferdy the Fox looks like an infantilized version of our cat Chico.

When I was a kid, I was more anxious over the fact that everyone would run from Casper and not give him a chance to prove himself. "But he's a friendly ghost!" Death and eternity may be unfathomable concepts in kindergarten unless you're some preschool Jean-Paul Sartre, but being lonely and wanting friends is a very real part of your life.

PS: Waldman also animated another Chico manque, "Muggy Doo, Boy Fox."

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Yesterday afternoon, I went to Century 21 Department Store to take advantage of "No Tax on Anything Week." I took the E Train and got off at Chambers Street, and exited up to the street directly in the middle of what used to be the World Trade Center. The subway and PATH didn't even stop there for about two years, then they began to stop but most of the exits were boarded up.

Now, there's a little paved plaza connecting all the subway lines and PATH trains, a prelude to a new transportation hub. Sure, there's still a pit there bigger than Yankee Stadium, and a big conflict over what to build over it, but it's an improvement.

So maybe it's not Ground Zero anymore. Maybe it's Ground 0.5.

Friday, February 03, 2006


Tim Redmond of the San Francisco Bay Guardian has issues about Craig Newmark, the "Craig" in "Craigslist." (H/T to Mediabistro)

His beef isn't that the guy put newspaper classifieds out of business. Craig figured out a way to do something the newspapers weren't doing. Time marches on. But here's what annoys him:

Over and over in his brief speech, he talked about "building community." He acted as if Craigslist was some sort of nonprofit with lofty goals and he a humble servant of the people who wants only to help improve human communications.

The problem with that is simple: When Craig comes to town (and he's coming to just about every town in the nation soon), the existing community institutions--say, the locally owned weekly newspaper--have a very hard time competing. In many ways, he's like a Wal-Mart--yeah, landlords get cheaper real estate ads, and consumers find some bargains, but the money all goes out of town. And he puts nothing back into the community: He doesn't, for example, hire reporters or serve as a community watchdog.

Whether or not it's within Craig's ability or responsibility to do this, Craigslist has effectively made obsolete a job I held fourteen years ago. I used to typeset and layout the classified sections for a chain of weekly newspapers, including Our Town and the Manhattan Spirit. It provided me with a way to get up to speed on desktop publishing and perfect my skills as I morphed from a performer/word processing gypsy into a grownup with a day job.

A lot of young journalists were getting their big break there at the time: the NYT's Jim Rutenberg, Colin Miner, who's now a reporter for the New York Sun, and Faye Penn, who's now a features editor at New York Magazine.

And since the local weeklies were geared toward different areas in New York, they featured cover stories that the major dailies, and even major New York weeklies like the Village Voice and New York Observer were too general interest-oriented or too ideological to zone in on.

Craigslist is an indispensable part of my day, but there are some things it won't replace. But what will? Are the new crop of journalists getting their start on the Web? Where? And how do you find those sites, both as a reader and as a contributor? You can pick up Our Town or the Spirit in a metal box on the street, or sometimes in a store or the lobby of your building if you've got a building with a lobby. So what's the equivalent of that metal street box on the Web?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The POTUS Gives the SOTU

And other acronyms.

It occurred to me after watching the State of the Union address last night that the thing that motivated me to start a blog was an argument I'd had with my husband over the State of the Union address last year. I had been reading E.J. Dionne's Stand Up Fight Back, and while we both agreed the Dems looked hopeless, I thought Dionne had some good ideas on how they got that way and how they could get out of it. Jim disagreed, and wondered why I bothered reading those people at all.

This wasn't the first time I'd become frustrated with the way conversations about important issues had taken on the tones of WWF Wrestling. I had hoped back in 1992 that with the Cold War over and a centrist Democrat like Clinton at the helm, we'd move beyond the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties unless you're listening to LITE-FM. But some of the Republicans got bored without a Cold War and made mischief, and Clinton was going around the Oval Office with his pants down like Governor William J. LePetomaine, and then the Election Follies of 2000 and a blow from foreign terrorists in 2001 really got the ball rolling.

It also occurred to me last night that I would have been better off Liveblogging the SOTU instead of MST3K'ing it with Jim. You know what they say: The palest pixels are more permanent than the loudest words. Okay, nobody says that. I just made it up. But typing my comments rather than shouting them would have created a permanent record of the conversation, opened the floor to conversation with others, and would have captured exchanges like:

"Human-animal hybrids? Where is he living? The Island of Doctor Sardonicus?"

"That wasn't Sardonicus. Sardonicus was the thing with Vincent Price."

"Okay, what's the one... Moreau. I'm thinking of Doctor Moreau."

"Now I missed what he said."

And so was an opportunity to Liveblog missed.

The Democratic response this year didn't leave me smacking my head going, "Oh, they're clueless!" Virginia governor Tim Kaine's speech wore sensible shoes. It stressed competence, responsibility, and ending bitter partisanship in order to get the job done. As amba noted, it looked and sounded like an infomercial, but it contained a laundry list of good talking points for the Democrats in the months ahead.

What it needs now is a Carville to sum it into a simple phrase, and a Clinton...and I don't mean Hillary... with the charisma to sell it.

C-Span has State of the Union transcripts going back to 1945.

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