Single Dog Dare

We’re back down to a single dog again, as Ginger has now gone back to her house in Augusta this morning. Theoretically this makes life much easier, but until Koga shakes whatever is giving him explosive diarrhea, it will be tough to say that life is “good.” Bad scene, my friends.

Thoughts on Selling Out

My motto on selling out is an old chestnut on this blog and podcast by now. For the record it is “There is no such thing as selling out, only selling too cheap.” In my most recent podcast I played the clip of Henry Rollins on the subject which has fleshed out my thinking some. Add in the most recent furor over blogospheric integrity, this time with Arrington at the center, latest in a series of endless furors over who is selling out. Here is my updated stance:

Selling out is doing the work you don’t really want to do, or work that you aren’t proud of. It is still selling out no matter how little you get from it or how pure the sponsor is.

It is not selling out to do the work you want to do and that you are proud of. It is still not selling out no matter how much you get and how sleazy the sponsor is.

If you hack out some work you don’t care about and get paid off with a Happy Meal, you sold out. You compromised your integrity and not even for a paycheck. Lose-lose, cabron. If you did the same work you were going to anyway, and the sleaziest scumbag in the world paid you a million to do it, you did not sell out. You played the player, created your work and got rich for it. Win-win, daddyo.

This is why I thought the previous tempest in a chamber pot about PayPerPost was misplaced. It’s not about the money, it’s about the creator and the work. If someone is creating work that matters to them and me and they can soak some company for it in the process, carry on sailor. In fact, wasn’t Mike Arrington one of the prime finger pointers about the loss of integrity in the blogosphere in that go around and isn’t he the current whipping boy? I am not really following the brouhaha closely because I’ve long since stopped caring about such things. It’s the most self-correcting system possible. When someone turns shill and stops providing value to you in reading them, you take your attention elsewhere. If they overplay their hand, they erode their own value and audience and no one will pay them to shill anymore. No hand-wringing is necessary by anyone, it just works.

To slightly paraphrase the Rollins quote “So what if someone is paying bloggers and trying to sell you something using their credibility? You saw through it, right? Because you aren’t a fucking moron, right?”

Minicomics Subscription Idea

One of the tangible results I get from listening to the Indie Spinner Rack podcast is that my interest in mini-comics has been rekindled. I have a number of these, and I used to pick them up from people at conventions. I’ve got some of the old Matt Feazell Cynicalman comics, some Steeldragon Press comics that Will Shetterly himself gave me and so on. When I listen to their show and hear these mini-comics creators, quite often I’m interested. However, that interest breaks down the same way my present-day, middle aged man comic fan interest always does. I’ve got money to buy this stuff but not much time or energy to manage those interests. I’m just not going to hunt up a dozen different individual creator websites and make $4 orders from each of them. It’s just too much trouble. Even though I have some desire to get this stuff, it isn’t enough to jump the hassle hurdle.

Here’s a business idea that I hope exists. If it doesn’t, by gum I might create it myself. I’d rather just be a customer, though. I’d like to have a meta-mini-comic distributor/subscription service. It would be analogous to any of these online comic shop subscription services. You’d deposit some money in your account and subscribe to mini-comics, either title by title or by creators, or every mini-comic that comes through the system or whatever constraint you want to put on it. Once a month, you’d get an envelope in the mail with all the comics that you were subscribed to. The cover price of the comics, plus postage and a little handling would be deducted from your account. For bonus points, you’d get an automated email perhaps the week before the package ships letting you know what comics will be in it, and giving you a last chance to update your subscriptions before the stuff hits the mail. More bonus points, having a shopping cart that would let you buy back issues of comics that would be bundled in with your next regular package, saving you a little on the postage side. Even more, how about an RSS feed of upcoming comics and/or your account status so you know what comics there are to subscribe to and you know which ones you are getting and can easily add to that group.

The basic idea is to make the friction of dealing with finding and getting the mini-comics really low, which might well help expand the market. This is not a huge market by any way you slice it, so it wouldn’t take much expansion before the creators notice it. I don’t know how creators currently do it with distributors. There would be some kind of wholesale rate that the subscription service would pay for the comics, maybe 75% for 3 to 10 units, 65% for 11 to 25 units, etc. Numbers vary according to what makes sense. The idea behind it is that everyone can make money at whatever level. The creators can get people buying every single issue but they don’t have to pack dozens of envelopes. They just put all the copies in one box and mail it to the distributor and collect the check. The distributor gets to bundle together many different creators and aggregate this into a single transaction. It’s not much harder to sell $25 worth of stuff than $3, the tricky part is getting a customer to convert from web site visitor to person that pays money. Because of the recurrent nature of this, once you get the money into the account it is easier to spend it than not. It also give customers a compelling way to sample lots of creators, save time and energy while not missing issues of comics they enjoy. That’s the part I really like, both as a completist collector spazz and as an aging manchild who doesn’t want to put a lot of energy into keeping up with which creator has a new comic coming out when.

So help me out, lazy web. Does such a service already exist? If it doesn’t, would you be a customer of such a system?

A Productivity Experiment

Just for a wag, I’m trying something different. I brought my laptop with me to work, and I’m now typing this from Big D’s BBQ restaurant, right by where they are building the Hard Rock theme park. In fact, I’m looking at the construction office out the window.

I’m offline here and will upload later. I’ve found that I do pretty well with writing blog posts and answering mail when I’m in planes and at my father-in-law’s and such. I figured I’d take my laptop to the restaurant, eat, do a little work, eat some more and repeat until I have to leave. I squandered a lot of my working time last night playing poker. That’s the bad news, the good news is that I came in first in a 90 man $5 buy-in, so I cleared over a hundred bucks on that one tournament. It’s nice to finally be earning better than minimum wage for my time on tournaments I win.

Update: That experiment didn’t quite turn out as planned, since several of my coworkers came through and I ended up talking with all of them. Still, it was fun and I got me a bellyful of barbecue, chicken bog and banana pudding.

Grand Strand Bloggers Meetup June 2007

Our meetup was fun. In attendance were Andre Pope, Chris Yale, Roger Yale, and myself. A quirk of scheduling left out a few people but the four of us had a good time. Special thanks to Andre, who unbeknownst to me had a gift certificate to Bummz that he was willing to donate to the cause. Right on! I picked the bar because it is on the beach and kind of central to most of us but that was a nice side benefit.

We talked blogging, podcasting, life on the Grand Strand, skateboarding and zines and DIY aesthetics, BBQ and music and web server configurations, tattoos and monster movie hosts. Basically, all kinds of stuff. There was some geek talk, but not as much as you might think. The neat thing is that all of us are involved in creating something for our own pleasure, be it music or blogs or podcasts or restored cars, and for all of us it was more than one of those things. It was great fun, and I liked all these guys. We’ll definitely have to do this again, probably at the same place. I’ll try to pick a date with lots of notice, so people can plan around it.

My Last Word on the Sopranos

I’m going to make one more post about the final episode of the Sopranos and then cash out of this discussion forever. A lot of what I’m saying and why I’m saying it is adapted from a post I made to the Nicola Griffith mailing list on the subject. It probably goes without saying that this post is filthy with spoilers, not just for the last episode but the series as a whole.

This post seems to be the poster post for the whole “Tony Soprano was whacked and here are all the clues” theory. People that love the episode seem to really enjoy the game of all this. Let’s assume for a minute that is in fact the “correct” answer and is exactly what David Chase was trying to get across. Even so, I think that’s bullshit. This show has never been about subtlety. We have been asked for six seasons to empathize with a central character who routinely orders the death of other people including people close to him, such as his nephew’s fiance. He killed at least two of his own family members (Christopher and Tony B) to smooth over business concerns. He cheated on his wife in pretty much every episode, and we are asked to care about this man and by and large we did and do. That’s a lot to ask of an audience, and we responded. This show slapped us across the face over and over and we let it and enjoyed it because it was well done, even if at times it was hard to watch.

Now, when we reach the end to hide the actual denouement in plausibly deniable vagary is not cool. He gets to say “the clues are all there” but then if the opportunity comes up for a film he can still do it and deny everything later. That is noncommittal waffling of the worst kind and has no place when trying to finish off a masterpiece. You expect that the actual stuff of the plot will be hidden in clues in some bullshit M. Night Shyamalan piece of obscure puzzle art. That’s not what we’ve been given here for the last decade, and not what we deserved at the end. When the show ended, I didn’t want to have to decipher the finale by scanning for hints about what songs are on the jukebox. That might be preferable for obsessives who treat TV shows like the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, but not for me. I’m not a lazy viewer and I’m willing to decipher symbols. I’m usually looking for religious iconography in cinema and literature, and I appreciate shots like the Last Supper homage in the film of M*A*S*H. When a dying character’s arms flop out like the end of Old Man and the Sea, I know what that means. I can appreciate those things but to avoid the actual point of your story in the text and hide it in subtext is pussying out, precisely the one thing David Chase has denied his audience all along.

The other alternative, that the theory is wrong, makes it much worse. That makes the wrongheadedness of this decision sheer laziness or cowardice or unwillingness to tackle the big subjects or even give us a thematic conclusion. There were a thousand ways the show could have ended that I’d have gone along with. Like I’ve said before, had the series concluded with the second to last episode, I’d have been better satisfied. Here’s an ending I could have dug: Tony goes near the pool, sees the ducks return, has a panic attack and drowns in the pool. Phil’s hitmen arrive to kill him and he’s already dead in the pool. Big irony machine engaged. Here’s another: Tony is killed early in the episode and AJ decides to avenge him but unlike the Uncle Junior fiasco actually pulls it off. It becomes obvious that AJ is going to go into the family business. Life goes on, same as it ever was. Here’s a third: Tony turns rat and gives the FBI guy some juicy info. They move to Arizona where he really becomes Kevin Finnerty, and has either a normal happy life, or an abnormal unhappy life, or like Vito can’t live normally after a lifetime of hustling, or lives as a paranoid who sees danger in every shadow. How about: Tony realizes this can never end well so he fakes his own death and does about the same thing.

As it ended now, what the fuck was all that coma dream stuff in the first half of the season? It was pretty boring, so if it wasn’t going to pay off later why did we have to endure it at all? Weren’t we supposed to believe that the mescaline trip taught him something about himself? If none of these things actually meant anything in the larger picture, then we have to come back to it being fairly uninteresting, overly padded treading of narrative water. This is where the Matrix 2/3 comparison comes back to me. There was so much stuff that doesn’t seem to stand by itself and then the resolution pays off none of it. That’s why I feel cheated, because if I am going to get an unsatisfying resolution, don’t make me endure lots of boring pseudo-profundity leading up to it. Play fair, or kiss my ass. In the case of the both the Sopranos and the Matrix, I feel they didn’t play fair and for the Matrix it really hurt its legacy. I firmly expect the same of the Sopranos. They may have done the ending like that to leave the door open for a film, but honestly I don’t give a shit to see it anymore. The show and anything that might follow on is, as they say, dead to me.

EGC Clambake for June 23, 2007 – “Sellouts of the Modern West”

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for June 23, 2007.

I play a song from Chris Yale; I give a crazy dog house update; I play a quote of Henry Rollins discussing the notion of musicians “selling out” by letting their music used in commercials; I take exception with a lot of Gayl Murhpy’s advice in her Podcast Expo talk; I talk about westerns and how much I’m enjoying the modern western genre; I play a song from Michelle Malone and off I go.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS.

To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5.

Links mentioned in this episode:


Dogs and Podcasts


Sometimes Google Ads are really good at catching the gestalt of a blog. As I loaded up the page to look at Mike Dunn’s recent comment on a dog post, this is what I saw. Dogs and podcasts. Yep, that’s pretty much what my last week has been.

Double Dog Dare

I wish I had thought of the title as a description of my current dog predicament, but that honor goes to Paul Fischer in a comment on here. We’re three weeks in to our dog sitting of my mom’s dog, as well as almost the same length of time since we have adopted Koga. For the last week I’ve been alone in the house with the dogs. They both have some level of separation anxiety, and they don’t get along well enough for me to want to leave them alone in the same place. Ginger can be left alone in the house, but Koga we don’t trust him yet to not eat the furniture or scratch up the doors and walls. I set him up a pen in the backyard that he managed to get out of Monday, so it wasn’t until Thursday I tried again leaving him alone. Both yesterday and today he was out there and didn’t escape either time, so that’s a step up. The way he freaks out hurts my feelings a little. That pen is so nice, I literally would be happy to spend the night out there. If I get in trouble with my wife, I’ll take my pillow out there.

I was fairly passive in the adoption process. I was noncommittal about the whole thing, but three weeks in I admit that I really love this dog. He is good and very much like our old dog Grace. He looks kind of like her and even acts a little like her. He’s generally calm other than separation time and I really like having a helper to ride around in my car with me. He’s also super-lovey after I put him in the pen and then come home. As soon as he settles down, he wants to jump up on the couch and cuddle up. He’s really just an overgrown baby. I dig this dog.

Palmetto State Roller Girls in the Paper

Today there is a story in the Myrtle Beach paper about the Palmetto State Roller Girls. It’s OK but what is really notable is that someone I know is right up front in the photo. The story seems pretty focussed on how white collar and/or academic most of the team is.

I’ve been deputized by the Radio Free Derby podcast to act as their roving South Carolina correspondent, but I haven’t reached out to the team yet. I will, though, once I am no longer up to my ass in alligators. I’m still working on my RFD reporter nickname. I have three candidates working: Jimmy Awesome, Tom Broke-arm, and Ted Topple. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe I’ll use a different one every time.

Grand Strand Blogger Meetup NEW DAY – This Sunday

I pulled the plug on the original date for the Grand Strand Blogger meetup because for one I had dog care issues and for another, it was unbearably poor form to hold it on Father’s Day. Even though no one seemed to mind, I just didn’t like the idea so we scooched it one week back. If you are driving distance and want to come, please do and invite your friends. You need not blog or podcast or videoblog, even having a vague interest that you might want to one day is enough. Just come.

Here again is the announcement:
—–

In the spirit of ongoing attempts to crystallize a blogger community here in the Grand Strand, I’m organizing a get together. If you are a blogger, podcaster, videoblogger or interested in any of the above, come and hang out with us. Here are the specifics:

Sunday June 24th at 3 PM, Bummz at 2003 N. Ocean Blvd, Myrtle Beach, SC
Phone number of the joint: 843-916-9111
Google Map to the restaurant

We’ll be at a table outside as close to the beach as we can get. If you are interested in coming, please send me a non-binding RSVP via email just so I can keep you abreast of logistics and make sure we have enough table space reserved. Feel free to forward this information around, tell your friends, tell your neighbors, blog about it yourself. Bloggers now do this kind of thing all the time in Charleston, and we’re as good as those people. Just like they found out in Charleston that when they got together they had a critical mass they didn’t realize existed, let’s try to get the same thing going in our part of the state. Let’s rock!

EGC Clambake for June 19, 2007 – “Meet Modemac”

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for June 19, 2007.

I play a song from Kirkendahl Voyd; I air the featured interview with notable Subgenius Modemac; I play my first Subgenius cutup and another song from Kirkendahl Voyd and head off to nurse my slack.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS.

To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5.

Links mentioned in this episode:


PlayPlay

Thomas Ravenel Has My Tax Money and A Bag of Coke (Allegedly)

Last fall Thomas Ravenel was elected as the treasurer of my state of South Carolina. Now he has been indicted on charges of cocaine possession with intent to distribute. In fact, here is the indictment. That was a pretty quick fall from grace. There are a few interesting angles on this. One I found via Avedon is this interesting way the drug is mentioned. Some call it “cocaine” and other “crack cocaine” as analyzed here. What’s the difference? Crack cocaine carries stiffer penalties than does the same amount of powder cocaine. “Stranger” is pointing to a conspiracy theory but I think it is way too early for that when the possibility of some reporters just being wrong is alive. The indictment doesn’t use the word crack, so wouldn’t that be the operational point, and what does it matter how it is spun in the media? What really matters is whether the physical evidence they submit is a bag full of powder, or chunks.

Another interesting wrinkle is that Ravenel is the SC campaign manager for Giuliani’s presidential bid. It will be interesting to see if there is any political fallout in that direction. It kind of makes sense because as John Perry Barlow pointed out several years ago, cocaine is a Republican drug.

Nine Firefighters Dead in Charleston

This is truly horrible. A fire started in a furniture store in the Charleston area last evening, and a roof collapse left nine of the firefighters dead. This is the stuff of nightmares. Sympathies to all the families and brother firefighters of the fallen men. It takes a special kind of person to run into a burning building knowing what might happen, and we mourn those who have fallen to keep us and ours safe.

Retirement, Money, Pleasure

Here’s a few things that feel vaguely related to me. The first is Garrick van Buren’s response to me about retirement and money. He picks two points he disagrees with me on, neither one of which I think is actually related to what I think. I don’t even quite understand #1, where he points out that we have the capacity to do our lines of work even as our bodies get old. He thinks retirement as we know it will not exist in a decade. Umm, ok. I think my retirement will be a lot like what I do today, except that there is no requirement that any of it make any money. Retirement will give me the luxury of spending my time in unmarketable pursuits. I imagine there will be blogging and podcasting and open source, but also lots of reading of books and watching of movies. It’s not that I can’t work into my 70s, it’s that I don’t want to.

His second point is kind of with the straw man, not me. He argues against this statement: “Sacrifice today inherently creates opportunity tomorrow.” Umm, ok. In particular, I have been talking about not spending money on luxury items or where the price far exceeds the utility value. I’m not against buying things in general, particularly when you need them to accomplish something. It makes little sense to me to pay $40,000 for a car when the $12,000 one I have does everything I need but I know people that do it. I won’t pay $4,000 for a TV set, regardless how good it looks, when the $200 one is serving my needs. I did pay $600 for a Marantz PMD 670 and I’ve used the living hell out of it and got my money’s worth. In the latter case, the utility value was higher than the price and I’m happy.

In this vein, Uncle Warren distressed me a little in this comment about how he didn’t purchase some DVDs because of me. Again, I don’t want to be the poster boy for not spending money per se. If you are going to get the value out of it, you should buy it. This assumes you have money to buy it, though. If it’s a charge you are going to be carrying, you should probably skip it until your consumer debt is paid down.

However I do think this is why it helps to get your debt paid off and a savings plan going. Once you have that set up, you don’t have to sweat every nickel. My 401K and IRAs are fully funded and we have savings happening every check. The money we have we can spend and the only real issue is about getting full value out of it. I opted not to buy the new computer because I’m still fine with my old one and the longer I can wait to upgrade the better value I’ll get.

Lastly, Joi Ito posts about the difference between happiness and pleasure. That’s what it is all about to me. Everything I’m talking about is trying to create happiness, which sometimes is at the cost of some pleasure. I can live with that, and I like the way he thinks about them explicitly. We make these tradeoffs all the time, and I’ve never really thought about it in these terms until today. It’s worth some introspection to examine what we do and whether that is ultimately creating happiness for or others.

The Spirit Movie

I’ll admit it. I’m very nervous about Frank Miller directing a film of The Spirit. I really hope that he manages to pull it off and keep true to the spirit of the source material. I fear it, though. It can’t possibly be worse than the 1980’s TV movie adaptation with Sam Jones. I saw that broadcast at the time and never since but my recollection is that it was a stinker. Even when I was a teenager in the process of getting newly enthralled by discovering the Kitchen Sink Spirit reprints I didn’t like it. Hope springs eternal, but I’m just not sure Miller’s sensibilities match up with Eisner’s. We Shall See.

Podcasting Use Case for Comics

Here’s an example of what podcasting can do that normal media just couldn’t. Derek Coward turned me on to Indie Spinner Rack. In a recent show, they had some correspondents at the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo who did a freakish level of coverage of the Howard E. “Gene” Day Prize. They recorded the presentation ceremony conducted by Dave Sim, and then did a short interview with every single nominee and winner. They caught as many people as they could at the show for the interview and those not at the show they interviewed on the phone. In the final show, they cut in the interviews immediately following the acceptance speech and it worked very well.

It was really fascinating stuff and has me scrambling to find out how to buy some of this stuff, especially the Mike Dawson comic about his love of Queen and Freddie Mercury. I had never heard of any of these people before listening to this show, and now I’m probably going to become a customer and fan of several of them. That’s what the production and distribution cost structure of new media does for you. With a little bit of energy and time and very little money, you can do any kind of hyper-local or hyper-niche programming. This is awesome stuff and I’m glad it exists.

Update: I should also mention for those in the “keep podcasts short” crowd, this is probably the damn longest podcast original show I regularly listen to. Episodes range between one and two hours. Wowza! The thing is, it works at that length and I enjoy it. I never find myself checking to see “how much more of this crap is there?”

Normal Temperature

It really bugs me when TV weatherman talk about the “normal temperature” for today. The temperature they are talking about would never be the “normal” temperature, unless they are talking about the most commonly observed one. Average is not the same as “normal”. You could plausibly have an average temperature that has never actually been observed as the high on that day. It’s just technically incorrect, and yet I hear it almost every night. It just bugs me, you know.

Done the Impossible

I finished watching Serenity and watched the Done the Impossible documentary at lunch this week. It’s interesting and pretty well done, but I sure would have liked to have heard more from the actors and crew than the fans. It feels like it’s about 3/4 fan, 1/4 pro focussed and I’d rather see that about even. I didn’t peruse the special features, but maybe there are extended interview sections with Ron Glass (who I particularly wanted to hear from) and the other first parties. I know they subtitle it a “Fan’s tale” but it didn’t have to be. I like fans, I am a fan and I grew up in SF fandom but I still would have rather heard more from the cast.

The other big thing that was confirmed for me that I had alluded to in other recent Serenity posts is that I really and truly am not a Joss Whedon fan. I like this show, but even listening to him talk I found irksome. Remember when I said I found Buffy too cutesy and precious? Just the way he answered questions was really cutesy and precious, the way he’d answer the opposite first and then say “No wait, it was the other thing.” Yes sir, you are a hyper-ironic laugh machine. I think this show and movie were brilliant work but I still find the Whedon stamp a barrier to entry rather than a seal of approval.

I especially liked Alan Tudyk in the documentary saying that while they were filming these shows in their mind, when they talked about fighting the Alliance they were really talking about taking on the Fox Network. Funny stuff.

As I think about what I like about the show, I have to say the Civil War aspects are more and more appealing. There is something compelling in watching these beaten characters refuse to bend the knee and bow the head. Dialog like this reeally rings with me:

Harken: Seems odd you’d name your ship after a battle you were on the wrong side of.
Mal: May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.

In my final analysis, what I find compelling about the show is that it is about the defeated. There is so much modern American emphasis on competition and winning, and I loved that this show is about those who have lost it all, got back up and lost again. They regularly have their asses handed to them and yet they continue to keep at it, to be true to their beliefs and keep their own faith. Even the theme song emphasizes that with the repeated lyric “You can’t take the sky from me.” Forget the winners, I find the losers interesting.