no internet access

If you’re wondering why posting has been sporadic these last few days, it’s because I’ve discovered if I want to get a lot of writing done, the best thing to do is take my laptop, go to a distant cubicle, and live without Internet access for the work day.
Yes, you heard me — live without Internet access.
Okay, maybe not completely without — I do come back to my desk every 90 minutes or so to check my email. But it’s amazing how much more work I can get done without porn to download er, I mean, important educational research to read online.
In the meantime, if you need to reach me ASAP, try my cell phone.

jack kelley resigns

Wow: Jack Kelley resigns from USA Today over allegations that he’s made up stories.
In some ways, this is a bigger deal to me than the Jayson Blair stuff. Blair just wasn’t very good, whether he was reporting things straight or blowing smoke. But Kelley consistently put out “holy shit” stories that were, without a doubt, the best thing about USA Today. (Yes, even better than the sports section.) He was one of those reporters whose stuff you’d read and think: “Wow, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do that.” (And when you’re an arrogant asshole like me, that’s saying something.) If he’s been making them up, well, that would explain quite a bit.
From Howie Kurtz’s article, it’s unclear to me if Kelley really has been stretching the truth. (Kelley’s got some defenders over at Romenesko.) I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.

sun kil moon

Another music recommendation: Ghosts of the Great Highway by Sun Kil Moon.
Sun Kil Moon is the new project of Mark Kozelek, best known as leader of the Red House Painters. I’ve always been a fan of Mark’s, particularly in his early days when he seemed to be moving on a career track parallel to favorite Mark Eitzel. (Both started out with noisy punk bands in Ohio, then moved to San Francisco and made slow, depressing, but gorgeous music — Mark E. with American Music Club, Mark K. with RHP.) The second Painters album — known as the rollercoaster album because of the cover image and because it’s, confusingly, one of two albums named simply Red House Painters — is an absolute sadcore classic.
Like Eitzel, Kozelek wandered a bit through the late ’90s, releasing work of sporadic brilliance and sporadic crud. RHP has released only one album in the last eight years (2001’s so-so Old Ramon, which was actually recorded back in ’97). He released a couple solo records, notable mostly for their fixation on AC/DC. (One album, What’s Next to the Moon, was composed entirely of AC/DC songs reworked, irony-free, into Leadbelly-style acoustic blues. It’s actually surprisingly good.) He seemed restless and unfocused.
Sun Kil Moon is his new band, and their record is my favorite Kozelek work since the rollercoaster album. It’s not a new sound — it’s very much in the dreamy, languorous RHP tradition — but it is tighter and brighter. Kozelek once relied on slowness to express melancholy, which made even his best work boring and mopey in spots. Here, he uses melody more prominently for the same purpose. Even the (by now obligatory on a Kozelek release) 14-minute track “Duk Koo Kim” never drags. The layers of acoustic guitars evoke half-forgotten memories; it sounds like the soundtrack of a childhood summer, remembered 20 years on.
It’s hard to describe (at least for me), but it’s really very good. Not everyone will love it, since Kozelek is still an acquired taste, but it’s worth a listen.
(Lyrical bonus: No fewer than three four of the songs are about boxing, which may be replacing AC/DC as Kozelek’s current Wimpy Singer-Songwriter Masculinity Overcompensation target. And one track, the opener “Glenn Tipton,” is named for a Judas Priest guitarist and namechecks Jim Nabors.)
(Interband reference bonus: “Krazy Koz,” a song from Mojave 3’s excellent album Excuses for Travellers, is about Kozelek.)
(Film bonus: You may remember Mark from his acting debut, playing the bassist in the band in Almost Famous.)

pagemaker dies

Alas, it appears that Adobe Pagemaker is finally dead. Sniff. My college paper was published entirely on Pagemaker for many years (I think they just switched to Quark a year or two ago), and I spent many collegiate hours futzing around in Pagemaker 3.0 and 4.2. (I’ve still got a pirate copy of 4.2 somewhere on floppy.) I’ve heard Glenn Fleishman, who was one of the paper’s early editors before becoming King of all Things Wifi, tell some great stories about cutting and pasting together Pagemaker printouts on dorm room floors at 5 a.m. before going to press.
I think someone should write a book-length ode to Pagemaker, arguably the single most revolutionary computer application ever written (yeah, Mosaic would probably edge it out, but it’s close). It democratized publishing and access to the media in a way few technologies had since Gutenberg. It’s no coincidence that the Herald was founded in February 1986, only seven months after Pagemaker 1.0 was released. And I know the Herald was far from the only one. Credit for making those sort of small-scale publications possible really goes to Apple and Pagemaker.
The Pagemaker portion of that credit goes to many people, of course, but the organizing force behind it all was Paul Brainerd. He was a newspaper reporter who thought the young Mac would make a good platform for publishing. Read that last link for a good summary of Pagemaker’s early days and Brainerd’s ideas. As one person puts it on that page:
“PageMaker was the app the Mac had been waiting for to give customers a reason to buy it. Without desktop publishing, the Mac probably would have followed the Lisa into oblivion and Bill Gates would have nothing to copy and we’d still be typing in at the C prompt. In a fundamental way, Paul Brainerd saved the universe.”
After selling his company (Aldus) to Adobe in 1994, he focused his energies on The Brainerd Foundation, whose goal is protecting the environment of the Pacific Northwest. He’s also the founder of IslandWood, an outdoor learning center for Seattle-area kids, and Social Venture Partners, a group that uses a venture capital model to link up worthy causes with philanthropists.
I know Pagemaker fell out of favor with professionals a long time ago, first to Quark and more recently to InDesign (my layout program of choice). But here’s a tip of the hat to the late great Pagemaker, the revolutionary. Perhaps Steve Jobs, when he talks about the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Macintosh at his MacWorldSF keynote tomorrow, should heap some praise on the program most responsible for his company’s success.

geaux tigers!

How ’bout them Tigers! Geaux LSU!
LSU’s defense was just tremendous (at least until tiring in the fourth). They made the Sooner offensive machine look silly. I mean, to hold the top-scoring team in the nation to 137 yards? To hold the Heisman Trophy winner to 13-of-37 passing, 104 yards, no TDs and two picks? Truly an inspiring performance.
Plus, I can take special pride from the fact this national championship is truly a Louisiana production. Unlike Oklahoma, which picks and chooses its talent from across the country, LSU’s roster is home grown. The OU roster has only 42 Oklahoma natives on it; LSU’s has 89 Louisianans.

ba 223, london to dulles

Too Close For Comfort Dept.: That British Airways flight that keeps getting cancelled because of “specific intelligence” about a terrorist attack — I was on that exact flight (BA 223, Heathrow to Dulles) five weeks ago.
It was almost empty, but there was one seriously crazy-looking dude across the aisle from me. He got very drunk (although he acted more coked-out than drunk — the flight attendant said he had six of those little bottles of wine). He took my bread roll off my plate, then took my plastic knife. He kept talking to himself and running around the cabin. He was…freaky, and he got a lot of utterly justified yelling from the crew, particularly when he would refuse to sit down and try to go into first class looking for more wine.
I honestly thought: That man looks like shoe bomber material.

fop sux

There’s a Yahoo group I’ve belonged to for about four years now. I’m subscribed because its subject is something I occasionally write about — a subject that gets roughly zero coverage elsewhere on the Internet or in the media, and as a result the posts are essential reading if I want to stay on top of the subject.
There’s one problem: I hate every last person in this Yahoo group.
Okay, I’m sure some of them are perfectly nice people in real life. But there’s something about this group that reduces everyone to mewling five-year-olds. It’s just a horrible virtual place. Every post is an accusation breaded with nastiness. The subject in question is something about which all these people are extremely passionate, and it’s painful to wade through their misplaced rage, their stupid vitriol, their silly spite.
Unfortunately, I feel obliged to. I’m one of maybe 10 journalists in the world who follow this subject, and I have to keep up. But heavens, is it painful!
Doubly unfortunately, these people have become extremely prolific in their imbecility of late, which is why I’ve got 2 megs (that’s just raw text) of posts sitting in my inbox from just the last few days. So I sit, alcoholic beverage in hand, and sift through the garbage.
I think I need another drink.

corbis shuts down personal use

Bummer for us developers of miniscule web sites: Corbis is shutting down its photo-licensing service for us small fries. You’ll still be able to use their business site, but the costs are at least three times higher.
Corbis had the best assortment of photos of any of the services I used — many of the photos in my SXSW movie last year were from there. I guess it’s off to stock.xchng now.

jb music 2000

Today is my old friend Fiona’s birthday. Poor Fi was raised in difficult circumstances: a household in which classical was the only music allowed. (How Child Protective Services never got involved is beyond me.) So when we were both in college, I tried, to the limits of my abilities, to edumacate her in the ways of popular music. One way this was accomplished: mix tapes.
Flash forward to this time of year three years ago. I’d just arrived in Dallas, and for her birthday, I mailed the then-Boston-based Fiona a special birthday mix entitled “JB Music 2000.” (She called all music I liked, from Public Enemy to American Music Club, JB Music.)
When I drove to Louisiana for Christmas last week, I rummaged around my apartment for cassette tapes. (Longtime readers may remember someone stole my car’s CD player a few months back.) I stumbled on JB Music 2000.
This was, I believe, the last mix tape I ever made. (I got a CD burner in March 2001, I think.) So, in the interests of archivists everywhere, I present the track listing on that 90-minute tape:
Side A:
Beth Orton, “Stolen Car” (from Central Reservation)
Morphine, “The Night” (The Night)
Ben Folds Five, “Alice Childress” (Ben Folds Five)
Macy Gray, “I’ve Committed Murder” (On How Life Is)
Buffalo Tom, “Summer” (Asides from Buffalo Tom)
Sloan, “Delivering Maybes” (Between the Bridges)
The Rentals, “Getting By” (Seven More Minutes)
The Faces, “Ooh La La” (Rushmore soundtrack)
Wilco, “She’s A Jar” (Summerteeth)
Morrissey, “Nobody Loves Us” (My Early Burglary Years)
M. Ward, “Fearless” (Come On Beautiful)
Side B:
Tahiti 80, “Made First” (Puzzle)
The Elevator Drops, “Public Transport Authority” (People Mover)
Slobberbone, “Pinball Song” (Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today)
Mojave 3, “Anyday Will Be Fine” (Excuses For Travelers)
Primal Scream, “Blood Money” (Exterminator)
The Dismemberment Plan, “The City” (Emergency & I)
Robbie Fulks, “She Must Think I Like Poetry” (Let’s Kill Saturday Night)
Richard Buckner, “Goner W/Souvenir” (Since)
The Flashing Lights, “Where the Change Is” (Where the Change Is)
Gomez, “We Haven’t Turned Around” (Liquid Skin)
The Promise Ring, “Skips A Beat (Over You)” (Very Emergency)
The Jayhawks, “Baby, Baby, Baby” (Smile)
A few thoughts:
Between the Bridges is really the last great Sloan album, I’m afraid to say. A great disc in the underrated Sloan tradition. The two since then have crapped out on me.
– “Blood Money” rocks to its very core. Perhaps the best freeway driving song ever recorded. This one made it onto the August 2002 CDMOM.
– I can still wholeheartedly recommend the Mojave 3, Dismemberment Plan, Flashing Lights, Gomez, and Richard Buckner albums, plus the Rushmore soundtrack. Classics all, from start to finish. With all the others, small doubts have crept in since 2000. The Morphine album was a weak swan song for Mark Sandman, the Orton gets boring on repeated listens (although “Stolen Car” is a great song), and the Wilco seems strangely flat.
– Where did Gomez go wrong? Liquid Skin was absolute genius, an amalgam of gutbucket southern rock and British steely reserve. Too bad their work since has been so mediocre.
In any event, happy 28th, Fi!