May 29, 2002
Half a Million Strong--and Cranky

What do you think your retirement will be like? A Harris poll recently tried to categorize the attitudes of people over 55 about retirement:

19 percent are "Comfortably Content" who want a traditional retirement
22 percent are "Living for Today" who want to be active and adventurous, but who worry they haven't saved up enough money
27 percent are "Ageless Exploers" who want to learn new things and believe they have the financial resources to do them
32 percent are "Sick and Tired" who have saved for the shortest time and have low expectations for the future.

Most of the hype has focused on the flashy explorers, etc., but I was struck--and sort of chilled--by the fact that the biggest group is the most pessimistic one. Given that at least one survey says that those inexorable Baby Boomers have saved an average of only 12 percent of the total they will need to meet even basic living expenses in retirement, the rest of us may be looking at a long and cranky future.

Our local Cassandra Bob Greene wrote a few years ago about the growth of young people as the "new uberpredator" or something equally scary. In a few years' time, though, the tables could be turned. I expect to see stories of drive-by canings, gang wars in retirement communities, and hateful spats in senior citizen chat rooms. "I invented the Internet!" "No, I did!"

In other news, the new H arrived today. We'll test for Honda compatibility this weekend.

Posted at 09:38 PM
May 28, 2002
Gorilla Cookies

A headache took up residence in my head this morning. That happens sometimes. I'll probably feel better tomorrow. Till then, I've cut and pasted a few of the funnier things I read today.

The indiepop list was all aflame this weekend, in a huge debate over MP3s, homosexuals, bad grammar, and capitalism. In the midst of this somebody posted a huge sale list and, predictably, complaints resulted. The following post--in its entirety, with all bad spelling preserved--reminds us that trolls have feelings, too. Context-free feelings, perhaps, and bad spelling, but there you are:

to add: guys, do you know why eBay don't want to ban me from the sales? Very simply: they are making HUGE profits from the folk like myself. They are INTERESTED to have the sales like that. Check out my sales: almost all of cds are taken. And believe it, that is FARE compensation for my labour. Do you think all that printing and cutting, and the price of cdrs are for free? NO What??? Say it again, Sam? The musicians? Ah, the musicians! What about them? Who the hell cares about Micheleangelo, Rembrandt, Monais? People just making money out of their work and nobody even remember that sometimes they were starving to death! What about your Government, God damned! Eh? DO THEY CARE ABOUT YOU? Did they protected you from so-called "terrorists" which were in reality CREATED by your Government and on your, taxpayers money! They are just playing games with all of you and fool you with all means. That's what is called "politics". ASSSA!

In other rock and roll hooligan news, it seems like every so often we end up talking about Cheetah Chrome at my house. This is mostly because he lived in Bloomington, for the most part unremarkably, for a brief time in the '80s. Cheetah turned up again recently in post-punk godfather Mike Watt and crew's excruciatingly detailed current tour diary. Watt's organist, Pete, tells us how legends win friends and influence people:

Five minutes later Cheetah shows up from across the street and he's obviously eaten a bag of gorilla cookies washed down w/ a bottle of kickass. He lumbers over and starts rapping w/ Kara and invariably the subject leads to watt sleeping while they're waiting; "watt up yet"? he says, "nope". " you got the keys to this fuckin' van"? "I sure do brother, but I'm not opening that goddamn door, and I'm not waking him up yet". "what the fuck! I don't do this for Mick fucking Jagger"! and he proceeds to shake the boat and bang on it. "I wouldn't do that brother, you're hurting the boat and there's cats sleeping in there". "What the fuck! I been here since 7 o'clock and that fucker's been sleeping the whole time! (at this point he pulls a switchblade out of his jacket and waves it in front of me in full view of everyone) "well how about this, you open up the van or I stick you w/ this" (funny enough I wasn't scared at all at this point; I figured he pulls this kind of shit all the time), I summon my best longshoreman's glare, look him straight in the eyes and say: " You better kill me w/ that brother cause' I'm going to come after you".

Apparently it all worked out right in the end. I wonder how that technique would work in meetings.

Posted at 08:54 PM
May 22, 2002
Too Funny

This was genius.

Posted at 07:27 PM

Wooden Horse Publications recently published a news alert with tips on appropriately professional sounding e-mail addresses for freelance writers. I liked this bit:

"Then there are the tons of e-mails with the word "writer" or "scribe" included, such as,,, and, inexplicably, I also received a message from a self-described, and hundreds of other variations on the theme. If you want to stand out in a crowd, do not use "writer" in your e-mail address."

This site also contains industry news and a publishing glossary.

What e-mail handle describes your job? I think works for me.


Posted at 07:20 PM
Feels Like 1989 All Over Again

Folio: magazine, the magazine industry bible (not online, alas), reports that prospects for new graduates just aren't what they used to be:

"There were several years where you could walk right out of here into a big-name publication," says the career services coordinator at Columbia. "Now I'm telling them their best bet is small-town daily newspapers, and to really prepare for a long search."
"Instead of encouraging students to aim high, career counselors are instead encouraging them to 'think beyond the scope of one geographic area,'" says a career counselor at the Missouri School of Journalism. "Or be willing to toil at the copy desk just to get a foot in the door."

Please excuse any typos--It's hard to type through my tears.

On the other hand, I do feel sorry about the woes of the Oxford American, the music and culture magazine of the American South. Media Life reports that they were looking for additional funding by May 15 or threatening to close up shop.

Since May 15 has come and gone, I haven't heard any more.

On the other hand, not all is dark. The world of rock and roll journalism now has its first woman editor. Apparently Sia Michel has been at the helm of Spin for a couple of months. No word on whether she is responsible for that Jimmy Fallon cover.

Posted at 07:17 PM
May 20, 2002
Has Anyone Seen My H?

Has anyone seen my H?

Bad things that have happened to my car:

1. 1996 (or 1997, maybe): bumped into by idiot SUV driver on a cell phone in parking lot. Broken front light ensues. Early digital-camera-adopting friends Jason and Scott photograph damage immediately. Eric watches me confront idiot SUV driver worriedly, afraid I will commit some act of violence. Insurance to the rescue.

2. 1999: sideswiped by hit and run driver in front of our old apartment on Damen. Dented back wheel well and strange grinding noise during driving enuse. Trip to body shop follows, followed by trip home and more grinding noise. Irate call to body shop follows. Return again to none-too-gracious body shop. Eventually, all is well.

True story: a well-meaning and apparently English-illiterate witness leaves a note on my car about said accident, including an incomplete license plate number. I file a complaint with the police, who fill out a form and toss it on a pile of other complaints, where it probably is to this day. During a follow-up call, police officer tells me they would only be able to research suspect number if I had been killed. I'm out of luck!

2002: Honda emblem on trunk goes missing, leaving two gaping holes and some dried-up glue. Did it just decide it was time to go? Was it stolen? No one knows. Maybe it's with Mike's hat.

Eric saves the day. A new emblem is on its way, supposedly.

Posted at 07:20 PM
May 19, 2002
Bundts Alive

The list is impressive, but what I really have to show for myself this weekend is a bundt cake.

Inspired by the cake at Pane e Ciocolato in New York, I went in search of the perfect chocolate bundt cake recipe. The unfortunately named "Chocolate Dump-It Cake" in last week's New York Times magazine pretty much fits the bill.

We both had our doubts about the frosting, though. Admittedly, melting Nestle's semisweet chips and stirring in sour cream sounds like a great idea. I would willingly eat spoonfuls of this daily. But it didn't quite work on the cake, for whatever reason.

Momentary perfection.

If all that chocolate weren't enough, we went up to Devon Avenue for our semiannual appearance at Sabri Nehari, a Pakistani restaurant. I'm always inspired after this to try to cook some of them, but surely it's more difficult than it looks. For future reference, though, here are some recipe sites:

I didn't like the black background and white type design here, but there's lots of recipes, including those for chutney.

Here's an actual Nehari recipe, plus lots of others.

It's not all about the meat, though. Here's a "lite site" and some vegetarian recipes.

Posted at 11:19 AM
The List

Happily, I had nowhere to go and nothing to do this weekend. My grand plan was to make a master list of all the things I want to be doing (house, garden, QAX project, etc.) I'm a great believer in making lists, although it's sometimes hard for me to understand that MAKING the list is not equivalent to DOING the work, even though it feels like work.

Anyway, now we have a list, of not inconsiderable proportions. With eight categories and about 40 individual items. I had to go lie down when I was finished.

The American Academy of Family Physicians says that "people who make lists stay on target and save time between tasks because they don't have to wonder what comes next." We'll see if this helps.

Posted at 11:13 AM
May 16, 2002
Grey Suits

A leading economic indicator--that is, the number of complete strangers who e-mail me and ask how they can get a job in publishing--had quieted down in recent months. Or so I thought, until a hopeful young student cornered me last night and asked me how I got a job, way back when.

I much prefer to handle these queries via e-mail, when I don't have to get personal and can give my standard stock answers. (Get clips. Be reliable and don't flake on people. Sometimes you have to work for free.) But there I was, no getting away, so I concocted an answer about how, well, that was 12 years ago, and getting a master's degree seemed like a good thing to do, considering no one was actually hanging around offering jobs openhandedly to English majors. And how we weren't using the Internet had to write letters! And use TYPEWRITERS! (I expected a good laugh over that one.)

"And then you got offers?"

Everything freezes while I rack my brain and think of anyone I know who had more than one job offer to choose from at a time. (Well, I did have that part-time job at the bookstore...)

I wish I could make getting a job in publishing sound more glamorous. It's sometimes exciting, and frustrating, and intriguing. But it rarely is glamorous, even if you add in the remote possibility of a dot-com job, and I hear the out-of-work Web designers are lined up around the block for those.

Really, I don't mind. I used to be one of those people too, someone who would grab strangers by the shoulders and gibber "HOW DID YOU EVER GET A JOB?" (Politely, of course, and with a promptly-sent thank-you note.)

Twelve years in, I'm remembering those conversations and wishing there was someone I could ask my questions to. Chief among them is why I see lots of women editors, and writers, and freelancers--but I rarely see women publishers, or CEOs, or other decision makers.

It's not that there aren't any women in upper management in publishing. Cathleen Black, president of Hearst Magazines, just got finished being president of the Magazine Publishers of America. (It's also worth noting that she got her start NOT in editorial, but advertising sales.) But they're still exceptions, rather than the rule. And I, for one, could use a few more role models.

I tried to stir up some interest in this topic last year at one of our seminars, but it was hard to find appropriate speakers on the topic. And it was one of the least-well attended events of the year, so maybe most people don't care. Personally, I think that kind of apathy is dangerous.

So I care. And a few other people do, too:

The Brits seem to talk more about this than the Yanks:
'Its not something successful people dwell on," says the editor of British magazine Red. "Publishing is great if you want to be an editor or a publisher but if you want to go further, if you want to be one of the big guys who make the big decisions then it's bloody tough for women."

Paul Schindler points out that "being a good reporter doesn't mean you'll be a good manager." A valid point, although not an excuse.

A couple of studies, although not exhaustive, have been done on this topic. The Grey Suits study by (British) Women In Publishing study is several years old, but it pretty much confirms my suspicions.

Most recently, the Dingell-Maloney report shows that "women are underrepresented in senior management positions in virtually every professional field." The statistics in communications is particularly underwhelming.

Posted at 08:50 PM
May 14, 2002
Oodles of Tulips

Yesterday I worked at home and enjoyed the marvellous quiet that is my neighborhood during the work day.

At lunch, I went out to run some errands.

Cost of library fine on Eric's book: $1.30

Cost of a dozen orange-red tulips at my local florist, instead of shopping at the grocery: $13.00 (!! My god.)

Photos of the tulips on Michigan Avenue last week: Priceless.

Posted at 09:24 PM
Bears Repeating

Lawyers and animal rights activists are scratching their heads over this one: the Smithsonian Institute's National Zoo has refused to release medical records of its animals to the Washington Post. According to the zoo, this would "violate the animals' right to privacy."

Or would it? There's always PandaCam.

In truth, I got a better look at the bear at the San Diego Zoo.

In other news, apparently the cover du jour at the Chicago Belle and Sebastian show was "The Boys Are Back in Town." Can't think of any particular relation to Chicago, though. Well, as fIREHOSE used to say, another theory shot to shit.

Posted at 09:20 PM
May 12, 2002
Pigeons on the gutter - desperation's utter!

Used to be, this was all we'd see every morning here at the house...

But now, the pigeon feeder's moved, and we hear only the occasional plaintive cry....

Posted at 04:57 PM
Yesterday's News Today!

I found out about the death of Kevyn Aucoin the old-fashioned way—by reading the newspaper. Not really news any more, since it happened May 7, but it took me aback anyway, probably because he was only 40.

As a beauty consumer, the celebrity side of Aucoin’s writing wasn’t much use to me (Tori Amos has 37 looks? Great! I only need one halfway decent one, please). His columns for Allure (not available online) never seemed to be the product of much thought, as they usually consisted of photos of him with various celebrities.

A quick obit scan shows that, indeed, he is mainly remembered for his work with celebrities, many of whom were immortalized in his popular makeup and photo coffeetable books. He’s less known in the mainstream for his work as a gay rights activist, including supporting the Hetrick-Martin Institute, a non-profit supporting the rights of gay teenagers.

The makeup artist boards remain abuzz, although I haven’t seen much discussion elsewhere. As one poster put it, maybe he’s in heaven now giving Janis Joplin that much-needed makeover.

Posted at 11:35 AM
May 11, 2002
I Could Do This All Day

Belle and Sebastian are touring right now and trainspotting popsters have been swapping anecdotes. One of the more fun features has been the “city-specific” covers that have been popping up on the North American tour. A little casual research and listserv gossip have turned up these:
Austin—Texarkana Baby
Philadelphia--Theme from "Rocky" and an "instrumental Philly-soul-sounding tune"
Boston--The Pixies' "Gigantic" and Dinosaur's "Freak Scene"
New York--Blondie's "I'm Always Touched By Your Presence, Dear"
Montreal-- Montreal: Leonard Cohen’s "That's no way to say goodbye"
Toronto—Can’t Get No Satisfaction (OK, I’m stumped by this one)

What songs will they play in Chicago tonight? Although we won’t be there, the Kitty Joyce organization would like to make a few suggestions:
O Captain, Slint (technically, aren't they from Kentucky? Well, gotta represent that post-rock sound, I guess)
Atomizer, Big Black
Dream Police, Cheap Trick
something by Chicago (maybe "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?")

Tragically, looks like they will miss Bloomington, so that John Mellencamp retrospective will have to wait.

Posted at 10:11 AM
May 04, 2002
Out and About on the Bandwidth

The indiepop list is abuzz about the Benno-fest, which apparently isn't going to happen this year. The site, however, does have some nice audio clips and samples of Swedish pop music and Benno-style bands. According to a former Benno-ite, the proprieters were just bored with the whole operation. Apparently the Bennoistes were much more organized than we here in America are. Another listee described it as "the Benno organizaton"--just a few steps away from "the Benno conglomerate" and "Benno Amalgamated, Inc."

Organizations and conglomerates made me think of another "organization" closer to home, the Belgian Waffles! New stuff going on at that site too, including recipes and tongue in cheek song descriptions. Nice to see this operation, or conglomerate, or amalgamation, carrying on.

But let's not change subcultures in midstream. The admittedly nostalgia-ridden indiepop generation is aging now, in addition to just getting old. Digital cameras and GUI at least make this fun. I always enjoyed Alistair Fitchett and friends' writings about music and popular culture and see now he's started a companion site revisiting the places and indiepop lore of his past. Hope to see more....

One site we won't be seeing more of is the excellent It had funny writing and good photos and, apparently, is history. The archives are still up, though, to remind us of what once was.

And speaking of things past, I enjoyed "Burning Down the House" at Zero Format this week. Tobias's fiction is usually a little Raymond Chandler for me, but this story is right up my alley.

Posted at 08:44 AM
May 02, 2002
New York Key Words

Highlights of our trip to New York, part 1: Key Words

New York has:

-good foliage. We took a bus ride uptown (on 5th Avenue? Madison?) where the street was cut down the center with flowering trees and tulips. See also Central Park, Bryant Park, and various little dog runs in the Village.

-screaming children. We were surrounded by them at the Central Park Zoo and Two Boots, home of the cornmeal-based pizza crust. On the opposite end of things the Neue Galerie was filled with some fairly aggressive old folks. I suppose that's what the screaming children grow into.

-ways to feed my brain. We carried home a carry-on worth of books, no kidding! I spent my evenings reading about container gardening and plants to brighten up our concrete nightmare of a courtyard.

-colorful characters. Saw Dan, Ed, and Steve, as well as numerous hipsters and Yuppies. Overheard phrases like "I wonder if that was a zing at Hugo" and "I will fuck you up. I'm serious!" I hope he wasn't talking to Hugo.

-delis on every corner. This was a tremendous advantage to me and whatever metabolic quirk that insists I eat before 9 am. Why don't we have these places in Chicago? Don't even start with me about Au Bon Pain.

-sugar. The best chocolate cake in the world, in an unexpected place. Served with whipped cream.

Part 2: The Virtual Tour
Some of our favorite places are not on the Web. Here are a few that are:

See Klimt, Schiele, and Kokoshka here.

Highly stylized office supplies here. I bought coordinated scissors and pens!

Home of the well-chosen book. In fact, I chose a few.

The pied-a-terre.

Less comfy quarters or, indeed, not quarters at all. I enjoyed this tour and the guy selling pickles outside. There's also real-live controversy surrounding this place.

Part 3: The Loot
OK, I don't need any more books for a while. What we need is another place to put them. A partial list of purchases:
Black Lamb and Gray Falcon, Rebecca West's travel journal of Yugoslavia
The City and Town Garden, Linda Yang
Women in the Metropolis, a critical study of women in Weimar culture. I bought this because I became instantly obsessed by the discussion of the depiction of the "female flaneur" ie, a woman who walks around the city
Ghost Stories chosen by Edward Gorey. Brr!
Creative Home Design, an attempt on my part to master, or at least understand, this intimidating area
Urban Gardens by Rose Dale--Yeah, we'll be doing this. In about 20 years. But fun to dream.

And that's just a sample. Eric bought lots more as well. 'Cause you can't buy books in Chicago. Nope.

Posted at 08:26 PM