Christopher Lydon’s new show

[This post to be read while listening to the terrific Dresden Dolls song about being infatuated with Christopher Lydon.]

So, I have mixed feelings about the guy. His $230,000 salary, which became public after his acrimonious rift with WBUR, made it clear that I need my money more than WBUR does. So that until my own salary hits that mark, I probably won’t be responding to any pledge drives. Even when I hit the big time, until they stop running Dunkin’ Donuts ads, I’d sooner write out a big fat check to WFNX (which would be the only radio station I dislike more than WBUR). Even when he hosted The Connection, I couldn’t decide whether he was just an intolerable blowhard or an intolerable blowhard who put out an extremely interesting radio show.

You can decide for yourself, because he’s back on the air with a show called Open Source on WGBH. Or even better, the new version of iTunes has it in the podcast directory (finding it there is what inspired me to post this to begin with).

I know this is not exactly a ringing endorsement– it’s not really supposed to be. As ambivalent as I am about the man himself and about the show itself, I still find it worth listening to. As an example, I never thought I’d hear anything intelligent about fan fiction, but there it is.

Spamusement

In ths spirit of an old favorite, exploding dog, it’s Spamusement: Poorly-drawn cartoons inspired by actual spam subject lines!

I’d link directly to some of my favorites, but part of the fun is clicking on the link and seeing what’s inside.

OK, I’ll just tell you that my favorite so far is “it’s not a joke!”.

Back to the old house

Athenaeum Street, formerly Athenaeum StreetI had a long trip down memory lane last week. I went to a conference for two days last week which was held at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, right on the river in Cambridge. It’s near the old offices of ZDNet, where I used to work, on Athenaeum Street, near the Cambridgeside Galleria and the old Lotus building.

It’s basically just about a half mile away from where I work now. I get off at the same T stop, and walk 7 minutes, just 7 minutes in the opposite direction. So I end up never seeing most of these areas; it’s an industrial area in East Cambridge, so there’s rarely any reason to go there unless you happen to work there.

But I spent a decent chunk of my twenties in those spaces. Terri and I used to use the gym at the Sonesta (ZDNet had an unbelieveable deal where we could get a membership for $180/year). I used to walk down the incredibly beautiful area along the river with the view of Boston and the Esplanade. I used to eat at Boca Grande probably 2 days out of the week.

So it was interesting to go back, let the memories come, and see what’s changed. I snapped some pictures.

  • Genzyme building, formerly a parking lot
    Genzyme building, formerly a parking lot
  • shiny building, formerly a quaint brick factory
    shiny building, formerly a quaint brick factory
  • goofy gehry-ish entrance to underground parking, formerly nothing
    goofy gehry-ish entrance to underground parking, formerly nothing

New Star Wars vs. old Star Wars

Neal Stephenson in the NYT:

Ever since I saw the movie, I have been annoying friends with a trivia question: “Who is the enemy? What organization owns this vessel?”

We ought to know. In 1977, we all knew who owned the Death Star (the Empire) and who owned the Millennium Falcon (Han Solo). But when I ask my question about the new film, everyone reacts in the same way: with a sudden intake of breath and a sideways dart of the eyes, followed by lengthy cogitation. …

…These newer films don’t even pretend to tell the whole story; they are akin to PowerPoint presentations that summarize the main bullet points from a much more comprehensive body of work developed by and for a geek subculture.

Letterpress Blog

Since the letterpress world largely still communicates through listserv, I decided the world needs a new letterpress blog, so that’s where I’m going to be posting news of my letterpress and other posts of general letterpress interest in the future.

The two items of note: last week, my re-covered rollers came in, making the press more or less fully operational, and this Wednesday, I got a demo of a Versalaser, which I’m hoping will be an option for making custom plates.

We’re open: would you like a flashlight?

My office is situated between the Kendall and Central red line stops; it’s a few minutes’ walk closer to Kendall, so I take that stop unless there’s something I’m doing that involves the slightly more hip and bustling and still-sketchy-despite-gentrification Central square. Despite how sucky Kendall Drug was, I used to use it to pick up sundries before work. It seems to have closed sometime in the past couple of weeks. So, tonight, I walked to Central to go to Walgreen’s.

Well, apparently, due to exploding manhole covers, the power was out in Central Square, and a huge area of Mass Ave. was completely closed. But Walgreen’s was open, but someone greeted me to let me know that it was cash-only, and to offer me a flashlight. I chose to go it in the dark. Very odd experience walking through a large drug store completely dark except for what sunlight streamed in from the front, completely quiet except for voices from distant isles.

I’d have taken pictures, but, well, the store was completely dark. I bet you can imagine this one pretty successfully without photographic aid.

Queer Eye for the Sox

Caught the second run of the Sox episode of Queer Eye tonight. I sort of had perhaps unrealistic expectations that it would be a good episode, but from an entertainment perspective, it was not. First, they filmed during spring training, and as you might expect, central Florida doesn’t exactly offer the usual cultural & commercial facilities of Manhattan. So they were a bit constrained with what they could do. Second, while makeover shows tend to be thin excuses for product placement, this episode really felt like an hour long commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts, BJ’s, and more. Last, they tried to do too many of them at once, and so there wasn’t a whole lot of personality to the whole thing. So, it wasn’t great TV. Still, I think it’s a good episode as a social milestone. I have this perhaps unfounded faith that the whole Queer Eye thing, despite how problemmatic it can be, is a positive cultural force. Sure the whole enterprise is a bit cheesy and trades in stereotypes and sentimentality and promotions for Crest White Strips. But I’m a pragmatist and I believe in baby steps.

Queer Eye guys throw out the first pitchFor example. We went to the Angels/Sox game on Sunday with Nora. Three of the Queer Eye guys threw out the first pitch, and Jai sang the national anthem. Of course, I don’t like his breathy, Broadway style of singing, but when have anthems ever been sung for their artistic merit? I was a bit moved at the thought that even ten years ago, an openly gay guy singing in a major league sporting event would have been pretty much out of the question. Good for the Sox management for doing it on a Sunday day game. And good for Larry Lucchino for not buckling to those boobs on WEEI.

In a slightly related note, since there is a huge lacuna in my baseball interest, stretching from about 1986 (when the only thing going for the Pirates was the pre-steroids Barry Bonds) through 2002 (when I went to Fenway for the first time), I missed the fact that in 1997, MLB retired Jackie Robinson’s number for every major league team. Terri pointed this out to me at the park on Sunday, hence the 42 in blue rather than red. Part of me thinks it’s a terrific gesture, and another part of me thinks it just calls more attention to how long and how bitterly baseball held out against integration. Baby steps I guess. Maybe we still need the gesture now. But I still have to hope that someday people will wonder what the big deal was.