Zine Report: Cometbus #52 "the Spirit of St Louis"

Punk is about community--but this (fictional, keep reminding yourself it's fictional) story is the story of a punk community that's too small, too self-involved. The protagonist came from Berkeley, moved to St Louis as a way to break free--and then lives in St Louis from then on. Other members of the local punk scene try to break away, but are pulled back in. It's obvious that these people aren't good for each other. When outsiders come in, they are lionized--but then they too are trapped in the tarpit. Yet there's still love of the punk scene here. Just a reminder not to leave your blinders on, not to get provincial.

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Book Report: The Best of 2600 (a Hacker Odyssey)

I used to read a little newsletter called 2600. It billed itself as The Hacker Quarterly, which makes it sound like it was full of sploits for breaking in to computer systems. But it wasn't really about that. It described a bunch of computer and telephone systems. For each system, the point of view was someone exploring it, who'd figured out a few things. I eventually figured out that the article authors mostly weren't breaking into the computers. Rather, they'd got some student account or one of their parents had let them mess around. And I wasn't even into cracking into computer systems (and still ain't). And yet... And yet... yet, it was still an interesting newsletter. This was before the web, and there wasn't much good high-tech journalism out there. Most of that was aimed at specialties, at businesses. 2600 talked about many different kinds of devices.

Nowadays, I get my tech news off of the internets. Still, when I heard that there was a "best of" anthology coming out, I figured that it would be good for nostalgia. And it was.

TelCo minutiae in How to Get Into a CO, "The Kid" describes how he and some phone phreaker friends arranged to get a tour of their local telephone company facility. The most important thing that they learned "the mystery of the billing tape! Exactly what does it contain? The tape contains records of the following types of calls: 0+, 1+, and 7-digit numbers out of your local calling area." Uhm, yeah. If you want to work around phone company systems or social-engineer phone company employees, you need to learn how the phone company works. These kids got excited about billing system administration.

Voice Mail Systems Phone phreaks had phones. They didn't all have PCs or email accounts. So instead of sending emails or going onto computer BBSs, they liked voice mail systems and phone conference systems. Some company would get a voice mail system. Every employee got a mailbox with a default password, maybe "1234". Most employees never used the system, never changed their password. So... the phreaks used these systems as message drops. Looking back now, in these days of free email accounts all over the place, it's hard to imagine that folks would need to "hack into" a system just for a place to exchange messages.

Not by "Crackers" A "how to" article on privelege escalation on VMS systems--which mostly consists of debunking some obviously-bad advice which, apparently, was going around at the time...the article ends with "...If you have not guessed by now, I am a VMS system manager. I am assuming that many of the people who are reading this are other system managers who, like myself are trying to keep hackers off of their systems."

Civil Liberties In 1997, spreading the news that cellular phone operators in India were providing help with phone taps to the government. Raids by the FBI and the Secret Service. (You want to know why American security folks keep mentioning "subpoena" in their threat models? Geeks of a certain age grew up hearing about the Secret Service raiding... raiding a game company, seizing their computers... Not even a computer game company, but a reputable paper-and-pencil game company... And plenty of other raids, similarly dubious. High-profile arrests which probably got some federal agent promoted. Charges eventually overturned. Or the incredibly valuable stolen data turns out to be available from the local college library and we find out we paid millions of dollars in taxes for a raid and a trial over a crime whose stakes were less than grabbing the till from a lemonade stand. Or... or... Ahem. Sorry, was I ranting?) Various attempts by the USA government to popularize key escrow encryption--in which the government is the escrow.

The Pay Phones go Away Remember pay phones? They used to be all over. Now they're in... they're in... they're in BART stations, I guess. Not many other places. Mourned in conversation, but largely overlooked by the news. But 2600, bless their phreaker hearts, noted their passing.

2600 is still a going concern, but I stopped reading it as various web tech news sites got better. Still, for me, this collection brought back memories of the late 90s, the early aughts. Though the systems have all changed, we're still applying lessons from those days. (Like, "1234" is not the greatest default password.) Geeks of a certain age might like this collection. I did.

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Zine Report: Giant Robot #60

There's a photo of Ryohei Tanaka's equipment. Tanaka makes art by cutting paper. His equipment--an assortment of scissors and... dyes?

An article by a guy who photographed some film locations from the Star Wars movies--oh, wait, it's more interesting than that. These were in Tunisia. Some of that Tatooine stuff was real stuff found in Tatouine, some of it was movie magic.

An article about Peter Saville, the Factory Records artist who did the Joy Division album covers you remember.

An interview with the director of the movie Quick Gun Murugan (Behold: a clip from Quick Gun Murugan, I guess).

A fun read.

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Zine Report: Wired 17.05 (May 2009)

I picked up the latest issue of Wired. A bunch of famous puzzlers made puzzles for it. There's, like, hidden puzzles inside. I didn't make it very far. There's a lot of stuff in Wired magazine. You can get tired of looking for hidden stuff. Ooh, look, there's some bold letters here, they spell out a message. Hey, these ads look fake. But there's just so much to slog through. Do I want to read an article about the Kryptos statue? I've read some about that statue. Do I want to read an article that introduces it, one that assumes I know nothing?

I got bored. I took a break from hunting, started idly riffling pages. My eyes fell on this snippet

Skip to the next article. You certainly could--you could skip the whole magazine.

It was a sign. I put it down went on to other things.

There was good stuff in the magazine. I enjoyed the puzzles that I saw! Thank you for making them! And there was a Clive Thompson article about ARGs and group-solving puzzles that quoted Jonathan Blow. Hooray for quoting Jonathan Blow. I also noticed a welcome lack. I noticed the lack of the crap that made me stop reading Wired years ago. The glowing reviews of unaffordable audio equipment--they're gone! Maybe Wired has turned into a worthwhile magazine. Maybe I shouldn't have looked at Loganbill so funny when he said he wanted to work there.

Still, though. Too much work to hunt through the whole darned thing looking for puzzles. I guess I could let Clive Thompson's article convince me it would be fun to look for other people on the internet. And we could shard up the magazine, each person searching one section for hidden stuff! And we could say "Look me made a communities!" and all collaborate around the magazine and... and...

To heck with it. I've got a new issue of Giant Robot. And I already watched J.J. Abrams talk about his $&#*ing mystery box on his TED video, and it wasn't that interesting then. On to the next zine.

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Zine Report: Giant Robot #57

The Obama posters say "HOPE", but when Obama himself picks people... well, he undercuts hope. It's like he scraped my old book reports, looking for books about USA politics with villains and chose those villains. He chose the viper Wade Randlett as a fundraiser. He chose the redbaiting Bill Richardson for his cabinet.

Giant Robot #57 has a painting of Obama on the cover, and cover article is about Obama. But it's not about evil appointees; it's mostly about art. You know that Shepard Fairey Obama poster? OK, this article is about artists like Shepard Fairey, making Obama-themed art, putting up posters. It's about a guy named Yosi Sergant, working for the campaign, reaching out to artists. It was interesting, inspiring even.

Maybe Obama's going to turn out to be just another politician, a demagogue who threw the word "HOPE" on a wall and let each American latch onto whatever... whatever they hoped for. But it's inspiring to see so many people working for change. Maybe it means that Americans are ready to make their country a better place in spite of their politicians. And we need that--and would have needed it, no matter who we elected.

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Book Report: Giant Robot 55

I don't know if anyone mailed an announcement to the Bay Area Night Game list about the upcoming BANG 19, a.k.a. a "simulcast" of Seattle's SNAP 4. I don't want to think about it. I'm too sleepy to do much beyond post this previously-composed blog post about the recent issue of Giant Robot magazine:

It's a new issue of Giant Robot! Probably the best thing this time was a two-page spread with some photos of pencil boxes from the 80s. People see my Hello Kitty pencil box and they compliment it. But I'm not sure if they compliment it because they like it, or if they're trying to cover up the fact that they started to laugh at, you know, the big shambling guy with the bright pink Hello Kitty pencil box. Anyhow, they compliment it and I usually look at them funny. I'm not exactly sure how to take the compliment. It's a nice pencil box. But I remember the pencil boxes of my youth.

They're here, pictured in this magazine. Back when pencil boxes had more compartments than you could stand. Mood-sensing panels to touch. Actually, most of the pencil boxes in this photo spread are more elaborate than those I remember. There are pencil boxes with features I'd forgotten, if I ever knew about them: a plastic dial-driven calendar, pushbuttons, thermometers, articulated pencil-rack raisers. Useless frippery, sure. But now I look at my pencil box which lacks these features and think "This ain't nothing special." That's probably healthy. You don't want to invest too much feeling in your pencil box. Instead, concentrate on what you do with your pencils.

I mean, be creative. With the pencils. Not like that, you pervert. Never mind.

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Book Report: The Loneliness of the Electric Menorah (Cometbus #51)

This is a 'zine, the latest issue of Cometbus. This is a history of Berkeley's Telegraph avenue--mostly of the shops which arose out of a place called Rambam, which predates my Berkeley days. But thence sprang Moe's Books, Cody's, Shakespeare & Co, Lhasa Karnak, Black Oak Books. It's a tale told by Aaron Cometbus, who grew up amidst this, but wasn't privy to the stories until he started asking around. It's the story of the slovenly Ken who runs Rasputin Records and Blondie's Pizza. The SLA is is in there; the riots of the 90s, the inter-generational tension between the hippies and the punks. There is reflection upon the nature of a pig in mud. There is bookselling, there are books, there are ideas, there are ideals. I recommend it.

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Book Report: Giant Robot 53

In this most recent issue of Giant Robot, James Jarvis says
...it takes a lot of obsessiveness to make things minimal.
If he decides to give up the art business, he could be a technical writer.

The article about the Hong Kong Noodle Co. was pretty good, too.

Because the process was automated in the '70s, all of the machinery is at least 30 years old. ... Those particular machines' identifying plates are rubbed clean from use, and it's impossible to read their manufacturer or model numbers.

Speaking of old things, I composed this entry on the 27th, but am trying to figure out how to use the new-to-Blogger.com time-delayed posting feature to delay publishing until the 28th. We'll see how that turns out.

[ Edited To Add: "We'll see how that turns out" I failed to delay the publish. Me=FAIL ]

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Book Report: Giant Robot #50

The 50th issue of Giant Robot magazine is pretty wonderful. I especially liked the journalistic integrity of this interview with Jason Shiga about his comic book Bookhunter, which you may recall is awesome.

GR: Is there such a thing as a library detective like the character who appeared in Bookhunter?

JS: While the plot is based on an actual case, the story of Bookhunter is highly fictionalized. There are a lot of boring moments when working at the library, and I often daydream about more exciting library positions while shelving. I decided to structure my daydreams into a book, and ended up having to ask some of my older coworkers about the circulation process in the '70s. It was so much fun doing research, I almost didn't start the book.

GR: So is there really such a thing as a library book detective? I suppose it wouldn't be that much different than a video store detective.

JS: Usually when there's a serious crime, the library will contact local police. What is a video store detective?

GR: Sorry, I made that up.

As for myself, I wonder if the library book detectives had a TV show, would their theme music play during the library's hours of operation? Or would they try to keep quiet? But that's an impossible question to answer.

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Puzzles are Everywhere, Maybe Even mental_floss

I work at an internet search company. I think that the awesome part about internet search is that you don't have to remember stuff anymore. If you might need to know the capital of California in the future, don't bother trying to memorize that kind of stuff. You should devote those neurons to something more useful... like maybe IMSpeak decoding. Just look up the capital of California when you need to know it.

Surprisingly, there are many people at work who cache facts in their heads. These people know the capital of California--they know it really well. And lots of other stuff. The deepest lake in South America. The 19th century American poet known for wearing a straw hat. Which European monarch witnessed the greatest loss of population to his/her country during the course of his/her reign. These people, they like trivia.

mental_floss is a magazine for people like this. It's also a website, a line of books, ... The magazine's founders, Mangesh and Will, came to my place of employment to talk to give an Authors talk. I'd heard about mental_floss... was it from Ken Jenning's Brainiac? Or maybe from his blog? Or maybe via osmosis from hanging out with so many puzzlers and geeks? I dunno. Anyhow, I attended their talk.

They talked about how they founded the magazine while they were in school. They talked about how popular it is now, their success with the trivia books. More background blah blah blah. They asked some trivia questions. Look, if you're a trivia fan you probably want to check out the magazine. If you're not, but if you're a regular reader of this blog, then there was still something...

After the talk, I went up to the front where Mangesh and Will were chatting with a few folks. Tom introduced Wei-Hwa to them, pointing out that Wei-Hwa. was an international puzzle champion and everything. Will perked up at that, and asked him if Wei-Hwa wrote puzzles. Because they were thinking that mental_floss could have a puzzle feature. And you might be thinking "Oh, probably they just want more trivia quizzes", but when Wei-Hwa said that he had just made a bunch of Sudoku puzzles for the upcoming championship, Will didn't blink but said that he and Mangesh would love to hear about puzzles for the magazine. So anyhow, that's another place to send your puzzle ideas if you'd like to make them visible to a wide audience.

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Book Report: Valencia

Still pretty busy with game stuff--applications, puzzle ideas. It's been far too hectic for the last few days. Sometime yesterday afternoon, things turned a corner and I started to dig out from under. This evening I even started to catch up on personal mail. 180 pieces of personal mail. OK, I'm not caught up yet. But things feel soooo less hectic now. As part of the game application, I helped make a video. The guy with a video camera lives on Valencia, so Dwight and I headed over to Valencia to make this movie. Which is kind of a lame seque to say that I'm about to paste in this previously-composed book report about the novel Valencia. So sue me. I'm going to bed. I'm sleepy. It's been a heck of a week.

This novel is by Michelle Tea, but I've never heard her speak, so instead I'm going to start out by talking about Gerald Sussman, who I did hear speak a few weeks back. He's one of the authors of SICP, the Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. If you are a computer science geek, you may know this as the MIT intro-to-computer-science textbook. We used it at Cal, too. I remember that it was full of strange things to think about: the metacircular evaluator springs to mind. An interesting topic, but one that makes a naive frosh think, "What is the point of this?" Years later, I'd have some more perspective. Ah, he wanted to expose us to this concept and that concept, thinking that they'd come in handy later. Too bad that, at the time, I just thought that the textbook authors were crazy.

Sussman came to talk at work. He was worried about the state of computer progamming today. People creating code libraries, people designing APIs--they were all doing it wrong. There were these complicated interfaces for getting these gobbets of code to interact with each other. He sought inspiration from biological systems. In DNA, there's a reason that arms are like legs, but different. There is some DNA that controls how all limbs grow. But there is some DNA that is "triggered" based on where a body feature, uhm, sprouts from. Thus our legs are a lot like our arms, but are set up to be thicker, capable of supporting our weight all the time.

Modern software libraries aren't set up to fit together so easily. Sussman wanted components that could be combined more easily. To illustrate this, he put a diagram up on the board. It would be good if there was some way that in one stage of computing, a component could look at many thingies, figuring out something about each of these thingies; and then it would be good if there was some way to combine all of these results. So if you wanted to compute the sum of squares of many numbers, then you could say "well, for each number, the many-thingy operation is: compute the square; then when that's done, to combine the answer, we want to add those numbers together". To compute the average height of NBA athletes, you would say "for each athlete, the many-thingy operation is: extract the height from the data that we have about each athlete; then when that's done, to compute the answer, we want to add up all of those numbers and then divide by the number of athletes". This framework should exist; people writing software libraries should design those librarys' interface functions to "snap" into such a framework.

He had a few of these frameworks in mind, not just the many-operations-combined, but that's the one he showed. If he wanted to show us an idea that hadn't taken hold out in the world, that was the wrong framework to show. It was MapReduce. Folks at work use it all the time. I used it a couple of weeks ago for a project where I didn't have to--I could have used a loop. A year ago, I would have used a loop. But no, I used MapReduce. It was just the easiest way to solve the problem. I am not the sharpest programmer at work, not by a long shot. I have spent little time in the ivory tower of academia. But I'd been exposed to this idea for a while, and it had sunk in. As more coders get exposed to this stuff, they'll use it. I'd heard that the ideas for MapReduce came from the dread buried knowledge of the Lisp hackers, and of course Sussman is one of those. Anyhow, I can't claim that all of computer science has advanced to the point that Sussman dreams of, but... Perhaps we are closer than he thought.

After the talk, he took questions. I think that MIT's intro-to-CS course changed recently. Sussman's book will, presumably, be replaced by something else. I get the impression that various afficianados of novelty and fans of stability had been nattering at each other about whether or not this change was good. Maybe that's why someone asked about the future of education. I forget what the question was. But Sussman decided to talk a bit about the future of education. He pointed out that right now kids go to university because it's the ticket to a job. But jobs keep going away, and will do so more rapidly. As machines get better at tasks, it's not so important that humans do things. As the necessities of life become cheaper, we will have more idlers. If these people don't need jobs, how can we motivate them to educate themselves?

I thought about Michelle Tea's novel Valencia. This book is full of alternative youth falling in love, altering mental states, falling out of love, wandering city streets, wandering the nation. Occasionally someone holds down a job for a while, but most people seem to drift along without such. It would not be correct to call this book a lesbian version of a collection of Aaron Cometbus stories; but you suspect that these writers' characters would understand each other pretty well. These people drop out; when they have jobs, those jobs do not exercise their educations. That tattooed bartender's degree in comparative literature has not helped her career.

Sussman thought of this as an edutainment problem: how do you fool young people into learning if their education doesn't help them? I'm thinking, "Maybe that world is closer than you think." I don't have a great solution to this problem. I figure: if education becomes irrelevant, maybe we shouldn't continue shoving it down people's throats.

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Book Report: Giant Robot #46

In theory, I am tired of looking at photographs of athletic shoes. Nevertheless, when I picked up the latest issue of Giant Robot and saw the little list at the beginning in which Woody of SNKR FRKR lists the five worst sneaker disasters, I went and dug up photos of them. Mostly they interviewed him to get some perspective on Hiroshi Fujiwara, who has designed sneakers and other things.

Plus, there were plenty of articles that had nothing to do with sneakers. Thank goodness.

Speaking of shoes, apparently if you get shoes that aren't made of leather, they're called "vegetarian". There are lots of vegetarian sneakers out there, including a brand called "wombat", of all things. Who decided to call these things "vegetarian"? Vegetarianism normally means that you don't eat meat. I've read stories about becalmed sailors and trapped mountaineers eating their shoes. Since the next step of desparation generally involves cannibalism, I'd say that a "vegetarian" who refuses to eat his/her shoes because they contain animal products is probably not going to like the alternatives any better.

Oh, what, the magazine? There was an interview with a hand model. Some pretty stills from a Thai western movie. A guy named Binh Danh who develops photographs onto leaves of plants. Good stuff. Check it out.

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Not exactly a Book Report; Not exactly PuzzleHunt-Related

If you've always meant to check out the magazine Giant Robot but never got around to it, now you have some more motivation. Issue #44, in stores now, has an interview with Tetsuya Nishio. Yeah, the guy who invented Paint-by-Numbers/Nonogram/whatever puzzles. WPC dude. Yeah, him. It's not a long interview, but he does present a couple of cute little riddles, and we learn that he likes alcohol.

I'm not that much of a puzzle-head, so I thought the interview with the guy who makes donuts with fresh fruit was more interesting. He mentioned that the Harvey Mudd unicycle club rides to his donut shop annually. I'd heard something like that before, but assumed it was a tall tale.

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Book Report: Cometbus #50

Yesterday, it was too hot. In the evening, the neighborhood finally cooled off--a breeze blew through. My apartment was still too hot. So I applied my Game equipment to writing about the game--I went outside to write. I had on my headlamp so I could see; I had my written notes on my clipboard so that they wouldn't blow away; I typed away on the laptop. I looked like a dork, but it was the longest stint of writing I got in this weekend that wasn't disrupted by heat prostration.

That was pretty hard-core. Which brings me to the latest issue of Cometbus.

The latest issue of Cometbus and it is, unsurprisingly, awesome. Which parts were awesome? There's an interview with Ian MacKaye which doesn't wallow in the same old talk about the True Meaning of Straight Edge, but instead delivers an anecdote around an old Ramones show in D.C.

Then there's an article about great (and not-so-great) used bookstores in NYC. I could have used this back when I visited New York in January. I wasted some time trying to find the Gotham Book Mart in the diamond district. But Cometbus would have steered me right: that store moved.

...For fifty years GOTHAM BOOK MART was a delightful albatross right in the heart of the diamond district. Then, in 2004, they found more spacious digs a block away (16 East 46th) but lost all their charm in the move. The store got a high-class makeover and came out looking like a cross between a museum and a funeral parlor. Two years later, the place still reeks of privelege and McSweeney's. Only on the second floor does the stench thin out a bit. There, past shelves of precious, mylar-wrapped first editions I discovered one relic, one remnant of old Gotham...

OK, so when I was looking for the Gotham Book Mart nestled amongst a bunch of diamond shops, it had long since moved. Have you ever stood on a street full of diamond stores, just stood there looking at a building and scratching your head? You will draw attention. You look like a jewel thief; you look like you're casing the joint.

Hopefully, the next issue will come out soon. Hopefully, the next issue will come out in time to save me from looking for bookstores in the wrong places.

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Book Report: New Yorker Feb 14 & 21 2005

I read the New Yorker in stack order; magazines are not pushed on the stack at publish-time, but are queued elsewhere for a nontrivial time; that is, I don't read them in chronological order. So you should not be surprised that I just now got around to reading this old issue.

So here are some notes to myself: Bilger Burkhard had a good article about Petr Hlavacek and the history of shoes. Thus, someday, Bilger Burkhard may publish a book that I want to read. Thus do I add him to the list of authors I occasionally search for in library catalogs. Yea verily.

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Book Report: Giant Robot #38

I read the latest issue of Giant Robot magazine. There were photos from the opening party of the new Giant Robot store in New York city. One of the photos was of ace reporter Claudine Ko. And I thought, "What are the editors keeping her out late at parties? Instead, they should encourage her to stay in the office and write more." But I needn't have worried--she has an article a few pages later. It's a trip down memory lane about various men who have masturbated in her presence, but she makes it interesting.

There was also an interview with conceptual artist Tobias Wong. This was informative to me because I'm an ignoramus who had never heard of him. But he's made some interesting inventions/works: a smoking mitten, a transparent candle. Do you remember the time when I drained a lot of glitter into my toilet? It didn't flush out for several days, and tended to stay behind even though other, uhm, articles did get flushed. Anyhow, for a few days, everything in my toilet bowl was sparkling. Tobias had another approach to this: pills containing glitter so that your poo will sparkle. Actually, I doubt that the glitter pills are very efficient. A lot of glitter would be wasted; the only visible glitter would be that in the "bark" of the "log". However, with glitter floating free in the toilet bowl, some of it will cling to the "bark"--and none of it will be wasted on the "xylem and phloem".

Whoa, that thought stumbled along a little farther than it should have. Anyhow, this magazine has plenty of material that has nothing to do with wee-wees or poo-poo. Check it out.

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Book Report: Giant Robot #37

This issue of "Giant Robot" features interviews with a few Chinese-Jamaicans who were part of the music scene back in the early days of reggae. You want to send a message back in time to these guys: "No, don't let them slow down the ska!" But it's too late.

Oh, and there was a good photo by Takashi Homma, apparently part of some series called Tokyo Suburbia: an empty road past a stark-white painted solid fence/wall, so bright it has to be computer-generated, but of course it isn't. It's just a bit of reality from a particularly bleak place.

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Book Report: Giant Robot #36

I am always glad to see an article by Claudine Ko. But I am not sufficiently secure in my whatever to start reading Jane Magazine, where she spends most of her efforts. So instead I read her interview with Brandon Lee, porn star. This interview appeared in Giant Robot. Maybe it's too racy for Jane? I don't know. Am I sufficiently secure in my whatever to read an interview with a gay porn star? I guess so. It was an okay interview.

My favorite article was about Xavier Cha, who came up with a new grafitti method: topiary tagging. She cut her name into people's hedges. She talks about getting caught.

...[the police officer] walked me up to the house and said, "I found this woman cutting up your hedges." The woman didn't seem to know which hedges he was talking about. She was entertaining guests and seemed annoyed by the cop disrupting her afternoon soirée. She didn't even bother going out to look, and said it was all right. She probably regretted her decision because a couple of days later, it was cut down. A lot of them get cut down right away.

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Follow Up: Ready Made #16

You may recall that I reported not getting much from Ready Made #16, the magazine of creative re-use and recycling. It was well-written and amusing, but I could not apply it to my already-have-enough-planters lifestyle.

I must follow up. This magazine is more useful than I thought.

A few weeks back I went for a walk on a hill. This is the big hill next to Shoreline Ampitheater. (I work in a business park close to the Shoreline Ampitheater.) I'd climbed this hill once before. When I'd climbed this hill before, I noticed that its grassy sides were punctuated with utility-ish cement covers. I interpreted this to mean that the hill was wired with cable. Now that I climbed it again, during daylight I saw that these were not electrical-box covers. These were vent covers. This hill was landfill and it was still venting. This was a dirty hill.

So it is not so surprising that I picked up some fleas during my recent walk. I don't believe I've had fleas wandering around on my person since then. But I do believe that some fleas came home with me and took up residence in and around my bed.

At least I hope they're fleas, seeing as how I just sprinkled flea powder around my bed in an attempt to exteriminate them.

The directions on the cannister of flea powder were pretty straightforward: sprinkle powder on the area to exverminate. Use your broom to spread the powder around.

I have no broom. It's true. I have no broom and my apartment is apparently aswarm with parasitic insects. Does this mean I live in a level of filth worse than my mother's worst nightmare? Maybe. Anyhow, I have no broom, yet I must sweep. What to do?

By now, you've guessed the answer: I grabbed the magazine Ready Made #16 out of the recycling bag, and used it to sweep the flea powder around. It worked like a charm. Dare I hope that the flea powder is similarly effective?

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Book Report: Ready Made #16

I read an issue of Ready Made, a magazine for crafty re-users and recyclers. I am not sure what I think about it. It is witty and amusing. It was inspiring to read instructions for making furniture from leftover pallets and planters from just about anything.

On the other hand, I have plenty of furniture, and more planters than I need.

In the end, I felt like I'd fallen for a lifestyle-porn magazine. While I was reading, I fantasized about living in my green loft which I was filling with dream furniture. But when I looked up from the magazine, I was still in my cramped studio apartment.

I ruined my raincoat recently, planting trees in Oregon. Maybe someday soon Ready Made will have an article telling how to make a raincoat out of, say, plastic produce bags and surplus beeswax. That would be awesome. But I don't know that I'll keep reading their magazine in the faint hope of such an article.

Meanwhile, I could make a poncho out of a plastic garbage bag, if only I had a plastic garbage bag. But I don't. Good thing it's not raining today.

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Book Report: Juked Vol. 3 Fall 2004

This is a collection of short pieces lovingly skimmed off the top of Juked. So I'd already read these. I guess I got juked. One good story: Public Access by David Gianatasio.

You can buy this at Cody's.

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Book Report: Chicago Stories

When I bought this Cometbus book, I didn't realize that all of the stories had already appeared elsewhere. But I had forgotten the stories, so it was fun to read them all again. I felt like a bozo shelling out money for stories I'd already read, even though the Megan Kelso cover evoked the comfort of a favorite diner. Really, I should just read through my back issues some time.

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