Friday, June 10, 2005

Help wanted

You oughta know that Isthmus is advertising for arts freelancers, and the job description looks uncannily like what I did for the newspaper as a freelancer.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Times do change

As I do every summer, I'm scanning the entertainment listings of county fairs around the state to see if any good acts are coming. (I'm still reeling from the George Jones show at the Wisconsin Valley Fair in Wausau a couple of years ago.) I'm struck by the photograph of the Wednesday headliner at the Fond du Lac County Fair: the Beach Boys. If I'm not mistaken, two people in that photograph are dead (Carl and Dennis Wilson) and one no longer tours with the Beach Boys (Al Jardine). That leaves just two: Mike Love and Bruce Johnston. I suppose that is more than none.
Sha na na na, sha na na na na

Yes, I have gotten a job. As the masthead of this week's Isthmus indicates, I am the new features editor of that esteemed weekly newspaper. It's a tremendous honor, and I will do my best to live up to it.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Rabbit is rich

At a thrift store I found a CD-ROM called The Playboy Interview: The First Three Decades. I was delighted. I remember wanting this when it came out, in 1994, and last week for $2.99 it was mine. I suspect the clerk thought I was a perv, since the case prominently has the Playboy name and bunny logo on the front. She probably wouldn't have believed me if I told her I really wanted to read it for the articles, especially the interviews with Stanley Kubrick and Jean-Paul Sartre; whatever your feelings about pictures of naked ladies, Playboy has long been a superbly written magazine, and the interview is one of its best features.

I must say, this is software of its time. A decade ago, multimedia was the buzzword in computer circles, and before the Internet the CD-ROM was how we were going to get oodles of data into our homes. But we weren't going to get much of that data onto our computer screens: the Playboy CD-ROM is optimized for a screen resolution of 640 by 480, and it refuses to start at all at resolutions higher than 800 by 600. (To read the interviews, I have been copying them into Word.) There's also something sad about the interface, which is clunky, with giant buttons. The influence of the Web has done a great deal to clean up the design of software interfaces, and I applaud that.

The Playboy disc is quite a collection! There are 352 interviews, from 1962 to 1992. Times have changed: one learns from the disc that in the 1960s the magazine covered lots more people with intellectual heft--writers, film directors and so forth--than in the 1980s and later. Early subjects include Bertrand Russell and Albert Schweitzer, Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni, but by the 1980s, Tom Cruise was more the norm (though I'm also interested to dig into 1980s chats with Daniel Ortega, Garry Kasparov and Prince Sihanouk).

As you might have guessed from my blog, the early history of the personal computer business has been fascinating me of late, and the first interview I read was a 1985 talk with Steve Jobs, the cofounder of Apple. He was 29 then, and he still spoke of microcomputers with the near-mystical optimism that typified the industry in its early years:
In education, computers are the first thing to come along since books that will sit there and interact with you endlessly, without judgment. Socratic education isn't available anymore, and computers have the potential to be a real breakthrough in the educational process when used in conjunction with enlightened teachers.
I must say, I'm still waiting for the breakthrough. I came of age on a Commodore 64, and the most educational thing I recall doing on it was playing Pitfall II.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Ahoy Lovers

My honkytonk band the World's Greatest Lovers decided to stop worrying and love, which is why we have eschewed a real web site altogether and set up shop on the au courant social network. But you can still get there via our URL: The new site is very much a 1.0 type of thing, but you get the idea.

In other music news, I updated my list of shows over there on the right. Most of the new shows are weddings (I love summer), but you also can check out Burnsian tunes at several public locales.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Phuck phishing

Technology columnist Robert X. Cringely proposes a way to stamp out phishing, the practice whereby crooks con people out of their money by sending authentic-looking e-mails purporting to be from banks, eBay and so forth. Turnabout being fair play, he suggests that when we get a phish e-mail, we go to the bogus site and enter bogus consumer information. If enough people do this, phishers will be overwhelmed trying to tell the difference between between real and fake data, and eventually they'll cut out the trickery.

It's a great idea. I'm in. Pass it on.
Good word

"When I went to movies as a teenager, we went to see what adults did. Now adults go to the movies to see what teenagers do."

--Roger Ebert