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A BIG HI-5 TODAY…
Jan 16th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…to the hard-working food technologists, never slacking in their efforts to formulate snack products that (1) don’t have the nasty stuff that makes snack foods so wonderful, and (2) don’t taste like cardboard.

TEXTS IN DISGUISE
Jan 16th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

ANYBODY WHO CARES about the American short story, and how to market same, should look at the (probably unauthorized) online scanning and posting of A Cotton Candy Autopsy. It was the first episode of Dave Louapre and Dan Sweetman’s illustrated-story series, Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children.

Published between 1989 and 1992 by DC Comics’ short-lived Piranha Press division, Beautiful Stories wasn’t a comic book (not even a “grownup” comic book). Rather, Louapre wrote a different (usually darkly humorous) text story for each issue, to which Sweetman added large illustrations (in a different, appropriate style each time).

The various book and magazine incarnations of Beautiful Stories have all been out of print for years. I’ve no idea what Louapre or Sweetman have done since. But the series remains one of the last examples of a big media company packaging and selling an individual short story as a stand-alone, un-anthologized entity unto itself.

THE MAILBAG
Jan 15th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

(via Arthur R. Marriott):

“Clark,”As a photography enthusiast who until recently worked for Seattle’s leading professional lab, I’ve been reading with some interest about the transition to digital photography, as pointed up by Kodak’s announcement that they’re going to stop selling film cameras.

“It’s important to note that such sales are only being discontinued in the US and Canada. Kodak is actually expecting to see their disposable-camers sales to undergo a dramatic increase in the rest of the world in the next few years, and this is rather sad, considering the amount of garbage and waste this is going to cause.

“There certainly has been a great deal of debate over the virtues of digital versus film in terms of the finished product. I think you’re right on about the present superiority of digital technology for most purposes. For a dwindling few applications it doesn’t quite make it–the art photographer who’s taking pictures on 8X10 sheet film and making six-foot murals won’t be satisfied with digital yet. Even a 10-megapixel image when enlarged to that size would have a dot width of nearly a millimeter, and this would be more apparent due to the ‘regularity’ of the pattern as opposed to random film grain. It’s going to be a year or two before cameras with much higher resolution than that are readily available.

“For most anything else, digital does a fine job. In fact, most labs that process film now scan the negatives and print everything up to around 24 inches across with digital printing machines, even on photo paper. For a pro who takes a lot of pictures, saving the costs of film and processing and the ability to do one’s own editiing in Photoshop is probably greater than the higher cost of a good digital camera. I’m rather surprised that nobody’s atarted making digital ‘conversion backs’ that can be used with existing professional film cameras to enable photographers to extend their usefulness and leverage their investment in them and their lenses and accessories.

One thing that may be lost in the digital transition is archiving. Believe it or not, there may not be at present a digital medium with the longevity of properly stored black-and-white negatives, or even Kodachrome slides. It has only recently been discovered that the present generation of writable CDs only last a couple of years.

As to the pollution issue, I’ll bet Rochester is indeed a mess! My wife’s grandmother used to be an executive at Eastman’s huge gelatin plant in Peabody, Mass. (Gelatin is used to bind the photochemicals to film or paper.) Ironically, it was regarded as one of the cleaner industries in that area–but that’s because most of the other factories there were leather tanneries!

I do find myself wondering whether Playboy still requires the ‘gatefold’ shot be taken with an 8X10 Deardorff…

THE OPERATION WAS A SUCCESS, THE PATIENT DIED
Jan 14th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

“Clinic,” the weekly live-music showcase at Re-bar, is still going on, despite the decline and fall of its co-sponsor Tablet.

Tuesday night’s edition went like they all did. Three bands played (pictured below: the unabashed loudness that is The Octabites). An improv troupe of “naughty nurses” told a few jokes and mingled among the crowd, passing out promotional tchotchkes for Tablet and Toys in Babeland.

After three years and change, the last fortnightly Tablet tabloid is out. Officially, the soft ad market did it in, along with its also-ran status in the local “alt” media universe and its confusing every-other-week schedule. But I’d add that the paper’s concept was contradictory from the get-go.

It never paid its writers a cent; expecting them to work just for the privilege of getting their statements made.

But, aside from a few political conspiracy-corner columns (which never challenged the orthodox-“radical” views of the paper’s target audience), its content was almost uniformly perky and light. The rag acted as if it was daring and rebellious by printing only positive reviews and by running lotsa puff pieces for advertisers.

In the end, Tablet had become a thin publicity sheet, not a true “alternative” at all. Its instigators plan to resurface later this spring in a monthly “magazine” format (no, I don’t know what that means) selling ads to both Seattle and Portland youth-culture businesses. I wish them success, and hope they’ll use the opportunity to reformulate their approach.

THE MAILBOX
Jan 14th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

(via Josh Okrent):

“Hey Clark,”Thanks for the Kodak story. I was born and raised in Rochester and have a long and tangled history with the area’s #1 employer. Most of my parents’ friends worked for Kodak, and too many of their kids died young from cancers caused by Kodak’s shitty waste disposal practices.

“Allow me to recommend a great, and little read, novel about Kodak’s prescence in Rochester. It’s called The Lost Scrapbook, by Evan Dara, published in 1995 by FC2. It features a barely fictionalized Rochester called Springfield, but the strangenesses and horrors it discusses are all
too real. It made the rounds of all the literate-punk bookshelves in Rochester before being named by William Vollman as “winning manuscript” in the Normal, Illinois fiction contest. Anyhoo, look for it.”

I indeed have read The Lost Scrapbook, and heartily second Mr. Okrent’s recommendation.

END OF AN ERA
Jan 14th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

Kodak won’t sell traditional film still cameras in the US and Canada anymore, and instead will concentrate on digital imaging technologies for medicine and industry. Of course, at Kodak the cameras were always loss-leaders for the film and the processing supplies. They used to bring out a new cheap consumer photo format every year or two (remember the Disc?), mainly to force processing labs to buy new machinery. With 35mm now the standard for both pro and amateur analog photography, this old planned-obsolescence cycle ended.

The purists and nostalgists are already ruing the rise of digital photography and the decline of film. As you know, I’m no purist. Digital allows a shooter of candid photojournalism to take hundreds more shots a day.

And the planet gets a lot fewer gallons of icky chemicals dumped onto it. (Two of the worst chemical-cleanup sites in America are Kodak’s main complex in Rochester, NY and the former View-Master factory in Portland.)

PUNX FOR DEAN
Jan 14th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS over the next ten months, the tattoos shown at the bottom of the PunX for Dean page will look quite dated by ought-five.

I’m in a depressed mood today. I’m old enough to remember Watergate, the sixties assassinations, and the other horrors of X-treme politics past. With all the unreconstructed Nixonians running loose in the Bush wannabe-dictatorship (not to mention the guys whose apparent ideal of good governance is Pinochet-era Chile), we may see even dirtier tricks this time around. And they could even blame “terrorists” for the nastiest tricks.

It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

WORDS V. PICTURES
Jan 12th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

SOMEONE NAMED ONLY ‘MICHAEL’ has a lot of profound things to say about the differences between “movie people” and book people.” I read books, and even write them, but I’ve never considered myself comfortable among the proponents of what I’ve called “the writerly lifestyle.” This essay tells me why, at long last.

MORE SNOW PIX
Jan 10th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

IT’S THE LAST INSTALLMENT of our snow pix. By now, five days have passed since Snow Day. It already feels like a million years ago. (Sigh.)

YES, fawning celebrity "news" coverage…
Jan 10th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

has gone too darn far.

COULDN'T HAPPEN TO A NICER GUY
Jan 9th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

Loved the P-I‘s great ode on Thursday to one of my main here-n’-now heroes, Frank cartoonist Jim Woodring.

JUST HOW BLEAK is this economy…
Jan 8th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

…for young to early-middle-aged adults? Pretty darn bleak, that’s what.

BEWARE OF DOGMA
Jan 8th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

A FEDERALLY-FUNDED STUDY claims conservative politics rises from a psychology of “fear and aggression, dogmatism, and the intolerance of ambiguity.”

ME WRITE PRETTY ONE DAY
Jan 8th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

BRITAIN’S BOOK PUBLISHERS are reportedly slashing the number of new books they’ll put out, so they can concentrate on (1) established bestseller names and (2) “‘good-looking’ first-time novelists who are more marketable.”

I’m immediately reminded of the bleak Brit movie Morvern Callar. Its heroine, a sexy young party babe stuck in a small town, wakes up to find her struggling-author boyfriend has deliberately OD’d. She sells his novel manuscript, under her byline, for big bucks. The movie never directly says, but clearly implies, the boyfriend’s book would never have sold if publishers didn’t get the chance to stick Ms. Morvern’s cute face on the back cover.

FURTHER SNOW '04 PIX
Jan 8th, 2004 by Clark Humphrey

AS THE BIG SNOW rapidly becomes the Big Slurpee, here’s the second part of our look back at the wondrous simpler time that was this past Tuesday. At least one more batch-O-pix will follow.

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