Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sing-Along Sound of Music

Last night, I went with some friends to see the "Sing-Along Sound of Music" at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco.
It's an Austrian-esque Rocky Horror Picture Show experience, with audience members dressed up as various characters from the 1965 Robert Wise film, starring the great Julie Andrews. There was even a bag of goodies for each attendee, including an invitation to the baroness' ball that audience members waved at the appropriate time and a popper toy that was to be set off during the first kiss between the captain and Maria.
The show was raucous fun, though a bit headache-inducing (the sound had to be very loud, or the movie would have been inaudible over the audience shouts). But what I enjoyed most of all -- was the film. I've seen the film numerous times before, of course, but I was able to appreciate it as a very well-constructed story with some great characters, incredible scenery, and some very deft writing touches.
The Castro announced that in 2009, they'll be launching some new sing-along movie experiences, including (the clear audience favorite) Mamma Mia.
(Photo above shows the organist playing Sound of Music tunes before the start of the show, a welcome reminder of my days at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Illinois Governor Blagojevich Arrested; Feds 2, Illinois Governors 0

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) recently urged President George W. Bush to commute the sentence of Blagojevich's predecessor, George Ryan (R), who was convicted of various crimes. No word yet on that pardon, but Blago (as he's known to his legions of enemies) may be in need of a pardon himself. This morning came the shocking news that Blagojevich has been "taken into custody" by federal agents as the result of an undercover investigation of a broad array of corrupt practices. Apparently, the guv was trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by President-Elect Barack Obama.

Even in Illinois, that's illegal.

Read the charges and the latest updates. I won't reiterate them here.

I will, however, note that as a born-and-bred Wisconsinite (now living on the West Coast), this does somewhat amuse me. After all, in various social studies and civics classes on good government (and in Wisconsin, most social studies and civics classes are good government classes), New York's Tammany Hall and Chicago, Illinois, were the go-to topics to demonstrate the perils of unclean and corrupt government, influence-peddling, low-morals, etc., etc., etc.

Two consecutive Illinois governors have now been arrested. It'd be funny if ... no, it's funny.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Magazine News: Christie Hefner to Leave Playboy Enterprises

This morning's surprise announcement: Christie Hefner is resigning as chair and CEO of Playboy Enterprises, the multimedia company she has headed for 20 years (and has worked at for even longer).

Why is she resigning? The press release from Playboy Enterprises simply refers to her wanting to do other things in her life after devoting so many years to the company founded by her father, Hugh Hefner. That is certainly her right, and no one need criticize her for that.

Nonetheless, it is happening at a time that is particularly difficult for publishing in general. This past weekend, it was announced that the Chicago Tribune is reportedly considering filing for bankruptcy. And there have been reports that some cities could end up without a single daily paper in the near future, as a result of the drastic cutbacks in the news industry.

Magazines haven't been immune. U.S. News and World Report is becoming a monthly magazine. The owner of Maxim is reportedly in financial trouble. And the stories go on and on, with cutbacks in staff, publishing frequency, ad count, and new launches. Playboy has battled all of those industry trends, but it has another millstone around its neck: Starting in the 1980s with the Meese Commission and collaboration with the religious right, boycotts and threats of boycotts scared away many of the big-pocketbook, mainstream advertisers from Playboy's pages. Has anyone calculated how many millions – tens of millions? – of dollars Playboy has lost as a result of this? Its readership has also fallen, but it is still large enough that it should be attracting several times the ad-page count that it does.

But Playboy, because of its iconic place in American culture and business, gets dissected way too much in the blogosphere and in the pages of other publications. On a personal level, I wish Ms. Hefner well. She's known as being a class act (listen to audio of her speech to The Commonwealth Club of California a few years ago).

Now, how will her successor change things?

UPDATE: MSNBC interviews Christie Hefner about her future plans; click on the video feature to view the interview. She says the company is in a strong position to weather the downturn, and she's looking to do something in the area of public service.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Forrest J Ackerman, RIP

Back to the topic of magazines. A real path-breaker passed away this past week, Forrest J Ackerman. The founding editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland, the creator of Vampirella, the literary agent who brought us Ray Bradbury and others, the man who (with his wife Wendayne) brought us the U.S. versions of the German Perry Rhodan science fiction novels, passed away at the age of 92.

There are obviously lots of fans of his in the filmmaking world -- Steven Spielberg, Steven King, etc. But there are also lots of fans of his in the magazine world, or at least in the science fiction and horror magazine world. That's because Famous Monsters was a groundbreaking magazine devoted to horror films, their stars, and not much else. It was presented in an unabashedly enthusiastic way, and I think people of a generation or two before me loved the magazine for that.

It's not an appreciation I can claim to share. When I got into reading science fiction books and magazines, there was a magazine called Starlog that captured my attention, love, imagination, and weekly allowance. Starlog also produced a sister publication, Fangoria, to cover horror movies and related topics. Starlog and Fangoria are still being published, though Famous Monsters died along with the rest of the Warren magazine publishing empire in the early 1980s.

I didn't pay attention to Famous Monsters much at the time, because whenever I took a look, I found it to be lacking in substance, intelligence, and quality. I've occasionally bought an issue (thanks, eBay) in recent years to test my original reactions, and if anything, my views then were overly charitable.

But Ackerman himself (in an interview in Fangoria after he was ousted from his Famous Monsters position just a couple issues before the magazine's death) has lamented the chains with which his publisher, James Warren, shackled him with the magazine, and he apparently couldn't produce the magazine he would have liked. That's a shame. Warren, after all, produced some incredibly fun and exciting magazines like Creepy and Eerie during the 1960s and 1970s. If Famous Monsters had been allowed more freedom, then perhaps Ackerman would be remembered not only as a groundbreaking editor but as a great one.

But Ackerman's triumph is most likely his ability to transmit his enthusiasm to young science fiction and horror fans, through his magazines, books, and personal appearances (for many years, he allowed fans to tour his legendary collection of science fiction memorabilia in his homes, on Saturdays). I never had the opportunity to meet him, but if I had, it wouldn't have been magazines of which we would have spoken, it would have been Rhodan, movie monsters, film directors, and deep space shows. I would have liked that a great deal, and I feel bad that we've lost such a personality and talent.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ted Turner on Old Media, Plus Economic Troubles

CNN founder Ted Turner spoke with the San Francisco Chronicle's Phil Bronstein at a Commonwealth Club program today. They covered a wide range of topics; the clip above has him talking about why newspapers "are gone."He also talks about the current financial crisis.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Redesigned Starlog Logo

So, let's return to talking about magazines on this blog. Let's start with an oldie but goodie: Starlog magazine, a 30-something monthly that chronicles science fiction and fantasy films, television, and books, has redesigned its iconic logo for its newest issue, December 2008.

You see the old logo from the October 2008 issue at top left. The new logo is at bottom left. It's a radical change, and I'll admit I'm a conservative when it comes to magazine design, but the new logo has the advantage of being bold, stretching across the entire cover (rather than crammed in the middle), and by being set off in a separate box, should be better able to stand out against various-colored backgrounds.

This change follows the purchase of Starlog and its sister magazine, Fangoria, by The Brooklyn Company (headed by Tom DeFeo), after the bankruptcy of previous owner The Creative Group (which, to make things even more complicated, bought the two brands several years ago from founder Norman Jacobs).

More on this soon, after I've seen an actual copy of the magazine and can critique the entire issue.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Poll Watching

Should McCain supporters have hope or continue stocking up on canned goods? Should Obama supporters start fearing an electoral collapse or should they loosen up and enjoy an impending landslide? If you are trying to figure out what is what in these waning days of the seemingly never-ending presidential campaign, well, good luck.

Here's what CNN tells us today:
With five days until Election Day, there are signs the presidential race may be tightening, according to a new CNN poll of polls.

According to an average of several recent surveys, Barack Obama's lead over John McCain is down to 5 points nationwide, 49-44 percent — a gap that is 3 points less than it was earlier this week, and nearly half what the margin was one week ago.

But here's what CBS tells us today:

With less than one week until Election Day, Barack Obama maintains a clear lead over John McCain in the presidential race, a new CBS News/New York Times poll suggests. The Democratic nominee now leads his Republican rival by 11 percentage points, 52 percent to 41 percent, among likely voters nationwide.

A small percentage of these voters could still switch sides: The figures include both firm supporters of each candidate and those who lean towards one or the other but have not fully committed. These so-called leaners, however, make up less than 10 percent of each candidate's support, a sign that significant movement in the campaign's final days is not likely. Just five percent of the likely voters surveyed remain completely undecided.

But, wha -- huh? How can two leading media polls be so far off, both in results and in interpretation?


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Feinstein Takes a Stand on Gay Marriage Ban

California's U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has made a very good (if belated) ad urging good Californians to oppose the anti-gay marriage referendum, Proposition 8. Good for her. It's about time.

Now where's Gov. Schwarzenegger's ad? Hmmm?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Christopher Buckley to Push the Obama Lever

Christopher Buckley, the libertarian conservative satirist and author of such gems as The White House Mess and Thank You for Smoking, has announced that he's going to vote for Democratic Sen. Barack Obama for president. So what, you say? After all, so is everyone else.

But the reason this is significant is not what Buckley himself declares in his blog posting to be the reason, namely that he is the son of William F. Buckley Jr., the man who resurrected conservatism in the United States. Actually, I think it's all the reasons Buckley includes in his posting (plus a few from fellow conservative David Brooks, who in the New York Times lambasts Sara Palin and the modern GOP as anti-intellectual populists who have sunk the party to its depths). Buckley explains his disenchantment with the new John McCain, who sold his soul and his authenticity so that he could sit atop a party now known mostly for its meanness and dimness.

Read Buckley's article. in today's Daily Beast.(Photo by Amanda Leung; from Buckley's Sept. 18, 2008, speech to The Commonwealth Club.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sarah Palin: The Gift that Keeps on Giving (to Obama)

This blog is supposed to have a focus on the magazine and publishing industry, but it's sometimes hard to focus on that when we're in the midst of one of the most interesting and exciting political campaigns of my life. Luckily, there is some overlap, such as this excerpt from yet another jaw-dropping interview of Sarah Palin by Katie Couric.

Couric: And when it comes to establishing your worldview, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?

Palin: I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.

Couric: What, specifically?

Palin: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years.

Couric: Can you name a few?

Palin: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn't a foreign country, where it's kind of suggested, "Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?" Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.

First of all, hats off to Katie Couric, who through all of her interviews with Palin has been respectful but persistent, asking solid questions -- no gimmicks or gotcha questions -- and she follows up, which most political journalists seem to have forgotten about.

Second, er, um, seriously, Ms. Palin? You couldn't think of a single newsy magazine or newspaper to mention? Time? Newsweek? National Review? The Economist? U.S. News? The Atlantic? The Week? Is there not a single newspaper in Alaska you can name?

Here's my advice. When you're asked a softball question, HIT IT.

Wow. Just wow.

Wall Street Drops

Good cartoon, this.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on the Wall Street Bailout

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, speaking to The Commonwealth Club, responds to a question from Greg Dalton (Club VP) about the proper government response to the credit and investment crisis.
(Apologies for the grainy video.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Alec Baldwin Discusses LA Family Court

Actor Alec Baldwin, just 24 hours after winning his first Emmy Award (for his starring role in "30 Rock"), spoke to The Commonwealth Club of California on Monday, September 22, 2008, about his experiences in family court following the breakup of his marriage to actress Kim Basinger.

Baldwin did not come to The Commonwealth Club to speak about his Emmy or his storied acting career. He instead spoke only about what he learned as a result of his family court experience. He was a funny and gracious guest speaker at The Club, but his purpose was, of course, very serious.

(Apologies for the graininess of the video; I was at the back of the room, and my batteries were dying.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Alec Baldwin's Emmy

Actor Alec Baldwin won his first Emmy Award last night, recognizing his work on "30 Rock." It's surely a bit of welcome news for the actor, who's been nominated for Academy and Tony awards (and has won a Golden Globe). He's in the middle of a book tour for A Promise to Ourselves, and he's been talking about his highly publicized bitter divorce with ex-wife Kim Basinger.
Tonight (September 22), he's speaking at The Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco, and you can't get better timing than that. Should be very interesting.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Okay, I'll depart from my new-found devotion to writing about magazines to note that the Chicago White Sox's magic number (the combination of wins by the Sox and losses by its main opponent) is 29.

Even better, if you were looking for a reason to vote for Barack Obama, then here's this: According to the Chicago Sun-Times (and other outlets), in an ESPN interview to air later this week, Obama was asked about Chicago's baseball teams.

ESPN: "If the Cubs and the White Sox both make it to the World Series?"

Obama: "I would be going."

ESPN: "Who would you root for?"

Obama: "Oh, that's easy. White Sox. I'm not one of these fair-weather fans. You go to Wrigley Field, you have a beer, beautiful people up there. People aren't watching the game. It's not serious. White Sox – that's baseball. Southside."

That's great. He's a real Sox fan -- you can tell, because he not only praised the Sox but he slammed Cub fans (and accurately, too). Now THAT's the kind of insight we need in the White House!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Magazine News: Christie Hefner Blogs

This blog of mine is clearly coming to focus pretty heavily on the periodicals industry, so I'm not going to fight it. Magazines are, after all, where I practice my profession and have been my interest for decades.

So, I'll take this post as an opportunity to point you to another blog. Christie Hefner, chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises, is writing a regular blog for the Portfolio business magazine web site. She writes about newspapers, magazine competition, and some non-publishing matters, such as Barack Obama. It's a blog worth keeping an eye on; she's a smart publishing exec.

White Sox, Part II

Here's the post-game self-congrats by the White Sox.
It was nice to see former Sox Frank Thomas (not to be confused with Chicagoan Thomas Frank) (seriously, though I do) playing, even if it was for the bad guys.

Chicago White Sox 2:1 Oakland Athletics

I took advantage on Saturday of an opportunity to catch a rare appearance of the Chicago White Sox here in the Bay Area. After losing to the Oakland A's the previous night, the Sox rebounded on Saturday afternoon to a 2-1 victory. The game was not exciting, but it was a great baseball Saturday: Good seats, good weather, a good friend, good game result.
I took the photos in this posting from the 24th row behind home plate.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Cover Break

And sometimes I just take time out on this blog to appreciate magazine covers that catch my eye. Here's the upcoming issue of Starlog magazine. It's proof that "white space works."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Oh, No, I Agree with David Granger!

In an article on the web site of the magazine industry publication Folio:, Esquire Editor David Granger said: "When I talk to groups I sometimes speak about the days I had when I'd get the new issue of Esquire and go through it and think to myself, ‘F--k, it's still a magazine,'" Granger said in a recent interview with FOLIO:. "What I mean is that the medium is so compelling that I and we should all be able to do more with it. The magazine experience is one of the last remaining opportunities to enter a hermetically-sealed world, an edited experience of our culture created by someone else. And, more importantly, it's an experience that encourages you to stay in it rather than constantly bounce in and out of it."

The first part of that reference is why I can't bear to read Esquire these days. It's clear that its editors are just tired of the magazine format. But as a magazine editor (and reader) who still loves the magazine format, I was impressed with the second part of his comments, in which he said, "The magazine experience is one of the last remaining opportunities to enter a hermetically-sealed world, an edited experience of our culture created by someone else."

Exactly. A good magazine isn't a bulletin board or YouTube. It's a presentation of a worldview (sometimes limited to a narrow subject, such as foreign films or knitting, but sometimes literally surveying the world) done by people who want to present it in a certain way, want it to be experienced in a certain way, and who have reasons for it to be done so. The person putting his or her imprint on that "hermetically-sealed world" might be Hugh Hefner, Kerry O'Quinn and Norman Jacobs, Gloria Steinem, or it might be a group of radical cartoonists in New York or a church society in Minnesota. Whatever. It's their world that they want to present in a way that lets them engage readers in a discussion of what they think is important.

It's why I think magazines are challenged today (because the "everyone's a creator" ethos of the internet undercuts it), and why I think magazines are a valuable tool (because, to steal more of Granger's words, "it's an experience that encourages you to stay in it rather than constantly bounce in and out of it").

I noted it in an earlier posting, but I'll reiterate it: Magazines have a bright future, if they can survive the serious and hazardous technological and market changes of today.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bush vs. the Democrats

I like this cartoon. (For more by Lyle Lahey, see his web site or his blog.)
At the same time, I understand the odd pressures Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are under to not appear obstructionist during a time of war. Would I like to see more vim and vigor from that party? Sure. But I think their eyes are all on the November 2008 prize. And then we'll see what the Dems can do.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Here's a non-hysterical, reasoned (and rather lengthy) editorial on gay marriage from the Los Angeles Times. It makes an important point ignored by the people overreacting to the legalization of gay marriage: It is a profoundly conservative act to allow same-sex marriage, not a left-wing radical act that undercuts marriage. Good job, LA Times.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

$170 Ticket

I received a ticket this morning for $170 for crossing the street in the middle of the block near the BART station in my neighborhood in San Francisco. (I'll spare you the snarky comments about how we've got a spate of car break-ins and armed robberies in the neighborhood and how that would be a better use of our scarce police resources.) From what I hear, this is an effort by the city to fill a gap in the budget by going after minor infractions that don't usually get enforced. There has also been a sudden appearance of "denver boots" showing up on cars throughout the city (denver boots are clamps put on wheels to render the car immobile, usually done as a result of unpaid traffic tickets) and cars have been ticketed for not turning their wheels toward the curb on even minor inclines. So, I see it as a $170 donation to the city's financial difficulties.

But to expound on this a moment, doesn't it seem a bit silly to ticket people for jaywalking? I mean, if a citizen is too stupid to know not to step in front of a moving vehicle, aren't they likely also too stupid to know how to make decisions on referenda and other complicated voting matters?

Though if we started ticketing people $170 for making stupid choices in the voting booth, it would at least provide some money to undo the damages done by their stupid choices ...


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

You, too, Can Play Police State!'s customers provide a refreshing reminder of the power of outspoken black humor, as they write scathing reviews of a Playmobil airport security check point.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Daniel Libeskind and the Musical Architect

Famed architect Daniel Libeskind told an audience at The Commonwealth Club of California that he came to architecture late in life. Earlier, he had been a musician – and his choice of instrument might surprise some (though not Weird Al).

Daniel Libeskind on the Fire at the Berlin Philharmonie

Famed architect Daniel Libeskind answered questions from the audience at an appearance today at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club of California. One question was whether the building of the Berlin Philharmonie (Berlin Philharmonic) should retain its original, 1960's modernist look in any reconstruction. Libeskind says it should, in a short response.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Arianna Huffington on Politics and the Media

More Huffington, this time on one of her favorite (or least favorite?) topics: The role the media plays in setting or warping the political dialogue in this country.
She also has a few nice things to say about Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, I only got a bit of that part in this tape (too slow on the "on" button), but you can read her blog on the topic here.

Arianna Huffington on Why the GOP Is in Dire Straits

Huffington Post Editor Arianna Huffington spoke today at The Commonwealth Club of California. As part of her tour for her latest book (Right Is Wrong), she was making her case that the far right has taken over the Republican Party and driven it over a cliff.
Watch the video clip. More to come.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

California and Marriage

The California state supreme court ruled today that same-sex marriage is permitted under the state's constitution. I'll have more to add later, but for now, I'll just say that this is a super day.

And thanks to SF Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is the troublemaker who started this whole thing. Out of such troublemakers come heroes.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Bankruptcy at Starlog, Fangoria owner

Bloomberg news and other sources report that Creative Group, the publisher of Starlog and Fangoria magazines as well as the producer of animation and other related businesses, filed for Chapter 11 protection from its creditors earlier this year. (On the Bloomberg link, the story is about halfway down the page.) In short, it declared bankruptcy. I'm not able to figure out if the cause of Creative's financial troubles was its small magazine division or if it was the various video production and other parts of the company.

Though this news admittedly set off a spate of professional fantasizing by me ("I could round up investors and buy Starlog/Fangoria from Creative! Invest in rebuilding the Starlog brand and implement all of my digital-and-print publishing and marketing plans!"), more realistically, it will follow the pattern that is expected when the core business that's in trouble is nonetheless still valuable: it will be picked up by its creditors at a bargain price, and they'll sell or just close what's a total money hole, rebuild and then sell anything that looks like it has strong upside potential, and sell immediately anything that's got value in it but not a lot of upside. Bloomberg notes that the creditors are already wrangling over that, and I just hope it's not going to take a big toll on the staff or the brands themselves.

If Starlog and Fangoria get someone who can continue to invest in Fango's multi-platform development and start to invest in Starlog's platforms (there are many inexpensive or even free things they could be doing that would help tie their audience to them, such as short video blogs by the editors, video interview excerpts, text blogs by editors and other contributors, weekly e-mail newsletter, etc.), then they can reap a big profit from a very respected and venerable brand name. They can also finally begin to really take on the market threat: The British publishers, who appear to be able to put out magazines that are bigger in every way (more pages, larger page dimensions, higher prices) and who are expanding their market presence, all while Starlog has suffered over the past 7 years. It's been even worse for Starlog's competition; in recent years, Cinefantastique (redubbed CFQ) ceased publication, as did Dreamwatch and Cinescape.

So let's hope they get an investor/owner who both wants to make money and who's smart enough to mine what value is already there – built up over more than 30 years of continuous publishing and market dominance – and to know how to expand the brand to take on the competition of today. Hello, investors?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Torched-Earth Policy

As I'm working at my desk, watching an internet video feed of the Olympic torch relay in San Francisco (see photo, a screen capture of the feed, which is from the local CBS affiliate).

But some thoughts:

Who on earth ever thought of having this torch relay come through San Francisco? If there was one city (outside of Tibet, of course) that was likely to have a critical mass of protestors, it was obviously going to be San Francisco.

So, we have China facing public condemnation for its actions in Tibet. We have pro-Tibetan supporters (generally people who would never support a theocracy, except for Tibet's). We have pro-Chinese supporters who actually want to see the torch relay. We have young people who are looking forward to do their part in cultural ceremonies at the end-point of the torch relay. We have China showing just how tone-deaf it is by also declaring that the torch relay will go through Tibet itself.

Yes, a mess. It's political and moral chickens coming home to roost for China. It's also a chance for the professional protestor cadre in San Francisco to express their moral outrage. And it's going to change nothing.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Wal-Mart 1,000

Below is an editorial I wrote in the March 2008 issue of The Commonwealth magazine, in which I describe how I think the magazine industry will – or at least should – evolve. What I don't go into is the other part of this solution: such drastically reduced printing/distribution costs enables even consumer magazines to adopt some controlled-circulation concepts from the business-to-business magazine publishing world, and that completes the circle of the new business model.

The Wal-Mart 1,000
By John Zipperer, Editorial Director, The Commonwealth

Here's one big business list that magazine publishers don't want to be on: The list of 1,000 magazine titles that retail giant Wal-Mart announced in January it has decided to stop selling in its stores. That number is dismaying, because, as the New York Post noted, Wal-Mart "is believed to be responsible for generating more than 20 percent of all retail magazine sales in the U.S."

One publisher recently said that he's lost 50 percent of his newsstand outlets each year for the past few years. We seem to be in a very brutal era of shakeout in the periodicals business, where investors, distributors and retailers are all assuming that print is dead and online media is king. I think publishers – and the investors who back them – are putting the cart before the horse. There are things that work better online than in print, such as multimedia, breaking news and (relatively useless) instant opinion posts. But there is still plenty of money to be made in print magazines; publishers just need to realize they are publishers and not printers. Many magazines, including The Commonwealth, are now produced in digital versions that include the entire contents of the print version and are viewed online or downloaded to a local printer. Meanwhile, they continue to be produced in paper versions. That's because the shape and form of a magazine is perfect for performing the function of delivering information and design to a reader. You can read it sitting up, standing, walking (though I wouldn't recommend that) or lying down. Even the thinnest of digital viewers provides a different reading experience – and magazines don't generally get warmer the longer you use them.

So magazines like this one still have a great mission. The challenge is getting around the ever-increasing costs of paper, printing and mailing. What will save us all, I believe, is continued – and, I hope, accelerated – development of home printer technology that will let you, at home, print out a magazine that has just as good resolution, paper quality and binding as a magazine that you purchased at a store.

Home printers have been improving by leaps and bounds over the years, and when they get good enough, then it will be a whole new economic ballgame. You won't have to get a grainy printout of your copy of The Economist or Sports Illustrated; it'll look just as good as what you buy today. And publishers will save a lot on the printing, paper and postage costs that are some of the biggest components of their budgets.

Hmm, wouldn't it be great if there just happened to be some world-class printer manufacturers in the Bay Area who could fuel this next evolutionary step of the publishing industry?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, R.I.P.

The news just broke that Arthur C. Clarke has passed away at the age of 90. Clarke came up with the idea for the geosynchronous satellite, wrote tons of books (most famous for 2001: A Space Odyssey and Childhood's End). He was also an outspoken champion of science and rationalist thought.

You might want to check out his Clarke Foundation, which he set up to spread his ideas.

And read the Clarke remembrance by Kerry O'Quinn, an old friend of Clarke's.

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Call's Coming from Inside the House!!!

So critics are calling Hillary Clinton's new ad, which warns about Obama's inexperience in a crisis, her "Daisy ad," referring to the famous LBJ ad in which he implied that Goldwater would cause a nuclear war. Personally, I don't think the Daisy ad was out of bounds, and I see nothing wrong with Clinton's ad. Both tell people to look at the consequences of the choice they will make.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Richard Hatch at Wondercon 2008

I remember seeing Richard Hatch at a small science fiction convention in New York City seven or eight years ago. He was there talking Galactica and signing autographs; I mainly remember that as I was leaving the restroom, he was rushing in to one of the stalls to change clothes for his presentation.

So, it was nice to see him with a table at San Francisco's Wondercon February 22. He was right next to his fellow original Battlestar Galactica alum, Herb Jefferson Jr. (who played Boomer to Hatch's Apollo). I apologize for not having a photo of Jefferson; it turned out blurry (new camera).

On the Floor at Wondercon 2008 ...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Overheard at Wondercon 2008

The Wondercon comics convention came to San Francisco this weekend. Loooong lines and about 3 million vendors made the exhibit floor a very busy and slightly uncomfortable place.

But there was much to see. In this photo, you see a friendly storm trooper giving directions to people waiting in line. (Interestingly, when I showed up, the line for people who had pre-registered was at least twice as long as the line for people who were registering on-site.) I have other photos and an odd video I'll be posting, as soon as I figure out what's wrong with my troublesome new camera.

On the exhibit floor, I passed the booth of someone (an artist? a comics publisher or editor?) who was talking to two college-age men, presumably comics artist-wannabees. The artist/publisher/editor/whatever was holding up their business card and noting all the things their card had that a business card should have -- name, phone, address, e-mail. But, he said, "Your art on the card stinks." Brutal. I grimaced for the two young men and moved on, but later they passed me, and I overheard one of them saying to the other with apparent pride, "I just got a critique from _______ _______!"

I hope the other things the professional had to say were more helpful (and more professional) than telling him his artwork stinks.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Nevada Caucus

Nice. But watch how the" populer vote vs. delegate count" is being spun.