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friday, september, 29

a new year in september

Rosh Hashanah begins tonight at sundown, and though I'm not the most religious Jew on the planet, it's a good time to stop, take stock, and think about the last year.

Technically, this is supposedly the time that God inscribes your name in the book of life for another year. When I was a kid, I envisioned the typical white-haired bearded old guy, sitting on a chair of clouds, writing names in a book. If your name got written down, you got another year. If not, well, you don't. As implausible as the image seemed, it's stuck with me to this day.

It doesn't hurt to be good, you know, just in case.

So tonight I'm going out under the stars with my oldest friend in the world to drink red wine and eat apples and honey. I'll think about where I was a year ago. I'll think about all the things in my life that give me hope and how thankful I am for everything I have. And I'll reflect on times when I have been angry, and hope I'll have more patience in the next year.

I am so thankful for everything I have right now. My life is so much richer now than ever before. I pray my name will be written in the book of life for another year, and that yours will be, too.

L'shanah tovah, everyone.   + 5:26 PM

More great Fray Day 4 SF photos were posted today! Behold the event through the eyes of Julian Axolotl and Nick Taylor. (And, yes mom, that's me.)   + 11:05 AM

Sunrise on the sutrocam.   + 9:53 AM


thursday, september, 28

Thanks so much to everyone who volunteered their help with my buzzy mp3. I think it's taken care of now. Super huge thanks go out to Rafael Nevarez and Brady Gaster for services above and beyond the call of duty. Fray Day 4 audio archive coming soon!   + 9:29 PM

You get what you give, baby.   + 12:48 PM

Isaac the funky white boy on his experience at Fray Day SF:

    "For me, the night was all about taking off the masks, breaking down the walls we hide behind, and having a no-holds-barred story fest. The things that were shared in that room were personal ... and they were real."

Right on.   + 8:54 AM


wednesday, september, 27

Just posted: photos and ephemera from Fray Day 4.   + 9:42 PM

Sunset on the sutrocam.   + 7:47 PM

Stoked! This "Professional Writer" thing is really beginning to pay off. I slammed 121 words into a form and won myself a TiVo. How cool is that?

Sure, the whole thing is probably just a scam to get rid of their old models. Sure, they're just signing willing suckers up for a ten buck a month habit. Sure, the winners are probably just selected at random. Sure, we're generating tons of free ad copy for them. And sure, I don't even have cable so what good does a TiVo really do me....

But I still jumped up and did a little dance when I got the congratulations email. "I won a teevoooo! I won a teeeevoooooo!"

I even frightened my cat.

For more on the Great TiVo Scamaway, check out all the entries people sent in. Reminds me of my old creative writing class, except with cash prizes.   + 6:23 PM

Audio help wanted! I just got the mp3 of the fray day audio webcast. I want to post it, but there's a terrible electrical hum that's running through the whole thing. I'm sure there's some way to smooth it out, I just don't know how. Do you? Willing to help? Please lemme know. Thanks!   + 12:20 PM


tuesday, september, 26

I just posted a little wrap-up and a giant list of links to Fray Day remembrances over at fray.org. Still to come: video from Grand Rapids, audio from SF, and bunches of photos. If you've posted some Fray Day memories, please send me the url!   + 4:40 PM

Remember back in July when I entered {fray} and Kvetch! in the NewMedia Invision Awards? Well, I just got a email from them ... and I'm a winner!

Of course, they don't say which site won, or what it won (gold, silver, bronze, or honorable mention), so I'm trying not to get too excited until I get all the details. But either way, hooray!   + 4:00 PM

Next time somebody sends me hate mail, I'm just going to send them this url. Thanks for saying it better than I ever could, Halcyon.   + 3:52 PM


monday, september, 25

F is for ... flash!   + 5:18 PM

Welcome back, Maggy.   + 4:41 PM


sunday, september, 24

If you came to Fray Day 4, we wanna hear about it.   + 1:49 PM


friday, september, 22

This is the spot to watch.   + 1:36 AM

Happy birthday, baby.   + 12:03 AM


thursday, september, 21

Must ... remember ... to ... breathe....

In out. In. Out.

In ... out....



Fray Day preparations are progressing at a fever pitch. Kinkos is my friend. Cliff's is my friend. Trader Joe's is my friend. (Two hundred bucks on alcohol! My mother would be so proud.)

And everywhere I go, I'm babbling about Fray Day. So far my hairdresser, dentist, and the guy behind the counter at the post office have all promised to come. I feel like a traveling salesman. "Could I interest you in this handsomely bound open mic night? It's only five dollars, and the experience lasts a lifetime."

It'll pass soon, I promise.

The great thing about telling people you're throwing a storytelling night is that they usually say the following two things, in order:

1. "Oh, I don't have any stories."

2. "Well, there was this one time...."

Then they proceed to tell a story that leaves me laughing or crying or feeling wonderful. That's what I love about stories – we all have them. They're connectors.

I hope to see you on stage telling your story tomorrow night! And if you can't make it to San Francisco or Grand Rapids, be sure to stop by fray.org and listen in on the open mic.

Oops, I gotta go. The t-shirts are here!   + 3:22 PM


wednesday, september, 20

There are two days left before fray day 4. And how do I celebrate? By going to get a cavity filled. Ugh.   + 11:23 AM


tuesday, september, 19

This post is coming to you from Mac OS X! First impressions: good gravy! This is going to fundamentally change the way I relate to my computer. It's the shine of apple candy with the balls of unix. It's beautiful and functional and just a hell of a lot of fun to play with. I'm giddy, I tell you. Giddy!   + 11:20 PM

Karma is better than hell.   + 2:24 PM


monday, september, 18

Exactly one year ago today we did this. In exactly four days we're doing this. I'm nervous and scared and excited and stressed and ... well ... I really hope you can be there. It's gonna be amazing.   + 12:56 PM


friday, september, 15

There's something special going on over at {fray}.   + 9:22 PM

See? It was never about protecting the artists. [ via soundbitten ]   + 5:47 PM

Leave your mark on Fray Day SF: create a border for Heather's photo sticker booth project!   + 1:58 PM


thursday, september, 14

music matters

I used to have a music review section on this site, and sometimes I kinda miss it. So here's what I think of a few recent releases.

album cover provided by cdnow

Radiohead's newest, Kid A, is absolutely amazing. But be warned, it's much different from their last full-length cd, OK Computer. Here we have a dark, brooding, ambient band. Gone are the distorted guitars and a fair bit of the lushness, here are DJ Shadow-inspired ebbs and flows. A very different album, but just as breathtaking.

(As an aside, yes, I have managed to listen to the album before it was released. You probably know how to do that already. Yes, actually, it made me feel a little creepy. And, yes, I'm still going to buy it when it comes out next month. So there.)

album cover provided by cdnow

Morcheeba was one of my favorite bands. Their first two cds were absolutely luscious music: gorgeous vocals, slippery grooves, and absolute passion. Big Calm still gets stuck in my cd player for weeks at a time. It's great music for, well, uh, getting intimate to. Heh.

I remember seeing their debut cd, Who can you Trust?, for the first time. It was emblazoned with a giant marijuana bud on the front. There was no doubt that this was going to be a laid-back groove-fest.

So what a disappointment their latest cd, Fragments of Freedom, is. Steel drums and peppy beats? Yuck. I want my old stoner friends back. Morcheeba, please, for the sake of your career, start smoking pot again.

album cover provided by cdnow

Finally, there's De La Soul's latest. Sigh.

Ever had a best friend who drifted away? Maybe you bump into each other again, years later, and you're happy to see him, but you can't help but notice that he hasn't shaved in a few years and smells like old pickles, and all you can think is, man, what happened to you?

Well De La Soul is like that for me. I ate up everything they put out for years. Three Feet High was a slap in the face of the rappers at the time, and De La Soul is Dead was a total direction change. With Buhloone Mind State they discovered jazz and produced what is still my favorite album of theirs. Even Stakes is High, their 1996 tribute to the roots of hip-hop, was an intriguing listen, if a little boring.

But their latest, Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump, has to be one of the most stiff, boring, uninspired hip-hop albums of all time. There's such a thing as getting too sparse with the beats, boys. And what happened to that sense of humor? The cd boasts that it's the first installment of three. Personally, I'm gonna skip the rest.

Oh, well. At least the cover art is cool. And you can't get that on Napster.   + 4:47 PM


wednesday, september, 13

yet more linky goodness

Yesterday's essay about copyright spurred a great conversation over at metafilter.

My copy is on the way. I am full of dread and excitement in equal quantities.

Wow. I have "high sexosity"! Remind me to put that on my resume.

I'll never say anything bad about flash again. [via Steve, who doesn't like credit links]

and a random thought

There are few things in life scarier than hearing the nurse who's about to draw your blood say, "I'm so tired and I haven't even had lunch yet."   + 2:35 PM


tuesday, september, 12

some copyright basics

In my five years of creating original work on the web, I've had occasion to learn a lot about copyright law, most of it the hard way. Here's what I've learned.

In America, and most other places as well because we have agreements in place, any creative work is automatically copyrighted. No little © required. If you made it, you own it. (That goes for text as well as images. Hell, it goes for the scribble you made on a napkin at lunch.)

The copyright protects the holder's right to copy the work, as well as to create derivative works. That means if you make a copy of a work that you don't have the copyright to, you are in violation. And if you change the work, you are making a derivative work, which is still a violation. And guess what? That's illegal.

What that means on the web is that if you take an image from another site and put it on yours, you have probably violated someone's copyright. It doesn't matter if you're a student, or if it was posted online, or if you were dropped as a child. You've broken the law.

Now here's the fun thing about being a copyright holder: you can allow someone to copy your work. You still own it, but you're giving your permission for someone to copy it. For example, {fray} authors retain their copyrights, but give me permission to use them on fray.com. It's a strange system, but it works.

So how do you decide who to allow to copy your work? My advice is, people who treat you with respect. Because that's what copyright is all about – respecting the rights of the creator of the work.

the future of copyright

This weekend I got all a twitter about John Perry Barlow's piece in the newest Wired about the future of copyright. The piece is subtitled: "Will copyright survive the Napster bomb? Nope, but creativity will."

I was excited by this concept and I still am. But, remember, Barlow is talking about the trading of files. In the future scenario he describes, music files are free-floating and available for endless distribution on networks. The result is a spreading of awareness that benefits the creator of the work. I believe that this is the case when you're talking about music.

"For ideas," Barlow writes, "fame is fortune. And nothing makes you famous faster than an audience willing to distribute your work for free."

I read that and applauded.

But when you're talking about images and design, the situation is cloudier. That's because there's an idea that's central to Barlow's scenario: that the free-floating creative work retains a public awareness of its creator. When you download that mp3 of Weezer because a friend recommended it, you know it's by Weezer. And when you hear that Weezer is coming to town, you're more likely to buy a ticket. This is what Barlow is so excited about.

But when you take a copyrighted image (or text) from one site and put it on another without credit, the game changes. It's no longer adding to the "fame is fortune" equation because it has lost any public awareness of its creator. It is assumed that the work was created by the owner of the site. And that's unfair.

What we're talking about here, ladies and gentlemen, is good old fashioned credit. It's what your mama told you about when she caught you copying your book report from the encyclopedia.

And while I've been a supporter of file exchanging technologies like Napster, that doesn't mean I support people stealing each other's work and calling it their own. And it doesn't mean that my work is free for the taking (until I put out that cd, anyway).

In the end, future scenarios or not, it's always going to be easier, less karmically poisonous, and cheaper in the legal fees department to simply do your own original work.

Think about it.   + 10:48 AM


monday, september, 11

The web gives us the ultimate avenue to define ourselves. The words you type and the pixels you paint all get blended together to create a giant flashing virtual billboard that says "this is who I am."

What does your site say about you?   + 10:57 AM

I just paid my quarterly web hosting bill with PayPal. How cool is that? Now if only I could pay my rent this way....   + 9:25 AM


sunday, september, 10

If you've ever had anything to say about Napster, if you're someone who makes content and gives it away for free, if you're a musician or an artist or a writer of any kind, then go buy the latest Wired Magazine, the one with the black cover, turn immediately to page 240, and read every last word of what John Perry Barlow has to say about the future of art and copyright in the age of the web. It's the most enlightened, optimistic, exciting thing I've read on the subject. Ever. The future is here, kids, and it's all going to be okay.   + 2:02 PM


saturday, september, 9

a ghost of myself

When I was in Claremont last week, I had a chance to rummage through the Derek Box. My mom has been keeping boxes of stuff for me and my sister (that would be the Jenny Box, natch) for years. There's scary stuff in there, all the way back to grade school report cards and every newspaper clipping I sent home from college.

There, in the first couple layers of detritus, I found a ghost of myself.

It was 1992. After having long hair for most of high school, I went to UC Santa Cruz where everybody, it seemed, had long hair. And played guitar. And came from former-pseudo-hippy Southern California middle-class families. It was too much to take.

So I did what any self-respecting contrarian would do: I cut my hair.

And then I took a photo of it as proof, to mail out to my family like postcards of a new place I'd traveled to. I held up my trusty Minolta X-700 in the bathroom mirror of my Marine Parade apartment and clicked.

That photo postcard was waiting for me in the Derek Box last week like a ghost. And when I saw it again, after eight long years, I knew just where it belonged.   + 2:51 PM


thursday, september, 7

After Poland, the Powazeks settled in Buffalo, New York. And though the last time I was there I was still wearing diapers, I've always felt a connection to the place, no matter how many times my father referred to it as "the armpit of America." So, in a way, the subtitle of this article from the Buffalo News could have been: "local boy makes good."   + 7:06 PM

Forty-five people and counting. Will you be at fray day four?   + 1:16 PM


wednesday, september, 6

more linky goodness

I like a site who's motto is: "live fat, die young, and blow health out your ass!" Ladies and gentlemen, eat dangerously!

If I get arrested this week, here's why.

Adam has a great idea. Go tell Oprah to ask Al why he won't debate Ralph Nader.   + 6:15 PM

a brief story

After my optometrist appointment, I found myself wandering the aisles of Walgreens on 18th and Castro. My pupils were so dilated, I looked like a first year Santa Cruz student.

I bumped into a white-haired old lady by the plastic-stuff-in-boxes aisle (trash bags, ziplocks, condoms), who looked up at me.

"I'll let you pass," she said, "because I'm not signing autographs today."

I smiled as if I understood and walked away. But I really wish I'd asked her for her autograph.   + 3:52 PM


tuesday, september, 5

linky goodness

Neat! The sutrocam is being featured over at cammunity.com.

Remember that "other site" I mentioned that hadn't launched yet? It launched. Blogging for the masses has begun.

Does it freak anyone else out that the last exploding dog drawing was called "god is not here" ... and then they stopped?

One nice perk to coming home: my new backpack arrived! This new one is the exact one I bought years ago. The zipper broke after three years, so I just replaced it. I love this Trager pack.

My friend Jon runs lifedirectory.com, the alternative healing arts directory. There I found a link to yourinnervoice.com. These folks believe (and who am I to doubt it) that your subconscious communicates through your voice, and you can hear it by playing tapes backwards. To prove it, they take recordings of famous people and play them backwards. Witness George W. Bush saying "I want to snow dad" and Britney Spears sing "we are scum." I want to believe.   + 12:12 PM


It's strange to be home after everything that's happened. The chaos in my life always seems to happen in bursts, and the last few weeks have been one hell of a burst.

A trip to Italy. A plant bloomed. A job ended. A book began. A funeral. A wedding. A return. Frankly, it leaves me hoping for some calm in the next few weeks.

The wedding was everything a wedding should be. The bride looked beautiful and the groom looked dazed. Everyone cried, even me, at all the right moments. The father of the bride gave an impassioned toast. Everyone got tipsy and danced. I watched my sister teach Heather how to do the Macerena. I never, in all my life, thought I'd see such a thing.

It was, as we'd hoped, a moment of joy.

There are these moments, sometimes, when you're lucky, that everything falls so solidly into place that you forget that it's ever been any other way. When love and family and life all synch up into a beautiful chorus, and you realize that you've been smiling so long your face hurts. When everything becomes so crystal clear that, for one moment, it all makes sense.

I want so badly to hold on to that feeling. Especially now, as I return to my disaster area apartment and stare into an inbox full of neglected responsibilities.

It's a beautiful day in San Francisco. And I have a book to write.   + 11:02 AM


friday, september, 1

In the continuing spirit of endings/beginnings, I leave today for Long Beach to witness my step-brother Jon's wedding. His mom (my step-mom) Barbara is beaming and stressed, while my dad just sighs a lot. Heather's even come down to be my date to the festivities.

After the sadness of the beginning of the week, we're all happy to be celebrating life this weekend. A funeral and a wedding in one trip. If that's not proof of the yin-yang balance of the universe, I don't know what is.   + 11:47 AM

 © 2000 derek m. powazek ^top