All posts by la_xeni

Xeni on NPR’s “Day to Day” — more holiday gadgets!

On today’s edition of the NPR radio program “Day to Day,” host Alex Chadwick and I chat about more last-minute gadget ideas for the geek in your life. Wireless fishfinders, bluetooth headsets for your mobile phone, and how to buy a DV cam — including my current favorite toy, the Panasonic DVX-100 (true 24P for under $3G. Sweeeeeeeet) . Link, audio stream will be available after 12PM Pacific.

Silverlake’s Most Wanted

Phonecam snapshot of freshly plastered flyers along Vermont street in Silverlake, outside the House of Pies where I just ate breakfast. Click thumbnail for larger pic. Who’s behind these? I bet it’s the Y-Que posse, whose store is like a block away. Everything’s always “WANTED” or “FREE SOMEONE” with those people. UPDATE: “Crimefighter” says, “Actually the ‘Wanted: Santa’ poster was related to the Santanarchy/SantaCon in LA. It’s a Cacophony Society related event. See this site for more info.

From Lead Blocks to Weblogs

The organizers of Spanish tech conference Artfutura asked me to write a primer on the history of weblogs for a publication distributed at the event. The essay is now online, here’s a snip.

“When I was a child, my father hauled an abandoned antique printing press into our house one afternoon. He was an artist and writer who had a habit of falling in love with discarded tools, the same way I became routinely obsessed with broken dogs and fallen birds. But this thing weighed over a ton.

He’d become enamored with the way words from the press felt in his hands, divided into chunks of lead characters. Sentences formed like spines strung from vertebrae. I remember exactly how the blocks of type felt when he placed them in my small hands — they were palm-sized then, but cold; sharp enough along the corners to puncture skin. Heavier than the wooden alphabet building-blocks I played with upstairs.

I remember the acrid smell of black ink, and the slapping sounds of my father spreading each blob into a thin film that coated wide plates of assembled text. Gears made metallic groans when he heaved his giant body into the wheel that set the press into motion, a wheel as tall as he was, a wheel that smashed wet steel plates into paper to form printed words.

The press was an elderly oddity: a fat, shut-in houseguest who consumed two rooms, accompanied by floor-to-ceiling cabinets of paper and type trays. Homes didn’t have PCs in 1974, but there were many more efficient ways to speak to the world. My father wrote on a typewriter, and words were published in books, newspapers, and magazines. But words that came out of this press had a scent. A personality you could feel with your fingers. Whatever my father’s words were, when they were printed this way they had history, as if he had squeezed them through a time machine on their way to the sheets of vellum extra-bright white.”

Link to Spanish, Link to English. For more essays from Artfutura contributors including Terence McKenna, Lev Manovich, and others, try this: Link.

Barry’s Bootcamp: Don’t ask, Don’t tell.

So back on Thanksgiving day, my sister — who is a masters’ team swimmer, and a super leet athlete — dragged my blogging ass out of bed at the crack of 10AM and said, “We’re going to bootcamp.” Why, I asked? “Three words, Xeni: sweet potato pie.” She took me to this joint on La Cienega near Sunset called Barry’s Bootcamp — a small gym in the middle of a WeHo strip mall where that offers nothing but these really intense, tough classes designed to feel sort of like military workouts. Yeah, sure, it’s a LOT like the military — the military where everyone is either a really handsome gay man, or a blonde, silicone-enhanced, anorexic AMW (actress/model/whatever). Fair amount of star-spotting there, too, if you’re into that sort of thing (snort). Snark aside, it totally kicked my ass for an hour and $11, and I’ll be back. Best thing about this place: you know those little rubber foamy mat things you have to use in gym classes? The ones that everyone else in the gym also uses and sweats all over? OK, this place actually CLEANS them. Like, between EACH CLASS. That alone — freedom from cooties — is worth $11 a pop. I’m thinking real bootcamp is probably not like that.

Kevin Sites returns home to SoCal

Blogger and MSNBC combat correspondent Kevin Sites posted a final dispatch from Iraq before returning home to Southern California for a brief break. He returns to Iraq shortly after the holidays.

It is the eve of Eid or the end of the Ramadan and the end of the month long dawn to dusk fasting for many Muslims. It is a time of celebration on par with Christmas for Christians. But the night has begun with a bang. Literally. An IED (improvised explosive device) has exploded just outside the north gate of the 4th Infantry Division’s headquarters. I hop in the back of Bressette’s Humvee as the patrol heads out to investigate. Bressette gets on his two-way and in the guise of a flight attendant giving the pre-flight briefing, tells the squad the plan. (…)

I videotape Bressette as he walks back to his Humvee with the 1-22’s commanding officer Lt. Col. Steve Russell. They at the curb to discuss what’s next, when Bressette looks down. He sees something strange; wires sticking out of a concrete block. Suddenly this inert object is filled with potential energy.

“Sir, we better back up,” Bressette says, already doing the moonwalk away from the block. “We’re standing next to an IED!” The Humvee shoots forward away from the bomb, while the rest of back away. The concrete block has been hollowed out and is packed with enough plastic explosives to kill us. Bressette just shakes his head, still in disbelief that all of us, the Colonel, Bressette and his squad, myself and reporter named Betsy Heil from the Pittsburgh Tribune, were all standing next to a device that could’ve taken our lives within a fraction of a second.


Battlestar Erotica: Alien Sex! Bombs! Robots! Pathos!

I filed this story for Wired News about the new Battlestar Galactica miniseries:

“We realized the only way we could improve on the original is if the Cylons could have sex,” quipped co-executive producer David Eick at Tuesday night’s Los Angeles premiere. The chrome-domed “walking toasters” from the original TV series are succeeded by — well, really hot blond chicks, who infiltrate human society to engineer its doom.

One of the newly humanized enemy androids, Number Six, is played by former Victoria’s Secret model Tricia Helfer (so that’s Victoria’s big secret! — we always knew there was a sinister purpose behind those ubiquitous catalogs). While in the throes of sex, her spine glows a luminescent, otherworldly, X-ray crimson.

Episode No. 1 of the two-part miniseries, which debuts Dec. 8, explodes with a jaw dropper of a scene that blends Cylon eroticism with equal parts pants-wetting apocalyptic terror and blast-tacular deep-space warfare. None of this should work, but under the nuanced direction of Michael Rymer, it does, spectacularly, and the rest of the episode never disappoints.


Battlestar Galactica premiere in Hollywood

At the DGA in Hollywood tonight, SciFi Channel premiered the forthcoming “reimagined” miniseries Battlestar Galactica, which debuts Monday night, next week.

Cast and crew were present, along with SciFi Network brass. The event included a screening of episode one in entirety. Forget what you’ve heard about complaints from fans of the original series — the new version is nothing short of breathtaking, and lives up to its producers’ promise to turn the science fiction TV genre on its head. The two-part miniseries was co-produced by David Eick and Ron Moore (Moore also co-wrote the screenplay), and masterfully, sensitively directed by Michael Rymer — who is destined to become “untouchable in five minutes,” according to a pre-screening quip from Eick. He’s right. This stuff is the real thing.

More in Wired News shortly… but for now, here are a few snapshots I took of the cast members who were present this evening. From left to right: Edward James Olmos (Commander Adama), Tricia Helfer (Cylon Number 6), Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck), and Grace Park (Boomer).

David Byrne Loves PowerPoint [and LA]

This Thursday in LA, Wired Magazine is teaming up with the LA County Museum of Art to produce a performance by David Byrne called “I [Heart] Powerpoint.” I’ll be there, and if there’s Wi-Fi, goshdarnit I’ll blog it.

[His] most recent project is Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information, a book of artwork [and DVD] done with the ubiquitous presentation software PowerPoint. “I have been working with PowerPoint as an art medium for a number of years. It started off as a joke (this software is a symbol of corporate salesmanship–or lack thereof), but then the work took on a life of its own as I realized I could create pieces that were moving, despite the limitations of the ‘medium’.”

See excerpted portions of E.E.E.I. in the September 2003 issue of WIRED.

Photographer Clayton Cubitt does LA

Brooklyn-based photographer Clayton Cubitt was in town a couple of weeks ago for the launch of Surface Magazine‘s “Avant Guardians” special issue — in which he was featured as one of America’s top rising photographic talents. While he was in LA, he shot a series of portraits of me at a super-cheesy Hollywood location. Here they are. I’m a huge fan of his work — I love, love, love what he accomplishes with simple, artful use of gels. Bow down. He’ll be participating in the SENT phonecam art exhibit I’m co-curating at sixspace with Blogging.LA contributors Sean Bonner and Caryn Coleman, btw. I can’t wait to see what he does with ultra-lo-res. Link