Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book Review: Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who CookMedium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain

Warning: I'm an Anthony Bourdain fan. No, that's not strong enough. It's the kind of fandom that in younger days I'd reserve only for those who'd turned their guitars up to 11 shortly before smashing them. Yes, Tony's my new rock star.

So, of course, five stars and a strong recommendation for others who already love and follow Tony for both the No Reservations TV show and his previous books, particularly Kitchen Confidential. But, perhaps, only three stars for somebody who's never heard of Anthony Bourdain, and just stumbled upon this book on the New Releases rack at Borders.

Not that the writing isn't excellent. It is. His style is flowing and conversational, vivid and detailed, bringing you into the various kitchens and dining rooms, and making you smell and even taste every morsel. But many of the subjects are self-referential. Many chapters (really, only semi-related essays) assume you've read Kitchen Confidential, and provide follow-up on certain topics, characters, and places. Some make reference to specific episodes of No Reservations.

But if you're the type of person who's ever enjoyed a meal so much that it made you cry, and you're not aware of Anthony Bourdain, then you need to be. But start with Kitchen Confidential, catch Tony a few times on the Travel Channel, and then enjoy Medium Raw as your decadent, oh-so-rich, guilty little dessert.

Kitchen Confidential is required reading for anybody who ever has, or ever plans to eat in a restaurant, any restaurant.

Medium Raw is for those who've days on the phone, fighting busy tones to get through to that most exclusive restaurant for that most elusive reservation. Medium Raw is for those of us who've closed the regular menu and gladly put ourselves into the hands of the chef for the tasting menu.

Medium Raw is for those who've traveled far from home, turned down the hotel's recommended list of "safe" places for tourists to eat, deliberately wandered into the "locals only" part of town, and grinned happily while eating a dish you would have never ordered in a million years at home.

Anthony Bourdain is not for the squeamish. If you always get the same chicken dish from the same "reasonably priced" place down the street, then you may want to stay away. If you're ready for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, then this "bloody valentine to the world of food and the people who cook" might be right up your alley.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Talking About Audio

As mentioned in the previous post, I've been on Blogger for nearly ten years. I've also been on YouTube for four years. So, I have no problem sharing, and I enjoy creative hobbies. But one thing I've never gotten into was podcasting.

I opened an account at back in 2007, but I never really knew what to do with it. By that point I was already vlogging on YouTube, so it seemed like, if I was going to put in the effort to "produce" an audio program, I'd rather put the same effort into producing a video.

Just in the last week or so, my friend Rich (WorldAccordingToRich on YouTube, and on Blogger) started playing with podcasting over at My first reaction was, "Hey, where's the video?" Then, in his blog, he made a great point about some people being more comfortable opening up to a microphone than they would be to a camera. Audio could be a great tool for getting some quick on-the-street interviews that otherwise would not make it to video.

Then, poking around the Audioboo site, I found they had one thing that PodOmatic does not have, and perhaps it's the one thing that guaranteed I would try it: Audioboo has an iPhone app.

And so, once again, I'm testing out podcasting, and here's my first attempt... if you enjoy it, you can check out my Audioboo profile page and subscribe by RSS feed, follow me on the site, or even subscribe using iTunes.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blogging is Dead! Long Live the Blog!

Pretty much since launched eleven years ago, giving the average non-total-geek access to the tools to create frequently updated, timely, personal websites, the mainstream press has been declaring the death of blogging. First off, they said, what we were creating now were not truly "weblogs" as the pioneers had created, they were more along the lines of diaries or journals, or even worse, according to the professional pundits, amateur punditry. And so they looked to any signs to show that it was all just a passing fad and fancy.

Newsweek (remember them? they used to publish a magazine?) is the latest to pound these well-worn drums in an online article titled "Take This Blog and Shove It!" with the clever sub-title of "When utopian ideals crash into human nature—sloth triumphs."

Among the horrifying (yawn) statistics uncovered:
"Amateur blogs, the original embodiment of Web democracy, are showing signs of decline. While professional bloggers are "a rising class," according to Technorati, hobbyists are in retreat, and about 95 percent of blogs are launched and quickly abandoned...
"[W]hile Twitter carries more than 50 million tweets per day, its army of keystrokers may not be as large as it seems. As many as 90 percent of tweets come from 10 percent of users...
"Citizen journalism also has stabilized. Fewer than one in 10 Web users say they have created their own original news or opinion piece..."
First off, I love the quotes around "rising class" when referring to professional bloggers. If ever a typed quotation mark had to be read as air quotes, this was it. Leaving that bit of editorializing through punctuation aside, let's look at the 95% abandonment rate and why I think that's just fine.

Starting a blog is the modern version of starting a novel or screenplay. In any office in any city anywhere in the world, you'll find accountants, clerks, middle-managers, and other assorted board pencil-pushers who all have the seeds of their dream project tucked into the back of a drawer. Nobody has ever put a number on their abandonment rate, but I'm willing to guess it's somewhat over 95%.

If 5% of first novels started this year were actually completed and published, we'd be seeing more new authors than at any time previously. 95% of blogs are abandoned? Fine. Does that take into account blogs that were started for a particular limited time purpose, like promoting a (now past) event? I doubt it. Some blogs have a final post for a reason, but still remain live for archive purposes.

The only difference between blogs started and abandoned and writing the first few pages of the Great American Novel is that one is a far more public declaration of the would-be writer's creative ambition. Writing is tough work, whatever the medium. Not every idea pans out the way we hoped it would, and not everybody with a creative idea has the stamina and drive and determination to see it through.

I've certainly abandoned my share of blogs. This particular blog (9-1/2 years and over 1,100 posts) is still going strong, as is my Nonprofit Consultant Blog (nearly 5 years and over 200 posts). But my attempts to do a food blog or a guitar blog have not fared as well. Big deal. Next point.

So, 10% of tweeters account for 90% of tweets? Again, not surprising, or any different than we'd expect in any type of communications medium, including face-to-face meetings. Does your workplace have staff meetings? Keep track of who does the most talking. This is just human nature. Some people have the common sense to keep their mouths shut once in a while.

To me, what I see in that sentence is "50 million tweets per day." That's a big number, representing an awful lot of written text, even at 140 characters per tweet. And that's from only 10% of people with Twitter accounts? I don't see failure; I see an awful lot of written communication and I'm still impressed.

Next point... the "stabilization" of citizen journalism. Again, "only" one in ten web users has created a news or opinion piece. I wish somebody had ever thought to keep track of how many newspaper readers had ever even written a letter to the editor, let alone had one published in the paper.

When in the history of the planet, has 10% of the population been able to share their ideas, opinions, and creativity with mass audiences beyond their immediate family and a few associates without editors, censors, and expensive hurdles to cross?

And this amazing amount of participation, writing, and reading, is what Newsweek terms "sloth"?

For the social media revolution to succeed at changing our society it does not need the majority of citizens to be constantly publishing their every thought. All it requires is that a greater percentage of people participate than have ever had the opportunity to participate previously. That has happened.

So the participation figures have leveled off a bit. Great. They've not declined. A leveling-off should be expected after the initial bursts of growth. There will be more growth, but at a slower and more sustainable rate, in the years to come.

The tools are out there, and getting better every day. The cat is out of the bag. There's no turning back. Sorry, Newsweek, but your days of being relevant are what is losing steam.

Twitter Feed