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Sun, Jul. 24th, 2005, 05:36 pm
Louise Brooks Society Celebrates 10 Years Online

The Louise Brooks Society, of which I am the founding director, is about to celebrate its 10 anniversary. Here is the announcement / press release:

Louise Brooks Society Celebrates 10 Years Online: Pioneering Website Marks Decade in Cyberspace
The Louise Brooks Society (www.pandorasbox.com), the largest and most popular website in the world devoted to any silent film star, celebrates 10 years on the internet. Since its launch in August 1995, millions of people have visited this pioneering site. The New York Times said, "The Louise Brooks Society is an excellent homage to the art of the silent film as well as one of its most luminous stars."

The LBS was founded as a fan-site, and over the years has evolved into a comprehensive on-line archive and center for all things Lulu. This 250-page site features a wide array of information about the actress including a filmography, commentary, links, bibliographies, vintage articles and memorabilia, portrait galleries, a message board, and contributions from fans from around the world. The LBS has a long-running blog, as well as its own Louise Brooks themed radio station, aptly named RadioLulu.
The mission of the Louise Brooks Society is to honor the actress by stimulating interest in her life and films; by fostering and coordinating research on her life, films and writings; by serving as a repository for related material; and by advocating for the preservation and restoration of Brooks' films. To date, the LBS has co-sponsored events, mounted exhibits, "inspired" a documentary, and generated wide spread media interest in the actress.
The site serves as home to the Louise Brooks Society - an internet-based fan club and the first virtual fan club in cyberspace. Most all club activities - including its newsletter, membership meetings, correspondence, and the participation of individuals - take place over the internet. At last count, its 1000+ members hail from 46 countries on six continents. Such a joining together by like-minded fans was only made possible by the advent of the world wide web.
In its first ten years, the LBS has been widely praised, having been written-up in publications from around the world including the "Sunday Times" (London, England), "Stuttgarter Zeitung" (Stuttgart, Germany), "Le Temps" (Paris, France), and "Melbourne Age" (Melbourne, Australia). The LBS has also received coverage in the "San Francisco Chronicle," "Grand Rapids Press," "Atlanta Journal and Constitution," "Rochester Democrat and Chronicle," and "USA Today.

The Louise Brooks Society - Highlights of 10 Years Online
1995 - The earliest pages of the Louise Brooks Society appear on the world wide web. The LBS is the first site devoted to the actress, one of the earliest devoted to any silent film star, and one of the earliest "fan sites" on the internet.
1996 - The LBS receives its first reviews. "USA Today" notes "Silent-film buffs can get a taste of how a fan club from yesteryear plays on the Web. The Louise Brooks Society site includes interviews, trivia and photos. It also draws an international audience." Later in the year, a British computing magazine, "Net Directory," names the LBS one of the five best sites in the world devoted to actresses.
1997 - Among its many web honors, the LBS is named a Hollywood Site of the Week and Celebrity Site of the Day. The LBS made Yahoo's Desert Island List and is named part of the Microsoft Network's One Click Away program.
1998 - Impressed by the popularity of the LBS, the television station Turner Classic Movies (TCM) gives the go ahead to a documentary on the actress. "Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu" plays to great acclaim and is nominated for an Emmy Award.
1998 - Pages from the LBS are referenced in a book on G.W. Pabst (Brooks' director in Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl) published by the Austrian Film Archive.
1999 - Numerous schools (from the junior high to university level) adopt pages from the LBS as suggested reading. The LBS is named a recommended site by the online version of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
2000 - The University of Minnesota Press publishes "Lulu in Hollywood" by Louise Brooks, and "Louise Brooks" by Barry Paris. Each book is brought back into print following a petition campaign organized by the LBS.
2001 - The "San Francisco Examiner" includes the LBS in an article "Thirteen great film sites."
2002 - The LBS launches RadioLulu, a Louise Brooks-themed radio station. This internet-based station features theme songs from the films of Louise Brooks, vintage jazz, recordings by the actresses' contemporaries and co-stars, as well as recent pop and rock music about the silent film star (by Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark, Soul Coughing, etc.) ).
2002 - Pages from the LBS are referenced in three books, "German Expressionist Films"  (Pocket Essentials); "Sex in the City" (Universe); and "Photoplay Editions" (McFarland).
2003 - Site traffic continues to grow. Visitor logs show that individuals have visited the LBS from more than 60 different countries including every nation in Europe as well as scattered countries across Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East, Africa and South America.
2004 - The bibliographies found on the website surpass 400 pages of printed material, making them one of the largest such collections of documentation so far assembled.

Sun, Apr. 3rd, 2005, 09:55 am
Incidents of Religion in My Life

The Pope has died. Back in 1987, out of curiousity, I (and tens of thousands of others) gathered to see the Pope drive down Geary Street in San Francisco atop his Pope-mobile. I had been raised a Catholic, and had attended twelve years of Catholic schools in the Detroit area . . . .  my mother told me once that as a very small child, I had been blessed by the famous Cardinal Cushing of Boston.

The only other well known religious leader I have ever seen or been close to was the Dali Lama. While working as a journalist, I got to attend a press conference were the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet spoke. I was sitting in an assembled room of journalists, about six rows in from the head of the room where the Dali Lama sat. I thought he looked at me, or at least, had looked my way.

Fri, Apr. 1st, 2005, 09:03 am
Robert Creeley

Poet Robert Creeley (1926 - 2005) has died. I saw him read on a couple of occasions in San Francisco. Here is the NYT obit.

Thu, Mar. 31st, 2005, 09:43 am
American Surrealism

There is an interesting article in today's New York Times about an art exhibition which surveys American surrealism. Alas, American art of the 1930's and 1940's was not all Wyeth, Grant Wood and populist realism. Pictured below is "The Magic Hand" (1949) by Charles Rain, an American painter who lived most of his life in Nebraska.

Mon, Mar. 14th, 2005, 10:48 am
Mentioned in the newspaper

Yesterday, in a newspaper article about writers Julie Orringer and Ryan Harty (splendid people both), I was mentioned in the San Francisco Chronicle. See the last paragraph of the article. . . .

Sun, Mar. 13th, 2005, 09:46 am
Bush administration distrubutes fake "news reports"

Today's New York Times reports that Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged Television News has arrived. According to the article, in the past four years, at least 20 federal agencies have made and distributed hundreds of "fake" television news segments. These so-called "news reports" portray the administration and its efforts in a positive light. This revelation comes in the wake of Bush telling reporters in January that his administration would no longer pay pundits to support his policies. . . . does the word propaganda come to mind ?

Fri, Mar. 11th, 2005, 10:09 pm
Long live Philip Lamantia

Philip Lamantia - a sublime poet whose work was published by City Lights, has died. I had seen him read his poems on two or three occassions. An article ran in today's San Francisco Chronicle. "Philip Lamantia, the blazing San Francisco poet whose embrace of Surrealism and the free flow of the imagination had a major influence on the Beats and many other American poets, died Monday of heart failure at his North Beach apartment. He was 77. . . . "

Lamantia began writing poetry in grade school and was expelled from junior high for "intellectual delinquency" when he immersed himself in the work of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. At age sixteen, after being introduced to surrealism by the Miro and Dali retrospectives at the San Francisco Museum of Art, he began to write surrealist poetry. Shortly afterward, Lamantia left home to join the Surrealists in New York City and was welcomed by Andre Breton as "a voice that rises once a hundred years." In 1955, he was the first poet who read at the famous Six Gallery reading where his friend Allen Ginsberg first read Howl.

This page contains links to many informative essays and articles. Here is a splendid portrait of the poet by Harry Redl.


Fri, Mar. 4th, 2005, 08:08 am
Like something out of the works of Kafka

Like something out of the works of Kafka . . . . Imagine a secretive, police state where citizens who are told they have violated the law are refused the opportunity to see or read the very law they are accused of breaking.

This happended to a Haight Ashbury neighbor of mine, John Gilmore, when he was asked to show ID when attempting to board an airplane. Gilmore asked to see the law, but nobody could produce a copy. Later, he was told the regulation was "Sensitive Security Information" and was unavailable for inspection. Recently, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran an article on Gilmore and his fight with the United States Government to enforce a law it won't show anyone. And like something out of the works of Kafka, it makes for thought-provoking reading.

If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody hears it - does it make a sound ?

If a citizen "breaks" the law, and nobody knows about the law - does the law exist ?

Mon, Feb. 21st, 2005, 11:45 pm
Hunter S. Thompson and I

I can't claim to have ever met Hunter S. Thompson. Though I encountered him on a few occasions.

The first time was when The Booksmith (where I work) hosted him for booksigning around the time Proud Highway was first released in 1997. I hung around in the back room of this San Francisco bookstore while Thompson and his entourage (which consisted of actor Johnny Depp and science writer Timothy Ferris) and staff of the Booksmith drank and smoked and talked. It was a sort of huddle before the big play.

Thompson's booksigning was really a receiving line - a kind of meet and greet, as the author let it be known that he would not sign books under any circumstances. Earlier, he had signed a few hundred bookplates. Once the event began, my job was to affix the bookplates to copies of Proud Highway as customers and fans passed through the line. (It's glamourous work, I know.) Most were thrilled to simply  meet the famed "gonzo journalist." Thompson said "hello," raised a glass, chatted, and had his picture taken. Some brought him gifts, such as drawings, or bottles of whiskey. One or two - thinking themselves clever - slipped an edition of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Hell's Angeles out of their jackets and asked Thompson to sign their "special" copy. The poor fools. . . . His voice raised, Thompson would let out a string of expletives and pound the table with his fist. And the once bold autograph seeker would then shrink away. This "booksigning" went on for a couple of hours, until the ranks of the curious and the devoted dwindled. On the way out, Hunter S. Thompson shook my hand.

A year later, at the time Thompson's long lost novel, The Rum Diary, was published, I had the chance to work on a collaborative web project with the author's publisher, Simon & Schuster. The project was the "Rum Ring" - a webring set up among four independent bookstores in the San Francisco Bay Area. The webring was meant to promote Thompson's new book. And to that end, with the author's cooperation, his publisher sent us a large batch of digital files - scans of unpublished letters, photos, manuscripts, and other material related to The Rum Diary. The scans were divied up among the four stores. And a webring, featuring unique content of  interest to the author's  many readers, was launched. I had initiated the webring project in hopes of luring the increasingly reclusive author back to the Booksmith. But no such luck. Instead, our payoff was signed bookplates, which the four stores were able to offer their webring  customers as an incentive to purchase The Rum Diary. (Remember, this was way back in 1998, when the internet was still a brave new world.) The "Rum Ring" was a big success. It received a good deal of media attention (with coverage appearing in both local newspapers and in national trade journals), and it sold a lot of books. I think the Booksmith sold more than 800 copies of The Rum Diary at the time.

The "Rum Ring" hung around on-line for a number of years, where it continued to attract viewers and individuals seeking information on Thompson. And thus, my last "encounter" with the famed journalist occurred in the early 1990's when I was called by a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner (or was it ESPN) and asked to comment on Thompson's latest endeavor, that of a sports writer. I don't know why this reporter called me (I suppose I was as close to a source as he could get), and I don't remember what I remarked. I suppose I commented on this or that. I was quoted somewhere. What is clear in my memory, though, is Hunter S. Thompson's larger than life personality. It is a sad thing that he took his own life yesterday. His many readers will certainly miss him.

Sat, Feb. 19th, 2005, 09:46 pm
Harvey Pekar and I

Last night I hosted an event with Harvey Pekar, author of the American Splendor comics. Harvey was swell fellow, and we chatted about early stream-of-consciousness fiction writers, orange pop, bookstores in Cleveland and Detroit, and the state of Ohio. The event was a big success. Here is a picture of Harvey and I, a couple of guys from the Midwest.

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