Monday, August 31, 2009

Trust & the Brand

The scent of lavender and rosemary reminds me Northern California.  In my yard, there's rosemary everywhere, which mixes with the cool and warm breezes.  Every so often I would buy herbs from Eatwell Farm {w/ Lavender Farm} at the Grand Lake Farmers' Market in Oakland.  They were always helpful and had fresh-looking stuff, which is no mean feat during a hot summer Sunday morning.

I've been thinking about branding and relationships, of late, particularly with respect to buying "local."  I write reports and tell organizations of the virtues of branding.  I have a ton of anecdotes and social science factoids about how people gain meaning from brands, but I was thinking about what drives true trust.  The organic/biologique market started as a movement, but turned into a set of standards that would give legitimacy to the term organic.  In the United States, organic is defined by the USDA's National Organic Program {NOP} and it garners the trust of consumers.
Last month, I was in Kingston, Ontario and I saw a commercial advocating buying locally-grown Ontario pork.  The slogan was "put pork on your fork."  I tried to find it, but I only found this vintage ad::

I saw the Ontario trillium in the vintage commercial, so it must be an ongoing programme like Foodland Ontario.  Some of the ideas behind buying local is making local foodsheds more salient to people and for people to be more mindful of fresh foods.  Local farms try to capitalize on creating person-brand relationships.  I know this happens when I go to farmers' markets. The relationships garner loyalty, but what about trust?  Do I trust farms in farmers' markets more than I trust supermarket retailers?  What does trust mean in this context?
  • Trust in food safety
  • Trust in providing quality
  • Trust in providing economic value {value given price}
  • Trust in providing symbolic value {buying sustainable, buying with a smaller carbon footprint; buying to support local farms}
  • Trust in providing advice
Some people would say it's just food, who cares?  I think it matters.  I'd love to buy local more when I'm in Toronto.  I've always wanted to join a CSA {community-supported agriculture}, where shareholders invest up-front to capitalize farms and pick up weekly share boxes, and I just found out there are a few in the Toronto area.  It can be a pricey undertaking and even with the relatively long growing season in California, farmers have noted the problem of finding a variety of produce to deliver in the dead of winter.  Shareholders in a CSA can only use so much daikon.  On the list of Toronto-area producers, I couldn't help but notice the description for the Stoddart Family Farm::
On another note, I've seen ads in Canada for manufactured foodstuffs touting ingredients grown in Canada.  Is this meaningless differentiation?  A form of economic regionalism or nationalism?  When large corporations use "local," it runs the risk of getting away from the spirit of what "local" means.  Sustainablelifemedia thinks Hellman's {mayonnaise} is offering up more than just advertising talking points on their website.

Maybe I'm a bit jaded, but it's like when organic goes far from its roots as a social movement and towards a mass-market industrial enterprise that is "chemically organic" by the letter of the regulations.  Buying mayo made from canola oil from Saskatchewan is really stretching the buy local concept.  I wonder if consumers are parsing the messages, so that the message is more of a "buy Canadian" than a "buy fresh and local one."

Twitterversion::  Trust & the brand. Thinking about layers of meanings with respect to "buy local" fresh food campaigns. Should I put Ontario pork on my fork?
Song::  Glory Box - Portishead

53rd. chorus

Pulsing push 
To come on in 
Inundate Frisco 
Fill the rills 
And ride the ravines 
And sneak on in 
With Whippoorwill 
The Chinese call it woo 
The French les brûmes 
The British Fog
L A Smog 
Cellar door
-Jack Kerouac, San Francisco Blues

I love Kerouac's use of language here, which has evokes summer in the Bay Area to me since 2002 or so.  The summer of 2005 I lived at 5 Panoramic Way.  It was like living on a ship.  I had a long garret studio apartment with low angled ceilings at the top of a spiral staircase.  It would have been maddening to live there during the school year, but it was perfect in the summer.  It had great light and windows that overlooked the Golden Gate Bridge.  I had a ton of plants there that loved it under the skylight.  I'd be working in the afternoons and often would look up to see the bridge.  It would often be swirled in eddies and whorls of fog.  I re-read a New Yorker article on people who jumped from the bridge that summer.  There's something about the span that draws the eye and one's attention.  I found a great deal of comfort and solace being able to look up and see the bridge.  When I'm in the Bay Area, I don't have a view of the Golden Gate anymore. It's fine.  It makes me think more fondly of that summer.  Now, I look at the Lawrence Hall of Science webcam @UC Berkeley.  It's about 1 ½ miles from where I'm at now, but I look at it when I'm in Toronto every so often.  Just to check on it.

Twitterversion:: Summery fog in #SanFrancisco reminds me of Kerouac's "53rd. Chorus." Jack is sole writer who gets away w/saying "Frisco." @Prof_K

Song:: Fake Tales Of San Francisco (Single Version) - Arctic Monkeys

Sunday, August 30, 2009

newmusicmonday #7a & #7b:: Asobi Seksu & Singers of Ingle Woods

Asobi Seksu {遊び セックス} has been on my radar for a bit, but I've always failed to follow up on them.  The shoegazer pop duo  from NYC, taking its name from a Japanese colloquialism for casual sex, has just released a 10" for "Transparence" from their album Hush.  You can download an MP3 of "Transparence" from Stereogum here, which also has a list of tour dates.  Selected dates::  they will be in:: San Francisco @Slim's on 2/Oct, Vancouver, BC @theBiltmore on 6/Oct, T-O@Horseshoe on 12/Oct, Montréal @Il Motore on 13/Oct, & NYC @Bowery Ballroom on 16/Oct.

I don't know much about the folksy pop of Singers of Ingle Woods.  The CBC Radio 3 site says they hail from Ingle Woods, Yukon, Canada, which is a far cry from Inglewood, California, US, which I'm more familiar with growing up near LA.  Apparently, they've been around since 2006 and have a cryptic bio on MySpace and Radio 3.  "All Over Town" is quite a catchy ode to the joys of boy/girl connecting on the bus they ride together:: "I'll catch your eye/And you'll sit beside me/All over time, all over town/We'll go together"No player available for SoIW, but you can just click on these links to hear "All Over Town":: MySpace Radio 3.

Twitterversion::  #NewMusicMonday  #AsobiSeksu new 10" "Transparence" out w/MP3 dwnload on link. Singers of Ingle Woods is #CBCRadio3 find. @Prof_K

Song for 7a::
 Transparence - Asobi Seksu {updated with Grooveshark player, 16 July 2010}

The Twitterverse already doesn't like AT&T, often stemming from iPhone complaints.  My experience with them has been that they have the friendliest customer service and line workers, while the technical quality of their service and their pricing fail.  I've been in California for a few weeks now and when I first got here the phone line started to crackle.  It was intermittent at first, but got progressively worse.  I had to get a technician to come out, knowing if the problem was past the service box, I would be charged $55.  It turned out that there was a problem with a switch box down the street and my line was switched to another.  Four days later, no dialtone.  I don't get decent cell reception, despite T-Mobile declaring it a "fair" reception zone, which is why I'm not just using my cellphone.  Plus, no cell reception means no texting.  Skype works and I can still send out e-mails, but IM is hit and miss on a weekend.  I went on their website and a technician can come out on Tuesday, 8-12noon.
Like I said, whenever I interact with AT&T contact personnel, it's always fantastic.  Friendly, helpful, and even going the distance to helping me choose the right plan, given my calls to Canada.  Unfortunately, over the past years, the experience of me and several friends has been less than spectacular.   I'd settle for marginal.  I remember my friends moved over 10 years ago and their number changed.  They let everyone know the new number and even printed off a few cards for people not on e-mail.  At the last minute, AT&T said that they would have to change the number.  When I lived in a semi-rural area {Cool, California}, I had to wait a month and a half or so before I could get a landline because there wasn't enough capacity.  


About 6 years ago, I got hooked on gelato here in Berkeley.  I think it was Mondo Gelato at 2106 Shattuck.  There was always a lineup and they would offer up samples with tiny spoons.  I'm not sure if it's the same owners, but now it's Naia.  In May, the Beat Cop Poet blew my mind with La Casa Gelato in {I think} the Strathcona neighbourhood of Vancouver, BC.  I really liked their system.  There were at least 3 long display cases with gelato and you could flag down the staff to get a sample.  When you were ready to buy, you paid first with and received a token.  From a retailing perspective, I found this system efficient.

Update:: 1 Sept 2009:: Video Footage from YouTube

Gelato makes me think of Paul Weller's Style Council and the summer of 1983.  I heard "The Long Hot Summer" {see song below} on the local LA/Long Beach indie. station, KNAC, which later went heavy metal.  What a shocker.  Being a fan of The Jam, it wasn't too hard to warm up to The Style Council.  Part of me wanted more edge, but it was 1983, the "New Romantic" era of this latest British invasion was in full swing.  Post-punk was giving way to something else.  The Style Council wasn't just music, it was about a lifestyle.  On an album or 12", I recall some blurb about Paul and Mick Talbot eating gelato.  I had to try the stuff.

Late August was hot and sticky in LA in 1983.  Remnants of a hurricane brought up rain and drizzle, which I always liked.  The idea of warm and rainy was foreign to me, as rain was a winter phenomenon.  This might explain my soft spot for East coast summers.

I wouldn't see Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward in the film, The Long Hot Summer, until 1985 or 86 on late-night local TV.  {BTW, Orson Welles is in the film.} It fed a minor Tennessee Williams kick in high school.

Twitterversion::  Thoughts of gelato in #Vancouver & PaulWeller's The Style Council. @Prof_K

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Twin Bill on KQED

I'll probably be out, but I just saw KQED {PBS} will be showing two classics.  Kubrick's adaptation of Nabokov's Lolita {1962} at 8PM::

At 10:30 is Woody Allen's Annie Hall {1977}::

Twitterversion::  #KQED showing Kubrick's adaptation of #Lolita at 8PM & #WoodyAllen's #AnnieHall at 10.30PM.  #SanFrancisco @Prof_K

Song:: Lolita - Elefant  Video

Friday, August 28, 2009

Warm Night

It's a warm night here in this pocket in the Berkeley hills @22ºC/72ºF & the night sky is clear.  Four years ago, I was up here after getting back from an East coast trip to Cape Cod, Philadelphia, and NYC.  I was wondering if my Bay area days were numbered, not realizing that within four years, my world would expand geometrically.

Four years ago I listened to a lot of The Concretes.  The vocalist at the time was Victoria Bergsman, who went on to guest star on the Peter Bjorn, & John hit, Young Folks in 2007.  One of the best Concretes songs is "Lady December":: "you lay down your cloak of snow and it spreads all over/lend me you hand and I'll give you a rush of the heat."  In 2005, I was very much into indie pop in 3/4 time, so I was a sucker for  "Lady December," Fiona Apple's "Waltz {Better than Fine}," and the Concretes' "Warm Night."

follow you down on this warm night
down to a certain color
although I'll make sure we fall on safe ground
I wouldnt lay your faith in my hands
snare me well with all your charms
bring out some amber to warm me
only kiss me if the light is right
otherwise we'll wait a while

Twitterversion::  Warm night in #Berkeley.  Thoughts of #Concretes songs and 3/4 time waltzy #indiepop.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tips & Tricks:: How to Embed a YouTube Video at a Particular Spot

Ever wonder how to link to specific points of time on a YouTube clip? This entry is a PSA on how to do it with links and an embeddable player. The only caveat is that you need to be familiar with editing HTML on your blog.

"Deep linking" in video is where you reference a particular time referenced spot. So, take this uploaded clip from Taxi Driver. If you wanted to reference the 16 second location, you add #t=0m16s::
where m is minutes and s = seconds. Here's the hyperlink. Another usability trick I use is having links open up in new windows {HT:: LQ}. You go into the HTML code and find the link. Right before the close of the a href tag, add after the last quotation mark for the link in question:: target="_blank". Then close out the tag. So, the tag should have this general form::
a href="link" target="_blank
with the above within <> and the link between the quotes being the URL that you've created with the time reference. So, for the Taxi Driver example::
a href="" target="_blank
Doing the same with the embed code, you need to add the time in seconds, i.e.,  &start=16 , to the links in 2 places. Here's an example {click to enlarge}::

Note the ampersand {&} may already be at the end of the URL, so don't add another one. Also, use the lowercase "s" for start. I made the mistake once of using Start=. If you do that, the code doesn't work.
Here's the resulting embedded video {starting at the 16 second spot}::

Now, say you want to just link to or embed a clip of a clip. You need Splicd, where you enter your start/stop parameters. It gives you a link and the embed HTML code to put on your blog. So, if you just wanted a clip from the 00::16 to the 00::36 mark, you can just specify it::

The results of the embed code from, from ::16 to ::36. It inserts extra space below {which might be a issue} and I haven't figured out how to get rid of it, as I don't see where it's coming from in the code and you just can't delete it.  Here's the link. {Note:: Plays on Splicd, not YouTube}

Update {28 August 2009}::  I just found out here that if you use the embedded player on your blog, rather than going to Splicd, the entire clip plays.  So, the start time is right, but it doesn't stop, despite the code telling it to.  It does work on the link.

powered by
Song:: Bananarama-"Robert DeNiro's Waiting"

The Fourth Estate Is Burning:: If Journalism Failed, Would You Miss It?

Over at Open Salon, King Kaufman of has a great blog critiquing the newspaper industry for arguing via whining. He snarkily goes through an editorial posted by Benjamin J. Marrison, editor of the Columbus Dispatch. Marrison's argument that high-quality journalism isn't free evokes my memories of that Jerry Springer guest from the 1990s who quipped, "pimpin' ain't easy."

What irks me is that journalism has always been a business. Here in Berkeley, there's a street named after George Hearst, a US Senator and father of his only child, William Randolph. Father and son both were nefarious characters, with the latter creating a publishing empire that capitalized on sensationalism and were loose with the facts, i.e., yellow journalism, named after Yellow Kid in the Hogan's Alley comic strip. In 1930s California, my grandfather would deride the Hearst {various papers nationwide} and McClatachy {the "Bees" in the Central Valley, Sacramento, Fresno, & Modesto} empires for their use of epithets to whip up emotions and sell papers. Not all papers resorted to such tactics, but the press lives or dies by circulation, not by serving a public good. Of course, such cheap tactics would never occur today, right? Well...

Stephen Glass showed that integrity isn't always the hallmark of the fourth estate. Maureen Dowd "inadvertently" cribbed material, as did a SF Chronicle writer, who in 2005 lifted wholesale sections from a 2003 New Yorker article on Golden Gate Bridge suicides, "Jumpers."

Now, the newspapers want to claim that their existence should somehow transcend their ailing ad-supported business model. The journalistic function that generates news content requires capital and someone needs to pay for it. According to Marrison and those like him, this nonsense of getting content for free is indeed nonsense. All of a sudden, newspapers newspapers should be above market forces?

Marrison makes this plea, while taking a swipe at Web 2.0::
"Go back and look at the history of newspapers in towns big and small, and newspapers were always the voices pushing for better schools, more-accountable government and important civic projects. A good newspaper has always been a constructive nag for progress, and that cannot be replaced by any number of tweets or Facebook postings."
Getting closer to the heart of the matter, Ian Shapira of WaPo cited his experience of having an article of his raided by the Gawker empire::
"I started thinking about all the labor that went into producing my 1,500-word article. The story wasn't Pulitzer material; it was just a reported look at one person capitalizing on angst in the workplace. With all the pontificating about the future of newspapers both in the media and in Capitol Hill hearings, I began wondering if most readers know exactly what is required to assemble a feature story for a publication such as The Post. Journalism at a major newspaper is different from what's usually required in the wild and riffy world of the Internet. And that wild world is killing real reporting -- the kind of work practiced not just by newspapers but by nonprofits, some blogs and other news outlets."
Many journalists want to see expansion of copyright laws to prevent pilfering and piracy, but haven't we learned anything from the music industry and about property rights in the age of digitized content?

Do people want journalism? Not just citizen journalism, but professional journalism? I think they do, to a certain extent, but there needs to be a business model that can provide it and capture revenues in light of Web 2.0. The battle cry may be to save journalism, not newspapers, but how might that be configured? Sure, it might resemble this::

Maybe not teams covering local news on the Internet {or TV, radio, print, etc.}, but perhaps teams of journalists that have a sharp focus and a particular stance that can deliver a tight demographic. Will this drift towards more infotainment? If you really think about it, when hasn't journalism been infotainment?

So, maybe this is more like it::

I see a combination of aggregation and original content from professional journalists on websites. I see salaries for most journalists going down and the popular making out OK.

Quoting Linda Ellerbee who was on NBC's short-lived News Overnight back when I watched news in early 1980s, "and so it goes."

Twitterversion:: #OpenSalon art. discsses nwspapers whining in #Web2_0. Do we really care about #journalism? Is future more #infotainment? @Prof_K

Honest to Blog‽:: Watch What You Say in Web 2.0

Some of you may have heard about this case of a blogger {Rosemary Port-below left} being outed by an ex-model {Liskula Cohen-above left} after the latter sued Google to reveal the former's identity. The purpose of this is so Cohen could seek legal redress, in the form of a defamation lawsuit. Now, Port wants to sue Google for $15M for invasion of privacy. It turns out that the two are old hats in the Manhattan party scene and an old spat spilled into the courts, which may reshape Internet

free speech. Here's a Good Morning America {ABC} clip summarizing the story andhas an interview with Cohen::

A Manhattan, NY judge, Joan Madden, ordered Google to reveal the name of Port, using the following logic. Port alleged that her statements of using words like "skank," "skanky," "ho," and "whoring" to describe images of Cohen and her actions were in the realm of "trash talk" and that these statements are not factual assertions. The judge disagreed, citing dictionary definitions of "skank" and "ho" {I'm waiting for the day the Urban Dictionary is cited in a court document}, to assert that the statements suggest promiscuity, which can be a basis for defamation.

Wait a minute. So, were these Photoshopped images of Cohen engaging in lewd acts that would make Sasha Baron Cohen blush? Well, no. These were images of Cohen in party mode and were posted on Friendster and Facebook. D-Listed has an example and went as far to describe her as a "slut." Uh, oh. Gawker posted this campy image::

I'm not sure which is more damaging:: the images or the epithets?

I think the judge was out to lunch on this one. She interpreted the blog as stating defamatory facts by examining the literal meanings of the text. I didn't get to see the blog, but it sounded tame compared to the "disses" one sees on 4Chan and perhaps the judge has an axe to grind against the Anonymous subculture. Something tells me, given what she wrote in her order, that she's unfamiliar with the strange ways of the Interwebs. In light of this, the EFF guidelines on defamation might have to change. While warning that everything is context dependent, these were deemed on the EFF site as likely to not be libelous::
  • Calling a TV show participant a "local loser," "chicken butt" and "big skank"
  • Calling someone a "bitch" or a "son of a bitch"
I'm not in the judge's head, but I think she thinks she's doing the right thing. She wants people to have a sense of responsibility for posting tasteless content that someone might deem as factual. Oddly, the blog in question, "Skanks in NYC," was live for quite some time. Nobody asked Google/Blogger to take it down. If I were the judge, I would wonder why Cohen wasn't trying harder to mitigate alleged damages to her reputation.

The NY Times ethicist {Randy Cohen} commented on the story, but I see him as trying to impose civility by limiting anonymity::
"Here is a guideline. The effects of anonymous posting have become so baleful that it should be forsworn unless there is a reasonable fear of retribution. By posting openly, we support the conditions in which honest conversation can flourish."
I have a problem with this. While I do realize that anonymous postings can turn the discourse space into the equivalent of a washroom wall, should we curb it in the name of civil discourse? I think he's missing the point by focusing so much on anonymity. Baleful communication, while arguably unpleasant, may be exacerbated by anonymity, but unpleasantness is far from a sound reason to limit speech, given Hustler Magazine v. Falwell. I think it was Clay Shirky who said ethicists are like ambulance chasers and the Internet provides rich terrain for post-hoc prescripts in areas that already have precedent. Oh, it's the Internet, let's reinvent the wheel. The NY Times is batting a thousand. Maureen Dowd gets it wrong too, finger-wagging at the cowards who shirk taking responsibility for their actions. Where do you draw the line? Given Barack Obama's lower approval ratings, are nasty "birther" bloggers potentially on the hook?

Was there enough evidence to warrant lifting the cloak of anonymity in order to gauge the merits of a libel case? I don't think so. While I don't agree with Port's method of "attack," I wonder if the judge would have tossed the case if she printed a "zine," rather than post a blog, given precedent in print media {based on Hustler Magazine v. Falwell}::

So, this was a case of a tiff getting out of hand. The MySpace suicide case is another example of bad behaviour going very awry. Both are examples of why new law to deal with cyberspace needs to tread lightly, as reinventing defamation and using terms-of-service violations to criminally prosecute users sets questionable precedent.

Currently, Liskula Cohen isn't pursuing a lawsuit, but wants an apology. Rosemary Port is wary of doing so and is likely mulling over her legal options. And a judge made the Internet in the US a bit murkier.

Twitterversion:: Honest to blog‽ Model #LiskulaCohen discovers ID of blogger who dissed her via Judge Joan Madden's order. Web 2.0 gets murkier.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Uncia Uncia:: Upgrayedding My Cat

So, I've ordered my copy of Mac OS v10.6 {AKA Snow Leopard}. The last time I performed an "upgrayedd" was back in 2005 when I put Tiger {v10.4} on an iMac DV SE. My friend and I couldn't get it to work until, oops, we realized he had only 128M instead of 512M in that machine. Interestingly, that iMac SE is still going, while a newer HP Pavilion laptop has been rendered doorstop status.

I'm hoping this mostly "under the hood" upgrade will improve efficiencies, as I've maxed out the memory at 4GB and push my 2.2 GHz Macbook Core 2 Duo to the limit.

There are tons of articles talking about Snow Leopard's advantages. Here's one from AP & I've summarized the main points::

  1. — The built-in e-mail, calendar and address book applications will support Microsoft Exchange servers
  2. — Moving the mouse cursor over a program icon in the "dock" at the bottom of the screen reveals all the windows open in that program, tiled side by side.
  3. — The new standard version of the QuickTime video-playing software will now convert clips for playing on iPhones or iPods, or upload them to YouTube.
  4. — You can make the file thumbnails even bigger, giving you a better idea of the contents of your hard drive at glance.
  5. — The operating system is more compact, freeing about 7 gigabytes of hard drive space previously claimed by Leopard.
  6. — Ejecting disks should be easier.
  7. — Web browsing and image and document previews should be noticeably faster.
  8. — Developers will also be helped by a new system called Grand Central Dispatch, which makes it easier to take advantage of the multiple "cores" in today's processors, boosting the speed of heavy-duty applications like video editing.
  9. Lastly, Apple is making it easier to tap into what can be the most powerful computing engine in a desktop PC: the graphics chip.
There are also rumours of an anti-malware feature.

Some are wary of being early adopters and cite their reasons, while LifeHackers gives users a simple prep guide. I think I'll be creating a bootable backup before I venture forth. Even friendly cats have paws, claws, and jaws.

As for me, I'll get my copy delivered on Friday and check Twitter to see what the crowd says.

Image:: Uncia uncia showing off his Idiocracy Upgrayedd.

Twitterversion:: Awaiting copy of #SnowLeopard for the #Macbook & the wisdom of the crowd on #Twitter re:: the install vs. wait verdict. @Prof_K

TO Tornado:: SMS & Alerting for Disaster

Last Thursday, I was a few thousand kilometers away, but I knew all about the storm brewing in Toronto through old {telephone} and new technologies {Twitter}. A CBC director wanted to know if she should risk walking from the subway on Twitter. Upon hearing from LQ on the ominousness in Summerhill, I looked up the satellite map and Tweeted a response to stay put. I was too late::
"Home. Soaked to the skin. That was a pretty scary walk/swim home. #Toronto #TOstorm" @rachelnixon
Only today did I realize the damage up in Vaughan and how the tornado claimed a life. I saw a CBC article urging improvements to an early warning system. The discussion in the article focused on radio to get the word out of weather warnings from Environment Canada, but this made me think of social media brainstorming I've been working on in non-profit health, particularly with the use of texting. For example, using texting to warn "subscribers" about a high UV index in order to lower sun exposure and skin cancer risk. A recent Pew Internet report found that 85% of adults in the US had a cellphone and over half {52%} used it for ancillary activities such as texting, e-mailing, and snapping a digital photo. This made me think of using SMS {texting}, in addition to broadcast means like radio. In the past, I've seen severe weather warnings on Twitter on the #Toronto hashtag, but a "server push" alert via SMS can be tailored geographically and automated at a relatively low cost.

In downtown Toronto, I have decent reception via Rogers, but I tried to find out what the reception was like via crowdsourced maps for the outlying areas of the GTA. Signalmap {beta} doesn't have that much data, so I couldn't get a good sense of reception::

While Canadian penetration of cellphones is the lowest of all OECD nations at 62 phones per 100 Canadians {72% of Canadians have access to a cell phone according to a Harris-Decima poll}, compared to about 100 per 100 residents in the developed world, it still makes cost-effective sense to use SMS for regional emergency alerts at no charge to the user, in addition to traditional media.

Twitterversion:: Tornado in #Toronto spurs #CBC discuss. of early warning sys.Despite cellphone,#SMS should be considered. @Prof_K

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bye Bye Birdie:: As Seen on Mad Men

Last night, I had to make a decision. Mad Men versus the bottom of the 14th. of the Giants-Rockies game in Denver with the Giants leading 4-1. After Miller walked in a run, the Giants' Valdez served up a grand slam. Giants lost 4-6 and are now 4 games back in the wild card race, after what some dub their worst loss of the season. Shaking that off, I flipped to Mad Men a few channels up. In Mad Men, the ad agency, Sterling Cooper, wanted to crib Ann-Margret's performance in Bye Bye Birdie {1963} to shill for a Pepsi "diet" drink called Patio. I was sort of curious to see the entire clip::

I recall seeing several Ann-Margret films around 1986-87 or so, including the noirish Kitten with a Whip {1964}, Viva Las Vegas {1964}, and Frank Capra's Pocket Full of Miracles {1961}. In Mad Men, Peggy {Elisabeth Moss} thought her voice was grating and that she was a 25 year old acting like a 14 year old, but let's just say she found the allure of Ann-Margret to be compelling. Ah, this is what men really want. After all, this is 1963 and while Peggy might be smart, she still needs to negotiate being smart and wanting to be desired by men. Oooooh, yet another parallel to gendered interactions in 2009, tapping into the angst of late feminism!

Ann-Margret's star was on the rise in the early 1960s and she represented a sexuality that was youthful and accessible, so it fits that the boys of Sterling Cooper would be very much interested in the hyperreality she invokes.

In a future post, I'll go into my thoughts that Mad Men is thirtysomething for Gen X & Y. I clearly haven't had enough of its Kool-Aid to write asinine articles about Pete being everyone's favourite weasel, which makes me wonder if covering the entertainment beat means you lose IQ or if you learn to write that way. Both?

Image:: Ann-Margret on the Flintstones as Ann-Margrock.

Twitterversion:: Clip of Ann-Margret in Bye Bye Birdie that was referenced in #MadMen. @Prof_K

Song:: Viva Las Vegas - Plastilina Mosh

Monday, August 24, 2009

"His Ugliness Is Oddly Fascinating..."

I was checking on box office numbers for the summer for the first time in a while. It's been some time since I wanted to see several mainstream films that were out at the same time:: Inglourious Basterds and District 9, so I wanted to see how the late summer season was going. What caught my eye was Funny People's stunning disappointment given the number of ads I saw. It was a $75M that's brought in less than $52M globally after 3.4 weeks and suffered weekly successive drops of 65, 62, & 69%. I wasn't surprised to see that Funny People went down in flames, given its odd marketing strategy. Was it a touching laughing-in-the-face-of-death-but-everything-turns-out-ok-in-the-end feel good romp or was it about the struggling-comic-who's-really-funny-but-is-given-a-break-by-dying-comic-but-everything-turns-out-ok-in-the-end-and-the-dying-comic-who's not-dying-after-all-tries-to-get-the-love-of-his-life-back buddy movie. Good marketing can "buy" a certain amount of box office, but bad marketing can not only be ineffective, but signal to the audience that the film's a turkey.

I find Sandler more miss than hit, his best work being in Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love. I find Rogen's appeal to be perplexing. Like Sandler and many other comic actors, he plays the same role over and over. Rogen's been doing it since Judd Apatow's Freaks & Geeks. What does he do? Rogen continually plays this schlubby smartass that you'd put up with if he were a friend, but you'd want to punch otherwise. My take on Rogen is that he's fine in an ensemble, but as a lead {Zack and Miri Make a Porno; Observe & Report} or supporting actor {Funny People}, mainstream audiences find him too much to take. I'm sure someone has made a crack about his potential appeal in France à la Jerry Lewis. It looks like the ideal Rogen project is one with about $10-12M budget. While Rogen may not be ready for mass-appeal, he does has his fans and, apparently, Rogen has his detractors over at Entourage::

Rogen's is dissed throughout the episode and his response to E!'s Daily Ten was::
"Yeah, those guys are assholes. I actually ran into Matt...Kevin Dillon in a Starbucks. And he's like 'you know, I've got to kind of apologize because apparently the guy who created our show doesn't like you so much.' And I said 'well I have reason to believe because I think [showrunner] Doug Ellin is a moron from all I can understand so it makes sense he doesn't like me.
And I’ve kind of said some disparaging things about the show. Although in our defense, ["Entourage" producer] Mark Wahlberg called us misogynistic in an interview, so I think they kind of started that. … It’s on. Luckily, I never have and never plan on watching 'Entourage.' "
OK, so this might be an isolated incident, right? Wrong. Katherine Heigl, Rogen's co-star in Apatow's "Knocked Up" complained that the film "painted women as shews." Both he and Apatow were peeved by this, so when Heigl's "The Ugly Truth" came out, here's what Rogen had to say::
"That film looks like it really puts women on a pedestal in a beautiful way!...I hear there's a scene where she's wearing underwear with a vibrator in it, so I'd have to see if that was uplifting for women."
Rogen really needs to develop a thicker skin and stop taking himself so seriously. It's not as if entertainment types were accusing him of faking mercury poisoning and calling for a need for "asshole insurance." His churlishness is oddly fascinating. Anyway. I wonder about the forthcoming The Green Hornet, which Michel Gondry is directing and Seth Rogen co-wrote.

So, enough about Rogen, someone needs to explain to me the appeal of Julian Schnabel as an artist or a director. Talk about churlish {clip from Guest of Cindy Sherman}.

Image:: Separated at birth, Rogen & Schnabel?

Twitterversion:: Reviewing box office for #FunnyPeople and comtemplating #SethRogen's off-screen mouthiness. Tapping his inner-#Schnabel? @Prof_K

newmusicmonday #6:: The Bicycles

The Bicycles of Toronto was on here before as the song featured on this post, "Paris Be Mine" from 2006's The Good, the Bad, and the Cuddly {streamed samples}. Many comparisons have been thrown around, including Apples in Stereo, Sloan, Of Montreal, Destroyer, The New Pornographers, and I'm From Barcelona. I'm sure there's more. In any case, the band is on an extended hiatus, as its members are working on other projects, and they may not reunite.

Yeah, this stuff is syrupy sweet, but this garage bubblegum pop band has great songs that often clock in at the 2 minute mark. Lots of positive energy in the sound and lyrics, so nothing sinister here. I tend to gravitate towards darker stuff, but maybe after seeing Inglourious Basterds I was in need of lighter fare. Their autumn 2008 19 track album, Oh, No, It's Love {streamed samples}, got some critical acclaim, so it would be sad to see them go.

Twitterversion:: Back to the grind, but hiatusing #TheBicycles offer up sunshine&lollipops on this #newmusicmonday. #TorontoIndie #Toronto @Prof_K

Video:: "Oh, No, It's Love"

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Heading to Point Reyes...

Uh, oh...{click on image for current cam image from lighthouse}

Twitterversion:: Heading to #PointReyes for the day. Foggy at the lighthouse. Forecast 24º/76F, partly cloudy in #Bolinas. #SanFrancisco @Prof_K

Song:: Sailor - Hem

Friday, August 21, 2009

Elderflower:: Pressé & Otherwise

A few years ago I came across this in an Ikea. Flädersaft is made from elderberry flowers {30%}, along with sugar and citric acid. I mixed it mostly with club soda for a pressé, but it also mixes well with vodka and gin. There was a foodie blog I lost track of that talked about Ikea's Flädersaft and some of the commenters turned up their noses at the idea of buying foodstuffs at Ikea. Some take elderberries very seriously and there's an elderberry site here. I've never tried the liqueur {e.g., St. Germain}, but a quick search came up with nothing on the LCBO site, so I'll have to import it from here or Westchester/NYC.

Flädersaft will always remind me of summer late afternoons in the Bay area, when the warm air mixes with the slight chill of a sea breeze. Maybe I should try to find some cloudberries to complete the Scandinavia-meets-Eastbay effect. I'll be out & about and may have to pick some up today...if I can brave the big box hell known as Emeryville.

Twitterversion:: Summer afternoons in #Berkeley are reminding me of #flädersaft, elderberry flower extract. @Prof_K