Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tom Toles Lampooned on Family Guy

See Rob Tornoe's great post on this video here.
Twitterversion:: RT:: @dcagle If you missed it earlier, Family Guy (specifically Brian and Stewie) took a jab at editorial cartoons @Prof_K

Brazil... Where Hearts Were Entertaining June & Have You Got a 27B-6?

Last night, a dear friend on the Hudson sent me the link to this great USB keyboard with anachronistic keys that were reminiscent of old typewriter keys and had lights that evoked the vacuum tube era.  It made me think of Terry Gilliam's Brazil {1985} and the computer terminals in the bureaucracy.  I found an image of the Electriclerk here {see below}.  It probably says something that I love dystopic narratives so much.

Here's a scene with Robert de Niro as Harry Tuttle, a rogue technician circumventing the bureaucracy of Central Services::

I feel that parts of this, along with parts of 12 Monkeys {1995}, are Gilliam at his finest.  Creating worlds that are superimposed upon the familiar.  In this scene, one can imagine the influence of Gilliam on the Coen brothers' Hudsucker Proxy {1994}.

Twitterversion:: #newblogpost Anachronistic keyboard reminded me of the Electriclerk computers in #TerryGilliam's 1985 #Brazil. #Goodnight @Prof_K

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Google & The Cult{ure} of Innovation

I'm still processing the information from the product development Google talk I went to at UC Berkeley.  Here are some initial notes I had & I'll post more on this later in the week.  I was expecting to find out that much of what makes Google, Google, is embedded with its idiosyncratic organizational processes and structure.  I really got that sense.  

Google is a metrics-driven company, so there are measurable expectations.  It's a collaborative culture, as opposed to one which rewards individual achievement.  Success is often linked to or requires playing nicely with others.  One of the things that struck me is how they treated failure.  "Failed" projects and technologies often serve as inputs to other projects/technologies.  Internally, there's a great deal of transparency in the company and many of the products embrace openness, in terms of the technology.
Also on my mind was how Google could afford to be innovative, which made me think of my simplistic "stagesetting" idea.  As of now, 90% of Google's $21.8B US revenues are from search advertising, which allows for a significant internal capitalization of innovation that's triaged by internal mechanisms that are data driven {qualitative and quantitative}.  One of them is 20% time::
"The 20 percent time is a well-known part of our philosophy here, enabling engineers to spend one day a week working on projects that aren't necessarily in our job descriptions. You can use the time to develop something new, or if you see something that's broken, you can use the time to fix it. And this is how I recently worked up a new feature for Google Reader."
So, with a commitment to innovation and a process to develop them, Google can launch a new product every 2 weeks.  

Examining other tech. companies from my other work, Google is also a darling of the capital markets.  One measure I've developed to measure capital market reputation takes analyst coverage and divides it by the natural log of revenues {I can send the paper to interested parties-see 4th. column below}.  Apple {1.611} and Google {1.512} both are attracting analyst coverage {as a proxy for reputation} and both are seen by many  "innovative" companies::

The question that was posed that I don't have the answer to is who will win the iPhone {Apple} vs. Android {Google} battle?  Will the openness of Google technology prevail?  The comparison made was Mac vs. PC in the 1980s, but a key difference is that Apple has an excellent user experience with the iPhone.

Twitterversion::  newblogpost:: Google & The Cult{ure} of Innovation. Prelim. thoughts on #Google as an organization after #UCBerkeley talk  @Prof_K

Song:: Google me baby - mib

Monday, September 28, 2009

Newmusicmonday #11-Addendum:: The Postmarks, Kind Hearts & Castanets

I went to an open innovation talk at UCBerkeley, which I'll blog about later.  The speaker was from the Goog.  On the winding drive home along Grizzly Peak, I heard The Postmarks on KALX {last 24 hours of songs}, the college indie station.  They have a relatively new single, "No One Said This Would Be Easy" from a new album, Memories at the End of the World.  There's a hint of Isobel Campbell here, so while I hate those kinds of comparisons, there you go.  ¡Viva la casteneda!

I first came across The Postmarks in early 2007 {MySpace}.  'Twas a time of schmoop & poses.  I was going to put this video in a long post called "animated music video festival," but I never got around to it.  I love this song & video, but those who know me know that I'm a sucker for the right mix of bittersweet lyrics, female vocals, and interesting arrangements {particularly with horns}.

The Postmarks are on a US tour right now & will be playing San Francisco tomorrow night at 8PM at Hotel Utah Saloon {500 4th St., San Francisco, California 94107}. They are playing with Brookville, featuring Andy Chase of Ivy. There will be two shows in NYC, on on 22 October at 8:00 PM at the -Canal Room - ASCAP Showcase @ CMJ {285 West Broadway, New York, New York 10013}, but the show I'd love to see is in Brooklyn on 24 October at The Bell House w/a Rhizomicon fave. Au Revoir Simone {149 7th Street, Brooklyn, New York 11215 in Gowanus}.

Twitterversion:: #newmusicmonday @ThePostmarks heard on @KALXradio here in #Berkeley. On tour & playing in #SanFrancisco tomorrow 8PM.  @Prof_K

newmusicmonday #11:: Pilot Speed

Pilot Speed, hailing from Toronto, has been around most of the 2000s.  Their sound is polished, which isn't something I tend to gravitate towards, but interspersed with the introspective lyrics are pop soundscape hooks.  I must admit I tend to struggle with bands with an "expansive" sound, so it's saying something that this works for me.  I can hear where the comparisons to Radiohead are coming from, which is something else I tend to struggle with and I feel does a band more a disservice than anything, but overlook in this case.  "Put The Phone Down" draws you in with its infectious chorus, interesting soundbites, and and impassioned pleas.

Their earlier sound and songs has been characterized as epic, characterized by their earlier work as Pilate, such as
"Into Your Hideout" from 2004. The video won an MuchMusic award for independent video::

The somber lyrics for "Alright" with a slowmotion melodrama lends itself to...introspection.

The music isn't depressing, it's just not feel-good-candy.

Pilot Speed is about to embark on a short tour in the West and in the prairies.  I wasn't in Toronto for the free Toronto show at Yonge & Dundas on 18 Sept. mentioned on Twitter.

Twitterversion::  #NewMusicMonday #TorontoIndie @pilotspeed offers up solid pop w/expansive sound. On #Canada tour in West & Sask. @Prof_K

Saturday, September 26, 2009

blue state/blue 'screen' 2004

"life during wartime"
"help is on the way"
in a month there would be revelations that the nation was purple.  in less than a year, Katrina would hit. where I was in NYC was blue & given how things were going with JK, in more ways than one.

it's nice getting on the L-train at 8th. to Brooklyn, since you can get a seat at the beginning of the line.  the herky-jerk ride under the East River seems to take forever. it goes to Canarsie. in 2006, I would hear a story of someone who actually had to go there.

13 October 2004
8th. Avenue, Chelsea, Manhattan, NY, US 10011

Twitterversion:: Low-fi photo from 2004. chelsea, nyc. debate-blue state/blue'screen' @Prof_K

«sans oublier amour... j'espère que tu t'épanouiras en trouvant ton bonheur»

It sounded like they were on a first date.  She was trying to be interesting and he was trying to be cool.  Their conversation was like sing-song bird chatter amongst the far-off clanks of kitchen sounds.  I think I was drinking capirinhas that evening a few tables away.  The weather was turning crisp that week, in that year of election.  I would hear Edwards take on Cheney on the radio in St. Mark's Bookstore.  I wonder if they made it to Halloween.

12 October 2004
49 Clinton St., Lower East Side, Manhattan, NY, US 10002
Title:: "Without forgetting love... I hope you will bloom when you find happiness"

Twitterversion:: the photo wayback machine. october 2004, nyc. first date? a spy in the house of shrugs. @Prof_K

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Now I'm working hard for my union card..."

I grew up in a pro-labour household with parents who grew up in Chicago, a pro-labour town.  When I was a teenager, I rebelled against this and embraced capitalism, sometimes with a big "C" and sometimes with a small "c."  My mom's eyes would roll, as she thought I was some "Alex P. Keaton" clone invading her household.

If truth be told, I wanted to be the next Geoff Travis of Rough Trade or Tony Wilson of Factory.  This is what what kept me in university and why I did well, as I wanted to learn how to channel the spirit of DIY post-punk into a successful venture.  In order to pay the bills, I had a very good paying summer job working at a factory that was a union shop.  I had no stakes in the job and with my irreverence at the time, given mandatory overtime policies, I thought it was hi-larious to put a "SL" in front of the company wordmark on my employee badge, which was for a large label manufacturer.  I didn't think much of that union or unions in general.  In about 10 years, that factory I was working at would relocate as a maquilladora down in México.  Did the unions price labour out of the market?  My courses told me that unions as something to thwart.  Nevertheless, I still liked Lloyd Cole and the Commotions songs with references to union cards {Charlotte Street}.

This summer, there was a garbage strike in Toronto.  One of the sticking points was "bankable sickdays," where employees could bank up to 18 sickdays and cash out on half their future value upon retirement, which could be significant for a longtime worker.  What struck me was how so many people reacted negatively to the idea of bankable sickdays, often stating that they don't get bankable sickdays, so why in the hell do city workers get them.  I'd play devil's advocate every so often, asking, "why shouldn't you and everyone else get bankable sickdays too?"  The policy was framed as an excessive perquisite that the taxpayers couldn't afford.  What's more interesting to me than the policy are perceptions and meanings of "work" in an era of downsizing and outsourcing, where employees often feel lucky to even have a job.  I'm not a fan of Michael Moore, but I did think it was interesting how he called out ABC on its use "permalancers" on the set of Good Morning America {via HuffPo}::

While he is advocating more unionization, I think it's time to rethink organizational configurations that go beyond bargaining for perquisites and privileges within the constraints of profit or benefit maximization.  I'm in favour of single-payer health care in principle and have blogged about how a system of healthcare benefits tied to formalized employment has a negative effect on innovation and the creative industries.

There's plenty of organizational sociology that can guide this rethinking of organizations.  Old policies meant to provide benefits and thwart union demands, such as pension plans that assumed a growing workforce, can topple a company.  Peter Drucker in 1950 was skeptical of GM's pension plan::
"For such a plan to give real security, the financial strength of the company and its economic success must be reasonably secure for the next forty years...But is there any one company or any one industry whose future can be predicted with certainty for even ten years ahead?...The recent pension plans thus offer no more security against the big bad wolf of old age than the little piggy's house of straw."
While pensions are a benefit with the implication of a long time horizon, it goes to show how large companies {and markets} don't always know best.  Ask anyone with a restructured or defunct pension plan.  I'd like to see labour and management work collaboratively to solve problems, but let's face some facts.  Quarterly earnings targets and political posturing will get in the way, in addition to short-sightedness in terms of the longview implications of policies.

So, what should the worker demand and what should organizations offer?  While I think about the organization I'm developing, in terms of its culture, structure, and policies, I'm thinking along the lines of economic sociology and the social relations of production.  In other words, it's less about pay and perqs. and more about meaning and more than just the ebbs and flows of financial capital.

Twitterversion:: Reflections on the nature of work & thoughts on unionization in an era of globalization, outsourcing, & downsizing. @Prof_K

Image:: Brando in On the Waterfront

Song:: Charlotte Street - Lloyd Cole

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More Indie Music I Like from Apple Ads:: The Submarines

This is getting rather embarrassing, but it's really pretentious and obnoxious of me to think that I'd be above liking music from commercials -or- that I'd hear of bands before they're used in commercials, so I'll just shut up and roll with it.  One of the bands that was recommended to me on while I was doing this post was The Submarines {MySpace Music site}.  "The name sounds familiar, but I can't place them," I thought.  Just listen to the first few bars of "You, Me, and the Bourgeoisie"::

Yes, it's another Apple commercial song utilized by those hipsters at TWBA \ Chiat \ Day::

Infectious & catchy shoegaze lo-fi pop by John Dragonetti & Blake Hazard.  Here's a link to a free download for 2 songs {verified 23 Sept. 2009}.  Their new Honeysuckle Remix EPs are out & avail. on iTunes:: EP #1 on iTunes }  &  { EP #2 on iTunes }.  I love how their sound is the fruits of a tight collaboration between Dragonetti & Hazard, merging the former's instrumentation and the latter's sense of melody and sly lyrics.

Weeds fans {I must admit, I'm not one} may recognise this great Malvina Reynolds cover, inspired by the Bay Area town of Daly City {I think Agrestic on Weeds is supposed to be the abomination known as Thousand Oaks, where my last dayjob was, although it's shot in Stevenson Ranch}::  

LITTLE BOXES - The Submarines

Remix:: You Me & The Bourgeoisie (Tone - The Submarines

Image:: At the Echo Photo Kelly Moore, from MySpace.
Twitterversion::  Prof_KMore #indiemusic I like from #Apple ads. LA-based @thesubmarines offer catchy lo-fi shoegazing pop. Links&dwnloads avail.   @Prof_K

Nothing Can Stop Us Now:: Saint Etienne

The year is 1990 and the month is May.  There's a hint of rain in the air.  I would later find out from a future girlfriend that this was the weekend of UC Berkeley's commencement.  I was chillaxing in the superbly subpar SOMA Hotel Britton listening to music and hearing the "chhhhhhhh chhhhhhhh" of tires on rainy pavement below on 7th. St., six floors below  I was listening to The Sundays a lot, but Saint Etienne was on rotation on music television catching my eye::

I loved this song and video & I get the same feel good vibe from Pont des Arts, which I blogged about on Monday.  Hugh Little, from the band, was kind enough to send me an MP3 of "Halos," which you can hear if you click on the link above.  I'll post "Halos" EP telease info. & any tour dates as I receive it.  I love these guys' music.

Here's a live version of Saint Etienne's "Nothing Can Stop Us" from 2006::

Another live version with slightly better sound::

OK, fine, I'll admit I had a thing for Sarah Cracknell.  Ah, but Lisa Stansfield...well, that's fodder for another blog.

Twitterversion:: Newblogpost:: Thinking of May of 1990 & #SaintEtienne's "Nothing Can Stop Us."  Oh, where does the time go? @Prof_K

Organic Farmers' Market Haul!

On Tuesday, there's an organic farmers' market on Derby St. {near MLK} in Berkeley, sponsored by the  Ecology Center.  I was hoping to catch an organic farmer there regarding a sustainable agriculture project, but she wasn't there yesterday, so I'll try another time.  The market itself is pretty narrow and I get claustrophobic, so while I had my camera, it was a bit much to snap pictures and shop at the same time.  So, it's early autumn in the Bay Area, so here's what I got, starting at 6 o'clock and going counterclockwise::
  • strawberries-sweet and methyl bromide free
  • sunburst squash-for veggie tacos later in the week
  • dry farmed tomatoes- for veggie tacos and guacamole
  • yellow squash- ideas other than grilled veggies???
  • zucchini - for lasagne filling and grilled veggies
  • sweet corn - so sweet you don't have to cook it
  • cilantro - for homemade salsa {but I forgot the tomatillos}
  • sweet red pepper
  • supersweet honeydew
  • eggplant {centre} ideas other than grilled veggies???
  • mission figs {I've eaten so many my tongue is numb & I'm talking with a lisp}
At the Berkeley Bowl on Friday, I got quinces to make cotognata for my mom and quite a few avocados for guacamole.  Plus, a Walla Walla sweet onion, the type which a Eugene, OR newscaster bit into like an apple to prove its mildness, making me a true believer in all things sweet onion.  All of this made me think of my friend Nance who volunteered at an organic farm in Westchester County, NY this summer.  Oh, to be in "Riverside" at the end of October.

In Toronto, I recall looking over the peaches and nectarines last year at Riverdale in Riverdale Park West.  I hope the Linnyqat gets the nectarines {no fuzzies} there before the season is over, which is late this year. Link to blog entry on the foodshed o' the 'Ront.

So, any squash or eggplant recipe ideas would be greatly appreciated.  We're in an experimental mood here on the left coast.

Twitterversion:: Farmers' Mkt. haul fr. Derby St. Organic Farmers' Mkt in #Berkeley,Calif. Recipes 4 zucchini & eggplant? BTW, I ♥ Hem. @Prof_K

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The News of MySpace's Demise Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

I've been monitoring what's been going on with social networking sites {SNS} for quite some time.  Here's a June 2009 post on global usage.  Here's an update::

Anecdotally, I've heard from many people, including college students, that MySpace is deader than dead.  This past summer, danah boyd made a splash with her ongoing research on "white flight" on MySpace in the notes from her talk, "The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online."  Falling users and whites vacating the MySpace cyberpremises can't be good, right?  Plus, in June there was a layoff of 30% of their workforce.

A MediaPostRaw article reported news from comScore's CEO, Magid Abraham::
"Facebook, which started by appealing to younger folks emanating from its college roots, has grown decidedly older, while MySpace remains the favorite among younger users. In fact, Abraham says MySpace’s share of the younger space has actually grown recently.  'A year ago, the largest component of Facebook was actually people who are below 24-years-old. Now the largest component is 35 to 49,' Abraham says. “When you look at MySpace on the other hand, MySpace is still very much dependent on younger audiences… the share of younger audiences is actually bigger."

Jon Miller, head of News Corporation's interactive operations since April freely admits that MySpace fell behind on the innovation front.  Miller states the obvious need to marry technological innovation and media and cites the success of the Hulu LLC online video portal joint venture {News Corp., Disney, & Universal} as a good example.  Miller also alludes to paid content, so I'm sure he's thinking of a "freemium" model, in addition to the sizeable revenue streams from online ads.  Additionally, MySpace is also poised {like TiVo} to capitalize on data mining for marketing research for big media, brand managers, and ad/PR firms, once the latter figure out they need this info. and start loosening their wallets to pay for it.

MySpace as a property of behemoth News Corporation is primed to be set up as a social portal with ties to entertainment content.  While Facebook numbers are compared to MySpace, the latter still gets about 55M monthly unique visitors, which isn't chopped liver.  I can see MySpace evolve as not a SNS but a media portal that serves as a platform for all forms of entertainment, building on MySpace Music and the MySpaceVideo-Hulu linkage.

My idea would be to create a social portal where users can search for professionally produced and high quality indie content and link them to their profiles and manage it with a good usability experience.  Allow users to interact with others on the basis of their [1] geographic proximities {e.g., Downtown Toronto, Eastbay, Williamsburg-Brooklyn, etc.} and [2] content-related affinities.

So, for music, I'm not a huge fan of, but they do have the right idea for user experience::

I like the recommendations based on my favourites and the events recommended based on my geography.  If MySpace bought, integrated, or allowed access of third-parties in order to enrich the user experience in an environment chock full of entertainment content that can be searched in multiple ways {keyword, popularity, affinity, etc.} AND let users embed content or snippets of content {e.g., 30 seconds} on blogs, I'd so be there, as would many other users.

This could be for music, television, movie content, etc. Have a ton of free samples and streamed content available, but aggressively price digital content and make it easy and fast {better codecs, etc.} for the user to purchase premium content can be a path to cash that Facebook could only dream of as a social utility that tends to replicate finite existing social structures in real life {IRL}.  The key will be the user experience, both online and mobile, that would make MySpace once again relevant and a destination site.

Twitterversion:: News of #MySpace's death gr8ly exagrtd. A few ideas 4 a transition fr. SNS 2 sticky portal 4 ALL your entertainmnt needs. @Prof_K

Song:: One More Song For Your MySpace Page - A Heartwell Ending

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Return of MySpace?

newmusicmonday #10a & 10b:: Saturdays Look Good to Me & Pont Des Arts

Saturdays Look Good to Me
The 10th week of newmusicmonday is an homage to late summer.  I'm not sure what's going on with Michigan-based Saturday Looks Good to Me [bio].  I heard them on the local college indie station, KALX, which I've blogged about, but they haven't updated their site or MySpace in quite some time.  The 2004 "All Over Town" is jangly 60s-influenced sunny pop confection with the lyrics calling out a no-good bastard::
"Did you think that I missed it/Just because I keep my number unlisted?/I can see your lies/Moving through the summer breeze  
And now the night sky is breathing/While all of your followers are leaving/Don't you know by now/That they only come to leave?"
 All Over Town (LP Version) - Saturday Looks Good To Me

Pont des Arts
Next up is the Missasauga, Ontario {in the GTA by Pearson/YYZ} band, Pont des Arts.  I love the fact that they used The Archies footage in their recent video for "Halos."  The FAQ on the YouTube channel is brilliant::

Why The Archies?  
Cause we think Betty and Veronica are cute. (although the debate continues as to which one is cuter) Personally, I'm firmly in the Betty camp (she wields a mean tambourine)
How come you guys are never in your videos? 
Because we're unspeakably gruesome, that's why. 
Where can we find you two, to sign autographs? 
What is a Pont des Arts? 
It's a "pedestrian only" bridge in Paris 
Why the secrecy ? No pictures, no bios? 
The lead guitarist is JD Salinger"

Easy breezy, fo' sheezy.  I'm thinking of late summer and chilling or strolling around town with the iPod and not a care in the world.  Evocative of one of my early 90s faves, Saint Etienne, this CBC Radio 3 find is a duo consisting of Hugh Little {Lead Guitar, Vocals, Various Instruments, Pug} & Barry Keighley {Lead Vocals, Guitars, Other Instruments, Model Tanks}.  In the 6-degrees-of-Canadian-indie game, they listed their faves as Toronto-based I am Robot and Proud and Truth Panel.  You can follow Pont des Arts' Tweets here and there are three tracks here on Virb.  I'll post any info. I receive on the "Halos" EP and/or forthcoming tour dates.

Twitterversion:: #newmusicmonday #Torontoindie @PontDesArtsBand & SaturdayLooksGoodtoMe w/perfct 60s-feel late-summer songs. #Toronto @Prof_K

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Undue Influence of...EastEnders on My Life

It's 1988 or 1989 and one of the local PBS stations is airing EastEnders.  I was still heavily influenced by the music of the UK at the time, so I was pretty much into its pop culture.  So, Merchant/Ivory films, Withnail & I, Hope & Glory, and Wish You Were Here were all touchstones for me.  So much so that I think the 2009 version of me would want to kick the ass of the 1988 version of me, but that's probably true for everybody.  I really didn't pay that much attention to the show, but in the background in the bar, I'd hear some cool music every now and again.

The iconic intro. with the overview of the London and the Thames inspired a series of paintings I've done over the years of maps of cities, akin to silhouettes.  I always struggled with the conceptual side, as I never finalized the symbolic meaning system of the colours and backgrounds for the entire series.  I found that most cities are easy to identify as silhouettes, but some are tougher.  Baltimore springs to mind.  I never sketched out Toronto for this, but I'm realizing how the much I like the æsthetics of the old, almost sensual curves of the harbour "islands," evident in this old 1812 "Plan of York" map::

The filled-in port lands takes away from the geographic elegance of the shoreline, but what can you do.  Here's a link to satellite images of Toronto, including a shot of the harbour iced over.

OK, so it's one thing to say the title sequence gave me ideas, I also have to admit I find the theme song catchy.  A few years ago, I sent this around to friends::

If you go to 4:36, you can hear Big Audio Dynamite's sample of the last seven notes of the theme.  I never put them together, but I felt immediately relieved that there was a crossover between BAD & EastEnders for some reason.

So, given we're reminiscing yet again about twenty years ago, here's one of my favourite videos from the spring of that year::

I find the Emma Peel homage to be hilarious.

Back to EastEnders, I think it's shown on BBC Canada.  I just checked and it looks like it's on weekdays at noon in Toronto on Rogers.  Given my track record with this show, part of me is afraid to watch it, as I might start to like it.  I'd like to say that soap operas aren't my "genre," but let's face some facts here.  The Trailer Park Boys is nothing but a mocumentary soap opera.  Am I right?  Clattenburg's a genius.  He crossed the soap gender barrier, in my opinion.

I have no idea if it's popular in Canada, but it interested me that Coronation Street was such a hit.  I was at the CBC store in downtown Toronto and Coronation Street was heavily featured.

Twitterversion::  Just realizing the #BBC soap, #EastEnders, may be much more significant in my life than previously believed. Disturbing. @Prof_K

Song::  Grace - Lloyd Cole And The Commotions "I was walking down by the River Thames/I decided that I should throw me in/Because you broke my heart and you made me weep/In the name of your sensitivity"