Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Organic Agriculture & Carbon Capture

One of the projects I'm working on is developing a feasibility study for creating benchmarks for carbon sequestration by organic agriculture. This Rodale Institute report gives an overview of organic agriculture's carbon capture. The report notes that organic agriculture could theoretically sequester 40% of current CO2 emissions, if practiced on the globe's 3.5B tillable acres. Organic agriculture is also light on the use of carbon-creating inputs, although a life cycle analysis would need to quantify both the supply chain and downchannel carbon footprint. There are critics of local agriculture movements claiming that local sourcing may not have a lower carbon footprint than non-local production, all things equal, but these claims highlight the need for more measurement.

The mechanism by which organically cultivated soils capture carbons thought to be created is the fostering of fungi that slow decay of organic matter and create carbon-sequestering compounds.

The Rodale Institute's trials are promising::
"During the 1990s, results from the Compost Utilization Trial (CUT) at Rodale Institute—a 10-year study comparing the use of composts, manures and synthetic chemical fertilizer—show that the use of composted manure with crop rotations in organic systems can result in carbon sequestration of up to 2,000 lbs/ac/year. By contrast, fields under standard tillage relying on chemical fertilizers lost almost 300 pounds of carbon per acre per year. Storing—or sequestering—up to 2,000 lbs/ac/year of carbon means that more than 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide are taken from the air and trapped in that field soil. 
In 2006, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion were estimated at nearly 6.5 billion tons. If 7000 lb/CO2/ac/year sequestration rate was achieved on all 434 million acres of cropland in the United States, nearly 1.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide would be sequestered per year, mitigating close to one quarter of the country’s total fossil fuel emissions."
The most recent figures {2007} show organic cropland acreage is 4.1M acres or .55% of US total, which would represent 8.8M tons of carbon dioxide sequestered at the rate of 7000 lb/CO2/ac/year. Therefore, current organic production could be sequestering upwards of .14% of 2006 fossil fuel carbons. More precise quantitative measurements of  soil carbons, in combination with the emerging carbon market and the possibility of Obama's cap-and-trade policies passing Congress can provide opportunities for organic farm operators to (1) brand themselves through "carbon sequestering certification" and (2) trading their sequestered carbons.

Canada as a Kyoto Protocol signatory faces penalties of more aggressive targets in the next round, if it doesn't meet its targets. The Harper government has already resigned to that fate. Agricultural sequestering may be a possible pathway for Canada to offset fossil-fuel generated carbons to get closer to the targets.

Future blogs will be on using emerging nanotechnologies to measure soil carbon cost-effectively.

Twitterversion:: Blog on organic agriculture & carbon sequestration. Can measuring CO2 help develop branding & a tradable commodity? @Prof_K

Song:: Robot Science-'The Notion of Backwards Motion'

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cool Conservatives?

Image:: "It's cool to be conservative," from The Huffington Post

Call it an overt cash-grab, but can you really blame someone trying to cash in on...conservatism. From a marketing point of view, I'm not convinced this is the way to go. First, if you make the claim of being "cool", you're not. I don't make up the rules, but it's not how cool works, culturally or socially. Second, the designs on aren't cool and are reminiscent of CafePress DIY-isms. Here's a video of an interview with the founders.

Is this a bad idea, i.e., marketing to conservatives? Not at all. I think there needs to be more of an appeal to an idealized notion of a conservative lifestyle, emphasizing values and a more creative branding strategy. This got me thinking of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu's work on the mapping taste in France::

One could use Bourdieu to do quick and dirty estimation of where things {objects}, demographics, and values {such as conservatism} converge. This would inform how to brand in a way that resonates with conservatives and I would make the segmentation distinction between libertarians and social conservatives. 

Twitterversion:: Coolconservativegear has a clothing aimed at FoxNews crowd, but evokes blahness of the worst of Cafepress. FUBU it ain't.  @ProfK

Song:: Squeeze-'Cool for Cats'

The Killing Moon :: Webcam Tuesday

Les oiseaux tombent dans la claire de lune...

Twitterversion:: Weather webcam of Burbank & The Killing Moon. @Prof_K

Monday, March 29, 2010

newmusicmonday #36 :: Wye Oak

Image:: Wye Oak, from MySpace Music

This week's newmusicmonday is Baltimore band, Wye Oak {MySpace}. Started as Monarch in 2006, the indie folk duo took their name from the former honourary state tree of Maryland. While I can be a sucker for "blue state folk," I really like Wye Oak since they're not afraid to get loud.

Here's the début video "Please Concrete" from their début record, 'If Children'::

Here's "Warning" from 2008's SXSW::

You can sample tracks from their albums, If Children {2008} and The Knot {2009} here. They have a forthcoming EP due out in June, 'My Neighbor/My Creator' {See player below}. They are currently on tour in North America with Shearwater and will be in Montréal on 31 March, Toronto on 1 April, Chicago on 4 April, LA on 24 April, SF on 25 April, and Vancouver, BC on 28 April. There are many other dates not listed, so check the link.

Here's a more recent track from 'The Knot', "Siamese" {live at UNC Chapel Hill in July 2009}::

and "Milk and Honey" and "For Prayer" from the same show::

Twitterversion:: #newmusicmonday blog {now up to 36} featuring Wye Oak, blue state folk that occasionally rocks. On tour w/@ShearwaterBand. @Prof_K

Friday, March 26, 2010

Google in China

Image:: Li Xing in The People's Daily, China

I don't think Google's feud with China is going to go well for the tech behemoth and it has everything to do with culture and the sociocultural concept of "face". Google is/was in a tough spot, as China was using their Great Firewall to censor content and there have been allegations by Google of snooping attacks looking for activists. Putting this on the Google blog probably wasn't the wisest thing to do while in the midst of their conflict with the government. Their reaction of redirecting searches to Google Hong Kong and adding Twitter feeds to searches {in defiance of the Chinese government} are willful acts of defiance. Strategically, I don't see how either of these things are helpful, particularly in light of the government taking a more assertive stance with foreign entities. In the wake of Google's decision to redirect searches, the Chinese government staked their position on the matter.

From an international business perspective, Google will have to go a long way to mend the fence and get back in China's good graces. Companies like Raytheon have been frozen out of China after going against the government. One analyst quoted in the Telegraph summed up the situation succinctly::
"We don't see this as reducing tension...We see this as increasing or ratcheting up tension between the two parties. You sort of make China look like the bad guy and you think you're going to be selling Google phones? Good luck, we'll see how that goes."
He also pointed out that the effects of this could be enduring. The company is now a radioactive pariah, as partners and allies are likely to drop them to be in compliance with Chinese laws. The capital markets are a bit nervous about Google's fortunes in light of their battle with China going on since January. While Google's revenues in weren't that sizeable, the potential market is huge.

I'm not privy to what was said between Google and the Chinese government over the past few months, so I'm not sure what drove Google to this point. Their actions seem reckless and borne out of frustration, exhibiting an extreme lacking of cultural savvy. While their actions may have worked in a Western context and with Western conventions of PR and public opinion, this just isn't how things are done in China.

Twitterversion:: Google playing hardball w/China, but is this a culture and international business #fail forcing the govt to lose "face"? @Prof_K

Song:: Bowie/Metheny-'This Is Not America'

Friday Night Videos & Web 2.0 Wayback Machine :: Iggy Pop

I find this energetic Iggy performance of "Real Wild Child" on Letterman to be iconic and the interview to be a riot. Sure, the song is from the commercially successful 'Blah Blah Blah' and the hand of Bowie who collaborated on the record left fingerprints all over the sound, it's Iggy at his most accessible and carving a distinct niche in 80s pop. Check out Dave's question towards the end about writing songs 25 words or less.

I found this video of a live performance of the song "Blah Blah Blah" that was supposed to be from The Tube::

Twitterversion:: #FridayNightVideos & #Web2_0WaybackMachine Iggy Pop on Letterman doing "Real Wild Child" circa 1986. @Prof_K

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ben Folds Live Chatroulette Medley

Ben Folds live performance on 20 March 2010 using Chatroulette as inspiration. The oroginator of the concept that Folds is paying homage to is Merton::

Twitterversion:: Ben Folds does live Chatroulette medley à la Merton. 20 March 2010. @Prof_K

Song:: Ben Folds-'Rockin the Suburbs'

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Take a Camel

The Ann Coulter comedy circus was in London, Ontario last night and she didn't disappoint. So, after the 9/11 attacks, Ann said that Muslims should be converted to Christianity and denied air travel and suggested they take "flying carpets" instead. A London political science student Fatima Al-Dhaher took her on::
“As a 17-year-old student of this university, Muslim, should I be converted to Christianity? Second of all, since I don’t have a magic carpet, what other modes do you suggest”
Ann dodged with snark and more obscure references::
“I thought it was just American public schools that produced ignorant people,” 
She cited that "many" Japanese were converted to Christianity after WWII and “we haven’t heard a peep out of them.” Er, there is a whopping 1% of the population that is Christian in Japan and most Christians live in areas that have historically had missionary activity since the 16th. century.

After shouts of “Answer the question,” Coulter's quip was “What mode of transportation? Take a camel.”

Ah, the Eric Cartman or Michael Richards school of punditry.

Yesterday, I blogged about her being warned to keep things civil by the University of Ottawa provost. She wisely declined an interview {I think she knows she's not always quick on her feet when confronted}, and responded::
"Now that the provost has instructed me on the criminal speech laws he apparently believes I have a proclivity (to break), despite knowing nothing about my speech, I see that he is guilty of promoting hatred against an identifiable group: conservatives...The provost simply believes and is publicizing his belief that conservatives are more likely to commit hate crimes in their speeches. Not only does this promote hatred against conservatives, but it promotes violence against conservatives."
This article claims she intends on filing a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission for the e-mail she received that she deems as a "hate crime."

Ann forgets that she has a track record of being offensive. Period. Trying to turn this into an anti-conservative bias and claiming that this incites violence towards conservatives is a stretch. Would George Will get a letter like that? Sarah Palin?

The sad thing is that Ann is playing this all straight and is taking herself way too seriously. She has a circus act and gets peeved when she's asked to clean up the dung when she comes to town. This is really about being the centre of attention, which is her bread and butter. She commands $10K US for speaking appearances. But, like Paris Hilton, when you're in the limelight for being ridiculous, don't get all bent out of shape when you're the butt of the joke.

Ann wants to have her cake and eat it too. I think she does far more damage to conservatism with her shock-schtick and looks pathetic by whining that she's being picked on.

What I want to see? I want to see her match vitriol with Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. Here's Triumph getting political in 2008::

Twitterversion:: Ann Coulter comedy circus lands in Ottawa. Claims uOttawa is promoting hate vs. conservatives. Says she's a victim of hate crime. @Prof_K

Songs:: Barbara Streisand-'Send in the Clowns' & Southern Culture on the Skids-'Walk Like a Camel'

Monday, March 22, 2010

uOttawa Muzzling Ann Coulter?

I found this story to be hi-larious. Ann Coulter was invited by the University of Ottawa Campus Conservatives to give a talk. I'm not sure on what topic, but it's a bold move given that Ann has been known to say of Canada that Canadians "are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent."

What Ann forgets is that her mouthy antics are the political equivalent of a Sarah Silverman & Andrew Dice Clay love child. The University of Ottawa Provost sent her an e-mail which she posted on Big Government. The anti-Canadian and apologist comments there are eye-roll worthy.

A Facebook group, BAN ANN COULTER FROM CAMPUS, with the following description::
"Ann Coulter has already been banned from Carleton University for her hateful, racist, sexist, and homophobic rhetoric and she is set to speak at the UofO tuesday, March 23rd.
Coulter, a Republican from the US, is known for her disgustingly hateful and oppressive comments attacking the Muslim faith as inherently violent and leading to terrorism, the Jewish faith by calling for its adherents to be converted and ‘perfected’, numerous ethnicities by advocating their expulsion from America; women for being incapable of reason or political engagement and much more. "
Ann Coulter can dish out the vitriol but she can't take it. She has zero rhetorical skills and can only manage weak attempts at deflection. Here's a video of her on MSNBC's Hardball a few years ago when Elizabeth Edwards, wife of John Edwards, called in and asked her to stop the personal attacks. Ann equated that with telling her to stop writing books.

This shows how ripe she is for the heckling, as she doesn't think well on her feet. 

Here's the email {below} sent to Ann, which she posted online. The "threat" of possible criminal charges was directly related to expressions of speech "promoting hatred against an identifiable group". The rest was civility this and respect that. All clicks and whistles to Ann, no doubt. The text is fuzzy, so click on image to see clearer version in a new window or see the original e-mail uploaded here.

The fact of the matter is that Ann has made a career out of low-grade snark and seems shocked when she's called out on it. While she has her fans, she needs to remember that she's made a career by being an abrasive clown who is hard to take seriously and not everyone appreciates the schtick.

Twitterversion:: Sarah Silverman+Andrew Dice Clay love child #AnnCoulter warned by uOttawa not to promote hate. Cue sad Pagliacci music.  @Prof_K

Song:: RUN-DMC-"You Talk Too Much"

The Web 2.0 Wayback Machine :: Douglas Coupland on Canada & Vancouver

I found this video to be interesting. Douglas Coupland was asked the Canada-nation or notion question, particularly in light of the rise of CanCon cultural product exports. Coupland noted the rise of Vancouver as a place and the fluid dynamics of it as a changeable place that is likely to look quite different in the future, a characteristic that Canada shares as well.

Twitterversion:: #Web2_0WaybackMachine Douglas Coupland on Macleans' question of Canada: nation or notion, from 30 April 2008. @Prof_K

Song:: Smiths-'Girlfriend in a Coma' an homage to this.

newmusicmonday #35 :: Fanshaw

Image:: Cover art for Fanshaw's 'Dark Eyes' album

Fanshaw {CBCr3} is this week's newmusicmonday selection. The musical persona of Olivia Fetherstonhaugh hails from Vancouver and has an album, 'Dark Eyes' {Mint Records-link to purchase},  that was just released on 9 February. There's a coolness to Fanshaw's sound with her shoegazey chanteusy vocals and well-crafted arrangements. 'Dark Eyes' is her first album and the songs were written over a 5 year period. From what I've heard {definitely check out the tracks on CBC Radio 3–there are 3 tracks listed but more live tracks if you go to to the concerts and sessions tab}, her songs are seamless without sounding overfussed. I have a thing for short songs and I thought many of her tracks were short, but after looking them up, most clock in between 3-4 minutes. For me, if a song seems long, I get restless, unless it really draws me in. Fanshaw's songs are often jam packed with interesting lyrics and arrangements, which did indeed draw me in. One of my favourite tracks is "O Sailor" with its drumming, horns, and anachronistic lyrics::

"I'll put my red lipstick on/and my Red Cross uniform/and then I'll go downtown town town..."

Here's a live performance of "Diana" the lead track from the album::

Fanshaw is on Twitter @fanshawmusic and tweets with personality! This tweet says she's shhoting a music video and going for a Suburban Lawns vibe.

Twitterversion:: #newmusicmonday blog this week is Fanshaw {@fanshawmusic} fr. Vancouver. Links and vid. Listened to 'O Sailor' 3x now. @Prof_K

Songs:: 'Vegas' & 'Paperboy'

Sunday, March 21, 2010

As heard on Breaking Bad—Paul Rothman's "It's a Good Night"

Yesterday, there was an AMC best of Breaking Bad mini-marathon. There's a scene in the pilot {s01, e01} of Jesse "slinging meth" all across Albuquerque, set to Paul Rothman's "It's a Good Night." Above is a mashup of Harvey Birdman and the same song. Harvey Birdman is hit and miss, although I do recall a funny episode where Fred Flintstone was the Dabba Don à la Tony Soprano::

I've watched Breaking Bad over the past 2 years and felt it was very uneven. Some parts were excellent, while others are meh. The Walt character {Brian Cranston} is a very complex with his ability to compartmentalize his life and his illegal and immoral actions. What seemingly starts out as an altruistic act of generating money for his family and his cancer treatments morphs into a study of the ego of a man whose square life has given him a feeling of being on the outside looking in. Sort of like watching a switch go off in the head of his Malcolm in the Middle character. Jesse {Aaron Paul} is the perfect foil as the ex-student who bridges Walt's supreme meth-cooking abilities as a chemist of some note to the mean streets of Albuquerque's meth trade. The two are a clash of socioeconomic status and, at first, values, but over time Walt's values start to converge with Jesse's, as he gets wrapped up in his money-making mission. While some may characterize Walt as a surrogate parental figure for Jesse, I see the two as locked in a co-dependence. The writing, particularly with respect to Jesse and the meth players is tight yo. It gives the audience a sense of being let into the inside underworld of the meth trade.

Where the show falls flat is the dynamics involving Walt home front. How Walt's duplicity affect his wife and the interactions with his friends who are now millionaires and offered to help Walt financially just don't work for me. The dialogue and the storylines leave me flat, as they're often not fleshed out and unconvincing.

I find Heather Havrilesky's take on the show at the start of season two to be worth a chuckle, but perhaps she needed to up her dose of antidepressants::
"Breaking Bad" has so many redeeming qualities, from its low-key, almost mean-spirited sense of humor to its stark, artistic shots of the Albuquerque sky to the patient pace with which its story unfolds, that it seems a shame to miss any of it just because we're accustomed to more sugary, cheerful tales. Even so, watching this show can feel like stumbling onto online photos of a poor guy who bled to death from a crushed arm. As much as you admire the gall of the guy who put those photos up, you'll still end up depressed anyway."
While Heather said {last year} that the show has merit, reducing this show to being "too depressing" is a bit oversimplifying. The show is complex and doesn't rely on standard formulas and I think claiming Breaking Bad as too depressing is like bemoaning "Curb Your Enthusiasm" as being too neurotic. The brilliance of the show isn't the "fish out of water" {a high school chemistry teacher as a meth cooker} or "clashing cultures" {middle class meets meth world} tropes, but the complex study of the journey of a man with nothing to lose, but nevertheless ruled by what others think of him, his pride, and his ego. Depressing? I find it a tad odd to characterize the show in that way, but I think this is television more in tune with an audience that appreciates The Sopranos more than the shows mugging to be oh-so-clever like Weeds or the "shock value" of the everyday lives of the polygamists in "Big Love." Talk about depressing...and boring.

Here's a link to several season 3 trailers.

Twitterversion:: Mashup Paul Rothman's It's a Good Night {used in Breaking Bad} w/HarveyBirdman. Blog on AMC's BB prem. s3 tonight on #AMC . @Prof_K

Song:: Pet Shop Boys-'Opportunities'

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Night Videos :: Imogen Heap & Apostle of Hustle

I've been hip-deep in Drupal hell, but I'm liking the results. I'll be glad when I'm not constantly FTPing files and fussing with cPanel X.

Imogen Heap's "Last Train Home" may sound like mainstream pop to many, but there's something about the melody of this song that I like.

This is an "alternative version" to the video. Here's Imogen's explanation::
"This is the First Train Home alternative video I directed. I came up with the idea in a cab on the way home late one night and filmed it the next week.   
It's shot in the room I wrote the song in, which is above my studio where I recorded Ellipse. It's me and a load of my friends I borrowed for the day to boss around. We had great fun, some great curry (from my local takeaway.. the best for mies!) and later a few of us sat around the bonfire outside and carried on the night together. It felt like a little mini album finishing party for me. 
So many of you have been following and getting involved in Ellipse and after all the vblogs and tweets it felt wrong to do a video that was so impersonal which I felt the original one was. Even a bit cold and detached. This new video won't win any awards but I felt I wanted to make it. Some of the people dancing about have been around me so much during the making of Ellipse. "
Here's the original::

I don't seem to tire of "Cheap Like Sebastian" by Apostle of Hustle. I really think it may be the "la la la la la la la..."::

Here's "National Anthem of Nowhere" that has an anachronistic Toronto in the background of some of the scenes::

It's the weekend. Enjoy it. Hopefully springtime won't take too much of a hiatus...

Twitterversion:: #FridayNightVideos Imogen Heap's 'First Train Home' & Apostle of Hustle's 'Cheap Like Sebastian' & 'National Anthem of Nowhere.' @Prof_K

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New EKOS Canadian Poll :: Second Choices

A new EKOS poll is out on Canadian Federal voting intent. The Conservatives are rebounding and are in a dead heat in bellwether Ontario with the Liberals. I found the second choice data to be interesting::

I wanted to look at the structure behind these second choice numbers, although these should be interpreted with caution. I took the above table and input the data into a social networking programme, UCInet. One of the statistics I looked at was "multiplicative coreness", which is the degree to which each party is connected to other parties, in terms of its supporters' affinity for other parties and other party supporters support of them. It's a measure of "core/periphery" and I wanted to see how those polled are attitudinally aligned with respect to their first and second choices. The results {reanalysis:: April 2011 with newer version of UCINET [6.198]} aren't too surprising::

  1 CPC   0.696
  2 LPC   0.547
  3 NDP   0.381
  4 GPC   0.244
  5  BQ   0.101
  6 OTH   0.037

The Bloc {BQ} has the least connection to other parties.  The Greens {GPC} have a relatively low connection to other parties and looking at the above table, they have the most supporters who do not have a second choice, at 45.9%. On the other hand, the NDP and the Liberals have a high degree of connection to other parties. The Conservatives represent the core with the most supporters and relatively high overlap with other parties. They also have a high degree of of loyals {45%}, i.e., those who don't have a second choice. This NetDraw diagram helps to visualize the pattern::

Each node represents a political party. The weight of the lines is a measure of the strength of the relationship between parties as measured through second choices. The numbers closest to a node are "inbound" meaning that they represent the percentage from other parties that choose it as a second choice. The numbers farthest from a node are "outbound" and represent the percent of supports who are choosing the the other party as their second choice.

The diagram shows the pattern of fragmentation in Canadian politics and the problems of the Liberal Party. The left and centre-left {Liberals, NDP, & Greens} are perceptually interconnected. In Québec, the strong second choice after the Bloc is the NDP. The strong connection between the Liberals and Conservatives shows the battle for the moderate vote. The pattern also shows that Dippers and Greens deem the Liberals as their second choice, as opposed to each other, which is likely borne out of the pragmatics of strategic voting.

If anyone is interested in the UCInet file, feel free to contact me and I'll get it to you.

Twitterversion:: New EKOS Poll on Canadian intent. Tories surging, tied w/Libs in ON. Analysis of 2nd. choices reveals patterns. @Prof_K

Song:: Also Ran-'French Kicks'

Brand Backlash :: Social Media Style

Here's a great compendium of social media disasters for organizations from 2001 to the present. Social media means that organizations are increasingly vulnerable to attacks on their reputations 24/7. The same author, Jeremiah Owyang, has a typology of brand backlash storms.

Social media allows for instantaneous communications on a topic and what resonates and goes viral is often unpredictable. These incidents highlight how organizations need to understand that their policies, stakeholder interactions, and the actions of third parties can make their brand vulnerable at the drop of a hat. 

Conventional PR wisdom is to refute/respond, not antagonize, and let the controversy die down. Social psychology's Elaboration Likelihood Model can offer greater insights. If the public is motivated to process the arguments being made and have the ability to process them, strong message arguments should be used {central route of persuasion}. If there is less motivation and ability to process information, credibility of the spokesperson, attractiveness of the spokesperson, and good execution are more important than crafting strong message arguments {peripheral route of persuasion}.

If an organization is attacked with strong, factual information that the audience is motivated to engage and also comprehends, this is particularly damaging, as attitudes formed under these conditions tend to be stronger.

Countering attacks can be informed by the elaboration likelihood model, although in practice it may be difficult to gauge the public's motivation and ability to process anti-brand information being spread on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. I would surmise that most of what goes viral is fueled by emotion and the peripheral route of persuasion. In responding to attacks, I think it's best to think about narrative and who the audiences are. What's the story that's unfolding? For example, brand are typically attacked on the grounds of::
  1. Unfairness
  2. Malfeasance
  3. Offensiveness
  4. Irresponsibility
  5. Dissatisfaction
How can the attack be turned around? I think it's helpful to think of how can you "fix" the story being told without seeming defensive and willing to offer mea culpas when you're wrong. In the past, brands have turned negatives into positives. Saturn turned a recall into a way to connect with their consumers and foster brand community. Hint, hint, Toyota. Service business have often turned fail points into ways to foster a better customer relationship by properly responding to customer complaints.

Social media allows for discussions and organizations should embrace discussions as a better way to connect with their constituents and stakeholders, even when under attack.

I am currently doing work developing metrics to better understand how brand backlash works and will post more on this in the future.

Twitterversion:: Brand backlash from social media can be terrifying, but how should orgs. respond? It's about narratives & conversations. @Prof_K

Song:: Sandie Shaw-"Jeane"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pepé Le Pew

Last week, I blogged about Telus using PC excerpts of a Pat Boone song "Speedy Gonzales" with less than flattering characterizations. This got me thinking of Pepé Le Pew with his franglaisisms. I'm sure some find these cartoons offensive, but the nature of the cultural characterizations are tamer than those of Speedy Gonzales.

Humour and stereotypes are often dicey terrain and the line of both acceptability and what many will deem as "funny" shifts over time. Some humour is meant to be provocative, such as "I Am Not Canadian" done by a Toronto radio station::

So, where is the line? I find writing comedy to be extremely challenging for this reason. The line is not a matter of intent or who is performing or wrote the material, but whether there's humanity in the writing. Regarding humour, it's one thing to serve up what is tantamount to a cultural "roast", but when the humour turns mean-spirited, is out for shock value, or goes for the cheap laughs, it takes on a different character. I think I'm paraphrasing sentiments echoed by Ricky Gervais.

I think for most viewers today, Pepé doesn't bring along that much cultural bad baggage, particularly when compared to other characters in film and television. The skunk angle is arguably the most problematic.

As a total aside, tabarnac, I just had an idea for a Québécois Pepé who was forced to live in Toronto. He missed his neighbourhood dép that had intermittent hours throughout the day/night, was chastized for booing the US national anthem at Air Canada Centre, and furtively chain-smokes his du Mauriers out of sight of judgmental Torontonians.

Here's "For Scent-imental Reasons" {1949}::

Twitterversion:: How culturally insensitive is Pepé Le Pew? @elsiebean @Prof_K

Song:: Françoise Hardy-"Tous Les Garçons et Les Filles"

Monday, March 15, 2010

newmusicmonday #34 :: Miss Emily Brown

Image:: Miss Emily Brown at Artswells Festival 2009, Miss Emily Brown website

This week's newmusicmonday is folk pop artist Miss Emily Brown {MySpace; CBCr3}, who was originally from Iroquois, Ontario and now based in BC. Here's a video interview where Emily Millard explains the creative process behind her latest album, In Technicolor, merging history from her grandmother's letters from World War II and her folk-tinged musical storytelling::
Miss Emily Brown - In Technicolor from Benjamin Schuetze on Vimeo.

She received a Canada Council for the Arts grant for the project. Here are two tracks from the new album, "The Diary of Amy Briggs"::

and "World Traveller"::

I'm a fan of this older track, "Love Don't Come Cheap" 

There are quite a few tracks streamed on CBCr3. Take a listen, as her music pushes the boundaries of neo-folk or what I often call blue state folk {red riding folk?} with interesting arrangements, using synth and drums, strings, samples, and mechanical sounds.

As stated above, her latest album is out and older tracks are available on iTunes. She is currently on a Canada-wide tour now through early May.

Twitterversion:: #newmusicmonday blog features folk-pop artist Miss Emily Brown w/new album based on grandmother's WWII letters. @Prof_K