Monday, June 28, 2010

Not for the Obsessive Compulsive :: Pixel Game

This isn't exactly new or exciting, but I stumbled upon it looking at Flash applications. It's dirt simple, but I've found it highly addictive. The Pixel game is from Hero Interactive with music and sound by Brian Hall at Polyphone Music. You can fire and collect pixels and pixels from exploded enemies can destroy other enemies. For me, the draw is that the player is rewarded by chaos.

Song:: The Ataris-'Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start'

Twitterversion:: [blog+interactive] Simple, yet addicting, Pixel Flash game from Hero Interactive isn't for the obsessive compulsive. @Prof_K

newmusicmonday #49 :: Screaming Females

image:: Screaming Females, live at Lee's Palace, Toronto, G20 Weekend.
L to R, Marissa, Jarrett, & King Mike, photo:: Kenneth M. Kambara

While the city of Toronto was under the thumb of the G20 security and the media was having a field day with the "so-called violence" {some say that the "story" was so much spin orchestrated by the police} {hat tip:: Chuck Raymond}, Ted Leo {hat tip:: LinnyQat} came to town with Screaming Females {MySpace} at Lee's Palace on Saturday. Screaming Females also hail from New Jersey like Ted Leo and I'm really disappointed I only got to see the last two songs from their set. I found this video on YouTube as a great intro to the New Brunswick-based band::

This great clip from the above video of the band covering MJ, no, not Miranda July, in what seemingly appears to be a wardrobe closet is great stuff. 

I love the DIY punk spirit of this band that doesn't compromise. There's a punk energy here with a tunefulness bound together with this being a labour of artistry. If you click on any of these videos, definitely click on "Boyfriend" below {from their 2007 self-released "What If Someone Is Watching Their T.V?"} The fantastic guitarwork, great lyrics and vocals, and raw energy give you a glimpse of the talent here and what a great live band they are::

These other tracks aren't chopped liver. Here's two from 'Power Move' on Don Giovanni Records::


"Adult Army"

Finally, here's a video on the band going into the studio to record this fall's forthcoming album::

Check out their blog, which has great entries chronicling how their van broke down on tour, and here's their discography. Like I said, I just saw the last 2 songs in their set, but the whole show was great. I'll post a blog on Ted Leo and the Pharmacists later in the week, after I try to clean up the video. I've posted an excerpt of Ted Leo doing a solo cover of "So It Goes" during the encore on Tumblr.

Twitterversion:: [blog] #newmusicmonday feat. NJ-based Screaming Females w/DIY punk style/sound. Saw end of set in #G20 #Toronto {w/@TedLeo}. @Prof_K

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Missed Opportunity for Canada :: Hosting the G8/G20 at the Cold War Diefenbunker

image:: The Diefenbunker, Carp, Ontario, Amy Allcock, flickr

All of this talk of the fallout from the G20 summit here in Toronto, how it's a "changed" city because of the "violence", who will be paying for the damage which isn't covered by many insurance policies, and the $1.2B pricetag for security and staffing for the G8/G20 extravaganza.

My should have all gone down at The Diefenbunker in Carp outside of Ottawa. Here's an interview of a curator from 2007 explaining a bit of background on the Diefenbunker::

It could have housed everyone and even if protesters destroyed all of Carp, Ontario, how much total damage could it be?

Not to knock Carp, but it's a matter of scale and density. Anyway, I think a huge opportunity was missed here. 

Plus, the world leaders could have had fresh beavertails from Ottawa and had PizzaPizza from Stittsville, just 9km away. Something tells me this plan, even with pizzas with the works, would have been far less than $1.2B.

Song:: Donald Fagen-'New Frontier'

Twitterversion:: [blog] Huge missed opp. for Canada. G8/G20 should have been held at the Diefenbunker at a fraction of the $2.1B pricetag. @Prof_K

Cat Food Psychedelia

I just saw this Friskies commercial for the first time on WPCH here in Toronto. The "Feed the Senses" ad makes wet food seem like a fantastic journey for your cat, much better than Skittles' "taste the rainbow" for humans. The NYTimes did a write-up back in March on the ads::
"In the commercial, the opening of the can acts as a trigger for the cat’s fantastic journey, which features visits from the creatures that contribute to Friskies wet cat food: chickens, cows, fish and turkeys. The scenes are rendered in a psychedelic, at times wacky style that makes the commercial look as if it had been directed by a team of Busby Berkeley and Timothy Leary..."
The ad was done by Avrett Free Ginsberg in New York and was launched on NBC affiliates during the 2010 Winter Olympics coverage in larger markets. I've yet to find out who did the song for the ad. The pet food market has resisted the Big Recession thus far, which hopefully bodes well for the welfare of the furry.

Song:: The Weakerthans-'Plea from a Cat Named Virtue'

Twitterversion:: [blog+video] Psychedelic Friskies commercial characterizes wet food as a sensory journey for your cat. @Prof_K

Friday, June 25, 2010

Untapped Apple iPad Market :: Cats!

Iggy is into exploring new technologies, so his companions let him have at the iPad. So, developers, have at it...time to develop cat apps. Here's the logo I've made::

Song:: Tricky-'The Love Cats'

Twitterversion:: [video+blog] New market for Apple's iPad: cats. Demonstration should get developers' pawing at emerging market segment! @Prof_K

Monday, June 21, 2010

newmusicmonday #48 :: Crystal Castles

image:: CC, from MySpaceMusic

This week's newmusicmonday features Ontario's Crystal Castles {MySpaceCBCr3, wiki}, who will be on tour shortly and hitting the festival circuit. They have a mid-August date at Koolhaus here in Toronto. I'm not always into techno, but the lo-fi approach of the duo {Ethan Kath & Alice Glass} draws me in. Here's a video for "Crimewave" from a few years back::

and a live version of "Baptism" from last summer that captures Alice's energy::

In the same vein is "Courtship Dating"::

The player has a mix of their stuff, including "Celestica" from the recent album released last month 'Crystal Castles' or sometimes referred to as 'Crystal Castles II', given their first album has the same name. The name is from the cartoon and line of toys, She-Ra.

Twitterversion:: [blog+ ♫ +videos] #newmusicmonday features low-fi techno Crystal Castles from Ontario. new album & upcoming tour dates. @Prof_K

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Night Video :: NXNE Thursday

Via AuxTV. Soundbites and videobites of Chris Velan, Pop Vinds, Okay City, The Blue Van, Free Energy, Young Galaxy {featured on Friday night videos}, Smile Smile, Zeus, The Pack A.D., Little Girls, The Warped 45s, Glass Candy, Brand Bjork and the Bros, The Icarus Line, and X.

Twitterversion:: [video] @NXNEFest Thursday highlights via @AuxTV. #FridayNightVideo addendum. #rhizomicon @Prof_K

Friday Night Videos :: Teen Daze

image:: photo from MySpaceMusic

This one is via keepitriel. This great BeyondRobson interview sheds some light on the enigmatic Teen Daze.  Descriptions like dreamweaver are apt. Definitely check it out.

Here's a fan video featiring skateboarding footage {via BeyondRobson/YouTube}::


Twitterversion:: [blog + video] #FridayNightVideos featuring #Vancouver's dreamy electro Teen Daze.  #VancouverIndie #rhizomicon @Prof_K

Thursday, June 17, 2010


image:: soccer fans in South Africa tooting their vuvuzelas,

Dubbed as the 12th. man, the drone of the vuvuzelas has been ubiquitous at the FIFA World Cup 2010, explained by this story by Al JezeeraEnglish::

The horns are capable of blaring at 130 decibels, 30 over the human pain threshold. This story on Yahoo outlines the controversy, but I don't see it getting banned and I tend to view noise, even at an earsplitting 130 db, as part of the game.

Update {18 June 2010, 8:24a EDT}:: I just saw a Wired tweet on the Virtual Vuvuzela ::

the Virtual Vuvuzela site describes and features apps {including Facebook} that mimic the horn in question, including a $0.99 version for the iPhone. Here's the QR code  for the Android version::

There's a free version floating around on the iTunes store, but the reviews say it's not LOUD enough.

Song:: Gebroeders Ko-'Vuvuzela' Video link {opens in new window}

Twitterversion:: [blog] Earsplitting vuvuzelas at WC 2010 capable of blaring at 130 db. Calls for banning them, but I don't see it happening. @Prof_K

Technological Convergence :: The Mastery of the Mashup

Wired had a feature with images of good and bad examples of technological convergence, i.e., what marketing folks call the combination of two or more products to ostensibly create value. In web circles, such combos are often called mashups. 

The prototypical example I've used is the clock radio. Alarm clock plus radio is an old standby. I'm all for computing devices/appliances that take advantage of the convergence of media. If I could seamlessly and with mobility access my data {securely} in all of its forms {multimedia, telephony, files, etc.} with devices that add value, I'm all for it.

The above example from the Wired feature is the Entourage eDGe, a combination tablet and e-reader for $500. Wired wasn't impressed, as evident in their their review. Here's the 10 second tired/wired overview::
WIRED Swinging combo of an E Ink display and LCD screen. Journal for note-taking is actually useful. Innovative hardware design.  
TIRED Sluggish. Poor touchscreen performance. No 3G connectivity. Weak battery life. Smaller selection of online books in the bookstore compared to or Barnes &
Back to the drawing board.

In terms of "mashups", I've thought about combination devices with multiple screens. Way in the pre-iPad days of last August, I mused about a combo Macbook Pro/iPhone device. I think I'm still stuck on the idea of a full-blown laptop tethered to an iPhone device to use as a modem. 

Now, I'd like that laptop to have both a keyboard and a multitouch screen, in a form factor that allows a clamshell configuration that could allow the screen to be propped up or lie flat. How about a Macbook or Macbook Pro that could allow an iPad function as a removable "module" that doubles as a touchscreen AND triples as a 3G connection. The current iPads have just a 9.7" diagonal screen {1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch}, which would be a stretch. Ideally, with a 13" multitouch screen that would snap into place. So, the iPad 3G with the larger screen might be upwards of $800 US/$879 CAN and the Macbook Pro that would work the best for me would have 8GB RAM at $1,200 US/$1,669 CAN. I'd replace the hard drive with a 500GB second-generation hybrid SATA/Flash device for $120 US. I'd be content to use Skype for telephony. I would easily pay upwards of $2,200 US for that mashup.

Song:: The Silence Xperiment-'Bohemian Wanksta'

Twitterversion:: [blog] Wired feature on mashups highlights good, bad, & ugly, incl. tablet/e-readr. Thoughts on iPad/Macbook Pro mashup. @Prof_K

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Toronto Mayoral Race & Social Media :: Can Twitter Be a Game Changer?

image:: Sarah Thomson, Toronto Mayoral Candidate

Crossposted on ThickCulture
Notes from north of 49ºN

Last month, the Toronto Star ran an article on the use of social media in Toronto's mayoral race. This fall's election will be the first since the proliferation of social media and the wake of Obama's campaign 2.0. A CTVGlobemedia poll released this week shows that the race is tightening up, as heir apparent George Smitherman {15.9%} was leapfrogged by Rob Ford {17.8} with a 3.1% margin of error and 37.9% undecided.

Now, most of the candidates have embraced social media with various "chiclets" {} for sites like Twitter and YouTube. The "downside" of social media is that it can be hard or impossible to control. This clip of a documentary where Rob Ford gets on the case of a reporter for calling him a "fat f*ck" was making the rounds on YouTube::

Well, first off, this dispels the irksome myth that all Canadians are mild-mannered and polite. How does this video play in the court of public opinion? It's hard to say. Some might be turned off by Ford's confrontational style, but it might be "on code" with his feisty approach and accountability stance. Smitherman is no shrinking violet, so it may be interesting if Smitherman and Ford go after each other and voters can see it on YouTube.

I think Twitter offers an interesting mode for engagement. Provincially, here in the Toronto Centre riding, Liberal MPP Glen Murray does a great job of using Twitter to have conversations with constituents. The mayoral candidates should look to Twitter to both engage voters and mobilize supporters, as well as crowdsource ideas to help round-out platforms. A breakdown of the candidates' Twitter presence follows, in their order in the CTVGlobemedia poll with following/followers/Tweets::
  1. Rob Ford {17.8%} 151/663/256
  2. George Smitherman {15.9%} 1,540/1,609/119
  3. Joe Pantalone {10.1%} 508/591/245
  4. Rocco Rossi {9.1%} 1,019/1,432/732
  5. Sarah Thomson {5.8%} 1,017/1,082/1,066
  6. Giorgio Mammoliti {2.5%} 618/474/ 274
I think it's important for candidates to follow their followers in order to get the most out of Twitter and the conversations it can foster. Rossi and Thomson are Tweeting frequently and it would be interesting for their campaigns to gauge and analyze how Twitter affects metrics for the various functional areas of the campaign, e.g., volunteering, fundraising, attendance at events, etc.

Song:: XTC-'Mayor of Simpleton'

Twitterversion:: [blog] Can #Twitter be a gamechanger in #Toronto mayoral race, offering conversations & engagement? #ThickCulture #VoteTO @Prof_K

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Selling Music as a Loss Leader?

image :: 'how much do music artists make online?',
click on image to open full graphic in a new window

This graphic was posted by Wendy Fonarow earlier in the week and the numbers, sadly, don't surprise me at all. When I taught entertainment marketing {circa 2006-7}, I detailed the process by which artists got on iTunes and the implications for their wallets.

This comment makes a case I've seen made time and time again::
"These metrics are interesting, but they only tell part of the story really in terms of how a performing artists economics play out – Between appearance/performance fees, merchandising rights, and the always difficult to quantify perks, and the the extensive cost of recording incurred by performing or recording artists and the label offered finance arrangements (that make loan sharks ashamed to be in the same industry) – It’s still difficult to get a realistic picture of what it takes to survive as a musician. While it’s slightly less ambiguous as to what it takes to survive as a writer, it’s still not exactly a clear picture.  
Among the more interesting numbers in the metrics are things like the difference between price to the consumer, and total artist/label revenue via different distribution channels."
The comments in general are worth reading and many are critical of the graphic, but I feel despite the graphic's generalities, one thing is clear—the long tail is not a panacea and the devil's in the details.

While music can be seen as a "loss-leader", perhaps a better way to think of being a musician is looking at all of the possible streams of revenues with the actual music as a core offering. The larger the audience and the greater the exposure, the more likely the revenue streams will allow for viability. Social media can level the playing field, but that requires time, effort, and commitment to it—which for indie artists who do most of their own marketing, takes time away from the music.

Song:: Modest Mouse-'Bankrupt on Selling'

Twitterversion:: [blog] Infographic on how much music artists make off of the sale of music. Bigger picture is how music is a loss-leader. @Prof_K

Anti-BP Art Spawned by Gulf Oilspill Spewage

This one is via The Huffington Post—a collection of anti-BP art in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The oilcam is still showing spewage, the CEO needs a muzzle, Obama is trying to get claims paid faster and is addressing the nation on the disaster as I type this, BP is under fire on Capitol Hill, UK-US relations are strained by media hype over angry rhetoric flowing both ways, and the company may do just fine in the long run, despite all of this. The impact? We'll see how Obama's meeting with BP goes tomorrow, but public sentiment may be reaching an anti-corporate tipping point, as cynicism increases due to the Big Recession and what is perceived to be the corporation as a far from benign institution.

Song:: The Tragically Hip-'Nautical Disaster'

Twitterversion:: [blog+link] HuffPo compilation of anti-BP art & compilation of BP's headaches. @Prof_K

Monday, June 14, 2010

newmusicmonday #47 :: The Living Deadbeats

image:: The Living Deadbeats, MySpaceMusic

This week's newmusicmonday features The Living Deadbeats {CBCr3, ReverbNation, GaragePunk} from East Van on Dirty Water Digital. The band consists of Lindsay Kasting/vox, Dirty Swagger/guitar, Pete Fiend/bass, and Nadja/drums. Tuneful garage punk 'n' roll with grrrl attitude reminds us all of great things happening in the Vancouver scene. Here's a live version of "Hey Girl/Liar Liar" and "Alone" from a charity benefit out in Surrey last year::

Here's three from the 'Hey Girl' EP release party, including "Living Deadbeats theme song", "Stumble", and "Time"::

Definitely check out the 9 tracks on their CBC Radio3 page. One of my favourite tracks is a live version of "Apathy" on their MySpace page.

Twitterversion:: [blog] #newmusicmonday feat. punk 'n' roll of The Living Deadbeats fr. EastVan. Videos/links. #rhizomicon #VancouverIndie  @Prof_K

Living in a Storage Unit? :: Toronto Architecture

image:: Roncesvalles Lofts, via urbantoronto

This project was featured on urbantoronto and one commentor likened it to a storage unit place. Interestingly, that's one of the reasons I liked it. In fact, I wish it looked more industrial, which to me is the point of loft living.

A few years back, I had a sublet loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that was a great space on the edge on an industrial area::

Right across the street was a scrap metal yard and towards the East River looked like brownfield lots. I liked how the building wasn't gentrified and the neighbourhood was a tad on the gritty side, but what I liked the most how the interior space was repurposed, not gutted, and still had the feel of the factory floor—bare light bulbs and all.

Song:: KMFDM-'Light'

Twitterversion:: @Urban_Toronto feat. Roncesvalles Lofts that a commentor compared to a storage unit, which is why I like it. #rhizomicon @Prof_K

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Twiangulate :: Twitter Followers, Friends, & Lists

image :: Twiangulate screenshot for Prof_K

I was looking for a website that created social graphs of my Twitter network and I stumbled on Twiangulate. Users can find out who their biggest followers are and compare the mutual followers and friends with up to two other users. It would be useful to identify users with the most overlap of followers, friends, and lists. I can't figure out how to do it, so if anyone does, feel free to comment on it.

Here's the White House's biggest followers::

Song:: Nouvelle Vague-'Bizarre Love Triangle'

Twitterversion:: [blog] @Twiangulate allows #Twitter users to compare followers, friends, & lists w/up to 2 other users. #rhizomicon  @Prof_K

The Spectacle of the High-Speed Car Chase

image:: vidcap of Bentley involved in high speed chase and suicide with handgun, February 2009

Los Angeles can be a strange and surreal place. The local stations typically treat high-speed car chases as "breaking news" and will interrupt programming {depending on the time of day} to televise them. The number of traffic helicopters in the area enable instant coverage of this brand of infotainment. I recall this being prevalent in the 1990s and the slow-speed O.J. Simpson Ford Bronco chase was an iconic moment of 1994.

I've always questioned the practice of high-speed chases that ramp up the adrenaline of law enforcement and those being chased. Typically, what the viewer sees is the theatrics of the chase and the suspect apprehended or shot. The psychology of a desperate character isn't always rational, so the few decades of televised chases may prime those who feel they're behind the 8-ball to flee—as seen on TV.

The above vidcap was the final scene of a chase that ended in a gunshot suicide of a businessman who allegedly assaulted his girlfriend. While this clip doesn't show the actual gunshot, it sets up the final chapter of this chase from last year::

A few days ago, I read a story where fleeing suspects being chased by the police killed a 6-year old. The officers saw what they believed to be a drug deal. This time, the chase was short and the suspects lost control and crashed, but the damage was done. 

Some say that fleeing suspects often get what they deserve. Often commentators on these chases have a bit of a "wag of the finger" in their tone. Like I said above, typically the only party that gets it is the suspect; typically innocent bystanders aren't injured or killed. My opinion is that a culture is being created by law enforcement and the media that fosters the flight mentality. While police protocols outline balancing the seriousness of the offense and the lives of themselves and the public. The collateral damage of a dead child bystander is just the sobering incident that should get law enforcement to think about its policies and what warrants chasing a suspect who isn't likely to be thinking rationally and is in a state of panic. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that changing the institutional norms of law enforcement are often an uphill battle and would have to come from the top.

Song:: Paul Oakenfeld 'Ready Steady Go'
Twitterversion:: [blog] LA = highspeed car chase capital {media+police protocols} & death of 6 y.o. is sobering outcome of flight response. @Prof_K

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Night Videos & NXNE Preview :: Young Galaxy

image:: Montréal's Young Galaxy, via lostmyheart

This week's Friday Night Videos features the dream pop of Lost Galaxy, which is right at home on Arts & Crafts. Download "Long Live the Fallen World" [here]. Upcoming dates are here, including a 17 June 2010 NXNE showcase with The Besnard Lakes {newmusicmonday #30} at the Mod Club, here in Toronto.

Three from Young Galaxy, plus an interview by Dan of andpop. Here's "Outside the City", "Come and See", and a live version of "Wailing Wall" from Minneapolis in 2007::

Plus the interview::

Twitterversion:: [blog+videos] #FridayNightVideos of #Montreal indie@younggalaxy, playing at upcoming @NXNEFest.Plus @andPOPsideB intervw. @Prof_K

Are Greens Close to Winning Seats in Canada? BC?

The most recent EKOS poll noted that continuing support for the Green Party of Canada at 12.6% nationally may be a sign that they could achieve seats. A January 2010 poll showed support at 11.5% nationally, with BC, Ontario, and Vancouver looking like promising areas::

Glancing at the numbers and recalling the 2008 results, my initial reaction is that British Columbia and metro Vancouver might be the most fruitful territory. Yesterday's poll showed the Greens polling at 20.2% in British Columbia, statistically even with the Liberals::

Conservative MP Gary Lunn in Saanich-Gulf Islands should be worried, given his lacklustre numbers last election and the fact that Elizabeth May will be running in the next election. Examining the 2008 election results by ridings in BC provides an interesting scenario. There are a handful of Conservative held ridings with low winning margins that can be targeted by the Greens, at the risk of splitting the left-centre vote. The NDP has been enjoying solid support in BC, so given the Liberal woes of late, targeting Liberal-held riding may be tempting. The numbers point to limited opportunities, so given finite respurces, it probably makes sense to only focus on a few BC ridings, which I'll be blogging about in the future.

Song:: Green Day-'Working Class Hero'
Twitterversion:: [blog] EKOS poll showing stable support for #GPC {Green Party of Canada}. Can this translate to MPs in BC? @Prof_K

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Is BP Pre-Disastered?

image:: screencap of BP financials from Google Finance

While it may seem the global whipping boy BP is swirling the commode of public opinion, I can't help but wonder how much of their recent stock price plummeting is fueled not by a "rational" analysis of the company, but by emotional factors and an unfettered PR fail on the part of the firm and its CEO, Tony Hayward. 

The reality of the situation is that BP has been doing quite well financially with "successes" in other areas and in the first quarter of 2010 enjoyed $6.079B in net income. Even if the Obama administration puts BP squarely on the hook for cleanup costs and damages, which in the past have tended to be mere slaps on the wrist, the payouts won't be for years and would likely be a drop in the bucket for the behemoth corporation—and they know it. There is uncertainty with respect to whether the fallout from the Deepwater Horizon disaster will be a game-changer in terms of industry regulation. Moreover, conventional wisdom states to stay away from companies where another party has claim to their assets, which includes lawsuits from the government. Call me jaded, but I'm not seeing it, unless the Obama Administration and Congress step up an anti-corporate agenda. I might be wrong. While Exxon got away light penalties, the political zeitgeist is more convoluted these days than in the early 90s. I think it's hard for "drill, baby, drill" to get traction, but the sentiments behind it by many haven't gone away.

While the stock price plummets and dividend policy is the subject of speculation, I'm wondering if BP stock is now "pre-disastered" à la Irving's The World According to Garp::

In the same vein of fast food or food manufacturing e-coli disasters, some would argue that after such a disaster, those involved are the safest. The disaster effecting swift and radical changes to address the situation. So, environmentally and in terms of being a corporate good citizen, I wonder if the same would hold true for BP. I feel this is related to their financials, over time {I suspect the stock will bottom out soon and will be looking at some numbers to create an estimate}, given that what's driving the plummet is perceptions of the firm, not "economics". Sticking it out with Hayward might be a tough sell in the wake of what's been done {or lack thereof} and said, given that Obama himself think he should resign. Which, ironically, would assure him of "getting his life back."

Song:: Kathryn Williams-'I Started a Joke'

Twitterversion:: [blog] In wake of Gulf Oil spill disaster & Tony Hayward PR #fail, is BP "pre-disastered" financially & environmentally? @Prof_K