Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reid and Biz tweet their best business advice

Here's another video I produced with LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman and Twitter's Biz Stone. Tweet your best business advice today with #in — read more about that here.

I'll be darned if they don't have a Tim and Eric thing going. On the Silicon Valley tip.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sam Simkoff on Le Loup's "Family"

Wrote up an album review for Le Loup's new album Family here and cut a new video from their show at the Echoplex last Wednesday night:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Snapshot of Christmases past: N64 vs Xbox

Call this disparity a nice social commentary: I saw this video today and couldn't help but think of the second one - watch the first kid "get" an Xbox for Christmas, then watch the second kid get a Nintendo 64 for Christmas. I don't think I've ever seen a sadder YouTube video than this:

Somebody buy that kid an Xbox stat, so he can have the Christmas he deserved, like this:

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Have you even read my online Internet blog?"

Here's a YouTube video that hits it right on the money. And let me be the first to enshrine this phrase into Google's cache, since nothing comes up yet: "Have you even read my online Internet blog?"

Though I've spoken at social media events for PR Newswire, LA Town Hall and the Havard Business School Assoc. of Southern California, I've conscientiously avoided the title of "social media guy". Here's why (warning — explicit language):

lolz, "Make your check out to TwitBookBlogGuru.com"

UPDATE: it's meme time.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

LinkedIn's new Profile Organizer

If you've ever needed to compile a unique list of candidates, prospects, or professional contacts, LinkedIn just launched a bookmarking feature called Profile Organizer — check out the video I produced for the product below, and read more about it on LinkedIn's Blog, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, or WebProNews.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I'm concerned that conspiracy is becoming a political movement

In 2001 sometime, I experienced a guy on the uptown 4,5,6 platform in Manhattan shouting, "Do you understand that if you have a square R with a 5-R configuration, flickering back and forth, you will be shot dead by federal agents. You understand that, right?" (I mentioned this here too.) Right! It was kind of an amusing moment in subway-nut conspiracy think. And I kept an eye out for that 5-R configuration for years, to no avail.

Then a few weeks ago I came across this Xerox of a Wall Street Journal article, scotch-taped to a lamppost in Santa Monica:

Conspiracy jibberish I found taped to a lamppost in Santa Monica
This little clipping of colored-pen conspiracy scratch rivals the subway caveat above, in that none of it makes a shred of sense. The underlined text makes no sense; the circled words around it make no sense; and the thread of logic from "Catholic Church" to "Roman Monster" to "chess" to "Berlin Nazi" also, makes no sense. Though I must give this conspiracist props for his flags: they're quite compelling.

I'd typically write this off as another bit of isolated lunacy, but there's a disturbing context for this disjointed bit of crazy. Thomas Friedman might've put it best in an editorial today, in which he opines the "poisonous political environment" being created by conservatives, who seek to delegitimize the president by any means possible. The wanton Hitler comparisons, the interchangeable cries of fascist/communist/socialist, the shouting of "you lie" by a congressman during a presidential address — it was just this kind of environment that emboldened a right-wing Jewish nationalist to assassinate Yitzhak Rabin.

For RNC chairman Michael Steel to call Friedman a "nut job" reveals that conservative leadership is in denial of the toxic stew they're fomenting. "[They're] saying, because you disagree with the president on policy," Steel said, "that all of the sudden we're going to make this leap into, you know, assassinations and all this other stuff." No, Mr. Steel — what Friedman is saying that your rhetoric is whipping up an uninformed fringe to take that action. And the facts point to that possibility.

A credible white supremacist assassination plot was already foiled last year; death threats against the president are up 400% this year; Fox-inspired protesters proudly carry signs saying, "We came unarmed — this time." Just yesterday, a conservative editor wrote an article outlining the possibility of a military coup to dethrone the president, suggesting it was better than letting the president achieve his goals: "A coup is not an ideal option," the editor wrote, "but Obama’s radical ideal is not acceptable."

If these aren't signs that the heated rhetoric is having a dangerous influence, I don't know what would be. It's well time the conservative movement — Fox and all — dissociated itself from this lunatic fringe. If they want to lead this democracy in a different direction, they need to assume a responsible leadership role that doesn't score points by slurs, smears, and disinformation. Until then, they are stoking the indiscriminate anger of a volatile minority, and their base will continue to evolve into something like this guy:

And yikes! — who knows what he's capable of?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Is Ralph Nader the anti-Ayn Rand?

If Ayn Rand's life thesis is Atlas Shrugged, I think I just found its antithesis in this week's New Yorker. Raffi Khatchadourian writes that Ralph Nader "has been secretly working on his first novel":
...The book, called "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!," is seven hundred and thirty-six pages long, and it contains dozens of characters, many of them real people... who act out Nader's political fantasies. By the last page, most of the reforms that Nader has been arguing for all these years end up being enacted. Corporations are neutered. Third parties win. America is reborn."
So where Rand argued that only the super-rich can save us by following selfish aims, championing the dollar and driving the bloodsucking government into the ground, Nader will argue that only the super-rich can save us by thinking of the greater good, enacting wise regulation and driving corporate greed into the ground. How's that for a philosophical grudge match?

It sounds like Nader's even aiming for a Rand-sized tome, though he's got a few hundred pages to go if he wants to match Atlas Shrugged. That shouldn't be too hard if he follows Rand's formula: just have his protagonist outline his philosophical worldview in a climactic courtroom scene or rogue takeover of the nation's media. No problem! Rand's digressions are always cut and paste; they could be in any book, anywhere. Maybe Nader could just make his final chapter be In Pursuit of Justice — just drop that puppy right in there, and he'd satisfy the perfect Ayn Rand template. What a masterstroke of poli-sci-fi agit-prop that could be.

I'm intrigued to read Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, if only to see it go eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth with Atlas Shrugged. That pairing of fictional ambitions is definitely unsafe at any speed.

Ayn Rand / Ralph Nader (thesis / antithesis?)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Daniel Libeskind: Van Halen homage?

Check out this new development south of the Staples Center in LA: apparently it was designed by Daniel Libeskind, best known for his World Trade Center redux. One might describe the architecture as "early Van Halen," with a fretboard and headstock rising gracefully from a laser-striped solid-body. I'd call it homage. Or is it infringement? I believe Eddie copyrighted the mad laser-striping look, if his action against Nike is any indication.

Either way, I'm sure they'll call it something preposterous like The Residencies at LA Live, but considering China's CCTV building is known as "big pants," I'm gonna say Libeskind's latest will be more affectionately known as the "Hot for Teacher" building.

Daniel Libeskind building / Van Halen guitar

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The perils of frames: hey, toolbar

Earlier today, I experienced my first toolbar-upon-toolbar, when LinkedIn's ActionBar doubled down on Alltop's toolbar. So I did the only logical thing and submitted it to StumbleUpon to see if I could get three times my toolbar pleasure. Su.pr! It worked. Then I got all ahead of myself and submitted it to Digg, to see if I could get the Digg Toolbar all up ins for a four-plex of barspam, but every time it went to load, it looked like StumbleUpon's toolbar canceled out Digg's toolbar. Which seems uncool, considering.

Finally I tried to see if I could get Facebook's frame to party down, but I discovered that Facebook's frame doesn't seem to pop up anymore. I checked a bunch of my friends' links to see if any prompted the Facebook frame, and it still wouldn't come out to play. Which got me wondering: has Facebook become the moral leader in the toolbar frame space?

The perils of frames

I challenge the Internets to a reach a non-Photoshopped toolbar sextacular (no, as in, six toolbars): game the system to throw on a Digg toolbar, maybe a Twig AdBar, and any other third-party framers on top of the three above. I got you halfway there; the emotional investment is too much for me to take it to the next level. The second half of the challenge would be X'ing out all the frames and successfully navigating back to the original article, which, ironically, is about good social media design.

Friday, August 14, 2009

RockMelt logo looks like evil dotMac

There's only so much you can do with drawing lines around a globe to represent how the Internet connects us. Marc Andreessen's new RockMelt project takes that logo meme to the hyperbolic superlative: apparently, this browser will liquefy the earth with its blazing innovation. Literally making the world a smaller place.

I guess I can get on board with that, though I still have this nagging feeling that RockMelt's designers just looked at Apple's old .Mac logo and said, "Let's corrupt that." Like they took the .Mac sphere, with it's hopeful points of light, and said, "Let's turn those into lacerations, where evil spirits are escaping the bowels of hell." You can actually count about four exact paths they've ripped off from the .Mac logo, all to build the hype that RockMelt will destroy the geophysics we rely on to hold the planet together.

Fair enough. If once we complained about an Internet Explorer monopoly, we've now got Firefox, Safari, Flock, Opera, Chrome and others. Segmentation seems to be the theme for advanced commercial civilization, and we all know competition is good for a rational marketplace. So if IE is still Rome, maybe RockMelt will destroy the empire in a way we can all get behind.

But we'll know their designers were probably using Safari.

Monday, July 27, 2009

O; snap! Tron Legacy Trailer

Good lord, there's something about indiglo that makes me whole. How awesome that Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner are part of this — let's hope Disney takes care of the details. We've only waited 25 years for a sequel. Srsly, the Tron franchise makes Star Trek look like Small Wonder.

And if you really want the scoop on this premiere, you'll need to watch this too:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

State of the MJ funeral

State of the MJ funeral: Hulu+Fox Facebook+CNN USTREAM+Twitter MySpace(solo)

In addition to being a cultural moment for the world, Michael Jackson's funeral is like a status update for the tech and media landscape. We see Hulu teamed up with Fox, CNN with Facebook, USTREAM partnered with CBS and Twitter, and MySpace rolling solo. And I must say, MySpace has the clearest and largest picture, the cleanest sound, and the freshest stream. Could be because they're based out of LA, or because their stream isn't tied to a media dinosaur, but they're really cleaning up on their own turf. It's nice to see MySpace own it where they should be — music and pop culture.

It's also a reminder of what basic Internet service is now capable of: I've got four live video streams coming through my cable connection, hardly any of them hitching. MySpace has crystal clear picture and real bass. I'm watching live tweets and status updates and texting another friend about the service.

And as my friend texting points out, you really can't help but notice that no other entertainer compared to Michael. He was like the Secretariat of entertainers — no one even came close.

Monday, May 18, 2009

30 Rock: a nod to two generations of gamers


For those that missed it, 30 Rock subtly covered two decades of gaming in a scene last week — Tina Fey's character went from imitating Mario in Donkey Kong to drawing a life lesson from The Sims about 30 seconds later. She starts by admonishing Alec Baldwin for being too Irish:

Be Italian for like one second: "I'm-a Jack, I don't know who-a my father is, I'm-a so emotional I'm going to smash-a these barrels..."

And then seconds later she shares what she knows about fatherhood:

Look Jack, I don't have a lot of personal life experience, but if I have learned anything from my Sims family... when a child doesn't see his father enough, he starts to jump up and down. And then his mood level will drop... until he pees himself.

Seriously, who on the 30 Rock staff is playing The Sims? I honestly can't name one person who's played it, but apparently it's the best-selling video game franchise of all time with over 100 million copies sold (I'm guessing mostly in Japan). I'll confess I was addicted to Sim City 2000 in high school, but only because I was a master of civic orchestration. And because you could raises taxes to 20%, and then cut it to 19%, and they would cheer. Every time. Heh heh, stupid Sims.

Btw, if you haven't seen The King of Kong, I highly recommend it. Now there's a story of heroes and villains...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

For the tweetiest in the tri-state area: www.twitter.com/getzsch

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

LinkedIn turns 6 today, reaches 40 million members. "How I did it" by Reid Hoffman in Inc Mag: http://is.gd/wZTH

Monday, May 4, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Kleinrock: The first word over the Internet, 1969

Los Angeles Magazine featured an article last month by Leonard Kleinrock - best known for leading the group at UCLA that developed the Arpanet - about the past and future of the Internet. There's a lot of kitchen-of-the-future talk about what the Internet will do for us soon and a lot of good trivial history on how the Internet came to be - not the least of which is the fact that the Internet crashed after transmitting two just letters of a word.

On the structure of the first Net, Kleinrock tells us,

UCLA would be the first node. Other nodes would be the Stanford Research Institute, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. Each node would consist of one or more host computers and an Interface Message Processor, or IMP ... [the IMP] was as big as a refrigerator, with a military-hardened gray metal case and a door the full length of it. Inside is was so ugly it was beautiful. Copper, brass, Three rows of lights and rows of toggle switches. A knob with six stops. A headphone like the ones that the early telephone operators used, with an earpiece made of black Bakelite and a little round microphone to speak into at the end of a curved piece of metal.

Sounds like a hell of a modem, worthy of attention from Mark Richards. If only Comcast had to dispatch these to every customer. Kleinrock says he offered it to the Smithsonian, but they couldn't guarantee it would be on display so he kept it, and it'll be on display at the anniversary in October at UCLA.

At 10:30 p.m. on October 29, 1969, Charley Kline, one of my programmers, and I sat down and started to log on from UCLA to SRI ... All we wanted to do was log on. So Charley typed an L. "You get the L?" "Got the L." "Did you get the O?" "Got the O." Typed the G. "Did you get the G?" And crash! The system went down ... There had been a memory overflow at SRI.

I can see why it crashed. They sent at least 24 bits of information over that puppy. That's asking a lot. The end result being that the first word sent over the Internet was "lo" - Kleinrock says, "as in 'Lo and behold.' Truth is, we couldn't have created a better, more concise message. It was prophetic."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Robots on a Fast!

4 of 4, from "The Great Return of the Infidel."

"robots on a fast!"

A wrap-up of all four tomorrow.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Righteous Indignation!

New art, featuring lyrics from a song I wrote in 2002 or so, called "The Great Return of the Infidel". I only did a demo recording of it, never a proper studio cut. This is the first in a series of four I'll post this week:

righteous indignation!

The lyrics to the chorus went, 
Righteous indignation! Raccoons in the trash! 
Dogs eating chocolate! Robots on a fast!
But some people never learn
And prophecies might burn you
And this is the great return of the infidel
Someday I'll get around to giving it a proper recording. Until then, just visualizations of the main characters.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Zach Galifianakis' ads for Absolut Vodka

Watch all three of these. I actually watched the last one, at over seven minutes, twice. I think of these, compared to, like, McDonalds' smarmy latte ads, and I think, advertising needs help to get to this level. It's just not there yet.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Coppola on Finian's Rainbow

"Films are like haiku; they express a thought or an emotion in very few words and using just the being of the actors to do it."

—Francis Ford Coppola, from the director's commentary of "Finian's Rainbow"

Finian's Rainbow title card

I recently finished Moviemakers' Master Class by Laurent Tirard, a book I picked up in Cannes during the film festival last year. Over the course of reading, I compiled a short list of films I had to watch for homework. One of those films came from this quote by Ethan Coen:

"I remember when we worked with Nicolas Cage on Raising Arizona, we talked about his uncle, Francis Ford Coppola, and told him that  Finian's Rainbow, which hardly anyone has ever seen, was one of our favorite films. He told his uncle, who I think has considered us deranged ever since."

So obviously I put down the book and Netflixed Finian's Rainbow. Have you heard of it? No, no you haven't. No one has. It may as well be a Mystery Science Theater 3000 special, except that would've distinguished it some. So I watched it. Actually, I couldn't finish it. I shut it off about when the creepy male lead Woody is romancing his way into Petula Clark's heart by forcing himself on her in the woods at midnight. (They called that courting back in the day.) But today I put on the commentary by Francis Ford Coppola, and found it to be an excellent experience. Much better than watching the belabored 145 minute musical itself.

In the commentary, Coppola explains how he got the job directing the Warner Brothers musical — Fred Astaire's final pic — at age 29, with only a thesis film under his belt. He also critiques his job as a young director, musing how the young Coppola thought his job was to invent subplots and tell the actors where to go. The experienced Coppola says, rather, it was his job to pare down the film to its essence and help the actors follow their best impulses. His commentary nicely complements Tirard's book, which conspicuously lacks a chapter on Coppola. 

The movie is overlong, though beautiful and swelled with earnest musical naïveté. A leprechaun turns mortal when his pot of gold is stolen. A mute girl dances to communicate what she can't speak. A racist senator is turned into a black man on a magical wish. You know, musical stuff. 

It's an ambitious film, stuck squarely in the tradition of big musicals but with progressive aims and exhausted stereotypes living in awkward coexistence. Coppola tells us what we really want to hear — how his young career dovetailed with the old Hollywood style before departing on a different course of small, personal films, shot on location with handheld cameras, aggressively telling the truth. If nothing else, the movie is worth seeing just for the opening credits, a gorgeous montage of American panoramas from coast to coast. But more to see the curious foundation that launched Coppola's career.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

If you missed The Dance Party in LA this weekend...

... you're kidding yourself. Los Angeles was rocked fourfold by my friends from DC, The Dance Party. They demolished a small club east of the 5 called The Airliner Thursday night, flamed the Roxy on Friday, played a raging acoustic set streaming live on Boxeight, and finally tore down a place called Cinespace before leaving Monday morning.

The Dance Party make very good music and put on a very good show, two things many bands fail to do. When they toured with my band and Gist on the Indie Roots tour, they helped make a week of mostly-empty venues feel like a stadium tour. Those are my guitars they're playing, so I'm down from day one, like, tight yo. 

Dig the erotic slow crane up Mick's body at :35. Kinda makes a guy feel uncomfortable.

The Dance Party is the third DC band I've been able to catch out here in DC since moving in 2007. These United States and Le Loup have both crossed the nation too, and both put on great shows. Lots of good music coming out of the nation's capitol. Click here for more Dance Party photos and stay tuned for more HD...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hello! Palmer: The graphic correspondence of Fred H. Given

My family used to summer in Maine, where my grandfather built a cabin. Sometime in the mid-'90s, I visited an auction in Fryeburg or Lovell with my mom. We didn't know much about anything being auctioned. It was mostly antiques and old art, but the mystery of the unknown made everything felt historically important. I think my mom may have won some furniture or old woven rugs. Towards the end, they were auctioning off a pack of original pencil-drawings that seemed to attract little interest. 

"Should we bid on them?" my Mom asked. 

Given 1919.10.24 Norway-a
Given 1919.10.24 Norway-b

We did, and we won, since no seemed to care or know anything about them. They were a set of drawings on postcards and notecards spanning from 1917 to 1923, from the artist Fred H. Givens to Palmer Straw of Portland, Maine. 

Their correspondence offered a few small mysteries, since we only had one half of the correspondence, most of which detailed Givens' visiting and cleaning up an old farm and camp in South Paris, Maine. When Givens isn't detailing his work on the farm, he's apologizing for the "rather poor" sketches he's turning out. Who were these two? What was their relationship that Frank cared enough to document his travels in sketch and mail them?

Given 1919.11.07 SouthParis-a
Given 1919.11.07 SouthParis-b

Givens' postcards document a few locations beyond his vacationing in Maine, including one from France as early as 1917, others from South Boston and Norfolk, Virginia, and a final sketch from Southampton dated 1923. This last date helps us confirm a few things about Givens.

Given 1917.11.12 SouthParis.Nantes-a
Given 1923 Southampton-a

A passenger list of the Atlantic ship Leviathan on Ancestry.com notes that Givens returned from Southampton on October 15, 1923, in sync with the date of his final postcard. The same document notes that he lived at 61 Smith Ave, Bay Shore, Long Island, was born June 12, 1891 in Auburn, New York and was married. 

Given 1919.11.08 SouthParis-a
Given 1919.11.05 SouthParis-a

Palmer Straw is enshrined in the folds of collegiate history. The General Catalogue of Bowdoin College, 1794-1916, lists Straw as a Portland, Maine residence, born July 5, 1887 in Gorham, Maine, and a graduate of the Class of 1911. Another document on Ancestry.com notes that he was "tall, of medium build with brown eyes and dark hair," was listed as a clerk in the Portland City Directory of 1915, and claimed exemption from World War I as "not fit for service" by doctor's orders. He never married, apparently stayed home as a caretaker for his mother, and died young at 57 in June of 1945.

Given 1919.10.26 SouthParis-1a
Given 1919.10.29 SouthParis-a

No great revelations from their history, but their incomplete correspondence makes me wonder how they met, why they kept in touch, what Givens did with his artistic skills and if his work ever took a more ambitious form. His postcards offer the equivalent of an iPhoto library today, except each took great deliberation, even if they were dashed off. Where we shoot prolifically, if pointlessly, with our digital lenses, each of Givens' drawings were thoughtfully composed and carefully rendered by hand. Is there more Givens material out there? I'll post more if and when I discover any. See the complete set here.

Given 1919.12.08 Boston.Baltimore-a
Given 1919 Norfolk-a

Coreaudiod not responding - Pro Tools and Mac OS X

For the last year, doing anything with sound on my Mac system has been a major hassle. This is due to a Digidesign bug that causes the Core Audio daemon to stop responding. When this happens, which is always and constantly, I have to trick my system into playing audio through my speakers. Otherwise I'm getting sound through the tiny speaker hidden in the PowerMac beneath my desk. 

Despite tips suggested in this Apple Support thread and a known issue post at Digidesign Support, tricking my system (G5 PPC Dual 1.8 GHz, OS X 10.5.4) into playing sound involves the following steps:

1. Booting, or rebooting if the CoreAudio Manager has failed during use.
2. Launch Activity Monitor (Applications>Utilities>Activity Monitor).
3. Launch System Preferences and click through to Sound>Output.
4. Launch iTunes (as the quickest path to testing sound output).
5. Highlight "coreaudiod (Not Responding)" and click "Quit Process", enter admin password.
6. Verify that "Digidesign HW (003)" is selected as the output device.
7. Play a selection in iTunes, make sure the Digi 003 isn't muted and speakers are on.
8. If no sound, repeat.

That's a lot of process just to get system sound through the speakers. I must repeat this process if I need to use Pro Tools, because once you've activated the CoreAudio Manager, Pro Tools will think that it's still in use, even after you quit it. 

This illustrates the complications of software-driven tools. If the Digi 003 rack was pure hardware (or at least it's input/output were hardware-driven), sound would work as soon as it had power, no fiddling with the OS. Pro Tools is one of the more complex softwares out there, and it feels like Digidesign has a touch of the Windows lack of simplicity. Considering the months to years they take to update Pro Tools for the latest Mac OS, it seems like the protocol could be simplified somewhere. Or rebuilt from the ground up? That said, Pro Tools is really money when it's working...