Review of Jandek and Thurston Moore at Hollywood Theatre in Portland

Ask any alternative music afficiando about their feelings towards Jandek you’re almost assured an animated response.  Jandek’s life and music are puzzling to even his fans and yet his following endures.

I had the distinct and rare chance to be in the audience for the Jandek / Thurston Moore show at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland this past week.  What follows is an introduction to Jandek and a debrief of what the show was like. Continue reading Review of Jandek and Thurston Moore at Hollywood Theatre in Portland

Protecting the Cash Cow: Why the iPad Does Not Have Multitasking Ability

Why Apple does not allow multitasking on the iPadThe internet is abuzz with what the iPad is missing, but for each statement there is a very specific and reasoned answer.  I’ve been happy to see Daring Fireball give background on the reason Flash is not and should never be built into Apple’s Touch platform.  With that properly explained, let’s look at why the iPad does not allow multi-tasking of applications.

Apple enthusiasts are often quick to point out that the iPhone would run out of batteries too quickly or the processor would not be strong enough to support snappy use of multiple applications.  This proves true in testing a jailbroken iPhone.  But the iPad Apple tablet does not get the same defense.  The carefully touted A4 chip should have no problem running a sophisticated 3rd party application and the native mail client at the same time.

This is big trouble as more complex games for the device are introduced.  For example Grand Theft Auto, The China Town Wars, is a complex 3D game recently released for the iPhone and iPod Touch. GTA: CTW has the potential to lose mission progress by dropping you back to your apartment every time the game is left unexpectedly.  While this clearly negatively affects the gamer experience, imagine how frequent push notifications begging gamers to leave for just a moment will affect more persistent, longer-session games like World of Warcraft.

The A4 is pretty tough chip and conceivably should have the ability to safely run multiple iPhone and iPod Touch applications, if not the more weighty future iPad-specfic titles.  So why isn’t multitasking being allowed?

Apple does not want people to use streaming music services like Pandora and Last.fm until it is ready with its own cloud-based, Genius-powered streaming music recommendation engine a seamless listening experience through the iPod application and iTunes.

Currently, the only ways to play back audio while running another application (crippled multitasking) are:

  • Using the iPod application
  • Downloading an mp3 or other audio attachment from an email and hitting play. (Plays back from within the mail application)
  • Downloading an mp3 or other audio from the web. (Safari plays it back)

Similarly, the only way to playback streaming audio is using the Last.fm application, the Pandora application or a few other apps that use a recommendation engine to create lists of songs you do not own and stream them to you.  If Apple were to allow you to playback Pandora today on the iPad and work with the iLife suite to author documents they will be training you not to use iTunes!

“But they can’t get away with that!” That’s right, they can’t.  That’s why Apple will introduce its cloud-based iTunes offering either before or in tandem with the release of the next generation iPhone this coming around June. Using the brains acquired in the purchase of Lala, Apple will be introducing a mixed-mode local and cloudbased listening experience where any iTunes music collection can be played back in part on the locally stored disk or streamed from the cloud using an iPad.

Apple will use Genius to identify and stream audio to iPad users in its own competitive play against Pandora and Last.fm.  Once a strong streaming, Genius-powered solution is available to iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users future devices will be able to multi-task all applications, including the most threatening, streaming audio services.

Jobs made it a point to illustrate Apple has 125 million credit cards on file through iTunes.  Every streaming audio selection that is in turn bought by the user can be facilitated using that payment information.  Not the case with Pandora or Last.fm!  Denying these applications the ability to gain traction gives the iTunes ecosystem time to evolve to include their services.  This will make the future allowance of multitasking apps delivering this music less impactful in pulling users away from greatest cash cow in software’s history: iTunes.

The Concept of Self and Use of RFID on the iPhone in Entertainment and Social Space

My friend Elissa turned me on to an article by William Deresiewicz titled The End of Solitude that addresses the culture of celebrity and connectivity as symptoms of an impulse for becoming known.  Much of the article offers an overview of the historical concept of Self and what we get out of it.

Something I liked about the article was that it gave context to a technical social mashup idea I’ve been exploring, which is the increased use of near field communication (NFC) to increase one’s visibility in a meaningful way.  More specifically, people will use RFID tag readers in a mobile device like the iPhone to alert the world of their participation in entertainment experiences.

In The End of Solitude, Deresiewicz suggests the culture of celebrity is connected to the video camera, which I connect to broadcast television.  Regretfully, in the year when we could least afford it, reality TV gave rise to pointless distractions like the Balloon Boy and the White House Party Crashers.  But the article also describes the culture of connectivity as a product of the evolving use of computers and mobile communications in society.  As something of an evangelist for new media and a critique of old media, it is somewhat humbling for me to read Deresiewicz’s grouping of celebrity with connectivity in the contemporary self:

“Celebrity and connectivity are both ways of becoming known.  It wants to be visible. If not to the millions, on Survivor or Oprah, then to the hundreds, on Twitter or Facebook. This is the quality that validates us, this is how we become real to ourselves — by being seen by others. The great contemporary terror is anonymity.”

The value of different participatory entertainment activities runs the gamut.  A film at your local movie theater requires you to only buy a ticket before the film is sold out and ensure you show up at the scheduled time.  Getting yourself twenty feet from the stage at The Dead on July 4th at Rothbury Music Festival in Michigan requires a significantly greater level of planning.  But the relative interest in the social grid in any given activity is less important than the simple declaration to the post modern self that you “did it.”  People want to shout from the top of their literal or figurative mountains, “I am about to (or have just)  ____ at _____.”

Given that a lot of people love to share their experiences, many are simply limited by the inconvenience.  I’ve given some detail to my sense that there is a big splash still yet to be made by Apple’s touch platform.  And that the Touch lineup of the iPod Touch, the iPhone and the iSlate we will see a revolution in mobile computing.  They will allow us to enjoy the impulses of the modern self which are to take part in connectivity and some element of celebrity.

A topic that hasn’t been explored enough is the effect of including an RFID reader in a breakthrough device like the iPhone.  There is reason to believe that an RFID reader will be incorporated in the near future.   I believe that the inclusion of such hardware will open up opportunities to more quickly identify and disseminate interesting information about the entertainment spaces we’re inhabiting.

To illustrate a point, when I was writing the above paragraph I searched twitter for “Sherlock Holmes” which premiered this past weekend.  The third tweet from the top was from a student I’ve never heard of or met named Nicholas King.  From his Twitter bio, we know Nicholas is a student at Eastern Michigan and studies business.  Quite simply, Nicholas tweeted:

RFID Technology iPhone iSlate Twitter Self Post-Modern Concept

A quick search reveals that Trillium is a cinemas in Grand Blanc, Michigan and Nick was keeping his followers up to date with a text message from his phone.  While a text message accomplishes the goal of updating his thirty or so followers, it falls down for a few reasons:

  1. Part of being fully connected is also having your information quickly sorted and grouped with similar data.  Twitter provides a reverse method for grouping information through its search.twitter.com functionality.  Users are capable of directly grouping their tweets with hashtags.  Both of those methods suffer the potential for data entry error.  I wouldn’t have known about Nick’s experience achievement if he had spelled it “Shelock Holmes.”
  2. Manually updating your followers with the activity you’re participating in requires extended effort.  If you’re walking in the door of an RJD2 show you might have a drink in one hand and a gaggle of pals pulling you forward with the other. It isn’t always possible or at least socially acceptable to whip out your phone and type out an update.

The concept is this.  Sherlock Holmes is being distributed to theaters by Warner Bros Pictures.  In addition to sending out reels of film, Warner Bros would also send a small stand up display that is to be placed near the entrance to the theatre showing the movie.  If Nick carried an iPhone with an RFID reader, he would need only to wave his phone at the entrance and it would automatically pick up his preferences for sharing his location and the movie title he’s seeing via Twitter or Facebook.  More interesting things would be to automatically enter you in a contest for people who attended an Sherlock Holmes on opening weekend.

Another illustration to the benefits of adding an RFID reader to the iPhone in the realm of participatory entertainment is in live music or very large public entertainment events.  For instance, scanning the RFID tag in your section at a football game will identify the mobile capability to an application that could cue everyone to hold up their phones at a given time, display a particular set of images on the screen and turn the entire stadium into a megatron.  At a music festival like Rothbury, it might allow people to collect virtual zoo keys which turn an already amazing Sherwood Forest into something that is digitally enchanted.

The total extent to what could be done with connected devices incorporating RFID tags in combination with the impulse to reinforce personal visibility is impossible to see right now.  What is clear is that culture, technology and the increasing value of participatory entertainment rapidly is converging with all-in-one devices like the iPhone and iSlate.

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Update 12/30/09:  A few additional things: 1. There is a strong sense that RFID will be most valuable for payment and wireless financial transactions.  The basis of my interest in RFID has been from seeing the NFC-enabled registers at places like McDonalds and Regal Cinemas.   When I first started seeing them, I would ask how often they took payment using the NFC at POS and I’d get blank stares from the employees.  MasterCard’s PayPass and American Express’s ExpressPay have been around for a while but have mostly only survived market tests as far as I can tell.

To look at how NFC/RFID payments and entertainment overlap, I love what it could do to damage the secondary ticket market.  I’ve long felt that secondary ticketing and scalping does more harm than good on the average would-be live entertainment participant.  Locking tickets to phones is a great way to help track and possibly reduce scalping while still allowing some flexibility in transferability.

There are some articles about how an RFID, NFC enabled phone are useful outside of entertainment which are worth linking to.  Here’s one that simply gooses the idea.  Here’s a second article that talks explicitly in terms of marketing opportunities.

Portland as an Creative Powerhouse as Broken Bells Consumes The Shins

Portland Dangermouse Mercer photo by Matt McgeeMy old friend David Peixotto was visiting Portland for the holidays and this morning we snagged breakfast at Stepping Stone.  Dave and I have been working hard on a stealth iPhone application to be published by our company, NeutrinosBackspace in northwest and Urban Grind in northeast have been some of my favorite haunts so I showed them off to him and took the opportunity to extol on him the freshest virtues of the city I hope he’ll return to.

I showed Dave a print of an owl in a suit I bought at  Crafty Wonderland barely touching on variety in the vendors and size of the crowds out that day to explore the local fare.  I remember walking among the booths, looking at a velvet painting of Michael Jackson and hearing The Thermals playing overhead.  It was Portland art celebrating Portland art.

Something I’ve noticed through an array of networking and business meetings I’ve set up is that Portland has attracted a powerhouse of technological and artistic talent.  There aren’t a lot of jobs, but there is a creative class of people ambitious to combine creativity with entrepreneurial behavior to produce amazing things. This is starting to attract publicity.

James Mercer, The Shins and Broken Bells

What does all this have to do with Broken Bells? Let’s take a look at the context around the release.  James Mercer, frontman for The Shins, decided to move to Portland a few years back. Recently keyboardist Marty Crandall and Drummer Jesse Sandoval were replaced by by Fruit Bats’ bassist Ron Lewis and Modest Mouse’s Joe Plummer.

Mercer suggested in May that a new Shins album could come in early 2010, but then in September announced a collaborative project with Brian Joseph Burton aka Dangermouse titled Broken Bells. The release of the first single off Broken Bells, “The High Road” on the 21st of this month was quickly overshadowed by what some are calling the “best Christmas present ever,” the complete leak of the album.

One listen and it is clear that Mercer aimed for and delivered a dashing mix of phonics and verse, doing well to combine his creative style with a bang up set of instrumentation from Burton.  When the album makes its official debut it is certain to be a hit.

In light of this new work it seems hard to believe a new Shins album will be dropping any time soon.  And to celebrate Broken Bells as a Portland achievement hold less water than to simply say it is heavily in association with the city.  The idea that Portland would influence the creation of an effort like Broken Bells seems to jive with what I’m seeing on the ground.  There are no doubt wonderful things yet to come from this city and I’m excited to see what else shakes out.

April 2009 Song of the Month: N.A.S.A – Gifted

gifted_nasa_music_video

I struggled with April’s song of the month, “Gifted,” which appears on the album  Spirit of Apollo by N.A.S.A.  N.A.S.A (North America / South America) is a project of Sam Spiegel aka Squeak E. Clean and  Brazilian DJ Zego spent five years assembling a gang of artists spilling across genres.

Performers on this record include:  George Clinton, David Byrne, Cee-Lo, Seu Jorge, Sean Lennon, RHCP, Tom Waits, Ol’ Dirty, RZA, Method Man, oh and Kanye West. Continue reading April 2009 Song of the Month: N.A.S.A – Gifted

Nothing To Worry About

I just returned from an week-long trip in Norway with a handful of Babson MBA visiting students at ITNU in and looking at  renewable energy businesses.  It was a  great time, and I hope to blog about it soon.

For now I wanted to push down my last post about gmail being down with something suitably awesome.  Just before leaving for Norway, my pal Rob Teel tipped me off to a new music video from Peter Bjorn and John titled, “Nothing to Worry About.”

PB&J are not Norge, rather Swedish but I like this tune and more people should see this.

A comment by “Joe” on Booooom.com described it thus:  “These guys are in their element, and they put alot of their money into it, but they feel relax and have no worries when they are doing their thing.

Others would call them crazy for their lifestyle but it’s what they want and like th lyrics says: aint got nothing to worry about.”

I don’t think I can put it much better than that. This serves as the song of the month for March.

January Song of the Month: Blue Lining, White Trenchcoat

Mando Diao - Blue Lining, White Trenchcoat
Mando Diao - Blue Lining, White Trenchcoat

I was going to skip January, but then remembered this Mando Diao tune Blue Lining, White Trenchcoat.

This track begins at what sounds like a rail station and rips right into a piano driven frenzy.  Later on the song breaks down and then comes back together.

The lyrics are a lock often ending with the call for the blue lining, white trench coat:

“I’ve got my Armageddon boots, brown shades and brand new leather suit. Blue lining, blue lining, blue lining, white trench coat.

and

“I’m burning, like a combat zone, so sharp my senses cutting stone Blue lining, blue lining blue lining white trench coat”

This LP went on sale mid February, but for some reason is not available on Amazon.com or iTunes.

Listen to the track

February Song of the Month

I’m selecting a song from Vetiver’s  Tight Knit record (official release 3/4/09) for the February song of the month.

The album as a whole is quite good. I like the upbeat spring-day-type songs like Everyday and More of This.

The tune that gets my commendations is Another Reason To Go, which has a funky keyboard and horn backing.

December Song of the Month: "Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll"

I first noticed The Rapture when closing down a bar on Beacon and Harvard Ave.  Boston doesn’t seem to support a strong alternative scene, but it was going strong in the bar and the DJ closed the house with “Out of the Races and Onto the Tracks.”

People were going nuts.When I saw that the band had put together a mix of dance tracks for a new album,  Tapes (!K7), I had to check it out.  There are a lot of great sounding cuts on the record, but the stand out track is “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll” which was originally released in my birth year of 1980 by Vaughn Mason & Crew.

The track is unchanged, but cheers to The Rapture for the back-of-the-crate selection.  I was a fan before I hit up Oak’s Park Jam Skate this past week.Here are some handy links to pick these up:

Facebook Profile Discretion and the Guitar Tab for Britney Spears, "Out From Under"

britney spears out from under guitar tabI’ve begun work developing a guitar tab of the Britney Spears song, “Out From Under,”  but before getting to that, we have some ground to cover.

Some friends on Facebook noticed that for a few days this past week Britney Spears was on my list of ‘favorite music.’  The music section of the Info Tab on my profile is usually limited to a select group of artists I would feel comfortable having a clear argument for recommending them to a stranger.

Example artists include:  Beirut, Cat Power, David Byrne, Jandek, Kraftwerk, Thom Yorke, Wilco, Joanna Newsom, and Lupe Fiasco.  Each of those artists makes list through a combination of the following: