Archive for June, 2008


into the space age

I emailed my brothers last week and heard nothing. Then on Saturday, they both emailed and told me I have to get Skype to talk to them.

I’m familiar with Skype, and I know two people who have it, but I hadn’t really looked into it much beyond my general concept of what it is and does.

So, I signed up (took about 60 seconds) and started using it with one of my brothers.

The entire experience was at once both revolutionary and embarrassing.

Revolutionary – Using Skype brought me back to being 4 years old and watching the Jetsons. The whole idea of pressing a button and having conversations with whomever you want… instantly. In the mid-1970s, the idea seemed impossible, but inevitable, at the same time. And so, here we are.

Sure, video conferencing has been around for awhile, but there was something that made it all real about how easily I signed up, interacted appropriately with the interface and how quickly I was having video conversations with my brother.

And the possibilities… the distance between my family/daughter and our in-laws in New Jersey and our cousins in Boston and San Francisco just got tremendously less.

Embarrassing – I can’t believe it took me this long to get an account and start using it. I’ve always tended to be on the early adopter side of the curve, but I’d never really seen the potential with this one. Yet, when I was trying to add contacts to my list, I was amazed at how many friends (nearly all of them, many of whom are hip deep in the SF tech culture) didn’t have an account. Am I early to Skype, or late?

Also, I’m still looking forward to my move to Mac, but I’m not there, yet. So last night, I had to buy a camera – Logitech STX – from Amazon so I can use the video portion of the video-conferencing. Then it won’t just be me seeing others, but they can see me, too.

I’m writing this not only because of my personal excitement about this, but because of the potential I think it has for customer service and general site interactions going forward.


“Nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you want to do with your life, be passionate.” – Jon Bon Jovi

Ain’t that the truth. And Mr. Jon B. Jovi applies that to absolutely everything he does. Even when singing lyrics like “When the world gets in my face, I say, Have A Nice Day.”

Just got back from the grocery store, where I was lucky enough to hear “Have a Nice Day” while in the bread aisle. I’d never heard the song before, but it was instantly recognizable as a Bon Jovi song. Who else could sing it with so much seriousness and urgency.

Hearing Bon Jovi sing this song with so much passion just reminds me of Trey Parker, the only other person I’ve ever known of (besides me) who took such great delight in imitating singers who sing so hard with such great seriousness.

His song “Montage” from South Park and Team America is a great illustration…

Have a nice day.


shopping for coffee at best buy

One of the well-documented changes in the “new economy” is the integration of product placement – especially as it relates to the music industry, who’s trying to figure out how they’re going to monetize the business.

Starbucks was universally praised as expanding their business and the music industry was equally praised for their visionary thinking of placing their product in the coffee shop.

No question it worked… for a little bit. Funny how gas prices can change the equation, though, no?

Here’s word that Starbucks is getting rid of all the peripherals and “focusing on their core business.” Does anyone think their coffee-making suffered while they were trying to hawk CDs. Or did the CDs just stop selling?

Credit for an innovative attempt. But… on to the next thing…


discover new music… from the loud car next to you

Ever been driving around grooving on some well-selected music, perfect weather, windows down, singing along – only to be beaten down by the sub-woofer with wheels that drives up next to you?

It doesn’t happen all that often in Madison, but when it does, I usually just lean out the window and politely tell them “no thank you, I’ve got my own music… but thanks, again.”

There was one time in my life, though, where it turned out to be a good thing. Last fall, some friends and I were in Austin for a wedding. We were driving around the night we got there, and a car pulled up next to us. Blaring from the automobile was a driving, upbeat ska rhythm that just had me right away.

This is the only instance, to date, I can remember leaning out the window and asking “what are you listening to…? It’s excellent.”

Turns out it was Tim Armstrong. I’d never heard of Tim Armstrong, but I went out when I got home and purchased A Poet’s Life – his most recent album. It lived up to the stoplight listen that I had been given in Austin.

Also turns out that Tim Armstrong was the driving force behind the bands Rancid, Operation Ivy, Dance Hall Crashers and the Transplants. This was just another case of me wondering how, with that background, this guy got past me. Keeping up with a field as large as music is nearly impossible. That’s why it is good to have tools like NewTunes, Pandora, etc.

Anyway, as you head into a week of cruising the streets of whatever town you live, put on Tim Armstrong and enjoy yourself a little. And who knows, the car you pull up next to may thank you.

Here’s the perfect Friday night driving song, “Into Action…”


together, we can make a difference – alone, you make no difference

Just heard an ad for a charity who’s name I did not catch. I was too distracted by dissecting the notion they put forth – “together, we can make a difference.”

How can that be? I thought every vote should count (unless your living in Michigan or Florida).

It’s all so confusing. Here I thought that I could do something positive in this world and make some sort of impact. Turns out, I can give time and money, but it only makes a difference if you do, too.

Well, please get on it. You’re making me look bad.


dinner for two for only $89? bargain!

I just turned on the radio and popped in just in time to hear the first commercial of the break.

“Dinner for two for only $89” was the opening line. The commercial is for Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse (a contender for worst product name in both the restaurant and general business categories), and it goes on to tell you that you, too, can get a three-course meal for ONLY $89.

Holy Smokes! Only $89? You mean like $44.50 per person? Wowee Zowee, as some of our partners like to say.

Let me see. The last three times I spent money on my family of three for dinner, I think I spent… let me get the receipts… ah, here it is – a total of $84 plus change.

In a time when everyone is freaking out about $4/gallon gas prices and how much it costs for all the coffee everyone must drink, is it such a good idea to suggest to people that you think $89 for dinner for two is a bargain?

If I were Ruth’s Chris, I’d (well, first I’d change the name, but then…) focus more on their premium steaks and treat it as the high-class dining experience they are trying to be. The people who can and will eat there aren’t really that worried about money.

If they think they should hit on price as a way to let the “little guy” know he, too, can have a rich person’s dining experience, I just don’t think they’re going to hit their mark.


a bitter, high maintenance look at summer festivals vs concerts

Just before last weekend started, I engaged in a gchat rant with a friend of mine about my lack of desire to attend a music festival – specifically, Lollapalooza in Chicago from August 1st – 3rd.

It is my experience that a music festival like this can’t be enjoyed if you’re going into it with the same expectations and mindset of attending a concert.

When attending a concert, you look forward to hearing that band… enough that you’re willing to tolerate whatever the opening band is (if you even think to take note of who’s opening). With a concert, you normally (more than half the time, anyway) have assigned seats, so there’s some reward for being on top of things and getting your tickets early. With assigned seats, you also don’t have to worry about lining up three hours before the show.

There’s also a better chance, for a concert, that the majority of attendees will actually be there to see and hear the band, not just see it as a place to have louder conversations than normal. And obviously, concerts don’t take anywhere near the time, money or planning that a music festival does.

To me, these are the advantages of the single-performer concert, and music festivals have none of that.

If you’re going to a music festival, I think you have to focus more on the set of experiences and less about the end result. Make the journey (travel to the event) memorable. Get psyched for some great iPhone spy-cam opportunities (great people watching). Do not get wound up about the schedule (don’t worry about being “on time”). To some degree, I think you really have to roll with the event and hope you get to see the bands you intended.

The New York Times recently ran a set of graphs from Andrew Kuo under the heading “a pessimists guide to the summer festival season.” They illustrate Andrew’s experiences at some of the festivals and sum up what is probably a somewhat familiar take on attending events like Bonnaroo. Here’s the graph:

Add to that, in the case of Lollapalooza, that it is in Chicago – the worst of America’s larger metropoli. People who think it’s difficult to get into New York have obviously never tried to get into Chicago. It takes 1 hour and 45 minutes to drive to Chicago proper from Madison and another 2 hours from that point to actually make it to where in Chicago, the land of single-driver cars, you were intending to go.

Despite all that, I thought about the conversation we had and decided to purchase a ticket to day one (August 1) of this year’s Lollapalooza. (I would have purchased the weekend pass, but my in-laws are visiting from New Jersey that weekend, and… well, you know…)

Plus, day one has a ready made schedule to it… Rogue Wave at 1:15, Enemy UK at 2:15, The Kills at 3pm, Gogol Bordello at 4:15, Mates of State at 5:15 and Radiohead at 8pm.

So, with expectations low, and ticket firmly tax deductible, I begin my mental preparations for a day of meandering from one band to another. This better be good…

*Incidentally, Andrew Kuo has had other graphs of the music scene. Here’s the one I liked the best.

June 2008
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