Meat Sweats #1 arrives

Friend Krista Freibaum sent over her latest project, Meat Sweats, a Newspaper Club-stylee compendium of illustrations and comics themed around rad flesh.

Everyone’s got a page, with front and back cover from Anthony Sperduti. I enjoyed David Shamoon‘s history of drinkable meat and Zoe Turnbull‘s meditation on how her Brussels Griffon would taste. I’d reckon the latter would be stringy and probably best in a stew.

They’re Tumbrling around the web at meatsweatszine.com, though, format-wise, the mag itself is a sort of paper Tumblr. I’ve got an extra copy. Shout in the comments with your nastiest meat story and I’ll send it your way.

 

Posted in Art

Borrowing Plots from J.G. Ballard

From “Thirteen for Centaurus”, from The Best Short Stories of J.G. Ballard

Tell me, Abel,” Dr. Francis began, “has it ever occurred to you to ask why the Station is here?”

Abel shrugged. “Well, it’s designed to keep us alive, it’s our home.”

“Yes, that’s true, but obviously it has some other object than just our own survival. Who do you think built the Station in the first place?”

“Our fathers, I suppose, or grandfathers. Or their grandfathers.”

“Fair enough. And where were they before they built it?” Abel struggled with the reductio ad absurdum.

“I don’t know, they must have been floating around in midair!” Dr. Francis joined in the laughter. “Wonderful thought. Actually it’s not that far from the truth. But we can’t accept that as it stands.”

The doctor’s self-contained office gave Abel an idea. “Perhaps they came from another Station? An even bigger one?”

Dr. Francis nodded encouragingly. “Brilliant, Abel. A first-class piece of deduction. All right, then, let’s assume that. Somewhere, away from us, a huge Station exists, perhaps a hundred times bigger than this one, maybe even a thousand. Why not?”

“It’s possible,” Abel admitted, accepting the idea with surprising ease.

“Right. Now you remember your course in advanced mechanics the imaginary planetary system, with the orbiting bodies held together by mutual gravitational attraction? Let’s assume further that such a system actually exists. O.K.?”

“Here?” Abel said quickly. “In your cabin?” Then he added, “In your sleeping cylinder?”

Dr. Francis sat back. “Abel, you do come up with some amazing things. An interesting association of ideas. No, it would be too big for that. Try to imagine a planetary system orbiting around a central body of absolutely enormous size, each of the planets a million times larger than the Station.” When Abel nodded, he went on. “And suppose that the big Station, the one a thousand times larger than this, were attached to one of the planets, and that the people in it decided to go to another planet. So they build a smaller station, about the size of this one, and sent it off through the air. Make sense?”

“In a way.” Strangely, the completely abstract concepts were less remote than he would have expected. Deep in his mind dim memories stirred, interlocking with what he had already guessed about the Station. He gazed steadily at Dr. Francis. “You’re saying that’s what the Station is doing? That the planetary system exists?”

Dr. Francis nodded. “You’d more or less guessed before I told you. Unconsciously, you’ve known all about it for several years. A few minutes from now I’m going to remove some of the conditioning blocks, and when you wake up in a couple of hours you’ll understand everything. You’ll know then that in fact the Station is a spaceship, flying from our home planet, Earth, where our grandfathers were born, to another planet millions of miles away, in a distant orbiting system. Our grandfathers always lived on Earth, and we are the first people ever to undertake such a journey. You can be proud that you’re here. Your grandfather, who volunteered to come, was a great man, and we’ve got to do everything to make sure that the Station keeps running.”

Abel nodded quickly. “When do we get there the planet we’re flying to?”

Dr. Francis looked down at his hands, his face growing somber. “We’ll never get there, Abel. The journey takes too long. This is a multi-generation space vehicle, only our children will land and they’ll be old by the time they do. But don’t worry, you’ll go on thinking of the Station as your only home, and that’s deliberate, so that you and your children will be happy here.”

He went over to the TV monitor screen by which he kept in touch with Captain Peterr, his fingers playing across the control tabs. Suddenly the screen lit up, a blaze of fierce points of light flared into the cabin, throwing a brilliant phosphorescent glitter across the walls, dappling Abel’s hands and suit. He gaped at the huge balls of fire, apparently frozen in the middle of a giant explosion, hanging in vast patterns.

BBC News – Simulated Mars mission ‘lands’ back on Earth.

Dust in the Wind: A Playlist

Reading Sam McPheeters’ ode to the cripplingly depressing ‘Dust in the Wind’ by Kansas I was reminded of the list he mentions near the end of the article, a do-not-playlist compiled by the management of Clear Channel, which owns over a thousand radio stations reaching over a hundred million Americans, in the days after 9/11. It was a sly bit of corporate self-censorship of songs that might push the nation over the brink.

There are a lot of different kinds of music on the list, but it’s all affecting. Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World’ joins the entire Rage Against the Machine catalog, and USMC favorite ‘Bodies’ by Drowning Pool sits on equal footing with Nena’s ’99 Luftballons’.

The songs declared forbidden by the bigwigs at Clear Channel, deemed unfit for consumption, define an emotional range that completely saturated everything after the attacks. It was chaotic and sloppy and raw, and seemed to fill every place you could fit an interpretation. A story from The New York Times published September 19th says the list’s “intended aim is to ensure national mental health, though First Amendment supporters may point to it as the first shadowy blacklist in what President Bush says will be a war against terrorism.”

I arrived in New York City, pulling a U-Haul onto Lorillard Place in the Bronx, four weeks before September 11. Afterwards, I spent the next three months in a big, new place wandering in a strange trance. Our landlord, who was in the Coast Guard, was never around, and the house quickly turned into a haven for our confused weirdo friends to pad about like mental patients as we all tried to get our heads back together.

I’d like to think that if we had Spotify, and the ability to have access to a playlist containing the most-affecting songs from the last century of American popular music, it might have been a bit easier to snap out of it. Instead we listened to a lot of Can and G.G. Allin, which may have worked just as well.

At any rate, here’s that Spotify playlist. Enjoy the songs of sorrow and elation.

Clear Channel’s 9/11 ‘Lyrically Questionable” songs by Nick Parish

Squeezing the fountain: How General Motors became Admiral Motors

The history of fountain sponsorship at Comerica Park in Detroit is spotty, given the turbulence the auto industry has dealt with in the decade or so since it was built.

So sayeth Wikipedia:

A giant fountain behind center field is set off whenever the Tigers score, and also between innings, with bursts of water also referred to as Liquid Fireworks. The water show is also played pregame and postgame, and can be set to music. General Motors sponsored the fountain and held the naming rights from 2000-2008. Two GM vehicles were placed atop the fountain during that time. For the 2009 season, the fountain sponsorship was dropped by GM, due to their financial trouble. The Tigers decided to keep the General Motors logo on the fountain however, and also added the logos of Chrysler and Ford, with the statement “The Detroit Tigers Support Our Automakers”. In 2010, GM again sponsored the fountain, renaming it the Chevrolet Fountain.

Which is why, while watching copious amounts of baseball on MLB’s various iPad and web products I get a kick out of this every time:

The Admiral Motors fountain! MLB Advanced Media certainly doesn’t want to give General Motors any free branding on its apps. And GM probably didn’t want to do a deal. So, we reach an impasse, and Admiral Motors is born. Our national pasttime, putting an ad on every possible surface, meets our national automaker, not spending much money on marketing.

But what about all the other fields? Well, of the nine hosting games this afternoon, Wrigley Field, O.co Coliseum, Busch Stadium, Fenway Park, Tropicana Field, Minute Maid Park, Nationals Park, Kauffman Stadium and Sun Life Stadium, only Busch and Minute Maid have any branding for anything other than the generic team name or Major League Baseball, MLB.com products (like “MLB 11 The Show” videogame). Minute Maid has a nice big logo where it presumably appears at the stadium, and Busch has a big fat ‘Cola’ sign where a Budweiser billboard would be. Certainly a case for Gladys at Product Displacement.

I can’t really fault MLB.com for trying to monetize it all–I’d rather blame them for the crappy display inventory that’s rusting their brand like sea air, or the auto-renewal of the MLB.tv package, a $100-something charge that hits your bill every February, or the fact that even once you’ve bought MLB.tv you have to pay more to watch on your phone, or your iPad, or the lame-ass Saturday blackout rule that has me listening to the Tigers and missing my beloved Mario and Rod while Boston and Texas go at it in the national broadcast on Fox. But Admiral Motors, really? If I ever run into Bob Bowman again, and he’s back on the trail to become the governor of Michigan, there are going to be some questions.

RIP Dan Sicko: A True Techno Rebel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m incredibly saddened to learn Dan Sicko, husband, father and author of the hugely influential history/hagiography of electronic dance music Techno Rebels passed away today after fighting the vicious cancer ocular melanoma.

You can read more about Dan’s medical struggle here: http://mattsicko.blogspot.com/

Many people who knew Dan, either through his work in music or the online advertising world, only found out he was sick very recently; he faced his illness bravely, without making a public fuss about it.

Admirably, many who have had their lives touched by Dan’s work and spirit have joined together to stand by his wife Amy and daughter Anabel and help defray costs of his hospice care and other outstanding medical expenses.

You can donate to help the Sicko family here: http://www.gofundme.com/DanSicko

Dan’s book that remains, for me, the defining work on electronic music in America, and getting to know him better revealed a patient and caring guy.

I met Dan several times after coming into contact with his work very early in my career as a journalist, listening on the 313 list and trying to soak up every slice of information I could about electronic music.

When I was in town every year for DEMF, I’d get in touch with Dan and try to rendezvous and chat about music. Every time, he wasn’t the slightest bit irritated a fan would try and track him down and seek his thoughts and opinions on what was important or interesting to him.

It was only later that I learned Dan was working at Organic, coincidentally also involved in the wooly world of digital advertising. Dan’s name inevitably brought out good cheer in people who’d worked alongside him, which wasn’t surprising at all.

I last saw Dan in May, when he was hanging out in the Ghostly International tent at the festival, signing copies of the new, expanded edition of Techno Rebels. I joked I’d take a few, because, like most of my favorites they have a habit of getting pressed into friends arms with “you have to read this!” and not returning.

If you haven’t read it, it’s a must for any serious music fan. Purchase the new edition here.

Please consider helping Dan’s family; here’s the link again.

Consider how deep the void he left behind, yet how wide he spread electronic music’s message.


Applause: RDTN.ORG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In times of crisis like the world has been watching for the last week or so in Japan, our contributions to alleviate suffering will not entirely be counted in dollars. More and more the tools we build to help those afflicted return to a peaceful existence will be measured as essential.

I’m proud of some friends that joined together to build a hub for measuring the radiation levels in Japan, and hope their effort will bring calm to a few of the many lives changed by the crisis.

The ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan has highlighted our collective reliance on trusted sources. With conflicting reports of radiation levels in affected areas, Portland-based Uncorked Studios has built a way to report and see data in an unbiased format. Inspired by talking heads on news programs who could at best speculate about the nuclear crisis based on the dearth of data, Uncorked decided to create a platform that will crowd-source data to individuals, volunteers, and experts.

Introducing rdtn.org, a website that aggregates radioactivity data from throughout the world in order to provide real-time hyper-local information about the status of the Japanese nuclear crisis. The site is not meant as a replacement for government nor nuclear agencies. Our hope is that clear data will provide additional context to the official word in these rapidly changing events. While the site will focus primarily on readings from Japan, it will also incorporate data from the West Coast of the United States, hoping perhaps to quell the fires of paranoia that stem from a lack of credible information about radiation, the jet stream and its potential effect on US citizens.

We welcome users’ thoughts on how to improve the site/functionality, and appreciate any insight or feedback that will provide a richer understanding of this crisis. We will continue to implement improvements and functionality as soon as possible.

If you are interested in contributing in an official capacity, either as a scientist, journalist, or member of a government agency, please contact us at info@rdtn.org.

RDTN.ORG.

SXSW Screenprinting

Contagious will be representing next week in Austin for SXSW Interactive1 and we decided to print up some T-shirts to give out to friends and allies.

We thought about just sending our logo and specs off to a printer, but what about making our own awesome shirts? And checking on colors and things? My awesome girlfriend gifted me time in a screenprinting workshop last year, so I already knew a thing or two about making your own shirts. So how about hire a studio and try to do it ourselves? Turns out that was much easier (and more fun) than we thought. We got in touch with Peter from Polluted Eyeball and arranged to visit him in his studio, in a loft building of artists’ studios, in Bushwick. We set up an evening session, so after work on Friday we could roll up and do some printing.

There’s a populist connoisseurship in T-shirts. Fine fit, fabric and a nice design can make a cheap item into a lifelong favorite. So we wanted to do these right. We stopped off on the way at Uniqlo to pick up around 70 of their Dry Pack Men’s T’s. I think they’re among the best going.

Once Peter had taken us through the process (and burned an extra screen for a white ink layer to sit below the fluorescent pink) we got to work, a three-person team, fitting the blank shirts on the platens2, then rotating them to the white and pink screens, through each ink phase, then under a heater, then off to be rolled and taped and sorted by size.

By the time we’d gotten our process right and picked up steam, we were out of blanks and had a whole load of handmade T-shirts to give away. Take a look at the photos below, and if you’re going to be in Austin, track down either me or Noelle for a shirt. Thanks again to Peter at Polluted Eyeball for all his expert guidance.

Here’s where the footnotes go.

  1. I’m on a panel called ‘Client Knows Best’ with some brainiacs from Droga5, McCann, Co:Collective and Verizon, it’s here, on Saturday at 5pm. Come if you’re around, it should be a fun chat. Noelle, meanwhile, will be raising heckfire in boots. []
  2. this was a new term for me, from Wikipedia: ‘In textile screen printing, a platen is a flat board onto which the operator slides the garment. It is generally made of either a plywood laminate or aluminum with a rubber laminate. Often the platen will be pretreated with a spray adhesive. This allows the garment to effectively become a rigid immobile substrate, especially important when printing multiple colors or utilizing an on-press infrared dryer. The screen is brought parallel and close to the garment (often within 1/32″) and the squeegee pressure then brings the screen into contact with the garment so that the ink transfer may occur. There are many special platen types, such as those for printing sleeves or pockets, vacuum platens, platens with clamps to hold bulky materials such as jackets, and even curved platens for printing on hats.’ []

Things I Finished #1

In reverence to a tradition embraced by Jesse Schell and supported by Matt Webb, here’s the first of an ongoing series of posts titled ‘Things I Finished’, a kind of catch-all for media bits that took some effort and are worth mentioning.

Stories of Your Life: and Others, by Ted Chiang
I’d read a lot of Chiang’s stuff online, and finally picked this up to get through the last two I hadn’t seen, “Stories of Your Life” and “Understand”. Both didn’t disappoint. Chiang has a way of developing complete, convincing characters and worlds in a very compressed period of time, which makes it feel like he stretches the space of his stories. I’m excited to dig into his novella, The Lifecycle of Software Objects, as soon as the library delivers it to me.

Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy: The Secret World of Corporate Espionage, by Eamon Javers
I was hoping this would be a little less mass-market, which sounds kind of stuck-up, but there it is. Javers details how private security and detectives have turned into freelance spooks and ex-Federal agents working in shadowy Washington corridors on behalf of any and all interested customer, securing all sorts of valuable information at whatever price. Very interesting stuff, yes, and a difficult world to get access to, but I was hoping there’d be more nuts and bolts attached, that he’d get into those corridors to figure out how these guys do their jobs.1

True Grit
I’m way behind on Oscars viewing, but wanted to get this one out of the way while it was still in theaters. As always, the Coens know how to write dialogue, but I felt some of the thematic elements were a bit unformed, for instance the snake motifs.

  1. Meanwhile, back in Washington, the Anonymous/HBGary thing has stirred up a whole pot of shit, with the relationships Javers describes in the book exposed. We’ll see what Javers has to say–he seems to be stuck on Wall Street at the moment. []

Weingarten, the Volt and Me

Over the last two years I’ve watched my father, an automotive engineer who toiled in the Metro Detroit area for ~40 years selling parts and systems to the Big Three, negotiate and produce a job he admits is the most complex of his career.

His company supplies the motors that circulate the coolant around the Volt’s batteries, which are uncommon because they are required to be on continuously for the entire lifetime of the car: when it’s running, when it’s charging, until it fails.

The process has been fraught with uncertainty. They’ve been at the job through the GM bankruptcy, through the ups and downs of the economy, designing, prototyping, negotiating, testing, retesting. All the while, it’s still a paradox to me as to how you engineer and test something in four years so it’s designed to last for 40.

It’s his last big project before he retires. And I’m sure there are a lot more folks like him attached to the car, Boomers who have invested an uncommonly large amount of personal pride and care in developing it thinking “this one will be different.” People who know it could be the biggest revolution in American auto manufacturing in recent history.

So it makes me really happy and grateful to read someone like Gene W start skeptical and experience the bits of delight and wonder that can change your heart. I can’t wait to drive one, because I know it’ll make me happy and hopeful too.

Gene and the Machine: The shocking truth about the electric Volt.

David Foster Wallace’s Library: The Harry Ransom Books

I’m kind of a nut for ephemera like this, and think the best way to make connections between artists is to follow what influenced them.

So when I read in this Newsweek article that around 300 ‘heavily annotated’ personal books were part of the David Foster Wallace archive the University of Texas’ at Austin’s Harry Ransom center bought and recently revealed, I felt inclined to make a big list of them to see if there were any things that seemed interesting and unknown.

So here they are, in case you care too. It ain’t pretty, but it’s all in one place rather than having to page through a lot at the library site. (All these are listed as belonging to the ‘Harry Ransom Center David Foster Wallace Library‘)

Oh how I’d love to spend a few weeks in this archive. Maybe when I finally get that comp lit Master’s this’ll sway me to UT.

Continue reading “David Foster Wallace’s Library: The Harry Ransom Books”

A Resurrection From Cannes

Phew, it’s been too long. I’ve been busy. I’ll catch you up as we go along. But expect more here. The organizers of Cannes’ Lions Daily newsmagazine were looking for the U.S. perspective for this year’s festival in June, so here’s an article I did for them. It hasn’t aged too poorly. Enjoy.

cannes lions daily

‘Everything is clean and shiny but oddly threatening’. / J.G. Ballard, 1999

Although J.G. Ballard was actually talking about technology, this late, great chronicler of Cannes-based mischief came pretty close to explaining what’s happened in the United States and Canada since its ad folk last convened on the Riviera.

Budgets and spending are beginning to come back, but there’s the sense things won’t be the way they were before last year’s slump, both in outlay and style of communications and messaging. Optimism is returning, but how to connect with the NEW new media is still baffling to many. Why should my home plumbing fixture brand be on Facebook? What’s the value of creating a badge on Foursquare for a paper goods company?

The realignment currently taking place is forcing us to reconsider the fabric of our communications landscape, and it’s taking very interesting forms.

FINELY FORMED PLATFORMS /

The first of those is platform-building, the digital terraforming smart marketers are engaging in. This is an evolution from the act of adapting content to work on the web to creating or steering content that works within the Internet’s connective tissue.

Electronic retailer Best Buy has seen its Twelpforce program, which encourages employees to help customers on Twitter, service a massive amount of people. But, all that data it’s pumping into Twitter ultimately belongs to Twitter. And it’s finite, given Twitter’s propensity to hide tweets from search after 1.5 weeks. So what did Best Buy do? It built BBY Feed, a site that scrapes all the interactions from the Blueshirts, threads them into easy-to-read interactions and tags them for search engine optimization. If a month from now, I can’t remember how Best Buy’s folks told me to put the SD card in my camera, when I search for the answer it’ll show up on BBY Feed.

Meanwhile, brand communications platforms are growing up and evolving. Gatorade’s fantastic ‘Replay’ effort through TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles was initially shot as episodic online content by an advertising production company. The conceit was simple, and on-brand: any athlete’s performance can be enhanced by Gatorade, so why not convene and re-play crucial games that ended in ties, or were called because of injury, ten or fifteen years later? The idea of older athletes getting back in shape appealed to many, interest in the property grew, and Gatorade partnered with Fox Sports Net for the second round, with the cable sports network producing it just like it would a big-league game, and simulcasting it on the web.

Parallel to platform-building, disruptive hacker behaviours have begun influencing marketers looking to place content not only on their own platforms, but in unexpected and intriguing places as well. A great example is the ‘Lost’ flight on Kayak.com. The travel search engine listed Oceanic 815, the flight around which the TV series centred, in its search database. Word spread among Losties, and thousands looked up the flight on Kayak, performing all the behaviours of any other user, an introduction to the brand’s great interface through the thrill of finding the ‘Easter Egg’ of content—the actual flight listing for the mythic Lost flight. Great content, presented in its natural environment, is set to spread, and to maximize PR value.

Similarly, Burger King put a message on Digg’s failed search page, which is served over 600,000 times per month. When you look something up that isn’t there, you get a message from Digg and BK playing on the humorous ‘Tiny Hands’ campaign for the company’s double cheeseburger: ‘Looks like your search had a typo. Maybe you’ve got tiny hands?’

MAKER CULTURE & LASHED-TOGETHER TECH /

This maker culture, along with the rise of electronic hobbyists building projects to interact with the universe, places emphasis on solutions and speed, in the classic Bernbachian sense of ‘It’s ugly, but it gets you there’.

In fact, just over forty years after the moon landing and that classic piece of Volkswagen print, Nike and the Livestrong Foundation’s Chalkbot, from Wieden + Kennedy and the robot-making punk rockers at Pittsburgh’s Deeplocal, fits the tagline–the trailer-pulled robot sets a standard for the post-digital transition in its employment of ‘guttertech’–using the lowest available technology to solve the problem. The robot, towed along the route of the Tour de France, sprays messages of cancer support and memoriam people have tweeted onto the course. The system then takes a photo, geotags it, and sends it back to the participant on the other end of the connection. Chalkbot’s no-frills, simple-yet-elegant setup and movement through digital and physical elements nimbly skitters like Wall-E around a landscape where tech bandwagon-jumping is in danger of creating a proliferation of clutter and junk.

The sensor array in our smartphones is currently the fastest track to bringing about the ‘internet of things’ – the practice of integrating digital capabilities to the most ordinary of objects. Ranchers are using RFID to track beef from pasture to abattoir and researchers at the Asthmapolis project are using GPS-triggering asthma inhalers to learn more about pollutants, and all are contributing to the proliferation of data. The objects around us are becoming networked, either through built-in communication hardware or software elements fitted on top.

MASSAGING THE DATALAYER /

A company called Stickybits, which had its coming out party this year at the South by Southwest Interactive conference, allows you to add content–a video, a comment, a photo–to any barcode scanned with its app. Essentially the company has turned every barcode-carrying product into a media node.

Keep an eye peeled this week for Contagious’ special Stickybits treasure hunt, centered on our Issue 23 cover (which you can scan from the illustration here), and has Euro RSCG London’s new Dulux spot attached to it. Find the pink bits around town this week, scan them with your Stickybits app, and win Contagious prizes.

While our Stickybit challenge is but a small example, building games is, to me, the most exciting element of future-facing marketing efforts.

Think of the devotion a good videogame commands: players often log days at quests, or facing rivals online. And unlike a film, or a magazine, the hefty price you pay for a console game doesn’t even guarantee you get to experience all the content–you have to be patient, persist, and earn the ending.

THE POINTS ECOLOGY /

Location-based services like Gowalla and Loopt and Foursquare represent a simple employment of game motivations using the sensors we carry. Get the most points. Be seen the best places. Unlock achievements.

Ultimately, brands are developing new ways to register loyalty and reward people choosing them, while enticing possible conversions from nearby consumers–nearby both in physical location and adjoining mental space (think of a hairdresser who promotes on check-ins at the beauty supply store).

Will location-based service companies wind up being overgrown, social-enabled supermarket points schemes? No one can tell yet. But as the unique user behaviour, the check-in, the acknowledgement of presence in a space-time-byte matrix, spreads and becomes more familiar, and our sensor-augmented actions begin to throw off more and more data, the smartest marketers will be engineering access to it, and in turn creating experiences and narratives all the more relevant.

Returning to Mr. Ballard’s quote, there’s good reason for these shiny things to feel threatening. The firmaments of this business are shifting, and we can’t see where they’ll settle yet. But without threat, we drift to complacency. Now is the time, more than ever, to re-examine what is useful, relevant and entertaining as the world keeps turning.

Steve Goodman aka Kode9 on Sonic Warfare: Well Weapon

goodman_sonic_talk

With a flyer boasting quotes from both J.G. Ballard and Colonel Kilgore of Apocalypse Now, by the time my chum Luis and I arrived at NYU a few weeks back for a special lecture we knew we’d be in for an interesting discussion.

Steve Goodman, aka Kode9, dubstep producer and owner/chief curator of the massively great Hyperdub record label, was talking about his new book Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. (MIT Press)

Introduced as a “rogue academic” and member of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, it wasn’t immediately clear if the talk was going to be highly abstract or grounded, but it turned out the latter–lucid, well researched and informative. Here are some notes.
Continue reading “Steve Goodman aka Kode9 on Sonic Warfare: Well Weapon”

Banksy’s Exit Through The Gift Shop

I caught a screening of Exit Through The Gift Shop, Banksy’s feature-length film, last night, and, like most things related to the mysterious artist, it manages to zig around expectations and get to mind-twisting territory quickly.

There are probably a few spoilers in here, or not. Read at your peril.

Plot-wise, the movie mostly stars a Frenchman named Thierry Guetta. Thierry becomes obsessed with chronicling things via video, and fixates on street artists, adoring of the danger and spontaneity.

Thierry is clearly obsessed and mentally unbalanced, but in that endearing Man On Wire, French way. His marriage miraculously stays intact while he follows Shepherd Fairey across the globe, plowing through thousands of tapes–ostensibly, to the artists, for a documentary–which fill dozens and dozens of boxes in his house.

Theirry’s camera eventually, after much pursuit, intercepts Banksy, and several close scrapes bring the two together, as friends. Theirry gets comfortable in Banksy’s inner sanctum. Only in this short section do we get to see the artist working; otherwise he narrates in hood, face obscured, with robo voice. Scenes from his studio are really interesting; at one point he takes Theirry to his attic and shows him boxes of £10 bills, with Lady Di’s face printed on them, and explains how they printed £1,000,000 worth and have been passing them to vendors at festivals.1

At various points in the film, the question of whether Thierry is real or not came to mind. It seemed, thematically, that his obsession with videotaping everything melds perfectly with the themes of surveillance and voyeurism prevailing in Banksy’s work. But the dating of the footage appears to have been too elaborate to fake. Fairey looks younger, wearing baggy, of-the-era late ’90s clothes in footage purported to be from that era. Speaking with a few people more familiar than I, it’s true, he’s a real guy. Guetta’s character, though, is so surreal and outlandishly appropriate to the subject matter, that what happens next is completely conceptually seamless to the point where the rational mind rebels.

Banksy asks Theirry to show him his film, Life Remote Control, and, surprise, the final product of his insanity and obsession is intolerable. You can watch a few bits of it here.

So Banksy decides to make the movie about Thierry, and, in the meanwhiles, tells Thierry, who has been experimenting with stickers and wheatpasting, to do an art show–and Thierry dubs himself Mr. Brainwash.

Given this mandate by his hero, Thierry can’t help but make it massive: he puts his life in hock (supposedly) and hires a team to create art (a style-less mish-mash of Fairey, Banksy and Andy Warhol) and leverages endorsements from Fairey and Banksy to get the punters (Fairey calls them suckers, which is maybe more appropriate) out and buying.

And they do. His Life is Beautiful show sells a million dollars in product and runs for months (I wasn’t able to independently verify
this). Theirry is an art star, and has had a subsequent show here in New York in February.

And there we have it. But what do we have? Well, the great street art swindle. Like John Lydon said, ‘Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?’

The Sex Pistols did it first. The KLF wrote The Manual on how to do it. Now Banksy is doing it: creating a story to spur demand, lending authority to it in a rapidly popularizing subculture, satisfying the hunger and laughing while everyone eats it up.

It is almost a performance edition of the piece pictured above.

Thierry’s the ultimate idolator, a King Toy of the graf world, but in an endearing, ‘let me hold the ladder and learn to do it’ savant-ish sense rather than cynical or ill-meaning way.

In him, Banksy has a tool to make us aware of our desire to belong and understand, nudging him forward, enabling his rise, only to gloat over the result. The art fans, clad in Ed Hardy, lined the sidewalk to see Life is Beautiful and take home a piece. But once everyone catches on to the gag, what happens to the work? And Thierry’s (clearly unbalanced) ego? If Banksy was affiliated, does that mean it has value (in an artistic or financial sense)?

Banksy is certainly a fascinating character, and this film will raise more interesting discussion on the nature of art in our times. But as opposed to his pieces on the wall in Gaza, indicting a system of oppression and bringing power and hope and positive messages to the world, and the Disneyland incident (which is explained in harrowing detail in the film) it feels like there’s been a turn in Banksy’s work toward the cynical.

Here, in helping make Mr. Brainwash into something of a star, he’s turned to lampooning the general public, ordinary people whose minds have been opened to the sort of surprise and wonder great street art fosters.

The film is out April 16 in the States, and if you’re interested in the culture of street art and image-making in cultural affairs I’d recommend you seek it out.

Animal New York has a post revealing some Fairey admissions, and that throws up a few good rumors and explanations about Theirry owning property and having family connections that let him do legal graffiti. It’s worth a look.

  1. I think this is a crime, counterfeiting, and admitting to it on film, with the evidence, would be trouble, at least in law-abiding Britain. Which makes me think its not entirely true. []

Guess What? I’m Contagious’ North American Editor

contagious logo

This went out to some folks over email but I wanted to post it here as well.

I’ve got big news I wanted to share: I’ve taken on the responsibilities of opening an office here in New York as Contagious Communications’ North American Editor.

The official press release is up, and I’ve done a quickie intro on contagiousmagazine.com.

If you don’t know Contagious, I’ll give you the quick primer. It’s a London-based marketing intelligence company founded in late 2004 and led by the flagship product, a quarterly magazine. It also produces FEED, a bespoke subscription service for specialized pulses of information, an events division offering custom conference programming and Contagious Insider, a consultancy that has helped think on a bevy of interesting challenges from a wide variety of top-notch clients.

Contagious started around the idea of chronicling and considering how non-traditional efforts were impacting marketing; it has grown to a robust clearinghouse of innovative approaches, unique insights and all manner of interesting ideas from around the world of marketing and beyond. (Download 2009’s Most Contagious report for a taste.)

It’s extremely exciting to be able to bolster such a robust and focused team. Contagious has a diverse and deep pool of talented writers, researchers and collaborators as well as a can-do startup mentality.

A while ago I was reading a blog post BSS&P’s Ed Cotton had written about the need for a creative-thinking version of McKinsey, about how stimulating ideas and creative revitalization can be more beneficial to growth than cost-cutting. I think Contagious has the potential to serve as that energy- and idea-giving entity for any of today’s companies interested in what’s next.

So in the next few months I’ll be building our presence on this side of the pond at conferences and events, paying visits to lots of companies and, most importantly, watching closely and taking observations and insights to the print magazine and website.

If you’re not already, get in touch. Sign up for our e-mail newsletter, follow us on Twitter (@contagiousmag) and submit your best work.

Contagious is well known in Europe, and has been very successful around the globe so far, but we’ve still got a challenge in helping it find a bigger audience in the Americas. I hope you’ll be able to play a part and contribute to what’s fast become a vibrant community of forward-thinkers.

Pssssst….

Pssssst….

My buddy Dan posted this on Facebook the other day and it reminded me of one of the key points in Scott Berkun’s excellent “Confessions of a Public Speaker“. I read “Confessions…” late last year and have been talking about it to anyone who frequently presents or is involved in speaking in front of an audience; its a great resource.

Anyway, a point Scott makes is amply illustrated here: The audience wants you to succeed.

In Dan’s heartwarming case, he got a heads up on his fly being open, and probably went into that talk knowing he at least had one guy in the audience rooting for him.

Dan writes “Today I had to speak in front of about 70 people at this pharmaceutical company near Jersey when this fine older gentleman nonchalantly got my attention and passed me this note:”

Career Advice From The KLF

the_KLF

You must hold the reigns tighter than you have ever held them before but let the chariot head over the cliff top. The abyss is calling.

Clutch at straws. Build castles on clay. Let the quick sand tell you lies. Take the scenic route. Be there on time. Use two drummers if need be. Fill out forms. Seconds. Minutes. Hours. Days. Midweeks and predictions. Fall, spin, turn and dive. Sign cheques. Solicitor doing deals with “Hits” and “Now”. Sleep at night. Black to white. Highest new entry. Good to bad. Fast forward. Top of the Pops. Re-read this book, whatever it takes. No, don’t. You already know all there is to know. Faster. Faster. Faster. Give everything. Just give everything. This is the beautiful end.

I just finished The Manual and everything is clear.

Desk-sider with Reilly

I’m very stoked to have been asked some questions about my media habits and habitat for pal Reilly Brennan’s “What’s on your desk?” series.

I most recently saw Reilly on the front page of USA Today commenting about the Chevy Volt’s mileage claims after a week fishing in Montana secluded from all feeds and transmissions. I think I whooped.

The first time we met, however, was a little different. It was on a high school Spanish Club Spring Break trip to Mexico in maybe 1997. That was a fun trip. For some reason our historical survey swung through Cancun for four days. Our initial evening in that fine town a fellow (neither of us, for the record) experienced what could be termed ‘rampaging intoxication’ for the first time and proceeded to chop apart his hotel room dresser with a ceremonial hatchet he’d purchased earlier that day from a roadside tourist trap. Goooood times.

Spimes and the evolution of the Missed Connection

sophie blackall

Spime. Spimey spimey spime.

Spime is a portmanteau of ‘space’ and ‘time’ coined by Bruce Sterling, who envisions a world full of spimes. It’s fun to say, and important to think about. A scenario just crossed my mind that might help.

A spime, as he defines it, is a “location-aware, environment-aware, self-logging, self-documenting, uniquely identified object that flings off data about itself and its environment in great quantities.”

We’re seeing stuff that’s spimier every day. Your smart phone is a pretty good example. While I was looking at Sophie Blackall’s fun illustrations of Craigslist Missed Connections it seemed like a pretty interesting way to think about spimes.

Thousands of people have potential Missed Connections every day in big cities. (Essentially, if you’re not clear on how the Craigslist section works, say the cute dude walking his dog makes eyes at you, and you reciprocate; if one of you gets up the guts and wants to make contact you post about the encounter on the board.)

Continue reading “Spimes and the evolution of the Missed Connection”

More efficient than efficient, or, how crowdsourcing agencies can prove themselves

More efficient than efficient, or, how crowdsourcing agencies can prove themselves
This week saw the auspicious launch of a new agency called Victors and Spoils, made up of two former Crispin Porter + Bogusky folks, Evan Fry and John Winsor (who specializes in cognitive science and is a nice guy) and Claudia Batten, a former VP at Microsoft-owned in-game advertising facilitator Massive.
Fry, in the Times piece, makes an impressive statement:
“Crowdsourcing is looked at as a trend du jour,” Mr. Fry said. “We want to be the first agency that gets it right.”
I want them to as well. But perhaps in a different way than they do.
Advertising execs have been in love with Clay Shirkey’s ur-crowdsourcing text “Here Comes Everybody” since it made its debut last year, but they haven’t been able to get it right.
There’s a reason why; marketers have focused on using executions from the crowd (eg Doritos’ tone-deaf Super Bowl spots) to replace things they’d usually pay specialists lots of money for, like logos and commercial scripts, instead of the simplified tasks crowdsourcing excels at, like being able to draw a rough sheep (as in Aaron Koblin’s Sheep Market) or retype a blurry word (as in Luis von Ahn’s CAPTCHA).
So, to succeed, Victors and Spoils has to find the middle ground.
And, by the power of the crowd vested in this tiny node in a remote corner of the internet, I have it for them. Here’s your assignment, guys.
Build a community around the DARPA network challenge and one of the “household-name brands” you allude to pitching for in the Times, win the challenge, and donate the $40,000 to charity in the name of the brand.
Hire a mathmetician to figure out the best way to allocate your immense human resources and flex them to comb the country for the eight balloons. Issue incentives to players, keep them honest, allow the whole thing to develop near-realtime with streaming content and all sorts of extra goodies.
It’ll be tough, because you’ll be competing against ultra-efficient networks, the likes of 4chan, which is unfortunately the closest thing we have now to an effective megalith of distributed energy. But what they boast in adolescent drive they don’t necessarily hold in technical expertise.
In as much as advertising has become a highly-efficient substrate for many of our emotional responses, so too will you have to be the surface underlying the network, giving it nutrients and making it robust.

balloon

This week saw the auspicious launch of a new agency called Victors and Spoils, founded by former Crispin Porter + Bogusky folks, Evan Fry and John Winsor as well as Claudia Batten, a former VP at Microsoft-owned in-game advertising facilitator Massive.

Fry, in the Times piece, makes an impressive statement:

“Crowdsourcing is looked at as a trend du jour,” Mr. Fry said. “We want to be the first agency that gets it right.”

I want them to as well. But perhaps in a different way than they do.

Advertising execs have been in love with Clay Shirky’s ur-crowdsourcing text “Here Comes Everybody” since it made its debut last year, but they haven’t been able to get it right.

There’s a reason why; marketers have focused on using executions from the crowd (eg Doritos’ tone-deaf Super Bowl spots) to replace things they’d usually pay specialists lots of money for, like logos and commercial scripts, instead of the easy tasks everyone can complete, like drawing a sheep (as in Aaron Koblin’s Sheep Market) or retyping a blurry word (as in Luis von Ahn’s CAPTCHA).

So, to succeed, Victors and Spoils has to find the middle ground.

And, by the power of the crowd vested in this tiny node in a remote corner of the internet, I have it for them. Here’s your assignment, guys.

Build a community around the DARPA network challenge and one of the “household-name brands” you allude to pitching for in the Times, win the challenge by finding the eight balloons first, and donate the $40,000 in prize money to charity in the name of the brand.

I’d hire a mathmetician to figure out the best way to allocate your immense brain wattage and flex it to comb the country for the eight balloons. Issue incentives to players, keep them honest, allow the whole thing to develop near-realtime with streaming content and all sorts of extra goodies.

It’ll be tough, because you’ll be competing against ultra-efficient networks, the likes of 4chan, which is unfortunately the closest thing we have now to an effective megalith of distributed energy that has the get-up-and-go to mobilize quickly. But what they boast in adolescent drive they don’t necessarily hold in technical expertise.

In as much as advertising has become a highly-efficient substrate for many of our emotional responses, so too will you have to be the surface underlying the network, giving it nutrients and making it robust.