Posts tagged ‘New York’

Sam on Wire

Sometimes I’m sitting around, around my friends, and I think to myself, “Wow, I’m really lucky I know these people, they are really interesting and fun. They never fail to surprise me.” I have friends of mine to thank for these posts, because they surprised me with something fun and awesome. Last week it was tight-rope walking.

that high up? no thank you.

that high up? no thank you.

Not everyone rushes out to see little french men running across a tight-rope, or to see a french-language film. I am not one of those people. If the movie is in french, its enough to make me run out and see it. The last foreign film I saw in the theatre was Man on Wire. We have a ginger man, who is very animated, and very good at story telling (wow, kind of sounds like me, only I’m not a man). He desires to walk between the World Trade Center towers, and does so while they are still in construction. Despite this being a documentary, it’s very much like an action film, leaving you filled with suspense and wonder. Thus, I was enchanted with the idea, but I have a fear of heights, so this kind of walking was not in my future.

My friends have installed a slack line in their loft. One of my new friends is from California, and normally can’t stand the bitter cold of Philadelphia. (Although, we are enjoying a very nice warm spring-like week here currently). Next thing I knew, and my ambition knew, was that I was attempting to walk on the line several times with my barefeet. It’s with the utmost conviction you overcome the physical challenge of aligning your body straight, to balance yourself and be unaffected by the inevitable falls of a first timer. Here’s where I would post a picture of people slack lining, but apparently it’s really popular with hippies and people who don’t wash their hair. We are not those people, and I won’t post dirty hippies on my blog. So here you have some feet:

© All rights reserved. sun heefairee at Flickr.com

© All rights reserved. sun heefairee at Flickr.com

I also would recommend drinkin’ some beers. You are going to fall a lot. If you live in the cold and decide to do this inside, putting some mats down might be better than landing on the hardwood floor, or whatever other hard surface you may have in your large space for tight rope walking. Otherwise, just wait til it gets warm. I hear landing on the grass is easier, but I’m trying to get hard, so I’ll take the rough landing. Happy Circusing!

-posted by samsquared

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February 10, 2009 at 4:23 PM 2 comments

Non sequiturs: vol. 1

– posted by russellmania3000

The problem with reading on public transportation, other than that it can put you to sleep and cause you to miss your stop, is that you can’t look up and check out whether other people are impressed with what you’re reading. Because if you’re looking for around for potential people to chat up, you’re not really reading, are you? Don’t give me this I-read-for-enjoyment/self-betterment crap. Books are fashion accessories, same as everything else on your person.

Is it just me or are keffiyehs the new buffalo plaid button-downs? In fact, in the last couple days I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some oversized purple or aqua buffalo plaid neckerchiefs with tassels, which pretty much qualifies as keffiyeh in the same way Chipotle qualifies as Mexican food. And we wonder why they hate us.

Christoph Niemann - I LEGO NY

The thing about walking downhill on ice is that it’s really easy to start moving diagonally but once moving diagonally it’s really hard to straighten out again. Walking uphill on ice won’t put you in the same quandary.

A woman getting cat called and a man getting stared down by a gay guy are not the same kind of uncomfortable. They’re just not.

The thing about getting idea for a project is that most of the time you just accumulate the idea but never really follow through on it. Maybe you return to it a few months later and realize it’s a terrible idea. If you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky, you start thinking you’re some kind of great idea man when you’re not and maybe you turn it into a start-up and lose some VC firm’s coin and ruin the show for everyone else.

I know that deep down I’m an awful person because I’m not that upset about all the lives drunk driving has claimed, but I am upset that Charles Barkley is off the air. Police are such cockblockers. This segment in which Bob Costas talks 2008 with John McEnroe and Sir Charles on HBO is amazing. No disrespect to Chris Webber, but for the last several years Charles has been the best basketball pundit in business, and outside of Bill Simmons and Nathaniel Friedman a.k.a. Bethlehem Shoals perhaps the best pundit in sports.

equine ass

A while ago Sam was talking about viral marketing and mentioned Ray-Ban’s cow-birthing-a-dude spot. So the guys from Never Hide Films actually contacted us to mention they had 2 new spots out, which is, I mean, hey thanks I guess but we don’t care. Even though Disco Ballers is marginally amusing, once you have a guy coming out a cow vagina all covered in amniotic fluid and chunks of gross, you’ve pretty much maxed yourself out in advertising and you might as well pack up and hit the beach. I think Sam’s tongue-in-cheek/backhanded compliment might have been lost on them had they read her piece at all, but I don’t think they did, which makes me wonder how many times it occurs that a blog pokes fun at – or outright tears new rectums in – a particular ad or product or institution or whatever and said entity’s marketing/web team gets wind of the fact that they’re mentioned in the post but doesn’t pay attention to the context and tries to cozy up to said blog without even realizing they are poor bedfellows.

For some stupid reason I decided not to watch the AC Milan game on Sunday and instead go to the Punk Rock Flea Market, which was so crowded that even if I had wanted to buy something, I doubt I’d have been able to reach for my wallet without groping three asses that were way too young for me to be groping. Every third person smelled of reefer or of just plain body stank. I spotted a mug shaped like a tree trunk with an owl peeking out of a knot in the side, which was actually kind of cool and surely one of a kind, but no, the girl working that table told me she was only selling that in a set of six. So what she meant by that was she wasn’t going to be selling them at all.

February 3, 2009 at 9:20 PM Leave a comment

What’s on your wall?

posted by russellmania3000

Though ill-advised as I was still recovering from food poisoning, I went down to National Mechanics on Saturday for Sam’s birthday, to have a beer and put in my face time. She introduced me to a friend who upon hearing my name said something to the effect of “oh, the other half of the blog, the half who never updates.” I feel stupid trotting out the quality-over-quantity cliché, but not so stupid that I won’t do it. And if one was to compare word count rather than number of updates, we’d be about even anyway. Irregardless nonetheless…

Remember the “what’s in your tray?” game? You might not; it had a pretty short shelf life during the 1990s. If you were of that flirty young age but old enough to have a multi-disc CD changer, you could use this to get to know someone on a completely superficial level. It was handy since most people with decent taste in music had trouble naming favorites, there was a good chance a guilty pleasure would slip in, and the number of albums named would speak to economic status. Sadly, it was quickly phased out by the “what’s in your playlist?” game, which is still played competitively today.

Note: this is not to be confused with this variant of the “what’s in your tray?” game. Nerds.

As people get older, taste in music becomes an increasingly poor measure of character, so I’ve taken to making note of the things people use to decorate their living space. It’s rather shameful when someone hasn’t graduated beyond the typical dorm room Pulp Fiction/Animal House/Hendrix/Floyd poster, but it’s a quick way of knowing I won’t have to remember someone’s name.

I put a decent amount of effort into adorning my apartment and office and, especially now that I make a modest living, I like to throw artists some duckets when I find something deserving of my precious little wall space. I know a lot of artists will hang their work in their own homes, but I have a policy against that. I guess they’d say that looking at their work constantly forces them to be critical of it and improve themselves, but I’d argue that it makes you either self-satisfied or simply reminds you of old lines of thought and hinders new ones. Anyway. Some of the things I hang I’ve had since I was a small child, but I’ve recently acquired some new stuff and I feel I should give the artists their due.

New York

I rearranged a few walls to make room for a pair of eBoy posters, which are delightfully playful and colorful and HUGE! The nice thing about pixel art is that it can be enlarged quite a bit without losing clarity. They’re moderately priced if you grab them from a US reseller. But you may notice that they are available only in really large and non-standard sizes, sizes that would cost over $100 to get a fitting poster frame. There’s something disconcerting about paying over four times the coin for a frame than for the piece in it. What to do, what to do?

Fortunately I happened across these handy Poster Hangers which were much cheaper and did the trick nicely. Granted, you wouldn’t want to use these for something really nice unless you got it laminated or something. But they offer a little protection for the top and bottom edges and look a hell of a lot nicer than tacking something to the wall.

Speaking of tacking to the wall. Ever wonder what to do with all those postcards you get from show openings at galleries? You know, the ones you take thinking to yourself “this looks really cool, I’m gonna hang this up or use it in a collage or something” but you never do, they just sit in a folder or at the bottom of a drawer or on a shelf collecting dust. Postcard mobile, bitches! It drives cats bananas.

little blind rat

Without a doubt my favorite additions are a pair of Damon Soule prints. I saw his work several years ago at the Nexus Gallery, before they were rudely displaced from their home in Old City by some fucking hair salon. Please give his work a look; the prints are lovely but do not nearly do justice to the other seminal examples he has on virtual display. He even included a little ink drawing on sketch paper in the package. What a guy. Guess where that is? Postcard mobile, bitches!

I’m currently in the market for a Brute! poster, but not that one. Anyone have any leads? I’m coming up pretty dry. I’ve been chatting with Aidan Hughes himself on Facebook (I know, right?!), where he has a pretty sweet Manhattan Short Film Festival poster for sale, but he says he’s launching a store on his site in the coming weeks, so I guess I can hold out.

So what’s the guilty pleasure in my apartment? The framed equivalent of my Juno Reactor CDs? It could be the Softer World print. Or the Ben Shahn posters. Or the alphabet made of butterfly wings. Or the Pixar colorscript. No no. Child’s play. Behold:

fuck yes

I have no idea what this is or who to attribute it to. It was given to me by a crazy old friend who brought it from Seattle. There’s no writing anywhere on the goddamn thing, no clues. I think “motorcycle warrior” was the second or third thing I tried in Google image search and lo, there was my poster at like number 2. I shit you not. I love this thing. It’s right next to my head when I wake up, so if you were ever to sleep with me, it would be right next to your head too, and that’s something you’d have to take into consideration.

So, I pose the question to you, dear internet denizen: what’s on your wall?

Update: 1/13/2009, 3:47 PM – An old college buddy has informed me that my most prized piece of artwork is in fact the source illustration from the poster for George A. Romero’s 1981 film Knightriders, a movie I’ve never seen, but now I suppose I must. So, um, thanks to Max, the human compendium of B movies.

January 12, 2009 at 4:37 PM Leave a comment

Clap your hands say meh

Earlier this month I dropped my remaining vacation days a 5-day jaunt in Brooklyn during which I attended the Blip Festival, an event whose praises I cannot sing loud or long enough. But as my hearing returned to full capacity, so did my sense of reality and perspective over what had just taken place.

I’ve listened to electronic music nearly all my life and grew up on Nintendo. The mental library of earthly sounds I’ve accumulated over the years contains it’s fair share of lo-fi bloops, bleeps, snaps and peeps. Nonetheless, this was essentially my first experience with the artists and music that define what some would call the chip music or chiptunes scene, a music genre that seems to define itself more by hardware and production aesthetic than by the nature of the music. That is to say that over the course of the festival we were treated to a variety music – pop, rock, hip-hop, reggae, house, ebm/futurepop, idm, breakcore, industrial and every grey area in between – that was apparently all under the umbrella of chiptune.

bloop bloop bleep bleep

That’s Glomag, and yes, that is indeed a Nintendo Game Boy in his hands. The original big honking Game Boy at that, and it’s fitted with one of those screen-brightening and -enlarging doodads. Chip music essentially involves repurposing archaic computer hardware into instruments. Most commonly, this means game consoles, and this in turn most commonly means the Nintendo Game Boy. Of the 40-some-odd artists at Blip, I’d estimate about 95% of them used the Game Boy in some form, and about 75% used it as the sole instrument in their ensemble. A lot of these guys had pretty tricked out Game Boys, like two-tone cases with custom-installed back-lit screens. Once in a while you’d see someone using a Game Boy SP or PSP and you knew they were totally style-fakers. In any event, though photos of the previous two festivals led me to believe we’d see some, there was no truly inventive use of hardware a la James Houston‘s Big Ideas:

In days of yore, electronic musicians often used keyboards, live drums and/or guitars, turntables, theramins, effects pedals, and a bevy of other instruments that involve some sort of physical exertion and performance in their live acts. Those days are largely gone; today, most electronic shows involve some laptop button-pushing, knob-tweaking, fader-flicking and not much more.

So creep with me, if you will, and imagine standing in a crowd of unkempt 20-somethings staring at another unkempt 20-something on stage, garishly dressed, hunched over with Game Boy in hand, queuing tracks and adjusting parameters, intermittently taking a break to fist-pump, thrash about, or gesture awkwardly in some other manner to express his excitement and passion for the music he’s not quite actually playing. It is a very arresting experience to say the least.

I have a back-up NES so I can spike one when I lose.

Believe it or not, there was some dancing, some awkward spastic nerd dancing. And if the music is good and the crowd is good and the dancing is good, then, performance be damned, it’s still a good time. But as you might imagine there was a large contingent just sort of standing there, barely nodding their heads like you do when you don’t want to seem not into the show. What up with that? What were these guys doing at the bloop bleep show? I mean, they’re not partying, not drinking, not molesting women and surely not appreciating the skill of the performance. I’m sure some might take exception, but as a former DJ and musician, a player of video games and a one-time-owner of a Game Boy, I can proclaim with confidence that it’s not that difficult to do and not at all impressive to behold.

What ever happened to showmanship? Say what you will about misogynistic epic metal, but Manowar knew how to put on a fucking show. Guitars would be played in every position imaginable: over the head, behind the back, between the legs, shared betwixt two people. I saw their bassist solo for like 10 goddamn minutes and then proceed to break those absurdly thick strings with his bare hands, one by one. Even if you weren’t that into the music or interested in slamming your fragile body into a crowd of strangers, you still had to be impressed with Manowar. Virtuosity, showmanship, leather codpieces. There is no substitute:

Showmanship is not to be confused with spectacle. One of the better acts at Blip, a duo from Barcelona called Meneo, was sheer spectacle. Don’t misunderstand, they were awesome and everyone had a blast, but their set was all about on-stage antics that involved wrestling, nudity, toilet paper and hiding microphones in various locations inside pants. The guy on the Game Boy came up to me, snatched the ear plugs from my ears and ate them. They didn’t bring that keytar, just leggings and unrestrained Dadaist energy. But for the people in the audience who weren’t that into the music, weren’t dancing and weren’t drinking, they had to have been outrageously uncomfortable during that set.

The other component to Blip, and to most live music of any genre these days, is the visual display that accompanies the performance. It was in this aspect that Blip seemed really appealing when I first heard of it but also fell the most flat in actuality. Last year, the fest had several projection screens and this video screen with ridiculously oversized pixels which produced a look that was really complimentary to the music. Geneva’s Mapping Festival uses all kinds of inventive displays each year – note the translucent curtains for floating projections. The Copenhagen Mikrodisko takes an even more lo-fi approach that still has a wonderful aesthetic. So you can imagine my disappointment when this year’s Blip had a single projection screen behind the stage and nothing more. Granted, the set-up is only as good as the VJs and animators who show their work. Some of the musicians, namely Meneo, Anamanaguchi, and m-.-n did their own visuals or had animators do stuff just for them, which were usually pretty good, and a couple of the guys in the small line-up of VJs that worked with the rest of the acts were okay, but a lot of the time the screen just looked like it was displaying a broken VCR.

Until now, I didn’t realize this was, you know, a thing, chip music, as in deserving of its own scene and word and all. As far as I know, lo-fi electronic video game-ish sounds have been used in music for quite a while but perhaps more sparingly than in this case. This album got a lot of good press when it dropped almost two years ago, but think about how superfluous it is to have bloop-bleep computer music covered by musicians using even more bloopy-bleepy computers. Don’t get me wrong, I heart Kraftwerk. And I like these 8 bit guys. They put on a decent show. I would just maybe take issue with the claim, as they make in 2 Player Productions’ chiptune documentary Reformat The Planet, which was screened at Blip and apparently got a nod at SXSW, that they’re doing something entirely new and revolutionary when what they’re really up to is more or less bizarre bordering on Luddite. This is more a critique of the film and not the musicians, but it seems as if the filmmakers focused on the contemporary NYC scene not because they’re trying to illustrate via microcosm but simply because that’s where they are and that’s who their friends are so that’s who they have access to. They treat Blip as just that – an isolated event – and don’t really touch on the international scene or put chiptunes in the context of the history of electronic music. I would take up that crusade but that’s not really my job or the point of Redikulus. My job is just to draw attention to silly shit, and I believe my work here is done.

– posted by RussellMania3000

December 31, 2008 at 5:34 PM 2 comments

Meet the new media, same as the old media

play defense goddamnit

I must be out of market or not watching enough college ball because I’ve never seen this ad on TV. How much do you think it would cost to get Bobby for a birthday party?

There’s a marginally interesting article in today’s New York Times about the struggles that brand advertisers face in working with social networks. It focuses on Proctor & Gamble’s strained relationship with Facebook, but the crux of the argument is thus:

When major brands place banner advertisements on the side of a member’s home page, they pay inexpensive prices, but the ads receive little attention. Seth Goldstein, co-founder of SocialMedia Networks, an online advertising company, wrote on his Facebook blog that a banner ad “is universally disregarded as irrelevant if it’s not ignored entirely.”

When advertisers invite members to come to pages dedicated to their products, they can attract visitors only by investing in expensive creative material or old-fashioned promotions like prize contests.

And when they try to take advantage of new “social advertising,” extending their commercial message to a member’s friends, their ads will be noticed, all right, but not necessarily favorably. Members are understandably reluctant to become shills. IDC, the technology research firm, published a study last month that reported that just 3 percent of Internet users in the United States would willingly let publishers use their friends for advertising. The report described social advertising as “stillborn.”

I know, you’re as shocked as I am. “Stillborn”? I chuckled, and that’s exactly why I know that kind of language is completely inappropriate. But seriously, why is this news? What kind of person reads this hard-hitting report and has their mind changed rather than their suspicions confirmed? My boss’s boss’s boss, that’s who.

Like a lot of you, I work with a sizable contingent of people who are completely divorced from the reality of being a middle class consumer even though they in fact are exactly that, people who think their particular company or sector is the exception rather than the rule, people who are foolish enough to think that if they care enough they can make other people care too. This thought disease is the fuel that powers the marketing and advertising business today. But you’ll hardly ever see any Times articles on how hard it is to create a successful TV or print campaign because the metrics for tracking these are no where near as precise as the metrics for tracking internet campaigns. When companies ran a campaign on a medium half a century old and got a hazy post-mortem and now run a campaign on a relatively new medium and get a brutally empirical post-mortem, it isn’t hard to imagine why some executives are so skeptical about new media. Their old media campaigns can be just as ineffective but the inconclusiveness of the data they get back makes it easy for them embellish a bit and imagine success where there is none.

Might I posit that the following be considered an axiom of marketing: all commercial messages are universally disregarded as irrelevant if they are not ignored entirely. Perhaps this is a personal tick or something, but I’m convinced that every ad produces some level of negative brand association just out of the simple fact that every ad is an interruption or intrusion and that’s just plain rude. I’m very popular around the office. Theories aside, when it comes down to brass tacks, which is a bigger waste of money: Figure 1 or Figure 2?

Seth Goldstein is right that banner ads are ignored but he and scores of other marketers are convinced that they can create something different, that somewhere in the muckymuck there is a way to do it right, and maybe it has to do with privacy and engagement and creating “real conversation and interaction around certain products and brands”. In his own words: “We don’t get paid to put you in ads. We’re getting paid to present you with the opportunity to interact with a product socially.”

Except that real people don’t do that. At all. I’m too busy pirating DVDs, reading comics and trying to get laid to care about your brand. Intelligent people with disposable income don’t waste time using mini-apps to do the same thing that the macro-app (Facebook, or the internet at large, telephone) can do far better and less fundamentally dickwadishly. Seth’s products hinge on the bet that if I see a little message on Facebook that Hotrod Johnny is washing his denim jacket with Tide presently, I will somehow be more likely to buy a bottle of Tide or have a positive association with the brand than if I were shown a traditional display ad. And what he’s really hoping is that I’ll write back to Johnny, “Hey dude, that’s awesome! I just washed my daisy dukes with Tide yesterday. Let’s fornicate.” Which is rubbish, quite frankly, because it’s going to take a lot more than spring-fresh outerwear to get me to even remotely consider committing a homosexual act. A display ad I can ignore and move on with my day, but I really liked Hotrod Johnny and now here he is shilling out Tide to me. Now I’m disenchanted with Facebook, I’m really adverse to not just Tide but laundry in general, and I’m beginning to reconsider whether I should even try to have sex with Hotrod Johnny at all if he’s gonna be a tool like that. There is a very short list of consumer items that my friends and I will ever bring up in normal conversation (in order of frequency): booze, Apple products, video games, bike parts, and contraception. I don’t need your widgety-woo to facilitate that interaction and, believe you me, you want no part in that conversation either.

On the flip side of this filth coin, consider what brands really want. In a rare exception to the rule, people do have real conversations about the Apple brand and its products. If Samsung is interested in competing with the iPhone, do they want people to update little status messages and hope other people pay attention or do they want to generate real word of mouth about their handset? One kind of “conversation” can be facilitated with a widgety-woo. The other kind that actually moves units only comes from making an awesome phone and getting David Pogue to write about it. Does anyone really think Apple would sell any fewer iPhones if they pulled their ads? Might I suggest that Samsung concentrate on manufacturing such a device and Proctor & Gamble simply come to terms with the fact that no one cares about their brands because detergent is boring as all fuck.

The bottom line is that advertising as we know it is a dead paradigm that has yet to be replaced, and in this writer’s opinion, may not be replaced at all. There is such an overabundance of things to buy and information on why or why not one should that we all can make important and mundane purchasing decisions with relative ease and little interest. But more importantly, we as a culture have become so inured to self-promotion in all its guises, including the much-ballyhooed “social interaction” as advertisement, that these messages no longer register. In the worlds of products and brands, there will always be peacocks and pigeons. In marketing, just as with human interaction, there is a clear distinction between those who make fools of themselves at parties by shouting obnoxiously and those who can hold a good conversation. And then there are those boring dudes who have nothing interesting or obnoxious to say because they’re accountants or something so they just stand in the corner and sip their beers like effete turds, holding the bottle by the neck and dribbling on their collars. Above all, it’s always easy to spot those who are inappropriately muscling themselves into the conversation and they are so not getting laid tonight. The best thing marketers can do is make a good offer for a good product at a good price and hope it sticks.

Yes, as a new media developer myself, I realize that this evangel isn’t quite in keeping with my self-preservation, but that’s probably why talk of this sort isn’t given much of a voice in the industry itself, and that’s why this piece in the Times might be valuable. Marketing professionals are usually louder cheerleaders for tech innovations than their engineers. But when the interactive marketing manager at the world’s biggest ad-spender publicly states he’s disinterested in working with the world’s biggest social network and unenthusiastic about behavioral targeting, one has to wonder what he is enthusiastic about. Is Ted McConnell a unique outlier in an industry of confident marketers or the first rat to scurry from the sinking ship? Either way, he deserves a Facebook poke for being so candid; I doubt his recent remarks are making him any new friends.

-Posted by RussellMania3000

December 15, 2008 at 10:09 PM 1 comment


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