Sunday, November 30, 2008

Close Guantanamo Bay

Amnesty International has a petition asking that President Obama make it a high priority to announce plans to close Guantanamo Bay soon after taking office.

Go here to sign it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Snag Film

Documentary lover? Snag Films lets you watch docs online for free and embed promos for them (or snag them) on your site. Here's their most popular offering, Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Some Nice Things I've Laid Out For You

  • Brian Eno on NPR's This I Believe - "Singing allows us to stop being me for a moment and become us."
  • A PDF of that fake New York Times issue, 1 million copies of which were recently distributed recently by The Yes Men. I really, really want one of the originals.
  • KASK Hats - hand-knit beanies and whatnot by Kaj Zackrisson and Sverre Liliequist, two Swedish professional free skiers featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. 
  • Duckrabbit by Paul St George, 2008. This fun, simple sculpture was fashioned by the same guy who created the Telectroscope, which graced DUMBO and London earlier this year. Eyestorm suggests you buy two so you can get both the duck and the rabbit, but you can't fool me; you get both anyway.
  • The (Mostly) True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway by Paul Shaw - how the signage on New York's subway came to be in Helvetica, except when it's not. Which is pretty often.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Death Watch for the Watch?

My Watches

Numerous folks commenting on this Wired post had the same thought that I did: the watch is the sixth gadget getting killed by the cell phone. (Tangentially, the mobile phone hasn't killed the laptop. It has, however, knocked off the beeper.)

Most of us grew up with watches and not cell phones. What happens with folks who grew up having both? I would be surprised if watch sales don't decline. Turns out they have already -dramatically - in some parts:

From a 2006 Businessweek article "Time's up for watch sales in Japan":
According to a new survey by Seiko Watches, the proportion of Japanese aged between 16-49 wearing wristwatches has plummeted from 70% in 1997 to 46% today. The culprit, if you haven’t already guessed, is the mighty cell phone.
Another study shows clock and watch sales both falling five percent in 2005 after four years of slow growth. Much more recently, this September '08 IHT article details declining watch sales - in this case due to the slumping economy. And anecdotally, a collegue says his wife is an 8th-grade teacher and some of her students can't tell time via a regular clock or watch. "If it wasn’t for their cell phone, they wouldn’t know what time it is."

So in the not-too-distant future, will watches be like Captain Kirk's Kirk antique bifocals? They weren't generally really necessary – just more of a antique instrument kept around for nostalgia's sake. I suspect people will keep them around for that reason, as well, of course as (often gaudy) status symbols

Lest you think this as death of the watch Schadenfreude, I have three working watches (depicted above), plus two or three others I just don't seem to be able to part with. Since none of them would fetch more than 50 bucks on eBay, guess I fit into the nostaglia category.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Mixing It Up With Obama

Throwing a link out to DJ Z-Trip's fantastic Obama mix , while it's still up. It's a hip-hop mix he created for some fundraisers he organized with Shepard Fairey. Having just labeled it hip-hop, it actually runs a gamut, including stuff from Pink Floyd to Public Enemy. And though it's a thematic mix, it's also tough-minded, aggressive, never slipping into the sort of sappy, reverent melange, which often results from politically oriented music. More a call to action than a praisefest. Z-Trip even breaks at one point to rebuke everyone who's not registered to vote and send them out to the lobby to sign up.

Tracklisting here.
Lots more remixes by DJ Z-Trip here , too.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A List of Demands

OK, these aren't so much demands - that's an allusion to an excellent Saul Williams song - but here's a list of 10 reforms and changes I'd like to see take place now that we have a left-of-center President and a majority Democrat Senate.  Some of these reforms may confirm the suspicions of the moment's more dismayed conservatives. They needn't worry: I'm probably further to the left of President Elect Obama anyway ... 

  1. Work with the Iraqis to plan an appropriate time to leave the country, and funnel more aid towards Afghanistan.
  2. Institute universal health care.
  3. Remove all travel restrictions for Americans and Cuban-Americans to Cuba.
  4. Reinstate trade with Cuba.
  5. Close Guantanamo Bay immediately. 
  6. Start a movement to have anti-gay marriage laws struck down as un-Constitutional. Pass legislation which legalizes gay marriage in every state in the Union. 
  7. Legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational use and determine what, if any, fronts in the "War on Drugs" are actually successful, dismantle the rest.
  8. Install a highly-qualified female Muslim to a position in high office. 
  9. Provide amnesty for illegal aliens who meet certain conditions.
  10. Reform our prisons, which are cesspools of violence and turn criminals into monsters.
If you believe in any of these causes, why not track down a related non-profit you can support or at least join a Facebook group, so you can keep track of the issues. 

And feel free to add your own "demands" in the comments, too.

Who Said It?

Last night a prominent political adviser remarked that the idea that "an African-American candidate who was aspirational and inspirational, who appealed to the better angels of our nature, is very powerful. It's a night for our country to celebrate, and for the world to celebrate."

Who made that statement after the landslide election of Barack Obama? Karl Rove.

Welcome to America 2.0

New York City is electric with celebration and joy. Smiles splitting every face on the subway, the sidewalk. Grins and shouts from cars. It's the end of one era and the fresh beginning of another.
This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other. ...
To who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope. 
That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow. 

- Barack Obama
I've always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too.
But we both recognize that, though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.
A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters.
America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States.
Let there be no reason now ... Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

- John McCain
I voted for John McCain because I admire him immensely as a person, and agree with him on many more issues than I do with Senator Obama. And I ask a rhetorical question: Can we McCain voters, without embarrassment, shed a tear of patriotic joy about the historic significance of what just happened? And I offer a short, rhetorical answer.

Yes, we can.

- Mike Potemra, The National Review

Monday, November 03, 2008

Go Vote

Obama album cover by Mark Avecedo

Mike Ladd - Nostalgialator

Nostalgialator (CD) – Definitive Jux

If you’re familiar Mike Ladd's previous work, you may know what to expect on this re-release of his excellent 2004 album, Nostalgialator. Or not. I'm not sure anything could prepare you for the disk’s opener “Dire Straits Plays Nuremberg.” Ostensibly a hip-hop album, Nostalgialator really proves a ragged pastiche that defies genre. “Sail Away Ladies” showcases a rumbling electronic blues sound, while “Trouble Shot” sounds more like Jon Spencer’s raucous brand of blues. Ripe with Ladd’s jabbing wordplay and cut through with discordant, more experimental material, Nostalgialator whiplashes between slinkier fare like “Earn to Fall” and “Off to Mars” and blaring tunes like “Afrostatic,” “Black Orientalist” and “Wildout Day,” the latter often making a political point or two along the way. “Housewives at Play” is probably the most memorable track. It sways its hips suggestively, detailing the lives of women, who are not at all quiet in their desperation, driving their family cars while “thirsty between the knees.” And on the bubbly headphone-friendly “How Electricity Really Works,” Ladd throws some wonder into the mix with all that sensuality and passion. – Robert Stribley 

This review was originally published in Skyscraper Magazine, Issue 28 (Summer 2008)

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (CD) – EMI 

For the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Nick Cave and Bad Seed violinist Warren Ellis have collaborated to create a reserved, but deeply beautiful soundtrack. The first thing soundtracks usually prove guilty of is bombast, but there’s none of that to be had here. Instead, Assassination opens with "Rather Lovely Thing," offering tender fiddle against piano, not much else, and conjuring the melancholy beauty you’d expect upon seeing Cave or Ellis’s name attached to anything. “Last Ride to KC” follows later with deep cello sawing gently against a constant buzz of violin. Simple piano and violin provide most of the instrumentation on other standout tracks like “Moving On” and “Song for Jesse,” too. So, what are we to make of the fact that two Aussies forged the soundtrack for a movie about such an iconic American figure? Well, Cave is no stranger to the genre, having penned his own outback Western, The Proposition. He and Ellis produced the soundtrack for that film, too. Next up? Cave and Ellis are working on a soundtrack for the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It’s hard to imagine two men better suited for the job. – Robert Stribley

This review was originally published in Skyscraper Magazine, Issue 28 (Summer 2008)

Underworld - Oblivion With Bells

The latest issue of Skyscraper should hit stands soon. Here are three of my reviews from the previous issue. 

Oblivion with Bells (CD) – Ato 

Overall, Oblivion With Bells is more about shy tintinnabulation than thudding beats, so club kids looking for more heaving dancefloor filler like “Pearl's Girl” or “Born Slippy” may want to look elsewhere. Still, Oblivion – Underworld's eighth album proper – does reward with subtle, sophisticated artisanship. While “Crocodile” does attempt to fill the obligatory banging club track slot, it's not the most noteworthy track, even if it does share moments of shivery elegance. More compelling, even cinematic is the gorgeous “Beautiful Burnout” throughout which Karl intones about “blood on a tissue on the floor of a train.” Over five minutes into the track, clattering percussion slips in, a spine-tingling moment during a recent Underworld concert. If you can get past Hyde's idiosyncratic rapping, “Ring Road” proves another standout track. Aboriginal rhythms and didgeridoo give way to thumping bass, as Hyde riffs on London’s multi-culti street scene. “To Heal” opens with a burst of sound that sounds alarmingly like the opening note to the Simpson’s theme. It quickly transmutes, however, into a quiet, meditative piece, which sounds more like a consciousness gradually tinkling to life. Oblivion may mystify the “lager, lager” set, but it should satisfy those who allow it to envelop them over a few listens. – Robert Stribley 

This review was originally published in Skyscraper Magazine, Issue 28 (Summer 2008)

Let 'Em Talk

Razorfish's Headlight blog focuses on digital trends in the automotive industry.

My article "Let 'Em Talk" was just published there last week. It discusses how car dealership employees use message boards and what can be learned from them - and consequently, the value for dealership employees in having a social networking outlet.