February 28, 2003

While One Hand Waves Iraq..

While making major noise with Iraq it appears that the Bush administration does have a bit of a domestic agenda. Not to improve the economy, but to crack down on the harmless makers of glass pipes. Raids Put Drug-Paraphernalia Traffickers Out of Business is the NYT headline, but word on the streets they mainly went after people selling hand blown artistic glass pipes. Guess the economy isn't bad enough and the feds want to put some more people out of business. 1984 pops up again as the spectre of war distracts us from the oppression in our back yard.

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Mix it Back to the Street

MTV isn't a name usually associated with good journalism but Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry is damn good piece. In the attention based economy music is advertising. As in a song is an advertisement for the artist. And as usual the streets understand first. Wish they got deeper into the shady economics of bootleg distribution. Black market economics, anyone know of a good study or book?

Posted by Abe at 06:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Suburbanization of Information (second life)

Just took a half an hour to get a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop (which in Manhattan means Starbucks 98% of the time). Actually sat down and read the physical newspaper for once. Forgot what a pleasure it is to sit down with the paper literally spread in front of you.

What struck me the most was the way I ended up reading articles I never would have come close to online. It felt like riding the New York subways after spending an extend period of time in segregated California towns like San Francisco and LA.

Los Angeles in particular has infrastructure of segregation brilliantly analysized by Mike Davis in _City of Quartz_ and _Ecology of Fear_. Leave your suburban castle, protected from the neighbors by a moat of grass. Jump in your air conditioned car, and if your extra paranoid you'll have an extra gate around the whole community to pass through. Jump on the freeway and move at warp speed over all that great American diversity. No need to look at it at all, be hard to if you tried. You're in a climate controlled environment sealed off from realities of poverty and diversity. Sure you might tip the valet, as you slip into your office, and say high to the Baja Fresh counterperson, but that's the limit to your exposure to people from other cultural groups.

The New York subway on the other hand is a great equalizer. On one side of you is a young millionaire stockbroker, on the other a hard working deliveryman fresh from Guatemala. Across the way a middle aged black PR impresario. Selling batteries and small toys is a man from the Fujian Provence in China. A Dominican couple snuggles together in the loveseats found at the end of each car. Every New York commute is a reminder that America is the land of diversity, the place where people struggle to chase their dreams.

Physical newspapers play a similar mixing role, especially those that strive towards mass market audience. The more people they try to attract, the broader the mix of news stories. Turning the pages and sorting the sections is a constant reinforcement of the diversity of information in the world. We may ignore large chunks of it, but somewhere inside we know that other people actually do care about the sports section, science section, international affairs or the local stories.

As more and more people go online for news, we are losing site of the mix. News aggregators, blogs, email alerts and customizable websites give us a tremendous ability to focus our information. We surround ourselves with the news that we want to hear/see/feel. We can zip around in snug little information cocoons, isolated from the harsh reality of different ways of thinking. Those nasty conflicting viewpoints are relegated to trashbin of somebody else's RSS feed.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm and information junkie and the internet is my main source of info, and will remain so for a while. The ability to focus and amplify our preferred data is a tremendous boost to our ability to learn. But there is a dark side to every advance, one that we need to anticipate and deal with. Lets remember that there is an information world outside our internet bookmarks and Amazon wish lists. And its healthy to get out and stroll through it from time to time.

Posted by Abe at 04:39 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Cyberpunk Triumphant (part 2)

Venezuela losing time - literally. So Nauru is off the map and Venezuela is out of time, technology it seems is starting to eat us alive. Venezuela's lowered the frequency of the current in its electric grid, slowing down all plugged in clocks. The irony is so thick you can taste it, and its delicious. Universal time certainly has its uses, but it also puts us into lockstep with a relentless industrial rhythm. It feels good to see time lose a small battle to human nature.

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February 27, 2003

Divergent Emergence

We are not ants! on Stephen Johnson's site is probably the best starting point for the whole "Emergent Democracy" online conversation that Joi Ito launched. I've avoided commenting on it so far because of the ironic fact that this conversation on emergence was divergent to the point that it feels impossible to keep track of where its going. The dialogue is splattered across the web and conference call "happenings" like it was created by an epileptic toddler with a paintball gun.

This interview with Eric Bonabeau cut through the abstraction beautifully. Suddenly it became clear that this sort of divergent behavior is an integral part of the process of emergence. The discussion Ito launched has proceed into all sorts of conversational tangents, paths, whirlpools and eddies. Most won't lead far, but one or two will develop into a strong idea path. The resulting concepts will have no clear author, but there is a good chance the ideas will be strong. The parallels to ants finding the closest food source are strong.

Of course as some people have hollered, humans are not ants. But its equally obvious that we are capable of emergent behavior. Whether you can call the results "intelligent" is another question entirely. The other big unknown is what happens when humans become self aware of our emergent behavior. Do we have the ability to realize our emergent paths and redirect them? It strikes as similar to Asimov's psychohistory and quite frankly I don't think we have the tools to answer the questions yet. That doesn't make it any less fascinating of course. We'll see where it all leads.

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Reconstituted States

Adam Greenfield drops An Open-Source Constitution for Post-National States over on his excellent v-2 site. Tasty food for thought, although to be perfectly honest I'm not quite sure how it relates to the real world. And for god's sake if the goal is to move forward why hold onto the regressive concept of the state?

I've never drank the social contract Kool-Aid. There is something deeply disturbing about the fact that governments somehow are vested with the ability to control everything that goes on with a give territory. And as a reluctant citizen of the Bush-Cheney fiefdom I don't need to venture far to find an example of why vesting large amounts of power in Governments is problematic. If we are looking to build a better way organize society isn't it time we look beyond the state?

Posted by Abe at 12:17 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

February 26, 2003

Burst a word

I may feel that bloggers have a big time overexaggerated vision of their worth as a media, but the rapid development of blog based datamining tools is pretty impressive. Daypop Top Word Bursts is a pretty cool social indicator. And it also shows just how marginal blogs are at the moment. These are words that a very small subset of the population is talking about, not what people are thinking about in general. Still its a great resource for info junkies like me. Should be interesting to compare to the Lycos 50, Yahoo Buzz Index and random Google droppings.

Posted by Abe at 10:18 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 25, 2003

State of the Remix

Altered State of the Union

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February 23, 2003

White Out

The new White Stripes album, Elephant is loose on the web. What can I say, they are the only brilliant rock and roll artist out there making new music.

First time I heard them was in the Verb cafe in Williamsburg. "Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)". It was almost a shock, first time in years I heard a new rock song I wanted (needed) to know more about. Thought that change was in the air, rock was not dead. Wrong. The White Stripes are rocks last gasp of brilliance, they blow away the rest of the competition by 20 years. And the new album is as good the previous ones. The cleverist lyrics, the masterful electric guitar, no bass. Stripped down raw rock. They mix it up a touch on this one, piano and an occasional bassline. But the essence is the same. "There's No Home For You Here" is the early favorite.

Of course you can't buy it in any stores for more then a month, and thats with a new pushed up release date. The record labels minds must be rotting even further. I couldn't buy this thing if I tried, file sharing is my only recourse. Perhaps the labels are begging us to kill them and put them out of their suffering. Its one thing to have a competitor with better prices and a quicker delivery system, but when the same competitor is beating you to the market by 2 months you know you are in trouble.

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Real Men Know When to Pull Out

wake the world - copyright free anti-war posters

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Data Failure in the Offshore Future

Nauru loses contact with the world. WTF? This is some scifi shit. If William Gibson was right when he said that "the future is already here, itís just not evenly distributed" then we are in for some interesting times in our over mined globally warmed over future.

There was a great article a few years back that gave the full Nauru backstory, phosphate strip mining destroyed the entire ecosystem except for a tiny ring around the coast. The island was turned into a one stop offshore banking capital. Thought it was in Wired, but I can't find it in the archives or through Google, anyone remember where it appeared?

Posted by Abe at 12:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 22, 2003

Political Mapage

So you want to know my politics? The Political Compass puts me as being strongly (but not extremely) libertarian (anti-authoritarian) on social/political issues and very close to the center leaning slightly to the right on economic issues. Closest label is anarchist. They're probably 75% right, their labeling system seems a touch dated, not sure my true politics would fit very neatly on their 2-D graph.

Posted by Abe at 04:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Pirate" Maps

Where The Pirates Are is another interactive map for today, this one showing "piracy" rates for various countries.

Very interesting and highly informative, despite the fact that it reports some extremely dubious figures. All the "loss" figures are a load of crap. There is no way most people would really be buying all that software and movies at the official prices. How many people who are willing to download Photoshop for free would pay $600 for it? In Pakistan? It hasn't even been proven that file sharing and "piracy" are actually causing any losses at all. Last I checked having a bigger audience/user base was a good thing.

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Underground Distortion

The Real Underground is an excellent interactive map that compares the official London Underground map with the geographic reality. Skip the intro. [ via v-2 ]

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February 20, 2003

What's Going On???

A year and change ago an all star cover of Marvin Gaye's classic What's Going On was released. It featured the biggest names in American pop music, Britney Spears, Ja Rule, Jennifer Lopez, Nelly, Christena Aguilera, etc, etc. Huge stars. Lots of them. All to benifit an AIDS charity. How often have you heard it on the radio?

Marvin's masterpiece happens to be one of the best antiwar songs ever made. "You see war is not the answer / For only love can conquer hate" (sung by the Backstreet Boys in the new version). Is that too risky of a message be played on the radio? The song peaked at #27 on the Billboard charts. Not awful, but at the same time completely out of line with where a record like that could go if marketed correctly and given proper airplay? Guess the music execs are just too busy whining about file sharing and avoiding thinking of new business models to stand up and properly market what they've got.

Posted by Abe at 04:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Right On, Move On

Virtual March on Washington Headquarters. Anti war gets digital.

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February 19, 2003

Subcomandante Insurgente

Once again Subcomandante Marcos addresses the news with the strongest, clearest and most poetic voice around. Not sure where the english version is on the web so I'm placing it here.

"This is the war of fear.

Its objective is not to defeat Hussein in Iraq. Its goal is not to do
away with Al Qaeda. Nor does it seek to liberate the people of Iraq. It
is not justice, nor democracy, nor liberty which drives this terror. It
is fear.

Fear that the entire world will refuse to accept a policeman which tells
it what it should do, how it should do it and when it should do it. It
is fear.

Fear that the world will refuse to be treated like plunder.

Fear of that human essence which is called rebellion.

Fear that the millions of human beings who are mobilizing today
throughout the world will be victorious in raising the cause of peace."

Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN and the FZLN
************************************
Translated by irlandesa


http://www.fzln.org.mx


Communique' from the EZLN which was read during the demonstration in
Rome, Italy, on February 15, 2003. It was read by Heidi Giuliani, the
mother of activist Carlo, who was assassinated by the Italian police in
Genoa in July of 2001.

Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Mexico.


February 15, 2003.


Brothers and Sisters of Rebel Italy:

Greetings from the men, women, children and old ones of the Zapatista
Army of National Liberation. Our word is made cloud in order to cross
the ocean and to reach the worlds which are in your hearts.

We know that today demonstrations are being held throughout the world in
order to say "No" to Bush's war against the people of Iraq.

And it must be said like that, because it is not a war by the North
American people, nor is it a war against Saddam Hussein.

It is a war by money, which is represented by Se~or Bush (perhaps in
order to emphasize that he is completely lacking in intelligence). And
it is against humanity, whose fate is now at stake on the soil of Iraq.

This is the war of fear.

Its objective is not to defeat Hussein in Iraq. Its goal is not to do
away with Al Qaeda. Nor does it seek to liberate the people of Iraq. It
is not justice, nor democracy, nor liberty which drives this terror. It
is fear.

Fear that the entire world will refuse to accept a policeman which tells
it what it should do, how it should do it and when it should do it. It
is fear.

Fear that the world will refuse to be treated like plunder.

Fear of that human essence which is called rebellion.

Fear that the millions of human beings who are mobilizing today
throughout the world will be victorious in raising the cause of peace.

Because the victims of those bombs which will be launched over Iraqi
lands will not only be Iraqi civilians, children, women, men and old
ones, whose deaths will be merely an accident in the headlong, arbitrary
path of he who, from his side, calls on God as an alibi for destruction
and death.

The person leading this stupidity (which is supported by Berlusconi in
Italy, Blair in England and Aznar in Spain), Se~or Bush, used money to
buy that power which he is trying to hurl upon the people of Iraq.

Because it must not be forgotten that Se~or Bush is the head of the
self-proclaimed world police, thanks to a fraud which was so immense that
it could only be covered up by the shadows of the twin towers in New
York, and by the blood of the victims of the terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2001.

Neither Hussein nor the Iraqi people matter to the North American
government. What matters to it is demonstrating that it can commit its
crimes in any part of the world, at any moment, and that it can do so
with absolute impunity.

The bombs which are to fall in Iraq seek also to fall on all the nations
of earth. They would also fall on our hearts, and thus universalize that
fear which they carry within.

This war is against all humanity, against all honest men and women.

This war seeks that we should know fear, that we should believe that he
who has money and military force also has right.

This war hopes that we shall shrug our shoulders, that we shall make
cynicism a new religion, that we shall remain silent, that we shall
conform, that we shall resign, that we shall surrender...that we shall
forget...

That we shall forget Carlo Giuliani, the rebel of Genoa.

For the zapatistas, we are the men who dream our dead. And today our
dead are dreaming a rebel "NO."

For us there is but one dignified word and one conscientious action in
the face of this war. The word "NO" and the rebel action.

That is why we must say "NO" to war.

A "NO" without conditions or excuses.

A "NO" without half measures.

A "NO" untarnished by gray areas.

A "NO" with all the colors which paint the world.

A "NO" which is clear, categorical, resounding, definitive, worldwide.

What is at stake in this war is the relationship between the powerful and
the weak. The powerful is powerful because he makes us weak. He lives
off our work, off our blood. That is how he grows fat while we languish.

The powerful have invoked God at their side in this war, so that we will
accept their power and our weakness as something that has been
established by divine plan.

But there is no god behind this war other than the god of money, nor any
right other than the desire for death and destruction.

The only strength of the weak is their dignity. That is what inspires
them to fight in order to resist the powerful, in order to rebel.

Today there is a "NO" which shall weaken the powerful and strengthen the
weak: the "NO" to war.

Some might ask whether the word which has convened so many throughout the
world will be capable of preventing the war or, once it has begun, of
stopping it.

But the question is not whether we can change the murderous march of the
powerful. No. The question we should be asking is: could we live with
the shame of not having done everything possible to prevent and stop this
war?

No honest man or woman can remain silent and indifferent at this moment.

All of us, each one in our own voice, in our own way, in our own
language, by our own action, must say "NO."

And, if the powerful wish to universalize fear through death and
destruction, we must universalize the "NO."

Because the "NO" to this war is also a "NO" to fear, a "NO" to
resignation, a "NO" to surrender, a "NO" to the forgetting, a "NO" to
renouncing our humanness.

It is a "NO" for humanity and against neoliberalism.

We would hope that this "NO" would transcend borders, that it would sneak
past customs, that it would overcome differences of language and culture,
and that it would unite the honest and noble part of humanity, which is
also, and it must not be forgotten, the majority.

Because there are negations which unite and dignify.

Because there are negations which affirm men and women in the best of
themselves, that is, in their dignity.

Today the skies of the world are clouded over with warplanes, with
missiles - which call themselves "intelligent" merely so that they can
conceal the stupidity of those who are in charge of them, and those who,
like Berlusconi, Blair and Aznar, justify them - with satellites which
point out where there is life and where there will be death.

And the land of the earth is tarnished with machines of war which would
paint the earth with blood and shame.

The storm comes.

But dawn shall come only if the words made cloud in order to cross
borders is turned into a "NO" made stone, and they make an opening in the
darkness, a crevice through which tomorrow can slip.

Brothers and sisters of rebel and dignified Italy:

Please accept this "NO" which we, the zapatistas, the smallest, are
sending you.

Allow our "NO" to unite with yours and with all the "NO's" which are
flourishing today throughout the earth.

Viva the rebellion which says "NO!"

Death to death!


>From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

By the Comandancia General of the
Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee of the
Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Mexico, February of 2003.

Posted by Abe at 10:08 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Nothing Like a Clean Brain...

Brainwashing America

Posted by Abe at 07:45 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 18, 2003

One Google to Rule Them All

Everybody loves Google, yes? It makes the internet work, answers our questions, plus its friendly and pop-up free. Brand Channel just named it the brand of the year, number one the world over. Apple built Google right into the interface to its new browser. Google is rapidly becoming essential, perhaps even omnipotent. And that is the problem. Google is rapidly become the biggest threat to the free internet around.

Saw Howard Reingold speak the other night, at KQED's Media Salon. Towards the end of the discussion, the moderator (whose name escapes me, sorry) posed a very interesting question. He mention that despite being in the television business, he often wishes that TV was never invented. The negative impact it has on culture far out weighs its benefits, at least in his opinion. The question he asked was:

"What can we do now in order to prevent us from looking back in 10 years and wishing the internet never existed?"

My head rolled around that a bit, as the conversation continued. All the usual fears of media monopolies, baby bells, and governments big brothering the internet to further their powers. All legitimate outside threats, but I wasn't getting too worried. The architecture of the internet still encourages free expression, and I've yet to see a model by which any of these forces could really seize control. Not that its impossible, but I'm not losing any sleep, yet.

My mind kept racing. Where was there a legitimate threat of the internet being controlled? It hit me. Google. The most powerful address online, the most powerful organization online. And we happily give it this power. For good reason too, its the best search engine around. But as its powers increase so do the threats it presents.

We rely upon Google to return legitimate answers to our search queries. And its won our trust by returning good results. So far its all good. But Google has the power to alter it search results. It can subtly send people to websites in favor of one political viewpoint. If Google blocks a website, how easily could we find it? Its easy to put something up online, but its worthless if no one can find it.

Search engines are highly centralized. There are only a handful of companies offering the service. As the volume of information grows it is likely that it will cost even more to start up a new search engine. The result? An industry that is relatively easy to control. Control Google and you've got the internet in a choke hold. Control both Google and the few companies competing with it and you've got the internet on lockdown.

Google has already shown a few warning signs. They've caved into pressure from the Scientologists and China and restricted search results. They leave all moral decisions to one of their founders. So far he seems to be doing a decent job, but how long can that last? What happens when it becomes a publicly traded corporation? And its profits start declining? What happens if the FBI knocks on its door and asks it to restrict access to "subversive" websites.

The more we love Google the more power we give it to. Its a classic catch-22, use Google and it gains the power to use us. And more importantly it increases the ability of other powers to use Google to use us. And as the internet becomes increasingly corporate and governments see it more and more of a threat, the risks increase. Less then a century ago, radio and tv were both seen as liberating, democratic technologies. And when used right they can be. But they are rarely used right nowadays. Lets make sure the internet doesn't fall into the same trap.

What can we do? Strengthening Google's competitors might help a bit, except it means living with inferior search results. But if one wants to hotbot will allow you to search using 4 different engines, one is Google, but Inktomi, FAST and Teoma are also available.

One idea for the lazyweb is a decentralized distributed computing search engine. The processing and storing of search results can be done on millions of computers on their downtime ala SETI@home. (On a side note, its pretty pitiful that the most popular distributed computing project around is devoted to something as impractical and absurd as the search for extraterrestrial life). The mechanics of such a system are beyond me, so I can only hope it's a possibility.

Until then all we really have is faith that Google and company will return reliable results. "Information wants to be free", yeah I hope so. Its pretty obvious that a lot of people want to control information. And if we want it to be free then we need to keep building the tools that will keep it that way.

Posted by Abe at 11:22 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 17, 2003

Rise Up Streetside

A New Power in the Streets front page New York Times. Right on, for once street protest is making an impact on the traditional media. Here's to more to come.

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February 16, 2003

Impeach!

Can't make it the protests in SF today, but I am behind my computer, so here is me playing my part.

Merriam-Webster definition 2 of impeach: to cast doubt on; especially : to challenge the credibility or validity of.

As the Bush administration continues to manipulate the media like a virtuoso, its time to start question their actions. To cast doubt upon Bush.

These images are designed to multiply, to spread throughout our visual frames of reference. They are released to the public domain. They can be used freely for whatever purpose you so desire. They are free. You can alter, use and share them at your leisure and/or haste. High quality vector art is available to all. The Bush administration PR machine is high gear, lets get the opposition marketing operation rolling in response.

www.abe1x.org/impeachbush/

Spread the word in the name of freedom.

Posted by Abe at 05:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 15, 2003

Small Bets, Big Future?

Interesting essay about the advantages of small bets vs big bets. A little light on the detail, but perhaps the start of an interesting analysis.

Posted by Abe at 07:34 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 14, 2003

Blogs Over Baghdad

Where is Raed ? is a blog from Baghdad. Good stuff. Bush and co want us to forget that Iraq is filled with people just like us. This is an excellent remedy. Spread the word.

Posted by Abe at 03:08 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 13, 2003

Movin Forward

Pazz & Jop 2002 is out. Damn what a bad year for music. Singles list is ok though. 2003 has to be better, 50 cent maybe over hyped but his album is still better then almost anything to drop in 2002...

As for me the album list is here and the singles here.

On a related note, there is a good interview with the CEO of Big Champagne. They're a P2P research company with the task of convincing the majors that music belongs online.

Posted by Abe at 03:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 11, 2003

Jane Jacobs Reflects

Steven Johnson links to a great interview with Jane Jacobs. Ideas are aging slowly, but she's still relevant. Maybe a touch pessimistic, but relevant.

Posted by Abe at 04:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 10, 2003

Street Art Salvation

Wooster Collective is a great NYC street art blog, well worth a visit (daily?). No 47 stickers up there yet though...

Posted by Abe at 08:42 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 07, 2003

The Matrix Marketing Machine Hits Another

The first of a series of animated Matrix backstories hits the web. Now this is good marketing, hook the Libertarian party up with these cats... Like music videos it looks like movies are moving toward a point where the advertising is an art form in itself. Its a lesson the ad world needs to learn quick in this Tivo age. If the ad is good enough, people will want to watch it.

Posted by Abe at 04:28 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

The Worst PR Stunt Ever???

NY Daily News has a story on what could be the most retarded PR manuever in recent history. The Libertarian party handing out toy guns in Harlem. What??? No surprise they got driven out of town...

Posted by Abe at 04:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 06, 2003

Digital Ronin: Location Update

If you happen to be keeping track, the physical location of by semi-nomadic body is currently sunny San Francisco, California. Be out here a month or two. Contact info the same as always.

Posted by Abe at 08:55 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

One Step Closer to New World Trade Order

So the contest is down to two. Two plans left for the rebuilding of the world trade center site. Libeskind vs. THINK. Herbert Muschamp puts for a forceful argument for THINK in the NYT. The core of his argument? That Libeskind's design is violent and hawkish. An argument that I've seen put forth a few times. And an argument that completely mistifies me.

Just how can a building, a static object (on a landscape scale), is not a weapon of war. The thing doesn't move, its got a vertical garden growing in it, how is it violent? Edgy and sharp, yes. But to compare a building to armed combat means taking architecture a bit too seriously. A skyscraper is an environment, not an action.

I'm not a huge fan of Libeskind's proposal, but its certainly not an attrocious act of war the way Muschamp wants to frame it. It's sharp, with a crystalline beauty. Its main flaw to me is the sunken monument, which cuts much of the structure off from the street. It is dark and overwealmed by the weight of concrete, a sharp contrast to the lightness of the thin tower above it.

A far better binary between Libeskind and THINK's projects is inner vs outer beauty. Libeskind is all about looking good in reality. THINK's beauty is conceptual. Its a beautiful theory of a building. A dream of a structure. You can play with it in your head endless, reshaping it into wonderous configurations. With Libeskind you get what you see. Sounds a bit shallow, except when you factor in that wonderous concept of reality. Theory like THINK's building rarely translates well into the real world of concrete, steel and glass.

It is reality that makes this binary different then the classic "style vs. substance". Libeskind has the style, but it also has the physical substance. This a building that can be built sucessfully. I will look similar to its final plans. THINK's theory is strong, but can it be built right? My bet is no? Not after the government, contractors, leaseholders and taxpayers are through with it. Yes if the dice fall perfectly, repeatedly, it could be fantastic. But I think reality will show us its a lot more fun to talk about the concept then actually create and live with it.

Posted by Abe at 08:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 03, 2003

As the Musical Oil Runs Dry...

Bruce Sterling does one of his classic dissections of the news for his Viridian pseudo cult/ mailing list. This time its a Fortune article on how oil has actually ruined Venezuela. Apparently discovering a large abundance of a valuable natural resource actually tends to harm countries economies in the long run. When one product is producing all the wealth the net result is that proper economic development is ignored as everyone takes the path of easy money.

Why work hard developing a strong product when you can just siphon off some of the massive cash flow from the oil wells? Its the classic putting all your eggs in one basket deal. And history shows it to be a path towards failure. Venezuela is just the latest example. Saudi Arabia could be next...

Even more interesting to me though is the parallels it draws with the music industry. For the past 50 years or so record labels have been making all their money from one resource: their control over the distribution of records and cds. What gets overlooked is the fact that the record labels are basically running a handful of business, only one of which, distribution, directly makes money.

The first business the labels are in is filtering, or as they call it A&R. There are thousands upon thousands of musicians out there. Many of them just plain suck. Most are decent but nothing special. A few are amazing, the ones that make you cry, the ones that write songs that get you through lifes worst moments, the ones that make the party go out of control. The labels are out there looking for those artists. They don't bat 1000 that's for sure, but they do a much better job then many give them credit for. You certainly don't have the time to listen to every band in the country do you?

Business #1 = filtering

Once the A&R cats have found the talent, the next step is artist development. This involves two businesses in itself. One is providing a unique form of high risk loan, in the form of an advance on royalties. These advances are often criticized because of the way they can be used to manipulate artists. And they often are misleading and exploitative. But what is forgotten is just how risky these advances are. Would you lend a band $400,000 to record an album, higher stylists and party like rap stars? And in the off chance you would lend that money, would you agree that they only need to pay you back if they produce a hit record? If you were stupid or bold enough to lend that money, odds are your terms would be pretty exploitive too...

Business #2 = high risk loans for artists

The other side of artist development is management. Guiding the band to making good decisions, writing good music and winning fans. This role is usually played by a person or group outside of the record label. Too much work for the lazy mofos high off of cd sales... But the labels do manage to a degree, helping pick producers, studios, music videos, etc. And they are in pole position to do more.

Business #3 = artist management

Once the artists are developed enough (maybe) its time to present them to the public. Here is where the labels excel. Marketing. Lifestyle manufacture. Selling the concept. Inside any record label is a world class marketing company. One that could charge big time dollars for their services. They sell artists, trends and fashions to the world. And are damn good at it. And they don't charge for it. Instead they take their cash from the CD sales. How nice. Worked great for decades. But now its just retarded. CD sales are going to hit 0 in the next 10 years. But the demand for high quality lifestyle marketing is just going to increase. This is the record industries parachute, perhaps they'll wake up soon enough to use it...

Business # 4 = marketing

The final stage of record industries current business model is the selling of physical product, at the present CDs. It's been enormously profitable for years. But it only worked because it required an extensive and expensive manufacturing and distribution network. And that network is no longer needed. MP3's and internet have made the whole process practically frictionless, and free. It costs $0 to make a copy of an MP3, and to try and make money selling a product that costs nothing is plain idiotic. That doesn't seem to stop the record industry... The distribution business is over. Dead. But the music industry is not. They have skills that are in demand.

Its time the record companies wake up and reformulate their business plans. The MP3 is the start of a new era, a new way of making music. And there is plenty of money to be made. The longer the current market leaders cling to their old ways the closer they get to death. They can make money in the new system or die in the old. Some one will step up and take their place. Get rich or die trying to cling to old traditions. Which do you prefer? There is a future to build, I know which way I'm heading.

Posted by Abe at 03:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 01, 2003

The Rocks/Sucks Google Machine

Jeff Jarvis pushes some good insite into using Google to investigate brands. Search for band and "sucks" and see what comes up. The nastier the results the worse the brand.

Already works ok, could work a lot better with some concious effort. Have an awful experience with Charmin? Whip up a quick "Charmin Sucks" web page or blog post. Get an XML RFC geek to make it all machine readable for extra credit. And let Mr. Google do the hard work.

And since we like to say nice things too, don't forget those "Charmin Rocks" pages, for the days when it saves your ass. Or maybe "Charmin is the bomb", or "Charmin is the shit" but maybe that's going to far. No, the key is that every one uses the same words or else it falls apart. "Rocks" and "sucks" are the popular choice, live with it, embrace them and use them in war on bad brands.

For those who want to go the extra mile, a few ideas. A rocks/sucks index page, where you can see the pros and cons of the brand lined right up against each other. Or a handy rocks/sucks page generator app. If it was really slick it'd two way link all the relevent "sucks" pages. That's like giving google a blowjob you'd go straight to the top of the list...

And there you have it, the Rocks/Sucks Machine. Make it, use it and spread the meme.

Posted by Abe at 03:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Linkage

newsQuakes is an interesting little app, with some potent potential. Very little documentation on it, but it filters news articles and maps them to of all things a map. It gives an instant geographic representation of what region of the world is in the news. Needs development though, it seems to only react to country names, and is presently mapping all US news to Los Angeles on the map for some reason. [via Jon's Radio]

The Guardian has an excellent article on the future of blogging, including the rumor that AOL is about to introduce a blogging feature...

Same paper also has an excellent round up of the NY music scene. As much as I love NY I don't buy the argument that this is the future of music. More like an exhibition game before some real innovators step up and twist heads into new sonics.

Posted by Abe at 03:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack