Thursday, June 28, 2007

Video-A-Go-Go-Away III

Atomic TV Vol. 2
A media maxi-pad absorbing the continual flow of pop culture

A Tom Warner/Scott Huffines Production
"Best Worst TV... One of the most disturbed wee-hours offerings on Baltimore City's cable-access channel... in-your-shocked-face amateurism is what Atomic TV is all about!" -- Baltimore City Paper

Episode #3
The "Viewer Discretion Is Strongly Advised" Episode

If you are easily offended, don't watch this episode that's hosted by Todd Stachowski, Rock Star and his lovely lady Gina, taped in the men's room at a Heavy Metal bar... Enjoy "Making Art with Tape," by filmmaker Lee Boot... See highlights from the blaxploitation film career of The Man Called Dolemite, Rudy Ray Moore... Musical appearances by the thought-provoking (well... at least provoking) Rock Stars, Baltimore's lamented, late-great purveyors of punk-pop, Berserk, and reigning bargain-bin masters of melodious moxie, Garage Sale. (60 min.)

Episode #4

A Videoscrambled omelette... Ham-fisted and extra-cheesy bits and pieces from the Atomic TV Archives... easy on the eyes like the picture menu at Denny's, and just as intellectually filling, passing through you as easy as the liquid bowel movement you have after a greasy spoon breakfast with extra onions. Watch vintage retro kids commercials, celebrity pitchmen Liberace and Jack Webb, General Motors' dream of a mechanized utopia, short film work from local artiste Bump Stadelman, trains-planes-automobiles and ammo-blammo boy toys, incredibly strange music videos, strippers, white trash karaoke rituals, and more! (60 min.)

Atomic Books
Literary Finds for Mutated Minds

1018 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

On Records as Physical Objects

In the last month or so, Rhino Records went through a round of layoffs. A friend had to let go a couple of members on her team, and another friend working there (who had been nominated for an important award for package design) lost her job. A friend who doesn't work there -- but who designs record covers -- is teaching himself Flash because he's not sure he'll have work in the future. And one friend (OK, one of the previous friends) posits that the decline in record sales in the face of digital downloads is largely a construct of record company executives, who have an interest in music being largely intellectual property -- not a physical object. If music is a digital file, it removes the need for packaging, for presentation, for representation. And costs decline.

When we saw the transition from record albums -- LPs -- to CDs, we saw packaging take a hit. As physical sales continue to decline, we see notable record stores closing. And in a recent attempt to help preserve the presence of record packaging, even in the form of CDs, I bought two records physically -- not online... and found them wanting.

Is the record industry killing itself? Today, New Record Day, I bought two CDs, the new Beastie Boys instrumental record, and the first Bad Brains record in ages. (I wanted to get Tim Armstrong's solo album, which came out awhile ago, but none of the two stores I went to stocked it. I'll buy it online, perhaps digitally given the outcome of this experiment.) I bought the CDs for at least $4 more than I could have digitally online -- the Beasties CD ran $7 higher (Both sold for $9.99 on iTunes, and I paid $14.99 and $17.99, respectively.). What did I get for my financial troubles? A piece of plastic that I quickly digitized in order to listen to, catalog, and document.

Neither CD came with a booklet, or liner notes of note. The Beasties CD included personnel and production credits, and the Bad Brains CD included same, as well as a thank-you list. So I turned back to my online options. In iTunes, the Bad Brains record came with a "digital booklet." The Beasties record did not. I bought the Bad Brains record again -- for $9.99, making my total purchase of the recording $24.98 (for the physical and digital versions).

What did I get? Nothing. The "digital booklet" was a four-page PDF document that consisted of almost exactly the same information that I got with the physical CD. (I'll upload it and when I have time.)

What did I learn? Two things. One, Digital booklets in iTunes are neither a value add nor a differentiator. If you buy online, you'll either get no information, or the little info included in the physical product. Two, the record industry continues to move online clumsily and to its own detriment.

The point of moving online is that you can offer more... and better. File compression and audio quality aside -- which I believe remains a big issue -- online, you can offer more information, more design, and more context. More of a product. Yet labels do not. That leads me to wonder whether the business concerns are less about costs of production and sales declines due to file sharing... and more about IP in general. If the music is reduced to file-level IP, and other content is removed, what do we lose? Information, design, and context. Limiting the amount of content available with digital downloads and physical CDs isn't about the cost of producing atoms and matter -- it's about the costs of producing content after the recording is made. Limit content, limit brain power and people hours. Then let the staff or contractors go!

I've recently begun to document the VHS tapes I'm transferring to DVD for personal and archival use. The fact that I have to put this text content somewhere -- all gleaned from physical packaging -- irritates me. Today, there's no reason it can't be included in the physical CD or DVD... or online file -- in an easily readable, transferrable, and usable format.

The fact that we collect album cover knockoffs (Full disclosure: I sang in the Anchormen, the first knockoff featured on that site.), and celebrate classic album cover design (Thanks for the tip, Bud Plant!) indicates that it's important.

Why is the album cover -- package -- going away?

And so I have the following recommendations. If, record industry, you want me to buy records:

  • Help musicians make music I want to buy.
  • Offer it a variety of formats.
  • Make physical records that are worth buying more than digital files.
  • Make digital downloads that include more information, design, and content than their physical counterparts -- or the same amount as.
  • Allow transferral and annotation -- and other user-generated content-oriented opportunities.

If you don't, chances are that I won't buy a physical record again. I'm not sure that's what either of us wants.

Video-A-Go-Go-Away II

Atomic TV Vol. 1
A media maxi-pad absorbing the continual flow of pop culture

Episode #1
The Grape Ape Episode

This episode's better than the titillating touch of a doting Doberman's tongue... You'll meet Grape Ape, a hippie burnout who survived an atomic blast to become the Magilla Gorilla of rock and roll... Do the Scoliosis Dance... Learn Good Posture Habits... Dip into the tasty hip-hop aural treats of Japanese musical duo Cibo Matto... Surrender to local heart-throbs, The Put-Outs, in their "Sky Is Falling" video... And, as always, thrill to our classic "It's Intermission Time" snackbar ads and "Coming Attractions" trailers and retro commercials... (60 min.)

Episode #2
Jim Rose Circus Sideshow

We interviewed Jim Rose and filmed highlights of his latest freakshow -- Mexican Transvestite Wrestlers, Sumo Wrasslin' She-Babes, The Enigma, Mr. Lifto, The Armenian Rubber Man... See 60s strippers shaking their shag-a-delic money-makers!... See Pouty Beatniks sulk to John Barry jazz riffs... See the Archies cover the Sex Pistols... Lezzie Lick Flick Movie Trailers!... Skizz Cyzyk's animated short My Little Pickle Love Song... Plus, we'll throw in our buxotic go-go Disclaimer Girl, Mychelle! (60 min.)

Atomic Books
Literary Finds for Mutated Minds

1018 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201


Using my new Sony Disc Burner, I'm recording old VHS tapes to DVD for personal archival use. This series of posts will document the tapes I'm transferring.

The Best of Flipside Video #5
Seven Seconds
Youth Brigade

Youth Brigade

Sink with California
Boys in the Brigade
Fight to Unite
Men in Blue
Sound & Fury
Did You Wanna Die
What're You Fighting For
You Don't Understand

Seven Seconds

Fuck Your America
Drug Control
Out of Touch
Young Til I Die
In Your Face
Regress, No Way!
99 Red Balloons
Bottomless Pit
Out of Touch
Spread It
Fight Against the Lies
Not Just Boys Fun
Put These Words to Music
How D'ya Think You'd Feel?
New Wind
Fight or Unite

Live in L.A.!
60 mins.

Send S.A.S.E. for catalog of videos, CDs, mags, etc.
Flipside, POB 60790
Pasadena, CA 91116

7 59528 30173 0

Sunday, June 24, 2007

My Reading List

I've started to manage my reading pile using Good Reads, on the invite of one Rick Bruner. It's a pretty cool tool.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Convergence vs. Divergence

In the June 17 edition of Ad Age, marketing guru Al Ries contributes a column entitled "Another product of convergence, the iPhone is destined for failure."

I guess I'm not surprised. As gaga as everyone is going over this thing, it could be somewhat fashionable to pooh-pooh it. If the iPhone fizzles, "I told you so" will be worth its weight in gold. And if it doesn't, no harm in trying, eh?

But the column raises a couple of interesting ideas. One, Ries makes clear the difference between convergence devices -- tools that do multiple things -- and divergence devices -- tools that do one thing very, very well, setting it far apart from competing devices. The first iPod was a divergence device, Ries contends. Two, Ries suggests that convergence devices are destined to fail.

To make that case, he cites interactive television and media-center PCs. And -- this is what I love/hate about his argument -- he says that convergence failures are never seen as conceptual failures, but as execution failures? Huh? That's kind of like saying someone's being defensive, and when they say, "No, I'm not," responding by saying... "See!?!"

Of course there've been execution failures. But I don't think it's farfetched to think that interactive TV and media-center PCs (or centralized PC control of multiple devices or systems in the home, even lighting and heating) is a possibility in the future. What's to gain in writing off those ideas because no one's been able to execute on it yet?


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Products I Love XXII

Books, records, and the like are my residential albatross. I have many. And every time I move -- and occasionally more frequently -- I yearn for fewer possessions and more open space where I live. Video tapes are one of the more egregious frustrations. While I love the packaging elements of CDs, records, books, and the like, VHS slip cases are next to useless. The amount of information they provide and the real estate given to artistic graphics and content are little -- and the tapes just have too much of a footprint.

So I'm thrilled silly to have recently purchased a Sony Disc Burner. My new VRD-MC3 has the footprint about twice the size of my new DVD player, bought in January. It has multiple jacks -- you can record from a VCR, a video camera, a computer, or memory cards. And it has just two buttons: record and stop.

While it took me awhile to realize that the S-Video cable trumps the RCA cables in terms of VCR output, I'm now up and running, recording an old video tape that I'm not entirely sure I need to keep around physically. That tape is a recording of a talk I gave at a Neill Corp. conference -- Serious Business -- more than five years ago.

On the packaging tip, the hardware comes with a CD with software on it. That CD includes the operating instructions as a PDF file. iTunes often features virtual booklets with albums that you download, but I don't understand why every electronic media -- books, records, videos -- doesn't include the physical packaging, information, and content as electronic files on the media. Seems like a no brainer!

DVDs take up eminently less room than VHS tapes, and I have high hopes that this tool will help free up some packing boxes -- and valuable space in my apartment. I can always make copies of the DVDs. I've yet to test the quality of the burned DVD, but I have high expectations.

Has anyone else used this tool? It's my latest geek freak.

2007 AltWeekly Awards Winners

The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies announced the winners of the 2007 AltWeekly Awards late last week. I was a judge in the Website Content Feature category. Congratulations to the winners!

History Bits

It's a big day in media and technology history:

On this day in 1970, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) was signed. In 1934, the Communications Act of 1934 established the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In 1914, a radiotelegraphic link was established between Germany and the U.S. and German Emperor Wilhelm II and US President Woodrow Wilson marked the event by exchanging telegrams. In 1912, the eight-hour work day was established in the U.S. ... And in 1846, the first baseball game under recognizable modern rules is played in Hoboken, New Jersey. Happy Birthday ... Guy Lombardo (1902), Moe Howard (1897) and Blaise Pascal (1623).

[via IDG Connect's email newsletter]

Monday, June 11, 2007

Covering All the Baseball III

I just got my contributor's copies of Zisk #14 in the mail.

My essay is on the last page.

The first three Media Dieticians who request a copy get one in the mail for free.

Five Conferences a Year

I used to go to a lot of conferences. A lot. Speaking, going, transcribing. Tonight, I made a list of the five (5) conferences I'd go to if I could only go to five a year -- for someone I work with. They are:

Outside of the US, I'd also vie to go to:

What are your conference must go's in your world of work?

A Stitch in Town

Shannon Okey's opening a store! Stitch Cleveland will open in Ohio later this month. Congratulations to all involved!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Excerpts from a Notebook

Tidying up the front room this evening after boxing up some books for storage, I came across an old notebook from January-March 2001. Not all of the contents were notable -- most of the notebook was blank -- but the following fragments might be worth documenting. Text in parentheses was added at the time of posting.


  • You can't time comfort.
  • I can't tell if it's strange because I'm myself.

(Song Segment)
There's a man by a table and he's willing and he's able to eat that cake
There's a cat and a dog and a rat and a hog and they're on the take
And I

Snowfall in Chinatown
Squid's the worst dish in the house, he says. It's made of Cream of Wheat. The chicken, duck, and beef are made with gluten/tofu: "meat."

(Song Segment 2) 3/9
If we want to build tomorrow, then we've got to build a bridge
between this stage and the floor
between the band and the audience
Because music has become, has become a commodity
And music making has changed from an art to an industry

No matter how hard we try
we cannot sell out
It's a matter of do or die
We cannot sell out

(Song Segment 3) 1/25/2001
I saw a man walking down the street
w/ a mop n his hand, going to make a clean sweep
and tidy up, everything in its place
If you spend your whole life cleaning, you always will be late

Is it true that if a tree falls down
It doesn't make a single noise if no one is around?
A silent death, forest for the trees
Or is the world a collective perception of reality?

(Editor's Note from an Imaginary Magazine)
Lost in a world that encourages being a "tough guy" or a "strong man," the editors of this sterling publication steadfastly promise to promote tactics, tecniques, tips, and -- yes -- even tricks (oh!) for being the "best boy" you can possibly be.

We, as professional journalists -- and as your best friend -- endeavor to take the "male" out of "malevolence" and the "guy" out of "guile" in order to...

Monday, June 04, 2007

Signs on the Stage

Signs on the Stage
Originally uploaded by h3athrow
Tonight, C. and I went to the inaugural Online Film & Video awards ceremony for the 11th annual Webby Awards at New World Stages.

We met up with a bunch of DoubleClick folks and had a grand old time sitting in the stands watching the event unfold. A couple of things struck me. As Executive Director David-Michel Davies (whose mother I sat next to) said, the event marks a sea change in film and video production. While production tools have become slightly less expensive, distribution has become even moreso, and there's a lot of quality film and video available that we didn't have access to previously.

I won't recount the winners here. Others will do that better. (And not all belong on the bill given their excerpts, but you can't win if you don't enter.) But I will say that my highlights included having the Eepybird guys walk past me during the pre-event mixer just to have an event staffer run up to them to say that he really did know who they were and that they should have their photo taken, to see the Ask A Ninja ninja in person, to see the Muppet Statler also in "person," and to see some of my favorite online videos projected on the big screen.

In fact, despite Rob Corddry's joke that this isn't the Tony Awards, it makes me wonder. How soon can we expect a traveling show of projected Web videos? I know I'd like to see more on the big screen.

Event-O-Dex XXXII

Saturday, June 16: Mark Donato, Googie's Lounge above the Living Room, 154 Ludlow (between Stanton and Rivington), Manhattan. 7:30 p.m. Were I here, I'd be there.