Monday, February 28, 2011

Bill Murray on Howard Stern

Howard Stern is one of the best interviewers in history. Only a few people know this. I barely remember him being popular on FM, and then he disappeared. Then "Private Parts" came out, and I kind of lost interest. It wasn't until I watched "Private Parts" a second time - after I'd had more experience walking my own road. Suddenly his story made sense.

I wasn't a fan, though. His fans never left him. They went with him to Sirius. I didn't care enough to get past the in-car receiver or subscription. Which is too bad - I'll never even know what I've missed.

The best stuff surfaces on YouTube, though. Why isn't Stern on YouTube already?? Why do I have to sort through gobs of pirated gunk with its questionable quality and insidious video comments?

His interview with Billy Joel is amazing. So is this one with Bill Murray. Listen while its still up.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Are electronic or digital musicians 'fake?'

Just some random thoughts re: using digital tools as a performing musician.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I had no idea.

What was Donald Rumsfeld's famous line - "unknown unknowns?"

I mean, I knew about smartphones, but I wasn't a true smartphone owner, having been suckered into two miserable years with the terrible LG EnV Touch. Which itself was an upgrade from the Motorola RAZR. Well, kind of..

The EnVTouch wasn't a smart phone. It took a few months of trying to get the thing to perform before realizing it was less frustrating to simply not use many of the features. The web browser was not really a web browser, but something that acted like it. Every feature on the EnV Touch had these same characteristics: the look and feel of a smartphone app, but really nothing like it.

Everything on the LG was closed in - everything was proprietary. No native access to Facebook or Twitter, because the phone couldn't. It was pretending.

But how could I know until I had the real deal?

Well now I know. Holy shit do I know.

In only a few hours, my world looks different. That realtime stream on Facebook and my Twitter feed are suddenly with me now. I'm holding that future in my hand..the one I kept wanting the LG to give me.

And now I understand why companies are so motivated to go after smartphone users - the world is more interesting with this thing! Why bother printing directions on your computer when you're going to change your mind five times anyway?

Something else that strikes me: this phone is the first technology I've integrated this thoroughly in my life without understanding almost any of its underlying components.

And to think, in many regards, we're years behind in the US with respect to mobile tech, especially the infrastructure.


...I had wanted the iPhone. The DROID X wasn't even on my radar. In retrospect, isn't that odd? I was so enamored with Apple's products I couldn't even consider an alternative.

Until price became the barrier. An iPhone upgrade was $200, plus god-only-knows what they'll talk you into at the Verizon store.

The DROID, by comparison, was at a tiny, nondescript booth nestled in Costco. No frills. Fifty bucks to upgrade. And 100 free photo prints at Costco. Sold!

And now I don't care about the iPhone. I mean, it would be nice to have iTunes on the Android, but its not a dealbreaker. Sure, tell me about resolution differences or camera ephemera. For everyday snaps, it's a huge step above the EnV Touch. I'll never go back.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


First rule of (corporate) survival: don't take risks.

Borders books is filing for bankruptcy protection. Like Powell's in Seattle, they can't figure out how to sell books.

To be fair, they can't figure out how to sell crap books. People would buy XKCD and Penny Arcade, but they don't have to at Borders. Borders probably doesn't even know of those strips. Borders has no A&R - no filters. Nobody at Borders (or B&N, for that matter) reads, so they don't tell anyone "no!"

Both stores have shelf space dedicated to the NY Times Bestsellers. Who cares? How many of the last singles you bought on iTunes are on the Billboard charts? (zero for me). Those bestseller lists are completely gamed - just like Google's search results. They don't reflect anything real - the legions of purchase-bots that buy the latest spew from their ideologues are motivated by fear, not affinity.

Booksellers don't know what's real.

Borders isn't completely down and out, that is if they feel like taking a risk. Current signs point to a company in survival/preservation mode, and that mentality won't let you take risks. So they're putting more cheap plastic on shelves instead of cheap books.

This is the wrong approach. I can buy cheap plastic crap anywhere.

But cool places to hang out (and hook up?) are always in high demand. Look at the goofy teens in B&N on Saturday night. Coffee and "study?" Mating rituals, folks.

Borders may not have any good filters right now, but they do have one thing: real estate. Square footage, and they don't know what to do with it.

But I do.

There is huge demand for (good) live music, and a large supply of artists that can bring in 50-100 people per show, but not 500-1000. And right now, the vast majority of venues that are open to this class of performer are bars/clubs.

And those places SUCK. Management turnover is 99%, you never know who's running sound, if they're even sober, if there's even sound at the venue, is it 18 and up? 21 only? Will they still be open in three months when your appearance is booked? Are they going to stiff you on the door? Is the facility even clean? Are you going to catch a disease from a doorknob?

But Borders doesn't have these problems. The facilities are clean and all-ages accessible. They're almost always an anchor store, so they're close to other services (like food, etc.) The absence of alcohol means parents can send their kids to a show at Borders and feel ok about it.

It also means Borders would have to reinvent itself, and I don't know if that's on the table. It means they'd have to start working with musicians, which brings its own set of logistics and problems, but they're not insurmountable. The new generation of performing musicians need a place to grow, and Borders needs feet in their stores.

It's there, but only if they're willing to risk it.

The Album is Dead - Here's Mine.

Here's a collection of my released songs to date:

Rule The World
Not My Day
Cross My Heart
Mystery In My Mind
This Song is for You
My Heart Belongs To You
To Run Again

Thank you for listening.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Powell's Books

The venerable brand Powell's books is laying off staff. 31 today. In the veiled business-speak of the published memo, more are coming.

A bookstore that can't figure out how to sell books.

Just like Borders.

You think the record labels are behind the times? Bookstores think it's the 1400's. And why not? What's changed in their model since the invention of the printing press? They ship UPS now instead of horse and carriage?

That's what I find so ironic about authors and booksellers - they were the first to embrace all kinds of tech - word processing, digital typsetting, blogs - but just couldn't make the connection that blogs were replacing publishers. And authors today still want old deals. They want bookstores to stock their product but don't want to do the work of face-to-face promoting. Sound familiar?

Today's successful writers are having conversations. They spend as much time composing comments as the posts themselves. The inherent quality of their person shines through, and we become fans. We trust Barry Ritholtz and Calculated Risk more than The Fed, JimTheRealtor more than NAR. Warren Ellis and Neil Gaiman produce tweets more interesting than most of the books in Powell's.

What do they need a middleman for?

Better question: What can bookstores do to bring nothing but the best?

In a world of rabid readers and an overwhelming volume of product... what a weird problem. Oversupply AND high demand?

But, its an oversupply of crap, and high demand for excellence. And few reliable filters.

Why aren't bookstores renting iPads for a few bucks an hour? I may not be able to afford an iPad, but an iTunes account is free and I can certainly afford a few bucks for Angry Birds and some eBooks. I'd hang out somewhere and buy overpriced coffee to play iPad games and read magazines....

Somebody's going to figure it out, matching outstanding writing with hungry readers.

Prince: Welcome to America!

We've all heard about Christina Aguiluera at the Super Bowl. Everyone's got an opinion. I haven't even watched the whole clip - I can't.

Initially, I'd wanted to hate on Aguiluera. I wanted to hold her up as an example of everything that was wrong with major media (namely, my absence as it's lone dictator) and make comments about how it revealed she was really an undeserving talentless nobody.

But then I got high1.

Lefsetz mentions something about Ms A looking at the Jumbotron screen and being momentarily distracted. I don't know. Things happen in live performances. Bruce Springsteen once forgot the words to "Born to Run." I feel bad for her that it was a Super Bowl, but I don't think her fans care at all.

If anyone at all should apologize publicly, it should be the audio crew that mixed The Black Eyed Peas performance. Fergie's mic was off intermittently and nothing sounded like part of the music.

I'm over it.

I want to talk about Prince. And Kim Kardashian.

Maybe it was scripted. Maybe not. Either way, his comment "Welcome to America" was spot-on.

You're at a Prince show and you don't want to dance? You got in the front row and didn't want him to pick you out? You get onstage with Prince and you're too good to dance with him?

Prince might be clueless when it comes to the internet
, but he's a master of the live show.

What's Kardashian a master of? Why is Kim Kardashian famous?
...Kardashian’s patriarchal bargain. A patriarchal bargain is a decision to accept gender rules that disadvantage women in exchange for whatever power one can wrest from the system. It is an individual strategy designed to manipulate the system to one’s best advantage, but one that leaves the system itself intact.
Sound familiar?

Play by the rules and you'll be granted legitimacy. But only if you play completely by the rules. And leave the system untouched. That's America.

(And don't confuse rules and "laws." The law may say don't steal, but the rules say winner takes all. Look at our current robber-baron bankster class to see this primalism in action.)

It's our providence as artists to confront this system, demolish it if need be, and create something better in its place.

1Not literally. Colloquialism for "I changed my mind."