Tag Archives: music

Two Thoughts On The New FaceBook Timeline

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Facebook announced that, on October 3rd, our profiles will all turn into “Timelines” that describe our lives (as Facebook knows them) in a glossy, magazine like format. And, as of right now, you can enable magazine apps (for WaPo and Guardian, more to come) that will randomly post what you’re reading to your wall without asking your permission first.I have two thoughts on this:

First, I feel sorry for the early adopters. I came to Facebook late, long after I had reason to distrust Zukerberg and co, in response to the cajoling of some of my more notorious nptech friends. I never believed that anything I posted there was private, and I had been well trained in online reputation management by my prior years of activity on bulletin boards, Usenet, mailing lists and Twitter. For many of you, all of your early mistakes are about to be unearthed and offered for everyone to see, from new friends that you’ve made since you got your FB voice modulated, to advertisers who are eager to know that, three or four years ago, you were really into SpongeBob.

Second, this new API feature that allows an app to post your activity when it wants strikes me as the epitome of anti-social networking. I really appreciate that I can peruse my wall and see articles, pictures and clips that my friends, co-workers and family thought I might like to see. This is, perhaps, the biggest boon and focus of social networking: curated sharing. It’s not random; it’s not based on a metric; it’s based on someone I like enough to call a friend saying “I found this worthwhile”. But, were I to install the WaPo app, it would decide which articles I want to share with my community for me. So I might click on some very boring report on a White House policy effort, or a review of some TV Show that I’m checking to verify that I was right to ignore it, and WaPo will happily tell my friends that I’m reading about this or that. This sucks the value out of social networking and turns me into a spammer.

Reports came in today that Spotify, the popular online music service, now defaults to posting every song that you listen to to your FB profile. If I have twenty friends who listen to Spotify all day and do this, I’m afraid that I’ll never bother to read my FB feed again. It’s cool if you’re listening to that awesome Gillian Welch cover of Radiohead’s “Black Star” and want to share the occasion; it’s not if you follow it up with the Hall and Oates hit, the Eddie Veder Beatles cover and the Indigo Girls or Beyonce or Five for Fighting song that follows. I’m not THAT interested.

So Facebook is apparently about to take sharing into the realm of spamming, and make all of us the perpetrators. Nice move…

The Environmental Legacy of Woodstock

This post was originally published on the Earthjustice Blog in August of 2009.

Much is spoken about the legacy of Woodstock, the concert that defined a musical era, now celebrating a 40-year reunion. I came across this fascinating slideshow onTreehugger’s website, discussing the post-Woodstock environmental activities of some of the famous rock and folk musicians that performed there. While some might be skeptical as to how great a conference Woodstock was, discovering this 40-year history of environmental stewardship that followed speaks to the historic importance of the event.

The slideshow notes some fascinating environmental pursuits of classic 60’s artists. Here are some additional links and details on the musicians featured and their earth-friendly activities:

Joan Baez joined Julia Butterfly Hill in tree-sitting protests in support of community gardening.

Neil Young is a strong advocate for alternative fuels, who has not only re-invented his classic Lincoln Continental as an electric/biodiesel hybrid, but has also recorded a whole album about the subject.

The Grateful Dead joined Greenpeace in 1988 to save the rainforests. They were instrumental in founding the Slide Ranch, a teaching organic farm in Marin, County CA that introduces kids to the benefits of growing healthy foods.

Carlos Santana has incorporated solar panels into his business office and home. Like Young, he preaches what he practices, too.

Richie Havens has made teaching urban children about the environment a life’s cause, first with the Northwind Undersea Institute (now closed), a museum devoted to environmental information, and more recently with the Natural Guard.

Arlo Guthrie works with fellow folk legend Pete Seeger’s Hudson Sloop Clearwater, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the Hudson River. Guthrie also has a foundation that protects indigenous cultures from threats related to globalization.

Celebrating good music in healthy, open spaces is a legacy that we should leave for future rock fans. It’s nice to see that many of our greatest rock legends get that.

Smartphone Talk

This post originally appeared on the Idealware Blog in June of 2009.

The last few weeks saw some big announcements in the smartphone world:

  • Palm released the phone that they’ve been promising us for years, the Palm Pre, with it’s new WebOS, to reviews that were mostly favorable and summed up as “The iPhone’s baby brother“.
  • Apple stole some of Palm’s thunder by dominating the press two days later with news of their relatively unexciting new phones and 3.0 software.
  • In the weeks prior, news came out that about 18 more Android phones should be out in calendar 2009 and that, by early 2010, all of the major carriers will have them.
  • And Nokia’s E71 hit our shores, an incredibly full-featured phone that you can get for just over $300 unlocked, and use the carrier of your choice. While this isn’t a touchscreen, and is therefore suspect in terms of it’s ease of use, it is an amazingly full-featured product.

Left in the wings were Blackberry, who keep producing phones, including their iPhone competitor, the Storm — to yawns from the press, and Microsoft, who are talking a lot about Windows Mobile 6.5 and 7.0, but seem to have really been decimated by the ugliness of their mobile OS when compared to just about anyone else’s.

What’s clear is that a few things differentiate smartphones these days, and the gap between the ones that get it and the ones that don’t are huge. They are:

Responsive Touchscreen Interfaces. The UI’s of the iPhone, Android and Palm’s WebOS get around the sticky problem that phones were just to small to support anything but simple functionality without requiring an oppressive amount of taps and clicks. This is why Microsoft has fallen down the smartphone food chain so far and fast — their mobile OS is just like their desktop OS, with no flagship phone that does the touchscreen nearly as well as the new competition.

Desktop-Class Web Browsers. This is where Apple and Google have drawn a huge line, and it looks like Palm might have joined them. All three use browser’s based on Webkit, the same technology that fuels Safari and Chrome. On a 3G phone, this makes for a fast and complete experience that puts the Blackberry, Mobile Internet Explorer and the Treo’s hideous Blazer. Add Google’s voice activation (native on Android and available for iPhone), and their smartphone-optimized results (which don’t work on the non-webkit browsers) and the task of finding a Starbucks or hotel on the road takes seconds, instead of the average ten to 15 minutes on the old, lousy browsers, which simply choke on the graphics.

Push Email. If you connect to Exchange servers, the iPhone and Pre have Activesync built in. If your mail is with Google, you’re connected to it as soon as you tell an Android phone your login and password. And the Android phone app is the best out there, with Apple’s mail running close behind it. What’s ironic is that Microsoft targeted their biggest threat with Activesync — the Blackberry’s kludgy, but, at the time, unparalleled email forwarding — and gave it wings by licensing it to Palm, Apple and others. This is fueling corporate acceptance of the iPhone and Pre, meaning that this Blackberry-beating strategy might have worked, but more likely it did it for Apple and Palm, not Microsoft.

Music. The iPhone is an iPod; everything else isn’t, meaning that, if having a high quality phone and music experience on one device is a priority, you’re not going to go wrong with the iPhone. I love my G1, but I weigh my value of the real keyboard and awesome, open source OS on T-Mobile over the iPhone’s built-in iPod and Activesync on AT&T. As OSes go, Android is only marginally better than Apple, but the Apple hardware is much better than the G1. Newer Android phones are going to show that up.

People make a lot of noise about the apps available for the iPhone (and Windows/Blackberry) as opposed to the newer Android and Pre. I think that’s a defining question for the Pre, but it looks like companies are jumping on board. For Android, it’s quite arguably a wash. All of the important things are available for Android and, given that it’s open source, most of them are free. And with those 18 phones due out by year end on every carrier, the discrepancies will be short-lived.

I have to wonder how long it will take Microsoft to “get” mobile. They have a heavy foot in the market as the commodity OS on the smartphones that can’t get any buzz. But the choice to bring the worst things about the Windows Desktop experience to their mobile OS was unfortunate. Should I really get a pop-up that has to be manually dismissed every time I get an email or encounter a wireless network? Do I have to pull out the stylus and click on Start every time I want to do anything? What’s even more worrisome is that Windows Mobile is a separate OS from Windows, that merely emulates it, as opposed to sharing a code base. Apple’s OS is the same OSX that you get on a MacBook, just stripped down, and Google’s OS is already starting to appear on Netbooks and other devices, and will likely fuel full desktops within a year or two — it is, after all, Linux.

So, the state of the smartphone market is easily broken into the haves and have-nots, meaning that some phones have far more usable and exciting functionality, while most phones don’t. There’s a whole second post dealing with the choice of carriers and their rankings in the race to offer the most customer disservice, and it does play into your smartphone decision, as Verizon might be a very stable network, but their phone selection is miserable, and AT&T might have the best selection but, well, they’re AT&T. I love Android, so, were I looking, I’d hold out until four or five of those new sets are out. But I don’t know anyone with an iPhone who’s unsatisfied (and I know lots of people with iPhones).

Heart Beat

I’ve always been a poster child for the Peter Pan complex. In fact, I wore out an LP of the Mary Martin score when I was a kid. I’ve always looked younger than my age (I’m 52, regularly guessed as early 40’s). I’ve sported a lifelong love of comic books, and my wife will be the first to tell you that the duty of watching Clone Wars and Batman cartoons with my 9yo is one that I readily accept, and probably would if we were childless, all the same.

So it was a blow to my sense of immortality when I was rushed to the hospital on the possibility that I’d had a heart attack Monday night. The actual diagnosis, as I suspected, was heartburn. Really bad heartburn, that had me doubled over for close to five minutes, throat constricted in a way that made it a little difficult to breathe. My wife called 911; the EMTs insisted that I get it checked out. Probably the worst part of it was seeing my boy on the front stoop watching them wheel me away on a stretcher.

So, between Monday night and this morning, when I went for (and passed) a full stress test, I’ve had five doctors tell me that the concern was well-justified and it was worth the disruption, discomfort and expense of treating a case of heartburn as if it were cardiac arrest. My take on it is this: my grandfather died of a heart attack at age 45. His daughter, my Mom, has had chronic heart trouble throughout her 70’s. For me, it’s not a question of if I’ll have heart problems; it’s one of when. I really hope that the when is, at a minimum, two decades away, preferably three. I eat well, don’t smoke, am generally healthy.

Ironically, the guitarist for one of my favorite bands actually had a heart attack Monday night and passed away yesterday at 53. Other people might consider all of this some kind of wake-up call. I guess I’m too pragmatic for all of that — I’ll consider it incentive to work more exercise into my routine, but I’ll stop short of writing a bucket list or finding religion. All the same, it’s sobering. I’ve got a lot of things that I still want to do before I go, like raise my son to adulthood and write that book I’ve always dreamed of writing. Here’s hopin’.

The best record you never heard (and you’ve heard that one before, right?)

Okay, first, apologies — one more neglected blog in the wasteland. And I’m not going to promise to do better.

In the mid-seventies, I was a folkie. I liked Pete Seeger and Chris Smither and loved the British folk/rock stuff like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span. And there was one record that I truly loved that was really unlike any record I’d ever heard prior or have ever heard since – Fraser and DeBolt. Fraser and DeBolt were Allan Fraser and Daisy DeBolt, and this was about the most surreal folk duo I have ever heard. The music was strumming guitars and violin and harmonious male/female lead vocals and the songs were about love and life – could be any boring couple with guitars and some friends for a backing band. Except that what they put together was unique. The beautiful melodies strained into orgasmic, out of tune wails in places, and the lyrics maintained a healthy level of wittiness and absurdity. The result was about 60% pretty folk-country, 20% acid folk, and ten percent pure kitsch. And the artists clearly enjoyed the hell out of making this absurdist masterpiece. You can hear them laughing at the lyrics as they sing them, in places. But take it all in – the record is funny and it’s ridiculous, but there are ample moments that are pure, devastating heart.

Old Man on the Corner is their surrealistic masterpiece.

Well, I got no need for time these days
You know the day ain’t worth a damn, oh no no no
Because my wristwatch ain’t got no secondhand

Them Dance Hall Girls is a killer honky-tonk about loneliness in Baltimore.

My sense of time – Oh I’m a week behind
I’d send you a letter home, but this all takes time, you know
I wanna get some money, I wanna go back home
These dance hall girls know how to make a man feel alone
Is this the way it always is here in Baltimore?

For close to thirty years, I have somehow managed to keep alive a scratched up LP and a beat up cassette of the album. It never hit the radar of anyone capable of marketing a CD. Fraser and DeBolt were, and still largely are, lost to the world at large. So you can imagine how pleased I was a few months ago to discover their new web page. And even more elated to find their two albums digitized for free, legal downloading.

The web page is at http://fraserdebolt.com

The music is at http://fraserdebolt.com/audio.html