the listenerd

optimized for maximum incontinence

Month: June, 2009

On concerts and context, indie music style

Many years ago (maybe 2005) for the day job, we wrote about the Burn to Shine DVDs, a series of concerts held in homes that had been abandoned and designated for demolition. A few things felt interesting about the story at the time – 1) The fact that bands were being taken out of their typical music venues and put on display in a wholly different context. 2) The idea of scarcity (currently a hot topic once again, as seen by the Gladwell vs. Chris Anderson debates) – in this case, a fact heightened rhetorically; these concerts were not only one-shot deals in offbeat locales, but they were being recorded in buildings that would soon be destroyed.

Since then, a number of music and pop-culture sites have sprung up around the idea. They invite indie bands-of-the-moment to perform a song or two in a strange setting, then put the mini-concert resultant videos online. (Daytrotter was an early example of a channel that amped up the rarity factor, but did little to change traditional context.)

The most prominent example of sites peddling unique live performances – of taking bands out of context – and putting them online might still be a Take Away Show with the Arcade Fire from 2007. (Another notable example is Brian Wilson’s Black Cab Session. Here’s Bon Iver’s Black Cab Session.)

Here are some additional channels who have, over the past few years, recorded video of live performances in unique venues – in parks, on elevators, in graveyards, in cabs careering across town – thus creating an event that is unique in its context and also wholly one-of-a-kind – then posted them online:

Take Away Shows
Off the Beaten Tracks
Black Cab Sessions
Handheld Shows
They Shoot Music, Don’t They?
Pitchfork’s performance series– I’m still not sure what the overall series is called (if anything); Pitchfork has done one called Cemetery Gates and one called Daytripping (and they’re shunting me to the main page right now for some reason)
-(I’m sure I missed a few?)

Everyone already knows that the internet is a copy machine. But what channels like the ones above try to take advantage of the fact that we also live in an era of broader access along the – hold your nose for this – entire entertainment supply chain. It’s important that MP3s can be infinitely copied. But increased access to musicians through multiple media is a shift, as well – and it’s one that creates all kinds of opportunity.

Like inviting indie bands over to play their most pop-friendly songs in your apartment’s elevator, and then publishing the results for an audience of hundreds of thousands.

On duplication, recommendation and Cool Bands Made Uncool

Last week, an amusing, music-related meme popped up on Twitter. The nugget of the idea – “Cool Bands Made Uncool” – was to take a band name and add something to it to give it nerd flair. Fleetwood Mac becomes Fleetwood PC (many times over); Megadeth becomes Megabeth. You get the picture; it’s easy to get – and that’s sort of the point.

Below is a sampling of some of the Cool Bands Made Uncool that appeared on Favrd (plus a couple more):
The Whom
50 Centrum
Sigur Ray
REO Stationwagon
Nine Inch Toenails
Ham Radiohead
Bacterial Culture Club

Although the meme seemed to have peaked sometime on Tuesday, new ideas continue to roll in. (I, for the record, made one very brief foray into the genre.)

The two things I find interesting about this and other mini-memes centers around the scalability of ideas and the potential to use this platform to figure out what one might want to think about next.

Viral ideas that are Gutenbait – tumblrs that seem almost as if they’re optimized to garner book deals – usually aren’t very deep. They’re easily graspable, one-trick ponies – to wit: This Is Why You’re Fat – that happen to scale well; in this case, in a specific direction beyond tumblr (and toward traditional publishing). Even smaller amusements, like twitter memes, also demonstrate a scalability of concept; one that’s become increasingly easy to watch play out from start to finish, and one that might also hold some significant potential beyond fleeting entertainment.

As one watches Cool Bands Made Uncool spread, it’s immediately apparent that duplication – purposeful and accidental – quickly piles up as the crowdsourcing around this type of little ideas surges. The Dead Kennedys take a thousand different zags off the same zig – The Alive Kennedys, The Remaining Kennedys, The Alive-And-Kicking Kennedys. REO Speedwagon becomes R.E.M. Speedwagon, REO Stationwagon (multiple times). The Who becomes The Whom to one person and then to a dozen more, replicating through creativity or mimickry, whichever.

One can watch the memes morph, as well. Instead of changing band names, smart asses take up different tacks. Cool bands made uncool? Try U2. Or simply “You like them.

Other twitterers stay on track, following the idea to places of delicious absurdity. Kernel Panic at the Disco. A Letter Writing Campaign Against the Machine. And my favorite; quirky, stupid and fantastic: Echo and the Furcon Attendees. From some dude from Portland. Whom I didn’t even follow. And probably won’t ever. And probably will never cross paths with again.

The thing that I’ve found compelling about twitter for the past couple years – the core of this post that I’ve barely even brushed up on (because I can’t yet adequately explain it) – is that the platform feels like the start of a recommendation engine for ideas. One can see it easiest in these little memes – where the action is sped up. Just as can monitor one’s musical decisions and recommend “neighbors” whose tastes greatly overlap, twitter – though the tools are still dull at this point – can align users with their own “neighbors,” based purely on ideas.

There’s much more to say about this; so more to come. I guess.

Tumblrs with book deals – gutenbait?

(Updated 7.6.09 – added a couple of blogs with deals)

Below is a list (by no means exhaustive) of tumblrs that are now available in lovely printed form. I’ve also included a number of near-tumblrs – simple, single-concept tumblr-like blogs that are as much about images and an idea as they are about prose. Is like half of all book-reading now being done on the toilet or something?

Anyway, I informally propose blogs of this type and flavor henceforth be called Gutenbait (Digg-bait for the gutenberg-era).

*Look at this fucking hipsterSt. Martin’s
*This Is Why You’re FatHarperStudio
*Hot Chicks with Douchebags (this should have been a Tumblr) – Simon Spotlight
*FMLMichel Lafon Publishing
*Pets Who Want to Kill ThemselvesThree Rivers Press
*Rules for My Unborn SonSt. Martin’s
*Texts from Last NightGotham
*Sleeveface – Artisan Workman
*Cake WrecksAndrews McMeel Publishing

*I’m not counting: Postcards From Yo Momma, I Can Haz Cheeseburger or Stuff White People Like. Because I am in charge here.

I’d like to recommend for bookization:
*Goths in Hot Weather

Furthermore, Give Us A Book Deal offers a regular stream of idiotic book deal-bait tumblr ideas such as “Rules for My Future Dog” and “Slutty Ninjas.”

*Update: Apparently Gawker doesn’t read the Listenerd. Or at least doesn’t link to it! Not much new info in this book-to-blogs post, but a shout-out to Boner Party, which is good?

Video: The Decemberists’ “Crazy on You” for the Current

Language: neologisms and sensitivities

I’m not a natural writer. A terrible one? Frequently. An accidental one? Pretty much. A passable one? Once in a while. A natural one? Never. (Here’s a natural one.)

Anyway, it’s always a struggle (even to write a couple hundred words for work or a longer blog post for the ‘nerd). But despite that struggle – or maybe because of it – I take a special interest in language I find that’s compelling, or even just new. Sometimes full-blown prose captures my imagination (more on that soon), but often I’m just as interested in simply collecting (and watching develop) neologisms.

Here are a couple words – new or new to me – that have pumped through my feed reader recently:

*Funemployment: The idea that the idle time coming from being laid off is enjoyed by some.

*Ethonomics: Ethical economics. Or the overlap between what’s good (social ethics) with traditional economics.

*Plastectomy: The ritual burning, cutting or other destruction of credit cards. [murketing]

*Further, Mark Peters on GOOD recently wrote about America’s collective “Syndrome Syndrome” and the weight the word “syndrome” now pulls in the English language. Writes Peters “Other words are workaholics, pulling triple shifts and all-nighters, describing stuff that is deadly serious, kind of serious, totally ridiculous, and everything in between. Syndrome is one of these overachievers.”

A tangentially related item he doesn’t talk about is one we’ve addressed extensively (and for years) at my day job: the creep of “sensitivity.” The sensitivity – not a full-blown allergy, but still something that carries the sound of a “condition” – now, to an often absurd degree – protects people from annoyances ranging from the serious to the frivolous, from co-workers wearing too much perfume to the burden of having to wear clothing with unnatural fibers.

While we as a culture may have a syndrome syndrome, personally, I have a sensitivity sensitivity.

Video: Civilization by Marco Brambilla on Vimeo

This thing is terrifying. And awesome.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Notice of content experiment: The Listenerd

I’m thinking of seriously curtailing the link dumps on this blog. In a highly experimental move, I’m going to throw the links on a twitter account instead for a while – (This was formerly my Fake Sam Beam account, so please feel free to amuse yourselves with Dead Fake Sam’s previous tweets.)

If this experiment doesn’t work, I’ll probably start linking here again.

(I think there’s something to pounding through the feed reader on a regular basis. Whether batching the links adds anything to them or not, I don’t know.)

What will appear on this listenerd during this highly volatile experiment, you ask?

I have no idea.

Thank you.

Links for 6.23.09: Gay Warcraft, free prose, Bogan’s poetry, sexy execs…

*Books: Just how free? The Virginia Quarterly finds that Wired’s Chris Anderson pulled a bunch of his verbiage from Wikipedia and other sources without attribution. Jacob Silverman (in the comments): “Those who are at the vanguard of online media, who are trying to fashion new ways of assessing intellectual property, like Anderson, have a special responsibility to act ethically and responsibly. It seems he did not.” Anderson offers a response, and has a lot of defenders in the comments.

*Concerts: Pitchfork does the Take Away Shows thing – a thing which is now a gimmick, but is a gimmick that I still love – with Cemetery Gates, a concert series set in a graveyard chapel.

*Criticism: Sexy Executives is a blog that critiques executive head shots. “Looks weak. You’d quite happily talk over any points he tried to raise at the weekly Monday morning strategy meet.”

*Games: It’s Gay Pride Week on the Proudmoore Server in World of Warcraft. This is the kind of phenomenon that delights me in its cultural twists and turns.

*Gloom: The Failed States Index will sober your ass up pretty fast. One Silver Lining: Australia is looking pretty stable. Kinda? [mefi]

*Obit: The cause of Wilco’s Jay Bennett’s death was an overdose of pain killers. It’s being investigated as an accident. [the daily swarm]


*Twitter: Five tweets to read now.

Links for 6.22.09: Sleevefacing time, beer pouches, Sufjan Stevens…

This is all Jell-O.

This is all Jell-O.

*I’m going to try to be more discerning about posting. It probably won’t last long. My mind is a perpetual ice cube, the internet an uncoolable ocean.

*Photos: This flickr photo pool called “Looking Into the Past” is like sleevefacing with time itself. If you know what I’m saying. (If you do not know what I’m saying: One takes a photograph of an old picture in the place where it was originally snapped, thus overlaying an image of the past on the real present to create a new melding of the two.) [buzzfeed]

*Animation: This tumblr of animated gifs has me feeling all gooey. My brain says no, but my body says yes. Then seizures, followed by a prolonged period of medication, loss of job and healthcare benefits and precipitous mental decline. Wow, that took an abrupt left turn. Ouch. [mediaeater]

*Metaverse: “No hugs and no sleep” – a story of being homeless in the Sims. “Alice’s teddy is more than her only possession in the world. It’s the only thing that’s ever hugged her.” This is like some sort of beautiful, unnecessary reverse-engineered graphic novel machinima. [waxy]

*Old times: Tim O’Reilly talks about his Classical Education. (I majored in history, studying ancient Rome and Greece extensively, and I’m basically worthless these days. COUNTERPOINT. AND CHECKMATE.)

I do, however, like this clip: “I believe that I’ve consistently been able to spot emerging trends because I don’t think with what psychologist Eugene Gendlin called “received knowledge,” but in a process that begins with a raw data stream that over time tells me its own story.” [short shrift]

*Quotes: “I saw Sufjan Stevens last year, and I was like, how is his singing that good?” -Trent Reznor in Newsweek [fluxtumblr]

*Beverages: I love beer. I love pouches. I have created a pouch on my body that’s made primarily of beer. Do you see where I’m going with this? No? Well, look at this beer in a pouch and then try to answer. (Hint: Beer pouches.)

*Vizzies: Peruse this infographic depicting murders in New York. Well executed, gray lady. Well executed. (I had to say that, under penalty of death. OK, I’m exaggerating.) [harper’s]

*Apple: This Daring Fireball post about the Wall Street Journal’s sourcing in a recent story that broke the news of Steve Jobs’ liver transplant is not sexy, but it is meticulous and well written and deserving of some sort of acknowledgement.

*Video: I won’t give it its own post since it made the rounds extensively last week, but this video of John Hodgman speaking at the Radio and TV Correspondents’ Dinner is amusing. [everyone]

*Please note: I might start reading books again. That is a warning. To all of you.

Video: Ketchup Bottle music (Heinz ad)


Video: John F. King’s homemade drums


The Listenerd is indisposed…

Heavy work week. I recommend reading other blogs all week. If you are able to forget about the ‘nerd before I return, maybe it wasn’t really meant to be.

Video: Neko Case’s “The Tornado Loves You” on Conan

Video: The Alarmists’ “Car Crash” (live)