Archive for November, 2010

How many great songs will the Internet abort?

On the way home the other night, I was listening to NPR. They had Loretta Lynn on and she was talking about her new album. To be honest, I hate country music, but I saw a segment with Loretta Lynn on CBS Sunday Morning with Mo Rocca -to my surprise, I really enjoyed it- so I gave the NPR piece a listen.

Mid-interview they played “The Pill” (a song about birth control, which she didn’t write – hey, no blog post is perfect), talked about how Lynn got married at the age of 13, and then Lynn talked about how in Butcher Holler they didn’t know much, and that to this day, they still don’t know much. Here’s the quote that made my mind swim:

Well, I don’t know. I guess we just called it having a baby. We didn’t call it pregnant. Back in Butcher Holler, there was a lot of things we didn’t know – a lot of things, they still don’t know back there.

This really got me thinking, and it made me sad. Not that people don’t have access to information, but that once everyone has access to all “the right answers” people will stop coming up with new answers. The “Loretta Lynns” of the world will cease to exist. Music will get soft and predictable. When life stops being so hard, when you don’t have to look within your soul for the answers, when you don’t have to make your own mistakes… the painful lyrics are never birthed. The great songs of passion and triumph are never brought to life. Great music dies.

Let’s take the self-proclaimed “great artist” of modern music, Mr. Kanye West. I’ve been studying his twitter stream ever since he began tweeting. He’s living a life of privilege yet he constantly reminds us of how tough his life is. Whether it’s the backlash from Taylor Swift* or a recent interview with George Bush, the world hates Kanye, and he wants you to know how much he’s suffering. Anyone else smell bullshit?

His mom died, and that’s real. And I respect his love for his mother, and how he takes every opportunity to honor her. THAT is legit. But the claims of how the nonsense he’s created is somehow conspiring to destroy him, THAT is self-fabricated and done to create a false sense of desperation. To make you and I cheer him on to victory. To attempt to earn the underdog role, to be seen as an abused and misunderstood musical genius.

Let’s compare his made up situation to Lynn’s take on stardom in the music industry:

Me and my husband both worked. I took care of a farmhouse, cleaned and cooked for 36 ranch hands before I started singing. So singing was easy. I thought ‘Gee whiz, this is an easy job.

The contrast is brutal. Like a husband telling his pregnant wife that he loves her, then leaving during the birth of their child.

I enjoy some of Kanye’s music. But I can only imagine how much better and powerful it would be if he was truly struggling. If he rocked a crying baby to sleep with dope beats and heartfelt lyrics. More pain, more passion. More real, less contrived.

My point is, as our country becomes more connected via technology, information will solve more and more problems. But the downside is that the creations of people with problems will no longer exist. I don’t want to see a world in pain, but I do enjoy a great success story that is powered by determination and hard knocks. I don’t believe pain is the only way for creativity to emerge, but I do think the creativity that emerges allows others to share in the pain. To learn from it. To grow stronger because of it. Empathy FTW!

My guess is that the Internet will someday find its way to that corner of Kentucky that Lynn calls home. Kids will google things they don’t know, and great songs will die. The world will become a better place, but the lyrics will become hollow. The soul of our music will echo hardships that no longer exist, concocted melodies full of concocted memories. Damn you Internet and your push for a utopian future full of shitty music.

*I also believe Taylor Swift is full of bubblegum scented FAIL. She claims she wrote every song on her new album without a collaborator… really? Great, I’ll take the “we got bills to pay” lyric in her song “Mine” as a wake up call that the economy is now affecting even the ultra-rich.

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Play with your food

When lunch hands you animal crackers… PLAY!

My wife put some animal crackers in my lunch today. So I played. As a parent, I’ve never once told my children not to play with their food.*

That was the last "why the long face" joke Frank ever told.

Can you imagine if chefs weren’t allowed to play with our food? Boring recipes are recreated for the better when play becomes an ingredient. Playing is learning, improving, making mistakes, growing. If I could instill one characteristic in my children, it would be to remain playful throughout life.

FACT: Adults often fuck things up because they’re afraid to look silly. Kids are never afraid to look silly until their parents/teachers continuously disapprove of their playful actions. Not cool.

Aint no party like a Keyboard Cat dance party

Don’t have any animal crackers? Many Keebler products are also fun to play with, even fiber bars can be used creatively, although I’ve never seen it documented.

*I do, at times, demand that they eat (in a not-so-nice voice). But that is usually after my wife and I have both had a long day at work, and the kids claim they don’t like asparagus because it makes their pee smell funny.

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A video I love and why

Hat tip to Andrew Careaga and Tim Nekritz for inviting me to the party.

Here’s a video I love:

And why:

  • It’s 10 minutes long. The “experts” say that is too long for YouTube. I not only watched all 10 minutes, but I watched all 10 minutes TWICE. Something in this video just clicks for me. At the time of this posting, it only had 2,687 views, if I can get more eyeballs to land on it, I’m happy.
  • I’m not a huge fan of education. Well, not the way it currently works. I grew up bored, I always wanted to play, discover and learn. Being able to recite and regurgitate knowledge never amused me, I focused more on inventing and wondering. In a way, this video echoes my endless daydream. If I had a Flip camera back then, my world would be different today.
  • I follow Bill Genereux on twitter, and I love when my twitter gets mixed into my YouTubes. Not just sharing a link on twitter to a cool video you saw, but when a person I feel like I know (but don’t really know) becomes more than 140 characters, shows facial expressions, shares his voice, and does all of that in a way that makes me think. If you liked the video, follow @billgx on twitter, here’s his bio line: “Computer/Digital Media Professor, Teaching, Art, Graphics, Design, Photography, Video, Writing, Geek” I think it’s pretty solid.

Feel free to play along with Tim’s “a video I love and why” meme. Pick a good one, preferably with less than 500,000 views, because that’s way too easy, and you’re better than that.

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The “How To Use Social Media” webinar, a must-NOT-attend event

This is the second post in a new “somewhat” weekly series that I’ve titled “Serious, time with Todd.” Not going for funny, or even cute. Just laying down thoughts that have been marinating for so long the meat has begun to rot. So enjoy, or piss off. Thanks for your time either way. But for those who enjoy, double high five.

Last November I received an email promoting a webinar that was focused on how to use social media in admissions. Fine. It was 1.5 hours and cost $350. Not fine. It kind of rubbed me the wrong way, so I tweeted that I thought it was bullshit.

Later that day I got an email from someone who had just had his/her boss forward the exact same webinar email. They wanted a more-than-140-character run down of why I was so pissy about it. They were also curious if I had thoughts on what conferences might be a good use of their time. The following was my reply:

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Thanks for asking my opinion.

The true beauty of social media sites, and one of the major reasons it all works, is because anyone can do it. If people couldn’t figure out twitter, it would become stagnant and die. Even @oprah was -kind of- able to figure it out.

Paying $350 to listen to people “talk” for 1.5 hours about all the great things you can do won’t get you or your university any closer to doing them. I feel that a better use of your 1.5 hours is playing with the sites you are interested in using (via a personal account). Diving in, making mistakes, learning from your mistakes, then making more mistakes. THEN after you feel confident, jump in with your official U accounts.

It is my belief people are more willing to help out other people, but not companies. Read: if *you* make a mistake, other users will be helpful/insightful. If your *official* account makes the same mistake, you’ll lose credibility and look like you’re just there for your own benefit (not the community’s).

Example: If the email you sent me was from admissions@—.edu I would not have replied. But since a human named — sent it, I feel obligated to give a response. 🙂

If your boss is all jacked up over this webinar, then go for it. Whatever gets your boss excited shouldn’t be overlooked or discounted. I’ve found that every idea (especially in higher ed) needs buy-in to flourish. Getting your boss excited about the possibilities is a great way to kick things off. But, I’d be spooled up and ready to pounce well before the webinar (think it was in Jan). That way post-webinar you can instantly build on the excitement with real actions, not just talk.

I attended Web 2.0 Expo ~3 years ago in San Francisco. Without a doubt it was the best conference I’ve ever been to. SXSW is also a killer conference (and one you can follow online via tweets and blog posts). But please note, these are NOT higher ed specific conferences. The beauty of that, you see cutting edge stuff that you can take back to campus and make work for you, not just regurgitate what another U is doing.

Spend a weekend (a crappy one with snow and cold) online PLAYING with the sites that you think will work best. Build a knowledge of what they can do, and discover how the user feels (that’s you). Do you enjoy a facebook wall that is just a news feed populated via RSS with zero human interaction? Do you like twitter accounts that only publish and never engage? Use what you like, see how it can work at your U, then make it happen.

Good luck, hope it all works out!

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Even though it’s been almost a year since I wrote this response, I’m still happy with it. If you’re willing to pay $233/hour to listen to an expert talk, I’d make sure they’re not only in the same room as you, but also paying for the dinner.

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