A legacy

I don’t do music reviews. I’m seriously opinionated about music but I generally don’t write about it. This month I picked up the Ike and Tina Turner compilation “Funkier than a Mosquito’s Tweeter” and I simply gotta talk about it.

Ike Turner is a fascinating figure in rock and roll history. He recorded “Rocket 88” here in Memphis and Sam Phillips dubbed it the first rock and roll record. That fact is hotly debated, but who am I to argue with Mr Phillips? Ike Turner was an astounding guitarist and musician. He was also, by most accounts, fucking nuts.

If you are a child of the 1980s as I am, Tina Turner holds a special place in your youth. Her pop hits during the eighties were so large that they eclipsed the body of funk and soul music that she and Ike cranked out during the sixties and early seventies. Aside from their eternally popular cover of CCR’s “Proud Mary,” what is most remembered is Ike’s horrific abuse. This compilation is a backhanded smack at Ike’s rightfully tarnished legacy.

God damn, this collection is really good.

Ike’s guitar work slides around from solid Pops Staples-esque R&B to heavily distorted psychedelia. Tina’s voice is raw and wild, so far away from the raspy polish of songs like “Private Dancer” that its hard to imagine they are from the same woman.

The title track, also a cover, has been performed by Nina Simone and Niki Costa.

I imagine that version Ike and Tina recorded was coated in kerosene and lit on fire. Tina sounds as if she is screaming directly at Ike. It is raw and it touches both a deeply danceable groove as well as an uncomfortable subject. In that way, it perfectly captures the essence of the Turner’s relationship.

There are a few more bafling and incredible cover songs including, Sly and the Family Stone’s “I want to Take You Higher” The Drifter’s “Up On the Roof” and Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” All of them are fantastic.

Ike is one of those timeless geniuses who also happen to be insufferable assholes. That is always a problem when thinking about art. How connected to the person should we feel his/her art is? In other words, should I not like this music because Ike was a scumbag? I have to admit, I can’t help it. The groove is just too strong.

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The Last Next Big Thing

Just as MySpace has turned from a glistening palace of Rupert Murdoch soaked cash to the Detroit of the internet complete with dead end roads and bombed-out storefronts, so too has the social news website Digg. Digg was the next big thing a few years ago. Cofounder Kevin Rose was a millionaire on the cover of Business Week and competitors like Newsvine and Reddit attempted to steal its thunder. Those services still live on as does Digg, but the days when Google or Yahoo would offer billions for Digg are done.

According to Techcrunch, Kevin Rose doesn’t even use his Digg account anymore.

This is the reality of predicting the next big thing. I hammer on it again and again but the truth is, most of these things are transient. The real disruptive changes are larger and require more scope. The iPod didn’t change music in 6 months. It proved itself over years. Even overnight success is based in long hours and luck. Content rather than delivery, remains king.

 

UPDATE: BOOM he resigns

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Double Bus Stop

The technology, film and music conference South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin has become a black hole. It pulls a massive amount of attention from the tech biz community, destroying startups and spitting their pieces back out like crushed planets. But fortunes are made here as well and if you listen closely, you can hear what’s coming beneath the wailing of drunken parties and desperate tech entrepreneurs. Twitter was born at SXSW and a later was given its first singular media moment. It is worth paying attention.

It’s silly to try to predict the next big internet thing. The nimble industry has made as many pundits look like morons as geniuses. Its tempting to stay on the sidelines, but the new partnership between location-based social media app/game Foursquare and American Express has too much juice to ignore. Here’s why.

Location based apps are a bit creepy. They feel like an invasion of privacy; mostly because they are. Foursquare is a poster boy for invasive software. For the uninitiated, Foursquare uses a GPS enabled smartphone to set up “check-ins” from various locations. It awards badges and arbitrary titles to users who check in the most from a particular place. In its infancy, Foursquare didn’t do much more than that. For users who didn’t really care about who was the “mayor” of the local Starbucks (or weren’t stalkers), it didn’t hold much appeal. Foursquare has grown over the years partnering with business to reward users for regular check ins and offering coupons and rewards.

This is a strike at services like Groupon and Living Social. Those services give users special pricing on daily deals (assuming the deal reaches a certain adoption level) and have become popular enough to warrant awkward Superbowl commercials.

The problem with those services lies in their irregularity. Groupons, for example, are limited in number. Days or weeks might pass before a deal pops up that might interest you. In that time, the app may be forgotten.

Foursquare has seen around that problem. By knowing the businesses you frequent and then offering deals for those locations, Foursquare is offering an even more direct strategy. Their new partnership with American Express takes that even a step further.

The process works like this. I walk into my local coffee shop and immediately check in on Foursquare. The app informs me that there’s a five percent discount if I use my Amex card. I accept the coupon, order my tall triple shot, skinny vanilla latte with no foam and pay with my Amex. I didn’t have to show anything to the cashier and in fact, the bill looks the same on the register. But if you check the charge on my card, the discount has been applied. This could work.

American express has opened up its API for the first time, allowing a third party to connect with its customer database. If it works out, expect to see all sorts of other financial partnerships to pop up. There’s a ton of potential here.

I’m generally a contrarian. I don’t believe in many of the companies that make up the big social media bubble that’s captivating investors. In fact, until this point, I didn’t have much faith in Foursquare as more than an ad-based location game. This though, is real. There’s real money at play and the potential for massive growth is there. The only question left is, will users really trade away their privacy for a five percent discount on coffee and scones? If you follow the trends in technology, that question has already been answered with a emphatic yes.

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Link bait lazy

Forbes released its completely obnoxious “Wealthiest” list today. I would love to tell you that there is something interesting in it (A MEXICAN IS WEALTHY) but there isn’t.

Media outlets run on these annual cycles. We all know there will be an “unhealthiest” list, Time Magazine will release a “Person of the Year” and that Forbes, with clockwork precession, will release its wealthiest person’s list.

I’m going to let you in on a secret. These pieces are bullshit. They’re created with generally unverifiable information and general opinion. Its exactly the kind of shoddy half-considered crap that journalists are taught to avoid.

But the other secret is, we love them.

Local media outlets scan the list to tell their readers about the local folks who made the list (or didn’t) and we all ooooo and aaaah over the raw figures of these people’s astronomical and unattainable wealth.

At the end of the day, these stories aren’t really any better that the SEO focused junk that journalistic sweatshops like Demand media crank out. For some reason, these link-bait articles are looked at with a more serious and forgiving tone that the “How-to” articles that the underpaid masses of journalism crank out at Demand. In my mind though, there is some practical purpose for a how-to article on connecting a stereo. There seems to be none in knowing how much wealth one billionaire has over another.

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Analog Romance

This week, I had a brief article in the Commercial Appeal. Its by no means an exciting piece, but I enjoyed doing it. I had more fun than I would have guessed, actually.

I haven’t had anything published on dead trees in several years. The vast majority of writing I’ve done over the last 3 years (since ReZoom magazine was sold) is online only.

So the little extra thrill I got at my byline today was somewhat surprising to me and it carried me back to a recent Facebook discussion I got caught up in.

Two old DJ friends (Bobby Rainwater , Andrew Brandt) and I got caught up in the vinyl vs digital DJ argument that plagues those of us who got swept up DJ culture in the late nineties. While I won’t try to rehash the long discussion that this is, I think it comes down to the same feeling.

Its Romance.

Owning huge crates of vinyl just came along with the act of being a DJ. Regardless of the style of music, you had to commit to the sacrifice. Guys would take road trips to other towns for hard to find records. It meant something to have your crate of records. It was romantic.

Seeing your name on paper still has a certain romance. There’s a good chance more people read my posts when I was at the gadget blog than my fluffy profile today, but I never got the extra sense of attachment that comes along with a printed byline. Numbers be damned. it still feels like something magic happens when your name is in print, unless it’s on the police blotter.

When the availability and gateway to entry for the New Yorker website is the same as this lonesome blog, something seems less romantic about the New Yorker and yet they’d never employ a hack like me.

Somehow, there is a devaluing of the romantic notion of getting to the truth and writing about it. This same devaluing of the art of the DJ goes with its full digitalization as well.

I worry the translation of our works from physical to digital media will eventual cause us to devalue the whole system to the point where were have no idea what’s real and what isn’t because its all relative to your perspective.

I need a drink.

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I love lamp

I spent more time than usual this weekend parsing a Bloomberg BusinessWeek post entitled “Is Twitter Journalism?”

I’ve heard this rhetorical question floated around the web several times before and I’m going to have a more fleshed out conversation about it when this thing launches in a a month or so, but I admit that I find this debate strange. In my rapidly aging brain, this isn’t really a question. Twitter is not journalism. Twitter is a delivery system.

When I hear the question of Twitter’s place in the modern media phrased as “Is Twitter Journalism?” this way one sentence comes to mind:

Journalists often use Twitter to quickly disseminate information as an extension of content creation. Sometimes, they provide links to more fleshed out stories. Sometimes, its just a quick thought or conversation starter. But they also use websites, newspapers, TV and Radio waves for the same purpose.

The important element in that mix is the human expressing the information. He or she is making something. Regardless of the format in which its distributed, its the practicer rather than the mechanism that makes things work.

The question really should be, can a journalist do his proper job using only twitter as his means of dissemination? At this point, I have to say no. Imagine the lack of context and gaping holes you’d be left trying to fill. You can’t live off Twitter alone anymore than you could live off the news crawl alone.

What Twitter has done is fill a hole in our interconnections. We’ve made mobile communications so ubiquitous that it can fill information gaps in our collective consciousness quicker and more completely than ever before. Just a few weeks ago, we got live images, video and thoughts directly from the front lines of a country falling apart. We would not have had the same blanket information stream without Twitter. That changes the game of journalism in some ways, but it doesn’t change the job itself. The recipe for good journalism remains the same. Its just that the way the biscuits get to the table is a lot different.

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Your Grandma is on Facebook

Joe Kennedy, the patriarch of the Kennedy dynasty, said just after the crash of 1929..

“Taxi drivers told you what to buy. The shoeshine boy could give you a summary of the day’s financial news as he worked with rag and polish. An old beggar who regularly patrolled the street in front of my office now gave me tips and, I suppose, spent the money I and others gave him in the market. My cook had a brokerage account and followed the ticker closely. Her paper profits were quickly blown away in the gale of 1929.”

The point being, when everyday people are talking about a stock, its time to get out. It’s remained true through the last few cycles as well. I remember vividly people talking about their crazy stock payoffs in .com companies too obscure to remember. And while its true that if you bet on Google, Apple and Amazon you’d be sitting pretty now; given the froth on the market at the time, you were just as likely to have picked Pets.com, AOL and Yahoo. People were batty about tech stocks just in the same way they were batty about their home values 7 years ago.

Its the classic sign of a bubble. Big high valuation estimates on privately held companies based on conjecture, hope and voodoo. Facebook’s recent valuation was at $50 billion and Zynga (the company that makes Farmville) ws at $10 billion.

To put that in perspective, in 2010 Dr. Pepper/Snapple’s valuation was $9 billion.

I’d sell the farm.

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