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No Perks, No Power … No Point?

27 Sep

I became the mayor of another place on Foursquare yesterday, and again, when that crown badge showed up on my iPhone screen, I thought it’d be accompanied by an explosion of confetti, balloons raining down on me, flashing lights, fanfare, a banner unfurling from the ceiling with my name on it, applause from the other customers, and the manager of the store rushing over to congratulate me on the achievement.

Alright, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration (maybe??), but after the smile went away from my face, and I was done mentally patting myself on the back, and I realized there wasn’t any benefit to being the mayor, the same reaction I always have set in: So what? Continue reading

The Other Facebook Movie

24 Sep

The new film Catfish raises a few questions.

Among them, which will be the bigger PR threat to Facebook, this movie or The Social Network?

And perhaps more importantly, is this film even real?

That second question hangs over this entire film, a “reality thriller” (don’t call it a documentary) about a guy who meets a girl and her family on Facebook and comes to realize they are not exactly as they seem.

I don’t want to spoil too much about Catfish because most of the movie’s appeal comes from watching things develop. But suffice it to say, where you come down on the “is it real?” debate definitely affects how you feel about the movie. Continue reading

Social Media Sure Is Delicious

25 Aug

I don’t in any way pretend to be a social media expert.

Sure, I’m an active user of Facebook and Twitter, I have a blog, and now I’ve even started checking in everywhere on Foursquare.

And sure, some people I work with think I’m an expert.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned when it comes to social media, it’s that nobody knows anything (to borrow the phrase from William Goldman), and we’re all making it up as we go along.

So I’ll let other people label themselves as social media gurus, experts, ninjas, or whatever word they’re using these days. Me, an expert? I’m not ready for that kind of label just yet.

That all said, I really do enjoy social networking. Continue reading

Jack Rebney Still Has a Lot to Say

27 Jul

In 1989, a man named Jack Rebney shot an industrial film meant to promote Winnebago motor homes. Shooting in intense heat and being pestered by flies caused Rebney to lose his cool many times, and all his expletive-laden outbursts were captured on film … and then edited together into a legendary outtakes reel that eventually made its way onto YouTube, where it has achieved cult status. But whatever happened to Rebney? We know he was fired from his job a month after shooting, but that’s the last anyone had heard from him. And thus we have the inspiration for the new documentary Winnebago Man, in which filmmaker Ben Steinbauer goes in search of a man once dubbed the angriest in the world.

If the initial search for Rebney was all the film was about, that’d be an awfully short documentary — especially because when Steinbauer does find him, he’s just a nice older gent who is bewildered by the attention. Thankfully, there’s more to the story than that, and more to the film too. Steinbauer fleshes out Winnebago Man by interviewing and soliciting brief commentary from some viral video “experts,” including Douglas Rushkoff (who coined the term viral video). At least one interviewee is confused by the inquiry and the search. After all, if we get to know the people behind some of these videos (like the Star Wars kid or Alexsey Vayner, whose leaked resume video made him the laughing stock of the Internet), then they lose their charm and entertainment value, right?

Not so with Rebney. Thankfully, after his initial “dog and pony show,” the old man turns out to be the cantankerous-grandfather-like figure Steinbauer (and fans like me) expect and hope he’ll be. (One can’t help but think he’s the brother of Justin Halpern’s dad.) It’s fascinating to watch as this man, who has chosen a hermit-like life for himself on a mountain in northern California, comes to terms with his notoriety and the people who think of him in such an affectionate way.

Could Winnebago Man have been about more just than a search for one man, and instead been an examination of multiple people who gained, if not fame then infamy through YouTube, and a greater study about why we’re so fascinated by them? Yes. That might have made it a more interesting film, with more of an insightful takeaway. But as a portrait of this one man, and why people are so fascinated by him, it’s engaging and entertaining.

YouTube is, as one person describes it, a “modern-day freak show,” and films like Winnebago Man might just go some distance toward reminding viewers that there are some real-life people behind the videos that make us laugh so hard. Hopefully those people are all as compelling as Jack Rebney. I’m giving Winnebago Man a B+. Do yourself a kindness and go see it.

Can’t Stop the Music

7 Nov

You might call this a case of “Desperate times call for desperate measures” — relatively speaking, of course.

Monday, Jamie Cullum‘s new album, The Pursuit, will be released in the U.K. and all over Europe. I’m a very big Jamie Cullum fan, have been for years, and for a while now, I’d been banking on the fact that the album — Jamie’s first in more than four years — would be released in the U.S. a day later, on Tuesday. That’s how it usually works, after all (though one wonders why albums don’t just drop on the same weekday around the world). Well, last week I got an email telling me that in fact, the U.S. release would not happen until March 2.

Suffice it to say, I just couldn’t wait that long. I mean, that’s crazy, right? Releasing the album in Europe, and then waiting four months to do it here? Especially after a four-year gap between albums. Jamie may not be a household name in the U.S., but he’s hardly an unknown, brand-new artist (Pursuit is actually his fifth album, though not all have been released in the U.S.). People like me are going to notice if he has an album out elsewhere in the world, and they’re going to want to get their hands on it now.

So as any enterprising person would do, I went on a pursuit of my own, and set off to find the album somewhere on the Interwebs. Before you could say “I’m All Over It Now,” I found a site (actually, a couple of them) where I could download all 12 tracks, for free, before the album had even been released overseas. It was almost too easy. Isn’t the Interwebs great?

Now, before you get all huffy and accusatory on me, and tell me I’m “stealing music,” you should know this much: I have every intention of buying the album when it’s officially released over here next year. In fact, I’ll probably even go for the deluxe edition (assuming I have the same option as the European fans), which includes bonus tracks and a DVD. I support artists I like, and I want this album to do well.

Speaking of which, let me say this: The Pursuit is great (of course it is). More mature, confident, and experimental than Jamie’s previous albums, Pursuit features some impressive tracks, such as his take on Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” Stephen Sondheim’s “Not While I’m Around” (from Sweeney Todd), and Rhianna’s “Don’t Stop the Music.” The originals “Love Ain’t Gonna Let You Down” and “Mixtape” are cool. “Music Is Through” will be a hot number when Jamie plays live, as will the raucous swing tune “You and Me Are Gone.” The dramatic “If I Ruled the World” erases any memory of Tony Bennett’s more-famous version. In short, Jamie’s come a long way from his U.S. debut, Twentysomething (a long way from his follow-up, Catching Tales, too), and he’s pretty much blasted out of the “jazz singer” box that some have painted him into (just in case the album cover wasn’t symbolic enough for you). The Pursuit is well worth the wait.

But let’s not miss the larger point here: In the age of the Interwebs, you can’t keep devoted music fans waiting. If an album is out in one part of the world — and it’s going to be hyped in other parts of the world with emails, on Facebook, Twitter, and a podcast — then it should be out everywhere. Otherwise, you can’t blame a guy for finding it on his own, especially when it’s this easy.

Follow Me

28 Oct

It’s no secret that I love Facebook.

I enjoy reconnecting with old friends, getting to know new ones even better, keeping up-to-date-with people I know (even if we’re not actually “in touch”), sharing interesting items and news stories, and most fun of all, coming up with amusing status updates — even if many of them are just song lyrics.

Facebook has become nothing short of an addiction for me; it’s a routine, a site I check often throughout the day, and one I genuinely love visiting and spending time on.

Facebook’s a community site, and while it’s not perfect, I tend to find value in being a part of it every day.

And, it’s a site I feel I’ve become “good” at using.

And then there’s Twitter …

On the other hand, I’ve never quite understood Twitter. Continue reading

One Degree Closer?

7 Jun

I was reading the new issue of Entertainment Weekly this weekend, and in a Q&A with actress Kyra Sedgwick, who is, of course, married to Kevin Bacon, I saw this exchange:

Do you pay attention to your press?
My husband is a Google Alert guy. He has one on himself and me. I’m like, Dude, I don’t want to know what people are saying.

So I just wanted to test that out. If you’re reading this, Kevin or Kyra … Hi there! How’s it going?