Saturday, June 30, 2007

June 29, 1888: Handel Oratorio Becomes First Musical Recording

Lost in all the iPhone hype yesterday was this little bit of historical trivia. The first musical recording was made on the same date 119 years ago. Coincidence? I wonder?

Here's the post from
1888: The earliest known musical recording is made. The piece, Georg Friedrich Handel's Israel in Egypt, is recorded on a paraffin cylinder.

Israel in Egypt, assigned the catalog number HWV 54, is an oratorio, a form in which Handel excelled. Like his more famous Messiah, Israel in Egypt is composed using biblical passages, mainly from Exodus and the Psalms.

Unlike the Messiah, however, it didn't enjoy much of a reception when it premiered in 1739. As a result, Handel shortened the work and inserted a few Italian arias to lighten the mood a bit.

Nevertheless, it was selected by Col. George Gourand, Thomas Edison's foreign sales agent, for the first musical recording. Gourand made his recording in London's Crystal Palace, using Edison's yellow paraffin cylinder -- candle wax, essentially.

(Source: Stanford University, National Park Service)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Friday fun for June 28, 2007

It's the Canada Day weekend here in Canada. Which means that many people have Monday off. It also means it's likely going to rain. But that's OK. I don't have any Canada Day-related material in this piece, so the rain won't affect this post. You can enjoy it all weekend, if you like.

Grocery Store Wars

Star Wars recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. And we're now getting organic food delivered right to our door by a guy on a bicycle. I wonder what might happen if we mashed those two ideas together? Looks like someone already did, in a cheesy, campy, yet weirdly wacky way.

Here's the link

The meaning of life

Since the beginning of time, people have struggled with the concept of heaven and hell. Well, it turns out there is a simple answer.

Here's the link

The iPhone arriveth

Today the iPhone is being released in the US. And it's a pretty big deal, to put it mildly. I heard a prediction that the best headline that will come out of this is "Jesus has returned - as a cell phone." The Internet and news channels are full of hype and people drooling and maybe even fighting to be the first to get their hands on this little wonder. So I thought I should contribute something to help the frenzy along.

Here's the link

And maybe something about Microsoft too

Just to keep things even, I want to point you to a clever parody of the recent announcement about Microsoft Surface, which I posted about a few weeks ago. I like it because I'm partial to big-assed technology myself.

Here's the link


Warning! Geeky stuff coming next.

I've always been intrigued by the fact that computers can somehow turn all the letters, numbers and pictures on a web page into a series of 1's and 0's. But how exactly does it work? This site lets you explore it yourself. Quite the geeky thing to do, really. And you can even decode what the headline on this piece means.

Here's the link

That's it for this week.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

NY Magazine article on Steve Jobs

You may not have heard about this, but on Friday, Apple is coming out with a new product. Something to do with talking, reading, blah, blah, blah. You can't get it in Canada, so who cares, right?

Of course, I'm talking about the Iphone, (there's even a guided tour available) and I know that you know about it, because apparently everybody on the planet has heard about it. To say that the hype is building is to redefine the word understatement.

So you don't need me to talk about that. But what I did want to point you to is a terrific profile of Apple CEO Steve Jobs that's just been published in New York Magazine.

Jobs's success with Apple over the past decade is nothing short of miraculous and this piece takes a good look at the man behind those great products we've come to associate with the company - the Mac, the iPod and now the iPhone.

It's a great read.

Here's the link.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

The revolution will be delivered to your door

Hmmm...this is interesting.

The July issue of Wired magazine is now on its way to subscribers. And for about 5,000 of them, they'll receive an issue with a photo of themselves on the cover.

Here's an excerpt from a New York Times story about it:

25wired.190.ds.jpgIn the old days — say, maybe a month ago — a “customized” magazine meant that it had ads tailored to your age group or articles about your region. Now, it seems, it has your picture on the cover, too.

In its April issue, Wired magazine, in partnership with Xerox, invited subscribers to upload their photographs to The first 5,000 who did so are now receiving their July issue with themselves as the cover art.

Not coincidentally, the editorial theme of the issue is the growing personalization of all things in cyberspace, and the headline over the photo is “You are here.”
Here's the link.

There are some interesting opportunities here for both publishers and readers. Of course there's the ego factor -- it's kind of nice to have something arrive on your doorstep with such a personal touch.

Sure, we kind of expect that level of personalization when we're going to a web page. We can accept that we're interacting with the site, so it makes sense that they know something about us. But for a previously "generic" item, like a magazine, to start showing up with content matched to my own interests - now that's food for thought.

How much personalization is too much? I suspect that most of us will accept this as a good thing. We like it when companies know us. People like to do business with people they know. So when a company seems to know us (as long as they don't get creepy about it) we feel OK about dealing with them. That makes sense.

What will become more and more critical in this equation is the trust established between the company and the customer. Trust has always been important, but I suspect it is going to become the number one determining factor in how we make our choices as consumers. Companies must ensure that their business practices nurture and support the trust relationship they have with customers. Anything - accidental or intentional - that harms that relationship needs to be dealt with in a superhuman fashion or the company won't recover.

We're about to enter a phase not unlike what's happened with telemarketing. There was a time when companies did it because it worked -- even though people didn't like it. Heck, a lot of companies still do it. But increasingly, people are pushing back against the idea that a company can take information that was given to someone for one purpose and use it for their own advantage - like selling the contact information to another company. If I know a company is doing that, I'll blackball both companies. And I suspect I'm not alone in that reaction.

On the other hand, if I have a "trust" relationship with a company I do business with, and I've told them it's OK to contact me if they've got something that I might be interested in, then I don't mind them calling. But they need to make sure that I remember I like them.

Companies that understand the importance of earning and maintaining trust will thrive in the personalized universe we're creating. Someone needs to come up with a new slogan for the trust economy.

Any suggestions? How about:

"Treat every customer like your mother."

"Sell globally; deliver locally."

"It's all about you...and you...and you."

UPDATE - Check out this story from Techdirt about companies putting targetted commercials into their "on-hold" customers, instead of music.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

A bit more fun

tong-3.jpgMy daughter passed along a link she discovered, showing that the art of letter writing is still alive and well for some people. It's a letter supposedly written by a curator at the Smithsonian museum to a dedicated, if somewhat deluded, amateur archeologist. The letter is pretty self-explanatory -- and hilarious.

Thanks, Jaime.

Here's the link.

Friday fun for June 22, 2007

Well, it may be a day late, but here's a diverse batch of things to make your weekend (or any other day) a bit more interesting.

Channelling Abba

If you like Abba but you're not too sure about the Bush administration, you're going to love this music video. More proof that Abba can take any subject and make it seem fun! Mama mia!

Here's the link.

Not your average day in the chair

An interesting story and photo about a journey through a crosswalk that went very wrong - but worked out OK.

Here's the link.

I am my avatar?

Ever notice how dog owners so often seem to look a lot like their pet? It looks as though something similar happens when people create their own avatar to represent them in the virtual world. This slideshow from the New York Times shows the real and virtual views of some people who have a foot in both worlds.

Link to the slideshow

The Times also has a fascinating story about Chinese gold farmers (link to Wikipedia), a new real-world industry created to meet the needs of online worlds for credit. It's a fascinating, and disturbing, look at the murky intersection of "reality."

Link to the NYT gold farming story

That's it for now. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rewriting history

Sometimes things just jump out at you and find them interesting.

That's what happened with this story, about some archeologists uncovering what they believe may be the oldest victim of a gunshot.
The 500-year-old skull, found in a long-forgotten Inca cemetery outside Lima, Peru, had two round holes just across from each other. Nearby was a plug of bone, recovered intact, that carried the distinct markings of an old musket ball.

Archaeologists sensed they had unearthed an important find, but it wasn't until months later that a powerful electron microscope scan confirmed it by finding traces of lead in the skull. The victim, who was between 18 and 22 years old when he died, had been shot by a Spanish conquistador.
The story is sobering and fascinating. It's a dark part of our history as North Americans, especially those of us who have European blood in our history.

Here's the link to the Washington Post article.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday fun for June 15, 2007

More fun pictures

Remember those statue pictures from a few weeks ago? Well, here's some pics along a similar line, except these ones are made of sand...

Here's the link

The geek rules for movie-making

You've probably noticed that sometimes things happen in movies in ways that don't match up with reality. But you might not realize that there is a strict code of conduct for how those movie events have to happen. Fortunately for the world, there are geeks out there who care about these things. And they've taken the time to write down those rules so that the rest of us can keep up.

Here's the link

Tyson the Skateboarding Bulldog

Remember that YouTube video of a skateboarding dog? Well, it turns out he has a name - Tyson - and now he's got his own website. Check it out for yourself. And watch the videos. I can hardly believe the dog is for real, but it sure looks that way.

Here's the link.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007


Every so often, Seth Godin goes on a rant. When he does, they're worth reading. This one appealed to me because he makes such an obvious case for why all of us - marketers included - need to take responsibility for what we do. Just saying "that's business" or "it's what people want" isn't good enough anymore.

Here's a brief excerpt. I encourage you to read the whole post.

Some people will tell you that the market decides. They’ll remind you that most consumers are adults, spending their own resources and doing it freely. That people have a right to buy what they want, even if what they want isn’t good for them (right now, or in the long run). That’s what living in a free country is all about, apparently. Buy what you want.

But wait.

I thought we agreed that marketing works.

If marketing works, it means that free choice isn’t quite so free. It means that marketers get to influence and amplify desires. The number of SUVs sold in the United States is a bazillion times bigger than it was in 1962. Is that because people suddenly want them, or is it because car marketers built them and marketed them?

Cigarette consumption is way down. Is that because people suddenly don’t want them any more, or is it because advertising opportunities are limited?

Others will tell you that if it’s legal, it’s fair game. If it’s legal for Edelman to post a blog called Working Families for Wal-Mart (when it’s really working Edelman employees for Wal-Mart), then they have every right to do so. In fact, they have an obligation to their shareholders to do so. Or so they say.

I believe that every criminal, no matter how heinous the crime, deserves an attorney. I don't believe that every product and every organization and every politician deserves world-class marketing or PR.

(Via Seth's Blog.)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday fun for June 8, 2007

Something a little different this week. Since I've been working pretty well non-stop for awhile, I haven't spent much time researching (or noodling, as some call it) around the web. But a few things in the past week caught my eye and I thought that pointing you to them would be worthwhile.

But they're not just fun stuff. They are also (for me) sort of work-related, since I'm in the business of helping companies tell their stories to the right audience. And these clips show some imaginative way of tapping into the multimedia capabilities of the Internet to let companies tell their stories in unique ways. And of course, in the process, they just might move a little product, too.

Welcome to Picturetown

First up is a campaign from Nikon for their new Nikon D40 camera.

I received an email the other day from Nikon, since I'm on their mailing list. I recently had to send my camera in for repair and I told them I'd be interested in getting on their mailing list. So I got one inviting me to visit PictureTown, USA.

When I clicked on the link, I was taken to a website that explained that Nikon had given 200 of these new cameras to the residents of Georgetown, South Carolina and told them to go ahead and use them. Then they gathered up the results and the stories and turned the whole thing into a really interesting website.

You'll find a lot of good pictures, displayed with a nice eye for design. The flash-based site works well and shows off the power of this medium. It's also a great way to show the capabilities of the new camera.

Here's the link.

Microsoft Surface

Microsoft has a reputation for always playing catch-up when it comes to new, cool technologies (e.g. the Zune). But last week, they announced their new Surface computer technology. It's basically a big touch screen that lets you manipulate things with your hands and fingers, instead of a keyboard and mouse.

To accompany the announcement, the company put together some interesting videos to show it off. They're very good. But what is really great about this stuff is to let your mind wander and imagine what it will be like to actually own and use one. It's so Minority Report'ish. I love it.

Here's the link

It's almost here...

Finally, the moment that a lot of people have been looking forward to is almost here. The Iphone will go on sale in the US on June 29. When it will appear in Canada is not clear, but there's a rumour that Rogers will be selling it on the same day here too! I hope so.

Of course, given the price that people are talking about (around $500-600 US with a 2-year contract), I doubt that I'll actually be buying one. But it will be fun to see how the whole thing turns out, given the hype of the last few months.

In the meantime, there's some great new ads up on the Apple website that demonstrate some of the features of this new critter. And while some of the features are also available on other phones, I don't think anyone else has brought the whole feature set together quite like Apple looks like it's done. They're worth a look, just to keep the drool-quotient right up there.

Here's the link

As always, enjoy.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Wiki Defense

I'm not sure how I missed noticing the fact that Tour de France champion Floyd Landis has been posting his defense documents to a Wiki. But today, I came across this article from the Columbia Journalism Review, which outlines the strategy.

The article is a bit dated, since Landis' arbitration hearing (to decide whether he'll be stripped of his title) happened last month. (Here's some coverage from the New York Times.) It's expected that a final decision may take another month to come down.

But I'm intrigued by Landis' defense team's imaginative use of Wikis. They've come up with a way to both "get around" the mainstream media to get your message out, and engage those same mainstream media to become interested in what you're saying.

This should be of interest to the journalists who cover events, as well as those who try to get the journalist's interested in the events - or more specifically, their side of the story.

It's uncertain whether Landis will know his fate before this year's Tour de France gets underway on July 8. But I know that I'll be watching this year's Tour on the Internet exclusively.

We decided not to get cable TV when we arrived here in Victoria and most of the time, that's been just fine. But for the last few years, I've watched the Tour de France nearly wall-to-wall. Despite what you might think, I found the whole thing fascinating and fun to watch.

The doping scandals surrounding the bike racing world have tarnished the sport. But the fact remains that the Tour de France is one of the most amazing tests of endurance on the planet. I'll still be watching. What about you?

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Friday fun for June 1, 2007

Some video fare for you again this week. One to make you think, one to make you wonder and one to sit back and enjoy.

Here we go...

Kinetic sculpture

I've posted some of this type of work before, but not this particular chap. But the stuff about the beach and the wind and the sculptures sure does seem familiar. If you are interested, there's a Wikipedia article on Kinetic sculpture, with lots of links. This video is not very good quality, but it is certainly intriguing. And worthwhile fun for a Friday, I'd say. Here's an excerpt from the intro:
For the past fifteen years, Theo Jansen has been creating (growing?) "beach animals" made from commonly available tools like plastic tubing, cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, hose, tape, and all sorts of other stuff. Wired News did a pretty good article on Jansen earlier this year:

Here's the link to the video

What if the world were reduced to a village of 100 people?

That's the premise behind this video, presented on The Miniature Earth website. This is one of those links that might inspire you to start clicking through to plenty of other interesting places. It's a wonderful mix of text, music (the song is called Mad World) and images. Here's an excerpt from the start of the video, that explains what it's about:
The text that originated this movie was published on May 29, 1990 with the title "State of the Village Report". It was written by Donella Meadows, who passed away in February 2000. Nowadays, Sustainability Institute, through Donella's Foundation, carries on her ideas and projects. The Miniature Earth project was first published in 2001, since then more than 2 million people have seen this website.

The statistics have been updated based on specialized publications, and mainly reports on the World's population provided by difference resources, like UN publications, and others. Bear in mind that these are only statistics, and consequently changes might occur after a few months or only after years.

Please see them only as a tendency, and not as accurate.

Here's the link to the video

Just kick back and enjoy

If you're tired of guitar videos, you might want to give this a pass. But I think it's a great example of "user-generated content." There's just a guy who's laid down some music tracks on a digital file for the background. Then he sits down, turns on the camera, picks up his guitar and starts winging it. And the results are impressive. For anyone else who's sat down with the stereo on and played along to their favourite song, this will resonate.

Here's the link to the video

Today's Bonus video

It's amazing what you find on YouTube. See if you can name the famous celebrities in this little-known home video!

Here's the link

Enjoy the weekend!

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