Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Oscar Peterson (1925 -2007)

Unimaginably skilled. Emotionally intelligent. Effortlessly cool. This is what music for adults sounded like before the sixties ruined it all.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bill's Got Friends

A New York Times profile of second tier Democratic presidential candidate, Bill Richardson, reveals two interesting things. The first is a snarky little swipe at Madeline Albright, the tough-talking, miniature Secretary of State under President Clinton. During a negotiation in Tokyo, Albright practiced nanny diplomacy on our Japanese allies.

“Dr. Albright’s Japanese counterpart requested permission to smoke, she lectured him on the dangers of tobacco, and things never improved from there.”

Man, what was their single-minded preoccupation with cigarettes all about anyway? Someone is going to look back on the Clinton years and see madness in the whole tobacco obsession the way we would if we found out the Harding Administration was animated by a hatred for Vick’s Vapo-rub.

The rest of the article paints a picture of a lovable lug inserting himself into global hotspots for fame and fortune and occasionally doing good.

The Times even takes some credit for advancing his career by cheerily allowing itself to be manipulated.

“Mr. Clinton had initially passed Mr. Richardson over for a position in his
administration. But in 1996, just after Mr. Richardson, canny about the press, invited a reporter from The New York Times to write about his efforts to free Red Cross workers — and celebrate with barbecued goat — in Sudan, Mr. Clinton asked Mr. Richardson to become ambassador to the United Nations.

In his announcement, Mr. Clinton mentioned the goat.”
Does it go without saying that if John Bolton had ever cozied up to a Times reporter in this way the resulting story would have something to do with shredding the Constitution and abusing animals?

OK, then I won't say it.

More proof? If, say, Mitt Romney had answered the following loaded question in the "incorrect" fashion as wild Bill does below, would Melissa Etheridge have gently tried to re-educate him on the spot or have him tagged as an intolerant ignoramous?

I provide. You decide.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Inexplicable Wednesday Videos

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Bloody Assasin of the Workers, I presume."

In the midst of an interview with Francis Ford Coppola comparing Communism with fascism (in this case Romanian fascism), the New York Times let’s slip one of the great lies of the 20th century:

“Communism was rooted in a utopian vision, the Iron Guard (fascism) was rooted in hatred.”
Actually, both totalitarian movements were based on hatred and both acted on it. Fascists committed genocide based on race. Communism committed genocide based on class. That’s the only difference between communism and fascism. The rest is superficial.

Of course, zealots at both extremes were perusing their own utopian visions. Sadly, some folks still don’t recognize that it’s the vision of utopia that drives some people to channel their resentment into full blown hatred.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

David Cameron and the Wonders of small tv

Hierarchical organizations have difficulty speaking to individuals. That’s because most individuals prefer to exchange information face-to-face and organizations are essentially faceless.

Human beings, one the other hand, do have faces and we’ve evolved over millions of years to recognize facial cues that tell us if the person we’re communicating with is sincere or not.

In short, human beings are highly calibrated authenticity detectors.

To communicate effectively, organizations such as corporations and political parties need to replicate authenticity and master the art of “org-to-face” conversation. That involves constructing an artificial face and signaling sincerity through artificial gestures and expressions.

Not easy . . . but do-able.

In the one-dimensional world of text, the old wisdom of Eliot Noyes still holds true: write everything as if it’s addressed “Dear Mom.” But with electronic channels there are entirely new opportunities to “scale up” face-to-face communications.

One of the truly great practitioners of mass intimacy is David Cameron of the Conservative Party in Britain. Last year Cameron faced a classic organizational challenge: how to define himself and connect to a multitude of disparate people separated by time and space?

Among other things he launched WebCameron, a video blog that he updates almost weekly with a short (3 minute) seemingly behind-the-scenes looks at his activities. It began with him in his kitchen:

Can you imagine another major political aspirant putting him or herself out there like this? It's virtually impossible because the handlers and hangers on would say it's "not presidential" or it looks sloppy. Also, it's unscripted so the handlers are reduced to one, the video editor.

Cameron makes it work because he's a good actor. Not to belittle him, you need to act because your audience is an unblinking lens. He does it well because he's let you in on the pretense. Plus, he's pretty informative.

He answers viewer questions, talks in cars, on trains, and summarizes his meetings and speeches backstage.

The beauty of this is that rather than simply showing him delivering the speech, Cameron tells you about the speech and sums up his top three points.

The difference is in knowing your audience. The audience for a speech are those people in the room. The audience for “small tv” is you . . . even if “you” is a million people just like you watching their computer screens.

There is a formula to these videos that makes them easy to produce and edit.

First there is the narration track delivered without a script probably in several takes. Next is the event itself which is recorded with a static camera. And lastly is the b-roll that overlays all the edits to the narration and the event.

Together it makes a coherent mini-story rich in direct and contextual information. You can see his facial expressions. You can see activity in the background. He seems to be subject to uncontrollable elements such as the wind, the light and regular people on the street.

What does all that say?

Not much by itself, but over time and in similar situations you begin to “know” Cameron and perhaps even to trust him. Yet, he’s not an individual per se. He’s representing a large national organization of people that depends on the support of individuals for its success.

It’s been said that in communications sincerity is the key. And if you can fake that you’ve got it made. I’m not saying Cameron is insincere, but he has demonstrated a remarkable ability to create mass intimacy skillfully and cheaply.

Ronald Reagan used radio this way. His weekly addresses as President were an extension of the short radio essays he delivered for years on AM radio.

Presidents continue the tradition but no one has made the leap to small tv. I wonder if President Bush would be as unpopular today if instead of talking stiffly from the Oval Office he had adopted the small tv approach and explained Iraq using maps and on the spot reports?

No American presidential candidate has shown any aptitude for mass intimacy . . . yet.

But it's coming.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Your Wish Is My Command
So Lileks wonders what Dave Brubeck's house looks like today. Well, here's what it looks like, today.
Actually, as of about 15 minutes ago.

The great man himself was there being interviewed for a magazine article on of all things, his house! The correspondant guy didn't seem too pleased that he was being scooped by the blogosphere.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Victory Made of Mierda

Chubby tyrant wannabe, Hugo Chavez, reacts with characteristic restraint and humility to the news that the Venezuelan people don't want to relinquish all their rights in order to achieve some discredited 19th century utopian ideal.

Take a gander at what a thugocracy looks like.