Archive for May, 2007

Steve Jobs, I Dare You

May 29, 2007

From C-Net:

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates will share a stage [Wednesday, May 30] at the D: All Things Digital tech conference in California next week for a 75-minute joint interview.

Besides a brief shared appearance at an Apple event in 1983, the two have never appeared together in public before.

Steve, I dare you–no, I double-dog dare you to walk onto that stage and say, “Hi, I’m a Mac, and he’s a P.C.” while pointing at Gates.

C’mon, man, the little dork would flip out. Besides, nobody can turn down a double-dog dare.

UPDATE: Okay, maybe you can turn down a double-dog dare.

At any rate (and in all seriousness), it looks like the Jobs-Gates summit yielded a fascinating discussion. Here’s Engadget’s running blog on the talk, which is a bit jagged (not a criticism, transcribing something like this “live” is a tough job), but still a great read. Thanks to commenter “vitaboy” for the link and the heads-up.

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May 25, 1977

May 25, 2007

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock this week, you’re probably aware that today is the thirtieth anniversary of opening day for the original “Star Wars.”

Yeah, that makes me feel old, too.

I didn’t see the first movie on opening night, but then again, very few people did–20th Century Fox had low expectations for “Star Wars,” and it only opened on 32 screens that long ago and far away Memorial Day weekend. The rest, as they say, is history: the movie shattered attendance records at those lucky 32 theaters, and new prints were rushed out to the rest of the country so fast, some of them were still wet from processing when they came out of the cannisters.

Somewhat less long ago, on the eve of the release of 1999’s “The Phantom Menace,” I wrote up a fairly giddy essay on my own memories and impressions from the original movie, topped off with expectations for what turned out to be a decidedly disappointing “new Star Wars” that was hours away from opening. Most of it still stands up; here’s a sample:

A long time ago, in a multiplex far, far away….

To be more precise, it was late May of 1977, at the Mall Garden Twin in Albertville, Alabama. We were visiting my mother’s parents, and most of my extended family went out one warm night to catch a movie. I was eight, fresh out of the second grade, and the movie, of course, was Star Wars.

Even at that age, I was already a science fiction fan. My grandfather worked for NASA, my then-teenaged aunt had introduced me to “Star Trek” on television, and my bedroom was filled with all the space paraphernalia that one little boy could amass without getting into serious trouble. The cliche would be to say that none of that prepared me for Star Wars… but the truth would be saying that all of it prepared me for the experience.

That movie was all I’d ever wanted, even before I knew what I wanted out of a movie–it was flash and bang and glorious vistas and scary monsters and fantastic spaceships and grand heroes and diabolical villains and magic and laser swords and a princess and a knight and talking robots, all wrapped up in stirring music and a vast, epic scale. Star Wars hit me, with all its extraordinary, playful velocity at just the right age. I–and most of my contemporaries–have never been the same. In retrospect, we never had a chance.

I should note that the Mall Garden Twin (now closed) was not one of the original 32 theaters, so it’s almost certain that I should have said “early June” instead of “late May” above. At any rate, it was quite a time, and lackluster prequels be damned, it was a great time to be a kid discovering that far away galaxy for the first time. We’re unlikely to ever see or experience anything quite like it ever again… but you never know. If it could happen once, it could happen again.

Solo Projects

May 24, 2007

It took a while, but at least some music artists are starting to get it. With a hat-tip to Andrew McNeice’s compulsively-readable guilty pleasure Melodicrock.com, here’s an excerpt from an interview with Nine Inch Nails impresario Trent Reznor:

It must be an odd time then to have a new album, Year Zero, out?

It’s a very odd time to be a musician on a major label, because there’s so much resentment towards the record industry that it’s hard to position yourself in a place with the fans where you don’t look like a greedy asshole. But at the same time, when our record came out I was disappointed at the number of people that actually bought it. If this had been 10 years ago

I would think “Well, not that many people are into it. OK, that kinda sucks. Yeah I could point fingers but the blame would be with me, maybe I’m not relevant”. But on this record, I know people have it and I know it’s on everybody’s iPods, but the climate is such that people don’t buy it because it’s easier to steal it.

You’re a bit of a computer geek. You must have been there, too?

Oh, I understand that — I steal music too, I’m not gonna say I don’t. But it’s tough not to resent people for doing it when you’re the guy making the music, that would like to reap a benefit from that. On the other hand, you got record labels that are doing everything they can to piss people off and rip them off. I created a little issue down here because the first thing I did when I got to Sydney is I walk into HMV, the week the record’s out, and I see it on the rack with a bunch of other releases. And every release I see: $21.99, $22.99, $24.99. And ours doesn’t have a sticker on it. I look close and ‘Oh, it’s $34.99’. So I walk over to see our live DVD Beside You in Time, and I see that it’s also priced six, seven, eight dollars more than every other disc on there. And I can’t figure out why that would be.

Did you have a word to anyone?

Well, in Brisbane I end up meeting and greeting some record label people, who are pleasant enough, and one of them is a sales guy, so I say “Why is this the case?” He goes “Because your packaging is a lot more expensive”. I know how much the packaging costs — it costs me, not them, it costs me 83 cents more to have a CD with the colour-changing ink on it. I’m taking the hit on that, not them. So I said “Well, it doesn’t cost $10 more”. “Ah, well, you’re right, it doesn’t. Basically it’s because we know you’ve got a core audience that’s gonna buy whatever we put out, so we can charge more for that. It’s the pop stuff we have to discount to get people to buy it. True fans will pay whatever”. And I just said “That’s the most insulting thing I’ve heard. I’ve garnered a core audience that you feel it’s OK to rip off? F— you’.

That kind of thing definitely didn’t start with NIN in 2007. More than 20 years ago, I was working in a little record store (yes, they were still records back then) in south Alabama when Metallica’s “$5.98 EP Garage Days Re-Revisited” record came out. The band was (admirably) concerned enough about stores jacking up the price of a short covers album that they put the list price in the title. My boss, who’d wanted to run it up to $9.99 to take advantage of Metallica’s then-cult audience, was pissed.

At any rate, it’s about time that successful artists with established audiences started to notice what (ahem) some of us figured out quite a while back: when your fans have the internet, you really don’t need a record company:

Given all that, do you have any idea how to approach the release of your next album?

I’ve have one record left that I owe a major label, then I will never be seen in a situation like this again. If I could do what I want right now, I would put out my next album, you could download it from my site at as high a bit-rate as you want, pay $4 through PayPal. Come see the show and buy a T-shirt if you like it. I would put out a nicely packaged merchandise piece, if you want to own a physical thing. And it would come out the day that it’s done in the studio, not this “Let’s wait three months” bulls—.

UPDATE: My bad for initially leaving off the last quote, which contained the real point of the post in the first place.

Stupid, Stupid Newspaper Creatures

May 7, 2007

When the final obituaries of big-city newspapers are written (and they’ll be written online), their history could well mark today as one of the signal events in the buggy-whip-ization of newsprint. From today’s Bleat:

[T]hey’ve killed my column, and assigned me to write straight local news stories.

Really.

It probably won’t do James much good with his bosses for me to point this out, but how dumb do you have to be to spike Lileks? You’re talking about the best-connected and very likely best-read online columnist in America, and what do the geniuses at the Star-Tribune do? They demote him and strip the paper of his signature in-print work.

Ideological payback? Maybe. Dinosaur thinking? Obviously. Stupid? Without question.

If the Strib had any institutional sense whatsoever, they’d make James the poobah-in-chief of their online division, and turn him loose. They’d have the best online paper in the country in less than a month. What they’re doing now is an idiotic waste of talent.

Attention, newspaper publishers with a brain: here’s a guy who can bring in a hundred thousand new pairs of eyeballs in the blink of an, er, eye. You say you’re losing money to the web? Well, he knows more about the online world and how to communicate on it than anybody on your staff.

Don’t be as dumb as the Strib. Hire him away before somebody else beats you to the punch.

UPDATE: Tons of reaction in the blogosphere today, as one might imagine. Lots of it is linked at Hugh Hewitt’s site; Hewitt is off on what he calls “a three-hour rant” on his radio show even as I type.