Sunday, November 29, 2009

Raphael Saadiq

My stumbling upon this singer could not have come at a more opportune time, seeing as just last night, I posted about my desire for a musical Renaissance. Do yourself a favor and check out Raphael Saadiq. Appearance wise, Saadiq looks like a cross between a young David Ruffin and Malcolm X. The best part is his voice is highly reminiscent of Stevie Wonder's and Smokey Robinson's, although Saadiq's voice is ever so slightly lower than Smokey's.
I recommend the song "Oh Girl" as your introduction to this talented artist, a song which he also re-recorded with Jay-Z. So even the big-time singers are taking notice! The version with Jay-Z is just ok. Saadiq did well on his own, but at least he's getting the attention. The instrumental accompaniment echos the style which was used on the early Jackson 5 singles, specifically "Who's Lovin' You", "Got to Be There", and "Maybe Tomorrow".
In the songs "100 Yard Dash" and "Staying in Love", I can really hear Stevie Wonder in his voice. Though he brings back memories of these great artists, he is nonetheless unique and individual in his own right, and not merely a reverberation of old Motown greats.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Why we need more '60s in our movies

Allow me to express a concern that I have about music: in my opinion, there will never be another band comparable to those which were alive in the '60s, such as The Who, The Beatles, The Kinks, etc. I frequently wonder whether a song will hit the airwaves that will create as much of a stir as "My Generation" or "Can't Buy Me Love". Thus far, I don't think any contemporary artists have come close to even placing themselves in the same league as the greats, the gods of Rock & Roll. Is it true what they say? That Rock & Roll is dead? I fear the worst- that it is.
It may seem weird, but I frequently become nostalgic about the '60s whenever I listen to the music from that time or when I watch movies such as "Across the Universe", although I have never lived through them. I want to immerse myself in that decade, to feel what they felt and to see what they saw and to hear what they heard. There are striking similarities, however, between that decade and this one. The Vietnam and the Iraq Wars come to mind. Yet the music from that era will never be reproduced nor properly replicated. But that doesn't discourage people from trying, as seen in "Across the Universe".
People love the '60s. We are infatuated with that time. We want to revive the colors, the sounds, the styles, the activism, the love, and the overall ground-breaking events which took place. Am I romanticizing the period?
I am most reminded of this when I watch the movie "Across the Universe", the 2007 masterpiece directed by Julie Taymor. Without sounding too much like an advertisement, I'll resort to giving a short summary: this movie chronicles the love story between two young people, Lucy and Jude, set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the counterculture radicalism, free love, to name a few elements. Oh yes, and the entire soundtrack is comprised solely of covers of Beatles' songs, sung by the actors.
Another movie, which I actually saw today, is called "Pirate Radio". A group of DJs gathered on a boat anchored just off the coast of Great Britain, and in an act of rebellion, defied the laws in place and played Rock & Roll on their station 24 hours a day. This movie featured the original songs by the artists, but only in snippets. In all honesty, I wish the movie had included more music and less dialogue, but hey- that's just my opinion. I was happy enough to have the movie open with "All Day and All of the Night" and hear a few precious seconds of Jimi Hendrix.
The golden Rock & Roll classics of the '60s need to reemerge, especially amongst the youth. We need a renaissance, people.

Gaming and Social Networking,9171,1940668,00.html - an article in Time Magazine that I recently read which made such an impression on me, I had to write about it.

Mark Pincus, founder of the social-game company called Zynga, is a genius. In July of 2007, Pincus founded Zynga, which as of today employs 600 people. And what are they known for? Facebook games. That's right. They make their money by making games for Facebook. Among these games are Farmville, Cafe World, Mafia Wars, YoVille, zyngapoker, and Roller Coaster Kingdom.
Just when I thought Facebook couldn't become any more addictive, Pincus stepped into the ring and proved me very wrong. Again, the man is a genius for being among the first to add games to Facebook.
Now, I quite honestly refuse to take part in any of these games. There have been enough times where I have spent unnecessary amounts of time on Facebook, and I am certain that if I allow myself to play any of these games, it's no doubt that nothing will get done. Hey, I'm only human. Stick something engaging, fun, and relaxing in front of me (like the opportunity to manage my own cafe, as seen in Cafe World), and I'll forget about that essay that's due in a matter of hours.
Here's how the ingenuity part comes into play. Facebook was created to network socially. With the accumulation of friends comes the inevitable accumulation of information about those friends, and easy access into their lives. We are curious creatures. We want to know about that trip our girlfriends took, or the hockey game that our cousin went to, etc. So look at the pictures, message them, write on their wall, anything to stay connected. The obsession to stay connected with people and to ingratiate ourselves in their personal lives is contagious and widespread. Now, couple that with these games, where you can invite friends to play with you. It becomes an excuse to further connect with your friends, and is also a means by which you can play around like a child. But hey! It's ok, because all of your other friends are there, too, farming and planting and pretending to be a Capo in the mafia. According to the article in Time Magazine, the game Fishville "hooked 9 million users in a week". 9 million users in one week! Pincus is clearly on to something. The article went on to say that people "feel safer playing with their friends". It's also probably more fun!
And while you're playing, make sure to check out the ads which congregate in your side bar (I believe they are located on the right-hand side). As stated in the Time article, "ads and virtual goods bring in most of the revenue" to keep this company afloat.
There have nevertheless been a share of scams swimming around. The article explained that a Farmville user named Michelle took a quiz (I suppose on Facebook, or she clicked a link which was advertised on her Facebook page; the article didn't go into detail) which required her to type in her cell phone number to obtain the results of the quiz. She did so, and when she received her bill, noticed that she had been charged a mysterious SMS fee.
Needless to say, not all the kinks have been worked out. But with Zynga's $100 million annual revenue, I'd say they're doing pretty well for themselves.

- All information taken from Time Magazine, from the November 30, 2009 issue, pages 59-60, the article entitled "Zynga Harvests The Cyberfarmer", written by Belinda Luscombe

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Los médicos a bordo del Alakrana

El 2 de octubre, un grupo de piratas somalíes capturó un pesquero vasco, "Alakrana", que viene de la ciudad de Bermeo, del país vasco. Había 36 pescadores a bordo del barco, y ahora, después de 42 días los piratas han decidido de permitir unos médicos en el pesquero para atender a los rehenes. (en inglés) (en español)

A reaction to Reginald Ponder

From Reginald Ponder, the esteemed movie critic, I learned a lot about the world of critiquing films, as well as utilizing the media to spread a message or an opinion. I also gained a lot from his discussion about individual brands, and the importance of becoming your own brand and establishing your personal identity so that you may achieve a certain level of popularity in the field in which you work.

Ponder spoke about the content of films, and one of the aspects of that content which most struck me was his discussion on the subconscious marginalization of a particular group. For example, in Quentin Tarantino’s new film Inglourious Basterds, the main character is known as the “Apache”, for he and his men scalp their Nazi victims. Ponder pointed out that those of us who do not question this parallel to the Native Americans as savage beings are subconsciously accepting or agreeing with the reference. He also noted that the process of scalping was first employed by the French, but the general public would not know that, due in part to the perpetuation of stereotypes found in movies similar to Tarantino’s.

I enjoyed listening to Ponder explain that his day has no set schedule, which was an answer in response to one of the questions posed by a student. He could not describe to us what a “typical day” in his life consists of, for it changes every day. I also appreciated the fact that he offered us some advice, which was to get as much sleep as possible, for when he does not sleep enough during the night, he notices a dramatic change in his work ethic and his writing.

Lastly, I realize that delving into the field of Journalism is risky, due to the fact that newspapers are on the decline and many companies are firing or laying off a large percentage of their workforce. Ponder was able to quell my fears about my future in this field because during his discussion, he outlined many jobs which have to do with marketing and professional writing. This gives me hope in that I can harness the skills which I have obtained throughout my major and apply it to a more modern field, such as that of website design or anything which has to do with the Internet. If anything, Ponder’s presentation was a comfort to me, as well as an informative experience.

The Importance of Branding: "A Brand Called You"

The real power of You, according to Tom Peters, is that of influence. It is centered around the level of circulation and networking that you can do in order to spread the word of your brand to people on the scale that you are targeting, such as statewide, nationwide, or even international. Each and every one of us who is in the process of creating this original brand has the real power - and with that, the real responsibility - of sharing ideas and goals which originate as a result of this new brand. Given the technological advantage that we each have, we can rapidly transmit information to and from sources. This makes for an easy distribution of ideas and therefore a subsequent growth of the brand. If you have the power to influence a wide array of people by utilizing the technology and the resources that are available, your brand will inevitably expand and become an influential faction.

Indeed, with social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, displaying and posting information is an easy process, and results in a large following of people. Peters suggests that instead of building the old-fashioned résumé, you should allow your history to speak for itself and of course constantly update it as needed. Yet not only do we hold the power to circulate on the internet, but in person, as well. Peters is an advocate of harnessing our strengths and putting them to work in order to spread our brand's popularity. For example, we may give a presentation at a workshop or write a column for the local newspaper, depending on if we are better writers or better talkers. The influence and the recognition through both mediums is likely to diffuse to a greater and greater amount of people each time.

Loyalty to you, Peters admits, may seem like a selfish concept, due to the fact that it encourages you to develop and perfect the business brochure of Me, Inc. However, paying more attention to yourself in order to make your brand more marketable also serves to aid the company for which you are currently working, for they, according to Peters, are very likely to laud your performance if you can make your brand better and more accomplished. He suggests asking for honest feedback with every project or task which is assigned to you, so that your résumé can begin to have some structure and you can portray yourself as more marketable. Even if you are not looking for a job, it is beneficial to assess where your brand ranks in the business world; hence, Peters also suggests going on a few interviews to see where your skill sets lie in terms of necessity for other jobs. Treating your résumé as a job brochure, says Peters, is a way to keep playing in the game with your brand.

Finally, Peters negates the concept that career success is measured using the image of a ladder, where those who are more successful can climb up the rungs, and those who do not attain the same level of success are stuck more toward the bottom. He encourages us to think of career success as somewhat of a maze, moving in any and all directions. We are also encouraged to gauge our success using any means that we see fit, whether it is financial success, popularity, or avoiding the stasis of falling into a “dead-end job”, i.e. one that presents no further projects that challenge our skill set, thus weakening our brand. The future of You depends on sticking to your goals, and on not wavering when it comes to those set goals, or the “mission statement” that we are prompted to draft and frequently review. Peters says that we are not to shy away from our imagination, but we should employ it as much as possible in order to realize our goals and keep them firmly set in our minds. The ability to plan for our future and thus abide by the rules that we have established for ourselves will aid in attaining our personal success.