Remembering Terry Kath

Today would be the birthday of Terry Kath, the original guitarist for Chicago.  Kath continues to be an incredibly underrated artist and is, when you look at the band’s early music, incredibly responsible for a lot of its sound in that era.

There’s a quote from Robert Lamm I once read where he pointed out that Kath often wasn’t playing what would be considered traditional guitar parts. Instead they were more like what would be played by the left hand on a piano. It’s an observation that drastically impacted how I listened to his playing after that.

Kath deserves more acknowledgement for just what an incredible musician he was and not be judged by how people now see the band he once, by virtue of his outsized personality, seemed to lead.

Twitter may not create media, but it will facilitate better media’s display

Twitter_512x512Far be it from me to disagree with John Battelle, but I think there’s a missing component from his prediction that Twitter will begin to more fervently get into the creation of original content all its own this year.

There’s a lot that I agree with in Battelle’s thinking. But ultimately I don’t think Twitter itself will create much original media itself – though there will be certain instances when doing so makes sense – as much as it will increasingly accommodate the big companies that want to do so and have it be served up to Twitter’s audience.

Twitter has already created destinations for big events like NASCAR that don’t require much on Twitter’s own part other than a shiny wrapper. So extrapolate this out and imagine a system where the organizers of any big event – let’s use the upcoming Oscars as an example – can come in and pay for access to a tool that lets them skin a page that displays the official Academy Twitter feed, updates from key media partners, curated updates using the official hashtag and more.

This kind of turnkey solution would be very attractive to the broadcast networks, movie studios, record labels and other media companies who want to present an official version of the conversation around a TV show, movie, record or anything else.

Some companies have already been doing this on their own sites or through services like Storify (which Twitter would be wise to purchase if they really want to go down this road) but by having this kind of thing live on Twitter it solves the discovery question. Specifically it takes the conversation and allows Twitter to serve it up as a recommendation to people that keeps people on their site for the social conversation. Couple this with the idea that it could then be advertised to people’s whose profiles suggest they would be interested in such a conversation and Twitter is making even more money while presenting what is and should be relevant the reader.

Drive-in theaters having trouble surviving the digital transition

cascadeThe digital projection revolution is leaving drive-in theaters out in the dark. The technology is just too expensive for the theaters, which are seeing lower and lower attendance and just can’t shell out the cash. And they aren’t part of the plan that helps defray the costs through payouts from the studios.

I’m enough of a nostalgist to mourn this a bit. I don’t have any great romantic-themed memories of visiting a drive-in with a date but did hit more than a few showings as a kid with my family. In fact the Cascade we frequented in the Chicago suburbs is name-checked in the story.

It would be a shame to see this hallmark of Americana, a bright symbol of the mid-20th century this country had with the automobile, fall by the wayside. Yeah, the march of progress is always in motion but it’s too bad that an entire industry is occasionally wiped out as a result.

UPDATE: A new story in the Los Angeles Times says drive-in owners are going to get some financial help similar to what other theaters have been getting for digital conversion:

The National Assn. of Theatre Owners and the private company Cinedigm, which supplies digital equipment and content to the exhibition industry, said they will help drive-in theaters secure financing to pay for the cost of converting from film to digital projectors.

Filmakers use social tools to build buzz for their movies

instagram-logoI don’t have a ton to add to it, but this story about how independent filmmakers are turning to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in order to build buzz for their movies is a good one, with lots of good nuggets of advice and thinking. Definitely worth reading.

Humans are the best recommendations engine

thumbs upThere’s an important point that’s made in this story about book buying and the problem facing discovery as more book stores go out of business:

As bookstores go away, “we need more powerful book reviewers online,” said Matthew Baldacci, VP and associate publisher at St. Martin’s, in a panel on discovery. He was referring not to professional reviewers for outlets like the New York Times but citizen reviewers with a role similar to “the role that booksellers used to take…if we’re forced into a situation where physical bookstores are going away, then we have to have these people who are help us sell our books.”

So what’s needed is a recommendation engine whether it’s human or automated.

This is a problem that’s faced by all industries, from books to movies to mobile apps. Right now there are more and more systems in place that are designed to surface what an algorithm thinks we will like. Sometimes that’s based on aggregate data, sometimes that’s based on the purchasing behavior of our social network friends. But these systems are imperfect and don’t get to the fundamental need to know what someone whose opinions we trust thinks of something we’re considering buying.

This is a role that in the book world has been played, in part, by book store employees. Theater and video store staff could recommend interesting and offbeat movies to customers who frequently visited. And so on and so forth.

The move to online purchasing has certainly made finding things more convenient. But these systems are very bad at surfacing the odd and unusual, something that humans excel at.

Oh my goodness…the awesome…

All I can say is this new Star Wars action figure featuring Luke Skywalker in his X-Wing pilot uniform from the first movie is absolutely fantastic. It’s just ridiculously perfect.


Movies and hashtags go to the Super Bowl and YouTube makes the case for early ad releases

super-bowlA good story finally broke a couple days ago about what movie studios will be advertising their 2013 releases in this Sunday’s Super Bowl. So what movies can we expect to see commercials for?

Universal will show off The Fast and The Furious 6, Paramount will advertise both World War Z and Star Trek Into Darkness and Disney will preview Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger and Oz. Sitting out the broadcast are Fox, Sony and Warner Bros, despite all three studios having big tentpoles later this year that would be good fits for the game’s audience.

One big part of the advertising that will be done is the inclusion of hashtags, which according to Twitter will appear in half the commercials during this year’s game. The idea here is obviously to start a conversation online but, as I’ve stated before, while such a tactic might generate spur-of-the-moment engagement it’s still unclear what the long term brand value of it is. Especially compared to pointing viewers to an owned platform (ie website) where a stronger brand case can be made.

Meanwhile, there’s been a ton of conversation this year about the viability of releasing Super Bowl commercials early, something that a ton of advertisers have done this year but which seems to be subject to some questioning this time around. Which makes the timing of a new study from YouTube (the platform, of course, most companies release those teasers or full spots on) that claims ads shown before the game broadcast pull in six times the views as spots that aren’t.

Listening To: Bon Jovi


Oh, that’s right, this is happening.

It might not be possible to accurately express how much this song in particular was so very much my jam in 1988. I would listen to and rewind the New Jersey cassette to listen to “Born To Be My Baby” so many times it’s a little ridiculous.

No more Ben & Kate

ben and kateI know we’re all supposed to be in full on “mourning the end of 30 Rock” mode right now – and I’m right there with everyone else on that as well – but I’m also bummed that Fox killed off Ben & Kate.

No, it wasn’t great TV, but it was solidly enjoyable week to week and star Nat Faxon’s kind of energy was pretty unique to the television landscape, bringing a weird improv-based vibe that fit the character perfectly. And I enjoyed how it was about a group of friends who, for a change, weren’t mean to each other or always waiting to pounce on one another but who instead backed each other up, genuinely like each other and otherwise came together as a makeshift family.

UPDATE: Marc Hirsch at NPR liked the show for many of the same reasons I did:

Ben & Kate took a different tack. The siblings have occasionally butted heads, but more important than them loving one another is the fact that they like one another. And they like their friends Tommy and B.J. And Tommy and B.J. like them back. So do Tommy’s parents, whose mild exasperation at being occasionally drafted as last-minute babysitters for six-year-old Maddie can’t disguise their affection for everyone involved. Everyone is happy to have everyone else in their lives. They’re all one team, them against the world.

That’s not all that common on television, and certainly not in television comedy. More typical are shows like Community, where the characters have grudgingly learned to love another while constantly struggling with the fact that they quite often don’t like one another very much. Modern Family and Cougar Town have similar (though less extreme) dynamics, while a show like Happy Endings shows its best-pals sextet occasionally treating each other badly enough that they frankly seem like a bit of a frenemy time bomb.

Mondo gets a gallery show for its awesome movie posters

I’m a big fan of Mondo’s posters for new and classic movies for the same reason most people are: They’re inspired works of art. Instead of having to fulfill contractual obligations about the size of X star’s head in proportion to the title or being the result of a design-by-committee process that’s built to strip away any and all originality they speak to the core of a movie and convey a sometimes complex message about it. They work to tell a story in a new and interesting way. The best art often does.

Anyway, Mondo is getting a gallery show in Austin, TX in late February showing off the best of their artwork and Wired has a look at many of the pieces that will be on display.