Drop Where You Shop

Saw on Consumerist today that shopdropping is experiencing a spike in popularity. Fun!
SHOPDROP: To covertly place merchandise on display in a store. A form of "culture jamming" s. reverse shoplift, droplift.
Brings to mind The Droplift Project, who've been droplifting for years. Doesn't quite top Bansky's museum-hack, but it's the same idea. The Center for Tactical Magic demonstrates a lot of the ideas I first heard articulated in Hakim Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zone. Not that I've read all that, I recommend you absorb it the same way I did - listen to it*.
[* If anyone knows of an acapella version of this recording, please share. (I think the mid-90's "world/ambient" music bed might prevent some listeners from getting the most of Bey's reading, plus I'd like to mash-up some bits of it myself.)]
For those who want to skip the strategy and go straight to the rush of shopdropping, there's PeopleProducts123, an endeavor of the Anti-Advertising Agency.


Throughout Through Death*

Pioneering avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen died Wednesday, according to a press release posted yesterday by the Stockhausen Foundation. While neither a household name nor always the easiest to listen to, his work still was a profound influence. From Aphex Twin to Frank Zappa, The Beatles and Pink Floyd to Sonic Youth and Björk, musicians of all disciplines cite Stockhausen as a critical reference point.

Let's all tip a sip for Karlheinz tonight.

* Post title taken from a Stockhausen quote, listed in his Memorial Booklet [PDF].


Wait For It

I just read on the Captivate network (elevator news at work, piped in by Gannett) that scientists are trying desperately to develop an anti-aging pill. A pill that fights the affects of aging.

A pill that fights the affects of aging? We've had that for years already. It's called birth control. From the moment each of us is born, the one thing we all do is age. The only way to stop that is to not be born. Fact is, we're already living longer than we were biologically meant to. Let's not forget that living longer doesn't mean living better - we still fall apart as we get up in years. Think of how much of your life is spent just making a living. Now imagine that going on longer than you ever imagined. And with silly elevator news snippets that remind you of your inevitable mortality.

To be fair, despite Captivate's sensationalized paraphrasing of some actual news, the true development appears to be related to longevity and life expectancy, judging from this recent Wired article. But living longer is not the same thing as not aging, is it? We all have to wait at least another ten years to see if these pills even do anything.

Meanwhile, maybe contemplate your life in terms of quantity versus quality.

[Photo from AmazingAbilities.com]


The secrets that you keep, when you're meeting in your sleep.

Went to some management training for two and a half days this past week. It was a lot to take in, but most of that should prove useful. I've already noticed some changes taking effect. My fiancee tells me for the past few nights I've been talking a lot in my sleep.

Not just talking, though. She says it sounds like I'm giving a presentation. Or maybe speaking in a meeting. I just wake up tired. Can't remember any meetings, but it sounds as though they may have been productive. I'm told that it sounded as though I was doing a convincing job of it - whatever it was.

[Video via Kottke]



Bounced around from this link about a shoe-gazer documentary called Beautiful Noise, to this one, and eventually to VICE pals' VBS.tv. Apparently, they got Kevin Shields to give the longest interview he's ever given, at a smokey little pub in London. It's a four-part episode of VBS's Soft Focus. Go there and check out the other interviews. To get you on to the Kevin Shields segments, I've embedded them all in this post. Enjoy. (Part 1 above, Part 2 next...)

Part 3.

And Part 4.

Seems like summer 2008 will be one of much nostalgic shoe-gazing.


The Vinyl Frontier

Via BoingBoing, via Laughing Squid, comes news of this:

The Vinyl Frontier, A Documentary Exploring the World of Vinyl Toys

I'm kind of interested in seeing this. If you've ever been to my office, you've seen my collection of Qee Eggs and other assorted goodies picked from the shelves of Kid Robot and Rotofugi. (Qees attracted me early in my [adult] vinyl fascination because of their "blanks" -- non-decorated figures for which you can download templates and embellish with your own design.) For me, designer vinyl represents two important ideas:
  1. You're never too old to collect "action figures", and...
  2. Vinyl figures are a low price-of-entry to the world of collecting "art"; a way for people of all budgets to get in on the action.
What's also fascinating to me is the bigger notion of "nobrow"; what's left between the somewhat-outdated concepts of "highbrow" and "lowbrow" art, which is driven by curated consumption and strategic marketing. That's how we get a category in which skateboard graphic artists and fine artists meet on a relatively level playing field: the canvas of a vinyl figurine, a limited edition T-shirt, or even a post-card sized print (a big money-maker for contemporary galleries which, like small vinyl figures, are easier to produce and stock in large quantities). Almost everything is a limited edition, which makes for volumes of stuff that seems worth collecting. Or creating yourself. You don't even need to be a professional artist to design your own vinyl figures, with all the DIY versions available.

What I still wonder is, where will all this vinyl go when it's no longer in style or in galleries? As far as I know, none of it is biodegradable. If we don't learn to recycle them, we could be looking at some designer landfills in the not-so-distant future. A little disturbing, and easy to ignore when you're bent on collecting toys as an adult, but that could be the real vinyl frontier we're working toward. Unless we find a way to bury our non-degradable trash on the moon. Then that would be the vinyl frontier.


In The Event of [ ____ ] Disaster

Having worked in advertising the past eight years, I've encountered a few worst-case-scenario assignments. The most memorable were in anticipation of Mad Cow disease and bird flu. Thankfully, none of those scenarios came to pass. But having gone through the exercise of "what if, and then what?" gives me an appreciation of this William Safire-penned speech. Written for Nixon, In The Event Of Moon Disaster prepared for some unforeseen catastrophe that would have prevented Apollo 11 astronauts from returning to Earth from the moon.
Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.
This first sentence is a blatant reminder that politicians rarely speak with such eloquence any more. Where there was an implied sense of reverence and respect for the American public in Nixon's day (yes, I am aware of the irony in that statement), now is self-congratulatory smugness and complacency, if not mild retardation. Something to keep in mind with the election year approaching. Then again, if the wrong candidate wins again, there's always the burgeoning space tourism industry - and a potential to escape not only to Canada, but perhaps our nearest celestial neighbor.

[via Kottke.org]


Street Is The New Mall

I know it might sound surly or even old of me, but I think the whole streetwear thing has just about jumped the shark.

Twenty years ago, Vision Street Wear introduced the term streetwear to kids like me - and it wasn't hip-hop. It was skateboarding (street skating was a more resourceful and opportunistic alternative to vert skating). It wasn't saying "I'm from the streets" as much as it was saying "that's where I go to play". Vision Street Wear at the time seemed to be against a lot of the things it seems to stand for now. Granted, the brand went relatively dormant after one of its premier skaters convicted of killing his girlfriend, and probably needed to come back rejuvenated for a new generation of skateboarders. But do a little homework and you see the brand is almost a parody of what it once was. I suppose you don't think of it that way when you're 13, let alone do your homework*.

Likewise in the past decade, Nigo's A Bathing Ape has gone from a fringe fashion delicacy to a much-counterfeited eBay favorite. I won't get into it now; you've already gotten my thoughts on it. Suffice it to say, there are dozens of guys proudly sporting knock-off Bape gear all over the Green Line these days. At least it's not about authenticity; that would require individualism and a lot more work. It's just about having the look.

Which brings me to Satchel of Gravel's brilliantly insightful post "So You Wanna Be A Streetwearer". Follow the link to their full write-up, or check out my copy-and-paste lift of their "Ten Steps to Becoming a Streetwearer" below.

1. This is the simplest step. Learn everything about Japanese street culture. Just take everything you know about American street culture and mentally make it more expensive and limited. What do you think Bape does?

2. Perfect your masturbation skills. If this is how you’re going to start dressing, you’re never getting any ass. You may get a BJ from other dudes who really like your Jordan IIIs, but definitely from not any girls. Accept it.

3. Stay online till you go blind. Never leave the internet. Don’t worry about going to the store to buy product. You have ebay, Niketalk and a gang of forums at your disposal. Plus, you run the possibility of running into girls and with your newly perfected masturbation skills, you don’t need them.

4. Buying IS rebelling. The more you buy, the more you’re showing that you’re against the system of mass consumption. Get as many overpriced sneakers, tees, jeans, jackets and shades as you can. Also make sure that you have at least one (two max) small luxury items like a Gucci belt or LV wallet, to show off your well rounded sense of style.

5. You probably want to be white.

6.Pick up an action sport. Literally. Just buy a deck or a fixed bike and walk around with it. Don’t actually use it, you’ll lower the resale value, which you’ll need for…

7. A digital camera! Get as many megapixels as your parents will let you have. Then, go around and take pictures of your friends, pets, food, chewing gum, dirt and basically whatever ends up in front of your lens. Take a page from Bobby Hundreds and use awkward angles to illustrate your “artistic” side. When that’s done, start a blog detailing your excursions. Like we did.

8. If you’re living in Los Angeles or New York, make sure that you can be found in front of Supreme or Flight Club vying for a photo op on a cool guy blog.

9. Memorize Dipset and Wu-Tang lyrics like your mother’s life depends on it. Because it does.

10. Finally, hit up as many streetwear parties as you can (remember your camera!). As long as they’re in a small venue and Sapporo is the liquor sponsor, it’ll be awesome! These parties are really good for comparing your new hyperstrike deadstock purchases and masturbation techniques with the other guys that are there.

[* Full disclosure: I always did my homework.]


Help Yourself

I'd like to point to three links you may or may not have noticed in the right-hand column. I find myself checking these out of curiosity at first, then reading further because I've found useful, practical advice on how to better get one's proverbial shit together.

  • 43 Folders - "Merlin Mann's family of websites about stuff like personal productivity, life hacks, and simple ways to make your life a little better."
  • Dumb Little Man - "...tips that will save you money, increase your productivity, or simply keep you sane."
  • Lifehacker - seems self-explanatory enough to me. Part of the Gawker Media empire.
  • Ririan Project - "learn practical ideas to make important changes in your life, both big and small, so you can get your life on track and start living up to your true potential."

Enjoy. Let me know if I missed any good ones. I'm sure there are more out there.


How To Have A Number-One The Old-Fashioned Way

Taking time to talk pop reminded me of something I meant to post a while ago, yet I never got around to. That something is The Manual: How to Have a Number One the Easy Way. Long out-of-print and impossible to find, this book was hugely influential on my early forrays into the music industry. The K Foundation's combination of discordianism, Illuminatus references and unabashed pop sensibility stuck with me. I've followed the further exploits, musical and otherwise of Jim Cauty and Bill Drummond. I've had The Manual in my Amazon wish list for years, never to see it actually "available". I loved it when I read a friend's copy in college, and always wanted to have my own copy. Now we can all have it.

A relatively recent BoingBoing post about the KLF links to a PDF version of the manuscript. So while you miss some of the illustrations and the tactile sensation of holding this adorable little case study, full of instructions (which were guaranteed to work, BTW, if you followed them to the letter), you can still read it.

It's worth knowing that The Manual did in fact work, too. The Austrian Euro-trash band Edelweiss found #1 hit status with "Bring Me Edelweiss" - a song they claim was created by following the instructions in The Manual. And this was some time before you could use a MySpace page to collect friends or distribute a new single. Of course, with theories like The Long Tail afoot, it's probably not so much about having a number-one anymore.

Does anyone feel like telling Kanye?


Undertones Make It Pop

Stronger Revisited from Kanye West on Vimeo

I'll admit it, I get down on Kanye West a lot. I never understood why he got popular for speeding up R&B samples, a.k.a. "chipmunking", a rudimentary sampling tactic which had been going on long before he tried it. I have never cared for the blatant, just-add-a-drum-track style of sampling he often employs, either. And I personally don't see or hear enough original talent to justify his notoriously pissy arrogance. On top of that, it bothers me that someone of his disposition has come to represent the Chicago music scene to the masses. He's from upper-middle-class Oak Lawn, not proper Chi-Town - and folks* in the city of big shoulders just don't whine like he does.

That said, I find this clip sort of endearing. Kanye just can't get his drums sounding the way he wants, and has to consult eleven(!) different mixers... until finally Timbaland schools him about undertones and proper drum-tone layering. Watching it, I considered that maybe West is so desperate to win awards because it won't be long before people realize his naiveté. It's almost cute, in a way. He's really just trying to become a super-star.

But, back to my beef with him, that's the approach you expect from NYC or LA, not our beloved Illville. (I know, I know... then how do I explain Billy Corgan? I don't; he's another over-entitled rich kid from the burbs clamoring for attention over integrity.)

Clip courtesy of E.
[* Full disclosure: I'm originally from the "Chicagoland" part of NW Indiana, and truly dislike it when people claim to be "from Chicago" when they actually live outside the city limits, sometimes further from the actual city than I was growing up in Indiana.]


Seven Hills Of Time Displacement

It's been forever since I posted anything. As if you couldn't tell by looking at the date of my last post. I'm in Lisbon for work this week. While I was here, Chicago turned up on Google Street View. Nice to be able to check on the place while out-of-town.

Rounding out the time in Lisbon with a bit of a head-cold. Thought it was allergies, but allergy meds are doing nothing to relieve the symptoms. Somehow, in the haze of jet-lag and work-related hang-overs, I am at this moment in the throes of time displacement. Why else would I by trying to get a new post up at a time like this? Rhetorical question. More photos posted once I get home. For now, see what I feel like while walking through the city of seven hills, on sinus medicine.


Pixel Piracy, But At What Price?

Based on this trailer, I'm intrigued by Pixel Pirate, but I'm not sure I'm convinced to purchase a DVD of this going on for a whole hour. Granted, I'm probably the only person I know who would even consider purchasing it. The randomness of samples is what I fear might be more annoying than anything, because I don't get a strong sense of coherent plot from the trailers. I don't see a strategy behind samples, from whence they were taken, or how they are recontextualized. Frankly, the sources listed are the typical sources that have been sampled by many artists and editors alike for years. On the flip-side of that, only 300 sources in a full hour? I've fit over 100 sources into 11 minutes, and still eeked out some narrative value.

Maybe I'd have a different opinion if I watched the whole thing. Maybe experiencing it first-hand would win me over. Maybe I'm simply not going to pay for it because I believe works like this (some of which I've created and still distribute free-of-charge to others) should carry no commercial value.

I'm not suggesting that this remixing in any way corrupts our culture - the "price" referred to in the title is literally about the fact that this isn't being distributed free-of-charge. But I'm jaded. You be the judge... Is it worth AUD$26?

From Pixel Pirate II "about" page, which does hint at the alleged plot:

Pixel Pirate II: Attack of the Astro Elvis Video Clone is an hour long narrative remix video constructed from samples pirated from over 300 film and music sources. It contains no original audio or video footage. Think of it as a sci-fi / biblical epic / action movie with a subplot of troubled romance. It also stars Elvis Presley, Moses, The Hulk, Monkey, Batman & Robin, Michael Jackson and The Ghostbusters.

The Year is 3001 and the ancient art of remix is being oppressed by the evil tyrant Moses and his Copyright Commandments. Meanwhile, in a secret base-camp on the moon a team of Pixel Pirates plot to overthrow Moses via their latest scientific discovery - video cloning. Their plan: travel back to 1955, abduct Elvis and bring him back to the future. They then clone Elvis and send the Video Clone back to 2015 to assassinate Moses, altering the course of VHS history. But first the Elvis Clone must face-off against the Copyright Cops and every action hero that MGM can throw his way.


Takin' Care of Business (Time)

Life events have kept me from blogging much lately. Starting about two weeks ago, my cell phone died. Two days later, my 4-year-old iPod died. The day after that, the PC on which I produce music shit the bed. All of this might've sent me out to a ledge if it weren't for some other, more positive happenings.

Like this: my lovely girlfriend Maria and I got engaged. No date yet, but a nice ring on her finger if I don't say so myself. Statistically, I'm on my way to living longer than my bachelor friends. Coincidentally, that buys me more time to finish my ongoing music projects like INSTILLE, FIGORA and others who have yet to be named.

Oh, yeah, and we've fallen hard for Flight Of The Conchords.


Attention, Pixar Fans!

With the scoop that (so far) has escaped the likes of Upcoming Pixar, /film has an informative look at the Pixar projects in the works: Pixar: A Look at The Future and Beyond.

What projects, you ask?

  • 2007: Ratatouille
  • 2008: WALL-E
  • 2009: Up
  • 2010: Toy Story 3
  • TBD: 1906*
* Pixar's first live-action film.

[Image lifted from Pixar.com]


In A Toy Box Far, Far Away...

Excuse my geek-out, but this looks awesome. One of my favorite Adult Swim shows, Robot Chicken, is about to release a special treatment of Star Wars on June 17. Watch the trailers and get other digital souvenirs here.

[Apologies for not embedding the trailers here; the embed codes supplied by Adult Swim don't work correctly.]


Forgetting To Remember

NYT's Forgetting May Be Part of the Process of Remembering cites a report in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Basically, maintaining cognitive control demands that we forget things, much in the same respect it demands that we remember certain other things. Two sides of the same coin, when you think about it. Or, as the report phrases it:

"Remembering often requires the selection of goal-relevant memories in the face of competition from irrelevant memories."

So, in order to remember to get your proverbial shit together, you may inadvertently force yourself to forget some irrelevant trivia (or perhaps things you know you can look up anyway). I know that ever since I read that Einstein never bothered to remember anything he could look up, I've tried to give myself permission to let easily retrieved information fall out of my head to make room for other ideas and processes. For example, I don't remember your phone number any more because I know my phone remembers it for me.

Does this happen to you? Are you aware of any similar process in your own memory selection?


Prozac Turns 20, Still Not Good For You

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of Prozac, the first drug I was oh-so-wrongly prescribed. I'm no doctor, but believe me when I say the long-term effects are still being determined. I have yet to meet anyone who was on the drug before I was, for what it's worth.

I was twelve or thirteen at the time, one of the first people under age 18 to be prescribed the "miracle" drug. By a lazy physician, urged by a parent who couldn't cope with the mood swings of a pubescent me. I was too young to be on an antidepressant. I didn't have a serotonin imbalance, so Prozac didn't do anything for me - unless you count about nine months of side effects with no improvement in mood. In fact, things got progressively worse.

That same physician later tried to get my mom to pay for a drug test he ran on me during one check-up when I was in a decent mood - as if he couldn't believe that such a mood was possible without chemical inducement. (There were chemicals at work, but they were hormones awakened by a make-out session with a girl the day before.) That's the last time I saw that doctor, but others followed in his unsure footsteps and continued to prescribe dangerous substances without concern for their long-term effects.

Of course, I was better off consuming the relatively useless Prozac than I was on the medication that followed, a form of Lithium that led to other, more severe mood and medical issues - including unpredictable toxicity in the bloodstream and, for me, DOZENS of kidney stones. Plus a whole lot of excruciating pain that came with those stones, complications from other medications, and so on.

Moral of my story: Prozac is neither a status symbol nor a magic bullet for "bad" thoughts. Don't give antidepressants to kids who are just going through puberty; you could seriously screw up their bodies in ways you can't imagine.

To commemorate the anniversary, I felt the need to relate my experience with the drug before I showed you to this: Guardian Unlimited's Anna Moore gives us "20 things you need to know about the most widely used antidepressant in the world.

[via BoingBoing, via MindHacks]


Bike Helmets Bad For Cyclists?

Just in time for prime bike season: news that wearing a bike helmet may actually increase your chances of an accident involving a motor vehicle. I'm not just pulling your leg, this makes a lot of sense to me. But I've done a little reading on it, so let me throw the links at you...

Neatorama reports on
a Scientific American article about
the findings of University of Bath's Dr. Ian Walker.

As a perennial pedestrian, people-watcher and rider of public transportation, I have no problem whatsoever getting behind Walker's reason for conducting this road safety study.
His road safety work is currently considering questions relating to how drivers' attentional and decision-making mechanisms affect the safety of vulnerable road user groups such as pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. Of particular interest at the moment is the issue of how our natural tendency to "read" other people (i.e., to interpret their gaze signals and other non-verbal communications) affects the safety of vulnerable groups.
[via Ian Walker's site]
I've worn a bike helmet ever since I started biking through the city. I've never been hit, but Chicago traffic is always more dense and less predictable than, say, DeKalb traffic. I do remember first wearing kneepads and a helmet while skateboarding on a half-pipe, and feeling invincible. But I also get the feeling that certain accidents are likely to happen regardless of the cyclist's choice of headgear.

Does wearing a helmet just say to everyone "the wearing of this helmet is totally protected"? It would seem that some effect like this is indeed at play. Do you think drivers are more likely to take precaution when a cyclist is not wearing a helmet?



Try it. I did, and it really helped.

It finally got me to the realization that this blog has had an identity crisis. Until just now, I couldn't decide if it was about business or pleasure. Ironically, the content of a presentation I've given a few times at work suggested that I not write about work on my personal blog. All this really means: you'll notice a continued shift in tone at PYLB.

Well, it also means the "persuasion industry" topics, minus snarkism, will be migrating to the blog effort underway at work.

Welcome to Pull Your Lid Back.
[Image via hackcanada]


Where Are You Coming From, Spider-Man?

And I Am Not Lying, For Real collected Ten Spider-Man Appearances That Will Never Hit Hollywood. I went through a BIG Spider-Man phase as a kid, and am fascinated with the way the character has permeated cultures other than mine.

But I'm even more fascinated by the ability to now see TV clips I barely remember from that early Spider-Man phase, such as The Electric Company clip above...

And this crucial piece of ephemera from my childhood: the very first appearance of Spidey on The Electric Company, as narrated by Morgan Freeman. These were officially called Spidey Super Stories. Damn, was I ever into this stuff. [I guess I still am.]



One of my all-time favorite movies: The Big Lebowski. People tend to either LOVE or HATE this movie. Some haters need repeated viewings to come around. Eventually, true fans come to enjoy the nuances that make The Big Lebowski such a cult classic - as well as the fun things the film continues to inspire.

For example, the "ABIDE" t-shirt is the most talked-about addition to my wardrobe in months. It's a product of the folks behind Lebowski Fest, now selling tickets to the sixth annual gathering of achievers.

And there's always the profanely entertaining F-ing Short Version:


Judge of Character

When I was in high school, my mom routinely told me I was not a good judge of character. Why, I'm not sure. One friend of mine had a tattoo. I tended to get along with older kids, too, which made the mom nervous. My mom didn't care for the then-alternative and sometimes gothic or punk dress worn by several of my acquaintances at the time. High school is a time for experimenting with clothes and haircuts, which makes them terrible indications of character. Their haircuts weren't what made them friends.

But as for their character, this is what made them friends. My mom knew virtually none of them personally, and only assumed what their respective characters were. Her insistance that she could judge these people by their clothes or haircuts signaled to me that maybe she wasn't such a good judge of character herself. And maybe she was afraid that I'd inherit that lack of judgment from her.

In the long-run, she (perhaps inadvertently) instilled in me the challenge to be a good judge of character, if only (at first) to prove her wrong.

I thought about the days when the mom would scold me about being a good judge of character today, when I read GearBits' "Is President Bush A Good Judge Of Character?" Read it. You already know the answer, but it's validating to have all the evidence in front of you. And I'd like to point out that, if there's a bigger conclusion to reach, it's that America is a terrible judge of character for electing this imbecile into office.

If only Mom had seen that the act of questioning the majority's herd mentality was an indication that I was a better judge of character than I got credit for, it might not have been such a big deal to have goth, punk, skater and stoner friends in high school.

Remember to get your mom something for Mother's Day.


Pop Shall Always Eat Itself

Meet dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip. I have it on good authority that "Thou Shalt Always Kill" is HUGE in the UK right now. Of course, a song about not trying to be popular becomes popular itself and you've got an Ourobouros of sorts. They say pop will eat itself. And so it does.

Pseudonymity Reconsidered

I've been reconsidering some of my pseudonyms lately. And wondering how far pseudonymity will take you when you would prefer that your efforts were all related, connected and coherent.

The primary moniker I use for producing music, Instigator, has proven too ubiquitous. I adopted it eight years ago and am the oldest listing for artists named "Instigator", for the record. The bigger point is that I think I've outgrown it. I argue with myself about whether Instigator was supposed to do anything but get my solo production efforts underway. Things have been instigated well enough (the ambitious "Used Materials" album, and the fruitful Noise Throng label). It's time for the name, like the creative product itself, to move beyond the beginning-stage mentality.

This is what I did with INSTILLE, a name derived from the portmanteau of Instigator and Distille.

But getting my musical monikers in order inevitably leaves me reconsidering my PYLBUG moniker, too. A misspelling of pillbug, inspired by a dream about an abundance of insects and pills as interchangeable objects, it's been my handle for extra-curricular productions since 1995. Sometimes, however, I find myself wary of the connotations "pylbug" brings.

I am not, for the record, a pill-head any more than I am an insect aficionado. [Though I'm definitely much closer to the latter.] The reasoning by which I arrived at "pylbug" doesn't always hold up now, nearly 13 years later. Many of my extra-curricular efforts now seem inspired by different things, and this makes me feel like they should go by a different name. I'm considering a revised strategy to naming my projects; a refined point-of-view. Something like that.

All of that is for me to figure out. But, here's the question for my readers: where does your pseudonym come from, and did you plan any longevity into it? Maybe this question is more for bands, bloggers, content producers in general... people with a product that needs a brand name, if you will. What thought, if any, did you put into the act of picking your favorite pseudonym?

That is, if you can reveal the secrets behind your screen names.


How Microsoft Might Suffocate Google

MIT Adverlab today has a post called How To Kill Google. It cites The Reluctant Blogger's very interesting "doomsday" scenario in which "Microsoft could crush Google in one easy step".

Nothing against Google (this post is on Google-owned Blogger after all), but I grow weary of seeing more and more space in my browser filled with text ads.

In the days since Reluctant Blogger's first post, he's received a lot of feedback and summarized it in this "Microsoft vs. Google" post.


Kurt Vonnegut, RIP

Kurt Vonnegut died at age 84.
His "profound pessimism" and sharp wit were inspirational to me.


77 Drum Kits! Eye!

Originally uploaded by silverfuture.

A fitting 77th post* for me. A friend at VICE just reminded me about the Boredoms' 77 Drum performance. It's happening on July 7th (7/7/07) in NYC.

Maybe Eye will see you there.

* If you count, you'll end up with fewer than 77. A few posts haven't been published yet, but Blogger assures me this is post 77.


You may notice a few subtle differences in PYLB. That's because I upgraded to the new Blogger over the past few days. And added some new links. And tags. And some other things you probably can't see yet. Excuse any little hiccups while I get everything situated.


Zombie Products = Lazarus Taxons?

I say "products" because these, not brands, are actually what Slate's Daniel Gross refers to in Zombie Brands II. (A follow-up to Zombie Brands part one -- which is also about products, not brands). For example, the McRib is a product; McDonald's is a brand. Likewise, the Taurus is a product of the Ford brand. And Tab is a product of the Coca-Cola brand (though I'm sure Coke's marketing folks might argue that Tab is a sub-brand within Coca-Cola's brand architecture). I'm calling them "zombie products" because "zombie brands" seems less correct for the majority of Gross' examples.

Now that we've gotten that clarification out of the way, I should get to my point: These zombie products are consumerism's version of the Lazarus taxon. I make note of this because in a previous PYLB post I discussed the "comeback" taxonomy seems to be making right now.


Scientific Prank Methodology

That's the term I just learned from an article in the latest issue of WIRED. The article explains how Annalee Newitz paid a service to get her incoherent, experimental blog a top rating on Digg. This, according to Newitz, was after Digg CEO Jay Adelson claimed "all the groups trying to manipulate Digg 'have failed,' and that Digg 'can tell when there are paid users.'"

It must sting to be Digg right now. But that's not the only reason I'm blogging about the article. The "cultural engineer" side of me picked up something other than the debunking of a CEO's claims.

It's interesting to read about the lemming effect that ensues once a few paid ratings are imitated by other Digg users. At a time when a lot of attention is given to the alleged usefulness of user recommendations, this is a reminder that the herd instinct is still in effect online.

Since most of us don't have the time to check the reputation of every user name we encounter ourselves, my gut tells me that we should expect to very soon see a service that recommends the best recommendations. Or, at the very least, some new sort of validation layer added to the experience of Digg. Surely, the folks at Digg must be all over it by now...

Read: "I Bought Votes On Digg"


My Trip To United Nations HQ

I still have over 250 photos to sort and tag, but here's the video I took inside the United Nations Headquarters last week. It's Ennio Morricone conducting a full orchestra, in a concert reception for the UN's new Secretary General. We actually sat in the same seats the UN ambassadors sit in -- we were in the Palestine section -- complete with translation ear-pieces and desktop gooseneck microphones. It was pretty cool. More details will come in another post, when I have the photos sorted.

For now, enjoy this capture of the very first time Morricone performed "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" on US soil (technically, the UN is international soil... but we saw Morricone the next night at Radio City Music Hall... both venues are in NYC).



Friends at VICE today launched VBS.TV, and it looks pretty impressive. With associations ranging from Brightcove to Spike Jonze, this is certainly one online video effort to watch.

VICE explains VBS.TV best:

VBS is an online broadcast network. We stream original content, free of charge and 24 hours a day. We carry a mix of domestic and international news, pop and underground culture coverage, and the best music in the world. People have used words like eclectic, smart, funny, shocking, and revolutionary to describe VBS, but we kind of just snapped our fingers in their faces and went, “Whatever. Tell us something we don’t know.”

With Academy Award-nominated director Spike Jonze (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) as our creative director, original content from a veritable United Nations of contributors, and bureaus in 20 countries, VBS has hit the planet in a manner not unlike a massive global plague. Streaming on VBS’s signature “in-room” widescreen and remote, content will be available all the time, on-demand.

Basically, VBS will exploit every utopian vision the internet has thus far failed to live up to. Thanks for watching.

If that doesn't illustrate the vision enough for you, there's this YouTube clip they linked to as well, at the request of Spike Jonze, which reminds me how I used to be a big fan of Frederick McFeely Rogers and his Neighborhood.


Where My Raccoon Dogs At?

It's probably silly of me to point out this and other ethics issues in the mainstream hip-hop community, but I feel like someone has to point a finger back at the finger-pointers once in a while. Which brings me to today's post:

Jay-Z's RocaWear* is made with dog fur.

The Humane Society of the United States tested the "faux fur" and found that it is from raccoon dogs, which may have been skinned alive for their coats (as seen in this WMV).

I'm not against wearing fur or leather per se. But I do think this is more evidence that pop culture's beloved hip-hop moguls are not beyond exploiting third-world production in an effort to glamorize the first-world's ghetto-chic. People look up to you, Jay-Z... and what an example you set for them. Selling dog-fur coats to your people kinda takes the piss out of any otherwise sentimental and poignant lyrics you might have on Kingdom Come, eh Sean Corey Carter? (Or should we call you DogFur Hovito now)?

* WARNING: The Wikipedia entry for RocaWear seems heavily biased and laced with BS.



Robert Anton Wilson has gone off the grid for good.

Author of the longest book I ever read cover-to-cover, RAW was a unique individual who quite optimistically tied the worlds of philosophy, religion, folklore, paranoia, conspiracy and counter-culture together with remarkable wit. A self-described "model agnostic", RAW did a lot more of influence than I can begin to detail here... check his Wikipedia entry for more.

From his site:

January 11, 2007

Robert Anton Wilson Defies Medical Experts and leaves his body @4:50 AM on binary date 01/11.

All Hail Eris!

On behalf of his children and those who cared for him, deepest love and gratitude for the tremendous support and lovingness bestowed upon us.

(that's it from Bob's bedside at his fnord by the sea)

RAW Memorial February 07
date to be announced

I've gleaned a lot from the works of RAW, and while I'm sad to hear of his passing I'm also glad to know his influential mix of optimism and anger will live on for years and years to come. In fact, my interest in his favorite subjects is renewed with his passing. For those of you who don't know who RAW is, check this video.

Hail Eris, all hail Discordia.


The Elvis Taxon & Taxonomy's Comeback?

Paleontology meets rock and roll: The Elvis Taxon. [via Kottke]

Maybe this is too soon to answer, but is taxonomy making a comeback? The term originally applied only to living organisms, but there are folks who will argue what constitutes or closely mimicks a living organism's behavior (social networks, information, perhaps anything that can be categorized).

Last year, Tortoise named a boxed set after A Lazarus Taxon, now we have the Elvis Taxon. With the increasing attention paid to user experience and information architecture, especially in terms of interactive media, I think we're going to see more references to taxa (plural of taxon) in general.