Wednesday, December 22, 2004

iPod Beats Satellite Any Day

Ok - it's cold and almost raining and I'm getting in my car and on my way into the studio. This kind of weather always reminds me of my art school days in Boston where I'd have my Walkman qued for my brisk 20 minute walk to class from Park Drive to Mass Art. I still have the two cassettes I made specifically for walking around Bean Town - one for nice days, the other for not so nice days. Nice day toons are mostly songs from my younger, late 70's Spring Break compilations that range from Joe King Carrasco's "Baby Let's Go To Mexico", The Beach Boys "Surfin'" to Van Halen's "Beautiful Girls." The not so nice day mix consist of the new stuff, 1987 and beyond stuff I discovered via WFNX, WBCN, friends I met while working on Lansdowne Street and in the know school chums - Pixie's "Gouge Away", The Wedding Present's "Brass Neck", Treat Her Right's 'I Think She Likes Me", and some Sleep Chamber stuff I'm dying to get in digital form, among others. Today, those tapes are in the form of Playlists on my iPod and they still serve the exact same purpose of being the on-demand soundtrack to my so called life. Meanwhile, I've got a few friends that are all over this new portible satellite radio idea. The same freinds that tell me "I used to have that album..." (Of course, they sold all those albums long ago). While it is a cool idea and a nice change from the bland Clear Channel broadcasts, for anal music freaks like me, it's got a long way to go before it'll replace my iPod. It would be rather sweet if I could access my 200 GB+ Audio Vault with one of these new radios, but I really don't see that happening any time soon. Anyway - Eliot Van Buskirk, CNET's mp3 insider seems to be on the same, Close, but no cigar, page:

In the early days of digital music, we optimists looked forward to the day when we'd have instant access to every song ever recorded from a wireless, portable device--called the "celestial jukebox."

Since then, just about every step forward in digital music--MP3 players, online music stores, P2P, ring tones and so on--has led us toward this vision.

Last month, XM and Delphi took us even closer to the celestial jukebox with the release of the Delphi XM MyFi, the world's first handheld satellite radio receiver.

The phrase "never say never" became a cliche because it's often good advice. But when you're talking about technology, it's practically an axiom, especially if you're a tech executive addressing the press.
There is one place satellite radio makes sense to me: the car.

To wit: I attended the first XM announcement at the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show, where the company unveiled the Delphi XM SkyFi Radio. It consists of a small receiver module that can be swapped between a boom box, home and car kit but can't be used on its own.

As CNET's portable-audio guy, I had only one question for the XM official who made the announcement: When would they make one small enough to fit in my pocket?

The XM exec told everyone at the press conference that handheld satellite radio was impossible, because pulling in the signal took more power than a portable could ever supply. Less than four years later, I have the Delphi XM MyFi sitting right here on my desk. Like they say, never say never.

We are all narrow
Granted, you can't pick any song you want using the MyFi, but the "celestial" part of "celestial jukebox" is in full effect, since the MyFi broadcasts music that's bounced off satellites. But although our national waistline is off the charts, we are all still very narrow in terms of our musical taste. Broadcasting music doesn't work anymore; narrowcasting does.
How am I supposed to know what Ethel sounds like?

I tried time and time again to find something I wanted to listen to on XM's 68 music channels but never found "my" channel. Instead, I ended up listening to stand-up comedy and news. One reason for this is that XM's music channels have names like "Fred" and "Ethel" (seriously). How am I supposed to know what Ethel sounds like?

Another reason I didn't rely on the MyFi for music is that, like most people, I have fairly specific taste in music. Not even the most ingenious programmer could come up with a station that's perfect for me.

Actually, I take that back--I can and have programmed such a station. It's called my iPod, and it has exactly what I want to hear on it.

More like 'WhyFi'
I took the MyFi around San Francisco for a day, testing various environments to see how the reception stacked up. Not so good, it turns out. Here are a few of the places XM's channels turned into a moment of white noise, followed by more than a moment silence (digital signals are either 100 percent there or 100 percent gone):

• The subway

• My living room

• Parts of my hallway

• Most of the CNET Networks headquarters

In addition, it appeared to interfere with my cell phone, so every time I wanted to make a call, I had to turn off the MyFi (this happened only a couple of times, so it admittedly wasn't the most scientific test in the world).

Either the dodgy reception or broad programming would have been enough to make me prefer my MP3 player, but once you add the fact that XM's compression sounds worse than a 128kbps MP3, there's no way I'd switch to XM.

There is one place satellite radio makes sense to me: the car. Highways have an unobstructed line toward the sky, so the reception's perfect. Plus, I'm in more of a mood to troll around programmed channels on a long road trip than I am on a short commute.

I know this for a fact, because I've rented cars with satellite receivers, and it's always worked out great. Factor in Howard Stern's switch to Sirius in 2006, and there's a good chance I'll opt for a satellite receiver in my next car.

As for the portable MyFi receiver, perhaps that XM executive should have stuck with his original thinking and stayed out of the portable market entirely.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Go Spurs!

Steroids. Basketbrawl. The NHL lockout. Desperate Housewives. There aren't a lot of positive headlines in the sports pages these days, even by today's standards. It's almost as if a giant black cloud has descended over the sporting landscape. No great team or superstar seems immune to questionable ethics or character.

Then there are the San Antonio Spurs.
They not only win big; they seem to do it without any of the negative stuff that crops up everywhere else. No public feuds. No drug busts. No players griping over contracts or swearing at fans. "That's just the way it is here," Spurs forward Malik Rose says. "We've got a good group of guys."

With an NBA-best 15-3 record, and as clean a reputation as can be found anywhere in sports, San Antonio should be the talk of the league right now. In Tim Duncan they've got one of the best players and citizens in the game. In Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili they've got two of the game's most creative and entertaining players. In coach Gregg Popovich they've got a hard-nosed no-nonsense disciplinarian coach who knows his X's and O's and doesn't take guff from players.

Isn't this what we Americans say we want in our sports teams? A superstar who went to college all four years, stays out of trouble and plays fundamental basketball each night? A coach who represents old-school values? An unselfish team that plays together and isn't afraid to do the dirty work on defense?

Yet the Spurs' 22 national TV appearances (not counting NBA TV) trail the 24 games sexier clubs such as Shaq's Heat or Kobe's Lakers will play in front of the nation. San Antonio ranks in the top 10 in merchandise sales, but still behind the likes of long-ago champions such as the Bulls and the Celtics. One TV talking head even recently called the Spurs "boring."

Quick trivia question. Which team in the four major U.S. pro sports has been the winningest (in terms of percentage) over the past seven years? If you guessed the New York Yankees, the New England Patriots or the Detroit Red Wings, you're wrong.

It's the Spurs.
Since 1997-98, the year Duncan arrived, the Spurs have racked up a record of 394-166 (.704) to go with their two NBA titles. The Red Wings (.673), Yankees (.625) and Tennessee Titans (.619) each lead their respective sports, but none has won at a higher clip than San Antonio. If that's "boring," there are a lot of NBA fans in Atlanta, Chicago and New Orleans right now who would love to be put to sleep like that on a nightly basis. "I think it's a reflection of what you see in everyday life," says Popovich, when asked why his team doesn't get more recognition for winning the right way. "Turn on the news and you're going to see the negative. It reflects society. People pay more attention to those things. It's not specific to sports. It's across the board."

Popovich, an Air Force grad, takes pride in the fact that his team has been able to thrive without sullying the franchise's image. Though realistic enough to know that it's talent that wins games, he believes there is a benefit to having good people in the locker room. It's no coincidence that the Spurs over the years have had so many high character guys such as Duncan, David Robinson, Avery Johnson, Sean Elliott and Steve Kerr. "Those guys are consummate leaders, great professionals, great people," Rose says. "They weren't just great basketball players; they were great people to be around. ... [This organization] has a knack for finding them. It's nice to have great people, but you've got to win games. They've found a way to do both."

San Antonio, with few exceptions, has found a way over the years to walk the tightrope between big-time success and off-the-court shenanigans. The next time you're fed up with all the jerks and prima donnas in sports, try watching Duncan and the Spurs. If you can find them on your TV, that is.

Marty Burns covers pro basketball for

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Eye Appeal: An Ad With Walls

Teven Gilliatt, president of G2 Worldwide, a leading brand development and design consulting company in New York, recently had an up-close-and-personal demonstration of the increasing power of eye appeal in retailing.

"I was buying an iPod a couple weeks ago and there was a feeding frenzy at the store," Mr. Gilliatt said, referring to the Apple Store in SoHo, where customers jostled one another to buy the special edition iPod loaded with music by the rock group U2. "I was there as a civilian, but I'd been converted from consideration to purchase," he said, borrowing jargon from marketing mavens.

Mr. Gilliatt's response to the innovative design of the Apple Store — so cool it is now being described as a "singles mecca" in The New York Post — indicates the importance of intangible elements in selling goods ranging from apparel and personal-care products to entertainment merchandise and housewares. The product's design, the packaging and even the style of the store are now weapons in the marketing arsenal, as much as traditional tactics like television commercials and print advertisements.

"There's a lot of competition out there, and everyone needs to be differentiated," said Erik Ulfers, senior vice president for environmental design at Jack Morton Worldwide in New York, which specializes in what it calls "experiential communications," which range from the NBC Experience Store in Rockefeller Center to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Athens.

The goal is to generate "an emotional moment between a consumer and a brand," Mr. Ulfers said, adding: "It sounds a little goofy, a little abstract, if you talk about it too much. The big challenge is to dimensionalize the aspects of a brand — what a brand is, who it wants to be — and use the visuals to support the story about that brand you want to tell."

Eye appeal has become more crucial in the last five years, said Jim Lucas, director for planning and research at Draft in Chicago, a direct marketing agency, part of what he termed the "popularization of design," or "design for the masses," brought to life by name-brand designers like Michael Graves and Philippe Starck for retailers like Target.

"What has started to happen as a result," Mr. Lucas added, "is that people have come to expect a certain level of design from their products than before," citing iPod's success and the Mini Cooper.

"Design works at different levels, not just on functionality," Mr. Lucas said. "It also works at a visceral level, as the color, the shape, attract one's attention, not just as eye candy but in a more reflective, associative way."

The store itself is now "one of the key elements of the marketing mix," Mr. Lucas said, as retailers like Wal-Mart seize more power from the manufacturers who once had the upper hand by running advertising that drove customers into stores.

"Retailers now are the choice editors, whereas in the past the manufacturers were," he added, naming chains like H&M, Ikea and Pottery Barn. As a result, a store's environment is acquiring an importance once reserved for, say, the script of a commercial to be run during the Super Bowl.

"The outside is the new inside," said Peter Arnell, chairman and chief executive of the Arnell Group in New York, an advertising agency that has branched into design. "It's all about sensory experience. The retail theater closes the deal," said Mr. Arnell, who once studied architecture with Mr. Graves.

For one advertising client, Reebok International, the Arnell Group designed a flagship store in Philadelphia meant to personify the company's new Rbk footwear and apparel line by converting, as Mr. Arnell put it, "the beats and rhythms of sports into a three-story retail space."

And Jacob Arabo, a k a Jacob the Jeweler, the purveyor of bling-bling to the hip-hop aristocracy, is getting an Arnell Group design for his first store, at 48 East 57th Street in Manhattan, which is intended to invoke the interior of a gem mine.

For the Sharp Corporation, the Wieden & Kennedy agency in Portland, Ore., sought to offer consumers a three-dimensional version of a global brand campaign for Sharp's Aquos liquid-crystal-display television sets. So the agency conceived the Aquos Project, a public gallery that is open through Dec. 24 at 137 Wooster Street in SoHo in Manhattan.

The gallery, managed by Lime Public Relations and Promotion in New York, features the works of an artist, Kenzo Minami, and a design studio, Tronic, which are partly displayed on — of course — Aquos televisions.

"It comes down to a membership program, if you will," Mr. Ulfers of Morton Worldwide said, "making a brand's constituency feel like members with a sense of inclusion."

For all the interest in eye appeal, conventional advertising "is not going to go away, certainly not in our lifetimes," Mr. Gilliatt of G2 said, because it is "important for getting people in the store."

Still, "marketers are recognizing there's a huge opportunity," he added, "for making design, packaging, lighting, display and other in-store elements, work harder at the point of purchase to create emotional connections, so all our contacts with the consumer are more focused and powerful.

"Let's put it this way," Mr. Gilliatt said, "in the Apple Store, there was a lot of emotional connecting going on."

Thanks to Stuart Elliot

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Digital Music Revolution

Pros with Macs - Interview: David Was and the Digital Music Revolution

Permit us to turn the clock back to the early 1980s when Ronald Regan was President and the Cold War was still raging; Rock had survived Disco, but a New Wave assault was underway; Madonna was still shocking, and Prince still had a name.

Somewhere in the mash of MTV, Album Rock, and New Wave, a Detroit duo -- David Weiss and Don Fagenson -- replaced their last names with "Was," dropped their studio musician jobs, and started a band. Over the years they generated a handful of dance hits -- remember "Walk the Dinosaur?" -- and churned through the most eclectic roster of guest artists you can imagine. (Who knew that Bonny Raitt and Mel Tormé once sang with the same band?) David and Don Was remained friends after the band broke up, and both have continued to work as producers, arrangers, composers, and all-round music doctors.

David Was is this week's Pro with a Mac. We tracked him down because we'd heard he uses a Logic-equipped Mac for all of his studio work. While he expressed a deep satisfaction with the platform, he hardly came off as a Mac zealot. It quickly became clear that he views the Mac as nothing more or less than the best tool for his job as an artist. Indeed, it was art, rather than the tools he uses to create it, that we spent most of our time talking about.

In two hours of discussion, Mr. Was argued both sides of nearly every question we posed. (At one point he quoted a critic of his: "This guy could find two sides to a billiard ball!") Along the way, though, he dropped countless crumbs of music-related gossip, venom, and wisdom, and below we reproduce as much as we can fit.

David Was, Mac User
From the beginning, David Was was aware of developments in digital music technology. He had a Mac II with a one-in, one-out MIDI interface and Digidesign's Sound Designer II. "It's like B.B. King claiming he learned guitar with a broomstick and a piece of piano wire," he brags. Today he works on a PowerMac Dual G5, but he still keeps his old Mac IIfx, and it still contains his old samples.

In a characteristic digression, what starts as a history of his experience with the Mac quickly melts into a nostalgia trip. "All these astonishingly powerful programs" are at his fingertips, he says, contrasting the '80s editing software as a "Wright Brothers plane" to modern software's "rocket ship." "You'd have to have your head examined, but I actually miss it [making music samples by hand]."

In the last few years, David Was has also started using Final Cut Pro HD, extending his artistic interests into digital video. Still, his admiration of the platform itself is purely practical: "It's becoming a standard," he says.

Music Downloads
Not surprisingly, Mr. Was's music is available on the iTunes Music Store, along with countless songs that he has helped to create. So what does he think about digital music distribution?

Mr. Was: I think it was amazing that Apple, which I've always equated with a kind of rebel, anticorporate kind of company, that they could step into the fray between the record business and the filesharing community. I think it was a propos that it was Apple.
TMO: Some bands (take Metallica as the stock example) have resisted having their music sold on the iTMS, especially as singles. What do you think about that?
Mr. Was: You know, I think it's a funny thing. I'm definitely a hippie capitalist. I love the serendipity of getting paid for sitting in a dark room and writing some rhymes. You are so grossly overpaid for the effort you put in. These guys got paid a thousand times over for what their estimable talents deserved. When I get my royalty check I might see seven dollars less because someone decided to steal my song, but I'm glad a million more people can experience my music.

However Mr. Was, as usual, shows a sensitivity to the counterargument: "If you made a good album," you've created a work that is "political, personal, spiritual." You intend "to sit people down and force them through the process of sitting there for an hour. That's your fantasy. But on the other hand, you can't stop this juggernaut."

Apple, the Great Democratizer
That "juggernaught" is the move to legal digital music distribution, which Apple has pioneered. So what effect is Apple is having on the music industry? The mild, wistful tone of his voice breaks.

Mr. Was: At this point I think it's pretty huge. If you'll allow me to go on a brief diatribe about the music business, I realized at a certain point that this is a business that evolves out of organized crime.
Mr. Was says this with a tone of perfect calm and perfect seriousness. He names standard demands to which artists and small club owners bow, under threat of blacklist, like block booking and free performances for radio stations. With great enthusiasm, he suggests that the hard-edged, frequently corrupt world of bars and clubs has become institutionalized in the record industry. Ultimately, he continues:

Mr. Was: The artist has never gotten a fair shake. When the filesharing era started, I thought, 'This appeals to the rebel in me, even if they're stealing from me.' There was something about sticking it in the eye of these guys who had been ripping off the public.

Then comes the dénouement, where he admits, "Of course, I also have an eye on my own piggybank, and I realized the danger." He ends with the words of a centrist ideologue: "In the end, I think it's healthy in the sense that it's made this business famous for its corruption tighten its belt."

Mr. Was also admires the economic democratization of the digital revolution. An all-digital studio is far less expensive than its analog predecessors, and twice, first in reference to digital music and again in reference to digital film, he quipped, "You can make hurt happen in your bedroom." Of the democratization of music he declares: "I think it's as good for art as it is for commerce."

Digital versus Analog
Can the digital revolution be bad for art? There's a long history of nail biting and name-calling over the migration from analog to digital sound. Audiophiles trumpet the better sound of analog equipment, while the general public enjoys the flexibility of digitized music. Mr. Was happily squats directly over the ideological fault line.

Mr. Was: If you're an audiophile, I'm all for it. [People] clucked and wagged their fingers when the Beatles started using multitrack. I believe the same clucking and finger wagging is going on now with the digital world. I defy anyone except these super technocrats to tell the difference.

When I was in 10th grade I met a dancer, just a beautiful young woman. I had fine [stereo] equipment in my room, and I was real conscious of that crap. And I'd blast stuff like Berlioz with one speaker in each ear. [Once] I went in to this girl's bedroom and she played me a Beethoven piece on a scratchy five-inch speaker, and she was transported farther than I'd ever gone, on the wings of the music alone, not the sound of it. She was milking the soul of the music whole.

You have to bring a soul to feel the soul. There's probably someone out there, who's capacity to feel is equal to their capacity to discern. But that's rare. It's like bringing a bucket to a fire. It's good if the bucket doesn't leak, but it doesn't have to be made by Tiffany, either.

The real question is, 'Does it feel like it happened.' I'm less interested in a live musician who's not a consummate artist than I am in a programmer who can make you get out of your chair. In the hip hop world, it's all programming. They've brought drums to the forefront in a way that no one else could have done. I don't want to hasten the obsolescence of live music, but...

At the end of the day, though, Mr. Was doesn't spend his time making classical music, or hip hop. So how has the digital revolution changed his own process in the studio? What does he do differently now than when he worked in analog?

Mr. Was: On the one hand, the process is exactly the same. [I have to make] mixing decisions about where to place things, where to pan, about echo, delay, compression. But these luddites who are married to the analog world will find something [wrong with it].
I don't believe you have to succumb to the perfection that all this audio hardware and software offers you. I want it to sound like you poured a stiff glass of bourbon on the hard disk, so it comes out feeling like there's a human hand in it. [I want] to get the loosey-goosey feeling [of] a one-AM Chicago session.

And with that, we'll leave you with our usual grab-bag of finishing questions.
Five for the Fans:

1. What computers do you own and what kind of computer speakers do you use?
17" Powerbook with Altec Lansings and a PowerMac Dual G5 running Logic 7.0 and Final Cut Pro HD. Output is through MAudio board, a Mackie 32 track mixer, and Hafler monitors.
2. Of all the artists you've partnered with, who was the most fun?
Bob Dylan, recording "Under the Red Sky." He cites "the privilege of going into the boiler room of see the naturalness, and the monumental struggle involved in doing something as an adult that as a kid you did just out of youthful exuberance....Being able to experience this guy's natural instinct and experience, combined with his wit...going to the studio every day was like visiting with Einstein or something."
3. Among the bazillion musical decisions you've made, what's the single best?
The hook ("Boom boom, acka lacka-lacka boom") to "Walk the Dinosaur," which was "As silly and successful as I've ever been in my life."
4. What's the best album of all time?
Miles Davis records in the mid to late '60s. "This was the best classical music that was being made in the world at that time."
5. What's the greatest instrument you never learned to play?
Cello. If the alto sax can sing like a woman, the cello sings like a man.

Thanks to Ricky Spero & David Was

Monday, November 22, 2004

Don't Trash Blanky!

Tom Cox, a correspondent of The Times Guardian, tells us why he's sold his vinyl collection to make space for an armchair. That's Right wants to know - has he Souled out?

ONE of the odd things about moving house a lot is that you expect it to make you more likely to get a hernia, but the truth is exactly the opposite. The fact is that if, like me, you’ve heaved your whole life into a van eight times in six years, you can’t help but get an instinctive, self-preserving feel for the weight of objects. These days I can glance at a chest of drawers and tell in a second how many balding men with bottom cleavage are needed to lift it. A neat skill to possess, though sometimes a bit of a dampener on impulse purchases, it has made me look at material goods in a new light. It also led me to sell my record collection.

Actually, the living hell that is moving is not the only reason that I’ve decided to discard, with the help of eBay, the three or four thousand vinyl albums that catalogue my musical life; it’s just a very big one. Records are the most belligerent of transient objects: unnaturally heavy, unaccountably multiplying as you move them off shelves and into boxes. So far, none of the friends and professional removers who have assisted me and my wife in our accidental nomadism have complained about the huge trunk that serves as testament to my grandfather-in-law’s wartime travels, although plenty have grouched about my exhaustive collection of Sixties psychedelia. But there is more to it than that.

All this time I have viewed it as an essential part of me, as if I would melt into a heap on the ground, Wicked Witch of the West-style, if I didn’t lug it from house to house. But it has occurred to me that I might just, ever-so-slightly, be kidding myself. Certainly my favourite songs define who I am to some extent, but let’s face it, as someone who has written a book and countless newspaper articles about rock music a good third of my collection is intrinsically of the own-it- because-you’re-supposed-to kind — Sun Ra’s Space is the Place. I mean, get real.

You wouldn’t exactly call my vinyl furniture — although a couple of my cats have an unaccountable fondness for stretching out on top of ABC’s Lexicon of Love, but over the years, I have tended to deploy it in the same way that more sophisticated people might a Picasso or an Eames recliner.

Sure, it is essentially there for my personal use, but I can’t deny that I’ve enjoyed the way guests drink in its majesty. The look of all those spines together has good associations for me, leading back to the joss-stick fuelled living rooms of my parents’ hippy friends in my childhood. The sleeves, with their often wonderfully pretentious cover art, are much more aesthetically generous than their CD equivalents and much more responsive to the touch. Leave them lying around in a heap and they still look great.

That’s the way I used to feel about them, anyway. Now I’m not so sure. These days, as I stare at that heap of wax and cardboard in the corner of the room, I can’t help but think that armchairs might look better in the same place. Perhaps it is the mark of a male kind of growing up that hits you as you gradually stop pinning culture so firmly to your chest as a badge of character, but I don’t find it depressing. I am, after all, using the proceeds to fund something as exciting as any number of rare first-pressing Jimmy Webb albums: a fully-integrated system based on the iTunes programme on my Apple Mac. It will let us listen to 40,000 songs, at random or in an order of our choosing, in nearly every room of our house, with a few taps of a keyboard.

In a few weeks, as the walls come down in my new Sixties house and speakers disguised as wall hangings are installed, a whole new space-age retro interior fantasy will become reality. The music will all still be there (though possibly not Space is the Place), the only difference will be that you won’t be able to see it. And if, by some twist of fortune, we have to move again, I find it reassuring that the whole lot can be packed into a box no bigger than a briefcase.

HMK: All I can say is that my albums are the closest thing I've got to a security blanket. I take pride in the fact I can tell folks that I still own most every LP I"ve ever bought or borrowed. I'd like to ask TRom this - Do you really want to spend the rest of your life saying "Man, I used to have that album".... Do you? So Tom, Dude, please don't trash your Blanky!

That's Right,


Friday, November 19, 2004


Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Hmm. Let's see - ten times ten equals 1000, a picture is worth a thousand words, oh, I get it! Check out this fresh news site offering a cool and ultra visual way to keep up with what's going on in our crazy busy world.

10 X 10!

That's Right,


Thursday, November 18, 2004

There Is No VH In Team

Legendary Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth has
stopped "runnin' with the devil" to do God's work - riding ambulances
in gritty neighborhoods throughout the city to become a paramedic.
The famed rocker has cut his trademark blond mane and dropped his
celebrity persona so he can ride unrecognized with ambulance crews in
The Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn several nights a week.

Several weeks ago, the charismatic crooner saved the life of a Bronx
woman who had a heart attack by shocking her back to life with a

The Post caught up with Roth last week as the 1980s icon grabbed a
slice of pepperoni pizza after sitting for hours in an ambulance
waiting for a call.

Just three days earlier, he had played to an adoring rock-'n'-roll
crowd in Minnesota.

Roth, 49, initially expressed reservations about discussing his
latest endeavor because he felt publicity "would diminish what I am
trying to do here."

But the following day, he told The Post more about his new passion.

"I have been on over 200 individual rides now," Roth told The
Post. "Not once has anyone recognized me, which is perfect for me."

"It has been an eye-opening adventure," said Roth, who asked The Post
not to disclose which "very colorful neighborhoods" he works in
because he doesn't want to draw attention to himself or his

Linda Reissman, Roth's EMS consultant and tutor, said she didn't know
what to expect of her famous pupil at first, but "he has probably
turned out to be one of the best students I have ever had."

"I am amazed," said Reissman, who is training Roth for Brooklyn-based
company Emergency Care Programs Inc.

Reissman described Roth as very studious, punctual and hungry for

"He is very serious," she said. "You would never know you were
dealing with a rock-'n'-roll guy, his commitment really is touching.
He wants to help people."

The singer, who is used to being onstage in a packed arena, sees at
least one similarity in his two careers.

"I am a member of a team again, and that's what a rock band always
was," Roth said.


Monday, November 15, 2004

Art Is Not A Loaf Of Bread

Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Giving away an album online isn't the way most artists end up with gold records. But it worked out that way for Wilco.

After being dropped from Reprise Records in 2001 over creative conflicts surrounding Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the Chicago-based band committed what some thought would be suicide -- they streamed it online for free.

The album's subsequent release on Nonesuch debuted higher on the charts than any of their prior releases. That success gave both band and label confidence to try new internet forays: the first-ever MPEG-4 webcast with Apple, as well as more free online offerings of live shows and an EP's worth of fresh tracks. The band's 2004 release, A Ghost Is Born, hit No. 8 on the Billboard charts -- their highest position to date.

By conventional industry logic, file sharing hurts the odds for commercial success. Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy disagrees. Wired News caught up with him during his current tour to find out just what makes Wilco so wired.

Wired News: What sparked the idea of offering your music online for free?

Jeff Tweedy: Being dropped from Reprise in 2001. They weren't going to put out Yankee Hotel Foxtrot the way we'd created it. They wanted changes; we weren't willing to do that, so they rushed a contract through their legal department to let us go. It was the fastest I'd ever seen a record company work. Once they let us go, we were free to do with the album what we chose.

We'd been noticing how much more important the internet had become -- once information is out there in the world now, anyone can get it. Since that was beginning to happen with the record anyway, we figured, OK, let's just stream it for free ourselves.

WN: Did you minimize the quality of the files you offered online, so that people would be encouraged to pay for a higher-quality "real thing" when you signed to a new record label?

Tweedy: We didn't go out of our way to make it sound low-res. MP3s are poorer quality anyway. That's part of why the record industry's argument against file sharing is so ridiculous -- nothing out there on P2P networks sounds as good as the original CD or vinyl record.

WN: Did the free online release make it hard for you to find a new label home?

Tweedy: That's why we ended up with Nonesuch. They weren't intimidated by the fact that hundreds of thousands had already downloaded it.

WN: What was your reaction when copies of A Ghost Is Born started showing up online this year, before the official release?

Tweedy: Something interesting happened. We were contacted by fans who were excited about the fact that they found it on P2P networks, but wanted to give something back in good faith. They wanted to send money to express solidarity with the fact that we'd embraced the downloading community. We couldn't take the money ourselves, so they asked if we could pick a charity instead -- we pointed them to Doctors Without Borders, and they ended up receiving about $15,000.

WN: What are your thoughts on the RIAA's ongoing lawsuits against individual file sharers?

Tweedy: We live in a connected world now. Some find that frightening. If people are downloading our music, they're listening to it. The internet is like radio for us.

WN: You don't agree with the argument that file sharing hurts musicians' ability to earn a living?

Tweedy: I don't believe every download is a lost sale.

WN: What if the efforts to stop unauthorized music file sharing are successful? How would that change culture?

Tweedy: If they succeed, it will damage the culture and industry they say they're trying to save. What if there was a movement to shut down libraries because book publishers and authors were up in arms over the idea that people are reading books for free? It would send a message that books are only for the elite who can afford them.

Stop trying to treat music like it's a tennis shoe, something to be branded. If the music industry wants to save money, they should take a look at some of their six-figure executive expense accounts. All those lawsuits can't be cheap, either.

WN: How do you feel about efforts to control how music flows through the online world with digital rights management technologies?

Tweedy: A piece of art is not a loaf of bread. When someone steals a loaf of bread from the store, that's it. The loaf of bread is gone. When someone downloads a piece of music, it's just data until the listener puts that music back together with their own ears, their mind, their subjective experience. How they perceive your work changes your work.

Treating your audience like thieves is absurd. Anyone who chooses to listen to our music becomes a collaborator.
People who look at music as commerce don't understand that. They are talking about pieces of plastic they want to sell, packages of intellectual property.
I'm not interested in selling pieces of plastic.

WN: Your critics might say that it's easy for you to say that, given that you're already a commercial success.

Tweedy: I'm grateful that I've sold enough to have a house, take care of my kids and live decently. But that's a gift, not an entitlement.
I don't want potential fans to be blocked because the choice to check out our music becomes a financial decision for them.

WN: How do you feel about some of the new kinds of rights management alternatives some are proposing, instead of our current copyright schemes -- for instance, Creative Commons licenses that would allow your fans to remix your material for personal, noncommercial use?

Tweedy: Commercial use is one thing, but I have no problem with fans tinkering with it on their laptops, then sharing it with their friends -- that's just a new way for them to listen.

WN: Wilco is involved in a lot of non-music projects -- you published a book of poetry called Adult Head this year, the band was the subject of a 2002 documentary film, and the band just released a new book of photos, art, essays and previously unreleased tracks on an accompanying CD -- The Wilco Book. Is there a link between all the multimedia exploration and the relaxed attitude you seem to have about what happens to your music in the digital realm?

Tweedy: We're a collective of people who live to create things. When we released A Ghost Is Born, we decided to do that in an enhanced format for a number of reasons. We get to deliver more art that way. It's also a concession to the fact that we're artists who do work within the industry infrastructure. This offers something more than a downloaded MP3 can.

WN: What's next from Wilco in the way of online experiments?

Tweedy: Every few months or so we put a new live show on our site for download. And between YHF and AGIB, we released some tracks exclusively on our site for free. We've been encouraged by the response.

This has just become part of the way the band interacts with our audience. It's part of what we do now, and I don't think we're going to stop anytime soon.

Thanks To Xeni Jardin

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Hawaii 5-O Film Is Still On!

Hawaii 5-0
Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Jack Lord was Steve McGarrett in TV's "Hawaii Five-O." The star of the movie version has yet to be named.

Thirty-six years after "Hawaii Five-O" debuted on CBS, Warner Bros. Pictures confirmed yesterday that it will co-produce the long-awaited feature film based on the hit series.

"After winning a highly competitive challenge for the (movie) rights, the studio will co-produce the film with George Litto (Productions)," said a Warner Bros. official who requested anonymity.

The tentatively titled "Hawaii Five-0 the Movie" "will be a gritty, realistic cop drama set in the lush tropical setting of the Hawaiian Islands," the official said.

Jeff Rubinov, Warner Bros. president of production, was "the powerful force in getting this project to Warner Bros," according to the official.

Litto, an agent for Leonard Freeman, who created the "Five-O" series, owns the rights to the title. The film, which is expected to cost about $100 million, will be executive-produced by Andria Litto, George Litto's daughter.

"Ocean's Twelve" screenwriter George Nolfi will write the story.

"Ocean's Twelve" -- also a Warner Bros. film -- stars George Clooney, who has long been rumored to be one of Litto's choices for lead character Steve McGarrett. Clooney has not spoken publicly about whether he has been offered the role. But Nolfi has "a close" personal and professional relationship with Clooney and "Ocean's Twelve" director Steven Soderbergh, a source said.

The film's star and director will not be selected until the script is completed and then approved by the studio and producers, which Litto hopes will occur this fall. If that happens on schedule, the 80-day Hawaii filming could begin late next spring for a summer 2006 release, Litto said.

"We are in discussions with a major director and have been in negotiations for some time with a major star, which will be ongoing until the script is finished," Litto said.

In earlier interviews, Litto said he could also see the McGarrett role played by Mel Gibson, Michael Douglas or Harrison Ford.

A Warner Bros. spokesman emphasized that while the project is considered "a hot property in Hollywood ... all there is now is a good idea."

After Nolfi's script has been accepted, a budget will be determined, then casting will take place, the spokesman said.

"Then the studio will determine whether the cost benefit works out in our favor," the spokesman said. "Is there a market for this film worldwide, and, if not, is there enough gross domestically to make it worth doing?

"If it comes out on the balance sheet, then we green-light the film and move forward to begin pre-production."

Roger Towne wrote the original screenplay, but Warner Bros. executives wanted to take "a different approach" that was approved by Litto.

Nolfi wrapped up a two-week Hawaii visit earlier this month after scouting locations. While here, Nolfi met with law enforcement officials on each island and visited several airports. According to sources, a major part of the film could be a statewide chase involving some neighbor islands.

Two islands certain to be locations are Oahu and the Big Island, though other islands might also be used, Litto said.

The producer said he had offers from "every studio" in Hollywood, including Dreamworks SKG and Spyglass Entertainment, to co-produce the film. Litto selected Warner Bros. after nearly five months of discussions with WB's Robinov, who initiated the partnership.

Litto, who hopes to create a franchise with "Hawaii Five-O" akin to the James Bond films, would not disclose the financial terms with Warner Bros., only saying they are "comparable to the other studios' offers."

"But there were other considerations as to how my company and the Freeman estate would have a meaningful voice in the film's creative elements," Litto said.

That's Hollywood jargon for script, director and casting approval, a source said.

Dan Lin, a Warner Bros. senior vice president of production, will oversee the "Five-O" project for the studio.

"Hawaii Five-O," the longest-running police show in the history of television -- 1968 to 1980 -- was the subject of a rights dispute between CBS and Freeman's estate. But producer Litto and Freeman's widow, Rose, prevailed in January 2000.

That's Right,


Thanks to Tim Ryan

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Remember: If you don't vote - don't bitch.

That's Right,


Monday, November 01, 2004

20 Ways to Monkey with Telemarketers

Some people have made an art of playing with the telemarketers and getting a few chuckles along the way. Here are a few of my favorites.

Have I got a deal for you
Interrupt the telemarketer's sales pitch and ask them if they would like to buy something from you (could be anything that you're selling). That will usually get them to end the call.

I do
Ask the telemarketer to marry you. Seriously, this will probably shock them and they won't know what to say.

You have reached my voicemail
Say: "Hello." (Wait on them to start talking.) "I'm sorry we can't come to the phone right now. Please leave a message. Beep."

Funny you called
"You know, I was just thinking about (doing, buying) just that very same thing. So, I said to myself, 'Self, why don't you just (do, buy) it and get over it.' To my amazement, self replied with a loud, 'GO FOR IT!'" (Keep talking to take control of the conversation, never letting the telemarketer speak so he or she can't actually try to sell you anything.) "Well, me and myself will discuss it more and we'll get back to you."

From a country song
"I'd love to, but my wife just left me, she cut the tires on my truck, I had to bury my dog, and I only have half a Bud Light bottle left. I'm not worried about the rest, but if you start selling beer, give me a call."

Have you planned for the future?
When I see "out of area" on the caller ID, I answer the phone with the name of a made-up insurance company. Then I try to sell the person life insurance. I'll ask questions like, "What if something happened to you?" or "Are you sure your final needs can be met?" Usually, they end up hanging up on me.

Reply in gibberish
Answer the phone in a pretend foreign language.

She's not … here
I have told people that the person they were asking for was hideously mangled in a train wreck. If they ask for my wife, I sometimes say that she recently left me, then tell the caller she sounds cute and ask her out.

And you are?
I'd love to hear more about why you are calling me, but I'm in the middle of dinner right now. Why don't you give me your home number so I can call and irritate you in the middle of your meal?

Keep talking
Rather than find creative ways in which to hang up on telemarketers, I decided many years ago that I could provide a public service by keeping them on the phone for as long as possible. The longer they spend with me, the less time they have to call other people. Often, they'll hang up on me before I can hang up on them!

What did I win?
Sometimes I'll act as if the sales call is one to inform me that I've won a prize. I'll exclaim, "I've never won anything in my life!" Then I'll ask for details on when and how my prize will be sent to me. And no matter how many times it's explained to me, I will never quite understand that I've won nothing and instead am being asked to buy something.

I'm already connected
If I'm being offered a loan or mortgage refinance, I'll ask if it can "fly under the radar," because I have a large loan at a very high interest rate from "family" who would become very upset if I obtained loans elsewhere. I'll suggest that we meet somewhere discreet to discuss details.

Phone flirting
I am big on the phone flirting. Use your best Joey voice from "Friends": "How you doin?" or, "You sound really attractive. Do you call here often?"

How long do you have?
Say: "Sorry to interrupt you. I really want to talk to you, but can you hold on for a few minutes? I just need to finish up the call from the last telemarketer. He called me about an hour ago."

What's it worth?
"Now before I listen to your pitch, there are a few things we need to cover. My minimum rate for listening is $35 an hour. Of course, I can offer you upgrades that give you additional benefits, as well as a greater chance that I may buy what you are selling. The deluxe package is $55 per hour and offers a 2 percent chance of purchase, and the super-deluxe package is $75 per hour, and offers a 3 percent chance of purchase. Now before we get to that, I will need you to send in an application as well as a minimal application fee of $55. You will also need to include with your payment a $35 payment for a credit report. Once your credit has been approved, I will be able to accept your non-refundable good-faith security deposit, which I require, of $100. After closing, and you have paid my standard closing costs of $250, we will then be able to proceed with your sales pitch. Can I sign you up?"

It's good enough for Cuba
I always get them to scream, "Show me the money!" like in "Jerry Maguire."

That's Right!

Thanks to Amy C. Fleitas •

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Is This Wrong?

Fowl Ball shirt
Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

Ha Ha NY

Ha HaTee
Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Curse? Whatever. The Cardinals are a great team and it looks like it's over considering we're up 3-0, but knocking the Yankees out of it was So Sweet!

That's Right - Ha Ha!


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Go Sox!

Go Sox!
Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
SAN JOSE, Calif -- During Tuesday's U2 event in the California Theater, Apple CEO Steve Jobs not only anounced (at least in the abstract) that he too is a Boston Red Sox fan, he also announced Apple's first iPod accessory, the iPod Sock. The socks come five to a package, with one each in green, purple, orange, pink, and blue.

Packaged just like normal socks, the accessory is intended to keep your iPod warm, or so Mr. Jobs quipped during his presentation. Those in attendance offered Mr. Jobs a round of enthusiastic applause when it became clear that this was indeed a real product.

iPod socks will be priced at US$29, and are expected to ship in mid-November, well after the curse is reversed.

Go Sox!

That's Right,


Monday, October 25, 2004

We're Going Streaking!

There’s no doubt the fact that the Red Sox have won six playoff games in a row is the most improbable October event since Black Tuesday crippled a nation. It is the streak that most folks have got first and foremost on their minds, with Boston just two wins away from its first World Series title in 86 years.

But this has truly been a postseason filled with streaks. Consider:

* St. Louis’ 6-2 loss last night in Game 2 was the Cardinals’ fifth straight road loss of the playoffs, in which they have lost six of seven games this month. The Cardinals were an NL-best 52-29 on the road during the regular season, but have had the challenge of playing the Astros at Minute Maid Park, where Houston never lost the last two months, and the Red Sox at Fenway, where Boston compiled the AL’s second-best home mark.

* While the attention was focused on the fact that Manny Ramirez went seven straight games in the ALCS without an RBI, everybody has missed the fact that he is in the midst of a 12-game postseason hitting streak, batting .346 for the month.

For the 12th straight media session, an out-of-town reporter asked Johnny Damon about his hair.

* Closer Keith Foulke, probably a close second to David Ortiz in the ALCS MVP voting, has made eight straight appearances these playoffs and has yet to be charged with an earned run over 10 2/3 innings.

* On the flip side of things for the Birds, they have won all six playoff games at Busch, where St. Louis had a mark of 53-28, just one game better than its away record. The Red Sox were 43-38 on the road, where they struggled for much of the first half of the season.

* Mark Bellhorn has not homered in one straight game.

* More remarkably, Mark Bellhorn has not struck out in two straight games.

* Oh, and that football team has won something like 21 in a row too. Not bad, eh?

That's Right!,


Thanks to Eric Wilbur of the Boston Globe

Thursday, October 21, 2004

iPod News Flash!

I've been saying this since the beginning of 2004 - The only thing missing from the iPod family is an inexpensive, groovy little flash drive micro-mini-pod: A 1-2 GB flash based music player about the size of a business card that holds 250-500 songs, comes with earbuds, fire-wire cable and dock. Price it at around $100US and nobody will be able to touch Apple's mp3 player domination. And why not? C'mon Steve - make it so. All I'm saying is if the Red Sox can make history by winning the World Series this year - then my wish for an Apple FlashPod in my stocking this Christmas should be really simple, right?

That's Right,


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Who's Your Daddy New York?

NY = Next Year
Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

Please God, show me a sign...

Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Taken from the centerfield bleachers at Fenway Park (Gabe Kapler is No. 19 and Johnny Damon is No. 18). Coincidence? I think not. Destiny is on our side. May the Force be with you, Boston Red Sox.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Black U2 iPod?

The infamous black iPod looks set to make a second appearance next month, when Apple ships a special edition digital music device to commemorate the arrival of rock band U2's newest long-player.
So claim a variety of web sites, including Apple itself isn't commenting on the specifics of the rumour, but it has already sent out invites to a music-oriented event taking place on 26 October.

U2's new record, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, isn't due for release until a month after that, but lead singer Bono and axe man The Edge will join Steve Jobs on stage.

U2's fondness for Apple was seen most recently in the band's latest video, which pastiches Apple's iPod ads. Or is it an iPod ad that pastiches U2 - not sure. Either way, they both do nicely out of it, promoting the iPod and the single.

Sounds cool - I will follow up later...

That's Right,


Thursday, October 14, 2004

All I Want For Christmas

Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Just when I thought my music/audio fetish "Must Have" list was complete, Griffin follows through with it's long promised and long delayed, RadioSHARK. It's the quintessential "product that you wish someone had invented ten or fifteen years ago." Requiring only a USB cable for PC or Mac connectivity and power, the seven-inch-tall white plastic shark's fin sits on a chrome base, picking up FM and AM radio signals whenever a computer's connected. With a few button presses, you can easily "time shift" radio programming in TiVo style, pausing and rewinding live broadcasts, while a few more button presses enable you to create VCR-style recordings of whatever's on your local airwaves. Three lights on each side of the RadioSHARK's fin glow blue to indicate power, and red to indicate recording.

And if you're reading this Chrissy, the best part is - it'll fit in my stocking!
Groove Me!

That's Right,


Wednesday, October 13, 2004


Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
WanderPod Brings Wi-Fi Anywhere 

Dennis Stacey had one of the best seats at the Ansari X Prize launches, right alongside the taxiway where Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne rolled out to make history earlier this month. But the Montreal entrepreneur was at California's Mojave Airport not to catch a space launch, but to prove that he can bring internet access to people wherever they happen to be.

Stacey, 30, is CEO of WanderPort Wireless, a 2-year-old firm that's established itself as a provider of Wi-Fi hot spots in business, boutique and luxury hotels in Canada and the United States. Now Stacey and his 15-person firm want to take wireless connectivity where it's never gone before.

WanderPort sent a small crew to Mojave to unveil the WanderPod, a rolling Wi-Fi hot spot consisting of a small trailer tricked out with a diesel generator, an antenna, juiced-up access-point hardware and a satellite dish that serves as a broadband data link.

The target market: anyone who needs to get on the net from remote locations or places where infrastructure has been knocked out.
What Stacey has in mind is a place like Florida, in the wake of its recent series of hurricanes, or even Sudan, where the United Nations and aid groups are responding to the refugee crisis in Darfur. In other words, places well beyond conventional net access.
"We'd like to see this used by disaster-recovery groups like the Red Cross, like FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), or even engineering groups rebuilding infrastructure can use this sort of thing," Stacey said.

The pod could also be useful for film crews in the field as well as for providing connectivity at large-scale events in out-of-the-way places, like the X Prize race.
Until a month or so ago, though, the WanderPod was just an idea. That's when Jack Bader, of St. Louis-based network services company NetEffects and director of infrastructure for the X Prize event at Mojave Airport, went googling in search of backup Wi-Fi providers. "I contacted them with what I call one of my 'cold mails,'" Bader said. "And they agreed to show up." WanderPort got in touch with Wisp Gear, the Austin, Texas, company that handles most of its Wi-Fi deployments. Wisp got to work putting together the WanderPod trailer -- complete with a checkerboard floor and the WanderPort logo in neon -- and hauled it to the Southern California desert. By the time the WanderPort crew arrived, though, its job had gone from backup to essential.

A documentary film crew and a webcast team had set up camp next to the tarmac and needed Wi-Fi access, so the WanderPod was set up to serve them.
"We weren't planning to have Wi-Fi in this particular area," Bader said. "But when we got there, everyone wanted it. On an event like this, everything's in flux, everyone's got a laptop, and they just expect" to be able to get online.

Stacey said the WanderPod, designed to let anyone within 2,000 feet get on the net and which handled as many as 200 users at a time, performed well during its live-fire test in the desert. But he said Mojave was just the beginning of what his company hopes will turn into a significant business.

He said the pod trailers will cost about $50,000 apiece to produce, complete with heavy-duty tires and suspensions so they can be hauled into remote areas. WanderPort hopes to sell the units for $80,000 each, he said, adding that the company has full funding to go into production when it starts getting orders.

But it's unclear how big the market will be. The WanderPod has no apparent competition and the idea of using it in out-of-the-way places beyond the reach of cellular service makes sense, said Jupiter Research Wi-Fi analyst Julie Ask. But she said its usefulness could be limited by practical factors such as the performance of satellite broadband and the difficulty of hauling a trailer into truly remote places.
"Satellite is weak. If the weather's bad, if it's foggy, if it's pouring down rain, that'll hurt you," Ask said. "My gut reaction is that this sounds a little dreamy."

Stacey said his company plans to take the WanderPod on the road to show it off to surfers and potential customers in New York, Boston, Chicago, Toronto and Montreal.

Wi Fi Me


Sunday, October 10, 2004

Eiffel El Noche

Eiffel El Noche
Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
This one is for Brette! Michael and mommy love you and Dalton!




Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
I shot this on our walk over to the Louvre from some other amazingly awesome place.
Beautiful city. But, can you believe we were charged 6.50 euro for a glass of tap water, and my beer was 2 euro less...

That's Right. That's Crazy.


Saturday, October 02, 2004

5 Vital Steps

Implementation = Great Work

We've done this before. These are the steps. The right people do the right things in the right order to consistently achieve the right results.

Purpose: To understand the context in which the solution must work, and to articulate the strategy that underlies the creative direction.
What's really going on: At the beginning of this step, we tend to look at
documents (communications, business plans, studies, etc.). From there, we tend to engage in conversations, conduct interviews. The context includes the marketplace, the competition, and the company or brand itself. In gaining a detailed working understanding of the context, our goal is not to become more expert at our client's business than they are, which is not possible, but to become sufficiently grounded to ask the right questions.
Deliverables: Vary. At a minimum, a set of criteria to guide exploration (the next step) and to help evaluate results. Depending on the assignment, deliverables might also include audits, assessments, and competitive surveys various types of findings.

Purpose: To chart the possible creative directions that might yield a solution.
What's really going on: During this step, we're essentially asking, "What if?" Drawing on inspirations. Making connections. Surveying the realm of possibilities. We try to remain open to anything, to edit nothing out. This is where it's helpful to have a broad range of experience and wide-ranging interests to draw upon.
Deliverables: Notes, scribbles, show-and-tell, found objects, things torn from magazines, pages marked in books, etc. Strictly speaking, these aren't always deliverables, since our clients don't always see them.

Purpose: To develop the most promising creative directions in depth.
What's really going on: From the universe of possibilities, a handful emerge as the most promising — often because they hold the best hope of satisfying the criteria we developed in step one, or because they hold the richest potential for further development. At a minimum, we focus our attention on two or three of these directions, and develop multiple variations or interpretations for each.
Deliverables: A presentation of many ideas, possibilities or alternatives expressing multiple creative directions. Depending on the solution, this presentation can take a variety of forms.


Purpose: To refine the most promising candidate(s) from the most promising direction(s).
What's really going on: Now we're really narrowing our focus. Step by step, our concerns have moved from the most strategic and conceptual to become increasingly formal. At this point, we've more or less committed to a limited number of solutions (knowing, of course, that we can always go back to explore other possibilities if we gain new insight or if the context changes). Now we're refining and modulating their specific features or qualities.
Deliverables: A presentation of a chosen solution (or a limited number of solutions) showing a higher level of resolution now that we have focused our attention on working it out.

Purpose: To finish the solution, once agreement has been reached.
What's really going on: In this step and the one preceding it, care and attention to detail play a critical role. A good idea that's been poorly executed is not the same as a solution. "Finishing" the solution means "giving it a high level of finish" at least as much as it means "completing it."
Deliverable: The completed work in final form, ready for application and use or, depending on the assignment, replication and dissemination to its intended audience.

We care about our work. Above all, we sincerely want it to work for our clients. After completing an assignment, we actively seeks to stay in touch. We're eager to see how our solutions perform, to be available for any necessary refinements or updates, and to identify additional needs or opportunities, including next steps in the brand-building process. There's no greater satisfaction than helping our clients achieve their objectives —except helping them to attain their next set of objectives.

Thanks to Scott Mires.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Lost Hemingway Bullfight Tale Surfaces

Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
LONDON, Sept. 26 - Eighty years after they were written, a previously unknown story and a handwritten letter ascribed to Ernest Hemingway have surfaced to stir a literary and legal dispute between people who want to see them published and people who don't.

At present, the opponents of publication - notably the custodians of the Hemingway estate - are winning, according to several people on both sides of the debate. But that has not detracted from the long, twisty tale of the documents themselves: a two-page letter and a five-page slapstick account of a bullfighting incident written in 1924. Not only do the documents offer an insight into the personality of a young Hemingway, scholars say, but they also illuminate the powerful appeal exerted by even modest discoveries of previously unknown writing by literary giants like Hemingway, who died in 1961.

The story - a thinly fictionalized sketch titled "My Life in the Bull Ring With Donald Ogden Stewart'' - and the letter cannot be published without the permission of the Hemingway estate, which has withheld it. But they can be sold, and will be auctioned in New York in December, according to Christie's, whose officials said the documents were expected to bring $12,000 to $18,000. None of the parties involved have raised questions about the documents' authenticity. The seller, who lives in Rome, is Donald Stewart, the son of Donald Ogden Stewart. What happens to the documents after the sale depends on whether the buyer is willing to permit access to the work by scholars or will try again to persuade the estate to permit their publication. What has happened to them in the past 80 years, though, seems an odd blend of history repeating itself and art mocking life.

"This is a piece of literary history, a wonderful find,'' Matthew J. Bruccoli, a scholar at the University of South Carolina who has written extensively about Hemingway, said in an interview. "It is lamentable that this very interesting piece of literary history is apparently interdicted from publication.''

The bullfighting episode was apparently inspired by an actual encounter in 1924 between Stewart, a well-known American author at the time, and an angry bull in Pamplona, Spain, where Hemingway had arranged for a group of friends to join him. Stewart was part of a literary set in the 1920's and 30's that included F. Scott Fitzgerald and others. He was a close friend of Hemingway during the 1920's and went on to write the Oscar-winning screenplay of "Philadelphia Story" in 1940. He was blacklisted in the McCarthy era and moved to London in 1950.

In 1924 he, John Dos Passos and others met up with Hemingway during the annual bullfighting fiesta, an event that would inspire Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises.'' The undated letter from Hemingway to Stewart, on stationery from the Hotel Perla in Pamplona, sets out the arrangements for the trip. It also hints of long, delicious meals: he writes with "great difficulty," he admits at one point. "It is still three hours after lunch."

In his 1975 autobiography, "By a Stroke of Luck!," Stewart recalled spending days "excited, drunk, hot, hungover" in Pamplona. At one point, he wrote, he was helped into a bullring and handed a red cloak. "I found myself standing alone in the midst of an audience of thousands with the bull glaring at me from a distance of six feet,'' Stewart wrote.

Twice the bull tossed him. "I had been hit by a bull, and it was nothing,'' he wrote. "I had shown that I could take it. Ernest clapped me on the back, and I felt as though I had scored a winning touchdown.''

Subsequently, according to Stewart's autobiography, Hemingway sent him a humorous account of the incident, prefaced by his address: "Ernest Hemingway, 113 Rue Notre Dame des Champs, Paris, France.''

But Stewart, himself a parodist and humorist, was not impressed. "When he had sent me a 'funny' piece about myself to submit to Vanity Fair, I had decided that written humor was not his dish and had done nothing about it,'' Stewart wrote.

What happened afterward is unclear. According to his family, Stewart may have put the short story aside and ignored it. In any event, the typescript - a carbon copy - seems to have gathered dust until last year, when his son discovered it.

Mr. Stewart, 72, said the documents had been in an envelope that he inherited after his father's death in 1980 and had left untouched. "I hadn't bothered with it because it represented to me the enormous burden of having a famous father,'' he said in a telephone interview from Rome. By last year, though, he felt reconciled with his father's memory, he said, and after rereading his father's autobiographical reference to an unpublished Hemingway work he "resolved to cheerily plunder this envelope'' to search for it.

He sought to publish the documents in the modern Vanity Fair, with an article of his own. The magazine agreed, only to discover that the Hemingway estate had refused permission for publication, Wayne Lawson, the executive literary editor of Vanity Fair, said. "So for us, that was the end of it,'' he said in a telephone interview from New York.

The documents fall into a quirk of copyright law. While the text may not be published without the permission of the Hemingway estate, the letter and typescript may be sold as artifacts, according to Patrick McGrath, a books and manuscripts specialist at Christie's in New York.

Mr. McGrath said the auction house had authenticated the letter as written in Hemingway's hand. The five-page carbon copy of the story has also been authenticated, he added, because of its provenance and because the words "The End" were in Hemingway's handwriting.

It is not clear why permission to publish the documents was withheld. According to Mr. Stewart, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation granted him permission to publish the story and the letter in return for $500. The foundation, representing scholars and enthusiasts, is a legal entity endowed with some rights over unpublished Hemingway material, said Prof. Gerald Kennedy, its vice president and an English professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

But under an agreement reached in 1983 after the death of the author's widow, Mary Hemingway, joint permission from the foundation and the estate is required for the use of any previously unpublished material.

Simon & Schuster, which has held the rights to Hemingway's published work since it took over his original publisher, Scribner's, in 1994, also acts as an intermediary between the estate and people seeking to publish his writings. In an e-mail message to Mr. Stewart on Sept. 10, Lydia Zelaya, a permissions editor at Simon & Schuster, wrote: "The estate does not permit such publication. Therefore publication of this material anywhere in the world is prohibited.'' The text of her message was made available by Mr. Stewart.

A Simon & Schuster executive said the publisher had merely relayed a decision by the Hemingway estate.

The estate's denial of permission effectively canceled Professor Kennedy's decision to approve publication of the documents. "We were happy with the prospect of some new work by Hemingway coming into the public view,'' he said. "But the family had other considerations, and I can't speak for them."

Professor Kennedy said he did not doubt the story's authenticity. "The piece surprised me because I had not known about it at all,'' he said.

He said the story was characteristic of the kind of humorous material that Hemingway was writing "on the side'' while he was in Paris in the mid-1920's. "It's very much in the spirit of tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top humor,'' he said.

Thanks To By Alan Cowell NYT

Friday, September 24, 2004


Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.
Is it just me or does mood lighting seem to be the latest way to up the art vibe at home? Then, in steps the Groovetube: This groovy plastic box adheres to a television screen and diffuses the colors into a psychedelic, geometric color display. It's kinda like iTunes visuals for your TV - it also comes in 3 sizes.

Groove Me!

Have a great weekend!

That's Right,


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

All In: Good Fun

Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

ATLANTIC CITY, Sept. 20 - Sunday night, three of the luckiest guys alive finally caught a break and headed up to a room at the Borgata casino here for a rest in the middle of a long day at the World Poker Tour. In the past few years these three have each won millions of dollars - the talk generally gets less specific when losses come up - playing Texas Hold 'Em, a card game that has stormed across television and computer screens and put poker in the middle of the table as never before.

The men are three of the kings of so-called no-limit poker, a format in which any player at any time can put all his money in the pot - all in, as they say. No-limit poker is as indigenous to America as jazz, and full of just as much improvisation. Apple pie is fine, and baseball is always good on a sunny day, but what could be more American than betting $1 million on the flop of single card?

Although pitiless when they sit across the table from one another for a game of Hold 'Em, the three, Doyle Brunson, T. J. Cloutier and Gus Hansen, are friends, as friendly as professional card players get. They had mixed results playing the seven-card game at the tables that day, in part because they had to play through a clutter of amateurs that the poker craze has created. Now that the pros finally had some time to themselves, give or take a reporter, they could unwind at last. And play some cards.

Away from the television cameras and clamoring fans, they opted for a change of pace, plopping down on the king-size bed as Mr. Hansen dealt 13 cards to each player. Chinese poker was the name of this game, and it required that they arrange three hands of poker out of the cards they were dealt, in progressively better hands. The room went silent for five seconds after the deal as each man clicked through mathematical possibilities measured in thousands. And then they played nickel poker, with the word "nickel" meaning $500 and "dime" meaning $1,000. Many thousands of dollars changed hands in a matter of minutes.

Mr. Hansen, a former top backgammon player who came out of nowhere or, more specifically, Denmark, in 1997 as a professional poker player, won the first hand. Mr. Brunson, an old-school rounder who came up the hard way - and won the World Series of Poker, twice - was gracious in defeat.

"You won it all as usual, which is something I will have to become accustomed to," he said.

He and Mr. Hansen have seen a lot of each other. This past summer they, with six other of the world's best card players, each anted up $400,000 for a professional death match on Fox Sports Net called the "Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament" - no amateurs or Internet players allowed. The last episode of the first round was broadcast on Sunday, with Mr. Hansen riding a hot hand to victory. A new round begins next Sunday.

In the game of Hold 'Em, each player receives two of his own cards and then bets progressively over the next five common cards on the table - three cards known as "the flop," a fourth known as "the turn" and then the fifth, "the river." Millions of new players are flooding virtual Hold 'Em games on the Internet and have stormed the casinos. The Borgata alone is in the midst of expanding its poker room to 85 tables, from 35.

But these pros aren't new to the game. They are all self-described degenerate gamblers who just happen to be better at the game than civilians. Their every waking minute is spent in pursuit of action, not always at the poker table. If the three of them came across two worms washed on a sidewalk after a rainstorm, they might be compelled to stop and bet on which one makes it back to the grass first.

Someone brought up the evening's National Football League game: Miami would square off against Cincinnati in a few hours. Mr. Brunson, who is famed for putting down as much as a $250,000 on any given day on sports events, asked Mr. Hansen who he liked in the game. Mr. Hansen said he had no strong preference, but Mr. Brunson told him to pick anyway. Mr. Hansen chose Cincinnati to beat the points and the under, which is a pick based on total points. And with that, the bet was down: $30,000. Who picked whom was clearly beside the point.

"We all like the action," Mr. Hansen said later at the casino's buffet, taking in mouthfuls of mashed potatoes off a butter knife as he spoke. "If nothing is at stake, what's the point?"

That does not explain why millions of people are sitting in front of their televisions watching other people play cards; the World Poker Tour was the Travel Channel's highest rated show last year. (Among the other shows now on the air are ESPN's "World Series of Poker" and Bravo's "Celebrity Poker Showdown.") Poker became television fodder when the toy mogul Henry Orenstein invented a camera technology that allowed viewers to see a poker player's cards through a window in the table. Mr. Orenstein is the creator and executive producer of "Poker Superstars."

"Before, you never knew who had what cards," he said in a telephone interview. "Now you can actually see the strategy in the middle of the game."

It was the Internet, however, that changed the odds in big-money tournaments. Last year an Internet player named Christopher Moneymaker - his actual name, by the way - won the World Series of Poker and $2.5 million. He had never played in a live tournament in his life, so his victory took a bit of the mystique out of poker, where it has long been held that reading the people is more important than reading the cards. There are no faces in Web card rooms, only players and lots of them. Last year, according to Christiansen Capital Advisors, a market research concern, Internet gambling revenue totaled almost $6.35 billion.

Mr. Orenstein reasoned that if people would spend billions sitting in front of their computers, they might want to see the game's royalty going head-to-head, and he sold the program idea to Fox; "Poker Superstars" made its debut in August.

The legendary player Johnny Chan, who appeared as himself in the movie "Rounders," is one of those kings. At the Borgata, he took a seat at a slot machine to chat.

"The amateurs are going to get lucky every once in a while, and I don't think it is bad for the game," he said. "I love this game. We all do. We want to be in the action all the time. The only time we aren't in the action is when we are sleeping.''

It can get pretty silly after a while. Howard Lederer, who has played chess for cash, is known as the Professor because of his command of poker's numerical whims. Even as he sat nursing a brutally small stack of chips in the poker room at the Borgata during the World Poker Tour, he was staring at a television screen above his head that was replaying a hand he had against Johnny Chan in Fox's "Poker Superstars." The hand in front of him did not look much better than the one on the screen.

"I know I'm in a tournament and going to lose and running bad on TV, too," he said.

"But you have to be in the moment," he added philosophically. "I was having a mediocre day of cards, but I was struggling to play my best. You can't think about the meta, about the past, about the bad beats. You have to play the cards in front of you."

The tournament ended after midnight and everyone, pros and amateurs alike, counted their chips and thought about the next day of play. But not everyone was done playing. At a $15 craps table just outside the B Bar on the main level of the Borgata, the guy chanting at the dice looked familiar. It was Mr. Cloutier, who has 57 titles in major tournaments and five World Series of Poker titles; he is poker's all-time leading money winner.

Mr. Cloutier is one guy you do not want to have sit down at your table, except that he is a complete gentleman, which means he will be nice to you after he takes all of your money. But he was playing craps right then. It was 1:26 on Monday morning. He made a promise, empty even as it was uttered, to stop by the bar when he was done.


Originally uploaded by H. Michael karshis.

Show me more badly drawn cats!

That's Right,


Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Upstairs - Downstairs

The Benefits of Living Above the Store
By Suzanne Hamlin NYT

There are very few ways to outwit the market and find a bargain.

But for those people who are adventurous and willing to look at buildings that don't fall into their preconceived ideas of residential space, there is a frontier, maybe the last one: the mixed use building, legally designated as part commercial and part residential.

Brokers say they are seeing intense interest in them from people who previously might have wanted only purely residential property. In some cases, the buyers are looking for places to both live and work. In others, the interest is driven by money, or rather the lack thereof.

As prices for apartments and brownstones zoom ever upward, mixed-use space is becoming more appealing. It often costs less per square foot, and a commercial tenant can provide rent to cover much of the mortgage.

"It's like the floodgates have opened," said Jackie Lew, a broker with the Corcoran Group in Brooklyn.

She said that she has had more calls about a recently listed mixed-use building on Third Avenue in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, for $650,000, than on any other property in the last several years. Quite quickly, the building was bought by a dentist who plans to have his office there and rent out the apartments above.

But many prospective buyers of mixed-use property are young and not-so-young professionals who want living space in the popular Brooklyn and Manhattan neighborhoods that appeal to them for their schools, green space, transportation and shopping.

The greatest number of mixed-use buildings in New York are on big commercial strips, often in what would be considered fringe residential neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. For those craving space and not fearful of living without a Starbucks within walking distance, these can be a great deal.

But even in more affluent neighborhoods, mixed-use buildings can be found, usually less expensive by a third or more than fully residential buildings. If the commercial space is not used by the owner, there is the potential for income from a tenant who will probably never give wild parties, or call the landlord in the middle of the night because of a clogged sink.

Another plus for many is that unlike most residential buildings, mixed-use properties often come with the legal right to build up or extend out in back. And for many mixed-use buyers, the buildings' lack of architectural detail or character is a good thing; owners can rip out and reconfigure at will. As for the usual lack of a yard, roof gardens and decks are compensation.

Over the last 29 years, Sue and Joel Wolfe have experienced the benefits of owning a mixed-use building. When they bought a three-story building on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn in 1975, they had no intention of living there; they already had a two-family brick house in Fort Greene.

But, "Joel wanted to open a restaurant," said Ms. Wolfe, who at the time was a merchandising executive and is now a real estate broker.

The 4,425-square-foot Atlantic Avenue building, between Nevins and Bond Streets, cost $38,000 in 1978, about a third of the total cost of renovations needed to create a ground-floor restaurant for Mr. Wolfe and upstairs, a spacious duplex and landscaped deck.

The upstairs duplex, meant originally as a rental, almost immediately became home for the Wolfes and their daughter, Lissa. "It didn't take long to figure out that if we were ever going to see Joel, we had to live in the building," Ms. Wolfe said.

The building, valued at around $1.4 million in today's market, looks right at home now in a tree-shaded block of clothing boutiques, art galleries, antique stores, a yoga studio, a garden center and restaurants.

Development plans for making Atlantic Avenue a three-mile grand boulevard, beginning with a riverside park and ending at a Frank Gehry-designed basketball stadium and shopping complex, are well under way.

But the Atlantic Avenue of 30 years ago was desolate, treeless and heavily traveled, a main thoroughfare for people on their way to somewhere else. Mr. Wolfe's restaurant, Restaurant Lisanne, was surrounded by manufacturing plants, wire-fence parking lots and low, anonymous storefront buildings.

It was considered a good restaurant, but even residents in Brooklyn Heights, less than a mile away, would not go there casually. Boerum Hill, the neighborhood directly behind the restaurant, where brownstones needing work now start at $1.5 million, was known locally as crack city, and best to be assiduously avoided after dark.

For the Wolfes, shopping for essentials was a long hike or a car trip, and casual neighborhood social life was nonexistent.

When Mr. Wolfe retired and closed Restaurant Lisanne in 1989, the space on the ground floor was rented to Cheryl Kleinman, the baker who has become well known not only for her wedding cakes and pastries but also for her celebrity clientele. It is a commercial kitchen, not a walk-in shop, and the Wolfes say they feel blessed to absorb so many seductive aromas without ingesting any calories.

Having a commercial tenant is like having a residential tenant except that in a commercial space, when there is a negotiated net income lease, the tenant pays a share of the building's taxes, as well as utilities and garbage pickup.

But there are downsides, and challenges, that buyers may not understand when they first start looking at mixed-use buildings. Ms. Lew, the broker, said those considering mixed-use property for the first time often don't know that the down payment is at least 25 percent of the purchase price.

This can be a substantial cash outlay, far greater than the average 10 percent down payment fairly standard now on residential properties purchased by buyers with large incomes who are considered good risks by mortgage lenders.

Banks consider that a mixed-use building, particularly for a live-work owner, carries a double risk. If a commercial business goes under, the odds of losing the house become greater. All eggs in one basket sets bankers' teeth on edge.

Traditionally, immigrants have been the most avid buyers of small live-work buildings. Chinatown and the Lower East Side remain vibrant examples, and recent immigrants also see this route as a way up, not down.

Eli Ickovic, a Corcoran broker who was born in Israel and is fluent in several languages, cited one of his clients, a woman from Poland, who moved here three years ago and bought a rental property in Sunset Park and then a mixed-use building in Park Slope. In contract now for those buildings, she is about to close on a mixed-use building on Atlantic Avenue that provides more income in a better location. Her teenage daughter and an older relative will move into an apartment in the building with her.

It's a scenario that still dumbfounds many Americans who can't figure how they can have good jobs and decent salaries and still not save a dime.

Hard work — very hard work — and a willingness to live in less-than-ideal quarters are the short answer. "Real estate is still the key to being able to afford to live here and achieve financial success," said Timothy D. King, the executive managing director of the Brooklyn office of Massey Knakal Realty Services, a commercial real estate firm with extensive listings across the city.

Nodding at the affable young Russian who was working as a technician and adjusting the interagency plasma TV screens, Mr. King said, "Trust me, with his kind of work ethic and intelligence, he's going to be a property owner soon."

People who understand the financial benefits often find the mixed-use route very compelling. One woman who is a stock market analyst for a Wall Street broker bought a mixed-use building in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, last year using money that might otherwise have gone into the stocks. "It's no secret," she said, "that a shrewd real estate investment is going to give a greater long-run return than the stock market."

Requesting anonymity for fear of biting the hand that feeds her, she said she has come to enjoy her new living situation. The deli downstairs is not only one-stop shopping, it's security. "As a single woman, it makes me feel safe knowing that they are there all day," she said.

But there is a sense that well-off people more appropriately choose to live in fancy co-ops. "My parents are probably turning over in their graves," she said. "Live above the store? That's what they did, so I could get my M.B.A. and get out."