Tag Archives: Dan Misener

Technology, Creative Culture, and the Gap in Between

I spend my working nights around people who have ideas.

They’re always running their mouths about politics, art, music, religion, and regularly reaching an audience of one. Or two or three. Maximum.

“Why don’t you blog this or post this kind of information somewhere?” is what I respond with, pleading. But I know it will not happen, not unless I install computer terminals in the bar, at my cost, and eventually take these brilliant people over to the device, create accounts for them, and maybe even toss their hands at the keyboard. Like trying to start a motor-boat, it might take a couple of tries.

I, for the life of me, can not understand why, in Windsor, there is such a huge disconnect between the creative class and technology. Is it this way in other places?

I’ll give you another example of where I have been faced with hurdles of disbelief when trying to communicate in tech terms.

Bands rumble through Phog Lounge, where I work and book bands. There’s a disproportionate amount of Mac computers accompanying them on their journeys. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a PC brought in by anyone except my business partner Frank. And if he heard I was Twittering, he’d make a pee-joke.

I came to learn that a major reason they have Macs is because they have some fairly fantastic musical applications, allowing bands to do all sorts of things they could not do otherwise. It wasn’t as if they were doing any open source programming, or anything (which I have never and will never do myself). I just assumed that because they had a superior product, they’d be a little more forward thinking technologically, and maybe even be keeping tabs on the web applications being designed monthly to make their lives easier.

When I started reading about Twitter, Pownce (now dead), Digg, Skype, Google Reader, YouTube, Blip.tv, Seesmic, WordPress,  (the list is unending) I clearly saw how those tools could help my business, and possibly even my freelance writing/radio career (whenever that comes). Where did I hear about these tools? My friends and family primarily told me, as they saw the same usage I did. Dan Misener (good friend) has told me about tons of new programs, and my brothers Rodd and Todd have dumped LOADS of web apps on me in the past year alone.

Without discussing the usefulness of these apps, or how quickly they become obsolete, moved out by better apps, there is really no excuse for musicians and promoters, artists, and designers to be so clueless. Aside from Facebook, Myspace, and Flickr, there’s an incredible self-handicapping happening locally on the web and about the knowledge of the web.

“Twitter? What the hell is that?” I have heard countless times, or at least they make crooked, pained faces of confusion.

“Well, let’s put it this way…you sign up under the name of the band, and you then get people you know (that love your band) to join and FOLLOW YOU, much in the same way they do on Facebook and Myspace…and when you send a micro-blog (140 characters or less) everyone who cares…can see it. Soooooo, if you have a show starting, you can let people know that you’re going onstage in 25 minutes. Forgetful fans can make a snap decision and run out to your show. Or you could use it to inform people that you just finished writing a new song, or that you’ve just posted live footage from that concert you played last month in Montreal. It’s another way to connect. You know your Facebook status? Yeah? Well, you can set up your Twitter account to update your Facebook status WITH your Twitter posts so ALL of those people are getting the crucial updates you feel worthy of sharing.”

This is usually followed by a body-posture that tells me this is WAY too much work to engage fans. And within a week of this chat, they will be back in front of me, bitching that the turnout for their show was less-than-desired. I just say, “Twitter? No? Oh.”

I’m no tech-freak either. I just use the stuff that’s useful. And with my arcane knowledge, I remember telling musicians about Flickr a couple of years ago, WAY after it was a regularly used web app, and these wonderfully gifted photographers were looking at me like I had two noses. How does the arts community live in a vacuum related to tech? Shouldn’t they be pioneers? Early adopters? Shouldn’t they be gentrifying these programs like they do with low-rent, start-up communities? Aren’t the creative class a grassroots movement, known for doing things BEFORE everyone else? Aren’t the creative classes of other cities kicking our technologically-atrophied asses!

I would think that connectivity would be the rule, THE RULE, for someone trying to share their talents, gifts, and ideas for change. I mean…Obama’s people were on Twitter before my underground-ers. And it isn’t like it’s a secret that Obama’s web presence was a huge factor in reaching undecided (independent) voters. But then again, if my customers aren’t hearing about Twitter, I have a feeling they aren’t hearing about (or tuning out) when the news shares info of Obama’s tech prowess.

Anyone have ideas of how I could be helping these bands increase their profile, even if it’s just to connect to its current fans, without trying to become “the next thing”?

I see so much opportunity for the unique, clever, useful, and brilliant ideas, art, and concepts to get into the masses, but I am having the toughest time bending anyone’s ear toward tech.

Should I have a technology night at Phog? Should I get a presenter for each of these ultra-useful web apps to come in and walk people through registration, use, and upkeep on the projection screen? Would people come to get informed? Maybe they would. Then they could weed out all of the superfluous apps they have no current need for, and go home and get going on the ones they could actually use!

Yes.

This is going to happen.

Stay tuned for dates.

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Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids

My uber-talented friend Dan has this brilliant event in Toronto called Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids. It’s even better than my book night, specifically because it forces you to laugh at yourself

Read this recent article in the Toronto Star about it. So proud of him.

Thoughtfullness

Jhoan and I have friends in Toronto. A particular pair of friends who we are steadily trying to find ourselves near as often as possible. They are talented, creative, funny as hell, humble, trustworthy, selfless, resourceful, and THOUGHTFUL! I hate putting words like this in one sentence like the one previous, because I find that they leech meaning away from one another when the reader simply skips from one attribute to the other. But, I don’t stack these compliments lightly.

Dan and Jenna have a list of accomplishments (as a “friend couple”) that are as close to a “how to” of friendship as anyone can be. The following is simply one of them.

A little while ago, Jhoan and I went to the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia. Driving from Windsor to…well, anywhere east or north is a lame, flat, deflating trip. There is nothing to keep the eye wandering. Nothing to excite or busy the ocular nerve. There are no service centres for the soul. The McDonalds and Tim Horton’s can only do so much. Very, precious little to be precise. And so when I took Dan and Jenna up on their invitation to tell them when we were passing through Toronto, I did. I called to see what was what. Were they in? Were they out? We were keen for a visit with our friends, and we really hoped they would answer the phone and draw us from Highway 401 like a swami coaxing a cobra from his boring basket.

They not only invited us over to see them for a few minutes, but Dan helped me drag our bikes (which we traveled with) from the back of the car, up 20-some steep Toronto stairs, which he then locked to the railing. When we unloaded our highway malaise, they were eagerly preparing a meal. They had friends (neighbours) coming over for dessert soon. But they asked us to stay for dinner (which could be made and eaten before the neighbours were due). It consisted of Dan’s “famous potatoes” that he had made only once before, and they chopped, fried, boiled, blanched, stirred, and mixed without letting us touch a thing. Asparagus, chicken a l’awesome, and the delectable mashed potatoes followed by an angel-food cake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. They got to use several of their wedding shower gifts for this one meal.

It was a hot dinner, with friends who we almost never get to see. It was a detour from the drone of the pavement under the car, and it was the most understated piece of magic we never expected.

Our discourse is always goofy, and light, and fun. We heard a song that Dan wrote and recorded in Halifax for Jenna about a rock ‘n’ roll ham…yes…a piece of ham that plays music…that ran for nearly 11 minutes. Also during this visit, he gave me DVD copies of his brilliant and hysterically funny (Chritopher Guest-esque) video series called Jim Dupree: Enthusiast. I have been wanting copies FOREVER. Jhoan and Jenna discuss everything lady-like. I heard them discussing locavores and community-grown food, because of the dinner ingredients having come from local origins. Dan and I try to make words, containing the word speck, (like re-speck-t and in-speck-tion) until we can’t think of anymore, which is what leads the ladies to ignore us in the first place to continue on with real discussion.

Our friends remind us that we are constantly invited to visit, almost perpetually so, and that we should move to Toronto. We sullenly decline, as we love them, and we roll out with our bikes, strap them to the trunk, and disappear back west, to Windsor.

A week or less went by. We got a shipment in the mail, from Amazon. Upon opening it, very curiously, there was a book inside. A book we hadn’t ordered. The 100 Mile Diet by J.B. MACKINNON and ALISA SMITH. Jhoan and Jenna had been discussing this book during our visit and Jenna had ordered it and had it sent to our hose with a note to Jhoan, telling us it’s worth the read, as per her discussion. No expectation. No hint. Just a gift in a brown box that screamed, “we care about you”.

These are the types of things that make me shake my head in amazement. Their thoughtfullness permeates and gets into your clothes, into your brain, and reminds me of how people treat those that they truly care about. Jhoan is the other great example of this in my life…but for Dan and Jenna having only been our friends for a few years(?) it is incomperable.

What’s more is that this is one of so many moments that they have gone overboard for our comfort, enjoyment, inspiration, inclusion, and even career advancement hopes. We are lucky. We know it. They know it. We have told them several times. I hope you have friends like these.

Albrecht Durer

Adam and Eve (etching) by Albreacht Durer

Seeing the most recent opening at The Art Gallery of Windsor, displaying approximately 55 woodcuts and etchings by Albrecht Durer, was an honour. Jhoan had tickets from work to attend the pre-opening event closed to the public. The opening was started with a discussion about the 15th Century, the time period that Durer did some of his work, and the time period in which he was inspired by the surroundings.

The Early Music Ensemble of Windsor performed Northern Renaissance tunes in the gallery before we actually saw the works. Using very strange looking instruments, a far cry from the indie musicians’ gear I am used to seeing and hearing, the Ensemble was extraordinary.

On to the artwork.

When I went to high school, I remember fondly the days we took Art history. I, you see, could not draw worth a snot. But I was fascinated with the works that were hammered into our memory by discussion, review, quizzes, and general appreciation (or bragging rights for remembering). One of the artists whose work was most memorable was Durer, whose woodcuts and etchings were phenomenal. In particular, Adam and Eve, an etching, was one of those pieces you see at the front of the room and think, “That thing must be in a gallery in Germany somewhere.” One never really thinks they’re going to see the thing at the end of their nose in a local gallery.

And there it hung, Adam and Eve. Right there. Beyond the surreal sense that I was so close to a wildy well-preserved classic work from the 1500s, it was unnerving to have something from my past being in my lap. It would be like meeting Cecil Fielder (ex Detroit Tiger) in person, after having collected his image on baseball cards as a tot.

Another time I had that feeling was when I was with Jhoan, at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. We were walking out of the gallery, having had our fill of an amazing collection, and I saw something familiar. It was a woodcut called The Prophet, by Emil Nolde. It was a piece, once again, I remembered clearly from Art History in Grade 11 with Mr. Roy James.

The Prophet (woodcut) by Emil Nolde

Other instances of great works appearing out of nowhere have been regular occurrances, and I have no plans to simply list them, but I will say that The Art Institute of Chicago had more single instances of this than anywhere else I’ve been. Seeing Grant Wood’s American Gothic in a room full of previously unknown works was bewildering. We just stood there, jaws agape, wondering how this painting was actually in front of us.

To finish this post, I want you to see a “version” of American Gothic that trumps the original, in my eyes.

My friends Dan and Jenna are getting married. Soon. They have impeccable taste, and an imaginative spirit that is contagious and inspiring. They have created an indelible image for their wedding invitation, and I love showing it to strangers. Every time I see this, I wish I were more creative.