Tuesday, January 30, 2007

TV: Serials: The Jerry Springer madhouse sideshow

I saw the Jerry Springer Show tonite, replete with his tail-end 30-second sermon, and I continue to regard it as among the most barbaric on North American TV that I've ever seen. Looking at his in-studio audience, I can't help thinking of it as the perfect symbol of "The Ugly American."

TV, by Anaximaximum

More to come....

Monday, January 29, 2007

TV: Serials: 24's Jack Bauer, an anti-Muslim propaganda tool?

National Review gives readers M. Zudhi Jasser on "Why Do They CAIR about Jack Bauer? -- 24 is an opportunity for American Muslims to fight the real enemy: Islamism" (Jan29,2k7). Far from being an anti-Muslim action series (as the crybabies of victimhood at CAIR like to pretend), Jasser says Kiefer Sutherland's 24 gives a realistic picture of a certain small minority of Muslims in North America to whom the larger Muslim community has to respond in a pro-American Muslim way.

TV, by Anaximaximum

Jasser, himself a Muslim, starts off his unexpected TV review without mincing words:

Yet again, the old, tired “major” American Muslim organizations have come out in full force to object to something unobjectionable. This time, they’re angry about the storyline of 24, the highly popular TV drama on Fox: When the recent premiere episode ended with a terrorist network detonating a nuclear device in a Los Angeles suburb, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced its fear that “this would serve to increase anti-Muslim prejudice in American society.” The show had begun with a depiction of an America gripped in fear after an eleven-week run of suicide bombings, apparently by radical Islamist terror cells, in cities across the country.
Sutherland created and produced the show, and plays its star role of Jack Bauer. It's won awards, and does hold a viewers' interest, apparently even the interest of professional victims at CAIR. But, as noted, Jasser finds the series "unobjectionable" given today's world realities and the activities of North American Islamofascist cells.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

TV: Serials: Roger Friedman says 'America turns off Trump,' ambiguity, irony?

A favourite Entertainment writer, Roger Friedman, who puts out the daily Fox 411 newsletter about The Biz, notes the early ratings stats for Donald Trump's new season of his weekly reality-TV show featuring young would-be entrepreneurs, The Apprentice. Whether Mr Friedman be correct in his conclusion or not, on one little matter, I don't think he fathoms just how much Americans hold their noses to avoid puking when Ms O'Donnell's visage mars the TV screen. Indeed, her takeover of The View after her professional sponsor, one Barbara Walters, booted the only black woman on the 4-woman panel of the latter show, in order to give said O'Donnell a platform to attack the Trump--all this registers rather oppositely on me, compared to what Mr Friedman thinks [the interspersions in brackets are mine - Anax].

The new season of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice had a dismal start on Sunday night. The show finished third in its time slot, far behind ABC’s Desperate Housewives and CBS’s Cold Case.

Even worse: Apprentice lost millions of viewers from its lead in, the Grease reality show that preceded it. The Apprentice rating was a miniscule 5.4.
TV, by Anaximaximum
What happened to Donald Trump? He used to be so PR savvy. But his tirades and constant attacks against Rosie O'Donnell have done to him what Tom Cruise’s criticism of Brooke Shields did to him in 2005. [What about the O'D's diatribes against the Trump?; and, after all, Didn't she start it?]

Doesn’t Trump realize that the bulk of the non-football viewing TV audience are women and that once they sense an enemy, there’s no going back? [The fallacy of so many Entertainment journalists is being iterated here by Mr Friedman. Is he so immersed in his industry that he forgets that "women" is not an ideologically-monolithic category and that many women watch football and go to football games, etc. And that even those who don't do football either at the scene or on the screen, nevertheless include very many who detest the O'D, including many Lesbian women. Simply put, it takes neither gender- nor sexorientation-specificty to notice how thoroly she comes across as a barbarism.] I doubt Apprentice can regain its ratings of old.
Me too. But then I never did like the Trunmp's show much, and never found the Trump himself interesting. Nevertheless, he sure did stir up some interesting showbiz dirt when he took on the insults of OD and shoved them back in her face, which of course opened her mouth again like a compulsive sphincter. I don't like Barbara Walters either; now more than ever she leaves me cold as she seems to lack a scintilla of authenticity. Both with how she treated Star Jones and Donald Trump. Star I always liked.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sports: Soccer: European star soccer-player Beckham heads for LA, USA

Welcome to North America! Altho Los Angeles and its Galaxy pro-soccer franchise is faraway from Toronto, or any other part of Canada, soccer fans here got a boost from the news that David Beckham is joining Major League Soccer on the continent. He's already got an academy going in LA, since his visit in, to teach the sport to interested youngsters, so his hook-up with Galaxy is not without anticipations. Here in Toronto, we're feeling great about the new major stadium being built for the sport.

Christian Science Monitor's Mark Sappenfield has a piece "What Beckham's 'bend' means for US soccer" (Jan16,2k7). It's a rather snotty article actually--one that, besides using in scare quotes the questionable word "bend," refers also to his "dreamy hair" (twice), to his "paparazzi-perfect smile," and even to his "Spice Girl wife" (but no mention that they are the proud parents of three kids).

There is a factual core to the piece worth reading, but for all the skewered personal references, there's no pix to give us a sense of the reality of the man. Shame on CSM for all the speculation on DB and his future. The article is overwrawt in heaping supermanish expectations and respnsiblities on the sportsman, and really rather unwelcoming.

Sports, by Sportikos

For my part, I think Beckham will do his best to give North American soccer a leg up. But most of all, he'll be positioned in LA. He'll have the run of the TV talk shows, advertizing opportunities for products bearing his name or his endorsement, and ... and I'd bet, after soccer, he's got movies in the back of his mind. His wife--her name is Victoria, Mr Sappenfield--mite enjoy, when the kids are older, some performing / acting gigs as well.

Again, welcome to North America!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Technics: mobile phones: Is the iPhone a mobile phone?, or just what exactly is it, and with what is it set to compete in the marketplace?

What is an iPhone?, the AppleWags are asking. Appligos has a series of posts on the iPhone, presented to the world this January by Apple's Steve Jobs. The most recent post quotes and comments on the ontological-technical question almost philosophically.

Technotes, by Owlie Scowlie

Arts: Photos: 'The art, craft, & unique narrative form that is photography'

National Geographic held its 2nd annual seminar on photojournalism - expanded to a consideration of photography whenever pursued as a narrative form, a means of storytelling, whether fact or fiction. Miki Johnson reports on the seminar in her article "Celebrating Photographic Storytelling" (Jan16,2k7).

National Geographic has every right to be proud of itself -- and specifically its photos.

But last Thursday's seminar at the National Geographic building in Washington, D.C. was not just an occasion for the organization to pat itself on the back. The one-day event brought in photographers from far outside the magazine's photojournalistic focus and even highlighted German competitor Geo magazine.

"This day is for those who love the art, craft, and unique narrative form that is photography," explained National Geographic's Director of Photography David Griffin, who helped orchestrate the seminar.

National Geographic brought in nearly 400 photo editors, industry professionals, and professional photographers, many of whom have worked with National Geographic, for the free seminar to celebrate photographic storytelling.

Conveniently, it also proved an ideal place to unveil photographer and editor Nick Nichols' new photography festival in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.

In the day's final announcement, Nichols invited the crowd to attend the Festival of the Photograph, June 7 to 9. The event will include exhibitions by Sally Mann and William Albert Allard, an interview by Alex Chadwick with Eugene Richards, as well as workshops, and, of course, "two monster parties." [www.festivalofthephotograph.com]

Nichols also entreated the audience to nominate photographers to be included in the show, which will focus on photojournalism. And although Perpignan Photo Festival's mastermind Jean-Francois Leroy "will come and anoint us," Nichols joked, he does not pretend his festival will be at the same level as the revered French festival, although some may call it the "redneck Perpignan."

By and large, though, the National Geographic seminar was simply a chance to see impressive projects by top-notch photographers.

Edward Burtynsky's two series on manufactured landscapes and China's urbanization impress on several levels: vibrant colors, incredible detail, and sheer size. His wall-size, medium-format images of vast tailings fields or chicken processing plants the size of small cities discuss the way humans reshape our natural landscapes and hint at the destruction our unchecked expansion can wreak.

"We live a life that is so disconnected from the place it arrives from," he explained. "I'm trying to bring those worlds back into focus."
Photography, by Owlie Scowlie
NPR's Day to Day host Alex Chadwick also conducted an "Inside the Photographer's Studio" interview with VII photographer James Nachtwey, whose story on military medics ran in the December issue of National Geographic.

Drawn out of his infamous reticence by Chadwick, Nachtwey, who is known for his deep dedication to his subjects, said he had even more of a stake in this story than usual because he had been "on the receiving end" of military medicine. In 2003 he was wounded in a grenade attack on a unit he was covering in Baghdad. Nachtwey's Time magazine colleague, writer Michael Weisskopf, lost most of his arm while reaching for the grenade, an heroic act many attribute with saving the lives of everyone riding in the Humvee at the time.

A welcome bit of levity among such serious issues came from photographer Duane Michals. Michals is a flurry of abstract declarative sentences and shockingly dirty jokes stuffed tightly into the body of a sprightly 75-year-old -- so tightly that he seems helpless to stop the thoughts pouring out of him in a steady stream.

A sprinkling of his sage thoughts: "We are an event in the universe," "The great joy is that I'm not you and you're not me," "I can't stand people who don't have opinions," "If you don't feel anything it's bullshit," and "Pictures lie!"

Oh, and he has a book coming out, Michals suddenly remembered. It's called Photo Follies: How Photography Lost its Virginity on the Way to the Bank (Steidl).

Other speakers included commercial photographer Jill Greenberg, National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore (filling in for Roy DeCarava), and Ruth Eichhorn and Christiane Breustedt with their tribute to 30 years of Geo magazine.

To highlight the revolutionary work included in the magazine's recent book, 30 Years of Geo, the German Geo director of photography and Geo International editor in chief showed photo stories from Geo including ones by Marc Steinmetz, Ingo Arndt, Peter Granser, George Steinmetz, and a very young Nichols and Nachtwey.

Thursday's seminar also included short memorial videos for National Geographic photographers Kurt Wentzel and Tom Abercrombie, along with freelance photographer Ed Kashi's photographic flipbook of Iraqi Kurdistan, which was licensed in November to MSNBC through an online auction.

Also speaking to new photographic applications of technology, Mark Lubell, Magnum Photo's New York Bureau Chief, discussed the agency's recent revamping and launch of Magnum in Motion. Next month Magnum is launching a new version of its online player with bigger pictures and more interaction. The player already has brought the agency's multimedia essays to millions of online viewers, and made it easier for those viewers to purchase photographs from the agency.
A friend of mine received a Canon PowerShot A530 digital camera for Chrismas. This model is not at all on the h+end of Canons, but still cost a pretty penny, as the expression goes.

Principium Consumers Hub

I asked him what he wanted it for, and he murmurred something about documenting the neiborhood, the city (Toronto), mapping his broader world. That sort of thing. Then he, still murmurring, said something about refWrite not being graced by photo sets that tell a story. I cawt his implication, promptly dismissing it. But today, my editor said mentioned rW's "lack of pix." Then, I ran across this article by Miki Johnson, at PopPhoto.com, the website of American Photo magazine. I recommend it. Check out their "15 Hour Photographer" event on Sunday, Jan21,2k7.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Music: Internet: Following upon Web 2.0, now a specialized development being named Music 2.0

ReadWrite email newsletter has brawt into view a new trend in music websites on the Net, a new trend that advances your music interests in several speciality directions that ReadWrite and the Music 2.0 site itself are busy organizing into categories (the latter, the mothersite is interactive, so you can signup and get into the categorizing process too). My quote is from the newsletter article mentioned, while the live links in it are to speciality webpages of the mothersite:

Directory of Online Music Services

Interesting new directory of "music 2.0" services, which includes the following useful categorization:
Music Services (major label content) - places like iTunes and Rhapsody where you can purchase or subscribe to music
Music Discovery - places that help you find music - these fall generally into 3 subcategories:
Social - wisdom of the crowds sites like last.fm, iLike, Goombah and Qloud

Music, by Anaximaximum
Content-based - recommendations based on the music content - Pandora, SoundFlavor, MusicIP
Expert based - Music recommendations from people - music blogs, irateradio.com
Music Experience Augmentation - sites to make your music listening experience more enjoyable - music dashboards like sleevenotez or Snapp Radio
Technotes, by Owlie Scowlie
Playlist Sharing - this includes playlisting sites like MusicMobs, fiql and Webjay
Music Metadata - add to the data surrounding the music - MusicBrainz, All Music Guide, Gracenote

The content hasn't been fleshed out on a lot of those pages, but still it's a good start and one to watch.
.Of course, the big issue of music via the Net is the status of file-sharing on a person-to-person basis. There's a demurral in the ReadWrite presentation that some of the sites in the directory may be illegal; but really? In Canada file-sharing is not illegal as long as no commercial selling or buying is taking place, only an exchange or gift ("freebie"). Many file-sharing sites apparently kick out members who indulge in free downloading but don't offer their own music for free download to other. So, the attaching of the label of "illegal" is not true, unless precisely qualified by the legal jurisdiction involved. The worst feature of the music exchange process is the so-called DRM (Digital R+ts Movement) that sets up obstructions to block owners from free disposal of their goods.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Movies: Awards: Foreign Press doles out Golden Globes


Golden Globes Awards this year counted among the winners Helen Mirren, Eddie Murphy, Sacha Baron Cohen, and America Ferrera, comedienne star of ABC TV's serial Ugly Betty. Sponsored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Globes are often thawt to be a precursor to the Oscars. The following from China View expresses the worldwide interest in the American film and broader entertainment industries:

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- Moving drama "Babel" won the best picture award at the 64th Golden Globes ceremony here Monday night, with its strongest contender "Dreamgirls" winning three major awards.

Moving drama "Babel" won the best picture award at the 64th Golden Globes ceremony here Monday night, with its strongest contender "Dreamgirls" winning three major awards.

Jennifer Hudson holds her award for best supporting actress in a musical or comedy for her role in "Dreamgirls" while backstage at the 64th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California Jan. 15, 2007.

Veteran director Martin Scorsese picked the best director for his crime thriller "The Departed."

"Babel," directed by Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, led all nominees into the ceremony. It won only one, which was also the biggest prize.

"It took us more than one year doing this film, shooting it on three continents and in five languages, and it seems no matter how many languages you shoot a film ... the power of cinema is universal," said Inarritu when receiving the trophy from California governor and former action star Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The movie described immigration problems among four families between the United States and Mexico after the "9.11" terrorism attack.

"Dreamgirls," an upbeat musical about the rise of a 1960s soul trio loosely based on The Supremes, gained three important awards, including the best musical picture, the best supporting actor and actress awards for Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson. It now seems a certainty to earn an Oscar nod when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science unveils its best picture nominations on January 23.

Legendary Martin Scorsese picked up the best director award for his criminal film "The Departed," after his victory for "Gangs of New York" four years ago.

British actress Helen Mirren also had a big night, taking home two best actress Golden Globes -- one for her role as the queen of England in the HBO miniseries "Elizabeth I" and the other for her dramatic film role as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen."
Movie Awards, by Anaximaximum
Meanwhile, Forest Whitaker was named best actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland."

Meryl Streep won her sixth Golden Globe, winning the prize for best actress in the category of musical or comedy motion picture in the film "The Devil Wears Prada," while Sacha Baron Cohen won the best actor in the same category for his black humor film "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan."

Leonardo Di Caprio and Clint Eastwood went into the ceremony as the first actor and director, respectively, with two nominations in the same category. But both were passed over.

DiCaprio was nominated for best actor for "Blood Diamond" and "The Departed," but lost to Whitaker, while Eastwood had nominations for directing "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters from Iwo Jima," but Martin Scorsese won the directing prize for "The Departed."

Eastwood did not come away empty-handed as his "Letters from Iwo Jima" -- a film about the famed World War II battle from the Japanese perspective -- won the Golden Globe for best foreign-language film, beating out Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto," "The Lives of Others" from Germany, "Pan's Labyrinth" from Mexico and "Volver" from Spain.

"Cars" took home the first Golden Globe awarded to an animated film, beating out "Monster House" and the recent box office blockbuster "Happy Feet."

Hollywood veteran Warren Beatty was presented with the Cecil B.De Mille Award for lifetime achievement during the ceremony. The award put the 69-year-old Beatty in the company of former recipients such as Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson.

Since the 1963 adoption of the current format of separate best picture winners for drama and musicals or comedy, 70 percent of the films that ended up with best picture Academy Awards, the Oscar, had first received a Golden Globe.

Last year, acting Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel Weisz and George Clooney all won Golden Globes before stepping into the Oscar Awards history.

However, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which gives the awards, has drawn criticism for its small size of 85 members, which theoretically makes it more susceptible to influence by studios and publicists, the absence of members from internationally renowned publications, and the practice of some members of posing for photographs with stars, which would be an ethics breach at most U.S. publications.
Associated Press points out that the telecast of the awards increased its audience over last year to 20 million US viewers, and even beat out Jack Bauer of the TV serial 24 on Monday night (15.7 million, up a bit even so), according to the Nielsen rations.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

TV: Serials: The inimitable TV schedulers declare list of top series

Yes, Zap2it has a list for us, a list of the top television series over the past 30 days, according to the searches Zap users pursued in scheduling and data-checking specific shows.

Your Favorite Shows
Based on searches from past 30 days

Six Degrees
Prison Break*
The O.C.*
TV, by Anaximaximum
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Friday Night Lights
Men in Trees
The Office
Veronica Mars
Grey's Anatomy
The Nine
Supernatural (previously reviewed)
Boston Legal*
The Unit*
Gilmore Girls*
Ugly Betty*
Criminal Minds
Battlestar Galactica
30 Rock
Brothers & Sisters
I see a series that I sampled (and panned, I hope, delicately) made this list. I can't for sure say Too bad for popular taste; because the very name chokes in my throat. But I must admit that on the Zap2it list are a number of shows that I have enjoyed in times past, tho some of those have in the last 30 days no longer whetted my TV-consuming appetite. Those I liked at one time or another are marked by asterisks above.

Friday, January 12, 2007

TV: Serials: I got 5-minutes 'deep' into an episode of Ghost Whisperers...

Another ugh!. Unfair! Okay, another look is in order at some time, when I feel well fortified. Perhaps I'm prejudging. But the 5 minutes I saw of Ghost Whisperers was the opposite of self-recommending on part of the show.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

TV: Serials: An influx of demons indicates a war between decent psychics and them, on Supernatural

Supernatural is a 10 pm Thursday series of episodes with a detailed backstory, quite well filled-in for regular viewers since the serial was launced in Sep2k5. The main characters are brothers. The older brother Dean Winchester (played by Jensen Ackles) takes up his father's task to become a hunter--that is, a demon hunter. In contrast, the younger Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) had aspired to go to law school. But with a personality difference established between the two, they "travel the country looking for their missing father and battling evil spirits along the way."

Sam Winchester is a college student bound for law school, determined to escape his family's past - unlike his older brother, Dean. Ever since they were little their father has been consumed with an obsession to find the evil forces that murdered his beloved wife, and [thus, dad] recruited his two young sons to help .... They have grown up as hunters of the supernatural.
And there's the rub! That much-abused word "supernatural" which merely amounts to one side of a philosophoical issue on the view that splits "nature" from what isn't nature (hence, supernature) and hints for some of an Unmoved Mover God or, to universes of cosmic forces or entities with super-human (supernatural) powers.
Sam escaped this way of life after high school, and now has a happy life with his girlfriend, Jessica [but she doesn't show up, nor is referenced in tonite's episode], and a promising future career. Dean, however, stayed behind with his father to join him in his "hunting".
TV, by Anaximaximum
After Dean arrives for Sam's help when their father goes missing, Sam must join his brother to find dad. His one weekend trip to search for the missing John Winchester becomes an ongoing quest after a horrible tragedy ruins any thought of a happy life for Sam.

The two brothers, bound by tragedy and blood to their mission, travel across the country encountering terrifying and dangerous forces most believe to be nothing but superstition and folklore, such as the Lady in White, the Indian beast known as the Wendigo, Phantom Travelers who cause plane crashes, Bloody Mary, and many more.

From Warner Bros. Television Production Inc. in association with Wonderland Sound and Vision, with executive producers McG ( Charlie's Angels , The O.C. ), writer/executive producer Eric Kripke ( Boogeyman ) and Robert Singer ( Midnight Caller ).
I missed the title of this week's offering, whose gloomy scenes and alleged "drama" labelled "sci-fi" ended up being just above the mediocre--and, in that sense only, "good" (the ratings system stacks the possible categories). You couldn't tell,however, fromt the fan-club rating results--"perfect," "superb," etc.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

TV: Serials: NCIS projects to the top of my chart in looks but writing goes for cuteness, twitchiness

I like mainstream TV's NCIS a detective story with a naval twist. The acronym spells out to: Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The show launched on CBSin 2003, a spinoff of the previous JAG which featured military lawyers and had a certain conceptual gravitas. What is justice, and so forth.

The NCIS show has always been well camera'd; it has the lush colour work of any series produced by Donald Bellasario. But this evening's episode underlined the show's writerly twitchiness. And cuteness. It's all just too thick with froth, undermining any real suspense in the story-line. If looks were everything, on the other hand, you could forget twitch and cuteness.

TV, by Anaximaximum

Presumably, the intention is to add humour, but I find the result something of an overdose. Funny, no; cutesy, twitchy, yes. Dramatic force, undermined.

Tonite's episode, "Singled out," was a repeat of Season 4's Episode 3 (Oct3,2k4).

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Aesthetics: Music: As older rappers claim hiphop is dead, Christian hiphop grows and spreads its limited vision of the Gospel

The Courier Post in Camden, New Jersey ("South Jersey" across the Delaware River from Philadelphia) carries a Q & A article by its columnist Kim Mulford, "On a (holy) roll--Everything you ever wanted know about Christian rap music."

While thirtysomething rap stars complain hip-hop is dead, holy hip-hop is growing.

Since Christian rap began two decades ago, the genre has improved in quality and quantity, while gaining acceptance among churches and the music industry.

In April, for the first time, the prestigious Grammy Awards will include a category for "best rock gospel or best rap gospel."

Next week, 125 Christian rap artists from around the country will perform during a music-and-worship fest in Atlanta called Holy Hip Hop Week. Organized by Holy Hip Hop Inc., the event highlights performers from dozens of cities and will be aired nationally (though not locally) on the cable network iLifetv.

Still, gospel rap rarely gets radio play. Here, then, are answers to questions you never knew you had about hip-hop's holy rollers.

Q: I've never heard a Christian rap song. Is it any good?

A: "The music has gotten much better than when it first started," says Caresa Northern, an Atlanta promoter who operates a Christian nightclub and handles booking and marketing for Holy Hip Hop Inc. "It's more in tune to what's going on in society today. If you heard (gospel rap artist) Canton Jones, you would think it was Jay-Z."

Q: What are the lyrics about?

A: "They rap about their relationship with God, about being holy," says Northern. "They rap about (treating) their body as a temple, about not having premarital sex . . . about how the devil is trying to attack them, how God saved them . . . just what pertains to their life."
The discourse in answer to this above question starts well but then devolves rapidly into a negative tone. The whole approach sounds anti-holistic and defensive. Where's the great vision of the reach of the Gospel into every nook and cranny of everyday existence? What of finding vocations in serive to God and humanity...doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, athlete, painting, opera singer, journalism. The write-up says "just what pertains to their life." Whose life? I don't know any young people who are getting married to avoid premarital sex. I don't know any who equate horniness with the devil making a special attack on them. What about their schools: are the rappers rapping for better schools? For the freedom to go to a Christian school with broad horizons rather than God/Devil dualism? The root of hiphop seems so meagre, no wonder it's often so very uncreative in either its Gangsta or Christian forms. It cultivates mediocrity both poetically and musically, whether Christian or Gangsta. Excellence should be its goal for authentic performers; and all-of-life-redeemed should be its horizon of hope and mission.
Q: That can't possibly be cool. These guys sound like nerds, not "gangstas" who know anything about the 'hood or the "real" music industry.

A: Not true. A number of gospel rap artists were once secular stars. Mr. Del (aka Delmar Lawrence) from Memphis, Tenn., left the controversial and platinum-selling rap group Three 6 Mafia to become a Christian rapper. Christopher Martin, formerly "Play" in the 1980s-early '90s group Kid n' Play, is hip-deep in holy hip-hop.

Gospel rap now claims as its own Kurtis Blow, the first rap artist accepted by the mainstream (remember 1980's "The Breaks?")
Pop Music Scene, by Owlie Scowlie
Q: What are sales like?

A: Not huge, but it's getting better, says Danny Wilson, founder and CEO of Holy Hip Hop Inc. (The organization's first compilation CD was nominated for a Grammy in 2004.)

"We're still dealing with the fact that people don't know anything about it," says Wilson.

The Gospel Music Association reports Christian rock and hip-hop music accounts for about 25 percent of all Gospel music sales. Gospel music recently posted double-digit sales growth and is expected to increase as churches diversify their music ministries.

Q: Hip-hop doesn't belong in church. Aren't Christians supposed to be singing hymns and praise-and-worship music?

A: Holy hip-hoppers are using their music to reach people who are turned off by traditional church. The genre slowly is being accepted by churches as an outreach tool for youth. Insiders such as Cross Movement and Holy Hip Hop would like to see more churches embrace it.

"What I think "church' has to understand is that hip-hop is here to stay," says Wilson. "It wasn't created by man. It was created by God. It's an opportunity for you to use it as a tool to bring people close to God."

Q: Who are some up-and-comers in Christian rap?

A: Those on the move are Canton Jones, Shei Atkins from Houston (her song "I Got Shot" is taken from her personal life), Tony Stone, Lecrae and T-Bone.

Q: Are there any Christian rappers in South Jersey?

A: Absolutely. Cross Movement Records, a Christian nonprofit company founded in 1997, is based in Deptford. The group The Cross Movement is known as one of the forefathers of holy hip-hop and has released six albums, some of which placed on the Billboard charts.

South Jersey is home to Vigilant Multimedia & Entertainment, a nonprofit organization which promotes local Christian rap artists. VME held monthly holy hip-hop concerts in Camden before moving its venue to Philadelphia a few months ago.

Christian rhythmn-and- praise hip-hop artist Modern Day David (aka Lawrence Williams) lives in Willingboro. His self-titled sophomore album is addictive. (Check it out online at www.mddmoderndaydavid.com)

Also, a new Christian rap artist from Raritan, Somerset County, will be performing at the Holy Hip Hop Awards next week. Prophetess (aka Tamara Lanza) has been writing gospel rap for about a year.

Q: Where can I find Christian rap?

A: Some gospel rap CDs are in wide distribution in stores such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy. You also can download songs from iTunes or eMusic. Free music can be heard at soundclick.com. Or check Altared Lives Radio, an Internet radio gospel station (www.altaredlives.org).

If you like it, buy it. Churches also can invite Christian rappers to perform. Northern from Holy Hip Hop does booking for about 200 artists.

"Just support the artists," Northern urges. "For half those artists, that's their lifeline . . . . That's their livelihood."
Isn't hiphop actually more the parading of attitude than anything else? Doesn't Christian hiphop parade the same damned attitude all gussied up in Bible verses? Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I've overlooked something in the new trend, as hiphop itself enters into decline simply because of its poetic and musical poverty.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Technics: Consumer Economics: Amazon's 'dynamic pricing' shifts price on books you indicate you may really want

At TechDirst, Mike has the goods on Amazon's bad-business practices, traced by a little "economic geekery." The article: Citizen Journalism Bites Into Amazon's Attempts At Dynamic Pricing" (Jan4,2k6). The operative doctrine, not mentioned, is "marginal utility."

In economics classes, at some point, you learn about the idea that dynamic pricing could be very efficient. If you could charge each person at the price point where they most valued the good (assuming that it was above the cost for the good), you could maximize your profit. People who valued a good very highly could be charged a lot more, while those who would still buy it, but only at a small premium could also be sold the product. That way you maximize both the number of sales and the profit. Sounds great, if you can pull it off. However, it makes one very big assumption: that the information flow is asymmetric. Only the seller knows the prices and the buyers don't compare. Because, if buyers can compare, or see the fact that sellers are changing prices based on how desperate you are, they get pissed off -- and having angry buyers isn't good for business. This was clearly seen way back in 2000 when Amazon started experimenting with dynamic pricing. Depending on who you were, it would offer somewhat different prices on certain goods. The economic geek in me thought that was a cool idea (and an opportunity to try to do some arbitrage), but the consumer in me thought it was bad -- and many consumers agreed with that side. The anger over the plan forced Amazon to apologize and shelve it.
Technotes, by Owlie Scowlie
So, it's interesting to see a new story suggesting that Amazon may be fiddling with its prices again, even to the point of potentially putting small increases on books that people put in their shopping carts to think about, but don't actually purchase. However, where this gets really interesting is in a separate discussion of that original article that wonders if a bunch of people could team up with the data they all have from Amazon associate fees to determine if this is actually happening, and if so, how it works. What this shows is the flipside of the original point on dynamic pricing. Since it really only works when you have asymmetric information, what happens when that information flow is broken down by new tools, data and communications systems? In other words, the very concept of "citizen journalism" can actually impact the economics of a market by gathering and spreading information flow beyond what would normally be available.
Principium Consumers Hub
Meanwhile, in an entirely separate story, it seems that these same "users" are outing another secret Amazon policy. Slate has an article about Amazon's secret price guarantee, where they'll match the lower price if the site happens to drop the price of something you bought within 30 days of purchase. The company doesn't officially state that policy anywhere, but Slate found out about it from a user in Amazon's forums, who discusses the policy. Again, this would appear to mess with Amazon's attempt to keep the information flow asymmetric, preventing them from being too aggressive in dynamic pricing.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Arts: Music: There are new tastemakers around, and Big Music corporations don't yet know how to cope

New York Times music reporter Jeff Leeds analyzes the techniques being used nowadays to thwart the system of of the Biggies in determining musical taste to suit their own ease in making profits. It's been notorious how the manufacturers of musical recordings of pop music in all genres have controlled, despite their own "competition" among themselves, what music-lovers may here.

At pandora.com visitors are invited to enter the name of their favorite artist or song and to get in return a stream of music with similar “DNA,” in effect a private Internet radio station microtailored to each user’s tastes. Since the service made its debut last November, more than three million people have signed up.
Besides Pandora, there's Last.fm, Launchcast and Rhapsody. These links are to the frontpages of the websites; you'll have to navigate to the online personalized radio service of each.
But they are tuning in to more than a musicologist’s online toy: [these] services ... have become the latest example of how technology is shaking up the hierarchy of tastemakers across popular culture. In music the shift began when unauthorized file-sharing networks like the original Napster allowed fans to snatch up the songs they wanted, instantly and free.
Pop Music Scene, by Owlie Scowlie
But the field is also full of new guideposts: music blogs and review sites like the hipster darling Pitchfork have gained influence without major corporate backing. And customizable Internet radio services ... are pointing users to music far beyond the playlists that confine most FM radio broadcasts.

All told, music consumers are increasingly turning away from the traditional gatekeepers and looking instead to one another — to fellow fans, even those they’ve never met — to guide their choices. Before long, wireless Internet connections will let them chatter not only on desktops, but in cars and coffee shops, too. And radio conglomerates and MTV, used to being the most influential voices around, are beginning to wonder how to keep themselves heard.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Technics: Visuals: Giving a Guest Pass to Flickr non-members for special access to a specified series of your Flickr photos

For any Flicker member-user who wants to give special access to a certain set of pictures, an access expanded to that a certain set of friends who themselves aren't Flicker members but whom you want to offern a chance to enjoy the photoworks ....

Flickr logo

As a special guest on Flickr website, using Guess Pass, you can view the Anaximaximumphotographicus copyr+t set of pix, a set that belongs to the brand refEpix for refWrite.

Guest Pass
How do I share my photos with people who aren't Flickr members?

Well, you can always share any public photos you have in your Flickr photostream just by grabbing the URL from your browser's location bar and popping it an email. Anyone can see your public photos anytime, whether they're a Flickr member or not.

But! if you're looking to share private photos with people, you should try using a Guest Pass. You can grant anyone access to the entire contents of one of your sets, including any private photos it contains.

TechNotes, by Owlie Scowlie
Go to the set you'd like to share, where you'll see a "Share this Set" button. Then we'll help you either send an email to friends via Flickr or make a special web address (URL) that you can share around.

The Guest Pass is actually just that URL., This means that whoever sees that URL will be able to access the set and all the photos inside it.
The first 3 photos of the set are currently accessible to Flicr members and also to nonmembers who get their Anaximaximphotogrphics Guess Passes for use until the designated expiry date of each pass allowed. Congrats to Anaximaxium.