It probably all comes down to quality

February 11, 2008 at 12:58 pm | In business, fashionable_life, futurismo, ideas, web | 2 Comments

A couple of days ago, I finished reading Walter Kirn‘s hilarious article, The Autumn of the Multitaskers, in the current issue of The Atlantic monthly. I suppose part of “successful” multitasking (if you grant that multitasking actually exists successfully in any way shape or form) is having a clear vision of what exactly it is you’re trying to accomplish. And having a clear vision of what the quality of that “way” should be (that’s a bit of a “zen” reference — the way is the goal and all that…)

Today I came across two new online services that promise to customize and micromanage my potential multitasks. In the latest MIT Technology Review, Erica Naone reports on a new start-up: “Maintaining Multiple Personas Online.” Naone’s article describes MOLI, which (as Naone’s subtitle explains), is a “new site [that] lets users create profiles for the different sides of their personality.”

Will this mean that your multiple personalities can multitask independently of one another? Walter Kirn must be doing backflips…

On the other hand, MOLI does seem to offer real help to the chronically (or promiscuously?) connected:

Online social networks have allowed people to easily stay in touch with large groups of friends, but the flip side has been well publicized. Some users have struggled over what to do when certain people–such as a boss or an ex-boyfriend–ask to be listed as a friend on their profile. Adding someone as a friend gives him access to the user’s profile, photos, and daily musings. Worries about privacy were renewed recently when Facebook’s Beacon advertising initiative began broadcasting information about users’ purchasing habits throughout its networks. (See “Evolving Privacy Concerns.”) Now Moli, a recently launched social-networking site, aims to win over concerned users. President and COO Judy Balint says that the site is intended for a more mature audience than the teenagers targeted by many social-networking websites. Directed at users who are trying to balance personal and professional networks, Moli offers multiple profiles–with different privacy settings–within one account.

(…snip…)

Users of Moli can set up as many profiles as they want, and they can choose to make them public, private, or hidden. Anyone, whether he has signed up for Moli or not, can search for and view a public profile. A private profile will show up on searches, but to access it, a user must be a member of Moli and must have approval from the profile’s owner. A hidden profile is invisible in searches and can only be viewed by people invited by the owner. Balint says that users are free to set up multiple profiles of various types, with the requirement that they must designate at least one public profile.

Balint says that the site is also intended to appeal to small-business owners, who can use it to set up an intranet and extranet for free. For a fee, businesses can run a store through Moli.
http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/20183/page1

And as if that weren’t enough, my husband just sent me this press release from a start-up based in Victoria’s own Vancouver Island Technology Park, a new company called Sprout:

MT Mind Technology announced the launch of its first product, Sprout, as a public beta on February 8th, 2008. Sprout is a new platform that sources hyper-personal online content. Sprout learns the user’s likes and dislikes based on simple positive and negative feedback. Designed with no initial set-up and a low cognitive load, users can start cultivating their content immediately.

To try Sprout for yourself, check out www.yoursprout.ca.

Located at the Vancouver Island Technology Park in Victoria, BC, MT Mind Technology was founded in 2006 by Evan Willms and Duncan MacRae. The company is developing solutions for individuals and organizations to effortlessly avoid information overload.

According to Sprout‘s webpage, the service aims to personalize web content for all the yous you are:

Can a search engine, blog or newsreader personalize its content to suit your tastes perfectly? The straight answer is “no”. So, we designed Sprout to be everything they’re not; from its ability to pull the freshest content from thousands of sources online, to its ability to learn what you’re into and weed out the rest. That’s right, folks. The future of intelligent online content sourcing is here. And it’s leafy.

A new leaf. A fig leaf, too, perhaps? Could be very interesting.

…Now if only Walter wouldn’t make such a racket, jumping up and down! 😉

Fairtilizer

October 22, 2007 at 12:25 pm | In fashionable_life | Comments Off on Fairtilizer

Very fun site — tons to explore, much to hear. I have one invite left…

Fairtilizer – Track 3898 – Chungking – Love Is Here To Stay (Kissy Sell Out’s Own Private Idaho)

Wow… (Body by Dance — Nike)

June 8, 2007 at 12:18 am | In fashionable_life, health, media, social_critique, women | Comments Off on Wow… (Body by Dance — Nike)

An amazing ad for Nike on YouTube, must see. (Click through — I can’t seem to be able to embed YouTube videos here.)

(found via if! from PSFK, who got it via Buenos Aires Spotting. Thanks, guys!)

(PS/edit: in particular, if you want more background information on the ad, click through to Buenos Aires Spotting — very useful.)

Virtual “reality”?

April 23, 2007 at 2:03 am | In fashionable_life, media | Comments Off on Virtual “reality”?

MIT Technology Review blogger Simson Garfinkel just posted an interview with Brian Shuster, CEO of Red Light Center, a virtual reality site for, well, red light type activities (or what a homogenised and American-centric perspective believes to be red light reality). I watched the introduction (which you can view without having to open an account or download the software), and it struck me that Barbie-doll babes are alive and well in computer-land.

Anyway, Garfinkel’s blog interview asks Are Virtual Drugs a Gateway to the Real Thing?, because — yup, that’s right — you can now indulge in virtual ecstacy, marijuana, or “even munch on some virtual mushrooms” online.

I must be hopelessly beyond the pale, but I don’t “get” how or why a virtual “drug experience” could possibly approximate even remotely a real drug experience — just as I don’t get how a virtual sex experience with the hopelessly “perfected” tits-at-attention (but flaccid penises) of these virtual “bodies” could ever come close to the surround-sound and immersive experience of a real sexual encounter between real bodies. Those online “bodies” look only slightly less less-convincing than the plastic blow-up dolls that men used to purchase for their solitary delectation.

It seems to me that Shuster is striking a pseudo-pedagogical pose when he says:

By separating the social pressure from the real-world application, users have a totally revolutionary mechanism to deal with peer pressure, and actually to give in to peer pressure, without the negative consequences.

Huh. So, we’re supposed to learn something here?

But what, exactly?

Shuster elaborates:

Just as with the sexual experimentation within Red Light Center, users will have the ability to decide for themselves whether using drugs is an enhancement or detriment to their life experience, even before ever using drugs in the real world. Armed with that information, they can then make more-rational decisions if they are confronted with that choice in the real world because they will have already gone through it virtually.

That said, it is critical to recognize that users who develop a full social circle within Red Light Center will have an online support structure of friends. Being accepted into a social community and having genuine friends are defenses that can be called on to prevent substance abuse in the real world. There is no reason to believe that this wouldn’t hold true for online users, and thus provide them with additional deterrence to ongoing real-world drug use.

Have we, collectively, come to this: a con not by real drug pushers, but by their virtual kin? Are we so bereft of biological, full-body feeling that a virtual high would convince us of anything? Are consequences only that which can be calculated by the mind, but not experienced viscerally?

Here’s a question: if virtual drug experiences were possible, how come no one has yet introduced a virtual wine-tasting club? (Hint: the answer has something to do with your body, and that you have taste buds.)

The key word is perhaps “hopeless,” whether it’s those “hopelessly ‘perfected’ tits-at-attention” I referenced above or the hopelessness of real people looking for a “full social circle within Red Light Center” and thinking they’ll have “genuine friends” there.

Loft Cube: from Trailer Park Boys to …real men who know design?

April 12, 2007 at 1:55 am | In architecture, fashionable_life | 3 Comments

This is interesting — via cultural blah blah: the sexy mobile home. Did I say sexy? I meant sexy! This isn’t your hick cousin’s trailer park trailer: this is tasty….

Design Cube

Called the Loft Cube, it’s currently making the rounds in Europe, according to Men Style. The design is by Werner Aisslinger. It’s 400-550 square feet, which isn’t palatial, but given the size of some newer condo developments, it’s square footage that can hold its own. For details on how to purchase, see the Loft Cube website…

This is the weirdest fashion thing I ever saw…

March 31, 2007 at 1:09 am | In fashionable_life | 5 Comments

I think I must be getting old or something, or else maybe it’s Carneval…
Ok, I don’t know what to say. Must be the hair down my throat…

Click on the link:
The Hole – video powered by Metacafe

What is on his chest, though?

(via Diane, A Shaded View on Fashion, via Regine.)

That was …clean. (And not at all [stormy]…)

March 14, 2007 at 10:25 pm | In fashionable_life, scenes_victoria | Comments Off on That was …clean. (And not at all [stormy]…)

I was going to write “that was easy,” but realised that while it was “easy,” it wasn’t easy. “Clean” more appropriately describes the procedure: surgical, “that’s it, then,” as they put it. I just deleted my flickr account.

Now I’m off to the theatre. Am going to see something called [storm], by battery opera of Vancouver. It had a terrible review in the today’s local paper, but then a friend of mine insists that this reviewer knows nothing of dance. We’ll see.
Oh well.

PS/Update, March 15/07: Alas, Grania Litwin’s review (see above) of [storm] was only too accurate. It was not a compelling experience. I thought the choreography was best during the “aikido” sequence, which really didn’t involve dance as much as it involved copying the moves of an ancient martial art. The rest of it was repetitive, and I kept wondering how it was supposed to resonate with, or amplify, either the accompanying music (sea shanties, for the most part, accompanied by an amplifed saxophone fixated on the basso range) or the narrated bits. “Narrated” is actually the wrong word entirely — spoken text, perhaps, conveys it better, as the emphasis was on surrealistic juxtaposition of specific anecdote with universal meaning and complexity. (You know, surely! Don’t we all vaguely recall some old canard about surrealism as the meeting of an umbrella and a …what was the other thing?, on a sewing machine? Well, yeah, something like that…) The whole thing was thin, but really pretentious.

Broke baroque

February 18, 2007 at 12:22 am | In fashionable_life, ideas, scenes_victoria, social_critique | Comments Off on Broke baroque

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has an exhibition centered on “the Baroque” currently on view. There are a few “old master” paintings (nothing first-rate), some prints & etchings, and then there’s the “Contemporary Baroque” piece of it, featuring the work of a single local artist (not well-known) as well as the (infamously known — and isn’t that all that matters these days?) brothers Chapman, Dinos & Jake.

I wasn’t exactly familiar with their work, but I do know my Goya just a little bit. And the Chapmans, ladies and gents, are no Goyas, even if they take Goya etchings and have their way with ’em. Compared to Goya, the Chapmans are so second rate, ridiculous, derivative, and yes: offensive (the only category they can be successful in), words fail. Well, mine, anyway. So I’ll let Johann Hari do it for me: The art of subverting the Enlightenment, subtitled “The Chapman brothers’ declared aim is an old one, offered by fascists and priests for the past 300 years.”

As Hari points out, there’s something deeply fascistic (in all senses) in much of current “romantic primitivist” art and in the Chapmans’ work in particular:

In the 18th century, a swelling of philosophers, scientists and artists launched the Enlightenment. At its core, they argued that instead of relying on divine revelation, we should closely observe the world around us and base a rational world-view on the empirical evidence we gather. Everything good about our world, such as the miracle of modern medicine, or the birth of human rights movements, comes from this project. The Chapmans’ declared aim is an old one, offered by fascists and priests for the past 300 years: to puncture and destroy it.

(…)

Where Goya drew with documentary clarity the agonised victims of war, the Chapmans painted the jeering faces of clowns and puppies over them. “Goya’s the artist who represents the kind of expressionistic struggle of the Enlightenment with the ancien regime,” Jake Chapman explained, “so it’s kind of nice to kick its underbelly.” Goya famously said “the sleep of reason produces monsters”. The Chapmans say the opposite: it is when reason is wide awake that it produces monsters. (Really? Did Hitler scrupulously adhere to fact, evidence and reason-based inferences?).

The Chapmans trashing Goya is a pure expression of postmodernist philosophy. They vandalise and ridicule the fruits of reason – and what do they offer in its place?

At times, they offer up a mythical pure, pristine past, before reason supposedly contaminated the world. Jake Chapman says, for example, we shouldn’t think of the sun through “any kind of enlightenment notion of photon particles being useful”. No: we should, like premodern tribes who died at the age of thirty of diseases they did not understand, “start thinking about the sun as a kind of excessive, catastrophic energy.”

…Oh god, not Bataille again. But yes, Bataille again. It’s sad when grown men can’t think of anything new.

For further reading, see also Franklin at artblog dot net, which includes a long comments section. There’s a lot of discussion there as to whether post-modern “discourse” supports the Chapmans’ tripe, but one of the commentors puts it best when he writes:

…current critical thought, such as it is, has never offered even remotely convincing support of work such as that of the Chapmans, certainly not to me. The fact so many have fallen for this glorified offal has little or nothing to do with convincing arguments for it, since there are none. Of course, some people can be convinced of practically anything, no matter how ludicrous, but that’s a matter of cognitive dysfunction, blindness, folly and/or an overwhelming desire to be “with it” at any cost.

Certainly, one gets the impression that here in Victoria, a curatorial desire to be “with it” underwrites the selection. Alas, there’s too little in the real brain department, I’m afraid. Anyone can go to school and pick up the right code words. It’s trickier to think for yourself, independently, and with discrimination and judgement, though.

Oh, we’re not supposed to be judgemental these days, are we? Well, if you’re a curator and dealing with art, but you’re not judgemental, you may as well be blind.

Of course it’s a money issue, isn’t it? Jerry Saltz nails it in a recent Village Voice article (and he’s also interviewed in the College Art Association bulletin, unfortunately not online): Seeing Dollar Signs, subtitled “Is the art market making us stupid? Or are we making it stupid?”

Well, all I can say after seeing the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria‘s Baroque exhibition is: Good question!

Cultural marks

January 12, 2007 at 1:28 am | In architecture, fashionable_life, scenes_victoria | 4 Comments

On Jan.8, J.C. Scott, a local designer who has “an upcoming role promoting arts and culture through Tourism Victoria,” mused in the local paper about how Victoria might go about being “in search of our cultural mark” (that was the title of the article). He used the article to think out loud about how we don’t have any signature cultural landmarks in town, buildings that testify to the fact that Victoria is more than just “olde England” heritage or overpowering nature, and that it has a thriving art scene. He referenced several other cities, and asked his readers to stretch their imaginations: land in Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum, visit Santiago Calatrava’s building in Valencia, think about what an I.M. Pei structure could add to our tourist centre, or a Tadao Ando museum further north, perhaps.

Well, I have another addition to this mental wish-list.

ElbePhil.jpg

This is the new Philharmonic Hall on the Elbe (**)in Hamburg. It’s like a pirate ship sailing into the city, isn’t it? And why not? It’s a concert hall in what used to be a warehouse (capitalist storage space to you, comrade!), with the sails of capital (i.e., luxury condo & hotel development) powering the whole thing from above, in the guise of a post-modern signature structure that reminds one of a galleon unfurled. Culture and capital, in unabashed union. [(**)= Note: The link takes you to an over-engineered start page for a flash site, but it’s actually worth the visit: best flash animations I’ve seen, very smooth, absolutely excellent.]

This project is part of a larger urban revitalisation known as HafenCity Hamburg. The pages accessible from this link are positively crowing over this achievement, and admittedly, the project looks unrelentingly ambitious. It’s especially intriguing to notice how the planners are triumphantly crowing over the private-public partnerships they managed to engender, which got some of these developments off the ground. The concert hall, for example, is possible because that airy structure resembling a pirate ship’s sails plunked on the dour solidity of a hull (in this case, ex-warehouse) is a private condo & hotel development, strictly luxury, of course. The dour bits at the bottom, meanwhile, have been alchemically transformed (by all that money, including the profits from the condos) into an orchestral hall of culture.

Hummel, hummel!

Mors, mors…!

translation (sort of)

n.b.: if you land on the German-language versions of the architecture/ Hamburg sites, no fear: there’s a link for the English-language version, too.

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