Archive for October, 2009

Using Google Reader

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

I am now using Google Reader to keep up with content on the web. I found that I was working to visit a few/several sites on  a regular basis and having some difficulty keeping up with what I’ve read.

The service is free. You just sign up at: http://www.google.com/reader – If you have a google account, you can sign in under your existing username/password.

To begin adding content, anywhere you see the RSS (really simple syndication) icon click on it and the feed url (webpage address) will be listed in your browser address field. Highlight the address and paste it into the “add subscription” field on google reader and you are done. Visit google reader as often as you like, whenever it’s convenient for you. New information will be there along with links to the original blogs.

Also, I’ve removed the rss feed from my blog to Facebook. First, I found that it fails sometimes. More importantly, If I’m going to spend time generating content for reflection or conversation, I’d like to be able to maintain the conversation. Hosting it on the blog will make it more permanent and gives me the ability to censor comments or save. Thanks for jumping in here.

Art and Commerce – fish or fisherman?

Monday, October 26th, 2009

The earliest conversation I remember about art and commerce was with my neighbor, Mr. Jerry. For as long as I have been alive he has been both a fisherman and a retailer. He is the father of three daughters who were my playmates growing up, so he and I saw each other often.

Fishing lures are designed to catch fisherman, not just fish.”

my grandpa's lures

my grandpa's gear

That’s what Mr. Jerry told me one day. I do not remember how old I was at the time of this specific conversation, but I was old enough to fish and young enough to be a little puzzled by his comment. I cannot remember the context of our talk that day, but our houses backed up to a bayou in northwest Louisiana and just about every day was an opportunity for at least a little talk about fishing. I remember reflecting on that thought for several days, the feeling of that thought sinking in and how its truth eventually resonated in my mind. I remember how it eventually made sense back then and it has stayed with me. At the time I didn’t begin to understand the full impact of his comment, but it still rings true for me today.

On one hand, if a lure doesn’t catch the shopping fisherman and find its way off of the shelf, into a shopping cart and out the door of a retail establishment, it doesn’t stand a chance of catching a fish. On the other hand if the lure is picked up and purchased, does it really have to catch a fish to be effective, or has it already done its job? The lure manufacturer certainly would lose repeat business if it did not eventually catch fish. So if you want to create popular lures, sooner or later one of them has to catch fish. If you really want to be successful in the lure industry, offer something that maintains some balance by appealing to both fisherman and fish.

Whenever I play the role of consumer I try to remember that comment. If I find myself on the artificial bait aisle of a store (and that does happen on occasion), I try to remain fish-focused as I shop. In a bigger context, I try to remain fish-focused when I am making any kind of purchase. Caveat emptor reminds me that it is really my responsibility to shop with a fish-focus mentality. I have to separate what looks like it is fishing for me from what might actually serve the purpose it claims to serve.

The artists, craftswomen and craftsmen among us would say that a good lure has to be designed primarily, maybe even exclusively, to catch fish. The focus of the merchant would be almost exclusively on catching the fisherman.

These days, my wife (singing is her artform) and I spend our days at the point of intersection of art (fish) and commerce (fisherman). For the last eleven years we’ve made our income creating and being paid to produce art/media — music and books (both performance art and recorded media). There has to be focus on the craft or the art and some days we get to focus on the art and forget about commerce for a while — (I’ll call that fish focus.) On some romantic level it would be wonderful to be focused solely on the art, but the artist without some sort of commerce is at best a talented hobbyist and art can be expensive to create.  If you live where we live, sooner or later you have to make friends or at least make peace with commerce. If you want to call yourself a working artist you have to reconcile this tension, because art and commerce have very little in common. Ultimately, you have to provide for both.

Further, it is my observation that in an environment of scarcity (whether that’s an economy, industry or organizational) the temptation is to pursue the quick fix with an effort to please the fisherman, even at the expense of the fish. I have worked in a couple of organizations where there was an environment of scarcity due to transition in the organization. Short term survival dictates a fisherman focus, but you cannot ignore the fish and thrive in the long run. You might look great for a while, but sooner or later you will be surpassed by someone who caters to the fish. The adage that the cream rises to the top would suggest that the person or organization who is good at feeding the fish will ultimately prevail.

I want to encourage you and me to continue creating the thing you create and to pay attention to the fisherman. But in these days when we have so many ways to spend time getting the word out, focus on the fish!

Here’s a few questions for reflection: What is your work or vocation?  Where is scarcity in your mix? Who is your audience? Who is the fisherman for you? Who is the fish for you? Are you doing an adequate job trying to catch the fisherman? How can you leverage your life or your organization to be more fish-focused? How could you better maintain the balance in your life and work between fish and fisherman?

P.S. My second son has inherited the fishing gene. He often asks me if we can go fishing today. I think he’d prefer doing that to most anything he could choose to do on any given day. He looks slowly through his great-grandfather’s tackle box and finds a quintessential lure and proclaims, “this one will catch a big one!” I’m looking forward to watching he and his brother grow into their vocations.

Collaboration

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

I like to think that I’m pretty good at keeping up with what’s going on. I spend time reading about trends and technology. I pay attention to the new vocabulary including the names of new efforts and enterprises aimed at changing the way we communicate and work. The marketing folks would call me an early adopter and in some ways I am, but I’d add that I’m just paying attention

It seems to me that the rate of change is accelerating. Technology including media formats don’t hold their place as long as they used to. (I’ve got some boxes of audio cassettes you can buy if you don’t believe me.) So if you want to leverage the tools at your disposal, you have to be pretty quick at learning about todays tools and being able to figure out how to apply them, because many of them will be change tomorrow.

I watch my sons use You Tube walk-through videos to learn to conquer the challenges in their video games. A few days ago I wrote about my seven year old son using You Tube to find a recipe. I wouldn’t have thought of that, though I’ve used You Tube to fix appliances at my house. You might be surprised to find out who in your surroundings can teach you. If we want to leverage our abilities, both individual and our cooperative, we’re going to have to be on our toes.

I stumbled on this music video on the web. This creation is worth a watch. It is a video promoting the EP of a band and somebody knows how to get these folks to work together (or at least how to get these folks to appear to work together).

I’d like to cooperate this well when I grow up.

This amazing video for the Japanese band Sour’s single “Hibi no Neiro” was cut entirely from Webcam footage shot by (and of) their fans.

If it doesn’t open click here.

Homemade applesauce & the ingenuity of a child

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Saturday morning (10/10/09), my second grader was pretty bored and a little hungry and said, “dad, let’s make some applesauce out of the apples from our tree that we picked last year.” (We have 14 – gallon zip lock bags in the freezer, that we’re saving for something.) So I did what anyone who reads the owners manual would do… I pulled out THE recipe book “The Joy of Cooking”, my 1984 – 35th printing edition that I received as a gift when I graduated from college and began my journey as a young bachelor with no support from an institutional cafeteria. After a quick trip to the index, I began reading all about apples.

My second grader on the other hand headed for my laptop, pointed the browser toward You Tube and begins his search. Before I finished reading the initial paragraphs about apples, he said, “dad, it takes 80 seconds in the microwave.” “What?” I said as I put my book down and walked in. He’d found a very age appropriate, jumpy, video that wouldn’t have been enough for me, but I thought we’d finish this game on his terms since he started it. I closed my cookbook and returned it to its honorable place of rest. I sent him next door to borrow brown sugar (Props to Mrs. Betty who came through for us) and off we went. We had to defrost our apples in the microwave and peel them while they were still a little frosty. It felt a little like that cold your hands get when you throw snowballs without gloves, so my son put on an oven mitt and soaked it. As we were finishing the recipe, the apples just wouldn’t mash correctly, so I did what any self respecting dad would do and fetched a power tool. His face lit up when I told him we were inviting the blender into our escapade. I let him push the buttons and together we sauced those apples. We had a great time working together and the sauce was suprisingly tasty.

If you’re looking for an applesauce recipe… this one works and if you’re looking for a kid friendly recipe, don’t stand between your offspring and your laptop… You Tube is a great place to start! Here’s the recipe for your collection… Happy Cooking. This video is not us, this is the video recipe my son found that got us started.