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AyeBlog’s 2011 in review: I Did Stuff!

31 Dec

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 48 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Art of the Music Video: Part I, 1980s

6 Dec

When I was home over Thanksgiving, my awesome stepdad shared with me some of his favorite music videos from a different time…from when music videos actually played on Music Video Television…from where there was no Internet to virally spread them around…oh, the 1980s.

These videos really resonated with me, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.

Besides the great songs, it’s how they look.

Like Chevy Chase lip syncing to Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al.” Knowing that the song’s about a man during a mid-life crisis, and the unbelievable bass solo is palindromic–the second half is the first half played backwards–conveys irony on so many levels. Tall and short, being funny about a serious emotional breakdown, Chevy stealing musical duties while Paul steals the comedy…it’s about opposites. I love it.

Next up is Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing”. Awarded the Music Video of the Year in 1986 for MTV’s 3rd Annual Video Music Awards, it was the second computer-generated video ever on the channel. It introduced a now classic riff, “I want my MTV.” There are men that look like Legos. There’s neon. There are videos within the video. It’s meta. It works.

Finally, a double header from Robert Palmer, whose identical pale-faced, red lipsticked-women in color blocked dresses could walk down the runways today in “Addicted to Love.”

And the ladies can sure shred in “Simply Irresistible.”

What are other favorite 1980s videos I should highlight in Part II? I have some personal favorites, but interested to see what people like…

What I Learned (or Didn’t) @BlogWorld: An Authentically Cynical Review

9 Nov

“Be authentic and passionate.”

“Be an authority for your niche.”

“Listen to your audience.”

“Know your deepest intent.”

“Eat your fears…they will sustain you.”

Did I accidentally miss BlogWorld (LA Convention Center West Hall) and stumble into Tony Robbins’ “Unleash the Power Within” event (LA Convention Center South Hall)?

During the two days I spent at BlogWorld, these jargon-heavy phrases kept coming up over, and over, and over, and over. As a three-day expo in Los Angeles dedicated to promoting all things new media, blogging, social media and digital innovation, needless to say I was underwhelmed.

These nuggets of wisdom represent the newest, cutting-edge information that blogging and new media thought leaders have to offer? When did blogging turn into a self-help-athon? And when did blogging also become about reiterating what everyone else said as if it’s gospel?

Maybe I’m not listening, or maybe I’m being really cynical. Or both.

It’s not that I disagree with these sentiments–I absolutely agree that authenticity, transparency, and narrow authority are all keys to success in any business venture, especially social media. As someone who actively reads blogs but has no intention of trying to earn a living from one (authenticity at work right here), I wanted to come away from BlogWorld with a wealth of new information that I could incorporate into building social media strategies for brands. I certainly got some good insights, but generally felt, well, the information was too general and top line.
Here are the highlights (or not) of my experience:

THE GOOD

As opposed to asking “What’s the best time to post a press release,” for example, the better question is “does the date/time of posting a press release matter?” Tom then walked through statistics that showed how 1) it doesn’t matter what time you post, just as long as you do and 2) the time/date question is industry and brand specific – hence “do your own work.” You should know best when and where your readers are accessing your content. When companies post content that suggests best times and places to post, they are relying on what works for them.

In Tom’s words, “data generated for the purposes of content creation is inherently incurious.” The best, most helpful phrase of the conference. Thanks Tom!

  • Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere address: The blogging curation giant revealed some great new data here, including:
    • The #1 influencer for bloggers is other bloggers: influencers influence influencers.
    • LinkedIn is the 3rd largest social media traffic driver.
    • Sixty-one percent of bloggers are hobbyists, and seventy percent of bloggers blog to share their expertise and experiences with others.

However, the woman read the slides verbatim. Not exactly engaging. I could get the same info if Technorati posted the deck on SlideShare.

  • Have Bloggers Replaced Radio Programmers as Curators of Pop Music Culture?: I attended this music panel out of sheer interest as a music fan. The bloggers’ attitude and approach were refreshing–as opposed to overarching statements about passion and authenticity, they shared specific ways on how they find music, the pros and cons of creating music in a new media world, and attracting audiences to their niche music blogs. Straightforward without the fluff. Thanks guys. (Are there any female music bloggers out there, BTW?)

THE NOT-AS-GOOD-AS-I’D-HOPED

  • Chris Brogan & Guy Kawasaki’s panel on Google+: Authenticity FAIL. This felt like a giant infomercial paid for by Google. I truly admire these guys and thought I would leave with pages of notes on Google+ best practices. Granted, I arrived late, so perhaps they covered this in the opening. Or, instead of giving away the goods in the session, perhaps they just want us to buy their book on Google+.
MY TAKEAWAYS & RECOMMENDATIONS
  • Let’s move beyond the obvious and lose the jargon, people! If I hear about “opening the kimono,” “engage your audience with passion and authenticity,” “leverage your online relationships to build offline strategy” or whatever, I’m going to lose it. Can we think of any more creative ways to communicate how social media works? I’d love to go to a panel where these words are used MINIMALLY or NEVER.
  • Leverage the Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced tracks more specifically. There was no consistency or explanation by the event organizers as to what constitutes experience level. Perhaps directing attendees according to experience could eliminate the bouncing between sessions (like I did).
  • The more specific, the better. Sessions should include specific case studies that demonstrate the general takeaways.
Thanks for letting me vent.

The 3six5 Blog: 11/1/11

1 Nov

Earlier this year, I signed up to write an entry for the3six5 blog. Each day for 365 days, a different person writes a diary entry about their thoughts or experiences for their assigned day. Not only does it give a snapshot into an entire year as told by people around the globe, but also gives a platform for individuals to express and connect. Each author also includes their own photo or image. It’s a fantastic crowdsourcing concept.

Here’s my post about 11/1/11:

Griffith Park & The Hollywood Sign

Rabbit Rabbit! 11/1/11. A new month, a new day for auspicious beginnings.

So goes my internal pep talk.

Is it horrible to feel plagued by options?

After more than seven years in LA, it’s still remarkable to wake up to 80 degrees, blue skies and sunshine. My Chicago roots make me think this version of November is unfair, or somehow cheating.

My gut keeps nudging me that LA isn’t forever. Chicago is my home, where my family lives and misses me. I miss them too. But California has gotten under my skin.

I used to live in Santa Monica, 13 blocks from the ocean. It’s beautiful, but sterile. I moved to Silver Lake, trading saltwater air for a bedroom view of the Griffith Park foothills. The neighborhood is grittier and more hipster-y, and I love it. I’m more creatively engaged and invigorated.

But the mountains taunt me today. I broke my ankle four months ago and I’m still recovering from my surgery. While I’m grateful for being able to walk, I’m not quite ready to go jogging around the 2.2 mile Silver Lake Reservoir loop or hike past Griffith Observatory. An outdoor active lifestyle is one of my top 10 reasons for living in LA—along with In-N-Out Burger. Although I’m healing, seeing the mountains makes me feel trapped in my limited physical mobility.

But, really, my life is as movable as ever. Now that I (thankfully) no longer work in the film industry, I’m not tied to LA. The freedom of consulting is just awesome—I work when and where I want.

The tradeoff is that I’m usually alone. I live alone, I don’t have a central office (except my adopted coffee shop), my family isn’t here, and I just ended a long-term relationship. I love my liberating lifestyle, but I want to grow roots, too.

So I’m evaluating my options. I’ve given myself until the New Year as my deadline for making a decision. Weather and friends? Family and hometown roots? Will a change of scenery help me fill in the blanks for what’s next?

But I keep these questions in perspective. There’s a lot to explore beyond the mountains.

About the author: Julie Epstein (aka @tastyjules) is a Digital Strategist withAjax. Chicago-born & LA-living, she’s a live music fan, marathoner & foodie.

#LiveLikeMe: 3 Ways I’m Going to #LiveLikeSteve

12 Oct

Like most of the digitally connected world, I’ve been fascinated with the outpouring of content surrounding Steve Jobs in the wake of his death.

From the philosophically-driven Stanford commencement speech to a poll on which of Steve Jobs’s products mattered the most, I’ve felt inspired by his words, invigorated by his commitment to beauty and detail, sad at his passing too soon, and scared for myself.

Why scared?

Because I feel a deep need to take action. 

Hunter Walker posted an article in TechCrunch that articulated what I felt I needed to do: #LiveLikeSteve.

While Steve would have surely been flattered by the comparisons to Einstein, Ford and Edison, his ethos was about taking action as yourself, and not being beholden to anyone else’s standards.

What does this mean to me?

To #LiveLikeSteve is to #LiveLikeMe.

Here’s my mantra: consistent, engaged and connected

Call it will power. Call it a to-do list. I’m calling it short-term action to achieve longer-term goals.

1) Write at least one blog post a week on something new that is inspiring and innovative. I’m giving this blog specific direction. My posts may relate to new technologies, ideas, art or music. I’m not intending the blog to be a comprehensive review of everything that’s out there, but it will present my cohesive, unique voice. I have no expectations as to what may come out of it, except knowing that I am writing about things I like.

2) Write, and respond, to questions on Quora. I want to start engaging in a community of curious people who are prominent in the tech space. It will challenge me to keep up-to-date as well as establish my own thought leadership.

3) Listen to my personal trainer. I hired him for a reason. I’m starting with him tomorrow. I’m going to stop kidding myself and get back in shape after my ankle surgery.

I’m going to evaluate my progress in a few months and revise my goals based on how I’m doing.

These actions may seem like small beans to some people, but I’m not going to sell myself short anymore. The greater the risk, the greater the reward, right?

What are you doing to #LiveLikeSteve?

‪LOST at Comic-Con 2011

24 Jul

And we thought the island was finished…

SPOILER ALERTS that you won’t understand unless you’ve seen the entire series

via ‪LOST at Comic-Con 2011! – Lost‬‏ – YouTube.

Top 11 Summer Albums, 2011 Edition

24 Jul

It’s more than halfway through 2011, so it’s time for another annual rundown of my favorite albums so far this year. My top 12 summer albums of 2010 has been one of my blog’s most popular posts. While Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj all grace my iTunes library, I have a strong proclivity for indie rock. So please note that this does not intend to be a definitive list of any kind–there are plenty of lists from PitchforkNPR, and other music sites–it simply represents albums released this year that I think are great and may be under the mainstream radar.

The Fool, Warpaint

I saw Warpaint at Coachella this year and their set absolutely blew me away. Reminiscent of the xx, Warpaint is an all-female indie band from LA whose sound is hypnotic, post-punk and ethereal. Their live set was the epitome of confident cool. Absolutely love this album.

Burst Apart, The Antlers

Part of the Brooklyn indie rock scene, the sound of which can all start to blend together after a while, I find myself listening to The Antlers’ Burst Apart again and again. It’s sad, lonely, and nocturnal (to steal one of Pitchfork’s descriptions), but also romantic and low-key. “Putting the Dog To Sleep” is a particular favorite.

Zonoscope, Cut Copy

I am grateful for my brother for introducing me to this Australian dance-rock band that’s a bit more rock than Hot Chip and a bit less ethereal Radiohead, though reminiscent of both. I’m so sad that I missed Cut Copy at both Coachella and Pitchfork this year. Coachella had one of those horrible scheduling issues where I had to choose between them and The Black Keys. “Take Me Over” is a great throwback to the 80s, which I always appreciate. Fun and upbeat. One day I’ll see them live.

Rome, Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi

What do you get when you combine a progressive music producer (Danger Mouse = Jay-Z’s The Grey Album, Gnarls Barkley, The Shins), an Italian composer (Luppi), Norah Jones’s haunting voice and Jack White’s demanding presence? A movie soundtrack without a movie—a musical labor of love, five years in the making, inspired by 1960s spaghetti western films. An awesome album that makes any road trip eerie, any situation intimate, any mainstream album sound shallow.

Bon Iver, Bon Iver

I had avoided Bon Iver’s first album. The idea of a broken hearted guy retreating to a cabin in Wisconsin to record music alone seemed way too depressing to broach. After hearing Bon Iver, Justin Vernon’s absolutely gorgeous sophomore effort, I understand how and why he was so inspired by the remoteness of his home state. Pitchfork calls it “experimental rustic chamber pop”. Sadness, loneliness, intimacy and emotional agony never sounded so awesome. I would like to meet a guy who’s this in touch with his feelings (deep, but not cheesy).

Belong, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

I also missed Pains of Being Pure at Heart at Coachella this year. WTF is wrong with me? This album is 90s alternative rock brought to the 21st indie century.

James Blake, James Blake

I don’t love dubstep, but I sure love James Blake’s interpretation of it. I listened to the CMYK EP before his self-titled debut and found myself dancing around my apartment (which I’m not shy about since I know everyone does it…right)? At times slow and romantic, at times upbeat with R&B influences, Blake is a welcome addition from across the pond. He proves club music doesn’t have to be annoying.

Kaputt, Destroyer

I’m a sucker for a good sax riff. (That’s sax…). Destroyer’s Kaputt is a smooth jazz, lite rock hybrid that’s actually cool. They make late 1970s/early 1980s sound new again.

Jet Set Siempre 1°, Clive Tanaka Y Su Orquestra

I heard about Clive Tanaka on Sound Opinion’s awesome podcast. Originally available through his website only on cassette tape, which is now totally cool since the medium is defunct, those people in-the-know loved it so much they made the album digitally available. I’m partial to Side A “For Dance” more than Side B “For Romance,” especially because of the 70s disco and 80s synth pop references. But I appreciate the compartmentalization of moods, especially from a dance underground album.

21, Adele

This is the most mainstream album on my list. I absolutely adore Adele (and alliteration). I love her big girl-ness, her big neo-soul voice, her making vengeance on ex-boyfriends fun. Unlike other female pop artists today, who seem to create music based on what they think people want, Adele stays true to her strengths. That said, 21 was more overproduced than 19, which overall I liked better. She’s a true woman in a sea of girls.

Yuck, Yuck

Yuck is a last minute addition since I just listened to their album a few days before composing this blog post. The London-based group’s name is ironically enticing. From top to bottom, this album is a total throwback to the 1990s. More guitar-heavy than Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Yuck distinctly reminds me of Smashing Pumpkins.

What are your thoughts on my choices? Any recommendations for music I should check out? Let me know!

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