Month / April, 2003

Digital Camera

My Coffee Cup at Dizzy's in Brooklyn

It was a frightening experience. I was unsure of what I was looking for, or what was really important in purchasing digital camera. I flip-flopped between desperately needing a digital camera and settling for the next wave of digital cameras that would have ridiculous features in the future.

*I fantasied about resolution*

Finally, I got an e-mail from Dell Computers that they were having a one day sale on all digital cameras. I went over to their site and everything was 20% off, with free shipping! My brain finally made a decision that this is what I had been waiting for and the time to buy was now. I quickly did a little research online and…

*I bought a digital camera.*

I bought my digital camera two and a half months ago, since than I have been taking pictures constantly. I have taken a whole lot of terrible pictures. I have taken _”nature”_ pictures. I have documented my life with photographs. I have taken naughty pictures. I have taken abstract pictures. I have taken snapshots. I have taken too many pictures of my cat. I have taken wobbly pictures. I have blinded people with my flash. I have gotten in trouble with store security for trying to take a photograph.

Having a digital camera really changed the way I take photographs. It allows you the freedom to experiment and take really shitty images, without the frustration of time and cost. You stand there, I’ll point the camera at you, push this little button, and two seconds later I’m seeing a preview of the photograph on the LCD. No more closed eye photographs from the photo-mat. No more photo-mat! Instant pictures! No rolls of film to take care of, no waiting for prints to scratch, no negatives to loose, no extra costs, no scanning to send them friends.

*Instant Gratification*

If you are thinking about a digital camera I would recommend you get one. It is an extremely liberating experience to look at life as the next photograph. Creativity a constant achievable goal. It sounds like an advertisement, but a good digital camera can really change the way you look at life.

Camera: “Canon PowerShot S30”:http://www.powershot.com/powershot2/s40-30/index.html
Resolution: 3.2 MegaPixels
Paid: $321.01 ($100 a MegaPixel)
From: “DealCam’s”:http://dealcam.com/ price alert from Dell Computer

MP3 or Bust

“Apple”:http://www.apple.com/ yesterday announced a brand new music service that attempts to bridge the gap between Mac users and the record industry. We all know about “Napster”:http://www.napster.com/ and the Napster like services that have depleted the record industries profits in the last few years. We all know, because we’ve all tried them out. We all downloaded that Men at Work song we were too embarrassed to buy.

We all tried it out, because getting anything for free is the coolest thing ever, but then record companies got all upset because they said we were “stealing” the “Land Downunder” song and were ripping off the artists who needed the capital.

The Record companies went to their lawyers, the lawyers went to the government, the government said it was illegal, and Napster was eventually shut down. The record companies were, for the time being were happy, but just like a weed – the next week a dozen more “file trading services” sprung up and took Napster’s place. The record companies tried encrypting songs on the CDs to dissuade users from converting them into MP3s which enraged music fans.

Why?

Because music, contrary to popular belief, is owned by the music artist and the fan alike. Without the fan the artist is nothing and without the artist the fan has nothing to listen to. Songs become part of you. That Otis Redding song you and your wife love is yours, you even call it “our song”. No one can tell you what you can or can’t do with it. When you try to download it to your computer to use in a DVD about your wedding and it not only crashes your computer, but refuses to play at all, how are you going to feel? Cheated? Upset? Angry?

Where’s the solution?

The record companies in their ignorance, never asked the fans, the people listening to the music, what they wanted. Instead they pissed them off and tried to turn off their free music. The listeners immediately saw the record companies as the enemy and music sharing exploded. It became hip to use Napster and send the music industry that we were in charge. The fans wanted to bypass the record companies and support “the artists”. Unfortunately, in the world of mega-conglomerate-corporate-labels-America the artists could never promote, or distribute their music without the help of the Record labels. Which was evident when no recording artist, aside from Wilco, bypassed their record company or spoke out against them.

This is where the problem lays.

Where did the Record companies go wrong? Well, a whole lot of places really.

* The biggest error was that the record companies never fully realized that digital distribution of music was the future not a passing fad.
* They lost sight of the needs of their end market and treated them like criminals instead of treating them like frustrated music fans.
* They forgot that what makes people listen to music.
* They attacked fans and accused fans of committing crimes.
* Instead of creating special online only material, they created gimmicky DVD special editions of CDs which soon were criticized by fans for their low quality.
* They came up with no better alternatives and instead played catchup by releasing their own pay-for-music MP3 services and radio stations, which couldn’t compete with free MP3 services.

Where Apple’s service differs

Apple’s music service is touted as a music store, not a service. You buy the music, you download it, you own it. They do put restrictions on how many computers you can transfer files to, but deliberately don’t put encryption on their files which they rationalize as “If you want to thwart copyright you will and no amount of encryption will prevent it.” They have very specially positioned themselves between the record companies and the fans, not as the music company’s representative.

Apple have also moved away form the MP3 file format in favor of the much more robust and industry standard AAC (part of the MPEG 4 file format). This allows apple to offer audio that is “virtually indistinguishable from the original uncompressed audio source.” They have gone beyond competing with MP3 to surpassing it, which is very important for them to do to keep this service alive. No one can compete with free, no mater how illegal you make it, but you offer a better product at a cost people might decide to make the switch.

The new “AAC file format”:http://www.apple.com/mpeg4/ is amazing, at 128kbs it is truly indistinguishable from the original (and trust me, I wasted hours re-encoding “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” to find differences). You don’t get washed out highs as you do with MP3 and there is a depth that AAC has that MP3 doesn’t have at 128kbs or at 160kbs. There is no watery crash symbols in AAC. No chirps or birps like downloaded MP3s. Plus added bonus, it takes less time encoding AAC files than MP3s.

Ultimately Apples new service appeals to Apple’s user base which are control freaks and would re-encode their entire music collection in AAC to get the fidelity enhancement. The service is still lacking some key features that will bridge the gap between music fans and record labels like a larger music selection (it only has 200,000 songs at the moment and is missing alternative music labels like Matador). Apple also needs more dynamic pricing, $.99 a song and $9.99 an album is still a little too high for most fans to allow for a huge migration over to the pay service. However, the Apple service feels right and is placed correctly in the market. Apple has consumer confidence, which would have killed a company like Microsoft doing the same type of service. I think Apple will make bigger waves than anyone in the press is predicting, I think Apple’s Music Store will be profitable and keep fans happy and will satisfy the bastards over at the record companies too.

UPDATE For more Information about Apple’s new Music service check out “This Fortune article”:http://www.fortune.com/fortune/technology/articles/0,15114,447333,00.html and this “New York Times Article.”:http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/01/technology/circuits/01stat.html

Now get out into the beautiful weather!

Budding tree in prospect park

Neglect

light fixture at Little Frankies

Sorry I’ve been so distant as of late. I have been busy completing an annual report that goes to press today and have had no time for my own thoughts. I have not forgotten you beautiful people and will return shortly with some substantial post to make up for my absence.

Hugs and kisses,
Funtime Ben

Nondescript English Man

Somewhere in the mid 90’s Thom Yorke of “Radiohead”:http://www.ateaseweb.com/ and Chris Martin of “Coldplay”:http://www.coldplay.com/ had a love child, he is the ever posh, generically stylish, effervescently hip, and always charming _nondescript English man._

The Nondescript English Man is a great guy to have as a friend, in fact I’m willing to bet that many of you have a nondescript English man as a friend. That’s the alarming part about the nondescript English man, they are everywhere and everyone knows one. They are just good fun to invite to parties.

It was, in fact, a party where I realized my English friend was a nondescript English man, because standing in front of me at the party was another lanky brit with charming teeth, a pair of diesel sneakers in a zip up turtle neck talking about the latest “Interpol”:http://www.interpolny.com/ album gently spreading his ethnicity like a fantastically woven rug. “look at me,” he seemed to say “aren’t I non-threatening and interesting to listen to? I spell words funny and I have a queen who rules my country.”

*It was someone else’s nondescript English man!*

You might be asking yourself “But Funtime Ben, how would I know if I have a nondescript English man as a friend? Is it just his spelling _color_ wrong?” Well, I’m so glad you asked, here are the some signs that your english friend may be a nondescript English man.

* Is his hair shaved, or cut short?
* Does he wear grey?
* Does he always wear _distinctive_ shoes?
* Does he sport the unshaved look on occasion?
* Does he always know about great bands that you have never heard of?
* Does he wears anoraks, because he comes from BRITAIN?
* Does he Love the British slang (Bloke, Mate, Chip, etc.)?

This isn’t to say that a nondescript English man is any less of a person or a friend, far from it nondescript English men are fantastic friends to have around. They are courteous and give a party a sense of class that it normally wouldn’t have…

let’s face it, if it weren’t for the nondescript English man we would all be nondescript American men/women, it’s like Ying & Yang people…

*Hakuna Matata*

Shöpping

Commitment is going to “IKEA”:http://www.ikea-usa.com/ with your girlfriend (or boyfriend) and shopping for furniture for your apartment. It shows you all sorts of things about your significant other; their style, their taste, their willingness to adapt. It’s a test. A two floor Swedish test with products, that I’m convinced, have subliminal messages in their titles.

*Büyundøbey*

Diane and I broke up twice, had a fight about paper lanterns, decided that a good window covering makes all the difference in a room and still had time for meatballs. The stress of carrying a yellow plastic bag around Elizabeth New Jersey and picking up nicknacks you will eventually discard at the check-out is more than anyone can handle. Combine that sensory overload with people wielding shopping carts like viking hammers and you have the basic gist of the IKEA at exit 13A.

I’m glad to say that we have patched up our differences and will be staying together for the children.

030414ikea.jpg

Gloves

One thing that always makes me feel a little sad is when I see a lost glove or mitten on the ground that somebody has dropped.

I think I should start a “website”:http://glovemuseum.tripod.com/ http://www.lostglove.com/ where people, who have lost gloves or mittens, can search online by location and glove style and be reunited with their handware. It would be really rewarding to know that a glove would have a home again, especially children’s mittens.

It would be like the 21st Century equivalent of a fence… You know when you find a lost glove, you pick it up and put it on a spike of the fence so the person who lost it would be able to come back and find it.

*I Maybe alone on that one.*

Power of The Web

I saw this great “illustration”:http://www.andyhowell.com/sketch/image/hersk.jpg on this interesting “website.”:http://www.andyhowell.com/

It immediately made me want to create something of my own, to try my hand at what I saw and take it into my own vocabulary. To let that inspiration create something in my life.

The web is sometimes so cool.

030409chicken.gif

I’ve called it _Blind Optimism_ or _Blissfully Unaware._

April Flurries

Windsor Terrace in snow

There is something magical about New York after a snow storm. Especially a snow storm in April. The snow knows it isn’t supposed to be there, but doesn’t care.