Monday, December 14, 2009

Kickstarter- website that raises $$$ for projects in the idea phase.

The 9th Annual Year in Ideas
Thanks to Rebecca Tippens of Roundhouse Culture, Gill MA for this NY Times article, December 14th 2009

Subscription Artists

This summer, Allison Weiss, a 22-year-old singer who writes melodic songs about "hopeless hope," wanted to produce a 1,000-CD run of a new album she was recording, but she wasn't sure how to get the money to do it. Then she heard about Kickstarter, a Web site unveiled in April. At Kickstarter, creative types post a description of a project they want to do, how much money they need for it and a deadline. If enough people pledge money that the artists reach (or surpass) their financial goals, then everyone is billed, paying in advance as you would for a magazine subscription. For goals that aren't reached, nobody is charged.

In essence, Kickstarter offers a form of market research for artists. For perhaps the first time, an artist can quickly answer a nagging question: Does anyone actually want my art badly enough to pay for it? If the goal is reached, the artist now has a list of subscribers to her vision. And if the goal isn't reached? "It's painful, but it's better to find out early," rather than spend precious time and money on a project nobody wants, says Yancey Strickler, who helped found Kickstarter. More than 1,000 projects have been started on Kickstarter since April, raising money for projects as diverse as a solo sailboat trip around the world ($8,142 raised) and a book by Scott Thomas documenting how he developed the graphic design for Barack Obama's presidential campaign ($84,614 raised).


Weiss picked a goal of $2,000, and like many Kickstarter users, offered a clever set of tiered benefits for fans: $40 got someone a signed copy of the album (17 fans paid for that), and for $500, the donor could pick any subject and Weiss would write a song on it. (Two people bit.) Weiss raised the $2,000 in less than 10 hours, and eventually amassed $7,711 from 195 backers, which meant she could pay for more mixing. Perhaps even more important was the validation of her fan base. Weiss says, "I was surprised to find I had a more dedicated Internet following than I thought." CLIVE THOMPSON

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Chanukah everybody...

Happy Chanukah everybody. I know it is a bit late. Below are two of my fave stories are from Isaac Bashevis Singer's collection "Zlateh the Goat" . Although I am just a crazy shiksa* from NYC, I am often mistaken for a nice Jewish girl ( well, people do think I am Jewish) Sometimes people are insistent thinking I am, fearing anti-semetism, denying my heritage. Some try to encourage me to be brave enough to admit that I am in fact, Jewish. This is deliciously ironic because, after spending our teenage years in Brookline, both my sister and I are Jewish "wannabes. " As Irish -Italians from NY, we knew being Jewish was a major cultural upgrade. We'd love to claim Jewish heritage but the mystery of fate made it, forever, unattainable.

What is not mysterious is that both my sister and I know and use lots of Yiddish. Our mother was a with-it New Yorker. She and all intelligent and/or expressive and/or comedic New Yorkers spoke a bit of Yiddish back in the day. When I was 13 we moved to Brookline. I remember arguing with a new friend that oy vey iz mir ( spelled out in my head as " oi vei issa mia") was Italian. After all, my first generation Italian-American mother said it a dozen times a day. Gee -give ashiksa a break, already. Well, that was a long digression...Now for the Hannukah stories.

Two of my fave Channukah-esque stories are from Isaac Bashevis Singer's collection "Zlateh the Goat" summaries below and link to book here:

The Devil's Trick

A fierce snowstorm has been raging for three days, and the devil and his wife are roaming the countryside. Three days ago, David's father had left for the village to gather supplies. When he did not return, David's mother went looking for him. David's mother has not returned and tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. David decides he must go in search of his parents, so he puts his infant sibling to sleep wrapped in warm blankets, lights the first Hanukkah candle, and goes out into the blizzard.
The storm intensifies and David quickly becomes disoriented and then completely lost. He realizes his parents must have also become lost in the fierce weather. David is unable to see the sky or any landmarks and fears he will perish, when he sees the single Hanukkah candle flame in the distance. David runs toward the candle and quickly finds his house, but he is pursued by the devil and the devil's witch wife. David runs into the cabin and slams the door behind him, keeping the devil and his wife out, but trapping the devil's tail in the door.
The devil tells David to free his tail, but David says unless the devil will return David's parents, David will cut the devil's tail off. The devil sends his wife to fetch David's parents, who have been imprisoned not far distant. The devil's witch wife soon returns with David's parents, who rush into the cabin. David takes the Hanukkah candle and uses it to single the devil's tail then he opens the door and releases the devil's tail. The devil and his wife flee into the snowstorm.

Zlateh the Goat
It is almost Hanukkah, and the winter has been a very dry season. The village farmers realize that the dry winter will lead to poor harvests and difficult financial times. Reuven the furrier has also had a bad season, and he reluctantly decides to sell Zlateh, the family goat. Reuven plans to use the money to purchase Hanukkah supplies and treats for his family.

When Reuven tells his twelve-year-old son, Aaron, to take Zlateh to the butcher, Aaron's mother, Leah, and his sisters, Anna and Miriam, cry. Aaron takes a small amount of food and puts a rope around Zlateh's neck to lead the goat to the butcher. Aaron will spend the night at the butcher's house in town and then return with the money the following day. When Aaron reaches the road, Zlateh acts confused, as she has never been led this way before.
Although the sun is shining, when Aaron leaves the village the weather takes an unexpected turn for the worse and a vast cold wind blows in, bringing heavy hail with it. Soon, the hail turned to thick snow. Aaron has never seen such a storm and he becomes lost. He soon realizes he is no longer even on the road and fears that he and Zlateh will perish in the freezing snow. Aaron prays to God for deliverance. Suddenly, he makes out a shape, which he recognizes as a haystack. He runs to the snow-covered haystack and quickly scoops out armfuls of hay to make a large hollow cave. Aaron and Zlateh enter the hay cave where they quickly become warm and Zlateh begins to eat the hay.
For three days and nights, Aaron and Zlateh remain in the hay cave while the snowstorm rages. Aaron is careful to keep the snow cleared from the mouth of the cave, so the air can circulate. Zlateh eats the hay and is quite content. Aaron first eats the food he brought and then subsists by drinking milk from Zlateh. During the three days of storm, Aaron is comforted by Zlateh's presence and imagines that the goat's simple and repetitive bleats are answers to his questions. Aaron also realizes that one must be thankful for the things that God sends, regardless of the nature of the gifts. Aaron begins to feel that he has no father, no mother, and no family, and that he is a child of the snow. When he sleeps, he dreams of summer and green hills.
On the fourth day, the storm abates and Aaron hears the distant ringing of sleigh bells. He leaves the haystack and makes his way to the road where a passing sleigh directs him homeward. Instead of continuing on to the butcher's shop, Aaron takes Zlateh and returns home. When Aaron returns home, he is greeted by his ecstatic family, who believed he had perished in the storm. They feed Aaron and Zlateh a special supper while Aaron relates the story of his survival. No one in the family again thought of selling Zlateh to the butcher.
As winter cold sets in, the townspeople need the services of Reuven the furrier, and the family's economic situation quickly improves. Hanukkah arrives and is a joyous and prosperous occasion, and the children play dreidel, while Zlateh the goat watches.

* The word shiksa is etymologically partly derived from the Hebrew term sheketz, which means "abomination", "impure," or "object of loathing", depending on the translator.[1]
Despite its etymology, the term shiksa is widely used and accepted in the United States, where it is often used in a humorous way.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Two views on social media and getting the word out

While it is true that nearly all commerce has some presence or does some of their marketing online, this tiny article touches on something very true and something so incomplete as to be false... The article from Business Week [ below it ] tells different story. Yet, I do think the call for accountability in the BW is interesting.

"Online" marketing = "Color" TV 2009-12-08 © Derek Sivers

You can't help but smile when you pass an old motel that still has the sign advertising “Color TV!”

In 1960, it was important to mention that you weren't talking about ordinary
black and white TV. No, this is the new special color TV! Oooh! But now that all TVs are color,
it's funny to hear someone (even a sign) refer to it as “color” TV. It really dates them.

Now I can't help but smile when I hear people talk about “online marketing.”
In 1995, it was important to mention that you weren't talking about ordinary print-paper marketing.

No, this is the new special online marketing! Oooh!

But now that all marketing is online, it's funny to hear someone
(especially a business person) refer to it as “online” marketing.
It really dates them.

Excerpt from DEC 3 Business Week:

Beware Social Media Snake Oil

"...Over the past five years, an entire industry of consultants has arisen to help companies navigate the world of social networks, blogs, and wikis. The self-proclaimed experts range from legions of wannabes, many of them refugees from the real estate bust, to industry superstars such as Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk. They produce best-selling books and dole out advice or lead workshops at companies for thousands of dollars a day. The consultants evangelize the transformative power of social media and often cast themselves as triumphant case studies of successful networking and self-branding.

The problem, according to a growing chorus of critics, is that many would-be guides are leading clients astray. Consultants often use buzz as their dominant currency, and success is defined more often by numbers of Twitter followers, blog mentions, or YouTube (GOOG) hits than by traditional measures, such as return on investment. This approach could sour companies on social media and the rich opportunities it represents. "It's a bit of a Wild West scenario," blogs David Armano, a consultant with the Dachis Group of Austin, Tex. Without naming names, he compares some consultants to "snake oil salesmen."...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tinkering, work and learning

Tonight I am watching (listening really) toTED talks and came upon this fellow - Gever Tulley and his Tinkering School. His TED biography said this about Gever: "A software engineer, Gever Tulley is the co-founder of the Tinkering School, a weeklong camp where lucky kids get to play with their very own power tools. He's interested in helping kids learn how to build, solve problems, use new materials and hack old ones for new purposes."

I loved playing with every kind of building and fashioning implement when I was young. My grandfather was a cabinet maker and had a garage, our garage to be exact, full of tools, neatly set out at a 10 foot long work bench. How I coveted those magical instruments. But I was a girl and Nonno was from the old country ( Napoli) and I was not allowed. Instead, I borrowed tools from my father's tool kit and made do. My older brother had friends I worshiped because they let me "help" one time when they took their Boy Scout axes and hatchets to our next door neighbor's trees and started building a log cabin. They 'let me' dig out the cellar hole. Not the role I wanted but was so much more interesting than playing with dolls. We got in a lot of trouble for cutting down the 15 - 20 foot tall trees. The neighbor was the grandmother of these guys so the entire experience had a very favorable punishment to pleasure ratio.

We spent our days making bows and arrows, worked on our bikes and attempted to make things from whatever we could find, beg, borrow and borrow on "advanced setting" ( aka: stealing). For me, it was fun on steroids. No one supervised us or warned us of any dangers. We experimented and failed and tried again.

I gave each of our daughters a Swiss Army knife when the reached the age of 8 years. Our two oldest daughters and I made tool boxes out of wood when they were even younger. And we filled them with the right sized tools too. The pocket knife was a right of passage of our own invention that I guess was meant to make up for the tool deficit I had experienced. You could say I had "tool envy" but not the Freudian kind. I just wanted the freedom and means to make things, do things, and create things.

Gever Tulley recognizes this drive in children and has created a program and a whole schtick on what was once a natural part of growing up - back in the day. And probably still is in many parts of the world. You can read more about him at his site and in this excerpt from an npr interview below:

August 4, 2008 MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Okay, parents. You're taking your kid to summer camp, you pack the sunscreen, the swimsuit, you arrive at camp, and you have to fill out the forms.

Mr. GEVER TULLEY (Director, The Tinkering School): We have what many parents have described as the single scariest document they've ever signed around their child. They actually have to print out. I understand that my child may be injured or killed at this camp.

BLOCK: That's the paperwork for a camp called The Tinkering School outside San Francisco. It is unaccredited with astronomically high insurance. Their children are encouraged to play with real tools, build real things and take real risks. We sent reporter Chana Joffe-Walt of member station KPLU to check it out.

CHANA JOFFE-WALT: Gever Tulley wants his campers to make sure to play with fire and knives while at camp, maybe throw a spear, too, drive a car. Tulley's the director of the Tinkering School, and he's got this list of dangerous things he thinks kids should do. The whole thing started - this minor obsession with kids taking risks - at a breakfast. Tulley was just sitting with his friend in her kitchen.

Mr. TULLEY: And we were in the middle of talking, and she just jumped up and run to the door and opened the door and said, Dave, what are you playing with? And her child is out there and says, I'm playing with a stick. And she said, what's our rule about sticks? And he wasn't allowed to play with a stick, and I think he was six or seven.

JOFFE-WALT: Who can resist a stick, Tulley thought. What's going on here? Don't touch this, don't stand on that, don't throw that, don't go near that? Tulley says he felt worried that the boundaries of kid safety zones are growing too wide, that play was only happening in the safe, structured programs, like soccer camp or forest camp. He wanted to try unstructured kids' time so they could learn things on their own. He wanted to see kids build stuff. He wanted to see them fall down. He wanted to bring out his power tools....Listen or read more here.

Music and Speech - It's not just the words you say, but how you say them.

In a paper appearing in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA), Purves says that sad or happy speech can be categorized in major and minor intervals, just as music can.

“Our appreciation of music is a happy byproduct of the biological advantages of speech and our need to understand its emotional content,” Purves says.

“There is a strong biological basis to the aesthetics of sound,” says Dale Purves, a professor of neurobiology at Duke University. “Humans prefer tone combinations that are similar to those found in speech.”

I love it when science confirms what we know, intuitively, as spoken word performers. "Umm-hmmmmm. What he said. " read the entire article here:

Friday, December 4, 2009

the work of the, work and stories

The upcoming story slam on DEC 14th has me thinking about jobs. I started a list of the jobs I have had, in not very careful chronological order...starting with my first jobs at 16 years old... ice cream scooper at Brigham's where I gained about 15 pounds in 2 months. babysitter for family of three - they broke my toe while slamming the door of their room in my face AM counter waitress - Schraft's in the Prudential Center. the morning manager was a lech with wandering hands. When I complained to his supervisor she told me he was too way too " good a worker " for his egregious misconduct to be actionable. I grew up in the stone ages.
(picture above - teenager home from a demo circa 1973 )

Jobs as an art student and starving visual artist:

waitress at "as You Like It " in Harvard Square - should have been called " If We Have It" one night they didn't even have forks!
microfiche and plate maker - Lincoln Hall publishing
box office sales person - Cheri theater complex across from the Hynes Auditorium - I was robbed at gunpoint while on duty.
clerk at dry cleaners - hateful - I lasted a week
cab driver - my brilliant career spanned three companies, Checker Cab, Town Taxi and Boston Cab
xerox operator - near Northeastern and New England Conservatory
breakfast cook at MacDonald's - for about a month - horrifying insight into corporate food and practice.
switchboard operator - at the Hotel Lenox - they still had the cords that you plugged into the jack for a specific room.
florist shop assistant- I worked for Fred Gamer my favorite boss of all time, at Symphony in Flowers,- what a guy.
newspaper paste-up - at the Bay State Banner in Roxbury. I sucked at this - they let me go right quick!
burglar alarm 'operator' - Sonitrol in Cambridge, where I listened to audio alarm systems on the midnight to 8 shift and where I met my husband, the intaller - have some great stories from this job.
graphics arts assistant and xerox operator - Copy Quik in Harvard Square.
mapping and stats - Parsons Brinkerhoff Quade and Douglas hired a mess of people to work on the studies for NYC's West Side Highway redesign.
pretzel cart- almost died selling pretzel's - actually just getting the bicycle cart to and from garage on Huntington Ave.
Production Manager - Addison Getchel, a friend got me into this - from lowly graphics person to PM to fired in 6 months.
dishwasher and pot womper- at L'Espalier,
arts administrator - I wrote the grant and had the job for the first year, working as a dishwasher to support the job.
copy shop manager - in Copley Square Boston
bicycle courier - one of the first in 1981 - worked in Cambridge for Choice Courier - it rained every day from MON - FRI the first month.

well, there is more but that takes me up to 1980's....when my main gig became parenthood - started in 1983 to present.
(pictured below - two tired parents of 2 daughters under 3 year old, circa 1987 and slide show of family pics 1981 on)