Entries tagged “portland.”

Colorpeek is Demolicious

I know it’s almost Labor Day weekend, but before you let your brain check out you should really add Demolicious Portland to your plans for this coming Wednesday, September 4.

I’ll be one of several creative types demonstrating a passion project on-stage for some honest and incisive feedback. I’m excited to show off a Chrome extension I’ve been building for Colorpeek. (I know I’ll use it, but I’m curious if others will, too.)

Registration is free and the fun starts at 5pm at the Mission Theater. Be there, or be considerably more square-shaped than those in attendance!

The Uncanny Valley of Interaction Design

I had a blast speaking at this year’s CyborgCamp Portland. Many thanks to those who attended or tuned in to the livestream!

My slides are available, appropriately enough, on Slideshare.

Most of the videos I showed are available on YouTube. I’ve created a playlist for your convenience. Please note that some of the videos have strong language that I censored for my presentation. This playlist does not include the Eric Schmidt interview (viewable here), the Objectified clip (watch it on Netflix or buy it), the Human Giant sketch (it’s from season one), or Radiohead’s Idioteque performance on Saturday Night Live (because NBC kind of hates the internet).

This is arguably the most ambitious topic I’ve ever tackled. If you have any reactions, comments or criticism, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

LCD Soundsystem and my rescue from the precipice of fogeyism

When I was in high school, I was perplexed by a trend I saw in adults’ listening habits. While I was gobbling up just about any record I could get my hands on, old folks seemed to be perfectly content with a small assortment of artists or albums. When you’re 17, every new album feels like a breakthrough, a mind-blowing horizon expansion in your eardrums. How could anyone not buy the new album by [insert critically-hyped up-and-comer here]?

I don’t think I truly understood this phenomenon until I sold all of my White Stripes records. I used to adore that band. There was a time when De Stijl would have been in the “Top 10 Albums of All Time” list in my head. But via the White Stripes, I discovered the Black Keys. I found out about Chicago blues artists like Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Magic Sam and Buddy Guy. I bought my first Stooges record (Fun House) because of the White Stripes.

After all that, I didn’t need the White Stripes anymore. Everything I loved about them was available in purer form. They were rendered redundant by their predecessors. When you have The Velvet Underground and Modern Lovers, you wonder why anyone really cared about The Strokes to begin with. Will Black Rebel Motorcycle Club ever outdo The Jesus and Mary Chain? Probably not.

This feeling of redundancy has started to plague most new music I hear, and I only passionately dig a handful of artists that formed post-2000. St. Vincent is one of them. Art Brut are great. I love Gorillaz, but mostly because I’m jonesing for a new Blur album. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fujiya & Miyagi and Arcade Fire are hit-or-miss. Cut Copy and Vivian Girls are pretty good.

2010.05.29 LCD Soundsystem @ RoselandBut LCD Soundsystem? LCD are bloody fantastic.

I’m not sure what it is about a new LCD Soundsystem album that impresses me almost as much as the first time I heard the Talking Heads’ Remain In Light. They certainly aren’t immune to the same criticisms I cast upon their peers. In their music, you can hear pieces of the Talking Heads, Lou Reed, Daft Punk, The Stranglers, The Executive Slacks, The Fall, James Chance and the Contortions, David Bowie and many others. Yet somehow, it feels like its own sentient entity.

It could be that the man behind the moniker, James Murphy, has simply combined elements of dance and house music with punk and synth-pop in a novel way, but this assessment is overly clinical at best. Regardless of what musical genres LCD Soundsystem bends or twists, the key ingredient for this band remains a hardy, consistent sense of earnest authenticity.

2010.05.29 LCD Soundsystem @ RoselandThe compositions are created without the aid of modern computers or software. The lyrics aren’t written until the day the song’s recorded. The shows are played without click tracks or samples. Any element that would distance the listener from the process of creation has been removed or minimized. Any American Idol contestant can sing and be enjoyed. It’s another quality altogether to be believable. The former is the key to radio superstardom, the latter to relevance and impact.

LCD’s show at the Roseland on May 29 was the third time I’d seen them play. The first was in 2005 at the Wonder Ballroom, an infamous show nearly derailed by overzealous PlayStation sponsorship (and exacerbated by the resultantly miffed Portland hipsters). The second was at Coachella in 2007 amidst a sea of inebriated club kids and ravers. Last week, I finally saw them perform a show without any such caveats and found myself overwhelmed by their energy, evocation and honesty.

Maybe I am becoming that cranky old man complaining about the kids and their new-fangled rock-and-roll music. Maybe I need to think about trading in my LiLiPUT and Lizzy Mercier Descloux albums for the standard-issue No Jacket Required and an Eagles compilation.

But then I hear LCD play, and all of that goes out the window.

Black Francis at the Aladdin

Black Francis performing at the Aladdin theaterI listened to crap before I discovered two bands in high school. The first was Blur. The second was Pixies.

When Blur frontman Damon Albarn came stateside with his band The Good, the Bad and the Queen in 2007, I traveled to California to see him. He probably could have been touring with a polka/throat-singing group and I still would have attempted to show up. Certain visionaries have so much creative impact on me that getting a glimpse, in person, of how they engineer their works of art fuels and inspires me as an artist.

Charles Thompson, a.k.a. Black Francis, a.k.a. Frank Black, is one of those geniuses. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him thrice now; once with the Pixies, once with a band in Eugene, and once last Tuesday at the Aladdin for a solo acoustic set.

The term “acoustic” is used loosely in this case, as Charles played an electric guitar. But if the sound was not acoustic in the strictest sense, it hit all the other requirements of an acoustic show:

  • Mandatory seating
  • An eclectic mix of the artist’s work interpreted in new, more minimal ways
  • An intimate storytelling experience with the artist
Having heard Charles perform many a Pixies song, it was a wonderful treat to hear versions of his earlier solo work like “I Heard Ramona Sing,” “Headache” and “Two Wheelers” in addition to staples like “Cactus” and “Where Is My Mind?” His rendition of “Velouria” in particular was moving and beautiful.

Charles’ roar is certainly best served by a solid (or at least predatory) rhythm section driving him forward, but stripped of supporting musicians it’s clear that the essence of the Pixies’ earnest-yet-dangerous sound is alive, well and playing not-quite-acoustic shows up and down the west coast.

Register for WordCamp Portland 2009

WordPress LogoRegistration for WordCamp Portland 2009 is now open! Any designer, developer or blogger will want to attend. The WordPress goodness happens September 19th through the 20th at WebTrends, and the ticket price is a bargain:

Tickets are $20 per person which includes access to the event, lunch on both days, snacks/refreshments, a T-shirt, some swag, and the ability to meet a couple hundred really great people including some really great speakers
In addition to my presentation on how to build a killer WordPress-powered portfolio, there will be armfuls of wonderful sessions from the likes of Micah Baldwin, Jason Grigsby, Cami Kaos and Dr. Normal, Will Norris, Scott Porad, Garron Selliken and Duane Storey.

As both a speaker and attendee, I urge you to relinquish a single Andrew Jackson for two full days of open source wonderment.

For more information, visit WordCamp Portland or @wcpdx on Twitter.

I’ll see you there!