March 19, 2010 by Colin
I’m still ripping voraciously through the social, economic and psychological links between a temporary but personal location and more historically resonant locales. I figure I’ve got an interesting paper developing, somewhere among the many other ideas bouncing around in my head.
“… Economics is revealed in shop fronts and history in door frames …” David Byrne – Bicycle Diaries
There are two factors that have kept me away from the blog, one leading from the other:
- Over the past six to nine months, I’ve made a conscious attempt to concentrate on the materials and topics more relevant to my everyday work. That’s things like social and legal concepts of privacy,the collection and use of data points and personal information, how information is integrated into advertising and marketing campaigns, and how to use social media effectively as a corporate tool in a government environment.
- I’ve been using Twitter a lot more.
I’ll be returning here more frequently (hell, it can’t be LESS frequent), but the subjects covered may be evolving.
If I was a personal branding consultant, I might call the process a “repositioning of my brand and an expansion of my niche of expertise.”
But I’m not.
October 16, 2009 by Colin
Lately, I’ve been zoning in on books that discuss location – whether through wayfinding, past experience in urban and wild settings, the development of innate navigational skills, or novel treatements of life in particular locations. Here’s a sampling from my recent bookshelf:
Where am I? – Colin Ellard
” … Two things seem to be universal in wayfaring cultures like the Inuit and the Australian Aborigines. One of them is that they’ve honed this exquisite eye for detail that we don’t have. The other thing that these cultures do is use narrative and story. The best example of all is these song lines in Aborigines – what they’re doing is they are making an explicit connection between their creation, the creation of everything, and the shape and size of the landscape. They’re using song lines as a kind of navigational aid, but at the same time there’s this spiritual connection to place …” (Globe and Mail)
Retrofitting Suburbia – Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson
” … But we found, over and over in interviews, people being really sad when their mall had died. “I had my prom in that mall,” they’d say. They attribute the mall with a lot of bonding, a lot of time growing up—they really loved their malls. When it died, the first reaction was: Let’s find a developer to fix our mall. Most people didn’t want a downtown-type structure, they just wanted their mall back. It takes a paradigm shift, like the example of Belmar (see pictures at right).
Belmar was built five miles outside of Denver, and originally had no desire to be urban at all. But by the time the mall died, the surrounding suburban community of Lakewood, Colo., had become the fourth-largest municipality in the state. They had put in a library and a city hall, but it was set up like a strip mall. They eventually found a developer for the property who said “I won’t redevelop the mall, but I’ll give you a town center.” It took a while, but they bought in, completel …” (Popular Mechanics)
Stripmalling – Jon Paul Fiorentinohttp://canuckflack.com/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=3243&message=1
” … Jonny lives and works in a strip mall in Suburban Winnipeg. For some people, this would be exciting and fulfilling enough …”
Personal Space: the behavioral basis of design – Robert Sommer
Before “getting up in your grill,” there was “personal space.” This is the original work, which drawn from initial insight found at a psychiatric hospital in Saskatchewan.
Hollywood in the Neighborhood – Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley, ed
How Hollywood and the new breed of popular entertainment – movies – arrived in the heartland, and the effect this had on the community.
October 1, 2009 by Colin
“They were decent,” he said. “They were strong. And they failed in the most beautiful way you can imagine.”
- Reinhold Messner, the famed mountain climber, praising the members of a doomed 1953 trek to climb K-2.
Charles S. Houston, one of the members of that expedition, passed away this week. (NY Times)
October 1, 2009 by Colin
Maybe I’ve been eating a little too much southern food lately. I could swear this bill board for Labatt’s Blue said ‘hamhocks.’
September 6, 2009 by Colin
Ralf Hütter of Kraftwerk revisited London in the early summer, and found it wanting.
“…Politely mortified by the soft, hands-in-the-air atmosphere of the first few clubs we visited, he wondered ruefully what had become of the “hooligan energy level” of London. We finally found some for him at a club called Rage. “You know!” he shouted, gesturing around at the flickering television monitors and oblivious trance-dancers, “if people had been making a film about hell 20 years ago, they would have conjured up something like this. We were doing things like this early on, and one reviewer wrote that ‘Kraftwerk is the death of music.’ ” …” (The Telegraph)
September 4, 2009 by Colin
Our obsession with wrapping things in bacon is long standing, and has certainly peaked with the arrival of bacon-only blogs and bacon memes.
John T. Edge (whose writing on Southern food is fantastic and mouth-watering) examined the origin and popularity of Mexican-style hot dogs in the NYT last week.
“… By 1953, Oscar Mayer was running print ads, selling American consumers on the virtues of bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Perhaps Mexican consumers, inspired to emulate American dietary habits, took Oscar Mayer at its word, wrapping American-made hot dogs in American-made bacon, and claiming the resulting construction as their own …”
September 4, 2009 by Colin
One observation about storage units: they can appear anywhere. Alongside rail yards, behind motels, cleverly disguised as yet another building in a suburban office park, wedged in the strangest shaped lots.
This Sunday’s NYT Magazine discusses the link between self-storage units and the culture of consumption.
” … The truth is, there is no typical storage customer. As facilities crowded into the landscape, storage units became incubators for small businesses and artisans; warehouses for pharmaceutical reps, eBay merchants or landscapers. One unit at Statewide, the Doparts told me, functions as a kind of regional distribution center for Little Debbie cakes. I met a few homeless renters, who sometimes choose to pay to put a roof over their possessions instead of their own heads (living in units is not allowed); I met working-class renters using units as closets and safe-deposit boxes while serially couch-surfing or living in multifamily homes. I heard of a martial-arts instructor in Hawaii who trained clients in his unit, and a group of husbands in New England who watch sports in one on weekends. More than one operator told me they have a unit where, every morning, the renter goes in dressed as a man and comes out as a woman …”
in the NYT Magazine, The Self-Storage Self
August 24, 2009 by Colin
Will Straw offers up an examination of the migration of disco trends, effects and artists between cultures and communities in the 70s and 80s:
” … overlapping cycles that sent highly synthesized disco tracks by the Montreal group Lime to southern
European discos and Italian-produced electronic tracks to the gay clubs of Montreal. In the interaction of these cycles, both Hi-NRG dance music and Italo-disco worked out the terms of their commonality and their distinctiveness. More generally, Quebec disco records of the early 1980s were caught up in cycles that led to Italian remakes, Quebecois remixes or remakes of European dance tracks, and to the constant reinscribing of a well-entrenched line of passage between Quebec and southern Europe …”
Music from the Wrong Place: On the Italianicity of Quebec Disco, Will Straw, Criticism, Winter 2008
What sort of disco, you ask? Straw cites “World Invaders,” by Pluton and the Humanoids, as part of the canon of Quebec and Italodisco.
” … The use of synthesizers and vocoder in “World Invaders” has let that track slip seamlessly into the canon of Italo or Eurodisco music that has taken shape over the last decade. The widespread recourse to distorted, machinelike vocals in Italo/Quebec disco was, at the simplest level, a way of using English that displaced the question of base-level linguistic ability onto that of the novelty of vocal effects. The processing of vocals was also a partial resolution of the inevitable illegitimacy that haunts the use of English lyrics in popular music, particularly if these are sung by non-English speakers with accents that might betray their origins …”
July 25, 2009 by Colin
” … It used to interest me to see the brutal cynicism with which Christian sentiment is exploited. The touts from the Christmas card firms used to come around with their catalogues as early as June. A phrase from one of their invoices sticks in my memory. It was: ’2 doz. Infant Jesus with rabbits.” … ”
” … [Being a bookseller] is a human trade which is not capable of being vulgarized beyond a certain point. The combines can never squeeze the small independent bookseller out of existence as they have squeezed the grocer and the milkman …”
- “Bookshop Memories,” 1936, George Orwell
Ah, the comfort and security that used to accompany topical expertise and local presence. And then someone had to go and invent punchcards, databases, and recommendation engines.
July 23, 2009 by Colin
Supervan, the story of a plucky Dodge and her owner, converted to crime-fighting superheroes despite the objections of his traditionally-minded dad.
July 17, 2009 by Colin
Colin McKay was an early Canadian pioneer in blogging and social media, but also in the Government use of social media. In my continuing series of interviews with Alumni from the Global PR Blog week, I ask Colin questions about the conference.
John: What did you learn from the Global PR Blog Week?
Colin: Global PR Blog Week was my first real opportunity to work with like-minded people from around the world. Collaboration, community and crowd sourcing are words that are thrown around quite easily today: just five years ago, it was unusual to pull together virtual teams working to a common agenda. YoungPrPros and other listservs were the most similar beast.
John: What did you learn about blogging, if you learned anything about blogging, from the blog week?
Colin: By July 2004, I had been blogging for nearly a year. I had been posting short observations, longer analytical pieces, and even commentary. I didn’t, however, truly realize the breadth and depth of knowledge and experience that could be shared if bloggers pulled their resources together and focused on a common series of topics.
John: Did the conference give you any new insights into PR, and if so what were they?
Colin: I had been aware of the different fields of PR and communications, but hadn’t really spent much time really thinking outside my own day-to-day work. PR Blog Week really demonstrated that there were inspired and influential bloggers who could bring insight to issues common across all these fields.
John: What were the lasting effects of the Global PR Blog Week?
Colin: Personally, I am still in contact with many of the contributors. Participating encouraged me to write longer form posts and articles on my blog and elsewhere, and to consciously look to other bloggers and online sources for inspiration and ammunition.
John: How did the Global PR Blog week influence you and the industry?
Colin: I’m not sure how influential PR Blog Week was for the industry. We’ve certainly seen an explosion in the number and quality of PR pros expressing themselves online. I’d hope that PR Blog Weeks 1 and 2 demonstrated that sold, well-reasoned and influential work could come out of blogging, and that blogging was not just a distraction for disaffected employees.
Interestingly, I look back at the list of participants, and I notice many names that are still influential in the field – personalities that have remained consistent and have continued to contribute, often without a care for being identified as influential, or a guru or a thought leader.
Reviewing the post(s) you wrote for the Global PR Blog week what has changed? What has not changed, since you wrote your post?
Colin: In year 1, I covered crisis communications. I notice that I didn’t cover online tools in any detail. That would definitely change today, but my advice on the preparation, attitudes and approaches to a crisis would not.
In year 2, I focused on the intersection between online communications and the development of government policy. For the longest time, that article remained current – it seems that the ground has begun to shift over the past nine months or so. #Gov2.0 has taken a great leap forward with the arrival of the Obama administration and the experimentation of the Labour government in the UK.
John: Give an update on what you’ve been doing in the last five years, and what you are doing now?
Colin: Well, canuckflack is still well and alive, although it has received greater and less attention over the years. I continued as a communications manager at the Department of Industry until 2007, when I joined the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. At the moment, I’m the Director of Research, Education and Outreach, and have been able to launch some fairly novel outreach tools that draw from my experience blogging and fooling around with social media: http://dpi.priv.gc.ca, http://blog.privcom.gc.ca and http://youthprivacy.ca. Not to mention our fledgling Twitter account http://twitter.com/privacyprivee.
John: Thank you Colin. Great insights into the virtual event, how PR has changed and not changed. Also I think your point about the faster pace of change in Government is very true.
July 13, 2009 by Colin
Ah. The country/pop combo. I forgot how much I missed the forced bonhomie and idle chatter that usually opened the videos for these early 80s crossover hits.
Here’s uncomfortably aged Kenny Rogers weavin’ the sweet sweet talk with Sheena Easton.
July 9, 2009 by Colin
Billy Bragg on the death of Steven Wells, poet, activist and erstwhile music critic, who died last month.
” … If there is anyone out there who wishes to take up his mantle, they’ll need more than just a snarky sense of humour and a potty mouth. The comment sections of every website are full of posts from cynical jerk-offs who get their kicks from upsetting people. Swells could be hurtful in what he wrote, but his contrarian stance was never mere posturing. It was underpinned with an unswerving belief that things could be better – culturally, politically and globally. He just wanted people to feel like he did at the paucity of talent on display – outraged to the point of engagement. To that end, he was willing to take it further than many of us are prepared to go – in your face, down your trousers and up your arse like a shit-eating rabbit on speed.”
How much of a loss is this? Depends if you read British music magazines in the 80s and 90s. Or appreciated a voice that didn’t hesitate to cut through the bafflegab and call out the pseuds.
Here’s an excerpt from a piece Wells wrote last year:
“… So this is how punk ends – not with a bang but with a jumper. Today, all over the world, thousands of punks, goths, emos and other ferociously tattooed, face-pierced miscreant bastard folk-devil scum will take to the streets to protest their disgust with war, oppression and bourgeois conformity by crocheting hideous green twat-hats with stupid ear flaps.
I’m talking about World Wide Knit in Public Day. Which, by its very name, suggests that knitting is a sordid and disgusting practice best done behind locked doors and drawn curtains. Which it is …
If you need a hobby, take up spitting.”
July 7, 2009 by Colin
I think I’ve narrowed down a new hairstyle – to that of any of the 1984-era GoGos.
At the moment, I HAVE the Jane Wiedlin, and if it goes any longer it’ll be a Charlotte Caffey (keyboards – I had to look it up).
I figure I could go for the longer Kathy Valentine (bass), and cut it back to a Belinda Carlisle if the summer gets warmer.
I’m going to reserve the Gina Schock for a sudden desire to look like any of the cast members from Less Than Zero or Some Kind of Wonderful (see exhibit “A”)
July 6, 2009 by Colin
How have the tough slogging mechanics of political campaigns turned into the petty victories of follower counts and poor graphic design?
” … As Newsom returned to his S.U.V., Ballard made sure to tell me how many Twitterers would already be able to see photos of the mayor on the backhoe. He derided Jerry Brown’s campaign Web site and ridiculed Villaraigosa’s “totally pathetic” Twitter following ..” (NYT Magazine)
That’s Nathan Ballard, the communications director to Gavin Newsom, the current Mayor of San Francisco and competitor for the job of Governor of California.
I found this moment almost repulsive: in a state where the economy and political life are near catatonic, the battle for political leadership is being framed in part by photo ops, unattributable and unreliable Twitter follower levels and poor web site design?
Is the political process at all dependent upon policy proposals anymore, or can a candidate gain a lot of ground simply by picking the right font, a sympathetic palette and an easily navigable design grid?
Oh – and a monkey to tweet?
After all, limiting your literary masterpiece to 140 characters significantly increases the odds that you can defeat the infinite monkey theorem – that an infinite number of monkeys, banging on typewriters for an infinite amount of time (while assuming there is no evolution in cognitive capacity) would not be able to reproduce Hamlet.
In fact, they’re more likely to smash the keyboard, mark their territory, and then engage in repetitive behaviour.
Wait a minute … I guess someone better get that monkey a Brooks Brothers suit and a BlackBerry.