September Apple Event 2015 Recap

September 9, 2015

Apple Event September 2015

That’s right kids! It’s time to spend all of your parents’ money on new screens for whiling away all of your spare time with.

I’ll walk you through all of the changes and updates in bullet points below so you can stop reading and rush out to spend that money when pre-orders open on Friday.


iPhone 6s/6s Plus

The latest edition of the ubiquitious smartphone looks exactly like the last one…on the surface.

  • 3D Touch is a new feature that detects how hard you press on your phone.
  • This is an “S” update, which means the new phones have better cameras.
  • Touch ID is faster.
  • The phone is generally faster.
  • They cost the same as the iPhone 6 models did until today (starting at $199).
    • All iPhone 6 models have gone down $100.
    • The iPhone 5s is now a free upgrade device.
  • See below for subscription pricing awesomeness….
  • Ships September 25

iPhone Upgrade Program

The cell phone business just changed big time.

  • You can now subscribe to new iPhones directly from Apple.
  • You set it up at the Apple Store.
  • You pay a monthly rate (starting at $16/month) on 24 month loan.
  • You have the option to get a new phone each year when they’re announced.
    • Upgrading mid-cycle would most likely mean paying the balance of your loan.
  • You can use it on any carrier.
  • Your phone is always covered by an Apple Care+ Warranty.

Apple TV

Apple’s set-top box has been updated for the first time in years, and it’s a doozy.

  • Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, MLB and more are baked in.
  • All services are searchable in one search box and with Siri.
  • The remote is half iPhone, half wiimote.
  • You can shop and play Guitar Hero on it.
  • It actually looks like a decent rival to the Chromecast.
  • Two sizes and prices; 32 gb for $149 or 64 gb for $199.
    • Not bad, but don’t expect to put your whole library on one just yet.
  • Ships in October

iPad Pro

The iPad is finally going to work. Like for real this time.

  • Twice the size of any other iPad. Space for  a full size keyboard on-screen.
  • Can run new Microsoft Office, including side-by-side multi-tasking.
    • Microsoft actually had a rep on-stage to show this off and it was weird.
  • Has a new suite of Adobe apps to compliment existing ones for all of you creative types.
    • Adobe actually had a rep on-stage to show this off and it was weird.
  • It has a stylus! Well, it’s actually called the Apple Pencil. (additional $99)
  • It has a keyboard! (additional $169)
  • It starts at $799 and goes up based on storage space.
    • If this seems high, consider the fact that it costs less than a Macbook Pro with both accessories and has comparable power with better graphics.
  • Ships in November

Apple Watch

It has a new operating system and some new cases, but it’s basically the same thing.

  • It comes in gold and rose gold.
  • It has new bands including some designer ones.
  • There’s a silver and red Product RED version.
  • The new OS allows for more third-party apps that will be great for medicine and also Facebook Messenger (if you’re into that).
  • It’s available now and costs the same as existing Watches (starting at $349).

iOS 9

The updated operating system will be available for iPhone 4s and up on September 16th as a free upgrade.

  • Siri is Proactive. Basically she’s tracking more about you to do more.
  • Search now goes into your apps and pulls information out.
  • Mail is a little nicer.
  • Notes is a lot nicer.
  • Also, iCloud storage is getting cheaper with a starting price of $0.99/month for 50 GB.

And One Republic was there…..yeah….

So that’s all you missed if you weren’t fan-boying it up like I was this afternoon. Apple will still take all of your money anyway.

Six Ways to Survive the Gaslight Anthem Hiatus

August 7, 2015

This post originally appeared on the blog for my pop culture podcast Dudes Brunch.

If you haven’t heard, I’m really sorry to inform you that The Gaslight Anthem are going on indefinite hiatus. Don’t buzz your pompadour and cover up your anchor tats just yet. In their announcement the band said this is not a permanent break. They plan to come back to TGA after spending some time on other projects.

I believe we can get through this. We will survive this hiatus. And we’re going to do it together. So, here are a few ideas of things to fill that old white Lincoln shaped hole in your heart for a few months:

1) Listen to the back catalog

When was the last time you honestly listened to “The ’59 Sound” from front-to-back? Do you even have “Sink or Swim” in your library? Can you harmonize with the chorus on “The Andy Diamond Church Street Choir”? If you answered “No” to any of those questions, I’d say it’s about time you boned up on the back catalog of our favorite retro Jersey punks. Five albums of material takes a lot longer to appreciate than you think. I find new things to love on every listen.

Recently I’ve been re-visiting “American Slang”. I think I kind of glossed over this record when it came out for various reasons. The songwriting here is some of my favorite work Fallon has done. In particular, “The Queen of Lower Chelsea” tells a succinct and moving story in a classic ballad form. Take this record on the road with you. You won’t regret it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jURoIytNuvQ]

 

2) Check out side projects Molly & The Zombies and The Horrible Crowes


A lot of people don’t realize the guys in Gaslight have side projects because they’ve released albums so steadily over the past few years. Brian Fallon has two, each with a slightly different (yet recognizable) sound.

Molly and the Zombies is Fallon’s folky project with guitarist Brian McGee of Plow United, former Ryan Adams and the Cardinals bassist Catherine Popper of Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, and Randy Schrager who drums for the Scissor Sisters. The songwriting is characteristic of Fallon, with allusions to hearts, daggers, dangerous women and drunken nights. The tempos are slower and the instrumentation lighter, making it a band you’re parents might actually understand.’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgsc7nRFUOU

Continuing his love of early American music, Fallon dons a zoot suit in performances with The Horrible Crowes. This blues-inspired act is primarily Fallon and his guitar tech, Ian Perkins with a rotating cast of touring musicians. Their music is markedly slower than either of Fallon’s other projects, and closer to a Tennessee blues than you might expect from a Jersey Boy.

 

3) See Brian Fallon solo

Brian Fallon does occasionally release solo music and perform on his own. There have been rumors that his first move during the hiatus will be a round of US dates, but I’m not holding my breath. If it happens though, I highly recommend heading out to see him. Fallon’s stage presence is impressive even without a band behind him.

 

4) Show some love to Sammy Kay and Northcote


Sammy Kay and Northcote both opened for Gaslight Anthem on some dates of their recent US tour supporting “Get Hurt”. They’ve been on a couple of other tours with the group and play a similar gritty Americana style rock’n’roll. Sammy is from TGA’s home state of New Jersey and has a delivery pretty similar to Brian Fallon’s. His latest record “Sammy Kay & the Fourth Street Singers” is a rollicking good time. And he’s super engaged and personable on Twitter.

Northcote are a bit more acoustic than The Gaslight Anthem, but that’s in no way a bad thing. They rely heavily on vocal harmonies, which produces a last call sing-along vibe on many songs. They seem like the sort of band you play on the jukebox at the bar around 1:00 AM.

 

5) Wear your Tiger Cuts gear


Tiger Cuts
Alex Levine, The Gaslight Anthem’s bassist, has a number of non-musical passions. He’s a barber, a wrestling fan and now a clothing designer. His brand Tiger Cuts recently released their second collection of vintage tattoo and barbering inspired shirts and apparel. He and his business partner tour around to various festivals cutting hair, giving tattoos and selling clothes.

Tiger Cuts recently opened up a US warehouse, meaning you can finally buy their gear without having it shipped from the UK. That means lower prices for you, and faster turnaround times. And I can say, as a Tiger Cuts wearer, that they make awesome clothes that’ll look great around your office on casual friday or out at the bar with your dudes.

 

6) Familiarize yourself with The Boss


Whether they’ll admit to it or not, our favorite retro Jersey rockets take a lot of cues from their home state hero Bruce Springsteen. Their song structures are similar, they write about a similar sort of Americana and they use a lot of the effects Bruce used to make his music sound timeless. His voice is powerful like Brian Fallon’s and his songwriting ja top notch, even if the production is occasionally a bit dated.

The Boss has a truly daunting back catalog. The album’s you’ve heard of already (“Born in the USA” & “Born to Run”) are a good place to start though. Apple music also has a good Intro to Bruce Springsteen playlist if you’ve jumped ship from Spotify.

We’re all going to miss the Jukebox Romeos while they’re away, but in the meantime there are plenty of related projects and bands to keep you busy. What will you be listening to in place of The Gaslight Anthem?

Intro to Ben Folds

August 5, 2015

This post originally appeared on the blog for my pop culture podcast Dudes Brunch.

Ben Folds: pianist, a capella enthusiast, photographer and nerdy music industry figure. With a over 20 years of piano driven alt-pop records, a stint as a game show judge and a campaign to save an aging recording studio Mr. Folds’ career can be a bit daunting to the non-fan. So, as a massive fan, I’ve put together a crash course in the piano crashing and genre smashing world of Benjamin Scott Folds.

Ben Folds grew up in Winston-Salem North Carolina, where he picked up his southern accent and listened to a lot of AM Radio. He was especially interested in singer-songwriters including Elton John and Billy Joel. He was particularly fascinated, during one stage with Neil Sedaka, as he explains below:

Folds started his first band, Majosha, in the late 80’s who attained regional popularity with their four-song EP “Party Time; Five songs About Jesus”. Majosha broke up after releasing a full-length LP (“Shut Up and Listen to Majosha“). Many songs from this period appeared on subsequent Ben Folds releases. Folds spent some time as a session drummer in Nashville before attending the University of Miami for music. However, he broke his hand the night before his percussion studio final in a bar fight. The next day, after being told he couldn’t postpone the final, Folds threw his drumset into a pond and dropped out of school. He was (and is) one credit shy of graduating.

After college, Ben Folds formed a trio with Robert Sledge (bass) and Darren Jesse (drums) in North Carolina. Continuing his penchant for misleading names, the trio became the Ben Folds Five. They released their self-titled album of “punk rock for sissies” in 1995, which spawned the singles “Philosophy” and “Underground”. Their sophomore album “Whatever and Ever Amen” proved to be their breakout album, due largely to the song “Brick”. Only after the song left the charts did Folds begin explaining it’s subject matter:

The trio’s third album “The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner” is a tribute to the first man to summit Mt. Everest, though none of its songs are explicitly about him. The opener, “Narcolepsy”, is about an actual disorder where people simply fall asleep when confronted with extreme emotions; and how Folds believes a lot of men have a similar reaction. The live favorite “Army” tells the story of a dropout who realizes he can’t make it in the armed forces, or fast food. The horn break in the middle of the song is
frequently performed a capella by audiences during live shows, with Folds directing.

Ben Folds Five broke up in the late 90’s, prompting Folds to embark on a successful solo career. During the early portion of his solo career, Folds became known for writing songs in the third person. In fact, half of his debut solo record “Rockin’ the Suburbs” is written in the third-person. He explains, below, that he does this to create intimacy or to write about himself without being “emotionally lewd”.

At an early solo show in Chicago, a fan yelled “Rock this Bitch!” at Folds in between songs. This created a live tradition, where the audience may (once per show) heckle Folds into rocking this bitch. Each night he will perform an improvised song around the phrase, regardless of accompaniment. Once he even created an improvised piece with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in Perth.

Folds experimented with the release of his music during the early days of iTunes, releasing singles and EPs in regular intervals to determine which packages of songs seemed the easiest for fans to digest. The songs from this period, which are gathered on the SupperSunnySpeedGraphic LP, include some of his most eccentric songwriting and a few notable covers. His cover of Dr. Dre’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit,” from 2005, was an early viral hit. Since then he has regularly included piano covers of vulgar pop songs in his live sets and as bonus tracks on various releases.

Touring before the release of his 2008 solo album “Way To Normal,” Folds fell of a stage in Hiroshima and sustained a concussion. During treatment, the delirious Folds asked his doctor if the scans of his brain could show whether or not he was gay. The incident became the basis of the album’s opening track: “Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hit His Head)”. As albums were beginning to leak to peer-to-peer networks around this time, Folds and his band created entirely different songs using the titles of the album’s track listing and “leaked” this version online prior to the release. He occasionally performs these false versions to this day.

After hearing a cover of “Brick” by the Ohio University Leading Tones, Ben Folds produced an album of his greatest hits performed by university a capella groups from across the country. He has been known to include a capella groups as part of his stage show when visiting universities since.

In the early 2010s Folds frequently popped up in music news circles for odd projects. In 2010, users of ChatRoulette suspected he was masquerading as “Merten,” a user who would appear on-screen in a grey hoodie and sing improvised songs about other users. Folds dismissed the rumors, and then performed a tribute to Merten during a live-set using a webcam mounted on his piano. In April 2011, Folds collaborated with Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman and Damian Kulash as 8in8 to write, record, and produce eight songs in eight hours. And in 2014, he spearheaded a successful campaign to save the historic RCA Studio A in Nashville from demolition.

Outside of music, Ben Folds is a semi-professional photographer. He collects film cameras and has a dark room in his home, where he develops photos that he sells as a side business. He was a judge on a few seasons of NBC’s a capella singing competition “The Sing Off,” where he frequently used musical terms that he would have to explain to contestants, viewers and fellow judges. He also frequently participates in fundraisers for music education, and raises awareness on Twitter about people who #FlossNToss (using disposable dental flossers and then dropping them in public places).

Ben Folds Five reunited in 2011 and released “The Sound of the Life of the Mind” in 2012. After touring for this album Folds composed and performed a concerto for piano and orchestra. The piece will be released as part of his upcoming album “So There” along with eight new “chamber rock” songs recorded with the yMusic sextet.

Ben Folds’ bizarre side projects, strange collaborations and unique songwriting have created a twenty-plus year career of pleasant surprises. His back catalog is as varied as it is large, yet his fans are generally completists. His writing style is extremely verbose, yet nearly always relatable. And his piano playing is some of the best in contemporary pop music. For an easy-to-swallow introduction to his music, click below to listen to our “Intro to Ben Folds” playlist. And let us know in the comments what your favorite Ben Folds project has been.

April Alt-Rock Releases 2015

May 4, 2015

April always seems to be a good month for alt-rock releases, no matter what year it is. I think this probably because festival season is right around the corner and most bands need material to tour under at Bonaroo, Lollapalooza, et al. And so, I’ve put together a round-up of noteworthy alt-rock releases from last month for you, in hopes that maybe it’ll save you some of the time I lost to these albums:

 “New Glow” by Matt & Kim

New Glow by Matt & KimThe brooklyn synth-pop duo return with their most diverse full-length yet. Buzz leading up to this album paid a lot of attention to the (somewhat) more personal songwriting and the types of synths used. Personally, I really enjoyed this album like I enjoy any other Matt & Kim album: as 40ish minutes of pointless fun. I like Matt & Kim the most when they’re being outrageously simple and irreverent, and there is plenty of that here. “Make A Mess” is one of the most childishly catch (in a good way) songs you’ll hear this year. “Get It” is an absolute blast both live and on-record. However, the striking track here is the closing ballad, “I See Ya”. Here Matt sings about the interpersonal damage that six years of non-stop touring can cause. And for the first time, I actually really empathize with and am moved by a slow song on what would otherwise be a non-stop party of an album.

“Kindred” by Passion Pit

Kindred by Passion PitIt’s 1985! How can I tell? Well, besides the literal subtitles of some of these tracks, the synth leads throughout this album feel like they’re as old as most of the members of Passion Pit. A lot of people are probably going to call this album a pastiche or unnecessary nostalgia. And that was my first impression too. However, much like their 2013 album “Gossamer”, “Kindred” packs a hidden sadness into its lyrics that can be extremely effective at times (“All I Want”) and a bit sappy at times (“My Brother Taught Me How To Swim”). This album packs some emotional punch for a summer alt-rock outing, but I do somewhat question its overall staying power.

“The Magic Whip” by Blur

The Magic Whip by BlurFull disclosure: I’ve never liked Blur enough to listen to one of their full-lengths before now. I had a copy of their greatest hits for a while, and I’ve enjoyed Damon Albarn’s solo/collaborative work, but I just couldn’t really bring myself to dig Blur. So, when they reunited I promised myself I’d at least try out their new album, “The Miracle Whip”. Lo and behold, I enjoyed it for about five songs and then got bored, just like I have with every other Blur album.

I don’t know what it is about them. By any and all standards I should like this band. They’re playing in genre I really enjoy, and I appreciate their musical talent. I even really enjoy Albarn’s songwriting (at times). There’s just something about them that feels extremely bland to me. It could be that they established the type of alt-rock they’re playing in the late 90s and early 2000s, and I’m just used to their imitators. I don’t think that’s what it is though. I think Blur just live up to their name. All of their songs blur together, and result in a mediocre hour of generic guitar based rock music.

“New Year” (EP) by A Silent Film

new-yearThough they’re not a huge group on the scene by any regard, I’m always excited when A Silent Film put out something new. I typically describe them to people as “Coldplay with more cred.” They play a similiar sort of piano/synth driven symphonic alt-rock with very catchy poppy song-structure. Their latest EP sees a slight improvement in their songwriting, but the focus here seems to be more on instrumentation. There are lot more electronics and synths on these tracks than we heard on previous releases. And that’s not a bad thing. I just do sort of miss the pounding strings of their first record (see “Julie June”) during some of the more repetitive pre-choruses here. All in all, a nice set of songs to hold us over until the next full-length.

Various Singles by Brandon Flowers

The Desired Effect by Brandon FlowersIf Passion Pit hasn’t convinced you that this summer will be an eighties revival, then Brandon Flowers absolutely will. The Killers’ front-man’s  new solo effort looks like the sort of thing you’d expect Rex Manning or Rick Astley to put out, and that’s just talking about the cover art. We’ve gotten three singles from “The Desired Effect” so far, and if that desired effect is a strange nostalgia for a decade you didn’t experience then he’s definitely achieving it. These are some catchy tracks. There’s no doubt that Brandon Flowers can write a powerful chorus or a crescendoing verse. The creative direction here (or lack thereof) is just a bit confusing. I get the feeling that this album, much like his last solo record, will be a bunch of tracks just outside of The Killers aesthetic that all feel like they written years apart from one another. I like a couple of them individually, but I don’t think they’ll cohere well as an album.

Various Singles by Twenty One Pilots

Blurryface by Twenty One PilotsTwenty One Pilots, being an Ohio band, have a special place in my heart. And when their lead-off single for “Blurryface” was a banger (as much of one as they can write anyway) titled “Fairly Local” I was already sold. Geographic allegiances aside though, we now have three tracks from this record available online and I’ve been impressed by all of them. The duo’s breakthrough album “Vessel” felt extremely earnest and a bit sloppy at points, but these tracks feel a bit more polished without sacrificing their trademark angsty energy. I’m impressed by how these two manage to make such passionate music in an accessible format around some fairly intense themes. “Stressed Out” sounds like something I’d hear coming from car windows this summer, even though its about an identity crisis. I’m pumped for this record, and I’m excited to see the band live for the first time in June.

Various Singles by Mumford & Sons

Wilder Mind by Mumford and SonsAfter seeing a fair amount of pop-chart success with their sophomore LP “Babel”, it isn’t very surprising that Mumford & Sons are transitioning to a less folk-inspired sound for the new record. We got three singles from “Wilder Mind” this April, and each of them has been more electric and poppy than the last. The anthemic “Believe” sounds like a track Coldplay would have made last year, were they not on tour. “The Wolf” has driving electric guitars and bass that still manage to feel a bit boring, despite their fast tempo. Even the ‘ballad’ of these three tracks, “Snake Eyes”, has more electric than acoustic guitar on it. Mumford & Sons are obviously trying to make a bold statement about their new aesthetic as quickly as possible. This isn’t surprising, given the negative critical reception they’ve received recently for staying at the surface level of a trend they helped to establish. I’m honestly not convinced that shifting styles was a great move for them either though. These songs aren’t bad, but they stay close to the surface. Marcus Mumford is a talented songwriter, but he and his band seem to be more concerned with commercial radio success and iTunes sales figures than doing these songs the creative justice they deserve.

 

Those are the releases I spent the most time with this April. What did you think of these albums and singles? Who are you excited to see on the festival circuit this summer?

Meerkat & Tworlds; Real-Time Voyeurism

March 7, 2015

This post originally appeared as an article on Medium under the title “Live From Anywhere, It’s Other People’s Lives”.

Do you remember the first season you watched almost every episode of Saturday Night Live? If you can’t remember such a time, you should probably set your DVR to record NBC at 11:29 before you read any further.

Think back on the first time you saw a cast member break, or a musical guest curse on screen or the tragedy of tragedies a boom mic leaning too far into the shot. What made these moments significant? The fact that they happened live, or at least on a 5–7 second tape delay.

We in the tech/social industry have been captivated by the live event over the last few years. The Grammys, the Super Bowl and major news events become the “best” times to be a member of the Twitterati. Until recently though, we haven’t had a very good way to experience the rush of shared live experience for micro events.

Meerkat Screenshot

The end of a Meerkat stream hosted by my friend Zack.

Matt Mazzeo wrote a great piece this week on this called “Concurrence”. In it he argues that the proliferation of smartphones and the rapid adoption of video streaming app Meerkat are going to make concurrent experience a more ubiquitous part of our constantly connected lives. And I think he’s absolutely right.

The difference this time around though, is the types of experiences we’re going to be sharing. In the last 36 hours I’ve used Meerkat to watch behind-the-scenes coverage of a video shoot, an intimate acoustic performance from someone’s hotel room and footage of a friend’s younger sister playing. These are, for the most part, spontaneous events captured quickly for a captive audience of people emotionally invested in the host. Technical quality is decreased, but emotional effect is increased dramatically.

On the other side of the same coin is the new app Tworlds, in which users from around the world share unedited snapshots of the minutiae of daily life. All you have to do is choose from one of the hashtags offered (i.e. #food, #work, #WOW) and then take a photo. Your photo is instantly placed in a diptych with another user’s. You have no control over who you get, and you don’t get any information on them except what city they’re in at the moment.

A diptych from Tworlds, that I posted when I read about Harrison Ford’s plane crash.

The thing both of these apps offer is a concurrent, synchronous and voyeuristic experience in an age of disconnected, asynchronous and exhibitionist online communication. Meerkat and Tworlds let us peak into other peoples’ lives as if looking through window, rather than reading their old letters. And as Isaac Brock (of Modest Mouse fame) once said, “Other people’s lives are interesting because they ain’t mine.”

I’m excited to see how people use these apps in the coming months; whether its sharing their kids’ first steps with family in real time on Meerkat, or learning about other peoples’ procrastination habits on Tworlds. Mostly though, I’m excited to see social networks that rely on the emotional connection we have to other people through the rapid presentation of raw unfiltered content, just like the first time we saw someone break character behind the Weekend Update desk.

Gather ‘Round the Brunch Table

February 24, 2015
Dudes' Brunch Podcast

This past weekend I finally got over a serious Brain Crack problem and launched a project that I’ve been contemplating for years now. I gathered three friends from my hometown, all of whom are just as addicted to the internet as I am, and together we launched a podcast.

Our creation, Dudes’ Brunch, is based upon actual brunches I had during my days as an undergraduate. My friends and I would gather for brunch on Sundays and share stories from our weeks; cool things we’d seen or read, dumb things we heard people say on the street and so on.

Dudes' Brunch Podcast

The podcast follows a similar format, with each panelist brining one piece of culture for the group to learn about and discuss each week. Topics thus far have included ‘Weird Twitter’, the definition of The Millennial Generation, music reviews, and how much Jack White loves guacamole.

I’m thrilled to be able to finally bring this project to the world, and I can’t wait to see where it takes us. These gentlemen have been crucial to my view of contemporary culture for the better part of a decade now, and I hope they’ll be just as informative and entertaining to all of you.

We record our episodes on a live-streamed Google Hangout each Sunday. You can find info on live-streams and find links to recorded episodes via our YouTube Channel, Twitter and Facebook. If you want to try the show out, you can watch the latest episode (and our back catalog) below, after the jump.

“Popular” Alternative

January 29, 2015

This post originally appeared as an article on Medium.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend (@TDRdesigns) and I were having coffee, and he asked me if there was any point in trying to keep up with popular alternative music anymore. Besides the fact, that this phrase was kind of an oxymoron, I told him that I didn’t think there was. I said that we had always been more interested in “interesting music” than whatever the trendy ‘alternative’ sound of the moment had been. And while that’s probably true, I was definitely wrong about the first part.

One of the best things about popular or ‘popular alternative’ music, is its exuberance. Sure, the technical skill of DJ Shadow and the juxtaposition of orchestras and sampling on a Hybrid record are cool, but there’s something about a fun catchy song. It reminds you not to take life too seriously. And I think that’s what I’ve been doing recently.

There’s so much attention paid, in some circles, to what’s innovative or interesting that we forget the things that are just purely enjoyable. Those things have just as much, if not more value than our critically acclaimed art house films and indie darling bands. And I wish I had remembered that a bit more often as I went through college. I wish I’d gone to see more action movies, watched a bit more TV and maybe even listened to a few more radio hits (but only a few).

Those of us who work in the media seem to be particularly likely to fall into this overly pretentious seriousness. We tell ourselves that we’ve consumed so much culture; we must be above some of it. We argue that it’s a necessary filtering system for retaining our sanity and free time. Yet, many of us miss things the masses fall in love with because we were too busy trying to find the next award winner, or worse evangelizing about something “you’ve probably never heard of.”

This isn’t to say that we should all quickly buy a Chief Keef album on iTunes in order to be more relevant. There is still a lot of bad “popular” culture out there, and consuming it is generally a waste of time. Some of the popular content of today is fairly sophisticated, and quite uplifting. We all ought to take a minute to at least look at the charts more often, try out the new Taylor Swift single, and maybe join our younger siblings and parents in the sing-along.

Pretension has its place, as does popularity. I’m not trying to argue against taste or the arbiters thereof. I’m just realizing that much of our “critically acclaimed” or “interesting” culture isn’t very fun. And if we’re not having a bit of fun once in a while, it becomes very easy to become a jaded culture of bloggers who don’t get out enough.

Men Actually Are on Pinterest

September 19, 2014
Taylor's Pinterest

Taylor's PinterestAs I’ve been stepping up my game on Pinterest recently I’ve noticed myself talking about the platform more and more in casual conversation. What’s striking me about these conversations is that about half of the people I talk to are surprised to find out I’m even on Pinterest. “Oh, you’re on Pinterest and you’re a guy? It must be just because you’re going to work in Social Media right?” When I started pinning, I definitely would have said that was why. And there really weren’t all that many other men there. I’m growing to love Pinterest though, and I’m noticing more and men pinning alongside me. Here are a few reasons why I think men actually are on Pinterest, and why we’re going to see more male Pinners in the coming months.

 

Camera Collecting on PinterestCollectors

Collecting may not be as common a pass-time as it was a few decades ago (think baseball cards and comic books), but those of us who still collect love showing off our collections and researching new items online. There are dedicated sites for some of the more involved collections like Discogs for records and Deckbox for Magic The Gathering cards, but Pinterest is a great place for casual collectors. It’s image heavy format and board-based organization system makes it great for organizing and displaying your collection. As I mentioned above, I’ve got a wish list board for my record collection that way I can remember exactly what I’m shopping for when I hit up the record store. Try searching for your collection (or one you want to start), I guarantee you’ll be overwhelmed with things you wish you had, as I was when I looked at some vintage camera collections the other day.

Men’s Fashion

It may just be me, but it seems like there is much more interest in men’s fashion this year than in previous years, and Pinterest is a no-brainer for finding and sharing all sorts of fashion related content. From GQ and Esquire to lesser known (but equally interesting) curators who got their start online, Pinterest is full of great fashion inspiration for men of all types and dress codes. I personally am following more and more fashion related boards since I realized that my wardrobe has been getting pretty monochromatic and boring. Sure, many of us don’t have the money for the designer brands that often get pinned, but a lot of those styles are available at a much lower price point if you know how to strategically search on Amazon.

Subway Map Guide found on PinterestDesign & Creatives

I’ve been gradually redesigning this site in between homework assignments and job applications; nearly all of my inspiration for this process has come from design work I’ve discovered on Pinterest. UX/UI Design boards abound on Pinterest, as do print and publication design boards which serve as equally great motivators for designing. Some of these boards will even link to free backgrounds, typefaces and other design resources. I constantly recommend boards to my web designer friends who are typically blown away by the resources they’ve been missing. The art and design communities on Pinterest actually remind me a lot of the early days of Tumblr, when it was primarily used for sharing inspiration images as well. I think Pinterest has held the attention of artists and designers longer than Tumblr did because of its categorization features and more powerful search. I just hope they keep building on this foundation even though it may not be as easy to monetize as some of the more retail oriented communities.

Wish List 3.0

Remember going through the Sears and Toys ‘R Us catalogs as a kid and circling all of the things you wanted your parents to get you? A lot of the appeal of Pinterest is that it is pretty much the same process, just more social. And Pinterest has more cool toys and gift ideas than all of those catalogs combined thanks to the eclectic interests of its users. Whether you’re building your own wish list or brainstorming ideas for friends and family, Pinterest is an excellent gift planning tool, and I can’t believe more men don’t use it just for this reason. My dad, for example, is extremely difficult to buy gifts for, but I keep a stash of nerdy tech gifts on one of my Pinboards when I’m shopping for his birthday and Father’s Day each year. I’m even considering sending a Pinboard as my list of gift preferences during the holidays this year instead of my family’s traditional Amazon Wish Lists.

Revolution by Example; Idealism vs. Pragmatism in DIY Punk

August 28, 2014
Crass' Logo

During Spring Semester 2014 I had the awesome opportunity to work on an independent study with one of my favorite professors at Ohio University. Prof. Mattson studies cultural history now, but he was involved in the activism associated with the hardcore punk scene in Washington DC during the 1980s. The Punk Movement has always been a side passion of mine, and so the opportunity to get to know Prof. Mattson and study under him was excellent.

Crass' LogoOver the course of the semester I researched DIY in Punk, and various approaches to it. Eventually I settled on a comparison of idealistic and pragmatic approaches to DIY represented by Crass and Dischord Records respectively. As Dischord is based out of DC I got a lot of great advice from Mattson during the research process as well as some insightful anecdotes about the individuals I was reading about. Shortly after completing the paper, as far as the course and the university were concerned, I reached out to Penny Rimbaud of Crass who agreed to a phone interview.

And so I spent an hour on the phone with a Punk legend, discussing his understanding of his own legacy, the motivations behind the radical actions Crass took during their career and even his two near misses at meeting John Lennon. Rimbaud was extremely polite and very down to Earth, he refused to admit that Crass failed at what they were after just because the large-scale rebellion they were interested in hasn’t happened yet. Most of all, he was very interested in preserving the documents of Crass’s legacy so that those of us who weren’t alive at the time can still understand what their work was about.

The paper I wrote, “Revolution by Example: Idealism vs. Pragmatism in DIY Punk” has been accepted for presentation this Fall at the Midwest Pop Cultural Association Conference, and I’m very excited to share my research with a larger audience. I’m fascinated by The Punk Movement because I believe that the technologies available to us today make possible the sorts of grassroots organizing and impactful personal expression that Punk was so interested in. That’s why I can’t wait to share the stories of figures like Penny Rimbaud and Crass, who may be lesser known to the mainstream, but were instrumental in developing the way we think about DIY, Punk and cultural expression as a whole.

Click here to read “Revolution by Example” and please let me know what you think.

Six Years and Some Skiggles: My Life on Camp Staff

August 4, 2014
Lake Marge Schott at Camp Friedlander

Now that I finally have a few minutes to sit down and type, I figured I ought to put something together about the last six years and what it has all meant to me. I spoke pretty extensively at the End of Season Banquet last night, but many important people from my time on Camp Staff weren’t at that event and so a post such as this seemed appropriate. I realize I have left out many people and even more stories. However, I felt that immediacy and emotional authenticity were more relevant than accuracy here. If you didn’t make the essay, feel free to give me crap about it at the next banquet.

Me, during my pre-Camp Staff emo phase.I made the decision to apply for Camp Friedlander Staff during the winter of 2008-2009 because I was tired of the life I was leading and wanted to get away. A group of my friends from school had turned against me and were making life pretty difficult. I was frustrated with the dissolution of another of my passions (the band I had marched with for two years) and the social circles that had been collapsing along with it. I took a job at King’s Island when I didn’t hear from camp, but quit as soon as I received an interview (on the same day they offered me a promotion).

I interviewed for Camp Staff on a rainy day in March of 2009 with Lindsey Pigg, Andrew “Jar Jar” Meijer and a third party who I don’t  remember. I was intimidated by the interview and didn’t hear back for a few weeks. When I did, my contract said “Trading Post Staff”, which was my fifth choice. Heartbroken that I didn’t get a spot at Handicraft I took the job anyway for reasons previously explained and went to the Scout Shop to buy some uniforms from a clerk I later got to know quite well and spend two summers sharing a cabin with, his name was Daniel Tracy.

At my first Staff Orientation Weekend I knew exactly no one. My manager wasn’t even there and so I was forced to stand around awkwardly when everyone else went to area time, until Reggie Ballard introduced himself to me as a fellow lonely TP Staffer. While we had our differences that summer we ended being friends, co-workers and cabin mates for most of it and I still treasure him as the first person I met on Camp Staff.

Danny and I carry TeePee PolesI felt better going into Staff Week 2009, as I had already made one friend, but I had no idea what was in store. On the first or second day, while carrying Tepee poles I struck up a conversation about the Bonaroo Music & Arts Festival with Tim Miller, who would become my first lifelong camp friend. We complained about bands we were missing at the festival and how much fun we could have been having and he told me a story I no longer remember except for its the closing sentence: “True story, except for the parts I made up.” Later that week I packed into a Youth Cabin with about 18 other guys including Ben “Keebler” Pentecost, Joel Borgemenke and (I believe) Danny Korn where, at the urging of a Staff Member I can only remember as Mercutio, we penned the infamous Camp Friedlander Man Laws.

Later that week, during “Work Projects” I was hauling firewood to Present campsite with a gangly young CIT named Bryan who was wearing a Ransburg Scout Reservation T-Shirt and whose hair was almost as bad as mine. He had just received a brand new iPod Touch and was playing “Steady As She Goes” by The Raconteurs through its tiny speaker. I said something (presumably dorky) about the song and his shirt (as I had been a Ransburg camper from 2006-2007). And from these humble beginnings came the most fruitful friendship of my life.

I returned to the “real world” in the Fall of 2009 with a stronger self image, and a bit more confidence. I had some friends away from school who I knew I could rely on when things went bad. And things were shaping back up on the home front. A pretty rough break up got me down in the dumps for a bit, but right around then I got back in touch with Bryan and had the Camp Staff Christmas Party to look forward to.

Me teaching Cinematography Merit BadgeWhen I returned in 2010 as Handicraft Staff (at long last) I was given Photography, Journalism and Cinematography Merit Badges to teach for the summer. I taught Photo and Journalism almost every hour, on the hour, every single day for that entire Summer. Thankfully I had an excellent co-worker in Tyler “Hans” Frushour who was willing to swap with me occasionally, and quite a bit of assistance from my favorite CITs Bryan and Monica who would pick up the occasional Photo class when they weren’t bickering or finding new ways to prank people. That season also saw the development of my relationship with Paul “Jedi” Mayerski, whose acidic wit and knack for reference humor even surpassed my own. And of course, it was during Staff Week 2010 that my dear friend Bryan Higgins was dubbed Horse F@#$er for all eternity.

Through a strange form of back channeling I received a call from Bryan Pruden in the winter of 2011 to inform me that I would be the Handicraft Director and he would be on my staff. I ended up adding Monica Driscoll, Jesse Dziech, Dylan Frushour and Heather Roe all of whom made my first summer as a director a fantastic time. I spent nearly all of Senior Staff Week with Horse, where our relationship grew into what it is today. Without him I would never have made it through the transition to Senior Staff, and I know he feels the same way. The stories from that summer could fill a book: from breaking my clavicle, to having the art room spider webbed, and of course Bryan getting his leg humped by a little person. Perhaps some day these and more stories will be published in a book, but it will have to wait until I know the evidence won’t be too incriminating to anyone involved (so it probably won’t happen).

The day my staff strung a spiderweb through the art room.

Once at the Handicraft building together (though he doesn’t remember it) Bryan Pruden and I began playing a game in our off time in which we went back and forth telling each other random things we didn’t know about one another. We spent hours just talking and really getting to know one another that summer, and at one point spent so much time together that we had an argument which culminated in my punching him quite hard in the crotch (to be fair he had already started to grow taller than me at this point, though I still shouldn’t have done it). I stormed off to the Handicraft building without eating dinner, and he joined me in the art room where we hashed out our differences, made up, and (I like to believe) cemented our friendship for the rest of our lives (sappy right?). Somewhere in there he invited me to go to church with him sometime, which was something I hadn’t been actively interested in for years due to some extenuating circumstances.

I moved to Athens, Ohio to start school at Ohio University that Fall and on a weekend visit home went to Crossroads with Bryan. It turned out to be a part of a six week journey called The Strong Challenge, which Bryan and I worked through together via Skype. His patience, understanding and faith during this period changed the course of my life. I cannot thank him enough for bringing me back to church and building faith back into my life during this period. There was no doubt that we would continue on through Skype and Camp Staff to build a bromance for the ages.

Camp Staff visiting Jungle Jim's in 2012I returned to Handicraft in 2012 with a mostly new and entirely male staff (except our permanent CIT Mandy of course) comprised of Jesse Dzeich, Jack VanKeuren (whom I met the previous summer when walking by his tent and snobbily dismissing his poor music taste), Matt Kowal, Nicholas Au-Yeung and Roland Zeman. These five guys (and Mandy) were an absolute blast to work with and I grew to love each one of them for their various quirks and unique personalities. I was particularly honored to get to know Roland, who I learned had taken Cinematography with Bryan the previous summer and worked on a video in which I got to slap him as hard as I could in the face. Roland, Jack, new friend Jake Taylor and I ventured into the mean streets of downtown Cincinnati that summer to see a dozen or so bands perform at the Bunbury Music Festival, which was one of the coolest Saturday nights I have on record thus far.

As I was wrestling with the possibility of re-applying to Camp Staff, and with my upcoming transition to life as an RA, Bryan and I noticed that Horse had stepped up as acting Boat Chaplain during Ken’s trip to Georgia. When I asked him about it one evening he explained that (like me) he had been a church-going person at one point in his life, but wasn’t any more and was looking for some answers. Bryan and I invited him to join us, and we became a tight-knit Small Group that still meets to talk about life, faith, Archer and Camp Staff every week either in-person or via Skype.

On my return to OU that Fall I quickly realized that being an RA was like working on Camp Staff, but with far less fun and way more drunk people vandalizing things. I struggled through the year with the help of Bryan, Horse and a few others hoping I would be able to financially afford a return to Camp Staff. On a whim I had applied for Assistant Commissioner, secretly hoping for a pay raise that would help me pay for school. One afternoon while I was sitting in a Starbucks, Terry Aufermann called and asked if I would be interested in a new Assistant Commissioner/CIT Director position. Thinking back to all of the friends I had made and grown up with who were CITs I quickly said yes. I worried about finances and prayed that I would somehow be able to afford returning to camp without returning to my dreaded RA job and at the last possible minute received a scholarship that allowed me to move off campus and return to camp without any financial pressure whatsoever.

And so, in the summer of 2013 I led 26 CITs through a crazy year full of flooding pools, smoke bombed showerhouses and a flurry of other ridiculous incidents. I got to meet and lead some excellent young people who I firmly believe embody the future of Scouting and of Camp Friedlander. When I felt like I couldn’t handle another day of waking up at dawn, listening to leaders complain and unclogging toilets these young staffers would always brighten my mood. If I ever looked bored or unamused they would run circles around me and yell “stupid things” just to get a rise out of me. They reminded me of all of the people I knew back when we were just starting out, and how exciting the world of Camp Staffing could be.

Seatbelt and IOne of them in particular jumped out at me though. He was bashful, a little awkward, but obviously excited to be at camp. He didn’t seem to know too many people when he showed up, and (I later learned) had come to Camp Staff to get away from a situation involving ex-friends at school. He knew who the Violent Femmes were, and that they carried all of their equipment on the bus. He bought a seatbelt off of another CIT during Staff Week and proudly wore it as a belt from that point forward. His name was Ben Bolton. Ben reminded me quite a bit of myself at his age, and apparently he reminded the rest of the staff of me as well. People quickly started saying we were the same person (and not in the appearance-level way they used to with Jack), but even as far as posture and sense of humor. He and I spent a number of nights chatting on the row that night all of which I remember very dearly.

 

When the applications went out for 2014 Staff I consulted with Bryan and Horse before submitting a PDF that listed Program Director as my top choice. On Thursday of AHG Week (fresh off of a trip to Columbus to see The Killers, which was dope) I was called into Jason Baldridge’s office and interviewed. On Friday afternoon I was offered the position, and that night at closing campfire I took over the circle from Chuck in a haze of hugs, tears and yelling. Thus began a year of spreadsheets, phone calls, Google Hangouts and endless Amazon searches for Human Hampster Balls. I got to hire some of the most talented people I’d had the pleasure of meeting over the course of five years to build what I firmly believe was the best Senior Staff I’d ever seen. Together 20 or so of us hired another 100 Staff Members to create the largest staff in the history of Camp Friedlander and the only one (since the camp re-opened in 2002) to not have a single employee terminated during the Summer Season.

At the end of a Summer of yelling, singing, microphone wielding, golf cart driving and wing eating I thought to myself last week that I could not have ended this period of my life on a better note. To be fair, this was not an easy summer. And it may not have even been my personal best as far as emotional health, and certainly not in terms of miles run or hours of sleep attained. However, I came to Camp Friedlander a fed up, stressed out, lonely dork and left six years later as an excited, less stressed, loved and wholly fulfilled dork.

Working on Camp Staff is not a job. It’s a lifestyle. We schedule our entire lives around two months out of the year. We build friendships with people from all over the country and all over the world. We do things other people our age can’t even dream of doing for less money and far less sleep than they’d be willing to. We work, sleep, live, eat, laugh, cry and pray together as a surrogate family that is always willing (in some capacity) to do a good turn for one of their own.

While we all have to leave at some point, I firmly believe that through our collective legacy we are never done here.

Me on the wall, during announcements

Oh, and one last time: Skiggles.