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
Crowd at a concert

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.

A Calendar App Could (Should) be Facebook’s Next Move

February 5, 2014
Facebook Calendar

Facebook Calendar

The iOS app store seems to have a new replacement for the default Calendar app on the front page every other day. Personally, I have no issues with the onboard app thanks to a clever workaround to sync it with Google Calendar, but it’s becoming obvious that many people want something either more feature heavy or minimalist or aesthetically interesting. And so, in the wake of Facebook’s recent announcement that it wants to expand it’s mobile strategy to include multiple single feature apps rather than one bloated one, it seems obvious that the social networking giant move into the calendar app space.

The question is, what will Facebook do to make their calendar replacement different from the hundreds of other options in the App Store and Google Play? Well, as we’ve seen with their purchase of Instagram, the launching of “Poke” in hopes to beat out Snapchat and their appropriation of Flipboard’s aesthetic (as well as another successful app’s name) for Paper they aren’t above playing dirty. The way I see it there are three options here:

The Good Option

Facebook could seriously innovate in the calendar space on their own. Events are already a core component of their network, and an overhaul of that system spearheaded by the launch of a standalone calendar app could really strengthen their identity as the go-to social tool for your real-life network of friends and family.

The Bad Option

Facebook could buy up other calendar apps and combine their features into a Facebook-ified mega-app. In particular I’m thinking they might be interested in the Scheduler feature built-into Canary. This could easily be incorporated into Facebook’s existing Events system and scheduling requests could be sent through Message. I can also see the acquisition of Peek specifically for its interface.

The Ugly Option

Facebook could cut support for its events feature to all other calendar apps on the release of their own app. This would probably go over about as well as Twitter’s cutting support for Instagram when Zuckerberg bought the photo-sharing service, but it would definitely guarantee them some market share. Excluding other apps from a service relying on membership to your own site seems like a bad move even for Facebook, but I wouldn’t necessarily put it past them with the amount of over-crowding in this space.

Paper is What I Hope Facebook Becomes

February 3, 2014
Screenshot of Facebook on Desktop

Every time I open Facebook on my laptop I’m blown away by how cluttered and inconvenient the design is. Despite (or perhaps because the site is used by more than a billion people, it is one of the most difficult on the web to navigate. There are a myriad of menus, entirely too many links on four different side-bars (if you count the persistent header), and the content sandwiched in between all of these extraneous “resources” is never  organized in an understandable order.

Screenshot of Facebook on Desktop

All of that being said, everyone I care about is on Facebook, and I do a lot of my work there (both academically and professionally) so I continue to use it constantly. And I think that may be the issue. Most people I talk to hate the site’s design (and the apps aren’t much better), but they use it because it has become the cultural mainstay. Today’s launch of Paper, Zuck and company’s answer to newsreaders like Flipboard, we may finally be on the way to a more user friendly UI and a site that gives us what we want without a bunch of junk we haven’t needed since High School.

Paper’s simple, yet effective, side scrolling interface shows you each post or article form your friends (in the news feed section) or publications (in the interest sections) as individual Twitter-style cards. Tapping a card opens the story which can then be expanded to full text or viewed as a summary. You can comment, like and share just as you would anywhere else in Facebook, but these  buttons are subtly placed in small toolbar at the bottom of the card. And that’s it. No sidebars, no groups, no “pokes”, just the stories and the calls to action.

Screenshot of Facebook's Paper App

I played with Paper for about thirty minutes this afternoon and I’ve already enabled the setting to route all of my Facebook Notifications through it rather than the default app. In fact, between Paper, Messenger and Pages Manager (for Brand pages) I may not have to open the default app for anything other than adding new friends now. And I am completely okay with that. I love the connections I have on Facebook, and I’m over the moon with the addition of a simple, minimalist interface for managing them. I can only hope that this design proves popular enough to make the transition to the desktop site.

Apple’s Most Forward-Thinking & Game Changing Phone(s) Yet

September 12, 2013
The iPhone 5c in it's five bright colors.

This Tuesday Apple held their semi-annual iPhone event during which they announced the latest in their line of immensely popular smartphones. The computing giant announced two models this year (as opposed to their traditional one per event); the feature-heavy iPhone 5s and the ‘budget-priced’ iPhone 5c. During the announcement they flaunted the 5s as their most “forward-thinking” phone yet, a title being picked up by all sorts of tech blogs that is quite accurate considering the company’s previous releases. What fewer people are discussing is how the 5s is thinking ahead of others in the field, and how game changing the announcement of the 5c is.

The Forward-Thinking iPhone 5s

The iPhone 5s in it's three colors: white, gold and black. (Courtesy of Apple, Inc.)

So, how is a device released by one of the largest and longest-running smartphone manufacturers any more forward-thinking than their six previous devices? For the first time, Apple is releasing a device with features that aren’t available anywhere else on the market yet.

The iPhone 5s, with it’s new Apple A7 processor will be the world’s first 64-bit smartphone. For those who don’t speak tech, this means that it will be able to run highly intensive apps that other phones won’t and it will run faster and harder in the paint than a traditional 32-bit smartphone like the iPhone 5 and previous models. While this high intensity processor is sure to cause a massive drain on battery life, it’s the sort of thing that makes techies salivate and wait in line even earlier in anticipation of release day.

The 5s also has a built-in motion sensor, which may not seem like a huge deal, until you consider the app they’re developing with Nike (Nike + Move) that is set to track users’ fitness, sleep and other habits through said sensor for healthier living. Now, you’re probably thinking that this isn’t all that big of a deal since devices like the FitBit and the Jawbone Up already serve these purposes. That’s just the thing though, with the 5s you won’t need to wear a clip on peripheral or a bracelet. The same functionality is packed into a device you already carry everywhere anyway. I fully expect this functionality to be phased into all smartphones and put companies like FitBit completely out of business.

Beyond that there are huge improvements in the camera including a dual-tone flash designed to give off a more natural light and a built-in slow-motion video capture mode. These features as well as the purported slight improvement in battery life, are about what we expected and are the sorts of things most phone manufacturers add when they upgrade. However, Apple did take a recent smartphone functionality trend and push it to a new level this time around, which is somewhat out of their character as well. A number of Android devices released recently have included fingerprint scanners for security purposes, but with the iPhone 5s users can tie their fingerprint to their App Store account. Meaning that their unique fingerprint is required for purchases made from their phone. This kind of password-free security could be what it takes to make apps like Passbook and Google Wallet actually appealing to the general public for the first time.

The combination of uniquely innovative features and brand-new applications for new(ish) hardware features definitely supports Apple’s claim that the iPhone 5s is their “most forward-thinking” phone. This not only increases the buzz for the upcoming device’s release, but sets a powerful precedent for all future iPhone reveals.

The Game Changing iPhone 5cThe iPhone 5c in Green. (Courtesy of Apple, Inc.)

For the longest time Apple stated they had no intention of developing a cheaper iPhone marketed at a budget demographic. I can’t help but think that the reasoning behind this was the fact that iPhones are quite the status symbol in America. Owning an iPhone over any number of Android devices carries a connotation of higher social influence, affluence and/or technological awareness depending on the individual and various other factors. A close non-tech industry friend of mine from high school tweeted after the announcement that she thought the iPhone 5c looked tacky and that she would probably judge the first person she saw carrying the plastic-backed iDevice. This says quite a lot about the social sway iPhones have on the smartphone market.

Why then would Apple release a device that will appear tacky or second-rate? I think they’re playing the long game here and thinking internationally. At the end of August, Samsung held the highest market share of smartphones in India, one of the world’s largest countries and one with a developing economy (in comparison to the US at least). Apple didn’t even place in the top five. With a half-price iPhone, Apple could easily tap into markets in countries like India while simultaneously broadening their appeal in the United States and slowly pushing back their elitist reputation. It’s essentially a win-win.

The other game-changing element to the 5c actually comes in the form of it’s bright colors and (potentially) tacky design. Look at the phones. Don’t they just jump out as the next big ticket Christmas gift? The iPhone 5c isn’t just a budget iPhone, it’s an entry level iPhone. Competitively priced with entry-to-mid-level Androids, the 5c is perfect for Johnny’s first smartphone. And I can just hear my not-so-little-anymore cousins (13 and 14) pleading with their  parents to buy them pink iPhones this holiday season. Sure the 5c may seem tacky or second-rate to college students and young professionals, but their younger siblings and cousins are going to be begging for them.

The iPhone 5c is dramatically widening the demographic range for the iPhone and thus exponentially increasing Apple’s potential sales. It’s honestly one of the smartest moves I’ve seen in tech all year.

“Brainfreeze”; A Kick Like You’ve Never Felt Before

September 6, 2013
Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow pose with 45 inch records in a 7 Eleven for the cover of "Brainfreeze".

During the late 90’s a strange thing was happening in Hip Hop music. Subject matter was shifting away from socially-conscious and community minded lyrics to more self-aggrandizing “Gangsta” style writing. On the fringes of the genre however, some of the most interesting experimentation in it’s brief history was happening unbeknownst to much of the general public. In 1996, DJ Shadow released his groundbreaking debut LP, “Endtroducing…”, the first full-length to be created from entirely sampled material according to Guinness World Records. Around the same time, another West Coast DJ, Cut Chemist, was producing Instrumental Hip Hop 7″s in addition to his work with Jurassic 5. In 1999, the two joined forces for a dual-headlining tour in support of their instrumental work. During the rehearsals for this tour, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist cut a live to tape LP entitled “Brainfreeze”.

The mix combines the styles of each DJ, with funk-flavored grooves out of Cut Chemist’s wheelhouse and vocal samples so obscure they can barely be attributed, brought to the table by DJ Shadow. The opening section of the tape is based around audio from a trailer for a kung-fu film produced by the defunct Cannon Group entitled Thunder Kick, which never even had a theatrical release. This vocal is laid over a funky re-imagining of the opening them from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Oddysey, a dramatic opening for an inspiring piece of underappreciated post-modernism.

The rest of the mix combines various genres (primarily funk) with aspects of 1990s Turntablism and the hybrid genre Trip Hop (a combination of electronic music and hip hop). It’s 52 minute run-time (with a break halfway through only for the benefit side change of a vinyl record) seems intimidating if you’re unfamiliar with the genre or mix-tapes as a musical format. However, it’s an enthralling listen that flies by and leaves you wanting more of its bizarre aesthetic.

DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist would go on to produce two more collaborative mix-tapes (2001’s “Product Placement” and 2007’s “The Hard Sell”) all of which were only distributed at live shows and are thus out of print (though they’re fairly easy to find on YouTube and fan forums). However, “Brainfreeze” being the original is perhaps the most significant in that it was the first tape produced in this live format by these two skillful DJs simultaneously cueing tracks on multiple turntables and samplers and then playing them off of one another to create a smooth cohesive hour-long mix.

Cincinnati Summer Concerts 2013–An Infographic

April 3, 2013

I can’t afford to go to all of the concerts I want to this summer. So I made an infographic to help my friends and I make the decision. I’ll probably go with either a combo of one average show and the Of Montreal show, or just one of the big festival shows.

Cincinnati went from not getting any good alt-rock shows when I was in high school to getting tons of them each summer now that I’m in college. I think part of it is the rise of touring as a revenue source for musicians, but there are also now much nicer venues in Cincy thanks to renovations and the construction of the Horseshoe this year. What show(s) are you excited about this year?

via Tumblr