New web comedy series offers smart online entertainment for women:
With their catering business floundering, Janis and Sue are drawn into the strange world of small-time repossession, which sometimes requires a woman’s touch.
Sweet Tarts Takeaway is both a web series and an online user community that can follow the Tarts’ zany adventures in weekly-five-to-ten-minute episodes, character blogs, and special recipes from local chefs.
Sterling Lynch wrote a guest post over at Unfolding on the topic of arts versus arts marketing. For me, one of the things that stood out in his post is his suggestion that a shared focus on the goal of exhibiting art aligns the efforts of artists and arts marketers.
The notion of “focus”, and the idea that his post might be seen as “fundamental marketing information” in almost any other context, got me thinking about something else. You’re going to have to bear with me, now, as I lead you through some possibly-repulsive material in order to arrive at my point.
Much of the modern theatre world is slow to pick up on things (like the basics of marketing, for example… but I digress). Included among those things is the embrace of modern communications tools (I refuse to say “social media”, even though I’m now going to use Twitter as my primary example.. but I digress again).
When I talk to theatre friends and other artists about why they don’t use services like Twitter, I get a spectrum of familiar responses: I just don’t see the point; it’s so banal; nobody says anything interesting; etc. Those of us who have worked successfully with a tool like Twitter grin-and-bear these responses because we understand that Twitter is not a destination; its value is intrinsic in its definition as a tool. It is a merely a means to an end.
The “ends” or goals I set for my use of Twitter are aligned with my goals for living a well-rounded life: use it to meet people who share my interests; find out about interests I didn’t know I had; keep on top of discussions that interest people, and participate in those discussions as best I can. Small successes lie in using Twitter to connect with people I would not have otherwise met. Massive successes lie in using those connections to facilitate real-life interactions, where I get to be in the same physical space as the person I met online, talking or playing or creating or debating or volunteering or working.
When I line up my “Twitter goals” alongside my goals as an artist, I can’t help but notice an alarming similarity. Which brings me to another parallel thought, and my point: theatre is also just a tool.
I’m oversimplifying, now, but let me lay this out as basically as I can. Just as people who are frustrated or bored with Twitter get that way because they use Twitter just for Twitter’s sake, people who are frustrated or bored with theatre get that way because they use theatre just for theatre’s sake. In order for the form to be useful, it must not be the end, but the means to the end. To ignore the notion that theatre must exist to effect something is to bolster the claims of many people who don’t go to the theatre, when asked why they don’t go to the theatre: I just don’t see the point; it’s so banal; nobody says anything interesting; etc.
I’ve been reading a great deal of depressing commentary on the nature and utility of art (for a meaty and supremely filling meal of such commentary, check out the most recent Lapham’s Quarterly). One of the most common ideas that has come up in this reading is the feeling that art of all kinds must now be completely commodified in order to “succeed”; it therefore serves no driving societal purpose. You see it in how the impact of a painting is measured in terms of its monetary value; you see it in a culture that predominantly thinks actors should just act, and stay out of the worlds of commentary and politics.
This is, in many ways, a trap that has been forged for us by the forces that shape our western culture. But it’s also a trap in which many theatre artists toil blindly, responding by using the medium to “connect” with society — as if that is its intent — instead of using it to mold and guide society. The symptoms are myriad, evident in everything from the idea that “real” theatre can only take place in a theatre, to the idea that the way to market theatre is to advertise work to existing theatregoers. Theatre creators all over North America are in the business of building screwdrivers, and have forgotten why people need screwdrivers.
Theatre — like all technology — is just a tool. This is something we used to know, but seem to have forgotten. The roots of this amnesia date back decades: in the immortal words of Bertolt Brecht (or was it Mayakovsky?), “art is not a mirror to hold up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it.”
I’m rather pleased with myself for making this observation. My problem now — my crisis — is that I have no idea how to move from seeing the hammer to knowing how to hold it, wield it, and start driving some nails. I don’t even know if the hammer is the right tool for the job I want to do.
Saturday, May 8th from 2-5 p.m.
Walk the streets of Somerset West as you take in dazzling contemporary local art, mixed in with Chinatown’s traditional shops and restaurants.
One of the highlights of this year’s festival is an interactive lighting display by The Latest Artists — Ottawa’s dynamic artistic duo.
The Latest Artists have created Twitter-enabled light boxes. These unique pieces feature custom-built circuits and hand-made acrylic frames.
Using a mobile phone, audiences will be able to interact with the art by sending messages to Twitter (using the hash tag #CTRM).
Thanks to creative custom software, audience messages will be instantly displayed as text scrolling across the lightbox screens. Strobe lights, placed near the boxes, will flash when the message appears, altering audiences their Tweet is coming through.
When no one is sending a Tweet, the light boxes will display scrolling fortune cookie messages, lucky numbers, and animated geometric patterns. Previous Tweets will also be saved and randomly displayed, serving as an archive of audience experiences over the month-long exhibition.
Giving audiences the ability to comment and connect through lighting art with Twitter is a novel interactive experience, providing global reach to the local Chinatown Remixed event.
The Latest Artists’ Twitter-enabled light boxes will be on display at the Oriental Charm Gift Shop (located at 653 Somerset Street West) from May 8 – June 8, 2010.
This post originally appeared on Susan Murphy’s blog, Suzemuse.
In the online world, Content is King….and everyone wants a turn on the throne. Competition for eyeballs is fiercer than ever, and with such an influx of information hitting everyone all the time, it can be pretty discouraging for the average content creator like you and me to even know where to start. How can I even compete with the top sites out there? How is anyone even going to know about my blog or podcast, let alone stay interested in it?
It’s enough to make even the most prolific media maker want to go back to just passively watching re-runs of LOST and CSI Miami on the couch.
So how do you rise above? How do you make sure your content is kick-ass enough to get noticed? Well, there are plenty of articles and seminars out there that will show you how to get the eyeballs you desire fast. Some of them have valuable tips, but others, I find, are focused on the wrong things. Like anything in new media, it’s not about how many eyeballs you get, it’s about the quality of those eyeballs.
Stop with the viral, already. There are plenty of companies out there that will tell you that they can help you make the next viral video. They guarantee you 20,000 views in 1 week, or your money back. They tell you that they, and only they, have the secret formula for getting everyone in the world to see what you’ve got. These people are nothing but glorified spammers. Run away, run away! There are inherent problems with companies who claim to be able to make “viral” content.
The fact is, viral videos are not made, they happen. Do you think that the Evolution of Dance guy intended to get 141,000,000 views on YouTube? Do you think anyone tried to make Susan Boyle an Internet sensation? Of course not. Content becomes popular because people can relate to it, and because when content moves people, they are compelled to share it with others. Evolution of Dance worked because what that guy did was pretty original, and it spoke to several generations at once. Susan Boyle worked because she has a great story – the ultimate underdog with an incredible, and unexpected talent. Compelling content makes popular content. It’s that simple.
Get over yourself. I swear, if I hear one more person try to tell me that they “don’t have anything interesting to say”, I’m going to snap. Everyone has a story, including you. It can be a challenge to draw out exactly what that story is, and being able to tell stories naturally takes practice. So how do you figure it out? Well, I just went through an exercise a few weeks ago that was insanely useful.
I was put in a position where I had to trace back my working life to the beginning (I mean, like when I was 11 years old), and then figure out all of the highlights of my professional life to date, including work accomplishments, awards, and community involvement. It was a really daunting task, but as I started working on it, I realized that I was telling a story. I was digging up memories of past experiences and people that I hadn’t thought about in years. And once I was finished, and was reviewing it, I was able to see very clearly where my strengths lie. I knew my story, and I was able to extract from that some new things to share. You can do this too – it’s a great way to learn about yourself, and you’ll get more ideas than you know what to do with, I promise.
Stop telling yourself that you have nothing to contribute. Just sit your butt down, turn on that video camera, or start typing, or start painting, or go take those pictures. Do the things that speak to you (notice I said “things”). Don’t get hung up on the technology. Go to wordpress.com or tumblr.com and post your stuff. Tell your Facebook friends about it, if you’re on Facebook. Tell you Twitter pals, if you’re there. Or just email your Mom and your best friend with the link. The process of publishing content and then having others read it (even if it’s only a handful of people to start) is a little nerve wracking at first, but you get used to it. Eventually, it becomes extremely rewarding and even exciting. So, starting now, no more excuses. Butt in chair. Hit Record. Type. Click. Publish. Contribute.
It takes time. There’s no quick fix, no easy route to “getting” people to pay attention to your content. But that doesn’t mean you should give up if only 3 people (your Mom, your best friend and your spouse) are reading your blog or looking at your photos. I’ve been blogging since 2008 and I can tell you, my Mom and my husband (well, maybe not even him!) were the ONLY people who were reading my stuff for at least the first 6 months. But I kept doing it, because I was enjoying the process. Eventually, others started to take notice. Imagine my excitement when I got my first comment from a complete stranger!
Along my path of content creation, I was learning a TON about how all these different tools worked, and I was figuring out how to connect all of my efforts. I was reading other content voraciously, and that was giving me new ideas, and new things to experiment with. Does it take a long time? You’re damn right it does. If I had a nickel for every time Greg says to me, “Are you STILL on the computer?”, I’d be a rich woman.
There’s no “I want to do” in new media. There’s only “I am doing”. The people that you see succeeding in touching people with their content are not sitting around talking about publishing content. They are doing it. A LOT.
If you think you don’t have time, because of that full time job, a few kids, or all those re-runs of LOST you need to catch up on, then you need to rethink how your hours are prioritized. We all have 24 hours in a day, and kids sleep and eventually you go home from work. If you really, REALLY want this, you have to grab it by the teeth and just do it.
No more excuses, ok? Now go make some content, and once you’ve hit Publish leave your link in the comments.
Photo credit add1sun on Flickr
There seems to be a shift happening in the midsts of our livingrooms. While some advanced techies might know, while the rest have no idea, is the fact that you can own a all-in-one Home Entertainment PC for under $450 and they’re called HTPCs. That’s the price of a PS3 or an Xbox360(plus a few games) and also the price I just sold my old Apple PowerBook G4 laptop for. I sold it because it could not run YouTube at its lowest quality anymore, nor could it ever run any HD movies. So I bought a PS3, thinking it could do all of that. Turns out, it doesn’t. It doesn’t read .MKV files (standard HD files you find online) and doesn’t play very well with my network harddrive, where I keep all my photos, music and movies. Nor does it load Revision3.com to watch my online streaming content.
This is what I was looking for in a home theater personal computer setup:
So I get my research on and find the sweetest little systems, and I found them on TigerDirect.ca. I’m currently looking at a few different boxes, but these ones are winning:
$316.99 – Asus AT3N7A comes with:
$290.99 Zotac IONITX-B-E comes with:
See any resemblances? So, after all that, I kept the Blu-ray and ended with just a bit over my $450 limit; $475.65 with tax. I’m skipping out on the bluetooth keyboard/trackpad for now, that’s another $80 Canadian. I’ll wait till they get cheaper. For now, I’m using a wireless keyboard+mouse (not bluetooth), and it’s a little frustrating at times. I’ll see what I can do with my Apple remote though.
There were other suggestions including Popcorn Hour. A great media center that plays all of your HD and network needs at a super affordable price starting at $179 right up to $361 and look really good next to your TV. The only con about the Popcorn Hour is that you can’t browse the net, but you can stream from popular internet tv sites as in SHOUTcast™ Radio, Blip.tv, Revision 3 and dozens of other online content sources. Probably does Flixster as well.
There’s also Nettops like the Acer Aspire REVO. Some like them, some don’t. Those who like them, love them. Good price, does what it says it does. Can’t install Blu-Ray drives in them.
Once I buy my Zotac, I’ll be going through a few Media Centers. XBMC vs Windows Media Center vs anything I can find.
Foursquare has recently expanded to 50 new cities, including our own. It’s being touted as next year’s Twitter, so now is your chance to be an early adopter. It’s also your chance to get a head start on being the mayor of as many spots as possible.
What is Foursquare?
Foursquare (http://foursquare.com/) is a location-based social media site, a game and a travel guide all in one. You “check in” to a location from a list of nearby places from your mobile device or browser. The person who has checked into a location the most times becomes its “mayor”, and can be ousted as often as someone overtakes their visits. You can also leave shouts, tips and things to do for future visitors, and create “to do” lists for places you’d like to check out in the future. You can earn points and badges when you achieve certain goals, much like in Brownies or Scouts (for example, I earned the “newbie” badge when I checked in for the first time, and “crunked” once I had been to four places in one night). If a location doesn’t already exist, you can create it. Your Foursquare account can also be linked to your Twitter and Facebook accounts to let everyone know when you have checked in, become mayor, or unlocked a badge (don’t worry, these settings are customizable so that you don’t end up spamming everyone).
Having grown up in the digital age, aware of the dangers that can be lurking, my second thought after “Neat-o!” was “Gee, that’s kind of creepy.” A newcomer to Foursquare myself, I still have a lot to explore, but I have thrown together a few tips to help you out:
1. You probably shouldn’t update your location if you are alone in a secluded area.
2. Make your icon a picture of you surrounded by a mass of big, burly men and amazonian women… and dogs with really sharp teeth and foaming mouths. Or just choose a non-identifying image.
3. It’s probably not a good idea to add your home address to the list of locations and proceed to “check in” every time you get home.
4. Fake left, then go right. Foursquare allows you to update your location from wherever you are (for now).
5. Update on your way out. If someone is following you, they wouldn’t have enough time to get there and accidentally “bump” into you.
6. You can check in to places with the option of hiding your whereabouts, so it will still count towards your badges and points. Remember – your cyberstalkers are only as good as the information you put out there for them.
The curse of the early adopter
Remember, Foursquare is still new in the area, and much like Twitter, it is only as fun as the friends you surround yourself with. Aren’t you glad you stuck with Twitter past that awkward phase? The more acquaintances you have participating, the more fulfilling it is for all of you. It is also a great opportunity to meet new like-minded individuals who enjoy the same things as you. I strongly suggest that you be patient as Ottawa works out its kinks and builds up its community. So tell all your friends about it, tweet about it, blog about it, and let’s start having fun. As with “real” life, the more you put into your community, the more you will get out of it.
It’s satisfying to see a great idea bear fruit.
Four years ago, I sat at a bistro table at the Novotel’s Café Nicole with other motivated members of the outreach committee of the Council for the Arts in Ottawa (CAO), drafting an ideal arts awards scenario that would adequately celebrate and encourage the work and careers of local artists who made the seemingly insane decision to make Ottawa, in place of T.O. or Montreal, their artistic base. Four years of lobbying work later (and two years after I amicably stepped down from the board to pursue motherhood), we have that scenario.
This week, the CAO announced the expansion of its Mid-Career Artist Award program as well as the creation of a new award for emerging artists and an arts award lunch.
Beginning in 2010, instead of a mid-career award and a $1,000 cash prize going to one recipient, three mid-career awards will go to one winner who receives a $5,000 cash prize with two finalists receiving $1,000 each. The same formula will apply to the new RBC Emerging Artist Award co-founded by the CAO and the Royal Bank of Canada.
Fear not, the CAO will still be adjudicating the jewel in its awards crown, the Victor Tolgesy Artist Award given to an individual whose contribution to the local arts community has been significant. Its recipient list reads like a who’s who of Ottawa artists and arts champions: Penny McCann, Julian Armour, Jennifer Dickson, Ian Tamblyn, Paulette Gagnon, Tom Henighan, the list goes on.
All three sets of awards plus the Council’s Business Recognition Awards will be presented in a new format at the CAO Arts Award Lunch presented by RBC.
So how can you celebrate this good fortune?
Nominate an artist. Heck, nominate three. It is one of the greatest compliments you can give them.
But before you nominate, please read the criteria for each award which are available on the CAO’s website. (Because I know you’re asking yourself, “What the heck is a mid-career artist, anyway?”)
Nomination forms are available by calling (613) 569-1387, emailing email@example.com, or by downloading the nomination form.
The deadline for all three awards is December 15, 2009.
Good luck. Merde.
For a variety of reasons, I have a large network of friends on Facebook, including some people that I’ve never actually met in person, and others I haven’t seen in years.
Still, although we don’t always communicate directly, I feel like I know them all.
Over time, through my random encounters with their status updates, their lives take on a coherent form, one that has an actual presence in my life. In a very passive way– not entirely unlike absorbing the ambient gossip at the local corner store– I find out who is going through a tough time or training for a race, or who might be falling in love or looking forward to a walk in the sun.
However, more important that the particulars of a life, is the general point of view, the general disposition toward the world, that each person unwittingly reveals. Although you don’t find out how people interact with the world, you do find out how they interpret the world around them. In a weirdly sincere and poetic way, you discover character.
Some people are habitually angry, always pissed off at the government or the forces that caused the hot water heater to break. Other people reveal themselves frustrated and tired, exhausted by the demands of their children, while others, the vast majority, express gratitude and optimism for the small pleasures of the day.
Sam thanks everybody for the generous birthday wishes.
Lucy thinks life is pretty sweet when you can sit outside in the sun drinking coffee with a friend.
Benedict is wondering what it means when a small dog stashes all her kibble in a slipper.
Christine is enjoying CBC radio and the smell of soup on the stove while she does some administrative paperwork—all is good.
I’ve always taken great solace in these people, and have grown very fond of their quiet and benevolent presence. When I see their avatar pop up, I feel like they’re quietly sitting in the room with me, and I get the same comfort from them that I would get from seeing a familiar neighbour out, once again, raking the leaves.
Michael Murray also blogs at: http://www.michaelmurray.ca/blog/