Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Guitar Hero

My entire life I've avoided playing a musical instrument. I can speculate on a lot of reasons why, despite loving listening to my sister play both the guitar and piano. Well, 2 days ago that all changed with Guitar Hero III. I've played the game filled with a bunch of classic rock songs and it's tough. You grip it like a real guitar, strum it like a real guitar, play the whammy bar and use buttons that simulate chords; it's as realistic as a non-guitar player could imagine. So what's interesting about this you ask?

Video games are entertaining but they often leave us feeling void and depressed. Even when I beat a game I don't really have an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. Whatever sense of accomplishment I get from imagining how I'm improving my hand eye coordination quickly diminishes when I realize I'm just living in someone else's puzzle world. It's like talking on the phone only to realize the other voice is just a recorded message.

Second Life was the first time I entered the world of gaming and felt like I had the ability to be creative and impact the environment in which I "existed." It was cool, I built some useless structures, talked to some Italian programmers and flew around a bunch, but my interested faded relatively quickly.

Tonight I got the feeling that we're heading toward an evolution in gaming, a place where we can be part of an environment that will let you engage in meaningful and creative activities. Video games are reaching a point where they are becoming a tool instead of the cage. With that in mind, why doesn't Guitar Hero III have a freestyle jam feature so players can leave the game side to play the guitar freestyle and create their own music?

I'm awful at the game but the fact is it inspired me to start playing an instrument; something I hadn't had interest in for 28 years. Now I want more. The interface got me started, why not help me grow and facilitate an opportunity to create my own music?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A new music experience

Arcade Fire recently released their new album Neon Bible and they've created an interactive music video that is a refreshing and creative online experience. Although they're only scratching the surface, it's surprising that we haven't seen more musicians look online to create ways to engage their fans. They're using the internet the way it should be used.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Influx Ideas Conference 2007

Yesterday Ed Cotton of InfluxInsights hosted The Influx Ideas 2007 Conference. The conference was an opportunity for great minds to converge and discuss the future of branding. There were a few interesting themes that provided insight into how branding is evolving.

- Branding will become more responsible for delivering an emotional experience. "Panasonic embraced an effort to use their technology to create the first battery operated airplane. Communities became passionate about the project and the resulting PR had a tremendous impact on the brand."

- Brands will be expected to provide an all encompassing experience. "Burger King has recently created 3 Xbox games that allows kinds to be entertained while interacting with their brand."

- Brands will be required to deliver genuine value based on what their brand promises. Consumers will seek meaning in what a brand claims. "The Chysler building is a great example of a car company who created an architectural icon that uses their building design to represent the aesthetic of the car."

- Brands must provide transparent sustainability solutions by fundamentally changing practices that are counter intuitive to the green movement. "Those who survive must provide a transparent solution that reveals a commitment to environmental and social responsibility."

- Customization will allow brands to connect with their consumers. An open source approach is important; embracing a consumer's
individuality, creativity and ability to innovate makes the consumer feel like the brand is more a part of who they are.

- Brands will be required to communicate with their consumers not just provide communications to them.

We had the opportunity to hear from Jonah Bloom from Ad Age, Scott Wyatt from NBBJ Architects, Sarah Rich from, Christian Simm from Swiss Next, Kent Nicholas from Ask A Ninja and Gregory Kennedy from Millions of Us. Here's what they had to say:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What You're Hiding

Studying identical twins has always been fascinating. It's such a cool way to test how our environment affects our behavior; but as it turns out, these 'twin' tests may not be very good indicators at all.

We've decoded the human genome but it's only showed us how much more we still have to learn. We're just starting to toy with the findings that explain why humans express certain personality traits while others do not. Specifically, two identical twins may exhibit different personalities or one twin may develop cancer while the other does not. Studies on the epigenome ( a layer of biochemical material that turns genes on and off) are under heavy research. The study sets out to test how the epigenome determines how we develop, look and behave. More interestingly, these characteristics are influenced by environmental factors, meaning there is proof that who we are isn't all about nature.

The study that recently aired on PBS called Ghost In Your Genes talks about the way that a famine experienced by a boy during his young adulthood will influence the personalities of his grandchildren. It comes at an interesting time since I recently started researching my family history on I've realized how little I know about my own family tree; what does that mean to understanding my own future?

The study has some interesting implications regarding the choices we make and how our environment effects our offspring. It makes me wonder if inhaling smoke from the G.I. Joes I burned with my magnifiying glass as a kid is going to affect my grandkids, or if eating a bunch of B-12 vitamins and Folic Acid while you're pregnant can silence bad genes. I never had any doubt that coming from a nurturing family has made me a better acclimated individual, but now I'm wondering how far I can go to coax out the good genes.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Questioning Identity

Doesn't everyone go through a phase at some point in their life where they question their identity? It's a pivotal experience, enabling you to define who you are. This has been a topic of mind recently and one possible idea I'm theorizing is centered on the benefits of having many of these moments where we question our identity. Each new experience allows us to evolve and grow. I'm drawing on a few experience that have all helped me reach this conclusion. A few of them are fasting, watching American Beauty, The End of Suburbia and most recently Into the Wild, taking a few buddhist meditation classes, reading Dawkins' The God Delusion and having some good discussions on the topic. Paraphrasing a quote from Into the Wild, "the 21st century man is defined by the perception of the 20th century career man." Profession and consumption too often become intertwined possessions become part of identity.

Deliberate Living: Conscious attention to the basics of life, and a constant attention to your immediate environment and its concerns, example-> A job, a task, a book; anything requiring efficient concentration (Circumstance has no value. It is how one relates to a situation that has value. All true meaning resides in the personal relationship to a phenomenon, what it means to you).


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Future of Energy

Think for a brief second how America would change if all of our cars instantaneously vaporized. It would be a huge inconvenience, a lot of people would be stranded; but with some major restructuring of our transportation infrastructure we'd no doubt compensate. Now ask yourself what would happen if all of our oil disappeared: no transportation, no energy, no heat, no electricity, no fertilizer, no food, to plastics - life would be paralyzed.

At least that is the impression you get from watching "A Crude Awakening" and "The End of Suburbia." The end of oil won't be abrupt, but it is coming at a faster pace than we realize, especially consider our lack of preparedness. Peak oil is the economic principle that oil supply will plateau and then begin to dwindle at an increasing pace. It's not a theory, it's a fact; fossil fuels will run out in the near future. There is speculation that there will be several severe repercussions that will drastically affect how we live. Oil is not just related to transportation, it affects agriculture, the economic success of city & suburban life, political relationships, the
production of most goods & products and energy as a whole. Both movies are depressing and drive home the same point, we're squandering our resources. We're reaching the end of an oil dependent American empire and haven't considered how we'll transition into an age fueled by a new kind of energy.

The depletion of oil means we will be forced to devise new means of producing energy and implement them in a relatively short time span. Authors like Richard Heinberg "Power Down: Options For A Post Carbon World" and Michael Ruppert "Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire At the End of the Age of Oil" discuss ideas like the Project For the New American Century as well as new urbanism, where cities are devised to be more sustainable and completely walkable. They raise interesting questions like how will we support a huge population without the means to use gas to power farming equipment enabling us to mass produce food and transport it around the country? Do you realize how many products are petroleum based and will suburbs become the new slums? They consider the validity of alternative means of energy like ethanol, hydrogen, nuclear and solar, but are highly skeptical. Despite their negativity, they raise some good questions; questions I think we have started to answer with new solar and battery technology.

In the same way the Inconvenient Truth helped to reiterate underlying faults in our ways of life, these documentaries spell out the fact that the oil wells are drying up and we're ill prepared. To think that there is a very real possibility that our grandchildren will never fly on an airplane is certainly a wake up call. So what can we do, start by becoming less dependent on oil. Learn to live and act locally to become self sufficient and adopt practices that are considerably less dependent on oil. Below is a KQED short on promising new nano solar technology that helps give us all an inkling of hope as we go up in flames.