Monday, December 19, 2011

SAAB Automobiles RIP | 1950 - 2011

Famously born from jet fighter planes, one of the quirkiest, most geeky car companies ever gave it up today. And it was a sad thing.

Sweden's SAAB Automobiles was not, after much time and effort, capable of sustaining its business model nor putting together the kind of deal to keep the company afloat in hard times. Management was in talks with potential Chinese white knights until the last possible moment. Then it all collapsed and the world lost a great and storied auto maker.

The author adored the 1976, red turbo 99 that graced more than one driveway for almost a decade. That was one wonderful car, one of the first to deploy a turbocharger, and a joy to drive and to look at.

So sure-footed on any kind of terrain. So nimble in the turns. So freaking much fun to drive. I can't tell you how many times that car got me out of nasty, slushy snow; or how it could virtually ford small streams. When on a skiing trip to Vail, Colorado, it was not surprising to find the local constabulary equipped with SAAB police cruisers. Uh-huh. That's right.

The best SAAB memory that remains with me these many years later, is driving all day through the southern Oregon forest and finding ourselves at dusk on an unmarked timber road.  But hey, we had the SAAB. No problem.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Celtic Classics

This is the music of my ancestors. Celtic Song. From my personal Youtube channel, this playlist represents my favorites from Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the USA.

The very best place to hear true, roots Celtic music in the Western Hemisphere is at the annual Celtic Colours festival held every Oct. on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island.

A previous series of posts, here and here, document the author's last visit to the festival. The opening video of this playlist features the Beaton Sisters, from a legendary, Cape Breton Island family. It's families like the Beaton's the Rankin's, the MacMasters and the MacGillivray's that are keeping the sound alive and updated.

The Beaton Sisters' Celtic Colours performance below was conducted sometime after midnight on the stage of the Nova Scotia's Gaelic College - the only Gaelic-language college in the Western Hemisphere. It is traditional for most of the musicians who've performed on any day of the week-long festival to cap-off the day with a rousing late-night appearance at the College.  The second video features the very exciting 13 year old Kathleen Gorey-MacSorley. Natalie MacMaster, also from Cape Breton Island, better watch out!

In addition to selections from Celtic Colours, this extensive playlist features a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional Celtic music artists. Young Scot, Julie Fowlis and Irish diva Cara Dillion get special attention and a number of videos each - as they are personal favorites.  But traditionalists won't be disappointed with the likes of Paul Brady, Dougie MacLean, Sean Keane and others. There is no shortage of Jigs, Reels, Strathpeys and waltzes in this, 70-clip playlist. So if you love fiddle, strings, pipes and Sharon Shannon's Concertina, this is the place for you. Comments are encouraged.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Just What Is SteamPunk?

The author's latest passion is for all things "steampunk." Movies, animations, books, music and fashion - all now have steampunk sub-genres. If you love science fiction, brass, leather, fine-wood and all things mechanical, it's like being a kid in a candy store.

There have been a number of attempts to properly define the movement, and many have fallen short. Just what is steampunk?  And where did it come from?   What's up with the whole "Victorian" thing? The video below is one of the best explanations to date.

So Steampunk is a movement loosely organized around retro-science fiction and fantasy expressed through the style, materials and craftsmanship of the Victorian era. Nowhere has that fantasy world been better captured than in the radical MASKS associated with the genre.


Ukrainian artist Bob Basset is the most celebrated.  The author's favorite blog, Boing Boing, has done a fine job of covering Basset's work here and here.

Steampunk has definitely had an impact on fashion. The melding of fantasy Victorian with modern-day technologies - as the Victorians would have implemented them - creates an irresistible science fiction palate that is well-exploited by contemporary fashionistas.


One of the best media for Steampunk themed storytelling is animation. And the seminal animated short film in that regard (author's opinion) is "The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello." A personal favorite, included below.

"A Gentleman's Duel" is another, outstanding animation - recently voted to the YouTube "recommended" list.

Finallly, Steampunk has had a profound affect on music that we're likely to see more of as this movement continues to catch on. Abney Park is the Author's personal favorite Steampunk band. They're the whole package.

When I was a boy, my father was a devoted deep-sea fisherman. He had an all-wood construction fishing boat that slept four. Among his collection of nautical instruments, he had one of those great metal and glass compasses in a wooden box with metal screws. It was mounted inside on it's own cool frame and the top of the box was lined with purple silk inscribed in gold thread. It made quiet an impression on me. He also had one of those bulky but very cool wrist compasses, with a weathered, leather strap. Steampunk makes me feel like I did then, handling his mechanical treasures. Just like I did the first time I saw Captain Nemo's fantastic ship in the early 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea film; or, watched the original Dune.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Trilobyte's RUMI Project

The Poetry of
Jalaluddin Rumi

An appBooktm
Trilobyte Games, LLC


September 30 is the anniversary of the birth of Rumi, one of the great spiritual poets of all history and the best selling poet in the United States. Born in what is modern-day Afghanistan, Rumi fled through Persia to Turkey ahead of the Mongol hoards that later conquered all of Central Asia. Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi is credited as being the greatist dervish of all.
Sufi dervishes use sacred dance and meditation to connect with and to channel the love of God.


Recently, Turkey and Central Asia, where Dervishes continue to whirl in meditative dance to the sacred music of the region, declared 2007 the "Year of Rumi." (image: Rumi's Tomb, Turkey) But most of us know Rumi from his poems, which often focus on love and always reflect insight and an appreciation for great beauty.  This proposed appBook from Trilobyte Games will be our homage to the great poet, to nature, and to love itself. 

go my friend
bestow your love
even on your enemies
if you touch their hearts
what do you think will happen?
Ghazal 838

appBook design notes....

Since Rumi is the best selling poet in the US market virtually every year, there is no shortage of print volumes of his work. Thus, this iDevice appBook will enhance the user experience by combining stunning design; rich media including audio, video & animation; and, technology-driven tools like bookmarks, narration on demand, search and annotation as indicated and appropriate.  For a look at what we have in mind, check out this demo of the "Annotated Alice in Wonderland" that our team developed for W. W. Norton Publishing.

Popular Persian (based in Toronto) band, Niyaz, has agreed to compose original music for the appBook. Fronted by the educated, young & multilingual Azam Ali, Niyaz is very popular on the “worldbeat” scene, as well as with key target audiences for this title/product.  As with many poets (Scottish bard Bobby Burns comes to mind), Rumi’s work has been used as song lyrics for centuries. The addition of Niyaz (Wikipedia) to the equation will make this appBook really pop. It will be a real differentiator, and will drive sales on its own merit.

Other “enhancements” include the presentation of representative pieces of historic, “silk road” artists....some of which are depicted in this document. There is a wealth of fabulous, public domain art available to producers in that regard.

We are currently reaching out to two, highly credentialed academics who specialize in the poetry of Rumi. One in the USA, one in Turkey. We intend to evaluate the value added by collaborating with these recognized experts, and the potential to have them narrate and interpret the material for our users. Both are capable of narrating in at least two languages.


You who are not kept anxiously awake for love's sake, sleep on.
In restless search for that river, we hurry along;
  you whose heart such anxiety has not disturbed, sleep on.

Love's place is out beyond the many separate sects;
  since you love choosing and excluding, sleep on.

Love's dawn cup is our sunrise, his dusk our supper;
  you whose longing is for sweets and whose passion

 is for supper, sleep on.

In search of the philosopher's stone, we are melting like copper;
  you whose philosopher's stone is cushion and pillow, sleep on.

I have abandoned hope for my brain and head; you who wish for
  a clear head and fresh brain, sleep on.

I have torn speech like a tattered robe and let words go;
  you who are still dressed in your clothes, sleep on.

Ghazal 314
Translated by Jack Marshall

Coffeehouse Press, October 1986

If I was not so pitifully in love
I wouldn't then be standing at your door.
Don't say, "Go away, don't stand at my door!"
I wouldn't exist, my dear, if I didn't stand here.
God forbid I'd compare the moon to your face
Or the tall cypress to your stature and grace.
Where in the moon are ruby sweet lips to be found?
What cypress sways with the luminous grace of your ways?

Ah, what was there in the light-giving candle that it set fire to the heart; and snatched the heart away?
You who have set fire to my heart, I am consumed, O friend; come quickly, quickly!
The form of the heart is not a created form, for the beauty of God manifested itself from the cheek of the heart.
I have no succour save in his  sugar, I have no profit save in his lips.
Remember him who one dawn released the heart of mine from the chain of your trees.
My soul, the first time I saw you my soul heard something from your soul.
When my heart drank water from your fountain it drowned in you, and the torrent snatched me away.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

World Cup of Tango

Wait. What?? There's a "World Cup" of Tango? How totally awesome and unexpected is that?

Here's my personal "Tango" playlist from the Pop Impulse YouTube Channel. You knew we had a YouTube channel, right?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Growth of Social Media Infographic

There's been a lot of talk about the growth and significance of social networking. The new, technology-driven communications and connectivity platforms are indeed very powerful phenomenon that changes culture from the bottom up. It is impossible to argue with the rapid growth and utilization of Facebook, Google+, Linked-In, Twitter and other related online services.  I personally love Infographics. Here's a good one that explains where we at with the growth and expansion of SOCIAL NETWORKS.  (Apologies, nothing is wrong with your eyes. Readers will need to click on the image to read it.)

The Growth of Social Media: An Infographic
Source: The Growth of Social Media: An Infographic

Friday, June 24, 2011

Start Up Challenges & The Road to Menlo Park

As many of my readers know, I am a co-founder and the C.O.O. of Trilobyte Games, LLC. Trilobyte develops and publishes digital, entertainment software (games, movies & appBooks) for Apple's hand-held mobile devices. With over 500 million iPhones, iPod Touch devices and iPads in the market, there is no shortage of potential customers. That's why we're there. But I can tell you that operating in Apple's eco-system is a challenge, and starting up as a bootstrapped, self-funded venture is even more challenging. 

In 1992, Trilobyte introduced one of the first two PC games that pioneered full-motion-video: "The 7th Guest." 2 million copies sold at $79.95, grossing approximately  $150 million. After that launch, which drove CD-ROM hardware sales, Trilobyte introduced a sequel: the "11th Hour."The company was dissolved by the two co-founders to pursue other projects. 

Co-founder Rob Landeros went on to produce the industry's first interactive film, Tender Loving Care (TLC) starring John Hurt, with Aftermath Media in 1995.

Last year, Landeros invited me and my colleague John Fricker to join him and re-organize Trilobyte Games, LLC; to bring "The 7th Guest" (T7G), the 11th Hour and other properties to hand-held devices. He proposed we build the content development/production studio of the future.

We self-funded and launched T7G in Dec. 2010, followed-up by the launch of "The 7th Guest: Infection," built from the ground-up for iOS, this Spring. Now we're ready to develop and release "The 7th Guest III: The Collector," a 13-episode prequel that ties the story of Stauf, the mansion and our brand all together. It will feature video, audio, an original score and a stunning environment, along with the mind-bending puzzles we're known for.

We've learned a few things since our Dec. launch. Like how to survive in the Apple eco-system. We've also discovered that we have a strong brand and a loyal fan-base who are anxious for us to succeed. We've updated our web site; built a Facebook page with over 1,000 likes; a branded YouTube channel; and, we've got five Twitter accounts. With resources and networks in place, we're ready to scale our venture up to execute our ambitious content development and market penetration plans.

We've also learned that entertainment software is about more than games; it's about interactive, multimedia content designed to play across the entire spectrum of available devices.  In that regard, we've inked an agreement with Aftermath to port TLC to the iPad and other tablets; and we've got more interactive movies in our queue. We're also talking to a variety of authors, including graphic novel creators, about co-developing what we're calling appBookstm - literature & entertainment 2.0.  Our intent is to offer a comprehensive product line featuring titles in each of these categories: digital games, interactive movies and books.

We are looking to raise $1.5 million to fund our vision.  That figure covers the development of our new games, the port of TLC to the iPad and our first few appBook offerings.  So we're on our way to Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, the home of Silicon Valley's largest cluster of Venture Capitalists, Angels and investment bankers.  I'll be posting progress notes here from time-to-time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Uncontacted Uncontaminated

This video really touched me on so many levels. Did you see Avatar? We can go to the movies and cheer for the pure, indigenous natives while at the same time our own real-world drama is unfolding in the Brazilian rain forest. What you'll see, if you chose to watch, is important in the overall scheme of things. I'm confident that you'll see that too, in spite of all the noise from the pop culture world. Via Jenn at Sealegs. Thanks, Jenn... for posting this video.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Mix of Art and Technology

What do you get when you mashup art, technology, and a room full of geeks? Some mind-boggling eye-candy for starters. Participants in these visual and musical flights of fancy come from the computer art subculture. They spend their days producing demos, writing CGI scripts, laying out design; and generally playing with sound, image and page layout.  When they get really creative, at all-night parties on the fifth floor of the annual Notacon show, this is the result.

Critical Glitch Artware Category .doc[umentary] from Nick Briz on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

AfroPop is Awesome

I'm going to plug my personal YouTube Channel, also called Pop Impulse, with this AfroPop Playlist. It's one of my biggest, and I'm proud of the variety I've been able to uncover and collect. This is why I love YouTube. The Pop Impulse channel has 16 playlists, and about 450 videos. That number changes as I remove vids that are taken down by DMCA notices and add new favorites. I try to change the "featured" video that graces the channel homepage a couple of times a week, so there's always some variety for users. If you head on by and like what you see & hear, please subscribe and leave me a comment.  A couple of years ago, I wrote an extensive post on African music, tracing the origins of my interest. It's here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Raising A Yurt

We recently raised a Yurt on our property to house my youngest daughter and her new family. The work was largely carried out by her SO, his family, a few volunteers, and a few paid tradespersons. The Yurt itself was produced by the country's leading manufacturer of these age-old structures: Pacific Yurts of Cottage Grove, Oregon. It's a peach, a totally wonderful space that shows off the fine materials and construction of the product. Here's what "Campground Management" magazine had to say about the manufacturer.

"In the nearly 30 years since Bair founded his company, Pacific Yurts has maintained its status as the world's leading yurt manufacturing company by continuously implementing technical and structural advancements, adding innovative options and remaining committed to unrivaled customer service." 

 Technically, a Yurt is a temporary, above-ground recreational structure. As such, they are normally afforded special treatment by county permitting and assessing professionals. That can be important. The structures have a history dating back to the Mongolian steppes. Due to their creative design, refined over the years, they can withstand virtually any weather short of exceptional storms like tornadoes and hurricanes. They are relatively easy to raise, and can be dismantled when no longer needed.

There are several notable characteristics of our Yurt. The lattice-like framing that adds so much strength. Augmented by high-tech fabrics and highly refined design. We opted for the heavy weather kit, which added some upright 2X4 supports reinforced with a clever cabling scheme and stout fitting.
The windows are zipped up, the top piece of the dome can be raised from inside to facilitate ventilation. The front door is framed and features a quality lock. We highly recommend Yurts to our friends and families. So far, the structure has proved to be even better than anticipated. Yeah. And it looks so cool.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Does Twitter Make Better Writers?

As anyone who reads my blog already understands, I'm in a long-term love relationship with words. So I tend to be a bit self-indulgent and verbose. I struggle daily with my ongoing weaknesses in that regard. As a mind-worker and wordsmith by trade, I even confess to an affection for semi-colons and proper grammar. Old school? Perhaps, but as I tell my daughters: If you know how to write clearly and compellingly you'll never want for a job.

A Twitter power-user (@DonCarlitos), I'm struck with the potential the micro-blogging service has for improving writing skills in general. Twitter requires users to cram meaning into 140 characters. A good thing, and a lesson in concise language and brevity. 

In 1918, William Strunk, a Cornell University English professor, wrote "The Elements of Style." It has become the definitive book on clear and concise writing, used by schools at all levels especially university journalism programs. In 1959, New Yorker Magazine writer E.B. White - a former student of Strunk's - was asked to update "The Little Book" by publishers Macmillian and Company. According to Wikipedia, "Since 1959 the total sales of three editions of the book, in four decades, exceeded ten million copies."  In the book, Strunk provides a number of rules for writers. The most important, by general consensus, being: "Omit needless words."

I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. Twitter enforces brevity, and rewards the concise.  It makes us "omit needless words." In doing so, the popular social networking tool makes an important, new contribution to producing good writers. Now I'm the first to admit that creative contractions, numbers substituted for words, and too many acronyms are also hallmarks of Twitter. But I chose to overlook those and focus on Twitter's positive contributions to written language. Let me know in the comment section if you agree. (Good Writer's Tip Sheet).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kinetic Sculpture

I have unusual tastes in art. I like art that you can feel; fabrics, hand-woven masterpieces, glass, and a lot of sculpture. Fine art? Not so much. Oh, I've enjoyed the Baroque painters, the great Flemish masters at museums all over Europe. But not as much as stumbling on a fantastic tribal carpet, Indian blanket or blown-glass vase.

Today, my friend and business partner John Fricker suggested I take a look at Kinetic sculpture, and he pointed me to this Make TV video. I was impressed, and I think you will be too.

Ruben Margolin is a Bay Area artist and mechanical engineer who must love math as much as he loves art. I am impressed with his focus on nature, and his fascination with duplicating natural dynamics in his work. He succeeds, which is awesome by itself. His ability to observe natural wave forms and reproduce them is nothing short of genius. Here he is giving a talk at PopTech in 2009.

Monday, March 28, 2011

There's Something About A Girl and a Harp

There's just something about a girl and a harp. Especially when that girl is Joanna Newsome. Born and reared in arty Nevada City, a mountainside village which inexplicably is in California next to Grass Valley, Newsome is the daughter of two doctors, attended a Waldorf school, and was then home schooled to keep her from the all the crap in the cultural environment. We won't hold that against her, as it appears to have worked.

Her music is original, fresh, and frankly irresistible. If you listen to much of it, you'll find that it sticks with you. Catchy tunes, thoughtful and offbeat lyrics, and some musical nuances that will impress even hardened critics. Her voice is youthful and unique, and there are those who don't take to it. The author loves the sound of her voice, paired with her ever-present harp. She brings something entirely her own to performances, untainted by outside influence, pure and heartfelt. In a word, she is genuine.  The real deal.

Here's another I love: The Sprout & The Bean. She weaves a story with images & visuals in this well-produced video. Complex on many levels.

If you like these videos, check out my YouTube channel, the "indy" playlist, for more good tunes. #JoannaNewsome