Archive for July, 2006

Culture’s Best

Monday, July 17th, 2006

What can one learn from the World Cup? Head-butting is bad; passing is good; defense is even better; and, staying calm and serene when approaching the ball in penalty kicks is best. However, these lessons aren’t the ones we, or at least most of us, can easily apply to our daily lives. Is there something more that demonstrates why the Italians are so good and be applicable to the rest of us?

The answer appears to be culture. According to an article in the U.K.’s The Telegraph, the Italians’ devotion to good food, slower lifestyle, and more time for leisure all add up to a better way of living and doing better in life.

In comparison to the Telegraph’s home based audience, Italian men and women stay healthier longer — ten years for men and fourteen years for the women. The Italian government spends significantly more money on the quality of school lunches. Food is also the top expenditure in an Italian household.

Meals are an occasion. As opposed to many of us that eat, literally, on the run or in a few bites at our desks, Italians are more likely to go home for lunch and then take a nap. Already, don’t you get the sense you, too, would improve your ball passes with this approach to daily life? Food is not the only sacred element.

The average work week in the UK is 43.6 hours. In Italy it is 38.5. Don’t you think you, too, would play better defense with this approach to the work week?

For one of the Telegraph’s stats I have no idea how they found it, but it’s in the Telegraph so let’s believe it: More than 25% of the journeys in Italy are made by walking, as opposed to only 12% in England. You see the connection. A leisurely stroll, an even pace, an unhurried approach. Now, don’t you think your PKs would improve?

Anyone who enjoys making an occasion of a meal, putting their working life in perspective, and taking a stroll to see and hear the world around us is someone who is going to be in a festival audience time and time again. In other words, success can come from simply enjoying life and each other.

- Bill Reichblum

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Interview: Haresh Sharma (Part 1)

Monday, July 17th, 2006

Photo: Haresh Sharma (1)Haresh Sharma is the Resident Playwright of The Necessary Stage, and Co-Artistic Director of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival. He has written more than 50 plays which have been staged in Singapore, Glasgow, Birmingham, London, Dublin, Cairo, Melbourne, Busan, Seoul and New Delhi. He has been awarded fellowships and grants by the British Council, the United States Information Service and Asia-Europe Foundation, and was conferred the Young Artist Award in 1997. Among his published collections of plays, Still Building was awarded the Singapore Literature Prize and the Singapore Book Prize. His play Off Centre has recently been selected by Singapore’s Ministry of education as one of the literature texts for both O and N levels, the first Singaporean play to earn this distinction.

In this, the first part of a two-part interview, Haresh talks about the M1 Festival, its goals, and its relationship to its audience.

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Mouse Potato Googles Spyware

Sunday, July 9th, 2006

Cultural changes are captured in time when a word or expression moves from slang to adoption in standard dictionaries. So, what’s news in our culture? Google is now a verb.

To google and googling have been added to this year’s new words for Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. The standard use will be to use the words in lower case, although the upper case is provided in the dictionary’s etymology of the word.

Google, the company, is concerned about the dimming of its own brand name as the word “google” becomes ubiquitous for online searching no matter which search engine one uses. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) added Google as a verb in its new list on June 15, but kept the word in the uppercase. (Google wants to avoid those who drink a coke while xeroxing their kleenex.)

I wonder how this will play out in other languages. It was not that long ago that the French government rushed to defend world literature from Google’s plan to digitize books because of the implied bias for books in English. (Word to look out for in 2007, from the French press: “omnigooglization.”)

Will “google” be rejected as another American-generated expression for use around the world? Or, will “google” be accepted in our new reality of an online world: a world of direct communication, and one without borders?

If you are struggling with whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, look at history. In Merriam-Webster’s first edition (1806) of words to move from American slang to dictionary acceptance, the list included: debit, presidential, and publicity.

In Ancient Greek philosophy, something did not exist until it was named. Just imagine what our world would be like if we did not have these three signifiers.

On the other hand, that same edition also added a word we celebrate: surf!

Maybe history will show that “google” is not the most significant new entry this year. The other new words and phrases for 2006 include:

  • aquascape
  • big-box
  • drama queen
  • labelmate
  • manga
  • mouse potato
  • polyamory
  • qigong
  • ringtone
  • sandwich generation
  • soul patch
  • spyware
  • supersize
  • unibrow

A KadmusArts prize goes to the best entry using all of these new words and phrases in one paragraph about the arts festival life.

- Bill Reichblum

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Interview: Sekou Sundiata

Sunday, July 9th, 2006

Photo: Sekou SundiataSekou Sundiata is a poet and performance artist who has created several acclaimed theater works. His most recent recording, Long Story Short, was released by Righteous Babe Records. His performance works include: The Circle Unbroken is a Hard Bop, which toured throughout the U.S. and received three AUDELCO Awards and a BESSIE Award; The Mystery of Love, commissioned and produced by New Voices/New Visions at Aaron Davis Hall in New York and the American Music Festival in Philadelphia; and Udu, a music theatre work produced at 651 ARTS, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, and the Walker Art Center amongst other venues. Most recently, he was part of the Vision Festival in New York, and this coming weekend he will perform The 51st Dream State at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. In November he’ll be performing at the BAM Next Wave Festival.

In this interview, Sekou talks about his process for creating his multi-faceted works.

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Surfing the Long Tail

Monday, July 3rd, 2006

Chris Anderson‘s The Long Tail is one of those books that is going to change the way you think about the internet — and, I believe, the performing arts.

Coming out this month (published by Hyperion), Anderson builds on his October 2004 article in Wired Magazine, where he is editor-in-chief. The book details how the culture of the internet has changed our thinking and purchasing trends from mass markets to niche markets. As he writes on his blog:

The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-target goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare…In other words, the potential aggregate size of the many small markets in goods that don’t individually sell well enough for traditional retail and broadcast distribution may rival that of the existing large market in goods that do cross that economic bar.

Put another way, if the twentieth century was the century of hits, the twenty-first century is going to be the century of niches. Think Amazon, Rhapsody, and KadmusArts. KadmusArts?

The perfect long tail business is KadmusArts:

  • context of content rules;
  • based in a multi-faceted, multi-national but clearly defined community;
  • user-created content;
  • specialized information;
  • targeted advertising;
  • digital goods available;
  • and (soon) physical goods.

(All right — before you respond with outrage at our hubris or legitimately point out we are not quite there yet, let us have our little moment to see “Amazon, Rhapsody and KadmusArts” listed together as the successful tripod of companies bringing culture to the world!)

The main point is understanding the applicability of the Long Tail for the future flourishing of performing arts festivals. In a new world where niches emerge as the big new market, we become less susceptible to the dominance of mainstream hits in the arts.

Here is Anderson’s list of the dangers of “hitism” which has held us captive:

  • Everyone wants to be a star;
  • Everyone is in it for the money;
  • If it isn’t a hit, it’s a miss;
  • The only success is mass success;
  • “Direct to video” = bad;
  • “Self-published” = bad;
  • “Independent” = “they couldn’t get a deal”;
  • Amateur = amateurish;
  • Low-selling = low quality;
  • If it were good, it would be popular.

Do you see the possibilities? Performing arts festivals have been proving the dangers of this list for years — and our audiences know it.

Through combining easily accessible information-context-goods found via the web, the performing arts’ platform for understanding-integration-purchasing completely changes.

So let’s celebrate Chris Anderson and get ready to surf the Long Tail for many years to come. (In other words, go buy the book and see how it applies to you.)

By the way, if you invite him for a speech, his share of the proceeds goes to Creative Commons - the nonprofit organization that offers flexible copyright licenses for creative works.

Every time I flip a coin from now on, I’m calling tails.

- Bill Reichblum

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