Posts tagged “performance”

To be who you are, practice being someone else

Back in June, Rush drummer Neal Peart was interviewed by George Stroumboulopoulos, discussing the recording of their classic album Moving Pictures (now 30 years old!)

He relates a curious and cool aspect of their creative process, evoking the role-playing techniques (including informance) that we use in user research, facilitation, design, and more, whereby taking on characters can free oneself from a current constraint, including one’s own identity.

One of the tricks that we were already using then – that we still do – is that we make up other bands. “Today we’re not Rush, we’re The Fabulous Men.” That was our new age band, or we have an ongoing edgy kind of rockabilily band called Rockin’ F so when we want to bring out a different persona we say “Okay, make this part Rockin’ F.” That’s something we still use.

Also see previously: Eminem, and Jack White

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Second City Customizes a Show for Rochester [] – [Successful experiment where a comedy troupe immerses in local culture, then creates a show that resonates locally but still holds true to their existing brand of humor. Playing in Peoria, indeed!] They arrived in October for a 4-day insider’s tour of Rochester, The 16-hour days (built around writing time) included dinners with politicians and radio personalities, a tour of the Genesee beer brewery, a meeting with students at Bishop Kearney High School and a foray to the public market. “We tried not to do too much tourist stuff,” Mr. Furman said. “Ideally we shop and eat and go where the residents do.”…Early table-reads of the script brought a promising sign: the director, Jim Carlson, who knew nothing of Rochester, didn’t get a lot of the jokes. “I knew, based on the rhythms, where the punch lines were, but I didn’t understand them."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] The Media Equation – The Antenna Uproar – No Hair Shirt for Jobs [] – [In the case of the missing iPhone signal, traditional publication Consumer Reports had more impact than younger, leading-edge media sources] How did Consumer Reports make Apple blink? In large measure, the article in Consumer Reports was devastating precisely because the magazine (and its Web site) are not part of the hotheaded digital press. Although Gizmodo and other techie blogs had reached the same conclusions earlier, Consumer Reports made a noise that was heard beyond the Valley because it has a widely respected protocol of testing and old-world credibility.
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Pop-Up Magazine [website] – [The return of the variety show? Media channel-bending experiment marries a magazine-esque approach to content with the ephemeral nature of live performance.]
  • [from steve_portigal] Concern for Those Who Screen the Web for Barbarity [] – [Mind you, these consequences serve to reinforce the value of the service] With the rise of Web sites built around material submitted by users, the surge in Internet screening services has brought a growing awareness that the jobs can have mental health consequences for the reviewers. One major outsourcing firm hired a local psychologist to assess how it was affecting its 500 content moderators. The psychologist developed a screening test so the company could evaluate potential employees, and helped its supervisors identify signals that the work was taking a toll on employees. Ms. Laperal also reached some unsettling conclusions in her interviews with content moderators. She said they were likely to become depressed or angry, have trouble forming relationships and suffer from decreased sexual appetites. Small percentages said they had reacted to unpleasant images by vomiting or crying. “The images interfere with their thinking processes. It messes up the way you react to your partner.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Ring Pops Inspire Mariah Carey Fragrances [] – [Perhaps this is the future: multi-layered endorsement/licensing/line-extensions/cross-promotions] Mariah Carey’s Lollipop Bling, three fragrances that Elizabeth Arden based on candy flavors and that will appear in stores soon, is the product of a partnership with the Topps Company, which makes Ring Pops. “Topps sells tens of millions of units of candy,” said E. Scott Beattie, chief executive at Elizabeth Arden, which also has fragrance licensing deals with celebrities including Britney Spears, Danielle Steel and Elizabeth Taylor. “Combining their customer base with Mariah Carey’s fan base and our fragrance base is a great way to cross-promote all the brands.” While the scents “take a candy element as a thread to be woven in a fragrance,” they do so in a way that “elevates candy into a prestige environment,” she said. (Thanks, Gavin!)
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Bowman vs Google? Why Data and Design Need Each Other [OK/Cancel] – [Tom Chi's thoughtful post on how engineering and design need to work together] "Design is really a kind of multi-variate optimization of extreme complexity…I’ve often said that 'Art is about freedom while Design is about constraints.'”
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] INTERVIEW: Sougwen [Design Noted from Michael Surtees] – [Nice reframing of drawing from a method of artifact production to a way of creating experiences] "I’m pushing a process with my work that counters the preciousness that some designers find fascinating. My performances are expressions of drawing as an activity, not about making a pristine or perfect image."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Japanese cultural norms – asking about weight – Insightful little culture-clash story; an American working in Japan isn't sure how to deal with blunt (especially from the Japanese!) questions about his increasing weight
  • Clive Thomson on Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, renowned for his use of mathematical game theory models for prediction – Those who have watched Bueno de Mesquita in action call him an extremely astute observer of people. He needs to be: when conducting his fact-gathering interviews, he must detect when the experts know what they’re talking about and when they don’t. “His ability to pick up on body language, to pick up on vocal intonation, to remember what people said and challenge them in nonthreatening ways — he’s a master at it,” says Rose McDermott, a political-science professor at Brown who has watched Bueno de Mesquita conduct interviews. She says she thinks his emotional intelligence, along with his ability to listen, is his true gift, not his mathematical smarts. “The thing is, he doesn’t think that’s his gift,” McDermott says. “He thinks it’s the model. I think the model is, I’m sure, brilliant. But lots of other people are good at math. His gift is in interviewing. I’ve said that flat out to him, and he’s said, ‘Well, anyone can do interviews.’ But they can’t.”
  • New York Times Magazine on the Beatles’ Rock Band videogame – This is a fantastic article that spans many big issues: gaming, music, performance, art, history, culture, product development, authenticity, creativity, entertainment, technology. It's a must-read.
  • Brian Dettmer turns books into sculptural pieces – Contemporary visual artists see opportunity in what many bemoan as the twilight of the age of the book. John Latham (1921-2006), Hubertus Gojowczyk, Doug Beube and others have treated books as sculptural stuff. But no one whose work I have seen tops that of Atlanta artist Brian Dettmer at Toomey Tourell.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Slot Music – it’s more than just a new format – Here's SanDisk's ecosystem approach (for digital music, not digital books, but still, it's illustrative). Leveraging their technology, they've begun putting digital music on solid state media (i.e., SD cards and what-have-you) that will go into multiple devices. They are piggybacking on the ecosystem of slots that already exists. I think it fully matures as an ecosystem when other other plays start making products, services, and accessories to support this standard.
  • New Yorker cartoon – “This one, when you open it, smells like the Times.” – Cartoon by Leo Cullum showing a sensory-enriched Kindle. Thanks to Tom Williams for the pointer!
  • Book Display Norms – Jan Chipchase – To what extent does the form, peruseability of books facilitate the behaviours around where they are sold?
  • San Franciscan Reads Finnegan’s Wake Aloud, In Public – In the aftermath of the Finnegan's Wake Book Club dissolution.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Reading in public, worldwide – A set of photos, on Flickr
  • The Reading In Public chair – A specially-designed chair for the public performance. If the chair is available, will it influence behavior?
  • Reading In Public – Reading In Public (RIP!) was formed to celebrate the written word by way of community performance in public spaces. The project began as a response to the shifting landscape in publishing, and the realization that more and more of us are writing in public, as bloggers and tweeters, for instance. Similarly, we sought to broadcast words in public, through the simple act of contemplative reading on a noisy street corner, or as performance, with readers directly engaging onlookers.
    On Saturday, August 1st, beginning at 10am, we wheeled the Reading Chair to various downtown locations in San Luis Obispo, California, where assigned readers took turns sitting and reading. Our readers were people of all ages and walks of life who shared a passion not only for words, but for story telling. They chose their own reading materials and crafted their own performances.

Passing the buckskin

Lululemon got into trouble last month for selling clothing made from a seaweed-based fabric that supposedly had many unique properties. But independent tests revealed that the material was just cotton, and performed like cotton.

Mr. Wilson added that the company probably did not have enough money to test the material back when it started using it 18 months ago. When asked about Lululemon’s product tags and the claims about vitamins and minerals, he said, “That’s coming from the manufacturer. If you feel the fabric, it feels a lot different.”

And it gets even more laughable in the followup story

When told earlier this week about the Times’s test, Dennis Wilson, the founder, chairman and chief product designer, said: “If you actually put it on and wear it, it is different from cotton. That’s my only test of it.”

Pecha Kucha

At the closing Dcamp dinner, Eugene Chen told me about a cool event he’d been to called Pecha Kucha where participants show 20 images each, each for 20 seconds. I couldn’t remember what it was called, but today I stumble across on the web. Less than 48 hours after I first heard about it. I love synchronicity.

Pecha Kucha is a Japanese term that roughly translates as chit-chat, or perhaps as irritating chatter.
Pecha Kucha is a lot of fun for short attention spans.
Pecha Kucha is a new kind of venue for anyone involved in, or interested in, architecture, design, fashion, and art.
Pecha Kucha is intended to inspire a broad mix of participants – from well-known practitioners to students, recent graduates, and new firms presenting their work for the first time.

Eugene didn’t emphasize the design-y aspect of it; just seemed like it could be about anything, at least around the table we began brainstorming ways to work within the seemingly tight constraints. As images go by automatically every 20 seconds, you could speak to each one, or you could speak to a larger story that is paced along with the images, or you could be out of sync (or in reverse) with the sequence of images, etc. There’s a lot of potential besides just a super-quick presentation linearly.

I guess it’s going on all over the world but the event was created and is somehow owned by Tokyo’s Klein Dytham Architecture. I’ll have to check it out soon!

Update: I did!

The Kids in the Hall at the Steve Allen Theater

Oh to be in Los Angeles! The Kids in the Hall at the Steve Allen Theater

Not having performed together in four years, The Kids are back to rediscover their theatrical roots in three rare performances. As in the early years at The Rivoli, The Kids will come to the table Monday morning, work out new sketches and characters, then put up a show on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It will be a unique opportunity for audiences to travel back in time to the day when The Kids in the Hall first discovered their gift for making strange things happen in normal places.

February 23, 24 & 25
8 p.m.
The Steve Allen Theater
4773 Hollywood Blvd.

Human-robot standup comedy

Human-robot standup comedy (where else) in Japan. Zenjiro (human) and PaPaJiro (robot) will perform together. If the robot kills ’em out there, will that violate the First Law?

FreshMeat #2: Every Product Tells A Story (Don’t It?)

FreshMeat #2 from Steve Portigal

               (oo) Fresh                  
                \\/  Meat

If you know someone that should read this, send it to ’em
There really are eight million stories in the naked city

I just completed a six-week class in improv – not
stand-up comedy, but a series of collaborative,
improvisational games or sketches. The TV show “Whose
Line Is It Anyway?” is a good example of improv.

Part of the process of doing improv is to free yourself
from the evil, rule-based domination of our left-brains
and allow play to take place. This approach has been
applied to all sorts of creativity work, from Drawing On
The Right Side of the Brain
to every brainstorming
facilitator out there. So, I won’t go into that…I’m
fascinated by the stories that we have inside us.

Improv is something that anyone can do – it’s not just
for extroverts or people who are “naturally funny.”
The games and sketches produce humor almost as a by-
product. Most of the activities are based on
some trigger given at the last moment (hence the
improvisation) such as an emotion, a headline, a
physical position, a relationship, an environment.

And, incredibly, when given this little bit of info, we
can generate very rich recognizable stories, conveyed
through bits of dialogue, tone of voice, characters, and
so on. We are all in possession of these cliches, or
scenarios, or memes – call them what you want, but they
are incredibly detailed and we’ve all got them inside
us. If anything, improv helps bring them closer
to the surface so they can come out that much more easily.

A rich couple having an argument, a lion tamer who has
lost a job (and an arm), a game show, a televangelist,
a pair of puppies, a politician orating – all these
quickly produce richly detailed stories that are easily
recognized, and added to by the other performers.

Probably while reading that above paragraph you generated
your own visual and/or spoken details, so maybe you don’t
think the improv is such a big deal. Okay – but what
about the fact that you were able to generate so much
detail from a simple phrase?

It’d be interesting to try improv in cultures where
there is not the same amount of media exposure. Bugs
Bunny and Sesame Street seeded countless memes for their

Anyway, this really supports the whole notion of how
products participate in stories – imagine the props
for an improv activity – a mobile phone, a rolling pin, or
a Tickle-Me-Elmo. We, consumers, have very specific
stories that those (or any) products will be used to
tell. The companies that make “stuff” need to understand
the stories that are out there already and take care to
make certain their new products (services,
advertisements, and so on) play the roles they are
expecting them to.


About Steve