Yo!

yoThe downfall of civilization is upon us, or at the very least, a certain breed of San Franciscans converging to bring on the apocalypse (i.e., a tech bubble crash) may soon get their wish. It’s been reported in one of my favorite neo-progressive missives, 48 Hills that a new app is upon us. It’s called Yo!

Yo! is an app that allows you to send one word (yo – formerly known as the Spanish word for “I”) to a friend, a colleague, your wife, etc. to let him or her know that you’re thinking about them.

In the 48 Hills piece by Julia Carrie Wong, with the fabulous title “What We Yo About When We Yo About Yo” (I’m a sucker for plays on Raymond Carver short story titles), we learn that Silicon Valley investors have just pumped $1 million into Yo!. The app is the concept of a tech CEO who “wanted an easy way to tell his personal assistant he needed to talk to her. So ‘Yo’ in that case was the equivalent of a ‘hey you girl,’ a bell pull, a throat clear, or a grunt.”

Wong, step-by-step, dismantles the Yo! website for us (saving you the pain of having to visit it, let alone download the app). She continues to tell us that the tech CEO who inspired the developer to build the app in just 8 hours (um…let’s see, that’s $1 million for 8 hours of work) uses “Yo! with his wife, so that…she knows he’s thinking about her, so she doesn’t bother him any more [sic].”

Yes, you too can use Yo! to tell your spouse, per Wong, “Yes dear,” “I love you,” “Not now dear,” and “Why did we get married in the first place?”

I’m going to bring this back to the word – not the bubble many of my fellow San Franciscans want to explode all over our pretty little heads. (For the record, I don’t want the bubble to burst, but I would like some of the newbies in town to show a little more respect for this great city – that is all.)

Where I come from – Norwalk, Connecticut, to be exact – the word “Yo!” was adopted by rich white kids to prove that our hometown was so diverse, its several small ghettoes abutted some of its most exclusive preppy enclaves. They shouted “Yo!” out of the shiny new cars their parents gave them when they turned 16 at kids like me who lived in the middle ground between these two extremes and were still walking to school, even though we had a driver’s license.

Long past conjugating “Yo!” in 6th grade Spanish, it’s Americanization has always seemed to be a way to summon the lesser. The rich kids may have been “Yo’ing” us light years ahead of this app, but the message was the same. “Hey, you, come here – now.” Often, they gave me a ride, shared some weed, played some tunes on the 8-track. In which case, “Yo!” may not be the end of the world – just the beginning of that.

Source: 48 Hills

Image source: Justyo.co

Anthony Friedkin’s Gay Essay

friedkin_gay_essayThe small selection of black and white photos by Anthony Friedkin called “The Gay Essay” currently on display at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco has a haunting, almost 19th century feel, a far cry from early 1970s Los Angeles where most of the photos were shot.

Friedkin has spent nearly 40 years trying to get “The Gay Essay” published into book form. (The book is now available here.)

That in, and of itself, at first sounds remarkable, until you think back during this Pride Month and recall that the Stonewall riots occurred just 45 years ago. Friedkin’s photos were shot in the wake of that, on the Left Coast and perhaps showcase best the dichotomy between life in New York vs. life in L.A.

It seems LGBTQ history on the West Coast, while unfolding at the same time as that in New York and elsewhere, had its own distinct vibe. Perhaps that vibe, along with the times when photos of gay people were still limited to Diane Arbus freak shows or street photojournalism, was what kept Friedkin’s Gay Essay from finding its audience for so long.

Now, in the glow of post-DOMA America, we can finally sit back and enjoy this slice of history as art.

Photo: Anthony Friedkin.

Content Shock

I’ve been a bit obsessed with a trend called “Content Shock” and statements making the rounds like “Americans spend 10 hours consuming online content per day”. Will this be the slogan that defines a decade, kind of like Warhol’s “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” underscored the 1960s and catapulted us toward the now?

Because what Warhol said pretty much became true. Put your hand up if you’ve ever enjoyed 15 minutes of fame from a blog post, a Facebook/Instagram photo or a tweet? You know you probably can. Oh, you didn’t become a household name, but that’s not what our culture is about anymore. It’s not “Did you see that YouTube video by Kathy Drasky?” It’s “Did you see that video by the dude about the cat?”

Content-Shock-definition

That’s what happens when you consume 10 hours of online content a day. And it’s scary.

For every long, thoughtful piece we might consume there are thousands of snippets of inbound information coming at us while working at a desktop or laptop, while browsing our smartphone standing in line or waiting for an appointment and, of course, over the tablet or streaming during downtime. How much of it we retain will be tested in the future. Will that video by the dude about the cat have the same staying power as the moon landing or an episode of the “Brady Bunch” (“Oh! My nose!”)?

More likely, when we look back on the waning days of Web 2.0, it will be jokes about cat videos as a trend – not any particular person behind the smartphone camera, or even any particular cat (sorry Grumpy Cat).

Which brings me to the best way we now have to battle Content Shock. It’s called Curation. I think that word scares people because it sounds like walking on eggshells around 14th century paintings. It’s an “old” word that doesn’t seem to resonate in the 21st century when apparently all we need is an app to shout “Yo!” at us.

But Curation tools like ScoopIt and Storify are the future. Aside from some future yet-to-come-to-market filters, which will require us to stop and think and perhaps spend hours tweaking something to see only the content we want, when we want, Curation is our future King (and/or Queen). It’s out there now. Some terrific sites exist (did you know BuzzFeed and HuffPo are curated sites?).

In fact if no one out there produced another nanosecond of content us curators could probably spend the rest of our lives filling up your life with good content already created. This not only includes the past 20 years of online content, but so much that came before that has been digitized. In the future, we could consume nothing but the past. Not that we would want to – but it’s important that the best of the cat videos be carefully curated and stored in a friendly online place, maybe next to grainy moon landing videos and someone’s VHS-quality recap of “Brady Bunch” episodes.

The key is getting to the content you want without the shock.

Source: “Content Shock: Why Content Marketing Is Not a Sustainable Strategy” by Mark W. Schaeffer – and some of the more than 400+ blog posts this article subsequently generated – talk about Content Shock!

Image source: BusinessGrow.com. 

BushHacked!

ripley-bush-exhibition-review-011Never has so little been expected of a former U.S. president than George W. Bush. The man who consistently comes up in polls as Worst. President. Ever. – to his credit – has quietly ridden off into the Texas sunset since leaving office in January ’09.

A little more than a year ago, we learned via Gawker what post-presidential legacy Bush Jr. has been quietly pursuing: water color paintings.

And in a twist of fate only the Internet Age could wreak, the man who originally made it okay to delve into your personal online and telephone call business in the name of patriotism had these very breaches of personal privacy turned on him. A Romanian hacker named Marcel Lazar Lehel (aka Guccifer) gained access to private Bush family emails and discovered not an evil plot to destroy the universe – but instead a body of outsider-style paintings of dogs, seashells, Texas landscapes and awkward self-portraits.

Seemed in anticipation of a 2014 show called “The Art of Leadership” – we kid you not – Bush was emailing photos of his art to his family and friends. Yet – it was the body in this body of work that Guccifer will spend some 4 to 7 years in a Romanian prison being best remembered for. Two innocuous self-portrait nudes: one of Bush standing (upper back to us) in the shower, shaving; the other of his bare legs soaking in the bathtub.

While this story’s “legs” may have barely lasted a news cycle, we’re willing to go out on a limb and say there is collectible potential here. Bush’s Art of Leadership show at his own presidential center closed on June 3, and as far as we can tell, none of the works have been made available for sale (yet). To get in on the ground floor of the Bush Folk Art Legacy though, the catalog is available for purchase for $20.

Source: ArtNews.com.

Photo of Bush water color by Grant Miller via ArtNet.com.

Where Our Thoughts Go as Handwriting Fades

Handwriting-VectorI thought my dream of being a famous novelist (or, at least an amusing short story writer) ran adrift some 20 years ago when I quit smoking. It seemed once I gave up cigarettes for good I never quite got that “feel” back for the written word. Sure, I’ve churned out nearly millions since (as I claim on my website), but those were word-processed features and blog posts, newsletters and press releases, copy for websites and brochures cranked out under the usual deadline pressures on various PCs and laptops. Whenever I cleared my schedule, or imposed another “write first thing every morning” rule to focus on fiction, not much happened. A couple of good sentences here and there, easily edited into oblivion with built-in grammar and design tools. I simply felt I couldn’t “connect” myself to the words and the lack of nicotine hitting my brain was responsible. While mentally tortured at the keyboard, I felt extremely healthy everywhere else, and had no desire to take up cigarettes again. Literature’s loss was my lungs’ gain.

I don’t know when I first noticed that it became difficult, practically a chore, to write something by hand. A few years ago, I started voiding checks (on the rare occasion that I wrote one) because I would inevitably write the date or the name of the recipient in the wrong place. My printing is slightly better than my cursive, and years ago, once safely out of the third grade and away from the penmanship patrol I developed a sort of hybrid print-script that I still use today, mostly for lists for my eyes only. I know that I could easily make these shopping and to-do lists on my phone or iPad, but something about actually writing out the action seems to give it a real chance of getting done. It’s this connection that’s been highlighted in a recent article in the New York Times, “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades.”

What’s lost? Creative thinking.

a psychologist at the University of Washington, demonstrated that printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard are all associated with distinct and separate brain patterns — and each results in a distinct end product. When … children composed text by hand, they not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, but expressed more ideas.

Armed with this tidbit, I think back 20 years ago and realize that is about the exact time when I stopped filling yellow legal pads and spiral-bound notebooks with words and leaned more and more heavily on the computer (smoking near the computer either seemed dangerous, or by that point was forbidden in most offices). Ultimately word-processing was faster, you could edit while you wrote (the ultimate undoing of anything that requires a free form of thinking) and, with the ability to start sending in work via email – rather than print it, put it in a manilla envelope and take it to the post office – all phases of production were literally at my fingertips. It’s how I (and many other freelancers) have made a living generating millions of words. Yet, it’s why I (and I’m sure many millions more) struggle to turn out the words we really want to say.

There’s an argument this morning then to hop off the laptop and move over into the chair on the other side of the room with a notepad and some pens and write something great. And then there’s the fear that if so many of us can’t go deep anymore and write compelling words it is because there is no one out there to read them. As writers have become instruments of the latest technologies, so have readers. Is anyone out there really going to know the difference?

Bad Cropping Award Goes To…

Hillaryclinton-people-cover-1040605-new.blocks_desktop_mediumA mini-firestorm erupted earlier this week when right-wing fringe blogger Matt Drudge caught a glimpse of a People magazine cover while waiting in line at his local supermarket and decided to tell the world that Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, might be using a walker.

Yes, people who read People and those who just glance at thousands of images per day while browsing screens on multiple devices (i.e., the majority of Americans) were temporarily titillated by this image shown here of the 66-year-old Clinton grasping a… patio chair!

Unfortunate cropping of the photo of Clinton standing (um…leaning) poolside gained mini-momentum from the usual right-wing media mouthpieces that, should Clinton run for President in 2016, she would be 69 years old on Election Day. Should she win and serve two terms (the U.S. conservative base is really quite worried about this), she would be 77 years old by the end of 2024. Clinton is reportedly in very good health and embarks on book tour next week to promote her new book, Hard Choices.

Photo courtesy of People magazine.