Tech PRose

January 26, 2010

Coachella 2010 Preview

As some of my fellow employees at Tech Image know, I am a somewhat of an indie music geek.  I am a frequent attendee of electronica, indie rock and hip-hop shows at Chicago concert venues, a consummate reader of Indie music blogs and a regular music festival goer.  This year I am departing from my tradition of attending Chicago’s Lollapalooza, and instead headed out west to Coachella 2010, in Indio, California.  I thought i’d give a small preview of some of the acts I hope to see, and do a full review and update in late April when I return.
Coachella
Friday
Aeroplane has put together two of my favorite remixes of the year.  Hailed by Pitchfork as one of the best tracks of the year, their version of Paris by Friendly Fires is outstanding.
Fever Ray is the solo project of Karen Anderson, whose other band The Knife is a recent favorite of mine.
Grizzly Bear had a huge hit this year in Two Weeks, a track which made the rounds on Indie blogs all year.  Their latest album, Veckatimest, is great all the way through.
Jay-Z continues to be an influential, prolific hip-hop artist, and should kick the weekend off to a great start as the Friday headliner.
Passion Pit were the indie darlings of 2009, releasing both an EP and full album that were all over the blogosphere.  The Bostonians put on a great show at Lollapalooza 09, and i’m hoping they can top it in April.
Them Crooked Vultures is a supergroup made up of Foo Fighter’s Dave Grohl, Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme. As is the case with any supergroup, they are surrounded by tremendous amounts of hype. 
Vampire Weekend just recently released the follow-up to their self-titled debut from 2008.  Their part Afro-pop, part Paul Simon sound draws a huge following, and i’ve seen very few shows with as much energy as theirs.

Saturday
Beach House is part of the recent resurgence of Dream Pop, in addition to counterparts The XX and Lykke Li.
Hot Chip has been a perennial blogger’s favorite, and will help start off 2010 on a strong note with new album One Life Stand.
Mew is a band recommended to me by Tech Image’s own Dennis Collins.  While I have yet to experience their older material, their latest album, No More Stories, was one of the better albums I got my hands on last year.
MGMT was one of the most oft-posted and most oft-remixed bands of ’08 and ’09.  While I loved Oracular Spectacular, i’m eager to hear some new material.
Muse is a band that helped to really bridge the gap for me from alternative music to indie rock.  They put on a fantastic live show, second only to Daft Punk at Lollapallooza 2007, but their latest album wasn’t quite as strong as their previous efforts.
Porcupine Tree comes highly recommended from Tech Image’s Dennis Collins and association management company SmithBucklin‘s Mike Nikolich.  I have been enjoying listening to a few of their albums, including Deadwing, and am pumped to see Steve Wilson and co. in a live setting.
The Dead Weather is Jack White’s latest project, and much more raw and gritty than both of his other bands The White Stripes and The Raconteurs.  Jack White is a tremendous guitarist and vocalist, and though he is primarily playing drums in TDW, has me excited nonetheless.
White Rabbits have been all over Chicago’s XRT radio station this past year- and for good reason.  They played a great set at Schu
ba’s
earlier this year, and Percussion Gun was one of my favorite songs of 2009.

Sunday
The Gorillaz return from a 5-year hiatus to headline the final day of Coachella.  What has frontman Damien Albarn (formerly of Blur fame) been doing in the years since 2005’s Demon Days?  Oh, just composing an opera.  In Mandarin.
Julian Casablancas is the frontman of The Strokes, who has seen some decent play on the indie blog scene in late 2009.  Though The Strokes occasionally get some flack, i’m interested to see what he can do solo.
Little Boots is an electropop/dance artist who plays her own instruments, writes her own songs and makes some catchy and excellent music.
Miike Snow has played a few times in Chicago this past year, though i’ve missed them each time.  I’m hoping that they translate well to a live show.
Phoenix (also known as ‘the band from that Cadillac commercial’) has received a lot of play this year, and for good reason.  Their recent effort, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, is one of the best all-around albums of the year.                                    

Thom Yorke ???? no matter the format, will put on an excellent show.  The Radiohead frontman has put out some solo material recently, and its rumored that he will appear with a small backup band, including Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Bassist Flea.

Any acts I shouldn’t miss?

Previewed by — Dan McDonnell

November 24, 2009

The Book of Basketball—The NBA According to The Sports Guy

Filed under: Kevin Johnson,Reviews,Uncategorized — techimage @ 9:14 am

I just finished reading The Book of Basketball  the mammoth 700-page take on the NBA from Bill Simmons, the celebrated columnist for ESPN.com known as “The Sports Guy”. Book of bball

You must first know that Bill Simmons loves the NBA.  Really loves it.  He’s been a Boston Celtics “season ticket holder” with his Dad since he was a real young lad. He now holds season tickets, for better or worse, for the Los Angeles Clippers. So this book was obviously a labor of love. He even risked his marriage with this three-year odyssey by reading untold volumes of NBA books (actually he tells you which books he read at the end) and watching hours upon hours of old games on video. This whole book is Bill’s opinion but you can’t deny it is an informed opinion.  And he openly admits his Celtic biases when it matters.

He wrote the book to “evaluate why certain players and teams mattered more than others”–all based on “The Secret” as explained to him by Isiah Thomas, a frequent target of barbed criticism from Bill throughout his career. It is crucial to understand “The Secret” and it applies to organized, competitive team basketball at any level or playing pick-up in the back-yard. And if you applied “The Secret” in your own game, you will enjoy this book immensely.

I am a regular reader of Bill’s column so the thought of 700 pages, written in Bill’s casual and humorous style wouldn’t scare me off at all. This book, as always, is loaded with Bill’s trademark cultural references, liberally applied in footnote fashion, which never really becomes a distraction. Being a bit older than Bill, I’m happy to report that I got most of his references.

Even thought I am not as passionate about the NBA as I used to be, especially during the Michael Jordan era of the Chicago Bulls (Michael is thoroughly covered in the book and even beats out Bill Russell as Bill’s selection as the “best of all time”), but I do love basketball and I love Bill Simmons as a writer, so I couldn’t go wrong with "The Book of Basketball. "

–Reviewed by Kevin Johnson

November 23, 2009

2012: An Unrealistic Look into Reality

Filed under: Christine Rojewski,Reviews,Uncategorized — techimage @ 8:48 am

You discover the world is going to end in less than 24 hours, what do you do? Save your entire family via a limo, RV, plane and international hitchhiking of course. Sure it might not seem logical, but isn’t anything possible for John Cusack? In the movie 2012 it is.2012

Don’t get me wrong, the movie wasn’t entirely all unrealistic, just the character plot was. You can think of it like 1997’s Titanic. You know the underlying plot of the ship’s sinking fate is true, but maybe not the love story.

In the movie 2012 the world comes to an end due to the inner conflicts of the earth’s core, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, meteors and tsunamis. This can be perceived as the “real” part of the movie.

At the start of the film, it’s the year 2009 and a young geologist (Chiwetel Ejiofor) learns from a resource in India that the world will be faced with Armageddon in 2012. He quickly becomes introduced to the President so he can inform the government of his findings. The government in turn decides to keep the information under wraps from the average global population (why the source in India didn’t go to his government is beyond me).

Within two minutes the movie progresses to 2012 where a struggling author, Jackson Curtis (Cusack), is taking his kids to Yellow Stone National Park. Upon arrival he finds the park’s lakes have dried up, the area is under siege by the military and who other than Woody Harrelson is hiding out in the trees. Yes, that’s right, Woody Harrelson. It seems as if he’s becoming the new Christopher Walken and making unexpected cameos in movies.

The following hour and a half of the movie is jammed with great action scenes, yet unrealistic events. The world is coming to an end beginning with earthquakes in California and ending with land swallowing tsunamis in China. In the meantime Curtis, his family, global leaders and all of those upper class citizens with a billion dollars are in route to China to board special “ships” (aka concrete submarines of sorts). This group- along with a Noah’s Ark boat full of animals- outlive the otherwise inescapable tsunamis and start life again in the only continent that seems to have outlasted the catastrophic events: Africa.

While I could have lived without the completely unrealistic portions of the plot, I thought the movie was one of the better ones I’ve seen on the big screen lately. It also managed to keep my attention for the entire 158 minutes.

–Reviewed by Christine Rojewski

November 17, 2009

Asian Spot is like Pennies from Heaven

Filed under: Uncategorized — techimage @ 9:22 am

If you have a yearning for Asian cuisine, but not much yen to spend, head to Penny’s Noodle Shop in the city, Northfield or Oak Park.  The original Penny’s is a tiny, triangular-shaped place under the el tracks in Wrigleyville. It’s the best of the bunch, seconded by the location on Diversey. There’s a Penny’s in Wicker Park at Damen and Pierce, but I haven’t tried it or the one in Oak Park. The restaurant in Northfield isn’t as good as its sisters in the city, but it takes care of my noodle craving any day! Pennys-5

My husband and I have been regulars for about 16 years and have always found the food to be consistently fresh, well prepared and incredibly reasonable in price. Our kids are big fans now too and we go often enough to get our fix of great Thai cuisine.

For appetizers, we start with delicious Thai spring rolls or satay with a slightly spicy peanut sauce. Penny’s also makes a flavorful crab Rangoon and offers Vietnamese spring rolls, potstickers and other starters.

On to main courses, my favorite is the Lad Nar. The noodles are wide and served with just the right combination of carrots, ginger and broccoli in a slightly sweet sauce. You can order it or any dish at Penny’s with chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu. If you like spice, try the Hot Pepper Noodles or Spicy Basil Leaves with chicken. Soup fans are also in luck. A bowl of it is plenty for two or to pack up as leftovers for lunch the next day.

Penny’s also serves great egg noodles in a bowl. It’s similar to the soup, minus the broth of course. We’re fans of the barbecued pork noodle bowl. It comes with fresh sprouts, green onions, more noodles than you can eat and of course, the BBQ pork slices. They offer several other varieties as well.

Their restaurants are clean, fresh and inviting. So if you’re looking for a great Thai restaurant – don’t strain your “noodle” thinking about. Head to Penny’s!

–Reviewed by Donna Gaidamak

November 16, 2009

Faust at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Filed under: Uncategorized — techimage @ 11:12 am

The great thing about living in Chicago is the breadth of high-cultural and pop-cultural things to do around town.  On the high-cultural end of the equation is definitely Lyric Opera of Chicago and its home, the Civic Opera Building.  Recently, my wife and I, and a couple of friends witnessed Charles Gounod’s Faust, an opera in five acts in French adapted from Carre’s play Faust et Marguerite (1850) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s tragedy Faust (Part 1, 1806).Faust-title

Mind you, I’m not a huge opera fan nor am I advanced musically; however, there is a special quality about experiencing something you don’t often do; I think it helps broaden one’s horizons and presents opportunities for application in one’s life.  For example, if you write about technology for clients, such as my colleagues and I do at Tech Image, there is always a place for an analogy or metaphor from classical literature and culture to brighten often dull, complex technology subject matter.

Some of you may be familiar with Goethe’s story, set in Germany, of Faust, an aged philosopher who makes a deal with the devil for youth while having to serve him later in hell.  The devil, personified in the character of Méphistophélès, tempts Faust with a vision of a beautiful young woman named Marguerite.  While Faust secures his youth and the girl, we later learn how everything unravels, and pain and suffering are exacerbated.  Nonetheless, the themes of forgiveness and God’s mercy ultimately prevail.

As one of the leading opera companies in the U.S., the Lyric boasts stunning and vibrant costumes and set designs.  Of particular beauty in this opera was Act Three – Marguerite’s garden.  The set truly looked like something out of the Botanic Gardens, with a multitude of flowers and other flora.  The Civic Opera Building also lives up to its reputation of “not a bad seat in the house.” 

We were seated on the main floor, about five rows from the back, but had ample space to view everything.  English sub-titles appeared on a screen toward the ceiling at the front of the stage, necessary – yet not overbearing – to the performance.

On the night of our opera, the main characters were played by Joseph Kaiser (Faust), Ana Maria Martinez in the role of Marguerite, Kyle Ketelsen as Méphistophélès, Lucas Meachem as Valentin and Katherine Lerner as Siebel.  The arias were striking in their forcefulness and passion, as was the orchestra, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. 

At three hours and 50 minutes, which included two intermissions, this opera was not for the faint of heart.  In fact, if you’ve ever been to an opera, you know that it can take 20 minutes just to sing an aria or duet (and get one’s point across for that matter!).  But that’s really the point of opera.  It teaches us that in our era of cell phones, PDAs and instant communication, we still need to “smell the roses,” and truly appreciate beauty, authenticity and time.

–Reviewed by Philip Anast

November 6, 2009

Words and phrases that have outlived their PR usefulness

Filed under: Uncategorized — techimage @ 11:37 am

This article from Ragan.com definitely caught my eye. As the title says, it addresses words and phrases that have outlived their PR usefulness.

Although you might think that writer Andy Beaupre is going to tell you what words not to use in a press release (do we really need to hear about open, interoperable, scalable solutions anymore?) that's not the topic. Instead, he talks more about the business of PR and things that have become obsolete.

One good example is the media tour. While they still go on occasionally, for the most part they're a thing of the past. Andy points out that writers are pressed for time. I think even more important is that they're no longer concentrated in a small area anymore. The people you need to influence may be spread out all over the country, making a tour rather inconvenient.

Another good one is the press kit. I imagine the old school types still push to make up press kits. But for the most part, all that info (and more) should be available on your Web site. I agree with Andy — save the trees.

One final blast from the past is the idea that you release news in layers. First you brief the publications with two or three month lead times, then one month, then weekly, and finally the dailies. That's how we did it when I first started at Tech Image 10 years ago. Well, everyone is daily now. That also means that the old Tech Image rule of not calling tech reporters on Thursday mornings because they were filing stories is out the window too. They are working on stories all the time to feed the beast that is the Internet. There's no time that's better (or worse) to call anymore.

Give the article a good read, especially if you've been around the business for a while. It's quite a flashback.

November 4, 2009

State of Play

Filed under: Uncategorized — techimage @ 8:28 am

While taking my dogs on a walk last night I decided to stop by Red Box to see if there were any movies worth renting. On a whim, I decided to get State of Play. I never heard of the flick before, but noticed it was about a congressional murder mystery of sorts so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did because I thought it was outstanding.

State_of_play This high suspense movie stars Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Helen Mirren among others. In a nutshell, a Washington Globe reporter (Crowe) is assigned the task of investigating the murder an up-and-coming Politian’s (and old college roommate) young assistant. So it happens this assistant was also the Politician’s (Affleck) mistress. The seasoned Globe reporter quickly begins to unravel a conspiracy with his green colleague (McAdams). Through thrilling twists and turns, the duo finds themselves not only solving the case before the FBI, but caught in the middle of a corrupt murder spree that’s being spun in a web of lies.

Among the suspense there was a small detail of the movie that captured me and made me think of a recent Newsweek article brought to my attention by a colleague. The article highlights Apple’s new tablet and how it will not only reinvent computing, but how reporters tell the news. When Crowe is first assigned the investigative story in State of Play, he is not keen on sharing any of the information he is digging up with McAdams because she is the new, and only, online reporter at the recently acquired Globe.

Toward the end of the movie- and long after the two reporters have teamed up- the duo decide to be the first news outlet to release the true story behind the murder news. But instead of taking the instant viral approach and posting the story online, they decide to go the traditional route and let people read of the corruption while dirtying their fingers with ink.

So if you’re in the mood for a thriller, you should rent State of Play.

— Reviewed by Christine Rojewski

November 2, 2009

Looking for a soft sugar cookie recipe and a new oven

Filed under: Uncategorized — techimage @ 12:05 pm

 
Tech Image had a Halloween potluck last Thursday to celebrate the child within all of us.  I decided to make frosted sugar cookies. I often pick them up for the office when I run over to the local grocery store for lunch. It seemed a good choice since I love them and I know Dan Green, our resident finicky eater, eats them too. On top of pleasing the team, I could be creative. I planned to frost with fall colors and the ghastly sprinkles I found the weekend before (white ghosts, black bats and cats, and orange pumpkins).

So as I often do, I went to the Web and typed in: recipe soft sugar cookies. Piece of cake. I had all the ingredients. Problem was that the amount of flour was way off and my mixer couldn’t cut through the tough substance. So I added another egg. Still too thick. I poured in milk.
 
OK, the secret is out. I don’t do will with written recipes. That’s a problem when baking. So is my 50 year old oven.
 
The first batch of cookies rose ok. The second batch, in the same amount of time burned. The third batch turned to coal even though I cut a couple of minutes off the timer. Then Kevin tasted one from the first batch. “They taste like pancakes,” he critiqued.  Not good.
 
This was a big recipe, enough for 60 cookies plus since I added ingredients to improve the batter consistency and I was only half way through the batter. The next 12 were rolled in sugar and cinnamon. Again, charred and pancakey. Last batch was rolled in cocoa. Fail. They looked as bad as they tasted.
 
In the end, they all went into the garbage, except the first 12, which despite their taste Kevin ate with store bought frosting left over from the last time I failed at baking. I figure I’ll cover my lack of a pot next time I get lunch at the grocery store.
 
Anyone have a really good soft sugar cookie recipe they can share? I could use one.

— By Tracy Shryer

October 30, 2009

Madison, WI.: The Home of Rockwalls and Absent Marching Bands

Filed under: Uncategorized — techimage @ 7:55 am

Welcome to Madison, Wisconsin, land of big garages and rock walls. I recently passed my first anniversary as a “Sconie” (someone who lives in Wisconsin). While I truly do love living up here, I thought it might be time to pop off about a couple of things I’ve noticed that seem strange to this previously lifelong Flatlander (other than the obviously intense preoccupation with the Packers and the Badgers).Madison

1.Traffic patterns. There is no rhyme or reason to any of it. Roads with two lanes that suddenly go down to one (on just one side of the road even) and then back again. Turn lanes that don’t logically match up. Medians placed in the middle of roads for no apparent reason.  And roundabouts.  What purpose in life do these things serve other than to confuse people?  You have stay on your toes driving up here. 

2. They don’t allow the sale of package liquor after 9:00 pm. Enough said. In fact, much of the town rolls up at 9:00 pm. Quite the culture shock.

3. They oppose everything. It is amazing. Any proposal to develop something or do something that seems to make all the practical sense in the world is opposed by some citizens group. And a “group” can consist of just one or two people yet they’ll get coverage in the local news media. It is pretty funny. Nothing gets done up here. But you know what they say about Madison—“80 square miles surrounded by reality.”

But the silly thing that bugs me the most so far is the fact that Madison high schools do NOT have marching bands. I’ve attended several local high school football games on Friday nights this season and have been totally amazed by this. You can’t believe how noticeable this is at halftime of a game. 

All the years I covered high school football in Central Illinois as a broadcaster and in the Chicagoland suburbs as a part-time sportswriter, I do not remember a game that didn’t include a marching band. This even goes for the smaller schools in the rural areas. It is such a strong and healthy tradition at so many schools I’ve come across. Yet, I ask the parents up here about it and they tell me the schools NEVER had a marching band. And they don’t seem unnerved about this at all. Isn’t a band a wonderful educational opportunity as an extra-curricular activity? Doesn’t it enhance the reputation and identity of a school?  How much would it be to fund? This is even stranger to me because Madison is home to one of the most outstanding college marching bands in the country—the University of Wisconsin Marching Band. Where do they get their participants?

I know. It’s Middleton High School (where my Mom went to school). It is the only local “suburban” high school I’ve come across with a Marching Band and it is a good one. I’m sure I’ll come across others around the area but Madison is the state capital; a town with over 200,000 residents and they can’t fund high school marching bands?

I’m told it’s the “proverbial” budget cuts in education that are to blame. But C’mon.

–Reviewed by Kevin Johnson

October 29, 2009

Authentic Leadership

Filed under: Uncategorized — techimage @ 12:24 pm
Tags: , ,

Tech Image's Tim Boivin shared the book Authentic Leadership with me to help out with an internal reading assignment we've been doing. I just needed a few pages of it for the main assignment, but as I paged through it I thought "This looks like a book worth reading." And I was right.

Author Bill George is the former CEO of Medtronic, a Minnesota company that manufactures medical devices such as pacemakers. But the book isn't about those, or even about manufacturing. Instead, it's a treatise on how to lead others, whether you're part of a company, a sports team, a local organization or some other group.

In a post-Enron and Lehman Brothers world, the things he has to say make a lot of sense. The reason companies have these problems is they put short-term gains and the concerns of Wall Street ahead of their core mission, which is to serve their customers. Here's where the Medtronics background comes in handy.

They aren't just making products to sell. They're changing lives. It's an extreme example, but one that should be at the heart of every business leader. If you look at the impact your business has on your customers, you should be willing to sacrifice short-term gains or hitting a particular number for long-term benefits, for your customers, your employees, and the business.

The books talks about various phases, and uses a lot of stories (both his own and those of others) to illustrate the points he's making. In the end, that sage advice "To thine own self be true" lies at the core of what Bill George has to say.

Reviewed by Ken Krause

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