Pop Culture

28, or, How Keva Got His Groove Back

Today is my 28th birthday. I’ll spare you the whiny existential, ontological, and anthropocentric rants that have haunted my previous birthday blog posts. Like yearbook haircuts, they are hard to look back on. Speaking of yearbooks…

I saw The Ataris the other night, here in Rochester. They are this pop-punk band from the late 90’s and early 2000s that I once obsessed over. I was in and out of a lot of relationships in high school, and it’s safe to say that The Ataris were unofficial therapists for me.

They had some MTV success back around 2005 with “In This Diary” and their cover of “Boys of Summer,” but of course, their best stuff came before that on Kung Fu Records.

Anyway, I talked to The Ataris singer, Kris, at the show. I was struck by how identical he remains, at least, to the fifteen year ago version of himself that I saw many times, singing on stage in California. He looks like a 40 year old trapped in a 20 year old body. He was very nice, I don’t mean to slight him or offend him. I just mean, when he sings, “Being grown up, isn’t half as fun as growing up, these are the best days of our lives,” I get sad because I worry he believes that, that he is holding on to something that no longer exists, and that I am helping fund this sort of delusion, by paying money at the door of some sketchy club so that he can go on pretending.

WOW. Whiny existential. Sorry. Let me get back on track.

How Keva Got His Groove Back

I have this joke with my wife that I am still in my early 20s. The joke goes, 20-27 is “early twenties” and 28 and beyond is “normal twenties.” This means, as of today, that I am officially in my twenties. (more…)

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Sharing Saturation Through DeLillo’s “White Noise”

Over summer, my wife and I visited the most photographed lighthouse in the world. We didn’t question the claim’s validity. We just went with it. The lighthouse stop was part of our New Hampshire and Maine last minute road trip. It was a good trip. We slept in the car and jumped in the water and ate a lot of seafood. We were in York when we heard about it: “The most photographed lighthouse.” Just up the road, said the internet, a few miles from where you are.

So we jumped in the car and found it. Instinctively, my first thought was, Yes, this looks like a lighthouse. It’s cute, scenic, impressionable. It is all the things lighthouses are and should be.

I didn’t want to take a picture.

Rather, it seemed better to be the guy who visits “Most Photographed” type places, and doesn’t take pictures. The concept would make for a good blog. But as I stood there watching dozens of tourists snapping their film and tapping their screens—a fervent mixture of new and old technology, crunching, shaking, iPhones uploading moments through invisible data, data that I too could claim!—something crept up inside me, like a tremor, and before I knew it, there I was, unceremoniously taking a picture.

So here’s the picture:

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It wasn’t until later, while reading a novel by Don DeLillo, that the lighthouse was *uhem* illuminated once more inside my head. As I’ve come to understand, DeLillo is a cultural critic; his novels address society’s many obsessions and explores what roles these obsessions play in our lives, as well as how they define us. Death, technology, consumerism, media, crowds, for instance, these are common motifs DeLillo highlights with excellent vision and irony.

His novel, White Noise, takes a look at these motifs and addresses them in terms of family life and the suburbs (also there’s an Airborne Toxic Event). Here’s what a book cover may look like: (more…)

Rapid Recap: 2014 Digital Rochester GREAT Awards

Tonight, some Rochester tech entrepreneurs are feeling really great.

The 2014 GREAT Awards just let out, and what an honor it was to attend, to be surrounded and inspired by successful entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and rising stars. Digital Rochester, a non profit that brings “technology professionals together within the community,” hosts this swanky event every year. Here’s a succinct vision from the GREAT website:

To recognize and celebrate the Greater Rochester community’s entrepreneurial spirit in technological achievement for advancing commerce and resource conservation.

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The official program began with one of the more entertaining (if not best) opening videos I’ve ever seen for a stuffy, prima facie, awards ceremony, “The Fresh Prince to the Future of Technology.”

After some comical chatter, delicious dinner, and tasty tweets (eating and tweeting), the awards ceremony kicked off. There were eight award categories and twenty-four finalists in all.

Here’s a quick list of those who won: 

(more…)

City Whisk, the app that localizes discovery

The following story appears in the current issue of 585 Magazine (July/August ’14).

Jonathan Marcowicz is the first real explorer I’ve ever met.

We sit in a café, sip coffee, and reminisce of travel. He speaks of his past like he’s still there: a heuriger inVenice, a Chopin concert in France, serendipitous nights of intrigue in Versailles. His voice has heart; his eyes tell me all I need to know. And, really, I do know.

I tell him about an Ireland trip that changed my life. About Dingle, where the locals pointed me down a windy dirt road, past roaming sheep and old ruins, a path that led me to a drop-dead gorgeous cliff edging the endless Atlantic Ocean.

“That’s it!” he says. “Exactly.”

To Marcowicz, locals are the secret ingredients for intrepid adventure—a belief he cemented after a New Orleans New Year’s road trip.The more natives he spoke with, the more unique and engaging his expe- rience became. That’s how CityWhisk—a mobile app he cofounded with Marissa McDowell and Stacey Lampell—was born. The app offers travel itineraries from a local perspective and recently won first place in the Existing Civic App category at the 2014 AT&T Rochester Civic App Challenge.

Read more at 585Magazine.com

5 Fantasy Football Life Lessons

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I play fantasy football.

Watch as my machismo drips away.

Despite its rapidly growing popularity (an estimated 33,559,990 players in 2013), people like myself continue to struggle with admitting our rabid and passionate participation. Fantasy footballers are like the new nerds. Remember when comic book nerds were uncool? That is, before Hollywood employed attractive people and dumbed down comic book story-lines?

Fantasy Football is nerdy but not yet cool. Proclaiming, “I was screwed by Dez Bryant,” outside of your respective fantasy milieu, will turn a few heads, juke a few coworkers, and roll a few eyes. It is nearly impossible to get taken seriously while talking fantasy football.

But I understand the stigmas: it is a waste of time, a waste of effort, ambition, mental energy, money, relationships, opportunity cost, all that stuff. On paper, droves of grown men and women pretending to be NFL coaches between August and December certainly reads like a bad idea. We could all probably be accomplishing something more meaningful with our lives. Yada, yada…

Listen, I love fantasy football. I’m certain if aliens invaded during my fantasy draft, for instance, I probably wouldn’t notice. I’m that invested. The entertainment experience is better than most of today’s movies and TV shows, it keeps me engaged to distant friends and relatives, and participation is free (minus time spent and optional buy-ins).

But my favorite aspect of playing the game is the life lessons I can pull from. I’m here to argue that fantasy football isn’t a waste of time, but rather, that there is value far beyond its temporal and waning pride. Fantasy football rewards its players in ways that can prepare them for many of life’s most important ups and downs. Check it out: (more…)

Modern Mantras in Aged Fiction: Crichton’s Formula for Success

Hidden away in a forty year old (mainstream) fiction novel—a potboiler, a seemingly shallow tale, prime facie—lies the secret formula for life’s success. I almost couldn’t believe it when I read it. It was so simple, so perfect. See, I’ve perused business books and self-help guides, written by CEOs, millionaires and pastors; all these people with too much time on their hands, penning “how to succeed in life.” And I’ve read them, too, because that’s what leaders do. We read books and make mantras and talk about them on our blogs. But the lessons learned in business books often dissipate faster than tweets, and we’re again left with just ourselves, curious and conspiring.

But these two sentences said everything—articulated in a cold, simple language, a language that only Michael Crichton, the master of logical and academic science fiction, could accomplish.

You went out and you hunted, armed with your maps and your instruments, but in the end your preparations did not matter, or even your intuition. You needed your luck, and whatever benefits accrued to the diligent, through sheer, grinding hard work.

Take a second, and read it again. For me? And take it slow, because these are two damn-good, well-constructed sentences. Drink them like you would an overpriced glass of wine, and when you’re done, close your eyes to impress your friends. (more…)