UT-Austin CAET Gives Us Some STEAM

UT Ctr for Art and Ent Tech (CAET)I attended the launch event for UT-Austin’s Center for Arts & Entertainment Technology this evening. The Center (or CAET) is a new program of the College of Fine Arts.

As Dean of Fine Arts, Doug Dempster explained, it’s been a few years in the making. But, now that it’s here, the CAET figures to quickly become a significant magnet for UT-Austin’s Fine Arts school.

Why? Because, the CAET’s new Bachelor of Science degree in Arts & Entertainment is the quintessential Gen Z major.

It is the true expression of STEAM – Science Technology Engineering & Math (or STEM) education, with the fundamental integration of Arts, be it performing, visual, digital, or more.

Congratulations to Dean Dempster, Bruce Pennycook (the CAET Director), long-time Austin colleague Paul Toprac (Assoc Dir of Game Design & Dev at UT-Austin), and all of the other faculty and staff for the program.

I, for one, look forward to vetting some of the first crop of BS in AET students, in 2017 and 2018, for internships with our new ventures…the CAET program is fine-tuned to produce future great product, tech strategy, and creative directors, ready to unleash some innovation on the world – can’t wait!

David Bowie – Bond Genius

Before I get to the “bond genius” part of the title, a personal moment, to share my 3 Bowie favorites:

Diamond_dogsAlbum: Diamond Dogs – nothing like it. On first listen, it’s nearly repelling, in its unconventional musicianship and song-writing. But, listen closely and play it again, and the whole thing starts to become absolutely mesmerizing – an other-worldly lyrical vision and sound.

Song: Rebel, Rebel – ironically, the “hit” from Diamond Dogs. The irony is from the fact that the song sounds nothing like the rest of the album. Being over 40 years old, the track is far lesser-known to the Gen X and Y kids. It gets lost because it’s sandwiched in between the original Ziggy tracks and the latter-day, far better known Let’s Dance tracks. But, for my money, Rebel, Rebel is one of the most hard-charging rock-and-roll riffs of all time.

Video: Heroes – just watch…

bowie - backyardLive: The Backyard, Austin TX, April 27, 2004 – An amazing night. The Austin Chronicle’s review is on target, but of course comes up short with being able to capture the magic of the night.

Bowie was “on” and the crowd ate it up, me included. He and the band delivered the perfect set list. A night and a concert performance I’ll never forget.

* * *

Ok, now for the “bond genius” part. For this, I have to give full credit to one of my new favorite, morning newsletters, Quartz. I recommend that you check it out. It’s become part of my morning routine, with multiple round-the-clock issues available to be sent to your email. I get the early morning edition that hits my inbox around 5am.

This past weekend, they editors did a marvelous intro to the daily edition, talking about Bowie’s forward-thinking, on multiple levels. I really can’t improve on what they wrote, so I’m citing it here, in full – all credit (copyright) goes to Quartz. (Keep up the good work, Team Quartz!)

“If you ever doubted that David Bowie was from the future, consider how Ziggy Stardust clairvoyantly shorted the music industry.bowie - new yorker

The late musician was always internet savvy—he started his own ISP way back in the AOL days, and was among the first artists to offer a downloadable album, just when Napster was starting to scare the bejesus out of the record labels.

His insight into digital music led him to predict the internet’s disruption of the music industry and cash out early. Back in 1997, he created an entirely new financial instrument: “Bowie bonds” were essentially a bet against the recorded-music business, providing the musician a $55 million payout, secured by future royalties from his enormous back catalog.

”Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity,” he told the New York Times in 2002. “The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. So it’s like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again.”

In 1999, global music industry revenues were $14.6 billion; by 2009, they were only $6.3 billion. The entire offering of Bowie bonds was sold to Prudential Securities, which didn’t turn out to be very prudent: The 10-year bonds were eventually downgraded to junk status as music sales, including Bowie’s back catalog, evaporated.

Not all of Bowie’s predictions came true: He also told the Times that copyright itself was doomed. Due to the lobbying prowess of major media companies, copyright protection is stronger than ever—not that it has helped musicians much.

Streaming music services like Spotify pay out tiny fractions of a penny for every song played, making most professional musicians dependent on touring and other revenue streams. (Bowie predicted that too.)

Incidentally, the banker who helped to create Bowie bonds is now securitizing the royalty streams of one-hit wonders like Right Said Fred, the luminaries behind “I’m Too Sexy.”

RIP, Starman.”

RIP, indeed. Carpe diem, my friends.

MoMA’s Curator Talks About the Future

I’ve been so busy, I’ve not yet had time to share any reflections on the 2015 SXSW Interactive sessions.

Among my favorites was Paolo Antonelli, curator of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Her keynote, entitled “Curious Bridges: How Designers Grow the Future” was, in my opinion, this year’s example of why I always plan to return to SXSW the next year.

If you wish, you can watch the entire, delightful and borderline provocative keynote, courtesy of the good people at Southby.

Much of her presentation revolved on the notion of “designing for the ‘in between’.” While I may be slightly off in my interpretation of her intent, this phrase seemed to be Paola’s way of referencing the essential role designers play connecting the imagined to the real.

Among the examples that she shared (and there were many) during her remarks, I was especially drawn to the ones that had bio- and nanotech references. This is largely due to one of the Powershift Group projects I’ve been supervising for the past six months, called Nano Global Corp.

Nano Global is focused on nanotechnology-based products into direct everyday consumer uses. These include skin protection, surface cleaning, safe food preparation, water and air purification, and many other practical applications.

Nanotech-based consumer products have the potential to improve the lives of tens of millions around the world. This is an especially urgent need, in the post-antibiotic age we’ve entered, where superbugs and fast-mutating germs are resistant to conventional treatments.

design - 1Back to Antonelli’s Southby keynote, there were several designer-inspired ideas that I found fascinating.

One was the pointy, polygon-shaped structure in the picture that almost looks like a building-sized virus itself.

But, far from being a virus, the structure is coated with nanoparticles that were meant to neutralize pollutants in the air.

In other words, it’s a giant air filter, sucking bad stuff out of the air.

Paola spent a significant portion of her time describing ways that science, design and architecture can work together. Artists want to share their art with the world; scientists want to make their science more useful.

Architecture provides a fascinating third way for these other two to come together in a way that is both pragmatic and beautiful.

design - 3Another more playful example that Antonelli mentioned was Moyasimon’s Tales of Agriculture.

This is a manga story about a boy who passionate about agriculture. In the story, the boy can see and talk to bacteria.

It’s a lovely way to represent what designers are actually thinking about, in terms of harnessing bacteria as worker bees that enable us to build a better future.

design - 2Taking it beyond bacteria, Antonelli closed with examples of the design of living beings.

One example she showed was Autodesk’s design of its own virus, in-vitro.

Another example she showed was MoMA’s latest acquisitions from the Wyss Institute, called organs-on-chip.

design - 4Organs-on-chip are designed to simulate how certain organs work, down to and including the interaction of nanoparticles and the body’s chemistry.

The point of these designs is very real: it is to create new, validated means of speeding new pharmaceuticals through their trials, to get life-saving and other beneficial drugs to market rapidly.

All-in-all, I found it a riveting SXSW keynote that will have me thinking about the possibilities of design, at least until SXSW 2016!

A Judge’s Scorecard: “Lights. Camera. Help.” 2014 #Film Frenzy

lch logoI had the great honor of being one of three celebrity, community judges for 2014 Reel Change Film Frenzy this evening.

Up to this point, the closest I’ve come to celebrity (other than having a Wikipedia entry) is purely associative, perhaps the greatest of which was being in the inaugural class of the Austin Under 40 Awards, in which Mike Judge, Lance Armstrong, and Michael Dell were also among the 25 inducted.

I showed to receive my award…they did not.  (Something about Emmys, French bike races, and self-immolating laptop batteries was muttered in each respective case, as I recall.)

But, back to the #FilmFrenzy…

My fellow judges and I watched 10 short films (the mandated max running length was 8 minutes), along with a sold-out audience at the shiny new-ish Alamo Drafthouse on Slaughter Lane.  We each scored in the following broad categories:

  1. Call to action
  2. Creativity, story, emotional connection
  3. Film craft, cinematography, sound

At the end of all 10, we three judges huddled in the hallway and, after briefly comparing our favorites, quickly concluded that the only one that finished in the top three for all of us for Pug Rescue of Austin.  It was funny, touching, well-paced, with solid sound and film work, and with interesting, readable titles and credits.

But, what we didn’t say was that we each had a different top favorite.  So, without further delay, here are excerpts of my judges comments:

  • Austin History Center: some great “insider” shots of the archives; would have loved more scenes other than downtown Austin; really liked use of old B&W photos in the closing sequence – very strong
  • Driving a Senior: the running length was long for my taste, but I give the team huge props for working in a narrative story…a very challenging decision that they executed impressively in such short time
  • Ecorise: some of the musical tracks were distracting and it felt a bit dialog-heavy to me, lacking a strong call to action; yet, film sequences of the kids outside and telling their stories was some of the strongest shown
  • Mariposa Pathway: the mix of motion graphics and action was nicely done; loved the butterfly sequences
  • Seedling Foundation: this was my overall favorite…I felt like the pacing was spot on; the film, sound, and titles were really strong; the call to action was powerful — I just loved it!
  • TALA: the filmmaker’s story was the perfect choice to illustrate the nonprofit’s value proposition
  • Truth Be Told: I had the strongest emotional reaction to this one; it was also in my top 3; really, really well-crafted film-making, powerful story-telling, beautifully done end credits — I loved this one too!
  • Umlauf Sculpture Gardens: some gorgeously done sequences of the sculpture garden (including night time rain – kudos team!) and awesome archival footage of the artist…reminded me to frequent this city treasure
  • VSA Texas: loved-loved-loved the beginning and ending sequence at Long Center…great choices for spokespeople, with a strong call to action

Congratulations to every one of the film makers who contributed their time, money and creative souls to producing these timeless works.  Good on you!

And special “thank you” to Aaron Bramley and David Neff (executive director and LCH founder/board member, respectively) for inviting me to participate.

Music Videos by GettingRich Productions

getting_rich_productions_logoMy youngest son Andrew has zeroed in on his calling: music video directing and producing.

He’s just 21 but has been cutting his teeth and has his first two videos wrapped.

His latest effort is called “Teenager on Drugs.” 

The rap has a powerful message, especially that last minute.  Andrew collaborated with the musician on the story, then directed, filmed, and edited the project.

His first full-length project was “Her Words.”  It was shot at the multiplex theater and mall across from Barton Creek Mall, just before it was demolished.  Again, Andrew directed, filmed, and edited the project.

He also hauled the gear, made the props and effects, and created video channels for the musicians.

If you’d like to see his photography / Photoshop work or his motion graphics / video animation work, you can find them on his Tumblr.

It took awhile to find his calling…he tried corporate videos, one-minute software commercials, live conference recordings, and more!  While they all contributed to the learning process, I believe he’s finally found his niche.

So, if you need a music video, connect with him on LinkedIn, to get his contact info!