Our pretense of control

Sanjay Khanna reporting on The New Yorker’s “Next 100 Days” policy summit: [Link]

…it seems our human nature leads us to insist on turning towards increasingly discrete, expert-dependent disciplines to save us from ourselves. Which is why this could be a good time, as [Malcolm] Gladwell smartly hinted, to question our pretense of control. After all, every day, beneath our conscious awareness, the Earth spins around its axis and revolves around the Sun, while the biosphere in its every realm demonstrates that the whole is greater than the sum of its constituent parts. It may seem glib to say so, but given that we’re simply a small part of that infinite complexity, it might serve us well to ask, hat in hand: What is it we believe we can control, exactly?

BarCamp Austin 2009

From its first year, I was committed in principle to BarCamp Austin but couldn’t quite seem to get away from SXSW Interactive long enough to make the scene. This year I made 100% commitment to go. Steve Golab of FG Squared wanted me to join him in a talk about Austin’s potential as a hub of the social media world. We grabbed a slot, but Steve had an emergency and had to leave before we spoke, so my friend Tom Brown stepped in to help, and I changed the presentation to something more general: how do you make a scene that involves diverse cultures and communities – the Open Source geeks, the Chamber of Commerce suits, the Bootstrappers and all the people brewing businesses from ideation through valley of death to growth? We talked a lot about the potential of coworking to bring voices from all these communities together in synergistic conversations. We were getting close to thoughts about solutions (with contributions from Sherry Lowry, Julie Gomoll, and others) but a half hour’s not along time. I’d love to continue that conversation somewhere.

Bands, Burgers, and Beer

Tantalizing free music minifest jamming during SXSW, at the great Fran’s Hamburgers, 1822 S. Congress, March 19, 3pm-6pm… assembled by my friend Joe Rae Di Menno of Hard Pressed Publicity, sponsored by Santa Fe Brewing.

Give your ears a break from the Fender Strats and your bellies a reprieve from the all-you-can-stomach chili con queso to unwind with your friends at Green Light Go and Hard Pressed Publicity. Located in the heart of South Congress, and right around the corner from Jo’s Coffee Shop and the Continental Club, not only does Fran’s Hamburgers dish up the most noteworthy burgers in town (we hear the Homemade Hickory Burger with a touch of BBQ sauce and dill pickles is to die for!) The food, of course, is just the appetizer to the main event.

Bands, Burgers, and Beer will feature acoustic performances by:

3:00-3:20pm – The Handsome Family – Albuquerque’s husband and wife duo, Brett and Rennie Sparks have hit the pavement running. With alt-country swaggers and dark, haunting melodies, The Handsome Family celebrate their 20th anniversary with bittersweet love songs that travel like tumbleweeds through the chambers of our hearts.

3:25 – 3:45 – Ben Mallott – Recently releasing his first solo CD with dustwind melodies and straight to the heart lyrics, Look Good, Feel Good, was coined by Austin Monthly as “as one of the top nine to watch in ‘09” while Austin Chronicle’s Austin Powell named him “one of 9 locals poised to breakout at SXSW this year.”

3:50 – 4:10pm – The Motion Sick – When The Motion Sick aren’t tuning their Rickenbackers, they’re busy picking up “Band of the Month” and “Undiscovered Bands Worth a Listen” titles from Spin Magazine. After taking notes from influences such as Nick Cave and Modest Mouse, lead singer Michael Epstein taught a Hearing Science course at Northwestern University, before laying down a few tracks of his own. While still on campus, The Motion Sick decided to shoot a video for their single, “30 Lives”, which was added to Dance Dance Revolution, sending feet into a frenzy over the surf pop hit. Class is in session!

4:15 – 4:30pm – Graham Wilkinson and the Underground Township – are releasing Yearbook due out this April 2009. With his core, bass and drums, lead by Wayne Dalchau and Matt Morris, they’ve shared the stage with Regina Spektor, Hayes Carll, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Kimya Dawson, legendary Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, as well as friend and mentor Alejandro Escovedo (will guest on new CD.) Hayes Carll says “Graham is like no other musician on the scene with charisma in spades and the songs to match.”

4:35-4:55pm – Static of the Gods – Fusing melodic indie rock with sweet-yet-sultry vocals, Jen Johnson (voice, guitar, & keyboard), Mike Latulippe (drums) and Ben Voskeritchian (bass & guitar) have all the right moves. The trio’s innovation and ability to reinvent the musical wheel prevents critics from putting a finger on them, while fans continue screaming for more. Be sure to catch the Boston natives before Metric can swoop them up for an opening slot.

5:00 – 5:15pm – Aimee Bobruk –Austin’s own songbird, Aimee Bobruk, collides dreamy indie pop with ambient folk rock, presenting listeners with rich orchestral melodies, crisp lyrical images, and creative instrumentation. Recently performing at the Folk Alliance and chosen as one of 12 Regional Finalists for the nationally acclaimed NPR show Mountain Stage New Song Contest, Bobruk will release her Darwin Smith produced CD, The Safety Match Journal (Darwin Smith)nationally on April 28, 2009.

5:20 – 5:35pm – Golden Bloom – Golden Bloom combines the crisp vocals of Shawn Fogel with driving hooks to create pop songs that would turn Jeff Tweedy green with envy. Handling all of the instruments on his upcoming album, while sharing the stage with the likes of Michael Azerrad during traditional live performances, Golden Bloom recently earned the title of SPIN Magazine’s “8 Undiscovered Bands Worth a Listen.” Be sure to catch Golden Bloom and watch these golden boys who are winning the heart of America faster than you can say “record deal”.

5:40 – 6:00pm – Robert Harrison (Future Clouds & Radar) – Listing Peoria as Blurt’s 5th Best Record of 2008, Future Clouds and Radar’s latest offering finds the band focusing their kaleidoscopic vision into a single cinematic narrative about the illusory nature of mortality. Harrison stays true to his genre-hopping eclecticism, leading the journey through a maze of fuzz-box vocals and ethereal keys. The band released their self-titled double-disc debut in 2007, and Harp Magazine named the band “Debut Artist of the Year” and called the release 4th Best Record overall.

Green Light Go earned their stripes within the ranks of the entertainment publicity world. With over fifteen years of experience working in the music industry for BMG Distribution, representing such clients as Morrissey, Belle & Sebastian, Ray LaMontagne, and The White Stripes; Green Light Go founder and CEO, Janelle Rogers, combines her library of industry knowledge with an innate level of creativity, integrity, and passion. Green Light Go emphasizes the motto “quality over quantity”, focusing their efforts on an integrated approach of working with traditional media of today and the internet media of tomorrow.

If there were such a thing as a royal family of Austin’s music scene, Jo Rae Di Menno of Austin’s Hard Pressed Publicity would certainly be a member. In addition to spending 10 years as director of publicity for the world-famous South By Southwest Music & Media Conference (which included escorting and organizing press conferences for keynote speakers Johnny Cash, Tony Bennett, Carl Perkins, Nick Lowe and Bob Mould), Di Menno has conducted successful media campaigns for Alejandro Escovedo, Ronnie Lane and Ian McLagan of the Faces, the True Believers, Trish Murphy, Bernard Allison and many others. For nearly 20 years, she’s represented some of the world’s top musicians (and trendy record labels like Rough Trade and Fat Caddy) – both at home and overseas.

Obama’s cloud

Read Write Web compares word clouds of Obama’s inaugural speech to those by Bush, Clinton, Reagan, and Lincoln. Interesting comparison. (RWW’s other inauguration day posts were underwhelming. You don’t really have to post about the inauguration if you don’t have something new and useful to add to the general noise.)

We set up an ad hoc chat room to hang out and discuss the Inauguration while it was happening, and I was reminded that chat feels more like coherent conversation than Twitter. The Inauguration was meaningful, an historic event, but I’m more interested in the real work that starts today.

People-Powered Media [un]Workshop

Find me at the People-Powered Media [un]Workshop this weekend, described as “an ‘unconference’ style event created to explore how community media can be used as a tool for information, organization, and action.” Gary Chapman will keynote in the afternoon, otherwise the discussions will emerge, unconference style. Register now if you haven’t already.

One Web Day in Austin

Working with the phenomenal Maggie Duval, Cafe Caffeine, and Austin Jelly instigator Dusty Reagan, we’ve put together Austin’s own One Web Day celebration – Monday, September 22 at Cafe Caffeine. We’ll have speakers all day, from 10:30am to 8:15pm, during a special One Web Day Jelly. Sign up at Eventbrite or just show up!

More about One Web Day