Thursday, December 04, 2008

Jon Taplin's America 3.0 Presentation

Below I've embedded the You Tube presentation by Jon Taplin of his ideas on America 3.0. I recommend it for understanding the economic crises and some potential approaches to resolving these crises. I differ with Tap on some of the details.

1. Innovation is bred not invented. It is a cultural change problem to pick the right cultures at the right time and it is a funding issue as to what conditions must be met to receive funding. In my opinion, California is emblematic of the culture of consumerism and politically lacks the will to adjust its own lifestyle enough to warrant massive block grants. In short, if the automakers have to drive to DC with a plan in hand, California's governor will have to do the same and he shouldn't drive a Hummer. Tap is an unconditional cheerleader for the California Culture. I admit the need for lobbying for one's own but do be do be doo.

2. While the ideas of bottom-up open source America Needs A New Operating system are attractive to the geek in me, I am mistrustful of such metaphors in the details. Policies have to see to details or we will quickly devolve into another Spy Vs Spy episode where one power elite is substituted for a power elite. Nothing changes but the flow of wealth among two competing classes at the same level. In short, meet the new boss.

Let me give you one example. Standards are one of the means by which innovation is shared, but too often, covertly or openly, one of the means by which companies dominate and deny the commons what it needs to sustain itself: access to market.

How does that work? Company A receives a PAS standard for a platform with licensable plugins. Company A then requires all companies submitting the information for applying for the license to include relevant standards used to create the plugin. Company B submits required information including the fact that the plugin is based on standards approved by the same standards organization that provided the PAS. Company A rejects the license application renewal for an application that was approved one year prior minus the information about the standard used by the plugin citing that the plugin implements a technology that is competitive with Company A's technology in the same market.

One year earlier, that was Ok. One year later with the additional information, it is not.

That's cynical? It won't happen.

It did in a soon to be famous case where a proprietary specification was allowed to become an international standard. A very powerful company (NO, it wasn't Microsoft) then denied licenses exactly as described.

Before the power and credibility of the White House are dragged into the internal marketing politics of these companies and market cartels, policies must be clearer as to what can be claimed and what recourses third parties have in the face of exclusionary actions. If we are to use Federal power to drive innovation, we must first set policy for the intellectual property, how it is shared or licensed, and we must ensure that the elite cultivar chosen can suitably be rehosted or replanted in cultures different from that of the original. Otherwise we are completing the branded homogenization of America into a mall where only the bigger brands compete.

I have a few other minor quibbles with Tap's presentation, but in the main he has done an excellent job of outlining the history of economic collapse and pointing to reasonable actions. The devil is in the details and that is what we should be discussing.

Do take the time to watch his presentation.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Oh Happy Day

When very young, I played at the church coffee house, in the youth choir, and sweated in a too tight tie in an unairconditioned block building that was our church. As the folk-rock movement blended into those sounds, I was a comfortable kid music wise. With the Beatles and the Causes du Jour, I drifted away and then found myself like so many not liking country and not wanting to hang out and sing church music.

I don't think it ironic but strangely twisted that this year I find that in the next week, on Sunday during the traditional service, the choir will perform one of my new choral works (Epiphany), and that night, I'll perform my new contemporary work with the praise band. There are definite pluses. One, church musicians are better trained and nowhere near the level of arrogance of my old nightclub band mates. Two, they work for free so getting three guitars, drums, bass, piano, keyboards and a horn stack with four background screamers (ah, the good old days of the Motown sound) is reasonable without midi. I get to play the 12-string Rickenbacker stopping occasionally to hold my hand over my head and direct the other singers while I close my eyes and do my best Elvis voice with real musicians. Kitsch with class.

So the Byrds Meet Chicago In Memphis is not a bad sound for a praise song (The Gift). They play the arrangement the way I wrote it without complaint, in fact, with a grateful enthusiasm which is a big contrast from the band days. There is my son on horn, my wife leading the screamers, and me up front. Next time I'll write a marimba part for my daughter because asking her to play tambourine after many years of percussion lessons, well, that would be like handling a ukelele to Eric Clapton. He might play it but then he might not tune it first.

In traditional, I get a choir, a wind section with clarinets, flute and french horn, a bass guitar, a classical pianist and a director. They read the contrapuntal parts, comment on the simplicity and young ladies tell me how much they like the part I wrote for their instrument. I am referred to as The Composer instead of the songwriter. All I have to do is watch, listen, then stand up and bow at the end. Big juju.

And for both, the audience is guaranteed.

Next week, as recompense, I will be the "Special Music" at the traditional service, meaning it's just me and a nylon string singing Gounod's Ave Maria in Latin. It's a nice piece because the Ave Maria text fits the Gounod/Bach melody much better than with the Schubert which is a pretty melody but not originally written for the Ave Maria text. It's easy to play and a study in how to use diminished chords to change the tonal center without changing the key. It isn't easy to sing but that's why God gave me a falsetto.

So this is all pretty cool. I get to stretch in every direction but one: I dare not speak for as my daughter tells me and others, "Dad will open his mouth one day and we'll all get thrown out of church." And she's right. My sense of humor has no place in the congregation. "Ya shag one goat, ya know!"

But I'm glad, awfully glad for this week. Maybe it's worth my failure as a performer and after a lifetime of music, only making second rate. At least when I do these gigs, I rate, and at best, it's for a greater glory than my own.

I'm cool with that. Oh happy days.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Dirty Deeds

The scene in Mumbai though terrible is all too familiar to those who live there according to my Indian colleagues. They mourn openly and deeply.

While the pundits analyze and try to make the connections to the usual suspects, I recommend a BBC piece.

As I read some blogs, I find the also familiar comments attempting to tie the attacks back to American foreign policy. Sadly, this makes the critics of those the very people who ensure this attack will be followed by another through providing the exact reactions the killers want and the cycle is guaranteed to continue. I'm not excusing American foreign policy mistakes, but asking if those tieing the attacks to America are completing the attacks?

It’s astonishing to consider an ecosystem of call and response where if they provide the bodies, we’ll provide the reasons. Dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

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