stop, hey, what’s that sound? everybody look what’s goin’ down.

Occupy Wall Street

WHAT the hell is going on?  There is all this news coverage happening on a very sensational level and a very “objective” level..reporting. But what about context? What about history? I was talking with a friend yesterday about how we both just feel like something is about to “pop”.  There is SO much tension.  It reminded me of a feeling I had after watching the Baader Meinhoff Complex. This was the generation that fought against their parents generation of “fascism”….

are we watching the same sort of thing with this generation and their parents (AND some grandparents) having come through the lens of the 60’s and 70’s? In the film this faction attacks capitalism, starts attacking insitutions with bombs. (When the film came to the US there was a whole other layer of controvery. Hitchens commented best here.)  The protests happening here in LA around the rising tuitions just layers on a “Kent State” vibe to the whole thing.

This article in Wired Magazine yesterday also shone a light on the organized aspects of “Secret HQ of OWS”. It also made me feel there are absolutely some kind of parallels to be drawn here. I wasn’t born when alot of it started, but I can tell you that having a parent who was “a hippie”, hung out in the village smoking cigarettes listening to Bob Dylan, a female parent that taught me everything about protest and civil rights and always encouraged participation (marched a picket line at age 11 to protest my school closures – not enough kids thanks to birth control of course)…having that parent has shaped my political participation.

Having that parent ALSO meant that my baby book was filled with historical ephemera. King getting shot, kennedy, the moon landing.

I’m not sure this is being taken as seriously as it should be….I know there is no clear ask as there was with getting out of vietnam. But i have to think that if Geitner and the Justice Dept could pull a J Edgar Hoover and start dragging “criminals” off to jail….banking people seem to be the target. Even just a few…that it would do something to quell a little bit of the tension.  Just a little….but it would be something.

65 percent of kids born today will have careers that don’t exist yet

careers of the future

finally we might be at the beginning of the end. the doomsday technology chant that educators have been harping on is challenged by a Duke University professor. Why is it that we assume that just because we are older we know better? Why in this day and age with the rapid advancements in health, power (sort of), communication, etc…are we still primarily convinced that technology in kid’s lives is a bad thing? why aren’t we applying moore’s law to kids’ ability to learn and to change the world?

Research shows mobile technology is really changing children’s brains. An expert explains how we use that for good

Our kids' glorious new age of distraction

Children are not what they used to be. They tweet and blog and text without batting an eyelash. Whenever they need the answer to a question, they simply log onto their phone and look it up on Google. They live in a state of perpetual, endless distraction, and, for many parents and educators, it’s a source of real concern. Will future generations be able to finish a whole book? Will they be able to sit through an entire movie without checking their phones? Are we raising a generation of impatient brats?

According to Cathy N. Davidson, a professor of interdisciplinary studies at Duke University, and the author of the new book “Now You See It: How Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn,” much of the panic about children’s shortened attention spans isn’t just misguided, it’s harmful. Younger generations, she argues, don’t just think about technology more casually, they’re actually wired to respond to it in a different manner than we are, and it’s up to us — and our education system — to catch up to them.

Davidson is personally invested in finding a solution to the problem. As vice provost at Duke, she spearheaded a project to hand out a free iPod to every member of the incoming class, and began using wikis and blogs as part of her teaching. In a move that garnered national media attention, she crowd-sourced the grading in her course. In her book, she explains how everything from video gaming to redesigned schools can enhance our children’s education — and ultimately, our future.

Salon spoke to Davidson over the phone about the structure of our brains, the danger of multiple-choice testing, and what the workplace of the future will actually look like.

Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of concern that new forms of technology, like smart phones, video games and the Internet, are ruining the next generation of kids — that they can’t concentrate on anything, that they’re always distracted. You don’t think that’s the case?

Back in the ’80s and ’90s, there were findings that suggested this new technology would be great as an education and learning tool. Then Columbine happened, and you could see all the research money go from “Wow, we’re in this new digital age and it’s going to be great for all of us” to “How is it that this digital era is destroying our kids?” It’s email, it’s the Internet, it’s video games, then when texting comes along, it’s texting, and when social networking comes along, it’s social networking. So whatever the flavor of the month in terms of new technologies are, there’s research that comes out very quickly that shows how it causes our children to be asocial, distracted, bad in school, to have learning disorders, a whole litany of things.

And then the Pew Foundation and MacArthur Foundation started saying, about three or four years ago: “Wait, wait, wait, let’s not assume these things are hurting our kids. Let’s just look at how our kids are using media and stop with testing that’s set up from a pejorative or harmful point of view. Let’s actually look at what’s happening.” So we’ve wasted time — but we can make it up. I think the moralistic research really, really colored over a decade of research, especially on kids.

So tell me, why isn’t all this distraction bad for our kids’ brains?

The phenomenon of attention blindness is real — when we pay attention to one thing, it means we’re not paying attention to something else. When we’re multitasking, what we’re actually really doing is what Linda Stone calls “continuous partial attention.” We’re not actually simultaneously paying equal attention to two things: One of the things that we’re doing is probably being done automatically, and we’re sort of cruising through that, and we’re paying more attention to the other thing. Or we’re moving back and forth between them. But any moment when there is a major new form of technology, people think it’s going to overwhelm the brain. In the 1930s there was legislation introduced to prevent Motorola from putting radios in dashboards, because it was thought that people couldn’t possibly cope with driving and listening to the radio.

As you point out in the book, the reason why certain things distract us more than others has to do with the way our brains develop when we’re young children.

We used to think that as we get older we develop more neural pathways, but the opposite is actually the case. You and I have about 40 percent less neurons than a newborn infant does. A baby pays attention to everything. You’ve probably witnessed this — if there are shadows in the ceiling or sand blades are making peculiar patterns, we adults don’t recognize that, but it can be utterly mesmerizing to a child. They learn what not to pay attention to over and over and over again, and learn what to pay attention to, and that makes for neural pathways that are very efficient. They’re what we tend to call reflexes or automatic behaviors, because we’ve done them so many times we don’t pay attention to them anymore.  As an adult, you feel distracted when you learn something new and you can’t depend on those automatic responses or automatic reflexes that have been streamlined neurally over a lifetime of use.

Younger generations are being exposed to all these new stimuli — texting, Facebooking, Googling — from an early age. Does that mean their brains, their neural pathways, are built differently than ours?

When my students go to the Web and they’re searching and they’re leaving comments and they’re social networking and they’re Facebooking and they’re texting at the same time — those are their reflexes. They are learning to process that kind of information faster. That which we experience shapes our pathways, so they’re going to be far less stressed by a certain kind of multitasking that you are or than I am, or people who may not have grown up with that.

Our tools are substitutes for those things that society has taught us aren’t worth paying attention to and aren’t really valuable — and our neural pathways have followed right along. Back in the days when the slide ruler was invented, people thought it was terrible and you would lose math abilities. Well, they were right, we did lose certain math abilities, and no one cared. So kids today, I think, because of the way they learn, they are used to lots of different media, and they are learning in a different way than kids who were trained by television, for example, in a previous generation. It’s not that one is better or worse than another, it’s just that they’re absolutely different. There’s always something that is easy for a kid not because they’re superior, but because that’s exactly the thing that shaped their neural pathways.

In the book, you have this fascinating statistic that 65 percent of kids born today will have careers that don’t exist yet. Right now, under No Child Left Behind, the school system puts tremendous emphasis on standardized multiple choice tests, which, as you point out, don’t exactly train kids to think creatively about the technological future.

The whole point of standardized testing was invented in 1914 and modeled explicitly as a way to process all these immigrants who were flooding into America at the same time as we were requiring two years of high school, and men were off at war and women were working in factories. The multiple choice test is based on the assembly line – what’s fast, what’s machine readable, what can be graded very, very rapidly. It’s also based on the idea of objectivity and that there’s a kind of knowledge that has a right answer. If you chose a right answer, you’re done. It’s really only in the last 100 years that we’ve thought of learning in that very quantifiable way.

We’re now in an era where anybody can find out anything just by Googling. So the real issue is not how fast can I choose a fact A, B, C or D. Now if I Google an answer I’ve got thousands of possibilities to choose from. How do you teach a kid to be able to make a sound judgment about what is and what isn’t reliable information? How do you synthesize that into a coherent position that allows you to make informed decisions about your life? In other words, all of those things we think of as school were shaped for a vision of work and productivity and adulthood that was very much an industrial age of work, productivity and adulthood. We now have a pretty different idea of work, productivity and adulthood, but we’re still teaching people using the same institutionalized forms of education.

So what do we do to change that?

First I’d get rid of end-of-grade tests. They demotivate learning, in boys especially. Establish more challenge-based problem-solving kinds of education. This is hardly revolutionary. Montessori schools do this. I would like to see more attention paid to how you go from thinking something to making something. If I’m learning about numbers, how will that help me understand the financial situation that no one in the world seems to understand right now. You’re lucky that you’re 27; imagine being 15 right now, and hear every pundit saying that your generation is the first generation to be poorer than your parents, you’re not going to have jobs, we’re going to go into a worldwide depression, and the Internet has made you dumb, shallow, stupid, lonely — that’s a lot to deal with.

One of the things you advocate is getting rid of the traditional grading system in favor of something more group-sourced. How would that work? I find it a little shocking.

There are all these really stunning computer scientists that are just frustrated as heck about how badly we’re training scientists. And many of them feel that A,B,C,D and numeric grades are disincentives to exactly the kind of inductive thinking, creative thinking that is the scientific method. Top Coder is the world’s most important certification system for people who are doing open Web development around the world, and they’ve come up with an incredibly complex badging system, where if I’m working with you on code and I see you’re doing a great job, it’s part of my job as a member of the Top Coding community to give somebody points. So if I think you’re doing a great job solving some problem in C++ that I can’t see a solution to, I might give you 20 points. If I’m a third developer, and I say I really need somebody who can help me with some really complicated stuff on C++ , and I see you have a badge with 1,000 points on it on your website, I can click on your badge and it will give me in minute and excruciating detail, how you earned every one of those points.

There are now a group of computer scientists who are working together to see if we can’t come up with ways that textbooks — particularly online and interactive textbooks; there’ve been some wonderful ones for algebra, for example — could be based on testing that works in some similar way, where a teacher would give you points for succeeding at a problem, where you would automatically get points for getting the correct answer. You wouldn’t even worry about giving negative points because it doesn’t matter; all you do is get points when you do something well. Even saying that is a conceptual breakthrough. When I told my students that we don’t have to worry about trolls and criticism, all we have to do is make really sound, conscientious, articulate judgments about positive things, it was as if a cloud opened.

Work life is also changing. It’s weird, I go to an office every day, and sit at a desk, but as soon as I open my laptop my non-work life floods back in. I’m answering emails from my parents, or checking my Facebook page, or getting texts from friends. Our work life has become very porous.

Right. It’s bizarre — we go to work, and then we live in a workplace that is our desktop, which brings all the whole world to our workplace with us. Why are we going physically to work to then be subjected to everything else in the world that isn’t work along with everything that is work? It’s all jumbled up together. We’re in a very transitional moment. But that’s going to get fixed too, I think grading is going to get more sophisticated and I think we’re just going to have more and more complex ways of working .

Do you think that we’ll just all be telecommuting, eventually?

You know, I love talking about IBM because what stodgier company is there on earth than IBM? There, people are reshaping the workplace to the task before them. Sometimes they physically come together, sometimes they’re in a 15-person phone call, sometimes they’re on their laptops [IM’ing]. I think the dexterity of work is just something we’re beginning to explore. I think you need some really solid infrastructure so it’s not exploitative. It would be great to have universal healthcare because if you had universal healthcare you actually could employ people in variant ways. Like I might want to work 10 hours a week at Salon, and 20 hours a week at NYU, and 15 hours a week at the New York Times. I think flexibility and variability will be more important in the future.

I think basically everybody in the white-collar field has noticed that this change goes both ways — our personal life intrudes into our workplace, but our work is increasing intruding into our personal life. We’re answering emails on weekends or checking our BlackBerrys at night. Is this something we’re just going to get used to?

We could either get used to it, or we could say no. Computers could have software that said how much time I was logged in [and then paid me accordingly]. Why couldn’t that be the new work life? We have to think very carefully about what we want from work now that those new conditions and possibilities exist. That’s why I teach my students about judgment.

Thomas Rogers is Salon’s Deputy Arts Editor.More Thomas Rogers

Thanks Steve. RIP

steve jobs

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

“Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

PBS: 21st century learners


When I hear the threat that funding will be cut for PBS and NPR my blood boils.  But then I end up glued to the television watching a show on Digital Media on PBS – (CLip below) and my blood REALLY boils. This organization is so important. When I think of everything from Sesame Street at age 3 to this show last week (well past age 3!!!)

But I digress and use the opportunity to discuss an additional issue that is my passion for PBS.  THE MAIN REASON I’M POSTING:


If you’re a parent? Forward it to a teacher. Figure out how you can use technology to help your child do their homework and learning PAST using GOOGLE. If you don’t have kids? Volunteer. Send this to someone. Donate money to programs that bring technology into the schools.

“It is now problem solving that we need to learn – everyone should be able to develop the ability to create and not just consume”.

Watch the full episode. See more Digital Media – New Learners Of The 21st Century.

“We just got signed by McDonald’s”

I’ve been talking about this for a long long time. There have been movements over the years toward this; Bacardi and Groove Armada was one that was very deep in that their record was released by Bacardi, much different than writing a song for bacardi. We’ve seen that with Lenny Kravitz and Absolut; and many of the others in this article. The big agencies all have music departments and yes they produce music for commercials, original recordings, licensing – but if brands and agencies really want to get into this business it will take much more than just a 20mm TV campaign for an artist to succeed.  Are these new entities ready to brand the artist in addition to the brand? Ready to put them on the road, go into the studio for more than a 30 second TV spot? Create publicity for the artist? Book them on Kimmel?Take meetings with Clear Channel? Have a product manager to hire a confab of independents to perform these services?

No matter what your “label” looks like or what it’s name is…your marketing partner when you are an artist needs to perform many other services other than getting a song out there. It will be interesting to see if this idea takes hold – for the most part every artist has a staff behind them that not everyone recognizes continues working on the project after release; unlike at  an agency where a spot is aired and it’s onto the next – yes Media Buying continues onward; maybe some experiential campaigns to support the program – but it is very different than committing to someone’s career.

McDonald’s, Pepsi, Coca-Cola Troll for Up-and-Coming Artists

Marketers Change Music Model of Going After Established Talent, Saving Money, Giving Halo of Discovery to Brands

NEW YORK ( — Seven years ago, McDonald’s tapped Justin Timberlake in a multimillion-dollar deal to launch “I’m Lovin’ it.” Now the marketer and a bevy of other brands such as Coca-Cola are bypassing the big stars — and in some cases the record labels — to become incubators for tomorrow’s superstars.

The fast-food chain is the launch sponsor for Artists & Brands, a music-media agency that aligns up-and-coming artists with campaigns that suit their style, a far cry from the marketer’s earlier practices of shelling out big bucks for jingles on spec. In the new model, artists get exposure, while marketers save on fees and get cool points for introducing people to new music.

IB Fokuz, who was discovered by Artists & Brands, has appeared in McDonald's commercials.
IB Fokuz, who was discovered by Artists & Brands, has appeared in McDonald’s commercials.


“In the prehistoric days, like when I started in advertising, you used to say ‘I wish I could have’ — name a big-time band — and then you’d negotiate a lot of money to get them,” said Marlena Peleo-Lazar, chief creative officer, McDonalds’s USA. “But so much has changed with the music industry, technology and the internet, you certainly still can go and get Sting if you’re so inclined — and have a blank check.”

“If you can find new talent instead of renting existing talent, there will be an association with the product, and that’s what I think McDonald’s is trying to get at,” said Ira Antelis, co-CEO of Artists & Brands. He cited “Grey’s Anatomy” and the band the Fray as an example of a lasting association, as well as Old Navy, which featured Ingrid Michaelson’s song “The Way I Am” in a sweater commercial.

At Artists & Brands, Mr. Antelis is partnering with Rodney Jerkins, a legendary music producer, and Daryl Jones, a top music attorney.

McDonald’s isn’t alone. Frank Cooper, chief consumer-engagement officer at PepsiCo Americas Beverages, pointed to Green Label Sound, a platform for independent artists that quietly promotes Mtn Dew, as an example of how brands will shape the music industry.

“You’ll see through Green Label Sound the rethinking of ownership of music, a rethinking of how to monetize it, how to build the brand of an artist,” he said. “And I think you’ll see where it’s coming from artists, managers, record labels and alternative methods of funding — and brands will play an incredibly critical part in that.”

Music Dealers
Eric Sheinkop, president of Chicago-based Music Dealers, a business-to-business music-licensing noted a sharp increase in demand in the last two years, as his staff has grown to 30 people from three. Music Dealers opened a New York office last month, and has a London location opening in September.

Music Dealers works with clients such as Maxwell House, Corona and GMC to find the perfect song for campaigns. The company works from a database with thousands of songs by independent artists that have been prescreened and approved, often turning requests around in a day. Artists working on spec once took weeks or even months.

Mr. Sheinkop, who quit the music management business two years ago to focus on licensing, said one benefit of working with up-and-comers is that “artists are going to be so proud to be attached that they’ll push it for you,” he said.

But don’t count the labels out yet. Coca-Cola made a big splash with little-known artist K’naan last month. K’naan’s song “Wavin’ Flag,” with the lyrics rewritten for marketability, is the centerpiece of its global World Cup campaign. Released last month, it’s already No. 1 in China, Mexico and Germany. Coke signed K’naan to make appearances on some stops of its World Cup tour, leading up to the tournament. He’ll also be making appearances in South Africa.

But K’naan was already signed to Universal when Coke linked up with him. Joe Belliotti, director-global entertainment marketing at the Coca-Cola Co. stressed that the label has been a big asset in organizing every facet of the campaign and tour. “The music industry is going through an evolution, but there’s still really a necessity for record companies,” Mr. Belliotti said. “It might look like their role is changing,” he said, but “it’s got to be a collaborative process, really leveraging the power of each.”

Coke owns a portion of the “Wavin’ Flag” royalties, and all proceeds will be donated to provide water for schools in Africa.

Some marketers see potential to monetize these endeavors. While underscoring that it’s not Pepsi’s primary mission, Mr. Cooper said: “There’s absolutely an opportunity for us to generate revenue around some of the content and experiences we’re creating in entertainment.”

Why I Love Jonathan Lethem

jonathan lethem

A few years back I went to see Lawrence Lessig and Jeff Tweedy debate the idea of remixes/mashes/samples and it was moderated by Wired Magazine’s Steven Johnson.  It may be one of my penultimate moments as a digital media, wilco fanatic, and nerd all at once.  Wilco had just gotten sued for the sample inside “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”….It was one of the best discussions on creativity, influence and inspiration I’ve ever attended.  Worth at least what one might learn in an entire semester in an art class at college. Truly. If someone had told me when I was 16 I’d be sitting inside the New York Public Library listeneing to a lawyer and one of my favorite songwriters talk about sampling…well…you know…yeah right.

And THIS is why I love Jonathan Lethem. I’ve been a Lethem fan since Fortress of Solitude. I feel connt\ected to his path in that we have lived in the same cities and pats of the country and he writes about neighborhoods I’ve lived in – and my true conversion as a complete and utter junkie came when I read The Disappointment Artist. It’s rare that you read a memoir and then want to go back and read every book that the author wrote…but I did. To learn that Lethem ran the Philip K Dick fan club? His obsession with Star Wars? Music…it all made sense why I had been following him.

He recently took up head of the department post at Pomona college….i hadn’t visited his blog in a while. Am in the finishing chapters of Chronic City. And then…then I saw the below. And once more I thought. Damn I love Jonathan Lethem. This is a writer who is SO modern in his process, in his voice and here we see in his attitude. I love the collaborative process, love that he is “throwin it out there to those that want to participate” – it’s just so refreshing to see someone BEING intellectual with their PROPERTY rather than trying to hoarde it.

You get what you Give. And Lethem’s Giving ALOT.  Read this man’s books.  They are fantastic. I swear.

Image by Tony Fitzpatrick


A couple of years ago, after writing a piece for Harper’s called “The Ecstasy of Influence”, I decided to start giving away some of my stories to filmmakers or dramatists to adapt. (I also write some song lyrics and invited musicians to help themselves to those.) You can see some of the results here. The project continues, and anyone should feel free to leap in. The stories are available non-exclusively — meaning other people may be working from the same material — and the cost is a dollar apiece.

There’s a simple written agreement to sign, imposing a couple of minor restrictions. That’s it — once you’ve paid your dollar and signed the agreement, you’re free to adapt or mutate the story as you please, for whatever purpose, whimsical, commercial or otherwise.

Frequently Asked Questions

What gives?

I like art that comes from other art, and I like seeing my stories adapted into other forms. My writing has always been strongly sourced in other voices, and I’m a fan of adaptations, apropriations, collage, and sampling.

I recently explored some of these ideas in an essay for Harper’s Magazine. As I researched that essay I came more and more to believe that artists should ideally find ways to make material free and available for reuse. This project is a (first) attempt to make my own art practice reflect that belief.

My thinking along these lines has been strongly influenced by Open Source theory and the Free Culture movement, and by Lewis Hyde’s book, The Gift.

Some of the Project’s stories are available here on-line, others can be found in my books. In either case, I’m assuming they’ll have more readers as a result of this project, and I like that, too.

Are all your stories available?

No, just the stories listed here. The rest I’m keeping, for the time being, for more controlled and exclusive uses.

Which rights are you giving away, and which are you keeping?

I should emphasize that these texts themselves may not be copied in any medium, or reproduced in anthologies or websites (except of course for fair-use excerpts). My publishers are the only ones I’ve allowed to do that, and the health of my partnership with them frees me to continue writing new novels and stories, so don’t monkey with it, thanks.

What I’m offering is the right to adapt these stories into stage plays and films.

What are the ‘few restrictions’?

The first is that I’d ask that films be held to the length of half an hour or less, keeping them firmly in the category of ‘short’. Similarly, I’d ask that playwrights keep to a ‘one-act’, or forty-five minute, limit.

For the most part, I’ve offered material that seems proportionate to shorter work. Though if someone wants to propose an exception, I’ll consider it.

Neither playwrights nor screenwriters should publish any adaptations of these stories in book form. Anything like that would put me in breach of my agreement with my publisher. The goal is to let short films and plays happen, not to create rival texts.

And of course, I’d ask always to receive credit as the writer of the source material.

Are there other artists doing things like this who were sources of inspiration to you?

Yes, lots. A couple of examples: playright Charles Mee’s (re)making project. David Byrne and Brian Eno’s My Life In The Bush of Ghosts download/remix/share site. The web is also full of great examples of appropriated and reused cultural materials of all kinds, some of it created with permission, some not.

Though there’s nothing “digital” about The Promiscuous Materials Project (apart from the fact that you’re probably learning about it on the internet), it’s probably safe to say that it tends to be digital music and web-based-art (and aesthetic theory) which is pointing the way in this area, while those (like me) working in more traditional forms come around more slowly.

Why not call them ‘Open Source Stories’, or put them under a Creative Commons license?

I like the comparison to Open Source projects. But that description has mostly covered software, and the terms of most Open Source agreements are slightly different than mine. It could be misleading to use that name.

As for Creative Commons, I’m a fan. I’m strongly influenced, in this effort, by Lawrence Lessig’s writings. But my own plan had some specific contours which didn’t fit any of the Creative Commons licenses. So I invented my own type of agreement with other artists.

What if someone makes money from adapting one of your stories?

Great. Most short films and small theater pieces don’t make money. By offering these stories cost-free, I’m alleviating just the first of the financial hurdles an adapter is likely to face. If someone working from one of these stories does find distribution or other support that brings financial reward, I’m delighted, as I would be for any artist. For me, while I’m happy to make money from partnerships elsewhere, The Promiscuous Stories aren’t about that.

Are these just stories you figured nobody wanted? Why presume anyone cares to adapt them?

Of the sixty or seventy stories I’ve written, only a handful have ever been optioned by filmmakers (and at this point, just two have been filmed). None has ever been adapted for the stage. Many inquiries have come over the years, but often from younger artists easily discouraged by the cost of hiring a lawyer to negotiate exclusive rights, even when those rights are being made available inexpensively. I want to make material easily available to precisely such folks.

Some of The Promiscuous Stories have never received any inquiries, others have gotten several. One of them, “The Spray” has been the most-requested story I’ve published. In fact, it was the urge to allow more than one filmmaker to make a version of “The Spray” that partly inspired this project.

Anyway, I’m not pushing the material on anyone, only making it available.

It’s worth adding that I don’t believe there’s anything unusual about an artist giving away some permissions, more or less as I’m doing. Many writers occasionally agree to allow some underfunded filmmaker or theater director to adapt their work on the basis of a minimal option (often a dollar). Even if the contract promises a larger purchase price down the line, this future payment is usually a remote prospect. For me, the urge simply to free another artist to make an adaptation has often been much stronger than any concern over getting paid.

Will you add or subtract from The Promiscuous Stories?

If this goes well, I’ll probably add stories eventually. Since this is an experiment, I might also withdraw the whole thing if it leads to confusion or abuse. Or, if a problem emerges, I may adjust the terms somewhat. What I won’t do, as a matter of principle, is reverse myself and sell this material for exclusive use.

Are you interested in seeing the results? Do you want to collaborate with other artists on these projects?

I’m eager to see the results – who wouldn’t be? (Though if this project takes on any scope I may find myself hard-pressed to respond in detail.) But I’m not seeking to collaborate with other artists on these projects, no. My preference is to relinquish creative control of the material, in favor of seeing what someone else might do with it.

Isn’t it strange to have multiple films derived from the same source floating around simultaneously? What if they were exhibited side-by-side, say, at the same festival?

Yes, strange – but, for me, strange in a good way. And perhaps not much stranger than having multiple ‘cover’ versions of the same song recorded by different artists. I think it could be wonderful to see several adaptations from the same material exhibited together.

In fact, a few independent film producers and DVD distributors have expressed some interest in gathering the results, when and if they’re substantial enough to make such a gathering interesting.

You wouldn’t ever do such a thing with one of your novels, would you?

One of the instigating factors for this project was my being approached simultaneously by a film director and a theater director for the adaptation rights to The Fortress of Solitude. I wanted to say yes to both.

Ordinarily, this is seen as impossible: when a writer sells or options a book to a filmmaker or film studio, the theatrical rights are bundled in the package (along, with things like television rights, sequel motion picture rights, and theme park rights).

I decided to ignore precedent and find a way to allow both projects to move forward simultaneously. As of now, both are. (It may be that either the filmmaker or the theatrical director will find themselves hamstrung by some unimaginative investor’s requirement that all rights be controlled. I hope not. We’ll see.)

Most feature-length films are massive collaborative undertakings, requiring long preparation and loads of money. It probably wouldn’t be practical to deny a filmmaker exclusive feature-film rights: the risk of someone else adapting the same material would likely destroy any hope of gathering the collaborators and investors needed to begin a feature. For that reason I doubt I’ll be offering a Promiscuous Novel anytime soon. But I do have something different in mind for my next novel, You Don’t Love Me Yet. Watch this space.

What about the Promiscuous Songs page? What’s that about?

Why don’t you go there and have a look?

Did anyone really ask these ‘frequently asked questions’, or did you just make them up yourself?



If you’ve selected a story and you’d like to make an agreement, please contact:

Currency: selling names and data to advertisers. Always has been always will.

four square

I still have not joined the foursquare revolution – as me. I’ve checked it out but I’m not ready to broadcast my whereabouts to my network. What if I WANT to sneak off at 4pm for a manicure in between meetings? Does the world really need to know how many cups of coffee a day I consume from my local caffeine dealer?

Still – foursquare is fascinating. And as usual – an advertiser driven revenue model is at the end of the chain. But who’s spending advertising money? We need a new term to describe  “direct to consumer social media marketing advertising that you pay for.” and then convince people to pay for it….i mean we haven’t even converted people to paying for pre-roll or post-roll yet and HOW many hours of viewing time does online video content get?

Foursquare Plots Its Business Model

Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai of foursquareNEW YORK ( — Don’t look now, but big brands are checking in on Foursquare. Pepsi, frozen-dessert chain Tasti D-Lite and cable network Bravo are all attempting to harness the power of the mobile game/social network.

The question is whether they’ll pay for the privilege. Or whether Foursquare, which has 300,000 users now voluntarily “checking in” at locations, and broadcasting that to their followers, will transcend its current “it” status among the technorati and become a lasting consumer phenomenon — and a marketing tool.

In December, Pepsi made a small bet on the startup as part of its Refresh Everything community-giving push. For every point earned in New York, Pepsi donated 4 cents to inner-city youth center Camp Interactive. After one week, New Yorkers on Foursquare earned 225,000 points, and nearly $10,000 for the organization.

‘Huge opportunity’
It was a small deal with a big brand that generated little if any revenue for Foursquare. Still, it got Pepsi excited about the possibilities.

“From a broad strategy point of view, there’s a huge potential with the ability to connect people to promotional experiences,” said Bonin Bough, PepsiCo’s global director of digital and social media. “We know where people are and can talk to them from a geo-located perspective — that’s a huge opportunity.”

That’s exciting, also, for Foursquare, which in this deal and others is starting to build the foundation of a revenue model on location-based marketing services. Foursquare is planning paid services for three tiers of businesses: small, privately owned stores and restaurants; brands with retail chains, such as Tasti D-Lite; and huge multinational marketers such as Pepsi.

For bigger brands, Foursquare is developing an analytics dashboard so businesses can track who’s coming into their stores. Then, deals could be sold against impressions such as web ads, clicks such as search ads, or a completely new model: cost per check-in.

Moving beyond early adopters
But before it can do any of that, Foursquare must prove it can expand beyond early adopters and educate marketers on how to use the service in ways its fickle users won’t hate.

“We’ve been hesitant to just shoot ad copy through our system,” said Tristan Walker, Foursquare’s head of business development. “Once we start to put in generic specials, we’re just another channel to distribute promotions.”

For now, marketers are availing themselves of Foursquare’s free tools, and some are liking the results. Checking-in in the vicinity of a Tasti D-Lite shop? You may get served a coupon from the Tennessee-based chain, which is testing a free service from Foursquare called “specials nearby.”

“Preliminary data is showing that this is driving foot traffic in stores,” said B.J. Emerson, director-information and social technologies for the 50-store chain. “We’ll most likely pursue this where we can measure effectiveness and return.”

The company also launched a loyalty program that’s synched with Foursquare and Twitter, so customers earn points for making purchases and for checking in. When visits are published to customers’ Twitter stream, Tasti D-Lite gets in front of all their friends, and a customer earns extra points toward free dessert.

Using, not paying, Foursquare
Right now, Specials Nearby — there are nearly 700 since Foursquare launched the feature in summer — are free to businesses. So is the API off which Mr. Emerson built the loyalty program. Likewise, Foursquare’s Bravo deal gives the company TV exposure, if not revenue.

“I think marketers will be interested in Foursquare, assuming the audience keeps growing,” said David Berkowitz, director-emerging media at digital agency 360i. “The lasting value will be from the smaller deals Foursquare will find ways to monetize.”

It’s a difficult balance: Foursquare’s ability to continue to grow depends on its users accepting at least a bit of marketing along with the badges, or honorifics, they earn, such as “mayor” (for most visits), “newbie,” “bender” (for consecutive nights out) and, yes, even “douchebag” (for checking in at places like Barneys).

Zero to 300,000 isn’t bad for an app that launched less than a year ago. It took more than three years for Twitter to reach its current fever pitch. But even as it grows, Foursquare will have to answer the same questions. Research firm Sysomos estimates that 5% of Twitter users generate 75% of activity.

Much will depend on whether it can maintain its cool. “The X-factor appeal of Foursquare is in its social currency,” Mr. Berkowitz said. “Giving Foursquare users these badges for completing explicit tasks adds an element of surprise, like a scavenger hunt. And you can’t ignore the bragging rights.”

Perhaps the concept of Copyright Needs to be Rebranded? Creativeright?


This article is one of the best discussions on copyright i’ve read in a while.  It talks about the true purpose of copyright….to ensure the creation of content – specificaly in “science and the useful arts”. It would seem that at this point we have too MUCH in the “useful arts category” what with all the TONS of UGC out there….but this article is a great reminder of why we need SOME sort of system.

Thanks to Nate Anderson at ars technica.

Contextualizing the copyright debate: reward vs. creativity

In a post on the declining revenues of the record business, progressive blogger Matt Yglesias wrote last week, “It is, of course, possible that at some point the digital music situation will start imperiling the ability of consumers to enjoy music. The purpose of intellectual property law is to prevent that from happening, and if it does come to pass we’ll need to think seriously about rejiggering things.”Is that the purpose of copyright law? Sonny Bunch at America’s Future Foundation didn’t think so, but his debate with Yglesias turned out to be much more than one of the numerous daily spats that make up life in the blogosphere. Instead, it went to very nature of a crucial institution like copyright—and it asks whether that institution exists to help the creators or society at large.

It’s worth thinking about the answers.

It’s my God-given right… or is it?

When you title a post “Piracy. Is. Stealing.” and then devote a mere five paragraphs to the topic, no reader who has fought for even a day on the battlefields of the Copyright Wars is going to expect much… and Bunch’s post delivers on those low expectations.

Bunch has little patience for Yglesias’s view of copyright and insists instead that “the purpose of intellectual property law is to protect the intellectual property created by artists so they are rewarded for their efforts. The purpose of intellectual property law is to punish people who steal that which isn’t theirs.”

So—the basic purpose is “protection” in order to “reward” creators. Bunch does hand-wave vaguely in the direction of the Constitution by adding, “Yes, copyright was created in part because there were concerns that authors wouldn’t bother creating new work if they were consistently stolen from.” But this is immediately undercut with the next sentence, which says, “More importantly, copyright law evolved because we think that artists, writers, musicians, and others have a right to profit from their labors.”

Bunch asserts a basic right to profit from creative work; think of this as a “strong property rights” approach to copyright. It sounds good, but the Constitution knows nothing of this theory. Bunch is correct that the secondary purpose of copyright is to reward creators for their work, but only insofar as to encourage the primary purpose of copyright, the continued creation of new work.

In the US Constitution, Congress may use copyright to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” Note that nothing about author’s rights appears here; if Congress decided that such promotion could in fact be achieved with a copyright term of a single day, it would be free to do so—and creators could not complain on the grounds that they have a property right in those works. “Progress” is the only criterion allowed.

“Monopoly is an evil”

This wasn’t a radical new idea, but one that emerged from English copyright law. The Statute of Anne (1709) was one of the world’s first real copyright laws, and it provided protection to authors “for the Encouragement of Learning,” not because authors had a full property right in their work.

In 1841, Thomas Macaulay gave one of the world’s most famous speeches about copyright, and he explained the principle in more detail. He told his fellow members of the House of Commons, “It is good that authors should be remunerated; and the least exceptionable way of remunerating them is by a monopoly. Yet monopoly is an evil. For the sake of the good we must submit to the evil; but the evil ought not to last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good.”

But why should authors be paid—was it because they had the inalienable right to control their own work in perpetuity? No. “It is desirable that we should have a supply of good books; we cannot have such a supply unless men of letters are liberally remunerated; and the least objectionable way of remunerating them is by means of copyright.”

Again, the goal is society-wide progress, but copyright should not last “a day longer than is necessary” to secure it.

One does not have to like this. As an author, there are many times when I don’t like this. That’s because, taking this policy to its limit, copyright law only needs to help creators earn a single penny more than the smallest amount of money they need to keep creating. That sounds like a pretty miserable existence, one in which creators might never make much of a living even as they keep a culture vibrant and entertained.

Not that Congress has any intention of doing this, though; in fact, it seems as if legislatures around the world can move copyright in only one direction, toward longer terms—and this despite the tremendous outpouring of worldwide creativity we continue to see. The process is even more bizarre when applied retroactively, since the incentive to create was already enough to produce the works being given additional protection.

Still, this is how US law works (or is supposed to work). Copyright exists for society, and only secondarily for the creator. Complaining about that is one thing; denying that it’s the point of the law is another.

Bunch’s post inspired the obvious retort from Yglesias: “The point of intellectual property law is to benefit consumers, not producers.” And he called in his defense Tim Lee and Julian Sanchez, both frequent contributors to Ars over the last few years.

Pricing songs

One quibble with Yglesias comes in his original post, when he claims that “under conditions of perfect competition, the price of a song ought to be equal to the marginal cost of distributing a new copy of a song. Which is to say that the marginal cost ought to be $0. That’s not a question of habit, you can look it up in all the leading textbooks.”

This is clearly not true; the price of a good in a perfect world would be some fraction of its upfront cost plus its marginal cost. If I write a novel, and it takes me a year of full-time work, but it can be distributed digitally at a marginal cost of $0, that hardly implies that I should price it at $0. I may price it that way, especially if I make money in other ways—through speaking fees, perhaps, or other paper editions of the book. But a year of my time is a fixed cost that needs to be considered when setting the price.

In any event, what’s almost more interesting than the debate itself is what it says about copyright. That is, even once-arcane battles over the meaning of copyright now appear on hugely popular political blogs. People can argue about this stuff with passion and interest, drawing in history, philosophy, law, and economics.

The public fascination with copyright looks like a terrific development, one that forces unrepentant file-sharers to think through the ethical and legal implications of their position but also prevents corporate copyright counsel from simply rewriting the law in a back room with a few Congressmen. One suspects that, if the Mickey Mouse Protection Act were put up in Congress in this climate, it couldn’t pass.

i actually wish i could by a ford

these moves by ford make me want to own an american car for the first time ever. and in a lower end car to boot – ford knows who this market is made up of for sure. impressive.


  • Ford SYNC® application programming interface (API) allows SYNC to harness the power of smartphone mobile operating systems to access and control apps in Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles
  • Orangatame’s OpenBeak (formerly TwitterBerry), Pandora Internet music service and Stitcher “smart radio” apps are the first SYNC-enabled mobile applications to use the new SYNC open API
  • SYNC-enabled applications were created by partners in as little as three days using SYNC software development kits, marking a new era where apps can be delivered in weeks, rather than months or years
LAS VEGAS, Jan. 7, 2010 – Ford Motor Company today announced Pandora, Stitcher and Orangatame’s OpenBeak (formerly TwitterBerry) are the first partners to enable their apps to be controlled in the car by SYNC using the new application programming interface (API) in the SYNC software development kit.