Tidal first impressions

In response to Jay Z’s Tidal music streaming service there’s been some derision in tech and gossip blogs. It certainly did look ridiculous, all those famous musicians in one place, some of them wearing their identity disguising costumes (Daft Punk, Deadmau5). I’d like to learn more about Tidal but I’m going to root for it right now. Tidal has the backing of the most successful artists in the world. While they make an easy target for ridicule, they are where they are because they have loyal fans who will buy their records and go to their shows. I tried to see who is supporting Spotify. I saw that Bono is pro-Spotify in an article but I’m not finding any others. You see a lot of artists NOT supporting Spotify such as Bjork and Taylor Swift. I think for a streaming service to leverage celebrity artist support in such a direct way is a big deal. They can also release music exclusives on Tidal that won’t be anywhere else. I’d bet that hardcore fans, the ones who actually pay, are going to want that access. As a recording artist myself, I’m curious if the streaming payment will be better than other platforms. It’s usually about half a penny for paid-tier streams and dramatically less for ad-supported streams (maybe a tenth of a penny but probably even less than that). Musicians, especially successful ones, know how to connect with people. It’s very possible Jay Z may be on the way to figuring the streaming conundrum out.

Cooper Union Alumni Association Unanimously Endorses Working Group Plan to SAVE FREE Tuition

There is still hope yet for a FREE Cooper Union. I had the pleasure of voting with a unanimous Cooper Union Alumni Council in endorsing the wonderful Working Group plan to save my alma mater. It rests with the trustees now.

The Intended Banality of American Surveillance

I wrote this a few days before I read the very revealing article on Laura Poitras in the NYT. Journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Michael Miranda, being detained for 9 hours at London’s Heathrow airport a few days ago is even more shocking. While this post is not a direct response to these recent articles and events, it does confirm the suspicions I’ve raised here.

The bargain was struck. Keep us safe at any cost. For the most part we can believe they have kept us safe. We hadn’t processed the cost. We were never asked to sacrifice for the country like generations passed. We were encouraged to live our free American lives with even more gusto. Only now has the cost become evident. We certainly had an inkling as to what the cost would be. Yet, we weren’t explicitly asked. No amendments to The Constitution were made. Yet they’ve gone ahead and taken our right to privacy as payment for security.

Aside from activist voices, the mainstream, while mildly worried, is not livid. Consider how unacceptable we consider authoritarian governments spying on their citizens to be. Think about stories from history involving the KGB, Gestapo and secret police. Why were they so bad? It’s still, hopefully, early stages, but NSA has the potential to be the next ignominiously evil acronym.

The US government has the most sophisticated propaganda machine in the world. Where contemporary authoritarian regimes like Turkey, China and Russia clumsily provoke their citizens to achieve their ends, America cleverly seeks to placate its “model” citizens—at any cost. The net affect of this citizen-first strategy is a widespread consensus of trust. The US government exploits this trust collateral to justify wars, drone strikes, torture and to obfuscate severe capitalist corruption.

The Snowden Crisis has come at a time when the US propaganda information strategy was not fully complete. While many have become comfortable with living publicly and sharing online it is still a new phenomenon. We were being groomed by both market and governmental forces to live without regard for our privacy. Snowden revealed a true conspiracy of corporations and the government colluding together in engineering citizen behaviour to feed their respective needs. The government hungers for information, corporations for brand engagement. The prospect of joint benefits to be reaped from cooperation between these two forces must have been irresistible. The free market, in cooperation with the government, creates the potential for extremely rapid, large scale innovation. Looking at the meteoric rise of big tech in such a short time, it’s no stretch to conclude this conspiracy has happened and continues.

The secret is out that NSA has been watching all along (or has the capability to watch). We citizens haven’t yet been sufficiently primed to live knowingly without privacy. Yet we must be pretty close as the general feeling towards NSA seems a lot closer to apathy than outrage.

It all comes back to the mainstream belief in the benevolence of our government. Many minority groups in America know the sting of government betrayal all to well. Yet America’s blank check still rests with its rank and file whom it encourages to be selfish, myopic and comfortable. I’m not too hopeful NSA will cease its operations in compromising our privacy. The outrage doesn’t seem to be there. Another brilliant American propaganda strategy is the trivialization of free speech in itself. We can talk of these things openly and casually. With so much opinion the truth becomes diffused, diluted and sanitized. We become confused. Only if NSA missteps by compromising the comfort of the mainstream will there be the will to dismantle this program.

I’m reminded of Martin Niemöller’s famous statement on the dangers of political apathy. He was referring to the inaction of German intellectuals after the Nazi’s rise to power. Nazi Germany is often the most extreme example to cite, but there are crucial lessons to be learned from history.

“First they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Trasa Bootstrap Responsive Starter Theme, Based on Twitter Bootstrap 3 and WordPress Twenty Ten

I’m fond of Twitter Bootstrap. I like where Bootstrap 3 is going. I’ve used Twenty Ten as a starter theme for innumerable WordPress websites. Instead of learning the logic of other starter theme developers I’ve decided to go ahead and use my own logic by retrofitting WordPress Twenty Ten with the latest and greatest Twitter Bootstrap 3. My work focuses solely on custom designed/branded themes so I’ve removed all theme options and most of the style rules. I have kept most of the Twenty Ten markup so if you’re like me and very familiar with Twenty Ten HTML you can simply add in your styles and experience deja vu. I made this for myself to streamline my own work, but I imagine there are other designers like myself looking for a blank canvas WordPress starter theme that can tap directly into Twitter Bootstrap 3. You could spend a day making something like this like I did. Or you can download this and let me know how I did.

Download Trasa Bootstrap Version 2.1
Updated 8/6/14: Just swapped in Bootstrap 3.2.0, no other changes.


Old Versions (Don’t use these)
Download Trasa Bootstrap Version 2
Updated 6/20/14: Just swapped in Bootstrap 3.1.1, no other changes.

Download Trasa Bootstrap Version 1.9
Updated 3/13/14: Not exactly sure why I didn’t post 1.7–1.8. Oh well. Made some upgrades. I found a BS3 starter theme that may be better than this one called BST. I borrowed a little CSS from BST for the hover nav. I’m sticking with my own theme because I know it so well and it’s very vanilla/straightforward. A few things about how BST is setup are things I’d never do, not because they’re bad, just because I don’t think that way. I added a few other patches to this version and its running the latest Bootstrap, also calling the newest version of jQuery. I removed some javascript that I have no idea what it was in there for. If you see any bug let me know.

Download Trasa Bootstrap Version 1.6
Updated 12/4/13: Upgraded to Twitter Bootstrap 3.0.2. Implemented Respond.js script (so this will look decent on IE8). A few minor touch ups. Updated the latest Nav Walker file too, but kept my mod to keep hover navigation dropdown menus.

Download Trasa Bootstrap Version 1.5
Updated 9/12/13: Implemented new Walker Dropdown Menu but changed it so it allows clickable Parent Dropdown on hover (this is always a must in sites I make, Bootstrap doesn’t do it this way. If you disagree and think the parent nav of dropdowns should remain unclickable let me know).

Download Trasa Bootstrap Version 1.4
Updated 9/4/13: Finessing of WordPress specific functions (post/archive navigation)

Version 1.3
Updated 9/4/13: Made fully compatible with official Twitter Bootstrap 3 release.

Version 1.2
(upgraded to include additions from latest Twenty Ten 1.6 Upgrade)

Version 1.1

Version 1.0

Repression rebranded

There are two op-eds in this weeks New York Times that seem to compliment each other by two authors of complete opposite spectrum and intent.

The Romantic Advantage by David Brooks http://nyti.ms/18CtSpD

The Banality of ‘Don’t Be Evil’ by Julian Assange http://nyti.ms/ZBsL93

Brooks writes about how American companies excel at branding to create the impressions of trust and value among customers. He writes China companies have only focused on the bottom-line and thus won’t be a true market threat until they learn how to brand.

Assange writes a response to the book “The New Digital Age” by Google’s Eric Schmidt and former Condoleeza Rice/Hilary Clinton advisor Jared Cohen. He accuses Schmidt and Cohen of heralding the age of compromised privacy via the symbiotic relationship of the government and Silicon Valley and exporting American interests globally using passive means with technology. “Without even understanding how, they have updated and seamlessly implemented George Orwell’s prophecy.”

I can’t help but draw the conclusion that America has used its branding sophistication to remove the discomfort autocratic governments cause their citizens while still overreaching out of the bounds of true liberal democracy the way those governments do. We’ve got drones, Guantanamo, the government assassinating its own citizens, erosion of privacy…all of this has been branded as safety. The majority doesn’t complain (too hard) because the majority is perfectly comfortable. But in a world with Google and the government in bed together perhaps we need to take a sober look at what could happen. Although Facebook gets a lot of flack for its ambivalence for our privacy our real secrets are more likely contained in email. And which email client do you use? Yes, I thought so.

Cooper Union: 1859 – 2013

Cooper Union was a free college. The trustees’ duty was to preserve the school. Mark Epstein defiantly announced on April 23rd that Cooper Union would begin charging tuition in 2014. No remorse. No apology. No admission of grievous, unthinkable and shameful failure. No shame at all actually. Just more contempt and condescension for alumni. To dig the dagger even deeper he once again laid the responsibility at the foot of the alumni. No, Mark Epstein.  This was your failure. You were entrusted to preserve the legacy of Cooper Union, free tuition and the school’s financial health. It is you who failed, not us. We certainly feel defeated and heartbroken. But worse, we feel betrayed—by you.

Scores of people TOOK from Cooper Union since its inception. Cooper Union’s mission was to GIVE education. We students and alumni are only guilty of taking what we was given. If we had known earlier that the school was insolvent surely we would have given back more than we did. Yet I think about other takers from Cooper Union. It seems that Cooper Union was pillaged by shadowy individuals. Powerful decision makers with their own agendas. The language of board and administration has eradicated any talk of a Free Education in their speeches and literature.

I studied at Cooper Union. It changed my life. It changed my mind. I confess that I may have even took for granted at times that there was a place where a few hundred artists, architects and engineers were selected out of thousands to study and do their very best, every single one them granted a full tuition scholarship. That place is no more.

We won’t give up on Peter Cooper’s dream. We lived it and were changed by it. Other’s should have that opportunity as well.