Monthly Archives: September 2013

Some thoughts on Miley Cyrus, Show Business and performers of her age

Having a daughter a bit younger than Miley Cyrus, I have followed her career and that of many of her peers whether I wanted to or not. I even chaperoned my daughter to a Jonas Brothers/Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana concert! So I have always been interested in what happened to them, if only because they have been part of her life and part of my life indirectly. Most of them shone on as stars for awhile and then faded (e.g,. Hillary Duff, some of High School musical gang). Some of them have crashed and burned (e.g., Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes). And some of them seem to be in the process of transitioning from kid stars to adult actors and performers (e.g. Miranda Cosgrove, Vanessa Hudgens). And some have been all over the map (e.g., Brittany Spears, who crashed and burned but now seems to be on the uptake, career wise).

Ideally all of them, because of talent, would mature and become successful adult performers (e.g., Jodie Foster, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Justin Timberlake). But that transition is difficult. First, because alot of them are in the Disney/Nickelodeon machine, and while they are in it, they are well managed and groomed, but once they are out of it, they are on their own. Unlike some of the other performers, Cyrus has an independent support network, and that seems to have kicked into high gear with the timing of the VHS performance, her video release, and the Rolling Stone cover coming one after another.

For those upset at how over the top it all seems to be, recall that she had a previous attempt at transitioning to performing as an adult and it was mocked and dismissed. She and the people she works with likely thought they would have to do something stronger to succeed. Hence the recent performances and appearances.

She does seem to be succeeding too, if you measure success by gaining and holding attention. That has always been the measure of success for American entertainers, and by those standards, she is succeeding. It would be best if she could gain that attention by the quality of her work, not by subverting her previously manufactured image of the stereotyped good little girl with the new stereotype bad girl, but I have seen her work, and it was never that good. For example, her show, much like the Jonas Brothers that came before her and many others like that, consisted of lots of costumes, dancing with other dancers, and generally doing a lip synced/over dubbed musical show while a bunch of middle aged dudes all dressed in black pants and T shirts played all the music in the background. (I imagine the star did play and sing, but the session type musicians in the background did all the heavy lifting, musically speaking, while Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers entertained the crowd.) That doesn’t mean she can’t sing and dance: she can dance, and at the end of the show, she performed a solo number, as if to show the audience that yes, I am real.

Did you know that Miranda Cosgrove recently did a series of rock n roll type concerts? No, you wouldn’t, because Cosgrove’s were pretty standard and very tame in comparison to Cyrus. She is comparable with Cyrus musically, and she has a ton of fans, who filled her shows. But unless there is a hidden talent she is holding back until a later time, she is never going to get on the cover of Rolling Stone or have people talking because of her music, fan base or not. To get that attention, you need to be either really good or really outrageous, or both.

Justin Bieber seems to get this. Or at least his handlers do. He should be fading now, but he manages to stay in the news with his behavoir these days. It too is a bad boy behavoir, though because of our patriarchial society, his bad boy behavoir comes across in a different way. It’s not bad boy behavoir compared to Keith Moon or Ozzie Osborne, but Bieber doesn’t have to be that bad to get attention. The same with Cyrus: she’s not Courtney Love nor Janis Joplin, but she doesn’t have to be.

A Show Business career, like alot of lucrative careers in the U.S., is a brutal business. Cyrus seems to know this and seems determined to succeed in it by whatever it takes to succeed. Mick Jagger once said that Madonna was a thimbleful of talent in an ocean of ambition. Like many quips, this is unfair and insightful. What is true is that Madonna would do what it took to stay on top, and has managed to do it for a crazy long time. That is her true talent. It looks like Cyrus has the same ambition, and she may decide to follow the same path to achieve a similar level of success.

The latest Rolling Stone has her interview here: Miley Cyrus on the Cover of Rolling Stone | Music News | Rolling Stone. I breezed over it, but she came across as pretty savvy here, which is not surprising, after I thought about it. She’s been in the business for along time, and she’s been a star for along time. Right now she is outraging people with her calculated behavoir, and the interview shows her dealing with some of the fallout for that. She is a professional, and that comes across in it. In a year from now, if a different set of actions will keep her in the news, I imagine she will tack in that direction.

It is possible she will crash and burn at some point. (The same could be said for Bieber.) I suspect she will not, and she will transform herself many more times over the course of the next few decades. Like Madonna, I suspect we will be listening to Cyrus for years to come, whether you like it or not. And like Madonna, that will be her true talent.


In the future, people will not make manufacture things. The question is: what is next?

As this article in the Wall Street Journal shows, advances in Robots May Revolutionize China’s Electronics Manufacturing. Here is some key parts of the article (underlining is mine):

A new worker’s revolution is rising in China and it doesn’t involve humans. With soaring wages and an aging population, electronics factory managers say the day is approaching when robotic workers will replace people on the Chinese factory floor. A new wave of industrial robots is in development, ranging from high-end humanoid machines with vision, touch and even learning capabilities, to low-cost robots vying to undercut China’s minimum wage.

Over the next five years these technologies will transform China’s factories, executives say, and also fill a growing labor shortage as the country’s youth become increasingly unwilling to perform manual labor. How the transformation plays out will also go a long way in deciding how much of the electronics supply chain remains in China.

Now, I would argue that while wages are relatively higher in China, the idea of them soaring is very relative too. I’d also argue that even if the wages were stagnant, it would not matter, for the robots will become cheaper and more productive year after year. The question isn’t how will robots manufacture every thing, it’s a question of when will they manufacture every thing.

From there, the next question is: what will people do? Who will buy these products? There is a hint of an answer from the realm of software development. As more lower levels of software development were taken over by other software (e.g. assemblers, compilers, IDEs), software developers focus on higher level versions of software and bigger and more complex problems. This could also be the future of manufacturing. People who work in manufacturing will not make the things: they will design the things (e.g., robots and instructions for robots) that make the things and work on more complex ways to make things (e.g., how to take parts made in China, Kenya, and Canada and have them all come together in the same place and as little time as possible).

(Photo is of a concept robot from Delta Electronics).

On Beauty, the Veil, and Free Arabs

Whatever you think of the veil( be it banning or embracing it ), you owe it to yourself to read this article at the site, Free Arabs: Beauty and the Veil.  There’s a good review of a show by the Moraccan artist Majida Khattari called “Orientalismes.” After you have seen that, head over to her site for more great work, like this:

Check out the rest of the Free Arabs site: it’s packed with good content.

Going to art galleries this fall? You need a guide to the lingo

If you go to galleries occasionally, you may pick up reading material that is written in art-speak. There’s a reason for it, and a guide to how to deal with it, here: A user’s guide to art-speak (The Guardian).

You can ignore the guides and the reading material, but often times it helps to at least take a stab at gaining an expert’s thoughts on the exhibit before you. If it is art-speak, this guide can help.




Midweek music, 9/11 edition

Haunting video of Depeche Mode performing “Enjoy the Silence” on top of the World Trade Towers.

Found via Maud Newton, on twitter.

Getting a new iPhone? Maybe you should want to get a new plan too. Read this

This June 2013 article (What’s the best, cheapest Canadian cellphone plan out there? | has a good rundown of the various cellphone service providers and their lowest cost plan and everything that you get with that. Even if you don’t want the cheapest plan, knowing that can help you negotiate the plan you really need. Highly recommended.

Get the new iPhone (if they have it) and save money on your plans. Good deal.

There’s alot of crappy advice on how to make Minecraft run faster. This isn’t

I reviewed alot of online material to help make Minecraft run faster on my son’s laptop. Much of it was YouTube videos made by nice kids, but most of it was less than helpful. However there was one thing I can across that was actually very useful, and it was this: 25 things you can do to make MineCraft run faster! FULL REDUX!!! Minecraft Blog.

I did most of these things, save put a cat on my son’s laptop, and they made a noticeable improvement in the speed of minecraft on his machine. The more of them you can do, starting from the top, the better  improvements you will see. Highly recommended.

How to make your Internet use more secure and private, 2013 edition

It’s a constant battle, but this article by Sean Bonner (Encryption and Privacy – What I’m Using) is a great rundown of tools you should consider in making your Internet use more private and less exploitable.

He covers a wide range of tools, from Tor to VPNs to duckduckgo, and more. Better still, his article is readable and understandable by people who lives revolve around something other than computers.

When it comes to security, you are always making trade-offs between being more secure and other things you want from technology (e.g. ease of use). That said, try and make your computer as secure as you can: every bit helps.

Need a good place to travel to this fall? Why not consider the U.S. Rust Belt

It doesn’t have the glamour of travelling to NYC or LA, but trips to the great American cities of Detroit, Buffalo and Pittsburgh have lots to offer. (And cities like Detroit could use your tourist dollar.)  Whether you are skeptical or excited about the idea, you should check out Denise Balkissoon’s article on what you need to know to visit these places. 

Check out Rust Belt road trips at The Grid TO and get the details. U.S. Football season is coming: great time to hit the road and check it out.

Great Geometric Art Prints by Gary Andrew Clarke

Over at Somewhere Prints are these great Geometric Art Prints by Gary Andrew Clarke, including this one: American Gothic Remixed (2009).

Lots of great images from Clarke and others, too.

The history of *the* stinky cheese

Limburger, that wonderfully (or awfully, depending on your taste) cheese gets the full treatment in this article: The Cheese That Stands Alone by Ben Schwartz – Roundtable | Lapham’s Quarterly.

It’s a great story. It almost — almost! — makes me what to go get some Limburger.

A bad new trend: buildings that act as magnifying glasses and burn people like ants**

First off there the building above, still being built. According to the Express,  the “half-finished 37-storey tower at 20 Fenchurch Street in central London, dubbed the “Walkie Talkie” due to its distinctive shape, is now being called the “Walkie Scorchie” due to it’s ability to concentrate sun rays and melt cars and singe hair.  Don’t believe me? Read this.

It’s not the first either building to do so either.  The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, designed by none other than Frank Gehry, did something similar.

I find it incredible that architects don’t take this into account when they are designing buildings, given that they take so much into account, such as shadow and wind creation. Then again, these building curvatures are fairly recent creations. Perhaps it will be taken into account now.

More on the Walkie Scorchie building here.

** Slight exaggeration, but still! 🙂

Midweek music: Frente! – Bizarre Love Triangle

A fab, fab cover. Take a break and listen.

Is all failure good, the way innovators say it is?

I don’t think so.

Innovators who seemingly rejoice at failure have a very limited view of failure. Perhaps the particular way they fail does benefit them, but I believe this isn’t the case for everyone.

As this article shows, there are lots of different ways to fail (Among Six Types Of Failure, Only A Few Help You Innovate | Co.Design: business + innovation + design). While it’s possible that one can learn from all of them, some of them are easier to learn from and recover from than others.  For example, abject failure, where you suffer a significant loss, can take years to recover from. This is very different from predictable failure, when you bounce ideas off coworkers, most of which will be rejected, with little if any loss and no need to recover.  It is worthwhile categorizing failure before you jump into an endeavor, and after that categorizing, performing a cost/benefit aspect of failure that needs to be accounted for.  Don’t accept the idea that all failure is the same and all failure is easy and good.

Is this what Google Glass(es) might look like?

Possibly, at least according to this.

The bigger question will be: will people use it? Google Glass has taken a hit to it’s reputation recently, and there is a chance that it may not recover. My feeling is that such a heads up display will come, but it won’t come from Google. Regardless who does it, years from now, that will be how people interact with computers and the Internet, and when you  see photos of people holding smartphones from this era, that will seem weird. (Actually, it seems weird even now.)