DVD: True Grit

True Grit

I’d missed this one at the cinema, but it was high on my to-watch list, and so with Kel getting an early night for once, it was tie to see what the Coen’s take on a Western would be.

While no Unforgiven, this is a really solid Western, with good characterisations, lots of sweeping wilderness / journey shots mixed with some dialog and just enough action to give a sense of the dangers that are forever in the background.

It’s a tale of the search for justice, and the terrible cost that comes from that search. If you’re a fan of the Coen brothers, or of the Western genre in general, then it’s worth your time.

Book: Here Comes Everybody

Book: Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations .

One of many suggestions from Andy Shaindlin when he presented at work last months was to read this book, so I sourced a copy from a nearby library. It’s always a challenge reading books that relate to technology, as the landscape changes so quickly.

This book is from 2008, and has only a few references to community sites that have now closed down, which certainly helps the reader to take its main insights on board. Shirky takes us back across a couple of decades, and shows the difference that different kinds of collaboration tools have made on similar situations separated by years.

Shirky’s main thesis is that the influx of social technologies has dramatically lowered the barriers toward organising a group of people. If you have a promise that resonates with people, a tool that supports collaboration, and some kind of bargain with your audience that motivates them to keep participating.

There are lots of insights in the book around the exponential growth of complexity as group size grows; the power law distribution of participation (the most prolific people will post an order of magnitude more than the next group, and the median will be much lower again).

Book: The Long Tail

Book: The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More

It’s now been quite a while since I read this book. It’s well worth thinking about the changes the internet has made to what kinds of products can find a market. A few decades ago, it was only possible for a small number of items to find an incredibly large market.

The internet has changed the way that the notion of “mass culture” exists. While people my age (mid 30’s) who grew up in Australia can look back on a shared media experience in the TV shows, movies and radio stations that they grew up with, the internet has increasingly meant that people can pursue their niche interests, and be connected – deeply connected – with those other people who have that same interest.

What will this mean for people growing up now, who can’t remember a time before the internet, before smartphones, before facebook? While mass culture will still exist to some extent, there will be more and more fragmentation, and new markets will emerge to take advantage of these niches.

DVD: Anvil – the story of Anvil

Anvil: the story of Anvil.

This is a movie about a metal band I’d never heard of until I saw the trailer for this film. Who would make a movie like this? It turns out the director of the film is a decades-long fan of the band (and is actually a highly competent drummer).

What makes a band – the drummer and lead singer / guitarist started playing together when they were teenagers – stay together for 30 years into their 50’s, despite never seeing any commercial success? And how do they cope with the challenges and disappointments that take place along the way?

It certainly helps to be able to appreciate the kind of music the band plays, as it is the backdrop for much of the film, and there’s certainly some language and concepts that are very much for grown-ups. There are lessons here, and insights into what it means to be really passionate about something against all odds, for people of all walks of life.

This is a surprisingly poignant film, tapping into people who have found something that they’re passionate about, whether they see success or not.

Utopia Coffee, Circular Quay (Sydney)

utopia coffee, circular quay

Allpress Espresso. 7 Macquarie Place, Sydney. Small floorspace, the majority of the which is for queueing, with a few seats along the wall. There’s outdoor seating which isn’t very appealing on the cold, rainy day that I visit.

where the magic happens - utopia coffee, circular quay

Cross the threshhold, and you can read a large, clear board and make your purchase decision. The food prices are a little harder to discern – I end up spending $7 on a muesli / berry / yoghurt combination, a little above my comfort zone for such a purchase, but this is the expensive end of town, so it’s not that much of a surprise.

menu selection - utopia coffee, circular quay

The food options are attractively presented, and a subtle “brasserie bread” sign points to some attractive lunch options, perhaps for another day.

Coffee is surprisingly good – even the decaf latte is of a high standard, and a warming start to a cold day.

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DVD: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Another one that I missed on the big screen, but with the final chapter (HP7B) coming to the cinema next month (and having already bought a ticket), I thought it would be worth watching the first one, and leaving some time spare between viewings to think about the movie a little.

As with the other movies, they more-or-less assume familiarity with the books, and with the previous movies. In a moment of diversion from the plot of the books, there’s a scene in HP7A with Neville Longbottom, presumably establishing some back-story for him in the sequel.

It’s a really well put together movie (though the endless scenes of camping start to drag after a while), and favourite characters from previous films have a chance to chew up the scenery again. If you’re a fan, you’ve probably already seen it, if not, I’d avoid it unless you’ve enjoyed the books, or, say, HP6.

DVD: Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 was a movie that I somehow missed at the cinema due to busyness.

Like a great many people, I’d been a fan of the first two movies in the series, and was worried how a third outing would work for the characters. Somehow I managed to avoid most of the spoilers (apart from those in the trailer), and that made for a good viewing experience.

I’ve been wondering what the “tear-jerker ending” was going to entail, and while it was a satisfying conclusion, I think it was probably a bit over sold by those who watched the movie before me.

As with the other movies in the trilogy, there are some sections that are too scary for very young children to watch, but for kids who are old enough (and grown-ups who want to reminisce), there’s lots of fun to be had.

learning better email skills to improve your social media skills

I had the opportunity last week to spend two days at a digital marketing conference – Digitech 2011 – and think about where online marketing is heading. There were a number of recurring references in the week, and one was name-checking Seth Godin.

So why not join in on that? Seth Godin blogged last week about how to do better email. This isn’t new content for him – he posted the same thing three years ago.

For some reason, we find it hard to get these basics of online communication right. This was the subject of a talk I gave at Digitech 2011 last week. Here’s a tidied up version of the slides.

What’s your biggest frustration with email?

book: Stories I Only Tell My Friends

Book: Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography

Given how big a West Wing fan I am, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that this book was a birthday present, and that it didn’t take me too long to get through it. I didn’t know much about Rob Lowe’s career (especially the early days), and so it was an interesting read, even though at times it felt like a checklist of who’s who in Hollywood, all of whom crossed paths with Lowe at some point.

He remains positive about the various relationships he’s had, and tells a story of unexpected opportunities, and the challenges that come from having absent father figures through the life of a young boy.