Facebook just bought Instagram…don’t flip out just yet

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My jaw just dropped with the news I received from MacRumors that Facebook, the social network, is buying Instagram, a photo-sharing app and the rising star of the social media world.

I know what you’re thinking…

W…T…F?!

Another media giant buying out a smoking hot tech start-up, turning the cool new indie thing into the latest corporate toy.

Luckily, Facebook appears to be taking a very smart approach here: become the financial backbone of what’s already become an established sensation, and one that’s here to stay.

So, hopefully, that means we don’t see INSTABOOK anytime soon.

Just last week, game developer Zynga purchases OMGPOP, the company behind the latest buzzworthy iOS game Draw Something.

And it wasn’t so long ago that Microsoft, the biggest kid on the tech playground, bought Skype. Another shocking moment in tech buyout history.

Now think about the two players in a buyout like that: people love Skype, and everyone hates Microsoft. Skype brings us closer to our relatives afar through free or inexpensive international phone calls and video calls. Microsoft makes Windows PCs! Blegh. Viruses, nerds and Bill Gates.

But so far, Skype is still Skype. Big bad Microsoft hasn’t closed up Skype’s shop and rates haven’t changed (as far as I know). For once, a merger has gone smoothly, and independence reigns, while corporate parents Microsoft still gets the perks. In this case, that’s Xbox Kinect integration.

For previous tech mergers gone really bad, we can always look to AOL Time Warner.

And more recently, AOL’s purchase of The Huffington Post has been a learning experience for both sides. More on that from TechCrunch.

Here’s to hoping Facebook keeps its promise and Instagram remains great.

Give this band some press: Let’s Drive to Alaska

From left to right, Let's Drive to Alaska is Marisa Kirtland, Chris Garcia, Cris Holguin and Patrick Haag.

Orange County indie up and comers Let’s Drive to Alaska are an experiment.

An experiment that explores the art of sound creation and manipulation.

Moody synths meld with glitchy beats and melodic strings to create an introspective and atmospheric arrangement. Throw in a dash of post-rock sensibilities and you’ve got Let’s Drive to Alaska.

Think From Monument to Masses meets The Notwist and the softer side of Explosions In The Sky. Music you can think to, write to, sleep to and even wake up to.

The Whittier-based instrumental outfit Let’s Drive to Alaska has become an OC mainstay throughout the last six months, making an impact on the local scene with well-honed live shows that draw a good crowd even on a Monday night.

The band’s May 23rd performance at Fullerton’s Commonwealth Lounge, where I caught them live, was no exception. This is a tight group — band member Cris Holguin says they practice three times a week, upwards of five hours at a time.

Yet no one is talking about them. You can find LTDA on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Soundcloud, but a quick Google news or blog search leads to links mostly related to, of course, Sarah Palin.

LDTA is a distinct breed of band, where the music stems from one person’s creation.

It’s like Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor’s industrial rock collective. Reznor writes and records most of the music but brings a full band on tour. Conor Oberst, frontman of Bright Eyes, and Zach Condon of Beirut have similar strategies.

In this case, it’s 23-year-old Chris Garcia…at least for now.

LTDA has seen a few different lineups, and the current four-piece is just Garcia’s latest efforts to realize his musical visions.

Garcia, who started making music on his laptop in 2005, has held many monikers for his eclectic musical projects. He has The Coherent Mammals, an ambient group not too dissimilar from LTDA and the more guitar-driven The Golden Tongues, to name a few.

With the latest incarnation, Garcia has brought on solid talent for a more permanent arrangement: drummer Pat Haag (ex-Mississippi Man), sampling and effects artist Cris Holguin and violinist/celloist Marisa Kirtland.

But the still-fresh group has yet to face it’s biggest challenge — winning over the toughest crowd to date: LA hipsters.

The band knows that pull in Orange County means nothing in Los Angeles and that it’s not unusual to play to an empty audience the first few shows.

They’ll find out soon enough as their first LA show is at The Airliner Monday night.

Right now, the group is putting finishing touches on a new EP, “Floating Mammoths.” This will be the first recording to feature the current lineup.

And while the album is almost in the bag, Holguin says he is working on a groundbreaking visual set to sync up to the music during live performances.

And if you’re curious about seeing Holguin on stage hooking up his effects board to a 20″ white iMac instead of a laptop, you’ll have to ask him about the first Let’s Drive to Alaska show for that story.

Check out a track from Let’s Drive to Alaska:

Pictures from the Commonwealth Lounge show HERE.

You can watch an interview with LTDA frontman Chris Garcia here:

Genre: Electronic/Experimental/Postrock/Electronic

Portugal. The Man surprises, delights sold-out House of Blues crowd

The lights are dim, the anxious crowd screaming and applauding, the curtains closed.

The TVs around the venue lit up with breathtaking imagery of glaciers and snowy mountains.

Portugal. The Man’s latest single “Got It All (This Can’t be Living Now)” begins to blare through the speakers, but it’s not them playing the music.

A 10-minute theatrical HD music video debuts before the band plays a note.

The video featured lead singer and guitarist John Gourley on some sort of “Into The Wild” adventure in Alaska.

Gourley, wrapped in a fur-hooded parka, is pulled through arctic tundra by a pack of sled dogs. And, without giving away the ending, finds himself on the ground, mouthing words to the song.

After the extended introduction, the four-piece started into a re-envisioned version of an old track from debut album “Waiter, You Vultures!”. Lights flashed as Gourley’s frenetic guitar noodling danced to distorted bass lines.

I’ve watched Portugal. The Man ascent to fame over the years, collecting each album and watching them live a handful of times.

Each performance is different than the last and Saturday was no different.

The Portland, Oregon by way of Wasilla, Alaska indie quartet group releases its sixth studio album “In The Mountain, In The Cloud” July 17 and used its sold-out House of Blues Anaheim audience as ears for many of the new tracks.

The group sprinkled a number of the new songs throughout the hour-and-a-half long performance that include a single song, but 10+ minute encore.

It was clear Portugal was on tour to generate steam for the upcoming release of “In The Mountain”.

Fans sang along to favorites from the popular (and more pop-sounding) album “The Satanic Satanist”, which helped but the band on the map and in 2010, secure a deal with Atlantic Records after two, two-record stints with Fearless and Equal Vision Records, respectively.

The band has progressed a lot since the falsetto vocals matched to drum machine beats and introspective guitar riffs. The sound has opened, Gourley’s voice has progressed — along with the backup singing — and the new stuff sounds wide open, soaring and even a bit grandiose. Somewhere between “Censored Colors” and “Satanist”.

You’ll have to listen to hear what I’m talking about:

Below, videos from the performance!

Plug in to Vanguard

screenshot from iambrandx.com

screenshot from iambrandx.com

 

In two weeks and less than five hours from the time of this blog post, the fourth season of Current TV‘s “Vanguard” returns.

Interestingly enough, I have been interning with the team of about 14 for about two weeks as well. The duties have ranged from transcribing to researching and assisting the correspondents, and should hopefully flourish into something more participatory where I can really dig my nails in and get into these amazing international stories that the team covers.

Last season, they covered the recession in a three-part series, guns in America, robots in Japan, and war in Iran. This season, more breathtaking documentary episodes to come.

And in the next two weeks we will hopefully be amping up Vanguard’s online presence through social media. While plenty have written off Twitter and Facebook as wastes of time, they still prove their worth  interesting new ways — it’s all about connecting. And man that online world is crazy these days. I could spend a whole day on the Internet just exploring what’s out there, and I’d still be missing tons of awesome stuff. 

Gotta be careful not to become obsessed though. Too much digitalia can rot your brain! Or reduce your sperm count! Or was that Mountain Dew…

Either way, the first episode of the new season, premiering Oct. 14, is called OxyContin Express. It’s about prescription drug abuse and how Florida plays a vital role in supplying pills.

HERE’S THE LINEUP:

  • The Oxycontin Express : 10/14/09
  • Cuba: Waiting for a Revolution : 10/21/09
  • Forest of Ecstasy : 10/28/09
  • Sri Lanka: Notes from a War on Terror : 11/04/09
  • Porn 2.0 : 11/11/09
  • Prison Contraband : 11/16/09
  • Remote Control War : 12/02/09
  • Cocaine Mafia : 12/09/09
  • Current has also been picking up some steam and notoriety here and there, which is really cool to see. While the Gore/Clinton Korea rescue propelled Current into public eyes, others have been noticing too (see above from iambrandx) — Rolling Stone even made mention of a brand new [mini]series Current is launching called “Embedded.”

    Now that looks sweet: exclusive shows on Mos Def, Common, Ben Harper, Silversun Pickups, Thievery Corporation, and The Decemberists. Cannot wait for this. And it debuts right after Vanguard on the 14th.

    Rolling Stone says this about EMBEDDED in reason #47 to watch TV this season (more on that later! cable looks like its pulling up it’s pants)

    “If Animal Planet had a show that captured musicians in their natural habitats, it would look like this refreshingly raw documentary series. Ben harper gives a tour of his instrument shop in California; Mos Def roams the streets of Osaka, Japan. It’s artists in their everyday lives, free of the crowds.”

    Check out some cool videos from today in the Current SF office (Vanguard’s in LA). See Adam Yamaguchi, Mariana Van Zeller and Christof Putzel give a presentation on the new season.

    Oh yeah, and Vanguard’s blog tells us that Mariana made her way onto Dr. Phil for an episode about drug abuse airing, yep you guessed it, Oct. 14.

    That’s all for now. More to come from inside the Vanguard office, and reviews from a slew of shows I saw in the past week: Portugal. The Man @ The Glasshouse, !!! @ The Troubadour, and Wallpaper @ Cinespace. Phew.

    Change ain’t so bad…or is it?

    Change.

    Comic by Reza James Farazmand.

    Comic by Reza James Farazmand.

    It’s the biggest word buzzing about right now, but to some it’s a frightening one.

    Whether it’s freeway construction, mall upgrades, identity changes, proposed stadiums or new political agendas; we are always quick to scour at whatever someone else is planning for us.

    Why does change make people so uncomfortable?

    It seems people get extremely comfortable with the way things are, and when someone wants to offer something different we may go along eventually, but it will be kicking and screaming the whole way.

    Yet we always adjust. Why? Because we have to.

    People are quick to reject transformations that don’t seem necessary. We also reject anything we don’t like, so it’s no surprise to see companies like Facebook and PepsiCo getting flack for changing their looks.

    Users seem to rebel against any Facebook facelift when they should be applauding the social networking site for staying with the times.

    The thing is, no one intentionally changes for the worse.

    The dictionary defines change as becoming different, modifying, transitioning or converting.

    Most of these words are generally positive. We need to stop seeing change as a bad thing.

    Now, not everyone is on the right track: there are sparse fans of PepsiCo’s new logo that is either a funky smirk or a guy taking his shirt off.

    And Tropicana is reverting back to its classic look because people didn’t need anything different from their orange juice.
    Orange juice may not need to change, but we do.

    If we don’t, we fear a static culture. A culture that remains unaltered becomes rigid and old, ultimately destined not to last.
    Take construction as another example. The swarms of hard hats and orange vests doing work where Temple Ave. turns into Amar can take drivers 30 minutes to move two blocks, but it also generates an otherwise subdued creativity.

    Some cars seek alternate routes in the Stater Bros. shopping center to make their way faster.

    From an economical standpoint, the creative coping mechanism is a good thing.

    It forces fresh thinking out of necessity and this will always bring out something better in the end: perhaps the stores by Stater Bros. have actually gotten more traffic from what they thought would be a obstruction to business.

    Without change, creativity would be stifled.

    It’s all too easy to remain satisfied with status quo, but refusing to be open to new ideas kills the innovation that America thrives on.

    Take Cal Poly.

    Officials are working on a campaign to re-brand the university’s image. And that could mean a potential name change.
    Considering the confusion between Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona Pitzer and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, this is probably a good idea.
    That might mean a little change around this place, so don’t get hot and bothered if you start noticing some differences.
    Henry David Thoreau said, “Things do not change, we change.”

    A possible interpretation being: we change the things around us because we change.

    Things aren’t supposed to remain the same.

    Yet, every time an organization tries to do something “out of the box,” people are up in arms at the slightest sign of discomfort to get to the finished product.

    One solution is that the change agents need to better communicate their reasons for change and initiate a dialogue for feedback and input from those being affected.

    And if no one weighs in, at least they had the chance.

    And people, be more willing to accept new things.

    Being a man means playing the game

    Us men have a lot to live up to.

    For those of us unlikely to reach the state of bulging biceps and roaring machine guns like Terminator or Rambo, we have to figure out how to uphold our manliness without being enough of a douche to make it obvious.

    Nice guys know there is a lot of truth to that whole finishing last statement, and cocky a-holes who get pumped at the gym 24/7  somehow manage to get more “ass” than the average dude, defying all forms of traditionalism and logic.

    In the 1950s, the goal was blind dates, sock hops and “going steady.” While there has always been a cat and mouse relationship between guys and girls, “the game” has become the societal norm for our generation: and if you don’t know how to play, good luck getting any.

    As the dating scene has turned into a mess of hookups, breakups, and friends with benefits, male-female relationships have turned topsy turvy. Girls who once would relish a man asking to take them out for a date, now run scared at the first sign of commitment or potential clinginess from a new guy.

    Here are five key steps you should probably swear to when playing “the game.” If you can throw the handbook out the window and still get what you want, please let me know immediately. For everyone else, pay close attention:

    Step 1: Don’t call the next day. For whatever dumb reason, girls have decided that we must wait somewhere around three whole days before showering them with a call. This number will vary depending on who you talk to, but three seems to be a pretty solid consensus. This way, when you get a number on a Friday night and want to take her out the next week, she’ll completely forget who you are by Tuesday when you finally make the call.

    But don’t lose hope too fast: if you don’t text directly after meeting, there’s only a 48-hour ban on text messages before the flirxting can began.

    Step 2:  It’s not a date. But you still have to pay. When you do get together with a girl, after picking the not-too-nice but not-too-casual bar/restaurant, never once should you mention the word “date.” Sure, you’re taking her out. Yes, you’re hanging out. But “getting dinner” has a much stronger connotation than “grabbing drinks,” so be careful not to come on too fast.

    Most importantly, remember to never split the bill – no matter how broke you are. That screams “friend zone” or “he doesn’t have money to afford a girlfriend even if I was going to possibly potentially think of maybe considering ever taking on that title with him.”

    Step 3: Don’t order anything girly. As I finish up my first year as a 21-year-old, I’m just now feeling like its OK for me to try fruity drinks like a “Sex On The Beach,” “Fuzzy Navel,” or  a pomegranate margarita. And that’s only when I’ve already got the girl.

    In the initial stages, don’t dare try anything that might make her question your sexuality. Girls are always concerned we’re going to be too heterosexual or even homosexual, so keep it simple: beer, jack and coke, 7 and 7, or anything with whiskey. Wine is OK, but not always the best idea to risk it. A girl will learn to love a guy who likes wine, but might be concerned with the college-age male who loves a good pinot griggio when she’s in the mood for a Hef.

    Step 4: Let her have the last text. Now, this is one I don’t believe in at all, but still has a lot of importance. While its key to have the last word in an argument, a female seems to thrive off feeling like she doesn’t quite have you.

    The pursuit seems to be the drive for all of us, man or woman, whether we know it or not.

    When someone’s all over you, even if you’re attracted, it becomes one of those “I’m just not that in to you” moments. Unless you win them with that old-fashioned charm of yours, it seems to be a lost cause. No one likes anyone who’s too anything, so always be wary that you’re in pursuit but not stalking.

    Which brings us to the final and most complicated step of them all: the online realm.

    Step 5: Don’t become Facebook friends too fast. While most girls are okay with the next-day add, make sure you limit the wall conversation to a maximum of two exchanges from each party. If you get carried away, it will appear you’re using social networking as a crutch and don’t have the balls to call her. Let her know you liked meeting and want to hang out, so its clear the online world is only a mediate between a real-world connection.

    Now, this set of rules is far from comprehensive and is only just a start to get you on the right page. Books could be written about the ethical rights in wrongs of romantic encounters (and probably have been), but its key to make a firm impression right away so that things don’t fizzle and you don’t fall into the friends trap.

    For, once there, you can never get out and will end up punching yourself in the face when you realize you’re in love with your best friend and that she happens to be dating another guy.