Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Death of Auto-Tune

Last month I posted the following question to a few of the music industry groups I belong to on Linkedin.

"What's so wrong with Auto-tune? This is a question I'm posing and not an opinion. Please use this forum to discuss your concerns with the tool and it's past or recent impact on the way music is made."

The response was so overwhelming that I thought I'd share the responses with my blog followers.  It would have been simpler if I could just link you all to the Linkedin page but you'd have to have an account to view and I didn't want to put you through that if you don't have one.  I'll just cross my fingers that I'm not breaking any laws by reposting so to be safe, I've left the names of the posters...postees...whatever...out*.  So feel free to respond and offer your opinions if you like...

if you need auto tune to get thru a recording, then, you suck!

i get all to often a singer that justs mouths the words and exects me to make him sing! using my computer. I DONT THINK SO!!!.
personally i cant stand listening to artist that over use auto tune. it just drives me crazy. as a producer, i take great joy in taking a singer if limited quality, spend some time with them and make them sing well. i also take pride in making a great singer go beyond their limitations, (as they believe them to be) and have them accomplish things they never thought they could do, and i DO IT WITHOUT AUTO TUNE!!!
I guess im just one of those guys that care about the art of making music thats LISTENABLE. to all you producers that over use that stuff, get a life 

Tools are Tools...use them or not..but if you rely on the same tool over and over then maybe the problem is with what our expectations are...and what we are willing to accept as a final product. 

I'm with Jimmy...if you don't sound good without the auto tune, then you can't sing. Can some auto tuned songs be hits - sure. But the great singers and great performances aren't faked with an electronic box or a computer plug-in. Music should never be perfect...it needs to breathe and have a life. That's what gives it character and emotion. 

We're also in Jimmy's camp. Producer/Arranger, Rick Finch (my client and co-founder of KC and the Sunshine Band) got all of his Grammy's and awards from doing it the old fashioned way: rehearsing and hard work!!! Today, he produces our artists the same way --- and we received SIX Grammy nods on this year's first round ballot, so it proves that the industry is also tiring of that 'handled' sound. Everyone wants to get back to what's REAL. It's the only way this fragmented industry has a chance of surviving! 

I think we could extend this conversation to the over use of any technology, like the loudness wars, or quantization. Real artists still exist...how to get them heard without resorting to the hype tools? 

It’s not autotune that annoys me but the way the likes of Pop Idol and X-factor has created generations of people who expect perfectly intonated vocals with powerful bits, soulful warbles, and all the other cliches.

These days when many people judge music they role play Simon Cowell as he sits there thinking you’re good, you’re crap, etc all with a Mariah Carey / Whitney Houston benchmark in mind.

Most real people aren’t perfect singers – I want to hear real people who’ve lived expressing themselves creatively – that used to be the benchmark.

Could you ever imagine this guy winning the X-factor

What is it? Maybe you should go to tune-up masters.

As an active music producer I've seen the rise of auto-tune first hand in recent years.

As a stand alone tool it's fantastic. Used sparingly and transparently it can save a lot of time & headache. Unfortunately, it crossed the line of being "a recording engineer's secret weapon" to quickly become the key that unlocks the door to American Idol-like fame for those who have little to no singing abilities at all.. or so people think.

If I had $1 for every time I had a recording client say "just auto-tune it and make it sound right" I'd be commenting on this discussion from a sandy beach in Maui.

In my opinion, T-Pain brought auto-tune into the limelight by making it his "signature sound" (gimmick really) a few years ago. It wasn't long before the craze had spread and was being used across many different genres of music. As this was happening T-Pain quietly exited the auto-tune game and began recording new material without using the plug-in at all - Wise move on his part.

I think the straw that broke the the camel's (or should we say Jay Z's) back was the use of auto-tune on rap verses. The problem with this is that there is typically little to no melody in rap verses so the auto-tune plug-in just ends up doing a half-ass job of "correcting" pitches. Ultimately it just ended up creating a mostly monotone, marginally melodic, warbled mess.

Don't get me wrong. I like the plug-in and don't intend to boycott it anytime soon but there is a distinct difference between "use" and "over-use". I think this illustrates just that.

If you didn't catch the Jay Z reference earlier, look up one of his songs called DOA (Death Of Auto-tune)

Well obviously it can be used to fix minor flaws in an an otherwise great performance or it can be used an effect.Overuse will die out as people tire of the sound. The mere fact that we are discussing it makes the case.

As for Cher, she herself tells the story of how she heard UK artist Andy Roachford use it as an effect in the studio she was working in. She "borrowed" it from Andy. If you have never heard his funky style of British Soul and R&B you should definitely check him out. 

Great topic. Personally, I don't like auto tune.
I think it is bad, in that many 'posers' come across as 'singers'; it sells an image. Auto tune seems to be extremely prevalent in the dance and urban markets. To me, when ever I hear the effect, it promotes a certain sameness to me. Too many different artists sound the same.
No, I really don't think it can be used for good in my opinion. I generally think it's a cop out. So some performer might have the image, but not the chops, so doctoring the voice is the easy get-around. Too often, I think it is used in the place of talent. I think this is the danger as well.
As for the future, I think that's still up in the air. My hope is that it is a studio fad that will soon pass. I can see it having longevity in the dance sector. I mean, cripes, Cher used it to revive her career.
Personally, I can't stand the effect. The unnatural warping of the voice really gets on my nerves. I think, over time, it will become so prevalent, that people will tire of it. But, hey, that' just my two cents. 

The current trend of emphasizing auto-tuned vocals (i.e. Kanye, T-Pain) will go away, and probably come back again, then go away again. It's a style fad.

The use of auto-tune to fix recordings and make mediocre pop singers sound better is here to stay. Generic commercial products will always be made in the easiest and most cost-effective way. 

You can make a porn star sound like she can sing with auto-tune, you think producers aren't gonna use it? lol... Yup it's hear to stay but I agree it will go thru it's peaks and valleys just like say - guitars lol... 

When auto-tune was used on Cher's record the unatural bending on the vocal was a complete surprise to the producers. It was one of those mistakes that they found interesting so they ran with it, and the public loved it. Now it's an overused tool of production. It's expected that successful artists will be copied until what they've introduced because tiresome to the public. Most of my music industry friends in London never liked it. I guess you've got to know your audience, and give them what they want. 

Autotune is just another tool in the toolbox, it will never replace a great performance by a superior vocalist. I agree with Joshua and Michael it's just a phase (regarding full dial tuning). The performances that will stand up to the test of time will be the ones that people know are genuine, there's a growing trend of resentment towards perfection.

It is like scratching your nails down a chalkboard... I cringe when it is used as an effect... ask Billy Joel what he thinks of it after his Superbowl performance. I wish it would go away and it can't be soon enough. 

Ok, here's one area though where I will defend Auto Tune. You guys are all talking just about vocalists, but in the studio on a big production it can be extremely helpful in saving time and MONEY. We produced a new album earlier this year where we had a studio filled with an orchestra made up of all professional union musicians. You want to take a guess at what the hourly costs on that were? Occasionally the producer would spot a horn off here or a violin a tad wrong in the background. Rather than do an entire song or section over again the engineers could just fix these minor errors with the click of a mouse. From my standpoint as the Executive Producer overseeing the budget, I got to really appreciate that software! 

I agree there are times when used in a subtle way this is useful for a bum note in a great performance, or when you hire an incompetent producer ;-) 

Agreed, used to fix up a off note-especailly within a real orch-it isn't going to be an issue for anyone. Didn't that used to be called overdubs? Done well, that type of thing won't be noticed. I'm taking the issue here being the lead vocal track auto tuned. I really think AT will date the music, and that type of thing won't age well. But, hey, I'm over 25 and can't listen to the stuff. 

Well, in our case we had not only a wonderful group of musicians, but one of the best producers in the business, and an engineer who was incredible. As the various track sections were being done our producer/arranger, Carey Deadman, would always amaze those of us sitting in the VIP area watching. They would finish a passage and he would calmly point out little tiny timing or key errors to the specific instrument, bar and note that none of us could hear. His ear for perfection just blew us all away. Chris Steinmetz, our head engineer, would grab the mouse on the Pro Tools rig and fix these things in seconds, saving expensive retakes. Chris has worked with both Phil Ramone and Clive Davis and is a wizzard as both an engineer and in production processes.

It's not really part of this topic, but if anyone would like to hear the outcome you can go to this link: http://www.denisebrigham.com/music.htm

AT. Sigh. Well, it's here and it's not leaving. It's a useful engineering tool anyway. Whether it's used as an effect or not will be a trend thing and will come and go, and most likely stay with certain genres for longer.

What it means to the industry (speaking as an indie musician) is a sad thing though. They would rather find malleable 10 year olds, raise them as if they were in a lab (or in an old Hollywood studio) and, no matter how much practicing the little mites do, aren't going to be capable of getting past a certain caliber so autotune will get them there. Then Clear Channel will play it until people are completely brainwashed into thinking its tolerable simply through overexposure the song and voila, a whole new generation of less-than-talented performers will be born.

It's a bit like compression. I hear so much these days that music sounds like one fat wall of blurred sound. I'm waiting for the backlash where musicians go back into the studio and take pride in their skills with live takes, little effects. Won't happen in every genre but I see it comin up from underground these days. Glad to hear it, myself. I loved doing that in the old days and will do that now on occasion too. 

I agree Autotuned vocals will come and go, as they are the defining sound of certain genres of music today. I can't see it becoming a permanent fixture in most styles of music, but I beleive in the long run it will be used tastefully by most studios to spot-correct a couple areas of otherwise stellar performances. I also agree with Nita about the backlash of musicians taking pride in their skills. I am seeing this trend in my own studio where bands want to go back to the days of tracking most of the parts "live" and capturing a more organic performance rather than the over-processed sounds popular today. 

Whoa Woha Woha Nita, I mean come on, you don't like the fact that music doesn't breathe anymore?!?!? Come on, I can't get thru the day without 10 cc's of caffeine and wall to wall SCREAMING slammed to the balls compressed music to make my ears buzz 24 hours at a pop... :_)) Hee HEEE smell that - that's sarcasm ;-) And anyway I just can't get ENUFF Kanye West Auto-tune, man oh man that man's a genius, oh crap , more sarcasm, sorry sorry sorry, tho I have to say finally without sarcasm, I heard a song with vocal auto-tune that I simply think is divine, the song, Fireflies by Owl City... It's the first song on his MySpace
The song is kinda prog pop even, and it might not be everyone's cup of tea but at least he uses it as more of an instrument then as an effect.. Just my 2,000 cents ;-) 

Zing zang yin yang wham bam thank you mam!

AT vox sends shivers up my spine, it's just so unnatural it should have an E number classification. 

The use of Auto Tune today is a trend, It came and left in the late 70's early 80's with Roger and Zapp, Cameo etc.It resurfaced with certain R&B hits in the 90's such as Computer Love. It will continue for another year or so, and then we won't hear from it for another ten years. 

Man if only Millie Vanillie had had auto-tune... coulda been on their own record... DOH!!



* - and to add a homegrown disclaimer here...If you happen t be one of the people whose comment I re-posted and you DON'T want to remain anonymous, let me know and I'll be happy to give you credit.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My interview with TimeOut for Kids

I love it when I'm quoted accurately...
I had the recent pleasure of answering some questions for TimeOut for Kids regarding Disney's The Princess and the Frog.  I have yet to see the animated feature but they wanted to get feedback from parents before the premiere.  Check out what I had to say...click here

Monday, October 26, 2009

Giveaway: Living Colour @ Highline Ballroom

A recent Glide Magazine contest sparked this answer from me to the question of "What's your favorite Living Colour song?"
Giveaway: Living Colour @ Highline Ballroom

Would it be cliche of me to say that my favorite track is Cult of Personality? This song is timeless and to me is a reaction to the media’s ever present impact on the way we view leaders of this world. It also speaks to the fact that we are all candidates as well as participants in the phenomenon.
I love them (Living Colour) and believe it or not they came right after Queen as my introduction to rock. A Black girl from the projects doesn’t win any popularity contests listening to this stuff ya know!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Missed clues to fulfilling a dream

I think I've discovered the key to fulfilling one's life...one's dream of what you really want to be.

I started thinking about why I have such a deep and great love for music and the people that create it; in all forms, shapes, styles, and fashion.  Many, many, oh so many, years ago when I was about four or five I had my first memorable chance to answer the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I remember my answer like it was yesterday because quite frankly, I've thought about my answer often ever since the words "I wanna be a drummer" popped out of my mouth.

The phrase "out of the mouth of babes" (which I discovered was derived from an excerpt from a bible verse actually) has always been one of my favorites because babies and children hold a knowledge and an insight that we as adults have forgotten or lost.  So what if....What if my very first answer was a message to myself?

I think it's a bit too late for me to pursue career as a  a musician, but I can certainly identify and recall the passion I had as a child for the idea, the wish, the dream.  I'm also more inclined to think about asking a child that question with the goal to record it for them and relay it to them from time to time as they grow.

When I had this realization, I immediately ask my oldest daughter; now at the start of her college search, what it was that she wanted to be when she was much younger and she could recall three things. Interestingly enough, these are the same three things she's been considering for some time even in adolescence.  I instructed her to pursue all of them and in time one (or more right? Why restrict ourselves.) would spark the passion she once had and has now lost.

I challenge you all to try this exercise.  Try to remember your very first memory of what you wanted to be when you grew up.  Any traces of this premonition appear periodically in your life?  I'm curious.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Skeptic's Guide to Love...An Update

One picture says it all...For the full background story click here

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sweet and Sour Turkey Thighs

This flavor profile appealed to me because I wanted to experiment with using cinnamon in a savory dish.  I must admit, I found the recipe in the package of thighs but the process they used was intuitively wrong to me. With the exception of baking, I don't measure so just deal with that.

2 Humongous Turkey Thighs
cider vinegar
cloves (i didn't have any so I used some nutmeg)
vegetable oil
1/2 large white onion chopped
curry powder (my idea)
garlic powder (my idea.  fresh garlic woulda been better but I didn't have any)

Season turkey with salt, cinnamon (not too much), garlic powder, pinch of nutmeg, and curry powder.
Coat in flour.  Heat vegetable oil in pot.  Add turkey and brown on both sides. Remove and add onions to pot and let them sweat it out.  Add more cinnamon and garlic powder and saute some more until it smells like heaven in your kitchen. Add ketchup, honey and cider vinegar and stir.  Add turkey back into pot and coat both sides with the mixture. Once coated, leave skin side up and then add enough water until it just almost covers the top.
Bring to a boil and then cover and turn down the heat to simmer.
In about an hour and 1/2 later, the turkey should be falling off the bone.  Take the top off and simmer some more to reduce the sauce.
OMG.  This is so YUMMY!
I'll either serve it with stuffing or mashed potatoes but I sure wish I had some couscous in the cabinet..DARN!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

New "Nerdy" Headphones on their way...

I don't do earbuds and here's why...

Everything sounds like it was recorded in a tin can
Every time I chew gum they pop out
I refuse to share them with others in fear of earwax exchange issues
I can still hear the people talking
They stop working after 1 month

I became a convert to these that are now, as you can see, totally worn out down to the bone (or cord):

The features:
Reduce the level of noise around you with these noise-canceling headphones. They reduce ambient noise by 87.4%.  The included adapter is compatible with in-flight sound systems for more enjoyable air travel.
The Price
Only $47.50
The alternative:
Monster - Beats by Dr Dre - I aint spendin $300 on headphones.

In Memoriam...Headphones...You did your thang; blocking out all the noise. Giving me all the sound that $50 can buy AND allowing me to share with others.  Sure you didn't fit under my winter hats and you did mess up my hair on those fabulocity days, but you were worth it...I will always love you...

Just got my email shipping notification from BestBuy that these new babies below are on their way...CAN"T WAIT!
Same great sound. Updated sleeker look.  Will I still look like a nerd?  Probably.  But will all the sounds I love to hear be heard?  Ya damn skippy they will...

Monday, September 21, 2009

I used to be a NewYorker

I used to be a New Yorker.  Back then, I...

  • knew not to put coins in the slot where the metrocard goes...sigh
  • knew not to smile a strangers in the street
  • would walk along 34st and not gaze into store windows like I neva saw clothes before...
  • could walk crosstown from 3rd ave to 7th ave in 15 min or less...not 50min or more

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Not really sure about what the moral of this entry is...
I was equally not really sure about what to title this blog entry, so I left it to simply Old.

Three stories in chronological order, by three different people. My story is called Mami. Each of them told from the perspective of a person from the hood with different degrees of "a past" in said hood. We have all moved on to a better life; mind, body, and soul. Oh! And we're all Old.

Good Samaritan - 1999 (??)

It was late at night (late late) and on a recent visit home to Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, 30ish year old K figured she'd do a walk/run home to her Mom's house. At the tail end of her work-out she spots a small group of young girls walking as well. In her mind, she figured these young innocents were in a hurry to get home and so naturally K's maternal instinct kicked in. She decided to start walking next to them keeping pace with their strides so that they would feel safer (seriously people). Oblivious to their stares (and rude observations about the @#$!%* following them), she stayed true to her mission until she saw the glimmer of a bottle whose trajectory was coincidentally pointed in her direction. Fortunately for her it missed, and she came to her senses. So she left her post as Guardian and considered ending her walk/run with a run for one more block. But just before she was about to come out of the blocks, she realized that those same girls would chase her down (like a pack typically would after it's prey) and decided that a nice late night stroll to her Mom's house was a better idea...

O.G. (2009)

Walking home late from a party, Dap was spotted by some young thugs with nuthin better to do. Without getting into details, it is no exaggeration and accurate to state that Dap was a seriously bad mofo back in the day...(nuff said). So needless to say, he knew these dudes were about to start some shit. He heard one say to his dude "Yo!.. hole up man. That dude is an O.G.!!!" Another replies "So!" They all proceed to chase Dap's ass for a number of blocks. I can't remember if they caught up to him and whether he had to duke it out or not.

Mami (Aug 30, 2009)

So this happened to me this weekend...
My friend Joe had his 33rd bday bash at Pop Burger in the Meat Packing District this year. Good times were had by all. Just before leaving, I went down to use the ladies room and I use this term 'ladies" lightly. It was the typical scene downstairs in the restroom hallway area; but seedier and grimier then I expected. No biggie. Been there; done that. As I proceed to push open the door to the ladies room, I felt some resistance on the other side and then this young Latino dude sticks his head out. Of course I'm like "Wassup with this?" Mainly because I have a habit of entering men's bathrooms by accident (heh heh) and also because he was hesitating letting me in.
When he finally allows me in, I see there's another young guy and girl in there. The new guy is having a fit about my comment and his friends are trying to calm him down...meanwhile explaining to me that they're gay and it's ok, I can use the bathroom...I'm nonplussed and bored. All I wanna do is get in and get out. As I walk further in, I notice another young girl sitting on the floor in one of the stalls; head in the bowl barfing her brains out. So I innocently state that I don't care what they are and I can plainly see that they're helping their friend while she barfs her brains out.
Well that sets off both new guy and barfin girl...they're verbally slammin me (him while primping in the mirror and her while she continues to barf) as the other two tell them to stop yelling at me. Remarkably, I'm still cool but I can feel the adrenaline creeping up my neck and as I make my way (finally) into the next stall, I start making preparations to come out swingin' if I had to. So I powder my nose (love that term), and step out of the stall ready for my scene from Warriors to begin...I get total silence; not a peep. New guy is all of a sudden demure and moves from his post at the sink and mirror and gives me space to wash my hands and even turns on the hand dryer for me. I'm at a lost for words...temporarily.
Most sensible people would have walked out and given thanks to whatever God they worship. And while I am "mostly sensible", this night I pushed the envelope and while drying my hands, I began to lecture new guy. What I said didn't matter. What did matter, however was his reaction. Total respect with a bit of "Yes Mami" here and "Yes Mami" there for good measure. The others were completely silent and as I exited, I could still feel the adrenaline in my heart, ears and throat and it stayed there pumping all of the way out of Pop Burger, across 14th St, and down into the A train station.

That's right I still take the subway late at night. Cuz I'm a New Yorker and that's how I roll...

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Near-Death Experiences

Yes, I do have a flair for the over-dramatic...but this is not one of those moments. For this blog entry, I chose to provide a list with brief (hmmm..ok ok I'll try) descriptions.

What prompted me to even consider writing this? An episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations - the one about Thailand. This dude typically runs into questionable situations but nothing seemed to go right during the taping of this specific show and it made me think about the few times I've run into some sketchy episodes myself. So here are my Top 4 life-threatening stories...

#4 Asthma Attack in the Ghetto - I suffered from this disease as a young child and for as long as I could remember. Back in the day, if you weren't suffering from a gun-shot wound or a heart attack, you had to wait in the emergency room for literally hours (no over dramatization here). My Mom and I would sit and sit and sit until we were called and usually by that time, I was in such bad shape, I had to be admitted. Eventually the protocols changed (unfortunately due to various asthma-related deaths across the city) and I was taken in right away, but I did come pretty close to dying before that.

#3 Jamaica: Exact Location Unknown - Briefly, three young women, no ID, in a stranger's truck with some...strangers, driving up some mountains, destination: some uknown beach. There was a party. We miraculously made it back to the hotel in one piece...unharmed of course, but I think about that time often and how stupid we were...There but for the grace of God.

#2 Childbirth - Fetal distress resulting in an emergency c-section. The baby was absolutely fine but I had complications; infection, high-blood pressure, etc. Hospital stay of two weeks...

#1 Thailand - Ironically I had no reaction to the food, but instead I went into anaphylactic shock by ingesting...Alka-Seltzer. I kinda knew I was allergic to aspirin, but who knew it was the first ingredient in an antacid for God's sake! Long story short, face-swells, eyes closing, throat closing, called the hotel Dr (THANK GOD!). He runs up to the room and knocks on the door. By now, I am unable to speak and crawl to the door, turn the knob and as I attempt to speak, he waves me off; nurse in tow with some sort of contraption. Right away he instructs me to throw up...NO PROBLEM! way ahead of you buddy! Meanwhile he's prepping all sorts of syringes. I have no idea what's in them, and frankly I don't give a damn. Whatever it was, it made me live to see another day...

So that's my top 4 and I hope I never have another one to add to the list...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Whateva-u-got WholeWheat Bread Pudding

Pre-heat your oven to about 350.
Tear up that whole wheat bread you got left in several different bags in the fridge.
I put that in a bowl with some frozen fruit mix I had in the freezer.
In another bowl mix some eggs (i dunno how many. i don't measure nuthin), milk, melted butter, brown sugar, pure maple syrup (if you grab some pancake syrup, ima kick yo ass), and some kinda extract (i had some almond and banana in my pantry..hehe pantry). OH! and some cina..ciman..cinnamon.
Pour that mixture over the bread and fruit, and let that sucka soak up alla dat liquid (where'd I get this weird accent?)
Let it sit until most of the liquid is gone.
Pour mixture into a loaf pan or mini loaf pans...whateva you got.
Put in the oven and bake for...until you can smell something good. Go check on it. Is it all puffed up and goldenish on top??
Then it's done!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why Twitter???

A few folks have been inquiring about my more recent focused energy on Twitter and the whole world of Twits, Tweets, Followers, Friends, Re-Tweets, Tweepularity, and so on (the list of terms is really endless and totally up to the imagination of the users in this burgeoning community).

Disclaimer time...I am not an expert. I am still learning but remarkably more advanced than some of my compatriots out there in the world. So me being "little miss helpful", I thought I'd help out those of you who are still wondering about whether you should venture into Twitterdom (Twitterland, The Twitty, Twitterworld...I told you it could be endless).

For most people who have some experience in the world of social networking, the first inclination is to compare Twitter to Facebook. I started off making this comparison as well and I usually explained it by saying that in Facebook I usually update my status once or twice a day, but with Twitter, I update what I'm thinking or feeling ALL day; what I was eating, where I was headed (into the kitchen, upstairs for bed, taking a shower, etc), how I was feeling, my political views (hahahahaha), or anything else that came to mind.

This explanation was usually met with blank stares or if in writing; no response at all.

Then I decided to not look at HOW I was using Twitter, but WHY. In my role as The Katalist, making connections is my number 1 objective. In most social networking environments, one can limit their network to "friends" or "friends of friends" (with some exceptions) to the nth degree, but eventually you can max out due to personal or even practical reasons. It makes obvious sense then, that if you're using these social networks to keep in touch with family and friends, you'd be pretty much content to stay exclusively loyal to the Myspaces and Facebooks of this environment.

But what if you want your voice to be heard over a wider network? What if you have ideas, thoughts or content you'd like to share with a multitude of people around the world? HOW (ok this is where HOW makes sense) would you make this happen? You don't have to be a great thinker, writer, dreamer or philosopher to have this desire. Deep down even introverts may have a question for the masses.

Or, what if you're a harmless voyeur of people or information? What is your favorite celebrity thinking about today? What are the latest trend topics of the moment? What is the cast of my favorite Broadway musical HAIR doing today? These are the questions that can be answered by using Twitter.

For example...
I have a blog (duh), which means I have an obvious inclination to be heard. I'd like for people to read my blog. I could wait for my friends to forward it to their friends and so on and so on (yes, yes, just like the Suave(??) shampoo commercial), but that could take forever because 1. I'm tired of guilting them into reading it and 2. After they read it, I don't think they know to automatically forward the link to others. So what's a girl (eh eh careful now, I'm still young enough...) like me to do, to get my word heard?? This is where Twitter comes in. Unlike Facebook, which limits the range of my message reach to those who I know (I am pleased to say that I know about 97% of my 500+ FB friends personally) with the hopes that they will share my thoughts with others, Twitter exposes me to a much wider network of like minded people.

You don't have to be a blogger however to have Twittappeal (see??? endless). One day, you may have a cause, opinion, or even a simple question. You can call up each and every personal friend you have, post it to your Facebook profile OR you could Tweet it to the masses; your choice, your options. One is not fundamentally better than the other.

To date, I have almost 2,300 followers and it's growing every day. These are people who have said "I want to know what this chick has to say." To date, I almost found out by accident who won the match between Safin and this new kid Ouanna at the French Open (I am dangerously behind in my DVR recordings). To date, I have interacted with new friends across the seas who have commented on my recent battle with a crazy restaurant owner. And last but not least, I have used my "connections" to expose "Tweeple" to one another in an easier environment to do so than Facebook.

Now don't get me wrong. I have not turned my back on Facebook. I still love it and use it to check out new events, give birthday shout-outs and touch base with my peeps. But now with Twitter added to the mix, I have the world at my fingertips...quite literally. It's exciting and scary at the same time. I decided against writing a mini-tutorial here, but one piece of advice I will give anyone reading this, is that if you tweet about something, make sure it's something you wouldn't think to take back. I no longer know everyone who's following me (unlike 97%of my Facebook peeps) so I try to keep my posts as safe or conservative as I can. Maybe the next generation of Twitter should be Anonytwit (you saw it here first people!!).

Still lost? Still undecided?? I really like the Twitter Tutorial (Twitorial?) found below:

Have fun yall and if you decide not to go with it...no biggie! It's ok, there will be some new social network application thingy to baffle us all again in a few months anyway. Stay Tuned!

Ciao, Ciao, Ciao
The Katalist

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tillman's Response to TheKatalist Blog

Hello My Peeps,
Original Post

First, I'd like to thank all of you who supported by last blog entry. The blog along with your comments and letters to the owner obviously struck a nerve.
When I crafted the original blog, I sincerely meant it when I wrote that I didn't desire an apology. And true to form, the owner's response to the copy I sent him, is anything but one.
I've included the link to the original blog above.
Below is his response. It's too early in the game for me to respond, but I thought I'd use your feedback as fuel...

I just received this email. And I would like the opportunity to ask you a few questions. Hopefully you will have the courage to post these questions and your responses
1) Can you please define racism ?
2) How does racism manifest itself?
3)have you been to Tillman’s
4) if the answer is yes can you answer the following questions with percentage points and race-what is the demographic make up of Tillman’s Management-what is the demographic make up of Tillman’s clientele
5) what is the demographic make up of Manhattan ( the latest census could help you with that) I pose you these questions because in order for me to even address your allegations, I have to assess your mental acuity as well as enlightenment. Unfortunately, the internet offers both enlightened and ignorant people an equal platform. So you’re free to write and make whatever ignorant statements you want without ever having to publicly defend them against a more intelligent and enlightened person. Racism is one of our nations most pervasive problems. It must be fought at every level. This fight can not be undermined by a frivolous use of such a emotional word.
To accuse an establishment that
a) Is owned by a black person
b) An establishment that pays homage and celebrates Harlem, jazz music, soul, afro-Cuban, under ground hip hop etc..
c) Whose management team is predominantly black
d) Whose clientele is overwhelmingly black Is just plain laughably stupid.

The fact that your conclusion that you were denied entry is solely because of race is more a reflection of your ignorance and inability to think beyond the stale and tired “poor me” mindset that enslaves our black community. If “racism” were the answer…how do you explain the fact that an overwhelming majority of the clientele and staff is black? Please answer that. I wasn’t there that night. So I can not say for sure why you were denied entry. Maybe it was due to stupidity of the doorman…that’s possible and if that was it I sincerely apologize. Or perhaps my doorman assumed from your approach to the door that you’re an unenlightened ignorant person and from the tone of your email it appears he was correct. There could be a million stupid reasons or good reasons that he didn’t let you in and as I said before I can say because I wasn’t there. But there is no doubt racism wasn’t it. It makes no sense that an establishment whose clientele is predominantly black and also predominantly female, I might add, and is empty as you claim would not let three, as you said good looking women in. Maybe ignorant or easily conned people will buy your reasoning. But anyone who’s been to Tillman’s as well as savvy New Yorkers will draw their own conclusions….I’ll bet anything racism won’t be it… I doubt you’ll have the courage to post this. But in the future..realize that anonymity is for cowards. I stand behind my statements and while my establishment isn’t perfect I’m quite proud of how it celebrates Black America and it’s history like no other place in Manhattan.
Lesly Bernard

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tillman's Bar and Lounge's Selective (aka Racist) Door Policy

On Saturday night two friends and I went out for a late night hang. In search of a place where we could chill out and catch-up, I suggested Tillman's Bar and Lounge for no other reason than the fact that it was close to our meeting point and I knew they would be open late. While friend number one searched for parking I got out and asked the bouncer a few basic questions that progressed (or digressed actually) like this:

Q - Can we park on this block after 1(AM)?
A - No. They ticket and tow.

Q - How late is the kitchen open?
A - 2AM, but we're only accepting reservations right now.

Q - Reservations? Er so you mean there is no room at the bar either?
A - No only reservations for the bar too...

Q - So basically your saying we can't get in huh?
A - That's right.

Initially, I wasn't THAT taken aback by the downward spiral of this conversation. I figured the place was packed; unusual yes in these times, but hey you never know. So I tried unsuccessfully to reach my other friend by cell so she wouldn't waste her time searching for a spot but she eventually came strolling up and after hearing that they wouldn't take us, she decided to make a second attempt. At just that same moment, the hostess came out and my friend asked her instead about the availability and contrary to my exchange with the bouncer, she welcomed us all in with a smile.


So we enter the vestibule; not forgetting to give the bouncer a dirty look as we stepped inside. We walk through the short dark hall and right before we pull back the the heavy drapes to enter the establishment, I started preparing for my push through the crowd only to find...Tada! The place was empty!! Ok, OK they had a few bar stools and tables filled, but in no way filled to capacity. You know what I did? I left it alone...I figured I would make a small complaint to the manager on my way out and chalk the incident up to a misunderstanding or misjudgement on the part of the bouncer.

We ate. We drank. We were merry.

Upon leaving we found the manager. I described what had happened and asked him for an explanation. Here's what he had to say (paraphrased of course):

  • We DO only take reservations on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays.
  • Management has the right to be selective.
  • Well you got in didn't you? (More like a question than an answer, but arrogant nonetheless)

No denial. No apology.

My reaction?? I posed this question to myself:
WWOD? What Would Obama Do? (I borrowed this phrase from and give full credit to my best friend Kemba for this one).

Well I really don't know what he would do but the question at least calmed me down enough to keep it moving. Knowing plenty of bouncers and club owners personally, I pretty much know the rules of the velvet rope; no sneakers, no single men, no drunk people and since none of these applied to us, I could only assume that the folks over at Tillman's seem to have found a new one; The "No damn reason at all except for the bouncers' own prejudice and ignorance" policy.

In this day and age; during a time when most restaurants are going under, Tillman's has taken it upon themselves to hold tight to some randomly subjective velvet rope code that only they can decipher.

If one chooses to spend their money wisely (my thanks to AC for the drinks btw) then, I think we too as patrons should practice a variation on Tillman's policy of: Being Selective

I hope you too will join me in Being Selective by "selecting" some other place and NOT Tillman's when making future plans for a night out in NYC.

Ciao for now...
The Katalist

Epilogue - I just got off the phone with my homegurl that was with me that night (I wanted to fact-check what I described above) and she got me all fired up again about what went down only two nights ago. This is MY blog DAMMIT and if I can't write about what I'm thinkin' then WTF! Now for the real deal about all the thoughts I had regarding this incident:

Tillman's Bar and Lounge is a racist Black-owned establishment...That's right I'm taking it there. And for those of you who don't know me...I'M BLACK! and I looked DAMN GOOD that night as did my two friends. So why in the world did this bouncer screen us; no! a better term would be PROFILE us as a "DO NOT ALLOW"?

Believe it or not, I don't have many personal accounts of being a victim of blatant racial discrimination...knowingly anyway. I got a few - security following me in a department store, poor service in a restaurant, job application rejections and not being able to catch a cab, but this one is some bullshit! Why? Because it was my own people who were doing the dirty deed this time. You don't agree with me?? Maybe I'm over reacting?? Listen my anger is a base reaction; meaning, I don't need historical or psychological rhetoric to back me up or justify my feelings. I was insulted and furthermore ashamed by the behavior of two black men who under different circumstances would have probably been friends of mine in a parallel Universe (like Brooklyn or Harlem).

I jest only to alleviate and counteract my pain.

So now it ends (or maybe begins for that matter) with me having to use my powers for evil instead of good. This blog along with a viral e-mail campaign are kindling and I intend to spread the word about Tillman's. I don't care about an apology anymore. I looked for that on Saturday night. I use this vehicle to vent and I've accomplished that BUT if anyone reading this would like to make a comment to Tillman's about their "screening" policies, I've included their contact information below for your convenience....just in case you'd like for them to know your opinion.

astrid@tillmansnyc.com or

Ciao for Now (this time for real)
The Katalist

Thursday, April 30, 2009

My Love Letter to Trader Joe's - Part 1

When we first met I made the first move. It was spontaneous my part. I had heard so much about you, and finally decided to check you out. Boy wasn't that the start of something new and beautiful.
I had no idea how to use you at first, but by the second round, I started to get a handle on what you could do for me.
There are times when I have nothing left and I look to you to fill me up again.
I know I hafta share you with other women (yes and quite often men too), but I don't mind; just as long as you have what I need when we finally do meet again.
But the other day, I came to you late and you didn't satisfy me. You were almost completely spent. I'll never make that mistake again.
It took me awhile before introducing you to my kids. They only knew of you in passing and very informally. I don't think they understood how I felt until more recently when they too began to reap the benefits of our relationship.
This past Sunday, I wanted them to see how far I would go to see you. We drove for miles and miles and finally made it. They, of course, proved to be selfish as teens sometimes can be, by taking advantage of you behind my back. I had to pay for that later...didn't I.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Music Piracy - Are you buying this??

Quite a few new stories have been poppin up lately about file sharing/music piracy and that has prompted me to start obsessing over this issue again and again.

A long long long time ago I was a heavy user of Napster; back in it’s big bad taboo days and even before I owned an mp3 player. And because I was this strange hybrid of early adaptor geek and former thug princess, I didn't care that I was stickin it to the man cuz quite frankly stealing content by sneaking into the movies, buying bootleg VHS movies and CDs, and downloading songs to my computer was part of the culture I lived in and cherished. I used to make a running joke that if any industry including the government, wanted to test the security of systems or processes, they'd be wise to hire people from the hood as test hackers or rule breakers cuz we could always find a way around obstacles that stand in our way of getting something for nothing.

It wasn’t until a life change occurred, that I started to feel guilty about stealing (notice I didn’t put this word in quotes). Two significant events coincided around the same time:

  1. My kids became young adults with burgeoning and unique music tastes.
  2. I began friendships with hard working independent artists who were on their grind trying to sell their projects.
So on a morality level, I felt I needed to set an example for the kiddies and support my friends. But on an economic level, I was feeling the pain! My daughter said it plainly when I got my new iPod with 80 gigs (equivalent to 20,000 songs); “Ma, you mean to tell me you’re gonna buy $20,000 worth of music to put on there”? I nodded “yes”, but in my head I was like “What the hell am I gonna do”?

I started looking for music clubs to join like emusic.com, but my searches came up empty most of the time and for some, you had to use their proprietary players. I started to get really fed up and had a back-slide moment and decided to try my hand at Limewire. Somehow I justified its use…

  • I’m just sharing a file with someone. You give some, you take some. It’s all so innocent.
  • Everybody is doing it…C’MON!!!
  • I can’t afford 20,000 songs!
The loading began. The kids were in on it. I was ashamed. Then one day my iPod crashed and I went to visit the folks at Apple. Here’s how the conversation went:
Me: My iPod’s not working

Apple Dude: Did it drop or did you bang it on something?

Me: Nope

Apple Dude: Did you load it with downloaded music?

Me: Nope (with a smile)

Apple Dude: You sure?

Me: Yep, I’m sure

Apple Dude: Uh because sometimes when people use files from Limewire or other file shares, the files can be corrupt and mess with the iPods with wheels.

Me: Word?

Apple Dude: Word

Me: That’s good to know (smile again)

Apple Dude tinkers with the player, shows me how to reset it if something happened again and sends me off on my merry way. And what do I do? I start lecturing my kid on the way home about and reprimanding her for installing the damn program on our computer! I felt like a serious hypocrite who became born-again at the Church of God in the Apple Store Apostolic Life Center.

Two years have passed and I’m living a clean and sober life; with only 1,000 songs on my iPod, but guilt-free nonetheless. I’m proud to tell my musician friends that I only buy my music. It wasn’t until recently that I began to notice that when I would make this statement, some of them would either change the subject or give me a half-hearted look of approval.
That’s when it became increasingly and evidently clear to me that some of these folks were probably pirating music. The clues?? Obscure Facebook comments and offhand references to their extensive music libraries were the first to tip me off.

And now I am at a crossroad…To Pirate or Not to Pirate
...that is the question...

Remember all of my earlier reasoning? Well it all came flooding back to me and the “everybody’s doing it” excuse is even more appealing and relevant now that I know the “everybody” includes the same independent artists I thought I was supporting in the first place.

One of these indie friends blogged about her take on the issue. Before I read it, I was hoping that it would stop me from committing the act, but those hopes would soon be dashed (sorry gurl).

What’s the outlook for the future? How will the industry survive? Well to be honest, I don’t care about the majors. I care about the independents. Music sales and publishing are their bread and butter, but if they too are pirating music how can we combat the problem or should we?

One more take and I’m done; this one from a working expert among the majors whose visualization about the future of this business actually came in the form of a side comment he made in a vlog* about making hits. Take note of what he says about how he wants people to get his music.

And me? I love music. Any kind of music. I’ve made a decision. I know what I’m about to do. See yall on the B-side.

Ciao Ciao Ciao
The Katalist

* - this video is currently hosted via Facebook. If you have trouble accessing this link, please let me know by leaving a comment.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Skeptic's Guide to Love and the Art of Matchmaking

I'm a skeptic who believes in love; at least the theory of love when the planets are in proper alignment, when we're entering the age of Aquarius, when two people truly don't care what other people think, AND when I; The Katalist have a hand in making the introductions...but not until all of these things are in place, do I believe in love.

I've made my fair share of matches; the business and personal sort. Most recently, I had the pleasure of making a match between two of the most unlikely people anyone else would have guessed would have hit it off. Strangely enough, even I didn't see the match. I had a guy friend who was getting over a heartbreak and I was really trying hard NOT to match him with someone else because he just seemed too fragile. Then one day, I met a really quiet young lady who would stop into the club I frequented. She would usually just stand on the sidelines, or sit alone with her violin case waiting to be called on stage and one day I think I finally decided to interact with her. Again, she was really quiet but in our brief conversations, I could tell she was really smart. And I think I should mention that this chick had no problems in attracting men. Guys I had never even seen in this place before, were slithering over to honeychile all night.

Now, I guess I should mention that I had taken a break from the whole matchmaking game because some of the women I would attempt to match just didn't know a good man if one had a sign from God handwritten on his forehead, so I became disillusioned with the sistah gurls in my life. I actually don't blame some of them, but loneliness is a hard pill to swallow...frankly when alone. Sorry, I digress...so let's just leave it as, I quit the matchmaking game...Why? It made me too angry.

BUT, on one of these days down in the dark basement club, a lighted path began to shine from one side of the room to other. This beam (as seen only by me) connected this young lady to my homeboy and in a second I knew what I had to do. Again, I don't have the foggiest clue as to whether this match made sense or not. In fact this was the first time I ever matched two people without calculation. All I figured they had in common was music; he being a drummer and her a violinist. That's all I had!

So after the night was over and the ugly lights came up, I walked this serious minded young sister over to my jovial, silly yet goodhearted homie. The introduction went something like this:

TheKatalist: Hey Biscuit
Biscuit (laughing hysterically with some other dudes): HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA
TheKatalist: Hey Bis (now tapping him on the arm)
Biscuit (apparently comfortable with ignoring me): HAHAHAHAHAHHHHHAAAAAHHHHH
TheKatalist: GODDAMMIT BISCUIT!!!!!!
Biscuit (snapping out of it...although I shortened this exchange of me trying to get his attention by like 5 attempts): AHHH (still teary eyed from whatever stupid joke they were laughing at...BOYS) hey wassup Kat?
TheKatalist: I'd like for you to meet Charisa....

I'd like to stop here. By now, I figured homeboy had blown it. I mean good gracious! If I was standing there waiting to be introduced to this fool, I woulda walked away by now; laughing like he was in need of medication. But I turned around and Charisa was still standing there. Gotta give the girl her props...So the introductions were made and I made my exit while acting out some very indiscreet sign language to the remaining cast of amateur comedians, to get out the hell outta the way as well.

I am not really sure what happened from there, but let's just say, nature took its course (and my man Biscuit actually must have some kinda game huh?) and the next thing I know, I'm getting a phone call from the both of them thanking me for bringing them together.

Now lemme tell you something...some of you might think that they would have probably met eventually, but that's a crock of bull and I won't even entertain that thought because it's likely to put me out of business (lol, "business", funny) if I did.

Soooooo, where are they today? I was inspired to write this blog because of the event that took place last night. I'll leave this video for you as an answer to the question. Enjoy.

P.S. - And while I am still skeptical about MANKIND, LOVE does (well maybe) exist for those who let it.

Ciao, Ciao, Ciao
The Katalist

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Industry - Same Shit...Different Decade

Facebook has renewed something in me; call it entrepreneurial curiosity or a mid-life crisis, I was sent an event invite to a panel discussion on the fate/state of magazine publishing and its future in the digital age.
Now this "alliance" who put the program together has been around for a while and I remember them from my earlier years when I was all about the business of Black media. They'll remain nameless cuz I don't feel like dissin' them publicly. But what I will diss, is the short sightedness of their lack-luster panel of magazine/online professionals (wow, I'm about to get mean. I can always tell..I apologize in advance cuz I may need a job from one of yall in the future...)

As a marketing professional working in "the business" for almost 20 years, I had expected a high-level discussion on trends and strategies prevalent in the world of online publishing specifically as it relates to synergies and integration between print and online properties.
Boy was I mistaken and shame on me for thinking I would get anymore out of it than I did.

A question fielded from the audience was dismissed without serious consideration and I believe it warranted further foresight by the panelist. Here it is...(paraphrased of course):
Q - How can I as a writer get paid by companies like yours for my content? Why don't you charge people for site access?
A1 - We only accept quality work.
A1 - I pay my writers
A2 - No one is going to pay for content
A2 - It's like TV, no one will pay
A3 - Many have tried to charge and many have failed. The only successful ones are sites like the Wall Street Journal, et al...

OK, here's where I'd like to stop because even re-telling this account is making me ill and pissed off. The TV comment got to me. No one will pay for TV? Er um what in the hell do they call cable TV? I get a bill every month for watching and although my payments are late most of the time, I DO pay for content. I pay just for the chance to catch a good movie, original cable programming and hello! RECEPTION damnit!
So I imagine that sometime ago; let's say over 40 years ago, this same conversation happened, in some boardroom between short sighted television producers, writers, etc. And now look where we are...
So I am not going to leave this post without a suggestion to those web publishers who have doubts about paid content:

  • Create an area (could be sponsored) of your site that is exclusive.
  • Access to this area is available via paid membership.
  • Types of exclusive content: celebrity skype chats, photos, music/literary/book previews, webinars, sneek peeks, contests, show tickets, product offers, widgets/tools, etc

How's that sound? Crazy?? This doesn't mean that your entire site is a paid content model, but it does add value and affinity to your brand if you can back up your claim as a "#1" resource for all things [fill in blank].

I wish that we, as business professionals, would stop with our limited thinking and open our minds to the fact that almost anything is possible. And to paraphrase one of the panelists from last night, if ["Copernicus was in danger of being executed"] for his ideas, then I say let's tempt "death" together by thinking outrageously about the future of this medium.

Whew! I did it!
Lemme know what you think!
The Katalist