The Rule of Three is Dead

Conventional wisdom suggests that celebrity deaths occur in threes.  Just where this notion comes from is a bit of a mystery, likely solved to some satisfaction with a relatively brief Google search.  And yet the events of the past week or so have laid this concept to a sudden and hopefully peaceful rest.

It all started with Ed McMahon, but Farrah Fawcett died (albeit with some advance notice)… and then Michael Jackson met his sudden end…  And then Billy Mays… and now Karl Malden has passed on.  Is our 3-count down for the count? I suspect that it, like many of our superstitions, was more a matter of perception than of actual substance.  With that said, I believe that their proximity is of note.

Two things are at work here – and both of them have to do with great thinkers from the mid-century. The first is Andy Warhol’s prescient statement that everyone has, on average, 15 minutes of fame.  While this statement has come, for many, to mean that each and every person will have 15 minutes of fame, I’ve always understood the Warholian axiom to mean that fame averages out among the population.  For example, if there were only 6 people on the planet, and all of them knew me, but they didn’t know each other, then my 100% of fame would mean 15% fame for everyone, on average.

Said differently, if there are 6 Billion people on the planet, and each of us has 15 minutes of fame, that means that there is 90,000,000,000 minutes (or 1,500,000,000 hours, or 62,500,000 days, or 171,233 years) of fame to go around.  Now take a guy like Michael Jackson, who saw roughly 36 years of fame (from 14-50).  If we use him as an average ‘superstar’ and divide his fame-life (36) into the total number of fame years available (171,233) we wind up with 4757 people who can have as many fame-years as Michael did.  Obviously, there aren’t 4757 superstars like Michael Jackson, so in order to accommodate all the fame, we need to move from superstar to D-list (and cut down the fame-years for each appropriately). If you keep sub-dividing celebrity (and expanding the definition), you’ll ultimately end up at Warhol’s conjecture that if you take all the fame-time that is possible in life and divide it across all the people on the planet, you end up with 15 minutes per person.

In 1960, the global population was estimated at 3,039,451,023, a number expected to grow to 6,848,932,929 by next year (thanks infoplease).  This doubling of our population in 2.5 generations (and still within most folks lifetimes) means that the amount of fame-time available has also been amplified, meaning more celebrity is available… This is one root cause for the increase in celebrity deaths (and one reason why it’s going to get more pronounced).

To borrow on David Cronenberg’s insights regarding Warhol, Celebrity = Disaster(death) and Disaster(death) = celebrity.  In this way, a celebrity’s death is a disaster, and the death of anyone is a disaster that makes them a celebrity – consider that the only times not-so-notable people are mentioned in the Newspaper is for their obituary.

The other cause of the death of the ‘rule of three’ can be traced back to another mid-century titan: McLuhan.  The Electric Media that McLuhan predicted, manifested by the Internet, has created more niches and more opportunities for global promotion than any other innovation in history.  From Perez Hilton to Paris Hilton, the mechanisms for production and distribution have been democratized (to paraphrase Chris Anderson), and we now have more mini-celebrities than ever.  Take for example this week’s user-generated content work of Julia Bentley & Andrew Gunadie who, with a well-produced and toungue-in-Canadian-cheek internet video became national celebrities.

The point is, when everyone has so much access to fame-time, and whenever there is so much opportunity to distribute this fame, the number of celebrities, and the number of the celebrity deaths, will naturally increase.

Warhol and McLuhan were fare more morbid and prescient than we ever considered, an underestimation that can only end in disaster…

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Museum Underground Is Looking For Cool

Museum Underground is putting on another event at Museum London, this time on the front lawn of the Museum!

From the Facebook Event Page:

Museum Underground: BBQ On The Lawn

Museum Underground:BBQ On The Lawn


Bring your coolest artifacts, original art or collected art down to the lawn and show it to the curators.

At the end of the day we’ll present the 5 COOLEST THINGS IN LONDON as sourced by you!


Host: The Museum Underground
Date: 18 July 2009
Time: 2:00PM – 7:00PM
Location: Museum London
Phone: 519.661.0333

On Facebook? Visit the Facebook Event Page

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Living In High Definition

HDTV pundit and blogger Phillip Swann has a running set of posts on how celebrities and news folks (mostly women, mind you) were ‘holding up’ under the harsh, unforgiving lens of High Definition Television. From Caneron Diaz to Brad Pitt, Mr. Swann has catalogued the stars’s blemishes as revealed by the unflattering resolution of HDTV.

Whenever anyone is scrutinized at high resolution, it seems, all their flaws are revealed. Take, for instance the recent story of the lawsuit plantif who claimed his car accident injuries were so bad that it was dramatically diminishing his lifestyle. An in-court examination of his Facebook page revealed current photos of the very activities (pool playing in his case) that he claimed were lost to him due to whiplash from the accidents.

This story is repeated time and again… I was recently asked to take down some pictures I’d posted on Facebook. The images themselves, while reasonably tame, were taken at a birthday party and consequently generated unwelcome questions and comments for the guest of honour by some co-workers. There are still more stories about lost job opportunities as potential employers find unflattering posts and pics of prospects through routine Googling. In one case of which I have personal knowledge, a job applicant negotiating a salary unknowingly lost thousands of dollars in yearly income when a manager read of the prospective employee’s enthusiasm for the job opportunity… On the applicant’s personal blog, no less.

This high resolution look at our second selves, the images and thoughts expressed of our ‘private’ lives are increasingly being publicized, logged, catalogued and recorded for our digital posterity (blog, by the way, is short for ‘Web log’).

This publicity of our other lives has had an unintended consequence… It is shifting and blurring our sense of what is deemed appropriate behavior. As a rather macro example, the past two and current sitting Presidents of the United States have all been shown to have engaged in some form of drug use, from a President that ‘didn’t inhale‘ a joint, to a President that very much inhaled cocaine, to the current President who reportedly continues to engage in one of today’s most heinous taboos: smoking cigarettes.

The high resolution images of who we are, while at times unflattering, seems to be making us more tolerant of our individual flaws and blemishes as society’s taboos are revealed as more and more common facts of today’s lifestyles.

With a single snap of a web-connected celphone camera, society’s closet-bound skeletons – and we’re all said to have them – are shown the light of day, and we’re being forced to reconcile them against our own, equally exposed pasts under the harsh, indiscriminate lens of today’s pervasive paparazzi.

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Painted Violins . . . Strung Out on the Arts

Painted Violins

Painted Violins

Orchestra London is putting on the cocktail party event of the summer. I’m very excited to be attending and have set up this page for non-facebookers who are interested!

The Deets:
Date & Time: 18 June 2009, 6:30PM – 11:00PM
Location: Museum London
Street: 421 Ridout Street North

Phone for tix & info: 519.679.8778

From the Facebook page:

Orchestra London invites you to the Party of the Year!

Feel good about supporting Orchestra London at an evening of sipping martinis, tasting hip hors d’oeuvres, listening to great music and viewing outstanding art pieces, which will be up for auction throughout the evening.

Six of London’s leading artists – Kevin Bice, Andy Johnson, Greg Ludlow, Thelma Rosner, Laurie Seaman and Deborah Worsfold – have been given the opportunity to transform an actual violin in any way they see fit. Orchestra London’s principal flute, Annelie Metrakos, principal oboe, Ian Franklin, and Glass Tiger front man, Alan Frew, are also lending their non-musical talents to the inaugural event.

The evening will also feature music by members of the Orchestra London string section and a special performance by Alan Frew.

The violins will be on display at The Grand Theatre May 30 to June 6 during the The Magic Flute run, and then travel to various locations around town, before making their final appearance at Museum London on June 18. There 2 violins will be raffled off to two lucky winners and the remaining sold via live auction to the highest bidder.

Event tickets are $90 and available at the Orchestra London Box Office. The first 100 tickets sold receive a free voucher to attend any 2009-2010 Ovation Series concert (excluding Opening Night). Raffle tickets are $10 or 3 for $20.

Featuring painted violins by: Alan Frew, Kevin Bice, Andy Johnson, Greg Ludlow, Thelma Rosner, Laurie Seaman, Deborah Worsfold, Ian Franklin, Annelie Metrakos

Generously sponsored by: RBC

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Interesting Update!

Referring to the post I made a couple of days ago, Michael Geist is reporting that the Canadian Patent Appeal Board Rules Against Business Method Patents, specifically against the Amazon one-click patent in Canada. While the patent still stands in the US (as do many business method patents), this is good news for Canadian innovation.

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London Free Press Events Poll

You know how I voted 🙂

You can write in your favourite festival (if it’s not listed) under “Other”

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Legislating The Speed (Limit) of Light

I’ve been thinking a lot about the talk that Jim Carroll gave at the Tech Alliance Power breakfast (much of which was cataloged here and examined in greater depth by the good folks at Honey Design and by David Canton). The question that keeps coming to my mind is this: If innovation moves faster and faster and as a result, product life cycles are shorter and shorter, what does this mean for intellectual property and copyright, specifically with regard to patents?

One of the most notable take-aways for me was the over arching focus on the speed of innovation – and more specifically that innovation is moving so rapidly that a digital still camera released today has a product life of 3 to 6 months. iPhones have had their current 3G version publicly available for less than a year, and many are calling for a product update as soon as this week.

One of the most notable moments for me came when this card was flashed on the screen:

We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.Bill Gates.

Looking at this another way, a lot of times adoption is more critical than innovation, and an innovator often has to be prepared to go slower in order to move faster. This can mean letting competitors achieve what is often referred to as the First Mover “Advantage,” although it’s so rarely advantageous to move first that this catch phrase becomes somewhat of an oxymoron. The (unlevel) playing field is littered with first movers who had a great technology or the next best thing but who were quashed (or bought for pennies on the dollar) by larger organizations with better lawyers.

For me, the matter of patents and intellectual property is becoming more and more distressing. Canadian innovation giant RIM had its stock – the capitalization it needed for growth – battered for years because a company called NTP claimed RIM was using concepts, specifically sending emails to wireless devices, and that this constituted infringement. They settled out of court for more than $600 Million.

Now, it’s important to note something here: NTP doesn’t actually make any technology that sends or receives wireless email. Nor have they actually developed a working prototype of such a device. In fact, they didn’t actually come up with the idea, they bought it off someone else. Moreover, and this is what gets me… NTP doesn’t actually make or do anything – their whole business is licensing patents they’ve acquired from other sources.

What does this mean for innovation? Well, for one thing, it means that businesses can be stifled even before they’re initiated! This could mean that if I have a general idea for a business, I may very well have to license the idea from someone else (if they’re willing to license it to me), despite the fact that I may have a working prototype, business model and even several million customers. Consider: What if Alexander Graham Bell had built the telephone, only to discover that someone else had patented “two-way voice communication over electric wires”? What if Thomas Edison had lit that bulb but then found out that Tesla owned the rights to “Electric Illumination Devices”. If you think that these seem far-fetched and frivolous, I would encourage you to look into Amazon’s One Click Purchasing Patent.

There’s some good news, though:

  1. Patent law is under review and we should see patent tort reform and hopefully some relief soon.
  2. Patents are jurisdictional, meaning that what’s patented in the US may be clear in places like the EU and China;
  3. Creative commons licensing and the open source communities are gaining steam and visibility (not to mention credibility);
  4. And finally, the speed of products is rendering the protection of unimplemented intellectual property relatively moot.

Marshal McLuhan said “Invention is the mother of necessities,” and as product life-cycles move faster and faster and increasingly require global adoption in order to stay competitive, the need to protect ideas becomes less important. The ephemeral nature of our consumption demands new features and new extensions with alarming frequency. This means that building the better mousetrap, and not just dreaming one up, is indeed becoming the way to get the world to keep walking that well-worn path to your door.

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London Poetry Slam Live Stream

I’ll be live streaming this month’s London Poetry Slam from the Blackshire pub in London, Ontario, Canada.  You can watch it here, or if you’re in London, come to the event!

Live Broadcast by Ustream.TV

The London Poetry Slam is now at the Black Shire Pub on the last Tuesday of each month. Do not miss this dynamic event in which poetry is memorized and performed.

Date: Tuesday, May 26th
Place: Black Shire Pub, 511 Talbot
Cost: $5 entry fee
Sign Up: begins at 7 p.m.
Open Mike: 7:30 – 8 p.m.
Slam Begins: 8 p.m.

Hope to see you there or watching the show on!

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Blogger to WordPress

I’ve finally made the leap from Blogger to WordPress, and while the migration was relatively easy, I’m still using an unmodified, canned template. I’ll be doing some construction & remodelling (how web 1.0 is that!) soon, but will be more frequently posting now that the migration is complete.

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Presso Review

I actually own one of these devices, and in addition to roasting my own coffee, I enjoy trying to make the best cup of coffee possible. I enjoy both the Mukka and, more importantly the French Press (great video instructions here – click on ‘crafting the perfect cup’). I have, on occassion tried different methods for expresso, but ultimately the only one I’ve liked (at the pricepoint I’m willing to afford) is the presso.

Stephen Leighton’s technique is somewhat different from mine (although I’m going to try his soon), but the end result is the same. Also, as a far greater coffee geek than me, Mr. Leighton’s assesment that it’s an ‘expresso-like’ but ‘very drinkable’ cup of coffee is fascinating. I’d also like to try the Aeropress, especially after Mr. Leighton’s suggestion that it has been compared to the Clover, although not by Mr. Leighton.


HasBlog Presso Video from Stephen Leighton on Vimeo.

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