Monday News: Amazon’s Campfire, sound technology at new David Bowie exhibition, new reader & author conference, and real-life inspired superhero c
A Writerly Chill at Jeff Bezos’ Fire – There’s some real crap in this article (the swat at Ayelet Waldman is particularly sexist and offensive), but I also thought it was worth posting, if you haven’t already seen it, because it sheds some light on a little of the relationships between Jeff Bezos and authors, many of whom attended Bezos’s ultra swanky and ultra secret annual “Campfire” in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A number of Hachette authors have not been invited this year, and some authors have apparently turned down invitations, but I’m thinking one of the most difficult things for Bezos is that the dispute with Hachette has broken some of the legendary secrecy around him, and by extension, Amazon.
Mr. Bezos, who built Amazon from its dot-com roots as a bookseller into one of the country’s biggest retailers, knows the psychology of writers, several past attendees said in interviews. “You come to this exclusive event, you are treated fabulously and you get access to the next Steve Jobs, who happens to control how many books you sell,” one said.
Employees at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle have to pay for their perks, down to the treats from vending machines. And the company is famously tough on its suppliers; the Hachette conflict is just one example. At Campfire, however, there is no stinting. –New York Times
A preview of Chicago’s new David Bowie exhibition and the tech behind it – A really interesting story about how sound technology is being used to mount museum installations like this one on David Bowie, which was originally installed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Sennheiser was contracted to manage the sound for the exhibition, now in the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, which presented a difficult challenge: how to steep the museum guest’s experience in Bowie’s music while keeping the exhibition as a whole and the museum in general free of cacophonously competing noise. How they managed it is pretty cool. Has anyone seen this show, by the way? I hope it comes out to California.
The proprietary technology can shape audio zones within a room, so when you enter a gallery you could hear the audio feed of the main exhibit but as you approach smaller installments along the walls the audio switches over to the appropriate feed. Instead of using IP streaming, GuidePort uses the same unlicensed bands designated for Wi-Fi to send a broadcast recording (think FM radio), meaning timing is perfectly synched with any video on display.
I experienced it first hand, and I must say I was impressed. As I meandered into the main gallery, Bowie’s 1973 performance of “Starman” on the BBC’s Top of the Pops started wafting in through my headset before I even rounded the corner to see the main multimedia exhibit. As I walked over to smaller video displays, Starman faded out and the on-screen interviews faded in. –Gigaom
Escapists Uncensored: My Insanity That Is Reading Until Dawn – For those of you looking for a reader and author conference that isn’t focused on HOW TO GET PUBLISHED or HOW TO SELL YOUR BOOKS ON TENTACLE LOVIN’ or HOW TO MAKE A MILLION DOLLARS SELF PUBLISHING YOUR BOOKS ON TENTACLE LOVIN’, you may be interested in Reading Until Dawn, an event organized by Casey of Literary Escapism. The event, to be held on October 8 – 11, 2015 (so next year, not this year) in Denver, Colorado, has a website, but there’s not a lot of info there, yet, so no info on venue, etc., but if you have questions or interest, you can contact Casey through either the website or her blog. I think she’s looking for both authors and bloggers to participate, as well.
Back to RUDC, unfortunately, not everyone can come. I want to keep it small and intimate. There will be 300 people max. 50 featured authors, 15 featured bloggers, and 235 readers/everyone else. While I would love, love, love to have a million people come, that’s not possible. One, I don’t think I could find a hotel big enough. Two, RT does that and it’s so overwhelming that I barely have time to say hi to my favorite authors, let alone fangirl and stalk them all week. With only 225 readers, you won’t have to ninja fight off other readers for time with your favorite author. (Just, don’t ask. I’ve done some things…)
But what will make RUDC stand out from every other author/reader conference out there is there will be no panels on writing, editing, agent-getting, nada. I know figuring out what brand of yoga pants you can wear for an entire week without changing/washing (because of deadlines) and not look like a hobo is very important. Or finding out that your favorite author will cry into a tub of nutella while eating it by the spoonful because she thinks her rough draft is the worst thing ever written in the history of the world. Hearing that will make you realize that she’s just like you and you guys can be soul-mates. But do you have the courage to walk up to that table and tell her so? Yeah, didn’t think so. That table at panels can be somewhat intimidating because it’s a literal and figurative barrier between you and the authors. –Literary Escapism
Finding A Voice — Again — In The Pages Of A Comic Book – What a cool and poignant story about David Rector, a former NPR producer who suffered a life-altering series of medical crises, and his fiancee, Roz Alexander-Kasparik, who is collaborating with Rector on a comic strip based on their life. Rector, who cannot walk or speak, is cast as a superhero named Recall, and Alexander-Kasparik is Given, his companion and supporter. There is a great excerpt at the end of the article. And although the comic has not yet been contracted by a publisher, I hope the NPR story will change that.
Recall is almost like an astral projection: While his body lies stricken in a hospital bed, his spirit roams around, dispensing karmic justice by projecting memories into your mind — do good and you get a dose of good memories, do bad and, well, you get the idea. At his side is Given, who’s based on Roz — and she’s called that because her love for Recall is a given. Roz says David approves all the story and art choices, and he relishes his editorial role.
“The one thing that brought him back, was the comic,” she says. “He would wake up, he would do his little finger things, he would make himself known, he would make his voice heard with regard to the comic that would bear his story.” –NPR
How many companies have free vending machines for their employees? I’ve had to pay for snacks from a vending machine for every company I work for, so why would this be shocking or upsetting that Amazon employees do that same? The horror if they also have to pay for their lunch at the company cafeteria!
Well, at the Blue Bell factory, employees get free ice cream. My job doesn’t come with any perks like that. In fact they’ve taken away quite a few perks we used to get. Sign of the times I guess.
@KT Grant: My guess is that the NYT reporter was implicitly comparing Amazon’s employee perks to those in other tech firms. Amazon is notoriously stingy compared to its peers. Google, Facebook, and many other small and large firms provide free cafeterias, exercise facilities, and other benefits. Here’s a story on it. These have also been tax-free, although the IRS is supposedly mulling over how to change that.
I haven’t seen the Bowie exhibit – this article makes me more interested in going.
I also heard Google has many wonderful perks, such as free dry cleaning and their own Starbucks, both of which is free.
I work in Silicon Valley in High Tech and the Google-type perks are definitely not the norm. There are some valid reasons to snark at Amazon, but that seems like a pretty lame one.
But of course Hugh Howey is in Santa Fe right now.
Reading Until Dawn sounds very interesting!
I just asked my museum, which often gets high-profile exhibits (Nelson-Atkins), if they were going to get the David Bowie exhibit (because Goblin King), but they’re closed on Monday, so we will see.
In what universe is playing games with strangers less intimidating than listening to a panel?
The first person I thought of when I read that paragraph on employees at Amazon was George Lucas, whose Northern California “ranch,” aka work compound, was the kind of place many people wanted to work, in part because of the great gourmet food (either free or heavily subsidized, I cannot remember which), early movie screenings, turkeys at Thanksgiving, fitness facilities, etc. Like Bezos, Lucas had a pretty hands-on approach to running his business. I know some people who worked there, have visited the ranch myself, and can say that it seemed like a pretty nice environment in which to work. I figured it would go some way to building staff morale and loyalty to the brand. Costco is also said to treat its employees well, and I’ve always figured that one of the reason service at Southwest Airlines is good is because of the employee ownership stake in the company.
Not that you can’t generate morale and loyalty other ways, but I have heard that being an employee at Amazon is no picnic, which has always made me wonder how the customer service stays so good. After reading about the Campfire, that penuriousness re. employees seems even more biting to me.
Well, the Amazon offices are in downtown seattle & Amazon doesn’t pay for parking or public transport. And I do think that most big companies do better on that count. (According to The Everything Store, which I read a while back).
I saw the Bowie exhibit in Toronto, and it was phenomenal. I liked him well enough before, but the show really made me appreciate how talented he is, and it illustrated especially well how he developed his talent. He basically started out as a sponge for all pop culture, a bit of a mimic, and became one of the most original mainstream artists going. That bit intrigued me. And I came out a huge fan.
The audio aspect was pretty impressive, too, although sometimes confusing. I often wondered if I was standing in the right place, but it really didn’t matter. It was still fantastic.
Now I’m wondering what games they will play. Truth or dare? Cards Against Humanity?
The Bowie exhibit is fantastic, it was in town last summer and I must have spent 4 hours there, easily.
@Kaetrin: Introverts everywhere tremble at the thought.
I saw the Bowie exhibit in London. It was brilliant, if a little hagiographic.
@Ros: As long as it’s not spin the bottle because that would be way too forward.