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Social media 101 - 10 things about todays internet · 23.08.16 by colin newell

Get back to the basics - of the internet

25 years ago the World wide web was born. In the beginning it all seemed simple enough: Web pages were 100% information. Eventually they would include photos and multi-media. At that point the entire resource became limitless as a medium for knowledge deployment, information sharing and instant global communications.

I am fortunate enough to have been born before the internet. To have lived at a time where I did not have instant access to everything, I think, was something of a developmental benefit. It was a valuable experience. Like growing up without electricity or television… not that I was one of those people! It gives one perspective.

At this 25th anniversary juncture, I have some thoughts and questions about where we are at right now – and yes, it is going to come across as “you kids get off of my lawn…” Here are 10 thoughts:

10.) When did content on the internet become all about search engine ratings? Everywhere you look, you see rubbish, junk content and click bait. This article, for a refreshing change, is 100% information. There is nothing for you to click on, no sensational content, no mass reloads of pages to see one simple article. You are not forced to load 10 pages of ads to see a 300 word article. It respects you and does not treat you like a fool. This is actually the top thing that gets me fuming. Because I am fuming, I put it at the top of the list!

9.) When did the internet (our greatest knowledge resource) become so dumbed down and assume we are all stupid? We are not stupid. The average person functioning on this planet is quite smart. You have to be to survive. So why does the “internet media” feel that we are all idiots?

8.) Where there is potential for so much more we see endless quantities of junk or rubbish content, scandal sheet articles, click bait and pointless advertising shills that pose as meaningful consumer reviews. It’s everywhere. This article has no hidden agenda. There are no surprises. No insults.

7.) Whither integrity? I may not believe in the same things that you do, but I have stood for some things all the years I have been online and have not really changed my perspective that much.
Websites that try and pass off rubbish for pure profit – or legitimate media sites that include rubbish content (like our local Times-Colonist newspaper) leave me feeling kind of cold.
In their favour I imagine that the life of newspapers is a pretty tight one right now and maybe their very survival depends on this strategy.

6.) Too much information. Yea, I use Facebook and Twitter. When did the curtain of a reasonable expectation of privacy fall away with everyone (quoting a dear Hawaiian friend…) “Drop their panties for the camera…” Is it because we all want to share every moment of our lives and all our desires OR have we been conditioned to do so. I think it is the combination of the two.

5.) Is this a lost opportunity. I think every day we are given the chance to make a small contribution to the greater good of the Planet. The power of the internet and access to information could help us do this. But we waste our time running around after junk content, passing off jokes and gags as a meaningful use of our time and chasing phantoms in the street as a game (Pokemon…) Yup, full on old man rant now!

4.) I’ve still got hope. Actually, I think during a crisis situation the net becomes an awesome tool for coming to the rescue and marshalling a response really fast. Examples include the devastating Earthquakes in S.E. Asia (Indonesia, Thailand), Japan and Haiti. There is no question that people can pull together when they need to. And who knows, maybe the greatest global challenge is still ahead of us.

3.) Why all the eggs in one basket? I worry about the centralization of media and information on the internet and the abandonment or neglect of traditional forms of media, like newspaper, TV and radio. When you think about it, for the consumer, radio is one of the most economical mediums to reach a very large audience at little cost to the end consumer. TV used to be like that in the day we had TV antennas. Truth is, you can still put up a TV antenna and pick up a lot of good stuff – even HD. Most people don’t know this. For most of us, our cable bill (often bundled with internet) is often the priciest of utilities that we have little or nothing to show for our expenditure at the end of the month… apart from wasted time maybe.

2.) Spam is still king. It takes many forms but by and large, unwelcome e-mail is still the bane of the internet that has been with us every day the internet has existed. If anything, our laws and tools against spam may actually be improving. Ironically perhaps, we have grown to trust online commerce for its robust nature, selection and time-saving capabilities and it might just be that we don’t even need spam anymore – of that it might be completely ineffective anyway.

1.) There is hope. I just told you a bunch of different things. Perhaps they may have been laid out in a haphazard manner without the best grammar or punctuation. What I have tried to do is challenge my readers on some level, getting them to stop and think for a few minutes. This content is simply that. Content. No more. No less. So on this 25th anniversary of the world wide web, I offer you this. A single page of words with no music, no photos, no links, no promoted content, no rubbish or bullshit.

Take this knowledge freely. And in your internet travels, keep a watch out for the truth and integrity – two things often in short supply.


Colin Newell is a Victoria area resident, writer, technical analyst and a bunch of other things who has been writing on the internet for an awful long time.

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Social media 101 mad as hell and what are you going to do about it · 21.08.16 by colin newell

Prisoner of Social Media

I heard a TED Talk not too long ago on CBC radio and I would like to track it down and listen again.

It was all about how social media (as good as it appears to be on a surface examination) has robbed us of creativity and productivity.

How our addiction or dependance on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like has separated us of from our true potential selves.

But how is that even possible? I think of myself as a smart person, an engaged person and a person who is making a contribution to society. But am I, as an avid user of social media, really making a difference or the best possible contribution that I possibly can?

Let’s talk about one contribution that I make to the World around me that I am kind of proud of.

It is the website that I have been writing content for, for over 20 years.
A site that has been suffering from a degree of neglect over the last few years. But can we say definitively that this is the actual issue? Perhaps I have said everything I need to say about coffee culture or that it is time for younger voices to be heard. Fact is, when I started writing about the culture of caffeine consumption 20 years ago, I was relatively alone in a very finite field of coffee writers. That has changed. But could I be doing more?

Well, here is my truthful observation. In an average day, I may dedicate 45 minutes to “social media” or the “internet”. You know, checking e-mail, posting a couple of tweets or photos and updating my “Facebook” status. In that 45 minutes I may flip over to one of my web projects, like this one, and have a quick look see to make sure everything is ship shape… a couple of seconds of my time.

The reality of social media is that we are now all working for “free” for giant media mining companies like Facebook and Twitter. Many of my friends post on twitter like it is their own personal blog, not realizing that every word they are writing is being “exploited” in some fashion or another. They share their lives, their birthdays, the very minutiae of their earthly existence. I am often astounded by the sheer richness, the overwhelming quantity of words and thoughts that people post to their Facebook space is if it was a private personal journal. They update their profile photo’s with every change of hairstyle or mood. Outwardly this would appear to be pretty darn harmless. But is it?

I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist. Most global conspiracies are merely that: the product of someones overly fertilized imagination. If there was a conspiracy of global domination driven by a handful of evil doers, I think word would get out. And yet, here we are, sharing our whereabouts, our birthdays, our holidays and our most intimate feelings to an online behemoth. Relationships germinate, develop and coalesce and often die miserable deaths on social media. We use social media, like Facebook, as if it was some tangential communications form as reliable and without strings attached as a casual conversation or a binding agreement between strangers.

We often worry about an overly nosy government or police forces that want more power to surveil, ostensibly to save us from ourselves or terror threats, also imagined and otherwise. And on one hand we fight excessive police powers while revealing our destination, location and desires every hour and minute of each and every day. What happened to the essence of our private selves?

I have had this conversation with many, many people about this phenomenon of “social networking” and how much we all “need” social media. Parents and grand parents insist that they would not be able to connect with their children and grand children if it was not for social media APPS like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Seriously? What did we go before electronic social media? We picked up the phone and put pen to letter.

I do not wish to be a luddite but I cannot help but look in the mirror occasionally and ask myself, what kind of contribution could I have made today if I wasn’t spending so much time naval gazing and looking for that perfect, funny, witty or perfunctory tweet that will, I assure myself, change the World.

My mother once told me two stories that have hung with me my entire life: after I spent an evening in front of the TV glued to a sitcom with my dad and sisters that the World could crumble around us if we did not occasionally “self assess” our devotion to pop culture (at the time television entertainment).

And while standing at a bus top in the early 70’s she overheard two young women talking about a TV celebrity as if they they knew the characters personally. And one of the girls said to the other one, “Hey, isn’t that you brother across the street sitting on that park bench?” And the girl squinted and said, “Yea, I think so… haven’t talked to him in years…”

Perhaps what life in the 21st Century should really be about is balance. It takes work to achieve balance and sometimes it’s just easy to go with the flow. And that’s what scares me.


Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and writer, often with a mug of coffee in hand – looking for the truth or something that passes as truth.

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Michael Kaeshammer and his band in concert - Victoria B.C. · 28.11.15 by colin newell

Michael Kaeshammer in Concert - Victoria - 2015

When Michael Kaeshammer sits down at a grand piano worthy of his dynamic range, the genuflection towards the likes of Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis, Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson (the Grand masters and caretakers of the Boogie Woogie music genre of the 30’s and 40’s…) is immediate, respectful and unmistakeable.

Born in Germany, but relocated to Canada as a young adult, Michael Kaeshammer has toured and recorded tirelessly and brings an energetic show to virtually every stage. His visit to the McPherson Playhouse on a crisp night on November 27th, 2015 was no exception. With 6 Juno nominations to his credit and numerous music awards, Michael is a veteran of several classic musical idioms including but not restricted to boogie-woogie, Fats Waller inspiring stride piano, Chicago blues, straight ahead Jazz and The Great American Song book.

This was my third time at a Michael Kaeshammer concert and if one thing is assured, it is a sudden release of musical energy that is off the charts. Michael Kaeshammer does not simply play the piano as much as he pushes it to the outer reaches of the instruments spectrum. A Michael Kaeshammer show is a tribute to 20th Century piano history and within the realm of Michael’s humility, he makes the 88 key piano the actual star of the show with his seemingly limitless mastery of the instrument taking the piano places it has never been.

Michael Kaeshammer also leaves his ego in the dressing room as band members, Nick La Riviere on trombone, Paul Pigat on Fender Telecaster guitar, Devon Henderson on acoustic and electric bass, a nuclear powered Roger Travassos on drums, a hirsute and Miles Davis inspired William Sperandei on trumpet, and an endlessly soulful Eli Bennett on tenor saxophone take turns raising us to the stratosphere.

In an almost 3 hour show, Michael Kaeshammer and his band seamlessly cross the boundaries of a more formal tribute to a classic American musical genre into the realm of a piano masterclass. What’s quite apparent early in the 1st set is that Michael is so giddy to be back home among friends that the audience is treated to a first class jam session where there is no play list or expectations – it’s just all fun from the word go. And the McPherson audience is the sole beneficiary at this house party. By the second set the band has settled into a groove somewhat reminiscent of a New Orleans Mardi Gras street party. At one point the horn section leaves the stage with Michael on tambourine to go “walk-about” ending up in the Upper Balcony entertaining a surprised and appreciative audience, the rhythm section below never missing a beat.

In another section of the 2nd set, Michael Kaeshammer and guitarist Paul Pigat are “cutting heads” duking it out between piano and Fender guitar. To his credit, Pigat takes the classic country-rock Telecaster guitar to places normally unexplored for this 6-string, squeezing out riffs generally more suited to a Gibson or Gretsch -and doing it with experience and aplomb.

Overall, this was the most spirited outing from Michael Kaeshammer that I have seen proving again that he is an exceptional performer, a true master of the piano and a great bandleader that brings out the very best in his musical team members. Bravo Michael Kaeshammer! Good show.

You can find out more about Michael Kaeshammer at his website Kaeshammer.Com

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Emerging talent - Kristina Helene - Bengal Lounge 2014 · 24.11.14 by colin newell

Modern Chanteuse - Kristina Helene of Victoria B.C. Canada

I have been going to the Bengal Lounge for the quality atmosphere, entertainment, cocktail culture and great people watching since the early 80’s when I started attending to my post secondary education.

At the time many of the entertainers would have been middle aged men (aged 40 and up) tinkling away at an old piano and singing passable versions of the great American songbook. And yours truly, in his very early 20’s would have sat at the bar in a Harris Tweed coat, white cotton shirt, Hugo Boss tie and suitably matching pants… sipping on a skillfully mixed gin and tonic, hoping with all measure to look grown up.

Flash forward over 30 years and now, it seems, that the Bengal has an entirely new graduating class of star performers vying for our attention. Only difference is, the vocalists and accompanists of the 21st Century have some staying power… and talent.

A case in point: One Kristina Helene. A very-very early twenty something singer with vocal chops light years ahead of her chronological curve on planet Earth.
She dazzled a comfortably populated room at the Empress Hotel with a set of classics that would have been more at home in a much, much bigger club and audience in New York city or Chicago.

Accompanied by the very capable Thomas Kinzel on upright grande piano, Ms. Helene takes us on a sentimental journey of some of the greatest songs ever written – as originally performed by Sinatra, Andy Williams, Leonard Cohen, Bing Crosby and equally influential company. Her ability to finesse a song to greatness verges on the preternatural. Kristina has a sense of rhythm, timing and breath control usually reserved for artists twice her age – and yes, she started very young.

She performed three very tidy sets at the Bengal Lounge – and being the consummate professional gave her piano player a lot of room to showcase his ample grasp of the 88 keys. Kristina’s style defies exact definition in that she does not sound like anyone you have heard in the last 40 years or so. Names like Garland, Peggy Lee, Billie Holliday, Lena Horne and Nina Simone kind of popped into my head – but I could also hear a bit of Adele, Christina Aguilera and Amy Winehouse on a molecular level. It is quite unique. It is immensely exciting and demands your attention.

I had the pleasure of hearing Diana Krall play a small venue on Vancouver Island in the 80’s before she was discovered – this event with Ms. Helene felt exactly like that. So check it out!

Kristina Helene and Thomas continue at the Bengal Sundays from 7 PM until 10PM through December. Do yourself a treat and come down and check out what the future of jazz sounds like. Ms. Helene is a rising star that you should not miss if you have the opportunity. Check out her website over here – Kristina Helene has a stunning YouTube channel over here

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Vinyl Tap Stories - Randy Bachman - A book review · 5.10.14 by colin newell

Randy Bachman Vinyl Tap Stories reviewed

If you were as lucky as I was, young and impressionable, growing up in the mid-sixties – you were about to face down a musical and cultural revolution like no other in Canadian history. And if you were fortunate enough to be of that delicate age and being raised in Canada, you were most definitely in the front row seats for dramatic change, evolution, and revolution where everything the establishment held dear… would be turned on its ear…

At least for a while.

That was the mid-sixties. Growing up in the relatively idyllic confines of the West Coast on the Southern tip of Vancouver Island, a kid like me was surrounded by change – coming at me from all directions. And like any other kid growing up in Canada, our soundtrack was AM radio and Black and White television. And at the time, the AM radio generally got in way more of our attention than the TV.

TV for us, was restricted to the handful of channels we could pick up from a roof top mounted antenna system. And as I recall, we could pick from the following: Channel 2 (CBC Vancouver), Channel 4 (ABC Seattle), Channel 5 (NBC Seattle), Channel 6 (CHEK Victoria) – Channels 7,8,9 would come in depending on the weather conditions – and channels 11 and 12 (CBS Bellingham) would pretty reliable as well. In the 999 channel Universe in which we live, that would seem pretty limiting, but in fact, it was everything.

The TV may have provided the news (often grim reports from Vietnam, global strife in the Middle East, and rioting in the streets of America…) but it was the AM radio that provided the background music, the driving rhythm of our lives. It touched me. It touched every kid of every stripe anywhere in Canada. The CBC and independent AM radio would guarantee that. It was on a portable AM radio that I would tote with my everywhere where I would first hear the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Doors… and soon, very soon, Canadian popular music!

AM radio in the mid-sixties was generally all American and British all of the time. From time to time one would hear a Canadian artist on the radio but they were generally not identified as such – because it was not cool to be Canadian. It would be the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, The Guess Who, Joni Mitchell, David Clayton-Thomas, Ian and Sylvia, Niel Young, and many others in turn who would change the very ways we perceived ourselves as Canadians and how we forged a place for ourselves in the global music experience.

In Randy Bachman’s uncompromisingly complete “Vinyl Tap Stories”, he outlines, with impeccable and unrelenting detail, his journey, key role, partnership and often incidental participation in so much of the 60’s (and 70’s) mosaic. It was, after all, Randy and his musical partner Burton Cummings, who would musically score the theme music to every Canadian kid’s life between the age of 4 and 24 in the late sixties. Their songs, along with hit after hit by Gordon Lightfoot became part of our fabric, woven into our very nature, defining us as creative and sentient individuals… Canadians all!

Randy’s style, it should be noted, it not particularly dry or clinical – His easy going repartee is that of a story telling uncle… everything in no particular order… but his historical accounting is generally dictionary perfect with lots of “Hey, even I didn’t know that!” twists and turns at the end of many of his accounts.

Randy establishes, early on, that with a lot of hard work, sobriety, faith, dedication and unflinching focus (and a little actual creative talent thrown in…) that even a kid from Winnipeg (and some friends) can put it all on the line and make something big for themselves, and ultimately their fellow Canadians.

And they did. And the Guess Who would put Canada on the map of global cultural history and the history of rock for all time. In later incarnations of Randy Bachman’s musical vision (with the likes of the bands Brave Belt and Bachman Turner Overdrive), he would create music that was shoe-horn fit-perfect for the next generation of kids being raised on radio rock and roll.

Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap Stories is not just a book about the work of The Guess Who – it is a wonderful read on the important history of Canada’s place in the counter cultural mind-set of the time. Furthermore, Randy reveals the many influences that every other successful English and American artist had on him and his Winnipeg based musical collaborators. There are even passages about how Antonín Leopold Dvořák (a late 19th century Czech composer) influenced one of his songs!

Randy Bachman is one of very few, if any, important artists in our time that reveals the inner secrets of so many of these great songs – how they came into being – the moments of their conception and so on. If you are a music lover or practicing musician (as I am…) you will love the sweetness of each and every reveal.

Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap Stories is a welcome addition to my “Canadian heavy” musical library and a perfect companion piece to his tireless radio program “Vinyl Tap” on CBC Radio. Enjoy!

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