“What is real? asked the rabbit one day. Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?… Real isn’t how you are made, it’s a thing that happens to you … Does it hurt? asked the rabbit … Sometimes, when you are real you don’t mind being hurt … Does it happen all at once like being wound up, or bit by bit? … It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

The BlackBerry name has tarnished this year. First, the release of the BlackBerry PlayBook, the hopeful iPad competition, received less than mixed reviews. The sales ended up minuscule compared to that of the iPad. Next, in August, there was this little thing called the London Riot. BlackBerry’s BBM messaging service was said to be the medium of communication for the rioters, thus connecting the BlackBerry name with criminal acts of looting and property destruction.  And most recently, there was the 3-day world-wide RIM outage that disrupted the e-mail, messaging, and internet services for millions of customers – this ended today.

These factors, especially the outages, could not have happened at a more inopportune time for BlackBerry. Next Tuesday kicks off RIM’s annual U.S. developer conference – where they had planed to drum-up support for their new line of smartphones built on the QNX operating system and the updated BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0.  I’m sure they were hoping for a lot of positive attention and support, especially with the launch of the iPhone 4S and the growing success of Google’s Android phones; the competition is getting thick.

For customers and investors, the recent past must make you wonder whether or not BlackBerry can keep its service running and grow as a company – and whether or not you should jump the shark.  So will BlackBerry be able to survive and work past these issues? I think they can, but in order to survive, they need to implement some superb marketing and PR… oh, and also they might need to rethink RIM.

BlackBerry’s big selling point has been their heightened security. They need to market this selling point and not let this outage make customers think they are any less secure. Security is big and should be a concern of smartphone users, especially with m-commerce and portable business becoming more and more popular.

In addition to their security, they need to market to the correct demographic. RIM pushed BlackBerries at London youth, and it got them the London Riots. Stick to what you are already known for – corporate and business – and grow that industry, there’s more business to tap into.

There is a reason why BlackBerries are referred to as “CrackBerries,” they have a devout, loyal following. Public relation needs to act fast and clean up the current outage mess, pacifying their BlackBerry advocates.  BlackBerry wouldn’t want this lapse in service to push those CrackBerry users into rehab, causing them to switch over to Apple or Android.

Finally, hope that the reviews of the PlayBook 2.0 and QNX phones are killer!  They need to distract the consumer and give them something positive to associate the BlackBerry name with!

Last night’s Bon Iver concert at The Pageant, simply put, was magnificent! I now understand that Bon Iver isn’t the Justin Vernon one-man-show, it is a band.  Bon Iver consists of nine ridiculously talented musicians. This was evident in every single song and in every instrument that was played.  From the moment those nine guys walked on stage, they had the uncanny ability to make every song explode into your body – making you feel something beautiful.

What I loved most about this concert was the ability to make each song its own and completely different from the album version. They pushed each song to its limits, creating these new layers I never knew could exist, and they did this all with the utmost taste.  “Creature Fear” was probably the best example from last night. The band rocked it out on this song – creating a cacophony of sounds towards the end which transformed into a jungle of screaming animals, all beautifully controlled.

Justin Vernon was plagued with a technical problem, I believe it was his pedal board, that was addressed about midway through the show. As a guy tried to fix the cables, the band played on and you couldn’t even tell something was wrong or missing. They played “Calgary” then “Blood Bank.” This was the song I was most looking forward to hearing. “Blood Bank” didn’t disappoint. They pulled out he brass instruments and bathed the stage in a sea of red lights, taking the song to a new level.

After “Blood Bank,” the technical problem seemed to be squared away and the band left the stage, leaving Justin alone. He smiled as he asked the audience, “Do any of you have problems?”  “This is for people who have problems.”  It made you wonder if he was talking about the next song, “Re: Stacks” or the problem that just occurred on stage or just a double meaning.  Whatever he was talking about, all problems seemed to disappear as he sung “Re: Stacks.”

I’ve never have heard – or not heard – an audience be so quiet during a show. I think, like me, they were all soaking in the emotional sounds and savoring this experience. This all changed when the band returned for the encore. The encore began with “Beth/Rest.’  This is not my favorite song, but the live version was able to transcend the cheesy 80s sound of the song and also pumped up the crowd’s energy. Next, they played “The Wolves” and got the entire audience echoing the chorus. Then finally, the band played, “Skinny Love,” which was, I’m guessing, the most anticipated song of the evening. The audience erupted in clapping and signing along with the entire song.

As the band left the stage they waved and bowed gratefully. It should have been the audience bowing to them, for they are the ones who gave us the music and this emotional, inspiring experience. Hands down, one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to.

Steve Jobs has resigned as Apple’s CEO and will be replaced by the company’s COO, Tim Cook. Just a couple of hours after this announcement, Apple’s stocks fell as much as 7%. This drop in stocks illustrates the fears in what everyone is wondering; What will happen to Apple now that Jobs has left? Will Apple’s success continue post Jobs?

These fears and lack of faith, shown by the drop in stocks are somewhat warranted. Steve Jobs’ vision and entrepreneurship turned Apple from a bankrupt company into the world’s most valuable company in a little over a decade with the release of products such as the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. But maybe Job’s biggest success weren’t the products, but the Apple brand and culture.

Apple products may not always be cutting edge or the first, but Jobs and Apple did a good job making you think they are. Take the iPod. This wasn’t the first mp3 player, but it has become common nomenclature to refer to an mp3 player as an iPod. What more, Apple products are not always the most capable on the market. For instance, other tablets are able to do more than the iPad, but the iPad is still number one. So why does Apple always become the dominant player in the market?

It is because of Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs is synonymous with Apple.  I would say this is because Jobs is a natural salesman and marketer – the perfect spokesman.  He explains the technology in plain-speak, interjects catchy phrases that stick, and has the great ability to create hype. He sells his products as experiences, not as a product.  He also does a great job when it comes to design, making sure the products are intuitive to the user, simple, and sleek.  When i got my iPad, it didn’t come with a manual, just one slip of paper for instructions.  There is no doubt that Steve Jobs is the main reason why the company is back on top.

But now enter Tim Cook, the current COO.  He is in no way an innocent in Apple’s success. He is responsible for revamping Apple’s production processes and supply chain, allowing the company to handle demand, and thus increasing profits. He is why Wall street loves Apple.  But what scares some is that Cook has spent most of his time on the things that consumers never see.  So will he be able to reach the consumer like Jobs did? Can he replace Jobs’ visionary?

Part of Jobs success was surrounding himself with talent. If you don’t believe Apple will continue its success, then you are betting against Steve Jobs decision-making ability – which has been pretty successful thus far.   I don’t know if there is replacing a guy like Steve Jobs, but Cook knows the product, the culture, and he has been acting interim CEO while Jobs took health-related leave of absences.  Cook has been groomed for this position. Bottom line, don’t count Apple out.

Jim Ward – Broken Songs.

The acoustic version of this song, Broken Songs, is undeniably amazing. It features the lovely voice of Tegan Quin from Tegan & Sara. I love and have loved Jim Ward’s acoustic EPs, from which this album, In the Valley, On the Shores the End Begins & the Electric Six, is made of.  It is simply beautiful!

“When it gets too intimate, then I fall apart / And I carry on / Singing broken songs / Like you said I should / Like you understood” 

London is burning, again. In the last couple days, rioters have joined forces, upset by the death of Mark Duggan, through the means of social media. Recently, social media has been central to uprising, such as those in the Arab world. It makes sense, since you have the power to reach millions in just seconds! So the organization of protests via social media is nothing new, but unlike other protests, these efforts have proven to be entirely destructive in nature. Rioters are breaking into businesses, looting, fighting back, and setting fire to cars and buildings.

It also seems that this riot chose a different medium to get the message out. In other protests, Facebook and Twitter have been the main sources of distributing messages, however, this riot seemed to be orchestrated mostly through the more underground system of Blackberry’s BBM messaging. It has been said that Blackberry is a cheaper alternative to smartphones, and have been heavily marketed to black youth in London – the main demographic participating in these riots. Blackberry is now in a bad position. They try to help police, but are threatened by the rioters.

As these riots continue, there is another group of people harnessing social media’s power for the greater good of London. Groups are forming over the internet to organize cleanup of the riot aftermath. On Twitter, @riotcleanup and #riotcleanup are the two main sources for disseminating the time and location of the next cleanup. Facebook has had similar group pages pop up, like London Cleanup (http://www.facebook.com/londoncleanup).

Within this London riot, we have seen social media and technology work both ways. It has created destruction and chaos, but it has also allowed London to come together, stop the riots, and cleanup the messes made by the riots.

One word came to mind when I heard bike repair vending machine; “Yessss!”  Bike Fixation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sells you parts from a vending machine in order to fix your bike problem, then provides you with the space and tools to successfully repair the problem. As FastCompany put it, brilliant!

Scenario: You are riding your bike along the road, about 20 miles from home. You get a flat tire. You pull off to change it when you realize, you forgot to replace the tire tube from your last blow-out!   Home is about 20 miles away, the closet bike shop is 30 miles away, both too far to walk to. No one is answering your calls to be picked up. But there is Bike Fixation just around the corner! At Bike Fixation you buy a new tube from the vending machine and replace it on the spot, using their tools and stand after you find out your tool set is rusted and won’t open.

This type of place is especially great for the casual ride who doesn’t bother bringing tools or extra tubes with them. Right now only one of these bike vending machines is available in the world, it is in the bike-friendliest city in America, Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Rightly so, expect these to be popping up in only bike-friendly cities like, Portland, Boulder, Seattle, and New York, to name a few, once this company takes off! It’s the vending machine of the future, and I like what I see.  I would love to put one in St. Louis, but unfortunately, I don’t know of a convenient spot to put it…maybe in Forest park?

[image from FastCompany.com]