I'm in Orlando for the next few days to speak on behalf of Google at an online marketing conference.

On my drive from the airport to the hotel, I thought of the perfect ad slogan for this city... "Vegas for 10 year-olds." Instead of casino after casino, it is rides and attractions after rides and attractions. Instead of fancy, high-end restaurants, you have touristy-kitch chains that are family-oriented (Hard Rock, etc) Instead of extravagant shows and entertainers -- you have cartoon and 3-D attractions... (oh - and everything has a good-old fashion line)

In high school, I probably drove up to Orlando a handful of times. Maybe it's because I stayed at the cheapest hotel room that could fit 9 of us, but I really don't remember anything as built up as it is now.

While here, I was able to see my step-sister, Risa, who is going to school here (at UCF) for hospitality management. She's perfect for the profession -- and from what I can tell from this city -- it is the perfect city to learn the craft.


Is this the start?

Below - you will see a video that I was obsessed with for about 10 minutes. I watched the 13 second clip probably 7 times, and then immediately had to show someone else. (and by someone else, I mean anyone within 10 feet of me or on my Google Talk or AIM buddy list).

And then it got me thinking... Does Google Video empower people (read as: stupid kids) to suddenly be more likely to try Jackass-type stunts? Are we going to start seeing the "3:00 - by the bike rack" events by the droves? The truth is -- all they need is a video camera and the internet. The cost of being published is suddenly beyond minimal...

So - the answer to these questions are unfortunately "yes."

Do I blame Google? No - because if Google didn't do it, someone else like YouTube or Yahoo would provide the ability to post video online and make it available to the world. All it means to be is that parents have a much more important job and responsibility to lead by example. Great job of exemplifying this by the woman in this video - huh? I guess we should stay tuned...


My Top 5 MC's of All Time

Toure, a well-known journalist focusing on hip-hop came to Google yesterday to chat with us. He gave out his book, which is a culmination of his various journalist experiences - mostly with hip-hop stars. I've read the first few stories - and they are very cool.

Anyway - he pretty much starts the book with ranking his top 5 MCs. He did a really good job of out-lining what the "scoring criteria" are when judging such a subjective topic. Below - you will find my top 5 MC's of all time and some rationale. Below that, you will find Toure's criteria which I almost compeltely (but not 100%) agree with.

I wanted to point out that buying new music used to be a weekly occurrence for me. It has since diminished drastically. It could be that I’m getting older…it could be the complete commercialization of hip-hop, it could be a combination of those two…

This being said, I wanted to document my top 5 favorite rappers (with honorable mention below). Here we go:

#5. Big Pun

  • Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of published material from him, but what I did hear – I replayed, and replayed and replayed. He had an original, quick delivery that often got my adrenaline running. His lyrics, which needed a few times to truly comprehend, carried a strong sense of authenticity…He was also the first mainstream non-black rapper that truly got respect from everyone.
  • My favorite album - Capital Punishmet (although not so much to chose from

#4 Method Man

  • M-E-T-H-O-D… I like comparing him to a Frank Sinatra (of Hip-Hop) back in his day… He has this voice and flow that enable him to say almost anything in a song and sound cool. When I would buy a Wu-Tang album, no doubt I would listen first to the Method Man tracks before any others. He has a way of inserting flare into his lyrics, that are somewhat under-rated. Perhaps it's because he isn’t as deep as some others, but I think he’s often more creative than given credit for.
  • My favorite album of his… Blackout (with Redman)

#3 Eminem

  • I first learned about him in the Sources “unsigned hype.” Mostly intrigued by him then because he was white. When he came out in 1996 or so with “My Name is” … I really didn’t like him. I felt he had a whiney voice and wasn’t quite sure I was feeling what he was saying… Over time, though, his consistent exposure intruiged me. I started listening to his entire albums rather than just radio singles….Well, since then, I have NOTHING but love for this guy. His “breaking the racial barrier” aspect demands a certain level of respect, but this is just the effect of his work. His tracks are funny, thought provoking, and catchy all at the same time. Yes, there are themes like his ex/current wife that have gotten old over time, but he definitely has kept his delivery of ths message creative over time. I’m really hoping he continues to produce good albums, but if not - he still has one of the top 5 best albums of all time in my book (Eminem Show)
  • Favorite Album – The Eminem Show.

#2 Jay-Z

  • He is the most creative lyricist in my opinion. His consistency and longevity, coupled with his ability to balance the “commercial vs. street” is unprecedented. I’ve been on the jigga bandwagon from Day 1. However, he is so good, that I still can listen to his old album and pick-up new concepts. I’ve purchased every Jay-Z album and they almost all still make their way to my playlist. No other rapper can claim the consistent success for as long as he’s done it. On a side note, you also have to love his entrenpenuership. Beyond his actual lyrics or style, the fact that he doesn’t write his rhymes when recording them – proves his natural talent. His current job title (President of Universal) is also ground-breaking….kind of like the first ball player who became GM after his playing days…
  • My favorite album: Reasonable Doubt (this is a really hard decision, though)

#1 Notorious B.I.G

  • It’s no secret that this guy is the best ever. And there are many who think this fact is somewhat an after effect of his un-timely death. Well – I don’t think his “champion title” has anything to do with his death….It was his mastery of every style – he was the complete package…..He could freestyle, he could story-tell, he rapped about criminal life and rhymed about his relationship woes. He could flow quickly or slowly…. He created music for the clubs and for the bedroom. His sound was clear and powerful. His lyrics are legendary for blowing minds.. And yes, like Jigga, his rhymes all came from his head – nothing written. Bottom-line, B.I.G., put Hip-hop into 6th Gear…. After him it can coast and move forward, but I find it hard to imagine a higher gear….
  • My favorite album: Life After Death...

Honorable Mention and other props:

  • Kayne West - Currently in the lead for breaking the top 5 when all is said and done.
  • Missy Elliot – By far my favorite female rapper. She brings the fun out of hip-hop. I got mad respect for her.
  • Ludacris – Extremely under-rated lyricist. Often makes me laugh. Feel like he deserves more respect from the industry. He unfortunately is guilty by association with all other crap Southern Rappers.
  • Dr. Dre – The most consistent producer in the biz. Could easily be the all-time biggest influencers in the industry one day.
  • Mos Def – My favorite of the “deep thought” rappers.
  • Busta Rhymes – Great “cameo” injection of energy for a random verse. Unfortunately could never truly carry his own album.
  • Rakim – If B.IG. put it in 6th gear…Rakim is responsible for putting into 5th gear.
  • KRS-1 – My favorite thought provoker from the old school. I feel like I would have put him and Rakim on my list had I been a little older and would have been into their music during their prime.
  • Nate Dogg – No better “hook artist” – Period. Doesn't help the "commercialization" of hip-hop, but it's hard not to love this guys ability to make

A Methodology For Ranking MCs (By Toure) A list of what should and should not be considered when ranking the greatest MCs of all time: 1. The MC Resume. How many albums has the MC released that the general hiphop community considers classics? How many times has the MC had the song of the moment, one that dominated culture from the clubs to the radio to your personal playlist? How many times has the MC dropped the unforgettable couplet that people repeated over and over, a couplet that shot into your mind like a dum-dum bullet, exploding within you as deeper levels of comprehension dawned upon you. How many years has he been a relevant MC? Has his music aged well? (Songs released on mixtapes are equally as valid as songs on commercially-released albums. Every time you step to the mic counts.) 2. The MC Decathlon. An MC is primarily judged on what he does in four arenas: (a) songs; (b) stage performances; (c) freestyles--a word which now encompasses both the old school meaning (improvisational rhymes) and the new school meaning (written rhymes the audience hasn’t heard before); and (d) battles. Battle rhymes are of a special breed and though it’s possible to go an entire career without having beef, it’s unlikely and not recommended. MCs get big points for winning big battles. If there was an MC decathlon they’d have to (a) make a song, pick a beat, then write a hook and verses and deliver them dopely, (b) rock a crowd, (c) kick a hot rhyme off the top of the dome, and (d) battle somebody. A great MC must master all these arenas. 3. The MC Microscope. When we get out the MC microscope we look at voice (both literal and figurative), flow, lyrics, and the ability to pick beats. Does his voice alone transmit confidence to the listener? Is his voice original, compelling, powerful, seductive, tasty, or hypnotic? Has he innovated new facets of MCing? Can you dance to the bassline made by his flow? In his lyrics does he coin original words or phrases, does he pick words we don’t normally hear in hiphop, does he make words rhyme that don’t really rhyme, does he have an interesting vocabulary, does he spit inventive metaphors, killer punchlines, clever slang, poetic word play, and double and triple entendres? Does he have original or interesting thoughts and stories to tell? Is he an interesting person, which does not mean has he been shot or has he shot someone, it means when he’s on the mic is he an interesting person to listen to? Does he have MC integrity, meaning, do you feel that he’s telling the truth about himself and his world, is he representing himself honestly, or is he just playing a role, i.e., perpetrating? Does he have a point of view? Does the sum total of his oeuvre paint a world? 4. The Trash. What doesn’t count? Sales are not a relevant variable. Sales do not matter. Also, being able to sing means nothing. MCs are only judged on rhyming. MCs also don’t get points for shooting someone, getting shot, doing a movie, doing time, doing commercials, dealing drugs, having been a Blood or a Crip, owning their label, or anything else off-mic, including doing a great video. The artifice of videoworld has nothing to do with being a great MC, however doing a great concert and being able to rock a stage will matter as long as MC still stands for Master of Ceremonies or Move the Crowd. (Postmodern kids will argue that a video is another sort of stage and it is, but really it’s a commercial and we don’t count commercials.) Ergo, my (Toure) top five (all of whom have at least two classic albums, multiple song-of-the-moments, and tons of unforgettable couplets): #1 Rakim, #2 Jay-Z, #3 Biggie, #4 KRS-One, #5 Nas.


Why even ask?

I'm assuming everyone has seen that Citibank commercial that shows a guy continuing to navigate through automated customer service "front-lines," only to be disconnected when he finally reaches someone...

Well, yes, I too find the "pre-screening" of customer service lines beyond annoying. The mere voices or need to qualify ones desired topic of conversation is not what I find annoying. What DOES boil my blood is that once you finally get through to a person - they ask you the same damn questions. "What is your account number?" "What are you looking to do?" .... I JUST SPENT 15 minutes answering all of these questions to a computer voice... Are all of those questions asked only as a function to entertain me while I'm waiting? Is it filler while the calls are re-routed to India?

Why can't a company not only use the information that I enter in before I talk to that person -- but why can't they remember my phone number (just like a web page does via cookies) for the next time?

Clearly, the phone customer service industry is trying to transition all customers at some point to email correspondence. It's cheaper, easier to control by the companies (via templates) and certainly less stressful on the customer service reps.

I would be OK with this, as long as I don't have to answer questions multiple times to different sources.


Google Calendar

Yesterday, Google announced the launch of it's Google Calendar for users.

I have been beta-testing the product over the last few months, but I am much more excited about it now that it's been released to the public. Why? Well, there are some very cool features that aren't truly realized until you can have friends/family on board.

Here are some cool things you can do with it:
1) Sharing your calendar. As long as Amy and I keep our calendars up to date, we no longer have to wait to talk to the other to see if we're free one night for a double-date (as an example). As long as we share calendars, her events will show up on my public calendar and vice/versa.
2) Google will email OR text your cell phone if you want it to remind you of events. So...If it's someone's birthday, and I'm out of the office -- Google will text me to remind me.
3) You can search for and import public calendars. Meaning... Not only can you share public calendars with friends and family, but... (once the concept is rolled out to the masses), I can add specific things like Miami Heat games or TV Show viewing directly to my calendar. Right now, I have US and Jewish Holidays listed.
4) You can have things like Birthdays repeat every year. This is nothing new, but I don't use a calendar function that does this. So...if I do miss your birthday this year, I am much less likely to miss it next year. ;)

I'm sure there are a lot of cool things that are added on. As usual, just wanted to educate you all on cool Google features as soon as they are available. Enjoy.


JetBlue has more entertainment

As I'm about to take my 4th JetBlue flight in 4 days, I've been on the Jetblue website more often than most. Anyhow, although I have yet to be on a plane that has this functionality, I've learned that they are in the process of installing XM radio on all their flights.

Although this seems like a throwback to old-school in-sky entertainment, I'm really looking forward to it, particularly for ball games. XM has the rights for Major League Baseball and various college football and basketball games....

I haven't been on a road trip in a while, but back in the day, I used to find that listening to a ballgame was a great way to have the time fly a bit quicker (and more enjoyable).


Miami Heat: Going into crunch time

I went to the Heat-Piston game last Thursday night…

As a life-long Heat fan, I came away a bit frustrated. Yes – it became more than clear that night that the Pistons are without a doubt a better team than the Heat. However, this is not what made me flat-out mad. The leading cause of this feeling is a man by the name of Antoine Walker. With the Heat depleted with injuries (Posey, J-Will, and Zo), there is a need for our other role players to earn their money…. As I told my buddy Chubby at halftime of the game … I very much want to like Twon, but I just cannot find ONE value-add that he brings to the team. He’s a horrible defender, he forces bad shots, he never makes clutch shots, he whines to the refs constantly…. (I could go on). And I am not the only person who feels this way … If you read the local press or attend a heat home game, you will see that almost every South Florida sports fan agrees with me. I don’t understand why Riley defends this guy …

So going into the stretch run – I’m a believer, but also realistic. If the Heat cannot find a 3rd option on offense, I don’t see us beating New Jersey in the 2nd round. If Gary Payton or Jason Williams can miraculously wake up come play-off time … then I you never know… In the meantime, I’m begging Pat Riley to bench Antoine Walker at any cost!


March Madness - Great.... Final Four - A bore

Don't really have so much more to say other than the title... (but - I will try)

March Madness is great - and I don't know why College Football doesn't realize how much better they could make their sport

This is the first time in a long while where I didn't win any of my various pools I enter. I feel like NCAA Madness luck goes in waves. Some years you have it -- some years you don't... This year - I definitely didn't have it. (Although I will say, my buddy Salis did -- he had UCLA going to the Finals and George Mason going to the Great Eight)

I don't think it was only me -- but I felt like the Championship this year was extremely anti-climatic. CBS was banking on a George Mason (underdog) and LSU (heart warming Katrina victim story), but go the exact opposite...I read a headline yesterday (mind you - the day after the Championship game) that said "Florida to be tough in 2007." I mean ... not even 1 day to enjoy the accomplishment? I guess that the Final Four games were so bad ... people are just trying to forget the event as a whole.