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Dear Clients, Partners and Guests,

Freshly updated each month, this is the section of our site where I recommend some places to visit and products or services to check out, both on the Internet and in the real world. Now and again I include some personal observations on topical corporate communications issues. I hope there'll be something here each month that you'll find useful, entertaining or informative.


Tim Oake

August's recommended destination: events afloat in Amsterdam

My recommendations this month are taking place on and around Amsterdam’s waterways. It’s always a busy month for events on the canal our office overlooked by our office, but residents and visitors this year are presented with a choice of everything from bizarre through spectacular and sublime to extravagant.

Canal Parade

The first event is the high point of the city’s annual Gay Pride programme – the Canal Parade, which follows a route along the entire length of the Prinsengracht. On Saturday August 6th, no less than 75 boats of various shapes and sizes will once again try to outdo each other with their carnivalesque decorations and onboard revelry. They assemble from midday at the Westerdok, and from 14.00 they begin their procession. It usually takes about two hours for the whole parade to pass a single point, and this year it’s scheduled to finish at the ‘Stopera’ – Amsterdam’s combined city hall and opera house – at 18.00. The sides and bridges of the Prinsengracht are typically packed by the time the parade begins, so I'd advise that you stake your claim to a space in plenty of time. The organizers are expecting around 250,000 spectators as usual, many of whom will be making the most of plenty of opportunities for taking some wild and weird photographic souvenirs.

Sonos ZonePlayer

So much for the bizarre. Every five years an event is held in Amsterdam that can truly be described as spectacular. The seventh SAIL Amsterdam begins on Wednesday 17th August with the traditional ‘SAIL IN Parade’. About 20 historic Tall Ships and hundreds of other classic sailing and motor vessels make their way from IJmuiden along the North Sea Canal to the harbour of Amsterdam. For the next four days they can be seen in the harbour, before leaving once again in the morning of Monday 22nd. I previewed Sail 2005 in more detail as last April’s recommendation, so now back to the Prinsengracht and a quieter event that will be happening at the same time…

Sonos Controller

The Grachtenfestival is also being held from the 17th through the 21st of August this summer. Top international musicians and young talent will be performing over 90 classical concerts, mostly in unusual locations along the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht. The theme of the Grachtenfestival’s eighth edition is ‘Still…’. This is interpreted literally in a number of the concert programmes, as they include John Cage's composition 4'33". Quite how effective a few minutes of silence will be in Amsterdam’s bustling city centre remains to be seen, if not heard. Full details can be found on the festival website, but the highlight will undoubtedly be the ‘Prinsengracht Concert’ held on Saturday 20th on a pontoon in front of the Pulitzer Hotel.

The famous tradition of the free Prinsengracht Concert goes back much further than the festival of which it’s now a part. It was first held a few months after I relocated to Amsterdam from London 23 years ago. Much of the audience consists of locals who congregate around the pontoon in their boats, often with picnic suppers and chilled wine. The main performances take place in the evening. Following a special afternoon concert for children, at 20:00 the first programme, ‘Talent Above Water’, features the Amstel Saxofoonkwartet and friends. At 21:30 the Dutch violinist Janine Jansen will be featured in a varied programme accompanied by pianist David Kuijken.

HISWA te water 2005

The Grachtenfestival is planning to expand from next year, with some major projects inspired by the new architecture along the banks of the River IJ. A few concerts will be held there this month during Sail 2005 as a prelude to this expansion. At the mouth of the IJ just before it reaches the North Sea is IJmuiden’s Seaport Marina, where the HISWA in-water boat show will begin this year on August 30th. Unlike the annual Amsterdam show, held indoors at the RAI in March, this one’s targeted at the lucky few and window-shopping dreamers like me. We enjoy the little boat that’s tied up outside our house on the Bloemgracht, but the extravagant craft you’ll find on display here are exclusively luxury motor yachts, sailing yachts and launches with a minimum length of 7 metres. Oh well, it’s a day out...

The last six destinations I've recommended can be found here.

Green Midget Cafe

Click on the sign above to visit the Green Midget Cafe - where à la carte dining means everything with spam...

My e-newsletter recommendation for July:

Two Satirical Sites

I must admit I don’t read as many magazines as I used to. But about ten years ago a number of new titles hit the newsstands focusing on what was then called the ‘new economy’, and reflecting the heady excitement of those times in both their content and design. They tended to be weightier (in the literal sense, at least) and laid out more elegantly than more established titles like Business Week, Forbes, Fortune and the Economist.

For a year or so I found myself buying two or three of these publications a month. Many have since fallen by the wayside, along with the ‘dot.coms’ who’d thought that basing their business on the Internet was enough to guarantee success. Two exceptions that seem to still be going strong are Business 2.0 and Fast Company. This month's recommended newsletter is a weekly from Fast Company called ‘Fast Take’. It outlines articles in the current edition and articles exclusive to the website, along with various resources and discussions.

The founders and original editors-in-chief of Fast Company were Alan Webber and Bill Taylor. They had previously been editors of the equally weighty (this time in both senses) Harvard Business Review. Fast Company’s style was quite different from HBR. While it dealt with issues in just as much depth, it was more journalistic and accessible. It was more focused on entrepreneurial practice than on academic theory. Ex-Business Week writer John Byrne succeeded them a couple of years ago, but I’m pleased to say he’s carrying on the tradition admirably. You can subscribe to Fast Take for free here, and I hope you’ll agree it will be a couple of minutes well spent.

The last six newsletters I've recommended can be found here.

My Music & Radio column for July:

Jobs Keynote - Podcasting

Although I made podcasting my ‘music & radio’ recommendation on this page only a few months ago, there have been some significant recent developments that I believe warrant a ‘mark II’ version this month. For those who need a brief introduction to the concept, my original post from last December is here.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced his plans to leverage the podcasting phenomenon at a Wall Street Journal technology conference on May 22nd. He also included a section on podcasting and future versions of iTunes and iPod software in his keynote at Apple’s WWDC conference two weeks later. The first steps are due to be revealed in practical terms with the release of iTunes 4.9. At the time of the original announcement that release was scheduled for late July, but by mid June the rumours were that a major launch was being brought forward to around the beginning of this month. So what’s the big news?

The new release of Apple’s popular cross-platform MP3 application will offer advanced features for locating, listening to, tracking, archiving, and eventually purchasing subscriptions to Podcasts. Much of the success of the iPod and the iTunes Music Store has been down to what Philips has correctly noted we all really want from technology: ‘Sense & Simplicity’. Their clean, uncluttered design, combined with an intuitive way of working hide the complexity and sometimes clunky technologies from users, allowing them to focus on the content. In much the same way, Apple’s objective with iTunes 4.9 seems to be to bring podcasting into the mainstream, making it an attractive and easy-to-use medium for ‘the rest of us’.

The iTunes Music Store will include a newly-developed ‘podcasts’ area, grouping selected content, podcast category listings and top downloads. There are a number of podcast directories already, but it’s likely that the iTunes version will be simpler and easier-to-use. The new version will also build-in iPod integration and content delivery, which will mean you’ll no longer need programs like iPodder or BitTorrent. When you choose to subscribe to a particular Podcast, you’ll only need to click a ‘subscribe’ option, and RSS technology will take care of the rest behind the scenes.

iTunes 4.9 will monitor a live RSS listing of all audio files associated with the podcast to which you’ve subscribed, and whenever a file is published on the feed, it will download it to your computer and sync it to your iPod. The first group of podcasts will be free, although it’s likely that premium content will be introduced in the future. If they can do it, to make their offering as attractive as possible they should also allow plain MP3 podcasts in addition to their copy-protected AAC standard (see this month’s product recommendation).

At the time of writing the initial podcasts were unknown, but in his WWDC keynote Jobs demonstrated Adam Curry’s ‘Daily Source Code’ and ‘The Treatment’ from KCRW public radio. Apple plans to do its own podcast for iTunes Music Store releases every Tuesday, with artwork supported for each podcast. In another presentation Jobs noted that traditional media companies such as Disney, NPR, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Chronicle have started podcasting. Clues enough, I reckon…

My last six music & radio recommendations can be found here.

Client & Partner Briefing

Here's where you can find the latest issue of our newsletter for clients and partners, along with links to previous editions.

My film, video or photography recommendation for August:

Eric Meyer Photography

I was first turned on to photographer Eric Myer’s ‘Stereotypes’ by a mention some time ago on ‘What Do I Know?’, one of my favourite weblog sites and RSS feeds. Having just checked that it's still live, I decided it was an excellent candidate for this month's recommendation. Myer is a photographer based in Malibu, near Los Angeles, California, and specializes in portrait and location work for advertising, editorial and corporate clients.

Eric Myer Photography

‘Stereotypes’ is a kind of interactive photographic game which is built into the introduction to Myer’s website. From twenty head and shoulder thumbnail portraits displayed in a 4 by 5 grid, visitors can choose any top and bottom half, with the combination being displayed in a larger frame. It’s unashamedly a device to attract and retain site visitors, some of whom may be prospective clients, but it’s done extremely well and playing around with the combinations is strangely compelling.


Apparently the original idea for the project came from a time when Myer was reading a children’s book with his daughter which allowed you to create funny (both '-peculiar' and '–ha ha') animals by combining the head of one with the body of another. Myer thought of applying the concept to photographic portraits, initially planning to produce a book in a similar format. Eventually he realized that it would work even better on a website. The concept was thoughtfully and carefully developed, since Myer discovered that while some combinations could just be amusing, others played on our stereotypical prejudices about race, age, gender and social type. The amount of work that must have gone into casting, resizing, retouching and Java scripting is evident, and it’s paid off.


As well as often being funny, some combinations are at least as ‘believable’ as the ‘real’ originals, while others are quite disturbing. The process of asking yourself why they’ve produced these different reactions leads to you questioning your own prejudices and the nature of physical stereotypes in general. Since I first visited the site a slide show and random face generator have been added. Give ‘Stereotypes’ a visit; you might find it harder to leave than you’d have thought, and if you’re like me you’ll also be encouraged to check out the impressive portfolio on the site.

The last six film, video and photography recommendations I've made can be found here.

I don't have 'destination' or 'film, video & photography' recommendations for July, but as always you're welcome to check out the last six recommendations in their archive pages:

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