October 13, 2008 by Colin
This funky keyboard font is from the Bar Lock 4, a typewriter developed by Charles Spiro in the late 1800s. I came across it at a display in a corner of Terminal 3 of Toronto’s Pearson Airport (and you can find a lot of pictures of the display elsewhere).
Browsing through several dozen typewriters, it struck me that design and user experience was an uncertain goal in the development of each of these tools.
The input tools varied from simple keyboards (but necessarily the QWERTY keyboard that has become the standard) to notched dials, a combination of pointer and index plate, and tools that seem to have drawn much inspiration from the user experience of specialists more accustomed to eighteenth century cathedral organs.
A quick google search will reveal there are many, many more people that spend much, much more time on the design evolution of the typewriter. It strikes me, though, that early typewriter design was inspired by a combination of factors:
- an honest attempt to develop the fastest and most efficient input device
- a desire to differentiate your product from the rest of the emerging market
- an impulse to secure a patent for a remarkable and imaginative derivation of this new technology.
A final example is the Mignon 2 typewriter, which relied upon a pointer and index table, with the more unusual characters ringing the letters and numbers we use most frequently.
October 12, 2008 by Colin
It has to be a tough day, sitting in a folding lawn chair in a public square, a dozen or your artworks displayed on easels or pedestals around you.
Which is why I feel for the forty-odd artists packing the Place Broglie in Strasbourg this Sunday.
Because the people walking this square have distinctly bourgeois tastes, and they’re letting it show.
Now, I am the last person to claim authority, taste or style when it comes to art.
But even I can tell that most of the people here are drawn by the physical qualities of some pieces of art, not their inspiration, their execution or presentation.
What do I mean? They’re shopping for art that will fill a space and impress their friends.
That means a big crowd around the lady who applies photoshop filters to her photos of lone wolves on the horizon, or a fishing shack on a beach. That her photos are mounted in a relatively popular 1:6 proportion doesn’t hurt either.
Ditto for the graffiti artist actually creating near-photo portraits right here on the sidewalk.
“Oh this? The artists also did the “screw authority” tag under the A70 autoroute. He’s authentic in his passion.”
Or the “abstract” painter who layers textures and paint mediums in distinctly angular patterns – a style first popularized by Robin Williams in Moscow on the Hudson
Strangely, the Keith Haring rip-offs aren’t moving, and the startlingly good pop art isn’t drawing a crowd at all.
And forget anything that shows a touch of anger or anguish. The lady with the angry nude watercolours is having an exceptionally cold reception.
Thankfully, the guy trying to move rough charcoal sketches of naked ladies isn’t getting much slack either.
It is depressing, though, to see artists producing more and more of their work in tryptchs or series of small postcard-sized images, to suit the suburban sensibilities of sidewalk art browsers.
October 11, 2008 by Colin
O.G.S Crawford seems to be an example of the eccentric English expert, someone who achieves relative success in an esoteric or overlooked field, but carries along with them a number of personality or character faults that often serve to distance them from the rest of conventional society.
Significantly, Crawford was the first to realize that aircraft could be used to survey tracts land for signs and evidence of prehistoric settlements. He also seems to have rubbed people the wrong way and made some poor choices in ideology along the way as well.
A new biography, Bloody Old Britain, presents a comprehensive look at his life, and has been reviewed extensively by the British press.
Eccentrics often produce the best biographies – and the best book reviews – because they are apt to channel their emotion and their obsessions into witty and observant statements, like:
“bungaloid eruptions” – the suburban homes that began to dot and then overwhelm the English landscape in the years after World War Two.
As reviewer Luke Slattery describes Crawford, “He was not so much a whingeing Pom as a splenetic Basil Fawlty, animated by a generalised anger, set at a sharp angle to the world.”
October 10, 2008 by Colin
I spent some time at the main branch of our public library* this morning. It’s one of those buildings that used to be described by terms like “civic architecture” – meaning the design is cumbersome, imposing and not in keeping with surrounding architecture. The sort of design that usually required an explanation, like “no, I wouldn’t call it Stalinist! I would say it’s modern!”
Lots of concrete, rough edges and corners. The formed concrete walls and railings feel an awful lot like Habitrails for Humans, not Hamsters.
I was in there picking out books for an upcoming flight. I have a particular strategy in the library, one that has served me well. Find a book that I’ve read recently and liked, and look up its Dewey Decimal Number. Then go to the stacks, and browse through all the books three feet either side of that number.
While shuffling around on the twenty year-old carpet, contemplating “Life in a Medieval Village” (No, really), I caught a distinct whiff of Axe body spray and Noxema. (Although there may have been some patchouli and the stuff A&F uses to “mist” their floor displays as well).
[Break in Narrative] Ahhh. I had built up a 60 word head of steam about the differences between Generation X and the Millenials, but it got boring real fast.
That’s what I’ll do for you, dear reader. Instead of leaving a few good observations to wither in my drafts folder for lack of a solid narrative or any concrete tie to current events, I will make a half hearted attempt to provide a setting and some context. I’ll drop the observations right here on the page.
Then I’ll cut and run.
Hey. At least I didn’t try to conflate my momentary brain fart into some great unified theory on how to wedge product attributes, brand qualities and trademarked ad slogans into the minds of ordinary consumers – usually with some overwrought and overthunk discussion about conversation, participation and relationships.
Instead, I’ll just leave you with the books I picked out.
- The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific
- The Best American NonRequired Reading of 2007
- The Best of the City Section of the New York Times
*you really have to read the note that was posted alongside the flickr photo of the branch. It will really ring true for males over the age of 35.
October 7, 2008 by Colin
These are your choices (if you’re an American citizen), come November 8. Pick your Ferris Bueller character carefully.
October 5, 2008 by Colin
All this blah blah blah about the relative strength of vinyl sales (following on the heels of several month’s worth of reports about the impending collapse of independent and chain record stores) occasionally focuses on the hard – and creative – work of band members, friends, hangers-on and small label owners to promote their music.
Such is the case of Seventh Rule Recordings, a Chicago outfit that works to win listeners for “brutally punishing underground metal”.
“We just don’t believe in just putting out shit like let’s get it done as fast as we can,” [Cara Flaster, cofounder] explains. “That’s so gross. I don’t care if we put out ten records—they gotta look good.”
Those who pick up early editions of Seventh Rule vinyl will find that the dedication to aesthetics goes deeper than the cover. A 200-copy edition of Intimacy, for instance, is being pressed on white vinyl splattered, spin art-style, with cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to match the cover. Eighty-four copies—the “nuclear” edition of the record—comes on black vinyl bisected by a vivid band of yellow.
Scott admits that special limited edition releases help pressure hardcore record collectors to buy—and buy early—but he and Cara are also motivated by their own geeky allegiance to vinyl …” (Chicago Reader)
October 5, 2008 by Colin
I tried to write a long and incisive post about the 2x Tide ads featuring Kelly Ripa – but it’s useless.
I’m just sucked in by the crazy eyes and demonic smile.
And the strangely ripped arms.
October 2, 2008 by Colin
I’ve decided to improve my life at work. Not by increasing my productivity. Not by chasing down new opportunities. Certainly not by replacing my Bob and Doug MacKenzie action figures.
Instead, I’m going to begin assuming qualities and mannerisms normally seen from primetime television characters:
- when presented with a problem, I’ll tilt my head 45 degrees, look at the ground, and take off my sunglasses
- if something seems evidently contradictory, I’ll do a double take, look you right in the eyes, and go “huuuuhhh?”
- I’m going to mark off a corner of the conference room and use it as my own personal confessional
- how about introducing an amusing and quirky sidekick with an eccentric professional specialty into our circle of friends at work?
- forbid that the topmost button on any shirt or blouse be buttoned up
- poor performance review? welcome to exile island – the photocopier room
- begin carrying all my pens and notebooks in an aluminum briefcase. Before beginning a meeting, I’ll pull on a pair of latex surgical gloves, kneel down, and ask “what do we have here?”
- speed up corporate audits by introducing an 80 year-old British self-taught private investigator to the process
- replace every mid-level manager with a gruff yet attractive former Marine who starred in an 80s summer teen movie
- find a sassy wife that is disproportionately attractive and a better friend to my colleagues than me
- get a 60″ interactive whiteboard, like CNN’s John King
- introduce the tribal ‘do rag as a corporate promotional item
- weld the doors shut on all cars in the corporate fleet
- when all seems doomed, introduce Heather Locklear, John Larroquette or TedMcGinley into the mix
October 1, 2008 by Colin
A portion of the transcript from a conversation earlier this year between Peter Campus, Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon and David A. Ross, formerly Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, published in Tate Etc.
DOUGLAS GORDON Well, I have a story to tell. When I was a student at the Slade, I was bored, so I went up to Glasgow where my mum and dad live. The pubs were closed, all my pals were in bed, my family were asleep, but I wasn’t sleepy. I was in my brother’s room. Being a good Jehovah’s Witness boy I had never seen Psycho, because my mum had told me not to watch it. Said it was bad. But then I thought, damn it, Mum’s in bed so I can watch it, so I did. There’s a scene where Janet Leigh takes her bra off, and I thought: I’m going to watch that again, in slow motion. Then I thought, well, I’m going to watch the whole thing in slow motion, and it turns out that it was about 24 hours long.
DAVID A ROSS So out of repressed boredom came an idea to create a work that put people into a very different space.
PETER CAMPUS Boredom is a powerful tool.
DAVID A ROSS I think Warhol introduced boredom into art again in an interesting way, but video made it really possible.
DOUGLAS GORDON It’s a fairly crucial and horrific fact that people spend longer looking at a video monitor that isn’t working than a painting, waiting for something to happen, while there is a Barnett Newman just round the corner for them.
September 27, 2008 by Colin
Today on Definitely Not The Opera, Sook Yin Lee opened the show by looking at activities we choose to undertake as a member of a crowd. Many of the examples were foolish, embarrassing or relied on being swept in a tide of emotion and amity.
To be blunt, I’m more sympathetic to the reticence Sook Yin expressed on the DNTO blog:
” … As far as crowds go, I’m more of a loner. I like spending time by myself or with one or two friends at a time. I enjoy that direct line of communication rather than the more general ADD conversations I seem to get into at parties with lots of people. Now the thing that makes me uneasy about crowds is how easily you can get throngs of people riled up over a particular purpose. Sometimes it’s destructive and other times that crowd dynamic can mobilize us to do good things en masse, but it’s disturbing that it all seems to stem from a primal human instinct … “
September 26, 2008 by Colin
Once you get past all the fuzzy wuzzy about knowledge sharing, community building and increased opportunity to work on projects that challenge and inspire you, there is one certainty about the implementation of 2.0 applications in an enterprise environment: METRICS.
” … So one approach would be to graph where everyone stands within the organization along six dimensions: authoring, editing, interacting, tagging, uploading, and positive feedback. A simple radar graph would instantly show were an individual is on each, based on their contributions to various [emergent social software platforms] and relative to everyone else in the organization …”
When combined with a more sophisticated analysis of the networks and information sharing processes within an organization, these sorts of measures could help pinpoint the employees who make a positive or continuing contribution – both as a participant in Enterprise 2.0 applications, but simply as employees.
More, including a graph and a rebuttal in the comments, at Andrew McAfee’s HBS blog.
September 26, 2008 by Colin
The anarchist ice cream truck, equipped by the Center for Tactical Magic. Now making its rounds in New York, it is equipped to supply activists in case of confrontation with security forces.
” … The ice cream inventory is limited, because cabinets are used to store rolls of film for documenting police action, Ibuprofen for billy-club headaches and rain ponchos in case of fire hoses and water cannons. There were pepper spray treatment kits and the counter-weapon of choice: water balloons. There is an ample supply of work gloves.
“These are for throwing tear-gas canisters back at police so you don’t burn your hands,” explained the driver, Aaron Gach, 34, who wore a skinny bow tie and black-and-white saddle shoes, and a uniform with “Art” on the name tag and the words “Tactical Ice Cream Unit” on his white captain’s hat. He was not wearing his usual big fake mustache …” (New York Times)
The truck is also equipped with 12 video cameras to produce an independent record of any confrontations, and an audio/video transmission facility.
It’s an interesting and provocative project, but it makes a lot of assumptions (and perhaps overstatements) about the extent of confrontation between activist organizations and security forces. It operates in the United States, not Germany, after all.
September 25, 2008 by Colin
Make Users Happy For 5 Minutes A Day
Ben Huh from I Can Has Cheezburger discusses the site’s growth and popularity – from Web 2.0 Expo NY
h/t to Dino
September 25, 2008 by Colin
Know what the best part of the “I Am A PC” ad is?
“I am a PC, and I SELL FISHH!”
As Faris points out, this ad tries to reframe our collective perception of Microsoft as a company and as a tool manufacturer – highlighting its prevalence and utility around the world.
Nevertheless, it still feels like the third of twelve steps in a recovery program.
Speaking of tools, at what point will Justin Long’s agent tell him to drop out of the Apple campaign? As people slowly grow tired of the comparative ads, he runs the risk of being tarred as the face of a smug and elitist campaign.
There’s more than a little touch of agism in that reaction – if one of my daughters came home with a foppy haired douche that behaved that way ….
September 23, 2008 by Colin
In recognition of Alec Baldwin’s Emmy for 30 Rock I’ll just point you to well put-together podcast, heavy on house music and soundbites from Glengarry Glen Ross – “Always be Closing – 40 minutes of house and abuse, hosted by Alec Baldwin“ – over on the21gunsalute.blospot.com.
If you want to read about Baldwin’s stormy, tempestuous, rough, confrontational, challenging career as an actor and a husband, just read the New Yorker essay from earlier this month.