Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ira Glass on storytelling

[youtube n7KQ4vkiNUk ]

This American Life is one of my favourite podcasts. A recent episode, The Giant Pool of Money, outlining the background story to the sub-prime mortgage crisis was a standout. It was almost Wire-like in how it interwove high end financial shenanigans, the systems people have to work within, and the trials of ordinary citizens.

The episodes are free on the feed in iTunes for a period but after a while, you have to pay about a dollar for a show. And just to say it, your broker made a lot more telling you a lot less.

Frankly there isn’t a dud episode in the whole series.

Here Ira gives some pointers on his approach to storytelling, basic but very good. Part One is above, There’s four in the series and well worth checking them all out.

Part Two, Part Three, Part Four

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Pestle, originally uploaded by Dromahaire.

I love this mortar and pestle, it's made from granite, Danish and a present. I've made my salad dressing in it for years now. I like it because it's wide and flat, not tall and narrow, you can swirl and stir in it and have a good look at what's going down.

I usually make the same dressing every day. It's pretty straight forward but we wouldn't want it any other way in our house. Starting with a clove of spring garlic lately, ripe and wet, popping straight from the skin with just a press, Then flakes of sea salt and black pepper. And it barely takes a few grinds to have it mush up nicely. Then some Dijon mustard, just half a teaspoon, the juice of half a Sicilian lemon and add enough good olive oil to taste.

You get squodges of mustard and sharp attacks of lemon juice sometimes in your mouth depending on how they were. but I tend to enjoy the odd surprise. The oil is the main thing I vary, I like to check different ones out.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Will Bill Gates Please Leave the Building!

New top level domains still in play. Look for among other names. A land rush projected. 700 redundant news stories today about Bill Gates and how he's retiring. Cripes. When will it end? Dell adding colorful laptops. What took them so long? Microsoft indeed going on a buying spree. Intuit does layoffs. This is all the news they can manage. Yahoo reorg news also clogging up the news channels. Susan Decker is now the boss it seems to me. Should the US nationalize the Internet? Symbian versus Android? What can Sarbanes-Oxley do for you? Nothing.

Click to listen: [audio:]

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Whatever happened to Computer Art?

I was asked a while back to give a talk on creative applications on the Mac and it set me off thinking about the early days when I first got into this.

I have to say, it was much to the bafflement of loved ones and friends at the time, about 20 years ago. It’s an interest which has continued to this day, my wife says she has no equivalent to it. I counter, rather lamely, pointing out her yoga and interest in alternative healthcare, but it doesn’t really wash.

Back in the day, 1988 to be a bit more precise, I spent a lot of time debating just exactly what Computer Art might be. I was working in the visual arts, primarly with young and emerging contemporary artists. I was intrigued by the new technology which was arriving. I bought a Commodore Amiga which was definitely the artists platform, launched by Andy Warhol painting Debbie Harry.

[youtube 3oqUd8utr14]

Computer Art is a topic that has by and large disappeared from the landscape. The Wikipedia article on it reads like a genre from the fifties, no sense of any current activity at all.

Artists, like everyone else, use a lot of technology these days, but no one particularly calls it Computer Art any more. They’re either film makers or graphic designers or just plain old artists. How it’s made is neither here nor there.

Of course, most clearly with Photoshop and 3D modellers, it’s easy to see how necessary a computer and set of software was to create the work, but that’s now realised as not all that important really. Photoshop is just a set of digital tools after all, generally used to create images which don’t look processed in any way. And while these digitally created images may form a subset of image making, it’s not in any form, a separate medium.

And that was what people were discussing back in the day, the emergence of a new medium.

For me, coding was always key to that. There were people, like William Latham, who worked within IBM in the UK, used coding in particular to generate work but they didn’t mesh with the art world all that well, the work didn’t speak to people, either the artistic community or the general public, in a way they could relate to, it’s protean and exploratory by it’s very nature.

What was central to them was that the work did completely come from the code. And I think coding is the key to the future of this, but just perhaps we shouldn’t put the limits of the word ‘art’ on it.

Recently I had a small sense of something emerging from quite an unexpected source.

[youtube PCg1SpEan5k]

I, like everyone else, use Google Earth more and more. And yes it’s very useful, any trip or hotel choice is checked out there first and location based services will be more and more prevalent. But that’s not why I look there sometimes.

There’s something in the experience of Google Earth, I have a true sense of wonder there. This experience, unimaginable a century ago, unimaginable in fact to my own Dad who died too young. There’s a flicker in the back of my head more akin to encountering a work which speaks to me, a sense of wonder. Is this is landscape re-invented, is this is a new sublime?

What if software finally emerged as a new creative genre? What if it became, much as film defined the 20th century, the key defining medium of the 21st?

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

WiMAX in Amsterdam Now!

Philly municipal Wi-fi on again after being off again. Toshiba steps up and promotes its R500 laptop. Bumper stickers on your car could indicate you are unbalanced. Microsoft having various issues in Europe. Jon Shirley leaves MSFT board. Google Apps suffer outages. Good news for people pushing cloud computing. Firefox wants 5 million downloads. It's a publicity stunt all the way. Samsung suing TV makers. Amsterdam to run mobile WiMAX. How did they get into the act?

Click to listen: [audio:]