Yesterday I ran over to Books of Wonder to get a signed copy of Alan Lee’s new book, The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook. While there, I discovered that I used to own one of Lee’s earlier books, Faeries (what I get from hanging out with hippies in high school). Overall, I’ll just say that waiting in line with a old guy dressed up in full authentic Aragorn garb made the trip in the rain totally worthwhile.
I’ve found that living up here makes it a lot easier to collect signed books, although I always momentarily freeze when asked if I want a personalized copy or just their John Hancock. I suppose having authors ink in my name authenticates the meeting to anyone I want to brag to and completes the product “experience” that advertisers strive to create, but something about it feels a little ingenuine. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Lee was exceptionally polite (like all authors are on book tours), but I don’t really know him personally, and having something addressed specifically to me artificially creates that feeling.
Oh, if anyone’s wondering, I always do get signatures personalized. I usually keep books I purchase, and I guess I’m ruining my potential eBay inventory by doing this.
So, after posting in desperation to the ITP listserv and going through a list of potential project names, I settled on Code Tree. I think the title represents the idea well; multiple programmers/artists submitting ideas (the “roots”) to generate more ideas (branches). Granted, I didn’t put any branches or roots in the logo design, but hey, it’s colorful! I’ve got a splash page up, but have plenty of work to do, like designing the pages, building the site, structuring the database, getting beta testers, and writing a big ole paper on the whole thing. Yummy.
I recently watched this video on Sparkle by a group of its developers. Sparkle, Microsoft’s supposed answer to Macromedia Flash, first surfaced in 2003 but has remained pretty hush-hush until recently. Okay, so it could easily encourage a bunch of office spacers to migrate their monstrosities from PowerPoint, but Sparkle actually looks pretty good. The developers in the video really emphasize how authoring can be done effectively without coding (although a code panel is available). That really made me wonder if working with Flash has gotten me farther, or closer, to what I’m really interested in—clearly conveying an idea.
I once read a 1986 article “The New Workstation: CD ROM Authoring Systems” by Marc Canter (found in this book), founder of Macromind (yes, later Macromedia) and I was amazed at what an innovative concept this creative software started as—there was no XML, ECMA, Lingo, ActionScript, etc. It was simply a way to convey a “music score,” a “composer,” a “stage,” and a “director.” These simple analogies were easy for anyone to relate to, especially artists. I remember starting with Flash 4 and the simplicity of the timeline. Now, I don’t even use the timeline; everything is code. ActionScript has slowly started to mimic into the class structure Java and C++, places I’d never thought I’d have gone (or wanted to have gone) before.
Granted, the community asked for this. We all remember Adobe’s failure with LiveMotion. When the coding structure was removed from Web animations, it eliminated the possibilities and the created a glass ceiling of learning. Macromedia has successfully converted generations of artists into programmers, but are we any better off?
Do extended breaks make us more productive? If so, is there a formula, like x number of hours working versus y number of hours taking a break? For some reason, I felt compelled to go out to the bar for a friendâ€™s birthday Saturday night–despite a thesis looming over me (my poor wifeâ€™s sick, but she doesnâ€™t seem to display this urge when she’s healthy), hundreds of pages of reading this week, and tons of code to review. Maybe itâ€™s because Iâ€™ve been staring at composition, encapsulation, and inheritance models of object oriented programming all night. Maybe itâ€™s because I havenâ€™t left my apartment all day. Or, maybe itâ€™s because I like to see Times Square minus tourists at 3 am on my way home. Either way, the bar was pretty cool.
Check out liveplasma. It’s a much more interesting form of data visualization than the typical search engine (even Google!). I ran across it via CNET (CNET’s News site has applied it to their articles). Pretty cool.
Iâ€™ve often wondered what kind of freelance designer subscribes to Print Magazineâ€”or any other designer magazine for that matter. Ranging from $12 to $25 an issue, I have to ask myself if I got suckered when I recently purchased Print Magazine and Step Into Design Magazine–or if it was worth it. Okay, so I found some of the content intellectually stimulating, but, alas, paying for ads–I’m submitting to commercialism at its best (or worst!).
These designer magazines usually focus on print design, but almost always touch on product design, architecture, and Web design (along with a few sprinkled rockstar designer interviews and catchy stock photo ads). While I acknowledge that design spans different mediums, Iâ€™d prefer the articles be on interactive design (something that doesn’t always get the cover). It seems like a magazine based around this model never works, as interactive design is usually devoted to an annual; anyone attempting to create anything even remotely resembling a Web-only design magazine ends up declaring bankruptcy two issues in–worse yet, if they don’t declare bankruptcy, they play the let’s-convert-our-publication-to-a-Web-only concept. Suddenly the lack of researched articles becomes evident, the lack-of-budget shows, and the site loses what popularity it had. Hmm, I wonder if I just uncovered the designer magazines’ need for such high cover prices…
If you know me well enough, then you know that I tend to foolishly squander money on going out to eat. Iâ€™m told it runs in the family, but who knows, maybe I think Milton Glaser was onto something by being both a graphic designer and a food critic.
Someday I plan on heading south to Phillyâ€™s Le Bec-Fin, but perhaps Iâ€™ve found something better in my own backyard; running through Zagatâ€™s 2005 NYC Restaurant Map I discovered Per Se, Thomas Kellerâ€™s restaurant at the Time Warner Center.
I was recently contracted to create a new screensaver for Breathsavers along with a number of site updates. The screensaver is now live on the Breathsavers site, and if anyone’s wondering what the code looks like it can be found on my ITP site (Wave Pattern). Granted, performance-wise, Flash definitely isn’t Java, but I think it’s a cool effect nonetheless.
Being in a class with Doug Rushkoff makes it no surprise that Iâ€™ve seen his PBS series, The Persuaders (Itâ€™s streaming free off the Persuaders site, I recommend checking it out). In last weekâ€™s class we analyzed the work of Frank Luntz within the context of his interview. â€œWhat is the difference? It is climate change. Some people call it global warming; some people call it climate change. What is the difference?â€ Luntz asks in his interview. The difference, Frank, is that climate change tells us less informationâ€”it could be cold or warm, and is therefore an inaccurate lingual representation of what we really need to understand the growing problem.
Check out The Corporation, a documentary that presents big businessâ€™s impact with society. Granted, Iâ€™m not a huge Michael Moore supporter (did they have to end it with him?), and I donâ€™t agree at their finger wagging towards IBMâ€™s involvement with the Holocaust (the film points out that IBM hardware was leased to the Nazis to assist in accounting for Jewsâ€”it falls under the old â€œguns donâ€™t kill peopleâ€ argument), but itâ€™s quite an eye-opener, otherwise.
Whatâ€™s particularly interesting to me is that I once wrote about my belief that corporations should endorse culture and the arts as if it were their responsibility to make society a better place for both their employees and their customers. After all, our purchases practically vote these corporations into some higher office; shouldnâ€™t they give us just a little more back? My views changed upon hearing Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman talk about this very subject in the film. Friedman points out that these corporations are structured to return on their stockholdersâ€™ investments, not on saving the trees or helping the poor. Do we really want a corporate entity thatâ€™s built for making money or excelling in some particular business to tackle these problems? Shouldnâ€™t saving the world be left to the legitimate foundations? Hmmm…
I'm a creative technologist at Hauck Interactive, Inc. and an adjunct instructor at HACC. I live in Harrisburg, Pa. with my wife and three boys. I enjoy good coffee, Trappist beers, Orioles baseball, and good design.