there are 40 posts from October 2009

October 30, 2009

lehman's collection up for auction

Lehman Brothers had one hell of an art collection. It’s up for auction at Freeman’s in Philadelphia. You know you’ve always wanted an Ed Ruscha tainted with the stench of economic collapse…and now it can be yours.

October 30, 2009

gaze up at the weirdness

Rich Juzwiak on Michael Jackson.

He was the kind of man who thought audiences would be “nourished” by the reinsertion of eight bars of “The Way You Make Me Feel” into its live arrangement, the kind of man who considered “love is important,” to be an “important” message to convey in his show, the kind of man who would wear a blazer with cartoonishly pointed shoulders over a T-shirt depicting an iced-out Popeye. It was a man so mired in weirdness, he had no idea how weird he was (I’ll never forget the astonished way he asked Martin Bashir, “You don’t climb trees?!?”). Except now, instead of rolling our eyes at that weirdness, we gaze up at it and sigh. It took a lot for us to come around, but I’m glad we did.

October 29, 2009

the broken bridge

Tony Alfrey dissects what’s happening on the Bridge.

So consider this for just a second:  the tool that they installed was not “strong enough” to handle the total load (traffic, roadbed, wind), yet this cracked Eyebar has been hanging up there for long enough to get nice and rusty, with this big crack that wiggles back and forth as the wind blows, as the traffic crosses the bridge and as the bridge expands and contracts as the bridge heats and cools.  Don’t you feel better now as you drive across the bridge (maybe one day soon)?

Via @case and

October 28, 2009

the most interesting man in the world

Celebrating the career of Mexico’s only typographer/luchador. El Vetica, also known as El Kernudo, fought out of the small town of San Serif. He held the Mexican Inter-Continental belt for an unprecedented 7 years, from 1977–84. He also starred in several telenovelas, most notably Las Esposas do Luchador and El Santo e Super Amigos.


October 28, 2009


Letters of Note publishes the stock rejection letter from Zyzzyva’s Howard Junker.

The important thing is this: Do not be discouraged by this or any other momentary setback. The road is long; the struggle must go on.

October 27, 2009


While I’m a fan of Google Chrome (please, a stable 1.0 version for the Mac, please), the browser themes aren’t for me. But go watch this short promo video on YouTube for Chrome Artist Themes and watch what happens. Slick. (via)

October 27, 2009

no, really. is it open?

Is the Bay Bridge open? is a single-serving-site I put up tonight. Please note that you should not rely on this site for actual information about the state of the Bay Bridge.

Also, has anyone else noticed the irony in the fact that the first name of the Bay Bridge spokesperson is Bart?

October 27, 2009

editorial merchandising or competitive shopping?

GSI Commerce is buying Rue La La (competitor of competitive shopping site for $350 mm. Here’s the money quote, so to speak, from Michael Rubin, CEO of GSI.

“What you are getting is completely addicted customers,” he said. “It’s completely viral. There are virtually no marketing costs in this business.”

And this from Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor:

“The nice thing about the deal sites is their selection complexity goes way down. That allows them to focus on picking sales very closely and driving values for customers interested in those deals.”

OK, maybe it’s not competitive shopping. Maybe it’s editorial merchandising. Or both? Either way, it’s worth watching…

October 21, 2009

sometimes i love fakesteve

Fake Steve tees off on John Dvorak

I know you’re on Leo Laporte’s podcast, and you have some kind of Internet TV show, and you go on there and reminisce about the time at Comdex when Ken Olsen and Rod Canion got prank-called by Philippe Kahn, and Jim Manzi had to step in and stop the fight, and when he ducked Mitch Kapor got socked in the nose! Or that time Jim Seymour had a tray of appetizers delivered to his hot tub at the Alexis Park, and Bob Metcalfe was like, Dude, you need to cut back on the snacks! Hoo boy!

It’s useful having Lyons playing the role of Fake Steve, if only for the ability to pull out Jim Manzi references.

October 21, 2009


Jason Kottke turns his 20x200 congratulatory blog post into a comment on the new FTC blogging disclosure policies.

I may have unwittingly posed for photos next to 20x200 artwork hanging in my residence or in the residences of others, giving the impression that I am endorsing said artwork. Apologies.

October 21, 2009

competitive shopping

A friend was telling me about today, and its version of “entertainment shopping.” Every day Gilt offers up a limited set of curated fashion inventory at deeply discounted prices. They kick off the sale at 12 noon eastern / 9 a.m. pacific with a rush of traffic…and here’s the kicker: if you put an item in your cart you only have 10 minutes to complete the transaction, otherwise it gets removed and becomes available for someone else.

It’s like Filene’s Basement for the web.

I’d love this to become even more competitive. How about this scenario: You find an item you like, but it’s already been placed into someone else’s cart. You then have the opportunity to challenge them for the right to purchase it. In Gilt’s case, that challenge could be in the form of a fast-paced fashion quiz, where you have to correctly identify the designers of a certain set of pieces (perhaps from that day’s set of available inventory). You wouldn’t want to scare off newbies, so you’d need to have the right incentives to play, including discounts on future purchases if you lose, a limited number of “deny this challenge” (get out of jail free) chits, etc.

Ebay of course pioneered ecommerce as entertainment; but sites like Swoopo and Gilt are the next rev of “entertainment shopping,” and I’d love to see more competitive game mechanics integrated (beyond the auction, that is) into niche e-commerce sites.

Thought experiment: how could sellers use the Zynga gaming platform to merchandise their inventory?

October 19, 2009

missed opportunity

One quick note on the DroidDoes campaign: the whole site is built in Flash, which makes it completely unreadable on the iPhone. This fact may be some cute inside baseball play on the “iDon’t” theme, but as a marketing tactic it’s absolutely boneheaded. Dear Verizon: your campaign is a meme. You want it to spread. To people with iPhones.

October 19, 2009

infinite loop

Rich Juzwiak is back doing only what he can do to America’s Next Top Model.

It’s sad to watch someone suffering…which is obviously why I decided to make an image file looping it infinitely. Enjoy the sadness, suckers!

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it until you’re blue in the face from telling me to shut up: even if you don’t watch the show (especially if you don’t watch the show) you should be reading fourfour.

October 19, 2009

headline: man bites self

Richard Lacayo on Shepard Fairey’s massive fuck up.

Judges really don’t like it when you lie to the court and manufacture evidence. And the real irony is that a lot of knowledgeable people who have been following this case thought Fairey had a good chance of winning no matter which photo his poster was based on, because he had transformed the original image sufficiently to meet the fair-use test.

October 19, 2009

absolutely debatable

The Footnotes of Mad Men on Aqua Net:

What do you think is holding up Betty’s honey colored bun Just her crushing sense of isolation and despair?!

Well, now that you mention it…

October 15, 2009

of note today

Andrew Anker on the death of investment banker Bruce Wasserstein. Frank Stella returns to the Philip Johnson Glass House. The NYTPicker tears into the Times for expanding into local coverage of San Francisco (“Someday, we fear, it will be the New York Times in name only.”). Bill Gates’ open letter to hobbyists (“Most directly, the thing you do is theft.”) Merlin Mann on the making of ‘Born to Run’ (“This song’s a fucking swiss clock, and it still gives me shivers every time I hear it. Which is a lot.”). A vi clone written in JavaScript (my head just exploded.) Ben Fogarty’s stacked area chart of his life (via). And, finally, Ben Trott on why he loves PSGI/Plack (I love it when Ben blogs about the stuff he builds).

October 14, 2009

so those other 48 states are out, then?

Sufjan Stevens, who once promised an album for each of the 50 United States (and has, to date, produced two – for Michigan and Illinois), is now wavering on the notion of the song, much less the album.

I feel that the album no longer has a stronghold or has any real bearing anymore. The physical format itself is obsolete; the CD is obsolete and the LP is kinda nostalgic. So, I think the album is suffering and that’s how I’ve always created—I work with these conceptual albums in the long-form. And I’m wondering, what’s the value of my work once these forms are obsolete and everyone’s just downloading music? And I’m starting to get sick of my conceptual ideas. I’m tired of these grand, epic endeavours. and wanting to just make music for the joy of making music and having it be immediate and nothing to do with the industry itself, which, y’know is suffering right now of course. And I think it has to do with a creative crisis too. I’m wondering what am I doing? What is a song even? I’m questioning, what’s the point of a song? Is a song antiquated? Does it have any power any more? The format itself—a narrative song with accompaniment—is really beyond me now.

Which is really too bad because I was looking forward to the one about New Jersey.

October 14, 2009

down and to the right

The New York Times covers “dark pools” and other electronic exchange rivals to the NYSE, and shares this tidbit:

Today, 36 percent of daily trades in stocks that are listed on the New York Stock Exchange are actually executed on the exchange, down from about 75 percent nearly four years ago.

That’s a massive change in behavior in four years.

October 14, 2009

canabalt high scores!

I love Canabalt. So the other day I asked (lazy)Twitter for a favor

dear lazytwitter: pls build a canabalt stats app based on twitter search results.

…and the (not-so-lazy) Twitter listened, in the form of superstar Matt Jacobs, who today launched Canabalt Scoreboard. The site scrapes Twitter search results for the appropriate Canabalt tag line, drops those that were posted from the web (cheaters!), shows the top 25 current high scores and the average of all the scores gathered.


So I now have documented proof that I suck at Canabalt. Thanks Matt!

October 13, 2009

to all my friends...

Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, and the Computer, an in-depth look at Bukowski’s relationship with personal computers, including his ode to the 16-bit Intel 8088 chip. I’m not kidding. (Via Timothy Buckwalter.)

October 13, 2009

book recommendations for ze

Ze Frank asked his followers on Twitter if they had “any recommendations for a great book?” and got flooded with replies. He compiled a list (“about a third of the titles that came back”) and put it on his blog. They’re not all great, of course, but it’s an interesting list and says something about Ze’s fans…

October 12, 2009

what would tinker bell do?

Steve Jobs is having an impact on Disney’s retail overhaul. From the NY Times:

Mr. Jobs provided access to proprietary information about the development and operation of Apple’s highly successful stores, and Disney executives visited Apple’s research operation in Cupertino, Calif. Mr. Jobs, who declined to comment, also insisted that Disney build a prototype store to work out kinks, a costly endeavor that most retailers skip.

The company followed his advice, working for the last year on a full-scale, fully stocked store inside an unmarked warehouse in Glendale, Calif. The prototype was crucial to shaping an overall philosophy, Mr. Fielding said, noting that he discovered the shops needed more “Pixar-esque winks and nods.” To that end, one sales area is now labeled “WWTD: What Would Tinker Bell Do?”

Just so happens that we read a version of Peter Pan before bedtime in our house tonight, and I had forgotten what an odd character Tinker Bell is. Wikipedia

Though sometimes ill-tempered and vindictive (getting the Lost Boys to shoot arrows at Wendy), at other times she is helpful and kind to Peter. The extremes in her personality are explained in-story by the fact that a fairy’s size prevents her from holding more than one feeling at a time, so when she is angry she has no counterbalancing compassion.

So really. What would Tinker Bell do in a retail environment?

October 12, 2009

probably not quite like a live NFL game, but still...

Hey, New York friends – this looks like fun: 2009 Global Cut & Paste Championship at the Hammerstein Ballroom this Friday night October 16th.

With the broad geographical reach of an Olympic event and the nervy psychological gamesmanship of the X Games, the championship takes the tournament’s international approach to design as spectator sport and amps it up like never before.

More “design as spectator sport,” please.

October 12, 2009

goodman on weiner and draper

If you haven’t seen last night’s Mad Men ep, I don’t think this (from Tim Goodman’s morning recap) is much of a spoiler.

And I suspect at least part of the exchange - the dismissive “you people” - was Weiner’s way of reaffirming the idea that Don is not really a likable character (as David Chase had to do periodically with Tony on “The Sopranos”), as Don’s cult of cool (good looks, great job, available women, constant drinking) begins to look pretty interesting from the couch.

I had the exact same thought last night. Weiner needs the audience to keep Don at arm’s length…and that scene last night was the M.M. equivalent of Tony beating some guy’s head in with a baseball bat.

October 12, 2009

dragon tattoo with open subtitles

I have a Cayce Pollard-sized crush on Lisbeth Salander, one of the main characters in Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, yet I had no idea the book has already been made into a (Swedish) film. Fred Wilson has all the instructions on how he and his wife downloaded the movie and nabbed English subtitles from Open Subtitles. Project for next weekend…after I finish the book.

October 09, 2009

the sad thing is that they're not kidding

Via Timothy Buckwalter comes Jerry Saltz at on the Obamas’ White House art, and the reaction from art world types.

And just as inevitably, art insiders were disappointed in the choices. … The esteemed if reliably irascible Artnet critic Charlie Finch…wrapped it up by calling the Obamas “as right wing as Bush in the art department.” Washington Post critic Blake Gopnik sneered that some of the taste on view was “mild”. … Are these people kidding? Do they really think the Obamas should have hung (let’s say) a Kara Walker paper silhouette of a slave girl performing fellatio on a slaver who excretes a pickaninny? Do they remember that only a year ago George W. Bush was decorating his office with generic cowboy paintings — plus Saddam Hussein’s pistol? In nine months we’ve gone from generic Western landscapes and photo- realist images of cacti to a painting by one of the most prickly contemporary artists around.

Emphasis mine. Worth reading the whole thing, esp. his take on the Obamas hanging Ed Ruscha’s I Think I’ll… (“what it conveys perfectly is not waffling, but thinking”).

Update: put together a great slideshow of some of the work that the Obamas picked.

October 09, 2009

the governor's breakfast

Via Al Shaw at hello, motion comes this photo from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s twitter stream.

Arnold's Breakfast

“This is how I start my day,” he tweets. Fantastic.

October 08, 2009

see a little light

Merlin on Bob Mould’s See a Little Light

It’s probably hard for ex post facto Hüsker fans to realize how abrupt this departure seemed. Great, light/dark record. In retrospect, B’s late 80s/early 90s stuff sounds like a catepillar crawling out of a bottle into a room full of other realtively recent butterflies.

Yes, but I’m sure it wasn’t really that song that did it, since it was the fourth track on the record. I’m sure the initial shock came with Sunspots, track one, which is pretty damn far away from Bed of Nails

Blogs are good for picking nits.

October 08, 2009


I blame all my twitchy restlessness today on Ben…and Canabalt, where even your “high” scores are steeped in failure. (“I ran 1712m before hitting a wall and tumbling to my death on my iPhone.”)

October 07, 2009

something turtleneck-shaped

Ben Hammersley meanders around something idea-shaped regarding cities and living in them, and “the cushioning effect of history upon reference upon metaphor upon inter-mixed system.” And in the process he stumbles out a line that will stick with me for a long time.

You don’t need to be Umberto Eco to riff off it for hours: it’s turtlenecks all the way down.

OK, probably not exactly the bit of the piece that he wanted to have stick, but still, so good.

October 07, 2009

do one thing, and do it well

My favorite twitter bot, discovered after a tweet about the moon, has to be @ObiWanKenobi_. Note the trailing underscore, very important. The underscoreless guy isn’t any fun at all.

October 06, 2009

tigers v. twins

There isn’t a division that I have less connection to than the AL Central, but from the highlights and stories I wish I could have seen the game today. Twins shortstop Orlando Cabrera: “This is the most unbelievable game I’ve ever played or seen.” Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge: “No matter what we did, it seems like it wasn’t meant to be. This is the best game, by far, that I’ve ever played in no matter the outcome.”

And I love this game note from ESPN:

Seven members of the Metrodome’s cleaning and maintenance crews were honored on the mound before the game for the work of those groups in converting the field back and forth from baseball to football in light of Monday’s Packers-Vikings game.

Fall is good.

October 06, 2009

single-application mode

Via David Jacobs comes news of this hidden pref for OS X users: single-application mode.

That’s right, the original single-application mode in Mac OS X Public Beta is still with us. Although it was always intended as a simple option for people who are not computer experts, it turns out to be an interesting option for the power user.

The tidbits article linked above was written by Lewis Butler.

Lewis Butler is a longtime Unix system admin, postmaster and Mac geek. He is a frequent contributor to a large number of mailing lists under his “LuKreme” alias.

You don’t say…

October 06, 2009

shooting into the corner...and laughing

Holy crap I love Anish Kapoor. Go check out the video and photographs for Shooting into the Corner at today and tomorrow. There’s such great richness behind the “cannon,” the red wax, the context of the gallery, the artist as the person behind the trigger…not to mention that it creates a damned beautiful installation.

Watch the video all the way through – not only for the payoff of the cannon actually firing, but the nervous laughter that follows from the unseen art lovers in the gallery. For me, their laughter triggered the same vaguely uncomfortable feeling I had when hearing Letterman’s audience laugh at his sex-with-staffers admission: you know it’s the “wrong” reaction, but that if you were in their place you’d do the exact same thing.

October 05, 2009

water on the moon?

On Friday, NASA will send a section of rocket slamming into the moon at 5,700 miles per hour. Following the impact, a companion probe will have just a few minutes to gather data from the resulting six mile high dust cloud, looking for signs of trapped water ice.

Just four minutes will decide the outcome of three years of preparations, four months of space travel, and a $79 million investment put into the bold mission. … The sensors will scan the debris for the chemical signature of water, providing definitive proof for a decade-old hypothesis that ice exists on Earth’s inhospitable companion.

If they find water I assume lunar golf courses with playable greens can’t be too far off in the future.

October 02, 2009

typepad motion

If you follow along with the web 2.0 news, you’ve probably already seen the headlines that we introduced a couple of big things this week: the TypePad Platform and TypePad Motion. Huge congrats are in order for the entire team…which was actually two teams working closely together: the back-end team working on exposing key pieces of TypePad as a set of REST-based APIs, and the front-end team building a beautiful Django application for running simple, social connected communities that are powered by those TypePad APIs.

You can read more about TypePad Motion, join the developer program and download the Django bits from Github. But for the high level overview the blogs are where it’s at: Leah Culver has a great post about what the team built, while Chris Alden’s post puts all of this new stuff in broader Six Apart context.

I love working with this team, and bringing TypePad Motion to market – with real sites running real software powering real communities – has been a ton of fun. There’s a lot more to do, of course, but that’s always the way it is when you launch a product. Onwards!

October 02, 2009

slapped down in copenhagen

Last night we were talking about the Olympic bid, and thinking through the calculus of Obama making the trip to Copenhagen for the final presentation… I was obviously naive in thinking that this had to be a bit like Bill Clinton heading to North Korea – for someone of his stature to get on a plane, the deal had to already be in the bag.

Obviously not. As Peter Baker puts it so succinctly in his New York Times piece…

Rarely has a president put his credibility on the line on the world stage in such a personal way and been slapped down so sharply in real time.


October 02, 2009

nothing wrong with a little color

I’ve tweaked my blog a little bit. Those of you following along in RSS readers, I’d love for you to check it out. Comments, feedback and bug reports welcome.

October 02, 2009

feather v. hammer

A video from NASA, feather v. hammer on the moon, via Kottke. Need to remember to show this to my daughter, who lately is obsessed with this particular law of physics.

October 02, 2009

bat segundo hiatus

I hate that this seems to be a recurring pattern in the “media produced for love” category. Edward Champion puts his Bat Segundo show on hiatus after what sounds like an incredibly lousy interview with an author.

I’ve always maintained that if what I do isn’t fun, then I have no interest in doing it. And right now, The Bat Segundo Show, which should be fun, isn’t.