there are 41 posts from November 2009

November 30, 2009

the circus

Jason Kottke pointing to Greg Allen’s project building Enzo Mari’s Autoprogettazione dining table out of Ikea parts (whoa) led me to a recent post of Greg’s on Gerhard Richter’s 4900 Colors Version II. Which he then connects nicely to John Cage’s Roywholyover A Circus.

Watching the installation and listening to the several random elements Richter deployed reminds me of John Cage’s rolywholyover exhibit from 1993-4. Using a a list and map created each day by an I Ching-based program, the museum’s art handlers would essentially perform by installing, moving, and removing artworks selected for the show. When not on the walls, paintings and such were stored on rolling walls, still visible, in a roped off section of the gallery. One of my absolute favorite art experiences ever.

And mine. I’ve never since seen a museum used in quite the same way; Roberta Smith’s New York Times review captures some great elements; worth quoting at length:

The exhibition’s heart and its largest section is “The Circus,” an exegesis on avant-garde practice in which Cage’s idea of randomness is applied most aggressively. The 50 artists included, all chosen by Cage, count as his friends, colleagues or inspirations. … To counter such deliberateness, nearly everything in this section is subject to change. Three times a day, every day that the museum is open, staff members shift five of the show’s objects, moving them to different positions in the gallery, placing them in the Reservoir (the open storage area that is part of the show) or bringing them back out on view, all in accordance with an elaborate I Ching-derived score. The growing number of nail holes speak of the changes.

I have a copy of the exhibition catalog from that show, which is a book-sized aluminum box filled with dozens of reproduced artifacts from the show – letters, musical scores, poetry, photographs, print reproductions, recipes, notes, essays and other miscellany.

Photo swiped from this auction.

It’s one of my favorite “books” – it captured perfectly the nature of the show, and, like Cage’s work, invites you to engage with it in an entirely different way than you would a typical exhibition catalog. It’s out of print now; though you can find copies on eBay occasionally and from fine art book dealers.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Enzo Mari tables out of Ikea spare parts. Whoa.

November 30, 2009


Back in the mid-90s, Jerry Kaplan wrote a great book about the adventures of GO Corporation, titled Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure.

I’d preorder the book(s) about the Crunchpad today if I could.

November 30, 2009

block that metaphor

I finally read Ken Auletta’s New Yorker piece about Google this past weekend, and of course with 20/20 hindsight enjoyed the vignette of Karmazin complaining about Google’s plan for advertising transparency. David Carr’s piece in the Times this morning is a good companion.

It’s a wan reminder that all reigns are temporary, that the court of self-appointed media royalty was serving at the pleasure of an advertising economy that itself was built on inefficiency and excess. Google fixed that.

I found the 9/11 metaphor a bit over the top, however.

Those of us who covered media were told for years that the sky was falling, and nothing happened. And then it did. Great big chunks of the sky gave way and magazines tumbled — Gourmet!? — that seemed as if they were as solid as the skyline itself. But to those of us who were here back in September of 2001, we learned that even the edifice of Manhattan itself is subject to perforation and endless loss.

In Carr’s world is Google the Al Qaeda of the media business? Please.

November 30, 2009

because everyone loves a battle

Android v. iPhone is the new Windows v. Mac. Here’s a representative comment on Stewart Alsop’s post re. the trouble he had with his Droid:

I’ve spent a lot of time with Android and it sounds to me like you don’t really understand what you’re doing or how the phone works.

Yay, fanboys.

November 25, 2009

boring is as boring does

I liked the Smashing Magazine post about “the death of the boring blog post.” While I tend to lean on the side of “good content makes for good blog posts, regardless of format,” it’s nice to be reminded that a well thought out design of an individual post can make for good content. (Cue oldtimer voice: it’s the way the web used to look – back when things were hand-crafted.)

Having said that*, if we end up with a bunch of “top ten tricks to [insert your productivity thing here]” posts that have really big titles, background images and custom-styled ordered list elements, those posts will still be boring.

* Yep, Curb reference.

November 24, 2009

more on jeanne-claude

The American Prospect has a great appreciation of Jeanne-Claude.

If Jeanne-Claude’s portion of their work was in large part managing and bringing about the wrapping of the Pont Neuf in gold fabric despite then-Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac’s grave hesitations, so much the better – the process is the work. Jeanne-Claude’s battle for recognition has helped shed light on the art world’s discomfort with recognizing both women and the process behind creating large-scale work. That process was part of her work, too.

November 24, 2009

i loved reading this post on the internet

Om on Foursquare.

Like Twitter and Facebook, Foursquare taps into our inner exhibitionist self — a malady of the post-Internet era. It allows everyone to be a Ruth Reichl, the legendary food critic — an arbiter of taste.

(Look, I’ll make the title joke explicit for you. It’s a “post” on the “Internet.” When we’re supposedly suffering from an inner-exhibitionist, taste-arbiting, post-Internet malaise. And yes, I’m as confused as you.)

November 23, 2009

this is a sound strategy comes up with some great football play ideas. Here’s one that I think has merit.

Get a really good field goal kicker and just make sure wherever he is, he can kick a field goal.

I’d like to take that literally. From wherever he is. (Via capndesign.)

November 23, 2009

the feel-good apocalypse movie of the year

Edward Champion reviews The Road.

It lacks the apocalyptic punch of 1984’s Threads or 1982’s The Day After, and is far from bleak and depressing in its approach. But a liberal parent may very well argue that this family-centric film is fun for the whole family. I couldn’t help but wonder at times whether Viggo would coo, “Good night, John Boy,” under the acid rain of family values.

November 20, 2009

speaking of hills and valleys...

I found this great blog post by Chris Dixon via Twitter.

The core services built on top of the internet – the web (HTTP), email (SMTP), subscription messaging (RSS) – were made similarly open and therefore distributible across institutions.  This explains their remarkable system-wide reliability.  It also explains why we should be worried about reliability when core internet services are owned by a single company.

(See also.)

November 20, 2009

r.i.p. jeanne-claude

Back in the fall of 1991 Trina and I took a long day trip from San Francisco down to the Grapevine to see Christo’s umbrellas.


They were incredible to see in person, especially knowing a little bit about what went into the production of the piece. A finished Christo piece is like the tip of an iceberg – you see this beautiful little bit above the water, while the terrifying process of financing, planning and constructing the work lives under the surface and gives the work its mass.

The artists entirely financed their 26 million dollar temporary work of art through The Umbrellas, Joint Project for Japan and U.S.A. Corporation (Jeanne-Claude Christo-Javacheff, president). Previous projects by the artists have all been financed in a similar manner through the sale of the studies, preparatory drawings, collages, scale models, early works, and original lithographs. The artists do not accept any sponsorship.

Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon, Christo’s wife and collaborator, died this week. (Obits from the New York Times and Bloomberg, and a post from Time’s Richard Lacayo.) If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend 5 Films About Christo and Jeanne-Claude, a collection of documentaries on the creation of five of their pieces including two of my favorites, “Running Fence” and “Valley Curtain.”

November 18, 2009

we shouldn't blame jason. we should blame ourselves.

Jason Kottke, on his weblog.

Before reading this interview, I didn’t know much about [Cormac] McCarthy – he’s a fellow at the Santa Fe Institute? -- but now I think I need to read The Road.

If this truly is the first time that Jason mothereffin Kottke has been interested in Cormac McCarthy than WE HAVE FAILED AS A NATION.

November 18, 2009

no toyo ito for BAMPFA

The Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive won’t be getting this:

 Jeanne Collins & Assoc

Kenneth Baker in the Chronicle:

Museum Director Lawrence Rinder explained the decision to change course - taken by the chancellor, the museum’s board president, its chairman and Rinder himself - as a consequence of the global economic downturn over the past two years.

“It is ultimately the chancellor’s decision,” Rinder said, “but I agree with his analysis. … We had set some interim fundraising benchmarks to have a standard by which to judge our success. … The trigger point was in November, this month. By then we had brought in about $81 million toward our $200 million capital campaign. … The gap was just too great, looking forward.” The $200 million included anticipated cost overruns.

November 18, 2009

mena writes a great letter to tavi

Mena wrote a great letter to Tavi, the Style Rookie. (I blogged about her last week.)

I’m sure you get thousands of emails like this but since I don’t write thousands of emails like this I felt it was worth sending.

And worth reading. +1 to the parenting goal of raising daughters that are as strong and independent as Tavi.

November 18, 2009

creepy v. really creepy

Sure, Joe Cocker doing You Can Leave Your Hat On is creepy in an “Adrian Lyne softcore porn creepy” kinda way. Randy Newman, on the other hand, doing You Can Leave Your Hat On (which he wrote, by the way), alone at the piano is really creepy, in a “holy shit this guy sounds like a serial killer” kinda way.

November 18, 2009 + red laser

Hey, – I see an opportunity here for integration with Red Laser for a UPC shortening and aggregation service so that it’s easy for people to blog/tweet about products. Price comparisons are one thing; how about scanning items to get social data, and not just Amazon product reviews, but posts / tweets from around the web, whether my friends own this thing, whether they recommend this thing, whether this thing is green / socially responsible, whether this thing tastes great or is less filling, or whatever.

November 17, 2009

imagine the rehearsals

Microsoft store employees “break out” into dance and a “customer” captures it all on video. Their performance comes very, very close to capturing the exciting, authentic performance of the Blackeyed Peas on Saturday Night Live.

November 17, 2009

announcing typepad micro

Sharonda Woodfin has a great post about what we’re up to with TypePad…

TypePad has made a lot of changes over the past year, but the one that’s coming next will be the biggest of them all! SixApart is rolling out a whole new, free-of-charge level of TypePad service: TypePad Micro!

Posted here thanks to TypePad’s new reblog feature. (You should try it yourself!) Huge congrats to the TypePad team…

November 16, 2009

the holidays are coming...

…which is the perfect time to hole yourself up in your house, lock the door and watch all five seasons of The Wire back to back to back to back to back. Whet your appetite with this superclip of the 100 greatest lines from the series, I’m sure only available for a limited time. (via)

My favorite in this bunch? Omar. “Money ain’t got no owners, only spenders.”

November 16, 2009

it's like they're always amazed...

I really should have one of those New York Times alert thingies for mentions of “bloggers” or “blog” or “blogging,” because whenever the gray lady deigns to report on said things (other than, you know, in their blogs) it’s always so “human interest.” Two from the last couple of days…

Bloggers eat taxpayer-purchased cookes! In From Treasury, an Invitation to Financial Bloggers

Some of the bloggers were acutely aware of the effects of being welcomed inside “the brain trust,” as Steve Randy Waldman put it on the blog Interfluidity. “The mere invitation made me more favorably disposed to policy makers,” he wrote in his summary of the event, even though he abstained from eating any of the cookies at the meeting, “on principle.”

And in Writing a Sports Column Far From Print, and the Game bloggers become influential sports journalists! And write best selling books! All while rarely attending actual games! But not without the scorn of the Times…

“I will never write a traditional sports column,” [Bill Simmons] said. “But there are opportunities to spend time with people that I couldn’t before. Maybe I could do a running diary from spending four days with a player on the road.”

Think of the possibilities: You follow a team. Ride with the players from game to game. Interview the star about why he missed the big shot at the end of the game. And then write it all up.


November 16, 2009

hotel beds

Bryan Boyer is taking photos of Hotel Beds. They’re weirdly anonymous and intimate at the same time. Subscribed.

November 16, 2009

hills and valleys

Tim O’Reilly previews his keynote for Web 2.0 Expo this week.

It could be that everyone will figure out how to play nicely with each other, and we’ll see a continuation of the interoperable web model we’ve enjoyed for the past two decades. But I’m betting that things are going to get ugly. We’re heading into a war for control of the web. And in the end, it’s more than that, it’s a war against the web as an interoperable platform. Instead, we’re facing the prospect of Facebook as the platform, Apple as the platform, Google as the platform, Amazon as the platform, where big companies slug it out until one is king of the hill.

Excuse the early Monday morning metaphors in the following, but… I don’t think there will be one king of the entire hill. Instead, what we’re seeing are attempts to own individual hills: Amazon with commerce, Apple with mobile, Google with search, Facebook with identity. And it’s up to the entrepreneurs who are building applications in the valleys between those hills to make the tough choice: do you live off the largesse of the feudal lord on top of the hill, and enjoy the short term benefits of their comfortable development environment / distribution channel / social graph, regardless of the long term impact on your business? Or do you go your own way, and attempt to amass enough strength to take the hill yourself?

November 16, 2009

frog on apple and bloomberg

An unplanned companion to Tim O’Reilly’s piece this morning is Tim Leberecht’s post at Frog Design design mind blog comparing Apple and Bloomberg as “Old Champions in the New Economy.”

Apple and Bloomberg, in some ways, are the antidotes to a marketplace that – propelled by the forces of the Social Web – is becoming increasingly atomized, hyper-distributed, open, and transparent. Secrecy, compliance, top-down hierarchies, rigid communication policies, and walled gardens are characteristics that may be somewhat outdated in this era, and yet they seem to be the very cornerstones of Apple’s and Bloomberg’s success as the two firms thrive as the surprise champions of their respective categories.

Worth reading in full, though what’s surprisingly missing in the post is a stronger recognition that both companies have built their reputations on nailing the user experience. Back in the mid-nineties when everyone thought Bloomberg was ripe for being picked off by “the web,” I remember talking to one trader who basically told me that I could just try to pry his Bloomberg terminal from his cold, dead hands.

November 12, 2009

sorry you lost; here's your invoice.

The AP story reviewing the “highlights” of Sarah Palin’s book had this interesting bit:

She reveals that about one-tenth of the $500,000 [in legal bills] was a bill she received to pay for the McCain campaign vetting her for the VP nod. She said when she asked the McCain campaign if it would help her financially, she was told McCain’s camp would have paid all the bills if he’d won; since he lost, the vetting legal bills were her responsibility.

Wow. Really?

November 11, 2009

yes. you should call him.

Inspired by clusterflock


I love the web.

November 10, 2009


Today is Maura Johnston’s last day at Idolator.

November 10, 2009

the case for twitter ads

David Hornik makes a compelling* argument for Twitter to bring on the ads. Esp. of note is the graf about context…

The very data others have suggested Twitter should sell to third parties is invaluable to create the necessary context for a successful advertising model. Not only will Twitter know the things about which any given user is tweeting, it will also know who that user is following and the things about which they are tweeting. That’s a huge amount of context for advertisers. I’m guessing Toyota would love to advertise to an individual who tweets about shopping for a new Honda Hybrid.

Worth reading in full.

* I’m required to say that about any post from a board member of my employer. Have you seen the great LinkedIn / Twitter integration, BTW?

November 10, 2009

killer tweetage

Ev’s post outlining the rationale for the implementation of RTs in Twitter is full of interesting bits*, but this is the sentence that stuck out in the post. Emphasis his:

This last point [re. unstructured data] is not obvious but is particularly important for fulfilling Twitter’s goal of helping you discover the information that matters most to you as quickly as possible.

I think this is the first time I’ve seen Twitter’s goal stated that succinctly. I Googled the phrase and scanned the Twitter website and couldn’t find an occurrence of it before…did I miss it somewhere obvious? I like it – it’s deep, wide and actionable. And without being heavy-handed about it, it necessarily makes the acts of contributing to Twitter (tweeting, RTing, favoriting, following, listing) crucial inputs into the act of discovering on Twitter. (Think: social filtering, preference mining, influence analysis, etc.)

Ev goes on to define the perfect Twitter; emphasis mine this time:

The perfect Twitter would show you only the stuff you care about – relevant, timely, local, funny, whatever you’re most interested in – even if you don’t follow the person who wrote it. And, of course, it would give you ultimate, fine-grained control in how to do so. We want to give you more ways to help the good stuff bubble to the top.

Which is the perfect bookend to David Hornik’s post this morning about Twitter and advertising.

* I have lots of opinions about commentless RTs, but am holding back until I’ve had a chance to experience them firsthand.

November 10, 2009

i'd use this

Kindle for PC: perfect for tech and text books. Mac version coming soon; O’Reilly, it’s about time to kill Safari.

November 10, 2009

greg knauss is on a roll

The latest from Greg: DIEFEEBLE, the wristband in ashen gray, “for leading that life of quiet desperation that you keep hearing about.”

November 10, 2009

and i actually liked dumb and dumber

You know, I had forgotten all about CD-ROMs until this afternoon’s visit to


Good times.

November 09, 2009

predicting the future

I love this bit from Chris Dixon’s blog post announcing Founder Collective.

We believe the best people to predict the future — and create it — are fellow entrepreneurs, not former bankers drawing graphs and developing abstract theses.

November 09, 2009

oh i'm sorry, were we talking about your weekend?

Mena pointed me to Style Rookie (“Tiny 13 year old dork that sits inside all day wearing awkward jackets and pretty hats”) and now I Can’t Stop Reading. I’ll do this this one time to get it out of my system and avoid reblogging every new thing she posts; here’s the intro to her latest*…

Hi! How are you? How was your weekend? What did you do? What’d you think of TaySwift on SNL? What’d you think of some sports event that took place these past couple days? How’s your cat? How’s your dog? How’s your husband? The newborn? OH UH HUH GOOD STORY GUESS WHAT

“Subscribed” is too weak a word.

* Yes, that’s 7 “meh”s in the title of the post. See what I mean?

November 09, 2009

brief interviews

The Office’s John Krasinski has written and directed a film adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. I had no idea.

Two quick notes:

  • Actually, I had no idea until learned about it via the always helpful Ezra Cooper, who writes that it “can maybe best be described as a scarifying experience. Not redeptive, or cathartic, certainly, but more of a bracing shove.”
  • If you Google the title, the page for the film now outranks the page for the book. Hooray for Hollywood! (And for AMZN, obviously.)
November 09, 2009

are close votes a feature or a bug?

I’m not quite certain that this is completely sound polisci – public optics and the news cycle has to play a role in the political calculus of massively important president-led bills like health care reform – but Rafe Colburn makes an interesting point about the 220-215 vote in the House yesterday.

Every vote over the minimum necessary to secure passage represents compromises that the Democrats as a group would prefer not to make. It’s not that Nancy Pelosi was lucky to pass the bill, it’s that the Democrats wrote the strongest bill they could that would get enough votes to pass. That’s good strategy.

November 09, 2009

a twenty year regret

Twenty years ago this week I was living in London, enjoying a semester abroad as a senior in college. Instead of hopping the first plane I could find to Berlin, I watched the wall come down on television. I’ve regretted that decision ever since.

November 04, 2009

i am not a food blogger

But I’m a blogger who likes food. And this week I had three dishes at three restaurants in New York that are worth mentioning.

  1. The filetti pizza at Motorino Pizza in the East Village. People in SF’s East Bay (including me!) love to talk about how great the pizza is there (and it is!) but the filetti at Motorino’s on Monday night was delicious. (Of course the food geeks at the table told me that the guy that used to be there (Anthony Mangieri – who appears to be more than a little obsessive about pizza) is coming to San Francisco. Which is good.)

  2. The breakfast potatoes at Markt in the Flatiron district. I had these on my last trip, and had forgotten about them. But when my eggs, potatoes and toast arrived this morning, I remembered. Delicious, with the right amount of peppers and onions layered on top.

  3. The tagliatelle with meat sauce at Il Bastardo, again in the flatiron district. Il Bastardo is one of those places you’d probably walk right by, especially if you’re a real food blogger. And the place itself is one of those cavernous places that probably had its back room rented out more often than not in the go go days, and is open until 4 am for the clubbers, but their taglietelle was great. The pasta was perfectly cooked, with a generous helping of just-sweet-enough meat sauce. Paired with an unknown sangiovese, it hit the spot.

There you go! Now I’m a food blogger.

November 03, 2009

the last days of gourmet

Kevin DeMaria posted a photo essay of the last days of Gourmet Magazine.


So good. (via)

November 03, 2009

no one suggested twenty-ought-ten?

Big news in the Times today about how car companies are choosing to pronounce “2010” in ads for new models. (Shortcut: they’re going for “two thousand ten” over “twenty ten”.) Here’s Jon Pearce, group creative director at Team One, the agency for Lexus:

“Twenty ten feels a little slick, a little self-consciously futuristic. … There’s nothing worse than trying to position – or reposition, for that matter – yourself with forced lingo.”

Because car companies have never used slick, self-consciously futuristic or forced lingo before. So why start now.

November 03, 2009

developing the ambient array

Do you love cities? And architecture? And computers? And vague phrases like “ambient arrays” and “biophysical mesh networks” and “knowable material”? Do you dress primarily in black? Then chances are you could probably use Molly Steenson’s new Urban Informatics Speech Title Generator to help you brainstorm your next talk at that great conference where other lovers of biophysical mesh networks will gather.

Favorites of mine:

  • Discussing the Playful Map
  • Activating the Physical Thing
  • Developing the Ambient Array
November 02, 2009 recap

Last Tuesday night, after Caltrans closed the Bay Bridge for repairs, I set up a single serving site:, and then proceeded to pimp it lightly here and on Twitter.

Just because I find this kind of stuff interesting, here’s a quick summary of visitor traffic and activity. The data here is from Tuesday night through “now” (or whatever Google Analytics defines as “now”):

  • 2,756 visits / 3,285 pageviews
  • 45 comments, or 1 comment for every 73 pageviews
  • 48 tweets, or 1 tweet for every 68 pageviews
  • This was a local story, so the vast majority of the visits were from California
  • 45% of visits were direct, 55% were clicks from referring sites

And the top ten referring sites were…

  1. Facebook
  2. Twitter
  3. SFist
  4. Google
  9. (hey, that’s me!)

Obviously this wasn’t a huge viral hit. But it was a fun little $15 / 15 minute project. And in case you hadn’t heard, the Bay Bridge is now open.