Monthly Archives: November 2010

Mail Art

In the 1980′s I was involved with an art movement that involved sending things through the worldwide postal system. The movement and the objects sent in the mail are both called Mail Art.

Remember, there was only a fledgling internet back then, no web like we have it now and the postal service was our network.

There were hundreds of mail art shows happening each year in various parts of the world and lists of them circulated in mail art "zines" (magazines) that were many times a few pieces of photocopied paper stapled together.

Those of us who took part would make a card or put a piece of art or a letter in an envelope and send it off. I was involved in many hundreds if not a thousand of these shows and I hosted my own for many years. I loved producing cards with stamps, photocopy collage and more and it was fun to send things off to places that I’d never even heard of let alone been.

Over the years that I was involved I kept a box, then two, and now many full of the mail art that found its way to me. I haven’t done a thorough sort of these boxes but because I wanted to start documenting my experience with this fascinating movement, I scanned a few interesting things.

Opening one of these boxes is like opening a time capsule on a part of my life I’ve not thought about for many years.

I decided to dig into this to take part in a project National Public Radio is putting together on the U.S. Postal Service.

Mail Art from Angela and Henning Mittendorf

Mail Art from Angela and Henning Mittendorf

Mail Art from Ryoskuke Cohen

Mail Art from Ryoskuke Cohen

Mail Art from Ryoskuke Cohen

Mail Art from Ryoskuke Cohen

Mail Art from Doc 5 cents

Mail Art from Doc 5 cents

Mail Art from Suzanne Nuttall

Mail Art from Suzanne Nuttall

Mail Art from Santa Barbara, California

Mail Art from Santa Barbara, California

Mail Art from CW Summers

Mail Art from CW Summers

Mobile is the next big thing

Meeker Leaving Morgan Stanley

Mary Meeker is a long time financial analyst on Wall Street who is leaving the banking world and joining the venture capital world. This has no particular meaning but as you dig a bit deeper you might get a sense that she and others see another big boom coming in connected and more capable mobile devices.

Meeker is controversial because she didn’t call the tech bubble in 2000 and people who followed her without knowing anything about the underlying business lost a lot of money. People who were flipping houses in 2008 also lost a lot of money. So what? We who watch on the sidelines can still get information about trends from things like this and it costs nothing to watch.

In the comment section of the piece someone pointed to a video of two famous and successful VCs talking at the recent Web 2.0 Summit: John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins of California and Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures which is based in New York. John Heilemann of New York Magazine facilitates:

This is slow moving but fascinating to watch and listen to. It’s interesting to hear Wilson slam iOS as a closed, curated environment that has already lost to Android and hear Doerr take a more conservative stance (he’s invested in both Google and Apple) saying that there’s room for both approaches. I’m with Doer. But, this small bump is not what the interview is about, it’s mostly about the future of mobile devices and it’s worth watching.

After watching you’ll better understand why Mary Meeker is joining Kleiner Perkins: they need her to help sort out who the successful players will be in this new market and she can make some real money as a partner in one of the most successful silicon valley VC firms. Of course, she may not call the next bursting bubble either and no doubt companies like Facebook being valued at $41 billion seems like a bubble ready to explode (and it’s not even public yet). Or, maybe not. It’s all fun to watch from the sidelines.

For PayPal, the Future Is Mobile

For PayPal, the Future Is Mobile

Mobile payments in general is one of the next big things. Fascinating to think how far mobile phones have come in such a short time and how far PayPal has come, even under the ownership of eBay. Buying PayPal may have been the wisest thing Meg Whitman did at eBay.

If the current growth patterns continue, PayPal will surpass its parent in revenue around 2014 — and even sooner if the unit is able to insinuate itself into mobile payments as successfully as it has with Web transactions.

AppleTV is amazing

I recently ordered quite a bit of new gear from Apple including an AppleTV. First, some background:

In the past year we upgraded our old tube TV to a relatively large (40″ and now I wish we’d gone bigger) HD set and it’s been wonderful for the small amount of PBS television and the large number of movies we watch, well, I watch. Anne would rather read but tunes in when she’s interested.

My stepdaughter Jessica gave me a great demo of the NetFlix web site and service a year ago and sold me on it, we’ve been happy subscribers ever since. I rarely stream movies on my computer and had not bought a Roku box for the TV, preferring an Apple product if I have a choice.

So, we had all the ingredients for considering an AppleTV and after doing some research I finally understood what it did. In short, I think it’s one of the most interesting products Apple has ever produced but few people really understand it and it may take a while to take off.

We have an AirPort Extreme router upstairs in the office that easily covers the entire house and yard with WIFI but I also had an AirPort Express downstairs connected to it via ethernet running in the walls. This enabled us to play music and streaming radio from our computers, wirelessly via an optical cable that ran between the AirPort Express and our stereo. It worked like a charm for many years.

AppleTV replaced the AirPort Express which is now sitting in a drawer.

Here’s how it hooks up and how it works

1. Plug in AppleTV (to power).

2. Connect AppleTV to ethernet or use wirelessly to connect to your network.

3. Run HDMI cable out of AppleTV into your HD TV.

That’s it on the hardware side. No router configuration needed, nothing.

4. Turn on TV, cycle to the HDMI input that AppleTV is on.

5. Run through a very short setup menu using AppleTV remote to navigate.

6. Use menus to find NetFlix. Log in with username and password.

You’re now set to browse and stream movies. Four minutes after opening the AppleTV box I was watching a movie.

We’re not dropping NetFlix DVDs even with the recent price increase because not enough of their content is streamable but as more content is digitized more people will opt out of getting DVDs and save some money.

7. Use menus to find flickr. Login to your account.

You’re now set to run slide shows of your work or anyone else’s on your HD TV. Trust me, it looks great.

8. Run iTunes and choose AppleTV as the output and whatever you’re playing will show up on your TV or play out of your connected speakers, wirelessly.

9. Use AppleTV menu to find radio. Steam your favorite NPR station in real time instead of attempting to pick it up via broadcast. Works like a charm.

Now, with iOS 4.2 you can stream both iPhone and iPad to AppleTV wirelessly without going through a computer. This is called AirPlay and it’s one of the killer capabilities of this system.

Start watching a movie on your iPad, decide you want to watch it on your big TV so choose AirPlay on iPad, make sure TV is on and HDMI input is set to AppleTV and your movie appears on the TV. It’s that simple. This can be done from an iPad and iPod Touch or an iPhone. Anne and I just experimented with both of our iPhones and an iPad and it works flawlessly for both music and video.

Holy ####!

Let me repeat, we don’t watch a lot of TV, this is not about TV alone (although Apple and NetFlix have a lot of streaming TV available through AppleTV), this is about getting all of your digital media playing in a central place for everyone to see.

AppleTV isn’t going to be for everyone but I can say without a doubt that it’s a joy to set up and use and it does what it’s supposed to do flawlessly. And, at $99 it’s not so expensive that people who understand what it does will avoid it because of price.

Apple used to have a marketing strategy called “digital hub” which put an iMac in the center of your digital life. AppleTV is like a branch of a more distributed home digital network and it’s going to slowly give Apple a way into the living room.

LaPorte, Indiana: A Documentary Film

LaPorte, Indiana Trailer from Joe Beshenkovsky & Jason Bitner on Vimeo.

My wife’s a Hoosier (from the Evansville at the other end of the state) but this documentary is something I’d be interested in anyway. Thousands of images from a local studio photographer rebuild the history of a town much like a Ken Burns film (it seems).

The trailer reminded me of the movie A Christmas Story which somehow seems like it was filmed or supposed to take place somewhere in Indiana, the middle of middle America.

Browse around and order the DVD here: LaPorte, Indiana: A Documentary Film.

[via Coudal Partners]

HyperCard Snow Crystals

snow crystals hypercard stackIn the mid 1980′s I was deeply into a development tool called HyperCard and made hundreds of “stacks” (little applications) which I both sold and gave away.

For those who don’t remember it or never got into it, HyperCard, developed by then Apple Fellow Bill Atkinson was a highly addictive development tool that had a cult following. It was my first experience with application development and I got hooked.

I made so many HyperCard stacks in fact that I lost track of many of them and when HyperCard eventually died and stacks were difficult to keep running on modern hardware and operating systems I moved on.

Recently I heard from someone named Sandra who had one of my old stacks: a collection of scanned black and white images of snow crystals that if memory serves visually morph from one to the next as the stack flips through its cards. Sandra wanted permission to put the stack online and of course I was glad to give it given that I’d forgotten that I’d ever made it. For those who have the means or interest to run it, here it is: Snow Crystals.

Another one of my stacks that got a bit more recognition was The Bee.

Gianni’s North Beach

San Francisco’s North Beach Old and New from Spots Unknown on Vimeo.

John Gianni not only makes my mouth water with his food prep and cooking, but he brings back memories of San Francisco’s North Beach, a neighborhood I almost always visit on trips to San Francisco and have been for over thirty years.

I’ll never forget one of the first Macworld Expos where my friend Dr. Richard Koch pulled a young and curious Steve Splonskowski out of one of the strip joints wedged in among the Italian restaurants and City Lights bookstore. We ate at a cheap Italian restaurant that doesn’t exist anymore on a Flatiron-like corner. Somehow we always got the same waitress and she took the orders from our table of ten people without writing them down, then, when we finished and were marching out she rang us each up individually, remembering what we’d had. This happened every time for over ten years of going there.

We always hung out for part of an evening at Cafe Trieste imagining Allen Ginsberg and his crew coming in for an espresso. After that we walked up the block to the postcard store and bought cards, all of which I have to this day.

Many years later in another phase of my life my friend Gary Sharp and I repeated this pilgrimage numerous times, including the postcard store.

Lots more recipes and stories up at Gianni’s North Beach.

Here Gianni cooks porchetta. The guy makes it look easy: “ba da boom!”

Scrutiny Takes Toll on For-Profit College Company

Scrutiny Takes Toll on For-Profit College Company

The undercover videos showed Kaplan recruiters in Florida and California making false or questionable statements to prospective students — suggesting for example, that massage therapists earn $100 an hour, and that student loans need not be paid back.

This is a fascinating piece and it’s about time these companies were held accountable.

[via Dr. Bart Pisha]

Ansel Adams or Not? More Twists

Ansel Adams or Not? More Twists

If you go to Yosemite and stand in a certain spot with a view camera with a lens with a certain angle of view and make an image, you’ll no doubt get an image that could be attributed to numerous photographers who worked in Yosemite during Adams’ time. However, Adams had a different take on things, even during his earliest period working in Yosemite. He had a great sense of balance in a frame, he enjoyed and shot clouds and shadows, and he filled frames with subjects rather than leaving space around them. He was also a master of exposure and you can see his zone system in much of his work.

Look at the slide show and see what you think.

My uneducated guess is that the images in question are not by Ansel Adams.

How far to go for a higher point of view?

Climbing High, at No Small Risk, to Capture the View

From his vantage point above the city he aims his camera at various targets — billboards, buildings, roads. He claims a larger mission: to capture the urban landscape as it is now, before gentrification sets in and new buildings — “much bigger, much worse-designed” ones — take their place.

“People are not aware of what’s going on in the neighborhood,” he said. “And from high up you see things in a way you wouldn’t from lower points.”

[via Brad Willett]