March 2008 Archives

free culture

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A few weeks ago John Maeda, the new president of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), made one of the most useful, helpful posts on free culture that I've read. He aimed it at the students of RISD, to help give them the insight he thought they may need as they prepare for careers in the visual and tactile arts. Actually, he didn't write much: he pointed a link to a Chris Anderson article on Wired: Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business. If there's anything more important for a school than helping students prepare for their future, I can't picture it. I admire Maeda, respect RISD, and this sort of thing gives me joy. What I don't hear enough is that businesses that are giving things away are also bringing in money. As creatives, you can give things away but do consider how you will make money so that you won't be a burden on society.

Refreshing. Larry Lessig and the folks at Google and flickr certainly have that lesson down.

The post and the Wired article point out some of the facts that I think are missing from most discussions I hear about free culture. What I usually hear is that current copyright law places an unfair burden on creativity; music is our right and should be free; and you're a self centered capitalist if you charge people to use the art you create. Whines like these are fine; everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Often those opinions are based on factors certainly not limited to socio-economic status, employment status, peer pressure, and whether they are creators or create-ees.

I have to wonder who is advising young writers that putting their books on the web for free could actually be a good thing. It can bring the all important street cred and lead to $10,000 speaking engagements. Or it can lead to an enriched society while they continue stocking shelves at Wegman's.

drawing in flash

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Octopus drawing. When lithography was invented, there was a radical change in design artforms brought about by characteristics of the medium. For the first time, designers could draw freely on a textured surface without worrying about etched lines, gouged wood or any of the other methods of production that, too, each had defining characteristics of their own. If you picture any of the great Lautrec posters for the Follies, they're characterized by a looseness and organic texture that wouldn't have been possible with older commercial mediums. The works captured the nature of the medium, and the works that captured the medium best- pieces that took advantage of the medium's nature- were the pieces that, I think, were the most successful.

Scorpion drawing. Recently I've taken to drawing directly in Flash. It feels like a medium that captures one of the many essences of digital design; there's a correctness to it that would have been difficult to fabricate. Or, at least, not as easily. After minimal experimentation, it's easy to see where some of the trends in current design are coming from; the default "city" based headers for MoveableType are a great example. Clean. Sharp. Simple. Fast. So I'm digging it.

Rooster drawing. One of the benefits of working in Flash is the vector output. The files are small, and very scalable. They could be embedded in webpages, but with little patience currently available, I couldn't get the SWF files to appear in the blog- though they can be embedded in external pages. The three images here are 4 bit PNG files, each with 16 colors. The octopus is 5142 bytes; not huge, but compared to the 3944 byte SWF version of the same image, the PNG is a hog. The rooster and scorpion have about the same stats. All images are linked to their SWF versions, and are coded to display at 100%- so they'll scale with your browser.

What could be better? A medium that captures the style of the times in a format that takes advantage of web idiosyncracies. And its effective. And it's fun. Win, win, win. Try it.

warehouse district


Composite of five itunes headers. A colleague asked if I had a small image that was created over a year ago. I needed to take a few moments to search, but using a combination of Adobe Bridge and folders in "icon view" to spark a locale based memory, it turned up. At least I think it's the right thing. What screams at me is that I need to create order out of the gigs of layered photoshop files, FLAs, MOVs, and PNGs that litter my three drives and in the process make some decisions about what may or may not ever be needed again. Often, the speed of a design solution is critical and having pre-made "parts" to select from is a big help, so I usually decide to keep even the most useless crap. And sometimes that useless crap forms telling presentation: an anthropological fragment describing a place and time.

But there's so damned much of it.

World Campus.In a well intentioned effort to create directory structure, I have items in named folders. I also have folders of desktops that form visual maps. But as I think about the real problems that present themselves- I keep coming back to creating one flat file of "stuff" on one drive. Named directories is a silly way of binding things into what usually turns out to be the wrong ordering of information. Adobe Bridge lets me attach metadata- keywords beyond the standard created dates, file types and places in the human created information hierarchy. If everything was in a flat file, it would be scannable in one window- visual relationships would be obvious. Virtual teams.Searching on metadata would let me see sets of lion images that were created for podcasting along with those created for iTunes, or the Plone conference, all based on a search for "lion".

This feels like important stuff. I'll post more as I work it through- and get this damned computer to do more of the work it was designed to do. It's time for tough love.

more on that style...


Illustration showing moire. After that discussion of style and the work involved in experimenting, it turned out that the moire I created was too much of a distraction. If the Flash file moved in the browser, the roiling pixels were almost nauseating in effect. As still images, which would likely be the case, the patterns were an annoying distraction. Simply, it was a failed experiment, very useful for knowledge gained. I couldn't fix it, though. The professor involved seemed to think it was good enough the way it was and I shouldn't worry about it unless there was a lot of time at the end.

A lot of time. To my senses, this was as wrong as an "on" switch that malfunctions. To others, though, the functionality of this thing was really what was important. Sadly, there was a problem with the functionality. The programmer involved was a complete idiot and I hope I never work with him again. But no matter. The timeline scrolled under an empty cursor, but not if the cursor was dragging a cartoon. Then yesterday, on the walk to work it occurred to me that the line, ".parent.addChild(" that made sure dropped cartoons ended up on the top of the pile could also be keeping a dragged cartoon from interacting with a clip listening for it. When I got in, I commented the line out and it worked.

Try doing that with your right hemisphere.

Illustration showing absence of moire.That gave me the time to adjust my cartoons, re-insert them, and see if the effect was improved. I think it makes a big difference, and I'm comfortable moving somewhat forward with the rest of the piece.

I have the file viewable in progress. The desk remains covered in halftone dots.


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would anyone local
anything other
than this stuff ?
My wife and I gave up beer when we started thinking about having a family. My one throwback was a beer with my daughter on her twenty-first birthday. Then, for this last holiday season, I stopped in to Otto's Pub and bought an assorted batch of brews to have on hand for company. A few weeks ago I still had a few in the cooler, and since I couldn't really recommend a specific brew to friends visiting from out of town, I decided to taste them instead of making batter or trash.

So last week I tried the Nittany Pale Ale. Crisp, light and dry- it was excellent. I would have been happy with drinkable, but this was something that I'd prefer over any major brand that I could think of. I put half into the asparagus rissotto I was making. This week, I tried the Red Mo Ale. Wow. Had I known, I would have made some stew or onion soup. I have one bottle of Jolly Roger Imperial Stout remaining, and will definitely make an accompaniment. Why would anyone local drink anything other than this stuff?

Which is the point of this post. Could the area sustain a local restaurant that uses mostly local, mostly fresh ingredients? Wine for drinking is pretty much out of the question. I never had a red that I wanted a second swallow of from anywhere in the state. Several whites are drinkable, and I was a regular at Koln Vineyards; but if the beverage was Otto's brews, what could be done?

I don't know anyone in Otto''s kitchen that I can ask; they may already use local foods. I've never had anything bad from their kitchen, and have only had good experiences there. But. I think another restaurant approach using their brew might just work. Smaller. Less noise. Less focus on brew and more on food. Local rack of lamb with a black walnut crust. Sweet cream ice cream made with Meyer's cream and Bear Meadow blueberries. The same cream turned into butter for pan sauteed Spruce Creek trout. The same trout, smoked, served with homemade pumpernickel toast points. Maybe Irvings would provide the breads?

I guess the problem might be maintaining a customer base once the seasons turn and fresh foods are replaced by items preserved in house. Would people still come out? Or would they go for "fresh" stuff from Argentina? I guess it might depend on the chef's talent and restaurants ambience. Terrines? Cassoulet? Stews topped with a nice puff dough?

How's the food at Elk Creek Cafe and Alehouse? Anybody try it?

Penn State
April 18, Symposium 2009; reimagine.
New content. Symposium 2008.Digital Commons at Penn State. Improve the workplace; hire for variety.


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