September 2008 Archives


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Our country is at war and facing economic melt-down, and that was the presidential debate? Come on, really… who's running? Neither of those guys, I hope.

As I approach retirement age and will no longer be able to take up arms and live in the hills, I fear for this world of ours. May my daughter be strong.

sagmeister installation


Penny installation.This is a photograph of Euro pennies arranged in this beautiful installation in an Amsterdam courtyard by Stefan Sagmeister and friends. To get some idea of the scale, those spots in the lower left are people. The photo is from the flickr photostream of a young man named anjens who snapped a number of great shots from an apartment above the installation. Visit his site if you have a moment.

I enjoy most of what Sagmeister does. He's got a video on the TED site that serves as a great intro. Interesting guy. Interesting work. This installation, which says, "Obsessions make my life worse and my work better" with floral filagree in shimmering little euro pennies, is beautiful. Or was beautiful. One would expect that something made out of money, even something beautiful made out of pocket coins, would slowly erode as people pilfer. My guess is that would be part of the installation: seeing how long it lasted, how quickly it deteriorated as its beauty diminished. Would there be a point where it actually stopped being beautiful? Could everyday passers-by see the value in the "art" as being worth more than the coins?

Some people did pilfer a few coins. Only pennies, they're probably valuable as souvenirs. A resident called the police with concern that folks might take the coins and destroy the piece. The police arrived on the scene and swept up the coins, whisking the courtyard clean.


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I have information all over the place. I'm sure the problem is common. I just ran across some information and I know I wrote about it somewhere…
Did I post to the TLT blog?
Did I send it as a recent email or is it warehoused in an old Eudora folder?
Did I back it up on a disk?
Did I post it to an older personal blog?
Did I post it to a current blog?
Was it in a comment in a colleagues blog?
Was it a response to a listserv? or a forum?
Is it lost as a response in the defunct Bootcamp?
or the defunct webmaster's forum?
Did I just post a link to twitter? Surely I haven't said anything worth finding on yammer…
Is it a browser bookmark?
Did I clip something to Evernote?
Did I post a link and comment to delicious?
Was it an image and comment on flickr?
Could I have just said something in the hall?


Well, it's out there somewhere... That smart thing I said.


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this isn't a rant,
though I know it
sounds like one.
Several years ago I took an Adobe seminar with an old print-industry guy from Chicago. Photoshop 5 was poised for release, and most of what we reviewed covered Photoshop v.4 with a few hints about what was coming. The one important take home was—like "plastics" in the Graduate—"PDF": Learn all you can. Sure enough, the guy was right. PDF became the language of Illustrater and the Mac desktop. It was the format of choice for every print house and applications that did them well (InDesign...) would rule the roost.

PDF was also a platform for delivering multimedia content, for making and giving presentations, and for presenting professional portfolios with high resolution images and guaranteed layout. Good or bad, anybody could stick a pdf on a web server and they had an internet deliverable with it's own unique uri.

Modbook review web page.Like a lot of people, I'm not usually very happy when I click a link that turns out to be a PDF. Downloading those tomes that feature "Active Web Links!!!" and the very annoying "Turning page effect!!" makes me scream. I've discontinued several subscriptions because of it. Too damned difficult to use, and it doesn't fit into my work flow at all. To anyone who claims PDFs are easy, I have to ask, "For whom?"

I won't go on; building an argument is just silly and too much of a pain. HTML is easy, is linkable, searchable, findable, metadata-able. I can't think of a good reason to use PDF to deliver content on the web. If I was looking for a technology outfit, found their yearly report and it turned out to be a PDF I'd have serious concerns about the group's vision.

Modbook review print page.We could think about how information is used, how it's stored and maintained, and consider print stylesheets for anything we now have in a PDF. I won't argue the point any further. I'm not a code jockey, but as an experiment I've managed to create an html version of what I might call a "Modbook Whitepaper". It's completely readable in the browser. If you want a PDF version, just print it to your harddrive as a PDF (Or print to paper if you must; it has high res images.) It will look like the layout in the second image because the html is styled one way for screen, and another way for print. If deemed valuable, we could even come up with a separate stylesheet for PDAs.

And if I screwed something up (remember, it's an experiment…), I just have one place to correct it.


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Rec Hall flood.Yesterday I came in early and decided it would be a good morning to grab a shot of the lionshrine in the dark. I grabbed the camera and walked back up to the shrine, took two pictures and ran out of juice. Having done this before, I had grabbed a second battery. I put the "fresh" battery in the camera, took two more pictures and ran out of juice again.

"Aww golly," I thought to myself.

I came back down to Rider, grabbed a third battery, went back to the shrine and still beat the sun. After all the hiking about, I thought I'd post the image here. I'm still knocking about with it...



The Palmer museum was one of the things that drew me to this area. Old growth forests within a bike ride of world class art. I don't love every show, but I try to catch every one and grow a bit in the process. Sometimes it's easy: the Rembrandt etchings were amazing, and I went every day. Memories of the Chihuli glass displayed on black tables still makes me catch my breath. The Rodin sculptures and the accompanying film showing the casting of the Gates of Hell had me speechless every time I stepped into the gallery.

Other times, I'm not so intrigued; but I always feel a visit is rewarding.

Currently, there's a show featuring work collected by the Grey Art Gallery at NYU, and it's one of the better opportunities. If you get a chance to see it, don't pass it up. It isn't often that we get Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Motherwell, or Keneth Noland in Centre County. Throw in an early Philip Perlstein, at first seemingly an odd inclusion, and there's a great reason to walk across campus at lunch.

I would have loved some monumental Rothko pieces and a few enveloping Pollocks; but I guess historical purity has them present only by influence. And besides, it's free.

i toon

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The sketchbook application.I guess I just reached a point where I realized that everybody can draw the lion. If I want to stand out—perhaps in the street…—I should try something different.

doel08 (closing)


Dr. Ronald Jones was the conference keynote speaker. Jones served as faculty at some prestigious schools: the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan; The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence; the School of the Arts at Columbia University; and continues to teach at Konstfack, University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. He helped create the Fathom Archive for Online Learning at Columbia University, and he's a recognized artist, writer, and librettist. Quite a list; you can find his boilerplate several places. I didn't see him in the hall or at lunch, and I can't find presentation notes online. It would have been exciting to have some sort of brief access to the man, a chance for dialog, or at least a less formal continuation of his address.

What does a day
as a critical thinker
look like?
One observation that Jones shared continues to stir my thoughts. He noted that large corporations like General Motors are visiting design schools like RISD to find employees—not to design cars, but to provide critical thinking for the corporation. I wonder how that works? What does a day as a critical thinker look like? How does the new girl from RISD convince all the old non-critical thinkers that her perceptions have merit? I hope GM hires them in twos so they each have someone to talk to.

So an elderly couple want to hire an artist. Relatives have told them that they need some color in their lives. Their apartment is dismal, and they should hire a decorator or at least a color advisor to pick paint chips. Well, as it turns out, the couple isn't really a couple. They're fraternal twins living together for safety and convenience, and each has the same genetic color blindness. One art school student after another is hired and let go after a day or two. Regardless of the training and background of the parade of advisors, the couple won't approve any of the paint recommendations. They all look the same! Why should they pay these people for this sort of pointless advice? And what difference will it make anyway?

doel08 (cont.)

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The sketchbook application.For me, one of the major take–homes from the DOEL conference is my anticipation for a new account in sketchbook.

Julia Gaimster, London College of Fashion, presented this online social networking tool that allows students to create visual journals and portfolios, participate in critiques, collaborate on projects, and access an integrated online drawing tool. It was developed within the Drupal platform and uses Flash to create the drawing tool. I look forward to seeing if a Flash drawing tool can keep pace with a Modbook.

To “e” or not to “e”:
To paraphrase a great conference orator: It's only “e”(blank) if you were born before technology. Can we drop it from eLearning? and ePortfolio? Please?

Ms. Gaimster asked attendees to create accounts in sketchbook and contribute feedback. I have the account and will post feedback, but for now I can only encourage my colleagues to try it, too. More than anything else, I'm drawn to the apparent ease with which a portfolio gallery page can be created. That easy capability seems missing (so far) in the Penn State portfolio solution, though I just started investigating the potential there as well.

I enjoyed Ms. Gaimster's presentation as I enjoyed most of the conference. I felt like a participant, not an outsider. Phrases like, "the visual channel is a valid channel for enquiry[sic], analysis and evaluation and should have greater acceptability within the Academy…" seem so welcome, but so foreign. And everybody talked like that.


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Presenter at doel 08.There was a time crunch this afternoon. When Scott Dinho began his presentation, it was almost time to end. That's sad- I would have loved an opportunity for discussion: he teaches an online course in drawing and illustration for Savannah College of Art and Design. (I remember looking forward to getting their yearly interactive catalog CD… Savannah is the only institution in the country to offer a BA in Sequential art, so the drawing is a cartoon.) There was a quick question as his session wrapped- someone asked if instructors in the online courses ever got to see the actual work; hold the real drawings. As I sat with a series of drawings that only existed digitally, I, like the velveteen rabbit, wondered what her definition of real was? Seems like it could be a topic for a great round table.

Presenter at doel 08.The last presentation of the day featured a radically different approach to academic engagement. What was presented, I think, was more rhetorical than explicit. Thylias Moss' work is provocative, and addresses the framing of information. Her writings on Limited Fork Theory ask several important questions:

"What does it mean to share? If products of creative expression are free, how do those generating creative products earn a living? How much free exchange is possible without restructuring societies and communities? What impact is user-generated content having on authority and on the vetting of expressive producers? Who will determine the canonical content? Who can afford to share? Who can't?"

I don't know if I get it. I enjoyed her enthusiasm and spirit and care deeply about the answers to the questions she asks. Indeed, what will be the new canon? Seems like this could be a topic for a great round table, too.

What sort of conference do you have to attend to hear such questions hashed out by great minds?

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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