Jim McGuire was photographer, country music fan and former protégé of Irving Penn. This is one from a great collection of photos of Nashville musicians.
I stumbled upon this hilarious note at a good friends flat. He’s a meticulous list writer but this one took the cake. We surmised that he was found later that day wandering the streets naked holding only: film, tobacko, weed, money, phone and a lighter. As for the empty asterisk. I can only guess that while writing this list 3 of the items on it were used and perhaps he was distracted by something else.
The Vision + Value series has been on my list for years and I haven’t been able to get a hold of a complete set as of yet, but someday I will. I’ve long been sold on the concept that art, science and comedy are of the same ilk. The basic process of combining two separate and divergent ideas to create something new and surprising is the foundation of all three forms. Arthur Koestler wrote a fantastic and sadly out of print book called The Act of Creation which explored this concept in depth. I’ll write more about Arthur Koestler later but it also appears that György Kepes was a man that realised this as well.
The Vision + Value series of 7 books edited and curated by György Kepes who founded the Center for Visual Studies at MIT as well as teaching design at the New Bauhaus (now the Illionois Instititue of Design). Each a collection essays based on a broad theme by scientists, artists, musicians and thinkers of the time from 1965 to 1972. The series includes essays from: Rudolf Arnheim, John Cage, Hans Richter, Saul Bass, Paul Rand, and Marshal McLuhan. I haven’t actually read any of them, or found any excerpts but with folks like that contributing I’m sure they’re chock full of ideas.
I can’t find an image for the 7th book of the series Arts and the Environment.
Get your telescope out. In 1969 a project initiated by artist Forrest “Frosty” Myers saw Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, Forrest “Frosty” Myers, Claes Oldenburg, and John Chamberlain exhibiting a six man show on the moon. The exhibition on a ceramic chip was installed by a Grumman engineer on a hatch within the leg of the lunar landing module Intrepid for the Apollo 12 mission. While the other artists seemed to have taken the project more seriously Andy Warhol’s contribution was that of the penis doodle in the upper left hand corner. NASA apparently knew nothing about the project.
Having lived in here for nearly 10 years now I’ve suddenly realised that Britain has little or no innovative and forward thinking technology companies to call its own. I cannot for the life of me actually think of any technology, internet or software companies in Britain that have produced anything worth mention. No Googles, no Ciscos, no Apples, no Microsofts, no Palms, no RIMs, not even an geographical hotbed of innovation such as silicon valley/alley/coast… nothing. How can the country that spear-headed the industrial revolution be so far behind in the information revolution?
Let’s start off with a recent offering by British based Plastic Logic. They’re offering an eReader called QUE proReader which debuted at the CES conference in Las Vegas. Plastic Logic apparently spent $200 million and 10 years developing this product. Both are numbers that are supposed to impress but to me, it just means that they’ve wasted a lot of time and money. The iPhone, in contrast, took about 4 years. It’s a lame horse and my gut instinct says it won’t succeed, that’s $200 million wasted. Let me tell you why.
The QUE proReader is not yet available though it’s potentially shipping in April 2010. Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook are already out the door and in the hands of consumers. As far as price point is concerned the basic model is going to retail for approximately £407 for the basic and £501 for the deluxe model. In comparison Amazon’s highest spec and comparable model of eReader, the Kindle DX, retails for £306. Making the QUE proReader £200 more for pretty much the same thing. Granted QUE looks sexier than the competitors and is marketed as being document sized but in reality has an 10.5 inch diagonal screen which is less than an inch larger than the nearest and cheaper rival. Aimed at business people, or essentially folks that would buy on corporate accounts which are usually deeper than the average consumer. So they’ve shot themselves in the foot in regards to widespread adoption. Their marketing also points out the fact that the screen is a plastic display and therefore lighter than glass-based screens. Despite this the unit still outweighs the heaviest of the other devices by 6 oz. There is no mention as to how how this fairly basic document reader is any better than a full-featured colour laptop with a larger screen that you could pick up for £399.
My next British offering, if you can call it that, is a company called Zumba that’s creating a phone called the Zumbafone. Nearly a year has past since the BBC reported on this ‘top-secret’ phone destined to revolutionise our lives and has yet to do any such thing. The website has been moth-balled for a year now with no updates and seems to have attracted little or no attention since it’s ‘debut’. The video on the BBC website shows a Hereford industrial estate factory producing products that look nothing like the phone. The phone itself sounds like it has some innovative features such as built in hands free use, network based data storage and low-cost calls. That’s all fine and dandy when you’ve not actually delivered anything resembling a physical product. My trusty gut instinct again tells me that this product will evaporate into the ether.
Finally, I’d like to report on another British company that I consulted for several years ago, 2003-4 to be exact. Mapminder was a great company with an innovative product and capable technological know-how. It’s worth noting that this was before Google really muscled into maps and integrating them with user generated content. Mapminder dealt in nicely rendered interactive maps displaying of points of interest including restaurants, local lettings, theatres and the like under the premise of allowing you to look at a map and discover what was nearby your current location. There was a set of tools allowing you to directly gauge distances between point A and B, mobile phone tracking services allowing you to keep tabs on your workforce or loved ones and a whole lot more. My job was to increase their user base which seemed a doddle with such a powerful product. The problem was that they refused, despite repeated requests, to allow anyone to use the service or even try it out without first paying for it. Startup 101, build a product that people need, give it away for free, then work out a way to monetise. They closed their doors in 2005.
So it goes. Three stories of the British information age that will have little impact in the grand scheme of things. None are poised to become household names. None have or will cause much of a stir and they’re all a bit cack-handed in their inception and execution. This lack of technological prowess can only be blamed on the government as there are a lot of smart people in Britain.
Britain ranks 41st in broadband speed tests behind Lithuania, Latvia and Bulgaria according to speedtest.net. For a densely packed island I’d say that’s a failure to invest in the necessary infrastructure. Furthermore the recent British Digital Economy Bill introduces legislation that is actually hostile towards an open-internet and leaves out any mention of increasing broadband speed or adoption whereas the US has taken the opposite approach in enshrining a free and open internet. The next election appears like it will be fought on the straw-man of immigration as opposed to actually dealing with an economy that was hit worse and rebounded more slowly than the rest of the world.
Britain has come a long way from Vanity Fair’s March 1997 ‘Cool Britannia’ issue when it seemed that the country was poised at the apex of modern thinking and sensibility. Unfortunately it seems to be moving in the wrong direction. Maybe 10 years is long enough.
I always thought that Xmas should sound more like this. The track is just a bit of fun, a reworked ready-made from a very dark mulled wine and rum filled Xmas in the studio a couple of years ago. Rudolph obviously would have approved, his bright red nose was the result of gin blossoms. I’m sure his drinking stemmed from the gruelling delivery schedule Santa imposed upon his reindeer and his relative bad-boy celebrity image compared to the rest of the gang. Don’t believe me? Look at him. He’s so wrecked his eyes are crossed.
Rudolph the Rehabilitated Reindeer
Someday in the distant future a human being will bore another with pictures of his recent holiday at the Gusev crater on Mars. Until then we’ll have to rely on Spirit to show us what a Martian sunset looks like.
More information at the NASA site.
Donning grotesque masks and wearing suits made from lichen gathered in the woods and sewn onto clothing by women, a father and son become “Wild Ones” during a Pagan end-of-winter celebration known as Schleicherlaufen, held in the Tyrol of Austria since 1571.
Photograph by Melissa Farlow from The Alps.
A logistical breakdown of U2’s next world tour:
Colin Gronning, Production Manager
The main stage, just the manta ray’s head and wings, rolls out in one hundred and ten, eighteen-wheeler twelve-ton trucks. Those vehicles are our lead roll, so those trucks are first out of the current stadium and first in to the next one. And we’ve got three sets of those trucks, because we’re leapfrogging three manta rays. In other words, while you’re watching this show tonight in Hyde Park, we’ve already got a one hundred and ten truck convey on its way to the Go-Green EarthAid™ festival in Oslo with our second manta ray rig, and another one hundred and ten trucks on convoy to, say, Iceland for The World is Hungry® Global Relief Concert. So the band does three nights on and one night off and we’re always set up at the next stop on the tour, all over the world. People say, “Do you really need to roll with three hundred and thirty 18-wheelers for the stages, and the answer, obviously, is yes.” It seems a lot less extravagant when you consider we’re able to roll the band’s instruments and gear using only nine trucks, the outboard lighting grid in just twenty trucks, and the crew on thirteen busses. Then we’ve just got four planes for the band and front office management. When you look at it like that, you realize we’re pretty scaled down out here. It could’ve been a much bigger transportation setup, but the band stepped in and said, “Let’s do the right thing here, let’s keep it small, let’s let the music speak for itself.” So we did.
More at McSweeney’s
Another great talk over at TED dealing with one of our favourite subjects. Talk of mushrooms and fungus has been an ongoing obsession with all of us at the studio. Jethro has made some great finds recently and I’ve got a slew of images of fungi and mushrooms from my trip to Scotland that I’ll be posting shortly. I’d like to thank Cat Stevens for sharing this video with me.