“Sony Now Predicts a $1.1 Billion Loss, Shuts Down PC Business,” Reuters reports:
Sony is shuttering its computer business, refocusing its TV division on high-end units and laying off 5,000 people. It is also predicting a massive loss of 110 billion yen, or $1.1 billion, for the fiscal year, a drastic change from its prediction three months ago of a 30-billion yen profit ($294 million).
There was a time, long ago, when it looked as if Japanese electronics companies — and foremost among them Sony — would take over the world. But no longer. Apple and Samsung dominate the consumer market for tablets and smartphones, and Sony is now being forced to undergo costly restructuring to survive.
At the Chicago Boyz econo-blog, David Foster quotes from posts he wrote on Sony in 2005 and 2012, predicting trouble to come. In the latter post, he noted:
In his Financial Times article Why Sony did not invent the iPod, John Kay notes that there have been many cases in which large corporations saw correctly that massive structural changes were about to hit their industries–attempted to position themselves for these changes by executing acquisitions or joint ventures–and failed utterly. As examples he cites Sony’s purchase of CBC Records and Columbia Pictures, the AT&T acquisition of NCR, and the dreadful AOL/Time Warner affair. He summarizes the reason why these things don’t tend to work:
A collection of all the businesses which might be transformed by disruptive innovation might at first sight appear to be a means of assembling the capabilities needed to manage change. In practice, it is a means of gathering together everyone who has an incentive to resist change.
Read the whole thing; no Vaio Required.
“Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox Internet browser, will start selling ads as it tries to grab a larger slice of the fast-expanding online advertising market,” Reuters reports:
Novice Firefox users now see nine blank tiles when they open up the browser, which fill in over time with their most-visited or recently visited websites. Now, Mozilla intends to display the most popular sites by location, as well as sponsored websites that will be clearly labeled as such.
Semi-serious question: will the Adblock Plus plug-in for the Firefox browser block the ads that Mozilla intends to place inside the Firefox browser?
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) December 11, 2013
“Apple knows it has turned us into iZombies, and has become defensive about it, releasing its own little movie arguing that there’s some upside to this depressing new reality,” Kyle Smith wrote this past weekend at the New York Post:
Its new 90-second commercial, “Misunderstood,” centers on a teenaged lost soul who refuses to take part in a Yuletide family reunion. As family members build snowmen and exchange hugs, he hangs off to the side by himself, forever sulking into his iPhone.
It turns, though, that he’s not only aware of the festivities around him but he’s been carefully filming and editing the sweetest moments into a home movie that he climactically debuts on the living room TV, to general merriment and wonder. At the end of the home movie, he includes a shot of himself doing something we haven’t seen him do before: He smiles.
Now they get it: The weird loner, the emotionless little gadget monkey who never talks to anyone, is actually a proto-Spielberg who loves his family and is destined to warm hearts by the millions.
Apple’s intended message is that if you get an iPhone, you’ll be more in the moment, more in harmony with your surroundings, more lovingly connected than ever before.
In the history of nice tries, this one has to rank just below the mid-century effort by the tobacco industry to assuage fears about the safety of its products: One ad declared, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!” Another: “Tests showed 3 out of every 4 cases of smoker’s cough cleared on changing to Philip Morris.”
As pitches go, “Buy an iPhone in order to get in touch with loved ones sitting on the couch next to you” makes about as much sense as teaching the world to sing by buying it a Coke.
We’re supposed to forgive the “Misunderstood” kid because he’s a talented filmmaker, but he is still missing out on the game by turning himself into a sideline cameraman. Everybody loves the end result because people like to look at images of themselves, but that doesn’t excuse the creepiness of his technologically-aided self-alienation. Picture a teen novelist who does nothing at your family gathering but stand by silently and take notes. Pretty irritating, no?
Moreover, the “Misunderstood” spot is a nonsequitur: Chances are the kid at your family gathering who is fixated on his iPhone is watching a video or texting peers about how lame you are or playing Candy Crush Saga, not making a movie about his vast love for family.
There is no twist in real life: Most iZombies actually are oblivious to their surroundings.
Kyle’s new article dovetails remarkably well with another piece on the perils of ubiquitous smart phone usage, from Eric Gibson at the New Criterion this month on “The Overexposed Museum” — overexposed, Gibson writes, because so many museum patrons are taking “selfies” alongside of great works of art:
The new culture of museum photography banishes the art experience. It transforms the work of art from something to pause before, explore, admire, and reflect upon, into a “sight,” like the Eiffel Tower or the White House. A fascinating, complex, multi-faceted product of the creative imagination becomes just a piece of scenery, one worth lingering in front of just long enough to have one’s picture taken with it, either just standing and smiling or by making a face or playing up to the object in other ways, like those tourists who pose beside the Leaning Tower of Pisa so that in the finished photograph they appear to be propping it up.
Non-photographing visitors aren’t immune from the effects of these new attitudes. Coming upon someone posing in a gallery, your impulse is to turn away; you feel like a voyeur. In front of the Mona Lisa the day I was there, the profusion of smartphones and tablets being held aloft created a strange meta experience. To see the picture, you had to look past a bobbing frieze of digital reproductions competing with the original. I have had similar experiences with works of art in American museums, albeit with smaller numbers of people.
This transformation—one might better say evisceration—of the work of art has wide implications for the museum and its mission. If visitors now regard a museum’s treasures as mere “sights,” they might come to regard the institution itself in a similar vein—not as a place offering a unique, one-of-a-kind experience but just another “stop” on a crowded itinerary, and as such interchangeable with any other. At the very least, it’s hard to see how this new culture of museum photography can fail to undermine the kind of long-term visitor loyalty to museums toward which so many of their public engagement efforts are directed. On the one hand, the visitor who makes an emotional connection with a work of art is likely to return. On the other hand, I can’t imagine there are many tourists who, having once had themselves snapped propping up the Leaning Tower, feel compelled to do so again.
All this is, admittedly, so much speculation. One thing that isn’t is the very real threat these new attitudes pose to the safety of the museum’s collections. A visitor conditioned to regard a painting or sculpture as but a prop in a personal drama isn’t likely to demonstrate due regard for its welfare as an irreplaceable work of art. In one of the galleries on my way to the Mona Lisa, I and others nearby watched in horror as one visitor reached across the low barrier separating the art from the public to grasp the gilt frame of a Renaissance masterpiece, then turn to strike a pose for a companion with a smartphone. This was the propped-up-Leaning-Tower shot moved into the museum. It only ended when a guard came barreling through crowd shouting at her to step away. Even then, the visitor seemed to have no idea what all the fuss had been about.
One of happiest moments during the otherwise grim couple of weeks my wife and I spent cleaning out my mom’s house in South Jersey after she died last year was discovering a huge cache of photos I took in the mid-to-late 1980s. Back then, I was at the peak of my 35mm hobbyist phase with the then-new and cutting edge Minolta Maxxum camera and lenses I purchased around 1985 or so. (The photos and negatives I stumbled upon had been stored in a large Barton & Donaldson custom shirt box, because, well, I’m me.) Suddenly, a lot of happy memories from that period that I had forgotten came flooding back, and I plan to digitize those photos next year to archive them and have them for easy viewing anytime I’m nostalgic. And it was a reminder that I really need to take more photos of current travels, to help avoid memory loss. But I also see plenty of people today who seem to be more absorbed by their iPhones than the current moment. (There seems to be less cell phones ringing in restaurants these days, but a lot more smart phones glowing; will fine restaurants with darkened mood lighting have to start warning their patrons to dial their usage back, if you’ll pardon the pun?)
I’m sympathetic to both sides of the argument. How do you take advantage of today’s ubiquitous camera-equipped smart phones and tablets, without becoming an iPhone Zombie in the process?
Update: Merry Me-mas from President Selfie!
As frightening as the Obama administration can be at times, I’d like to think that the following is a much cheerier exhibition than anything Rod Serling ever proffered to TV network audiences. Back in November of 2011, I ran a retrospective of some of my more interesting Photoshops, created both for my own PJM column and for other authors here at the PJM Website. Since then, as you’ve probably noticed, I’ve produced many more. Here are some of the more interesting ones, either from an aesthetically interesting point of view, or because of what went into creating them, or simply, like the image above, because they were fun to produce. Apologies for all of the techno-wonk details to follow, but those who wish to jump-start the potentially steep Photoshop learning curve may benefit from them.
Road to Iran: Victor Davis Hanson’s September 22nd column was titled “Goodbye Syria, On to Iran!”, which immediately suggested a parody of a Bing Crosby and Bob Hope “Road” movie, and Road to Morocco certainly fit the theme nicely. VDH had emailed in his column early enough on a Sunday morning that I had sufficient time to knock this out. This took almost three hours, beginning with tracking down suitable photos of Obama, Kerry, and Samantha Power, then sizing them to fit. There are plenty of layers as well, one of which is the base “wood” of the road sign. After realizing that using either the clone tool or the content-aware fill tool would have been a brutal task to replace the background under the sign, I ended up replacing the whole sign with a photo of a wood panel from Shutterstock, which I painted with the Photoshop Paint Daubs filter. I then found a free font that was close enough to the original whimsical “Road to Morocco” font, then resized the stock Myriad Web Pro font to 130 percent of the original height to get close to the tall letters used for the stars’ names on the poster.
The whole poster was a lot of work, but the end result looks pretty darn good, I think.
Obama Hope Drones: This was originally created for a VDH article that ran in April, titled “America in the Age of Myth.” On Friday, September 27th, Obama “Hope” artist Shepard Fairey was recorded in an interview by TMZ saying that if he had to do it over again, he would replace the word “HOPE” on his iconic poster with the word “DRONES.” As soon as I read the story, I quickly found my Photoshop file, and thanks to the power of Photoshop layers, simply blanked out the word “Hope” in his poster, and substituted his newly preferred slogan. (Hey, Rube!)
The original image was a combination of Fairey’s artwork and his source photo, in between a Shutterstock image of a white canvas on an artist’s easel, in front of a neutral gray photography backdrop, and a separate Shutterstock photo of an artist holding a paintbrush. That image had the artist wearing a white polo shirt (isn’t that what all artists paint in?), which I colored black to give him more contrast from the gray wall. I simply cloned the shirt to another layer, colored it black, and then on another layer, painted on folds and the bottom of his collar in white, and then adjusted the opacity, to allow them to blend into the “fabric.”
For the “Hope” poster, I sized it to fit the canvas, then on a separate layer underneath, sized the original photo it was based on to match up, and then using a soft basic Photoshop brush, erased away the right portion of the “Hope” poster, revealing the photo underneath.
In order to create the impression of a shadow of the painting on the wall, on the layer between the “Hope” poster and the wall behind it, I drew a black box, and then blurred it with the Gaussian Blur filter, and then adjusted the opacity down. Little tricks like that really help to create the suspension of disbelief that you’re looking at a photograph of an event, rather than a bunch of files cobbled together in Photoshop. Though in retrospect, if I had to do it over again, I probably would have added a filter to simulate the texture of fabric on the polo shirt.
Many people have wondered where I do most of my blogging. Wonder no more:
And when I’m not at the computer, I’m relaxing in my sweet home theater:
(Both clips uploaded to YouTube by Matt Novak of the Paleo-Future blog, from a March 1967 episode of the CBS show The 21st Century, hosted by Walter Cronkite. Between speeches calling for “one-world government,” and believing that Karl Rove had Osama bin Laden on ice in Area 51 during the 2004 election, Cronkite’s actual decade spent in the 2st century before passing away in 2009 was much more chaotic.)
There’s a reason why the best book on matte painting in the movies and television industry was titled The Invisible Art; the best matte painting is the one that the audience never notices. The latest, heavily illustrated post at the Matte Shot blog, a blog that’s chockablock full of beautiful matte paintings from Hollywood’s history is titled “Was That A Matte Shot?”, including a subtle matte shot from Casablanca that I never would have noticed. But then, Hollywood has a long history — dating back to virtually the beginning of the movie industry — of using matte paintings to stretch the backlot into infinity, to add multiple stories to buildings that never existed beyond the ground floor, and to paint ceilings where a rafter full of klieg lights and a microphone loomed over the soundstage.
It’s a blog post — and blog — full of great stuff; just keep scrolling.
And for a quick primer on matte paintings in general (including some of the less subtle examples of the craft), check out this 1994 Discovery Channel Movie Magic segment:
Related: Oh and speaking of Hollywood special effects extravaganzas, for reasons utterly unknown (OK, other than wanting to milk an extra couple of bucks out of the franchise), a comic book publisher is publishing an eight-issue miniseries based on George Lucas’s rough draft of “The Star Wars,” before his screenwriter friends Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, who had previously salvaged the script of American Graffiti, rewrote this movie as well.
Even after multiple rewrites, nobody would confuse the dialogue in Star Wars with David Lean. But for those masochists who choose to read them, these comic books should breathe new life into the infamous quip that Harrison Ford barked to Lucas after being forced to read page after page of technobabble on the set of the original Star Wars: “You can type this sh*t, George, but you sure can’t say it.”
Is Omni magazine poised to return from the publishing graveyard?
In 1998, classic science fiction magazine Omni closed up shop. Created in 1978 by Penthouse mogul Bob Guccione and partner Kathy Keeton, it had published some of the biggest names in science fiction — William Gibson, Robert Heinlein, and Orson Scott Card, to name a few — and given scientists like Freeman Dyson and Carl Sagan a platform with a freewheeling, irreverent bent. But after shepherding Omni into online-only format in 1996, Keeton died of breast cancer, leaving the magazine adrift.
Today, though, Omni is coming back — and with it, questions about how our vision of science and science fiction has changed since its launch. Omni’s resurrection comes courtesy of Jeremy Frommer, a collector and businessman who acquired Guccione’s archives earlier this year. Inside a warehouse full of production assets lie thousands of Omni photos, illustrations, and original editions, which Frommer plans to release as prints, books, or collector’s items. But he wasn’t content with mining the past. Instead, he hired longtime science writer Claire Evans as editor of a new online project, described as an “Omni reboot.”
There’s a heavy dose of nostalgia in the proceedings, and it’s not just about bringing back an old name. Longtime editor Ben Bova has described Omni as “a magazine about the future,” but since his time as editor, our vision of the future has been tarnished — or, at the very least, we’ve started looking at the predictions of the past with rose-tinted glasses. Evans, for one, echoes the common fear that we’ve stopped dreaming of a better time. “I think Omni was very skewed towards this idea of convenience, leisure, enhanced ability, enhanced freedom, and sexuality,” she says. “The discourse about technology that we have now is much more ‘What is it doing to us? How is it affecting our society? How is it affecting the way we deal with the world?’”
Writer Ken Baumann, who is contributing an essay to the first issue, questions even the idea of looking forward. “It’s getting harder and harder to actually predict in a real way what the future will look like,” he says, “because complex systems get really messy, and ours is more complex and more entropic than ever. Predicting the future may be a thing of the past.” But if he had to do it? He references George Carlin: the planet is fine, the people are f***ed. “I don’t think we deal with complexity very well, and I think that’s increasingly dangerous, but I don’t think we’re bad on the face of it. I just think we’re beautiful little fools with nice and powerful tools.”
Since the misanthropy inherent in that last sentence must also extend to what the magazine thinks of its readers, will the rebooted Omni really be worth perusing? It sounds like it could be yet another example of “Progressives against Progress,” as Fred Siegel of City Journal described the anti-technological environmental left, which first emerged in the late ’60s and early 1970s.
As I recall from when I regularly read the original Omni in the late ’70s through the mid-’80s, I found large chunks of the magazine to be awfully dull. I remember thinking, “wow, how can Bob Guccione of all people make the future sound so boring?” But I look forward to at least giving the rebooted version a chance.
(Found via Steve Green, another former Omni reader who is also looking forward to the reboot.)
Even though I cut my journalistic teeth mixing metaphors for assorted home electronics magazines, it’s been a while since I’ve written a home theater product review. And yes, this will be cross-posted at the PJ Lifestyle blog, where it’s more suited, but veteran readers might enjoy the intro, for a flashback of how we early home theater junkies got our first taste of home media — incredibly addictive first taste, if far from free.
I distinctly remember two mile markers on the road to my obsession with home theater. The first was a 1987 article in Billboard magazine exploring the continuing popularity, against all odds, of the 12-inch laser disc format with movie collectors. The article mentioned an obscure California firm called “The Criterion Collection” that was selling Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey in something called a “letterboxed” format, which would allow seeing the entire frame of those magnificently photographed widescreen movies on a home television set, instead of the “panned and scanned” version, which cut off the sides of the frame. It also mentioned the superiority of the laser disc format compared to fuzzy VHS tapes, and that laser disc allowed for such ancillary items as directors’ commentaries on auxiliary audio channels, behind the scenes still photos, trailers, deleted scenes, and other fun pieces of memorabilia.
This sounded pretty darn awesome. Shortly thereafter, I purchased my first laser disc player, the predecessor to the DVD, which wouldn’t arrive in stores for another decade. At its best, the picture and sound quality of laser discs blew VHS away, and I was quickly hooked. Particularly when I stumbled over a nearby video store that rented laser discs.
The second mile maker arrived two years later. That’s when I walked out of the B. Dalton Bookstore in New Jersey’s Burlington Mall holding a copy of the second issue of Audio/Video Interiors, the magazine that put the words “home theater” on the map. It was essentially Architectural Digest meets Stereo Review, with photo layout after photo layout filled with sophisticated audio and video components beautifully photographed in stunning home settings, including some of the first dedicated home theaters that were designed to look like the classic movie palaces of the 1930s, such as Theo Kalomirakis’ Roxy Theater, a knockout design built in the basement of his Brooklyn Brownstone. (Kalomirakis would go on to make a living as a home theater designer, producing works for extremely well-heeled clients that make his initial Roxy look positively modest by comparison.)
Along with what is certainly an impressive visual timeline, this site breathlessly announces, “Social Media did not start with Facebook or Twitter. Actually, it has been around for decades!” I know — I was first online around 1981 or so, connecting to bulletin board systems and Compuserve. (Minus the white Sleeper-style jumpsuit, for better or worse.) How ’bout you?
By the way, here’s a quick reminder from back then — this whole online news thing is just a fad; it’ll never catch on:
There aren’t many blogs that only post a single entry about once a month, and yet still remain must-visits. However, the Matte Shot Blog, run by a New Zealand fan of classic movies with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of how their special effects were produced is just such a blog. Each month, the blog’s author “NZ Pete” produces a lengthy, massively illustrated post on the matte paintings and other special effects that made a classic film possible, or a profile of a veteran matte artist who produced the special effects for dozens of classic Hollywood films.
This month, Matte Shot looks at the special effects – stop motion, rear projection, miniatures, and of course, matte paintings – that made the original 1933 King Kong possible. Sure, some of the effects look crude today, but that’s only because there has been 80 years of advancement in the craft. Somebody had to get there first, and Kong put the art of stop motion miniature photography on the map. But so many other special effects were involved in the production of the film, which Matte Shot breaks down in detail. The Imperial Walkers of The Empire Strikes Back would be unthinkable without the techniques pioneered by RKO nearly half a century earlier. If you love classic movies, or want to see how the effects we take for granted today were pioneered, don’t miss this. (And then scroll through the blog’s archives for loads more posts filled with eye-popping special effects from Hollywood’s golden age.)
“Some people have monkeys on their backs. Zootility Tools founder Nate Barr wants consumers to have monkeys in their wallets,” Ira Kantor of the Boston Herald notes:
In fact, Barr has already sold 5,000 “PocketMonkeys” worldwide to date. The stainless steel tool, which is the same size and thickness as a credit card, serves 12 functions in one, including bottle and letter opener, ruler, screwdriver and banana nicker.
A successful Kickstarter campaign netted Barr’s creation more than $27,500, at least six times what he initially asked for. Now, the 31-year-old Somerville resident is thinking mass production, having placed an order for another 5,000 PocketMonkeys with a California manufacturer to keep up with growing demand.
“I’ve never had an idea take off so well, so I’ve been surprised in that regard,” Barr told the Herald. “We’ve been selling it faster than we can make it.”
Barr, a former mechanical engineer and part-time user interface engineer at Jumptap, hit upon his concept after locking himself out of his apartment twice.
“It’s always with you. You never have to think about it,” Barr said. “The real catch is it’s technically difficult to engineer something as thin as a credit card but strong enough to do the functions you want it to do.”
PocketMonkey, which sells for $12, is also compliant with Transportation Safety Administration rules, Barr said.
“I wasn’t trying to develop something to be used in a bar fight,” he said. “I think by meeting TSA guidelines you develop a pretty innocuous product.”
It sounds remarkably useful, but it will never replace an up-to-date, factory-installed Trunk Monkey.™
Last year, when I made a big upgrade to my home theater cabinet by installing a new large LCD TV, a Blu-Ray player, and a Roku box, I also installed a four-port gigabit Ethernet hub in the bottom of the cabinet. A decade ago, I had a hardwired LAN outlet installed behind the cabinet in an effort to future-proof my media room and home office. Which worked out well, as the DirecTV receiver that I installed there a few years later needs Ethernet to play YouTube videos, among other things. The Blu-Ray player needs Ethernet so that it can play the MP3 files on my computer through my big home theater speakers (among other things). The Roku box needs Ethernet to pump out everything else.
It occurred to me while I was wiring all this new gear up, that I was basically building a large deconstructed personal computer, designed to be interacted with via remote control while lying back in a comfy chair* as opposed to sitting upright in a swivel chair typing into a keyboard.
Data is rapidly approaching a level of 50 percent of the bits in a telephone network and already comprises 20 percent of the profits. Data income is growing six times as fast as voice income. As the telephone network becomes a computer network, it will have to change, root and branch. All the assumptions of telephony will have to give way to radically different assumptions. Telephony will die.
* * * * *
Television faces a similar problem. It is a broadcast system that assumes all human beings are essentially alike and at any one time can be satisfied with a set of some 40 or 50 channels moving up to 500. In Europe and Asia, 500 channels may seem wretched excess. But compare this array to some 14,000 magazines and a yearly output of some 55,000 trade books published in the U.S. alone.
* * * * *
TV defies the most obvious fact about its customers — their prodigal and efflorescent diversity. People perform scores of thousands of different jobs; pursue multifarious hobbies; read hundreds of thousands of different publications. TV ignores the reality that people are not inherently couch potatoes; given a chance, they talk back and interact. People have little in common except their prurient interests and morbid fears and anxieties. Necessarily aiming its fare at this lowest-common-denominator target, television gets worse and worse every year.
Nearly a quarter century later, Gilder’s predictions of television’s impending doom are starting to sound rather more plausible — including to those inside the industry. For the past decade, as more and more computer-savvy adults began to eschew the 6:00 PM news, the notion that television’s demographics were beginning to get more and more gray was tacitly reflected in the medium’s advertising. (Super Beta Prostate, indeed.) As Brian Anderson of City Journal told me in 2005:
Writing in the New Yorker recently, the media critic Ken Auletta pointed out something I hadn’t noticed: the commercials on the Big Three network newscasts are frequently hawking drugs like Viagra and Mylanta, and the broadcasts themselves often focus on health issues. There’s a reason for that emphasis on infirmity: the average age of a network news watcher is now 60; only about 8 percent of viewership is between 18 and 34. Ten years ago, 60 percent of adult Americans regularly tuned in to one of the network newscasts. Now it’s only about one in three.
But increasingly, those in the industry are becoming more verbal regarding their legacy media status, as we’ll explore right after the page break. (Which helps pay for our own sponsors.)
“Did SiteMeter Commit Suicide?”, Stacy McCain asks:
As of right now, it’s dead. Donald Douglas at American Power and Doug Ross at Director Blue both report that the best, easiest-to-use traffic analytics site failed to renew its domain registration, an error that would require a special kind of stupidity.
Let’s all say a prayer that they can get it fixed, because without SiteMeter, I feel like I’m blogging blind.
People talk about other analytic software as being technologically superior, but here’s the thing: SiteMeter allowed sites to make their traffic data public in real-time. This permitted apples-to-apples comparisons between sites, which was especially helpful information for entry-level bloggers trying to figure out how to grow their traffic.
Sitemeter must have rolling server repair issues, as my counter was out yesterday and — knock on Formica — appears to be back, but now others are experiencing issues today. Also, as with their mammoth outage last year, their technical support seems to have fallen into a black hole; while the product still works (most of the time), Sitemeter reps never respond, beyond an automated ticket, to outage issues. Needless to say, this is not good customer support.
“Self-Healing Concrete Uses Sunlight to Fix Its Own Cracks,” Technology Review reports:
Even the tiniest cracks on the surfaces of concrete structures can lead to big problems if they aren’t immediately repaired. Now researchers have demonstrated a sunlight-induced, self-healing protective coating designed to fix cracks on the surface of concrete structures before they grow into larger ones that compromise structural integrity.
More resilient concrete structures like bridges and overpasses could save governments billions of dollars in annual expenses on repairs and maintenance. In recent years, a growing field of research has focused on developing self-healing mechanisms for a range of materials, concrete included. Several approaches to self-healing concrete have emerged, including attempts to engineer self-healing mechanisms into concrete itself. But the authors of a new paper published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces say their demonstrated technology represents the first example of a self-healing protective coating for concrete.
Previous approaches to self-healing concrete systems have mostly focused on restoring strength to damaged concrete, says Chan-Moon Chung, a professor of polymer chemistry at Yonsei University in South Korea who led the research. His group chose to focus on protecting the surface, where tiny cracks can allow water, chloride ion from deicing salt or seawater, and carbon dioxide to penetrate the structure, which can lead to harmful deterioration.
The new coating contains polymer microcapsules, filled with a solution that, when exposed to light, turns into a water-resistant solid. The idea is that damage to a coated concrete surface would cause the capsules to break open and release the solution, which then would fill the crack and solidify in sunlight.
Based on a recent video at Reason TV, I certainly hope they test this new technology in L.A. first:
Found via the blogger who likes to quip, “Well, it is the 21st century, you know.”
Now, how do we create an outdoor paint that can shrug off graffiti?
“Have you seen Paperman yet?”, Jim Treacher asks. And if you click on the gorgeous piece of animation above, you can answer in the affirmative:
I’ve been hearing about this short film for a while, how it’s like nothing anybody’s seen before, it’s signaling the future of animation, etc. Apparently it’s been playing before Wreck-It Ralph, and Disney just put it on YouTube a few days ago. Even at YouTube quality, it’s fantastic.
It looks a lot like traditional hand-drawn animation, but it’s actually CGI. Graeme McMillan at Wired explains how they did it:
Follow the link, or click over to Jim’s post for the technical details, but watching this, I had one thought: Warner Brothers needs to phone up Kevin Conroy, the voice of the Caped Crusader in their cartoon-noir series from the early 1990s and do a Batman TV series or movie set in the 1940s in this style of animation; it would look fantastic.
Allow me to head deep into the geek rabbit hole — but only because you’re about to go much, much further down there yourself in a moment.
Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the first computer I owned was a Radio Shack TRS-80, on which I played plenty of Scott Adams’ early text-based “Adventure” games. They were fun — and increasingly challenging; but limited in scope by the pitiful amount of the TRS-80′s memory. Then I bought my first modem and started exploring Compuserve, circa 1981 or ’82. Compuserve had its own version of “Adventure,” and it seeemed huuuuuuge in comparison to the Adams games — still text-based, but the amount of rooms, castles, caves and forests that could be explored seemed endless.
In a post on his blog today, Moe Lane of Red State links to cartoonist Randall Munroe, who has created what feels like that Compuserve Adventure experience — a cartoon that just goes on endlessly — and I mean endlessly — with loads of geeked out gags and in-jokes (including a shot at Boston’s own Fauxcahontas, Elizabeth Warren, incidentally) to stumble over. Fortunately, one of Monroe’s fans created a zoomable map of (hopefully) the whole terrain, but to get a sense of the scope of the whole thing as the artist intended, I urge you to start here and as Monroe suggests in his cartoon’s title, click and drag first, before hitting the Cliff’s Notes version. As I said to my wife, the whole thing feels like what a cross between the Compuserve Adventure game, and Gary Larson’s “Far Side” cartoon meets those run-on scribbled diaries with microscope text written by Kevin Spacey’s “John Doe” character in the film Seven.
With perhaps more than a hint of a double rainbow, maaaaaan along the way — it’s been a very long time since I’ve used that trite late-’60s/early-’70s phrase “mind blowing” to describe anything, but this certainly comes close.
Rush Limbaugh, who started online, like a lot of us, on CompuServe in the 1980s (before signing them up as an early show sponsor) walks through the history of How the Web Was Won in a surprisingly detailed timeline, to rebut Obama’s know-nothing boast that “Government research created the Internet so that all companies could make money off the Internet:”
So, Crovitz writes, “If the government didn’t invent the Internet, who did? Vinton Cerf developed the TCP/IP protocol, the Internet’s backbone, and Tim Berners-Lee gets credit for hyperlinks.” Do you know what TCP/IP is? What? How would you explain TCP/IP to somebody? Somebody in Rio Linda. (interruption) It’s like the phone number of a computer network. It’s like the phone number of a computer. Okay, TCP/IP. And hyperlinks, it’s obvious. That’s the link in a story that you click to take you to some other site. Tim Berners-Lee gets credit for creating the hyperlink.
“According to a book about Xerox PARC, ‘Dealers of Lightning’ (by Michael Hiltzik), its top researchers realized they couldn’t wait for the government to connect different networks, so would have to do it themselves.” I mean, the government did create this labyrinth, but they didn’t know what to do with it. At no time were they even pondering commercial applications for this, which is the point. Ah, you can debate — and people are gonna debate this ’til the end of time — whether it was a network communications system for nuclear attack; whether it was this or whether it was that.
The point that Crovitz is making here is that whatever it was and why it ever was invented, it was never intended by the government for commercial application. And had it been left to the government and had it remained the sole property of the government, it wouldn’t exist today. That’s all you really need to know about this. And yet Obama is running around claiming credit for it, as Algore did, and making it one of the reasons businesses — (whispers) “corporations” — are successful.
Follow this Web-enabling hyperlink to connect your computer to Rush’s server to read the whole thing.
Related: Obama’s line about the Internet was yet another gaffe in the Speech That Keeps On Giving. As Jennifer Rubin wrote this week at the Washington Post:
Smarting from the attack on his “you didn’t build that”speech the Obama team is inexplicably running a whiny, defensive ad saying, “Those ads taking my words about small business out of context, they’re flat out wrong.” Wow. This is his version of the “I am not a witch” ad.
And of course, the liberal Bletchley Park has checked their magic decoder rings to inform you that accurately quoting the president’s words to reveal his socialist worldview is racist. Sorry, fellas — as even Jon Stewart has admitted, that race card was maxed out long ago.
Portable five megabyte hard drive, 1956 edition:
Portable 128 gigabyte USB flash drive, 2012 edition:
Incidentally, the Website with the photo* of the 1956-edition of the IBM 305 RAMAC, the first computer with a hard disk drive adds a reminder to readers to “Start appreciating your 1 GB memory stick!”
Only one gig? That page was written in 2008, which is a reminder of how quickly that piece of computer hardware is expanding. Or shrinking. Or both…
I started out on Photoshop in the early naughts, fumbling my through the program and using it for basic photo editing. A minor breakthrough came in 2005, when I submitted some Photoshopped images of Hugh Hewitt’s Blog book in various strange places. This was for a Fark-like Photoshop contest that Hugh’s producer Generalissimo Duane held, and I ended up placing Hugh’s book on Lawrence of Arabia’s desk, being bandied about by the pioneering multimedia journalists of the New York Inquirer, and being promoted by Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock:
A few years later, when I began to produce my Silicon Graffiti videos, an unanticipated side benefit is that I found myself using Photoshop more and more to produce artwork to go into the videos, including on the monitors in the virtual set behind me. If you watch the shot that begins here of a mushroom cloud followed by photos of various dictators, everything behind me, including the virtual set, is a single Photoshop .PSD file, with various layers animated in Adobe’s Premiere Pro to appear in sequence, timed to an ancient British Cinesound explosion sound effect.)
However, producing artwork for PJM, including many of the 85X85 pixel thumbnails on the PJM homepage greatly accelerated my learning curve. Around Christmas of 2009, while visiting the now sadly closed Borders bookstore in Santana Row, I came across Art and Design in Photoshop: How to simulate just about anything from great works of art to urban graffiti. While a fair amount of political correctness and left-wing sucker punches (including a demonic Reagan Photoshop parody) mars the book, there’s a lot to be gleaned from it. As its subtitle implies, the book walks the reader through how to recreate everything from old movie posters to food and toy packaging to Mondrian, Roy Lichtenstein, and other pop art images.
I also found a slightly older title, Photoshop Classic Effects: The Essential Effects Every User Needs to Know, which I purchased later, to be an excellent learning guide. (The one thing I miss about the local Borders closing is being able to browse through books such as these to see which ones viscerally grab me. If it’s love at first sight, I’m much more likely to spend hours in the book, rather than a how-to guide I feel like I’m pulling teeth to learn from.)
And so from those books, and a lot of trial and error, here are some of the better images I’ve produced over the last few years.
This image of President Obama in his plus-fours, inspired by a quip by Mark Steyn, grew out of a shot of Donald Sutherland in Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H, and was bordered by a Polaroid Photoshop brush plug-in, which James Lileks referred me to:
This Salvador Dali parody was produced following the instructions in the aforementioned Art and Design in Photoshop. I just replaced the melting clocks with similarly dissipated Obama logos:
Last fall, when Obama became obsessed with his sippin’ Slurpees metaphor, this was a natural, which I used for a time as my Twitter avatar. It’s just the hat artwork that Stacy Tabb produced for my blog’s masthead back in 2004 on top of an existing 7-11 Slurpee ad, on top of a default Photoshop gradient layer. The shadows and reflection at the bottom were cribbed from the instructions in Photoshop Classic Effects:
Having been one of those legendary 45,000 people who bought the Velvet Underground’s first album shortly before forming his own rock group, this parody for a Zombie blog post’s thumbnail, when former VU drummer Mo Tucker supported the Tea Party last year, was a natural:
I had lots of fun parodying MSNBC’s silly “Lean Forward” ads in the fall of 2010. This one, created when Olbermann was still earning a paycheck from General Electric proved to be strangely prophetic…
When it was obvious that their party was going to lose Congress last year, and a majority of Americans disapproved of the Ground Zero Mosque, the MSM really teed off on their customers. This was my response to a bitter and punitive Time magazine cover late in the summer of 2010:
In 2009 or so, I purchased some Photoshop templates from Digital Juice for use in both videos, and as stand-alone artwork. I spent a pleasant half an hour or so putting this one together one Saturday last year:
This one I think I did around Christmas of 2009. It took quite a while to copy and paste, and line-up the text to produce this Spinal Tap-inspired image, which appeared in a Silicon Graffiti video on media bias, and an item here and during a stint guest-hosting on Hot Air.com about studying the Washington Post (then Newsweek’s owners) Kremlinologist-style.
This image was for a thumbnail for a post last year by Richard Fernandez called “Gone with the Wind.” For most of these images, I start big, and then use Photoshop’s “Save To Web” feature to reduce the images down to an 80 or 85 pixels square jpeg. I always save the layers in their original size as a Photoshop file, since you never know when you’ll need a larger image, or want to modify the image into something else. For obvious reasons, I’m hoping to reuse this image right around this time next year:
This was for a Victor Davis Hanson post last year on Obama’s poll numbers going into freefall. I wonder how many people have looked at this, and assumed it was simply a skydiver promoting Obama in 2008? I took an existing photo of a skydiver, tilted his angle to make him appear more out of control, and then placed the Obama logo on top of his ‘chute. I cut the various colors of the Obama logo into different layers, and then set the blending options on each layer to different settings, and different degrees of transparency, to make it appear as if the whole thing was blended into the fabric of the parachute. A fair amount of work, but the end result was pretty effective, I thought:
Finally, another image for a VDH post, this one from last month on “The Coming Post-Obama Renaissance,” and really well received. (The lads on Trifecta even mentioned it on PJTV.) It’s a photo of Obama heading for Marine One, with the sky clipped out, and a glorious sunrise pasted in underneath. I tried to visually convey the message of VDH’s post: When BHO is no longer POTUS, it will be Morning in America once again: