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I got something very exciting in the mail today!

Here’s a blast from… er, a time long ago.

In 1991, I got to act in a few sketches for a Bridgewater, Massachusetts cable access show called The Cutting Room Floor, created by Bob Caron and David Almeida. Christian Roman wrote most of the episode. My B.U. friends Catherine, Synneve, Karl, and Seth were in the show as well. I did improv in college and then professionally in Boston with Seth and Chris, and professionally in L.A. with Seth after 1994. Catherine, Karl and I made A Pound of Flesh in 1993, in which Seth had a part. None of us had anything to do with Mr. Belvedere: The Golden Years in 1997.

Enjoy this ridiculous but often rather funny piece of local cable access TV history and read more about it on the official Vimeo page. You can also see the other episodes there.

Watching this now for the first time since 1991, I remember how Chris and I both loved Monty Python. We had re-created a couple of their sketches at the coffee house nights in Claflin Hall. You can see the Monty Python influence in the above, with props and themes that weave through the episode, and segues between skits.

Boy, it’s good to see this again!

UPDATE: David reminded me that a skit we shot was included in episode 2 as well. Here it is! Look for “Sleeping Through the Movies with Philip & Bean” at 13:05. And here’s the Vimeo link, also with interesting tidbits about the episode.

There are these half-inch-long flat bits of something that I have been finding in my apartment for years. I thought they were just some kind of odd “leftover”… bug shells or carcasses, or maybe a flattened droppings. I don’t have vermin in my apartment, no mice or rats, so it couldn’t really be droppings. No roaches, thank God. But I do have silverfish. Lots and lots of silverfish.

One day, some time ago, I saw one of these flat things moving. It surprised and mystified me. I could not tell how the thing was moving. It was so slow and ponderous, and I didn’t see any legs. Grabbing it in a Kleenex didn’t show me anything; it just sat there, like a piece of nothing, and I threw it away. Just last week, I found one crawling slowly up my bedroom wall, and saw a tiny something at the front, though I could not really discern what it was. Grabbing it again didn’t show me anything.

Finally, today, I saw one in the kitchen sink and got to examine it. It had a head poking out one end. Then the head went away and poked out the other end. Odd! I picked the thing out of the sink and put it on my counter. After a minute, it poked its head out again, then started crawling, slowly and ponderously. I took pictures and a movie.


What the hell? What was this thing?

As I was pondering the mystery with Derrick tonight, I decided to randomly search something: “silverfish larvae.” What if these were, somehow, the larval stage of the silverfish? It didn’t make much sense because I’ve seen very tiny silverfish, much smaller than this hermit worm.

The answer was easier to find than I thought. Someone else out there had thought the same thing, but we were both wrong about the silverfish connection. Here it is, the larva of the household casebearer moth. Now I also know what to call those tiny little moths I sometimes see around.

It turns out that the little larva fella can turn around in that silk-lined house of his! That explains the “double heads.”

Well, now that I know these are just moth larvae, I’m not nearly as creeped out by them as I am by the silverfish. Silverfish are always spooking me by writhing out from under things… Gads!

Household Casebearer Moth Larva

I know everyone’s doing this, but I didn’t care. I had to get a preview of what Derrick and I would look like on the dance floor.


I think we look smashing! And very hip and loose. And cool. And frankly, I’ve never looked better in skinny pants.

Red Flowers

I took my day-old iPhone 3G S out for a hike today, and had lots of fun testing out the camera. It’s pretty impressive for something on a “phone.” I use the quotes because, really, the iPhone is maybe only 10% phone.

I posted stuff live to Twitter during the hike. I’d send you to Twitpic to see how they posted, but it’s really not worth the effort. There are no forward or back buttons on Twitpic (or Yfrog), so I’d have to post the individual link for each picture. No thanky.

But wonder awaits! I have a collection of full-res pictures and movies lovingly posted to Steve’s Snapshots for you to examine. Here’s a sample:


Being able to take that movie was pretty exciting. Not only did the butterfly behave, but I shot it with a phone! Well, okay, a 10% phone. Really, I shot it with a pocket Mac. (The movie in my gallery is larger.)

Go see the rest of the hike stuff now! Hurry! Before it’s too late!

Left, Right, and Center

We played a fun game tonight: Left, Right, and Center. (The actual game container called it Left, Center, Right, but who the hell cares?) Everyone around the table has $3 in singles. We take turns rolling the dice, one per dollar you have, up to three. For every L you roll, you pass a buck to the person on your left. For every R, you pass a buck to the person on your right. For every C, a dollar goes into the pot. The person with the last dollar wins the pot.

Amazingly, though the stakes aren’t huge, it’s enough to get everyone incredibly rambunctious. Take a look for yourself at this, the last few minutes of the game. I won’t tell you who wins.

It’s been a month since we’ve posted anything over at the LFTI blog. We’ve been busy. Oh, and we’re incredibly boring.

But land ho! Ahoy! Buckle me britches! It’s a new post!

The post itself seems to be rather useless, but something good has come of it: Videos of old Burger King ads! Horrible, horrible ads, these, and ripe for the mocking, even by children. Here they are directly:

I hated these ads so much as a kid, I made fun of them on audio tape. I have those old audio tapes in my possession now, and I plan to digitize them sometime in the next fifteen years. When I do, I shall post my Burger King parodies here.

Mark you calendars!

Oh, good! Something very funny from The Onion! This is priceless, and completely true. Oh, except the Sony logo on the wall. Not accurate! But who cares?

Well, how about that. Sony must have helped the Onion folks with this player. It doesn’t work. So click on this instead.

I was certainly enthusiastic about seeing more of those Bill Gates/Jerry Seinfeld ads. Yet once again, Microsoft crushes my mirth and destroys any hope of fun I was ready to have. Seinfeld is gone, and now we have this:

The Angel/Devil Get a Mac ad, while still being one of my favorites, is once again relevant in this regard: “Fun. We tried that once. It was nothing but pain and frustration.”

Daring Fireball, sans suprise, has fantastic insight into the Get a Mac ads and how these new I’m a PC ads merely reinforce the message of Apple’s own advertising. DF’s post also examines the high concept of having people portray computers (which I had talked about when the Angel/Devil ad first aired).

I can’t believe the Get a Mac ads have been running for over two years now. I wager the I’m a PC ads won’t last 6 months.

I am on my way to Australia later tonight. I’m flying first class. Yes, I used miles. To be honest, this has been one of the most exciting things about the trip… that I get to fly first class overseas! In the top of a 747! The 747 to me is the greatest passenger jet in the universe. It’s so iconic. Any other jet, you look at it and go, “It’s a jet.” A 747, you go, “It’s a 747!”

So I will be flying in the lap of luxury. I get to use the First Class International lounge before I board (I’m getting to the airport early so I can milk the hell out of that privilege); I’ll get a 47-course meal on the plane; my seat will lie flat for comfy comfy rest. Luxury, I tell you!

Here are two guys who are probably used to this kind of thing:

Click here for the high res version.

Now, you know I’m a fan of Apple and a huge UN-fan of Microsoft. Some of the Get a Mac ads are really great (for example). But I have to give props to Microsoft for this one. Well, not to Microsoft, but their ad agency. I was watching this on my iPhone, ironically, at the car wash this morning, and laughing out loud (LOL to you youngsters who can’t speak real English). There is a lot to like about this “ad.”

I’m not sure how effective these ads will be in making Microsoft appear less crappy a company with less crappy products, but at least it looks like we’re in for some really funny attempts at doing so.

So me, the lap of luxury. These two, slumming it. My, how our world has changed!

Thank you thank you thank you, Jon Stewart.

It is to be expected that conservatives would reverse the spin once Palin was chosen, but it still does not make it palatable. It makes me seethe, really.

Why have I never seen this before? Why have I never done this before? Why has my life been so empty until seeing this?

Here’s a man who owns millions of records.

This is a very nicely shot mini-documentary which brings up a good point: Where does all that music go in the end? What if it’s lost to future generations? A majority of music is crap and probably not worth the vinyl or plastic or wax or metal it’s delivered on. But do we only save the popular stuff? How many gems or masterpieces have been lost to time because they were never very popular?

This little movie brought up another question I’ve had for a long time now: What happens when civilization collapses and we lose all our technology? How do we re-discover who we were? A record is a perfect storage medium for sound. With a minimum of knowledge, you can look carefully at an album and figure out how it works. The same is true for film. You can just look at film and see what’s going on. But a CD or DVD? A digital file? Magnetic disk drives? Once the technology is lost, once the algorithms and codecs are lost, how does anyone reconstruct those treasures? My guess is they don’t.

In the event of a major crisis, a dark age following this technological one, our digital world will be lost forever. Analog at least has some chance of survival and rediscovery.

I have only seen Brief Encounter once, but I always remembered, and often thought about, the ending, the moment when Laura decides to kill herself. I didn’t remember it for the emotion, necessarily, but for how it was technically achieved, the brilliant camera work and direction that support the emotion.

The movie is a measured study in careful, level shots, but just here, and only here, as the scream of a train whistle gradually approaches, the camera slowly tilts into a Dutch angle, and stays there through the next four shots. Then, on the fourth, as Laura’s urge dies, the camera just as slowly re-rights itself, and her life goes on.

I re-discovered this thanks to Post Secret. Someone’s secret was simply a still of the movie, and someone then replied with the YouTube link.

It’s movies and moments like these that fill me with love for cinema.

This morning, I tweeted about Microsoft’s Surface showing up very select at Sheraton hotels. It was this video that made me comment:

Besides being a bit creepy—is that woman wanting to slap the little boy, or seduce him?—the video is humorous in showing how minimally useful the Surface concept even is. I can do the things that table does on my iPhone, and I have that with me all the time.

Expanding ever so slightly on my tweet, I ask you, how long until the majority of those things break? How often will they cease to function? When will I first be able to walk into a Sheraton hotel and see a $10,000 table crashed or dark?

When Microsoft first announced the Surface just before the iPhone’s release last year, I started to write a post about how Apple’s products are cool, and Microsoft’s, when they actually release them, are only faux cool. Microsoft wants you to like their products and tries to tell you how awesome they are, but they always suck. Apple strongly suggests that their products are cool, and often they really are. They certainly are well designed, well engineered, well built, and well well well.

I never finished the post because I got busy, and not in the cool sense. But the idea still holds. Microsoft, in a desperate attempt to steal some of the thunder from the upcoming iPhone, announced a fairly crappy product which introduced nothing terribly state-of-the-art, promised to deliver it by the end of the year, then failed to do so.

Well, guess I’m sorta wrong. A few Surfaces have surfaced, it seems. But look at the Sheraton announcement carefully. Notice there’s no date mentioned. When are these tables going to be installed? They aren’t installed already or the press release would have said so. To take one small detail into question, why, pray tell, would guests want to create playlists on the table? For what purpose? To play where? Certainly not their iPod! And so on and so on.

Lo, with perfect timing, here comes Kontra to muse on the concept of why other companies do concepts, but Apple does not. He or she or it or they or them are and/or is absolutely correct. While concept products are interesting, they are often amusingly, ridiculously out of touch with the universe. Every concept car I’ve seen at car shows is laughable in its ignorance. I would never deny anyone the right to create a concept. What gets me is when it is hinted that this thing you are seeing is potentially viable. That astounding future technologies will emerge from this thing at which you are marveling or laughing. (Turns out Steve Jobs brought up the concept car problem in this Time article from 2005.)

Kontra is correct. Apple does not need to release concepts. They are in the business of making concepts reality. When I saw Steve-o unveil the iPhone at Macworld in 2007, part of what made it such a thrilling spectacle is knowing that this thing, this amazing chiclet of technology, was going to be real. I would be holding one in my hand in six months. That never, ever happens with concept products.

* * * * * *

What follows are the videos I originally included in my un-posted post.

See all the the Steve Jobs/Bill Gates appearance videos here.

And here’s a video from D5 with Gates showing off the Surface.

Thanks as always to Daring Fireball for leading me to good material.

Oh, this is fun! Yes, great fun!

So far, it seems only one company is close to releasing anything that has even the remotest possibility of being a competitor to the iPhone: Garmin. Its Nuvifone was announced a while ago, and since Garmin is big into GPS units, the GPS features of the Nuvifone were a huge selling point over the iPhone. Of course, now that the iPhone 3G includes GPS and, I’m guessing, much better nav maps, the Nuvifone’s GPS is no longer a unique feature.

But that’s not what I wanted to discuss. I want to specifically talk about how Apple has, in less than a year, completely defined how the touch interface on portable devices should work. The Mac set the standard that is still followed today (unless you’re using the nightmare Microsoft Office for Windows 2007), so we’ll see if the iPhone UI lasts as long.

Here is the Nuvifone in action (video is from Laptop Magazine):

Let’s go through this video and check for examples of the iPhone UI as copied by Garmin. (The Nuvifone in the video is not a production model, so who knows what may change by the time it’s on the market?)

0:07: The Garmin man is already comparing his product to the iPhone, saying “we have the same screens as the iPhone.” That’s probably not entirely accurate.

0:17–0:27: The Nuvifone uses the “fling” scroll with velocity slow-down and the all-important elastic stop. The genius of this design in the iPhone UI is that when at the very top or bottom of a list, if you try to scroll, it gives you a visual clue that your scroll was executed but that you are at the edge of the list. Imagine if there were no elasticity; you might try to scroll, but nothing happens. Does this mean you’re at the edge of a list, or that the scroll did not work? The ambiguity is gone with the elastic visual.

0:17–0:27: The narrow, disappearing scroll bars from the iPhone are here. Unlike using a cursor on a desktop, the scroll bars on an iPhone are merely there for reference, since the entire screen is scrollable. The bars appear when you start to drag your finger to scroll, then fade away when you remove your finger. No extra space is wasted on resilient scroll bars. The Garmin’s bars do not fade, they just vanish. The scroll bars in the Nuvifone do not look translucent, like the iPhone bars, but it’s hard to be sure on this video.

0:21: “It’s not a multiple touch screen, it’s a single-touch … including the scrolling function.” I assume this means no double-finger tap to zoom out, no pinching or spreading, none of the multi-touch features that make the iPhone UI utter fun to use.

0:36: Applications and widgets on the iPhone zoom in and out when launched or closed, but the Nuvifone uses a sliding transition. On the iPhone, the sliding “drills down” into lists and such, giving you a visual clue as to which way you are moving into and out of pages and lists. We can not tell from this video how the Nuvifone will handle such drill-downs.

1:30: Screen rotation was not invented for iPhone, but it sure was stepped up a notch. The Nuvifone screen rotation is orientation sensitive, but the graphical iris out transition is pretty low-rent. The iPhone could definitely benefit from using the landscape orientation mode in more places in the UI; however it’s not as good an idea to use it for the home screen as the Nuvifone does. Why? Because you want your launch buttons to always be in the same place to aid in motor memory. The home screen icons will be in different places if you rotate your home screen. You would also have to set up two sets of custom layouts. Not very easy to use. This is more of an issue for the iPhone home screen grid layout than it is for this Nuvifone sliding pane layout.

2:04: The Web browser “experience is very like iPhone Safari.” Without multi-touch? We shall see! Multitouch is the most useful tool when browsing the Web on an iPhone.

2:20: Ah, a keyboard demo! The Nuvifone’s keyboard slides up from the bottom of the screen, just like the iPhone’s. This is a pretty obvious behavior, whether it started on iPhone or not. The Nuviphone copies the iPhone pop-up letters when you type. I’ll be very curious to see how the predictive text works. The iPhone’s “reversed” predictive text set-up is fantastic, allowing you to continue typing as correct suggestions pop up and requiring you to stop typing only if you disagree with a suggestion.

2:27: “You can see there is no [sic] any button in the front panel. It’s even better than iPhone.” But no, it’s not. You’ll notice that there is no way to just get right back to your home screen on the Nuvifone without touching the arrow icon to back up through multiple “open” screens. (There could be a side button on the Nuvifone that accomplishes the same thing as iPhone’s home button, but I’m guessing that’s not going to be the case.)

3:13: Damn is that navigation/map app one ugly chicken! The ocean is DOS Blue. And those plus and minus buttons! Good UI design is hindered by bad graphical design.

3:36: That Home button in the navigation/map app… is it a sign of inconsistency, or maybe just a sign of an unfinished product? The return arrow icon we saw in the rest of the UI should be here instead. (Or, I guess you could argue, there should be a Home button everywhere else in the UI! Oh, wait, wouldn’t a physical button on the front be a great solution?)

4:32: Seems the screen has haptic feedback. The day the iPhone gets haptics will be a day I rejoice. There is no better way to improve the confirmation of a virtual button press than a physical event. Haptics on an iPhone will be complicated to include, though, when you consider the feedback will be different if you are touching and holding or touching and dragging. I obviously do not know how the Nuvifone will handle these situations, but I’m sure Apple is putting a lot of thought into that very thing. Assuming they are working on haptic feedback to begin with.

I think we will be seeing a lot more of this kind of borrowing in the smartphone field. Of all the interfaces and UIs from all other PDAs and phones, Apple’s is the most graceful, the best-looking, and, most importantly, the most thought-out. There’s a reason why the iPhone is such a pleasure to use. None of my other handheld devices have been nearly as fun and useful. Oh, except my Newton. I loved the Newton!

This is fantastic! A group of 207 people converged on Grand Central Station, mingled, and, at precisely the same moment, froze right in the middle of what they were doing. They stayed like that for 5 minutes, then, again all at once, continued on with what they were doing.

Ignore the super-silly low-rent TV newsmagazine music and sound effects and enjoy the art.

You may be interested to see my friend John Singh in this silly Conan O’Brian ILM sketch:

I was looking at the card of an acquaintance today, where her contact info was set in a font called Trajan. I thought to myself, “My God. There it is again. Trajan.” It is, literally, everywhere. It’s even used on our new logo at work:

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

And I thought Neutraface was overused! Trajan has it beat, for sure. I love Neutraface. Love it. And yet, now that every ad agency and design studio is using it for just about everything, I’m getting tired of it. Trajan, which is a caps-only font, is elegant in its own way, but it has been overused for years. Yet no one’s picking up on how overused it is. Oh, except this guy:

I think I can blame a few things for this kind of font overuse. One is designers who don’t know what they are doing. These are the people who use the fonts that come with Windows, don’t know that “The 90′s” is wrong (it should be “The ’90s”), and can’t kern to save the planet. Another is designers who do know what they’re doing, but have to design for people who are blind to anything new or creative. “I love that new font Wendy’s is using! Can we use that?” Worse of all is a combination of the two: clueless designer and clueless client.