Monday, December 31, 2007

Dirty Car Art Gallery


Remember those sand art videos I've featured occasionally?

Well, these aren't videos, but they're kind of along the same lines. Sure beats the old "Wash Me" stuff that I used to write on dirty cars. It's amazing what some people can do with simply tools, isn't it? Check out Scott's work by clicking on the link below.

Scott Wade's Dirty Car Art Gallery

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Magnificent Obsession

If you're looking for something to take your mind off things during this holiday season, check out some of these videos I found. It's fun to track down some of the quirkier things that people do. Personally, I'm sure that I could never figure out how to make some dominoes and pool balls do what they do here, but I like the end result. Hats off to all these people and their magnificent obsessions!

The pool shot of shots

Sand Art

And One Guitar Video


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happy LIfe Day all you Star Wars types

200px-StarWarsHS.jpgOK, I'm a month late. Life Day was actually November 17.

What? You've never heard of Life Day? You're kidding, right?

Actually, I hadn't heard of it either, until Merlin Mann talked about it during the latest MacBreak Weekly podcast (#70). But if you're of a certain age, anything to do with Star Wars can grab your attention - at least it got mine. And what he was talking about was the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special.

That's right...a holiday special, featurng the original cast members, including the robots and special guests like Art Carney, Bea Arthur and the Jefferson Starship. What a trip.

As usual, to find out more, I turned to Wikipedia. And you won't believe what the entry on this subject looks like. It's one of those amazing, in-depth articles, lovingly put together by many people, which contains virtually everything that could possibly be known about this subject. It's a treat to see, even if you're not a Star Wars fan. You've got to be impressed (and if you're like me, maybe envious) by the dedication of some folks. Here's a bit from the intro:
The Star Wars Holiday Special was a two-hour television special (including commercials) set in the Star Wars galaxy. It was broadcast in its entirety in the United States only once on Friday, November 17, 1978 on CBS-TV from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time (EST). In it, Chewbacca and Han Solo visit Kashyyyk, Chewbacca's home world, to celebrate Life Day. Along the way, they are pursued by agents of the Galactic Empire who are searching for rebels on the planet. The special introduces three members of Chewbacca's family: his father Attichitcuk, his wife Mallatobuck, and his son Lumpawarrump.
Apparently, Star Wars Creator George Lucas was upset with the show (its main claim to fame is how terrible it is) and he's been working hard ever since to make sure no one ever saw it again.

Again from Wikiepedia:
Lucas, who had had very little to do with production since his initial plot outline, was given a private screening of the completed film before it aired. According to reports, he was disgusted with what the producers had done to his story and greatly disliked the special. Rumor has it that he had signed an agreement for it to air at least once, and after seeing it, decided that it would never again be shown on any network after its first airing. The show was greatly hyped on broadcast TV, however, before its debut on November 17. Although ratings were excellent, since the airing many have considered it a general disappointment, and even an insult to the Star Wars saga.
And finally,
Lucas himself has rarely commented on or even acknowledged its existence, except to friends and co-workers. Generally, however, he holds a very low opinion of it. For instance, Tom Burman, one of the costume designers for the holiday special, has said that Lucas once told him that he was very disappointed with the final product.

At one Australian fan convention he reportedly said "If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it." In an online chat with fans, he reportedly said: "The holiday special does not represent my vision for Star Wars." In an interview with Maxim magazine in May 2002, Maxim asks the question: Any plans for a Special Edition of the Holiday Special? Lucas responded with "Right. That's one of those things that happened, and I just have to live with it."
Alas for George, (but good for us) the age of the Internet has meant that the show is now available (albeit illegally, I suppose) on sites like YouTube, which features a 5-minute version called The Two-Hour Star Wars Holiday Special in only Five Minutes, and GoogleVideo, where you can watch the whole, spellbinding 117 minutes.

This was one of those lucky finds that I just had to tell you about. There's not a lot of literary merit involved, nor will it make you do your job better, I'll admit. But I bet you'll smile a few times, if only at the sheer weirdness of the 1970s minds that conceived this little gem.

I know it's not Friday, so I'm not supposed to be having fun, but here's the 5-minute version from YouTube. I suspect it will be more than enough for most of us.


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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Take the time to look up

071218-mars-hubble-01.jpgWe're almost at the winter solstice, which is either the shortest day or the longest night of the year, spending on your mood. That might not get a lot of people excited, but one benefit of all that darkness is that you get a chance to check out the night sky without having to get up in the middle of the night.

So if you're out for an evening walk during this holiday season, you might notice that Mars is the brightest star in the sky. Today, it's the closest it will be to the Earth until 2016. This photo was taken by the Hubble telescope recently. has links to some videos and tips on viewing the red planet. Here's an excerpt from their article.
The red planet is now the brightest "star" in the evening sky, easily visible by mid-evening until dawn. It comes closest to the Earth today at 6:46 p.m. EST, when it will be 54,783,381 miles (88,165,305 kilometers) from us.

Mars looks like an orange star to the naked eye, but it's revealed as a disk with many features in modest telescopes. It will put on a good show all month.
So if your kids or houseguests are getting a little rowdy over the holidays, send them outside to check out the skyscape. There's nothing like a nice walk on a winter evening to unwind those tense holiday-ready muscles. Or, if you're in a horse-drawn carriage, you might feel as Robert Frost did.
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Monday, December 17, 2007

On the Web, more is not always better

I've been a big fan of Jakob Nielsen's and his ideas on website design and useability for many years.

Anyone who is familiar with some of the websites I've worked on (like this one or this one) will know that I think content is more important than style. I like a good-looking site as much as anyone but only if the design adds to the users' ability to find the information they're looking for.

So I wasn't surprised to learn that Nielsen has some reservations about websites that serve up all the latest Web 2.0 goodies without paying enough attention to useability issues. His latest "Alertbox" article is called Web 2.0 Can Be Dangerous...

Here's an excerpt:

Unlike some older technologies (notably, Flash and PDF), Web 2.0 ideas are not inherently bad for users. They can be highly effective; we sometimes see examples of usability-enhancing Web 2.0 designs in our studies. But it's more common to find Web 2.0 ideas that either hurt users or simply don't matter to users' core needs. While the latter case might seem innocent, irrelevant website "enhancements" diminish profits because they indicate a failure to focus on those simpler design issues that actually increase sales and leads.

While there's no single definition of the much-abused "Web 2.0" term, I'll look at four trends that are often considered its defining elements:

"Rich" Internet Applications (RIA)
Community features, social networks, and user-generated content
Mashups (using other sites' services as a development platform)
Advertising as the main or only business model
If you're interested in learning more about what works and doesn't work for website users, you'll enjoy this article. And if you're not signed up for Neilsen's Alertbox newsletter, I recommend you start getting it. It's always interesting.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Interesting what we don't hear about sometimes

There's a major vote in the US Senate next week, which could decide whether a handful of large media corporations will be allowed to get even larger. But you haven't seen much about it in the media.

Now I know that sitting here in Canada, we don't have to worry about anything like that, now that Conrad Black is going to jail and Izzy Asper is gone. But still...should we be worried?

Plenty of people think so. And some of them have put together a video to rally support against the plans for consolidation. Here's the video, with an introduction from the blog:

Powerful U.S. Senators from both parties berated FCC Chairman Kevin Martin about his plans to open the floodgates of media consolidation across America on December 18th. And Martin didn’t flinch.

It’s easy to stand firm when you’re a Bush operative with the backing of the White House and a seven digit paycheck waiting for you when you quit your job.

Opposition to media titans like Rupert Murdoch buying up more media is a reaction to the pathetic state of journalism and entertainment. To drive home the point, Free Press launched a 3-minute “Junk Media” video to sound the alarm, and rally opposition to the December 18th vote:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Free Christmas tunes from Magnatune

cover_200.jpgIf you're looking for some new Christmas music for the holidays, you'll want to check out a free download from Magnatunes, via founder John Buckman's blog.

For the next couple of weeks, they're giving away a Christmas compilation they've put together from Magnatune artists. There's a good selection of stuff and it will be great to have playing in the background at your Christmas party. (I haven't got my invite yet, by the way.)

When you head to the download page, you'll notice right away some of the features that make Magnatunes such an interesting place. For one thing, their motto is "We are not evil." That's a good start.

The next interesting factoid is that their music is all DRM-free - always. And you have a wide variety of choices in how you want to receive it. You can get a CD (and pick your own price) or you can download the music in a variety of formats. And if you ever lose the file, you can always download another copy for no cost.

It's an interesting place. I recommend taking some time to look around their website after you download your free Christmas music.

And if you're into books and looking for some alternatives to the traditional way of buying and selling your collection, check out Bookmooch, Buckman's latest creation. Here's an interview that helps to explain the concept.

Happy listening!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

If you don't know what an F6 is, read on

images.jpegI'm a closet opera fan. In fact, I'm so far in the closet that I don't even own any opera recordings, except for some Pavarotti songs I picked up after he died.

But I secretly yearn to be a fan. Remember the scene in Pretty Woman where Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts to the opera and tell her that if you cry you'll get it - and she does? (I'm hopelessly mangling that scene, but if you remember it, you'll know what I mean.) I cried when I watched that scene, so I think I qualify. (Of course, the fact that I cry during movies like Pretty Woman probably indicates other things about me, but let's not go there.)

Long story short -- I want to point you to a blog post by Mr. Andy Ihnatko over on the wonderful CWOB (Celstial Waste of Bandwidth) website that I just know you're going to love as much as I do.

Andy is probably my favourite blogger - an absolute must-read. (He's worth following on Twitter too).

Right now, he's running a series called Itunes Advent Calendar, in which he offers up a juicy morsel from Itunes for each day of Advent.

But enough from me. Go ahead and read his post, watch the video and see whether it makes you cry. Then you can join the club.