Archive for July, 2008

Wed 16 Jul 2008 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Photos

Brought to you by Adobe Photoshop

I’ve been helping retouch some old family photos. Here’s one before and after:

That’s my Grandpa, my dad’s dad. He died when I was six, but I know he was a banker and a World War II veteran. This photo must have been taken in the 1920s. I wonder what Grandpa would think about us being able to fix old photos of him using a computer.

Tue 15 Jul 2008 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Travel

Back to basics

This time next week, I’ll be high in the mountains on a five-day backpacking trip through Yosemite National Park. There are no towns or resupply stations on our route, so we have to carry everything on our backs. You really think carefully about how much stuff weighs when you travel this way. Right now I’m working on clothes. (Do I bring more than one shirt? How many socks do I really need?) I’ve already tackled food and other basic gear. Some of the things I’ve considered:

  • I’ve been comparing labels to figure out which foods pack the most energy per weight. Peanut butter is freakin’ amazing. Skippy has 190 calories in a 32g serving! But Smart Balance peanut butter is even better – 200 calories per 32g. Fig Newtons seemed like a good bet, but they only have 110 calories in a 31g serving. They’re staying back. Cliff Bars are coming. Dried apples are staying back. When was the last time you compared nutrition labels and bought the product with a higher calorie count?
  • Not gonna schlep a whole roll of toilet paper. I unspooled a few feet of Scott 1000 (one-ply). Then I wrapped it around a ball-point pen, took the pen out, and put the small spool in a Ziploc.
  • Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap is a must. It’s dish and laundry detergent, hand soap and shampoo all in one concentrated bottle.
  • Spare shoelaces are another necessity. They can also be used to repair a tent or a pack in an emergency.
  • A big thing of sunscreen got decanted into a small squeeze bottle.
  • The tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, water filter and stove are all of the lightweight variety. My flashlight is a tiny two-LED number that takes a single, miniature six-volt battery.
  • No iPod.
  • No cell phone.
  • No GPS.
  • No compass.
  • No Swiss Army knife. (I’m bringing a tiny Leatherman tool that has a blade.)
  • No shaving kit. No comb. No mirror either.
  • There’s a school of thought that advises cutting your toothbrush handle off, but properly cleaned teeth are a luxury I cannot give up, even for five days.

Mon 14 Jul 2008 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Music, Technology

Best Scopitone ever?

(Continuing my Scopitone obsession…)

At the beginning of this clip, the Tornados seem like a bunch of squares, what with their brown suits and robot helmets. But wait til the end when they light a huge fire and fight with the cops!

Sun 13 Jul 2008 6:25 pm   //   Posted in: Art, Bicycles, Brooklyn

A mighty fine day for a bike ride

Waterfall Williamsburg Bridge

One of the Waterfalls, seen from the Manhattan Bridge bike lane.

Ikea Ferry

Heading home via the free Water Taxi to the Brooklyn Ikea.

Sat 12 Jul 2008 6:22 pm   //   Posted in: Music, Technology

Today’s history obsession: Scopitones!

Scopitone vintage ad

Suddenly, I’m obsessed with finding a Scopitone machine.

What was the Scopitone? It was one of those splendid electro-mechanical clunkers that people relied on for entertainment in the pre-digital world. Scopitone was one of several brands of European-made jukeboxes that played 16mm films on a built-in screen, kind of like an early version of MTV. They appeared in bars in the 1960s and had apparently vanshied by the end of the decade.

I’m sure the machine was a marvel itself, but oh the videos! Think Leslie Gore, Bobby Vee, French pop music and burlesque striptease. The Scopitone films are saturated with jiggling girls, barely rehearsed dance numbers, and vivid tertiary colors. The surviving recordings, at least the ones you can find on YouTube, will haunt you with their warm, analog sound.

Susan Sontag listed Scopitone films as part of the “canon of Camp,” right between Tiffany lamps and The Brown Derby restaurant. Here we have camp in the form of a weird, forgotten collision of culture and technology. I’d love to see a Scopitone machine if one still exists somewhere.

Credits: Info about Scopitone from Wikipedia,, and the Scopitone Archive, where I found the vintage ad that appears at the top of this post.

I was inspired to look up Scopitone after it was mentioned in this week’s episode of The Venture Bros.

Fri 11 Jul 2008 8:58 am   //   Posted in: Labeling, Typography

Wal-Mart becomes Walmart

What do you think of the new Walmart logo?

New Wal-Mart logo

This new logo accomplishes the impossible: It makes the old Wal-Mart logo look good!

It already looks dated and generic. People had the same complaint about the new Payless logo in 2006. Our creative director at work compared it to the Parmalat logo, but I think the Parmalat logo is better.

(Image from

Fri 11 Jul 2008 8:49 am   //   Posted in: In the news

Photoshop as a weapon

I did a quick-reaction story yesterday for PDNOnline about Iran’s use of photoshop to create a propaganda photo: Newspapers Plan Corrections Over Iran Missile Photo

Thu 10 Jul 2008 8:00 am   //   Posted in: TV commericals

“The Shining” is very hot right now

At least in TV commercials… (more…)

Wed 9 Jul 2008 8:32 am   //   Posted in: Media, New York is different

Climbing that ladder

After work today I’m going to go climb the outside of The New York Times building.

I’m hoping to climb all the way to the top, where I will claim a corner office! Anybody want to come along?

Tue 8 Jul 2008 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Travel

The decay of aircraft

Concorde Jet Brooklyn

One of the old Concorde jets is parked out at Floyd Bennett Field, the abandoned airport/park in Brooklyn. Sitting alone on the empty tarmac, it is a bizarre sight (seen above in 2007).

From The New York Times comes this update: The jet’s nosecone was destroyed last Monday when it was hit by a truck hauling equipment to a festival in the park! Per the article: “Within 20 hours of the accident, photos of the damaged plane appeared on the Internet, and Concorde lovers were deploring the level of care it had received during its postretirement odyssey in New York.”

The NYC Aviation board has more pics of the Concorde carnage, which are labeled: “caution: disturbing photos.”

It’s amazing to think that this supersonic jet has basically been scrapped, like it’s an old DC-3 or something. I’m reminded of what happened to the Buran, the Soviet Space Shuttle. What remains of it can be seen in this photo.