We had a super hero birthday party around my place last weekend. My now-7-year-old son needed all his friends to come over in their finest super hero regalia for two hours of mayhem. Yes, they destroyed our house. Yes, they were out of control energetic. But there were no tears, no injuries, and no hurt feelings the entire sprint. Read on...
Watch the video, and then the FCC response will be more powerful. Well said, and thanks for not shivving this little bit of cultural uprising with a broadcast fine.
This is, I imagine, what drowning feels like.
When I arrived at the TWiT studios I didn't expect to meet Veronica Belmont. As a follower of finer podcasts and online media I've been following Veronica's work for some time and have learned a fair bit from her tech and entertainment reviews. See, Veronica Belmont is a personality. She's part of a new caste of online personalities led (in a cosmic sense) by Robert Scoble, for whom the chic comes in the project, not the network. Veronica's audience follows her accordingly, learning of her work not from her employer but from her Twitter, Facebook, and other feeds. She has loyal fans, friends, and followers across the net.
She boasts admirable skill as a producer; she's smart, intuitive, and has a keen understanding of communicating the complex simply on air. But what I have learned from Veronica is this importance of personality. There is no pretense in a Veronica Belmont broadcast, no arrogance. She reads as someone deeply in touch with her viewers not as an audience, but as friends.
Veronica is co-host of the Sword and Laser, a sci-fi/fantasy podcast née book club with Tom Merritt. I was lucky to catch them both in a show meeting on the set itself, and managed to make this photograph of Veronica with her great dragon, Lem. Thanks, Veronica, for taking the time to share with a fan.
Sometimes, when I'm alone in my car and the windows are down, sun high, I put both hands on the wheel and grip it tightly. I blink a few times and if conditions are just right, I'm Steve McQueen. I used to think I was alone in these little flights of fancy, but I'm turning 40 this month and have come across enough adults now to realize that we're all children on the inside. We just have more problems with our knees.
When I'm in that comfortable space, that Steve McQueen space, I rifle through my list of friends and family and try to imagine who they become in their quiet moments. For some, the image fades in and out. For others, it's more clear. And for few, it's locked in stone and iron, a picture in my mind indelible, fixed, immutable through time.
That is my sense of time when I'm with my dear cousin Maia. I've written of her home before — it's impossibly, impassibly, inaccessibly high on a Los Angeles hillside in this dreamy space where walls are made of velour and wicker and around each corner you're as likely to find something of which music may be created as you are a cabana boy fanning you with grape leaves answering only to Bernardo.
Maia positively oozes classical Diva-ness — she has since she was 6 — and batted nary a fantastic eyelash when I asked her to light up and get comfortable for our shoot. She is a flibbertigibbet, a word used here in as proud a sense as I can muster of Maia. When she moves in and out of character, she is plumbing the depths of spirit for a great joy — a joy that is channeled through her own magical whimsy in the service of others, her audience … me, I guess. There are social performers in the world, turning on their charm to make people laugh. They're fun at parties, but duds over coffee. No spark.
But Maia, witnessing her moving into and out of performance is watching a life come into being. It's Frankenstein's monster's first great steps. It's a churning swell bursting into a deep belching wave. It's the terrific transference of enthusiasm from one to another.
Plus, she does Star Wars in 30 minutes. She's that kind of cool ... original trilogy cool … amiright?
The diva thing made it clear that Maia needed the 1940's treatment. It suits her, as a spirit out of time. When I look at this photograph, I see secrets behind great beauty. I see a woman who can all-too-naturally communicate the tragedy that comes from compromise and sacrifice. And I see a woman unafraid to play in the service of our joy.
I miss the Maia I hung out with when I was a kid. That chick was very cool. But this woman I photographed on her patio in LA? This chick is positively epic. I look forward to a lot more life in her orbit.
Besides … she'll be a wicked funny old lady.
Ben's my cousin. I don't know him well enough. In fact, there are a lot of enoughs that come up regarding this guy.
When we were kids we hung out, sure. But we were just kids, seeing each other in passing, hanging out and swimming at the pool at grandma's place. But life takes it turns and my folks took off for Colorado, and then … you know … cousins part ways. From then on out, we just haven't been close enough.
Family is a pretty cool bond though. I've kept up with Ben through the network and tried to stay up to date through Facebook. He's a musician, with a stunningly intimate relationship with his music. He's not popular enough, that's for damned sure.
A few years back, I crossed paths with Ben at grandma's funeral. Apart from the somberness of the occasion, my big take-away was that cousin Ben had in fact turned into a giant. I never knew him as tall — younger than me and all — but he'd clearly outpaced the lot of us and become a skyscraper. But in all that hugeness, he comes with an air of gentleness that simply softens the space around him. I find myself at peace in Ben's company, more relaxed for the time I spend with him, however brief.
That sense memory put Ben high on my list of people to photograph on my trip through Los Angeles, along with his sister Maia and dad, my uncle Jim. We met at Maia's place first and after the initial whatnots we started thinking through the shoot. Maia's LA home is fantastic, brilliant light beats through huge windows at sunset, and these glamorous blood-red curtains make for a perfect filter. Ben picked up the guitar, played a few licks, and there we were.
After this trip, I'm struck with a much more sobering memory of Ben than just his height. His dad — the aforementioned brilliant uncle Jim — has been suffering for some time. Ben has taken up the mantle of support on behalf of so many of us in the family who wish we could do — had done — more. When I look at this photo I see a guy who has poured such love into music that it makes my heart hurt. And when he tells me that no one has ever made a photograph of him with with a guitar, no one has ever photographed this part of his life for him, it reminds me of the sacrifices he's made to support his family, to live with them, to help care for them.
When I think about the model of generosity and gentleness I want to impart in the character of my own kids, it's Ben Peters. I can only hope that somewhere up the genetic path we share, I managed to pass on the humility and kindness that Ben shares with his world every day.
I've been trying hard to get through some of my favorite podcasts that have been stacking in my Downcast stream and stumbled on this one, and interview between Leo Laporte and Phil Libin on Triangulation from August of this year.
In terms of CEO-watch, Phil Libin of Evernote is my favorite right now. What makes this episode of Triangulation worth watching is seeing Phil go into some detail about how the freemium model has ended up working so well for Evernote, how they view their customers and the passion behind the product they make, even the candor with which he discusses the road to and from and back toward profitability in their growth. Worth watching if you're a fan of Evernote or authenticity in company communication—this is refreshing.
I had been singing with Tom Metz for a while before we did our first bit.
He'd joined In The Buff a few years after me and immediately began parading his awesome all over the place. As a performer with a fragile ego, a new kid with awesome exuding from him is enough to challenge a world view.
It's been a long time, and memory is fuzzy. What I remember pre-Tom is an era of being one of the funny guys. I had a series of bits myself, in fact; Pete's Joke Corner (in which I told a joke with smokey jazz backup about a leprechaun and a 12-inch pianist), and MasterPete's Theater (in which I performed metal lyrics in a style loosely reminiscent of slam poetry). There was even rumor at the time that MasterPete's was in the running for a slot on the Contemporary A Cappella Society's humor compilation CD. Didn't happen, but that there was rumor that it could happen is enough for me.
This was pre-Tom.
Then Tom came. The guy is impossibly, magnetically charming. Invite him to a light dinner reading of The Fountainhead and Tom would bring levity dressed up in school-boy awkwardness and leave the room thirsty. You see, Tom has been gifted with more than his fair share of social grace. No, I don't mean he trucks with Emily Post. I mean, he operates in a social context with a surreal fluidity; his humor is precisely timed and rarely off-target, always self-deprecating, and never beneath the audience.
His antics on the performance stage one-up his moves on the social stage, and that's where I feel I met Tom for the first time. Stage lights are for Tom just as Superman's yellow sun: they give him immense power. They sharpen his already keen wit and polish his improvisation.
Tom is not an actor as such. But as I quickly grew to appreciate his gifts on stage and work with him, I began to learn from him. I have yet to come into orbit of someone who has such a gift to connect with people as Tom Metz, and what he has taught me through observation alone makes a catalog of subtlety and nuance that I think about in every broadcast I deliver, every photograph I make.
Insofar as this project is about giving thanks for the people and relationship that have made me who I am today, Tom has given me career-defining insight in how I create for the public. It's a very short list of people that sit in the back of your mind, festering, searching for opportunities to work together again someday.
Tom is at the top of my list.
For this project, there were only three people for whom I had an idea for their portraits from the start, and Tom was one of them. To me, he's always represented this sort of timelessness and class that I associate with gentlemen of the screen—Gable. Bogart. Welles. Tom would have to do the 1940's headshot for me. And to do so in the beat-up CU cap and the trucker-plaid shirt? Icing all the way down.
If you haven't subscribed to Movies We Like, and you're a nerd for movies, you really should. This week, Andy and I take on John Carpenter's The Thing from 1982 to kick off our month of horror flicks. Plus, it's episode 50, which is cool in its own special way.
It's a funny movie, The Thing, not just because of the spider legs coming out of the head, but because of just how well it holds up as a cultural portrait of the state of things. It's a film about paranoia and fear and partisanism; it grapples with what it means to address an opponent who wants to defeat you through assimilation. Come to think of it, I can't think of a better, more appropriate distraction from debate season than a dose of The Thing. Plus, Andy drops "socialism" into the conversation a few times. Can't go wrong with a little alien socialism, my mama always said.
This week was Andy's pick. Next week, it's all mine: 28 Days Later. It's one of my favorite horror films, but certainly my very favorite from the zombie oeuvre.
For the last three weeks, Nikki Kinzer and I have been talking digital clutter on the Taking Control podcast. It's a great discussion, as always, but I'm plagued by the high level. With all these things, there is so much detail lost at the expense of the overview.
I live my digital life at the center of a Venn diagram of methodologies from three guys.
- David Allen: David is the Getting Things Done guy. The general daily, weekly, monthly workflow from David has been central to all my organizing effort for a decade.
- Merlin Mann: Merlin is the Inbox Zero guy. There's a funny thing going on with Merlin right now—I have a hard time knowing whether he's sworn off talk of process in favor of creative. But it should be noted that his take on managing email as a function of GTD and the active work it takes to both stay on top of the signals at the expense of the noise and still feeling freedom above it all is transformational. His podcast, Back to Work on the 5by5 Network is fantastic for creatives looking for ways to find value in their inner-selves. So, it’s strange, but comforting.
- David Sparks: David is Macsparky, a lawyer by trade with a gift for Mac nerdery and penchant for paperless. HIs iBooks ebook, Paperless, is the gold standard for going ... ahem ... paperless on the Mac. Of the 1,324 incredibly valuable tips he delivers in this fantastic book, I've implemented 1,323 of them so far. These three guys are the nexus of inspiration for me. Given the amount of stuff I create—words, images, sound, code—when I’m lost in the muck it’s usually because I’ve lost my internal instructions for processing it all. Going back to a classic from one of these guys is usually enough for me to remember that my peace comes when I’m feeling like I have widgets AND I know what to do with said widgets.
When you listen to the shows this week, know that it’s these guys and so many others that are the foundation for my thinking about these issues. I hope Nikki and my interpretation of these concepts comes as the same support for you.
I met Ted Strand about a decade ago. He's married to my wife's childhood friend, Meg, and as such, we were introduced under parental duress. "Meg and Ted are moving to Portland! You HAVE to go see them! You simply HAVE to go!" That turned out to be a great suggestion.
I count Ted as one of my very best friends. But that's not why he's first in this list. He's first in this list because of good timing and meat.
Ted was a pharmaceutical rep for many, many years. In that role, despite his distinct lack of medical training, he demonstrated to those of us in his sphere an incredible ability not only to memorize complex sets of data, but to digest and interpret that data in speaking to others with more training and experience than he: doctors. In many ways, pharma sold Ted short—he's a problem solver, not a pitch man.
The pharmaceutical sales biz is imploding right now, if you hadn't heard, and Ted's moved on. Now he's into big data, applying that same preternatural gift of internalizing complex data to engineering. This time, he gets to help organizations solve their data troubles and deliver new services to their customers. In my years in marketing, my time training and developing sales people, I've met very few so naturally gifted at the art of transitions, nor so dedicated to helping others solve their most difficult challenges. Ted is one of those people that makes life look easy.
Even with all that going for him, in my view there's no restaurant in town that matches Ted's backyard. He's a guy that takes his meat with extraordinary deliberation. As often as Ted has come when I've needed his support, he's provided salve to my greatest ails with meticulously prepared steak. He's a role model as a professional, as a father to his two beautiful daughters, as a husband, and perhaps most importantly as a chef.
Later this year, I'm turning 40. To celebrate, I'm going for a 5,000 mile drive.
I believe that I am who I am because of the grace, kindness, criticism, and expertise of those around me. I'm taking this year to collect those relationships the best way I know how, in photos, to bring them closer to me, rekindle the old and launch a few new ones. I can only hope that by highlighting the impact that so many people have had on me, I can do so similarly for those in my own sphere.
I'm leaving Portland early the morning of August 27th and heading south. I'll be in San Francisco the next morning, then Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Salt Lake City, Boise, Seattle, and back home, all in under 10 days. This trip is just the start of my year, however. At some point I'll need to make it east. Then France and South Korea. Here's hoping.
Because this initial trip is a bit of a race, I'm not planning on much more than 15 minutes per portrait session. Amazing Race, for sure.
I've already started sending out email requests for time on calendars and have received gracious responses so far. This coming week is the big week, though, lining up schedules and locations and rest stops and showers.
I'll be writing more about the experience here. As for the photos, I'll be publishing them all in my own gallery under the Creative Commons licensure. They'll be making their way into my daily photo project as well.
So, as I get ready to kick this thing off, I suppose I'll close with a quick note of pre-thanks. For all those I'll be shooting, and those I'm sure I'll miss this time around, thanks for all you've done to make me who I am, and for the work you do every day that goes to make my own work better. I'm honored to be in your orbit, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
I guess congratulations are in order. Dom Leca posted on his company blog that Sparrow, the fantastic email client for Mac and iOS, has been acquired by Google.
This is such great news for Dom, Dustin, and their teams. Really, great payoff for the hard work of developing innovative apps that have certainly found a home in my workflow. But this point gets me, from Dustin:
Facebook is an invaluable service that we all use daily, and a company I believe is one of the most innovative and important around today. After visiting late last year, I discovered that we shared many of the same core product design goals and principles, and it soon became obvious that it was a natural fit. Simply put, there’s an opportunity at Facebook to have a big impact in many people’s lives. More importantly, Facebook is full of extremely talented people who will be able to help realize its full potential in the years to come.
I have to imagine Dom shares some of that feeling for Google. It's great. The thing is, the apps that these guys and their teams were turning out were already serving an invaluable service for me and my business. Facebook is a social tool with large and mostly-anonymous teams of engineers. They're doing great work, but for the most part I don't know who they are, and their contributions are completely transparent to me in my daily use.
But Sparrow, Pulp, and Wallet? I invested in those apps, and would have continued to invest in those apps, because they provide a service to me that is direct and tangible. Maybe—maybe—I could make the case with Google. But I'm pretty sure I won't feel Dom's hands in the mix in my use of Google services. I'm dead sure I won't feel the impact of Dom's team at Facebook.
By acquiring these companies, Google and Facebook killed a little bit of ecosystem today. They just absorbed creativity, individuality, and art, and re-branded the energy that comes of it as their own. That's a sad mark on the independent software development community, and a loss to the hundreds of thousands of users who count on these products to continue to grow and thrive.
So again, congratulations. You will be missed.
Marco Arment adds this in his thoughtful post on the issue, which is too good not to update:
If you want to keep the software and services around that you enjoy, do what you can to make their businesses successful enough that it’s more attractive to keep running them than to be hired by a big tech company.
UPDATE: And... they're back. In a weird first-person letter from Bob Mansfield currently on Apple's Environment page:
We’ve recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT.
The problem now is that fewer and fewer Apple products are currently eligible for EPEAT. Apple's next move will likely be to push a changing standard of recyclability into the EPEAT spec so that their products like the Air and the new Retina MacBook Pro are technically eligible once more. It's bold, and it's arrogant, and it's a quick resolution to something that clearly surprised the company.
Here’s the word from CNET:
Apple has decided to stop participating in a major program devoted to the production of environmentally friendly products, reportedly saying that its design direction is no longer in line with the program’s requirements.
Late last month, Apple told the nonprofit EPEAT group that the company would no longer submit its products for green certification from EPEAT and that it was pulling its currently certified products from the group’s registry.
First, let’s not mistake this move as a signal that Apple is suddenly going to be dropping old laptops into the chipper and flushing the shavings into our water supply. They might, but I doubt it. A move like that presumes that the company was only manufacturing according to the green standard because the standard exists. I find that terribly hard to believe—I can’t think of many consumer electronics manufacturers that are outright evil.
I’m writing this on my new favorite computer ever. It’s the new 11.6“ MacBook Air, and I love it as much as I loved my old 10” PowerBook from years back. I’ve owned several laptops between then and now, and this one is the best, fastest, most comfortable of the lot. Much of that love comes from the form factor—the razorblade taper and the full-sized keyboard make for a brilliant combination.
But the thinner Apple makes their machines, like this MacBook Air, the more custom the components have to be—standard hard drives and memory and fans just don’t fit in this device. That makes it hard for outsiders like iFixIt to dig into them, but that doesn’t make them any less disposable. It makes them less disposable for anyone who isn’t Apple.
Apple maintains it’s own recycling program and from everything I can find, that program is not in any danger. Apple pulling out of EPEAT is first and foremost a signal that Apple is best equipped to disassemble and competently recycle their own products, and outside agencies are not equipped to pass judgement on that recyclability. Apple built it, Apple knows best how to tear it apart.
What is the role of the EPEAT certification in the sales process? How many times have you walked into the Apple Store and made a buying decision based on EPEAT rating? Me? Never. Maybe the green statement has cemented my decision as a good one, but it has never been a determining factor. And it’s never, ever come up in a conversation with a floor salesperson. Never.
My sense is that the certification is box decoration, and Apple is confident enough in their internal processes that they don’t need the box decoration to move those boxes. You could make the case that this damages EPEAT more than any other party, which would be a shame. Lobbying efforts on behalf of the environment are important, even if the box decoration is not.
On Build & Analyze #84 this week, Marco Arment and Dan Benjamin talk through the philosophical differences between patent infringement and copyright infringement. It's one of those head-slapping-oh-shit founts of awareness that erupts when you realize you've been gifted with a sense of insight. I spend a lot of time thinking about these issues for a guy who spends zero time actually patenting or infringing patents, but Marco's take on these issues is absolutely worth listening to if you've never found yourself cursed with such an inner monologue.
Let's just say we're out to dinner. Maybe there are a bunch of people with us. I go into one of my charming "dinner scripts", which is great, until I've had a glass of wine too many and I have to break out the B or C-level material. That's when I might say this…
"You know, I used to live in Korea, right? And would watch a lot of local TV… long, hot afternoons and such. So, this one day, I turn on the Korean sports channel and I see this guy in a diaper racing a monkey up a tree to cut down coconuts."
Then there is silence. Cause people think I'm drunk, and they largely see this as another one of "Pete's tales of animal cruelty".
But that's not what it is this time, see? This time, it's real! And now I have proof! It's the annual Man Versus Monkey competition in Thailand!
So watch this thing, and get a load of just how terrific the audience reaction is—the old man is a complete celebrity.
Just when you think you've grown comfortable with the fact that marketing is used more often for evil than for good, you stumble across something like Vytautas Mineral Water from Lithuania and realize that all is still very wrong with the world, but there are things in it that are, in fact, awesome.