Monthly Archives: April 2009

Joe versus the Volcano / The Moon Scene

There is something intangible lacking in Joe Versus the Volcano, something not quite right with the direction, that prevented it from being the classic film it could have been. There are parts of it that are so intelligent and beautiful, but it still seems off. Which is a shame, because it has a number of great scenes in it. This one struck me years ago and has stayed with me ever since.

I love Tom Hanks playing with the moon like a toy ball. But mostly I love how he stands up and says, “God, thank you for my life”. A great scene.


Tech Style – the blog I should be writing

For those of you who care about design as much as you care about technology, I highly recommend the blog Tech Style from Style At Home. It’s got all kinds of great stuff, including these pillows! And lots more…

The value of Twitter

What is the value of a telephone? If you were to listen to a random set of phone calls over a day, what would you hear? You’d hear a lot of “Hey”, “Hi”, “How’s it going?”, “What’s up?”, “Not much”, “um”, “yeah”, “no”, “I dunno”, “ok”, “bye” “see ya”. Clearly not much value there.

Worse, not only is the content poor, but, but the interface is useless. You can’t see the person you are talking to, which as we all know is a terrible limitation. To contact them you have to remember this 10 digit number. And you have to pay a fee to have the conversation. Truly awful.

Of course this is absurd. Telephones are essential. We have more and more of them in our lives. And not just for simple exchanges. How many of us have waited by the phone in the hope – or dread – of receiving an important call? And having received it, how many of us have cried or laughed or slumped in relief or yelped for joy? I can remember many such calls. I am sure you can too.

This brings me to Twitter (and for that matter, SMS). So much of it may seem trivial or pointless at times. But I have heard the relief in someone commenting on the revived health of their parents or the joy of a loved one returning or the sadness of a relative dying. I have seen beautiful photos of places and people via Twitpics. I have heard the songs that make people dance and sing and lament via As time passes, I expect to see more ways that these short bursts of text allow me to communicate with others.

So when people write and complain about this or that regarding Twitter I wonder what they are thinking. What I am thinking is that it is a reflection of people and the human condition through this particular medium, just like the telephone or the letter or any other media we use. Sure, it can be mundane. And the tool itself is limited. But what is expressed is often as rich as anything that we can express as individuals. People who miss out on that are missing out on a lot.

I thought of this after reading a number of critical articles at the web site recently. There’s this one (Let them eat tweets), this one (What annoys me about twitter), and this one (To tweet or not to tweet). After I read them, I wrote the above. Clearly they struck a nerve, for some other people wrote some critiques of them at the same time as I did, including this one here (In defense of twitter) and here (Maureen Dowd interviews telephone inventor).

Want to go faster? You need to train

It’s interesting: I can’t tell if the title of this article is what I read (“Want to Go Faster? You Need a Trainer”) or what the link says (“Proper Training Is a Critical Element to Athletic Success“). In my experience, you don’t need a trainer to get faster as a runner (or likely any other sport). However, you do need to properly train.

Training properly doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does help to get some guidance. It doesn’t have to be a trainer, though. For example, if you want to become a better runner, you can ask friends who run seriously for help. You can do research on the web. You can join a running group. You can even ask me. 🙂

All these things can help you go faster. As the article in the says:

If your goal is to be faster, you have to train.”

It’s as simple as that. And yes, you can get a trainer as well. Just don’t believe that the only way you can get fast is by getting one.

Lucy Waverman on Twitter

Lucy Waverman knows food: not only how to prepare it, but how to communicate to others about it. She has appeared on television and has written numerous cook books, magazine and newspaper articles, including the Globe and Mail. I was fortunate to get to know her when we both took informal Italian classes at Grano’s years ago. She’s delightful.

Recently Lucy has taken on a new challenge: using Twitter to talk about food, including the sharing of recipes. For example, here is the classic spaghetti carbonara recipe reduced to a demi-glaze of 140 characters:

Carbonara: 12 oz spaghetti cooked. Mix with 6 slices ch fried pancetta, 3 eggs, ¼C evo, 1C grated parm, S&P. Garnish ch parsley.

Impressive! I think this is another innovative example of what you can do with Twitter. Lucy writes about the experience here: Cooking on Twitter. I highly recommend it.

And what happens when Oprah embraces a new thing, like Twitter?

According to USAToday, quite alot. I think the headline says it all: Oprah effect: 43% jump in Twitter traffic
(You can see the traffic spike up at the end of the line in the great graph from hitwise)

Even with Twitter’s exceptionally strong growth, this was alot.

More good stats can be found in the article.

Recession Era Beauty

If you love blooming flowers, but feel you have to cut back or stop buying fresh flowers, consider Carlos Mota Silk Flowers (featured on The Moment blog at They’re exceptional, if for their price as much as their look. If you want to buy them, you can go here from HSN. 

Iraq and Web 2.0

CNN reports that Twitter, WordPress and other Web 2.0 executives are in Iraq to help country use new media.
It’s part of a mission led by the U.S. State department. Like many places in the world, Iraq doesn’t have alot of homes with Internet access (around 5%) but practically everyone there has a cell phone. That might seem like a serious limit for new media, but it  is becoming less and less of a limitation, based on stories I have been reading concerning places with similar usages of technology.

For more on this story, see the article linked to above. I look forward to seeing more contributions from the people of Iraq, soon: perhaps I’ll get some Iraqi followers on twitter.

P.S. Not sure what Hillary Clinton is apparently “bogging”, though. I suspect she is “blogging”.

Celebrate Shakespeare’s Birthday on April 23rd by…

…well, talking like an Elizabethan. Or what you might think that would sound like. Not sure? CNN has the details here:
Unleash thy inner bard on ‘Talk Like Shakespeare Day’

I think this is almost as good as talk like a pirate day. 🙂

Recession Shopping: 10 Things to Buy Right Now

If you have the money, TIME has a list of 10 things you should buy right now. Some of them are investments (e.g., stocks, houses) and some of them are simply good bargains (e.g., luxury items). As a rule of thumb, the more discretionary something is, the chances are that now is a good time to buy it. So, yes, now is the time to buy that Ferrari that you always wanted. And if that is out of your price range, well, there is always lobster.

The great Muji

Every summer I see people dressed like…well, slobs. There’s little excuse for it, especially if you are near a Muji store. For example, this women’s T-shirt is just over 20 bucks but looks like a million. Get one for jeans and one for a suit. For more details, see The Moment Blog

In case you regret not buying the Brooklyn Bridge….

…you will be delighted to see that the great State of Texas is for sale on eBay. In case you think it is a mistake or a different Texas, read this:

The great state of Texas is for sale. All proceeds will go towards paying off the national debt of the United States of America. Must sell before she secedes! You’ll receive the whole state including all sports teams. Historic sites include the Alamo, Lyndon Johnson’s boyhood home, Bishop’s Palace, and so many more. Think of the income opportunities. The state is also plentiful in both hunting and fishing sites. As an added benefit you can make all your friends real, Texas Rangers. How about that!

So get out your credit card and click here:

The Great State of Texas – eBay (item 170322454911 end time Apr-24-09 10:29:03 PDT)

Better hurry. China might beat you too it. 😉

Laurie Grassi, guest curator at Etsy

Etsy is great. And my friend, Laurie Grassi is great. Put them together, and what do you get? You get this great article:
Etsy :: The Storque :: Spotlight :: Guest Curator: Eco Chic with Style at Home’s Laurie Grassi

Laurie is featuring items both stylish and green. Check it out. And if you want more, check out her blog or the work she and the good folks do at style at home magazine.

The Magic of Goldman Sachs

You can see magic one of two ways: as mystery or trickery. Goldman Sachs recent profitability is certainly magical, but is it due to mysterious forces or is it a trick they have played? That’s what the New York Times is poking at in this Op-Ed Article:  Big Profits, Big Questions.

The poking around is fine and good, but like any good magician, Goldman Sachs will want to bow and move on before anyone has a chance to seriously ask: how did they do that? Having suffered enough from previous incantations from the financial industry, it is time to understand the magic behind this new found profitability of the banks. Now.

Can you work from home and take care of the kids?

Working from home with children around is challenging. No doubt about that. However, there are things you can do that will make it productive for you and provide you for other benefits. Over at is a article titled, Child’s play: How to work from home and take care of the kids that outlines the ten essential steps to doing this. They are:

# Create a separate space.
# Set ground rules.
# Beat back kid noise.
# Install a kidcam.
# Kidproof your workspace.
# Protect pushable PC buttons.
# Lock down your keyboard.
# Kidproof your software.
# Bookmark kid-friendly search engines.
# Block the bad stuff from the Web.

See the article for the details behind each step. It’s good. I recommend one more step: be patient.

Remembering Marian Anderson

The accolades that Marian Anderson deserves are coming. If you don’t know who she is, you should. And if you do, I hope you get an opportunity to get to one of these events honouring her greatness.. See: Concert to pay tribute to late opera singer.

(Link and image: Associated Press)

Why the FDIC is important…

…can be appreciated by reading this article: Worried customers flock to shuttered bank for answers in the Greeley Tribune. No one likes to see a bank fail, but it is much much worse if the bank’s customers go down with it: then you would see panic and despair on full display. Reading this article, you see at best concern and some degree of worry. You can also see what a difference the FDIC makes.

Thanks to David Kurtz from TPM for the pointer (via twitter).

Gotta Have You by The Weepies

When some bands don’t have an official video, you can find fans who make a video of their own. Most times, these videos are simply the song played over some static pictures. However, for the video gotta have you by the weepies, a fan has gone all out and made a sweet video to go with a sweet song. See:

What to wear this summer: the Gap/Whitney Museum T-shirts

As reported on Wallpaper:

Here’s something cool for your summer wardrobe that won’t cost a fortune – the new limited edition graphic T-shirt collection from Gap in collaboration with the Whitney Museum in New York. The shirts feature bold designs by artists like Jeff Koons, Chuck Close, Kiki Smith, Marilyn Minter, Barbara Kruger, Glenn Ligon, Kenny Scharf, and Kerry James Marshall.

I’m on the lookout for the Chuck Close T myself (see the photo). Either that, or the Barbara Kruger. Regardless, you can’t go wrong with one of these. Good move by the Gap.

Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

According to Time, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts has a great show highlighting three master painters of the Renaissance. If you can get to the show, you should. It promises to be spectacular. In the meantime, you can get a sense for it in this photo essay from TIME:  Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese — Rivals in Renaissance Venice.  I am familiar with these painters, but I think the comparing and contrasting of them in this show would provide one with an education and a new appreciation of their work and their time. If you can get to go, you are fortunate.

Yes, you CAN sell your current place and BUY a place in Manhattan….

…because according to this article at, Making a Comeback – $200,000 Studios, there are a number of properties in that price range. Now, are they small? (yes) Overlooking Central Park? (no) Penthouses? (ha!) But this article has found “10 studio apartments in prime Manhattan” that range from $199K to $269K. And they are nice spaces, however small.

In case you were wondering:

“When was the last time I saw these prices?” said Dan Danielli, a broker at Halstead Property. “Not in a long time. Let’s put it that way.”

If you always wanted to live in Manhattan, this is likely as good a time as any. Get more details at the article.

The Incredible Twitter

I have started to notice a backlash against Twitter. Some of the critiques are warranted, but others fault it for things that it is not and cannot be responsible for. But rather than dwell on the negative, I’d like to focus on the positive, specifically this article that Mashable has on the 10 Most Extraordinary Twitter Updates. Even people who don’t use twitter will find it fascinating, I believe. As for people like me, who have been a part of the Twitter movement for some time now (4000+ updates and counting), well…I am happy to have been part of it the whole experience.

And how did I come across this article? Why, from someone else’s tweet, of course! 🙂

AP says the new Hannah Montana movie shouldn’t be reviewed by adults then proceeds to do so

The rules of reviewing a creative work are simple to me, as I read them once before:

  1. What is the work (book, film, etc.) trying to do?
  2. Does it do it?
  3. Was it worth doing it?

From what I see in this review, I get a good sense of points 1 and 2. And based on the discussions that I have been having with my 13 year old daughter, number 3 has already been established, at least for it’s audience Based on that, the new HM film is a critical success.

Faults like “why can’t anyone see that Miley Cyrus is Hannah Montana” could equally be levelled at any number of mistaken identity plot devices in everything from Shakespeare to Superman. Hey, they propel the plot: get your suspension-of-belief hat on and enjoy it!  Likewise for some of the other critiques, albeit gentle ones, in this AP Review: `Hannah Montana’ fans will love new movie.

I just bought the tickets online for her and her friends because the buzz was so great on FB that she was concerned about getting there and having the tickets all gone the way it almost happened for Twilight.

Personally, I would rather go to the dentist than go see it myself. (And I hate going to the dentist). But then again, it is not for me. Or grown ups reviewing films either.

What’s the difference between Pixar (Disney) and Dreamworks?

I think Jason Kottke nails it here in this post: Pixar doesn’t care about Disney’s investors. Dreamworks makes good animated films, but they do have that check-the-box approach. Pixar makes great films, period.

As for toys, McDonald’s is pushing Monsters vs. Aliens toys this week. But as a frequent visitor to Toys R Us, I am surprised to not see M vs A toys there. Then again, I saw lots of Wall-E toys languishing on the shelves months ago. I don’t think there is an easy formula that says these characters from such-and-such a film will be attractive to kids. There is one exception: Star Wars toys command significant space and sell pretty well.

Patrick Watson: Luscious Life

Great video. Great song. Great band.

50 ways to spot how you are making yourself unhappy

Happiness can be elusive,  but misery is easy to self-induce. Indeed, eliminating ways that make you unhappy can allow happiness to shine through. Take a look at this list, 50 Ways To Make Yourself Miserable from the blog: Health Money Success. Try to eliminate or reduce the ones that are predominant in your life. Starting….now!

You just might find yourself happier.

(Photo from Joe Shlabotnik’s photostream on )

How to pronounce Gewürztraminer, Viognier, and all those other wine associated words

It’s easy. Just visit the Glossary of Wine Pronunciation at It’s comprehensive.

The Markets are Up. Is that good?

It appears to be, if you look at this chart and the recent direction of the blue line.

But as Paul Krugman observed, look at the gray line labeled “Crash of 1929”. It too had an upward turn at roughly the same time in the cycle. And indeed, not only that line, but the other lines also had periods of upward trends before the overall trend assumed it’s downward trend.

That said, each economy is different. All we can say is up is better than down, even if up doesn’t necessarily mean we are done with down, yet.

(From The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan (April 02, 2009) – The Markets Are Up)

Why General Motors is Doomed…

…is captured in this chart:

Nate Silver over at FiveThirtyEight has an explanation on why GM’s Problems are 50 Years in the Making. So there is going to be alot of talk about short term steps such as restructing and bankrupcy protection and Chapter 11. But to me, looking at this chart, I see one doomed company. Instead of chapter 11, it’s time for chapter 7. And I think the focus should no longer be about GM (or Chrysler). Instead, the focus should be on Michigan and the American (and for that matter, Canadian) automobile industry.

Jay-Z. Brooklyn (Go Hard)….

…is brilliant. Brilliant song. Brilliant video. And it supports (RED)WIRE. What is smarter than this, indeed. Watch this.

Michelle Obama is smart. Period.

People are tying themselves in knots with regards to Michelle Obama. On one hand, they want to talk about how smart she is in terms of intellect. On the other hand, they want to talk about how smart she is in terms of fashion and a sense of style. The mistake they make is assuming that these two things are mutually exclusive.

Michelle Obama shows how intelligent she is in any number of ways: what she says, how she acts, and how she dresses. Not only does she have a great sense of style, but she has a way of knowing what to wear, when.

Here she is wearing a cardigan by Japanese designer Junya Watanabe.  A cardigan with an argyle pattern is a very traditional thing to wear, especially in England. But this design is also very innovative and bold. Perfect for whom she was meeting at the time.

Like I said: smart.

(For lots more on Michelle Obama at the G20, see here or here.) Heck, you can go on pretty well any major online newspaper and see pictures of her. You can even see pictures of her husband….what’s his name again? 🙂

LBJ and Obama, or how to govern

LBJ knew how to govern. In fact, the way he managed other politicians, either with carrots or sticks, was famously known as the Johnson Treatment (illustrated quite nicely here).

LBJ giving someone the Johnson Treatment

The has a good article (Can Obama Be a Majority of One? – 100 Days Blog – covering the ways that LBJ governed and what Obama could learn from him. Indeed, anyone responsible for the governing of anything from a country to a small town should read this as a primer on how to win political battles and influence other politicians.

There is one obvious error in the article, however. It says: “Unlike L.B.J., he lacks long-time ties to Congressional leaders, which may be one reason his stimulus plan barely made it out of the Senate”. If Obama lacks those Washington ties, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, has them in spades. As does his Vice President, Joe Biden. I think it is less the case of ties and more the case that the U.S. Senate is difficult to manage at the best of times. LBJ was “Master of the Senate”: any president is going to come up short compared to him.

The G-20 “Class Photo”

As CNN aptly describes it. What had me thinking was how they determine who gets to stand / sit where. Obviously QEII gets to be front and centre, and her Prime Minister is her right hand man. And non-heads of states like the head of the World Bank get to go to the back. But why, for example, does Obama get to be in the second row? Or Merkel? I suspect there is alot of thought put into this: I wonder what it is.

The other thing that struck me is how almost ever man is wearing a dark suit and a white shirt. The women really stand out, especially “Liz” who really “pops” in pink. 🙂