January 31, 2008

good read

My sister Jayne gave me the book "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini for Christmas. I used to read books constantly, but I really don't as much as I should anymore. Having a new book to read right before I left for Key West was perfect. I started reading it in the Airport waiting to leave Virginia. Little did I know that by the time I made it to Key West, I would be 3/4 done. The story is set in Afghanistan, and considering it being a somewhat complicated story set in a society I had little understanding of, the author has an amazing way of telling it in a way that completely gets you wrapped in it. Even more brilliantly, he somehow midway through the book changes the main character without you even realizing it - allowing the story to bridge two generations. I appreciated the history lesson the book unknowingly gave me. Although I have known of events in Afghanistan since the 70's, I never really understood all the various changes in rulers and in society there. The book was able to give me an understanding of those changes from the perspective of an ordinary resident. But don't let that dissuade you - the story is a personal tale, not some kind of dissertation on world affairs. You may recognize the authors name because he also wrote "The Kite Runner." I haven't read that yet, but I picked it up yesterday. I really should read more. If you should too, this is a good easy read that's hard to put down.

January 30, 2008

funny alert

I just got an email from my friend and standup comedian (and Bawlmer - er - Baltimore native) Ryan Sickler with news that he will be on the Late Late Show tonight (Wednesday...which I guess is technically Thursday morning). Apparently Jessica Alba had to cancel so they called him to fill in. Ryan was scheduled to be on the Late Late Show a few months ago when the writers strike hit and the show stopped production, so this is an awesome chance for him to get (what I think is?) his first break on broadcast television after having the rug pulled out from under him by the strike. If you get a chance to see it, check him out tonight after Letterman on CBS.
  • ryansickler.com
  • January 29, 2008

    grace period

    I spend a lot of my time working against deadlines. And as part of that, I've become very familiar with all the local FedEx drop locations and cutoff times - or so I thought. I've located the drop box in an office building close to my gym and the nearest full-service FedEx location. And while my ideal dropoff is a street box near my house with a 5:15pm pickup, if I miss that, I can drive to the Airport office to meet the late cutoff at 6:45pm (of course, thats only 10 minutes away). More often than I'd like, I've barely made that 6:45 cutoff after watching the clock and a progress bar as a dvd burned and a disk surface printed, ready to run to my truck and pray for green lights. Yesterday, I pushed it a little too far, not making it out of my house until 6:40. I went to the office anyway, hoping maybe they'd still take the package. I ran in and asked the guy behind the counter if there was any way my package would still make it - it was only to LA after all - and he said "Sure, as long as its a west coast delivery, you're fine until 8:30." What? Nothing on the website said anything about that! No signs in the office mentioned that! But the drive-thru close at 6:45?! All this time rushing for that 6:45 deadline. So... Now I know. And for any of you on the west coast that do the same thing, I figured I'd post the info here: the latest pickup for West Coast shipments is 8:30pm on weekdays and 6pm on Saturdays (at the LAX Airport location on Hindry). And for those of you somewhere else, well, be sure to ask (like I never did) - maybe you'll save yourself the rush next time - or even make that deadline you thought you missed.

    January 28, 2008


    An interesting project here (found via Design Observer): In his piece "Hindsight is Always 20/20," Artist R. Luke Dubois has taken every President's State of the Union Speeches, combined the speeches of each President, and then sorted the frequency of which words were repeated by each President (eliminating united, states, the, his, etc). He then merged those words with the Snelling Chart - the familiar eye chart that uses letters of decreasing size. What he ends up with is a snapshot of the times, and a 'signature' of each administration. Shown here are the pages for FDR, Kennedy, Bush, Clinton, and Bush. As Dubois says, "Looking back, we can use this vocabulary to test the metaphorical eyesight of the nation." You can see all 41 of them here:
  • R. Luke Dubois: Hindsight is Always 20/20
  • January 27, 2008

    trajan horse

    This isn't new, so you may have already seen it. In one of his "Goodie Bag" clips from December, Kirby Ferguson takes movie marketers to task for their overuse of the typeface Trajan. ...And not just for big dramas or blockbusters, but for being strangely ubiquitous in horror movie marketing as well. Its a quick fun watch that is well written for the general viewer, not just the designer. Watch it here:
  • Goodie Bag: Trajan is the movie font
  • January 26, 2008

    a president like my father

    by Caroline Kennedy

    Over the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

    My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

    Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

    We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.

    Most of us would prefer to base our voting decision on policy differences. However, the candidates’ goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual.

    Senator Obama has demonstrated these qualities throughout his more than two decades of public service, not just in the United States Senate but in Illinois, where he helped turn around struggling communities, taught constitutional law and was an elected state official for eight years. And Senator Obama is showing the same qualities today. He has built a movement that is changing the face of politics in this country, and he has demonstrated a special gift for inspiring young people — known for a willingness to volunteer, but an aversion to politics — to become engaged in the political process.

    I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.

    Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.

    I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

    I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

    Caroline Kennedy is the author of “A Patriot’s Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love.”

    January 25, 2008

    another approach

    My place is not far from LAX Airport; in fact, you can see planes take off from the window. Vista Del Mar is a road that runs behind the airport along the ocean, and usually planes fly over you as they take off. I assume because of winds or some weather-related thing, but occasionally (usually during this time of year), they reverse the flight pattern so that planes land in the direction that they normally take off. If you don't notice it from a distance, it can take you by surprise when you're driving along and suddenly theres this huge jet seemingly feet away from you in a place and direction that you aren't used to it being. But even when it isn't by surprise, it can still feel pretty dramatic to see the planes coming over the ocean, lights beaming through cloudy skies, and landing what feels like only feet away.

    January 24, 2008

    good. design.

    A few days ago I stumbled on a website for "The SoCal Fire Poster Project." Essentially its a project where designers and artists donate limited editions of posters (most designed for the project) to raise funds for the recent Southern California Wildfires. There are some great posters at prices that range from $35 to $450 by designers ranging from Modern Dog to Shepard Fairey. If you have some blank walls (I know you're out there - I've seen your house), you might want to consider a chance to do some good and get some good. The project was created by Josh Higgins, who participated in the Hurricane Poster Project for victims of Katrina (which I hadn't heard of, but is really impressive). If you're a designer, they also are accepting submissions, and it looks like the project is meant to grow - so bookmark it and come back to it if you don't see something you like. I wish I had found this one before Christmas.
  • The SoCal Fire Poster Project
  • January 23, 2008

    icu uc-me

    Friday at LAX, my cab pulled up next to this Volkswagen Bug with an odd looking pole on the roof. Anyone who has played with the "Street View" on Google Maps has probably wondered what the vehicle that takes the photos looks like. And you, like I, have probably shuffled through looking for people caught on camera doing - um - unexpected things. After getting back to LA, a google search of Immersive Media, the name on the side of the car, revealed that these weren't for Google Maps, but were for a similar service - of 360 degree video, not photos. (So somewhere out there, theres video of me pulling up next to the camera in a cab and snapping a couple pics). The site even has maps showing highlighted pink routes that they are shooting video of all over the country. Its kind of interesting the areas they choose to completely ignore within the city, while thoroughly doing every block of others. On the other hand, the place I spotted the bug and took these pics is not shown as part of the route on the map (at the red arrow next to West Way) - maybe they decided to add in some other streets - or maybe they were just taking a shortcut, thinking the boss would never know! They should know that someone is always watching!

    January 21, 2008

    taliesin and tea

    With some time to kill in Phoenix today before coming back to LA, I drove out to Scottsdale to check out Taliesin West. Taliesin West was Frank Lloyd Wright's Winter home and Architecture School in the desert from 1937 til 1959. It remains a school, but is also open for tours. I toured it a few years ago, but decided it was time to check it out again. As it would turn out, I needed about 20 more minutes than I had time for in order to do the tour and still be able to get back to the airport comfortably, so I ended up skipping the tour after all. Nonetheless, as you can see, its still quite the sight from the outside; though Frank Lloyd Wright's genius was often in some amazing features and innovations he would create inside his homes. So, with still a little more time left, I popped into a casino for some Texas Tea! After about half an hour, I was about 5 dollars ahead, so I cashed out and headed to the airport and made it back to the lights of LA.

    January 20, 2008

    phoenix gallery

    A few slivers from Phoenix - an odd, but good combination of desert and city, old and new...

    January 19, 2008

    home away

    Well Friday I was back in the air again. Every January is the Phoenix Rodeo, which is one of my favorites. After going to so many rodeos for so many years, there are times when they can feel like a homecoming - running into so many old friends and familiar faces. This year, Phoenix feels that way. I met up with my friend Mark from Ohio and Ben from Denver for dinner at one of my favorite places in Phoenix - Texaz Grill. Its a great place on 16th Street that feels like a hole in the wall steak (and country fried steak) joint in Texas. And the chicken fried steak is huge. Another friend, Marc from San Francisco, is here too. I've known him for years from rodeo - we call him "Bunny" because he's like the Energizer one. A highlight from the night was Bunny taking over the dance floor for a one man show. He couldn't be stopped again today at the Rodeo Grounds - at some point someone got the bright idea of hoisting him up on his shoulders for what looked like a pseudo figure skating routine. Its hard to go too long without laughing. Another year, another rodeo. Its good to be "home"