Sunday, March 30, 2008

God Made Me Think Good.

I was at How Stuff Works, looking up how ab exercises work, and a banner ad for Regent University popped up in the left corner. Apparently, Christians do a lot of ab and core work.

Well, their tag line of sorts is "Online. Christian. Learning." I just... I... well first, having the words "Christian" and "Learning" in the same sentence is just wrong. Perhaps they figured that and that's why each word is its own sentence.

Take out "Christian." Online. Learning. That just sounds dumb. Yes. I know I'm learning. That's kind of the point of a University. And make a sentence somewhere! If they had said something that matters aside from the obvious, like "Online. Christian. Muslim-free." I think it would have been a better ad. And is "Apply to your future today" even grammatically correct?! There should be a comma after 'future.' What they wrote means I'm applying to a today that is in the future. And I get what they're trying to say, but applying to your future isn't grammatically solid. It should be "apply for your future." My future is not an institution. This also implies that I can be rejected from my future. Their sentence thus means that I should apply to an abstract thing that exists in a future now.

And just because I'm a marketing and design guy, I'm going to make fun of their actual image. Did they take that photo with a cell phone? It's suffering from so much compression blocking that the two people in back are either melting or suffering from Downs. And the ad itself is as compelling as yogurt! Let's face it guys, the only thing you really have going for you is your Christian bent. You should make that the focal point of the ad because that's what you're really selling. You've got no history, no fame, and your distinguished alumni list has such luminaries as "National Middle School Principal of the Year, Sharon Byrdsong." I would put CHRISTIAN and ONLINE in huge letters.

Man! God may have created the Heavens and the Earth, but he teaches grammar, marketing, and web design really poorly.

I was also surprised to see this ad at How Stuff Works. I always figured that the point of religion is avoiding too much knowledge about things. Ah well. Those wacky religious types. Always catching you off guard.

Oh, and the free issue of Christian Leader Magazine, you're saying that people would otherwise pay for it?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour... An Hour For Earth.

Remember to turn off everything you have for an hour at 8:00pm, whenever that comes for you. No, it won't do much, but if enough people in the US do it, it might let the rest of the world know that we're not all as dense as certain politicians. I feel the need to keep reminding them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New York Times Anomaly

I get the New York Times. I'm a full week subscriber and, recently, I've been getting the Wall Street Journal instead of the Times on random days. It happened again, today, March 26th.

Now, the rational part of my mind says that my delivery dude probably just delivers both the Times and the Journal to this area and gets them mixed up now and then. But, the paranoid part of my mind keeps intruding and conjuring conspiracy theories.

Rupert Murdoch, the closest thing we have to a living member of SPECTRE, recently purchased both the Dow Jones and all its holdings, which includes the Journal. He has made no secret of the fact that he wants to turn the Journal into a competitor for the New York Times, both as an economic and business source and in political bent (read: facism).

So, could he actually be arranging for Times subscribers to "accidentally" receive issues of the Times as a form of guerilla marketing? How far does the conspiracy go? Is he paying off individual delivery men? Is the President involved?? IS BRITNEY INVOLVED???

So, has anyone else been receiving "accidental" issues of the Journal instead of their usual Times?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


There is an article in March issue of Wired, which is available for reading on their website, about a young woman who has autism. She recorded a video, described the world in which she lives, types 120 words per minute (blows me out of the water), and hangs out in Second Life with others like her. She says that just because she has autism, it doesn't mean she's trapped in her own world and that she's no better or worse than us.

About three paragraphs in, I expressed doubts to the veracity of the video and claims; suspecting aid from a caretaker. The article addresses a variety of scientists who also had similar doubts.

The front cover of the magazine has, just above the logo, "The Truth About Autism: Everything You Know Is Wrong." Well, no. Everything I know is not wrong. And aside from the epistemological argument that if it's wrong, you can't possibly know it, I found the title rather absurd.

Autism and autism spectrum disorders are a pattern of behavior. That's it. We can't find anything wrong physically with most patients, and when we do find abnormalities, they're frequently in different parts of the brain. The amount we know about autism is surprisingly small.

I think this is the weakness of the article and the argument that autism is different, not deficient. They make that final point at the end of the article, finally hearing from scientists who say the difference model is even more inaccurate than the arguable inaccurate deficiency model. If we all lived in the wild, and something about you would make you sit there until you died, that means something is wrong with you. If you can't go to the bathroom yourself, eat, or go outside by yourself, something is wrong with you. If communication with the whole of your species is difficult to impossible, something is wrong with you.

I think the aspect of this research that is critically important that was totally overlooked in the article and, in general, in the literature is that autism is likely, in my opinion, not a disorder. It is a whole bunch of disorders. The focus of the article, Amanda Baggs, who recorded the video, is high-functioning. She's obviously intelligent, cna write, communicate, and angrily blog about misperceptions about autistics.

That's great! But what if she doesn't have autism? There are many illnesses that have cold-like symptoms, we don't call all of them colds. I suspect that like many mental illnesses, autism isn't one thing. I more than doubt, I feel highly confident that illnesses like schizophrenia are a family of illnesses. It's just that we understand so little about the functioning of the brain that the best we can do is come up with crude names to describe behavioral patterns. Schizophrenia, schizotypal, schizoid.

Autism spectrum disorder. Spectrum? Spectrum? Could you imagine that sort of nomenclature attached to colds. Instead of influenza, we had cold spectrum illnesses. We don't know anything about this! Instead of focusing on "curing" or "accepting" autism, we should instead be focusing on using autism-like behavior as another window into the workings of the brain as a whole, in hopes of one day getting a grip on its functioning.

The Truth About Autism: Scientists Reconsider What They Think They Know (Wired Magazine)

Harping About Design

I know I'm harping about design, these past few posts, but it is a critically important subject.

Major design has taken two directions: either high-falutin' über-expensive crap aimed at people in Manhattan, or watered-down, mass-market designs aimed at the lowest common denominator. That middle ground is losing out to the large profits to be had on either extreme of the spectrum.

If we could only combine the two extremes and provide fancy designs for the masses. If only! This rant is brought to you by Motorola. Yes, Motorola, a company so caught in design doldrums that there are rumors of them selling off their entire cell phone division. They made the StarTac, then they made the Razr, and have since made shit.

Well, actually, the StarTac was cool, but Motorola's phones have been shitty for some time. The Razr was a shitty phone, it's fancy design just overshadowed that. Then, after everyone tired of the design and all the immitators, everyone realized how terrible the phone actually was. High-falutin' design covering up terrible engineering. I'll give them credit, though, it was high-falutin' design for the masses. The Razr showed it can work!

All is not well, though, as it appears Motorola is planning to shutter its entire UK development and design lab.

Motorola Firing Half its Designers at a UK Facility (

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Tribute

Daisy Daisy, give me your answer do
I'm half crazy all for the love of you
It won't be a stylish marriage
And I can't afford a carriage
But you'd look sweet
Upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two.

It's Not Easy Being Green

In a recent post I said, in regards to a lack of innovation in design, "Housing and architecture is in such desperate need of it the world is now aware of it." While we have plenty of hot, edgey designers, the designs that actually make it into mass production are always sad, pale retreads of existing ideas and directions. We have not had a fundamental shift in general design trends, especially industrial design, in a long time. I attacked housing and architecture specifically because the world is cruising for an environmental bruising, and our houses are some of the worst culprits. As such, this article at SciAm was of special interest.

One thing pops into my head: regulation. The government has one tool, regulation, and when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. DO NOT REGULATE! ENCOURAGE! I have a hard time naming moments when laws actually helped a situation. Instead of simply trying to pass regulation, then, when it fails because it was a dumb fucking idea, blaming the populous who didn't want your plan, enact government funded encouragement. Subsidize environmental building. You can even come up with a cool name that you can make a logo for, like GreenHouse. Give tax breaks, hand out money, sponsor education and workshops. Make an actual difference as opposed to shooting your mouth off.

Green Buildings May Be Cheapest Way to Slow Global Warming (Scientific American)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

More About Cars

In questions about "Cars of the Future," people ask designers about the future of automotive design, the designer than proceeds to lie. For exahmplay, here, Mike from Ohio asks why all cars look the same. This question is directed at Hyundai, who have been one of the most laughably blatant rip-off houses in recent memory. And, oh, lo and behold, one of his answers is CONSUMER ACCEPTANCE. When in doubt, blame the consumer as opposed to your own crap product.

"In regard [to consumer acceptance], one can look at a number of cars in the recent past with styling that was markedly different but was not accepted by the public." Recent past? What cars is he talking about? The Pontiac Aztek, which was selected as one of the 50 worst cars ever made? It failed because it was a piece of crap, not because it was hideous. For all the failures he can mention, I can mention weird-lookin' cars that succeeded. BMW's Z4, the Honda Ridgeline, and the absurd Scion xB were all great successes. They looked different. Don't confuse bad design with different design.

Cars, Again

As I posted a few days ago, I was thinking about automotive design. I was also kind of thinking about “futurists,” or arrogant jackasses who think they know how the world works. I'm a real playa' hayta' when it comes to futurists. Futurists love to talk about cars and if one of them opens their mouths you can rest pretty well-assured that they're wrong.

I wrote about how we need to re-boot design, and the auto industry is a good microcosm to discuss a lack of innovation in industry on the whole. The New York Times has a good slide show on “visions of the automotive future-ture-ture-ture!” and showcases all these hot (literally, they're all quite attractive), young designers and their concept cars as though these cars will ever be made. These are a facade to make people think that real design is taking place. As though real innovations are happening. Ha. A lie, I say!

None of these cars will be made. None. The only one that stands a chance is the Toyota A-BAT because it's quite obviously a sad rip-off of the Honda Ridgeline. There is very little innovation in its sad, pathetic lines. The Dodge Zeo not only stands little chance of being made, there's a good chance Dodge itself won't be around for much longer.

We've been waiting for the cars of the future for sixty years. Every car show, every magazine, every company PR release discusses the future and how “we're working towards it with you!” Bah. It's all shit. The words and the designs. Cars have been nothing more than a constant and measured evolution. Go back 15 years, a round number, and the “future” cars are just as futuristic and unfulfilled now as they were then. They say the concepts tell you where they are “going” with their designs. Too bad they never get there.

Look at the Mustang Mach III concept in the above photo. AMAZING car. Now look at the sad shadow of itself that it presaged for the 1994 model year. They have nothing more than a passing similarity. We need a car company either ballsy enough or desperate enough to really try something new. To actually push the envelope, as opposed to simply using cliched phrases in the brochure to convince you that this family sedan is practically the Enterprise. Do that, and I'll buy! And if you do it, and it's just a half-baked piece of crap, don't blame it on being ahead of its time. Just blame your own sad lack of skills.

WE WON WE WON!... Sorta'

The House recently denied the bill supported by President Hitler to give immunity to the telephone industries who BROKE THE LAW by spying on innocent Americans for der fuhrer and his administration. Obviously, Bush broke the law as well, but since the Democrats are so bloody useless they've been unable to hold him accountable for this severe transgression. Apparently what Bush believes is right, he is above the law.

House Passes Spy Bill, Rejects Telcom Amnesty Despite Veto Threat (

House Denies Warrantless Wiretapping Immunity For Telcos (

Senate Panel Approves Immunity for Spying Telcos (

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

About Obama

Geraldine Ferraro recently said that Obama would not be where he is if he hadn't been black. She has of course been attacked as a racist lunatic and Obama has gone so far as to call her comments wrong-headed.

Umm, no. Not wrong-headed. She's right. Anyone with a clear head, I feel, can see that. The stunning black turnout in Mississippi has shown loud and clear that race has a LOT to do with this election. If he hadn't been black, he wouldn't have won many of the races, it's that simple.

Obama is a very simple candidate based on fancy, abstract words like "hope" and "change." His whole bloody campaign is predicated on these ideas. It's working fine because, ya know, Americans are dumb. I'm not saying Americans are dumb for liking Obama, he's a decent candidate, I'm saying Americans are dumb and as such they easily fall for words.

If he had been white, no one would have looked at him twice. He's a freshman senator, for Pete's sake! I remember reading an article about Obama being the new, default black guy that America lifts from the din to show to everyone how equal-opportunity we are. We did it with Colin Powell and we're doing it with Obama. I have to admit, after the end of the article, I agreed.

I can't really say for sure if Obama is America's feel-good-about-ourselves candidate, because that's just idle speculation. But I can say for sure that he would not be here if he had not had the stunning support of blacks that he's had. Record turnouts from black Americans in almost every primary with a massive majority of them going to Obama. I'm sorry, they're voting with their skin, not their heads. Obama won nearly 90% of the black vote. Oh yeah. Race wasn't an issue, there. And Hillary and Obama continue parading around talking about how race has nothing to do with this, pandering to the feel-good politically correct buffoons who seem to think the hard truth isn't the truth.

It goes both ways, too. The large white turnout for Hillary in Mississippi also means that whites were likely voting with their skin, but it was much worse for black stats. I infer this to mean that blacks are more race-oriented than whites. That means Ferraro's comments hold water. Hillary bowed to pressure saying she disagreed. She's lying, of course, because if she told the truth the politically correct amongst us would call for her head. She said "It's regrettable that any of our supporters - on both sides, because we both have this experience - say things that kind of veer off into the personal"

Um, it's not personal. Look at the data! It might be personal for Ferraro, maybe she hates Obama and just wants to hurt him, but the data dismisses that possibility as irrelevant.

Obama is a man with little meat to his plans, little experience, lots of fancy words, and way too much Bible. By all accounts, he shouldn't be here, that means there must be a reason for his meteoric rise. The only apparent reason is race, and I support Ferraro's comments as as truthful as the data allows.

About Eliot Spitzer

As I'm writing this, Eliot Spitzer has announced his resignation as governor of New York. If you don't know what's going on, read a damned newspaper.

Obviously, this has triggered much discussion on the nature of power, prestige, corruption, and public image. The word corruption is getting thrown around a lot, like at the cited LiveScience article, and I frankly couldn't disagree more. I don't think this story has anything to do with corruption.

The story has a great deal to do with hypocrisy, and I'm glad to see a hypocrite, any hypocrite, take it to the face publicly. I also think the story has to do, primarily, with morals and ethics, not corruption.

For example, look at the definitions of corruption from

1. the act of corrupting or state of being corrupt.
2. moral perversion; depravity.
3. perversion of integrity.
4. corrupt or dishonest proceedings.
5. bribery.
6. debasement or alteration, as of language or a text.
7. a debased form of a word.
8. putrefactive decay; rottenness.
9. any corrupting influence or agency.

Do ANY of those sound applicable? I certainly don't think so. Let's try the meaning of the word 'corrupt,' instead.

1. guilty of dishonest practices, as bribery; lacking integrity; crooked: a corrupt judge.
2. debased in character; depraved; perverted; wicked; evil: a corrupt society.
3. made inferior by errors or alterations, as a text.
4. infected; tainted.
5. decayed; putrid.

Again, do any of those accurately describe his behavior? Nope. I don't think so. Let's run down the list, shall we?

1: Replace 'corrupt' with 'crooked.' I don't think anyone would call him crooked.
2: Wicked?? Evil?? He paid for sex, he didn't kill Jews.
3: Last I checked, he's not a book.
4: If the prostitute hadn't been tested recently, that's possible, but not applicable in the way people are talking.
5: Again, no.

So I think by the very definition of the word that this has nothing to do with corruption. This behavior had no bearing on his public behavior. He accepted no bribes. He did no harm to the populous.

I say it has everything to do with morals because I am of the mind that prostitution isn't bad. It's a service in every way to massage, or even a haircut. When you're on the outside, it's very easy to point figures and be all self-righteous. But when you're in the position to either be a client or a prostitute, suddenly it doesn't seem so bad. Suddenly morals get foggy, as they should be because morals are undefinable.

I have nothing against prostitution. I think it's a valid service that people want to sell and buy, so let them! I have heard a number of arguments against its legalization and they are all wrong. I'm not too keen on going to a prostitute, but I'm sure as hell not going to stop others. He bought sex? Who cares? Would we be pointing fingers if we found out he and his wife were into bondage? I'm sure there would be a few self-important asses willing to do so, but I think most people wouldn't care. There is nothing wrong with prostitution.

Legally, there is, so that's a problem for Spitzer, but morally there is not; and morals is what is being discussed. He is not corrupt, and he is not immoral. He paid for sex. Woop-dee-doo.

Why Power and Prostitution Go Together (

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Answer, My Friend, is Blowing in the Wind

Yup. That whole lack of evidence thing for support of evolution is a real bitch.

Scientists discover plant adapting to city life at a rapid pace (

Architecture as Life

In my recent post, I discussed advancing design in various areas. I thought about Frank Gehry, who has done some of the more iconic work of the 20th century, such as the Bilbao Guggenheim. I then came upon an article at the Project for Public Spaces discussing how the Bilbao museum is a piece of shit. Not artistically, mind you. The author avoids discussion of that to focus on the practical problems of such a strange building and how it has actually damaged Bilbao as much as it helped it.

I agree with the primary assertion that the building sits not to be integrated, but to literally stand out. Obviously, that was the purpose, to stand out and put Bilbao on the international map, but the building stands out in an unfriendly and impractical way. It does not accommodate life, it accommodates itself, and that's it. It has no interest in being part of anything. It is an icon that stands on its own. It has no forums, no public spaces, no areas where people can gather. You go there to marvel and then move the fuck on because there is nothing else to do.

This reminds me of an article about Frank Gehry's supposed arrogance, and how that shows through in a building that is built under the assumption that people should be grateful to have the building, to look upon it, and nothing else. I frequently deride avant garde films because they are tragically self important and tearfully unentertaining. A movie is entertainment. If it is not entertainment, then it is a very long, moving painting. Art is fine, but do not create art under the guise of making a movie, because if you call it a movie, it damn well better be entertaining. Spielberg recognizes this and makes great films that are also great to watch. The self-important wannabe film makers than call him a sellout. I scoff in their face. There's a damn good reason he's rich and you're a loser. Do I sound venomous enough?

Architecture is the same thing. A building must be a building first and art second, or it sucks. I'm sorry. If it's not a building, it's a HUGE fuck-off sculpture that a few people can sort of stand in. Not a building not a building not a building. Any great architectural achievement must, by virtue of being great, be integrated with, be absorbed with, and augment the surrounding area.

Granted, any arrogance on Gehry's part would pale in comparison to Frank Lloyd Wrights supposed arrogance. And Wright was also guilty of architecture as art when he butted heads with an engineer/contractor over some trusses at Falling Water. The engineer said part of the house would collapse unless it was reinforced, Wright disagreed. The Engineer went behind Wright's back and reinforced the building, and today if he hadn't, that section of the house would have likely collapsed. When you're not an engineer, listen to one when he speaks. Jackass.

Seeing Life From a New Angle

Well, I'm not dead. I've been concentrating on my food blog. I think about cars a lot. I'm a man and I figure that this is genetic. One of the things that strikes me is the rut that automotive design is in. I'm not talking about concept designs, those are frequently amazingly inventive, but about actual production cars.

I actually hate concept cars for that very fact. The incredible ideas and designs almost never make it into production. No matter how avant-garde or on-the-edge a car company claims to be, the designs end up derivative. The production cars are always pale shadows of the wondrous concept cars. I also hate how there's this phenomenon is explained by company insiders as a result of fear, fear that a car will be ahead of its time. The examples they inevitably cite are the Cord 810 and Ford Edsel.

They talk as though the Edsel was ahead of its time. The Cord was too fancy-looking. The public just wasn't ready and highlight all these futuristic aspects of the cars to support their idea. Well, no. The Edsel failed because it was ugly, poorly built, and aside from the flying vagina on the front, was a thoroughly conventional car. The Cord would have been a success if not for some serious quality problems, poor funding and terrible dealer support.

No, they were not too tomorrow. In fact, I don't think there's such a thing. Actually, yes. I totally agree with myself. I declare that there is no such thing as "ahead of its time." I say that there are half-baked ideas that become prescient in retrospect, but they failed not because their time hadn't come. They failed because they were irreparably crappy in some important way.

I think the auto industry and industry in general is in desperate need of fresh eyes. People who look at a situation and come up with wildly divergent ideas about providing product to that situation. Imagine a family car with three wheels, the doors consist of the entire side of the car, two seats in front, one in back, and powered by electricity. Or imagine a car that starts life is something the size of a Mini Cooper, but allows for the purchase of modules that simply snap on to the base, extending utility.

And while I say that automobiles triggered this thought line, I mean to extend this to ALL areas of design and life. This is innovation in its purest sense. Apple did a good job of this with the iPhone, but they didn't take it nearly far enough. They completely rethought the cell phone and made their eventual product purely Apple. The iPhone is also a fabulous example of innovation because it was a monstrous success because, surprise, the company actually thought it out and backed it fully! My god! What a novel concept! If it had failed, people would have undoubtedly called it ahead of its time.

This is a cry out to major corporations, not the microscopic, poorly funded ones full of edgy designers fresh from RISD or IT. The little guys are great thinkers but they suck balls at doing business. That's why none of them are successful. Edison had it 100% right. You take your profits and plow them all back into making more inventions. You innovate and you never stop innovating. His electric light was certainly ahead of its time, but he knew business first and invention second. If you make something, figure out how to sell it. If you can't sell it, you're doing something wrong.

What the hell happened to that spirit? We have wide-eyed innovators who couldn't sell fire to Eskimos because the block-headed businessmen are too busy selling them ice cubes. We are in desperate need of a complete re-thinking of our design and engineering in pick a subject. Personal computers need it, rather badly I might add. Housing and architecture is in such desperate need of it the world is now aware of it.

The businesses that develop these technologies get into such ruts that, whether they mean to or not, they never seem to get out. They become locked into a particular rule set that forces them to continue making a product according to what has come before instead of injecting re-thinks into the equation. We're limited by what we can reasonably do, for sure, but even if we dance dangerously close to the limit of practicality, what results can be a reasonable success, foment future innovation, and build strength; e.g. the original Macintosh, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the self-parking Lexus. When innovation is applied to brutal practicality, the result can be so simple it's a wonder that it isn't applied to everything, such as the environmental advances done in the Bank of American tower in New York.

For an object that was not ahead of its time, just stupid, I look to the Segway Human Transport Device. This two wheeled badge of geekiness has been an utter failure. It was hyped to the point of pain and ended up being a complete and total let-down. It's not because Dean Kamen was living in the future, it's because he has a great idea that he just can't package correctly to make it important. It's interesting that two great salesmen, not engineers, were the ones to rip the Segway a new one well before its release: Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos.

To move the world forward, we need a massive meeting of salesmen, to figure out what to make, engineers to figure out how to make it, and designers to package it in a way that truly impresses. If we could do this once a year, technological advance would probably accelerate.