BlogTV Live: Art Stunt Day 1

StudioCam is now broadcasting live, the project has begun. Now you will be able see me painting. And when I say you will see me painting, I mean mostly you will see paint drying. I spend far more time looking at my painting than actually painting. But you will be able to check in over time and see how the painting is progressing. Painting is a slow process.

I’ve got my paper mounted and have started to paint. I like to staple paper to a board and put tape around the edges, so when I finish, it has a nice clean white frame. My photography background is obvious. I’m working in black and white mixed media, using tempra, sumi ink, and various watercolors and gouache. I’m working strictly abstractly, which is the hardest way to paint. At this point, it makes little difference to me how the painting looks, most of this will be covered up and repainted 5 or 6 times before I even get an idea where I’m going.

2:40PM – Working in water media is slow, I have to wait for the paper to dry before I can paint further. This forces me to work more like printmaking, planning the image in layers of a single color of paint. I’m more accustomed to oil painting, where you can work wet on wet and get really good effects. I always try to work with water media like it was oil paint. I remember a long chat with Brice Marden that put me onto this theme. Well, I mostly remember it, we both had too way much to drink. But anyway, I asked him about his Cold Mountain drawings, and he said he liked the immediacy of drawing in ink, how it was like calligraphy in that your first mark was the final mark. But in oil painting, you can continuously work the image until it’s perfect, you can even scrape it down and start over. I decided to prove him wrong, and work on a single sheet of paper continuously, to work the paper and ink as hard as oil paints. Unfortunately, it’s almost as much work as oil painting. More, really, since you have to go to a LOT more work to get nice transparent effects. I wish streaming video had more resolution, it’s impossible to see these effects in the tiny, blurry video image. I just found a way to pump up the rez by killing the blank audio and using full bandwidth for video. I’ll see how it works. When I stop working and take a break, I’ll leave the camera zoomed in so you can see some details.

5:45PM – I’m back in the studio, I’ll do more work on this painting tonight, over the next few hours.

BlogTV: Live StudioCam Test

The StudioCam is live and available for testing. Please click and see if the picture is visible (there is no audio). If anyone comments that they can see the signal, I will begin the project.

Update 9:25PM Apple has just officially released QuickTime 6 and QuickTime Broadcaster. Some features of the Preview Edition may have been disabled, which could explain the streaming problems. I’m upgrading and reconfiguring now, and will continue to work until streaming goes live.

Update 11:15PM The new QuickTime 6 release seems to work, but retains compatibility with QuickTime 5. I will leave the stream running, please click the comment link and let me know if you see the video. Note that you may need to click Play a second time before the stream will start.

(Test successful, links to video removed)

BlogTV Live Broadcast: Art Stunt

Disinfotainment announces the latest exciting experiment in QuickTime streaming video, broadcasting live from my art studio. I will work on a series of paintings live in front of a video camera, over a period of days. You can check in on my progress, watch as the image develops, and get a quick look at how a painter works. I will comment on my work as it progresses, and viewers are invited to leave their own comments.

Some of the most influential films in all of Modern Art are films of famous painters painting. Films of Pollock and Picasso painting on the reverse side of a glass are particularly famous, and have influenced (for good or ill) many painters including myself. There is something mysterious and unknown that happens when painters paint, something mostly unknown to the art viewing public and virtually impossible for artists to explain. Some artists open their studios once a year to allow visitors, but most artists would never allow anyone to watch over their shoulder while painting. Now I am opening not just my studio, but my easel to the public for realtime viewing. At the end of the experiment, I will offer these works for sale at low cost. By prior agreement, the first $150 of any sales will go towards a commercial license for Moveable Type. You can support the arts, and support Open Source software authors too!

I do not know how this experiment will develop. An experiment wouldn’t be worth doing if I knew in advance what I will learn in the process. I am not sure if this will even work. I’ve upgraded my systems to deliver streaming video more smoothly, but this system is based on a preview version of QuickTime Broadcaster, so it is strictly experimental. I will begin with low-bandwidth streams visible over a 56k modem, and plan on increasing the speed and improving quality as the experiment progresses. Please view the Test Stream and please leave a comment if you can or cannot see the live video stream. Yes, the test stream is too dark, this is just a test stream of live TV, the studiocam looks much better than this. I expect to go live and start painting this afternoon, perhaps in only a few hours if I get reports that the test stream is successful.

Update 2:15PM Still working on setting up live streaming, with mixed results. Please keep testing and leave a comment to let me know if you can or can not see the stream.

BlogTV: Bowie’s Strange Request

Tonight A&E presented a live concert with David Bowie, with call-in requests. I was immediately struck by the similarity to some recent blogger blather. Prominent blog pundits have been raving recently about an incident that occurred at a conference. One of the panelists was surfing the web and discovered someone was writing continuous comments on his live presentation, and commented about it in that same presentation. The bloggers gushed about how the barrier between the audience and the presenter was broken. These self-important pundits declared this a watershed event, one declared it was the end of journalism as we knew it. I hear this sort of ridiculous crap every day.

Tonight as I was watching the live Bowie concert, an interesting thing happened. One of the call-in requests came via cel phone from the audience. Bowie discovered the caller, and invited him onstage, interacting with him both by phone and in person.

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What struck me most about this incident was that Bowie pulled the guy right out of the audience and brought him right on stage. This is in stark contrast to the blog conference panelist who imagined himself to be interacting directly with his audience, while he was really many layers of abstraction from that person who was sitting right in the audience. It’s the difference between reality and illusion. The blog pundits are fooling themselves.

On a different note, I was surprised at Bowie’s new band. He dumped the cute backup singers/percussionists and replaced them with a woman with a deep voice. Sometimes you can’t tell when it’s her singing and when it’s Bowie. And his new guitarists suck. But boy do they have some nice instruments. I saw a guitar just like my college roommate had, an 1950s Les Paul SG with triple pickups and a Bigsby. Plus a nice vintage Gibson Explorer. Either of those guitars would sell for well over $20,000. Too bad these rare instruments are wasted, the band doesn’t have synergy. The Bowie at the Beeb concert from 2000 was much better.

BlogTV Direct Access

My access logs show that some people are attempting to directly download BlogTV’s QuickTime files. Sorry, it can’t be done so just stop trying. Even if you knew the names and location of the files, it wouldn’t do you any good, QTSS will serve the files but otherwise they are completely inaccessible. That’s how QTSS works, it firewalls the content from the public except through controlled access.

For political and legal reasons, I am unable to provide freely downloadable files. BlogTV will be a streaming service only so that I can maintain my legal right to present Fair Use excerpts. This is a compromise, it allows me to present excerpts of copyrighted videos while still preserving the copyrightholder’s rights. If I I release redistributable copies, I could be liable for violations under the DMCA. Maybe someday the legal environment for Fair Use will change, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon. We apologize for the inconvenience.

BlogTV: Do Not Bite the Exploding Egg

BlogTV presents this important public safety warning about exploding eggs. FujiTV’s recent exposé Itai SOS [Pain SOS] recreates the disaster that occurred when Akemi-san dared to irradiate and eat the dangerous ovum.

Itai SOS begins with the image of Akemi-san and her young daughter, we can immediately see that there is a threat to this young family. Akemi has come forward to warn the public about a dangerous irradiated explosive that is right underneath our noses, lurking right on our dinner plate. The drama begins with an actress recreating a fake video “flashback” showing how the tragedy happened, when Akemi tried to reheat a leftover hard boiled egg. Everyone knows that an egg will explode if you heat it in the microwave, so she peeled and pierced it to let the pressure out just like you’re supposed to. After heating, she squeezed the egg to see if it was warm and everything seemed fine. She put the egg to her lips and took a bite, and pow the egg exploded, spewing boiling egg yolk fragments as far as 5 meters! Akemi describes her pain, and how her mouth was burned and bleeding so she was unable to cry for help.
FujiTV’s SOS program heard Akemi’s cry and they are here to help. Two culinary engineers dressed in paper haz-mat suits, protective face masks, and heavy rubber gloves are summoned to perform some experiments. In FujiTV’s immaculate stainless-steel kitchen laboratory, three precooked hard boiled eggs are reheated in a microwave oven. The technician attempts to retrieve one egg from the irradiation chamber, it explodes the moment he sets it on the table. A second egg also detonates prematurely, these babies are more unstable than nitroglycerin! On a third attempt, the camera captures the effect in closeup.
A simple animation attempts to explain the physics behind the explosion. A cross section of the egg appears on a green background. As the egg is bombarded with red kryptonite radiation, the infinitesimal amounts of deuterium isotopes in the water in the egg begin a cold fusion reaction, setting off a microscopic thermonuclear detonation. Well, not really, but that is about as accurate as their stupid explanation of the effect.
The explosion really is caused by superheating, a complex phenomenon of the physics of phase changes. When water is heated over a flame, it gradually reaches a boil and turns to steam when the water temperature reaches 212F. But in a microwave, the heat is applied at a subatomic level, the water molecules can reach temperatures above 212F without changing phase from water to vapor. If these “superheated” molecules are jarred or disturbed, they will change from water to vapor in an instant, releasing a huge burst of steam, or even a small explosion. You can sometimes see this effect by making a cup of instant coffee from very hot microwaved water. When you drop in the powdered coffee, the superheated water can boil explosively, the water can gush right out of the cup like a geyser.
Let’s revisit this video from a Japanese linguistic standpoint. Listen for interesting phrases that use onomatopoeia, I particularly like “chin suru.” Chin suru is from the sound of the bell that goes “chin” when your microwave oven is done cooking. They use the expression chin suru like we’d use a slangy phrase like “to nuke.” Akemi uses another interesting phrase, “pan tte hajikeru,” to explode with a bang. Instead of an explosive sound, she almost sings the word “pan” with an upward inflection, you can hear her excitement as her voice rises. Onomatopoetic words like pan and chin are quite common in Japanese and add a lot of nuance to the language.

BlogTV: The Old Man and the War Against The Trees

Japanese society is formalized in many respects, the Japanese language has many ritualized aspects that shape every social interaction. A complex system of “keigo” (respect language) is used in every spoken interaction, and this confrontation between a cranky old man and Tokyo city officials is a perfect example. Even a direct confrontation must be done in the most indirect, nonoffensive manner. The old man speaks gruffly in rough abusive words like “bakatare” (asshole) while the officials are always polite, bowing and saying “shitsurei itashimasu” (pardon my rudeness) even after the old man throws one of them in front of a car.

This old man is furious because because leaves fall on his house and in his gutters and he has to sweep them from his genkan. The genkan is an area inside the front door of every home, where you must take your shoes off and “ascend” into the house. Even though these trees are by a stream across the street, he decides to cut the problem off at its source. He has been sawing limbs off the trees since last autumn, and the city officials are trying to get him to stop it. All along the stream, there is a majestic row of greenery, except in a zone of sickly, gnarled trees for about a block around his house.

Now it is spring, and time for a followup. New damage to the trees is clearly visible, massive limbs have been sawed off, leaving ragged stumps poking in the air. The TV crew asks the old man what he’s doing and he boasts that he’s going to kill the trees and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop him. I wonder how much of this story would have happened without the camera crew egging him on. The old man calls up to tell the City off, with the cameras watching. The City officials know that he’s been cutting down branches, he says there are no lower branches left, so now he’s just going to kill the trees outright. He speaks a guttural “rachaakane-ya,” a corruption of “rachi ga akanai” which is an idiom for “the gate is closed,” he is declaring an end to negotiations. The city official responds with about the politest keigo you can use for a prohibition, “kono toki moshiagemashita you ni.. ano.. katte ni o-kiri ni naru you na koto wa narazu.” Keigo expressions do not translate well, but literally, it says, “at this time, we have humbly told you things such as.. umm.. doing such things as cutting whatever you want, don’t do that.” The old man explodes and starts yelling, “yarimasu! bakayarou!” (I’m going to do it! Asshole!)

Now with extra courage from the TV camera behind him, he goes over and takes a little hand axe over and starts chopping the bark all around the circumference of the tree so it will dry up and die. Soon a delegation from the City shows up to try to get the guy to stop vandalizing the trees. The obsequious official gets nowhere with his polite approach, the old man threatens to punch him. To defuse the situation, an even more polite woman says, “shokubutsu wo sonshou suru koto wa kinjirarete orimasu node, sore wa shinai you ni onegai itashimasu.” Another extremely indirect prohibition, “things such as cutting of trees are humbly prohibited, we beg your indulgence to not do things like that.” She’s practically begging him not to hurt the trees. He shoves his nose right in her face and starts howling, “nan datte?! ningen wa ii no ka dou natte mo.” (What did you say? The People are always right, no matter what). So he gets mad and throws them out into the street, tossing one of them right in front of an oncoming car. The old man retreats into his yard and closes the gate, literally the “gate is closed” to the City officials. They bow and walk off. The officials explain in the politest possible way that this guy has been warned before, and now he is in a heap of trouble. The video ends with the guy wistfully looking up into the canopy of green leaves, he obviously has only one thought: how long until this tree is dead? Even with the denuded trees, this is a shady and peaceful spot to rest alongside a river, a rare enough thing in Tokyo to make it worth preserving. But the old man can only see one thing, a living garbage factory with only one purpose: to foul his genkan. But even if he kills the trees, the dead leaves will still end up in his genkan.

Postscript: I had presumed that this old man was shown on TV to ridicule the extremeness of his views, but alas, it appears that this is more common than I had suspected. I have been informed that the cutting of trees to remove autumn litter is a subject in Alex Kerr’s new book Dogs and Demons. Apparently it is a fairly widespread practice to cut the limbs off trees just before the leaves fall, the trees gradually become top-heavy and stunted. Through anti-environmental acts like this, Kerr argues Japan is at war against nature and itself.

BlogTV: The Curse of Rodney King

I decided to post a preview of my upcoming project, its release was delayed by more than a week. This video is the result of many weeks of painstaking computer graphics work, a job I did long ago. It has not been seen for many years, and this particular version is now in my sole posession. The story of this video’s production is a convoluted tale from a dark time, I will release the story soon, and I will not finish until the tale is told in full. But I have decided to restructure it into a longer multipart tale, to release it over a period of a week or so. Unfortunately, as I began that process, I was delayed by other people’s technical problems which were forseeable, some people like to tempt fate. Their problems will not become any part of this story, that last chapter will be expunged. But the curse has already landed on them as well.
The following BlogTV presentation is a rotoscoped version of the first 7 seconds of the Rodney King video. ISDN-speed users should get a fairly clear image, T1 viewers will be the only ones able to see the full effect. 56k users don’t even bother, you’ll see nothing but a blur, I’m working on a better presentation for ISDN and 56k but this appears to be impossible for 56k. You really need T1 bandwidth for this one. See it now, I’m taking this offline soon, it is not a good idea to publish parts of the last chapter of your story first, especially a first draft.

This is the first 7 seconds of the video, when the cameraman, George Holliday, was fumbling with the zoom and focus. What happened in this blurry section became the major point of the LAPD officers’ defense and the crux of the LAPD4 trials. At the moment the camera starts, you can see the ghostly, blurred images of the officers and King. The police officers claimed that King was upright and attacking them during these 7 seconds, but once the video is rotoscoped, even through the blur you can see that he’s already going down on the ground and taking blows to the head and getting tazered. The camera finally snaps into focus and stability, the video stops here but Rodney King’s ordeal has just begun. Now, for the first time, you will see what really started the Rodney King incident.

BlogTV Flashback: Apple’s Golden Age And How It Ended

I am proud to present two videos from my ancient archives, these videos represent the rise of the Macintosh Computer, and Apple’s downfall in the office market. When these videos were released, they were the latest marketing materials I used daily in my job at the largest Mac dealership in the US, but I suspect these videos have not been seen in public for nearly 15 years. I am presenting these two short videos in their entirety, I am claiming Fair Use since these materials are of no current commercial value to me or Apple, I present them for historical interest and to stimulate scholarly analysis of the current state of the computer market. Those who do not learn from History are bound to repeat it.

Apple’s Golden Age: The Birth of Desktop Publishing
Apple first attempted to explain Desktop Publishing and the Laserwriter with this video released in 1985. This crude video is a low budget production, but the excitement of the product shows clearly through the testimonials of designers. We are treated to a vintage computing demonstration of Pagemaker 1.0 on an original Macintosh 128 with 2 floppy disk drives. Aldus (the producer of Pagemaker) provided demo disks to dealers so we could perform these exact same demonstrations to customers. The effect on customers was astonishing. Nobody had seen anything like it, it was the killer app. Macintosh sales exploded.

Apple truly had a revolutionary product with the Laserwriter and early Postscript-based programs like Aldus Pagemaker. We take DTP for granted now, it is quite a shock seeing its early state and remembering that this used to be impossible. One of the reasons this marketing campaign was so successful was its tight focus on a specialized, expensive, labor-intensive market. Designers responded to this video due to the intimate presentation of the voices of individual users, and their knowledge of how to directly apply the Mac to their work. This was much in keeping with Apple’s new Macintosh GUI philosophy, of focusing on users’ interaction with their work rather than focusing on interaction with the computer. DTP programs used real-world metaphors familiar to designers, they could work like they always had, but quicker and more simply.
But Apple had a problem with the roll-out. Apple would only sell Laserwriters through advanced dealerships, which meant you had to sell and support the Lisa in order to get the Laserwriter. I spent months arguing with management at my dealership to convince them to make this investment. Finally we bought a Lisa, shoved it in the corner, and put the Laserwriter in the central position in our store. They flew off the shelves, we couldn’t keep them in stock. The Laserwriter didn’t really take off nationwide until more dealers got access to the product, when dealership restrictions were relaxed.
Eventually the Laserwriter got up to speed in the market and became one of Apple’s most profitable products. Since the Laserwriter was such an expensive item, it tended to be shared in workgroups with Appletalk networking. Many offices reorganized their networks and work processes around Mac DTP systems, it was Apple’s entryway into corporate offices nationwide. It truly was Apple’s Golden Age.

Apple Loses Its Focus: The “HeloCar” Desktop Media Campaign
Apple and their dealerships had grown fat with profits over the few years that have passed since our first video. It is now 1988 and the Mac II is the top-end product. Apple wants to move into new corporate and creative markets with innovative products like Hypercard, Illustrator 88, scanners, and new color displays. The 1988 video is very polished and professional, it was obviously produced by Apple’s advertising agency, it was released in coordination with a massive national TV ad campaign. It looks beautiful, but became notorious as one of Apple’s worst marketing blunders.
The video ran into problems immediately. The support materials for this campaign were excellent, but when we showed it to customers, nobody could figure out what the campaign was actually selling. Some people who saw the ad on TV actually thought the HeloCar was for sale. But this confusion was only natural, there was no core product, even Apple didn’t know what they were trying to sell. Apple seemed to be on the right track by focusing on how a product could be presented in different media; print, color slides, Hypercard animations, etc. but nobody understood it.

The video does have a few good points. It begins with a demonstration of animated Hypercard storyboards for TV commercials. Everyone could easily comprehend that these simple animated black-and-white images became the TV commercial with Wilford Brimley. Advertising agency workers who saw the video in my shop asked to buy the storyboard software. We had a difficult time explaining, no, this really wasn’t a product, it’s Hypercard and you make your own storyboard software, it’s easy. But Hypercard was too nebulous a product to push in this manner.
The video continues with a corporate executive from Arco explaining the cost savings using the Mac for producing complex corporate documents. The cost savings statistics are riveting, and customers responded positively. But they go off on a tangent about how they have produced thousands of customized maps to show their truck drivers precisely how to drive through each unloading zone. I suspect that these maps were completely ignored by the drivers and regarded as unnecessary managerial interference. There are demonstrations of Hypercard presentations using an overhead projector and LCD panel, this was the only product available for doing serious presentations. Even the LCD projection system was a novelty and very costly at this time. However, I also see an early sign of where this product was headed, when a manager goes to his secretary and says “Make sure each department has a different effect, like a barn door or a wipe.” Style is beginning to triumph over substance. The entire concept of DTP is beginning to lose its focus, under the direction of corporate drones that want glitzy presentations to dress up the same old boring useless information. Welcome to the Dilbert Zone.
But most baffling of all was the interactive training demonstration. Now this was an area I knew well, I’d worked developing computer instructional software since 1975, and Apple’s product was perfect for this application. Apple wanted to push into corporate training markets and I knew that if anyone could market this, I could. But the demonstration was completely incomprehensible to my customers. A trainer from GTE explains how he uses Hypercard to train engineers to analyze air pressurized underground cable conduits. This example application was beyond comprehension, nobody could wrap their minds around it and see how this applied to their own corporate training needs. It was a complete flop in the market. Yet at the same time, Apple’s own training materials were top rate. We usually showed Apple’s own training materials as an example, and customers were even more afraid of it, they feared they could never come up to the level of Apple’s documents.
The video ends with a charming little segment about a woman living on a remote island, she publishes a small newspaper for the few dozen island residents. Perhaps more clearly than the other segments, it presents the essence of what a Mac does for a single computer user. And perhaps this is not surprising since it most clearly represents what was so great about the original 1985 Mac DTP video. But perhaps Apple inadvertently marginalized themselves with the image of the lone old woman on an island publishing a newspaper read by nobody.
I may seem overly critical of this second video and Apple in general, but I am only reporting how it was received in the marketplace by my customers. My store was the largest Apple dealership in the US and the flagship of a large chain, we tested and rolled out many marketing campaigns and it was considered crucial to a campaign’s success that it first succeed at our group of stores. It seems like this second video should have been a smash success, it had all the advantages the first one did not. It was prepared by professionals, it was tested by focus groups so it would appeal to new corporate markets, and backed by the best high-powered ad agency analysts that money could buy. And it was a huge flop. Especially compared to the first video, which is just some people sitting down in front of a camera and saying “hey check out what I can do with Pagemaker.”
In retrospect, I can see that Apple was beginning to lose its focus under an expanding professional management system. I recall hearing a lecture in about 1988 from an Apple VP, he spoke about “predictive reaction.” He asserted that with new complex machines like the Mac II, it was taking up to 3 years to get a new machine to market, so machines needed to be designed to compete with the other machines that other vendors could ship in 3 years. Apple was truly chasing ghosts.
What Apple really needed was to try to understand its own strengths and run with them, instead of presenting itself as an unfocused jack-of-all-trades. Apple actually ran a competition called “The Apple Advantage” to see if successful dealers could create presentations that showed what made the Mac so insanely great. I used this as an opportunity to teach Apple what they had been missing in the design market. I showed what my media-industry customers cared about most: presenting a visually consistent image in every media they produced. Companies like CocaCola and McDonalds spend billions annually to assure their logos on their products connect visually with their advertising media with a consistent appearance. Now this power was available to everyone, and every document a company produced could be a high-impact point of visual contact with the customer. Apple loved the presentation so much they adopted most of it for their next DTP campaign (but that is another long story). But by then, it was too late. Apple’s short-term loss of focus allowed other aggressive competitors to consolidate the office market. It would be a long, dark time before Apple found its true way again.

Special thanks to Nate for help compressing these videos on his nice new Quicksilver Mac. And Steve, I know you’ll read this (and if you don’t, your people aren’t doing their job). Mail me, we should chat. You could use a guy like me.

© Copyright 2016 Charles Eicher