“I sell my soul, but at the highest rates.”

Science fiction author Harlan Ellison has died:

The science fiction genre has lost one of its greatest — and most controversial — authors. Harlan Ellison, who wrote and edited groundbreaking sci-fi anthologies, short stories, and television episodes, died at the age of 84, according to his wife, via an associate.

Ellison was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1934, and published his first short stories in 1949, before moving to New York City to focus on writing science fiction. Throughout the 1950s, he wrote hundreds of short stories, and served in the US Army for two years. In the 1960s, he relocated to California, where he began to write scripts for television shows such as The Outer Limits, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Star Trek. He later served as a consultant for shows such as The Twilight Zone and Babylon 5. Ellison also worked briefly for Walt Disney Studios, only to get fired after a day when co-founder Roy Disney overheard him joking about making a porn film with the company’s characters.

I’m not big sci-fi reader, so I only discovered Ellison about 8 years ago from an interview posted on Youtube:

That clip had a profound effect on me as a graphic designer and artist.

All artists would be wise to heed the words of Ellison. Health Ledger’s Joker also said it nicely, “If you are good at something, never do it for free.”

Netflix, HBO, magazines, publishers, they’re all nothing without the creative output of artists. Sure, I’ve bartered, exchanging the services of someone else for mine, but that’s the exception, not the rule (I did a hair salon’s website for free in 2002 in the East Village in exchange for free $60 haircuts for 8 years).

Know what you’re worth and and get paid for it.

Categories:

Art, Finance

Design Anorexia

iFixIt’s Kyle Wiens wrote a scathing and eye-opening piece on the Macbook Pro Keyboard fiasco:

Thin may be in, but it has tradeoffs. Ask any Touch Bar owner if they would trade a tenth of a millimeter for a more reliable keyboard. No one who has followed this Apple support document instructing them to shake their laptop at a 75 degree angle and spray their keyboard with air in a precise zig-zag pattern will quibble over a slightly thicker design.

This is design anorexia: making a product slimmer and slimmer at the cost of usefulness, functionality, serviceability, and the environment.

A repairable pro laptop is not an unreasonable ask. Apple has a history of great keyboards—they know how to make them. There are very successful laptop manufacturers who consistently earn 10/10 on our repairability scale. Apple fans are already making noise about the dearth of new Macs, especially upgradable options for professionals. Fortunately, Apple seems to be listening with their new warranty program.

I’ve been aware of the keyboard problem in the latest version of the Macbooks since last year, so I’ve known to steer clear of them and stick with my Mid-2015 Macbook Pro.

Aside from the dust problem, I know from riding the Apple Shuttle for an entire year in 2017 that these keyboards are also annoyingly loud. When a coworker told me she couldn’t stand it when her husband was working on his Macbook in the same room as her, I thought she was clearly being dramatic. It couldn’t be that bad.

I was wrong, it could be that bad.

It makes me sad to see certain Apple products as something to avoid (opposed to my iPhone X which is amazing). What’s naive to do, though, is jump on the This-would-have-never-happened-when-Steve-Jobs-was-alive bandwagon. Antennagate happened under Steve, as did MobileMe.

I think Apple is suffering from the hubris a $900 billion company exudes that continues to be the most imitated in the tech industry, so it’s taking more cold water in their faces to course correct when a product is broken. But the sky is not falling and Apple is not doomed. As Kyle notes, Apple knows how to make great keyboards.

The only thing we can do now is wait and see what comes next.

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Product, Technology

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New York continues to trade a rich culture for a culture of rich.

In a piece for Harper’s Magazine, Kevin Baker writes about the continued rise of affluence in New York, at the expensive of diversity, community, and affordability (via kottke):

New York has been my home for more than forty years, from the year after the city’s supposed nadir in 1975, when it nearly went bankrupt. I have seen all the periods of boom and bust since, almost all of them related to the “paper economy” of finance and real estate speculation that took over the city long before it did the rest of the nation. But I have never seen what is going on now: the systematic, wholesale transformation of New York into a reserve of the obscenely wealthy and the barely here—a place increasingly devoid of the idiosyncrasy, the complexity, the opportunity, and the roiling excitement that make a city great.

As New York enters the third decade of the twenty-first century, it is in imminent danger of becoming something it has never been before: unremarkable. It is approaching a state where it is no longer a significant cultural entity but the world’s largest gated community, with a few cupcake shops here and there. For the first time in its history, New York is, well, boring.

Boring is the wrong word and trivializes all the bad things Baker lists out that have happened in New York. I don’t give a shit if New York boring. What pisses me off about New York in 2018 is that it continues to cement it’s status as a playground for the rich.

A culturally “rich” city is the result of diversity: of income, of ethnicity, of trade, of perspective, and many other things. New York continues to trade a rich culture for a culture of rich.

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Community, Finance

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Shortcuts in iOS 12

Frederico Viticci gives a great breakdown of Shortcuts, Siri, and iOS automation in iOS 12 (via DF):

Available in Settings ⇾ Siri & Search, iOS 12 features an option for users to define their own phrases for launching specific shortcuts via voice. This is done by speaking a custom phrase into a Siri recording UI that transcribes the command and creates a shortcut that can be invoked at any time. The Settings app automatically suggests recently used app shortcuts as well as other shortcuts that were previously “donated” by apps. Both recording a custom shortcut phrase and launching the phrase via Siri require an active Internet connection. Once given a custom phrase, user-configured shortcuts appear under the My Shortcuts section in Settings.

The shortcut phrases functionality is the feature I’m most excited about in iOS 12. I use Siri more and more in each subsequent year since it was introduced. My iPhone X is the snappiest iPhone I’ve had yet. What I mean by this is there is very little latency between pressing-and-holding the side button to launch Siri, speaking your command, and Siri executing that command.

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Open Your Mind

An old friend I’ve known since middle school, Dave, emailed me last week to share a discovery. A friend of a friend of his formed a Total Recall tribute band called Realistic Bodies and they made a 17-minute album called Open Your Mind:

If you’ve never seen the original Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger from 1990 (not the shitty remake from 2012) then this album isn’t going to make much sense to you. The original movie is funny and campy in the way only movies from the ’80s and ’90s can be.

Dave and I watched it dozens of times and were constantly referencing all the cheesy lines from it.

“What’s in the two-week package?”

“Baby, you make me wish I had three hands!”

“Ya blabbed, Quaid! Ya blabbed about MAHHHHS!”

Anyway, you had to be there. You can buy the album from their website like me if you dig it.

Categories:

Music

Vivo Nex

What’s the dumbest phone of 2018 (so far)?

The Vivo Nex with it’s ‘pop-out selfie camera’ because your stupid face is so important:

Having a bezel-less pocket computer is so important to Android OEMs that they’re willing jump through ridiculous hoops to achieve it.

Congrats, Vivo. Mission accomplished.

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Product

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Cartoonist Rob Rogers fired for skewering Trump

Cartoonist Rob Rogers was fired over a cartoon he made where he skewered Trump:

Things really changed for me in March, when management decided that my cartoons about the president were “too angry” and said I was “obsessed with Trump.” This about a president who has declared the free press one of the greatest threats to our country.

Not every idea I have works. Every year, a few of my cartoons get killed. But suddenly, in a three-month period, 19 cartoons or proposals were rejected. Six were spiked in a single week — one after it was already placed on the page, an image depicting a Klansman in a doctor’s office asking: “Could it be the Ambien?”

It’s shameful. According to Michael Moore this is the cartoon he was fired for:

Conservatives are worried liberals are trying to take away their guns, meanwhile, I’m worried about conservatives taking away our First Amendment rights. It’s bullshit.

Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain, Chef, Travel Host and Author, Is Dead at 61:

In everything he did, Mr. Bourdain cultivated a renegade style and bad-boy persona.

For decades, he worked 13-hour days as a line cook in restaurants in New York and the Northeast before he became executive chef in the 1990s at Brasserie Les Halles, serving steak frites and onion soup in Lower Manhattan. He had been an executive chef for eight years when he sent an unsolicited article to The New Yorker about the underbelly of the restaurant world and its deceptions.

To his surprise, the magazine accepted it and ran it — catching the attention of book editors. It resulted in “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly,” a memoir that elevated Mr. Bourdain to a celebrity chef and a new career on TV.

This is very sad. From everything I’ve seen and read about Bourdain he seemed like a great person.

When I worked in the Financial District in downtown Manhattan back around 2008-09 I used to take new hires to Les Halles all the time. It was located on John Street but it closed down last year.

Categories:

Food, Humanity

App Store Editorial Design

Khoi Vinh on the caliber of editorial design in Apple’s App Store:

Apple’s dramatically redesigned App Store got a decent amount of attention when it debuted last year with iOS 11, but its unique success as a hybrid of product design and editorial design has gone little noticed since. That’s a shame, because it’s a huge breakthrough.

I myself paid it scant attention until one day this past winter when I realized that the company was commissioning original illustration to accompany its new format. If you check the App Store front page a few times a week, you’ll see a quietly remarkable display of unique art alongside unique stories about apps, games and “content” (movies, TV shows, comics, etc.). To be clear: this isn’t work lifted from the marketing materials created by app publishers. It’s drawings, paintings, photographs, collages and/or animations that have been created expressly for the App Store.

I don’t launch the App Store app very often, but Vinh is right. The art direction and illustrations are solid.

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Art Direction

Conor vs. Khabib

Shaun Al-Shatti reporting for MMAFighting.com:

And according to White, as long as McGregor is able to clear up his legal trouble, a Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor pairing could very well be in the cards for 2018.

“I’m pretty confident that that is the fight that Conor wants, and I’m pretty confident that that is the fight that Khabib wants,” White said. “So, yeah, I could see that happening.”

It’s on.

Categories:

Sports

Learning from Comics

Over at The New York Times, George Gene Gustines explains how comics educated him growing up and how he parlayed it into a job at The Times:

Growing up as a fan of comics equaled being a nerd. This was long before today’s renaissance when comic book characters, particularly superheroes, dominate television and the box office. My family was poor, so my mother was horrified that I wasted money on comics. I would like to make the argument that this was my way of assimilating — my parents are from Ecuador and moved here in 1966 — but I suspect they would’ve been happier at the time if I had any interest in sports (or girls).

This is point I think a lot of kids today don’t understand and something I’ve been told by friends my age (born in the ’70s) who also started reading comics in the ’80s and ’90s.

Besides shaping a very enjoyable part of my career, comics have also taught me a lot.

When I was in school, comics gave me the first inkling of topics that would be covered in depth by my teachers. I learned about the Cuban missile crisis in 1982 thanks to a Justice League time travel adventure. In 1987, an issue of the Young All-Stars, about World War II heroes, taught me about Japanese internment camps in the United States.

There was also plenty of science. I know the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second, thanks to the many “Flash Facts” that were in the adventures of the Flash. I also know that stationary satellites have an altitude of approximately 22,300 miles, thanks to the Justice League’s headquarters in space.

I think there’s still a lot of people who dismiss comic books as ‘kids stuff’ but much like video games — which we all have on our pocket computers — comic books are for everyone.

Categories:

Comics, Education

Essentially Cancelled

From The Verge, The Essential Phone 2 has reportedly been canceled:

Essential has canceled plans to develop a second phone and is exploring selling off the entire company, according to Bloomberg. Much of the details remain up in the air. Talks of a sale sound like they aren’t very far along, and the report says that Essential still has plans for future products.

One thing that does sound certain is that Essential’s second phone — at least as it was originally planned — isn’t going to happen. Bloomberg says the development was canceled and that engineers are now working on a smart home product, which is supposed to be released next year. That may be the Echo competitor that Essential announced a year ago, but which we haven’t heard a word about since.

The Essential Phone shipped months and months after they said it would be available last May, and then when it did launch, they cut the price $200.

Andy Rubin created the Android operating system, and he came to market with a decent phone, but the Android market is very crowded and Rubin clearly was not able to convince people to buy his phone over a Google or Samsung phone.

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Business, Product