Friday, April 30, 2010

Obituary: Leslie Buck

The man who designed this cup is dead at 87. Leslie Buck, a holocaust survivor born Laszlo Büch in Czechoslovakia, came up with the Greek design as a marketing director for Sherri Cup in the 60s. The cup's pattern, called the "Anthora," was meant to appeal to New York City's Greek diner owners. It did, and it became a symbol fo the city.

It reached its peak in 1994, the New York Times said, at 500 million cups. Ten years later it dropped down to 200 million, and now, although the cups are still used all over the city, the company offers them only as a special order item.

Interestingly, the Times mentions the cup's small size. In New York, when a to-go cup of coffee is often carried by a pedestrian commuter, those awful "tall" cups from Starbucks stay too hot and hold way more coffee than I ever want to drink in one sitting.

The design is sold on ceramic cups now, some for as little as $12, others for as much $38 -- although it's probably the same damn cup.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Quote of the Day: Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal

“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war.”

That's General Stanley A. McChrystal, as quoted in the New York Times. He's referring to the slide above, a PowerPoint slide from a presentation in Kabul, Afghanistan.

“PowerPoint makes us stupid,” said Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, echoing a sentiment that information design expert Edward Tufte has been advancing for years.

Why is PowerPoint so bad? Here, I offer a bulleted list of reasons, culled from various sources (mostly Tufte):
  1. PowerPoint slides are too small to offer enough information.
  2. By doing everything in bullet points, they force people to gloss over the connective details that give a true, accurate picture of an issue.
  3. As Tufte writes, "PowerPoint templates (ready-made designs) usually weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis."
  4. PowerPoint shuts down discussions and oversimplifies issues.
Tufte concludes that using Microsoft Word would be better: "Serious problems require a serious tool: written reports."

Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster won't use PowerPoint anymore; he told the Times, “It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rock-afire Explosion

A documentary about Rock-afire Explosion, the bizarro animatronic band that performed at Showbiz Pizza restaurants/arcades in the 1980s, is now on DVD. Here's a trailer:

As I understand it, Showbiz merged with Chuck E. Cheese -- its biggest competitor -- in 1984. Miraculously, Chuck E. Cheese is still around, operating more than 500 locations. In fact, it's in every state except Wyoming and New Hampshire. Minnesota still has five and New York has 21, including one in Harlem, one in the Bronx, and one in Brooklyn.

Chuck E. Cheese was founded in 1977 in San Jose, California by, of all people, Nolan Bushnell -- the man who started Atari. Showbiz Pizza began in Kansas City in 1980.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Outside the Polish Consulate today in Manhattan.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Bad Review: The New York Times on The Addams Family

It was just a bad idea. Broadway, which is suffering a drought of original productions, has been getting drunk off revivals and re-imaginings of movies and books. So turning the Addams Family franchise -- which debuted in New Yorker cartoons and became more familiar as television show and then became a couple of mildly entertaining movies -- into a musical was a natural shift. Nevermind that the time to capitalize on its familiarity or box office currency has long past.

No, American audiences in both film and theater enjoy recognizing something they've seen before, as New York Times critic Ben Brantley points out: they "snap along" at the borrowed theme song, applaud the characters' first appearance, and give "thunderous entrance applause" to the minor characters of Cousin Itt and Thing. With an audience this easy, it's no wonder the producers didn't try harder.

I have to second Gawker, which chose this gem of a quote from Brantley's review as the most delicious:
"A tepid goulash of vaudeville song-and-dance routines, Borscht Belt jokes, stingless sitcom zingers and homey romantic plotlines that were mossy in the age of 'Father Knows Best,' 'The Addams Family' is most distinctive for its wholesale inability to hold on to a consistent tone or an internal logic."


Thursday, April 08, 2010

The 2009 Ojibwe Forest Rally

When I noticed a post on the blog A Continuous Lean about Audi rally racing and how the Quattro four-wheel-drives changed the sport in the early 80s, I was reminded of a summer a few years ago when I got to watch a rally race in the Northern Minnesota forests near Bemidji.

The most exciting part was a nighttime section fo the race in dense forest. It would pitch black, and then you'd hear a rumbling. The trees would start to glow, like a UFO landing, and the rumbling would turn into screaming as a rally car reached the crest of a hill near where we were allowed to stand along the narrow dirt trail. All of a sudden, the car would burst over the hill with its rows of high beams blazing. The crowd would gasp and camera flashes would barely capture the action.

I'm still looking for some video online from that year's race, but I did find some great footage from other years in the Ojibwe Forest Rally.

Here's a high-speed rollover from 2009 in which both driver and navigator of this 2001 Dodge walk away unhurt:

And here's some dashboard footage from the same race. This Volkswagen Golf is negotiating some twists in the forest in a night stage.

And finally, here's a great video of an Audi in the Pike's Peak Rally in 1987 (the Audi action starts about 24 seconds in):


Saturday, April 03, 2010

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