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Muppets: Triumph of the Baby Boomers

Who doesn't love the Muppets? Between Sesame Street, the Muppet Show, the films, and other series such as Fraggle Rock (the first US TV series to be shown in the Soviet Union), it's safe to say, “not many.” On Sunday, we visited the nearby Natural History Museum, which is currently hosting the traveling exhibit Jim Henson's Fantastic World, and learned about the man behind the foam and felt, Jim Henson.

Jim Henson's life and career trajectory arcs like a contrived story on the order of Zelig or Forrest Gump, because he always seems to be in the right place at the right time, when, in fact, it's not due to luck, but to hard work, creativity, and a canny sense of when to re-purpose creative ideas, whether successful, failed, or not quite ready when they're conceived. His family had a TV in the early 50s, and his way to get “on the TV” was to do a puppet show, and he got a five-minute slot on the local TV station when he was very young. He went to college to hone his art skills, and then built up a local audience with a show called “Sam and Friends,” and did a lot of commercial work, a lot of which is pretty edgy for its time. Every effort, no matter how small, was a learning experience or an opportunity to hone the craft.

It's almost too easy to connect him with the larger trends of his generation, like the wide-openness of TV in its infancy. Or the jazz-influenced artwork and dialog in the sketches for the local TV work. By 1964, he was interviewed on the Mike Douglas show, looking like a cleaned-up beatnik with a significant beard. Technological developments were also a factor in how the Muppets worked – while Henson studied in Europe to immerse himself in the deep tradition of puppeteering, the Muppets themselves were puppets for TV, built to be more expressive, and ready for their closeups. Also crucial to this expressiveness was the use of small TV monitors so that the puppeteers could observe their own performance and refine it for the way the TV camera saw it. As he built up his company, he also experimented with film in such works as Time Piece (1965) and The Cube (1969) (produced as part of NBC's Experiment In Television). (Both of these are available on iTunes.)

In short, by the early 1970s, Henson was riding the same societal and technological waves as his generational cohorts, and just by following what he wanted to do, managed get into a position where he was either entertaining or educating a large portion of the world's TV viewers.


Writer's Block: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Do you give your vehicles names? If so, what are they?

From current to oldest:

  1. (Dana) Carvey the Honda CR-V
  2. Dion(ne) the Dodge Neon
  3. Lucy the Toyota Corolla (from the previous owner)
  1. Twitter had follower/followed counts at 0
  2. Last.fm is broken
  3. The Netflix “friends” feature is out of service.
ARM blames Adobe Flash for smartbook delays – smartbooks are small laptops (netbooks) that use the ARM family of processors, as found in a lot of handheld devices. Apparently the challenge of getting Adobe Flash to run well on these things, which don't run Windows, is steep enough throw the plans of smartbook makers into disarray.

Tapir / Tapiridae

Tapir / Tapiridae
Originally uploaded by Glatze mit Kamera
It's World Tapir Day! Why doesn't anyone TELL me these things?

Twenty Years Too Late

Q. What did the raver say when he ran out of drugs?

A. This music sucks!

You're welcome!


Exhibit A: Tweetie, which I love in both its Mac and iPhone incarnations. The iPhone version was completely rewritten for version 2, and it's great, but the rewrite was supposed to make feature parity with the desktop version more doable. Well, it's been months, but there's still a lot that Mac version can't do, like new-style re-tweets.

Exhibit B: NetNewsWire: this is another good application in its Mac and iPhone guises. And again, there supposedly was a a new architecture on the way for NetNewsWire 4, but both the desktop and iPhone versions are kind of lagging in refinements and fixes (although Google Reader Sync finally seems to be under control). NetNewsWire 3 was released in 2007.

How Can I Take PBS Newshour Seriously?

The participants aren't shouting at each other…


iPad Chatter

It's pretty reasonably priced, and I think Apple came up with something that does what people usually do with laptops and netbooks, and does it very well. My son has a netbook that is great if you're the size of a kid, but utterly cramped if you're an adult.

For family use, it'll be a little awkward since it doesn't seem to have user accounts like a typical PC operating system. That will probably get fixed in the next year. For now, it's a truly personal computer.

Another cool thing is that the data plan has no contract, and the iPad is unlocked with respect to mobile data providers. But I would not expect this to work on Verizon until they roll out 4G (unless the Verizon's 4G implementation supports any of the AT&T 3G bands, which I doubt).

The Brushes painting app looked really cool, and is exactly the kind of “authoring” to which a tablet computer is suited.

No camera ? Really ? Kind of disappointing.

I'd like to see the Netflix streaming viewer on the iPad.

Are iBooks a new format ? The Kindle app will already work on the iPad – will Amazon make it iPad-savvy ?

The iPad still needs to be tethered to iTunes for a lot of functionality. In the long term, Apple is going to have to have to make MobileMe a more useful conduit for all kinds of data that its customers might first acquire or produce on other devices (like personal computers). This is both an opportunity and a risk, because Google is further down the same path.

From a world domination point of view, Apple must be scaring the crap out of its competitors. Amazon already saw it coming and opened up the Kindle just a few days ago. Part of the reasonable price and performance stems from the fact that they've got their own chip design/fab center now (PA Semi) – that's something you can't just incrementally implement (and with $25+ billion of cash, Apple can buy itself a lot of infrastructure). All your iPhone apps will work on it. Nearly anybody with an iPhone or iPod has an iTunes Store account and thus is ready to spend even more money on content for it. And it will get cheaper and better.


into battle
Daddy-O à Go-Go

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