Sunday, September 10, 2006

Back in action

I just got back from two busy weeks on the East Coast, and I'm hopelessly behind on sharing great links, or what's on my mind generally. But here's some quick catch-up.

  • I had some long car rides between DC and NYC that I put to good use, listening to the podcasts of the seminars of the Long Now Foundation. They are all riveting and provocative. Stewart Brand is my hero.

  • I had the unexpected scare, and joy, last week of going on a hot air balloon ride with my family in Clinton, New Jersey, close to where I grew up. I got over my fear of crashing quickly, and then only had to worry about my hair catching on fire. But intimations of mortality aside, it was beautiful to see a place I knew well from a completely new vantage point. Every dog for miles barks at a hot air balloon, every kid waves at you, and, in New Jersey at least, you can see every herd of overpopulated deer. I was mid-way through reading Stewart Brand's "How Buildings Learn," so with architecture on my mind, it was fascinating to see what dozens of families had done to evolve their old barns or customize their McMansions. If you want to see how people really live—in other words, what's in their backyards—go on a hot air balloon ride.

  • In his SALT lecture (see above), Kevin Kelly mentions that new tools are more useful to science than new theories. I love how romantic Kelly is about science in general, equating it to the capital-T collective human project. And I think he's right about the impact of new tools, especially considering that I was listening to his months-old talk on an iPod, while I dictaphoned observations into my RAZR. But what interested me most about his comment is how new tools affect not just science and how it's done, but also the arts. One theme I'm trying to bring out in this blog because I'm so fascinated with it is the intersection of the arts, new media, and business. I think all the best thinking and techniques about how to live well and create impact in a post-modern, technologically mediated world have been solved by the performing arts. All of this was on my mind recently when I read an excellent story in the NYT about the actress Vera Farmiga, and how she has carved out a professional and personal journey outside the Hollywood mold. I was particularly struck by how she uses video taping in innovative ways to hone her craft. It's a great article, all the more so to me because I went to high school with Vera, and it's inspiring to see what she's done, and how eloquent and successful she has become, in the last fifteen years.

  • And other high school friends are doing amazingly well. Big congratulations to my friend Chris in London whose social shopping site Crowdstorm went into beta last week and is getting tons of great press. My friend Marc, who I had dinner with in NYC, is making a name for himself as a VP programming at Logo. Beyond high school, another friend of mine is featured without a modeling credit in the latest Trendwatching newsletter on "status skills" which is very much worth a read. Last but not least, has written a review of "The Culture of New Capitalism," with typically great insight about technology, life, work, and integrity.

  • And I haven't forgotten about Second Life. I've visited some amazing places there recently and met some people doing really pioneering work with the platform. More on that soon... but since all my real-world photos from the East Coast trip are ho-hum, here is a pic of my avatar's recent visit to Svarga—a generative, fully functioning ecosystem in Second Life. If Brian Eno were a gardener, this is the world he would create.

    I love the fall, with all its excitement, possibility, warmth, stress, growth.
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