music, technology & life in pasadena, california

The Big Beta Test

This week T*Mobile announced that due to a massive server outage almost all Sidekick data, including email, contact info, events and to-do lists are gone forever, vaporized into the ether of cloud computing. The Sidekick, you may recall, was one of the first phones to offer email and web access, a forerunner of today’s state of the art Apple iPhone.

The lesson here is to make sure that if you rely on a so-called smart phone or web application, you must have a reliable in-house backup method. This applies to services like Google’s Gmail, Yahoo Mail or any of their online services (calendar, to-do, etc) as well. All your info is stored on their servers, nothing resides on your computer. Should a mishap occur, you just can’t rely on that provider’s possibly nonexistent redundancy.

Cell phones…they’re an indispensable convenience in so many ways allowing us to do business from almost anywhere, keep tabs on the kids, get help in emergencies; the list goes on. They’ve been around for how many years now? Then, why is it no matter what phone you use, whether a lowly RAZR or the latest iPhone 3GS, do we still have to deal with dropped calls, voicemail messages that sometimes arrive a day late and other annoying anomalies that should have been taken care of long ago for a service that charges $50 or more per month?

I think it’s a big never-ending beta test.

October 16, 2009 Update: Microsoft, owner of the maker of the Sidekick phone, announced that they would be able to restore most, if not all of the data lost by the server outage.

October 14, 2009 | Link to this entry

Irving Penn: An Appreciation

Late last night I read the news that photographer Irving Penn had died at age 92. Although he was widely known as a fashion photographer, his career spanned many radically different phases but the common thread through all was his clean, spare style and his particular view of the world.

Portraits, still lifes, ethnic studies, nudes, almost nothing escaped the gaze of Penn’s camera and was transformed in the process. Penn was an inveterate experimenter in photographic processes having almost single-handedly, in the 1960s, brought back the nineteenth-century art of the handmade platinum/palladium print.

He was an adept master printer in the darkroom, turning out beautifully luminous photographs on gelatin silver fiber paper, the common black and white photographic paper of the day and used workaday methods such as bleaching and toning to bring his subjects alive on the paper. Penn realized that the art of the photographer lie not only in clicking the shutter but in revealing that image in now seemingly anachronistic alchemic methods which remain unmatched in quality and beauty. The integrity of the artist having a hands-on dialogue with his materials from spark of creation to finished print is Penn’s legacy to all creative persons.

He was known as a perfectionist, but we know that perfection can never be attained no matter how hard we try, for in the moment it is within reach it becomes a sterile and inhuman thing and shatters into fragments. Penn never achieved the perfection he was looking for, but what he did achieve was resonance and there can be no greater achievement for an artist than to have an audience who feels the reverberations of knowingness when they gaze upon your work.

October 8, 2009 | Link to this entry

The Speech

A few weeks ago, as kids across America returned to school to begin another academic year, a fever pitch arose from din to clamor over the President’s then-upcoming address exhorting students to stay in school and work hard.

At first, I was amused by the few comments I read, though even amongst this partisan America, was still surprised, but when all hell broke loose within the next few days I had to step back, take a look and figure it all out.

How could anyone have any objection to any President past or current, addressing students and giving them a pep talk about buckling down, doing the work and staying focused? In recent years Presidents Reagan, GHW Bush and Clinton gave “new school year” speeches without the maelstrom of protest we saw this time around. (GHW Bush’s speech was decried by Democrats post-speech but on the basis of spending taxpayer money for “paid political advertisement” purposes. Bush the W was conspicuously absent from the practice.)

I went to the website of the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank, which had raised one of the first objections. There I found a press release explaining their position.

It seems they were miffed by the Dept of Education’s handouts and lesson plans that were distributed and/or available to teachers to help students prepare for the speech and analyze it afterwards. They objected to the “glorification” of the President by the suggestion that students “read books about Presidents and Barack Obama” and by questions to be answered after the speech, such as “How did President Obama inspire you?”

They didn’t like that the children were asked to make posters about setting “community and country goals” and to “listen to the President and other elected officials”.

Are people actually worried that this will “indoctrinate” our children into “group speak/group think” and social activism of the Democratic persuasion?

Sorry, but this kind of thinking will indoctrinate children into a world of paranoia and a culture of fear that has no place in anyone’s America.

October 6, 2009 | Link to this entry

Back Again

Fall is here, the weather is cooling off in Southern California (finally!) and hopefully I'll have more time to devote to writing. Life stays busy, especially with a six year old daughter, and I've been experimenting with new-to-me antiquarian photo processes, each of which you could devote a lifetime to. I'll be writing about them sometime soon as well as an array of other subjects. At times I may even get a little political...well, maybe not political but c'mon...someone's got to keep a sane take on things, right?

Which brings me to this post...

October 6, 2009 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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