March 30, 2011
Long Live the OLD & Traditional Adirondack Chair
One of my favorite memories (period) is sitting in an Adirondack chair with my grandfather in the Adirondack mountains where I grew up, talking about Indian arrow heads while overlooking a peaceful Caroga Lake at the end of a sunny August day.
The weather was perfect with only a slight breeze and the waterskiiers were coming out for their late afternoon ski when the lake once again turned into a glassy glaze as the wind settled down. I was often one of those afternoon skiiers as a teenager, around the time I had started to ban early mornings. As a kid however, I'd scurry out at dawn ready to take a dozen or so cuts on the not yet touched water we all loved about early mornings on the lake.
We had both just gathered some twigs and dry wood for the fire pit where we'd often cook burgers and kielbasa on an old small grill that my grandad would throw over the pit.
Equally magical to gazing out over the lake in our Adirondack chairs was reading a novel on an Adirondack hammock overlooking the same lake, but that's for another blog post.
Alas, the Adirondack chair. When I was really young, we had about four of 'em, all made of wood, all rustic, some with splinters from wear and tear and years of rain. We painted a couple over the years, always dark green, since that was the traditional Adirondack color (same goes for the hammocks), and as they would fade and the paint would wear away, we often wouldn't touch them up right away since the half painted, half natural wood look and feel of the chairs often told the story of our lives at the camp.
In other words, it was outdoor living: life wasn't perfect, it most certainly wasn't modern, we didn't have central heating, the water tank for the showers was small, the plumbing was outdated, our small TV set rarely got a channel, Internet didn't work and until we sold the place, it had an old fashioned rotary phone. (the one we had since the early 1970s).
The Adirondacks are not modern and to try to throw a modern title, label, or experience on top of "Adirondack" anything feels just plain wrong, at least for someone who grew up there. You can imagine my horror when I received this subject line in my inbox: The Classic Adirondack Lounge goes Eco-Modern. The Eco of course is there to make you feel good about buying it. Take a look at their visual:
All I can say is UUGGLYYY. It feels like Walmart plastered blandness on top of authentic Adirondack wholesomeness. Gotta love the tacky plastic looking orange circular thing with the pretzels next to them to add to all that modernity.
It's not as if I don't love modern things. Sure, my house has more antiques and woods than it does modern pieces, but its a mix. And while I have some classic pieces of art, there are some abstracts (photography and oil paintings), as well as some Salvador Dali-like pottery and toy-ish etchings scattered along my walls.
This felt more like a classic American marketing decision: take something that was and is great and cheapen it, while throwing some fabulous persuasive language (and of course sustainable messaging since "green and eco" are important adds right now) on top of it to make it appear that you're going to purchase something of substance.
The materials may be solid - that's not what I'm arguing here. And, I'm all for environmentally friendly materials. But, let's call a spade a spade and let it have its deserved glory. A little history is in order.
The Adirondack chair (also called the Muskoka chair) is used in rural, outdoor settings. The precursor was designed by Thomas Lee in 1903 when he was on vacation in Westport, New York, in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, and needed outdoor chairs for his summer home.
After arriving at a final design for the then called "Westport plank chair," Lee offered it to a Westport-based carpenter Harry Bunnell, who manufactured these chairs for the next twenty years.
The original Adirondack chair was made with eleven pieces of wood, cut from a single board. It had a straight back and seat, which were set at a slant to sit better on the steep mountain inclines of the area. It also featured wide armrests, which became a hallmark of the Adirondack chair. In searching for a chair that was closer to what I grew up with, I came up with the following image on the web although even this one isn't quite right....ours tended to lean back a bit more but those I found with stronger slants, were painted in shiny colors or their original design was altered.
In the yards, patios and on the docks of all the camps we used to hang out at including our own, the chairs were rustic and wooden, often made by locals. Sadly, more of the modern Adirondack chairs are made out of plastic lumber or engineered wood instead of wood.
There have been so many replicas and variations of Adirondack chairs, that its original design is getting muddled, I guess you could call it a furniture mashup. Take a look at the variations from a Google image search:
Remember that I live my life in the modern technology world where mashups happen in my circles every day. In fact, I may be at an event where a mashup of an old technology and the creation of a new one may occur within the hour and a new way of creating, curating or organizing the web is born before my very eyes. I think mashups are great as long as the original "piece" whatever that is, is honored in some way for what it stood for.
In the case of Adirondack chairs, they are all about life in rustic rural environments and frankly, experiencing the Adirondacks on any lake in a modern home with tons of bells and whistles isn't the same, including the furniture. Of course, the designer of this new modern eco chair Mark Daniel will likely not be impressed by my opinion.
While the sustainable, FSC-certified solid eucalyptus wood with a grey stain which is made in China btw (how ironic for an all American piece of design), may be a fit for some, it doesn't preserve what the Adirondacks is all about.....in my humble local opinion that is.
Long live the old and traditional Adirondack chair for sitting in anything other than an original is like experiencing China in Orlando's Disneyland instead of China itself.
March 16, 2011
#140edu: Conference on the State of Education Comes to NYC in August
The 140 Conference (aka #140conf) is an event that Jeff Pulver started in June 2009 and now he has extended these events into other niche areas such as fashion and now education. His new event, just announced, is 140edu, a conference on the state of education. The event is taking place August 2-3 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City and will explore the "State of Education - NOW," and the underlying effects the real-time web is having on Education. The event website is http://140edu.com.
Ever since the first #140conf event in New York City back in June 2009, I have been looking at the effects of the real-time web on Education. To date, the #140conf events have provided a platform for: students, parents, elementary and secondary school teachers, college professors and high school principals. At a recent #140conf it was said that "in 1920 being illiterate meant not being able to read or write. In 2010 being illiterate means not knowing how to surf the net."
In an attempt to provide more attention and more voices to the educators of the world, they are partnering with Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann) - Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.
Since the birth of the real-time Internet, many educational institutions around the world have found themselves establishing a presence on both Facebook and twitter and have been challenged with the task of having to having to have someone (or a team) represent their school and become their online and physical voice for their students. For many schools this is something both new and challenging.
The growing widespread popularity of cell phones have ushered in the era of both texting and sexting and other related disruptions. Some schools have restricted the use of cell phones in schools while other schools have eventually embraced it.
Some teachers are reachable by their students on their cell phones and remind students of their homework assignments and answer questions about work assignments. The evolution of the 7 AM to 3PM lifestyle to a 24/7 lifestyle is changing the students connect with both other students and their teachers.
Ever since the launch of Facebook, K-12 schools around the world have been dealing with the unintended consequences of "friending" in the classroom and the issues it raises. Facebook forces the issue of "friending," be it between students and students, students and teachers, parents and teachers and sometimes between students and Principals and Parents and Principals. Some schools have banned the use of Facebook and others have embraced it only to realize that students are smarter than school policies and in the end they will decide how they communicate and with whom.
And it isn't only Facebook. Twitter has become a popular platform for educators from around the world to discover and connect with each other. The #edchat chats continue to grow. In a world that has become flat, educators are just a tweet away from each other and each day they continue to discover and explore common ground and are sharing experiences and observations for how to best approach education in the era of the real-time web.
The changes in the way we live our lives must create change in the way we teach and learn. The real-time web should create profound changes in the way we think about what, how and why students and teachers can do, create and communicate. The very nature of what we consider "school" should be radically different given the powerful reach of the communicate tools our students have at their disposal. #140edu is dedicated to exploring and expanding that change.
August 05, 2010
BlogHer10 Kicks Off in New York
BlogHer kicked off today in New York City. Tonight's closing keynote was entitled Being a Social Media Champion. The Focus: integrated social media strategies are slowly becoming the rule, rather than the exception at Fortune 500 companies. The companies that are charging ahead tend to have a couple of things in common: an executive level internal champion, willing to be a social media champion in the C-Suite and the Board Room, and a consultative evangelist who helps them make the case.
Carol Hymowitz, Editor-in-Chief of ForbesWoman, moderated the conversation with Leslie Dance, VP Brand Marketing and Communications at Kodak; Jory Des Jardins, co-founder of BlogHer; Diane Hessan, CEO of Communispace; and Lesley Pinckney, General Manager of Essence.com.
Day One Agenda:
Day Two Agenda:
June 18, 2010
Update on Mayor Bloomberg's Plan for NYC ArtistsThe New York Times reports on the latest of what the Bloomberg administration plans to do about their desire to slash the number of art vendors in New York City parks. I wrote an extensive piece about it in late April when I was in New York and had an opportunity to attend the protest, the hearing and interview a number of artists on-the-ground.
Bloomberg has apparently backed down somewhat from their original plans, but still intends to cut their ranks by more than half. According to the Times, new rules will be released on Friday, which will outline how and where the city will restrict the number of sellers of paintings, photographs, books and sculptures in certain high-traffic areas of four parks.
May 20, 2010
Top Twitter CitiesAs an avid tweeter and someone who has lived in countless countries over the years, I found this chart incredibly fascinating....twitter usage and popularity around the world, starting with London in first place, LA in second place and Chicago in third (a surprise). The rest of the line-up through #70 below.
May 20, 2010 in America The Free, Europe, New York, On Australia, On Branding, On China, On East Africa, On France, On India, On Italy, On Japan, On South Africa, On Technology, San Francisco, Social Media | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack
April 30, 2010
NYC Artists Speak Up: Is American Mediocrity Killing the Artist in Us?I was walking through Union Square about a week ago when I came across the familiar row of independent artists and craftsmen who were out for the day to display their latest creations.
Unique to this stroll around the square, was the enormous number of negative posters slamming Mayor Bloomberg (who btw, is the 8th richest person in the United States) and the Parks Departments for their aggressive move to dislocate the artists from designated areas throughout the city, including Union Square, Central Park, Battery Park, and the Highline.
Check out some videos of President of A.R.T.I.S.T. Robert Lederman and other artists being arrested from protesting (spans 1994-2001). According to information posted on this site, Lederman was falsely arrested 43 times to date, was never convicted and has won 4 Federal lawsuits about the arrests. See objections for proposed park rules for artists.
More information can also be found on the Yahoo Groups page dedicated to NYC Street Artists.
I had a chance to talk to a few artists on that very weekend day as well as at a public protest the following Friday (April 23, 2010), held on West 25th Street just outside the Chelsea Recreation Center. Below are links to a number of videos I shot to bring you up to speed on the issues.
Listen to my interviews with artists David and Eva, who have stalls near each other in Union Square.
Watch my video taken of Robert Lederman who is leading the protest, asking artists to stand up for their rights, as artists stand around shouting ARTIST POWER with protest signs in their hands.
Hear my one-on-one interview with Robert Lederman at the protest.
Lastly, watch my videos (Video 1, Video 2 and Video 3 (Lederman tells his point of view) that were taken at the hearing at New York's Chelsea Recreational Center: people speak to a table of three Parks Boards members addressing the proposal.
Here's what I discovered from numerous conversations over the course of the week.
Mayor Bloomberg and supporters have a commercial interest in moving artists out of the parks. The question is: will they open up those 'free vendor' slots to new 'bidders,' leaving the 80+ artists in Union Square and hundreds of others with few places to go. According to a recent New York Times article entitled A Fight for Art Vendors, a Look to the Past, parks commissioner, Adrian Benepe, "insisted that the department had no plans to license any more vendors for the high-traffic areas in question."
The artists' sentiment is that Mayor Bloomberg does not 'respect' them as artisians, nor do they feel he cares where they 'end up' in favor of a lucrative plan to generate more revenue.
Lederman's voice echoed up and down West 25th Street. He loudly reminded artists that they have rights, that the parks belong to the people, that they've won similar court cases in the past, and that they need to stand up for freedom, which is what he adds, "American is founded upon," and "why you all came here."
"How many artists from Argentina?" he shouted and tons of hands went up. This went on for several minutes as he went from country to country, leaving a chill down your spine as you gazed across a large diverse group of artists holding picket signs from hundreds of cultures across the world.
Personally, I saw, met and talked to artists from Ecuador, Australia, France, Canada, Mexico, Bolivia, Chile, Japan, Romania and South Africa. Some were supporting families on the little they took in from their stall sales.
While many artists had been recently complaining about each other, largely because space is so competitive, they seemed to have bonded together with one unified voice since the recent threat. What occurred to me as I walked through Union Square, was the sense of community. Like a seasonal street fair, neighborhood artists would talk to each other while waiting for tourists and locals to stop by, browse and hopefully buy.
Residents showed up at the hearing, and in front of the Parks Board, they told their story. Residents complained of increased congestion in Union Square and the Parks, which they claim, prohibits a natural path for baby strollers, joggers and dog walkers. Others complained of noise from the crowds that the weekend stalls generated.
The artists argued that the green market and holiday fair created more congestion and one photographer had shots to prove it.
SO, what do I think?
I'm a fan of diversity and I'm a fan of art. Who is to argue whether a poor artist' work is better or worse than one who can afford to pay a high priced rent for his/her stall?
One could argue that if an artist had more money and resources, they might be able to create 'better art,' or could afford to be more creative than a colleague who makes substantially less. Even in cases where that might be true, is that really what art is about?
One could also argue that high bidding 'rent wars' would bring in big corporate vendors, the same kind that are sprawled throughout the rest of homogeneous America. The independent artists of New York City not only fear the loss of their livelihood but the onslaught of art that is average, tacky, cheap and mainstream.....the generic eye candy of Orlando's Kississimee, Times Square's plastic Statues of Liberty and cotton candy dolls found in small town fairgrounds. Or, it could simply be more expensive versions of the same.
It's too early to know, but what I do know is this.
What I witnessed sent chills down my spine because unlike other American urban centers, New York houses so many cultures, its intoxicating what you can learn and discover on one subway ride alone -- if only you remain open to a conversation or two.
Only in New York City do you witness chaos, art, intensity and charm in the same glance and more importantly, a sense that passion and conviction will always win over fear and trepidation.
People don't move to New York City to 'get a job.' They come to create, grow, sing, dance, trade, partner and deal.
It's an active culture that requires you to participate....all the time. Whether it's a conversation on a street corner, in a deli, at a building reception desk, in front of a theater, on the train to Brooklyn, on a bar stool at an Irish pub, or at a restaurant on quaint Elizabeth Street, the engagement is always diverse, and it's almost always 'real.' And, whenever you don't feel that it is, you can call a New Yorker on it and they'll likely meet you half if not all the way.
New Yorkers don't sit on the sidelines and watch. The protest reminded me how much that statement is true about New York culture and how there is no choice but for it to be even truer for artists.
I always wanted to be an artist, most likely a photojournalist shooting wonders under the sea or people on the streets of Soweto during the riots. I didn't go down that path because the entrepreneurial spirit of America knocked louder. For those who understand that knock and how profound our life choices are, it's a gift to know the real truth about yourself and the outcomes of our life choices - art as a hobby because we chose a different path, OR art every day of our lives because we simply couldn't walk down any other path.
It takes courage to live that life every day, one step at a time, often giving up financial security along the way. Artists do that -- they live their inner passion every day. Says Seth Godin in Linchpin, "an artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity and boldness to challenge the status quo. And, an artist takes it personally."
And so, I think it's not just in our best interest to support an artist's dreams, but essential, whether it's the more traditional artists who are protecting their rights in New York City parks or the artist in all of us dying to spend more time creating than performing and following. It's essential that we support, honor and embrace the artist, in order to preserve creativity, independent thought and unique creation, leaving homogeneous lizard brain products, services and art, far far behind in the dust.
Asks Godin, "why is society working so hard to kill our natural-born artists? When we try to drill and practice someone into subservient obedience, we're stamping out the artist within. Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn't matter. The intent does." Hear hear.
April 27, 2010
Gods Creation Embellishes Gratitude & MusicNew York street musicians Dell (lead singer in the orange shirt), Dez (second), Sergio (tenor), Prince (baratone) and Yossef (bass) sing on New York City streets not far from Union Square. They call themselves Gods Creation: 2nd Chance because they all feel they have been given one. Once upon a time, drugs ran their lives. Today, it's music and gratitude.
April 19, 2010
140Conf NYC Kicks off with VIP Party on the East SideNew York's second 140 Characters Conference kicked off last night at Room Service NYC on East 21st, not far from the Gramercy Park Hotel on Lexington Avenue. It seems like most of our festivities this week will be on the East Side.
Everyone wore a badge in typical #140conf style that says I'm a Character, although the room held more than 140 of us and there were tons of video and still cameras shooting throughout the night. MC Hammer graced us with his presence towards the end of the evening when lots of mini-groups jumped in cabs and headed off for food and schmooze.
For those at the 140Conf at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, this memory will bring a smile.
The King of the Show himself
Scott Beale, Steve Garfield
Renee Blodgett, Gowalla co-founder Josh Williams
Alan Weinkrantz, Renee Blodgett, Owen JJ Stone
November 16, 2009
Organizing 2.0: Putting New York in a New Media State-of-Mind
Check out Organizing 2.0, a conference of bloggers and online organizers from the social justice world. The conference aims to serve as a way for organizers to come together and train, while also learning from each other on how to better organize in the world of new media. In a New York state-of-mind so to speak.
April 21, 2009
Blogwell's Upcoming Event on Corporate Social Media
BlogWell's upcoming event in New York on April 29, 2009 will feature eight great case studies in corporate social media, including Nokia, General Electric, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Turner Broadcasting System, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Tyson Foods, and Johnson & Johnson.
Discussions include measuring ROI, managing teams, legal issues, BtoB, working with agencies, and creating great content.
Attendees include: McDonald's, United Airlines, Time Warner, UPS, VH1, ConAgra, Audi, Molson, Procter & Gamble, General Mills, Chevron, Trane, NBC, Barnes & Noble, Wells Fargo, Nestle Purina, Campbell Soup, DuPont, MetLife, Hertz, Walmart, Coach, SAP, American Express, Allstate, Casio, Progressive, Graco, Scholastic, General Mills, ExpressJet, NHL, IBM, and more.