Tag - art

Japanese art

I recently spent a week in Japan and while there had the opportunity to visit the national gallery in Ueno park, in Tokyo.

The visit was wonderful and I had the chance to see amazing 500-year-old pottery from all over Asia, including this Ming bowl. That, of course, was one of the younger pieces as the gallery has many older pieces, including this incredible 400-year-old jar from the Manjiayoo culture of ancient China:

After touring the Asian sections of the gallery, I went to the Japanese art section, featuring paintings on huge screens or panels – where I was not allowed to take photos. This was fascinating and enjoyable, but … confusing.

I’m used to Western art. While I’m not an expert by any means whatsoever, I can “read” it to a degree … understand it … appreciate it. Japanese painting, on the other hand is very different … in many ways I cannot read it and do not understand it.

Japanese art, especially traditional Japanese art, seems to almost be more about what is not there than what is. In my limited understanding, this does not appear to be negative space in the western architectural sense, though. Rather, the landscape and objects that are not there are not omissions – they are not removed. Rather, my sense of it is that it’s more of a fading away … a merging with the background which is not background but is also foreground.

Later Japanese art from the 20th and 21st centuries seems more detailed, more western. It employs more tricks of perspective to spatially place objects and scenes in a more “realistic” way. It’s more accessible to my Western eye.

Perhaps next time I go to Japan (if I go) I’ll read up on traditional Japanese art and be able to understand it better.

I did notice, however, that other sections of Japanese art, including sculpture and carving, were far more accessible – though I’m certain that I’m missing many things when viewing these as well.

How to blow one balloon inside another

Ethan’s instructions:

1. Blow both balloons up first (to stretch the balloons)
2. Let the air out of both
3. Blow up the balloon that’s supposed to be bigger (on the outside)
4. While holding the outside balloon put the other balloon inside it
5. Blow up the inside balloon6. Blow up the outside balloon just a bit more
7. Tie them both



Getting 6 people together at the same time on the same date at the same place (even if it’s virtual) is like herding cats.

So when a meeting fits in this nicely, it’s like the parting of the Red Sea … especially when our corporate meeting software shows busy times in red:


Now will they get the zen of Apple?

Sometimes it’s hard to convince PC users of the benefits of Apple computers and Mac OS X.

Since their computers are hardly personal, and just tools, and essentially lacking style and personality, they don’t understand, can’t grasp, cannot fit in their brains the concept of an interface that has been obsessively designed to fit, to function, to form an environment that accepts and welcomes people.

Maybe the iPhone will solve this problem. Check out what this Time reviewer says:

The user interface is crammed with smart little touches — every moment of user interaction has been quietly stage-managed and orchestrated, with such overwhelming attention to detail that when the history of digital interface design is written, whoever managed this project at Apple will be hailed as a Michelangelo, and the iPhone his or her Sistine Chapel (Steve Jobs can be Pope in this scenario). If you’re not a reviewer, chances are you won’t even bother to look at the manual. Translucent, jewel-like, artfully phrased dialogue boxes come and go on cue. Window borders bounce and flex just slightly to cue the user where and how you’re supposed to drop and drag and scroll them. When you switch the phone to “airplane mode” (no electronic transmissions, for use on planes) a tasteful little orange airplane slides into the menu bar, then zooms away when you switch out again. (This was so pleasurable that I repeatedly entered airplane mode while using the iPhone, even though I wasn’t actually on an airplane.) As soon as my phone realized it belonged to someone with a nonsense-name like Lev, it started correcting typos like “Leb” and “Lec” to match.

That’s the zen of Apple taken to a whole new level.

jeroen.ca: art | life

My brother-in-law Jeroen Vermeulen is an amazing artist … one of his 8′ x 5′ paintings hangs in my dining room. Here’s a site that I recently put up for him:


More content to come, as per usual. We’ve only got his recent paintings up … nothing before January of this year. That’ll come with time, however. It was important to get this up as soon as possible as Jeroen just had a show in the Netherlands, and some of his paintings are going up for public display and sale here in Vancouver next week.


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PS: Jeroen is pronounced yer-roon. It’s a Dutch name (as is mine, sort of) and Jeroen is originally from the Netherlands.

[tags] jeroen vermeulen, art, website, john koetsier [/tags]

Asheville North Carolina trip

Just came back from a conference in Asheville, NC … up in the Smoky Mountains. It was freezing cold … -10 Celcius with windchill … so I only got out of the hotel once, really, and took these shots as I wandered the town.

Click for a larger image of each:

Thomas Wolfe's house House on a wire Police station in Asheville NC
Across from the police station Derelict building Light door
Dark door Asheville architecture Asheville architecture
Asheville city hall Asheville courthouse Building and tree

steve’d: immediate reaction to Apple’s iPhone keynote

Just finished watching the Apple iPhone keynote. What a masterful Jobsian performance.

Random thoughts as I slowly exit the reality distortion field:

  • want one, now
  • five months is a loooooong time to wait
  • pricing is OK
  • gonna want more space than 8 GB, and soon
  • battery life is a bit of a challenge – this baby will need to be docked every night
  • beautiful, beautiful integration
  • amazing design
  • just to be clear (and to quote his Steveness), I’m not talking about pretty pictures. Design is how it works
  • the third-party app universe is going to be amazing … just like the iPod ecosystem today
  • he got Google’s CEO and Yahoo’s Cheif Yahoo on the same stage, seconds after each other!
  • telecommunications guys are boring
  • Eric Schmidt is boring, too, but at least he was quick

Oh, and one more thing. It probably won’t get to Canada for months and months after it launches in the US. Bleh.

[tags] apple, iphone, steve jobs, keynote, john koetsier [/tags]

Citizen Agency’s new digs

Citizen Agency has finally moved in … and it looks great.

Fun, creative, beautiful, energizing: wow. And that’s just the aesthetics. Here’s what they’re planning on using the space for:

So, here is what we are going to do: have as many amazing gatherings in it as possible…AND open it up to the suggestion that anyone out there who is doing something that is worth a damn in this world can have amazing gatherings in our space. Really. It’s yours. Let’s make some beautiful energy.

Reminds me of when I redid my office space a couple of years ago. (That was when I was managing my company’s tech solutions department – I’ve moved on since then.)

[tags] office, reno, citizen agency, tara hunt, john koetsier [/tags]

If it needs instructions …

I saw this yesterday at Garrett Dimon’s site err blog err portal. I don’t know exactly where.

If it needs instructions, it doesn’t work.

I’m not quite sure what to do with that, but it’s stuck in my brain. So I’m playing it off against some great tools/toys I use:

  • iPod: didn’t look at the instruction manual.
  • WordPress: have rarely if ever looked at the instruction manual
  • My MX-6: only when I needed to change a tire for the first time
  • My Harmon/Kardon stereo/home theatre system: holy mother, yes. Please, I never want to set it up again.
  • My Sony DSC-W1: the first few times, yes.
  • Joe’s Goals (review, site): no instructions needed.
  • My cell phone: I never want a new cell phone. I want a new cell phone. I never want a new cell phone. (Lather, rinse, repeat.)

OK. I think I agree.

Now I need to apply that to my little project.

If it needs instructions, it doesn’t work.
If it needs instructions, it doesn’t work.
If it needs instructions, it doesn’t work.

What else is like that?

[tags] usability, HCI, gadgets, user friendly, john koetsier [/tags]

Johnny Cash: genius

I picked up The Legend of Johnny Cash the other day and have been listening to it ever since.

Very simple, Johnny Cash was a genius.

His song Hurt is absolutely incredible – it blows me away. The honesty and stripped-down baring-his-soul nakedness is out of this world authentic, emotionally true.


(Teresa and I recenty watched Walk the Line, which stimulated my interest in Cash and led me to pick up the CD.)

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[ update July 8 ]

I didn’t know at the time I wrote this that Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails had actually written that song …

Custom iPod skins by iFrogz

I bought the coolest iPod skin today … at the coolest store.

It’s iFrogz, and they sell iPod cases. But not just any iPod cases – custom iPod cases.

First you pick your iPod, then you pick your “wrap” color. The wrap color will be on the front and back of your iPod. You pick a band, which will go around your iPod, and, if you want, you pick a “screen.” The site is heavily Ajax-ed, so it’s fast and all happens on the same page.

Here’s the site:

See that iPod with the custom skin? That’s my custom skin, and here’s a close-up:

Did I mention this was fairly cool?

Here’s the best part: even though it’s custom, it’s still less than a standard 1-color iPod skin … about $30 versus $34.

[tags] apple, ipod, ifrogz, ipod skin, cool, design, john koetsier [/tags]

The future belongs

Eleanor Roosevelt said that the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

Do you dream?

Do you believe?

I think that dreaming is an essential survival skill in business, in work, in life.

I’ve just come through a month without dreams. A month of projects, tasks, requests, work. Basically, stuff.

The problem with stuff is that stuff happens. Stuff accumulates. And then stuff obliterates.

Passion dies. Enthusiasm fades. Curiosity subsides. Joy flees: stuff has conquered. We have seen the enemy, and the enemy is us.

In case the problem for business, for work, is not perfectly clear, here it is: creativity depends on all those good things I’ve just mentioned. Just try to be creative without passion, enthusisasm, curiosity, joy.

Good luck.

Without creativity, nothing new and exciting happens. Without creativity, you are just one more drone in the faceless masses. Without creativity, your business is just one more me-too nothing-new ho-hum big stinking deal.

You need dreams.

You need big beautiful dreams.

And then you need to believe.

When a company has no dreams, there is no belief. Without belief – in something, anything – the company has no soul. Without a soul, it’s a dead man walking, an empty automaton … a skeleton that’s still, somehow, stubbornly, moving.

But don’t expect anyone get excited about it. Not the people who work there – to them the company is a payment on a car, on a mortgage. And if not the people who work there, why the wider world?

You must have a dream. They must be beautiful dreams. And then you must believe. Otherwise, what’s the point? Go flip burgers, and ask would you like fries with that.

This morning, at 6:07, I found a dream. It is beautiful.

And I believe.

Strawberry Frog

A company with a conference table this cool:

And one that is still bold enough to put a Flash movie as the first thing you see on their site (remember skipintro?):

… must be a pretty cool company. And indeed, if you check out their guiding principles (aka ‘frogism’), they are:

1. StrawberryFrog means working SmarterFaster.
2. We are humans – everyone is entitled to fun in their lives.
3. No one is big enough to be independent of others; none of us are as wise as all of us.
4. Ideas can come from anywhere.
5. Ideas need time and space to grow.
6. We spend other people’s money as if it were our own.
7. The best research is subjective, creative, informs and inspires.
8. Be honest.
9. Don’t mistake comfort for good work.
10. When we develop work we ask ourselves: is it wonderful? Does it move you? Does it make you curious? Is it a simple idea? Is it culturally authentic?
11. Keep it simple, not simplistic.
12. Trust your instincts.
13. Take chances.
14. We don’t have to be big; we have to be good and profitable.
15. No excuses.
16. Smile.

I think I would like to work at a company like that. Wouldn’t you?

[tags] strawberry frog, advertising, business 2.0, netherlands, john koetsier [/tags]

Steering committee

Psychedelic rudder

Originally uploaded by johnkoetsier.

Today our steering committee had our regular monthly meeting on our president’s boat, the MoGeo (pronounced Mojo).

He took us to an island across the bay, and then, on the way back, for a little tour of Bellingham Bay.

I snapped this pick of a ship’s rudder … somewhat appropriately, seeing as it was, of course, the Steering committee that was along for the ride …

[tags] yacht, bellingham, cruise, rudder, ship [/tags]

iPod Hi-Fi that doesn’t suck

This is what iPod hi-fi should have been:

Compare that to Apple’s iPod HiFi:

There’s no comparison. Minimalist design can be only so minimalist before it starves to a sad, pitiful, weak little end. And that’s what Apple’s iPod HiFi does, in my opinion.

See more at Geneva’s site. Note that you can actually play CDs in the system … and that it includes an FM tuner.

The stand is just amazing … I have a wonderful Harman Kardon system with Bose speakers, but I’m smacking my lips just thinking about it.

It’s the whole package that makes the Geneva system so much more compelling to me. iPods, CDs, radio: everything I might want to listen to. Apple’s iPod HiFi just isn’t a big enough solution … maybe it’s just too simple.

[tags] ipod, ipod hifi, hifi, home stereo, simplicity, design [/tags]

O Mary don’t you weep no more

I just picked up Bruce Springsteen’s We Shall Overcome (the Pete Seeger Sessions) on the weekend and I’m listening to it now.


If you like folk/world/bluegrass/roots music, don’t pass this up. (And if you live in Canada, like me, you’ll have to buy it in plastic and paper, since it’s not available off the Canadian iTunes music store.)

How could you not love a CD with song like My Oklahoma Home:

. . . Mister as I bent to kiss her,
She was picked up by a twister …

Blurb is out of (private) beta

Blurb is out of private beta … and into public beta.

Blurb is building desktop software that will let ordinary everyday average people (like me) to build and publish books … recipe books, photography books, vacation books, portfolio books, you name it.

I’ve downloaded the software and am building a book. More thoughts later …

(BTW, their site has been updated and still has some hiccups, especially in Safari.)



Originally uploaded by johnkoetsier.

Teresa and I were out shopping this afternoon … our main floor bathroom is about to get blown up and redone.

High time, too …

We saw this sand-blasted glass sink and faucet – beautiful. Unfortunately, due to irritating facets of reality (namely, pipes, placement of, and bathroom, dimensions of) it just won’t work for us.

We await our next home, which we will build, and which will be perfect in every detail.

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(Remember how you make God laugh? Tell him your plans.)

John World Funk Mix

One of the things I did on my recent trip to San Antonio was to visit (quite accidently) the largest Starbucks in North America.

The entire first floor of this Starbucks on San Antonio’s riverwalk is what they call Hear Music. You get your java (or not), sit down at a computer station (stylish flat-screen monitors: network PCs, essentially), and start building your own CD.

It’s not a technological marvel – anyone with a CD burner can do the same. But it’s nicely packaged, there’s a cool selection of music, and you can customize the (cardboard) jewel case as well as the liner notes.

Which is cool, and which I did:

It’s the Texas style to commemorate my trip, but the music is much more world than country.

I called my disk John World Funk Mix, and it includes tracks from Adham Shaikh, Afro Celt Sound System, and Orchestra Baobab.

Very cool, a nice souvenir (small, soon-to-be-digital, useful, and memorable) and a great experience, all for about $15.


While in San Antonio a week ago, one of our local sales consultants took me to the McNay Art Museum.

The McNay has a beautiful collection of works by well-known masters, but one piece that caught my eye in particular was a Renoir. But it was a Renoir with a difference – it was a sculpture.

Renoir started sculpture late in life, when his hands were already almost crippled by rheumatism. He worked with other artists, such as Ambroise Vollard and Richard Guino, to instantiate the visions in his mind.

Here, Washerwoman: