Brushes on the iPhone Has Changed my Life

July 20, 2009

There’s something truly magical when you discover a phenomena that could be judged as very technologically small and yet becomes something very big (in the “real world”). Such an incident has occurred around Brushes, an iPhone/iPod Touch application that can create lovely illustrations, deep and emotional in nature, all for $4.99 on the Apple devices at the iTunes store (where I find that it is significantly outselling “Brushes [Never Going Back Again]” by Fleetwood Mac, available for a mere 99 cents).

I first learned about Brushes while visiting New York in June. A colleague who works at a large publisher there happens also to have a significant talent as an artist and showed me several illustrations he had created while standing in line to get into a first-run film. He also directed me to The New Yorker.

Brushes fame was assured when the June 1, 2009 cover of The New Yorker featured an atmospheric Brushes illustration by the amazing Jorge Colombo.


I’m not certain whether The New Yorkerhas published any other Columbo covers since the first, but they’re clearly enamored of his work, as they now devote a regular online feature to it.

Like so many software programs, Brushes does not appear to have been intended for the use that it’s now finding. The manual seems most enamored that you can create a little video that shows how your painting was created. There’s no information in the manual on how to convert your Brushes image into something that can be printed on the cover of a magazine with a 1 million circulation!

What fun…may the technology business spawn a hundred more Brushes!

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The Future of Newspapers from the Perspective of History

January 21, 2009

This week’s New Yorker offers a gem of an article on the historic struggles that newspapers have endured to survive. While the article starts out in the present: “The newspaper is dead. You can read all about it online, blog by blog, where the digital gloom over the death of an industry often veils, if thinly, a pallid glee. The Newspaper Death Watch, a Web site, even has a column titled “R.I.P.”

From that intro it moves quickly into an incident from 1765, when the British “Parliament decided to levy on the colonies a new tax, requiring government-issued stamps on pages of printed paper–everything from indenture agreements to bills of credit to playing cards.”

The story continues.

Not necessarily an antidote to what ails newspapers today, but an historical perspective is always welcome.

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Watching Lawrence of Arabia on Your iPhone

August 23, 2008

I’m catching up on my old New Yorker magazines. I prefer the print version because the best articles are long, and, I think, far more enjoyable to read in print than on the Web (although The New Yorker has become increasingly generous in sharing most of its content on the Web). Today I read a March 31, 2008 essay by the always erudite and often hilarious film critic Anthony Lane examining the career of film director David Lean, who directed many fine films, but is probably best known for Lawrence of Arabia.

I do not watch the Oscars, as the pain outweighs the pleasure, and so missed the incident in this year’s affair, described by Lane as follows: “(The big screen)…That is (the film’s) natural habitat: the only place, you might say, where its proud and leonine presence has any meaning. Anything more cramped is a cage, as Jon Stewart showed during this year’s Oscar ceremony. At one point, we found him gazing at his iPhone. ‘I’m watching “Lawrence of Arabia.” It’s just awesome,’ he said, adding, ‘To really appreciate it, you have to see it in the wide screen.’ And he turned the phone on its side. Deserts of vast eternity, reduced to three inches by two.”

It was a great reminder to me than in this age of Kindles and iPhones and more, there remains an issue of optimal form-factor. I keep seeing comments on blogs from folks who insist that they get as much pleasure from reading an eBook as they would from holding and reading the book itself. I have no reason to doubt them, but they do not sway me. Why do people buy 42-inch plasma TVs if the iPhone is such a great way to watch video? I remain convinced that the best devices for perusing electronic content have yet to be invented, and the current mania for the mini is merely that, a mania (with the possible exception of music).

BTW: Later in the article Anthony Lane reminds us of the marvelous quip by Noel Coward after the premiere of “Lawrence”: “If Peter O’Toole had been any prettier the film would have been called ‘Florence of Arabia'”

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