Today: iPhone apps = tricorder; Mad Men

There would be a Diner available in the iTunes department, but the .mac switchover to the unfortunately named MobileMe service has been unimpressive and spastic; can’t upload. An MP3 version will be available at the bottom of the page. I can imagine that Jobs is stalking the corridors of Apple HQ right now pulling off heads and putting them into trash bags until he has half the team responsible for making the thing work; then all he has to do is show the bag to the other half of the team, and they will remove their heads voluntarily. Yes sir. Sorry sir. DON’T RIP IT OFF! TWIST IF OFF! FOR GOD’S SAKE DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHIGN? Yes sir. Sorry sir. Counterclockwise okay with you?

On the positive side: the iPhone upgrades are pretty sweet, and the new apps make the iPhone more like the Star Trek tricorder, without the ability to detect life 40 kilometers that way, Captain, or detect subspace variances. On the other hand, the tricorder didn’t seem able to offer a guitar tuner. You may ask: why do you want your phone to tune your guitar? Wrong question. Once your phone does things like offer visual feedback for pitch control and pipe in internet radio and offer games and the rest, it’s not a phone anymore. It’s a Swiss-Army-Knife gizmo. It may be called a phone, but as I use the device it has no specific identity-defining function, anymore than the computer is a word-processor that happens to do movies. Tomorrow I shoot a video at the Apple Store at the Mall of America about the new iPhone; should be fun.

Finally started watching “Mad Men” last night. I like it. I knew nothing about it except that it was well-reviewed, and everyone smoked unapologetically. Also, they drank. I knew it was about advertising and 1959, and when you combine all those elements, I knew I would have to watch it. The first episode – and I’ll spoil nothing here, don’t worry – was as good as expected, but I wonder if I had the expected, anticipated reaction. When I hear the main character explaining the virtues of advertising, what it does for people, how it reassures them, I thought: well, yes! And good for it! Perhaps I’m supposed to rear back in horror, since we’re all conditioned to believe that advertising is, well, conditioning to believe. Do not trust advertising! Unless it’s for “Mad Men,” of course. I love advertising, as you may have noticed, and I don’t care if it’s fibbery and gossamer promises and eeeevilly calibrated attempts to get me to buy floor wax. Good advertising is art. Advertising sells hope and happiness and optimism, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you can’t see through the artifice and realize it’s a fictional construct, I’m sorry for you and hope you get better.

The first episode concerned an ad campaign for cigarettes, and seemed to be written in a more heavy-handed style than it was actually played. It was, however, factually inaccurate. The Lucky Strikes slogan “It’s Toasted” was not coined in 1959. Here’s an ad from 1931 or so:

A larger version of the entire ad is here. A close-up not shown in the picture above: Smokers in Pleasantville.

And what’s that name at the bottom? You may be familiar with another one of his works.

As long as we're doing cigarette art - a rich and satisfying genre, now regarded like the sacred paintings of a discredited religion - here are a few examples I've been saving for the Institute's Ad Archive. First up, the Floating Torso of Militaristic Satisfaction:

This next one was difficult to fix; the magazine was overcome with the ravages of mold.

America's Busiest cigarette! I smoked a few once, and it was like inhaling the smoke of a California forest fire all at once. I have no idea how people smoked those things, let alone all day, let alone in King-size versions; you'd bark up a quart of lung-sauce after two or three, and after a carton your lungs would be paced with Formica.

Google map image of the day: planned community, or mothership landing site? Not that they're mutually exclusive. There's something very cool & 1969 about the design, and something very 1977 about the fact that it was never finished.

Somehow I doubt they expected the center of the planned community of the future to look like this when it was done:


Thursday was a wearisome day - one column, putting a 4000 word piece to bed,, and after this another column and the morning note. Thursdays are brutal. But! The weekend awaits, and if you care to dip into it, there's a Diner here. I rattled it off this afternoon between obligations. Thirty minutes of palaver and music. Thanks for coming by this week - see you at