Four short links: 16 Jan 2009

Toys, telegraphs, transparency, and travel in today’s roundup of short interesting links.

  1. New Law Could Wipe Out Handcrafted Toy Makers – CNN story on a new consumer safety law that mandates expensive quality tests for components of toys, even those handmade in the US by micro-businesses. It’s not clear what a solution looks like: mass-produced in China or micro-produced in the USA, a lead-filled toy is still unsafe. However, if the cost of proving safety prevents safe toys from reaching the market, the consumer has lost. I wonder what Make and Craft have to say about it.
  2. Bio of Samuel Morse – he was more interesting than I realized. He also came up in Andy Kessler’s How We Got Here, which I just finished reading and thoroughly enjoyed. See also Steven Johnson’s guest post Joseph Priestley and the Open Flow of Ideas on BoingBoing. Understand the history of technology if you wish to understand its future.
  3. Ze Frank’s Explicit – a serious blog by Ze, where he talks about how he does what he does. I had always thought of Ze as a funny guy, based on his video podcasts, but when I met him at Foo Camp I realized he was a performer. George Clooney isn’t a bankrobber like Danny Ocean. Sarah Michelle Gellar doesn’t slay vampires like Buffy does. Miley Cyrus isn’t a teen musical superstar like Hannah Mon… ok, some actors are like their characters, but most aren’t. Ze takes performance seriously whether it’s on the web, on video, in person, or on Twitter–he consciously approaches it as a task, and deliberately chooses how he does it. Think of this as “Inside the Actor’s Studio” for the Internet age.
  4. The Dopplr Personal Annual Report – a beautiful PDF report of your travel, automatically generated using the Prawn PDF library. Their sample travel report is that of Barack Obama. Internet businesses are able to capture lots more data than was possible in the past, and one way they differentiate themselves is by reflecting it back in useful and beautiful ways.
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  • Thanks for the Morse shoutout, Nat! Our curator, Terry Carbone, has two more posts coming about his artistic career next week. Stay tuned…

  • In true Samuel Morse fashion, the J. Paul Getty Museum tweeted his art+science biography on Jan 3 & 4. His paintings–primarily portraits–are in the collections of many American museums. It’s interesting to consider that the notion of artistic invention/creative concept rose during the Renaissance, prior to that, artistic value was often determined in a fairly formulaic manner; it didn’t matter (in terms of price) if a work was the original or merely a copy.

  • Larry Yang

    The barn where Morse and Vail did their work has been preserved in Morristown, NJ at Historic Speedwell (

    Kind of interesting how a painter got involved. One thing to notice is how the financial backing came from the iron industry.