Paul Revere Williams architect to many

Some of Paul Williams architecture in LA

I was listening to 99 percent invisible’s latest podcast episode about Paul Williams, the famous architect who was never really mentioned or credited in history. His story is quite incredible to hear from many different points of view.

It’s hard to say exactly what motivated Williams to pursue architecture. He didn’t know of any other architects as he was growing up, and didn’t really know that architecture was a profession. He did have a natural talent for drawing, and then somehow decided that this was the job for him.

Hudson says that her grandfather’s high school guidance counselor advised him not to pursue architecture, telling him “he should not try to be an architect. He should be a doctor or a lawyer because black people would always need doctors and lawyers. And white people would not hire him as an architect and black people couldn’t afford him.” Still Williams refused to let go of this ambition.

I always wondered what would have happened if I pursued architecture too, I was put off by 7 years of college, although 6 years of design focused education wasn’t far off.

…some clients were taken aback when they first met Williams — people who “came because they may have read about him,” Karen Hudson explains, “but didn’t realize he was black.” They weren’t sure whether to sit next to him or even whether to shake his hand. To put them at ease, Williams would keep his distance, sitting across the table from them, and as he asked them what they wanted in their home,  he would draw preliminary sketches upside down, so they could see their vision evolve as he drew. This helped put them at ease but was also just impressive in itself.

I have gotten this a few times in the past, mainly before you could look me up online. The name Paul Williams and even Ian Forrester could be anyone but I guess unconscious bias makes people think white males?

The distance thing is also something I’m very aware of… as a black man. Being able to draw upside down is super impressive and I imagine he had a lot of practice.

Williams wasn’t the first or only architect to draw upside down, but his consistent use of this skill illustrates the lengths he went to accommodate his white clients. He dressed impeccably, worked tirelessly, and tried to excel in all respects, simply to be accepted.

Enough said, but sadly…

Despite his vast volume of work (and being the first black member of the American Institute of Architects) Williams has remained relatively unknown, at least until recently. “Every black architect I know is familiar with Williams,” say Phil Freelon. “And I haven’t met a white architect yet who knew who I was talking about if I were to mention that name. And we need to change that.” This is why Freelon nominated Williams for the AIA’s highest individual award: the Gold Medal.

This is basically the award that welcomes an architect into the cannon of all-time greats. Past winners include Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Thomas Jefferson. Now, 37 years after his death, Paul Williams will officially join their ranks.

This award means a lot to Freelon and other African American architects in terms of general visibility. “There are very few African American architects working in this country, relatively speaking,” says Freelon. Just “2% of licensed architects in this country are black. And one of the ways you would want to combat that is to raise the visibility. [You] make sure people know this is a great profession and that young people see it as a possibility and as an option for them.”

Hopefully blogging this will encourage people to listen or read the transcript. Its a short story with lots of interesting links and discussion.

 

Nostalgia is the enemy of progress?

Nostalgia: Nostalgia Shelf

I first heard this on the psytech podcast, as I’ve been thinking about the reasoning behind family members decision to leave the EU. As you’d expect its been said many times before and it seems Steve Jobs certainly wasn’t a fan.

Don’t get me wrong nostalgia has its place, but starting to wonder if its has a lot to blame for a lot of the ills of the world? Without saying so, I realise my argument following the study of how men prefer women who are not smarter than themselves; is entwined with this.

I understand, it’s very comfortable and it clearly makes people feel better in a forever changing world; conjuring up positive memory and providing that boost of positivity.

participants who were induced to feel nostalgic also expressed more optimism of the future.  This optimism is related to two other factors.  First, nostalgia makes people feel more socially connected to others.  This social connection boosts people’s positive feelings about themselves.  That increase in self-esteem then increases feelings of optimism.

This set of studies suggests that nostalgia can play a beneficial role in people’s lives.  When times are tough, it may seem as though things may never get better.  By focusing on positive times from the past, though, people may help themselves to be more connected to others, which can give them the resources to be more optimistic about the future.

Later on we go on to find the numbers not so great and context had a lot to play in this all.

But back to the question, is nostalgia getting in the way of progress? It seems maybe depending on too many factors.

My father likes watching old rerun shows. If it wasn’t for flicking between the news at 6pm and my mother’s enjoyment of soap operas, the TV might stay on ITV3 all the time (for those outside the UK, wikipedia describes ITV3 as a channel mainly aimed at the over-35 audience, and much of its output consists of reruns of older ITV drama series and sitcoms). It does wind and worry me a little. But I understand the nostalgia factor.

However I catch myself doing the same too. How many times have I watched Inception, Trance, Interstellar, etc? It’s not much different really, is it? or is it?

For all the films I do re watch, there’s a ton of films/tv I try to watch. Heck I have given some dog horrible films a try including sextape, tapped outthe do over, pressed, taking stock (although I did find it slightly funny and the stunning Kelly Brook stars in it)… I’ll have to check trakt.tv but the percentage of new to re-watches is quite high, from some rough and bad spreadsheet messing for 30mins on a train…

Out of a pool of 1540 films (going back to 2011!) I watched 1749 films. The average seems to be 0.6666666667? I very much realise my maths skills are pretty rubbish for this stuff, but if I was watching the same thing over and over again, it would be a much higher number. I was actually surprised at the high numbers of new vs re-watched.

Yes this is just media and I guess you could run the same thing with places I go to drink, work in the northern quarter, have brunch, etc, etc… Although most of us think of this as familiarity rather than nostalgia?

Nostalgia creeps in with culture of course. I already wrote about my feelings spending time in Japanese society and many thoughts Sherry Turkle has about the influence of technology in our lives. Its far too easy to say…

Well we use to easier… to get a job for life in the past”

You use to be able to… leave your front door open”

I prefered it when… you could smoke while you worked”

Is this toxic? Its hard to say. But I certainly try to stop myself or caveat what I’m about to say, when I feel it coming up.

But I’m drawn because I’m also very aware we should also look to history to stop making the same mistakes again and again. Remember what a divided europe use to look like?

Me & Kate in the national archive?

Kate strikes a pose

So remember when I said I loved the idea of the BBC listening room?

Well after a little tweeting and a couple of emails, myself and good friend Kate have secured a spot on the listening project site and in history. Yes at some point in the near future you can listen to the discussion of us two as we talk about something (undefined as of yet) for a short while. Goodness knows what people will make of it in decades to come.

Some of you might wonder how did this happen? Heck if you read the blog before, you may say why Ian oh why?

I would direct you to the secret of luck or the richness of life.

 

Legacy and documenting the past

Wendy g said it best.

The problem is the next generation seem to think they are tackling new problems.

Next year is the 10th anniversary of the open rights group, something I’m proud to say I was at and supported from the conception. Its also 8 years and a couple months since BarCampLondon1. The Geeks of London did something special to say thank you to everybody who attended over the 8 years.
Its also coming up on 10 years since I ran London geek dinners and although gone the legacy lives on through Girl geekdinners, tuttleclub, social media cafe (come back to this in a moment) and geekup to name just a few I know.

Here’s all the geekdinners I remember running or being a part of…

  • 7th July 2005 – Robert Scoble – Texas Embassy, 1 Cockspur Street, London, SW1Y 5DL
  • 11th July 2005  Seth Godin
  • 22nd July 2005  Jeremy Zawodny
  • 13th October 2005  Tim Oreilly  – Hogs Head, 11 Dering Street, Westminster, London
  • 24th November 2005  Molly Holzschlag  – Hogs Head, 11 Dering Street, Westminster, London
  • 10th December 2005  Robert Scoble  – Texas Embassy, 1 Cockspur Street, London, SW1Y 5DL
  • 23rd January 2006  Dave Shea  – The Crown and Anchor, 22 Neal St, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9PS
  • 23rd Febuary 2006  Paul Boag  – The Polar Bear, 30 Lisle Street, Westminster, London WC2H 7BA
  • 5th April 2006  David Teten  – The Polar Bear, 30 Lisle Street, Westminster, London WC2H 7BA
  • 1st May 2006  Marc Canter  – The Polar Bear, 30 Lisle Street, Westminster, London WC2H 7BA
  • 17th June 2006  @media  conference social with Geekdinner – The Livery, 130 Wood Street, London, EC2V 6DL
  • 7th July 2006  Chris Anderson  Geekdinner – The Bottlescrue, 53 – 60 Holburn Viaduct, London, EC1A 2FD
  • 1st Sept 2006  Ben Metcalfe  – The Bottlescrue, 53 – 60 Holburn Viaduct, London, EC1A 2FD
  • 22nd Sept 2006  Howard Rheingold  – The Thai Terrace Restaurant, 14 Wrights Lane, W8 6TF
  • 20th October 2006  Molly Holzschlag  – The Bottlescrue, 53 – 60 Holburn Viaduct, London, EC1A 2FD
  • 9th December 2006, BBC Backstage Christmas Special – The Cuban bar, City Point, Ropemaker Street, London EC2Y 9AW
  • 26th January 2007  Molly Holzschlag  – City Spice 138 Brick Lane, E1 6RU
  • 21st Febuary 2007  Tara Hunt  and  Chris Messina  of Citizen Agency – The Bear, 2 St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, EC1M 4DE
  • 17th April 2007  Paul Boag  – The Thai Terrace Restaurant, 14 Wrights Lane, W8 6TF
  • 3rd May 2007  Mike Culver  – The Bear, 2 St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, EC1M 4DE
  • 30th May 2007  Becky Hogge  – Ye Olde Cock Tavern, 22 Fleet Street, EC4Y 1AA
  • 12th June 2007  Jyri Engeström  – Ye Olde Cock Tavern, 22 Fleet Street, EC4Y 1AA
  • 26th June 2007  Julie Howell  – Ye Olde Cock Tavern, 22 Fleet Street, EC4Y 1AA
  • 16th July 2007  Brady Forrest  – Ye Olde Cock Tavern, 22 Fleet Street, EC4Y 1AA
  • 14th August 2007  Eric Meyer  – The Thai Terrace Restaurant, 14 Wrights Lane, W8 6TF
  • 1st November 2007  Stowe Boyd  – Ye Olde Cock Tavern, 22 Fleet Street, EC4Y 1AA
  • 13th March 2008 Holmes Wilson – Ye Olde Cock Tavern, 22 Fleet Street, EC4Y 1AA
  •  7th of April 2008 David Terrar – Ye Olde Cock Tavern, 22 Fleet Street, EC4Y 1AA
  • 29th May 2008 Moo! -Thai Smile Restaurant, The Ivy House  8-10 Southampton Row, London WC1B 4AE
  • Joint London Girl Geek/Geek dinner with Dr. Sophie Kain –  Horse Bar, 124 Westminster Bridge Road, Waterloo, London SE1 7XG

This is about the point of when I moved to Manchester and the Geeks of London took over. I tried to document a part of it on this blog post and many others throughout the blog, but it doesn’t feel like nearly enough. I tried to add it to wikipedia but it was rejected and deleted multiple times.

I won’t lie I’m also one of those people who thinks there striking new ground everytime but I would be foolish to not think about the legacy of these things. But where should such history live? So others can be inspired or learn from the mistakes I made?

Where would you put this information? Maybe something which can aggregate blog posts together in someway?

The history of the pacemaker

pacemaker_sonar_june_2007_04

I just noticed the other day Pacemakerdevice.org added a history page. Although most of it is on wikipedia.

In January 2005 Jonas Norberg saw a gap in the market for a handheld portable DJ device that would do away with a DJ’s need to lug around boxes of vinyl or cases of CDs, and the idea for the Pacemaker Device (PMD) (PMD) was conceived. In 2006 Jonas, Daniel Wallner and two friends Martin Renck and Ola Sars founded the Tonium company and developed the hardware which became known as the Pacemaker DJ device and the accompanying Editor software for music library management.

The team rapidly expanded from just a few people to more than 30 employees and Pacemaker was launched with a bang at the Miami Winter Music Conference in March 2008 in March 2008 receiving wide coverage in New York Times, Wired Magazine, Monocle, The Guardian and many more. The Pacemaker Device also received several of the most prestigious innovation and design awards including the Red Dot Design Best of the Best and no less than three CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards. The Pacemaker was released to the DJing public, supported by the on-line Pacemaker.net community website for Pacemaker users. Sales of the Pacemaker device are thought to be in the region of 50,000 units.

In 2008, Tonium had become a fairly large large company and Jonas handed over to a new CEO. One of the first visible changes was that Pacemaker.net turned into LetsMix.com, and all support interaction was moved to a third party “Get Satisfaction” site. Unfortunately for us that meant losing all the posts from Pacemaker.net and the Pacemaker community that had been built up was lost overnight. Let’s Mix ultimately became an on-line mix sharing site for DJs creating mixes by any means and not just Pacemakers.

In July 2010 Fazz, a Pacemaker user, created the Pacemaker User’s forum as means of rebuilding the Pacemaker community that was lost. Although this free forum was not without problems, it has built a membership of nearly 1000 members in just over 2 years. Most of the posts here were technical queries from users and the administrators Fazz, Sox, Regis & Migzy were only too happy to provide an answer if they had one.

A number of our members such as DJ Pip, Doogyrev & Ubergeek were not only keen Pacemaker DJs, but also coders and tinkerers and so the hacking of the Pacemaker began. Pip found access to an unreleased version of firmware 16219 on the Tonium website, and methods of manually installing it were also found. It included new beat-lock functionality, but unfortunately the device would sometimes stop working as it hadn’t been finished.

In June 2011, Tonium decided that Let’s Mix was no longer financially viable, and the company filed for bankruptcy. As the owners of the rights to the Pacemaker, this meant that the Pacemaker would no longer be in production from that time on. A sad time for all Pacemaker fans.

Although the Pacemaker was no longer being manufactured, there were (and probably are) still units available for purchase (both new and second-hand), and the Pacemaker Users forum continued to grow. On Thursday 12th January 2012, Jonas announced on the Pacemaker User’s forum that he, the inventor of Pacemaker, had just purchased back the rights to the Pacemaker software from the liquidators. Not only that, but he had plans in the pipeline that would help ensure that the Pacemaker lived on – in one way or another – and he was fully behind what we at the Pacemaker Users forum were about.

Also interesting reading the patent filing. No wonder I’m buying another one and getting my current one upgraded with a SSD and new battery.

Jamaica’s bolt wins gold on the eve of its 50th Anniversary

Jamaican Sunset

The world’s fastest man Usain Bolt wins on the very eve of Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary of Independence from Great Britain. Seemed very fitting for Bolt to not just win the men’s 100 meters but for his running partner to Yohan “beast” Blake to come second for silver. It could only have gotten better if Asafa Powell had gotten bronze.

Every Jamaican I know must have been watching that race and must have been ever-so proud of Bolt and Blake.

The party started early… 50 years!

Forgetting history

Xerox Parc Mouse

One of the things I’m hoping to do a lot more of in the future is working with the hackers of our generation and understand how what there doing now to scratch there own itches will expand to the mainstream. Anyway interestingly I was having a discussion with a guy from my circus workshop class (yeah another day I’ll explain) and he was saying why he liked Apple. One of his reasons was that Apple created the Mouse and that Apple create the best Keyboards and Mice.

I was totally shocked!

Now to be fair he was only 19 but still… one look at the Xerox Parc page on wikipedia page.

Most of these developments were included in the Alto, which added the now familiar SRI-developed mouse unifying into a single model most aspects of now-standard personal computer use.

Shock horror, apple did not develop the mouse. They may have borrowed/stolen the idea once Steve Jobs saw it but it wasn’t developed by them.

Anyway the point is theres a lot of this going around. We cover this on the latest Techgrumps, people ignoring or dismissing the rich history which sits behind most of the things we take for granted.

My good friend Miles use to talk a lot about the fact most blogs would only go surface deep however the blog does make a great place to dispense information. Don’t get me wrong there are some really great blogs with well thought out posts but maybe there isn’t enough?