Entries for September 2006

September 27, 2006

Interview: Seetharaman Narayanan

This is the second in a series of occasional interviews with people I find interesting or who work on interesting projects.

Seetharaman NarayananBy now, you either recognize the name, or you’re wondering who Seetharaman Narayanan is, and the difference probably depends on what you do for a living. If, like me, you have a job where you launch Photoshop on a daily basis, then maybe, like me, you can’t stop staring at this guy’s name on the Splash Screen every time it launches. Seetharaman Narayanan. It’s hard to look away. Sure, other people worked on Photoshop. But nobody else has a name like Seetharaman Narayanan.

If you too have been unable to look away from his name as you open Photoshop, you may be thinking, “I thought I was the only one!” Take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Back in 2004, a simple comment was posted on the ConceptArt.org forum. It said, “Every time I open up photoshop I am mezmorized by this guy’s name. It’s all I can look at. Don’t know why…” Six pages of “Me, too!” responses followed.

He has gone on to inspire a Seetharaman Narayanan fan club group on Flickr, and being unable to get his name out of your head has been recognized as a sign of Photoshop addiction.

So I decided to find out just who this mysterious Seetharaman Narayanan is. What does he do? What does he think of his notoriety? And what’s interesting about him other than his name? Mr. Narayanan, who goes by the much shorter name “Seetha,” was nice enough to answer these questions and more.

When did you become aware of the fascination with your name among Photoshop users?

Jeff Schewe [Photographer] sent me an e-mail sometime in the fall of 2005 about the existence of Seetha’s fanclub thread from ConceptArt.org.

What do you think about it?

I thought it was funny and was amazed at the amount of free time people had at their disposal. I always thought that I was fortunate in getting hired by Adobe at the right time since any Tom, Dick or Harry would have done the same thing I did and perhaps better than what I did. They may not have become famous unless they had some weird last name that is almost un-pronouncable.

How long have you been at Adobe?

I have been with Adobe for 15 years to date. I joined Adobe as a peon on Photoshop 2.5 on September 23, 1991. Peter Merrill (who now works on Acrobat and is still with Adobe) was the lead engineer on the task of making Photoshop run on Windows 3.1 and I was his deputy in the early days. Peter is one of the brightest engineers I have ever worked with in my 20 year career (he may just be the smartest of all!). I still remember the interview I had with Peter before I got hired at Adobe. Peter had this toy application (that later became Photoshop) with ugly Icons and Cursors he showed me and mentioned to me that he had that code ported over from the Mac and he could even open an image (Flower.psd which by the way, shipped as a sample file with Photoshop 2.5) on Windows. I had previously worked at CrystalGraphics and we had just ported over Crystal’s TOPAS over to the Mac platform just weeks prior to my interview with Adobe and I was totally under whelmed by Peter’s demo of Photoshop on Windows. In spite of my lack of enthusiasm, Peter hired me anyway and the rest is history.

What are you responsible for in Photoshop?

Lots of things. I joined Adobe as an engineer responsible for making the Windows port happen. After laying the foundation for the Windows effort, one of the first things I did for the product was to make it multi-threadable. Those days, Mac did not support multi-threading but Windows NT did. In my spare time, I wrote the multi-threading plug-in that took advantage of multiple processor in Photoshop. Peter was of immense help here. When I was re-writing the image processing algorithms in the plug-ins, he pointed to me that there was no need to do any image processing in the plug-in since the plug-in need not know about algorithms and it would be sufficient to just split the tasks and call the functions that knew how to do image processing. It just shows how stupid I was and how much of a genius that Peter was in pointing me to that simplicity. After we shipped 3.0, the Mac and Windows teams got merged and I worked on several things in the core product. Since the team always viewed me as the Windows guy, it would be interesting to note that I was one of the key persons responsible for the Photoshop port to Mac OS/X.

What is your professional background?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Regional Engineering College, Tiruchirapalli, India. I came to the U.S to pursue my Masters in Engineering at the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Since that place was so much fun (Playboy’s number one Party School in 1987), I decided to get another Masters from there in Computer Science. I joined CrystalGraphics (I think they are still around) as an engineer on Crystal TOPAS and after a few years at Crystal, I joined Adobe.

Do people express fascination with your name in the real world? Or is this just an on-line phenomenon?

Not really. I had to spell my name a few times before they get it. I got used to it now.

Are there other names on the Splash Screen that you think deserve more credit and get overlooked because people can’t stop staring at your name?

Every one of the engineers and QE deserves as much credit as I do. But I took the cake because of my long name. Too bad Joe Ault, Chris Cox and Scott Byer don’t have the long names as I do.

Are you working on any new projects we can look forward to seeing your name on in the future?

I worked on Bridge 1.0 (I had the opportunity to work on that since I championed the cause for the FileBrowser in Photoshop 7.0 and CS) and am currently working on getting Adobe Lightroom ported to Windows. But Photoshop is always my home.

Everyone knows about your interesting name. What’s one interesting thing about you that people don’t know?

I bike to work every day, rain or shine. My bike route is 20 miles round-trip and I have been riding to work for the past 10 years. I even influenced my mentor Peter Merrill into biking to work. Since Peter is a maniac, he is now doing double-centuries on weekends.

Thanks, Seetha!

Previously: Interview with illustrator and author Adam Rex


What planet is this?

Water Earth

It’s Earth, of course, viewed from around 9900 miles above a small island called Tetiaora, one of the few bits of land on this half of the planet. It’s weird that there’s a view of earth that’s almost entirely water. I’d love to see an actual photo of this view from space.

September 25, 2006

Idea: Fiber Optic Streetlights

I can think of several reasons why this would never work. And there are probably more reasons I’m not thinking of. But as a concept, I like it.

What if every streetlight had a corresponding streetlight on the other side of the planet, with fiber optics connecting them to each other? Instead of using lightbulbs, sunlight shining on one streetlight would be gathered through a lens, travel through the Earth along fiber optic cable, and come out its corresponding streetlight on the other end. Like this:

Fiber Optic Streetlight

I’m sure it would be enormously expensive to set up a system like this. But imagine never having to provide electricity for a streetlight ever again. Surely it would pay for itself in the long run, right?

Of course it’s not enough to just have a corresponding streetlight on the opposite East or West hemisphere, but it would have to be on the opposite North/South hemisphere, also. Not just the “other” side of the planet, but the true “opposite” side of the planet. This would make sure that long days on one side of the planet are providing light during the long nights on the other side. But then this presents a new problem because it would require a one-to-one relationship of streetlights on opposite sides of the planet, and I’m pretty sure there’s more need for streetlights on the Northern Hemisphere than Southern Hemisphere, so that wouldn’t work out evenly.

But maybe that problem could be solved with giant “sunlight gathering centers” set up on the sunlit sides of mountains in the middle of nowhere, providing sunlight to the streetlights on the opposite side of the planet via fiber optics.

Another problem: it would be difficult to keep these things maintained, with Earthquakes and other wear and tear that would damage the fiber optic cables. And when new roads are developed, they would need new streetlights, and it’s probably tough to keep setting up fiber optic streetlights every time you build a road.

Yeah, I know. Impractical in reality. But still. I like the idea.

September 23, 2006

Six Feet Dahlia

I haven’t seen the new movie Black Dahlia, but I’ve seen the poster all over town. It finally dawned on me why it looks so familiar.

Six Feet Dahlia Six Feet Dahlia

September 18, 2006

Idea: “Hello My Name Is John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” name tag shirts

I was thinking about those “Hello my name is…” name tags the other day (doesn’t everyone?), and somehow that led me to this idea:

Hello My Name is John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt

That way, if someone else was wearing the same name tag, then I could shout, “Hey! His name is my name, too!” And if I’m the only one wearing it, then people can shout, “Hey, there goes John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt!”

And then I thought, people probably wouldn’t walk around with that written on a name tag. But maybe it would be funny on a t-shirt. So I came up with a couple variations. The t-shirt is now available in authentic name-tag size versions, worn where you would expect to find a name tag like this, and bigger more graphic versions centered on the shirts. Like these:

Hello My Name Is John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt

Want one? Visit my shop to make a purchase.

Previously: Pre-pixelated clothes for Reality TV

September 14, 2006

Idea: Dunder Mifflin branded paper

Dunder Mifflin PaperI was recently shopping for paper at Staples when I had this thought: NBC should really license the “Dunder Mifflin” name to some paper company, and put it on real reams of paper. I don’t have brand loyalty when it comes to 8.5” x 11” paper, so it’s not like I can’t be persuaded to buy one ream over another. If I were buying paper at Staples and I saw the Dunder Mifflin brand name on a ream of paper, I’d totally get it. Just because it’s funny. Even if it cost a few cents more than the other brands.

They could even co-brand, for those people who haven’t heard of Dunder Mifflin or are afraid to try new things. The reams could say, “Staples [or some reputable paper company] presents Dunder Mifflin Paper” or something like that. And they could put a one-sheet ad for “The Office” in the packaging.

(Dunder Mifflin, for those who don’t know, is the fictional paper company whose day-to-day goings on are documented in the TV show The Office)

September 12, 2006

Amp’d Mobile’s “Li’l Bush” seems strangely familiar

Lil BillBack in the winter of 2002, while I was cocooning in my home after 9/11 like so many Americans, I conceived of a cartoon series all about grade-school versions of the various Clinton Administration characters. I called it “The Adventures of Li’l Bill & Hill and Friends.” There was Li’l Bill, and Li’l Hill, and Messy Monica, and Al, and Ken, and George, and Linda, and Janet, and Socks the Flying Cat (because every cartoon needs an anthropomorphic animal). I built a website for it that was partly a parody of Saturday Morning Cartoons, and partly a send up of the Clinton administration, and partly a parody of obsessive fan websites.

It was a big hit. Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing said, “This. Is. Amazing” (emphasis original). The Detroit Free Press called it “The work of a genius, albeit a warped one.” I got so much positive feedback that I even pitched it as a TV series to Comedy Central. But they didn’t bite. I guess the Clintons weren’t timely any more.

So of course I considered doing a version with Bush. But it was too early in the Bush administration to really know who the players would be that would make good characters, and what their personalities would be like.

Well, this morning, as I drank my coffee from my Li’l Bill & Hill Coffee Mug (seriously), I read an e-mail from a friend pointing me to this New York Times Article about a comedy writer named Donick Cary who recieved an offer from Amp’d Mobile to develop his own video project for wireless phones:

The result is a raunchy cartoon called “Lil’ Bush,” concerning the adventures of a grade-school version of President Bush and his pals, a heartsick Lil’ Condi, a raging Lil’ Rummy and a Lil’ Cheney reminiscent of the Frankenstein monster.

Yes, that’s right. Amp’d Mobile customers can watch the animated adventures of Lil’ Bush on their cellphones (and anyone can watch on-line). It’s essentially the same idea I had five years ago. But with George Bush. I had recently revisted this idea, even drawing some preliminary sketches of my version of “Li’l Bush” as a naive kid ready for adventure in his flight suit. But I didn’t have the time to develop it further.

Lil BushWell it’s bittersweet to see that someone else has done it. Did Donick Cary see my Li’l Bill website? It’s possible. It got a fair amount of publicity, mentions on talk radio, that sort of thing. And it’s linked to on the right side of the main page on this site, which has also gotten enough publicity that it’s concievable he’s seen it. But it’s probably not such a novel idea that I could prove he stole it from me. I think the law would say that he could have come up with it on his own. Which he may have. And you can’t copyright an idea, anyway, just the execution of the idea, and I guess his execution is different enough from mine except for in the obvious ways (setting it at the White House, etc). But still, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been ripped off a little bit, even though it’s nice to see Cary’s version has come to fruition. Great minds and all that.

September 11, 2006

Five years after 9/11/2001

9-11 Garbage ManLike most New Yorkers who were here on 9/11, my memories of that morning are with me every day, and I have already said much on the topic over the past five years. But I don’t have anything specific to write today about the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that wouldn’t get me worked up with anger as I write it. So instead, I’ll share this photo I just took of a garbage collector named Pelé in midtown, and link to these two 9/11 related entries I’ve previously written on this site:

My idea for a WTC Memorial.

9/11 images in 3-D.

And of course, as boneheaded as this war may be, everyone please give some thoughts to our soldiers in Iraq today. Think about why they are there, and then think about why they are really there. And when you go to the ballots soon to vote in the midterm elections, please vote wisely.

September 10, 2006

Animated Manhattan: Oliver & Company

Part 12 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.

Oliver and CompanyIn 1988, Walt Disney put out its first movie musical in 11 years, called Oliver & Company. Based on Charles Dickens’ book Oliver Twist, it told the story of an orphan kitten’s adventures in New York City.

It begins with dawn breaking over New York City, and I quite like the way the sun lights up the tallest skyscrapers before spreading out across the island:

Oliver and Company Oliver and Company

Oliver was left in a cardboard box for anyone to take, but nobody wanted him. So he wandered the streets of New York and eventually made friends with a dog named Dodger.

Oliver and Company Oliver and Company

Dodger is a pickpocket who works for a crook named Fagin, and they take Oliver under their wing. Eventually Oliver is found by a girl who lives in a fancy mansion on Fifth Avenue, and she takes him home. When Fagin’s boss hears about this, he has the girl and Oliver both kidnapped, but a rescue ensues and everyone ends up safe in the end. (Oh, crap. I forgot to say “Spoiler Alert.”)

Here are some more scenes of New York City from Oliver and Company:

Oliver and Company Oliver and Company
Oliver and Company Oliver and Company

It’s not a great movie by any means. But I do like the movie’s depiction of New York. The scenes in the park — and just around town — do a good job of capturing the general feel of the neighborhoods, even when they don’t depict actual locations.

IMDb Rating: 6.2/10
BCDb Rating: 5/10
My Rating: 7.5/10

(My rating is for the movie’s depiction of NYC only)

September 7, 2006

Idea: Pac-Man napkin holder with Ghost salt and pepper shakers

I’ve had this design floating around my head for the past few days:

Napkin Pac-Man

Idea: The iZod

It’s the iZod: an Izod branded series of bendy-style stands for your iPod, in preppy poses, wearing Izod shirts. There could be a Golfer iZod, and a Tennis iZod, and a Country Club iZod, and an iZod for, well, whatever else preppy people do.

The iPod iZod

September 5, 2006

Interview with Adam Rex, illustrator and author of “Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich”

Adam RexI’m beginning a new series here at Ironic Sans: occasional interviews with interesting individuals, or people working on interesting projects. I’m kicking it off by interviewing Adam Rex, illustrator and author and friend of Ironic Sans, whose new book Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich has just been published by Harcourt.

The beautifully illustrated and quite hilarious book includes poems like “The Mummy Won’t Go To His Eternal Rest Without a Story and Some Cookies,” “Godzilla Pooped on My Honda,” and “Count Dracula Doesn’t Know He’s Been Walking Around All Night With Spinach In His Teeth.” Blending Norman Rockwell-like talent, Shel Silverstein-esque poetry, and starring a few Universal Horror monsters, Adam has created a book perfect for children and adults that makes a great Halloween gift.

How would you describe “Frankenstein Makes A Sandwich” to someone unfamiliar with your work?

Frankenstein Makes a SandwichJust because you might be a monster, that doesn’t mean life is going to be all terrified villagers and biting. There’s a down side—monsters have problems, too. Bigfoot and the Yeti are always being mistaken for one another. Frankenstein has trouble meeting new people. Witches, on the other hand, are constantly being scrutinized by hag enthusiasts. They have clubs for that sort of thing.

What medium do you work in?

Mostly oils, but I used a lot of things for this book—gouache, brush and ink, scratchboard, modeling clay, and a little digital as well.

What kind of training do you have?

I have a BFA from the University of Arizona—I was lucky to study under David Christiana. I also have an Associate’s Degree from the School of Life. It’s a vocational school.

What was the last sandwich you made for yourself?

Is a burrito a sandwich? I made a breakfast burrito in a flour tortilla with eggs, fake bacon, cheese, and homemade tomatillo salsa. If a burrito isn’t a sandwich, then peanut butter.

How long did you work on “Frankenstein…”?

Off and on for five years. I first started writing poems in 2000, mostly to occupy my mind while driving. In 2005 I put what I had together and sold it to Harcourt. After that the art probably took three or four months.

What piece of advice did someone give you that you would pass along to aspiring illustrators?

If you find you’re spending a lot of time defending your draftsmanship or the choices you made in illustrations because that’s your “style”, then you probably have a problem to address. There’s nothing wrong with exaggeration, distortion, intentionally drawing “incorrectly”, and so forth, as long as you do it boldly and with a solid foundation of drawing skills to back you up. But good style never gets mistaken for bad drawing.

What advice would you pass along that you only wish someone had given you?

Save your receipts. Marry someone with health insurance. And don’t move to a city that charges you a business privilege tax just because you’re self-employed.

Do you have a favorite poem from “Frankenstein…”? A particular illustration of which you’re most proud? And why?

I don’t think it’ll be the one others cite, but I’m especially proud of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Henderson.” It’s the longest, I think, and the story just came together exactly like I wanted it to, despite an obstacle course of internal rhyme that I laid out for myself. I guess I’d say it’s the biggest achievement—the one I can’t believe I actually finished. I also happen to think it’s funny.

My favorite illustrations come from “The Dentist”—the characters are an homage to Charles Schulz and Peanuts. But I’m pretty proud of the ink work on “Zombie Zombie” and the aforementioned Jekyll poem, just because it’s a medium with which I’m not totally comfortable yet. The Jekyll illustrations were inspired by the early twentieth century work of Charles Dana Gibson—mine fall far short of that ideal, but it was fun to try.

What do you tell people who point out that Frankenstein was the scientist, not the monster?

After another little piece of me dies inside, I assure them that I know this already. I tell them that the tomato is a fruit, that it’s a berry, even, but that doesn’t stop anyone from calling it a vegetable. I may tell them that Pluto is still a planet if they want it to be. And, while I would never think of calling Mary Shelley’s monster Frankenstein, I would tell them that a big dumb green guy with ill-fitting clothes and a flattop is Frankenstein. They’re totally different things.

Oh. And I would thank them for their interest and ask them to please buy my book.

RELATED: I took the above photo of Adam Rex at an event in New York last April where I photographed several artists’ paint palettes and published them in an entry called Boris Vallejo’s Palette.

September 4, 2006

60 Seconds in the Life of Rafa Nadal’s Shadow

Part 17 in an ongoing series of (approximately) 60 second films.

Yesterday at the US Open: Rafa Nadal vs. Wesley Moodie.