Journey Back, Journey On: Watching my son rediscover a comic book 4 years later


Saturday morning. Mom’s at yoga. Dad’s puttering downstairs. 13-year-old Big Sis is hibernating — those pesky teenagers.

What’s an almost-9-year boy old to do?

That’s my imagination of what W, my son, was thinking after I shushed him for the fifth time when he was playing in the open area right next to where his sister’s puberty-induced coma went on… and on.

Then I remembered that a few days back one of his buddies had asked about the comic book hero “Green Arrow,” whereupon W had turned to the ultimate authority in his life on the topic of superheroes— me.

We’d talked through the legend of Oliver Queen getting marooned on Starfish island, how the character started as Batman with a bow but slowly morphed into something more interesting.

I told him about the “Hard Traveling Heroes” sequence from the 1960s and 1970s when Green Arrow and Green Lantern went on an Easy Rider like journey around the country. “Dad,” he replied. “Why didn’t Green Lantern just create a force bubble to travel in… why did they need a car?

It kept coming up, so when I needed him to find a quieter activity this book came to mind:


 By Dennis O’Neil, circa 1976.

I trotted over to his bookshelf and grabbed it, opened it to “Green Arrow,” and walked him back into his room.

The front and back covers of my copy — acquired when I was his age — are long gone and what remains is in tatters, but as the picture at the top of this column indicates, W is lost in that book right now.

I remember my own fall, wondering at the paired Golden Age and late-Silver Age tellings of the stories, feeding my brain with the basics of the superhero rhetoric that would inform decades of comic-book reading.

Although he started with Green Arrow, when I snuck in (to adjust his pillow, make sure he wasn’t starving, and — I confess it!— to snoop) he was deep into the Golden Age account of Wonder Woman’s origin.

I first gave W this book shortly after we’d moved to Oregon, when he and I were busy watching the “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” series. That was his first go-round with superheroes, and his primary interest was in collecting action figures. He looked at the book, made it a little more tattered, but didn’t fall inside.

This morning, he fell.

Books are fixed points in our ever-changing lives. This is the glory of re-reading.

Reopening an old friend reminds us of how far we’ve come, reintroduces us to past selves and sometimes points us onward towards where we want to go.

I remember back when I was finishing my doctoral thesis on Shakespeare a moment when I felt my sympathies slipping from Romeo to Capulet (Juliet’s father), where they have stayed.

The lousy version of this is when you pick up an old friend and find that you’ve moved irrevocably on— I can’t stomach Edgar Rice Burroughs anymore, for example, which I discovered when I tried to re-read “A Princess of Mars” after the mediocre “John Carter” movie a couple summers ago.

I hear thumping upstairs.

Time to make breakfast.

I wonder if he made it to the“Hawkman” origins…

[Editor’s Note: cross-posted on Medium.]

Look Carefully at the New Pew Number: 56% of Americans Have Smart Phones


Today the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a new mobile report stating that 56% of adult Americans now have smart phones, with between 70 to 80% penetration among younger demographics, college grads and the well-off. You can see the full report here.

Here’s the thing to look twice at: it’s not 56% of mobile phone users who have smart phones, according to Pew, it’s 56% of all adult Americans. 

Many research companies have tracked a greater than 50% penetration of smart phones among all mobile users, as you’ll see here in this graphic from my friends at eMarketer:


However, the Pew number is a milestone along the lines of when Nielsen first claimed that greater than 50% of Americans had broadband access back in the fall of 2004.

Combining this Pew number with Monday’s announcement of the “TV Untethered” study finding that 82% of tablet and 64% of smartphone mobile video consumption occurs in the home provokes some head-scratching, “what’s going to happen next?” pondering.

Here are a few guesses for how the landscape will change in the next five to 10 years:

Mass proliferation of smart phones in combination with the acceleration of bandwidth and the increased ease of cloud computing will write the execution order for most hardware as we know it, and that will include tablets.

We’ve already seen a steep decline of new desktop and laptop purchases, but tablets — even the beloved iPad — will eventually be seen as a transient technology like the Betamax, Apple Newton and HD DVD disk.

The smart phone will evolve into a personal digital hub that effortlessly connects to a variety of dumb monitors and peripherals like keyboards, mice and track pads. (FWIW, I wrote extensively about this sort of thing in my science fiction novel, Redcrosse, just a couple of years ago.)

When you leave the house in the morning you’ll have your phone, any analog papers that you need (of which there will be few), your jacket and that’s it.

Heads up display and wearable computing appliances (Google Glass, Nike Fuelband) will become the next big milestone that trend watchers will eye with glee– when 50% of Americans own and use a heads up display we’ll see another series of tectonic shifts in user behavior. Current nagging-little-brother problems like show rooming and cord cutting will turn pandemic.

But what I’m most excited about with heads up display, though, is what I can’t see clearly but what I know is coming. As the iPod created an entire new genre of media on the podcast, so will  24/7/365 + 360 degree connectivity create new genres… and if we get them right they’ll be ultra niche but also profitable for producers, users and creators alike.

Don’t get comfy: the ride is only going to get bumpier.




Interesting Tidbits for September 10th

Things worth reading for August 22nd through September 10th:

If you like this, please follow me on Twitter as @bradberens for more!


Interesting Tidbits for June 21st

Things worth reading for May 30th through June 21st:

If you like this, please follow me on Twitter as @bradberens for more!


New Evernote Trick: Combine & Print Notes

Post Updated: Feedback from Adam Boettiger showed me that my initial post wasn’t clear.  I’ve now clarified the paragraph with the asterisk, below, to make my point pointier.

I’m becoming more and more fond of Evernote, but I also like having a printed-out copy of my multitudinous To Do lists so that I have an easy way of scanning through them all at one glance.

* Unfortunately, Evernote doesn’t seem able to merge and then print a collection of To Do lists natively– while still keeping those lists separate in digital form for dynamic updating. In other words, at the start of the day I want to smash my lists together, print on one piece of paper to have on my desk (for convenience and to save trees), but then still have the separate lists digitally.

Here’s a workaround (note– I use the Mac OS version of Evernote):

Background: I have all my To Do lists in a separate notebook called “To Do” (natch) to distinguish these pressing items from the other things I do with Evernote.

Step #1: Create a new notebook called “Copy, Print & then Dump.”

Step #2: Select-All the notes in “To Do”

Step #3: Control-Click, then select “Copy to Notebook,” then select the “Copy, Print & then Dump” notebook you just created.

Step #4: Go to the “Copy, Print & then Dump” notebook; Select All; Control-Click, then select “Merge Notes.”

Step #5: Print!  Depending on your level of anal-retentivity and OCD, you can either simply hit the button or engage in some quick formatting.  In my case, I upped the font size a bit and chose the “print four pages on one page” option on my printer.  It came out a bit wonky but 20 seconds with a highlighter made the printout more useful.

Step #6: Go back and delete the merged note so that you don’t suffer version mitosis on your notes.

Is this a stupid workaround until Evernote gets its act together and stops acting like paper — the world’s oldest display technology after the rock wall — is the enemy?  Yes.

Is it handy if you find paper useful as a reminder in the physical world that does not require electronics to see?  Yes.

Thoughts? Comments?


Interesting Tidbits for May 26th

Things worth reading for May 19th through May 26th:

Edge Perspectives with John Hagel: The Pull of Narrative – In Search of Persistent Context – Interesting piece by John Hagel on the difference between story and narrative.

When Ideas Have Sex | – Really nice piece of gem cutting from WhatTheFutureTV.

20+ Awesome & Unique Uses Of Google Reader You Probably Didn’t Know About – Makes me consider changing from iGoogle to Google Reader.  Hat tip to @steverubel

Google Unveils Wireless Payment System – – With Google’s help the US finally catches up to Japan in 1998! Brad’s opinion: if Google is smart they’ll app-ify this and include iPhone users among others.  They’ll make more $ that way and become universal.

MediaPost Publications Myspace Finds Its Place: That’s Social Entertainment 05/26/2011 – “How fast? The report, “Social Entertainment 2.0: What Is It, And Why Is It Important?,” estimates it will grow from $2.5 billion in 2010 to $5.8 billion in 2015, averaging 18% growth per year. And that’s just in the U.S. Globally, IDC estimates worldwide social entertainment ad spending to be about twice that volume.”

X-Men movie to get NFC smart poster campaign in London • NFC World – Wow!

The Real Cost of Social Media (Infographic) – Very useful.  Every CMO should see this.

Charlie Melcher – Nice profile of a publisher pushing the boundaries.

iPad Usability Study Reveals What We Do and Don’t Like In Apps Apple News, Tips and Reviews – Nice overview of iPad usability issues.

When the Internet Thinks It Knows You – – “Today’s Internet giants — Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft — see the remarkable rise of available information as an opportunity. If they can provide services that sift though the data and supply us with the most personally relevant and appealing results, they’ll get the most users and the most ad views. As a result, they’re racing to offer personalized filters that show us the Internet that they think we want to see. These filters, in effect, control and limit the information that reaches our screens.”

The Cure For ADD-vertising | Fast Company – Nice piece.

Red Bull’s Billionaire Maniac – BusinessWeek – Very interesting profile: “Little known outside of his native Austria, Dietrich Mateschitz is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our age, a man who single-handedly changed the landscape of the beverage industry by creating not just a new brand but a whole new category: the energy drink. As the visionary who brought the world Red Bull, affectionately known as “speed in a can” or even “liquid cocaine,” Mateschitz, 67, has been a patron saint for more than two decades to late-night partiers, exam-week undergrads, long-haul truckers, and, above all, extreme-sports athletes everywhere.”

MasterCard Study: Youngsters Will Be The Catalyst Of Mobile Payment Adoption – We’re way behind Japan on this, but watch us join the late 20th Century!

Most Creative People | Most Creative People 2011 | Fast Company – Nice list!

If you like this, please follow me on Twitter as @bradberens for more!


Interesting Tidbits for May 18th

Things worth reading for May 15th through May 18th:

It is alive! The Death of Email Has Been Severely Exaggerated – Nice piece by Rapleaf CEO Auren Hoffman– finally a defense of email!

Netflix Owns The Evening Web | Fast Company – Interesting data– note, though, that Netflix owns the DATA part of the evening’s media consumption: the research doesn’t triage that number against the still staggering amount of one-way cable content consumption, and there are still folks on terrestrial tv as well.

Gaining Authority in the Age of Digital Overload – “Rubel proposes that as of 2010, the Internet has entered the Validation era, in which Internet users are beginning to “find the signal in the noise” and hold on to only those pieces of information and people that are most important to them online. The rise of intimate social networks such as Path, and group messaging apps such as GroupMe, Beluga, Fast Society and Kik, is an indicator that “people want to be closer to people they care about and let all the riffraff set aside,” says Rubel.”

Literary journalism finds new life with Byliner, the Atavist, Virginia Quarterly Review – – Great piece by David Ulin on new business models for long-form journalism.  It gives me hope, which is rare.

Defend Your Research: We Can Measure the Power of Charisma – Harvard Business Review – “The finding: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. It’s possible to predict which executives will win a business competition solely on the basis of the social signals they send.”

The Bestsellers: Fortune Article ‘Inside Apple’ Beats Out Full-Length Books | paidContent – I wound up subscribing to the magazine because of this fascinating move on their part.

If you like this, please follow me on Twitter as @bradberens for more!


    Interesting Tidbits for May 10th

    Things worth reading for May 10th:

    YouTube – SURPRISE MUSICAL – Gotta Share! – Must see!

    Media Firms Become More Willing to Work With Netflix – – Interesting take on the turning tide for IP based VOD.

    Fortune Keeps Apple Story Off Web, On iPad and Kindle | Peter Kafka | MediaMemo | AllThingsD – Interesting piece about Fortune’s experiment with not releasing their Apple-icious cover story online but making users pay $.99 on the Kindle or subscribe.

    Connected Devices: How We Use Tablets in the U.S. | Nielsen Wire – “When asked whether they used other connected devices more often or less often since purchasing a tablet, 35 percent of tablet owners who also owned a desktop computer reported using their desktop less often or not at all, while 32 percent of those who also owned laptops, said they used their laptop less often or never since acquiring a tablet. Twenty-seven percent of those who also own eReaders said they use their eReader less often or not at all – the same percentage as those who also own portable media players. One-in-four tablet owners who own portable games consoles are using those devices less often, if at all, since purchasing a tablet.”

    Race to save digital art from the rapid pace of technological change | Technology | The Observer – “Race to save digital art from the rapid pace of technological change.<br />
    “Pioneers of computer art are in danger of becoming the lost generation of our cultural heritage because scientists are unable to preserve their work”

    A List Apart: Articles: Orbital Content – “Most online content today is stuck. It has roots firmly planted in one of the many sites and applications around the web. Because content is rooted, we are forced to spend precious time recording its location in the hopes of navigating back. We bookmark websites. We favorite tweets. We create lists in text files.”

    MediaPost Publications Kids Are Multi-tasking Technology At Younger Ages 04/29/2011 – “It’s hard to believe there was a time, not terribly long ago, when the idea of 6-year-olds having media habits — much less media habits requiring them to multitask — would have seemed absurd. Now, however, kids are using a range of media platforms from smartphones to console games — and starting younger. And they are engaging far more than in the past with content and platforms designed for older kids and even adults.”

    LA Flood – “The LA Flood Project is a [work in progress] locative media experience made up of three segments:-Oral histories of crises in Los Angeles-A locative narrative about a fictional flood-A flood simulation. Check here for updates.”

    L.A. Flood, the emerging narrative – LA Observed – Nice overview of a fascinating transmedia experiment happening around the L.A. Festival of Books and on Twitter. Next link will be directly to the site.

    The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science – Truly interesting survey of decision research.

    Where does good come from? – – ‘On a recent Monday afternoon, the distinguished Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson was at his home in Lexington, talking on the phone about the knocks he’s been taking lately from the scientific community, and paraphrasing Arthur Schopenhauer to explain his current standing in his field. “All new ideas go through three phases,” Wilson said, with some happy mischief in his voice. “They’re first ridiculed or ignored. Then they meet outrage. Then they are said to have been obvious all along.”’

    You Are the Ad – Technology Review – “Suddenly, large companies are running multimillion-dollar ad campaigns on Facebook. Startups, such as the social-game maker Zynga and the daily-deal service Groupon, are mounting similar though smaller campaigns, and so are hundreds of thousands of local businesses, such as fitness salons and photographers. Facebook ads hauled in nearly $2 billion in revenues last year, according to the business information service eMarketer, and a leaked document belonging to investor Goldman Sachs revealed that the privately held company made a profit of about $500 million in the same period. This year, revenues are on track to reach $4 billion—making the $75 billion valuation investors are placing on Facebook seem slightly less crazy.”

    Are ‘enhanced’ e-books the future of books, or mere footnotes? – Technology Review – “Ecologist Tim Flannery’s new book Here on Earth is available as a hardback, a paperback, a kindle ebook, and, somewhat unusually, an app. The app version of the book, produced for Atlantic Monthly press by a collaboration between writer/producers Arcade Sunshine and development studio Element 84, just went on sale in the iTunes App store. “

    This Tech Bubble Is Different – BusinessWeek – Terrific article on why we’re in a new and less-impressive bubble right now. Interesting and the kind of writing that is a best-case for magazines sticking around.

    Groupon Buys Pelago in Bid to Expand User Discovery: Tech News and Analysis « – “Groupon has been about helping people discover deals. Now, it’s buying Pelago, maker of local discovery app Whrrl, in a bid to improve its ability to bring together consumers and local discount offers. The acquisition means the end of Whrrl on April 30 but it could also mean a broader direction for Groupon as it looks to expand beyond daily deals to more mobile and personalized discounts.”

    If you like this, please follow me on Twitter as @bradberens for more!


    Interesting Tidbits for April 18th

    Things worth reading for April 6th through April 18th:

    Facebook advertising: Facebook prepares to cash in on users’ data – – “The Palo Alto company is looking to cash in on this mother lode of personal information by helping advertisers pinpoint exactly whom they want to reach. This is no idle boast. Facebook doesn’t have to guess who its users are or what they like. Facebook knows, because members volunteer this information freely — and frequently — in their profiles, status updates, wall posts, messages and ‘likes.’

    “It’s now tracking this activity, shooting online ads to users based on their demographics, interests, even what they say to friends on the site — sometimes within minutes of them typing a key word or phrase.”

    Razorfish5: Technologies That Will Change The Business of Brands – PSFK – “Razorfish’s Chief Technology Officer, Ray Velez, led the production of a report that focuses on how companies can work with emerging trends in technology including:

    • Near Field Communications
    • The Interface Revolution
    • Open APIs and Digital Services
    • Holistic Data Management
    • Businesses Shifting To Cloud Computing”

    Motorola Mobility intros SocialTV service | The Digital Home – CNET News – Social Media + TV = the new Motorola SocialTV application.

    Is Amazon Entering the Display Ad Business?: Tech News and Analysis « – “Amazon already offers display advertising opportunities on its own website. But the company may be preparing to be a much bigger force across the web as it looks to become a major player in the online display advertising market. That’s the conclusion of analyst Ben Schachter of Macquerie Research.”

    Google to Revamp YouTube With ‘Channels’ – – “YouTube is looking to compete with broadcast and cable television, some of these people said, a goal that requires it to entice users to stay on the website longer, and to convince advertisers that it will reach desirable consumers.”

    Marketers Failing Interactive Part of Interactive Marketing | CMO Strategy – Advertising Age – CMOs still don’t get it, per AdAge & Forrester.

    If you like this, please follow me on Twitter as @bradberens for more!


    Interesting Tidbits for April 5th

    Things worth reading for March 16th through April 5th:

    IDEO: Five Companies That Mastered Social Media’s Branding Potential | Co.Design – Nice review of 5 strategies that worked.

    The Big Mobile and Desktop Platform Merge Is Underway: Mobile Technology News « – Nice piece from Om about a new kind of convergence: desktop and mobile.

    The Coming Wave of “Social Apponomics” – Nice high-level take on how social is transforming business from S+B. May be a little 101 for digitalistas, but remember your CEO still doesn’t get it, right?

    Twitter to Offer Brand Pages Like Facebook’s, Report Says – What would this mean for companies like Seesmic?

    Deloitte’s “State of the Media Democracy” Survey: TV Industry Embraces the Internet and Prospers | Press Release – The release around February 2011’s “State of the Media Democracy” report.

    Video Advertising Must Ditch Impressions for ‘Cost Per View’ | DigitalNext: A Blog on Emerging Media and Technology – Advertising Age – Cost Per View.  Interesting notion.

    Jonah Lehrer on Problems With SATs, GREs, the NFL Combine and Other Performance Tests | Head Case – – “The reason maximal measures are such bad predictors is rooted in what these tests don’t measure. It turns out that many of the most important factors for life success are character traits, such as grit and self-control, and these can’t be measured quickly.

    “Consider grit, which reflects a person’s commitment to a long-term goal. As Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has demonstrated, levels of grit consistently predict levels of achievement, such as graduation from West Point and success in the National Spelling Bee.”

    Digital Strategy Paying Off for Publicis – – Nice account of where the holding companies are with digital: “In the tradition-bound advertising industry, Mr. Lévy has been one of the strongest advocates of new digital forms of marketing, and he has backed up his words by writing big checks. Five years ago, he spent $1.3 billion of Publicis shareholders’ money to buy Digitas, an Internet advertising agency, prompting rivals and some analysts to sneer that he had paid too much. Yet Mr. Lévy pushed ahead, adding other digital agencies, including Razorfish for $530 million in 2009. “

    There Are No Rules – Bestselling Author Turns Down $500K Deal to Self-Publish – “The breaking news today is that NYT bestseller Barry Eisler turned down a $500K deal from his publisher, St. Martin’s, in order to self-publish his next book. “

    The attraction of distraction – – “The brain is wired to adjust for motion. For instance, if you grab a coffee cup while walking past a table, you need to account for the one or two steps between the time you start to reach and the moment when your fingers grasp the cup.” – Robert Sapolsky: Are Humans Just Another Primate? – Don’t miss this fascinating talk about Dopamine and where pleasure comes from.

    Facebook Fan Page – An Essential Component to a Complete Web Presence For Your Business – A useful and generous article.

    Who Rules the Web Now? – Peter C. Horan and Jeffrey F. Rayport – The Conversation – Harvard Business Review – Brilliant strategy piece by Peter Horan and Jeffrey Rayport.

    What Happens To Your Online Data When You Die? – Fascinating.

    Take Back Control of Your Work (and Your Life) – Tony Schwartz – Harvard Business Review – “The digital devices we all now carry around are stunningly seductive and addictive, providing endless access to instant gratification: tweets and texts, stuff to buy, games to play, apps to add, and constant new information. Our devices are the means by which we get our work done, but they’re also a form of digital crack. If they’re turned on, you’ll almost surely use them and very likely abuse them. “

    If you like this, please follow me on Twitter as @bradberens for more!