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Join me in this trip down memory lane, won’t you?
Jim Smith, Los Angeles Times, 1984-09-29
The summer I graduated from CalArts, the Los Angeles Times briefly ran a syndicated cartoon comic strip by Jim Smith, entitled Bumgardner, of all things. It was odd seeing my ungainly surname — spelled unusually correctly — staring back at me from the printed comics page. I wondered if the paper gods were trying to send me messages. The strip only ran in the LA Times for that summer and was quietly dropped. Bumgardner really wasn’t very good. This is its last appearance in late September.
About my surname: It is not uncommon for strangers to tell me about the one other Bumgardner/Baumgartner they are acquainted with, perhaps assuming I will be a close relation (I never am). I am related to a large Bumgarner clan from North Carolina (locals call the area Bumtown) that also produced major league baseball pitcher Madison Bumgarner, aka MadBum. I am fifth cousins with the late actor James Garner. My great-grandfather added a D, changing the spelling to Bumgardner shortly after the Civil War. The folks who spell it Baumgartner are far more distantly related, and my sworn enemies 😊. For much of my career, I have gone by the nickname jbum, although I believe a K-pop star also has used that name, which has netted me a few followers on social media.
Elizabeth Wilson, Pasadena Star News, 1993-10-22
Did you know there is a mini-CD of 90’s vintage interactive media sitting on the surface of Mars, gathering red dust? Visions of Mars was the brainchild of Carl Sagan, and was produced as a collaboration of Time Warner Interactive (my former employer) and The Planetary Society. I was the tech producer and lead programmer on the project, working with creative director Jon Lomberg, who had worked with Carl on some other notable projects.
While working on the project, I had the bright idea to commission some fun kid’s art (to add to the already great collection of classic SF stories and illustrations that were the principal content of the disc). This article covers the children’s art contest, which was underway. Judges included Mike Okuda (Art Director for Star Trek: The Next Generation), Jon Lomberg, Louis Friedman and myself.
Patricia Walsh, Miami Herald, 1994-05-06
More coverage of the Visions of Mars children’s art contest. The Russian launch mentioned in the article failed, but a second CD eventually made it’s way to Mars on an ESA spacecraft.
Richard Kalhenberg, Los Angeles Times, 1994-06-10
I was interviewed and photographed for this profile which ran in the Sunday Times valley edition. This interview was conducted mere weeks before I conceived of, and started programming The Palace, in a year when the Internet was finally becoming widely available to the general public. Pretty good snapshot of the younger me having fun at work.
Douglas Kirkland, Corbis Images, 1996-02-08
A photo from my 1996 Palace days was taken by Douglas Kirkland for the "24 Hours in Cyberspace" event in February 1996, in which several photographers around the world photographed Internet-related things. There was also a photo of Palace co-founders Mark Jeffrey and I taken for this same event, which I managed to extract from the CD that came with the book. This photo on the right was eventually added to the Corbis stock photo archive and used for all sorts of things. My nephew Benjamin stumbled across it in a children’s book called Computer Programmer by Peggy Parks. More recently, it has appeared in dozens of blog articles about what happens to old programmers and the ephemeral nature of programming skills. If you’re writing a think piece on that topic, here I am.
The photo was taken in the same Time Warner Interactive office shown in the 1994 LA Times profile, and contains some of the same elements. I remember Kirkland, the photographer, standing on a chair so he could pick up some office details, and encouraging me to mug for the camera. I had grown out my hair again since 1994. This was my last hurrah with long hair, as I was rapidly going bald. Other notable things: My keyboard. A bunch of Interactive CD covers from projects I had worked on. Some kids art from the Visions of Mars project, as well as a photo of Olympus Mons. I am logged into the Palace, which was my baby at the time. Fractal on the wall from a program I had written. Computer tower in the corner with a party hat, and CDs/Floppies on top. More fractal art taped to the side. Weekly World News headline (Aliens Photographed by Hubble Telescope) on the wall, next to what is likely a phone directory for the office. A photo of a painting by my Mom (I now have this painting in my house). Several stacks of Mac floppy discs. Bottle of Mountain Dew, natch. IP address of my computer taped to the monitor. Good times.
Dr. John Suler, The Psychology of Cyberspace, Rider University, 2006-06
An extended interview about The Palace, and the strange, and (probably psychologically unhealthy) experience of being the creator of a virtual universe. Psychologist John Suler was a regular at the Palace and made it his main area of study for a good while.
"So jbum, what’s it like walking around inside your own creation?
"Jim Bumgardner", San Francisco Examiner, 1997-11-09
By late 1997, the Palace had spun out as a startup, with Time Warner, Intel and Softbank as investors, and about 40 employees. I wasn’t doing too much software development any more, but was acting as a spokesperson for the company (Mark Jeffrey did considerably more PR during this period). This editorial was ghost-written by a PR company we had hired, and I remember being pretty unhappy with the result, which was not in my voice.
For the record: On-line chatting (and puzzles, for that matter) are totally an addiction. We had some hard-core users who pretty much lived on the Palace during their waking hours. There are certainly worse addictions, for sure. PR photo commissioned by the same agency. Unhappy with this piece when it was published, and even more so now. Cringe!
Karan Kaplan, Los Angeles Times, 1997-12-08
This feature includes a section with some Palace-related quotes from me, delivered at a panel discussion held at the AFI Digital Arts Workshop. At this point, I was very much in my people-are-the-killer-app phase, and the quotes reflect that.
Andrea Codington, New York Times, 1997-12-18
Coverage of the emerging rise of Avatar Chats with much Palace coverage, and interviews with John Suler, Bruce Damar, myself and others. This article was picked up by some other papers as well.
I left The Palace about a year later, when it was merged with some other Softbank-controlled companies to form Communities.com. That company flamed out a few years later, a victim of the first dot-com bubble (and its own unsupportable size). It’s possible The Palace would still be around today if we hadn’t tried to grow it so fast.
Honolulu Advertiser, 2005-12-04
This syndicated feature did a paragraph about my website Coverpop, now extinct, which featured interactive photomosaics. The Coverpop site was essentially killed by Google, which blacklisted it for ads, likely after they discovered it was the top search result for Youtube Music. Unable to sell ads on the site, I sold the domain a few years later.
Jamie Jung, The Daily Tribune (Wisconsin Rapids), 2006-01-22
Sunday lifestyle feature about the ongoing Sudoku fad. Includes some quotes, and one of my puzzles. Around this time I was also interviewed for a local (Los Angeles) TV news segment.
Good Experience Live, 2007, 2007-09-02
Two videos of my talk at GEL, on the topic of recreational coding, focusing on Kaleidoscopes, Random Numbers and the Whitney Music Box. Fun talk! I was the second to last speaker right before Ira Glass.
I did a similar talk at Yahoo (Brown Bag Lunch) right before I was hired there, and a similar talk at a local Barcamp conference (BarCampLA 7 in May, 2009). The Web 2.0 period 2005-2010 (and especially 2006-2007) was very fertile for me, creatively, and much of this activity is documented in my blog entries from the period.
Hugh Hart, Los Angeles Times, 2009-02-03
A preview of the Data+Art show at the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA). Includes a mention of my Flickr-driven art pieces in that show and a quote. More great quotes from Dan Goods, David Delgado, Aaron Koblin, and others. These art pieces are now gathering dust in my garage, and the PMCA, sadly, has closed its doors. Yay!
My pieces that appeared in that show can be found in my Flickr photo album Time Graphs.
Kasparov vs. Deep Blue (performance)
Cranks, Cams and Computers (new music concert), Eagle Rock, 2009-06-26
A video of the debut of my generative music piece, Kasparov vs Deep Blue, held at the Crank, Cams, and Computers concert put on by Newtown Arts, in Eagle Rock, California.
In this piece, I implemented a chess engine, and then instrumented it to produce MIDI notes as it visited various nodes in the search tree. You are hearing the chess computer think, essentially, as the players move the pieces. They are reproducing the final game in the famous titular match.
Jim Bumgardner, Bridges Conference, 2009 (Banff), Summer 2009
Jessica Guynn, Los Angeles Times, 2010-02-16
An accounting of my brief, hilarious adventures hacking Foursquare, in which I became mayor, in quick succession, of the North Pole, the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids, and dozens of other notable locations, as well as trolling Simon Cowell and Martha Stewart. This article was based on an interview, and was instigated from my blog article of the previous day. Jessica’s article was first posted online, and then appeared in a Times Sunday insert several days later, under the title Mr. Mayor. The story was picked up by several blogs and online magazines (several of whom missed the point), and hopefully resulted in tightening things up at Foursquare (which was the point). Several months later, there was an actual attempt to claim the Foursquare Mayorship of the North Pole, which I had faked.
I still believe authenticating GPS coordinates for mobile devices is not secure enough, and not particularly easy to solve.
Blend Up the Internet and Everything Turns Orange : A software developer’s algorithmic analysis of online images reveals a colorful mystery
Alison Bruzek, The Atlantic, 2014-08-20
Feature article about my 2006-2007 Emergent Orange discovery and related art projects. Extensive quotes and some nice images of this work. Alison did a pretty in-depth interview.
In short: I found that if you produce an amalgam (or average) image by blending several uncorrelated digital photos, such as from Flickr, the end result invariably shows a noticable orange shift. I refer to this hue as Emergent Orange.
I have blogged about this a few times, shared source code on github, and I also wrote a short paper for the Bridges Proceedings on this topic.
Emily Palmer, New York Times, 2020-04-20
In 2020, I was honored to be invited by Will Shortz to provide Star Battle puzzles to The New York Times. These puzzles are published under the name Two Not Touch and are now printed next to the Crossword, the KenKen, and some other excellent puzzles, from Monday through Saturday. The Times started running these puzzles on April 20 (😊) and ran this short piece describing the newly expanded puzzle section.