The Micro-Economics of Creative Cloud

Dock Icons on Mac for Adobe CS6

Come on, Muse. Your icon sucks, and it clashes with the rest of the suite.

Today, Adobe launched a new subscription service called Creative Cloud: For $50 month, you get access to the full Master Suite (their most expansive collection of design, publishing, video-editing and audio-editing programs), plus a host of other exclusive programs, standalone programs like Lightroom, and 20 gigabytes of cloud storage.

I’m generally skeptical of subscription apps, especially ones as heavy duty as the Adobe Suite. I much prefer to buy shrinkwrapped software. When you purchase a physical copy of software, you actually own the right to use the programs, the price can’t be increased on you once you’ve bought in, and the terms of the license agreement can’t be changed mid-stream. And I’m always skeptical of storing information on the cloud, if only because I don’t always work from places that are internet-ready: Whether cutting video on-site in a rural middle eastern village, trying to get ahead of a deadline while riding the metro to work or stopping by an office that doesn’t have public wifi, I’m away from the cloud often enough to consider it a major inconvenience.

But even I have been excited for Creative Cloud, which is why I was so puzzled by the reaction a lot of internet commenters have had over the past few months.

“[The student pricing of] $360 a year is not student-friendly,” said one commenter. On another forum, there was vitriol from people indignant that they would be asked to pay the full price of $600 a year for a host of programs when they only use one or two. Others were angry that they’d need to continually pay month after month rather than just incurring a one-time expense. On the New York Times website, a commenter wrote angrily about the Creative Cloud plan, saying that he was going to switch his employees over to freeware that “did the same things better.”

That’s when I realized something foundational about the blowback: It’s not coming from the target audience. The Creative Cloud is aimed at professionals (and companies) that use the full range of Adobe products, or might be willing to try more of them out if they had the chance. The organizations that either upgrade every time Adobe releases a new Creative Suite or else wish they could.

The freeware-loving commenter specified that he was switching his operation over to CutePDF, indicating that the only part of the Creative Suite about which he cares is the PDF-creation capabilities offered by Adobe Acrobat. Others, complaining about needing to pay $50 a month when all they want is one or two programs, are overlooking the fact that they can either continue to just buy the one or two programs they want in a shrink-wrapped version or they can subscribe to just the specific programs they want for much less money. There’s no need for them to even be worrying about Creative Cloud.

So why am I excited for it?

I work for a relatively small non-profit. (Actually, I work for a church.) Our board is very specific about the methods by which they want to accept donations, so we only take donations by cash or check, and only accept them in person. They want to build relationships with donors, and are willing to sacrifice cash on hand for the sake of ensuring that the people donating understand the life, vision and goals of our church for our city. They’re skeptical of opening up online donation portals and just taking donations from people who stumble upon our website. So, we have a small budget, and less than a quarter of it goes to operational expenses like salaries, office supplies and print production.

However, we’re also trying to expand the variety and quality of print materials we produce, increase our leveraging of digital media and are considering video production. Right now, we are running on CS4 Design Standard, but the Master Suite of CS6 would suit our needs well: We’d immediately go from just using Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign to using Dreamweaver, Muse and Fireworks, too. Over the next year, we’d likely start integrating Flash, Premiere and After Effects into our workflow. Audition would open up opportunities for us that would be closed off otherwise. And tossing Lightroom into the mix would make life even easier.

But the up-front upgrade price would be a huge barrier to entry. And even though shelling out whatever the latest upgrade price for the Master Suite is every two years (usually, what, $1,000?) amounts to a smaller overall expense than a $600/year subscription, turning the cost into a regular, predictable expense makes budgeting for it much easier.

For anyone already using the Master Suite and upgrading at every benchmark and mid-stream release, or for anyone who wishes they had MasterSuite tools but finds the upgrade price a barrier to entry, it seems to me that Creative Cloud is for you.

Everyone else: Relax, and just don’t buy it.

Fuck. Yes.

I’m sorry, I can’t write anything about this because all I’m capable of doing at the moment is letting out a string of happy, excited profanity.

Have fun. Bleak, grim, depressing fun.

Tune Inn’s Beer-Battered Burger

Tune Inn on Capitol Hill

Tune Inn Restaurant on Capitol Hill in DC

For those of you who missed it, I recently reviewed the beer-battered burger from Tune Inn, a Capitol Hill institution. Head on over to DC Style Is Real for the review.

The Superbowl and American Mythology

Like millions of Americans, I spent tonight with a small crowd of people watching the Superbowl in my living room. Until the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, most of us barely watched the game. Instead, we mingled, snacked and waited for the commercials. They were largely unimpressive this year, and few of them caught many people’s attention.

Except for the trailer for The Avengers:

When that trailer came on, this room full of young professionals fell almost totally silent. As the spot closed, everyone in the room started talking about it.

“Wait, was that the Hulk that I saw?” said one woman, awed.

One man excitedly asked another if he ever read comics. Neither of them did.

Someone in another corner of the room said, “This is all the super-heroes!”

My friend’s girlfriend turned to me and asked, “Who was that blonde guy?’

“That was Thor.” Then I added, apologetically, “I’m a bit of a nerd.”

The truth is, though, that despite a lifelong passion for Batman, my only childhood foray into comics was brief and tepid. I watched a spattering of super-hero shows in elementary school (Batman: The Animated Series after school, the occasional episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman before bed on Sundays) but that was about it.

No, as a kid, I was more into mythology. The ancient stories of gods and champions seemed to unfold on two levels at once. On a deep plane, every enduring myth seemed to be a story about the life of primal ideals. Even as the ideals thwarted and fulfilled one another, the myths never became didactic, thanks to the myths’ other, more human level: The flawed and often petty personalities of the gods provided a compelling and relatable face for the myths’ deeper moral and philosophical dramas.

One night during my freshman year of college, a friend started waxing enthusiastic about an exceptionally talented representational painter named Alex Ross. He has dedicated his career to painting super-heroes, and his figures convey a sense of weight and presence that is rare in even the most skillful portraits.

Alex Ross' painting of Superman, half-asleep in a chairOne look at Ross’ work—Clark Kent slumped in a chair by a table lamp, his shirt unbuttoned to reveal the iconic Superman shield; Bruce Wayne donning his costume, his back criss-crossed with scars; Captain Marvel gasping with childlike concern at a landslide tumbling toward a schoolbus—and I got it. These weren’t thinly written caricatures of brutes and broads. These were olympian avatars of abstract ideals.

Alex Ross' painting of Bruce Wayne's scarred backThe titans and gods of ancient myth placed personalities on top of their respective virtues: There were gods of sport, romance, war, politics, duty, patriotism, revenge, justice. Their stories, though, weren’t always just neat allegories for prescribing behavior. They hit at deeper, messier truths about the way we relate to the world, to one another and to ourselves.

To quote one of my favorite passages from G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man,

…the barbarian who conceived the crudest fancy about the sun being stolen and hidden in a box, or the wildest myth about the god being rescued and his enemy deceived with a stone … knew more about the crisis of the world, than all those in the circle of cities round the Mediterranean who had become content with cold abstractions or cosmopolitan generalizations; than all those who were spinning thinner and thinner threads of thought out of the transcendentalism of Plato or the orientalism of Pythagoras.

I believe that the mythic impulse that seemed so common in many ancient cultures is not only alive today, but is just as fundamental to how we develop an understanding of ourselves and of the world today as it was to developing a similar understanding thousands of years ago. At first glance, contemporary western culture doesn’t appear to have overt narrative myths—iconic characters whose relationships to one another are always generally the same but undergo iterations as their widely known stories are retold from generation to generation. Until you remember super-heroes.

In-Process Boards of Captain Marvel, by Alex RossSuper-heroes fulfill the mythic impulse in contemporary American culture. That’s why nearly everyone in the country can accurately describe Superman’s lineage, Batman’s history, Wolverine’s attitude, Spider-Man’s driving motivations. As the ancient Greeks related to the Homeric tales of Odysseus defying Poseidon, Jason stealing the golden fleece and Prometheus bringing fire to his people, we relate to the story of a scrawny kid from Brooklyn getting the opportunity to defend his hometown and calling himself Captain America. The medium may have evolved from blind bards singing poems by a roaring fire through amphitheater dramas through books and comic books to hundreds of people devoting years of their lives to putting together a hundred-million-dollar movie, but the social and emotional function is basically the same.

I don’t think I’m reading too much into it. The fact that the iconography of super-heroes brought a whole room to silence proves that these characters and these stories hit at something deeper in our collective poetic imagination. The buzz in the room after the Avengers trailer backs me up.

Turns out I didn’t need to apologize for knowing who Thor was.

The Gibson

A scotch-based cocktail at The Gibson in Washington, DC

The Scorched Earth at The Gibson

Last week, I wrote a guest post for a fun DC culture/nightlife blog called DC Style is Real highlighting The Gibson—a speakeasy that makes some of the best cocktails on the Atlantic seaboard. The bar is celebrating its third anniversary tonight, but if you can’t make it to DC for the shindig, then head on over to DC Style is Real and check out my write-up.

Two Perspectives on Paris: Before Sunset

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy early in Before Sunset

It could be worse, people. I could have left you for nine years before writing again.

In real life, I gather friends together for themed double-feature movie nights a couple times a month in the summer and winter. Moving forward, I’ll translate the more interesting double-features into posts for your enjoyment. You can check out the introduction to the first set below.

In Before Sunset—Richard Linklater’s 2004 follow-up to his 1995 sleeper classic Before Sunrise—we watch two characters seduced, intimidated, built up and torn down by a third. The first two are Celine and Jesse, two thirtysomethings who met on a train in Vienna in 1995 and haven’t seen each other since. The third is, of course, Paris, a vibrant city with which they each have markedly different relationships.

Jesse, in town peddling a minor bestseller he wrote about his one night with Celine nine years earlier, sees Paris the way many young Americans with stifled ambitions do: The city of lights. The city of magic. The city of romance. As the movie opens, he’s finishing a reading at Shakespeare & Co. and sees her peeking at him from around a corner. He fumbles through the end of his Q&A and leaves with her. He only has a short time until his flight, but he’s determined to spend it catching up.

Celine lives in Paris. Over the past nine years, she has elevated her night with Jesse from a memory to a fantasy to a myth. While smoking in a café, walking through gardens and boating past Notre Dame lull Jesse into a breezy dream-state, they just reinforce for her that this symbolic reverie is breaking out of her past and intruding on her real, day-to-day life.

For Jesse, this tour is a romp around a dream land, but Notre Dame’s beauty serves to wake him up, or at least push him toward discussing his own, stifled dreams about Celine. They get in a car, and Celine breaks down, angry at him for coming into her real life “all romantic, and married.”

Celine almost touches Jesse.

In the car, they each try to touch the other when the other has turned away, beautifully recalling the childish glances they stole in the first movie's music booth scene.

This sets up the movie’s quiet, stunning final act: Jesse walks Celine to her apartment, and as they scale the steps she becomes quiet, awkward and excited. He asks her to sing one of her songs, and she sings a dreamy song about their one-night stand. He finally stops pretending as though he has any intention of catching his plane. We hold on one shot as she gives in to fantasy and he admits to reality. They’ve switched places. And we fade to black.

The movie paints Paris as the city that stirs up passion, capable of reviving youthful romance that you had thought long-dead. Later this week, we’ll look at a movie that conversely sees Paris as the city that kills passionate youths.

I swear. It will be this week.

Double-Feature Introduction: Two Perspectives on Paris

Parisian Gargoyle, courtesy of Wikipedia

A city both beautiful and sinister.

In real life, I gather friends together for themed double-feature movie nights a couple times a month in the summer and winter. Moving forward, I’ll translate the more interesting double-features into posts for your enjoyment. Check out the introduction to the first set after the jump.  Read More

Hey There! How About a (Re-)Introduction?

Apparently this morning’s post on Ghostbusters and the upcoming closure of the movie’s most recognizable landmark is attracting a bit of traffic. Here’s a welcome to new visitors, a primer on what this blog is all about and a couple suggestions to keep you reading after the jump. Read More

Yes, I’m Back. Now Who Am I Gonna Call?

A love letter to one of the best movies of the 80s, a call-to-arms to save a vital piece of American cultural history, and a startling confession from your intrepid writer. All this and more, after the jump. Read More

Memento’s Mementos

Memento revived and redefined the noir

Memento helped revive and redefine the contemporary noir

I recently wrote about Christopher Nolan’s Memento for Brooklyn Public Library. Head over to their blog to check a brief musing on the film’s place in the pantheon of noirs and recommendations for classic books that fed into the film’s traditions.