The Ranting Wren The Wren Forum Banner
The Glorious Wren The Movie Wren The Photo Wren Old Man Wren

Exit ArchiveArchive for the "Critique" Category

I sent some feedback to Apple regarding the new UI for QuickTime Player. Here’s what I had to say. Notice I didn’t once mention York Peppermint Patties. York! The Freshmaker!

* * * * * *

The new QuickTime Player X interface is very cool on the surface, but it has some unfortunate limitations when compared to QuickTime Player 7 that make it less useful. I find myself opening most of my movies in QuickTime Player 7 so that my video is not invaded by UI elements, and so I can use some of the features now missing in QuickTime Player X.

1) Putting the title bar and controls inside the movie frame is not very logical for a computer screen-based interface. This is not a TV or iPhone I’m using where the elements have no choice but to appear over the video. It’s a Mac, and as such is capable of a better, more useful, non-frustrating UI. I was able to see the entire frame of my movies in older QuickTime Player interfaces without cruft. Now, if I want to see the entire frame while paused or take a screen capture, I can’t without the controller and title bar littering the frame. If I want to go frame-by-frame through the video, I have to move the silly player control around to find out where it will be the least obtrusive. And if anything is in the top of the frame in my video, forget being able to see it through the title bar. Likewise, having the Trim bar inside the movie frame is ridiculous, doubly so because it can not be moved. If I need to see anything behind that trim bar, I’m out of luck. There is no reason other than “gloss and flash” to have the controls where they are in X.

2) I used to be able to use standard key strokes for multi-speed playback in either direction. The J, K, and L keys no longer work in QuickTime X. If there is a practical reason why they have gone missing, I can not think of one.

3) Doing away with the half-size (⌘0) and double-size (⌘2) shortcuts makes no sense. Cycling through sizes with ⌘- and ⌘+ is a nice addition, but it can also be like TVs that don’t let you get to the input you want right away, forcing you to cycle through every input until you get to the one you need. The current solution is a weaker choice. There’s no reason the older shortcuts and the newer shortcuts can’t both be available in the new player.

4) The fixed-size timeline slider is much more difficult to use than the older, variable-length slider. In long movies, it was easy to get finer control in the timeline by expanding the size of the QT window. But now, no matter how big the window is, the timeline slider remains the same size, and becomes fairly useless for fine-grain control on long videos.

5) The vanishing title bar means no more playing multiple movies at once and being able to tell which one is which with a quick title-bar glance. A small hindrance, but I point out that there was no such hindrance until it was created for QT Player X.

6) Rounded corners? Why? Just because all Mac windows have rounded corners? But video does not have rounded corners. If this is not putting the sow before the silk purse, I don’t know what is.

Nothing has been gained by making the changes I’ve mentioned. Not a thing. Having all controls on the outside of the video is common sense, and vastly improves on the human interface of QuickTime Player. Again, this is not a TV or iPhone I’m using for watching video, and so there’s no need to make the video window behave as such. If you are really hot to have the controls and frame vanish automatically during playback, the same thing can be accomplished with controls outside the frame and a simple preference option to let users choose to turn that behavior off if they want to. A keyboard shortcut can be added, too, so we may make the controls appear and reappear at will if we choose. It seems to me, however, that the vanishing controls are only necessary because of the unfortunate addition of intra-frame controls. Hmmm!

Apple has set the standard for good, logical design and UI for decades, with certain exceptions, of course. Hockey puck mouse, anyone? Sadly, QuickTime Player X trades usability for coolness, and it just doesn’t work.

Thanks for reading!

This morning, I tweeted about Microsoft’s Surface showing up very select at Sheraton hotels. It was this video that made me comment:

Besides being a bit creepy—is that woman wanting to slap the little boy, or seduce him?—the video is humorous in showing how minimally useful the Surface concept even is. I can do the things that table does on my iPhone, and I have that with me all the time.

Expanding ever so slightly on my tweet, I ask you, how long until the majority of those things break? How often will they cease to function? When will I first be able to walk into a Sheraton hotel and see a $10,000 table crashed or dark?

When Microsoft first announced the Surface just before the iPhone’s release last year, I started to write a post about how Apple’s products are cool, and Microsoft’s, when they actually release them, are only faux cool. Microsoft wants you to like their products and tries to tell you how awesome they are, but they always suck. Apple strongly suggests that their products are cool, and often they really are. They certainly are well designed, well engineered, well built, and well well well.

I never finished the post because I got busy, and not in the cool sense. But the idea still holds. Microsoft, in a desperate attempt to steal some of the thunder from the upcoming iPhone, announced a fairly crappy product which introduced nothing terribly state-of-the-art, promised to deliver it by the end of the year, then failed to do so.

Well, guess I’m sorta wrong. A few Surfaces have surfaced, it seems. But look at the Sheraton announcement carefully. Notice there’s no date mentioned. When are these tables going to be installed? They aren’t installed already or the press release would have said so. To take one small detail into question, why, pray tell, would guests want to create playlists on the table? For what purpose? To play where? Certainly not their iPod! And so on and so on.

Lo, with perfect timing, here comes Kontra to muse on the concept of why other companies do concepts, but Apple does not. He or she or it or they or them are and/or is absolutely correct. While concept products are interesting, they are often amusingly, ridiculously out of touch with the universe. Every concept car I’ve seen at car shows is laughable in its ignorance. I would never deny anyone the right to create a concept. What gets me is when it is hinted that this thing you are seeing is potentially viable. That astounding future technologies will emerge from this thing at which you are marveling or laughing. (Turns out Steve Jobs brought up the concept car problem in this Time article from 2005.)

Kontra is correct. Apple does not need to release concepts. They are in the business of making concepts reality. When I saw Steve-o unveil the iPhone at Macworld in 2007, part of what made it such a thrilling spectacle is knowing that this thing, this amazing chiclet of technology, was going to be real. I would be holding one in my hand in six months. That never, ever happens with concept products.

* * * * * *

What follows are the videos I originally included in my un-posted post.

See all the the Steve Jobs/Bill Gates appearance videos here.

And here’s a video from D5 with Gates showing off the Surface.

Thanks as always to Daring Fireball for leading me to good material.

My boss walked into my office today, saying, “I have a surprise for you!” “Are you being facetious?” I asked. “Maybe.”

He handed me this:

I think my reaction surprised him. “Oh, wow! This was my favorite mouse ever!” “Really?” I was not being facetious.

This, friends, is the Apple Desktop Bus Mouse II. According to Mactracker—an awesome, comprehensive app that gives info on every Apple product ever made—this mouse was included on all Macs from 1993 to 1998. It was only the third mouse design since the Mac’s introduction in 1984. My boss found this one locked in a cabinet in some conference room. It cleaned up really nice, and I plan to keep it.

I began using Macs when they showed up in my junior high school, though it took a long time for me to have one of my very own. Macs were too expensive, so my folks bought a IIe while I was in high school. (I first used a IIe and learned Apple Basic when I was in 4th grade.) I used my Apple IIe to write all my papers in college, but I loved every moment using the Macs at school to create flyers or newsletters or graphics.

I got my very own Mac, an LC III, in 1993. It had the new Apple Mouse II. When I started doing scientific illustration and page layout for books at Birkhäuser, the LC III was quickly replaced with a faster mac, a Quadra 610, that could better handle Illustrator and Aldus PageMaker. (Here’s one of the books I typeset. For some reason, I thought I had put my name on the copyright page. I usually did. Anyway, I want to go on record saying that nowadays, I would never stretch a font like I did in those black boxes!)

I did not upgrade my Mac until 1999, when I got a blue and white G3. I had already been living in L.A. and working for Disney for five years. I got the G3 literally weeks before the brand new G4 towers came out. It was my first introduction to immediate obsolescence.

I got my G3 less than a year after Apple had introduced the bondi blue iMac, the machine that began the rebirth of Apple and the Mac. Perhaps the most maligned thing about the new iMac was the mouse: it was round, which meant you could never tell, by feel alone, if you were holding it upright or not. My G3 came with one of these horrible mice, but I did not mind, because the machine still had an ADB port, which meant I could use my old Apple Mouse II. (I think this was the last Mac to have an ADB port. It was the first pro-level Mac to have USB.)

When I got my 12″ PowerBook in 2003, I could no longer use my Apple Mouse II. I still have not found a mouse I love as much.

The Apple Mouse II was perfect. That seems like a silly thing to say, because it had only one button, used a physical roller ball, and had no scroll wheel or scroll ball. But I consider it perfect anyway.

The mouse was low profile, which meant it sat in the curve of my hand without me having to bend my wrist backward to accommodate its bulk. The button end of the mouse was very shallow, down close to the desk surface, so I never had to strain my fingers up to rest on the button. My hand could relax comfortably. Most mice, especially today, have unnecessary bulk. They force the hand to arch up to unnatural heights, and the buttons are far off the desk, which pushes the fingers higher than is normal. The Apple Mouse II was shaped so that you could plonk your hand down, relaxed, on the desk, and the mouse would just happen to be there, in the cavity, ready to go.

The button had perfect tactility, which meant you could rest your finger(s) on the button comfortably without the button accidentally clicking. It also clicked at just the right pressure, so I never had to strain my fingers to press down. If a button clicks too easily, finger muscles get strained as you hold them aloft, trying not to click. When a button mechanism is too strong, the muscles have to strain harder to click.

The single button that covered the entire front of the mouse meant I could relax my hand in a natural position, even to the very right edge of the mouse, and still move and click with ease. A two-button mouse where the left button is the default button forces your wrist to rotate farther left and your index finger to angle more than is natural, then hold the pose the entire time you use the mouse. Most mice are designed with the buttons inset from the sides of the mouse, so even if you can rest your hand at the very edge, you have to move your finger to click. On the Apple II Mouse, you could just click any part of the front, and you were okay.

All these tiny little alterations, muscle movements, and position-holdings add up over the hours, and, in my experience, at the end of a long mousing day, they hurt. My right hand is sore every day using “better” mice. For sure, hands of different sizes and shapes may require different shapes of mice. A large hand still rests its fingers at the surface of a desk, so the low mouse button works well there. Perhaps stronger fingers would need stronger button clicking, and a wider hand a wider mouse to more comfortably grip, but overall, I posit that the Apple Mouse II was a perfect, average shape.

My current favorite mouse is the Wireless Mighty Mouse. Yes, also by Apple. I have used a number of other brands of mice, and none of them works as well (though the Logitech MX 300, now impossible to find, was pretty decent). With the Mighty Mouse, I get back the low profile and the low, borderless button. I swap my left and right clicking, so the right side of the mouse is my “left” click. This way, I only have to strain my hand or fingers occasionally to execute a “right” click. My hand can rest as it did using an Apple Mouse II. (I tried swapping button mapping on other mice, but for some reason, it didn’t work so well, mostly because the unclickable side border made it pointless.)

The down side of the Mighty Mouse is that I have to be very careful, and therefore strain my hand, to do a “click and pick up the mouse to move it before you unclick” maneuver. This is easy on most mice, but because the whole top of the Mighty Mouse is mostly one piece, the only place to grab and hold is the side-click buttons. I have to move my thumb up to the left side click button (because it does not naturally rest there), then sort of do a squeeze–hold while I click the main button, then do a cumbersome lift… Do you know how many times I accidentally squeeze too hard and bring up Exposé? And then suddenly I’m stuck, hand aloft, mid-click, with all my windows shrunken, and everything has to come to a halt while I repair the mess.

Another issue is the touch-sensitive button. I love the idea in theory, but you have to lift your fingers off the “left” click “button” to make the “right” click “button” work properly. If the mouse senses a touch on both sides, it does not execute a “right” click. This strain does get to my hand by the end of the day.

I could get into my issues with tracking sensitivity, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that the Apple mice have the best tracking algorithmicity thingy I’ve used. Other mice are too sensitive and don’t get the acceleration right.

One could say that I simply like the Apple Mouse II because that’s what I got used to using. It seems a fair argument, but it doesn’t work here because I can just lay my hand down on my desk, let it relax, and see how it comes to rest. The Apple Mouse II fit right into that relaxed posture. I do not imagine other people’s hands lie in completely different ways than mine, all twisted to the left with fingers naturally hovering in the air and wrists bent backwards. Maybe I’m ignorant, or a fool. Or maybe it’s approaching 8:00 on a Friday night, and I’m here in my office writing a blog post about mice.

I have spent a lot of time at work testing mice, trying to find decent ones that haven’t been bastardized by forced progress and redesigned for redesign’s sake. It’s a constant battle. So seeing an old friend walk in the door was a great surprise and, perhaps pathetically, a happy one.

No, that is not me making fun of Japanese. On the contrary! It’s… well, not on the contrary. I’m not even sure why I used that phrase. I just know I’m not making fun of the Japanese language or people. I wear a Chococat bracelet, for God’s sake!

All I want to say is that there’s a lot of talk going on about the fonts Obama and Clinton and McCain are using in their political campaigns. I don’t have the energy to post all the links here (see previous post regarding not getting things done), mostly because there are so very many. But here’s the one that got me started on this post in the first place (via Daring Fireball, of course).

What I thought might be both fun and helpful was posting snapshots of the three main candidates’ websites here for easy comparison. So I did. This is what their homepages look like today. Click on any of the images to see them full-size. (They are large PNGs, so they may load slowly.)

Let’s start with McCain.

John McCain\'s Website on April 22, 2008

Boy, that’s a fun site! All the wonderful colors! The cheer! The optimism! The Optima! (And the Gill Sans and the Myriad and the Futura and the Trajan and… ACK!) If John McCain were an investment firm, this would be a great website design. Or, perhaps, a great start to a website design.

How does Hillary’s look?

Hillary Clinton\'s Website on April 22, 2008

Hmm. How… cute. Is she running for district council? And I hear she just recently put a new font on her site. Is that… Gotham? Copycat! Charlatan! Lemming! Oh, wait, it’s Avenir? Well, then, she’s definitely not copying what’s-his-face. The guy with the funny name. What is it again?

Barack Obama\'s Website on April 22, 2008

Ah, yes, that’s right. Obama. Well, now, this is a site! Look at the airiness! The beauty! The hope! The change! The fonts! Gotham! And I can not for the life of me find the name of the serif and script fonts, but they are fantastic. Look how well the script and Gotham work together! Now if only HTML 5 were in effect, we wouldn’t have to put up with Helvetica and Georgia in the text boxes.

Most pundits have agreed that Obama’s branding team knows what it’s doing. I have to agree. That is one professional, good-looking, and effective site. It’s yummy. I’ll take a double scoop in a waffle cone, please.

 

FHWA and Clearview

I have before bemoaned the change, currently in progress, from the original highway font to the new Clearview font. Seeing the new font in action in Austin during my last two trips there, I have to say… I do not like it any better. Yes, it’s very legible, but it’s still dull, dull, dull. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s “ugly,” but I’m very close. Some lobbying money from Friends for Fabulous Fonts could steer me to that conclusion.

The New York Times published a long article on Clearview and its creation. Perhaps it’s because this article was published in the Times Magazine section, or perhaps it’s because journalism is pretty much dead, but interesting as the article is, it suffers from many maladies of poor writing. Take, for instance, this:

Looking at a sign in Clearview after reading one in Highway Gothic is like putting on a new pair of reading glasses: there’s a sudden lightness, a noticeable crispness to the letters.

True, the Clearview’s letters are crisper, but so-called Highway Gothic is not illegible. It is not muddy. It is incredibly clear and wonderfully designed. Since all our highway signs in L.A. started being replaced a few years ago, I’ve been seeing if I ever find them hard to read. Almost never. I do have good eyesight—meaning good contact lenses—so perhaps I’m not a target demographic for clearer sign fontage. Which is not my overall point. My point is that looking from Highway Gothic to Clearview is nothing like putting on a new pair of reading glasses.

What started as a project to organize information for tourist routes in Oregon would soon turn into an all-consuming quest, and one that marked the first time in the nation’s history that anyone attempted to apply systematically the principles of graphic design to the American highway.

Anyone who’s paid attention to the signs on our highways knows that they were, in fact, carefully designed. Their colors, shapes, and placement are very specific. The statement above is mere popsicle writing.

The text that did appear on these early signs was largely hand-painted and all in uppercase, simply because no one could effectively draw lowercase letter forms by hand.

Preposterous. Assumptive writing at its best. “No one could effectively draw lowercase letterforms by hand”? Who made that up? Heck, I can make up stuff, too. For instance, did you know that the quality, tone, and content of most news articles are sloppy and sensationalistic simply because no one has the means to effectively research and confirm details and sources? It’s true!

Now how about mismatched points? Toward the beginning, the article mentions how the understanding of type has turned from an “esoteric pursuit” into one that marketing has made more front-and-center. “Fonts are image, and image is modern America,” an argument for how badly the font on our highway signs needs to be changed. However, later on, Highway Gothic is said to be exactly that kind of font to many people.

The quirky appeal of imperfection does give Highway Gothic its fans, who share highway lore and trade vintage road signs on the Internet. To highway enthusiasts like Richard Moeur, who runs a Web site devoted to traffic signs, the existing highway typeface has become evocative of the wonder of the open road.

So yes, we need to spend all this time and money on a new font in this era of marketing, a font that can improve legibility but also create a new, cohesive image for America’s highways! Forget that FWHA Series E is already that, and that Highway Gothic is being used by marketing campaigns willy-nilly these days. Why make reporting accurate when it can be fun? Oh, and re-read the first part of that quote: “The quirky appeal of imperfection.” How perfectly symbolic of this story’s propagandistic slant and “by golly, it’s swell” uselessness.

I completely agree that the proper use of fonts more important than ever today, thanks to the computer. Computers have made fonts more accessible for everyone, and so the general public is more aware of what fonts are. At the same time, I’d argue, fonts have never been more misused. Back in the days when FWHA Series E was created, there were people creating typefaces such as these who knew what they were doing. It was difficult work. Highway Gothic is not a product of haphazard creation or accidental need. Fonts were made and used by people who knew how to make and use them. Now, fonts are made and used by everyone. I need not explain the consequences.

I don’t mean to imply that Clearview has been made by morons. It has obviously been carefully designed, with much thought put into its every curve. I admire the goal to create a font that will be legible in any condition, night or day, wet or dry, in slow or fast passing. It’s not surprising, though, that one of Clearview’s creators says that he wanted to take the “goofiness” out of the Highway Gothic design. Clearview is the dull result; it is too dull to be something that will become romanticized as the new American Spirit of the Open Road.

“Highway Gothic conjures the awe of Interstate travel and the promise of midcentury futurism; Clearview’s aesthetic is decidedly more subdued.” That’s exactly the problem with Clearview, but not something the article realizes might be an issue. It’s so strange to have a propaganda piece written for a highway font! I wonder if someone paid someone off. Friends for Fabulous Fonts could pay me off to write an anti-Clearview article. Or they can just send me a check for this post. Hello? You guys out there?

Yes, that is the best headline I could come up with. That’s Friday for you!

So have you seen the trailer for this Beowulf movie? Without knowing what I was about to see, something looked very, very wrong from the get-go. I was watching live action that had been… faked? Overly processed? What was it? Then I realized that Beowulf is another of Robert Zemeckis’ horrifying amalgam movies, combining live-action motion-capture with CG. The effect still gives me a deep-seated shiver any time I see clips or trailers of scenes from The Polar Express.

The Lifeless Eyes of Beowulf

Now the technology has advanced to a more shiverific state. Beowulf stars some great actors. But just watch them in the trailer. They have been digitized, removing any subtlety from their performances. Anthony Hopkins looks like Anthony Hopkins, and Angelina Jolie looks like Angelina Jolie… but those looks have been waxinated. Faked. Changed. Deadened. Look at Beowulf’s CG-perfect body. Creepy. Look at the unnatural CG physical movements of the characters. Creepy! Look at the Polarized deadness in everyone’s eyes. CREEPY! That last one is the worst of all.

I suppose I can go read about the technology involved in the making of this movie, but that’s okay. I will say, having not read such, that while you can motion-capture every movement of an actor’s performance, and while you can make a 3D scan of every tiny crevice of an actor’s face, you can not capture the subtlety of acting. The dead eyes are a huge indication of what’s wrong with this kind of filmmaking. CG turns good actors into bad CG characters.

Of course, CG in the right hands can create brilliant “acting.” Ratatouille is the latest and, maybe, the best example of that from a company that knows what the hell they’re doing with CG. Pixar does not use motion capture, a fact they happily call out in Ratatouille‘s credits.

Motion capture has its place. But why take very talented and expensive actors, shoot them via motion capture, digitize their faces, then scrub out any nuance though CG? It makes no sense. You’re throwing away the subtlety for which you hired those actors in the first place. Oh, unless you hired them just for their names. But no one would do that, now, would they?

Some day someone will get this technique right. But then the question can still be asked, why do it this way? Why not shoot your actors as you normally would, then use their actual faces and reactions and emotions and paint the world around them? 300 did that, and though it was a mediocre movie, at least the actors looked like people.

Pushing the envelope in this direction is a wonderful evolution of science and technology, but not of storytelling. When technology impedes or erases part of the moviemaking magic, it should not to be used.

There has been much talk that the iPhone does not have Flash on its browser. Hooray.

There are some very good, nearly-noble reasons for why Apple wants to leave Flash off the iPhone… and, for that matter, get it off the Web entirely. Before reading about this, I was simply wanting Flash off the Web for reasons having to do with usability, speed, and aesthetics.

Smashing Magazine has an interesting post today about start pages, the first page someone sees when they go to a site. The examples they use are heavy with Flash and cumbersome, difficult-to-use navigation. Admittedly, some of these sites are very cool and have a very fun aspect to them, but forget ever really finding anything useful. Forget, too, sending someone to a particular part of the site via URL… they will have to follow your instructions to find a particular item.

Some Flash sites also love to re-size browser windows, which just happened as I was writing this. Go here, the first site mentioned by Smashing, then use the back arrow to return to this post. See what happened? Now you have to go a re-size your browser window to where you want it. Annoying.

Flash has also been notoriously slow on Mac browsers. This is not a function of the Mac, but a function of Flash. Some of these Smashing sites seem to be working quite well, however. There was a time when Flash in Safari would be so painfully slow that the site was unusable.

What should trump what on a site dedicated to showcasing design? The answer would seem to be, duh, design! Design does not only encompass the visual, however. The layout and function of a website is also design. A designer who wants to show off their goods on the interactive Web, then they need to be sure the site they present is also very well designed, easy to navigate, quick to load, and tolerant of the user’s own browser settings. A snazzy, animated site may seem cool and wow us with visuals and graphic shenanigans, but if it ends up frustrating me as well, forget it. I’ll move on.

Oh, and might I point out that Smashing itself is using another excruciating website junker-upper, the sponsored inline link. Horrifying. To watch the text on Smashing become diseased by ugly green double underlines that themselves then bring up invasive Live Search or ad pop-up windows is infuriating. Flash + commerce = butt ugly.

I recently mentioned a blog I read on the Wired site called 27 B Stroke 6.

Well, sadly, they are changing their name to something less clever and creative: “Threat Level.” How… interesting. How… thought-provoking. Pshaw!

I have been a subscriber to Wired for many years. The reason I never read it much when it first came out is because it was so over-designed as to be difficult to read. Magazines are… what? Anybody? Yes, read. A difficult-to-read magazine is useless.

Thankfully, Wired‘s loony design got toned down and I started subscribing once I realized what a great magazine it actually was.

Well, actually, that’s kind of a lie. I subscribed once I noticed they were offering the mag for $12 a year. Wow! A bargain!

During my readership, Wired has undergone three major redesigns. I think I can safely say only the first one was a success. The last two are horrible.

The first mistake, this being from the second redesign (I think), was making stories continue in the back of the magazine. For years, Wired stories were printed in a continuous flow, ending before the next article began. But that was changed, and now you have to flip way back into the magazine to finish reading an article. This sucks. I hate magazines that do this. It is inconvenient to read and bookmark.

The second mistake was the fonts. Oh, the FONTS! The second redesign brought the text of the magazine back to the nearly unreadable zone. I can suffer very small text, but when it’s small and thin, forget it. This style lasted a couple years.

The last redesign, which happened sometime last year, was yucky. The first change that brought the magazine from “cool” to “pedestrian” was the size. Wired went from being a wide-format magazine, which is nice to hold and imparted a bit of specialness, to being a normal size, which is… normal. Dull.

The last redesign also brought a bunch of “new” fonts, designed specifically for the magazine. Oh, the FONTS! They suck. Often, the font meant for body text is blown up huge for headlines and such, and the font is butt-ass-ugly at larger sizes. And the multiple fonts used do not harmonize well together, nor have I really been able to determine when a certain font is used for what, meaning they are all just tossed in whenever and make the magazine look junky.

Maybe to offset this now-ugly monthly experience, I recently subscribed to Print magazine. (Yes, that Print.) It is a model of beauty. The typesetting is pristine and high-class. The fonts are readable. The layout is thoughtful and pleasing. It makes the people designing Wired look like junior high students just learning InDesign.

What does all this have to do with 27B Stroke 6? Only this: Wired‘s changes, both online and off, have smacked of Corporateness. Wired used to have this rebellious spirit about it, but that’s definitely changed. The magazine is now almost dull. Any hipness it tries to impart seems forced, like Cargo or something. I still enjoy the info I get from it, but it’s no longer my destination magazine.

The name change for 27B Stroke 6 is another sign of this. The old name was amusing and clever. If not everyone got what it meant, so the hell what? For God’s sake let some people be in the dark about something. Let there be something to discover about something. But corporate marketings desire the exact opposite of this. It’s a shame.

At least the new Wired.com redesign is an actual improvement. The site has sucked for quite a long time now, design- and coding-wise. At least now it’s cleaner and easier to use.

I got a real, honest-to-goodness, paying voice-over job yesterday. It was awesome. I was in and out of the joint in ten minutes. It was, without a doubt, the easiest money I’ve ever made. I like this voice-over thing!

The V/O was for HIT Entertainment’s DVD Auto-Play feature, which begins playing the DVD automatically after a short interval (and after my short announcement). I had to record two versions of the announcement, both of which ended with a single-word sentence: “Enjoy.”

I think I did a good job, and was very professional. But I had trouble on that last word. Mentally. A tiny flag went off in my head each time I came to that word. But I read it anyway, and in the most tranquil tone possible. Yes, folkarinos, it seems I’ve become part of a recent trend that has been growing in obnoxiousness in recent years. It’s the Enjoy Entreaty.

Just take a listen as you go about your life. Purchasing a yummy chicken sandwich at Wendy’s? Listen for the cashier to say “Enjoy” as she gives you your food. Acquiring a small souvenir for yourself at a little gift shop in the lobby of some touristy hotel in a vacation paradise? Notice how the smiling lady in the trifocals and the flower print shirt tells you to “Enjoy.” Buying a tiny plastic jar of chemical glop to apply to your hair for the perfect coif? Witness the purveyor urging you to “Enjoy” your new hair goop.

It seems that no matter what you go to do these days, someone is inviting you to Enjoy. They are doling out the Enjoy Entreaty. But why? How did this come to be so prevalent? Is corporate marketing to blame? Did it start with some new mandatory guideline at some mass market chain somewhere that required salespeople to say “Enjoy” to each and every customer? Or is it some kind of personal choice, where each individual salesclerk and serviceperson has decided that “Enjoy” is rather pleasant and wants to pass the delight on to others?

There’s nothing wrong with being told to Enjoy something. On the surface, and used sparingly, the word Enjoy is infused with positive vibes. It’s a comfy, cozy word. The key, though, is that “sparingly” part. When I am being hit with Enjoy at nearly every purchase, the word moves from the kingdom of Pleasantry to the dictatorship of Annoyance.

Perhaps the issue is that Enjoy is being used improperly. Really, when I purchase a movie ticket, should I be told to Enjoy? “Enjoy the movie,” yes, but just simply “Enjoy”? When I’m being handed my bag full of brand new cargo shorts, is it truly the correct suggestion? “Enjoy?” When I listen to the podcast of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! every week, should I be urged to “Enjoy” at the end of every cut-and-paste intro?

Here’s when Enjoy should be used. It should be used for food. Treats, preferably. Enjoying food is an accepted part of our lexicon. Boy, I Enjoyed that steak. Boy, did I Enjoy that marshmallow sundae. Did you Enjoy that homemade, oven-hot chocolate chip cookie? Boy, I sure did!

Beyond food, Enjoy needs qualifiers. Certainly, one can Enjoy a vacation. But the ticket lady at the garishly lit airline check-in counter should invoke the word in a phrase such as “Enjoy your flight!” or “Enjoy your trip!” She should never just say, “Enjoy.” Enjoy what? The trip? The ticket sleeve? The soon to be tedious immersion into ineffective security protocol? You may find the fit and comfort of your new clogs to be Enjoyable, but the clerk at Shoe Boot Shoe Shoe Boot Shoe should not say, nakedly, “Enjoy.” He should say, “Enjoy your new clogs!” The policewoman who so kindly pulled you over for speeding, thus sparing society an assuredly damaging and expensive accident, must take it upon herself to say, “Enjoy this financial deterrent to future misbehavior,” because a simple suggestion to “Enjoy” would exude a hint of smugness and righteousness.

My life is being made less Enjoyable by being constantly reminded to Enjoy the things I have myself sought out to Enjoy. “Enjoy” is so innocuous, so benign, so friendly, that to have it consistently misused and unwarrantedly thrust upon us is akin to a small child who, though adorable for a few minutes, becomes a nuisance when he simply will not turn around in his seat and stop staring at you while you Enjoy your Fatburger.

And so I take it upon myself to give you this apology. The voice-over that you may soon begin hearing before your new Barney, Bob the Builder, or Angelina Ballerina DVD bursts into spontaneous playing will invite you to “Enjoy.” It’s unfortunate and wrong. Am I telling you to Enjoy the video? To Enjoy the bonus features? To Enjoy the actual auto-play feature itself, movie be damned? What the hell does Enjoy mean at the end of the auto-play announcement? Nothing. It means nothing. So I’m sorry for being a part of the problem. I’m sorry I have been a party to the Enjoy Entreaty.

Well, I certainly am glad I got that off my chest. Thank you for listening, and have a nice day.

What a busy day for posts. And though this will once again preempt the hilarious OK Go treadmill video, I have to say something.

I’ve taken Bruce Tinsley to task before regarding his inability to be funny. For a comic strip writer, that’s what I would call a huge liability. And though he’s extremely conservative, and extreme conservatives simply don’t have it in them to be humorous (so goes my theory), he’s not alone in his poor humor on the funny pages. Hell, that stupid La Cucaracha comic is atrocious—head-banging-on-the-table atrocious—and it’s very liberal.

But I digress.

Here, look at the Mallard Fillmore from this Monday:

Mallard Fillmore Shoot the Baby

Yes, as you can see, not funny. But it’s also a bit infuriating, because that’s what happens when conservatives get a hold of anything complicated: They take a simplistic detail and use it as their talking point.

Of course Hezbollah, a terrorist, guerrilla operation, hides among the civilians of Lebanon. That’s how rats live. When you are fighting a huge power, like Israel or the U.S., and those huge powers have absolutely nothing in their hearts for you but, at the very best, dismissiveness, you really have no choice. If the U.S. got somehow taken over by, oh, I don’t know, an evil oligarchical government run by large companies and their friends, and that evil government began to, oh, I don’t know, chip away at the freedoms of its citizens until that government became, in the end, no better than the dictators and kings it still purported to loathe, and such events led to, oh, I don’t know, more subversive or violent oppression of the people… well, I imagine all patriotic countrymen who wanted to fight for the freedom that they were being denied would become, in effect, a terrorist, guerrilla operation. The oligarchy itself would waste no breath without calling the freedom fighters terrorists.

What’s so ignorant and ridiculous about the cartoon is that, were muggers to pull such a stunt with babies and other innocent people, the cops would not shoot at him. Or, rather, they should not shoot at him. Sure, that means the mugger has, for now, outsmarted the cops. But taking hostages is not anything new. It’s not like no mugger has ever hidden behind an innocent before.

Without being able to simply shoot the mugger, which is an extreme solution to begin with, the cops would have to rely on other means. Negotiation, perhaps. Or, as the movies like to show us, negotiation to buy time until another solution could be found. Suppose negotiation or another more covert way of apprehending the mugger were to fail and the mugger killed the baby before either killing himself or then being caught or shot by the cops… Who’s at fault for killing the baby? The mugger. If, while the mugger holds the child, the cops go in regardless, guns blazing, with the excuse that it is the only way to get this rat, then it is more likely the baby will die at their hands. In that scenario, who’s the one at fault? Law enforcement wold be at fault.

Those who choose to attack the mugger with the baby at risk and those who support people who make such violent decisions would claim it was the fault of the mugger for putting the baby in harm’s way in the first place. That kind of reasoning is slow-witted at best, calculatingly cruel at the worst. That sort of propaganda is no better than the mugger claiming that the police shooting at him were targeting the child.

In the Lebanon–Israel conflict, which still seems to be on hold, thank God, Israel was making the simplistic, inhumane, inelegant, cruel, and foolhardy choice in dealing with the rockets Hezbollah was firing into their country. They invaded a sovereign nation (the same thing we did in Iraq) to get at a military group that was, as anyone could have told them, not able to be destroyed with military might. If Israel really wants to destroy Hezbollah, they have to make measured, thoughtful, political choices. Hezbollah did not mainly arise out of brute force. It arose out of political and social circumstance. The only way to come close to destroying them militarily would be to nuke the entire region, and even then the annihilation of Hezbollah would not be assured.

The news is riddled now with stories of Hezbollah providing large cash payouts to people who suffered losses in the Israel attack. Harry Shearer, on Le Show, made an aside about how curious it was that Hezbollah was helping to repair the damage of the war while, in the U.S., our government isn’t doing anything tangible for the victims of hurricane Katrina. The point is that Hezbollah wins the hearts and minds of the people with a mix of propaganda and truly helpful financial and infrastructure contributions.

Israel gained nothing by destroying southern Lebanon for a month, and in fact will suffer political fallout from their foolishness. Just as the U.S. has gained nothing and lost much by having destroyed Iraq. Imagine how much more potent a non-military solution would have been in both Lebanon and Iraq. Were the U.S. to have worked for Saddam’s ouster through various well-placed and useful outlays of money and humanitarian aid, just think how much stronger our image would be. Such “soft power” solutions would not completely eradicate terrorism or resistance to the U.S., but it would lessen it and its attractiveness.

The trouble with such plans is that they take many, many years or even decades to bear fruit. Hawks don’t have any patience. Not until a war has begun, the justification for their existence is finally playing out, and all the friends of the government are raking in the cash from the building and selling of arms, are the hawks patient. Why should we accept that the military “war on terror” is going to be a long and hard one when it is unlikely to produce any good result? Why is it not more desirable to wage that long war with the morals and intelligence that are supposed to be the hallmarks of an advanced democratic civilization?

In the end, though Israel can claim they were not targeting innocent children, they certainly were. They knew that they would be killing many a civilian to get at the few rats that were hiding in their midst. Hezbollah can claim that Israel was purposefully targeting innocent children, even though they knew that, by being a target, they were in fact taking those innocent children hostage.

Who should have killed the children? Israel? Hezbollah? Should Israel have killed an exponentially larger number of civilians in a month than Hezbollah killed by launching the occasional, random rocket into Israel? Hezbollah’s rockets before the conflict were designed to kill civilians, but this is no excuse for Israel to retaliate in the same manner. In war, a baby killer is still a baby killer, no matter what the excuse.

To boil this all down to a mugger with a baby strapped to his front does nothing to enlighten, inform, or engage. It is not a sad truth or factoid, it is not a clever way to prove how evil Hezbollah is. It’s merely stupid. And it’s not even funny.

Therefore, I can only conclude what the headline here states: The Bruce Tinsley is an idiot.

Thank you, and good night!

Dash SnowSo I think I’m way late in coming to this party, but I just got shuffled over to Tiny Vices, a website that showcases pictures taken by people. Just people. I recall hearing of the site before, but have never visited.

I got to the site from a link featuring a pic by someone called Dash Snow. Click here to see his pics at Tiny Vices. Dash’s medium is the good ol’ Polaroid. But just to warn you, these are not glamorous pictures. The world of Mr. Snow is a dark, dirty, depressingly gritty, sadly happy one. The pictorial blend of violence, blood, vomit, drug use, skanky sex, and crime is punctuated with hazy beautiful moments. A pic of a guy shooting up, a pic of a woman holding a cat, a pic of thugs kicking in a glass door, a pic of a woman and her daughter wearing bunny ears. It’s both a disquieting and serene set of pictures. Kinetics and action are there, but the still moment snapped in most of the pics evoke an odd, languid emotion.

This guy lives a lifestyle whose existence most of us tend to ignore. Though I do not know him or his life, it seems he is part of a crowd that lives solely for the tactile feel of doing things that are destructive. The kinds of things that at once destroy you and make you feel alive. The fluid-strewn alleyways and harmful powdered bliss of Dash’s universe are dirty, cluttered, mysterious.

This kind of world is as far from my reality as can be. I’m not even enticed by it. My visceral reaction is repugnance, and I so often wish the world were free of drugs and violence and the kind of ugliness unkempt lives create for everyone. But there is an attraction, through the lens of pictures such as these, to the underworld I never see. Human beings have created that layer of life. Why? For any number of humanistic reasons. I do not know what Dash’s reasons are. I can tell that he finds beauty in his world. Take a look at most of the people in his pictures. They are smiling, having fun. Perhaps that’s why these dark, messy pictures are able to express a hazy happiness.

A cursory exploration of the rest of Tiny Vices shows that there is more of this captured otherworld. Take some time when you can to look. The site is very poorly organized and not easy to navigate, but maybe that’s intentional.

I find this hard to believe myself, to be honest.

Inspired by the interesting blog called Re-imagineering, I have started my own blog.

I’ve no idea whether I will keep it up, but it has been interesting, especially since I created it about such a specific topic.  But it’s one about which I’ve been passionate since I was a kid, one that inspired me to seek a career at Disney in the first place (and we all know where that got me!), and maybe one you’ll find interesting.  If not, keep your comments to yourself.  I already know I’m a dork.

This is the funniest thing I have seen in some time. Truly a slice of brilliance! (NOTE: The link was broken, but I have replaced it with a new one.)

Two requests:

1) Can anyone find the full-res version of the movie? We want it here in the office to read all the tiny text and have it to put up at shows when we’re testing the equipment.

2) Anyone know what that music is? The music makes it!

UPDATE: Could it be true? According to this article, Microsoft itself designed the video. Wowsers! I didn’t think they were capable of anything so funny.

For those that have experienced the all-consuming pain of deeply loving someone who was almost right there with you but proved to be unwilling or unable to love you back in the same way – you’ll feel it when you see this movie. 

For those that have strategically repeated every word, every move, every laugh, and every step in each crafted moment together in hopes for that perfectly dealt hand to win that happily.ever.after - you’ll feel it when you see this movie. 

For those that have foolishly once believed in love running so deep, it could compensate any empty cups brought to the table by him – you’ll feel it when you see this movie.

My barely English speaking mom asked about Brokeback Mountain and when she’d be able to purchase it at her local Sam’s Club. My friend asked me to download an illegal copy and burn it for her because her pastor husband won’t let her go see it but she really wants to.

Yes, it was slow paced. Yes, it was detached.  Yes, it was intentional. Yes, that prevented some from being drawn in. Yes, its not a movie for everyone. Yes, some folks are just hop-ons to the band wagon.

Felicity Huffman’s Golden Globe speech felt like a spin-off from the Brokeback phenomenon. “I know as actors our job is usually to shed our skins. But in I think as people our job is to become who we really are. And so I would like to salute the men and women who brave ostracism, alienation, and a life lived on the margins to become who they really are.”

No energy to tie it all together.

I loved it.

It’s one of those afternoons in which the sky has been threatening to open up all day but has yet to actually do so. I spent the day driving to the new house (which is 30 miles from the current one) to meet a contractor to talk about building a fence. What I hoped would be a project of $1,000 or so to build a fence in the yard to give the dogs an area to romp has turned into a $4,000 “event” — at a house we will rent. As my boss says, though, if we are doing this for the dogs, we just have to remember that we wouldn’t bat an eye if one of them got hurt and we had to pay the vet $4,000.

Still, I’m learning that renting a house is far different than renting an apartment! I’m not sure we’re quite ready to live in a place that’s 2,800 square feet!

To Steve’s previous mention of Brokeback Mountain, let me clarify: I did not dislike it. But I did find myself curously unmoved, admiring the scenery, the performances and the machinations of the plot more than finding myself engage by them. I wondered to myself whether Ang Lee, if he ever were to hear of my reaction, would not be unsurprised. He seemed, to me at least, to bring a sense of detachment to the story, almost as if he were as detached from the emotional side of the love affair as Ennis and Jack had to make themselves in order to survive. Just as he did in The Wedding Banquet and Hulk (two of the only movies of his I’ve seen — and I was one of the few who thought Crouching Tiger was terribly overrated), Lee seemed to bring an almost clinical perspective to the story of Brokeback even while keeping it absolutely, stunningly beautiful; it was if the characters most certainly felt their emotions, but that Lee was only observing them, rather than commenting on them.

My reaction is no way intended as criticism. I will not be disappointed if Brokeback wins, on a completely “industry” level; I wll be very happy if it does from the perspective of a gay man (one who, sadly, did indeed involve himself in an affair with a straight man a number of years ago — two, actually; both of them are now married, to the best of my knowledge). Nonetheless, I believe Good Night, and Good Luck. is the movie most deserving of the Best Picture Oscar this year. It’s made with a truly artistic flair, tells a “socially important” story with incredible skill, and delivers an amazing “punch” right at the end that suddenly makes the story’s relevance to today’s society all too clear. It has great performances and, most of all, is entertaining and not filled with faux intellectualism. (That is not, by any means, a glancing reference to Brokeback, but to another movie that happens to star George Clooney that I found intolerable.)

Although Steve wasn’t he, a friend of mine asked me the other day what my five choices for best movie of the year are. No, Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith is not among them. But, for arguments’ sake, here they are:

1) Good Night, and Good Luck.
2) In Her Shoes*
3) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
4) Brokeback Mountain (which should settle any claims that I dislike it)
5) The Weather Man*

* I missed these two in theaters, having been misinterpreted a lack of financial success to mean a lack of quality. I caught up with both of them on DVD, thanks to a friend in the Academy. Both are stunning. In Her Shoes deserves serious consideration as Best Picture. The Weather Man won’t be for everyone, but those who can identify with a feeling of being incomplete despite outward signs to the contrary — as well as those who like strangely depressing comedies — may like it as much as I did.

Not too long ago, I wrote the following:

The meaning of the show and its raison d’être do not give it license to be bad. The fact that the guy made his project out of love is not an excuse to lie about how bad the project turned out.

And now, it is time for me to somehow explain why I’ve been downloading and watching every episode of something called Hidden Frontier. The site is home to a show—yes, a show—filmed entirely by amateurs and hobbyists. Having shot five seasons and just finishing their sixth, it is an obvious labor of love, a project for whom many plainly toil long and hard, and for which the rewards are, I imagine, purely spiritual.

Oh, and I seem to have forgotten to mention that it’s, er, a Star Trek show. Not surprising, I suppose.

Sharon Savene, a fellow actor from this summer’s CCPT, was in an episode (“Beachhead”) and gave me the link. I blame her for this new distraction.

Everything is shot on green screen (except some outside “away team” stuff for episodes I haven’t seen yet), and it’s all lovingly stilted. It seems the actors are often shot on different days, as they can share entire scenes and never appear in the same shot. Even now, in their sixth “season,” the rough edges have not been filed away, the green glow and the humorous writing all marvelously still intact.

These folks have it all:

Hidden Frontier: On the Bridge

A grumpy but fatherly captain and plucky, rebellious first mate!

Hidden Frontier: Special Effects

Nearly breathtaking CG spacescapes!

Hidden Frontier: Bad Guy

Magnificently melodramatic alien foes!

Hidden Frontier: Panel Explosion

Instrument panel explosions!

And so very much more! (Dare I mention they even have gay characters? GAZANG!)

So I said that passion is no excuse for ignoring mediocrity. In this case, that is certainly true. But I did not say that mediocrity can’t be engaging. Watching David W. Dial’s halting rendition of Ian Quincy Knapp makes me smile. Seeing the chaotic medium-res CG battles in season 6 has me nodding my head in appreciation. Scrutinizing the tenuously spirit-gummed alien prosthetics causes my breath to catch. Even watching the questionable episode where a Federation ship travels through a “rift” and ends up over the Atlantic two hours before the Titanic slips into the icy depths, I was enthralled.

Am I damning with faint praise here? I hope not. Honestly, while I can not say Hidden Frontier is good, it’s definitely fun, and I suppose that’s what it’s supposed to be. If anything, it suffers from the malady that often bogged down numerous episodes of the “official” series, from ST:TNG through Enterprise: tedious, histrionic, eye-rolling interpersonal drama.

I have much more to watch. Many nooks of the Hidden Frontier site remain unexplored. Maybe the brilliant episode is hiding in there somewhere. We shall see. Hats off in the meantime to these super-fans who’ve actually done something with their weekends.

Hidden Frontier: Delegation

Another iPod Box

What is this, déjà vu? Okay, so I got a Nano just over a month ago. What the hell am I thinking getting another big iPod? Well, my trusty old iPod has been nearly out of space for a while. It’s also lacking features I want. So when Apple announced the new iPods last week, they had what I’d been waiting for. Not video exactly, though that will be fun, but the huge color screen and video and remote through the new dock. I nabbed one immediately using my trusty Disney discount. The thing was shipped two days ago directly from the factory in China. Yes, it got here in two days. That was with the free ground shipping!

Another iPod IN a Box

Unlike last time, where this picture said the two iPods were getting along, this time I felt some tension. The 2G was feeling bad it was being replaced.

Well, I have a very soft spot for the first version of things that become a fixture in my life. I still have my Newton, for instance, though the screen is shattered. I might keep my original iPod in the closet. It will be one of those things I take out every few years and wonder why I have it, then some soft instrumental music will swell in the soundtrack of my life, I’ll get a tear in my eye, and, with a doleful smile, I’ll silently, lovingly place the artifact back behind the Legos.

Or I may let a friend borrow it.

Old and New

Here’s the new and the old, side-by-side. Look at the monster screen on the new iPod! I can vouch for its gorgeousness. And yes, I did get black. It matches my Nano, but that’s not why. In fact, I wanted white, but, truth be told, I do not like the gray scroll wheel. I think it’s a design flaw. That ugly gray circle on the white iPod ruins its beauty. The black wheel on the black iPod is nice.

(That icon in the corner of the pic means you can click to see a bigger version, BTW. It’s a new feature!)

Oh, and it is true: Scratches show up like nobody’s business on the black iPod. My Nano has been living in a Ziploc bag until my Nano Tubes arrive, and it’s already got webs of tiny scratches!

More for Less

The new iPod is much thinner, but holds three times as much as my old one. That is more than enough for all my music. I can add CDs I left off my other iPod. And I’ve been re-ripping some of my CDs into a higher bit rate, which sounds ever so slightly better, especially in the car. Those files take extra room, and now I have it!

More for Less Askew

I can finally use line out in the car, which will sound better. And I understand the audio quality has been improved on the 5G iPod (according to non-Apple reports). This and much, much more, all for $125 less than my old iPod! Amazing, really.

The final picture is one I simply could not help taking. Yes, I noticed the time discrepancy. 3:41 is the total time for that song. And, technically, the title has no apostrophe after “Good,” though, grammatically, it should have.

iPod iPod Demon Demon Days Days

I am enjoying the fact that “Demon Days” is on the box for this iPod. I mean, considering…

I do have a couple design thoughts. I will miss the FireWire cable connectivity, since all I needed was a FireWire 400 cable to get my iPod to connect and play through a Mac. The upside is that the dock connector adds much more functionality to this iPod, including line out, video out, remote control, power, and more. I loved having all the connections come from the top of the iPod. This was perfect for car listening. It’s going to be harder to use the iPod in the car with a cable out the top and a cable out the bottom. When I get a line-out/power combo thingy, there will only be one cable out the bottom, but then the iPod won’t rest easily on the sea beside me. No, the cable out the top was wonderful.

While we’re on the FireWire thing, the new iPod will not sync using FireWire. Only USB. My Mac at home has USB 1, not 2, so I imagine syncing all 18GB of music at home will take half a day, at least. Even with USB 2 at work, getting all my music on this new iPod took 3 hours. It took under 45 minutes with FireWire. Shucks.

It’s a slight thing, but one of the hallmarks of the iPod was its centered headphone jack. That’s gone now. The jack’s on the top right. Aesthetic reasons aside, having the jack right in the middle makes for easier handling. A cable plugged into one side makes the iPod unbalanced.

While I love the new click wheel combo, where the buttons are also the scroll wheel, I have already found on the Nano that this makes it harder to tell when you are pressing the correct “button.” Without the tactile feel of raised buttons, it is easy to hit the wrong control without looking directly at the iPod. Also, it is not possible to “hunt around” for a button with your thumb without activating the scrolling on the wheel. None of this was an issue on my original iPod.

The select button in the center of the scroll wheel is flat. Oops. I imagine, or hope, this will be fixed sometime in the future, but as it is, it is very hard to tell when your thumb is over this button. There is a texture difference, but this does not work as well as a raised button does. This has already frustrated me on the Nano.

I was very interested to see that Apple returned to the sharp-edged front for the iPod. I did indeed love the smooth feeling of the rounded edges of the 3G and 4G iPods, but for sentimental reasons, I’m glad my new iPod shares this feature with my old one. (The Nano has the sharp edge, too.) I believe they had to do this because a rounded front would eat into screen real estate.

Finally, the scroll wheel is smaller, and the screen is bigger. A bigger screen is fantastic and I would not want it to be smaller. But the smaller scroll wheel? Not sure why that was done. Put these two together, and the iPod is now missing a harmonious balance of design. The screen crams to the very edges, while the scroll wheel is swimming in free space. Look at the picture above showing the front of the two iPods. There is a beauty to the old iPod, though its controls seem dated thanks to the sleek new click wheel. Look how perfect the layout is. The sizing and placement of all the elements is sublime. The new iPod, thanks to its design, looks fatter than it is, and looks more functional than beautiful.

Man, I wrote more than I intended. And did I just end up skewering my brand new toy without even having used it? I did. But for all the issues above, there are a dozen improved things that will make my new iPod even more useful in my life.

Yes, it’s me again. You know, I posted a long-ass comment on Robb’s blog, where a highly-heated discussion is raging regarding his critique of a new, Christian-based sitcom. Because I worked long and hard writing it and actually like what I had to say (ain’t I modest?), I’m gonna post it here, too.

But first, you can see what caused all this by reading the first post, then reading the follow-up post.

* * * * * *

Having read these comments, but not having seen the Pastor Greg episodes (they require Windows Media, which I won’t allow on my work Mac (uh-oh, crazy Mac guy posting… look out!)), I have these things to say:

I believe Robb is allowed to say whatever he wants here, especially if a show is as mediocre… okay, crappy as this one sounds. It is true, despite what someone here said, that many shows start off mediocre and then grow into quality. I offer these examples as shows that were nearly unwatchable in their first episodes, but became amazing after one or two seasons: Seinfeld, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The One Show I Forgot the Name Of.

On the other end are shows that start off brilliant, but flame out rather quickly, or at least after three or four seasons: The X-Files, The West Wing, Wasn’t There One with Some Alum from That Show from the ’80s?

In the end, however, you simply can not generalize, and the world of TV is more littered with crappy shows that start off crappy and end up crappy all through their runs than either of my above examples. I can not offer my opinion on whether Pastor Greg is this kind of show until I get the thing up at home or on the PC here at work. Seinfeld, while rough and often unfunny at the start, had definite glimpses of quality and originality. Lost is damn fantastic from frame 1, but already shows signs of fatigue in season 2. There are signs in any show, and I’m sure Pastor Greg already contains clues to its future possibilities or lack thereof.

That the show is meant to be a positive Christian entertainment experience would make its lack of quality all that more unfortunate. I’m an atheist as well, though I hate using that term, and speaking outside the realm of religion, Christianity has a lot of public relations hurtles to overcome. The best pro-Christian show would be one that stays true to Christian values, but that also succeeds in being a GOOD SHOW, Christian or not. A good show comes first. The political/religious/fetishistic reasons for its creation come last.

I recently saw a gay-themed sitcom pilot some guy has been passing out on DVD to whoever will take it. The gay community has already had their breakout hit show that was, at least the first few seasons, hilarious and of high quality. That’d be Will & Grace, in case anyone cares to take umbrage with my summary of its qualities. The limitations imposed on Will & Grace—most glaringly the lack of any meaningful demonstration of gay romance and relationship—might stem from the desire to make the show palatable to a mainstream audience. It might also come from a desire to keep the focus of the show on the humor and characters. (I don’t buy this necessarily, since Grace has had her share of relationship subplots.)

The sitcom pilot I was handed was meant to be something more involved, more representative of a gay couple’s relationship. After watching, my first reaction was mental congratulations. The guy got it made. He took his passion for his project and got it friggin’ done. That’s an amazing accomplishment. All my other reactions after that were, “This sucks major ass.” The meaning of the show and its raison d’être do not give it license to be bad. The fact that the guy made his project out of love is not an excuse to lie about how bad the project turned out.

And so it is with Pastor Greg.

While I may be the audience for a gay-themed show and not the audience for a Christian-themed show, I could enjoy a Christian-themed show if it were a good one. (I wonder if a majority of Christians would say the same thing about a gay-themed show? The fact that I doubt it goes back to bad PR for the Christians and perhaps demonstrates the necessity for something like Pastor Greg, but good.)

I think Adam is brave for posting his comments here. Kudos. I am this close to posting this long response on my own site, but really, I think blogs are more fun with comments and dramatic dialogue! So I’ll leave this up here and hope that it doesn’t get split in two because it’s too verbose.

* * * * * *

My comment was split in two, and I did post here after all. So shoot me! (Which was a horrible show.)

So I’m sitting here checking out Steve’s shiny new forum blog site thingy, while at the same time watching Martha Stewart’s Apprentice show. My initial assessment… good job Steve, bad job Martha.

Let’s face it, people watch the Apprentice with Donald Trump because it has a sense of corporate culture. There’s a cutthroat sort of business vibe behind it all. Martha’s show… well, it’s kinda like home economics taken too seriously. It doesn’t have a business slant in the same sense as The Donald’s show, and I can’t see any business minded people really digging it. The demographic seems to be women who shop at Michael’s and Hobby Lobby. I could be wrong… but I seriously feel it’s trying to be way too dramatic about foofy things. Last I checked, the ratings seemed to support this critique.

Anyways… great job with all the work Steve. You have become a coding master!

Say hello to LA for me. Go ‘SC!!
- rob

As far as I know, there is no one who reads this with any regularity and is local… I mean, someone who’d do their daily intake of Wren and see me posting a message telling them to

Drop what you’re doing and get your ass to Royce Hall at UCLA tonight or tomorrow. I’m serious. Marcy got free tickets to a show that’s only there three nights. Though this sounds cliché, it’s entirely true: I have not had this much fun in the theater in a long, long time. We’re talking YEARS long time kinda timing.

The show is Theater of the New Ear. Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Thewlis, Meryl Streep, Hope Davis… The night consists of two “sound plays.” It’s like watching a radio show, but so very much not… There’s live music written and conducted by Carter Burwell, and a foley artist who does 75% of the sound effects. The actors sit at the front of the stage and do their readings.

The first play is by Francis Fregoli, who Marcy and I think are the Coen brothers. It’s a wonderful, semi-twisted but moving story. The second play, written by Charlie Kaufman, can not be described without entirely ruining the surprise and joy of its lunacy. Honestly, I can not say much more than it’s self-referential, pseudo-self-referential, purposefully masturbatory, and friggin’ astounding to watch. Yes, watch. A sound play! Even the liner notes are part of the show.

You MUST see this show. Only two nights left. Go to the website now and buy tickets. Even crappy seats will suffice. They may be $38, but pay it. Charge it. Sell the gas out of your tank. Just see it. You will so very much thank yourself if you do… When the marketing blurb says, “This will be an evening like none you’ve ever seen—or heard—before,” it’s 100% accurate.

Go. GO! What are you waiting for?