It’s been a very sad day for a city in the deep ol’ South. Condolensces and sympathies to all affected there.
in case you’re looking for something to do in your spare time, take a look the new mindset tool by Yahoo!. It’s slick, intuitive, Google-competitive and more or less useless. Which makes it art.
In other tech news, I noticed that my ol’ friend over at manoverboard.org is doing weird application science for Mac OS X. Pretty interesting little applications, too. It’s just too bad I never registered that darn domain name because Mindset put’s his site ahead of mine sometimes in the rankings.
Still more: I deleted all my sports bookmarks today. That was a good feeling.
Further: This looks kind of fun, although apparently Steven Johnson raves about it.
I’ve always loved the way advertisements are used to create interstitial spaces between segments of larger productions. And I’ve always been fascinated with the ways in which ad producers are able to switch our emotional witnesses from a semi-serious fiction such as a murder drama to a laugh-track laden demonstration of laundry detergent’s whitening power. And then, just as quickly, the ad disappears and the drama picks up and it’s all sad and scary.
Last night I attended a fest called Garbage Hill sponsored by The Winnipeg Film Group, which is a low-cost association of seemingly interesting folks dedicated to showing the oddities and beauties of the filmic world. I was impressed by the video documentary I saw last night that showcased cable television ads from the 1980s. It was craftily put together by an artist here and the ads featured curly, loose-haired women and slick-haired men with large glasses selling cars, restaurants, Winnebagos, and houses.
It was a cheese-fest and I was amazed at how distant the 1980s (and how tremendously innocent) are. One talk-show host underhandedly berated a budding film Winnipeg film star for her likely having to sleep her way to the top in Hollywood. Apparently, he shot himself in the head two days later. In another clip, single folks are shown being introduced to each other in fast loops in order to sell dating services. And in one of the finest segments of the film, outtakes of a mobile home salesman is seen giving the best cursing performance I’ve ever seen on film outside of Scorsese.
It became more clear to me how Guy Maddin lifted his actors to their lowest heights and how the odd history of Winnipeg has generated some beautiful wipe-outs.
Here’s what I got in the past few days, all of ‘em good and shiny and nice and sassy:
- A New A List Apart.
- Relatedly, a fine new hosting service.
- Finally, a seemingly reliable Pantone to RGB (and back) online tool [I ain't vouching for its accuracy].
- Three new clients for MANOVERBOARD, one of whom is in Texas!
- A shiny new bank card at Royal Bank of Canada, which will gladly take my immigrant money.
- A sharp-looking and amazingly easy-to-get Winnipeg Public Library card.
- A sweet two-pronged Panasonic Telephone for the office, put on my credit card.
- A new and kind of average-printing Epson printer [no thanks to our van lines, I'm without a printer and Epson gave me $40.00 to buy theirs at an oddly named Canadian store called FutureShop.
- Hopefully, some Vonage.
- Plain envelopes
- A renewed subscription to ol' MacWorld.
- Great comments to a piece called "Content Stripped Bare" that I wrote in the recent Design in Flight and comments on comments on that piece in Design in Flight.
- Clothes from Old Navy, hopefully billed to our lovely van line [projected (or supposed) delivery date is now: September 2, 2005].
It’s taken three weeks but we moved into our new old house this morning. Laptop got upgraded thanks to the good folks at Winnipeg’s finest Mac shop.
I’ve been thinking much about design lately and have come across few very good sites recently. But it seems to me that design for the Web has taken a new turn and a new life the past few months. Much of this is thanks to Web standards and the undaunted promoters of good markup and clean styling. A few notes:
- Usability is in. Small fonts are out.
- Identities on websites have become smaller, more obscure, and perhaps more risk averse. Clean, clear (almost Web safe) colors are important and technologically sophisticated look is relatively important.
- Blogs are overblown. There is a recent article in Macleans [ed: Oh, he's so Canadian, now] this week noting that 99% of blogs receive 10 or fewer hits per day. Perhaps Deckchairs is on its way to fantastic obscurity right now.
- Concomittantly, RSS is overblown as a reading mechanism. Contextual design is still very important to online visitors who want to get a sense of the writer and his or her place within an information hierarchy and in relation to the site being published. While a good many people are slightly aghast that Google is talking about patenting its advertising RSS feeds, those good many probably amount to a city the size of Schenectday. And I like Schenectady!
- There are a few examples of talented Web designers who recently built sites that don’t cut it in terms of good design. To wit, CapGemini was redesigned by Douglas Bowman and it’s very average. Subnavigation is, oddly, on the right side of the site. I showed the site to one client and she couldn’t even find the subnavigation until I pointed it out to her.
- Underlined links are, rightly, coming back but I think this is a trend and not a solid sign of better usability becoming of import. I hope I am incorrect.
- Navigation generally has become a more naturalized (or standardized) component of good Web design. We no longer see, much, repeated navigation at the bottom of a site. There are fewer drop-down menus. There’s less Flash menuing, which is often used to obscure the navigation itself. And larger typefaces are being used to pull in all those aging boomers. Still a lot of new sites stink.
- Photography is playing a more important role on almost every website, often too much. There are now so many bad stock photography sites that any old designer can find something that seems cool (a picture of an outlet with lightning rods coming out of it or an image of a girl screaming excitedly into her cell phone to a friend) that stock has become immature rather than mature. Oops, here comes a plug.
- Companies like 37Signals and Firewheel are doing the design world justice by making applications that are useful, pretty, fast, functional and serious.
Now I can go to sleep.
Mostly the past few days we’ve been spending money as if the colorful stuff is the paper of Monopoly. Toyota took a good chunk of our change today. The house is gobbling up all kinds of funds thanks to Home Depot, Canadian Tire, EQ4, HomeConnections, AutoPac, HomeSpace, Sears, and a host of other oddly named franchises. I must say that most of the goods we’ve purchased so far have been of a slightly shoddier or equal quality than those in the U.S. I don’t know why this would be the case and I wonder if this is just cultural pre-conditioning affecting my (perhaps poor) judgment but the final quality of the good we’re purchasing does seem to be of the lesser sort.
One other thing – I need RAM for my Mac. For the life of me, it’s very hard to find a store (online or otherwise) that is willing to sell me big ol’ RAM for my laptop. If you know of someone who vends the stuff that is not Apple, please let me know. Thanks for keeping the credit cards thin!
Here I am, pluggin’ away on my laptop in a brightly colored red and brown basement in the middle of the continent in a city in Canada. It’s all become rather strange and unworldly today and if it wasn’t for the very bright sunlight, the cloudless sky, the footsteps upstairs, the bag of pretzels and cats at my feet, and the whir of my BlackBerry, I would think that the flourescent lightbulbs above my head (which shall be soon replaced by something else) would drive me nuts.
The reality is that things in Winnipeg, Canada are oddly fine, relaxing, even wondrous at times. I won’t try to put a positive spin on events like most irregular bloggers but I will make a list of things I’ve found that are potentiallly of import:
- While NYC blogs like Gothamist are only one click away, I miss their relevance very much. In fact, I miss the daily horror of gossip and NYC transit news and the mindless shuffle of papers on anchors’ desks on NYC channels 2, 5, and 7. Yes, 5!
- I’m working very happily from a 15″ laptop, dragging the heavy thing from one place to another in the frantic hope of gathering enough time and connectivity to continue my work and make clients generally happy.
- I found that the Globe and Mail is the paper of record for people of my ilk. I’m looking forward to subscribing to it.
- The moving company is doing its utmost to be a pain in the arse. The goods have not arrived yet but to be fair, they did say “August 15.” I’ll name names when and if it’s necessary.
- Painting, working, cleaning, cooking, commuting in August without your personal effects is a bit like living in on the Starship Enterprise. It’s all-out limbo right now but it’s limbo with the full knowledge that it won’t last forever, at least according to our moving company.
- The Web has become boring of late and I think it’s just because the real world is actually pretty this time of year.
- Going to the DMV a few days ago was a walk in the park. Almost literally. I walked across a freshly mowed lawn, presented my old New York State drivers license and my US passport and told them I wanted to register for a new license. It took all of 20 minutes for them to fill out the forms for me, take my photo, charge me CND$50.00, hand me the new (2-part) license, and send me packing. In Brooklyn, this project would have involved a morning wait, questioning by the authorities, re-waiting in line, surly service and I’d probably make a friend in the process.
I do miss Brooklyn.
Today I mowed the lawn. I used a push mower and it was hard to push because of the number of branches laying on the damp ground. The grass was about 4 inches high, lush, superbly green, and buttery as the machine went over it. My strength turned a fly-wheel in the mower to double or even triple (or more) the power of the mower as it haircutted the beautiful patch of refined earth.
I loved it.