Off the Top: Media Review Entries
Every Frame is a Painting
Every Frame is a Painting tickles the film nerd in me. This takes me straight back to a great class in media criticism by Father Mike Russo in undergrad. We not only learned how to watch film, but how to deconstruct it, which turned into how to make film for many in that class.
Tony Zhou who creates Every Frame is a Painting provides great insight into film direction and cinematography, by breaking down scenes and the make-up of a shot to convey a story through film. Film and its genres as well as directorial influences not only help see film with a new eye of appreciation, but the world beyond film. A lot of interaction design in technology heavily references film and the ability to direct attention and create an enjoyable experience.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
I’ve wasn’t a fan of the Jerry Seinfeld show. I saw a decent amount out of inertia (was watching the show on same channel prior) or it was a lead-in to something I wanted to watch. But, while there were some gems, most was listening to people whine, which lead to that same whining tone coming from myself the following day.
But, Seinfeld’s stand-up was something I had appreciation for and enjoyed. But, he has a web video series with the construct of him driving a historic car to pick-up another comedian to go get coffee. Most of the episodes are 15 to 20 minutes of he and his fellow comedian talking craft and sharing stories.
Much like Every Frame… Comedians in Cars… puts the focus on deconstruction of the craft, background of the artist, and breaking things down. There is often quite a bit of humor, which also helps.
In college and the years when I lived in San Francisco I loved going to stand-up shows. There were a lot of really good comedians working through their craft in SF in the mid–80s to mid–90s. The best times were often at open mic nights where comics would try out new material and often spill out into the parking lot or streets for an hour or few of riffing and stories.
Deconstruction is Essential for Understanding
A lot of undergrad for me seemed to be about not only learning (building a corpus of knowledge), but learning to deconstruct and understand the world and craft around me. Comedy and film (media in general got this treatment) were two of many of the disciplines I learned to breakdown to understand at more atomic levels, so to understand how to build more than capably as well as much better.
Learning the craft of deconstruction through something fun like film and comedy is a great place to start. Warning - this will change how you not only watch and consume things and may change the enjoyment and mindless nature that is desired, but it does give enjoyment on many other levels.
Both have me thinking this is really close, then I remember one of my favorite periodical apps, Financial Times went HTML5 more than a year ago. FT went HTML5 to better manage the multi-platform development process needed for iOS and the multitude of Android versions. While many have said the development is roughly 1.5x what it would take for just one platform development it does same incredible amount of time building an app across all platforms. Since all the major smart phone platforms have their native browsers built on webkit, there is some smart thinking in that approach.
Personally, my big niggle with the FT app is while it is browser based doesn’t have Instapaper built-in and it moves me out of the app to send a link of an article (often to myself because lacking Instapaper) rather than natively in the app, or exposing browser chrome so that I can do that while still remaining in the app and in reading their content mode. It would be really smart for FT to sort this out and fix these as it would keep me in the site and service reading, which I am sure they would love. If they could treat both of those like they do with Twitter and Facebook sharing out all within the app it would be brilliant.
I flat out loved Studio 60, the new Aaron Sorkin show. It is the best thing on tv hands down. The premiere was fantastic with the opening framed around a dead-on rant of the current state of television in the style of the movie Network (the only downside for me was they had to state it was just like Network over and over - let people be smart and media literate). The tirade was dead on and the scenarios and construction of tension was well done.
I have missed good television (last season 24 caught my attention, but the show Lost has not fully grabbed me (the social interactions outside of the show and the web-based value and social interactions generated by the show have my interest, but personally the show does not grab me. The last shows I deeply enjoyed were both ones that Aaron Sorkin drove, West Wing (while Sorkin was involved) and Sports Night. The other bits that I have enjoyed in recent years have been HBO series and movies, particularly Band of Brothers.
Much else on American television has been rather boring, patterned, and predicable all while being written to a level of the lowest common denominator. There are other exceptions (The Simpsons) in comedy and satire, but they are rare. All I can say is thank you for Studio 60!
I have a new daily habit, The Show by Ze Frank. It is a great way to start my day with humor. Is it same for work? Well, that depends on where you work, doesn't it?
For those who have been familiar with the humor and geek renderings of Ze for years, this is a daily dose. I am not usually a fan of podcast or videocast as it is tough to focus on 15 to 45 minutes of chatting. This is the perfect length, 3 to 5 minutes, as is Rocketboom. This has become my television.
Now back to work, which is why I don't have time for 45 minutes of chatting at me from a podcast.
Last night I made a mad dash from the excellent Jaron Lanier lecture/performance at Berkeley on "Can Soulful Music Survive Digital Epistemology?" to get to the Oakland airport to catch my flight. I was in a bit of a rush and not paying any attention to anything on the radio, which may have just been KFOG.
When I got to the airport it was pretty much straight through security onto my JetBlue flight back home. As soon as we were headed down the runway many of the DirectTV screen were showing a plane landing with its front wheel on fire. As I switch my attention to my screen and switch to the news I see a JetBlue plane make an emergency landing. I looked out the window of our plane heading down the runway and thought it was not going fast enough to get airborne. Just then the wheels lifted off.
This was an odd experience for me, but not as odd as the meta experience of the JetBlue passengers on the plane with the locked front landing gear. These passengers were watching their own plane live on television, thanks to DirectTV, up until the last 10 minutes.
In all of this as I was watching and taking off, I could not help but be amazed at the quality of the pilot that landed the JetBlue plane with the locked landing gear. The skill that was needed to do a perfect landing and keep the plane from tipping over or crashing was just amazing. At that moment I felt I was on the best airline ever (I have felt this on many other occasions for other wonderful reasons, but not like last night).
I am quite thankful for the people who brought me out to the Bay Area that they could put me on JetBlue to begin with (I love their direct flights and the extra room after row 11).
I have spent this evening in utter joy. I finally got my hands on some Top Gear episodes. This is a car show from the Beeb. It is bright, entertaining, funny, and informative and may be the best hour I have spent watching television (er, on my computer) in the longest time.
While watching it I kept thinking two things, a how wonderful this show is on a humor and well crafted video car reviews that are extremely entertaining. The other thing I kept thinking was, there is no way that American television could reproduce this.
My normal fodder, should I be let alone with the remote and 200 or so satellite stations, is Fine Living, some BBC America, and some sports (American Football, baseball, and International Football, basketball, and rugby (when the international sporting gods shine their light down upon me)). I have found the I am quite a fan of the Daily Show, but I do not have access to the remote when it is on, so I have to use other means (um, we do have more than one television, but the second one is in a room where it can not be watched and we have not caught up with 4 years ago and picked up a Tivo because, well "because" is the reason).
Needless to say, I am now a huge fan of Top Gear and can not understand why it is not on BBC America. Get your hands on it if you get a chance.
This has been an up and down month so far with health, work, technology, and time. In general 2005 has been a rough year for respiratory issues already for me as I am nearly 3x the normal problems for a full year. These issues zaps energy and fogs the brain (something I really loathe).
The day-job is muddled in past problems, issues that have been plaguing people and have been solved years ago, but where I am resources and bureaucracy keep the long past current. Outside of the day-job I am working with the now and future, which I have really been loving. I have been working on responding back to many questions that have come in through e-mail about possible work and helping people through problems grasping and implementing efficiencies for current web development, folksonomies, and Personal InfoCloud related items.
I have also been working on my presentation for WebVisions, which involves completing it, tearing it apart and nearly starting over. To date I have nearly 25 hours working on this presentation, mostly integrating new material and editing out past content. This is in contrast to day-job presentations, which take me about an hour to build.
In a sense I am still time traveling on my daily commute. The gap is about four to six years of time travel in each 40 minute to hour commute. This is really wearing on me and it is long past time to move on, but I have not had the time to put forward to nail down the essentials for moving my passion to my day job (time and family needs that have filled this year).
So today, I was quite uplifted as my subscription issue of August 2005 MIT Technology Review arrived. The cover topic is Social Machines and I am quoted and have a sidebar box. That was up lifting as it relates to my "real work". This is right up there with Wired's Bruce Sterling article on folksonomy and Thomas Vander Wal.
Now the real work continues. If you are in Portland for Web Visions or just there in general later this week, please drop me a note and I will provide my contact info. If you are not in Portland and would like me to come to you and discuss and help along these topics please contact me also.
We watched the new HBO film, Girl in the Cafe, last evening. It was a well acted, with painful social graces in the two main characters. The story revealed itself well with only slight hints where it may go. If you have any interest in G8Reboot, you may have an interest in this film as it revolves around the G8.
We went and saw Mad Hot Ballroom this evening. It was our first movie out in a long time. It was also a make-up father's day, so I got to choose the movie (somehow the latest Star Wars was not a viable option). Mad Hot was a wonderful documentary with a great heart and a glimpse into the lives of New York City 5th graders in ballroom dancing classes and their city-wide competition. A solid sense of The City and life across The City through the eyes of these 5th graders is shared.
Summer movies to me, mostly means independent and foreign movies. This started the summer of 1986 when I lived in Berkeley and started the theme. this movie fit right in. There are only a couple of movies I really want to see this summer that are in the mainstream, but I am not seeing the flush of wonderful independent and foreign movies coming out. I must dig a little deeper. I may have to watch the Angelika and plan a trip.
Ismail Merchant has died. He and James Ivory's creations on films were magic. I clearly remember seeing A Room With A View at the Elmwood Theater in Berkeley, California when it came out. I later saw the film in Oxford, England at the Penultimate Picture Palace as well as on video tape there. The experience watching the film in two different cultures drew me to the film even more. In the U.S. the film was a period piece, but in Britain it was more of a romantic comedy. The film holds up to many watchings revealing details that may have been missed prior (opposed to the book, which has one good reading in it at best). It was this film that not only made me a fan of the Merchant Ivory productions, but made me a better fan or critic of the medium itself.
I have always enjoyed the interviews with Ismail as he adds depth and care to his creations. I believe that it is this care that should be poured into all of our creations and craft of our hands, mind, and soul.
The Annotated New York Times is the best interface for blog coverage out there. Feedster and Technorati are leagues behind in their presentation compared to this. I had not been to BlogRunner in a while, but it has grow-up too. The interface, interaction, and presentation are dead-on for an intuitive tool. Bravo.
I do wish it were easier to find book review annotations more easily, such as by author or book title.
A state of the newspaper industry article in today's Washington Post tries to define what people want from newspapers and what people are doing to get information.
Me? I find that newspapers provide decent to great content. Newspapers are losing readers of their print versions, but most people I know are new reading more than one paper, but online. The solutions I see from my vantage are as follows.
The articles rarely have ads that relate to the stories, foolishly missing ad revenues. The ads that are available are distracting and make for an extremely poor experience for the reader. News sites should ban the improperly targeted inducements that rely on distracting from reading the article, which is the reason the person is on that web page. The person has an interest in the topic. There are monetary opportunities to be had if the news outlets were smart and advertisers were smart.
How? If I am reading an article on the San Francisco Giants I would follow and may pay a little something for an ad targeted to this interest of mine. I like to buying Giants tickets, paraphernalia, a downloadable video of the week's highlights, etc. If I am reading about an airline strike a link to train tickets would be a smart option. A news article about problems in the Middle East could have links to books by the journalist on the subject, other background books or papers, links to charitable organizations that provide support in the region. The reader has shown an interest, why not offer something that will also be of interest?
We know that advertisers want placement in what they consider prime territory, the highly trafficked areas of the site. Often this is when the non-targeted ads appear. This is an opportunity to have non-targeted ads pay a premium, say five to 20 times that of targeted ads. The non-targeted ads have to follow the same non-disruptive guidelines that targeted ads follow. This is about keeping the readers around, without readers selling ads does not make any sense.
One area the news site are driving me crazy is access to the archives. The news sites that require payment to view articles in the archives are shooting themselves in the foot with this payment method and amount required to cough up to see an article that may or may not be what the person interested is seeking. The archives have the same opportunity to sell related ads, which in my non-professional view, would seem like they would have more value as the person consuming the information has even more of an interest as they are more than a casual reader. Any payment by the person consuming the information should never be more than the price for the whole print version. The articles cost next to nothing to store and the lower the price the more people will be coming across the associated advertising.
Blogging and personal sites often point to news articles. Many of us choose whom we are going to point to based on our reader's access to that information at any point in the future. We may choose a less well written article, but knowing it will be around with out having to pay extortionist rates to see it is what many of us choose. Yes, we are that smart and we are not as dumb as your advertisers are telling you. We, the personal site writers are driving potential ad revenues to you for free, if you open your articles for consumption.
Loyalty to one paper is dead, particularly when there are many options to choose to get our news from. We can choose any news source anywhere in the world. Why would we choose yours? Easy access, good writing, point of view, segment coverage (special interests - local, niche industries, etc), etc. are what drive our decisions.
I often choose to make my news selections to include sources from outside my region and even outside my country. Why? I like the educated writing style that British sources offer. I like other viewpoints that are not too close to the source to be tainted. I like well researched articles. I like non-pandering viewpoints. This is why I shell out the bucks for the Economist, as it is far better writing than any other news weekly in the U.S. and it pays attention to what is happening around the world, which eventually will have an impact to me personally at some point in the future. I don't have patience for mediocrity in journalism and the standards for many news sources have really slipped over the past few years.
News sources should offer diversity of writing style and opinion of one source will attract attention. The dumbing down of writing in the news has actually driven away many of those that are willing to pay to read the print versions. Under educated readers are not going to pay to read, even if it is dumbed down. Yes, the USA Today succeeded in that, but did you really want those readers at the loss of your loyal revenue streams?
Loyalty also requires making the content available easily across devices. Time and information consumption has changed. We may start reading an article in the print edition (even over somebody's shoulder and want to follow-up with it. We should be able to easily find that article online at our desk or from our mobile device. Integration of access across devices is a need not a nicety and it is not that difficult to provide, if some preparation is done with the systems. Many of us will pull RSS feeds from our favorite news sources and flag things for later consumption, but the news sites have not caught on how to best enable that. We may pull feeds at one location, but may have the time and focus to read them at another location, but we may not have the feeds there. Help those of us that are loyal consume your information in a pan-medium and pan-device world that we live in.
Digital Web is now eight years old and has new clothes to boot. Deepest congratulations to Nick and all others who have made this a great Web resource with staying power.
I am very intrigued with the The Fifth Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association. Media Ecology piques my attention as I really enjoy researching how people consume and reuse information. The media ecology niche looks at how media is consumed and the information is used. Focussing on the vehicle for information transfer is at the core of information architecture and user-centered design.
One of my large nits is information presented and structured in a manner so that it is not reusable. Ideas should be shared and built upon, which is what communication is about. The exchange of ideas is very important to moving forward and making better decisions about our lives and the future of the elements that surround us.
One of my favorite things in the model of attraction is the personal information cloud, which is where and how a user stores information they find helpful or perceive to be helpful and want to keep with themselves. Information portability is key to expanding one's knowledge with the information. Information portability is only viable if the information is in a reusable format. For example, can one copy the information and store it in a notepad or put it in a calendar? If the digital information regards a date is the information in a vCal or iCal format so that the user can easily drop it into their favorite calendar application, which synchs with their PDA or mobile phone?
Currently listening to Lamb What Sound, which I picked up after extended playing at a listening station. I am really enjoying this, which has tones of early 90s euro alt rock. I also added Massive Attack 100th Window, which sounds like a matured Propaganda, but with Sinead singing.
I am really enjoying Pat Metheny's new solo recording of him using baritone guitar titled One Quiet Night. (This was one of the items in the ill fated shipment.) The sound quality of the disk is fantastic. The baritone guitar has great breadth and offers a warm depth to the sounds. The music is very relaxing and has shades of New Chautauqua, which is one of my favorite acoustic guitar recordings and may have been the album that got me hooked on acoustic guitar and prepared me for Windham Hill Records. The song Over on 4th Street really brings Chautauqua to mind.
Yesterday we went and saw Finding Nemo, which is a greatly entertaining movie. Much like the first few minutes of any Pixar movie we were amazed at the quality of the ditial elements. This time it was the water that was amazing. Soon the movie gets beyond just being stunningly amazing and sits right down into a solidly entertaining movie.
After watching Matrix Reloaded last weekend we really appreciated the extra time that is spent on Pixar movies, just getting it right, well getting it near perfect. Reloaded was good, but not outstanding and definately did not live up to the quality of story telling, editing, or special effects in the first Matrix. Nemo on the other hand was just stunning and the computer graphics are extremely well done.
We are going back to Nemo next weekend with two 6 (nearly 7) year old boys and one 3 year old girl. It will be a joy to watch it with them. We are already planning when we need to tactfully take the 3 year old for bathroom breaks. This last viewing was not really full as it was 11 on Sunday morning, but there were enough kids to add to our entertainment. There are some points where there is adult humor that gets those over 15 laughing and the kids give curtesy laughs. There are times when the young characters in the Nemo start singing and the kids in the audience start chiming in, very cute.
It is looking like edesign mag is dead. The last two issues have not materialized, on-line or in print. Their calendar is stuck with March events upcoming. This all leads to a big bummer. I hope they are working out bugs or some other issues, as I really enjoy the publication. There are other graphic design magazines that I have read for years, but none that captures the electronic or digital media as well. The other options still treat electronic media as a new thing (which it is in relative years) rather than a fully integrated and stand alone industry. It would be a big bummer if edesign is lost is the dust.
Just in time, Dad mags. Anybody know of U.S. versions (I only look in the tech, design, and cooking mag sections in the stores).
I have been having fun with the Apple Music Store in iTunes 4. The store only has 200,000 songs, which is not that many if one has eclectic tastes, but I did find Trash Can Sinatras, but did not find many other finds. I did pick-up a few songs that I have on vinyl that I have not been able to find the disc in stores. The international selection is lacking and I hope they start filling in some of the gaps in the near future. The interface is good and the quickness to start to play is fantastic as is the quality of the sample and downloads.
I may rip a CD or two with MPG4 on a higher rate to check the clarity and file size. I have a good collection of music ripped between Joy's collection and mine, which has been great on trips and just hanging out or working.
This is one of the many days I am overjoyed to have a Mac.
Those of you who are Mac users will like to know the MacWorld May issue of the magazine does not have a CD with it on store shelves, it has a DVD with it. I let my subscription lapse because the subscription did not come with a disk. The may disk has 500 product reviews and demos on it and 350 shareware apps, plus the usual reviews, demos, and Breen movie. This is the mother of all extra disks.
The third Animatrix has been posted, The Detective and it is my favorite so far. The first release is a very close second.
Fortune magazine's discussion of the private war show there is very little that the military actually does any more. Most of the technical assistance, repairs, food services, recruiting, and training is being done by private corporations, like Dyn Corp and Haliburton. Those that private civilians working for these companies may follow the troops into the battle field, but the civilians do not have any Geneva Convention protections, which means if they are captured they do not have the protections that military personnel does.
This is a sad note, but also one that seems to show how things have changed. How many of us were excited when the new issues of Web Techniques arrived or were anxious when it was late? The publication changed over time as did the market for the magazine. The need for a printed magazine changed over time, but having a printed article to show clients or superiors was a great help as they discounted the information printed from the Web (I don't know how much this has changed). There are many Web based outlets for similar information and similar quality of information, Boxes and Arrows, Digital Web, A List Apart, and O'Reilly Network to name a few. None the less, we morn this day and get back to building a better Web.
IT Buisiness writes, "Media levy hike may force vendors to drop products", which seems to be part of my problem with the proposed increase in price of any medium to false levels that are not set my the market. In a sense the increase is being proposed by folks who are not creative, are finding they are not creating value, they have nothing productive to contribute, and have found a means to slip their overly padded pockets before the consumer again. The reasons given for the increases are the same poor lies about the starving artists. The artists are starving because of the middle men. The liars in this case have added notthing to society and want to force folks to pay their unproductive behinds more money to copy my own content I created or content I bought and would like to have fair use (my own edit of a movie or a mixed CD I can play in my car). The liars want to point fingers at you when they should point fingers at themselves. Every new media was the downfall of a media's industry. The liars cry "poor me" at each and every turn, but they are replaced with folks that learn to take advantage of the medium and create compelling content. The current band of unsuccessful business must bereplaced with a breed that understands how to take advantage of the medium. The liars know their days are numbered in their own jobs, because they are incapable of doing their jobs.
USC Annenberg School offers a light personal review of the WSJ redesign. Those of us that use the online version of the Journal on a daily basis have noticed a great jump since the redesign began implementation over a month ago. The site is much quicker and the interface is cleaner. The queries now are very quick again and there is a deep pile of data/information to search through.
Snippets: I have noted the redesign more than once... Nihal ElRayess has shared part of the IA perspective on the main WSJ redesign and the WSJ Company Research redesign parts of the project... The Guardian provided its insight in February (a good piece of researched journalism)... It looks like the WSJ redesign began in at least March 2000... The $28 million spent on the Web reworking (hardware, software, visual, and information architecture) is much less than the $232 million spent on a new printer for the WSJ print version or the $21 million for an advertising campaign to tout the new WSJ... The previous version of the WSJ site was a hand rolled CMS and now have been moved into Vignette... Those interested in the overal WSJ plan will like what is inside the presentation of Richard Zannino, Executive Vice President and CFO of Dow Jones & Company.