Nov 142013

I shared my thoughts about the responsive web with some friends and they responded with variations of “people follow the business, the customer is always right, the future is mobile not the PC.” As you might imagine, I was unconvinced.

The argument that the move toward a mobile web is driven by consumer demand depends upon the majority of web traffic going through small screens, and I’m not sure we’re anywhere near that being the case. Or ever will be. I have a smartphone and do a lot of things on it, but I don’t do general web-surfing and don’t think most other people do either. I think there are a very small number of sites that people visit on phones and that most of these are large commercial ventures like Facebook, Google Maps or The New York Times. I think many of these wind up having apps that replace the web interface entirely.

What I think I’m seeing is a designer-driven trend saying “you need to be mobile ready.” And in response, a lot of small traffic sites, most of which have most of their visitors coming through on their desktops and laptops, theme things for mobile. The end result is that, suddenly, interesting sites are sacrificing a hard-won complexity of real value in order to service hypothetical phone browsers that will never show up.

(I read a very long post on this by a design firm that I can’t find now. The writer claimed that clients would want to create a responsive site. The firm goes through traffic numbers and over-and-over sees that the percentage of mobile traffic is in the single digits. And yet, the client wants to spend tons of money to create a responsive site “because it’s the future.”)

To my eye the move to mobile is something like getting LP owners to buy their music a second time on 8-track tape. Or maybe a better analogy would be the push to get ordinary, word-processor-as-typewriter users to buy the new versions of Microsoft Office. The power of the web is its mutability. It changes and becomes bigger and better all the time. An internet that “upgrades” (MSWord, now with a ribbon!) or changes formats (Internet, now available on in 3″ format!) is different insofar as mutability and continuous variation is replaced with incremental differences that can be packaged, named and monetized.


Nov 132013

April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.

—Langston Hughes

 April Rain Song — Langston Hughes  November 13, 2013  Tagged with:
Nov 112013

To Artina

I will take your heart.
I will take your soul out of your body
As though I were God.
I will not be satisfied
With the little words you say to me.
I will not be satisfied
With the touch of your hand
Nor the sweet of your lips alone.
I will take your heart for mine.
I will take your soul.
I will be God when it comes to you.

–Langston Hughes

 Hughes–To Artina  November 11, 2013  Tagged with:
Nov 032013

The Use of WeaponsI’ve just read The Use of Weapons. It’s the third of Iain M. Banks’s Culture novels and as good as the first two. (This Link leads to his Wikipedia page.) Unlike The Player of Games (and more like Consider Phlebus), this novel is difficult to plough through at times: the basic structure of alternating chapters is an obstacle to putting the story together for the first third or more of the book, and even once an over-arching story begins to form, the chronology is fragmented enough that entire segments feel disconnected from the rest until well into the book’s final third.

And yet the writing is crisp, controlled, and evocative, and the world described is simply fascinating. This book—and the series—is a great read. That said, if you are thinking about reading it, don’t follow the jump, because there are spoilers. Continue reading »

Nov 012013

I watched the season in a rush, disappointed but not hating it either. I typed up my thoughts on what followed the first episode as I watched. Everything’s included below.

  • The gay killer with chapstick sucks. Because. But also because it’s such a lame No Country for Old Men rip off.
  • Timothy Olyphant is dreamy. And yet, there’s a problem: his character is vague. He’s supposed to be ambiguous and we’re supposed to be wondering “is he a good guy or a bad guy?” But I’m just asking “Who is this guy?” This is a writing problem.
  • Episode after episode feels like the writers are figuring things out as they go. And the results feel improvised and short-sided rather than spontaneous or unexpected. The constantly returning characters are not a positive solution to dramatic problems.
  • Ellen (the actress and the character) is horrible and anorexic. She is pouty, often thick, and generally useless. If Patty were the character I am supposed to believe she is, she would be fired immediately.
  • Episode 7 seems to be the place where things are settling out and getting rolling. The pieces seem in place, Patty is back where she needs to be. Episode 7 out of 13. First episode of the second half, things begin…
  • Biggest, dumbest most annoying Ellen moment yet: the stupid, obviously not honest, FBI agents are revealed to being fakers; their investigation is a shame. Ellen’s response? “You guys better be real” and then she turns and stomps out of the room. She is an idiot.
  • I would LOVE for Patty to hire Marcia Gay Harden’s character for her firm. And to send Ellen to jail. MGH should be on this show forever. She’s that good. And a great counterpoint to Patty.
  • Patty’s outrage over her husband’s affair measures this difference between this show and House of Cards. In HOC, the marriage is about loyalty, trust, faithfulness, and shared dreams. The affairs—and both men and women have them–are not betrayals of marriage, they are something else, operating in a different arena, and subject to rational (rather than societal) judgment. Here though, the affairs are presented as obvious violations of marriage; any other possibility is taken off the table. So when Patty doesn’t care about the adultery, only her reputation, she’s manifesting as ruthless and amoral. This seems like a profoundly old-fashioned and patriarchal approach to promiscuity and was a disappointment. I felt like the writers couldn’t rise to Patty’s position (the position I imagine her character inhabiting) and so they lessened her by sketching out a miserly sexual politics for her.
  • Every single plot point involving Ellen is stupid.
  • Glenn Close’s boobies being perky and assertive in a tan turtleneck sweater are the sexiest things I’ve seen on TV in a long time. She too is dreamy.
  • I hate the final episode’s reconciliation between Ellen and Patty. Partly because I have been rooting against Ellen for the entire season, but also because the lead up to it makes no emotional sense.
  • Yet, that final scene also did what the season as a whole should have done. That last episode should have been unpacked and developed across the season. Grrrrr.

….so I’m disappointed, and yet, I have hope for this show still. If the writing can be sorted out and Patty’s character unleashed, this could be a good show.