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  past petermemes  
  June 30, 1999
Cool new stupid web trick.
Ask the 8-ball. Not a simulated, virtual 8-ball, but a real 8-ball shaken by a Lego Mindstorms robot. Technology, working for you! Unless you have IE--It uses server push, which is a Netscape-only technology.

Wow. It's been a while. Here are some goodies.

less rain is a London interactive design shop with a wicked Shockwave web site.

If you need a bit more culture in your Web surfing experience, may I suggest perusing the net.art stylings of
Vuk.org. Don't fret--it's quite funny.

June 26, 1999
On salience and schemas.
Don Norman's
enlightening response to the tested notion of "banner blindness."

"I can survive nuclear fallout, but, dang, I have to
pee a lot."

June 25, 1999
Todd Levin, that
funny guy at Smug, has a funny and dead-on review of the documentary Home Page, which I reviewed (not nearly as scathingly) a while back.

Why I hate French critical theory bullshit.
If I were back at Cal (alma mater), and printed out
this essay, and turned it in, I'd likely get a good grade. The trick? Hit Reload/Refresh.

I feel your

June 24, 1999
If you are going to be in SF for Web99 (or any other occasion in the near future) you must must must go to SFMOMA to see the
Bill Viola retrospective [linked to out of its frameset]. This man's work is amazing. Spiritual. Haunting. Exhausting. Totally utterly super brilliant. His ability to control space is unrivalled. I've seen the show twice now (once in L.A., and again in N.Y.), and I'll be seeing it again.

here now. Great goofing off material. Requires shockwave. Some of it is amazing.

FAT (for Fashion Architecture Taste) is a collective of architects, artists, and graphic designers making cool shit in London. Loving this novelist's house (a delirious shrine to books!), and the brilliantly conceived anti-oedipal house.

I've been labelled "something of an inspiration" by
Joe Clark, though he disapproves of my typographic stylings. His site is worth poking around, as you'll find links and essays on graphic design, industrial design, film, and radicchio.

June 23, 1999
This kind man has offered up The Great Train Robbery with the RealPlayer G2's "Sure Stream," so it will scale up to the speed of your connection.

Hollywood Pitch: "It's voice meets ICQ."
Firetalk is a new Windows application for audibly communicating with people over the net. It's a snap to set-up, and its interface is pretty straightforward. I'm user 12131. And it took my friend showing me this to learn that my laptop had a mic, and that pretty much all laptops do. That's a good installed base!

Can You Fight City Hall?
This well-plotted, somewhat lengthy
chronicle of Rescue Muni suggests that yes, yes you can. Heartening to see that a few active citizens can make worthwhile political change. Though, there goes my liberal angst alarm, seeing as how unions are made into something of a bad guy in the piece.

Jorn pointed to this Salon article, with this passage on game designer extraordinaire Brian Moriarty at the Game Developers Conference:
Last year, Moriarty's speech was on the subject of violence in games. As he spoke, two short clips appeared on a screen behind him, repeating hypnotically. One was a clip from "The Great Train Robbery," a silent film historians call the first real movie hit, showing a mustachioed Westerner shooting a gun directly toward the camera; the other, a short sequence from Quake, showed a guard being shot.
Two threads here:
1. Brian Moriarty. Back at Infocom, he wrote what is my favorite text adventure of all time,
Trinity. The writing is rich and detailed, the puzzles are tantalizingly complex, the environment is playfully bizarre. The man is a brilliant, and it's good to hear he's staying current in the industry, and respected by his peers.
2. Violence in "
The Great Train Robbery." The 1903 film is considered the first substantial narrative film, it's lauded as a hallmark of American cinema, with its stylistic and formal innovations, and its 9-minute-length is just dripping with violence. Along with various shooting deaths, there's a scene where a man gets pummelled in the head, and then thrown off a train. A couple years ago, when Janet Reno and others were beating drums against "violence on television," what no one seemed to realize, or care to understand, is that brutal violence has been essential to American film from the beginning.
Many people haven't had the opportunity of seeing the film, so what I've done is RealVideo-ed the version that comes on Voyager's
"Who Built America?" CD-ROM. (For my money, the best CD-ROM ever produced, the finest expression of its form.) People with faster pipes, or with incompatibility problems, can download the movie in QuickTime or MPEG format from the Library of Congress Web site.
The Great Train Robbery, RealVideo (might require G2). The quality is piss-poor so as to stream at 56k. It's just to demonstrate the violence. I encourage viewing a crisper version when you can.
The Great Train Robbery at Library of Congress

June 22, 1999
Messing with pictures.
A doubtlessly beautiful reader pointed me to
Photomontage, a sculpted exhibit of works in the image-manipulation medium. It got me thinking of my favorite such artist, John Heartfield. (That site kinda sucks, but provides a bit of a background.) Here are the best sites for his work that I found:
Heartfield Versus Hitler
John Heartfield
History of Photography, Slide 14
For me, Heartfield best exemplifies the truism that design is about the idea. At the Edgewise conference in May, superbrilliant poly-media designer (in the mold of Tibor Kalman, if I may be so bold) Stefan Sagemeister (he doesn't have his own site) discussed his design philosophy, which is that his work isn't about form nor function, style nor substance, but about the Idea, the Concept. His anatomical analogy is that good form is the beautiful skin, and thoughtful function is the active brain, but without the idea, the heart, the design is dead.

Interactive trinkets.
I've been playing with the Shockwave doodads here at
kirkshouse.com. I was originally pointed to this page, which you can't get to from the home page. "Kim [an unfair portrait]" proves most memorable to me.

The name "kirkshouse" dredges up some thoughts I've had on how we label web spaces. I suppose this continues the metaphor drum I've been beating lately. When implored to go to a site, the request typically takes one of two forms--"Visit my website" or "Check out my web site." The former suggests attending a space, a place, the latter suggests observing an object, something you can pick up in your hand and turn over and around. And both reveal conceptual models for the approaching the web.

June 21, 1999
- Happy Solstice!
Part of the problem.
This meandering
L.A. Times article sloppily discusses the gentrification of San Francisco's Mission district. Last March I moved my lily-white well-paid-by-new-media self into a not-so-gentrified region of the neighborhood, where I'm surrounded by Latino working-class family residences. Sure, this triggers some liberal angst, but what am I to do? I like it here. I didn't want to pay an arm and a leg for rent (I'm only having to give the arm). The location is prime for where I often work. It's low and flat, ideal for my bicycling lifestyle. It's proximal to great bars, restaurants, and clubs.
If you extend the philosophy of the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project further, you end up with the notion that neighborhoods should be zoned for race and income. Which would provide no better mechanism for stasis, and then decay.
What's going on here is what happened to Manhattan, and it seems to be an inevitable process, particularly in a healthy economy. Not that this doesn't disturb me. London, too, is an extremely expensive, and essentially wholly gentrified city. Something about turning the world's great cities into playgrounds for the affluent doesn't seem right. But who am I to talk?

June 20, 1999
Those wacky type-designing LettError kids seem to have recently updated their
website. (Well, it had been a while since I'd visited.) I love the PalmPilot animations.

My ramblings about metaphor (see June 18) brought forth some interesting responses. I was pointed to this thoughtful piece on
Metaphors and Schemas in Design, which in turn links to a study out of Claris (like, research with data and everything) on Do Metaphors Make Web Browsers Easier to Use?

Jessamyn, responding to my June 7 lament about no good Musee Mechanique web pages, pointed me here. This site exhibits snapshots taken from all over San Francisco (and some in New York), and captures many of my favorite places--Farley's, Anchor Brewery, The Castro Theater. Spend some time there.

Cliff Stoll, author of the brilliant
The Cuckoo's Egg (I devoured it in a single all-nighter my junior year of college), has found himself a new topologically-challenged money-making endeavor. And hey, you can order the goods from the man himself!

June 19, 1999
What do you get when you match the visual genius of
John Maeda and the collaborative power of massively networked computing? One-line.com.

It turns out that Don
basically agrees. Partly, what we have here is a failure of imprecision with language.

June 18, 1999
The Metaphor Bugaboo.
I just sent this to the CHI-Web mailing list. I thought it would be worth writing here:

So, I've just read much of Don Norman's The Invisible Computer, and there's a passage on "Why Metaphors Should Be Avoided" and in it he discusses the now somewhat hoary notion of why designers shouldn't look for "the metaphor" to help users understand this device. (Yes yes, the "desktop" metaphor never really worked, the VCR and audio CD metaphors have always been problematic, the "world" metaphors of eWorld and MagicCap proved encumbering, etc. etc.)

And Don concludes, "Forget the term 'metaphor'". And I wonder if we're throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

See, I've become quite entranced by the possibilities of tapping into metaphors, not extended metaphors like "desktop" or "world", but the more
conceptual metaphors from cognitive science, the work that's come from George Lakoff out of UC Berkeley, the notion that damn near everything is metaphor, and if you tap into how people metaphor-ize their world, you can better understand it.

An example: If you have a widget that controls volume, how should it be oriented: Left-right? Up-down? Knob? In the physical world, knobs proved best because they allow for the most precise user control; sliders are clumsy objects to manipulate.

But what is the "metaphor" for volume? The metaphor is high-low. We imagine louder volumes to be "higher" than quieter volumes. "Crank it up" means make it louder, while "turn that down" means make it quieter. (Admittedly, "crank" and "turn" suggest knobs, but I believe the operational terms are "up" and "down.")

Knobs don't have an up and down. (Which, I think, is sometimes why I don't turn them the right way off the bat.) Nor do left-right sliders, though I've seen a lot of volume widgets that are left-right oriented, with right for loud, left for quiet (WinAmp is one example). What the metaphor suggests is that a vertical slider is best, where volume increases as the slider goes up. And my experience suggests vertical sliders are ideal, too.

Anyway, I think there's a whole lot of room to explore truly conceptual metaphors and how they can work with interaction design, and so I get a little nervous when a noted Guru<tm> like Don tells folks to ignore them all together.

Thoughts? Is there research on conceptual metaphors in interface design? Studies as to whether or not directly utilizing the notions from conceptual metaphor increases usability?

(One notion this raises is that the left-right orientation for temporal media is flawed. Our conceptual model of time is that we move *through* it. The future is ahead of us, the past behind us. I'd love to see a video-playing interface that somehow reflected *that*).



Rodney Greenblat is exhibiting a
gallery of new artwork, all befitting the man who began the Center for Advanced Whimsy. Much of the work is brilliantly delightful--I clicked through to see every piece. I want this one. (And hey, hey Web designers--dig how he preloads the entire next image as a thumbnail on the current page. That's some smart HTML!)
I became aware of Rodney's work when I toiled at Voyager. He created
Dazzeloids, among the best children's titles ever put on CD-ROM, which Voyager published. Rodney is that extremely rare talent who can do it all and do it well--he wrote the script, created and performed the music, drew all the artwork, voiced many of the characters, and did much of the Director authoring. Dazzeloids is a treat in the Rocky-and-Bullwinkle style, great for kids and great for adults. You can order it online here, or Rodney himself seems to have some copies he's clearing out (for "CASH MONEY").
Dazzeloids was never the selling success it should have been, and as a fan, it was frustrating that Rodney wasn't getting a wider audience. Though word was that he was "Big In Japan" (which is the wry title of one of my favorite tracks on Tom Waits'
new album. Um, if you haven't bought the album, you should.) Then PaRappa The Rapper happened, and the world learned the Rodney aesthetic (though only the visuals--the music and story was done by his co-creator Masaya Matsuura).
With his latest online gallery, it's interesting to see Rodney put computers behind him (they've been essential to both his fine and commercial art for quite a while now), to create in a freer flowing style, one that shows remarkable promise.

I think it's time to throw down some old-school 'blogging at you kids. Keepin' it real...

After my post about London potentially leapfrogging the States, I got a response that perhaps folks across Scandinavia have already done so, at least design-wise:
Kaliber10000 - loving those animated icons
Pixeljunkie - head straight for "resources"

Quizlet is a poll/quiz generator for websites. It overcomes my main frustration with Ars Digita's Vox Populi, in that it returns results in a pop-up window. We here at peterme industries love pop-up windows. I haven't actually tried making a poll with it, so I don't know if it's really a pain in the ass.

Reviews of the movies
Cube and Happiness have been added to the sorely undertended movie reviews section.

16 June 1999

So, last night I got pissed with the good folks at Amaze. I attended their party to launch Navihedra.com, their site devoted to promoting their non-hierarchical nodal navigation widget [which hasn't seemed to gone quite live yet, but will any moment now.] I also had the pleasure of chatting with Danny "Noodlebox" Brown, a fiery-haired 22-year-old roustabout with some very intriguing ideas for where to take the Noodlebox experience. 

Earlier I met with the really good folks at
Deepend, one of London's leading independent interactive shops, with a taste for fun design. And whose company philosophy is people and projects before profit--they're not in it for making a killing, they're in it for having a good time. So refreshing.

A couple days ago I attended the awesome
Cities on the Move exhibit at the Hayward Gallery. A sensory-assaulting look at art, architecture, and society in the exploding metropolises of Asia. 

Oh. And I've been doing a lot of thinking. When I'm not paying by-the-minute for access, I'll put up some ideas about The Interactive Form, inspired by some notions from lemonyellow and Sergei Eisenstein's
Film Form.

13 June 1999

Cor' blimey there's a lot to say. London is a very interesting place right now, new media-wise. While acknowledging being a year or two behind the States, it feels primed for some rapid advancement, and quite a few that I've spoken to feel that the UK has a chance to leapfrog the US. Two interesting analogies were made to made to me on this point.

David King, managing director of
Icon MediaLab in London, made the more mundane, but still telling, analogy with the spread of new television technologies in the 80s. While cable television rapidly spread throughout the US, it was a total flop in London for a simple physical reason--unlike the miles-long straight roads in The States, laying cable in this city's 2000-year-old twisty street infrastructure is well nigh impossible. A new solution was necessary, and personal satellite dishes were developed--a technology by many accounts superior to cable, and which is slowly making inroads in the US.

Robin Hunt of
arehaus made the second, and more formalist, analogy with French cinema in the late 1950s. The movies made in France at the time were abominable, and the young turks looked to Hollywood for inspiration. The nouvelle vague was very influenced by American cinema, but through a kind of deconstruction took it further and developed presentational structures that advanced the form of cinema beyond where Hollywood was at (and which Hollywood wouldn't catch up to until the late 60s and early 70s).

David and Robin separately expressed the same point, that new media in London is gearing up to respond to the work done in The States with a movement that could likely surpass it. This is further bolstered by the
freeserve model of internet access--do you know that ISPs are free in the UK? This is because calls are charged by the minute, the ISPs get a teeny percentage of that charge from the phone company. Freeserve signed on 1 million subscribers within its first 90 days. Access is spreading at a phenomenal rate here, and since the phone cost model is identicaly throughout the EC, such rapid penetration is likely to follow throughout Europe.

Interesting times indeed.

Last night I went to a showing of work that had been aired on
Protein TV, a site devoted to presenting contemporary short film to a global audience. The two stand-outs were centre of gravity, a delirious exercise in sensory and information overload (are you listening, LemonYellow?), and The Wolf Man, a delightful computer-generated cartoon.

I'm paying by the quarter-hour for this access, so I'll be heading off now. You know, though, we travellers *love*
email. Hint hint.