22 February 2006

[media] KWVT, Televison for Salem, Redux

It's been a looooong time since Salem's had a station that it can call its own. I'm old enough to remember KVDO-Channel 3, back in the '70's, and its studio at 3000 Portland Rd NE (the building still stands, I think; its on the east side of Portland Road, I believe the cross-street is Beach Ave NE), and I remember when it was moved to Bend after Oregon Public Broadcasting acquired it (and the damage caused when and upset view went out to the tower site and cut the thing down!). I also remember KECH-22 (called by me and my amigos "Retch-22") which was at first an outlet for a broadcast version of cable-style programming called "ON-TV" and which morphed into KWVT-Channel 22, which had actual local Salem news for a while before folding and becoming the local Home Shopping Channel outlet.

What television there was in Salem introduced me to that quirky televangelist, Dr Gene Scott.

Good times.

Now Tim King has decided to step into the Salem TV gap and create KWVT TV anew. Now, though, it's a low-power UHF at Channel 52, which is brand new for Salem. It's got a scrappy attitude and a "Salem for locals" approach which this jaded TV kid finds quite refreshing.

Tim King was late of KATU. As he says on KWVT's companion website, Salem-News.com:

After working for KATU for over three years, Tim recently separated from the station when the station’s new management decided to substantially reduce their coverage of the Salem area. Cutting ties with the Portland TV station now allows Tim to pursue the full development of Salem-News.com with his wife and business partner, Bonnie King, and several other team members.

Thier program schedule is available on thier website as a PDF: it contains small-market sports programming, old movies, minor-league professional wrestling (sound kind of exciting, actually!), a flock of half-hour shows, and an armful of what looks to be delighful old movies.

While Salem may seem bucolic (even I will cop to sometimes calling it "Snailem", but, I was a teenager there; it's affectionate, believe me) I agree it's been given short-shrift by current electronic media who see no profit in covering Salem. I applaud Tim King's effort; I hope he makes it, and I hope the Capitol City gets behind this one.

Variety is good. Local for locals is better.

[meme] O RLY? YA RLY!

I've been infected by one. According to this article on Wikipedia, O RLY got started over on a site called 4chan, an enourmous image playsite. The text-messagy tetragrammaton is apparently intended as a reference or perhaps a mockery of AOL speak or text contraction, and actually means "Oh, really".

It typically appears as an "image macro", that is, text merged with a picture, typically Photoshop. During O RLY's stay on 4chan, some wag wordfiltered "repost" to the word "owl", and a beautiful and very silly thing was born: the O RLY owl, the iconic example of which you will find illustrating this post.

That dam' snowy owl is so danged silly and cute I couldn't get it out of my head...

O RLY, it is said, is best served sarcastically or mockingly, as in a response to a dead stupid question (yes, there are such things): "Fire is hot!" "O RLY?" Typical response is "YA RLY!", which a likely reply is "NO WAI!", for which a further response would be "WAI!". The iconic responder seems to be a seriously-visaged horned owl. For those of you who know what a YTMND is, I would classify this as a relative.

Though someone posted the cover of the critique The O'Really Factor as an O RLY, it doesn't really qualify to me; it's just a posting of the cover with nothing added or played with. I thought that this serious subject deserved more of a disciplined approach, so, that being said, here's a screenshot of a concept I like to call The O RLY Factor:

Yes, I am almost a Photoshop godlette.

Update: fixed the spelling in the title-tag. How embarassng! Now to re-ping...

18 February 2006

[inspiration] The Quiet Earth

I'm a big fan of what they call 'cozy catastrophes'. While I'm a little shaky on the literally definition, the feeling I get is one of tales of immense calamity but not so complete that they destroy everyone and everything except a handful of fortunate unfortunates (or unfortunate fortunates) who either muddle through as best as they can, or else start anew.

I recently, finally got the chance to see a movie that I've been wanting to see ever since it was released–in 1985. That movie, The Quiet Earth, is quite a story. It seems to fit as a cozy catastrophe, although it has the hint of an end-of-the-world story as well. I was captivated by the poster art (excerpted here), but never got the chance to see it when it was new, and what few times over the intervening 21 years I did have the chance to view, it tended to be pre-empted.

What I did know about it was this: A scientist wakes up one June morning to find that everyone about has simply vanished. The world has been left as though everyone vaporized in an instant. The scientist deals with his loneliness and then tries to find out what happened, and if it will happen again.

Well, it is as interesting as that. But now I know it all. Spoilers follow.

On a fine June morning, Zac Hobson, who it develops is a scientist, wakes up to find that he seems to be the only man left alive. As indicated, all humanity (and most animal life) seems to have disintigrated, more or less simultaenously, leaving whatever they were doing in motion; an electric kettle at a gas station is boiling over, automobiles are left stranded in the middle of the road or run off the road, abandoned.

This does not reveal itself immediately; Hobson gets dressed to go to work. Finding nobody anywhere, he eventually arrives at the research station, which seems to be largely concerned with communication (it is dominated by a single huge satellite dish). Entering the station he tries in vain to find any other personnel who will answer, then descends to the actual lab which is underground. He does find one other person, a colleague, slumped over a rather futuristically-styled control panel. When Hobson sits the man up, he finds him horribly disfigured, as though he has been subjected to a lethal dose of energy.

A message on a video screen, cryptic to the viewer but all-informative to Hobson, declares Operation Flashlight Complete. After muttering a curse toward the dead colleague about the project, he allows the body to slump back down on the panel, which sets off alarms; some system is going live, and the lab is about to be flooded with ionizing radiation. The lift closes and locks. Hobson sets off a bomb to make himself a quick escape.

It soon becomes extremely apparent that Hobson seems to be in a world alone, and sets about at first enjoying his freedom and then suffering from his isolation. As he hits rock bottom, he attires himself in a ladies' slip, dresses himself up in a toga, sets up a number of celebrity cardboard cutouts and, in a triumphant speech to them supported by a battery of tape players broadcasting crowd sounds, Hobson proclaims himself President of Earth (as he remarked just shortly before to the Adolf Hitler cutout, "You've had your turn"). As the power grid, which had been going along for more than two weeks by this point finally packs up, the viewer realizes that Hobson isn't being megalomaniacal so much as he's punishing himself; he feels he's had something key to do with what has happened, and is being suitably condemned for his actions.

It's not until he stumbles, dazed from his isolation, into a church–holding a gun up to a crucified Christ, calling God to come out "or the kid gets it", and then blowing the figure to simthereens when God doesn't show–that he begins to recover. It is as though his madness has blown itself out.

Gathering supplies (including a generator), he moves into a sumptuous modern house overlooking the sea. In getting his bearings he begins to analyze the world about him, seeing what in the space-time fabric has shifted (if anything), he begins to rediscover his sanity.

Then Joanne, a cute redhead appears. End Part One, cue Part Two.

In Part Two, Zac and Joanne do a sort of awkward dance on the way to physical consummation (they, after all, are the last woman/man on Earth). Enroute they do more exploring, trying to find anyone else who may have survived, and Hobson does more research.

We learn how Hobson factors into what he figures happened. We learn that Operation Flashlight was an international energy project that was meant to establish an energy grid surrounding the whole planet, that airplanes could tap into and never need fuel. Hobson guesses that data and information they were getting from the Americans were incomplete, perhaps due to secrecy concerns, and that those gaps produced the effect that had caused everyone to vanish and may now be responsible for pulsating in the Sun. His earlier attempts at self-destruction relate to his sense of guilt for not speaking up and for complicity in being involved in the project.

We also learn that, according to Hobson's calculations, instead of electrons having only one constant charge, they have two and oscillate between them. The fabric of the Universe may not have merely been changed, it may have been made fragile.

Then, just as Zac and Joanne have become more or less comfortable together, strife arrives in the form of a very macho Maori: Api. At first suspicious, he holds Zac at gunpoint until he can meet him and Joanne together–a suspicion that melts as soon as Api realizes there's no threat.

But Api seems to have a cloud about him, and we soon find out why; in our first clue as to what happened when the Flashlight effect occurred, Api relates that, at what apparently was the moment of the event, a friend was trying very hard to kill him, and was just about to succeed. On the cusp of death, traveling down that tunnel toward the light, he returns to his corpus, his freind vanished into thin air.

Api eventually admits that his friend was trying to kill him because Api had, as he said, killed his wife, but doesn't explain the cirumstance. This doesn't go down well with Joanne, until it is explained that Api's friends wife had come on to him, and he had rejected her, apparently precipitating her suicide, which Api (and apparently his friend) found himself responsible for. We subsequently find that, at the moment of the event, Joanne was being electrocuted by a short in her hair dryer, and we find for the first time that Zac was attempting suicide over his conflicted feelings about Operation Flashlight.

At the same time that Zac is finding out that another full event is approaching, tensions between The Last Woman and The Two Last Men On Earth reach a head, and Zac, galvanized into action by what he has found, leaves the two in a frustrated rage when Api will not listen to him. Api, thinking it's a rage over his relationship with Joanne, gives chase with the aim of settling it once and for all. Joanne, furious with both of them, chases them down.

After tempers have cooled, the problem of the immenent repeat of the event is explained to all and Zac proposes a solution; destruction of his lab, which is a support point for the worldwide energy grid. While it's not clear if that will terminate the Flashlight effect there seems little else to try. Gathering two truckloads of gelignite high explosive, the three set off for the lab.

As they near the lab, Joanne transfers to Api's truck after he uses it to clear a particularly dangerous obstacle. Within about a mile of the lab a sensor Zac carries begins to go off; the lab is still being drenched in ionizing radiation: "it's like you'd be walking into a microwave oven". However, Api has turned off the 2-way; he and Joanne are busy getting into each other. After another harrowing vehicle interplay he does stop them and explains the problem.

Stopping at a guard station overlooking the lab, Hobson explains that he will go back to the city and get a robot that can pilot the truck in. Once gone, Api and Joanne waste no time in getting generous helpings of each other, but Api's actions don't seem so much in spite of Zac as they are in anticipation of his own end; he sees himself as driving the truck into the station. Joanne is inscrutable at this point...is she indulging herself or figuring out how to play post-apocalyptic head games with these two men.

Zac trumps them both. Suddenly, the truck is heard heading for the lab; they realize at once that Zac couldn't have returned that quickly. They watch as he drives the truck alongside the labe building. The ground under the truck, which is the ceiling to the underground lab, gives way, presumably weakened by the damage Zac had to do earlier to escape. The gelignite goes up, destroying the station. We see a tunnel...

And Zac Hobson wakes up on a beach. Is it on Earth? Is it even in this Universe, this reality? The end of the movie will leave one questioning where the characters have been all the time: was the world after the Effect the world that we live in, or were Zac, Api, and Joanne the ones to remove to a different Universe?

I like movies that don't resolve all the loose ends, that leave parts open to cogitate upon. Of course, that just doesn't mean any incomplete story is a good thing; theres a way to go about it. The Quiet Earth does it just the right way, by giving my mind grist for expansion, the way a Zen koan causes one to try to leap beyond logic into purposeful illogic.

And the end will gently blow you away.

14 February 2006

[design] Klein's Three Basic Laws

These are personal, as are the names. The reader may borrow them if they wish.

Cutsforth's Axiom
  • "Never let the computer design for you"-Cecelia Cutsforth, Graphic Design dept chair, Portland Community College.
This was maybe said in so many words maybe a handful of times but was repreated in countless ways throughout her instruction. The point is, with digital design tools the sine qua non of graphic design today, a sort of laziness can set in. With a few keystrokes and a mouse-click or two a Photoshop user can deliver special effects not even dreamt of ten years ago. But these tools are complex and have seemingly innumerable adjustments. Sometimes it's easier just to issue the command and move on.

In doing this, you've let the computer, via defaults, make decisions you, the designer, should perhaps have made. In a small way, you've reliquished the right to call yourself a creative, which is also part of the point.

Tools will make your job easier and quick, but it's you who must use the tools. My own corollary to this would be that if you do settle for defaults, do it with knowing. Understand you've made the choice to go with the default and work with that choice. And, if the defaults don't work for you, create new ones.

Remember, double-spaces between paragraphs are fine for Word users, but you, designer-person? Space before and Space after. And style sheets!

Gruber's Rule
  • "A designed thing should look designed"-inspired by Linnea Gruber, Graphic Design instructor, Portland Community College.
This was a theme I took away from Linnea's instructional style, and driven home by a few personal moments of discovery. Naturally, the non-designer can't necessarily pick up the cues that the designer knows to look for (alignment, hierarchy, color, etc) that the designer will probably see but the designed piece will feel more finished, more complete than the one whose design amounts to something thrown up against the wall to see if it sticks.

On the other hand, once again, design is a thing of intention too: if the feeling is one of randomness and chaos, then that can show. But, strangely, that too can be designed. Is communication going on? Then design has happened.

Goudy's Proposition
  • "Anyone who would letterspace lower case would steal sheep"-attributed to Frederic Goudy, Type God.
This statement isn't particularly secret or will benefit from my commentary, indeed, it inspired the title of a book on designing with type. Actually, as the Creativepro.com website review of the book Stop Stealing Sheep notes, the actual quote had to do with letterspacing blackletter. Being a Modern sort, I'll be blunt and say the reference to stealing sheep is a bit over my head but I think I get it; Goudy abhorred letterspaceing blackletter and minuscules and figured anyone who would spend their time doing that might also spend time in other disreputable pursuits. Dancing comes to mind.

This statement, to me, addresses appropriatness of design again. Most fonts, movable type as well as digital, are designed not only with respect to thier own forms but also to the space they have between them. Typefounders have already done the grunt work of letterspacing for us. Certainly attention must be paid to overall kerning and tracking, but letter-to-letter, the basic stuff is already there.

Note this seems to conflict with Cutsforth's Axiom but doesn't really; font metrics are designed by other designers. You aren't letting arbitrary computer defaults do your work for you, but the insight of whatever designer created the font and its metrics.

If, on the other hand, the font one's working with is a badly created font, then that's another issue. And, as far as stealing sheep, I'd just as soon walk up to one and go "kitty!".

13 February 2006

[design] 99 Free Valentine Fonts, From Designorati

Once again, Designorati™ delivers you the goods: 99 free TrueType fonts, perfectly positioned for pitching perfect woo to your personal paragon of pulchritude.

Not necessarily for professional print usage–more for coming up with your last-minute desktop Valentine card making and having general fun.

Go here for them and for usage information.

12 February 2006

[42] Working, working, working...

Personal obstacles are finally starting to clear a bit:
  • Connectivity problems way down
  • Stan is supplying some illos, for which mad props.
  • Will be redesigning my webpresence and portfolio soon
  • Will actually start drawing again (ye Gods, has it been that tough?)
More as news develops

05 February 2006

[tech] X-Treem Computing

There is still life on Planet SunDial; we all sometimes have our issues to contend with. Jan-Feb 06 seems to be Issue Season around here.

To liven up this intermission (and to preserve what meagre presence I have in search engines and stat-counters worldwide) I share with my tens of readers something I Google™ up and load whenever I need a laugh (and there's been several of those times lately) something some Brit maniacs making up the Temple ov thee Lemur (warning: not necessarily work or kid-safe) did a while back.

The object is to take a vintage mobo driven by an Intel i486 SX 25 (you read that right) and make it explore regions it was never meant to explore.

You will laugh, you will cry, you will believe that this antique can be overclocked more than nine hundred percent...but I get ahead of myself.

Folks, I give you The Extreme Use Of Nearly Universal Cooling Hardware – though you can call it Project E.U.N.U.C.H.

Stand back.