TV Show: My Name Is Earl

Thank goodness it’s getting decent ratings. It’s funny, clever, inventive, and appropriately crass. It’s probably the second-best comedy after Arrested Development (which continues to languish, ratings-wise.) Anyway, if you like to laugh, set your Tivo to Earl.

Movie Review: Crimen Ferpecto

In an effort to use discount cards before they expire, we headed to see Crimen Ferpecto(unfortunately retitled “El Crimen Perfecto” in the US), an intense, madcap Spanish farce about a lothario whose life goes… awry. I’m wary of saying more about the plot because this is definitely a movie where the less you know, the better. I will say this:

It’s a good movie. Not great. Not very good. But good.

It’s inventive and stylish.

It exploits the fact that it’s a movie — leave your desire for realism at the door.

I love that it has a strong directorial voice. So many American movies have stunted points of view. This is a film with vision (however flawed).

When the plot sags (and it does… capers are difficult to maintain), the film is saved by some great, simple, humor. Malevolent children, a bathroom-door bit that will make you wonder why you hadn’t seen that before, and other silly gags keep things moving.

This flick seems to be at the end of its run here in the states (there were 5 people in our theater last night), but its definitely worth a view on DVD.

There’s a boat dat’s leavin’ soon for New York…*

On October 31 and November 1, Jeff Veen and I will be teaching Adaptive Path’s “Beyond Usability” Workshop in New York City.

We’ve extended the early registration deadline to October 1. And, as you’re smart and good-looking enough to be a reader, you can get an extra 15% off when using the promotional code FOPM.

You get two days, packed with discussions of methods for creating great user experiences, hands-on activities, lively discussions, our latest thinking of the business value of design, and, most importantly, cocktails!

Read more about it!

Image from here.

*Lyric from Porgy and Bess

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Final Thoughts – AIGA Boston

Yesterday I flew back from the AIGA 2005 Design Conference. A bunch of thoughts rattling around. I’ll try to get some out.

Bill Strickland is an inspiration. He’s doing great work, and he presents it in great style.

It was fun to see the development of “America: The Book,” presented by Ben Karlin and Paula Scher. Design played such an essential role in communicating the humor appropriately. I can’t say I learned anything, or took away anything, but I did laugh.

I’d never before seen Ze Frank do his shtick, and it was quite good. A finny riff on issues of safety within airplanes. I mean, the guy is, I would think, HBO-standup-level-quality.

I had no idea what Nicholas Negroponte was doing on stage. He talked about his $100 laptop, which was all well and good, but seemed totally irrelevant.

The conference presented both too little and too much. The bulk of time was spent in the main hall, which means that 2500 people (or so) are all watching the same thing. And if you’re not really interested in that thing (say, Paola Antonelli’s content-less slide show of an upcoming exhibit at MoMA), well, I guess it’s a good thing the place was blanketed in free wi-fi. On the flipside, during the breakout sessions, there were around 24 simultaneous presentations. How on earth are you expected to choose? How on earth are you expected to not feel like you’re “missing something”?

I guess my advice would be — less time spent all in the main hall, more time spent in breakout sessions — but with fewer sessions options.

Watching GK VanPatter’s presentation on “Who Will Lead Design in the 21st Century?” really made something clear, and something that resonated with the talk that JJG and I gave on the (arguable) death of user experience. The vast majority of designers in the AIGA audience have essentially become marginalized. Form-makers, while valuable, are being passed by those who are attempting to use design to serve more strategic ends. And these form-makers, it is clear, have no idea. A fair portion of the blame rests on traditional design “journalism” (Print, ID, Communication Arts, etc.) which does everything to laud style and form, and nothing to increase awareness in its audience that such endeavors are becoming increasingly marginalized and commodified. And so when someone would suggest that form-makers are, well, being left behind (as happened in both GK’s and JJG’s and my talk), inevitably an audience member would lash out.

Sadly, the bulk of the AIGA conference, particularly what happened on the main stage, simply bolstered the primacy of form. I guess it’s an open question around to what degree is the AIGA responsible for *leading* designers (which often means taking them where they don’t want to go), versus giving designers what they want (which often means designers getting left behind.)

“Design Thinking” as ipecac

I had the opportunity to chat with Michael Bierut, partner at Pentagram and former president of the AIGA, at the Design Observer/Speak Up party last night. I asked him what he thinks of the “design thinking” meme. He remarked that, if he started talking “design thinking” within Pentagram, Paula Scher, another partner, would throw up. He actually stated it twice, for effect. Paula Scher throws up at the notion of “design thinking.”

Which makes me respect Paula Scher all the more.

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Quick Thoughts – AIGA Boston

After a poor night’s sleep (forget to bring the melatonin), I rolled into the main (massive) auditorium for the AIGA Boston conference.

John Hockenberry is MCing the event, and doing so with an engagingly loose vibe. It doesn’t always work (an attempt to have “funny phone calls” live on stage fails because we can’t hear the other conversant), but he never flags.

Rep. Barney Frank is clearly a smart, thoughtful guy, but I had no idea what he was doing at a design conference. All he talked about was Katrina and the role of government.

The last-minute Design For Disaster panel (that’s not what it was called) didn’t spur me to pay attention. Designers can be a remarkably self-congratulatory bunch — I vaguely remember the discussion involved how signage can help evacuees.

Ellen Lupton was singularly disappointing. She spent a remarkable amount of time making fun of signs that use “dumb quotes,” which is akin to shooting fish in a barrel. And she didn’t really have a point to it. “Rated R” was a fun little flash film with typefaces battling it out.

Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid gave a coherent talk on hip-hop, remixing, type, and graphic design. It was easily the best public speaking I (or the folks I’m here with) have seen him do. We had two theories. 1) He showed a lot of movies, so he spoke less, and his points were illustrated by others. 2) He just wrote a book, and, in doing so, figured out how to communicate his formerly esoteric theories more accessibly.

Jason dug up a video that Spooky showed and which is worth viewing. “Distorted Minds” by Hexstatic.

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Rebecca Solnit on Disaster

Making its way across the blogosphere is Rebecca Solnit’s essay for Harpers on “The Uses of Disaster,” which I’m guessing was written well before Katrina, and so is disturbingly prescient. She added a postscript specific to the recent tragedy.

It’s very much worth reading. Solnit’s an excellent, and highly passionate and opinionated, writer. She’s something of a libertarian Socialist, but somehow makes it work for her.

Battlestar Canadia

So, we’ve definitely gotten hooked on Battlestar Galactica (the kidz call it BSG), and one thing that we’ve found… well… just funny is how it is essentially a Canadian production. I mean, beyond being shot in Vancouver, the bulk of the actors are Canadian, and don’t try to hide it. I mean, Col. Tigh, played by Michael Hogan, might as well be wearing a toque, and eating ketchup chips, his accent is so strong.

Canadians are definitely proud to have the production in their land.

Anyway, the show’s Canadian cast:

Tricia Helfer (pretty evil blond cylon)
Grace Park (pretty clueless Boomer)
Tahmok Penikett (pretty boring Caprica-left-behind Helo)
Kandyse McClure (pretty boring Uhura stand-in)
Paul Campbell (upstanding boy servant to the president)
Aaron Douglas (“chief”)
Nicki Clyne (cute chubby-cheeked mechanic)
Donnelly Rhodes (smoking doctor)
Callum Keith Rennie (prophetic Cylon captee)
Kate Vernon (two words: Lady Macbeth)
Jennifer Halley (Seelix)

And on, and on. I’ve never seen an ostensibly American show so upfront about casting Canadians. I mean, the X-Files, which was also shot in Vancouver, frequently had Canadians in single-episode parts, but for a show’s cast to be so Canuck-y. And Canucks who in no way are trying to hide their accents, well, that’s new for me.

Special to the Canadians reading peterme: IMDB reveals that Michael Hogan got his TV start as an actor on…. “The Littlest Hobo”! (To Americans: “The Littlest Hobo” is one of those cultural things that makes very clear the distinction between Canadians and Americans. All Canadians know the story of this dog’s adventures, whereas you’d be hard-pressed to find an American who’d ever even heard of it.)