Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Design Trends I Hate - Slide Shows

Let me put on my curmudgeon's cap and jersey for a moment, and discuss a web design and content trend I really hate. That's slide shows. They're ubiquitous it seems, and often they have information that sounds interesting. "10 Facts About Happiness," "15 Underrated Horror Films," "Best Celebrity Cellulite Solutions."

It's getting to that information that's the challenge. You can get Number 15, but moving to Number 14 is another matter, especially with the variety of devices we have to access the web.

If you're viewing the web in, oh, a browser, slide shows become time consuming.

The #$%)&*_&^%$#$%^%ing *&+#@!%^ *&^%$ button is never located conveniently to the copy. It's usually somewhere up near the address bar, and the text is somewhere down below an image.

For me it invariably means scrolling down to read the content then back up to find the button to advance. Then it's scroll down again to read.

When I was talking about this on Twitter, Robin Ashe added a good observation. There's often an ad link in the mix that looks like the button you ought to click.

Gets the website a click through and you even more delay in reading and moving on.

Add to that the fact that they're not really slide shows a lot of the time, just separate web pages THAT HAVE TO LOAD.

I know why this is all like it is. I know it's a clever scheme, nay, a conspiracy for click throughs, but it's annoying as hell.

I think I'm going to declare a moratorium on browsing web slideshows. I won't need facts on happiness then. I'll just be happy not clicking and scrolling so often.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Storage Wars Meets Area 51 - A Kickstarter

Wes Locher was an up and coming comics writer before he took a class from me, but I mention that he's a past student in the interest of full disclosure.

I wanted to share news of his Kickstarter project regardless. Yeah, he's a former student, but it also looks cool.

It's comedy sci-fi hinging on an interesting and humorous high concept. Here's the word on his Unit 44:

Oh, and contributors can earn cool rewards. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Horror Trailer: The Caves - Killer Vikings Awake


Got a kind note from Jack Delaney, the director of a new horror feature film called The Caves. Be warned, the trailer's a bit bloody, but it looks interesting.

Vikings awake in the present day, and they're dangerous.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Blackhouse by Peter May - An Immersion in Character and Culture

 Once in a while you pick up a book and find it far exceeds expectations. I was intrigued reading the jacket flap of Peter May's The Blackhouse. It summarized the story of a Scotland detective called back to his childhood home in The Hebrides to investigate a murder similar to a case he's recently dealt with in Edinburgh. It sounded like an engaging procedural.

I didn't get from that how rich in character and setting the tale would be.

The Blackhouse scrutinizes the life of Fin Macleod, both in the present as he proceeds through his investigation, and in the past, through first-person remembrance.

Fin has known tragedy. He's almost plagued by tragedy. He lost his parents at a young age. He's just lost a son and seen his marriage unravel in the aftermath. He's also been party to a good deal of misery either dealt out by harsh circumstances of island life or from nature itself.

The case he's called on to investigate opens old wounds and revisits jagged relationships, many swirling around the victim, Angel Macritchie, a bully as a boy and as a man.

Macleod's past is inextricably linked to the murder. Those detailed relationships and past regrets channel him toward answers, shocks and heightened regrets.

Many are linked to the island's annual guga hunt, an almost ritualistic culling of gannets on a rock island. May, who lived in the Hebrides while film a television series there, offers a fascinating look into life and culture and the role of the hunt to island life.

The components converge in a thrilling and tortured climax in which Fin confronts present, past, himself, and, of course, the killer.

It's a well plotted mystery, a study of a man and a voyage to a unique and intriguing place. It reminds me a bit in its combinations of Jane Campion's New Zealand in Top of the Lake.

It's well worth the time to turn the pages. Has Fin been party to almost too much tragedy and has he seen too much first hand? Perhaps one red herring's a bit of a stretch, but it generally fits, and the whole is a solid, intricate work.

Happily, though it took the book a while to find a home, it's the first in a trilogy, that I hope to continue reading soon.

Peter May discusses the road to publication for The Blackhouse:

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Three Graves Full - A Crime Drama

In this debut novel, Jamie Mason introduces a compelling group of characters then puts them through sometimes comic, sometimes tragic and sometimes suspenseful paces.

I suppose the central conceit requires a little buy-in from the reader, but it's not terribly hard with Mason's smooth narrative touch.

Jason Getty has killed a man and buried him in his yard. 

After a period of fretting about that circumstance, he hires a crew for lawn maintenance lest an overgrown homestead draw undue attention.

In the midst of their cleanup, they stumble on an unmarked grave.  No wait, two unmarked graves. Neither is occupied by the guy Getty buried.

It seems a pair of bodies were planted on the property before he moved in and sunk another.

Just accept it.

From there, the story unfolds in a nicely paced and quirky manner as Getty encounters a pair of decent and conscientious local cops who solve the murders in short order but find Jason acts a little suspicious.

CSI determines another death might have transpired in Jason's house, which makes them curious  and means Jason's going to need to move his former friend Harris to a new location.

Jason's the most compelling character in the cast, and the extended flashback in which we learn the circumstances of the killing he committed is engrossing. It builds empathy for his milquetoast spirit. He's a widower after all, and good intentions  entangled him with a biker and burglary ring leader, who doesn't like to be called Harris, who drove Jason first to despair then dire deeds.

When Jason starts to unearth his victim for transport prior to the police bringing in cadavar dogs, things really get complicated as the suspect for the other killings, the fiance of one of the victims and others converge on Getty's house.

Jason's faced with trying to protect himself, help one of the good cops and somehow makeing an ally of a woman he's instinctively brained with a shovel.

I think it's safe to say you haven't seen this all before. Mason really delivers a fresh voice and a fresh perspective to the crime novel.

Three Graves Full is a fast and exciting excursion, and you'll probably be surprised at how things turn out.

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