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Under the Dome in Boredom

Posted on Saturday, August 17th, 2013 under Reviews | No comments

So far, I have been thoroughly unimpressed by CBS' rendition of Stephen King's "Under the Dome".

Logistically, it's been great seeing them take advantage of the Amazon Prime platform and offer new episodes every Friday at no additional cost (though can someone explain why that leaves them without a episodic presence in their own iOS app?). Amazon can't seem to make anything of their own with any real quality, so it's comforting seeing other content providers take advantage of the established pipeline.

But, if you are like me, after enjoying all the hilarious dome-related gags in the Simpsons movie (We're gonna miss you Doctor Nic!), you checked out Under the Dome to see why any network would pick it up as a serious drama/sci-fi vehicle. And like me, you are probably still waiting and wondering. Aside from the deft design work done on their title card and brand advertising, there is nothing innovative or at times even on par about the show.

Granted, a few plot points (e.g. Junior kidnapping his girlfriend in a deranged mental state or Barbie being trapped in close proximity to the wife of the man he murdered or Ollie becoming the sole source of water in the town) were intriguing enough to keep me checking in, but each has ended up falling pretty flat. The writers seem to have good intentions about where to move the show, but keep getting side tracked by actions that really only help to make more episodes; i.e. It would have been more interesting to see the depth of Junior's character and seen his broken psyche mount and boil, with no release but upon his fellow trapped domees. Instead, he falters on his compulsions in time for the next commercial break.

There is also present that frustrating mechanism I am going to call "idiot tension", for lack of a better term, wherein the only drama happening is caused by one character not giving over contextual details and instead just quipping out a "You don't want to know" or "It's complicated" or the (LOST-finessed) silent stare followed by a walk away. It is feels played out, like a hackie reality show stretching out results and resonates as disingenuous to real life (at least mine any way).

There have only been 8 episodes and I miss X-Files too much to jump ship before finding out that is causing the dome, the seizures and the glowing egg ... but that won't keep much longer. There are other shows going on right now where the actors remember its not supposed to look like their acting and waning curiosity means I'm gonna eventually gravitate back to better TV (know what I mean The Event, The Cape and Revolution?).

Update: Entertainment Weekly had an interesting quote from CBS CEO, Leslie Moonves, where he mentions the difficulty of broadcast TV to compete with cable ... "'Game of Thrones' probably costs three times as much [to make] and is given three times as long to shoot".

Put in that light, you could make a defense for Under the Dome's obvious flaws, but I believe it still pales when compared to other broadcast shows of the same ilk (something like 'Person of Interest' comes to mind).


Unfollowing the Following

Posted on Thursday, April 4th, 2013 under Reviews | No comments

If you didn't catch it earlier, I recently posted on Twitter that after 9 episodes, I was giving up on FOX's Poe-inspired thriller, The Following.

What initially felt eerie because of some interesting literary interpretation and unexpected turns, now just feels thick with bloodsport and weak at many of the pivotal points that move the narrative forward.

Of course I was in at the start, despite the warnings of vivid violence, because how unnerving would it be to see the dark and twisted written words of Edgar Allen Poe brought to life through the hands of misled followers? In an era where simple memes and new game releases garner god-like attention, imagine those indulgences being fueled and fanned by an "intelligent, charismatic and handsome" madman. Who wouldn't be fearing for their own personal safety?

Add to the mix the iconic acting of Kevin Bacon (some of my favorites being Quicksilver and X-Men: First Class), a woman that sounds like Tina Fey but isn't (Annie Parisse) and the non-Smallville Ashmore twin (Shawn, aka Bryan Singer's Iceman) and again, you have my attention.

Unfortunately, my interests started waning when I found myself not just cringing at the brutality of the followers' actions, but being sick to my stomach at the nonchalance of basically writing in steps for youths to experience and connect with depraved murder. Where there was some semblance at the start pointing to Poe's work, Joe Carroll's "I want to hear your stories" speech at the safe haven just opened the floodgates to make the show about whatever gruesome actions the writers wanted to think up. It's the exact reason why my wife and I stopped watching CSI after the first few years; the show rapidly became about the most lurid or obscure ways to show people having sex and then being killed.

Despite this shift (or failing, depending on your perspective), I went into each of the episodes "Let Me Go", "Welcome Home" and "Love Hurts" looking for the story to come back around and redeem itself; to provide meaning to the seemingly meaningless slaughter of human life.

Side note to the writers: Having a character say "I wanted my life to mean something" right before they are killed does not in itself add meaning to the action of their death or their life. It happened twice (Charlie then Paul) and only the first one could we kinda make sense with.

In each of those three episodes, essential plot actions occur or are only possible through convenience; e.g. While I'll give you that the blonde FBI agent that shot Agent Weston could easily have been a cult plant, it was highly suspect of being a lazy last minute write-in. The added fact that some of the SWAT team members were also in on it just made the whole farmhouse siege seem sloppy. Getting Emma to leave behind the boys was genius, but then I think you (the writers) found yourself with two knife-wielding proselytes (one wounded) stuck in a room surrounded by heavily armored tac teams and went for the easy out.

Similarly, Weston's suspicions not being aroused/blaring-ly confirmed about 5 muscular, non-discreet men standing around outside of his hotel during a high-profile case where the teams haven't been able to trust anyone is just poor planning. About as poor as having him be the only one with knowledge of Claire's location and thus needing a Fight Club-esque throw down. Again, a great scene, but the setup was so heavy-handed.

Lastly, making sure that Claire Matthews #4's school was having a topical Carnivale-style festival was convenient enough that I figured some intern remembered that the show was supposed to have a connection to Poe and they added it into the location scouting. Secondary to that, with so many murders and killing happening in the area, no students thought to question the only angry looking, non-mask wearing party goer?

Again, there is some great stuff built into the show, but I don't think the end result is going to outweigh the cost of looking past narrative flaws and the strong desire to shower after each episode, trying to wash some of the villainous and psychotic images way.


Fill up your ears and your Podcasts app

Posted on Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 under Life News | No comments

While I'm not among those that berate Apple against their use of "skeuomorphic" design (e.g. the boys at The Verge or most of Leo Laporte and his crew) and definitely enjoyed the appealing little reel-to-reel animation in Apple's first attempt at a iOS podcast app, seeing the app hit an actual stride in version 1.2 is very welcome.

As a daily user of the app, with at least a couple of different podcast networks spin thing through my phone, it's nice to see some real functionality come to it. The ability to pick up where you left of between iPad and iPhone is nothing short of magical ... unless you take it in context with what everyone else is already doing (Audible, Amazon, etc.). Then it just makes sense.

The Meat

There are plenty of other write ups out there to guide you through all the knit picking of what Apple also .2 changed ... I just want to share with you and catalogue for my future self (yes that's for you, HIMYM) what I'm listening to these days, as well as some favorites from days gone by. Lets' get into it!


These are my gotos that I usually listen to (or will pull up a video stream of) on a daily basis; it's mostly tech-related but there are a few other gems in there as well.

Podcast Artwork - Debug

by Guy English, Rene Ritchie

Podcast Artwork - MacBreak Weekly

by TwiT

Podcast Artwork - This Week in Tech

by TWiT

Podcast Artwork - The Vergecast

By Joshua Topolsky, Nilay Patel, Paul Miller

Podcast Artwork - The Ihnatko Almanac

by 5by5

Podcast Artwork - The Truth

by Jonathan Mitchell

Podcast Artwork - This American Life

by Chicago Public Media

Podcast Artwork - NPR: All Songs Considered Podcast

by NPR

Podcast Artwork - Timothy Keller Podcast

by Timothy Keller


I don't always have time for these, but do enjoy when I get a chance to indulge.


There are usually a few oddities that I try to push into the mix, so don't judge me on any of these ... they're just here for some variety.

Past Favorites

Some of these are long gone, while others you can still access the archives of and make them enjoyable all over again. And others are still kicking, but I've moved on.

That's it! There is a comprehensive list of all the things I have been sticking in my ears, podcast-wise, for the last few days, weeks and even years. I hope you enjoyed, and if you share any of the same or have some unbelievably good recommendations, please feel free to share.


Matthew Perry isn’t here

Posted on Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 under Sketches | No comments

Matthew Perry this aint.

Ugh. This is clear indication that I need to be spending more time with my sketchbook and Wacom tablet and less cultivating whatever talent constantly reading Twitter has the capability to expand.

No, it's not Matthew Perry. Yes, I would love if it made you think of Chandler ... especially any moment when he is wide-eyed with shame, embarrassment or surprise-leading-to-fits-of-hilarious-over-reaction. You'd think after a few quick sketches in Sketchbook Express (which made me remember why I don't spend all my time there) and a few more in Illustrator, I would have something more like him, but alas, time is wasted on the constantly distracted.

To say the least, the Harding Manor roommates (currently Jodie, Crystal, Rachel, Katie and Michelle) and I were watching friends via MacBook mirroring and an AppleTV, so at least the night wasn't a total disaster.


Should I write HTML with single or double quotes?

Posted on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 under Code | No comments

By point of personal preference, I am always encouraging students to be consistent with their usage of capitalization, indentations and quotation mark usage. Code should be as clean as possible and consistency throughout is an easy way to catch small errors or discrepancies.

In some cases, however, you can actually find valid reasoning behind those personal preferences; in the case of All Caps vs. Sentence Case vs. lower case, different servers and languages perceive filenames and code entities as uniquely different items depending on the casing (See this About.com article for some good file naming recommendations).

When deciding whether to use single and double quotes in HTML files, you'll find that either option will validate perfectly (you can either validate to see or check out the spec) AND depending on the development team you end up working with or the open-source library your project implements, chances are that you will come across a variety of uses. For example, I personally always close my HTML attributes values with double quotes, but Google's popular web font service provides embed code that uses single quotes. Neither option is wrong and you could mix and match happily if desired.

The Rub

Here's the "however" point: When working with some server-side languages (my example is from PHP, but I'm sure this matters for at least a few others), there are times when you would want to purposefully use single quotes over double quotes and choosing between the two actually has important meaning.

echo "<a href="$link" id="$id">$urlText</a>";

In this example, I am using the PHP echo command to add the HTML markup I have to the page, hence the outside double quotes. The markup I want to add also uses double quotes, per my personal preference. PHP won't understand the above statement and even if it did, it is really easy for me to get confused as to what's happening in this statement after a few hours of coding.

echo "<a href=\"$link\" id=\"$id\">$urlText</a>";

If all I am worried about is PHP properly running, I could escape each of my internal double quotes and then run my statement. It would make PHP happy, but you can see in the above example how clumsy this could get as you continue to build strings throughout your web pages and applications.

echo "<a href='$link' id='$id'>$urlText</a>";

In the above option, we'll swap out the internal double quotes for singles and get something both functional and cleaner. PHP is happy and if you are consistent, it will become an easy way to spot errors in your PHP commands that involve HTML markup.

The Bottom Line

If you aren't coding with anything more advanced than HTML and CSS, then you aren't going to hit any problems when choosing single over double quotes or mixing and matching. But if you plan to go beyond these simple front-end languages, begin now to make a good distinction in your usage. For me, that means sticking with double quotes for attribute value definitions and only switching as required.


Surprise and Delight

Posted on Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 under Clients Video | No comments

Sketch - Surprise and DelightI just watched Alexis Ohanian (@kn0thing) on Behance's 99U, talking about bringing genuine care and enjoyment to the products you make for others. I've been so busy lately with teaching and school that I been slacking across the board with my own client relationships/creative endeavors and that this is a prefect reminder of their importance. The two things that really stood out: 1. "Surprise and delight" or give the user something wonderful and fun that they aren't expecting and 2. Work like you give a damn (or many of them).

Just to get out my box of markers and brushes again, I put this on some nice big Bristol paper. Nothing fancy, but as this is still a few weeks before January 1st, there is still time to begin working on establishing new habits to make the upcoming resolutions more successful. Check out Alexis' talk below and subscribe to the 99U feed for more goodness from Behance (I've only been on their email newsletter for a week and its been all great).

Screenshot - YouTube Guide

Also, how is everyone feeling about YouTube's new cleaner, simpler "Guide" UI feature? It seems a bit simplistic to me, but with their market moving more and more mainstream (imagine how things will change after this Christmas now that the $249 Chromebook is here), cleaning up the interface makes sense.


Maybe only Kevin Malone would agree with me, but today definitely seems like a "play The Police on repeat" kinda day :)


Posted on Wednesday, October 10th, 2012 under Status | No comments

Nothing like listening to Ben Gibbard's new laid back album and vectoring some Halloween type for work :P #WDDBS http://t.co/MbN1VePh


Posted on Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 under Status | No comments

I liked a @YouTube video from @MikeCapesFTW http://t.co/6DdNWsVG Speakeasy - Paul Scheer


Posted on Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 under Status | No comments

I liked a @YouTube video from @MikeCapesFTW http://t.co/kToW4OKU Zach Galifianakis Goes To Broadway


Posted on Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 under Status | No comments

I liked a @YouTube video http://t.co/rK14FkRZ Reggie Watts: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert


Posted on Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 under Status | No comments

Met a new Hellboy & BPRD fan this morning and set up a pretty dual screen of that gorgeous West coast #FutureDownloads http://t.co/aOrxo8bd


Posted on Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 under Status | No comments

Home from the airport with @michellemiriam, but the power's still out. Whoever hit the transformer, hope you're still alive, buddy :P


Posted on Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 under Status | No comments

Transcontinental. http://t.co/WlwnRntm


Posted on Sunday, October 7th, 2012 under Status | No comments

I liked a @YouTube video from @nerdistchannel http://t.co/gLevUhpi WTF is Cosplay? - Just Cos NYCC: Episode 1


Posted on Sunday, October 7th, 2012 under Status | No comments

I liked a @YouTube video http://t.co/PDvK726t Leprechaun in Mobile, Alabama


Posted on Saturday, October 6th, 2012 under Status | No comments

Both explaining and defending


Posted on Saturday, October 6th, 2012 under Status | No comments

This coastline never seems to end and I don't think I ever want to leave @ Big Sur http://t.co/4UT73JEP


Posted on Friday, October 5th, 2012 under Status | No comments

Waves @ Pfeiffer Beach http://t.co/knoXGwuJ


Posted on Friday, October 5th, 2012 under Status | No comments

Hiking @ Valley View http://t.co/DStQJ66l


Posted on Thursday, October 4th, 2012 under Status | No comments

Absolute majesty. @ Glacier Point http://t.co/opK5pXM9


Posted on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 under Status | No comments

Arrived. @ Yosemite National Park http://t.co/nUDteUZH


Posted on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 under Status | No comments

Had to explain my "Save Farris" shirt to one TSA agent and defend our 80's kid citizenship to two others. Oh Phoenix. http://t.co/kAKP53An


Posted on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 under Status | No comments

Spying on the baby in front of us on our flight into Phoenix #SketchBook http://t.co/GyioCqca


Posted on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 under Status | No comments

Excited to get Madeline L'Engle & @HopeLarson's "A Wrinkle in Time" graphic novel for our trip to Cali tomorrow! http://t.co/SzgKKEAF


Posted on Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 under Status | No comments


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