Requisite October Check-In

Jack-o-lanterns

And so October has come ’round once again, bringing with it that most venerable of holidays: Halloween!

As is my usual tradition, I aim to watch a smattering of festive horror films throughout the month, and I typically post the intended viewing list here in my blog.

Unlike my usual tradition, however, this year’s list is tragically devoid of theme. I like to group the annual movie list by some clever or appealing motif. This year, I’ve been a bit more pressed for time than usual, so the films are a bit more random. Though I suppose a case could be made that a few of them fall into a “natural predator” vein — with killer bears and rampaging wolf packs — but, honestly, it’s just how the cards happened to fall this time.

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Public Mystery

Endangered species

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I do a lot of driving and, as a result, a lot of listening to podcasts. One of the handful of shows that I closely follow is 99% Invisible, a popular, well-produced podcast covering various topics that have some connection to design and architecture. Their episodes frequently inspire in me some lengthy introspection, as well as the occasional manic outburst of pessimism. (To be fair, my negativity is rarely related to the episode content itself, but usually in response to some pattern of social ill that I see playing out or reflected in a small way within the content of the episode.)

As was the case when I finished up a recent episode: “Mojave Phone Booth.”

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The Power of Dracula Compels You!

Occasionally, you’re online and you come across something unexpected. Perhaps you mis-click and direct your browser to a surprising web page. Perhaps you don’t carefully consider word choice before diving into that image search. Or perhaps you find yourself unintentionally engaged with the surreal Russian roulette of search engine autocomplete suggestions. These little moments of unplanned hilarity are a crucial part of Internet experience.

Case in point: I was recently searching for some information on a movie. As I was typing, I happening to glance up and caught sight of the suggested search terms the engine was recommending.

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The Loathsome Presence of an Unmutual

Prison Watch Tower

After a period of consideration, I recently shut down my account on Facebook. I’ve been experiencing a growing sense of unease over social media, especially since I started reading Jacob Silverman’s Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection. My spouse recommended it to me after she’d read it and subsequently abandoned most social media platforms. It outlines (very persuasively) how the design and functionality of social media platforms exploit some bad tendencies we have as human beings, as well as making us collectively complicit in creating a surveillance state of our society. Our personal data is collected and profited from with little-to-no compensation made to the user. While I’d been cooling to Facebook for the past year, this put the final nail into its online coffin.

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Revenge is a Dish Best Served 3 Centuries After the Fact to Folks Who Don’t Even Know Who You Are

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been watching some fine-caliber horror movies over the past few weeks. Though they were predominantly focused on that enlightened Himalayan sage, the yeti, the remainder of the roster were made up of any that struck my choosy, discerning fancy.

One that really merits mention is a charming Mexican release from 1962, El Barón del Terror — or, as it came to be titled in English, The Brainiac. There’s just so much to love about a film that depicts a satanic wizard getting revenge on his Inquisition executioners by returning to life 300 years after his death and sucking out the brains of all their descendants. Why he hitched a ride back to Earth on an anomalous comet and suddenly looked like surgical ventilator bellows in bad need of a haircut is well beyond me, but it all somehow worked in spite of this. This warlock is a true gentleman. WorldlyCharismatic. He’s classy enough to know that, when entertaining guests, it’s best to stash your chalice of brain-snacks in a locked chest, discretely hidden from view.

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Halloween Viewing

Halloween gingerbread house

And by “viewing,” I mean viewing — not viewing.

Like every recent year, I try to make October a month chock full of horror movies. Every year, my wife and I select a theme and structure our viewing list around it. Past years themes have included “noirror,” devil cults, and found-footage.

This year, the chosen theme is…the yeti.

This one proved to be a bit trickier than previous themes for assembling the list itself. There is a relatively small number of yeti films overall — of which there is a smaller subset of films that are halfway decent — and of which there is an even smaller subset that I haven’t already seen. But since it had been some years since I’d last watched them, we included those that were repeat viewings. I also decided to adopt a very liberal interpretation of the term “yeti” that also encompasses “sasquatch,” “ape creature,” and “this one sci-fi movie I really want to watch.”

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Secluded Shelf 5 — The 2015 Edition

Gimmicky logo hastily assembled

The time has come for another new blog feature that promises to occur regularly, but could just as easily fall into the online trash can as prey to my capricious whim!

Thus, without further delay, I present Secluded Shelf 5 — an annual list of 5 texts that I feel are criminally undervalued or have not yet had their place in the sun.

I went through a few adjectives, considering each before finally rejecting them: “unexposed” (sounded vaguely seedy, could turn up in the wrong kind of internet searches); “unrevealed” (sounded too esoteric and mystical); and “undisclosed” (if you’re posting your work on any publicly-accessible website, it’s hardly undisclosed).

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Complexity, Design Simplicity, and UX

One of the many responsibilities my job imparts upon me is that of user experience — or “UX,” as they call it in the biz. Though this practice/process/approach has been around for a while, it strikes me as a newer practice in academic libraries. Certainly, the idea of listening to patrons and shaping library services to more effectively meet their needs is nothing new. But it seems to me that librarian positions centered or titled around user experience have emerged largely within the last 5 to 10 years.

Thus, I understandably spend a good amount of time thinking about what library patrons want and trying to adjust what we do to satisfy those wants a little better. This is a goal that makes sense me: ensure the library works well and responds well. To further my understanding, I read up on some design theory basics and the essentials of user experience. All that I’ve encountered so far leads me to think there is a certain balance to aim for between clear, straightforward simplicity and intricate, option-rich complexity. Nothing new here; many have hashed out the differences and the balance points between the two positions. One example is this lecture by Don Norman of design/UX fame. It discusses how to balance clean, simple design and the needs of knowledgeable, advanced users.

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Notes on a Screenplan — Now Available!

Notes on a Screenplan, cover

Once again, I’ve gotten my act together just enough to release another work into the ebookisphere. Like my previous collection of fiction, this item is available for free download on Smashwords.com.

This book, Notes on a Screenplan, is a short, non-fiction work. Kind of a manifesto; kind of an opinionated rant. I wrote it because I started working on a screenplay draft and quickly found that the standard format for screenplays left me dissatisfied. I considered what sort of arrangement would work better for me, how I would like to compose the draft to best capture all of the details I was interested in. In the end, I wrote this hoping it would serve as both an introduction and a warning shot, giving a context for my future screenwriting attempts.

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Bound in Fetish Tape

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Sometimes, I need to fuss over a small issue. I can’t help myself; it’s in my nature.

I regularly listen to the podcast 99% Invisible. It’s a great show — well-produced, with a wide array of interesting, design-related topics. I recommend listening.

The other day, I caught their episode on Nick Drake and his music. The episode was informative and engaging, as always. And it seemed to me a good overview of the artist, who I wasn’t familiar with prior to listening. (Around the world, music fans collectively claw at the sides of their faces, shrieking in dismay, I’m sure. Please note: my awareness of the world is like a Swiss cheese. It’s solid in many areas, but it’s also riddled with gaps. Some of them larger than others.)

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