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19 July 1999

"Complex systems usually operate in failure mode."
-- Dr. John Gall in Systemantics (seen in Peter Coffee's column this week)

Fun ahead: Thursday I'm attending an all-day course on Presenting Data and Information, given by the widely-praised Yale prof Edward Tufte. No, I'm serious, this is something I will consider extremely fun.

Included in the hefty (but deductible-as-business-expense!) fee are all three of his books on presenting different categories of information:

He's found a ready audience among web designers (like, say, me) who are hungry for ever-better ways to convey more information more clearly with less. I expect to learn a ton.

Amazon has a decent interview with him on his most recent book (the verbs one):

  • Design, Details, and Disinformation: An interview with Edward Tufte (multipage) [Amazon]
    [W]hen I have an image that I talk about later on in the book I simply repeat it, so people don't have to go back. So it doesn't break up the narrative, and it doesn't inconvenience the reader.

    The most common mistake is thin content. People don't have anything to say, or they don't have very much to say. In order to cover that up, the design becomes thick and decorative.

    Alan Cooper said something very nice about interfaces, which is, "no matter how wonderful your user interface is, it would be better if there were less of it."

    [T]he operating system and the programmers in effect have allocated about 50 percent of the screen to themselves. ... the designer comes in and takes another 25 percent to render buttons that give you two or three commands. And then the marketeer says you have to have the flying logotype. That leaves this very narrow window for the actual content.

    To see how far there is to go [in monitor resolution], take a good map and put it next to your monitor. The difference is amazing!

    I have started volume four. One of the things I'm going to do is a chapter on the aesthetics and the beauty of information displays. And that to me looks like adjectives.

Nice little This Modern World today:

  • Worst-case scenarios [Salon]
    "Um...remember when you said that raising the minimum wage would destroy the entire economy?"

That answers that: According to Amy Reiter's People column today, the Anakin -> Darth transition happens in Episode III.

  • Darth disses "Phantom Menace" [Salon]
    [Lucas] recently tapped [James Earl] Jones to record seven minutes of dialogue for the not-yet-in-production "Episode III."

I'm not sure which way I'd rather have could have been cool to have a whole movie with Obi-Wan and Vader on opposing sides of some conflict, where we see the brilliant second-guessing of each other that each would be capable of...

Oh well. Seven minutes of real, talking Vader it is.

Interesting: David Horowitz on Gore's censorship leanings:
  • Why Gore would censor 'South Park' [Salon]
    ...[at an event a few years ago] the vice president was saying scary things like "the link between real-world violence and television violence is exactly analogous to the link between cigarette smoking and cancer."

    When Gore called on me to speak, I asked how crime rates could be so different in various neighborhoods of a given city, when the TV shows were the same.

    Since it's highly possible that 3 percent of parents would object to a quality show with violence, like "Roots," it's also possible that such shows will simply not be made. This is the little kicker that censors like Gore choose to ignore.

Speaking of South Park, Entertainment Weekly has a couple of informative pieces on the movie:
  • The 'South' Side (multipage interview) [EW]
    Q: What was it like to deal with the MPAA?
    Stone: Very scary. Hands down, the MPAA made our movie much more graphic and subversive. Every time they said we couldn't do something, we went back and made it a hundred times worse, just to piss them off. Like with the trailer. We'd send them a trailer with a guy blowing holes in another guy's head, and blood flying everywhere, and they'd be fine with it. Then there'd be a scene with a guy farting on another guy's head, and they'd say, "You have to take the fart out. Farting's not G-rated." We'd say, "Are you out of your mind?"

    Parker: The great thing about "South Park" is that we can do anything. I'm sure after 73 episodes we'll be tired of it. But right now, if we go out and hear something funny, we can put it on the air in a few weeks. I still feel like Cartman has a lot to say.

  • Putting the 'R' in 'Park': How did the movie avoid NC-17? (multipage) [EW]
    "South Park" was screened by the MPAA six times. Five times, the board returned the movie to Paramount with an NC-17.

    Executive producer Scott Rudin: "It's like 'Alice in Wonderland,' it was so crazy. I realize they're good people trying to do a good job, but the MPAA's not meant to be some moral arbiter of an entire culture."

Did I read that right? The Register slaps some pretty strong labels on Cisco and Intel. Presumably their tongue is somewhere near their cheek:

Sorry for the unplanned hiatus the last few days, I'm immersed in Perl/MySQL coding and things are a bit unpredictable right now.

I'm definitely skipping Friday this week (high school reunion!), not sure about the days in between.

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