Disney is a Republican Tool

New Disney film takes different view of U.S. / ‘America’s Heart and Soul’ a contrast to ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’

Disney officials insist their 88-minute film, “America’s Heart and Soul” — stitching simple, positive vignettes of everyday Americans with sweeping vistas and up-tempo music — is neither a response to Moore’s politically charged hit nor any type of political statement itself.

But the studio invited the Sacramento-based conservative group Move America Forward to a screening this week a block from the Capitol, allowing its members to make the comparison to Moore’s film that the studio has refused to make. The political group’s invitation to its members praised the movie’s virtues, “unlike the negative and misleading story line of Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 9/11.'”

Um…

No comment. I think the above speaks for itself.

MSIE Government Warning Label

US Government warns against Internet Explorer

THE US GOVERNMENT has sent out a warning out to internet users through its Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), pleading users to stop using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

Following a malware attack last week which targeted a known flaw in IE, like so many other attacks, the US-CERT recommended using alternative browsers thanks to their increased security.

At any time, we could see MSIE‘s dominance in the browser market fade back to a minority. All it takes is something like an antitrust lawsuit injunction, or in this case, a security hole so gaping that governments will warn their citizens against it’s use for their own protection.

You’ve heard me go on about MSIE‘s security problems before. But as I look at my web server stats, I see many of you aren’t taking my advice and trying another browser. So instead of ranting about the security no-nos of using MSIE, I’m going to talk about web standards.

This is precisely why you don’t design websites to work on just one browser. It’s such a trivial, avoidable risk, and it’s not difficult at all to do things the right way. Using web standards and best practices ensure that your site design will keep it’s integrity no matter how the winds of the browser market might change course. It was only a few years ago that Netscape was the dominant browser out there, and empires have been known to collapse under their own enormous mass.

There are dozens of reasons why you code to web standards. Perhaps most importantly, it’s just bad business to not do so. If 90% of the browsers out there are MSIE, you still have another 10% of your users on something else – other desktop web browsers, other devices such as PDAs and mobile phones, and assistive technologies for those with disabilities. Why would you want to turn 10% of your customers away just because of something as trivial as a web browser, when it is so easy to embrace them?

And keeping in mind the story that prompted this posting – that percentage could turn on you at any moment, without warning. Those who have coded to web standards will not be left with their pants down while others scramble to get their sites up to snuff.

Menus and the Hired Help

Jeffrey Zeldman Presents The Daily Report: Architectural Digest vs. This Old House (A List Apart No. 184)

This one left me ROTFLMAO:

I look forward to the day when most people who hire folks like us to design, structure, and program their web presences treat us more like the thinkers we are, and less like hired hands installing birdbaths.

Ha! So true, and I can name one other sultry profession as metaphor for the way I often find myself feeling after client meetings…

Jeffrey here notes his distaste for drop-down menus in web pages, and I don’t like them either. Learning a user interface on a familiar piece of software is one thing, where there are predictable (one hopes) menu item locations, user manuals available, and the software is used often. Take Photoshop for example; there are menu items on there that have been there since I first saw the program. There is a certain static state to software programs that remains unchanged that allows such menus to be acceptable practice.

Web sites on the other hand are much more fluid and change often. Things can vary from site to site so wildly that one could never expect a poor new user to discover it all in such a menu-oriented user interface. Menu items are buried and hidden, requiring multiple user actions to find. Packing your menus with tons of items usually means that the site’s hierarchy and navigation structure has failed, we’ve given up, and just plopped everything into these all-encompassing menus. The usability aspects of such menus itself are commonly called into question, especially for those that cannot use a mouse and are tabbing through the links in your site. And besides, the damn things are often a pain to keep track of and edit, when done the old, traditional, JavaScript way. Please, just say no. Won’t somebody please think of the children?!?

In my usability testing experiences, there are always one or two users who get it naturally – they go straight for the menus and hunt feverishly to find what they’re looking for. They are like prodigies – A menu fetishist’s wet dream. Then there are the rest of them. The poor, huddled, unwashed masses that often don’t even see the menus, or don’t initially to go mousing over them on a karmic-zen jouney of discovery until the guide gently suggests “What if you looked in the menus?”. “Oh yes, why thank you!” they apologize, as if it were their fault. (Usability Testing Rule No.1: Always remind the user that it is not their fault – it is the design that sucks.) One lone menu seems to be not too daunting, and indeed I’ve included a single Category menu in this particular weblog’s page navigation to allow the user to sort the entries by topic according to their fancy. With a gaggle of menu-geese, it seems that the number of menus is inversely porportional to the number of dazed and confused users you wind up with.

I think that if you want to use menus, you should consider your user base. Are you going to be getting a large percentage of your traffic as stray first-timers off Google searches? Or are you going to be developing an intranet application behind a firewall and your user base will be active repeat users with formal training. Obviously the latter case justifies menu development, while in the former case menus may not be in your best interest. Menus certainly can look flashy and give the impression of sophistication in a site design, but weigh the pros and cons before you jump in.

Il Devastatore

New York Press: BOOKS: Cuba and Its Music by Ned Sublette

Double bass virtuoso Giovanni Bottesini gets a mention in this New York Press review on a book I wanna read: “Cuba and Its Music”, by Ned Sublette:

Cuba even gets back to the Havana opera company’s Giovanni Bottesini, “one of the first contrabass virtuosi” who “revolutionized the instrument by using a violin-style bow” named Il Devastatore.

I just love that Bottesini named his bow The Devistator — there is nothing subtle about a name like that. This goes to further illustrate that we classical bassists, even historically, are a bunch of raucous, feral party animals that are obsessed with power tools. We are often obnoxious, tend to dress strangely, and keeping time—much like sobriety—is apparently optional. (And by time, I mean clock time, not metronome time. Tempo is critical, no matter how late you are or how many drinks you’ve had.) Would you ever find a violinist or cellist naming their bow an instrument of wanton destruction? If one did, I’d like to play some chamber music with them.

Back when I was in college at NEC, we used to sit in Brown Hall and see if we could get the old windows facing the Boston YMCA to rattle. To pull the strings on a bass in such a way that it makes the whole room shake isn’t terribly hard, but it’s often overlooked and requires some practice and concious effort to get used to. Basically, you play a bit closer to the bridge, apply a moderate amount of torque from the full span of your arm, and pull the bow in a speed that is sensitive to the note you are playing. If you’re making the right contact, you will feel how fast the bow should move because it will feel like it’s naturally moving against the frequency of the vibrating string. Slower for lower-pitched notes, and faster as you ascend the register. But it’s those low notes you want to blast to activate sympathetic vibrations in big hall windows.