May 30, 2004

wahhh!!!! everybody has a better blog than me!!!

It's true. I saw someone had visited my other blog, Writelife, and they came from Good Grief! Geez ... everytime I go to someone's blog it's a better looking blog than mine. I want my money back!!!

No, wait ... this one's free, ain't it?

May 29, 2004

election rant - how can I care if I can't stay awake?

For anyone outside of Canada not in the loop, there's currently a federal election going on in this part of the world. For those of us within Canada, the tedium you've noticed dominating the news is the election - yes, we have one going on though it's hard to keep your eyes open through it.

One of the questions the media and others keep asking is, "Why don't young Canadians care?" My question would be, "Why would anyone care?"

The level of disinterest among young Canadians has caught the eye of a number of people. There is a fairly high level of disinterest amongst all of us but it seems particularly heady with Canada's youth.

But how could anyone begin to give a monkey's hind end when all we see or hear is the prepackaged political pablum of the marketing strategies? And poor strategies at that, unless the point is to put us all to sleep.

This isn't about an absence of sensationalism. It's about an absence of anything remotely of interest to those of us who live here. Of the leaders, the only person that raises even a half-hearted eyebrow is Jack Layton, leader of the NDP - New Democratic Party. He seems to be saying to voters, "Look at me - I'm an ass. But I'm okay with it!" Jack, if we want clowns we'll go the freakin' circus.

And then there are the Liberals with current Prime Minister Paul Martin at the forefront. I call this the MBA campaign. It's characterized by business school thinking. You know the kind - PowerPoint snippets created by people who haven't been out of a boardroom in 20 years. The campaign's connection to people is non-existent. Those clowns wouldn't know a Canadian if he walked up and shat on their boots.

And what kind of communication strategy do these guys have? It's like a wrong-headed take on a drip campaign. They release announcements weeks ahead of the official announcement. Probably to find out how the thing will fly. Then they release it again. And again. And again ... usually with slight variations.

By the time they make the "official" announcement (like the recent revenue sharing of gasoline taxes with cities and towns), who in the country cares anymore? Our eyes are glazed over; they've numbed us with repitition. We just want them to please shut the hell up and move on.

Finally, there are the Conservatives with manikin man Steven Harper at the helm. They give a whole new meaning to the word drab. And to the phrase one-trick-pony. Their position seems to be summed up by the phrase, "We're against everything." They seem to suffer from the affliction most conservative people and parties suffer from. Despite the merits of their positions, they put everything in negative terms. I can't image a drearier, more depressing world than the one envisioned by the right. Are these people ever happy? Is there anything they don't dislike?

The left, for all their idiocies and whining, at least have a few positive moments and smile on occasion.

And yes, there is the Bloc Quebecois. However, in my end of the country they aren't part of the equation. I'm not sure how they come across in Quebec.

Anyway, if I see one more election hopeful stutter and flounder as he or she tries to say something without saying anything, I’ll scream. And while these are the early stages of the campaign, I hope someone, somewhere, in some party gets the radical notion of saying something substantive and take a real position on something.

At the very least, could we find someone who doesn’t look like an alien life form struggling to mimic the sounds and gestures of a genuine human being? Could we fire all the strategists and handlers?

Canada Votes - CBC
Liberal Party of Canada
Conservative Party of Canada
NDP - New Democratic Party
Bloc Quebecois

May 27, 2004

got it - the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Yes, I picked it up today, watched it and am now awaiting the extended edition (though I keep wondering how much freakin' longer could it get?).

But the thing is ... so far, the extended versions emphasize the characters a bit more than the theatrical versions, where the focus is on action ... and for me, that gets a bit tedious. How many times can you watch an orc get chopped up? Anyway ... I liked it the movie, though I have some reservations. When I think I can at least attempt an articulation of them, I'll post a review.

But for now ... it's the best current DVD out right now. So what are you waitin' for?

May 25, 2004

be fairly warned

Foreknowledge can be a handy thing in terms of proactivity. (Heavens ! Have I just made up a new noun?)

Yeah, it's a dumb ass opening but the point is this: I'm in the mood to start rearranging the Web furniture so do not be surprised to find this and my other sites in various stages of disarray, dishabille, and general visual and usability distress.

I wanna different look. Too much sombre blue and grey.

May 24, 2004

russian brides?

Good grief ... I can't remember what blog I found this on, but this appears to be a kind of mail order type site for Russian brides (warning - numerous pop ups).

Where does this stuff come from?

UPDATE: And then there's this - Over 100 Russian Mail Order Brides to Gather.

there's always something

It seems whenever I do something and think I've got it taken care of, something else pops up that needs attending before I can say, "Finished!" In this case, I can't test the feed I've set up because my reader (FeedDemon) doesn't accept Atom yet (well, there's a beta version that does but I can't get that for at least a week).

Even so, there's a feed ( Of course, what's that worth if the content sucks? Hmm?

That's the downside of personal blogs. Except for yourself, who give's a monkey's behind?

May 22, 2004

feed for the burble

I've added a feed for the Burble using Atom. I don't have a clue if I did it right or not - I'm still working it out. But we'll see.

broad comedy

I love the movie Just Visiting. I don't know why I didn't give it more stars.

It's pretty silly as movies go. Some of the scenes are priceless, they're so funny. The humour is pretty broad and slapstick and while some of the jokes may be coarse it isn't vulgar. Just ... well, silly.

For me, it's also a certain kind of movie - I don't have a name for it yet. But it's one of those films I go back to again and again when I can't figure out what I want to watch. It almost always works for me; I don't seem to tire of it.

May 20, 2004

GBU - restored, remastered and in my hands

And last night I finally did pick up the restored, remastered edition of GBU (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). Unfortunately I couldn't watch it. Hell, I had to see the Flames make it to the Stanley Cup, didn't I? So hopefully tonight ...

The packaging of GBU is pretty cool - a nice box that includes the two discs, an eight page booklet (done widescreen style - in other words, landscape orientation), plus some movie postcards in cellophane wrape. It's very nice. My only reservations? The box is a little awkward to open because the lid fits so firmly and, because the packaging is largely white the box, it will acquire a dirty, used look easily (especially given the lid issue).

Yes, it's quibbling ... Overall, it seems quite nice. But what about the discs? I'll find out tonight ...

May 19, 2004

good, bad, ugly - extended, remastered version

Where has my mind been? What could I have been thinking? The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - extended, remastered version - came out yesterday and I still don't have it.

Hoping to correct that error in a few hours.

May 18, 2004

what am I doing?

I'm being redundant. I've posted some items on two sites as I figure how what the hell I'm doing. I've started another blog, Writing for Your Life, and using it to test another blog service.

Yes, yes I know ... Ungrateful bastard! But they had some tools I wanted so I thought I'd test it out. Anyway ... for the moment I have some posts appearing in both blogs. But I'll stop doing that soon. Honest.

May 17, 2004

please don't start your copy with a question

I hate copy that begins with a question. It could be the start of a radio ad; it could be the beginning of a Web page. It might be TV; it might be print. Questions that begin the copy drive me crazy.

I don't know whether this is just a personal dislike or if there is actually data to support this as a rule. But my gut tells me that if you begin with a question you're inviting a response - a negative response. Such as, over the radio:

"Do you want to save a $1,000 on your next car?"* (see footnote below)

"No - I want to spend twice as much as anyone else!" (Sarcastic voice accompanied by the sound of a radio being retuned.)

Okay, so maybe not the best example. But I think the idea ia there. And while I don't think everyone is quite this outwardly responsive to a question, I suspect most people do have some internal negative response, especially if the question is as smarmy as this example.

The idea is to get the person hearing or seeing the copy interested in what you are writing about - a product, a service, whatever. I like to assume my audience is 1) harassed by marketing messages and therefore predisposed against me, 2) busy with their lives and thus not willing to give me their time, 3) despite 1 and 2, willing to pay attention to something that is genuinely interesting, acknowledges them and their experience, and is presented in way that contains worthwhile information in an intelligent, not necessarily creative, way (though creative is a big help).

It's not always easy to do, particularly in offline ways (like radio). The conditions under which you write don't allow it. You don't have the time - it has to be written quickly. You have too many things to write (there is only so much good copy you can write in a day). You don't have enough information or, more often, the information you're being asked to convey is excessive, in the wrong medium or both. (Again, like a radio ad. A good example is local car dealer message where you get information that is great for a newspaper ad but not much help for a radio, especially when the client wants a grocery list.)

Yes, it may just be a personal gripe of mine. But I've seldom seen or heard copy that began with a question that didn't elicit a negative response from me, usually something vulgar or profane.

(* This is both badly written and written well. It is incorrect to say " a $1,000 on your next car," because it is read aloud as "... save a thousand dollars on your next car." To be correct, it should say whether it is one thousand, two thousand or whatever. "A thousand" just ain't right. However, the phrase is written well in the sense that this is how people talk. Sometimes, at least in business/commercial writing, it is more correct to be incorrect.)

May 16, 2004

boring copy - writing as decor

If you're going to use copy have the good sense to make it stand out. Have it say something. And if you're using it as wallpaper save money and effort by buying actual wallpaper. Don't do what these clowns are doing ...

Seth Godin points to this fine example of pointless copy - he speaks of it as copy as decoration. It certainly can't be intended to be read. For one thing, it's a reddish brown font on a golden brown background. Not exactly a high contrast presentation that allows you to read the text or, for that matter, even to notice it.

And what does it actually say? It says this (caps as per the sign):

Savor the
Finest Coffee
Selected, and
For Your

Supposing you actually noticed the words and were bored enough to read them, what does this tell you? What do the words do?

Nothing. First of all, I've never been to any coffee place that didn't claim to have "the finest coffee." (And it's always "finest," never another word since coffee drinkers are presumably a pretentious group, or so marketers believe.)

It would certainly get my attention if it announced second-rate coffee, but it might have a negative effect on sales. As it is, the copy is all cliches, redundant phrases used a billion times over for selling coffee. It has no meaning. They may as well have a sign saying, "For all your coffee drinking needs."

If you're going to write something and you're going to make the same damn claim everyone else is making, at least have the good sense to find some new words or phrases. At least it will then have something to distinguish it. But if you want it to really work, say something different. With a gazillion coffee places in the world, why should someone go to yours? What makes you different? What makes you better?

Finally, if you write something ask yourself how you would respond to it. If it does nothing for you it sure ain't going to do something for someone else.

(Yes, this post states the obvious but it's worth repeating since so much writing makes this fundamental mistake.)

May 15, 2004

new project

I've been delinquent with updates etc. lately because I'm in the process of imagining, creating, figuring out a new project that will include another blog.

But I have seen a few films, including Kill Bill Vol. 1 which surprised me - I liked it. Wouldn't have guessed that ...

May 11, 2004

new look blogger

Quite unexpectedly, when I went to Blogger to enter this post I came upon a new look - quite a new look.

Gut response? Better, much better ... However, that's based on the look. But for this post, I haven't used it so I don't know yet if the usability is improved. It seems as if it has, but the final verdict is still out ...

May 9, 2004

writing and the web

I've just done a brief scan of the Web looking for sites about writing. I was actually looking for blogs on writing - I'm sure they must exist - but didn't have great deal of success. When it comes to Web searches, I'm something of a bonehead.

The sites I found, most of which were not blogs, shared a few things in common. Despite using some terms and phrases about "online writing" and "Writing for the Web," most seemed to be by clods who have just discovered 1) the Web, 2) writing or 3) both.

There also seems to be some confusion. For those who haven't noticed, there is more than one kind of site on the Internet. In fact, there is a great deal of variety out there. The way you write is not conditioned by the Web, or at least not entirely. While it's crucial to be aware of the way people read online - scanning, rushed and with lowered comprehension levels - it is just as crucial to understand why they are reading.

In other words, people online are task oriented. So it's important to know what that task is. In some cases, the task is to read. (I'm not, however, arguing for loads of text. You seldom go wrong being brief and concise.)

So ... On some sites, such as business sites (product information, e-comm tools etc.), they are looking for information or looking to buy. On other sites, however, they are looking for news, sports stories, etc. Sometimes, such as in blogs, they are looking for people and ideas. And on some sites, such as galleries and so on, they are looking for images.

Some of these sites will have quite a bit of text; some will have very little. Some will be dry and direct; some will have personality and humour (or even crankiness).

In all cases, most general writing rules apply - just as they do anywhere else. But they are informed by the fact the text is a vital part of the layout. The visual impact of a page, more so than in other media, helps or hinders a person's desire and ability to read. As mentioned above, writing rules are also conditioned by the way people behave online - impatient, lower comprehension levels etc.

(By the way, have you noticed how the first two paragraphs of this bit are completely unnecessary? Or how I could have trimmed this thing down to half the length it is?)

I hate the word rules, especially when related to writing. In many ways, I don't believe in them. As soon as someone says, "The rule is ..." I want to break it. But ...

The good thing about developing and learning rules is this: they can be broken. However, it's only in understanding why the rules exist that you can break them without looking like an ass. This is because, if you're smart, the way you break a rule takes into account the broken rule's "why." You may also find, in the situation where you are trying to break the rule, that it cannot be done.

And that's my off the cuff musing about writing, the Web and rules. (And whatever else I may have thrown in here.)

ice sculptures worth seeing

Here are some ice sculptures that have the "wow" factor to a big degree. They're from the Harbin Snow & Ice Festival. (Thanks to R. Todd King's site.)

And where the hell is Harbin? China. To be specific, Harbin is the capital of China's Heilongjiang province. (That's upper right on a map - or north east quadrant, if you prefer. Near Siberia).

Speaking of Siberia ... It's about seven hours now since I wrote the above. I woke to a day registering -3 on the Celsius thermometer. Good grief! (It should be between 15 and 20). Believe it or not, there is an upside. The predicted snow didn't appear.

May 8, 2004

copywriting basics

From Debbie's blog ... This is Copywriting 101: answer a few questions before starting. The same advice has been offered in about a gazillion forms but it all boils down to the same thing. It seems obvious but, in the rush to get things done, is often neglected - thus ensuring a project takes twice as long as it needs to.

(Nope ... this entry has nothing to do with movies. It's about one of my other interests and, yes, I do have more than one.)

May 1, 2004

busy busy busy

Well, maybe not so much busy as pre-occupied with things like warmer weather. It's been too nice recently to spend time on computers. But I have been watching movies ... but nothing that's really struck me as exceptional. But then I seem to be experiencing a lull.