the bastard-child of functionality

vans and the places they were” may be the only website I’ve ever seen that makes good, intentional use of horizontal scrolling.  What could have been one-trick, internet gag fare (that is, shots of custom vans) is tied together in an engaging way by its sideways-sliding gallery.  Though the shots portray stillness, the scrolling imparts on them a semblance of their natural motion, and invites the viewer to dwell in the differences between the images–not just differences of space and design, but of color and feeling.

BoingBoing makes an interesting argument about these shots as ephemeral art–that is, the placement of the vans in their respective environments is inherently fleeting (none of these fellas are up on blocks, rotting away), making the appreciation of their juxtaposition keyed to a limited period of time.  One might argue, of course, that photography–especially photography posted on the internet–is the opposite of ephemeral, in that it takes a passing moment and makes it (relatively) permanent.  The artist himself adds another dimension to the conversation:

Over the course of the project the vans themselves have become more and more of a rarity. The reasons are as simple as rust and changing tastes; and as complex as government “cash for clunkers” initiatives encouraging more fuel-efficient transportation. Notably, at the same time these vans have been disappearing from our roads – film photography as a visual medium has also begun it’s slow death. Consequently the goal of the project is to one day shoot the last remaining van on the final frame of photographic film in existence. Then the project will be finished.

What, then, of horizontal scrolling, the bastard-child of functionality?  If the conversion van and the film camera are technologies that are fading away to make room for the new, horizontal scrolling is a technology which, despite its irritating near-uselessness, is unavoidably here to stay, necessary in order to preserve the integrity of web-design, but never (well, almost never) used with artistry or intention.  Is this a sad tale of neglected dimensions?  Or a heartwarming yarn about the potential of the underdog?  Scroll to the right to find out.


republican values OR how to use web design to look like a jerk

While doing research for my previous post, I happened to visit the websites of our nation’s two dominant political parties.  I took a couple snapshots, so that we could compare them.  I think what we’ll see will reveal something about the state of American politics right now:


Democratic site: clean, simple, dignified.  Not sure I’d want my head put up real big on my website, but I guess if you’ve only got one popular kid at your table, you play the hand you’re dealt.


Republican site:  Well, let’s see here, we’re ridiculing a respected colleague and elected official, we’re trying to swell our friend list, we’re being sassy about voter fraud…  Oh and look!  We’re hiring!  Wonder why?

Also, here’s some samples from that Welcome Memo Generator:

This is change that makes sense. Welcome to the Democrats. I look forward to working together to borrow more money from China and the Middle East. Worry not, the next generation won’t even miss college.

(from “The White House Teleprompter”)

Now that you have officially joined the spend, tax and borrow Democrats, I can get you some sweet, free flights on military planes!

(from “Speaker Nancy”)

Senator Specter: Too bad you won’t be on the GOP ballot in Pennsylvania. I know you didn’t want Republican voters determining your future in the Senate. Enjoy the Democrats.

(from “You”)

Hm.  I can’t imagine why Specter wouldn’t want to ally himself with the keen intellects and razor wits that came up with this crap.  I wouldn’t want those people determining my future, either.  Not only is it pure snark, it’s Grade D Industrial Snark, the kind of stuff they’ll be scraping off the bottom of Jon Stewart’s chair six hundred years in the future, when planetary catastrophe has reduced the human race to a humorless assemblage of nomads who use the remnants of our civilization’s comedy to power their jury-rigged roadsters.  Maybe once the Republican leadership graduates from the ninth grade, they’ll have some time and attention to devote to building a decent platform and giving the Democrats a run for their money.

kitty hawk: chapter 2 in review


At long last, we’re winding down the second chapter of Kitty Hawk.  I emailed Braden the scripts for the final two issues yesterday, so the end is solidly in sight.  The chapter turned out to be much longer than I expected–or at least, to take much longer to tell.  I had originally planned for it to be a quick, adventure-y episode to break up the larger plots and introduce some elements for later use, but it dragged out in the writing.  Reading it over, it’s not as slow or laborious as it felt in my head while we were putting it together, but the writing process definitely highlighted for me the drawbacks of our weekly micro-issue format.  Updating only once a week is a real hindrance, not only to audience-building, but to plotting and scripting as well.  It’s difficult to retain momentum and immediacy when you only need to be on stage once a week (also it encourages pacing breaks which are not the most sensical in the long run).

I still think there’s potential in the multi-page format, but it doesn’t outweigh the drawbacks of a weekly schedule.  If we’d had the resources to put out two issues a week, it might have been a different story, but four pages is definitely beyond our means right now.  Perhaps there will be more experiments in the future–and perhaps not.

The good news, for those of you who are still reading after all that paragraphy, is that we’ll be embracing a new format when we start chapter three, which will be not only more frequent in its updating, but more friendly for web reading.  At the same time, I plan on making a lot of changes to the plotting and pacing of the strip, making things a little more dynamic and giving the story more forward motion.

We’ll have more details over the next couple weeks, so stay tuned.  Excelsior!