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New Directions (No Relation to Awful Boy Band I Prefer Hanson OK I’ll Stop)

You know, talking to people really is amazing.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a some side projects, and mostly just helping out in getting websites made. That stuff is normal, sure. But the great thing is the exchange that happens whenever you start any collaboration with a person.

Far be it from me to elevate design into anything more than it is, but I guess I’ve noticed an experience when I sit down with a person for a job.

Once they start talking about their business or their website and what they want to happen, I really like that part where they get excited about it. I do too.

It’s almost like therapy, where the person you’re talking to is just trying to make you understand where they are coming from. At the same time, it’s also like a secret club, in that you get let into the back room where their plans are kept. Or some kind of adult-sized dollhouse where the E-Z Bake Oven is kept.

Whether it’s these two young moms really excited about a knitting event they are putting together, or a guy who just wants to shuck oysters for you at a party (more on that soon), whatever I’m trying to create with them is so obviously important that it’s almost insulting to not try your best.

That’s what I love about my job right now. There is nothing between me and this other person, and it feels like a conversation and an exchange of enthusiasm, information, knowledge and passion. And from the other side of things, I also hope that they see how excited I am to lend a hand or just be part of it.

A large part of what I do depends on how convincing the client is, and how much they can make me believe in what they want to do or sell. If it’s 110% important to at least one person, then that’s already enough. That extra 10% carries over to my side of the table almost all the time.

I don’t think the outcome matters as much or what trends are followed at any point in time. Those things ebb and flow so quickly that it makes my mind spin sometimes. If you think your business or your website is essential to who you are and what you want to accomplish—and you make me feel the same way—there will definitely be an obvious feeling of love and labour that will go into the final outcome.

I believe a lot of us can tell if that exists whenever we encounter a product or a company or a person. It matters.

And just as that feeling shouldn’t really die after launch, the want and the need to improve should also be there. Web is such a fluid medium these days. It’s easy to update a website. It’s difficult to keep that passion alive when it’s not 100% there.

And that’s what I got to thinking about as I was updating my website.

We all have reasons to be designers or whatever we are, and again, some people love making beautiful things. I was always so jealous of that.

But the recent realization for me is that to me, beautiful things are absolutely relative and subjective. I like knowing the story behind things, and carrying on conversations about it. It’s the stories I find beautiful.

So while a project won’t win any awards or accolades, the more interesting part for me is the fact that there is a person or group of people willing to dissect and study its growth for improvement. What do you use as the yardstick?

This is very difficult to show as a collection of screenshots and images.

Maybe this is why I felt so dissatisfied with having to just choose between an image-based portfolio site and a more thought-process-based model of approach. Like I said before, I want to be a content creator, but the way I was thinking about content was completely one-sided.

What is this website about? What do I want more of in my life?

It’s not more crap, obviously.

I want more people to work with. More ongoing relationships, and more partnerships. I want to get to know a lot of people through their work, and be a part of that growth. I want other people to know who these people are, and support their endeavours and businesses, the same way they support mine in working with  me.

This is the important thing for me, and in the end, this version of the site will reflect this gratitude.

It’s far from done. I have a few more things to add, and more content to create, but just as how I speak about the great people I work with, I hope you guys can also tell that this is what gets me really excited.

 

Kind Women

The few friends that I have and know me well make fun of me often for liking terrible shows and sitcoms. I was thinking about it a bit today, as I was catching up on Fran Drescher’s tweets, and I kind of realized one reason why I get so drawn into shows like Reba and The Nanny.

I enjoy themes of family led by kind women.

It’s by no means a definitive thing about me, nor is it particularly grand in my discovery of it, but I just thought it was interesting to realize that little bit about myself.

In the case of Reba, I always joke that I love the show because she’s just a good Christian woman. She loves her kids, no matter how stupid they are. And they really are stupid. The jokes and the writing are simple enough, but I think there is a warmth to the show that I really enjoy. My favourite part about it is Reba’s relationship with Barbra Jean because it’s one of the biggest examples of kindness. It’s not done in a preachy way at all, but Reba’s reluctance to make peace with her ex-husband’s wife carries themes of forgiveness and tolerance. And what I appreciate is that while Barbra Jean technically should have been the evil “other woman,” the show made her out to be so awesome and lovely. Dudes, I love Barbra Jean.

With The Nanny, there is something about Fran Drescher that gives me a similar impression. There’s weird mother-ness to Fran that I really like. Even with the show revolving around an inappropriate Fraulein Maria, it was never really a question of whether or not Fran could take care of the children. It was almost a given that she was that way. It was just Mr. Sheffield’s weird commitment issues. And while I kind of think the last season really went to hell in a handbasket, there were parts of it that make me imagine what Fran Drescher was like while the show was still going.

Perhaps it’s a reflection of how I feel about my own unconventional mother, who was our family’s breadwinner and also covered up her kindness with some kind of non-standard veil. She would never say dumb, lovey, wishy-washy shit, but she was always clear in her actions that she loved us. When it came to her children, there were very few limits. And I like to think that it was a great lesson to pass on to us.

Apart from how to make ghetto midnight snacks like boiled Spam and Vienna sausages in our pajamas, that is.

The other thing is that I get the impression that these women are genuinely kind. They don’t seem pretentious, nor do they try to be more than they are. I really like that. The aspiration for me then becomes about achieving the same genuine quality, rather than more materialistic endeavours. (Although I do still get that feeling when I see shows like The Good Wife or Damages. Now that’s another breed of women I also aspire to be. In a balanced way, of course. Fuckin’ love Christine Baranski.)

Good Work: Vince Gilligan’s “Breaking Bad”

It’s tough to find a good show to watch religiously these days. Sure, there are a few that are pretty good, but very few that actually utilizes “must see” as part of its description.

Especially with the mudslide of crap that is reality television, some things just feel like little pieces of heaven come prime time. And by that I mean a one-hour long show about a high school chemistry teacher who turns into a crystal meth cook.

I always had a good feeling about Bryan Cranston. He was the only good thing about Malcolm in the Middle (now somehow resurrected—quite feebly—by a new show called The Middle; here’s a short summary: it’s shite). And I’ve seen some of his interviews. This man is intelligent and very talented.

You know that scene in She’s All That, where Freddie Prinze Jr. sees Rachel Leigh Cook not looking like garbage? Of course you do.

Watching Cranston in Breaking Bad is kind of like that moment. Except he doesn’t float down in a red dress—he fucking smashes the stairway banister in half as a Winnebago breaks through the side of the house.

This show is what everything good about writing and storytelling is. From the dialogue, to the subtle hints within the scenes, to the complex understanding of basic human actions. Vince Gilligan gets a lot of this right. So much so that it sort of restores my faith in good television a little bit. The pacing and unveiling of events have the right amount of tension to keep you really interested, but it’s not so tense that you develop butt-cramps from clenching your cheeks so tightly.

Okay, maybe a little bit.

The characters in particular are developed in a way that we get to know them a little at a time, at the pace of a day in the hot New Mexico sun. Gilligan doesn’t rush into anything, but lets the story unfold the way it should be told. The way this show is built and delivered feels like a carefully folded paper crane(-ston?). He’s careful to touch the edges of the papers at their exact points, and creasing each fold with the patience like no other.

I watch reruns and I still find something new in the episodes. The people are “bad” but likeable in the way your racist drunk uncle is, and not the way Julia Roberts is in Pretty Woman. Nobody here really has a heart of gold, nor do they pretend to. That’s what’s so awesome about this. And while themes about narcotics or drugs can become trite in some endeavours, Gilligan swaddles this in enough realism that we don’t end up with any feelings resembling after school specials. The story isn’t about drugs. It just happens to be involved.

There are also no hints of the soap opera type of story arcs here, the ones that made Friends so popular. Nobody hooks up and gathers at coffee shops to talk about the differences about men and women, or you don’t secretly hope that anyone gets back together. The underlying truths that we glimpse here are more universal than that. At the same time, the darker mixes of comedy/tragedy are much more robust than what’s been produced in the last few years. You know, these people actually have problems.

I really believe that Breaking Bad is going to go down in history as a prime example of thrilling storytelling, much like how Tootsie has cemented its way into every discussion about comedy and good writing. It’s good to still have standards like this to look up to, whether we’re delusional pajama-wearing writers or actual professional ones who get paid for it.

Television is still such a powerful tool, in my opinion, and really does a good job of describing any particular slice of society at any point in time (well, after television was invented, of course). I’m still hoping that more shows like this get produced, so researchers and doctorates in history fifty years from now don’t funnel our time & generation into assumptions of millenials being shallow idiots who were into people famous for nothing.