As Far As I Can Tell

Bowling for Columbine

Last night I saw an important film, Bowling for Columbine. It’s a documentary by Mike Moore which looks at why Americans kill so many of each other with guns.

Without resorting to strict gun control support or easy fix-it solutions, Moore examines our history, our societal structure, our inherent racisms and most of all our fear of everything. While an easy answer isn’t presented, the theme of fear is strongly hinted at as a good place to start looking.

Sometimes over the top, and always cleverly painting the current subject as a fool, the movie gets away with wild conjecture and un-backed associations by never claiming to be giving the one true answer. While this could enflame some, it gets people thinking on broad topics, and is great fodder for discussion.

The film has been written about extensively, so I’ll provide you with already existent resources, rather than a full review. One personal note that I think is important to add is that this is the only film I’ve ever been to where upon leaving the theater, about a third of the nearly sold out crowd gathered in small groups to discuss what they’ve just seen. A good film, especially a good documentary, invokes discussion.

The official website
Michael Moore’s website
The QuickTime trailer at Apple’s website
Internet Movie Database entry

An interview with Mike Moore at the Cannes Film Festival 2002 on The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s website. As a side note, from the article:
Bowling for Columbine became the first documentary to be invited to the Cannes Film Festival official selection for fifty-five years. It was awarded a newly created special award and many critics hailed the feature length documentary as a sign of the rebirth of the form.
NY Times Review
The reviewer brings up the valid points that Moore tends to over generalize topics, and draw associations with little to no backing. If nothing else, these moments spark debate. A quote from the review:
I hope the movie is widely seen and debated with appropriate ferocity and thoughtfulness. Does that sound evasive? I’m sorry if it does, but at the moment, political certainty seems to me to be a cheap and abundant commodity, of much less value than honest ambivalence.

Links to many other reviews



I’m glad to see that people are also able to criticize this movie. I enjoyed it immensely, but I really feel like people should keep in mind that Moore does come to this movie with strong opinions. I thought the weirdest thing was when he mentioned the numbers of people dead in each country rather than the % of the population. I think that shows a desire to shock rather than educate. but I really appreciate the unanswered question of why Americans kill each other so much.

Posted by: bay on November 4, 2002 1:41 AM

New Book Cover

Macromedia Flash Interface Design: A Macromedia Showcase has a new cover, or rather the official cover has been finalized.

Book Cover

I love that this version has a screenshot of TCUP right on the cover. Awesome.



congrats simon, that is awesome. i will have to go and buy the book. mark

Posted by: Mark on October 26, 2002 9:38 PM

Guess I’m doing fine

Meredith just asked me, “Do you have any message for the people of France? I’m going to put it on a sucker”. She says the craziest shit when she’s half asleep.

Last night I went to Creating Accessible Websites: Multidisciplinary Perspectives: An open meeting of the Chicago Web community, a discussion of web accessibility issues hosted by various web related groups in Chicago. There were some interesting discussions concerning Section 508 compliance, including one presenter who was blind, and able to show us his experience of the web first hand.

Accessibility is much harder to tackle than you would think, and harder to prove you’re done than with other web standards. You can’t just validate the page and be done with it. Common sense helps out, but knowing how far to take it comes down to a good sense of who your audience is, and how much each accessibility step is worth to your project. Of course, for a person who needs those options to be there, it means everything.

One of the presenters, Sanjay Batra, brought up the interesting point that accessibility considerations aren’t just for the disabled. In a low light situation, a sighted person has trouble seeing. On a busy street, a person with good hearing needs the same accommodations as a deaf person. These points are driven home in particular when considering mobile or convergent devices where the place of use is unknown and variable.

As a result of keeping up with some of the web related groups in Chicago, I’ve learned about others. Here is a list of the groups I’ve found so far:

Anonymous Federated
Chicago AIGA Experience Design Community of Interest
Director SIG - MMUG Chicago
e-Learning SIG
IDSA Chicago
Net Content Sig
Northern Illinois Macromedia Flash Users Group
Usability Professionals Association

Tomorrow, Macromedia Flash Interface Design: A Macromedia Showcase, by Darcy Dinucci will officially be released. This book contains an entire chapter dedicated to my website, TCUP.

You can buy it at the link above for $31.49, or next week it should be in your local bookstore for $44.99. I probably won’t receive my copy until next week—I’m really excited about it.

It’s only lies that I’m living / It’s only tears that I’m crying / It’s only you that I’m losing / Guess I’m doing fine. Once again Beck, thanks for the new album.



Seriously though what is your comment for the French people? I’ll even let you choose the type of sucker I put it on.

Posted by: Meredith on October 24, 2002 11:17 AM

I say booya to the french! booya! the other night i woke lauren by slapping here ass and saying some crazy shit i can’t remember right now. sleep is out of control.

Posted by: dan on October 26, 2002 3:03 AM

i go to post a comment, and there’s dan also! hi dan! you may remember me from such films as “nate, jim, ad kzoo kids go to canada”. congrats on the book chapter. crazy. email me.

Posted by: jim on November 3, 2002 10:39 PM

Working again

I two new projects this week from Biggs-Gilmore. They run to the extremes of a project that you can feel good about the client and one where you have to hate them.

1. A Flash navigation for the Kalamazoo Arts Council (for their upcoming new site, not the current one).
2. A pop-up window promotion where people get a free Hummer when they buy a SeaRay boat (not the current pop-up on that site).

Free Hummer? Come on. Normally I’d say something along the lines of: “Oh well, at least it pays the bills”, but lately it hasn’t been. I’ve done over 175 hours worth of work for Biggs in the last three months, and haven’t seen a single check. Last week I told them I wouldn’t do anymore work for them until we could get this cleared up.

It seems that they sent the checks to my South St. address in Kalamazoo. Since I haven’t lived there in over a year, and since it wasn’t the last place I’ve lived besides moving to Chicago, the checks didn’t get forwarded. Doesn’t non-forwarded mail get sent back to the sender?

My current address is at the top of each of my invoices that I’ve sent them, but that seems to be beside the point. After numerous phone calls where they assured me they weren’t trying to screw me over, I accepted that this was just a mess-up. They’re going to cancel the checks and re-send them to my current address — but I still haven’t gotten them.

I’m confident that I’ll receive the money eventually, enough anyway that I’ve started doing work for them again. This, apparently, is the joy of freelancing.



Invasions of privacy

I don’t know why the change, but telemarketers are now starting to leave message on my answering machine; three of them have already today.

Coming home to a machine and and inbox full of spam is insane.

On a similar note, go get the free program Ad-aware and run it regularly on your computer. It’s a program for tracking down advertising related registry entries, cookies, and programs. These sorts of settings and programs are almost always added without permission, and without you knowing about it. They do things such as send personal information about you to third parties, overlay existing advertisements on websites, create pop-up ads while using a site that doesn’t have ads, etc.



That is one of the benefits of cellular phones… NO “COURTESY” CALLS. Although I do get quite a lot of wrong number calls. e.

Posted by: Eric on October 15, 2002 5:10 PM

CTA color coding

Ever since moving to Chicago I’ve been baffled by the color coding system used on the CTA trains. There are various El lines, each labeled by a different color name, and shown on the map in that color. The confusion is that each station has signage and other branding in a color that doesn’t necessarily match the color of the lines that it services. I’ve been keeping a close eye on it, and trying to spot a pattern — any pattern — but I haven’t found anything. Last night I found my explanation.

Starting in 1948, the CTA had something called the A/B system. Each stop was an A, a B, or an AB station. Likewise, each train either stopped at only A, only B, or all stations. In the original A/B signage the letter code of each stop was printed directly on the signage for that station. The colors at this time were all black text on a white background.

In 1977 the “K-D-R” A/B signage system was implemented, which added to the text a color indicator as to what type of stop the station was. Red was an A, green B, and AB was blue. This worked well, and was much more visible from a distance. It’s important to note that the different train lines had not yet been assigned colors of their own.

In 1995 the A/B system was abandoned, and all trains now stop at every stop. Also in the 90’s, the lines were given colors of their own, along with their names. So the O’Hare/Forest Park line is now also known as the Blue Line. The use of color to denote different lines is useful, but unfortunately the colors overlap the colors used for the now extinct A/B signage. This results in stations such a the Fullerton stop, where all the signage is blue (because it used to be an AB station), but it services the Red, Brown and Purple Lines.

Luckily the CTA has gotten plenty of criticism over the inconsistencies, and has created new signage called The Current Graphic Standard. The new visual system has consistent gray backgrounds, and stripes on each end for every color of line that the station services. In my opinion this is exactly how it should be. Unfortunately they are only replacing older signage as it needs to be repaired, and there is no general overhaul of the signage system planned.

I learned all of this from, an extensive site detailing the history of the Chicago El trains, including system maps back to 1898.



you are crazy simon. but thanks for the info on the cta. it was interesting. i truly appreciate your attention to detail.

Posted by: miguel on October 12, 2002 3:57 PM

I have questioned the CTA’s intentions for quite a while. These inconsistencies made it very confusing to me when I first started riding the El. Another thing that seems odd is the naming conventions. If a rider does not know the city they will not understand that Forest Park/Cermak runs south west and O’Hare runs North West. There is signage that states the directions but it is not apparent on a quick glance. On the topic of Signage: check out O’Hare, I think they have done a very good job, for how immense that place is.

Posted by: ivo on October 14, 2002 12:31 PM

Last couple of days

I saw an excellent film last night called Moonlight Mile. It’s the first movie in a long time that has kept me thinking about it for so long afterwards. I dreamt about it, and I woke up thinking about it. Cinematically it’s great, the casting is perfect, and the story is unique and sad. I can’t really describe the plot without giving some away, but check it out.

I just got done watching The Cat’s Meow. It’s a murderous story about Hollywood stars of the 1920s, most prominently, Charlie Chaplin. It’s one of those plots that are constructed out of possibly real, but unknown events — presented as the factual truth. It’s doesn’t cover remarkably new ground, but I’m a fan of ships as locations for stories, and there’s some good charleston dancing action throughout.

Meredith and I took Birdie to the vet today. She still has her roundworms and now has some sort of new problem that I don’t remember the name for, but which she needs to eat this yellow goo once a day for three weeks to treat. She’s lost half a pound in the last few weeks too.

She’s doing a lot better about travel though. The carrier is still disliked, but she doesn’t hide in the closet for days afterwards; it’s down to just a couple of hours. I hope she gets well soon; I’ve grown to really like her.

We ate at a Polish restaurant up the street today that we’ve never been to before. Cheese and potato pierogis and potato pancakes. They were incredibly starchy and heavy, and we ate until we couldn’t move. The waiter brought us out a free desert when we were done, which was very nice, but hardly needed.

The restaurant has clearly been in the neighborhood for a long time, and was hosting an entirely Polish clientele besides us. Old women ordering jello and whipped cream for desert, plastic flowers at every plastic covered table setting, and a bar whose main use was as a stand for a TV that wasn’t turned on.

New music this week:

Damien Jurado - Rehearsals for Departure
Hank Williams Sr. - Various Radio Performances
Rilo Kiley - Take-Offs & Landings
Ugly Casanova - Sharpen Your Teeth
Yo La Tengo - The Sounds of the Sounds of Science



Getting sick

I’m getting sick. For the last few days I’ve been borderline, throwing up, sick to my stomach, headache. It would all go away after a few hours though. Now I’m coughing and gross feeling. I think the sick is settling in.

Yesterday Dan was in town to pick Miguel up from the airport, and we all got a chance to hang out for a while. Dan and I got food at the Chicago Diner and hung out at Atomix. It’s nice to have people visit since I still don’t hang out with too many people who live here.

I fixed the choke cable on my moped yesterday too, and it makes a huge difference when starting. The cable has been screwed up for years now, but I never put much stock into fixing it, writing it off as basically unnecessary. I was totally wrong, which I wish I would have realized back then, since I used to have to run my moped down the block to get it to start when it was cold. Silly me.

I’m listening to the new Julie Doiron record. I think its perfect morning music.



Burn Collector 12

I’ve decided that I’m going to try and write short reviews of things that I’ve been reading. Here’s the first one; hopefully I can keep doing this on a regular basis.

Burn Collector #12
by Al Burian

Milemarker’s Al Burian has been putting out a zine about his everyday life for years now, with issues 1-9 compiled into a soft cover book. I’ve seen it for sale at various books stores and shows for a while now, but never picked it up. I chose to test the waters instead with the latest individual bi-annual issue, #12.

The narrative is first person and candid; daily anecdote from what seems to be a week in the middle of last winter in Chicago. The writing doesn’t require having read the previous issues, as back information about this life is given where appropriate. The story covers his job, meeting people at the bar, his mother’s international visit, and his failing relationship.

There’s lots of Chicago street and name and location dropping, which if you know the area he’s talking about really add dimension to the story. You can picture him shivering down Division past the hospital; walking to the coffee shop that’s never mentioned by name, but you can assume by location. It’s not that his story needs this added geographical dimension, but it definitely adds.

There are photos sprinkled throughout, of the places he’s talking about, which helps break the rhythmic page turning effect that a quarter-sized publication tends to create. The photos are printed at a good resolution as well, which adds to the overall high production quality of the book. My only complaint with the layout is that on some pages the leading seems to be inconsistent, and at times certain words will head off at an angle, like a paste-up layout that was accidentally leaned on.

The writing style reminds me of online journals, a medium that I’m actually more familiar with than personal zines. When I was done I found myself wishing that it had a daily online existence; compared to the frequency of that sort of writing this books seems like a tease. Don’t be mistaken though, this isn’t a random list of things he’s done each day. The writing acts as a cohesive narrative, and the quality deserves more credit than a comparison with online dairies would normally imply.

I don’t feel compelled to read all of the previously published issues, but I was intrigued enough that I’ll pick up the next issue when I see it at Quimby’s. Like a television series that you catch a single cliff-hanging episode of, I want to know what happens next.

Copies of Burn Collector can be purchased from:
Stickfigure Distro
PO Box 55462
Atlanta, GA 30308

Issue 12, as well as the collected issues can also be found at Insound. A small interview about the book can be found here, samples from other issues can be found here, and a good place to look for information is always the Milemarker non-band page.

Burn Collector #12 Cover



Pumpkin city and design ideologies

One of the best things about fall in the city is that lots of vacant lots have been taken over by pumpkin sellers. The scene is always the same: Fenced in area, empty except for a lone man standing in front of a motor home or Airstream trailer, surrounded by pumpkins, often with lights strung up on wires — giving the whole scene an isolated and magical feeling. It’s completely out of character with it’s surroundings, and the orange is overwhelming.

Yesterday I went to the open house for the Institute of Design. I’m slowly trying to form an opinion about two very distinct types of design, not necessarily opposing one another, but decidedly different. We’ll call is ID vs. Cranbrook, or for that matter IDEO vs. The Designers Republic. I’m trying to make an important decision as to where in that spectrum I want to find myself. More on this later; it’s going to take some heavy thinking and opinion seeking.



it’s sort of like christmas tree vendors that pop up a month and a half later.

Posted by: Eric on October 7, 2002 4:03 PM

my pal joey used to work for ideo. let me know if you’d like to discuss stuff with him; be forewarned—he is very creative, but an engineer by trade.

Posted by: jim on November 3, 2002 10:44 PM

Postcards for sale on eBay

Spotty and Her Calf

In the 1940’s, the Rasor farm of Brookville, Ohio experienced a bit of a shock. A two headed calf was born to Spotty, one of Rasor’s cows.

After the calf died, it was stuffed and became a roadside attraction along Highway 40. For the admission price of two bits you could see the stuffed two-headed calf as well as feed Saltines to Rasor’s cows.

So…this is an alive adult cow standing next to a stuffed two headed baby cow.

Burger Chef: Burger Shef

This postcard offered the recipient a free Big Shef, Burger Chef’s new test marketed BIG double hamburger. Burger Chef sold out to Hardees in 1982 and most of the stores across the country were rebranded or closed.

There was a Burger Chef in Sturgis that closed when I was a kid; I’m not even sure if I ever ate there. The odd part is that it sat empty for nearly a decade before it was renovated into a Hardees. That means that chances are Hardees owned it all that time, and just never got around to opening up a new store.



I think that burger chef was indeed at the corner of centerville and chicago rd where the shell now stands. The Sturgis history segment was brought to you by the letters S and Q.

Posted by: ruth celine smith on October 23, 2002 8:04 AM

There used to be a Burger Chef in Kalamazoo, on the outskirts of town on the far east side. I remember being there with my parents as a little kid and watching semi trucks in the lot across the street, taking careful note of the logos of various trucking companies. I think that may be the beginning of my design awareness. Thanks, Burger Chef!

Posted by: Stewart on November 25, 2002 11:35 AM


Posted by: JOHN SANFORD on April 16, 2003 6:50 AM

Year 24

This weekend was spent in Gobles and Kalamazoo. I hung out with Meredith’s family, got to go on the weekly Moped Army ride, and my friends threw me a birthday party too. All in all, it was a good weekend and birthday. I’m now 24; hoo-ya.

This weekend I also learned about the beauty that is the Sega DreamCast. The DreamCast has been officially discontinued, and no more games are being written for it — but that’s okay, because there are all sorts of unintended uses. For example, people have written various emulators that work on the DreamCast system, such as a NES emulator called NesterDC. I have a copy of this on one disc with 1000 old 8-bit Nintendo games, that all play full screen on the DreamCast. It’s crazy to think that this is even possible. Read more about it at DCEmulation.

Recent playlist:

Beck - Sea Age
Ryan Adams - Demolition
Jets to Brazil - Perfecting Loneliness
Pilot to Gunner - Games at High Speeds
Bonnie Prince Billy - Peel Session 2002-08-07



Beck-Sea Age=top album of the fall. it sounds kind of like realizing things are shitty but knowing they will get better.

Posted by: ovidovi on October 1, 2002 4:26 PM

He’s also one of the few people whom I don’t get bored with, because he goes into new musical styles on every album. Side note: Have you seen that the album has four different covers?

Posted by: simon on October 1, 2002 4:43 PM

Simon— Sorry that I was unable to attend your birthday soiree… Happy Twenty-Four. Hopefully it is treating you better than twenty-four treated me. I was such a wreck 23, 24, 25. I felt old then. I don’t know why but, I felt much older at 24 than I do now at 28. …funny how that works. You’re planning on going to the Cinci BBQ, correct? e.

Posted by: Eric on October 1, 2002 11:05 PM

Cinci BBQ? Oh yeah. I’ll be coming to Kalamazoo the night before, and driving down with all the rest of you guys. It’s going to be awesome.

Posted by: simon on October 1, 2002 11:13 PM

rad!! btw. you’re aware of my defection, no?

Posted by: Eric on October 2, 2002 8:58 AM

I hear that you’ve given up on the Motobecane; it’s probably for the better. Having a consistently running moped is the most important part. Are you selling the Motobecane(s)?

Posted by: simon on October 2, 2002 11:03 AM

As far as who can tell?

Chicago, IL

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