I took my wife and stepson to see Lord of the Rings: Return of the King last night. After 3 hours and 20 minutes, I was utterly exhausted by this emotional rollercoaster of a movie. Return of the King, like its predecessors, was a cinematic masterpiece of epic proportions. Almost every scene of the movie evoked a sense of awe and wonder in the person watching, with some spontaneously clapping or cheering when something amazing happened.
Taken as a trilogy, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings is a faithful reproduction of Tolkien's vision, and a staggering achievement in almost every field of cinema. The sheer magnitude of the logistics of doing it would frighten any director, but Jackson has been equal to the task. However, by being faithful in the telling of Tolkien's story, each of the three movies have trouble standing alone. Another consequence of this is that they don't really have a beginning, middle, and end.
For these reasons, I believe it is likely that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will fail to deliver the multitude of Oscars that Lord of the Rings: Return of the King deserves, despite it being the most extraordinary of the trilogy. There is no doubt in my mind that the movie will grab Oscars for editing, sound, and visual effects, but Best Picture and Best Director may go to others. This would be a similar injustice to that which bedeviled Steven Spielberg for so many years.
There has been some debate over the last few days about the differences between fluid and fixed-width web design, prompted by changes at Stopdesign and Simplebits. A debate like this is similar to the debate over whether or not to use pixels. I have found that the fixed-width designer is usually one of the pixel users too. Web designers come from two utterly different worlds:
- Visual media designers
- These are the pony tails of the business. They have been working with brochures, PDF files, television, magazines, and posters. Their education background is visual communication, and they are often experts in typography and color choice.
- These are often called the geeks, and their expertise is in website functionality, usability, and architecture. They have knowledge of programming languages, and are proponents of logic.
Visual designers are used to having complete control over their medium. The infinitely resizable web page is a source of constant frustration, so they have defined arbitrary widths (and sometimes even heights) to contain their creations. By using the pixel, they can create the perfect design, largely unalterable by the evil user that may be trying to mess it up. The result can be a thing of beauty that may end up winning an award or two.
The developers live in a very different world indeed, for they spend their lives trying to cater for everyone. The one consistent fact about delivering web pages is the staggering inconsistencies between user agents. But the geek is used to these inconsistencies, and so the developer develops web pages that can cope with these differences. Layouts (designs is too strong a word) are usually fluid, with relative units for everything, and great functionality. These sites rarely win awards, because there are smaller egos and less money on this side of the equation.
I have created layouts using both methods, and I have found it to be somewhat harder to make fluid designs than fixed-width designs. Despite this, I prefer to make fluid sites because I hate to see wasted screen real estate.
The web page should be fluid, but the width of a column of text should never exceed the optimum necessary for easy scanning. That is the paradox that today's designer faces. Perhaps with advances in (and better support of) Cascading Style Sheets, reconciling this conflict will be easier in the future.
Things are going to get a bit glitchy here over the next couple of weeks. First of all, I intend to transfer to a different web host, so expect the usual problems associated with that. Secondly, I intend to convert this weblog from static to dynamic, which I expect to be a major headache. I absolutely refuse to use some sort of out-of-the-box content management system, because I like hand coding everything, but I am going to try and introduce a little automation.
Why am I doing this? Well, many readers have asked me to implement a comments system into the si-blog. In order to do that, a shift to serving the blog dynamically seems logical. I lack experience in creating dynamic sites, so expect my initial efforts to be a bit clunky. I am hoping to have something working by the beginning of 2004.
In the meantime, I need to put my thinking-cap on and come up with a way to store the blog entries. I have no idea what other people do, but I guess that storing an entry as XHTML in a MySQL
TEXTfield is the way to go. Drop me a line if you have any insights.
Cascading Style Sheets guru, Eric Meyer, has sired his
:first-child. On behalf of my wife and I, we wish Carolyn Maxwell Meyer a wonderful future. Eric and Kat are known for being "decent folk", so we have no doubt that they will make great parents. The details (and a picture) can be found in Eric's first post on the subject, and we expect to see much more baby news in the months to come.
Every so often, something truly beautiful comes out of a designer's melting pot. After a series of successful and attractive websites, Cameron Adams has finally launched his own website, The Man in Blue, and I am deeply impressed with it. I particularly like the way each entry is attractively boxed with a graduated background, and the elegant stylesheet switcher.
Whenever a site like this appears, it inspires me to open up my favorite text/image editors and launch myself into the creative process. I am not a designer-type at all. I am quite happy taking someone else's design and turning it into a website, but my own creative juices trickle, rather than flow. I would love to have that creative spark that generates ideas like these. Cameron's site has joined an elite group that have their own bookmark folder entitled Inspiration in my browser menu.
The screenshot I have taken really doesn't do the site any justice. You must go there and see for yourself. Look out for the clever trickery Cameron is using with the background, and read his interesting entry about the site's creation.