imagine how freaky
Monday, April 26 2004
On Gretchen's recommendation this evening I watched the first part of a DVD called Tipping the Velvet, a picture of lesbian identity set in Victorian England. Gretchen had read the book that it's based on, and she found the movie to be a reasonably faithful dramatization. It's hard for a movie built upon such material to fail, so I wasn't surprised that I enjoyed it.
Tipping the Velvet is a complicated Les Miserables of lesbianism broken into three parts. The first of these, what I saw today, centered around a poor oyster shucking girl and the object of her infatuation, a female performer who dresses and acts like a "man" on stage. She's an unconvincing man by modern standards, but we're supposed to suspend our disbelief and imagine how freaky she would have appeared back in the late 19th Century (the last time John Ashcroft's morality was mainstream). Still, I kept wanting to see more of her show, since the little I saw didn't seem to justify the oyster girl's attraction.
For the past week or so I've been working on a website for a film maker. Much of my focus has been on getting a Flash animation intro just right. But this work has been hard and even somewhat depressing, because I never really enjoy working on projects where other people's artistic and design decisions must be made for them. I don't like this kind of work because I hate having to do something over again when the design isn't acceptable. I much prefer working on projects where I can isolate artistic and design decisions into a discrete set of variables that someone else can alter. Indeed, a good fraction of my programming efforts for the past few years have been dedicated to making complex systems whose design can easily be altered to reflect arbitrary design choices and content changes as they appear. The main reason for this is that even people who think they know what they want often decide they don't really want it once they see it implemented. The isolation of design choices has been a huge time saver for me - back when I worked for dotbombs it allowed me considerable on-the-job free time. But at a certain level of complexity it becomes impossible to isolate the design choices into one easy-to-find place. At that point I have to bite the bullet and accept my fate as a designer-for-higher.
On some level, of course, programming languages and development environments are the ultimate isolation of mechanism from design choice. The program you write is the design choice, and all the nasty calculation and memory management is handled by a compiler or interpreter written by someone else. Flash is particularly good this way, since (once you understand its crazy interface) it requires so little effort to develop complex interfaces. Still, I'd be much happier of Flash wasn't so badly plagued by idiosyncrasies that can turn avenues of development into time-wasting dead-ends.
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