Saturday, September 3, 2011

Television: Rare & Well Done

It is with great pleasure that I announce that my book Television: Rare & Well Done: Essays on the Medium is now available. The book is a collection of essays on television I have written over the years, some gathered from A Shroud of Thoughts and one from elsewhere. Subjects covered in the book are the Golden Age of American television, TV Westerns, The Avengers, the Sixties spy craze, the Batman fad, and CBS's mass cancellation of rural shows in 1971.

It will be a few days before the book is available through Amazon, other online venues, and book stores, but one can buy it right now directly through Create Space. Just click on the image below.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Margaret Lockwood Blogathon Reminder

This is just a reminder that I am hosting a blogathon on 15 September 2011 in honour of Margaret Lockwood's 95th birthday. If you want to participate, just leave me a comment on this blog or email me. Your blog post on Maggie can be anything: a post on some particular aspect of her career; a post on a particular movie; or you can simply do a blog of nothing but pictures. Anyhow, for those who are participating, here is a banner you can use on your blog posts

In other news, I just want to let everyone know that Blogger did add a button for editing the html of one's template to their new interface. That having been said, I still think the new interface is less efficient than the old one. And that colour scheme does have to go!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The New Blogger Interface

Blogger was founded in 1999. Since that time the Blogger dashboard has seen only one major change, that in 2006. This included the ability to edit templates by dragging and dropping elements, as well as providing new options for web feeds. In 2009 a few more changes were introduced, including time stamping at the time of publication rather than the creation of the post (personally, I prefer the latter), the ability to edit links in Compose mode, and a brand new Preview dialogue. Over all, however, the Blogger dashboard has changed very little. That is until now.

Yesterday Blogger rolled out its new interface, which it is giving its members a chance to try out. In theory, at least, the new interface is supposed to be easier and more efficient to use than the old one. As is often the case, however, the new interface is actually neither easier to use nor is it necessarily more efficient than the old Blogger dashboard.

To show you an example of how much less efficient the new Blogger dashboard is than the old one, below is a screenshot of the old Blogger dashboard:

You will notice  that New Post, Edit Post, Comments, Settings, Design, Monetise, and Stats are all easily accessible by links, which are clearly visible. Below is the new Blogger dashboard.

You will notice that there are no links for New Post, Edit Post, Comments, Setting, et. al. These are accessible only by clicking the drop down menu by the little Post icon (the icon with a picture of a pencil). Now this seems neither easier nor more efficient to me for two reasons. First, it may not occur to everyone to click on the little drop down menu to find New Post, Comments, et. al. I was able to find it in about a minute, but I am not sure everyone is going to find it as quickly as I did. Second, it is just common sense to me that it is much faster to click on a link that is right there on the page than it is to click on a drop down menu, then click on the link. 

Of course, once one finds the links to New Post, Comments, Settings, et. al., the new Blogger interface isn't too much different from the old one. Below is a screen shot of the old Blogger interface after clicking on the Posts link.

Below is a screen shot of the new Blogger interface after one has clicked on the Posts link.

You'll notice the only real difference is that Posts, Comments, Settings, et. al. are now listed on the side rather than the top. To a degree this would seem to really make no difference, except for one thing. On the new interface one has to scroll down to see the entire list. On the old one they are all right there at the top.

So far my complaints about the new Blogger interface have been very minor. If these were my only objections to the new interface I would be willing to give it a chance, even if I feel it is harder and less efficient to use. That having been said, I do have two major complaints with the new interface. The first is the way templates are handled. As near as I can tell, there is no means by which one can edit the raw html of one's blog template. For someone with a customised blog template as myself, this makes editing one's template nearly impossible. This is a major oversight on Blogger's part and one that I hope they will correct. Much of what makes Blogger superior to some other blog hosting services is the sheer amount of customisation one can do to his or her blog template. 

My second  big complaint with the new Blogger interface is that it is all done up in blinding, mind numbing, corporate white. As with most web sites that are done entirely in white, I find myself having to adjust the brightness on my monitor simply to be able to see (I happen to very sensitive to light). This is made even worse iin that some of the print (as you can see in the top image of the new Blogger dashboard) is a light grey, making it very hard to read! While I cannot say that my complaints about the new Blogger dashboard being harder and less efficient to use than the old one are major ones , I have a very big objection to the colour scheme of the new Blogger dashboard. Quite frankly, it is one of the worst colour schemes I have ever seen on a web site.

Now I do have to say that there are some good things about the new Blogger interface. There is a new Overview section, letting you know how much traffic you have had at your blog with a little graph, as well as the usual number of blog posts and number of followers a blog has. The new post editor also has a big advantage over the old one--it expands to fit one's post! For someone who can make very long blog posts like me, this is a veritable godsend (if only it wasn't all in white).  Another good thing about the new Blogger interface is that the post button is on nearly every single page, so that one can start a new post from almost anywhere on the new Blogger interface. This also seems to me like a handy thing to have.

Over all I cannot say this is a Facebook level overhaul where a good deal of functionality is lost. In many respects the new Blogger interface is not that much different from the old Blogger interface. The problem is that it seems to me that the new Blogger interface sacrifices too much in the way of ease of use and efficiency and far too much in terms of functionality with regards to blog templates. It also happens to be blindingly, mind numblingly, corporate white. I think the best course for Blogger right now is to simply incorporate the Overview section, the ability of the post editor to expand, and including a post button on every single page into the old Blogger dashboard. This would improve the old Blogger dashboard while not sacrificing ease of use or functionality.

UPDATE: I was just informed by someone that when you click on Template>Design, there is an HTML button beneath the screen shot of one's blog. I could have sworn it was not there yesterday! At any rate, it seems that it is possible to edit the HTML of one's template on the new Blogger interface. Of course, the new interface is still done up in blinding, mind numbing, corporate white!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

TV Director Reza Badiyi Passes On

Reza Badiyi, who directed television shows ranging from Get Smart to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, passed on 20 August 2011 at the age of 81.

Mr. Badiyi was born in Arak, Iran on 17 April 1930. He studied acting at the Academy of Drama in Iran. He eventually switched from acting to cinematography, and then to making documentaries. Before moving to the United States in 1955, he had made 21 documentaries. His documentary Flood in Khuzestan caught the attention of the United States, who invited him to come to the U.S. to study filmmaking. He studied filmmaking at the Syracuse University, then went to work for industrial film company Calvin Co. in Kansas City, Missouri. There he met director Robert Altman. He was assistant camera on Mr. Altman's short "The Magic Bond (1955) and  an assistant director on Mr. Altman's feature film debut, The Delinquents in 1957.

Reza Badiyi went onto be an assistant director on Carnival of Souls (1962) and an associate producer on the movie Terror at Black Falls (1962) and the TV series Run, Buddy, Run. In 1967 he created the titles for legendary sitcom He & She. He would go onto create title sequences for The Good Guys, Mary Tyler Moore, and Hawaii Five-O. He would be best known in television for his directing. Indeed, according to the Director's Guild, Mr. Badiyi holds the record for directing the most hours of American television. Over the years he directed episodes of such shows as  Get Smart, Hawaii Five-OThe Doris Day Show, Mission: Impossible, The Magician, Mannix, Serpico, Man From Atlantis, Baretta, The Rockford Files, Hart to Hart, Falcon Crest, Jake and the Fatman, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, In the Heat of the Night, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Nowhere Man, La Femme Nikita, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Reza Badiyi was not simply a prolific director in television, but a talented one as well. He was equally at home directing sitcoms as he was action adventure shows or dramas. In fact, in his long career he directed nearly every genre of television, from comedy to police drama to science fiction to horror. It was his skill as a director that allowed him to create the memorable title sequences to Hawaii Five-O and Mary Tyler Moore. Mr. Badiyi was a superior television director who paid more than usual attention to the camera work on the shows he directed.