Nexus One

I used to be the guy who hated cell phones. I never ever wanted to own one. I used to actually get annoyed when people would send me SMS messages. Of course, I had a RAZR so the idea of typing something out using T9 just seemed so not worth it. Now I can’t shut the hell up about my Nexus One.

The Sprint Hero didn’t last. I returned it. At the time Sense UI was really buggy, but I’d have been content to wait for an update if only Sprint had any service anywhere in Athens. None at work, none at home, so back it went. I’d purchased the phone through a local reseller. The sales guy really went out of his way. He lent me his phone so that I could check the service levels at the places I’d be. Sadly I only checked voice, not data. When I returned the phone, I unfortunately got a big guilt-trip from the guy. He seemed to expect that I’d stick with the phone even though it didn’t work anywhere. I also got a lovely 80 dollar bill for a phone I had for 9 days.

I was sad to have to pull out the old iPhone again, so I rooted it. The most interesting thing that allowed me to do was theme it a bit. The themes looked a lot better, but made the phone slow and buggier. The two alternate app stores I tried were slow and buggy and as difficult to browse as the App Store.

I ordered a Nexus One the hour they came out. I subsidized it through T-Mobile. It arrived and it was great. Sadly, T-Mobile didn’t have any service at my home or work either. In contrast to Sprint, and really just in general, T-Mobile was great to deal with. When I called to ask if there was any way to increase their coverage, the guy I spoke with on the phone genuinely seemed like he wanted to help (I have a great bullshit detector and it wasn’t going off.) When I called to return the phone, they were equally as nice. Later, when faced with another 80 dollar bill, I called and they reduced it to zero as I’d only used the phone (from their perspective) for 2 minutes. Man, I wish I could be their customer. As disappointed as I was that I couldn’t keep the phone, it was the best corporate experience I’d had in a very long time. Kudos, T-Mobile.

I loved the N1 so much that I was tempted to put my at&t SIM card in there and just live with EDGE (crappier “2G” network speed.) Ultimately I figured there was no point in having a mobile computer if the data connection sucked. So I went back to the iPhone again. I’d kept my at&t account active through all of these experiments as I was on contract anyway.

I ordered my at&t N1 the hour they were released. Slipped the SIM out of my iPhone and haven’t looked back. I even sold the iPhone to a co-worker. Sucker. (Or maybe not!)

In my previous Android post, I complained a lot about buginess. Thankfully that was all SenseUI (a fancied up “skin” for Android.) My N1 has been rock solid. The battery life on the T-Mobile branded N1 was pretty terrible, but I’m guessing that was entirely related to it never having a good signal. The battery life on my N1 is phenomenal. I can go 2 days with lots of use and only get to 30%.

I bought some apps while I had the T-Mobile N1. When I got the at&t version, I signed in and not only did all of my contacts show up, all of the apps I’d purchased showed up too. Contrast this to the 4 times that the iPhone deleted my data (the 4 times I upgraded the firmware.) Sure, I could get my apps back on the iPhone for free, but I had to remember what they were and install them one-at-a-time by hand. Android 2.x also (optionally) syncs pictures I take on the phone up to Picasa magically in the background.

The other huge wins over the iPhone continue to be huge wins. My data comes to me, I don’t go to it. Multi-tasking is awesome. Not having to use any special software to access the data on my phone is still great. Widgets are completely kickass. Making ringtones/alerts/alarms on the phone still rules. Being able to set up specific notifications per SMS sender is a god-send for someone with my job. Having stats on what exactly is using your battery is very handy. Completely kickass turn-by-turn voice-enabled navigation for free isn’t bad either.

The non-wins are basically the same. Both the Android Market and the App Store continue to be terrible. Searching is especially terrible given that it’s a Google product. It (Android Market) doesn’t even do sub-word searches. It’s 2010!!! WTF?! It’s only wins over App Store are that you can keep “shopping” after you tell it to install something, you don’t need a iTunes-only-create-able account, and a new one I learned since last time: If you buy an app and you uninstall it within 3 (or 4?) days, you get a refund. That just rules. The real huge win is that you can install apps from places other than the Android Market. But don’t let that get in the way of your celebrating Apple raising the chocolate ration from 40g to 35g per week!

I hear a common complaint from iPhone users that Android’s UI is “clunky.” I find it anything but. For example, the Notification Area is vastly superior to the modal dialogs of the iPhone. I get monitoring alerts from work on my phone. I had the same setup on my iPhone. Once, during a particularly bad day I got a bazillion SMS messages while leaving a voice mail. I couldn’t hang up the phone until I said “OK!” to all of these messages. It was the most annoying thing ever. On Android, I get one indicator in the Notification Area. I still get multiple audio and visual(trackball color) alerts, but the rest of the phone is still usable through them.

Here’s some general screenshots in case you’re curious. As I mentioned in my previous Android post, Android has virtual desktops. Those screenshots are 3 of the 7 on my phone. I’ve turned off the text that’s normally under the icons.

Putting the F back in Art

I’m really bad at expressing myself, especially in regard to things about which I’m passionate. In the past I’ve tried to explain my approach to and appreciation of art and I’ve done a really awful job of it. It’s just one of those things that one understands very well, but finds difficult to express to others.

There’s a pie-chart that shows the ratios of the various components one might appreciate when evaluating art and mine is probably weighted more towards the analytical and away from the emotional. While technique and talent/skill weigh more for me, there is no art without emotion.

I also think that the various pieces of the pie-chart vary in their subjectivity. Which is to say that I think that given a large enough sample, “experts” would likely agree on certain things. (Yikes this is getting more complex than I wanted it to be already. The whole experts thing is a whole other post.) Said yet another way, I want the art itself to be emotional, not so much my evaluation of it. Which is not to say “devoid of emotion” but like I said earlier, emphasizing the analytical.

I’m still not saying this right. I should leave this part out. What I’m really saying is that I know people who like or dislike a film/song based entirely on how it makes them feel or how they felt already when they were exposed to it. I ain’t that.

In the past I’ve said (and been criticized for saying) that one of the largest criteria for my liking a given song or film or whatever is “how much ‘art’ is in it.” Yuck. Awful. Those who criticized me were correct to do so.

In my life I’ve know a lot of people who really liked art of all kinds. I’ve known some amazing visual artists and musicians. Some were classically trained, others just had a feel for it. I’ve also known people who found great joy in creative outlet, but whose creative expressions were just awful. They could be awful in any number of ways; just pick one from the pie chart. Finding joy in a creative outlet isn’t the same as creating art, it’s masturbation or at best therapy. (And I say that in the least pejorative way possible…. there’s nothing wrong with masturbation!)

Creating art is about synthesizing the world into a form that teaches one about oneself. (!)

I also say things like “I hate plot.” When my erstwhile friend Tod said that to me seventeen years ago, I probably stared at him the way people stare at me when I say it, but it’s completely true. There’s little that’s more boring to me than films whose entire life-blood is their plot, or worse: the plot twist. I guessed the plot twist in The Sixth Sense as soon as he was shot and found the rest of the film grueling. I guessed the plot twist in The Others from watching the commercial. This doesn’t make me cool nor is it something I intend to do.

Ok, you knew it was coming: Deadwood is great because, while there is a plot there’s not much of a plot. The bad guy is going to destroy the world and we have to stop him! Yawn. In Deadwood, there’s no overarching seasonal bad-guy/serial killer/cylon/terminator waiting for a season finale climax battle scene. There are no unexplained mystery islands or evil preachers. (Have I mentioned in the last 5 minutes that Carnivale was the worst show evAr?) Deadwood just has a group of well designed characters acting and re-acting like people do in their lives. Of course there are the ebbs and flow of plot within Deadwood. If you’re a tried and true plot-watcher, you may even love the plot. It builds to a season finale like any other show, but if you’re not a plot watcher, there’s a very rich tapestry for you to enjoy. I can watch Deadwood over and over because it’s so rich. There are so many small things to notice specifically because it wasn’t written in service of the plot, but instead in service of the characters.

There’s a very strange juxtaposition that happens with film and television regarding the comedy and drama genres. There are a lot of television comedies that have no plot, yet very few film comedies can say the same. Most television and film drama is very plot heavy. However, there are a good number of film dramas that have no plot yet nearly no television dramas likewise. The huge problem with 99% of problematic film comedies is that they establish some stupid plot on which to hang jokes that they then have to resolve in the third act. All of this plot resolution apparently requires so much effort that there are no time for jokes.

This is why The Big Lebowski is such a classic comedy. There’s almost no plot at all and what little plot there is, you certainly don’t care about. He’s not saving the town, he’s not rescuing the girl from the rich land baron who wants to buy uncle touchy’s magic puzzle basement which just ain’t for sale, dammit! He just fumbles around and shit mostly fixes itself. Imagine how awful that film would be if he actually had to save her.

So why do TV sitcoms and the some movie dramas realize you don’t want a plot, but the movie comedies and the TV dramas don’t?