MetaPhile: The homepage is a disgrace and Flash has got to go

joeclark's picture

Typophile is a discussion forum, but you’d never know it from the homepage, a baffling and angering display of Flashturbation from a junior Web designer with a point to make that even he can’t articulate properly.

Seriously: Safari 4 takes 28 seconds to load just the Flash component of the homepage. (I paused my stopwatch when the animated logotype, another useless and unwanted fillip, stopped moving.) You are then presented with an interface, using custom scrollbars and jammed into a little rectangle, to what appears to be the actual purpose of the site – discussion. Select an item and whaddya know – you’re sent away to the actual forum, built mostly around HTML. (Actually, it should be entirely HTML, CSS, and JavaScript; there is no cause for Flash, save perhaps for sIFR.)

What should the new homepage look like? It should look like the homepage of a site whose owners aren’t trying to show off and who actually want visitors to understand and use the site. The homepage should be the Forums page. Hire somebody like Jason Santa Maria or Zeldman or Andy Clarke or Simplebits to work on it. But nearly anything would be better than the Flash monstrosity we’re stuck with now.

William Berkson's picture

Ben, is there even a concept of "tolerance" of those with conflicting views in the East? I mean not just personal tolerance--which Buddhism has--but with groups and political ideas.

In Confucian tradition, so far as I've experienced it, there is one right way, and if you're not with it, shut up.

In the West, you can have contradictory opinions, but they can't all be right, if you follow logic. That discomfort with contradictions is a spur to trying to figure where you are right and wrong. Otherwise, it seems to me you license complacency and stagnation.

Peace through force is the traditional way in China. The supreme value is harmony, and to get that you suppress opposition. You don't want to connect it to Chinese tradition. Ok what's it connected to? Why don't they have it in those Eastern countries more affected by the West?

I think history shows that traditions are tremendously powerful. If not the traditional idea that harmony is paramount and all conflict bad, what is responsible for censorship in China? After all, in many ways their government has been one of the most successful in the world. It's not like they are otherwise stupid or unsophisticated--quite the contrary.

5star, I agree with you about individual freedom being precious, and that being distinctively Western. However, I think that current Western individualism, especially in the US, is excessive. The sense of social responsibility has declined in my life time, and I think that's a very bad thing.

When I was in China, some things I really loved as far better than what we have in the US. One was the quality of deep friendship, which was really striking. Another is the courtesy and affability of interaction. That is such a welcome relief compared to the rudeness of so many Americans.

hrant's picture

William, this is all the official party line junk we've been hearing for a
century. It's not working any more, which we are finally seeing in the open.

hhp

opwann's picture

I'm not one to complain much (I've been to Africa and been around people who should complain, but who don't).

But the Typophile homepage is terrible. It should be redesigned and absolve itself of all things Flash - using @font-face or Cufon where necessary.

I could do it in less than 48 if you wish.

visit my portfolio for more info: owenperry.ca

Bendy's picture

I can't speak for Confucianism.

Certain schools of Theravada Buddhism across much of Southeast Asia accept different ideologies, and even welcome discourse with other ideologies, knowing its teachings are not 'truth', since what we think is only what we think. And you're right because people do criticise it for not being moralistic enough. But at least in my view it is not concerned so much with political ideas, arguments and the right/wrong dichotomy, as it's more a mental science showing us how we can get on with our lives and interact positively and peacefully with others whatever their beliefs.

>You don't want to connect it to Chinese tradition. Ok what's it connected to?
It's certainly connected, but I don't want to judge a whole tradition I don't understand.

William Berkson's picture

Ben, I agree with you that we can learn a lot from the psychological insights of Buddhism—I certainly have. Also I think they are stronger on compassion than Judaism and Christianity, even though both of those have compassion as a prime value.

However, Buddhism has had some key weaknesses, both of which relate to passivity. The goal of avoiding suffering brings you away from the world, as a monk on a mountain top, whereas the commitments of Judaism and Christianity to pursuit of justice, to family and work, are more engaged with life. Also Buddhism never had the tradition of the Prophets, of social change and increasing social justice. Even though Christianity lived for very long with Feudalism, eventually the prophetic imperative re-asserted itself in the renaissance and the age of reason, and we are much the better for it.

The social weakness of Buddhism and its lack of impact on social tolerance is seen in the civil war in Sri Lanka. The British had favored the Tamil minority, I believe, during their rule. In reaction, the Buddhist majority after independence imposed a Sinhala only rule--only the language of the Buddhist majority would be permitted. This act of intolerance--the Tamil minority was 30%--was followed by other anti-Tamil actions, which eventually led to the horrible civil war. I don't want to defend the actions of the Tamil Tigers, who I believe invented suicide bombing. But the behavior of the Buddhists--also Theravada--do nothing to say that Buddhists are more tolerant of minorities than we are in the West.

Of course, in the West, even the ideas of tolerance developed in Holland and England and eventually America did not stop a lot of horrible treatment of minorities, but still it was created a persistent voice for tolerance, which over time has often succeeded.

bowerbird's picture

my goodness. who knew the homepage
was a hotbed for philosophical debate?

-bowerbird

Bendy's picture

>The goal of avoiding suffering

That has not been my experience of Buddhism. What I've learnt is that suffering is an integral part of reality, and accepting it means we are less conflicted with ourselves and therefore better able to shine. Certainly non-attachment is helpful in getting a clear, positive mind. But that's not the same as avoidance. One can even directly confront a political idea without being attached to one's own fixed view.

>Buddhism has had some key weaknesses, both of which relate to passivity

This sounds quite general. Different Buddhists interpret the teachings differently. The three jewels of the Buddhism I know are the Buddha, his teachings and the community. That last one to me means the people around us are an important part of engaging in life. If there's any weakness in Buddhism, it's the freedom to believe only what's true in one's own experience. That is also its great strength.

I'd also like to point out that there are ways to engage with life other than 'pursuit of justice, [and commitments] to family and work'. Are animals less engaged with life? They're certainly less engaged in our ideas about life, but why should our ideas apply to them?

I'm not trying to say any philosophy, religion or system of government is perfect: in fact I started by saying that all ways have good and bad aspects, and I said what I liked about Eastern tradition. All those factors have flipsides, as you have pointed out. Things can go wrong, equally in the East and the West.

Rob O. Font's picture

>Things can go wrong, ...

I was just entranced by the history of one Mongol Khan who converted to Buddhism, though not completely as evidenced by the account of his funeral which included human sacrifice. So, I am wondering as Bendy fails to suggest, if Buddhism is like all the others, just a word for another problem with the 'home page'?

Cheers!

William Berkson's picture

Ben, what book on Buddhism would you recommend that gives the different views?

My impression of the passivity of Buddhism come from the four noble truths that are at the foundation of Buddhism, which I understand as roughly: 1. Life is suffering. 2. Suffering is caused by attachment. 3. Cease attachment and cease suffering. 4. The way to cease attachment is to follow the eightfold path. The goal seems to be to avoid suffering, which is a different priority than "Love your neighbor as yourself." and "Justice, justice shall you pursue."

I do agree with you that "things go wrong." I find that what a person makes of his religion is in the end more important than the theology or metaphysics in it. And you can have a Buddhist and Christian who resemble one another more in their attitudes than they do many of their coreligionists. For all I know Joe Clark is a devoted Buddhist :)

Still, the ethical priorities and content are of the different traditions are different, and I'm interested in the truth. That's why I focus on differences and try to sort out what's right. I don't think they are all the same, and I want to know their strengths and weaknesses.

What I find irritating is the reflex, and to me shallow, statement "East is better," which set me off here. Your views are obviously well informed by familiarity, and you have a nuanced view of what is strong and weak. Thanks for your insights about relying only on your own experience. That's the kind of thoughtful assessment that I like, not the reflex lack of appreciation for one's own traditions, and fashionable lauding of what is exotic to you as automatically "deep."

Bendy's picture

I hope it didn't come across as 'East is better' — I think my approach is to synthesise what works for me from both angles.

>I find that what a person makes of his religion is in the end more important than the theology or metaphysics in it.

Absolutely. Glad we have the same view here :)

As for books on Buddhism, I'm afraid my conception has been informed by experience not by reading words. There's a large gap between the two, which is why I tend to have a healthy disregard to anyone waving books around and saying they're Truth. I have lived as a Buddhist at times in my life, listened to monks and read books, but to be honest, the books I've read have been anecdotal and confusing. Thai monk Buddhadasa had some very interesting (unconventional) interpretations which you might be lucky enough to come across, if you're interested.

>1. Life is suffering. 2. Suffering is caused by attachment. 3. Cease attachment and cease suffering. 4. The way to cease attachment is to follow the eightfold path. The goal seems to be to avoid suffering,

Well, it depends which way you look at it, and there are many ways to word it. Here's my take. Number 1 means that some kind of imperfection permeates our whole existence and experience of reality. It's the same for everyone, and animals included. We can't avoid that suffering. We get hungry, cold, sick, old, bored, uncomfortable, change happens... Number 2 says that we add a whole new dimension to our suffering (which the animals don't) by adding an ego into the equation. Suddenly 'imperfect reality' becomes 'this is bad and it's happening to me'. When we start judging and wanting and not wanting, we set ourselves against the way things just are. The last two two clear up the mess that ego brought.

When investigated thoroughly, Buddhism is surprisingly non-exotic, simply seeking to explain the way the real world is and how we experience it. (And I know this might be a non-standard way of interpreting it, but again it works for me and other Buddhists.)

Interesting how this thread has developed. Thank you too. Now I wonder where Joe's got to.

Paul Cutler's picture

If you want to read books about spiritual philosophies don't read the "scriptures", read the artists. So for Zen Buddhism I would suggest Li Po, Wang Wei, or Tu Fu if you like longer poetry. These are also Chinese poets. Li Po was a notorious drinker and is probably the most "out there". Wang Wei was the gentlest, and Tu Fu was the middle of the road sober poet.

If you prefer shorter poetry begin with Basho and the haikuists of Japan.

If possible get poetry that is translated by Lucien Stryk.

All my understanding of spiritual matters comes from art. Sufi music, Zen poetry, Mass in Bb Minor, St Marks Cathedral, throat singing from Tuva, shakuhachi, etc…

It makes more sense to me than the direct writings.

pbc

Quincunx's picture

Wow. Flash > Socrates > ethnocentrism > Confucianism > Buddhism.

Win.

Paul Cutler's picture

We need a moderator to get this back on topic.

In art the East builds on tradition. In the West we reinvent.
In art, I prefer the Eastern approach, I am from California, where the sun sets in the West.

pbc

bowerbird's picture

i am from california, where the sun sets in santa monica bay.

except when it sets in the santa monica mountains...

further north, of course, it sets in the pacific ocean.

-bowerbird

JoergGustafs's picture

A typical aspect of Western civilisation is the disability of ceasing to think comparative and hierarchical. Other cultures are either seen as (morally) “superior” (see Rousseau, or more updated, Cameron’s “Avatar”) or “inferior”. Democracy and capitalism are seen as the Holy Grail for mankind as a whole.

In our naïveté, we tend to believe that OUR political system is the closest to creation’s crowning glory. We can’t even imagine what a mammoth like China would turn into if it allowed e.g. boundless freedom of speech.

Social systems are too complex for a cock comparison contest. Instead of learning from the terrible consequences of proselytisation e.g. in Africa, we still try to force our ideals on other civilisations. When the whole experiment fails, we can still steal away.

The drive of interference is a great tool for self-improvement within a society, i.e. when used in one’s own hood. It easily turns into a curse when exploited for a bossy missionary zeal.

What brings us back to the guy who brought this up and his not unreasonable objections, brought forward in a rather bossy and clumsy manner.

hrant's picture

Well said, and astutely concluded.

hhp

Ray Larabie's picture

So yeah, ctrl click would be nice.

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