Saturday, November 29, 2008

Some assembly required

Thanks to Adam for this questionnaire in two parts, which he in turn discovered via Samurai Frog. Happily this meme comes without forced tagging, but anyone who wishes should feel free to give it a try.

I. The first half involves bolding the things you've done.

Gone on a blind date
Not as such. Gone out with someone I only knew through online correspondence but had never previously met in person, yes.

Skipped school
Most of my senior year in high school! Honestly, I'm amazed I managed to graduate...which may explain my recurring dream in which I have to go back there all these years later and finish all those classes I skipped.

Been to Canada
Not for a very long time, and I'd really like to go back.

Been to Mexico
Sadly, no.

Been to Florida
Sadly, yes. To my lasting dismay.

Been to Africa
Never, but I kind of like the music.

Been on a plane
I love flying and still consider airports to be exciting and romantic places, but I've avoided both for the past few years...partly due to the idiocy of "security theater" at the expense of genuine safety.

Been lost
It's one of my favorite ways to get to know a new place.

Gone to Washington DC
I've been there four times, and each visit was a lot of fun.

Swam in the ocean
At least two of them!

Broken a bone
I don't know how I've managed to avoid it all these years.

Been in a traffic accident
It was an extremely foggy afternoon in California. The car I was in got a cracked tail light. The front of the car that rear-ended us crumpled like foil. Happily, everyone involved had excellent insurance.

Cried yourself to sleep
And that was just last night! (Okay, and the night before.)

Been on TV
Once as recounted in an earlier meme here. More recently, I was in the audience for a Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network, but I don't know if I appear on camera.

Stole traffic signs
Why would anyone want to do that? I don't get it.

Played cops & robbers
Let's not bring my sex life into this. ("Now this time I'll be the cop and you be the sexy bank robber I've just arrested who's trying to seduce me into letting her go...")

Recently colored with crayons
Not recently enough.

Sang Karaoke
In fact, it was with Brian Cronin of Comics Should Be Good. Disturbingly, we sang a duet of "I've Got You, Babe." This is true.

Paid for a meal with coins only
It's strange that would be considered strange. See Horn and Hardart for details.

Done something you told yourself you wouldn't
And that was just last night!

Made prank phonecalls
Leaving allegedly "funny" messages on answering machines is the closest I've come.

Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose & elsewhere

Caught a snowflake on your tongue
Someone claimed no two of them tasted exactly alike and I was determined to prove this wrong.

Danced in the rain
No, but I have sung.

Written a letter to Santa Claus
Nor have I written to Kwanzaabot. Or the Hanukah Zombie.

Been kissed under the mistletoe
A gentleman never asks and a lady never tells.

Watched the sunrise with someone

Blown bubbles
I'm forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles, in the air...

Gone ice-skating
Once. Miserable experience.

Been skinnydipping outdoors
Does anyone still call it that?

Gone to the movies
It seems hard to imagine anyone hasn't...though I wonder if that might change within our lifetimes.

Have a nickname
None of which I care to repeat.

Have body piercings
Sorry, afraid I spent too much time undergoing surgery as a child to see anything liberating or transgressive about cutting holes in myself. Totally cool with other people doing as they please, but it's not for me.

II. The second half is a set of random questions, which I've decided to answer in random order.

1. Favorite drink?

2. How much do you love your job?
Cape Cod

3. Birthplace?

4. Favorite vacation spot?

5. Ever eaten just cookies for dinner?

6. Favorite pie?
Full of regret

7. Favorite holiday?
With great difficulty

8. Favorite food?
The sea

9. Favorite smell?
My birthday

10. How do you relax?
Oodles and oodles

11. How do you see yourself in ten years time?
Empanada or Cornish pastie

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Not always to the swift

At last the Presidential contest is over, and a joint victor has been declared.

I extend congratulations to my former opponent Ellen Bischoff -- who made a courageous, daring, and above all foresighted bid for the lead position -- and now shares with me the complete absence of any reward whatsoever, other than the satisfaction of seeing our names mentioned repeatedly on Mark Evanier's blog. At no point did Ellen stoop to mudslinging, character assassination, or dirty tricks, despite ample opportunities. The mutual respect and civility we have shown one another makes it much easier for us to come together now as co-recipients of this honor.

Congratulations also to my runners-up Michael Kilgore, Kris Mandt, Cory Strode, Corey de Danann, Tony Thomas, Roger Green, Bill O'Brien, Michael Hagan, Bob Claster and Anand Kandaswamy. Judging by the fact that we all selected the same number, I can only conclude that each of you is an insightful and discerning individual. Had I not decided to enter the race and then beaten you all, one of you would be accepting this win in my place; I'm certain you would be as gracious and humble about this honor as I am now.

For the benefit of future historians, the hard-fought campaign began here, with further developments recorded here and here. However, I need to address something Mark says here, where he attributes to me this description of the winning strategy:

A lot of us arrived at our guesses by figuring out which states might go black and not go back, and how many electoral votes each represented. Richard may have beaten us all by, he says, picking a number that just sounded about right.

Obviously, this needs to be cleared up. By the time of the Democratic National Convention in August, I was reading every day, as I do every year when the election season begins. I added the now-indispensable to my daily political reading immediately after all-star statistician Nate Silver appeared on the Colbert Report. So my choice followed several weeks of closely reading analyses made by highly informed people extremely skilled and crunching numbers and interpreting data. It was a guess, but I'd prefer it to be characterized as an informed guess rather than simple blind chance.

All that said, I indicated to Mark at the Big Apple Con that I felt a bit guilty about being in the lead of his poll because my choice was more wishful thinking than a serious projection: I was certainly hoping the electoral votes would break down somewhere close to where I placed them, but on an emotional level I didn't really expect it would happen. That wish was not for the sake of Barack Obama becoming President (he could have done that just as well at 271 electoral votes) but because I was hoping against hope that voters would repudiate McCain for the clumsy, ill-considered, and frequently offensive campaign he conducted. In other words, it wasn't so much about wanting Obama to win decisively as wanting the McCain campaign to lose thoroughly. Mark tells me he's been hearing this from a lot of people. Neither of us is surprised.

Now that the contest is over I can finally relax and enjoy my shared triumph, as indeed may all America. I hope Ellen will accept this post in lieu of the traditional congratulatory telephone call. And now, on to the victory party!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hello tomorrow

Via Cult of Mac:

Fans of comics’ “Golden Age” now have a great way to feed that jones on the iPhone and iPod Touch with Comic Zeal from Bitolithic.

The $1.99 app lets you download an unlimited number of classic comics from the 1930s and 1940s, a period that saw the arrival of the comic book as a mainstream art form, when the medium’s artistic vocabulary and creative conventions were defined by its first generation of writers, artists, and editors.

The app downloads full comics to store locally on your device for easy access offline, and takes full advantage of the iPhone platform’s pinch-zoom and fingertip scrolling so you can move around pages quickly and zoom in to detail as you wish. A recent update makes turning pages with the swipe gesture a breeze and counts as an excellent improvement to the original released version.

The Comic Zeal developer site is here. Now, compare and contrast Sean Kleefeld on the economics of current comics production:

Marvel has hired Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch to create The Fantastic Four. Hitch receives an electronic script from Millar and begins drawing an issue. But he doesn't make his drawing paper himself; he buys it. Some company had to chop down a tree, convert it to wood pulp, press that into paper, and ship that to wherever he bought it from. Looking at just the gas consumption alone, the paper costs more to make. So they pass those charges on to Hitch in the form of a price increase. Maybe one or two cents a sheet.

Marvel receives all the material electronically. It gets reviewed, approved, and then sent (again, electronically) over to their printer in Canada. That printer needs paper to print the books on, so they have that shipped in not unlike the way Hitch does. Except Marvel needs around 60,000 comics at 32 pages each. Even at only one mil (one one-thousandth of a cent) per page, that amounts to an additional $1,920 every month. Sure, Marvel has deeper pockets than I do, but I don't mind saying that's a fair sight more than my monthly mortgage payment!

But now that printer needs to move those 60,000 comics. They get shipped out to regional Diamond warehouses. Again, increased gas prices impact how much that will cost. And from those warehouses, the books will then be distributed (i.e. shipped by a gas-guzzling truck) to your Local Comic Shop.

The above quote comes from an outstanding series of posts by Sean on the economics of comics, starting here. I'm quoting him out of context to make a rhetorical point he was not trying to make and may not agree with at all, but that's what happens when you say stuff on the Internet.

One place you can get your feet wet in the search for Golden Age comics in public domain available for free download in .cbr format is here. (The same site also offers original and equally free comic stories by some outstanding creators just waiting to be discovered by the world at large.)

This is not an endorsement of Comic Zeal in particular; it will be some time before I'll have any chance to try this particular app out for myself. But the work going in this direction is promising. The absence of those printing and shipping costs (and the oil they consume) is going to make an even bigger difference to the general public in the coming year. That, combined with the popularity and glamor of the iPhone platform, may even be enough to override the major publishers' pyhrric insistence on digital copy protection, which is seriously hampering their thinking about digital comics; if not, other publishers will step in to fill the gap.

Update: John Rogers of Blue Beetle fame weighs in.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The alphabet meme

Still too busy for regular blogging yet, but Adam at Movie Chunks tagged me with a meme devised by Fletch at Blog Cabins, to wit:

It's a simple concept (my favorite kind) - pick your favorite film for each letter of the alphabet. Some will be tough because there's too many choices (R, S, T, L, N, E...wait a sec - that's Wheel of Fortune) and others will be tough because there are so few choices that you have trouble finding much of anything (Q, anyone?). I'm sure I missed some great ones and I'm hoping that you find them.

The Rules

1. Pick one film to represent each letter of the alphabet.

2. The letter "A" and the word "The" do not count as the beginning of a film's title, unless the film is simply titled A or The, and I don't know of any films with those titles.

3. Return of the Jedi belongs under "R," not "S" as in Star Wars Episode IV: Return of the Jedi. This rule applies to all films in the original Star Wars trilogy; all that followed start with "S." Similarly, Raiders of the Lost Ark belongs under "R," not "I" as in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Conversely, all films in the LOTR series belong under "L" and all films in the Chronicles of Narnia series belong under "C," as that's what those filmmakers called their films from the start. In other words, movies are stuck with the titles their owners gave them at the time of their theatrical release. Use your better judgement to apply the above rule to any series/films not mentioned.

4. Films that start with a number are filed under the first letter of their number's word. 12 Monkeys would be filed under "T."

5. Link back to Blog Cabins in your post so that I can eventually type "alphabet meme" into Google and come up #1, then make a post where I declare that I am the King of Google.

6. If you're selected, you have to then select 5 more people.

The rules don't specify any criteria, but each of these is a particular favorite of mine -- except for one which is an obvious ringer that I've never even seen and probably never will. See if you can spot it! All the rest of these have strong personal associations for me and would be on any list of my favorite films regardless of alphabetical necessity:

Blazing Saddles
Casino Royale (1967)
Fantastic Voyage
Ghost Dog
Johnny Dangerously
King Kong (1933)
Letter to Brezhnev
North by Northwest
Office Space
Pee Wee's Big Adventure
Robinson Crusoe on Mars
Sexy Beast
Until the End of the World
Viva Las Vegas
Witness for the Prosecution
Young Frankenstein
Zabriskie Point

I won't tag anyone; I'm looking for five volunteers to step up and take the challenge. Or are you all cowards?

Update: Indeed you are not, as the stalwart crew of TS, Mark, Johnny Bacardi, Walaka, and Sea of Green have each risen to the occasion. And honorable mention to plok for fessing up, which also takes courage.