i like dogs.

1 September 2010

and don’t get people who don’t. what’s the first thing you do when you see a dog? offer it something to smell and scruffle its ears? or back away in fear?

the first one, i hope.

but today i observed two young ladies, unconnected to each other, react in the second fashion to the same dog. a dog that i had just been playing with.

Canis lupus familiaris has been mankind’s closest companion for around 15,000 years. think about that; fifteen thousand years. ten thousand years before the founding of the Egyptian and Sumerian kingdoms, man was living side-by-side with dogs. possibly the first creature created by man, they want to be a member of your social group; you don’t need to fear them.

sure, i’ve been bitten by dogs (both small and large), and it’s not fun. but most dogs don’t want to bite you. they just want the companionship they’ve been bred to expect through the centuries.

so next time a dog wants to talk to you, don’t be afraid – their interest is just a family tradition.

quote of the day:

“With the exception of women, there is nothing on earth so agreeable or necessary to the comfort of man as the dog.” – Edward Jesse

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thoughts on the proposed City of Charleston bike ordinance:

20 July 2010

so, i didn’t go to the Charleston city council meeting today, and have no idea what was or was not decided at the meeting.

but the proposed ordinance, as discussed here and here (among other places), has some serious issues – particularly given the City’s uneven enforcement of extant laws in the past.

the current bike registration law is flawed, but this new one is actually worse. currently, the law requires all bikes used in the city to be registered with the police. i’m not resident in the city, but i still use my bikes there. under current law, CPD can confiscate my bikes as unregistered. and they have done this to those who have left bikes locked to actual racks in the past, but didn’t have a city decal.

i’m not going to buy a decal from the city. if i had to buy a decal from every jurisdiction i rode my bicycles through, you’d nowt be able to see the paint.

but let’s say i was going to buy their decal for each of my bikes.

of the four bikes i ride regularly, the newest is two years old and the oldest is twenty. two of them were built by me from parts. i am the original owner for all of them. the city requires that a receipt of sale be produced on registration. strangely, i don’t have a receipt for the Trek i bought twenty years ago and 250 miles away. neither do i have a receipt for the two bikes i built from parts; i could, perhaps, provide them with rather thick files on both. and in another case, a friend of mine has personally built two of his bikes from scratch – they don’t even have serial numbers to be recorded!

of course, the city will still register bikes without a proof of sale; they just charge you more.

so i could spend $20 for the dubious benefit of having the CPD record my serial numbers. yeah, sod that.

the new ordinance proposes an increase in the fee. hooray. it also makes parking a bike at any location other than a bike rack a crime, with a $45 fee to get the bike back. now, i can’t find any of my old parking tickets the city put on my car, but i know they were all quite bit less than $45. and there’s plenty of places to park your car, naysayers aside. not so much for bikes.

and i’m not even going to start on the sidewalk riding crap.

but all of this points to a perception of bicycles as toys, rather than valid transportation choices. for a city that supposedly wants to be considered as “bike friendly,” that’s a pretty cruddy attitude to take.

quote of the day:

“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man.  Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish.  Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.” – Iris Murdoch

because the intarwebs haven’t been blown up enough,

2 July 2010

here’s my take on the new Wonder Woman costume:

ugh.

to expand:

there are things i really, really like about this costume. for example, pants. i realize that Diana is nigh-invulnerable, often expressed as second only to Superman in power, and therefore could fight evil in a thong back swimsuit. and, as a guy, i can recognize the appeal of the swimsuit look. but she’s the princess of the Amazons; she should have some dignity. not having her cheeks hanging out in the breeze kind of works better for that.

i also like the top (in this image, anyway). it seems to have some sort of support mechanism, perhaps even a cap sleeve or other shoulder/arm covering. once again, i understand Wonder Woman is tough. but indestructible mammaries bouncing around seems like it would get in the way. this top looks as if it would perhaps prevent such things. sadly, in Wonder Woman #600, the neckline is cut lower and the sleeves/straps/whatever are merely thin spaghetti style straps.

oh, and the belt is awesome. except, i’m sure, for whatever poor bastard has to draw it.

but the rest of the outfit? fail.

the jacket and choker are straight out of the bad old days of the 1990s; all she needs are some pouches to finish the ensemble. the jacket in particular is hideous, with its short length and improbable ability to actually close. the round pauldron-like shoulder pads make me think she stole the jacket from a midget MFP trooper as well.

the half-gloves/bracelets are more than a little over-the-top, especially since Diana can now pimp-slap a “W” logo onto dudes’ heads with them. really? how is this supposed to grow the character? plus, the Amazons’ bracelets were intended to forever remind them of their time as slaves; those don’t look like very practical manacles. they look like somebody thought the classic design was too bland and they could bling it up a bit.

i don’t know what to say about the tiara. is that a tiara? it looks like a hair band or something.

the strange strap things on her shoes are, apparently, supposed to be for spurs. really? since the back story reboot has Diana growing up an orphan in NYC, why would she be needing spurs? sure, there are bridle paths in Central Park. i know that. is Diana going to be relaxing a-horseback in her off time? and why leave the straps on her boots? it seems inconvenient.

like a lot of others, i think i would have preferred something closer to Jamie McKelvie’s Wonder Woman design of a few years ago (before he was as big as he is now):

similar to the new costume, but not as fussy, and definitely more obviously “Wonder Woman.”

this new costume is temporary; we all know that. before long, the timeline in Wonder Woman will revert to that of the mainstream DCU, and Diana will get her history and clothes back. but it sure would have been nice if this change wasn’t something i’m looking forward to seeing leave.

quote of the day:

“Bees. My God.” – Batman, Amazons Attack #3

why (association) football won’t fly in the USA…

29 June 2010

now the USA has been knocked out of the FIFA World Cup, soccer fever has begun to subside in the States. the vast masses of American citizens don’t care about soccer most of the time, because they have no personal investment in the sport. they only support the US team from a convergence of nationalism and sport.

this is no surprise, as association football will never really challenge the US mainstays of gridiron football, basketball and baseball. there are four major reasons why:

1. soccer in the US is considered by many a sport of the wealthy. one of the cheapest and most egalitarian sports in the world, and here it’s the purview of the upper middle class and higher. though play really only requires a ball and some space, organized play requires a standard field. said field won’t fit in the bounds of a standard US gridiron field. this makes affording playing space difficult, given that ideal locations are probably already taken. multi-use fields exist, of course, but that doesn’t mean they are common. there’s also a whiff of “Euro-ness” about it that turns off many traditional US sports fans. this is a country that renamed french fries “freedom fries,” for goodness sakes.

2. soccer is often called “The Beautiful Game.” while this may seem a throwaway phrase to some, appreciation of the sport is, in many ways, aesthetic. American sports fans aren’t trained to appreciate “beautiful” sports. American football? not beautiful. the average NFL player weighs around 250 pounds – players in the offensive line can top 300. put these guys in pads and slam them together? not beautiful. baseball? while there is a certain amount of aesthetic appreciation included in baseball, it’s far more a game of statistics than anything else. you should really like math to truly enjoy baseball. and basketball? possibly the closest “homegrown” sport to soccer’s beauty, the grace and skill of individual players just doesn’t translate on a team level.

3. ties. seriously, Americans don’t like ties. “(G)ive me liberty, or give me death!” “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” “There is winning and there is misery.” the American obsession with having a clear winner and loser is best shown with baseball: if the game is tied at the end of 9 innings, play continues until there is a victor. the longest professional baseball game in history lasted almost 8 1/2 hours, going 33 innings. though the game was stopped after slightly more than 8 hours and continued on another day, 19 fans stayed the entire time. for a minor-league game. keep in mind, beer concessions stop at the end of the 7th inning – so these folks went 25 innings without a drink. i love baseball, and i don’t think i could handle that.

4. and finally, there’s nowhere to put the commercials. for a sport to be popular in the US, you need somewhere to put the commercial breaks for TV. the NFL actually requires 20 breaks per game, and has a man on the field to make sure that play is halted long enough to let the commercials run out. baseball doesn’t have time outs, but there’s plenty of time between innings or during pitching changeovers to run ads. but soccer just runs for 90 minutes. sure, there’s a half time break, but Americans want a new beer, more chips, or a bathroom break more frequently than every 45 minutes. hence, commercials.

some may point out that the US culture is changing, with more and more people from Latin America emigrating. yet though the adults will be soccer fans, the children will most likely be soccer and football fans. or basketball. or baseball. or NASCAR, even. for most, by the third generation, soccer will just be another sport that’s only interesting every four years. case in point: my great-great grandfather emigrated here to play soccer professionally. i like watching it on TV (i’d watch more if i had FSC) and i’ll go to a game from time to time, but i really don’t care that much about soccer.

maybe this will change. i could be wrong. it’s happened before. heck, i think it happened earlier today. but i don’t think so.

quote of the day:

“I never did say that you can’t be a nice guy and win. I said that if I was playing third base and my mother rounded third with the winning run, I’d trip her up.” – Leo Durocher

having a blast at HeroesCon…

5 June 2010

but that’s all you’re getting, because it’s too fun to stop and write stuff. more when i’m home.

quote of the day:

“As artists, the pleasure is to really have your work resonate and mean something. Art takes its inspiration from reality.” – Yareli Arizmendi

George should have quit while he was ahead.

26 May 2010

because yesterday was Star Wars Day (and Towel Day, and Geek Pride Day), i decided to try re-watching the original trilogy as if i had never seen it before.

needless to say, this wasn’t particularly easy; i saw Star Wars eleven times between 1977 and 1979. which is a lot for a kindergartner. so i’m steeped in the mythos, and somewhat inescapably biased. but i still think i sort of pulled it off.

my “new” opinions of the films are necessarily influenced by which version i watched. i made the choice to watch the 2004 DVD release, as it’s the only version i own of all three films on DVD.

and my overwhelming opinion of the three films is that George should have quit in 1983. or maybe even 1977.

with that in mind, let’s go!

Star Wars:

you know, this is a pretty fun movie. it could be a lot better, but it’s not bad at all.

the plot’s kind of formulaic; even if i hadn’t seen it (many times) before, i would have thought i’d seen it before. but that’s understandable – Lucas borrowed (or stole) much of it wholesale from 隠し砦の三悪人, and then mixed it with the sensibilities of old Flash Gordon serials. there’s nowt wrong with this recycling, though. the universal nature of the plot makes the film approachable; the archetypal characters let the viewer feel a connected to the story without the baggage of having to actually know anything about them. farmboy? check. mysterious old man? check. dashing rogue? check. damsel in distress? check. super-evil badass? check. they’re all instantly recognizeable, and combined with the obvious plot (save the princess – from the dragon/monster/evil king/whatever – and get her home safe) makes Lucas’ at times clunky writing and direction passable.

the actors were brilliantly cast. admittedly, much of this opinion is probably informed by my prior familiarity with them. but even so, Lucas managed to assemble a fantastic group of people for this film. 1970s haircuts aside, Hamill and Ford are tone perfect in their roles – each is instantly believable as their characters. and Sir Alec Guinness? best of all. even though he hated the role.

and then it falls down. the special effects are awful. not the period practical effects; they fit the overall look of the film. but the CGI is terrible. as much as i hate the “go back and change things” movement that colorization started and Lucas has embraced wholeheartedly, i almost hope George goes back and re-does his re-dos. the textures are flat, the light balances are off, the inserted effects “float” on the screen instead of meshing – it’s just all bad. the period effects, while sometimes dated (ooooh! look! wireframe graphics! it’s the futurrrrre!), all look appropriate to the film. it’s dirty and clunky – just like a rag-tag rebellion against a galaxy-spanning evil empire would be. and the insertions didn’t really get any better in the other two.

but this film, i think, may be the point at which Lucas should have stopped – though market pressures wouldn’t necessarily let him. the first film has a beginning, middle and end. Luke and Han’s heroic arcs could be seen as complete; Han has embraced his heroic side over his raffish nature, and Luke has become a man. period. done. good guys win.

but the market wanted more, as evidenced by the facts that Star Wars played continuously in some markets for over a year, and was re-released in 1978 and 1979.

so George made The Empire Strikes Back:

you know, this is a lot stronger film. it’s much better written and directed… oh. that’s why. George just came up with the story.

but it’s missing something; the first film was an innocent romp. sure, there was evil. and even torture. but in this one? wow. chopping up poor Tauntauns because Luke’s to dumb to stay away from the dangerous wildlife? poor Dak getting stepped on by a giant robot camel. Artoo gets all dirty, 3PO gets broken into bits, Han gets pincushioned and frozen, Leia has to learn some strange new hairstyles, Luke gets his hand chopped off…

it’s just so inescapably gloomy. ok, sure, Lucas was making a trilogy by this point, and you needed a low point for the heroes to overcome.

but does Yoda have to be such a jerk? really? he’s an opinionated and greedy little bastard. and perhaps senile.

moving on.

Return (Revenge) of the Jedi:

hey! boobs!

but i get ahead of myself.

back to Tatooine. Luke sure has become a bad dude. but did he go back and study with Yoda some more? (we find out later that he didn’t. or maybe did. it’s not clear). doesn’t matter, really. the mind control thing was cute – i wonder if it’s just Tatooine it works on? we’ve not seen it anywhere else, i don’t think.

so, again: boobs!

i hope Carrie Fisher got a nice paycheck for this film. and the green tentacle-head girl, too.

Luke gets to fight Jabba’s pet monster, wins, and then we get (man-)boobs!

George sure managed to cram a lot of boobs in the first third of this film.

so, anyway, fight-fight-fight. chop up all the funny looking guards. Boba Fett goes down like a chump. fly away.

Luke bops on back to Dagobah; Yoda’s still kind of a jerk. but Luke’s real deferential. that’s nice, i guess. whoo – and then he vanished. just like Obi-Wan. so i guess all Jedi just kinda vapourize when they die. at least you don’t have magic space knight corpses lying around, then.

nifty war council; they’ve sure gotten better displays than in the first film. still a ton of vector-style graphics (you know, because it’s the futurrrrre!). most important, however, is they got the band back together. they need to do one last show to save the orphanage… wait. wrong film.

anywho, our heroes fly down to this moon (moon? that’s a big darned moon. and what is it with George and moons, anyway?) and meet a bunch of cute little teddybear critters that want to eat them and think the somewhat excessively fabulous robot is a god.

seriously.

so Luke lets himself get captured (farmboys; no sense of tactics), Lando (still the only black man in the galaxy. well, other than Darth Vader’s voice) leads a seemingly suicidal attack against the Imperial fleet in a freighter, and our remaining heroes team up with the cuddly bears to beat the lasergun armed baddies with rocks. makes no sense at all, at all. but it does work as spectacle; it’s definitely a Saturday morning serial sort of sensibility.

and the shield goes down, the home hot-rod freighter is faster (and better gunned) than all the purpose-built fighter craft (even those built by the aforementioned galaxy-spanning Empire), and Luke chops his dad’s hand off. take that, dad! and you never remembered my birthday, either!

Dad Vader tosses the evil Emperor down a well (Lassie! Timmy’s down a well again!), so it’s all good again, right?

which makes me want to know, why did Luke have to burn his body? shouldn’t he have evaporated like the rest of the Jedi? we really need to pollute the teddy bear moon with those crazy looking fumes?

and then there’s a party. a HUGE party, apparently; everybody, everywhere is dancing like it’s a crazy rave or something. and i do mean everywhere.

are they all just glad it’s over? how did they know the wicked witch was dead? space Twitter? i really want to know. what do you put in 140 characters for that? what would the hashtags be?

in conclusion;

Lucas should really have stopped in 1977. as much as i love the sequels, Star Wars really should have stood alone. barring that, he should have left them as they were in 1983 (even though he’d already gone back and started re-tweaking). but he didn’t. and we got the prequels. which i refuse to discuss. though they are very pretty.

hope everyone had a good Towel Day!

quote of the day:

“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”  – Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

mmm. tasty, tasty crow.

13 May 2010

no, i’ve not started a Corvidae diet. i have, however, had something of a change of heart concerning CGC graded comic books.

this will probably come as something of a shock to those who have been gifted with my past frothing rants on the idiocy of “slabbed” comics. i’ve never bothered to post on the subject here, as pretty much anything i could say has already been said. just Google (or Bing, or whatever) “CGC Hall of Shame.” you’ll find lots of pricing foolishness.

but i’ve started buying CGC slabbed books. i’ve even joined a subscription service for them.

in my defense, i do still think there’s a lot of stupidity in the graded comic market. not just in pricing, but in the whole concept of “graded comics.”

but i’m not buying them as an “investment.” or spending the stupid amounts of money many people pay.

i enjoy comic books and, if they’ve made it this far, i assume most people reading this do also. my opinions on graded books have long been formed and informed by the nature of my enjoyment of comics.

the comic book is an interesting art form; it uses some combination of text and sequential graphics to tell a story. not all comics have text, but all have sequential art.

as such, the comic (not the comic book) is one of the oldest continually practiced art forms. we can’t assume that the primitive humans painting on cave walls were working in the comic form, but there is no doubt that the ancient Egyptians did. the Middle Kingdom coffin texts and “Book of the Dead” describe the necessary course for the dead to take to the afterlife, using sequential art to trace the journey and texts to supply the needed spells. i do prefer being able to read my comics while still alive, though.

in one form or another, comic art continued. some may claim that Action Comics #1 is the world’s most valuable comic. i would ask them to try and put a price on the Bayeux Tapestry.

but Wilhelm Busch’s publication in 1865 of Max und Moritz: Eine Bubengeschichte in sieben Streichen in some ways began the modern comic era (as distinct from the Modern Age); in the United States, his work inspired creators whose work became ammunition in Pulitzer and Hearst’s circulation wars.

Hogan’s Alley and other strips were eventually collected, creating a market for pamphlets of just sequential art, without the newspaper wrapped around. from there came the pulp expansion into the modern comic book form. and then came the Silver Age, and Watchmen, and holofoil covers. but the comic has always been sequential art. and that has been my key objection to “slabbing” books.

once a comic is sealed in a CGC holder, it’s no longer readable. one may appreciate the front cover art and back cover advertisement, but that’s it. the whole story is locked away.

the very idea of paying a premium for something that cannot be read was anathema to me; what sense did it make?

then came Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III’s run on Detective Comics.

aside: i collect original comic art. i’ve got several pieces framed on my walls, and others in sleeves (i need a print rack). so it’s not just the stories that “do it” for me, it’s the actual art.

Rucka’s writing was serviceable in this run, but Williams’ art was amazing. certainly some of the finest work of the Modern Age. and therefore, far out of my price range. most striking to me (particularly once considered through the prism of his interior work) were some of the covers. so i asked myself: what would it cost me to frame a comic?

the answer: too much. cheap frames started around $15 plus shipping, with premium frames running as high as $90. professional custom frames would run in the high end of that range.

but then i found CGC graded copies for under $30. graded as 9.8 (Near Mint/Mint), which means that cosmetically they’re pretty much the best you can find. and they’re already sealed in a holder which presents well. add some 3M Command picture hangers, and i’ve got nice art for the wall. are they “investments”? heck no. but they’re pretty.

the same vendor has a subscription service, and i’ve signed up (for the same per issue price) to get specific books whose cover art i particularly like. i’ll still be buying copies to read from my local comic shop, but now i’ll also have (relatively) inexpensive copies for display as well.

but i’m not going to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a comic book i can’t even read as an “investment.” that’s still crazy stupid.

quote of the day:

“An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.” – Charles Horton Cooley

shiny bits and baubles…

25 April 2010

that’s pretty much a summation of my original thoughts on the iPad.

with consideration, i revised that somewhat. but i was still a bit sceptic.

now, however, i’ve actually had my hands on one. and i really would like one. preferably a 3G. the killer app for me? Marvel Comics’ app – it really does take advantage of the gorgeous iPad screen well. it’s the first step to bringing comics into the digital age in a natural fashion, i think. not that i’m going to give up my monthly floppies! but for reading on the go? the iPad was made for such.

still not buying one, however. pricing is an issue (as i’ve said before), and that Marvel app? i’m not going to pay $2 for a comic i already have. give me collected trades! give me colour versions of Marvel Essentials! don’t rip me for another $2 bucks for a book that should have paid for itself in its print form (particularly since you’re charging $4 a book in print now).

but still, i’m convinced. the iPad is a worthwhile piece of kit. for a first generation device, anyway.

Apple has also released new MacBook Pro models – and they are truly nifty. as someone who has long been infatuated with Apple’s laptops (i’ve got a PowerBook 165 in my collection), these new MBPs are a kick ass evolution of their existing “unibody” design. now available with Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, they’re seriously fast. but the real selling points to me are the graphics upgrades.

with these new computers, Apple has two discrete GPUs: Intel HD (integrated in the Arrandale CPU) and NVIDIA GT330M graphics. by seamlessly switching between these two chipsets (based on user loading), battery life has been extended to a claimed 9 hours. which is probably a stretch, but still.

the new 15-inch model is also available with an optional 1680 x 1050 “high resolution” screen. it’s an impressive improvement over the base 1440 x 900 screen, carried over from the previous model.

shiny.

quote of the day:

“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” – Carl Sagan

the semester is about over…

21 April 2010

and i’ve posted almost nothing.

so much for my intentions to post more, eh?

it’s not that i’ve not done any writing, it’s that i’ve not done any writing i liked. it’s strange; i’ve not made under a “B” on any writing assignments this semester, and i’ve been dissatisfied with every single thing i’ve written. not clear enough, too clunky in construction, whatever. but my profs have been satisfied. which, i guess, is what counts.

i do have some things i’m working on, however. i’ve got some revised opinions on the iPad and comments on the new MacBook Pro that i hope to have up in the next few days; i’m also going to be eating a little crow on a comic book related topic; and in a month or so, there will be a one-year report on my current car.

i’m working on a steampunk alternate history story, too. not sure if i’m going to serialize it here or not.

and maybe i’ll even get back to my random, incoherent foaming at the mouth on inconsequential subjects.

see y’all soon!

quote of the day:

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.” – Peanuts, Charles Schultz

“Avatar” shouldn’t…

7 February 2010

win the award for Best Picture at the 82nd Academy Awards. and if it does, i will lose what minor shreds of faith i might have in the Academy.

astute observers might point out that i have only seen two of this year’s nominees, and that Avatar isn’t one of those.

but i stand by my assertion. the Best Picture should be the best. and i sincerely doubt Avatar is. except for its Best Picture and Director nods, the rest of its nominations are technical. no acting or writing nominations at all. a derivative plot and lazy writing (unobtanium? really?) with really cool graphics does not a best picture make. in other words, four thousand computers don’t outweigh a couple actors.

quote of the day:

“Suvlu’taHvIS yapbe’ HoS neH” – Klingon proverb