Friday, September 30, 2011

Letters to People I Met Today

Dear Guy Looking for Machiavelli,
Was that really for your daughter's assigned reading? That's kind of crazy. If you had been looking for "The Prince" instead of "Machiavelli," I'd almost think you meant to ask for "The Little Prince." Except you weren't. I'd be a little worried this school was teaching my daughter to be a conspiratorial, conniving courtesan of unusual intelligence and, frankly, a borderline evil genius.

Incidentally, where does your daughter go to school and how high is tuition?

Dear Cute Mamasita,
I'm sorry your brother is in jail, and also that you don't know when he'll be getting out. I hope those books I showed you about personal computing and auto repair will be to his liking. When you said he worked in a place that only dealt with "…the best, expensive cars. Infinity and Mercedes," I really thought you were going to end the sentence with "chop shop," so for that I apologize. I mean he still might have, but I don't want to make assumptions. I hope he gets some good vocational training while he's there.

Also, lose the sideburns and we'll talk.

Dear Guy at Newsstand,
I hope you weren't offended that I talked out loud to myself/the magazines as I worked. I noticed you had Tourette syndrome and likely some form of autism. Figured it'd be ruder to censor innocent behavior because you were there than engaging in it like you were anyone else. I also figure you'd be pretty understanding.

Dear Guy Next to Guy at Newsstand,
Stop being such a judgmental asshole. If the autistic kid didn't care, why should you?

Dear Dad in Business Attire Reading to His Kid on the Floor,
I could see you were not wearing any socks. Why did you smell like fresh socks? Not even old socks, but fresh-from-the-bag, elastic-y smelling new socks? That's kind of a weird superpower, but it seems pretty cool too.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Lion King 3D | The first 3D movie worth my $14.50

Last night I went to see The Lion King 3D at my local cinema. I nearly went two nights earlier, but I failed to convince six other men, all very inebriated or already hung over, to take up the task. Because "Boardwalk Empire" was on.

All those guys would totally have seen The Lion King, though.

So screw it, I went and saw it alone. It was 9 p.m., and the theater had exactly one kid, his mom, and about ten or twelve other people, all couples or in groups, and all between the ages of 17 and 35. Meaning everyone in there saw the original movie as a kid and came back to pay three times as much with open arms.

It was totally worth it. My god, it's a completely different movie than you saw in 1994, but even more amazing. For once, 3D actually works because with hand animation, the backgrounds, foregrounds, and all moving elements are already drawn separate from each other. There's a lot less awkward conversion when you can just go back to the original frames if you really need to. And of course those backgrounds are also some of the most lush matte paintings commissioned in the Disney Corporations 82 year history.

It was also the first movie to feature music by Elton John and Tim Rice, who dominated animated musicals for the next ten years, and the film to introduce to us the musically dynamite duo of Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane.

Oh, and the score? The parts not written by the once-domestically partnered duo were written by Hans Zimmer. You might have heard his work in Gladiator, Pearl Harbor, The Ring, Batman Begins & The Dark Knight, Inception, Angels and Demons, and every Pirates of the Caribbean movie, plus about 131 other movies and "Call of Duty." It's the type of powerful, full orchestral backings that, frankly, if they don't leave you teared up by the last timpani crescendo, you're a heartless monster.

But again, it's a different movie. Whereas when I was 8 I found Scar's opus "Be Prepared" to be annoyingly Latin-infused and kind of dark, I can now recognize precisely crafted syllabic structure and choice vocabulary usage. Oh, and I spotted some hyenas goosestepping in what I'm sure I've seen before in Nazi propaganda films. Yes, I knew about that before, but this time I didn't just feel the sense of dread, I knew what it meant.

I also experienced Nala eye-fucking Simba while they lay splayed in the missionary position in a tropical paradise. (I did not see the S-E-X flower petals before that. Pretty sure it was never there, but Disney definitely took the time to wipe that scene all sparkly just in case.) I got to see what kind of monster Scar really was, not as a child, but as an adult who, looking at him as another grown man, thinks, "What an asshole! I should do something. I could take that guy." He's a scrawny lion. Mufasa's huge, but as far as lion's go, Scar's a loser. He even admits as much. Being a kid, I never noticed before; I'd always just assumed he was huge, and Mufasa was just huger. I was a kid. All adults are enormous.

I never noticed that Scar lived down at the base of Pryde Rock and not up top with the other tough cats. While I saw Mufasa as a stern and loving father, I'd never seen the abject terror in his eyes at the thought of losing Simba to murderous hyenas, at the completely openness of Scar's blood betrayal.

I'd even forgotten that Simba's mom Sarabi was so obviously in voice and stature a regal African woman and Nala, as a cub, a rambunctious little black girl. (Although her mom was definitely as white as Nala grew up to be.)

Themes of murder, absolute power lust, personal freedom versus responsibility and duty, birthright, international politics. I had completely forgotten how much of a Yoda Rafiki was, in that little, strange hermit/wise man posing as a lunatic lifestyle. The parallels to chasing down the rabbit hole, to descending into the underworld to come out the other side, cleansing by both fire and flooding, even the witty banter and pop-culture references have aged well.

And fine, I teared up a half-dozen times through the whole thing. I'm not even embarrassed. Like two of those were in the opening sequence alone. Whatever. Give me another animated feature for kids with gorgeous backgrounds, an Oscar-winning soundtrack, and up-front usage of words like "dead," "kill," and "murderer," and we'll talk.

I made this in I think 11th or 12th grade math class, on a school computer
with MS Paint. That was the day I realized I was scary good with Photoshop.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Marijuana Periodicals on the Rise

Today I found a cookbook dedicated to the culinary use of marijuana. I noticed various baked goods, even chile con carné, and a butter recipe for use in damned near anything, something I've heard of doing. (Basically these guys made a couple pounds of butter and froze it, then got a good buzz pretty much with any dinner they felt like.)

I also came across a copy of this:

Is this newsstand item classified as:
A. "Alternative Medicine" (as self-described)
B. Gardening
C. Lifestyle (a catch-all for everything from "men's magazines" to tattoo art)

Answer: C. Lifestyle.

Right next to this:

This guy:

and this monstrosity:

Dear god. The debased lengths these niche freaks will go to.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

LEGO Continues Xenophobic Propaganda Campaign

Since my last exposé, I'm I'm sorry to say LEGO has only escalated their viscious war against indigenous sentients.

New on the block is LEGO's "Atlantis" and "Alien Conquest" series. Atlantis: fairly straight forward. We try to rediscover the sunken city and thieve back our treasures from the deep. Unfortunately, there are giant sharks and octopuses, squid- and shark-people, and all manner of things in the abyss. And, if we remember, they belong there.

Why is that little white [yellow] guy so afraid? Because he thought he could fuck around a shark-man's backyard and get back his lost toys without asking permission. That wet suit he's wearing? It means man does not belong in the water. The shark's gills? He's fine. I'm sure no one would be fighting and using that trident if we had bothered to look around with a robot first and broach the subject of reclaiming lost property with all the delicate and cognitively strenuous diplomacy of a lad dropping a letter in his neighbor's mailbox seeking a lost ball. But no, we can't have that.

And it's never just our own planet's species we ignore and then battle, and then subjugate. If you remember from the last story, linked above, LEGO mankind has breached both the sea and vacuum of space. My first thought of the "Alien Conquest" series was, "Wow, so we're not even pretending like we're not a colonial empire anymore."

There's the "evil" aliens, inhuman, non-mammalian, and suitably slimy-looking and bug-eyed with massive underbite reminiscent of the stupider dog breeds.

And of course "our kind," rich, white business men, respectable. Also: gun-toting.

And then of course there is the "evil" alien leader, a suitably militaristic and fascist opponent.

Of course,  he appears to be the legally, duly appointed leader of his people. Who are we to judge their society? Regardless of whether or not he leads a martial culture, he's a legal monarch. Or president. Hell, we know nothing about him. He could have been elected consul when war was declared between our races.

Oh, yes, I doubt the official story. The notion that such an advanced species would invade our planet, seat of a mighty Space Police Force, just to abduct the occasional yuppie seems quite odd, indeed.

Planet X2-1/2? Sounds like we're refusing to call their home planet by their own name for it.

Racist caricatures? That's a "patriotic war effort." Next they'll be asking us to buy little nubby, plastic war bonds to support our goldenrod brigades.

If I had to guess, I'd surmise this "invasion" was a retaliatory strike for humanity's policy of colonization, subjugation and xenophobic "humanity first" racism during it's extra-Terran expansion.

But, hey, what do I know? I've only spent my life playing with LEGOs and watching/reading/writing sci-fi.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos | Science Hurtles Back in Time to Make Gene Roddenberry Shit His Pants

So some scientists last week asked for help in determining where their calculations had to have gone wrong, lest we determine that–we have no idea how, but–some neutrinos traveled marginally faster than the speed of light.

The easy answer is "somehow we overestimated the distance between emitter and receiver by 0.00000006 lightseconds. Plate tectonics, maybe?"

The more fun answer is that somehow neutrinos were coaxed to arrive hundreds of miles away infinitesimally faster than they should have, given that–having mass–they should have arrived slower than supposedly mass-less light waves, in fact, faster than even hypothetically perfect and massless light waves.

Possible Explanations:
  • We sped up nearly-massless particles over the threshold
    • Unlikely, as the limit still would apply. Having mass, we can't really accelerate a thing  to the speed of pure energy sans-mass.
  • More likely long-shot: we decreased either the distance or time between points A and B as a side effect of the experiment.
    • Not necessarily insane. We could have pumped out so much high-energy non-reactive particles as to let loose a bit of the "Dark Energy" theorized to overcome gravity in the universe, cause it's expansion, and–at the dawn of time–fuel the "inflationary period(s)." It's possible we concentrated some and kicked the neutrino beams forward, or rather the space they were occupying. Conversely, since neutrinos have some mass and are affected by gravity, it's possible they too were affected by something akin to frame dragging, where the high-energy levels around them minus most material interaction led to a localized spacial distortion. Any of these effects could make it appear as though the particles traveled a set distance faster, when in reality they traveled at precisely normal speeds over either a shorter distance or a longer lime relative to our vantage point in the universe.
Or, maybe someone just built the machine fractions of a millimeter closer than it should be.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Idle Thoughts

  • I know the joke's been made a lot, but I honestly wonder, at least in the '80s, how often people tried to get out of paying for a Metro Pass because they heard it cost neither money, nor fame, nor credit from The News.

  • I'm pretty sure I met a nice lesbian couple today, unless the one woman just had an Asian daughter and a best friend who was really really into denim.

  • Checking out the new Atlantis and Space Attack playsets, Lego continues to be incredibly xenophobic.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


"Nope. No, I was actually scheduled to be on today. Nevermind."
Clopening - n./v. - 1. The event or action of working an opening shift immediately following a closing shift.

Are you on tomorrow?
Are you kidding? I'm clopening.

Frankly, I just loath any shift longer than the number of hours I had to sleep between shifts, let alone the number of hours total between shifts.

Friday, September 23, 2011

He Traveled from House to House with His Little Black Bag

That's how small-town doctors used to do it, birthing babies and sewing lacerations in the bedrooms and kitchens of his neighbors. Back in the early '30s, one even performed microsurgery on my grandfather's thumb after an unfortunate wood chopping accident, reattaching severed nerves and arteries with technical prowess decades ahead of his time. A great man, now long gone.

I get the feeling that profession's still alive though.

A friend has made it a point recently to mention often that I seem to have this type of small-town mentality. I know the people in my local diner, who know me, who know my grandparents and parents, because the first time I ate their I was fed formula in my car-seat/baby carrier atop a booth. I recognize the various local indigents and can drive certain roads more by feel and muscle memory than by sight.

And I'm starting to become a small-town tech support.

"Oh, god, Mrs. McInerney's got that bug again? Let me get my antivirus…"

"How did you even manage to pull that out? Were you yanking on it?"

"Oh man, I'm going to need you to boil some water, hand me a dust rag, and get me the longest length of USB cable you can find, stat!" (The water would be for tea.)

Up shot: today I made enough to cover the cost of some new headphones, so that's a plus.

Now if I could just get my family to run two sessions of AdAware in safe mode and call me in the morning….

Screw that, call me after noon.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On Thought Contiguity

"Contiguity of thought" is a process by which we remember certain things, one of several processes, actually, but the one I'd like to focus on for a moment.

Most people are familiar with "continuity." It's continuous. One after the other. 17 follows 16. A, then B, then C perhaps.

Contiguity isn't so much linear as next to. Apartment 17 is next to apartment 19. And you remember it because it has that green door jam that looks Christmas-y next to apartment 21's red welcome mat.

"Because it's next to that other thing" is rather sadly how I remember a lot of details, actually.

For example, today at work I heard "Groove Thing" on the radio, so I thought of where I typically here "Groove Thing," which would be one particular dance number in An Extremely Goofy Movie.

Suddenly I'm thinking about A Goofy Movie, disco, Goofy's second wife the librarian, P.J. becoming a beatnik, "Whatever happened to Roxanne?" and marveling that Goofy had the life experience to know to bribe the bouncer and DJ to get his request played in a club immediately. Suddenly I'm thinking of how to better my life through experience and confidence.

And I'm also humming a Powerline song, but that's beside the point, almost.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On Planking

Here is what I think about the fad of "planking."

Now, if you're the type of person who's really into my astrophysics jokes/pick-up lines, here's what I think about planking when I'm not afraid of referencing advanced particle physics:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On Serendipity

Oh, Chinese tech companies, if only you were aware of old-school internet slang for uncouth non-Japanese people trying to be hip Japanese people.

Weeaboo (or Wapanese) is a term given to Japanophiles who obsess excessively over anything even slightly Japanese and glorify every anime and Final Fantasy game as masterpieces, regardless of how bad they are.

In truth, these unwanted lot of nerds will typically have an identity crisis, delusional in that they believe they are "Japanese inside" but born in the wrong body. They have no shame in abandoning their own culture for one that obsesses in whale killing and repugnant fetishes, but they will swear up and down on the "superiority" of it. They will usually buy pocky, a Japanese snack, and other Japanese food while using chop sticks exclusively to eat their food, believing that this will make them more Japanese. Though this will of course never happen, much to their dismay.

The natural habitat of a weeaboo usually consists of places OTI such as Gaia, anime forums, and even deviantArt. Outside of their rooms filled with anime posters, figurines, and other annoying merchandise that their families are ashamed of knowing about, they can be found at Anime conventions, fan clubs, or your local Panda Express (though your typical weeb is unaware of the cultural differences of Eastern Asians). Additionally, weebs are prone to excessive emoticon usage, mainly of those used by the Japanese. They also happen to combine speaking in English (or any other language) with Japanese dialect, with many of them speaking Japanese poorly. Most of which happen to use honorifics, so you can expect them using "-chan" or "-kun" when addressing people, because it's just so kawaii. The weeaboo will seek out anything that looks anime-like and watch it compulsively, pepper their sentences with Japanese words, be generally socially inept and shove Japanese emoticons and anime quotes in every sentence.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Abduction | What the Hell is This Movie?

What is this?

1. The Bourne Infancy

2. Taylor Lautner's desperate attempt to not get type-cast

3. Lion's Gate trying to see how many "I Was A Teenage Kidnapped Super Spy" movies they can make banking on Twilight's success.

4. John Singleton's revenge against his multiple teeanage daughters for all the "Team Jacob" crap he had to hear while he was trying to direct 2 Fast, 2 Furious.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Adventure Time!

Happy Sunday! I've been wanting to do this ever since I came across "Adventure Time with Fiona and Cake," and thought I kind of like it better than "Adventure Time with Finn and Jake."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Movie Stars and the Movies I would Watch With Them

  • Emma Stone - The Empire Strikes Back
  • Will Shatner - For A Few Dollars More
  • Paul Rudd - Anything with the Marx Brothers
  • Mark Whalberg - Anything with Paul Rudd
  • Seth Rogan - Anything not Pineapple Express
  • Jason Mewes - Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (Mostly innocent and only about 47 minutes long.)
  • Harrison Ford - Casablanca
  • Zachary Quinto - The Godfather, because I've never seen it and I feel like he'd be respectful enough to let me sit through the whole thing without a running commentary.
  • Everybody else - Probably Shaun of the Dead or the first 2/3 of Clueless.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dave Malki ! of Wondermark Talks Webcomics, Twitter, Publishing

He's probably the only man on Earth who uses an exclamation point as a post-nominal honorific, which might be a shame if there were anyone else deserving of it.

David Malki ! is a dapper gentleman.
David Malki ! started Wondermark in 2003, a webcomic made not through physical or digital drawing, but primarily through the skillful combination of 19th century woodcut prints, scanned from the pages of original tomes Malki collects. The comic has been collected in several volumes, currently published by Dark Horse Comics, and from 2006-2009 ran in the print edition of The Onion. Yes, despite some very strong opinions we got into, Malik makes it clear he doesn't have an actual loathing of syndicated comics as an idea.

Which is actually how we first got talking. Back in college I was Fun Page Editor at the campus newspaper, Pipe Dream. (Alright, there was also the Free Press but that's its own feud.) Part of my effort to beef up the page involved getting top-tier webcomic artists to let me syndicate their comics on precisely zero budget. Dave was by far the most accommodating. Not only did he consent to letting me run old Wondermark strips, he mailed me a DVD with about 30 or 40 of his personal favorite strips when I asked about high-res files. I also imagine he did this via his clockwork butler as he sat in a leather recliner, donning his top hat, monocle, and smoking jacket.

So when I started in on this project of interviewing various artists and creators of webcomics for my book's long discussion of digital comics, Dave Malki ! was kind of a hope against hope. His views supported my original college essay that layed the groundwork for this whole project. I've spent almost a year now revising and gathering new material for the piece. The original Tweets and blog entries weren't going to cut it as far as original research was concerned. (That everything we ended up talking about supported my thesis was simply a grandly beautiful bonus.)

Short version: it would not be an embellishment to say that Malki agreeing to this email interview would make or break my idealized vision of the project.

Not only was he amiable, he was curious as to the idea, incredibly open with his thoughts and experiences in comics publishing and even considerate enough to offer clarification to anything I found "too heady." Frankly, if I wasn't six-years entrenched in these precise issues, it would have been. That said, I have amended a few notes and links for the casual reader who might be intrigued by parts of the discussion.

Me: What have your experiences been like with using Twitter to converse directly with your readers? Is it something like the next step in having comic forums, or is it something else entirely?

Malki: Forums are a particular type of culture that has a lot of great qualities: friendships and in-jokes and islands of weirdness can erupt in little petri dishes. I've met some great people on forums, and I know of lots of relationships that started on forums. Forums can also be a cesspool, of course, and I think on a long enough timeline -- or with the wrong crowd -- things tend to trend that way as communities grow insular.

Twitter's a different thing entirely. The remarkable thing about Twitter, and I think the thing that was kind of new about it, was and is its asymmetrical nature. I can follow you on Twitter without you having to follow me back. But I can still talk to you if I want, and you can still reply to me if you want. So it's more like broadcasting than conversing in an everyone-gets-a-turn forum sense, but still with this ability for conversation in a truncated way. Anyway you know how Twitter works.

I think Twitter is great for cartoonists, or people who do similar things. Twitter allows those who're interested to be involved, but without having to remember to go to a forum, or there being an embarrassment of desolation when there's nothing going on for a while. And people can be as involved as they want without feeling like they have to be a part of something official. Being accessible in return creates a bond between artist and reader that's really rewarding as well. I don't know that I have a lot that's groundbreaking to say here. I like Twitter? Twitter is good.

What are your thoughts on "premium content" webcomics that offer free updates but either rely on or at least supplementary content exclusive to paying subscribers?

"People sometimes mock artists for
selling merchandise, like there's
something bad about being a
T-shirt salesman."
I think it creates a huge burden on the artist to provide that premium content to satisfy the paying customer. I don't think it's a fundamentally flawed business model by any means, but I think it's a hard row to hoe and I don't think I'm up for that kind of pressure.

People sometimes mock artists for selling merchandise, like there's something bad about being a T-shirt salesman. But I'd rather sell T-shirts and give the art away for free, than the reverse. When I give the art away for free, I can make a bargain with myself that it's good enough, because you didn't pay for it. If you were paying for it, it'd never be good enough to satisfy me, and I'd be a wreck. Let me take your money and give you a T-shirt in return, because I know that'll at least cover your body. It's not going to seem like a good idea at midnight, and then reveal itself to be a threadbare misery in the morning when you open your closet.

Do you personally buy single-issue or trade comics from DC or Marvel, or any of the 'Big Time Fancy' publishing houses?

I don't anymore. I used to buy issues in, like, high school and college, then I bought trades for a few years as a grown-up. But I guess I just sort of stopped caring? I would buy a TON of comics, and I think the bar was so low that I just got frustrated. People would RAVE about any comic that was merely "not actively bad." I also got tired of waiting months between trades for the stories I actually did like. That plus the soap opera culture around superheroes is just silly to me -- I started to feel like a poseur in the comic shop because I don't care about any of that stuff.

I still like comics, and I read them on occasion, but I don't buy them regularly. I just don't have room in my house for more books! I don't buy any books if I can help it. Which I can't always.

Do you have any thoughts regarding DC' and Marvel's sale of digital copies of their monthly titles? Price-points on-par with single issues, proprietary file formats, subscription fees, that sort of thing?

Dustin Harbin just wrote a great piece about this on his blog, from the perspective of someone who's worked in retail for a long time. I don't have the same kind of perspective, but what I do have is no particular interest in either the success or failure of mainstream superhero comics as an institution.

So my dispassionate opinion, I guess, is that it makes sense. If you want to reach more readers, you have to take your material to where they are. I was home sick the other day with nothing to do, so I downloaded the Comixology app for the first time and browsed some free comics. I like their interface and I read some comics I otherwise wouldn't have. I don't think it's a bad app or a bad idea, and if people want their fix of comics without having to store the paper issues -- or if they don't have any particular sentimental attachment to paper issues -- then I'm glad that they have a way to read those comics in a way that's convenient for them. If they're willing to pay a few bucks for that convenience, I guess that's between them and the marketplace.

What I might do, if I loved comics and there was a sufficient backlog to make it worthwhile, is pay a Netflix-like subscription fee to read whatever comics I wanted on my iPad, whenever I wanted. I could finally read some famous old Kirby story on a whim, or look up an old Batman story that was mentioned in an article. Or sit and read decades of Peanuts without having to pull out my Fantagraphics books (I have them AND the old paperbacks from the '60s, but neither are coming with me on a plane).

I think -- and Dustin made this distinction too -- if you don't own the content, you're renting it and should pay a rental or subscription fee. If you download permanently and own the content, you should pay a purchase fee. Those are the models that make sense to the consumer. And maybe there are in-betweens -- if I read an issue of Batman on my subscription account that I really like, and I want to keep it in my local archive, I can pay a quarter and keep that one indefinitely. Get me DC on the phone, I got a scheme for them!

How to you feel about "Comics Piracy" as a concept and practice? I'm mostly just referring to scans and torrent/P2P sharing, but certainly you would have some experience with aggregator pages bleeding your page views, as well.

[Note: You can steal single issues, trades, full series, long out-of-print stories and pretty much anything that's ever been copyrighted on the internet, including comic books. Though webcomics tend to be immune to this, having all their content online for free already. "Aggregators," however, pull the most recent strips from various sites and display them on one page without extraneous content or advertisements, effectively stealing page views from the website and therefor ad revenue as well.]

A lot of webcomics people get super up in arms about aggregator sites. Frankly, I don't care about them one way or the other. As Cory Doctorow says, "the danger is not piracy, but obscurity." I'm in a rarefied spot because I make my money mainly from merchandise, not ad revenue or floppy sales (both of which could be hurt by the practices you mention) but on the whole, any "piracy" that results in more sales (down the road) than it removes puts me ahead. Being a crank about aggregator sites is just causing a tempest in a teapot, in my opinion.

I don't have enough experience in the floppy biz to know how much the torrents and scans affect their business. Are these people that would have gone to their LCBS [Local Comic Book Store] and paid $3.99 for XYZ #431 if they hadn't torrented it? I doubt it, in most cases. Are they people who might buy the trade as a gift now that they've read the whole thing? If the trade's available, maybe. The problem is that the trades aren't always available. With print-on-demand technology now, I have no idea why every comic storyline EVER isn't available as a trade.

You've expressed, shall we say, a relatively calm but seething hatred for most syndicated comics. From what I gather, your qualm seems to be commercialism making the work artistically "bland." Would that be a fair statement?

I think "hatred" is a strong word. It's a bit of a persona, this crank who hates the newspaper comics. I actually have a great affection for newspaper comics -- I grew up reading them religiously -- but there came a day when I realized that most of these people, especially the legacy artists, were squandering an opportunity that others would KILL for. That's mainly the thing that gets me riled a bit. Imagine someone says, "We're giving you a 30-second spot on the Super Bowl. Say whatever you want, do whatever you want." And you use that time to say...nothing. You sit there and stare at the camera and finally say, "Men like golf, women like to nag!" You'd be the biggest idiot in the history of television.

Now, I've been doing this for long enough that I know: (a) It's incredibly hard to be incisive every single day of your life. (b) It's incredibly hard to produce good work when you feel you are beholden to a huge cross-section of readers. (c) It's incredibly hard to take risks when you're extremely comfortable. I don't think the comics page is necessarily the appropriate place to be risky, so I don't, like, make this a crusade...but the REASON the comics page isn't the appropriate place to be risky is that it's been systematically dumbed down for decades. So at this point it's just fun to make fun of the fogies, I guess.

Jim Davis has retired from drawing new "Garfield" strips. (Let us ignore "Life According to Garfield.") Jim calls you up and says, "Dave !, save newspaper comics. Take my cat, please!" He tells you you can script and draw anything you want, save for gore, nudity, and profanity. Would you take the job?

No. I have things of my own to say that don't involve Garfield. I get what you're saying, and it's an interesting pickle, although complicated by the fact that the Garfield brand image in particular has to maintain a BILLION-dollar industry.

But let's say the Browne estate wanted to hand me Hägar the Horrible. THAT, I might take. Why not? I could turn that into something Achewood-esque.

You have your own merchandise, collected editions, and all your work with TopatoCo. [NOTE: TopatoCo is a sort of webcomics collective merchandising site owned and operated by Jeffrey Rowland of Wigu and other artists including Malki, designed to provide a resource for artists to design, sell, and ship their own merchandise without necessarily having to regulate every part in the process themselves.] Webcomics for many years had a stigma of being less 'legitimate' because the artists also sell merchandise, despite the likes of a myriad of Garfield and Peanuts licensing arrangements, and pretty much everything by DC and Marvel ever. Do you think this double standard was because webcomics are independently run? Is monetizing the same as "selling out" or more noticeable at that scale?

For one thing, I think if there is a stigma, it's a manufactured one. I don't think there's enough of a general webcomic audience to have a consensus on the issue, although there are always loudmouths of every stripe. The only time anyone gets riled up about anyone "selling out" in any medium, ever, is when they feel someone is enjoying undeserved success. In webcomics, where success comes in many flavors, someone who's spent a ton of time refining a wonderful drawing style might look at xkcd and think, "I deserve more success than him." Someone who's an editorial cartoonist performing A Valuable Service To Our Political Dialogue might look at a flighty gag cartoonist and think, "I deserve the kind of success that she's enjoying." There's always somebody feeling like they're getting a raw deal, especially because there's no proscenium arch that webcomics pass under that anoints them with Legitimacy -- in other words everybody feels they're every bit as deserving or legitimate as someone else. That's usually good, because it really is a meritocracy, and you can really just start from scratch and do something amazing and get somewhere with it. That's awesome and cool and valuable to the artform and the culture.

"There's nothing ethically wrong with designing T-shirts
I personally think "selling out" involves compromising the integrity of your message to
make it commercially palatable. I think Peanuts sold out when Charlie Brown started smiling on greeting cards. That's not the Charlie Brown that the comics portrayed; that's a different character, a more marketable character. But is there an ethical component to that? Ultimately the only person to whom the integrity of Peanuts has to answer is Charles Schulz, and he was okay with it. We comic fans can be disappointed by the decision, but millions of greeting card fans may have been delighted by it. T-shirt design is a good gig too. Plenty of people try to design funny T-shirts without even going through the formality of making an unrelated comic first. There's nothing ethically wrong with designing T-shirts.

I'll even go a step further and say there's nothing ethically wrong with pandering to an audience. There are greeting cards -- like that Maxine character -- that are ALL ABOUT pandering to an audience. There's literally nothing more to it; it's a narrative constructed for the express purpose of pandering to a card-buying public. Again, the question comes back to the author. A work attracts the kind of audience that is appropriate for it. If the work is shallow and pandering and cheap, the audience that comes to it will be the kind of people for whom that kind of work is the cat's meow. Is that the audience you want to surround yourself with and build a career atop? If so, fine, but know that's the bargain you're going into.

Speaking of TopatoCo, I read an interview you did with Shane Peterman for CNN in which you said, "The shirt shows the exclusivity and uniquenes of the wearer.…It makes them super cool." I've been thinking about that a lot in regards to my Questionable Content "IRONY" shirt I picked up a few years back. Am I cool because I wear a shirt that says "irony" blatantly when I am expected to wear an ironic t-shirt, which is not ironic, but is then ironic for not being ironic? Or am I cool because I have a shirt from something more obscure than Metallica? (Side note: Is it cool that I once dated a girl because she recognized the reference, or does it just sound like nerd bragging?)

The "irony" of the IRONY shirt is that it's not actually ironic. Shirts like that are designed to be read acontextually, and if it's recognized by someone else then it's just a bonus, like if you see someone driving your same model Saab. You wave. It's cool. It's not designed to be a tribal marker per se, but what it can be is an exclusive thing, a joke that your social circle hasn't seen yet. It's the same as being first to post a meme to your circle of friends. You're the cool guy. So to speak. (Did the relationship work out? No? SHOCKING)
[Note: It absolutely did not work out, but the immediate cause was distance. Being asocial nerds without social skills or outward displays of emotion was more of a subtle undercurrent.]

Finally, do you see major comic houses like DC, Marvel and Dark Horse surviving the next 20 years, and if so how? Could they change their business models, or will they just cling to the old ones in desperation until the last paper mill is demolished by iPad-driven bulldozers powered by flash-cloned whale oil?

DC is owned by Warner Brothers. Marvel is owned by Disney. They'll survive. The Muppets and Winnie the Pooh are still around, shadows of whatever they once were, decades after being bought by Disney. They're brands, and brands survive because brands make money for media companies.

Will the comics still be around? I dunno, maybe. I have a very foggy view into the future of the mainstream comics biz because I just don't operate on the same wavelength as they do. I don't know to what lengths they'll go to stay relevant, or what their priorities are. Telling good stories? Reaching new audiences? Or solidifying their hold on their existing market share?

The people I see doing better are publishers like Top Shelf, First Second, and Oni. These are people making honest-to-goodness books, rather than comic books. Graphic novels that appeal to people like me, who just can't be arsed to care about superheroes. There are still people doing good work for DC and Marvel, but I think the number of people with sentimental attachments to the tropes of that industry will surely dwindle in time.

As for Dark Horse...they're a different case. They, too, have dreams of being a media company. Right now the Hellboy properties and the licensed comics (Star Wars, Buffy) are their cash cows. They certainly make more money from their movies and toys than from the actual sale of their comics. So I'll go out on a limb and say that within 10 years they'll have been bought by an actual big-money media company as well. Hell with it...I'll guess Universal.

Wondermark continues to update every Tuesday and Friday. Malki ! is also currently involved with the compiling of solicited material for the upcoming second volume of the short story collection "Machine of Death," which you might remember from last year when it briefly ousted Glen Beck's new release as the most popular book on Amazon.

Stay classy, internet.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

'Hot Minute' Not Actually Equal to 60 Seconds?

This is awesome. ©Michael Balasis.
"You know who I haven't seen in a minute?"

My guess is anyone who left this room more than 60 seconds ago, but I'd also surmise that's a wrong guess.

Apparently a "minute" is no longer a minute, but rather an incredibly long time. What?

I mean I know a "New York minute" is supposedly faster than a regular minute, the same as a decimal minute was longer. And I gather a "hot minute" must be something of kin, more than a regular minute in some fashion, as I have the vague understanding that a "hot mess" and a "hot tranny mess" are somehow messier (and possibly less heteronormative) than your typical mess.

Still, it's like people who use "literally" in place of "figuratively," or–as I used to champion–"couple" as a synonym for "few" not necessitating precisely two of anything. The word is being used for something decidedly opposite its actual meaning. A minute I can count in my head. I can look at a watch if I need to. But a MINUTE, well, that'd be more accurately measured by a calendar.

Call a girl phat and watch her bounce on your junk. Tell her she's looking mad stupid ill, fresh, and all kinds of tight up in here. What you're really saying is she's "sexy," "smartly dressed," and "provocative, possibly with a loose vagina." It's all opposites.

I'm not against this, I'm just against white kids using this kind of language since they tend to, you know, enunciate the emphasis out of all the cool slang. "What is up, my negro? Have you heard about Jamal and Taniqua? That bitch be all up in his business like he owes her something, just because he is her baby's daddy. Strumpets, man, they be tripping."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How to Make Chess More Awesome for Kids

Kids don't play enough chess. Too many games involving a joystick, D-pad and about eight trigger keys. Not enough games about planning dozens of moves ahead of your opponent, at least not outside a Dungeon Master's (mom's) basement.

That said, here are my suggestions for "rebooting" chess as a game kids might obsess over long enough to pick up some patience and critical thinking skills.

1. Update the names: King is fine. "Emperor" might work for older kids, but we need to keep this simple to hook the younger crowd first, then age the game with expansion packs as the target demo grows up. After King should be "King's Girlfriend," "Wizards," "Battle Horses (Steeds/Mounts)," Fortresses," and "Warriors."

2. Twice per game, the King is allowed to move to any unoccupied space on the board (that would not place him in check) because he's the fricking king and he can do what he wants.

3. Since it would likely happen anyway, if the game goes over 80 moves, whoever knows the exact turn number gets to win by slapping and overturning the game board.

4. Speaking of "game board," another revamp. One word: "murderboard."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hippies Are Fun to See, Like Meeting Locals on Vacation

"Prithy, m'lord, could'st thou speak unto
mine countenance, as mine bosom has
grown a bit deaf of late."
I saw a girl the other day wearing some odd half-slit flowing skirt and what I can only describe as a bodice over a pastel-toned, mass-produced, faux-tie-dye, hyphen-laden peasant blouse. Her mother wore something that would not have been out of place either at Woodstock '69 or Germany 1520.

What, is the Ren Faire in town?

No, that's out of season. At least the local one, is. You'd have to drive pretty far to get to the other one, it's not even in New York state, and that's the better of the two. (The Sterling one.)

So you dress yourself in the dark or something?

Hardly. The corset strings to that bodice might have even required an additional pair of hands, though the girl appeared the type experienced enough to achieve usefully claustrophobic knots on her own.

She was just weird. And goddess bless her for it, we need more interesting people and more bodices in the world.

'Course there was another hippie girl  in last week who appeared as though she had not showered in several days, and smelled as though it had been several weeks, at least from a half-dozen paces, so, yeah, probably don't need any more of those hippies. The bathed ones, sure, though.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Happiness is a Warm Puppy…

We have a little note pad at work with this image on it. It's very cute. People forget that originally Snoopy was just a "neighborhood dog" and all the kids could claim partial ownership.

People also forget Lucy could be anything other than a stone-cold bitch.

Sometimes they even forget about the comic "Love Is…."

Apparently Charles Schulz at least always forgets about the Beatles song "Happiness is a Warm Gun," and the horrifying connotations it caries when applied to Peanuts characters.

This, for example, I found in two Googles.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On Cognitive Dissonance

I try not to bring my work home with me, or turn things I love into jobs; I don't want to ruin something I love my making a chore out of it, I'd rather compartmentalize. Most of my free time is just spent reading or going online on my Macbook, maybe playing around with my long-term book project.

Yes, the book about pop-culture, television, and internet culture.

And of course that has nothing to do with my jobs blogging and working in a book store, or the applications and interviews I have at Apple. No, no hypocrisy there. Those're the designs of someone who's got a firm control and and understanding of what he wants in life and how to get it.

By constantly lying to himself, apparently.
… and that look expresses my feelings at this moment perfectly.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Books I Thought I Shelved Until I Rechecked the Title

  • "Diapers are for Babies" - Family and Child Care
  • "You're Not Pregnant, You're Fat" - Health; Diet and Exercise
  • "So You Keep Throwing Up But You're Still Getting Fatter" - Pregnancy
  • "Bloodslut" - Teen Paranormal Romance (Actually titled "Bloodlust, but I was reading it upside-down)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Twist Magazine: "Have sex with tween idols. It's cool."

Found one of these at work the other day, restocking the newsstand.

Twist magazine seems to be one of those mags that gives out free stuff with their issues in place of running articles that are anything but rehashed fluff pieces.

For the record, those are plastic rainbow bracelets that cost about 5¢ per dozen, commonly referred to by the mainstream media as "Sex Bracelets," due to the notion that if a member of the opposite gender snaps off one of yours, you are then obligated to perform on them a sex act corresponding to the color of the bracelet, and by real children as "Fuck Bracelets," in that it is a dirty word and is funny and there's no better name but "those little plastic bracelets," never actually holding to any sexual responsibility.

I'm just insulted at

1. The assertion that "EVERYBODY LOVES BRACELETS." Yeah, sure. Everybody's doing it so you better jump on board. Off a bridge. At least Selina Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens love them. And since we're drawing attention to Selina's child-like head, recently post-pubescent body and apparently just Hudgens' rack–which we've all seen already online–we clearly know what sells and what people are talking about.

2. They call these "bracelets."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Faith-Based Guidance Technology

1. Some new type of weaponry involving wishful thinking and piousness?

2. The coolest fucking Christian in town?


3. A religiously themed American Gladiator?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ironic Book Locations in a Barnes & Noble

"No, we're not B. Dalton and we're doing just fine, thank you."
  • Books on back pain
    • Health; bottom shelf
  • WWII magazine
    • Newsstand; Current Events
  • "Get Rich Quick!"
    • 'Misplaced' in Religion; Bibles
  • "Wuthering Heights," (164 years old)
    • Teen fiction (which is incidentally equal in size to "Paranormal Teen Romance," god help us.)
  • Every comic book not in the comics section:
    • Allison Bechdel's Fun Home, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and Spiegelman's Maus in Bio
    • The manga bibles (religious, not artistic). [Two different ones, plus versions of Genesis and Exodus, but oddly not R. Crumb's fully illustrated Book of Genesis.]
    • All of the Simpsons/Dilbert/Peanuts/etc comics misfiled as "Humor" that are actually better suited as kindling.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Adolescence is a time of subtle nuances and blind, willful self-deception

At the local book store today there was a gaggle of kids about 15 and 16 years old hanging out at the toddler-scale round picnic table in the kids department, as there has been since the dawn of time (for that store I guess). They spent maybe fifteen or twenty minutes simply complaining about hipsters.


"Oh man, you know 'International Kick A Hipster Day' is soon, right?"

"Really? Oh my gawd! What's Yorktown going to do?!"

Ah, regional jokes. I remember that time, when Yorktown was a hellhole and we were awesome for not living there. It was great until a couple years after I graduated and a girl from my high school stabbed a girl from Yorktown to death because she was standing next to a girl who was sleeping with her boyfriend (who was incidentally also sleeping with said murderess' aunt, whose low-income, subsidized condo they agreed to meet at). But hey, I met a girl in college because of that. And then she got married to a nice Irishman. Yet I digress more than I meant to.

What stuck out in my mind was these children's … shall we say, "personal choice of stylistic expression." They were little scenesters.

Guys: both skinny, black jeans, black graphic tees, jet black straight hair all down and in their faces, black Cons, various facial piercings (ear, lip, brow).

One girl: brunette, baggy men's sweatshirt, dark hair, little round, mostly looking like the guys but pale instead of tan-due-to-ambiguous-heritage. The other: cute as hell, blonde, dark wash blue jeans, teal-and-white striped scoop neck tee with a matching teal knit beanie and pink stripes in her hair, and I think one lip ring.

Irony of them bitching about hipster: Through the roof levels. Not just off-the-charts, it's astronomical. You would have to literally be standing on the surface of a different heavenly body to read the precise scale of a graph if one were to graph irony over time for that precise interval of my walking past these teens.

I really wanted to tell them, too, to explain why everything they thing is shallow like a kiddie pool, all deep and meaningful when it's all you've ever known and yet immediately adjacent to a much grander picture than you've ever experienced.

But of course I didn't.

Firstly, they would have railed against me for calling them hipsters. I would surmise that to them a "hipster" is an unshowered, unshorn hemp-hugger living the bo-ho hobo chique lifestyle in deference to their tidy trust fund, eschewing Starbucks for free-trade grinds they fish out of their uncle's restaurant's dumpster or some such nonsense. I'm positive they would draw a very clear distinction between "hipster" and "scene kid."

Of course they would. No one likes to be labeled, especially a label they despise. What does it matter if they're driving around in a car their parents paid for, wearing $80 jeans and get to go to at least two different Sublime shows every year? No, they're not rich and tasteless. They don't all dress the same and wear ill-fitted clothing. They weren't all totally beaten up in grade school by the same guys who went on to be very good at extracurricular activities that involved running towards something in some capacity. Nope. Totally different.

And in any event, they're 16. They're supposed to think their kiddy pool is the hottest shit this side of Memento and Donnie Darko. They know how to swim without their swimmies and they're getting cocky. They've even learned how to look like they're just hanging out on the side of the pool when in fact they've very strategically found that one spot where the water jet is….

Who are we to pull them off of that water jet and throw them, boner-clad, into the deep end without so much as a swim test and a hot lifeguard upon whom to fixate? Let them grow up and be embarrassed about how they dressed and how they thought they knew everything when they were really provincial and intolerant.

We all were 16 once.

Monday, September 5, 2011

On Technologism

"Nook Simple," "Nook Color." Color, color, color.

Why's technology got to be all about race with you, man? I go over your house and you got two different charging stations: "Black and Whites" and "Coloreds Only."

Where's the fucking love, man? I mean it ain't like it's a Kindle or anything….

Sunday, September 4, 2011

You're 16, You're Beautiful, and You're Mine

… "Said Ed Gein to the trundled up streetwalker."

… "Not in 16 states, she's not. Perv."

… "Says who? Women aren't property, buddy! What kind of fucked up Pleasentville 1950s military-industrial complex white misogynist bullshit are you into, asshole?"

You're a creepy, creepy guy, Johnny Burnette, and I'd wish you'd stop being creepy at least once every 4 hours over the speakers at my job. You're more awkward than the Beatles song where the purpose of love precludes non-binary sexual identity.

Plus, you're totally not helping the tween paranormal romance fans not stare at pale older dudes.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

On Elder Abuse

I think I jinxed an old man today by saying "Hqave a good night" as we parted ways.

Poor bastard's not going to understand why his voice stopped working.