Thursday, May 31, 2007

Stick figures!

It's really quite amazing how much one can do just with stick figures. They can be so full of personality even though they're just a few often dimensionless lines. It's all in where you put the lines.

Joel Priddy's got some brilliant stick figures. He's perfectly capable of something more, but sometimes less is more. And not just as a Unix joke.

xkcd also occasionally shows off something more than stick figures but has so much fun with them there's really no need.

I was trying to draw the panel I wanted for my comics. It seems I still can't draw humans, so in giving up, I started drawing it with cats, which I'm much more practiced with.

Well, okay, the one with the Etch-a-Sketch could use a little help. But then I started doodling the stick figures.

Wow. They sure are fun. A little silly, a little bit of the look of Journey to the End of the World to them, not that that was the attempt. Even with them I tend to fiddle with them after they're done.

I found some new stick figures which are at Not Available Comics. I haven't determined if they stick figures are because he can, like those above, or because he needs to, like me, but they still have a bit of fun.

So that was the point, to tell about the new stick figures I found, but I also really wanted to share how much fun it is to do your own.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Where's that cuckoo's nest?

You have to watch out for political cartoonists. They took down Boss Tweed and they'll go after any other corruption they might perceive. Obviously, you've got to watch Ted Rall.

Maybe they just had so many phones to tap that they had to send the inept guys off on the ridiculous tasks? And this presumably isn't even part of the warrantless wiretapping since it was by the NYPD rather than anyone at a federal level.

Letters from Iwo Jima

This evening I went to another movie presented for a local history class but open to the community. Tonight they had Letters from Iwo Jima for the class as well as the screenwriter, Iris Yamashita, on hand to introduce it and answer questions afterwards. I have still not seen the movie to which this is the companion film.

The film work is odd. Of course, using color to starkly differentiate one environment from another is one of the first things that was done when color was new (as in the Wizard of Oz), but this is not exactly that sort of thing. It is done more like the manner in which the eye operates in that the color fades away as things become dark, with the bright red of a flag the last to go. At night or in the caves the color almost completely vanishes. Then the battle comes closer and a sudden flash fills the screen with reds and yellows for a moment.

It is an interesting way to treat a film.

This moment of the war finds two leaders, including the general, who have had some experience in the country that they are fighting. At first the film seems to be glorifying their somewhat unstereotypical outlook, or at least making these men who have American influence seem somehow more sensible for it. By the end of the film, though, they have found the same honor as their compatriots and there is most definitely nothing sensible about anything. One man even survives. He is no better or worse for it, this is just so.

We may not understand suicide over fighting a losing battle. I certainly couldn't. It seems to me that if you're going to fight a war, you're just helping out the enemy by this sort of honor. By her comments during the question and answer, the screenwriter also does not agree with this honor. However, the movie she has put together does not truly make the judgement call. In many ways, on this point, you bring from it what you take into it, a very amazing accomplishment.

The point is not who is wrong or right. The point is that with all the differences, they really are all people with the same thoughts and fears and hopes and dreams when you get down to the meat of it. Those on the island all faced death in different ways based on their different influences, but in the end they (nearly) all died. They had jobs and loved ones and even goodness and fears, each one a precious life lost. Lost for what?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Pinky & Stinky

I took advantage of a recent sale at Top Shelf and the loot included Stinky & Pinky by James Kochalka.

This is the story of two pigs who will be the first pigs to Pluto! Unfortunately they crash landed on the moon long before they got there. Poor little pigs.

The crash is just their first hardship as they meet the astronauts that work on the moon and the moon men that live below the surface. But because they are cute and brave they are able to win against adversity with a happy conclusion (for now).

This is a darling bit of candy in comic book form. The lines are simple and bold forming into expressive images in navy blue and white. Background and foreground objects are captured without any shading yet are still easily recognized even when the lighting of the environment changes. I am impressed with how easily the simple art captures each scene.

The story is light and fun. Meant only to entertain and it fulfills that purpose beautifully. I enjoyed it from start to finish.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Slowing down

It seems that Mushishi volume 2 is not on store shelves yet even though it should be two weeks old by now. If you click that link you might notice that this is because it is now on a six month schedule instead of a three month schedule...


I suppose it actually comes out every eight to ten months (depending on extras) in Japan but they already have eight volumes of Mushishi goodness and we only have one so it's hard not to be jealous.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bipolar intelligence disorder

I went ahead and clicked on a scans daily link from Journalista today...

I thought I didn't care for the various team things with Superman and Batman because I primarily only like Batman in the first place and probably only a select group of those. Batman is just not a team player so him getting stuck into a team is just conflicting to his character. However, in this outtake of one story we see deeper problems with Batman.

I was about to accept that it might just be conflicting with my idea of the character, a trap all too easy to fall into. Really, it's conflicting to character in general.

The Batman in this series of panels is a brutish thug. He's all about the mindless violence and in an unincluded panel quite randomly hits someone when any need for violence has passed. He is still asked to be the brilliant detective in moments, but it must all come down to instinct because the rest of the time he seems to be a cringing and brutish animal.

I'll stick to stories with a calmer, more centered if still a bit mad, Batman in them. At least his level of intelligence doesn't usually swing wildly to the extremes of the general populace.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Picking through the remains.

Got a couple of the free comics read that Saturday and the rest this Saturday. Probably the longest time they've been allowed to sit before becoming read.

Bongo comics brings the story of Bart learning not to use his imagination while Drawn and Quarterly let's Linda Barry encourage everyone to let their imaginations roam even in the everyday. One of these was much better than the other.

The comic guy was recommending the Dark Horse sampler. Maybe he remembered I'd asked him what sort of science fiction comics there might be ages ago? The three stories seem to be action driven. Maybe the last one is for Mad Max fans, but the second one is a science fiction complete with diner called "Asimov's". It also ends on a fairly grotesque piece of art so the superhero team, the maybe I Robot-ish thing, and the post-apocalyptic violence fest were all a bust.

Picked up Oni Press' Whiteout and an old one I didn't get in 2004 with the same author, Everest, Facing the Goddess. Both stories look like they might be a good read. The other side of the old one, Love Fights, is a bit making fun of superheros and I just can't relate.

Went ahead and got another old one, Free Scott Pilgrim, from Oni Press last year. After all everyone raves about it. I just don't get it. Someone will have to explain it. Remember to use small words.

Unseen Peanuts was Peanuts. It's aimed at the collector who already has a few books to see that there really is a reason to get the books which will eventually be the complete run.

The Train Was Bang On Time seems to take your usually straightforward Western setting and some somewhat straightforward feeling art and toss in shadowy organizations trying to solve an elaborate plot and toss out a few wild suspects to get you started suspecting everyone. Or was it the shadowy organization that did the elaborate plot? Maybe they were just one of the wild suspects, I really wasn't sure. Neither story nor art set easy with me, but it might be an okay read.

Finally the Virgin sampler, which was actually where I started. It starts with a retelling of the Ramayan which seems like a sensible way to plunge the reader into the Indian mythos that Virgin comics draw from. I should read it sometime when I'm less tired, though, as I wasn't ready for the vocabulary lesson. I was awake enough to realize the blue skinned guy was a god, but I'm sure even that would throw a few people. Then there's a fairly cheesy bit of levitation.

After that there's a fairly cheesy piece of, um, co-founder of the Eurythmics imagination? But it might just be my kind of cheese. What's with baloo? Then if finishes off with some skinny woman wearing streams of fire, apparently. The good guys are in red and the bad guys are in blue. Definitely skip that. But I think I will look into Walk In.

BAM! the Lego way.

Lego's got a gun...
Lego's got a gun...
The whole world's come undone...
Because Lego's got a gun.

Actually, that's quite a big gun, isn't it?

I can't say that's a change for the better.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Free Comics!

It's Free Comic Book Day and it's worldwide. Over at the site that tells you all about it, there's information on what could be there (provided your shop, like mine, likes to give you the choice of everything available) and where "there" is if you need help finding a shop in the first place.

Everyone is having events. It'll all be dreadfully crowded. So, go and have fun!

So you want to encrypt your DVD.

When a DVD publisher is preparing a DVD, one question that comes up is whether to encrypt it. This is an expensive process that doesn't add any value to the consumer. While most eventually do decide to encrypt, not all do.

The aim is to stop piracy. Pirates come in a variety of sorts. Unfortunately one of those sorts is organizations who find they can make a lot of money pirating things. They're capable of hiring hackers to find a way around the encryption (if there isn't something already published) and they have enough motivation to make this really a very small barrier.

Pirates also come in small groups or individuals that, for whatever reason, like to provide free movies on the net. They may not have any expertise, but add in one person who thinks it's fun to defeat encryption and they're quickly off to the races.

Encryption also affects consumers. Some consumers who are perfectly capable of watching unencrypted DVDs do not have the means to watch encrypted DVDs everywhere they might like to. This is usually, but not limited to, Linux users who at least sometimes want to watch a movie on their computer. It's a fairly small subset of consumers. Once these users were generally computer savvy enough to find whatever software they needed, even if it was hosted in Scandinavia. However as Linux flavors become very user friendly there are more users who may not be able to figure it out. For these people encryption can be a very large barrier.

Looking at that, I can see why someone would choose not to bother. Providing little to no barrier to the pirates you wish to stop while providing a large barrier to some small subset of consumers doesn't sound like a good idea. So why do the majority go for it?

Incidentally, all this reminds me of the telephone companies trying to charge for tone dialing. They had to put in devices to block people from using tones instead of pulses so they could charge for the faster tone dialing. Without the devices, they could charge for tone dialing but couldn't actually keep anyone not paying for it from using it. When you look at it from the standpoint of what is actually achieved, adding encryption seems a lot like paying to make sure the consumer can't quite do all they could do if nothing were added. Just like the telephone companies were doing. It didn't last long.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Anyone for tennis?

I'm not certain why this is a big story now. There seems to be a game on wherein someone tries to figure out the smallest program required to defeat the encryption DVD makers are putting on their DVDs. Near as I can remember, the one for HD DVD came out the week before the DVDs. Maybe that was a different encryption. Even then it was just one more piece of a very old story.

So someone at Digg started taking down the links to the actual code and users reacted by making sure everything was about a small bit of hex code. In the current round, the users have won over the threatened lawsuits.

And now for the bit of the LA Times story (User rebellion at unearths a can of worms, May 3, 2007) that sets me off:

That stance perplexed movie studio executives, who wondered how Rose could allow the code to be posted but block links to pirated versions of Photoshop.
"What the heck is the difference?" said Alan E. Bell, executive vice president and chief technical officer for Paramount Pictures. "These are the very profound issues that are just as important as the ones the users of voiced in their e-mails."

I really couldn't say how profound those emails were, but I know how profound this isn't. What is the difference? Well, let's say I plop down on the couch to watch a legal (and usually encrypted) DVD on my TV. There doesn't seem to be anything anyone could complain about in that, right?

But you don't see what went into being able to watch that movie. You see, the TV is a computer with an All-in-Wonder card and it runs Linux. Sure, it gets ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, 3 PBS stations, and a UHF station that plays lots of great old series. It has all the hardware and software to play a DVD except for one thing. The encryption.

In order to sit on my couch and watch a DVD on my TV I had to download software from something called the Penguin Liberation Front. They host software that contains yesterday's bad word in this whole discussion, "DeCSS" and they don't do it in the USA. Its uses include pirating DVDs. Its usual use is individual people watching legal DVDs.

So what's the difference? With a link to pirated Photoshop, I can illegally use Photoshop. With a link to encryption circumventing software, I can watch a legal DVD on my TV. One is not fair use, the other is. That's a big difference.