Dan Conover Takes On The Newspapers

As someone who as seen the “journalists vs bloggers” debate iterated a few dozen times more than I really care to, I’m interested when new factors are put in either side of that equation. One thing I have noticed from the journalist side of this is that they tend to mention virtues of professional journalists that I don’t really see much in practice. They talk about how how good it is to “be fact checked.” However whenever I’ve seen major articles on topics I’m deeply familiar with, they always contain egregious errors of fact. It’s the same thing with the idea of being professionally edited. If that’s the case, why are so many modern articles written in that florid, overwrought prose that is strong on “story” and light on fact? Is that really what that are edited to?

This brings me to Dan Conover. He’s been the editor of a newsroom and up until very recently he was a working reporter. He’s also been a blogger for a goodly long while, and groks the online world quite well. When he starts refactoring this equation, I pay attention. Here is Dan’s take on one of those unexamined sacred virtues of the newspaper world, the fact that they do investigative journalism. It’s really an interesting read.

How to REALLY Make Digital Comics

While I’m in the embedding mood, here is some work by a guy pushing the envelope with digital comics. I have to say that I found this the most compelling argument I’ve ever seen for the value of digital comics, and moreover it practices what it preaches. It actually out-McClouds Scott McCloud by presenting the argument about the medium in the form of the medium itself, but going much farther than Scott has on digital comics.

I also really like the point that too much of digital comics is about replicating online the experience of a printed page, and not enough about doing things not possible in print. This idea is absolutely the first time I’ve seen it presented, that print comics are about replicating the experience of time in space, and in the digital comic you don’t have to represent – you can actually use time as time.

Don’t read my analysis, though, go look at the thing. Arrow your way through it and see if it doesn’t completely change your perception of digital comics. I recently heard someone saying that you couldn’t read comics on an iPhone or G1 because there wasn’t enough real estate on the screen. This one flash presentation exposes that attitude as not being forward thinking enough. If the idea is that digital comics have to exactly replicate a 7″ X 11″ representation of a page, then you have already lost the debate. My thinking about what digital comics should be are going to be way different tomorrow than yesterday, and its because of this presentation. Nice work, Balak01, whoever you are.

Link via Scott Kurtz of PVP.

Porcupine Racetrack

Because my brother brought it up in comments on my previous post about funny TV shows, I have to agree that this is my favorite skit from any comedy show every, hands down. Yes, even above the Blue Oyster Cult “cowbell” sketch. The State masterfully assembles every cliche from the 30’s and 40’s cine,a – but not even real cliches but the cliche of cliches – and puts them all in a 3 minute piece, complete with music, choreography. Then , they top it all off with that bizarre surreal thing they did so well.

This was my favorite comedy show at the time, and 15 years later it’s still my favorite sketch comedy show. The average quality of the sketches is higher than any other show (sorry Kids in the Hall, Python, and Benny Hill) but moreover I loved the ballsy transitions between them even better than Terry Gilliam’s cartoons. It was a great show, and one that really could benefit from a big groaning box set full of lots of extras. If you like Reno 911, Viva Variety, Stella, Wet Hot American Summer and any number of projects that have come since, this is the crucible from which all those metals were forged.

Your Favorite TV Comedy

Through Wednesday evening, the Large Hearted Boy blog is holding a contest. You can win The Complete Monty Pythons Flying Circus: Collectors Edition Megaset, and all you have to do is to name your favorite TV comedy. 320 comments in, I was the very first person to name the Ernie Kovacs show. That don’t seem right. Depending on the day, I might also cite The State (also unmentioned in all those comments), which I stand by as being the single best sketch comedy show, better that Python, Kids in the Hall or anything.

You have a little over 48 hours from when I’m posting this. If you are at all interested, step on up and comment.

Umbrella Academy

I’ve heard a lot of recommendations for the Umbrella Academy comic book series. I read the first two issues of the Dallas miniseries this weekend and all I can say is “Wow!” I can’t remember the last time I had my socks so thoroughly knocked off out of nowhere. I also add my recommendation to this series and am looking forward to reading the first one, The Umbrella Academy Volume 1.

Update: Would you believe until I went looking for links, I had no idea that the writer was the singer from My Chemical Romance?

Taming the Collection

Comic Floor

I’ve been collecting comic books for approaching 40 years now and have amassed a few. While I’m currently working on organizing them and cataloging them online I have them spread out all over the floor of my home office. It is truly a mess, and it’s not like I enjoy having all this floor space occupied. It’s a situation that would get me an OSHA fine if I were paying someone else to work in it.

Via Derek Coward I got a recommendation for these stackable cardboard comic book drawers. Up until recently I had these boxes stacked up which presented a more compact storage solution but meant I could only access a few boxes at time. I love the idea of having my whole collection stacked off in the corner while still being completely accessible. I’m going to buy a 5 pack of these and give them a shakedown. As much as I like the idea and the concept seems sound, I don’t want to dump too much money in these until I feel confident they will do the trick. My first impulse was to to go nuts, but the more I read on their site the more little caveats there seemed to be, which gives me a little pause. It kind of reads in some parts like they are saying that bagged and boarded Golden Age books won’t fit in. That’s a problem, considering that I’ve been bagging a number of books and anything odd sized (like a lot of self-published 80s indie books) is just going straight into Golden Age bags.

I’ve been thinking about buying these for a week now and I still haven’t committed. I think the Collection Drawer guys need to work to bring the barrier to purchase down on their site. Their documentation is so damed complex that I’m not even sure what I’m reading. I can’t tell if these fasteners they sell connect two boxes side to side or top to bottom. I’m not sure if you have to buy 1 or 2 per boxes you want to connect. I’m not sure if you need the rails, whether you need 1 or 2 per box, whether those include the dividers. As much as I’ve been reading on the site I still have a lot of questions. This is about par for the course in the comic book retailing world. As long as I’ve been in this hobby, I still get surprised at how hard it is to actually complete the purchases when you have the money in hand and do the basic things you’d expect at a minimum in any other form of retailing.

Still, I’m hopeful that this product will help tame the mess I have in my house. I’ll try the first five boxes and see how it goes from there.

My Relationship with Google Viewed as Burn Notice

For the longest time I’ve been somewhere between nervous and terrified of the growing influence of Google. Any organization that feels the need to tell me that they are not evil probably ain’t really on the up and up. I used to not want to ever be logged in to a Google account and also search because I feared that they were building a dossier on me. As their toolset grows though eventually they got me, with Gmail and Reader and Analytics and such. However, as a devoted viewer of the best current show on TV Burn Notice, I have come to a realization.

Think of you, me or any other user of Google as Michael Westen. Google itself is Sam Axe. Google/Sam helps us out. A lot. Certainly the relationship is useful, and we/Michael have our bacon saved by them. However, Google/Sam is also keeping tabs on us and will gladly sell us out whenever there is enough to gain from that. We/Michael also know that, and we keep that in mind as we deal with Google/Sam. We/Michael keep the really good info away from Google/Sam out of self-preservation.

So, Google will be happy to betray us and the reason they haven’t is that they haven’t been offered the right price. We know that and can use them for what they are worth. Just watch your back, keep your eyes open, and don’t let them learn the real good information about you that would fetch a nice price. Then everyone can coexist is this stable equilibrium of betrayal. It actually does work out.

What If Phelps Didn’t Apologize?

I have the joy of living about 100 miles from where Michael Phelps performed his now infamous pot smoking stint captured on film. It turns out that it will probably have been the most expensive bowl ever smoked. They normally cost, what, a dollar? Phelps’ bowl will have cost him millions of dollars.

Via Avedon Carol comes an interesting take from Randy Balko. I pretty much agree with everything he says here. I don’t smoke pot, and whether or not it is legal doesn’t make a difference. Tobacco is legal and I don’t smoke it either. Seriously though, I don’t understand the moral outrage about pot. We hear so much about college binge drinking. It would be entirely possible for someone to sit down with a bottle of tequila and drink so much that they will lay down and die. This is beside the dangerous things that people do while drunk, but just the act of drinking that much can kill you. As far as I know, it’s not physically possible to smoke enough pot to kill you.

Put aside the medicinal uses for marijuana. Think through this situation. Imagine some young early 20s-ish punks are approaching you in the street and they look like they could be trouble. Would you prefer they were 1) drunk, 2) wired on cocaine, 3) hopped up on crystal meth or 4) high on pot? Of all those options, in which case do you think you’d have the least chance of them doing something unpredictable and possibly dangerous? Yeah, me too.

Firebug Lite for IE

Last night I had to do some work on the CREATE South website, fixing problems making it render funny on Internet Explorer. The first thing I did when I sat down to start was to google on what Firebug like things there are for IE. To my shock and pleasant surprise, you can get a simulacrum of Firebug on any browser via Javascript. It’s called Firebug Lite and it worked great.

I set up the bookmarklet that will inject Firebug javascript into the current page, and from that point on you have something very similar to the Mozilla plugin right there. I wasn’t doing hardcore debugging in Javascript like I have found Firebug to be so useful for, but it helped me sort out some mismatched <div> tags and showed me where the problems were. I had no inkling before last night such a thing existed, but wow is it awesome and useful!

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for February 11, 2009 – “Manufacturing Joy”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for February 11, 2009. I play a song from Amy Ray and another from 3canal; I talk about the dichotomy of thinking of oneself as a happy person but not actually being happy that much; I discuss Poppy Z. Brite’s Liquor books; about joining the Minicomic of the Month club; about collecting comics and about Danger Woman; I play one more 3canal song and then exit before my CF card fills.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

EGC Recording Tonight at 8:30 PM EST

I’m going to continue the experiment of recording my podcast and streaming it live. Tonight at 8:30 PM EST I’ll be recording and streaming it live via Ustream. In the immortal words of the philospher, “We’ll do it live!!!” Come join up, chat, and hear all the mistakes that never go out in the podcast file. Oh, the comedy.

You can always find out about things like this by subscribing to my FriendFeed account. That’s where the timely stuff lives. Onward into new social media experiments!

Update: Whoops, a button pushing PEBKAC kept this from getting posted until 30 minutes prior. If you are interested in this activity, you can create a Ustream account and follow my channel. Sorry about that! I’m still getting used to this whole synchronous thing.

Note to Online Retailers

If you have an online store with a shopping cart, it might make sense to do the work to make that shopping cart persistent. If someone spends 15 minutes filling that cart and then gets interrupted before they can finish up, comes back to it and finds the cart empty, they might just get pissed off enough to not spend that money with you. Bonus double shame points if the potential customer created an account and logged in first just to make this cart persistent, but that had no effect. Isn’t incoming business important enough to you to make this happen?

Political Thought of the Day

When I listen to Republicans talking about how unacceptable spending $1 trillion in America is, I would take them a lot more seriously if:

  1. The national debt had not increased from $5 trillion to $10 trillion when Republicans ran all three branches of the government
  2. Republicans had not been telling us over and over again for the last six years how important it is to spend $1 trillion in Iraq. I’ve decided that I don’t actually give a damn about Iraqi infrastructure but I’ve paid for an awful lot of it.
  3. The Republicans hadn’t sold us the Bush tax cuts on the really rich as a stimulus package when it obviously had the opposite effect.

Listening to the Republicans talk about what will fix the economy makes me thinks of this analogy: Imagine you have a friend who one Saturday night gets really drunk and drives his car into a ditch. He calls you up at 3 AM and asks you to come pick you up. You do, and he spends the whole ride home complaining about how you drive. He might be right and he might be wrong, but considering what he accomplished when he was driving, I think he should shut the hell up. I’m not taking seriously pronouncements about what will and won’t fix the economy by the people who were the architects of the meltdown.

Jonathan Hickman on the Marvel Podcast

Even as I get back into buying comics regularly, I’m still learning a lot about the state of the industry as it is today. I used to read the Comics Buyer’s Guide cover to cover ever week for many years. Nowadays I don’t even understand 2/3 of the things Marvel and DC are up to. I’ve been getting Daredevil and Invincible Iron Man because those were two of my favorites as a kid. This weekend I read a year of Daredevil and I have to admit I liked it better than the new Invincible Iron Man series. I really liked issues 1-6, so so on 7, but once this Norman Osborn “Dark Reign” nonsense started, the book immediately began to suck. If it doesn’t pick up soon, I’m dropping it. If Marvel’s big idea is to make their universe such an unpleasant place that I can’t stand to read about it, good luck with that. There are plenty of other comics to read that don’t involve Marvel.

However, I did listen to my first ever episode of the official Marvel podcast with Jonathan Hickman. I’m always interested in Hickman because he’s a homeboy. He lives in Florence SC which is about 50 miles from here. I’ll admit that after listening to him talk about Secret Warriors, I’m going to pick it up. It did sound kind of interesting, even with my general bad taste in the mouth of current Marvel comics.

Dear CVS Pharamacy

If you are going to lock up the colognes and perfume, and then have a sale on them, it should be predictable by you that people might want to buy some of them. When I went to the store at 38th Avenue and Highway 17 Bypass in Myrtle Beach at lunch today, and stood at the case pressing the red button every 2 minutes for 15 minutes, until I finally gave up and wrangled a person to come and unlock it for me, it did not make me happy. In fact, it might have convinced me that Rite Aid or Walgreens might be more committed to actually selling me the products in their store. Also, please don’t have a red button for requesting assistance if no one in the store actually pays attention to the “Customer assistance needed in cosmetics” announcements it played. At the fifteen minute mark I considered just pressing it non-stop until someone came as an exercise to see if anyone would.

In short, if you lock up merchandise to keep it from being stolen and you ignore messages that people want to buy it, you absolutely deserve to never sell any again. Get rid of that case and use the space to stock more Valentine candy, because you aren’t good with high margin items.

Tables vs. CSS, Round 732

Over three years ago, I wrote a rant about the difficulties of using pure CSS for layout. That post got some Google traction and still slowly collects comments. Today via Signal vs Noise I saw another person saying much the same thing years on, that yes doing layout in pure CSS is more pure and technically correct but using tables gets it done and allows you to move on with your life. Hilariously a post entitled “CSS Trolls Begone” began to collect CSS trolls almost immediately. CSS fundamentalists are exactly as big a pain as any other form of fundamentalist and for the same reason – disagreeing with them pokes a big hole in the purity of their belief system and they feel the need to “correct you”.

Listen, I’d prefer to do all my layout work in pure CSS too. When I read up on best practices, implement those and then test on 3 different browsers with 3 different results – I’m done. It’s too expensive and out of the range of feasibility. If you are so concerned about the purity of CSS, then make it your personal crusade to get the CSS layout support standardized across all HTML rendering engines. Until then, you can rage at me until your face turns blue, call me stupid for failing to implement layout in CSS, do whatever you want but I’ll do the pragmatic thing that works.

I don’t get to live in the world of theory and optimality. I’m here on the ground, with deadline and timelines and finite resources and bills to pay on top of an endless array of projects I’d like to do. I need to get shit done and off my plate for new shit to come in. If I can do that by hacking a table in 20 minutes, when 4 hours of CSS layout work still leaves me with a non-scalable layout that renders differently in IE than Firefox then Safari, I’m going low tech.

CSS troll comments routed to /dev/null because my resources are finite and life is too short.

Liz Baillie Minicomic of the Month

For a complete lark, I just joined the Liz Baillie Minicomic of the Month Club. It seems like an interesting experiment in spurring creativity, throwing a bone to an interesting artist and getting some good stuff in the bargain. I heard about this deal on Indie Spinner Rack #146 and on a whim I decided to fire it up. I’m looking forward to getting my first package.