Thursday, November 5, 2009

PSA: Just Say No.

The holidays are looming large ahead of us. That means celebration, festivity, and frolic.* And as always, when we gather with friends, there's always the possibility of temptation, of doing something that we know we'd later regret.

So when your host opens that drawer and pulls out its contents, it's perfectly natural to want to go along, to not be the party pooper.

But this is not the time for comity or compromise of principle. As your friends and loved ones plunk down on the sofa, ready to take in the offered contraband, it is time to take your stand.

Warn them.

Stop them any way you can.

Under no circumstances can you call yourself a friend if you let them watch The Star Wars Holiday Special.

I'm serious. There are good movies, bad movies, so-bad-they're-good movies, and awful movies. Then there is The Star Wars Holiday Special in its class of one, where we can only dream of it being merely awful. If the dread Necronomicon came with a dvd insert, the first selection on the menu would be The Star Wars Holiday Special.

I have come back from that dark land, where Bea Arthur tends bar at Mos Eisley, and where Harrison Ford joins the final sing-along at the end looking like he wants nothing more than for a very heavy set piece to fall on him, to warn you.

Don't do it.
* - Whether you want to or not. FROLIC, DAMMIT!

Friday, August 21, 2009

My dream library project: Putting tools into as many hands as possible.

A public library, a good one, is always more than a mere collection of books. Libraries are a hub of the communities that have them. They act as founts of knowledge, crucibles of human thought, and the foundries of creativity. In a library, one seeking the tools to engage the world will find them.

With that principle in mind, picture, in the lobby of your local library, a box. It's open, with the top torn off like a supermarket candy display. A hastily-scribbled note taped to the box simply says: "FREE! TAKE ONE!" You reach into the box and, instead of candy, you pull out a flash drive. A cheap one, say, no more than 4 gigs in size. The kind they hand out as promotional items at trade shows.

You take it home, plug it into a USB port on your computer, and (perhaps against your better judgment) turn on the machine.

It boots up to a desktop that you've never seen before, but this is no hijack. You're clearly still in control of what's on the screen.

A quick exploration of the menus reveals what you suddenly have at your fingertips.

A full office suite. Powerful Photoshop-level graphics programs. 3-D applications, both simple and complex.

Game engines of all sorts.

And that's not all. There are audio and video editors.

And so much more, that it seems like, with time and application, one might be able to create almost anything.

A box full of these little drives, there for the taking on a library table, all free and legally available. All unasked for, but discovered by people who had never thought to seek these tools out.

Putting aside, for the moment, matters of funding such a project, or its feasibility. What wonders would grow from such a scattering of seeds?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Don't try this at home.

When a shitty, inexplicably popular franchise needs to be bashed, sure, you could just sit on the couch and mock it between handfuls of Doritos. But are you really bashing it? Are you applying the full spectrum of sheer scorn that needs to be heaped upon this insult to the collective intelligence of humanity? Or are you just winging it as best you can within your limited scope of insult humor while trying to avoid choking on a Dorito?

In cases like this, it's best to call on the movie bashing professionals at RiffTrax, for quality MST3K-style acts of cinematic destruction:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I am that which I used to mock.

So yesterday morning I found myself alone with both breakfast and the remote, my wife still feeling tired and having gone back to bed. I'd had more than my fill of Michael Jackson coverage (here's the latest: He's still dead), so it was time to head into the outer limits of basic satellite service.

At 5 AM it's mostly a trip into infomercial hell, of course. I had no urge to have the question "Is Colon Detox Hype?" answered, and so too did other such siren calls go unheeded. My normal refuge, Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, was showing something like Home Movies, a crudely-drawn sitcom featuring annoying kids, self-absorbed adults, and not a single speck of actual comedy. Plus for some reason everyone on the show, from the tall to the small, wears footie pajamas 24/7. Seriously.

Finally, shelter was offered in the form of VH1's 120 Minutes, which used to be the MTV show for the latest in alternative rock and pop. Now it's a nostalgia show, its content very much unchanged from the days when it came on after Headbangers Ball.

I had just taken a sip of my coffee and was nodding my head to the beat of the Pet Shop Boys when realization hit me: Here I was, wallowing in nostalgia for my youth, just like the forty-somethings I used to make fun of during my youth. Only now the bands in question were Sonic Youth and Depeche Mode rather than the Grateful Dead and Manfred Mann.

Ah, well. I guess somewhere in my brain it will always be somewhere between 1987 and 1991. It's the karmic price I pay, I guess: Leaving myself an open target for the next generation of smartasses, as those middle-aged men before me.

I won't be going so far as posting "The Circle of Life" or "Sunrise, Sunset" here, but I am willing to throw out some Love and Rockets:

And if I'm playing Love and Rockets then I have to follow up with Sonic Youth (with special guest Chuck D):

And follow that up with XTC:

And end it all with a bang with Wendy O. Williams and The Plasmatics:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wizard World Philadelphia: The belated con report

Yes, Bill, I'm posting it now.


I can be hard on my friend Bill, a cataloguer in Technical Processing, the department across the hall from mine. When I agreed to go with him to this year's Wizard World Philadelphia I had actually broken precedent by agreeing almost immediately, without hemming and hawing for weeks while he nagged and cajoled me, as I had done in previous years.

By affirming that this year I was in almost as soon as the subject was brought up, I had, in essence, taken all of the fun out of it.

Sorry, Bill.

After I ruined everything by being so goddamn cooperative, our preparation for the convention mainly consisted of me checking in at his workstation to take a quick inventory of the guest list. We checked to see who had been added and who had been dropped almost every day. I personally kept an eye on Artist Alley, scanning it for names I recognized and doing a quick calculation of how much I'd be willing to pay for a sketch balanced against my budget for the day.

Thus were the days passed until...

The Day of the Con:

Bill picked me up and we headed down to the train station in Bryn Mawr to catch the R5. Despite just having had breakfast, my stomach felt like it was going to eat itself, so I went into the station and ordered a toasted bagel from the snack bar. The proprietor was a nice, sociable fellow, who even sat down with Bill and me to chat while we waited for the train.

Great bagel, too.

The R5 came and went with us on it, and we headed toward Center City with great feelings of anticipation.

Once we reached the con we checked in quickly and headed toward the main floor. The Convention Center staff kept the lines moving, though each and every one of them looked like they had been forced to eat a bug after clocking in.

The first thing I usually notice upon entering a convention is the costumes. This time was no exception. Harley Quinn and Emma Frost arrived together and posed for pictures (no doubt fueling many a fevered fanboy fantasy). There was a striking Black Manta costume, in the helmet of which the maker had installed a voice changer, making him sound much like the way the villain did on the old Super Friends show. Fan anticipation for the upcoming GI Joe movie was evidenced by the clusters around Snake-Eyes and The Baroness. And movie quality renditions of Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and an entire platoon of Imperial Stormtroopers were an inescapable presence.

Bill and I tooled around the floor a bit before separating to pursue our parallel lines of fandom. He headed for Autograph Alley while I started scouting out the bargain bins for trade paperbacks. I kept my focus on series that I had already started to collect instead of trying to break new ground. I was rewarded with a copy of Grendel: Devil's Reign, which rounds out my Grendel reprints from the original Comico run. Other books were had, but Reign is the day's crown jewel from the bins, as far as I'm concerned.

From there I went to Artist's Alley, where I found the booth of my favorite cartoonist, Evil, Inc.'s Brad Guigar.

By a weird little bit of serendipity, I was actually standing by, waiting my turn, while this video was being shot:

Meeting Brad Guigar from Rafael Irizarry on Vimeo.

I love meeting Brad Guigar. He's a great guy, and gracious to his fans, even refraining from telling them outright that the gag they thought of for his strip was too awful to use (cough-cough). I make a point to seek him out whenever I'm at Wizard World and this year his book was the only one for which I paid cover price. For each book purchased he added a quick head sketch on the flyleaf for free. Like I said, a great guy.

I was a bit boggled to find only one vendor - Krypton Comics - actually selling comic art supplies. I mean, it's a no-brainer that artists and artist wannabes like myself are drawn (heh) to these events. You'd think more vendors would have twigged to that. Still, that one did was enough for me, even if they had run out of non-photo blue leads for automatic pencils, thus forcing me to buy the old-fashioned variety (grrr...).

On the downside, scarcity seemed to be an unintended underlying theme to the convention. There were hardly any freebies to speak of, mainly due to the absence of the companies in the best position to hand them out. DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, none of the major publishers had a booth there and pickings were slim. I attributed it at the time to the economy, but that wasn't the whole story.

More on that later.

Well, Bill and I fulfilled our various personally-assigned missions and headed home. We were generally satisfied with the day, having both gotten what we'd came for.


After plowing through the adventures of the Ultimates, John Constantine, and the Justice Society, and beginning to savor the story of the rise of the Grendel-Khan, I got to wondering about the absence of the major publishers. And not just in comics, either. When I had last gone to Wizard World there were a couple of game companies taking up a lot of space that dealers and artists were then noticeably spread out to fill.

With the high of the trip having worn off, I thought about some of the rumblings I'd heard from the fans and vendors. I was hardly the only one to notice the big companies' absence. One or two gone might be attributed to economic forces, but all of them?

Something was up.

I'm sure this is old news to fans who follow the politics of the convention scene, but I'm an occasional con goer, and my eye was completely off of this ball. Happily, I wasn't the only one disturbed by the omens and portents.

My go-to guy for the day after turned out to be the same as it was the day of: Brad Guigar. You can just hear the scribbling of signatures on restraining orders right now, can't you?

The fans had, indeed, noticed the absence of DC, Marvel, et al., from what was supposed to be a major East Coast convention. It boded ill for the future. Fans had even gone so far as wearing "WWP-RIP" t-shirts on Sunday, the con's final day.

Apparently Wizard had tried out its 800-pound gorilla status in the comics industry and came up about 500 pounds short, scheduling the Philadelphia con on the same weekend as the venerable HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina. It blew up in their faces as DC, Marvel, and more took their toys down south, deciding that the Charlotte con was a better use of their resources.

This led to some bloodletting on the Wizard payroll, as the people responsible for the fiasco were sacked and their replacements were left to try to salvage the mess left with only a few short weeks to go.

So the egg on Wizard's face was unavoidable by that point. In retrospect, it was clear that this year's Wizard World Philadelphia was a holding action. That notion was reinforced by the fact that Wizard couldn't even staff its own booth, leaving only the merest fraction of a display in place (never has the original cover art for Watchmen looked so lonely...).

The day after the convention, damage control was already underway. The Wizard World site put up next year's dates as June 11-13, a full week earlier than HeroesCon's traditional Father's Day weekend dates. So it's a first step in a walk back from previous mistakes.

Time will tell if the show redeems itself in the eyes of the fans.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Stalking ≠ Romance

I'll get to the matter of Wizard World and the good time that was had by all momentarily. First, as a lover of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a loather of Twilight, I wanted to share this video that was posted up at Pandagon.

Without spoiling it, let's just say that one Edward Cullen picks the wrong teenager upon whom to try his creepy "stalk ya/control ya/maybe wanna kill ya" shtick.

I really don't know how Twilight manages to get pushed off as "romance." Vampire, shmampire, the dude is a stalker! Even in these little re-edited snippets the guy is giving off a vibe of genuine danger. Not the old writer's crutch of "bad boy with a heart of gold," but an actual predator to whom the only logical responses would be restraining orders, arrest, and/or the business end of a shotgun.

Friday, June 19, 2009

All the young zombies

Wizard World Philadelphia is underway even as I write this. I get my shot at the place tomorrow (details forthcoming, of course). But I want to draw your attention to a facet of the celebration that had me scratching my head.

I like to grab me a copy of the Philadelphia Metro on the way in to work. While paging through it an ad for Wizard World caught my eye. This wasn't a difficult task, as the ad featured Terminator 3 star Kristanna Loken (a wise choice; don't get me wrong, I love the Guest of Honor, Garth Ennis, but, well, look at him, then look at her, and tell me who you would put in the ad copy).

But while Ms. Loken grabbed my attention, what kept it was the copy at the bottom of the ad: "Kids 10 & under get FREE zombie face painting!"

Who what now?

I've known for some time now that, as long as three or more are gathered in any social function, someone will set up a table to paint kids' faces. But I had to wonder: Why zombies? I mean sure, there's the gross-out factor, and... well, we're dealing with 10-year-olds here. Do we need more than the gross-out factor?

But there's more going on here, it seems. In addition to the smell of comic ink, there's the definite whiff of the charnel in the Philadelphia air this weekend. Low, guttural moans emanate from the darker corners of Arch Street, and the stiff shuffling of feet can be heard in the shadows of the Trocadero Theater.

Wherein the Philly Zombie Beach Party is taking place.

And while I'm sure everybody wants to get in on the act, it's only open to zombies who are 21 and over.

Sorry kids. Back to scaring the neighbors.

UPDATE: OK, they won't be knocking back zombies with the grownups at the shindig, but it turns out that this ain't no "soccer-mom-with-a-tray-of-greasepaint" setup for the facepainting. This is professional caliber movie makeup.

Let me put it this way: If I came home with a face like that, nobody could blame my wife for using the only logical response:

She's got the knives and everything. Seriously.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


A classic Sesame Street song about the diversity of human experience.

With the notable exception of the lactose intolerant. Heavy. ;p

Test drving the 1.23 viewer.

So after much hype and ballyhoo, the 1.23 viewer is upon us, tool of the Great Sanitization, wherein all of SL's adult content has been moved to its own continent. This puzzles me because, well, SL is only meant for adults anyway. Why are we protecting adults from adult content?

My personal theory, uncontaminated by research or verified facts, has less to do with any squicky feelings residents might have regarding the more intimate side of the human experience than it does with corporate sensibilities. Coca-Cola isn't going to want Jodi's Fetish Castle as a neighbor in the virtual world anymore than in the real one.

Hence the new zoning scheme, which is all the new continent really is.

So what about the viewer itself? Well, the Linux version is still in beta, so not everything is smooth sailing in it regardless. But there seems to be a general cleaning up of the interface and it certainly presents better than previous versions.

Search is now divided into "PG," "Mature," and "Adult" (here we go again). One has to go into Preferences to enable "Adult" search (which I did immediately; I have no business in the adult sphere, but it grinds my gears to think, at my age, that someone is trying to tell me where I can't go).

My favorite new feature, so far, is the ability to set default permissions for uploads.* No more digging into each file to set permissions on a poster before passing it on to Karine, or, embarrassingly, getting the message "full perm please" when I forget to do so. So that'll speed things along nicely.

I have found one bug, and it's rather significant. I don't know yet whether I'm the only one who's experienced it (doubtful). Sometimes, when changing my av's clothing, rather than the usual changeover, I'm treated to the sight of my av disappearing entirely. If it's just changing pants, then it's just the lower half that vanishes leaving me a floating torso. This has never happened to me in previous versions.

Rebaking or going into Appearance mode sets things right, but still, it's an odd thing.

* - For the non-SLers in the readership: Graphics and other uploadable items can be assigned any, all or none of three permissions having to do with how you want others to treat your items. "Perms" can be allowed or disallowed for the ability to modify, copy, or to send them to someone else ("transfer").

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

'Ere, 'e says 'e's not dead!

He was being led down the courthouse steps in handcuffs. A hero to the nation for longer than most Americans had been alive, he was now a prisoner. All that was certain in his future was his day in court, and then, most likely, prison. He knew this, but, like the soldier that he was, he vowed to face the future fighting.

That future was suddenly shattered by the report of a high powered rifle. The prisoner fell, his life bleeding out at the feet of his captors. There was nothing anyone could do.

Captain America, the Living Legend of World War II, the Sentinel of Liberty, was dead.

And across the country, millions of comics fans rolled their eyes and said: "Yeah, right!"

Sure enough, two years later, the cynics have been proven right. Cap is back as of this week. Apparently for superheroes there's little to no difference between death and an extended sabbatical.

I'm sorry, but both Marvel and DC have drawn from this particular well too often for me to care anymore. Too many characters, major and minor, have gotten up from their dirt naps, brushed themselves off, and continued business as usual. It's past the point where nobody but the entirely uninitiated (like, say, the staff at The New York Times, who wrote Cap a nice obituary) can take a character's death seriously, especially if said character had a fetish for Spandex and liked to hit people.

Whether shot, stabbed (Elektra), blown to bits (Green Arrow), run down to a skeleton (the Silver Age Flash), or blasted with lethal energies (Supergirl, Jean Grey), and no matter how long they have been dead (Captain America's sidekick, Bucky, dead since World War II and one of the few characters defined in the Marvel Universe as being absolutely, definitively dead... isn't), sooner or later they're carrying on like nothing had happened.

It's actually gotten to the point where the characters themselves, heroes and villains alike, recognize that the Reaper is a round-trip local ride rather than a one-way express. In Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis miniseries, he plays with this a bit, as three villains at an underworld gathering discuss the passing of one of the white hats:

VILLAIN 1: Your'e sure Troia's dead?

VILLAIN 2: Dead.

VILLAIN 3: She'll be back...

Elsewhere in the room is a formerly-deceased time-traveling villain who claims to be a version of himself who slipped away a few seconds before he was killed. The headache you're experiencing now is a normal side effect of exposure to time-travel-related plot points. Just shake it off.

After the courthouse assassination, there's an entire issue of Wolverine working out his denial of Cap's death by infiltrating the secure facility where his body is being held to determine if he's morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably dead.

And of course, he is. That's actually part of the problem. Cap's death was so transparently a marketing strategy, meant to boost sales as Marvel paved the way for his eventual return, that it was impossible to take his demise seriously. No amount of histrionics over his departure from this mortal coil can obscure the fact that he has a guaranteed return ticket.

Really, it just needs to stop.

As a plot device it's become blunted and stale. There's no sense of tragedy (though the publishers treating us like we'll fall for this chestnut again is pretty tragic in its own way), and the drama of the moment is retarded by the fact that we know it just won't stick.

So the publishers have two options: One is to reserve killing a character for when they know they can deal with the actual consequences of keeping him or her dead. I don't think they can help themselves at this point, though. It's become a compulsive behavior to stand them back up after an appropriate mourning period.

The other is to just take it off the table. Stop killing the characters. It doesn't mean anything anymore and we're tired of it.

Case in point: Guess who's dead, right this very second, in the DC Universe?


You think he's going to stay that way?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


One of my favorite presents from last Christmas was a copy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home, which was the first chapter in the ongoing "Season Eight," a continuation of the tv series in comic book form. I was eager and curious to see how characters I had known and loved had progressed since the destruction of Sunnydale, but I was also a bit worried. Would the things I had loved about the show translate over into comic form? God knows I'd seen some horrific adaptations in my day. Did Joss Whedon still have the touch?

Happily, he did. It was like meeting old friends again (though I'm still pissed about Anya getting killed off in the last episode of the show). Jokes, terror, one-liners, and head kicks were served up in their proper portion sizes as Whedon once again showed that he knew how to keep me both entertained and guessing.

So you can imagine my surprise when I learned that, though he is credited as Buffy's creator, Whedon doesn't actually own the rights to the Buffy franchise.

That honor belongs to Fran Rubel Kazui and her husband, Kaz. As you've no doubt heard from the wailing and gnashing of teeth of fans of the series, they plan to do a movie relaunch of the franchise without Whedon or any aspect of tv's "Buffyverse."

That is to say, no Angel, no Willow, no Xander, no Spike. No Giles, no Drusilla, no Cordelia, no Oz, no nobody, no how.

It's probably clear from my tone that I think that as ideas go, this one sucks more than every vampire on the show put together. I know, the Kazuis probably saw all of that Twilight money and decided that they wanted some of that cash flow, and figured that their original movie was at least as bad as Stephenie Meyer's bestselling literary turds. They probably felt entitled.

Oh, and that original movie? The 1992 damp squib that disappeared from the box office like a vampire in sunlight? Fran directed it.

Suffice to say that I don't think the current rights holders have their fingers on the pulse of what will sell.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"I'm Zippy! Who are you?"

The source of this clip,1988's Comic Book Confidential, was on the Ovation Channel on Sunday night. If you haven't seen the Ovation Channel, think of it as a sort of an A&E Lite: Highbrow programming combined with the usual basic cable commercials for quickie loans, herbal male enhancement, and other dubious pursuits. What might be easily overlooked on, say, the E! Channel is rather jarring when intercut with a performance of Bizet's Carmen.

The movie starts off as a fairly comprehensive history of American comics, right up to the Congressional investigations of the 1950's. The best parts, really, are the interview segments with William Gaines, publisher of EC's horror comics, like Tales from the Crypt, and later, MAD Magazine. Combined with footage of said hearings and a piece of "investigative journalism" linking comics and juvenile delinquency (replete with a good ol' fashioned book burning), one gets a clearer idea of how much comics as a medium were stunted and censored just as they were beginning to move beyond superheroes.

That story alone would have made for a great movie, but, alas, that wasn't meant to be. Instead we get the longest piece of the film (or did it just seem to go on forever?) revolving around the underground comics scene of the 1960's. I got the impression that the entire movie was leading up to this.

So after spending time with Harvey Pekar and Robert Crumb, I would have been content and ready to move on to the next subject, with Art Spiegelman as an extra treat.

But sadly, no. This was not meant to be. I mean, you also need to see Lynda Barry! And Victor Moscoso! And Sue Coe! And more and more!

Mainstream comics rate an occasional "meanwhile" as the indie parade marches on. I admit that I boiled a little when I saw titles like Matt Wagner's art deco crime drama Grendel: Devil by the Deed and Mike Baron and Steve Rude's slick science fiction saga Nexus being lumped in (via montage) as more of that silly superhero stuff. The project seems to quickly devolve into promoting a film student's vision of the future of comics: Artsy, experimental, and often impenetrable to the casual reader.

Needless to say, it gets old with a quickness. Pity, too. It was such a promising start.

There's unintentional irony at the end, where Frank Miller pronounces the inevitable doom of the superhero, this two years after he helped change the game with the publication of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

The Dark... Knight? I seem to have heard that somewhere before. Oh, what does it matter, twenty years after the predicted demise of superheroes...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Breaking Radio Silence

Fifteen days without blogging seems like long enough. Let's see... any news?

  • Well, for the Friday Tournament on the 8th I had the honor of being on the receiving end of Abbiee Benazzi's first win as a heavyweight. I feel I put in a good effort, keeping pace with Abbiee for four out of five rounds, but it was the last one that killed me. It was a good match, and Abbiee is good people. Look for her to be going for Cal's title before long.
  • In more recent developments, I see that Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) has introduced legislation to revoke the ban on online gambling in the US. Despite its global reach, Linden Labs was subject to the ban as an American company. I remember a lot of SL casinos going poof as makers regrouped to figure out games that wouldn't be in violation of the letter of the law. It remains to be seen if a change in the law would also result in a change in Linden Labs' policies, but I'll bet some current and former casino operators are going to be watching this new legislation closely.
  • I've been re-officed. I found some low-prim yet nice-looking houses at Yadni's Junkyard, and Karine took the beach house and Egyptian models and added them to the landscape at Averlast Vegas. The beach house I occupied as office/studio space was a bit of a fixer-upper (no connection between the floors, so Karine added a teleporter), but as prices go, it's hard to argue with "free." Plus the builds are so nice you wouldn't think they were freebies. Other models include a lighthouse (tempting, but the interior was too small for my purposes), a SoHo artists' loft (two variations, one with graffitti and one without), and a Japanese tea house. My personal favorite is the mini movie theater, which includes a media screen, seats four, and has a classic sign on the outside. They were built with tiny plots of land in mind, which explains their size.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I know Trekkies.

And I say to them, with love, that when Life Imitates Onion, it's time to pause and reflect.

Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'

I'm serious. The only people I've heard from who don't like the new Star Trek movie are hardcore, exclusionist Trek fans and Daniel Holloway, the putz reviewer in the Daily Metro who likes nothing anyway.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Give it up for the ladies.

The Sisterhood of the Squared Circle had a good night last night. Both of the two Feverlast bouts scheduled were male vs. female with the female coming out on top (India Nadeau scoring a knockout in her first match, followed by Ardsley Ballinger going the full three rounds in her fight to win by points). Follow that up with Shan Pevensey and Crystal Meersand having a serious woman-to-woman discussion with the original Averlast gloves, and in addition to that the official announcement of Abbiee Benazzi's promotion to the heavyweight division, well, like I said, it was a good night.

It's been a while since I've talked about the male/female divide when it comes to fight sports in SL. No doubt the idea of a man and a woman facing off in the boxing ring (or MMA octagon, just to give the arena across the hall its props) raises a few eyebrows of those not familiar with SL. So to emphasize a point I've made before: Physical gender differences in SL are entirely aesthetic. When it comes to avatars, a five-foot-nothing stick figure is the physical equal of an eight-foot-tall musclebound hulk. The upshoot of this is that men and women of all shapes and sizes can wade in with mad abandon and reasonably expect a fair fight.

People being people, some can't seem to wrap their heads around the concept of a level physical playing field between the genders. This can lead to something as innocuous as some promotions maintaining separate championships for men and women, but sometimes it takes an uglier tinge in the form of the guy who can't handle "getting beaten by a girl."

Needless to say, these guys don't stick around Averlast for long. They're seldom missed.

Personally, of my four losses in my official record, two were to women. Both I considered to be good friends at the time. One still is. The other... well, who knows? But that's a hornet's nest I'll stir some other time, when time has given me perspective on the circumstances that go far beyond the specific fact of her departure.

Before I close this out, no post on the women at Averlast would be complete without a shout-out to current Averlast and Feverlast Middleweight Champion karynn Windlow. Anybody who knows her outside of the ring knows that she's a fun, energetic, playful person and generally just great to have around. Her in-ring performance has earned her nicknames like "The Cheetah" and "Hyper K." The woman is fast. I like to spar her when I can (roughly once in a blue moon), because not only do I get the pleasure of her company, but I'm also pushing myself just to keep up with her. Not only is she fast, but also tenacious, and she will knock you silly if you let your mind wander.

It wouldn't surprise me in the least that the day she drops her Averlast belt is the day she's moved up to heavyweight. Then I might be facing off with her in the other corner for the real deal, so I'd better study up.

Actually, now that I think about it, Abbiee - a formidable fighter in her own right - started her heavyweight career last night by implying that she'd like to get me in the ring. Studying up might not be such a bad idea.

Um, karynn, will you be free anytime soon?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Little bits and things.

A few items of business to bat around, mainly because I'm feeling blog-conscious about not having posted anything in a while...

Jaunty Jackalope - Canonical has released the latest version of Ubuntu, so that means that some time in the very near future I'll be disappearing from SL and all related internet activities for about a day or so while I download and install it. In return for the long wait I'll get shorter boot times and (hopefully) general improvement upon perfection.

Morituri te salutant - While Averlast has made the move to mixed martial arts in addition to the regular boxing action, my own skills in that particular field of endeavor have been, erm, less than inspiring. But with a little help from friends, I've been slowly making the climb from "resident punching bag" to "nominal resident punching bag." For that I'd like to thank Crush, Britney, and Ferenc for the advice, sparring sessions, and suppressing their laughter until they could switch off voice.

"I turn the switch and check the number/I leave it on when in bed I slumber" - Averlast just made an advertising buy with SL radio station TurboDJ reaches about 40 sims with classic rock of the bang-your-head school, and I couldn't be happier with the arrangement. The DJ's and staff are incredibly cool people to work with (despite my inability to keep my foot out of my mouth whenever we talk). Desiree Whalen will be also broadcasting live from the Averlast MMA events on Saturdays. Just to give you an idea of how cool Desiree is in my book, I requested "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and not only did she play that, but she followed it up immediately with "Cherry Bomb" by Jett's old band, The Runaways. The header for this item is a lyric from Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio," by the way.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Some boxing posters from the past few weeks


This one was a bit of a rush job. Don't ask me why a disco theme, of all things. Zak Renfort was kind enough to take the pictures of the fighters when I couldn't get inworld in time to do it myself. I love karynn's "wait'll they get a load of me" smile contrasted with Ald's expression. To me that look says nothing else but: "One day, my army of atomic supermen will take over the world!"


This was a fun event. Basically all of our ring girls who were willing to do so got together to have their own mini tournament (Shan won). And speaking of awful-yet-fun movies, the poster was supposed to be inspired by one for one of those trashy Russ Meyer flicks (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! - yes, that was the title). I'm not sure I succeeded with it, but it was a fun little change-up from the usual two-person match format.


Can't you almost hear the strains of Also Sprach Zarathustra? Another fun one to make, and I had enough of a window to take my time with it.


I have to say that I'm proudest of this one, not just because it's part of a fundraiser for cancer that Averlast was proud to participate in, but also because it's a bit more of a technical achievement. A little playing with contrast made a lot of difference in conveying the mood of the piece.

Placeholder YouTube video until I can think of something witty or relevant about comics, tv, or Second Life

Eddie Izzard on the Death Star canteen, with Lego men:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"But the film is a sadd'ning bore - 'Cause I wrote it ten times or more..."

[UPDATED with expanded rantyliciousness!]

If I had a favorite tv show this season, I'd have to pick the late and lamented US version of Life on Mars. I know that I was in the minority on that score, but I found it a compelling, well-written show with memorable characters. And now, with its all-too brief life now over, I find that I might have had good memories of it if not for the ending.

Fair warning: I'm planning a lot of spoilers in this entry. If you missed the finale and plan to catch it when the dvd box set hits the shelves, or hope and pray that it turns up again somewhere deep in the cable channels, then I'm about to wreck your day. Again, fair warning.

He woke up, and it had all been a dream.

I don't care how you cute it up with lines about "President Obama and her sister." They made the whole series turn out to be the controlled hallucination of an astronaut in the future on his way to Mars.

To find life, of course. After all, how better to illuminate your cryptic show title than bogging it down with clunky literalism? Don't get me started on how Gene went from being a father figure to Sam's actual father.

He woke up, and it had all been a dream.

Anyone who's taken a creative writing class in high school knows that you never, never, never end a story like that. It renders everything that had happened before to the characters entirely moot. Sam saving his mother? Annie finally getting her detective shield? Ray getting relucatntly dragged into the 20th Century? Everything Gene Hunt did in every episode (yes, I have a favorite; Harvey Keitel was clearly relishing his role as the 125's boss)? Fuck you, fans, it never happened. It's like the producers wanted to punish those of us who stuck with the show for not dragging more of our friends in front of the tv.

And that's a shame, because I loved this show. I loved the music. Not just the classic rock but also the pitch-perfect "1970's cop show" incidental music that almost had me expecting to see David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser pulling up in a red-and-white Ford Torino. I loved its setting, at the dawn of the darkest period of the last century for New York City. Talk about a plot-rich environment. What would Sam had done when faced with a case that had, in our time, already become infamous? Would he be able to bust down David Berkowitz's door and haul him off before the "Son of Sam" could claim another victim?*

I'm going to miss this show, but I can't forgive that hokey ending. It was just pulled out of left field and to me reeks of lazy writing. I mean, did he hallucinate the parts where he wasn't in the scene, too? Just before the wakeup Gene sets us up with a line from The Wizard of Oz, giving us a warning of what's to come a second before it happens.

But here's the thing: Dorothy woke back up in Kansas, where she had started, a day after she'd left. If The Wizard of Oz had ended in the same way that Life on Mars had, Dorothy would have woken up as an undergrad at UC Berkeley in 1969 coming down from a bad acid trip. Not only was Oz the hallucination, but so was Kansas, the place to which she had spent the entire movie struggling to return! To heedlessly chuck even that basic plot element for a tacked-on "twist" ending violates an unspoken agreement between the viewer and the creators.

We want our stories to have meaning. Whether they end tragically, triumphantly, or enigmatically, we want those endings to be worthy of the trials of the characters we have followed this far.

Whoever gave this ending the final go-ahead needs to be dragged into Interrogation for five minutes alone with the lieut.

* - Yes, I know, 1977, not '73. You get my drift, though.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Andy Hallett dead at 33 of heart failure

I just got the word that Andy Hallett, who played Lorne on Angel, died today after a five year struggle with heart disease.

Hallett was the perfect fit for Lorne, who was a life-loving bon vivant more comfortable with a martini in hand than the hand-to-hand weaponry favored by the rest of the cast of characters. He brought to the role a knack for comedic timing and a certain panache that made him a bright spot on a very dark show.

And let's not forget his singing voice:

He will be missed.

Google Earth and how I use it.

Google Earth is a truly wondrous device, in its own creepy little way. The first thing I did when I downloaded it was to look up my own address and boom, there it was: A top-down view of Chateau Undercity. It was a thrilling and slightly unnerving discovery.

But when spinning the world like a top with one's mouse gets old (in my case after about the third hour), one starts looking for practical applications. Some people use it to find buried treasure. Some loopy-loos seem to think they've found Atlantis (which - point of fact - never actually existed).

My use thus far hasn't been as exotic, just your basic walk down Memory Lane without having to, you know, actually grab a bus or train and darken Memory Lane's sidewalks with my shadow.

All in all, the best way, I think.

When I was in high school I lived in a western Pennsylvania factory town that up and lost it's factory. Westinghouse, I believe. They left a shell of a building that used to be the town's main source of income, PCB's in the ground, and a deeply bitter taste in the mouths of the locals.

Just the place for a boy from the suburbs of Minneapolis to get re-acquainted with his extended family. I showed up, much like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air in reverse, and lightened everyone's heart as I stumbled into awkward fish-out-of-water situations and had madcap misadventures.

Actually, no I didn't. I finished high school and took the first chance I got to leave town for good. No thought filled me with more horror than the idea of staying in that undead town for the rest of my life, watching it shamble lifelessly on, never quite alive and never finally dropping dead for good.

But still, twenty years later, you get curious. My need to know wasn't bad enough to resort to desperate measures like attending my high school reunion (do ex-cons get sentimental for their cells?).

So yeah, Google Earth and Street View. I can safely say that, without awkward encounters with family and former acquaintances, the old town retains much of its old character. Which is another way of saying that it's still a decrepit shithole, only now the strip malls have closed in on the outskirts.

So curiosity sated and I never had to leave home for a reminder that sentimentality is often a highly overrated thing.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Finally... Feverlast

Tonight at the gym, after our regularly scheduled bouts, there's going to be a brawl staged to support the rollout of probably the most important product Averlast has ever offered. It's going to change the game as we know it, and make an Averlast fight a much more exciting show.

We're bringing in new gloves.

Those of you reading this who are not familiar with how Averlast boxing works might miss the significance of this change. The current brand of gloves, the ones that got the gym this far, are based upon a pair of freebie "gloves" that one can find inworld without too much effort. They're easy to spot, looking like a pair of fishbowls worn over the hands. Karine took the basic script, tweaked it in order to make it more suitable for competition, and then built the current gloves.

Up until now, these gloves were the heart of Averlast boxing. They triggered the animations, and were loaded with push scripts capable - at one time - of knocking an avatar clean across the gym. Then Linden Labs changed inworld physics, but that's not important right now. The point is that the push gloves have pretty much been the brand ever since Averlast started in 2007.

The Feverlast line has been in development for months. Karine hired a professional scripter and animator to make sure the job got done right. And he did a hell of a job, too.

Here's what boxers and fans can expect from Feverlast:

Resizable: The old gloves had to be "one size fits all" to make sure everyone was on a level playing field. While looking a bit on the big side for larger avatars, they looked like sofa cushions on the hands of smaller ones. Each Feverlast glove contains a "resize" script that a boxer can use to make his or her gloves more proportional without changing the effectiveness of the gloves.

More realistic animations: The "sword strike" animation that composed the old gloves' "big punch" has been replaced with a genuine uppercut. This and other changes means that the boxing looks more like... well, like boxing.

Damage and tracking of hits: The rule as it now stands is three ringouts equals a knockout win. Not anymore. Those punches actually "hurt" you now. Take enough of them and you'll be a crumpled heap on the floor. If you manage to avoid getting knocked out but still take a hammering, the system tracks that too, announcing the winner at the end. Yes, I realize that this means that "judge" will be an endangered job description after this release. [UPDATE: Karine informs me that judges will still need to be on hand and have several tasks and abilities under the new system, including being able to pause or stop fights if necessary - what, you expect me to actually know stuff?]

So tonight's the big rollout. As a special incentive to come in, the gloves will be offered at a special "one night only" discount to all who come.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Matinee at the Bijou

I saw on the news last night that one of the industries bucking the recession were the movies. In fact, apparently ticket sales are up a bit because people are looking for some kind of respite from the steady drumbeat of bad news.

As the report acknowledged, it's not an unprecedented behavior in Americans, who did much the same thing in the 1930's. Damn. That's another Depression parallel. Where'd I put that stack of dvd's?

Of course, moviegoing then and moviegoing now are slightly different species, even if you only count trips to an actual movie theater instead of watching a dvd on the couch. In those pre-television days, the movie house tailored its shows to be all things to all people. At the matinee showing, one dime for admission would get you a cartoon, newsreels, the latest chapter of the current serial, trailers (we will always have trailers), and, of course, the feature presentation. Maybe even a double feature on a good week.

Of course, those days are long gone and nobody should mistake this post for a desire to return to them (little things like World War II being foremost among the best reasons why not). But it's interesting to see that in hard times you'll find Americans taking refuge in a surefire haven for happy endings or, at least, people with worse problems than ours: At the movies.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Iron Man vs. Bruce Lee

I stumbled upon this bit of stop-motion madness and just had to share...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Speaking of female boxers...

This June, barring some unforeseen calamity, will see me at Wizard World Philadelphia. I went two years ago, and generally had a good time. The highlight at that time was meeting Evil, inc. creator and local-boy-done-good Brad Guigar, snagging a book and a sketch of Harley Quinn off of him for a modest fee.

This year, in addition to another planned meet with Mr. Guigar, I have another stop on my list: WBC lightweight boxer [UPDATE]and current International Champion Mia St. John will be appearing in Autograph Alley.

Those of you who don't frequent the convention scene might be scratching your head at the idea of a boxer at a comic con. Well, it's Autograph Alley, where minor celebrities look to make some coin on the sale of autographs and memorabilia. Last time I was there, I saw Lou ("The Incredible Hulk") Ferrigno, Dirk Benedict from the original Battlestar Galactica, and the Ghost Hunters from TAPS.

Come to think of it, looking at this year's guest list, I might stop for Jerry "The King" Lawler's autograph, too, if I can afford it.

But anyway, back to Ms. St. John. Right now she's ranked at #5 among female lightweights (scroll down). We have a couple of action and glamor shots of her hanging in the gym, so a new one would be a definite "get" for us.

Now if only I can think of a way to explain out loud how I work for a virtual boxing gym to a real boxer without sounding like an utter nerd. On the other hand, I am an utter nerd, and thus not an entirely unexpected entity at a comic convention. So I'll just work on not stuttering.

In the meantime, speaking of action shots, here's Mia St. John scoring a TKO win over Kelly Downey:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Just say "D'oh!"

So it's crunch time here at the gym. I have a bunch of posters and matching t-shirts to make, along with a number of pictures for the vendors. Since my workplace would take an understandingly dim view of my completing these projects while on the clock, that means I have to grab whatever off-hours time I can to do them.

As anyone knows, when you rush like that it can lead to mistakes. Take, for instance, my poster for this Friday's title fight. Zak Renfort had been kind enough to get me some lovely photos of champion Aldbaran Galicia and his challenger, karynn Windlow. I cobbled together a kitschy '70's disco theme, and that was that. Across the top a banner proudly proclaimed the upcoming lightweight championship fight.

I'm embarrassed to say that it didn't hit me until this morning in the shower: Aldbaran and karynn are middleweights.

Can you say "oops"? Sure you can. I know I did. Actually it was more of a facepalm.

So my morning forty-five minutes on the computer was spent fixing the poster and cobbling together the matching t-shirt. I have to remember to, I don't know, take a deep breath and think before getting to work on these things.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The DFH were right.

Twice as hard.

It's an axiom that women have to work twice as hard as men to get the same amount of respect. When it comes to the world of boxing, you have to break down the respect received into fractions. From what I can tell, women are practically invisible in mainstream boxing coverage.

When I page through the Philadelphia Daily News, my final stop is the sports section. I skip past the usual calls for the summary execution of Andy Reid and/or Terrell Owens (we hold a grudge for a long time in these parts), looking for Bernard Fernandez's weekly boxing column.

This week's offering contains Fernandez's usual spot-on observations on the local and national boxing scene. It also harks back to a piece he had done about this time last year on Rochelle "Little Rocky" Gilken. Last year's column focused on Gilken's then-upcoming appearance on the new American Gladiators, and this year's is centered around her work as a journalist in the sport. Her efforts in the ring are only mentioned in passing in both.

She remains the only female boxer to get any decent coverage at all since I've started reading Fernandez's column.

I don't mean this post to bag on Fernandez specifically. His coverage of Gilken is certainly more attention given to women in the sport than I've ever seen in a given issue of The Ring or Yahoo!'s boxing page. In fact, to get any news about the distaff side of the squared circle, you pretty much have to find a site that specializes in exactly that. And as excellent a resource as that site is, its necessity only underscores the relative invisibility of a sisterhood of tenacious and dedicated athletes in the eyes of the mainstream press, and that's just wrong.

Friday, March 13, 2009

You look in the mirror and see standing behind you...

Creepy Coincidence Department: For Friday the thirteenth, both PvP and xkcd ran comics about the Bloody Mary ghost story. PvP, of course, being PvP, did their strip based on Mary's pop culture incarnation, the Candyman. It's a fun study in contrasting styles, as PvP takes on the mirror ritual as the traditional test of juvenile courage, and xkcd, of course, figures out a way to hack a ghost story.

I love these guys.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I am so good to you.

As a reward for putting up with my pointless whingeing in the last post, I'm going to let you put up with somebody else's in this one.

You're welcome.

A guy can dream, or, I am a bundle of issues on two legs

The other day I finished a project for my department: Making fliers to try to entice people into using the bookmobile. Turbo-nerd that I am, the central theme revolved around the library's extensive graphic novel collection. Leave it to your local library to piggyback on the success of Watchmen for our own ruthless ends.

I made the background graphic from scratch, and I thought it turned out okay. I borrowed Watchmen's rigid three-by-three paneling (obviously I'm talking about the book now, not the movie) and featured close-ups of some of my favorite characters. The center panel was taken up by Rorschach, Nite Owl, and Dr. Manhattan, just in case anyone missed the point.

For text, I broke down some recommendations for borrowing, after making sure that each title was available in the collection. Overall, I think it worked out pretty well: Informative, brightly colored to attract the eye, and (hopefully) enticing.

Still, I don't think I've ever drawn anything without a degree of regret. It's not even a question that there are better artists out there than me, but overall adeptness isn't my issue here.

As I drew my panels with a borrowed t-square and apologized profusely to my coworker whose computer is the only one directly linked to the office scanner/printer in order to get my drawing transferred to my flash drive, I was plagued by visions.

Visions of non-photo blue pencils while spending a big chunk of my time in the GIMP to clean up the worst of the scratchings and erasure residue left by my HB mechanical pencil. Visions of india ink and nibbed pens instead of wrestling with the mouse and "Ctrl-Z". Visions of working with bristol board instead of printer paper.

And these thoughts, of course, lead to others: Real drafting tools. A drawing board. My own scanner. On beyond zebra.

"So what's the matter, then?" pipes up the straw man at the back of the crowd. "You want these things so badly, why don't you just go and get them?"

I could answer by citing the economy and my bills, but that only answers part of the question. Sometimes I do, in fact, have the money on hand to knock a few items off of that list. Even the scanner isn't entirely inconceivable, given how much perfectly good computer equipment I've obtained at Goodwill over the years.

The main issue is sticker shock. There's just something in my overly-cautious, working class brain that recoils at the idea of paying almost a dollar per pencil. Yes, I know, these aren't the #2 leads I gnawed on in the second grade, but that doesn't stop some portion of my brain from screaming "THIS IS A RACKET!" whenever I pore through an art supply catalog.

Don't even get me started on technical pens.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wonder of the natural world

No, this isn't going to be a post about Jessica Biel...

This little guy, the Pacific barreleye (macropinna microstoma) has been popping up on the internet just about everywhere for the past day or so, and it's easy to see why: Its forehead is a transparent dome with its eyes mounted inside. It can look through its skull in nearly any direction to spot food and avoid predators (or, as the video points out, eager scientists).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

A few weeks ago, Erewhon Yoshikawa hosted a set at Tiphares featuring the best of geek rock. One song in particular stuck with me:

It's a tribute to the late, great text adventures of yore, and even features a special guest appearance by Steve Meretsky, of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (computer game version) fame.

Text adventures hark back to a time when computer graphics, once one got over the fact of their very existence, were pretty unimpressive. Forget eight-bit color. You were lucky to get eight colors. And if you had one of the monitors shown in the video, you got eight shades of green, you lucky dog. We also had to walk five miles uphill in the snow to type out programs in BASIC, but that's another day's post.

Infocom, the company best known for these games, transcended these limits by encouraging imagination through vivid storytelling. They're still fondly remembered by geeks of (cough-cough) a certain age, and I'll bet that the younger generation of geeks would get what the fuss was about too.

G'wan, give it a try. Click the HGttG link.

Get that babel fish.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The ALA makes my day.

My department head gave me a bunch of new links to help me better serve our patrons. While familiarizing myself with the American Library Association's website, I came across a page that touched me to my geekish core: Comic book based posters to encourage reading. The noise that came out of my mouth sounded something like "SQUEEEEEE!"*

For verily, 'twas a treasure trove for both book lover and comic geek alike: One of Barbara Gordon, librarian and the original Batgirl, in her pre-Oracle days (yes, she's up on her feet) done by Top 10 artist Gene Ha. Also of note is a triptych of DC's "Big Three" - Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman - available as individual posters or as a set by painter Alex Ross**. Neil Gaiman's Sandman is also represented (lovingly rendered by P. Craig Russell).

Marvel's sole contribution comes in the form of the entire X-Men team, plus a couple of villains, trying to read over Wolverine's shoulder (is it really wise to do that to their designated berserker?). Artist John (Planetary) Cassaday is uncredited on the site, but you have me to point these things out. C'mon, Marvel, step up a little here. I mean, OK, nobody's going to buy the idea of the Hulk poring over the works of Marcel Proust, but Spider-Man got ragged on as a "bookworm" all through high school. Surely a little library love from ol' Webhead wouldn't be amiss here?

If you prefer humor to heroics, Patrick McDonnell's Mutts are in the mix, along with the library staff of one of my favorite webcomics, Gene Ambaum's and Bill Barnes' Unshelved.

There's more, of course. Plus a lot of other stuff besides. Go on and check it out.

*- For those of you who got that reference, no, there aren't any Johnny the Homicidal Maniac posters. I agree that it is a shocking and disappointing oversight on the ALA's part.

**- No, not Bob Ross. If you can find a happy little tree in Gotham City, then you've arrived just minutes ahead of a chainsaw-wielding Joker.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

So long, SLNN.

Well, they haven't updated their RSS feed (nor, after a quick check, their site) in months, so I guess it's time to take down the link to Second Life Network News. It's a shame, really. SLNN gave Averlast our first real event coverage, which no SL sports section has done since. Actually, I'm hard pressed to even think of other SL sports sections. This might be something worth looking into.

Come to think of it, as long as I'm being revisionist here, it might be time to replace the ol' profile photo. It was taken two skins ago, and I certainly don't run around in that hair anymore...

Who gets a title shot? Find out right here.

Averlast Head Coach Calvinizm2g Quan has worked out a system that adds some needed transparency to our title contender rankings. Check it out.

A number one contender for each weight class is determined at the end of the month, and then the numbers are wiped clean for the next one. This should keep things lively, and ensure that champions don't rest on their laurels too long.

Neo Kowloon

Probably my favorite thing about Second Life is the opportunity it gives me to explore the imaginations of others. I stumbled across Neo Kowloon some time ago, but never really got around to poking through the place until recently. Little did I know what I had been missing.


The main drag. Kowloon's garish neon signs, narrow alleyways, and persistent squalor evoke such settings as William Gibson's Chiba City from his novel Neuromancer, or the dystopic Los Angeles from the film Blade Runner.


The sim is apparently an exhibition piece for a firm called Jet Graphics, a Japanese digital graphics production company. Not surprising, given the professional-level attention to detail on display.


The upper level of the Flea Market, where sellers can rent a table to dispense their wares. The place also features a basement, which is below the sim's sea level. Since there's no way to displace the "water" in SL, the designers decided to "go with the flow" (sorry) and added a few fish swimming around between the vendor tables.


The inevitable happens: If there are comics to be found, then I will find them. Available for as little as five lindens apiece, these manga titles can be worn as a HUD and read almost like a regular book. They're formatted like Japanese books (a Westerner would view it as paging backwards), and are written in that language, which I can't read or speak. I like the art, though.


Neo Kowloon is a maze of alleyways, with both shops and set pieces tucked away within. Japanese sims such as this are a bargain hunter's dream. For less than the price I would have paid for just the coat elsewhere, I was able to cobble together a passable kung fu outfit with an eye toward future participation in Averlast MMA. That way I'm guaranteed to at least look the part up until the point of getting my ass kicked.

They also have living space as well as shop space for rent, but currently rentals are only open to Japanese speakers. The manager of the sim claims an insufficient fluency in English for the complexities of being a landlord to English speakers, but a search for bilingual "agents" is ongoing.


These steampunk-looking kinescopes are scattered around the sim. Through use of a freely available HUD (keep looking, you'll find it...), these devices will give you a cinematic experience that will help you unlock some of Neo Kowloon's secrets. Again, the narration is in Japanese, so I'm certainly not getting the whole story, but it certainly is visually arresting.


This shrine is another easily-missed set piece obscured by the alley maze. It's just another example of how the sim's designers reward dedicated exploration. The rich details of Neo Kowloon keep me wanting to come back again and again. I know that, regardless of how much I've seen already, I certainly haven't seen it all.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Guitar Goddess

Whenever I visit my friends Ghoti and Leena there's not usually a lot of talking. The pair of them have a little island paradise to share, and often it's just easier to sit and listen to the crashing waves roll in. Conversation isn't unwelcome - far from it - but oftentimes it just seems unnecessary. It's a very chill vibe, like how you'd imagine the atmosphere in a genuine island hideaway in the tropics.

But Leena and Ghoti also like to throw out the occasional URL, some prize from the internet worth sharing with others. Like a good guest, I try to offer one or two myself, but seldom can I match the gems they offer.

Case in point: Kaki King. I swear I'd never heard of her before Saturday night, when Ghoti directed me to this YouTube video, but now I'm an unabashed fan.

I have to link, because the video can't be embedded the way the other ones I post on this blog are. But do try to tear yourself away from my masterful prose (ha) and get an earful of this talented woman.

Friday, February 13, 2009

"His name was Jason. Today is his birthday."

If you thought the onscreen action was gruesome in the new Friday the 13th, you ought to see the evisceration it's getting from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes. "Unoriginal" and, more damningly, "not scary" seem to be the most common complaints. The lack of a plot is a foregone conclusion, I suppose.

I hadn't dug too deeply into the movie's background before my previous post on the subject, but in light of the "not scary" criticism I'm not surprised by one find: That it's the product of the same Michael Bay production company that produced the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That is, the same people who took a chainsaw-wielding, human-skin-wearing maniac, a family of cannibals, and R. Lee Ermey, for God's sake, and managed to make them boring.

Ah, well, I'll always have my memories...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why so stupid?

People get the damnedest notions in their heads.

Case in point: The card to the left (minus my, er, embellishment) is the symbol of a site called The Ultimate Joker, headquarters for a group of fans who were deeply impressed by the late Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight.

Very deeply impressed.

So impressed, in fact, that they want Ledger's performance as the Clown Prince of Crime to stand forever as the last word on the character. That's to be attained by forever banning The Joker from appearing in another movie.

Let me re-emphasize one word from the last sentence: Forever.

Yes, that's right. The premise is that Ledger's Joker was so awesome that nobody should ever be allowed to take on the character in a feature film ever again.

I guess I should be grateful that the masterminds behind this farce haven't completely run off to Batshitcoocoobananaville by demanding the same treatment for tv, direct-to-video, videogames, or comics, just the movies.

Yes, Ledger put on an extraordinary performance as The Joker. That doesn't entitle his fans to try to leverage the owners (in this case Time Warner) of a character that's been around since 1941 to turn it into Ledger's virtual tombstone.

Comic fans might find this reminiscent of the legendarily rabid pack of fanboys known as Hal's Emerald Attack Team, or H.E.A.T. This bunch was brought together by a storyline that told of the corruption, fall, and quick replacement (and not to mention subsequent death) of the Silver Age Green Lantern, Hal Jordan. In their quest to get their hero reinstated, H.E.A.T. became known on message boards as the most obnoxious pack of trolls one would ever likely meet. They would take on anyone - verbally, that is - in their quest to restore the honor, integrity, and power ring of Hal Jordan.

Jordan was eventually restored as the Green Lantern, but not so much through H.E.A.T.'s efforts as the forces of nostalgia prevalent as comics try to hang on to a rapidly aging readership. There's a reason why they call it "comic book dead" these days. Even friggin' Bucky is running around, hale and hearty, and he died during World War II.

Still, H.E.A.T. was able to call it a win, and I'm seeing a lot of that same impulse in the Ultimate Joker people. The main difference, however, is that H.E.A.T. had history and market forces on its side in lobbying to restore a character. Ultimate Joker is taking the opposite approach, trying to restrict the use of a popular, even iconic character using an argument that would amount to "just because".

Imagine you're an executive at the relevant department of Time Warner, in charge of developing the next big Batman extravaganza. How much weight would you put behind a petition that implores you to not use a character that's been a proven moneymaker for your company?

And imagine again the implications of this proposed ban. Whether the current Batman franchise staggers like its predecessor (requiring another reboot a'la Batman Begins), or continues, James Bond-like, into the foreseeable future, sooner or later there's going to be a demand for the return of The Joker. A ban on the character makes no sense for either the business of the Batman movies or the fans of same.

Especially not "just because".

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Second Life News pays Averlast a visit and likes what it sees.

I know, the article's more than a week old. I really need to keep up with the news...

BTW, I'm not so much a "manager" as I am veteran flunky, cook, and bottle washer. Just to keep things clear.

What did I tell you about them Trekkies?

All I'm saying is that you'll never see a Whovian trying to knock over a convenience store with a sonic screwdriver:

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Colorado Springs police are looking for a man who hit two 7-Eleven convenience stores early Wednesday, armed with a Klingon sword.

A bat'leth, to be precise. I can just imagine the clerk pulling out his own blade and switching the store's in-house music feed to the original series combat music, but I can't imagine a convenience store job paying enough to make the risk worth it.

Just watch them Trekkies, I'm telling you.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Finds from the stacks.

I've picked up a few interesting reads from the library's collection these past few days. Here's the pick of the lot:

Carpe Jugulum by Sir Terry Pratchett: If, like me, you've gone into Twilight-induced sugar shock and have decided that the next writer to present vampires as darkly romantic tortured souls looking for love over the long and painful centuries deserves a savage beating with a very large club, then this is your book. This Discworld novel hilariously skewers (stakes?) the Hollywood vampire in all of its major incarnations while telling a cracking good story to boot. Add Discworld mainstays like Granny Weatherwax and the Nac Mac Feegle (aka "The Wee Free Men"; think of the Smurfs if they'd patterned their lives after Braveheart), mixed with Pratchett's special brand of humor and "stealth philosophy" and you won't want to put this book down.

Justice League International, Volume One by Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, etc.: It's kind of odd that this series popped up when it did, in 1987, just as mainstream comics were taking the wrong lessons from the previous year's hits like Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. "Grim and gritty" were the watchwords of the day, as heroes shunted aside moral codes and often became distinguishable from the villains they fought only by the occasional bout of tooth-grinding angst. So where did this bright, clever book about a dysfunctional superteam come from? Even Batman cracks a joke once in a while without breaking character. It's a bit jarring to see Ronald Reagan and the Soviet Union pop up in the book, reminding me just how long it's been since I first read these books. Aside from that, the stories hold up well, and are still good for a laugh. Plus: "One punch! One punch!"

The Living Shadow by Maxwell Grant: The very first adventure of The Shadow. Originally published in 1931 in SHADOW Magazine, I stumbled across a bunch of 1970's paperbacks reprinting these old pulp stories (wonder if any Doc Savage can be found...?). The Shadow hardly appears in this first tale, which is told through the eyes of his newest agent, Harry Vincent. But his presence is undeniably felt throughout the story, appearing, seemingly invincible and always a step ahead of both the villains and his own operatives, only when straits become truly desperate. The prose is a touch purple (no surprise there), but the real reminder that this is the product of another era is an unpleasant one. The first sign of trouble is Harry's conversation with a chauffeur: "'Don't say nuthin', boss,' pleaded the chauffeur. 'Dis am Mr. van Dyke's cah, an' Ah had no right to take you men along.'" Yeah, it's like that. I knew it was going to be a bumpy ride from there as soon as I found out a significant portion of the action was going to take place in Chinatown. The racism is a stumbling block in an otherwise well-done adventure story, and a tough one to get past. Maybe I should stick with The Shadow's latter-day adventures, like the comics with Michael Kaluta's art.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Monty Python. Free. Legal. Working out quite nicely, thank you.

File this one under "I" for "I'm Always The Last One to Find Out About These Things".

Monty Python has its own YouTube Channel, where they've uploaded high-quality clips of their best stuff (the one above is hereby dedicated to Calvin).

Their reasons are pretty straightforward: They want you to buy their stuff, and if it's going to pop up on YouTube anyway it might as well be them putting it there.

That said, it seems to be working:

And you know what? Despite the entertainment industry’s constant cries about how bad they’re doing, it works. As we wrote yesterday, Monty Python’s DVDs climbed to No. 2 on Amazon’s Movies & TV bestsellers list, with increased sales of 23,000 percent.

Hat tip to Cynical-C for the story.


Somebody stop Jose Canseco before he kills himself. [UPDATED]

Seriously, nothing good can come of his continued insistence on stepping into the ring.

After falling in the first round to local Philly sportscaster (and former Philadelphia Eagle) Vai Sikahema, Canseco should have read the writing on the wall and pursued other options besides boxing.

But no. Whether due to an irresistable payday, a lack of alternatives, or the prodding of personal demons, Canseco is lacing up the gloves again. This time his opponent is former child star/physical fitness fanatic/human powder keg Danny Bonaduce.

OK, aside from the fact that this "celebrity boxing" crap is a bad idea for the image of the sport in general, it's a doubly bad idea for Canseco to get in the ring with Bonaduce. Because in the world of celebrity boxing, Bonaduce is, if not its Mike Tyson, then at least its Larry Holmes. Bonaduce sports a 12-0 record in the ring. Canseco went down like a poleaxed tree in the first round of his only fight.

But it is true that even with losses come experience. What was Canseco's takeaway from the Sikahema fight, the lesson he learned that carries him to the next bout?

(from today's Philly Metro:)
Q: You were knocked out by Vai Sikahema your last time in the ring... anything to prove?

A: No, I took that lightly. I didn't work out, I didn't spar. I didn't even train for that one. But he caught me with a good one.

Yes, that will happen when you... don't... train. For a boxing match.

OK, thinking about this is making my head hurt. I'll leave Canseco to his ritual suicide.

UPDATE: I guess I have to say a few mea culpas, because Canseco managed to fight Bonaduce to a draw. Still, from the coverage it sounded like a pretty disappointing match (three one-minute rounds? Seriously?).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Layoffs at Microsoft.

I have to wonder how many people saw this coming after installing Vista.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

His first day: A proper welcome

Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen, "This Land is Your Land"

Today's low point: Rick Warren doing his best to look like Jerry Falwell with a shitty goatee droning out platitudes, sounding very much like the outgoing administration in his attempts to inspire. About as effective, too.

Today's high point: Obama's - excuse me - President Barack Hussein Obama's inaugural address. It was the anti-invocation, like Johnny in "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" saying: "Well, you're pretty good, old son!/ But set yourself down in that there chair and let me show you how it's done!"

Fire on the mountain, indeed.

But now I just wanna sing along:

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Basic shaders


glowy eyes_001.png

...and enabled!

glowy eyes_002.png


Friday, January 16, 2009

The Boss vs. The Bot: The Rematch (and other Averlast stuff)

Karine graciously granted my request for a rematch at Averlast's monthly tournament last week (though she loves to box so much that I suspect she'd happily duke it out with a boxing kangaroo if we could just get one to register an SL account). I was also working the microphone that night as announcer, but Cal and I have worked out a system if I'm fighting on a given night. He announces the winner of the match prior to mine (that I had been calling up until that point) in order to give me time to duck backstage and change into my fight gear.

Funny note about the gear for that evening: The arena ring has opposing corners, one red and one blue, where the fighters stand between rounds. Karine's outfit for the night was all blue, and mine was all red, right down to the red robot skin I was wearing.

Cal made the introductions, and had me fighting out of the blue corner, and Karine out of the red. We razzed him about it.

Then the bell rang, putting all thoughts of color coordination to rest as we lit into each other.

The fight itself is a bit hard for me to sum up from a storytelling perspective. I fell into this kind of hyperfocused now that didn't take into account things like my scoring, the round number, or any of a number of things that normally flit unbidden through my mind during a fight ("how will I describe this in the blog?" is another one). I don't recall ever throwing myself so utterly into a fight before.

And when it all came down to the decision at the end, I won. It was my first win as a heavyweight.

I told Karine afterward that I was proud that she was my opponent for that win, and I meant it. I cherish her as a friend, respect her as my boss at Averlast, and know full well that she's a tough, tenacious competitor in the ring. A win over her is no small thing.

But I know better than to let it get to my head. My win only puts us even and she's already champing at the bit for another shot at me.

Um... help? Somebody? Anybody?

And speaking of interesting people who like to throw punches, at Averlast we've been having a big tournament for the Lightweight Championship. This week was the first round of matches, and so far we've seen some solid performances from the Lightweight Division.

If I had to pick the fight of the week, I'd have to say it was Wednesday's first matchup, which pitted Gregory "The Silverman" Siamendes against Robyn Caerndow. It was a real rock 'em, sock 'em affair that reflected well on both fighters. At the decision the audience was sitting on the edge of its proverbial collective chair. I have to confess I deliberately let them dangle a bit before finally announcing that Robyn had edged out Greg by a single point.

I wonder how they'd feel about a rematch after the tournament is over?

The final set of qualifiers is tonight at 5:30 PM SLT in the Averlast Arena. We've had packed houses all week for this, so if you want to catch the action you might want to get there a little early.