Not that one should look to Boston Legal for logic…

Just caught this week’s Boston Legal. A mom (played by the lovely Annie Potts) needs the law firm’s house because her sperm-donor-spawned son is dating a similar-looking girl sired from the same sperm bank. So they bring legal muscle down on the sperm bank to try to get them to identify the boy’s father.

Problems:

  1. Getting this information will not answer the question. They’re not representing the girl or her mother, so finding out who his dad is doesn’t tell them whether they have the same dad.
  2. They don’t need to know who the dad is. That doesn’t matter. The real question is whether they have the same dad, which is information that the sperm bank could give without violating the father’s anonymity.
  3. They might need the girl’s mother’s help to get the sperm bank to answer that… but with the girl’s mother’s help, they probably don’t need the bank at all. I’ve got a friend who went through this process recently. It’s not like she was vended a random vial. She picked based on a bunch of infomration about the donor – looks, medical history, and such. Just comparing notes with the girl’s mother could easily rule out or make it clearly likely that they were the same parent (even if they didn’t have some sort of donor file number which would absolutely confirm it.)

Of course, they needed to bring this suit so that the lawyers could make a speech against anonymity in such donations. That’s what Boston Legal is for, after all. So they went through the dance, and the judge was wise enough to figure out #2, and to demand that the bank answer that question… one which, if asked, could have avoided the episode.

For some reason, I’m seeing Boston Legal through to its impending end. But I can’t say that the education of the nation will be poorer for its absence.

Published in: on October 25, 2008 at 9:12 pm  Comments (2)  

False accusations against the Yes on 8 campaign

Lately, various Internet pundits have been accusing California’s anti- same-sex marriage Yes on 8 campaign of “extortion”, claiming that the campaign sent out letters to companies that had contributed to the No-on-8 campaign, threatening to publicize them as being against traditional marriage unless they contributed the same amount to YesOn8.

Now, the claim about the letters is not false. The folks at the head of Yes On 8 have admitted to sending out just such letters. However, they are not extortion. Extortion, technically, is threatening to do an illegal act unless payment is made, and there is nothing illegal about telling folks who donated to No On 8.

So stop claiming that that the Yes On 8ers are using extortion to promote their cause. The proper term for threatening to legally publicize something if not paid money is blackmail. The folks at protectmarriage.com are blackmailing companies, not extorting them. Remember, blackmail.

Published in: on October 25, 2008 at 1:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Time to refill SNL

This week’s SNL Thursday lead with a sketch where the stars were, in order of screen time, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Darrell Hammond. That’s right, one who has been gone from the show for seven seasons, one who has been gone for two, and one who has been on the show since 1995. Sort of speaks to a need for a talent injection.

(But the Fred Armisen map bit made me very happy.)

Published in: on October 25, 2008 at 1:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

The death of a dance

The Wordgirl episodes currently running have had their most vital portion excised: the Huggy Dance. Every episode, Captain Huggyface would demonstrate an emotion, and then do The Huggy Dance. And yes, it was a repetitive portion of the show, but that allowed each of us to get up and try to do the rather active dance.

As best as I can tell, they excised it so that they’d have more time for an outside-the-show musical piece. Wrong move.

Published in: on October 25, 2008 at 12:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pushing Daisies crossword confusion

Small spoiler warning: tonight’s Pushing Daisies

There’s a scene where someone needs help with a crossword. They need a word for “kinship”, and says “I have to warn you, there’s a Q involved.”

We then see the crossword puzzle, and after filling in the right answer, the only complete words she’s done are all down words. She explains that she only does the down clues.

So… how did she know there was a Q?

Published in: on October 23, 2008 at 10:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

I never get all my work done by Friday

Crusoe is a new lighthearted action take on the Robinson Crusoe tale. It airs on Friday, which probably makes him really mad.

I really don’t have much in depth to say about it. It’s about a shipwrecked man on an island, and really, I have to look at it through the Gilligan’s Island glasses. They make Crusoe into the Professor; apparently he spends every moment that the camera’s not on him building fabulous inventions from the available equipment, including things that seem to only be of use if he predicts the events of the episode. And while the island has its native population, the first episode brings not one but two groups of Europeans – pirates and soldiers – to the island, which suggests that this show will also have the Gilligan Island tendency of presenting the character with a potential escape from the island, just to be foiled. So it’s best not to take this show too seriously, and the show presents itself with enough of a grin and a vein of humor that you’re allowed not to take it seriously.

It tackles the problem of Friday, Crusoe’s native right-hand-man, by making sure that Friday is smarter (in non-inventing terms) , wiser, and more interesting that Crusoe; otherwise, it becomes a Wise White Man with his black servant show, which is problematic. I’m not sure they make it work, in that we don’t have good enough reason for Friday to be so supportive of Crusoe, but again, they can get away with having us not take the question too seriously.

Not a must see, but a pleasant diversion.

Published in: on October 22, 2008 at 11:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Rivalry

For her impending birthday, I got Mrs. Nat’s TV tickets to The Rivalary, a reading of a 1950s play adaptation of hte Lincoln/Douglas debates, with the talented Paul Giamatti as Douglas and the Mrs.’s favorite actor, David Strathairn, as Lincoln. This was an L.A. Theatre Works production, to be recorded and broadcast on public radio and sold via various means. We’ve listened to some of their stuff before, but never gone to a recording. We were worried about getting “good seats”, but shouldn’t have worried so much; it’s a cozy theater at the Skirball Center, and none of the seats would’ve been bad.

Me, I’ve held a strong respect for Strathairn since his Day And Nights Of Molly Dodd, a show I am quite fond of. And because of that last fact, I got an extra thrill from the fact that James Gleason, another member of the Molly Dodd cast, was in this show in a supporting role.

The night we were there was actually the 150th anniversary of the last of the Lincoln/Douglas debates. Coolness.

One off note, though. The program included a section of historical background, which brought us this little bit. “In 1858, the year of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the ideological positions of the two main political were reversed from what they have been in modern times. The anti-slavery Lincoln was a Republican, while the pro-slavery Douglas was a Democrat.” Now, I’m an independent with not a lot of votes for Republicans on my record, but even I don’t believe that in modern times, they’ve switched to being pro-slavery. The wording has the overtones of an anti-modern-Republican viewpoint that is unneeded and unuseful in what this section is for.

Published in: on October 20, 2008 at 9:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thoughts while watching The Big Bang Theory

They were driving to CalTech via Euclid Ave. I lived on Euclid Ave. near CalTech for a fair number of years. That wasn’t Euclid Ave on the screen. If Leonard were watching the show, he’d be upset at the inaccuracy.

There was a public service ad saying “If you feel the need to hit or verbally abuse someone, it’s time to get help.” And my immediate thought was “no, I can take care of that myself.”

Oh, and it takes a lot to weird out the CalTech cleaning crew… certainly a lot more than someone being around in the wee hours.

Published in: on October 20, 2008 at 8:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

My 24 Hour Comics Day experience

For Nat’s 24 hour comic, click here.

In 2004, I founded an annual event called 24 Hour Comics Day. It’s gotten to be a pretty big thing. Last year, there were over 1200 cartoonists involved in eighty-some official 24 Hour Comics Day events in 17 countries, and an unknown number of additional cartoonists working privately. The goal for each cartoonist is to draw a 24 page comic (normally months of work) in 24 straight hours.

I don’t have the numbers for this year’s event, because for the first time, I’m not running the darn thing. I’ve passed the organization of this over to ComicsPRO, a comic book retailer organization with the expectations that their additional resources would help it grow even further (and what numbers I have seen say that it has.) And this freed me to actually particiate for the first time.

Saturday at noon found me ensconced in The Comic Bug, a comic shop in Manhattan Beach. Mrs. Nat’s TV drove me down, because when you’re staying up for 24 hours straight, you ought not drive yourself home. Fifty people were signed up to celebrate at The Comic Bug, some of them with the serious intent of crafting 24 pages of deadline-driven greatness, others seemingly more interested in creatively messing around for a few hours in the midst of this driven group. The folks at the store encouraged the noses-to-the-grindstone types to sit in the front of the store, with the back of the shop having the big screen TV showing Hell Comes to Frogtown and being used for some Guitar Hero, and thus being surrounded by those who were more interested in distraction.

Now, I’ve done a 24 hour comic before, but that was before the founding of 24 Hour Comics Day. I was just some writer doing a rare job of drawing, and I expected (correctly) that no one would care much. But now I was doing it as The Found Of 24 Hour Comics Day, and I feared there was the risk that someone would want to know what I’d done and expect greatness, or at least some form of competence. At the very minimum, I absolutely had to get the 24 pages done.

Toward that end, I chose to do my comic electronically. It doesn’t mean that it would be a great work – nothing is going to turn me into an artist. But doing it on computer would allow me to easily keep it smooth and slick on some levels, giving the illusion of competence. It also allows for various forms of, well, let’s calling it “efficiency” rather than “cheating”. Art can be reused. Dialog is simply typed, rather than trying to handwrite quickly and hoping that it will be legibility will be an issue. I was prepared with my Macbook laptop, a Wacom tablet, a USB-powered scanner, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and various other digital art tools. I never used the scanner, nor Photoshop, and only used the tablet for a small portion of it.

I was the only person at The Comic Bug going the digital route, which is not that surprising. Not that nobody ever goes the digital route on 24 Hour Comics Day, but it seems that those that do are more likely to be stuck at home with their desktop machines. My system – which I run my entire publishing empire from – is meant to be portable.

The folks there were friendly. I’d met a few of the other cartoonists at various times, including visiting the Bug during previous 24HCD events. I wish I’d realized that the guy sitting across from me was Robbie Rodriguez, the talented artist of Maintenance and Tek Jansen comics, before he moved to sit near the talented, friendly, and unrelated Tone Rodriguez. I ended up spending the bulk of the 24 hours sharing table space with guy (name escaping me at the moment) who usually works digitally, but was using physical media for this event; and a gal named Kendra who was working in a mix of ink and watercolors.

I wanted to start with a blank slate, so other than having a sense I wanted to do a roundish character in Illustrator, I went in with no content in mind. To force out any preconceived notions, when the event started at noon I rushed to grab a nearby magazine (Comic Foundry), stuck a finger in, and found two nearby words to build my comic around. “Percentage” and “Due”. Thus, my comic became entitled Percentage Due, and despite my joking about how one can tell what happened in the two weeks before 24 Hour Comics Day each year by the topical references in some stories, I ended up building my story around the subprime mortgage crisis.

Well, at least to the extent that the story was built around anything. I wanted to get rolling, so I didn’t plot and plan the tale, but got right down to it. Rarely as I was working on a page did I have a real concept of what would happen two pages later (although I knew the ending when I was on page 20; really, you have to work toward an end at some point.) If the work seems a mite episodic and not always heading toward the ending that is eventually reached, that’s why.

24 pages in 24 hours means averaging a page an hour, but most folks drop behind that rate at the start, as they have to design their characters. This effort is exaggerated working electronically; at the start, I’m creating the digital elements that I’ll be using repeatedly through the tale. Draw the house once for the first page, and I can copy it whenever I need it on later pages. Page one took an hour and a half, page two took an hour and a quarter, page 3 was the first one done in under an hour, and by the end of page 5 I was a full hour behind. So a very simple single-panel splash for page 6, which even so took me 20 minutes, got me closer to caught up. Lots of falling behind and catching up after that, but by page 16, I was ahead of the clock to stay. Finished page 24 at 9:20 in the AM (and would’ve finished sooner but I lost 20 minutes of work on the final page when Illustrator crashed while I was experimenting with a tricky effect I would’ve ultimately abandoned anyway.) Then I made an ill-advised pass to clean up the borders by properly cropping things that went outside the borders of the page – not only utterly unnecessary, but in my tired state, I missed that some of my “fixes” actually changed the stacking of elements on the page, overlapping things that shouldn’t have been overlapped. So my official 24 hour version has some unnecessary mistakes added in, which I removed for my more-readable touched-up-the-next-day version.

These events are snacky by nature. I arrived with two peanut butter sandwiches, four cereal bars, a Clif bar, some Jolt caffeine-and-guarana-and-ginseng chewing gum, and some ginger chews. I ate all of that but one cereal bar, the gum, and some of the chews. However, most of my sustenance was provided by The Comic Bug and their local restaurant and market supporters – pizza from two locations, burgers from Tommyboy’s(?), various chips, little donuts, a breakfast of bananas and muffins provided by Trader Joe’s. Around 5 AM, I wandered down to the nearby McDonalds to read the menu on their drive-thru; if they’d had a $1 breakfast sandwich, I probably would’ve sprung for 20 of them to feed the room myself, but their minimum prices were about twice that.

Beverage-wise, I downed about a quarter of the two-liter Mountain Dew Code Red I brought, and 3/4s of the liter of Tejava tea, and the two bottled waters… plus one bottle of Bawls energy drink (Bawls was providing free product to a large number of event sites.) Oh, and OJ from Trader Joe’s in the morning. I was obviously sufficiently caffeinated, and while I felt tired at some points, I never felt sleep impending. At 4 AM, I got goofy and dancy.

By the time I was done (exactly 10 AM, 22 hours in), my lower back was sore from being bent over in a plastic chair all night, and my right hand and wrist were sore and cramping from manipulating the touchpad on my laptop. By the time I got home, took care of things, and let myself go to sleep, I’d been up for over 29 hours. Took a five hour nap. Woke up, and my elbow had developed an ache. Got a good night’s sleep that night, and today I was utterly lumpy. And the comic is silly and not great, and I don’t even know the species of one of the main characters, nor the gender of another.

But yeah, it was worth it. It’s not just facing the challenge and getting it done, but it’s also that I don’t get a chance to be really focused on anything these days. Part of that is my own fault, the way I ensconce myself at home creates to many opportunities for distraction, but in general things have not been the same since Allison offsprung into our life. So setting myself a goal, working fairly continuously at that goal, and achieving it was well worth it.

(But if I do it again, I’ll probably use a physical medium. Then not show anyone.)

Published in: on October 20, 2008 at 8:14 pm  Comments (1)  

Valentine

Note: this was originally written October 6th, but was misfiled and did not appear on the blog at that time.

And to balance my positive review of Easy Money, let me point out that not all of the new CW Sunday is equally wonderful. Because there is Valentine.

Valentine is about a group of immortals whose job it is to bring soulmates together. If this sounds like an update of the wry and witty Cupid, you’re granting it too much ambition. It’s more in the tradition of Fantasy Island, with the dilemma story of the episode, two people who should be brought together but who are, of course, finding reasons not to be together.

In the first episode, the immortals (Aphrodite, Eros, and the gang) find the need to add one to their group, a human romance writer who is presumably there to stand in for the viewer. Yes, she’s the Wesley Crusher. Only I liked Wesley and thought he served a purpose there (“there” being a TV show called Star Trek: The Next Generation, for any young whippersnappers reading.)

Thing is, the mythological figures here aren’t that interesting, their interaction with the real world is not as funny as it seems intended to be, and while it might be “right” for the couple in love to be together, there’s no sense that either has earned this and thus there is no justice here, just fulfillment of desire.

Ratings on these new shows were, well, lousy. And I’m not surprised if some people tried Valentine, and decided that this new line-up was not for them before hitting the latter, better show (athough to be fair to those people, what reviewers I’ve found don’t seem to share my positive opinion of Easy Money.)

Published in: on October 20, 2008 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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